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Posts Tagged ‘San Jose Sharks’

We have avoided arbitration yet again by locking down one-year deals with Carp, Tazawa, and Jonathan Herrera.

The big baseball news lately is the expansion of instant replay.  Obviously, this has been a hot issue since it became an issue.  Both sides of the debate have been pretty vocal in presenting their opinions, but I think it’s interesting and significant that the instant replay expansion was approved unanimously at the Owners Meeting, after which the Players Association and Umpires Association gave the go-ahead.

Starting this season, in addition to the review of close-call home runs, managers will have one challenge per game.   The manager will be able to communicate with someone monitoring video being the scenes so he can make a decision about whether or not to use a challenge.  As an extension of that, camera angles in all the parks now have to be standardized.

The has to verbalize his challenge to the umpire in a very detailed manner, so the umpire knows which parts of the play are being disputed, and in a timely manner, so the umpire doesn’t call for disciplinary action.  If it’s denied, he’s used it up.  If it’s approved, it’s replaced by another new challenge, but he can’t make more than two challenges.  If he doesn’t use it before the seventh inning, it expires, and after the seventh inning, the umpire can elect to institute a review.  All reviews will be conducted at the Majors media headquarters in New York, where four-umpire crews will be on hand, swapped out by rotation.  Field umps would communicate with them via a headset behind home plate, and their decision would be final.

And, last but not least, now replays can be displayed on jumbotrons inside the park.

So most plays will now be potentially subject to review.  As we all know, sometimes the lack of instant replay has burned us bad, and sometimes it’s helped us out.  But that’s true for any team because it’s been the nature of the game; everything tends to balance in the end.  Now, we’ll have to see whether instant replay balances things from the get-go.  It’s just going to be a huge change.  I mean, this is historic.  Baseball has stayed the same for most of its existence when it comes to instant replay, in part because the technology didn’t exist in the early and middle years.  Everything evolves, but we’re just going to wait and see what happens.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Ducks, 2-5, and Kings, 2-4, but won a close one against the Sharks, one-zip, before losing to the Leafs, 4-3, and besting the Stars, 4-2.  And the Pats, of course, bested the Colts by a healthy score of 43-22.  Onward to Colorado!

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Okay.  There’s no need to be scared or read into this.  Just because the last two times we’ve been to the World Series we’ve been able to sweep and get it done in four games doesn’t mean that we’ll lose the World Series just because we lost the second game.  It’s fine.  Honestly, we shouldn’t even have lost this one.  My point is that there is plenty of baseball still to be played.  True, we’re going away now, but that hasn’t stopped us before.  We’ll just have to get past it.

So Lackey did a great job while he was on the mound.  He pitched six and one-third innings and gave up five hits and two walks while striking out six.  He gave up a single in the first, a single in the second, and nothing in the third.  He cracked in the fourth when he gave up a triple to lead it off that turned into a run on a groundout.

That one run was a big deal because we had yet to score.  We went down in order in the first, and Napoli walked to provide our first baserunner in the second.  Ellsbury provided our first hit in the third with a single, and the bottom of the fourth looked promising.  Pedroia doubled and Papi walked, setting up Napoli.  Who then grounded into a double play.

Lackey went one-two-three in the fifth; Salty walked in the bottom of the inning, but that was it.  Lackey gave up a single in the sixth, and in the bottom of the inning, it looked like the game might be ours after all.

I’ve often said that, in a close game, one run feels like ten.  This one was no exception.  Because the longer you go without scoring runs, the more difficult it feels to score them.  After Victorino grounded out, Pedroia walked, and then it was Papi’s turn.  And I was busy thinking how great it would be if he just went yard, just like that, just because we really needed him to.

He took a fastball for a ball, fouled off a second fastball, and then received four straight changeups.  He took the first for a ball, the second for a strike, and the third in the dirt.

And he went yard on the fourth.  Hit that ball into the Monster seats.  Seriously.  Just like that.  Just because we needed him to.

It was huge.  It didn’t tie the game.  It gave us the lead.  In a close one.  In which scoring one run felt like scoring ten.  And as a result of that phenomenon, scoring two runs on one swing felt like a real jump out in front.

