Hello there 2011!

Here we go 2011! With some fantastic off season activity this year, there has been much to talk about. After a winter hiatus from writing, its time to get back into it. I found an essay type description online, and figured that this would be a great place to start my first post of the year.

  1. In the first part, tell us about yourself and why you love baseball.(500 word limit)
  2. In the second part, answer one of the following questions (500 word limit)
    1. Who will win the American and National League Most Valuable Player Awards in 2011? Make a strong case for your selections.
    2. What will be the biggest MLB storyline of 2011? Explain why.


Part 1:

There are many reasons to love baseball, and each person has a smaller subset of this large array of reasons that makes baseball special to them. Many people can point to a specific game that their Dad took them too, or a memorable player interaction that their love of the game stems from. My first game, and introduction to baseball happened at such a young age that I do not even remember it. My love, however, stems more from the field that it does from the stands. I grew up playing baseball, and there was nothing that I loved more. 2nd base was my position, and there was nothing more satisfying than making a great defensive play. I loved being in the ready position, waiting for the pitch. I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass, the annoying little gnats that inevitably wound up squished on the underside of my cap’s brim, the cool breeze that came in as the sun was setting, and the joyous feeling of knowing we didn’t have to stop as the lights came on.

I couldn’t get enough baseball. I began to watch the Red Sox. I grew up in the 90’s when the Sox were constantly not good enough. I listened to games on WEEI, because I loved the descriptions of the game over the radio.  Eventually, I began to understand “the curse”. It was something I had always known about, but didn’t understand for a long time. It was only after years of constant defeat did I really feel the pain. The late 90’s  were supposed to be our time, the rise of Nomar, our beloved Trot, the acquisition of Pedro. I was head over heels in love with the Red Sox, and the Yankees broke my heart, year, after year, after year. The curse began to take hold of me. My hatred for NY grew immensely, as did my fear of the curse. The crushing defeats continued into 2003, where I had to deal with Aaron Boone of all people.

Then everything changed, and everyone knows the story. In the biggest hole in professional sports the Red Sox won eight straight games to end it all. Pure joy. The curse was over. My baseball love didn’t end there, how could it? I was thirsty for more.  So how exactly does one top breaking an 86 year curse in spectacular fashion?

Enter the 2008 Phillies.  Game 5, part two. As a seasoned baseball fan knows, Game 5 of the 2008 World Series was postponed mid-game due to rain, throwing a wrench into the travel plans of fans everywhere. As luck would have it, this provided me with a free ticket to part two of the game.  I got to walk into a 2-2 tie in the 6th inning, and watch the Phillies win it all. Mayhem. Riots. Another broken fan base had their redemption and I was a part of it. Sweet revenge after the Rays had eliminated my Sox. Baseball is in my blood, and I will never tire of it.

Part 2:

A)   2011 AL MVP: Dustin Pedroia – This is a tough one for me, and I have tried to remove any bias there might be in me as a Sox fan, but this guy tries harder than anyone I have ever seen. In 2010, he took grounders on his knees while he had a broken foot. Already having won the rookie of the year award in 2007 and an MVP in 2008, a gold glove, and three straight all-star selections, he still has the desire to work hard and improve. With the lineup additions of Crawford and Gonzalez he has a great deal of power behind him (presuming he keeps 2nd in the batting order), as well as the return of Ellsbury to the leadoff slot to help his RBI numbers. This scrappy player will not stop short of perfect, and that dedication will win him another MVP award in the next 3 years.

2011: NL MVP: Roy Halladay – The last pitcher to win a MVP was Dennis Eckersley in 1992. This is really a shame. Since 1992 we have entered the steroid era, possibly explaining why no pitcher was awarded the honor due to inflated hitting numbers. It appears, however, that the steroid era is over. 2010 had 7 no hitters, including two perfect games. Roy Halladay threw a perfect game and a postseason no hitter. Since leaving the AL East, Halladay has been absurdly dominant, and will continue to be in 2011. With 9 complete games in 2010, a 2.44 ERA, and 21 wins, it’s a wonder Halladay didn’t get a single first place vote. In all likelihood, this prediction will not come true, but more because the Baseball Writers will all vote for position players in the end. That doesn’t make it right. Consider Halladay, because in the end he will absolutely deserve it.

