So I am just getting a chance to sit down now and update you all on my weekend. It has been a crazy few days, not helped by the fact that I have 2 (!) days of class left and a ton of work to do before then.
Anyways. As you all know, I got to go to the Red Sox/Yankees game on Friday. The last three innings of that game rocked – the rest? Not so much. Perhaps it was all the double plays or the wicked tight strike zone, I don’t know, but the game lacked that buzz typically present for rivalry weekends. Mark Texeira’s first at bat came and went without too much fanfare. He was booed, called sell-out, etc., but he didn’t get much more hatred from the fans than all the other Yankee players. Hopefully that was disappointing for him. Johnny Traitor and Joba the Hun were the biggest targets.
Our seats were great, obviously. Any seat in Fenway Park is automatically a great seat – you’re in Fenway Park. It’s a priviledge to be able to get there. We sat on the right field line about two sections towards home plate from the Pesky Pole and about 12 rows off the field. My dad and I had to keep our heads turned to the left for the entire game, so my neck muscles are still a bit sore, but it’s a nice reminder of the evening.
My favorite pitcher for the Sox, Jon Lester, was pitching against Joba. Jon didn’t pitch his best game – his pitch count got wicked high, wicked fast, but he pitched well enough to allow the Red Sox a chance to win.
Unfortunately, the Sox decided on Friday that they would have liked to ground into 27 double plays if it had been possible. Every rally through the first 8 innings was killed by a double play. The Sox had gathered a couple runs here and there – one of which was the result of Jacoby scoring from second on a passed ball – but they found themselves down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth.
I really didn’t think they would be able to come back. There were no signs of offensive life on the team, and Mariano Rivera was in with a 0.00 ERA. Yes, the Red Sox have had their way with Rivera since 2004, but Friday night didn’t seem like the night it would happen again. I was ready to be satisfied with the chance to even go to a Red Sox/Yankees game and make the best out of the loss.
Boy was I wrong.
Jason Bay came up with two outs in the ninth, Kevin Youkilis on base, and Mariano throwing decently well. He was our last hope, and he didn’t disappoint. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Bay knocked a 2-run home runs into centerfield, ruining Rivera’s perfect ERA and causing his first blown save of the year. It was sweet.
Papelbon came in for the tenth, and while he continued with the theme of the night and threw a ridiculous amount of balls, he was able to retire the side damage free and give the Sox another chance to win.
The Yankeees brought in Dimaso Marte for the bottom of the tenth. His ERA was somewhere around 18.63, so I was pretty sure the game was over at the point. Instead, Marte threw a 1-2-3 inning, bringing up Ramon Ramirez for the top of the 11th. Ramirez again pitched well (he’s been a nice pick up for the Sox), so in the middle of the 11th I turned to my father and said, “If the Red Sox want to win this game, they’ll have to win it now.”
So they did.
Marte stayed in for the 11th, and he retired David Ortiz. I was shocked that this guy had gone through some of our best hitters with his horrible ERA and gotten through scar free. That was about to end.
Kevin Youkilis came up to bat and sat on the first four pitches. The count was even at 2-2 when Marte threw his final pitch of the night. Youk swung and drove that ball to Landsdowne street, sending us all home quite happy.
I haven’t seen a walk-off win live since I went to Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS. No baseball game will ever be able to top that – it was an amazing experience not only because we won, but because the atmosphere at Fenway that night was incredible. However, I was pretty psyched to get another chance to witness a walk-off, especially against Mariano Rivera and the Yankees.
The other huge event of my weekend came Saturday night, after the Red Sox and Yankees finished their ridiculously long, messy, 16-11 affair. Around 7 PM, Warren Towers apparently had an electrical fire.
Warren Towers is the biggest dorm in the United States. It’s the tri-tower building that lines Comm Ave in the shadow of Fenway Park. The three towers house 1800 students, most of whom are freshmen, and is always buzzing. The lights are constantly on, elevators constantly running, people constantly yelling and running around. On Saturday nights, the place is buzzing with the excitement of students who are getting ready to go out for the third and last night of the weekend.
Apparently, the transformer that powers Warren blew up sometime around the end of dinner, which goes from 4:30 – 8 PM. This caused the entire building to lose power and also shut off the vents in the dining hall, which meant that all the smoke from the grills had nowhere to go. The place immediately filled with smoke and all of the fire alarms started going off.
I don’t live in Warren, but I was getting texts and seeing facebook posts from friends saying that something was going on down there. As journalism majors, my friends and I were intrigued and wanted to see what was going on, so we headed down to Warren to meet up with our displaced friends and check out the action.
Warren was black. The only light in the buildings was the reflections of lights from other buildings. People were trapped in the elevators from when the power went out, so firemen were running in and out of the building with hatchets. Comm Ave was shut down from BU Central down past the COM building because it was filled with firetrucks trying to fix the mess.
My friends and I hung out with our Warren friends at the BU beach while we waited for word on whether or not they would be able to sleep there that night. It was actually pretty cool, because it was a nice, warm night and tons of kids were just hanging out at Marsh Plaza and the BU beach with friends. Most were sober for once, since a lot of the alcohol was stuck in Warren. People played frisbee, rock soccer, wiffleball or just hung out and talked while watching the lights of the firetrucks and police cars take care of business. I’m kind of glad Warren Towers blew up – it provided for a fun evening. Best of all, nobody was hurt in the process.
Today, the Red Sox are coming off their 11th straight victory. The team is looking so much better now than it did coming into the homestand: they’ve figured out their individual roles, the timing is getting better, they’re producing runs in both blow-out games and pitchers duels – things are going well right now. Obviously, this win streak won’t last forever. The
Sox HAVE to lose at some point, but at least for now we aren’t worrying about playing at least .500 baseball.
Finally, I want to give a shout out to Jacoby Ellsbury. I have NEVER seen a straight-out steal of home ever in my life. I know he did it on purpose in honor of my birthday (which is today). Thanks Jacoby! That was awesome!
So here we are on Opening Day Eve, anxiously awaiting the start of organized religion in New England for the next 6-7 months. (Spring Training is disorganized religion, FYI) Anyways, I have my own predictions ready for this season, so I guess I can take time out of
anxiously patiently awaiting tomorrow’s ballgame and Thursday night’s hockey festivus as well as all that school work that I so meticulously complete in order to share my thoughts with all of you.
Let’s start with the infield.
I think this may be where the Red Sox are strongest headed into the season. An
well-timed unfortunate Spring Training injury to Julio Lugo opened up a spot for Jed Lowrie in the 25 man roster, and I doubt anybody will be missing good ol’ Julio. Lowrie had the best spring out of anyone on this team. He finished March with a .343 average, .400 OBP and a staggering .657 slugging percentage. This kid has a bat on him. I’m predicting him to get off to a slow start in April, much like Dustin, but within a few weeks, this kid should be brightening up the lineup.
What could be better for a rookie shortstop than to be surround by an all-star infield? Lowrie will be greatly helped by Youk and Mike Lowell on the corners and reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia right there at second base. Expect the status quo out of those three, which is of course fantastic seasons all around. Mike Lowell will be the biggest wild card out of the three of them based on his age and injuries, but even his play should not be too much of a question mark, what with his immaculate fielding skills and seemingly consistent bat. His spring was not as glorious as Lowrie’s, but I would rather have him give it his all during the season. As a veteran, he does not need to have a good spring.
Re-signing Jason Varitek, as controversial as it may have been, will greatly help this team. Varitek’s leadership is unparalleled, and though his bat definitely will not be the best in the lineup, his presence and intelligence at the plate and on the basepaths should help the team get someone on base.
Additionally, Varitek is integral to the succes of the starting rotation. The top of the rotation for the Sox this year is still pretty good. Lester, Matsuzaka and Beckett are three of the best talents in baseball. It is difficult to really get a feel for pitching during Spring Training because most pitchers are not consistently unleashing their full-effort arsenal, so inconsistent starts for all three in March should not concern anybody.
Lester simply needs to continue with what he did last season. This kid has a lot of potential, and he could even contend as a Cy Young prospect in upcoming seasons for the Sox.
Matsuzaka is a little bit more complicated. He was once again the MVP of the World Baseball Classic, but he accompanied his return to the Sox with some shaky bullpen sessions. Daisuke needs to learn to be consistent. When he is on, he is nearly unhittable, but Daisuke can become unraveled quickly. Matsuzaka will pick up at least 15 wins with the Sox this year if he can stay healthy and well-rested.
Beckett is another case of “if he stays healthy.” He earned the top spot in the rotation to begin the season, and he is arguably the ace of this staff. However, Beckett has a history of calluses and fingernail issues which the Sox cannot afford to battle.
The biggest weakness of this rotation is its depth. Clay Buchholz looked phenomenal in the spring, ranking amongst Lester in Buchholz in terms of ERA (2.52) and Ks (19). However, he has been left out of the rotation in favor of Brad Penny, a veteran battling all sorts of injuries. Penny had some shoulder soreness earlier in the spring but says he is pain-free now. His velocity is higher, and if Penny can stay healthy he’ll be a decent addition to the rotation, but it does not seem like he will last the full season without a stint on the DL.
Adding to the patchwork end of the rotation are Tim Wakefield and John Smoltz. Wakefield is an old-timer to say the least who will be most effective during the middle of the season. He still has the ability to pitch a few gems, but his glory days are over. Wake will serve more as a supplement than a impact player in the rotation. Smoltz seems to be on the team for the postseason rush. If he can get himself healthy, this will be a great addition for the Red Sox come September, but until then Smoltz will be a non-factor.
Overall, this rotation may not be enough to completely overpower that of the Yankees, but it should be decently solid barring severe injury.
The bullpen is okay and better than last year, but it definitely will not be the best bullpen in baseball. Papelbon speaks for himself and he should have another great year, but it will take the emergence of Manny Delcarmen and the re-emergance of Hideki Okajima for the Red Sox to have a solid bullpen this season. One of the biggest impact players on the 2007 World Series team was Okajima. The Sox had the insurance of not one but two suitable closers to shut the game down. Last season, Okajima was basically a non-factor. He is key to end-of-ballgame success for the Red Sox.
Manny Delcarmen needs to heat up and become a reliable reliever for the Sox to use as a bridge to Okajima and Papelbon. Justin Masterson is still developing as a pitcher, but he looked very good late last season as a reliever, so if Masterson and Delcarmen can take care of the 6th, 7th and 8th innings, the bullpen should be fine. If not, look for a trade mid-season involving Delcarmen and possibly Buchholz.
Way out in the outfield, the Sox have an exciting trio of actual players. The Manny saga is over, so the team knows what type of effort they will be getting from Bay, Drew and Jacoby on an every day basis. All three are solid fielders, and all three have moderate to good bats, so there should be mostly good things coming from these three. Again, a big question mark is J.D. Drew’s health. At times his effort has been questioned, but that will be insignificant compared to all that happned with Manny.
The lineup needs a big year from David Ortiz. Although almost every bat (excluding Varitek) is is solid, the team lacks the superstar presence they got from Manny Ramirez. If Ortiz can see good pitches and have a monster year, this lineup could do some serious damage. If not, the Sox may have to rely on Youkilis, Drew and Bay for big hits, something that this team cannot rely on every game. This lineup could either be explosive or just mediocre, so that’s another question mark for fans.
Overall, the Red Sox have a solid but not superstar team this year. Obviously, their biggest competition will continue to be the Yankees and the Rays. The Red Sox and Rays are completely overpowered in terms of talent by the Yankees, especially since the Yankees seemingly bought all of baseball this off season and greatly improved their pitching. However, the Yankees will have to suffer through the A-Rod drama this season. He will start the year on the DL, but once he comes back it will be a circus in the Bronx. That could potentially really hurt the team.
The Rays are a very solid all-around team, but their pitching staff and the Red Sox pitching staff is about equal. The Red Sox may come out as the better team over the Rays this season simply because of the coaching staff and veteran presence, but as the world saw last year, the Rays can take charge of this division.
Game time is at 2:05 tomorrow for the Red Sox at Fenway, but heavy rain is in the forecast so festivities tomorrow may be a wash. All is well, though. We have 162 more games of this left!
The Red Sox started to see this feature last year, and they’re really seeing it this year. The farn system is making a huge impact for the Red Sox at the Major League level.
Justin Masterson was the latest example for the Red Sox last night as he pitched his way to a one-run, three hit victory. Kevin Youkilis had a few golden glove worthy plays last night, Dustin Pedroia served as a human vacuum at second, Manny Delcarmen kept Okajima out of the game until the eighth, and Papelbon pitched a beautiful four-out save, preserving Masterson’s one run game and further proving the prowess of the young’uns last night.
The amount of young players on this team is outstanding. Nine out of the 25 men on the Red Sox active roster were born after 1980, and only four of eleven pitchers for the Red Sox were born before then (Javier Lopez, Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin and Tim Wakefield).
In addition to losing their “all-veteran” team reputation from 2003 – 2004, the Red Sox are able to save a lot of money by putting the farm system to use. The combined salaries of the five pitchers last night (Masterson, Lopez, Delcarmen, Okajima, and Papelbon) was approximately $3,686,000 (according to mlbcontracts.blogspot.com). Multiply that number by seven and you have Alex Rodriguez’s salary alone.
Not only are these players cheap, but they’re good as well. I’d much rather haveJus Justing Masterson on the mound than Mike Mussina. Mussina didn’t make it through the first inninng while Masterson made it through 6 1/3. Youkilis is arguably the best first baseman in baseball right now both in the field and at the plate. . Jonathan Papelbon has mad his dominance at the end of games quite clear, and Jacoby is one of the hardest players to catch stealing in the major leagues.
Looks like if the Yankees want to start winning, they should go young.