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Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Damon’

Let’s start with a recap of the end of two weeks ago.  On Thursday, Andrew Miller turned in his third quality outing of Spring Training against the Rays.  One hit and one K over one and a third innings.  Good for him; his previous outing wasn’t so quality.  Cameron returned to the lineup after sitting out with tendonitis in his left knee.  Obviously the biggest story was Crawford’s debut against his former team; he got a hit and made a spectacular diving catch to end the fourth.  Crawford even stole the show from Damon, who claims that he would have approved a trade to Boston if he knew that Detroit wouldn’t re-sign him.  I think he’s just saying that now because he sees a World Series-winning team.  Anyway, we lost, 8-6, and the rest of the game was a different story.  Dice-K gave up five hits and as many runs over three and two-thirds innings with two walks to lead off the game and two K’s.  Over his last six and two-thirds innings, he’s given up ten earned runs.  In three outings, he’s got an ERA of 11.42.  He is not concerned.  Tito isn’t concerned.  And if this were any time of the baseball-playing year besides Spring Training, they would be about the only two people not concerned.  But it is Spring Training, and Dice-K is taking some liberties that he otherwise wouldn’t.  I would suggest bearing with him.  He’s working on his changeup and cutter a lot this spring, and he wants to be more aggressive with the zone this year, so while he works on that, it could look ugly.  But now is not the time to worry.

We scored five runs in the first two innings of Fridays’ game against the Astros and won it, 9-3.  Scutaro and Pedroia were the only regulars in the game because the squad was split, but they took care of business.  Pedroia went two for three, both for extra bases, plus two RBIs, and a walk.  Meanwhile, it took Paps twenty-nine pitches to record one out and three walks and give up one hit and three runs.  And that’s how the Twins won, 3-2.  Crawford made an error.  Lester, however, fired off four spotless innings; he allowed four hits and struck out five.

Adrian Gonzalez batted third and manned first on Saturday in his debut against the Marlins.  He turned his first pitch into a single.  His second and last at-bat resulted in a sac fly.  And his goal is to play in every single game this year.  If he continues his good work, that’s fine with me.  Ellsbury and Pedroia both went three for three, the former with two doubles and a homer and the latter with a single.  Lackey gave up a run on six hits over four and two-thirds innings with three K’s and no walks.  Lackey threw forty-nine of seventy-five pitches for strikes.  We won, 9-2.  Saturday also marked the premiere of “Down the Line,” a documentary on MLB Network at Fenway’s staff.  Make no mistake; that is where the magic happens.  And according to a Major League source, the team has let it be known that they’re willing to trade Dice-K for a young catcher and Wakefield for a southpaw reliever.  Cameron and McDonald, in light of the options on Kalish and Reddick, could also be on the block, and the team may entertain offers for Scutaro.  Theo has denied all accuracy of this report, explicitly labeling it as false.  I’m going to listen to Theo for now.  At the very least, you can be confident that, given his full no-trade clause and salary and performance (or lack thereof), Dice-K will not be moving anytime soon.  Meanwhile, he’s changing his side schedule; instead of throwing both a long toss and his side session two days after each start, he’s going to throw a long toss the first day after his start, another the second, and his side session on the third.  This idea, of course, is courtesy of Curt Young.  At this point, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it’s all well and good to know everything that’s going on with his various training adjustments and throwing adjustments and workout adjustments, but I just want them to find the problem with him and fix it as soon as possible.

The Pirates beat us, 9-4, on Sunday.  Beckett gave up a run on four hits through his first four innings.  Then he gave up a homer, a walk, a double, and a bases-loading hit-by-pitch in the fifth, and that was the end of that.  Fortunately for everybody, Beckett made an extra effort to incorporate his changeup, which has been the distinguishing feature of each of the best years of his career.  Unfortunately for everybody, he lost it last year.  So he’s trying to get it back this year.  Atchison then proceeded to allow all his inherited runners to score.  Bard’s inning was scoreless.

Buchholz and Wake both threw productive simulated games on Monday rather than face the Yankees for the second time this spring.  Meanwhile, we beat the Yankees, 2-1; Paps turned in a scoreless frame.

We beat the Tigers by the same score on Tuesday.  Dice-K two-hit Detroit through five innings while striking out five.  His curveball was absolutely unhittable.  On the field and at the plate, Ellsbury stole the show with a homer and a spectacular catch.  McDonald also homered as well as DH.

