Results tagged ‘ Clay Buchholz ’

The Ultimate Breakdown of the Red Sox Offseason

Hello dear readers, it has been a while, and I would just like to apologize for my lack of a presence (this always seems to happen). I’ve had exams, and I’ve been focusing nearly all of my energy on resurrecting my physics grade. So since my last entry, a lot has happened. I’m not here to catch you up, because you can read about the signing on your own. I’m here to analyze what these moves mean. 

The end of the 2009 Red Sox season was disappointing to say
the least. Of course, the feat of simply making the playoffs is something to be
proud of, considering there are 22 other teams who don’t. But when the offense
becomes anemic in the first round of the playoffs, and your closer blows the
lead that would have stopped you from getting swept, it’s disappointing. I
think that there were a lot of lessons that the Red Sox learned over the course
of the 2009 season, and there is certainly a lot to improve upon.

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I
think that the Red Sox learned that signing proven National League veterans
coming off injuries isn’t too promising. It is clear that the American League
is significantly more powerful than the National League (just look at the
All-Star games for the past decade). I understand what Theo Epstein was
thinking last season with the low-risk, high reward mentality, but the fact of
the matter is that it is nearly impossible to make the transition from the
National League to the American League. Brad Penny and John Smoltz struggled
constantly in every single one of their starts, and it was disappointing. It
was even more frustrating that as soon as they returned to the National League,
they pitched wonderfully. This is not something that could have been
controlled, but I think that the Red Sox learned their lesson. So what did they
do to solve this problem? They went out and signed the best free agent pitcher
on the market, John Lackey.

Just
take a look at the rotation that the Red Sox have now. I don’t know what the
order will be yet, but we have Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Clay
Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Tim Wakefield: six quality starters. I think
that the signing of John Lackey cleared a lot of things up for the Red Sox this
offseason. First of all, this gives the Red Sox a lot more flexibility when it
comes to trades. At the beginning of the offseason, the Red Sox were at least
thinking about pursuing the power-hitting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. At the
beginning of the offseason though, trading Buchholz and a couple of prospects
was not really an option for the Red Sox; with the acquisition of John Lackey,
it is. I’ll get to the whole Adrian Gonzalez thing in a little bit though.

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The
Red Sox certainly allocated the majority of their money towards the acquisition
of Lackey. A five-year, $87.5 million contract doesn’t leave much room for what
would be considered another major acquisition in Jason Bay. I thought that the
four-year $60 million deal that was offered to Bay was quite reasonable. I
don’t think that he is worth more than that, and I’m glad that the Red Sox
aren’t simply throwing money at him. I suppose that he has a reasonable amount
of flexibility though considering he is one of only two premier left-fielder
free agents on the market. Understanding this, the Red Sox went out and signed
a quality outfielder in Mike Cameron. Believe me, I know that he is no Jason
Bay, but it’s not like he is bad. He could possibly split time with Jeremy
Hermida (remember that acquisition way back when at the beginning of the
offseason?), and I see this signing as a temporary quick fix.

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The
Red Sox have three solid outfield prospects coming up in the next few years.
Some of you may remember Josh Reddick from either Spring Training, or some of
the appearances he made in the Majors this year. There is also Ryan
Westmoreland and Ryan Kalish. These three guys are the reason that the Red Sox
were hesitant to throw money and years at Jason Bay. Keep your eye out for
these guys during Spring Training and the minors next season; they’re going to
be big.

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The
infield seemed pretty solidified with the acquisition of Marco Scutaro a few
weeks ago, but everything was almost shifted around when the Red Sox were
looking to trade third baseman Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers for catcher Max
Ramirez. I know that Mike Lowell is getting old, and I know that the number of
games he has been able to play has been limited due to nagging injuries. But he
still competes. He is still on the highlight reels, he still makes those
amazing grabs at third base, and the man hit .290. To be completely honest, I
think that the Red Sox use him as a scapegoat sometimes. They blame some of
their failures on Mike Lowell’s injuries. It was hard for me to be completely
objective about this Mike Lowell trade since he has been one of my favorite
players growing up. I think he represents everything about baseball that is
good, and that is important during these days in which baseball is constantly
plagued with scandals. I am glad that the trade didn’t go through because I
didn’t like the thought of paying $9 million for a guy that doesn’t even play
for us anymore.

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The
fact that Mike Lowell did not get traded shifts a few things around as well.
Had he gotten traded, the Red Sox had a few options. They could have gone after
free agent Adrian Beltre, a third baseman from the Seattle Mariners. His asking
price is a bit high, so the $3 million the Red Sox would have saved from Mike
Lowell’s contract would not have done much to help, especially with the recent
signing of John Lackey. The Sox also could have moved Kevin Youkilis across the
diamond and had Casey Kotchman, a nearly impeccable defensive first baseman,
playing full time at first. Now that Mike Lowell is staying, the question is
where he will play. I still think he is a perfect capable third baseman, so I
don’t think that the Red Sox should have him experiment with playing first
base, a position he has never played in his 12-year career. Perhaps he could
serve as an intermittent designated hitter, but I think that he is most
effective when he is contributing on the field. I know there is reason to be
skeptical of Mike Lowell’s defense, especially since he needs thumb surgery. I
think the best course of action is to see how Mike Lowell looks during Spring
Training, and go from there. If the Red Sox are still interested in trading
him, they can try again next year.

The Red Sox are obviously focusing on pitching and defense,
especially the latter considering the Red Sox were ranked second to last as far
as defense goes. I find it interesting that they look to trade Lowell because
of his supposed lack of defensive range, even though his worst defensive year
with the Sox was 2007, when injuries were not a concern. I really think that
everyone needs to have more faith in him.

I think that the Red Sox have been really smart this
offseason in not offering huge contracts to players because we have so many
guys in the farm system, and that system is something that we have absolutely
no reason to doubt. Think about it: we signed Scutaro for two years, Cameron
for two years, and Wakefield for two years. In two years, guys like Jose
Iglesias, the outfield prospects I have mentioned, and Casey Kelly will be
ready.

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Back
to Adrian Gonzalez. This trade is certainly something we should consider, but I
don’t think we should consider it this winter. Let’s let this defensive
makeover play out, and if we need an offensive-pick-me-up, fine, let’s trade
for Adrian Gonzalez at the trade deadline next year. He could be what Victor
Martinez was this year. The only down side to this is that we would have to
give up a lot for talent like his, and Jed Hoyer, the new GM for the Padres
isn’t going to give him up for nothing. After all, he did work with Theo
Epstein for a while. What would the Red Sox have to give up? Clay Buchholz has
been in rumors forever, and more recently, so has the star center fielder,
Jacoby Ellsbury. Much as I may not like trading Buchholz after everything that
he has done, and all of the potential that he clearly possesses, the Red Sox
have the flexibility to sign him. The thing that concerns me more is Jacoby
Ellsbury. I thought that Epstein has made it clear that Ellsbury was our center
fielder of the future. 2009 was a big year for Ellsbury because he developed
into a prototypical leadoff man, and continued to be a fabulous defensive
center fielder. Not to mention stealing home against the New York Yankees. This
is why I think the Red Sox need to wait on trading for Gonzalez: we don’t want
to over or underestimate our potential. 

The Sizzling Stove

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When
the last pitch is thrown, and the last out is secured, most people believe that
baseball season is over. They sit in the darkness of their living rooms and
watch the rapturous celebration on the field, even if it isn’t their own team because they are savoring the last moments of the season. Normally I enjoy watching
teams getting their turn to celebrate, but this was obviously not the case this
year. I refused to watch the Yankees take their 27th championship. I
knew it was over as soon as Mariano Rivera was brought in. He is, without a doubt,
the greatest closer of all time, and I have no problem admitting that even as a
Red Sox fan. I try my best to be an objective and respectful baseball fan, but
I just couldn’t bear watching the Yankees celebrate because I just don’t do
self-torture.

