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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Holliday’

We are now a mere five days away from the start of what could be our first hundred-win season in sixty-four years.  This is the part where everyone starts speculating about who’s better, us or the Yankees or the Rays.  That’s a ridiculous thing to do.  We have our guys who play our game, and that’s how we intend to win.  It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.  Our goal is to be better than everybody.  And we are.  And we will be.  Five more days.  Only five more days.

On Sunday, we lost to the Cards, 10-3, but it actually was not Dice-K’s fault.  I repeat: it was not Dice-K’s fault.  It’s so refreshing to be able to say that.  He pitched shutout ball through five innings against a lineup that did include several regulars, including Pujols and Holliday.  With two outs in the sixth, Pujols walked, Holliday doubled, and Dice-K was pulled.  His line was two runs on three hits.  He struck out four, three looking, and walked two for his second consecutive good start.  Miller came on in relief and was horrible; a walk, another walk with the bases loaded, and six runs on four hits.  Atchison replaced Miller and didn’t fare much better.  Most of the damage was done by Pujols and Holliday alone.

We lost to the Phillies, 4-1, on Monday.  It was Lester’s last lengthy start of spring.  He pitched five and a third innings.  He cruised through the first five.  He actually had a no-hitter going until Roy Halladay of all people hit a single with two out in the inning.  Not so much in that one third.  He ended up giving up four runs, three earned, on five hits while walking four and striking out six.  He threw fifty-six of ninety-eight pitches for strikes.  Twenty-five of those pitches were thrown in that sixth inning alone.  Meanwhile, Paps, Bard, Jenks, and Doubront got some throwing time in.

We lost again on Tuesday, to the Rays, 7-4.  Lackey wasn’t at his best; he gave up five runs on six hits over five and a third innings while walking two and striking out four.  He threw sixty-seven of ninety-six pitches for strikes.  Pedroia hit two doubles, and Tek went two for three and threw out a runner.

Wednesday was the team’s only day off this spring.  Gonzalez took the opportunity to DH in a minor league game.  He made extremely solid contact in each at-bat and went three for six with an RBI and a run.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Thursday was not a good day for Buchholz.  He may have thrown eighty-two pitches against the Marlins and struck out five, but he gave up eleven runs, six earned, on eleven hits, four of which were homers, over four innings, leading to our 15-7 loss.  It was a total implosion.  Salty was the bright spot with four RBIs on three hits, a homer and two doubles.  Ellsbury also went deep.

We put the regulars in on Friday but to no avail.  We lost to the Jays, 11-8.  Corey Patterson had to leave after getting hit in the back of the head by a Bard fastball.  Luckily, he walked off the field, and he appears to be alright.  Five members of our starting lineup posted two-hit games.  Beckett, however, gave up seven runs on eleven hits over six-and-change frames.

The Twins beat us, 9-8, on Saturday.  It was all Jenks’s fault.  He was truly terrible for the first time this spring.  He gave up six runs in the ninth.  Dice-K was the opposite; he gave up one run on five hits with a walk and four K’s over six innings.  He threw sixty-three of ninety-four pitches for strikes.  Gonzalez went two for three with his first homer for us.  Okajima delivered a scoreless seventh.  That brings our losing streak to nine.  Oh, Spring Training.

Roster cuts this week included Daniel Nava, Matt Fox, and Mark Wagner.  The bullpen competition looks like it’s going down to the wire.  Gonzalez’s agent has starting to talk extension with Theo.  Gonzalez’s agent is John Boggs, not Scott Boras, so I actually believe him when he says that an extension should be finalized sometime next month.

New England Sports Ventures changed its name to Fenway Sports Group.  I take that as John Henry reassuring everyone that the Red Sox are his top priority.  Honestly, I never really doubted that.  And Pedro Martinez’s portrait will be added to the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.  Susan Miller-Havens painted him in his Dominican Republic uniform.  Well, he was as interesting a character as he was a baseball player, that’s for sure.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Devils and the Rangers.  But between those two losses was a win so epic and golden that it almost makes you forget them and just focus on the fact that we’re about to clinch a playoff spot.  We soundly thumped the Habs, seven-zip.  You read right.  They had absolutely no chance whatsoever.  And I hope we meet them in the playoffs so we can do it again when it counts even more.  We’re playing the Flyers tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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It’s time to say goodbye to Mike Lowell; have fun in Texas.  Let me say this: it’s been one seriously great ride.  He was the 2007 World Series MVP for a reason, but unfortunately age happens.  He was the epitome of professionalism.  Talk about classy guys.  Mikey Lowell, ladies and gentlemen, was just about the classiest guy you could find, and his presence in the clubhouse will surely be missed.  Get ready for a standing ovation.  But like I said, age happens, and Theo does have a job to do.  It’s unfortunate that we have to send him off like this, but what other option do we have? The trade would give us catching prospect Max Ramirez, who’s leading the Venezuela Winter League in home runs.  But he’s had some wrist problems, so we’ll have to wait for his medical records to clear.  Then the question becomes, who will replace him? Or conversely, who’ll play first base, being that Youk can move over to third.  And as a result, Youk could save us a lot of money; the market doubles for us because of that flexibility, so we have the freedom to pick and choose someone who’s right for us and who comes at the right price.  I’ve heard we’re talking to Adrian Beltre, but believe me, I would be infinitely more enthusiastic about us talking to Adrian Gonzalez.

