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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Dodgers’

The A’s completely rescinded their offer to Beltre.  Now, he’s got nothing.  I can understand where they’re coming from; this is the second year in the row they’ve chased him, and they’ve had this offer on the table for weeks now.  And just last week Beltre stated publicly that he wants to stay in Boston.  He turned down the A’s, who offered him more money and more years, last year to come here.  During the Winter Meetings, Theo will be in the hunt for a reliever and another big bat.  Beltre certainly fits the latter description, but I just don’t see how we’d ensure regular playing time for him.  We certainly don’t have room for him as a starter with the other Adrian coming in.  (And putting Theo aside, make no mistake; Youk was the real basis for the deal.  If Youk didn’t have the ability to just switch from first to third like that, Gonzalez would still be in San Diego.) It’s just a shame because Beltre is a beast.  By the way, Cameron is giving Gonzalez jersey number twenty-three.

This week, the Winter Meetings came and went.  And anyone thought we’d ride that deal and go in and out quietly was so incredibly wrong, it’s not even funny.  Theo Epstein was the king of the Winter Meetings.

The Werth saga continues.  Apparently, we sat down with him and Scott Boras but never made him a formal offer.  And we certainly would not have been prepared to even come close to what the Nationals gave him.  It’s a shame for us and for Werth.  A real shame.

But not anymore.  Not today.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have our elite outfielder and our second big bat.  And no, it’s not Magglio Ordonez.  Ordonez can chase a two-year deal elsewhere with all the teams that were formerly chasing Werth and Crawford, because both are now officially taken.  The hottest position player on the market is now off.  Carl Crawford, welcome to Boston! Seven years and 142 million dollars and a pending physical later, he’s walking that speed of his right into Fenway Park.

Wow.  Just, wow.  I mean, what? It happened so fast.  First we were reportedly in talks, and then you turn around and there’s already a deal on the books.  I’ve never been one to feel comfortable with contracts as large as this one; he’s the first player in franchise history to get seven years and an average of twenty million dollars per year, and he’s the first position player in baseball history to land 100 million dollars without hitting twenty home runs a year.  It’s the tenth-largest contract in baseball history, less than deals for players that include Manny Ramirez, Joe Mauer, and obviously a sizeable host of Yankees.  But, as always, in Theo we trust.  Everybody in Red Sox Nation is hungry.  Crawford is young and more than capable.  He can succeed here; in seventy-eight games at Fenway, he’s batted .275 with twenty-four doubles, thirty-five runs, and twenty-six stolen bases.  He’s yet another lefty bat, but he makes our lineup unbelievably potent, and he and Ellsbury comprise the most formidable speed duo in the game right now.  He’s not a slugger, but he’ll hit a decent amount out and he finds gaps like no other.  His speed also makes him great in the field, and it’s perfect because he’s a left fielder by trade.

So that’s Theo for you.  He’s asked whether a deal is being considered, and he refuses to rule anything in or out.  I’m convinced that the Werth deal upped the ante here though; if that deal hadn’t gone through, Crawford would never have been in a position to demand or merit a deal of this magnitude.  So that’s that.  We can take comfort in the fact that Theo would never offer a deal like this if he didn’t think the player was worth it.  Crawford is young enough and good enough to deliver in all seven of his contract years, which is why Theo offered it, and his playing ability is elite enough to merit his salary.  It’s not like we mete out contracts like this in every offseason.  This is the first contract of this magnitude that we’ve finalized during Theo’s and this ownership group’s tenure.  Given our current position and resources, this deal makes sense for us.  Crawford will obviously need to work on patience at the plate.  He needs to increase his walk total to up his on-base percentage.  We can’t say anything beyond that; we’ll just have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, there is a ton of celebrating to be done.  Adrian Gonzaelz and Carl Crawford.  Hello, October 2011!

As far as relievers are concerned, something must be done.  Bard said almost the exact same thing.  We’re looking at Matt Guerrier as well as Brian Fuentes and Arthur Rhodes, who was an All-Star for the first time this year at age forty.  Supposedly we’ve made a formal offer to Kevin Gregg.  Supposedly we’re going to sign Scott Downs.

We’re also keeping an eye on Russell Martin, who was indeed non-tendered by the Dodgers.

And that’s the story of how Theo put all other general managers to shame, made not one but two splashes, and came to rule the 2010 offseason.  If you ask me, it’s a pretty great story.  And technically it’s not even finished.

In other news, the Bruins bested the Sabres by one and the Islanders by three, but we lost to the Flyers in sudden death yesterday.  The Patriots, in one of the most anticipated games on the calendar this year, completely crushed and humiliated the Jets in every way.  The final score was 45-3.  It was a total crush.  So incredibly awesome.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki
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Wow.  Just, wow.  Hugeness this week.  Trust me, there is epicness to discuss.

Beltre and Felipe Lopez both declined arbitration, but there is still hope for the former.  We all know that the A’s are offering Beltre a sweet deal, but he’s taking his equally sweet time in signing it.  He stated publicly that he wants to return to Boston, so he’s waiting to see what Theo’s got.

