Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Nomar Garciaparra’

We played a two-game series against the Rays and got swept.

Tuesday’s game began auspiciously with us paying tribute to the 2004 team.  But it didn’t end well.  Buchholz pitched as decently as any of our other starters this year, but in terms of the way he’s been pitching lately, his start was mediocre at best.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings while walking two and striking out five.  In the second, he gave up two walks followed by a home run that score three.  And in the sixth, he gave up two straight singles and then another single two batters later that scored two runs, one of which was made possible by Nava’s fielding error, hence the unearned run.  Atchison pitched the seventh and to one batter in the eighth, Miller pitched the rest of the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second; we started the inning with two back-to-back singles followed by a flyout, and Valencia batted in our first run with a single.  We started the third with a strikeout and then hit two back-to-back singles again.  This inning possibly did us in, because if we’d been able to take full advantage of our opportunity there, it’s possible that perhaps we could have won in the end.  But a caught-stealing at third basically put a damper on things.  Pedroia doubled after that, and we scored on a balk.  And that was it.  The final score was 2-5.

On Wednesday, Lester pitched six innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.  He was solid for most of it but unraveled at the end.  All three runs were scored via the home run.  He gave up a single in the fifth followed by two consecutive home runs.  Mortensen came on for the seventh and gave up a single, and then Hill came on and gave up another single; three at-bats later, Hill gave up an RBI double.  Melancon finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, and Breslow pitched the ninth.

We had actually scored first; Salty walked and scored on a single by Nava in the second.  And then Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a single by Ross, and scored on a sac fly by Loney.  The final score was 2-4.

Wednesday’s game actually began auspiciously as well with us announcing the All-Fenway team comprised of our greats throughout our long and illustrious history, with plenty of old faces and plenty of new.  The starting lineup included Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Pedroia, Wade Boggs, Nomar, Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Jonathan Papelbon, Papi, and Terry Francona.  The first reserves included Jason Varitek, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Doerr, Mike Lowell, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Dom DiMaggio, Trot Nixon, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, and Joe Cronin.  The second reserves included Rich Gedman, George Scott, Jerry Remy, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro, Babe Ruth, Smoky Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, and Dick Williams.  And, last but not least, the pinch hitter was Bernie Carbo and the pinch runner was none other than Dave Roberts.

Why before Wednesday’s game? Because Wednesday’s game was our last home game of the year.  It would have been nice to win it.  Instead we will finish the season with our worst record at home since 1965 and our first losing record at home since 1997: 34-47.  Now Fenway will soon be covered with snow, silent in the long, cold winter that lies ahead with only the bitter memory of losing as an aftertaste.

Sports Then And Now

 

Read Full Post »

Happy one hundredth birthday, Fenway Park! It really his America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, and for good reason.  No other ballpark is this old or – let’s face it – this totally awesome.  When you watch a game there, you really have this overwhelming sense of the history that’s gone down, and you wonder what the walls would say if they could talk.  That park saw everything.  For hundred years, most of them culminating in postseason disappointment so profoundly gut-wrenching that your first instinct would be to think that somebody had to have planned it that way, this park bore witness to the lives and times of the players who played, the managers who managed, and the fans who supported, day in and day out, no matter how good or bad it got.  Standing like a sentinel right in the middle of Boston, it has seen everything that’s happened, both in and out of baseball, in that city in the last hundred years.  Think about that for a minute.  If the walls could talk, what would they say? In addition to the regular lot, this park has seen Major League baseball players, minor league baseball players, National League baseball players, college baseball players, high school baseball players, football players, hockey players, basketball players, soccer players, boxers, musicians, soldiers, fans from every walk of life, wins, losses, World Series, no-hitters, a five-hundred-foot home run, more than ten thousand home runs total, the tallest wall in any ballpark in the United States, the first foul ball screen ever used, the only in-play ladder in Major League Baseball, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s last political speech, and so much more.

This park is alive with character.  Every part of the park has a story: the Green Monster that now stands in place of Duffy’s Cliff, the Pesky Pole, the Fisk Pole, the retired numbers, Willamsburg, the bullpens.  Everything.  It’s small, and the seats don’t have cushions, and you can’t order gourmet food behind home plate.  But seriously, who wants to go to a baseball game just to feel like you’re watching the game on television or at a restaurant? No, you want to feel the park and to live the experience.  We’ve got the best fans in all of sport, I’d say, and we’ve got the best venue to match.

If April 20, 1912 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park got married, then April 20, 2012 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park renewed their vows.  I can’t even bear the thought that several years ago we almost lost Fenway Park forever, and I can bear the thought even less that there weren’t more people interested in saving it.  It’s truly a gem of a ballpark, and it’s one of every Red Sox fan’s favorite places in the whole world.

But what would a family affair be without a little token drama? Apparently all living uniformed personnel were invited, but apparently Theo wasn’t invited until Thursday and declined to go.  Curt Schilling, who has made no secret of his criticism of Bobby V., declined an invitation due to a commitment to his business.  It was speculated that Tito wouldn’t be there, but after all he was.  It’s really a shame that all this drama has to get in the way of such a great day in the history of what’s brought all these diverse people together.  I know it’s corny, but why can’t we all just get along, just for one day? Obviously we weren’t there for any of the drama, so we can’t really know how bad or not-so-bad it was, but anyway it would have been nice to have these individuals, who’ve been so crucial to bringing about what is (“is,” and hopefully not “was”) arguably a golden age in our club’s history.

