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Posts Tagged ‘DeMarlo Hale’

Well, say hello to our new manager: Bobby Valentine.  I seriously can not believe this is happening.  If you told me when Tito left that Bobby V. would be his replacement, I think I seriously would have looked at you like you were literally clinically insane.  I hope he doesn’t manage like he broadcasts, that’s for sure.  It’s either going to be really good or really bad; with Bobby V., there is no in-between.

We interviewed six candidates, and Valentine was obviously the most experienced.  He managed the Rangers from 1986-1992 and the Mets from 1996-2002 and hasn’t managed since.  He’s sixty-one years old, he’s spent time in Japan twice, and he’s been killing time by working as an analyst for ESPN.  His managerial winning percentage is .510; as a benchmark, Tito’s was .529.  He professes to be open-minded, and he is touted as a brilliant strategist.

Now down to the nitty-gritty.  In fifteen seasons of managing, although he staged quite the turnaround in New York and made it deep into the postseason, appeared in the World Series only once.  He functions like he’s a one-man show and is something of a know-it-all by his own admission.  On a good day, he could run a ballclub like a Navy Seal team, but on a bad day, he’s a conniver and a manipulator, and he’ll explode on players publicly yet passively by going to the press, and the media will be left with the tall task of decoding it, which of course we know they all thoroughly enjoy.  He’s got a personality, and he isn’t afraid to show it to anyone who’ll look or listen.  Do we want a manager like this for a team that apparently includes some players who have this same exact problem? It’s unclear to say the least, as is whether Valentine is even remotely equipped to provide the kind of constructive leadership that prevents chicken-eating and beer-drinking in the clubhouse since, when he left the Mets in 2002, that team was doing things that make chicken-eating and beer-drinking seem like chores.  Fundamentally, we were all told that this managerial search was dragging on and on and on because it was important to find the right fit.  This implies that personality is crucial, and to me it seems unlikely that someone of Valentine’s experience and age would somehow undergo a drastic personality change that would eliminate these aspects of his character that seem, at least superficially, to be at odds with the manager we’ve all been picturing in the meantime.

And how about the fact that it seems like Larry completely overruled, overshadowed, and overpowered Ben on this? Of course there’s really no way to know since none of us were actually there.  But it is true that, initially, Ben wanted to hire Sveum.  I am pretty sure, therefore, that Sveum would have been a great manager in Boston.  And I think he got a pretty significant vote of confidence when Theo hired Sveum instead.  As I’ve already discussed, Ben introduced Sveum to the brass; the brass introduced Valentine to Ben.  So Larry needs to make absolutely sure that he didn’t just mess up royally, because if that happens, the team will be terrible, Red Sox Nation and I will be exceptionally infuriated, and Ben will earn a well-deserved opportunity to say, “I told you so.” Did I mention that Red Sox Nation and I would be exceptionally infuriated? There is absolutely no margin for error here.  Larry has his manager.  Now it’s time for him to step back and let Ben do his job.

Here’s something we can all agree on: this is the equivalent of a contract year for Valentine in terms of where he is in his career.  This is the end of the road.  After this, I think we can pretty much all agree that it’s over for him, no matter which way it goes.  So it’s in his best interest to go out with a positive bang, which is obviously fine by me, if I do say so myself.  He is number forty-four in our long and illustrious history.  He has a chance to leave his mark.  All he has to do is come close to what Tito did, both in the clubhouse and on the field, and he’ll already work out infinitely better than we all thought he would.  He also has to remember that, you know, this is Boston we’re talking about.  He’s not in Queens anymore.  We’re used to certain standards here, standards of on-the-field performance and off-the-field conduct, and not everything he did or didn’t do in Flushing is going to fly in our town.

So here’s what I’m saying.  I’m saying that I’m glad to hear that, on Thursday’s press conference, he said that he’s honored, humbled, and excited to be our manager.  Congratulations, Bobby V., and welcome to Boston.  We’re glad to have you because, well, we need a manager and we’ve been told you’re a good fit.  So we look forward to you showing us that you’re a good fit by adapting to your new setting and applying your inarguable shrewdness.  Just do us all a favor and don’t forget where you are.  Also, you’ve got some big shoes to fill, so I suggest you get cracking.  Get to work, and when spring rolls around, get out there and do us proud!

