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Posts Tagged ‘Theo Epstein’

Well, we’ve made it through the first half, but I can’t say I’m pleased with where we are.  The only thing I could say is that I’m glad it’s not worse than it is, but that really, really doesn’t say much.  We’re suffering from inconsistency, injuries, and just a general lack of that spark we’ve tended to see in our winning teams in recent years.  These are underlying, pervasive problems that can’t just be fixed by a trade or a snap of the fingers.  Changes have to come from within, but it’s hard to pinpoint a solution when the sources of the problems are hard to pinpoint themselves.  Either way, we know what we have to do to improve: win consistently.

As I do every year, I’ve graded the entire team at the halfway point:

Kelly Shoppach: B

As backup catchers go, Shoppach is pretty good.  In thirty-one games, he’s made only two errors and four passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 3.76, which anyone on our pitching staff these days would be lucky to have.  He has also hit ten doubles and four home runs, and his batting average is .269, which isn’t bad for a backup catcher, either.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

Salty is working out much better than we expected power-wise.  He ranks first among all Major League catchers in home runs with seventeen, which I don’t think is something many people predicted.  But all but one of those were hit from the left side, which is something he needs to work on.  He also needs to work on his fielding, which is supposed to be one of a catcher’s strong suits.  His fielding percentage is .987, which is high but, in my opinion, not high enough.  He’s made six errors and passed five balls; I’m looking for something closer to zero errors and zero passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.45, which is decent, and he’s come a long way as far as forging relationships with the pitchers and calling good games is concerned.

Adrian Gonzalez: C

I am not afraid to say that Gonzalez so far has been a huge disappointment.  He is nowhere near the powerhouse he was last season, and I was fully expecting this season to exceed last season.  He is second among Major League first basemen in doubles with twenty-seven and eighth in RBIs with forty-five, but he’s not even in the top twenty in home runs.  With only six, he’s actually last among all first basemen in the American League.  His fielding, however, is as solid as ever.  He’s made only one error, so his fielding percentage is .999.  But offensively we need much, much more from him.  The team is struggling, but he was not supposed to be one of the reasons why.

Dustin Pedroia: C

It’s always tough to grade a player who’s been plagued with injuries because you have to assume that the injuries weren’t his fault, and you have to try to compare his performance given the injuries with what you expect his ideal performance to be given the injuries.  The truth is that Pedroia is struggling across the board offensively.  Doubles, home runs, walks, on-base percentage; you name it, he’s not performing as well as he could be in it, even given the injuries.  His fielding, like Gonzalez, is as solid as ever with a percentage of .997.  But like Gonzalez, Pedroia was not supposed to be one of the reasons why the team is struggling.  He’s a phenomenal leader both on and off the field, but we also need him to lead the charge offensively and help the team win on a more consistent basis.

Mike Aviles: B

Our woes at shortstop for the most part continue.  Why we can’t get a shortstop in there who can hit as well as he fields is completely beyond me.  Aviles is making a valiant effort, but it’s not enough.  First of all, his fielding percentage is .982.  He has made seven errors.  I understand that shortstop is the most difficult position defensively, but that’s also why you need an amazing fielder to man it.  Aviles is a great fielder.  He is not an amazing fielder.  He’s not an amazing hitter, either.  He has a .260 average and .283 on-base percentage.  He’s hit twenty-two doubles, no triples, and nine home runs with forty-four RBIs and twelve walks.  Not the best shortstop material.

Will Middlebrooks: B

Middlebrooks has some big shoes to fill, so he has to go through a process of proving himself.  I will say that he’s off to a fantastic start offensively.  His performance at the plate has been phenomenal, and it’s been truly wonderful to witness the fruits of our labor on the farm in growing a power hitter ourselves.  In forty-eight games, he has fifty-one hits, eleven of which are doubles and ten of which are home runs.  He has a .298 average and a .335 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks, so he could walk more.  His performance in the field, not so much.  He has a fielding percentage of .935 and has made seven errors.  Third base is a tough place to play as well, and he needs to work on it to round out his game.

Nick Punto: B

Think about what Punto is for.  Punto is a utility infielder.  He’s supposed to be able to play any position decently well and to hit decently well.  He is not supposed to be truly outstanding at everything infield, and we’re lucky if he’s outstanding at one thing infield.  So the criteria he’d have to meet for an A is lower than it is for a starter.  Still, as utility infielders go, it’s not like he’s been that great.  His average is .212; only six of his twenty-one hits were for extra bases, and he has only eight RBIs.  And he’s played forty-nine games, which is about more than a quarter of the whole season, so it’s not like he’s had hardly any playing time.  His performance in the field is much stronger than his performance at the plate, but it still could be better.

Ryan Sweeney: C

I was on the fence about a C or a D.  But then I realized that I was only going to give him a D because Josh Reddick would have been so much better, and that wouldn’t be fair.  It’s not Sweeney’s fault that he’s in right field and not Reddick; that’s Ben’s fault, and we’ll get to that later.  Anyway, Sweeney’s .283 average is respectable.  His seventeen doubles, two triples, and zero home runs are not.  Neither are his nine walks.  His two errors in right are alright, but errors made in the outfield tend to be costly because the ball is farther away from the infield, so those two errors could probably count for more.