Remember Manny Delcarmen’s tragedy of a second half? Turns out he had shoulder fatigue for three months and didn’t say anything about it until September 30.  That’s just infuriating.  I mean, I don’t really know what to do with that.  Theo had him receive a cortisone shot that same night, but after the car accident he was dropped from the postseason roster anyway.  But that’s not the point.  Either you want to help your team win, or you want to help your team win.  If something’s going on, your team has a right to know, no matter how badly you want to play.  As a fan, it’s hard not to play what-if in these situations; with a healthy Delcarmen down the stretch, who knows what would’ve happened.

In an attempt to cover the holes in our bullpen made by the Braves, we signed Scott Atchison to a one-year deal with two options.  He spent the last two seasons in Japan and previous pitched for the Giants.  He had an ERA above four that year.  Whatever; he’s another option, and a bullpen built around options and flexibility is a bullpen poised to win a championship.  Besides, we still have Paps, Bard, Ramirez, and a hopefully healthy Delcarmen.  I think we’ll be okay.

We also acquired Boof Bonser from the Twins for pitching prospect Chris Province.  Bonser isn’t great.  He has a career ERA above five and missed all of last season due to labrum and rotator cuff tears.  But he adds depth to the staff; he’ll have a chance to try for a depth spot in the rotation.  But more likely, think of him as 2010’s Paul Byrd but with one conspicuous difference: the name.  The Boston Red Sox now have a pitcher named “Boof.” Add this to Red Sox Nation’s to-do list for the offseason: preparing to take Boof Bonser seriously come April.

The Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson.  Let’s remind ourselves that this was no feat of business managerial genius.  The Tigers, affected by Detroit’s suffering economy, couldn’t carry his salary anymore.  That’s the theme of this offseason for them; they lost Edwin Jackson, too.  They got four players in return who aren’t as good as either and probably never will be.  It’s a sad situation, but one the rest of the baseball world is taking note of.  Point being that if you’re in need of some talent but want it on the cheap through trade, talk to Detroit.  I’ll bet they’d be willing to listen.

And perhaps most importantly, the Jason Bay plot thickens.  Our offer of four years worth sixty million dollars was rejected because he wants a fifth year.  But we’ve publicly stated our commitment to not offering a fifth year; in fact, we’ve said that if someone else offers him a fifth year, we’re just going to assume that he’s leaving Boston and that’s it.  So far, the Mets haven’t done so; their offer was comparable to ours.  The Mariners are also unlikely to offer the fifth year; they’re more interested in keeping Beltre or signing Lackey.  The Angels have more or less dropped out in order to focus on pitching.  And the Yankees just acquired Granderson.  So more waiting seems to be in line.  Bay wanted to test the free agent market, and he’s testing it.  He’s looking for something specific and good luck to him trying to find it.  I’d rather watch him walk away than break the bank.  In fact, if he doesn’t take a more flexible approach, he could find himself in a bind, because guess who’s also a free agent: Matt Holliday.  And guess who the Red Sox are also interested in: Matt Holliday.  Holliday played pretty well for Oakland.  He struggled at the plate initially, which is to be expected from a guy coming over from not only the National League but Coors Field, with all that thin air.  (Which is something you have to keep in mind when looking at Holliday’s career stats, by the way.) In the end, I agree with Curt Schilling: I’d go with Bay because he’s been tested and proven.  All I’m saying is that the presence of Holliday, who unfortunately is represented by Boras, could soften Bay up a bit (in addition to jacking up his own paycheck because until Bay cuts teams some slack, Holliday would effectively be considered the only available elite left-fielder).  So could our reported interest in Mike Cameron, who would be more than happy to switch from center to left for us.  That’s not likely, but it’s a possibility.  But we’d only seriously consider him after both Bay and Holliday become unavailable, and something tells me that may not be an issue.

