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Posts Tagged ‘Marc Savard’

Now that’s the Josh Beckett I’m talking about! (And hopefully that’s the one who signed the contract extension.) Last night, Josh Beckett made the Royals look like, well, the Royals.

Three runs on nine hits with a walk and four K’s over seven innings.  I would’ve liked to see less hits and runs allowed, but after his Opening Day performance, I will take what I can get and I will like it.  That was his longest outing yet at Kauffman Stadium.  Essentially he cruised.  He got in trouble once, in the seventh, when there were runners at the corners with nobody out.  But he was able to exchange a run for a double play, which reminded all of us how nice it is to have stability at shortstop.  Also in the seventh, Beckett almost went down.  DeJesus hit a line drive up the middle that hit Beckett in the in the back of the head.  That was so scary, for an instant I didn’t even notice that a run was scoring; I just wanted to see Beckett still standing.  But he was pitching so well that, if the seventh had been an easy inning, we probably would’ve seen him come back out for the eighth.

Overall, he essentially cruised.  He had a stretch where he retired seven in a row.  He threw seventy-three pitches through the first six innings.  That’s a really low pitch count.  And his stuff was so much better yesterday than it was on Opening Day.  Unlike that performance, during which he relied too heavily on his fastball, he used all of his pitches effectively last night, mixed and located them well, and threw them for strikes.  And he had some really nice movement on his fastballs.  He’ll take the win.  Say hello to the first decision for a starter this season.

By the way, I agree with Jerry Remy; Podsednik’s swing in the third inning was awful.  That was just disgusting.  That was a desperate grasp of a swing.  If you look up the word “pathetic” in the dictionary, you see a picture of that swing.  He was looking to make any kind of contact whatsoever, but not only was he being defensive, he was also way out in front.  Very ugly.  That’s what a Beckett cut fastball does.

The final score was 8-3, and there you have your offense.  One of the things I loved about last night’s game was that it afforded no opportunity for naysayers to refute the offense’s skill based on Kansas City’s usual pitching.  Usually Kansas City is terrible.  It’s one of those teams you look forward to playing so you can beat up on them and gain a boost in the standings.  Not so last night, because last night Greinke was on the mound.  He’s no walk in the park; he throws any pitch in any count, including that slider of his.  And yet we still took him for four runs, enough to give us the lead by the time Beckett left.  (Presumably, as the season continues, those four runs would’ve represented a more significant lead, provided the starter doesn’t allow almost the same amount.) And not only that; Francona also called out the reserves, so Tek, Lowell, and Hermida started.  And none of them disappointed.

Seeing Lowell and Tek start was a sight for sore eyes.  You’re talking about one of the game’s classiest guys, who said he’ll probably retire after this season to spend more time with his family, by the way, and one of the game’s greatest team leaders, both on and off the field.  It was good to see them, period, and it was good to see them playing so well.  Both of them looked like they haven’t lost a step.  Lowell was great in the field; he made a nifty play in the fourth when a ball hit by Butler propelled his gloved hand behind him, so he turned a three-sixty and fired to first.  Also, to make room for Hermida in left, Ellsbury started the game in center.  That was great to see, and it’s good that he’ll have chances this season to return to that position, being that his skill set was made for it and all.

Okay.  Basically, in the fifth inning, Hermida and Tek went yard back-to-back.  Those were hit on hanging curveballs.  As a side note, the most home runs Hermida ever hit in a season was eighteen in 2007, but his first at-bat ever with the Marlins was a grand slam.  His second at-at bat with Boston is apparently a home run.  Then in the seventh, Ellsbury took advantage of that huge gap in right center and doubled in Scutaro, and Pedroia flied in Ellsbury, which broke Greinke and he left.  Then in the eighth, Youk went yard.  Then in the ninth, Tek went yard on a changeup; On May 20, 2001, Tek had a three-homer game at Kauffman Stadium.  Say hello to April 10, 2010.  The man still packs.  Then, Pedroia went yard with Ellsbury on base, and that game was done.  We couldn’t do anything to the Royals bullpen two nights ago.  Not so last night.  Honestly, who in his right mind throws a fastball middle-in to Pedroia.  Eight runs.  Done.  Point being, the B team brings it big.

