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Posts Tagged ‘Dominican Republic’

Congratulations to Big Papi, who now holds the Major League record for most hits by a designated hitter! We all knew this day was coming, so there’s no surprise here.  It would have been nice to have had it happen at home, but Seattle was a good place, too.  After all, the Mariners did sign him when he was still in the Dominican Republic.  It’s not their fault he’s not currently wearing their uniform.  Oh, wait.  It is.

Through the first three, it was all us, almost all the time.  Papi doubled, Napoli walked, and Nava got hit in the second.  Then Salty and Iglesias both hit sac flies that scored two.  Not exactly a great response in a bases-loaded situation, but better than nothing.  With two out in the third, Pedroia walked, and Papi smashed a home run.  With two out in the fourth, Ellsbury doubled and scored on a single by Victorino.  And then Salty and Iglesias hit back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth, Holt grounded into a force out, and we executed four straight scoring plays: Ellsbury and Victorino both singled, Pedroia reached on a force attempt thanks to a throwing error, and Papi hit a sac fly.

We even took it down to the wire.  Nava and Salty led off the ninth with back-to-back walks; eventually Nava scored on a wild pitch and Salty scored on a single by Carp.

And now for the pitching.  Felix Doubront, ladies and gentlemen! His outing was almost impeccable.  He pitched seven innings of one-run ball that were almost seven innings of shutout ball had it not been for the double-single combination in the seventh initiated by, of all people, Jason Bay.  The greatest number of batters he faced in an inning was five, and that was only twice.  He threw 107 pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes, and his command and control were evident throughout.

It would have been quite nice to win, 11-1.  But Brandon Workman came on for the eighth and gave up a solo shot and three doubles for a total of three runs.  So we won, 11-4, instead.

AP Photo
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The good signs continue.  We’re battling some soreness and whatnot, but the performance is good.  Victorino’s got some extra-base hits, and the pitchers continue to make a strong showing.  Drew left camp to see a concussion specialist; he resumed baseball activities, but the timetable for his full return is unclear.  Papi made his return to the batting cages.  Congratulations to the Dominican Republic; Team DR won the World Baseball Classic.  And last but most certainly not least, we and the Yanks have decided to dedicate Opening Day by honoring the community and memory of Newtown, Connecticut.  It’s going to be a beautiful ceremony, and the two teams are really doing the right thing.

We lost to the Pirates on Monday, 4-3.  Buchholz ruled the day; in five innings, he made one mistake in the form of a solo shot while walking two and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss; he gave up two runs.  Nava went two for three, and Victorino tripled.  On Tuesday, we lost to Baltimore, 8-7.  Dempster went five innings, giving up three runs on six hits.  Tazawa turned in a scoreless inning, and Bard gave up three runs on two hits.  Middlebrooks went two for three with a double, and Victorino doubled as well.  Unfortunately the Yanks shut us out on Wednesday; better in Spring Training than in the regular season.  Doubront pitched four and one-third innings and gave up four runs on seven hits.  Bailey finished the rest of the inning.  Hanrahan and Mortensen each pitched a scoreless frame.  We beat the Phillies yesterday, 6-1.  Lackey looked pretty sharp; he tossed five innings and gave up only one run on four hits while walking none and striking out one.  Bailey pitched a scoreless frame and picked up the win.  Pedroia went two for two with a double; Middlebrooks doubled, and Victorino tripled.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Jets and beat the Sens.

AP Photo

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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.

Reuters Photo

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2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the Goodbye, I guess.  It’s just a lot to take in and deal with at once.  I have confidence in Ben, but it just seems like he keeps adding to his workload rather than making some definitive decisions.  I’m sure we’ll see those soon, but it would be nice to halt the farewell train.  I think we’ve had enough.

The Phillies called Paps but then seemed to agree to terms with Ryan Madson.  The good news was that we could have still sign him; the bad news was that Paps was now salivating over Madson’s brand-new four-year, forty-plus-million-dollar theoretical contract.  The bright side in was that he’s represented by Seth and Sam Levinson.  Can you imagine if Paps of all people were represented by Scott Boras? That would be absolutely hellish.  Ben made contact with Paps’s camp, but he didn’t expect them to give him any time to match an offer from another club if the offer was to Paps’s liking.

