Posts Tagged ‘Theo Epstein’

While Theo is busy taking kudos in Chicago, we still don’t have any news on his compensation, but life goes on.  Eight members of the team filed for free agency; none of the filings are surprising: Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, Bedard, Drew, Wake, Tek, Papi, and Paps.  Okay, maybe I was surprised that Drew chose to file instead of retire.  But everyone knew the rest of them were going to be filing.

Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about whether to keep Papi and Paps on board.  The difficulty with Papi is that he’ll want more money for more years, although his recent performance, certainly in the last season, suggests that that’s warranted.  Paps wants more money.  Like, a lot more money.  You might say we can afford to lose him because we have Bard, but I have a feeling that you won’t know how valuable it was having Bard as a closer-esque setup man packing that one-two punch with Paps unless Paps were to leave and then you’d be fishing around for an eighth inning guy as good as all that.  Trust me, it wouldn’t be Jenks, folks.

As far as Wake and Tek go, we don’t have much to lose by keeping them.  Their market value is relatively low as it is; it’s not like they can leverage high demand to induce a bigger deal from us.  Tek’s powers of leadership are here with this team; it’s unclear how valuable he’d be in another clubhouse since that was always his main contributor anyway, especially in recent years when his plate production has markedly decreased, although it is worth noting that he seemed to share in Tito’s experience of having his leadership be less effective this past year.  Either that or he pulled back on his leadership.  Either way, the results were the results; how much that had to do with Tek is unclear.  Regarding Wake, he’s still an effective pitcher, more so in the bullpen now than as a starter; I guess age does eventually take its toll even on a knuckleballer.  So Wake will have to figure out if he’d be satisfied as a reliever.  Ben, like Theo, will be unlikely to dish out coin if he’s not absolutely sure that he’s paying for the player’s worth alone; if Ben is interested in retaining Wake as a reliever but Wake wants to start and demands a starter’s salary, that could potentially be a problem.

Speaking of Ben, apparently he graduated from Lebanon High School in 1992, so the school has reportedly posted a sign out front that says, “Congratulations Ben Cherington Class of ’92 Free Tickets?” Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Jackson, Miller, and Bedard were late-season playoff fixes that we obviously didn’t end up needing.  The decision of whether to retain them doesn’t strike me as epically impactful, although given the fact that we’re technically short a starter now, Bedard may make sense if there’s no one better out there.

We picked up Scutaro’s option, probably as insurance until Jose Iglesias is ready to permanently assume the starter’s role.  We declined options on Wheeler and Atchison.

Congratulations to Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Pedroia on their Gold Gloves! And congratulations to Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Papi on their Silver Sluggers! All very well deserved; I can’t think of anyone who deserved them more.  Finally, congratulations to Luis Tiant for landing on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.  It’s about time!

Lackey had his Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.  Supposedly it went well.

This week, the managerial interviews began.  First up was Phillies hitting coach Pete Mackanin.  Then we had Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, our former third base coach.  We’ve got Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and Cleveland bench coach Sandy Alomar, Jr.  Of those four, Mackanin and Maddux would obviously be preferable, which is why Theo is interviewing them also.

Add to our growing list of vacancies a strength and conditioning coach and an assistant athletic trainer.  Apparently we fired Dave Page and Greg Barajas.

Also worth noting is the fact that the Mets will construct a few walls in Citi Field for the explicit purpose of decreasing the size of the field.  Among those walls will be an eight-foot installment in front of the sixteen-foot Great Wall of Flushing, between which will be built a new section of seats a la the Green Monster.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most blatant agenda-pushing moves I’ve ever seen.  So they constructed an enormous ballpark that is forcing well-paid power hitters, like David Wright and, oh, yeah, Jason Bay, to struggle.  Big deal.  You don’t see any other ballclub undergoing offseason construction to shrink the field size just to increase home run production to make more money.  That is ridiculous, and I’m surprised that it’s being allowed.  Maybe Bud Selig is considering it yet another step forward toward making baseball even more popular; we all know how much he praises the home run as a tool to accomplish that.  But still.  I can’t believe this is flying under the radar.