Ellsbury finished the night three for five.  There’s your leadoff hitter! And Scutaro stole a base.  Funny; Greinke hit Pedroia in the fifth and Scutaro in the seventh.  Greinke is known for his control.  I’m not saying he did it on purpose; I’m just saying it’s interesting.  Good thing that was after Beckett left.  Otherwise, I think it’s safe to say we would’ve had some sort of retaliation.

In other news, Dice-K had a great outing for Pawtucket during which he threw forty-three of seventy-three pitches for strikes and topped out at ninety-three miles per hour.  He walked one, struck out three, and hit two over five shutout innings.  Most importantly, he felt great during all of them.  And congratulations to Boston College for shutting out Wisconsin to win its fourth NCAA hockey title!

So the bench proved itself, Beckett was sharp, our starter earned a decision, and our bullpen was flawless.  That’s the way to be.  The Royals lineup isn’t the hardest to contain, but you have to start somewhere.  Maybe this is what we needed to get the ball rolling.  It does wonders for your confidence, not to mention the standings.  After Buchholz’s start tonight, we’ll have officially completed one rotation of our starters.  He’ll start opposite Meche.  Let’s take this series.

The Bruins lost to the Caps in overtime (way to force the issue!), beat the Sabres, and finally clinched a playoff spot yesterday! They beat Carolina (oh, the irony) thanks to some short-hand goals and a heads-up play by Patrice Bergeron.  At one point, the puck careened off Wheeler’s stick toward our empty net, but Bergeron scooped it out in the nick of time, when it was mere centimeters from the goal line.  The final score was 4-2.  It’s certainly been an interesting season; Savard was injured, Lucic was injured, and basically each of our defensemen was injured.  And key players from last year couldn’t find their form this year.  We had an early three-goal lead, which we of course squandered.  But the important thing is that we’re in.  Tomorrow we have another game with the Caps and that’s it before the playoffs.  Who knows? Maybe everything will come together.

Fire Brand of the American League

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Two huge news items this week: the rotation and Mauer.  I’ll talk about the rotation first because it’s awesome.

Ladies and gentlemen, your starting five: Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wakefield, Buchholz.  In that order.  Beckett gets the nod to start the fifth Opening Day game of his career, the second of his career with us.  And let me tell you that I am looking forward to some serious, ice-cold domination over the Evil Empire because it’s going to be real interesting to see exactly how they intend to beat him.  He’s Beckett.  Beckett the Unbeatable, if you will.  He’ll start opposite Sabathia.  Then we get a day off before Lester’s start, and Lackey will make his Boston debut in the third and hopefully final sweeping game in that series against New York.  Then it’s off to Kansas City (a city I’m still having serious trouble thinking of without the 2012 All-Star Game coming to mind), where Wake will open the series, followed by Beckett who’ll be on regular rest due to the day off, followed by Buchholz, who’ll close it out.  After that it’s back to a regular rotation.

If I weren’t a Red Sox fan, I would be shaking in my shoes when I read about that rotation.  Make no mistake: that is, hands down, without a doubt, the best starting rotation in all of Major League Baseball.  If I sound confident, it’s because I am.  With a rotation like that, who wouldn’t be? Beyond that, I really don’t think there’s much to say.  Except to expect us in the World Series, which has “Boston” written all over it.

But seriously, folks: I like this rotation.  Last season was a fluke for Beckett; if he’s right this year, he belongs at the top of the rotation.  The one-two punch of Beckett and Lester has been proven deadly for the opposition, and I like having a lefty between Beckett and Lackey.  Wake is of course tried and true, and we’ll see how Buchholz fairs.  Overall, one of the strengths of this rotation is its versatility.  It includes heat, power, cunning, and some nasty off-speeds.  We’re going to win some games with these arms, trust me.