And it was.  Congratulations, Paps.  You have just set the record for closer compensation.  He has accepted an offer from the Phillies for a four-year, fifty-million-dollar deal including a fifth-year vesting option.  Ben wasn’t going to match that, and the Levinsons knew it.  They knew Ben’s dislike of deals for closers longer than three years, and they certainly knew Ben’s dislike for dishing out that kind of money.  We may all rest assured that the only reason why Ben felt comfortable letting Paps go is that there are other options out there, and good ones.  This is not me trying to justify our new leadership and make myself feel better.  This is fact.  Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Joe Nathan (a risky move, but it’s been about a year since his Tommy John surgery, so this should be the time when his command returns), and, oh, yeah, Daniel Bard all make the list.  Not too shabby.  Not too shabby at all.  Ben and I can agree on the fact that Daniel Bard probably shouldn’t be closing just yet.  He was very clearly built to be one of the best closers in the game, but I personally would give it another year or two and bring in a veteran closer first.  Ideally, during that year or two, Bard would see significant pitching time in the ninth inning throughout the season to groom him for that role.  While the one-two punch of Bard in the eighth and a lights-out closer in the ninth would be impossible to resist, when the time comes we’ll face the choice of having to find a reliable set-up man, which arguably may be more difficult, or having to let Bard walk away.  One could make the case that we’re seeing something like Bard walking away now with Paps.  Quite frankly, I don’t like it, and I don’t want to do it more than once.  Regarding Bard specifically, you don’t let a one-hundred-mile-per-hour fastball walk out that door.  You just don’t.

What will infuriate me is if Ben feels compelled to offer more than three years to one of these other closers because Paps basically just revolutionized the closer market overnight.  If other teams will be ready to provide that fourth year, Ben will be out of luck.  All the reports of drama and all the rebuilding to be done this year aren’t exactly helping our cause; Paps is eager to go to the Phillies for several reasons, not the least of which I imagine is that, if you thought he wreaked havoc on AL hitters, he’s going to be the prophet of pitching in the NL, and it looks like the Phillies are a team that could potentially win, despite the fact that everyone said that about them, just as they were saying it about us, earlier this year only to watch them flame out in the playoffs.

And now, the tribute.

Paps started his career here.  He came up through our system and even won a cow-milking contest when he was with the Lowell Spinners.  He played our game both on and off the field because his personality was one-of-a-kind.  He was always a dependable notable quotable, but it was much more than that.  He was a leader and a force in the clubhouse.  He was crazy and insane, but only in the best of ways.  He was a Boston baseball guy.  He lived the baseball experience here, embraced it wholly, and took it to the absolute extreme.  He did the jig en route to the championship and redefined “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by The Dropkick Murphys.  I don’t think he’ll have as much fun anywhere else as he did here.  Seriously, all you had to do was hear those two drumbeats that start the song in the eighth or ninth inning and you know that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the winning that will obviously ensue with Paps on the mound. Granted, it technically wasn’t always like that.  He did blow his share of saves.  He didn’t blow many, but it seemed like most of the ones he blew were doozies indeed.  He was immediately responsible for our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs; he blew his save in Game Three of the ALDS, and that was the last playoff game we were in.  And he struggled in 2010 with eight blown saves.  But looking at the big picture, he more than made up for it.  He attacked the closing job with remarkable intensity; that stare of his could strike fear into the heart of any hitter.  In his career, he has an ERA of 2.33 and a WHIP of 1.02.  He’s amassed 219 saves and posted 509 strikeouts in 429.1 innings.  He’s blown a grand total of only twenty-nine saves, and only three of those came during this past season, compared to thirty-one converted opportunities.  And I don’t think any one of us will ever forget Tek jumping into his arms after he closed out Game Four of the 2007 World Series in Denver.  Not once in our long and illustrious history had we ever had a mainstay closer as long as we had Paps.  He was the best we’d ever seen, and he’s still in his prime.  So here’s to you.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us through the years, both the much-needed saves and the much-needed smiles.  Here’s to you as a player and as a person, a goofy closer who still showed remarkable leadership in the clubhouse.  Here’s an enormous understatement: we’re going to miss you, Paps, and it’s been ridiculously fun.

