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Posts Tagged ‘Orlando Cabrera’

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.

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I think 1-0 is both the best and worst score to lose by.  It’s the best because you know you were pretty much equal with the other team. Clearly, if only for that one game, you played a worthy opponent, and only for that one game, you may have failed to come out on top, but just barely.  Of course, it’s the worst score to lose by for exactly the same reason.  You played an opponent that proved to be your equal, so why couldn’t you be the team eking out the win? Why couldn’t you just go that extra mile? In situations like these, one run seems as insurmountable as ten.  But a loss is a loss.  And right now we have six of them.  And no wins.  For the first time since 1945 and the fourth time in our illustrious and often painful history.

I watched Lester pitch this afternoon, and I saw absolutely no trace of April badness or of any residual badness from his previous start.  I saw the Lester we wanted to see last week.  I saw a Lester who was effectively mixing four diverse pitches and varying speeds.  I saw a Lester who was dominating opposing batters with an extremely effective cut fastball.  He obviously threw his cut fastball way more than any other pitch, but he threw it for strikes somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy percent of the time.  He located it.  He locked in on the strike zone with that special blend of power and finesse that every cut fastball pitcher needs to succeed.  He got it up to ninety-three miles per hour.  He threw in some nasty curveballs, changeups, and sinkers too.  He kept his per-inning pitch counts reasonable, at most throwing twenty-five in the fourth.  His only jam occurred in the third with one out, and he sailed right out of it in eighteen pitches.  Shelley Duncan led off the seventh with a double, and Salty saved Lester from trouble with a spectacular display of defensive acumen when he dove to snare a backwards popup by Austin Kearns that was substantially obscured.  It was absolutely excellent.  Two groundouts later, Lester was out of his last inning after firing just ten pitches.  So, yes, Salty did start, and he called that game.  Between our lousy game with Tek behind the plate on Wednesday and the gem of a start that Salty called yesterday, I think it’s safe to say that the argument for Salty’s lack of pitching ability, at least with the evidence we have so far, is shaky at best.

How about Salty throwing out Carlos Santana in an attempted steal in the fourth? Beautiful.  Everything was timed perfectly.  The throw took a bounce, but Pedroia dug it out with plenty of time.  Salty’s going to be just fine.  We also caught a glimpse of Gonzalez’s defensive prowess when he dove for a ball and threw to first from his knees for the first out of that inning.

Lester’s complete line is as follows: seven innings of three-hit shutout ball with three walks and nine strikeouts after throwing 109 pitches, sixty-six for strikes.  Each one of those nine strikeouts was a sight for sore eyes.  Six swinging, three looking, a pair of back-to-back K’s in the first.  He did everything in his power and used everything in his arsenal to put us in a position to win.  You can’t really get much closer to such a position than that.

The problem was that Fausto Carmona had had a similar start.  Of course, he had to pick today to give us all flashbacks to the first half of the 2007 ALCS.  We only stroked two hits during the first seven innings, both singles, one each for Ellsbury and Scutaro.  The infuriating part was that Ellsbury was called out in the third as he was sliding to second after Crawford grounded to first.  The throw to second took Orlando Cabrera way off the bag.  The umpire called Ellsbury out on the grounds that the tag was applied before Ellsbury slid into second, but if you look at the play, you can clearly see that his foot was at the bag way before the tag was applied.  Way before.  That’s obscene and ridiculous.  The game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the eighth.  And it’s in these situations where you learn the value of a truly good reliever.  By truly good reliever, I mean a reliever who does his job: a reliever who doesn’t allow any runs.  It’s all well and good to have a reliever come in and allow one or two runs when you’ve got a lead that can handle that.  When you don’t and the game is truly on the line, there is no room for a single mistake.

Daniel Bard made that single mistake.  He walked Adam Everett.  No big deal, right? He stole second and moved to third on a sac bunt by who but Orlando Cabrera.  As long as he stayed at third, it still wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But that’s the trouble with third base when the opposition is on it: it’s only ninety feet away.  Asdrubal Cabrera laid down a squeeze bunt on a 2-1 count, and the only play Youk had was at first.  So he fired and got the out.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the third out.

We looked like we might have had something going in the ninth.  With two out in the inning, Papi worked a walk, and McDonald came in to pinch-run.  Drew singled off the closer, and the ball ended up at third.  Meanwhile, McDonald was rounding second, and he slipped.  He was tagged out while trying to scramble back to the bag.  That was the final out.  If Ellsbury and McDonald had both been safe, the Indians could have scored their run and we still would have won.

Scutaro ended up finishing the afternoon two for two.  We left seven on base and went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position.  We collected four hits to Cleveland’s three, but they’re the ones with the extra run, and as far as the books are concerned, that’s all that matters.  Bard gets the loss, which is a tremendously refreshing and gratifying display of justice.  He earned every bit of that loss.  As they say, walks will haunt.

Because Lester was so outstanding, I can’t stand the fact that Bard had to blow it with a walk.  A walk of all things.  To lose 1-0 as a result of a walk is absolutely devastating.  All-around it was the best game we’ve had so far, pitching-wise for obvious reasons and hitting-wise because we didn’t blow that many opportunities.  We just didn’t get that many opportunities in the first place, so the bad part was that we didn’t make the most of the few opportunities we did have.  So thank you, Daniel Bard, for starting 2011 with ridiculous failures of appearances.  Unbelievable.  I have nothing more to say about it.

I can’t think of a better time to go home.  We play the first of eighty-one games at Fenway tomorrow against the Yankees.  This is what we’ve been waiting for.  I would say that this would be a good time for our first win.  I want to sweep this series.  I want tomorrow to be the first day of my 2011 baseball life, and I want it to be a memorable one in a positive way.  I want the Yankees to know who they’re dealing with, and I want to sit back, relax, and watch the final out with a sense of immense satisfaction.  Lackey is pitching.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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Wow.  I don’t even know where to start.  Just, wow.  Okay.  I should probably go in order so my simultaneous excitement and relief don’t take over completely.

As usual, I’ll start with pitching.  Wake gave up six runs on seven hits with five walks and three K’s over six innings.  He threw 117 pitches and told Tito that, if necessary, he could keep on going.  He basically ground it out to save the bullpen.  After the dismal shifts some of our starters have turned in recently, that was a huge breath of fresh air.  As was the outcome of the game, but like I said, we’ll get to that.  Wake’s pitch count was heavy on the knuckleball, which didn’t find the strike zone as often as it usually does; he had quite a few that were low or high and to the left.  Of course, horizontal and vertical movement was evenly distributed for most of his pitches, which gave them their traditional extra “umph,” if you will.  Anyway, the point is, he labored, and by the time he exited, we were down, 2-6.

The bullpen was fantastic.  Between Delcarmen, Okajima, and Paps, they allowed one hit and four walks with two K’s.  Okay, maybe the four walks weren’t fantastic; in fact, if they keep allowing walks, it’ll become downright disturbing, but at least they didn’t allow any runs, and at this point you have to pick your battles.

Thefts need to be talked about.  The running must be stopped.  It must be stopped.  Wake took responsibility, V-Mart took responsibility, but it doesn’t matter who takes responsibility; responsibility shouldn’t have to be taken because this shouldn’t be happening.  If you look at a box score for this game, you’ll see Youk’s double play under our column and a gigantic paragraph of nothing but steals under their column.  They stole nine bases against us.  Nine! Newsflash: this is not a track and field event! Opposing baserunners should not be capable of swiping nine bags! Andrus and Cruz stole three each, Borbon stole one, and Guerrero, even with his age and knees, stole two.  That’s just rubbing salt in it.  This is a legitimate problem.  Tito has already made it a high priority for improvement.  Indeed, it’s something we were focusing on during Spring Training; we just very apparently have yet to see results.  We of all fan bases should know that a stolen base can turn into a deciding run real quickly.

Okay.  Now for the good stuff: the offense.  V-Mart singled Drew home in the first.  Hermida hit a solo shot to deep right in the fourth, thereby continuing to impress.  Seriously, I don’t think any one of us thought he’d be hitting balls out at this rate.  I’m not even sure people thought he’d be hitting balls out at all.  But he is, and it’s great to have that much depth on the bench.  And that, as we will soon see, is exactly my point.  So, at that time we were down by four.  Reddick plated two on a fielding error in the sixth.  (Reddick and McDonald were both called up for outfield depth; Ellsbury and Cameron were both placed on the DL.  Thankfully, Ellsbury’s stint is retroactive.)