Anyway,
I feel like most baseball fans turn off the television, sit there for a second,
and think to themselves: ‘Now what?’ We sink into the baseball fan’s proverbial lent. It may be a bit different than the traditional lent since we don’t willingly give up baseball, but it’s a sacrifice nonetheless. They might pick up another hobby, and let
baseball slowly slip into the back of their minds; we need something to distract something from the offseason blues. If not, we make sink into depression considering the lack of baseball becomes as dormant as the
winter, yet the interest always blooms just when the flowers start to, and
baseball season returns.

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That’s
not me. As soon as the postseason ended, another season began: the Hot Stove
season. Winter may be imminent, but baseball is certainly still the predominant
presence in my life. My hobbies? This blog, and incessantly refreshing every
Hot Stove source I can find. The leaves don’t fall off of my tree of baseball,
it is kept warm by my Hot Stove: the rumors that swirl around teams and
players, the drama that Scott Boras causes… I’m almost as anxious as I am
during the regular season.

There
certainly are some premier free agents out there this Hot Stove season (what is
this ‘offseason’ people keep speaking of?), but what keeps me up late at night
isn’t only my English homework, it’s how the Red Sox fit into this complicated
puzzle. There is a multitude of things that the Red Sox could do to improve
upon, even though they had a commendable 2009 season. I am briefly going to speculate
on each aspect of the team (starting pitching, relief, offense, defense) and
speculate on what we can improve upon, if any, and what to look for in the
future.

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Starting Pitching: At
the beginning of the 2009 season, the starting pitching rotation was considered
one of the Red Sox’s strongest assets, if not the strongest one. However,
Dice-K’s lack of proper preparation, the failure of Penny and Smoltz to pitch
effectively in the American League, Wakefield’s back woes, and Beckett’s
relative inconsistency combined to make a strong starting rotation on paper struggle throughout the course of the season. So what is there to improve
upon? We don’t need to be concerned about Jon Lester considering he was
phenomenal from May-September and we inked him to a six-year deal last season.
Josh Beckett, on the other hand, is not as secure: he is going into the final
year of his contract with the Red Sox. Beckett has had a nice tenure with the
Red Sox thus far, despite an ERA being near 4.00. His consistency seems to
fluctuate each year, but the fact remains: he is a very dominant pitcher. I
have heard rumors that the Red Sox are seeking a contract extension with him,
and I think that would be a wise move.

I
know that Dice-K had a sub-par, at best, 2009 season, but I think the Red Sox
Organization was very wise in the way they handled it. They paid big bucks for
this Japanese phenom, and I think their systematic approach this year was very
profitable. His 2009 season was short, not very cost-effective, but just
imagine how good he could be for the next two years. If his last few starts
were indicative in any way of how he may perform, then I think that there is a
lot to look forward to.

 Tim
Wakefield’s 2009 season was cut short due to persistent back woes. Nevertheless, the
first half of his season was so good that he was elected to his first All-Star
game. His surgery was quite successful, so I think that the Red Sox were very
wise to sign him to a two-year deal. Wakefield is a very durable guy, and his
knuckleball can be devastating (against every team except the Yankees, it
seems). Last but certainly not least, we have the absolutely fabulous, and much
improved, Clay Buchholz. Again, the Red Sox’s systematic approach with him was
seemingly flawless, and he had a much smoother transition into the Majors this
year. I am very proud to have called him my project, and he will be receiving
an award when they graduate (yes, I am implementing a graduating ceremony).

 That
right there is a pretty strong starting five without even changing anything.
2009 was a tough season for some of those guys, but I have faith that they can
bounce back. There is a lot that we can do externally. John Lackey is up for
grabs, perhaps we can pry King Felix from Seattle’s hands (a girl can dream,
right?), and Roy Halladay is in trade talks, as usual. The thing with trades is
that normally they include prospects, and I am very possessive of the
prospects. I think that if the Red Sox could sign John Lackey for a reasonable
price, that they should do it. I know, “DUH!” Every team would love John Lackey
because he would solidify any starting rotation. I am just concerned that if we were to sign Lackey, we may not be able to keep Beckett. 

There
have also been some serious rumors regarding Roy Halladay. If I had to choose
between Halladay and Felix Hernandez, I’d probably go with the latter because
he is a bit younger, but I wouldn’t complain about having Halladay! He’d
probably be even better to have than Lackey. Unfortunately, Halladay will not
come cheap. I’ve heard rumors regarding Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly being
dangled. Much as I love these two guys, I do think this would be a mutually
beneficial trade. I may have dreams about what Clay can do in the future, but
having “Doc” in our rotation would be perfectly fine by me. The thing that
concerns me more is the status of Casey Kelly. Obviously, he is a huge key to
our future considering the fact that he could be a big shortstop or pitcher.
This would be the blockbuster trade of the offseason if this were to happen,
and as hard as it is to part with our hopes and dreams for the future, I think
Roy Halladay is a worthy investment.

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Relief:

I think that Boston’s bullpen was probably their strongest
asset during the 2009 season, for the most part. However, at times it was
simply atrocious; specifically, Manny Delcarmen’s meltdown during the second
half of the season. It was great to see projects like Daniel Bard come through,
I was so proud of him in so many ways. I knew he was something special the
moment I saw him in Spring Training. I was also very impressed with Ramon
Ramirez for the entire season, and overall, I wasn’t all that impressed with
Takashi Saito (despite his low ERA). And even though our last memory of
Jonathan Papelbon is of him destroying our lead, he still had a fabulous season
overall. Plus, every closer was terrible during the postseason (except for
Mariano Rivera). Picking up Billy Wagner ended up being an excellent move, and
it seems as though he would be willing to accept a lesser role as a set-up man
through arbitration. I would be glad to have him back. Like Wagner, Jose
Valverde is a Type-A free agent who posted the best ERA of his career with the
Astros this past season. He would certainly be worth looking at, but he is not
a necessary asset considering we have a lot of talent in the minors.

 I hope you guys
remember our September call-ups too. I really liked the way Fernando Cabrera
and Dustin Richardson looked. Cabrera is a free agent right now, and I think it
would be wise if the Red Sox signed him. Michael Bowden also did some relief
pitching, but I think he is more effective as a starter (he prefers it too). If
the Red Sox cannot work anything out with Halladay, Lackey or Hernandez, than
Bowden can certainly compete for a spot this upcoming spring. If you want my
advice (being the amateur scout that I am), I suggest keeping an eye out for
Cabrera, Richardson, and Bowden.

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Around the Diamond:

I was a bit surprised this 2009 season at how the offense
would go into collective slumps at really inconvenient times. Take the end of
July for example, before the brilliant acquisition of Victor Martinez (whose
option the Red Sox picked up, if you didn’t know), the Red Sox offense was
pretty much dead. The Red Sox may have the best right side of the diamond in
baseball with Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia: two gold glovers and silver
sluggers, MVP caliber men, the Red Sox could not possibly ask for more (I will
talk about Adrian Gonzalez when I get to third base).

