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Posts Tagged ‘United States of America’

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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Finally! The day we’ve all been waiting for! Ladies and gentlemen, Opening Day has finally arrived.  It’s been one long, hard winter, but winter is over, my friends.  Spring Training is done.  It goes down tonight at 8:00PM.  Get ready to welcome the 2010 Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park! Oh, and we’re playing the Yankees.  Basically, this is the greatest baseball day ever in the past half-year or so.

There’s only one minor snag: technically it’s Opening Night, not Opening Day.  I’m not calling it Opening Night.  When ESPN wants its ratings, ESPN gets its ratings.  Who cares about the fact that this is only the most important day in the daily lives of Red Sox Nation and an entire region of the United States, right? Ugh.  ESPN.  That’s all I’m saying.  And the worst part is that we can’t even make a statement by engaging in the TV boycott that so many are suggesting because, let’s face it, we’ve been baseball-starved for way too long and absolutely will not and can not miss Opening Day in Boston against the Yankees.  And don’t think ESPN doesn’t know that.  You just can’t win with them.  It’s infuriating.

Speaking of ESPN, they hired Curt Schilling to do analysis on Baseball Tonight.  Because apparently all former Sox stars must be employed immediately to do analysis on Baseball Tonight.  Hey, at least they have good taste in teams.

The lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Papi, Beltre, Drew, Cameron, Scutaro.  Boom.  Done.  And I have to say, I like it.  If Ellsbury can get going in the lead-off spot, we’re golden.  Can’t go wrong with the one-two-three punch of Pedroia, V-Mart, and Youk.  If Papi has a solid year, the first half of this lineup will be impenetrable.  I really like Beltre separating Papi and Drew; that way, the opposition can’t just throw a lefty in there.  Cameron in eighth; no surprise there.  And I like Scutaro in ninth because he’ll give some punch to the bottom half of the order.  When you have a decent hitter batting last, you lengthen your innings because there’s no guaranteed out at the bottom, and you force a turnover.

The roster is done.  Outfielders: Drew, Cameron, and Ellsbury, with Hermida as the spare man.  Infielders: Youk, Pedroia, Beltre, Scutaro, and Lowell, with Hall as the spare man.  Catchers are V-Mart and Tek, obviously.  We know the rotation is Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wake, and Buchholz.  Beckett’s got the speed, Lester is the model southpaw, Lackey throws the first-pitch strike, Wake has the knuckleball, and Buchholz throws off-speeds like nobody’s business.  (Provided he’s on.)

The bullpen includes Ramon Ramirez, Paps, Bard, Okajima, and Delcarmen, with Schoeneweis and Atchison earning the final two spots.  Hey, if they earn them, they earn them.  And it hasn’t been easy.  Schoeneweis’s wife died last year, and Atchison returned from Japan to get better medical care for his daughter.  Good luck to both of them, and we salute you.

This was the last week of Spring Training, the last week of tune-ups, so any last-minute kinks had to have been worked out by today.  None of our arms disappointed.  Everyone looks primed and ready for actions, if you ask me.  I can’t wait to unleash this rotation on the rest of the league.  We’re talking epic domination this season.

Lester finished up on Wednesday.  One run on three hits in seven innings say he’s good to go.  V-Mart went hard twice, Frandsen (who knew?) blasted a grand slam, and Pedroia went three for five.

Lackey had his final tune-up on Thursday; one run on six hits over five.  That’s kind of a high hit total for Lackey, but one run makes it hard to argue.  Delcarmen struggled; Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless inning.  Scutaro, Tek, and Lowell all had a good day; it was the first time Lowell played in back-to-back games this spring, and he was actually pretty decent.

On Friday, Buchholz allayed concerns with a solid set of six innings; one run on two hits, and that was it.  Paps’s ninth was scoreless; Bard sent down his two batters in quick succession.  Tek smacked a three-run double; Ortiz smacked a double of his own.  Reddick’s Grapefruit League average is now .404.  Really, it’s a shame he’s back in the minors.  That kid’s got Major Leagues written all over him.

Wake pitched himself four shutout frames yesterday.  The only trouble he had was back-to-back singles with one out.  If that’s the only kind of trouble he has all season, I think we’re good.  He finishes Spring Training with a 3.04 ERA.  Surgery? What surgery? Dice-K relieved him for four solid frames.  That’s what I call encouraging.  I would’ve preferred that Dice-K not have walked three batters, but this is no time to be picky.  Youk and Drew went yard.

