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Posts Tagged ‘Manny Ramirez’

These are things that Theo has said: he wants to keep Papi and Paps and fix Lackey and Crawford.  And he doesn’t blame Tito for the fact that we have suffered the completely devastating indignity of being the first team ever in the history of Major League Baseball to be eliminated from the playoffs after having held a nine-game lead in September.  He blames himself and a lack of chemistry and conditioning.

Apparently, Tito was concerned as early as the first week or so of September, so he called a team meeting to get everyone back on track.  Since Tito’s assumption of the managerial role for us, these meetings have been gold.  They’ve been a surefire way of airing grievances, getting things out of your system, identifying best and worst practices, and going from there to ensure a long-term strategy for success for the rest of the season, whether we had four months or four weeks left to play.  Theo even came in to address the team; whether it was appropriate for him as general manager to do isn’t the point.  The point is that desperation apparently was realized early, and everyone wanted to do what they could to fix it.

According to Theo, some players were better conditioned than others, and this inconsistency manifested itself on the field.  Regarding the chemistry issue, during the seasons when we went the deepest into the postseason (that would be 2003, 2004, and 2007), the team was apparently tighter, more familial, and more brotherly than it was this year.  There wasn’t as much back-having and protection-securing in the field.  Was it a problem when Lackey got visibly annoyed in public when a play wasn’t made behind him? Did Crawford’s handling of his gigantic slump affect the team behind closed doors? Was the clubhouse annoyed when Papi went after that scorekeeper for one RBI? Has Paps been going on and on about the fact that he wants a raise? Are all of the reports of prima donna behavior, like drinking beer between starts, true? And was it really Beckett of all people? I don’t know, and there’s no way anyone outside the room would know.  What I do know is that these issues probably weren’t the only incidence of their type over the course of a 162-game season and that, when you’re spending that much time on planes, clubhouses, dugouts, and other tight spaces for that amount of time, brothers tend to get on each others’ nerves.  However, at the end of the day, brothers are still supposed to be brothers, and they’re still supposed to act like brothers.  It’s a problem when they don’t.

Now here’s what Theo didn’t say, and this is huge.  Of all the outcomes of this complete and total fail of a season, I never thought that this would be one of them.  We had to find out from Ken Rosenthal on FOXSports.com that this may have been Tito’s last season as our manager.  It turns out that he was right.  It was a mutual thing; Tito doesn’t want to continue managing the team, and the team doesn’t want to pick up his option for next season either.

What can I say? He is, without question, one of the best managers this club has ever had in its long and illustrious history.  We failed to win a World Series in eighty-six years because we were cursed and because we were managed badly.  All of a sudden, Tito came in and we won two in less than five years, our first in his first season with us.  And in both of them, he brought us back from the brink of elimination.  He’s the first manager in history to win his first six World Series contests.

But it’s not just about that.  It’s also his ability to be a good manager and to mediate forces in the clubhouse.  He has a calming effect on even the most flamboyant personalities, and he handles the environment with a degree of respect, fairness, humor, and adaptation that is a truly rare combination indeed.

We didn’t make the playoffs in 2010 because of injuries.  We didn’t make the playoffs this year for reasons completely different that are highly speculative and have yet to be determined definitively.  It’s completely unclear, as Theo said, that our collapse this September was Tito’s fault.  He managed Michael Jordan to Manny Ramirez to everyone in between; I have implicit faith in his ability to maintain a positive and constructive clubhouse dynamic, and I have no reason to believe that the collapse occurred because he failed to do what was necessary.  According to Tito, he did what was necessary; he was the one who reached out and called that meeting.  It just wasn’t working.  He wasn’t able to get through to these guys like he was able to get through to teams past.  It’s not like he wasn’t trying.  It’s just like the conditioning issue: you can tell a guy fifty times an hour to get himself into the weight room and work out, but at the end of the day, he’s the one who decides whether he gets himself into the weight room.  There is only so much that a manager can do to stem the tide of slackening conditioning regimens and negative evolution of clubhouse chemistry.

Obviously we weren’t going to hear about any of this, or the fact that he felt that support was lacking from ownership, until now.  Regarding that last point, you can either believe that or interpret it to mean that it wasn’t a mutual decision and that it was the team who decided that it didn’t have enough support from Tito.  Maybe Tito wasn’t enough of a numbers or data man, and that didn’t satisfy the brass.  It’s not like anyone was going to start letting these things slip into the media in the middle of the season, and it’s not like we’ll know the whole truth of it, either.  According to Jerry Remy, for those on the inside, it was pretty easy to see where this was going.