Unfortunately, the whole thing unraveled in the seventh.  That can not be overstated.  Literally the whole game was completely undone in the seventh inning alone.  It was one of the worst innings you can possibly imagine to occur during, of all things, the World Series.  Honestly, that kind of bad baseball is not even excusable during the regular season, let alone the postseason, let alone the pinnacle of the entire postseason.

Lackey led off the seventh with a strikeout.  Then he issued a walk and gave up a single, so John went with Breslow.  The Cards managed to execute a double steal, putting both runners in scoring position.  And Breslow walked his first batter to load the bases.

A double play would have ended it all.  But Breslow induced a sac fly.  Technically, that’s not so bad; you take the out in exchange for the run, which in this case would not be winning but rather tying.

But the whole thing went completely and epically awry.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I couldn’t believe it was happening.  I think that that had something to do with the fact that I didn’t really want to believe it was happening.

Not one but two runners scored on the sac fly, indeed providing the Cards with the winning run.  Salty missed the catch, Breslow made an error on the throw, and the whole thing turned into a huge mess as a result.  And then, to top it off, Breslow gave up an RBI single.  Thus, while Lackey was charged with three runs, he was also the victim of a situation in which some of them scored on someone else’s watch.

The final score was established right there.  We lost, 4-2.

Tazawa pitched the last out of the seventh, after which we went down in order.  Workman pitched the eighth, which for us looked like it had some potential.  Ellsbury reached on a fielding error, and Papi singled two outs later.  But Napoli popped out to end it.  Uehara pitched the ninth, after which we went down in order.

So at one point the game looked like it would be really good.  Then it was really, really bad.  All because of one play that was supposed to be routine but that instead cost us Game Two.  We need to pull it together.  Not only were those errors completely inappropriate for the World Series, but we also didn’t even have enough hits or runs to absorb that damage.  At the same time, I saw too many swing-and-misses and too many stare-at-strikes.  All of that needs to change immediately.  If we’re going to get this done, we need to take the proper steps.

In other news, hockey is back in Boston as the Bruins began their new season this month.  So far, we’ve beaten the Lightning, Red Wings, Panthers, Lightning again, Sabres, and Sharks, and we’ve lost to the Avalanche and Red Wings.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Lester is officially our Opening Day starter.  In a very sportsmanlike gesture, Beckett told Bobby V. in January that Lester was the man for the job even though Beckett’s season last year was better.  It’s all good, though, because Beckett will be starting our home opener.  Speaking of pitchers, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller are out of the running for the rotation, and we’ve only got a short time left until decisions are made and the season gets underway!

We’ve got two rotation spots to fill, and Bard, Aceves, Doubront, and Cook will be fighting for them.  Here are some Spring Training numbers to date.  Bard is one and two with a 7.11 ERA.  He has pitched twelve and two-thirds innings; he has given up ten runs on eleven hits while walking ten and striking out six.  Aceves’s only decision has been a loss, and he has posted a 7.50 ERA.  In four appearances, he has walked one and struck out eleven.  Doubront’s only decision has been a win, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA.  He has pitched sixteen and two-thirds innings; he has walked six and struck out ten, and his average-against is .290.  Finally, Cook has posted a 1.93 ERA.  He pitched nine and one-third innings; he has given up two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 8-4.  Buchholz allowed one run on four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in five innings of work during which he threw plenty of curveballs and felt fine doing it.  That run came on a solo shot, Evan Longoria’s first of Spring Training.  Ross hit a home run.

The Twins beat us on Monday, 8-4.  Doubront made the start and pitched four and two-thirds innings.  He gave up two runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out three.  Forty-nine of his seventy-four pitches were strikes.  Ellsbury had two hits.

