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Posts Tagged ‘Patrice Bergeron’

Well, we’re more or less right back to where we started.  We’re only half a game out of first place.  This past two-week stretch didn’t go nearly as well as I’d hoped; I thought that Interleague would power us way past the Yanks for good.  Apparently not.  But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s recap.

After we swept the Yankees, we played the Jays, who we also swept before heading into a day off.  We won the first game by a score of 5-1; Buchholz pitched a stellar outing and the first third of the lineup delivered in a big way.  We absolutely crushed them the following day, 16-4; Lackey’s mediocrity didn’t matter in the face of eighteen hits, five of which were for extra bases and two of which were three-run homers, one each for Tek and Papi.  The 14-1 series closer was just as decisive; Lester pitched eight innings of one-run ball, and we hit six doubles and four homers.

We completely failed to carry any of that momentum into our series opener with the Rays; if only we could have transferred some runs from those games to that one.  We were shut out, four-zip.  Beckett returned the following day to pitch a complete-game shutout, his finest performance of the season, hands down.  In fact, take away a ridiculous and nonsensical hit down the third-base line that was barely a hit at all, and he’d have had a perfect game.  Not a no-hitter.  A perfect game.  He did not issue a single walk during those nine innings.  He was absolutely remarkably brilliant.  It was the first one-hitter of his career, and in retrospect, that was one of the most infuriating hits I have ever witnessed in my entire baseball-watching life.  I really can’t stress that enough.  We ended up winning the series; Buchholz pitched a short but ultimately sweet five innings, and our four runs were enough to handle the Rays’ two.

We then went home to take on the Brewers.  We crushed, 10-4; Lackey, Gonzalez, and Papi delivered solid performances.  We lost the next day, 4-2; Lester just didn’t have it.  But we crushed in the rubber game, scoring four times as many runs to win it, 12-3; Wake pitched masterfully for eight innings.

Then the Padres came by and we crushed again, 14-5.  Andrew Miller started that one; he didn’t pick up the win, but he did have some flashes of brilliance.  We lost the series by dropping the last two.  First, we lost, 5-4; Aceves didn’t have it.  Then, we lost, 5-1; Lackey really didn’t have it.  He didn’t even make it through the fourth.

Then we had another off day, and we are now in Pittsburgh playing the Pirates.  On Friday, we lost again, 3-1.  Lester didn’t have it, and the lineup was obviously out of whack due to the fact that we were in a National League park, so the pitchers had to hit.  On Saturday, we lost again, 6-4, despite three long balls.  Thankfully we preserved a shred of dignity on Sunday with a win, 4-2, to close out the series.  Miller pitched decently, and we only had one extra-base hit; naturally it helped that the Pirates made four errors, since all but one of our runs were unearned.

Youk and Beckett got sick.  Drew has a bruised left eye.  Lowrie, Crawford, and Buchholz hit the DL.  Jenks is still on it.  Paps was given a two-game suspension as the resolution of the brawl earlier this month.  Gonzalez tallied his one thousandth career hit, a triple against the Brewers.  Ellsbury garnered American League Player of the Week honors.  Our nine-game hitting streak that ended with our series opener with the Rays was the longest winning streak in the Major Leagues to date.

When we won, we played really, really well.  It’s just that we shouldn’t have lost to those Interleague teams.  The health issues are concerning, but the best you can do is hope they’ll end quickly so that everything can return to normal and we can get back to steamrolling over the opposition.  Right now, we’re in a good place.  I don’t think we’ll be phased by any amount of health issues after what happened last year.  Would I have liked to head into Interleague firing on all cylinders? Obviously.  But at least we’d been playing easier teams.  Now, though, we’ve got the Phillies.  That series will obviously be pitched as a World Series preview.  More importantly, we’re just going to have to keep our heads down and play our game.  You have to win first in order to get to October.

