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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Castiglione’

To put it simply, we won! On Opening Day! Against the Evil Empire! The first of many, folks.  The first of many.

The opening ceremonies were un-announced and very nicely done, complete with fireworks, Don Orsillo, and Joe Castiglione, with special guests Steve Tyler, Keri Hilson, LeBron James, Dr. Dre, and Neil Diamond.  You read right.  Neil Diamond finally sang “Sweet Caroline” live.  And it was so good to see Ryan Westmoreland in attendance.

The highlight? Pedro Martinez threw out the first pitch! That really takes you back, doesn’t it? They unfurled the American flag over the Green Monster and who should step out from behind it.  Papi was pretty psyched.

I feel compelled to mention that YES didn’t show any footage of Pedro.  Apparently, they previewed the season like they’d been doing every day for the past half-year because every moment must revolve around the New York Yankees.  Ugh.  Just another occurrence that reveals why they’re, well, the Yankees.

And I would like to take this opportunity to point out to all of the naysayers that it was the offense, not the defense, that carried the day.  You really don’t get much more proof that the offense packs a powerful punch than a final score of 9-7.

We were down by three heading into the sixth.  That was when our bats pretty much exploded.  Youk smacked a triple that scored two, and Beltre hit a sac fly to score Youk.  Tie game.  The Yanks scored two more runs in the top of the seventh.  Then Dustin Pedroia hit one of those home runs everyone told him he couldn’t hit while he was growing up because there’s no way someone of his size should have that kind of power.  A two-runner into the Monster.  Huge.  After that, Youk scored again on a passed ball.  Pedroia added another RBI in the eighth.  And there you have the nine runs in all their glory.

The best part of it is that those nine runs were scored due to many different kinds of offense.  You had big ball, and you had small ball.  There were manufactured runs, and there were opportunistic runs.  What that shows is that the offense can get it done in any situation; we know we can always score when we need to.

The only bad part of the game was the only part of the game everyone was sure would be great heading into it: Josh Beckett, our supposed ace in the hole.  Yeah, not so much.  He got rocked.  Five runs on eight hits with three walks and back-to-back jacks in less than five innings is not what we wanted to see from him during the first game of the year.  I mean, they were all over his fastball, and he wasn’t locating his off-speeds.  That’s a terrible combination.  Thankfully, we’ve got a day off tomorrow so the bullpen can rest up.  But I feel pretty safe in saying that nobody saw that coming.  There was absolutely nothing that occurred during Spring Training to even remotely suggest that he would have any sort of issue.  If this were any other pitcher, I’d chalk it up to nerves.  But this is Josh Beckett: not only has he been in Boston for years, but he thrives on pressure situations.  He should have owned.  He didn’t.  I won’t worry about it unless he bombs his next start, but all I’m saying is that it was really unsettling.

Schoeneweis relieved him and did work; a scoreless, spotless frame.  Ramirez came on and allowed the sixth and seventh New York runs.  Okajima got the win, Bard got the hold, and Paps got the save.  He allowed a hit and threw ten pitches, seven for strikes.

We have a day off tomorrow, as I said, and then we’re back to the usual start time of 7:00PM for the remaining two games of this series.  Then another off day, then a road trip to the Midwest.  We’ll be the first to break in Target Field.  Hey, anything is better than the Metrodome.  So, to emphasize: we beat the Yankees to win Opening Day.  We took advantage of two rallies to bounce back twice.  Resilience.  Dominance.  Awesomeness.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  That was the first regular season ballgame we’ve seen in a good, long time, and with the exception of Beckett, it didn’t disappoint.  Just drink it in, folks.  Baseball is back!

Digital Sports Daily
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Finally, it starts to get interesting.

