Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’

Snowflakes & Fingerprints

The mouse lingered over the “submit” button; my thumb hovered over the mouse, waiting to click it. I had spent the last two months filling out tedious applications and agonizing over essays. I had spent this entire year looking at my statistics and comparing them with others. I SAT’d once and ACT’d three times. I was ready. Tim Lincecum was ready too. He walked out of the Giants dugout ready to throw the first pitch of the 2010 World Series. I was nervous. He was probably nervous. Tim Lincecum went into his windup. Submit. Strike.

And now we wait.

Applications may have prevented me from blogging, but they certainly did not prevent me from watching at least part of every single postseason game. I wrote nearly all of my essays on my passion for baseball, so to stop watching baseball would have been counter-intuitive.

Despite the Red Sox falling short, I still had a lot of fun watching baseball during the regular season. Little did I know that the postseason was going to be even better. Considering that the Red Sox were not in the playoffs, I decided to temporarily adopt both an American League team and a National League team. Little did I know that the teams I picked would end up facing each other in the World Series.

I want to start at the beginning, though. The first day of the playoffs happened to coincide with the first day of my whirlwind college tour. I was in the air when Roy Halladay threw his no-hitter. I remember I actually got on the plane around the fourth inning, and a small part of me hoped that he would wait until his next start to throw one so that I could actually watch. I’m a very selfish baseball fan. A much bigger part of me was happy when I checked the score during my layover flight in Charlotte, NC: Roy Halladay had thrown a no-hitter in his postseason debut.

Nobody could have written it better. Halladay was not fazed by the pressures that come with the postseason, nor was he fazed by the daunting Cincinnati Reds lineup, considered by many to be the best in baseball. Halladay threw the first no-hitter in baseball since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series in 1956. It amazes me that there was that long of a drought between postseason no-hitters, but it makes the feat all the more remarkable.

I would certainly watch the games in the hotel room at night, after the tours. And let me tell you, nothing complements a good baseball game like an authentic Chicago pizza. However, I think I actually had more fun watching the games while lingering outside a bar in various airports. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: baseball’s most unique quality is its ability to unite.

This may have been a completely empty threat, but I would not have watched the World Series had it been a Phillies vs Yankees matchup again. So you can imagine how happy I was when both Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard struck out looking to send the Rangers and the Giants to face each other in the World Series.

That matchup caused me some agony because I had had fun rooting for my adopted teams. I just didn’t plan far enough ahead to decide whom I would be rooting for in the World Series. I had adopted the claws and antlers: I clawed with every extra base hit, and I would do antlers with every bag the Rangers swiped. While rooting for the Giants, I did my best to come up with creative hashtags or at least make them trend on Twitter. When they faced each other in the World Series, it was very difficult for me to decide who to root for.

Who expected a Rangers vs Giants World Series at the beginning of the season? Although helped by the long ball, these teams did not rely exclusively on it. The Giants won because of their pitching. Tim Lincecum is a once-in-a-lifetime pitcher. Both his postseason debut and his performance in game five of the World Series will go down as some of the most remarkable pitching performances in baseball’s history. Matt Cain did not allow a run for the entire postseason. Madison Bumgarner is a 22 year old rookie pitching like a postseason veteran. Even though Jonathan Sanchez underperformed, I could not help noticing how perfect his eyebrows are. 

What I really liked about the Rangers was their defense. They have perhaps the best, yet previously underrated infield in baseball: Mitch Moreland (1B), Ian Kinsler (2B), Elvis Andrus (SS), and Michael Young (3B). I am fairly certain that Ian Kinsler defied the laws of physics with some of the plays he made. Michael Young has a gun for an arm. Even when a guy like Cliff Lee is pitching, I enjoy watching the defense make plays as much as I enjoy watching 76 mph curveballs fool batters.

W.P. Kinsella said, “Baseball games are like snowflakes and fingerprints. No two are ever alike.” I think the prime examples of this came in games one and two. Many expected game one to be the pitcher’s duel of the century because of the matchup: Cliff Lee vs Tim Lincecum. However, it ended up being more about the offense. The next game between Matt Cain and CJ Wilson provided the pitcher’s duel that everyone was waiting for. This is what made this World Series so great. It was so different from World Series’ of the past. I think that the fact that the World Series was between the Rangers and the Giants indicates that baseball is shifting from its focus on offense to a focus on pitching and defense. I am hoping for the era of the pitcher. As the San Francisco Giants announcers might say, these games were “torture.” But who knew torture could be so fun?

If you are interested in where I applied early, feel free to e-mail me or tweet me

The Coldest Winters I Ever Spent Were Summers in San Francisco

Well, it has certainly been a while. I am actually writing this from the press box at Hadlock Field–where the Portland Sea Dogs play. I have a lot of stories to catch everyone up on, the next few entries won’t really correlate with what I’m doing at the moment. I was lucky enough to spend July 19 and 20 in Pawtucket. The first night I shadowed radio broadcaster Steve Hyder, and the second night I shadowed ProJo reporter Brian MacPherson. I swear I learned more in those two days in Pawtucket than I did all year (and I’m sure Portland will offer a similar experience). I had my first press pass, and that basically gave me all access. I was able to go into the clubhouse and locker room, sit in on press conferences with PawSox manager Torey Lovullo (and even ask him a question), as well as sit in on interviews/talks with Lars Anderson, Josh Reddick, and even Jeremy Hermida (who was there on a rehab assignment). Unfortunately, I was not able to see Michael Bowden or Dustin Richardson. Bowden was called up the day before my first day in Pawtucket, and while I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see him, I am more than thrilled that he is getting his well-deserved chance to be in Boston’s bullpen. Richardson was optioned to Pawtucket after my last day. 

