Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Jason Varitek’

Well, it was a quiet week.  A quiet, quiet week.

As it turns out, my tribute to Tek may have been written too soon.  Apparently we’re talking to him to see if he wants to come to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, which obviously conflicts directly with his previously stated desire to keep playing legitimately.  Bobby V. hasn’t even spoken to him yet since he’s not on the roster, so I don’t really know.

We signed Sweeney to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal for next season worth $1.75 million.

Randy Niemann is our new assistant pitching coach.  I feel like we shouldn’t be trying to bring people from the Mets to Boston.  It’s not like we need even more dysfunction than we have already.

Theo made an appearance on WEEI’s The Dennis and Callahan Show on Thursday during which he officially confirmed that John Henry opposed the Crawford deal and that Lackey’s elbow wasn’t right at the time of his signing.  He thinks that, when Lackey returns from surgery, he’ll be right as rain.

In other news, the Pats crushed the Broncos, 45-10.  Is anyone surprised? Nobody should be surprised.  The B’s beat the Jets and Habs this week but lost to the Canes.

Getty Images
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The small stuff first.  We signed Nick Punto to a two-year deal; it’s a solid signing.  He’s a scrappy player with a decent bat who’s great in the field.  He also seems to have a reputation for a good clubhouse character, which may be helpful at a time like this.  We signed Albers to a one-year deal, and we tendered Aceves, Bard, Morales, Aviles, Ellsbury, and Salty.  Rich Hill is now a free agent.  Jenks had back surgery.

Incidentally, the bid for Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish is rumored to be even greater than Dice-K’s bid.  He’s going to Texas.  Some say he’s better equipped to succeed here, but Dice-K has made me skeptical and bitter.

Bard is unofficially officially a starter.  I know that because we just traded Lowrie and Kyle Weiland to the Astros for Mark Melancon, a reliever who played for the Yanks in 2009 and 2010 but who closed for Houston last season.  Obviously, Lowrie is the one of those two with the higher profile.  He had phenomenal potential that was substantially hindered by injuries; there’s no escaping that fact.  The team had needs that Lowrie, as a result, was unable to fulfill; perhaps he will help the team best as trade bait.  But we won’t know that until Melancon has pitched well into the season for us.

Truth be told, I would argue that, although his stuff seems impressive enough, we don’t really know all that much about him in the context of the Major Leagues.  Last season was his third in the big show; he pitched 74.1 innings in seventy-one games, gave up five home runs, walked twenty-six batters, posted an ERA of 2.78, and struck out sixty-six.  His WHIP was 1.22.  Last year was the first season in which he posted a save at all, and he posted twenty of them.  And he’s twenty-six years old.  From all of this, we can learn that he’s young, he’s new, and he knows absolutely nothing about what it means to close regularly for a team like the Red Sox in a city like Boston in a league like the American League in a division like the AL East.  As I said, it seems like he’s got the raw goods, but at this stage, I do not feel comfortable with him being slotted as our regular closer right off the bat (pun not intended), hands-down, no questions asked.  Throw in the fact that he had major surgery on his right elbow early in his career, and there are definitely some doubts.

Then again, the surgery was a few years ago, and Paps at one time was also untested, and so is Bard as a closer.  They have absolutely electrifying fastballs; Melancon gets up to ninety-five miles per hour.  He also works with an effective cutter and curveball.  Brad Mills seems to think he can do it.  All I’m saying is that Melancon has some big shoes to fill in the biggest baseball town in the country.  Hold onto your hats, folks.  Hold onto your hats.

Bill James’s predictions for the coming season are in.  He has Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Papi all declining in batting average; Youk’s average is slated to markedly increase since he hopefully will be starting the year more healthily than the way he finished last year.  We can expect one additional home run from Papi this year; more importantly, James’s prediction shows that Papi’s power will perpetuate.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury are also slated to go yard more frequently.  Pedroia supposedly will be stealing about ten less bases, but the reason why he probably didn’t get a strong projection all around is because he was injured.  Provided that he isn’t injured, he’s going to rock it.  Look for Gonzalez to perform better than expected as well, since he’ll be entering his sophomore season with us and since he’s now sufficiently removed from his offseason shoulder surgery.

