Tagged: Red Sox

Offensive Reawakening? Drinking Controversy.

My blog will be doing double sports duty today, as of course there is plenty to talk about with the Red Sox, yet there is also a controversy on my school’s hockey team involving two players who have now been kicked off the team.

We’ll start with the Red Sox first.

After getting embarassed by the Orioles, the Red Sox have now taken two games from the Angels while showing the pitching talent Theo Epstein had promised in the off season. Buchholz was good enough on Monday night, departing the game in the sixth with a 7-4 lead, and Lester threw a gem last night, holding the Angels to one run on five hits through eight innings.

On Monday, the Red Sox batters actually looked like batters, exploding for 17 runs on 20 hits, highlighted by a seven-run sixth inning. Seven players had multi-hit nights. Mike Lowell went 4-for-4 in the DH spot with three doubles and four RBIs, Kevin Youkilis was on base five times, J.D. Drew went 4-for-5, and Dustin Pedroia, Youkilis, Adrian Beltre and Bill Hall all went yard.

It looked good.

Last night, the Red Sox struggled a bit more at the plate, but they were able to hit when it counted, batting around in a four-run eighth inning en route to a 5-1 win.

But keep this all in perspective. The Angels have the third worst pitching staff in all of Major League Baseball, besting only the Pirates and the Diamondbacks. They have the worst pitching staff in the American League. The Red Sox are still below .500 27 games into the season, and they have a tough weekend ahead of them against the Yankees. This success on the mound and at the plate will be good for the Sox’s confidence, but I still think it’s too early to think this team’s problems are solved.

And now, we move to what is being dubbed “St. Patty’s-gate”.

As some of you may know, I attend Boston University. Here, hockey rules all. We don’t have a football team or a baseball team, and our basketball team isn’t quite an elite force yet.

Our hockey team, however, has a legacy of domination. We won the national championship last year, and have won 29 of 58 Beanpots. Whenever something happens with the hockey team here, it’s big news.

So consider this. On St. Patrick’s Day, two days before an elimination playoff game that BU lost, at least four players were out drinking. Two were underage. The hockey team has a rule that players who are of age are allowed to drink only on Saturday nights. March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, was not a Saturday night.

In a subsequent bike ride that was punishment for breaking team rules, at least one of the players who was drinking on St. Patrick’s Day, 20-year-old Vinny Saponari, showed up late.

Yesterday, almost two months after St. Patrick’s Day, Vinny Saponari was kicked off the hockey team. He told the school paper that he was being dismissed for breaking team rules and then showing up late to the bike ride.

Corey Trivino, another 20-year-old player who was drinking that night, was suspended from the team. Victor Saponari, Vinny’s older brother who is of age and was also involved, was also kicked of the team for what BU coach Jack Parker called cumulative behavior unbecoming of a Boston University hockey player. Adam Kraus, a fourth player drinking that night who is also of legal age, has not been punished to date. Vinny Saponari was the only player of the four in the line-up for the playoff game two days after the drinking incident.

It’s a sad turn of events for BU hockey, as both Trivino and Vinny Saponari are valuable forwards on the team. The punishments seem to indicate that Vinny Saponari had to have done something drastically worse than Trivino, yet no information has come out yet on what that might be. The timetable also seems a bit sketchy, as it is now almost two months after the original event occurred.

I’m keeping an eye on this story as it continues to develop, but meanwhile, I’m trying to focus on the Sox’s offensive improvements and the Bruins’ playoff run. Until next time,
-A

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Pressure Rising

I’ve been optimistic about the Red Sox all season long. I’ve promised friends and family that they will hit. I’ve promised rivals that they will make a run for a World Series title. I’ve promised myself that I will trust in Theo’s plan.

But today, the Red Sox dropped their fourth straight game. They are 4-8, four games below .500 and in fourth place in the division. They have only won one series all season. This is the worst start for the Red Sox since 1996, when they went 2-10 through their first 12 games. The Sox finished the season that year at 85-77, good enough for third in the AL East behind the Yankees and the Orioles.

