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Posts Tagged ‘David Wells’

A word on this whole Johnny Damon episode.  We claimed Damon off waivers on Monday, and he had until yesterday to make a decision.  He ultimately vetoed.  Let’s parse.

There is some speculation about why we made that claim in the first place.  Some said it was to keep him from the Rays or Yankees because a player can’t move in a free trade unless he clears waivers.  That may be an added bonus to the outcome of the whole situation, but I doubt that was the real reason behind it, because that would’ve been a pretty substantial gamble that banked on him refusing.  Then, we would’ve been stuck with someone we didn’t really want if he said yes.  So I think the real reason the team claimed him was to obtain some sort of spark that would get us going.

A quote from Jason Varitek substantiates this view:

It would be a nice opportunity, but we’ll let him do what he needs to do.  Johnny, aside from being a great player, he makes athletic adjustments offensively.  He plays hurt, he doesn’t always play at 100 percent.  So much of it is how he plays the game.  He plays the game right.  It pushes the energy.  He’s definitely an exciting player.

Some have interpreted this as a very targeted dig at Ellsbury’s long recovery.  I would again like to remind those people that we’re not talking about a broken thumb here.  We’re talking about ribs.  I’ve never had broken ribs, and I intend to keep it that way, but if any of you would like to experiment with whether it’s possible to play baseball with that kind of injury not completely healed, go ahead and be my guest.  I will admit that the absence of Ellsbury’s skills may produce some tension or anxiety in the clubhouse, but I’m not entirely sure that that has solely to do with a judgment on the appropriateness of the timing of his recovery.  We have no way of knowing for sure what went on.

Anyway, the point is that this quote clearly shows that what the front office as well as the team itself saw in this guy was a spark.

Damon had a no-trade clause with the Tigers, but only for eight teams, one of which was us, the reason being his apparently sub-par interactions with the front office during free agent negotiations after the 2005 season that ultimately resulted in him walking all the way to New York.

Now, when he was faced with the decision of whether to veto the clause or whether to veto the trade, he described his predicament this way:

I have to think about if once again I’ll be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball, but also the most hated guy in baseball.  That’s what it boils down to.

This tells me that it always has been and will be about him.  Not about us.  It was about what the team could do for him and his reputation, which he has thus acknowledged as damaged by his signing with New York.  I know the trend in baseball lately is to be cynical, but you and I both know that there have been plenty of guys who’ve come through here with a different attitude.  We pick them up during the season, and they say that they’re happy to play for Boston, that they’re psyched about offering their skills to the team, that they can’t wait to get in the batter’s box and on the field and show what they can do to help this storied franchise win.  I mean, this is a team for which players play for knowingly less money (Mike Lowell) and with which players sign for a day just so they can retire as a member of this particular team (Nomar).  So it’s not all as cynical as many people think.  But Damon represents a stark contrast to all of that.  The free agency negotiations weren’t to his liking so he walked to the Evil Empire.  If he can stand up there in good conscience and tell the world that they shouldn’t harp on him because baseball is a business and he has a right to go wherever he wants, then there is no way on this planet that he can also stand up there and berate the front office for not making enough of an effort to ensure his return, for the exact same reasons.  A player has a right to sign wherever he wants; a team has a right to sign whomever it wants.  And through an assessment of the team’s needs, the team decided that Damon wasn’t the answer for the amounts of money and years he was seeking.  This kind of thing happens all the time in baseball, but it looks like Damon took it personally.  So did Nomar.  But Nomar grew up and figured it out.

So the only way that Damon would’ve returned to Boston is if he thought it would make him a nice guy in baseball again.  There have been those who claim that Damon, if he had the exact same injury as Ellsbury, would have played more games through more pain.  His attitude during this whole proceeding suggests the exact opposite.  Damon would have approved a trade to come to Boston because that trade alone would’ve benefitted him exclusively on an individual level.  The amount of games and with what amount of hustle and heart he played them would have been completely irrelevant for the achievement of his ends.  All he would have needed is the trade by itself.   That would have made him the nice guy.  Not his performance once here.

Damon mentioned the importance of teammates.  He insisted that if his teammates want him to stay, he would most likely stay.  This is true now in Detroit, but it wasn’t true in Boston when he became a free agent.  Sure, his teammates wanted him to stay.  We know that from the disappointment expressed by Tek and Papi in the wake of Damon’s refusal of the trade.  But again, his issue with the front office made him want to walk.  That’s fine.  It happens with many baseball players.  All I’m saying is that, when it suits him, he puts all his stock in his teammates.  And when it suits him, he puts all his stock in his objection to the quality of interaction with the front office.