In other news, the Pats lost to the Steelers, 25-17.  Before the season started, I think we all picked that one as a possible loss.  At least the score was respectable.  The Bruins scored a ton of goals this week.  We beat the Sens, 5-3, and then we absolutely buried the Leafs, 7-0.  Tyler Seguin posted his first-ever NHL hat trick en route.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Theo took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe last Sunday thanking us for everything.  He also wrote a pretty eloquent editorial in the Globe on Tuesday.  In the article, he said he’d always planned to leave the team after the 2012 season, since ten years is enough; he drew inspiration from Bill Walsh’s statement that coaches and front office personnel should seek change after ten years with the same team for the good of both the individual and the team.  He said that leaving the team after Tito’s departure made sense because the decisions involved in hiring a new manager should be made by someone slated to lead the club for more than just the next season.  He said he bonded with Tito during the hiring process back in ’03 and felt that Ben Cherington, the ideal successor due to his extensive experience in a variety of roles in the organization including Theo’s assistant for years, deserves the same with his new manager.  He talked about the values of the organization: pride in our uniform and history, patience at the plate, mutual support among the teammates, always working hard, rising to the occasion, and of course appreciating the fans.

You’re welcome, buddy.  And thank you.  Well, enter the Ben era.  He’s got a lot of work to do, that’s for sure.

There are rumors that we should be interested in bringing back John Farrell, but as a manager.  However, we apparently aren’t talking to anyone currently managing.  Even if that weren’t an issue, the Jays would intend to get more than their money’s worth, and there is no way we’d pay an astronomical amount.  Plus, Farrell professes to enjoy it up there and thinks that he’s making an impact.  All of that is really a shame because the rumors are true: Farrell is the best guy out there.  He doesn’t rule with a completely iron fist, but there’s just enough iron in there to keep guys in line.  Hey, he kept the pitching staff in line, didn’t he? That’s more than we can probably say for Curt Young at this point.  Maybe that’s what we need for the entire clubhouse with this particular team.  Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter.  Toronto oh-so-conveniently just changed its employee policy to prevent lateral movement.  So, so much for that.

John Lackey is going to have Tommy John surgery this offseason and will probably be out for all of next year.  Raise your hand if you were surprised by that.  Just to be clear, there should not be any hand-raising.  Apparently, we have an option for an extra year at minimum salary if he misses significant playing time due to a preexisting elbow injury.  Sounds like that to me.  But I don’t think we’ll be exercising that unless his return is nothing short of stunning in a good way.

Gonzalez and Ellsbury were both nominated for Best Player in the 2011 Greatness In Baseball Yearly Awards; Ellsbury was also nominated for Defensive Player and Comeback Player.  All well-deserved.

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for finally winning the 2011 World Series.  It took all seven games.  Oh, right.  There was a World Series this year.  Who knew?

In other news, we lost to the Habs twice this week.  We only played two games, both against the Habs, one at home and one in Montreal.  And we lost both.  That’s just great.

Boston Globe Staff

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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.

AP Photo

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Just so you know, this is not going to be a happy post.

First of all, it’s pretty much unofficially official.  Theo is going to take over the Cubs.  It’s a five-year deal, and the only thing left is for the two clubs to agree on compensation since Theo is technically entering the last year of his contract with us.  The deal is currently worth twenty million dollars, which reportedly includes said compensation.  As of late, Theo’s title within the Cubs organization is unclear, but it supposedly is something higher up.

The bottom line is that he’s leaving us, so we’ll have to find a first-base coach, a manager, and a general manager.  Here’s an understatement: this offseason, we’ve got some serious work to do.  With any luck, we won’t actually have to find a general manager and will instead be looking for an assistant general manager; I wouldn’t mind having Ben Cherington take the helm.  That’s where it looks like we’re headed, anyway.  He’s been included in all club dealings so far during the offseason.  He’s been Theo’s right-hand man for years, and the two of them started with Larry Lucchino in San Diego anyway.  It obviously won’t be the same, but it’ll be pretty close.