Since 2011 is Tito’s last season with us, it’s extremely unfortunate that that’s how he’ll go out.  He’ll finish with a record in Boston of 744 and 552.  That’s a winning percentage of .574.  He broke the Curse of the Bambino and led us to two World Series championships in which we were all but finished before we got there but, once we did, dominated completely.  He’s been serious, and he’s been funny.  He’s been human, and he’s been superhuman.  He essentially made us the team of the decade, and he did so with a level of class and understanding of the game that this town hasn’t seen in a long time.  For every managerial mistake he’s made, I’ve seen at least five manifestations of remarkable managerial acumen that everyone who’s ever won Manager of the Year would be hard-pressed to exhibit.  Speaking of which, I don’t care what anyone says; Tito was the 2010 American League Manager of the Year in my book.

So here’s to you, Tito.  You gave us your all, all the time.  That’s not easy here, and we appreciate everything you’ve done to make this team a success.  And we hope you’ve had as much of a complete and total blast here as we have with you at the helm.  You acquired our instinctive faith, trust, and support, and we’re glad we were able to benefit from your talent.  Tito, it’s been most phenomenal.  And you will most certainly be missed.

All rumors point to the Other Sox.  Incidentally, this is something I better not hear anyone say: Tito intends to take a job with the Cubs and, oh, look, a few weeks later, so does Theo.  And I don’t even want to think about what it’s going to be like seeing him in the visitor’s dugout at Fenway or the home dugout somewhere else.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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This one, I obviously saw coming.  Seeing Beckett start after Lackey is sometimes really funny.  You have a model of consistency following a guy who’s become in Dice-K’s absence the model of inconsistency on this team.  Beckett is back to his old self again.  You see him going out there, and you know the team is going to win.

Beckett made quick work of the Mariners, but his hit count and pitch count were a little high.  In seven innings, he allowed one walk and one run on one solo shot.  It actually led off his last inning; it was a cutter, and it was the only mistake he made all night.  It was a full count, and Tek wanted the cutter away, but it went inside.

He struck out seven.  He allowed seven hits on 118 pitches, eighty-one of which were strikes.  That means that about sixty-nine of his pitches were strikes.  That’s ridiculously high.  So the high pitch count doesn’t bother me as much since the ratio of strikes to pitches is the same.  Also worth noting is that, aside from the home run, he gave up only one other extra-base hit: a double.  The rest were singles.

His only pitch that wasn’t totally amazing was his curveball, and he still threw it for strikes a little more than half the time.  Both of his fastballs as well as his cutter were indeed totally amazing.  His best pitch was his changeup.  About three quarters of the changeups he threw were strikes.

Let’s break down his strikeouts.  His first one came in the first inning on a cutter.  His second ended the second inning on a changeup.  His third was one-two-three; he didn’t post any K’s but induced three consecutive flyouts.  His fifth was one-two-three with two K’s; the first led off the inning and ended in a two-seam, and the second ended the inning on a four-seam.

He allowed only four runners on base through his first five innings.  He saw his worst jam in the sixth: two singles meant two runners on base in the same inning, who advanced a base on a groundout.  He posted one more strikeout after that with a changeup, followed by a flyout to end the inning.  His last K, the first out in the seventh right after the solo shot he gave up, was his last K of the day and his only called K.  It ended in a two-seam.  None of his strikeouts were achieved with only three pitches.

Incidentally, Beckett can thank Youk for the last out of that inning.  Beckett induced a ground ball, and Youk had to dive for it and had just enough time to make an off-balance throw to first that was still in time.

Actually, believe it or not, Beckett almost lost.  Since the solo shot occurred in the top of the seventh, he left down by one because we had failed to score up to that point.  If it weren’t for that solo shot, not only would the game have been a shutout through seven, but as always in baseball, there’s no guarantee that we would have pulled it together in the bottom of the frame.  Who knows? Maybe we would have had another supremely long scoreless marathon.

Crawford struck out swinging to start the bottom of the inning.  Clearly that was not promising.  Reddick flew out to left, and already two outs were on the board.