It turns out that what Theo’s got is a seriously awesome replacement.  Adrian Gonzalez, welcome to Boston! Finally! He went to Boston yesterday for a physical to make sure his right shoulder is on track after his surgery, and he passed.  We’ll be sending Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, outfielder Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later to the Padres, which fortunately shouldn’t hurt our farm system too much because last year’s draft was so successful.  Although it’ll be rough to see them all go.  The important thing to keep in mind about prospects is that you never know.  They could be awesome like Hanley Ramirez.  Or they could be terrible like Craig Hansen.  We already know what Adrian Gonzalez is capable of at the Major League level.

There’s room for a contract extension; Gonzalez is entering the last year of his current deal and we already acquired permission from Major League Baseball to hammer out a new one by this afternoon.  That didn’t happen, so Theo might wait to watch his shoulder in the spring, and of course there are the luxury tax implications.  But he won’t be giving up all those top prospects if he weren’t assured that an extension could be worked out, which would give us stability at all three bags.  Given Gonzalez’s age, anything from five to eight years can be considered feasible.  We offered six, but he wanted eight.  So there you go.

But one thing’s for sure: celebration is indeed in order.  Gonzalez will succeed in Boston.  His lefty swing was practically built exclusively for Fenway Park, and he was able to excel in a quintessential pitcher’s park.  Seriously.  Most of his fly balls in Petco would’ve been out in Fenway.  That’s why I’m convinced that he’ll get over his National League-ness in a hurry.  By the way, he’s got two Gold Gloves at first.  And he started almost every single game for about the last five years.  Without DHing once.  So here’s to you, Theo.  Two years later, you finally closed the deal.  And the fact that the Padres’ general manager and assistant general manager of scouting and player development both used to work with Theo is the icing on the cake that didn’t necessarily work to our advantage since they basically knew our farm system inside-out.  Gonzalez will play first and replace V-Mart’s bat, we’ll move Youk to third, and Beltre, who’s older anyway, will now probably sign with the A’s.  The deal is done on principle.  All they need to do is announce it on Monday at Fenway and that’s it.  The Adrian Gonzalez Era in Boston has begun!

One more thing.  Fundamentally this deal was not about New York; it’s about us, our team, our organization, and our hunger.  But while we’re on the subject, I would just like to point out that, not only is Adrian Gonzalez the answer to Mark Teixeira, but we now have a young infield that’s locked and entering its prime while the Yanks have guys on the downward slope of their careers.  I’m just saying.  I would advise New York to be afraid.  Very afraid.

Tek signed a one-year deal with two million dollars plus incentives; those rumors about him going to the Dodgers couldn’t have been more wrong.  They started circulating because the Dodgers had to decide whether to tender Russell Martin, who’s awesome except for injuries.  We didn’t tender Okajima, given his poor performance last season, but we already tendered Paps and will be making offers to Ellsbury and Taylor Buchholz.  Rumor has it that we made an offer to Mariano Rivera before he signed a two-year deal with the Yanks.  The Yanks seem to be avenging this action by showing interest in Carl Crawford to drive up his price.  I honestly don’t think the offer to Rivera was serious.  And I honestly don’t think New York’s interest in Crawford is serious.  Unless they don’t get Cliff Lee.  If Lee stays in Texas, New York might seriously start looking at Crawford because they could always deal Brett Gardner for a starter.

Pedroia’s foot is almost at one hundred percent.  He’s been cleared to jog and will be ready for Spring Training.  We have officially met with both Crawford and Werth, who, according to Dwight Evans, is the best right fielder in baseball and similar to himself.  This is Dwight Evans, people.  That’s seriously high praise.

Not that that’s going to help anyone.  Not even Werth himself.  Werth is now officially out of the picture and off the deep end.  He signed a deal for seven years and 126 million dollars.  With the Washington Nationals.  I’m not kidding.  That tells me two things: one, he’s not hungry, and two, he’s essentially a fool.  He’s not going to win a ring with the Nats, and seven years from now, when his contract is up, he won’t be starter material, which is obviously something that the Nationals don’t care about.  So his ring with the Phillies will be the last of his career as a starter.  If he wanted security, he sure got it.  He knows where he’ll be for the majority of the next decade, and he’s getting a whole heap of money for it.  To be honest with you, he would have been great in a Boston uniform, but I wouldn’t want someone only interested in money and years to play for us.  Especially not someone who would ever seriously consider both money and years with the Nationals.  I mean, they’re the Nationals.  Not only are they National League, they’re the worst in the National League; in fact, they’re the worst in the Major Leagues.