And lastly, literally, it looks like last season really was Tek’s last season with us.  Salty has found his footing, Ryan Lavarnway is coming up, and Kelly Shoppach is coming back.  Obviously it won’t technically be official until Tek signs with another team or retires, but it looks like the year of the goodbye will continue.

We acquired Tek from the Mariners in 1997 and probably didn’t even know at the time the extent of the impact he would make upon arriving.  His entire Major League career was played here.  His development as one of the best catchers in the game was completed here.  Honestly, I always thought he would retire here, and it’s a true shame that he isn’t.  True, his last several seasons saw a marked decline in both performance on the field and leadership influence off the field, but we’re looking at the whole picture here.

Since he’s spent his entire professional baseball life in Boston, we can speak in terms of career numbers.  He is a career .256 hitter with 193 home runs, 757 RBIs, 614 walks, and a .341 OBP.  But we never expected him to be a hitting catcher.  We expected him to be a catcher, period, and what a catcher he was.  He has played in 1,488 games and started 1,372 of them.  He has picked off 10,166 batters and caught 184 stealing.  His fielding percentage is .994; last year he made only four errors, and the year before that he made none.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.17.

And obviously some of his greatest contributions go well beyond even those stellar fielding numbers.  He was a true leader in every sense of the word both on and off the field, which is why he wore the “C” on his jersey, a rarity in baseball these days.  He knew the pitchers inside and out and could adapt on the fly in any situation, which is why he caught and called four no-hitters, a Major League record.  There is also something to be said for having such a veteran on the team, especially with a collaborative and positive personality like his, to ease transitions and be a moderating force in the clubhouse.  And, of course, no tribute to Tek would be complete without mentioning the contribution of the forever-to-be-remembered A-Rod fight on July 24, 2004.  It was a turning point in the season.  It was legendary and historic.  It was epic.

To his credit, he has a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, three All-Star selections, two World Series championships, and the respect and affinity of Red Sox Nation.  He was the quintessential team player, and I firmly believe that his character and quality as a player and teammate warrant consideration for employment within the Red Sox organization, hopefully as a coach.  We remember what you’ve accomplished here, and we won’t forget it.  You’ve seen us at our best and worst; it’s been a phenomenal ride.  We as Red Sox Nation salute you, Tek.  And you will most definitely be missed.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Kings, womped the Sens, and crushed the Flyers in a particularly impressive six-zip shutout.  We scored our first goal in the first minute of the game and four goals in the first period alone.  We’re nursing a four-game winning streak and are tied with the Flyers at the top of the conference.

I’ll be taking a break for the next two weeks.  I expect winning signings when I get back.  Good, solid deals that will address the team’s needs.  It doesn’t have to be flashy; we’ve seen the detrimental effects of fixing what isn’t broken and being flashy for flashy’s sake around the league, and we’re not going to do that.  Just some good, solid deals and we’ll be fine.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

While Theo is busy taking kudos in Chicago, we still don’t have any news on his compensation, but life goes on.  Eight members of the team filed for free agency; none of the filings are surprising: Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, Bedard, Drew, Wake, Tek, Papi, and Paps.  Okay, maybe I was surprised that Drew chose to file instead of retire.  But everyone knew the rest of them were going to be filing.

Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about whether to keep Papi and Paps on board.  The difficulty with Papi is that he’ll want more money for more years, although his recent performance, certainly in the last season, suggests that that’s warranted.  Paps wants more money.  Like, a lot more money.  You might say we can afford to lose him because we have Bard, but I have a feeling that you won’t know how valuable it was having Bard as a closer-esque setup man packing that one-two punch with Paps unless Paps were to leave and then you’d be fishing around for an eighth inning guy as good as all that.  Trust me, it wouldn’t be Jenks, folks.

As far as Wake and Tek go, we don’t have much to lose by keeping them.  Their market value is relatively low as it is; it’s not like they can leverage high demand to induce a bigger deal from us.  Tek’s powers of leadership are here with this team; it’s unclear how valuable he’d be in another clubhouse since that was always his main contributor anyway, especially in recent years when his plate production has markedly decreased, although it is worth noting that he seemed to share in Tito’s experience of having his leadership be less effective this past year.  Either that or he pulled back on his leadership.  Either way, the results were the results; how much that had to do with Tek is unclear.  Regarding Wake, he’s still an effective pitcher, more so in the bullpen now than as a starter; I guess age does eventually take its toll even on a knuckleballer.  So Wake will have to figure out if he’d be satisfied as a reliever.  Ben, like Theo, will be unlikely to dish out coin if he’s not absolutely sure that he’s paying for the player’s worth alone; if Ben is interested in retaining Wake as a reliever but Wake wants to start and demands a starter’s salary, that could potentially be a problem.

