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Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey Devils’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AP Photo

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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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One more week of Spring Training and then it’s go time.  It’s going to be a good season for us.  I can feel it.  And this year our home opener is also our Opening Day.  Against the Rays.  It’s going to be epic.  I’m psyched.  Seriously.  We don’t have starters yet, but I venture to guess Josh Beckett will get the call.  We’ll see.  Anyway, a lot’s happened this past week.  First of all, on Monday Curt Schilling announced his retirement.  I read that and the first thing I experienced was relief.  I think he knew it was time for him to hang up his spikes, and I’m glad he retired with dignity.  The second thing I experienced was gratitude.  We owe him a lot.  He was one of the most dominant pitchers of our time, especially in the postseason, and we know that first-hand.  We continue to celebrate his achievements in October, and we’ll be forever thankful for what he did with our team in 2004 and 2007.  I don’t think we could’ve done it without him.  So here’s to you, Curt, for all your hard work and bloody socks and playoff gems.  Thanks from a city that’ll never forget, and we look forward to seeing you in the Hall of Fame!

Our pitching this season is looking pretty good.  Theo did a masterful job during the offseason.  In fact, it’s possible that our pitching staff is too deep.  We have five starting spots and the usual handful in the bullpen, so we might not have a regular place for everybody.  But that’s fine too; if someone gets hurt, we’ve got a man waiting in the wings.  Brad Penny made his Grapefruit League debut on Monday against the Tigers.  He pitched three innings; no hits, no runs, one walk, three K’s.  On Wednesday, Clay Buchholz pitched six innings against the Reds; one unearned run, only three hits, three K’s.  He even retired twelve batters in a row at one point.  I’m telling you, with every outing this spring he’s looking more and more like he did in ’07.  And let’s not forget that Masterson is still very much in the mix.  Last year he was primarily a reliever but, like I always say, that’s a waste because he’s starter material.  This season his fate seems to be closely tied to that of Penny.  If Penny isn’t ready to start, it’ll probably be Masterson who fills in.  So we know that we have one of the deepest staffs in the league.  We also know that we need another man in the rotation.  We’ll first need a fifth starter for the Angels game on April 12, and we have three pitchers who could conceivably fill that role well.  This should be interesting.

Dice-K returned to camp on Wednesday after having been named the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic again.  So definitely congratulations to him.  And after his return, he got right back to throwing and didn’t miss a beat, which is a good sign.  What I’d like to see is him retaining his composure with runners in scoring position while improving his efficiency by cutting down on balls and walks.  As for the World Baseball Classic, it’s finally over.  The USA lost to Japan, 9-4, on Sunday, courtesy of Derek Jeter, whose fielding error cost us three runs.  Figures.  Anyway, Japan went on to win the finals.  And by the way, Jeter finished the night one for five.

Perhaps most uplifting, we’re getting healthy.  Dustin Pedroia played his second game since his left abdominal strain on Sunday and went two for three with a double.  Mikey Lowell hit his second home run of Spring Training in the first inning of that game, a powerful two-run shot.  Big Papi hit a double and scored a run on Lowell’s homer.  Even Chris Carter got in on the action, belting one out in the eighth.  Then on Monday, Youk played four innings in the field and had two at-bats, walking once.  Lowell was also in the lineup, marking his first set of consecutive games since his hip surgery.  In fact, he, Jason Bay, Chris Carter, and Ivan Ochoa homered consecutively.  It was beautiful.  Brought back memories of April 22, 2007, when we tied the Yankees at four the same way.  Of course, we went on to win that game, 7-6.  Dice-K started and got the win, and it was the third and final game of that series.  Our first sweep of the Yanks since the 1990s.  That was a great game.  Anyway, point being that Pedroia, Youk, Lowell, and Papi all looked smooth and comfortable, which is a great sign.  We just need JD Drew to find his rhythm and we’re in business.

The only downside to this health trend is that it includes Julio Lugo.  It’s been a little more than ten days since his knee surgery, so he’ll be returning to the lineup soon.  Not that I want him to stay injured.  I just want to see Lowrie start.  Or I want to see Lugo’s offense and defense undergo a drastic overhaul.  I don’t think we can afford to carry Lugo in the lineup, at least not for his speed, because we have Ellsbury.

Lastly, it seems that Mark Teixeira would like to be the “bad guy” in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.  That’s fine with me.  In fact, I say bring it.  The Yankees’ bad guys haven’t been doing a very good job.  Jeter hasn’t been making much of a dent in the scoreboard lately, A-Rod hasn’t been hitting in the clutch, and Johnny Damon’s average is dropping steadily.  Besides, we have more pitching than we know what to do with, and our lineup is coming together.  So I doubt that, in the long run, Mark Teixeira will prove to be much of a threat.  Besides, we have an offense of our own.  The Yankees may try to throw us a bad guy, but we come to the Yankees with a lineup full of bad guys.