Damon also mentioned the importance of fans.  He said he loves playing for Detroit’s fans.  Just like he loved playing for us when he was here.  He said his broken relationship with us has scarred him, and approving the trade would eliminate that, especially if he took us into October.  So here we have him assuming that the addition of him and him alone would be the ultimate solution to the team’s woes and would instantly turn us around and get us to the playoffs.  But more significantly, the fact that he is not considering the fans is clear.  He wants the removal of his own scar, but he doesn’t really care about ours.  He has consistently been unapologetic about his decision to sign with New York.  But when David Wells signed with us, he blatantly acknowledged the weight of his decision in terms of the rivalry.  Baseball is not a perfect world because it’s a business, which we have already established.  But it’s not a perfect business either.  There are things you do and things you don’t do.  You don’t do what Damon did.  But if you do what Damon did, the least you should do is acknowledge the reality of the situation and its ramifications.  Damon played for us.  He was instrumental in our 2004 ALCS victory over the Yankees.  He was there before and after the curse was broken.  Our loyalty as fans suited him fine when he wasn’t on the other end of it.  As a result, he has no right to expect from us as fans to continue our relationship with him as if nothing has happened, and his resistance to acknowledging this fact is yet another reflection of his self-absorption.  I should also point out that another guy who played for us, who was instrumental in our 2004 road to glory, and who was there before and after the curse was broken was Schilling.  Schilling based his decision to sign with us partly on his interaction with us fans on Sons of Sam Horn.  In Boston, the fans matter.  A lot.

Furthermore, after Damon refused, Papelbon said that he was confident that Damon would do what’s right for him and his family.  Excuse me, but I don’t recall any mention of family in Damon’s consideration.  I recall it in Billy Wagner’s consideration, for example, and even in Mark Teixeira’s consideration, but I don’t recall hearing anything about anyone aside from himself over the past several days.  Papelbon was absolutely right in assuming that family should be a part of the consideration, but unless Damon for some reason kept it completely under wraps, we have no indication that that consideration took place.

So what we can gather from all of this is that Johnny Damon is professionally selfish, arrogant, and opportunistic.  He goes with what works for him, takes things personally, and doesn’t look out for anyone except himself.  He’s a changed man.  And you know what? I’m not sure I would have wanted someone like that on our team.  I don’t know if I would have wanted to win that way.  Boston, both the players and the fans, have a certain integrity.  We have certain expectations, and we relate most to certain attitudes.  Damon really must have been scarred because he doesn’t have those things anymore.  These circumstances have exposed him in a way different than that in which we knew him.  So I hope he’s very happy in Detroit.  I hope he plays his heart out for the Detroit fans and for his Detroit teammates.  In the end, we’ll be alright.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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I had to laugh at that headline.  Can you really say a pitcher gave a vintage performance if that pitcher’s only twenty-five years old? Apparently.  Jon Lester’s first two starts were nothing like his third.  If it’s possible to describe a young pitcher’s performance as vintage, now would certainly be the time and yesterday would certainly be the performance.  In his first two starts, Lester had a total of five strikeouts.  Yesterday, he had nine, one shy of his career high.  The cut fastball was on.  Seven innings, two walks, no runs.  He gave up two hits to Robert Andino and two to Ty Wigginton, and that was it.  He continues to be undefeated against Baltimore.  And he even showed off his pickoff move, catching Wigginton at first in the third inning for his third of the year.

I have to say George Kottaras did a great job yesterday.  He started to give Tek the day off, one of quite a few this year as Tito’s strategy will be to rest the captain a little more often.  Kottaras caught Lester once before in Spring Training, which isn’t much preparation, so hats off to the new guy.

Heading into yesterday’s contest, our bullpen gave up only one earned run in nineteen and two-thirds innings and posted an ERA of 0.46 in its last three games.  And the corps did not disappoint.  Ramon Ramirez was spot-on as usual in the eighth.  Needless to say, I’m enjoying the benefits of that trade, and I think Coco Crisp is too, because he’s a starter by trade and starters need to play regularly.  True, Jacoby’s in the middle of a slump right now, but he’s already started to come around, and he’s certainly having no trouble at all in the field.  No errors in 149 games; can we say Gold Glove? Takashi Saito, on the other hand, gave up a run in the ninth, so while Ramirez is still maintaining his 0.00 ERA, Saito’s pushing 6.23.  Paps worked the previous two games, and pitching him three days in a row is pretty much out of the question, so Saito, having been a closer, was the logical choice.  In his career he’s converted 82 of 92 save opportunities, so we know he has it in him somewhere.  I just hope he gets the kinks out so I don’t have to hold my breath every time he steps out there.

The offense was quiet but got the job done anyway.  One RBI for Mikey Lowell and one for Pedroia for a final score of 2-1.  Ellsbury went two for four, the only multi-hit performance, so slowly but steadily he’s getting there.  Drew went hitless, ending his hitting streak at six games.  Papi went hitless, which unfortunately is something we’re coming to expect.  He’s only had one extra-base hit all year.  We know he’ll snap out of it, but when? I think before the series with New York would be as good a time as any.

