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Posts Tagged ‘Ron Gardenhire’

Awards season has come and gone and left disappointment and injustice in its wake.  Seriously.  I can’t even talk about it.  This goes beyond even Sabathia stealing Beckett’s Cy Young and Guerrero stealing Papi’s Silver Slugger.  This time, it’s personal.

Lester and Buchholz both finished in the top six in the AL Cy Young voting, but both ultimately lost to Felix Hernandez, who won it with his numbers alone since the Mariners didn’t offer any help of any sort at any time.  And if a Cy Young were awarded to best one-two punch, Lester and Buchholz would totally sweep that vote.

A new award was introduced this year: the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence.  We won it, and I can’t think of any team more deserving.  The Red Sox Foundation now gets ten thousand dollars.  I have to say, if any award is worth winning, this one is obviously most definitely up there.

So, obviously, that’s not where the disappointment and injustice come in, although I will say that both Lester and Buchholz were spectacular this past year, and I’d be very surprised if neither wins at least one Cy Young in each of their careers.  No.  All of that comes in here: Tito did not win Manager of the Year; cue the disappointment.  Furthermore, he finished fourth in the voting; cue the injustice.  We won eighty-nine games last year with half our starting lineup ending up being out for the season, more than 136 different batting orders, and a majority of our starters out of Spring Training on the DL by the end of it.  And you’re telling me that’s not Manager of the Year material right there? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a very long time.  All three managers who finished ahead of Tito, perhaps not coincidentally, had teams that ended up in the playoffs.  But that’s not supposed to be what this is about.  Putting a team in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily indicate a good manager; it indicates a good team with a good schedule.  And I can’t even begin to tell you how utterly frustrated I am with any system that could possibly have resulted in this outcome.  Tony La Russa even said in print that it should unquestionably be Tito as AL Manager of the Year.  And not only does he not get it, but he finishes fourth? That is complete insanity if I’ve ever seen it, ever.

That’s a pretty bold statement, but it’s true.  The three managers who finished ahead of him were Ron Gardenhire, Ron Washington, and Joe Maddon, all worthy opponents and all perennial appearance-makers in votes for this award.  All of them obviously had to deal with major injuries to major players at inopportune times this past year, Gardenhire much more than the other two.  And they all get their usual credit for maintaining stability in the clubhouse, handling big personalities, and just generally being good at what they do.  But only one of them did it with some of the biggest of the big personalities in one of the most pressurized of cookers called Major League Baseball teams every single day for an entire season during which the team, on any given day, looked entirely different.  It’s incredibly difficult to sustain morale in that kind of competition environment with that kind of scenario going on, and yet Tito made it look like a walk in the park (pun intended).  Maddon arguably had it easiest of the four, following by Washington.  So we’re talking Tito and Gardenhire, but at least Gardenhire had more peace and quiet in which to conduct his business and less potential clubhouse drama to worry about.  We’re talking about the man who managed a minor league baseball team that had Michael Jordan on its roster, and don’t even get me started on Manny Ramirez.  Obviously, neither of those two episodes had bearing on this year, but they’re just great testimonies to his managerial abilities.

All I’m saying is that Tito will have another spectacular year this coming year, and even then he probably won’t have any Manager of the Year award to show for it, but one of the reasons he deserves such an award is that he doesn’t do any of what he does with the award in mind.  He does it anyway, day in and day out, injuries or no injuries.  So here’s to you, Tito.  We all know who the real Manager of the Year is.

The GM meetings have also come and gone, hopefully having greased the skids for the Winter Meetings next month.  Cue the rumors.  We are one of three teams in hot pursuit of Carl Crawford, and we might trade Paps.  The former is true; the latter couldn’t be more false.  Lou Merloni is all in favor of taking the plunge, making the trade for some elite relievers, and giving Bard the closer’s job.  I don’t think that’s prudent at this point.  When Paps first burst onto the scene, he looked a lot like Bard: a new phenom nobody had seen and everybody loved because his fastball found triple-digit speeds.  If we give the ball to Bard too early, we could have another Paps on our hands.  Paps had a bad year this past year, but let’s see how he does this coming year before we just give away our closer in favor of a young guy who isn’t yet tried-and-true in that role on a regular basis.