We barely lost to the Braves on Wednesday, 3-4.  Lester allowed three runs on eight hits over four and two-thirds innings.  He walked two and led off the game with three consecutive singles.  Scutaro went deep on the Braves’ second pitch of the game.  Salty hit an RBI double, and Reddick hit an RBI single.  V-Mart expressed thanks for his time in Boston and believes that Salty and Tek will do well.

We beat the Mets on Thursday, 8-5.  Lackey allowed a run on five hits over five and a third innings with two strikeouts and his first walk of Spring Training.  Paps got rocked; he gave up two consecutive doubles and four runs.  He insists that he knows exactly what his problem is.  Honestly, it’s not that hard to figure out: he’s not locating the zone right now.  Crawford went two for three with a steal.

We lost to the Tigers yesterday, 3-8.  Buchholz was not his best.  He gave up three runs, only one earned, on five hits with two walks and a strikeout.  That one earned run was the product of a homer that led off the second.  He retired the side in the fourth, but that was it for ease.  His mechanics were just off.  And you can thank Youk and Gonzalez for the unearned runs.  Pedroia homered for the first time this spring.

We followed that loss with two more today.  Wake allowed four homers, six runs on seven hits in total, and one walk in only three innings en route to a 3-7 loss to Tampa Bay.  Meanwhile, Beckett allowed one earned run and four unearned over four and two-thirds innings en route to a 5-7 loss to the Pirates.  Scutaro and Pedroia posted multi-hit games, and Wheeler’s appearance was scoreless.

We also completed our first round of roster cuts this past week, sending five down.  Our lineup, by the way, has more or less quietly taken shape: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Youk, Papi, Drew, Salty, and Scutaro have batted in that order during almost all full squad games this spring.  That’s not a real surprise; it follows my prediction pretty closely, and it’s a lineup built for success.  Tito is doing his best not to cluster the lefties too much and to spread the tools evenly.  Not to mention the fact that we are so stacked, it’s not even funny.  And we have officially finalized our pitching staff.  Lester got the nod to start on Opening Day.  As it should be.  Given his general sub-par game lately, not only should Beckett not be offended by that, but he should also not be surprised that he was dropped to fourth.  And Tito had his other reasons: he’d rather have Beckett start his season against the Indians than against the Rangers.  He is not happy.  He wanted the Opening Day nod, and he explicitly disagreed with the drop.  He doesn’t think that the extra time will matter much, and he’s a competitor, so naturally he doesn’t want to accept the fact that lately he’s been not good in a general sense.  Lackey is the Number Two, followed by Buchholz, and Dice-K of course will start fifth.  So as it stands now, Lackey will be pitching our home opener against the Yanks.  I’m just wondering why it’s Lackey followed by Buchholz and not the other way around.  I’m sure Tito has his reasons, but that one-two punch was almost unbeatable last year.  I wouldn’t want to split it up.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Sabres in overtime on Thursday and to the Islanders on Friday.  We beat the Blue Jackets in a shootout on Tuesday but lost to the Predators in overtime on Thursday and to the Leafs today.

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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.

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A word on this whole Johnny Damon episode.  We claimed Damon off waivers on Monday, and he had until yesterday to make a decision.  He ultimately vetoed.  Let’s parse.

There is some speculation about why we made that claim in the first place.  Some said it was to keep him from the Rays or Yankees because a player can’t move in a free trade unless he clears waivers.  That may be an added bonus to the outcome of the whole situation, but I doubt that was the real reason behind it, because that would’ve been a pretty substantial gamble that banked on him refusing.  Then, we would’ve been stuck with someone we didn’t really want if he said yes.  So I think the real reason the team claimed him was to obtain some sort of spark that would get us going.

A quote from Jason Varitek substantiates this view:

It would be a nice opportunity, but we’ll let him do what he needs to do.  Johnny, aside from being a great player, he makes athletic adjustments offensively.  He plays hurt, he doesn’t always play at 100 percent.  So much of it is how he plays the game.  He plays the game right.  It pushes the energy.  He’s definitely an exciting player.

