Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘San Diego Padres’

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!

Getty Images
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The A’s completely rescinded their offer to Beltre.  Now, he’s got nothing.  I can understand where they’re coming from; this is the second year in the row they’ve chased him, and they’ve had this offer on the table for weeks now.  And just last week Beltre stated publicly that he wants to stay in Boston.  He turned down the A’s, who offered him more money and more years, last year to come here.  During the Winter Meetings, Theo will be in the hunt for a reliever and another big bat.  Beltre certainly fits the latter description, but I just don’t see how we’d ensure regular playing time for him.  We certainly don’t have room for him as a starter with the other Adrian coming in.  (And putting Theo aside, make no mistake; Youk was the real basis for the deal.  If Youk didn’t have the ability to just switch from first to third like that, Gonzalez would still be in San Diego.) It’s just a shame because Beltre is a beast.  By the way, Cameron is giving Gonzalez jersey number twenty-three.

This week, the Winter Meetings came and went.  And anyone thought we’d ride that deal and go in and out quietly was so incredibly wrong, it’s not even funny.  Theo Epstein was the king of the Winter Meetings.

The Werth saga continues.  Apparently, we sat down with him and Scott Boras but never made him a formal offer.  And we certainly would not have been prepared to even come close to what the Nationals gave him.  It’s a shame for us and for Werth.  A real shame.

But not anymore.  Not today.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have our elite outfielder and our second big bat.  And no, it’s not Magglio Ordonez.  Ordonez can chase a two-year deal elsewhere with all the teams that were formerly chasing Werth and Crawford, because both are now officially taken.  The hottest position player on the market is now off.  Carl Crawford, welcome to Boston! Seven years and 142 million dollars and a pending physical later, he’s walking that speed of his right into Fenway Park.

Wow.  Just, wow.  I mean, what? It happened so fast.  First we were reportedly in talks, and then you turn around and there’s already a deal on the books.  I’ve never been one to feel comfortable with contracts as large as this one; he’s the first player in franchise history to get seven years and an average of twenty million dollars per year, and he’s the first position player in baseball history to land 100 million dollars without hitting twenty home runs a year.  It’s the tenth-largest contract in baseball history, less than deals for players that include Manny Ramirez, Joe Mauer, and obviously a sizeable host of Yankees.  But, as always, in Theo we trust.  Everybody in Red Sox Nation is hungry.  Crawford is young and more than capable.  He can succeed here; in seventy-eight games at Fenway, he’s batted .275 with twenty-four doubles, thirty-five runs, and twenty-six stolen bases.  He’s yet another lefty bat, but he makes our lineup unbelievably potent, and he and Ellsbury comprise the most formidable speed duo in the game right now.  He’s not a slugger, but he’ll hit a decent amount out and he finds gaps like no other.  His speed also makes him great in the field, and it’s perfect because he’s a left fielder by trade.

So that’s Theo for you.  He’s asked whether a deal is being considered, and he refuses to rule anything in or out.  I’m convinced that the Werth deal upped the ante here though; if that deal hadn’t gone through, Crawford would never have been in a position to demand or merit a deal of this magnitude.  So that’s that.  We can take comfort in the fact that Theo would never offer a deal like this if he didn’t think the player was worth it.  Crawford is young enough and good enough to deliver in all seven of his contract years, which is why Theo offered it, and his playing ability is elite enough to merit his salary.  It’s not like we mete out contracts like this in every offseason.  This is the first contract of this magnitude that we’ve finalized during Theo’s and this ownership group’s tenure.  Given our current position and resources, this deal makes sense for us.  Crawford will obviously need to work on patience at the plate.  He needs to increase his walk total to up his on-base percentage.  We can’t say anything beyond that; we’ll just have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, there is a ton of celebrating to be done.  Adrian Gonzaelz and Carl Crawford.  Hello, October 2011!

As far as relievers are concerned, something must be done.  Bard said almost the exact same thing.  We’re looking at Matt Guerrier as well as Brian Fuentes and Arthur Rhodes, who was an All-Star for the first time this year at age forty.  Supposedly we’ve made a formal offer to Kevin Gregg.  Supposedly we’re going to sign Scott Downs.