A quick note about Reddick.  He’s clearly ready to assume the role of a starter.  Since Drew is another model of consistency on the team, meaning of course that he’s consistently underproductive in every conceivable aspect of the game with the obvious exception of defense, it’s good to see Reddick get some regular playing time.  That will increase his sample size, and if he can earn a starting job during the second half of the season in the middle of a run to the playoffs, I’d say he’s got it.  Everyone knows it.  Theo knows it, Tito knows it, and Drew knows it.  One thing you have to admire about Drew, in addition to his defense, is that he’s a quiet guy.  He doesn’t get cranky and complain after every single failed at-bat, which would be really bad for the clubhouse.  If you had to have a guy on your team as consistently underproductive as Drew, Drew’s demeanor is perfectly suited for that role.  Of course, it’s ironic to say that about Reddick after he went 0 for 4 last night, but of course that’s just one game.  He almost got us on the board in the fourth; Papi doubled and moved to third on a single by Crawford, but Reddick’s fly ball wasn’t deep enough to allow him to score.  He tagged up but was thrown out at home.

Anyway, with two out in the inning, Tek singled.  Scutaro doubled, which could have scored Tek had a fan not reached out and taken the ball out of play.  In the end it didn’t matter because Ellsbury singled them both in.  But still.  You never know, so you should never do anything to affect the outcome of the ballgame (unless you’re on the team, and preferably unless it’s to affect it for the better).

Then Seattle made a pitching change, and Pedroia singled to extend his hitting streak to twenty games.  Then Seattle made a pitching change, and Gonzalez stepped up to bat.  Pedroia stole second, Ellsbury scored on a wild pitch, and Pedroia moved to third on a throwing error.  And Gonzalez ended up walking anyway.  Youk ended the inning by grounding into a force out.

Bard took the ball from Beckett and did not have a very good eighth.  He loaded the bases with nobody out.  He gave up a single and a four-pitch walk, and then a sac bunt turned into an infield hit.  Luckily he was able to get the three outs after that, on one of which he was extremely lucky, because he missed his location on the deciding pitch of a strikeout.  He ended up getting the strikeout, but as Beckett showed, we all know what happens when pitchers make mistakes.  Paps’s ninth was much better: a single and steal followed by three outs.

The final score was 3-1, and Beckett walked away a winner after all.  An interesting stat to let you know why we shouldn’t be surprised: we have now outscored the opposition 93-33 in the seventh inning.  I mean, it makes perfect sense.  Either you’ve got a starter out there who’s exhausted or a reliever who hasn’t had a chance to find his rhythm yet.  The Mariners shouldn’t be surprised either; they’ve now lost their last fourteen games, which sets a new club record.

Last but most certainly not least, we doff our caps to Tito, who with last night’s game earned his 715th win as our manager and the thousandth win of his managerial career! Here’s to you, Tito.  You gave us our first championship in eighty-six years in your first year here.  You gave us another one in 2007.  You made it through Manny Ramirez and other characters.  And you’ve done it all with the utmost class.  You’re one of the best ever.  Congratulations!

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Between a rainout and the schedule, we had two days off.  I thought that would be a good thing.  Two days off to regroup, re-energize, re-focus, and re-find ourselves.  For some, it was exactly that.  For others, maybe they should just have no days off and they would play better.  I don’t know.  Either way, it was ugly.

The game was preceded by a ceremony honoring Jackie Robinson Day and, as is customary on the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut, everyone wore Number Forty-Two.  It’s a day that really makes you stop and think about the true significance of the impact he really had.  Here’s to you, Jackie Robinson.  We salute you.

After the conclusion of the third inning, it looked like many of the predictions I’d been hearing that this series would be the one during which we’d finally turn it around would come true.  In the first, Adam Lind hit what looked like would be the end of us: a three-run shot.  The ball hit the top of the fence, but after that, the view was terrible.  First base umpire Paul Nauert initially thought that the ball landed to the left of the pole.  Luckily, thankfully, fortunately, and correctly, the call was overturned, and it was called a foul ball.  (That would be Lind’s last approach to anything close to an extra-base hit.  In the fourth, Lind hit a ball that was sailing over center field fast, but Ellsbury had that ball’s number all the way.  He made the catch on the run on the warning track in the triangle for the second out in the fourth.)