Some have interpreted this as a very targeted dig at Ellsbury’s long recovery.  I would again like to remind those people that we’re not talking about a broken thumb here.  We’re talking about ribs.  I’ve never had broken ribs, and I intend to keep it that way, but if any of you would like to experiment with whether it’s possible to play baseball with that kind of injury not completely healed, go ahead and be my guest.  I will admit that the absence of Ellsbury’s skills may produce some tension or anxiety in the clubhouse, but I’m not entirely sure that that has solely to do with a judgment on the appropriateness of the timing of his recovery.  We have no way of knowing for sure what went on.

Anyway, the point is that this quote clearly shows that what the front office as well as the team itself saw in this guy was a spark.

Damon had a no-trade clause with the Tigers, but only for eight teams, one of which was us, the reason being his apparently sub-par interactions with the front office during free agent negotiations after the 2005 season that ultimately resulted in him walking all the way to New York.

Now, when he was faced with the decision of whether to veto the clause or whether to veto the trade, he described his predicament this way:

I have to think about if once again I’ll be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball, but also the most hated guy in baseball.  That’s what it boils down to.

This tells me that it always has been and will be about him.  Not about us.  It was about what the team could do for him and his reputation, which he has thus acknowledged as damaged by his signing with New York.  I know the trend in baseball lately is to be cynical, but you and I both know that there have been plenty of guys who’ve come through here with a different attitude.  We pick them up during the season, and they say that they’re happy to play for Boston, that they’re psyched about offering their skills to the team, that they can’t wait to get in the batter’s box and on the field and show what they can do to help this storied franchise win.  I mean, this is a team for which players play for knowingly less money (Mike Lowell) and with which players sign for a day just so they can retire as a member of this particular team (Nomar).  So it’s not all as cynical as many people think.  But Damon represents a stark contrast to all of that.  The free agency negotiations weren’t to his liking so he walked to the Evil Empire.  If he can stand up there in good conscience and tell the world that they shouldn’t harp on him because baseball is a business and he has a right to go wherever he wants, then there is no way on this planet that he can also stand up there and berate the front office for not making enough of an effort to ensure his return, for the exact same reasons.  A player has a right to sign wherever he wants; a team has a right to sign whomever it wants.  And through an assessment of the team’s needs, the team decided that Damon wasn’t the answer for the amounts of money and years he was seeking.  This kind of thing happens all the time in baseball, but it looks like Damon took it personally.  So did Nomar.  But Nomar grew up and figured it out.

So the only way that Damon would’ve returned to Boston is if he thought it would make him a nice guy in baseball again.  There have been those who claim that Damon, if he had the exact same injury as Ellsbury, would have played more games through more pain.  His attitude during this whole proceeding suggests the exact opposite.  Damon would have approved a trade to come to Boston because that trade alone would’ve benefitted him exclusively on an individual level.  The amount of games and with what amount of hustle and heart he played them would have been completely irrelevant for the achievement of his ends.  All he would have needed is the trade by itself.   That would have made him the nice guy.  Not his performance once here.

Damon mentioned the importance of teammates.  He insisted that if his teammates want him to stay, he would most likely stay.  This is true now in Detroit, but it wasn’t true in Boston when he became a free agent.  Sure, his teammates wanted him to stay.  We know that from the disappointment expressed by Tek and Papi in the wake of Damon’s refusal of the trade.  But again, his issue with the front office made him want to walk.  That’s fine.  It happens with many baseball players.  All I’m saying is that, when it suits him, he puts all his stock in his teammates.  And when it suits him, he puts all his stock in his objection to the quality of interaction with the front office.

Damon also mentioned the importance of fans.  He said he loves playing for Detroit’s fans.  Just like he loved playing for us when he was here.  He said his broken relationship with us has scarred him, and approving the trade would eliminate that, especially if he took us into October.  So here we have him assuming that the addition of him and him alone would be the ultimate solution to the team’s woes and would instantly turn us around and get us to the playoffs.  But more significantly, the fact that he is not considering the fans is clear.  He wants the removal of his own scar, but he doesn’t really care about ours.  He has consistently been unapologetic about his decision to sign with New York.  But when David Wells signed with us, he blatantly acknowledged the weight of his decision in terms of the rivalry.  Baseball is not a perfect world because it’s a business, which we have already established.  But it’s not a perfect business either.  There are things you do and things you don’t do.  You don’t do what Damon did.  But if you do what Damon did, the least you should do is acknowledge the reality of the situation and its ramifications.  Damon played for us.  He was instrumental in our 2004 ALCS victory over the Yankees.  He was there before and after the curse was broken.  Our loyalty as fans suited him fine when he wasn’t on the other end of it.  As a result, he has no right to expect from us as fans to continue our relationship with him as if nothing has happened, and his resistance to acknowledging this fact is yet another reflection of his self-absorption.  I should also point out that another guy who played for us, who was instrumental in our 2004 road to glory, and who was there before and after the curse was broken was Schilling.  Schilling based his decision to sign with us partly on his interaction with us fans on Sons of Sam Horn.  In Boston, the fans matter.  A lot.