The Jays beat us on Tuesday, 9-2.  Bard pitched five innings, four of which were decent.  In total, he gave up three runs on three hits, walked three, and struck out two.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  All three of those runs occurred in the second inning.  Shoppach hit a two-run home run in the second.  Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation sends their condolences to the family of Mel Parnell, who passed away.  He is the winningest southpaw in club history.  He spent his entire career here and pitched a no-hitter against the Other Sox in 1956, his last season.  According to Johnny Pesky, it was Parnell who coined the name “Pesky’s Pole” for Fenway’s right-field foul pole.  Mel Parnell was indeed a character who will be missed, and as I send, we send our condolences to his family and friends.

We lost to the Pirates on Wednesday, 6-5.  Lester pitched three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and didn’t exactly inspire much confidence in his presumed ability to hit the ground running next month.  Salty hit a two-run home run and a double, and Gonzalez hit an RBI double.

We tied the Yankees at four on Thursday.  In four innings, Cook gave up two runs on four hits while walking none, striking out two, and picking off two.  Pedro Ciriaco and Lars Anderson both doubled, and Sweeney scored the tying run.  Interestingly enough, or perhaps the better phrase for it would be “conveniently enough,” Joe Girardi announced that the Yanks had a bus to catch just as Clay Mortensen was getting ready to pitch the tenth.  Girardi claimed that his team wouldn’t be pitching extra innings because they didn’t have enough arms, which the travel list indicated was false.  Mortensen warmed up for no reason in that case, and Bobby V. was not amused.  Honestly, in that situation, who would be? Adding to that drama, Tito returned, this time to broadcast the game for ESPN.  He’ll be in the both for Opening Day and for the April 22 Yankee game.  But you could totally tell that this meeting brought up a lot of raw memories.  Meanwhile, Beckett started a minor league game opposite the Orioles.  He faced twenty-two batters in six innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out six.  He threw eighty pitches, all called by Salty.

Friday began with a most unpleasant surprise: Jenks was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence and fleeing a crash.  I must say, I am extremely disappointed; if he doesn’t want to act like a stand-up citizen because that’s the kind of conduct that we as Red Sox Nation expect from our team in Boston, then he should act like a stand-up citizen because he should recognize his position as a role model and public figure.  He apologized for it today, but still.  Friday ended with a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in which Buchholz pitched five innings, during which he gave up five runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  A strange sight: Nick Markakis hit what everyone thought was a flyout but what turned out to be a home run, thanks to the wind.  He even threw his bat down and everything.  McDonald went three for three.

We played two split-squad games on Saturday.  First, we beat the Marlins, 4-1.  Doubront threw seventy-eight pitches over six innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two.  Lavarnway went two for three with an RBI.  Ross, Sweeney, and Ciriaco also batted in a run each.  Then, the Phillies beat us, 10-5.  Aceves did not have a good outing at all; he only lasted three innings and gave up nine runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out three.  Bowden pitched two innings and gave up a run on three hits.  Padilla pitched a scoreless inning.  Bailey pitched a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out one.  Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Aviles had two hits.

In other news, the B’s decimated the Leafs, eight-zip.  Then we lost to the Sharks, 2-1, and beat the Kings, 4-2.

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We’ll start with the biggest news first, which at this point is not really news.  It’s now officially official.  On Tuesday, the Cubs will host a press conference at which they will announce the hiring of Theo, but not as general manager.  As president of baseball operations.  Look for Theo to make a play for Jed Hoyer of the Padres to rejoin him in Chicago as GM.  Also on Tuesday, we will be promoting Ben Cherington.  Well, it’s the simultaneous ending and beginning of an era.  All three of these guys use basically the same strategy, so I don’t think the change will be that drastic.  As I said, though, hats off to you, Theo.  Thank you for all you’ve done.  You’ll surely be missed.

Lester has confirmed that he was, in fact, one of the three starting pitchers engaged in the beer-drinking, fried chicken-eating, and video-game playing between starts in the clubhouse.  He emphasized that nobody was actually getting drunk, that the team was in the weight room doing conditioning, and that the pitchers’ clubhouse shenanigans or the team’s collective September weight gain had nothing to do with the collapse.  He also agreed with Tito that he was losing his influence and that it was time for a new manager.