Richardson seems like a good transition to the two games that I attended in San Francisco. Fate was on my side this time. The summer program that I attend–The Great Books Summer Program–is held at Stanford University, which is a short ride on the Cal-Train away from San Francisco. As soon as the Red Sox schedule was released in January, I scanned it for opportunities. I was mainly searching for games in Tampa, but little did I know that the interleague gods were smiling down on me. The Red Sox were not only going to be in San Francisco at the same time I was going to be, but they had a weekend series, so there was nothing stopping me from going. I bought tickets immediately, and they sat in their page protectors, collecting dust, for months. 
They were the first thing on my packing list for California, and I was hoping that I would have the opportunity to see Timothy Lincecum pitch. I felt so lucky to be able to see my favorite team play in what might just be my favorite ballpark. 
AT&T Park is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful, and it is conveniently close to where the Cal-Train stops in San Francisco. It’s only about a block away, and one of the best sushi places that I have ever eaten at, Nama, is right down the street. My father and I arrived about a half hour before the stadium opened. Mark Twain was right: “The coldest winters I ever spent were summers in San Francisco.” 
As soon as I got into the park, I walked to the area where the pitchers were warming up, which was conveniently close to my seats. I was hoping for the chance to speak with Dustin Richardson, since he had gotten called up earlier in the month. 
I let him and Fabio Castro warm up for a while, because I didn’t want to interrupt their warmup. Luckily, a fly ball from batting practice did the job for me. After he fielded it, I called his name. He turned around and said, “Hey, what are you doing here?” I was mildly surprised that he remembered me all the way back from Spring Training. I told him I was taking some philosophy courses at Stanford, since that’s basically what we focused on the first week. He continued to warm up with Fabio. 
After he finished his warmup throws, however, he walked over to me and gave me the ball. He had to go run a bit and shag some balls, but before he left, I was able to congratulate him on getting called up, and his first major league strikeout. He also agreed to come back so that we could take a picture. I wanted to see if I could move a little closer to the dugout and speak with Nava, but at the same time, I didn’t want to lose my spot because I wanted to see if Dustin would stay true to his word. I decided to stay. 
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Dustin stayed true to his word alright. Not only did we get a chance to take a picture, but we also got to talk a little bit as he was signing for other fans. I don’t think the Red Sox were using Richardson as much as they could have (and probably should have since he is fantastic), and he didn’t really know the reason behind that. He mused that they were probably just taking it slowly with his development, and that he was happy to merely be up with the club. He also admitted that he did have a little bit of the jitters, and that he hoped that he could just shake them off and pitch. 
I really enjoyed getting that glimpse into what I think is the more human aspect of pitching. At that point, Richardson didn’t have that much major league experience under his belt, and I really appreciated his honesty. He was even like that in Spring Training when he honestly admitted that he still had some stuff to work on in Pawtucket. I’m no expert on this, but I would imagine that the pitchers who are honest with themselves and those around them are the ones that truly succeed because they will know when a change in their mechanics is necessary. Obviously, confidence is a factor for Richardson, and I think once he gets that confidence, he will truly reach his potential. I reassured him to the best of my ability that he was awesome and that he really had nothing to worry about. 
There are a lot of things that I like about interleague baseball. Mainly the fact that the Red Sox generally handle it pretty well. My distaste for the designated hitter and my advocacy of national league baseball is another story for another day. Another thing that I like is watching pitchers bat. It ranks among my favorite things. I thought Clay’s first major league hit was pretty special. What I don’t like is when pitchers pull their hamstrings while running to second base. Those kind of injuries actually kind of surprise me. It’s not like pitchers don’t run, but I suppose the type of running they do on the base paths could be completely different. What I mean by that is that you push off your foot when running the bases, and I bet that’s a completely different way of running for pitchers. Believe me, I’m not trying to make excuses, I’m just looking at all the possibilities. 
I practically had a heart attack when Buchholz came up short on his way to second. The last thing the already injury-depleted Red Sox needed was an injury to one of their most consistent starters. Scott Atchinson coming into the game wasn’t all that comforting either, but he really saved the ball club with a good three innings of work (if my memory serves me correctly). In fact, the entire bullpen threw well. Richardson got in the game and pitched extremely effectively: he even struck out Pablo Sandoval for his second major league strike out. 
I was even looking forward to Dustin’s first major league at-bat, but I was not that lucky. Francona brought Okajima in the next inning, which didn’t really make much sense to me. It obviously was not a matchup issue considering the fact that they are both lefties. Dustin certainly could have gone another inning. 
I hope I’m not judged too harshly for this, but I could not resist buying myself a Timothy Lincecum shirt. I wasn’t even planning on wearing it to Sunday’s game; I just wanted to have my favorite National League pitcher’s shirt. On the way out, there was another shirt I couldn’t resist: “Let Tim Smoke.” It was too good to be true,
and it was only $10. Granted I bought it from a street vendor about a block away from the park who may or may not have been sketchy, but it was irresistible. 
I was so excited for the next game because I had been anticipating an intense pitcher’s duel between Jon Lester and Timothy Lincecum. To tell you the truth, I didn’t want the Red Sox to knock around Lincecum. I wanted them to destroy the bullpen, but I was really in the mood for a pitcher’s duel. Unfortunately, Lincecum wasn’t at his best. He only lasted about three innings and 75 pitches with a balls to strikes ratio that was not impressive. That really surprised me though because who takes Timothy out after only 75 pitches and three innings? He clearly hasn’t been his best this year, and my theory is that he is harboring an injury and trying to pitch through it. 
Big Papi took Lincecum deep into the San Francisco bay for what they like to call a “splash hit.” Unfortunately, splash hits don’t count for opposing teams (even though the majority of them are illegitimate anyway because they were hit by Barry Bonds). 
Jon Lester pitched an absolute gem, and it game at such an opportune time too because the bullpen had been depleted just the day before. The bullpen was pretty much right in front of my seat, so I saw Papelbon pretty up close as he was warming up in the ninth. But I’m pretty sure that he spent more time watching Lester pitch than he warmed up. Let me tell you, it was an absolute honor to be present at a Jonathan Tyler Lester gem. 
One of the coolest moments of that game came before the game. As I walked into the stadium, one of my followers on twitter, @MisterLucky13 recognized me. It was a pretty cool experience to get recognized, and it was an absolute pleasure meeting and talking with him and his wife, Susan. 
Another cool moment was an unspoken conversation with Dustin. He had asked me if I was going to be there the day before, so he just waved when he saw me. And after he was finished warming up, he walked over and handed me the ball again. That really meant a lot to me because it kind of established an unspoken friendship. Those two baseballs that he gave me in San Francisco really meant a lot to me because they were emblematic of so much more. 
Those two games at San Francisco were so much fun because in all honesty, there is no better place to see a ball game. The food is probably among the best of any ballpark (try the garlic fries and lemonade), and the weather is practically perfect. I think my favorite part of the entire experience was being able to speak with Dustin Richardson. I was very disappointed to hear that he got sent down the other day because I think that pitched well in the few innings that he pitched. He certainly has pitched better than Okajima and Ramirez recently. Nevertheless, there are still some mechanical improvements/adjustments that he can make down in Pawtucket, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will be back with the big league club in September, and that he will hopefully start out in the bullpen next April. 

