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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Uggla’

This week was basically all about options.  If we weren’t busy exercising somebody’s option, we were busy declining somebody else’s.  Hey, why not? They’re basically cheap locks; it’s a good way to keep a guy on board for minimal funds and minimal years.  That translates to flexibility, which is always a good thing.  Plus, it postpones contract negotiations, a solid strategy if you’ve got a lot on your plate during a particular offseason.

Case in point for that last one: Victor Martinez.  We exercised his option to bring him back as our starting catcher.  No surprise there.  And it’s no surprise that locking Victor Martinez for the long run is a top priority.  But that’s going to be a big project, so keeping him under contract until we can hammer out a new one is a good strategy.  The option effectively means that there’s no rush.  Expect Martinez to be back in a Boston uniform for the first of many years in 2011.  Although the arrival of Joe Mauer in the free agent market could potentially make that interesting.  It would probably play into our hands, being that Mauer will likely steal the show that year, leaving Martinez and us to take care of business.

Speaking of catchers, we declined our five-million-dollar option on Tek, but he picked up his three-million-dollar option, which includes another two million dollars’ worth of incentives, so our captain is coming back as a backup for three million dollars.  Not too bad, I’d say.  In terms of the role he plays on this team, there’s no better backup catcher out there for us, and being that he still has something left in the tank, it’s a pretty good deal.

Wakefield is coming back, folks.  Our deadline to pick up his option was Monday, and we agreed to a two-year deal with incentives that could boost the value of the contract up to ten million.  Within those two years, he’ll likely reach two hundred wins and 193 wins in a Red Sox uniform, a total that would break the current franchise record, held by both Roger Clemens and Cy Young.  Make no mistake: Wakefield would definitely be deserving.  How many other starting pitchers out there accept less money in favor of a tenure with a team that hadn’t won the World Series in almost a century, then voluntarily removed himself from the roster of the second World Series that team would go on to win because he felt he wouldn’t perform as well as another pitcher? Not many.  Believe that.

We declined our option on Alex Gonzalez, which was expected, but we’re still interested.  That’s also expected.  Jed Lowrie’s wrist sidelined him for essentially the entire season last year, and we need not just an everyday shortstop, but an everyday shortstop we can depend on.  That’s a luxury we haven’t had since Nomar wrote his one-way ticket out of town.  And with the improvement in offense he showed last year, Gonzalez would be a great fit.  Of course, what this gesture shows is that he’ll have to come at the right price.  Otherwise Theo won’t bite.

That’s basically all the news so far.  The GM meetings ended on Wednesday, so aside from these moves and Jeremy Hermida, we’ve been pretty quiet, but I don’t think that’ll last long.  Before the meetings ended, Theo met with John Lackey’s agent.  Smile, Red Sox Nation; Scott Boras is not John Lackey’s agent.  Free-agent negotiations with other teams start on Friday, so it’s likely he’ll be inundated with offers, but I could see us being a big player there.  We’re also supposedly interested in Dan Uggla; apparently there is potential in turning the second baseman into a left fielder.  Frankly, I don’t see that playing out.  Congratulations to Jason Bay, who won his first Silver Slugger! And that functions as even more of a reason for us to sign him.  I think we’ll focus our efforts there before we start turning infielders into outfielders.

In addition to options, the other big story at this point is arbitration.  We’ve got eight guys eligible: Casey Kotchman, now Jeremy Hermida, Ramon Ramirez, Fernando Cabrera, Brian Anderson, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, and, you guessed it, Jonathan Papelbon.  The arbitration process will probably be more or less smooth sailing for the utility guys and the no-doubts, the players who have clear bargaining power due to their consistently good performances.  I’d put Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima in the latter category.  As far as Manny Delcarmen is concerned, his second half was just bad, so he’ll probably take some sort of cut.  Jonathan Papelbon will be quite the case; I’ll be very interested to see how that goes.  He obviously packs a lot of bargaining power, but there’s also no ignoring the fact that his walk total was up and his postseason performance was…well, let’s not go there.  Let’s just say he’s less able to pull off the I-should-be-paid-Mariano’s-salary routine this time around.  Especially because Daniel Bard is coming on strong and Billy Wagner has stated that he might be open to an arbitration offer that would bring him back to Boston next year.  Let’s face it: he wants a ring, and in this day and age ballplayers who want rings come to Boston.

