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Posts Tagged ‘Silver Slugger’

The small stuff first.  We signed Nick Punto to a two-year deal; it’s a solid signing.  He’s a scrappy player with a decent bat who’s great in the field.  He also seems to have a reputation for a good clubhouse character, which may be helpful at a time like this.  We signed Albers to a one-year deal, and we tendered Aceves, Bard, Morales, Aviles, Ellsbury, and Salty.  Rich Hill is now a free agent.  Jenks had back surgery.

Incidentally, the bid for Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish is rumored to be even greater than Dice-K’s bid.  He’s going to Texas.  Some say he’s better equipped to succeed here, but Dice-K has made me skeptical and bitter.

Bard is unofficially officially a starter.  I know that because we just traded Lowrie and Kyle Weiland to the Astros for Mark Melancon, a reliever who played for the Yanks in 2009 and 2010 but who closed for Houston last season.  Obviously, Lowrie is the one of those two with the higher profile.  He had phenomenal potential that was substantially hindered by injuries; there’s no escaping that fact.  The team had needs that Lowrie, as a result, was unable to fulfill; perhaps he will help the team best as trade bait.  But we won’t know that until Melancon has pitched well into the season for us.

Truth be told, I would argue that, although his stuff seems impressive enough, we don’t really know all that much about him in the context of the Major Leagues.  Last season was his third in the big show; he pitched 74.1 innings in seventy-one games, gave up five home runs, walked twenty-six batters, posted an ERA of 2.78, and struck out sixty-six.  His WHIP was 1.22.  Last year was the first season in which he posted a save at all, and he posted twenty of them.  And he’s twenty-six years old.  From all of this, we can learn that he’s young, he’s new, and he knows absolutely nothing about what it means to close regularly for a team like the Red Sox in a city like Boston in a league like the American League in a division like the AL East.  As I said, it seems like he’s got the raw goods, but at this stage, I do not feel comfortable with him being slotted as our regular closer right off the bat (pun not intended), hands-down, no questions asked.  Throw in the fact that he had major surgery on his right elbow early in his career, and there are definitely some doubts.

Then again, the surgery was a few years ago, and Paps at one time was also untested, and so is Bard as a closer.  They have absolutely electrifying fastballs; Melancon gets up to ninety-five miles per hour.  He also works with an effective cutter and curveball.  Brad Mills seems to think he can do it.  All I’m saying is that Melancon has some big shoes to fill in the biggest baseball town in the country.  Hold onto your hats, folks.  Hold onto your hats.

Bill James’s predictions for the coming season are in.  He has Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Papi all declining in batting average; Youk’s average is slated to markedly increase since he hopefully will be starting the year more healthily than the way he finished last year.  We can expect one additional home run from Papi this year; more importantly, James’s prediction shows that Papi’s power will perpetuate.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury are also slated to go yard more frequently.  Pedroia supposedly will be stealing about ten less bases, but the reason why he probably didn’t get a strong projection all around is because he was injured.  Provided that he isn’t injured, he’s going to rock it.  Look for Gonzalez to perform better than expected as well, since he’ll be entering his sophomore season with us and since he’s now sufficiently removed from his offseason shoulder surgery.

And lastly, literally, it looks like last season really was Tek’s last season with us.  Salty has found his footing, Ryan Lavarnway is coming up, and Kelly Shoppach is coming back.  Obviously it won’t technically be official until Tek signs with another team or retires, but it looks like the year of the goodbye will continue.

We acquired Tek from the Mariners in 1997 and probably didn’t even know at the time the extent of the impact he would make upon arriving.  His entire Major League career was played here.  His development as one of the best catchers in the game was completed here.  Honestly, I always thought he would retire here, and it’s a true shame that he isn’t.  True, his last several seasons saw a marked decline in both performance on the field and leadership influence off the field, but we’re looking at the whole picture here.

Since he’s spent his entire professional baseball life in Boston, we can speak in terms of career numbers.  He is a career .256 hitter with 193 home runs, 757 RBIs, 614 walks, and a .341 OBP.  But we never expected him to be a hitting catcher.  We expected him to be a catcher, period, and what a catcher he was.  He has played in 1,488 games and started 1,372 of them.  He has picked off 10,166 batters and caught 184 stealing.  His fielding percentage is .994; last year he made only four errors, and the year before that he made none.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.17.

