April 2009

The Bullpen Savior, and Future Saviors

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They should call him the ‘bullpen savior’, Tim Wakefield that is. Not only does Jason Varitek get an off day when he pitches, but as of late, the bullpen has gotten one as well. No wonder the Red Sox picked up his option for this year. 

He may be one of the oldest guys on the team, but he is pretty durable. He is always able to go pretty deep into games whether he is effective or not. There are only a few instances when he has really short Dice-K like outings, but that’s when the knuckleball is completely missing the strike zone, or if the opposing team is able to time the knuckleball and… hit it.   
I like when the knuckleball is dancing, and I love that I can rely on it while I am at school. I wasn’t completely resourceless though. In English class, we were in the computer lab researching the background of a novel that we were about to read. 
Computers=internet=Red Sox. 
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I opened everything that I possibly could: the live box score, gameday, and MLB.TV. By the grace of God, both Gameday and MLB.TV were working (they weren’t the other days that I had tried it). Too bad I am inept when it comes to the school computers, so I couldn’t figure out how to turn the volume down. I realized this when I heard a low mumbling coming from my computer, which happened to be MLB.TV. I quickly turned it off before my teacher could notice.
I watched the game on Gameday, and I received periodic text messages from my father as well. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to see Nick Green’s first homer of the season, since he is my project and all, but at least he finally hit it, and he wasn’t the only one.  
It only took us one day to sweep the Twins, and once again, one of my projects led the way. Jeff Bailey got the Sox to a 3-0 lead with a nice home run, in his first at-bat of the season, over the green monster. Yeah, that’s not Chris Carter, my other project. 
I’m pretty sad that Carter is being optioned to Triple-AAA Pawtucket. I feel like he didn’t get a fair chance. He only had five at-bats, four of which he struck out in. I know that isn’t very good, but if Papi says that we can’t judge him by fifty at-bats (believe me buddy, I don’t), then we can’t judge Carter in five. He didn’t even play in a full game this season. 
It’s not like we are getting short changed with Bailey though. There is a reason that he was the guy competing with Carter for the roster spot, and honestly, I would have been happy with either of them. Plus, Bailey is the veteran of the two… over 1,000 minor league games, and only 31 major league games. I know there’s no sympathy in baseball, but this guy has to be rewarded for what he has done, and I know what he is able to do. 
I’m just wondering why we couldn’t keep Carter. With Baldelli on the 15-Day DL with a hamstring problem, there’s no reason that the Sox couldn’t have Carter as the backup outfielder, and Bailey as the backup first baseman. That would have meant three projects on one team! The replacement could be a project though… perhaps Lars Anderson, though, I was thinking that he would be in AAA for at least a little while longer. Wakefield may be the bullpen savior, but my projects are in the process of becoming saviors themselves. 
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I bet you guys don’t know where I was July 16, 2007 because if you did, that would be incredibly creepy. I was at the Royals vs Red Sox game, at Fenway Park– the third Fenway Park experience of my life. A guy named Kason Gabbard was pitching that night, and I had never heard of him before that night. 
After that night, it was all about Kason Gabbard for me. He pitched a complete game shutout, and I was impressed. My project program was not established back then, but if it was, he would have been a late addition. 
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I bet some of you know where Kason Gabbard went by the trade deadline of that year. Texas. And who did the Red Sox get? Eric Gagne. Eric let-me-blow-a-save Gagne. I missed my Gabbard, and as soon as that trade happened, I said, “The Red Sox are going to regret this… he’s something special”
I lied. The Red Sox no longer have anything to regret because guess who’s back? Kason Gabbard! I know that he has struggled in Texas, but he is definitely a potential late addition project. 
Tonight is the night. The first Red Sox-Yankees game of the year, the thing that I have been waiting for–craving in fact. In honor of this sacred series, my math teacher did not give homework this weekend. In honor of this series, Julia and Scott are having an epic bet. And in honor of Julia, the Red Sox will win. 

Fantastical Meetings, Fantastic Games

My sources got back to me today about our pitching staff’s little competition. According to Melissa, the Indians are the ones that introduced us to the game. 