And now that we have our manager, for better or worse, we can start focusing on our plethora of other issues.  It’s almost certain that the front office was waiting to hire the manager before going after players since the manager has some input into who he wants and doesn’t want, although I feel strongly that something at some point this offseason should be Ben’s decision and Ben’s alone so that he can get a jump-start on his newfound, well-deserved authority.  Valentine professes to love sabermetrics, as do we all, so that’s a good start.  Look for Michael Cuddyer to be on the radar.  Papi is already very much on the radar; Valentine went down to the Dominican Republic to participate in his charity golf event and, oh, by the way, tell him to sign with us.

DeMarlo Hale may be hired by Baltimore as their third base coach, so we may have to add that to our ever-growing list.  Another hire comes in, another hire goes out.  Wake wants to pitch one more year, and Pedro Martinez plans to announce his retirement officially, as opposed to his unofficial retirement in which he has been living for the past three years.

In other news, the Pats bested the Eagles, 38-20.  The B’s beat the Leafs twice this past week.  That means we’re undefeated against Toronto this year.  Congratulations to Zdeno Chara on his well-deserved receipt of the Champion’s Award, which honors the work he’s done with Children’s Hospital Boston.

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Congratulations to Beltre for winning a Silver Slugger! He most definitely deserved it.  I wish I could say the same for Vlad Guerrero, who won it instead of Big Papi, which is ridiculous.  Guerrero hit .300 with twenty-nine homers, 115 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .496.  Sounds great.  Until you consider the fact that he only hit nine homers after the All-Star break and posted a measly OPS of .748.  Papi hit thirty-two homers and posted a slugging percentage of .529 and OPS of .899.  Notice that all of Papi’s numbers are higher than Vlad’s.  Theoretically, this should result in his fifth Silver Slugger at DH, but for some absurd and unknown reason, it didn’t.  He and Josh Beckett can commiserate this offseason, because that’s just not right.

Pedroia’s rehab is progressing ahead of schedule.  I’m not surprised by that.  I am relieved, not just for the team and for Red Sox Nation but also for Pedroia, who’s been itching to play for months now.

Ladies and gentlemen, the stove is finally starting to heat up.  Finally.  We have confirmed official contact with Werth’s agent.  We are supposedly interested in Zack Greinke and Justin Duchsherer.  We have statements from Theo about his commitment to re-sign Beltre and V-Mart, with the obvious emphasis on V-Mart.  Meanwhile, Peter Gammons is convinced that Theo is going to move on without V-Mart because he says the Sox are sure Salty can handle the job.  I’m going to take Theo’s word on this instead.

Perhaps the ultimate free agent, or at least the one everyone’s talking about these days, is Cliff Lee.  Everyone thought Lee is going to be a Yankee for sure.  Nothing would please me less, but I don’t think that’s as likely as people think.  He’s thirty-two years old, and if New York decides to give him a Sabathia-like contract with heaps of money and, less intelligently, heaps of years, I will lose negative respect for their organization, because trust me, there isn’t any there to begin with now.  My next guess would be the Angels, but they’ve already set their sights on Carl Crawford, although that could change since the Giants proved that, yes, you can win with pitching.  (Which only confirms the fact that we’re going to win the World Series this year, by the way.  Just sayin’.) Detroit could be an option since they’ve made payroll room.  The most likely competitor for New York right now appears to be the Rangers, who are in hot pursuit, and offers could come in from the Phillies and Brewers as well.

The Mets won’t spend this offseason, the Cubs want youth, the Reds are in the process of offering Arroyo an extension, and I’m so sorry to say this, but I don’t think we’re going to be in the mix for this one.  A sizeable chunk of our payroll is currently devoted to our starting rotation, and on top of that we just don’t have the space for Lee right now.  So it makes sense to leave him alone.  Otherwise, we basically wouldn’t be able to do anything else.  Lee is absolutely awesome, so again, it hurts to say so, but we’re making the right move here.

