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Congratulations, folks! We are officially underway! The Opening Day game has come and gone, which means that the regular season has officially started, and we’ve watched our first nine innings of consequential baseball in too long a time.  Yesterday was the first day of the rest of our baseball lives.

Which is why it’s too bad that we lost.  I am in no way about to join any doomsayers that are out there who are already making pronouncements based on one loss to start the season.  It’s the first game; there was plenty of good in addition to the bad.  Honestly, like I said, I’m just glad to have been able to watch baseball again.  It feels good.

Two very interesting things occurred.  The first was that Tito was on the air for ESPN at the time.  He said something very noteworthy.  He said that, had the extra playoff berth been added last season, we probably would have made it in, and it probably would have changed everything, even if those who affected and were effected by the changes claim that said changes were not the result of the collapse.  The second was that, when Justin Verlander pitched to Ellsbury in the top of the first, it was the first time that a pitcher who’d just won the MVP Award started the season by pitching to the runner-up.

Okay, down to business.  Let’s talk about Lester.  Lester pitched really well.  He gave up only one run on six hits over seven full innings.  He walked three and struck out four.  Sixty-three of his 107 pitches were strikes.  I would have preferred less hits, less walks, and less pitches, which would have come naturally with the first two.  Still, he held his own against Verlander and kept us very, very much in the game, so he did his job.  He threw plenty of signature cut fastballs as well as curveballs, sinkers, and changeups mixed in to good effect.  He got his fastball up to ninety-three miles per hour.  Also of note is that he got through the first inning with only five pitches but needed a game-high twenty-three to get through the third.  His release point was nice and tight, and he varied his speeds.  Despite all of that, the final score was 3-2, but it totally wasn’t his fault.  At all.

Both of our runs were scored in the top of the ninth, which means two things: firstly, we couldn’t crack Verlander, and secondly, we were resilient and took advantage of a pitcher we could crack by getting ourselves on the road toward a comeback.  Pedroia opened the inning with a double, and Gonzalez followed that with a single.  With nobody out and runners at the corners, all Papi could come up with was a sac fly that brought Pedroia home.  At least it was something; it was better than nothing, which is what he gave us when Pedroia and Gonzalez both stood on base with two out in the sixth.  Anyway, then Youk struck out.  Then Sweeney tripled in McDonald, who came on to pinch-run for Gonzalez.  If only more men had been on base.

Now, at the time, those two runs had tied the game.  There had been an RBI double in the seventh on Lester’s watch and then a sac fly in the eighth on Padilla’s watch, before Morales pitched the rest of the inning.  So the first run of the entire game was scored in the seventh inning.  That forced Detroit to come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and it forced us to get a taste of what life may or may not be like with our current closing situation, or lack thereof.

Melancon came out to start the inning.  He induced a flyout but then gave up two back-to-back singles at which point he was replaced by Aceves.  You may have been thinking at the time that Aceves should have simply started the inning and finished it, but if his ensuing performance had been any indication, it probably wouldn’t have been much better.  Aceves proceeded to hit a batter to load the bases and then let the winning run cross the plate by giving up an RBI single on a full count that scooted just out of the reach of Punto, who’d come in to play third.  Game over instantly.  So it was the relief corps that lost it for us.  So much for Bobby V.’s strategy of loading the Opening Day roster with pitching.

It’s not like the rest of the offense was very helpful, either, but that tends to be what happens when Verlander starts.  The only multi-hit game of the day belonged to Sweeney, and the team collectively managed only two extra-base hits and nine total bases.  We left five on base and went two for seven with runners in scoring position.

Melancon took the loss since the winning run was assigned to him, and Lester was stuck with a no-decision, which is better than being stuck with the loss since he really did such a good job for his first start of 2012.

It was just a big disappointment.  You start the season hoping to put your absolute best foot forward, especially after the events of the end of last season and this offseason.  We don’t want to move backward; we want to move forward.  It was only the first game of the season, so it’s important not to sweat it, but I still would have liked to start things off with a win.  But at least we can congratulate ourselves on the fact that Lester was in top form, that we only lost by one run in a game started by Verlander, and that we made it to the first game of the season.  Even if that first game was pretty crushing in the end.

