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Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey Devils’

Tek officially retired on Thursday; we all knew this was coming, so I’ve already written the tribute, although there are a few things I’d like to add.  First, after initially doing so, he has since come to regret autographing photos of the A-Rod fight because he doesn’t want to condone that kind of behavior, which speaks volumes about his sportsmanship, professionalism, and awareness of his status as a role model.  Second, Scott Boras reportedly did not allow other teams to make formal offers to Tek due to his knowledge of Tek’s allegiance to us; I’d expect that, for Boras, this must be some kind of first.  Third, here’s a neat article containing the comments of some of New England’s who’s-who of sports journalism when we first picked up Tek; boy, does it take you back.  Fourth, Tek was very thankful in his retirement announcement; he thanked everyone.  He thanked his coaches, teammates, and fans as well as the brass and his family.  Here’s a quote:

As I walk away from this game, I can look at the man in the mirror and be proud I gave everything I could to this game, this organization, my teammates.  Once again, I just want to say thank you.

But he won’t be leaving the game completely; he’ll be taking up a position within the organization, which I think is an excellent move.  To be a good catcher, one must inherently possess the ability to maintain a working knowledge of all aspects of the game, not just his own position.  This plus the fact that he was a captain for seven of the fifteen seasons he played here make him an obvious choice for hire.

What’s funny is that a fan took a video during a clubhouse tour on Truck Day and saw that Tek’s nameplate had already been taken down.  Lucchino’s explanation for this was weak, and so the fan already knew what would happen.  What I liked best about this story is that the fan specifically didn’t post the video until after Tek made his decision.

Bobby V. has banned alcohol in the clubhouse and on charter flights returning to Boston.  Tito then claimed that this was a PR move, which it isn’t since Bobby V. is known for having similarly banned beer in his previous managerial stints.  First of all, it’s very unlike Tito to get involved in drama.  Secondly, why are we still talking about this? Last season is last season; it’s done and over.  Can’t we just move on already?

Maybe that’s what Bobby V. was trying to do when he put down Derek Jeter and praised Tek for the A-Rod fight this week.  It certainly did draw attention.  Obviously I agree with what he said; it’s just a little unusual to hear it coming from a manager.  There’s a reason why there are fans and managers and why fans are usually not managers and managers are usually not fans.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of the biggest Yankee-haters out there, but I still want a manager who focuses less on the TV cameras and more on the baseball.

In the interest of not discussing drama anymore, let’s move to the Spring Training schedule, which officially started yesterday when we played Northeastern and Boston College in a doubleheader.  Today, the Major League action begins with the start of a two-game series against the Twins.  We’ve got the O’s on Tuesday, the Jays on Wednesday, and the Cards on Thursday.  Then the Pirates and Rays, and we’re done for the week.

Here are some highlights from the results.  We swept the college doubleheader as well as the two games against the Twins with scores of 8-3 and 10-2.  Lester pitched two shutout innings against Northeastern.  Beckett pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two, struck out none, and was caught by Salty, yet another indicator of the end of an era.  In the 10-2 win, Buccholz pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two and hit one but struck out two and extricated himself from two sticky situations.  Of his thirty-six pitches, twenty were strikes.  He looks healthy and says he feels healthy.  Ryan Sweeney picked up and RBI, and Papi hit his first homer of Spring Training, a solo shot.

Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have agreed to expand the playoffs, effective this season.  Each league will not send not one but two Wild Card teams to the playoffs; the two teams will have to go at it in a single elimination game.  This is the first playoff expansion since 1994, and it creates the largest playoffs in the history of the Majors.  It’ll certainly boost ratings and nail-biting, that’s for sure.  It presents a double-edged sword.  If this system had been in place earlier, we would have made the playoffs in the last two years.  On the other hand, I don’t want to make the playoffs because the bar is continually set lower by a policy of increased inclusivity, and there’s always the chance that that other team is going to beat you before you get anywhere.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Sens, Isles, and Rangers but beat the Devils and signed Marty Turco.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photo/Chris Lee

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The big news this week is that we’ve traded Scutaro to the Rockies for Clayton Mortensen.  Make no mistake about this deal, folks.  This deal was not for Mortensen.  This deal was to dispose of Scutaro’s six million dollars in order to free up salary for a starter, possibly Roy Oswalt.  So don’t think of it as a neat exchange; think of it as exchanging Scutaro for a to-be-determined pitcher, and Mortensen just happens to be there.  Mortensen, a righty, as pitched in only twenty-four Major League games, thirteen of which were starts.  He is four and eight with a 5.12 ERA but had problems with his command, which yielded a high walk ratio.  With the Rockies, he posted a 3.86 ERA in sixteen appearances, performing better in relief than in a starter’s role.  He’ll come to camp and fight for a spot just like all the other pitchers.  Meanwhile, I’m more concerned with which veteran superstar we’re going to get.