Speaking of Ben, apparently he graduated from Lebanon High School in 1992, so the school has reportedly posted a sign out front that says, “Congratulations Ben Cherington Class of ’92 Free Tickets?” Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Jackson, Miller, and Bedard were late-season playoff fixes that we obviously didn’t end up needing.  The decision of whether to retain them doesn’t strike me as epically impactful, although given the fact that we’re technically short a starter now, Bedard may make sense if there’s no one better out there.

We picked up Scutaro’s option, probably as insurance until Jose Iglesias is ready to permanently assume the starter’s role.  We declined options on Wheeler and Atchison.

Congratulations to Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Pedroia on their Gold Gloves! And congratulations to Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Papi on their Silver Sluggers! All very well deserved; I can’t think of anyone who deserved them more.  Finally, congratulations to Luis Tiant for landing on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.  It’s about time!

Lackey had his Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.  Supposedly it went well.

This week, the managerial interviews began.  First up was Phillies hitting coach Pete Mackanin.  Then we had Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, our former third base coach.  We’ve got Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and Cleveland bench coach Sandy Alomar, Jr.  Of those four, Mackanin and Maddux would obviously be preferable, which is why Theo is interviewing them also.

Add to our growing list of vacancies a strength and conditioning coach and an assistant athletic trainer.  Apparently we fired Dave Page and Greg Barajas.

Also worth noting is the fact that the Mets will construct a few walls in Citi Field for the explicit purpose of decreasing the size of the field.  Among those walls will be an eight-foot installment in front of the sixteen-foot Great Wall of Flushing, between which will be built a new section of seats a la the Green Monster.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most blatant agenda-pushing moves I’ve ever seen.  So they constructed an enormous ballpark that is forcing well-paid power hitters, like David Wright and, oh, yeah, Jason Bay, to struggle.  Big deal.  You don’t see any other ballclub undergoing offseason construction to shrink the field size just to increase home run production to make more money.  That is ridiculous, and I’m surprised that it’s being allowed.  Maybe Bud Selig is considering it yet another step forward toward making baseball even more popular; we all know how much he praises the home run as a tool to accomplish that.  But still.  I can’t believe this is flying under the radar.

In other news, the Pats lost to the Steelers, 25-17.  Before the season started, I think we all picked that one as a possible loss.  At least the score was respectable.  The Bruins scored a ton of goals this week.  We beat the Sens, 5-3, and then we absolutely buried the Leafs, 7-0.  Tyler Seguin posted his first-ever NHL hat trick en route.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

Read Full Post »

We’ll start with the biggest news first, which at this point is not really news.  It’s now officially official.  On Tuesday, the Cubs will host a press conference at which they will announce the hiring of Theo, but not as general manager.  As president of baseball operations.  Look for Theo to make a play for Jed Hoyer of the Padres to rejoin him in Chicago as GM.  Also on Tuesday, we will be promoting Ben Cherington.  Well, it’s the simultaneous ending and beginning of an era.  All three of these guys use basically the same strategy, so I don’t think the change will be that drastic.  As I said, though, hats off to you, Theo.  Thank you for all you’ve done.  You’ll surely be missed.

Lester has confirmed that he was, in fact, one of the three starting pitchers engaged in the beer-drinking, fried chicken-eating, and video-game playing between starts in the clubhouse.  He emphasized that nobody was actually getting drunk, that the team was in the weight room doing conditioning, and that the pitchers’ clubhouse shenanigans or the team’s collective September weight gain had nothing to do with the collapse.  He also agreed with Tito that he was losing his influence and that it was time for a new manager.