That is, if you like the job Theo did.  Sure, he made some huge mistakes.  Eric Gagne and Dice-K were the most notable of those; if Jenks doesn’t recover properly he’ll be another, and if Crawford and Lackey don’t turn it around they’ll be a third and fourth.  But I would argue that his good so epically and completely eclipsed his bad that this discussion isn’t even necessary.  His drafting and farming decisions were legendary and include Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youk, and Lester.  He is the youngest general manager to be hired, and he is the youngest general manager ever to win a World Series.  After almost delivering us in 2003, his first season, he lifted us out of the Curse of the Bambino in 2004 and reminded us that we weren’t dreaming in 2007.  His acquisition of Gonzalez was absolutely masterful.  He brought sabermetrics to Boston and made it feel at home here.  He wasn’t just a professional removed from everything; he was a baseball guy and, worth noting, a Red Sox fan.  He’s from Boston, specifically Brookline about two miles from Fenway Park, and that’s something Chicago will never change.  Chicago’s dysfunction as an organization goes well beyond any single position that Theo could possibly fill.  Make no mistake; he won’t simply waltz in there and have them winning World Series left and right.  If he could do that in Chicago, we would have been winning every single World Series title since his takeover of our team, and clearly that didn’t happen.  And if it didn’t happen here, it’s not going to happen there.  But that’s neither here nor there.

This is about what Theo did for this city in his nine memorable years here.  He brought a new approach to the game and put the pieces in place for us to win.  He established a winning culture here.  He’s a genius and will be sorely, sorely missed.  Here’s to you, Theo.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us and for the game of baseball.  Here’s to the good, the bad, and the ugly, and here’s to smiling through all of it because, all along, in Theo we trusted.  We know that other fans in other places rooting for other teams will be trusting in you from now on.  But we also know that you can take the general manager out of Boston but you can’t take Boston out of the general manager.  We just hope that the great things you’ll accomplish will not be at our expense.

Secondly, all of the pieces to the devastation puzzle are now coming to light.  It’s an ugly story.  Here goes.

It wasn’t one pitcher responsible for the beer-drinking between starts.  First of all, it wasn’t just drinking beer; it was also ordering in fried chicken and playing video games.  Secondly, it wasn’t just one pitcher; it was three.  Beckett, Lackey, and Lester.  I never thought I’d see Lester on that list, although I should point out that the degree to which he actually participated in these goings-on is highly speculative, and it’s possible that he wasn’t really a mainstay.  Apparently they not only drank beer but ordered fried chicken and played video games, all at the expense of working out, and they were starting to get more players involved.  All I know is that when we needed them to deliver most, they didn’t, which is unusual for them so something must have been going on.  We knew they were health, so that should have tipped us off, but I never thought I’d see the day when such people would actually knowingly put on pounds and thereby sabotage everything the team worked for.  It’s sacrilegious. Pedroia probably couldn’t believe his eyes and must have been seething.

Meanwhile, Tito was losing influence with both old and new guys, he was having health issues, and he was living in a hotel due to marital issues.  He insists that the former wasn’t due to the latter two, but I’m also sure that Beckett, Lackey, and Lester insisted that their very visible extra fat and subsequent tanking wasn’t due to their clubhouse habits either.  I’m actually inclined to believe Tito, though; he’s focused, dedicated, and committed, and we can’t just assume that he doesn’t know how to handle personal issues in his life and balance them with his job.

Then, apparently, the team accused the brass of caring about money more than results when they scheduled the doubleheader in response to Hurricane Irene.  Then the veterans on the team, including Tek, started pulling back on leadership.  Wake exacerbated this problem by calling for a return next year so he could break the all-time wins record; neither the time nor the place when you’re days away from playoff elimination.  And Youk, as you can imagine, was more of a clubhouse pain than usual, which we all knew but didn’t feel because all of these other issues weren’t present before.  At least, if they were, we didn’t know about them to this extent.  Youk was the only player to call Ellsbury out for his time on the DL last year due to his rib injuries.  And it’s obviously admirable and dirt-doggish indeed that he played through his injuries this year, but doing so apparently brought the worst out of him socially in the clubhouse.  And when you’re hanging on by a thread in the standings, that is so not something you need.  Gonzalez, of all people, joined in the pettiness by complaining about the late-season schedule.  I honestly thought he would be much more Pedroia-like than that.

Ellsbury, by the way, is officially the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year.  I can’t think of anyone who would deserve it more.  He earned every last bit of that honor this past year, so hats most definitely off to him.

Add to that the fact that the signing of Crawford was largely a push from Theo over which the brass was divided.  If you ask me, I would have said it was the other way around.  Crawford’s strengths, both in practice and in numbers, aren’t that compatible with sabermetrics, the philosophy used to build the team.  So I thought that we would all find out that it was Theo who was against it, and it was the brass who was pushing him to sign Crawford because of the wow factor of bringing in a star or something.