Yes, the Red Sox are not scoring runs. In worse news, the team that was supposed to be about run prevention is about, well, run allowance. They are ninth in the American League with a 4.05 team ERA, and eleventh in the AL with a .981 fielding percentage. They have given up nine unearned runs in 12 games. Their supposed weakness at the plate is actually their strong point, as they are sixth in the AL with a .260 team batting average.

They have seven errors in their last five games, and have recorded at least one error in four straight games. Mike Cameron, who was supposed to be ridiculous in center field, dropped an easy catch last night. While I understand that he had a kidney stone, if he couldn’t play, he wouldn’t have.

Victor Martinez, who was supposed to be an improvement over Varitek behind the plate, is practically handing over the job to the captain. He’s currently batting .244, Varitek is hitting at a .444 clip. He’s 1-for-14 in caught stealing. While Varitek is 0-for-8, 1-for-14 isn’t much of an improvement.

And then there’s the pitching staff. Oh, the pitching staff. The Sox are supposed to have one of the best rotations in baseball. In reality, Lester, Buchholz and Wakefield are all struggling. The three combined have given up 21 runs in their last 21.1 innings. Prior to his last start, Beckett had been struggling as well, earning a 6.17 ERA over two games while only striking out five batters.

To say it has not been going well in Boston is an understatement. Yes, injuries to Ellsbury and Cameron have thrown the Red Sox a little bit off track, but they are not devastating enough to cause the Red Sox to go 4-8.

Frustrations is already mounting in the clubhouse. Pedroia told reporters last night that the Sox are throwing away games they should be winning. Nobody is hitting in big situations. Fielding has not been great. Pitching has been mediocre.

So where do they go from here? Is it time already for a line-up shake-up? Do they try to work out a trade? Part of me says that it is still very early in the season, but the team seems to just be getting worse instead of getting better. Could one player really make a difference here?

I think what the Red Sox really need to do is some serious soul searching. They need to decide to play tight and to play hard. If they can find a groove where they start winning, rhythm could start to do some work for them. It’s definitely time to re-examine their game plan, but I don’t think one trade would make a huge difference. Lester must figure out what he needs to do to pitch better, Varitek might need to play in more games to put pressure on Martinez to play better. J.D. Drew needs to start hitting. The Red Sox need to start trying harder.

For now, things just look bleak.

The Red Sox through eight games: What we have learned so far

Eight games into the 2010 season, the Boston Red Sox are exactly even. They’ve won four games, they’ve lost four games, and we’ve seen some early indications of what the rest of the season might look like. So, what have we learned so far?

Well, for one, the Red Sox can hit. This may have been the biggest concern amongst Bostonians, and while the Red Sox certainly have played in a couple of games where they could have used a few more hits, they have shown that they do have the capability to score runs.

In each of their four wins, the Red Sox have scored six or more runs. On the flip side of that, the Red Sox have yet to win a game in which they have scored less than six runs. This, to me, is more surprising than the fact that they can hit. All offseason, we’ve been hearing about “run prevention”, yet the least amount of runs that the Red Sox gave up so far this season came in the final game against the Yankees, when the Yankees left Boston with a 3-1 win.

What does this mean? The pitching staff isn’t quite there yet. Early in the season, it’s really difficult to assess a pitching staff. They have not yet gotten into a full rhythm, and most of what6-papelbon__1271285969_8402.jpg you see in April is not too indicative of what a pitcher will do over the course of the year.

Yet the bullpen does seem to be a concern. Three of the four Red Sox losses were charged to relievers, and they were charged to the Red Sox’s “best” relievers at that. Okajima took the loss after giving up an eighth inning go-ahead run to the Yankees on April 6th. Papelbon gave up two runs in the top of the tenth the next day. Bard gave up a two-run single to Rick Ankiel in the bottom of the eighth inning on April 9th, blowing a 3-2 Red Sox lead.