Then, Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Tito, and even Larry denied that there was ever drinking in the dugout by anyone during games.  The information that beer-drinking was occurring in the clubhouse during games was obtained from two unidentified club employees who claimed that Beckett would instigate the three leaving the dugout around the sixth inning, going into the clubhouse, filling cups with beer, returning to the dugout with the cups, and watching the rest of the game while drinking beer.  However, when two additional employees were contacted, one said he never saw it but heard complaints about it happening in 2010, and another said he never saw or heard about it.  Lester went further to clarify that the players were not taking advantage of Tito’s lack-of-iron-first style but were rather taking advantage of each other.

Apparently, by the way, Lackey is a favorite teammate of the club.  Who knew? Also, who knew that the Padres may be interested in him, provided that we pay most of his contract?

Tek denies that chemistry was even a problem at all.  He said that, when Tito mentioned this as an issue two days after the season, he was surprised.  He said that guys were on the bench and in the gym sufficiently and that the collapse was due purely to a lack of professional results on the field.

We also have to add a pitching coach to our list of people to hire this offseason.  Curt Young is going back to Oakland.  Buchholz says that the pitchers didn’t work as hard for him as they did for John Farrell.  He also said that he joined in the beer-drinking, to whatever extent it actually occurred.

Congratulations to Papi, this year’s Roberto Clemente Award winner! Very well deserved indeed.  By the way, now he says he wants to stay in Boston.

In other news, the Pats edged the Cowboys, 20-16 on Sunday.  And we get a bye today.  And the Bruins lost to the Canes and Sharks but beat the Leafs.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

Just so you know, this is not going to be a happy post.

First of all, it’s pretty much unofficially official.  Theo is going to take over the Cubs.  It’s a five-year deal, and the only thing left is for the two clubs to agree on compensation since Theo is technically entering the last year of his contract with us.  The deal is currently worth twenty million dollars, which reportedly includes said compensation.  As of late, Theo’s title within the Cubs organization is unclear, but it supposedly is something higher up.

The bottom line is that he’s leaving us, so we’ll have to find a first-base coach, a manager, and a general manager.  Here’s an understatement: this offseason, we’ve got some serious work to do.  With any luck, we won’t actually have to find a general manager and will instead be looking for an assistant general manager; I wouldn’t mind having Ben Cherington take the helm.  That’s where it looks like we’re headed, anyway.  He’s been included in all club dealings so far during the offseason.  He’s been Theo’s right-hand man for years, and the two of them started with Larry Lucchino in San Diego anyway.  It obviously won’t be the same, but it’ll be pretty close.

That is, if you like the job Theo did.  Sure, he made some huge mistakes.  Eric Gagne and Dice-K were the most notable of those; if Jenks doesn’t recover properly he’ll be another, and if Crawford and Lackey don’t turn it around they’ll be a third and fourth.  But I would argue that his good so epically and completely eclipsed his bad that this discussion isn’t even necessary.  His drafting and farming decisions were legendary and include Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youk, and Lester.  He is the youngest general manager to be hired, and he is the youngest general manager ever to win a World Series.  After almost delivering us in 2003, his first season, he lifted us out of the Curse of the Bambino in 2004 and reminded us that we weren’t dreaming in 2007.  His acquisition of Gonzalez was absolutely masterful.  He brought sabermetrics to Boston and made it feel at home here.  He wasn’t just a professional removed from everything; he was a baseball guy and, worth noting, a Red Sox fan.  He’s from Boston, specifically Brookline about two miles from Fenway Park, and that’s something Chicago will never change.  Chicago’s dysfunction as an organization goes well beyond any single position that Theo could possibly fill.  Make no mistake; he won’t simply waltz in there and have them winning World Series left and right.  If he could do that in Chicago, we would have been winning every single World Series title since his takeover of our team, and clearly that didn’t happen.  And if it didn’t happen here, it’s not going to happen there.  But that’s neither here nor there.

This is about what Theo did for this city in his nine memorable years here.  He brought a new approach to the game and put the pieces in place for us to win.  He established a winning culture here.  He’s a genius and will be sorely, sorely missed.  Here’s to you, Theo.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us and for the game of baseball.  Here’s to the good, the bad, and the ugly, and here’s to smiling through all of it because, all along, in Theo we trusted.  We know that other fans in other places rooting for other teams will be trusting in you from now on.  But we also know that you can take the general manager out of Boston but you can’t take Boston out of the general manager.  We just hope that the great things you’ll accomplish will not be at our expense.

