Thursday, December 30, 2010

Memorable Moments of 2010: Part 4

You had to see this one coming. Despite the fact that Dustin Pedroia missed most of the second half due to injury, he had a no-doubt laser show game just one day before he broke his foot.

On June 24, 2010 in Denver, Colorado, Dustin Pedroia had a game for the ages, going 5-for-5 with three home runs, and 5 RBIs. The Laser Show was in town, indeed. The diminutive second baseman was his usual exuberant self after the game, never once seeming to lose his swagger.

I couldn't find a video of the actual home runs, but here's a link to NESN's postgame interview with the man of the hour. One of Pedroia's bombs was the game-winner, after heart-attack Papelbon blew his second save in a row.

The very next day, Pedey fouled a pitch off of his own foot, breaking it and landing him on the disabled-list for the rest of the season - excepting a two-day stint when he erroneously believed he was better.

Needless to say, the absence of my future husband severely diminished my enjoyment of the Sox for the rest fo the summer, and I can't wait to have him back next season.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Memorable Moments of 2010: Part 3

On June 6, 2010, Red Sox Nation witnessed rookie Daniel Nava make history. On the very first pitch of his very first at bat in the major leagues, Nava deposited the ball out in the bleachers. With one swing the twenty-seven-year-old rookie recorded his first hit, first home run, and first FOUR RBIs, because his homer came with three men on base.

This moment holds a special place in my heart because I was at Fenway Park when it occurred. It was a rainy, miserable day, but I had tickets in the bleachers, and I didn't care how soggy I would get, I was going to watch some interleague baseball.

I specifically remember how obnoxious the Phillies fans in our section were acting - but Nava shut them right up. Perhaps what made it so special was the amazing backstory that came with Nava's grand slam - he truly is a study in perseverance.

Currently, Nava is on the 40-man roster, but I hope the Red Sox give him an opportunity to play next season... Even if it's not necessarily for them. Nava's waited a long time for his break, and he deserves to make the most of it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Memorable Moments of 2010: Part 2

Ryan Kalish's arrival was one of many unexpected highlights of the 2010 season. The outfielder has been one of the most highly touted prospects in the Red Sox system for a few years now, and the folks over at Sox Prospects currently lists him at #1 (a no-brainer after Casey Kelly got shipped off to San Diego). Apparently, there is very little downside to Kalish, as Sox Prospects absolutely RAVES about him:

"Excellent athlete with a solid build, good bat speed, and lots of quickness. Plays the game at full tilt. The organization has worked with Kalish on his plate patience, and over time he has come to demonstrate an excellent approach at the plate. Average to above-average present power, has potential to add more. Makes solid contact and hits to all fields. Above-average speed. Steals a lot of bases due to his quick acceleration and high intelligence on the basepaths. In the field, he has a reliable glove, excellent range, an average arm, and average accuracy. Tough competitor with a mature demeanor. Kalish tends to be a very popular player with coaches, teammates, and fans."

Bill James sees a lot of promise in the 22-year-old, projecting a line of .271 BA, .791 OPS, 43 SB, and 20 HR... for 2011... in Boston. I'm not sure where James sees all of this playing time coming from, unless the Sox employee can sense a Jacoby Ellsbury trade in the works. [For comparison's sake, Kalish boasted a .252 BA, .710 OPS, 10 SB and 4 HR in 53 games last season with the big club.]

Kalish's most memorable moment last season came at Tampa Bay on August 28th, when he managed to make the spectalular grab and rob BJ Upton of extra bases, and it earned him ESPN SportsCenter's Top Play honors.

Hopefully, we see a lot more of Kalish (though he'll likely start the year at Pawtucket) - and not just because of his uncanny resemblance to Channing Tatum.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Memorable Moments of 2010: Part 1

During what are historically the slowest days of the year for baseball there's not too much to write about. Instead of waiting for news, I decided to look back on some of the spectacular plays from 2010 - there were more than I thought.

Today, we'll reexamine the heroics of Darnell McDonald:

I'm sure you guys remember it... McDonald had just been called up from Triple-A - for what was supposed to be a short stay. He prompty hit a game-tying 2-run home run in the late innings, and went on to win the game with a walk-off single.

At the time, I think we were all pretty confident that McDonald would be a passing blip on our radar, but he managed to stick around and be a solid contributor all summer. He was consistent in the field and at the plate, and while he was fall from an all-star, he certainly earned his pay.

The thirty-two year old outfielder has been bouncing around the minor and major leagues since 2004, when he made his debut with the Orioles, but the most games he's played for a major league club in a season was this year with the Sox, and it wasn't close. It was nice to see McDonald get a real shot in 2010 - he certainly made himself memorable.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Josh Beckett is the key to 2011

I'm finally home for break, and I have to say that the thing I consistently look forward to about getting out of Hartford is renewed access to MLB Network. I've been watching it whenever I can commandeer the remote (pretty easy to do now that my older sister has her own house), and last night on Hot Stove, the analysts were asked to rank their top five teams of 2011, as they were constructed at airtime. That means no assuming the Yankees will flex their financial muscle, and no calculating the Rangers chances if Vlad Guerrero is back - the analysts agreed that both scenarios are all but certain.