The offense didn’t do much of anything leading up to the third, but Pedroia took two balls and then walloped an eighty-eight mile-per-hour sinker into the first row of the Monster seats for a solo shot.  This after, in the top of the inning, he made a fantastic play to get an out at first with which Buchholz should have been very familiar; the running, rolling over, spinning around, and firing was almost exactly the same play that Pedroia made to preserve Buchholz’s no-hitter.  Pedroia, in case you didn’t already know, is officially the sparkplug of this team.  And then Gonzalez walked and Youk, for the first time since last July, after taking a ball and a strike, also walloped an eighty-eight mile-per-hour sinker out of the yard.  It landed several feet to the right of the 379-foot mark in center field.  Clearly it’s only a matter of time before he gets going, because that ball was hit with some major power.

Sadly, however, that lead wouldn’t last.  The Jays got two runs back in the fifth and one in the sixth to tie it.  And now would be the time to talk about the pitching.

Buchholz didn’t have his best stuff.  Surprise, surprise.  His final line was three runs on three hits over five innings with three strikes and five walks.  Yes, five walks.  That matches a career high.  That’s more walks than he’s supposed to give up in a whole season.  Two of those walks turned into runs.  As I said, and every sabermetrician will tell you the same, walks will haunt.  Walks bring runners home on hits that otherwise wouldn’t be a big deal.

The five walks were only a manifestation in the books of Buchholz’s problem overall: a lack of command.  That’s where walks come from.  He threw ninety-nine pitches, only forty-six of which were strikes.  He was totally erratic.  He varied his speed, but it was a fail because he had to throw incredibly lame offspeeds to do so.  As he said himself, he’d try to throw one pitch and it would go one way out of the strike zone, and then he’d try to throw the exact same pitch and it would go the completely opposite way out of the strike zone.  In terms of strikes, his most effective pitch was his cutter, and only threw that for strikes sixty percent of the time.  So all of his other pitchers were thrown for strikes even less than that.  He had particular trouble with his other two offspeeds, the curveball and changeup.  His fastballs weren’t so effective either.  He only got up to ninety-four miles per hour.  A plot of his strike zone will show you that he was in out, around, and all over the lower right corner of the zone, and he threw several pitches high.  It wasn’t good.  Anytime you have a starter known for offspeeds, he has to command, because offspeeds are only as good as their execution, which produces the proper location.  If he wasn’t releasing the ball well or couldn’t find the strike zone, he wasn’t going to win.

He didn’t lose either.  He didn’t receive a decision.  Two batters into the sixth, he was lifted in favor of Alfredo Aceves, who induced a double play but then allowed his second inherited runner to score.  So he received a blown save for his trouble.  But that was nowhere near the worst of it.  Because Bobby Jenks came on after that and finished us off.

Jenks faced six batters in the seventh and recorded only one out, a swinging strikeout on four pitches.  If only that flash of brilliance permeated the rest of the frame.  Two line drives to Crawford for two runs, one run on a wild pitch, and a fourth run on another line drive to Crawford.  Those four runs are a career high; those four hits tie a career high.  It was brutal.  Single after single after single.  Run after run after run.  And suddenly our power third inning was completely erased and, not only were we no longer tied, but we were back to losing.  Jenks so far has been great, so maybe he’s allowed one majorly huge inning of badness.  It just came at the worst time because we lost the game right there.  Which is why he got the loss.

Doubront pitched the rest of the inning with ease.  Wheeler came on in the next inning, promptly sent down his three batters, and made way for the offense.

We looked like we were going to come back.  We were down by four, and we looked like we knew that we could overcome it.  Gonzalez grounded out.  Youk and Papi walked consecutively.  Drew struck out swinging.  And Lowrie, who came in to pinch-hit for Salty, singled in a run.  Scutaro doubled in two more.  And Ellsbury stood at the plate.  You could cut the suspense with a knife.  One more run would tie it, and any more would put us out in front.  And then we would make it happen in the ninth for the win.  So what did Ellsbury do? He flied out to right field on his first pitch.

Paps came on for the ninth; he walked one but, thanks to a groundout and a double play, faced the minimum.  In the bottom of the ninth, a strikeout and two groundouts ended it.  We lost, 7-6.