We’re also keeping an eye on Russell Martin, who was indeed non-tendered by the Dodgers.

And that’s the story of how Theo put all other general managers to shame, made not one but two splashes, and came to rule the 2010 offseason.  If you ask me, it’s a pretty great story.  And technically it’s not even finished.

In other news, the Bruins bested the Sabres by one and the Islanders by three, but we lost to the Flyers in sudden death yesterday.  The Patriots, in one of the most anticipated games on the calendar this year, completely crushed and humiliated the Jets in every way.  The final score was 45-3.  It was a total crush.  So incredibly awesome.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

Read Full Post »

Wow.  Just, wow.  Hugeness this week.  Trust me, there is epicness to discuss.

Beltre and Felipe Lopez both declined arbitration, but there is still hope for the former.  We all know that the A’s are offering Beltre a sweet deal, but he’s taking his equally sweet time in signing it.  He stated publicly that he wants to return to Boston, so he’s waiting to see what Theo’s got.

It turns out that what Theo’s got is a seriously awesome replacement.  Adrian Gonzalez, welcome to Boston! Finally! He went to Boston yesterday for a physical to make sure his right shoulder is on track after his surgery, and he passed.  We’ll be sending Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, outfielder Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later to the Padres, which fortunately shouldn’t hurt our farm system too much because last year’s draft was so successful.  Although it’ll be rough to see them all go.  The important thing to keep in mind about prospects is that you never know.  They could be awesome like Hanley Ramirez.  Or they could be terrible like Craig Hansen.  We already know what Adrian Gonzalez is capable of at the Major League level.

There’s room for a contract extension; Gonzalez is entering the last year of his current deal and we already acquired permission from Major League Baseball to hammer out a new one by this afternoon.  That didn’t happen, so Theo might wait to watch his shoulder in the spring, and of course there are the luxury tax implications.  But he won’t be giving up all those top prospects if he weren’t assured that an extension could be worked out, which would give us stability at all three bags.  Given Gonzalez’s age, anything from five to eight years can be considered feasible.  We offered six, but he wanted eight.  So there you go.

But one thing’s for sure: celebration is indeed in order.  Gonzalez will succeed in Boston.  His lefty swing was practically built exclusively for Fenway Park, and he was able to excel in a quintessential pitcher’s park.  Seriously.  Most of his fly balls in Petco would’ve been out in Fenway.  That’s why I’m convinced that he’ll get over his National League-ness in a hurry.  By the way, he’s got two Gold Gloves at first.  And he started almost every single game for about the last five years.  Without DHing once.  So here’s to you, Theo.  Two years later, you finally closed the deal.  And the fact that the Padres’ general manager and assistant general manager of scouting and player development both used to work with Theo is the icing on the cake that didn’t necessarily work to our advantage since they basically knew our farm system inside-out.  Gonzalez will play first and replace V-Mart’s bat, we’ll move Youk to third, and Beltre, who’s older anyway, will now probably sign with the A’s.  The deal is done on principle.  All they need to do is announce it on Monday at Fenway and that’s it.  The Adrian Gonzalez Era in Boston has begun!

One more thing.  Fundamentally this deal was not about New York; it’s about us, our team, our organization, and our hunger.  But while we’re on the subject, I would just like to point out that, not only is Adrian Gonzalez the answer to Mark Teixeira, but we now have a young infield that’s locked and entering its prime while the Yanks have guys on the downward slope of their careers.  I’m just saying.  I would advise New York to be afraid.  Very afraid.

Tek signed a one-year deal with two million dollars plus incentives; those rumors about him going to the Dodgers couldn’t have been more wrong.  They started circulating because the Dodgers had to decide whether to tender Russell Martin, who’s awesome except for injuries.  We didn’t tender Okajima, given his poor performance last season, but we already tendered Paps and will be making offers to Ellsbury and Taylor Buchholz.  Rumor has it that we made an offer to Mariano Rivera before he signed a two-year deal with the Yanks.  The Yanks seem to be avenging this action by showing interest in Carl Crawford to drive up his price.  I honestly don’t think the offer to Rivera was serious.  And I honestly don’t think New York’s interest in Crawford is serious.  Unless they don’t get Cliff Lee.  If Lee stays in Texas, New York might seriously start looking at Crawford because they could always deal Brett Gardner for a starter.