Beckett’s suspension was reduced from six to five games, so with some creative finagling he won’t have to miss a start.  Honestly, he shouldn’t even have been suspended at all.  Just sayin’.  Brad Wilkerson has decided to retire after an eight-year Major League career.  And David Wells will be getting in the booth for TBS in the next few weeks.  Wells broadcasting baseball? This should be interesting.  I think it’s safe to say Bud Selig will be listening.

So we’re officially on a winning streak! Four games! And we’re tied with Baltimore for third, only three games out of first.  Toronto’s still up there with New York in second and Tampa Bay in last.  It’s only a matter of time before the AL East and the universe at large are made right again with Boston on top.  Today it’s morning ball; the Patriots Day game will start at 11:00AM.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a morning game.  Anyway, Masterson will be starting in lieu of Dice-K, and if we win today we sweep all four against the Orioles.  Nice.

Game 3 of Bruins-Habs tonight in Montreal.  We’ll get it done.  Even if Milan Lucic was suspended for tonight because it wasn’t clear whether it was his stick or his glove that hit Maxim Lapierre’s helmet.  I personally thought I saw his glove.  But the point is we’re good enough to weather it for a game and come out on top.  And there’s nothing quite like showing your arch-rivals who’s boss in their house.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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We’re coming back, that’s for sure. We beat the Yankees, 9-2 last night. Actually, with a final score like that, “beat” isn’t the write word. More like “shredded,” or “trounced,” or the ever-popular “completely drowned in quality lefty pitching and offensive production.”

The last time Lester pitched against New York, he went the distance for a nine-inning shutout in the Bronx, and he almost did the same thing yesterday. The two runs the Yankees scored came in the fifth inning by Jeter and Abreu and were pretty cheap. In fact, the second run had nothing to do with New York. Lester issued a walk with the bases loaded. All told, he pitched seven frames and allowed nine hits. That walk was his only walk, and he struck out eight. He was the first lefty to start against the Yankees in Fenway since David Wells did it in 2005. Delcarmen and Timlin closed it out. So Lester improves to 9-3 with an ERA of 3.17.

As for the offense, we’ve got plenty to talk about there. I’ll start off by saying that David Ortiz, Big Papi, the game’s best designated hitter, recorded his first Major League homer since coming off the DL. It was a two-run shot that landed a couple rows behind the right field wall. Bobby Abreu had no chance. Ortiz later collected another RBI, Manny and Lowell each collected two, and Tek and Dusty each collected one. Three of our starters went two for four last night. Manny had a great night, going three for five, as did a surprisingly and suddenly hot Jacoby Ellsbury, who went three for four. I hope it sticks. We need his bat in there. But Jacoby didn’t steal any bases. It was Drew with the theft, his third of the year.

I don’t usually do this, but I’d like to dedicate some space to the performance, or lack thereof, of Sidney Ponson. He allowed seven runs on ten hits over four innings pitched, walking one and striking out one. This is why the Yankees’ suddenly good performance won’t last. You can go on as many winning streaks as you want, but unless you can find a consistent rhythm for getting men on base and then bringing them home while also having someone on the mound with whom you can trust a lead, you won’t get anywhere. Last season, the Yankees got hot after the All-Star break as well. They had their fair share of winning streaks and hot hitters. But in the end it came to naught in large part because the ability to sustain that level of play wasn’t completely there.

Basically, yesterday’s game was a prime example of what the Red Sox need to do to win games in a three-way race for first. They need to throw well while also getting runs together, and they need the bullpen to hold their leads. And look what happens when they do. The team win big, and with some conveniently timed losses by the Rays, the Sox’ll be able to leave everyone in the dust.

In other news, Manny says he’ll approve any trade the Red Sox front office wants to make, and he’s implied that he’s done with Boston at the end of this season. Let’s face facts here. We’re not trading him. There isn’t enough time to trade him, and find a replacement, and have that replacement get used to the ballpark and the city, and use that replacement effectively to get us a World Series title. Nobody will want to pay him $100 million, and nobody can pay him $100 million, so I don’t know where he thinks he’s going to go at the end of the season. I don’t think he realizes how good he’s got it. Sure, he might be able to scrape together more money from a different team, but I don’t know of any team that’ll work as hard as the Red Sox do at defending his antics. In a different clubhouse, a move like the one he pulled on Friday and he’d be out of there before he can say “I’m tired of them, they’re tired of me.”

Dick Williams, manager of the Impossible Dream team, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as was Larry Whiteside, journalist with The Boston Globe for thirty-one years, who posthumously received the Spink Award for 2008.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate fellow Red Sox blogger Matt Levine, author of Dirty Watah, on having a part of one of his posts broadcast during the game yesterday on ESPN. Keep up the good work!

MLB.com Photo

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