Cody Ross: B

Ross has been good but not great.  His thirteen home runs from the right side of the plate are a much-needed edition to our lineup, and his twenty-four walks show patience at the plate.  He also has fourteen doubles and forty RBIs to his credit, and he has yet to make an error in the field.  I’d say he’s been better than expected, but he could be better still; his .264 average and .345 on-base percentage leave much to be desired.

Daniel Nava: A

If you told me during Spring Training that Nava would play fifty-two games by the All-Star break and bat.275 with an on-base percentage of .388, I would have been extremely skeptical.  But that’s what happened.  And he has forty-seven hits to his credit, seventeen of which are doubles and three of which are homers.  He has also walked twenty-six times and has made only one error.  For a utility outfielder that has suddenly found himself in the limelight thanks to injuries, he’s been handling himself very well.

Ryan Kalish: C

In short, he’s still a kid and he needs work, in the sense that he needs to be worked, in terms of playing time, and to be worked on, in terms of training time.  He’s played eighteen games this year and has hit only two extra-base hits, both of them doubles.  He has walked only twice and batted in only five runs.  And he has made two errors, and between the fact that that’s over the course of only eighteen games and the fact that outfield errors are costly, that’s a lot.

David Ortiz: A

Nobody on this team deserves an A more than Big Papi.  He ranks tenth in the Majors in doubles with twenty-five, fifth in slugging percentage with .607, and is tied for seventh in homers with twenty-two.  Among DHs, he ranks first, first, and third in those categories.  Simply put, the man’s job is to hit for extra bases.  That’s what he does.  He’s been doing it from day one this year, and he has continued to do it consistently.  He’s just hit the four hundredth home run of his career, and he looks like he’s in line to hit many, many more.  This season, the team seems to have two constants: inconsistency and Big Papi.

Offense Overall: B

As a team, we are sixth in the Majors in average with .268, eighth in on-base percentage with .329, and fourth in slugging percentage with .441.  We are second in runs with 432, third in hits with 302, first in doubles with 208, eighth in home runs with 99, and third with RBIs with 409.  And yet somehow we fail to win consistently.  It’s because we don’t score runs consistently.  Sometimes we score a little, and sometimes we score a lot.  And of course it also has to do with the pitching, which we’ll get to later.  But like I always say, just like the pitching staff’s job is to make sure that we win regardless of what the offense does or doesn’t do, so it is the offense’s job to make sure we win regardless of what the pitching staff does or doesn’t do.

Defense Overall: B

We are sixth in the Majors in fielding with a percentage of .986.  It could be much, much better.  I guess we can chalk it up to several players in key defensive positions having had to get used to Fenway, but that shouldn’t have taken the entire first half of the season.

Jon Lester: C

Lester has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Beckett’s.  Why must our aces struggle at the same time? Why must our aces struggle at all? These are some of the big questions for which the team does not seem to have any answers whatsoever.  He has a 4.49 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.  In eighteen starts, he is 5-6 with fifty-six earned runs, thirty walks, and eleven home runs.  Those numbers put him in the basement of the American League, which is not where a pitcher like Lester is expected to be.

Josh Beckett: C

Like Lester, Beckett has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Lester’s.  He has a 4.43 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.  In fourteen starts, he is 4-7  with forty-four earned runs, twenty-two walks, and nine home runs.  He also has the lowest average strikeout total per nine innings of his career at 6.5.  And this is the mighty Josh Beckett that should have won the Cy Young in 2007? He’s like a completely different pitcher now.

Clay Buchholz: C

Buchholz has actually been terrible this year.  He has started fourteen games and is eight and two, but he has a 5.53 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP with fifty-three earned runs, fifteen home runs, and thirty-four walks.  In 86.1 innings pitched, he has given up ninety-nine hits.  It’s a miracle that he has more wins than losses, and how he managed to rack up so many wins is a mystery.  Yet another disappointment.

Daniel Bard: D

I’m honestly sorry to give Bard a D, but it’s the grade he deserves.  He was made a starter partly because his superiors wanted him to be a starter and partly also because he wanted to be a starter.  But the truth of the matter is that he has no business being a starter.  If something isn’t broken, nobody should try to fix it, and Bard was on the road to a fantastic career as a closer.  We needed him as a closer.  And instead he became this mediocre pitcher stripped of his dignity.  He started ten games and had an ERA of 5.24 and a WHIP of 1.62.  In fifty-five innings pitched, he gave up fifty-two hits, thirty-two earned runs, six homers, and thirty-seven walks.  His record was 5-6.  Let it be stated here that Bard is much more effective as a setup man or closer.  And the fact that that actually has to be stated is an embarrassment.  It should have been evident.

Felix Doubront: B

I don’t think anyone predicted in Spring Training that Doubront would become our best starter.  Then again, as we have seen, this season has been full of surprises, most of them unpleasant, so Doubront was a breath of fresh air.  Not that that says much.  In any other season, if Lester and Beckett and Buchholz pitched to their abilities, Doubront would be at the middle or bottom of the rotation at best.  Anyway, his ERA is currently 4.41, and his WHIP is 1.38.  He has started seventeen games and has a record of 9-4.  In ninety-six innings pitched, he’s given up forty-seven earned runs, fifteen homers, and thirty-five walks.