An interesting question to ask is whether the acquisition of Lackey kept us from Lee.  I think the answer would have to be yes, but I think we’ll get more bang for our buck with Lackey than we would have with Lee.  Lackey is a competitive workhorse.  He absorbs innings like a sponge.  We need a guy like that in there, especially if we’ve got another guy on whom you can’t necessarily depend to go deep.  (That would be Dice-K.) Lackey complements that, and that way the bullpen knows it’s going to have a light night for each overtime it works.  Depending on how this season goes, I’d be ready to say we made the right decision.  That’s the key right there.  Lee is a competitive workhorse too, and he also absorbs innings like a sponge.  But he won’t be absorbing anyone’s innings like anything unless they’re ready to fork over substantial coin and years.  Provided that my predictions about Lackey returning to top form his sophomore season come true, Lackey is the better option because he’ll probably end up being cheaper than both.  I have a feeling that Lee’s next contract is going to be huge.  So Lackey gives us more flexibility that way.  Sure, Lee arguably would be better, but like I said, if Lackey is back to his stellar self as of now, the difference in quality won’t be that large; meanwhile, we spend less money and don’t have to commit the better part of an entire decade.

We traded Dustin Richardson to the Marlins for Andrew Miller.  The Jays just hired PawSox manager Torey Lovullo as their new first base coach.  Our minor league infield coordinator, Gary DiSarcina, is now the assistant to the Angels’ general manager.  DeMarlo Hale will interview with the Mets for their managerial position.  The disadvantage of having a top-flight staff is that everyone wants a piece.  Hopefully for us, this goes nowhere.

In a spectacular combination of divine intervention and rational thought, ESPN will not renew the contracts of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.  Oh, happy day.  Twenty-one years of suffering through commentary that was anything but insightful and unbiased is officially over.  Dan Shulman will replace Miller.  At this point, anything is an improvement.

In other news, the Bruins started the week with a victory over the Penguins, 7-4.  Seven goals in a single game.  Wow.  Then we just had to lose to the Habs, 3-1.  Yesterday’s game didn’t bode too well either; the Sens shut us out, 2-0.  Those were not the same Senators we shut out, 4-0.  That was a completely different team.  On behalf of Bruins fans everywhere, I’d like to extend condolences to the family of Pat Burns, who coached us in the late ’90s.  Last Sunday, the Pats delivered one of the absolute worst performances I have ever had the misfortune of seeing.  We lost, 34-14, to none other than the Cleveland Browns.  The Cleveland Browns! I was seeing Super Bowl glory, and then all of a sudden we lost by twenty points to the Cleveland Browns? To make matters worse, Stephen Gostkowski will probably be out for two games with a quad strain.  The only silver lining I can possibly muster in this situation is that the Pats have a tendency to bounce back from big losses in a big way.  Right on time for us to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

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Okay.  Now Spring Training is really underway.  And you know what that means: baseball.  It’s pretty obvious, but when you actually reflect on the fact that live baseball is happening as we speak, it’s such a relief.

The countdown to Opening Day continues: exactly four weeks.  We can make it.

Meanwhile, this week in Fort Myers was all about the pitchers.  Everybody debuted this week.  (Except Dice-K, who threw a promising session off the mound on Monday and side session on Friday but who, according to Tito, will not be ready for Opening Day.  Shocker.)

Although, before I get into that, I’ll say this about Spring Training: it produces a lot of unnecessary worry when you focus on the scores.  Keep in mind that Spring Training is experimentation central.  Lineups get changed around, starters become relievers, relievers become starters, and starters rarely stay in for more than half the game.  The score means a lot less than the story behind it.  Take, for example, our game against Minnesota on Thursday, during which Beckett made his debut.  We won, 2-1.  Am I going to worry because we didn’t clobber them like we should have? Absolutely not, because it’s Spring Training.  I’m more interested in how sharp Beckett looked, how many pitches he threw, whether he was comfortable on the mound, and how well he accomplished his goal of keeping his fastball down in the zone.

And now, without further ado: on Wednesday, we saw Bonser and Kelly in the college double-header, which we obviously swept.  Kelly threw ten pitches against Northeastern, seven of which were strikes.  Two of his outs were Ks on changeups.  By the way, he’s only twenty years old.  Bonser threw a nine-pitch inning and got the win over Boston College.  Not bad, considering he didn’t set foot on a mound once last year.

