Tagged: Dice-K

Aggravation to Rejuvenation

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This past week was not the most fun week to be a Red Sox fan (and I know Indians and Orioles fans are having a tough time too). The Sox didn’t exactly look like a team that had just clinched playoff berth with the way that the pitching was coming apart. In fact, they didn’t even clinch the wildcard with a win, they were merely graced with a Texas loss to secure their spot. 

The Yankees clinched the division on their home turf, against the Sox, which partially fulfills their goal of the 2009 season. With the additions of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett, many predicted that the Yankees would win the division, though everyone knew not to count the Red Sox out with what seemed like the best pitching staff in baseball at the start of the season–in fact, many predicted the Red Sox to win it. 
Clinching the division on their home turf would have been satisfying enough, but clinching against the Red Sox? That must have made it even better for them, and I turned off ESPN as soon as Jacoby Ellsbury’s soft grounder to Mariano Rivera ended the ninth. 
This final season series sweep by the Yankees made the season series even. After the Red Sox won the first eight of the season, they either got swept, or lost the rest of the series. In what very well could be the American League Championship Series matchup, all Red Sox fans are hoping that we can pull it together, and make every game in that series unforgettable–all fights to the finish. And with the Red Sox and Yankees, it always is. 
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I was hoping for a bit of rejuvenation against the Blue Jays. I always like going into the playoffs with lots of momentum, and I wanted to secure a spot already! No such luck Monday night. Josh Beckett was scratched from his start with mild back spasms (but he is pitching tonight, so all is well). When I first heard the story, memories flooded back to me of Spring Training 2008. I was excited to finally see Beckett pitch, because I had never seen him live before (and I still have not). He was even warming up with Jason Varitek down in left field at City of Palms Park–but he didn’t make the start. Manny Delcarmen did, and Beckett started that season on the DL, and had a mediocre season according to his standards (as well as my high standards for him). Thankfully, these spasms are nothing to be concerned about. 
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I was very excited to see Michael Bowden take the mound, since he is my favorite pitching prospect. To say that he didn’t have the best night would be an understatement. He lasted only three innings and was tagged for seven runs. Bowden was obviously very disappointed in himself, but he made no excuses. He said that he could have been told five minutes before the game that he would be starting, and still this outcome would have remained inexcusable. I appreciate the fact that he didn’t make up excuses, and I won’t make up any for him either. 
The fact of the matter is though, that we can’t judge September call-ups simply by their one month of play, that would be unfair. Bowden was missing his spots, and he was getting behind in counts–something that can easily be fixed. Plus, he is not used to Victor Martinez, and practice makes perfect. I would like to see him follow a path similar to Clay Buchholz–because look how effective that extra time in the minors was for him: he is going to be a starting pitcher in our playoff rotation. 
In fact, if Bowden works really hard this winter (I am not sure if he will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League), I think that he could be a legitimate contender for a spot in the starting rotation for 2010. Dustin Richardson has impressed me, and I am very excited to see more of him next year in Spring Training. He is a legitimate contender to be a project next year, as is Fernando Cabrera. I think that what we have to remember is that it is a big transition from the minors to the majors, and it would be unfair to expect anyone to flawlessly make that transition. 
The last two games against the Blue Jays weren’t much better. The second game seemed like a recurring dream as Buchholz also gave up seven runs. And if it wasn’t for Joey Gathright in the third game, Halladay could have no-hit the Red Sox instead of just pitching a complete game shutout. 
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Speaking of Joey Gathright, I want to get to playoff rosters. We are less than a week way from what I like to consider the first day of “Soxtober”. While there are many “lock-ins” for the roster, there are still some spots that are up for grabs.
I would like the starting rotation to look like this:
1. Jon Lester
2. Clay Buchholz
3. Josh Beckett
4. Daisuke Matsuzaka
I am so proud of how far Clay Buchholz has come this season. I think that he has truly earned that spot. And who knew that Dice-K would come back and pitch as well as he has? Sometimes, it is worth giving people a second chance. 
As for the bullpen, Papelbon, Wagner, Okajima, Saito, Bard (whom I refer to as ‘Baby Bard’ on twitter), and Ramon Ramirez should be locks. With the way that Manny Delcarmen has been pitching as of late, his spot is no longer secure. 
The possibilities for that eleventh spot could range from guys like Byrd and Wakefield, to guys like Bowden, Cabrera and Richardson. I love Tim Wakefield, but I really don’t think that he is healthy enough to pitch in the playoffs. And even though the bird is the word, I don’t think that Paul Byrd has been consistent enough to earn a spot on the roster. And much as I like Bowden, I don’t think that he is ready for the postseason this season. Next season? I have no doubt. 
I know it may sound crazy, but I think it should be between Richardson, Cabrera and Delcarmen. 
As for position players, most of them are locked in. The main question marks are the utility infielder and the reserve outfielder. Alex Gonzalez was hit in the hand last night and he was forced to leave the game. Not good timing at all, and I think we’re all praying that he is not injured. I would like to see Gonzalez as the starting shortstop with Lowrie or Woodward as the  backup. 
So the question is: Lowrie or Woodwa
rd? This one is the toughest for me to figure out since we have seen so little of both of these guys this season. The second spot to fill is the reserve outfielder, and I think that Joey Gathright has the best shot because of his speed. Think Dave Roberts, 2004 and you’ll know why. 
I am working on playoff brackets this weekend, and what I think should be the roster, so I will do my best to get back to you guys by Tuesday as to who should make the roster. 