A note on the weather.  It was freezing outside.  Buchholz mentioned it after the game.  Did that have anything to do with his lack of performance? Only he would know.  Should it have anything to do with it? Not in the least.  First of all, we’re not the Rockies and this isn’t Denver.  If the Rockies can play all year long in Denver, we can play all year long in Boston, and we don’t even need a humidor.  Secondly, this is a team of guys that make their career here.  That means dealing with the bitter cold as well as the brutal heat.  Buchholz came up through the farms.  He’s been pitching in Boston for several years already.  Every once in a while, you have to deal with particularly uncomfortable conditions, but hey, that’s baseball in Boston.  Besides, Wheeler came over from the Rays, who play in Florida, and I didn’t see him having a problem.

Three of our five hits were for extra bases, but we left six on base and went two for eight with runners in scoring position.  Nobody posted a multi-hit game, although Youk and Papi both walked twice.  Crawford did absolutely nothing; no walks, no hits, nothing.  So I would say that, no, right now, at this particular moment in time, he is not currently in the process of earning his contract.  Gonzalez, however, is a different story.  Not only is he earning his trade, but he is also earning his contract, an extension that was announced yesterday.  We signed him for seven years and $154 million.  Money-wise, it’s the ninth largest contract in Major League history, largest of our current ownership, and second largest in club history, right behind the Manny Ramirez deal of 2000, which exceeded this one by six million dollars.  I will be the first to admit that I’ve never been the biggest fan of contracts that are large in either money or years because it decreases the financial and strategic flexibility of the club, but when it’s done shrewdly, it can be effective.  This contract provides us with stability at not one but two key positions, because now Youk knows he can get comfortable at third.  And so far, overall, Gonzalez has been hitting, and he’s been hitting in a particular style that shows us that he’s going to be successful here.  Let’s also remember that we’re not the Yankees.  We don’t hand out this kind of money or these types of contracts very lightly.  In Theo we trust.  And as soon as Crawford starts hitting and stealing, we’ll see returns on that too.

The bottom line is that we lost yesterday.  The good news is that we lost by only one run, which means we were right back in it.  The bad news is that we lost by only one run, which means that we only needed one more and we couldn’t get it, not even with our lineup.  We had sub-par starting pitching, and we didn’t always have the greatest hitting, but this one is on the bullpen.  Aceves allowed his inherited runner to score, but that’s only one.  That could have been the difference-maker.  Instead, Bobby Jenks comes in and starts throwing like a pitching machine.

But we need to remember something.  We may be two and ten, and we may be in last place in our division.  But we’re five games out of first with 150 games to play.  We’ve seen so much worse.  We’ve been five games out of first with less than thirty games to play.  And I still stand by my assertion that a lineup, pitching staff, and bullpen like ours absolutely can not be good only on paper and not in practice.  We will turn it around, and when we do, I would suggest that the rest of Major League Baseball take notice.  It’s the meantime before that turnaround that’s going to be tough.  Next up: Beckett and hopefully a repeat performance of his last start.

In other news, the Bruins were shutout by the Habs in our first playoff contest.  Never a great way to start.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Turns out it wasn’t too much to ask after all.

Home.  Home is where the heart is.  Home is also where the wins are.  Yesterday was the first day of the rest of our 2011 baseball lives.

The Opening Ceremonies, as always, were very well done.  From the team introductions to the national anthem to the F16 flyover to paying respects to Lou Gorman to watching Yaz throw out the first pitch, it really gave you a sense of how far our storied team has come, and it reminded you of why we love this game and this team in the first place.  It really did feel like we started the season yesterday and every game we played before that was still part of Spring Training.  By the way, we have won every game before which Yaz has thrown out the first pitch.  So maybe that’s something to keep in mind if we have another losing streak.  Either way, before the game even started, you could smell the win in the air.

We completed the Year X Improvements project this winter.  Offseason additions to the park include expanded concessions and souvenir options, three Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision high definition LED screens, more concourse TVS, a new ticket booth at Gate D, and general repairs in the seating area.  All of the construction and repairs were green, using recycled materials and such.  The bad news? One of the LED screens, which is absolutely huge, replaced the John Hancock jumbotron in center field.  That jumbotron may have been old, but that’s where multiple generations of Red Sox fans looked when they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  That jumbotron projected a world of badness and a world of greatness.  I guess the only solution is to inaugurate the new one with a World Series win.  I have to say that everything looks fantastic.  Major improvements have been made during the offseason for the last ten years, and yet every year it looks like nothing has changed at all.  They’ve done a brilliant job working with the park and integrating everything.  It looks awesome.

