Monday, January 26, 2009

The Mayor

Sean Casey, professional hitter and member of the 2008 Red Sox bench crew, has announced his plans to retire and join the MLB Network.  You already know how I feel about the MLB Network [LOVE it! And no, they're not paying me to say that... do you think they would?], so I'll fill you in on my opinion of Casey.

Nicknamed "the Mayor" by his baseball colleagues because of his general charisma and positive attitude, Casey was shunted to the side down the stretch last season with the arrival of Mark Kotsay.  Casey handled the situation admirably; you  never saw an interview or heard of an offhand comment that showed his dissatisfaction [unlike someone else, who acted a bit like a baby when he was pinch-hit for in the postseason].  Probably Casey recognized that Kotsay was faster and a slightly better defenseman, and, like he said when he signed with the Sox, he just wanted to win a championship.  

Casey couldn't buy a home run this year, and anyone who saw a game he participated in knows how hard it was for him to reach on a double, let alone trying for three.  However, in 69 games, he hit .322 with a .381 OBP; lifetime, he hit .302 with a .367 OBP.  Very respectable stats, but the only way Casey reaches the Hall is if they create a wing for everyone's favorite clubhouse guy.  If that happened, he would be a shoe-in, as he's been voted the Nicest Player in Major League Baseball by his peers, and given the Good Guy Award by the Boston Baseball Writers.

Casey will be a great addition to the MLB Network crew, though he has not revealed what his exact role will be.  Hopefully, they put him to work interviewing players, as he is most definitely a people person.  I couldn't be happier that a player like Casey spent some time in Boston, as it has been a treat to see him play, and I can't wait to watch him on the MLB Network [once I'm at home again, where we actually get the MLB Network].

Sunday, January 25, 2009


According to, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre's new book The Yankee Years [written with SI's Tom Verducci] bashes several members of the New York Yankees organization, up to and including Owner George Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman.

Allegedly, the book details clubhouse tensions, most specifically Alex Rodriguez's "obsession" with shortstop and captain Derek Jeter.  Now, I think that the "A-rod is gay," talk is overdone, so I'm just going to clarify by telling you that the Yankees third baseman sees Jeter as a rival, not a lover... I think [sorry, couldn't resist].  This actually makes quite a bit of sense, when you think about it.  When A-rod came to the Yankees, he had been a shortstop for the Rangers for his whole career.  Since the Yankees had their home-grown golden-boy occupying that position, A-rod made the shift to the right.  However, the rivalry is long gone, for Jeter at least.  And if A-rod thinks he's competing with the beloved captain for fan affection, he's sorely mistaken, as there is NO contest.

Fans resent A-rod for being somewhat of a choker in important situations.  He puts up stellar numbers all season, but, come October, he's Julio Lugo batting left-handed.  Hence the nickname A-fraud, which I assumed was a fan invention.  Not according to Torre, who allegedly claims that it was common for Rodriguez's teammates to call him by that taunting name.

I'm actually looking forward to reading this book: I have a great deal of respect for Joe Torre, and I think that the Yankees gave him a raw deal after he guided them to twelve straight playoff appearances.  Plus, any reputable book that validates Rodriguez's "A-fraud" name is definitely worth the read.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Five Minute Musings

(1) It was almost warm enough today in Hartford [45 degrees!] for me to believe that the snow will eventually melt, spring will come, and there will be baseball in Boston again.  Is it bad that this thought made me feel almost as optimistic as I did during the inauguration?  Not in the same way, but I am SO over this whole "offseason" thing.  Especially on years like this one when the so-called "Hot Stove" is colder than January in Maine [from experience, that's freezing, literally... and to add to the metaphor, Maine in January is boring, too. But I digress...].

(2)  Rocco Baldelli is a class act, huh?  I mean, can you imagine any other player making a gesture like that?  Especially since the fans in Tampa Bay have been, shall we say, unenthusiastic [and that's charitable].  I can't wait to see him play up close next year: here's hoping his illness is the most minor of inconveniences for him.

(3)  I think I'm suffering withdrawal from the MLB Network.  Apparently, Trinity College only gets the most basic of cable packages, which I guess is understandable, but after spending my Winter Break being spoiled by 24/7 baseball coverage, I feel like there's a tangible void in my life without it.  Studying the Federalist Papers just can't fill the emptiness.

(4) I'm a big fan of the Sox Front Office using the $20 million they saved on Manny/Marky Mark to sign Paps, Youk, and Pedroia, especially the latter two.  I expect you'll get tired of hearing it, but I hold the right side of the Sox infield in the highest esteem: what's not to like?  And there's still payroll left to sign Jason Varitek, should he decide to swallow his pride and put his money where his mouth is [so to speak], with all that "loyalty" talk .

