Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

Mike Lowell Hanging it Up

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Mike Lowell is playing his last game of professional baseball, with the Red Sox honoring him yesterday before the second scheduled (but first played because of rain on Friday) game . Ironically, the game at Fenway is against the same team the drafted him in 1995.

(And in another piece of irony to me, the game was intended by MLB scheduling to be the final showdown between the bitter rivals but is now anything but.)

Mike Lowell

Mike Lowell is hanging it up after twelve seasons.

At the crippling age of 36, Lowell probably knows that’s the hips are on the complete opposite end of the Shakira spectrum. He missed significant time the last few seasons of not being able to run or hit without pain.

But looking back there are two things that I will remember most about Lowell:

(Maybe three if you include that he was part of the 2003 Marlins team, along with Josh Beckett, to defeat the Yankees in the World Series. I know most Yankees fans thought at the time that beating the Red Sox in seven in the ALCS was more important than winning the World Series, I just couldn’t stand to see them win yet another since my entrance into the Yankees realm (college 1997-2001 was hell). But there was also some consolation in the fact that the very next year, the Yankees became the first team to lose a series after going up 3-0, and then watch the Sox win two since. Though 2009 had just the reverse effect. But I digress.)

The first was his performance in the 2007 postseason, culminating with World Series MVP honors. Right after that, I was screaming that they should sign him to whatever he wanted. He was only 33 at the time, and hitters and tremendous third basemen don’t come around too often. After turning down woos from Philly for more years and money, he agreed to stay in Boston for three years.  And it was almost right away that he started to show signs of wear and tear.  But his play in that post season to help the Red Sox get their second championship in four years (or second in ninety years, depending on how you look at it) was spectacular, especially after he was considered a burden on the Josh Beckett trade.

And that is the second thing that I’ll remember the most.  In a trade with the Florida Marlins to get ace pitcher Josh Beckett (a trade that was made while Theo Epstein took a break from being the Sox GM), Florida wanted to dump the contract of Mike Lowell.  At the age of 31 (my age right now), he was viewed as too old.  He was essentially a washed up player that the Marlins were looking to lighten their salary for the year.  Yet Boston got anything but that.  The first year, 2006, Lowell looked to be the better player received in the trade.

With Lowell leaving, it will give the Sox $12.5M to work with for next season, as well as a position to fill (third or first, opposite of Kevin Youkilis when he gets back).

So, on his last game played (sitting out the last two games of the season), he went 2-for-2 with a walk which included a 2-run double in the first and scored in the third.  Outside of the “homerun in your last at bat,” I thought it was a fitting ending for the gritty player in Mike Lowell.

Red Sox Officially Out

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

For the last few weeks, the Boston Red Sox were hanging on to the slimmest of hopes to remain in the playoff hunt.  But as the New York Yankees were able to win a few games recently, the magic number has finally reached zero.

With a chance to end up with 90 wins this season, the Sox are going to finish third in the very tough A.L. East.  There record with five games to go in the season has them in a dead heat with the Texas Rangers in the West and five games behind Minnesota in the Central.  But that is the curse of playing in the toughest division in baseball.  Without a doubt the wildcard will be either New York or Tampa Bay as they are half a game apart, and Minnesota also vying for home field advantage.

I know that I’ve stated this before, but it was impressive that the Sox made it last this long.  I thought for sure that they would have been eliminated a while ago after having key player after key player either be lost for the season or have a stint on the DL.  Yes, of course I get the fact that a team like the Red Sox who had $168M in salaries (including players who were on the books but on other teams) should be able to to have other players on their team who should still be better than the more frugal teams.

And I also know that I have brought this up earlier, but in the end it was the pitching that did them in.  Very highly paid starters had terrible seasons:

Player Salary
Starts W L ERA
John Lackey $18.7 32 13 11 4.47
Josh Beckett $12.1 20 6 5 5.77
Daisuke Matsuzaka $8.33 24 9 6 4.72

Jon Lester $3.75 31 19 8 2.96
Clay Buchholz $443K 28 17 7 2.33

The first three cost over $39M this year (add about another $8.5M for the amortized posting fee for close to $48M) and combined for a 28-22 record.  On the other hand, the saving grace hasn’t been the pitchers acquired via free agency or trades, but the two homegrown kids who totaled a record of 36-15 while hardly a burden on the ownerships’ wallets at just over $4M.  Lester will end up around second in the league in wins and fourth in ERA, and Buchholz will finish second with his ERA just a few points behind leader Felix Hernandez.

The bullpen was spotty as well as the season progressed.  When Jonathan Papelbon wasn’t blowing saves (similar to Sunday night against the Yankees), he would make the outing an adventure; there never seemed to be an easy 1-2-3 ninth for him.   Daniel Bard provided some energy in the setup roll, and is apparently the heir to the closing roll.  For the most part, the rest just weren’t good.

To go along with all of these issues were some bad loses down the stretch.  From September 10th, Boston lost two-of-three games in Oakland, to Toronto and to Baltimore (a .395 team they were 9-9 against this season).

But the injuries definitely was thing that kept them out of the postseason.  They played a good chunk of the season with Mike Lowell at first, Bill Hall at second, newcomer Ryan Kalish in the outfield, and a slew of other minor leaguers to fill in.

And we that, the baseball season in Boston will go quietly into the night, with nothing more than gobs of trade and free agency rumors that will over saturate the airwaves and blogosphere… I’m sure I will be writing one soon anyway.

Red Sox Back in Familiar Grounds

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Going into the Fourth of July weekend, the Boston Red Sox had been able to take a very large 8.5 games behind in the American League East and whittled it down to a simple half-game difference with the New York Yankees.

Then starting on the holiday, they rattled off four loses in a row, took two of three from Toronto, rested for the All-Star game (Lester threw one inning, Ortiz won the Home Run Derby and had two at-bats in the game, and that was it for the Sox’s roster), and now have lost the first two games back to the Texas Rangers.

They have been able to allow the Yankees’ lead to ballon back to 6.5 in just nine games.

To be fair, in the past 15 games or so, they have lost a ton of key players to injuries, adding them to a list that was already a few deep.  Two catchers are out, a 10-game winner as well as an All-Star and MVP second baseman.

After Sunday’s day game against Texas to wrap up a four-game homestand, Boston flies out to play ten games against the AL West starting Monday night in Oakland.  Their first seven games are against the bottom dwellers of the division (including four against a Cliff Lee-less Seattle team), but it always seems that the Sox have issues going out on those west coast trips, where you just hope that they play .500 ball.

I think it’s safe to say that unless the Yankees go through a stretch of bad baseball and a slew of injuries, they are going to take the AL East this year.  Thus looking to try to take Tampa Bay (3.5 behind them) is their only option to making the playoffs this year.  I don’t think that there will be any major moves coming to Boston by the trading deadline (and hey, if they are this far below after the deadline, they might be in a position to pick someone off the waiver wire).  But, by the end of July, players like Beckett and Buckholz, Pedroia and Ellsbury (maybe), Martinez and Varitek, and some nice roll/bench players like Lowell and Hermida should be back in the lineup.  These players could be better than anyone else out there for whom they would have to take on more salary or lose top prospects.

Perkins is Bound to Miss a Game

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Kendrick Perkins needs one more technical foul to join Brian Scalabrine for a game.

Kendrick Perkins is one technical foul away from missing a game in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The problem with being a somewhat clumsy, physical big who battles down low all game is that he will be getting tangled up under the basket trying to get positioning.  That will just lead to players getting heated, have an extracurricular shove or two, and the refs will just call a double technical, because they didn’t see who started it and just don’t care.

This isn’t good for Perkins and the Celtics if they are hoping to keep him on the court to offset Pau Gasol in the paint (not to shut him down, but to play Gasol more physical than he has so far in these playoffs).  It would behoove the Lakers to have anybody take a technical for the team to Perkins out for a game-plus.

If I were Doc, and just concede that this is inevitable, I would hope that it happens in Game 1.  This way he can contribute in the first game, sit for the second game which is on the road (i.e., not likely to win that one), and have a rested Perkins who can play without being so concerned with technicals for the remainder of the series.

Red Sox Always Playing from Behind

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

From the category of “for what it’s worth,” the Boston Red Sox seem to always be playing from behind.

Through the first 15 games, here is the number of runs scored by inning:

That means on average, the Boston Red Sox are going to have a 2-1 disadvantage after the first three innings.  The rest of the games, they seem to score runs on par with their opponents.

The final three games of the Tampa Bay series, in which the Sox were swept in four games, is pretty evident of this.  In these three games, the first three innings of each game (in terms of runs) were 4-0-0, 0-2-2, and 1-0-5 (with 2 more in the fourth on Patriot’s Day).  The Sox score zero.  4+4+6 > 0+0+0.  I do have a math degree, but I don’t think it’s necessary in this case.

Then in the first two games of the Texas series thus far, the Rangers go five runs in the first four innings the first night, and four runs in the first two innings last night.  Yet again, the pitching and defense has put them into the hole where they have to come back from multiple runs.  Thankfully a few lucky breaks (Hamilton overrunning a fly-out, or getting a home-field call on the throw to home) and some clutch hitting from minor leaguers has finally given Boston a few Ws.

It would be nice to see a starting pitcher go seven-plus innings without giving up a run once.  There has still yet to be a sub-three-run game played.

On another note, I think we can just give anyone who gets on base, just let him walk to third, because they’re going to steal the bases anyway.  Tuesday night’s game was disgusting: nine stolen bases.  And it isn’t even the nine that were the worst to take.  It was that two of them were by Vladimir Guerrero.  The man can’t even walk anymore, and he had two.  And those two matched the steals total he had in 2009… All of 2009.

Celtics to Play Game Two without Garnett

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The NBA has decided that the Boston Celtics will play the second game of the opening series against the Miami Heat without Kevin Garnett.

I guess the old strategy of having a lesser player try to provoke your opponents best player has worked for Miami.

Quentin Richardson will just have to pay $25K for his actions within the fight (like being the root cause), but at least he will be able to play for Miami, who is looking to even the series in Boston on Tuesday.

There doesn’t seem to be much mention of the fact that KG was grabbed by four people from the Miami side just before the elbow was thrown.

Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls also had a comment about the situation, calling Garnett a dirty player.  I don’t know man, I’ve seen Noah play a few times, and I wouldn’t exactly describe his style as clean.

I guess one positive aspect of KG having to sit out a game is that he’ll be able to at least rest his legs and shoulder for a few more days.  But with Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace having to fill in those minutes for Kevin and their knack for giving away cheap fouls, this might be a long night for the Cs.  If the defense can limit Dwyane Wade again, they might have a shot of stealing Game 2 heading to Miami.

Regardless, what seemed like a pretty physical game already will definitely be escalated in the games to come.  Get your icepacks ready.

The Newly Defensive-Minded Red Sox

Monday, April 19th, 2010

It is just twelve games into season, and it is very common for teams to start off slowly.  Last year the Red Sox began great and the New York Yankees were struggling with their reformed team, and that seemed to not be the case by the time the playoffs rolled around.

Just twelve games into the season, and a lot of those have been against teams who are supposed to be very good; projected 2010 playoff teams.  Opening against the world champion New York Yankees, out to Kansas City (okay, they should be an easy one), be the first opponents in the new stadium for Minnesota, and then back to Fenway for Tampa Bay.  They took two against the Royals, only one from each the Twins and the Yankees, and have thus far put up a bagel against the Rays in the first three of a four-game series.  Giving the Boston Red Sox a 4-8 record thus far in 2010.

Bruce Jenner - Then and Now; Just as different as the new Boston Red Sox lineup.

There are a lot of new faces to get used to.  Of what was supposed to be the starting line up, there are three new faces: Adrian Beltre at third, Marco Scutaro at the revolving door that is shortstop, and Mike Cameron in centerfield.  If you include Victor Martinez acquired at last season’s trading deadline, and Jeremy Hermida filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury (who was injured last Sunday), more than half the line-up are more of the unfamiliar names compared to the days of olde (like 2008).  It’s as if you remember Bruce Jenner’s face when he was an Olympic Decathlete and then turned on the TV today.

The theory of the direction that general manager Theo Epstein is using is very logical: a run that the defense prevents the opponent from scoring is equal to the run that your offense needs to score.  Why bother trying to pound out five runs, when all you need is three if your defense gives up two.

Twelve games this year; and the runs scored by the Red Sox: 9, 4, 1, 3, 8, 8, 2, 6, 0, 1, 5, 1. That’s 48 runs scored for 4 a game.  Not including the 19 runs scored against Kansas City, that’s 29 runs in nine games for just over 3 runs a game.

Not scoring as many runs on offense: check.

In twelve games this year, the pitching and defense have given up runs: 7, 6, 3, 4, 3, 6, 5, 3, 8, 3, 6, 7.  That’s 61 runs for 5-plus runs a game.  A team that is built around great pitching and defense has never given up less than 3 runs a game.

On top of that, there have been nine errors, seven occurring in the last four games.

And to add to the troubles, whenever there are baserunners, chances are they are going to advance. There have been 21 stolen bases (9 by Tampa Bay already).  That’s 21 stolen bases on 22 attempts.  There have also been a few judgement errors made by the catchers as well: such as the double steal by the Yankees, and the relay throw to the Marinez who threw it back to second against the Twins which allowed a runner from third to score.

Anyone can look like Willie Mays Hayes when running on the 2010 Red Sox catchers.

With twelve games down, there are only 150 left to solve all of these issues.  I think there’s still time.  I’m sure the pitching will finally start to calm down (at least the starting rotation).  And the errors will probably not be as frequent (or as atrocious).  The stolen bases are going to be a problem.  The catching is going to make everyone look like Willie Mays Hayes (the second half of the movie, not when he slides 10 feet short).

After the Monday matinee for the final game against the Rays, there twelve games against the Rangers, Baltimore (twice), and Toronto.  That seems like a nice stretch of games to at least climb back above .500.