Aaron Cook: B

Compared to how we thought he was going to work out, Cook was actually a pleasant surprise as well.  Again, that doesn’t say much, but given his health when he joined the team, it does say a lot about his determination and commitment.  Plus he pitched that absolute gem a few starts ago, which can not be overlooked, especially since he’s made only four starts this season so far.  He has a 4.37 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, which is decent under his circumstances.  And we need the extra starter anyway.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I’ve been thinking that Dice-K is a problem with no solution.

Matt Albers: B

Albers has not been outstanding, but he has been pretty great.  He certainly has made a valiant effort to turn it around from last season and has a nice 2.38 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP.  In thirty-four innings, he’s given up thirteen runs on twenty-six hits with twenty strikeouts.  He’s pitched in thirty-two games and has blown only three saves.  It should be zero, but this is not the team with which to be picky.

Andrew Miller: B

Again, not outstanding but pretty great.  2.75 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 19.2 innings pitched.  Six runs on thirteen hits and no blown saves.  If he continues pitching as well as he has so far, he will have the best season of his career numbers-wise.  Granted, he spent most of his career as a starter, but he’s found this new role in which he has a chance to be really successful for a team that really needs him.

Scott Atchison: A

Here’s someone who’s outstanding.  Atchison is probably our best reliever so far.  His ERA is a low 1.79, and his WHIP is a low .99, and that’s over 45.1 innings pitched.  He’s given up only nine runs on thirty-six hits while walking nine and striking out thirty-three.  He has also given up only two home runs.  Outstanding.

Vicente Padilla: C

As a setup man, he hasn’t done as well as I would have liked.  His 3.94 ERA and 1.38 WHIP are actually terrible for a setup man, but somehow he gets through it.  In thirty-two innings, he’s given up fourteen earned runs on thirty-five hits while striking out only nine.  He’s blown two saves.  Now, a setup man is a setup man; he’s supposed to put the closer in a position where the closer can close, and he’s supposed to keep the team in a position where the team can win.  That means not blowing any saves and not giving up any runs, and if you do give up runs, giving up the bare minimum of runs.  I don’t feel he’s done that.

Franklin Morales: B

Another thing that I don’t think anyone predicted at Spring Training was Morales’s versatility.  He is both a reliever and a starter, and he is effective in both roles.  He is 1-2 with eight holds and no blown saves, and he has an ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.17.  He has made four starts and pitched 46.1 innings total, and he has given up eighteen earned runs on forty-one hits while walking thirteen.  Between all the injuries we’ve had, without Morales to fill in and start, we’d be in a very bad place.

Mark Melancon: D

Melancon doesn’t do much.  Somehow it’s happened that he and Mortensen tend to appear in games together, but he hasn’t really made much of an impact.  And that’s probably because he can’t be trusted, so he doesn’t get that much playing time.  He has a 7.04 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP and has pitched 15.1 innings.  He’s given up twelve earned runs on eighteen hits.

Alfredo Aceves: C

Let’s not forget that Aceves began the season abysmally, and we were all wondering how in the world we would be expected to continue the season with a closer like that.  Well, we didn’t, because Aceves pulled it together and turned it around.  And now his ERA is 4.33 and his WHIP is 1.19.  I mean, that’s actually terrible for a closer, especially in light of what we’ve been used to in recent years, but it could have been a lot worse.  Still, objectively speaking, we need him to be better.  He’s pitched 43.2 innings and has given up twenty-one earned runs on thirty-eight hits.  He also has four blown saves.

Pitching Overall: D

It should come as no surprise to anyone that our team ERA of 4.22 is one of the worst in the Major Leagues.  So is our strikeout total, our batting average against, our earned run total, and our loss total.  Our pitching staff is absolutely terrible this year and must somehow be fixed.  However, a distinction must be made between the rotation and the relief corps.  The latter is performing much better than the former.  On the one hand, we expect our relievers to ideally not allow any runs.  On the other hand, this is baseball, and runs are allowed, and the relief corps can not be expected to constantly clean up the messes made by the starters.  It drags the relief corps down when they give up runs that end up costing the team games because the offense doesn’t hit or score and the starters don’t limit the damage.

Bobby Valentine: C

There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass won’t let him be himself.  There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass lets him be too much of himself.  And there are those who say that Bobby V. is not the problem and that the team is the problem.  Well, I’m not in the clubhouse or the front office, so I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  But I do know that Bobby V. is in a class by himself.  His managerial style is not one that Boston has had in a long time, certainly not in recent years.  It is a style that our players and many of our new guys are not familiar with.  It is a style that is not always the most adaptable and that probably expects more adaptation than it itself makes.  And it is a style that takes some getting used to.  This style affects his conduct both on and off the field; it affects how he makes strategic decisions before, during, and after games and it affects how he interacts with the players and the media.  And based on what I have seen, based on the decisions that he has made and the things that he has said, I don’t think that that getting-used-to process is over.

Ben Cherington: C

Let’s see.  Andrew Bailey is still on the DL, Reddick is having a pretty good year, and Bard is not a starter.  Whether the Youkilis trade was warranted remains to be seen.  I trust Ben because Theo Epstein trained him and because in the past he’s shown that he has a very intelligent and strategic mind when it comes to sabermetrics and the ins and outs of being a good general manager for a team like ours.  And he’s had only one off season and one half of a season so far at the helm, so the sample size is small.  So I clearly will be giving him the benefit of the doubt.  But I just hope that his long-term vision for the team is not compromised by any sort of impulse from anywhere to find quick fixes that may help us in the short run but will damage our future.

