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Posts Tagged ‘Red Sox’


In the midst of juggling my 3 jobs, I’ve decided to come up for air and talk some Boston Red Sox.  Many commentators are focusing on their offense, as if it won’t get it done.

Let’s look back at last season.  We had a less than healthy Papi, a nearly crippled Mike Lowell, an injured Josh Beckett and an absent Wakefield.  Turns out our starting shortstop had a fracture in his wrist too.  Both our hitting and pitching were in trouble.  And we were one win away from the World Series.

This was because Dustin Pedroia continued to improve, and Youk had a career year.  Jon Lester discovered how to pitch deep, and strong.  Dice-K was one lucky guy with a big WHIP and low ERA to garner a good win total.

I’m not as pessimistic about this season as some people.  Yeah, no Money-Ramirez.  That also means far less drama. Jason Bay, while not the one man wrecking crew that an interested Man-Ram can be, is a very good hitter and a better defender who will give you a good effort night after night.  Papi no longer has to worry about his wrist, and Lowell will be healthy.  I don’t expect the 2007 Lowell, since he’s 2 years older, but he should still put up respectable offensive numbers for a 3rd baseman.

What excites me about the 2009 Red Sox is the pitching staff.  We seem to be witnessing a return of Beckett 2007, which means he could be a dominating pitcher now that he’s healthy again.  He has been that guy in Spring Training (yeah, it’s only Spring Training), which he wasn’t last year. 

Although we aren’t sure what we are going to get from Penny and Smoltz, if they flounder we could have Buchholz 2007 to step in.  He seems to have regained a good arm slot, and his confidence.  He’s not the tentative pitcher who was giving up runs like a 2-for-1 special was going on.  Lester has offered us no reason to doubt he’ll continue his domination of hitters.  He’s confident and strong.  With Penny and Smoltz, the Red Sox can occasionally rest Lester, Beckett, and especially Wakefield.

The bull pen should be better (though bull pens are tempermental things).  Masterson was the key to making it steady last year.  If Delcarmen can be consistent (which he seemed to be after Masterson joined the pen), and Saito can set-up and occasionally close, we can have a healthy, aggressive Papelbon for the playoffs.

Pitching wins championships, and the Red Sox have a championship caliber pitching staff.  While their offense will not reach the heights of the 2003-4 Red Sox, it should be more than sufficient to provide the runs this staff needs to be very successful.

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The Red Sox have signed a bunch of people to 1-year deals.  In the last few days they have reached agreements with pitchers Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Takashi Saito.  They have also signed OF Rocco Baldelli and OF/1B Mark Kotsay.  All but Kotsay are coming off seasons in which they have had injury or illness problems.  What is going on here?

The Red Sox are putting together a roster that has the ability to compete with the Rays and Yankees THIS year.  They are not locking themselves in to any long term contracts, so if any of these guys doesn’t recover, it is not a huge hit.  Particularly in terms of the pitching, these moves allow their prospects to develop and they won’t have to trade someone at a discount (like they did Coco Crisp) if/when the particular prospect is ready.

For instance, let’s say Bowden or Buchholz shows he is ready to take up a spot in the rotation in 2010, they won’t have to trade Smoltz or Penny.  However, if Brad Penny has a great year the Red Sox could decide to commit to him long term.  I like the flexibility this provides.  Unlike the Yankees, they have not locked themselves into anything for the next 4-8 years.  They can adjust on the fly.

These guys have all shown they have major league tools.  All we actually need from Rocco is to start against lefties and be ready to pinch hit in the late innings of tight games.  We lose nothing when it comes to defense with that late substitution.  The guy can also hit and run the bases.

If he can’t bounce back as well as hoped, we have the insurance of Mark Kotsay should Drew or Ellsbury suffer an injury.  We aren’t having to dip into the minors like last year and bring up guys who either can’t hit or can’t field.

In the case of Saito, we have a proven closer just in case something happens to Papelbon.  Redundancy, or insurance, depending on how you look at things.

They Red Sox will also have the salary flexibility, as Gammons noted, to pursue a player another team deems too expensive as the trade deadline approaches.  Imagine one of our starters in the outfield gets injured.  He notes that Detroit may decide to dump some salary.  They could pursue Magglio without entering luxury tax territory.  Financial prudence in these tough times, with a commitment to win.