In other news, the B’s beat the Sens, 3-1.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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Lester is officially our Opening Day starter.  In a very sportsmanlike gesture, Beckett told Bobby V. in January that Lester was the man for the job even though Beckett’s season last year was better.  It’s all good, though, because Beckett will be starting our home opener.  Speaking of pitchers, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller are out of the running for the rotation, and we’ve only got a short time left until decisions are made and the season gets underway!

We’ve got two rotation spots to fill, and Bard, Aceves, Doubront, and Cook will be fighting for them.  Here are some Spring Training numbers to date.  Bard is one and two with a 7.11 ERA.  He has pitched twelve and two-thirds innings; he has given up ten runs on eleven hits while walking ten and striking out six.  Aceves’s only decision has been a loss, and he has posted a 7.50 ERA.  In four appearances, he has walked one and struck out eleven.  Doubront’s only decision has been a win, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA.  He has pitched sixteen and two-thirds innings; he has walked six and struck out ten, and his average-against is .290.  Finally, Cook has posted a 1.93 ERA.  He pitched nine and one-third innings; he has given up two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 8-4.  Buchholz allowed one run on four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in five innings of work during which he threw plenty of curveballs and felt fine doing it.  That run came on a solo shot, Evan Longoria’s first of Spring Training.  Ross hit a home run.

The Twins beat us on Monday, 8-4.  Doubront made the start and pitched four and two-thirds innings.  He gave up two runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out three.  Forty-nine of his seventy-four pitches were strikes.  Ellsbury had two hits.

The Jays beat us on Tuesday, 9-2.  Bard pitched five innings, four of which were decent.  In total, he gave up three runs on three hits, walked three, and struck out two.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  All three of those runs occurred in the second inning.  Shoppach hit a two-run home run in the second.  Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation sends their condolences to the family of Mel Parnell, who passed away.  He is the winningest southpaw in club history.  He spent his entire career here and pitched a no-hitter against the Other Sox in 1956, his last season.  According to Johnny Pesky, it was Parnell who coined the name “Pesky’s Pole” for Fenway’s right-field foul pole.  Mel Parnell was indeed a character who will be missed, and as I send, we send our condolences to his family and friends.

We lost to the Pirates on Wednesday, 6-5.  Lester pitched three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and didn’t exactly inspire much confidence in his presumed ability to hit the ground running next month.  Salty hit a two-run home run and a double, and Gonzalez hit an RBI double.

We tied the Yankees at four on Thursday.  In four innings, Cook gave up two runs on four hits while walking none, striking out two, and picking off two.  Pedro Ciriaco and Lars Anderson both doubled, and Sweeney scored the tying run.  Interestingly enough, or perhaps the better phrase for it would be “conveniently enough,” Joe Girardi announced that the Yanks had a bus to catch just as Clay Mortensen was getting ready to pitch the tenth.  Girardi claimed that his team wouldn’t be pitching extra innings because they didn’t have enough arms, which the travel list indicated was false.  Mortensen warmed up for no reason in that case, and Bobby V. was not amused.  Honestly, in that situation, who would be? Adding to that drama, Tito returned, this time to broadcast the game for ESPN.  He’ll be in the both for Opening Day and for the April 22 Yankee game.  But you could totally tell that this meeting brought up a lot of raw memories.  Meanwhile, Beckett started a minor league game opposite the Orioles.  He faced twenty-two batters in six innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out six.  He threw eighty pitches, all called by Salty.

Friday began with a most unpleasant surprise: Jenks was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence and fleeing a crash.  I must say, I am extremely disappointed; if he doesn’t want to act like a stand-up citizen because that’s the kind of conduct that we as Red Sox Nation expect from our team in Boston, then he should act like a stand-up citizen because he should recognize his position as a role model and public figure.  He apologized for it today, but still.  Friday ended with a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in which Buchholz pitched five innings, during which he gave up five runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  A strange sight: Nick Markakis hit what everyone thought was a flyout but what turned out to be a home run, thanks to the wind.  He even threw his bat down and everything.  McDonald went three for three.