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My fantastical imagination wandered during my French class, and it took me to my meeting with the Red Sox starting rotation. 
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Apparently, there was still some bad blood between the Red Sox and Indians, neither of them got over the 2007 ALCS. In 2007, the mentality was: ‘If you can be good, I can get better'; in 2009, the mentality has shifted to: ‘If you can be bad, I can be worse”
I wasn’t aware of the rules though. It was only a game between Dice-K, Penny, and Beckett. Jon Lester was disqualified because he started the game too early, this was supposed to start AFTER the first start of the season. Tim Wakefield was automatically disqualified because of the knuckleball, and Justin Masterson is still not allowed to play because of his age. 
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“I wanted to motivate the offense,” Daisuke Matsuzaka said through his translator. “It was pretty quiet, so I thought that I could simply destroy the three run lead, and put us in a two run deficit,” he confessed. 
I turned to Brad Penny, who had a guilty look on his face. “I got jealous,” he began as he shook his head. “I’m the new guy here. Dice-K gave up those five runs, and I guess I just took it overboard. I didn’t even let the offense score to begin with… I just… wanted to impress them,”
“I *&^%$#@ hate Cleveland! I beat CC twice and I still didn’t get the !@#$%^& Cy Young! What the hell do they expect me to do–” Josh Beckett was cut off. 
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“I wanted to play! They wouldn’t let me!” Justin Masterson interrupted. “I was a rookie LAST year–“
Beckett glared at Masterson, and I could tell that Masterson was thankful that it wasn’t Jonathan Papelbon who was staring at him. “Anyway, these guys gave up five or more runs in their outing, and I knew that I could give Baltimore eight runs, but I only &^%*$#@ got four… !@#$^%&%&*&$^%^^&&*&…..” 
The Red Sox realized that this game was dangerous though, so they stopped playing it. Dice-K is now on the 15-Day DL with a fatigued shoulder. They tried to add an amendment to the rules that would disqualify pitchers who had pitched in the World Baseball Classic, but something changed. 
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In Sunday’s game, Jon Lester went seven innings and struck out nine– which made Josh Beckett a bit uneasy. In his Opening Day start, he had gone seven innings with ten strikeouts, but nine was just too close. Lester has motivated Beckett to do even better. 
It was great to see Lester get back into his “vintage” form, as Ian Browne called it in his article. I wasn’t worried, I was merely… frustrated. 
11 am start. On a Monday. Where was I at 11 am Monday? I had just gotten out of Chemistry, and most of you know how I feel about chemistry: badly, to say the least. By the middle of fifth period, I couldn’t take it anymore. I marched with haste to the library. 
I probably had some sort of look of determination on my face because when I came out of the library, my friend reported the score: 3-1 (at that time)
I whirled around… I needed to know more. 
“How? How’s Masterson? What about Jacoby? What about–“
“Masterson is doing OK, Jacoby and Dustin both got hits, and I think Big Papi too,”
I sighed with relief, said ‘thank you’ and marched right into the library to watch the boxscore refresh every 30 seconds. 
This lasted throughout the next period too. I was unable to watch for the next two, but after I got out of my last class, Life Skills, I marched straight over to my friends and demanded an iPhone. 
“Whoever has an iPhone, give it to me now,”
No questions asked, I got one, and read the recap aloud, despite protests from my friends. Besides Masterson’s… masterful… start, I was happy to see that Big Papi had partially broken out of his slump. I say partially only because in my book, home runs are the only remedy for slumps. And last season, in his terrible beginning-of-the-season drought, he had a few hits the night before, and the next night? Grand slam. Oh yeah, and we slammed the O’s. Just like our offense is supposed to. 
Tonight’s game may be canceled postponed delayed, but we all know that my chemistry test won’t be. Though, I do wish it would be cancelled, postponed, or delayed. 

The Competition Within the Starting Rotation

Friends, I have discovered something, and I feel the need to share it with you: The Boston Red Sox starting rotation is playing a game. 

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No, not cribbage, but Dustin Pedroia and Terry Francona play that almost everyday. Dustin always loses, and he doesn’t like losing; so I guess he takes it out on the field with his hits, diving plays, and sprawl/slides into first base.
The game that our starting rotation is playing is more of a competition: Who can screw up the most in one inning. Josh Beckett is in last place right now, he only gave up four runs in the fourth yesterday, and still came out with the lead. 
My sources have yet to get back to me, but I asked them if relinquishing the lead is in the rules. Apparently, Dice-K thought so. You all remember him giving up five runs in the first inning and relinquishing the lead. 
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Brad Penny is the winner oft his week’s edition of the game. He gave up seven runs in the second inning on Friday night. It looked pretty bleak after that, but the bottom of the second inning rekindled hope. Our offense has finally awakened. JD Drew and Jason Bay were definitely the highlights of that game. I mean, coming back from a 7-0 deficit? The last time we did that…
And our bullpen wasn’t half bad either, in fact, they were great! I love how Manny Delcarmen can go two or three innings, that is quite helpful. Ramon Ramirez picked up his first win, and Papelbon had a great ninth. Our poor bullpen has been working so hard lately. I think the game needs to end. Brad Penny is the winner. 
I was watching the Marlins game as well, and both games actually ended within seconds of each other. Both Papelbon and Lindstrom struck out their victims. 
The second game of the series, I was unable to watch. I actually went to the movies with my friends… yes… I went out during a baseball game. Crazy. Well, I wasn’t totally resourceless. I got periodic updates from my father on what was going on. 
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Kevin Youkilis had a monster game, I think he’s going to change that third place to first place for the MVP. Or at least he wants to. The guy almost hit for the cycle, and hasn’t that been done three times already this year? That’s pretty cool. I heard that Kubes of the Twins did it, and also Orlando Hudson (fantasy team.. yay!!) and Ian Kinsler did it also. 
Once again, this game is evidence that our offense is finally waking up. But my biggest fear is Big Papi. 
I really am wondering what is up with him. My father and I have speculated that his timing is all off, and he’s just not the formidable hitter he was of say, 2004. I miss that fear that he would instill in pitchers when he would come up in the ninth inning with a tied score. I want that to come back. 
I think I may need to ask Emily about this one, because she is going into sports psychology. You all know what happened with Manny last season, and I don’t really want to talk about it. 
But I think that most of us could tell that Papi and Manny were pretty much best friends. They were a fearsome 3-4 combo, and they would kind of keep each other going. 
Manny seems to be a selfish person, he doesn’t care about us Red Sox fans… believe me, we loved him too! But Papi is a very caring person, and us Red Sox fans care about him! I think his hitting drought can be partially blamed on the absence of Manny Ramirez. 
Papi has even mentioned that he would like to have some more protection, and 30 HR type of guy… but this year our offense is catered more towards small ball (or at least I think so). I have decided to make some lineup changes… well one. 
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. JASON BAY 
4. Kevin Youkilis
5. JD Drew
6. Big Papi
7. Mike Lowell
8. Jason Varitek
9. NIck Green
I might try this because Jason Bay has been hitting really well lately, and I really like the Youkilis-Drew punch. If not, I would put Drew third, Youk fourth, Papi fifth, and keep Bay at sixth. I don’t really know though. 
The Red Sox game just started, and Jon Lester just struck out Brian Roberts. Jon, the competition between the rotation is over. 

Almost, Almost, Almost

‘Almost’ seems to sum up the first nine games that the Red Sox played. Except for the two blowout games that Jon Lester just happened to pitch in, the Red Sox came within striking distance in almost every game (and by that I mean we were down by two runs or less). Those games are the frustrating ones. 

