Tagged: Red Sox

Skeptics and True Believers

Skepticism and analysis surround every team as the second week of the season comes to an end. I guess I’m here to join the party–mainly for analysis, not for skepticism. It’s easy to analyze halfway through the season, but only two weeks into the season seems a little rash, doesn’t it? Is it appropriate to analyze, criticize, and skepticize (yes, made up word) already? I don’t know the answer, but I think it’s appropriate to offer some analysis because the Red Sox have made some easily preventable mistakes that have led to run scoring. And even though it’s early on, there are some serious, and unfortunately controversial issues that need to be addressed. It may be the beginning of the season, but every game counts. These games count as much as they do in September. Each game is of vital importance as each team tries to avoid the obstacles on the road to the postseason. I don’t agree with those who say, “It’s the beginning of the season, they’re just adjusting.” That’s what Spring Training is for. Ideally, teams should work out their kinks during Spring Training. Inevitably, obstacles will arise during the regular season, so I’m here to try and work those out. 

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Let’s tackle the obvious topic first: David Ortiz. I think he has felt under pressure to perform since the first game of the season. Because of the dismal numbers he put up last season, all reporters ever asked him about during the Spring was his rebound. It is easy to tell how insecure about this situation he is. He snapped at reporters the second day of the season; he got ejected from a game for arguing about a strike; and it is easy to spot the frustrated grimace on his face each time he strikes out. I don’t blame him for feeling pressure, but I’m surprised about how much it’s getting to him. 
I won’t ignore the few hits that he has gotten: some have been solid contact, but others were pure luck. He even picked up the golden sombrero one game where he struck out four times: that’s the problem. He strikes out, and for the most time, he strikes out looking. I’m no hitting guru, so I’m not here to talk mechanics. The fact of the matter is that having him in our lineup is ineffective, and at times, detrimental. So why does Terry Francona put him in the lineup day after day? I think that part of it comes from seniority. Maybe Terry Francona thinks that maybe Big Papi is just going to get out of his funk because of what he has done in the past. But this is the third year in a row that this has been going on. As much as it pains me to say this, he is done. 
I’m sure it will be tough to sit him, but it is necessary. It is important to put the best lineup out there, and putting Big Papi in there does not get the job done. I like the idea of platooning Mike Lowell and Jeremy Hermida at that spot. Hermida has proved himself to be a fantastic pickup coming off the bench for Jacoby Ellsbury while he is injured. I can see him hitting a lot of doubles off the Green Monster. 
Issue number two: The Bullpen. 