Furthermore, after Damon refused, Papelbon said that he was confident that Damon would do what’s right for him and his family.  Excuse me, but I don’t recall any mention of family in Damon’s consideration.  I recall it in Billy Wagner’s consideration, for example, and even in Mark Teixeira’s consideration, but I don’t recall hearing anything about anyone aside from himself over the past several days.  Papelbon was absolutely right in assuming that family should be a part of the consideration, but unless Damon for some reason kept it completely under wraps, we have no indication that that consideration took place.

So what we can gather from all of this is that Johnny Damon is professionally selfish, arrogant, and opportunistic.  He goes with what works for him, takes things personally, and doesn’t look out for anyone except himself.  He’s a changed man.  And you know what? I’m not sure I would have wanted someone like that on our team.  I don’t know if I would have wanted to win that way.  Boston, both the players and the fans, have a certain integrity.  We have certain expectations, and we relate most to certain attitudes.  Damon really must have been scarred because he doesn’t have those things anymore.  These circumstances have exposed him in a way different than that in which we knew him.  So I hope he’s very happy in Detroit.  I hope he plays his heart out for the Detroit fans and for his Detroit teammates.  In the end, we’ll be alright.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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We followed Saturday night’s loss with a similar one yesterday afternoon, except that yesterday afternoon’s loss wasn’t the bullpen’s fault.  It was the starter’s fault.

The scary part is that this is very reminiscent of the losing streak we had at the beginning of the season.  We were starting to actually play well up to this point.  We moved within five and a half games of first place, and we were coming on strong.  Only to suffer losses like this, where one aspect of the team is on while the others are off.  You’ll lose ballgames every time you play an incomplete style of game.  It would be a different story had the opposing pitcher been dominant or our starting pitcher turn in a good performance.  But these were failures of a nature that makes it hard to determine whether we would in fact have come out on top.  I suspect we would have, especially on Saturday, as I said.

Lackey takes the loss and all the blame that that entails in this one.  Baseball theoretically shouldn’t be discussed in terms of faults and blame, but every once in a while you know who’s responsible, and that makes a difference in how you interpret the loss.  Had Lackey been as dominant as we’ve seen him be, our lack of offense either would’ve resulted in a loss anyway, which would’ve been more respectable and healthy for the team as a whole because we would’ve been playing our whole game but got beat by a team that happened to be better at that particular moment, or our lack of offense wouldn’t have mattered.  Maybe Lackey would’ve allowed no runs, or maybe he would’ve allowed one and we would’ve gone into extras.  It’s hard to say.  But it’s not hard to say with the performance he actually gave yesterday.

The final score was 5-1 in favor of Detroit, and all of those runs were given up by Lackey, who stayed in the game for seven innings because our bullpen was entirely shot.  He gave up five runs on nine hits with four strikeouts and four walks.  All four walks occurred in the first two innings, and the third was the result of a twelve-pitch at-bat that loaded the bases.  Then a minor leaguer making his Major League debut broke his bat on a dribbler that he beat out because Lackey missed the bag with his foot.  The fourth walk was yet another bases-loaded walk awarded to Johnny Damon, of all people, but if you ask me that was yet another umpiring mistake.  Lackey, Tek, and Tito agree with me; Tito spent two whole minutes “discussing it” with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale.  (Tek also made a very strong throw and caught Damon stealing second.  It was great.) The final blow was a two-run shot in the fourth on a curveball that didn’t curve.

I’ll say this for him: eight of the nine hits he allowed were soft singles, so it wasn’t like Detroit truly had his number all the way.  But sometimes those are hard to deal with as well; you need to be in exactly the right position defensively to convert those into outs.  Boesch snuck one by Youk somehow.  Then, Scutaro flashed leather in the third when he dove for Inge’s ball; he fired well to first but wasn’t in time.  So those can be tricky.