We’ve signed Bard to a one year deal and Ellsbury to a one-year deal worth upwards of eight million dollars.  First of all, if we signed Crawford, who by the way just had wrist surgery, to as large a contract in terms of years as we did, Ellsbury deserves exponentially more than one year.  Has he not proven that he’s worth it? I mean, if we’re going to play the long-contract game, we should at least play it responsibly.  It’s ridiculous that we signed Crawford for as long as we did, and we only talked to Ellsbury about one year.  Although he did get a nice raise; he’ll make twice as much this coming year as he has in his entire career to date, and he’s worth every penny and probably more.  We’ve signed Morales to a one-year deal, and we’ve signed Vicente Padilla to a minor league deal, but according to Ben, he’ll come to camp as a starter.  But don’t worry because it’s all good.  Bobby V. spoke to Dice-K and saw a “good look in his eye,” so naturally all of our problems are immediately solved.

Orlando Cabrera has decided to retire.  We’ll never forget what he did for us in 2004.

In other news, the B’s beat the Panthers in a shootout.  We lost to the Bolts, beat the Devils, and lost to the Rangers in sudden death.

AP Photo

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The coaching staff has now officially been finalized.  Tim Bogar is the bench coach.  Jerry Royster will take his place as the third base coach.  Alex Ochoa is the first base coach.  Dave Magadan will remain the hitting coach, and Gary Tuck will remain the bullpen coach.  Our new pitching coach is Bob McClure.  The Royals let him go after finishing in fourth place in their division last season, and then we hired him as a minor league instructor and special assignment scout.  Obviously on the surface, this doesn’t exactly bode well.  However, it’s worth mentioning that his professional profile is similar to John Farrell’s; like Farrell, he’s been a player as well as a coach, and he has a knack for evaluating talent.  But by now I have learned how fruitless it is to delve analytically into anything that Bobby V. does before I actually see how it shapes up in action.  Regarding McClure, I’m not sure I know what to think at this point.

We now officially have a closer, and it turns out that it isn’t Mark Melancon.  Melancon will obviously be in the mix, but we traded first baseman Miles Head, right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara, and, yes, even Josh Reddick to the A’s for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and, more importantly, Andrew Bailey.  Bailey has a career 2.07 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with seventy-five saves and only nine blown saves in his three seasons in the Majors.  He has been injured, which restricted him to less than fifty innings in his last two seasons.  But because we expect him to own the ninth only, I don’t see a problem.  The Bailey-Melancon one-two punch shows considerable promise.  Like Paps, Bailey tends to induce his fair share of fly balls, so Melancon serves as a nice complement to that; in his career, Melancon has induced double the amount of ground balls as fly balls, and only three pitchers last season had a better ratio.

So, to put it lightly, he’ll do.  Now let’s look at Sweeney.  His hitting stats obviously don’t match up well with Reddick’s, but he’s got a solid OBP and he can play all three outfield positions, which we know is incredibly useful.  However, I’m still not happy about that part of the trade because, while Sweeney has obvious upsides, he technically doesn’t even come close to Reddick.  I mean, Reddick has the makings of a Major League superstar.  Of course, we have to moderate that a little by accounting for the fact that he’s young yet and hasn’t seen much action relatively speaking, but still.  I see this trade as addressing our short-term needs rather than considering our long-term needs.  There is a time and place for doing so, but I’m not convinced that this was it.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see.  It’s important to remember that this is Ben’s team now, and he deserves a chance to prove that he has as much foresight as anybody.

Ryan Kalish will miss the start of the season; he just had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum.  In all likelihood, so will Jenks, who had another surgery.