Anyway, here are the details.  There was an introduction that basically said that the constant throughout history is baseball, and the constant throughout baseball is Fenway, and the constant throughout us disparate fans is this team.  Then John Williams conducted the Boston Pops in playing “Fanfare for Fenway,” his new composition.  There was the national anthem.  There was the flyover, which always gets me.  Then there was a steady stream of past players in their uniforms; they all congregated in the parts of the field that they played.  Most of the who’s-who as well as the unknowns of Red Sox history was there, those that could barely walk and those who recently retired.  It was really just beautiful to see generations of players represented before generations of fans.  You could acutely feel that you were witnessing history not only by bearing witness to the occasion but also by remembering that each and every one of those players had borne witness to Red Sox Nation.  (Incidentally, the whole procession received continuous applause and a standing ovation.  Terry Francona’s applause and name-chanting was deafeningly thunderous, as it should have been.  Nomar, Pedro, Yaz, and Pesky also received substantial thunder.  And also Wake, Tek, Bobby Doerr, Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Kevin Millar, and a host of others too numerous to name.) Then there was a toast with grape juice, supplied at every seat for every fan of every age, led by Pedro and Millar, which as you can imagine was highly, highly entertaining and completely brought you back to 2004.  It was literally the largest toast in one venue, as in a new world record.  But hey, that’s the strength of Red Sox Nation for you.

The first pitch was thrown from the row of seats behind the first base dugout by the mayor of Boston, just like it was one hundred years ago.  This year, Thomas Menino was joined by Caroline Kennedy and Thomas Fitzgerald, two descendants of 1912 Boston’s Mayor John Fitzgerald.

I have to say, the throwback uniforms were a real treat.  How fortuitous that the schedule allowed us to play the exact same team, too.  I have to admit, even though the score a hundred years ago was 7-6 in eleven innings, I was hoping for a big more of a thrashing, as close as a close game would have been to the original may have been.  Ultimately, a win to preserve the history would have been very much appreciated and appropriate.

Sadly, a win was not to be.  Buchholz allowed home run after home run after home run.  Now that he and Beckett have both allowed five home runs in one game this season, the 2012 club becomes one of only three teams in Major League history to carry two starters who have given up five home runs each in one game in one season.  (Incidentally, one of the other two was the 2009 club, and Buchholz and Beckett were both at fault then too.) He gave up six runs, five earned (you can thank Pedroia for dropping a routine popup, a rare sight indeed), on nine hits, five of which were home runs.  All of the home runs were solo shots, and three of them led off innings.  He only allowed one other extra-base hit, a double.  He lasted six innings, walked two, and struck out two.

Buchholz used four pitches: a four-seam, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup.  His four-seam got up to ninety-five miles per hour and was his most abundant and effective pitch; he threw it for strikes more than eighty percent of the time.  The others were thrown for strikes less than sixty percent of the time, which is unfortunate since the majority of his pitches category-wise were off-speeds.

Atchison pitched the seventh, Thomas and Tazawa teamed up for the eighth, and Tazawa pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second when Papi homered to the Green Monster.  The ball, a fastball, bounced off of the very top of the wall and was ruled a double before it came under review and was rightly overturned.  In the fifth, a pair of doubles by Ross and Aviles scored another run.  That was all we managed.  Don’t even think for  second that you weren’t thinking that the stage may have been set for something truly epic: a recreation of the original final score.  Our final score ended up being 6-2, but just imagine if we could have somehow scored four more runs to tie it, gone to the eleventh inning, and then scored one more run?

It seemed like every single one of our rallies was killed before it got started.  Aviles and Papi each had two hits for the only multi-hit performances of the day.  In addition to the home run and those two doubles, we hit two more, and that was it for extra bases.  Not one member of our lineup walked.  Repko made a decidedly Ellsbury-esque catch.  I hope Bobby V. paid attention to the “We Want Tito” chant in the ninth; we have the lowest team ERA in the Majors and are now on a four-game losing streak overall and a four-game home losing streak for the first time since 2010 with a record of four and nine.

At any rate, one hundred years of Fenway Park have come and gone, so here’s to the next hundred.  Here’s to a happy birthday to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.  Fenway Park, all that you’ve seen and all that you mean, we forever salute you!

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps, 2-1.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

Read Full Post »

Beckett only pitched five innings.  He threw ninety-nine pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes.  He walked one and struck out six.  He gave up five runs on eight hits.  He gave up two home runs, one on a fastball on his first pitch of the game and one on a cutter.  He gave up all five runs and the two homers in a thirty-four-pitch first inning.  He also loaded the bases in a thirty-one-pitch fifth, although nothing came of that.  Basically, our best pitcher had a terrible day against a terrible team, which is obviously terribly embarrassing.

Now comes the drama.  Let’s just get this over with and be done with it.

It was the top of the fourth inning.  Ellsbury led it off with a walk.  He moved to second on a missed catch.  He moved to third on a single by Crawford.  Crawford moved to second on a groundout by Gonzalez.  Okay, here it is.  Pedroia hit a fly ball to right.  Ichiro caught it and threw home, where Ellsbury was headed in a hurry.  That is one of the fastest hustles I’ve ever seen Ellsbury make.  Ellsbury collided with Josh Bard.  Home plate umpire Mark Ripperger ruled that Ellsbury was safe, which gave us our first run of the game.  Ripperger thought that Bard dropped the ball because, when Bard was on the ground after the play, he didn’t see a ball in his glove.  He then realized that that was because, during the play, the ball had stayed in his bare hand.  The umpires then had a conference and ruled that Bard did not drop the ball, and Ellsbury was out, which ended the inning and did not give us our first run.  Tito came out to argue, was ejected, and then himself ejected Ripperger.  Tito was angry because he didn’t get an explanation from Ripperger.

We came back in the top of the sixth with two two-run homers.  Scutaro led off the inning with a triple, and then Ellsbury let loose on a sinker to right.  Good effort, Ichiro, but no chance you catch that.  Ellsbury is now the first in Boston with twenty homers and twenty steals in a single season since Nomar in ’97.  Crawford then flied out, Gonzalez singled, and Pedroia let loose on a fastball to right center field.  Huge swing.