And now, the penultimate moment you’ve all been waiting for.  Darnell McDonald hit a two-run homer to tie it in the eighth.  That home run was hit to left center, one of the deepest parts of the park.  And that home run was phenomenal for two reasons: it tied the game, like I said, and it was evidence of the power coming down the pipe in the future.  And the best part was that he was pinch-hitting.  By the way, the last in a Boston uniform to hit one out during his first plate appearance was Orlando Cabrera on August 1, 2004.  Gives you chills, doesn’t it?

Anyway, that brings us to the ninth.  Youk singled.  Hall sacrificed him to third.  Lowell was walked intentionally.  Tek walked.  Beltre popped out.  And McDonald stepped up to the plate.  He singled.  Youk came home.  McDonald was mobbed.  Game over.  7-6.  And that, my friends, is how you get it done.  That is a Win right there.  A Win with a capital W.  When you need a win, you do what needs to be done to get it.  (Which is why Tito felt he had to pinch-hit Lowell for Papi.) Our losing streak is officially snapped.  Twelve years in the minor leagues for McDonald; he deserves this one.  This is the first time since the run batted in became an official statistic in 1920 that we’ve had a game-ending RBI hit from a debut.  This, ladies and gentlemen, was huge.  It may come to pass that this might have been one of the most important games in the entire 2010 season.  We needed it, and we got it.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

To be honest, I saw glimmers of our old selves across the board.  Youk went two for four with a walk (they fed him breaking balls almost the entire night), V-Mart went three for four, and Hermida went two for three.  Pedroia, Reddick, and Tek all hit doubles.  Pedroia flied out twice before hitting his double, so he may not have made constructive contact during every at-bat but he was reading the ball well just the same.  And of course McDonald went two for two.  We’re still waiting on Beltre, Scutaro, Papi, and Drew.  They didn’t shift Drew, which was interesting.  They did pitch him away, though, which is exactly how the Rays like to handle him.  But it’s a start.  It’s definitely more of a start than we’ve seen so far.  Here’s hoping it continues and only keeps getting better.

But it’s much, much more than that.  The type of win that was, a walkoff courtesy of an unlikely hero, is exactly the kind of win that historically makes us rise to the occasion.  I mean, you could cut the relief and emotion on that field last night with a knife.  That was an extremely much-needed and much-wanted and much-deserved win.  That’s one serious understatement, but it’s all I can say.  One win won’t solve everything, but it’s reminded us who we are and what we can do.  Beckett takes the hill tonight.  Let’s make this last.

SB Nation

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Cutting to the chase yet again, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were both revealed to be on the list of the roughly one hundred baseball players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drug use in 2003.  Neither will be punished by the league because suspensions were only introduced in 2004.  But this season just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it.

Isn’t it funny how the New York Times is always the one to break these stories? And with a decidedly anti-Red Sox bent, too.  “Now, players with Boston’s championship teams of 2004 and 2007 have also been linked to doping.” Like we couldn’t figure that out from the headline.  And isn’t it funny how, out of one hundred-plus names, these were the only two that were leaked? To a New York newspaper? On the front page? Mere moments before game time? When David Ortiz was scheduled to be in the lineup? It’s just strange, is all I’m saying.

The first thing I’d like to say is that the tests in 2003 were called for by Bud Selig to determine the percentage of baseball players who were using.  The results were supposed to be destroyed.  They weren’t; they were supposed to remain anonymous.  And that’s the kicker.  You can’t just release only a handful of the one-hundred-plus names on the list; it’s completely unfair.  If you release some, you have to release all.  Not doing so allows unclean players to masquerade as clean and point fingers to the unclean when really they’re all in the same boat.  And it’s deceiving; it makes it easy for people to forget that at that time this was prolific.  Furthermore, according to Nomar, because the test was anonymous and only for the purposes of determining whether testing was necessary, many players intentionally refused to be tested, thereby allowing themselves to be associated with positive results, in order to push the number of positive players over the top, which would force Bud Selig to implement tests.  This is definitely something to be kept in mind when future revelations of names are made.  Unless that’s not altogether true.  And in this day and age, you can’t be too sure.  Either way, the point is that, as it stands now, the list totally irrelevant.  Just sayin’.

Usually in these situations, the logic of choice would be that of superficial fairness.  Yes, it looks like Manny Ramirez was possibly David Ortiz were taking steroids at the time.  (I’ll explain the “possibly” in a moment.) Just like Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez.  And that by taking steroids, Manny and Papi actually evened the playing field.  The Yankees had cheaters on their team.  We had cheaters on our team.  So we still won, and we were still the better team.  Plain and simple.

But I’m not going to employ that logic, because I am a member of Red Sox Nation, and I root for a team that deserves more than just the cheap, dirty, easy way out.  When the first news of Manny Ramirez broke, I said that neither the 2004 nor the 2007 World Series victories are tainted, and I stand by that.  Yes, it looks like Manny Ramirez and possibly David Ortiz were taking steroids at the time.  But they were only two on a team of forty.  To taint those two victories is to besmirch the rest of the team without due cause.  True, they played an enormous part in both, but without the team they would’ve gotten nowhere.  David Ortiz hit walk-off home runs in the 2004 playoffs. In order for those home runs to win the game, other runs had to have been scored and plated by other players.  Like Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller, Pokey Reese, Trot Nixon, Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts, and Kevin Millar, to name a few.  What about them? They played more of a part in those wins than just two guys.  So when Yankee fans, or anyone else for that matter, try to void 2004, they’re just grasping.  Men don’t win championships.  Teams win championships.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are not about  to let the superficial fan or the weak of heart slander two entire teams of upstanding ballplayers.

Now, that begs the question of who else on the 2004 team tested positive, but we have to work with the information available.  And I can guarantee you right now that every member of that team did not dope.  Doping had to have been an isolated incident, done on an individual basis.  It wasn’t something that ran rampant in the clubhouse.  We didn’t have a trainer injecting people or a supplier doling out pills.  The clubhouse, then, was clean, and as a team, we won honorably.  As a team, we were clean because we did not condone this behavior.  And we still don’t.

And now we get to discuss the “possibly.” David Ortiz admitted that, when he was a young man in the Dominican Republic just breaking into the game of baseball, he’d started buy protein shakes without really knowing for sure what they contained.  It’s possible that they contained PEDs and he just didn’t bother to check.  There’s no excuse for that.  But there is a difference between that and the actions of Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.  It’s possible that he tested positive in 2003, figured it must have something to do with an ingredient in the shake, and stopped drinking them, which coincides with the fact that starting in 2004 he tested clean, a fact we have records to prove.  And the plausibility of this possibility is actually confirmed by the fact that Bronson Arroyo has publicly stated that he was taking androstenedione and amphetamines.  He stopped taking the andro because he found out it was laced with the steroid Winstrol due to “lax production standards.” Apparently, back then, it wasn’t that rare to take something without bothering to check what was in it.  (Arroyo stopped taking the andro in 2004 and the greenies in 2006, when each was respectively banned.) Manny Ramirez is another matter entirely, but we can’t pass judgment on David Ortiz.  Not yet anyway.  Not after he issued a public statement through the Red Sox during which he said he knows nothing, wants to find out all he can, and will explain the situation to the public as soon as he has more information.  This is not the usual skulking off that guilty users practice.  He’s being responsible; the first thing he did was confirm with the Players Association that the report is true.  This is exactly in the style of Big Papi, always open with the media and up-front with the fans.  We owe him our patience while he figures this whole thing out.

Believe it or not, that was the easy stuff.  Deep down, we all know the wins aren’t tainted.  We all know that, as both a team and a clubhouse, we’re clean and honorable.  We know it, we believe it, and it’s easy to explain why, and I’ve done that.  Now comes the hard part.   The part where you realize how painful it was to discover this, how frustrated you were to read it, especially on the front page of a New York newspaper.   I won’t lie; it hurt bad.   And if it comes to pass that he was ingesting PEDs a-la Bonds and A-Rod, I’ll be even more disappointed in David Ortiz.  But we’ll cross that bridge when and if we come to it.  As it is, it stabs you right in the heart.  It makes you angry that he could be so ignorant and stupid as to get caught up in all of that, and it frustrates you even more because you know you can’t judge yet since you don’t have all the details.  And it makes you sad.  But what makes you even sadder is that there are people out there who’ll try to take away from you what you’ve rightfully earned, based on the mistakes of two misguided men.  Whether one of them acted with a certain intent or not.

If there’s one thing we have to take away from this, it’s that it’s wrong to let unclean players give the clean a bad name by hiding among them.  Similarly, it’s wrong to accuse the clean of being unclean just because a realistic outcome could maybe, possibly, sort of be construed to fit an anomalous behavior.  That’s slander.  When the press does it, it’s libel.  And it’s illegal.  Just to give you an idea of how grave an offense defamation can be.  Red Sox Nation is better than that.  The Royal Rooters raised us better than that.

I was very surprised to hear about this.  I know, I know, technically this shouldn’t have surprised me.  Maybe I relate too much to the pre-steroid era, or maybe I’m stubbornly non-cynical; I don’t know.  Whatever it is, there are things I do know.  I know that 2004 ended the Curse of the Bambino and that 2007 reminded us it wasn’t just a dream.  I know that the retired numbers hanging on the right field roof deck represent players who couldn’t be paid to look at a PED.  I know that the men wearing our uniforms now know what not to do.  Behavior like this doesn’t fly in Boston.  Never has.  Never will.  And finally, I know that when I look at a Red Sox jersey, at the World Series trophies, and the youth of the 2009 club, I’m looking at things and people I can respect.  Clubs like ours have learned from their predecessors’ mistakes, and the things they will achieve without the aid of PEDs will be even better than anything that could be achieved with them, because of their absence.

So, that’s that.  I’m not naive.  I just refuse be as cynical and detached as many other baseball fans and sports writers are being.  The situation’s awful, but it is what it is.  Hopefully, and I mean hopefully, this’ll be the last such issue I’ll have to address.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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With a little help from Boston Dirt Dogs for that headline.  Clay Buchholz made his first Major League start of the season last night, and if you ask anyone in that organization, they’ll tell you he was ready to join the rotation the day after Spring Training.  But we found ourselves with a surplus of arms, so we sent him down the minute his ERA touched 1.00.  Such are our high standards in Boston.  Of course, the irony is that now we’re in a position where we could use another bat, not another pitcher.  Depending on Lowell and Lowrie when they return, though, so maybe not.  We’ll see.  Anyway, not the point.

One of the best things about last night’s game was that it was played.  After the home run derby and the All-Star Game and two days off, it felt so good to watch baseball.  I also liked the fact that it was a win.  But for our future, the most important thing about it was that Buchholz looked fantastic.  He looked ready to jump to the rotation tomorrow.  I’m just glad all that time in Triple-A actually paid off.  It has to be difficult to throw a no-hitter then have a horrible season and be sent down, because you’re thinking if you can throw a no-hitter, how hard could pitching in the Majors possibly be? Hard.  Trust me.  But Buchholz shone yesterday.  Five and two-thirds innings, one run on four hits, three walks, three K’s.  Short but really sweet.  He mixed his pitches effectively; he threw about fifty percent four-seams and the rest off-speeds.  He ranged from nintey-six miles per hour to eighty-one.  And you know how nasty his off-speed stuff is.  Especially his changeup.  I could watch this kid throw changeups all day.  The key was that he was consistent with his control, and he just walked all over Toronto.  He was optioned back down after the game, and the only reason he was pitching in the first place was to give Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield, our pitching All-Stars, extra rest before starting the second half.  Hey, sometimes the traveling wears on you.

The offense really didn’t have a problem handling Ricky Romero.  Ricky Romero was handled and re-handled. Pedroia scored twice, and you have to love his defense.  Third inning with a two-run lead and a man on first, there was a bullet hit right at him.  He dropped to his knees, caught it, and threw to Green who threw to Youk for the inning-ending double play.  Youk got the whole thing started with a two-run jack in the first, his seventeenth of the year, into the left-field seats.  Oh, and played first.  You read right.  Youk played first last night, because ladies and gentlemen, Lowell is back, and he is back with a vengeance.  He went two for four and made a throwing error but we’ll forgive him for that.  Nice.  Papi went two for four with a double and drove in two.  The final score was 4-1.

The bullpen pitched very well.  Daniel Bard struck out three of the four batters he faced and earned a hold for his service.  Okajima also earned a hold.  Paps earned a save, and when I say earned I mean earned.  He threw eight pitches, six of them strikes, to finish the ninth.  I like where this is going.

The Red Sox and Jason Bay have decided not to talk about a contract until the season is over after talks during the All-Star break were unsuccessful.  This, I don’t like.  I’m very confident that in the end a deal will be cut, but I don’t like this hanging in the breeze.  He’s a five-tool guy, he loves it here, and he plays very well here.  A deal will be cut.  Bay himself said he feels better after these failed talks than after the failed talks during Spring Training.  Somehow, Theo is making progress.  In Theo we trust.  Shortstop issues notwithstanding.  Which brings me to my next point.  That was the bad news, that we didn’t lock up Bay right away.

The good news is that we’ve finally designated Julio Lugo for assignment! It happened on Friday.  He has $13.6 million left but at this point I think that money’s better spent paying him not to play than paying him to strike out and make errors.  Harsh but true.  It also has to do with roster space.  Aaron Bates was optioned to make room for Lowell.  Buchholz was optioned back down to make room for Jed Lowrie.  And with Lowrie back and Green in full swing, Lugo doesn’t have a spot.  It’s no secret that, if Theo Epstein does have a weakness, it’s at the shortstop position.  He traded Nomar for Orlando Cabrera, which was good.  He let Orlando Cabrera walk in favor of Edgar Renteria, which was fine until his defense started declining, so we traded him.  Then it was Alex Gonzalez, who flashed leather left and right but did nothing at the plate.  So then we signed Lugo, who was supposed to be our leadoff man.  We all know how that went.  We need both at the same time: defense and offense.  And we’ve waited and waited for a shortstop who does both at the same time, and he’s arrived.  His name is Jed Lowrie.  And he comes from in-house.  And he’s back.  And I’m psyched.  And as far as Theo Epstein is concerned, we have the money to pay for this if he can’t trade Lugo, and we forgive him.  He’s made two mistakes: Gagne and Lugo.  After all the good he’s done, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we can let this one go.

And last but not least, Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson are getting ready to enter the Hall of Fame.  They’re the first left fielders inducted in twenty years.

So there you go.  It was just a great day and a great game.  We’re now on a four-game winning streak.  We’re well-rested.  We start the second half three games up on the Yankees.  We have Penny throwing against Marc Rzepczynski, which should be a pretty good matchup.  I like it.

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Spring Training is boring.  There, I said it.  I mean look, half the team is playing in the World Baseball Classic, there are no more transactions to be made, and the Spring Training games are, you know, Spring Training games: the starters come in, do their thing for an inning or two, and then leave to make way for the prospects.  So as long as we see that everyone on the team is getting some playing time, and everyone’s healthy, and the prospects are developing nicely, there’s really not much else going on this time of year.  Except getting stoked for the season of course, but that’s still a few weeks away.  After a long winter, the wait is agonizing.

Some injuries, as usual.  Brad Penny had to halt his last bullpen session but Masterson’s got it covered.  Drew flew back to Boston to get an injection around his spine to relieve some back discomfort.  That’s a little more concerning, but nothing we can’t handle.  When we signed him we knew he was going to spend his fair share of time on the DL, so we’re equipped to take that into account and handle it.  And after his stint he’ll be fine.  We know that because in the days leading up to the injection he lit up batting practice.  So is it possible that there’s something wrong with him? Absolutely.  Will it really affect us that badly? Absolutely not.  Mikey Lowell’s recovery is progressing very nicely; he’s scheduled to DH on Tuesday against the Orioles.  It’ll be his first game since Game 3 of the ALDS.  Speaking of Mikey Lowell, some notes on the future: I see Youk moving to third to make room for Lars Anderson at first.  (Lars Anderson, by the way, is slated to be the first home-grown power hitter we’ve had in a while.)

The A’s will be finalizing a one-year deal with Nomar soon, which will come right after the team signed Orlando Cabrera.  I’m telling you, Nomar and O-Cabs can’t seem to get away from each other when it comes to trades.  And guess who finally found employment? Manny Ramirez.  The Dodgers signed him to a two-year, $45 million contract with a no-trade clause and the right of Ramirez to void the contract after the first year if he thinks he can make more with another team.  Finally.  After four months of Scott Boras not understanding that he has absolutely no leverage in trying to unload this man, the man finally finds a deal with the Dodgers after apparently “suffering” in Boston.  You know what? Manny Ramirez and Los Angeles deserve each other.  And that, my friends, is the end of it.

More on the A-Rod front.  Why am I not surprised.  He wishes Jose Reyes were leading off for the Yankees.  Apparently he forgot that the Yankees already have a shortstop and that this shortstop is supposedly his best friend.  Classic A-Rod.  Oh yeah, and he’s having hip surgery tomorrow and should miss six to nine weeks of the season with more serious surgery to follow after the season is over.  In the interest of being a good sport, I’ll say it’s always unfortunate when a ballplayer gets injured.  Other than that, no comment.

Finally, some words of praise from the A’s and also said Skankees.  We’ve all read Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and if you haven’t I strongly and highly recommend it; it’s really an outstanding book.  Anyway, here’s what A’s GM Billy Beane has to say about our front office:

One of the reasons the Red Sox have gained on the Yankees is because the foundation of their organization is run like a very successful small market, yet they have the ability to retain their premium players in their prime.  When a club does that, it knocks the wind out of not just their rivals, but also small-market competitors.

See? It’s not just Red Sox Nation; everyone else around baseball is also aware of the fact that Theo Epstein is a genius.  Even Brian Cashman:

The Red Sox are incredibly bright.  They have the best of both worlds…When you look at Boston, there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to win.  The fact of the matter is you arguably have the brightest front office with lots of resources and an ownership group that supports it.

Welcome to my world.

In other news, the Bruins traded Petteri Nokelainen to the Ducks for Steve Montador.  Two losses and a win since last weekend, one of those losses unfortunately coming at the hands of the Flyers.  Great.  Just great.  The playoffs are right around the corner, and now is not the time to fall apart.  On the upside we’re on top of the League again, one point ahead of the Sharks, who are now tied for first in the Western Conference with the Red Wings.  I’m not worried.  We’ll get it done in the end.

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Wow. Where should I start? We sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pirates so that we could get Jason Bay from the Pirates. Craig Hansen could throw hard but the truth is that he’s been inconsistent throughout his Major League career without showing signs of improvement. Brandon Moss was a good outfielder with a decent bat. We have four outfielders right now and could use a fifth. Last season we had Bobby Kielty. Now that Moss is gone, who’s going to fill that role? So that’s something that should probably be addressed.

As for Manny’s role in this, it’s complicated. Downsides: he’s Manny Ramirez. The combination of Ortiz and Ramirez strikes fear into the hearts of the best of pitchers, and for good reason. Even by himself Manny is a formidable opponent. His offensive production is through the roof, and his bat has been instrumental in our postseason success. He’s very well acquainted with Fenway’s left field. The angles and corners over there are not easy to play. We know that because we’ve watched opposing left fielders look like fools in there. Manny is an expert at reading the wall and judging which balls will be off the wall and which won’t. He gets rid of the ball very quickly, too. He also has an unheard-of work ethic, watching tape for hours, showing up before and after games to practice hitting, always developing drills and training and studying the game. Plus, the whole Manny being Manny aspect did have some positive features. He relaxed the clubhouse a bit, contributed his own character and flair to the team, and basically befriended the entire lineup and eased the pressure on everybody with his talents as a ballplayer. And he’s been a fixture in Boston for 7.5 years. That’s a long time.

Upsides: just look at his track record over the past month or so. In that span, he’s shoved a teammate, manhandled a 61-year-old traveling secretary, accused the principal owner of his team of being dishonest, removed himself from the lineup twice due to knee soreness undetectable by MRI, failed to run out long grounders that could’ve been turned into hits and possibly runs, and stated publicly that he’s tired of his team and that his team doesn’t deserve a player like him. These are not the Manny being Manny moments from past years. This isn’t Manny running on the field with an American flag to celebrate his becoming a citizen. This isn’t Manny doing his usual fooling around. This is big. This is a blatant lack of effort and a complete and total offense to teammates. And when something like this happens, it’s hard to ignore. As I said, since the Manny rumors have surfaced, the team’s performance has taken a nosedive, even at home. That doesn’t happen unless there’s a major distraction, and that’s what Manny had finally become: a distraction too intolerable for the current course of action that Terry Francona and the Red Sox front office had engaged in for years, which was basically looking the other way. No amount of slugging could take away the fact that he was disturbing the clubhouse. You can’t have a team full of do-or-die guys and then a guy like Manny. After a point you just can’t. As Curt Schilling said, you can’t have players like Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek, who play through pain and keep their soreness to themselves and live and die with every at-bat, and a player like Manny Ramirez, who’s one of the best there is but who toys with the team and takes himself out of the lineup just to prove a point. Not giving your all is something that doesn’t fly in Boston. In addition to all of this, Manny is aging, can not for the life of him run the bases, and is now in the National League, which means the only times he’d be able to do any damage against us is during Interleague and the World Series, if the Dodgers manage to get there.

You might say that the trade was a mistake because Jason Bay could never hope to fill Manny’s shoes. You might say the Red Sox should’ve sat tight and kept Manny. But at what cost? Either we lose games and keep someone who, while one of the best ballplayers in the Major Leagues, is an unhealthy distraction, or we win or lose games with a new guy who’s younger, faster, and having an offensively comparable season. Manny wasn’t going to play baseball in Boston forever. At the very least, he’d eventually have to retire. Sooner or later, we would’ve had to secure a future for our left field beyond him. We’ve just had to do it sooner than expected.

This trade has proven to be a disappointment for me. I am disappointed in Manny for not being able to keep his head on during a three-way pennant race. I am disappointed in Manny because of his flagrant misbehavior due to a contract dispute and whatever other baggage he might have. I am disappointed that he couldn’t just put himself aside for the sake his teammates, some of whom have been with him for the majority of his years in Boston, and help us win a World Series. Usually, when a veteran has played in a Red Sox uniform for the last time, I’m more sad than angry to see him go. But thanks to Manny Ramirez and his recent displays, I’m more angry than sad.

With something like this, we’ve got to trust. Nomar was traded right in the middle of the 2004 season for Orlando Cabrera, someone new who like Jason Bay had to adjust to his teammates and his new city. But he did it and then helped us win a World Series, in historic and spectacular fashion to boot. There’s no reason to think that the same thing won’t happen here. Perhaps the clubhouse needed some sort of invigorating force. One thing’s for sure: we can finally move forward. Red Sox Nation and I will no doubt feel like something’s missing when we look to left field and see no dreadlocks, no big smile, no ridiculousness going on. And we’ll all feel like we’ve lost something valuable the first time we see Manny Ramirez dressed in a Dodgers uniform. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss the man. I was a huge fan of Manny Ramirez, and he did so much for our team and therefore Boston. There was always that knowledge when he came to the plate that with one swing he could win us a ballgame, that since he was young it was clear that he was born to play ball. He was one of the greats. He could’ve been even greater. But I guess we have to let this one go.

I still say Manny had no idea how good he had it. He’s going to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fans in Los Angeles are very different from the fans in Boston. The fans in LA like to see spectacles like Manny high-fiving a fan before throwing a caught ball back into play. So in that sense he’ll be happy. But fans in LA also tend to leave the stadium at around the seventh inning. Let’s face it; Manny was an icon in Boston. For 7.5 years he’s been loved by a city, a region, and a Nation. He’s won two championships and hit five hundred home runs wearing Red Sox letters. Will he really be happy going from baseball god to guy in left field who does funny stuff for fans who leave during the seventh inning?

Well, he’ll have to be. He wanted out, and now he’s out. He’s Joe Torre’s problem now. That’ll be interesting. I can’t wait to see how Torre handles Manny’s first episode. He’ll also be reunited with Nomar, Derek Lowe, and Bill Mueller, who works in the organization. In the meantime, I’m anxious to check out the new guy and see how quickly he can make the adjustment.

By the way, the Yankees landed Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth. The Yankees could’ve used the extra pitcher, but instead they wanted the 38-year-old catcher who’s batting .295 with five homers and 32 RBIs. I’m just saying.

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