Casey Kelly has made a decision: he’s going to pitch.  No more shortstop for him.  I completely agree.  The mound will write his one-way ticket to the big leagues; if he decided to play short, we’d be talking a two-way.

Welcome to NESN, Peter Gammons! He signed a multiyear contract as a regular studio analyst and reporter.  This is fantastic.  Personally, I always thought it was funny that such a prominent representative of Red Sox Nation reported for ESPN, which doesn’t have a major presence in Boston.  Well, the world rights itself eventually, I guess.  And I’ll tell you one thing: Peter Gammons must be thrilled, because any television network is better than ESPN for baseball analysts.  I mean, have you seen “Baseball Tonight?” (If you have, let me applaud you for somehow finding out when it’s on TV.) It’s over by the time it starts, so the analysts never have time to convey any real information.  It really makes you appreciate NESN.

Congratulations to Bill James, who’ll receive the Judge Emil Fuchs Memorial Award for “long and meritorious service to the game.” He’ll be in good company; Hank Aaron and Jim Rice have also received it.  And Bill James definitely deserves it after revolutionizing baseball with his sabermetric approach.  I’m telling you: this game, let alone our team, wouldn’t be where it is today without him.

The Bruins beat the Leafs, 5-2, but lost to the Isles in sudden death.  How we can score five goals against the Leafs and lose to the Isles is beyond me.  The Leafs and Isles are comparable teams, with the Isles only two points ahead.  (Can you believe that? The New York Islanders are third in their division.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that the Flyers are at the bottom of the barrel, but I never would’ve expected the Islanders to be anywhere but under the whole conference.) We’ve dropped to second, by the way.  Two points behind the Sabres.  We should get back up within the coming days.  The Patriots lost to the Dolphins by a point.  A point! The final score was 22-21! It was just awful.  That’s our fourth loss this season and our second in a row.  It pains me to say this, but the Pats are officially on a losing streak.  That must be stopped.

ArmchairGM

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As usual in these situations, I’m going to cut to the completely unjustifiable chase.  We’re not getting the All-Star Game in 2012.  Kansas City is getting it.  I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock before I continue, because believe me, this was one seriously twisted shock.  Okay.  Apparently, Kauffman Stadium recently completed major renovations.  How nice for Kauffman Stadium.  It’s brand-new, nice and clean, and very fan-friendly.  Congratulations, Kansas City; now Kauffman Stadium is just like every other ballpark that completes major renovations.

Just to review, the reason why we wanted the All-Star Game in 2012 is because Fenway Park will turn one hundred years old.  The oldest ballpark still in use in the United States of America will commemorate a century of baseball.  America’s Most Beloved Ballpark will celebrate its one hundredth birthday.  Think about what Fenway Park has seen in that time.  It’s seen the Royal Rooters, Tris Speaker, Duffy’s Cliff.  It’s seen Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski.  It’s seen Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, 2004, and 2007.  It’s seen a team of royalty followed by a team that committed cruel and unusual losses year after year after year, followed by royalty’s return.  If there is a structure in this country that embodies the history of the game of baseball within its very foundation, it’s Fenway Park.

And Fenway Park was denied.  Why? I have no idea.  What, they can give it to New York because it’s the last year of Yankee Stadium but they can’t recognize that America’s Most Beloved, and oldest, Ballpark will turn a century old? I mean, okay, so Kansas City hasn’t had the All-Star game in forty years and Fenway last had it thirteen years ago, in 1999 when none other than the Splendid Splinter threw out the first pitch.  But Fenway only turns one hundred years old once in a lifetime.  Kansas City could’ve gotten it in 2013.  In fact, it would’ve been okay by me if Kansas City had it every year for another forty years if only we could have it this one time.  Something just doesn’t seem right here.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are extremely and profoundly disappointed and extremely and profoundly confused.

Zack Greinke won the AL Cy Young.  I’ll be very interested to see how he pitches next year.  I don’t think he’ll be as effective.  But I do think Josh Beckett is in line to have a break-out season so dominant that not even CC Sabathia can squeeze past him in the Cy Young voting.  Tim Lincecum won it for the NL, becoming its first repeat winner since Randy Johnson.  Andrew Bailey of Oakland and Chris Coghlan of Florida were the Rookies of the Year.  Mike Scoscia and Jim Tracy of Colorado were the Managers of the Year.  I don’t think I would’ve picked Mike Scoscia.  In my mind, there were three managers this year who faced significant uphill battles and who powered through them: Terry Francona, and then Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington.  Terry Francona managed us through a lack of shortstop, the entry of a new starting catcher, a decline in the playing time of the team’s captain, a very public steroid scandal, and the worst slump in the career of the figure at the heard of said steroid scandal.  True, every manager deals with things behind closed doors, but what makes Tito’s job so difficult is that those doors are never closed completely.  It’s the nature of sports in Boston.  Gardenhire took the Twins from zero to one-game-playoff winners without Joe Mauer in the first month of the season, Justin Morneau in the last month, or a particularly effective bullpen.  And Washington almost made it to the playoffs this year without big-name talent.  All I’m saying is that, if the award goes to a Manager of the Year within the Angels organization, it should have gone to Torii Hunter, not Scoscia.  He was the real force in that clubhouse.  MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

