Tag Archives: Theo Epstein

Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and the Red Sox: How Do YOU Spell Juggernaut?

With Crawford and Gonzalez in the mix, this should be a common sight around here soon.

Theo Epstein has given me a reason to write again.

Actually, he has given me two of them.

With today’s announcement that the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford, and last week’s trade for my long time man-crush, Adrian Gonzalez, the Sox are back. They have shifted the balance of power, stolen the thunder from a 10-2 Patriots team (by the way Rex Ryan, did you know that fist can be a verb?) and banished the championship contending Celtics and Bruins to the second page of the sports section. Once again this is a baseball town and the general malaise that had settled in at the end of last season is officially so gone that I have completely forgotten that anything between Papelbon entering in the ninth inning of game three of the ALDS in 2009 and when I woke up to the joyous news Saturday morning.

Now I know what all of you Christians have been saying about Christmas morning, but this was better.

Gone are the injuries, the worries, and watching Eric Patterson and Danny Nava playing in big games for the Sox. Gone is the f@#$%ing bridge year, and gone is the small market mindset. The Red Sox have flexed their muscles and now the rest of the league has to be afraid.

The best part of today was that I gave my students a pop quiz so that I could read all of the coverage, watch the video of Cashman shaking his head and imagining the price tag on Cliff Lee, who the Yankees absolutely must get, and above all, play with the lineup. Just picturing a lineup with a healthy Youk and Pedey, Ellsbury (I still think he’s the king of the Pink Hats) and Crawford terrorizing the basepaths, and Gonzalez chipping paint off the monster on a daily basis is making me smile and count the days to Pitchers and Catchers (66). After many hours of work (while I was supposed to be educating children), I have come to the following lineup:

Ellsbury (LF),

Pedroia (2B),

Crawford (LF),

Gonzo the Great (1B),

The Beard (3B),

Papi (DH),

Drew (only one more year, RF),

‘Tek/Salty (C),

Scoots (SS).

This way there are three on base guys in front of Gonzo and Youk, allowing them to drive guys in, and it keeps a semblance of the right-left pattern that Tito likes to keep in order to prevent other teams from using a specialist on the heart of the order. It is worth mentioning that both Gonzo and Craw (I’m auditioning nicknames, feel free to contribute) hit lefties very well and that Gonzo absolutely crushes everything, including the souls of people named Steinbrenner. There is also potential for Salty to continue to develop and move up in front of Drew in the order, furthering Tito’s right-left desires (both of the catchers are switch hitters).

Oh, and have I mentioned that the three and four pitchers in our rotation are as good, if not better than most other team’s one and two? Yeah, Beckett is looking like he is going to come out pissed off at all the people who said that he shouldn’t have gotten the extension last year and Lackey will be the same way at us (and I say us, because I am one of these people) and come out firing.

The bullpen is the only question left (other than who bats where in the lineup and how many games we win the east by), headed by the nutcase who is in his final year with the Sox and must show up big for the big contract that he wants. Bard is solid and getting better (look at what he did to lefties last season, and that’s as a righthander), and the rest of the pieces…. well…… I trust in Theo.

He’s gotten us this far.

66 Days.

Go Sox.

Done.

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Why I Love The 2010 Boston Red Sox.

So we’ve been gone for a while. These things happen when real life interrupts blissful Baseball fandom. The time off (which isn’t particularly over, more on that in a bit) has helped to reenergize us and has also reaffirmed our love for the Red Sox, specifically these Red Sox.

C0ming into the season I was confident despite the utterances of such terms as “bridge year” and “transitional period” throughout the off season. I knew that there was no way that the team was going to actually allow a season to go by without making a push for a title, especially with the fact that this season’s payroll ($170 mil) was higher than any in the club’s history. There was a lot of grousing about how the failure to sign Leigh Tiexiera’s  wife in the winter of 2008 had screwed up this team for years to come, and local pessimism was at it’s highest point since the winter of 2002, when everything had gone to shit and we still didn’t have a ring.

I could see where the doubters were looking, and I agreed with them in some way, but I still saw true promise in this club. There was some flash, some personality and some frailty, much more like the clubs that we used to love in the early part of the decade. So far, they have proved me right, and there’s much more to which we should look forward.

He's good again.

First and foremost there are the guys who keep showing up an doing their jobs. As long as we have Kevin Youkilis (seriously, Vote for Youk), David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre and (gulp) J.D. Drew going out there every day, the Sox have a chance to win. Without Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Sox have been grinding along, winning the first two of pretty much every series and doing it in every way possible. It is in many ways thanks to these guys.

David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre (both All Stars) have bounced back into form after disastrous 2009s and are both making Theo Epstein look good. Who else thought Beltre was going to hit .340 this deep into the season? Nobody? Yeah, I thought so.  J.D. and Youk, on the other hand are as steady as they come, both putting up the numbers and playing the kind of defense we have come to expect from both of them. Even J.D.’s monthly period pains have been just what we expected (he misses 4-5 days a month with some type of nagging malady. Therefore, he’s either a Werewolf or a chick). And we can’t discount Scutaro’s ability to make the routine play and get on base when necessary.

