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Posts Tagged ‘Tyler Seguin’

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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So, if last time out we saw the better Buchholz, then last night we must have seen the best Buchholz.  Only we didn’t see the best Buchholz, because Buchholz is even better than last night’s outing, which was already better than his previous outing.  Basically, what all this comes down to is that this is what we’ve been waiting for from him.

It wasn’t just the four hits or the seven strikeouts that confirmed it.  The fact that he only walked one and allowed zero runs by themselves don’t even tell the whole story.  It’s the fact that he allowed only four hits while walking only one and striking out seven over seven shutout innings while throwing 127 pitches, seventy-nine for strikes.  Obviously, he still has work to do in the efficiency department.

That pitch count of 127 is a new career high.  I’m surprised that Tito let Buchholz stay in the game for so many, but when you’re hot, you’re hot, and Buchholz was hot.  His first inning? One-two-three.  Two back-to-back swinging strikeouts on fastballs.  His second inning? One-two-three with a swinging strike on a cutter to end it.  He opened the third with a strikeout on three pitches (and later gave up his only walk).  He notched another K in the fourth, when he allowed his first hit.  He put up his last two strikeout in his last inning; the first was his only called strike, also on three pitches, also on a cutter.

But his last strikeout was by far the most epic.  After starting the inning by inducing a groundout from who but Victor Martinez, back for the first time since walking in the offseason (and may I say that the ovation was a very nice touch; naturally Red Sox Nation always does it right), he hit a batter and allowed a single.  Then the called strike.  Then he hit another batter to load the bases with two out.  Given his pitch count and the fact that he was clearly losing his sense of the strike zone, it was obvious that, for better or worse, this would be his last inning.  The question was whether he’d be able to get out of it.  Before Austin Jackson even got up there, Buchholz had already surpassed his career-high pitch count by one.  But Buchholz put his head down and took care of business.  First, a cutter for a called strike.  Then he took a changeup for a ball.  Then Buchholz threw a fastball in the dirt.  Then a cutter for a swinging strike.  What followed were five straight fastballs.  The first two were fouled off.  Then a ball.  Then a foul with a runner going.  And then finally, finally, a swinging strike.  Even after all those pitches, he threw that last one at ninety-four miles per hour.  First base umpire Gary Cederstrom ruled that Jackson went around on what otherwise would’ve been a ball, and that was it.  Fist pump.  Inning over.  Exit Buchholz just in time for a twenty-six-minute rain delay.  And yes, he did go around.

The fact that he threw that many pitches over that many innings showed us that he’s getting back on track.  He can get deep into ballgames and throw a lot of pitches.  You don’t want to see a lot of pitches thrown, but you want to know that he can throw them.  And he did.  Like it was the easiest thing in the world.

More than half of his four-seams as well as his two-seams were thrown for strikes.  Almost three quarters of his changeups were thrown for strikes.  Exactly three quarters of his cutters were thrown for strikes.  And eighty-two percent of his curveballs were thrown for strikes.  His stuff was absolutely filthy.  Even though his innings were efficient in terms of batter count, his lowest pitch count was thirteen in the second; he threw fourteen in the fifth.  His highest pitch count was twenty-six in the first.  Those first two strikeouts of his were incredibly long; the first one took eight pitches, and the second took seven.

In short, the start was easily his best of the year so far.  Hands down.  It was awesome.  But even though it had win written all over it, he never received a decision.

Nobody scored until the eighth inning.  It was wet, visibility was low, and nobody scored until the eighth inning.  Our first four innings at the plate were all one-two-three.  We didn’t send out more than the minimum until the fifth, when we sent out only one above.  The sixth was one-two-three, the seventh was again only four batters, and finally in the eighth we put up our only threat.