Hermida’s back in action as of Friday.  Ellsbury rested his throwing shoulder this past week, so I expect some serious firing from left.  Youk fouled a ball off his knee on Wednesday, but he’s fine.  Ortiz was scratched on Thursday with a stiff neck but came back on Friday.  Junichi Tazawa is out for the season; he needs Tommy John surgery.  We’re getting close to a contract extension with Beckett that would keep him here through 2014 for $68 million.

Basically, what it comes down to is the fact that we’re going to win tonight.  At least, we all hope so, and you know how it is in Boston.  You gotta believe.  But seriously, objectively speaking, I think we’re better.  Just take it position by position.  Our rotation is very obviously better.  Our bullpen is clearly better.  Our outfield is clearly better.  Most of our infield is better.  Our catchers are better.  We’re just better.  The great part is that that has nothing to do with keeping the faith; that’s just a verifiable fact.  Which will be proven tonight.  Let’s get this season started right.

Two wins and two losses this week for the Bruins.  We’re seventh in the conference, two behind the Habs and two above the Flyers.  It’s better than being seeded last, but let’s overtake the Habs if we can.

Brian Sullivan

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Okay.  That didn’t exactly go as planned, and that’s putting it lightly.  We knew it had to happen sometime, but it would’ve been fine by me if it didn’t happen for an incredibly long time.  The New York Yankees won the 2009 World Series.  Wow, that was excruciatingly painful to say.  So basically the Angels wounded us and the Yankees finished us off.  Of all the bad things that could possibly have happened to Red Sox Nation this year, it had to be New York coming out on top at the end of the decade.  Suffice it to say that the region of New England and the city of Philadelphia are brothers in grief, but as I said, the region of New England isn’t very happy.  To be fair, the Phillies gave it their all and put up a good fight, forcing a Game Six and whatnot.  But to be completely honest with you, I’m still furious and bitter about the whole thing.  Words can not describe the anger and frustration I experienced.  I’m sure you can relate.  And don’t even get me started on what it felt like to see pictures of the victory parade.  Viscerally painful.

What does this mean for Red Sox Nation? Does it mean we’re back where we started? No.  Absolutely not.  The curse is long gone.  (Speaking of curses, so much for that valiant attempt to hex the new Yankee Stadium with that Ortiz jersey.) So we don’t have to worry about that anymore.  So what does it mean? Well, quite frankly, it means we’ll have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  It doesn’t mean we have something to prove because 2004 and 2007 have already taken care of that.  In its simplest terms, it literally means we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Alex Speier of WEEI ranked the World Series winners of the decade.  He put the 2004 Red Sox at third, the 2007 Red Sox at second, and the 2009 Yankees first.  This is something I’m having a very hard time believing.  The Yankees didn’t win the World Series.  They bought it.  Just like they bought their previous twenty-six World Series wins.  The Phillies were beaten, more than anything else, by the Yankees organization’s abnormally huge wallet.  Their 2009 payroll was $209 million.  That’s a full fifty percent more than the Red Sox, Tigers, and Mets, who were all more or less tied for second this past season.  (So to all the Yankee fans out there who favor the you’re-one-to-talk line, don’t even try it.)

To that end, in response to “Remember Who You Are,” Jeremy pointed out:

CC Sabathia made $3906 per pitch this season.  AJ Burnett made $4391 per pitch.  Mariano Rivera made $12,500 per pitch. I think I’m going to be sick.

Believe me, we share that sentiment.  Those figures are absolutely grotesque.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so disgustingly exorbitant in my baseball life.  This is what ruins the sport.  This is what alienates and disillusions.  It’s just sad and pathetic that New York has to go out and poach their talent in fiscally irresponsible ways.  Signing a pitcher for seven years for that amount of money is completely irresponsible.  The dude could snap his arm tomorrow and never be the same again.  Why would anyone ever sink that much capital into a less-than-stable investment? Similarly, why do you sign a pitcher for five years who’s known to make multiple trips to the DL? I don’t understand what they were thinking.  Burnett is a huge medical liability, not to mention the fact that his consistency isn’t worth his currently salary at all.  One of the reasons they locked Burnett was probably to keep him away from us, and that should never be the basis of any decision, but that’s just what they do.  As far as Mariano is concerned, he is especially not worth it.  For a team so worried about their archrival (remember when they acquired Mike Meyers for the explicit and sole purpose of pitching to David Ortiz?), they’re placing a premium on a closer whose only Achilles’ heel is that same team.  And to pay him that much at his age when other closers just as good and younger are making less should signal the lack of sensibility in their approach to the market.  That organization just does not make sense.  At all.  It’s stupefying.  Every time I read something about Brian Cashman and any Steinbrenner, I feel my powers of common sense drain out.