Then, Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Tito, and even Larry denied that there was ever drinking in the dugout by anyone during games.  The information that beer-drinking was occurring in the clubhouse during games was obtained from two unidentified club employees who claimed that Beckett would instigate the three leaving the dugout around the sixth inning, going into the clubhouse, filling cups with beer, returning to the dugout with the cups, and watching the rest of the game while drinking beer.  However, when two additional employees were contacted, one said he never saw it but heard complaints about it happening in 2010, and another said he never saw or heard about it.  Lester went further to clarify that the players were not taking advantage of Tito’s lack-of-iron-first style but were rather taking advantage of each other.

Apparently, by the way, Lackey is a favorite teammate of the club.  Who knew? Also, who knew that the Padres may be interested in him, provided that we pay most of his contract?

Tek denies that chemistry was even a problem at all.  He said that, when Tito mentioned this as an issue two days after the season, he was surprised.  He said that guys were on the bench and in the gym sufficiently and that the collapse was due purely to a lack of professional results on the field.

We also have to add a pitching coach to our list of people to hire this offseason.  Curt Young is going back to Oakland.  Buchholz says that the pitchers didn’t work as hard for him as they did for John Farrell.  He also said that he joined in the beer-drinking, to whatever extent it actually occurred.

Congratulations to Papi, this year’s Roberto Clemente Award winner! Very well deserved indeed.  By the way, now he says he wants to stay in Boston.

In other news, the Pats edged the Cowboys, 20-16 on Sunday.  And we get a bye today.  And the Bruins lost to the Canes and Sharks but beat the Leafs.

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

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

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

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

Let’s Go Red Sox

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Isn’t that a convenient theme for the week.

With all this focus on defense, it’s worth explaining four new fielding stats that helped Theo and other proponents of sabermetrics make decisions this offseason.  Baseball is a numbers-heavy game, so anytime new stats come to the fore, it’s pretty exciting stuff.

First we have a fielder’s ultimate zone rating.  It’s a fielder’s number of runs above or below average.  It’s calculated by adding range runs to error runs.  According to Mitchel Lichtman, the statistic’s developer, range runs are “the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity,” and error runs are “the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by the number of errors he makes as compared to an average fielder at that position given the same distribution of balls in play.”

Next is the plus/minus.  This is more straight-forward.  It awards for converting plays that others in the position in question failed to convert and demerits for failing to convert plays that others would’ve made.  Developed by John Dewan, this stat is compiled through extensive research of video footage that maps the location and speed of each ball in play as well as the type of hit that put it into play as well as every other property of a ball in play that you could possibly imagine.

Third is the defensive runs saved.  It’s a complete quantity of runs saved.  Also developed by John Dewan, it’s calculated using plus/minus in conjunction with “double play abilities, outfielder arms, bunt defense by corner infielders, pitcher stolen base defense, catcher stolen base defense and the catcher’s ability to handle pitchers.” Dewan explains it thus in his book The Fielding Bible Volume II, “Let’s say there’s a man on first with one out. The expected runs at that point are .528. The next play is a ground ball to the shortstop. He boots it for an error and we now have men on first and second with one out. The expected runs went from .528 to .919. That’s an increase of .391 (.919 minus .528) runs. The play itself, the error, cost the team .391 runs. We don’t have to follow it through and count the rest of the inning. We know what the value of the ending state is and can use it.”

Fourthly, we’ve got the probabilistic model of range.  This one is my personal favorite of the four.  It’s kind of like the ultimate zone rating but accounts for some additional and very important variables.  This program, developed by David Pinto, calculates “the probability of a ball being turned into an out based on six parameters: direction of hit (a vector), the type of hit (fly, ground, line drive, bunt), how hard the ball was hit (slow, medium, hard), the park, the handedness of the pitcher, the handedness of the batter.” Here’s how it works.  It finds the probability of a ball put in play being converted into an out; this is the number of expected outs.  It divides that by the number of balls put in play; this is the expected defensive efficiency rating.  Compare that to the whole team’s actual defensive efficiency rating, and you’ve got the probabilistic model of range, the idea being that a team has a good defense if it’s actual defensive efficiency rating is better than its expected rating.  I’ll be interested to see how the 2010 Red Sox fare by this metric.