Ben has also been in contact with the camps of Papi, Wake, and Tek.  I don’t think that I’d be able to watch any of those guys playing for another team.  It would be too surreal.  Like I said, one is quite enough, thank you.

Supposedly we’re interested in a two-year deal with Carlos Beltran.  He’s made it clear that he only wants to play in the National League and that he refuses to DH, but we’ve been attached to Beltran in the media for a long time.  But wait; the plot thickens.  We haven’t even called Beltran yet; instead, we’ve called Grady Sizemore and Michael Cuddyer.

There are also rumors that we’re interested in Mark Buehrle.  This is the first time in his career that he’s a free agent, and competition for him is stiff.  Supposedly we were also on hand to observe the workout of Yoenis Cespedes, who defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic.  Supposedly he’s amazing, and he’s going to set off a major cash fight.  Think Aroldis Chapman.

Mike Maddux has withdrawn his candidacy due to “personal reasons.” That’s in quotes because he’s still on the Cubs’ list.  Obviously.  This should not surprise anybody.  We added Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo and Detroit third base coach Gene Lamont.  If the names sound familiar, that’s because they are.  Lovullo manage the PawSox before going to Toronto, and Lamont was our third base coach in 2001.  And that, supposedly, is going to be it for candidates.  Our list and the Cubs’ list share three candidates: Alomar, Mackanin, and Sveum.  I think it’s fairly obvious that Maddux is going to Chicago.  Incidentally, throughout this process, I’ve been having this thought: Theo’s relationship with Larry was shaky but ultimately productive.  It was shaky because Theo basically wanted his own job plus Larry’s job.  He wanted more control over baseball operations; he didn’t want to be just the general manager, which is why he’s not the Cubs’ general manager.  Theo brought in Jed Hoyer to be the Cubs’ general manager, and it will be interesting to see if Theo actually restricts himself to his higher role and doesn’t conduct himself with Hoyer the same way that Larry conducted himself with Theo.  If he doesn’t, Hoyer may take issue.  Oh, the potential irony.

Gonzalez will appear on the cover of this “MLB 12 The Show.” Pedroia did it in 2009.  Heady company.

On Wednesday, MLB Network aired a two-hour special on the Buckner game.  John McNamara insists that, after the seventh inning, Roger Clemens told him that he was done because of a cut on his finger; Clemens maintains that McNamara pinch-hit for him and the cut on his finger was not an obstruction to continuing to perform.  Whatever it was that really happened destroyed their relationship.  McNamara also stated that he went with Buckner, who was obviously not fit to field, because he was the best first baseman on the roster; he didn’t go with Dave Stapleton because he supposedly had earned the nickname “Shaky.” But Bruce Hurst said that he never heard anyone call Stapleton shaky.  Honestly, the whole thing was just the epitome of devastation, drama or no drama, and what I would personally like to avoid is similar devastation in the future and similar subsequent drama.

Tito is interviewing with the Cards.  Jerry Remy was surprised; he, and I think most of us, naturally assumed that Tito would take some time off before jumping right back into it.

In other news, the Pats dropped a very close one to the Giants, 24-20.  Oh, and we released Albert Haynesworth.  It’s not like we all didn’t see that coming when the signing was made.  The B’s played the Islanders, Oilers, and Sabres this week and beat all of them by almost the exact same score: the Isles and Sabres by 6-2 and the Oilers by 6-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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We are now a mere five days away from the start of what could be our first hundred-win season in sixty-four years.  This is the part where everyone starts speculating about who’s better, us or the Yankees or the Rays.  That’s a ridiculous thing to do.  We have our guys who play our game, and that’s how we intend to win.  It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.  Our goal is to be better than everybody.  And we are.  And we will be.  Five more days.  Only five more days.