While this may be yet another example of early season pitching, the Red Sox don’t have much room for error in the bullpen. Ramon Ramirez has been terrible for the Sox. He’s made three appearances in 1.1 innings of work and has earned a 33.75 ERA. Scott Schoenweis has been okay so far, but at 36 years old, he’s a liability to break down at any moment.

Then there is J.D. Drew, hiding in the shadow of David Ortiz’s batting struggles. Drew is batting just .167, garnering four hits in 24 at-bats. Want to know who else has only four hits on the season? Yes, that would be David Ortiz. Drew is second on the team with strikeouts (10) and is tied for second-to-last on the team with seven total bases. Aside from his one home run, Drew has three singles, and none of those singles have helped the team. His two RBIs come from the home run.

But with every negative, there is a positive. At least for me, Jeremy Hermida has been a great surprise. With Jacoby Ellsbury out of the line-up for the rest of the road trip, Hermida has gotten four starts in left field. He’s made his presence felt.

Hermida is 5-for-14 on the season and has six RBIs. Last night, Hermida hit a three-run double in the eighth inning to help propel the Red Sox to a 6-3 victory. As Ellsbury recovers from bruised ribs, and with a new Mike Cameron abdominal strain, Hermida will continue to see action in the outfield, and the Red Sox have to be excited about what he can do.

The Red Sox will be playing in the rubber game of their opening series against the Minnesota Twins today. Tim Wakefield will be on the mound looking for his first victory of the season, and the Red Sox will attempt to improve to over .500. And, only eight games into the season, anything could happen today. 

picture from boston.com

Opening Day

Ah Opening Day. It’s one of the best days of not just the baseball year, but the year in general. It’s the day that baseball starts again, and it’s the day when anything is still possible.
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I’m lucky enough to go to college in Fenway’s backyard, and I was even more lucky this year to actually score tickets to Opening Night for $47. Yes, that’s right. $47. I even had seats for that price, and pretty good seats, too, right in the middle of the infield grandstand on the first base side of the field.

I had a great time even though I couldn’t eat anything since it’s still Passover. The Red Sox, of course, rallied to win the game, making my night pretty sweet. Here’s some of my assorted thoughts from the festivities.

  • The improvements to Fenway this season are all very nice. The walkways in the grandstand seemed bigger and more even to me, which made getting to my seat nicer. I didn’t use the bathrooms, but my friend did, and he said they’re pretty cool. Behind home plate, the Red Sox built a new bathroom area away from the concession stands that is easier to get to. Apparently, the mens’ bathrooms have waterless urinals, and my friend said they were very nice. Behind home plate, the Red Sox revamped the concession stand at the top of the grandstand, and it’s now a lot less congested and completely open so it doesn’t get stuffy in there. I was able to get my $3.75 water much faster than usual.
  • The 5-year-old Herb Brooks impressionist is my favorite small child ever. His performance absolutely blew my mind, and when he said “Screw em,” Fenway Park went nuts. Perhaps we should thank him for the Red Sox rally.
  • I was once again reminded of how good Red Sox fans can be when Mike Lowell received the longest and loudest of the night. I know it’s tough for Lowell to be here, but I hope the fan appreciation makes it a little more bearable for him.DSCN4704.JPG
  • Johnny Pesky tipped his cap to the Yankees when he was announced before the game, and the Yankees all tipped their caps back at him. It was a nice moment reflective of the history and respect in the game.
  • Josh Beckett must have been overeager to ink his new 4 year deal after his outing last night. He could not get his curveball working at all. Let’s hope these early season jitters disappear soon.
  • If I were a Yankees fan, I would be very concerned by the pitching staff. C.C. was good until he reached 90 pitches, and I wasn’t sure why Girardi took so long to pull him. That alone cost the Yankees a few runs. Then, when the Yankee bullpen came in, I got my answer. The relief pitching was horrific last night. There is nobody in that bullpen who intimidates me, Rivera included. The Yankees’ starting rotation isn’t so deep either.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by how well Schoenweis pitched last night. When Tito brought him in, I thought he was waving the white flag. Let’s hope this continues.
  • There’s no way Marco Scutaro is 5’10.
  • The Red Sox lineup validated my theory that they will score more runs than people expect. While they don’t really have a big homerun bat (Ortiz is really slowing down), they have a lineup that can get singles and doubles and steal bases. Singles score runs too.
  • I don’t understand why Steven Tyler chose to get so drunk before singing God Bless America. He was embarassing, staggering, and slurring. That was more of an awkward moment than a nice moment.DSCN4749.JPG
  • Does Neil Diamond know how to sing anymore? He did a nice job saying Sweet Caroline, but his performance left me wanting the taped version instead.
  • It sure was nice to go to an early baseball game in April and only have to put a sweatshirt on in the fourth inning.
  • I can’t wait to see more from this team.
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Boston Sports: A Study in Struggles

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            2007
was a hallmark year for the top two sports teams in Boston. The Patriots went
16-0 and fell one David Tyree drop away from perfection. The Red Sox, of
course, won their second World Series of the decade. Since then, both teams
have headed for the cellar.

            On
Sunday afternoon, when the Patriots were walloped by the Ravens, they showed
that their capabilities this season revolved around dominating weak teams while
choking or falling to good teams. They lacked talent on defense and a
versatility on offense (the Moss/Welker pair does not count as an abundance of
options) that ultimately put them in their place: on their sofas watching the
playoffs.

            Last
season, the Patriots lost Tom Brady in the first game of the season and still
went 11-5. While that’s all well and good, a team with a 16-0 record the
previous season should be able to win with or without their quarterback. The
Patriots fell short of the playoffs, but instead of raising expectations for
this season, they engaged in a series of inexplicable moves.

            Matt
Cassel’s performance in Brady’s absence was excellent for his stock, yet the
Patriots ended up trading not only him, but also Mike Vrabel for draft picks
that they subsequently traded away. They also traded away all of their first
round picks and passed on highly touted linebackers the team so desperately
needed.

            By
the time the Patriots showed up to training camp, they were missing Richard
Seymour, leaving only Vince Wilfork as a big name on defense. There was no
talent there, and while Belichick is a defensive-minded coach who does have the
capability to build himself a defense, he simply didn’t give himself enough to
work with.

            The
Patriots seem to be in the throes of rebuilding a championship caliber team,
yet they have not taken that last step in finding enough talent to lead them to
glory for unknown reasons. The prices cannot be too high. After all, the Kraft
group just built a majestic shopping plaza in Gillette Stadium’s front yard. So
why the mediocrity?

            Similarly,
since winning it all in 2007, the Red Sox seem unwilling to pay or acquire the
type of players necessary to bring baseball glory back to Boston. During the
summer of 2008, Manny Ramirez forced his way out of Fenway, so the Red Sox
brought in Jason Bay as a replacement. Bay was phenomenal in Boston, the kind
of quiet, team player that everybody needed in the aftermath of the Manny
circus.

            Yet
removing Manny from the roster meant the lineup card would be missing the
hugely important intimidating bat. The Red Sox had a bunch of players who were
good, but none capable of greatness the way Manny was. Ortiz has watched his
numbers drop over the last few years, and while Youkilis, Pedroia, Lowell and
Bay are good hitters, they do not have the power to change the course of any one
game with a single swing of the bat.

            During
the off-season after the 2008 post-season (where the Red Sox played above their
capabilities before eventually falling to the Tampa Bay Rays), the Red Sox
refused to spend the money to upgrade their team. Why? I could not tell you. All
I know is that the Red Sox began the season with a mediocre line-up, a
question-mark-filled pitching rotation, and a shaky bullpen. They exited the
season in much the same way.

            A
line-up where most of the power is coming from J.D. Drew? No thank you. Jed
Lowrie and Julio Lugo platooning (until Julio was traded and Lowrie was injured
. . . again) at short? Shoot me now.

            This
off-season, the Red Sox are starting to spend money. They acquired John Lackey,
Adrian Beltre and Mike Whoever-he-is, which is an improvement over last year,
but they still have not found that much needed bat for their lineup or a
bullpen that looks like it can hold a lead.

            Perhaps
this is just a play-off loss hangover, but it seems that the winning ways from
the first half of the decade are but a distant memory. Sure, I’m lucky that I
was able to witness so many championships in such a short time, so I shouldn’t
complain, right?

            I
wouldn’t complain if I saw a good reason for both teams to low-ball it
financially and put together a half-hearted roster. The Patriots and the Red
Sox have the resources to do more, attract better players, coach stronger, yet
neither team is fully taking advantage of those resources.

            If
I felt the NBA had any redeeming qualities, perhaps I would just move on to the
Celtics, yet I don’t foresee much basketball-worshipping in my future. I guess
for these next 36 days before Spring Training starts, I’ll dwell on my fan-hood
misfortune.

            Wait.
It’s an even numbered year . . . olympics or bust!  

Beltre!

Standing at a $165 million payroll, $5 million below the luxury tax cap, there have been questions abound about whether the Red Sox will continue their hunt for players like Adrian Beltre and Adrian Gonzalez. Theo Epstein and Co. answered those questions in a big way today by coming to terms with Beltre in a 1-year, $9 million contract with a second year option.

The Red Sox had a mediocre lineup last season. Losing Manny Ramirez meant losing an explosive bat in the lineup that Jason Bay, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia could not recreate. While Beltre has not come close to replicating his 48 home run season in 2004, he does have the potential for a 20 home run season or more every year. His 8 home runs last season were a bit of an aberration, especially considering he was playing with injured shoulders and a torn ligament in his thumb. Beltre also hits home runs heavily towards left field, so he is sure to make friends with the monster.

Beltre brings quality defense to an already defensively strong team. If the starting infield consists of Youkilis, Pedroia, Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre, the Red Sox will have four golden glove caliber players right behind the pitcher. Beltre’s most glaring weakness on defense is his tendency to not wear a cup.

The years and money could not be better for the Red Sox. $9 million is a decent price for a statistically declining Beltre, who earned $13 million from the Mariners last year. A second year for Beltre is worth even less, which works well for both parties. If Beltre does not improve this season, the Red Sox will only owe him $5 million should he choose to stay next season. If Beltre does improve, he can earn more money either here or elsewhere, giving him the incentive throughout the season to perform at his very best.

The Red Sox also escape an awkward situation with Mike Lowell. Casey Kotchman has not yet proven himself as an improvement over Lowell and Youkilis at the corners, but with the Red Sox foiled attempts to trade Lowell, it’s clear that Lowell does not figure heavily into their plans for 2010. Yet starting Kotchman over Lowell would be unwarranted, as Lowell did prove himself as a solid player when healthy with the Red Sox, even earning the 2007 World Series MVP honors. With Beltre, however, the Red Sox have a more defensively sound, younger, and somewhat healthier starter who is statistically comparable to Lowell over an extended period of time. While the Sox could try to trade Lowell again, not too many teams will jump at the chance to sign a player who has already failed one physical and has had an increasing history of injury. Now, the Sox can use Lowell off the bench more legitimately.

Overall, the Beltre signing, if he passes his physical, can only mean good things for the Red Sox. Sure, they will exceed the luxury tax threshold, but based on comments from Epstein, Henry and Warner throughout the off season, that seemed to be the plan all along. Beltre may just be the final check on the check list for the Red Sox’s winter shopping.

Letters to Theo 2009 Edition

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,
Subject A