However, of the three personalities asked to rank their five, all three had the Red Sox as the best American League team (one ranked the Sox first overall, with the Phillies second, while the other two ranked Philly first and Boston second). It's easy to understand Philadelphia's appeal: they have four legitimate aces in their rotation. Boston, on the other hand, has made a few MAJOR moves to add to an already formidable roster.

However, all three analysts - and the host - agreed that there was one thing that the Red Sox absolutely needed if they wanted to live up to their potential, and that was a rebounding Josh Beckett.

I'll spare you the ugly details, but if you're any kind of red Sox fan, you already know how bad Beckett's 2010 went: when he wasn't on the disabled list, he was floundering horribly. This was even more disappointing than it would normally be, because the fiery Texan had signed a very lucrative extension in the spring, and then immediately went out and sucked all season.

Next year, Bill James expects Beckett to make 26 starts (just five more than last year), with a 10-9 record and a 3.86 ERA. No offense to James or Becks, but we need better than that, and I think we can reasonably expect better. First of all, wins are dependent on the team's offense at least as much as they are dependent on the actual pitching performance, and the 2011 Red Sox should be an offensive force.

Also, Josh Beckett is a very proud man. I'm certain that he's all but ashamed of his fail-tastic performance last year, and he's apt to come out swinging.

If Josh can figure out his life and make this work, 2011 should be one for the ages.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Five-Minute Musings: Jenks, Paps, Greinke, Wheeler, and Hall

I know I have been terrible at updating this week... in my defense, it's finals AND I'm trying to pack up my whole room because I'm going abroad next semester. But I do have five free minutes this fine morning, which I will use to debrief the last week in Red Sox Nation (scope expanded due to the offseason).

1. Bobby Jenks to the Red Sox. The bullpen sure looks a hell of a lot better than it did before this signing, as we now harbor three power lefties, all potential closers. Jenks is a solid player, even if his ERA was up pretty high last season (4.44), and he provides much needed security in a bullpen that was a bigger hindrance to the Sox than the injuries last season. (I know, you don't believe me - but we lost too many games as a direct result of a faulty 'pen.) Jenks' career line can be found here at baseball-reference.

2. The status of Jonathan Papelbon. Everyone is freaking out, talking about how this trade means Paps is on the trading block, that we can't possibly keep three possible closers in the bullpen, and that somehow this is some great catastrophe. Calm. Down. Paps was always on the block for this year, because he will be a free agent next offseason. Cinco-ocho has been boasting about how he wants to "set the market for closers" for years now, and Theo never had any intention of paying him. If the presence of Jenks means we can get some impact talent for Paps (now or at the deadline) beyond the draft picks if we let him walk as a FA, I can support that. It's a smart move, and Theo knows what he's doing.

3. Zack Greinke to the Brewers. This is fantastic news for the Red Sox, as it means that a great pitcher is (a) not going to New York, Tampa, or another division rival, and (b) that he'll be in the National League. Honestly, if Greinke had ended up in New York, I wouldn't have been too worried, as his struggle with anxiety would not have boded well in a high-pressure place like the Bronx. However, this is the second time in a week that one of the game's premier pitchers jumped ship from the AL to the NL. Though the Sox play both the Phils and Brewers in interleague this season, I'll take it... the fewer top-tier pitchers my boys have to face, the better.

4. Dan Wheeler signs a one-year deal. The Rhode Island native professes to be thrilled that he'll be playing in Boston next season, even though he's making the switch from our division rival, the Rays. At least he'll have some familiar faces around, what with Carl Crawford (for whom Wheeler had nothing but praise), and the fact that his family still lives in the Ocean State. Wheeler has a 3.84 ERA in his career, and will most likely take the role of primary middle-innings guy in the bullpen.

5. Bill Hall is headed to Houston. Yes, Brad Mills (former Red Sox bench coach, and close friend of Terry Francona's) will finally get to enjoy the Bill Hall experience. Hall will be the club's starting second-baseman. I understand that, as a rule, a starter is more valuable than a sub, but the Red Sox would have been completely lost last season without Hall's super-utility abilities. The man played seven out of the nine positions (everything but first base and catcher), including a flawless inning pitched, and you just know he could have (and would have) played first base if he had been asked. Hall was a classy guy, always willing to fill in where he was needed, and I'm glad he's getting the chance to start if that's what he wants.

That's all for today, folks, but I am heading home for winter break tomorrow, so posting should be much more consistent for the next month or so. As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Cliff-mas...

Yes, the rumors are (apparently) true. Clifton Phifer Lee has turned down offers from the Rangers and Yankees to sign with that "mystery team" we've been hearing about all along: many fans assumed it was a ploy from agent Darek Braunecker, but it turns out that the mystery is for real, and it resides in Citizens Bank Park In Philadelphia.