If you can’t hit the starter, just wait him out and then pounce on the reliever.  And if you can’t hit the reliever, just wait him out and then pounce on another reliever.  And that’s exactly what we did.  Ryan Perry came on for Phil Coke.  Lowrie grounded out and Cameron popped up.  Daniel Schlereth then replaced Perry, and then things got offensively interesting.  Crawford walked on a full count and Salty hit a double off the Monster.  With Crawford’s speed, that was all it took.  I can’t even believe they thought firing the ball back into the infield would keep him from scoring.  Fitting of course that, on the night when V-Mart returned to Fenway, his replacement drove in the winning run.  Ellsbury was hit by a pitch after that, but the Tigers made another pitching change and Pedroia grounded into a force out.

Thankfully, Bard had had an easy inning in the eighth.  Paps came on and promptly gave up a double to V-Mart, and suddenly that one run was looking pretty shaky.  But it turns out we had nothing to worry about.  A groundout and back-to-back K’s later, Paps picked up his eighth save and the game was over.  1-0, most definitely in our favor.

We are now nursing the longest winning streak we’ve had all year: five games.  Not too shabby.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that two of our starters are on the DL: Dice-K has a sprained ligament in his right elbow and will be out for at least a month, and Lackey has a regular right elbow strain that he wanted to pitch through but wasn’t allowed.  So Lackey will obviously get better soon.  Dice-K is a different story, but having him on the DL for a while may not necessarily be a bad thing.  Wheeler should be back on Friday, and Michael Bowden has joined the bullpen; whether that news is good or bad remains to be seen.  Back to the bright side, we have moved up in the standings and are now two and a half games out of first, good for a tie for second (with the Yankees, which I obviously don’t appreciate, but like I said, we’re moving up).  So clearly things are starting to improve.  The better Buchholz is becoming even better.  And the better Red Sox are becoming even better.  This is good.  This is very good.  We must continue in this direction.  Let’s win ourselves another series.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Lightning, 6-5, thanks in large part to Tyler Seguin, who scored four points in the second period alone.  So now the series stands even at one apiece.  We got this.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Obviously, we’re still waiting around.  Still not much happening.

The Rays signed Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.  That was exciting for all of five minutes.  That team lost almost all the reasons why they were ever good in the first place, and then they went out and decided to plug those holes with a couple of has-beens.  They signed both of them for seven millions dollars.  Total.  As in, both of them together cost seven million dollars.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I don’t think I seriously thought I’d see the day when these two guys would ever be ready to admit that they’re in the process of being done.  Needless to say, neither concerns me.  They’ll get a nice crowd at their home games, and they’ll get some publicity, but ultimately I just have to laugh.

Speaking of contracts, this is something you won’t believe, and the fact that something like this is so unbelievable is a testament to how bad things have gotten in the business of baseball.  But here it is: Gil Meche signed a fifty-five-million-dollar contract during the 2007 offseason and just upped and retired from baseball due to shoulder issues.  He just walked away from twelve million dollars.  It would have been easy for him to stick it out to collect the money.  We see pitchers do this all the time.  They spend a little time in the bullpen, they spend a lot of time on the DL, eventually the season ends, they finish out their contract, and then they retire.  But no.  Not only did Meche take the high road and admit the reality of his age and condition, but he also said that he retired when he did because he wouldn’t deserve the rest of his pay if he finished out his career like that.  It wouldn’t be fair to the team, it wouldn’t be fair to the fans, and it wouldn’t be fair to himself; he said he just wasn’t comfortable the moment he stopped being able to actually earn his contract.  He didn’t want to freeload off of an organization that had already paid him handsomely for his life’s work.  And just like that, baseball loses another class act because he’s a class act.  That is one guy after Mike Lowell’s heart.  We may not believe it, but we understand it.  Gil Meche, baseball fans everywhere salute you.

Sean McDonough, who did play-by-play for us from 1988 to 2004, and Nomar, who did almost everything for us from 1994 to 2004, will play “key roles” in baseball broadcasts on ESPN this year.  I have no doubt that they’ll be unbiased, but at least now we won’t have to deal with bias the other way.  We know McDonough.  We know Nomar and his analytical abilities got off to a pretty shaky start.  But more importantly, we also know that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are long gone.  And no matter who the replacements are, that is something worth smiling about.