In other news, for the first time since 1972, the Boston Bruins have brought the Stanley Cup to what with this championship has truly become, in every sense and on every front, Title Town.  On June 15, 2011, down to Game Seven, the Boston Bruins became the champions of the entire National Hockey League.  The final score was 4-0.  A thirty-seven-save shutout by Tim Thomas, winner of the 2011 Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophies.  Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron each scored two goals, the last of which was an empty-netter.  There was a victory parade.  There was an appearance on the Today Show and at Fenway Park.  But it really started to sink in when Zdeno Chara, winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award, hoisted the cup.  He picked it up like it weighed nothing, and you knew every single Boston fan could see it, and not because he’s so tall.  To see that cup being held by a Bruin in Vancouver was just incredible.  It was at once unbelievable and thoroughly believable.  The glory-basking is epic.  It was one of the greatest moments in any Boston sports fan’s Boston sports life.  Congratulations to the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins! Welcome home to Title Town!

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on the home stretch of home stretches.  Truck Day is two days away.  Tuesday, February 8, the equipment goes down, and we have a week until the pitchers are catchers are off.  No matter how much snow is on the ground, spring is definitely now in the air.  I mean, it’s Truck Day.  It’s the light at the end of the cold, wintry tunnel.  I see that eighteen-wheeler pulling out of the players’ parking lot on Van Ness and I know I’ve only got a number of weeks until Opening Day.  Two more days.  Just two more days.  We’ve made it this far.  We got this.

And now, a word on the brass.  In October, a handful of executives went on a Listening Tour of New England, where they basically drove around listening to fans air their grievances.  On Monday, they sat down for a Q&A session to listen to more airing of grievances.  But here’s the kicker: they actually listen.  We have more Saturday day games and additional food options as a result, and we do not (I repeat: we do not) have tiered ticket pricing.  (That’s where the brass charges more for Yankee games than they do for Jays games, for example.  Not that it would matter.  Who really gets their tickets at face-value these days anyway.  But still, it’s the gesture that counts.) It just seems like there’s always a new reason to be proud of being a Sox fan.  Having a brass that actually cares is a big one.

Did I mention that Tuesday is Truck Day? I’ll mention it again: Tuesday is Truck Day! Finally!

In other news, the Bruins did crush, in multiple ways and at multiple times.  We bullied our way to a win over Carolina on Tuesday, 3-2.  But that wasn’t nearly as exciting as our game with the Stars on Thursday.  Which we won, by a 6-3 beating of a final score.  But wait; it gets better.  Let’s consider the first half of the  first period by itself.  In total, that half of a period featured forty-four penalty minutes, four fights, four goals, one shot off the post, one pulled goalie, and one replaced glass panel.  One second into the game, Greg Campbell had it out with Steve Ott.  One second into the next faceoff, Shawn Thornton had it out with Krys Barch.  Two seconds into the next faceoff, Adam McQuaid had it out with Brian Sutherby.  Thirty-five seconds into the game, Lucic scored.  Forty-five seconds after that, Bergeron scored.  So Andrew Raycroft was pulled for Kari Lehtonen.  And three minutes and fifty-one seconds into the game, Ference had it out with Adam Burrish.  Bergeron scored his second and final goal of the game nine minutes and thirty-five seconds into it.  And that was the first half of the first period.  Yeah.  It was awesome.  That is something I can’t say about our game yesterday, which we lost to the Sharks, despite having outshot them, twenty-six to eighteen.  We play the Habs on Wednesday.  Let’s win.

Let’s Go Red Sox

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Now that’s the Josh Beckett I’m talking about! (And hopefully that’s the one who signed the contract extension.) Last night, Josh Beckett made the Royals look like, well, the Royals.