This is literally the best-case scenario for Red Sox fans. I've been saying for weeks that I wanted Lee to go to the Rangers if given the choice between his two suitors, despite the fact that I was SURE he would be in the Bronx - and that what I wanted most of all was for him to end up in the National League.

Generally, I'm a giant skeptic, but Santa has really made a believer about of me this year, first with Gonzo and Crawford, and now this fantastic outcome in the Lee fiasco. Seriously, we Red Sox fans should be kissing Cliff Lee's feet, both for distracting the Yankees for long enough for the Sox to sign Crawford (surely he was their Plan B heading into the offseason), and for ultimately spurning the Yankees offer to return to Philadelphia, thus ensuring that our batters won't see him until the World Series or during interleague play in June.

Apparently, the Yankees had offered Lee $138 million over six years, with an option for a seventh year (for another $16 million), the Rangers offered "a menu of contract options," but it was the Philly's offer of five years, $120 million, with a vesting option for a sixth year for a whopping $27.5 million if he pitches 200 innings in 2015, or 400 combined between 2014-15.

It is interesting to note that the Lees turned down New York, not in favor of being closer to their Arkansas home while playing for Texas, but to go back to someplace Cliff felt comfortable. Lee is really a stand-up guy: we all heard about how uncomfortable Mrs. Lee was in New York for the ALCS, with Yankees fans apparently spitting and throwing beer from the upper decks into the visiting family section, and it seems the couple has taken that into consideration.

It certainly wasn't the money that sent Lee to Philly, so it seems we have no choice but to take it at face value when he claims to simply feel like he belongs there. Lee's former teammates in Philadelphia from the 2009 title run are thrilled to have him back, and rightly so, as he brings the number of aces in their rotation up to four.

I don't know about you, but I'm very glad Cliff Lee will be in the National League for the foreseeable future. Usually I'm a secularist when it comes to holidays, but this year I'll be celebrating Cliff-mas with all of Philadelphia.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2011 Bill James Projections - Red Sox Lineup

I know, I know, this is what you've all been waiting for - and I have kept you waiting. In my defense, had I done this any sooner, I wouldn't have been able to include Adrian Gonzalez or Carl Crawford, and their presence certainly changes things in a big way. Two weeks ago, I presented the Bill James projections for the rotation (58-48 from the front five), and it's high time I did the same for the lineup. Keep in mind, this batting order is just my guess - I'm sure it will change based on who the other team has pitching, who needs rest, and how everyone is doing, so take it with a grain of salt.

CENTER FIELD: Jacoby Ellsbury: 2010: 18 games, .192 BA, .241 OBP, .244 SLG, 0 HR, 5 RBI
2011 projection: 157 games, .300 BA, .355 OBP, .409 SLG, 8 HR, 58 RBI

If Goldenboy lives up to these numbers, I promise to stop calling him D-Ellsbury, and maybe even become a fan. In all seriousness, you could ask for more form a leadoff hitter, but it would be pretty demanding. I could definitely live with this line from Ells.

SECOND BASE:Dustin Pedroia: 2010: 75 games, .288 BA, .367 OBP, .493 SLG, 12 HR, 41 RBI
2011 projection: 158 games, .297 BA, .372 OBP, .462 SLG, 17 HR, 77 RBI

Hubby is expected to be back to his old voracious, impressive, and loudmouth self in 2011, after a season that was a wash due to injury. Pedey hits best when he's batting second, and he seems to like it, so I expect Tito to keep him there.
LEFT FIELD:Carl Crawford: 2010: 154 games, .307 BA, .356 OBP, .495 SLG, 19 HR, 90 RBI
2011 projection: 149 games, .300 BA, .350 OBP, .453 SLG, 14 HR, 93 RBI

Let's deal with the elephant in the room first: is Crawford worth $20+ million a year? Probably not, but I'm thrilled he's coming to Boston at any cost. I REALLY wish he was willing to bat leadoff, but apparently he hates it, and Tito's not one to go against a player's wishes, but he'll definitely be somewhere near the top. His numbers might be slightly better at Fenway than the Trop, but the difference won't be anything crazy.

THIRD BASE:Kevin Youkilis: 2010: 102 games, .307 BA, .411 OBP, .564 SLG, 19 HR, 62 RBI
2011 projection: 151 games, .294 BA, .398 OBP, .507 SLG, 25 HR, 95 RBI

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kevin Youkilis is under-appreciated by this fanbase - and that's hard to do. He's wildly consistent, and his willingness and ability to slide across the diamond to third base next year is huge.
FIRST BASE:Adrian Gonzalez: 2010: 160 games, .298 BA, .393 OBP, .511 SLG, 31 HR, 101 RBI
2011 projection: 161 games, .285 BA, .378 OBP, .512 SLG, 33 HR, 102 RBI

Keep in mind that Gonzo's numbers are likely to improve due to the Fenway effect. He spent last season playing in Petco Park, where doubles go to die, but even if we only (ONLY!) get the numbers predicted by James, I'll be happy.