And obviously some of his greatest contributions go well beyond even those stellar fielding numbers.  He was a true leader in every sense of the word both on and off the field, which is why he wore the “C” on his jersey, a rarity in baseball these days.  He knew the pitchers inside and out and could adapt on the fly in any situation, which is why he caught and called four no-hitters, a Major League record.  There is also something to be said for having such a veteran on the team, especially with a collaborative and positive personality like his, to ease transitions and be a moderating force in the clubhouse.  And, of course, no tribute to Tek would be complete without mentioning the contribution of the forever-to-be-remembered A-Rod fight on July 24, 2004.  It was a turning point in the season.  It was legendary and historic.  It was epic.

To his credit, he has a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, three All-Star selections, two World Series championships, and the respect and affinity of Red Sox Nation.  He was the quintessential team player, and I firmly believe that his character and quality as a player and teammate warrant consideration for employment within the Red Sox organization, hopefully as a coach.  We remember what you’ve accomplished here, and we won’t forget it.  You’ve seen us at our best and worst; it’s been a phenomenal ride.  We as Red Sox Nation salute you, Tek.  And you will most definitely be missed.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Kings, womped the Sens, and crushed the Flyers in a particularly impressive six-zip shutout.  We scored our first goal in the first minute of the game and four goals in the first period alone.  We’re nursing a four-game winning streak and are tied with the Flyers at the top of the conference.

I’ll be taking a break for the next two weeks.  I expect winning signings when I get back.  Good, solid deals that will address the team’s needs.  It doesn’t have to be flashy; we’ve seen the detrimental effects of fixing what isn’t broken and being flashy for flashy’s sake around the league, and we’re not going to do that.  Just some good, solid deals and we’ll be fine.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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That was rough.  Lester pitched beautifully.  Well, I should qualify that.  He pitched a full seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts.  It’s not that that’s a bad outing.  It’s a good outing.  For most pitchers, that would be a great outing.  It’s just that we’re used to seeing even better from Lester.  Like no runs on three hits with no walks and ten strikeouts over eight innings.  For him, that’s good, but it doesn’t seem customary because, last night, it wasn’t good enough.

He threw 109 pitches, sixty-seven for strikes.  He threw really great cut fastballs for strikes, and he worked them up to ninety-five miles per hour.  His other pitches weren’t working as well.  He varied his speed; he mixed in some changeups, curveballs, and sinkers, but they weren’t thrown for strikes as often.

He threw fifteen pitches in the first inning.  He threw his highest total, twenty-two, in the third inning.  He had absolutely nothing to worry about until the fifth inning, when he got into trouble that he failed to escape.  It started with a groundout.  But then he gave up three straight singles to the bottom third of the order.  One run scored on a fielder’s choice, and two more scored on another single by – you guessed it – Johnny Damon of all people.  The inning finally ended with a groundout.  It took him twenty pitches to give up those three runs.

And then he just went right back to cruising like nothing happened, which is really the best way to go about it.  You don’t want to have a bad inning and then have another bad inning just because you had a bad inning.  He pitched two more innings before he was lifted, and they were pretty routine.  Maybe a single here, a walk there, a steal attempt there, and that goes back to the fact that, with Lester, we’re just used to not seeing any of that, so if any of it is there at all, we think it’s a sign of a bad outing.  For him it might be, but comparatively speaking it wasn’t so bad.  He fired seven pitches, five of them strikes, during his final inning.

So the one bad inning, as we’ve seen all too often, again rears its ugly head.  But we’re still talking about only three runs.  The bullpen held it together; the Rays didn’t score after that.  Bard pitched a solid, scoreless eighth, and Jenks pitched a solid, scoreless ninth.  So it’s a tribute to Lester that we consider that a bad inning, but our offense should have been able to handle it.  So the real unfortunate part is not that Lester gave up three runs.  It’s that we couldn’t score at least four.

McDonald picked up his first homer of the season in the third, a solo shot to lead off the inning.  It was the second pitch of the at-bat.  He received an eighty mile-per-hour changeup first but swung and missed.  Then he got a seventy-five mile-per-hour curveball, David Price’s first of the game, and was all over it.  He sent that into the Monster seats, and that actually gave us a one-run, short-lived lead.  After doubling to lead off the sixth, Pedroia came around to score on a double by Lowrie, who posted the lineup’s only multi-hit game.  He went two for four with two doubles.