Pedroia’s foot is almost at one hundred percent.  He’s been cleared to jog and will be ready for Spring Training.  We have officially met with both Crawford and Werth, who, according to Dwight Evans, is the best right fielder in baseball and similar to himself.  This is Dwight Evans, people.  That’s seriously high praise.

Not that that’s going to help anyone.  Not even Werth himself.  Werth is now officially out of the picture and off the deep end.  He signed a deal for seven years and 126 million dollars.  With the Washington Nationals.  I’m not kidding.  That tells me two things: one, he’s not hungry, and two, he’s essentially a fool.  He’s not going to win a ring with the Nats, and seven years from now, when his contract is up, he won’t be starter material, which is obviously something that the Nationals don’t care about.  So his ring with the Phillies will be the last of his career as a starter.  If he wanted security, he sure got it.  He knows where he’ll be for the majority of the next decade, and he’s getting a whole heap of money for it.  To be honest with you, he would have been great in a Boston uniform, but I wouldn’t want someone only interested in money and years to play for us.  Especially not someone who would ever seriously consider both money and years with the Nationals.  I mean, they’re the Nationals.  Not only are they National League, they’re the worst in the National League; in fact, they’re the worst in the Major Leagues.

But wait; it gets better.  He says he’s been considering signing with the Nats since hiring Scott Boras as his agent last season.  Let me get this straight: he hired Scott Boras to get him a deal with the Washington Nationals.  That’s ridiculous.  Why would you hire Scott Boras to cut a deal with the Nationals? Jayson Werth doesn’t need an agent to negotiate a deal with the Washington Nationals; Jayson Werth can walk up to the Washington Nationals, write down a year amount and a dollar amount on a piece of paper, hand it to whoever is spearheading the process, and receive a “yes” to everything in five seconds flat.  He says he’s impressed with the Nats’ acquisition of young talent? Give me a break.  Nobody expects all that young talent to stay there; as soon as they’re able, they’re writing one-way tickets into free agency and out of town.  And then he went on this tangent in which he basically implied that he only signed with the Nationals because they assured him that they’d continue to acquire the talent necessary to compete and win, because that is very important to him.  Oh, sure.  If it’s that important to him, he would not have signed with the Nationals.  So they present their future plans to him and he asks questions about the team.  Great.  Now let’s see the Nationals follow that plan, the young talent stay put, and Werth stay in shape long enough to merit his salary at the end of his contract.  I don’t think so.

We signed starter Brandon Duckworth to a minor league deal.  He was part of the Billy Wagner trade.  We are supposedly interested in reliever Matt Guerrier.

Oh, and I fully expect Mike Cameron to morph into some sort of hitting specialist against lefties, being that many of the AL East’s elite pitchers are lefties and some of our middle bats struggled against lefties last season.  The only potential hindrance to that expectation is playing time.  Cameron has the potential to get rolling, but he can’t get rolling if he never gets going.

The Spring Training schedule is out.  We’re opening with an exhibition doubleheader with Boston College followed by Northeastern.  March features competition with Minnesota, Atlanta, Philly, both New York teams, Florida, Baltimore, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toronto, and Houston.

On Saturday, Sox Pax and tickets for twenty-one games in April and May will go on sale.

Get psyched.  The Winter Meetings are starting on Monday, and they’re going to be very interesting.  And by interesting I also mean hectic, since most of the important offseason deadlines have moved up.  Theo has his work cut out for him; we have a bat to replace V-Mart, but we’ll need another, preferably a righty, to replace Beltre since he’ll sign elsewhere, and relievers.  Good ones.  We’ve already made a splash; the key is to fill the club’s needs without removing all of our flexibility for next year.