DESIGNATED HITTER:David Ortiz: 2010: 145 games, .270 BA, .370 OBP, .529 SLG, 32 HR, 102 RBI
2011 projection: 151 games, .261 BA, .366 OBP, .509 SLG, 33 HR, 112 RBI

Expect the usual from Papi: he'll struggle mightily in April, and then find his stroke sometime in May, just as the howling about his $12.5 million salary reaches fever pitch. In the end, he'll produce what we've come to expect from him, which isn't too shabby when you really look at it.

RIGHT FIELD: JD Drew: 2010: 139 games, .255 BA, .341 OBP, .452 SLG, 22 HR, 68 RBI
2011 projection: 145 games, .263 BA, .370 OBP, .460 SLG, 22 HR, 77 RBI

Mike Cameron: 2010: 48 games, .259 BA, .328 OBP, .401 SLG, 4 HR, 15 RBI
2011 projection: 121 games, .239 BA, .327 OBP, .425 SLG, 18 HR, 58 RBI

Because the outfield is so lefty-heavy, I expect Cameron to get more than enough playing time. I'm coupling him with Drew for the purpose of these projections simply because Drew tends to miss significant time with injuries each year. On the other hand, it is a contract year for Drew, so maybe he'll surprise us.
SHORTSTOP:Marco Scutaro: 2010: 150 games, .275 BA, .333 OBP, .388 SLG, 11 HR, 56 RBI
2011 projection: 153 games, .266 BA, .339 OBP, .374 SLG, 10 HR, 60 RBI
Jed Lowrie: 2010: 55 games, .287 BA, .381 OBP, .526 SLG, 9 HR, 24 RBI
2011 projection: 144 games, .270 BA, .361 OBP, .467 SLG, 17 HR, 75 RBI

Either James is predicting that Lowrie will be a utility guy and get a lot of games at other positions, or he's guessing one of these two will be traded. Either way, both players have respectable lines - though Lowrie's are a bit better across the board. If Lowrie can manage to keep himself healthy (I know that's a big "if" given the history) he'll probably play more, but let's face it: they're both just place-holders until Jose Iglesias is ready.
CATCHER:Jason Varitek: 2010: 39 games, .232 BA, .293 OBP, .473 SLG, 7 HR, 16 RBI
2011 projection: 72 games, .228 BA, .324 OBP, .386 SLG, 33 RBI
Jarrod Saltalamacchia:
2010: 12 games, .167 BA, .333 OBP, .292 SLG, 0 HR, 2 RBI
2011 projection: 110 games, .249 BA, .323 OBP, .422 SLG, 12 HR, 43 RBI

Not the best thing you've ever seen, but if Salty can come into his own defensively while Tek shows him the ropes, I think we can deal with this line. One more note: Salty hits righthanders better, while Tek is pretty good against lefties - I think that's what we'll see.

The very fact that I can plausibly design a lineup that has David Ortiz hitting sixth and JD Drew seventh makes me very excited. I'm sure Tito will figure things out, and his lineup will be fantastic - if we can just keep healthy (PLEASE?!?) this should be a fantastic team to watch.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's all about the Benjamin$, baby.

You know, just once I would like to see a press conference introducing a player contain some honest candor. When the press asks you why you are on the podium in Boston, New York, or Philly instead of Tampa, Pittsburgh, or Kansas, tell it like it is:

"Honestly, it came down to the money. This club was willing to throw buckets of cash in my general direction, and I just want to be super-duper rich. Sure, it helps that they win and stuff, but it's all about the Benjamins, baby."

Executives, agents, and players are always telling us that baseball is a business when something bad happens - when a player doesn't get resigned, unpopular trades occur, etc. - but when there's a cause for celebration, all that talk gets swept under the rug, and it's all sunshine and rainbows and the love of the game.

Sure, it's nice when players get up their and wax poetic about Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski, or talk about how much they're looking forward to playing with the current members of the team, or how the fans' passion was a deciding factor. I'm sure all these things are true to a fault, and maybe it is every young Californian's dream to play in Boston or New York, but in the end, we all know it's the money and years that get things done.

"I appreciate the history of the franchise, but I also really just want more watches like this."

There is the occasional player that is willing to look closely at things besides the dollars, like proximity to family, or a winning atmosphere, but no one in their right mind will take (hypothetically) an offer of $1 million for one year from New York over $25 million over three years to play in San Diego.

I would just like to state that there is nothing wrong with this. It is human nature to always strive for the most - and the best - of everything. If Carl Crawford is coming to Boston, I don't particularly care if it's true that he values the fan involvement more than the millions of dollars, so long as he'll work hard and help us win.