On Sunday, we lost to the Cards, 10-3, but it actually was not Dice-K’s fault.  I repeat: it was not Dice-K’s fault.  It’s so refreshing to be able to say that.  He pitched shutout ball through five innings against a lineup that did include several regulars, including Pujols and Holliday.  With two outs in the sixth, Pujols walked, Holliday doubled, and Dice-K was pulled.  His line was two runs on three hits.  He struck out four, three looking, and walked two for his second consecutive good start.  Miller came on in relief and was horrible; a walk, another walk with the bases loaded, and six runs on four hits.  Atchison replaced Miller and didn’t fare much better.  Most of the damage was done by Pujols and Holliday alone.

We lost to the Phillies, 4-1, on Monday.  It was Lester’s last lengthy start of spring.  He pitched five and a third innings.  He cruised through the first five.  He actually had a no-hitter going until Roy Halladay of all people hit a single with two out in the inning.  Not so much in that one third.  He ended up giving up four runs, three earned, on five hits while walking four and striking out six.  He threw fifty-six of ninety-eight pitches for strikes.  Twenty-five of those pitches were thrown in that sixth inning alone.  Meanwhile, Paps, Bard, Jenks, and Doubront got some throwing time in.

We lost again on Tuesday, to the Rays, 7-4.  Lackey wasn’t at his best; he gave up five runs on six hits over five and a third innings while walking two and striking out four.  He threw sixty-seven of ninety-six pitches for strikes.  Pedroia hit two doubles, and Tek went two for three and threw out a runner.

Wednesday was the team’s only day off this spring.  Gonzalez took the opportunity to DH in a minor league game.  He made extremely solid contact in each at-bat and went three for six with an RBI and a run.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Thursday was not a good day for Buchholz.  He may have thrown eighty-two pitches against the Marlins and struck out five, but he gave up eleven runs, six earned, on eleven hits, four of which were homers, over four innings, leading to our 15-7 loss.  It was a total implosion.  Salty was the bright spot with four RBIs on three hits, a homer and two doubles.  Ellsbury also went deep.

We put the regulars in on Friday but to no avail.  We lost to the Jays, 11-8.  Corey Patterson had to leave after getting hit in the back of the head by a Bard fastball.  Luckily, he walked off the field, and he appears to be alright.  Five members of our starting lineup posted two-hit games.  Beckett, however, gave up seven runs on eleven hits over six-and-change frames.

The Twins beat us, 9-8, on Saturday.  It was all Jenks’s fault.  He was truly terrible for the first time this spring.  He gave up six runs in the ninth.  Dice-K was the opposite; he gave up one run on five hits with a walk and four K’s over six innings.  He threw sixty-three of ninety-four pitches for strikes.  Gonzalez went two for three with his first homer for us.  Okajima delivered a scoreless seventh.  That brings our losing streak to nine.  Oh, Spring Training.

Roster cuts this week included Daniel Nava, Matt Fox, and Mark Wagner.  The bullpen competition looks like it’s going down to the wire.  Gonzalez’s agent has starting to talk extension with Theo.  Gonzalez’s agent is John Boggs, not Scott Boras, so I actually believe him when he says that an extension should be finalized sometime next month.

New England Sports Ventures changed its name to Fenway Sports Group.  I take that as John Henry reassuring everyone that the Red Sox are his top priority.  Honestly, I never really doubted that.  And Pedro Martinez’s portrait will be added to the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.  Susan Miller-Havens painted him in his Dominican Republic uniform.  Well, he was as interesting a character as he was a baseball player, that’s for sure.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Devils and the Rangers.  But between those two losses was a win so epic and golden that it almost makes you forget them and just focus on the fact that we’re about to clinch a playoff spot.  We soundly thumped the Habs, seven-zip.  You read right.  They had absolutely no chance whatsoever.  And I hope we meet them in the playoffs so we can do it again when it counts even more.  We’re playing the Flyers tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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One week and three signings later, Theo Epstein is still arbitration-free! Do you know how hard a streak that is to maintain in this day and age? I’m telling you, that’s truly impressive.  On Tuesday, we agreed to terms with Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and none other than the notable quotable himself: Jonathan Papelbon.