But wait; it gets better.  He says he’s been considering signing with the Nats since hiring Scott Boras as his agent last season.  Let me get this straight: he hired Scott Boras to get him a deal with the Washington Nationals.  That’s ridiculous.  Why would you hire Scott Boras to cut a deal with the Nationals? Jayson Werth doesn’t need an agent to negotiate a deal with the Washington Nationals; Jayson Werth can walk up to the Washington Nationals, write down a year amount and a dollar amount on a piece of paper, hand it to whoever is spearheading the process, and receive a “yes” to everything in five seconds flat.  He says he’s impressed with the Nats’ acquisition of young talent? Give me a break.  Nobody expects all that young talent to stay there; as soon as they’re able, they’re writing one-way tickets into free agency and out of town.  And then he went on this tangent in which he basically implied that he only signed with the Nationals because they assured him that they’d continue to acquire the talent necessary to compete and win, because that is very important to him.  Oh, sure.  If it’s that important to him, he would not have signed with the Nationals.  So they present their future plans to him and he asks questions about the team.  Great.  Now let’s see the Nationals follow that plan, the young talent stay put, and Werth stay in shape long enough to merit his salary at the end of his contract.  I don’t think so.

We signed starter Brandon Duckworth to a minor league deal.  He was part of the Billy Wagner trade.  We are supposedly interested in reliever Matt Guerrier.

Oh, and I fully expect Mike Cameron to morph into some sort of hitting specialist against lefties, being that many of the AL East’s elite pitchers are lefties and some of our middle bats struggled against lefties last season.  The only potential hindrance to that expectation is playing time.  Cameron has the potential to get rolling, but he can’t get rolling if he never gets going.

The Spring Training schedule is out.  We’re opening with an exhibition doubleheader with Boston College followed by Northeastern.  March features competition with Minnesota, Atlanta, Philly, both New York teams, Florida, Baltimore, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toronto, and Houston.

On Saturday, Sox Pax and tickets for twenty-one games in April and May will go on sale.

Get psyched.  The Winter Meetings are starting on Monday, and they’re going to be very interesting.  And by interesting I also mean hectic, since most of the important offseason deadlines have moved up.  Theo has his work cut out for him; we have a bat to replace V-Mart, but we’ll need another, preferably a righty, to replace Beltre since he’ll sign elsewhere, and relievers.  Good ones.  We’ve already made a splash; the key is to fill the club’s needs without removing all of our flexibility for next year.

In other news, the Bruins dropped Sunday’s game to the Thrashers, 1-4.  But then we shut out the Flyers, three-zip, and completely decimated the Lightning, 8-1.  Krejci and Ryder each racked up three points.  It was awesome.  If this were baseball, that would be considered a slugfest.  Then we lost in a shootout to the Leafs, but at least we get a point.  The Pats take on the Jets tomorrow.

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I predicted about ten days ago that we might find ourselves in first place about ten days later.  I am so psyched to say that I was absolutely right.  The key word in that prediction of course being “might,” because we’re currently tied with the Rays for second, only half a game out! Unfortunately, New York currently occupies the top spot, the key word there of course being “currently.”

We played some excellent baseball all around.  We’ve played better and better baseball every day.  The pitchers and offense lit it up.  Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to point out to all the naysayers out there that they were so incredibly wrong, it’s not even funny.  In Boston, you really do have to keep the faith.  Because, one game at a time, it all works out.

Okay.  Let’s finish up the series with Cleveland and then start with the series against the Phillies.  We ended up splitting with the Tribe; the lack of win rests squarely on the shoulders of Bard.  With two out in the ninth, Beltre smacked a two-run shot, but Bard blew his save.  It was disgusting.  We had the W in the back, and he lost it completely.  As for the Phillies series, we won it.  We whipped them completely in the first two and barely lost the last game, kicking the three games off right by handing Jamie Moyer what was probably the absolute worst start of his entire Major League career.  It was glorious.  Moyer hasn’t recorded at most three outs since 1998; we got him for nine runs before he left in the second.  Fantastic.  It’s time that dude realizes he’s forty-seven years old.  A season high eight doubles, and Lackey was on the ball; a full seven innings of two-run, no-walk ball.  Lowell hit his second home run of the season in that 12-2 victory.  The second game featured the Major League debut of Daniel Nava, an undrafted prospect from an independent league.  He steps up to the plate and crushes the first pitch of his Major League career out of the park for a grand slam.  He’s the fourth player to hit a grand slam in his first at-bat and the second to do so on his first pitch.  That was one of the most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen.  Pure gold.  Right into the bullpen.  That kid deserved it.  It was one of those moments that galvanizes an entire team.  We all needed it.  So here’s to you, Nava; congratulations and more to come! The third game was lost in the fourth, when Wake gave up four runs.  I guess Fenway really is one of Hamels’s top three favorite ballparks.  I guess I can’t really blame him, though.

Then the D-Backs came to town, and we swept them right out.  While the Drew brothers got reacquainted, Buchholz plowed through mediocrity to earn the win in the first game.  He notched eight K’s, tying his season high, but couldn’t finish the sixth inning.  It was his shortest outing since five innings against New York on May 8.  He was inefficient, firing 113 pitches, but at least he gave up only three runs.  You know you’ve got an elite pitcher on your hands when his bad day is the equal of other teams’ best pitcher’s good day.  His fastball wasn’t so great, but his offspeeds were right on.  We went on to win the second game, despite Lester’s struggle with his command.  He adjusted throughout the game, putting his adaptability on display.  He’s now on an eight-game winning streak.  His two HBPs tie a career high he’s achieved three other times, none coming since 2008.  The third game wasn’t easy for Lackey, either.  That’s three grinds in a row for our starting pitching.  As usual, it was the fastball on the glove side that gave him trouble.  But a win is a win, and a sweep is a sweep, and Buchholz, Lester, and Lackey are now the first three pitchers in the Majors to have won more than eight games this year.