In case you haven’t noticed, as I’ve been saying every week, these past few weeks haven’t been too interesting, baseball-wise.  That’s because there are very few questions to answer.  We know who our starting shortstop is.  We know what the lineup will likely be.  We even know, more or less, who will be on the bench and who will be called up because all of last season was basically a showcase of the best our farm system has to offer.  Luckily, we are slowly but steadily approaching pitchers and catchers.  Slowly but steadily.  Hang in there; not too much longer.

In other news, the Kings shut us out on Monday, but we beat the Panthers on Wednesday, and we sent three to the All-Star Game! Chara, Thomas, and Seguin all went and participated in SuperSkills, and Chara and Thomas played in the game.  Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom captained this year, and they actually got to choose their own teams, so Chara and Seguin both played for Staal against Thomas, who played for Lidstrom, which was strange but interesting.  Thomas actually skated in the Fastest Skater competition.  His time of nineteen seconds obviously lost, but it was just funny.  Chara played in the Skills Challenge Relay, but his team lost.  Chara also lost to Thomas in the Elimination Shootout.  It’s all good, though.  Definitely all good.  Because Chara still reigns supreme in his area of expertise: Hardest Shot.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new record! 105.9 miles per hour was the winning speed.  That, my friends, is about as hard a shot as you’re going to get, and the only harder shot you’d ever encounter is from him anyway.  Seguin posted 97.1 miles per hour in that event; not bad for a rookie.  But seriously.  After a point, you just can’t see the puck when it travels that fast.  I would not want to be on the receiving end of one of those.  And finally, Lidstrom’s team won.  By a goal.  The final score was 11-10.  That’s not a hockey score; that’s a baseball score.  But that’s what happens when you feature the best of the best.  Play resumes on Tuesday with the Canes.  Hopefully we crush.

AP Photo

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It’ll be one week tomorrow since our elimination from the playoffs, and it already feels like forever since baseball season.  That’s a bad sign.  If it feels like forever after a week, I don’t want to think about how it’s going to feel after a month, or two, or six.

The Twins failed us, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Let’s look back on our season, shall we? We finished second in the Majors in runs scored with 818, sixth in hits with 1,511, first in doubles with 358, second in homers with 211, first in total bases with 2,546, second in RBIs with 782, sixth in batting average with .268, third in on-base percentage with .339, and second in slugging percentage with .451.

When you look at it like that, our offense was awesome.  Before the season, everyone was worried about where the home runs were going to come from.  Well, they came.  They came in droves compared to the offensive ineptitude everyone was ready to heap onto us.   Beltre was a big part of that, and if you ask me he should be in the discussion for AL MVP.  Tito should be Manager of the Year.  Done.  If he doesn’t get Manager of the Year, something is fundamentally wrong.

Let’s do pitching.  We were tenth in the Majors in wins with eighty-nine, seventh in saves with forty-four, second in innings pitched with exactly 1,457, ninth in strikeouts with 1,207, and ninth in opponent’s batting average with .253.  Unfortunately, our ERA, runs, earned runs, and walks were off the charts.  If we got into the playoffs it would have been because of about half the offense and half the staff, namely Lester and Buchholz.  We basically spent the entire year playing with and relying on only half our team.  Half the staff was trying to carry all of it, and half the order was trying to carry all of it.  The bullpen was a mess.

And finally, fielding.  We were second in the Majors in putouts with 4,371.  The rest of our fielding stats were essentially awful.  Beltre was as bad in the field as he was good at the plate, and he wasn’t the only one.