(5) I got Watching Baseball Smarter by Zack Hample for Christmas, and in skimming through it, have to admit that it contains more insight than I initially expected.  Hample does a good job of making the book simple enough for the most casual fan, and still informative and entertaining enough to hold the attention of a diehard.  I definitely recommend it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Presumptive lineup

With pitchers and catchers to report in just over three weeks [twenty-five days, but who's counting?], I thought it might be time to take a look at the presumptive 2009 Red Sox lineup, as it would be if Opening Day was tomorrow.

[Player (Position), BA, SLG%, OBP, HR]

Jacoby Ellsbury (CF), .280, .394, .336, 9
Dustin Pedroia (2B), .326, .493, .376, 17
David Ortiz (DH), .264, .507, .369, 23
Kevin Youkilis (1B), .312, .569, .390, 29
Mike Lowell (3B), .274, .461, .338, 17
Jason Bay (LF), .286, .522, .373, 31
JD Drew (RF), .280, .519, .408, 19
Jed Lowrie (SS), .258, .400, .339, 2
Josh Bard (C), .202, .270, .279, 1

TEAM: .276, .459, .356, 148

Keep in mind, this is based solely on 2008 numbers, a year in which Ortiz missed over a month, Lowell was injured down the stretch, JD Drew had two epidurals, Lowrie had a wrist fracture, and Bard played only 57 games [albeit in San Diego].  I think it's reasonable to assume that Ortiz will rebound a bit, maybe not up to his level from the first half of the decade, but there's  certainly not any reason for the full-scale panic called for by the Herald's Gerry Callahan.  It is very likely that that Lowell will be better, especially since his doctors repoting that his range of motion is better than it was when he got to Boston, although JD will inevitably have at least one stint on the DL [let's keep it under 30 days, please].  Lowrie will undoubtedly have his struggles as a young player, but he is reportedly working hard to be ready for such challenges.

Last, but not least, Bard should not be the primary catcher for this club [God willing...].  You already know my thoughts on the topic: resign El Capitan for reasonable dinero and find him a young protege to train.  But I digress, even if the Sox go to Spring Training with Bard as their catcher [say it ain't so, Theo], they should have a reasonably productive year, assuming average health.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Around the Horn: Jacoby Ellsbury

For all of the female fans who cite Ellsbury as their favorite player because "he's, like, so dreamy," there are those of us who rank him somewhat lower, mostly for his inability to hit inside fastballs.  Seriously.  As petty as it seems, I admit to judging young women who call themselves fans and can only name one player on the entire team, and then often don't even know that he plays center field [and occasionally the other outfield positions].  Sorry... just had to get that pet peeve out there...

Anyway, in spite of Ellsbury's aforementioned problems with pitches in tight, I think his sophomore season will be an improvement over the 2008 campaign.  He has been working out at API with teammates Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jed Lowrie, which means that at the very least he'll show up in twenty-six days [TWENTY-SIX DAYS!!!!] in great shape.  He has also said in interviews that he has been doing more baseball-specific training then he has in the past [hopefully this translates to spending the majority of each day in the cage].  Ellsbury's defense, while not normally as lauded as Coco Crisp's, has been very impressive thus far.  The man has yet to make an error in the major leagues, and has made some highlight reel catches, my personal favorite being that September game in Toronto when he made the catch and ran into the bullpen fence, knocking out his contact lens and delaying the game for several minutes [photo at top].

Despite flinging himself all over the field with such reckless abandon, Ellsbury played in more games [145] than anyone on the team except Pedroia [157] and Youk [145].  That said, Ellsbury's batting stats leave something to be desired: the .280 BA is respectable, but the OBP of .336 is lower than expected, as was the OPS of 87.  It was easy to forget that Ellsbury was a rookie in 2008, since he was such a big part of Boston's playoff success in 2007, hitting .438 in the World Series.

The most exciting thing about the young outfielder is, of course, his speed.  Ellsbury led the American League in stolen bases in 2008, with fifty, six more than BJ Upton, who came in second.  Just think what Ellsbury could do of he raised his OBP just 30 points [a reachable goal].  One of the most dynamic young outfielders in the game, Ellsbury looks to be entertaining the Fenway Faithful for the near future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

World Baseball Classic 2009

So, contrary to what I said in the last post, there are actually
fifteen Sox players on tentative WBC rosters.