It is, of course, in the player's best interest to suck up to the fans and the media, because no one wants to get booed by their own home crowd, and the media controls public perception of them to a large degree. The smart players start this butt-kissing when they're first officially introduced to the team. for instance, Carl Crawford was introduced at 10am, and by 2pm, he was addressing Sox fans on Twitter.

I'm sure Crawford is legitimately excited to finally play in front of a capacity crowd for 81+ games, but I'm equally certain that if Tampa Bay or Anaheim or anyone else had been able to top the Sox's offer, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

So why the cynicism? I'm not trying to ruin this joyous occasion for Red Sox Nation, just offering up a realistic view of the process. The system is built so that players will end up with the richest teams, and then praise them like the money didn't have anything to do with it. True Red Sox fans should be able to look at this and appreciate how damned lucky we are, because it doesn't matter how passionate your fans are if the money isn't there to back them up.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Red Sox ≠ Yankees

In the last week the Red Sox have dropped an estimated $300 million dollars on two players (estimated because the Gonzalez extension won't be announced until Opening Day, and the Crawford deal is pending a physical). The consensus among baseball-types is that Boston most definitely "won" the Winter Meetings, which is obvious to anyone paying a modicum of attention. Unfortunately, Sox contributor Bob Hohler clearly isn't happy without something to gripe about.

Hohler penned a piece this morning entitled "Sox spend up a storm: Unprecedented deals put Boston in the Yankees' big-money league." The premise of the article seems to be that Red Sox fans can no longer complain about the behemoth budget of their neighbors to the south because Theo went on a "shopping spree" of his own this winter.

He goes on to point out that when it comes to financial clout, the Red Sox are much closer to the Yankees than the Rays, Royals, or Pirates. I have a simple, one-word answer to this allegation: DUH. I don't think you could find anyone whining that the Red Sox were among the underprivileged teams in MLB. I've said it here before: the Red Sox are upper middle class, while the Yankees are essentially Angelica Pickles.

The Yankees, simply based on their location in the biggest city in the United States, have a revenue stream that even a market like Boston can never hope to match. That said, the Sox have a lot more to work with than most teams, but because they have to compete directly with New York, they have to get creative. If Carl Crawford had been the Yankees priority this winter, there's no doubt he'd be getting measured for pinstripes at this very moment (yet another reason we should thank Cliff Lee for beating the Yanks in the playoffs).

The Red Sox landed Crawford because they had more money than the Angels. This is undoubtedly true, but we're only having this conversation because Brian Cashman has other players on his mind, and thank goodness Cliff Lee and his agent are dragging out the process. On the other hand, the Red Sox have not yet paid a penny in their acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez.

As I'm sure you're all aware, the Red Sox have NOT extended Gonzalez just yet, and the only thing they've paid is prospects - some of the top young players in the minors. Minor league players are something every team has to offer, and there are definitely issues with unfair financial clout in the draft, but the fact is that the worst teams are often the poorest, and thus get higher picks than either the Sox or Yankees.

So yes, while the Red Sox have presumably spent $300 million on players this winter, it is VERY different from the Yankees offseason of 2008. Don't believe me? Let's recap: New York acquired CC Sabathia through free agency, even bidding against themselves, because they can, and awarding him the richest contract ever for a pitcher. They then acquired AJ Burnett, again through free agency, risking more money and years on him than anyone else was willing to, because they can afford an $80 million blunder/injury machine. Lastly, they brought Mark Teixeira into the fold, through - you guessed it - free agency, awarding him the richest contract for a first-baseman.

So, to recap, the Yankees presumptive Opening Day starting lineup includes three players that are homegrown, Jeter (kept as a free agent), Posada (kept as a free agent), and Cano. The Red Sox presumptive Opening Day lineup includes Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, and Lester (none of whom have EVER been free agents), as well as Gonzalez, who was acquired through TRADE, not through throwing boatloads of cash around.

The Red Sox are, as they have always been, a good mixture of the homegrown, the traded for, and the free agents. The Yankees are more like a collection of mercenaries with a SINGLE cost-controlled homegrown player in Robinson Cano.

Tell me again how the Red Sox are just the same as the Yankees?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pinch me, I'm dreaming.

[Screengrabbed from]

This was my thought in the wee hours of this morning. I had gone to be early for me, around 11pm, about 25 minutes before the Globe first reported the Crawford deal. At 4am I woke up to see my phone glowing. I got out of bed, picked it up, and read a text from a friend that said: "Carl crawford signs w/ Boston 7 yrs $142 mill". Since I was up already (and in a slight state of panicked excitement) I checked on the internet, and it was true.

My efforts to go back to sleep after the confirmation that Carl Crawford is now a Red Sox were pretty futile, but I managed to doze off around six. When I woke up for class two hours later, my first thought was that the whole thing had been a wonderful dream, but, as you know, it was true.

I have to be honest: I never thought Crawford would be coming to Boston. Especially after the Adrian Gonzalez deal, I assumed the Red Sox would stay in on the speedy outfielder simply to drive up the price for New York while they were still preoccupied with Cliff Lee. Like many people (Torii Hunter among them), I took it for granted that Crawford would be patrolling the field at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, but I'm certainly thrilled to have him in Boston.