Yes, they didn’t get the big bat they wanted.  But they have the bats needed to ‘protect’ Big Papi.  The problem was injuries, not talent.  If Papi and Lowell are healthy we have a line up to compete with any other AL team.  I don’t buy this fear about being unable to produce runs.  Lowrie can hit, he slumped after an injury to his hand.  The only weak link in the line up will be catcher.

Theo provided some solid depth without breaking the bank or tying up resources for years to come.  He’s sticking to the plan to develop prospects.  All we need now is a catcher.

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Pedroia Strikes it Big


The little big man for the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, has now seen the payoff for all the hard work and stellar play.  The Red Sox have locked him up for 6 years.  He’ll get $40.5 million over that time frame.  The Red Sox get a hard-working, inspiring sparkplug who puts up some pretty significant numbers.  He’s one guy that won’t be moving on soon.  With a revolving door at shortstop, Theo has solidified the other middle infield position.  And you have to wonder how long it will be before a “C” is sown onto his uniform to go along with the 2007 A.L. Rookie of the Year award & World Series champion ring, and his 2008 A.L. Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and MVP awards.

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Globe staff/Jim Davis

Globe staff/Jim Davis

I was nearly jumping for joy with them after an exciting final 2 innings to last night’s game.  Jon Lester continues to build a reputation as a money pitcher, throwing 7 shutout innings that was nearly wasted by a spent bullpen.

Francona made an uncharacteristic mistake, I think, by pulling Okajima.  Another walk, a passed ball and Hunter’s timely hit tied that game.  Maybe Okalima would have surrendered a home run.  I don’t know.  But I didn’t like it then.

After Shields got the heart of our line up out in the 8th, I thought it was going to be another marathon session.  That is until the Angels had a man on 3rd in the 9th.  An incredible play by the Captain to end the threat.  Yes, a bit controversial- but the ball was knocked out by the ground, not the tag.  Like Cal Ripken, it would be interesting to see what the rule book actually states.  I think they made a reasonable call- but I am biased.  [what is different here from a play at the plate is that Varitek clearly had possession & control of the ball prior to the tag- he’d run 90 feet with it.  in a play at the plate, the action happens so fast the ump can’t be sure if the catcher has control of the ball until after the play is done.  if ESPN asked for my opinion to refute their ‘expert analysts’, I suspect they might go ‘hmmm, hadn’t thought of that.’]

It seemed like the Angels got a break on that ground rule double by Bay.  Especially when Teixeira grabbed that screaming line drive down the line.  But another Red Sox rookie came through as Lowrie dumped a single into right field so Bay could get home.  Awesome ending (unless you cheer for the Angels).

Now the Rays- a solid, gutsy team.  When the Rays won the regular season series the Sox were struggling with injuries to Lowell, Drew & Beckett.  Yes, Longoria and Crawford were out too.  What I didn’t know until yesterday was that Drew led the Sox with game-winning RBI, despite missing a good chunk of the season to back injuries.  His effortless defense, combined with that, gives him an edge of Crawford (a player I really like).

So now we see who is better- the battered Sox who just dispatched the team with the best record in baseball, or the upstarts who eliminated a one dimensional team in the White Sox.  Make no mistake- the Rays can win this series.  They are good enough and deep enough.  They got rid of the clubhouse distractions and have lots of character guys who also play very well.  This is no lopsided series.  The Rays have the Red Sox’ respect.

I think the Red Sox will win due to the intangibles.  It is not just having been there before- but succeeding there before.  They’ve developed a great system of scouting teams and prepping players that pays dividends in the playoffs.  They have a few days to put together a game plan they can execute.  That gives them an edge- not a guarantee, but an edge.  It should be fun to watch.

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Frank McCourt continues his attempt to build Boston West.  He often gets Sox players past their prime.  He also had a former manager until he realized too late that Grady Little may be a great guy but not the best manager.

Today, they traded for Manny Ramirez who has worn out his welcome in Beantown.