The bottom of the ninth was our last chance.  Ellsbury pinch-hit for Cameron but struck out swinging on three pitches.  Drew pinch-hit for Tek but struck out swinging on six pitches.  Papi pinch-hit for McDonald but flied out to right on two pitches.  You know, Papi has hit at least one triple every season since 2000; he’s the only American League batter to do so for twelve straight seasons.  He actually legs out quite a few of them.  It sounds funny, but he’s capable of hustling and he does when he needs to.  So when he flied out to right, I was hoping that it would be in there for a triple.  He has one already; why not make it two on the year? And that ball just sailed right into that glove.  Game over.

To clarify, Papi was pinch-hitting because originally he was penciled out of the lineup since Tito wanted to increase the number of righties in the order against the southpaw.  Lowrie played third base, and Youk, for the first time in his career, started a game as the designated hitter.  He singled.  He struck out.  He didn’t do much else.

Congratulations to Crawford, who received both a Gold Glove award and a Silver Slugger award before the game for his work last season.  And then he got picked off in the first? Price made this quick move of his to first and caught Crawford several steps off the bag just standing there.  And Ben Zobrist makes that catch in right field in the fifth? That ball came off Tek’s bat and he was headed for extra bases for sure had it not been for that catch.

We lost, 3-2, and that’s the second straight pitcher’s duel that Lester has lost by one run.  We left six on base and went one for seven with runners in scoring position.  At least we didn’t have that many runners in scoring position, so we didn’t strand a whole heap of runners.  And that’s what I call a dysfunctional statement.  We should never have to find ourselves in a position where we’re glad we didn’t have that many runners in scoring position just so that we wouldn’t have to deal with squandering those opportunities.  But that’s because we only totaled five hits.  On the bright side, four of those five were for extra bases.  At least we scored a couple of runs, so it’s not like last time when Lester lost, 1-0, because we couldn’t plate a single man.  But it’s still a loss we shouldn’t have had to take.  Three pinch-hitters in the ninth, and we couldn’t get it done.

Well, Lackey is pitching tomorrow in the last game of the series.  We just have to keep moving right along.  Eventually, things will just click.  Until then, hold onto your hats.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AP Photo

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Congratulations to Beltre for winning a Silver Slugger! He most definitely deserved it.  I wish I could say the same for Vlad Guerrero, who won it instead of Big Papi, which is ridiculous.  Guerrero hit .300 with twenty-nine homers, 115 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .496.  Sounds great.  Until you consider the fact that he only hit nine homers after the All-Star break and posted a measly OPS of .748.  Papi hit thirty-two homers and posted a slugging percentage of .529 and OPS of .899.  Notice that all of Papi’s numbers are higher than Vlad’s.  Theoretically, this should result in his fifth Silver Slugger at DH, but for some absurd and unknown reason, it didn’t.  He and Josh Beckett can commiserate this offseason, because that’s just not right.

Pedroia’s rehab is progressing ahead of schedule.  I’m not surprised by that.  I am relieved, not just for the team and for Red Sox Nation but also for Pedroia, who’s been itching to play for months now.

Ladies and gentlemen, the stove is finally starting to heat up.  Finally.  We have confirmed official contact with Werth’s agent.  We are supposedly interested in Zack Greinke and Justin Duchsherer.  We have statements from Theo about his commitment to re-sign Beltre and V-Mart, with the obvious emphasis on V-Mart.  Meanwhile, Peter Gammons is convinced that Theo is going to move on without V-Mart because he says the Sox are sure Salty can handle the job.  I’m going to take Theo’s word on this instead.

Perhaps the ultimate free agent, or at least the one everyone’s talking about these days, is Cliff Lee.  Everyone thought Lee is going to be a Yankee for sure.  Nothing would please me less, but I don’t think that’s as likely as people think.  He’s thirty-two years old, and if New York decides to give him a Sabathia-like contract with heaps of money and, less intelligently, heaps of years, I will lose negative respect for their organization, because trust me, there isn’t any there to begin with now.  My next guess would be the Angels, but they’ve already set their sights on Carl Crawford, although that could change since the Giants proved that, yes, you can win with pitching.  (Which only confirms the fact that we’re going to win the World Series this year, by the way.  Just sayin’.) Detroit could be an option since they’ve made payroll room.  The most likely competitor for New York right now appears to be the Rangers, who are in hot pursuit, and offers could come in from the Phillies and Brewers as well.

The Mets won’t spend this offseason, the Cubs want youth, the Reds are in the process of offering Arroyo an extension, and I’m so sorry to say this, but I don’t think we’re going to be in the mix for this one.  A sizeable chunk of our payroll is currently devoted to our starting rotation, and on top of that we just don’t have the space for Lee right now.  So it makes sense to leave him alone.  Otherwise, we basically wouldn’t be able to do anything else.  Lee is absolutely awesome, so again, it hurts to say so, but we’re making the right move here.