In other news, the Bruins dropped Sunday’s game to the Thrashers, 1-4.  But then we shut out the Flyers, three-zip, and completely decimated the Lightning, 8-1.  Krejci and Ryder each racked up three points.  It was awesome.  If this were baseball, that would be considered a slugfest.  Then we lost in a shootout to the Leafs, but at least we get a point.  The Pats take on the Jets tomorrow.

NESN.com

Read Full Post »

The Giants won the World Series.  That in and of itself has absolutely nothing to do with us, other than two facts: we were one of only four teams to post a winning record against them this past season, and free agency has finally begun.

We declined options on Felipe Lopez and Bill Hall.  I like that move on Hall.  He proved to be an incredibly key asset this season with all the injuries, but it makes more sense to defer action on him until we get more of a sense of the direction we’ll be taking this winter.  We did exercise our option on Atchison.  I’m fine with that.  He’s not the best reliever in the world, but he is a reliever, and we need those.

Beltre declined his option.  That’s about the most surprising news I’ve heard in the last minute.  He’s actually not in as good of a spot as he thinks he is.  His value is up this offseason because of the awesome season he just had with us.  But one of the reasons why he had that awesome season with us is Fenway.  As soon as he signs with another team, he doesn’t play in Fenway, and his bat changes.  I’m not saying Fenway made him the great slugger he was this past year, but I’m saying it was certainly helpful.

V-Mart and Tek both filed.  V-Mart and Tek will, in all likelihood, both be back.

We picked up Papi’s option.  There’s an interesting story.  Papi spent this past week very publicly expressing a desire for an extension.  He didn’t want to return only for one year because all the speculation about the possibility of his decline would return.  I see where he’s coming from, and I believe him.  We probably will spend all of the first half of next season reading the exact same articles that say the exact same thing they said last year before, lo and behold, he returned to form and a good time was had by all.  So if I were him, I’d be tired of all that too.  At the same time, I respect Theo’s decision.  Theo has his own reasons for only wanting to lock Papi for a year, and he can’t abandon those reasons just because of the media’s obsessive tendencies.  Extensions were discussed, but the parties couldn’t agree.  Now that the option has been picked up, Papi isn’t upset about it.  He told Theo he’s cool with it, in those words.  And Theo basically said afterwards that they wouldn’t have picked up the option if Papi weren’t cool with it.  The man hasn’t been a free agent since 2002.  I don’t think he’s going to be a free agent any time soon.  He’ll have another monster year this year, and again, a good time will be had by all.

We picked up Brent Dlugach from Detroit for cash considerations or a player to be named later.  He’s basically a career minor league shortstop.  He gives us depth, and the transaction isn’t even finalized until April 15, so we get all of Spring Training to see how he does.

Meanwhile, Youk continues to be the picture of versatility and teamwork.  He said he doesn’t care where he plays – first base, third base, even shortstop – as long as the team’s needs are met and as long as he gets to stay in the infield.  I personally would love to see him just stay put at first.  He’s also excellent at third, but at first he’s a cut above everybody.

What could complicate that is the fact that the Padres are going to trade Adrian Gonzalez.  That is a verifiable fact.  And we are going to be interested.  That is another verifiable fact.  The problem is that Gonzalez wants a Teixeira-like contract: lots of money and lots of years.  The question is whether he’d be worth it, and that depends on how our offseason goes.

Finally, last but most definitely not least, we have our new pitching coach: Curt Young.  For all intents and purposes, Tito knew Farrell would be gone, so he and Farrell independently compiled their own lists of good fits.  Young was at the top of both lists, and I’m going to trust in whoever makes the top of two different lists like that.  Young leaves one sabermetrics-obsessed team for another.  He coached for the A’s for the last seven seasons but turned down their extension in favor of free agency to come here.  Last year, Oakland had the best ERA in the American League with 3.58.  During his seven years, Oakland has an AL-best ERA of 4.03 and an AL-best OPP AVG of .257.  They allowed an AL-low 1,062 home runs.  John Farrell will be sorely missed, and I really wish he’d stayed on with us because he’s basically the best, period, but if I had to pick someone to replace him, I’d agree with him and Tito.  There really isn’t much more to say.  Farrell left, we needed a pitching coach, and Young it is.  Welcome to Boston.