Dominican Republic: David Ortiz and Ramon Ramirez
United States: Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia
Japan: Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima
Canada: Jason Bay and George Kottaras*
Puerto Rico: Mike Lowell and Javier Lopez
The Netherlands: Dennis Neuman*
South Africa: Justin Erasmus*
Chinese Taipei: Chih-Hsien Chiang*
Panama: Angel Chavez*
Australia: Mitchell Dening*

* denotes minor league player

Fifteen players from ten countries is pretty impressive.  Also participating from the Red Sox is Jon Deeble, a scout, who will manage for Australia.  However, it is important to note that the more players participate in the Classic, the more disrupted Spring Training could be.  Assuming for a moment that both Mike Lowell and David Ortiz are healthy enough to compete so early [doubtful, especially in Lowell's case], the Sox Spring Training could be short nine contributors from the presumptive Major League roster.  If you believe that such a shortage might adversely affect the team's performance over the season, it might be instrumental to take a look at WBC participation among rival American League teams.

Yankees:  The newly retooled team to the south currently has thirteen players on provisional rosters, representing six countries, but most are minor leaguers.  The participants off of their Major League roster include Derek Jeter [US], Alex Rodriquez, Melky Cabrera, and Robinson Cano [Dominican Republic].  On one hand, this bodes well for the Sox: they have more established star power that will be competing early.  However, it cannot be overlooked that the Yankees will have a more normal Spring Training.

Rays:  The reigning American League champs have eight players in the WBC, all part of the Major League club, and all important contributers.  The Rays represent six countries: Australia [Grant Balfour], Mexico [Matt Garza], Japan [Akinori Iwamura], Venezuela [Dioner Navarro], DR [Carlos Pena], and USA [JP Howell, Scott Kazmir, and Evan Longoria].  This is especially worrisome for the rays, since their offseason has been shorter than both the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Angels:  The AL West Champion Angels have fifteen players representing nine countries.  Major contributers to the Major League Club include Joe Saunders, Scot Shields, and Brian Fuentes [USA].

White Sox:  President Obama's favorite team will send seven players, most notably Carlos Quentin, AJ Pierzynski, Matt Thornton, and John Danks all playing for the United States.

At first glance, the clubs most impacted by the Classic will be Boston and Tampa Bay, coincidentally the two teams that went furthest into the Postseason [Boston losing to Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the ALCS; Tampa Bay bowing out to Phillies in Game 5 of the World Series].  We already knew that the AL East would be the toughest in baseball next year, and the WBC will only make the stories that much more interesting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Five Minute Musings

(1) I LOVE the new MLB Network. Happy birthday to me, they've been showing the 2007 World Series all day. I also immensely enjoy the ads for their lineup of shows, especially the one for Prime 9. About halfway through the promo, they show a clip of Dustin Pedroia being caught stealing: as he dives into second base you see him mouth, "Safe," the umpire signals "out," and Pedroia yells "NO!" Keep in mind, that would have been the only time all year he was caught [20-for-21]. As discussed in this space before, failure is a foreign concept for #15. I am SO looking forward to watching him in a Sox uniform for the foreseeable future.

(2) While watching the aforementioned programming on the MLB Network [Game 2, to be exact], I noticed that Jason Varitek was inadvertently showing the fans what we would be getting for all of 2008. He struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning, grounded out weakly several times, and just all around choked in the clutch. Though Varitek's hitting game is clearly on the decline, I would not be altogether opposed to him returning for a year with an incentive-laden contract, especially if the Sox could acquire a young catcher to be his protege [Saltalamacchia from the Rangers, or Montero form the Diamondbacks].

(3) I can't wait to watch coverage of the World Baseball Classic. Unofficially, Sox players that will be participating include Daisuke Matsuzaka [Japan], Jason Bay [Canada], David Ortiz [the Dominican Republic], and Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis [United States]. Five players representing four different countries - how many MLB teams can make that claim? Also, five players is fewer [and therefore better] than the seven to nine that Terry Francona was estimating would participate. In case you forgot, Matsuzaka was the MVP of the inaugural Classic: hopefully he is more careful this time, yet just as effective.

(4) I couldn't be happier about Kevin Youkilis' new contract. The right side of the Red Sox infield is arguably now younger, cheaper, and more productive than any other Major League team. Youkilis and Pedroia are premier players at their positions. They have each won a Gold Glove, and finished in the top 3 of the MVP voting this year. Not to mention the fact that they are both home grown players. As Youkilis said during his press conference, the Sox minor league system was, until recently, decidedly underwhelming. Now, an impact player comes up just about every year. In 2006 Papelbon made a sensation of himself, in 2007 it was Pedroia and Ellsbury who tore up the postseason, and this year Jed Lowrie came up to replace the injured Julio Lugo and was a definite upgrade, despite a broken bone in his wrist. I could get used to this.