Team Overall: D

I don’t really know what else to say.  If I sound crushed and exasperated and frustrated, it’s because I am.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we all are.  At the All-Star break, we’re at .500, tied for fourth (or last) place with Toronto and nine and a half games out of first place, which is where the Yanks are.  We can’t win as a team, we can’t win consistently, we can’t score runs consistently, we can’t pitch well consistently.  We can’t do much of anything consistently.  We have all these problems and no solutions.  We need to pull it together in an enormously huge way and have a truly phenomenal second half if we want to avoid the consequences of having a second half just like our first half.

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Happy one hundredth birthday, Fenway Park! It really his America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, and for good reason.  No other ballpark is this old or – let’s face it – this totally awesome.  When you watch a game there, you really have this overwhelming sense of the history that’s gone down, and you wonder what the walls would say if they could talk.  That park saw everything.  For hundred years, most of them culminating in postseason disappointment so profoundly gut-wrenching that your first instinct would be to think that somebody had to have planned it that way, this park bore witness to the lives and times of the players who played, the managers who managed, and the fans who supported, day in and day out, no matter how good or bad it got.  Standing like a sentinel right in the middle of Boston, it has seen everything that’s happened, both in and out of baseball, in that city in the last hundred years.  Think about that for a minute.  If the walls could talk, what would they say? In addition to the regular lot, this park has seen Major League baseball players, minor league baseball players, National League baseball players, college baseball players, high school baseball players, football players, hockey players, basketball players, soccer players, boxers, musicians, soldiers, fans from every walk of life, wins, losses, World Series, no-hitters, a five-hundred-foot home run, more than ten thousand home runs total, the tallest wall in any ballpark in the United States, the first foul ball screen ever used, the only in-play ladder in Major League Baseball, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s last political speech, and so much more.

This park is alive with character.  Every part of the park has a story: the Green Monster that now stands in place of Duffy’s Cliff, the Pesky Pole, the Fisk Pole, the retired numbers, Willamsburg, the bullpens.  Everything.  It’s small, and the seats don’t have cushions, and you can’t order gourmet food behind home plate.  But seriously, who wants to go to a baseball game just to feel like you’re watching the game on television or at a restaurant? No, you want to feel the park and to live the experience.  We’ve got the best fans in all of sport, I’d say, and we’ve got the best venue to match.

If April 20, 1912 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park got married, then April 20, 2012 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park renewed their vows.  I can’t even bear the thought that several years ago we almost lost Fenway Park forever, and I can bear the thought even less that there weren’t more people interested in saving it.  It’s truly a gem of a ballpark, and it’s one of every Red Sox fan’s favorite places in the whole world.

But what would a family affair be without a little token drama? Apparently all living uniformed personnel were invited, but apparently Theo wasn’t invited until Thursday and declined to go.  Curt Schilling, who has made no secret of his criticism of Bobby V., declined an invitation due to a commitment to his business.  It was speculated that Tito wouldn’t be there, but after all he was.  It’s really a shame that all this drama has to get in the way of such a great day in the history of what’s brought all these diverse people together.  I know it’s corny, but why can’t we all just get along, just for one day? Obviously we weren’t there for any of the drama, so we can’t really know how bad or not-so-bad it was, but anyway it would have been nice to have these individuals, who’ve been so crucial to bringing about what is (“is,” and hopefully not “was”) arguably a golden age in our club’s history.

Anyway, here are the details.  There was an introduction that basically said that the constant throughout history is baseball, and the constant throughout baseball is Fenway, and the constant throughout us disparate fans is this team.  Then John Williams conducted the Boston Pops in playing “Fanfare for Fenway,” his new composition.  There was the national anthem.  There was the flyover, which always gets me.  Then there was a steady stream of past players in their uniforms; they all congregated in the parts of the field that they played.  Most of the who’s-who as well as the unknowns of Red Sox history was there, those that could barely walk and those who recently retired.  It was really just beautiful to see generations of players represented before generations of fans.  You could acutely feel that you were witnessing history not only by bearing witness to the occasion but also by remembering that each and every one of those players had borne witness to Red Sox Nation.  (Incidentally, the whole procession received continuous applause and a standing ovation.  Terry Francona’s applause and name-chanting was deafeningly thunderous, as it should have been.  Nomar, Pedro, Yaz, and Pesky also received substantial thunder.  And also Wake, Tek, Bobby Doerr, Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Kevin Millar, and a host of others too numerous to name.) Then there was a toast with grape juice, supplied at every seat for every fan of every age, led by Pedro and Millar, which as you can imagine was highly, highly entertaining and completely brought you back to 2004.  It was literally the largest toast in one venue, as in a new world record.  But hey, that’s the strength of Red Sox Nation for you.

The first pitch was thrown from the row of seats behind the first base dugout by the mayor of Boston, just like it was one hundred years ago.  This year, Thomas Menino was joined by Caroline Kennedy and Thomas Fitzgerald, two descendants of 1912 Boston’s Mayor John Fitzgerald.