Bill James predicts a typically good year for Crawford in 2011: 149 games played, .300 BA, .350 OBP, .398 SLG, 14 HR, 71 RBI, and 42 SB. Keep in mind that Crawford's power numbers will likely improve from those predictions because he'll be playing 81 games in the friendly confines of Fenway.

Perhaps the best part of the Crawford deal is the fact that he'll no longer swipe about a million bags on us every season (including six in one game) - he'll be stealing all those bases on our behalf. Coupled with a (hopefully) recovered Jacoby Ellsbury and the perennially discounted JD Drew, Crawford makes our outfield one of the speediest in baseball.

I can't believe this is real...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Twenty-three for me... Please?

I want an Adrian Gonzalez jersey. Right now. Unfortunately, as I mentioned yesterday, the first baseman's presumptive number is currently worn by outfielder Mike Cameron, who has no obligation to give it up (other than being slightly vilified by a rabid and excited fan base).

For all intents and purposes, Cameron has already agreed to give up #23 to Gonzalez for a small donation to charity, but these things have to be official. What does all this mean for fans? Nothing, unless you're like me and itching to get your hands on a Gonzalez jersey.

Neither the Red Sox online store through MLB nor the Yawkey Way store has Gonzalez T-shirts or jerseys on sale yet. So what, you might ask, they have the customize your own option. This is what I assumed, but apparently MLB has a rule that you're not allowed to use the name of a player on another team on your jersey.

Okay, but what about the guy who wants HIS name and HIS number on a jersey, and he happens to be named Gonzalez. Not exactly an uncommon name.

But I digress. The point of this is simply to implore MLB to get its act together and put those AGon jerseys on their (virtual) shelves in time for the holidays - and Hanukkah ends tomorrow night. It's not like MLB to pass up on money-making, and this one is a no-brainer: get on it, Selig!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yo, Adrian [Gonzalez]!

It's official. Adrian Gonzalez (who, according to baseball-reference, has no middle name) is a Boston Red Sox. I've been pinching myself all day, and this is no dream - I can hardly contain myself.

I watched the press conference this morning (which started late, shocking), and was entertained and intrigued by turns. It's obvious that the Red Sox front office has coveted Gonzalez for years, almost to the point that Theo was more of a stalker than a scout. The baseball numbers are promising to say the least, and's Extra Bases posted a very revealing graphic this afternoon:

[Click the graphic for the link]

Because Gonzalez has been hitting in Petco Park for the last five years, his numbers are an understatement - and they were nothing to sneeze at to begin with. The Padres ballpark is where doubles go to die, as illustrated by the graph above, which plots the location of Gonzalez's batted balls last year and overlays them in Fenway Park. As you can see, there are at least "15 balls at Petco that would have been hits at Fenway and most of those would have been for extra bases."

I'm sure most of you are aware that the lefthanded slugger was playing through some pain last year... I can't wait to see what Gonzalez will be able to do in a friendly ballpark when he's healthy.

Aside from that, I'm confident that Gonzalez will fit into the clubhouse with no trouble at all: he seems like a quiet, friendly, confident guy, and as Mike Cameron pointed out, it doesn't hurt that he's bilingual.

He also already has an impressive grasp on what it takes to be embraced by the fans of New England (being a top player doesn't hurt). Gonzalez had quite a few quotable quips during the presser, but the two that come most quickly to mind cover subjects near and dear to the heart of any true Boston fan. The first? "I'm very excited to be here in Boston. And I'm ready to beat the Yanks."

Slam. Dunk. Put down the Evil Empire and I'm with you. If that wasn't enough, he lavished praise on Ted Williams, and then mentioned that his "good friend" Dave Roberts had nothing but good to say about the Red Sox and their fans. Swoon:

The biggest controversy so far seems to be over jersey number. Gonzalez wore #23 in San Diego, but it currently belongs to Sox outfielder Mike Cameron. Cameron had initially wanted #25 or #44 when he came over, but #25 was Mikey Lowell's, and the memory of Jason Bay as #44 was still fresh in everyone's mind. Now, it's conceivable that Cameron will take #25, and give #23 to Gonzalez in if the new first baseman will make a donation to a Boys and Girls Club (via

So when can I get one of these jerseys? They're not on the Yawkey Way or online shops, and I was hoping to ask for one for Christmas. Hurry it up, MLB - you're losing money, and we all know that's not your style.

Yes, this is really happening...

More later.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Red Sox are not cheap.

Remember this guy? Proof.

The Marlins are cheap. The Rays are cheap. The Pirates are downright Scrooge-like. If I hear one more Red Sox fan bemoaning the "fact" that the Sox front office is "too cheap" to sign Adrian Gonzalez, I'm going to scream in frustration.

The problem in these talks is not money. It's never money, unless the Yankees are involved, because we all know Midas himself couldn't outbid the Junior Steinbrenners. No, the Red Sox are not afraid to overpay in dollars for talent (for proof, look no further than the draft bonuses that they've given out in recent years), but they are afraid of overpaying in terms of years.

This makes sense. Think back to when the Sox signed Manny Ramirez, way back in December of 2000. The slugging outfielder was given a guaranteed eight years, with two team options for 2009 and 2010, with a total value of $160 million, plus bonuses for the usual things (MVP, ASG, etc.). I think you know where this is going, but the front office had soured on Manny by 2006, and even the fans were tired of his act by 2008. He was shipped off to Mannywood in LA, the Sox got Jason Bay, and the rest is history.

The moral of the story is, of course, that you can never anticipate what a player will look like in three years, let alone eight. I would never venture to guess that Adrian Gonzalez has the kind of ego and make up issues that Ramirez does, but the point stands: the Red Sox are cautious in giving out long contracts, because they've been down that road before, and it doesn't end well.

I know that AGon is crazily consistent (I posted about it yesterday, in fact), but you never know when he'll break a few ribs in a freak accident a la Jeremy Hermida and Jacoby Ellsbury, or foul a ball off his foot like Pedey, and he might never be the same.

I can totally support the front office standing firm on this issue, because they value roster flexibility, and handing out crazy-long deals isn't conducive to that kind of strategy.

All that said, SI's Jon Heyman is reporting that a deal DID get done, and the press conference will be tomorrow. Hopefully, the terms make sense for both sides.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Adrian Gonzalez to Boston

As I'm sure you've all heard by now, Adrian Gonzalez is headed to the Red Sox. The slugging first baseman will cost the Sox three of their most highly touted prospects, Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Rey Fuentes, but you have to give up value to get value in return.

Also, it's possible that one or all of the minor leaguers going to San Diego will never reach their potential, and the Red Sox are getting about as close as you can to a sure thing in baseball. Gonzalez was in Boston today getting a physical (he had surgery in October after playing through some pain in the later parts of the 2010 season), and the deal will be official as soon as the Red Sox and agent John Boggs can work on a contract extension.

Fun Fact: A-Gon played in Portland for the Double-A Seadogs when they were a Marlins farm team.

Adrian Gonzalez is a premier player entering into the prime of his career. The former Padre is twenty-eight years old, and in his seven MLB seasons (2 partial, 5 total), his numbers look like this: .284 BA, .368 OBP, 168 home runs, .511 SLG, and 525 RBI.

Bill James projects 2011 to be a typically great year for Gonzalez: 161 games played, .285 BA, .378 OBP, .512 SLG, 33 home runs, and 102 RBIs. It's also important to keep in mind that James calculated these predictions under the assumption that Gonzalez would be playing 81 games in the cavernous Petco Park, and that his numbers will most likely improve in the friendly confines of Fenway.

Current members of the Red Sox roster are excited to have Gonzalez join them. Daniel Bard, after being reassured that the deal did not include him, was enthusiastic, and Dustin Pedroia had nothing but praise for the All-Star: "I'm excited to play alongside him. It's going to be fun. When you hear his name for three years, something might happen. It's awesome to happen now. We picked up a player who's one of the best hitters in the game, so everyone's excited. We've got an All-Star. He's outstanding. We're excited and I think everyone's pumped to get to spring training and start everything."

Tim Wakefield, the grizzled veteran, acknowleged the long-term nature of the deal, noting that after a few years of discussion between the Padres and Sox, the trade has "finally some to fruition. It's a great addition to our club. Not only are we getting a quality player but we're also getting a quality guy." I don't know about you, but I trust Wake's opinion when it comes to class acts.

Obviously, this means that the Red Sox will not be bringing back the other Adrian, Mr. Beltre, despite his amazing 2010 performance for Boston at the hot corner. However, this does mean that the Red Sox will be awarded compensation picks for Beltre, Victor Martinez, and Felipe Lopez, meaning that they'll have five total picks in the first round and the sandwich round between the first and second rounds. This is nothing to sneeze at, especially since Theo has been very successful with drafting, and the 2011 draft class is projected to be very deep.

All in all, this is a fantastic move. I couldn't be happier, and I was itching all day to blog about it, and to get your reactions. Do you think this makes up for letting Victor Martinez walk? What kind of extension do you think Gonzalez will see? Do you expect the Sox to go after Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford as well?

[All quotes from this post are from's Extra Bases blog; credit to Peter Abraham and the Globe staff]

Friday, December 3, 2010

10 Bizaare Gifts for a Red Sox Fan

It's that time of year again, Red Sox Nation, and regardless of your religious affiliation (or lack thereof), you will likely be expected to participate in some gift-giving. So what can you get for your fellow fan if you want to be truly creative? Thanks to some perusing of the team store, I've gathered 10 of the strangest Sox related items out there... and I'd be willing to bet they're available for the 29 other teams as well, since MLB doesn't exactly pass up chances to get revenue.
A Red Sox tree face. Because a regular tree with a face on it just isn't creepy enough, now you can traumatize the neighborhood children AND show your team spirit! Go Sox!