(5) Nick Cafardo has an interesting thought in his Boston Globe Baseball Notes column today. "This off season, the Yankees went wild with the signings of Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. Sabathia's postseason history is poor - 2-3. 7.92 ERA." This is potentially because he practically carries his team all season: in 2007, he pitched for 240 innings; this year, he pitched 253. If he has to shoulder that kind of load again, it might spell trouble for New York, but with A.J. Burnett's injury history, such an occurrence would not be out of the question. On a related note, it might be prudent for the Sox to limit Jon Lester's innings this season after he played for a career high 210 last year.

Friday, January 16, 2009

O Captain! My Captain!

According to the Boston Globe, Jason Varitek has requested a one-on-one meeting with Sox owner John Henry this weekend. Take that to mean that (A) Henry doesn't want to see Scott Boras right now or (B) Varitek is miffed at Bors for advising him to decline arbitration [therefore giving up $10-$12 million] or (C) both.
I think I'm going to go with (C). John Henry is not happy with Scott Boras right now, something else we can thank Mark Teixeira for. Henry made as much clear earlier today: when asked about his relationship with the agent, he sarcastically asked "What relationship?" and declined further comment.
The meeting will take place "tonight" near Varitek's off-season residence in the Atlanta area, and will undoubtedly be more productive with Boras' absence. Hopefully this meeting will accomplish something. I always pictured Varitek as a realist, so hopefully he knows his market value, even if his agent is publicly delusional [Jorge Posada money? Please.]. As such, the Captain must know that, at this point, in this off-season, the Red Sox are really the only team that can use him. I can't imagine any other teams paying Varitek more than the Sox will and giving up a first round draft pick.
This gives the Red Sox all the chips, which is their favorite way to "negotiate." With all the uncertainties [rehabbing players] the pitching staff has this year, it would be nice to have some continuity in the catching situation, and Varitek is unarguably adept at calling a game. Don't get me wrong, I think Jason Varitek is definitely on the downside of his career, but I also believe that his personal problems [he got divorced during the 2008 season] affected him more than he was willing to admit, and if nothing else, I doubt that he will get significantly worse in 2009.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Long-term deal for Youk?

ESPN's Peter Gammons is reporting that first baseman Kevin Youkilis is on the verge of signing a four-year contract with the Red Sox worth around $40 million.
Earlier this off season, Youk's agent reported that though the sides were talking, it was unlikely that they would reach an agreement this winter.
Personally, I love this. As we know, Papelbon has gone on record as saying he will go year by year, and wants to "set the standard" for salary at his position, but I'm hoping that Theo and co. will use the money they saved when Teixeira went to New York to lock up Jon Lester and Jason Bay for the long term.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Around the Horn: JD Drew

JD Drew has had five hundred or more plate appearances just once in his career [518, in 2004]. However, in that year, he hit .305, with 31 home runs, a .436 OBP and staggering .569 slugging percentage.

I can't lie, it kills me that Drew has yet to play for anywhere near the whole season in Boston [this year he had a career year in one unique stat: two epidurals instead of his usual one]. Drew's swing is a thing of beauty, all the more so because of the perfectly blank expression on his face after an at bat, regardless of outcome. Seriously, how do you have the exact same look on your face after striking out that you have doing a home run trot? As fragile as JD Drew seems at times, he earned his 2008 salary in the month of June alone. David Ortiz goes down, but Drew steps up and holds down the fort. I don't know about you, but I could not believe the how Drew was producing during Papi's absence. It made me wonder what the Sox could be with a healthy and producing Drew and Ortiz in the lineup at the same time.

This is a phenomenon we have yet to see, mostly because for most of 2007, Drew was dealing with the medical ordeal(s) or his young son, and never really hit his stride. In 2008, as we are all painfully aware, Drew was phenomenal while Papi was out, and then his back started acting up [for approximately the 249874th time in his career], and he sort of faded out down the stretch. Now Drew and Ortiz are both getting older, and they, like all players, will inevitably suffer some decline in their skill sets. The upcoming season might be Red Sox Nation's last best chance to see this unexpected, yet still epic, duo.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Around the Horn: Mike Lowell