Nick Green and Joey Gathright have opted to file for free agency rather than accept minor league assignments.  Green had back surgery at Mass. General on Monday, by the way, so he’s facing an uphill battle as far as market value goes.  Dice-K is going to begin his conditioning program early this year.  Thankfully.  Finally.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we’re ready to see him ace this year.  Or at the very least spend more time on the roster than on the disabled list.  Theo and Tito are in the throes of their search for a bench coach, and they’ve narrowed it down to four: PawSox manager Ron Johnson, Lowell Spinners manager Gary DiSarcina, minor league field coordinator Rob Leary, and outfield and baserunning coordinator Tom Goodwin.  Promoting from within.  I like it.  Really, there’s no better way to ensure that a new member of the coaching staff knows the franchise and the players; many of the players currently on the team have played for these guys in their younger days.

We’re biding our time but staying in the loop.  I think there’s a potential for a serious blockbuster deal this offseason.  Whether it’s Lackey or Adrian Gonzalez or someone else, I don’t know.  I’ll leave that to the front office.  At this point, so much is kept under wraps that it’s hard to know exactly who we’re pursuing first or what our main focus will be.  But I will say that either of those guys would have a hugely positive impact on our team.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens, I guess.  It’s a long winter; the speculation keeps us going.  That’s just what the offseason is all about.

The Bruins played three games this week.  We shut out the Penguins, lost to the Panthers in a shootout, and lost to the Penguins in sudden death.  The Sabres lead us in the division by five points, but at least we’re ahead of the Habs.  The Pats beat the Dolphins.

 

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That was the most infuriating regular season loss I have ever experienced.  It was completely unjust.  It was completely unfair.  And I will even be so bold as to make the claim that it was completely improbably; the Marlins just got excruciatingly lucky.  Lucky that Nolasco was on and that then we didn’t get a chance to demolish their bullpen.  After five and a half innings of play, the score of 2-1 in favor of the Marlins became official, and rain stopped play for the rest of the night.  They called the game.  Baseball is the only sport where you don’t have to finish a game for the score to be set down in the record books.  That makes sense when we’re slaughtering the Twins, 10-1.  That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever when we’re playing a bad National League team at home and we’re losing by a run at the halfway mark.  In what alternate universe could that possibly be presented in a logical light? I have no idea, and quite frankly I have no desire to find out.

Lester pitched five, gave up two runs on eight hits, walked none, and struck out four.  The two runs came on two long balls, one to Uggla and one to Ronny Paulino.  He just didn’t keep the ball down in the zone on those pitches.  His strength is that deadly cut fastball, and those fastballs didn’t do much of anything.

Youk hit a huge solo shot in the first.  Landed in the Monster.  I’m telling you, it’s impossible to throw a fastball by this man.  He may be in a bit of a slump now but he’ll come out of it.  Besides, he still walks, so even though his average may be taking a bit of a dip, his on-base percentage is still through the roof.  That’s all we were able to do before we were rudely interrupted by the rain and subsequently told to take a loss we probably didn’t deserve.  I firmly believe that, given more time, we had a very legitimate chance of limiting the Marlins to two runs while scoring more ourselves.

Dustin Pedroia lost an RBI from Chien-Ming Wang’s start in the Yankees series.  Major League Baseball decided to make it an error on Swisher instead of a ground-rule double.  Speaking of Pedroia, his slump is over.  Not that it was actually going to last.  And David Ortiz moved up from sixth to fifth in the batting order.  That’s a good sign.  That’s a very good sign.

So, yeah.  We lost the series finale to the Marlins.  Whatever.  It’s done, it’s over, onward and forward to the Braves.  Kenshin Kawakami at countryman Dice-K.  If Dice-K can just keep us in it, we’ll find a way to win this one.  Besides, it’s about time he had himself another win.  The man is one and four.  Our second starter is one and four.  That needs to change.  He hasn’t been solid, but once he finds his groove and establishes a rhythm for the season, we’ll be good to go.  But I’ll say this.  No matter how badly we play, and no matter how we lose, why we lose, or who we lose to, we can take comfort in the fact that we are not the New York Yankees, who just dropped two games to the Washington Nationals, worst team in baseball.  Although, technically, for just this series, that is now no longer true.  At least for this series, the Yankees are, technically and by the numbers, the worst team in baseball.  And that is most definitely something to smile about.