We followed our sweep of the D-Backs with a sweep of the Dodgers, our way of avenging the Celtics.  Friday marked Manny’s first plate appearance at Fenway since his trade.  The response was mixed; he received ample cheers and ample boos.  Red Sox Nation always does it right; we know how to remember an integral part of two World Series championships, but we also know how to remember an unreasonable tantrum-thrower with a bad attitude.  The at-bat came in the second inning and resulted in a flyout to center field.  He did not acknowledge the crowd at all, and after Nomar’s numerous acknowledgements and obvious display of emotion during his first at-bat back with the A’s, that’s something that’s hard not to notice.  Although I have to admit that that wasn’t the highlight.  Felix Doubront started, his Major League debut, earning a win in five innings, giving up five runs (three earned) in six innings, walking two, and striking out two.  That also wasn’t the highlight.  The highlight was our seven-run fifth.  Now that’s a highlight.  The game featured homers by Beltre, Papi, and Drew, who strained his right hamstring after robbing Manny of a line drive and left the game, hopefully to return to the lineup tonight.  His homer, by the way, was a close call.  Inches determined that it fell into the Monster, not off of the monster, and a review was needed.  That was his eighth dinger of the season, the seventh use of replay since Major League Baseball allowed it, and Drew’s first at-bat since opting out of the Dodgers.  The middle game had “Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah” written all over it.  On a 1-2 count with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Pedroia sent a ninety-eight mile-per-hour fastball into right field for a walkoff single, his first career walkoff hit! Thanks to Bill Hall for starting the rally, thereby redeeming his two errors in right field.  And last but most certainly not least, the third and final win confirming the sweep.  Buchholz provided the prevention, with special appearances by Bard and Paps, who held down the fort with a hold and a save, respectively.  The final score was 2-0.  Pedroia hit a single to third base.  No, seriously.  He singled to first, stole second, and hustled to third because of Papi’s shift.

In his usual display of grit, it turns out Pedroia’s been playing with a right knee injury since May 15, which obviously jives with his slump.  Since that date, he’s batted roughly .190, his season average dropping by about forty points.  But an MRI shows he’s good to go, as his recent stunts have shown.  During this last homestand, he’s batted .484.  Youkilis exited a game with back spasms, only to return to get hit in the right elbow with a pitch and exit again.  He’s now good to go.  Scutaro got a day off due to a nerve-root injection, and he’s good to go.  Dice-K landed himself on the DL with a right forearm strain but has now been cleared to start Thursday against the Rockies.  Cameron is back to seeing time in center field.  Beckett is making great strides in his recovery from his back pain.  Hermida has five fractured left ribs and is not so good to go.  He’s on the DL.  That is one powerful right knee Beltre’s got.  Speaking of which, Ellsbury continues to serve time on the DL, now with a different fracture in his left ribs, which he probably sustained on May 23 with a diving catch.  No baseball activities for two weeks and then a slow but steady rehab.  Don’t expect to see him back before the All-Star break.  Wow.  Our outfield situation is now terrible.  Seriously.  This is why it pays to have an abundance of reserves.  Paps was reactivated from the bereavement list, just in time to prevent any more blown saves.  Nelson and Bonser were designated for assignment, Atchison was recalled, and Doubront was called up but then sent down in favor of Robert Manuel.

Well, that’s a wrap.  If we thought we were in a good place before, we’re in an even better place now.  We’re poised to take the AL East by storm.  At this point, one win is all it takes.  Lester faces the Rockies tonight at Coors Field.  Let’s do it.

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If Justin Masterson sought revenge, he found it.  Yes, sir; he found it.  The final score was 11-0 and most definitely not in our favor.  Masterson, in a complete role reversal with Buchholz, pitched a two-hit, complete game shutout.  How’s that for revenge.

Trust me, though; that’s not the norm for him.  Theo got the better end of the deal in that trade.  He sure was nasty on the mound last night, but I think that has a whole lot to do with the fact that he played with this team and knows the core of this lineup very well.  Naturally he’ll pitch well against us.  But that wasn’t the norm for him.  This was just one game.  In this one game, he may have maintained velocity throughout, practiced speed and location variation, thrown sliders under the hands, handled the lefties, and turned on his sinker and two-seam.  But he by no means does any of that routinely.  He’s two and twelve since the trade.  He’s two and five on the season with a 4.74 ERA (lowered by last night’s performance from five and change), slightly higher than the league average and nowhere near the league leader.  His WHIP is 1.64.  Meanwhile, V-Mart is two points shy of batting .300, slightly lower than the league leader, with eight homers, twenty-nine runs, and thirty RBIs.  We may have lost last night, but I call that a good trade.