In other news, the Bruins had a record game this week.  We beat the Sabres, 5-2, on Wednesday in an epic contest.  But then we lost to the Caps and to the Blues in overtime, which shattered our status as undefeated on the road, which did set a new franchise record.  Thomas is undefeated in eight starts this season and is the first goalie in franchise history to be so.  We are seven, two, and one overall, second in the division behind the Habs whom we will surely soon surpass.  The Pats killed the Vikings, 28-18.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

Read Full Post »

On Wednesday, we celebrated the sixth anniversary of the day we won Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS.  The day we hand-delivered a world of hurt to the New York Yankees.  The day we crafted a homemade mountain of win.  And the last day that we would believe and keep the faith in vain.  That day marked the greatest comeback in sports history and the beginning of a journey that would take us right to the first Rolling Rally in almost a century.  That, ladies and gentlemen, was an unbelievably miraculous day.  It’ll never get tired, it’ll never get old, and it’ll always remind us where we came from and how we got to where we are today.  The gift is in the struggle.  The struggle was long.  But now the struggle is over, and we are awesome.

Part of where we come from is Fenway Park.  The team just wouldn’t be the same without it.  Thankfully, our ownership group recognizes this scientifically verifiable fact and is committed to taking care of it.  As usual, the brass unveiled renovation plans, which include three new high-definition video screens, concrete repair, waterproofing, concession and merchandise improvement, and something most definitely worth debating.  They’re considering widening the bullpens in order to make relievers more comfortable.  Right now, they’re pretty cramped, but the new plans would add workout facilities, bathrooms, and just some space and room to move around.  But there’s a tradeoff.  While widening the bullpens by six feet would bring them within Major League Baseball regulations, they’d bring the right field fence in by six to nine feet.  So, yes, wider bullpens might make a reliever more competitive and effective if he’s comfortable while warming, but the same thing goes for the visitor’s relievers, plus the fact that a closer right field wall may mean more ground-rule doubles and, worse, home runs.

When I said that this point was worth debating, that was an understatement of substantial proportions.  This is not a good change to make.  First of all, in terms of the reliever’s competitiveness, it makes absolutely no difference: either things stay as they are, or things change and the reliever becomes more competitive to a degree just sufficient enough to deal with the dimensions change.  Either way, it’s the same result.  But it’s more than that.  This is Fenway Park, America’s most beloved ballpark and the oldest in the country.  You can’t just tinker with Fenway Park’s dimensions.  You just can’t.  Part of our ridiculously massive home field advantage is the insanity that is the dimensions of the outfield: you have this small sliver of territory in left, you have the dreaded triangle behind a huge yard in center, and you have an obscenely large plane in right.  Diminishing that extremity makes Fenway more similar to other parks, which diminishes our home field advantage, not to mention the fact that the dimensions haven’t been changed since 1940 when Tom Yawkey moved the bullpens to the outfield in the first place, and he did that because Ted Williams was jacking balls out of the park left and right.  He didn’t do it because he thought that maybe, possibly, perhaps a reliever might or might not be more competitive just enough to offset the other dimensions change that such a move would cause.  Ted Williams was Ted Williams, and sure, nowadays we deal with opponents hitting home runs into the bullpens too, but Ted Williams was so potent that the tradeoff was worth it.  I don’t think it is in this case.

If something is not broken, there is absolutely no need to fix it.  And in no conceivable sense is Fenway Park broken.  The interior of the bullpen, as in the people who use it, does indeed need work.  And that’s one of the hardest jobs a general manager has to face.  Fixing the bullpen is always a challenge.  The way you fix it one year is in no way the same as the way you’ll fix it next year.  Your needs change every year.  The market changes every year.  As Theo himself said, basically you want a group of guys who can hold down spots.  You want a lefty specialist, a long man, a setup man, and a closer.  And you want a few others to fill it out.  We have a closer.  We have a setup man.  But the other spots aren’t so well-defined.  Okajima isn’t as reliable as he used to be.  Delcarmen and Ramirez are gone.  Doubront is a starter by trade, and Bowden and Richardson weren’t all that great.  So a really good acquisition this winter would be Scott Downs, but we’d probably have to give up a first-round draft pick.  So there’s no way to predict who Theo is going to get, how much he’s going to pay, how many years he’s going to give, and the list goes on.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  One thing’s for sure: Theo is firmly committed to improving the bullpen, so we can look forward to some sort of change come next year.  Theo always keeps the bullpen in mind – indeed, his first signature move was wrenching Alan Embree from the Padres in 2002 and, in light of what I opened this post with, we all know how epically glad we are for that – so whatever he does will be a step in the right direction.  (The obvious exception being Eric Gagne, but if that’s the worst mistake he’s going to make, I’ll live with it.)