Then there’s the collection of Minor Leaguers, castoffs and miracles that Theo has found and thrown in to the fire. I was at the game when Darnell McDonald made his debut with a game tying homer and a walk off double, and he has been steady if not spectacular, but definitely better than expected for a guy who had been bouncing around the minors for 11 years. Danny Nava, on the other hand, came from the other end of the spectrum but had just as few expectations, and made his presence known just as fast. Josh Reddick, Felix Doubront (tonight’s starter) and all the rest have also been operating above and beyond. These kids (who are mostly older than me) are kicking ass and taking names, and it is good for everyone.

Granted, there are still issues. The bullpen is an absolute trainwreck. Getting the ball to Daily Daniel Bard and Papelmoose has gotten to be an adventure, as anyone who was begging for Daisuke to make it just one more inning last night should know. The injuries will also eventually catch up to us, because you can’t win a world series with Eric “Corey’s less talented younger brother” Patterson hitting in the second spot in the lineup.

We’ll be gone until Monday, as the Sox limp (quite literally) into the All-Star break. Damn real life and it’s getinthewayish abilitites.

They ain’t prefect, but I love ’em. You should too.

Go Sox.

Done.

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No More Balls: Red Sox Search For Answers Behind The Plate.

The outlook isn’t brilliant for the local nine these days.

The Sox have weathered a first month of the season filled with injuries, ineffectiveness and all other manner of suckitude, and have surprisingly come out of it with a 11-12 record. They have beaten up on the dregs of the AL, and thank god for doormats, going 9-4 against the Royals, Jays, O’s and Texas, while running up a less than impressive 2-8 record vs the Rays, Yanks and Twins. What’s surprising is not that there have been issues, it’s been what they are.

We all know about the Ortiz-Tito-Lowell love triangle, the injuries to Ellsbury and Cameron, and the general anemia of the Sox offense, but the pink elephant in the room is really the catching situation. Plain and simple, Victor has been about as impressive on the field as what I left in the toilet this morning. He’s hitting .247, with an OBP of .301, through 20 games as catcher and DH, has hit only one home run and has five RBI. Added to that is the fact that he is 1-27 in catching runners, and has never been the strongest defensively or as a signal caller.

Never Forget.

On the other side of the coin is the guy who still wears the “C” for the Red Sox. Jason Varitek is the highest paid backup/personal catcher (Beckett) in the majors and he has earned it. He has been a rock for the team for the past eight seasons, and has led them to two Series titles. Over the past two seasons he has been much maligned for his lack of offense, even though he has started hot both times and eventually worn down (he hit .239 with 13 HR and 38 RBI in the first half last year, and .157/1/13 in the second). At this point, however, he is flourishing in the backup role. Without the wear and tear his body has taken as a backstop each day, he has hit .323 with four home runs and 8 RBI.

The simple answer here is to put the Captain back behind the plate and mix Victor in with the clusterfuck that is the DH position. While it’s not easy, it would get the more potent bat (at least at the moment) into the lineup, and put a guy who had the best catcher ERA (that would be his pitchers ERA while he is behind the plate) in the AL last season. The problem with that is the downturn that Tek’s numbers will take once he is spending every day crouching, and the fact that, as great he is as a signal caller, his arm is as much a wet noodle as Johnny Damon’s when it comes to nailing base stealers.

So, what’s left?

Nothing really. Chris Iannetta is available, having been sent down to the Rockies after struggling in very limited chances this season (30 AB), but that would necessitate adding a third catcher to the roster and effing with the balance of everything else. There are also a few other trading options, but none that really fit the bill. Gerald Laird might be a possibility from the Tigers, but he presents the same issues as Iannetta, as does Chris Snyder of the D-backs.

There’s the wait and see option, where the Sox let it ride and hope that Victor removes head from ass and starts hitting like he did last fall, when he went .358 with the Sox. They could also remain internal and give the recently-promoted-to-Pawtucket Lars Anderson a shot if he shows something at AAA.

Duh.

Truly, the best option is to make the move that everyone wants. Make a deal. Bring in Prince Fielder or Give Jed Hoyer whatever the hell he wants and acquire Adrian Gonzalez to shore up the middle of the order, move Youk to third and let Tek be a bit of a black hole in the lineup as catcher, kinda. The Sox would then have time to develop Luis Exposito, Mark Wagner, Adalberto Ibarra (the new cuban guy) or any of the other guys in the pipeline into a Major League quality catcher. This allows the club to avoid screwing with the balance (O.K. it necessitates trading or cutting Ortiz, Lowell or Beltre) and do something that is not just a stopgap, but a longer term solution.