That was a pretty tough road trip, and I don’t think the late night West Coast games were much fun for anyone (except for Oakland). If I’m tired watching West Coast games, I can’t imagine how the players must be… they actually have to do stuff. 
‘Almost Game’ #1
I was ready for the second West Coast game of the series. I had finished my homework, and I was in the process of drinking my two cups of coffee. For those of you who made comments about drinking coffee on my last post, I’m somewhat addicted myself. I know, it’s bad, it stunts my growth. Maybe that explains Pedroia’s lack of height. 
The top of the first made me happy. I thought that maybe our offense had finally woken up. The Red Sox finally stringed together a bunch of hits in the first inning to score three runs, and normally, run support works pretty well for Dice-K. 
Not that night. It was one thing when the game was tied. ‘Okay, back to 0-0′ I thought, deflated. Then Dice-K gave up two MORE runs. Five runs. In one inning. I no longer felt deflated, I felt dejected. 45 pitches in one inning– that’s basically how many Wakefield had after five innings the day after. 
I was scared too, because I wasn’t fully trusting our offense yet. In the games before that night’s, we would score a run in the first, and then leave absolutely everyone on. At least we tied the game back up in the top of the fifth thanks to more hits strung together. 
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That wasn’t my favorite part of the story. My favorite part was the bullpen, especially Justin Masterson. Thank God he continued to train like a starter throughout the offseason, and during Spring Training. Whosever idea that was, you are brilliant. This man oozes versatility, and I dream about it. Of course, when he came in, I proceeded to ask um… myself: WHERE THE HELL DID DICE-K GO??? And after him, another six shutout inning by that bullpen that everyone has been talking about: the best one in baseball. 
It stayed tied for… a while. The three hour mark passed. ‘Oh crap’ I thought, ‘This is going to be a long night,’. 
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I won’t lie to you though, I did fall asleep from the bottom of the ninth to the top of the tenth. I missed Okajima’s 1-2-3 ninth. But I did wake up for Dustin Pedroia’s incredible catch in the bottom of the tenth. It woke me up. 2 AM passed, and that meant less than four hours of sleep, and I like sleeping. 
Again, I won’t lie to you. Javier Lopez makes me nervous when he’s in without anyone on base. He loaded up the bases. I don’t think I could feel my anxiety though, my exhaustion was overwhelming. There are two outs though, so I’m feeling kind of good. 
Then, a sharp grounder that bounces into the air… but my Dustin is charginggggg andddd safe. The A’s won. I stayed up until 2:30 AM to watch the Red Sox lose. 
I could barely get up the next morning, and I probably couldn’t walk in a straight line either. My friend, Kathleen (the other Red Sox fan) and I just shook our heads when we saw each other. We went over to other benches (in the area that my friends and I hang out) to go sleep. 
My other friends came over, and started talking. I told them to ‘go away’ because I needed sleep, and I proceeded to sleep every opportunity that I got. 
Almost Game #2
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Wednesday’s game was perfect timing– it was on a day that I had early dismissal, so I got home in time to see the first pitch. It’s not like I don’t get nervous when Wakefield pitches– like I’ve said, he’s either really on, or really off. Yesterday, he was REALLY on, and so was our offense. 
I noticed “it” after four innings. We had a comfortable two run lead thanks to Mike Lowell’s two run homer, and Wakefield was cruising. I looked at the score: zero hits for the A’s. 
My thoughts would not shut up. I wanted them to so badly, but they just wouldn’t. Mike Lowell made an error in the fifth that would have ruined the perfect game, which Wakefield would have had going into the 8th inning had it not been for that error. 
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The Sox even got more insurance runs in the 8th because we went through our entire lineup. I like doing that, and I hope we do it again soon. I was a very happy camper, even though I was ridiculously tired. At the beginning of the 8th inning, Don Orsillo finally talks about it. 
‘Wakefield has allowed no hits to A’s hitters through seven.’
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‘Why would you say that?’ I asked him through my computer. I know he’s an announcer, and maybe he has to… but aren’t we all ridiculously superstitious? Maybe I would be a crappy announcer, then. I would not even mention hits if I noticed it, and I would threaten my partner if they even thought about it. 
I had MLB Network on mute too, and I see a ‘Special Report’, so naturally, I turned it up. Just guess what they talked about: 
‘History may be in the process of being made over in Oakland…’
TURN IT OFF! My father and I both scream at the same time. I fumble with the remote and change the channel, only to have it go to the same thing but not in HD. I finally just turn the TV off. 
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Kurt Suzuki got the hit, and he is the one that reached on the error too. You know how Jane mentions kidnapping players over in her blog? I want to kidnap Kurt Suzuki, and I wouldn’t mind kidnapping
Travis Buck either (the guy with the walk off hit). 
There were some remarkable defensive plays during that game though. Jacoby Ellsbury had two beautiful catches in the outfield where he bounced gracefully off the wall each time. Nick Green also had an incredible catch to rob Jack Cust (?) of a hit. 
I saw MIke Lowell in the dugout in the top of the ninth semi-joking with Wakefield about that error, and I could see that he was basically saying,
“I was thinking about that error, and how it could have ruined a perfect game. I was also thinking about how Elizabeth Dreeson would have come and killed me,”
I took a three hour nap after that– caught up on my sleep, and I needed it! 

Beginning of the Season Blues

As fans, I think that we tend to expect the best from our teams, especially at the beginning of the season–it’s only natural. There have been so many predictions that I think they eventually go to our heads, and we get ahead of ourselves because we focus on the end result rather than each and every game. 

This doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with starting out at 2-5 at all, the Red Sox worst start to the season since 1996. In fact, I barely shut up about it today. I guess that’s just a mix of me being tired from staying up late to watch all the West Coast games, and trying to figure out why we can’t score runs. 
Speaking of West Coast games, it seems like the Red Sox are getting a nice early dosage of those. That doesn’t really help me get my sleeping pattern back in order after Spring Break, but the games are obviously more important to me. 
The Almost-Brawl 
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It did not take long for this game to get exciting. In fact, it started in the bottom of the first. Chone Figgins has just hit a double (I think) and Bobby Abreu was at-bat. I really dislike Bobby Abreu, but not for the reason you think. In 2004, I wanted Juan Pierre to go to the All-Star game, and it was between him and Abreu (who was on the Phillies at this time). I spent an hour voting for Pierre over and over again, but Abreu was the one who went. I never forgave him, and going to the Yankees didn’t really help his case. 
Anyway, Beckett was taking forever to make the pitch because he kept looking back at Figgins. I was expecting Abreu to call time any second now, and I bet Beckett was waiting for Abreu to call time too– maybe even provoking him with the long wait. 
But Abreu decided to wait until the last possible second to make the call, and by last possible second I mean that Beckett was already in his windup. I hate it when batters do that. Beckett ended up throwing in the vicinity of Bobby Abreu’s head, even though Varitek called for the pitch low and away. 
First of all, I think that Abreu has been in the league long enough to know that Beckett isn’t the calmest guy in the world. He’s got a temper. It’s just not wise to call time on a guy like Beckett. 
Second, anything can happen when you call time in the middle of someone’s windup. It’s not like he can stop in the middle of his windup, I cannot have this man injured for the sake of my own personal health. When a pitcher’s concentration is broken, the ball can go anywhere. 
Abreu started mouthing off at Beckett first, and you don’t want to get Beckett angry by any means. Luckily, no punches were thrown but both sides were out on the field. A few Angels got tossed including Torii Hunter, Spier, and Sciosia. And according to Torii Hunter, what upset him wasn’t something said by the Red Sox. 
Beckett was not as dominating as his first start, but I wasn’t too disappointed with the outing itself. The Sox continued to frustrate me when they could not do anything about the runners that they had on base. I wasn’t able to see the last couple of innings though, I had to go out to dinner. But luckily, my dad found Gameday on his phone, so I was able to read that JD Drew struck out looking to end the ninth. Apparently, it was outside… but I did not watch so I can’t go on a rant. 
Late West Coast Games
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Baseball games aren’t really convenient when they start at 10:05 pm. I’ve figured out my whole ‘how-to-stay-awake’ routine. Two cups of coffee and keeping the light on normally works. Plus, tweeting away my woes helps out too. 
I think I’ve figured out that Jon Lester really isn’t an April guy. I remember not being very impressed with him at the beginning of last year, but then in May… well, you know the rest. It’s not like Jon Lester isn’t talented… it’s just one bad inning that kind of takes away from the rest of the night. 
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The worst was Nomar’s home run. The best way to describe my feelings towards Nomar is “emotional attachment”. It’s hard to let it all go, especially after everything he did with the Red Sox. His first career home run in September of 1996 happened to be against the Oakland A’s. And now, his first time playing against the Red Sox he hits a home run as a member of the A’s. 
And as Ian Browne pointed out in his blog, it was a bit eerie seeing him and Orlando Cabrera playing on the same side of the field. For those of you who don’t know the story, Orlando Cabrera was the shortstop that replaced took over for Nomar. And the Red Sox have never had a solid shortstop since. 

The Morning After
I probably came to school today with the most desolate look that I have had since the Red Sox lost the ALCS. Kathleen, the only Red Sox fan friend I have at my school, and I raved and raved about being 2-5. We wrote a haiku, and created our own lineups during classes. 
First period math today, I was forced to talk about the poor start to the season. I reported the scores to my teacher, and told him about Nick Swisher pitching (which I find hilarious, by the way). 
“How did the Red Sox do?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Another person in the class offers to look it up on his phone, but it’s not like I need him reciting the grim box score out loud. 
My teacher claims he is going to look it up anyway: “Fine. It was 8-2″ I conceded
“Oh, I see why you didn’t want to talk about it. Nomar hit the home–” 
I sighed… Nomar, Nomar, Nomar. I am sorry. 
Suspensions
I found out after school today that Beckett got suspended for six games, for throwing at Abreu’s head. I don’t remember Joba Chamberlain getting suspended for six games after throwing at Kevin Youkilis’ head. In fact, I don’t even remember Youkilis charging the mound. And I don’t remember Terry Francona being difficult and refusing to go back to the dugout the way that Mike Sciosia did. 
Two cups of coffee again for me tonight, but hopefully I’ll be able to report happier news to my first period class tomorrow. 

Opening Week Thoughts

After Josh Beckett’s stellar performance on Opening Day, I was excited to see what the rest of the pitching staff was going to offer. I can’t say that I was thrilled with the three games that followed Josh Beckett’s, but I can say that I’m optimistic for the rest of the season. It is obvious that the Red Sox are still coming together as a whole, and transitioning from the Spring Training atmosphere to the regular season atmosphere. But as Kevin Youkilis pointed out, I’d rather be off to a slow start than have a bad finish. “There are bright things to come”. 

I was very excited for Wednesday’s game because I knew that it was going to be a pitcher’s duel. Those always keep me on the edge of my seat, even if they are a bit nerve racking. It seems to me that Lester and Kazmir serve the same purpose on their respective teams– dominant lefties. Then again, when I was in Tampa last year I did see Kazmir pitch nine straight balls. It was quite a game until around the fifth inning where the Rays exploded for four runs. I bet Carlos Pena’s home run was pretty “deflating” as Jon Lester called it. I’m trying to remember the situation, but maybe he could have put Pena on instead of pitching to him at a 3-1 count. Then there was that really weird play where Jason Bartlett had that suicide safety squeeze or whatever you call it. Poor Lester looked so lost, but at least these looks of confusion are happening at the beginning of the season rather than the middle. 
Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez looked good that game, and Takashi Saito did alright after giving up that home run on the second pitch. As soon as he gave up that home run, I thought back to that game in 2007 where Okajima gave up a home run on his very first pitch. Frustrating for sure, but then he was completely dominant the rest of the season. Perhaps there will be a similar pattern to Saito’s performance this year. The main thing that I noted about Lester though was that he wasn’t really hitting his spots. He would shake off Varitek a lot and after the first two innings, the command just wasn’t really there. If I was a pitcher on the Red Sox, I wouldn’t shake off Varitek too much. He definitely knows what he’s doing. 
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The final game of the series offered another great matchup between Matt Garza and Dice-K Matsuzaka. I swear, Matt Garza looks and acts like a snake. His tongue is always out! Whenever Dice-K pitches, I’m always a nervous wreck. This time, it wasn’t because he walked the bases loaded, he only walked three. His command wasn’t really present and he gave up three home runs.
My incessant hunger became overwhelming as I watched this game, and I needed something to munch on. Eventually, dry roasted peanuts and sunflower seeds became available. Pretty good baseball food. The more nervous I became, the more inclined I was to munch, but for the most part I was able to restrain myself… until Justin Masterson loaded up the bases in the top of the ninth. Luckily, Jacoby Ellsbury squelched my anxiety as he made a beautiful running catch.
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The next night, the Red Sox played the Angels… the first game the Angels would be playing after the tragedy. That game, I wasn’t as compulsively rooting for the Red Sox as I usually do. I was comfortable with watching a good baseball game, and I was comfortable with the fact that the Red Sox lost. There were much bigger things going on that night than winning and losing. I did rush home though, and I was the one driving so it was a lot easier to put the pedal to the metal and run those yellow lights that may have been transitioning into red. I made myself coffee because I tend to have trouble staying awake for the West Coast games, especially in a dark room. 
It must have been hard for Jered Weaver to pitch that night. I didn’t even realize until after the game that Nick Adenhart was supposed to move in with him that Friday. Weaver had 8 strikeouts in 6.2 innings, and as he walked off the mound, he pointed to the sky. That was beyond baseball. 
Brad Penny started the next game (yesterday’s) and even though his command wasn’t totally there, he still looked pretty healthy, which made me happy. I started watching this game in the third inning because I was at my grandparents house and I didn’t really expect the game to be on TV. If Brad Penny was feeling healthy, than that’s pretty good news because he will be great to have on the rotation if he is healthy. His velocity was up there, so for a guy coming off the worst season of his career, I would say that he did pretty well.
The offense finally woke up during this game. After the very first game where almost everyone got a hit, a few people fell off the radar. Kevin Youkilis was basically on fire until yesterday (still hitting .526 though) and Jacoby was just starting to wake up and get on base. Unfortunately, Pedroia and Big Papi haven’t been producing much. Big Papi is definitely due to say the least. Jason Bay came out of the gate swinging so that has made me pretty happy. Especially for a guy who generally has a pretty crappy April. I think that Mike Lowell is starting to wake up too. And where is Jed Lowrie?? He had a monster Spring, and here I am waiting for him to transition. I hope that he and Papi have big days today. 
Jonathan Palebon gave me a heart attack in the bottom of the ninth inning. First the home run to Torii Hunter, and then the bases are loaded. My grandparents are laughing at me as I bury my face in my hands and peek through them. Howard Kendrick hit something like seven foul balls in a row. Papelbon claimed to be “giggling” but I sure wasn’t– not with the bases loaded. My mother came over wondering what was going on since I had promised her that it was one more out five minutes ago. 
“Are you bad luck?” I asked somewhat accusingly as she came over. Last time she was near the vicinity, Papelbon had walked a guy, and we were not walking in the tying run. Luckily, she wasn’t bad luck, and Papelbon miraculously got out of it. I was able to breathe again. 
Last game of the Red Sox vs Angels series coming on in a little while. Can’t wait to watch Beckett pitch again, and I kind of want to see Chris Carter in this game. 

At a Loss for Words

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Last time I posted, I was at a loss for word to describe my feelings about Opening Day. Today, I am at a loss for words to try and describe the feelings I am experiencing right now. A feeling almost opposite to what I was feeling only a few days ago. 

I was literally watching a live look in of Nick Adenhart’s six inning shutout of the Oakland A’s when people started tweeting about his death. I tried to convince myself that it was a horrible rumor in some tabloid in LA, but the people I follow on Twitter wouldn’t make something like this up. 

I was in shock, I didn’t want to believe that something like this could happen. He was only 22 years old, and the number one prospect in the Angels organization. He had just walked off the mound after probably the best start of his career just a few hours before, and now his bright future is only ‘what could have been’ rather than ‘what is’. His life was just beginning, and it was unjustly taken away by a despicable drunk driver. 
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It is times like this that us baseball fans have to rally together, and support the Angels organization. We need to put aside the rivalries, our affiliations with teams, and just mourn this “fallen angel” as some have appropriately deemed it. Angels fans or not, it is times like these that we realize that we are all baseball fans, and that this tragedy affects the sport as a whole. 
It is times like this that we realize that the people that we idolize are just like us. Unfortunately, they are not the super human beings that we see them as. They are mortal, and are susceptible to tragedies. Watching the press conference was heartbreaking as a baseball fan. To see Scott Boras, the toughest man in baseball, a man who I thought was virtually inhumane, cry as he tried to convey what Nick’s parents had to say was just earth shattering. 
It is never right for a parent to bury their own child because along with it they have to bury their own hopes and dreams for their child, as well as the child’s hopes and dreams, and NIck’s dreams were just coming together. Nick had Tommy John surgery in high school. For most pitchers that is detrimental to their career, but it seems to me that Nick worked endlessly to reach the mound that he was standing on Wednesday night. And although he was killed, I am glad that he lived his dream. 
Even though I did not know much about Nick at all, his death deeply saddens me. I think that tragedies really makes people put things into perspective. Everything can be taken away so quickly, and so it is imperative that we live up to our potential everyday, the way that Nick did. 
And in the midst of this tragedy, it is important for the Angels organization to get back on its feet. I may be a Red Sox fan, but I hope that the Angels win tonight for Nick. I think that anyone who is a fan of baseball should root for the Angels tonight. Does that make me a bad baseball fan because I want the Angels to win for Nick? 
As Jen put it, baseball may have lost an Angel, but heaven gained a great one. 