He threw mostly curveballs and cutters, which weren’t outstandingly effective.  His two-seam was, but he only threw eight of them.  He needed only eight pitches to finish off the sixth, but fired at least thirteen in every other frame, using at most thirty-eight in the second.  He varied speeds well and kept his release point together, and his strike zone was more concise than Barksdale would have you believe; it just included some extra area on each side.  It was at least heartening that not many of his balls were way off the plate, but there were pitches thrown outside the zone on all sides.  Eventually he did recover some semblance of command, retiring ten of his last twelve batters.  But not before we were firmly in a position to lose.

That also has to do with the fact that somehow Galaraga was on.  We collected seven hits on the day but left ten men on base.  Again with the squandering of opportunities.  Van Every doubled to lead off the third; Hermida doubled him home two batters later.  That was our only run.  We loaded the bases in the seventh, but Drew struck out, which has been a theme over the course of the past few games of which I’m really not a fan.  Youk went two for four, and McDonald went two for two.  I venture to guess that it didn’t help that Beltre, V-Mart, and Pedroia all had the day off, Pedroia for the first time this year.  Pedroia may have had a sore knee and should be back in the lineup tonight.  Hall took his place at second, which was interesting to say the least.

Schoeneweis pitched a quality eighth.

Ellsbury begins rehabbing in the minors today, which means he’s on the final stretch back to the Majors.

So that’s that.  We’re going to the Bronx tonight without momentum.  And to make matters even more uncertain, Dice-K is starting.

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On Wednesday we had our first full-squad workout.  Folks, Spring Training is very much underway, and we’re in business! We have mere weeks until Opening Day.  (I’m sorry; I refuse to call it Opening Night.) Theo and Tito were pleased, which means things are going well.  Did I mention that we have mere weeks until Opening Day?

Dice-K was cleared on Monday to start throwing at sixty and ninety feet.  He increased that to 120 feet on Thursday, so that’s progress.  And we have our starting rotation for the first week: Casey Kelly will throw first, Bonser will throw second, Beckett gets the Grapefruit League opener during which Wakefield will be a priority reliever, and then Lackey followed by Buchholz.  Not bad.  I’ll be interested to see how Kelly fares.

Turns out Drew spent most of last season playing through a sore left shoulder, which has been repaired with surgery this offseason.  He’s going to start Spring Training slowly and raise the bar as it goes on.  On a related note, I don’t like this.  The secrecy with the injuries has to stop.  If something’s wrong with you, you take some sort of measure to fix it immediately, end of story.  But don’t make it worse.  Obviously any true competitor will want to power through it, but after a point you need to step back and measure whether you’d be helping or hurting the team by hurting yourself.  It’s a fine line.  Speaking of which, Delcarmen has promised to be more open about his injuries.  Call that a case in point.

I would like to take a moment to say that Mikey Lowell is the epitome if classiness.  He is a classy guy’s classy guy.  If you look up “classy guy” in the dictionary, Mikey Lowell’s picture is right next to the definition.  He has no idea what is fate is, either with or without us this season, and he’s completely okay with that.  This is what he had to say about his current situation:

“I’m getting ready for a season.  I think I’m pretty intelligent in the sense that there’s no real playing time for me here barring a major injury, and I’m not really in the business of hoping somebody gets hurt just so I can get at-bats.”

Now, there’s a man who knows what’s up.  None of this prima donna drama you find around the league with arrogant big shots with one foot out the door who need a lesson in humility.  I’m telling you, however this ends, Lowell has certainly set himself up as the ideal role model for other players.  And as far as we, the Nation is concerned, he said he loves our support.  I think I speak for all of us when I say he’s most definitely earned it.

Boston Dirt Dogs called out the Red Sox for not being original in designing their new Lee County Spring Training facility.  Apparently the Sox can’t do anything “beyond Fenway replicas.” Call me crazy, but when you want your guys prepping for the season, doesn’t it actually make sense for the training park to resemble the actual park? Especially for the new guys and prospects? If you’re playing eighty games in one stadium, you want everyone completely comfortable in there, and one way to do that is to train in a park that looks and feels like it.  So I fail to see the problem with that.