All in all, the team this year turned out to be one big, dysfunctional family on every front.  Nobody, from the players to the brass, was spared.  Everyone who had issues let them loose at exactly the wrong time and in exactly the wrong ways.  Players on whom you depended to carry your team through the stretch in the clubhouse either withdrew or sunk to the level of the players you never thought would sink to that level in the first place.  It seems like it was just an awful atmosphere completely non-conducive to anything positive or constructive.  Obviously you’ve got to consider sources of this information when you read stories about this, but I guess now that we know the end story, we saw the signs all along.  That’s true of Theo’s departure as well.  At the time to us on the outside, all of the signs were too subtle for us to keep putting two and two and two and two together to come with what is clearly a very elaborate set of social circumstances that spiraled out of control and led to our painful and epic downfall.

Organization chemistry, both in the clubhouse and in the front office, is a very difficult thing to fix and cultivate.  It’s organically grown, and you either have it or you don’t.  You can’t force it.  Now Papi is claiming that he’s seriously considering free agency as a way to escape all the drama.  It’s all been meshing so well recently; how, in such a short time, could we become “that team” with all the drama? It’s like a soap opera.  Seriously.

John Henry even drove down to 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday completely on his own because he felt like he had some records to set straight.  He said that Crawford was not signed to boost NESN ratings, although he confirmed that he did oppose it but ultimately approved it because baseball operations were for Theo and Larry to govern.  Henry also implied a confirmation that Theo is going to Chicago while saying that he wishes that Theo would stay.  He said that, during the season, he let the brass know that he was all in favor of picking up Tito’s options and that the only time he thought that that maybe wasn’t such a good idea was when Tito told the brass that he didn’t want to come back.

Significant changes to the organization could potentially be afoot, and that’s either good or bad.  There’s no way to know who’s on the radar or what we should expect.  There’s nothing to do.  No amount of speculation would ever shed any light because this organization keeps everything under wraps, as is appropriate and right even if it is annoying for us fans hanging in the breeze.

The whole situation is crushing.  Make absolutely no mistake whatsoever about that.  It’s crushing.  It’s devastatingly epically crushing in every conceivable sense.  We’ll get through it because we’re Sox fans and we always do, but it’s just so remarkably and epically depressing and crushing.  I can’t even believe that this whole situation is happening.

Ultimately the big question is short and sweet and simple but revealing of the trepidation that’s currently racking all of us.

What’s next?

Also, Scott Williamson is auctioning off his 2004 World Series ring.  Why in the world would you ever do that? That’s completely sacrilegious.

In other news, the Pats summarily disposed of the Jets, 30-21.  Would I have preferred a blowout? Obviously.  But hey, that score is a lot better than the score we put up against them the last time we played them last season, so I’ll take it.  And the Bruins, since beginning their season on October 6, have beaten Philly, Colorado, and Chicago and have been beaten by Tampa Bay and Carolina.

AP Photo

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These are things that Theo has said: he wants to keep Papi and Paps and fix Lackey and Crawford.  And he doesn’t blame Tito for the fact that we have suffered the completely devastating indignity of being the first team ever in the history of Major League Baseball to be eliminated from the playoffs after having held a nine-game lead in September.  He blames himself and a lack of chemistry and conditioning.

Apparently, Tito was concerned as early as the first week or so of September, so he called a team meeting to get everyone back on track.  Since Tito’s assumption of the managerial role for us, these meetings have been gold.  They’ve been a surefire way of airing grievances, getting things out of your system, identifying best and worst practices, and going from there to ensure a long-term strategy for success for the rest of the season, whether we had four months or four weeks left to play.  Theo even came in to address the team; whether it was appropriate for him as general manager to do isn’t the point.  The point is that desperation apparently was realized early, and everyone wanted to do what they could to fix it.