Again, not much in the way of business yet.  Jason Bay rejected a four-year, sixty-million-dollar offer in favor of testing the free agent market for the first time in his career.  He’s Theo’s priority, though, and I still say he’ll end up back in Boston.  The Cards have already stated that they’re not interested, preferring Matt Holliday instead.  But I think this has the potential to be one of those long, drawn-out negotiations.  By the way, let’s not forget that Jermaine Dye is also a free agent.

We released George Kottaras, who has been claimed by the Brewers.  PawSox manager Ron Johnson will be our new bench coach.  We’re reportedly interested in Adrian Beltre, and we claimed reliever Robert Manuel off waivers.  Before the offseason is done, we’ll probably re-sign Alex Gonzalez and add a low-risk, high-potential starter.  Remember: in an economy like this, you do not need to, nor should you, empty your pockets to win a World Series, no matter what the Evil Empire might assume is the best practice.

Congratulations to John Henry on winning the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship.  Again, corporate social responsibility in this day and age is the way to go.  Unfortunately, though, ticket prices are up this year.  About half the seats were increased by two dollars, including the infield grandstand, right field boxes, and lower bleachers.  The field and loge boxes and Green Monster seats and standing room were increased by five dollars.  The outfield grandstand and upper bleachers weren’t increased.  Whenever you hear about price increases or decreases for tickets at Fenway, remember to always take them with a grain of salt.  Obviously we’d prefer a price freeze, but how many of us really purchase our Fenway tickets at face value anyway? I’m just saying.

So, as per usual this early in the offseason, we have more wait-and-seeing ahead.  Theo never reveals the tricks he has up his sleeve, so that’s really all we can do.

The Bruins suffered a particularly painful loss to the Islanders, 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.  We did best Atlanta in a shootout, though, and we eked out a win against the Sabres in sudden death.  That last one was particularly heartening, being that the Sabres are first in the division.  For now.  We’re only two points behind.  And now for the grand finale, let’s discuss Bill Belichick’s oh-so-positive judgment call on Sunday.  In the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the Pats had the ball on their 28.  Tom Brady’s pass was incomplete.  With two minutes and eight seconds left on the clock, Belichick decided to go for it.  But Kevin Faulk fumbled the ball, and suddenly it was fourth and two.  Needless to say, we lost, 35-34, to the Colts, who are still undefeated.  I mean, it’s a tough call.  Belichick made the same decision against Atlanta and we won.  Then again, we had the lead, we had the time, and we had an opponent that wasn’t Indianapolis.  It was just bad.  It was just really, really bad.

Sawxblog/Derek Hixon

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Okay.  That didn’t exactly go as planned, and that’s putting it lightly.  We knew it had to happen sometime, but it would’ve been fine by me if it didn’t happen for an incredibly long time.  The New York Yankees won the 2009 World Series.  Wow, that was excruciatingly painful to say.  So basically the Angels wounded us and the Yankees finished us off.  Of all the bad things that could possibly have happened to Red Sox Nation this year, it had to be New York coming out on top at the end of the decade.  Suffice it to say that the region of New England and the city of Philadelphia are brothers in grief, but as I said, the region of New England isn’t very happy.  To be fair, the Phillies gave it their all and put up a good fight, forcing a Game Six and whatnot.  But to be completely honest with you, I’m still furious and bitter about the whole thing.  Words can not describe the anger and frustration I experienced.  I’m sure you can relate.  And don’t even get me started on what it felt like to see pictures of the victory parade.  Viscerally painful.