We played two split-squad games on Saturday.  First, we beat the Marlins, 4-1.  Doubront threw seventy-eight pitches over six innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two.  Lavarnway went two for three with an RBI.  Ross, Sweeney, and Ciriaco also batted in a run each.  Then, the Phillies beat us, 10-5.  Aceves did not have a good outing at all; he only lasted three innings and gave up nine runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out three.  Bowden pitched two innings and gave up a run on three hits.  Padilla pitched a scoreless inning.  Bailey pitched a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out one.  Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Aviles had two hits.

In other news, the B’s decimated the Leafs, eight-zip.  Then we lost to the Sharks, 2-1, and beat the Kings, 4-2.

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Tek officially retired on Thursday; we all knew this was coming, so I’ve already written the tribute, although there are a few things I’d like to add.  First, after initially doing so, he has since come to regret autographing photos of the A-Rod fight because he doesn’t want to condone that kind of behavior, which speaks volumes about his sportsmanship, professionalism, and awareness of his status as a role model.  Second, Scott Boras reportedly did not allow other teams to make formal offers to Tek due to his knowledge of Tek’s allegiance to us; I’d expect that, for Boras, this must be some kind of first.  Third, here’s a neat article containing the comments of some of New England’s who’s-who of sports journalism when we first picked up Tek; boy, does it take you back.  Fourth, Tek was very thankful in his retirement announcement; he thanked everyone.  He thanked his coaches, teammates, and fans as well as the brass and his family.  Here’s a quote:

As I walk away from this game, I can look at the man in the mirror and be proud I gave everything I could to this game, this organization, my teammates.  Once again, I just want to say thank you.

But he won’t be leaving the game completely; he’ll be taking up a position within the organization, which I think is an excellent move.  To be a good catcher, one must inherently possess the ability to maintain a working knowledge of all aspects of the game, not just his own position.  This plus the fact that he was a captain for seven of the fifteen seasons he played here make him an obvious choice for hire.

What’s funny is that a fan took a video during a clubhouse tour on Truck Day and saw that Tek’s nameplate had already been taken down.  Lucchino’s explanation for this was weak, and so the fan already knew what would happen.  What I liked best about this story is that the fan specifically didn’t post the video until after Tek made his decision.

Bobby V. has banned alcohol in the clubhouse and on charter flights returning to Boston.  Tito then claimed that this was a PR move, which it isn’t since Bobby V. is known for having similarly banned beer in his previous managerial stints.  First of all, it’s very unlike Tito to get involved in drama.  Secondly, why are we still talking about this? Last season is last season; it’s done and over.  Can’t we just move on already?

Maybe that’s what Bobby V. was trying to do when he put down Derek Jeter and praised Tek for the A-Rod fight this week.  It certainly did draw attention.  Obviously I agree with what he said; it’s just a little unusual to hear it coming from a manager.  There’s a reason why there are fans and managers and why fans are usually not managers and managers are usually not fans.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of the biggest Yankee-haters out there, but I still want a manager who focuses less on the TV cameras and more on the baseball.

In the interest of not discussing drama anymore, let’s move to the Spring Training schedule, which officially started yesterday when we played Northeastern and Boston College in a doubleheader.  Today, the Major League action begins with the start of a two-game series against the Twins.  We’ve got the O’s on Tuesday, the Jays on Wednesday, and the Cards on Thursday.  Then the Pirates and Rays, and we’re done for the week.

Here are some highlights from the results.  We swept the college doubleheader as well as the two games against the Twins with scores of 8-3 and 10-2.  Lester pitched two shutout innings against Northeastern.  Beckett pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two, struck out none, and was caught by Salty, yet another indicator of the end of an era.  In the 10-2 win, Buccholz pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two and hit one but struck out two and extricated himself from two sticky situations.  Of his thirty-six pitches, twenty were strikes.  He looks healthy and says he feels healthy.  Ryan Sweeney picked up and RBI, and Papi hit his first homer of Spring Training, a solo shot.

Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have agreed to expand the playoffs, effective this season.  Each league will not send not one but two Wild Card teams to the playoffs; the two teams will have to go at it in a single elimination game.  This is the first playoff expansion since 1994, and it creates the largest playoffs in the history of the Majors.  It’ll certainly boost ratings and nail-biting, that’s for sure.  It presents a double-edged sword.  If this system had been in place earlier, we would have made the playoffs in the last two years.  On the other hand, I don’t want to make the playoffs because the bar is continually set lower by a policy of increased inclusivity, and there’s always the chance that that other team is going to beat you before you get anywhere.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Sens, Isles, and Rangers but beat the Devils and signed Marty Turco.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photo/Chris Lee

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The Winter Meetings were pretty quiet.  For some of us, anyway.  Since everyone else was apparently busy gobbling up all the good names.  Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle are off the market; they both signed with the Marlins, who, by the way, are now no longer the Florida Marlins.  They agreed to rename the team the Miami Marlins as part of a deal that allowed them to construct their new ballpark on the site of the old Miami Orange Bowl.  Albert Pujols is now an Angel; his contract is ten years for upwards of $250 million.

Meanwhile, we hardly even made so much as a ripple.  Not that the point is to make waves.  The point is to fix what needs fixing.  We had identified some things that need fixing, and as of now they’re not really all that fixed.  Granted, there’s still a lot of offseason to go, and I’m sure that Ben used this opportunity to gauge the market and make connections.

We’ve signed Andrew Miller to a one-year deal.  More importantly, Papi has accepted arbitration.  I have to admit that I liked it better when we, as a rule, avoided arbitration at all costs.  The good news is that, no matter what, Papi will play for us next season, and he just won 2011’s well-deserved Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.  The bad news is the entire arbitration process, because now the two sides have to go at each other in a no-holds-barred, my-interests-against-yours display of everything that’s bad about each side.  It’s not good for morale.  But Papi wanted to be back, and we wanted him back, so now we have him back.  I guess if he wants a multi-year deal, he’ll have to work for it.  Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Theo, but I don’t like arbitration.  I feel like the process just breeds badness in the long run.

Tito and Bobby V. spent the Winter Meetings in Texas chatting about what it’s like to basically switch jobs.  Bobby V. also spent the Winter Meetings chatting with the media about anything and everything, from David Ortiz to Daniel Bard.  Apparently he and Beckett talked on the phone; apparently Beckett was angry because Bobby V. used to call him out constantly on ESPN for taking time between pitches, but apparently the rest of the conversation went well.  The only problem I have with that is that Beckett specifically requested that the contents of the conversation remain private.  To Bobby V., apparently that means all the contents of the conversation except that one detail.  We haven’t heard anything in the media yet that would indicate that Beckett is upset, but a private conversation is a private conversation, and that should be the end of it.

The second thing that Bobby V. has done with which I don’t agree, at least at this stage, is his intent to convert Bard to a starter during Spring Training.  This is a bad idea.  I’m not saying that Bard couldn’t handle it; it’s possible that he could still apply his wicked velocities to his work as a starter.  But usually you have to take a little bit off for the sake of preserving your endurance for the later innings so I’m not sure it’ll translate in full.  More importantly, if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.  We need a closer.  We don’t have one.  So we can either acquire a closer or a starter.  At this point I think that Bard is so skilled as a closer, a role he seems to have been born into and that he seems to want to at least attempt before he’s pigeonholed into something else, that it makes more sense to at least try him out.  Maybe Bobby V. is thinking that they can train him as a starter and try him as a closer and see which works better, but it’s not good to mess with a young pitcher’s regimen like that.  I’d say the pitcher best suited to swing back and forth that way is a long reliever.  Bard is not a long reliever.  He owned the eighth when Paps was closing; it’s only natural that we at least see what he can do if we give him the ninth.  We already know what to expect if we make him our closer; he may not be as good a starter as he would be a closer.  At this point, it’s hard to say either way, but I’m reluctant so early in the game to make a blanket statement that Bobby V. knows best.  We don’t even know that yet.

In other news, the Pats beat the Colts, 31-24, and the Redskins, 34-27.  The B’s split their games this week; we beat the Penguins and Blue Jackets but lost to the Panthers and Jets.

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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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Last night’s game was even longer than our game with the Yankees on Sunday; last night’s game lasted three hours and fifty-three minutes.  At least we didn’t have to watch it on ESPN.  No, sir.  We watched it on NESN and listened to the mellifluous tones of the voice of none other  than Jerry Remy, who has recovered from pneumonia and returned to the booth for the first time since April 27.  Man, it’s good to have him back.  And at least we’re now one game over .500! Finally, we’ve got a winning record! Wow.  That feels great.