"I'm kind of pumped." - Mike Lowell
Me too. I have to admit that I was one of those people clamoring for Theo to sign Teixeira, at the expense of Lowell if necessary. I won't pretend that I was happy that Teixeira's coming would mean the departure of Lowell, but it seemed like a sacrifice that, if made, I could accept. However, knowing what we do now [that Teixeira is only in it for the money - and what his wife tells him], Lowell's own loyal sacrifice is that much more admirable.
Mike Lowell gave up years and money by returning to Boston last off season after being named the 2007 World Series MVP. Most players go to the highest bidder, regardless of so-called "intangibles" like positive environment, dedicated fans, or good team chemistry. However, it's good news for the Red Sox that they can retain someone like Lowell: they must be doing something right. Just this off season, Dustin Pedroia admitted that he didn't mind leaving money on the table in exchange for reasonable job security. If I had my choice, I would take a team of Mike Lowells and Dustin Pedroias over Alex Rodriguezs and Mark Teixeiras any day.
Lowell has never been that flashy player who talks a big game and only sometimes delivers. Mike Lowell is the man who never stops trying to get better. He quietly goes about his business, putting together strong season after strong season, and rarely getting the recognition he deserves. Though Lowell was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1995, Lowell made a name for himself with the Florida Marlins, winning a Silver Slugger in 2003 and a Gold Glove in 2005, before being traded to Boston before the 2006 season. At the time, Lowell was viewed as a salary dump, a player that we needed to take if we wanted Josh Beckett [and we really, really did], but he turned out to be an integral part of the 2007 World Championship Red Sox. Without #25, Boston probably doesn't make it that far.
Add all of these things to the fact that Mike Lowell and his wife are both cancer survivors, and you have an inspirational story that can only be trumped by Jon Lester's. I highly recommend Lowell's book, Deep Drive, to anyone who has a cancer survivor [or patient] in their family, or anyone who likes the Red Sox, baseball, or entertaining literature.

Yankees subpoenaed

"An official says a New York Assembly committee investigating the use of millions of dollars in public funding to build the new Yankee Stadium has issued subpoenas to the team's president and an official with the city economic development office." -AP

What took them so long? How can that franchise have the audacity to plead poverty and demand public funds to build a new, state-of-the-art stadium, and then go on a spending spree? This off season, the New York Yankees have spent nearly half a billion dollars on three free agents [CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira], and yet, they can't afford to fund their own stadium, asking the taxpayers of New York for help.

Congrats, Jim Ed!

Jim Rice was admitted to the Hall of Fame yesterday in his fifteenth and final year of eligibility. It's about time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Around the Horn: Jed Lowrie

I'm just assuming that Mr. Lowrie is the heir presumptive to the revolving door that is the starting shortstop job in Boston. Who knows, Julio Lugo might show up to Spring Training having worked his butt off and win back the position, but I'm going to put that possibility in the "distinct long shot" category, at least for now.

What do any of us know about Jed Lowrie, really? Did you know, for instance, that his middle name is Carlson? Or that he hits more than a hundred points better at night (.288) than during the day (.184)? I think we can safely blame that last one on small sample size, but Lowrie just might be the biggest mystery in the Sox infield [beyond "Will Mike Lowell be 100%?"]. However, Mike Lowell's health affects his level of productivity, whereas we have yet to discover the potential ceiling for Lowrie. He had a broken bone in one of his hands down the stretch last season: was that part of the reason that his average versus left handed pitching was significantly worse than against right handed pitching, or is it more of an inherent weakness?

In 2007, while in the minor leagues [Pawtucket and Portland], Lowrie hit .250 against lefties, and .277 against righties: a difference, yes, but in this larger sample, it seems he hits better left handed than right handed, giving credence to the theory that his injured hand affected his hitting. If this is the case, Lowrie might even prove to be impressive, not simply an acceptable replacement for the injured Lugo.

Wish I could have been there...

At the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner on Thursday, Dustin Pedroia was not shy about expressing himself:
After Perez answered a question about his feelings after the Rays beat the Red Sox in the ALCS, Pedroia piped in with, “Don’t get used to it.”
and this gem:
“I want to thank all the writers, except the guy in Texas who didn’t vote for me at all,” Pedroia said, alluding to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, who left Pedroia off the ballot and has since had to repeatedly explain his oversight. “Just kidding. He’s all right."
Check out the Boston Herald's website for the full story [and the quotes above].

Friday, January 9, 2009

And all of a sudden, the bench looks pretty good...

In the last week, the presumptive bench has improved enormously. Just for the sake of this post, I'm going to assume that Julio Lugo will be the utility infielder. This gives us a bench of Lugo, Rocco Baldelli (OF), Mark Kotsay - remember him? - (OF/1B), and a backup catcher, presumably Josh Bard.

As a starter, Julio Lugo was average at best, and excruciating at worst. In the 81 games he played at shortstop in 2008, Lugo committed sixteen errors, but at times, it felt like sixty.

However, I'm alright with the prospect of him as a bench player. Say, for instance, that Mike
Lowell needs a day of rest at the beginning of the season (well within the realm of possibility). Jed Lowrie shifts to third base, and Lugo plays short. Or, if you don't like that, Lowrie keeps Lowell company on the bench, Lugo plays short, Youk slides to third, and Kotsay fills in at first.