As far as the loss itself is concerned, you may think from the score that Buchholz had a complete fail.  That wasn’t the case.  Buchholz did not by any means have a complete fail.  Buchholz was mediocre – he had command issues early in the game – but he still, as a very good pitcher is wont to do, pitched well enough on his off night to win under other circumstances, like when the offense is actually productive.  He pitched seven innings, gave up three runs on three hits, walked four, and struck out one but took the loss.  He fired 109 pitches, twenty-seven of which came in the first.  He settled down after that, needing only seven pitches for the second, following that with ten to twenty pitches in each of his next four frames, and finishing with a game low of six in the seventh.

In his first four innings, only his fastball was working for strikes; he’d throw an offspeed but it would be down, the batter wouldn’t chase, and he’d have to go back to his fastball.  Seeing that his offspeed stuff just wasn’t happening, he relied on his fastball more and more, started missing location, and then came the walks.  He said after the game that, had he not walked anyone, the game might still be going on.  He’s probably right.  So his outing was unusual for him in that he spent the night as a fastball pitcher.  He did top out at ninety-five miles per hour, but his usual speed variation just wasn’t there.  He used roughly all parts of the strike zone when he did throw strikes, and he used all parts of the strike zone boundaries when he threw balls.

So last night was definitely not his best work, but if that’s what an off night for him looks like, I’ll most definitely take it.  That would be a pitcher’s best night on some other teams.  We just have higher standards in Boston.  But my point is that he wasn’t the one who dropped the ball.  The bullpen did.

Bonser gave up four runs on two hits and two walks without recording an out.  Nelson gave up a grand slam; four runs on five hits, three walks, and one swing.  Eight runs in a single inning.  It was awful.  I absolutely can not stand bullpen meltdowns.  If a starter melts down, it’s his own mess and his own responsibility.  If a bullpen melts down, it takes everything the starter and the offense has put together and squanders it.  It’s like taking something someone has worked on really hard and just throwing it away when they were counting on you to protect it.   Think about it.  The game could have been a respectable 3-0 loss.  But no.  For Bonser, that wasn’t the first step he wanted to take on his road back to the Majors after shoulder surgery.  He says his shoulder felt fine; he was just “over-amped.” Whatever it was, he was terrible.

The offense.  This is going to be easy.  Too easy.  V-Mart singled.  Drew singled.  Youk walked.  Hermida, in his return to the lineup, walked.  Done.  Nobody got past first base.

Also, some unfortunate slump updates.  So far Pedroia is 0 for 11 in the series, and he’s 17 for 101, an average of .168, in his last twenty-five games.  Papi is 1 for his last 23.  Neither one of these slumps is cause for concern.  Both are too good to remain in them long; that’s been proven.

Delcarmen is feeling better and ready to go.  Papelbon will remain unavailable until at least tomorrow.

Yesterday, the organization unveiled a bronze statue of The Teammates a few yards from the statue of Ted Williams.  The statue, sculpted by Antonio Tobias Mendez, is based on David Halberstam’s book of that title about the road trip that Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio took to visit Williams on his deathbed.  This is a great tribute to lifelong friendship between these guys but also to the Red Sox organization, an organization that breeds such friendship between all its players.  Nicely done.

It was good to see an old friend, but it wasn’t good to lose to an old friend.  Especially, as I said, via the infamous bullpen implosion.  That was not supposed to be part of the plan.  However, as always, we’ll bounce back.  Tonight we have Lester at Talbot to finish off this series and hopefully win it rather than split it, and on Friday we return to Interleague for series with the Phillies, D-Backs, Dodgers, Rockies, and Giants.  That’s plenty of games against National League teams, so plenty of opportunities for wins.  I’ll be taking a break of about ten days.  We’re in a great place right now.  Who knows? In ten days, we could find ourselves in first place!

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The offseason started.  We waited.  The offseason progressed.  We waited.  Our free agents filed.  We waited some more.  The GM meetings ended, and still we waited.  The Winter Meetings started, and we waited.  Things looked bleak.  Were we destined for waiting through the entire offseason? Would we open 2010 without a single big addition? Was Theo Epstein all talk but no game?

Not a chance.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the newest member of the Boston Red Sox: John Lackey! Five years and eighty-five million dollars later, we signed the dude who helped usher us out of the playoffs.  But that’s okay with me.  I’d much rather be on the throwing end of the first-pitch-strike machine than on the receiving end.

This is good.  This is very good.  Think about it: a Lester-Beckett-Lackey starting rotation.  That rotation, my friends, will win championships for sure.  Seriously.  Put those three names in a sentence and you’re talking about what is perhaps the most formidable starting rotation in all of Major League Baseball.

