Tagged: Josh Beckett

Spring Training Adventures: Twins vs Red Sox 3/6/2010

I think that I’ve developed a new mantra for the Spring, and maybe a new mantra for life in general: It’s not my fault if it’s open. With the kind of industry that I want to go into, you have to be a little gutsy, and you can’t take no for an answer. “Authorized personnel only”? Please, that term is subjective. If a door is open, I’m going to walk through it. If a fence is half open and half closed, I’m going to sneak through it. And if it’s closed, then I’m going to climb over it. If I can find a way to “trespass”, then I deserve to! (I do respect boundaries though, especially baseball boundaries. I know how sacred this game is). 

You could not have asked for better baseball weather than the kind of weather that was at City of Palms Park. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the sun was shining amidst a cool breeze: it was perfect. 
As many of you know, I typically have quite the agenda for Spring Training games: arrive when the gates open, collect autographs until the game starts, and then not moving until the game is over. This time was no exception, it’s just that the agenda was a little bit different this time. Instead of going to get autographs, I went to the players’ development complex again to interview one of the Red Sox’s top outfield prospects, Ryan Westmoreland. Little did I know that they had early morning physicals, so I ended up missing him. That’s OK though, there is always next weekend. 
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Walking around the empty players’ development complex was a cool experience itself. It was a ghost town. It was a completely different atmosphere compared to the weekend before. Walking around reminded me of this scene from my favorite book, Shoeless Joe. Archie Gram, J.D. Salinger and Ray Kinsella all decide to head down to the empty Minnesota ballpark. I know that this players’ development complex isn’t exactly a ballpark, but there are still five baseball fields and bleachers. 
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There was something “both eerie and holy” walking around the empty fields. It was “more like a church than a church.” Baseball is a sacred entity to me, and I had its synagogue all to myself. The orange dirt on the field and the green of the grass were especially brilliant. The empty complex was like “the inside of a pyramid”. I was “an archeologist exploring new territory.” There was an audible silence without the fans. I could hear the wind whistling, and I could hear the grass against my shoes. I finally felt it: “the thrill of the grass”
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No players were in sight, but I went into the office area just in case. Guess who I saw again? Sarge! The same guy who was there when I snuck into both clubhouses the week before. He remembered me and we had a nice chat. I swear that guy is either going to be putting me in jail or bailing me out. Before we left, I ran into the international scouting coordinator, Fernando Tamayo. I talked to him for a bit, and told him about my whole project program. The funniest part was that he actually graduated from my high school. I guess it is a small world. 
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We arrived at the game about 45 minutes before the first pitch, so I really had no chance to get autographs. I didn’t have my spot, and I was too far away from the players who were stretching. It’s always nice to watch them warm up though, and it was really cool to see John Lackey walk out to warm up for the first time in a Red Sox uniform. 
We had seats down the right field line, so we could see into the Red Sox dugout. It was a little bit hard to see home plate, so judging whether the ball was a breaking ball or a slider was harder than usual. It was a fantastic ball game though. 
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John Lackey’s first pitch in a Red Sox uniform was a strike. His outing was certainly the best of all the starters so far this spring. He already had that game day mentality. I had noticed with some of the other starters like Beckett and Lester so far this spring that they took a little while to get back into that kind of midseason mentality, and I think that’s okay. We should not be overanalyzing their every pitch. These are practice games for them: they are trying out new pitches and new techniques, and they aren’t going to be perfect. 
Nevertheless, Lackey was very impressive in his Grapefruit League and Red Sox debut. Obviously, he is focusing on remaining healthy throughout the Spring to be ready for Opening Day since he has had some problems with that in the past. He got ahead in the count for the most part, and even if he was behind in the count he didn’t have any problems. 
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Michael Bowden, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, pitched after Lackey. Bowden has definitely realized that if he wants to make the Major League roster, he’ll have to be a relief pitcher for the time being, and I think that he has become more open to that. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: he could have the Justin Masterson role of this year, and Masterson’s versatility was a very important component for the Red Sox. Bowden pitched well from the stretch, and overall he had a real nice outing. Manny Delcarmen followed, and he also pitched well. 