Albers, Morales, and Aceves delivered a collectively scoreless performance.  But we lost, 5-4, because of that play.  That play would have given us an extra run.  That play would have tied the game at five.  Whether Bard dropped the ball or not at some point during the play, whether the umpire had it right the first time or the second time, nothing changes the fact that we lost.  We lost to the Mariners, plain and simple.  And had the initial ruling stood, we may still have lost, but we could have won.  That’s why it’s infuriating.  So I guess it really has nothing to do with the play; all I’m saying is that I’m just generally furious about losing to the Mariners of all teams, which is, of course, completely understandable.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

Obviously, we’re still waiting around.  Still not much happening.

The Rays signed Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.  That was exciting for all of five minutes.  That team lost almost all the reasons why they were ever good in the first place, and then they went out and decided to plug those holes with a couple of has-beens.  They signed both of them for seven millions dollars.  Total.  As in, both of them together cost seven million dollars.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I don’t think I seriously thought I’d see the day when these two guys would ever be ready to admit that they’re in the process of being done.  Needless to say, neither concerns me.  They’ll get a nice crowd at their home games, and they’ll get some publicity, but ultimately I just have to laugh.

Speaking of contracts, this is something you won’t believe, and the fact that something like this is so unbelievable is a testament to how bad things have gotten in the business of baseball.  But here it is: Gil Meche signed a fifty-five-million-dollar contract during the 2007 offseason and just upped and retired from baseball due to shoulder issues.  He just walked away from twelve million dollars.  It would have been easy for him to stick it out to collect the money.  We see pitchers do this all the time.  They spend a little time in the bullpen, they spend a lot of time on the DL, eventually the season ends, they finish out their contract, and then they retire.  But no.  Not only did Meche take the high road and admit the reality of his age and condition, but he also said that he retired when he did because he wouldn’t deserve the rest of his pay if he finished out his career like that.  It wouldn’t be fair to the team, it wouldn’t be fair to the fans, and it wouldn’t be fair to himself; he said he just wasn’t comfortable the moment he stopped being able to actually earn his contract.  He didn’t want to freeload off of an organization that had already paid him handsomely for his life’s work.  And just like that, baseball loses another class act because he’s a class act.  That is one guy after Mike Lowell’s heart.  We may not believe it, but we understand it.  Gil Meche, baseball fans everywhere salute you.

Sean McDonough, who did play-by-play for us from 1988 to 2004, and Nomar, who did almost everything for us from 1994 to 2004, will play “key roles” in baseball broadcasts on ESPN this year.  I have no doubt that they’ll be unbiased, but at least now we won’t have to deal with bias the other way.  We know McDonough.  We know Nomar and his analytical abilities got off to a pretty shaky start.  But more importantly, we also know that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are long gone.  And no matter who the replacements are, that is something worth smiling about.

In case you haven’t noticed, as I’ve been saying every week, these past few weeks haven’t been too interesting, baseball-wise.  That’s because there are very few questions to answer.  We know who our starting shortstop is.  We know what the lineup will likely be.  We even know, more or less, who will be on the bench and who will be called up because all of last season was basically a showcase of the best our farm system has to offer.  Luckily, we are slowly but steadily approaching pitchers and catchers.  Slowly but steadily.  Hang in there; not too much longer.

In other news, the Kings shut us out on Monday, but we beat the Panthers on Wednesday, and we sent three to the All-Star Game! Chara, Thomas, and Seguin all went and participated in SuperSkills, and Chara and Thomas played in the game.  Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom captained this year, and they actually got to choose their own teams, so Chara and Seguin both played for Staal against Thomas, who played for Lidstrom, which was strange but interesting.  Thomas actually skated in the Fastest Skater competition.  His time of nineteen seconds obviously lost, but it was just funny.  Chara played in the Skills Challenge Relay, but his team lost.  Chara also lost to Thomas in the Elimination Shootout.  It’s all good, though.  Definitely all good.  Because Chara still reigns supreme in his area of expertise: Hardest Shot.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new record! 105.9 miles per hour was the winning speed.  That, my friends, is about as hard a shot as you’re going to get, and the only harder shot you’d ever encounter is from him anyway.  Seguin posted 97.1 miles per hour in that event; not bad for a rookie.  But seriously.  After a point, you just can’t see the puck when it travels that fast.  I would not want to be on the receiving end of one of those.  And finally, Lidstrom’s team won.  By a goal.  The final score was 11-10.  That’s not a hockey score; that’s a baseball score.  But that’s what happens when you feature the best of the best.  Play resumes on Tuesday with the Canes.  Hopefully we crush.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

A word on this whole Johnny Damon episode.  We claimed Damon off waivers on Monday, and he had until yesterday to make a decision.  He ultimately vetoed.  Let’s parse.

There is some speculation about why we made that claim in the first place.  Some said it was to keep him from the Rays or Yankees because a player can’t move in a free trade unless he clears waivers.  That may be an added bonus to the outcome of the whole situation, but I doubt that was the real reason behind it, because that would’ve been a pretty substantial gamble that banked on him refusing.  Then, we would’ve been stuck with someone we didn’t really want if he said yes.  So I think the real reason the team claimed him was to obtain some sort of spark that would get us going.

A quote from Jason Varitek substantiates this view:

It would be a nice opportunity, but we’ll let him do what he needs to do.  Johnny, aside from being a great player, he makes athletic adjustments offensively.  He plays hurt, he doesn’t always play at 100 percent.  So much of it is how he plays the game.  He plays the game right.  It pushes the energy.  He’s definitely an exciting player.

Some have interpreted this as a very targeted dig at Ellsbury’s long recovery.  I would again like to remind those people that we’re not talking about a broken thumb here.  We’re talking about ribs.  I’ve never had broken ribs, and I intend to keep it that way, but if any of you would like to experiment with whether it’s possible to play baseball with that kind of injury not completely healed, go ahead and be my guest.  I will admit that the absence of Ellsbury’s skills may produce some tension or anxiety in the clubhouse, but I’m not entirely sure that that has solely to do with a judgment on the appropriateness of the timing of his recovery.  We have no way of knowing for sure what went on.

Anyway, the point is that this quote clearly shows that what the front office as well as the team itself saw in this guy was a spark.