Let’s talk about the contract, because we need to get this out of the way.  Eighty-five dollars is a lot of money to spend on a pitcher, but it’s not something we haven’t done before.  We spent at least that amount on Dice-K, between the “right-to-talk” fee and his salary.  The difference is that there’s no negotiating fee here; it’s all going in Lackey’s pocket.  He’ll earn seventeen million per season.  Make no mistake: that’s a lot.  And I know what you’re thinking: now we’ll have to deal with the pulling of the payroll card.  And you’d be right.  But here’s the kicker: technically that card can’t be pulled.  Looking at 2009, the Yankees obviously had the highest payroll.  We weren’t even second or third.  We were fourth, behind the Mets and Cubbies.  And if you look at the disparity between our payroll and the Yanks’, it’s quite considerable.  And even after we start sending Lackey’s paychecks, that’ll still hold.  But wait; there’s more.  Look at the top twenty-five player salaries for last season.  You’ve got A-Rod at the top making thirty-three million (which is ridiculous, by the way), followed by Manny Ramirez, followed by Derek Jeter, followed by Mark Teixeira.  The Yankees are represented six times on that list; the other teams are the Dodgers, Mets, Astros, Tigers, Cubs, Angels, Giants, Braves, Rockies, Mariners, and Phillies.  You will notice that Boston does not appear once on that list.  Not once.  John Lackey will change that, but he won’t even make the top ten.  He’d be somewhere around thirteenth, maybe fourteenth.  Which puts us in league with teams like the Giants, Mariners, Rockies, and Phillies.  Not necessarily the names that first come to mind when you think of big spenders.  All this is to say that just because we’re going to have someone on that list doesn’t mean we’re like the Yankees, even though there will be plenty of people out there who would like to make that claim.  (By the way, just in case someone also tries to convince you that this is exactly like New York signing AJ Burnett for five years and roughly eighty-two million, I would urge you to remember that AJ Burnett was not, is not, and never will be John Lackey.  There is a huge difference, one that will be made painfully obvious to New York in due time.) It just means our general manager is a genius, because not only is this pitcher actually good, but we get him without shipping all our top prospects off to Anaheim.  Thanks, Theo! In you we trust.

This directly affects our ability to sign Jason Bay.  It means we don’t have the ability to sign Jason Bay.  Once it became obvious that he was looking for an offer we just couldn’t provide, we diverted our attention, and finances, elsewhere.  Basically, we took the money we would’ve used to re-sign Bay and used it to land Lackey.  Who will play left field? Mike Cameron, who signed a two-year deal worth about fifteen million, which would probably have amounted to less than one year’s worth of Bay’s salary.  So Cameron and Lackey were basically a package deal.  We spent so much money on Lackey, we didn’t even have enough left over to sign Holliday, so we had to make do.  And I personally would rather have Lackey and Cameron than Bay for five years.  There are two ways to win: pitching and offense.  Right now the Sox have both.  Without Bay, our offense will take a hit, but Lackey will make up for that in pitching.

Besides, Cameron has his advantages.  He’s ridiculously consistent; no matter what team he’s on or league he’s in, he’ll give you around twenty homers, eighty RBIs, a .250-ish average, and an OPS in the neighborhood of .800.  And he’s patient; he saw 3.96 pitches per plate appearance last year, almost identical to Bay’s 3.99.  He may not steal as often as he used to, but he’s still better than Bay on the basepaths.  And let’s not forget one of his most significant assets: his defense.  Cameron is a phenomenal outfielder.  While it is true that he’s played out his career in center (three Gold Gloves in that position), ability is ability, and if we move him to left, I think he’ll adapt nicely.  Either way, we need the defense.  Let’s face it: we weren’t exactly excelling in that area last year, and I don’t think I need to remind anyone the significance of good defense in our win in 2004.  I’m just saying.  Defense, at this point, seems to be the name of our offensive game.

Incidentally, Roy Halladay is also off the market, gone to Philly just like he probably would have had JP Ricciardi been able to hammer out a deal at the trade deadline.  Cliff Lee goes to Seattle to complete the deal.  Also, the Lowell trade is currently stalling due to Lowell’s thumb injury.  Really? The thumb injury? The hip isn’t the issue; it’s the thumb that’s holding up the deal? It’s not even an injury; it’s a sprain! And he started all three games of the ALDS with it! Along this vein, talks with Adrian Gonzalez yielded nothing; the Padres don’t want to deal him before the season starts.  Rest assured, however, that if they decide to shop him, calls will be made.  Meanwhile, it turns out that Beltre wouldn’t be such a bad alternative.  His defense is solid as a rock, not to mention the fact that his production on the road is through the roof compared to Lowell’s.  And finally, the 2010 season starts with and in Boston.  The first game of the season will take place on April 4 at Fenway; we’ll play the Yanks.  This is going to be epic, even if the schedule won’t be.  We have a game on Sunday night, then two days off, then the rest of that series with New York in Boston and then it’s off to Kansas City (who has the All-Star Game in 2012 which, try as I might, I just can’t seem to forget).  To make matters worse, it’ll be broadcast on ESPN2.  I would be so much more annoyed if I weren’t so psyched that we’re inching closer and closer to next season.  You know baseball’s around the corner when you started talking about opening schedules.

The Bruins lost to the Flyers yesterday.  Great.  We’re now four points behind the Sabres.  On the upside, the Pats bested the Panthers with a cool 20-10 score.  On a different note, I’ll be taking a break for about two weeks.  Aside from the Flyers game, life is good in Boston sports.  Life is most definitely good.