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Then it was Brian Shouse’s turn. He has the submarine sidearm delivery, and not much velocity. He got into some trouble, but managed to escape with one unearned run. 
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Joe Nelson got racked a little bit. He’ll always have my respect though for the Vulcan pitch. Yes, Vulcan as in Star Trek. I was never a true Trekkie, I’ve always been a diehard Star Wars fanatic, but Star Trek is still legit. Nelson may have the Vulcan grip, but he did not have the Vulcan mentality. Vulcans do not have feelings, they are all about making the logical choice. It looked like Nelson was getting a little mental because he was getting hit (he also had a wild pitch), but if he can master the Vulcan mentality in the same way that he’s mastered the Vulcan grip, then I think he will certainly be able to live long and prosper. 
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Junichi Tazawa was the final pitcher of the day. I absolutely love his delivery, and he worked well even when he was behind in the count. Some of you may remember him from Spring Training last year, but if not, he is definitely a guy to keep your eye on. 
Many of you know that I have a bit of a problem with calling grown men who are twice my height ‘babies’. This mainly applies to the minor league prospects, but it’s not like I mean it as an insult; coming from me, it’s the highest of compliments. The game I was at was a split squad game (there was another game going on in Port Charlotte against the Rays), so I was lucky enough to see some guys from the minor leagues who were called up for the day. Babies? Zygotes? Embryos? Projects of the future? I’m not sure yet, but I certainly enjoyed watching them play. These guys were Jeremy Hazelbaker, Matt Sheely, Nate Spears, and Jason Place. 
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In his first at-bat of the Spring, Jeremy Hazelbaker was walked, and he did a nice job in right field. I was also really impressed with Matt Sheely’s arm, and his and Nate Spears’ speed. Since these guys aren’t technically non-roster invitees, they don’t really have a chance to consistently impress just quite yet. But mark my words, some of these guys will be back next year as non-roster invitees, or even on the 40-man roster next spring. 
Here are some other things that I noticed from the batters: Bill Hall has a really wide stance, and he needs some more plate discipline. Gil Velazquez has been doing well in clutch situations, and he is a great baserunner and utility infielder. Angel Sanchez has a nice drag bunt technique that I would like to see more of this spring. I really liked Tug Hulett’s aggressiveness at the plate when he pounced on the first pitch he saw of the Spring and launched it over the right field wall for a three run homer. The Red Sox have been batting Mike Cameron at the top of the lineup in his two games, so I’m wondering where he is going to bat when the regular season comes around. 
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One person I have been especially impressed with in Spring Training is catching prospect Luis Exposito. He made this incredible catch right by the Red Sox dugout, and he also has a really nice arm for throwing runners out at second (even though he didn’t get the opportunity to do so this game). When he hits the ball, he makes solid contact. I watched him during batting practice last Saturday, and he was belting the ball over the fence and into the other field. He is even a pretty good baserunner, so he has it all! 
I was really glad that I had found the notebook I was taking notes in because it was the same notebook that I had taken notes at the Portland Sea Dogs game that I had attended over the summer. Here are some more notes on some of the players you’re seeing in Spring Training: 
-Adam Mills was the starter. He didn’t have that much speed… his fastball clocked out mid to upper eighties. What I really liked about him though was that he worked quickly and he let his defense do the work. He has quick innings. 
-At the game I was at, Ryan Kalish had actually reached base in 18 straight games. He hit a two run homer at the game, and I noticed some serious power. 
-Even Matt Sheely was at the game as a pinch hitter, and he demonstrated some good speed. 
A couple of other notes from the first week of Spring Training: First of all, I don’t think that we can get to hyped up over the numbers. We have to remember that these numbers don’t count and that these are practice games. Everyone is easing back into the baseball mentality so that they can be ready for Opening Day. Pitchers are working on adding a new pitch to their arsenal, and batters might be trying out new stances. 
I have been really impressed by Josh Reddick, and pitchers Casey Kelly, Kyle Weiland, and Felix Doubront. We have plenty of more Spring Training games coming our way, and I’ll be back at City of Palms Park next Saturday. 