Finally, I’m getting really sick and tired of listening to everyone complain that this year’s team has no offense.  We lose one guy, Jason Bay, and suddenly our offense has evaporated into thin air? Yeah, right.  Let’s not forget the fact that we have Youk, and Pedroia, and Ellsbury, and V-Mart for the entire season (as opposed to last year’s half season due to this arrival at the deadline).  Add to that a revived Papi and Scutaro and I really don’t think there’s any huge cause for concern.  I mean, look at this past season.  It’s hard to get past the epic fail that was the 2009 ALDS, but we did finish third in the Major Leagues in runs.  The negative view of our offense this year is motivating, I guess, but we should also keep in mind that it’s not entirely founded.  I refuse to worry about the entire team’s offensive production simply because we allowed one dude to walk.  One guy does not a baseball team make or break.

On Monday, Eric Gagne confessed his use of human growth hormone.  That sure explains a lot.  Johnny Damon is a Tiger, which makes our lives a whole lot easier.  Believe that.

Sox Nest

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I never thought I’d see Ramon Ramirez give up back-to-back solo shots in the seventh inning.  During a Yankee game.  At Fenway Park.  To Damon and Teixeira, no less.  I mean he just gave up thirty percent of his season total of runs right there, and he just tripled the amount of home runs he’s allowed.  Just to give you an idea of how good he is and how abysmal his outing last night was.  Add to that the fact that those two home runs brought the Yanks within a run and I’d say he’s very lucky he got his eighth hold of the season, because that very nearly could’ve been his third loss.  Okajima and Papelbon were absolutely stellar, and if you ask me it should be Okajima with the save and Paps with the hold on this one.  Wakefield pitched beautifully as usual; six innings, three runs on eight hits, three walks, two K’s, and only one home run to Posada.  So if Ramirez were himself, we would’ve won by a final score of 6-3 and not 6-5, but a win is a win, and any win that puts us solely in first place is most definitely a win.

The offense was fantastic.  An RBI for Pedroia on a double to right, two RBIs for Youk, and one each for Bay, Lowell and Kottaras.  Drew hit, walked three times, and scored twice.  Right on schedule.  Lowell hit a fantastic home run into the first row of the Monster seats to lead off the third, and Youk hit a one-out, two-run shot in the fourth into our bullpen.  Kottaras went two for two with two doubles.  Ortiz went hitless but walked twice and flied out very, very deeply into the triangle.  The ball was caught about 415 feet from home plate, so five more feet and the ball is out, and to me that’s just as good as any home run he could’ve hit in terms of his progress.  It’s good to see him hitting the ball that hard and that deep whether it goes out or not, because if he keeps that up there’s no way it won’t consistently be out eventually.

And a word about Dustin Pedroia and why he should, without a doubt, be an All-Star.  In the ninth inning, Ramiro Pena was on his way to stealing second base.  Kottaras tried to throw him out but the ball skipped past Nick Green and into the outfield grass.  But Pedroia the Destroyah was there to back it up; he caught it and held Pena on.  If Pedroia doesn’t back up that play and snag that ball, Pena’s on third easily with only one out.  Just sayin’.

Ellsbury should be back by tomorrow to open the Interleague series with the Phillies.  I’m looking forward to this one.  Maybe we’ll give them a taste of what it would’ve and could’ve and should’ve been like had we, and not the Rays, made it to the World Series.

I’ll be completely honest.  I was hoping for a little more of a slugfest, a little more of a burial of the Yanks being that Wang was starting.  But like I said, a win is a win, and I will not be complaining that we are now officially leading the entirey of the American League Eastern Division.  A full game a head of everyone else and counting.  And we continue to be undefeated against the Yanks this season.  7-0.  That’s what I like to see! So with Beckett’s win on Tuesday, we equaled our 6-0 start against the Yanks in 1912, the last time we’d achieved that, and now we’ve surpassed it.  And we’ve got thirteen more games to pound them down.  Should be fun.  The heavyweights, Sabathia and Penny, will battle it out tonight.

The Future Blog of the Red Sox

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And another sweep it is! Ladies and gentlemen, we remain undefeated against the New York Yankees! 5-0.  Wow.  That’s something.  That’s awesome, is what it is.  Let’s keep that up, because we sure could use the wins, and we don’t like the Yankees, so why not? I’ll tell you, when I watch us get win after win after win against the Yankees it feels great.  It feels just, and it feels right.  And there’s also some relief mixed in, knowing you can get it done even if some injuries come to pass. Youk was out last night with side tenderness, Ellsbury left after the third with a tight hamstring, and Paps was unavailable because of his thirty-two-pitch save on Monday.  And we still won.  And it wasn’t that close of a final score, either.  7-3.  I like it.