Damon had a no-trade clause with the Tigers, but only for eight teams, one of which was us, the reason being his apparently sub-par interactions with the front office during free agent negotiations after the 2005 season that ultimately resulted in him walking all the way to New York.

Now, when he was faced with the decision of whether to veto the clause or whether to veto the trade, he described his predicament this way:

I have to think about if once again I’ll be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball, but also the most hated guy in baseball.  That’s what it boils down to.

This tells me that it always has been and will be about him.  Not about us.  It was about what the team could do for him and his reputation, which he has thus acknowledged as damaged by his signing with New York.  I know the trend in baseball lately is to be cynical, but you and I both know that there have been plenty of guys who’ve come through here with a different attitude.  We pick them up during the season, and they say that they’re happy to play for Boston, that they’re psyched about offering their skills to the team, that they can’t wait to get in the batter’s box and on the field and show what they can do to help this storied franchise win.  I mean, this is a team for which players play for knowingly less money (Mike Lowell) and with which players sign for a day just so they can retire as a member of this particular team (Nomar).  So it’s not all as cynical as many people think.  But Damon represents a stark contrast to all of that.  The free agency negotiations weren’t to his liking so he walked to the Evil Empire.  If he can stand up there in good conscience and tell the world that they shouldn’t harp on him because baseball is a business and he has a right to go wherever he wants, then there is no way on this planet that he can also stand up there and berate the front office for not making enough of an effort to ensure his return, for the exact same reasons.  A player has a right to sign wherever he wants; a team has a right to sign whomever it wants.  And through an assessment of the team’s needs, the team decided that Damon wasn’t the answer for the amounts of money and years he was seeking.  This kind of thing happens all the time in baseball, but it looks like Damon took it personally.  So did Nomar.  But Nomar grew up and figured it out.

So the only way that Damon would’ve returned to Boston is if he thought it would make him a nice guy in baseball again.  There have been those who claim that Damon, if he had the exact same injury as Ellsbury, would have played more games through more pain.  His attitude during this whole proceeding suggests the exact opposite.  Damon would have approved a trade to come to Boston because that trade alone would’ve benefitted him exclusively on an individual level.  The amount of games and with what amount of hustle and heart he played them would have been completely irrelevant for the achievement of his ends.  All he would have needed is the trade by itself.   That would have made him the nice guy.  Not his performance once here.

Damon mentioned the importance of teammates.  He insisted that if his teammates want him to stay, he would most likely stay.  This is true now in Detroit, but it wasn’t true in Boston when he became a free agent.  Sure, his teammates wanted him to stay.  We know that from the disappointment expressed by Tek and Papi in the wake of Damon’s refusal of the trade.  But again, his issue with the front office made him want to walk.  That’s fine.  It happens with many baseball players.  All I’m saying is that, when it suits him, he puts all his stock in his teammates.  And when it suits him, he puts all his stock in his objection to the quality of interaction with the front office.

Damon also mentioned the importance of fans.  He said he loves playing for Detroit’s fans.  Just like he loved playing for us when he was here.  He said his broken relationship with us has scarred him, and approving the trade would eliminate that, especially if he took us into October.  So here we have him assuming that the addition of him and him alone would be the ultimate solution to the team’s woes and would instantly turn us around and get us to the playoffs.  But more significantly, the fact that he is not considering the fans is clear.  He wants the removal of his own scar, but he doesn’t really care about ours.  He has consistently been unapologetic about his decision to sign with New York.  But when David Wells signed with us, he blatantly acknowledged the weight of his decision in terms of the rivalry.  Baseball is not a perfect world because it’s a business, which we have already established.  But it’s not a perfect business either.  There are things you do and things you don’t do.  You don’t do what Damon did.  But if you do what Damon did, the least you should do is acknowledge the reality of the situation and its ramifications.  Damon played for us.  He was instrumental in our 2004 ALCS victory over the Yankees.  He was there before and after the curse was broken.  Our loyalty as fans suited him fine when he wasn’t on the other end of it.  As a result, he has no right to expect from us as fans to continue our relationship with him as if nothing has happened, and his resistance to acknowledging this fact is yet another reflection of his self-absorption.  I should also point out that another guy who played for us, who was instrumental in our 2004 road to glory, and who was there before and after the curse was broken was Schilling.  Schilling based his decision to sign with us partly on his interaction with us fans on Sons of Sam Horn.  In Boston, the fans matter.  A lot.

Furthermore, after Damon refused, Papelbon said that he was confident that Damon would do what’s right for him and his family.  Excuse me, but I don’t recall any mention of family in Damon’s consideration.  I recall it in Billy Wagner’s consideration, for example, and even in Mark Teixeira’s consideration, but I don’t recall hearing anything about anyone aside from himself over the past several days.  Papelbon was absolutely right in assuming that family should be a part of the consideration, but unless Damon for some reason kept it completely under wraps, we have no indication that that consideration took place.

So what we can gather from all of this is that Johnny Damon is professionally selfish, arrogant, and opportunistic.  He goes with what works for him, takes things personally, and doesn’t look out for anyone except himself.  He’s a changed man.  And you know what? I’m not sure I would have wanted someone like that on our team.  I don’t know if I would have wanted to win that way.  Boston, both the players and the fans, have a certain integrity.  We have certain expectations, and we relate most to certain attitudes.  Damon really must have been scarred because he doesn’t have those things anymore.  These circumstances have exposed him in a way different than that in which we knew him.  So I hope he’s very happy in Detroit.  I hope he plays his heart out for the Detroit fans and for his Detroit teammates.  In the end, we’ll be alright.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

Read Full Post »

It’s that time yet again.  Since we’re now halfway through the season, an evaluation is in order.  Given where we started and where we are now, there’s a lot to evaluate.  But it’s going to be tricky.  It’s always hard to assess overall performance when it fluctuates wildly, and as a team, that’s what we’re looking at here.  Some players were extremely good for a while and then they petered out, but the team collectively is doing well because when one player declines, another rises.  Of course, it would make the whole thing easier if we could take the entire month of April and throw it out the window, but naturally we can’t.  It was an anomaly, but it’s the reason why we’re close to first place rather than actually in first place.