Congratulations to the sizeable chunk of the team that was nominated for MLB.com’s This Year In Baseball Awards.  Tito is in line for best manager, while Beltre is in line for top hitter.  Lester and Buchholz are both in line for top starting pitcher.  Paps is in line for best closer.  Bard is in line for top setup man.  The game we played against Texas on April 20, the one where Cameron and Ellsbury were both placed on the DL so McDonald was randomly called up an hour before the first pitch and proceeded to tie the game with a pinch-hit homer in the eighth and win it with a walkoff single off the Monster in the ninth, is in line for most memorable game of the season.  And Nava’s grand slam is in line for best moment of the season.  All those nominations right there just go to show you what kind of team we were and what we could have done had we stayed healthy.  I’m just saying.

Speaking of just saying, the Yankees were eliminated by the Rangers.  Let me say that again: the New York Yankees are out of the playoffs.  One more time: the Evil Empire plays no more in October.  In the same week that we celebrated the above anniversary.  Coincidence? I think not.  Order has now been restored to the universe.

In other news, the Bruins played three games this week.  We started off by beating the Caps, 3-1.  We continued by beating the Caps, 4-1, in our home opener.  Timmy Thomas made thirty-eight saves.  Too bad we had to end it with a close 3-2 loss to the Rangers.  But I have to say, I like what I’m seeing.  The team is young but very talented and capable.  What we are seeing right now is greatness in the making, and I have full confidence that the black and gold will be a force this year.  The Pats played a fantastic game against the Ravens last Sunday.  We won, 23-20, in overtime thanks to a barely fair field goal.  But a win is a win, and we will most certainly take that one.

Celebrate Boston

Read Full Post »

Last night was another “wow” contest.  That’s two in a row! Can you believe it? We are now officially on a three-game winning streak, and even though the season is winding down, we’re starting to climb back up. We’re now seven games out of first place.  Hey, it’s an improvement over nine.  All I’m saying is that you never know.

If the standings situation is a long shot, we made a statement to the contrary last night via the long ball.  We won, 9-6, so it wasn’t a true slugfest because the score wasn’t that lopsided, but scoring nine runs in a single game is a big deal for us.  We’ve struggled throughout the season to string hits as well as wins together; last night we did both.

It all started in the second when Lowrie clobbered a home run to left with Papi on base.  It was a changeup inside on a 2-1 count to make up for Beltre being thrown out at the plate.  The ball left the field in a hurry.  But Lowrie was just getting warmed up.  You look at the kid and power isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but this season he just added the art and science of home-run hitting to his arsenal of talent.

V-Mart hit an RBI single in the third, and Lowrie hit a solo shot to the same place in the third, but this time it was a fastball down the middle in a pitcher’s count.  This was his first multi-homer game ever.  I’m telling you, I don’t really know where that power comes from, but if you got it, rock it.

We didn’t score again until the eighth, but when we did, it was huge.  Big Papi, ladies and gentlemen! It was a far cry from the sixth, when he snapped his bat over his knee because he turned a prime pitch into a weak popup.  With two out and two on, he absolutely avenged himself on a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball to the point where you knew the ball was out just by the sound of the ball-bat contact.  Ichiro just watched it.  That was his thirtieth home run of the year, making 2010 his sixth thirty-homer season with us, his first since 2007, tying him with Manny Ramirez on the franchise all-time list.  Ted Williams obviously leads with eight thirty-plus seasons.  It was ridiculous.  It was almost like the ball left the park of its own free will.