The left side of the diamond? Not so much. As usual, perhaps
the biggest question the Red Sox face this offseason is the shortstop position.
Nick Green, my project, was a pleasant surprise. He is a great hitter and a
solid defender for the most part. I sincerely hope that the Red Sox re-sign him
in the offseason. Jed Lowrie, my first project ever, was plagued with injuries
again, but hopefully he can exercise his full potential in 2010. However,
because he is so unreliable at this point, the Red Sox need a shortstop that
they can count on. Alex Gonzalez is no longer an option because he signed with
the Toronto Blue Jays last night. Gonzalez is a great guy, probably one of the
best defensive shortstops in the game, but his offense is sub-par at best.
There are two other shortstops I’m interested in, and one that I will love
forever. I think that the Red Sox should look into acquiring either Marco
Scutaro or Orlando Cabrera (the one that I still love is Nomar Garciaparra, but
I do not see him coming back). I have been saying to acquire Marco Scutaro
since the middle of this season. I think that he would be great insurance, and
I certainly wouldn’t mind swapping shortstops with the Blue Jays.

I am a huge Mike Lowell fan. I have grown up loving him and
I think that he is the prototypical baseball guy. I thought that he was pretty
solid offensively, but defensively, his range was deterred a bit due to his
surgery. I would be completely fine with keeping Mike Lowell, but this is an
area that we can improve in. The name Adrian Gonzalez has been tossed around,
the gold glover first baseman of the Padres. First of all, I don’t think that
the new Padres GM (and former Red Sox assistant GM), Jed Hoyer, would be too
keen on giving a guy like him up. Secondly, this situation is quite similar to
the Mark Teixeira one last year. If Adrian Gonzalez was acquired, Kevin Youkilis
would move across the diamond, which would certainly make Mike Lowell
attractive trade bait, but could he also serve as a DH? I will address that
point in a bit. There have also been rumors regarding Mariners third baseman,
Adrian Beltre, who is coming off of a down season. I would prefer the Adrian
Gonzalez scenario, but Adrian Beltre would not be a bad acquisition.

I’ll expand on what I said before about the designated
hitter situation. Much as I love David Ortiz for what he did for us in 2004,
and all of the walk-off home runs that he has hit, his last two seasons have
been pretty bad. He improved after a poor start in 2008, but his 2009 numbers
were even worse. I know he was near 30 home runs and 100 RBI, but I do weight a
lot in batting average, and he didn’t even bat .240. Believe me, I love David
Ortiz, but from an objective standpoint, I think the Red Sox should look at
other options (within the organization that is). If the Adrian Gonzalez
situation were to happen, Mike Lowell would obviously be the odd-man out, but I
wouldn’t have him sitting on the bench. His defense may not be as good, but his
offensive numbers are actually great! I don’t think anyone can complain about a
.290 batting average. If I am not mistaken, David Ortiz is going into the last
year of his contract, and I don’t think that we can move him around. I guess we
just have to hope that he comes around (for the second year in a row). If the
Red Sox do end up acquiring someone like Adrian Gonzalez or Adrian Beltre, I
don’t think that it would be a feasible option to keep Mike Lowell on the
bench. I have heard a rumor that the Red Sox have been dangling Lowell for
Oakland’s Justin Duscherer, but I don’t feel comfortable giving up an asset as
valuable as Lowell before the Red Sox have a reliable replacement (and by
replacement, I mean improvement).

As for the up-and-coming, continue to keep your eye out for
power-hitter and first baseman Lars Anderson (didn’t have the best 2009, but I
have faith for his 2010). Also, look out for Jose Iglesias and Casey Kelly,
more hope for our shortstop position. The Red Sox have also secured their
backstops for next season when they picked up Victor Martinez’s option for
2010, and Jason Varitek picked up his player option. Picking up Martinez’s
option was an obvious move, but I am glad to see that Varitek is coming back.
He will be great to have during Spring Training, and he is invaluable towards
our pitching staff.

Outfield

Save the most important for last, right? Jacoby Ellsbury’s
spot in center field is perfectly secure for next season, but I would love to
secure him for even longer. In my opinion, I think that he is the best center
fielder in the league. His numbers in 2009 were fabulous, and his fielding was
nearly impeccable. I know a lot of people tend to hate on JD Drew, but I really
enjoy having him on the team. Sure he slumps sometimes, but he is a fabulous
right fielder, and he can be great at the plate. Plus, as soon as his contract
is up, we have some fine up-and-comers, but I’ll get to that later.

The most important void that the Red Sox need to fill this
offseason is left field, and our left fielder is one of the most coveted men on
the market along with Matt Holliday. Obviously, either one of them would be a
great pickup, but I, like many Red Sox fans as well as the organization, would
prefer Bay. Even though Matt Holliday has a higher batting average, I really
like what Bay has brought to the organization. He is such a nice guy, great
with autographs, and he has really thrived in Boston. I don’t blame him for
wanting to explore other options; it would not be fair to him if the Red Sox
tried to prevent him from doing that. In the same sense, I think the Red Sox
should explore their options as well (and by options, I mean Matt Holliday).

There are three big prospects that you should keep your eyes
on: Ryan Westmoreland, Ryan Kalish, and Josh Reddick. I was really proud of
Reddick for his time up in Boston, and I know that there will be more
opportunities for him to do so. There are a lot of complicated situations
created for the Red Sox this offseason, but I am quite confident that the front
office will do everything in its power to create the best Red Sox team
possible.

Before I go, I would like to offer my sincerest
congratulations to Zack Greinke, Tim Lincecum, Joe Mauer, and Albert Pujols.
Relatively obvious choices for the recipients, but they all had spectacular
seasons. It is quite admirable to me that Greinke overcame a depression
disorder, and I hope that other players can overcome this disorder as well
(Khalil Greene, Dontrelle Willis, etc.). I hope to hold a sort of graduation
ceremony over here for the projects that have completed their program. 

They Break Your Heart…

As soon as the game ended, I wanted to come on here and write everything that I was feeling. It would have been the most impulsive, scapegoating article you may have ever read. I tend to forget that the emotions following the end of the season (especially a bad end) come in waves. 