Secondly, all of the pieces to the devastation puzzle are now coming to light.  It’s an ugly story.  Here goes.

It wasn’t one pitcher responsible for the beer-drinking between starts.  First of all, it wasn’t just drinking beer; it was also ordering in fried chicken and playing video games.  Secondly, it wasn’t just one pitcher; it was three.  Beckett, Lackey, and Lester.  I never thought I’d see Lester on that list, although I should point out that the degree to which he actually participated in these goings-on is highly speculative, and it’s possible that he wasn’t really a mainstay.  Apparently they not only drank beer but ordered fried chicken and played video games, all at the expense of working out, and they were starting to get more players involved.  All I know is that when we needed them to deliver most, they didn’t, which is unusual for them so something must have been going on.  We knew they were health, so that should have tipped us off, but I never thought I’d see the day when such people would actually knowingly put on pounds and thereby sabotage everything the team worked for.  It’s sacrilegious. Pedroia probably couldn’t believe his eyes and must have been seething.

Meanwhile, Tito was losing influence with both old and new guys, he was having health issues, and he was living in a hotel due to marital issues.  He insists that the former wasn’t due to the latter two, but I’m also sure that Beckett, Lackey, and Lester insisted that their very visible extra fat and subsequent tanking wasn’t due to their clubhouse habits either.  I’m actually inclined to believe Tito, though; he’s focused, dedicated, and committed, and we can’t just assume that he doesn’t know how to handle personal issues in his life and balance them with his job.

Then, apparently, the team accused the brass of caring about money more than results when they scheduled the doubleheader in response to Hurricane Irene.  Then the veterans on the team, including Tek, started pulling back on leadership.  Wake exacerbated this problem by calling for a return next year so he could break the all-time wins record; neither the time nor the place when you’re days away from playoff elimination.  And Youk, as you can imagine, was more of a clubhouse pain than usual, which we all knew but didn’t feel because all of these other issues weren’t present before.  At least, if they were, we didn’t know about them to this extent.  Youk was the only player to call Ellsbury out for his time on the DL last year due to his rib injuries.  And it’s obviously admirable and dirt-doggish indeed that he played through his injuries this year, but doing so apparently brought the worst out of him socially in the clubhouse.  And when you’re hanging on by a thread in the standings, that is so not something you need.  Gonzalez, of all people, joined in the pettiness by complaining about the late-season schedule.  I honestly thought he would be much more Pedroia-like than that.

Ellsbury, by the way, is officially the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year.  I can’t think of anyone who would deserve it more.  He earned every last bit of that honor this past year, so hats most definitely off to him.

Add to that the fact that the signing of Crawford was largely a push from Theo over which the brass was divided.  If you ask me, I would have said it was the other way around.  Crawford’s strengths, both in practice and in numbers, aren’t that compatible with sabermetrics, the philosophy used to build the team.  So I thought that we would all find out that it was Theo who was against it, and it was the brass who was pushing him to sign Crawford because of the wow factor of bringing in a star or something.

All in all, the team this year turned out to be one big, dysfunctional family on every front.  Nobody, from the players to the brass, was spared.  Everyone who had issues let them loose at exactly the wrong time and in exactly the wrong ways.  Players on whom you depended to carry your team through the stretch in the clubhouse either withdrew or sunk to the level of the players you never thought would sink to that level in the first place.  It seems like it was just an awful atmosphere completely non-conducive to anything positive or constructive.  Obviously you’ve got to consider sources of this information when you read stories about this, but I guess now that we know the end story, we saw the signs all along.  That’s true of Theo’s departure as well.  At the time to us on the outside, all of the signs were too subtle for us to keep putting two and two and two and two together to come with what is clearly a very elaborate set of social circumstances that spiraled out of control and led to our painful and epic downfall.

Organization chemistry, both in the clubhouse and in the front office, is a very difficult thing to fix and cultivate.  It’s organically grown, and you either have it or you don’t.  You can’t force it.  Now Papi is claiming that he’s seriously considering free agency as a way to escape all the drama.  It’s all been meshing so well recently; how, in such a short time, could we become “that team” with all the drama? It’s like a soap opera.  Seriously.

