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Posts Tagged ‘Phil Kessel’

Okay.  That didn’t exactly go as planned, and that’s putting it lightly.  We knew it had to happen sometime, but it would’ve been fine by me if it didn’t happen for an incredibly long time.  The New York Yankees won the 2009 World Series.  Wow, that was excruciatingly painful to say.  So basically the Angels wounded us and the Yankees finished us off.  Of all the bad things that could possibly have happened to Red Sox Nation this year, it had to be New York coming out on top at the end of the decade.  Suffice it to say that the region of New England and the city of Philadelphia are brothers in grief, but as I said, the region of New England isn’t very happy.  To be fair, the Phillies gave it their all and put up a good fight, forcing a Game Six and whatnot.  But to be completely honest with you, I’m still furious and bitter about the whole thing.  Words can not describe the anger and frustration I experienced.  I’m sure you can relate.  And don’t even get me started on what it felt like to see pictures of the victory parade.  Viscerally painful.

What does this mean for Red Sox Nation? Does it mean we’re back where we started? No.  Absolutely not.  The curse is long gone.  (Speaking of curses, so much for that valiant attempt to hex the new Yankee Stadium with that Ortiz jersey.) So we don’t have to worry about that anymore.  So what does it mean? Well, quite frankly, it means we’ll have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  It doesn’t mean we have something to prove because 2004 and 2007 have already taken care of that.  In its simplest terms, it literally means we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Alex Speier of WEEI ranked the World Series winners of the decade.  He put the 2004 Red Sox at third, the 2007 Red Sox at second, and the 2009 Yankees first.  This is something I’m having a very hard time believing.  The Yankees didn’t win the World Series.  They bought it.  Just like they bought their previous twenty-six World Series wins.  The Phillies were beaten, more than anything else, by the Yankees organization’s abnormally huge wallet.  Their 2009 payroll was $209 million.  That’s a full fifty percent more than the Red Sox, Tigers, and Mets, who were all more or less tied for second this past season.  (So to all the Yankee fans out there who favor the you’re-one-to-talk line, don’t even try it.)

To that end, in response to “Remember Who You Are,” Jeremy pointed out:

CC Sabathia made $3906 per pitch this season.  AJ Burnett made $4391 per pitch.  Mariano Rivera made $12,500 per pitch. I think I’m going to be sick.

Believe me, we share that sentiment.  Those figures are absolutely grotesque.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so disgustingly exorbitant in my baseball life.  This is what ruins the sport.  This is what alienates and disillusions.  It’s just sad and pathetic that New York has to go out and poach their talent in fiscally irresponsible ways.  Signing a pitcher for seven years for that amount of money is completely irresponsible.  The dude could snap his arm tomorrow and never be the same again.  Why would anyone ever sink that much capital into a less-than-stable investment? Similarly, why do you sign a pitcher for five years who’s known to make multiple trips to the DL? I don’t understand what they were thinking.  Burnett is a huge medical liability, not to mention the fact that his consistency isn’t worth his currently salary at all.  One of the reasons they locked Burnett was probably to keep him away from us, and that should never be the basis of any decision, but that’s just what they do.  As far as Mariano is concerned, he is especially not worth it.  For a team so worried about their archrival (remember when they acquired Mike Meyers for the explicit and sole purpose of pitching to David Ortiz?), they’re placing a premium on a closer whose only Achilles’ heel is that same team.  And to pay him that much at his age when other closers just as good and younger are making less should signal the lack of sensibility in their approach to the market.  That organization just does not make sense.  At all.  It’s stupefying.  Every time I read something about Brian Cashman and any Steinbrenner, I feel my powers of common sense drain out.

By the way, Bronx leaders are considering naming the soon-to-be-constructed the East 153rd Street bridge after Derek Jeter.  I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.  We have the Ted Williams Tunnel because Ted William was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a soldier in combat for the United States in two major wars during the prime of his baseball career, and an avid supporter of the Jimmy Fund.  He was a local, regional, and national hero.  Derek Jeter is a shortstop.  There is a huge difference.