The versatility that Kotsay demonstrated at the end of last year is a great boon to the Sox. Say JD Drew needs an epidural (crazy, right?). So far, it's unknown how much Baldelli will be able to play at a time. However, because Kotsay is an above-average outfielder who can play center, Baldelli's health is less of a problem. Keep in mind that Theo would not have signed Baldelli if his health was as bad as has been speculated.

Only one month and five days until pitchers and catchers!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Around the Horn: Dustin Pedroia

"I want to be here. I want to play for the Red Sox and I don't want to play for anybody else...we're going to have an opportunity to win every single year. The fans are the best, the city embraces their team. So why not? It fits."- Dustin Pedroia, #15

So, like I said already, Pedroia is easily my favorite player. Ever. I'm not sure how to explain the depth of my admiration, so I'll start with a little anecdote. My friend Rosa and I went to Game 5 of the ALCS [I know...!]. We got there before the gates opened, and when they did, we went to stake out a space near the field to shamelessly beg for player's autographs. We got the perfect spot: not only were we standing right next to the dugout, but there was a cute little boy in a Sox jersey next to us who was adept at getting players to sign. He regaled us with tales of autographs he had gotten - and told us he had over 200! At least one from every current Sox player. That kid was a professional. Anyway, every time a player would walk toward the dugout, the kid would shout "Mr. Ellsbury [or whoever], will you please sign!?" Finally, Dustin Pedroia walked toward us. The kid didn't let us down; he shouted long and loud, and Pedroia looked over at us, smiled, and said he'd sign when he came back. He didn't get back out until after the ushers sent us to our right field seats, but the possibility of getting Pedroia's autograph, coupled with my proximity to him [about eight feet], made me literally shake with excitement.

I knew it would be a good day after that, and it was epic! Everyone knows what happened that night, so I'll spare you the recap. You also know about Pedroia's off season haul: Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and American MVP, added to his Rookie of the Year Award and World Series ring from 2007. However, more than any award he's recieved [are there any he didn't win?], the thing I love most about Pedroia's off season is his six year, $40.5 million dollar contract with the Sox. As a fan of the team, and baseball in general, you have to love the comments he made at the press conference announcing the deal [above]. It's rare to hear a player so succinctly articulate the feelings of the fan base, but Pedroia succeeded, as he has most of his career.

We all know that our second baseman has a bit of an attitude: something that in a bigger man would be obnoxious, but in Pedroia comes off as delightfully scrappy. Pedroia has gone on record as saying that he should be allowed to be measured in his spikes, on concrete. Sorry, Dustin, but that still wouldn't get you to your listed 5'9". He has also been known to return to the dugout after a home run [he hit 17 in 2008] and shout something like "Ninety-eight coming in, a hundred ninety-eight going out!" He makes such cracks often and indiscriminately, flexing his biceps and exclaiming "Strongest 160 pound man in the league!" Looking at him, with the sun shining off his prematurely balding head, you just have to laugh.

To these endearing qualities you add the fact that the man can play. His numbers and accolades speak for themselves: he only sat out five games all season, and hit .326, slugged .493, and had a .376 OBP. His defense is electrifying - if his uniform isn't dirty by the fifth inning, it's an off day. What more is there to say? Watching Pedroia play baseball is a wonderful experience. He's an entertainment for the young fans, and plays the game the right way, which pleases the old hard-liners.

Hands down, one of the best things about #15 is the fact that he expects to win. Every day. It doesn't matter to him that winning 162 games is, for all intents and purposes, impossible. He expects to go 4-for-4 every day, unless he goes 5-for-5. I remember one game in which he hit a homer, a triple, a double, and then hit another double. Afterwards, someone jokingly asked him why he hadn't tripped and stayed at first, so he would have hit for the cycle. He looked at them, perplexed, and deadpanned, "Why would I want to do that?" He often reiterates that he doesn't care for personal statistics, as long as the team is winning, going on record as preferring a trip to the World Series over every award in baseball. Now, that is a player.

I fully expect Pedroia to continue his self-described "laser shows" in the 2009 season, and beyond. Maybe this year he'll even beat Terry Francona at cribbage... but probably not. After all, Pedroia's been an underdog for most of his life; we don't want to take away the last thing he's terrible at.

I think this is hilarious, and pretty much sums up Pedroia - he knows better than to take himself seriously, except on the diamond.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Pedroia was actually my inspiration for the name of this blog. He knows [deep, deep, inside] that he can't hit a homerun every at-bat, so he contents himself with drilling balls Off the Monster.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


The Boston Globe is reporting speculation that former Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli is close to signing with the Sox.  The Rhode Island native has undergone extensive medical testing this offseason, which led to the conclusion that Baldelli will be able to play more in the upcoming year than he has in the past.