It wasn’t easy, though.  It sure wasn’t easy.

Dice-K didn’t exactly bring the brilliance with him for this start.  Instead, he brought his usual.  He threw twenty-nine pitches in the first, when he almost face the entire lineup in that frame alone.  (He faced eight batters, so he was one batter shy.) His most efficient inning was the fourth, when he threw seventeen.  He didn’t last long; he was pulled after securing the first out of the fifth.  He was lucky that the offense backed him up, because he gave up five runs on five hits while striking out only two and walking seven.  Two strikeouts and seven walks.  Those numbers should be reversed.  This is the third time he’s walked at least seven in a game.  That’s just terrible.  He didn’t allow any home runs; it’s not like a few bad pitches did him in.  Only his four-seam was thrown for strikes more than fifty-five percent of the time.  Actually, his four-seam was fantastic; it was thrown for strikes eighty-one percent of the time.  The rest of his pitches, not so much.  His other pitches, quite frankly, were pretty terrible as well.  And as if all of that weren’t frustrating enough, what makes it even worse is the fact  that it’s Dice-K, and this has been going on for a while, so obviously there’s no analysis to be done to figure out what his mistake was, because whatever his mistake was, it’s a mistake he’s been making for quite some time.

We were down by six runs by the time we got on the board in the sixth.  But we got back in it in a hurry.  We put up a five-spot that inning.  It was glorious.  We sent ten men to the plate in that frame.  First, Drew singled.  Then, he scored on a double by Lowrie.  Crawford reached on a fielding error after that.  Lowrie scored on a single by Tek.  Ellsbury lined out and Pedroia flied out, and then Crawford scored on a single by Gonzalez, who scored with Tek on a double by Youk.  Then Papi walked, and Drew grounded out to end the inning.  One, two, three, four, five, and suddenly it was a one-run game.  And that, my friends, would be a textbook example of how you take what your pitcher gives you and you like it.

Meanwhile, Atchison pitched the rest of the fifth as well as the sixth.  He allowed both of his inherited runners to score and gave up a run of his own.  Aceves came on for the seventh, eighth, and ninth.  He gave up a home run on the second pitch of his outing, a curveball.  We got that run back when Lowrie tripled and scored on a single by Tek in the bottom of the inning.

At that point, we were trailing by one, and I was thinking about the fact that, in true Boston fashion, I believed that we would come back.  So naturally the companion thought to that was how furious I would be if we lost the first game of our home stand to the Orioles, which would put us back below .500.  I ruminated on that in the top of the eighth when Baltimore didn’t score.  I ruminated on that when we had two men on base in the bottom of the eighth and did nothing with that opportunity.  I ruminated on that when Baltimore went down in order in the top of the ninth.  I ruminated on that when Tek flied out to open the bottom of the ninth.  When Ellsbury walked on five pitches and stole second base only to have Pedroia also draw a walk, I was busy ruminating about how I just saw Adrian Gonzalez announce to his manager that he was going to change his batting stance in order to hit the ball in New York, step up to the plate, change his batting stance, and hit the ball in New York.  I was thinking about the fact that, not only is this guy the best hitter in the Majors right now, but he’s a hitter so good that he said he would get a hit and then he went out there and he made whatever adjustment was necessary and he just delivered; he got the hit like it was no big deal, like, well, he said he would, so then obviously he did.  When he laid into that ball on the first pitch he saw in that at-bat, an eighty-mile-per-hour slider, and he bounced it off the Green Monster, I knew we were going to win.  And we did.  Ellsbury and Pedroia both came around to score.  It was a walkoff.  His first in a Boston uniform.  The first of many.  And at that point I was ruminating on the walkoff mob.  And the final score.  8-7.

Youk, Drew, and Lowrie all went two for four.  Ellsbury and Tek both went two for five.  Gonzalez went three for five.  And the epic comeback, obviously.  It was our biggest comeback run-wise since April 25, 2009, when we were also down 6-0 at Yankee Stadium.