Sox Tea Party

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Congratulations to Joe Mauer on winning the American League’s MVP award.  Youk and Bay didn’t fair too badly, taking sixth and seventh respectively, but they didn’t have the .365 average with the twenty-eight home runs and ninety-six RBIs to go with the starting catcher position.  Mauer took all but one first-place votes and was only the second catcher to win it in thirty-three years.  (It’s no secret that catchers usually can’t hit.  Which explains why Victor Martinez is next season’s top priority.) And those numbers also earned him the Ted Williams Award, given to baseball’s leading hitter.  And of course who but Albert Pujols won it for the National League.  Obviously.

Jonathan Papelbon was the club’s Fireman of the Year.  Daniel Bard was the club’s Rookie of the Year.  Nick Green won the Jackie Jensen Award for spirit and determination, and let me tell you something: any shortstop who goes from non-roster invitee to four-month starter has no shortage of spirit and determination.

As far as the stove is concerned, it’s still not too hot.  We acquired Royals infielder Tug Hulett for a player to be named later or cash considerations.  Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays for about three million dollars, with a club option for two and a half million.  Now that he’s unfortunately out of the picture, we’re showing interest in Marco Scutaro, who says it’s either us or the Dodgers.  We’re also shopping Mike Lowell.  Surprise, surprise.  Even if we do end up shipping him off, it won’t even be a fair deal, because the recipient club would be getting a top-notch, albeit health-wise unpredictable, third baseman for fifty percent off, because we’d have to swallow at least that much of his salary to make him palatable.  It’s really just sad.  He had a phenomenal season (and postseason) in 2007 and amble moments of brilliance in 2008, especially in the ALDS.  But he is getting older, and that was in California where the weather is warmer, so perhaps a team from a city with a warmer climate would be a better fit for him.

But a few big names have surfaced.  The Tigers are apparently interested in trading Miguel Cabrera (with Detroit’s financial situation, who wouldn’t be?), and we’ll probably get first dibs.  Also, it’s official: we are going for Roy Halladay and going big.  The problem is that, to close both of these deals, we’ll almost certainly have to part with Clay Buchholz.  We’d also have to part with Casey Kelly, at least, to land Halladay.  And after the performance Clay Buchholz gave in Game Three of the ALDS (walking into an elimination game as a young pitcher with no postseason experience after having seen the lineup put up zero run support), I don’t know how comfortable I would be with giving him up.  I think we owe it to him, the organization, and ourselves to see more of what he’s got before we decide that he is not, in fact, one of the greats in the making.  But the plot thickens: Halladay said he’d waive his no-trade clause to go to the Bronx.  I’m not saying we should engage in prevention via irresponsible acquisition, but I am saying that we need to weigh our actions very carefully.  Especially since Halladay is getting older.  That’s something that seems to be lost amidst the sensation of it all.  The man is not immortal.  He ages.  And while he ages, his abilities will decline.  And right now, he’s at a point in his career where we can expect his next four or five years to be considerably different from his last four or five.

Turns out that Ron Johnson is not our new bench coach.  DeMarlo Hale is.  Ron Johnson joined the Major League staff to coach at first in replacement of Hale.  I have to say I feel more comfortable with Hale as bench coach than I did when I thought Johnson would be doing it.  Not that I don’t think Johnson would be a good bench coach, but if we’re talking about the importance of knowing the players and the franchise inside-out, Hale, who’s been coaching first base for a while now, clearly has the edge there.

At the end of my recent posts, I’ve usually said something like, “All we can do now is wait and see.” I say that because it’s true.  But it’s also true that the suspense is killing me.  I keep getting this feeling that the offseason won’t come to a close until Theo Epstein does something big, but I can’t figure out what that’ll be.  A trade? A signing? Another starting pitcher? A new power hitter? It’s too hard and too early to tell.  But one thing’s for sure: something’s definitely brewing.  The front office has something up its sleeve.  The foundations have been laid for some sort of shake-up, even if we can’t quite figure out what it’ll be.

But before we conclude, I would like to report that Bud Selig will be retiring after the 2012 season.  It’s been one interesting ride.  He was named acting commissioner in 1992 and official commissioner in 1998, and since then we’ve seen a growth in the baseball market, an expansion of the postseason via the Wild Card, the introduction of revenue sharing, Interleague, a players’ strike, the first World Series cancellation since 1904 (ten years shy of a century), and the steroid era.  There was good, there was bad, and there was most definitely ugly.  What do we need in a successor? That’s an extremely open-ended question, but whoever it is will be charged with the difficult task of cleaning up baseball’s public image.  So much controversy occurred during Selig’s tenure that MLB will probably look to someone with a hard-line streak, someone who can keep the sport in line while still bringing revenue in.  We’ll see what happens.

The B’s beat the Blues, Wild, and Sens and lost to the Devils in sudden death.  The Pats beat the Jets.