We entered the game after having made some changes.  Matt Albers is on the fifteen-day DL with a strained right lat muscle, so we recalled Alfredo Aceves.  We also designated Reyes for assignment and activated Felix Doubront.  We batted Crawford in leadoff, moved everyone up, and inserted Ellsbury into the eighth spot in the lineup.

So then the game starts.  Lackey’s first pitch was a strike to Brett Gardner in an at-bat that quickly turned into a leadoff walk.  And you could just tell that he wasn’t on.  Sure enough, with two out in the first, A-Rod walked, and when Cano doubled to center field, two runs were in.  The Evil Empire would score a run in each of the next four innings until Lackey was removed.  He failed to hold a single lead.

So he pitched five innings, gave up six runs on seven hits, walked two, and struck out two.  He gave up a home run to A-Rod of all people.  He threw ninety-one pitches, fifty-one for strikes.  He threw mostly curveballs and cutters, the former being more effective than the latter.  He threw all of his off-speed pitches for strikes at least fifty percent of the time.  His cut fastball was particularly nasty, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour.  But his straight-up fastballs were not effective.  Luckily, he got in on their hands and pitched inside, and he kept his per-inning pitch counts low, going up to twenty-two in the first and again in the fourth at the highest.  His last inning was also his best; he threw twelve pitches, eight for strikes.

Pedroia, as he is wont to do, got the entire team going.  He smacked a huge solo shot into the first two rows of the Monster about ten feet to the right of the Fisk pole in the first inning, cutting our deficit in half.  It was a curveball that didn’t curve.  He literally swung that bat with his entire body.  He did whatever it took to get that ball out, and Red Sox Nation sighed in relief as one.  After a losing streak like ours to begin the season, the longer you go without some sort of definitive offensive display, the harder it is to get one going.  I knew going into this game that if we didn’t do something, anything, early, it would be that much more difficult to do it in the later innings.  That home run was exactly what we needed.

After the Yankees tied it back up, we let loose with our best and biggest inning of the season to date.  Five runs in the second.  We tied our highest run total for an entire game so far in that single frame.  I was so unused to seeing hits being strung together, I almost felt like I was witnessing some sort of mythical feat.  Scutaro grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored one run.  Pedroia singled in two more and moved to second on a fielding error.  Gonzalez singled him in.  And Papi singled him in.  What you just witnessed was our first run manufacture of 2011.  And that, my friends, was the end of Phil Hughes.

Bartolo Colon came on after that and shut us down until the seventh.  By that time, the Yankees had tied the game.  And who should come through but Salty, who doubled in Youk after Papi failed to be called out thanks to another fielding error, and that established a lead that would stand permanently.

After that, Girardi lifted Colon in favor of Boone Logan because Papi and Drew, back-to-back lefties, were coming up.  In a fine display of hitting and reassurance that our lefty-heavy lineup can’t be shut down by a simple call to the bullpen, it made absolutely no difference.  They both came through.  Drew ended up singling in Gonzalez and Papi.

Where Lackey failed, the bullpen didn’t.  Our relievers shut down the Yanks for the last four innings.  We had one effective shutout frame each, each worth a hold, from Aceves, Jenks, and even Bard.  Bard and Paps each threw eleven pitches, eight for strikes.  Paps registered his first save of the season in the ninth.  They mowed them down like grass, overgrown and overblown.

In total, we amassed twelve hits.  Double digits.  Five members of our lineup had multi-hit games; Salty, Drew, and Papi each went two for four while Gonzalez went two for five and Pedroia, the man of the hour, went three for five.  We left six on base and went six for ten with runners in scoring position, which means that we put runners in scoring position and then brought them home.  The best part? We scored nine runs.  Nine to their six.  That’s what it feels like to have the offense back the pitcher.  That’s what it feels like to score a sufficient amount of runs in order to deal with it if the pitcher has an off day.  Cue “Dirty Water.” Ladies and gentlemen, we are now one and six!

