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Posts Tagged ‘Hockey’

It’ll be one week tomorrow since our elimination from the playoffs, and it already feels like forever since baseball season.  That’s a bad sign.  If it feels like forever after a week, I don’t want to think about how it’s going to feel after a month, or two, or six.

The Twins failed us, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Let’s look back on our season, shall we? We finished second in the Majors in runs scored with 818, sixth in hits with 1,511, first in doubles with 358, second in homers with 211, first in total bases with 2,546, second in RBIs with 782, sixth in batting average with .268, third in on-base percentage with .339, and second in slugging percentage with .451.

When you look at it like that, our offense was awesome.  Before the season, everyone was worried about where the home runs were going to come from.  Well, they came.  They came in droves compared to the offensive ineptitude everyone was ready to heap onto us.   Beltre was a big part of that, and if you ask me he should be in the discussion for AL MVP.  Tito should be Manager of the Year.  Done.  If he doesn’t get Manager of the Year, something is fundamentally wrong.

Let’s do pitching.  We were tenth in the Majors in wins with eighty-nine, seventh in saves with forty-four, second in innings pitched with exactly 1,457, ninth in strikeouts with 1,207, and ninth in opponent’s batting average with .253.  Unfortunately, our ERA, runs, earned runs, and walks were off the charts.  If we got into the playoffs it would have been because of about half the offense and half the staff, namely Lester and Buchholz.  We basically spent the entire year playing with and relying on only half our team.  Half the staff was trying to carry all of it, and half the order was trying to carry all of it.  The bullpen was a mess.

And finally, fielding.  We were second in the Majors in putouts with 4,371.  The rest of our fielding stats were essentially awful.  Beltre was as bad in the field as he was good at the plate, and he wasn’t the only one.

All of that begs the tough question that encompasses every GM’s universe come the offseason: what do we do to improve? We’re in a very difficult position.  After a season finish like ours, the first impulse is to be convinced that what we need is some sort of incredibly massive overhaul.  But that’s not necessarily the case, and we should be wary of doing anything rash.  We know from that brief but glorious period right before the All-Star Game that Theo’s run prevention theory works.  We were well on our way to locking the division before the injuries hit.  So we can’t write off that approach so fast, especially since we obviously did end up having good offensive production.  Aside from our obvious needs, it’s hard to gauge what’s needed because we never actually got to see the 2010 team in full force for any indicative period of time.  So I actually don’t think that there are too many glaring holes that need patching up this winter.

One glaring hole we do have is the bullpen.  Paps was decidedly subpar, and so were most of our other relievers.  We need a middle reliever, and our specialist situation is not clear-cut at the moment.  We need to fix that.

We need to re-sign V-Mart.  That is absolutely non-negotiable.  He works very well with the staff, he has improved his arm, and he hits.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a catcher who hits.  And he hits from both sides of the plate.  And he destroys southpaws.  And he plays first base.  V-Mart will be worth every penny the brass offers.  The only potential problem there is years.  V-Mart wants a long contract, and we don’t like offering long contracts because they damage our flexibility.  But I still say he’s integral.

We need to retain Big Papi.  We’ve got an option on him, and as usual there’s no comment as to whether that’s going to be exercised.  All I know is that Papi was an absolute force this year.  When he gets going, it’s hard to stop him, and he’s still got it.  Not to mention what he does for the team off the field, which is also important.  So between his potent bat and his potent personality, he does great things for this team, and I think it would be a mistake not to bring him back.

Beltre is also a free agent.  This is a tricky one.  Nobody expected him to be as good as he was this year, so he’s going to have decisions to make this winter.  There is absolutely no way on this planet that he will exercise his option.  No way.  It’s not happening.  Beltre is going to want some serious coin, perhaps more than we’ll want to offer.  We’re going to have to be ready if that’s how it comes to pass.  Suppose Beltre signs with someone else.  Presumably, Youk will be healthy next year, so we’ll have his bat back to take the place of Beltre’s, and we wait for the other Adrian, Adrian Gonzalez, to become a free agent, we sign him, and we move Youk back to third.  Obviously that’s easier said than done, but it’s a viable option and one that the organization has been thinking about.  Do I think Beltre would be worth the kind of financial commitment he’s probably looking for? That depends on how much we’re talking.  He’s obviously a beast.  He’s a great hitter, presumably he’ll eventually be a great fielder as he gets more accustomed to Fenway, and he’s durable, which we learned the hard way this year.  He’s so durable that, not only did he stay healthy for the whole year, but he took out others for the season.