Paps got his raise, alright.  For the second straight season, we signed him to a one-year deal.  Except this one is worth $9.35 million.  You read right.  $9.35 million.  That’s a $3.1 million raise.  I don’t even want to imagine what his raise would’ve been had he not completely bombed Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS.  With this raise, he’s a relief pitcher being paid the salary of a position player.  The question is, does he deserve it?

Last season, K-Rod made about $9.2 million and posted an ERA of 3.71.  Joe Nathan made about $11.3 million and posted an ERA of 2.10.  Jonathan Papelbon made $6.25 million and posted an ERA of 1.85.  That’s lower than K-Rod’s and lower than Nathan’s who both made more than he did.  So what if Paps is younger? He’s better.  So, at least on paper, that’s a point in favor of the raise.

Now, it was painfully obvious to us that, even with that low ERA, Paps had an off-year last year.  Why? He walked more batters than usual.  More walks means more pitches means fatigue means less sharp means more blown saves.  But this is not a situation where we have a closer who has a meltdown for no apparent reason.  We know exactly what the problem was, which means we can fix it, which means that Paps’s inferior performance last year wasn’t permanent.  That’s another point in favor of the raise.

Short-term deals are better for the team and worse for the player, so it’s interesting that Paps hasn’t wanted a big contract.  I suspect that’s because he wants to keep Theo on his toes.  If every year is a contract year and Paps continually proves himself, he puts the onus on Theo to make the next movie.  Presumably, Theo would have no choice but to give him a raise every year, thus allowing him to earn more than he might have if he just agreed to one static figure.  From Theo’s perspective, this isn’t going to last long; he can only appease Paps for so many years until he’s eligible for free agency, and then all bets are off.  Meanwhile, Theo very neatly avoided arbitration; in Paps’s case, that was more crucial than ever, and no doubt the fat raise had something to do with it.  I would rather have given Paps a substantial raise and avoided arbitration than have gone through that ordeal with him.  Here’s why.

We also know that Paps is, as I said, a notable quotable.  The man isn’t quiet.  When there’s an opportunity to voice an opinion, you can bet he’ll be first in line, and you can bet that whatever he says will turn heads.  Putting him in a situation where he has to prove he’s worthy of the raise while Theo tries to prove that he isn’t is a horrible, horrible idea.  Given who Paps is, it would severely damage his relationship with the organization and the club.  As someone who relies so much on excited energy and jolts of adrenaline to get his job done, that could significantly impact his performance on the field, not to mention the performance of the whole club.  Case in point: Manny Ramirez.  That’s yet another point in favor of the raise.

But like I said, this won’t last forever, another point in favor.  Word on the street is that, when Paps hits free agency, he’ll take the first train out of Boston to wherever he finds the most green.  But there are some things that would provide serious and humbling deterrents to that course of action.  First of all, because he’s a notable quotable, he’s not a closer who can fit in anywhere.  Here, he came up through the system and the fans love the guy.  Elsewhere, with the possible exception of L.A., his antics might alienate him from his teammates and fan base.  Troubles off the field yield troubles on the field; again, I refer you to Manny Ramirez.  Point being, he might not be as successful elsewhere.

Also, we can expect that before Paps hits the market, he and Theo will have a talk, man to man.  During that talk Theo will say something like, “You and I both know you’re an elite closer.  You’ve had your fun throwing your weight around and making us jack up your paychecks by living on a year-to-year basis.  But now we’re not going to pay you more than you’re worth.  If you want to pull a Jason Bay and make a demand, chase it at all costs, and end up in a situation that’s not as sweet as you thought, go ahead.  But good luck winning a ring and being tolerated elsewhere.” And during this conversation, a very promising closer of the future named Daniel Bard will undoubtedly be on hand, just so that Papelbon knows that Theo isn’t playing games.  Because Papelbon needs to acknowledge, once and for all, that we’ve got another closer waiting in the wings, if necessary.  Papelbon may be good, and he may be great, but he’s not the only great.