By the way, Bronx leaders are considering naming the soon-to-be-constructed the East 153rd Street bridge after Derek Jeter.  I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.  We have the Ted Williams Tunnel because Ted William was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a soldier in combat for the United States in two major wars during the prime of his baseball career, and an avid supporter of the Jimmy Fund.  He was a local, regional, and national hero.  Derek Jeter is a shortstop.  There is a huge difference.

Now that the Yankees have, you know, won and all, I think we need to move forward constructively.  An instrumental part of that will be making peace with Jonathan Papelbon.  He may have disappointed us, and he may have humiliated us, and he may have been as porous in his pitching as a slice of Swiss cheese, but at the end of the day he’s still our closer.  And let’s face it: there’s nothing more dangerous than a closer with something to prove.  And I’d say that’s doubly true in Papelbon’s case.  Putting his last appearance aside, he’s a beast.  He’s one of the biggest competitors on the team.  Essentially, he was born to close.  He’s got the power, he’s got the movement, and he’s got the crazy attitude to get the job done.  In the past, when Papelbon got hungry, he went out and he sealed the deal.  And I fully expect him to be back to form this coming season.

Speaking of big competitors, here’s a story that’s been downplayed in light of other impending free agency filings: this coming season is a contract year for Beckett.  After that, he’ll be eligible to become a free agent for the first time in his career.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t expect him to walk away.  Free agency for this year has already begun; notable filings include John Lackey, Matt Holliday, and (you guessed it) Jason Bay.  Other filings included Carlos Delgado, Marlon Byrd, and Adrian Beltre.

Make no mistake: the stove is about to get hot for Theo Epstein.  In fact, he’s already started his move-making.  We acquired right fielder Jeremy Hermida from the Marlins for southpaws Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez.  This could obviously have implications for Rocco Baldelli’s future with us.

We still need a bench coach.  Tito wants to replace from within.  I know technically you’re supposed to take a few years off to transition from player to coach, but Jason Varitek wouldn’t be a bad idea.

So that’s where we’re at.  We have double the pain to conquer now: the experience of an extremely brief October and the surge of the Evil Empire.  Obviously, we’ll get through it.  We always do.  I’m just saying I wish I didn’t have to have this to get through.  It would’ve been so infinitely better if we won the World Series.  And that’s exactly what 2010 is for.

The Bruins aren’t exactly helping our cause.  We were shut out by the Rangers and Devils earlier this week, and being shut out twice in a row isn’t easy.  So that’s bad.  To make matters worse, we lost to the Habs in overtime.  But we ended the week on a high note when we defeated the division-leading Sabres, 4-2.  The problem is that we don’t have a goal-scorer because he’s off playing for the Leafs now.   That’s a problem.  Someone’s going to have to step up and start putting pucks in nets if we’re going to get anywhere this year.

 

Center Field

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We now have more to deal with this offseason than we bargained for.  We all expected Theo to have his hands full with fixing this team, which obviously has holes in it.  That’s hard enough.  But in addition to that the front office and coaching staff just took two huge hits.

Brad Mills is now the manager of the Houston Astros.  Congratulations and good wishes for success, though not at our expense.  To be honest, Mills achieving success at our expense isn’t likely.  Mills will have his hands full down there, because the Astros haven’t exactly been World Series material year in and year out.  But I will say that after spending time in the dugout with Tito, Mills will have learned from the best.  Still, I don’t expect the Astros to suddenly become some sort of threat.  Of course, now we have to find a new bench coach, one who’s as good or better than Mills.

It’s finally official: Jed Hoyer is now the general manager of the San Diego Padres.  Congratulations and good wishes for success, though not at our expense.  That leaves Ben Cherington as our sole assistant GM, but I think he can handle it.  More importantly, this has profoundly positive implications for a possible Adrian Gonzalez trade.