We kicked off Grapefruit ball on Thursday against Minnesota, as I said.  Beckett pitched two frames, allowed two hits and one run, and struck out one.  Nineteen of his twenty-seven pitches were strikes.  He did indeed his fastball down, and if he continues to do that successfully, our infield is going to have its work cut out for it, with the difference between last season and this season being that now it can handle it.  Scutaro especially was ranging and flashing some nice leather.  It’s so good to have a solid defensive shortstop again.  Paps enjoyed a one-two-three inning; hopefully that’s an indication of what’s to come.

Friday’s performance against Minnesota wasn’t great.  Jon Lester’s first five batters singled, walked, walked, doubled, and singled, in that order.  Yeah.  Not the way you want to start Spring Training.  He couldn’t even stay in the game to repair the damage because he’d thrown thirty-three pitches.  Wake, on the other hand, coasted through two innings of two-hit ball; sixteen of his twenty-two pitches were strikes.  He looks ready to go.

And yesterday, we had the debut we’d all been waiting for.  John Lackey, ladies and gentlemen! Six Twins stepped up, and six Twins went down in just twenty pitches.  He was fast, he was sharp, and he was on.  No mercy.  This is going to be a sweet season.  And let’s give some points to DeMarlo Hale, our new bench coach, for managing that victory while Tito was managing the away squad in Port Charlotte.

Mike Cameron was injured this week.  Adrian Gonzalez wants $180 million for eight years.  Why does that sound so familiar.

A great week, I’d say.  We’ve seen promising performances from all but one of our starters, and I’m not worried about that one.  It’s very early yet, but the future of the 2010 season looks bright.  And that’s what Spring Training is all about, isn’t it? Optimistic speculation.  We’re going to have some fun this year.

Don’t look now, but the Bruins have won five of their last six.  (That loss was a contest with the Habs that ended in a score of 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.) And we’ve got a subpar schedule coming up; our next six games are on the road.  The coming weeks are going to be crucial.  Our sixty-nine points have seeded us seventh in the conference, a mere point behind the Habs.  We need to make sure we stay in the top eight; otherwise, our season is done in the middle of next month.

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Congratulations to Joe Mauer on winning the American League’s MVP award.  Youk and Bay didn’t fair too badly, taking sixth and seventh respectively, but they didn’t have the .365 average with the twenty-eight home runs and ninety-six RBIs to go with the starting catcher position.  Mauer took all but one first-place votes and was only the second catcher to win it in thirty-three years.  (It’s no secret that catchers usually can’t hit.  Which explains why Victor Martinez is next season’s top priority.) And those numbers also earned him the Ted Williams Award, given to baseball’s leading hitter.  And of course who but Albert Pujols won it for the National League.  Obviously.

Jonathan Papelbon was the club’s Fireman of the Year.  Daniel Bard was the club’s Rookie of the Year.  Nick Green won the Jackie Jensen Award for spirit and determination, and let me tell you something: any shortstop who goes from non-roster invitee to four-month starter has no shortage of spirit and determination.

As far as the stove is concerned, it’s still not too hot.  We acquired Royals infielder Tug Hulett for a player to be named later or cash considerations.  Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays for about three million dollars, with a club option for two and a half million.  Now that he’s unfortunately out of the picture, we’re showing interest in Marco Scutaro, who says it’s either us or the Dodgers.  We’re also shopping Mike Lowell.  Surprise, surprise.  Even if we do end up shipping him off, it won’t even be a fair deal, because the recipient club would be getting a top-notch, albeit health-wise unpredictable, third baseman for fifty percent off, because we’d have to swallow at least that much of his salary to make him palatable.  It’s really just sad.  He had a phenomenal season (and postseason) in 2007 and amble moments of brilliance in 2008, especially in the ALDS.  But he is getting older, and that was in California where the weather is warmer, so perhaps a team from a city with a warmer climate would be a better fit for him.