I guess what I’m saying is that the raise was a sort of necessary annoyance.  It was exorbitant, to be sure, but there was no getting around it, given the circumstances.  In the future, the circumstances will change and permit us to avoid it.  All we have to do is hold out until then and see if Papelbon has learned anything along the way.  And if he hasn’t, no one would be able to say we didn’t try our hardest to keep him on board.  I for one am not too thrilled about the raise; he’s going to have to do a lot to earn it.  But the fact that I think he will earn it with flying colors makes it easier to bear.

Jeremy Hermida has yet to reach agreement; he wants $3.85 million, but we’re offering 2.95.  I have to say, I’m a big fan of the 2.95.  It would be just sad if Theo avoided arbitration with the likes of Paps only to have to enter into it with Hermida.

Jose Offerman, manager of the Dominican Winter League Licey Tigers, was banned from the league for life after punching umpire Daniel Rayburn.  He came onto the field to argue about an ejection made by Jayson Bradley, the plate umpire, and things got out of hand pretty quickly.  Now, I understand that sometimes the game can get dicey; you see something you don’t like, your temper flares up, and whatnot.  Fine.  But you do not, and when I say “ do not” I mean “do not,” punch an umpire.  I just reread that and it sounds so ridiculous, but it’s true.  You just don’t.  Rayburn, Bradley, and fellow crew members Justin Vogel and Barry Larson all resigned from the league and left the country within hours of reporting the incident.  Offerman could see battery charges if Rayburn pursues this further.

We’ve all heard Mark McGwire’s long-overdue confession.  And we’ve all heard reactions from pretty much everybody.  But I like Carlton Fisk’s the best, and not just because he’s Carlton Fisk.  This is what said to the Chicago Tribune in response to McGwire’s claim that steroids didn’t help him hit those seventy homers in ’98:

“That’s a crock.  There’s a reason they call it performance-enhancing drugs. That’s what it does – performance enhancement. You can be good, but it’s going to make you better…Some guys who went that route got their five-year, $35 million contracts and now are off into the sunset somewhere. Because once they can’t use [steroids] anymore, they can’t play anymore.  And steroids, during that time, probably did as much to escalate players’ salaries as did free agency, as did arbitration, and all of that stuff. It did more than just put home runs up on the board or money in the guys’ pocket.”

Not only is the man well-spoken and to-the-point, but he’s also one hundred percent correct.  Ultimately, McGwire’s claim can be shattered by sheer science, by the physics of the impact that steroids have on home runs.

Roger Tobin, a professor of physics and the chairman of the physics department at Tufts University, wrote a paper called, “On the potential of a chemical Bonds: Possible effects of steroids on home run production in baseball.” The long and short of this paper is the following.  Anabolic androgenic steroids increase lean muscle mass, which increases the hitter’s force on the bat, which increases the work that the bat performs on the ball, which results in a three percent increase in bat speed.  That doesn’t seem like much, but consider the fact that home runs are infrequent and determined by a defined either/or threshold: it’s a home run if it goes over the fence; if it doesn’t, it isn’t.  Requiring a ten percent home run rate, that is, a rate of one out of every ten balls hit going over the fence (derived as a baseline from the pre-steroid era), using the bound that less than five percent of home runs are longer than 460 feet, and combining those two things with physical analysis, Tobin proves that, for an elite slugger like Mark McGwire, that small increase in bat speed would in fact lead to a thirty to seventy percent increase in home run rate.  Bang.

Point being that, no matter what he claims, Mark McGwire’s performance was enhanced significantly.  And I personally would never, under any circumstances, offer a user a standing ovation for a confession more than ten years late.  But that’s just me.  If St. Louis wants to give their new coach a standing ovation and maybe even get him to suit up and play, that’s their business.