At first, I masochistically sat in my room and cried. I could not believe we had lost that game. It didn’t seem possible; I was so sure of a victory. Even when the Angels were right on our tails, I was thinking: “Hey, our closer is in. There are two outs and two strikes. We got this!”. That thought went through my head twice. Then Vladmir Guerrero shattered that thought and replaced it with a single emotion: disbelief. 
Anyway, I felt it wasn’t proper to write when I was crying simply because I could barely see the screen and plus, no one is really coherent when they’re in that state of mind. Then I transitioned to anger, which blinded me for a little while because I was angry at only Jonathan Papelbon, and that’s not fair. I was scapegoating him for the entire series, not just the game, and that’s really not fair. 
Finally, the empty feeling pervades, and that’s the one that sticks. The Red Sox season is over, and without them, well my life is kind of empty. This feeling of emptiness was accompanied with disbelief again, and heartbreak: the same old song and dance. So I feel like I’ve done myself, and you guys a favor by not writing about this until today. 
I tend to scapegoat a lot when the Red Sox lose. Normally, I blame myself for choosing the wrong couch cushion to sit on, or something along those lines. And what some would call “obsessive compulsive disorder” severely augments during the playoffs. 
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I’m sure many of you can guess whom I decided to scapegoat during Game 1: CB Bucknor, the first base umpire–I was absolutely livid. However, regardless of how erroneous his calls were, it didn’t significantly effect the outcome of the game. The offense was dead, practically immobile; we were shutout for the first time since the 1995 ALDS. Our bats simply did not show up that day, similar to the absence of our bats during the first few weeks following the All-Star break. 
I went on to blame the Yankees for choosing Wednesday night instead of Thursday night to begin their playoff crusade. Obviously, they wanted to sabotage us by giving us an extra day off so that we would be rusty. I do think that the Yankees had a similar mentality in choosing which day to begin on, but I don’t think it was as intricately planned as I thought it was. Nevertheless, we were rusty. We hadn’t played a game since Sunday, so there wasn’t a lot of momentum going into the playoffs. Regardless of the outcome of Game 1, it is still ironic and cruel humor to have an umpire whose last name is ‘Bucknor’ umpiring first base. 
The beginning of Game 2 rendered me hopeful when Jacoby Ellsbury hit a triple, and Victor Martinez drove him in. That turned out to be the most amount of scoring we would be doing for that game. Another night in which the lackluster Red Sox offense barely did anything. Both Beckett and Lester had decent outings, but they were out dueled by the stellar pitching from Lackey and Weaver. 
So what was wrong with the Red Sox? We had gotten ourselves in to a do or die situation. Not completely unfamiliar territory, but not the most pleasant to be in either. What had been the remedy in the years past when the Red Sox had their backs against the wall in say 2004 or 2007? To be honest, I think players only meetings were a significant aspect in rejuvenating the team. 
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As far as I know, there were no players only meetings this year. But think about who led those players only meetings in years past: Jason Varitek, our captain. It’s no wonder there were no meetings this year while our captain was sitting on the bench. When Terry Francona took him out of the last game of the season to a standing ovation at Fenway Park, I did not know that it may have been the last time I would have ever seen Varitek in a Red Sox uniform. 
The Victor Martinez pickup was brilliant; it was the perfect remedy when our offense was lackluster after the All-Star break, and I think he was a major player in helping the Red Sox get to the postseason. However, it seems to me like we kicked Jason Varitek to the curb. 
I know I lobbied relentlessly for his return in the offseason, and there hasn’t been a single moment this season in which I have regretted that. Sure his offensive numbers are subpar, but as I’ve said countless times, his mere presence on the field is invaluable. I know Victor Martinez’s bat is one of the most formidable in all of Major League Baseball, but we can’t just throw our captain under the bus because of his weak offensive numbers. We didn’t even do that to Big Papi during his horrendous slump. 
Take a look at our pitchers’ second half numbers. Guys like Josh Beckett, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen (among others) struggled the second half of the season. By no means do I want to blame their numbers on Victor Martinez, but I do think that familiarity with a catcher has a significant impact on their numbers. With a guy like Jason Varitek, a man who calls the game like no other (who else has four no-hitters on their resume?), pitchers don’t even have to think. Jason Varitek probably tells them when to breathe and when to blink, but he slowly drifted out of the picture by the end of the season. 
He didn’t even see a minute of postseason action–a time when the comfort of the pitchers is essential to success. Varitek is the true leader of the Red Sox, so I wonder how the team feels when they see their captain on the bench. I’m not saying bench Victor Martinez, but I know that there is another lineup where both Varitek and Martinez are present. If we were sitting Varitek because of his lack of offense, than I think it is perfectly justifiable to sit Big Papi. 
One more thing before I progress to the truly heartbreaking game. What about respect? Did the Red Sox treat Jimmie Foxx, Carl Yastrzemski, or Jim Rice like this? I don’t think so. I think we have seen Jason Varitek’s last moment in a Red Sox uniform. 
***
I tried to change this up a little for Game 3. I realized that the Manny Ramirez statue I had made in seventh grade was still in my room, so I launched it into my backyard. Then, another brilliant idea crossed my mind: a hunger strike! What if I was to refuse food until the Red Sox scored? I thought that Kevin Youkilis’ shot (that ended up being foul) signified my lunch, but I was wrong–and I was getting hungry. Jacoby Ellsbury’s spectacular catch almost prompted me to sneak a pretzel, but I refused. Luckily, Dustin Pedroia’s two RBI double allowed me to eat. I thought that the hunger strike was brilliant, and I was already planning on doing it again the next day during Game 4 when the Red Sox were still flying high on a 5-1 lead. 
I forgot Yogi Berra’s famous aphorism: “It ain’t over til it’s over”. I was so proud of my babies/projects that I forgot that Papelbon is human. Clay Buchholz blew me away in his
postseason debut… the fact that he performed the way that he did as a rookie is astounding. Not to mention the fact that Daniel Bard got out of a bases loaded jam with no outs with minimal damage. 
I was so sure we had that game in the bag… just like in years past when Red Sox fans were positive that they had the game won. It was heartbreaking to watch the win slip through our fingers. It was more than just a sweep. In 2005 when the Red Sox got swept by the White Sox, they lost Game 3 3-0. But we had this game. We could have pushed it to Game 4. But as we all know, they break your heart. 
We can’t just blame Jonathan Papelbon–it was the offense that failed to score runs in the first two games as well. So as Red Sox fans, we suck it up. The wound will remain open, but we blink back the tears and look forward to next season. 

Aggravation to Rejuvenation

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This past week was not the most fun week to be a Red Sox fan (and I know Indians and Orioles fans are having a tough time too). The Sox didn’t exactly look like a team that had just clinched playoff berth with the way that the pitching was coming apart. In fact, they didn’t even clinch the wildcard with a win, they were merely graced with a Texas loss to secure their spot. 

The Yankees clinched the division on their home turf, against the Sox, which partially fulfills their goal of the 2009 season. With the additions of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett, many predicted that the Yankees would win the division, though everyone knew not to count the Red Sox out with what seemed like the best pitching staff in baseball at the start of the season–in fact, many predicted the Red Sox to win it. 
Clinching the division on their home turf would have been satisfying enough, but clinching against the Red Sox? That must have made it even better for them, and I turned off ESPN as soon as Jacoby Ellsbury’s soft grounder to Mariano Rivera ended the ninth. 
This final season series sweep by the Yankees made the season series even. After the Red Sox won the first eight of the season, they either got swept, or lost the rest of the series. In what very well could be the American League Championship Series matchup, all Red Sox fans are hoping that we can pull it together, and make every game in that series unforgettable–all fights to the finish. And with the Red Sox and Yankees, it always is. 
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I was hoping for a bit of rejuvenation against the Blue Jays. I always like going into the playoffs with lots of momentum, and I wanted to secure a spot already! No such luck Monday night. Josh Beckett was scratched from his start with mild back spasms (but he is pitching tonight, so all is well). When I first heard the story, memories flooded back to me of Spring Training 2008. I was excited to finally see Beckett pitch, because I had never seen him live before (and I still have not). He was even warming up with Jason Varitek down in left field at City of Palms Park–but he didn’t make the start. Manny Delcarmen did, and Beckett started that season on the DL, and had a mediocre season according to his standards (as well as my high standards for him). Thankfully, these spasms are nothing to be concerned about. 
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I was very excited to see Michael Bowden take the mound, since he is my favorite pitching prospect. To say that he didn’t have the best night would be an understatement. He lasted only three innings and was tagged for seven runs. Bowden was obviously very disappointed in himself, but he made no excuses. He said that he could have been told five minutes before the game that he would be starting, and still this outcome would have remained inexcusable. I appreciate the fact that he didn’t make up excuses, and I won’t make up any for him either. 
The fact of the matter is though, that we can’t judge September call-ups simply by their one month of play, that would be unfair. Bowden was missing his spots, and he was getting behind in counts–something that can easily be fixed. Plus, he is not used to Victor Martinez, and practice makes perfect. I would like to see him follow a path similar to Clay Buchholz–because look how effective that extra time in the minors was for him: he is going to be a starting pitcher in our playoff rotation. 
In fact, if Bowden works really hard this winter (I am not sure if he will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League), I think that he could be a legitimate contender for a spot in the starting rotation for 2010. Dustin Richardson has impressed me, and I am very excited to see more of him next year in Spring Training. He is a legitimate contender to be a project next year, as is Fernando Cabrera. I think that what we have to remember is that it is a big transition from the minors to the majors, and it would be unfair to expect anyone to flawlessly make that transition. 
The last two games against the Blue Jays weren’t much better. The second game seemed like a recurring dream as Buchholz also gave up seven runs. And if it wasn’t for Joey Gathright in the third game, Halladay could have no-hit the Red Sox instead of just pitching a complete game shutout. 
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Speaking of Joey Gathright, I want to get to playoff rosters. We are less than a week way from what I like to consider the first day of “Soxtober”. While there are many “lock-ins” for the roster, there are still some spots that are up for grabs.
I would like the starting rotation to look like this:
1. Jon Lester
2. Clay Buchholz
3. Josh Beckett
4. Daisuke Matsuzaka
I am so proud of how far Clay Buchholz has come this season. I think that he has truly earned that spot. And who knew that Dice-K would come back and pitch as well as he has? Sometimes, it is worth giving people a second chance. 
As for the bullpen, Papelbon, Wagner, Okajima, Saito, Bard (whom I refer to as ‘Baby Bard’ on twitter), and Ramon Ramirez should be locks. With the way that Manny Delcarmen has been pitching as of late, his spot is no longer secure. 
The possibilities for that eleventh spot could range from guys like Byrd and Wakefield, to guys like Bowden, Cabrera and Richardson. I love Tim Wakefield, but I really don’t think that he is healthy enough to pitch in the playoffs. And even though the bird is the word, I don’t think that Paul Byrd has been consistent enough to earn a spot on the roster. And much as I like Bowden, I don’t think that he is ready for the postseason this season. Next season? I have no doubt. 
I know it may sound crazy, but I think it should be between Richardson, Cabrera and Delcarmen. 
As for position players, most of them are locked in. The main question marks are the utility infielder and the reserve outfielder. Alex Gonzalez was hit in the hand last night and he was forced to leave the game. Not good timing at all, and I think we’re all praying that he is not injured. I would like to see Gonzalez as the starting shortstop with Lowrie or Woodward as the  backup. 
So the question is: Lowrie or Woodwa
rd? This one is the toughest for me to figure out since we have seen so little of both of these guys this season. The second spot to fill is the reserve outfielder, and I think that Joey Gathright has the best shot because of his speed. Think Dave Roberts, 2004 and you’ll know why. 
I am working on playoff brackets this weekend, and what I think should be the roster, so I will do my best to get back to you guys by Tuesday as to who should make the roster. 

A Roll of the Dice

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It really was a roll of the dice–a gamble–when the Red Sox sent Dice-K out to the mound for the first time in three months. When someone rolls the dice, there are many possible outcomes, and it is almost impossible to guess which one they are going to end up with. But sometimes, when the game is on the line, you just have to take a chance and hope for the best. 

That’s what the Red Sox did. There are a bunch of Dice-Ks that the fans, as well as the organization are familiar with. There’s the 2007 Dice-K, who was synonymous with the Dice-K that the Red Sox saw and signed in Japan. There’s the 2008 Dice-K, who had a nice record on paper, and even a nice ERA, but the outings were messy. Then there’s the 2009 Dice-K, the one whose luck had finally run out. 
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At the beginning of the season, Dice-K was considered by most, including myself, an integral part of the rotation. It was hard to imagine a starting staff without Dice-K heart attacks, as long as we got out of those situations alive. Life without Dice-K not only became imaginable, it became a reality… pretty early on during the 2009 season. 
The Red Sox took an agonizing step this season: essentially sacrificing Dice-K’s expensive contract. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be when a player that is worth a lot of money isn’t performing up to the standards that are expected of them (hence the reason I prefer incentive contracts). However, it’s not like the Red Sox signed him for only one season–they really invested in him. I’ve never invested in anything really big before, so I’m probably not too qualified to speak on this, but I would think that if you invest in something, you don’t just want it for short term, you want it to last a long time. 
So even if the Red Sox sacrificed Dice-K’s season, perhaps it will benefit him, and in turn the Red Sox, in the long run. We could use a good Dice-K, the one we scouted in Japan, for the next couple of years. 
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When I think of DIce-K’s situation, I am subtly reminded of Clay Buchholz’s season last year. Clay Buchholz’s situation is a bit different because he had a lot of promise from his golden no-hitter in 2007, and a nice spring in 2008. He simply wasn’t ready yet, so he was sent back to the minors for some extra work, and as you all can see, it has really paid off during this season. Dice-K didn’t even start out on the right foot in 2009, but like Clay, he was sent down for some extra work, and thus far, it has paid off: we took a chance and rolled the dice, and the outcome was worth it. 
Taking a chance is pretty risky in September when the Red Sox are in the middle of what was a pretty tight Wild Card race. Luckily, not only did Dice-K pull through, but the rest of the offense has as well. Almost every single game, a more than sufficient amount of run support has come from a rejuvenated offense (considering everyone decided to go into a collective slump in August). 
Hopefully, this past series against the Angels is indicative of how the American League Division Series might be. Big come-from-behind rallies, and exhilarating ninth inning rallies. Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it? Especially against the Angels. You all do remember how we won that series in 2008 don’t you? On a walk-off single, similar to Alex Gonzalez’s of this past week. 
‘Exhilarating’ doesn’t even begin to describe walk-off wins, it’s an entire atmosphere. You’re on the edge of your seat, biting your nails. Your head is pounding, and you’re instructing the batter as if he can hear you. And you’re hoping with all of your heart that he’ll get that little hit that will bring the runner home. And when it happens, it’s like Christmas morning. You gasp when the ball hits the bat, and then you jump up from your seat and start jumping around the room screaming like an idiot, but you don’t even care because you are so ecstatic. 
There are some teams out there who will clinch their playoff spot early on in September. No competition, no need to really play anymore because they already made it. But what kind of mentality is that to have going into the playoffs? It may be nerve racking, but it’s exciting when it goes down to the end. And I think that momentum is important when going into the playoffs. 
Before I end, I want to go back to Dice-K. When he left the mound in June, he left to a chorus of boos. Red Sox fans, and baseball fans, are ruthless, but normally, they aren’t wrong when they boo a player. Dice-K deserved the boos, he didn’t come into the season ready to play baseball. 
But I think that both Red Sox and baseball fans should appreciate his change in attitude, and obviously the change in the way he is pitching. Both are for the better. Dice-K wants to make up for letting his teammates and the fans down. He knows that he has a responsibility for this team, and he wants to make up for what he couldn’t provide early on. So when he left to the chorus of cheers, the complete opposite, it must have been one of the best feelings he had ever had as a baseball player. 

Hindsight (Biases)

During my sophomore year, I tried to make connections between baseball with some of my classes to help myself understand it better. As my junior year starts up, I’ll try to do the same. I have a feeling that physics will relate a lot more to baseball than chemistry did (but then again, what does chemistry relate to that is of any importance at all?), and I already have a way that psychology can relate to our perspectives on the game. Though I’m sure Emily is a lot more qualified to talk about that than I am. 