According to Theo, some players were better conditioned than others, and this inconsistency manifested itself on the field.  Regarding the chemistry issue, during the seasons when we went the deepest into the postseason (that would be 2003, 2004, and 2007), the team was apparently tighter, more familial, and more brotherly than it was this year.  There wasn’t as much back-having and protection-securing in the field.  Was it a problem when Lackey got visibly annoyed in public when a play wasn’t made behind him? Did Crawford’s handling of his gigantic slump affect the team behind closed doors? Was the clubhouse annoyed when Papi went after that scorekeeper for one RBI? Has Paps been going on and on about the fact that he wants a raise? Are all of the reports of prima donna behavior, like drinking beer between starts, true? And was it really Beckett of all people? I don’t know, and there’s no way anyone outside the room would know.  What I do know is that these issues probably weren’t the only incidence of their type over the course of a 162-game season and that, when you’re spending that much time on planes, clubhouses, dugouts, and other tight spaces for that amount of time, brothers tend to get on each others’ nerves.  However, at the end of the day, brothers are still supposed to be brothers, and they’re still supposed to act like brothers.  It’s a problem when they don’t.

Now here’s what Theo didn’t say, and this is huge.  Of all the outcomes of this complete and total fail of a season, I never thought that this would be one of them.  We had to find out from Ken Rosenthal on FOXSports.com that this may have been Tito’s last season as our manager.  It turns out that he was right.  It was a mutual thing; Tito doesn’t want to continue managing the team, and the team doesn’t want to pick up his option for next season either.

What can I say? He is, without question, one of the best managers this club has ever had in its long and illustrious history.  We failed to win a World Series in eighty-six years because we were cursed and because we were managed badly.  All of a sudden, Tito came in and we won two in less than five years, our first in his first season with us.  And in both of them, he brought us back from the brink of elimination.  He’s the first manager in history to win his first six World Series contests.

But it’s not just about that.  It’s also his ability to be a good manager and to mediate forces in the clubhouse.  He has a calming effect on even the most flamboyant personalities, and he handles the environment with a degree of respect, fairness, humor, and adaptation that is a truly rare combination indeed.

We didn’t make the playoffs in 2010 because of injuries.  We didn’t make the playoffs this year for reasons completely different that are highly speculative and have yet to be determined definitively.  It’s completely unclear, as Theo said, that our collapse this September was Tito’s fault.  He managed Michael Jordan to Manny Ramirez to everyone in between; I have implicit faith in his ability to maintain a positive and constructive clubhouse dynamic, and I have no reason to believe that the collapse occurred because he failed to do what was necessary.  According to Tito, he did what was necessary; he was the one who reached out and called that meeting.  It just wasn’t working.  He wasn’t able to get through to these guys like he was able to get through to teams past.  It’s not like he wasn’t trying.  It’s just like the conditioning issue: you can tell a guy fifty times an hour to get himself into the weight room and work out, but at the end of the day, he’s the one who decides whether he gets himself into the weight room.  There is only so much that a manager can do to stem the tide of slackening conditioning regimens and negative evolution of clubhouse chemistry.

Obviously we weren’t going to hear about any of this, or the fact that he felt that support was lacking from ownership, until now.  Regarding that last point, you can either believe that or interpret it to mean that it wasn’t a mutual decision and that it was the team who decided that it didn’t have enough support from Tito.  Maybe Tito wasn’t enough of a numbers or data man, and that didn’t satisfy the brass.  It’s not like anyone was going to start letting these things slip into the media in the middle of the season, and it’s not like we’ll know the whole truth of it, either.  According to Jerry Remy, for those on the inside, it was pretty easy to see where this was going.

Since 2011 is Tito’s last season with us, it’s extremely unfortunate that that’s how he’ll go out.  He’ll finish with a record in Boston of 744 and 552.  That’s a winning percentage of .574.  He broke the Curse of the Bambino and led us to two World Series championships in which we were all but finished before we got there but, once we did, dominated completely.  He’s been serious, and he’s been funny.  He’s been human, and he’s been superhuman.  He essentially made us the team of the decade, and he did so with a level of class and understanding of the game that this town hasn’t seen in a long time.  For every managerial mistake he’s made, I’ve seen at least five manifestations of remarkable managerial acumen that everyone who’s ever won Manager of the Year would be hard-pressed to exhibit.  Speaking of which, I don’t care what anyone says; Tito was the 2010 American League Manager of the Year in my book.

So here’s to you, Tito.  You gave us your all, all the time.  That’s not easy here, and we appreciate everything you’ve done to make this team a success.  And we hope you’ve had as much of a complete and total blast here as we have with you at the helm.  You acquired our instinctive faith, trust, and support, and we’re glad we were able to benefit from your talent.  Tito, it’s been most phenomenal.  And you will most certainly be missed.