I have to say, the throwback uniforms were a real treat.  How fortuitous that the schedule allowed us to play the exact same team, too.  I have to admit, even though the score a hundred years ago was 7-6 in eleven innings, I was hoping for a big more of a thrashing, as close as a close game would have been to the original may have been.  Ultimately, a win to preserve the history would have been very much appreciated and appropriate.

Sadly, a win was not to be.  Buchholz allowed home run after home run after home run.  Now that he and Beckett have both allowed five home runs in one game this season, the 2012 club becomes one of only three teams in Major League history to carry two starters who have given up five home runs each in one game in one season.  (Incidentally, one of the other two was the 2009 club, and Buchholz and Beckett were both at fault then too.) He gave up six runs, five earned (you can thank Pedroia for dropping a routine popup, a rare sight indeed), on nine hits, five of which were home runs.  All of the home runs were solo shots, and three of them led off innings.  He only allowed one other extra-base hit, a double.  He lasted six innings, walked two, and struck out two.

Buchholz used four pitches: a four-seam, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup.  His four-seam got up to ninety-five miles per hour and was his most abundant and effective pitch; he threw it for strikes more than eighty percent of the time.  The others were thrown for strikes less than sixty percent of the time, which is unfortunate since the majority of his pitches category-wise were off-speeds.

Atchison pitched the seventh, Thomas and Tazawa teamed up for the eighth, and Tazawa pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second when Papi homered to the Green Monster.  The ball, a fastball, bounced off of the very top of the wall and was ruled a double before it came under review and was rightly overturned.  In the fifth, a pair of doubles by Ross and Aviles scored another run.  That was all we managed.  Don’t even think for  second that you weren’t thinking that the stage may have been set for something truly epic: a recreation of the original final score.  Our final score ended up being 6-2, but just imagine if we could have somehow scored four more runs to tie it, gone to the eleventh inning, and then scored one more run?

It seemed like every single one of our rallies was killed before it got started.  Aviles and Papi each had two hits for the only multi-hit performances of the day.  In addition to the home run and those two doubles, we hit two more, and that was it for extra bases.  Not one member of our lineup walked.  Repko made a decidedly Ellsbury-esque catch.  I hope Bobby V. paid attention to the “We Want Tito” chant in the ninth; we have the lowest team ERA in the Majors and are now on a four-game losing streak overall and a four-game home losing streak for the first time since 2010 with a record of four and nine.

At any rate, one hundred years of Fenway Park have come and gone, so here’s to the next hundred.  Here’s to a happy birthday to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.  Fenway Park, all that you’ve seen and all that you mean, we forever salute you!

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps, 2-1.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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We finally made it! There are no more days to count, no more Spring Training games to play, no more side sessions to throw, and no more simulated games to complete.  There is nothing left.  It’s happening now.  Today is officially Opening Day, our first game of the regular season! As we all know, we’ll be playing the Tigers in Detroit, and Lester will be starting.  As we all know, this season is going to be interesting, to say the least.  Now, the wait is over.  The long, cold winter has come to an end.  The lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Papi, Youk, Sweeney, Ross, Salty, and Aviles, obviously in that order.  Baseball is finally here!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our final two pitchers: Doubront and Bard, respectively.  Since Lester is a lefty, it wouldn’t have made sense to have Doubront be the fifth starter, since then you’d have two lefties starting back-to-back.  Anyway, are we surprised? No.  Should we be surprised? No.  Doubront had a phenomenal spring, and he’s had some experience starting in the Majors before, even if that experience wasn’t always the best.  As for Bard, you and I both know that Bobby V. wasn’t about to move him back to the bullpen after he declared that he was going to train him as a starter.  And that bothers me because unlike Doubront, who as I said had a phenomenal spring and who was therefore awarded a spot in the rotation based on explicit merit, Bard did not have a great spring and seems to have been awarded a spot in the rotation based on potential and possibility alone.  I’m not saying he won’t be a phenomenal starter; I’m saying that I have yet to see consistent glimmers of phenomenalness from him in that role.  Still, he’s shown that he can learn from his mistakes.  He probably picked up that skill while en route to becoming the next elite closer in the Major Leagues; oh, well.

Aceves had a fantastic spring also, and when he did have bad days, he rebounded nicely in his next outing, which is a critical quality for a starter.  At least we can count on him for solid long and middle relief.  And late relief, at least in the beginning, since Bailey will start the season on the disabled list with a thumb issue that will require surgery and that will make him stay on the disabled least until the All-Star break.  This is ridiculous.  He started last season on the disabled list with an arm injury, and he started Spring Training on the disabled list with a lat injury, and now he’ll start the beginning of the season on the disabled list with a thumb injury.  And don’t even get me started on the fact that we had to trade Josh Reddick to get Bailey in the first place.  So Aceves is in line to replace him, in case you were wondering.  Yeah, that gives us huge confidence in our new closer.

And as if that weren’t enough, Beckett apparently is having some sort of issue with his right thumb.  Apparently he’s had this issue for eighteen months.  He was examined and is fine to pitch now, but he said surgery could be inevitable at some point down the road.

In addition to actually knowing who are starters are going to be, we can be happy that Pedroia is healthy, Papi is in shape, and both Bobby V. and McClure have really connected with the team.  We can be unhappy about the fact that Crawford is still out and that Youk, Gonzalez, and Ellsbury haven’t hit a home run all spring.  And we will begin the season with nine guys on the DL.  Before the season even gets underway, we will have nine guys on the DL.  That’s just great.  As if we didn’t have enough to contend with during the start of this year’s season already.  Those nine guys account, in case you were curious, for $59.7 million.  And let’s not forget the fact that Chris Carpenter, the supposedly significant compensation that we were looking forward to receiving from the Cubs for Theo Epstein, is injured and has no command.  He is one of those nine.

Of course, you might say that at least that frees up some roster space.  And that’s true, but that’s only a plus if it’s used wisely.  The twenty-five-man Opening Day roster is carrying thirteen pitchers, which means that Bobby V. only has three backup bats on the bench, one of whom is a backup catcher.

We beat the Twins, 5-1, on Sunday.  Padilla and Atchison both appeared.  Sweeney singled, Ross and Aviles doubled, and Ellsbury tripled.  Since our record against Minnesota this spring has been four and two, we have won the Mayor’s Cup series, which began in 1993.  Since then, the Twins have won eleven series; we have won five of the last six.

We beat the Nationals, 4-2, on Monday.  Cook pitched five innings and gave up one run on two hits.  He walked one, struck out two, and threw forty-three of seventy pitches for strikes.  Padilla pitched the sixth.  Gonzalez and McDonald both singled, and Papi doubled.

We beat the Nationals, 8-7, on Tuesday.  Buchholz retired his first twelve hitters but also gave up a solo shot and a three-run home run.  All told, those four runs were his only runs; he gave up four hits in five and two-thirds innings.  He struck out five and walked none.  Bowden and Aceves both made appearances.  Pedroia went two for three with three RBIs, but the hero was Jason Repko, who ironically replaced Ellsbury and proceeded to hit a tie-breaking double and make a perfect throw home to secure the win.

In other news, the B’s beat the Rangers and Penguins.

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Pitchers and catchers officially reported on Sunday.  Fortunately, since we have a lot of badness to put behind us, most of our key pitchers were already down there, and that’s the way it should be.  The season isn’t going to win itself.  But we as Red Sox Nation can be ecstatic about that because it means that we’re one step closer to Spring Training, which is one step closer to the regular season, which is one step closer to having baseball return after a long winter and to putting last season behind us.

Compensation for Theo has officially been hammered out.  We’re getting Chris Carpenter – the prospect, not the Cy Young winner – and a player to be named later in exchange for a player to be named later.  Congratulations.  It only took four months to get this done.

Speaking of Theo, John Henry apologized to Crawford for stating on WEEI that he was against signing Crawford but did it anyway because Theo wanted to.  Crawford apparently apologized to John Henry for his horrendous season in return.  The brass also took ownership of last season’s collapse.  Well, apologies are all well and good, and it’s nice that people are owning up to things and being accountable, but we’ve got a new season on our hands that I think we should get to focusing on.

Rich Hill is on the roster.  Lackey is on the sixty-day DL.

In other news, the B’s were shut out by the Wild but bounced back with wins over the Blues and Sens; we also lost a shootout to the Sabres but at least we got a point out of it.

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Well, it was a quiet week.  A quiet, quiet week.

As it turns out, my tribute to Tek may have been written too soon.  Apparently we’re talking to him to see if he wants to come to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, which obviously conflicts directly with his previously stated desire to keep playing legitimately.  Bobby V. hasn’t even spoken to him yet since he’s not on the roster, so I don’t really know.

We signed Sweeney to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal for next season worth $1.75 million.

Randy Niemann is our new assistant pitching coach.  I feel like we shouldn’t be trying to bring people from the Mets to Boston.  It’s not like we need even more dysfunction than we have already.

Theo made an appearance on WEEI’s The Dennis and Callahan Show on Thursday during which he officially confirmed that John Henry opposed the Crawford deal and that Lackey’s elbow wasn’t right at the time of his signing.  He thinks that, when Lackey returns from surgery, he’ll be right as rain.

In other news, the Pats crushed the Broncos, 45-10.  Is anyone surprised? Nobody should be surprised.  The B’s beat the Jets and Habs this week but lost to the Canes.

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The Winter Meetings were pretty quiet.  For some of us, anyway.  Since everyone else was apparently busy gobbling up all the good names.  Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle are off the market; they both signed with the Marlins, who, by the way, are now no longer the Florida Marlins.  They agreed to rename the team the Miami Marlins as part of a deal that allowed them to construct their new ballpark on the site of the old Miami Orange Bowl.  Albert Pujols is now an Angel; his contract is ten years for upwards of $250 million.

Meanwhile, we hardly even made so much as a ripple.  Not that the point is to make waves.  The point is to fix what needs fixing.  We had identified some things that need fixing, and as of now they’re not really all that fixed.  Granted, there’s still a lot of offseason to go, and I’m sure that Ben used this opportunity to gauge the market and make connections.

We’ve signed Andrew Miller to a one-year deal.  More importantly, Papi has accepted arbitration.  I have to admit that I liked it better when we, as a rule, avoided arbitration at all costs.  The good news is that, no matter what, Papi will play for us next season, and he just won 2011’s well-deserved Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.  The bad news is the entire arbitration process, because now the two sides have to go at each other in a no-holds-barred, my-interests-against-yours display of everything that’s bad about each side.  It’s not good for morale.  But Papi wanted to be back, and we wanted him back, so now we have him back.  I guess if he wants a multi-year deal, he’ll have to work for it.  Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Theo, but I don’t like arbitration.  I feel like the process just breeds badness in the long run.