Indescribable Feeling

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We had all waited a really long time, and I’m not sure about you guys, but in general I hate waiting. Baseball was worth the wait. Spring Training was the longest it had even been, but we waited. I didn’t realize how deprived I was. I guess the withdrawal symptoms simply subside after a while. But as soon as Fenway Park appeared on my television I let out a squeal, my eyes teared up, and a shot of adrenaline ran through me. I wish I could put what I was feeling into words, but I can’t. I think that we need to come up with a word that describes the feelings that baseball evokes in us, because I’m getting pretty frustrated without one. 

Feeling this way, it was tough watching the game on FSN rather than NESN. I didn’t get to watch the pre-game ceremonies, nor did I get to watch the reserves coming through the stands. 
I saw the starting lineup come through the stands, and I really liked the fact that they actually came through the stands. It made the baseball players seem more tangible even as baseball itself becomes less and less tangible. They all looked so happy to be there, but at the same time, they knew that they would be there since day one of Spring Training. I wanted to see the look on Chris Carter’s face, my project. He didn’t know that he was going to be there, so that must have been unreal for him. 
I had almost gone over to my friend’s house to watch the game, but I declined knowing that 
a) She doesn’t like baseball, and I didn’t want to force her to sit through a game for three hours. I can’t concentrate on converting people on Opening Day for obvious reasons.
 
b) I don’t really need my friends to see the way I am during a baseball game. They already think I’m obsessed, I don’t need them to think I’m crazy too. I was actually on the phone with one of them during Jason Bay’s first at-bat, and I was talking to them a bit absentmindedly. 
“THAT WAS NOT A STRIKE!” I suddenly called out (the ump had called it a ball, but a bit too slowly for my taste). My friend proceeded to laugh.
“Elizabeth, is anyone at your house?” she asked.
“No…” I replied
“So, you’re talking to yourself?”
“I’m talking to the umpire, Mindy!”
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When I watch baseball, I tend to be under the impression that I am the umpire, and that my calls are the right calls. I try and find ways of calling defensive interferences on the other team on routine groundouts, every Red Sox pitch is a strike. Don’t worry, when I’m watching other games, I can be completely objective. And I’m working on my “I-totally-control-every-aspect-of-the-game”. 
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Josh Beckett made me really happy [insert that non-existent word here]. I loved his first pitch strikes, and I loved his ability to work quickly through most of his innings. Ten strikeouts in seven innings. Do I have to say anything other than dominance? He helped the Red Sox show the Rays who’s boss. And speaking objectively as possible, I think that he had the best start out of all the pitchers on Opening Day. 
Overall, I was very happy with the Red Sox performance that day. Almost everyone in the lineup had a hit except for our dear leadoff man, Jacoby Ellsbury. I’m not TOO worried though. It’s not like he struck out every single time. He did get SOME wood on the ball, but it only went as far as Akinori Iwamura. I loved seeing Pedroia’s home run, but I was especially happy with Jason Varitek’s home run. As they were introducing the lineup, I loved hearing “and behind the plate, our captain, Jason Varitek”. 
After Papelbon wrapped that game up, I finally obliged and went to my friend’s house. 
“Elizabeth, you haven’t been out of your house for days!” she told me. It’s hard to handle the truth sometimes. 
“Andrea, Monday night, yesterday and today were all very sacred days!” 
“You’ve done nothing but watch baseball for the past two days! COME OVER!”. Well… the Marlins WERE leading the Nationals 8-0, so I didn’t feel that bad. 
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I did give them a fair warning at the end of February though. Like Jane, I do schedule everything around my team. And according to my friend, I’m planning my life around them. But she meant that in a good way because after all, I am planning to become a sports writer. 
So just because the Red Sox showed the Rays who’s boss yesterday, it doesn’t mean that tonight is going to be easy. I mean, we’ve got Lester vs Kazmir tonight, and Rocco will be making his first start in center field with the Red Sox. 

Baseball is Back

Although I am upset that the Rays vs Red Sox game was pushed tomorrow, it is only because I want my real Red Sox baseball back. Believe me, I don’t want Josh Beckett pitching in the rain. He’s already injury prone enough, and who knows, maybe blisters are more common in rainy conditions. Plus, this gives me a chance to provide an offensive breakdown of the Red Sox plus my thoughts on Opening Night/Day.

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Opening Day/Night
Okay, so I wasn’t at home when Brett Myers threw out the first pitch of the season. But I was listening to it on the radio as I tried to convince my mother to ignore the speed limit and stop signs. But I was able to see the first hit of the 2009 season– Chipper Jones’ single to left field. I witnessed the first home run of the season, and Jordan Schafer’s first home run ever… in his first at-bat in the major leagues. Little did I know that I was witnessing the first pitching gem of the 2009 season. I thought that Derek Lowe pitched beautifully, and I’m pretty sure that the Braves don’t regret signing him on as their ace. It made me miss him more than I already do, but I understand why the Red Sox didn’t go out and aggressively pursue him. 
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(credit: minor.mlblogs.com– great pic!!)
I got my hair cut today… and I made sure that my appointment was in the morning so I wouldn’t even miss Aaron Harang’s first pitch. I realized that I had gotten my hair cut the day after the Red Sox lost the ALCS. I was blinking back tears at the loss of the season, and the potential loss of Jason Varitek. And today, I was bouncing with optimism, until of course I found out that the Red Sox start would be postponed until tomorrow. Nonetheless, I was still pretty happy about baseball being back. I know, weird how I can remember that but not whether or not the bonds of carbon dioxide are polar. 
I have watched at least a part of every baseball game today, and as I write this I am listening the Cubs vs Astros game. I saw Johan Santana and Kevin Millwood pitch beautifully, I smiled as CC Sabathia struggled against the Orioles, and I saw the incredible Marlins game.
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Emilio Bonifacio had an inside the park home run… and he was so fast! The first inside the park home run on Opening Day since Carl Yastrzemski in 1968. Oh, and Hanley Ramirez… just my number one draft pick on my fantasy baseball team… hit a grand slam! 
A Brief Offensive Breakdown for the Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury: The thing with Jacoby is that his speed can really change the game. He went through some ups and downs last season, but overall he was pretty good for his first full season in the Majors. I think that he needs to be more confident at the plate, he watches a lot of pitches. And believe me he has a great eye and everything, but he could be a little more aggressive
Dustin Pedroia: I am completely confident that this guy can put up very similar numbers again this season. I can’t really critique much with him… he’s doing everything right. 
David Ortiz: The biggest question of course is: can he get healthy? I think so. In fact, I think his numbers will be similar to 2007. I think he feels a lot better this year, and he looks a lot more comfortable when he swings. I think that he also has to stop worrying about having another 30 HR bat behind him. The Red Sox aren’t about home runs this year, I think they’re going to go a bit more down the small ball route this year. 
Kevin Youkilis: Again, with Kevin Youkilis, there’s not much I can critique. He is an all around great ball player, and I love the way he approaches the game. Just one thing though… he could take it a little easier when he strikes out :)
JD Drew: Drew had a great season last year, much better than the 2007 one. I said this a while ago, but I’m pretty sure his son was ill in 2007, and that probably distracted him a little bit (I don’t blame him). I’m pretty sure that his son recovered by 2008, and his numbers really improved. I’m very comfortable with having him in right field as well. 
Jason Bay: I’m not too concerned with Jason Bay either (I love not being concerned). He adjusted to Boston really nicely, and to October baseball as well. In fact, it looked natural for him. Opening Day shouldn’t phase him either :)
Mike Lowell: I am very optimistic about Lowell. As I watched him throughout the Spring, that look of pain on his face was gone. Like Ortiz, he looked much more comfortable with his swing. And he’s really not that old… he’s only 34. I am very glad that the Red Sox decided to pass on Mark Teixeira. When he’s healthy, Lowell is not only a good hitter, but he can also make some crazy plays over at third. 
Jed Lowrie: I think I found him on Twitter… I think. Did you even happen to glance over his statistics this Spring? He was hitting the crap out of the ball, and oh yeah he hit a grand slam at Citi Field the other day. I think that confidence is key for him too since he is still young.
Jason Varitek: I don’t know if you guys realize this, but I had so much fun typing his name just then. It re-emphasizes the fact that he is back on the Red Sox. I think that his bad season last year wasn’t just because he is getting older. I am pretty sure that he was going through a divorce, and I’d guess that it wasn’t that easy. Now that it’s over, I am fairly confident that his stats will increase a little bit. And if he hits .220 again so what? I love having him behind the plate… his experience and knowledge are priceless.
Chris Carter: Now I know that the games against the Mets weren’t REAL games. But they were about as close to real games as you get. And in that game, Chris Carter did pretty well. I honestly think that he will provide better offense than Mark Kotsay will. 
Nick Green: Like Carter, I don’t think that Nick will be phased by the majors beca
use he has actually played in them for a significant amount of time. Granted he didn’t do that well, but he did have an impressive Spring. He is my project, therefore he will do well. 
George Kottaras: So he didn’t have the best offensive season last year in AAA. The fact of the matter is, he can catch a knuckleball, and he can throw to second pretty well. The Red Sox offense is pretty deep, we don’t need catchers who hit for really high batting averages. 
Rocco Baldelli: I really liked this acquisition. He is the perfect guy coming off the bench because I think any team would be lucky to have him as an everyday player if he could play everyday. Since he just can’t play everyday, being a player off the bench is exactly what he needs to do. This will allow him to stay healthy and maximize his skills. 
Overall, we have an offense that can match any team, and the lineup goes pretty deep. Obviously the guys to keep your eyes on are Lowell and Papi. As far as minor league players go, keep your eyes out for Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick (mainly Lars Anderson though). 
I can’t wait for our Opening Day tomorrow! 

2009 Red Sox Pitching Preview

I guess I could just give you guys the same predictions that everyone else has… but I don’t really want to do that. I’m going to break down each position, and briefly look at every player. Tonight, I want to look at pitching. I’ll tell you guys how I think their 2009 season will be, and what they will need to do to either come over the 2008 woes, or maintain their 2008 heights. 

Starting Pitching: This year, the Red Sox have some familiar faces in the first four slots for the rotation. The only thing that is different is their fifth spot– they didn’t just hand it over to Clay Buchholz like they did last year (not that they had much of a choice). In fact, despite an impressive spring, Clay won’t even be starting the season with the Red Sox! During the offseason, the Red Sox picked up Brad Penny and John Smoltz. Sure Brad Penny is no CC Sabbathia, but he can sure matchup with AJ Burnett pretty well. And John Smoltz may not be in the prime of his career, but I think that he has some words of wisdom that he can pass down to the guys. Justin Masterson could have filled the fifth starting spot very nicely, but I’ll tell you guys why I think he’ll work out very nicely in the bullpen. 
Josh Beckett: We all know that Beckett has the stuff that can put him in the realm of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, but whenever he is injured, he spends so much time recovering, that he isn’t really that dominant. Luckily, Beckett will be starting the season with the Red Sox, and Opening Day for that matter. In 2007 he went 20-7, and in 2008 he went 12-10. So what happened? I agree with the people who have said that he was catching up to himself that entire year. He got injured during Spring Training so he didn’t have a lot of time to get into his rhythm. When he was ready to return, he was thrown right out into a high pressure atmosphere. Guys need Spring Training… just look at Jake Peavy! 
Jon Lester: Lester’s comeback from cancer story is really nice and inspiring and all, but honestly, it’s time to get over it, and he thinks so too. He has said that he wants to be known as a pitcher, not the kid that came back from cancer. Nonetheless, every time he pitches I’m sure we’ll be hearing the story. Anyway, we saw what this guy could do in 2008, his stuff is lethal. Not to mention the fact that he has added a changeup to his arsenal, and oh yeah his performance in the playoffs. There are two things that he needs to remember, and that we need to remember about him.
1. He cannot get overconfident with himself. In the ALCS, everyone had penciled him in for a win because of his performance in the ALDS. I think we let ourselves get a little to confident, and I think he got a little too confident. He needs to focus on executing his pitches, not the fact that statistically, he will probably win this game.
2. He is still really young, so he is still growing. We can’t expect him to be perfect. He’s going to go through some ups and downs. Luckily, he has got Jason Varitek behind the plate, and John Smoltz for some guidance. 
Daisuke Matsuzaka: Dice-K obviously performed really well last year: going 18-3 with an ERA under 3.00. The thing is, he wouldn’t usually go that deep. And the reason that he wouldn’t go that deep: walks. I know that he has a remarkable ability to get out of jams (that he creates with his walks), but I would much rather him try to impress me by going into the seventh inning more often. When he would only go five innings last year, that would put extra stress on our not so deep bullpen. This year, if he can go a bit deeper, and put not so much stress on our much deeper bullpen… well, wouldn’t that be a lot better? 
Tim Wakefield: Everything is better at 62 mph right? Well, that is until the batters time down the knuckle ball and start hitting it all over the place. The good thing about Wakefield is that he can go pretty deep into games. The uncertain part is that he is either on or off… there is very little middle ground. Some nights he’ll have great command, and other nights it’s just not there. Still, it is really fun to watch Wakefield baffle hitters with that knuckleball. 
Brad Penny: The fact that he was 6-9 last year definitely reduced his free agent worth. On the other hand, in 2007 he went 16-4. AJ Burnett on the other hand was one of the must valuable free agents out there. Yet if you compare their numbers, I’d consider them equals. 
John Smoltz: I honestly am not really sure as to how John Smoltz’s numbers will be this season. His role is obviously quite similar to what Curt Schilling’s was supposed to be last season. So where the heck is he going to fit into the rotation when he returns in June? Good question, because I have the same one. I don’t think that the Red Sox would put him or Brad Penny in the bullpen because they could both serve very effectively as starters. So could the Red Sox have a six man rotation? This could work out very well when various injuries start happening throughout the season. 
Bullpen: Last year, the bullpen tended to be a problem for the Red Sox. This year, it could be what makes the difference in October. With some very nice additions this bullpen could be considered one of the best in baseball. 
Manny Delcarmen: This guy definitely improved last year, and I think I had under appreciated him in past years. Last year, he appeared in 73 games (74 innings) with a 3.74 ERA. I don’t really consider him a set up man, but I love having him as a true middle reliever. 
Javier Lopez: He is another one of those guys that is either totally on or totally off. So sometimes, I start pacing my living room when he comes in. I see him come in for only one batter a lot, but that’s because he is a lefty specialist. He pitched great in the World Baseball Classic, and I think I underrate him too because his highest ERA in a Boston uniform is 3.10. 
Justin Masterson: I am so excited to have him here for Opening Day! Last year, he showed us that he can be effective both as a starter and a reliever. So why isn’t he starting then? If he gets the fifth slot, than where would we put Brad Penny? Brad obviously has more experience as a starter, and Justin honestly makes a difference in that bullpen. In the postseason, I loved having either Okajima-Masteron-Papelbon, or Masterson-Okajima-Papelbon. I think he’ll have a really nice year in the bullpen. 
Hideki Okajima: Although Okajima was not as consistent last year as he was in 2007, he still did pretty well. Like I’ve said, inconsistency is bound to happen, and I still think that he can be really effective this year. The good part is, we won’t have to rely on him that much seeing that we picked up Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito. 
Ramon Ramirez: An extra set up man for the Red Sox! He was the set-up guy for the Royals, and he had a great season last year. I know that he has the stuff, but from what I’ve not
iced this spring, he just needs to maintain his command. The biggest thing will be the transition from Kansas City to Boston. There is always a lot more scrutiny and attention in places like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, but as long as he stays focused, I’m not concerned. 
Takashi Saito: So this guy posted some pretty spectacular numbers as a closer for the Dodgers, and now he’s coming to the Red Sox just as a set-up man? That’s pretty awesome. But I think that we can still use him to close some games–in fact, I think that we should. At the end of last season… the very end, I’m talking Game 7 of the ALCS… Papelbon wasn’t even available to pitch. He was worn out, and I think we used him way too much throughout the entire season. I’m not saying that he and Saito should split time, but if Papelbon has been working a lot, I think that Saito is definitely qualified to close out a game. 
Jonathan Papelbon: We all know that Papelbon is a very dominant guy, but he did blow a few saves last season. In fact, he blew two in a row. I remember thinking that he needed some rest! We work this poor guy to death (not that we had any other option). But now, I feel much more comfortable that we have guys that will be able to fill in when he needs an off day. Papelbon obviously has a great mentality, so he definitely needs to maintain that, and if he does, I think that he will have a great season. 
Keep your eyes open for: Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and Daniel Bard. I think that we will see all of them throughout the entire season. Also, keep tabs on Junichi Tazawa’s progress. 
Offensive/Defensive preview to come either late tomorrow, or early Monday!! 
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