Lastly, there’s the subtle yet present question of Jason Varitek.  Tek will be back next year in a backup role.  He has embraced his demotion as a way to help the team in a different way, and he’s happy with that.  Everyone needs a backup catcher, and he’s probably the best backup catcher you could possibly find.  He’s also a class act; it takes a real man to accept a backup job with a team you love instead of signing for more money with another team that would probably make you a starter.  Tek has never played baseball for anyone else, and I suspect he wants to keep it that way.

No matter what happens, I think next year will be vastly different from this year, and not only because we’ll be healthy next year.  That’s definitely one reason; Pedroia had his surgery when he did so he would be ready to begin his offseason regimen on time. Everyone is committed to making 2011 a turnaround.  If you ask me, I think we’re going to have a World Series coming our way.  Also because our bench and farm are now one of the best in baseball since they all became starters this year and got regular playing time for a good portion of the season.  And new guys like Lackey will be fully acclimated, and we’ll get to see them really live up to their potential.  So I’m psyched.

In other news, the Pats walked all over the Dolphins last weekend, beating them bad by a score of 41-14.  And hockey season has officially begun.  We kicked it off in Prague with the Coyotes.  We dropped the first game, 5-2, but came roaring back in the second, 3-0.  Tyler Seguin scored his first NHL goal, and it was Thomas with the shutout.  Then we’re returning to the United States to take on the Devils.  This is going to be a great season for us.  We’re loaded with young talent, and I think we’re going to go places.

Sports of Boston

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That was the most infuriating regular season loss I have ever experienced.  It was completely unjust.  It was completely unfair.  And I will even be so bold as to make the claim that it was completely improbably; the Marlins just got excruciatingly lucky.  Lucky that Nolasco was on and that then we didn’t get a chance to demolish their bullpen.  After five and a half innings of play, the score of 2-1 in favor of the Marlins became official, and rain stopped play for the rest of the night.  They called the game.  Baseball is the only sport where you don’t have to finish a game for the score to be set down in the record books.  That makes sense when we’re slaughtering the Twins, 10-1.  That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever when we’re playing a bad National League team at home and we’re losing by a run at the halfway mark.  In what alternate universe could that possibly be presented in a logical light? I have no idea, and quite frankly I have no desire to find out.

Lester pitched five, gave up two runs on eight hits, walked none, and struck out four.  The two runs came on two long balls, one to Uggla and one to Ronny Paulino.  He just didn’t keep the ball down in the zone on those pitches.  His strength is that deadly cut fastball, and those fastballs didn’t do much of anything.

Youk hit a huge solo shot in the first.  Landed in the Monster.  I’m telling you, it’s impossible to throw a fastball by this man.  He may be in a bit of a slump now but he’ll come out of it.  Besides, he still walks, so even though his average may be taking a bit of a dip, his on-base percentage is still through the roof.  That’s all we were able to do before we were rudely interrupted by the rain and subsequently told to take a loss we probably didn’t deserve.  I firmly believe that, given more time, we had a very legitimate chance of limiting the Marlins to two runs while scoring more ourselves.

Dustin Pedroia lost an RBI from Chien-Ming Wang’s start in the Yankees series.  Major League Baseball decided to make it an error on Swisher instead of a ground-rule double.  Speaking of Pedroia, his slump is over.  Not that it was actually going to last.  And David Ortiz moved up from sixth to fifth in the batting order.  That’s a good sign.  That’s a very good sign.

So, yeah.  We lost the series finale to the Marlins.  Whatever.  It’s done, it’s over, onward and forward to the Braves.  Kenshin Kawakami at countryman Dice-K.  If Dice-K can just keep us in it, we’ll find a way to win this one.  Besides, it’s about time he had himself another win.  The man is one and four.  Our second starter is one and four.  That needs to change.  He hasn’t been solid, but once he finds his groove and establishes a rhythm for the season, we’ll be good to go.  But I’ll say this.  No matter how badly we play, and no matter how we lose, why we lose, or who we lose to, we can take comfort in the fact that we are not the New York Yankees, who just dropped two games to the Washington Nationals, worst team in baseball.  Although, technically, for just this series, that is now no longer true.  At least for this series, the Yankees are, technically and by the numbers, the worst team in baseball.  And that is most definitely something to smile about.