Tito and Bobby V. spent the Winter Meetings in Texas chatting about what it’s like to basically switch jobs.  Bobby V. also spent the Winter Meetings chatting with the media about anything and everything, from David Ortiz to Daniel Bard.  Apparently he and Beckett talked on the phone; apparently Beckett was angry because Bobby V. used to call him out constantly on ESPN for taking time between pitches, but apparently the rest of the conversation went well.  The only problem I have with that is that Beckett specifically requested that the contents of the conversation remain private.  To Bobby V., apparently that means all the contents of the conversation except that one detail.  We haven’t heard anything in the media yet that would indicate that Beckett is upset, but a private conversation is a private conversation, and that should be the end of it.

The second thing that Bobby V. has done with which I don’t agree, at least at this stage, is his intent to convert Bard to a starter during Spring Training.  This is a bad idea.  I’m not saying that Bard couldn’t handle it; it’s possible that he could still apply his wicked velocities to his work as a starter.  But usually you have to take a little bit off for the sake of preserving your endurance for the later innings so I’m not sure it’ll translate in full.  More importantly, if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.  We need a closer.  We don’t have one.  So we can either acquire a closer or a starter.  At this point I think that Bard is so skilled as a closer, a role he seems to have been born into and that he seems to want to at least attempt before he’s pigeonholed into something else, that it makes more sense to at least try him out.  Maybe Bobby V. is thinking that they can train him as a starter and try him as a closer and see which works better, but it’s not good to mess with a young pitcher’s regimen like that.  I’d say the pitcher best suited to swing back and forth that way is a long reliever.  Bard is not a long reliever.  He owned the eighth when Paps was closing; it’s only natural that we at least see what he can do if we give him the ninth.  We already know what to expect if we make him our closer; he may not be as good a starter as he would be a closer.  At this point, it’s hard to say either way, but I’m reluctant so early in the game to make a blanket statement that Bobby V. knows best.  We don’t even know that yet.

In other news, the Pats beat the Colts, 31-24, and the Redskins, 34-27.  The B’s split their games this week; we beat the Penguins and Blue Jackets but lost to the Panthers and Jets.

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2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the Goodbye, I guess.  It’s just a lot to take in and deal with at once.  I have confidence in Ben, but it just seems like he keeps adding to his workload rather than making some definitive decisions.  I’m sure we’ll see those soon, but it would be nice to halt the farewell train.  I think we’ve had enough.

The Phillies called Paps but then seemed to agree to terms with Ryan Madson.  The good news was that we could have still sign him; the bad news was that Paps was now salivating over Madson’s brand-new four-year, forty-plus-million-dollar theoretical contract.  The bright side in was that he’s represented by Seth and Sam Levinson.  Can you imagine if Paps of all people were represented by Scott Boras? That would be absolutely hellish.  Ben made contact with Paps’s camp, but he didn’t expect them to give him any time to match an offer from another club if the offer was to Paps’s liking.

And it was.  Congratulations, Paps.  You have just set the record for closer compensation.  He has accepted an offer from the Phillies for a four-year, fifty-million-dollar deal including a fifth-year vesting option.  Ben wasn’t going to match that, and the Levinsons knew it.  They knew Ben’s dislike of deals for closers longer than three years, and they certainly knew Ben’s dislike for dishing out that kind of money.  We may all rest assured that the only reason why Ben felt comfortable letting Paps go is that there are other options out there, and good ones.  This is not me trying to justify our new leadership and make myself feel better.  This is fact.  Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Joe Nathan (a risky move, but it’s been about a year since his Tommy John surgery, so this should be the time when his command returns), and, oh, yeah, Daniel Bard all make the list.  Not too shabby.  Not too shabby at all.  Ben and I can agree on the fact that Daniel Bard probably shouldn’t be closing just yet.  He was very clearly built to be one of the best closers in the game, but I personally would give it another year or two and bring in a veteran closer first.  Ideally, during that year or two, Bard would see significant pitching time in the ninth inning throughout the season to groom him for that role.  While the one-two punch of Bard in the eighth and a lights-out closer in the ninth would be impossible to resist, when the time comes we’ll face the choice of having to find a reliable set-up man, which arguably may be more difficult, or having to let Bard walk away.  One could make the case that we’re seeing something like Bard walking away now with Paps.  Quite frankly, I don’t like it, and I don’t want to do it more than once.  Regarding Bard specifically, you don’t let a one-hundred-mile-per-hour fastball walk out that door.  You just don’t.

What will infuriate me is if Ben feels compelled to offer more than three years to one of these other closers because Paps basically just revolutionized the closer market overnight.  If other teams will be ready to provide that fourth year, Ben will be out of luck.  All the reports of drama and all the rebuilding to be done this year aren’t exactly helping our cause; Paps is eager to go to the Phillies for several reasons, not the least of which I imagine is that, if you thought he wreaked havoc on AL hitters, he’s going to be the prophet of pitching in the NL, and it looks like the Phillies are a team that could potentially win, despite the fact that everyone said that about them, just as they were saying it about us, earlier this year only to watch them flame out in the playoffs.

And now, the tribute.

