76 Days…

76 Days and counting.

That’s how many days are between now and the season opener against Tampa Bay.

22 Days, 20 hours, and 24 minutes

That’s how much time (as of this minute) there is between now and when pitchers and catchers report to Spring training. Arg! I need baseball!

Right now is like the black hole of sports. Basketball is on, yes, and Direct TV is giving us a free preview of NBA League pass (yay!) but there’s no baseball, and there’s no football (not that I particularly care about the teams left, but still…) I really hate the Steelers (as all good Pats fans do) and we absolutely crushed the Cardinals, so if they win the Superbowl…I’ll feel a lot better about the 2008 season.

But back to baseball. So, being that there is only basketball right now, and I am suffering serious baseball withdrawl, I have been absolutely glued to MLBNetwork. This weekend, they showed the 2007 World Series, and are showing the 2007 ALCS later, I think. It was nice to watch the series again because I wasn’t so nervous and I could actually enjoy the game a little more. It was almost enough to get me through the next month without the game. Almost.

Finally, for all members of Red Sox Nation who have been anxiously awaiting this moment, single season Red Sox game tickets are on sale! Yeah!

And one final, final note. I got one of the nicest Christmas presents from my Dad. He got me a framed poster-sized picture of Varitek shoving his glove into A-Rods face. Amazing!

Sox and Youk, Together Again

According to the AP (associated press) the Red Sox and Kevin Youkilis have reached a 4-year contract reportedly worth about $41 million.

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So now the Red Sox have managed to sign both Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis and effectively limit their ability to seek arbitration and free agency. And Red Sox Nation heaves a sigh of relief. So now we have them both until 2012, if not longer.

This, I hope, is how the Sox are going to continue doing business. Both Youk and Pedrioa were drafted by the Red Sox, and raised in the farm system. I mean, look at the two of them! They both finished in the top of the race for MVP, which they both deserved, but I’m glad Dustin got it. Then, if you throw in Jon Lester, who is only going to get better…our farm system is looking pretty good.
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Now the only hole the Sox have left is at catcher. And it’s not like there’s a lot of options out there, so just deal with the Prince of Darkness (aka Boras) and bring back Tek and all will be well.

Final random tid-bit, everyone’s favorite Jockey, who happens to be the AL MVP, is going to be on the cover of MLB: The Show. There’s no curse for that one, right?

Another random thought, I have a new obsession. The MLBNetwork. It is
completely amazing. I watched highlights from the 1986 season the other
night, and it was weird, because my dad always told me that he held me
up to the TV during the World Series that year (I was all of a month
old) and told me that I was watching the Red Sox, and that they always
found a way to lose the last game that matters.

While that is no longer true, I found it really interesting to watch,
since I clearly have no memory of watching it live. I haven’t watched
any of the re-runs from this year’s World Series because I still have
issues with cowbell. I’m not ready for more cowbell just yet, my ears
are still ringing.

But you should check out MLBnetwork. They are airing Ken Burn’s Baseball, which, if you’ve never seen it, its like Planet Earth,
but for baseball. It’s long, but they show it in segments, and it
covers everything, from the curses, to the great players, the Negro
leagues, the Black Sox…everything. I have really enjoyed watching it,
you should look into it.

Off Season Rumblings

This off-season has been somewhat “quiet” in terms of the Red Sox. The moves of the teams in the AL East are all important because that might be the toughest division in the league. 

The Rays have made a few good moves, but are (mostly) sticking with what worked next year. 

The Yankees have found a problem and done what the Yankees do best: throw money at it. Why else do you think this was the first time in forever that they didn’t make the playoffs? That’s what the Yankees do. So as long as nothing happens to CC, Teixiera, or any of their other additions, they should be right back in the mix.

The Red Sox have been comparatively quiet. They got stung a little on the Teixiera deal, and right now they have no catcher, they made a few solid, cheep deals that should do nothing but help, and if they don’t, its not like they’ll have $10 million dollars on the bench with just one player out. 