Leaving the world of defensive stats and mathematical innovation to itself for moment, we’re going to take a trip back to your high school hallway.

You’ll never believe the latest news on the Dice-K front.  Apparently, the Boston Globe found out from a Japanese magazine that talked to Dice-K that Dice-K injured his right inner thigh while preparing for last year’s World Baseball Classic.  But he didn’t withdraw from the World Baseball Classic because the rest of him felt fine.  He actually concealed the injury from Team Japan’s trainers.  But the guilt and the physical taxation of his work took their toll, and the rest is history.

Honestly, the whole situation resembles teenage gossip way too closely.  It’s extremely frustrating.  The way I see it, the team shouldn’t have had to find out about an injury that directly affected, its long-term performance from a newspaper that found out from a magazine that found out from the player.  At the bottom of this whole thing is cultural differences.  In Japan, honor is of paramount importance.  So Dice-K felt that his injury was something to hide; he didn’t want to become the center of attention, didn’t want people to worry on his behalf, and didn’t want to make excuses for himself.  But we expect someone like Dice-K to be public about legitimate injuries so he can get help.  Bottom line? Team Japan got a championship, Team Boston got nothing, and Team Dice-K has some work to do.

Theo Epstein deserves a hearty congratulations on never having gone to arbitration with a player.  He signed Okajima to a one-year deal worth a bit less than three million dollars, plus four bonus clauses.  But he’s got four more filings to deal with: Hermida, Ramon Ramirez, Delcarmen, and none other than Jonathan Papelbon, who of course expects a raise.  I think if anyone on that list is going to finally get Theo into an arbitration, it’s going to be Paps.  I mean, he’s still the best closer in the game, but after our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs, I’m not sure that raise is going to be served on a silver platter.

Mark McGwire finally declared his use of steroids and HGH.  Wow.  I could try to field some sarcasm here, but honestly when I read that, I was so bored that I forgot to yawn.  Next thing you know, Barry Bonds is going to admit using, too.  Oh, wait.  But in all seriousness, I think Major League Baseball needed that admission, even though all of us knew it before Tom Davis chaired that interrogation on March 17, 2005.  But I think Michael Cuddyer said it best when he expressed sorrow for the clean guys who couldn’t hold a candle to all the loaded teams that swiped the championship rings from their fingers.  As far as Joe Morgan’s statement on the matter is concerned, it’s just another reason not to watch baseball on ESPN:

[Steroid users] took performance-enhancing drugs to enhance their numbers and make more money.  And they did it and made more money and enhanced their numbers.

Profound.  Although his main point that we should pay more constructive attention to the clean guys of the era who earned their stats than pay all this sensational attention to the juiced guys who didn’t is spot-on.

Equally profound was Bud Selig’s proclamation that changes would come to baseball this season.  Did he say what sort of changes? No.  Apparently that’s not nearly as important as the fact that changes will take place, period.  The postseason schedule is likely to be addressed first.  Mike Scoscia wants less days off, and Joe Torre wants the division series to be best-of-seven.  Fantastic.  The GMs who, between them, want more baseball played in less time after a 162-game season are on the panel that’s essentially the brain behind the changes.  And last but not least, Major League Baseball has pledged one million dollars in aid to Haiti.  That just makes you feel great about being a baseball fan.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Ducks in regulation, beat the Sharks in a shootout, and lost to the Kings in a shootout.  But that’s not even the sad part.  The sad part is that we have fifty-four points, which is good for second place in the Northeast.  That’s two above the Senators and ten below the Sabres.  Guess how many points the Kings have.  Fifty-seven.  I’m sorry to have to say this, but we’re actually playing worse puck than the Los Angeles Kings.  Of course, life doesn’t look much better from a Patriots perspective.  The Ravens absolutely slaughtered us on Sunday, and that’s the end of that.  I don’t really feel a need to dwell on the subject.