By the way, we’re officially not offering Beckett a fifth year in his contract extension.  Faced with a right shoulder like his, I agree with that.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t pay him well, though.  We probably will, but for not as much time.

Big news item number two: In what was perhaps the greatest display of loyalty in the last decade, Joe Mauer, born and raised in Minnesota, signed an eight-year contract extension with a full no-trade clause that averages about $23 million a year.  Personally, I was surprised that the Twins can afford that.  It’s the fourth-largest contract in the history of the Major Leagues, but don’t let that fool you: if he pursued free agency, he almost certainly would’ve been able to command more.  It’s safe to say that he would’ve set off a bidding war between us and New York that could’ve raised his total salary to above $200 million.  But he didn’t, and there wasn’t.  I mean, you can’t get much more loyal than an extension with a no-trade clause.  Would I have loved to see the dynamic offensive catching duo of V-Mart and Mauer split time behind the dish at Fenway Park? You bet.  But this is the next-best thing, and not just because it keeps him out of the division.  And not just because it saves us considerable money since a bidding war with the Yankees is now moot.  It means there’s some hope yet in this game for loyalty like that, even with free agency.  You have to be some special stuff to exercise it, but at least we know it’s still there.  His standing ovation on Tuesday was pretty impressive.

What does this mean for us? It means we’re going to have to get ready to shell out to V-Mart when the time comes, provided he spends more time behind the dish than at the bag and still maintains his high level of play.  Keep in mind that we haven’t yet seen him be our starting catcher for a full season.  For starters, he really needs to work on throwing people out.  But even with that current shortcoming, his high offensive output at a position notorious for week hitters makes him worth it.  Besides, he knows he’ll never be able to serve a team at first or DH as well as he can at catcher, and his price decreases significantly if he pursues either of those routes, so either way he has an incentive to improve.

And now for the usual schedule recap.

On Sunday, we lost to Houston, 7-10.  Six of those ten runs were allowed by Paps, and to top it all off, the game was cut short by rain.  Apparently, he had a migraine before he went out there, so he took some medication and felt a bit drowsy.  He had no energy and proceeded to look like he was pitching to, well, not Major Leaguers.  At least it’s nothing serious, but it would be really great if this doesn’t become some sort of recurring problem.

On Tuesday, we lost to Minnesota, 7-2.  This one was on Buchholz.  In a decidedly 2008-esque performance, he allowed six runs, three walks, and three wild pitches in less than two innings.  Only half of his pitches were strikes.  Not that the offense was any help at all; we scored our first run in the eighth.  Paps did pitch a scoreless inning, though, to bounce back.  Delcmaren enjoyed a nice inning of his own, a one-two-three frame, amidst repeated delivery changes.  But Pedroia left in the bottom of the second with a sprained left wrist.  He’s fine; they benched him on Friday to be cautious, and he started yesterday.

On Wednesday, we beat the Pirates by two.  V-Mart smashed his first Spring Training home run.  Beckett completed his longest start of Spring Training: five innings of dominance during which he relinquished only one run on three hits with two walks.  Also on Wednesday, Embree debuted in a minor league contest and threw a scoreless inning.  Eleven of his twelve pitches were strikes.  It’s good to have you back, buddy.

On Thursday, we beat the Marlins, 6-4, and there were plenty of good offensive performances to go around.  Wake threw six frames and gave up three runs on six hits with two walks and five punchouts.  Fifty-one of his seventy-three pitches were strikes.  I think he’s some kind of Benjamin Button of baseball because it’s uncanny how he keeps it up every year.  I mean, he’s a knuckleballer, but still.  The bigger news was Dice-K’s successful two innings of work.  He gave up a run on two hits with no walks or punchouts in twenty-five pitches.  And he looked good! Cue: sigh of relief.  He’ll miss the first few weeks of the season because the Red Sox want pitchers to throw twenty-five innings before beginning regular season work.  But I’ll live if it means he won’t be a total bust this year.

On Friday, we barely beat the Jays.  Tek and Reddick had our only hits until a three-run ninth that included an RBI single by Papi.  Lowell fouled a ball off his knee in the first; x-rays were negative but he’s day-to-day.  He’s confident he’ll be ready by Opening Day, though.  And this just as he was getting comfortable at first base.  Lester gave up no unearned runs over six innings with five punchouts.  Paps allowed two hits and a walk but no runs.

Yesterday, we lost to the Orioles.  Pedroia and Lackey both looked fantastic, but Embree didn’t.  Hermida left with a tight hamstring.

Opening Day is one week away.  Only one week away.  That means that in one week, we’ll be in the process of watching the first win of a season that’ll probably take us all the way to the top.  (Provided everyone stops thinking our offense is non-existent, of course.) After all, we are Red Sox Nation, and that means we gotta believe.  And it all starts on Sunday at Fenway against New York.  Seven days.  Only seven days.

The Bruins lost to the Rangers and Lightning and shut out the Thrashers and Flames.  This means we’ve moved up to the seventh seed and are currently tied with the Flyers.  Savard is still on the injured reserve.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Entering this week, I seriously felt like I was watching the Sox in the middle of the season.  You know, that time when all the aches and pains start to set in.  And it’s not exactly the world’s most comforting feeling to see a team affected like they’ve played eighty-plus games when they’ve only played eleven.

Beckett got sick.  And it showed on Friday, when the Pirates had their way with him while he coughed up a lung between pitches.  Although he’ll probably get the nod to start Opening Day.  Also during Friday’s game, John Farrell got to watch his son get a hit.  I’m not happy that the Pirates made contact off of one of our pitchers, but I have to admit that that must have been pretty awesome for Farrell.

Dice-K strained his neck.  But progress is promising: he threw forty batting-practice pitches on Wednesday, and another ten to a still batter.  The best part is that all of them were strikes.  He’s scheduled to start a minor league game today, so I’m hopeful.  Also, congratulations to him and his family on the birth of his third child and second daughter.

Jed Lowrie contracted mono.  What is this, the All-Star break? It’s only Spring Training, and the team already looked like it was feeling it.  That’s not good news.

And that’s not even mentioning Ryan Westmoreland’s surgery on Wednesday to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain.  (Basically, that’s a mass of tangled blood cells in his brain stem.) He’s only nineteen years old and was in the process of living the dream: being one of his favorite team’s top prospects.  Thankfully, the surgery went well, and he has started his recovery.  But the recovery won’t be easy.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say he’s in our thoughts, and we hope he’ll be better soon.

On Wednesday, Beltre showed us what he’s working with.  He made a play that was basically the exact reason why we signed him.  Cora hit a ball that nailed Lackey in the bottom of his shoe.  It rolled away from him, so Beltre barehanded it while in the air to first, and the throw was a lot more powerful than it normally would have been given the circumstances.  It was one of those critics-silencing, leather-flashing, worth-proving plays you see in Spring Training that finally convinces you that, as usual, Theo Epstein knew exactly what he was doing.  Lackey was fantastic for four (it’s a joy to watch him, partly because works really quickly) but Ramon Ramirez squandered it.  I don’t care if it’s only Spring Training and the results technically don’t count: you never want to hear that your bullpen squandered it.  Ever.  Thankfully, the squandering did not involve Paps.  On the bright side, Big Papi has a hitting streak going, which included a homer on Monday.  I’m telling you, I think he’s going to come back.

Thursday was big.  The Major League squad got the day off, so Buchholz went down the street to pitch in a minor league contest.  He did so to keep on a five-day schedule, to see if he could handle joining the rotation.  Trust me, he handled it.  Forty-five pitches over four innings of one-hit ball with four K’s and no walks.  What this means is that we currently have six options for a five-man rotation.  Folks, this is about to get really interesting, really quickly.

No, seriously.  You might be thinking the decision will be easy because Wake is running out of steam, especially after he got lit up on Monday, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  He threw five shutout innings yesterday and threw another simulated two in the bullpen afterwards.  He is really on pace to put up a fight for that fifth starting spot.  (Delcarmen threw shutout frame.  What a relief, no pun intended.) Having too many starters is a very good problem to have, and this year it looks like that’s more concrete than last year.  Our abundance of starters at the beginning of ’09 didn’t exactly pan out like we thought it would, but this year all six are proven, solid, and capable, and that translates to options come playoff time.  Also, Youk and Scutaro both homered in the contest, which we won, not surprisingly.

John Smoltz has been hired by TBS and MLB Network as an analyst even though he claims that he’s not ready to retire yet.  Yeah, right.  We’ve seen this a million times, and I bet he’ll announce his retirement pretty soon anyway.  We welcome back Alan Embree, who recorded the final out in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, with a minor league contract and Major League invite.  Ah, memories.  He had a tough season last year: a line drive broke his leg and that was the end of it.  But if he can bounce back and maybe pitch effectively a bit in Fenway, that’s something I’d like to see during a slugfest or something.  Just for old times’ sake.

So the week did end up improving, with plenty of flashes of brilliance to go around.  And the best part? Opening Day is only two weeks away! And with the weather warming up like it has been recently and the first day of spring yesterday, baseball is definitely in the air.  It’s only a matter of time before we’re tuning in for that first pitch.  (Which will be thrown in the dark.  Thank you once again, ESPN.  And like I said, if I sound bitter, it’s because I am.  It’s Opening Day, not Opening Night, but apparently somebody missed that memo.) And from what I’ve seen in Spring Training so far, I really like our chances this year.  So bring it.

The Bruins lost two and won one this week.  Savard is on the injured reserve.  Thomas has no idea what’s going on.  Meanwhile, we’re four points below the Habs and one point above the Thrashers barely clinging to the last seed in the conference.  Something must be done.

Kelly O’Connor

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Finally, it starts to get interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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We now have more to deal with this offseason than we bargained for.  We all expected Theo to have his hands full with fixing this team, which obviously has holes in it.  That’s hard enough.  But in addition to that the front office and coaching staff just took two huge hits.

Brad Mills is now the manager of the Houston Astros.  Congratulations and good wishes for success, though not at our expense.  To be honest, Mills achieving success at our expense isn’t likely.  Mills will have his hands full down there, because the Astros haven’t exactly been World Series material year in and year out.  But I will say that after spending time in the dugout with Tito, Mills will have learned from the best.  Still, I don’t expect the Astros to suddenly become some sort of threat.  Of course, now we have to find a new bench coach, one who’s as good or better than Mills.

It’s finally official: Jed Hoyer is now the general manager of the San Diego Padres.  Congratulations and good wishes for success, though not at our expense.  That leaves Ben Cherington as our sole assistant GM, but I think he can handle it.  More importantly, this has profoundly positive implications for a possible Adrian Gonzalez trade.

Speaking of player additions, I wouldn’t be too surprised if our front office attempts to do business with Ben Sheets.  As Theo said, it would be a low-price, low-risk move that could pay off big dividends down the road.  And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.  No harm done.  Besides, it’s not like Sheets can afford to be as proud as he used to be.  After all the injuries he’s had, he’d be lucky to be in uniform for a contender next year.

Dean Jones, Jr. of the Baltimore Sun says that John Henry is the best owner in Major League Baseball.  Can’t say I disagree.  Pedro Martinez and his ego took advantage of a second visit to the World Series stage when he revisited the Don Zimmer incident.  He agreed with Zimmer that it was Zimmer’s fault.  Also can’t say I disagree.  Speaking of the World Series, the Yanks lead it two to one.  Let me just say that the region of New England will not be very happy with the city of Philadelphia if the Phillies fail to decimate.