They have a few loose ends to tie up, but they look to be in the mix for the AL East again this year. Pedroia and Youk will be back, Ellsbury and Lester can only get better, Beckett will be Beckett, Dice-K, despite his heart-attack inducing style, always does well, and who knows? Buchholz could be a lot better than he was last year, everyone seems to think so. 

First, they need to bring back Varitek. It looks like it’s probably going to happen because no one else wants him, and the Red Sox, despite their “we don’t care attitude” would love to have him back. I think, to, that if they bring him back, he’ll have something to prove, and maybe his bat will improve. I could be wrong, I’m no expert, but I like being hopeful. 

Finally, on that vein of hope, I have to say that I’m optimistic about Papi and Mike Lowell this season. I think Mike will be fine, and Big Papi will bounce back. Call me crazy, but with everyone healthy, the Red Sox are poised to be a big threat in the AL East, despite the Yankees trying to buy every free agent in sight. Think the fans are going to miss the ‘stash? 

So, my prediction is for one heck of a season, with the Rays, Yankees, and Sox coming down to the last few weeks to see who takes the crown and who takes the Wild Card. 

Thoughts For Theo

Theo Epstein arrived fashionably late to the GM meeting in Dana Point, California, after swinging by to watch Clay Buchholz pitch in the Arizona Fall league. With the Red Sox facing several key financial and player decisions this winter, the GM meeting has become more important than ever.

The Sox have depth in every position except for catcher (which we won’t go into at the moment) which gives them a little wiggle room when it comes to personnel. If we like someone, we have lots of chips to trade,  and with the loss of some big money contracts, this should be a good winter for trading – if necessary.

Theo spoke to the press, and has informed everyone that Timlin, who pitched six years in Boston, will not be returning to the Red Sox if he does not end up retiring. He also hinted that “The Mayor”, Sean Casey, will likely not return. Epistein also confimred that he has signed a contract for an undisclosed amount of years and funds.

If they can do it, the Sox may be interested in bringing in a big name pitcher, like CC or A.J. Burnett, but are more likely to get a strong starter who will cost significantly less than the headliners. Throw in another strong arm to Dice-K, Beckett, Lester and Wake and you’ve got an impressive pitching staff. If they all remain healthy.

The Red Sox have yet to decide what they will do with rookie pitcher Justin Masterson, who pitched beautifully from the ‘pen in the second half. His flexibility is a big bonus for the decently strong Sox pitching staff.

You have to love the new owners and our GM, they really do put all the money we, as fans, spend on the Red Sox back into the team.  Of course, this year Theo may have to do something he has never done before: got to arbitration. So far, he has always settled with his players, and with the money they have, the team should be able to give raises to a handful of their best players (i.e. Youkilis, Papelbon and Pedroia).

Jonathan Papelbon made just under $800,000 last season, and Kevin Youkilis went from $424,000 in 2007 to $3 million in 2008. Look for both of them to receive considerable raises. The Sox will also try to lock up Dustin Pedroia through his arbitration years, probably with a raise.
 
Epstein will also meet with the Prince of Darkness (Scott Boras) himself following the GM meeting to begin talks on Jason Varitek and whether or not he will be returning to Boston.  While no deal is likely to be made, if they come to a quick agreement, Theo would not be opposed to wrapping it up early.

Oh Captain, My Captain

A quick message for Theo: BRING BACK TEK!

You knew it was coming. The Prince of Darkness AKA Scott Boras wants a four year deal for Tek. He’s too old for four, but he won’t take two. Here’s what you do, Sox. You offer him two years with two additional option years. I realize that he’s like an automatic out at the plate. I realize that he’s expensive (mostly due to greed on Boras’s behalf) but I’m worried about the team without him. If he retired, they’d be fine, but if he was playing somewhere else, like Detroit, it would end badly. I realize the Boston mantra is generally “out with the old” but this is not Nomar or Manny or anyone, this is Tek. This is the CAPTAIN. He is the leader, and I’d rather have us bite the bullet on a two year deal with options or a three year deal and keep the soul of this team.