Alright.  Let’s do this.  Here we go.

Jason Varitek: A

He’s doing alright.  We’ve seen the same Renaissance from him this year that we did last year.  He landed on the DL on July 1, but before that, he was batting .263 with seven homers and sixteen RBIs in thirty-four games.  His numbers were somewhat similar to these last year with the important difference being that last year he posted the same numbers in more games last year.  That has to do with V-Mart moving permanently into the starter’s role and of course with the DL, but if he got an A last year, he should get an A this year for the same reasons.  Given his role, he deserves it.

Victor Martinez: A-

He’s picked it up, but he didn’t get the same start to this season as he did to last season.  He was less consistently good this year.  With that said, he’s still good, period.  He’s started to pick it up, he’s worked very hard on improving his arm with runners on the basepaths, and it’s his first full season, and in the starting role.  So it’s been and continues to be a season of changes for him, but he’s adapted nicely and continues to improve.

Kevin Cash: B+

He’s back behind the dish as a result of the injury onslaught.  He hasn’t been back here for very long, but he’s done his job: he’s manned his position while the usual pair are doing time on the DL.  We haven’t asked much of him, and he hasn’t given us anything spectacular.  He gets points for catching Wake really well after a long absence.  So I don’t have anything to complain about here.

Kevin Youkilis: A

As usual, nothing to complain about.  His average is at the cusp of .300, his defense is spick-and-span, and if you ask me he absolutely should have won the Final Vote.  His on-base percentage is a bit lower than last year because his strikeouts are up, but he’s been walking a ton, his slugging percentage is right where it should be at .575, not to mention his eighteen doubles, five triples, and eighteen home runs.  I think he’s one of the most consistent members of this lineup.

Dustin Pedroia: A

For a decent part of the season, he wasn’t performing up to expectations, which is inherently hard to do when you’re Dustin Pedroia.  But look at his numbers.  They clearly show his turnaround.  In April, he batted .302.  His average took a nosedive in May: .213.  But he got it together in June and batted a huge .374.  The turnaround was complete and absolute, and that was why his injury caused so much concern.  His defense is where it always is; he’s the quintessential dirt dog.  But he definitely gets an A for his resilience.

Marco Scutaro: A-

As with Beltre, we acquired him mainly for defense, and any offense was technically a bonus.  Our luck with shortstops post-Nomar hasn’t been great, and we just came off an abysmal fielder at short, so it’s been nice watching his range, athleticism, and .967 fielding percentage.  By general standards, that’s not that great, but compared to some other shortstops we’ve had recently, it’s great.  He’s already racked up 223 assists and turned thirty-seven assists.  And on top of that, his .283 average isn’t too shabby by any means.  Neither are twenty-two doubles, twenty-eight RBIs, and thirty-four walks.

Adrian Beltre: B+

No explanation needed here either.  Dude’s the best hitter on the team.  I’ll bet nobody expected that.  He’s third in homers and RBIs.  And his D is absolutely impeccable.  If you watch the highlights on SportsDesk.  If you watch the games too, you’ll be able to relate to my exasperation and disappointment.  The 159 assists and nineteen double plays are nice and all, but there’s no getting around his .943 fielding percentage, borne of his fourteen errors at third, which are tied with Miguel Tejada for most by a third baseman in all of Major League Baseball.  His improvement throughout the season is apparent; his errors were much more frequent and harmful in the beginning, which was obviously a contributing factor to the April fiasco, but still you can’t ignore them.  I guess it evens out, though.  Theo acquired him primarily for defense and didn’t expect much offense.  What he got was a ton of offense but mediocre defense.  So fulfilled our expectation of getting a lot of one and not much of the other; it was just the opposite.  As he spends more time in the park, his defense will also be above par.  So even though his knee has single-handedly sidelined some significant starters, we give him a decent mark for his bat.  In Theo we trust.  His fielding will come around in no time.

David Ortiz: A

This really doesn’t need an explanation, but I’ll give one anyway, just for fun.  He batted .143 in April and followed it with a huge surge in May, posting a .363 average with ten home runs and twenty-seven RBIs and a slugging percentage of .788.  He had a mediocre June but is on the upswing again this month.  Not to mention the Home Run Derby.  Big Papi is back!

Eric Patterson: A-

Again, it’s all about the expectations and the job he was brought here to do.  Like Kevin Cash, we brought him here in a pinch because we were dropping like flies.  And just by virtue of the fact that he’s healthy and can play, we’ve done well enough.  So I can’t dock him for mediocre baseball, because he wasn’t brought here to be the next Ted Williams.  So he gets a good grade for holding up under all the pressure of being thrown into an extremely competitive environment to keep us from crashing and burning.

Mike Lowell: C-

This is a difficult one to judge because of the dramatic decrease in playing time he’s seen this year.  But even if you look at his performance only in the context of his playing time, it’s not that great.  The highest he’s batted in a month this year is .250, and that was in April; he’s currently batting .213.  He has two homers and twelve RBIs.  He’s only walked eleven times.  His age is clearly showing.  It’s a harsh reality, but there’s nothing you can do but be honest.

Mike Cameron: B+

When Cameron came here, we expected good enough offense and stellar defense.  We have the good enough offense; he, like most of the team, batted horribly in April but picked it up in May before tanking again in June.  His fielding, however, has been subpar.  His fielding percentage so far is .976.  For him, that’s low; his fielding percentage is usually above .990.  And considering the fact that he replaced Ellsbury, whose fielding percentage was exactly one last year, he’s got to do better than that.  Part of it is getting used to his new territory – he’s never played in Fenway before this year – so look for him to improve his fielding in the second half.

JD Drew: A-

If you toss April out the window, he’s been great this year.  The improvement in his hitting between last year’s first half and this year’s is easy to see.  He had a fantastic May, a decent June, and is on his way to a fantastic July.  Overall, he’s batting .275.  His OPS is just .836, but again, it looks like he’s picking it up this month.  You also can’t argue with his fielding percentage: an even one.  No errors whatsoever this year in seventy-one games.

Bill Hall: B-

Hall is listed on the roster as an outfielder, even though he’s really a jack-of-all-trades.  It’s hard to beat the athleticism he’s exhibited in that role.  He can pretty much play any position.  We didn’t sign him for offense; we signed him for defensive depth on the bench, and to some degree that’s what we got.  He’s played second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, and right field this year, and he’s even pitched a bit.  While he has been a go-to guy whose value to the team has increased tremendously since the onslaught of injuries began, he’s not automatically excellent in the field.  With the conspicuous exception of one position: left.  He has a fielding percentage of one in nineteen starts and thirty games in left field.

Darnell McDonald: A

Darnell McDonald absolutely gets an A.  Think about it.  The guy is old, he traded hands in the minors, he was probably settling in for a long and hard career there without much hope of advance, he comes up, and he’s instantly a hero.  He’s been nothing but a hero to this team in its time of need.  Without the contributions of McDonald and Nava, we’d be in dire straits, trust me.  His .271 average is just ahead of the league leader.  His fielding percentages in left and right are both one, and his fielding percentage in center is a neat .988.  This guy exceeded all of our expectations, if we even had any, and for that, we salute him.

Daniel Nava: A

Same with this kid, and when I say kid, I mean kid.  He was called up in a pinch and delivered big time.  Literally.  A grand slam on the first pitch of your first Major League at-bat is no small talk.  Even putting that aside, he’s batting .300 with twelve extra-base hits and sixteen RBIs in twenty-four games.  He’s started twenty-one games in left field without making an error.  At such a young age and on such short notice, we were asking a lot of Nava, and he delivered.  For that, we also salute him.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Before his injury, Ellsbury was his usual self offensively.  His season average is only .250, but if you look deeper, you’ll notice that he only played a month and a half of baseball.  In April, he basically played every day and batted .333.  Then, in May, he only played three games.  Same with defense.  In fact, he sustained his injury while being his usual self in the field.  He was error free in both center and left.  So he was on track to have another fantastic year.  Too bad his ribs ended it.

Jeremy Hermida: B

We acquired Hermida your usual fourth outfielder.  After Ellsbury became injured, he stepped up majorly to get us through before he himself got injured.  While he played, he was decent.  He had some flashes of brilliance, but overall he was consistent and stable, providing defensive depth and nothing too fancy at the plate.  Still, as the fourth outfielder, he played a very important role.

Jon Lester: A

He’s an ace.  His ERA is 2.78, good for sixth in the American League.  His WHIP is 1.09.  He’s got 124 strikeouts – nobody hits his cut fastball – and a record of eleven and three in eighteen starts.  He’s given up only six homers in exactly 120 innings, proving his endurance and durability.  He had his usual horrible April, but his turnaround was so sharp and so complete, and he’s been so dominant for the rest of the season.  How do you not give him an A? He is definitely a backbone of this staff, especially this year with Beckett out.  And to think at one time he may have been on the block for Johan Santana.  Always, in Theo we trust.

Clay Buchholz: A

You can’t talk about Buchholz without talking about how much fun it is to see this kid mature into an ace right before your eyes.  We remember his no-no, we remember his abysmal season in 2008, we remember his improvement last year, and we’re seeing right now everything we knew he had in him.  He’s yet another example of why in Theo we trust.  Our farm system hasn’t failed us yet, and we know a good pitcher when we see one.  Buchholz tosses some of the salad I’ve ever seen.  His ERA of 2.45 is second in the American League and eighth in the Majors.  Wow.  He’s ten and four with only one no decision.  He’s pitched ninety-two innings and has given up only three home runs.  Phenomenal.  Absolutely phenomenal.

John Lackey: B

When we signed Lackey, I was so psyched.  I immediately started counting the automatic outs that his mean first-pitch strike would generate.  I envisioned a one-two-three punch in the rotation that would be impossible to beat.  But that’s not what I got.  His reputation as a workhorse did come through.  He pitched 113 innings in eighteen starts, which is less than Lester’s total, but he usually throws more pitches per start than Lester.  But his record is only nine and five, his ERA is 4.78, his WHIP is 1.60, and his OPP AVG is .298.  He’s given up ten home runs and has only racked up sixty-eight strikeouts.  Those are bad numbers.  They’re certainly not what any of us was expecting, that’s for sure.  In his defense, it is his first season in a Boston uniform, and we know from experience that pitchers usually perform better in their sophomore season with us, but still.  It takes good pitching and good defense to play the run prevention game.  We have the good defense.  It takes five starters to give us good pitching. Lackey is an integral part of that, but we haven’t seen him at his best.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: C

Just to be clear, that’s a C for inconsistency.  That’s his theme.  If I had to use one word to describe Dice-K as a pitcher, that would undoubtedly be it.  If he goes out and has a terrible outing, you have no reason to expect that from him in his next start.  But if he pitches extraordinarily well, like he did when he almost no-hit the Phillies, you sure can’t expect a repeat performance like that either.  Every time you think he’s turned a corner, he reverts.  Every time he reverts, you hope he’ll turn a corner.  And it just goes on and on with no progress.  His ERA is 4.56, his WHIP is 1.39, he’s six and three in twelve starts.  It’s frustrating.  Also, he’s not a good fielder.

Tim Wakefield: B-

Wakefield is obviously not performing as well this year as he did last year.  Last year, he was an All-Star.  This year, he was moved to the bullpen and is only starting now because Beckett is out.  His record is three and seven in fourteen starts.  He didn’t get his first win until May 23.  His ERA is 5.22 and his WHIP is 1.32.  In exactly one hundred innings, he’s allowed fifteen homers.  His numbers don’t reflect his flashes of brilliance.  He’s known for not receiving a ton of run support.  He could be pitching a lot better.  However, he’s an integral part of this staff, which clearly wouldn’t be the same without him.

Josh Beckett: D

He almost won the Cy Young three years ago, and should have in my opinion, and then all his dominance went out the window along with his back.  In eight starts this year, he’s one and one.  His ERA is over seven.  In about forty-five innings, he’s allowed thirty-seven earned runs, six homers, and nineteen walks.  It was painful to watch.  Then he got injured and he’s been on the DL working his way back for a while.  His recover has been proceeding nicely, and we hope when he returns, he’ll return with his health as well as his skills.  Meanwhile, he epically failed.

Felix Doubront: A

For a young kid who’s only made two Major League starts, he’s done well, and he’s shown us that the future of our rotation is in good hands.  He’s won one and barely lost the other.  His inexperience clearly shows, but so does his potential.

Scott Atchison: B

He’s old.  It shows.  But he’s still pitched decently this year.  He’s not an elite reliever, but then again we never expected him to be.

Manny Delcarmen: C+

He hasn’t been healthy; he started pitching really badly, and then they figured out he had to go on the DL.  He’s a great pitcher, so if he gets better and picks it up, he’ll help the team a lot in the second half.  But until then, he’s left much to be desired.

Hideki Okajima: C+

Same story.  He wasn’t that great, turned out he was hurting, he went on the DL, he came off the DL, and he still wasn’t that great.  I think it’s safe to say that the league has figured him out.  I don’t think we’ll see the dominance he exhibited when he first came over any time soon.  Back then his delivery, where he turns his head, was very disorienting.  It was a novelty.  Now that everyone’s seen it and got used to it, it doesn’t have the same effect anymore.  He’s still got stuff, but he needs to work on his precision.

Ramon Ramirez: B

His story is similar, plus a little better performance.  He just hasn’t been that great.

Dustin Richardson: B

He was called up to add some depth to the bullpen and to compensate for some injuries.  He’s done a fairly decent job.  He’s still a kid, so you can’t fault him for inexperience.

Robert Manuel: B

Same thing.  He was called up even more recently and has done what he can to help out in the ‘pen.  Given the circumstances of his and Richardson’s callups, they’ve both done admirably.

Daniel Bard: A

What can I say? He’s the ultimate setup man because he was built to close.  His fastball is on fire.  His ERA is under two.  His WHIP is under one.  He’s got three saves and nineteen holds.  It’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s still just a kid and has a long way to go yet, but he’s halfway there already.

Jonathan Papelbon: B+

His ERA at 3.50 is astronomically high for a closer.  There’s absolutely no disputing that fact.  His WHIP of 1.11 isn’t great for a closer either.  Especially not one of his caliber.  Nevertheless, he’s pitched thirty-six innings and converted twenty saves while only blowing three.  Of course, those three blown saves were blown pretty badly, but at least he’s only blown three.  His improvement since last year has been good.  He’s expanded his repertoire and worked on his delivery.  So despite his ERA, he’s still a fantastic closer.

Terry Francona: A

Terry Francona should be the Manager of the Year.  He’s a wizard.  It takes profound managerial skill to manage your club while eleven guys from the forty-man roster are on the disabled list, eight of whom are regular players and five of whom are starters.  He’s a genius.  He has such intuition for the game.  I’m not even sure how he’s been able to guide us through this, but it absolutely is a testament to his ability.  He’s the best there is.  This episode of injuries proves it.

Theo Epstein: A

I say, “In Theo we trust,” all the time for a reason.  In this post alone, that right there was the fourth time.  It’s because it’s true.  After April and before everyone landed on the DL, the run prevention game he’d planned showed that it was working.  In fact, it was working so well that, despite the awful April we had, we were about to steal first place away from New York. The man knows what he’s doing.  And there are also the previously mentioned examples of Beltre, Lester, and Buchholz.  He’ll get us there.

The Boston Red Sox Overall: B

The team overall gets a B because, even though most individual players received As, the team overall hasn’t been performing as well as the abilities of its individual members would suggest.  This is the direct result of two things: April and injuries.  Our April, for whatever reason, was disgusting.  We played like minor leaguers and dug ourselves into a hole that we spent the entire first half trying to get out of without succeeding.  The starting pitchers, most notably Lester and Beckett, were terrible in April, as was essentially the entire offense, which didn’t do much of anything at all that month.  But after we exited the month of April, we played like everyone expected us to play when the season started.  Our starters started dominating, our hitters started hitting, and our run prevention game started working.  We looked like a team that will go all the way.  We even put ourselves into position to seize the entire division.  Then all of the injuries to many key people happened all at once, and it’s a testament to the team’s gritty attitude, resilience, and never-say-die determination that we are where we are in spite of that.  The fact that we’re five games out of first and three games out of second after a first half with an abysmal first month and injuries to three of our most important starting bats, which is a third of the entire lineup, and two of our most important pitchers, one of whom hasn’t really been out significantly but the other of whom has been out since said abysmal April when we originally expected him to be as dominant as ever only confirms the fact that we have what it takes to win the World Series.  Because if we’ve come this far with the B team, just imagine what we can do with a healthy A team.  We’d be so good, it’s not even funny.  So we have a lot to look forward to in this second half.  There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and I have a feeling that we’ll play it very well.  Get psyched.  It’s about to be on.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

Read Full Post »

I predicted about ten days ago that we might find ourselves in first place about ten days later.  I am so psyched to say that I was absolutely right.  The key word in that prediction of course being “might,” because we’re currently tied with the Rays for second, only half a game out! Unfortunately, New York currently occupies the top spot, the key word there of course being “currently.”

We played some excellent baseball all around.  We’ve played better and better baseball every day.  The pitchers and offense lit it up.  Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to point out to all the naysayers out there that they were so incredibly wrong, it’s not even funny.  In Boston, you really do have to keep the faith.  Because, one game at a time, it all works out.