All rumors point to the Other Sox.  Incidentally, this is something I better not hear anyone say: Tito intends to take a job with the Cubs and, oh, look, a few weeks later, so does Theo.  And I don’t even want to think about what it’s going to be like seeing him in the visitor’s dugout at Fenway or the home dugout somewhere else.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Miller pitched five and two-thirds innings.  He gave up three runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out eight.  (Notice that the latter two points are identical to those of Lester from his outing on Saturday.  Also notice, thanks to Theo, his next start could potentially be the last time you’ll see him start for a while.)

In the second, McDonald worked an eight-pitch walk, and Tek homered on a changeup to left center field to bring in two.  He just smacked the ball out of the park.  At the time, it gave us a two-run lead.

After the fourth, we were down by one.  In the seventh, two singles and a passed ball meant two runners in scoring position for Pedroia.  He singled, which scored both runners and put us ahead for good, and moved to second on the throw back into the infield.  Pedroia moved to third on a groundout by Gonzalez, and Youk intentionally walked, putting runners on the corners with two out for Papi.  But Papi struck out swinging on a slider.

In the ninth, Ellsbury singled, stole second base, and scored on a double by Gonzalez.

The game was rife with opportunities of which we did not take advantage.  We left ten on base and went two for nine with runners in scoring position.  Luckily, the relief corps of Aceves, Bard, and Paps held down the fort.  Aceves got the win, Bard got a hold, and Paps got the save.  The final score was 5-3.  Bard has not allowed a run in a career-high twenty-six and a third innings.  Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Gonzalez, the top third of the lineup, had two hits each.  Smile, Red Sox Nation; we have won seven straight on the road, a franchise record, and we finish July with a record of twenty and six, the best record in July this franchise has ever had.

The big news of the day is that we have indeed acquired a starting pitcher.  It’s not Rich Harden.  It’s Erik Bedard.  The deal was made minutes before the trading deadline, and considering that it was a three-team deal, that’s no small accomplishment.  We sent a catching and two pitching prospects to the Dodgers for an outfielder, who we then dealt with an outfield prospect of our own to the Mariners for Bedard and relief prospect Josh Fields.  Ironically, Bedard has also been plagued by injuries recently, so we’ll see how this plays out.  In Theo we trust.

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What a rout! Where were all these runs on Friday? If we took half our runs from yesterday and moved them to Friday, we still would have won both games.

Lester totally cruised.  Yeah, he’s fine.  Eight innings, two runs on four hits, one walk, eight strikeouts.  Ninety-eight pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  Those two runs he allowed were the result of two solo shots, one in the seventh and one in the eighth, both with one out in each inning, both to left center field.  The first on a fastball, the second on a changeup.  So basically what that means is he made two mistakes during his entire outing.

He faced the minimum in five of his eight innings.  In the second, he gave up a double; in the seventh, he gave up his first homer and his lone walk; in the eighth, he gave up his second homer.  That was it.  That was the extent to which he encountered any jams whatsoever.  As you can see, at no point was he made to feel truly threatened that a rally might be coming if he made a mistake.  (A huge part of why that was true was our run production, which we’ll obviously get to.)

Let’s take a look at his strikeouts.  Anytime a pitcher posts a high strikeout total in one of his outings, it’s fun to break them down because it gives you a sense of the dominance he displayed.

Lester struck out the first batter he faced on four pitches, ending in a curveball.  He struck out the second batter he faced using a fastball that the batter didn’t even attempt to hit.  In the second, again four pitches ending in a curveball.  In the third, fastball, fastball, cutter; done.  In the fourth, sinker, cutter, fastball; done.  In the fifth, one ending in a cutter and the other in a fastball.    In the seventh, cutter, curveball, fastball; done.  That makes the sixth and eighth the only innings during which he did not record a strikeout, but he averaged one strikeout per inning.