B) The best storyline of 2011 will be Phantastic Phour in Philadelphia. With possibly the best rotation of all time, they are a giant force that must be taken down. Hands down the favorite for the 2011 W.S. This however, will be a slow storyline and much better in the playoffs. A much less talked about story line will be the Tampa Bay Rays. How will the additions of Manny and Damon for relatively small money impact this team? Can they keep their young, underdog attitude alive? Can they keep Manny from being a cancer? Will Joe Maddon be able to handle the veteran presence? Most importantly, if all of this works out, can they compete with the reloaded Red Sox and powerhouse Yankees? The AL East is once again the strongest division in baseball. Let the games begin.

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Filed under All Star game, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Cubs, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, General Baseball, MLB, MVP, Perfect Game, Philadelphia, Phillies, Playoffs, Red Sox, Sox, Sports, Trades, World Series, Yankees

Post Season Predictions

Ahh October. Nothing says baseball quite like it. In a season where my Red Sox were decimated by injury, I found it hard to work through the predictions, but the show must go on!

NLDS Reds vs. Phillies

When the Reds first made the playoffs, I was excited for them. 15 years without a playoff appearance for one of the classic baseball franchises. Despite them having five rings, and me never wanting them to have more than my sox, I was really hoping that they would do well. Well, they seem to have run into a Buzzsaw, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies are probably the worst draw you can get in this playoff set. Not only are they the #1 team in the majors, but they are super hot. Their 11 game win streak in late September has these guys feeling like they can’t lose. Let’s not forget the absurd Halladay/Oswalt/Hammels rotation either. Roy Halladay is a beast. 2.44 ERA, 21 wins, and a workhorse to boot. This is someone who should have four rings by now, but his career in Toronto wasn’t exactly the fast track to the World Series. He is my favorite for October MVP.

Result: Phillies in 3

NLDS Braves vs. Giants

Unfortunately I don’t like this matchup much. Neither team offers much promise for a deep run in my eyes thus the Phillies are on the fast track to the World Series as a result. Both teams have great pitching, but in the end look for Wagner to lock it down.

Result: Braves in 4

ALDS Yankees vs. Twins

The Yankees showed the world last year that C.C. Sabathia doesn’t need rest. They showed it again this year when his wasn’t affected by the previous October. This, along with their high-powered offense, makes them a very dangerous threat if they can make it out of the first round. Unfortunately for them, Pettitte and Burnett do need rest, and Burnett has been a mess. The Yankee pitching could be their downfall. I flip-flopped 15 times on this one, trying to justify a win for the twins but in the end…

Result: Yankees in 4

ALDS Rangers vs. Rays

Tampa is young, and has seen the scene in the past few years. Cliff Lee seems to be on a post-season roster every year now. I like the Rangers better in a 7 game series to win out over a worn pitching staff. Longoria comes back for the Rays which should help. Provided Longoria isn’t a flop after his little injury break…

Result: Rays in 5

NLCS Braves vs. Phillies

The Phillies are so far gone as Phavorites in the NL. I can’t pick against them. (I promise no more PH=f jokes.)

Result: Phillies in 5

ALCS: Yankees vs. Rays

Destroy the evil empire! This is where their 3 man rotation will come in to play. CC likely pitches three times in this series. Beat him once and the Rays win.

Result: Rays in 7

World Series Rays vs Phillies

2008 Rematch! 2008 Results. Roy Halladay gets his first WS win, ring, and MVP honors. I think the deep postseason runs finally catch up with the Rays who don’t really show up for this one. The Phillies rotation is too good, and their offense is greater than or equal to that of the Rays. Mathematically sounds like winners to me.

Result: Phillies in 5… again.

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Deal or No Deal?

Last time I checked in with you, the Sox had just been hit with a wave of injuries. It was series of random events seemingly in the outer six-sigma realm that decimated the team.

Well, nothing has changed.

Still fighting the injury bug that seems determined to slaughter everyone, this team is reaching a depressing level. That sinking realization has set in that the playoffs are a long shot. Even if the Red Sox pull off a Colorado Rockies-esque run (circa 2007), there is little to no chance to make a real deep October run.

The news here, however, is not the disappointing flameout of a potential World Series caliber roster, but more so the trade of Manny Delcarmen.  Delcarmen was traded for 21 year old pitching prospect Chris Balcom-Miller (CBM from here on out), and I like the move. Now, I have never seen CBM pitch, but I still like it. While Delcarmen had his good times here, he was not improving. If CBM can contribute anything in the next few years, the Sox have won in this deal.

This move also gives us an insight into the mind of GM Theo Epstein. Theo has made several big deadline/waiver moves in the last few years, all with the intent of a playoff push. This isn’t that move. This is different. This is a calculated assessment of exactly what I said above, that the injured 2010 Red Sox can’t accomplish the major goal of the season, a World Series ring. We all knew that this year was referred to as a “bridge year” with the short term contracts of a few players bridging the gap to some younger talent and the end of a few big money contracts. Between David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Jeremy Hermida, Jason Varitek, and Julio Lugo (the Sox paid Lugo $10 mil of his contract in 2010) the Red Sox have a whopping $60 million coming off of contracts. Now, there are obviously priorities to some of that money (like a catcher, more on the importance of signing Martinez later), but this move signals that Epstein knows what is going to happen in the next two years. He knows this team is set to revamp, reset, and make a new run.

CBM may be a part of this new era. Probably not in 2011 due to his age and level, but it’s not out of the question for 2012/2013. Epstein has gotten value in the trading market, recognizing that there is a lost value in this season. By taking a realistic view of the situation, the Red Sox have made a move that has the potential to help down the road at a relatively low cost or risk, and that’s why I like it. Tryouts for the 2011 bullpen begin now.

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Filed under Adrian Beltre, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Colorado, Contracts, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, General Baseball, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Lester, Mike Lowell, Papelbon, Playoffs, Red Sox, Rockies, Sox, Sports, Trades, Uncategorized, Victor Martinez, World Series

A tribute

George Steinbrenner has died at the ripe young age of 80.


Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973, 37 years ago. I am 23. Steinbrenner had an attitude, a cut throat win at all costs attitude that fit New York baseball better than a worn in glove. He has been synonymous with the Yankees my entire life, and the bane of my existence in the 90’s. I have never had anything less than a tremendous hatred for the Yankees, and Steinbrenner, but today that hatred is all about respect. I didn’t hate this man because he ever personally did anything to me. I hated him because he was good at what he did. I hated him for creating a monster that won 9 division titles in a row, crushing my childhood hopes and dreams year after year. With seemingly unlimited resources, he reinvented the Yankee franchise, if that was even possible. He made winning the norm, and still pushed to get better. He saw talent, players, and opportunities and said, “I want that, make it happen.” and it would happen.

So after watching you beat my Red Sox for the AL East title 11 times, and winning it all 5 times (and two more prior to me being born), I tip my Red Sox cap to George Steinbrenner. May we see you in the Hall of Fame soon.

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A slap on the wrist, ankle, ribs, forearm, back, hamstring, and both feet

I nearly died two days ago when Kevin Youkilis left the game on July 6th. I was ready to sign my organ donor form, jump off a cliff, and give what remaining working body parts I have to the Boston Red Sox, since nothing else seems to work.

The Red Sox have just been swept for the first time since the awkward sweep by the Orioles on April 30-May 2. It seems the injuries caught up to the Sox a little bit for this series, as they just could not catch a break. Now back in third place in the division, 4.5 games out, the Sox head into their final series before the all star break. Fortunately, it is a matchup with the Blue Jays and John Lester is pitching in the series. Winning 2/3 in this series would be a great way to head into the break, all things considered.

There is some light on the horizon though! A faint, candle size light, about 10 miles away but it is there. Dead Red Sox will start returning from the grave soon. Clay Buchholz appears to be on track to make a start in the Texas series immediately following the All Star Break. Josh Beckett is throwing in simulated games and looks to return the week following Buchholz. Having both of these guys back will be a huge help, and a relief on the bullpen. If they are back and pitching like they both can, we can win more games when the lineup, patched together with band-aids and duct tape, doesn’t magically score 5 runs.

Martinez is listed as a probable return after the All Star break as well, which is very exciting. This is not only a huge lineup boost but a return to normal for all the pitchers who have developed any sort of routine with him behind the plate. This is especially valuable since Jason Varitek is out into August.

Also exciting, is that both Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida are listed as possibly returning late July. Now, I am no medical expert, nor do I really know the extent of their broken ribs, but broken ribs are a pretty serious deal. It wouldn’t surprise me if these guys were back in early August instead. If they beat that I can only be excited instead of disappointed. August also brings back the broken feet boys, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek.

Now there is no denying that the most recent sweep hurt, but it in no way hurts the chances of a playoff run. We are half way through the season, and it is certainly not out of the question for this team to make an August/September push for a berth.

Other All Star Notes:

Very classy move by MLB, players, team managers, or whoever else had a hand in naming Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez to the all star team, knowing that they would not play due to injury. They very easily could have been skipped over with replacements made right off the bat (pun certainly intended.)

Buchholz will not pitch in the game either, but that was up in the air at the time of selection. I am more or less glad he will not be, as I don’t want to push an injury. As far as the rest of the Sox participating, I am a little nervous about Ortiz in the Home Run derby. The potential for a power outage afterwards is there, but as Prince Fielder showed last year (24 HR post-HR derby 2009) there is no guarantee of one.

On the flip side, I do like the idea of him being there, as it could quite possibly be the last All Star Game and HR Derby that David Ortiz ever participates in. Ortiz will probably get two at bats in the game after Vladimir Guerrero gets two at bats in. I hope he puts on a show, gets a big fat smile all over his face, and goes back to hitting well after the break. The other selection I like a lot is Adrian Beltre getting his first appearance. Beltre is less likely to get an at bat due to A-Rod being on the Roster, but could get up to the plate in the late innings if the AL has gone through the lineup a few times. DH, 3B, or pinch-hitter are all places he could fit in, but probably not for more than 1 at bat.

Lester will likely pitch 2 innings of the game; I view him as the most logical choice to replace David Price when he comes out followed by either Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia. No issues there. It’s not a full start so I find it hard to see him injuring himself.

Kevin Youkilis is the wild card here. Voting closes at 4:00 PM. I can go either way on this one. I would love to see the guy honored, but especially with his recent almost-injury I wouldn’t mind Youk getting a rest. The guy plays the game so hard day in and day out it must take a toll on his body. Go lie down, fall asleep for 48 hours and then go get a massage. Rest my friend, we need you.

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Filed under Adrian Beltre, All Star game, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, ESPN, General Baseball, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Lester, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, MLB, MVP, Playoffs, Red Sox, Sox, Sports, Victor Martinez

A bit of a bug going around

The injury bug has bitten the Red Sox. Not once, not twice, but over and over again in a relentless attack designed to destroy any hope at a post season berth. It started in the outfield, little things here and there until it manifested in broken ribs for Jeremy Hermida and Jacoby Ellsbury. Mike Cameron was one of the first with the so called injury illness, going on the DL at the end of April. As an upside to this whole mess, his early season departure has him returning as the virus spreads to the rest of the team. His return couldn’t have come sooner as JD Drew has missed some games as well.

While the infectious, highly contagious injury bug was successfully confined to the outfield for a while, it has managed to make its way elsewhere. Josh Beckett caught it first, and may have gotten it while in training camp as his early season performance was less than stellar. Let us not forget Daisuke Matsuzaka who started the season on the DL as well. The infection spread to another starting pitcher as it tried to take out Clay Buchholz, who appears he might be resistant to this particular strain of the injury bug. With a few off days this week, Clay may be able to make his next start. We can only hope this is not too serious. The infield is the most recent sighting of the virus, as the broken bone strain has returned to hit both Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez. Mike Lowell is out with hip problems to top it all off. Please let the hemorrhaging stop…

While this week was the worst of it, with three guys going down in three days, there are several things that have not only kept the Red Sox afloat, but have gotten them surging to a 17-7 record in June after a scorching hot May.

  • Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava. These guys have been spectacular. Both of them had never seen playing time in the major leagues, yet have come through time and again. McDonald has 5 HR and 20 RBI, all of which seem to have come in important games. Nava is batting close to .300 and manager Terry Francona has enough faith in him that Nava hit second in the absence of Pedroia on Sunday. These two guys will continue to be relied on in the coming months, and while nobody expects production like the guys they are replacing, they have been fantastic thus far.
  • Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. These guys have been stellar. Both times that an injury caused a starter to either miss a start or leave in the 2nd inning, the bull pen was taxed big time. These two came out the next day and pitched an 8-inning and 9-inning win respectively. Stepping up and eating the innings is one thing, doing it while you pitch well and get the win is even better.
  • The Pen. There are some ugly ERA’s in the bullpen at the moment, but it seems like they have saved some wins that should not have been wins. On Sunday the Red Sox used 8 pitchers for 9 innings. If I had only heard that stat for any team in the majors I would have told you they lost. Not this team, the Sox pulled out a 4-2 win. Despite a few blown Papelbon saves lately and some relatively high ERA’s, the bullpen has kept us in the important games and given us some wins that the Sox might have not otherwise deserved.

While that is all and good for what has happened, it may not directly translate to what the next month will look like. The injuries in the last few days drastically change the landscape. There are a few very important points that need to happen going forward for the Red Sox to stay afloat and maintain a factor in the 2010 playoff hunt.

  • No more injuries. Impossible to predict, and just as impossible to plan for. The Red Sox have proven their depth both in position players and pitching. The depth only goes so far, and at some point one of these injuries is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey and JD Drew. These guys need to perform big. Drew is going to be relied on much more to be an offensive force. The loss of Pedroia and Martinez will hurt this lineup, and Drew has the ability to singlehandedly carry the team for a while. Let us hope that he turns it on. Completely independent of Buchholz’s status, the lack of offensive production is going to mean tighter games. Matsuzaka and Lackey can hide many of the team’s current injuries if they go out and throw 2-3 consecutive games with two runs or less.
  • Josh Beckett. For the same reasons that Daisuke and Lackey need to perform, Beckett is going to be missed more than ever. I am predicting an all-star break return for Beckett, even though nothing is official. If he returns to form and pitches some great games he could help keep the Sox in the mix.

More than anything else, these guys need to come back, and healthy. For now, the Red Sox just need to stay relevant. A deep World Series run will not be possible without Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz, Beckett, and Martinez, but before that a playoff berth is required. Now we wait, and hope for the best. The 2010 Red Sox have proven to be a strong and resilient team, but their biggest challenge awaits them and will test every part of the team over the next six weeks or so.

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Perfection Denied

Twenty-Five days ago, we all woke up in a world where only 18 perfect games had been thrown. Since 1876, there have been about 390,000 baseball games played. This is a rate of one perfect game every 4.5 seasons.

We almost just had three in a little over three weeks. By now, the whole world, Jim Joyce included, knows that umpire Jim Joyce blew Armando Galarraga’s perfect game with a missed call at first base. Jason Donald was out by at least a step, and then what should have been an epic celebration of perfection turned into a controversy over instant replay.

Instant replay, it’s on the way. I thought after the game that instant replay would have instantly fixed the problem. Jerry Crasnick had a very good point which made me rethink my argument.

“Inevitably, the game’s sad ending is going to elicit an outcry for expanded use of instant replay. It’s a worthwhile debate, but consider this for a second: How gratifying would it have felt if Joyce’s botched call was followed by a trip to the replay booth, a five-minute conference, the umpiring crew emerging from the tunnel and Joyce throwing up his right arm with an “out” sign.

Yes, Galarraga would have had his perfect game, on paper, but that single transcendent moment of celebration is something that can never be retrieved. In baseball or any other sport, winners don’t get mulligans on euphoria.” – Crasnick

He is completely right. How can you have a celebration on the field when the moment has passed? I for one have always been a big fan of the 5th umpire idea; someone in the booth to adjust calls that really need to be adjusted. Even in that scenario, the delay in the call would have taken the steam out of the celebration. If the 5th umpire was field level watching screens in the end of a dugout, it is possible that within 5-10 seconds after the safe call, he could have been on the field giving an out sign. There are obviously all sorts of issues with having these elements of replay, and the arguments for their applications are never ending.

So how does one fix this? Bud Selig could certainly make an executive decision, reverse the call and give Galarraga his perfecto. This has a whole new can of worms associated with it. Obviously, in this instance, nobody would argue. Justice would be served, but what happens when next week, the same scenario unfolds. Perfect game, 2 out, 9th inning in a 1-0 game, and a call is missed. The next batter hits a two run HR. Selig will almost be forced to take the win away from the opposing team if he wants to credit the new pitcher with a perfect game. What if the botched call happened 1 out earlier, can Selig still override? What if it was in the eighth, or the third? By righting the wrong after the fact, Selig sets a dangerous precedent which I do not think he can, or will do.

It winds up being a lose-lose situation. Selig’s hands are tied, and instant replay would only have helped in making the perfect game official, not in determining the game’s outcome.

In my opinion, Armando Galarraga’s name belongs on the list of perfect games. Don’t change the box score, the hit or anything, just put his name on the list. Put an asterisk if you have to; make him 20b or 21a if you want. His performance was noteworthy and belongs on the list some way or another.

Galarraga is taking the right approach to this. “I got a perfect game,” Galarraga said. “Maybe it’s not in the book, but I’m going to show my son the CD.” And you know what, Galarraga actually did something that nobody else has ever done; he basically threw a perfect game of 28 outs! He will always know he got a perfect game, I will always know he got a perfect game, and history will always know. Its just another great baseball storyline that we will tell our grand children one day.


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