And finally, last but totally not least, we have some news from Bud Selig, who is obviously trying to make waves before he retires.  He wants to add another Wild Card to each league in order to expand the playoffs from eight teams to ten.  I mean, what? I guess the Wild Card teams would play each other to determine the Wild Card champion, and then everything would return to business as usual? And then the Wild Card champion would of course be able to sell untold amounts of shirts, hats, and other merchandise? He wants to implement this change by next season, which convinces me that he’s doing this to leave his mark.  Rob Manfred, executive vice president for labor relations of Major League Baseball, basically said that’s not in the cards (pun intended) due to collective bargaining issues.  Michael Weiner, the head of the player’s union, says the players aren’t necessarily opposed to the potential change, but the union hasn’t been approached formally yet.

I am not in favor.  Selig claims that eight is a fair number of total teams, and so is ten; therefore, why not ten? I would counter that with the age-old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The playoffs are a whole month long with eight teams as it is, and baseball should not be played in November.  Also, how would you approach the scenario of one of these newly added Wild Card teams winning the World Series? It’s similar to the steroids issue.  Does the juiced player who breaks a record go into the books with or without an asterisk, or does he not go into the books at all? Similarly, this new team wouldn’t even have made the playoffs under the old system, so do we really consider them World Series champions or don’t we? Granted, the current organization of the playoffs isn’t that old; expansion was voted on and passed in 1993.  But because this format is so new, let’s let it get its footing first.  There are those who point out that expansion would have gotten us into the playoffs this year.  But then we’d have more levels of competition to clear once we get there, so it’s not necessarily all that helpful.  Like I said, there’s been no indication so far that it needs fixing by the addition of two teams.  This is Selig wanting to make waves, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been having some nice talks with the networks about it too.  I’m just saying that I think he’s proposing this change for all the wrong reasons, and there are no clear benefits from a baseball standpoint.

Also, Selig’s second in command and right-hand man, Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball’s Chief Operating Officer, resigned last month.  What’s up with that.

We claimed Taylor Buchholz.  Yes, he is Clay’s cousin.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Devils and Panthers this week, with the help of Lucic’s hat trick in the latter, and bested the Rangers by one goal.  We lost to the Kings yesterday by one goal, but it was in overtime, so we still get a point.  The Pats beat the Steelers last week.  In Pittsburgh.  39-26.  It was nothing short of awesome.

AP Photo

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As usual in these situations, I’m going to cut to the completely unjustifiable chase.  We’re not getting the All-Star Game in 2012.  Kansas City is getting it.  I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock before I continue, because believe me, this was one seriously twisted shock.  Okay.  Apparently, Kauffman Stadium recently completed major renovations.  How nice for Kauffman Stadium.  It’s brand-new, nice and clean, and very fan-friendly.  Congratulations, Kansas City; now Kauffman Stadium is just like every other ballpark that completes major renovations.

Just to review, the reason why we wanted the All-Star Game in 2012 is because Fenway Park will turn one hundred years old.  The oldest ballpark still in use in the United States of America will commemorate a century of baseball.  America’s Most Beloved Ballpark will celebrate its one hundredth birthday.  Think about what Fenway Park has seen in that time.  It’s seen the Royal Rooters, Tris Speaker, Duffy’s Cliff.  It’s seen Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski.  It’s seen Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, 2004, and 2007.  It’s seen a team of royalty followed by a team that committed cruel and unusual losses year after year after year, followed by royalty’s return.  If there is a structure in this country that embodies the history of the game of baseball within its very foundation, it’s Fenway Park.

And Fenway Park was denied.  Why? I have no idea.  What, they can give it to New York because it’s the last year of Yankee Stadium but they can’t recognize that America’s Most Beloved, and oldest, Ballpark will turn a century old? I mean, okay, so Kansas City hasn’t had the All-Star game in forty years and Fenway last had it thirteen years ago, in 1999 when none other than the Splendid Splinter threw out the first pitch.  But Fenway only turns one hundred years old once in a lifetime.  Kansas City could’ve gotten it in 2013.  In fact, it would’ve been okay by me if Kansas City had it every year for another forty years if only we could have it this one time.  Something just doesn’t seem right here.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are extremely and profoundly disappointed and extremely and profoundly confused.