In other news, the Bruins cleaned up at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas last night.  Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender.  Zdeno Chara, with the fourth most goals and twelfth most points among defenders, won the Norris Trophy, awarded to the best defenseman.  Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez both won the William Jennings Trophy for each having played a minimum of twenty-five games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.  And finally, last but most certainly not least, Claude Julien won the Jack Adams Award, given to the coach of the year.  Congratulations to the boys in black ‘n’ gold! They most definitely earned it.  Why they couldn’t add the Stanley Cup to that list is completely beyond me.  Just sayin’.  They’re obviously capable, but in Boston if there’s one thing we know, it’s that sometimes these things just happen.

Tubsolution

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We just faced a month’s worth of good teams, and we rocked it and played some of our best ball.  Now we will embark on an epic journey during which we will face a month’s worth of the worst of the worst.  So we’ll rock that too and play some even better ball.  This is a great opportunity for us to finally pull away from the rest of the AL East.  Take last night, for example.  The Marlins have struck out more than any other National League team, and they have a lot of young hitters who just don’t take pitches.  Chris Volstad wasn’t exactly helping the cause.  His strength is the sinking fastball, so when the fastball doesn’t sink, he doesn’t win, and nothing was doing anything for him last night.  And their fielding is absolutely atrocious.  In the second Nick Green hit a chopper off the home plate rubber, and it went over Volstad’s head and right in front of second base.  Dan Uggla tried to handle it but couldn’t, it bounced off Hanley Ramirez, and by the time anyone knew where the ball was Ellsbury had already crossed the plate.  Green was credited with a hit and an RBI so the Marlins got lucky but still.  Ugly play.

We scored once in the second, once in the third, and six times in the fourth.  Papi started the rally with a leadoff solo shot to right.  He finally pulled the ball.  The high fastball was in the Marlins bullpen as soon as it left his bat.  Eck literally said, “See ya” at the crack of the bat.  It was huge.  Fifth of the year.  And the irony is that it was New York who helped him get going.  Papi would finish the night perfect at the plate with a run and three RBIs.  Bay batted in two, Green batted in another and finished two for four with a run.  Drew and Youk both hit, walked, and scored, Youk with a two-out double in the eighth.  Ellsbury went two for two with two runs and two steals.  Pedroia went two for five and scored.  So some signs of life from the slumping second baseman, because in case anyone hasn’t noticed, lately Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah hasn’t been destroying anything except his batting average.  He’s popping out.  He’s grounding out.  It’s painful to watch.  And the eerie part is that his swing during this stretch looks almost exactly like the badness during the first month of his rookie year.  Of course he’ll snap out of it; everyone runs into a bad spell sooner or later.  And even when he doesn’t contribute with his bat, there’s always his clubhouse presence and his defense.  And last but not least, Kottaras went two for four with a run and an RBI and got a little creative with the last out of the fifth.  He actually pushed a chopper fair and used it to tag the batter out.  Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez of course had a problem with this, but the home plate umpire stayed with his call while Tito and Kottaras had a good laugh.  I love this team.

Pitching.  Very important, and not to be overlooked, especially because Wake just notched win number nine.  Six innings, two runs on six hits, a walk, and four strikeouts.  Send Wake to the All-Star Game.  That’s all I have to say about it.  Delcarmen, Saito, and Bard were all perfect.  The advantage of pitching after a knuckleballer continues to be tried and true, and that combined with the easy Marlins lineup provided good opportunities for them to find their form again.

So a great game on all counts.  Hitting and pitching.  And fielding; we were error-free (and, not coincidentally, Lugo-free).  Still two games ahead of New York, but once they lose we’ll be all over it.  Andrew Miller at Penny tonight, which brings us to our final point of business: John Smoltz.  He’s finished his rehab and will make his first start in more than a year next week, probably against the Nationals.  Incidentally, I like that matchup; the Nationals are a bad team and are not the Atlanta Braves, and they should ease him back into his groove.  Smoltz is the only pitcher in Major League history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves.  The catch is that, like I said, we have starting pitching coming out of our ears.  Like I said, Penny is not a reliever, and technically Masterson isn’t, either.  Decision time for Tito and Theo.  But, as always, the best front office in the Majors will figure it out.

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