Speaking of player additions, I wouldn’t be too surprised if our front office attempts to do business with Ben Sheets.  As Theo said, it would be a low-price, low-risk move that could pay off big dividends down the road.  And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.  No harm done.  Besides, it’s not like Sheets can afford to be as proud as he used to be.  After all the injuries he’s had, he’d be lucky to be in uniform for a contender next year.

Dean Jones, Jr. of the Baltimore Sun says that John Henry is the best owner in Major League Baseball.  Can’t say I disagree.  Pedro Martinez and his ego took advantage of a second visit to the World Series stage when he revisited the Don Zimmer incident.  He agreed with Zimmer that it was Zimmer’s fault.  Also can’t say I disagree.  Speaking of the World Series, the Yanks lead it two to one.  Let me just say that the region of New England will not be very happy with the city of Philadelphia if the Phillies fail to decimate.

And that’s a perfect segue into some extremely disturbing developments.  On Wednesday, Red Sox Nation and I visited the Boston Globe to read Tony Massarotti’s column, just like we always do.  But we were in for a profoundly rude surprise.  Mazz urged Red Sox Nation to root for the Yankees in the World Series because apparently a Yankees win would reinstate New England’s competitive fire.  I literally had to do a double-take.  Tony Massarotti, one of New England’s most trusted sports writers, was recommending the ultimate crime.  The ultimate blasphemy.  The ultimate act of treachery and betrayal.  First of all, let me take this opportunity to affirm in writing that I will not, nor have I ever, nor will I ever, root for the New York Yankees.  It is impossible for me to do so.  I am a Red Sox fan.  I loathe the New York Yankees with every fiber of my being and will in no way and at no time even consider the possibility of remotely supporting their organization.  And I think I can safely say that Red Sox Nation wholeheartedly agrees with me on this one.  You should have seen the comments on this column.  There were hundreds of them.  I assure you that you would be hard-pressed to find one that agrees with him.  Secondly, I was not aware of the fact that we lacked competitive fire.  We’re Red Sox Nation.  We’re the greatest fans in all of baseball.  You don’t get much more competitive fire than that.  So Mazz insults us, he insults our history, and he insults our loyalty.  I’m not sure Red Sox Nation and I will be able to read his columns in quite the same way again.

Furthermore, an article appeared yesterday in the New York Times by lifelong Red Sox fan Joe Nocera.  Same story.  He urged Red Sox Nation to root for the Yankees because they’re the underdogs.  Let me say something right now.  The New York Yankees are never underdogs.  How can a team be an underdog if they attempt to buy a championship every single year? What, they don’t win a World Series in eight years and all of a sudden they’re the victims of the rest of the league? There is a huge difference between a drought of eight years and a drought of eighty-six years.  And this article offends me personally because the author is a Red Sox fan behind enemy lines.  The New York chapter of Red Sox Nation has more fight than any other, and now he’s suddenly okay with the Yankees winning a twenty-seventh title? This is incredibly insulting.  Remember where you come from.  Remember the Royal Rooters.  Remember those eighty-six years.  And never forget 2004.

Nico Savidge of the Daily Cardinal wrote an article with the headline, “Yankees represent everything wrong with baseball.” I couldn’t agree more.  I suggest that both Mazz and Nocera read this as a reality check.  Let’s not forget that the Yankees are the Evil Empire, a business crushing opponents with its oversized wallet.  And don’t even get me started on the steroids, the ticket prices, and the broadcasters.  Seriously.

And that brings us to Tuesday.  On Tuesday of this past week, we celebrated the five-year anniversary of the 2004 World Series victory of the Boston Red Sox.  That was the greatest day in the history of the franchise.  It vindicated a Nation and set an entire region of the United States of America free.  I can’t even begin to describe the elation of that victory.  There’s only one way to sum it up:

“Back to Foulke! Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are world champions!”

Red Sox fans around the world were glued to their television sets on the night of October 27, 2004.  Generations of diehards achieved peace with that final out.  No victory meant more to a fan base than this victory meant to us.  And that’s why, even though this October didn’t turn out as we’d planned, five years later we’re still on top of the world.

The Patriots defeated the Buccaneers, 35-7.  We get a bye this week.  The Bruins lost to the Devils and shut out the Oilers yesterday.  With Lucic and Savard both on the injured reserve, I’m just glad we’re still putting W’s on the board.

The Onion

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