Ode to Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and Dice-K Matsuzaka

Over the past week, the Red Sox have been doing what they need to do to ensure themselves a spot in the playoffs (and the Rangers have been helping us out a bit). However, at the beginning of the week, we had a much bigger chance at maybe taking the division than we do at this point. If we had but swept the Royals (or even won the series), we would be in a much different position than we are now. 

What happened Monday night against the Royals was simply unacceptable. If that was the small hiccup before the big show, than that’s fine, but a solid bullpen is essential during the playoffs, and I think that Manny Delcarmen plays a very important role in our bullpen. This game was obviously not very enjoyable to watch, but it just wasn’t the Red Sox’s night. A bullpen, no matter how strong it is, always has a meltdown every now and then. 
As the playoffs approach, one has to start wondering what the starting rotation is going to look like, and I think it is getting more and more solidified with every quality start that Dice-K Matsuzaka makes. I think we would have a formidable four man rotation in Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, and Matsuzaka. That is the more obvious part, the more obscure part is how, if at all, Tim Wakefield would fit into the postseason roster. 
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As of right now, I do not think that it would be a good idea to have him pitching into October. Every time he goes on the mound, he looks like he is in pain. Wakefield could be in the bullpen as a reserve, but I am not sure if I would put him on the roster. What would you do? 
The next night against the Royals, I almost didn’t want to watch. Zack Greinke pitching against anyone is scary, but against Paul Byrd? We might as well forfeit!! Greinke didn’t even have to throw a pitch and we were already behind thanks to a beyond shaky first inning by Paul Byrd. 
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Greinke pitched absolutely beautifully, so beautifully that he inspired me to write a poem. In my English class, we are learning about Romantic poetry (and we are really mutilating an already dead horse). William Wordsworth described Romantic poetry and the “spontaneous overflow of feelings”, so I’m pretty sure that the following poem can fit under that category: 
Ode to Zack Greinke
O how Zack Greinke colors the crowd, 

With his ethereal pitches, by which batters are wowed. 

A work of art whose exhibit is the mound, 

An artist as well–sculpting his pitches from the ground. 

A phenom in the making, 

A pitcher who is fragile, and not worth breaking. 

Knocking down the pins of every part of the strikezone, 

To an abundance of strikeouts, batters are inevitably prone. 

The fielders are lonely, for base runners are rare. 

Yet in Zack Greinke’s presence, they are honored to be there. 

Crossing home plate is an impossible feat, 

This is a man no one can defeat. 

I am highly considering sending this to him. During the next two games, we were finally able to cool down the Royals, or at least score more runs than them. Beckett gave up 12 hits, but thanks to some well deserved run support, the Sox were able to pull through. Buchholz followed with a stellar outing, and I was getting a bit scared that the bullpen was going to meltdown again when Ram-Ram came in and gave up three runs. 
You know, there was really no better weekend for the Red Sox vs Yankees series than this one. Thanks to my lovely Jewish brothers and sisters, no homework was to be given this weekend since it is Yom Kippour. Yet somehow, I know that I still have to do stuff for English. 
Anyway, the only thing I could think about all of Friday was the game. Plans this weekend? I think not, it is the last regular season series!!! While it would not have decided the division winner if the Red Sox were to have won or swept the series (now we’re the ones trying not to get swept), it would have made it a much closer race. Regardless of what happens, this could very well be the preview of the ALCS. 
1999, 2003, and 2004. There couldn’t be a better matchup in postseason baseball. It is a series where all of my nails are bitten off by the end of the first inning of the first game. It is virtually impossible to multi-task and do homework. It is stressful, frustrating, exhilarating, and beautiful all at the same time. 
However, my confidence, as well as the Red Sox’s confidence was nearly shattered on Friday night in the bottom of the third inning. Melky Cabrera hit a sharp line drive just above Lester’s right knee cap. At first I didn’t realize what had happened. I wondered how the ball had returned so suddenly to the third base line, and then I saw Lester fall to his back. Horrific memories of an immobile Matt Clement came rushing back, and the stories of Bryce Florie as well (I was not yet a baseball fan when that happened). 
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I was almost as petrified as Jon Lester was. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of the potential consequences. The ball ricocheted off of what looked like his knee cap, and it did not sound pretty. It could have been a season ending second, and a season altering one. Lester was not carried off of the field, he limped into the clubhouse as the classy Yankee crowd stood for him, and he could barely make it down the stairs. 
The minutes following the accident were filled with agonizing hypothetical situations. It was impossible for me to imagine the Red Sox pitching staff without our consistent ace in Jon Lester. But when I heard the report that the x-rays were negative and that it was merely a right contusion, I truly breathed a sigh of relief. The fact that he wants to make his next start, albeit a bit unrealistically ambitious, is truly admirable. He is a soldier. The Red Sox may have lost that game, but I think we gained even more from the fact that Lester is okay, and will be able to pitch again this season. 
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Yesterday’s game truly embo
died what each and every Red Sox vs Yankee game is all about. It exemplified the notion of a true pitcher’s duel with absolutely stellar performances by both Daisuke Matsuzaka and CC Sabathia. Sabathia stymied the Red Sox offense for seven incredible innings of one hit ball. 
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Daisuke Matsuzaka somehow evaded the irrevocable damage of a bases loaded situation with no outs thanks in part to an absolutely stunning play by Victor Martinez. If giving up one run over seven innings is indicative of the type of pitcher that Dice-K has turned to, then I think he truly deserves a spot in the postseason rotation. If he wants to make up for what he has missed, this is the way to do it. 
In one hour, the last regular season of the game will take place. The Yankees can clinch the division with a win, but I think I speak on behalf of all Red Sox fans in the following understatement: I don’t want them to. We don’t give up here. Even if Paul Byrd is pitching, we can still win. We don’t go down with out one hell of a fight. Go Red Sox!! 

A Roll of the Dice

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It really was a roll of the dice–a gamble–when the Red Sox sent Dice-K out to the mound for the first time in three months. When someone rolls the dice, there are many possible outcomes, and it is almost impossible to guess which one they are going to end up with. But sometimes, when the game is on the line, you just have to take a chance and hope for the best. 

That’s what the Red Sox did. There are a bunch of Dice-Ks that the fans, as well as the organization are familiar with. There’s the 2007 Dice-K, who was synonymous with the Dice-K that the Red Sox saw and signed in Japan. There’s the 2008 Dice-K, who had a nice record on paper, and even a nice ERA, but the outings were messy. Then there’s the 2009 Dice-K, the one whose luck had finally run out. 
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At the beginning of the season, Dice-K was considered by most, including myself, an integral part of the rotation. It was hard to imagine a starting staff without Dice-K heart attacks, as long as we got out of those situations alive. Life without Dice-K not only became imaginable, it became a reality… pretty early on during the 2009 season. 
The Red Sox took an agonizing step this season: essentially sacrificing Dice-K’s expensive contract. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be when a player that is worth a lot of money isn’t performing up to the standards that are expected of them (hence the reason I prefer incentive contracts). However, it’s not like the Red Sox signed him for only one season–they really invested in him. I’ve never invested in anything really big before, so I’m probably not too qualified to speak on this, but I would think that if you invest in something, you don’t just want it for short term, you want it to last a long time. 
So even if the Red Sox sacrificed Dice-K’s season, perhaps it will benefit him, and in turn the Red Sox, in the long run. We could use a good Dice-K, the one we scouted in Japan, for the next couple of years. 
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When I think of DIce-K’s situation, I am subtly reminded of Clay Buchholz’s season last year. Clay Buchholz’s situation is a bit different because he had a lot of promise from his golden no-hitter in 2007, and a nice spring in 2008. He simply wasn’t ready yet, so he was sent back to the minors for some extra work, and as you all can see, it has really paid off during this season. Dice-K didn’t even start out on the right foot in 2009, but like Clay, he was sent down for some extra work, and thus far, it has paid off: we took a chance and rolled the dice, and the outcome was worth it. 
Taking a chance is pretty risky in September when the Red Sox are in the middle of what was a pretty tight Wild Card race. Luckily, not only did Dice-K pull through, but the rest of the offense has as well. Almost every single game, a more than sufficient amount of run support has come from a rejuvenated offense (considering everyone decided to go into a collective slump in August). 
Hopefully, this past series against the Angels is indicative of how the American League Division Series might be. Big come-from-behind rallies, and exhilarating ninth inning rallies. Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it? Especially against the Angels. You all do remember how we won that series in 2008 don’t you? On a walk-off single, similar to Alex Gonzalez’s of this past week. 
‘Exhilarating’ doesn’t even begin to describe walk-off wins, it’s an entire atmosphere. You’re on the edge of your seat, biting your nails. Your head is pounding, and you’re instructing the batter as if he can hear you. And you’re hoping with all of your heart that he’ll get that little hit that will bring the runner home. And when it happens, it’s like Christmas morning. You gasp when the ball hits the bat, and then you jump up from your seat and start jumping around the room screaming like an idiot, but you don’t even care because you are so ecstatic. 
There are some teams out there who will clinch their playoff spot early on in September. No competition, no need to really play anymore because they already made it. But what kind of mentality is that to have going into the playoffs? It may be nerve racking, but it’s exciting when it goes down to the end. And I think that momentum is important when going into the playoffs. 
Before I end, I want to go back to Dice-K. When he left the mound in June, he left to a chorus of boos. Red Sox fans, and baseball fans, are ruthless, but normally, they aren’t wrong when they boo a player. Dice-K deserved the boos, he didn’t come into the season ready to play baseball. 
But I think that both Red Sox and baseball fans should appreciate his change in attitude, and obviously the change in the way he is pitching. Both are for the better. Dice-K wants to make up for letting his teammates and the fans down. He knows that he has a responsibility for this team, and he wants to make up for what he couldn’t provide early on. So when he left to the chorus of cheers, the complete opposite, it must have been one of the best feelings he had ever had as a baseball player. 

The Beauty of September Baseball

Right after Derek Jeter gets his historic hit, Ichiro takes the pen from Jeter to write his page in the eternal textbook of baseball, or maybe just continue his own chapter. Everyone knows who Ichiro Suzuki is, the hitting phenom from Japan, who happened to snag both the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in his rookie season. It’s not that he is underrated; I think that everyone respects and acknowledges what he has done, and what he continues to do. However, I kind of see him as the unsung hero of Major League Baseball. A man who always shines, yet remains in the shadows. 

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I wonder why it is that Suzuki has only won one MVP award, even though he has had over 200 hits and batted above .300 in all nine of his Major League seasons. In a way, I think baseball fans take advantage of Ichiro’s consistent skill. When do we take advantage of things in everyday life? When we know that they’re always there. I for one take advantage of electricity. It is always there, I expect it to be there, and I am surprised and annoyed when it is not. Ichiro is the same way for Major League Baseball: He has been around for a while, he is always present, we expect him to be there, and I for one would be surprised and annoyed if he was not. When it comes to MVP voting, I understand that the voters look for outstanding years, it’s only natural. But I think that Ichiro needs to be recognized a bit more often for an outstanding career. 
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September: the grind of the baseball season. It is considered to be the time where teams really kick it into gear. They try to retain their playoff spot, or they play their hearts out for a spot. It may just be the most enjoyable month of the season. However, when people say, “these are the games that count”, that kind of throws me off. Every single game counts just as much as the next one, and they all lead to the one collective goal for every single team: playoff berth. 
Nonetheless, September provides very enjoyable baseball. One of my favorite parts of it is the September call-ups. This is when my projects are called up, I get to see if my scouting reports from way back in March were right. It really warms my heart to see them out there because I know they’re excited. This is their chance to prove to the speculative world of Major League Baseball that they are the future, and that they can perform in the demanding September atmosphere. They are playing a part in steering the ship into the harbor, the harbor being the playoffs. 
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A couple of my projects have already been called up: Josh Reddick and Michael Bowden. I am really proud of how much Josh Reddick has progressed. I don’t think he was one of the original spring training invitees, but he really proved himself when he joined the squad at the beautiful City of Palms Park. He gained confidence in his swing, and as you may have noticed, he’s a great hitter. 
I know that Michael Bowden had a pretty terrible outing against the Yankees, but I think he redeemed himself in his last outing of relief. I really enjoy his delivery, and I think he will really grow as a pitcher during this month because he has so much potential. I had such a great time talking to him a few months ago, but I would love to be able to talk to him again, after this experience. 
The Red Sox start their series against the Angels tonight, and Dice-K is on the mound for the first time since June. It has been a while, and I am really hoping that all of his training has paid off. I don’t know who to blame for his terrible start to the season. Certainly not the organization, I think that they were quite surprised as well. I think what happened was that Dice-K overestimated the amount of stamina he had. He had just gotten through a rigorous and demanding season with the Red Sox, which included his second year of appearing in the playoffs. However, he was not eased into the season like the rest of the pitchers were. He was thrown into the mix of yet another playoff like atmosphere. The World Baseball Classic may not seem like the playoffs for some fans, but it really is. It was not the way to go into the season. 
Dice-K has had extensive training, and the Red Sox are confident in his abilities. I’m a bit afraid that June Dice-K is going to show up and give up lots of hits and runs. I’m also afraid that 2008 Dice-K is going to show up and be like me when it comes to my homework: inefficient. I think I speak for all Red Sox fans (excluding the masochistic ones) when I say that I’m hoping for the Dice-K that the Red Sox somewhat blindly invested money on. 
After a delightful series against the Rays, I am hoping for a just as delightful one against the Angels. It is essential that the Red Sox use that positive momentum from that series, and carry it over against the Angels, who may be our opponent in the ALDS (again!). I was especially pleased with our pitching staff over the weekend, specifically back to back gems from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Clay has really turned it around this season, and I hope that Dice-K can follow in a similar fashion. 

Hindsight (Biases)

During my sophomore year, I tried to make connections between baseball with some of my classes to help myself understand it better. As my junior year starts up, I’ll try to do the same. I have a feeling that physics will relate a lot more to baseball than chemistry did (but then again, what does chemistry relate to that is of any importance at all?), and I already have a way that psychology can relate to our perspectives on the game. Though I’m sure Emily is a lot more qualified to talk about that than I am. 

As the season progresses, many of us have come to realize that many of our offseason acquisitions have not performed in the way that we expected them too. It may be easy to point fingers at our brilliant general manager, Theo Epstein, but before any of us do any such thing, I think it is important to experiment with empathy, travel back in time a bit, and use our imaginations. 
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You are now sitting in Theo Epstein’s office, sipping some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and constantly making phone calls with agents. It’s late December, and you are reflecting over the 2008 season, and looking at areas where you can improve. Clay Buchholz was not quite ready for the 2008 season, so it is evident that the Red Sox need a fifth starter. It is certainly wise to consider the options of signing a high profile free agent such as CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett, but would such an acquisition truly be necessary with aces already in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice-K (remember, we have no idea yet that Dice-K’s season would look nothing like 2008’s 18-3 record). 
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Let me go on a quick tangent on Dice-K before I make any significant phone calls. On paper, his 18-3 record looks stellar, a Cy Young contender if you didn’t look at how many innings he pitched per game. Dice-K got really lucky during the 2008 season. He had a knack for loading the bases with no outs, and getting out of it unscathed. In other words, he got really lucky. Sure the Red Sox may have won most of the time, but it is inefficient to have your starter go only five or six innings because he racks up his pitch count early on. Not to mention it puts a massive strain on the bullpen. I think that Dice-K’s case is very similar to the “downfall” that Brad Lidge is experiencing in Philadelphia. I’m not trying to take away any credibility from his perfect season, but I think that it is a valid comparison. 
Back to the phone calls. Considering the Red Sox have four quality starters, it is unnecessary to sign a high profile free agent. It would be more wise to sign a “low risk” acquisition in a veteran pitcher that could guarantee a lot of success. The problem with signing high profile free agents is their massive contracts. What if they don’t perform? What if AJ Burnett continues his injury woes, and he can’t pitch effectively? 
This is why I like incentive contracts so much. Too bad they are mainly used with these low risk acquisitions, and when I think of these, I tend to think of veteran players who are coming back from injuries or bad seasons who are looking for another chance. Obviously, signing them is a gamble, but it could turn out to be very beneficial. And regardless of their contributions on the field, I think that their contributions equate that or even surpass it. Having a veteran voice in the clubhouse for the younger players to talk to is always an advantage. 
In psychology, we learned a bit about ‘hindsight biases’, which basically means that when we look back on events, many of the consequences seem much more obvious than they actually were at the time. Think about who we signed. 
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John Smoltz is obviously a Hall of Fame pitcher, who had a great twenty year career with the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, his stint with the Red Sox did not work out, but was it really a bad signing? No. Would I have done it? Yes. Another thing to remember about this deal was that it was very similar to the deal that Curt Schilling signed for 2008. Neither of them worked out, but the incentives for signing them were valid. Plus, if Randy Johnson is still pitching, why can’t they? 
Another offseason acquisition that didn’t work out: Brad Penny. The same theory applied when signing him, but his history isn’t as convincing. However, it was only but 2007 that he came in second for the NL Cy Young. His 2008 season was anything but spectacular, but given an incentive laden contract, there is the opportunity for success. And if they incentives aren’t met? No big deal in the big picture. Penny was released, and both he and the Red Sox are moving on. 
Some have been disappointed with Rocco Baldelli also because he has spent a considerable amount of time on the Disabled List. Granted it’s a bit disappointing, but it’s not like we expected him to play every single day because we were well aware of his channelopathy disorder. The reason for acquiring him was so that he could be a valuable player coming off the bench. 
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In other words, I just think that these offseason acquisitions are very justifiable even if they didn’t work out. But now instead of looking at the offseason acquisitions, I’d like to look at our most recent acquisition: Billy Wagner. 
This trade reminded me a lot of the Eric Gagne one of 2007, a trade that I absolutely hated because I didn’t want to part with Kason Gabbard (luckily, we have him back now). However, I am much more open to this Billy Wagner acquisition because our bullpen band could really use an extra hand, the chorus is sounding a little shabby. 
Oh, and the bullpen could use some help too. After Justin Masterson left, it kind of threw off the bullpen in my opinion. We were calling a bunch of guys up from Pawtucket who simply weren’t ready yet. I think that this acquisition solidifies the bullpen and gives us a more definite notion of an eighth inning set up man. In a way, it will be redefining everyone’s role. 
I am very excited for September call ups–I am very anxious to see who will be up. I am really hoping that Michael Bowden gets another chance. I really don’t think that we can judge him on that poor outing against the Yankees. I am also very interested to see what is going to go on with who will be catching Tim Wakefield, because I think that Victor Martinez did a very solid job the other night. And if V-Mart can do the job, what use is George Kottaras? 

Post Trade Deadline Analyses

I think that I have realized something about myself during the summers, and perhaps you all have too: I don’t have too much time to blog during summer vacation. I am fortunate enough to do a lot during the summers, and whether I’m at camp, or on a family vacation, I don’t have good quality time to compose a thoughtful blog, so I apologize for that. 

I wish I had been a more active blogger during the trade deadline, and the days following it, but I was in Maine, removed from electronics and mlb.tv and just appreciating nature. However, there was a radio that was available, and every night we would sit in the living room and listen to the Red Sox. It was such a different perspective for me, because I have always been provided with the luxury of watching baseball on TV, on a computer, or my favorite location: in person. I really loved listening to it on the radio, it was a different way of seeing… or maybe hearing baseball. 
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So the trade deadline came and went, and if you remember my last entry (which was quite a while ago), I thought that it would be best if the Red Sox had just quietly backed out of the trade deadline, and make do with what they have. Retrospectively, the trades that were made, most importantly the Victor Martinez one, was quite necessary. I had said that shortstop and catcher were our weakest positions, and we have vastly improved that situation (mainly the catcher one). 
The problem for me was that I was very hesitant to give away any of our star prospects, but all-star catchers like Victor Martinez don’t come cheap. In order to improve a weaker aspect of the team, we had to take from probably our strongest aspect of the team: the bullpen. It was hard to part with Justin Masterson because I saw so much potential in him, but I think that in order for a team to be good, they need to be proportional. 
The Red Sox had a stellar, almost impeccable bullpen, but the offense was slumping and not scoring runs. A bullpen cannot be effective if it does not have runs to protect. Thus, the Red Sox were disproportional in that sense. Without Justin Masterson, our bullpen is without a doubt weakened. Masterson was a guy that could go many innings when our starters didn’t do their jobs; he could thrive in the starting rotation as well. Is our bullpen still legitimate? Absolutely. Is our starting rotation still legitimate? Absolutely. Is our offense improved? Yes, and that is exactly what we needed. 
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That expression: “We hardly knew ya” can seriously apply to the Adam LaRoche situation, but I am satisfied with the solid defensive abilities of Casey Kotchman. It seems that the Red Sox have an abundance of first basemen now considering that Victor Martinez is a man of may occupations and can play first base. This makes Terry Francona’s job as a manager a bit more difficult, and the lineup is not as predictable as it used to be. It means that some players’ playing time will be less, and not everyone may be happy with that. Guys like Kevin Youkilis pout when they have the day off, and he’d rather play left field than sit on the bench. As a baseball fan, I think you have to love that mentality that a player wants to help his team every single day, even if you don’t like Kevin Youkilis’ personality. 
I think that one of the biggest questions the Red Sox face will come when Tim Wakefield returns from the disabled list. I have not fully educated myself on Victor Martinez’s capabilities, but I am wondering if he is educated in the art of catching a knuckleball. I am not a very big George Kottaras fan because for me, his only use is the fact that he can catch Tim Wakefield (and not that well), and his offensive abilities are mediocre at best. If Victor Martinez can catch a knuckleball, then I think George Kottaras is no longer needed. 
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I like the acquisition of Alex Gonzalez as a defensive shortstop since Jed Lowrie is on the disabled list. It’s funny how there have been a turn of events since the start of the season: the Red Sox went from having three shortstops to one. It’s nice to see Gonzalez back in a Red Sox uniform since he was a wonderful defensive shortstop in 2006. A question that will come soon is: What will be the next move when Jed Lowrie returns? 
Going back to the pitching situation, I found out that John Smoltz was designated for assignment while I was on my trip. I have a lot of respect for John Smoltz, and what he has done over the course of his career. It is unfortunate that he didn’t do what the Red Sox hoped he would. I think that the acquisition during the offseason was a very wise one. It was very similar to what the Red Sox hoped Curt Schilling would have done in 2008. Unfortunately, neither of them worked out, but the incentives for signing them were obvious. 
I haven’t forgotten about Dice-K either, and the comments that he issued about the Red Sox pitching procedures. I don’t think that he was right, but I’m going to go for a little empathy here. He was phenomenal when he was in Japan, and he was very good his first two years with the Red Sox. There is obviously some gray areas when it comes to training. Dice-K has his way, and the Red Sox have their way. Dice-K should have trained better for the 2009 season, the World Baseball Classic was not the way to go because technically, that is the true World Series, and it has a playoff atmosphere. Dice-K didn’t have the more lax spring training that others went through. He went from the 2008 playoffs to pre-season 2009 playoffs. I think that he has to accept responsibility for that, and conform (for now) to what the Red Sox want him to do. 
By the way, while I was on my trip I was lucky enough to have some baseball experiences. I have some analyses on the Portland Sea Dogs to share with you, and some great pictures from the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Back, yet not at peace.

There is only one time of year, and one place on Earth that I can deal with being separated from nightly Boston Red Sox games, and the continuous MLB Network. That place was, as I explained in my previous (and by previous, I mean a month ago) post, California. Although the state itself does not constitute my isolation (considering the fact that there are five baseball teams in that state, I would hope not) the summer program that I attended to did. 

As usual, it surpassed my expectations, and being isolated from the incessant updates of pop culture, baseball, and oh yes, world events is actually a nice change. I have mentioned before that I live in a baseball bubble, but for me this program is a utopian bubble. It is the only place that I can truly be myself, and people accept me for it. Granted at Fenway Park, I am undoubtedly accepted as a Red Sox fan, but it is nice to be accepted in a place where not everyone is a Red Sox fan, or a baseball fan for that matter. 
My friends actually wanted to listen to me talk about the Red Sox and baseball, even if they had no previous knowledge of it whatsoever. One of the best friends that I made there, Caroline, did not even know what a grand slam was before we had our little talk. By the end of our two, short weeks together, she was throwing pennies from the year 1986 on the ground because they are cursed. 
This made me truly happy that I could bring a smile to someone’s face just by talking about baseball. It made me realize even more that this is exactly what I want to do with my life. While I would love to convert everyone into a Red Sox fan, I think it is more important to appreciate the beauty of baseball. 
She truly appreciated that passion that I have for it, and she told me she wished “she could love anything as much as I love baseball”. I hope that others will be able to see this when they talk to me. 
Considering I have been gone for a month, I have missed out on a lot. As I was leaving, Dice-K was on his way out of the rotation, and I was trying to come up with a creative injury for his trip to the DL. 
I remember getting updated about John Smoltz’s first start, I was on my way to dinner at Lagunita (the cafeteria at Stanford). I knew he was starting against the Nationals, which is a very nice team to start against for that transition period (from the minors to the majors) considering the Nationals remind me of a minor league team. I was notified that the score was 9-1, Nationals. 
My first thought was, “Have the Nationals even scored nine runs in a game before?” I actually wasn’t angry with Smoltz. I understand the whole need for an adjustment period after talking to my good friend Michael. Even though he is a 20+ year veteran, I was really delving into my empathetic side. 
For his next few starts, I was probably too busy reading about cultural relativism, how altruism and morality don’t exist, or maybe some form of ekphrasis. One of the first games that I watched upon my return was the opening game of the series against the Rangers. 
Our lack of an offense was cruising along nicely for a while, before John Smoltz decided to give up three home runs in one inning, which is quite the rarity for someone of his stature. I was already experiencing separation anxiety/book camp withdrawal, so this did not add to my chipper mood. 
I screamed at my computer screen for the first time in about a month, and yielded more profane tweets than ever before. Generally, I don’t question Terry Francona’s moves, but I thought Smoltz was taken out a little late. I was quite happy to be reunited with Justin Masterson though. I think he was holding a small grudge against my absence considering his ERA was near 5.00. 
The offense seemed to be fine in my absence, I don’t know why they’re acting up now. Big Papi really resurged, and if I need to close my eyes while he is at-bat, then I’ll do it. I’m sad to see that Jason Bay’s average has plummeted, and that Drew and Varitek are in slumps. 
I found it interesting that when Jeff Bailey went on the DL, that Aaron Bates was called up instead of Chris Carter. Aaron Bates is an imminent project of mine, and like Josh Reddick, he is an automatic project for next Spring. Believe me I saw the potential his first two nights in Triple-A Pawtucket. I am just a bit perplexed as to why we are bringing someone up to the Majors who has just barely adjusted to Triple-A. As I said before, when he came up, he had a Triple-A swing with a Double-A eye. I think Chris Carter needs to be given another chance, but I would advise everyone to keep their eye on Bates. 
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Speaking of projects, I have to tell you all how thrilled I am to see Buchholz back on the Red Sox for an extended period of time. I was very pleased to see that his first performance this year went well. I know his numbers imply that he has been tearing up Triple-A but he, like Jon Lester, is one of those guys that needs to focus on every single pitch, not the final outcome. He needs to not get frustrated by his mistakes too. If he gives up a home run, fine, but just move on. I think that Ramon Ramirez does a great job of doing that. However, I do not expect Buchholz to be performing perfectly. He is still very well entitled to that adjustment period.