Paps started his career here.  He came up through our system and even won a cow-milking contest when he was with the Lowell Spinners.  He played our game both on and off the field because his personality was one-of-a-kind.  He was always a dependable notable quotable, but it was much more than that.  He was a leader and a force in the clubhouse.  He was crazy and insane, but only in the best of ways.  He was a Boston baseball guy.  He lived the baseball experience here, embraced it wholly, and took it to the absolute extreme.  He did the jig en route to the championship and redefined “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by The Dropkick Murphys.  I don’t think he’ll have as much fun anywhere else as he did here.  Seriously, all you had to do was hear those two drumbeats that start the song in the eighth or ninth inning and you know that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the winning that will obviously ensue with Paps on the mound. Granted, it technically wasn’t always like that.  He did blow his share of saves.  He didn’t blow many, but it seemed like most of the ones he blew were doozies indeed.  He was immediately responsible for our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs; he blew his save in Game Three of the ALDS, and that was the last playoff game we were in.  And he struggled in 2010 with eight blown saves.  But looking at the big picture, he more than made up for it.  He attacked the closing job with remarkable intensity; that stare of his could strike fear into the heart of any hitter.  In his career, he has an ERA of 2.33 and a WHIP of 1.02.  He’s amassed 219 saves and posted 509 strikeouts in 429.1 innings.  He’s blown a grand total of only twenty-nine saves, and only three of those came during this past season, compared to thirty-one converted opportunities.  And I don’t think any one of us will ever forget Tek jumping into his arms after he closed out Game Four of the 2007 World Series in Denver.  Not once in our long and illustrious history had we ever had a mainstay closer as long as we had Paps.  He was the best we’d ever seen, and he’s still in his prime.  So here’s to you.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us through the years, both the much-needed saves and the much-needed smiles.  Here’s to you as a player and as a person, a goofy closer who still showed remarkable leadership in the clubhouse.  Here’s an enormous understatement: we’re going to miss you, Paps, and it’s been ridiculously fun.

Ben has also been in contact with the camps of Papi, Wake, and Tek.  I don’t think that I’d be able to watch any of those guys playing for another team.  It would be too surreal.  Like I said, one is quite enough, thank you.

Supposedly we’re interested in a two-year deal with Carlos Beltran.  He’s made it clear that he only wants to play in the National League and that he refuses to DH, but we’ve been attached to Beltran in the media for a long time.  But wait; the plot thickens.  We haven’t even called Beltran yet; instead, we’ve called Grady Sizemore and Michael Cuddyer.

There are also rumors that we’re interested in Mark Buehrle.  This is the first time in his career that he’s a free agent, and competition for him is stiff.  Supposedly we were also on hand to observe the workout of Yoenis Cespedes, who defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic.  Supposedly he’s amazing, and he’s going to set off a major cash fight.  Think Aroldis Chapman.

Mike Maddux has withdrawn his candidacy due to “personal reasons.” That’s in quotes because he’s still on the Cubs’ list.  Obviously.  This should not surprise anybody.  We added Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo and Detroit third base coach Gene Lamont.  If the names sound familiar, that’s because they are.  Lovullo manage the PawSox before going to Toronto, and Lamont was our third base coach in 2001.  And that, supposedly, is going to be it for candidates.  Our list and the Cubs’ list share three candidates: Alomar, Mackanin, and Sveum.  I think it’s fairly obvious that Maddux is going to Chicago.  Incidentally, throughout this process, I’ve been having this thought: Theo’s relationship with Larry was shaky but ultimately productive.  It was shaky because Theo basically wanted his own job plus Larry’s job.  He wanted more control over baseball operations; he didn’t want to be just the general manager, which is why he’s not the Cubs’ general manager.  Theo brought in Jed Hoyer to be the Cubs’ general manager, and it will be interesting to see if Theo actually restricts himself to his higher role and doesn’t conduct himself with Hoyer the same way that Larry conducted himself with Theo.  If he doesn’t, Hoyer may take issue.  Oh, the potential irony.

Gonzalez will appear on the cover of this “MLB 12 The Show.” Pedroia did it in 2009.  Heady company.

On Wednesday, MLB Network aired a two-hour special on the Buckner game.  John McNamara insists that, after the seventh inning, Roger Clemens told him that he was done because of a cut on his finger; Clemens maintains that McNamara pinch-hit for him and the cut on his finger was not an obstruction to continuing to perform.  Whatever it was that really happened destroyed their relationship.  McNamara also stated that he went with Buckner, who was obviously not fit to field, because he was the best first baseman on the roster; he didn’t go with Dave Stapleton because he supposedly had earned the nickname “Shaky.” But Bruce Hurst said that he never heard anyone call Stapleton shaky.  Honestly, the whole thing was just the epitome of devastation, drama or no drama, and what I would personally like to avoid is similar devastation in the future and similar subsequent drama.

Tito is interviewing with the Cards.  Jerry Remy was surprised; he, and I think most of us, naturally assumed that Tito would take some time off before jumping right back into it.

In other news, the Pats dropped a very close one to the Giants, 24-20.  Oh, and we released Albert Haynesworth.  It’s not like we all didn’t see that coming when the signing was made.  The B’s played the Islanders, Oilers, and Sabres this week and beat all of them by almost the exact same score: the Isles and Sabres by 6-2 and the Oilers by 6-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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