What does this mean for Red Sox Nation? Does it mean we’re back where we started? No.  Absolutely not.  The curse is long gone.  (Speaking of curses, so much for that valiant attempt to hex the new Yankee Stadium with that Ortiz jersey.) So we don’t have to worry about that anymore.  So what does it mean? Well, quite frankly, it means we’ll have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  It doesn’t mean we have something to prove because 2004 and 2007 have already taken care of that.  In its simplest terms, it literally means we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Alex Speier of WEEI ranked the World Series winners of the decade.  He put the 2004 Red Sox at third, the 2007 Red Sox at second, and the 2009 Yankees first.  This is something I’m having a very hard time believing.  The Yankees didn’t win the World Series.  They bought it.  Just like they bought their previous twenty-six World Series wins.  The Phillies were beaten, more than anything else, by the Yankees organization’s abnormally huge wallet.  Their 2009 payroll was $209 million.  That’s a full fifty percent more than the Red Sox, Tigers, and Mets, who were all more or less tied for second this past season.  (So to all the Yankee fans out there who favor the you’re-one-to-talk line, don’t even try it.)

To that end, in response to “Remember Who You Are,” Jeremy pointed out:

CC Sabathia made $3906 per pitch this season.  AJ Burnett made $4391 per pitch.  Mariano Rivera made $12,500 per pitch. I think I’m going to be sick.

Believe me, we share that sentiment.  Those figures are absolutely grotesque.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so disgustingly exorbitant in my baseball life.  This is what ruins the sport.  This is what alienates and disillusions.  It’s just sad and pathetic that New York has to go out and poach their talent in fiscally irresponsible ways.  Signing a pitcher for seven years for that amount of money is completely irresponsible.  The dude could snap his arm tomorrow and never be the same again.  Why would anyone ever sink that much capital into a less-than-stable investment? Similarly, why do you sign a pitcher for five years who’s known to make multiple trips to the DL? I don’t understand what they were thinking.  Burnett is a huge medical liability, not to mention the fact that his consistency isn’t worth his currently salary at all.  One of the reasons they locked Burnett was probably to keep him away from us, and that should never be the basis of any decision, but that’s just what they do.  As far as Mariano is concerned, he is especially not worth it.  For a team so worried about their archrival (remember when they acquired Mike Meyers for the explicit and sole purpose of pitching to David Ortiz?), they’re placing a premium on a closer whose only Achilles’ heel is that same team.  And to pay him that much at his age when other closers just as good and younger are making less should signal the lack of sensibility in their approach to the market.  That organization just does not make sense.  At all.  It’s stupefying.  Every time I read something about Brian Cashman and any Steinbrenner, I feel my powers of common sense drain out.

By the way, Bronx leaders are considering naming the soon-to-be-constructed the East 153rd Street bridge after Derek Jeter.  I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.  We have the Ted Williams Tunnel because Ted William was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a soldier in combat for the United States in two major wars during the prime of his baseball career, and an avid supporter of the Jimmy Fund.  He was a local, regional, and national hero.  Derek Jeter is a shortstop.  There is a huge difference.

Now that the Yankees have, you know, won and all, I think we need to move forward constructively.  An instrumental part of that will be making peace with Jonathan Papelbon.  He may have disappointed us, and he may have humiliated us, and he may have been as porous in his pitching as a slice of Swiss cheese, but at the end of the day he’s still our closer.  And let’s face it: there’s nothing more dangerous than a closer with something to prove.  And I’d say that’s doubly true in Papelbon’s case.  Putting his last appearance aside, he’s a beast.  He’s one of the biggest competitors on the team.  Essentially, he was born to close.  He’s got the power, he’s got the movement, and he’s got the crazy attitude to get the job done.  In the past, when Papelbon got hungry, he went out and he sealed the deal.  And I fully expect him to be back to form this coming season.

Speaking of big competitors, here’s a story that’s been downplayed in light of other impending free agency filings: this coming season is a contract year for Beckett.  After that, he’ll be eligible to become a free agent for the first time in his career.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t expect him to walk away.  Free agency for this year has already begun; notable filings include John Lackey, Matt Holliday, and (you guessed it) Jason Bay.  Other filings included Carlos Delgado, Marlon Byrd, and Adrian Beltre.

Make no mistake: the stove is about to get hot for Theo Epstein.  In fact, he’s already started his move-making.  We acquired right fielder Jeremy Hermida from the Marlins for southpaws Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez.  This could obviously have implications for Rocco Baldelli’s future with us.

We still need a bench coach.  Tito wants to replace from within.  I know technically you’re supposed to take a few years off to transition from player to coach, but Jason Varitek wouldn’t be a bad idea.

So that’s where we’re at.  We have double the pain to conquer now: the experience of an extremely brief October and the surge of the Evil Empire.  Obviously, we’ll get through it.  We always do.  I’m just saying I wish I didn’t have to have this to get through.  It would’ve been so infinitely better if we won the World Series.  And that’s exactly what 2010 is for.