All of that begs the tough question that encompasses every GM’s universe come the offseason: what do we do to improve? We’re in a very difficult position.  After a season finish like ours, the first impulse is to be convinced that what we need is some sort of incredibly massive overhaul.  But that’s not necessarily the case, and we should be wary of doing anything rash.  We know from that brief but glorious period right before the All-Star Game that Theo’s run prevention theory works.  We were well on our way to locking the division before the injuries hit.  So we can’t write off that approach so fast, especially since we obviously did end up having good offensive production.  Aside from our obvious needs, it’s hard to gauge what’s needed because we never actually got to see the 2010 team in full force for any indicative period of time.  So I actually don’t think that there are too many glaring holes that need patching up this winter.

One glaring hole we do have is the bullpen.  Paps was decidedly subpar, and so were most of our other relievers.  We need a middle reliever, and our specialist situation is not clear-cut at the moment.  We need to fix that.

We need to re-sign V-Mart.  That is absolutely non-negotiable.  He works very well with the staff, he has improved his arm, and he hits.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a catcher who hits.  And he hits from both sides of the plate.  And he destroys southpaws.  And he plays first base.  V-Mart will be worth every penny the brass offers.  The only potential problem there is years.  V-Mart wants a long contract, and we don’t like offering long contracts because they damage our flexibility.  But I still say he’s integral.

We need to retain Big Papi.  We’ve got an option on him, and as usual there’s no comment as to whether that’s going to be exercised.  All I know is that Papi was an absolute force this year.  When he gets going, it’s hard to stop him, and he’s still got it.  Not to mention what he does for the team off the field, which is also important.  So between his potent bat and his potent personality, he does great things for this team, and I think it would be a mistake not to bring him back.

Beltre is also a free agent.  This is a tricky one.  Nobody expected him to be as good as he was this year, so he’s going to have decisions to make this winter.  There is absolutely no way on this planet that he will exercise his option.  No way.  It’s not happening.  Beltre is going to want some serious coin, perhaps more than we’ll want to offer.  We’re going to have to be ready if that’s how it comes to pass.  Suppose Beltre signs with someone else.  Presumably, Youk will be healthy next year, so we’ll have his bat back to take the place of Beltre’s, and we wait for the other Adrian, Adrian Gonzalez, to become a free agent, we sign him, and we move Youk back to third.  Obviously that’s easier said than done, but it’s a viable option and one that the organization has been thinking about.  Do I think Beltre would be worth the kind of financial commitment he’s probably looking for? That depends on how much we’re talking.  He’s obviously a beast.  He’s a great hitter, presumably he’ll eventually be a great fielder as he gets more accustomed to Fenway, and he’s durable, which we learned the hard way this year.  He’s so durable that, not only did he stay healthy for the whole year, but he took out others for the season.

Lastly, there’s the subtle yet present question of Jason Varitek.  Tek will be back next year in a backup role.  He has embraced his demotion as a way to help the team in a different way, and he’s happy with that.  Everyone needs a backup catcher, and he’s probably the best backup catcher you could possibly find.  He’s also a class act; it takes a real man to accept a backup job with a team you love instead of signing for more money with another team that would probably make you a starter.  Tek has never played baseball for anyone else, and I suspect he wants to keep it that way.

No matter what happens, I think next year will be vastly different from this year, and not only because we’ll be healthy next year.  That’s definitely one reason; Pedroia had his surgery when he did so he would be ready to begin his offseason regimen on time. Everyone is committed to making 2011 a turnaround.  If you ask me, I think we’re going to have a World Series coming our way.  Also because our bench and farm are now one of the best in baseball since they all became starters this year and got regular playing time for a good portion of the season.  And new guys like Lackey will be fully acclimated, and we’ll get to see them really live up to their potential.  So I’m psyched.

In other news, the Pats walked all over the Dolphins last weekend, beating them bad by a score of 41-14.  And hockey season has officially begun.  We kicked it off in Prague with the Coyotes.  We dropped the first game, 5-2, but came roaring back in the second, 3-0.  Tyler Seguin scored his first NHL goal, and it was Thomas with the shutout.  Then we’re returning to the United States to take on the Devils.  This is going to be a great season for us.  We’re loaded with young talent, and I think we’re going to go places.

Sports of Boston

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