In the ninth, we added two for insurance; Patterson scored on a fielder’s choice and Reddick hit an RBI single.  Figgins hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, but it did not matter.  We had it locked.

V-Mart, Papi, and Lowrie all went two for four; Beltre went three for four.  Patterson and Kalish each stole bases.  And this was the first time since June 30 that our starting lineup included our captain.  Tek went 0 for 3 with a walk, but he threw out Figgins twice.  It’s so good to have him back.  And I don’t think it’s necessarily a coincidence that the team has been playing well of light right when the captain has returned.

When I saw we had it locked, I’m referring exclusively to the offense.  Dice-K most definitely did not have anything locked.  He left the game so unlocked, he practically invited a theft of the win.  Luckily, the offense provided ample insurance just in case, but it’s like I always say: that kind of thing should not be necessary.  If the offense scores a lot of runs, the game should end with a lopsided score because a good starting pitcher should always be able to win a game with three runs or less.  Dice-K didn’t do that.  He lasted six innings, gave up five runs on eight hits, walked four, and struck out three.  He helped Seattle snap their streak of scoring at most three runs in their last sixteen home games.  He gave up at least four earned runs for the sixth consecutive start.  He threw 105 pitches.  He relied on a great cutter, curveball, and fastball.  He mixed in a decent changeup and slider.  He ran into all kinds of trouble in half of his innings.  His best inning by far was the fourth, during which he only fired nine pitches.  But then he went right back and allowed two runs an inning later.  His release point was tight and his strike zone was packed, but he couldn’t hold the lead.

The bullpen also was not helpful.  Tito replaced Dice-K in the seventh with Okajima with Bowden with Hill, and you only stopped hanging onto the edge of your seat when Bard came on.  Hill got the win, Bard got a hold, and Paps gave us a scare when he allowed that run in the ninth but finally the game was over and we walked off with the W intact.  But this is what I mean.  None of that should have been necessary.  There should be absolutely no reason whatsoever for anyone to be concerned when your team scores nine runs.  That should be a blowout, and if it’s not, the pitchers need a talking-to.

Drew will probably be back on Wednesday.

We got the win.  We inched up in the standings.  We believe.  And we look forward to the future.  Like tonight, when Buchholz is undoubtedly going to unleash a world of dominance for the sweep.  And like next year.  Next year’s schedule is out! We’re starting the season on April 1, unfortunately with a six-game road trip.  But the home opener is on a Friday, April 8, against the Yanks, followed by Tampa Bay, so that should be a blast.  We’ve got three days off in April before heading into a grueling May, which is mostly at home but with only one day off.  June will include our second trip to the Bronx with five days off as well as some good Interleague action; the Brewers and Padres will come to town, and we’ll visit the Pirates and Phillies.  We finish Interleague in Houston in July before a homestand leads us into the All-Star break, the game being in Phoenix this year.  We start things up again with a road trip followed by an easy homestand against Seattle and Kansas City.  In August, the Yankees will come to town twice and Tampa Bay once.  In September, we’ll face Tampa Bay away and at home, we’ll go to New York one more time, and we’ll finish the season on the road in Baltimore, the last game on September 28.  So some easy, some not so easy, but all in all it looks like a really good schedule.  We’ll see a lot of action in the AL East, so we’ll have chances to make dents directly.  We definitely have something to look forward to here.  In 2006, half the team fell apart, we didn’t even make the playoffs, we suffered through a winter during which everyone wondered when we’d next win the World Series, and lo and behold the very next year we were the best team in baseball.  So you have to figure that if the injuries this year were even worse than in 2006, next year we’ll be even stronger than we were in 2007.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

Wow.  Just, wow.  If I had to describe the ideal opening of a series against Seattle in Seattle, last night would pretty much be it.  It was a textbook example of what you’re supposed to do when you play a team that’s bad.  Okay, maybe I envisioned a slugfest, which obviously didn’t happen, but everything else was exactly right.  I can live with the absence of offensive domination so massive that if the lopsided score had a weight it would tip over immediately so long as we win, and we win nicely.  Not by barely eking it out but by posting a healthy lead and maintaining it.  That’s something we didn’t do the last time we played Seattle, so it’s nice to actually play like we can for a change.

