Dear your sir highness Theo Epstein,
The last time we corresponded, I believe I expounded the importance of a catcher to a baseball team. You took my advice last time and signed Jason Varitek, and then you continued to improve the catching situation by trading for Victor Martinez during the season. Both Varitek and Martinez will continue their tenure with the club this coming season.
Thus, please know that I do not believe you must still acquire a catcher. From my understanding, an upcoming deal between the Red Sox and Rangers is in the works. You plan to send my love, soul and cherished third baseman, Michael “Mr. Double” Lowell to Texas in exchange for some minor league catcher named Max Ramirez. Additionally, you plan to eat much of Lowell’s $12 million contract in order to do this.
I am fully aware that our good friend Mikey’s hip is not the most . . . stable joint around, but I still do not think this warrants a trade for a minor leaguer whom we will effectively be paying millions of dollars for. Perhaps you are confusing the name “Max” with the name “Manny.” This fellow from Texas is not, indeed, Manny Ramirez, and thus I don’t see why he is worth all of this money. Sure, he performed well in single-A and double-A ball, but this kid has only played in 17 major league games (where he went 8-46) and hit .243 at the triple-A level. Is he worth almost $12 million as well as a clubhouse leader? I fail to see your logic here, although I am sure, as you seem to be a prodigal general manager, that there must be some logical explanation.
While there are whispers about Adrian Beltre, who would definitely be a more longtime improvement over Lowell at third, the focus this off-season should be on our good servant, Jason “J-BayBay” Bay. Why waste money on getting a catcher (when the team already has two) or a third baseman (when the team already has one) instead of acquiring a highly touted outfielder (which the team lacks)?
You answered my queries last time we spoke with appropriate action, and I hope you can do the same with this humble request: stop the Lowell trade, or do something that will redeem you of what looks to be a huge judgement error.
Yankees suck forever and always,
Thanksgiving is over and we are now in the throes of one of my favorite times of year: Christmas season! I’m Jewish, but there’s nothing like some good Christmas music, the giving spirit, and hopefully some snow to put a girl in a good mood.
Unfortunately, December means the hot stove is heating up as well. Yes, I said unfortunately. I love the idea of getting new guys, but I hate seeing guys go, and I hate the rumors that accompany the hot stove. I am very, very attached to my boys. It’s always a bad day for me when someone leaves the Red Sox.
This year, JBayBay (it is imperative to call him that) is a free agent, and though the Red Sox did offer him arbitration, there is a very real possibility he could walk away from this team. It will take a lot of money and a good amount of years to sign JBayBay, and Theo isn’t well known for those types of contracts. Theo has, however, made it clear that JBayBay is his top priority.
See, despite the fact that he’s a Canuck, JBayBay is just a phenomenal human being who has earned a special place in my heart. First of all, his name can be skewed to sound like that Hurricane Chris song A Bay Bay (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4tnlRQGyH0). Additionally, he loves hockey, especially the Bruins. Third, he’s a great team player, quiet and productive. Fourth, he’s JBayBay. He can’t leave me. It’s not allowed.
I’m incredibly busy right now with the final two weeks of my fall semester. My mother has made it clear that anything below an A- will be unacceptable. If I had been conscientious enough throughout the semester, this should not have been a problem, but I’m unfortunately a slacker, so I’m racing to catch up in these last seven days of classes. I’m hoping that if I ace my finals, I’ll be able to get As in every one of my classes, but I have to worry about acing them in the first place so it’s going to be great.
I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving and is doing well. Enjoy the season and people of Boston, cross your fingers for snow!
Now that I have pulled myself away from the edge of the Zakim Bridge, it is time to begin off-season fodder.
I knew the Red Sox would not win the series against the Angels. I was optimistic in thinking that they would at least make it to a Game Five, but the truth is this team was as good as done once they went 8-13 in their first 21 games post-All Star Game. The issues against the Angels (a spotty bullpen, no hitting, shaky starting rotation) were all problems that every Red Sox fan saw throughout the season. The Angels were a better team and had more drive last week. The Red Sox looked dead.
Boston.com, in an attempt to get Bostonians past Papelbon’s blown save, posted a survey about hot issues for Red Sox management in the off season. I voted on them there and I’ll explain them here.
Jason Bay: The Red Sox can either re-sign Bay or pursue a different free agent.
The Red Sox’s top priority this season should be finding a way to re-sign Bay. Though not often reflected in statistics, Bay was a catalyst for the Sox this year. When he was hitting well, the Red Sox were hitting well. He has a great arm and is adapting to the Monster very well. The Red Sox would also be hard-pressed to find a teammate of his caliber elsewhere. Bay is relatively quiet, never causing controversy and never having problems with teammates. He strikes out pretty frequently, but I would much rather take a player who strikes out all the time than a player who grounds into double plays. If the Red Sox do not re-sign Bay, they will miss out on a great chance to get a quality, well-rounded player who will definitely help the team make the postseason next year.
Alex Gonzalez: The Red Sox can pick up Gonzalez’s $6 million option for next year, try to re-sign him for less money or pursue a different option at shortstop either internally (Lowrie, Green) or externally.
I think it was a mistake to let Gonzalez leave Boston in the first place. Gonzalez is not anything great at the plate, but his defense more than makes up for his offensive deficiencies. Gonzalez is a sure-handed shortstop and performed well. Theo Epstein does not have a great history with shortstops, so with any new shortstop, there will be a lot of question marks entering the season. The Red Sox should attempt to sign Gonzalez for less money if at all possible, but should not get hung up on that avenue. Pick up his option if he refuses to take less money for more years.
Tim Wakefield: Wakefield is schedules to have back surgery this postseason. The Red Sox have infinite one-year options for him. Wakefield could also retire or join a different team.
I think the Red Sox need to wait it out on Wake. Unless his back problems completely disappear for at least a few months, they should not re-sign Wakefield. There are a few starting pitchers in the minor leagues (work on Bowden) and some quality pitchers the Red Sox could pursue trades for that are more dependable and less injury prone than Wakefield.
Jason Varitek: The Red Sox can pick up his $5 million team option, welcome him back under his $3 million player option, watch him go elsewhere or invite him back as a coach.
I love Jason Varitek and he has been my favorite player for years now. That said, he is in the midst of a steady decline. Catchers have shorter careers, and at 38 years old by the start of next season, there is no reason to believe that Varitek will improve or even maintain his status quo. He has been abysmal at throwing runners out at second and cannot hit consistently well anymore. Varitek is, however, fantastic with pitching staffs and fellow catchers. Victor Martinez has done nothing but talk about how helpful Varitek has been for him. The Red Sox should encourage him to retire and return to the Red Sox as either a pitching or catching coach for next season.
Rocco Baldelli: The Red Sox can either sign him to a one-year deal, multi-year deal or let him walk as a free agent.
Baldelli is a great story, but not a great baseball player. His mitochondrial disease forces him to take a lot of time of to recover from strenuous activity. The Red Sox need a more durable fourth outfielder who can maybe spend some time platooning with J.D. Drew and adds more speed on the bases.
David Ortiz: Ortiz has $12.5 million left on his contract. The Sox can either keep him as the DH, platoon him with a first or third baseman, or release/trade him.
The Red Sox should keep Ortiz as is. The fact that he was able to reach 28 home runs and 99 RBIs is incredible after his horrific first three months of the season. Ortiz is not the same hitter as he was in 2004/2005, but he is still a difference maker for this team. There is no reason to change anything when the team has more pressing issues to deal with.
The Red Sox should maintain the status quo with Lowell as well. His range is not as good as it has been, but he is still capable of making Sports Center worthy
plays and is a double machine. Lowell can get on base and drive in runs for the Red Sox, a glaring failure for the team in the ALDS. The Red Sox need to focus on pitching, not players like Lowell who are still very effective.
Billy Wagner: The Red Sox could theoretically pick up an $8 million option for next year for Wagner, but they promised the reliever they would not do so before trading for him. They could re-sign him in a different contract or send him on his way.
This is not even a question. Wagner is gone. He was not overly impressive, he is getting old, and he even admitted that he would probably retire. I hope he enjoys retirement and I wish him well.
Issue not addressed by Boston.com
picture from boston.com
Jonathan Papelbon: After Papelbon blew a save to end the Red Sox’s postseason, many people in Red Sox Nation suggested that perhaps it was time for him to become a Yankee and for Daniel Bard to step into the closer’s role. The Red Sox own Papelbon’s rights through the 2011 season. They could sign him to either a one-year or multi-year deal or go to arbitration.
Unfortunately, one of Papelbon’s worst outings the season ended the season. Papelbon had a very good year, par for the course for him. He made 38 saves in 41 opportunities, improving over last season’s 41 saves in 46 opportunities. He ended the season with a 1.85 ERA. The Red Sox would be making a huge mistake by letting him get away. Papelbon is one of the elite closers of his generation and is still in his prime. Daniel Bard is still inexperienced and could use another year of study under Papelbon in order to become even close to a Papelbon-caliber pitcher. There is nobody in the Red Sox bullpen I would rather give the ball to, and I would have given Papelbon the ball every time in a Game 3 elimination save. Pitchers lose. Unfortunately, Papelbon lost at the wrong time. That, however, is no justification for trading him. It is important to look at the whole picture, not just one outing.
If I were Theo Epstein, I would keep Bay, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Lowell and Papelbon. I would say goodbye to Varitek, Wakefield, Wagner, Baldelli and half of the bullpen. I would be willing to trade Michael Bowden, but definitely would not trade Daniel Bard. I would also see that Daisuke shows up ready to pitch or else I would release him in Spring Training. The Red Sox really need to focus on pitching this off season, and it would be great if they could add one more solid bat to the lineup.
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!
So I have been glued to my computer and ESPN/NESN all day long and just now am hearing and pretty certain that Manny Ramirez has been traded to the LA Dodgers for Jason Bay and others.
Please allow a moment of tears.
Now that I am trying to get over my emotional attachment to Manny Ramirez, it’s time to analyze.
Do I think the Red Sox have gotten a better player? No. It’s pretty hard to match Manny’s ability on the field. What I do think is the Sox have gotten a player who can help the team more than Manny can. I can’t imagine what it must feel like as a teammate to deal with someone saying, “the Red Sox don’t deserve me,” or “I can’t play today” constantly for a month. Yeah, he can’t be replaced at the plate, but at the same time all the intangibles he brings to the game are less than desirable. At times, I’ve felt that Manny has been able to leave his issues off the field, however, at other times I think he has affected the team negatively (re: August/September 2006, the past few weeks)
Now it is coming through via Nick Cafardo that Hansen, Moss go to Pittsburgh along with Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris and the Dodgers would get Ramirez while the Sox get Jason Bay.
This seems like a lot to me, and although Hansen hasn’t been great, Moss has been fantastic. To trade three players to two teams and only get one in return? I wouldn’t do it, but Theo has made some gutsy moves in the past. I would hope that the Sox are at least getting a pitching prospect . . . is there anyone else that thinks the Sox bullpen sucks as is right now?
Now reports are coming through that the Sox are also paying $7 million to also get rid of Manny. As much as Jason Bay will be great and I’m glad that Jason Bay won’t go to the Rays, the Sox basically are taking him like leftover laundry in order to get rid of Ramirez.
NESN is already showing graphics of Manny in Dodger blue and Bay in a Sox hat. I’ve done some research on Jason Bay and he seems pretty good . . . 140 home runs, 454 RBIs, had an off year last year but seems to be rebounding this year. We’ll see come Friday I guess.
Welcome to the Bay State, Jason Bay!