Not in HD

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The wait is over.  Done.  Finished.  The winter has ended, the last game of Spring Training has been played, and ladies and gentlemen, we’re ready.  Tomorrow, say hello to your 2009 Boston Red Sox! Do I think we’ll win the World Series this year? Absolutely.  Did I also say that last year? Absolutely.  Hey, it’s all about believing.  And about swinging on a 2-2 pitch in the ninth inning of a championship series.  But let’s not get into that.  More importantly, Opening Day is our home opener against the Rays.  Josh Beckett will indeed be starting opposite James Shields, and we’re looking at Lester-Kazmir and Dice-K-Garza for the rest of the series.  As far as the lineup is concerned, we think it’ll be Ellsbury leading off, followed by Pedroia, followed by Papi.  Youk will most likely hit clean-up, followed by Drew, followed by Lowell and Bay, with Tek batting eighth and Jed Lowrie batting ninth.  It’s definitely a creative lineup, and I’m interested to see how it’ll work out.  I maybe would’ve had Pedroia lead off with Youk batting second, Drew batting third, and Papi batting cleanup, because we know from last year when Papi was sidelined by his wrist that Drew hit cleanup behind Manny and his numbers went through the roof.  Then I’d have Ellsbury bat fifth and Lowell bat sixth, keep Bay batting seventh, and have Lowrie bat eighth and Tek bat ninth.  We know from 2007 that Lowell’s got power, and when Ellsbury’s a good hitter with tons of speed, so we want to put him on and score him.  And we know he’s had trouble in the lead-off spot.  And if we put him on in addition to Bay and Lowell, Lowrie and his unusually high batting average with runners in scoring position will come to the plate and do damage.  And Tek ninth, because of all the usual reasons why you’d put someone in the Number 9 spot.  But either way, it’s a ridiculously potent lineup and we’ll be sure to wreak a lot of havoc.

Yes, Jed Lowrie will be starting at shortstop! Julio Lugo was placed on the fifteen-day DL, retroactive to March 27.  Same with John Smoltz and Mark Kotsay, whose roster spot is being filled by Chris Carter.  Not a bad substitute, if you ask me.

We have a verdict on our fifth starter: Brad Penny.  Clay Buchholz was roughed up on Tuesday against the Rays.  We went on to win it, but in about five innings of work he allowed six runs on nine hits, two of them home runs, with a walk.  So he’ll start the year in Pawtucket with only one minor league option left.  Justin Masterson will work in the bullpen this year as expected.  I still think it’s a waste, and I’ll probably keep saying that until he’s back to a starting role, but what can you do.  That’s where we need him most I guess.  He and Manny Delcarmen will be our multiple-inning guys, and since we don’t really have a designated “long man,” they’ll mostly likely work overtime to fill that void.

Fenway Park is ready to go for the new season.  All the renovations have been completed, and the park looks fantastic as usual.  I’m telling you, this ownership group has done wonders for Fenway.  Probably the most important improvement to the park is, you guessed it, the addition of more seats which, when it’s Fenway you’re talking about, is always something to smile about.  Fenway also gets a new frank; we partnered with Kayem Foods in a multi-year sponsorship and licensing agreement, and Kayem Foods will manufacture and sell its revamped Fenway Franks.  Let’s hope they get it right.

Finally, a word about the home stretch.  At the end of September we’re looking at one of the roughest schedules in the league.  We’ll be going into the playoffs after twenty consecutive games without a day off.  And those games are no walk in the park, either.  We’re talking Angels, Yankees, Jays, and Indians.  But that’s a long way off.  And we’re going to the playoffs, no doubt about that.  For now, I’m just psyched that the season’s finally here.  Can’t wait.  Seriously can’t wait.  Tomorrow will be the start of something huge.

In other news, the Bruins seem to be back on track with a six-game winning streak.  We have four games left in the regular season against the Senators, Habs, Sabres, and Islanders.  Let’s make them count, go into the playoffs with some momentum.  We’ve finally clinched the conference and are right back in the running for the Presidents’ trophy with 112 points, only one below the Sharks’ 113.  I’m just relieved to see that we’ve emerged from our bad spell, and we seem to be the better for it.  There’s only one thing left to do to finish a season as good as the one we’re having: Stanley Cup.  Bring it back.

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