In other news, the Bruins cleaned up at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas last night.  Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender.  Zdeno Chara, with the fourth most goals and twelfth most points among defenders, won the Norris Trophy, awarded to the best defenseman.  Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez both won the William Jennings Trophy for each having played a minimum of twenty-five games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.  And finally, last but most certainly not least, Claude Julien won the Jack Adams Award, given to the coach of the year.  Congratulations to the boys in black ‘n’ gold! They most definitely earned it.  Why they couldn’t add the Stanley Cup to that list is completely beyond me.  Just sayin’.  They’re obviously capable, but in Boston if there’s one thing we know, it’s that sometimes these things just happen.

Tubsolution

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Every time Masterson starts, he wins.  Or if he doesn’t win, he gets saddled with an undeserved no decision.  But he doesn’t lose.  We talk all the time about how young the kid is and how he pitches well beyond his years, and how he looks like a veteran on the mound every start.  No so last night.  Last night he looked like some kid from Pawtucket called up to make an emergency start.  I mean, fine, he couldn’t go on like that forever and every pitcher has a bad day, but I think I would’ve been much happier if he’d had his bad day not during the second game a four-game series with the Rays, because now we’ve lost two and Toronto’s jumped out in front.  So we’re officially on a losing streak and in second place.  Wonderful.

One thing’s for sure.  When I envisioned what a Masterson bad day would look like, I wasn’t really seeing back-to-back home runs, the first of which was a grand slam.  That was definitely not part of the plan.  Masterson pitched six, gave up six runs on six hits, walked three, struck out six, and relinquished those two home runs in the fifth inning.  Evan Longoria hit the grand slam, followed by Carlos Pena’s solo shot.  Both were hit with two outs.  As we know, Masterson wouldn’t last much longer.  But there were some high points.  Because the bullpen’s been working overtime lately, we needed Masterson to go deep.  Because Masterson is so young, deep for him is somewhere around five or six innings.  So he did that.  He did his job.  It wasn’t his best work, not by any means, but he did his job.  And if we have to take this loss because it was important for the bullpen to get that extra rest, so be it.  In the long run I think it’ll be worth it.  I’d rather not have any more pitchers put on the DL with arm fatigue so early in the season, and if that means we have to take a loss while our starter is left in the game a little longer than usual, ultimately that has to be fine with me.  And it’ll be good for his endurance too, because eventually six innings will become the norm for him.  Delcarmen and Ramirez aced.  Still 0.00 ERAs for both of them.  That’s something I hope will last.

Unfortunately the offense didn’t do much.  We ended up losing by a score of 6-2.  In the third, Jason Bay walked with the bases loaded to bring Pedroia home, so that’s scored as an RBI, and the man still leads the American League in walks.  How about that? Even when he doesn’t get a hit, he still manages to plate somebody.  And the other RBI goes to Drew.  Pedroia and Youk both had great nights, going three for five and two for three with a walk, respectively.  Youk’s still batting above .400.  It’s very early in the season, but I suspect he and Pedroia will battle it out for MVP again this year.  Lugo got a hit, which I didn’t believe until I saw a replay of it later.  We did out-hit the Rays, though, 9-7.  In theory, the team with the most hits should win, the key phrase there being “in theory.” The Twins out-hit us even though we beat them, 7-3, so technically I can’t complain about that.  But still.  It would’ve been nice if more of those hits came with runners in scoring position.

So we’ve dropped the first two to Tampa Bay.  The key at this point is to not get swept.  I never thought I’d say this, but I’m so thankful that it’s Wakefield on the mound tonight.  He always does well at the Trop.  Maybe he can put a lid on this before it gets out of hand.

In other news, the Bruins finished off the Hurricanes in Game One of Round Two the same way they finished off the Canadiens in Game Four of Round One: by a score of 4-1.  Timmy Thomas, folks.  Timmy Thomas is winning the Vezina Trophy this year, and last night he showed why.  There were some beautiful saves and definitely some beautiful goals.  Great physical hockey.  I have to admit, I was a little worried about the fact that we hadn’t seen action on the ice in quite some time, and you never know how a long rest period is going to affect you, but by the second period we were all good.  And it was nice to see Sergei Samsonov again, even if he was playing for Carolina.  Actually, he and Axelsson are the only players involved in this series who were also present in the 1999 Bruins-Hurricans Stanley Cup quarterfinal, except that back then Samsonov was also wearing black and gold.  Also, congratulations to Zdeno Chara on becoming a father and to Claude Julien on becoming a finalist for the Jack Adams Award.  But the point is we buried them and we have good momentum going into Game Two, which is at home on Sunday at 7:30PM.

The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy

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