And that’s a perfect segue into some extremely disturbing developments.  On Wednesday, Red Sox Nation and I visited the Boston Globe to read Tony Massarotti’s column, just like we always do.  But we were in for a profoundly rude surprise.  Mazz urged Red Sox Nation to root for the Yankees in the World Series because apparently a Yankees win would reinstate New England’s competitive fire.  I literally had to do a double-take.  Tony Massarotti, one of New England’s most trusted sports writers, was recommending the ultimate crime.  The ultimate blasphemy.  The ultimate act of treachery and betrayal.  First of all, let me take this opportunity to affirm in writing that I will not, nor have I ever, nor will I ever, root for the New York Yankees.  It is impossible for me to do so.  I am a Red Sox fan.  I loathe the New York Yankees with every fiber of my being and will in no way and at no time even consider the possibility of remotely supporting their organization.  And I think I can safely say that Red Sox Nation wholeheartedly agrees with me on this one.  You should have seen the comments on this column.  There were hundreds of them.  I assure you that you would be hard-pressed to find one that agrees with him.  Secondly, I was not aware of the fact that we lacked competitive fire.  We’re Red Sox Nation.  We’re the greatest fans in all of baseball.  You don’t get much more competitive fire than that.  So Mazz insults us, he insults our history, and he insults our loyalty.  I’m not sure Red Sox Nation and I will be able to read his columns in quite the same way again.

Furthermore, an article appeared yesterday in the New York Times by lifelong Red Sox fan Joe Nocera.  Same story.  He urged Red Sox Nation to root for the Yankees because they’re the underdogs.  Let me say something right now.  The New York Yankees are never underdogs.  How can a team be an underdog if they attempt to buy a championship every single year? What, they don’t win a World Series in eight years and all of a sudden they’re the victims of the rest of the league? There is a huge difference between a drought of eight years and a drought of eighty-six years.  And this article offends me personally because the author is a Red Sox fan behind enemy lines.  The New York chapter of Red Sox Nation has more fight than any other, and now he’s suddenly okay with the Yankees winning a twenty-seventh title? This is incredibly insulting.  Remember where you come from.  Remember the Royal Rooters.  Remember those eighty-six years.  And never forget 2004.

Nico Savidge of the Daily Cardinal wrote an article with the headline, “Yankees represent everything wrong with baseball.” I couldn’t agree more.  I suggest that both Mazz and Nocera read this as a reality check.  Let’s not forget that the Yankees are the Evil Empire, a business crushing opponents with its oversized wallet.  And don’t even get me started on the steroids, the ticket prices, and the broadcasters.  Seriously.

And that brings us to Tuesday.  On Tuesday of this past week, we celebrated the five-year anniversary of the 2004 World Series victory of the Boston Red Sox.  That was the greatest day in the history of the franchise.  It vindicated a Nation and set an entire region of the United States of America free.  I can’t even begin to describe the elation of that victory.  There’s only one way to sum it up:

“Back to Foulke! Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are world champions!”

Red Sox fans around the world were glued to their television sets on the night of October 27, 2004.  Generations of diehards achieved peace with that final out.  No victory meant more to a fan base than this victory meant to us.  And that’s why, even though this October didn’t turn out as we’d planned, five years later we’re still on top of the world.

The Patriots defeated the Buccaneers, 35-7.  We get a bye this week.  The Bruins lost to the Devils and shut out the Oilers yesterday.  With Lucic and Savard both on the injured reserve, I’m just glad we’re still putting W’s on the board.

The Onion

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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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What can I say? Camden Yards is basically our home away from home.  If you’re the Red Sox and you have to go on the road, you want to start the trip at Camden Yards with some wins and some encouragement from Red Sox Nation.  It’s sad that the Birds have fallen from glory.  It used to be that the Yankees’ big rivalry was with Baltimore and not with us because Baltimore was actually really good.  But that fall from glory isn’t as sad as their performance in this day and age.  Bottom of the pile in the American League East, can’t buy a win, and don’t even have the support of their own fan base when we’re in town because Red Sox fans flood the stands.  It’s like being at Fenway.  Good for us, but quite sad for the Orioles, I’d say.