Pitching is Theo’s top priority at the Winter Meetings.  It looks like we’re shifting our focus from Roy Halladay to John Lackey.  That’s very good news.  I don’t want to give up both Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly for a pitcher who is, in all likelihood, past his prime.  Yes, it’s possible he could be another Randy Johnson, who won four straight Cy Youngs after turning thirty-five, or Curt Schilling, who was a Cy Young runner-up three times after turning thirty-three.  But it’s also possible that he just won’t deliver or that he’ll become a medical liability or, worse yet, the dreaded combination of both.  (See Randy Johnson in pinstripes.  Talk about disasters.) And if you compare the two, Roy Halladay doesn’t even enjoy a complete edge in the numbers.  In his career, he started and won more games, struck out more batters, and had a lower ERA, OPP AVG, and WHIP.  But Lackey’s gone the distance more often (which translates to durability, one of Lackey’s strongest assets) and has allowed fewer earned runs, home runs, bases on balls, and hit batters.  And we land Lackey this offseason, it would be through a signing, not a trade, so we wouldn’t have to mortgage our future.  Besides, we theoretically have some money left over from our decision to not pick up Alex Gonzalez’s option.

Supposedly, we’re also seriously pursuing Rich Harden.  I like that less.  He’s got a 3.39 career ERA with 783 strikeouts and a record of fifty and twenty-nine, but he’s never thrown two hundred innings in a season and has only made more than twenty-six starts once.  Durability? Not so much.  But he’d be a good bargain option, arguably a better one than Smoltz or Penny, because he’s pitched in the American League.

Speaking of pitching, the Braves cleaned out two of our peripheral relievers.  Wagner signed a one-year deal worth seven million dollars to close for them.  I would’ve liked to see him come back to Boston, but he did give us fair warning that he wanted to close, and we don’t exactly have a vacancy in that position.  One day later, the Braves signed Saito also, to a one year deal worth just over three million plus incentives.  I’m not too torn up about it.

Say hello to the latest shortstop to don a Boston uniform: Marco Scutaro.  If I sound cynical, it’s because I am.  He’s wearing Number 16; the last Boston shortstop to wear Number 16 was Edgar Renteria, so here’s hoping this time around will work out a little bit better.  Let’s not kid ourselves: he’s a veteran.  He’s a career .265 hitter with fifty home runs, 294 RBIs, and 297 walks to his credit.  But he’s thirty-four years old.  There’s a reason why the deal was only for two years.  It’s worth eleven million dollars plus a dual option.  Things that made this possible: the draft pick we’re getting from the Braves that will offset the one we have to give to the Jays, another undisclosed team pushing hard for Scutaro that forced the issue, and Scurato has reached that point in his career when he really wants a ring.  (Ironically, Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays earlier, worth close to three million plus an option.) Either way, we now have a shortstop who is not Dustin Pedroia.

That needs to be cleared up once and for all.  Dustin Pedroia said he would be willing to play shortstop if the team needed him to.  But the team wasn’t about to let that happen.  Trust me.  You don’t move a Gold Glove second baseman to short because you don’t want to spend some money.  You don’t do that for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that it doesn’t solve anything.  Fine; you move your second baseman to short.  Now you need a second baseman.  Sure, the market for second basemen is more fluid than that for shortstops, but not when you’re talking about second basemen as good as Dustin Pedroia.  Also, the caliber of Pedroia’s defense at short would be comparable to, if not worse than, any career shortstop on the market, with the obvious exception of Julio Lugo.  Thirdly, shortstop is no defensive walk in the park.  It’s the most difficult infield position.  And that means it carries a higher probability of injury, especially for someone who’s not used to it.  So we would have lost valuable playing time from him, both in the field and at the plate, had he made the switch.  Would he have been capable of doing so? Absolutely.  If anyone could, Dustin Pedroia could.  If there’s one ballplayer who embodies the don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-‘cause-I’ll-show-you-I-can attitude, it’s him.  Not to mention the fact that in 2003 he was the NCAA National Defensive Player of the Year at short.  And he’s actually in a better position to play shortstop at the Major League level now than he was when he first came up, due to his offseason workouts and in-season conditioning that have made him lighter and faster.  But even though he’d use his baseball acumen to compensate, his range would leave much to be desired.  And sometimes, in pressure situations in that part of the field, the range of the shortstop is what it comes down to.  It would have put considerable pressure on Mike Lowell to improve his range as compensation, that’s for sure.  So while I’m not doubting Pedroia’s ability to make the switch, I don’t think it would be a good for him or the team in the long run.  The team wasn’t actually serious about that possibility anyway.  Ultimately, Theo never would have allowed it.  Thankfully, it’s a moot point now either way.