This was our hundredth home opener, and we have now won seven straight.  With the frustrating exception of Lackey, we were absolutely brilliant in every way.  The hitters were hitting.  The fielders were fielding.  (With the second frustrating exception being Crawford, who at one point looked just sad when he couldn’t have been in a worse position to play a ball off the Monster.  I can understand that; it’s his first season, and he has to get used to it.  It’s not an easy left field to play.  It’s just that historically, even as an opponent on a visiting team, he’s always played the wall well.  I was surprised.) And the relievers were relieving.  Hopefully tomorrow the starter will be starting.

Make no mistake, folks: you just witnessed one of the most satisfying wins we’re going to have this year.  I repeat: yesterday was the first day of the rest of our 2011 baseball lives.

One other thing.  Manny Ramirez announced his retirement today.  It came after he was told of “an issue” that came up under Major League Baseball’s drug policy.  This is not difficult to figure out.  He tested positive four years after testing went into effect, was suspended for fifty games, cleaned up, came back, and comparatively speaking he pretty much failed as a hitter.  Lately he’s been reduced to being happy with singles.  We’re talking a drop in average as well as on-base percentage of upwards of a hundred points.  Recently, he failed another drug test; the suspension for a second transgression doubles, so it would be a hundred games, which is two-thirds of a season.  Not wanting to deal with that suspension, he retired instead.  That’s why it’s always good when a baseball player knows when it’s time to call it quits in every sense.  He did wonderful things when he was here in Boston, but we were on the receiving end of some pretty bad ugliness from him as well.  He was often funny but never easy.  It’s just sad that rather than recognizing when his time was up, he felt so compelled to follow such a course of action.  When Curt Schilling started to age, he prolonged his career by converting power to finesse in an incredible show of integrity, strength, and discipline.  Manny Ramirez was known throughout baseball for his intense work ethic but inconsistent-at-best personality.  Since he first failed four years after testing went into effect, and during those years he still posted numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame, he probably eventually saw the beginnings of a decline due to age and wanted to try to avoid it the bad way.  He thought he could play the game by his own rules but got caught when those rules were at odds with everyone else’s.  For now that’s all we know, and we’ll just have to wait and see what else happens.  Thanks for good memories, good times, and good laughs, Manny.  We’ll remember you as you were.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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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.

AP Photo

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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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Awards season has come and gone and left disappointment and injustice in its wake.  Seriously.  I can’t even talk about it.  This goes beyond even Sabathia stealing Beckett’s Cy Young and Guerrero stealing Papi’s Silver Slugger.  This time, it’s personal.

Lester and Buchholz both finished in the top six in the AL Cy Young voting, but both ultimately lost to Felix Hernandez, who won it with his numbers alone since the Mariners didn’t offer any help of any sort at any time.  And if a Cy Young were awarded to best one-two punch, Lester and Buchholz would totally sweep that vote.

A new award was introduced this year: the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence.  We won it, and I can’t think of any team more deserving.  The Red Sox Foundation now gets ten thousand dollars.  I have to say, if any award is worth winning, this one is obviously most definitely up there.

So, obviously, that’s not where the disappointment and injustice come in, although I will say that both Lester and Buchholz were spectacular this past year, and I’d be very surprised if neither wins at least one Cy Young in each of their careers.  No.  All of that comes in here: Tito did not win Manager of the Year; cue the disappointment.  Furthermore, he finished fourth in the voting; cue the injustice.  We won eighty-nine games last year with half our starting lineup ending up being out for the season, more than 136 different batting orders, and a majority of our starters out of Spring Training on the DL by the end of it.  And you’re telling me that’s not Manager of the Year material right there? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a very long time.  All three managers who finished ahead of Tito, perhaps not coincidentally, had teams that ended up in the playoffs.  But that’s not supposed to be what this is about.  Putting a team in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily indicate a good manager; it indicates a good team with a good schedule.  And I can’t even begin to tell you how utterly frustrated I am with any system that could possibly have resulted in this outcome.  Tony La Russa even said in print that it should unquestionably be Tito as AL Manager of the Year.  And not only does he not get it, but he finishes fourth? That is complete insanity if I’ve ever seen it, ever.

