(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.