But that would explain our earlier interest in Placido Polanco.  After the Tigers declined to offer him arbitration, we made a call or two.  But like I said, we don’t need a second baseman, and even if we did, he was all but off-limits.  The Phillies have since closed the deal.  So much for Chone Figgins, who ended up signing a four-year deal with Seattle.

Last but not least, we extended arbitration to Bay earlier this week.  (We declined offers to Baldelli and Byrd.) That means that, even if he signs with someone else, we get compensatory draft picks.  So the saga continues.

Congratulations to Joe Castiglione, Dave O’Brien, and Jerry Remy for landing on the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, honoring the baseball’s best announcers.  They definitely deserve it.

We beat the Lightning and the Leafs.  Not so much the Habs.  We lost, 1-5, to Montreal.  Ugh.  That was just an awful game to watch.  Even with that loss, though, we’re in first place in the Northeast! Finally! One point ahead of the Sabres, but I’ll take it.  But the most significant B’s news this week has nothing to do with wins and losses.  Marc Savard signed a seven-year extension.  Ladies and gentlemen, that could very well be the highlight of the regular season.  It’s going to have a hugely positive impact it’s going to have on our future.  There is arguably no other center in the league who is as multi-faceted and deeply talented as Marc Savard.  Things aren’t as cheerful on the football front.  Talk about awful games to watch.  The Saints defeated us, 38-17.  Yeah.  Awful.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Did you know that that was Lester’s first start in the Bronx? Certainly didn’t look like it. The Red Sox are back with a vengeance, baby! And there’s nothing for your morale like a shutout of the Yankees on their own turf. It’s good for the mind, good for the soul, and plenty good for the heart. Last night’s contest, or should I say “no contest,” was Lester’s second career complete game (the first being his no-hitter) and he completed it with a minimal pitch count and a strike:ball ratio better than 2:1. As a matter of fact, that was the first complete game any Red Sox pitcher has thrown in the Bronx since Pedro Martinez did it in 2000.

Lester continued his dominance and pitched five impeccable innings, walking two and striking out eight. The offense finally got its act together and did its part in spectacular Boston fashion. By the time the first inning was over, we were already ahead by two runs. Lowell and Ellsbury each batted in two, and Lugo and Varitek each batted in one. Pedroia extended his hitting streak to twelve games, Crisp stole second, and Ellsbury was caught in a rundown on his way to third. But what impressed me more than the 7-0 win, the out-hitting of the Yankees, 11-5, and the lack of Boston errors was Boston’s manufacture of runs (the slumping Jeter’s error in the first resulted in a run for us and ten more pitches thrown for Pettitte). Defensively, the Red Sox also sparkled (Drew caught a fly off Posada literally at the wall). If the Red Sox were down, they didn’t show it. We played our game and we’ve already shortened our deficit behind the Rays.

For their part, the Yankees looked absolutely pathetic. They did nothing offensively and hit into three double plays. According to Johnny Damon, putting on pinstripes comes with a lot of pride, and he was thoroughly embarrassed by the way his team played because apparently that’s not the way a 26-title franchise should act. Well, grow up and welcome to the new age. Your time is up. Unlike Yankee fans, we don’t expect to get by on the glory days of the past for the rest of our lives. Boston isn’t like New York, where “26” is the first thing anyone says in a baseball conversation. No, in Boston we like to start each season with a clean slate and win, regardless of what we did in the past. I mean, come on; do you honesty expect the 26 to help you now? I honestly felt like I was watching us play a Minor League team in an exhibition game or something. New York looked totally lost and out of their league.

And I’ll say this for Boston broadcasting: Michael Kay, Ken Singleton, Al Leiter, and John Sterling don’t hold a candle to Don Orsillo, Jerry Remy, Dave O’Brien, and Joe Castiglione. New York broadcasting is totally weak, not to mention the fact that there was a substantial crowd of Red Sox fans in attendance last night. Speaks volumes about both fan bases, doesn’t it?

In short, these are the Red Sox we all know and love. And these are the Yankees we all know and love. It’s good to see that everyone is slowly finding their way back to their proper places; the Red Sox on top, and the Yankees somewhere down at the bottom. If we keep this going, we’ll be all set. Count on that. Smile, Red Sox Nation; we thoroughly, utterly, totally, and completely trounced the New York Yankees!

Jason Varitek and John Lester, 7/3/2008

AP Photo

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