Intangibles are important. Look at the change in the locker room pre- and post-Manny. They were a totally different team after the trade. But that wasn’t just Manny being gone. They played for each other, not just with each other. Even if we brought back healthy vets like Lowell, you’d still be losing the rock of the team in Varitek.

Besides, its not like there is a stellar crop of catchers out there.

On to more free-agents-to-be.

Casey and Kotsay are both free-agents. I feel like we should keep one of them as backups, they both have decent bats (Casey more than Kotsay) and play good defense (Kotsay more than Casey). I’d rather keep Kotsay, as much as I love Casey, because he can play infield and outfield. Of course, with a healthy JD Drew, Jason Bay, Ellsbury, and possibility of Crisp returning, will we need it? (answer: yes. You never know who is going to get hurt. it’s always better to be prepared).

Alex Cora is up for free-agency, and I don’t think we’ll keep him if we can’t dump Lugo off on someone. That’s a shame because he’s a decent back-up we can groom to become a really great manager. Have you ever heard this guy talk about baseball? He is so smart! And Tito loves him. Personally, I’d rather have a Lowrie-Cora infield than a Lowrie-Lugo one. Yipes! I’d like to keep Cora (if we can) and shift the infield around. Have Pedroia play short, Youk play second, and Lowell at third, picking up Texiera to play 1st. Then we can have great back-ups in Cora and Lowrie so the guys can have a day off on occasion.
 

Timlin and Schill are both up, but guys, you need to retire. Do it now when you can go out with people still loving you. Don’t do a Brett Farve. You’re done. Go play golf and look at your shiny World Series rings.

Byrd and Lopez I have mixed feelings about. If we can keep them for a bargain, good, if not…eh.

Up for arbitration:

Paps. We need to get him a raise and an option deal. I wouldn’t tie him
up for years because of shoulder injuries/etc. but he’s a great closer.
Maybe give him the same option Wake has? Or something similar.

Cash. Wake is back and he will likely be too. Tek can catch Wake, but
if we get a new catcher (shudder) we’ll need Cash and his experience
with the knuckle-ball.

Pedroia. Give him a long-term deal (with a raise). This kid is for real, and he’s young. Lock him up.

Lester. Same as Pedroia. In about three years, Lester could be the best pitcher in baseball. Period.

Youk. This one is a no-brainer. Give the man a raise and lock him up for a few more years.

So that’s my picks for the off-season. We need a pitcher. Maybe another bat. And bid on CC to raise the price for the Yankees. (he he)
 

Sayonara Cinderella, Goodbye Billy Penn Curse!

For all you Red Sox and Cubs fans, skip the next section, it doesn’t apply. For everyone else, keep reading.

The Phillies have finally done it. It has been 28 years since the Phillies were here last, and 25 years since any professional sports team from Philly had won anything. This is called the “Curse of William (or Billy) Penn”. It dates back to the construction of One Liberty Place, which became the tallest building in the city, rising over the height of William Penn’s statue on City Hall. One year and four months ago, the statue was moved to the Comcast center, the new tallest building in Philadelphia. With the Phillie’s fall classic win, it breaks the Curse and frees all Philadelphia sports teams to start winning again.

This is not the only curse to have been broken in the new millennium. The so-called “Curse of the Bambino” (insert eye-roll) ended in 2004 when the Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. The “Curse of the Black Sox” ended in 2005 when the ChiSox won their first World Series since 1919 and the Black-Sox scandal. Curses still in effect: The Detroit Lions’ Curse of Bobby Layne and the Chicago Cubs Curse of the Billy Goat (which, by the way, is even more fascinating and superstitious than the Red Sox curse)

Of course, the curse of Billy Penn is the only curse to have an effect on ALL professional teams in a city, the other curses only applied to a specific sport.

Okay, its safe for everyone to read again.

I have a house mate who is a Phillies fan and she is ecstatic today. I gotta say I am glad that game 5 is finally over. I am also glad the Rays are still ring-less, because that means we will not have to hear about how the Rays won game 7 and went on to win the World Series every time they play the Red Sox. Now, its only “they beat the Red Sox and went on to lose to Philly 4 games to 1”. Not as much of an accomplishment. Thank goodness!

It was a series marked by rain storms, and the first time in over a century that a game was suspended. I think the suspension was unfair, because the game should have stopped in the 5th, even if they were going to finish all 9 innings at some point, but it seemed like they waited until the Rays had tied it up. Because a good portion of the country wants to see Cinderella win. Everyone wants to see the little guys do well. For my part, I wanted the Phillies to sweep little Cinderella away with blow-out after blow-out. I’m not sure if that’s bitterness over losing in game 7 or annoyance that the AL East’s power has shifted to a Ménage à trois that I, personally, never wanted. I was happy with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

Brad Lidge notched his 48th save in 48 tries to be perfect in the 2008 season. Cole Hamels ended his Becket-like post-season by winning World Series MVP.

All I have to say is congrats Phillies, and now that the World Series is over, we can officially look towards next year, where (hopefully) the red Sox will be in the Phillie’s position. For now, we cheer on the Brady-less Pats, who are tied for division lead with Buffalo (how weird!) and the Celtics, who are calling this season: Unbuntu II: The Return (or repeat?), and I will continue my campaign to keep Jason Varitek and get Dustin Pedroia and/or Kevin Youkilis the honor he deserves: MVP!

Rays Relief is a Relief For the Phillies – And Congrats Youk!

Well, the Phillies took game 4 in spectacular style last night, and being that I am temporarily a Phillies fan, this is a good thing.

The game was close-ish until the later innings when Philly just opened up on the Rays ‘pen for homer after homer. It makes me begin to think that maybe the Rays didn’t beat the Red Sox, the Red Sox’s injuries finally caught up to them and they lost. I mean, really, the Rays being in the World Series is really a giant scouting game for the Yankees. They are mostly locked up until 2009, but the next year, the Evil Empire will come calling.

As for the Sox, I hope we rob the Jays of one of their starters, like AJ Burnett or something, keep Tek on a two year deal and phase him into the coaching staff slowly while grooming a young guy. I think bringing in a guy from another team would not be good for the pitching staff, but as all of you who read me regularly know, I’m a Tek supporter. The players have already come out and said they will be shocked, disappointed, sad, worried about the kind of team they are on, etc. if he isn’t signed. Now all we gotta do is keep Boras from being too greedy…(like that’s going to happen)

Without the big money contracts of Manny and Schill, we have a good bit of money to work with and really, not that many holes. We have the Cora-Lowrie-Lugo shortstop debate, and there’s no one we can dump Lugo on at the moment, but this means we don’t need a shortstop. Pedrioa and Youk are solid infielders and even solider bats. If Mikey comes back from the surgery OK, then yay! If not, we should pick up Texiera, maybe we should pick him up anyway, since Mikey might be on the way out at the end of next year…(hopefully retiring… I don’t want him to play for anyone else) Papi will be back to his old self, so no need for a DH, but we’ll probably keep Casey around as a good overall backup. Then we’ve got Bay, Drew, Coco, and Ellsbury in the outfield. The starting rotation of Beckett, Dice-K, Lester and Wake is still pretty potent (I know Wake led the team in losses, but go back and look to see how many of those were 1-run losses where we couldn’t generate the offense)

So, we add a pitcher, maybe an infielder, or a good backup like Kotaras who can play both pretty well, maybe bring up a new guy to work in the ‘pen. We’ll be good. The big question is catcher, and with limited prospects around the league, and Tek meaning so much to the team, it would be a stupid decision on Theo’s part not to keep him around.

Here’s to game 5. May it silence the Cowbells forever.


Also, Congrats to KEVIN YOUKILIS who won the Hank Aaron Award! Yeah!
Here’s what he had to say (and it makes me love him even more!)

Well, I don’t think I can ever compare myself to Hank Aaron in any
way,” Youkilis said. “I’ll never see myself in that level. So to win
this award, I don’t know, I’m a little humbled by it. But it’s great
just to be able to have an award that’s named after somebody that
exemplified so much in this game and has brought so much history to
this game. It’s an honor just to be named in the same sentence. So for
me, I’m thrilled.”

 

All Good Things…

…must come to an end. I have to say, in the bright (and cold) light of morning, I am almost glad its over. I would have liked it to be over after another four games and a ring…but my stress level goes down and my number of hours sleeping goes up.

I will watch some of the fall classic, but only when they play in Philly, because if I ever hear another cowbell, it will be too soon. Maybe the Rays should have Christopher Walken throw out the first pitch?

Anywho, the Red Sox are gassed. Last night everyone just looked tired. So I think in a small way, they’re glad its over. Now its time to marvel at the fact that they never should have made it as far as they did, take a few days off to rest, and start figuring out how we can get CC or some other pitcher without giving up anyone we like. I really like our line-up next year. For the first time in my memory, the Red Sox are young. Pedroia, Lowrie, Coco, Ellsbury, Masterson, Lester, Bay, Papelbon, and Youk have many years left in them. If you look back on the Sox, this rarely happens. And these kids are battle tested. There are only two things the Sox must do this off-season: get Tek back, and get another starting pitcher, whether we take one from somewhere else or develop them.

I’m going to take a few days off of hard-core baseball following to catch up on that all-important school work which has fallen by the wayside. I continue my campaign for the Captain, because you can’t just get rid of a captain, even one who has struggled so much at the plate, you have to phase him out, into retirement. Just the reactions from his homer in game 6 proved one thing: they need him. He is the soul of the team, and if we get rid of our soul we’ll turn into the Yankees.

One final note before I head off to get lunch (yum!) Our playing season may be over, but the Nation still has work to do! The 2008 This Year In Baseball Award has several Red Sox on the ballot!

Vote Pedroia for Hitter, Dice-K for Starter, Jacoby for Rookie, Tito for Manager, Paps for Closer, Dustin for Defense, Lester’s No-No for Performance, and Youk’s on-the-wall triple for Oddity (this one is under Damon’s name).

And the best part is you can vote as many times as you want and it’s really very easy! So go vote HERE

Well, Someone Has To Go

Okay kids. Here it is, game 7 of the ALCS. Anyone else but me incredibly surprised to be here? (Think back to Thursday before the 7th inning and be honest with yourself)

Tonight, Jon Boy takes the mound against Garza.
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We’re putting our best foot forward, I have my lucky shirt, and join my incredibly superstitious friends in keeping my fingers crossed. Look at this survey on the Boston Globe‘s website:

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See the choices? You gotta love superstitious baseball fans.

So I was all kinds of cursing TBS last night. I don’t care if you have a power outtage, the Steve Harvey show was a BAD CALL. The Office would have been a little less annoying. So I logged in to all the various websites, watching TBS Hotcorner (which I am not a fan of) listening to WRKO (love them!) and watching gameday pitch-by-pitch. So of course I found myself yelling agrily at BJ Upton before long. I called home and my mother, though I love her, occasionally choses the “hometown” boys over the team that the rest of my family is insane about. Not a very nice thing to do in the regular season, but a cardinal sin in the post-season, especially when facing elimination.

Note on the “hometown”: I graduated high school with Justin Upton (DBacks), BJ’s little brother. BJ did not go to my school, he went to a local private school, though I have met him, David Wright (Mets), and Mike Cuddyer (Twins) – all local boys. Thus, he’s a “local” boy and my mother loves it when anyone from our area does well. I usually do too…just not in the postseason when they’re playing my team.

Back to the game. The Rays lead 1-0, but never fear! Youk is here! Youk launches a solo shot to tie the game. Thank goodness, because with the way both Sheilds and Beckett were pitching, it was going to be a tight one.

youkties.pngYay for Youk, because he hits a sac-grounder which scores Pedroia on the go-ahead run in the third. Then Becks gives up a solo homer to Bartlett, and we’re tied again in the 5th. But it could have been worse, had the Rays not put on a hit-and-run which allowed Tek to throw out Navarro at second. So we come to the 6th. Two outs, Tek is up. We love the Captain, and watching him struggle is more painful than most players just in a slump. On a 2-0 pitch, Shields hung a fastball to the corner and bam! Tek hit the go-ahead solo homer and the Sox never looked back.
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I mean, if you’re going to have only one hit this series, that was a really great time to do it. It got the Sox pumped up even more and the 2-out rally continued, thanks to an E by Bartlet and some clutch hits from Coco, Dustin, and Papi, who, by the way, hit a double and an RBI single last night.

The bull pen, which came in for the 6th, shut it down. Oki went two beastly innings, Masterson settled down marvelously after hitting a batter, and Paps, even though he looks a little gassed (yipes!) got it done in a big way.

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So now there’s one game left. Winner goes to the World Series, loser starts shopping for Halloween costumes. Tonight we hand the ball to the de fecto ace of the team, Jon Lester. To be quite honest with you, win or lose, they have done a GREAT job. And I really feel that if we can hit with men on (stranded TWELVE last night!) and Lester can keep the game under control, we’ll be golden. Though I’d like us to blow them out so Paps can rest. We need him and he needs it.

So good luck Sox, the Nation is behind you.

That Dirty Water Never Tasted So Good, So Good, So Good

Watch Jed Lowrie’s Walk-Off Single!

Sox win. Yay!

Lets talk some post-season baseball. First off, what a start for Jon Lester. The Angels were a tough team, and, as Tito said, “we had our hands full [with them]”. So now the best team (record wise) in the AL and the best team (record wise) in the NL are both gone.

Good, good things happened last night:
Dustin snapped his October slump by hitting a rocket RBI double off the Monster (or “Monstah” depending on where you live)
Tek chased down a young guy like a Teddy Bruschi or Rodney Harrison going after a quarterback, getting the out on a suicide squeeze that didn’t quite work.
Lester finishes the ALDS going 14 innings, scattering 10 hits with 11 Ks and 3 BBs and a 0.00 ERA (that’s right, ZERO point ZERO ZERO. As in goose-egg) Can we just say beast?
Bay leads the team in  post-season BA (.412), OBP (.474) and SLG (.882) with 7 hits, 5 RBIs and scoring 3 runs. He hit what could have been an inside-the-park home run, had it not bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double.
Lowrie got quite possibly the most clutch single of his career (more to come, I hope!) scoring Bay for the walk-off single with 2 outs in the 9th.

As with all things, we will take the day to celebrate, then look to the future and the extremely tough Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. After battling the Angels, I feel like the Sox are up for any battle that gets thrown at them. Dice-K is pretty good against the Rays and excellent on the road. Beckett looked rusty in game 3, but I think he’ll be much better when he faces the Rays. Then we have Lester, who is probably the best pitcher in baseball right now. Throw in Masterson and Oki who are tough, and Manny D and Paps, both with 0.00 ERAs this post-season, and the Sox are looking pretty good, if we can just get that offense going a little more. Now that Dustin got his first hit, I think we’re going to be just fine.

Just for a little fun, here are some post-season pics for your enjoyment! (from http://www.boston.com, click to make them larger!)

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Finally, because life wouldn’t be complete without some Papelbon antics:

Those shirts, by the way, say “Cinco Ocho: He don’t know how he do…” and on the back it says “He just do”.

Hopefully, Cinco Ocho (Papelbon for those of you who don’t know) will be doing what he do and hopefully we’ll be singing Dirty Water again soon! Go Sox!