Okay.  Beckett.  I was hoping this would finally be a properly Beckett-esque outing.  It ended up being about half a Beckett-esque outing.  Really, when you think about it, the only start during which Beckett’s been himself was Opening Day.  On Opening Day he was bringing.  Now he’s struggling in start after start.  But last night did provide some hope.  Six innings, three runs on ten hits, a walk, and five K’s.  I should say the three runs came on a Damon homer in the third.  So Damon had back-to-back nights, courtesy of a 93 mile-per-hour mistake.  As I said, last year the problem for Beckett was home runs.  I’m noticing that this year he’s having a bit of an issue with that but also with walks.  Last year he didn’t walk anybody.  So ultimately which is better? The obvious answer is the Beckett of ’07, who allowed neither.  Beckett’s most recent victory before last night was April 18 against the Orioles when he gave up four runs, three of them earned, so that wasn’t Beckett being Beckett either.  And one more word about this new park the Yankees have.  They’ve hit at least one home run in every home game they’ve had this year.  That has to stop.

Anyway, that was it for the Yankees.  After that home run it was close; the score was 4-3 for a while, but Okajima, who got a hold, and Saito held the fort.

As far as our offense, it was all Pedroia, Ortiz, and Bay.  Pedroia went three for four with a walk and two runs.  So he was perfect at the plate and scored twice.  It’s the beginning of May, I know, but this is the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player right here.  I mean just look at the kid.  He’s ridiculous.  Not to mention the fact that his fielding is top-notch; he has a .991 fielding percentage.  He’s got AL MVP written all over him.  Again.  Ortiz walked with the bases loaded (I love Yankees pitching, I really do), and Bay clobbered a three-run moonshot into the left field stands in the first inning.  I mean that ball was smoked.  Joba Chamberlain had no chance.  And that was a horrible inning for him, too.  Bailey, our seventh batter, was the first he managed to get ahead of in the count.  Lowell’s bat was pretty quiet last night, but his glove wasn’t; a very nice catch over his shoulder in the third.  Surgery? What surgery?

And I have to talk about the eighth inning, because that was just a great example of why we’re so good.  An error by Ramiro Pena allowed Bay to reach base, and then he stole second.  Then the Yanks intentionally walked Drew to get to Bailey, who reached base on a hit-by-pitch.  So we loaded the bases without a hit.  That’s the way you do it.  That’s the way you capitalize and make another team pay for their mistakes.  We ended up sending seven batters to the plate, and two runs later Okajima was back from a nice, long rest.  Incidentally, Ellsbury and Green also stole second last night.

Bailey got an error in the fourth at first.  He was charging a ball and it skipped off his glove.  That’s our eighteenth error of the season.  We are currently twenty-first in the Major Leagues with a fielding percentage of .982.  That has to improve.  One way to do that is to keep Julio Lugo out of the lineup, but aside from that it has to improve.

A word about Joba Chamberlain.  Joba Chamberlain is neither a good pitcher nor a good man.  He hit Bay in the upper back with a pretty hard pitch in the fifth inning.  This after having pitched up and in to Youkilis twice in a row last year.  That’s not good.  I mean you just don’t do that.  You pitch cleanly, or you don’t pitch at all.  But pitching into a guy’s numbers is not a good idea.  That’s low.  That’s beyond Red Sox-Yankees, because you just don’t do that, period.  Bay gave him a look on his way to first, and rightly so.  I mean it was a stupid move; the Red Sox dugout is already not on speaking terms with Chamberlain, so to speak.  David Ortiz even warned him before the last series not to take shots at anyone.  So that’s not mature at all.  I don’t know what the kid’s problem is, but he needs to handle it.  And let’s not even talk about his DUI conviction.

But it’s all good.  We’re out of New York and done with them for a while, and we left on a high note.  Starting the season series undefeated makes the message pretty clear.  Anyway, on to bigger and better things, like Cleveland.  Pavano at Masterson tonight, followed by Laffey at Wakefield tomorrow, and then we’ve got another series with the Rays.  As far as the standings are concerned, the Yankees are soundly in third, and we’re still a game out.  Let’s change that tonight.

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