The Yankees signed Okajima to a minor league deal; oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The Cubs hired Bill Buckner as a minor league hitting coach.  I hope Theo has fun with that.  Incidentally, in case you didn’t notice, that was sarcastic.

In other news, the Pats have been on an absolute tear.  We beat the Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, and Bills.  We’ll see if we can convert that into anything of note when it counts.  The B’s have been similarly dominating; we beat the Habs, Panthers (eight-zip shutout), and Coyotes; we dropped our game against the Stars.  We womped the Devils and Flames (seriously, a nine-zip shutout) and lost to Vancouver in a very eventful matchup in which Vancouver was obviously trying to make a statement.  I’d say it was grasping; they may have beaten us by a goal, but the last time I checked, we are still the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  The benches cleared, though.  Five Canucks charged Shawn Thornton for defending a hit teammate, and then all the gloves dropped.  Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault says we’re too physical, probably because the Canucks can’t match us.  By the way, Milan Lucic did indeed take the ice legally on a line change.

AP Photo

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Ben called back Sveum for a second-round interview, but we didn’t make Sveum an offer, and the Cubs picked him up.  We may be interviewing Bobby Valentine next, and I’m not sure I like that.  Actually, scratch that.  I don’t like that.  I don’t like that at all.  Valentine is the antithesis of what we need right now, and the fact that he’s even being considered reflects some serious misdirection and scrambling on the part of our front office, something we haven’t seen in years.  I have full confidence in Ben, but at the moment he looks like he has absolutely no idea what in the world he’s doing, and that may be because he legitimately is lost at this point or because Larry is lost.  Either way, it’s not yielding good results.  It’s yielding a public image of an organization that is in complete and utter chaos.  Whether or not that’s actually true, I do not like that.

Speaking of managers, Tito will stay out after all next season.  I guess Jerry Remy was right.

Ben has had good talks with Papi’s camp.  Supposedly we’ve made contact with Francisco Cordero, and there has been mutual interest expressed in having Heath Bell pitch for us.  Supposedly we may be interested in Roy Oswalt.

Thankfully, Don Orsillo signed a contract extension with NESN.  Thankfully, Heidi Watney has not.  Watney is leaving for Time Warner Cable in California, who now have the Lakers.  She’ll be a sideline reporter for those telecasts.

In other news, the Pats sunk the Jets, 37-16.  The B’s barely beat the Devils and Blue Jackets but laid it on thick in our crushing assault on the Isles for an eight-game winning streak.

Getty Images

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Wow.  Just, wow.   I mean, what? But in a good way.

Yes, I am completely aware that that made absolutely no sense.  It’s just hard not to be too pumped for words after last night’s game.  It was epic.  Not only were we at home, but we won.  Not only did we win, but we won against the Yankees.  Not only did we win against the Yankees, but we won against the Yankees because Josh Beckett came home again.  Everything about that game was immensely satisfying.

The phrase you’re going to hear in almost every article you read about last night’s game is “vintage Beckett.” What does that mean? That means he made a start the likes of which he hasn’t made since 2009, when he went seventeen and six with a 3.86 ERA.  Before 2009, he hadn’t made a start like this since 2007, the year CC Sabathia stole his Cy Young.  I guess he’s on some sort of strange two-year cycle.  Last night, he had his revenge.  Last night, he looked every bit like a Cy Young winner, and he stole the W from Sabathia.

Beckett was wolf-like in his ruthlessness and his ability to detect fear in opposing batters.  He shook of Tek, not because they weren’t on the same page, but because he had the number of every hitter he faced, and he knew exactly what he needed to do to get them out.  And once Tek realized that letting him command his own game would not result in a ridiculous amount of runs, he let him.  The results speak for themselves.

Eight shutout innings.  Two hits.  One walk.  Ten strikeouts.  103 pitches.  Sixty-eight strikes.

That was his first double-digit strikeout total since July 27, 2009.  Back problems? What back problems? Shoulder problems? What shoulder problems? He went out there and he attacked the strike zone like a strike-throwing machine.  He pulled out some nasty stuff.  His fastball was formidable, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour and in for a strike about eighty percent of the time.  His curveball was unhittable and perfectly located.  His cutter was sharp.  His two-seam put away Mark Teixeira.  But his changeup was the real evidence of his return to form.  His arm was so alive that he threw his changeup at an average speed of eighty-eight and a top speed of ninety.  Most pitchers in the Major Leagues are lucky to throw a fastball at that speed.  And the hitters could do absolutely nothing with it.