Here's the link.  For the record, I think this [and the potential Smoltz signing] would be a great signing for the Sox.

Around the Horn: Kevin Youkilis

Going through the Red Sox one player at a time, by position, while hoping that by the time I get to catcher Theo will have signed someone other than Josh Bard for me to talk about. First up, our first baseman, Kevin Youkilis.

After Dustin Pedroia, Youk is probably my favorite Sox player. Even though the goatee is getting a little out of hand, you have to love the hard-nosed way he plays the game, especially during an era in which the "superstars" have decided that it's beneath them to run out a ground ball. Remember the scuffle between Youk and Manny this summer in the dugout? Apparently, Manny was annoyed at Youk's behavior [mostly the fact that he mourns every out he makes like the loss of a loved one]. News flash, Mr. Ramirez: fans would much rather see Youkilis mouth profanities after striking out on a nasty fastball from Mariano Rivera than watch you standing in the batter's box, thinking you've hit a homer off of some no-name rookie, then seeing you stranded on first base on what could [should] have been a sure double. Weird, right?

Anyway, as a player, you can't ask for much more than what Kevin Youkilis gives you. His 2008 stats: in 145 games Youk hit .312, had an OBP of .390, and slugged .569. He hit 29 home runs, six more than Big Papi, who admittedly was not himself. For all the Mark Teixeira mania, I'm totally OK with having Youkilis as the first baseman; after all, they have eerily similar stats. Youk is marginally the weaker hitter, but it would really depend on what statistics you consider most important. Youkilis' batting average was actually four points higher than Teixeira's, but if you subscribe to the Billy Beane theory that OBP trumps all, than you might take Teixeira's .410 over Youk's .390 - but it's not like the numbers are drastically different.

Youkilis also has uncommon versatility for someone of his hitting prowess. As we all saw when Mike Lowell succumbed to his hip injury, Youk plays a mean third base. Most Sox fans know that he actually came up as a third baseman, and made the switch to first pretty late in his development, turning himself into a Gold Glove first baseman who set the record for consecutive errorless games at the position.

The bearded wonder is also one of those players who can always be depended on to get his uniform dirty. He wears his heart on his sleeve, which Sox fans generally love, though players around baseball find it rather grating [no one more so, apparently, than Joba Chamberlain]. In his spare time, Youkilis and his new wife run a charity foundation, Youk's Hits for Kids. The proceeds from his charity events go to benefit children in the Boston and Cincinnati areas.

According to the Boston Globe, Youkilis will go with a one year contract this year: though the Sox did talk to his agent about a long term deal a la Dustin Pedroia, the sides were too far apart to come to an agreement this year. Hopefully, they'll be able to come to terms in the upcoming year, because I for one hope to see Kevin Youkilis anchoring the corners at Fenway for years to come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Little Youk?

The Boston Herald website is reporting speculation that the newest Sox wife (they tied the knot on November 10, 2008) might be pregnant. The bearded first baseman was seen shopping at a maternity store, and when asked about the possibility, the couple denied comment.

Here's the link. Congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Youk, if it's true!

Gag me:

OK, first of all: vomit.

Now that's out of my system... Is he serious? Really, does he think that anyone believes that his sordid history with the Red Sox had nothing to do with this move? All that nonsense about being closer to his family, most of whom live in Baltimore... maybe he wasn't aware that he actually could have signed for a similar amount of money to play in Baltimore?

Personally, I think Scott Boras (who you have to admire, even if you don't like him: when people ask me what I want to do with my life, I often tell them that I dream of being Scott Boras-but that's another story) used Teixeira's longstanding grudge against Boston in order to orchestrate this whole thing. The Red Sox uncharacteristically made it very clear that they coveted Teixeira; the Yankees love swooping in at the last minute and signing someone away from Boston; the incident between Teixeira and the Sox happened so long ago (almost TEN YEARS). Most people would be over it by now, especially considering that the perpetrator here, Dan Duquette, has long since been fired, but not Marky Mark.

This was the perfect way to stick it to Boston: not only were they used to drive up his price, but he got the ultimate satisfaction of signing with the team with the worst connotations for the Red Sox.

OK, yes, that was terrible. It was hard enough to take his signing with the Yankees, but another thing entirely to swallow all that sludge he spewed about the greatness of the Yankees. News flash: I didn't buy it when it was coming out of CC Sabathia's mouth (actions speak way louder than words in that case: it was pretty obvious that CC was waiting for someone-anyone-to come anywhere near the Yankee's offer. No one stepped up, the Yankees bid against themselves, and the rest is history.), and I don't buy it now. The only glimmer of truth that I heard in the whole thing was about his wife. She told him "I want you to be a Yankee." Sorry Leigh, but I heard that you simply didn't want to come to Boston, for whatever reason. Good for her: I'm pretty sure no one in Boston wants her there anyway (was it just me, or did she look like she was about twelve years old?).

All in all, it's fine. I - like most other Sox fans, I suspect - am going to love hating this man. In an ironic twist, Teixeira took Yankee's jersey #25, the same number as Mike Lowell, the man the Red Sox would probably have traded to make room for him. Sorry, Mark, but you're not fit to shine Mike Lowell's spikes. Lowell is the very definition of a consummate professional. There is no way he would hold a grudge against an organization for something that happened nearly a decade before. Heck, Lowell won't even hold a grudge against the Sox for shamelessly offering him as trade bait for months.

I hope Teixeira's been taking notes from Lowell on how to be a class act. He'll need them on April 24, during his first at-bat at Fenway Park. He'll probably get the fan reaction usually reserved for dear old Joba Chamberlain when he throws a heater at Youk's head. And his wife? The jeers directed at her will rival those normally hurled at A-Rod.

You know what? I can't wait.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


If I read one more comment on the internet asking why the Sox aren't offering a contract to this clown, I'm going to freak out. Seriously, it's not like there's a huge buzz for his services even among teams that he didn't quit on in the middle of a pennant race.

I mean, are Red Sox fans so quick to forget that? Is it suddenly OK, in the wake of losing out on Teixeira, to throw common sense to the wind and re-sign the team's biggest and most expensive[albeit productive - when it suited him] headache in recent memory? Are Sox fans willing to overlook the fact that he was such a problem in the clubhouse that Francona, a manager famous for backing up his players, couldn't wait to get rid of a man who has accumulated over 1700 RBIs in his prodigious career? Obviously, Manny was a pain beyond what we as fans saw: the conveniently timed phantom "injuries," the shoving of an elderly team employee, the three-pitch strikeout at Yankee Stadium when the bat never even left his shoulder, etc.

It is absolutely true that Manny Ramirez is an exceptionally talented ballplayer: he is a lock for the Hall of Fame, is arguably the best right-handed hitter of his time, and even showed the world that he is capable of impressive speed on the base paths (once he escaped from big, bad, Boston). But for all the talk of a player's "intangibles" as part of his worth for a team (see "Varitek, Jason"), where is the acknowledgement of negative intangibles? Because as fun as Manny can be to watch - like when he makes a jumping, high-fiving, double play, for instance - it can often be downright infuriating to watch Manny being Manny and realize that the ticket you purchased (for entirely too much money) is helping to pay the obscenely large salary of a clown who literally rolls around left field like a tee baller with ADHD.

Don't get me wrong, I realize Manny was an instrumental part of the World Championships the Sox have won in the last five years, and for that I am eternally grateful. But Theo has a well-earned reputation for making deals that are good for the team, and for letting aging players walk before they fall apart. It astounds me that there are fans out there who are so panicked about the lack of a true power bat in the (tentative) 2009 lineup that they are willing to overlook the emotional turbulence that Manny subjected us (not to mention people actually employed by the Red Sox) to in his seven and a half seasons here. In Theo We Trust: I believe he has something up his sleeve, and even if he doesn't now, he'll figure it out soon enough.

Just in case I left you with any doubt, MANNY IS NOT COMING BACK, and nor should he. I prefer to remember him when he was a positive member of the team: 2004 World Series MVP, the walk-off HR during the 2007 playoffs, hitting #500 in Baltimore. Manny is a great player, and he'll probably continue to be - we can just hope that his greatness resides in the National League.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

About me:

Basically, I started this blog because I am more than a little preoccupied with the Red Sox, and since I'm beginning to run out of Sox blogs to read, I thought I would write my own; even if no one even reads it, I'll have a space for my thoughts [since my immediate family tunes me out when I start waxing poetic about the genius of Bill James].

Most of my friends are what you would call "casual fans," and therefore have no interest in Dustin Pedroia's OPS+ [you'll discover in short order that I have a minor obsession with our diminutive second basemen]. It makes me feel a little better [read: not insane] that I've found whole online communities of people like myself, whose lives are all but consumed with baseball in general and the Red Sox in particular.

I plan to post every day, since one of the things that frustrates me most about my favorite blogs is that I sometimes have to wait for new entries. I understand that most bloggers have actual jobs to attend to, but really, what are people's priorities?? [Another upside to Off the Monster: since I'm a student, I have a disgraceful amount of free time on my hands, which of course means more time to write.]

However, I think that's enough for now. Oh, and for those who are interested, Pedroia's OPS+ was 122 in 2008.