So we’ve got a week left until the season starts.  I love this time of year.  The speculations, the predictions, the optimism, the clean slate, the opening of Fenway, the team’s return.  Eight more days until Opening Day, my friends.  Eight more days.  As always, it’s been a long winter, but the season is just around the corner.  And we’re ready.

In other news, the Bruins played two games this past week and won both.  We beat the Devils, 4-1, on Sunday and the Leafs, 7-5, yesterday.  So we enjoyed a nice break between those, and we’ll need the rest heading into the playoffs.  We have 104 points, third behind the Sharks’ 109 and the Red Wings’ 107.  We clinched our division.  We have eight games left in the season.  All we have to do is play steadily, conserve our energy, and go into the playoffs with some momentum.  This could be it.  I’ve said it all along, but seriously, this could be it.  This could be the year we win.

Deadspin

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Nothing groundbreaking to report this week.  The pitchers and catchers have started their regimens in Fort Myers, and everything seems to be proceeding according to plan.  Brad Penny had a great bullpen session on Wednesday, and Tek is psyched to be back.  He even says he wants to retire in a Boston uniform, and I believe it, unlike a similar claim made by a certain currently unemployed left fielder who shall remain nameless.  I mean we’re the only Major League team he’s ever played for.  He’s our captain.  And he knows what that means:

I’m going to work my tail off for this pitching staff.  I’m going to work my tail off with other catchers and other position players…This is where my heart is and this is where I wanted to be.

If Scott Boras hadn’t epically failed, Tek would’ve inked a deal with us sooner.  We all knew he was coming back.  And, despite his waning offense, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we’re pretty happy about it.  With all the new pitchers coming in, we’ll need him more than ever, and he can be a sort of mentor to the younger catchers and get them ready to fill his role when he does retire.

The point is, we’re in a pretty good place right now.  The trick will be staying there.  Big Papi, Mikey Lowell, Josh Beckett, JD Drew, Rocco Baldelli, John Smoltz, and Mark Kotsay are all more or less injured in some capacity.  Smoltz and Kotsay won’t even be starting the season on the active roster.  So we’re going to have to make sure all of them take their time with rehab.  But if anything does happen, we can rest assured that we have the depth to cover it.

I’d like to state here that Jed Lowrie should start at shortstop.  His batting average with the bases loaded is ridiculous, and he’s excellent defensively.  And he’s young and fast and versatile.  So yeah.  He should start.

Anyway, our future is bright.  2009 should be a great season.  The Baseball Prospectus projects a Major League-leading 98 wins for us.  And I think that’s definitely within our reach.  Maybe we’ll even win 100 games this season.  Our pitching is very strong, especially with the return to dominance of Beckett and the consistency of Lester.  And I have no doubt that the offense will light it up as usual.  Ortiz’s wrist has improved, Drew found his stroke, Jay Bay is a natural, and Youk is locked up for a good amount of time.  Not to mention Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah and Jacoby Ellsbury who, according to Dustin, has had a phenomenal offseason workout.  So I’m really looking forward to it.

Kevin Millar signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays, and Miguel Tejada admitted to lying to Congressional investigators who were inquiring about Rafael Palmeiro’s possible use of steroids.  I mean after the whole A-Rod story, this is sort of anticlimactic.  It’s a sad, sad day in baseball when you find yourself accustomed to hearing that every other big name is juiced.  Speaking of A-Rod, though, I hope he gets an asterisk.  I really do.  His attempt at explaining himself was just pathetic, and his apology couldn’t have been more ineffectual.  I’ll tell you something: the Yankees are livid right now.  They’re stuck with him for the next nine years, and they could be paying as much as $300 million.  And I don’t even want to talk about how that deal came about.  It was thanks to that stunt Scott Boras pulled right after we won the World Series in ’07, when he turned on his own little spotlight by claiming that A-Rod was done with New York before anyone in a Boston uniform had time to put on their champagne goggles.  Anyway, the Yankees are stuck with him, and that’s fine with me.  A-Rod and the Yankees deserve each other.

In other news, congratulations to Boston University for defeating Northeastern to win this year’s Beanpot Tournament.  The final score was 5-2, pretty lopsided for a contest between the number one and number three teams in the country.  On the other hand, a significant portion of BU’s roster has already been drafted by the NHL, so I guess it’s somewhat understandable.  As for the Bruins, we’ve hit a rough patch recently.  We’re currently riding a four-game losing streak, consisting of an overtime loss to the Flyers, a 5-2 roughing by the Sharks, a 0-1 loss to the Devils, and a shootout loss to the Predators.  All pretty hard to bear, but I’d say the results of our contest with the Sharks is the most concerning.  They beat us by three goals even though they’ve been struggling lately.  We and the Sharks have been battling all season long for supremacy over the league, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of racing them in the Stanley Cup final.  So we need to figure out how to match them, and fast, because it’s already the middle of February.  On the bright side, we’ve got 86 points.  That’s first in the league, three more than the Sharks and twenty more than the Habs, who by the way have lost ten of their last fifteen games.  Always something to smile about.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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