Zack Greinke won the AL Cy Young.  I’ll be very interested to see how he pitches next year.  I don’t think he’ll be as effective.  But I do think Josh Beckett is in line to have a break-out season so dominant that not even CC Sabathia can squeeze past him in the Cy Young voting.  Tim Lincecum won it for the NL, becoming its first repeat winner since Randy Johnson.  Andrew Bailey of Oakland and Chris Coghlan of Florida were the Rookies of the Year.  Mike Scoscia and Jim Tracy of Colorado were the Managers of the Year.  I don’t think I would’ve picked Mike Scoscia.  In my mind, there were three managers this year who faced significant uphill battles and who powered through them: Terry Francona, and then Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington.  Terry Francona managed us through a lack of shortstop, the entry of a new starting catcher, a decline in the playing time of the team’s captain, a very public steroid scandal, and the worst slump in the career of the figure at the heard of said steroid scandal.  True, every manager deals with things behind closed doors, but what makes Tito’s job so difficult is that those doors are never closed completely.  It’s the nature of sports in Boston.  Gardenhire took the Twins from zero to one-game-playoff winners without Joe Mauer in the first month of the season, Justin Morneau in the last month, or a particularly effective bullpen.  And Washington almost made it to the playoffs this year without big-name talent.  All I’m saying is that, if the award goes to a Manager of the Year within the Angels organization, it should have gone to Torii Hunter, not Scoscia.  He was the real force in that clubhouse.  MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

Again, not much in the way of business yet.  Jason Bay rejected a four-year, sixty-million-dollar offer in favor of testing the free agent market for the first time in his career.  He’s Theo’s priority, though, and I still say he’ll end up back in Boston.  The Cards have already stated that they’re not interested, preferring Matt Holliday instead.  But I think this has the potential to be one of those long, drawn-out negotiations.  By the way, let’s not forget that Jermaine Dye is also a free agent.

We released George Kottaras, who has been claimed by the Brewers.  PawSox manager Ron Johnson will be our new bench coach.  We’re reportedly interested in Adrian Beltre, and we claimed reliever Robert Manuel off waivers.  Before the offseason is done, we’ll probably re-sign Alex Gonzalez and add a low-risk, high-potential starter.  Remember: in an economy like this, you do not need to, nor should you, empty your pockets to win a World Series, no matter what the Evil Empire might assume is the best practice.

Congratulations to John Henry on winning the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship.  Again, corporate social responsibility in this day and age is the way to go.  Unfortunately, though, ticket prices are up this year.  About half the seats were increased by two dollars, including the infield grandstand, right field boxes, and lower bleachers.  The field and loge boxes and Green Monster seats and standing room were increased by five dollars.  The outfield grandstand and upper bleachers weren’t increased.  Whenever you hear about price increases or decreases for tickets at Fenway, remember to always take them with a grain of salt.  Obviously we’d prefer a price freeze, but how many of us really purchase our Fenway tickets at face value anyway? I’m just saying.

So, as per usual this early in the offseason, we have more wait-and-seeing ahead.  Theo never reveals the tricks he has up his sleeve, so that’s really all we can do.

The Bruins suffered a particularly painful loss to the Islanders, 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.  We did best Atlanta in a shootout, though, and we eked out a win against the Sabres in sudden death.  That last one was particularly heartening, being that the Sabres are first in the division.  For now.  We’re only two points behind.  And now for the grand finale, let’s discuss Bill Belichick’s oh-so-positive judgment call on Sunday.  In the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the Pats had the ball on their 28.  Tom Brady’s pass was incomplete.  With two minutes and eight seconds left on the clock, Belichick decided to go for it.  But Kevin Faulk fumbled the ball, and suddenly it was fourth and two.  Needless to say, we lost, 35-34, to the Colts, who are still undefeated.  I mean, it’s a tough call.  Belichick made the same decision against Atlanta and we won.  Then again, we had the lead, we had the time, and we had an opponent that wasn’t Indianapolis.  It was just bad.  It was just really, really bad.

Sawxblog/Derek Hixon

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That was Beckett’s 100th career start in a Red Sox uniform, and he did not disappoint.  After pitcher’s milestones like this I sometimes think of Mike Timlin’s 1000th appearance, and that isn’t something he’ll want to remember at all.  But this was nothing like that.  This is something Beckett will recall for years.  This, my friends, was a gem.  Plain and simple.  Seven full innings, only tree hits, only one run on a solo shot by Joe Crede in the second, four walks, eight strikeouts.  He started the game with four consecutive K’s, had a one-two-three fifth, and retired eleven in a row before walking Morneau in the sixth.  He tied his second-highest K count by throwing 69 of 111 pitches for strikes.  Like the Twins actually expected to beat Beckett anyway.  Please, with the way he’s been pitching? No chance.  If the Twins were going to do anything, it would’ve been in the fourth; after Crede hit his jack, Beckett gave up back-to-back walks.  But he stayed with it, regained his control, and was air-tight for the rest of his outing.  If doesn’t prove he’s back, I don’t know what does.  Okajima got a hold, and Paps got a save, and this time it wasn’t half bad.  Brian Buscher struck out via swing and a miss to end it.