The Bruins lost to the Sens and Blue Jackets, and we lost our must-win against the Sens yesterday.  We don’t play the Sens anymore this season, and we drop to fourth place in the division and ninth in the conference, which means that, if it stays like that, we’re not going to the playoffs.  And to add insult to injury, guess who we’re playing this evening: the Canes.  Great.

Dinosaurs Never Existed

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Cutting to the chase yet again, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were both revealed to be on the list of the roughly one hundred baseball players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drug use in 2003.  Neither will be punished by the league because suspensions were only introduced in 2004.  But this season just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it.

Isn’t it funny how the New York Times is always the one to break these stories? And with a decidedly anti-Red Sox bent, too.  “Now, players with Boston’s championship teams of 2004 and 2007 have also been linked to doping.” Like we couldn’t figure that out from the headline.  And isn’t it funny how, out of one hundred-plus names, these were the only two that were leaked? To a New York newspaper? On the front page? Mere moments before game time? When David Ortiz was scheduled to be in the lineup? It’s just strange, is all I’m saying.

The first thing I’d like to say is that the tests in 2003 were called for by Bud Selig to determine the percentage of baseball players who were using.  The results were supposed to be destroyed.  They weren’t; they were supposed to remain anonymous.  And that’s the kicker.  You can’t just release only a handful of the one-hundred-plus names on the list; it’s completely unfair.  If you release some, you have to release all.  Not doing so allows unclean players to masquerade as clean and point fingers to the unclean when really they’re all in the same boat.  And it’s deceiving; it makes it easy for people to forget that at that time this was prolific.  Furthermore, according to Nomar, because the test was anonymous and only for the purposes of determining whether testing was necessary, many players intentionally refused to be tested, thereby allowing themselves to be associated with positive results, in order to push the number of positive players over the top, which would force Bud Selig to implement tests.  This is definitely something to be kept in mind when future revelations of names are made.  Unless that’s not altogether true.  And in this day and age, you can’t be too sure.  Either way, the point is that, as it stands now, the list totally irrelevant.  Just sayin’.

Usually in these situations, the logic of choice would be that of superficial fairness.  Yes, it looks like Manny Ramirez was possibly David Ortiz were taking steroids at the time.  (I’ll explain the “possibly” in a moment.) Just like Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez.  And that by taking steroids, Manny and Papi actually evened the playing field.  The Yankees had cheaters on their team.  We had cheaters on our team.  So we still won, and we were still the better team.  Plain and simple.

But I’m not going to employ that logic, because I am a member of Red Sox Nation, and I root for a team that deserves more than just the cheap, dirty, easy way out.  When the first news of Manny Ramirez broke, I said that neither the 2004 nor the 2007 World Series victories are tainted, and I stand by that.  Yes, it looks like Manny Ramirez and possibly David Ortiz were taking steroids at the time.  But they were only two on a team of forty.  To taint those two victories is to besmirch the rest of the team without due cause.  True, they played an enormous part in both, but without the team they would’ve gotten nowhere.  David Ortiz hit walk-off home runs in the 2004 playoffs. In order for those home runs to win the game, other runs had to have been scored and plated by other players.  Like Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller, Pokey Reese, Trot Nixon, Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts, and Kevin Millar, to name a few.  What about them? They played more of a part in those wins than just two guys.  So when Yankee fans, or anyone else for that matter, try to void 2004, they’re just grasping.  Men don’t win championships.  Teams win championships.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are not about  to let the superficial fan or the weak of heart slander two entire teams of upstanding ballplayers.

Now, that begs the question of who else on the 2004 team tested positive, but we have to work with the information available.  And I can guarantee you right now that every member of that team did not dope.  Doping had to have been an isolated incident, done on an individual basis.  It wasn’t something that ran rampant in the clubhouse.  We didn’t have a trainer injecting people or a supplier doling out pills.  The clubhouse, then, was clean, and as a team, we won honorably.  As a team, we were clean because we did not condone this behavior.  And we still don’t.