Last year, the bullpen was considered our strongest asset. This year, it has been one of the weakest. I don’t think that the loss of Takashi Saito or Billy Wagner really affects that; however, the loss of Justin Masterson does. I’m sure you all know exactly what I’m going to say. Bring up Michael Bowden! We need a long-term middle relief pitcher; especially if our starters are done after the fifth inning because they throw 30 pitches in an inning or two. The Red Sox obviously expect to use him as a middle reliever, so what I don’t understand is why they’re still treating him as a starter in Pawtucket. I think that for a pitcher to be completely effective, they have to know their role (no matter how good they are). Just look how good Justin Masterson is doing with Cleveland now that they have explicitly deemed him a starter. I have no doubt that Bowden has the ability to flourish in either role, but he will be more effective once they tell him what his role actually is so that he doesn’t have to keep switching. 
Ramon Ramirez has been struggling so far, so I really hope that he finds his stuff because he was the unsung hero of last year. Manny Delcarmen still struggles to be consistent, but he has the ability to go multiple innings, which is important. I prefer him over Scott Atchinson anyway. I think that Robert Manuel, now pitching in Pawtucket, could be really effective in the bullpen if he was given a chance.
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I know Daniel Bard is very good, but the Red Sox need to use him a little more sparingly. The poor guy has been used so much already this season. He has a wicked slider, but I’d like to see him add a changeup to his repertoire because the radar gun is almost always 90 mph or above, and having that speed constantly will almost surely lead to giving up more home runs. 
My final issue with the bullpen includes Victor Martinez as well. When it comes to Jonathan Papelbon, all he ever calls are fastballs. Papelbon also has a slider and a changeup in his arsenal, so I think that it’s important that he incorporates those as well to avoid meltdowns. I’m sure you all remember his most infamous blown save, and all Victor Martinez called was fastball, after, fastball, after fastball. 
Issue Number 3: Throwing people out
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Neither Victor Martinez nor Jason Varitek have the ability to throw runners out, and every team knows it. Victor obviously needs to work on his mechanics considering all of his throws are high and to the right. This could create a serious problem. First of all, because the runners can steal so easily, the possibility of inning ending double plays are eliminated, which means that our pitchers will have to work longer, and that we might have to use our bullpen earlier. 
Also, pitching from the stretch is a tough thing for lots of pitchers. I especially noticed that with Clay Buchholz during the Spring, and even he has admitted that it’s something he needs to work on. The pitchers obviously don’t want the runners to steal, so they might feel added pressure to get the ball to the plate quicker. This situation could have disastrous consequences. It is important that the pitchers don’t think about anything but hitting their spots. 
If this becomes a serious problem, the Red Sox do have some catching talent in the minors (with arms) in both Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito. Luis is definitely someone to get excited about, but he still needs some seasoning. Mark Wagner, on the other hand, is in Pawtucket, and I think he is ready to go. 
Issue Number 4: Leaving runners on
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Some bats have been quiet (Big Papi), some have been loud (Dustin Pedroia), but the Red Sox have left so many runners on, but I think there is an easy solution that Terry Francona hasn’t seen yet because he is an American League manager: small ball. 
Because the Red Sox focused on improving defense during the offseason, they aren’t full of the 30-40 HR power bats. However, that’s not to say that they aren’t offensively sophisticated. They have the ability to score a lot of runs this season, but it won’t come from lots of long balls. Rarely, if ever, do you see the Red Sox lay down a solid bunt. Perhaps the Red Sox wouldn’t leave as many runners on if they started sacrificially advancing runners more often. I LOVE this kind of baseball; I find it to be the most exciting, and I think that it is a method that the Red Sox must begin to incorporate. 
Those are the biggest issues that I see so far. The defense hasn’t been as spotless as expected, but I think that these acquisitions will pay off in the long run (despite some costly errors early on). Perhaps they’re still adjusting the the eccentricities of Fenway. It’s the big errors that stand out, not the rest of the times that they make the often spectacular play. The last issue I notice (though it hasn’t made much of a signifiant impact) is that sometimes, Adrian Beltre simply swings at terrible pitches. He has been hitting really well thus far though, so I’m not complaining yet. 
Amidst all of my criticisms and analyses, I do have some praise (some of which I have already mentioned): 
-Dustin Pedroia is off to a monstrous start. Contrary to popular belief, he can hit the high inside fastball! 
-Jeremy Hermida has been an extremely valuable asset off the bench. I think he will flourish in Fenway Park. 
-Daniel Bard has been a workhorse. 
-Josh Beckett’s 75 mph curveball his a thing of beauty. I’m so glad we signed him to a 4 year deal. 
-Jacoby Ellsbury was really catching on fire before that unfortunate collision between him and Beltre that has sidelined him since. I really hope that he heals soon, because I really like having him in the leadoff spot. 
I may be skeptical, but I’m a true believer in this Red Sox squad. 
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One more thing before I settle down to watch the final game of what has been a frustrating series against the Rays so far. Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter of the 2010 MLB season, and the first in Rockies history. Thanks to the twittersphere, I was clued in, and I was able to watch the final three outs of the bottom of the ninth inning. Of course, MLBTV froze up right as Brian McCann hit the ball to second, but I heard it, and that’s just as special. He has been compared to Pedro Martinez, and considering the velocity he had on his fastball so late into the game (and after so many pitches), I have no doubt. As I watched the bottom of the ninth inning, I could feel my heart beating quicker with each out, and my hands shaking  more and more before each pitch was thrown. 
April 17th was an incredible day to be a baseball fan. Tim Lincecum had three hits and three RBIs. The Pirates walked off for the second game in a row thanks to Garrett Jones. The Mets vs Cardinals game went into the 20th inning. The Mets scored both of their runs on sacrifice flies. And Ubaldo Jimenez stunned the Braves lineup. This is what we live for 

There’s Something About Opening Day…

Yes, I know it’s about a week late, but better late than never, right? As a baseball fan/blogger, how could I not document those feelings of raw joy that I experienced on Opening Day? It is the holiest day of baseball, the pinnacle of hope for baseball fans everywhere. I honestly don’t know why the national government hasn’t declared Opening Day a national holiday. It certainly contains many of the same qualities that other national holidays do. Holidays are all about coming together and celebrating one, unified cause. Isn’t that exactly what Opening Day is? As fans, we may not be rooting for the same teams, but we are still celebrating the fact that baseball has finally returned. 
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(not my picture, don’t know whose, but it’s fantastic… Fenway Park)
The Fourth of July reminds people of why they are proud to be Americans, and similarly, Opening Day reminds us of why we’re proud to be baseball fans. We remember everything we love about baseball, and everything it represents to us. The blind fools who think that baseball is a boring game don’t realize that everything baseball is, and everything that it can represent to them. Honestly, my life is baseball. I think of my life in terms of baseball. I understand things when they are explained to me in baseball terms. I become less hostile when someone brings baseball into the conversation. I speak the word of baseball, and I sincerely hope that you do too. 
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It’s hard for me to come up with words to describe everything that baseball makes me feel. I feel like loving baseball is the same thing as loving a person, though I could be way off base here (haha, get it?). From what I can gather, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve loved someone for years, whether you’ve just broken up with someone, you still can’t put actual love into words. I seriously can’t put how much I love baseball into words. I really don’t think anyone can. Live love, it’s just something that you express. If you could put it into words, maybe it would not be as special. Even though I think it’s nearly impossible for the love that we baseball fans feel for our sport, I think W.P. Kinsella comes pretty close. So I’d like to share with you an excerpt from my favorite book, Shoeless Joe
“I take the word of baseball and begin to talk it. I begin to speak it. I begin to live it. The word is baseball. …Can you imagine? Can you imagine? Can you imagine walking around with the very word of baseball enshrined inside you? Because the word of salvation is baseball. It gets inside you. Inside me. And the words that I speak are spirt, and are baseball. The word healed them, and delivered them from destruction. The word makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.

“As you begin to speak the word of baseball, as you speak it to men and women, you are going to find that these men and women are going to be changed by that life-flow, by the loving word of baseball. Whenever the word of baseball is brought upon the scene, something happens. You can’t go out under your own power, under your own light, your own strength, and expect to accomplish what baseball can accomplish. 

“We have the word within us. I say you must get the word of baseball within you, and let it dwell within you richly. So that when you walk out in the world and meet a man or woman, you can speak the word of baseball, not because you’ve heard someone else speak it but because it is alive within you. 

“When you speak the word, something will begin to happen. We underestimate the power of the word. We don’t understand it. We underestimate all that it can accomplish. When you go out there and speak the word of baseball–the word of baseball is spirit and it is life

“I’ve read the word, I’ve played it, I’ve digested it, it’s in there! When you speak, there is going to be a change in those around you. That is the living word of baseball. As I look at you, I know that there are many who are troubled, anxious, worried, insecure. What is the cure? Is it to be found in doctors and pills and medicines? No. The answer is in the word, and baseball is the word. We must tell everyone we meet the true meaning of the word of baseball, and if we do, those we speak to will be changed by the power of that living word. 

Praise the name of baseball. The word will set captives free. The words will open the eyes of the blind. The word will raise the dead. Have you the word of baseball living inside you? Has the word of baseball become part of you? Do you live it, play it, digest it, forever? Let [me] tell you to make the word of baseball your life. Walk into the world and speak of baseball. Let the word flow through you like water, so that it may quicken the thirst of your fellow man.” 
So. Do you do this? Do you speak the word of baseball? Does it flow through you like electricity through a circuit? I do. I believe in the power of the word of baseball. I want to share the word of baseball with people who don’t live it. It is better than any medication because of what it is. 
Opening Day makes me think about this idea all over again because baseball has returned. I am cynical and pessimistic during the offseason, but as soon as baseball season rolls around, I am an optimistic, all around happy person. The Red Sox may have more of an affect on my mood than my grades, or anything for that matter, but no matter how mad or upset I may be, there is always the next game. It is the constant. I can rely on baseball to always be there, and it makes me feel safe. 
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This year, baseball and Jesus rose aga
in on the same day (or night, for baseball). Coincidence? I think not. I collected Easter eggs (see above), I went to church on Sunday, but I think it was a different church than many of you may have attended. As Annie Savoy (Bull Durham) would say, I went to the church of baseball. “The only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the church of baseball.” 
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I also went to church on Monday. I went to Opening Day. All 13 of them. My living room was the baseball hotspot. I had my television, the family desktop, and my laptop going all at once. I had an entire schedule for how I was going to accomplish the daunting task of watching 13 baseball games in one day. At one point, I had nine baseball games going at once, so it was hard to keep up with all of them, but it wasn’t a burden. I watched 12 straight hours of baseball. I probably could have paced myself a little better, but I can truly see myself doing this as a living. I saw some amazing plays and some amazing feats: The night before, I saw the Red Sox rally to beat the Yankees on Opening Night. On Sunday,I saw Lastings Milledge, and Nate McLouth make incredible grabs in the outfield. I saw Mark Buehrle make the most unbelievable play I’ve ever seen. I saw Jason Heyward crush a three run homer on the first pitch in his first at-bat in the Majors (and that was something truly special). And I saw Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a walk-off single to afford the Texas Rangers a win after Shaun Marcum of the Blue Jays carried a perfect game into the fifth. 
I don’t think any of my friends from school truly understand this thing that I have for baseball.They accept it, which I appreciate, but they think I’m a nut. Someday, I want to be able to eloquently articulate the love that I, and many of you, feel for baseball. But until then, I can only encourage you to speak the word of baseball: to live it, to think it, to share it. Believe it. 

Red Sox Road Trip 2010

This past weekend, a couple of Red Sox prospects, the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies, Wally the Green Monster, and some of the fabulous Red Sox staff made their way down to Fort Myers, FL for the Red Sox Road Trip. On Saturday, the trophies made a stop at the Edison Mall and the Gulf Coast Town Center. My Saturday was filled with an exciting all-day trip to the library to work on my research paper. I sure had plans for Sunday though. 

My parents are very smart. They know not to leave me with a credit card too long; especially when there is anything to do with baseball. It’s not that I couldn’t handle myself alone, it’s just that I would probably buy every Spring Training ticket available with the intention of going to every single game. Since my dad was working on Sunday, my mom was kind enough to accompany me. 
Some of you may remember that my mother does not like baseball all that much. Every time I take her to a game, there seem to be unpleasant conditions. I remember we took her to a Marlins game once, and we were sitting down the third base line in the sweltering heat. Last year during Spring Training, we went to a Red Sox vs Marlins game, and there was a two hour and 39 minute rain delay. She’s a real trooper, and I greatly appreciate that. 
Fort Myers is two and a half hours away from where I live, and the event started at 11. We loaded up my car, which I like to call the Red Sox Mobile (or Megatron), and we were on the road a little after eight. I was ready to go with my business cards, a baseball, a Sharpie, and my camera. 
We arrived around 10:45 after the agonizingly boring drive through Alligator Alley. The gates opened just a bit after 11, and I was back at home. I could smell baseball season again. There was no smell of hotdogs, nor the normal clamor of a baseball game, but it was perfect nonetheless. 
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I didn’t know where to go first, but I was certainly eager to meet the prospects; that was my main reason for going. I went up to the field, and saw a line starting to form to take pictures with the trophies on the field. It was my first time on the field at City of Palms Park, and my first time walking around on an actual baseball field for a while. I was wearing sandals so I felt the sand in my feet, and the perfectly groomed grass on my toes. There’s really nothing like it. I felt so connected with the field, and all the players who had been on it before. 
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There were no bases, and the pitcher’s mound was covered in tarp. The trophies were stationed right at second base. I had never seen the trophies in person before, so it was pretty incredible so see the symbols of the Red Sox’s triumphs right up close. Each trophy represents so much, but it’s hard to really take it all in when you just have a few seconds. 
Luckily, I found a way around that. You see, each player would sign for about an hour so I had a lot of down time between each autograph. So I went back to the field to get another look at the trophies. There was no more line, only the Fenway Ambassadors, whom I like to call the guardians of the trophy. I started talking to them, and both were really nice. After having talked to them for a little while, I mentioned that it was a bit tragic that people had take their picture so quickly. Nobody really got to take in what the trophies truly meant. So I was told to put all of my stuff down, and one of the guardians picked up the 2007 trophy and carefully transferred it to my arms.
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I do not know how I contained myself. I was holding a World Series trophy! An emblem of blood, sweat and tears. I felt more connected with the Red Sox than I ever had before, and it will be a moment that I will never forget. 
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That was after I had met some fabulous prospects though. The one you all are probably most familiar with, if at all, is Ryan Westmoreland. He is the 27th ranked prospect in all of the Major Leagues, and arguably the top prospect in the organization. He is a native Rhode Islander, and was drafted by the Red Sox in 2008. I have no doubt that he will make it to the Majors someday. I also met pitching prospect Felix Doubront, outfield prospect Zach Daeges (you may remember him from some of my Spring Training entries from last season), and a few other prospects that I was admittedly not familiar with. 
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The prospect I spent the most time talking to was Zach Daeges. He was kind enough to let me informally interview him. It means the world to me to interview prospects, so I was very excited. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, he is an outfield prospect for the Red Sox and can play left or right field. I love that kind of versatility! He spent the majority of the season in Pawtucket, and he’s from Omaha, Nebraska. He admitted that his favorite player was Barry Bonds growing up, and that he tried to emulate his swing. Zach said he was disappointed when he heard the steroids rumors surrounding Bonds, and he thinks that the whole steroids issue makes it unfair for the players who did it on natural talent. 
If he could play catch with any Major League player of all time, he chose Jackie Robinson. He went further to say that if he could merely talk to any player, it would be Jackie Robinson for everything that he overcame. He really liked the Cubs growing up, especially guys like Ryan Sandberg and Andre Dawson. He said that his favorite ballpark is Fenway Park because it is so historical, and I sincerely hope that he gets to play there. I think he is certainly capable. I love the versatility he has of playing either left or right field, and he also has a really cool batting stance. Keep your eye out for him during Spring Training. 
Here are the other prospects I met: 
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The coordinator of public affairs, Marty Ray, was also at the event. I had met Mr. Ray on my tour at Fenway Park, so I went over to say hello. He remembered me after I had jogged his memory of the situation, and it was really great speaking with him, he’s such a nice guy. 
I also met Adam Mendelson, who co-hosts ‘The Red Zone’ on FOX Sports Radio. He’s a great guy, and he offered to help me find an internship for the summer. Brett Bodine, the Coordinator of Florida Operations (for the Red Sox) was kind enough to speak to me as well and give me some information about internships. 
Overall, it was an absolutely fabulous day–one that I will never forget. I think that meeting the prospects is such an important aspect of the game; they are the future! They know so much about baseball, and you feel that much more proud when you see them at the major league level. The Future Blog of the Red Sox covering the future prospects of the Red Sox certainly seems appropriate. 

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. 
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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. 

Quick Update

I know, it has been a while. I know I didn’t even provide my recounts/experiences watching the first Yankees vs Red Sox series of the year. The reason(s) behind all of this is that I am in the process of studying for my United States History exams. I just took the subject test earlier today, so I don’t feel too guilty about blowing off studying to write this. 

Red Sox vs Yankees. 
This series was pretty much the exhibition of how most series between these two are. Though the Red Sox did sweep the Yankees, each game was close, and provided an adrenaline rush of a different kind. 
My friend, Kathleen, came over for the first one. It was really nice to have our top three pitchers go out against the Yankees. Ortiz warned Joba not to throw at Youkilis’ head, because Joba seems to have something against Kevin Youkilis. He has thrown at his head four times. And though Chamberlain avoided Youkilis’ head, he did hit Jason Varitek, who may look similar to Youkilis because of the beard. 
Jason Bay is establishing himself as the clutch hitter of our lineup. To help Mariano Rivera blow his twelfth career save against the Red Sox, Jason Bay hit a home run that just hit the top of the monster to tie the game. 
Kathleen called Youkilis’ shot to win the game– yes, the walk-off shot that I was craving. The next game was even longer than the first, and it didn’t even go into extra innings. I’m pretty sure Joba told AJ Burnett to hit Kevin Youkilis, so that he would not have to get into any skirmishes with Big Papi. Anyway, Mike Lowell was the hero of that game. 
But the hero of the series? That, my friends, would be Jacoby Ellsbury. We all know that Andy Petite has a wicked pickoff move to first base, one of the best in the majors. But the left hander wasn’t really expecting Jacoby Ellsbury to steal home with the bases loaded and two outs, and neither was Jorge Posada. But he did, and Fenway went absolutely insane. 
It was the first time a Red Sox had done that in ten years, and it was all over the highlight reels for the next few days. 
The winning streak was broken up in Clevland, thanks to an error by Javier Lopez. Javier Lopez was the antagonist of the series against Clevland. First, an error in the second game of the series so that Mark DeRosa scored from second. I was threatening to pull him off of my fantasy team. And in the last game of the series? Javy did so poorly that the Red Sox had to pull a Nick Swisher. Jonathan Van Every, who what would become the game winning home run in the first game of the series, had to come in and pitch. I’m pretty sure that he is going to be a late addition to my projects. He didn’t really play much in spring training because he either had a sprained ankle, or surgery. 
I really am sorry for the lack of updates, and I promise that this one will be more coherent tomorrow. I’m going to the Red Sox vs Rays tonight (four hour drive, woohoo!), and I hope to see Rays Renegade there!
Lots of pictures next entry!