An interesting question to ask is whether the acquisition of Lackey kept us from Lee.  I think the answer would have to be yes, but I think we’ll get more bang for our buck with Lackey than we would have with Lee.  Lackey is a competitive workhorse.  He absorbs innings like a sponge.  We need a guy like that in there, especially if we’ve got another guy on whom you can’t necessarily depend to go deep.  (That would be Dice-K.) Lackey complements that, and that way the bullpen knows it’s going to have a light night for each overtime it works.  Depending on how this season goes, I’d be ready to say we made the right decision.  That’s the key right there.  Lee is a competitive workhorse too, and he also absorbs innings like a sponge.  But he won’t be absorbing anyone’s innings like anything unless they’re ready to fork over substantial coin and years.  Provided that my predictions about Lackey returning to top form his sophomore season come true, Lackey is the better option because he’ll probably end up being cheaper than both.  I have a feeling that Lee’s next contract is going to be huge.  So Lackey gives us more flexibility that way.  Sure, Lee arguably would be better, but like I said, if Lackey is back to his stellar self as of now, the difference in quality won’t be that large; meanwhile, we spend less money and don’t have to commit the better part of an entire decade.

We traded Dustin Richardson to the Marlins for Andrew Miller.  The Jays just hired PawSox manager Torey Lovullo as their new first base coach.  Our minor league infield coordinator, Gary DiSarcina, is now the assistant to the Angels’ general manager.  DeMarlo Hale will interview with the Mets for their managerial position.  The disadvantage of having a top-flight staff is that everyone wants a piece.  Hopefully for us, this goes nowhere.

In a spectacular combination of divine intervention and rational thought, ESPN will not renew the contracts of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.  Oh, happy day.  Twenty-one years of suffering through commentary that was anything but insightful and unbiased is officially over.  Dan Shulman will replace Miller.  At this point, anything is an improvement.

In other news, the Bruins started the week with a victory over the Penguins, 7-4.  Seven goals in a single game.  Wow.  Then we just had to lose to the Habs, 3-1.  Yesterday’s game didn’t bode too well either; the Sens shut us out, 2-0.  Those were not the same Senators we shut out, 4-0.  That was a completely different team.  On behalf of Bruins fans everywhere, I’d like to extend condolences to the family of Pat Burns, who coached us in the late ’90s.  Last Sunday, the Pats delivered one of the absolute worst performances I have ever had the misfortune of seeing.  We lost, 34-14, to none other than the Cleveland Browns.  The Cleveland Browns! I was seeing Super Bowl glory, and then all of a sudden we lost by twenty points to the Cleveland Browns? To make matters worse, Stephen Gostkowski will probably be out for two games with a quad strain.  The only silver lining I can possibly muster in this situation is that the Pats have a tendency to bounce back from big losses in a big way.  Right on time for us to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

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This week was basically all about options.  If we weren’t busy exercising somebody’s option, we were busy declining somebody else’s.  Hey, why not? They’re basically cheap locks; it’s a good way to keep a guy on board for minimal funds and minimal years.  That translates to flexibility, which is always a good thing.  Plus, it postpones contract negotiations, a solid strategy if you’ve got a lot on your plate during a particular offseason.

Case in point for that last one: Victor Martinez.  We exercised his option to bring him back as our starting catcher.  No surprise there.  And it’s no surprise that locking Victor Martinez for the long run is a top priority.  But that’s going to be a big project, so keeping him under contract until we can hammer out a new one is a good strategy.  The option effectively means that there’s no rush.  Expect Martinez to be back in a Boston uniform for the first of many years in 2011.  Although the arrival of Joe Mauer in the free agent market could potentially make that interesting.  It would probably play into our hands, being that Mauer will likely steal the show that year, leaving Martinez and us to take care of business.

Speaking of catchers, we declined our five-million-dollar option on Tek, but he picked up his three-million-dollar option, which includes another two million dollars’ worth of incentives, so our captain is coming back as a backup for three million dollars.  Not too bad, I’d say.  In terms of the role he plays on this team, there’s no better backup catcher out there for us, and being that he still has something left in the tank, it’s a pretty good deal.