Okay.  Let’s finish up the series with Cleveland and then start with the series against the Phillies.  We ended up splitting with the Tribe; the lack of win rests squarely on the shoulders of Bard.  With two out in the ninth, Beltre smacked a two-run shot, but Bard blew his save.  It was disgusting.  We had the W in the back, and he lost it completely.  As for the Phillies series, we won it.  We whipped them completely in the first two and barely lost the last game, kicking the three games off right by handing Jamie Moyer what was probably the absolute worst start of his entire Major League career.  It was glorious.  Moyer hasn’t recorded at most three outs since 1998; we got him for nine runs before he left in the second.  Fantastic.  It’s time that dude realizes he’s forty-seven years old.  A season high eight doubles, and Lackey was on the ball; a full seven innings of two-run, no-walk ball.  Lowell hit his second home run of the season in that 12-2 victory.  The second game featured the Major League debut of Daniel Nava, an undrafted prospect from an independent league.  He steps up to the plate and crushes the first pitch of his Major League career out of the park for a grand slam.  He’s the fourth player to hit a grand slam in his first at-bat and the second to do so on his first pitch.  That was one of the most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen.  Pure gold.  Right into the bullpen.  That kid deserved it.  It was one of those moments that galvanizes an entire team.  We all needed it.  So here’s to you, Nava; congratulations and more to come! The third game was lost in the fourth, when Wake gave up four runs.  I guess Fenway really is one of Hamels’s top three favorite ballparks.  I guess I can’t really blame him, though.

Then the D-Backs came to town, and we swept them right out.  While the Drew brothers got reacquainted, Buchholz plowed through mediocrity to earn the win in the first game.  He notched eight K’s, tying his season high, but couldn’t finish the sixth inning.  It was his shortest outing since five innings against New York on May 8.  He was inefficient, firing 113 pitches, but at least he gave up only three runs.  You know you’ve got an elite pitcher on your hands when his bad day is the equal of other teams’ best pitcher’s good day.  His fastball wasn’t so great, but his offspeeds were right on.  We went on to win the second game, despite Lester’s struggle with his command.  He adjusted throughout the game, putting his adaptability on display.  He’s now on an eight-game winning streak.  His two HBPs tie a career high he’s achieved three other times, none coming since 2008.  The third game wasn’t easy for Lackey, either.  That’s three grinds in a row for our starting pitching.  As usual, it was the fastball on the glove side that gave him trouble.  But a win is a win, and a sweep is a sweep, and Buchholz, Lester, and Lackey are now the first three pitchers in the Majors to have won more than eight games this year.

We followed our sweep of the D-Backs with a sweep of the Dodgers, our way of avenging the Celtics.  Friday marked Manny’s first plate appearance at Fenway since his trade.  The response was mixed; he received ample cheers and ample boos.  Red Sox Nation always does it right; we know how to remember an integral part of two World Series championships, but we also know how to remember an unreasonable tantrum-thrower with a bad attitude.  The at-bat came in the second inning and resulted in a flyout to center field.  He did not acknowledge the crowd at all, and after Nomar’s numerous acknowledgements and obvious display of emotion during his first at-bat back with the A’s, that’s something that’s hard not to notice.  Although I have to admit that that wasn’t the highlight.  Felix Doubront started, his Major League debut, earning a win in five innings, giving up five runs (three earned) in six innings, walking two, and striking out two.  That also wasn’t the highlight.  The highlight was our seven-run fifth.  Now that’s a highlight.  The game featured homers by Beltre, Papi, and Drew, who strained his right hamstring after robbing Manny of a line drive and left the game, hopefully to return to the lineup tonight.  His homer, by the way, was a close call.  Inches determined that it fell into the Monster, not off of the monster, and a review was needed.  That was his eighth dinger of the season, the seventh use of replay since Major League Baseball allowed it, and Drew’s first at-bat since opting out of the Dodgers.  The middle game had “Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah” written all over it.  On a 1-2 count with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Pedroia sent a ninety-eight mile-per-hour fastball into right field for a walkoff single, his first career walkoff hit! Thanks to Bill Hall for starting the rally, thereby redeeming his two errors in right field.  And last but most certainly not least, the third and final win confirming the sweep.  Buchholz provided the prevention, with special appearances by Bard and Paps, who held down the fort with a hold and a save, respectively.  The final score was 2-0.  Pedroia hit a single to third base.  No, seriously.  He singled to first, stole second, and hustled to third because of Papi’s shift.

In his usual display of grit, it turns out Pedroia’s been playing with a right knee injury since May 15, which obviously jives with his slump.  Since that date, he’s batted roughly .190, his season average dropping by about forty points.  But an MRI shows he’s good to go, as his recent stunts have shown.  During this last homestand, he’s batted .484.  Youkilis exited a game with back spasms, only to return to get hit in the right elbow with a pitch and exit again.  He’s now good to go.  Scutaro got a day off due to a nerve-root injection, and he’s good to go.  Dice-K landed himself on the DL with a right forearm strain but has now been cleared to start Thursday against the Rockies.  Cameron is back to seeing time in center field.  Beckett is making great strides in his recovery from his back pain.  Hermida has five fractured left ribs and is not so good to go.  He’s on the DL.  That is one powerful right knee Beltre’s got.  Speaking of which, Ellsbury continues to serve time on the DL, now with a different fracture in his left ribs, which he probably sustained on May 23 with a diving catch.  No baseball activities for two weeks and then a slow but steady rehab.  Don’t expect to see him back before the All-Star break.  Wow.  Our outfield situation is now terrible.  Seriously.  This is why it pays to have an abundance of reserves.  Paps was reactivated from the bereavement list, just in time to prevent any more blown saves.  Nelson and Bonser were designated for assignment, Atchison was recalled, and Doubront was called up but then sent down in favor of Robert Manuel.

Well, that’s a wrap.  If we thought we were in a good place before, we’re in an even better place now.  We’re poised to take the AL East by storm.  At this point, one win is all it takes.  Lester faces the Rockies tonight at Coors Field.  Let’s do it.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »