Tagged: Jason Varitek

Start of the off-season.

First off, how do you spell off-season? Off season? Off-season? For that matter, what about power play? Is it power play, power-play or powerplay?

Anyways, ADD moment of the day behind us, the World Series ended six days ago and the Red Sox have started making player/personnel moves. About a month ago, after the Red Sox gracefully left the playoffs (play-offs? play offs? playoffs?), I highlighted some key free agents/player moves for the Red Sox. Here’s what I said, and here’s what has happened so far:

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.

The Red Sox did not pick up Gonzo’s option, but they are trying to sign him for less money. Theo tried and failed to pick up J.J. Hardy from the Brewers, and I’m not sure Hardy would have been great in Boston anyways. He batted .229 last year, but the real interest in him comes from his performance the year before when he .283. He has potential as a 20+ home run hitter, but in a market like Boston where there is always pressure to win now, I’m not sure he would have thrived. I think the Red Sox should attempt to bring Gonzalez back on a $3-4 million per year, 2 or 3 year deal. It’s cheap, provides some years, and brings back a player who has shown that he can perform well enough in Boston.

Tim Wakefield: Wakefield is scheduled 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.

I think the Red Sox just made a mistake on Wakefield. They just signed him on for two more years. He will make $3.5 million this coming season, and $1.5 million next season, and he has incentives based on number of starts and innings pitched. Granted, with the knuckleball, it seems like Wakefield can pitch forever. However, he is turning 44 next season and there is no solid proof that his back will be able to handle another two seasons of baseball post-surgery. Perhaps if they had signed this deal in February or March after he had really worked out and gotten himself into season shape, I would not be so doubtful, but I just do not believe that Wakefield can endure the stress of the season at his age.

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.

The Red Sox made a huge move yesterday regarding Varitek. They declined Varitek’s player option and announced Victor Martinez will be the starting catcher in 2010. Varitek can still come back to the team on a $3 million player option, which, if he wants to play for the maximum amount of money, he should probably do. Varitek will not find that type of money anywhere else. The bottom line is that Varitek is an aging catcher who is not starting to decline, but rather is deep in the throes of the end-of-career drop-off. If Varitek wants a starting catching job, he will go elsewhere, but I don’t know what team would pick him up as a starting catcher. It would be best for Varitek to just call it a career and come back as a coach. This is painful to watch, and though I love Varitek, he cannot throw out runners, hit, or catch the way he used to. It’s time for him to say thanks for the memories and gracefully bow out.

Today should be an interesting day in Red Sox Nation. If Varitek does not make a decision today, he will make one in the next few days, so expect an announcement on him soon. The GM meetings are in full force, and Cashman is already making statements about how the Yankees are the “team of the decade” purely because they won in 2009. I guess the failures of 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and the missed playoffs in 2002 and 2008 mean nothing when you win the last World Series of the decade. Cashman also mentioned that history means nothing, it’s all about the here and now, so I guess we won’t be hearing anything about 27 World Series championships from the Yankees. Good to know.

Have a great week, all!

Start of the Off-season

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.jpgpicture from mysportsrumors.com

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_gonzalez2.jpgpicture from sonsofsamhorn.net

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.

images.jpgpicture from stonephoto.com

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.

9_rocco__1235082952_2719.jpgpicture from boston.com

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.

images-1.jpg picture from trueslant.com

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.

Mike-lowell-on-rt.jpgpicture from armchairgm.com

Mike Lowell
: Lowell’s contract is not up after the season, but his declining health and numbers make him a palatable release or trade bait.

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.

wagner_0831.jpgpicture from projo.com

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

41__1255295173_5150.jpgpicture 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.

Red Sox Season Preview

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! 

What I do during the “offseason”

Since the Red Sox are still planning on not bringing a catcher to Spring Training, and not a whole lot of interesting things are going on with the team, I’d figure that I’d share here what I do while not obsessively updating myself on all things Red Sox.

Contrary to what the top of my blog says, I’m not 17 anymore, and I am now in college. I’m enrolled at a school with a great journalism program as well as a top notch sports team. 
We don’t have a football team here, and our basketball team is basically failing at every expectation people had for it. So what sport am I talking about?

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Hockey.
College hockey is great, and most people don’t even know about it. My school’s team, the Boston University Terriers, are ranked #2 in the country, yet they are very rarely broadcasted on television.
Nevertheless, hockey is huge here. People flock from all ends of campus to fill Jack Parker Rink at Agganis Arena, and game time is full of all sorts of rituals and traditions that our fan base, The Dog Pound, carries out even when the team is facing the weakest of foes. 
This past weekend, the Terriers faced the Boston College Eagles, the defending NCAA champions and our biggest rival. This rivalry between BU and BC is intense, a history that stretches far back to the beginning of college hockey and is renewed each year, even when the faces of the teams change. 

I’m sure many people have heard of Boston College. They supposedly have a fantastic football and basketball program, yet from what I’ve seen of those sports this year, BC is in a little bit of trouble. Anyways, we at BU hold a few grievances against BC, injustices that fire up our fan base every time our Terriers take the ice. 
  1. Contrary to popular belief, BC is neither in Boston nor a college. The campus is located in the Chestnut Hill area of Newton, Massachusetts, and BC is considered a university. Thus, we here at BU find it quite appropo to call them Newton University.
  2. BC stinks. Sure, they may have won an NCAA championship last year, but really, what do championships say about a team. I mean, the Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl this year. Do I consider them a legitimate football team? No. There are such things as flukes, or aberrations. Whichever you prefer.
  3. The so-called Superfans are actually Super Frauds. These children can’t even buy themselves hockey jerseys to wear to games, and when The Dog Pound mercilessly teased them on Saturday night when BU killed BC, 5-2, these “fans” neglected to even respond. I call that lame.
Anyways, now that we’ve established the basics of BU hockey, I guess there’s the question as to why, as a baseball aficionado, love hockey. 
Hockey, both NCAA and NHL, doesn’t have the largest audience or the largest fan base. As such, I have found that the game isn’t quite as corrupted as other sports. Hockey is a clean, quiet game that often speaks through what happens on the ice. Some people may have heard about Sidney Crosby, but can any non-hockey fan identify an extremely controversial player in the NHL? With the NFL, everyone knows Pacman Jones, Plaxico Burress, Tom Brady etc. MLB has A-Rod, Jeter, Manny, Sabathia. The NBA has Kobe, Shaq, Paul Pierce and others. 
The point is, most other sports are in the news no matter what, year round. Hockey isn’t that way. Hockey, to me, seems to be untouched, separated from the widespread egomaniacal personalities that fill sports pages across the country. Hockey is a clean game, a clear territory, an hour in which teams give everything they have on a field of ice and leave that to speak for itself. It’s competitive, it’s intense, it’s refreshing.

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So, during those long, cold months when the Red Sox are busy screwing the team over for the next season (Sign Tek!), you can often find me either at Agganis Arena or the TD Banknorth Garden, watching my team duke it out against opponents you’ve probably never heard of with players whose faces you don’t know. 
It’s truly a great game. 

Letters to Theo

Dear Your Highness Sir Theo Epstein,

Let me first congratulate you on your signing of Master Kevin Youkilis for four more years. I am quite ecstatic to see that Sir Sweaty-Head will be manning first for years to come. Also, it was very nice of you to allow Mark Kotsay to return to your lovely team.
However (and please, do not feel insulted by my respectable and humble request), I and perhaps other Red Sox fans would be overjoyed if you decided to sign an everyday catcher before New Season’s Eve (when pitchers AND CATCHERS are due to report to Ft. Myers).
Now I understand you do not want to deal with that horrific character, Lord Scott Boras, and if you neglect to sign Jason Varitek, I will be deeply hurt yet understanding. Still, I feel that a catcher is a very important part of the team. This player carries out the all so important duties of catching the ball to prevent wild pitches, throwing out aberrant Yankees players at second base, calling games and making plays at the plate. Although you have bolstered the ball club with the likes of Master John Smoltz, Brother Rocco Baldelli and others, I still feel that this team would perform significantly better if there were a catcher.
Thank you for taking into account my yeoman’s request. I appreciate your time. 
Yankees suck forever
– Subject A