And now we get to discuss the “possibly.” David Ortiz admitted that, when he was a young man in the Dominican Republic just breaking into the game of baseball, he’d started buy protein shakes without really knowing for sure what they contained.  It’s possible that they contained PEDs and he just didn’t bother to check.  There’s no excuse for that.  But there is a difference between that and the actions of Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.  It’s possible that he tested positive in 2003, figured it must have something to do with an ingredient in the shake, and stopped drinking them, which coincides with the fact that starting in 2004 he tested clean, a fact we have records to prove.  And the plausibility of this possibility is actually confirmed by the fact that Bronson Arroyo has publicly stated that he was taking androstenedione and amphetamines.  He stopped taking the andro because he found out it was laced with the steroid Winstrol due to “lax production standards.” Apparently, back then, it wasn’t that rare to take something without bothering to check what was in it.  (Arroyo stopped taking the andro in 2004 and the greenies in 2006, when each was respectively banned.) Manny Ramirez is another matter entirely, but we can’t pass judgment on David Ortiz.  Not yet anyway.  Not after he issued a public statement through the Red Sox during which he said he knows nothing, wants to find out all he can, and will explain the situation to the public as soon as he has more information.  This is not the usual skulking off that guilty users practice.  He’s being responsible; the first thing he did was confirm with the Players Association that the report is true.  This is exactly in the style of Big Papi, always open with the media and up-front with the fans.  We owe him our patience while he figures this whole thing out.

Believe it or not, that was the easy stuff.  Deep down, we all know the wins aren’t tainted.  We all know that, as both a team and a clubhouse, we’re clean and honorable.  We know it, we believe it, and it’s easy to explain why, and I’ve done that.  Now comes the hard part.   The part where you realize how painful it was to discover this, how frustrated you were to read it, especially on the front page of a New York newspaper.   I won’t lie; it hurt bad.   And if it comes to pass that he was ingesting PEDs a-la Bonds and A-Rod, I’ll be even more disappointed in David Ortiz.  But we’ll cross that bridge when and if we come to it.  As it is, it stabs you right in the heart.  It makes you angry that he could be so ignorant and stupid as to get caught up in all of that, and it frustrates you even more because you know you can’t judge yet since you don’t have all the details.  And it makes you sad.  But what makes you even sadder is that there are people out there who’ll try to take away from you what you’ve rightfully earned, based on the mistakes of two misguided men.  Whether one of them acted with a certain intent or not.

If there’s one thing we have to take away from this, it’s that it’s wrong to let unclean players give the clean a bad name by hiding among them.  Similarly, it’s wrong to accuse the clean of being unclean just because a realistic outcome could maybe, possibly, sort of be construed to fit an anomalous behavior.  That’s slander.  When the press does it, it’s libel.  And it’s illegal.  Just to give you an idea of how grave an offense defamation can be.  Red Sox Nation is better than that.  The Royal Rooters raised us better than that.

I was very surprised to hear about this.  I know, I know, technically this shouldn’t have surprised me.  Maybe I relate too much to the pre-steroid era, or maybe I’m stubbornly non-cynical; I don’t know.  Whatever it is, there are things I do know.  I know that 2004 ended the Curse of the Bambino and that 2007 reminded us it wasn’t just a dream.  I know that the retired numbers hanging on the right field roof deck represent players who couldn’t be paid to look at a PED.  I know that the men wearing our uniforms now know what not to do.  Behavior like this doesn’t fly in Boston.  Never has.  Never will.  And finally, I know that when I look at a Red Sox jersey, at the World Series trophies, and the youth of the 2009 club, I’m looking at things and people I can respect.  Clubs like ours have learned from their predecessors’ mistakes, and the things they will achieve without the aid of PEDs will be even better than anything that could be achieved with them, because of their absence.

So, that’s that.  I’m not naive.  I just refuse be as cynical and detached as many other baseball fans and sports writers are being.  The situation’s awful, but it is what it is.  Hopefully, and I mean hopefully, this’ll be the last such issue I’ll have to address.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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