But a few big names have surfaced.  The Tigers are apparently interested in trading Miguel Cabrera (with Detroit’s financial situation, who wouldn’t be?), and we’ll probably get first dibs.  Also, it’s official: we are going for Roy Halladay and going big.  The problem is that, to close both of these deals, we’ll almost certainly have to part with Clay Buchholz.  We’d also have to part with Casey Kelly, at least, to land Halladay.  And after the performance Clay Buchholz gave in Game Three of the ALDS (walking into an elimination game as a young pitcher with no postseason experience after having seen the lineup put up zero run support), I don’t know how comfortable I would be with giving him up.  I think we owe it to him, the organization, and ourselves to see more of what he’s got before we decide that he is not, in fact, one of the greats in the making.  But the plot thickens: Halladay said he’d waive his no-trade clause to go to the Bronx.  I’m not saying we should engage in prevention via irresponsible acquisition, but I am saying that we need to weigh our actions very carefully.  Especially since Halladay is getting older.  That’s something that seems to be lost amidst the sensation of it all.  The man is not immortal.  He ages.  And while he ages, his abilities will decline.  And right now, he’s at a point in his career where we can expect his next four or five years to be considerably different from his last four or five.

Turns out that Ron Johnson is not our new bench coach.  DeMarlo Hale is.  Ron Johnson joined the Major League staff to coach at first in replacement of Hale.  I have to say I feel more comfortable with Hale as bench coach than I did when I thought Johnson would be doing it.  Not that I don’t think Johnson would be a good bench coach, but if we’re talking about the importance of knowing the players and the franchise inside-out, Hale, who’s been coaching first base for a while now, clearly has the edge there.

At the end of my recent posts, I’ve usually said something like, “All we can do now is wait and see.” I say that because it’s true.  But it’s also true that the suspense is killing me.  I keep getting this feeling that the offseason won’t come to a close until Theo Epstein does something big, but I can’t figure out what that’ll be.  A trade? A signing? Another starting pitcher? A new power hitter? It’s too hard and too early to tell.  But one thing’s for sure: something’s definitely brewing.  The front office has something up its sleeve.  The foundations have been laid for some sort of shake-up, even if we can’t quite figure out what it’ll be.

But before we conclude, I would like to report that Bud Selig will be retiring after the 2012 season.  It’s been one interesting ride.  He was named acting commissioner in 1992 and official commissioner in 1998, and since then we’ve seen a growth in the baseball market, an expansion of the postseason via the Wild Card, the introduction of revenue sharing, Interleague, a players’ strike, the first World Series cancellation since 1904 (ten years shy of a century), and the steroid era.  There was good, there was bad, and there was most definitely ugly.  What do we need in a successor? That’s an extremely open-ended question, but whoever it is will be charged with the difficult task of cleaning up baseball’s public image.  So much controversy occurred during Selig’s tenure that MLB will probably look to someone with a hard-line streak, someone who can keep the sport in line while still bringing revenue in.  We’ll see what happens.

The B’s beat the Blues, Wild, and Sens and lost to the Devils in sudden death.  The Pats beat the Jets.

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We’re getting there.  The rumors, the meetings, the interviews, the renovations, the big transactions; it’s all getting underway.  Paul Byrd has filed for free agency, but even better, so has Mike Timlin.  Finally! No more guaranteed losses! He gave us some good years, but I think it’s safe to say those years are over.  If I were you, I wouldn’t expect to see him in a Red Sox uniform next season.  AJ Burnett has officially opted out of his deal with the Blue Jays, and as I’ve said many times I think we should go ahead and sign the man.  He’s awesome.  He gets under our skin every time we bat against him; imagine how great it would be if he did that for us rather than to us.  Other free agents include Teixeira, of course; CC Sabathia, who’s waiting to hear from the Yankees (why he’d want to play for New York, I have no idea); Manny, who’s received an offer from the Dodgers; Matt Holliday; and Jake Peavy, who has a no-trade clause directed specifically at the American League.  I’m telling you, a great pitcher like him should not be pitching in the NL, and the fact that he’s the one who’s choosing to stay there baffles me.  I know an NL team just won the World Series, but I stand by my theory that the NL is basically quadruple-A.  Tek and Pudge could clean up this offseason.  It’s a bad market for catchers, and they’re both All-Stars.  They may’ve just had bad years, but when catchers are scarce you take what you can get.  Theo and Scott Boras have already started discussing Tek.  In true Red Sox fashion, a lot of the discussion’s being kept under wraps, but the first hurdle seems to be the length of the deal.

One other thing I’d like to mention about Manny.  Theo’s still answering for him.  At the GM meetings in California, he was asked if he’s concerned that the Yankees might pursue Manny.  This was his absolutely perfect answer:

I’m sure they’ll make good moves, but we don’t plan our off-season strategy around what they’re trying to do. We’ll deal with the Yankees when we play them 19 times during the season.