He threw nineteen pitches in the first inning and only improved from there.  During his last two innings, he needed just eight pitches to secure the three outs.  His speeds varied.  His release point tightened as the game went on.  The strike zone? Peppered.  This was, without a doubt, one of the best starts I have ever seen from him.  Ever.

Fortunately, it didn’t go to waste.  We loaded the bases in the third with nobody out.  Then there was a double play that scored a run.  Then second base umpire Mark Wagner retracted the run and called the post-double play runners back to their bases because Youk apparently “interfered” with the play.  Basically, Youk obstructed Jeter’s ability to field when he slid into second.  But that slide is a slide you see all the time.  It was one of those that prompts a jump by whoever’s covering second in order to clear the bag in time.  It’s a very obscure rule; since this sort of thing happens almost every day, nobody really enforces the rule.  In this particular situation, we fortunately didn’t have to be livid for long.  Cameron managed to eke out an infield hit, and Pedroia came home.

And guess what? Beckett held that lead.  The score was 1-0, and Beckett held it.  He held it through numerous terribly frustrating abandonments of men on base and of prime opportunities squandered in such an irksome fashion that it reminded you that on Saturday we went one for seventeen with runners in scoring position.  But then who should come up big with the bases loaded in the seventh but Marco Scutaro, who smacked a ninety-three mile-per-hour four-seam for a two-run double that looked so natural and so confident that it made you wonder, for that moment, what he was doing batting ninth, until you remembered that placing a hitter who has moments reminiscent of a leadoff man in the ninth spot lengthens your innings because it means you’ve got basically two leadoff hitters in a row.  The ball ended up in left and rolled all the way to the Monster.  Now would be a good time to mention that he’s nine for sixteen with the bases loaded over the course of his Boston career.  Who knew?

And Beckett held that lead until the eighth, when Papi increased it with a one-run double on an eighty-three mile-per-hour slider that was perhaps one of the most powerfully hit doubles Fenway has ever had the pleasure of witnessing.  It bounced off the very top of the wall in right-center field.  As in, pretty much exactly at the 420-foot mark.  We’re talking inches away from a home run.

So Scutaro went two for two, Papi went two for four, and Pedroia went three for four last night and nine for thirteen in the series.  He read Yankees pitching like a book this weekend.  Paps didn’t necessarily come on during a save opportunity, but the moment was just as suspenseful.  He handled it beautifully.  Three up, three down.  Two strikeouts.  Twelve pitches.  Done.  4-0.

The only bad news is that Sabathia drilled Gonzalez’s hands on an inside pitch in the fifth.  The ball landed squarely on his left pinky and ring finger.  He took his base and, instead of squeezing his batting gloves in both hands, as some baserunners are wont to do to create some extra cushioning to avoid injury, he held both of his gloves in his right hand.  He didn’t swing especially hard after that, but he did stay in the game, and after the game he said he felt fine.  We dodged one serious bullet right there.  Now would be a good time to mention the fact that more batters have been hit during our games with the Yankees than have been hit in games between any other two teams.

Two more counts of good news: the infield at Fenway is brand new, so bounces are truer and fielding is cleaner.  But let’s not forget to tell everyone that, so we don’t have situations like Lowrie had where he expected the ball to bounce as it would on the old infield when instead it actually bounced correctly.  And we signed Buchholz to a four-year extension.  In its most basic form, it’s worth thirty million dollars, but it includes two club options that together are worth about twenty-seven million.  For a pitcher of that caliber, that’s a steal.

Yes, we left sixteen men on base.  Yes, we only went three for fourteen with runners in scoring position.  But we win the series! It’s amazing how different your perception of those things becomes when you win.  But that’s natural, because if you win, at least in the short term it really doesn’t matter.  All that matters is the three, not the fourteen.  The long term is a different story, but we haven’t seen this club get into any sort of groove that would indicate that the lineup won’t be able to produce with runners in scoring position in the long term.

Wow.  Josh Beckett, man.  Josh Beckett.  Welcome back.  It’s good to see you.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Devils.  An anticlimactic way to end an awesome season.  Which isn’t over yet.  Our first playoff game is Thursday against the Habs.  I’m psyched.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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