SuperNava explodes at Fenway

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(picture via Boston Globe)

A baseball player is always going to remember his first appearance in the show: whether it be on the pitcher’s mound, or next to home plate–it’s going to be engraved into his memory forever. I sometimes wonder how it feels. Unless he is getting the borderline ridiculous hype that Stephen Strasburg is getting, he might be relatively unknown. Not everyone follows the minor leagues, but I think they are really exciting. Watching a minor league game is like gazing into a crystal ball because it’s a glimpse into the future. It also makes a player’s debut that much more exciting because in a way, you have shared a part of his journey. 
Daniel Nava’s journey was certainly a special one. Nava isn’t the typical story of the star prospect drafted in the first few rounds making his debut after tearing up the minor leagues. That’s a story that you will get if you read about Buster Posey (Giants), Jason Heyward (Braves), Carlos Santana (Indians), Starlin Castro (Cubs), Stephen Strasburg (Nationals), or Mike Stanton (Marlins). Nava was cut from his college team, and cut from the Golden League (part of the Independent Leagues). He was never built like a baseball player. In his freshman year of high school, he was shorter and smaller than I was. The odds didn’t stop him though–he never gave up on his dream. He overcame adversity and went back to the Golden League when his team had a void that they needed to fill. 
He was the MVP of the Golden League in 2007, and he signed with the Red Sox as an “undrafted free agent” before the 2008 season. That’s a pretty remarkable story to begin with. There are 50 rounds in the First Year Player Draft: the Red Sox’s 50th pick, a right handed pitcher named Weston Hoekel, was 1523 overall. A lot of players drafted in later rounds will go to college instead, and wait to be drafted in a higher round when they are eligible again. Nava’s story goes to show people that there is no shame being drafted late, or maybe even not being drafted it all. You can still make it. He is the paradigm of the famous aphorism: “You can do anything you set your mind to.” 
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I was at his Double-AA debut last summer when I was in Portland. He had a hit, which really impressed me because the jump from Single-A to Double-AA is considered to be the toughest by many. Nava was assigned to Triple-AAA Pawtucket this season, and he has been consistently tearing it up for the entire season. Upon being called up, he led the PawSox in batting average at .294, home runs with eight, RBIs with 38, OBP at .394, and a slugging percentage at .492. Despite these stellar numbers (and the numbers that he has put up since signing with the Red Sox), he often flew under the radar due to his draft status (or lack thereof). Outfield prospects like Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick get a lot of attention (deservedly) due to their high draft status. While I am certain that they will help out the Red Sox at some point in the future, they are still developing. 
Why wasn’t Nava called up earlier then? The way I see it, calling up Josh Reddick first was a great move–especially after the torrential spring training he had. The Red Sox obviously want to get his feet wet because they consider him an integral part of the outfield of the future. Then they called up Darnell McDonald, who is a minor league veteran (since 1998 or 1999), and has also had experience around the Majors. Nava’s consistency and overall performance certainly warranted a call up at some point this season, and I’m glad that the organization felt the same way. 
It has been said that this is the year of the pitcher, and I don’t doubt that. There have been two perfect games, a no-hitter, and a 28 out perfect game (among other spectacular performances). Wouldn’t it also be fair to call this the year of the rookie as well? Jason Heyward hit a home run on the first pitch of his first at-bat on Opening Day. Starlin Castro had something like six RBIs in his debut. Mike Stanton had two hits in his debut. Stephen Strasburg, whose curveball is the best thing I’ve seen since Timothy Lincecum’s slider, had 14 strikeouts. Darnell McDonald isn’t really a rookie, but he had a home run and a double to tie and win the game in his Red Sox debut. 
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(via Boston Globe)
There’s nothing quite like Daniel Nava’s debut though. Coming up with the bases loaded in your first major league at-bat is probably something he dreamed about as a kid. A single or a double would have brought Red Sox fans and baseball fans alike a smile. Nava went above and beyond though. On the first pitch of his first major league at-bat, Daniel Nava crushed a grand slam into the bullpen. His approach, impeccable; his style, instrumental; and his debut was priceless. 
Nava joins a very elite club. He is only the second person in Major League history to hit a grand slam on the first pitch of his first at-bat; the other being Kevin Kouzmanoff in his debut with Cleveland in 2006. He also became the fourth guy to hit a grand slam in his first at-bat (first pitch or not). The Red Sox now have two guys who have hit grand slams in their first at-bat in the Majors: Nava, and a victim of Adrian Beltre’s wrath: Jeremy Hermida. I remember watching that at-bat in 2005: his debut with the Marlins. When he was signing for me during Spring Training, I mentioned it to him. The grin that came to his face was indicative of the significance of that memory to him. I asked him which pitch it was on, but I couldn’t hear his response because everyone around me was yelling. 
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit where I was during Nava’s at-bat. I was taking a nap because the ACT had completely wiped me out. The fact that I missed this monumental occasion reinforces my deep hatred of standardized testing. When I went to watch the game with my dad, he said, “Just guess what Daniel Nava did in his first at-bat!” “A grand slam?” I guessed. I guessed correctly! But when my dad mentioned that it was on the first pitch, I was in shock and awe. I could not have been happier for him. He is truly an inspiration for people to never give up on their dreams. The only thing I see left for him to do–and this will be the true test of his ability–is to call Adrian Beltre off. If he can do that at some point, he can stay as long as he likes! 
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I actually want to talk about Beltre for a second. It’s not like he fractured Ellsbury’s and Hermida’s ribs on purpose. He was just doing his job. He goes after every single ball as hard as he can. I don’t think anybody can blame Beltre for trying to do his job. As Terry Francona said, the ball was falling in a place where neither man could call it. My understanding is that a player should only call a ball if he is absolutely positive that he is going to catch it. If the ball is falling into No Man’s Land, and neither player is sure that he will catch it, then neither player should call it! Now since Beltre has clearly demonstrated that he can catch up to that ball and catch it (it fell out of his glove after he collided with Ellsbury), then perhaps he should make those plays from now on. All I’m saying is that we can’t blame Beltre for playing his heart out. 
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Upon waking up from my nap, my dad also informed me that another pitcher was called up from Pawtucket: Dustin Richardson. I was beyond happy to hear that he was finally called up. I have been very excited about him since spring training of 2009, and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to speak with him a couple of times during this spring training. I thought he was perfectly capable of starting this season in the bullpen, but he told me that he had a couple of things to work on in Pawtucket. He made his major league debut last September, and he did so well that I thought he was capable of pitching in the postseason. If you are not as familiar with him, you can click on his name in the tags section at the bottom of this entry to read what I have previously written about him. There is a possibility that he will only be up until Dice-K returns from the 15 Day DL (late scratch last night due to a stiff forearm), but if he pitches the way that I know he will, then the Red Sox might be lucky enough to have him up the rest of the season. I hope that I’ll be able to see him when I go to the Giants vs Red Sox game later this month! I’m pretty sure that I say, “Bring Dustin Richardson up!” at least once during every game, and I probably tweet it every night. I hope he doesn’t forget about me now that he’s a big Major Leaguer. 
In his first outing of the 2010 season, Richardson got two outs on three pitches. That’s more efficient than Stephen Strasburg. 

A National League Team in the American League East

Amidst all of the stress that I’m dealing with right now, I figure writing about baseball is the best way to relieve it. Most of you who read my blog seem to be a bit older than me, so let me ask you something: Was May of your junior year the worst time of your life? Or is that just me? 

If it wasn’t for baseball, I don’t know where I would be right now. Not only do I have my two AP exams next week (Psychology and English Language), but the administration decided it would be a good idea to also make quarter testing next week, which further ruins my life. Not to mention the fact that I still have to worry about standardized testing because–like the Red Sox’s overall performance so far this season–my scores are mediocre and not good enough to get me into the schools that I would like to attend. I just can’t wait until the summer. 
On a significantly brighter note, I’m going to be president of my senior class next year. I only share this with you because the entire premise of my speech was baseball. Being a baseball fan gives you some of the qualities that are necessary to hold a position like that: dedication, persistence audacity, loyalty, hope, etc. 
Minor League Roundup: 
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The Pawtucket Red Sox moved Kris Johnson back to the starting rotation, and that has certainly paid off. In his first start of the season, he pitched five innings without allowing a run and struck out three. In his last outing, he went five innings and gave up three runs. I personally think that he is more of a starter, so I would like to see him continue for at least a while in this role. This will help the organization decide whether or not he will be a starter or a long-term relief guy. I think they need to decide his role relatively quickly so that he can continue his development without ambiguity. 
In Pawtucket’s relief department, both Dustin Richardson and Robert Manuel have fared exceptionally well. I have no doubt that Richardson will be called up at some point this season; hopefully sooner rather than later! I don’t hear about Robert Manuel as often even though he has pitched spectacularly. I think that he could also positively impact the Red Sox’s bullpen as well. 
Lars Anderson was recently promoted to Triple-A! He was quite literally destroying Eastern League pitching, so a call-up was inevitable! When he was called up to Portland last year, he struggled with the adjustment, so I was a bit nervous that he would have some problems in Pawtucket. Of course, an adjustment period is necessary with a promotion to any level, but Lars has fared well so far. 
Daniel Nava is someone you should keep your eye on. With a powerful bat, he his hitting .305 on the season with 29 hits, 5 doubles, a triple, and four home runs. I don’t hear as much about him as I do Josh Reddick, but his performance certainly warrants a call up soon! I would really like to see Ryan Khoury with more playing time in Pawtucket. I think he is a great player, but he has only played in nine games so far. The Paw Sox designated Kevin Fransden for assignment, so I hope we see more of Khoury. 
In Double-A, reliever Eamonn Portice has been very impressive. Starter and top prospect Casey Kelly has also been doing well, though he is on a very tight leash because his innings are being limited (since this is his first full year as a starter). 
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Catcher Luis Exposito has been on fire during the past week or so after going through a minor slump. Ryan Kalish has also been very consistent at the plate. 
In Salem (High-A), Will Middlebrooks and Tim Federowicz have had a great week and a half. Anthony Rizzo has been consistent at the plate for the season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he got promoted soon. 
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Daisuke Matsuzaka is finally back in the Red Sox starting rotation. In his first outing, he pitched fairly well until the fifth inning. In his most recent outing, his first inning was atrocious, but the rest of his outing was virtually flawless. 
While having a couple of solid innings are certainly commendable, it’s tough to say that I feel completely confident in Matsuzaka when he has barely pitched into the sixth, and he still has problems with walking tons of people. First of all, Terry Francona should have been more aware of the situation in Dice-K’s first outing. Typically, Dice-K starts struggling around the fifth or sixth inning, but it was also his first start of the season. That was just an ugly game, and Wakefield’s first appearance out of the bullpen since 2004 did not stop the bleeding. 
Like I’ve said, Francona always waits a batter too long to take his starter’s out. When your starter is around 100 pitches and he puts two men on, it’s a sign to take him out! Is it just me, or is that especially evident this year? 
This is also the first year of Francona’s stint with the Red Sox that he really has to put deep thought into the lineup and the pitching staff. It isn’t obvious where everyone should hit this year, especially with the demise of David Ortiz. The Red Sox look more like a national league team this year. Some of you may take this as a negative connotation, but I actually think it has a positive one! Admittedly, assembling a team like this in the American League East is a bit risky, but I do think it has the potential to work if it is managed in the correct way. 
Just because Jacoby Ellsbury is out of the lineup with an injury, doesn’t mean the Red Sox should stop running. Dustin Pedroia has stolen a couple of bags, and Marco Scutaro and Darnell McDonald certainly have speed as well. And honestly, Big Papi should start bunting more because his presence in the lineup will be much more effective. I would also like to see Jeremy Hermida in the lineup over Bill Hall. Hermida has been pretty effective as the plate and Bill Hall has not. 
Jon Lester has certainly started to turn it around in his past couple of starts by turning out very dominant performances. Buchholz has also been spectacular, which I love to see. I just hope Beckett can find his consistency, because he is an essential part to the starting rotation. 
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Lincecum struck out his season high of 13 batters. His slider and changeup are probably the most beautiful pitches I’ve ever seen. He might just be my favorite pitcher in the league. He is also one of the better hitting pitchers I’ve seen. He can lay down a perfect bunt! Maybe the Red Sox should take some lessons. 
I must say, I feel much more complete as a person now that I’ve seen Lincecum pitch in person. His delivery is one of a kind. I have heard that when he was drafted, one of the conditions was that the Giants would not change his delivery or his routine. Retrospectively, maybe the Red Sox should have done this with Dice-K. He was so dominant in Japan, but besides his 2007 season, his others have been subpar. I know that American baseball is different from Japanese baseball, but perhaps Dice-K would have fared better if he was allowed to do it his way. 
The Red Sox dropped the first game of the series to the Yankees last night. Beckett looked fantastic until the sixth inning. His only mistake was the hanging curve to Nick Swisher. Beckett simply lost his command. He should have been out after he hit Francisco Cervelli, not four batter later and five runs too late. I do not understand the rationale behind that! 
I fear that the Yankees might retaliate today, especially because Sabathia seemed to take personal offense when Jeter was hit by a pitch. Beckett clearly wasn’t doing that on purpose, so I hope he realizes that. Nevertheless, it’s all a part of the rivalry, and I’m ready for part two!
One last thing before I go. I would like to share with you all that I have been recruited to be a reporter for KidPitch, a show that airs every week on FSN. I filmed a report from about David Ortiz’s slow start to the season, and it will be debuting this Sunday. All of the other reporters are much younger than I am, but you have to start somewhere, right? If you would like to check it out, you can find your local listing here