The Bruins aren’t exactly helping our cause.  We were shut out by the Rangers and Devils earlier this week, and being shut out twice in a row isn’t easy.  So that’s bad.  To make matters worse, we lost to the Habs in overtime.  But we ended the week on a high note when we defeated the division-leading Sabres, 4-2.  The problem is that we don’t have a goal-scorer because he’s off playing for the Leafs now.   That’s a problem.  Someone’s going to have to step up and start putting pucks in nets if we’re going to get anywhere this year.

 

Center Field

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So, we’ve had a week to recuperate from last weekend’s miserable postseason showing.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it because, quite frankly, I’m still bitter about it.  And I think Red Sox Nation will agree with me that it’s frustrating to make sure you can watch the playoffs in their entirety, only to find out that your playoffs that year consisted of three games during which the team you’d been watching for the entire season didn’t even show up.  I’m just saying.

Evidently we have some work to do, and when I say “we” I especially mean Theo Epstein.  There is a reason why we were swept in the first round.  We had a hitting issue.  If you think about it, we didn’t have a pitching issue.  Lester made a mistake with Torii Hunter on the mound, Josh Beckett had one bad frame in the seventh, and Clay Buchholz, the vindicator of the entire 2009 postseason for the Boston Red Sox, delivered an absolutely stellar performance, and Theo has confirmed his membership in the 2010 starting rotation.  But the hitting issue was glaring and significant.  Even reflecting on the regular season.  In past years, when the team slumped, we were at least able to manufacture runs through walks and small ball.  This year, when we slumped, we didn’t reach base at all.  So let’s discuss how to solve this hitting issue.

Starting with Tek.  This was a hot topic last offseason, and while it’s not going to be as hot this year, it’s going to be just as significant.  After we acquired V-Mart at the trading deadline, Tek became our backup catcher.  V-Mart would’ve had playing time no matter what, given his diversity in the field, but it was his offense that did the captain in.  Theo has confirmed that V-Mart will start next year.  The Red Sox probably won’t exercise their five-million-dollar option for next year, so it’ll be up to Tek to exercise his option, worth three million, and just accept the fact that he’s no longer a starter, which he did this year with composure and grace, teaching V-Mart everything he knows to prepare him to catch each arm.  Will Tek exercise the option? I think he will.  And I would even go so far as to say that Tek may join our coaching staff after he retires.  Meanwhile, Tek’s solid defense behind the plate makes him one of the best defensive backup catchers there is, and having him on the roster would allow V-Mart to play other positions if necessary.  And let’s not forget the fact that Tek is our captain.  And the fact that he was a good soldier this season proves yet again that he deserves that “C” on his jersey.

We need a shortstop.  There’s no getting around that.  We’ve needed a shortstop ever since Nomar wrote his one-way ticket out of town.  Jed Lowrie needs insurance for his wrist, but that insurance probably won’t come in the form of Alex Gonzalez.  He’s got a six-million-dollar club option for next year, but that’s a steep figure in this economy, and unfortunately Theo probably won’t be picking that up.  It doesn’t look like we’ll be making any blockbuster deal for a power bat at that position, so look for Theo to focus more on defense.  Which Julio Lugo made painfully clear.

We also need to resign Jason Bay.  Let me repeat that.  We need to resign Jason Bay.  He’s an excellent hitter and fielder, walks more than most in the American League, and, oh, by the way, he hustles and he’s drama-free.  To be honest, it’s either him or Matt Holliday, but he’s been here, he’s used to this city, and he’s put up great numbers.

Oh, and we need David Ortiz to be a force again.  None of this one-home-run-in-his-first-forty-plus-at-bats business.  That won’t fly.  We need Big Papi back.  A big part of that will be monitoring his off-season program.

Mike Lowell’s situation is a bit tricky.  Tito expects him to be healthier than ever next year, and indeed he showed flashes of brilliance in the field in Anaheim.  But that’s just it.  We were in Anaheim, where the weather was warm and stable.  In Boston, it’s either hot or cold.  I’m not necessarily saying that we should get rid of Mike Lowell because I think he’s valuable to our club, both as a third baseman and perhaps as a DH when Ortiz gets the day off.  I’m just saying that we need to watch him closely.  Very, very closely.

Even though our pitching was definitely a strong point this season, there are some interesting discussions on that end, too.  Theo is insisting that Dice-K adequately prepare himself for Spring Training this year.  I couldn’t agree more.  And I will be furious if he’s a World Baseball Classic ace at Boston’s expense.

Wakefield had surgery on his back a few days ago to correct a loose fragment in his back that’s been bothering him since July.  It’s been significant; he’s had trouble walking because of weakness in his left leg.  But the surgery has minimal recovery time, so barring any complications, expect him to show up on time for Spring Training.