As the season progresses, many of us have come to realize that many of our offseason acquisitions have not performed in the way that we expected them too. It may be easy to point fingers at our brilliant general manager, Theo Epstein, but before any of us do any such thing, I think it is important to experiment with empathy, travel back in time a bit, and use our imaginations. 
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You are now sitting in Theo Epstein’s office, sipping some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and constantly making phone calls with agents. It’s late December, and you are reflecting over the 2008 season, and looking at areas where you can improve. Clay Buchholz was not quite ready for the 2008 season, so it is evident that the Red Sox need a fifth starter. It is certainly wise to consider the options of signing a high profile free agent such as CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett, but would such an acquisition truly be necessary with aces already in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice-K (remember, we have no idea yet that Dice-K’s season would look nothing like 2008′s 18-3 record). 
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Let me go on a quick tangent on Dice-K before I make any significant phone calls. On paper, his 18-3 record looks stellar, a Cy Young contender if you didn’t look at how many innings he pitched per game. Dice-K got really lucky during the 2008 season. He had a knack for loading the bases with no outs, and getting out of it unscathed. In other words, he got really lucky. Sure the Red Sox may have won most of the time, but it is inefficient to have your starter go only five or six innings because he racks up his pitch count early on. Not to mention it puts a massive strain on the bullpen. I think that Dice-K’s case is very similar to the “downfall” that Brad Lidge is experiencing in Philadelphia. I’m not trying to take away any credibility from his perfect season, but I think that it is a valid comparison. 
Back to the phone calls. Considering the Red Sox have four quality starters, it is unnecessary to sign a high profile free agent. It would be more wise to sign a “low risk” acquisition in a veteran pitcher that could guarantee a lot of success. The problem with signing high profile free agents is their massive contracts. What if they don’t perform? What if AJ Burnett continues his injury woes, and he can’t pitch effectively? 
This is why I like incentive contracts so much. Too bad they are mainly used with these low risk acquisitions, and when I think of these, I tend to think of veteran players who are coming back from injuries or bad seasons who are looking for another chance. Obviously, signing them is a gamble, but it could turn out to be very beneficial. And regardless of their contributions on the field, I think that their contributions equate that or even surpass it. Having a veteran voice in the clubhouse for the younger players to talk to is always an advantage. 
In psychology, we learned a bit about ‘hindsight biases’, which basically means that when we look back on events, many of the consequences seem much more obvious than they actually were at the time. Think about who we signed. 
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John Smoltz is obviously a Hall of Fame pitcher, who had a great twenty year career with the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, his stint with the Red Sox did not work out, but was it really a bad signing? No. Would I have done it? Yes. Another thing to remember about this deal was that it was very similar to the deal that Curt Schilling signed for 2008. Neither of them worked out, but the incentives for signing them were valid. Plus, if Randy Johnson is still pitching, why can’t they? 
Another offseason acquisition that didn’t work out: Brad Penny. The same theory applied when signing him, but his history isn’t as convincing. However, it was only but 2007 that he came in second for the NL Cy Young. His 2008 season was anything but spectacular, but given an incentive laden contract, there is the opportunity for success. And if they incentives aren’t met? No big deal in the big picture. Penny was released, and both he and the Red Sox are moving on. 
Some have been disappointed with Rocco Baldelli also because he has spent a considerable amount of time on the Disabled List. Granted it’s a bit disappointing, but it’s not like we expected him to play every single day because we were well aware of his channelopathy disorder. The reason for acquiring him was so that he could be a valuable player coming off the bench. 
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In other words, I just think that these offseason acquisitions are very justifiable even if they didn’t work out. But now instead of looking at the offseason acquisitions, I’d like to look at our most recent acquisition: Billy Wagner. 
This trade reminded me a lot of the Eric Gagne one of 2007, a trade that I absolutely hated because I didn’t want to part with Kason Gabbard (luckily, we have him back now). However, I am much more open to this Billy Wagner acquisition because our bullpen band could really use an extra hand, the chorus is sounding a little shabby. 
Oh, and the bullpen could use some help too. After Justin Masterson left, it kind of threw off the bullpen in my opinion. We were calling a bunch of guys up from Pawtucket who simply weren’t ready yet. I think that this acquisition solidifies the bullpen and gives us a more definite notion of an eighth inning set up man. In a way, it will be redefining everyone’s role. 
I am very excited for September call ups–I am very anxious to see who will be up. I am really hoping that Michael Bowden gets another chance. I really don’t think that we can judge him on that poor outing against the Yankees. I am also very interested to see what is going to go on with who will be catching Tim Wakefield, because I think that Victor Martinez did a very solid job the other night. And if V-Mart can do the job, what use is George Kottaras? 

If I were a General Manager…

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of us our familiar with the musical: Fiddler on the Roof. At one point, the main character, Tevye day dreams about what he would do “if he were a rich man”. I’m starting to get the feeling that it may be a bad thing if I don’t remember the ending of the play considering I was a villager (with no lines) in the play when I was in seventh grade. I’m getting the feeling that he doesn’t become rich, but everyone ends up happy. 
Maybe the same can I apply as I share with you my daydreams about what I would do if I was Theo Epstein for a day. I doubt that I’m cut out for the general manager business though. I can only imagine the amount of stress and responsibility Theo has with putting together a team like the Red Sox each season. Nonetheless, it is a fun idea to entertain considering I’m constantly making suggestions as to what should be done. I wonder if I have enough stamina to be a general manager, a journalist, and a broadcaster (or even enough time). 
Before I talk about my fantastical crusade as a general manager, I have a few other things to get to. 
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I realized that I neglected to mention my thoughts on Casey Kelly in my last blog. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, he was drafted by the Red Sox in 2008 not only as a pitcher, but as a shortstop as well. He spent the first half of this season pitching, and he will be spending the second half as a shortstop (from what I can remember of the report). I would actually be completely okay with him training as a shortstop, and holding off on the pitching aspect. The Red Sox organization is already full of great pitchers with a lot of potential. Shortstops? Not so much. 
I’m pretty convinced that ever since Nomar Garciaparra left in 2004, that there is a minor curse when it comes to shortstops. Hanley Ramirez, the star of the Marlins, was homegrown talent, but he isn’t playing for the Red Sox. Was it a mutually beneficial trade? Yes. Would I do the trade again? Absolutely. 
We signed Julio Lugo expecting him to be a pesky leadoff hitter like he was with the Rays. Unfortunately, that did not work out as he was designated for assignment and traded to the Cardinals a couple of days ago. Jed Lowrie is homegrown talent, but he has barely had a season. Nick Green (who must have been thoroughly exorcised considering he came from the Yankees) has been a pleasant surprise, but nothing outstanding, though I shouldn’t try to compare anyone to Nomar. 
Shortstop is currently our weakest position in my opinion, catching (I will address this later) coming in second. We need to have a legitimate “shortstop for the future” developing in the minors. 
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I really wish I had seen Mark Buehrle’s perfect game live, but as I am not a fan of the White Sox or Rays, I didn’t have some sort of crazy premonition that compelled me to watch the game. To put this feat in a historical context is really incredible, all of the statistics that come up amaze me. It’s kind of funny how people consider perfect games to be so exciting, yet technically speaking, nothing happens since the opposing team is literally shut down. It’s the beauty of the pitching though, and the fact that it is so rare and precious that makes it beautiful to me. 
I don’t have to be a White Sox fan to appreciate this, I think that every baseball fan should find this to be beautiful and stunning. I can understand that it must have been embarrassing for the Rays to be shut out like that, but it’s really just something you tip your cap to. It is something that I will always remember. 
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I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Hall of Fame inductions, which I was delighted to watch on MLB Network. I was in absolute awe to see 50 living legends all in one place, and I’ll be completely honest with you: there was a good portion of them that I hadn’t heard of, but that just makes me even more excited to go to the Hall of Fame in a few weeks. 
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It was really inspiring to see Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice give their speeches. Henderson was so humbled by it, and I loved the way that he got into the game, and the part about following your dreams. Jim Rice just looked euphoric– it was great to see him drop his usual demeanor and just laugh. 
Watching the whole Hall of Fame induction ceremony inspired me even more to begin my crusade to enshrine Pete Rose there. I will save my argument for another post, but I would really like to have a makeshift plaque made for him, and bring it to Cooperstown myself. Believe me my friends, I am getting him in there. 
So with the trade deadline coming up, there are plenty of trade rumors going around. I nearly spit my water everywhere when I read that Bronson Arroyo may be headed to the Yankees (this rumor has been squelched for the record). I couldn’t imagine my Arroyo in pinstripes. But this brings me to my main point (I guess?), what I would be doing if I was Theo Epstein. 
I am actually very happy with the Adam LaRoche trade, not because he is adjusting extraordinarily well to Pittsburgh, but because he is a significant upgrade from Mark Kotsay. I never thought Kotsay was anything unique, in fact I was a bit upset when we re-signed him because I thought Chris Carter or Jeff Bailey would be sufficient, if not better. Plus, we didn’t lose any significant prospects (if I don’t talk about them, they aren’t significant). 
We all knew that we had to get Julio Lugo off of our hands. Nice a guy as he may be, he just simply hasn’t been living up to the organization’s expectations, and regardless of his contract, it was for the greater good of the team that he is gone. Chris Duncan is in Triple-A right now, and I am dying to scout him. 
I am actually perfectly content with our roster right now. We don’t need to be involved in a break-the-headlines trade like last year because our left fielder isn’t complaining
about his lifestyle. Poor Manny, $20 million a year and adored by fans– tough life. Yet we still are involved in trade talks. 
I have heard the Roy Halladay rumors, and I was not attracted to him for a second (same thing happened with Mark Teixeira). I know what kind of pitcher he is, but I know what kind of pitching we have in the minors. Would Halladay solidify what has been perhaps a somewhat disappointing rotation (specifically Dice-K and Penny’s lack of depth)? Sure, and I’m pretty sure his contract is locked up for a few years. 
Think about what we might have to give up for him though. They asked the Yankees for Joba, Phil Hughes and two more prospects. I am very protective of our bullpen, and even more so of our prospects because the good ones (that are likely to go in a trade) are my projects. Roy Halladay may be the ace of the American League, but I’d be willing to say that Michael Bowden is the next Roy Halladay. That is how much I believe in our prospects. Think about how important Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden could be in the future. 
I have also heard the Victor Martinez rumors. When I said that I think catching is our second weakest position, I do not mean currently. Most of you know how hard I lobbied for Jason Varitek’s return, and I for one have not been disappointed. When I say catching is our weakest position, I mean for the future. George Kottaras is only around because he can catch a knuckleball, and I personally prefer Dusty Brown. I’d rather stick around and wait for Joe Mauer to become available. Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek are both legitimate catchers, who both deserve a lot of playing time. Should Martinez come to the Red Sox, I would think that someone’s playing time would be significantly impacted. 
I think we should stay right where we are right now. We are still very legitimate contenders, but we have to look to future acquisitions too. 

Back, yet not at peace.

There is only one time of year, and one place on Earth that I can deal with being separated from nightly Boston Red Sox games, and the continuous MLB Network. That place was, as I explained in my previous (and by previous, I mean a month ago) post, California. Although the state itself does not constitute my isolation (considering the fact that there are five baseball teams in that state, I would hope not) the summer program that I attended to did. 

As usual, it surpassed my expectations, and being isolated from the incessant updates of pop culture, baseball, and oh yes, world events is actually a nice change. I have mentioned before that I live in a baseball bubble, but for me this program is a utopian bubble. It is the only place that I can truly be myself, and people accept me for it. Granted at Fenway Park, I am undoubtedly accepted as a Red Sox fan, but it is nice to be accepted in a place where not everyone is a Red Sox fan, or a baseball fan for that matter. 
My friends actually wanted to listen to me talk about the Red Sox and baseball, even if they had no previous knowledge of it whatsoever. One of the best friends that I made there, Caroline, did not even know what a grand slam was before we had our little talk. By the end of our two, short weeks together, she was throwing pennies from the year 1986 on the ground because they are cursed. 
This made me truly happy that I could bring a smile to someone’s face just by talking about baseball. It made me realize even more that this is exactly what I want to do with my life. While I would love to convert everyone into a Red Sox fan, I think it is more important to appreciate the beauty of baseball. 
She truly appreciated that passion that I have for it, and she told me she wished “she could love anything as much as I love baseball”. I hope that others will be able to see this when they talk to me. 
Considering I have been gone for a month, I have missed out on a lot. As I was leaving, Dice-K was on his way out of the rotation, and I was trying to come up with a creative injury for his trip to the DL. 
I remember getting updated about John Smoltz’s first start, I was on my way to dinner at Lagunita (the cafeteria at Stanford). I knew he was starting against the Nationals, which is a very nice team to start against for that transition period (from the minors to the majors) considering the Nationals remind me of a minor league team. I was notified that the score was 9-1, Nationals. 
My first thought was, “Have the Nationals even scored nine runs in a game before?” I actually wasn’t angry with Smoltz. I understand the whole need for an adjustment period after talking to my good friend Michael. Even though he is a 20+ year veteran, I was really delving into my empathetic side. 
For his next few starts, I was probably too busy reading about cultural relativism, how altruism and morality don’t exist, or maybe some form of ekphrasis. One of the first games that I watched upon my return was the opening game of the series against the Rangers. 
Our lack of an offense was cruising along nicely for a while, before John Smoltz decided to give up three home runs in one inning, which is quite the rarity for someone of his stature. I was already experiencing separation anxiety/book camp withdrawal, so this did not add to my chipper mood. 
I screamed at my computer screen for the first time in about a month, and yielded more profane tweets than ever before. Generally, I don’t question Terry Francona’s moves, but I thought Smoltz was taken out a little late. I was quite happy to be reunited with Justin Masterson though. I think he was holding a small grudge against my absence considering his ERA was near 5.00. 
The offense seemed to be fine in my absence, I don’t know why they’re acting up now. Big Papi really resurged, and if I need to close my eyes while he is at-bat, then I’ll do it. I’m sad to see that Jason Bay’s average has plummeted, and that Drew and Varitek are in slumps. 
I found it interesting that when Jeff Bailey went on the DL, that Aaron Bates was called up instead of Chris Carter. Aaron Bates is an imminent project of mine, and like Josh Reddick, he is an automatic project for next Spring. Believe me I saw the potential his first two nights in Triple-A Pawtucket. I am just a bit perplexed as to why we are bringing someone up to the Majors who has just barely adjusted to Triple-A. As I said before, when he came up, he had a Triple-A swing with a Double-A eye. I think Chris Carter needs to be given another chance, but I would advise everyone to keep their eye on Bates. 
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Speaking of projects, I have to tell you all how thrilled I am to see Buchholz back on the Red Sox for an extended period of time. I was very pleased to see that his first performance this year went well. I know his numbers imply that he has been tearing up Triple-A but he, like Jon Lester, is one of those guys that needs to focus on every single pitch, not the final outcome. He needs to not get frustrated by his mistakes too. If he gives up a home run, fine, but just move on. I think that Ramon Ramirez does a great job of doing that. However, I do not expect Buchholz to be performing perfectly. He is still very well entitled to that adjustment period. 

Interview from the Press Box; Amateur Scouting

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Continuing the tales of my baseball journey, Tuesday night was packed with even more adventures. The offensively slumping PawSox were finishing a series against the Durham Bulls (the AAA team for the Rays, as Michael told me). Mr. Steve Hyder was kind enough to meet with me that night, but this time, it wasn’t in an office. 

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I was invited to go up into the Press Box for the interview, which made me practically overflow with excitement. While I didn’t spend the entire game up there, it was a nice taste of what to expect for the future. Not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the seats that Mr. Hyder provided us with: once again, they were right behind home plate, and sitting there on the night that my resurfacing project, Clay Buchholz, is pitching is quite the treat. 
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Mr. Hyder is also a radio broadcaster for the PawSox, and just to remind you, he and Mr. Hoard are partners. Hyder is actually a Rhode Island native, so as you can imagine, he grew up as a Red Sox fan. I don’t have his exact words written down because a) I can’t write that fast and b) my handwriting is hideous. 
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1. Did you always know that you wanted to be a sports broadcaster? 

Hyder said that he actually got started a bit late, he didn’t always know that he wanted to do it. He actually received a bit of help from his partner, while he was down at Syracuse. 
2. What or who was your inspiration? 

His answer to this question was actually one of my favorites. He said that he was inspired by the movie ‘Field of Dreams’. The first time I ever saw that movie, it really moved me. That is the movie to use if you want to get your friends into baseball. The problem is, when I suggest it, none of them want to watch a movie about baseball. It is easy for me to see how that would inspire him to go into broadcasting. 
3. Growing up as a fan of the Red Sox, did you like and/or follow the Paw Sox? 
Hyder explained to me that it was different when he was growing up. No one really followed the prospects the way that they do today. I don’t know if people follow it the way that I do, but as he was explaining this to me, I could see that today, there is more of an emphasis on how they will impact the future. 
4. You must have witnessed a bunch of great moments growing up as a Sox fan. If you could broadcast one moment in Red Sox history, or baseball history, which would you pick? If you could interview anyone, who would it be? 

Hyder’s favorite player growing up was Carlton Fisk, so I’m sure you can imagine how excited he was during the 1975 World Series. He said that if he could interview anyone, that it would be Babe Ruth. That took me by surprise at first, considering the impact that Babe Ruth has had on Red Sox history. As he went on, it became more clear to me why he chose Ruth: Hyder said that he was an American icon, one of the most famous Americans in history, and that he would love to spend a couple of days just chatting with him. 
As I mature as a baseball fan, this isn’t as shocking. I know that if I want to work for MLB, I have to reduce my animosity towards the Yankees, and regard them with respect. Ever since I started this blog, this has happened, and now I am able to talk to fans of any team and have intelligent conversations, rather than the traditional “You Suck” type of conversations. 
5. What makes the Paw Sox unique from other minor league organizations? 

I asked this question because it seems that whenever players come up from our minor league system, it doesn’t take them long to adjust to the Major League level. It seems that there is an extra element in this organization, but it’s hard for anybody to put their finger on it. 
Both Hyder and Hoard admitted that they had no idea that Pedroia was going to be the MVP, and Hyder said that he could see that Youkilis would be a solid player, but he didn’t see him being what he is today. Although Hyder couldn’t put a finger on exactly what this extra element was, he said that a lot of other teams are modeling their systems after ours, which says something is special about the Paw Sox. 
6. Which PawSox players do you think will have a significant impact in the future and in which ways? 

Like Hoard, he could also see the potential in people like Bowden and Buchholz, as well as people like Bailey and Carter. However, sometimes there isn’t always a spot for guys even if they do have the potential. 
7. Do you ever make it down to Spring Training. What makes it special, how is it different? 

I absolutely loved his response to this one too, because he was actually able to relate it to something that I am very familiar with. He said that Spring Training is great because it’s like the first day back at school: you’re seeing everyone again, and there’s so much excitement for what this year could bring. 
8. Do you have any advice for an aspiring sportswriter or broadcaster? 

Like I mentioned earlier, Hyder actually got some help from Hoard to get into the industry, so he gave me the same advice that Hoard gave him: do absolutely everything you can to get in. 
Buchholz Breakdown
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It’s one thing to look at his record in the minors and say, “Wow, he’s doing so well this year, why don’t we bring him up?”. It’s another thing to watch his interview and either accuse him of wanting to be traded, or like Terry Francona, praise him for wanting to be in the big leagues. 
I’m not doing either of those things here. I was fortunate enough to see him pitch on Tuesday night in some ridiculously cold weather. Luckily, I had my new, oversized Paw Sox sweatshirt. 
While I am no scout, I think I have a pretty good knack for picking projects, and seeing the potential that each player has. I’d like to call myself an amateur scout. 
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The night before, I actually talked to some scouts. They were really nice, one of the guys had actually been doing it for 22 years. What they do is they get different Minor League assignments (to go see teams) and then they see five straight games. I was telling them how I love going to Spring Training and about my prospects/projects and what not, and they actually asked me who I liked. I told them who to watch out for. 
Anyway, if you looked at the box score of that game, you’d see that Buchholz had given up one run over six innings. Not bad, right? He exited to a lot of cheers, but probably not quite the standing ovation that Smoltz got last night for giving up one run over four innings. 
Still though, I wasn’t all that satisfied with Clay’s outing because I noticed some little things. If he can work on these things and fix them up, then he is going to be an absolute monster. 
The fact that he walked the first batter only bothered me a little bit because he started off throwing two beautiful strikes, and then got himself behind in the count. He was getting behind in counts throughout the night, and occasionally he would miss his spots. 
While this could have been blamed on the cold weather conditions, I don’t want to make up excuses for him, and I’m sure he doesn’t either. I noticed something a bit more concerning to me though, something that hurt him last year as well. 
He gets very frustrated after mistakes. I could see the frown plastered on his face after the home run he gave up. It is all mental with him. I think that he needs to learn to shake off his mistakes. Ramon Ramirez is a great example of that. That one outing of his when he gave up two home runs, his expression didn’t change. 
I said this with Lester, and I’ll say this with Buchholz too because they are both young pitchers. Buchholz needs to ignore the expectations that everyone has for him. The “he’s going to be so great” and “he is the future” expectations. He can’t get ahead of himself, he needs to focus on pitch by pitch, at-bt by at-bat, inning by inning. 
He just needs to be confident with himself too. He gave up a home run but so what? He can still have a nice outing. I said this about Josh Reddick when I first saw him in Spring Training. I was talking about hitting confidence, but regardless, after I said that he really picked up. I have no doubt that Buchholz has the potential to be part of our future, but he just has to focus on the game. 
I talked to Bowden about the mental aspect of the game as well. He says that he always tries to block everything out. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not– especially when he’s in the small ballpark and there’s the one, annoying, obnoxious fan. He said he never changes his stuff when he gets called up. I also asked him if there was a difference pitching against the White Sox and pitching against the Yankees. He said that the atmosphere was different because of the crazy rivalry when he was pitching against the Yankees, but other than that, he uses the same approach. 
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I also wanted to talk about Aaron Bates a little bit. He was just recently called up from AA-Portland, but he didn’t get a hit in either of the nights I was there. That obviously does not mean that we send him back down though. I think that there is an adjustment period with every level, and even Bowden said this (I swear I learned so much from this guy… more than I did in chemistry all year). Bates looks AAA material: he’s big, and he has a nice swing and makes good contact. The problem is that he still has that AA eye. My best friend, Marissa, has decided to make him her project. 
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I noticed something very interesting about Dusty Brown (from downtown of great renown…). He reminds me of Jason Varitek because of his great sense of surroundings. Varitek always knows where the play is, and I can notice that with Brown as well. I think that is one of the most important things with a catcher. 

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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