The Red Sox paid quite the price to be done with Manny.  They pick up the rest of his salary for the year.  Reports have them also sending out Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen to the Pirates in the 3-team trade.  I liked Moss, but he didn’t seem to have a place on the Red Sox.  He’ll get the shot he deserves with the Pirates.  Hansen needed a change of location (Orel Hershiser’s analysis of his mechanical issues the other night was great by the way).  The Pirates made out like bandits because they also picked up Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris from the Dodgers.  They got ripped off by the Yankees, so they made the Sox and Dodgers pay.

So far all the Sox receive is Jason Bay.  That can’t be all.  Really… Theo, you had to do better than that, right?  Otherwise the Dodgers and Pirates really took advantage of their need to dump Manny and his bad attitude. 

This is addition through subtraction in my view.  Bay should benefit from being surrounded by better hitters, and may slide nicely into the 5 spot.  Putting him right behind Ortiz may put too much pressure on the new guy.

Update: After Manny hit into a double play to end the Dodgers’ attempt to win, and Bay scored both Sox runs in a win we have this interesting tidbit from Gordon Edes:

Of all the Manny moments in Boston, the last ranks as one of the most confounding. Within an hour after Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein informed Manny Ramírez he had been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday, Ramírez’s agent, Scott Boras, called the Sox back, according to a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations. If the Sox dropped the option years on his contract – which they had agreed to do if they traded him – Boras said Ramírez would not be a problem the rest of the season.

For the Sox, the source said, Ramírez’s pledge of good behavior only served as a tacit admission that his disruptive conduct of the last couple of weeks had been calculated, and they had had good cause to suspect more was in the offing if they did not trade him. The Sox told him thanks but no thanks, what was done was done, and pack plenty of sunscreen.

And I missed this little part of Manny Being Nefarious.

“We were in a bit of a difficult circumstance and we made something good of it,” said Epstein, who was in Anaheim two weeks ago when Ramírez balked at boarding the bus taking the team to the airport and a flight to Seattle.

“I heard about that,” Varitek said. “I didn’t see it.”

The acts, and words, of defiance seemed to multiply quickly thereafter.

I’m guessing that makes the Dodgers’ fans really excited.  Manny really didn’t want to go there- all a show, just like the last few weeks.  Manny reveals himself to be a petulent, greedy man.  He’s also a man who thinks of no one but himself- consistently avoiding opportunities to reach out to fans, especially the Jimmy Fund kids.  This taints the fond memories I have of him as a ball player.  Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived -IMO- was notoriously self-centered, but was a big supporter of the Jimmy Fund and baseball camps/clinics for kids.  Manny … not even close.

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This year the baseball trade deadline has prompted to some very exciting deals- if you cheer for the Yankees and the Angels.

The Yankees are repeating the pattern of the past, though with a bit less luster.  They are taking on additional payroll (with that ever end???) and sending back prospects or low money guys in return.  First they bring over Xavier Nady and his .320+ average to fill their hole in left field, as well as giving them a right handed bat that has been missing to restore balance to their line-up.  That deal also brought them a solid left-handed reliever.  The analysts basically agree this deal was a steal for the Yankees.  They have Nady signed for next year at an affordable salary, and an option for Marte.  So, this is not a rent-a-player situation.

Marte’s presence allowed them to  ship out Farnsworth, which saddens me.  The hard throwing relief pitcher was hittable often enough.  In return they pick up an aging Ivan Rodriguez.  He started the year slowly at the plate, but has brought his average up to about .290.  So, they add a strong bat behind the plate, replacing Posada who is done for the year.  From the Tigers’ perspective, this move surprises me since they seemed to have climbed back into the AL Central.  This is basically a salary dump.

They have positioned themselves nicely for the stretch run in an organization where failure is not an option.  The weak and vulnerable Yankees of April-June are once again gone as Brian Cashman made some wise moves internally (some forced by injuries to guys who weren’t performing as expected), and brought in some guys to address the remaining weaknesses.  All we can hope for is that they lack chemistry.  Only they could do this because they added millions in payroll.

The Angels also made a really good move in picking up Teixeira for Kotchman.  That is a big improvement in my book.  Though he might be a rent-a-player.  But the Angels see this as the year they could go all the way.  They have the pitching, and needed 1 or 2 more good bats.  Teixeira is the piece they needed to avoid a repeat of last year’s playoff sweep at the hands of the Red Sox.

If you haven’t noticed, the Red Sox payroll has been decreasing over the years.  They are showing greater financial restraint, but this may come back to bite them like it did in 2005.  They are trying to dump Manny and his primadona act.  His recent actions seem to be mostly about his desire to make more money.  It is hard to avoid thinking that he no longer wants the Sox to pick up that option because he wants another $100 million contract- which seems unlikely with his diminishing skills.  But Scott Boras only makes money on Manny if he does get a new contract instead of the option.  So ….. this round of Manny Being Moronic seems to be driven by money since he sure is hitting well for a guy with a bum knee.  But he seems to play better when there is drama going on, so who really knows.

The only remaining possibility out there, after the Phillies, Mets and Dodgers have all denied any interest, seems the Marlins of all teams.  It is reported the Red Sox could get either Josh Willingham or Jeremy Hermida and a prospect in return.  I doubt anything will happen though.  Maybe the Marlins think Manny will actually put some fannies in the seats there.

The Rays have been mentioned in rumors, but I couldn’t see them picking up any of these guys, contrary to what I hear on the local sports radio.  The owners don’t want to spend that much extra money, and they don’t want to give away their prospects.  You aren’t getting any of the players traded for Johnny Gomes, folks.  They have survived a stretch where they have not produced many runs, which is a positive.  The local jock talkers think they have the guns to score lots more runs.  I suspect this latest stretch was a “regression to mean” after some superlative play.  The real Rays are somewhere between those 2 offensive extremes.  Longoria has been killing my fantasy team the last few weeks (as have a few other guys- I even dumped Ellsbury which may come back to haunt me).  But the re-constituted Yankees will surpass the Rays until A-Fraud does his typical October disappearing act.

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The tide has certainly turned against Manny Ramirez in recent days.  During the 2007 playoffs Manny became more accessible to the press.  He seemed to be a new guy- more open.  This continued into Spring Training.  Manny was available.  He wanted to be in Boston.  He wanted them to pick up his option.  All was well in paradise.

Then … he started whining about the option.  He insinuated that the Sox had not been forthright with him.  John Henry wasn’t liking that one.  Perhaps Manny really missed Papi, and the silly things he thought we said to the wrong people.

Then he shoved a traveling secretary.  He was fined for his actions.  But soon there was the infamous at-bat against Mariano Rivera.  To be truthful, when he’s on he freezes batters.  So, I’m not buying into the “Manny wiffed on purpose Theory”.  Call me naive, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Then this week it has been the return of the phantom knee problems.  His MRI came back clean- no structural damage.  That doesn’t mean nothing is wrong.  Sometimes my knee bothers me for no aparent reason.  Today is one of those days.

In jumps the infamous Boston media led by Curt Schilling and Theo’s least favorite guy- Dan Shaughnessy.  No quotes, just lots of claims about how angry the Red Sox (owners, management, coaches and players) are and this is the final straw.  He makes much of the meeting between owners and management, and the ‘no comment’.  Or is he talking to Larry behind the scenes?

But CHB is not alone in this thinking.   The Herald’s Steve Buckley says it time for Manny to go.  Would his knee affect his hitting (Buckley claims he watched Manny raking the ball in the cage after begging out of the game)?  Perhaps.  But as Papi will let you know running is the big issue.  As in running the bases.  As in running down the ball.  As in Papi is here and Manny can’t DH tonight.  Yes, guys, remember that he had been DHing, in part because of the knee.

Yes, Manny’s numbers have been dropping.  I’m not sure I’d want to pay him $20 million next year.  But his real value at this point is protection for David Ortiz.  Take Manny out of the that line up and the resurging, and recently improved via trade, Yankees have a vastly superior line up.  I think Brandon Moss will make a great player, but I’m not sure I want him taking Manny’s place in LF.

Manny might be wearing out his welcome in Beantown.  But the members of the media there can often drive a guy batty.  It’s no surprise that Manny has suddenly shut up again.  There are two sides to this story.  The fans love it when Manny helps the Sox win.  Some of them enough to let these little episodes slide.  What really matters is how the organization wants to handle this latest episode of Manny being Manny.  Simply annoying or nefarious?  No idea.  But I’d rather watch the Sox build a big lead over the Rays and Yankees than settle for another round of “will Manny be traded” garbage.

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