Billy Wagner’s agent says that he wants to pitch next season, and why not? Dude’s still got it.  The Red Sox agreed not to pick up his option for next season, so he’ll be testing the waters, but he says his family is his top priority.

Sooner or later, we have to start restoring our faith in Papelbon.  I personally am not completely ready to do that yet.  In a broad sense, it’s the lineup’s fault that we’re sitting on our laurels right now with nothing to do, baseball-wise, for the rest of October, but Papelbon just rubbed salt in the wound.  If you’re one pitch away multiple times, there’s no reason to not record the out already.  But I digress.  The point is, he’s still our closer, and he’s obviously shaken.  At some point this winter, we’ll have to remember the fact that he’s got some of the best stuff in the Majors and that he’s one of the elite closers in the game.  Even if he did ultimately play an integral part in our postseason downfall.  On a related note, I think it’s safe to say that the eighth inning has “Daniel Bard” written all over it.

But after all is said and done, I think one of the absolutely most important roles we need to fill this offseason is that of Kevin Millar.  He was the essence of the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox.  He exuded a winning spirit, kept the clubhouse loose, and helped take the team to the top.  Right now, Dustin Pedroia is the emotional leader of this team, but after this year’s ALDS I think it’s safe to say that he needs some help.  Someone to spark the squad when the going gets tough and the tough need to hit.  Someone, ironically and unfortunately, like Torii Hunter.

All of that is to say that our front office has its hands full.  It’s not like last year where we barely didn’t make it.  This year we didn’t make it by a mile.  Something must be done.  I’ll leave it to Theo to ultimately decide what, who, when, and how, but I think we have effectively established the why.  The only thing we as fans can do now is look forward to 2010.  Meanwhile, the Bruins are 3-4-0 in the first seven games of the season.  We’re in third place in our division.  We’ve had some very spotty play, so I’m looking forward to some improvements.

The Future Blog of the Boston Red Sox

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Don’t look now, but we just won two in a row! At the very least, we win the series, but from the way we’ve played over the last two games, a sweep is well within our grasp.  After a 7-2 victory, I have to say I’m feeling it.  Seven runs scored in a single game is the way it should be, and we haven’t seen that in a while.  More like seven runs scored in a single week.  But it looks like we’re slowly but steadily getting back on track.  Just ask the Yankees.  Their winning streak has been duly snapped.  By the A’s.  That is not something to be proud of.  And in a fantastic display of carpe diem, we shrunk their first-place lead to one and a half games.  Onward to first.  Give it a few days.

Lester was brilliant as usual; no surprises there.  With 109 pitches, he gave us quality through seven and a third, gave up two runs on eight hits, walked two, and struck out nine.  Best lefty in the game right here.  Fine, one of the best, as everyone else would say.  We know he’s the best in the game.  Eventually it’ll occur to everyone else and they’ll figure it out.  Probably just around the time Lester rolls into town to dismantle their lineup.  Bard was solid.  Ramirez took twenty-two pitches to finish the ninth.

And now for the offense.  It’s been too long since we had a proper spread to discuss, so I’m looking forward to this.  Ellsbury went two for five with two RBIs on two doubles, a theft of third, and a pickoff on second.  From the leadoff spot.  He’s finally getting used to it up there; all that time in the bottom of the lineup let him focus more on improving himself and less on the pressure of living up to his spot.  And he’s looking good in Number 1; every time he bats there, he looks better and better.  If he stays comfortable he’ll be even more of a tremendous asset.  Pedroia walked and scored.  Drew hit and made a throwing error.  Bay, ladies and gentlemen, went two for three with a walk and a run.  It’s about time.  Lowell, Tek, and Green all hit and scored.

And now for the grand finale.  Or rather grand finales.  We had two long balls.  Both for multiple runs.  Papi hit what amounted to an absolute bomb off the photographer well in center field.  With runners at the corners.  In the first inning.  So in the first inning, Big Papi hits a three-run home run.  Wow.  Just wow.  That one speaks for itself, no? So does the next one.  Two-run shot in the eighth ended up in the Monster seats for Adam LaRoche.  Welcome to Boston.  I think you’ll like it here.  What is it about these guys from the Pirates who come over to the contender of all contenders and suddenly their best comes out? I have no idea, but I hope it continues.  Theo Epstein must be very pleased.  One thing LaRoche has to learn if he keeps going yard: you have to take your helmet off when you enter the dugout.  If you don’t, everyone will start pounding it.  Hard.  Repeatedly.  It’s quite funny.  But other than that, LaRoche can keep on doing what he’s doing so far.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done.  One thing I will say is that the O’s went two for twelve with runners in scoring position, and we went two for six with the same amount of hits: ten each.  Which means that the O’s had more opportunities to score than we did.  That’s the pitchers’ responsibilities, so there’s an area of improvement right there if John Farrell needs something to work on.