Now that the Yankees have, you know, won and all, I think we need to move forward constructively.  An instrumental part of that will be making peace with Jonathan Papelbon.  He may have disappointed us, and he may have humiliated us, and he may have been as porous in his pitching as a slice of Swiss cheese, but at the end of the day he’s still our closer.  And let’s face it: there’s nothing more dangerous than a closer with something to prove.  And I’d say that’s doubly true in Papelbon’s case.  Putting his last appearance aside, he’s a beast.  He’s one of the biggest competitors on the team.  Essentially, he was born to close.  He’s got the power, he’s got the movement, and he’s got the crazy attitude to get the job done.  In the past, when Papelbon got hungry, he went out and he sealed the deal.  And I fully expect him to be back to form this coming season.

Speaking of big competitors, here’s a story that’s been downplayed in light of other impending free agency filings: this coming season is a contract year for Beckett.  After that, he’ll be eligible to become a free agent for the first time in his career.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t expect him to walk away.  Free agency for this year has already begun; notable filings include John Lackey, Matt Holliday, and (you guessed it) Jason Bay.  Other filings included Carlos Delgado, Marlon Byrd, and Adrian Beltre.

Make no mistake: the stove is about to get hot for Theo Epstein.  In fact, he’s already started his move-making.  We acquired right fielder Jeremy Hermida from the Marlins for southpaws Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez.  This could obviously have implications for Rocco Baldelli’s future with us.

We still need a bench coach.  Tito wants to replace from within.  I know technically you’re supposed to take a few years off to transition from player to coach, but Jason Varitek wouldn’t be a bad idea.

So that’s where we’re at.  We have double the pain to conquer now: the experience of an extremely brief October and the surge of the Evil Empire.  Obviously, we’ll get through it.  We always do.  I’m just saying I wish I didn’t have to have this to get through.  It would’ve been so infinitely better if we won the World Series.  And that’s exactly what 2010 is for.

The Bruins aren’t exactly helping our cause.  We were shut out by the Rangers and Devils earlier this week, and being shut out twice in a row isn’t easy.  So that’s bad.  To make matters worse, we lost to the Habs in overtime.  But we ended the week on a high note when we defeated the division-leading Sabres, 4-2.  The problem is that we don’t have a goal-scorer because he’s off playing for the Leafs now.   That’s a problem.  Someone’s going to have to step up and start putting pucks in nets if we’re going to get anywhere this year.

 

Center Field

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What can I say? Camden Yards is basically our home away from home.  If you’re the Red Sox and you have to go on the road, you want to start the trip at Camden Yards with some wins and some encouragement from Red Sox Nation.  It’s sad that the Birds have fallen from glory.  It used to be that the Yankees’ big rivalry was with Baltimore and not with us because Baltimore was actually really good.  But that fall from glory isn’t as sad as their performance in this day and age.  Bottom of the pile in the American League East, can’t buy a win, and don’t even have the support of their own fan base when we’re in town because Red Sox fans flood the stands.  It’s like being at Fenway.  Good for us, but quite sad for the Orioles, I’d say.

That first paragraph would be very out-of-place without a win.  Turns out there was a win.  3-1, thanks to Buchholz, Kotchman, Bay, and Ellsbury.  Buchholz had a terrific night, working six innings and relinquishing just one run on five hits with three walks and a strike out.  That one run was Luke Scott’s long ball with two out in the second.  It happens.  But it’ll be interesting to see Buchholz’s strikeout count progress in the long run.  Right now he doesn’t record many strikeouts per game, because he relies heavily on off-speeds, which usually induce outs not of the K variety.  But as he gets older, he may discover more power on his fastball, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll use that and incorporate it into his already remarkable mix of pitches.

Bard, Okajima, and Papelbon got a hold, a hold, and a save, respectively.  No incidents to report.  Finally.  Three no-hit innings that would’ve been perfect if Bard didn’t allow that walk.  So aside from a very gratifying sense of satisfaction, nothing to say about an impeccable performance like that.  I will say that it was a breath of fresh air after what we’ve seen from the ‘pen over the past few days.

Kotchman singled to left to score Bay in the second.  Bay hit an absolutely fantastic home run to lead off the fourth (ever notice how a lot of our home runs lately are lead-offs?).  He was all over it.  Perfect swing, perfect trajectory, perfect result.  Perfect.  And Ellsbury singled to left to score Reddick in the sixth.