John Henry even drove down to 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday completely on his own because he felt like he had some records to set straight.  He said that Crawford was not signed to boost NESN ratings, although he confirmed that he did oppose it but ultimately approved it because baseball operations were for Theo and Larry to govern.  Henry also implied a confirmation that Theo is going to Chicago while saying that he wishes that Theo would stay.  He said that, during the season, he let the brass know that he was all in favor of picking up Tito’s options and that the only time he thought that that maybe wasn’t such a good idea was when Tito told the brass that he didn’t want to come back.

Significant changes to the organization could potentially be afoot, and that’s either good or bad.  There’s no way to know who’s on the radar or what we should expect.  There’s nothing to do.  No amount of speculation would ever shed any light because this organization keeps everything under wraps, as is appropriate and right even if it is annoying for us fans hanging in the breeze.

The whole situation is crushing.  Make absolutely no mistake whatsoever about that.  It’s crushing.  It’s devastatingly epically crushing in every conceivable sense.  We’ll get through it because we’re Sox fans and we always do, but it’s just so remarkably and epically depressing and crushing.  I can’t even believe that this whole situation is happening.

Ultimately the big question is short and sweet and simple but revealing of the trepidation that’s currently racking all of us.

What’s next?

Also, Scott Williamson is auctioning off his 2004 World Series ring.  Why in the world would you ever do that? That’s completely sacrilegious.

In other news, the Pats summarily disposed of the Jets, 30-21.  Would I have preferred a blowout? Obviously.  But hey, that score is a lot better than the score we put up against them the last time we played them last season, so I’ll take it.  And the Bruins, since beginning their season on October 6, have beaten Philly, Colorado, and Chicago and have been beaten by Tampa Bay and Carolina.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

I did say almost, so here’s that story.

Bedard’s night wasn’t great.  He gave up three runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.  He gave up a two-run home run.  He lasted three and a third innings.  He threw eighty-four pitches, forty-eight of which were strikes.  He left the fourth after having allowed that homer, and on top of that Aceves came in with two on base.  He got through it without a hitch and stayed on to pitch three and two-thirds innings, giving up a solo shot to lead off the sixth in the process.

Baltimore struck first, but we answered mightily for a change.  Scutaro doubled in the third, and Ellsbury smacked a two-run shot on a changeup right down the middle.  He hit it to right center field and with one swing gave us a one-run lead.

Two singles into the fourth, Lavarnway did the same thing.  Tek had a sore right knee, and Salty had taken that foul ball on the collarbone on his throwing side on Monday night and had to leave in the eighth.  Thankfully, x-rays were negative.  But it was up to Lavarnway to do the catching.  May I say he did a truly phenomenal job, starting with a three-run shot on a fastball to left after already having thrown someone out at third.  Talk about playing well under pressure.  There was one out, a full count, and a Wild Card hanging in the balance.  And that was his first career home run right there.

He flied out to end the inning with the bases loaded in the fifth but made up for that by leading off the eighth with a solo shot on another fastball to left center field.  Meanwhile, Crawford had tripled in the sixth and scored on Scutaro’s two-run shot on a curveball, also to left center field.

So heading into the eighth we had a comfortable 8-4 lead.  I’ve been pretty frustrated lately so I have to say I was hoping that we’d just crush Baltimore.  But four runs isn’t bad; it’s twice as many as they’d scored, and Bard was getting the ball for the eighth.  Obviously there was a stretch during which there was no point in feeling good about that, but lately he’s been alright.

Bard had a relapse.  It wasn’t enough to give up the lead, but it was definitely enough to make us extremely nervous.  A couple of singles and a triple resulted in two runs.  The whole inning took twenty-five pitches, and suddenly our lead was cut in half.

When Paps took the ball for the ninth, we started breathing sighs of relief.  It turns out that they were substantially premature.  It took him a grand total of four pitches to allow two singles and eleven pitches to get his first out of the inning, a groundout.  Another groundout brought in a run.  So now we have two outs in the inning and we’re clinging to a one-run lead.  I know Paps likes excitement and adrenaline rushes and all, but honestly that was a bit much for us.  We’re barely in the playoffs at this point; it wasn’t funny.  A third and final groundout finally ended the inning, and then we could relax.  But I’m telling you, I was not amused.  The final score was 8-7.

And don’t forget Crawford’s spectacular catch in the left field stands for the second out of the first.  Nice read on an extremely high popup.  It was sweet.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »