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Posts Tagged ‘Josh Bard’

The 2009 season is officially over.  It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun.  Seriously.  It was a great season.  Plenty of highs, plenty of lows, plenty to celebrate, plenty to scratch your head and have no idea what’s going on.  But now we have the second season on our hands: the postseason.  And with the approach of the postseason come the all-important roster decisions that must be made to give us the greatest ability to advance to the World Series.  This is what Terry Francona may have in mind, with a little help from the Portland Press-Herald.

As far as the pitching staff is concerned, there’s no surprise there: Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, and Dice-K, in that order.  Lester is starting first because, had it been the other way around, one of them would’ve been on normal rest and the other would’ve been on ten days’ rest.  Plus Lester had the better second half, plus Lester is the go-to man for Game 4 should we find ourselves in a hole.  Or we could use Beckett on four days’ rest for Game 4 and Lester on five for Game 5 since there’s an off day between the two, but I’m not a fan of that option.  Tito hasn’t announced the starter for Game 4 yet, though.

No surprises in the relief corps, either: Papelbon, Bard, Wagner, Okajima, and Ramirez.  Saito and Delcarmen will fill out the bullpen.  Wakefield has officially been scratched, Michael Bowden is still pretty new, and Byrd, while he could be a long reliever, wouldn’t necessarily be as effective.  Yes, Saito and Delcarmen (especially Delcarmen) have had their struggles, but that’s why it’s called the second season.  You take a rest, you put it behind you, and you record punchout after punchout.  If I need options for innings in October, I want Saito’s experience and Delcarmen’s power.  But Delcarmen’s health may eliminate him; after the car accident this weekend, his back and neck are pretty sore.

The catchers are obviously V-Mart and Tek. For the first time in a very long time, we don’t need a third catcher.  The third catcher was supposed to pinch-hit for the offensively challenged Tek and backup, but with V-Mart’s bat, that need is gone.  (Not to mention the fact that the role of a backup changes dramatically now that Wakefield isn’t in the mix.  Instead of having to concentrate on catching knuckleballs, the October backup catcher this year will have to concentrate on getting all the hits that Tek doesn’t.)

The infielders are obviously Youk, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Lowell, and Kotchman.  Nick Green’s back and leg will probably keep him off the roster, so Jed Lowrie and Chris Woodward will probably come on as utilities.  Jed Lowrie can hit in the clutch (I refer you to his grand slam on Sunday), and Woodward can flash leather, even if he can’t buy a hit.

The outfielders are obviously Bay, Ellsbury, Drew, and Baldelli, and you really can’t get much better than that.  We have three options with which to fill out the outfield: Joey Gathright, Josh Reddick, and Brian Anderson.  Brian Anderson is out; his speed, glove, and bat don’t compare to the other two.  Gathright has remarkable speed, but Reddick has a remarkable bat.  So you’re basically choosing between a clutch steal and a clutch hit.  Dave Roberts’s heroism wills all of Red Sox Nation to go with Gathright, but let’s remember that Dave Roberts’s steal only counted in the long run because Bill Mueller singled him home.  And it’s not like Reddick has no speed at all.  On the other hand, it’s not like Gathright has no bat at all, and it’s been Gathright who’s been seeing playing time recently as part of the reserve.  So I think Gathright is the answer.  And we may need him more than ever because of Baldelli’s hip injury.

The designated hitter will be David Ortiz.  Obviously.

And now for the lineup.  It’ll be Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Ortiz, Bay, Drew, Lowell, and Gonzalez.  If it’s a righty.  If it’s a lefty, Baldelli will take Drew’s spot.  If Tek catches, that’s a whole different story, and Tito will have to do some serious finagling to accommodate that.  Look for Tek to be at the bottom of the order.

Speaking of the lineup, in response to “Second Shift,” Jeremy commented:

Boston may have the most well-rounded team heading into October however one thing I’ve noticed is that the offense struggles a lot versus good pitching. The line-up will pound a bad pitcher or a pitcher with an off night and the offense will explode. However, for most of the season there has been very little output against great pitching. And that has to be concerning. Because that’s what your likely going to face come playoff time.

Jeremy makes an excellent point.  Remember when we played the Tigers in June? We swept.  We didn’t face Justin Verlander.  Remember when we played the Royals in July? We took three out of four and didn’t face Zack Greinke.  We just played the Royals again and split a four-game set, and one of the games we lost was pitched by, you guessed it, Zack Greinke.  We’ve been very lucky this season with pitching schedules, but this luck is about to run out.  The teams you face in October are guaranteed to be the best of the best, and part of what makes them so good is their pitching.  There’ll be no escaping a Justin Verlander or a Zack Greinke in the postseason.  So I completely agree with Jeremy, but I don’t think it’ll affect the outcome of our October.  The ALDS is a big reason why.  Playing the Angels in the ALDS is kind of like a warm-up for the rest of the month, but it’s a warm-up that counts, so you get all the pressure of the October stage, including great pitching, with all the confidence of having a pretty good feeling that you’ll advance.  Now, you’ll notice that in both 2004 and 2007, the ALDS wasn’t enough to remind us who we are offensively, which is probably why it took moving ourselves to the brink of elimination and facing postseason death in the ALCS to remind us that, yes, we actually are capable of handling these arms.  Between the ALDS and half of the ALCS, we play a lot of games against quality pitchers, so by the time we’re almost out of the playoffs completely, we come roaring back and get ourselves to the World Series, where we obviously have no problem with the National League.  And let me tell you, it helps in the long run, because nobody wants to be the team that finishes the ALCS early and just sits around waiting for the Fall Classic.  I refer you to the Rockies in 2007.

We are exactly where we need to be to make this October count.  The Yankees played the month of September like they had something to prove.  And they did.  You don’t spend a quarter of a billion dollars on three players in the offseason and not win the division.  But at what cost, both literally and figuratively? It is entirely possible that the AL East is the kiss of death for New York; they’ve exhausted all of their resources.  I refer you to 2004, when they ramped it up big time in September specifically to win the division, which they did by a hair.  Then they lost steam in the ALCS, and look what happened.

Finally, I know some people have taken issue with Terry Francona’s approach to the final games of the season.  Let me put that issue to rest.  There are two possibilities to consider here.  The first is Angels Syndrome and the other is Yankees Syndrome.  In the first, you rest on your laurels for such a long time that you’re not prepared for the intensity and competition of the playoffs.  In the second, you use all your resources to accomplish a regular-season goal and run out of steam halfway through the playoffs.  Fortunately, we are not a victim of either, because we’ve only been resting on our laurels for about a week, and the rest was absolutely necessary given the health concerns of several of our starters.  And since the division was out of the question, we had no reason to burn out.  So I’m pretty happy, although my fandom revolts at this notion of being happy with the Wild Card.  But I’d rather get in with the Wild Card than not get in at all.  And I’d much rather get in with the Wild Card than resort to a one-game playoff.  Did you know that winners of one-game playoffs haven’t won the World Series since 1978? (Of course, we all know who played that playoff against who, and who went on to win the World Series that year.  Let’s just say it involved pinstripes.  I’d rather not talk about it.)

Regarding how the teams stack up, we’re pretty even, and most of the gaping holes are in our favor.  We’re much better at home than they are on the road, hit many more home runs, have a higher team slugging percentage and ERA, and our bullpen ERA is much higher.  We also had a better September, which is key.  We’ll need David Ortiz to handle Brian Fuentes, and we’ll need Bard to be in top form as a set-up man.  The Angels’ problem will be scoring runs, so if our starting rotation keeps us in it, we should be able to come away with a win.

So that’s it.  All we have to do now is wait.  Let’s start this party.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun
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It never stops.  It’s remarkable.  Just when you think we’re going to barely escape the World Baseball Classic without another injury, Youk drops out with a left ankle sprain and Achilles’ tendinitis in his left foot.  Yes, both of those were diagnosed as mild, but still.  The man was in a boot.  He took batting practice without the boot yesterday and looked fine, and he should have the boot off for good today, but that’s not the point.  It’s unbelievable.  It’s absolutely infuriating.  We send our guys to play for their countries and they come back to us with injuries right before the season starts.  The World Baseball Classic occurs during Spring Training.  Not before.  Not after.  During.  Not only do participants miss Spring Training, but if they’re injured they’re laid out through the beginning of the season, and that’s a pretty crucial time, especially for a team that started its pennant race yesterday.  The only one of us left in the Classic is Dice-K, and he’ll be done tonight after the semifinal Japan-USA game.  (Incidentally, it should be an epic contest, especially because after all the injuries we don’t have anyone left.  Even David Wright is playing through pain at this point.) Dice-K will have missed almost all of Spring Training, having spent his time up to now with Team Japan.  On the upside, he’ll enter tonight’s start with a 2-0 record and a 1.80 ERA in the Classic; he allowed only nine hits and two walks while striking out nine.  So at least we know he’s ready.  But still.  World Baseball Classic? Not a fan.  Definitely not a fan.

And speaking of injuries, as unfortunately we’re doing quite often these days, JD Drew was hit by a pitch on his right hand.  Luckily the X-rays came back negative and it’s only a contusion and he’s not expected to miss playing time, but he dodged a major bullet there.  Breaking a bone in a hand can lay a batter out.  Proof: Big Papi last year, and Drew was the one who picked up the slack.  While we’re on the subject, I’d just like to say that Drew should bat clean-up.  His numbers were insane from the No. 4 spot last year.  Anyway, Tito says Drew is day-to-day and should have no lasting effects of the injury.

Pedroia returned to the field and the lineup against the Pirates on Friday; he played second for three innings and went one for two.  Nice.  Also nice was that Tek launched a three-run homer into the street behind right field in that game.  He ended up with four RBIs.  But the most impressive aspect of our win over the Pirates was Clay Buchholz’s five-inning outing, during which he threw seventy pitches, gave up only four hits and one walk, and struck out three.  The run incurred during those five innings was unearned.  I’m telling you, if he can keep this up, he’ll start for sure.  Seems like last season was just a blip on the radar.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

Some more good news: during our game against the Twins (which we won also), Jason Bay jacked a moon shot over the 410-foot center field wall.  Cleared it completely.  The ball is estimated to have traveled 450 feet.  Wow.  That, my friends, is power.

We sent down six and waived one.  First baseman Lars Anderson and outfielders Josh Reddick and Zach Daeges were assigned, pitchers Hunter Jones and Felix Doubront and catcher Mark Wagner were optioned, and Josh Bard was placed on unconditional release waivers to make room for George Kottaras.  I’m telling you, the dude just can’t seem to stick.

In other news, the Bruins only played two games this past week, and we lost them both: 4-6 to the Penguins and an overtime loss to the Kings.  Yes, the Kings.  I’d rather not talk about it.  On the upside, we’ve finally reached 100 points, we’re still on top of the Eastern Conference by a wide margin, and we’ve clinched a playoff spot! On the downside, we’re now third in the league, behind the surging Red Wings and the ever-present Sharks.  And the only silver lining to that is that, in recent years, the top team in the league hasn’t necessarily done well in the playoffs.  Whatever.  We’ll be fine.  The Stanley Cup is coming to Boston; we’ll be fine.

AP Photo

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Okay.  So.  Mark Teixeira is a Yankee.  When I first found out I did a double-take.  Looks like the Yankees are their old selves again.  He’ll be paid $180 million over eight seasons.  New York has spent $423.5 million in just over a week to acquire Sabathia, Tex, and AJ Burnett.  That’s exorbitant.  That’s just disgusting.  It’s shameless.  It’s sickening.  Especially because we’re in the middle of a recession right now.  But I wouldn’t expect an organization like the New York Yankees to have any conception of what that means.  Mike Puma of The New York Post wrote that it was the recession that kept the Yankees from spending even more.  Yes, the Red Sox offered a similar contract to Mark Teixeira.  But not after hand-delivering piles of cash for deals of an irresponsible length (Sabathia for seven years and Burnett for five? Come on.).  Luckily, we have some boundaries and we have some self-respect.

I’ll be honest.  After I finished my double-take I was furious.  Not only because Tex went to the Yankees of all teams, not only because it was yet another notch in Scott Boras’s belt, but also because having Tex in our lineup would’ve put us over the top.  But then it occurred to me.  First of all, to be put over the top requires that you’re near or at the top in the first place, and I think we’ve demonstrated that over the past couple of years.  So we’re by no means out of it and we’re still a force to be reckoned with.  The towel is never thrown in in Boston.

Second of all, the Yankees are not going to win anything like this.  And even if they win the World Series this year, even if we put aside the fact that these three players alone are not going to solve all their problems, it would be impossible to claim that they won because they’re good.  It would be impossible to claim that they won because they’re the best.  From here on out, the only reason behind any Yankee victory will be that they’re rich.  That’s it.  The Yankees now have the four largest contracts in the Major Leagues in A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia, and Tex. If that’s not buying a pennant, I don’t know what is.  Why don’t they just put a price tag on the trophy and bid for it on eBay? So, basically, if the Yankees win, they lose.  And if they lose, they really lose.  As Richard Justice of The Houston Chronicle aptly stated, “There’ll be a firestorm to end all firestorms.” Count on that.  And just imagine the pressure that puts on New York.  Let’s not forget that A-Rod doesn’t play very well under pressure.

It’s been said that John Henry really messed this up, but I disagree.  The style of negotiating that the current Red Sox brass uses is basically to draw a line that the front office will not cross under any circumstances.  That’s why Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon walked.  And in both cases we were lucky they did.  I have a feeling that at some point within the next eight years we might be grateful for this somehow, but we’ll have to wait and see.  Keep the faith, as we say.

Also on the New York front, apparently there was a brief pursuit of Manny Ramirez.  Derek Jeter was of the opinion that he’d fit in in New York.  According to him, the Yankees “welcome people with their own personality.” Yeah, right.  I laughed out loud when I heard that.

Now on to the more important matter of Boston baseball.  We’ve signed Brad Penny and Josh Bard (again).  I think it’s safe to say our rotation will be deep, especially if Penny can stay off the DL.  And as for Josh Bard, we could use the catching help and the extra insurance while talks with Varitek continue.  Clay Buchholz is on the block.  That surprised me.  His 2008 was horrendous, but it was just one season and the dude is young.  Given enough time I think he could really be key in Boston’s future staffs; can we say no-no? Youk and the Red Sox weren’t able to hash out a long-term deal this offseason.  Unfortunate, but there’s plenty of time.  He’s not eligible for free agency yet and most likely Theo will get something done next season.  Finally, the MLB Network is a success.

In other news, football season is over for us, the Pats finishing their season on a high note with a four-game winning streak and an overall record of 11-5.  The Bruins, however, are just on fire.  I can’t get over it.  We haven’t seen hockey like this in Boston in a while.  Our loss to the Sabres concluded a ten-game winning streak, not to mention the fact that our record overall is 29-6-4 with 62 total points.  The Canadiens only have 48, and the Sharks, who’ve been leading the league, only have 61.  Ladies and gentlemen, the Boston Bruins are currently sitting on top of the entire National Hockey League.

James MacLeod

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