Of course, he’s exactly right.  We make the moves we make, and if we happen to trample New York in the process, it’s just icing on the cake.  We don’t make the Yankees the center of our attention like the Yankees do with us.  We just play our game, and I’d say that’s been working really well for us lately.

Renovations in Fenway Park continue, and the Red Sox brass have done an excellent job of improving the park, enhancing the fan’s experience there, and making it viable for years to come.  The infield seats have been torn out, and they’ll be replaced.  The wooden grandstand seats are being refurbished but will not be replaced; they’ll remain the oldest and smallest seats in baseball.  The 383 right field roof box seats, which were installed in the 1980s and deemed temporary, are being replaced with 560 permanent seats.  The park should look great next season; it always does.  And the Red Sox brass have officially requested the 2012 All-Star Game.  In 2012, Fenway Park, America’s oldest and most beloved ballpark, will be one hundred years old.  If we do get the chance to host that All-Star Game, you better believe it’ll be a celebration you definitely don’t want to miss.  We last hosted it in 1999, but we’re due again, and I think we’ll get it.  I can’t wait! In the meantime, 2009 will go to St. Louis and 2010 to Angels Stadium in Anaheim.

The Mariners are looking for a new manager, and either Brad Mills, DeMarlo Hale, or John Farrell are expected to interview for the job.  While I wish the interviewee the best of luck, I hope all three stay in Boston.  They’ve done a phenomenal job for us, and no doubt they’ll continue their good work in the future.  They’d be difficult to replace.  We know for sure that Theo, our resident baseball genius and in my opinion the best general manager in the league, will be back for seasons to come and that he’s having a blast.

On December 6, Big Papi will host his first annual David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic in the Dominican Republic.  Proceeds will benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund.  I’m telling you, as a team and as individuals the Red Sox do more in the community than any other club I’ve seen.  It’s just another of the many reasons why I’m proud to be a member of Red Sox Nation.

Major League Baseball could be doing away with coin flips to determine who hosts division and Wild Card tiebreakers; the general managers are suggesting that the decision be based on wins and losses.  The problem with this is that the site wouldn’t be determined until after the final game of the season.  Any proposals made by the general managers would have to be approved by the owners and the players’ association, though, so we’ll see what happens.

Jacoby Ellsbury finished third in the voting for the American League Rookie of the Year.  Evan Longoria won it, and Alexei Ramirez was the runner-up.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me; Jacoby’s ’08 wasn’t exactly on par with his spectacular ’07, even though his ’07 was very good.  I think if he won ROY it would’ve been on steals alone.  He finished the season with fifty successful thefts.

And finally, last but most definitely not least, a big congratulations to Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah for earning his first career Gold Glove at second base! In my opinion, it was no contest.  In 155 games started and 157 games played, the kid made only six errors, recorded 448 assists, turned 101 double plays, and recorded a fielding percentage of .992.  If that’s not a Gold Glove all the way, I don’t know what is.  So a round of applause and a pat on the back for Dusty, the best second baseman in the league, the next second baseman to win MVP, and, in my opinion, one of the best second basemen in history.

In other news, the Patriots solidified their first-place status and extended their winning streak against the Bills to ten games yesterday with a 20-10 victory.  The Bruins are currently in first place in their division as well.  I’m telling you, they have been on an absolute roll lately; they’ve won five of their last six games.  Who knows? This could be the year a Stanley Cup finally comes to Boston.

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Four years ago last night, a team was redeemed and a Nation was delivered.  Four years ago last night was the greatest day in the life of an entire region.  Four years ago last night the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, snapping the Curse of the Bambino like a twig and becoming the team of the decade.  I believe Joe Buck said it best at the time:

Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are world champions!

Saying that was a great day would be the understatement of the century.  That was a win for the team, the city, the Nation, and all the players and fans who came before that great year in history.  Congratulations again to the 2004 Boston Red Sox on completing the greatest comeback in the history of sports and taking it all the way.  I still can’t think about ’04 without getting chills.  And to think it all started with a stolen base.