That first paragraph would be very out-of-place without a win.  Turns out there was a win.  3-1, thanks to Buchholz, Kotchman, Bay, and Ellsbury.  Buchholz had a terrific night, working six innings and relinquishing just one run on five hits with three walks and a strike out.  That one run was Luke Scott’s long ball with two out in the second.  It happens.  But it’ll be interesting to see Buchholz’s strikeout count progress in the long run.  Right now he doesn’t record many strikeouts per game, because he relies heavily on off-speeds, which usually induce outs not of the K variety.  But as he gets older, he may discover more power on his fastball, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll use that and incorporate it into his already remarkable mix of pitches.

Bard, Okajima, and Papelbon got a hold, a hold, and a save, respectively.  No incidents to report.  Finally.  Three no-hit innings that would’ve been perfect if Bard didn’t allow that walk.  So aside from a very gratifying sense of satisfaction, nothing to say about an impeccable performance like that.  I will say that it was a breath of fresh air after what we’ve seen from the ‘pen over the past few days.

Kotchman singled to left to score Bay in the second.  Bay hit an absolutely fantastic home run to lead off the fourth (ever notice how a lot of our home runs lately are lead-offs?).  He was all over it.  Perfect swing, perfect trajectory, perfect result.  Perfect.  And Ellsbury singled to left to score Reddick in the sixth.

Ellsbury and V-Mart both went two for five; Kotchman went three for four.  Ellsbury stole second.  Pedroia almost scored in the third on a hard-hit double by V-Mart, but he was out at the plate.  A valiant effort, though.  I mean, he was hustling, and that’s really what we love about Dustin Pedroia the dirt dog.  Youk was back in the lineup last night.  He went hitless but ran in to gather up a grounder and fire to first to get Melvin Mora out in the fourth, which was good because you need to be pretty healthy to make a play like that, so it appears that Youk will be fine.

Wakefield is officially scheduled to pitch Monday! I hope all goes well.  I know the rest of the rotation is rooting for him; they could use the extra day off.  The Angels’ coaches will be fined for bad deportment following Wednesday’s win, which they view as controversial.

So as usual, we beat the O’s.  Also as usual, Clay Buchholz got that win.  And for the third and final “as usual,” we discuss the Red Sox’s annual rookie hazing ritual, which involves the rookies dressing up in altogether hilarious costumes.  This year’s theme? “The Wizard of Oz.” Junichi Tazawa was Dorothy, Josh Reddick was Glinda, Dusty Brown was the Scarecrow, Daniel Bard was the Cowardly Lion, Michael Bowden was the Tin Man, and Jed Lowrie was the Wicked Witch of the West.  (This is actually Lowrie’s second time around because he hasn’t completed a full Major League season yet; last year he dressed up as a character from “High School Musical.”) All in all, it was a great day.  Tonight should be even better.  Something tells me a Lester-at-David-Hernandez matchup will be a very good game to watch.

In other news, we traded Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs for two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick in 2010 and a first-round pick in 2011.  Can’t say I didn’t see it coming, and to be honest with you, at this point I don’t think I’d want him in a Bruins uniform this season.  His head wouldn’t be in the right place after all that’s happened, and so it wouldn’t be fair to him or the team.  He didn’t even want to come back; he didn’t particularly like Claude Julien’s approach.  Besides, the Leafs gave him $27 million for five years.  For us to match that, we probably would’ve had to either send down or trade Michael Ryder and Andrew Ference.  So good luck to him in Toronto.  I know he’ll be great there.  He’d be great anywhere.  That’s the unfortunate part.  If only it had worked out, right? But that’s the downside of a salary cap.  Kessel was asking for a lot of money, so Peter Chiarelli had a choice: he could sign him, or he could sign all of our other young guys who were free agents, not to mention all of the guys who’ll be free agents after this season.  He chose the latter, which was wise I think, because having one Phil Kessel won’t do much for you if you don’t also have a David Krejci and a Matt Hunwick, for example, to support him.  But he’s got his own work to do.  He may be great in Toronto, but it’ll have to be without Milan Lucic creating space and without Marc Savard sending him pinpoint passes.

AP Photo

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