You could tell when Lester took the mound that he wasn’t about to play games.  You could tell that he knew he had a job to do and that he was going to do it.  He had his way with the Mariners, who looked like minor leaguers who had absolutely no idea what was going on.  His cut fastball was the best I’ve seen it all season.  So were his sinker and curveball.  And he threw in a good changeup every now and then.  You’d be hard-pressed to find an at-bat where he fell behind in the count, and he threw his offspeeds effectively for strikes.  He completely befuddled the hitters en route to twelve strikeouts over eight of the most solid innings you could possibly get from a pitcher.  Seven were swinging, and four were looking.  I’m telling you, there’s something very satisfying about watching the opposition take cuts at air.  He was very aggressive and packed the zone with a world of nasty.  This was his fourth consecutive start with ten-plus K’s, the longest such streak in the Majors since Jake Peavy in 2007 from April 25 to May 11 for the Padres.  Nobody in the American League did it since Johan Santana with five starts in 2004.  The last pitcher to do it for us was obviously Pedro Martinez with five in 2001.  But Lester is the first lefty in franchise history.  That brings his K total for the year to 209, making him one of five Sox pitchers to post at least two hundred K’s in consecutive seasons.  The other four are Cy Young, Smokey Joe Wood, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez.  That’s some heady company.  And if anyone belongs there, it’s Lester.  The best part is that technically he’s not even a strikeout pitcher.  He just wants outs, period.  And if he can do it more efficiently with groundouts, lineouts, and flyouts, he will.  The strikeouts are just a side venture, if you will.  That’s why he’s the man.

He last pitched at Safeco Field on July 24 and took a bid for a perfect game past the first out in the sixth, but we ended up losing.  Not so last night.  He picked up his seventeenth win of the year, also a new career high, en route to a twenty-win season.  He allowed only one run on three hits while walking three.  That’s it.  So it’s not that the Mariners had opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them.  They just didn’t have any opportunities on which to capitalize.  He strode out there and showed everybody how it’s done.  He was extraordinarily dirty, and that’s all there is to it.

We won, 5-1, showcasing the young talent because they’re the only ones still healthy.  We racked up three in the second.  Beltre scored on a groundout by Reddick, Lowrie scored on a double by Nava, and Nava scored on a double by Anderson.  It’s good to see Reddick and Anderson back in action; it reminds you that the future is bright, even if the present may be grim.  In the eighth, Kalish ripped a two-run homer into the right field seats.  Fister hung a change at the belt.  For Kalish, it was only a matter of doing what he’d always been taught to do with something like that: clock it.

The kids had some nice plays in the field, too.  No errors last night while Seattle made two, so they were pretty comfortable.  Speaking of defense, how about Scutaro’s flip in the third? Ichiro chopped one to Scutaro who made a running flip out of his glove to Anderson at first.  It was masterful.

You’ll never believe this, but the barrage of injuries continues.  Honestly, you’d think it would just stop by now being that there’s only half a month left in the season.  But no.  The injury bug has to rub salt in it.  Turns out that Drew left the game on Sunday because of a full-fledged injury.  He took a wide turn around first on a single, and you could tell that something was wrong when he ran back.  He jammed his right ankle.  And Doubront, one big reason why we traded Delcarmen, will probably be done for the season with his upper pectoral injury, specifically the left collarbone area.  “Done for the season” is such a funny phrase these days being that we’re in the middle of September.  If I sound bitter about it, it’s because I am.  We get it.  Enough with the injuries already.

We’ve got a two-game winning streak going, so that’s good.  Mostly it was just a blast to watch Lester go to work.  As far as Cy Young candidates are concerned, he has to be one of them.  He’s been outstanding, and it’s the middle of September and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  Dice-K would do well to take a page from his book when he takes the hill tonight.  Let’s win a series.

In other news, football season officially started yesterday, and the Pats kicked it off (pun intended) on a high note by beating the Bengals, 38-24.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »