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Posts Tagged ‘San Diego Padres’

This is going to be short because absolutely nothing happened this week.  Nothing.  I think this was the quietest week of the offseason.  Then again, it’s always quiet right before Truck Day.  That’s the big story right there; Truck Day is February 12! Right around the corner! Can’t wait.  Seriously.  Can not wait.  It’s been a long winter and I’m ready to see some eighteen-wheelers head south.

It’s basically settled: the Padres will deal Gonzalez, not sign him to a new deal.  I bet he’ll be out of San Diego by this season’s trade deadline.

Jermaine Dye is still unemployed.  I wouldn’t mind at all if he became a last-minute acquisition.  He’s not what he used to be, but he wouldn’t be starting and we could use the extra power.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s still true, so I’ll say it again: look for Theo to hammer out new deals for both V-Mart and Beckett this season.  V-Mart is probably the least complicated of the two.  .336 average, .405 on-base percentage, .507 slugging percentage, 41 RBIs in 56 games, and consistently brings it when batting third.  V-Mart has an OPS of .837; that’s tenth among catchers with more than twenty-five hundred plate appearances through their seasons at age thirty.  The nine guys ahead of him include five Hall of Famers and two who are headed there.  That’s pretty much everything you need to know.  Sign him.  I’m thinking forty million for four years, or something like that.  Maybe throw in some extra cash because of his added value as a first baseman/DH.  By the way, he wants to stay in Boston.

The Beckett situation is a little trickier.  I know what you’re thinking: just offer him a Lackey-type deal and be done with it.  But it’s not that simple.  He’ll probably get something more like Halladay’s deal with the Phillies because of his shoulder.  Lackey has an issue too, but it’s with his elbow, and recovering from Tommy John surgery is very different from recovering from rotator cuff surgery.  We built protection into Lackey’s contract and will look to do the same with Beckett’s.  If Beckett has a problem with that, make no mistake: he will be allowed to walk.  We will not take unnecessary risks with our investments; that much is certain.  And if he walks, there’s always someone like Cliff Lee.  That isn’t to say he won’t be missed.  He will most definitely be missed.  And measures should be taken to avoid a situation in which he will be missed.  Besides, I wouldn’t necessarily be so sure that Beckett won’t agree to the protection.  He loves playing in Boston.  Lackey and Drew wanted to play in Boston badly enough that they agreed to their protections, no problem.  We could reasonably expect Beckett to do the same.

Last but not least, Nomar Garciaparra’s announcement of his retirement is expected to be imminent.  He says he’s determined to play this season if the right solution comes up, but the problem is that it probably won’t come up.  When the announcement is made, I’ll be ready with a tribute.  For now, suffice it to say that, for better or for worse, he was a legend in Boston and would be missed.

If you thought I didn’t want to talk about the Bruins last week, you can imagine how I feel about talking about them this week.  We’re currently nursing a ten-game losing streak.  Ten games.  Four of those were overtime losses.  Quite frankly, it’s just disgusting.  At this rate, not only will we not make the playoffs, but we’ll finish the season in the dregs of the league.  At least the Olympics are coming up, which should cure some of New England’s Bruins-induced hockey ailments for a little while.

Super Bowl tonight at 6:00PM! As a Pats fan, please allow me to say one thing: Who dat? Here’s to hoping the Saints take care of business.  Get psyched.

Surviving Grady
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We now have more to deal with this offseason than we bargained for.  We all expected Theo to have his hands full with fixing this team, which obviously has holes in it.  That’s hard enough.  But in addition to that the front office and coaching staff just took two huge hits.

Brad Mills is now the manager of the Houston Astros.  Congratulations and good wishes for success, though not at our expense.  To be honest, Mills achieving success at our expense isn’t likely.  Mills will have his hands full down there, because the Astros haven’t exactly been World Series material year in and year out.  But I will say that after spending time in the dugout with Tito, Mills will have learned from the best.  Still, I don’t expect the Astros to suddenly become some sort of threat.  Of course, now we have to find a new bench coach, one who’s as good or better than Mills.

It’s finally official: Jed Hoyer is now the general manager of the San Diego Padres.  Congratulations and good wishes for success, though not at our expense.  That leaves Ben Cherington as our sole assistant GM, but I think he can handle it.  More importantly, this has profoundly positive implications for a possible Adrian Gonzalez trade.

Speaking of player additions, I wouldn’t be too surprised if our front office attempts to do business with Ben Sheets.  As Theo said, it would be a low-price, low-risk move that could pay off big dividends down the road.  And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.  No harm done.  Besides, it’s not like Sheets can afford to be as proud as he used to be.  After all the injuries he’s had, he’d be lucky to be in uniform for a contender next year.

Dean Jones, Jr. of the Baltimore Sun says that John Henry is the best owner in Major League Baseball.  Can’t say I disagree.  Pedro Martinez and his ego took advantage of a second visit to the World Series stage when he revisited the Don Zimmer incident.  He agreed with Zimmer that it was Zimmer’s fault.  Also can’t say I disagree.  Speaking of the World Series, the Yanks lead it two to one.  Let me just say that the region of New England will not be very happy with the city of Philadelphia if the Phillies fail to decimate.

And that’s a perfect segue into some extremely disturbing developments.  On Wednesday, Red Sox Nation and I visited the Boston Globe to read Tony Massarotti’s column, just like we always do.  But we were in for a profoundly rude surprise.  Mazz urged Red Sox Nation to root for the Yankees in the World Series because apparently a Yankees win would reinstate New England’s competitive fire.  I literally had to do a double-take.  Tony Massarotti, one of New England’s most trusted sports writers, was recommending the ultimate crime.  The ultimate blasphemy.  The ultimate act of treachery and betrayal.  First of all, let me take this opportunity to affirm in writing that I will not, nor have I ever, nor will I ever, root for the New York Yankees.  It is impossible for me to do so.  I am a Red Sox fan.  I loathe the New York Yankees with every fiber of my being and will in no way and at no time even consider the possibility of remotely supporting their organization.  And I think I can safely say that Red Sox Nation wholeheartedly agrees with me on this one.  You should have seen the comments on this column.  There were hundreds of them.  I assure you that you would be hard-pressed to find one that agrees with him.  Secondly, I was not aware of the fact that we lacked competitive fire.  We’re Red Sox Nation.  We’re the greatest fans in all of baseball.  You don’t get much more competitive fire than that.  So Mazz insults us, he insults our history, and he insults our loyalty.  I’m not sure Red Sox Nation and I will be able to read his columns in quite the same way again.

Furthermore, an article appeared yesterday in the New York Times by lifelong Red Sox fan Joe Nocera.  Same story.  He urged Red Sox Nation to root for the Yankees because they’re the underdogs.  Let me say something right now.  The New York Yankees are never underdogs.  How can a team be an underdog if they attempt to buy a championship every single year? What, they don’t win a World Series in eight years and all of a sudden they’re the victims of the rest of the league? There is a huge difference between a drought of eight years and a drought of eighty-six years.  And this article offends me personally because the author is a Red Sox fan behind enemy lines.  The New York chapter of Red Sox Nation has more fight than any other, and now he’s suddenly okay with the Yankees winning a twenty-seventh title? This is incredibly insulting.  Remember where you come from.  Remember the Royal Rooters.  Remember those eighty-six years.  And never forget 2004.

Nico Savidge of the Daily Cardinal wrote an article with the headline, “Yankees represent everything wrong with baseball.” I couldn’t agree more.  I suggest that both Mazz and Nocera read this as a reality check.  Let’s not forget that the Yankees are the Evil Empire, a business crushing opponents with its oversized wallet.  And don’t even get me started on the steroids, the ticket prices, and the broadcasters.  Seriously.

And that brings us to Tuesday.  On Tuesday of this past week, we celebrated the five-year anniversary of the 2004 World Series victory of the Boston Red Sox.  That was the greatest day in the history of the franchise.  It vindicated a Nation and set an entire region of the United States of America free.  I can’t even begin to describe the elation of that victory.  There’s only one way to sum it up:

“Back to Foulke! Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are world champions!”

Red Sox fans around the world were glued to their television sets on the night of October 27, 2004.  Generations of diehards achieved peace with that final out.  No victory meant more to a fan base than this victory meant to us.  And that’s why, even though this October didn’t turn out as we’d planned, five years later we’re still on top of the world.

The Patriots defeated the Buccaneers, 35-7.  We get a bye this week.  The Bruins lost to the Devils and shut out the Oilers yesterday.  With Lucic and Savard both on the injured reserve, I’m just glad we’re still putting W’s on the board.

The Onion

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We celebrated the fifth anniversary of our complete and total decimation of the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS on Tuesday.  Just thinking about that 10-3 final score gives me goosebumps.  That was the greatest day in the history of New England for all of a week before we won it all.  World champions.  I said this at the time, and I say it every year, because it’s true: it never gets old.  No matter how many wins anyone else may be able to rack up, none of them will ever measure up to 2004.  Ever.  And no defeat will ever be as painful as the one the Yankees experienced.  There’s a reason why it’s called the greatest comeback in the history of baseball.  And I wouldn’t have wanted to get to the big stage any other way.

Meanwhile, Tim Bogar and Brad Mills interviewed for the Astros’ managerial job.  That’s not something I want to hear.  Mills has been our bench coach for the past six seasons, and he’s done a great job.  Obviously I’m rooting for his success, but I just hope that success is achieved in Boston, not in Houston.

And supposedly we’re chasing Adrian Gonzalez via trade.  This could get very interesting, very quickly.  At twenty-seven years of age, he hit forty home runs, batted in ninety-nine RBIs this year, led the Major Leagues in walks, and finished the season with a .407 on-base percentage.  But wait; the plot thickens.  One of our assistant GMs, Jed Hoyer, is about to become the Padres’ GM.  (This leaves Ben Cherington as our only assistant GM.  The decision is likely to be announced in the next few days.  Bud Selig doesn’t want clubs making such major announcements during the World Series, so it’ll happen beforehand, especially since Hoyer will need to get his personnel in place and prepare for the GMs meeting starting on November 9.) So if one of them lands the job, our options become wide-open, and the road to the trade just got re-paved.  The important question here is who is on the block.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Mike Lowell and prospects; Youk would then move to third permanently while Gonzalez plays first.  But I don’t know if the Padres would bite.  I think it’s safe to say Youk won’t be going anywhere; he’s too good at the plate and in the field.  And I don’t think Pedroia even enters into this discussion.  So I think Lowell, prospects, and bench players are up for grabs.

Speaking of Pedroia, check this out.  During his MVP season, he swung at the first pitch fifteen percent of the time.  This past year, that stat was down to seven percent.  Furthermore, during his MVP season he hit .306 with eight doubles and two dingers on the first pitch.  This past year, he hit .167 with four hits, period.  And if you don’t consider his one-pitch at-bats, his numbers from the two season are almost exactly the same.  But there’s a trade-off.  With more patience came twenty-four more walks and a comparable on-base percentage despite the thirty-point drop in average.  And while we’re on the subject of examining the season via stats, the only Red Sox catcher since 1954 who’s had a better average in September than Victor Martinez is Carlton Fisk.  Just to give you an idea of how ridiculously awesome V-Mart is.  Youk has had the highest OPS in the American League since 2008.  (It’s .960, a full ten points higher than A-Rod’s.  I’m just sayin’.) Jacoby Ellsbury is one of only six since 1915 to bat over .300 with forty-five extra-base hits and seventy steals; the other five are Ty Cobb, Rickey Henderson, Willie Wilson, Tim Raines, and Kenny Lofton.  David Ortiz hit more home runs than anyone in the AL since June 6, but only six of those were hit with runners in scoring position and struggled immensely against lefties.  In three of his past four seasons, Jason Bay has experienced a slump starting sometime in June and ending sometime in July that lasts for about a month.

Saito cleared waivers on Monday, but mutual interest in his return has been expressed.  Why not? He finished the year with a 2.43 ERA, the eighth-lowest in the Majors for a reliever with forty-plus appearances.  Wakefield had surgery at Mass General on Wednesday to repair a herniated disk in his back.  The surgery was successful, he’ll begin rehab immediately, and expect him to be pitching before Spring Training.

In other news, Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt fired his wife, Jamie, from her position as CEO of the organization.  Ouch.  Now she’s amassing an army of investors in an effort to possibly buy out her husband.  Ouch times two.  This could potentially ruin the team; when the organization’s top officials are preoccupied with marriage and ownership disputes, it’s harder to focus on free agency, harder to allocate funds to the right players, and therefore harder to be good.  Not that I’m complaining; Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez blew it this year and I’m looking forward to the Dodgers dropping down in the standings.

That’s a wrap for this week.  Not too much goes on until the stove gets hot, but this is when Theo gets his winter game plan together.  If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that he’ll be making some serious moves.  After a postseason finish like ours, that’s really the only thing you can do.

The Pats crushed the Titans last weekend.  Seriously.  The final score was 59-0.  It was ridiculous.  The Bruins, on the other hand, could do better.  We lost to Phoenix, shut out Dallas, lost a shootout to the Flyers, and won a shootout to the Senators.  We traded Chuck Kobasew to the Wild for right winger Craig Weller, still in the AHL; rights to forward Alex Fallstrom, a freshman at Harvard; and a second-round draft pick in 2011.  So it could be a while before we see a return on this move, but it freed cap space in preparation for next offseason, when Tuukka Rask, Blake Wheeler, and Marc Savard all hit the free agent market.  And make no mistake: Peter Chiarelli was sending a message.  If you underperform, you’re gone, because we can use the financial flexibility of a trade to make us more competitive than you’re making us right now.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Well.  That did not go very well.  And sometimes it takes only one inning to turn sour.  I don’t know what went wrong with Lester in the fifth inning last night, but whatever it is, I don’t want to know about it.  He gave up four runs in the bottom of the fifth.  And that, my friends, may as well have been the ballgame.  Not that we can’t come back from that.  We can.  But we didn’t.  We had our opportunities; we left nine on base and went two for nine as a team with runners in scoring position.  I just really hope this isn’t an introduction of what’s to come later on in the season, because if it is, we’re in trouble.

So the full breakdown for Lester is five runs on eight hits with two walks and five K’s in five innings pitched.  I mean that’s a little misleading.  Really he seemed to be cruising along until the fifth; he allowed a run in the third but otherwise posted zeroes through four, and he collected all his strikeouts in the first two.  But then we had the two-run home run by Carlos Pena and it all went downhill from there.  It’s his first loss at home in about a year.  Before last night he’d won sixteen home games, the second-longest streak in the Majors.  And Gabe Kapler certainly didn’t help the situation.  Delcarmen came on in the sixth, followed by a perfect Ramon Ramirez in the seventh, followed by Takashi Saito in the eighth who allowed a home run and Javier Lopez in the ninth who allowed a run on four hits.  And that doesn’t sound like him either.  I hope last year wasn’t a blip on the radar as far as his consistency was concerned, because he was solid day in and day out, something that historically had been a problem for him.

RBIs for Youk and Bay for the two in the 7-2 loss.  Youk actually had a great game offensively, going three for four, the only multi-hitter in the lineup.  But a not so great game defensively.  He committed an error.  A throwing error.  Kevin Youkilis made an error.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t even know he knew how to make an error.

So we move to a record of 1-1 after our first two for the fourth year in a row.  The important thing here is to remember that, for the next two weeks or so, we’ll be dealing with a lot of firsts.  This was Lester’s first outing.  I don’t have to be happy about the result but I do have to consider the kind of pitcher he is and the fact that he will, without a doubt, bounce back from this.  Would I like to have swept the Rays? Absolutely.  But I’ll accept a series win because Lester still has to get his feet under him.  As for Youk’s error, which I still can’t believe, there goes another errorless season, but I guess I’d be okay with a one-error season, too.  We just need to establish our rhythm.  Last year the trip to Japan made that a little more complicated than usual and we still almost made it to the World Series (again, who doesn’t swing in the ninth on a 2-2 pitch?).  So I don’t think we have to worry just yet.  I’m annoyed.  I’m very annoyed.  But as far as the long run is concerned, I’m not worried.  Garza at Dice-K this afternoon.

In other news, Dave Roberts may be retiring.  It’s not official yet, but he’ll broadcasting the Padres on the radio and has accepted a job with Comcast in San Francisco.  I’ll tell you something.  We will never forget this man.  We have a lot to thank him for.  That had to be, without a doubt, the most famous, the most memorable, the most important, the most daring, the most ridiculous stolen base ever.  Thanks, Dave, for a great 2004!

AP Photo

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What is up with it? I’ve never been able to figure it out. As the nation’s most populous state, California has five baseball teams: the A’s, the Giants, the Angels, the Dodgers, and the Padres. And all of them, at some point during any given season, are a force. At some point during any given season, all five teams mix quality offense with quality defense and give their division leaders a run for their money. And there’s usually a strong California presence in the playoffs; they’ve got some hardware to show for it. The Angels won it in 2002, preceded by the A’s in 1989, the Dodgers in 1988 and 1981, the A’s in ’72, ’73, and ’74, etcetera.

But when you actually sit down to watch the California teams play ball, and you really focus on their style, it’s impossible to see how they’re so good. They play baseball as if the outcome of the game didn’t matter. Their style is very loose and laid-back, something not uncommon to CA. But intuitively it’s counterproductive. You can’t win a World Series if play like you don’t care. Can you? Maybe in years past, but not anymore. This is the age of sabermetrics, and it’s led by people like Theo Epstein and Billy Beane, who, because of his lack of funds, isn’t that much of a threat anyway. My point is, the California style of lackadaisical ball will probably put you on top in the regular season, and it’ll be good for some October thrills and chills, but it won’t get you a ring. Not anymore.

To win a World Series, you need a front office that knows how to crunch numbers in all the right places and that has enough money to go out and get the right guys. And you need intensity. You’ve all seen “Fever Pitch,” right? The intensity that surrounds Boston baseball is what brought Curt Schilling here. It’s what keeps Josh Beckett on his toes. And sometimes it makes for painful losses, but it’s part of who we are and what we associate with a good season. Intensity is a big part of what drives a team to the top.

The Oakland A’s may be good, and the Oakland A’s may be in second place by only 2.5 games, but when the Oakland A’s beat us by five runs, it’s a bit of an insult to the way Red Sox Nation conducts its business. Historically, the A’s have been able to match us, so it’s not surprising that the end of our winning streak has come from them. But it’s not like we aren’t exasperated with that. The road hasn’t been our friend thus far this season. It’s early, sure, but this is the time to start good trends, not bad ones, and starting this road trip on a sour note isn’t that auspicious in my book. And Wake needs all the offense he can get. Well, I guess that’s what happens with Harden on the mound. What can you do? Play them as much as possible and learn their weaknesses just in case we have to face them in October.

Let’s gear up, then. Another late start tonight. Hopefully, Beckett will bring.

Tim Wakefield, 5/23/2008

Reuters

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