Three runs on nine hits with a walk and four K’s over seven innings.  I would’ve liked to see less hits and runs allowed, but after his Opening Day performance, I will take what I can get and I will like it.  That was his longest outing yet at Kauffman Stadium.  Essentially he cruised.  He got in trouble once, in the seventh, when there were runners at the corners with nobody out.  But he was able to exchange a run for a double play, which reminded all of us how nice it is to have stability at shortstop.  Also in the seventh, Beckett almost went down.  DeJesus hit a line drive up the middle that hit Beckett in the in the back of the head.  That was so scary, for an instant I didn’t even notice that a run was scoring; I just wanted to see Beckett still standing.  But he was pitching so well that, if the seventh had been an easy inning, we probably would’ve seen him come back out for the eighth.

Overall, he essentially cruised.  He had a stretch where he retired seven in a row.  He threw seventy-three pitches through the first six innings.  That’s a really low pitch count.  And his stuff was so much better yesterday than it was on Opening Day.  Unlike that performance, during which he relied too heavily on his fastball, he used all of his pitches effectively last night, mixed and located them well, and threw them for strikes.  And he had some really nice movement on his fastballs.  He’ll take the win.  Say hello to the first decision for a starter this season.

By the way, I agree with Jerry Remy; Podsednik’s swing in the third inning was awful.  That was just disgusting.  That was a desperate grasp of a swing.  If you look up the word “pathetic” in the dictionary, you see a picture of that swing.  He was looking to make any kind of contact whatsoever, but not only was he being defensive, he was also way out in front.  Very ugly.  That’s what a Beckett cut fastball does.

The final score was 8-3, and there you have your offense.  One of the things I loved about last night’s game was that it afforded no opportunity for naysayers to refute the offense’s skill based on Kansas City’s usual pitching.  Usually Kansas City is terrible.  It’s one of those teams you look forward to playing so you can beat up on them and gain a boost in the standings.  Not so last night, because last night Greinke was on the mound.  He’s no walk in the park; he throws any pitch in any count, including that slider of his.  And yet we still took him for four runs, enough to give us the lead by the time Beckett left.  (Presumably, as the season continues, those four runs would’ve represented a more significant lead, provided the starter doesn’t allow almost the same amount.) And not only that; Francona also called out the reserves, so Tek, Lowell, and Hermida started.  And none of them disappointed.

Seeing Lowell and Tek start was a sight for sore eyes.  You’re talking about one of the game’s classiest guys, who said he’ll probably retire after this season to spend more time with his family, by the way, and one of the game’s greatest team leaders, both on and off the field.  It was good to see them, period, and it was good to see them playing so well.  Both of them looked like they haven’t lost a step.  Lowell was great in the field; he made a nifty play in the fourth when a ball hit by Butler propelled his gloved hand behind him, so he turned a three-sixty and fired to first.  Also, to make room for Hermida in left, Ellsbury started the game in center.  That was great to see, and it’s good that he’ll have chances this season to return to that position, being that his skill set was made for it and all.

Okay.  Basically, in the fifth inning, Hermida and Tek went yard back-to-back.  Those were hit on hanging curveballs.  As a side note, the most home runs Hermida ever hit in a season was eighteen in 2007, but his first at-bat ever with the Marlins was a grand slam.  His second at-at bat with Boston is apparently a home run.  Then in the seventh, Ellsbury took advantage of that huge gap in right center and doubled in Scutaro, and Pedroia flied in Ellsbury, which broke Greinke and he left.  Then in the eighth, Youk went yard.  Then in the ninth, Tek went yard on a changeup; On May 20, 2001, Tek had a three-homer game at Kauffman Stadium.  Say hello to April 10, 2010.  The man still packs.  Then, Pedroia went yard with Ellsbury on base, and that game was done.  We couldn’t do anything to the Royals bullpen two nights ago.  Not so last night.  Honestly, who in his right mind throws a fastball middle-in to Pedroia.  Eight runs.  Done.  Point being, the B team brings it big.

Ellsbury finished the night three for five.  There’s your leadoff hitter! And Scutaro stole a base.  Funny; Greinke hit Pedroia in the fifth and Scutaro in the seventh.  Greinke is known for his control.  I’m not saying he did it on purpose; I’m just saying it’s interesting.  Good thing that was after Beckett left.  Otherwise, I think it’s safe to say we would’ve had some sort of retaliation.

In other news, Dice-K had a great outing for Pawtucket during which he threw forty-three of seventy-three pitches for strikes and topped out at ninety-three miles per hour.  He walked one, struck out three, and hit two over five shutout innings.  Most importantly, he felt great during all of them.  And congratulations to Boston College for shutting out Wisconsin to win its fourth NCAA hockey title!

So the bench proved itself, Beckett was sharp, our starter earned a decision, and our bullpen was flawless.  That’s the way to be.  The Royals lineup isn’t the hardest to contain, but you have to start somewhere.  Maybe this is what we needed to get the ball rolling.  It does wonders for your confidence, not to mention the standings.  After Buchholz’s start tonight, we’ll have officially completed one rotation of our starters.  He’ll start opposite Meche.  Let’s take this series.

The Bruins lost to the Caps in overtime (way to force the issue!), beat the Sabres, and finally clinched a playoff spot yesterday! They beat Carolina (oh, the irony) thanks to some short-hand goals and a heads-up play by Patrice Bergeron.  At one point, the puck careened off Wheeler’s stick toward our empty net, but Bergeron scooped it out in the nick of time, when it was mere centimeters from the goal line.  The final score was 4-2.  It’s certainly been an interesting season; Savard was injured, Lucic was injured, and basically each of our defensemen was injured.  And key players from last year couldn’t find their form this year.  We had an early three-goal lead, which we of course squandered.  But the important thing is that we’re in.  Tomorrow we have another game with the Caps and that’s it before the playoffs.  Who knows? Maybe everything will come together.

Fire Brand of the American League

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Beckett’s outing was okay.  Not bad, not great.  He allowed two runs in the first and two in the second before settling down to pitch three shutout frames.  He allowed seven hits over those five innings with three walks and five strikeouts, and he threw 98 pitches.  So his runs, hits, and walks were up while his strikeout count was down and his pitch count showed inefficiency.  But I still don’t worry about him.  This whole situation with these last few games is very strange.  We win the Wild Card on someone else’s loss, we give the starters all sorts of rest, and we wait.  I feel like that has to take some sort of toll on the psyche of a competitive workhorse like Beckett.  Not to mention the fact that his timing was out of whack because of the extended rest.  But putting that aside, the reason why I’m thrilled with his performance is his health.  The fact that he settled down and got through it means he’ll be in good shape by the time postseason play begins.

Byrd allowed two runs on three hits in the next three innings, which is why he’s not on the postseason roster.  Richardson did fine.

Aside from Beckett, pitching is so not the point here, though.  The offense is the point, and with a final score of 11-6, there was a lot of it.  But before we talk about that, some words on the lineup.  This is one of the most interesting and creative lineups I’ve seen this season.  Pedroia led off, followed by Bay, followed by V-Mart and Youk, and then Ortiz, Lowrie, Kotchman, Anderson, and Gathright.  Ellsbury got the day off, Lowell has a sore right thumb, and Drew has a left shoulder issue.

So, without further ado.  With a full count, Pedroia led off the ballgame with a home run.  High inside fastball, meet the head of the bat, and the ball clears the Monster completely.  And then came the monumental second inning.

When I say monumental, I mean monumental.  There’s really no other way to describe scoring seven runs in a single frame in the manner in which we scored them.  It all started when Anderson singled in Ortiz, which moved Kotchman to second and Lowrie to third.  Aaron Laffey balked, so Lowrie scored, Anderson moved to second, and Kotchman moved to third.  Pedroia was intentionally walked to load the bases.  Then Bay singled in Kotchman, and everyone moved up to load the bases again.

Then Victor Martinez stepped into the batter’s box.  He worked a three and one count, perfect for hitting.  He hit a ball over center field that looked like it might have just enough to get it out.  And it did.  Into the bullpen.  Four runs with one swing of the bat, and all of a sudden we were leading 8-4 on the back of Victor Martinez’s first-ever Major League career grand slam! Against his former team! And all because Andy Marte couldn’t catch that popup in front of our dugout.  That’s what I call making him pay.

Anderson hit a towering home run to Lansdowne Street in the third to score himself and Kotchman, and Dusty Brown hit a home run of his own in the bottom of the eighth to tack on the final run.  Almost cleared the Monster.  The ball made it into the last row and was barely contained inside the park.  Not bad for a first career long ball.

Gonzalez’s x-rays came back negative.  Baldelli will have an MRI tomorrow.  John Farrell officially requested to be removed from consideration for Cleveland’s managerial position.  Speaking of open managerial positions, JP Ricciardi was fired yesterday.  And Manny Delcarmen, after enduring a car accident yesterday, is fine.  He was driving in the left lane and the driver in the middle lost control and swerved into Delcarmen’s car, which veered to the left and hit the wall.  He was taken to Mass General, but other than a sore back, he’s good to go.

Well, the end is in sight.  This afternoon, we play our last game of the regular season.  I have to say, it’s been one interesting run.  Lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of ins and outs and heres and theres, but we’ve come to a good place, I think.  Buchholz gets the nod against Tomo Ohka, so this’ll be his final tune-up before the playoffs.  But I still can’t believe the regular season is already over.  It seems like Opening Day was rained out just yesterday, doesn’t it? Time flies when you’re having fun though, and the fun continues even after we put this one away.

In other news, the Bruins played an absolutely fantastic game last night.  Last night’s game was everything we wanted Opening Night to be and more.  The final score was 7-2, and it was most definitely a team effort.  It was the first time we had seven different goal scorers since the lockout.  And there were plenty of fights to go around as well.  An all-around well-played game.  Lots of tape-to-tape passing (Patrice Bergeron’s picture is next to the definition of “stick position” in the hockey dictionary), obviously lots of scoring (two of the goals were netted just seconds apart) and fighting (Sean Thornton threw at least ten punches before the referees got involved), and of course lots of saving (I have come to the conclusion that Tim Thomas is an acrobat).  We play next on Thursday in Anaheim.

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When one of your aces goes down, that’s what you need, you need your backup to step up and hold the fort so that you can get in, score runs, and get out.  And that’s exactly what Masterson did.  Now, he’s a young guy yet, so the length of his start was an issue.  Terry Francona was thinking four, maybe five innings, but Masterson pitched five and a third.  One run on four his with two walks and three K’s.  The sinker was on.  It was beautiful.  And that, my friends, is why he needs to come out of the bullpen and enter the rotation.  He’s a starter by trade.  He has all the skills and gifts of a starter.  And not only that, he has all the trappings of a great starter.  He can and will excel as a member of the rotation in the future; they’re not going to keep him in the bullpen forever.  But in the meantime it just seems like such a waste.

The relief corps continues to be top-notch, right down to Hideki Okajima.  Delcarmen, Okajima, Lopez, and Hunter Jones were spic-and-span through four.  But it was really our offensive performance that stole the show.  We swept the four-game series with Baltimore and went out with a pretty significant bang, absolutely burying the Orioles with twelve runs and fifteen hits.  With the exception of Nick Green, every member of the starting lineup either had a hit, an RBI, or both.  Jacoby Ellsbury went three for six with an RBI and a stolen base.  Basically, he did everything he does best.  I don’t want to jinx it and say he’s back yet but he’s getting there.  Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah went four for six with three (count ’em: three) RBIs.  Ortiz went two for four with two RBIs, and guess what? Those two hits were for extra bases! A double and a two-out, stand-up triple for Big Papi.  With that triple he tied Joe Cronin for tenth place on the Red Sox all-time RBI list with 737.  Again, I really don’t want to jinx this, but if he keeps this up we’re golden; our first three batters collected nine hits on the day.  Youk went one for two with three walks, something he was always good at.  Baldelli had RBI.  Bay was perfect at the plate with an RBI.  Mikey Lowell was two for five with two RBIs.  And Jason Varitek.  The captain.  Two for five with a solo home run in the second that he crushed into the Monster seats.  I mean there was no way that ball was staying anywhere near the field.  The man made contact, and it was out.  It was one of those swings where the ball meets the bat, you hear the crack, and you know Tek will take a jog around the bases.  An excellent piece of hitting.  And did I mention it’s his third of the year?

