Posts Tagged ‘Edmonton Oilers’

Truck Day has officially come and gone! That’s the first sign that next season  can’t be too far away.  It’s been a long, cold winter, and the long, cold winter is still going on, but at least we know that things are starting to stir down in Florida.  Nothing gets you excited about the end of winter like equipment heading south for Spring Training!

Papi wants a multi-year deal.  No news there.  That’s what every player wants.  The challenge is that it has to make sense for the team as a whole as well.  This year we will welcome Jerry Remy back into the booth for the season.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Isles, 6-3, and the Panthers, 6-2, before losing to the Habs, 4-1.  We then shut out the Oilers, four-zip, and beat the Canucks, 3-1, and Sens, 7-2, while losing to the Blues in overtime, 3-2, before the Olympic break.

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So we went from a week of huge news to a week of basically no news.  Papi wants a one-year contract extension, and Ben is maintaining a firm but low-key presence at the Winter Meetings.  And that’s pretty much it.

In other news, the B’s beat the Flames, 2-1, and Oilers, 4-2, but the Canucks gave us a beating yesterday, 6-2.  And the Pats dropped a close nailbiter to the Dolphins, 24-20.  I’d really like to have a landslide win.  We haven’t had one of those in a while.

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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 lost our Spring Training opener with the Twins, 8-4.  And this is the part where everyone collectively remembers how insignificant the outcomes of Spring Training games actually are.  They’re good workouts and warmups for the teams, and they’re essential for roster spot contests, but it really puts it in perspective for you when you see all the starters being unconditionally pulled by the fifth inning.  However, there are still observations to be made.  Beckett started and pitched two innings, allowing one run on two hits.  Buchholz followed with two scoreless frames.  Okajima followed with a truly uninspired performance, and Wheeler gave up a home run.

We beat the Twins on Monday, 7-6.  Dice-K started and allowed a hit in the first inning, but that was it for his two innings.  He threw twenty-five pitches, fourteen of which were strikes.  All in all, not too shabby.  Wake gave up three unearned runs, and Bard was terrible.  Papi went two for two with a home run.  In his debut, Crawford went 0 for 3.  More importantly, Beckett was hit in the head by a ball during batting practice in left field.  He’s been diagnosed with mild concussion symptoms, with an emphasis on the “mild.” He didn’t have to go to the hospital and was treated right at the park and was sent home to get some rest.  He was back at the park the next day feeling good, and although he missed his next start on Thursday, he simulated an outing on Friday.  It went well; he threw forty pitches over three innings to minor leaguers, and he’ll pitch again on Tuesday.  Twins fans will tell you after Morneau’s bought with his concussion last season that it’s the most frustrating injury a player could possibly have due to its unpredictability; it could be mild one day and severe the next, and you might think that a sting on the fifteen-day DL is enough but you end up on the sixty.  All I’m saying is that I’d rather he stay on the DL than be terrible and lose a whole bunch of games.  I’m also glad his back is still fine, because Beckett on the DL with a concussion is better than Beckett not on the DL with a bad back.  Recall all of last season.  But we should focus on the positive: it doesn’t look too serious, and it’ll affect his Spring Training, but perhaps by the time the regular season rolls around, he’ll be good to go.

We beat the Twins again on Tuesday, 5-0.  Lester cruised through his two innings, yielding one hit, one walk, and one K.  Paps pitched a one-two-three fifth.  Reddick and Lowrie each recorded an RBI, and Salty walked on eight pitches.

We lost to the Braves on Wednesday, 6-1.  Lackey gave up a run, a solo homer, on four hits during his two innings; he threw forty-one pitches, twenty-five for strikes.  He threw one two-seam, and the rest were all four-seams.  We saw this from him last spring as well; he pitches to contact so he’ll be healthy by the time Opening Day rolls around.  But he needs to find a balance between pitching to contact for that purpose and maintaining arm strength.  Ellsbury hit, Pedroia walked on a full count, and Papi had three hits and a stand-up stolen base.  Okajima struck out two in a perfect inning of work.

We were shut out by the Phillies on Thursday, 2-0.  Stolmy Pimentel filled in for Beckett.  Jenks debuted with a scoreless inning, and Wheeler allowed two hits.  Oh, and Ruben Amaro, Jr., the Phillies’ general manager, said that we’re the best team in the Majors.  Us.  Not them.  Us.  Keeping in mind of course that this is Spring Training, not a preview of October, so that doesn’t count for much.  Although I’m rather inclined to think that it does at least count for something.  At the very least, it’s someone recognizing what Red Sox Nation already knows.

On Friday, we beat the Yankees.  5-3.  I don’t care if it’s Spring Training, the regular season, or the postseason; I love beating the Yankees anytime, anywhere.  Buchholz pitched three scoreless innings.  Adrian Gonzalez took his first batting practice.  He took eighty swings, five more than his scheduled amount.  Everything looked good

On Saturday, the Marlins crushed us, 11-2.  Dice-K allowed seven runs, five earned on six hits.  It wasn’t pretty.  Wake gave up two runs on five hits in two and two-thirds innings of work.  Salty caught him for the first time and, given the fact that he’d hardly had any experience with knuckleballs in his career, he actually fared quite well.  Paps turned in a scoreless inning, and Jenks was impressive.  Meanwhile, Ellsbury and Crawford played into the seventh, with Crawford posting his first hit, against the Orioles.  He went two for three with a walk.

Lester was supposed to start today but he’s got the flu, so Michael Bowden will fill in.

One other thing.  Yes, the Cardinals failed to iron out a deal with Albert Pujols, despite the fact that he made it perfectly clear that he’s not interested in negotiating during the season.  Why they didn’t just fork over the cash, I have no idea.  It’s not like they could possibly spend it on anyone better.  Whether the Cards will actually allow Pujols of all people to reach free agency is unclear.  What is clear is that he is not coming to Boston.  No matter how great of a player he might be, it makes absolutely no sense to bring him here.  We just traded substantially for an awesome first baseman; we didn’t do that to purposefully not work out a deal with him, let him walk during free agency, and sign away all our financial resources for the next decade for one guy.  So, provided we keep Gonzalez, which is basically the whole point of that entire move, what would we do with Pujols? We could make him a DH, I guess.  But he’s thirty-one years old and headed for the Hall of Fame.  He’s not a DH.  He’s a first baseman.  And he is not coming to Boston.  But that’s fine.  We don’t need him.  What we do need is to work out a deal with Gonzalez before Pujols hits free agency so that Pujols in no way affects Gonzalez’s contract.  Gonzalez is awesome, like I said, but if we’re not going to sign away all our financial resources for the next decade to Pujols, we’re not going to sign away half our financial resources for the next decade on Gonzalez just because he’s the next best thing.  Will not happen.  I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the deal is already done but they’re keeping it quiet until after the season starts to minimize luxury tax ramifications.  The point is that we’re going to keep it reasonable and responsible.  That’s just how we roll.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Oilers and shut out the Sens, and beat the Lightning.  We lost to the Pens in overtime, but at least we got a point.  So we crushed this week.  By the way, we’re second in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the Flyers, but we’ll close that gap.  Yup.  This could be the year.

AP Photo

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Okay.  Spring Training is officially in full swing.  We can say that because now the entire roster is officially in Fort Myers.  In reality, most of the entire roster has been down there for some time because they were early.  Like I said, this is a good thing.  It may have made Tuesday, when all the position players were supposed to report which would mark the definitive moment when the team started preparing for what is supposed to be a championship season, pretty anticlimactic, but it means they’ll get some extra training in, which is obviously good.

But now that everyone’s there and ready to get going, it’s finally time to talk about what we want to see from each of them this year.

I want to see at least thirty starts from Beckett, Lackey, and Dice-K.  Lester and Buchholz absolutely can not be expected to shoulder the load of an entire season.  So at least thirty starts each.  Especially from Beckett.  Beckett decided to tweak is offseason training regimen, focusing this winter on core stability.  He lost some weight, he feels great, and he looks good, which is a huge relief, because his last season was abysmal.  Lackey also switched up his offseason routine; he got a new trainer, and ran more and focused on cardio exercises.  So he’s also lost some weight, he’s moving around better, and of course he’s heading into his sophomore season with us, which is when new Boston pitchers really get going.  So I expect some seriously stellar stuff from him.  He’s starting our first Grapefruit League game today.  As far as Dice-K is concerned, there’s not much to say.  2007 was a miracle year for him.  I call it a miracle year because he hasn’t been able to duplicate it in Boston since.  He’s had about as many issues with durability and consistency as anyone could possibly tolerate, and all I want to see from him this year is health.  I only want to see him not go on the DL.  That’s all I want.  At this point, that really shouldn’t be too much to ask.  He looks good in camp as well so far.  Most of the rotation threw thirty pitches in their first side session.  He threw forty-five.  If he can support that work, that’s fine.  I just want to see him penciled into every fifth start for an entire year.

As far as Lester and Buchholz are concerned, there’s not much I want to see that I haven’t seen already.  From Lester, I want to see two things: a better month of April and a lower walk total.  Every year without fail, his Aprils are terrible.  And last season may have been a good one for him overall, but it also was marked by eighty-three walks, a career high.  He’s going to fix that problem with brute focus.  In baseball, you can never afford to take it easy and assume an out.  So turn up the voltage in April and turn down the walks, and we’re talking Cy Young.  And while he’s at it, twenty wins would be nice too.  Regarding Buchholz, like I said, there’s not much I want to see that I haven’t seen already.  He’s not setting any statistical goals for himself this year.  But I’m not him, so I say twenty wins from him as well also be nice.

I want to see at least forty-five saves from Paps.  He’s had a sub-par year, but he’s still an elite closer.  But if he wants to keep that title, he’s got some work to do.  He blew too many saves we couldn’t afford to blow.  He’s surpassed the forty-save mark before, in 2008 with forty-one, but after some of the numbers he put up last season, in an ideal world I’d like to see something spectacular from him.

From the bullpen collectively, I want to see it pick up slack.  I want it to be a sturdy, viable go-to option for Tito in any scenario.  Our bullpen is powerful, capable, and diverse, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be able to sustain a season’s worth of work, giving starters and closer a day off here and there, bailing them out when necessary, and still have plenty of health in the tank.  This year, I want to not hold my breath when I see Tito pick up that phone.

From Adrian Gonzalez, I want to see everything we’re hoping for: good defense and good offense over the long term.  It’s pretty basic.  We acquired him for a reason.  This is his first year with us, and he had the surgery on his right shoulder, so he may not be at his one-hundred-percent best, but I want to see something pretty close.  Something in the ballpark (pun intended) of upwards of 130 RBIs.  This is obviously a stretch.  Obviously.  But at Fenway, I don’t think it’s as much of a stretch as it would be elsewhere.  Adrian Gonzalez was born to step up to the plate in a close game and just take batting practice off the Green Monster.

From Pedroia, I’m going for playing time.  He’s one of our toughest players, and I want to see him spend as much time as he possibly can on the field and at the plate.  I still don’t even like thinking about that foul ball that just happened to hit that one spot on the top of his foot (what are the chances?), and all I want is for him to be back and action.  Let’s say 650 plate appearances.  He’s done it before, and he can do it again.

From Scutaro, I want to see an increase in offensive production across the board.  I want him to not be a weak link in the otherwise strong chain of our lineup.  I don’t want him to be a sigh of relief for opposing pitchers, especially since his durability is really solid; he made a career-high 632 plate appearances last season, and that with his own fair share of various ailments.  From Scutaro and also from Varitek, I want to see an OPS close to .800.  From Salty, I want to see reassurance in some form that he’ll be able to not only do his job but do his job well.  Because, to be honest with you, he worries me.

From Youk on the field, I want to see what I saw at first base, at third.  And I want to see him reach his self-set goal of posting a .980 OPS this year.  He was close last year.  This isn’t an unrealistic expectation.

Papi needs to increase his production on southpaws.  Last season, this was a noticeable fault, and it created problems not just for the team and its ability to win but also for his own ability to succeed.  If he continues to be weak against lefties, he’ll have to be taken out of the lineup against lefties.  That means that any roll he happens to be on at the moment will be interrupted.  That happened last season, and it wasn’t good.  With everyone pressuring him with all their negative expectations, he’s fighting a psychological battle that won’t be helped by time on the bench.

When it comes to Crawford, I’m thinking about runs scored.  Runs scored is an interesting statistic because it’s affected by so many things: hits, walks, and steals.  With the emphasis on that last one for this guy.  His speed will play a very intriguing role in his ability to score runs, and I’m looking for at least a hundred.  He scored 110 last season, good for seventh in the Majors.  Put someone like that on the base paths with a potent lineup like ours, and it should be a walk in the park.  Pun obviously intended.  He’ll be debuting Monday against the Twins.

Let’s talk about Ellsbury.  Ellsbury had the entire season and offseason to rest, recover, and recoup from his injury.  And he is now officially completely healthy.  He has absolutely no restrictions on his movement and is fully prepared for Spring Training.  He’s going back to center field where he belongs, so I want to see plenty of classic diving catches on the run.  He’ll probably bat first, so I want to see good production in leadoff right out of the gate.  And, since no conversation about Ellsbury would ever be complete without a mention of steals, I’d like to see him steal something like sixty bags this year.

Put together my goals for Dice-K and Papi and you have my goal for Drew: stay off the disabled list and increase production against southpaws.  He has the potential to be a great hitter; he’s shown himself to be such in the past.  But he’s not going to have much of an impact if he spends a lot of time on the bench or if he doesn’t seize at-bats against lefties as his times to shine.  By the way, his left hamstring is doing much better, and he’s out on the field, which is a good sign.  Also, this year is actually a contract year.  He’s at the end of his five-year deal.  So maybe he’ll pick it up a notch.

Last but certainly not least, from the team as a whole I want to see a picture of health, at least fifty wins at home, at least one hundred wins overall, and a World Series.  Boom.  Done.  What could be better than that?

The team has already had its first official full workout.  It went very well.  And it started with a standing ovation for the ownership group, honoring the moves they made this winter.  That’s extremely unusual.  Players don’t give standing ovations to the front office and the brass just because they went out and made some acquisitions.  But as usual, in Boston we know how to do it right, and that was right.  We one-hit Boston College, beating them for the twenty-first time yesterday, and we crushed Northeastern, 13-2, in the nightcap.  Clearly we’re off to a proper start.

In other news, the Bruins signed defenseman Shane Hnidy.  And we won both of our games this week, the first against the Flames, the last against the Canucks, and we’re playing the Oilers tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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