Ellsbury and V-Mart both went two for five; Kotchman went three for four.  Ellsbury stole second.  Pedroia almost scored in the third on a hard-hit double by V-Mart, but he was out at the plate.  A valiant effort, though.  I mean, he was hustling, and that’s really what we love about Dustin Pedroia the dirt dog.  Youk was back in the lineup last night.  He went hitless but ran in to gather up a grounder and fire to first to get Melvin Mora out in the fourth, which was good because you need to be pretty healthy to make a play like that, so it appears that Youk will be fine.

Wakefield is officially scheduled to pitch Monday! I hope all goes well.  I know the rest of the rotation is rooting for him; they could use the extra day off.  The Angels’ coaches will be fined for bad deportment following Wednesday’s win, which they view as controversial.

So as usual, we beat the O’s.  Also as usual, Clay Buchholz got that win.  And for the third and final “as usual,” we discuss the Red Sox’s annual rookie hazing ritual, which involves the rookies dressing up in altogether hilarious costumes.  This year’s theme? “The Wizard of Oz.” Junichi Tazawa was Dorothy, Josh Reddick was Glinda, Dusty Brown was the Scarecrow, Daniel Bard was the Cowardly Lion, Michael Bowden was the Tin Man, and Jed Lowrie was the Wicked Witch of the West.  (This is actually Lowrie’s second time around because he hasn’t completed a full Major League season yet; last year he dressed up as a character from “High School Musical.”) All in all, it was a great day.  Tonight should be even better.  Something tells me a Lester-at-David-Hernandez matchup will be a very good game to watch.

In other news, we traded Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs for two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick in 2010 and a first-round pick in 2011.  Can’t say I didn’t see it coming, and to be honest with you, at this point I don’t think I’d want him in a Bruins uniform this season.  His head wouldn’t be in the right place after all that’s happened, and so it wouldn’t be fair to him or the team.  He didn’t even want to come back; he didn’t particularly like Claude Julien’s approach.  Besides, the Leafs gave him $27 million for five years.  For us to match that, we probably would’ve had to either send down or trade Michael Ryder and Andrew Ference.  So good luck to him in Toronto.  I know he’ll be great there.  He’d be great anywhere.  That’s the unfortunate part.  If only it had worked out, right? But that’s the downside of a salary cap.  Kessel was asking for a lot of money, so Peter Chiarelli had a choice: he could sign him, or he could sign all of our other young guys who were free agents, not to mention all of the guys who’ll be free agents after this season.  He chose the latter, which was wise I think, because having one Phil Kessel won’t do much for you if you don’t also have a David Krejci and a Matt Hunwick, for example, to support him.  But he’s got his own work to do.  He may be great in Toronto, but it’ll have to be without Milan Lucic creating space and without Marc Savard sending him pinpoint passes.

AP Photo

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Paul Byrd has had two starts this year.  One was pure gold, and the other was just so much scrap.  So which one was the real Paul Byrd and which is the fluke? It’s hard to tell with only two outings.  On the one hand, maybe that initial adrenaline rush made him pitch better than usual.  On the other hand, maybe anxiety made him pitch worse than usual.  Either way, he’s got some serious apologizing to do to the bullpen after leaving the game only two and a third innings into it.  But he had to get out.  There was no way he was staying in.  Seven runs on ten hits with no walks, three K’s, and an extremely ironic two-run shot by Mark Kotsay later, Junichi Tazawa found himself on the mound preparing for a long night.

And when I say long I mean long, because Tazawa didn’t do much to limit the damage.  In three and two-thirds innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout.  Delcarmen needed twenty-nine pitches to take care of the seventh, and Saito needed nineteen.  It wasn’t a good night.  At all.

Incidentally, I wonder what our winning percentage is for games during which the starter leaves before the fifth inning.  We have the best bullpen in the Major Leagues, so it has to be higher than most teams, but it’s very difficult to win those.  We should be very thankful for Tazawa, though.  Yes, we lost and he was a reason why, but he also ate up innings.  This loss would have been so much worse in the long run had we gone to the bullpen proper instead of to a starter-by-trade.  For example, if Justin Masterson were still here, this is exactly the kind of situation in which we’d use him.

The offense, essentially, did absolutely nothing.  It was ridiculous.  Every member of the starting nine, with the exception of Alex Gonzalez, was gone by the time the game was over.  They were all replaced by the B team and callups.  Pedroia, Green, V-Mart, Youk, Ortiz, Gathright, Drew, Kottaras, and Gonzalez each had hits.  With the exception of Kottaras’s, which was a double, none of them were for extra bases.  We batted .333 with runners in scoring position, but that was because we only had three such chances and made good on one of them.  Youk singled to center field to plate Pedroia, and Kottaras doubled in Gathright.  End of story.  Oh, and Green made a throwing error.

Ozzie Guillen had a lot of praise for Youk and Pedroia.  Ironic this praize came after we lost.  But then, it’s Ozzie Guillen.  You never know.  Mikey Lowell says it’s hard not playing everyday, and I believe him.  He’s a starter by trade.  He wants to be out there, but he can’t so often anymore because of his hip.  Still, since the All-Star break he’s hitting .339 with six home runs and twenty-six RBIs, coupled with a .389 on-base percentage and a .583 slugging percentage.  Since Tazawa is unavailable, we’re calling up Michael Bowden for today’s start, just in case Wakefield has to make an early exit.

The final score was 12-2.  So we scored once in the fourth and once in the ninth.  They scored twice in the second, five times in the third, and five times in the fourth.  This loss was infuriating but not as worrisome as its ramifications.  And when I say ramifications, I’m referring to its impact on the bullpen, its effects on the starting rotation, its alterations of both the Wild Card and division standings, and its impact on the team’s morale.  Any way you look at them, lopsided scores are never good.  There’s never a silver lining.  There may be a silver lining to how you deal with them at the time, like putting a pitcher in to eat innings in an effort to save arms and substituting for your starters to give them some rest, but there’s never a bright side to the outcome.  With the possible exception of identifying areas of improvement, but that happens after every game.  The only thing we can do after a game like this is move on and hope the team does the same.  Tim Wakefield will be leading that charge this afternoon opposite Gavin Floyd.  And I really hope this goes right.

In other news, Peter Chiarelli announced an extension of Claude Julien’s contract.  Well done.  In his first two season as head coach, Julien took us from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to the top, with playoff appearances after both season.  Last year was our first Eastern Conference Semifinal appearance since 1999.  That says something.  All we have to do is lock up Kessel, and we’ll be all set!

AP Photo

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What a night to be a Boston fan.  First the Bruins won to stave off elimination and live to play another day, and then the Red Sox break a tie late in the ballgame to come away with the win and take the series.  So we win the battle and the war.  Nice.  And for a while it looked like we were even going to have another Beckett-esque start.  Turns out it wasn’t quite as Beckett-esque as we’d hoped, but at this point I think we have to take what we can get.  Sad but true.  Beckett pitched six innings, gave up three runs on six hits and three walks, and struck out five.  Considering the way his starts have been going lately, that feels like a shutout to me.  Not bad.  Besides, for my Number One starter, I’ll take Beckett on his worst day over almost all other Number One starters on their best days, because you have to think long term, and that includes October, and come October there’s only one man you want out there starting a series for you, and that’s Josh Beckett.  No question about it.

Unfortunately, he got a no decision because that third run he allowed was the tying run.  Okajima pitched just under two perfect innings, Ramirez finished off the seventh, and Papelbon made the ninth interesting but ultimately got the save.  He gave up a walk and a hit, made a pickoff error, and has a steal in the background before he did any damage at all.  Then he proceeded to strike out Pena, Upton, and Crawford in order.  Why he couldn’t just start the inning that way, I don’t know.  But the bottom line is that Ramirez got the win and Paps got the save.  You might say it’s good for Paps to keep everyone on their toes, but the way this season’s going I’m on my toes enough, thank you.  Paps can go ahead and have a clean, straight save if he wants to.  But he’s still the best closer in the game.  That’s his eight save of the season.  Eight saves in eight save opportunities.  One hundred percent.  And usually that lasts for a long, long time.

We won the game, 4-3.  The Rays tied it in the sixth and we scored the winning run in the eighth, batted in by who but Jason Bay.  I think the man was born to hit in the clutch late.  A ballgame is never over, not even in the late innings, until Jason Bay’s had his final say.  And usually that amounts to him hitting for at least one bag, very commonly four bags.  Yesterday it was two bags.  Bay went two for four, and both of those hits were doubles, the latter of which coming in the eighth to plate David Ortiz and give us a permanent lead.  He also scored once.  So basically the man is awesome on all counts.  He might be in the mix for AL MVP.  Incidentally, that would be something, if Boston dominated the voting and we had three guys in the first three places.  Wow.  Anyway, Drew, Bailey, and Green batted in the other runs.  Green also had a good night, finishing two for three.

Lowell made an error.  Youk’s still out.  Dice-K pitched four shutout innings in Pawtucket.  Lopez was thankfully designated for assignment as we finally bought Daniel Bard’s contract from Pawtucket.  Let me tell you something about Daniel Bard: he’s considered our best relief prospect for a reason, and a very significant part of that reason is his fastball.  Trust me.  This is going to be fun.

So as I said we take two out of three against the Rays.  Good.  We’re gradually building up to a sweep.  We get the day off today and then it’s off to the west coast again for a series with the Angels.  First it’ll be Masterson at Weaaver.  I hope his struggles of late aren’t a permanent turn for the worse.  Either way, the sooner we’re done with the west coast, the better; this is actually our last trip out there, which is nice.  So let’s make it count.

In other news, the Bruins won.  To say they pulled out a win or that they hung on by the skin of their teeth would be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever heard.  Because we absolutely dominated.  Even if you didn’t know the score, there is no question in your mind who won that hockey game.  The score, by the way, was 4-0.  It was Timmy Thomas’s first career playoff shutout.  Kessel scored two of those goals; would’ve been sweet if he’d had himself a hat trick but technically anything besides simply winning is icing on the cake.  Recchi also had himself a goal, and he’s the oldest Bruin ever to score in the playoffs.  Milan Lucic accounted for the fourth goal.  I have to say I was terrified when I saw Chara go down in the second period; Jussi Jokinen delivered a stick to his left shin and he stayed down for a few minutes.  And he’s not one to fool around.  He skated off on his own but didn’t start the third.  But with 19:12 left, he began his first shift of the period.  What a relief.  Then Scott Walker drew a seven-minute penalty.  No, that’s correct; a seven-minute penalty.  Two minutes for misconduct and five for fighting because Aaron Ward never dropped his gloves.  Unfortunately there were only two minutes left in the game at that point so we really couldn’t take full advantage of it, but still.  First of all it was a classless move, and second of all any penalty against the opposition lasting longer than two minutes is awesome.  Game Six on Tuesday at 7:00PM.  Let’s keep it going.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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That was the theme of the past two days.  The game on Tuesday was rained out and postponed to yesterday, making yesterday a double-header against the Twins.  And since the series was only two games to begin with, we basically crammed the whole series into twenty-four hours.  And we didn’t even finish the first game; it was called after seven innings due to the weather.  I mean from Minnesota’s standpoint there really wasn’t a point in finishing it because we were up, 10-1, at that point, but still.  If we were meant to score five more runs in that game, I would’ve liked to see those five runs.  But the nightcap stayed dry after being delayed an hour, and all in all it was a phenomenal day.  We swept the doubleheader and showed the Twins who’s boss, and the Bruins knocked the Canadiens completely out of the playoffs.  A four-game sweep and a burial in Montreal yesterday by a final score of 4-1.

I’m getting ahead of myself here.  First, let’s talk about Wakefield and the gem he pitched in the first game.  He went the whole seven innings, allowed one run on five hits with a walk and four K’s.  He became the oldest pitcher in baseball history to pitch back-to-back complete games.  I’m telling you, the man’s still got it.  Year in and year out we question how much he has left, and he never ceases to amaze us.  His ERA is 2.45.  Tim Wakefield’s ERA is 2.45.  That’s ridiculous.  Somehow, he just keeps getting better and better.  And the offense had an absolute field day.  Youk hit a two-run shot into the right field seats in the first, Green hit a two-run shot into the Monster in the second, and Lowell hit a two-run shot also into the Monster in the third.  Ellsbury went two for four, extending his hitting streak to eight games.  Papi went two for four, including a double.  Drew went three for three with a walk.  Lowell would finish the night three for four, and Green two for four.  So all in all we teed off.  Ellsbury stole, got caught, and was picked off.  Green made an error.  And because it was such a masterful event, I’m going to repeat that the final score was 10-1.  So as you can see the Twins were pretty much done.  “Blame It On the Rain,” as Milli Vanilli says, but if I were in a Minnesota uniform I’d be loathing Tim Wakefield all the way back to Minneapolis.

And those were just the afternoon festivities.  We rocked the nightcap, too.  For starters, Dave Roberts threw out the first pitch.  I’m telling you, whenever I remember that moment I start to lose it.  It all started with that one stolen base.  Pickoff attempt, pickoff attempt, pickoff attempt, he runs, he’s safe, we win seven straight, the curse is broken.  Just like that.  And it all started with that one stolen base.  Penny was on, a relief after his previous start against Baltimore.  Two earned runs on six hits with a walk and two K’s in six innings (the third run was the courtesy of another error by Green).  Justin Morneau hit a solo shot in the fourth.  After that, the relief came in and was perfect as usual.  Ramon Ramirez still has an ERA of 0.00 after pitching just over nine impeccable innings, Okajima was solid with a strikeout, and Paps came out to get some work in, because with all the runs we’ve been scoring he’s gotten a little bored lately.  And he was perfect, of course.  As far as the offense was concerned, it wasn’t so much teeing off as it was walking and making Francisco Liriano pay for it.  Liriano gave up seven runs in four frames.  And many of those were the result of walks.  If there’s one thing opposing pitchers know about us, it’s that if you walk our batters, chances are we’ll score some runs.  So that was not an outing you’d want out of your Number One starter.  Which is why he doesn’t pitch for Boston.  Jeff Bailey was added to the roster after Baldelli was placed on the fifteen-day DL with a left hamstring strain, and Lowell had the game off, so Youk moved to third and Bailey played first, and Bailey’s only hit of the night and first at-bat of the year was a three-run homer that probably had the skin taken off the ball.  Papi doubled again, and it seems like he’s hitting for extra bases consistently now, a trend I’d love to see continue.  Green had the only multi-hit performance, finishing his night at two for three.  Ellsbury, Drew, Bailey, and Bay, who leads the American League in walks, each logged a base on balls.  Pedroia was caught and picked off.

Did I mention that yesterday was Terry Francona’s fiftieth birthday? I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I wish a very happy birthday to one of the greatest managers in the game!

So we extend our winning streak to seven games, tying New York for second only one and a half games out of first.  That won’t last long.  We get the day off today and are facing New York tomorrow night at home.  It’s going to be Chamberlain at Lester, and quite frankly if Lester stays vintage we should make quick work of the Yankees.  I’m so psyched.

And last but most certainly not least, in other news the Bruins swept Montreal in four games.  We win the Stanley Cup quarterfinal for the first time in ten years.  We fell to the Habs last year, in 2004, and in 2002, but not this year.  This year we completely dominated them.  They stood no chance whatsoever.  Sweeps are hard to come by in hockey but we basically just finished a textbook model for how to do it.  Michael Ryder, former Canadien, scored twice and assisted David Krejci.  Phil Kessel shot out of the penalty box in the second period, got the puck, and put it in the net pretty much immediately.  Timmy Thomas made twenty-six saves.  It was awesome, unbelievable, and very satisfying.  But we’ve still got work to do.  Round Two coming up.  How sweep it is.

So just to recap, in a single day we sweep a series and a doubleheader, get two solid starts out of our Number Four and Five guys, let the offense go to town, welcome back the man whose stolen base started it all in 2004, extend our winning streak to seven days, advance in the standings, celebrate the birthday of our brilliant manager, sweep the Stanley Cup quarterfinal, bury our arch-rivals underneath a mountain of goals, eliminate them from the playoffs completely in their house, and advance to Round Two with all the momentum in the world.  I would say that that is one seriously good day.  All in a day’s work in Boston.  Even in the rain.

Getty Images

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