Jason Varitek was solely responsible for our first two runs, and the long ball was solely responsible for plating them.  The captain hit two leadoff home runs last night, one in the fifth and one in the seventh.  Both of them were beautiful swings.  Both were never going to stay inside the park.  And both are reasons why it’s realistic to consider Varitek in the All-Star voting this year.  That second homer ended up in the second tier of seats.  Power.

Ellsbury snapped his hitting streak at twenty-two games.  During the streak, he batted .340.  Pedroia was batting .462 heading into last night but then went hitless in the final game of the series.  Jason Bay got the day off.  Hey, if he’s eighth in the Majors in runs, sixth in home runs, second in RBIs, and sixth in walks, he earned it.  Drew went hitless but almost had himself a triple in the sixth, had Span not outran it and hauled it in for an out.  Youk had a hit and a beautiful diving catch on a right-handed line drive.  That’s a tough play for a first baseman to make, and it almost looked like the ball took him off his feet, but he made the catch and ended the inning.  Ortiz didn’t do well.  In the sixth he struck out swinging and was furious.  Early in the at-bat, he broke his bat and got a new one, and after the at-bat, he broke that one across his knee in the dugout.  So we know he has strength and power; all he has to do is use it on a baseball.  As angry and frustrated as we are about his slump, you better believe he’s that much more angry and frustrated.  And it’s not just the lack of home runs.  During the first month or so of the season, he wasn’t seeing the fastball.  He’d be late or get under it or something.

And then we have our third run scored by Bailey in the seventh.  Pedroia hit a sac fly to Kubel, who threw the ball to Redmond at home, but home plate umpire Todd Tichenor called Bailey safe.  Redmond disagreed so he got in Tichenor’s face, at which point Tichenor threw him and Gardenhire, who came out to protest, out of the game.  To be fair, Redmond didn’t swear or touch the umpire, but he was livid and you could see it.  Same with Gardenhire, which was unusual because he’s so mild-mannered.  Then in our half of the frame, Beckett was noticeably frustrated that a close pitch that’d been called mostly for a strike earlier had been called a ball.  Beckett was showing a little bit of body language, so Tek turned around to talk to Tichenor and keep Beckett out of it, at which point Tichenor threw him and Francona, who came out to protest, out of the game.  Wow.  You don’t see that too often.  It was like Tichenor was hitting for the circuit in umpire terms.  And I have to say it was completely uncalled for to toss either Tek or Francona.  Tek wasn’t expressing himself angrily; not only was there no swearing or touching, but there wasn’t even harsh language, angry gestures, or unsportsmanlike conduct.  There was a conspicuous difference between Redmond’s and Tek’s behavior, and his ejection of Tek disregarded that completely.  As for Francona, he came out to defend his catcher who shouldn’t have been ejected in the first place.  There was no way he wasn’t going out there to say something about this absurd action.  So that was just ridiculous.  It was a farce.

I’ll say something about Anthony Swarzak.  I give him credit for limiting us to three runs and, for six frames, seriously engaging Beckett in a pitcher’s duel in only his second career start.  Ultimately we won but from the way we were playing, that was to be expected.  We made Swarzak work, and that’s key because he’s a young guy who hasn’t reached his maximum endurance.  Long at-bats made him throw more pitches, which tired him out and which allowed us to see more of him and adapt to him quickly and effectively.  It’s the classic situation of not having much luck against a starter, so you wear him out and wait him out, and eventually he’ll break, you’ll figure him out, and/or you’ll get into the bullpen.  The other thing is that he had to watch Beckett every half-inning from the dugout.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.  For a young kid to watch a pitcher like that work can put incredible pressure on him to match that pitcher fastball for fastball.  And that just wasn’t going to happen.

Ron Coomer partnered with Don Orsillo in the booth last night.  Apparently Coomer played for Tito when he managed Double-A which, according to the good man himself, makes him feel old.  Small world.  Tito even managed Michael Jordan in 1994.

And just like that, we’ve played our last game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.  It’s been a great ride.  Next year, the Twins will have a new park, outdoors, with real grass.  I’m a purist in that regard, because I’m not a fan of turf.  When someone slides into a base, I want to see dirt stains, and when an outfielder dives for a catch, I want to see grass stains.  But leaving an old park is a difficult thing to do.  Especially when you’ve played well there, and that goes for the Twins and Red Sox.  Unfortunately for the Twins and fortunately for the Red Sox, our last contest in the Metrodome ended with us showing them who’s boss.  Not that I’m complaining.

Chris O’Meara
AP Photo

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