AP Photo

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We celebrated the fifth anniversary of our complete and total decimation of the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS on Tuesday.  Just thinking about that 10-3 final score gives me goosebumps.  That was the greatest day in the history of New England for all of a week before we won it all.  World champions.  I said this at the time, and I say it every year, because it’s true: it never gets old.  No matter how many wins anyone else may be able to rack up, none of them will ever measure up to 2004.  Ever.  And no defeat will ever be as painful as the one the Yankees experienced.  There’s a reason why it’s called the greatest comeback in the history of baseball.  And I wouldn’t have wanted to get to the big stage any other way.

Meanwhile, Tim Bogar and Brad Mills interviewed for the Astros’ managerial job.  That’s not something I want to hear.  Mills has been our bench coach for the past six seasons, and he’s done a great job.  Obviously I’m rooting for his success, but I just hope that success is achieved in Boston, not in Houston.

And supposedly we’re chasing Adrian Gonzalez via trade.  This could get very interesting, very quickly.  At twenty-seven years of age, he hit forty home runs, batted in ninety-nine RBIs this year, led the Major Leagues in walks, and finished the season with a .407 on-base percentage.  But wait; the plot thickens.  One of our assistant GMs, Jed Hoyer, is about to become the Padres’ GM.  (This leaves Ben Cherington as our only assistant GM.  The decision is likely to be announced in the next few days.  Bud Selig doesn’t want clubs making such major announcements during the World Series, so it’ll happen beforehand, especially since Hoyer will need to get his personnel in place and prepare for the GMs meeting starting on November 9.) So if one of them lands the job, our options become wide-open, and the road to the trade just got re-paved.  The important question here is who is on the block.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Mike Lowell and prospects; Youk would then move to third permanently while Gonzalez plays first.  But I don’t know if the Padres would bite.  I think it’s safe to say Youk won’t be going anywhere; he’s too good at the plate and in the field.  And I don’t think Pedroia even enters into this discussion.  So I think Lowell, prospects, and bench players are up for grabs.

Speaking of Pedroia, check this out.  During his MVP season, he swung at the first pitch fifteen percent of the time.  This past year, that stat was down to seven percent.  Furthermore, during his MVP season he hit .306 with eight doubles and two dingers on the first pitch.  This past year, he hit .167 with four hits, period.  And if you don’t consider his one-pitch at-bats, his numbers from the two season are almost exactly the same.  But there’s a trade-off.  With more patience came twenty-four more walks and a comparable on-base percentage despite the thirty-point drop in average.  And while we’re on the subject of examining the season via stats, the only Red Sox catcher since 1954 who’s had a better average in September than Victor Martinez is Carlton Fisk.  Just to give you an idea of how ridiculously awesome V-Mart is.  Youk has had the highest OPS in the American League since 2008.  (It’s .960, a full ten points higher than A-Rod’s.  I’m just sayin’.) Jacoby Ellsbury is one of only six since 1915 to bat over .300 with forty-five extra-base hits and seventy steals; the other five are Ty Cobb, Rickey Henderson, Willie Wilson, Tim Raines, and Kenny Lofton.  David Ortiz hit more home runs than anyone in the AL since June 6, but only six of those were hit with runners in scoring position and struggled immensely against lefties.  In three of his past four seasons, Jason Bay has experienced a slump starting sometime in June and ending sometime in July that lasts for about a month.

Saito cleared waivers on Monday, but mutual interest in his return has been expressed.  Why not? He finished the year with a 2.43 ERA, the eighth-lowest in the Majors for a reliever with forty-plus appearances.  Wakefield had surgery at Mass General on Wednesday to repair a herniated disk in his back.  The surgery was successful, he’ll begin rehab immediately, and expect him to be pitching before Spring Training.

In other news, Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt fired his wife, Jamie, from her position as CEO of the organization.  Ouch.  Now she’s amassing an army of investors in an effort to possibly buy out her husband.  Ouch times two.  This could potentially ruin the team; when the organization’s top officials are preoccupied with marriage and ownership disputes, it’s harder to focus on free agency, harder to allocate funds to the right players, and therefore harder to be good.  Not that I’m complaining; Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez blew it this year and I’m looking forward to the Dodgers dropping down in the standings.

That’s a wrap for this week.  Not too much goes on until the stove gets hot, but this is when Theo gets his winter game plan together.  If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that he’ll be making some serious moves.  After a postseason finish like ours, that’s really the only thing you can do.

The Pats crushed the Titans last weekend.  Seriously.  The final score was 59-0.  It was ridiculous.  The Bruins, on the other hand, could do better.  We lost to Phoenix, shut out Dallas, lost a shootout to the Flyers, and won a shootout to the Senators.  We traded Chuck Kobasew to the Wild for right winger Craig Weller, still in the AHL; rights to forward Alex Fallstrom, a freshman at Harvard; and a second-round draft pick in 2011.  So it could be a while before we see a return on this move, but it freed cap space in preparation for next offseason, when Tuukka Rask, Blake Wheeler, and Marc Savard all hit the free agent market.  And make no mistake: Peter Chiarelli was sending a message.  If you underperform, you’re gone, because we can use the financial flexibility of a trade to make us more competitive than you’re making us right now.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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