The Cards acquired Matt Holliday, who went four for five in his St. Louis debut, tying his career high of hits in a single game and racking up the fifteenth four-hitter of his career.  This completely overshadowed the fact that Julio Lugo, also debuting for St. Louis, went two for five with a triple and a home run.  Good for him.  I think the National League pitching will help him out.

Jim Rice is being inducted into the Hall of Fame today.  Congratulations! Like I said, it’s definitely about time.  After twenty-five years and fifteen tries, you’ve earned it.  You’ve most certainly earned it.

David Hernandez at Smoltz.  I think the best thing for Smoltz to do here would be to not lose.  Rather to win and keep the momentum going.  We’re at home and facing a less-than-intimidating opponent, so the matchup should be a good one for Smoltz.  That’s not to say he can’t handle a bigger stage, that’s just saying it should be relatively easy for him to win this one.  Then again, I thought it would be easy for him to beat the Nationals and I was wrong.  Still, like I said, we’re at home, we’re in our division, it’s the second half, the postseason is in sight.  It’s a different atmosphere, so maybe we’ll see a different, and hopefully better, side of Smoltz.

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Wow. Dustin Pedroia is on an absolute roll. He is clearly the best second baseman in the league. Clearly. And if he doesn’t get MVP I’d say there’s something seriously wrong with this picture. We’re talking CC-over-Beckett-for-Cy-Young wrong. Pedroia the Destroyah’s latest honor is his first career Silver Slugger award. He’s the fourth player in Red Sox history to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in the same season; Dwight Evans, Ellis Burks, and Tek were the first three. We’ve had a player on the Silver Slugger team in each of the past eight seasons. Unfortunately, Aubrey Huff of the Orioles snapped Ortiz’s four-season Silver Slugger streak. Understandable, though, considering his injury-ridden season this year. Anyway, the MVPs are announced on Tuesday, and I fully expect Dustin to win it.

Jon Lester won the Hutch Award for courage from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and Jacoby Ellsbury won the James Bell Legacy Award for steals. He led the American League and broke the rookie record with fifty. Dice-K placed fourth in the Cy Young voting. True, his outings this year were on the short side, but I thought he would’ve done a lot better. The winner was obviously Cliff Lee, followed by Roy Halladay and Francisco Rodriguez. Dice-K’s 18-3 record was good for fourth in the American League in wins, his 2.90 ERA was good for third, and his .211 opponent’s average was good for first. He truly perfected his Houdini strategy; opponents finished the season 0 for 14 with the bases loaded. The only drawback? His 94 walks led the American League. That and his short outings did him in.

Baseball Insider of USA Today evaluated all thirty Major League Baseball teams in nine categories over the past five years and ranked us number one overall. I have to say I’m not surprised. I mean look at what we’ve done over the past five years: four postseason appearances and two World Series titles. Not to mention our successes in the regular season, in the offseason, in the front office, and in the farms. So it’s true. It is absolutely true. We are the team to beat, and we are in the process of becoming the team of the decade.

The two-week exclusive negotiation period between Tek and the Sox is over. Theo had some discussions with Scott Boras, but obviously as I said the length of the deal is likely proving to be an issue. Big Papi has stated that he wants another slugger on the team; in my opinion, that would be Teixeira. I would say that Matt Holliday could be an option, but he’s already been traded to the A’s. Of all the teams, it had to be the A’s. Every team has a few teams that, for whatever reason, they just can’t handle. For us, it’s the Jays in September, lately the Rays, and the A’s. The A’s sweep us at least once a season. So of all the teams to which he could’ve been traded, it had to be Oakland. That’s great. That’s just great. As far as the rest of the free agent market is concerned, we’re also probably looking into Ben Sheets, AJ Burnett, Derek Lowe, Sean Casey, and Alex Cora. Rumor has it that we might even be interested in Rocco Baldelli.

In other news, the New York Jets defeated the Pats on Thursday to secure first place. They won it by a score of 34-31 with a field goal in overtime. But I think the Boston sports highlight of the week had to be Thursday’s game between the Bruins and the Habs. We completely crushed them, literally and physically. Our 6-1 rout ended our twelve-game losing streak against the Canadiens. And the fight between Milan Lucic and Mike Komisarek was absolutely epic. I mean that was a great hockey fight. Complete and total domination. Lucic clearly won that one. We did lose to the Rangers in overtime last night, but on the upside we’ve won eight of our last ten, and our 24 points is good for first place.

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