Unfortunately the 2008 World Series is out of our hands.  To recap, the series stands at 3-1 in favor of Philadelphia.  Last night, with rain pouring, the field absolutely drenched, and a one-run lead, the Phillies managed to play long enough to get the game in the books.  But the conditions on the field were so bad (the infield was basically mud) that Bud Selig had to call it after the Rays tied it, 2-2.  Questioned afterwards, Selig stated he would’ve definitely called the game eventually.  This begs the question of why he waited until right after the Rays tied it up.  I mean Jimmy Rollins was making error after error, so it was pretty clear that play couldn’t continue.  I’m not one to play around with conspiracy theories, but something just doesn’t seem right here.

In other news, the Pats defeated the Rams, 23-16.  You have to admit, Matt Cassel is improving and improving fast.  The Bruins played their best game of the season against the Oilers last night.  Tim Thomas was Superman in goal.  No score through regulation, and we went on to win it in sudden death, 1-0, courtesy of Dennis Wideman’s power play goal.  Not bad for our first overtime victory this year.  Not bad at all.  Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs and our own Kevin Youkilis received the Hank Aaron Award, and Dustin Pedroia was named to “The Sporting News” All-Star team.  We’re bringing back five coaches: John Farrell, Brad Mills, Dave Magadan, DeMarlo Hale, and Gary Tuck.  Luis Alicea was not offered a new contract and will not be returning in 2009.

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Better.  Definitely better.  We needed someone to step in and stop the bleeding, and Lester got it done, which is more than I can say for Josh Beckett at the moment.  Lester and Dice-K have both become in ’08 what Beckett was in ’07: aces who can deliver.  One run on four hits over seven innings pitched with a walk and five K’s.  Allowed a solo homer for Aubrey Huff, but that’s hardly a concern.  What is a concern is, as usual, Manny Delcarmen.  He came in to pitch the eighth, issued two walks, and left two men on base for Pap, whose inherited runners scored but as the system points out that’s not completely his responsibility.  The final score was 6-3.

The other big story of the night was the long ball, and who came through but Jason Bay.  Two home runs, a solo shot in the second and a two-run shot in the eighth.  That’ll give him 25 on the season.  And guess who also hit a home run.  Jason Varitek.  I’m not kidding.  I saw it and I couldn’t believe it, a solo shot in the second with two out.  Clearly the captain has his moments.  Ortiz went two for five and also had himself an RBI.  Big Papi is doing fine, averaging almost an RBI a game these days.  Bay collected a fourth one on the night as well as a theft, and Coco was caught stealing.  Again.

Let me just say this.  So many people are focused on the fact that Jason Bay is no Manny Ramirez, but what about the fact that Manny Ramirez is no Jason Bay? We can’t spend the rest of ’08 wishing that the deal never went down and that we still have Manny, because the truth of the matter is that we had him and he started to ruin us.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy.  He helped bring Boston baseball to a whole new level, and we owe him a lot.  But what’s true is true, and in the end he made sure that he had to go.  So why complain that Bay isn’t comparable? They’re two completely different players, and he’s better than Manny in more categories than he is worse.  He runs the bases.  He’s defensively solid.  He can steal.  He hustles.  He’s a team player.  And on top of all that, he’s a great hitter and sometimes he even puts it out of the park.  Anyone who doesn’t see that this change is for the better is probably focusing on Manny’s numbers and not on who Manny was and what he became.  We’ve all made that mistake before, but every once in a while it’s important to remember what we have and be thankful for it.  Corny, but true.

JD Drew was out again with back stiffness.  I really hope it isn’t serious because we need him and his ever-increasing on-base percentage in there.  Someone who doesn’t get a lot of credit, DeMarlo Hale, showed why he’s the third base coach of the Boston Red Sox.  Choosing to send Pedey and Papi in the ninth inning was risky, but it also worked.  The dude is phenomenal.  Finally, Schilling is apparently in no rush to make his return, not that I mind that.  I was actually kind of hoping he’d run out of time this season because if he did return, he’d be returning from major shoulder surgery.  You need to do extensive rehab after something like that, including substantial stints in the minor leagues.  Then you need to come back to the Majors and get used to the feel of things all over again.  And I’m just glad to see he won’t try to do all of that at such a critical time of year when we can’t afford to be patient and take losses for his benefit.  It’ll be interesting to see what he does next year, though.

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