That’s a pretty bold statement, but it’s true.  The three managers who finished ahead of him were Ron Gardenhire, Ron Washington, and Joe Maddon, all worthy opponents and all perennial appearance-makers in votes for this award.  All of them obviously had to deal with major injuries to major players at inopportune times this past year, Gardenhire much more than the other two.  And they all get their usual credit for maintaining stability in the clubhouse, handling big personalities, and just generally being good at what they do.  But only one of them did it with some of the biggest of the big personalities in one of the most pressurized of cookers called Major League Baseball teams every single day for an entire season during which the team, on any given day, looked entirely different.  It’s incredibly difficult to sustain morale in that kind of competition environment with that kind of scenario going on, and yet Tito made it look like a walk in the park (pun intended).  Maddon arguably had it easiest of the four, following by Washington.  So we’re talking Tito and Gardenhire, but at least Gardenhire had more peace and quiet in which to conduct his business and less potential clubhouse drama to worry about.  We’re talking about the man who managed a minor league baseball team that had Michael Jordan on its roster, and don’t even get me started on Manny Ramirez.  Obviously, neither of those two episodes had bearing on this year, but they’re just great testimonies to his managerial abilities.

All I’m saying is that Tito will have another spectacular year this coming year, and even then he probably won’t have any Manager of the Year award to show for it, but one of the reasons he deserves such an award is that he doesn’t do any of what he does with the award in mind.  He does it anyway, day in and day out, injuries or no injuries.  So here’s to you, Tito.  We all know who the real Manager of the Year is.

The GM meetings have also come and gone, hopefully having greased the skids for the Winter Meetings next month.  Cue the rumors.  We are one of three teams in hot pursuit of Carl Crawford, and we might trade Paps.  The former is true; the latter couldn’t be more false.  Lou Merloni is all in favor of taking the plunge, making the trade for some elite relievers, and giving Bard the closer’s job.  I don’t think that’s prudent at this point.  When Paps first burst onto the scene, he looked a lot like Bard: a new phenom nobody had seen and everybody loved because his fastball found triple-digit speeds.  If we give the ball to Bard too early, we could have another Paps on our hands.  Paps had a bad year this past year, but let’s see how he does this coming year before we just give away our closer in favor of a young guy who isn’t yet tried-and-true in that role on a regular basis.

And finally, last but totally not least, we have some news from Bud Selig, who is obviously trying to make waves before he retires.  He wants to add another Wild Card to each league in order to expand the playoffs from eight teams to ten.  I mean, what? I guess the Wild Card teams would play each other to determine the Wild Card champion, and then everything would return to business as usual? And then the Wild Card champion would of course be able to sell untold amounts of shirts, hats, and other merchandise? He wants to implement this change by next season, which convinces me that he’s doing this to leave his mark.  Rob Manfred, executive vice president for labor relations of Major League Baseball, basically said that’s not in the cards (pun intended) due to collective bargaining issues.  Michael Weiner, the head of the player’s union, says the players aren’t necessarily opposed to the potential change, but the union hasn’t been approached formally yet.

I am not in favor.  Selig claims that eight is a fair number of total teams, and so is ten; therefore, why not ten? I would counter that with the age-old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The playoffs are a whole month long with eight teams as it is, and baseball should not be played in November.  Also, how would you approach the scenario of one of these newly added Wild Card teams winning the World Series? It’s similar to the steroids issue.  Does the juiced player who breaks a record go into the books with or without an asterisk, or does he not go into the books at all? Similarly, this new team wouldn’t even have made the playoffs under the old system, so do we really consider them World Series champions or don’t we? Granted, the current organization of the playoffs isn’t that old; expansion was voted on and passed in 1993.  But because this format is so new, let’s let it get its footing first.  There are those who point out that expansion would have gotten us into the playoffs this year.  But then we’d have more levels of competition to clear once we get there, so it’s not necessarily all that helpful.  Like I said, there’s been no indication so far that it needs fixing by the addition of two teams.  This is Selig wanting to make waves, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been having some nice talks with the networks about it too.  I’m just saying that I think he’s proposing this change for all the wrong reasons, and there are no clear benefits from a baseball standpoint.

Also, Selig’s second in command and right-hand man, Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball’s Chief Operating Officer, resigned last month.  What’s up with that.

We claimed Taylor Buchholz.  Yes, he is Clay’s cousin.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Devils and Panthers this week, with the help of Lucic’s hat trick in the latter, and bested the Rangers by one goal.  We lost to the Kings yesterday by one goal, but it was in overtime, so we still get a point.  The Pats beat the Steelers last week.  In Pittsburgh.  39-26.  It was nothing short of awesome.

AP Photo

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