The Ultimate Breakdown of the Red Sox Offseason

Hello dear readers, it has been a while, and I would just like to apologize for my lack of a presence (this always seems to happen). I’ve had exams, and I’ve been focusing nearly all of my energy on resurrecting my physics grade. So since my last entry, a lot has happened. I’m not here to catch you up, because you can read about the signing on your own. I’m here to analyze what these moves mean. 

The end of the 2009 Red Sox season was disappointing to say
the least. Of course, the feat of simply making the playoffs is something to be
proud of, considering there are 22 other teams who don’t. But when the offense
becomes anemic in the first round of the playoffs, and your closer blows the
lead that would have stopped you from getting swept, it’s disappointing. I
think that there were a lot of lessons that the Red Sox learned over the course
of the 2009 season, and there is certainly a lot to improve upon.

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I
think that the Red Sox learned that signing proven National League veterans
coming off injuries isn’t too promising. It is clear that the American League
is significantly more powerful than the National League (just look at the
All-Star games for the past decade). I understand what Theo Epstein was
thinking last season with the low-risk, high reward mentality, but the fact of
the matter is that it is nearly impossible to make the transition from the
National League to the American League. Brad Penny and John Smoltz struggled
constantly in every single one of their starts, and it was disappointing. It
was even more frustrating that as soon as they returned to the National League,
they pitched wonderfully. This is not something that could have been
controlled, but I think that the Red Sox learned their lesson. So what did they
do to solve this problem? They went out and signed the best free agent pitcher
on the market, John Lackey.

Just
take a look at the rotation that the Red Sox have now. I don’t know what the
order will be yet, but we have Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Clay
Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Tim Wakefield: six quality starters. I think
that the signing of John Lackey cleared a lot of things up for the Red Sox this
offseason. First of all, this gives the Red Sox a lot more flexibility when it
comes to trades. At the beginning of the offseason, the Red Sox were at least
thinking about pursuing the power-hitting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. At the
beginning of the offseason though, trading Buchholz and a couple of prospects
was not really an option for the Red Sox; with the acquisition of John Lackey,
it is. I’ll get to the whole Adrian Gonzalez thing in a little bit though.

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The
Red Sox certainly allocated the majority of their money towards the acquisition
of Lackey. A five-year, $87.5 million contract doesn’t leave much room for what
would be considered another major acquisition in Jason Bay. I thought that the
four-year $60 million deal that was offered to Bay was quite reasonable. I
don’t think that he is worth more than that, and I’m glad that the Red Sox
aren’t simply throwing money at him. I suppose that he has a reasonable amount
of flexibility though considering he is one of only two premier left-fielder
free agents on the market. Understanding this, the Red Sox went out and signed
a quality outfielder in Mike Cameron. Believe me, I know that he is no Jason
Bay, but it’s not like he is bad. He could possibly split time with Jeremy
Hermida (remember that acquisition way back when at the beginning of the
offseason?), and I see this signing as a temporary quick fix.

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The
Red Sox have three solid outfield prospects coming up in the next few years.
Some of you may remember Josh Reddick from either Spring Training, or some of
the appearances he made in the Majors this year. There is also Ryan
Westmoreland and Ryan Kalish. These three guys are the reason that the Red Sox
were hesitant to throw money and years at Jason Bay. Keep your eye out for
these guys during Spring Training and the minors next season; they’re going to
be big.

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The
infield seemed pretty solidified with the acquisition of Marco Scutaro a few
weeks ago, but everything was almost shifted around when the Red Sox were
looking to trade third baseman Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers for catcher Max
Ramirez. I know that Mike Lowell is getting old, and I know that the number of
games he has been able to play has been limited due to nagging injuries. But he
still competes. He is still on the highlight reels, he still makes those
amazing grabs at third base, and the man hit .290. To be completely honest, I
think that the Red Sox use him as a scapegoat sometimes. They blame some of
their failures on Mike Lowell’s injuries. It was hard for me to be completely
objective about this Mike Lowell trade since he has been one of my favorite
players growing up. I think he represents everything about baseball that is
good, and that is important during these days in which baseball is constantly
plagued with scandals. I am glad that the trade didn’t go through because I
didn’t like the thought of paying $9 million for a guy that doesn’t even play
for us anymore.

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The
fact that Mike Lowell did not get traded shifts a few things around as well.
Had he gotten traded, the Red Sox had a few options. They could have gone after
free agent Adrian Beltre, a third baseman from the Seattle Mariners. His asking
price is a bit high, so the $3 million the Red Sox would have saved from Mike
Lowell’s contract would not have done much to help, especially with the recent
signing of John Lackey. The Sox also could have moved Kevin Youkilis across the
diamond and had Casey Kotchman, a nearly impeccable defensive first baseman,
playing full time at first. Now that Mike Lowell is staying, the question is
where he will play. I still think he is a perfect capable third baseman, so I
don’t think that the Red Sox should have him experiment with playing first
base, a position he has never played in his 12-year career. Perhaps he could
serve as an intermittent designated hitter, but I think that he is most
effective when he is contributing on the field. I know there is reason to be
skeptical of Mike Lowell’s defense, especially since he needs thumb surgery. I
think the best course of action is to see how Mike Lowell looks during Spring
Training, and go from there. If the Red Sox are still interested in trading
him, they can try again next year.

The Red Sox are obviously focusing on pitching and defense,
especially the latter considering the Red Sox were ranked second to last as far
as defense goes. I find it interesting that they look to trade Lowell because
of his supposed lack of defensive range, even though his worst defensive year
with the Sox was 2007, when injuries were not a concern. I really think that
everyone needs to have more faith in him.

I think that the Red Sox have been really smart this
offseason in not offering huge contracts to players because we have so many
guys in the farm system, and that system is something that we have absolutely
no reason to doubt. Think about it: we signed Scutaro for two years, Cameron
for two years, and Wakefield for two years. In two years, guys like Jose
Iglesias, the outfield prospects I have mentioned, and Casey Kelly will be
ready.

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Back
to Adrian Gonzalez. This trade is certainly something we should consider, but I
don’t think we should consider it this winter. Let’s let this defensive
makeover play out, and if we need an offensive-pick-me-up, fine, let’s trade
for Adrian Gonzalez at the trade deadline next year. He could be what Victor
Martinez was this year. The only down side to this is that we would have to
give up a lot for talent like his, and Jed Hoyer, the new GM for the Padres
isn’t going to give him up for nothing. After all, he did work with Theo
Epstein for a while. What would the Red Sox have to give up? Clay Buchholz has
been in rumors forever, and more recently, so has the star center fielder,
Jacoby Ellsbury. Much as I may not like trading Buchholz after everything that
he has done, and all of the potential that he clearly possesses, the Red Sox
have the flexibility to sign him. The thing that concerns me more is Jacoby
Ellsbury. I thought that Epstein has made it clear that Ellsbury was our center
fielder of the future. 2009 was a big year for Ellsbury because he developed
into a prototypical leadoff man, and continued to be a fabulous defensive
center fielder. Not to mention stealing home against the New York Yankees. This
is why I think the Red Sox need to wait on trading for Gonzalez: we don’t want
to over or underestimate our potential. 

They Break Your Heart…

As soon as the game ended, I wanted to come on here and write everything that I was feeling. It would have been the most impulsive, scapegoating article you may have ever read. I tend to forget that the emotions following the end of the season (especially a bad end) come in waves. 

At first, I masochistically sat in my room and cried. I could not believe we had lost that game. It didn’t seem possible; I was so sure of a victory. Even when the Angels were right on our tails, I was thinking: “Hey, our closer is in. There are two outs and two strikes. We got this!”. That thought went through my head twice. Then Vladmir Guerrero shattered that thought and replaced it with a single emotion: disbelief. 
Anyway, I felt it wasn’t proper to write when I was crying simply because I could barely see the screen and plus, no one is really coherent when they’re in that state of mind. Then I transitioned to anger, which blinded me for a little while because I was angry at only Jonathan Papelbon, and that’s not fair. I was scapegoating him for the entire series, not just the game, and that’s really not fair. 
Finally, the empty feeling pervades, and that’s the one that sticks. The Red Sox season is over, and without them, well my life is kind of empty. This feeling of emptiness was accompanied with disbelief again, and heartbreak: the same old song and dance. So I feel like I’ve done myself, and you guys a favor by not writing about this until today. 
I tend to scapegoat a lot when the Red Sox lose. Normally, I blame myself for choosing the wrong couch cushion to sit on, or something along those lines. And what some would call “obsessive compulsive disorder” severely augments during the playoffs. 
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I’m sure many of you can guess whom I decided to scapegoat during Game 1: CB Bucknor, the first base umpire–I was absolutely livid. However, regardless of how erroneous his calls were, it didn’t significantly effect the outcome of the game. The offense was dead, practically immobile; we were shutout for the first time since the 1995 ALDS. Our bats simply did not show up that day, similar to the absence of our bats during the first few weeks following the All-Star break. 
I went on to blame the Yankees for choosing Wednesday night instead of Thursday night to begin their playoff crusade. Obviously, they wanted to sabotage us by giving us an extra day off so that we would be rusty. I do think that the Yankees had a similar mentality in choosing which day to begin on, but I don’t think it was as intricately planned as I thought it was. Nevertheless, we were rusty. We hadn’t played a game since Sunday, so there wasn’t a lot of momentum going into the playoffs. Regardless of the outcome of Game 1, it is still ironic and cruel humor to have an umpire whose last name is ‘Bucknor’ umpiring first base. 
The beginning of Game 2 rendered me hopeful when Jacoby Ellsbury hit a triple, and Victor Martinez drove him in. That turned out to be the most amount of scoring we would be doing for that game. Another night in which the lackluster Red Sox offense barely did anything. Both Beckett and Lester had decent outings, but they were out dueled by the stellar pitching from Lackey and Weaver. 
So what was wrong with the Red Sox? We had gotten ourselves in to a do or die situation. Not completely unfamiliar territory, but not the most pleasant to be in either. What had been the remedy in the years past when the Red Sox had their backs against the wall in say 2004 or 2007? To be honest, I think players only meetings were a significant aspect in rejuvenating the team. 
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As far as I know, there were no players only meetings this year. But think about who led those players only meetings in years past: Jason Varitek, our captain. It’s no wonder there were no meetings this year while our captain was sitting on the bench. When Terry Francona took him out of the last game of the season to a standing ovation at Fenway Park, I did not know that it may have been the last time I would have ever seen Varitek in a Red Sox uniform. 
The Victor Martinez pickup was brilliant; it was the perfect remedy when our offense was lackluster after the All-Star break, and I think he was a major player in helping the Red Sox get to the postseason. However, it seems to me like we kicked Jason Varitek to the curb. 
I know I lobbied relentlessly for his return in the offseason, and there hasn’t been a single moment this season in which I have regretted that. Sure his offensive numbers are subpar, but as I’ve said countless times, his mere presence on the field is invaluable. I know Victor Martinez’s bat is one of the most formidable in all of Major League Baseball, but we can’t just throw our captain under the bus because of his weak offensive numbers. We didn’t even do that to Big Papi during his horrendous slump. 
Take a look at our pitchers’ second half numbers. Guys like Josh Beckett, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen (among others) struggled the second half of the season. By no means do I want to blame their numbers on Victor Martinez, but I do think that familiarity with a catcher has a significant impact on their numbers. With a guy like Jason Varitek, a man who calls the game like no other (who else has four no-hitters on their resume?), pitchers don’t even have to think. Jason Varitek probably tells them when to breathe and when to blink, but he slowly drifted out of the picture by the end of the season. 
He didn’t even see a minute of postseason action–a time when the comfort of the pitchers is essential to success. Varitek is the true leader of the Red Sox, so I wonder how the team feels when they see their captain on the bench. I’m not saying bench Victor Martinez, but I know that there is another lineup where both Varitek and Martinez are present. If we were sitting Varitek because of his lack of offense, than I think it is perfectly justifiable to sit Big Papi. 
One more thing before I progress to the truly heartbreaking game. What about respect? Did the Red Sox treat Jimmie Foxx, Carl Yastrzemski, or Jim Rice like this? I don’t think so. I think we have seen Jason Varitek’s last moment in a Red Sox uniform. 
***
I tried to change this up a little for Game 3. I realized that the Manny Ramirez statue I had made in seventh grade was still in my room, so I launched it into my backyard. Then, another brilliant idea crossed my mind: a hunger strike! What if I was to refuse food until the Red Sox scored? I thought that Kevin Youkilis’ shot (that ended up being foul) signified my lunch, but I was wrong–and I was getting hungry. Jacoby Ellsbury’s spectacular catch almost prompted me to sneak a pretzel, but I refused. Luckily, Dustin Pedroia’s two RBI double allowed me to eat. I thought that the hunger strike was brilliant, and I was already planning on doing it again the next day during Game 4 when the Red Sox were still flying high on a 5-1 lead. 
I forgot Yogi Berra’s famous aphorism: “It ain’t over til it’s over”. I was so proud of my babies/projects that I forgot that Papelbon is human. Clay Buchholz blew me away in his
postseason debut… the fact that he performed the way that he did as a rookie is astounding. Not to mention the fact that Daniel Bard got out of a bases loaded jam with no outs with minimal damage. 
I was so sure we had that game in the bag… just like in years past when Red Sox fans were positive that they had the game won. It was heartbreaking to watch the win slip through our fingers. It was more than just a sweep. In 2005 when the Red Sox got swept by the White Sox, they lost Game 3 3-0. But we had this game. We could have pushed it to Game 4. But as we all know, they break your heart. 
We can’t just blame Jonathan Papelbon–it was the offense that failed to score runs in the first two games as well. So as Red Sox fans, we suck it up. The wound will remain open, but we blink back the tears and look forward to next season. 

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. 

Why I cheered for Derek Jeter

As a Red Sox fan, I have been brought up to hate the Yankees. The timeless rivalry dates back to the beginnings of baseball, and has been augmented numerous times thanks to trades we want to forget, home runs we wish had never been hit, and bench clearing brawls. 

Because both teams have so much history, there are many stories that have been passed down, and players that are glorified by having their numbers retired. Hate and love may be considered opposite feelings, but they are felt with similar passions. I love the Red Sox with all my heart and soul. I indulge in their history, and I revel at the accomplishments that past players have made, I watch history in the making as the present players play, and I dream of the accomplishments that future players will make. 
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I hate the Yankees. I hate the fact that they lead the American League East by 9 games even though the Red Sox were in first place for the first half of the season. I hate that they are so good. I hate that they go out and buy the best players on the market every single year, and rub it in our faces, and I hate the fact that they cut the hair and shaved the beard of who used to be one of my favorite players. And when I continue to think about all of these things, I realize something: I love to hate them. 
Just because I hate the Yankees, it doesn’t mean I wish they didn’t exist. What fun would the AL East be if the Yankees weren’t in it? The Red Sox and the Yankees need each other in order to exist in the way that they do. Baseball would not be the same if the Yankees didn’t exist, it would be much, much worse. 
Furthermore, just because I hate the Yankees, that doesn’t mean that I can’t admire some of their players. There are many players that I dislike, such as Alex Rodriguez. But I dislike A-Rod because of how he has cheated the game. Baseball figures like Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Bera, and so many others remind us of the beauty of baseball that is sometimes overshadowed by the scandals that are so evident today. I don’t know if anyone is every going to be able to catch Dimaggio’s immortal 56 game hit streak. Lou Gehrig’s speech at Yankee Stadium is a classic piece of baseball history. 
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The fact of the matter is, in order to be a fan of the Red Sox, you have to be a fan of baseball, and this applies for any team. Baseball is a beautiful thing. There is something very tangible and very intangible about it at the same time. Regardless of whom you root for, at the end of the day, we are all baseball fans, and that is why we should admire and respect the great players of the game who write another page in the eternal textbook of baseball. 
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That is why I cheered for Derek Jeter when he tied, and broke Lou Gehrig’s all-time Yankees hit record. I cheered because I love baseball, and Derek Jeter is one of prototypical players of the game. He is someone that will be remembered forever in baseball history. 
When I think about some of the goals I want to accomplish in my life, there is one that is the most important to me. I want to bring a smile to people’s faces when I talk and write about baseball. I want to change the minds of those who find baseball boring, and show them how beautiful it really is. My goal is not to convert people to Red Sox fans, my goal is to convert people to baseball fans because that is the essential basis. 
Going further on this goal, I want to create a program for people with disabilities to get into baseball. I want people who are blind to be able to listen to and love the beauty of the game, and I want people who are deaf to see the beauty of the game. Our senses play such an important role in the way we experience the game, that we should give the gift of them to those who are not fortunate enough to experience the game in the same way that we do. We are lucky enough to see the beautiful ballparks, to see unbelievable plays being made, and to see the looks on players’ faces when they have won the World Series. We are lucky enough to hear the crack of a baseball bat, and the roar of the crowd after a walk-off shot has been hit. We can taste the different kinds of specialties that are made at each park, and taste the hotdogs that are a staple of every park. We are able to feel the lines and dirt on the foul ball we caught. And we can smell the dirt on the baseball field, and the fresh cut grass. We should share this experience with those who are not fortunate enough
I have a few things that I want to get to on my Red Sox agenda as well. It looks like we are going to be the wildcard team, if we can hold Texas back. The Rays are not as much of a problem considering they have been in a massive slump (and they lost a huge part of their lineup in Carlos Peña). 
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There are two main things that the Red Sox need to focus on right now: their starting pitching rotation, and the “best” starting lineup that they can put out there. If Josh Beckett can return to his dominant Cy Young like May-August form, that may just determine how long the Red Sox will last. He has such an impact on postseason teams when he is strong: the 2003 Marlins and the 2007 Red Sox. If Jon Lester can keep up his dominant lefty reputation, and if Clay Buchholz can remain the young phenom that he is, then a three man rotation will be fine for the playoffs. 
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However, there is one main lineup thing that I have been having a bit of an issue with as of late. Ever since the brilliant acquisition of Victor Martinez, both Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell’s playing time have been limited. Is it really fair that these two are the ones sitting when Big Papi is the one who isn’t even batting .230 on the season? I know the impact that Big Papi has had on our recent playoff runs, and I’m not asking anyone to forget that. But if we dwell on the past and hope that it can repeat itself for too long, it may be too late to focus on the problems of the present. I think that Mike Lowell deserves to be in the lineup everyday with the way that he has been hitting since the All-Star break, which is why I would have him as the designat
ed hitter, and have Martinez at first with Jason Varitek catching.I know that Varitek’s average is worse than Big Papi’s, but he has more of an impact on the game with his defense than Papi does. I think that would be the best offensive lineup that the Red Sox can put out there. 
I want to conclude this by going back to what I said before about Derek Jeter. I have told you that I cheer for him, but I want to know what you guys think. No matter who you root for, did you cheer for him, or didn’t you? Why or why not? If you are a Red Sox fan, and you wouldn’t cheer for him, do you think I am a bad Red Sox fan for appreciating his accomplishment? Please drop me a comment or an e-mail. 

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? 

Shipping Up to Boston

The song that signals Jonathan Papelbon’s entrance into a game at Fenway Park can also be applied to what I did the other day. I did not fly up to Boston like I normally do. Nor did I literally “ship” up to Boston (though I thinkthat we all wish that we were ‘on a boat’). In fact, I drove up to Boston.

Anyone who is remotely familiar with a map of the continental United States can tell you that it is not a short drive. We trekked through some serious torrential downpours. I’m pretty sure that the storms came down form DC and Atlanta. I only say that because I know that those games were delayed Thursday night because of rain. We basically spent 28 straight hours in the car making stops for food, and rest stops to take a quick nap.

As far as the agenda goes for the week, I’m pretty excited. On Monday and Tuesday, I will be going down to Pawtuket to see some PawSox games. The thing is, I won’t just be getting there two hours early for autographs this time. I’ll be getting two hours early because Dan Hoard and Steve Hyder, a radio broadcaster and a beat writer for the PawSox, have agreed to let me interview them. I look forward to interviewing them about their careers as well as what they see as far as the future goes.

I think a lot of people disregard minor league baseball because it is seemingly insignificant and it is full of raw, not-yet-perfected talent.. Admittedly, I used to be that way too. But once you go to a few Spring Training games, and you see the kind of work these guys do, and the mentality that they approach the game with, you really being to appreciate that aspect of the game.

Plus, as you watch it, you have to realize that you might be looking at the next Josh Beckett, the next Jonathan Papelbon or the next Dustin Pedroia. Maybe it’s just because I’m the “future blog of the Red Sox” that I’m interested in the “future of the Red Sox” because I want to know who I’ll be writing about (hopefully), but I think that these guys are the real deal.

So even though the Sox cooled down a bit during the middle of May and towards the end, they are begining to turn it around thanks to Terry Francona’s brilliance when it comes to the everyday lineup. Plus the fact that the starting rotation is starting to come together.

Slowly but surely, Big Papi is starting to come out of his funk. I think that the most impressive part of this entire situation is the perpetual support that he is receiving from Red Sox fans. I know that there is a lot of “underground” criticism, which there should be, but every time he comes up to the plate, I hear cheers. Only in Boston. When Mark Teixeira got off to his terrible start in April, he was getting booed in New York.

It’s not like Boston is the paragon of mercy though. I hear vicious complaints about Julio Lugo everyday. So why aren’t fans becoming hostile towards Papi? Personally, I think it’s because we can never forget what he did for us in 2004. If it wasn’t for him, I honestly believe that we would not have broken the curse. His formidable bat, and his clutch hitting was such an essential part. We cannot just abandon our love for him after what he did for urs.

Anyway, I’m starting to like this lineup. It’s weird not seeing Ellsbury at the top because he seems like the prototypical leadoff guy: consistent bat, speed, run scorer. The problem was the lack of that at the bottom of the order, which was why we weren’t scoring runs. And while I’m generally a supporter of the Youkilis-Drew punch, I enjoy Bay hitting in the four hole.

I’ve talked about Bay being Mr. Dependable and the new Mr. Clutch-Hitter, but it’s not like he just came out of no where. His numbers were quite comparable during his Pittsburgh years, it’s just that Pittsburgh doesn’t get the kind of media attention that it deserves. I know that they just aren’t that good, and that they just traded away Nate McLouth, but they deserve attention. They’ve got that young, raw talent that I like. Maybe I’ll start calling it future talent.

I am also thrilled that Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are starting to have consistently solid outings. They both flirted with no-hitters quite recently (in fact, Lester was flirting with a perfect game). I’m done with flirting though, it’s time to court that perfect game! Lester’s ERA and record is not truly indicative of how his year has been, though. Like I’ve said, it’s just been that one annoying inning that has ruined the first part of his season.

Recently, Lester has been having the kind of outings that everyone said that he was going to have. I think our little talk really paid off: he is concentrating on making each and every pitch. And have you seen the number of strikeouts that he has been racking up? 12 K’s in 6 innings and then 11 in 7 I believe was the last one. And Josh Beckett has just been dominant his past few starts. It is all coming together now. All we have to do is get Dice-K away from these mediocre outings. I have no complaints about Wakefield– only praise for his durability. As for Brad Penny, what can I say? The guy has a winning record. I don’t like him very much because I think he only has decent outings, if that, and he just gets very lucky with the run support.

I think that covers what I haven’t been covering as often, and I am sorry for my lack of presence. I think you’ll like the next few entries though. My friend will be guest blogging and writing a “Top Ten Reasons Never to Watch or Go To a Baseball Game with Elizabeth’. I will also be blogging about the PawSox game and the Yankee vs Red Sox game I will be attending on Thursday night.