Wakefield is coming back, folks.  Our deadline to pick up his option was Monday, and we agreed to a two-year deal with incentives that could boost the value of the contract up to ten million.  Within those two years, he’ll likely reach two hundred wins and 193 wins in a Red Sox uniform, a total that would break the current franchise record, held by both Roger Clemens and Cy Young.  Make no mistake: Wakefield would definitely be deserving.  How many other starting pitchers out there accept less money in favor of a tenure with a team that hadn’t won the World Series in almost a century, then voluntarily removed himself from the roster of the second World Series that team would go on to win because he felt he wouldn’t perform as well as another pitcher? Not many.  Believe that.

We declined our option on Alex Gonzalez, which was expected, but we’re still interested.  That’s also expected.  Jed Lowrie’s wrist sidelined him for essentially the entire season last year, and we need not just an everyday shortstop, but an everyday shortstop we can depend on.  That’s a luxury we haven’t had since Nomar wrote his one-way ticket out of town.  And with the improvement in offense he showed last year, Gonzalez would be a great fit.  Of course, what this gesture shows is that he’ll have to come at the right price.  Otherwise Theo won’t bite.

That’s basically all the news so far.  The GM meetings ended on Wednesday, so aside from these moves and Jeremy Hermida, we’ve been pretty quiet, but I don’t think that’ll last long.  Before the meetings ended, Theo met with John Lackey’s agent.  Smile, Red Sox Nation; Scott Boras is not John Lackey’s agent.  Free-agent negotiations with other teams start on Friday, so it’s likely he’ll be inundated with offers, but I could see us being a big player there.  We’re also supposedly interested in Dan Uggla; apparently there is potential in turning the second baseman into a left fielder.  Frankly, I don’t see that playing out.  Congratulations to Jason Bay, who won his first Silver Slugger! And that functions as even more of a reason for us to sign him.  I think we’ll focus our efforts there before we start turning infielders into outfielders.

In addition to options, the other big story at this point is arbitration.  We’ve got eight guys eligible: Casey Kotchman, now Jeremy Hermida, Ramon Ramirez, Fernando Cabrera, Brian Anderson, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, and, you guessed it, Jonathan Papelbon.  The arbitration process will probably be more or less smooth sailing for the utility guys and the no-doubts, the players who have clear bargaining power due to their consistently good performances.  I’d put Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima in the latter category.  As far as Manny Delcarmen is concerned, his second half was just bad, so he’ll probably take some sort of cut.  Jonathan Papelbon will be quite the case; I’ll be very interested to see how that goes.  He obviously packs a lot of bargaining power, but there’s also no ignoring the fact that his walk total was up and his postseason performance was…well, let’s not go there.  Let’s just say he’s less able to pull off the I-should-be-paid-Mariano’s-salary routine this time around.  Especially because Daniel Bard is coming on strong and Billy Wagner has stated that he might be open to an arbitration offer that would bring him back to Boston next year.  Let’s face it: he wants a ring, and in this day and age ballplayers who want rings come to Boston.

Nick Green and Joey Gathright have opted to file for free agency rather than accept minor league assignments.  Green had back surgery at Mass. General on Monday, by the way, so he’s facing an uphill battle as far as market value goes.  Dice-K is going to begin his conditioning program early this year.  Thankfully.  Finally.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we’re ready to see him ace this year.  Or at the very least spend more time on the roster than on the disabled list.  Theo and Tito are in the throes of their search for a bench coach, and they’ve narrowed it down to four: PawSox manager Ron Johnson, Lowell Spinners manager Gary DiSarcina, minor league field coordinator Rob Leary, and outfield and baserunning coordinator Tom Goodwin.  Promoting from within.  I like it.  Really, there’s no better way to ensure that a new member of the coaching staff knows the franchise and the players; many of the players currently on the team have played for these guys in their younger days.

We’re biding our time but staying in the loop.  I think there’s a potential for a serious blockbuster deal this offseason.  Whether it’s Lackey or Adrian Gonzalez or someone else, I don’t know.  I’ll leave that to the front office.  At this point, so much is kept under wraps that it’s hard to know exactly who we’re pursuing first or what our main focus will be.  But I will say that either of those guys would have a hugely positive impact on our team.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens, I guess.  It’s a long winter; the speculation keeps us going.  That’s just what the offseason is all about.

The Bruins played three games this week.  We shut out the Penguins, lost to the Panthers in a shootout, and lost to the Penguins in sudden death.  The Sabres lead us in the division by five points, but at least we’re ahead of the Habs.  The Pats beat the Dolphins.

 

AP Photo

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