It looks like Jed Lowrie will opt to have surgery on his wrist, but it won’t be season-ending.  He should be back by the All-Star break.  All I want is for him to do what’s best for his long-term health.  He’s the future of Boston at shortstop, and in the meantime Nick Green’s been doing great and we’ll have Julio Lugo waiting in the wings, so he should take his time and get himself right.

So we continue our climb to the top of the AL East.  Our four-game sweep of the O’s puts our record at seven and six and ties us for second place with the Yankees, just two and a half games out of first.  That’ll all change this weekend, starting on Friday, when we play New York for the first time this year.  And we’ll be at home.  The one thing I’m sad about is that Girardi decided to push back Wang’s next start, so we won’t get to face him.  See, I think that’s completely unfair.  Everyone else in the league gets to tee off against him and we don’t? Completely unfair.  At least we won’t have to face Nick Swisher, because then I’d really be scared.  But in the meantime, we have the Twins to contend with.  I’m not worried.  Right now, we’re playing the best baseball we’ve played since the season started.  We’re on a five-game winning streak and our lineup’s getting hot.  Baker at Wakefield.  I’m psyched.  Seriously.

In other news, the Bruins continued their total domination of the Canadiens yesterday with a 4-2 victory in Montreal.  For the past few years, the Bell Centre has had the best attendance in the National Hockey League but was beaten this season by the Chicago Blackhawks.  Let me just paint a picture for you.  With between five and ten minutes left in the game, the Habs fans start leaving.  They just get up and start walking out of the arena.  So they boo the American national anthem, and then they get up and they leave when they don’t like what they see.  I come from Red Sox Nation, and we do things differently in Boston, but even objectively speaking, what kind of fans are those? And I would also like to point out that what Gregory Stewart did to Patrice Bergeron wasn’t just roughing, it was reckless force.  I mean he was covering Bergeron’s face with his glove, almost choking the man, while the referees stand by and just watch.  Eventually, they come in and interfere.  But I mean really.  Anyway, the point is we’re up three-zip in the series, which should be in the bag at this point.  If we can win against the Habs in their house with some key guys missing, then we’re deeper than deep and we have what it takes to go all the way.  Game four tomorrow in Montreal at 7:00PM.  Can’t wait!

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Sadly, for us, baseball season has come to a close a little too early, and usually when we’re in this situation it’s because something’s not right and we need to fix it.  We ask ourselves what we should do now.  But this year it’s a little different.  The Rays barely hung onto the division and barely made it to the World Series.  We don’t have debilitating flaws.  It makes you wonder how unstoppable we’d be if we hadn’t had to battle injuries and late major trades.

And that’s just it.  We don’t have that many offseason decisions to make because, for all intents and purposes, we’re already golden for next year.  Just like in 2006 and 2007, the injuries piled themselves on this year but next year it’ll be smooth sailing in the health department.  The new guys have gotten used to the city, and now that they’ve tasted October baseball they’ll want more.