There is no quick and simple fix for this, especially with the fact that the Sox are still missing both of their centerfielders, the starters are hit and miss (though we have gotten three quality starts in a row), Bard is still giving up too many homers, and Beltre, the “best defensive third baseman on the planet” has more errors than homers (even though he is now hitting .338).

Trust in Theo.

Go Sox.

Done.

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Blprk Txts: It’s One Way or the Other.

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Run Prevention Only Works When You Actually Prevent Runs.

Lollygaggers.

We may be only two weeks into a six month baseball season, but it seems that there is some kind of disconnect going on. I am a huge supporter of Theo Epstein, but “run prevention” is close to being synonymous with “closer by committee” in my book. After 12 games, the Sox are five games back of first place at 4-8, and have not hit, pitched or defended very well. While bringing in guys like Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro to shore up the defense may have sounded like a great idea this winter (even to me), without a truly dangerous core to the lineup, the Sox are not going to be able to compete in the best division in baseball.

Earl Weaver, the legendary Orioles manager, once said that the key to winning in the American League was pitching, defense and the three run home run. The Sox brass definitely agrees with Weaver, seeing as they made defensive and pitching upgrades at the deadline in both 2004 (Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mientkiewicz, Dave Roberts) and 2007 (Gagne, who didn’t work out, but it was the right idea, and Ellsbury coming up from the minors) and won the World Series both times. This winter, without a truly elite slugger on the market, the front office pitched all their moves as part of a “run prevention” philosophy.

This was a smoke screen. With David Ortiz only showing up to the ballpark for the last four months of last season (he tried telecommuting in April and May) and Manny Ramirez doing his steroids in LA, the Sox are missing the third part of that plan, the three run home run, and from what I can see, the first two parts haven’t worked as planned. Marco Scutaro, the guy brought in to end the curse of Nomar, has been unimpressive, posting a .282 average with 1 home run and three RBI. His offense, while average, hasn’t been the problem though. He was brought in to do exactly what Julio Lugo could not and catch the ball, but has failed miserably at that, already making three errors, two of which cost the Sox a game.

Mike Cameron, also brought in to play defense, butchered a simple fly ball yesterday, allowing the Rays to jump on top 4-0 after the first and basically giving away another game. I have nothing bad to say about Adrian Beltre, though he has not dazzled, he has been as solid as he was expected to and his hitting has been as crappy as expected as well. The fact that neither of our catchers could throw out a base stealer to save the life of a child is not helping either.

The long and the short of it is that the grace period on the 2007 title has worn off, the new plan is not working, and if you hear grinding sounds in the background while you watch the Sox game tomorrow night, then it’s likely the headsman’s axe getting sharpened. Something must be done and patience is running short. At least we don’t have to wait long for the carnage tomorrow. See y’all at 11 am.

Go Sox.

Done.

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You can almost taste it; Opening ‘Day’ nearly upon us

I'm also really excited.

Like a distant tide, you can almost smell baseball season. And no,  not in the haven’t-washed-my-jock-since-last-spring kind of smell. It’s like an invisible energy that fills the city every early April. The texts start going out and coming in: “meet up b4 game?”… “bball tavern @ 5” … “I’ll perform any favor you can think of for your ticket” … buddies start making plans to come home, and beer sales go through the effing roof. Whatever the signs are for you, because it is unique and personal to each of us, one thing is as certain as taxes: Father Fenway comes out of his winter hibernation this Sunday.

As I have always maintained, Boston is a better place when the Sox are playing, and better even still when they’re winning. The cold, white, sissy-repellent that litter the streets during the cold months has melted away, and for those brave enough to bear it (or for those simply forced to) we have earned ourselves the right to another season of Red Sox baseball.

"Right here... Right now... I'm peeing."

With so many new faces this year, there is an unfamiliar air of uncertainty… kind of like the beginning of in 2004 and 2007 seasons. Like everything else in New England, there is no gray area, you either can’t wait to see the boys of summer hit the diamond, or you are already calling for Theo’s head on a blunt spit.

Let me settle all for everyone: We have the best 1,2,3 in all of baseball, the best number 4 pitcher in the game (Dice K) and our fifth starter is either a member of last year’s all-star team or a young stud with top-of-the-rotation stuff.

Our lineup is a mixture of solid doubles hitters with power and speed sprinkled in for garnish.

Our fielding consist of about a zillion combined gold gloves, a new left side of the infield that seems to be meshing with the right side, our new catcher behind the plate looks great and we’ve tacked on three (what will prove to be) terrific new starters in Cam, Scutaro and Beltre.

Cameron kinda looks like Willie Mays Hayes. Hopefully Big Papi swings better than Serano this year and even though the Papelmoose/Wildthing comparison is an easy one... Buccholz is definitely Ricky Vaughn.

Clay Buccholz

The Red Sox will win 98 games this year (like they always do) and narrowly lose the division to the Yankees, which is OK because the Yanks are a team built like winning the regular season is their goal. It’s an exciting season we’re on the doorstep of… And all I want for October is a World Series.

Go Red Sox.

StartMattCassel

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