It was an epic comeback.  The only time we held the lead all game was when we cemented that final score.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to depend on that day’s pitching staff to hold that lead.  We have a winning record.  I repeat: we have a winning record! We are a winning team! And, I mean, Adrian Gonzalez.  Wow.  Welcome to Boston.

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Obviously, we’re still waiting around.  Still not much happening.

The Rays signed Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.  That was exciting for all of five minutes.  That team lost almost all the reasons why they were ever good in the first place, and then they went out and decided to plug those holes with a couple of has-beens.  They signed both of them for seven millions dollars.  Total.  As in, both of them together cost seven million dollars.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I don’t think I seriously thought I’d see the day when these two guys would ever be ready to admit that they’re in the process of being done.  Needless to say, neither concerns me.  They’ll get a nice crowd at their home games, and they’ll get some publicity, but ultimately I just have to laugh.

Speaking of contracts, this is something you won’t believe, and the fact that something like this is so unbelievable is a testament to how bad things have gotten in the business of baseball.  But here it is: Gil Meche signed a fifty-five-million-dollar contract during the 2007 offseason and just upped and retired from baseball due to shoulder issues.  He just walked away from twelve million dollars.  It would have been easy for him to stick it out to collect the money.  We see pitchers do this all the time.  They spend a little time in the bullpen, they spend a lot of time on the DL, eventually the season ends, they finish out their contract, and then they retire.  But no.  Not only did Meche take the high road and admit the reality of his age and condition, but he also said that he retired when he did because he wouldn’t deserve the rest of his pay if he finished out his career like that.  It wouldn’t be fair to the team, it wouldn’t be fair to the fans, and it wouldn’t be fair to himself; he said he just wasn’t comfortable the moment he stopped being able to actually earn his contract.  He didn’t want to freeload off of an organization that had already paid him handsomely for his life’s work.  And just like that, baseball loses another class act because he’s a class act.  That is one guy after Mike Lowell’s heart.  We may not believe it, but we understand it.  Gil Meche, baseball fans everywhere salute you.

Sean McDonough, who did play-by-play for us from 1988 to 2004, and Nomar, who did almost everything for us from 1994 to 2004, will play “key roles” in baseball broadcasts on ESPN this year.  I have no doubt that they’ll be unbiased, but at least now we won’t have to deal with bias the other way.  We know McDonough.  We know Nomar and his analytical abilities got off to a pretty shaky start.  But more importantly, we also know that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are long gone.  And no matter who the replacements are, that is something worth smiling about.

In case you haven’t noticed, as I’ve been saying every week, these past few weeks haven’t been too interesting, baseball-wise.  That’s because there are very few questions to answer.  We know who our starting shortstop is.  We know what the lineup will likely be.  We even know, more or less, who will be on the bench and who will be called up because all of last season was basically a showcase of the best our farm system has to offer.  Luckily, we are slowly but steadily approaching pitchers and catchers.  Slowly but steadily.  Hang in there; not too much longer.

In other news, the Kings shut us out on Monday, but we beat the Panthers on Wednesday, and we sent three to the All-Star Game! Chara, Thomas, and Seguin all went and participated in SuperSkills, and Chara and Thomas played in the game.  Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom captained this year, and they actually got to choose their own teams, so Chara and Seguin both played for Staal against Thomas, who played for Lidstrom, which was strange but interesting.  Thomas actually skated in the Fastest Skater competition.  His time of nineteen seconds obviously lost, but it was just funny.  Chara played in the Skills Challenge Relay, but his team lost.  Chara also lost to Thomas in the Elimination Shootout.  It’s all good, though.  Definitely all good.  Because Chara still reigns supreme in his area of expertise: Hardest Shot.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new record! 105.9 miles per hour was the winning speed.  That, my friends, is about as hard a shot as you’re going to get, and the only harder shot you’d ever encounter is from him anyway.  Seguin posted 97.1 miles per hour in that event; not bad for a rookie.  But seriously.  After a point, you just can’t see the puck when it travels that fast.  I would not want to be on the receiving end of one of those.  And finally, Lidstrom’s team won.  By a goal.  The final score was 11-10.  That’s not a hockey score; that’s a baseball score.  But that’s what happens when you feature the best of the best.  Play resumes on Tuesday with the Canes.  Hopefully we crush.

AP Photo

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