But there are still some issues that need to be addressed.  Issue number one: Jason Varitek.  We love the man.  He’s our captain for a reason.  He’s a mentor to the younger players, he handles the pitchers very well, he’s caught a record four no-hitters, he’s a leader on and off the field, and he still has his moments.  Those moments, unfortunately, are becoming more and more sporadic though, and it’s not clear that the offense can afford to simply consider him an “easy out” with the assumption that he won’t hit anything and then be pleasantly surprised when he does.  It’s true that the position of catcher isn’t known for its offensive production, but it’s also true that catchers who can hit do exist.  I see three solutions here.  One is to give Tek something like a three-year deal and also take on a young catcher, and have Tek and the new catcher split playing time, such that the new guy learns from Tek and Tek becomes his mentor and teaches him everything he knows.  That way, when Tek reaches the end of his deal, we’ll have a Tek, Jr. to take the reigns.  A second solution would just be to have Kevin Cash fill the role of Tek, Jr.  He’s got a great arm and his offense has potential.  The third option I’m seeing is to keep Tek, not as a player, but as a kind of coach for the pitchers.  Sort of an assistant to John Farrell.  That way the pitchers as well as the rest of the clubhouse can benefit from his presence and leadership without having to feel pressure to compensate for his lack of offensive production.

Another concern will obviously be Mikey Lowell.  He’s set to have surgery on his right hip soon.  He’s getting old.  He spent most of the second half on the DL, and when he did play this season, he didn’t show signs of being as dominant as he was last season.  I’m not saying his outstanding 2007 was a fluke.  I’m just saying that it’s going to be more and more unlikely that his numbers will be comparable in the future.  We might want to consider taking on another starting third baseman, just in case.  This will allow Mark Kotsay to go back to being a spare outfielder, which is something else we need, and it’ll allow Youk to go back to first and get himself another Gold Glove.

I’d like to strongly suggest that we make Jed Lowrie our starting shortstop permanently.  Since Nomar we haven’t had stability or reliable offensive production from the shortstop position, and signing Julio Lugo to a five-year contract was supposed to take care of that.  We all know how that turned out.  Ironically, he came over from Tampa Bay, and little did we know that it would be a complete disaster.  The differences between the defensive and offensive abilities of Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo are absolutely staggering, and after spending so much time watching such talent and potential between second and third base I don’t think I can go back to watching error after error and out after out.  I’d also like to strongly suggest that we keep Alex Cora and Sean Casey on board for 2009.  Alex Cora is a great utility guy, and Sean Casey hits line drives like nobody’s business.

In terms of pitching, it’s difficult to say.  Theo Epstein isn’t worried about Beckett, and after his most recent postseason start I think that’s justified.  Next year we’re in line to have three aces on our staff: Beckett, Dice-K, and Lester.  We’ll have Wake, too, and the good news is that as a knuckleballer the quality of his pitching won’t decline.  (The quality of his pitching at present is a completely different story.) But we’re going to need a reliable fifth starter.  I’d like to see Justin Masterson fill that spot.  He made a handful of starts this year and rocked in all of them.  As for the bullpen, let me state first that Mike Timlin should retire immediately.  I don’t even want to count how many games he lost for us this year, and don’t even get me started on Game 2 of the ALCS.  Even if he doesn’t retire, we’ll need at least one more reliever, two if Masterson does go back to being a starter.  The more airtight our relief is, the more invincible we’ll be.  Think about it.  A pitching staff that includes Dice-K, Beckett, Lester, Papelbon, Okajima, and Delcarmen is pretty formidable already.  Some additions and improvements could make us lights-out for the full nine innings.

In other news, Big Papi’s wrist is fine and he won’t need surgery in the offseason.  Tito, however, is scheduled to have surgery on his back.  I give him a lot of credit.  Boston is a tough place to manage, and he makes it look easy.  He is officially one of the greatest managers in the game.  The Patriots completely decimated the Broncos and won on Monday night by a score of 41-7.  And after six games, the Bruins are third in their division with a record of 2-1-3 for a total of seven points in the standings.  Manny Fernandez and Patrice Bergeron are back in action this season, and Bergeron, PJ Axelsson, and Andrew Ference are this year’s assistant captains with Zdeno Chara wearing the C.  Chuck Kobasew is on the injured reserve.  The Red Sox and Patriots have been doing some serious winning lately, and it’s becoming painfully obvious that the Bruins need a Stanley Cup.

I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I congratulate the 2008 Boston Red Sox, the American League Division champions! True, our October didn’t end like it could have or should have, but remember, there’s always next year.  And there’s always last year.

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