Let’s talk about his pitches.  Quite simply, they were nasty.  He threw an unhittable cut fastball and a punishing sinker.  His only pitches that weren’t stellar were his curveball and changeup, but he didn’t throw many of them overall so his line didn’t reflect that.  Twice, during the third and fourth, he finished innings with seven pitches alone.  He threw at most eighteen pitches; that was in the seventh.  Let me just repeat this because it’s remarkable: he finished eight full innings having thrown less than one hundred pitches.  He executed and located literally almost all of them in all counts against all batters in all parts of the zone.  And as Lester said himself, Salty did a great job of maintaining a potent and deceptive mix.  If the only thing wrong with him last night was that he made two mistakes on some cut fastballs and his curveball and changeup weren’t up to their usual snuff, I’d say he pitched a downright gem.

He got the win, and Wheeler pitched a scoreless ninth in an epically non-save situation, being that we won, 10-2 and all.

It’s hard to believe from looking at that score that the game was actually locked in a scoreless tie until the fifth inning.  That means that we spent almost half the game going up and going down pathetically like we did on Friday, and you were thinking there’s no way this could possibly be happening to a lineup like this two nights in a row.  Maybe you were thinking that in April, but not now.  And you’d be absolutely right.

We put up a four-spot in the fifth just to get loose, because trust me, there was much more to come.  Crawford singled to lead off the inning; he stole second and scored on a double by Salty.  Reddick singled and moved Salty to third, and he scored on a sac fly by Scutaro.  Ellsbury singled, stole second, and moved to third on a sac fly by Pedroia that scored Reddick.  Gonzalez took an intentional walk, and Youk singled in Ellsbury.  Papi grounded out to end the inning.  That entire inning was a textbook example of what it means to manufacture runs.  The team to that point was not producing, which is unusual on a night when Lester pitches because Lester has the most run support of any other pitcher on our whole staff.  So you force opportunities and do whatever it takes to get runners across the plate.  And that’s what we did.

Our next threat came in the seventh, but we did nothing with it.  We made up for it in the eighth.  We scored only one run that inning, but it was a remarkable run.  With two out and a full count, Reddick walked.  He saw five fastballs before a changeup sent him to first base.  Scutaro singled, and Reddick actually scored all the way from first.  Nobody made an error; it was an earned run.  The reason why he was able to score was because Alex Rios decided to stroll over to Scutaro’s ball in right.  That’s what it looked like.  He just took his own sweet time about getting to that ball.  By the time he realized that his lackadaisical attitude had prompted Tim Bogar to send Reddick home, he fired to the infield but the throw was cut off by Gordon Beckham, who bobbled it anyway.  That would never happen in Boston.  I can’t even believe you’d see that anywhere in the Major Leagues.  Well, that’s what they get for not hustling in the field.

At that point, we were up by three but still refused to back down.  We put up a five spot in the ninth.  Pedroia singled to lead off the inning, and Gonzalez homered on a fastball.  The count was 2-1, and the shot was hard and fast to right field.  Whenever Gonzalez hits anything, he just makes it look so easy.  Then Youk went back-to-back on his ninth pitch in a full count.  It was also a fastball, but he shot it high to left.  It was massive.  Papi flied out for the first out of the inning.  Crawford singled and scored on a double by Salty.  Reddick popped out.  Scutaro then singled; Beckham dove for it, but it bounced off his glove into center field, so Salty scored.  Then Ellsbury struck out.  The end.

This is how a team should play every day.  A team should always manufacture runs and maximize chances because you never know what the rest of the game has in store.  In this case, we scored so many runs and our pitcher overwhelmed the lineup to such an extent that it didn’t matter how many defensive plays Brent Morel had up his sleeve.  It was awesome.

In other news, as expected, Theo did not try to fix what isn’t broken just because of the trade deadline.  We traded Navarro for Mike Aviles of the Royals; he’ll be an experienced bench player.  Theo was also going to trade Lars Anderson for Rich Harden of the A’s, who would obviously add depth to a rotation with sometimes questionable health and ability.  It would be tough to part with Anderson, but since acquiring Gonzalez and signing him to a long contract that he seems amply able to earn, it didn’t seem like we had much room for him anytime soon.  But the deal ended up falling through, apparently because we were unsatisfied with Harden’s medical records and were not certain he could be depended on to get through the rest of the season healthy.  And if that’s true, that makes a lot of sense, considering the reason why we’d want to add a starter to our roster is because the health of our rotation is sometimes in question.  All around, I’d congratulate Theo on a trade deadline well, or rather not, spent.

AP Photo

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