Skeptics and True Believers

Skepticism and analysis surround every team as the second week of the season comes to an end. I guess I’m here to join the party–mainly for analysis, not for skepticism. It’s easy to analyze halfway through the season, but only two weeks into the season seems a little rash, doesn’t it? Is it appropriate to analyze, criticize, and skepticize (yes, made up word) already? I don’t know the answer, but I think it’s appropriate to offer some analysis because the Red Sox have made some easily preventable mistakes that have led to run scoring. And even though it’s early on, there are some serious, and unfortunately controversial issues that need to be addressed. It may be the beginning of the season, but every game counts. These games count as much as they do in September. Each game is of vital importance as each team tries to avoid the obstacles on the road to the postseason. I don’t agree with those who say, “It’s the beginning of the season, they’re just adjusting.” That’s what Spring Training is for. Ideally, teams should work out their kinks during Spring Training. Inevitably, obstacles will arise during the regular season, so I’m here to try and work those out. 

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Let’s tackle the obvious topic first: David Ortiz. I think he has felt under pressure to perform since the first game of the season. Because of the dismal numbers he put up last season, all reporters ever asked him about during the Spring was his rebound. It is easy to tell how insecure about this situation he is. He snapped at reporters the second day of the season; he got ejected from a game for arguing about a strike; and it is easy to spot the frustrated grimace on his face each time he strikes out. I don’t blame him for feeling pressure, but I’m surprised about how much it’s getting to him. 
I won’t ignore the few hits that he has gotten: some have been solid contact, but others were pure luck. He even picked up the golden sombrero one game where he struck out four times: that’s the problem. He strikes out, and for the most time, he strikes out looking. I’m no hitting guru, so I’m not here to talk mechanics. The fact of the matter is that having him in our lineup is ineffective, and at times, detrimental. So why does Terry Francona put him in the lineup day after day? I think that part of it comes from seniority. Maybe Terry Francona thinks that maybe Big Papi is just going to get out of his funk because of what he has done in the past. But this is the third year in a row that this has been going on. As much as it pains me to say this, he is done. 
I’m sure it will be tough to sit him, but it is necessary. It is important to put the best lineup out there, and putting Big Papi in there does not get the job done. I like the idea of platooning Mike Lowell and Jeremy Hermida at that spot. Hermida has proved himself to be a fantastic pickup coming off the bench for Jacoby Ellsbury while he is injured. I can see him hitting a lot of doubles off the Green Monster. 
Issue number two: The Bullpen. 

Last year, the bullpen was considered our strongest asset. This year, it has been one of the weakest. I don’t think that the loss of Takashi Saito or Billy Wagner really affects that; however, the loss of Justin Masterson does. I’m sure you all know exactly what I’m going to say. Bring up Michael Bowden! We need a long-term middle relief pitcher; especially if our starters are done after the fifth inning because they throw 30 pitches in an inning or two. The Red Sox obviously expect to use him as a middle reliever, so what I don’t understand is why they’re still treating him as a starter in Pawtucket. I think that for a pitcher to be completely effective, they have to know their role (no matter how good they are). Just look how good Justin Masterson is doing with Cleveland now that they have explicitly deemed him a starter. I have no doubt that Bowden has the ability to flourish in either role, but he will be more effective once they tell him what his role actually is so that he doesn’t have to keep switching. 
Ramon Ramirez has been struggling so far, so I really hope that he finds his stuff because he was the unsung hero of last year. Manny Delcarmen still struggles to be consistent, but he has the ability to go multiple innings, which is important. I prefer him over Scott Atchinson anyway. I think that Robert Manuel, now pitching in Pawtucket, could be really effective in the bullpen if he was given a chance.
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I know Daniel Bard is very good, but the Red Sox need to use him a little more sparingly. The poor guy has been used so much already this season. He has a wicked slider, but I’d like to see him add a changeup to his repertoire because the radar gun is almost always 90 mph or above, and having that speed constantly will almost surely lead to giving up more home runs. 
My final issue with the bullpen includes Victor Martinez as well. When it comes to Jonathan Papelbon, all he ever calls are fastballs. Papelbon also has a slider and a changeup in his arsenal, so I think that it’s important that he incorporates those as well to avoid meltdowns. I’m sure you all remember his most infamous blown save, and all Victor Martinez called was fastball, after, fastball, after fastball. 
Issue Number 3: Throwing people out
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Neither Victor Martinez nor Jason Varitek have the ability to throw runners out, and every team knows it. Victor obviously needs to work on his mechanics considering all of his throws are high and to the right. This could create a serious problem. First of all, because the runners can steal so easily, the possibility of inning ending double plays are eliminated, which means that our pitchers will have to work longer, and that we might have to use our bullpen earlier. 
Also, pitching from the stretch is a tough thing for lots of pitchers. I especially noticed that with Clay Buchholz during the Spring, and even he has admitted that it’s something he needs to work on. The pitchers obviously don’t want the runners to steal, so they might feel added pressure to get the ball to the plate quicker. This situation could have disastrous consequences. It is important that the pitchers don’t think about anything but hitting their spots. 
If this becomes a serious problem, the Red Sox do have some catching talent in the minors (with arms) in both Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito. Luis is definitely someone to get excited about, but he still needs some seasoning. Mark Wagner, on the other hand, is in Pawtucket, and I think he is ready to go. 
Issue Number 4: Leaving runners on
Some bats have been quiet (Big Papi), some have been loud (Dustin Pedroia), but the Red Sox have left so many runners on, but I think there is an easy solution that Terry Francona hasn’t seen yet because he is an American League manager: small ball. 
Because the Red Sox focused on improving defense during the offseason, they aren’t full of the 30-40 HR power bats. However, that’s not to say that they aren’t offensively sophisticated. They have the ability to score a lot of runs this season, but it won’t come from lots of long balls. Rarely, if ever, do you see the Red Sox lay down a solid bunt. Perhaps the Red Sox wouldn’t leave as many runners on if they started sacrificially advancing runners more often. I LOVE this kind of baseball; I find it to be the most exciting, and I think that it is a method that the Red Sox must begin to incorporate. 
Those are the biggest issues that I see so far. The defense hasn’t been as spotless as expected, but I think that these acquisitions will pay off in the long run (despite some costly errors early on). Perhaps they’re still adjusting the the eccentricities of Fenway. It’s the big errors that stand out, not the rest of the times that they make the often spectacular play. The last issue I notice (though it hasn’t made much of a signifiant impact) is that sometimes, Adrian Beltre simply swings at terrible pitches. He has been hitting really well thus far though, so I’m not complaining yet. 
Amidst all of my criticisms and analyses, I do have some praise (some of which I have already mentioned): 
-Dustin Pedroia is off to a monstrous start. Contrary to popular belief, he can hit the high inside fastball! 
-Jeremy Hermida has been an extremely valuable asset off the bench. I think he will flourish in Fenway Park. 
-Daniel Bard has been a workhorse. 
-Josh Beckett’s 75 mph curveball his a thing of beauty. I’m so glad we signed him to a 4 year deal. 
-Jacoby Ellsbury was really catching on fire before that unfortunate collision between him and Beltre that has sidelined him since. I really hope that he heals soon, because I really like having him in the leadoff spot. 
I may be skeptical, but I’m a true believer in this Red Sox squad. 
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One more thing before I settle down to watch the final game of what has been a frustrating series against the Rays so far. Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter of the 2010 MLB season, and the first in Rockies history. Thanks to the twittersphere, I was clued in, and I was able to watch the final three outs of the bottom of the ninth inning. Of course, MLBTV froze up right as Brian McCann hit the ball to second, but I heard it, and that’s just as special. He has been compared to Pedro Martinez, and considering the velocity he had on his fastball so late into the game (and after so many pitches), I have no doubt. As I watched the bottom of the ninth inning, I could feel my heart beating quicker with each out, and my hands shaking  more and more before each pitch was thrown. 
April 17th was an incredible day to be a baseball fan. Tim Lincecum had three hits and three RBIs. The Pirates walked off for the second game in a row thanks to Garrett Jones. The Mets vs Cardinals game went into the 20th inning. The Mets scored both of their runs on sacrifice flies. And Ubaldo Jimenez stunned the Braves lineup. This is what we live for 

The End of Spring Training, the Beginning of a New Chapter

I have to tell you guys, I’m absolutely ecstatic for Opening Day. I can’t get it out of my mind, it’s all I ever want to talk about, and after an extended Spring Training– it’s about time. 

Not that the extended Spring Training was bad or anything. I’m glad that we had it. It gave guys like Dustin who maybe start off the season a bit slow extra time to get into their rhythm. Most importantly though, it gave my projects a little extra time to prove themselves. 
That sounds weird right? The most important aspect of Spring Training being the minor leaguers? Spring Training is a time to look at the guys that performed best in the minor leagues, and see if any of them could help your team. 
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We all already know what the guys from last year could do. We know that Ellsbury is the fastest guy out there, and we know that somehow Pedroia’s strike zone has no limits. We know that Tim Lincecum has the coolest windup in baseball, and we know that Jimmy Rollins will be dancing in the dugout. 
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Tell us something we don’t know, or something that we didn’t expect. That’s what Spring Training is about. It’s about Daniel Bard’s 0.00 ERA, it’s about Clay Buchholz talking to John Smoltz and then feeling a new whirl of confidence. It’s about Chris Carter dragging coaches out to the backfield to work on his defense, and it’s about the future. 
That’s why I’m a little sad that it’s over. I’m going to miss talking to all the fans at the game, and waiting for two and a half hours in the rain just for some autographs. This year, I have become much more conscious of the minor leaguers. We both have something in common: we both dream of becoming a part of the Red Sox in the future. They will be playing for them, and I will be writing about them. 
After a while though, Spring Training does get a little tedious, but only because we’re so anxious for Opening Day! It’s kind of like what I’m feeling at school right now. Spring Break starts tomorrow, and let’s just say my brain left about a week ago. 
There is a certain type of excitement that you can detect when you talk about Opening Day with people. Everyone has a reason to be excited and nervous about their team. I know that on Opening Day that I want the Red Sox to beat the Rays, and that Rays Renegade wants just the opposite. 
But both of us share one thing in common: We want baseball back, and our thirst will finally be quenched. This upcoming Monday, our nation will be united, and baseball will be the unifier. 
Chapter 10 of Their Eyes Were Watching God ends with: “So she sat on the porch and watched the moon rise. Soon its amber fluid was drenching the earth, quenching the thirst of the day”. Janie, the main character of the book, is starting a new chapter in her life, and like her, we will be too. 
2009 is going to bring about some memories that we will be able to talk about forever. We will be watching history in the making… classic games in the making. Every game means something, but like I said last October, we have to focus on winning every inning before winning the game… every at-bat, and every pitch. 
It all counts. One little mistake, and the at-bat could change, the inning could change, and the game could change. Every game counts, and every game is a step on the road to October. 
The thing about baseball is that every team has an equal chance to win a game. That is to say, there is a perfect balance in baseball. I wrote about this in my research paper a little bit. Just think about the structure of it. 
As Professor Michael Novak pointed out, “Another two feet between them might settle the issue decisively between them”. Wouldn’t another two feet between the bases significantly impact the game? There may be statistics, but the structure of the game is inherently democratic. That is why it is America’s game. 
Even though some of America’s attempts at spreading democracy throughout the world may have failed, it has given another great gift to the world: baseball. 
As Walt Whitman put it, “Baseball relieves us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set… let us leave our close rooms, the game of ball is glorious”. 

MLB Network Request and Tim Lincecum

I was thinking about the MLB Network today as always, and I can only complain about one thing. It’s not even a complain–it’s more of a request. 

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Last week, Kevin Millar was on the ‘Hot Stove Report’ for two days, and he was wearing a suit! I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who thought that I’d NEVER see Kevin Millar in a suit in my life. Anyway, so at one point in the show, they went to their field to get a hitting lesson from Kevin Millar. We all know that Kevin Millar is somewhat of a powerful guy, and with Harold Reynolds is just lobbing balls at him, without any protection.
Sure, the Under Armor outfits are snazzy, but when Harold or Magrane, or whoever are pitching to people like Kevin Millar at least need that fence thing (anyone know what it’s actually called?) to protect them. 
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And when Harold Reynolds is catching behind the plate for National League Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum, he should at least have some protection. Sure Lincecum isn’t throwing his normal speed (and don’t you just love that windup?), but all I request is a little protection. 
Imagine if something happened to dear Harold. One of my favorite analysts would be temporarily recovering in the hospital. We don’t want that to happen! 
That Millar-Pedroia interview was hilarious! My favorite part was:
Kevin Millar *after reciting the long list of Pedroia’s achievements*: And you wear my number!
Dustin: Yeah, the best part is wearing your number. I actually have a funny story about that. I was warming up one day, and this elderly lady was wearing a number 15 jersey and I thought, ‘oh, that’s sweet’. But then I looked closer as saw that it said Millar and I almost threw up! I was like: ‘That was a hundred thousand years ago’! LOL
And then there was that story where Pedroia started yelling at Millar, because Millar always yells at.. well… everyone, and Pedroia convinced the guy playing all the music to stop playing Millar’s song. Once it actually happened, Pedroia was actually screaming up at the guy from second base. Pedroia is such a character. 
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I didn’t know much about Tim Lincecum during the regular season besides the fact that he was REALLY good. But after hearing some more about him through MLB Network, and seeing his interview and pitching techniques, I’ve decided that I really like him. He’s only been in the league two years and he’s already picked up a Cy Young Award. I love young talent. In ’08 he went 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA, and his windup is so cool! And I’m sure the King of Cali can tell you more! 
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Apparently, he’s a pretty big part of MLB ’09 The Show (or one of those baseball games), and he had all these movement censors attached to him so that his actual windup could be incorporated into the game. I’m not too good at video games, but I’m pretty wicked when it comes to Guitar Hero. I definitely want to try out MLB ’09 The Show–Pedroia is on the cover of it!! I remember Scott wrote an article on his addiction to a baseball game a little while ago. 
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Derek Lowe signed with the Braves. Sure, I wanted him on the Red Sox, but I knew as soon as we got Brad Penny that he wouldn’t be coming over here. I did want Lowe back because I still love him. He was so good during the ’04 post season (we’ll always remember Game 7 in our hearts) and he had that beautiful no hitter in 2002, which Jason Varitek caught. Jason Varitek is the only pitcher in history to have caught four no-hitters. Hideo Nomo in 2001, Derek Lowe in 2002, Clay Buchholz in 2007, and Jon Lester in 2008. How can we not re-sign him?? 
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Former Red Sox utility infielder Alex Cora signed with the Mets a few days ago. He was pretty nice to have backing up the entire infield, but his offense was always a little shaky. Still, I am concerned that we don’t have a good back up second baseman or shortstop. We have Mark Kotsay to backup first, and Kevin Youkilis can move to third if needed. Maybe what we’ll end up doing is keeping both Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie, and having them battle out the starting shortstop position in Spring Training (ONE MONTH!!!!!!!!!!) and having the other one as a backup. If not, Kevin Youkilis could probably play every infield position if we really needed him too–in fact, he could probably play them all at once! 
So last night, I decided to make my status on facebook (kind of like Twitter) my blog URL. I didn’t think too many people would click on it–little did I know that people would actually read it! Normally when I see a link on facebook, I just bypass it–especially if it’s a youtube link. But I always appreciate people reading what I write :). Thank you guys so much for your support!!
I’ll be dedicating my locker combination to some Red Sox players in my next post LOL. And Tommy has inspired me to write about my autograph from last year (yeah only one lol). 
-Elizabeth
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