A Red Sox bird feeder. In case you were worried that some of your feathered friends might be fans of the evil empire, you can set them straight with this. It should be particularly helpful to confused birds in rivalry border states like Connecticut.

I understand that dogs of a certain size need outerwear in New England winters, but I think the leather sleeves might be taking it a tad too far... In any case, Fenway, Tessie, or Papi should be warm for winter in this outfit (I made my sister name her dog Beckett).

For anyone who ever wanted tiny little batting helmets sticking out of their ears, this is the item for you. Be aware, however, that for $14.99 these might not have the best sound quality. Also, you'll have helmets sticking out of your ears.

I have absolutely no idea why you would ever want this, but if you're looking for a useless but expensive gift, you can go with the regulation size, handcrafted, crystal bat.

This holiday season, let your child snuggle up with a giant Fenway Frank. It's every kid's dream!

Stylish. I think they should give these out at the gates of Fenway for the entire crowd to put on when we're behind.

Whose idea was this, anyway? Hey, babysitters, if the kids won't sit still and watch the puppet show, you can punch them in the face, and blame it on the doll! For the violent superfan.

Okay, I kind of want this one.

I know what you're thinking: a pen? Really? Well, as you can see by the title, it's not a pen... It's a "Writing Instrument," and it can be yours for the low price of $184.99. Really.

Happy gift-giving, everyone, and I promise to be back to baseball posts ASAP.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2011 Bill James Projections - Red Sox Rotation

Yesterday we established that the 2010 version of the Red Sox performed at a poorer than expected level because of pitching, and not (exclusively) injuries. This was particularly surprising because the rotation was the one thing we all figured we wouldn't have to worry about: Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, and Matsuzaka - and we even had Wakefield, who, despite his age and lack of consistency, is a hell of a sixth man.

However, there were injuries to Beckett and Matsuzaka, and Lackey was rather less productive than we'd collectively hoped (I suppose you could say he was LACKing - get it?!?). The bullpen was a volitile mess, especially if you look at their performance without counting the stats from Bard and Paps (who had his worst season, but still superior to most relievers).

So what's in store for next year? No one can know for sure, but the Bill James Handbook at least offers predictions based on math I don't really understand, rather than total guesses pulled out of thin air.

So, without further ado, here are James' predictions for members of the presumptive pitchers for the 2011 Sox (accompanied by their 2010 numbers):

Josh Beckett:2010: 6-6, 21 starts, 127.2 IP, 5.78 ERA
2011 prediction: 10-9, 26 starts, 168 IP, 3.86 ERA
Beckett's lost season was a HUGE part of the reason the Sox missed out on the playoffs in 2010, and even a reasonable bounce back like the one James is predicting would give the Red Sox a fantastic edge.

Clay Buchholz:2010: 17-7, 28 starts, 173.2 IP, 2.33 ERA
2011 prediction: 13-9, 29 starts, 193 IP, 3.54 ERA
I'm going to go on record here and guess that James is underestimating Clay. The dominance we saw last season was not a fluke, and I'm confident Buchholz can be consistent in 2011. There's a reason Theo hasn't accepted any trade offers for Clay, and what we saw last year was just the beginning.

John Lackey:2010: 14-11, 33 starts, 215 IP, 4.40 ERA
2011 prediction: 13-12, 33 starts, 227 IP, 3.89 ERA
When I actually saw Lackey's 2010 stats, I have to confess to being a bit surprised that he was such an innings-eater. If he can live up to these predictions as the third/fourth starter, I will be content.

Daisuke Matsuzaka:2010: 9-6, 25 starts, 153.2 IP, 4.69 ERA
2011 prediction: 10-9, 27 starts, 173 IP, 3.85 ERA
Again, I'll take it. No, Matsuzaka has never been the ace we thought we were getting way back in the offseason of 2007, but (aside from his lost 2009) he's been more than adequate for the back of the rotation, and I expect he'll continue to be consistent(ly infuriating to watch).

Jon Lester:2010: 19-9, 32 starts, 208 IP, 3.25 ERA
2011 prediction: 14-9, 31 starts, 204 IP, 3.53 ERA
I think Lester will do better than this, especially if he can figure out how to avoid the awful April we've come to expect from him. James badly underestimated Lester in his predictions for 2010, and I think he's cut the southpaw short again this year.

Tim Wakefield:2010:4-10, 19 starts, 130 IP 5.34 ERA
2011 predictions: 6-6, 14 starts, 115 IP, 4.07 ERA
If Wake gets to start at all in 2011, it will be spot starts here and there. The knuckleballer's career is winding down, and though it's hard to say goodbye, this season will likely be his last.

I'm going to leave the relievers out of this equation for now, since roles and such will be in flux, and the Sox bullpen is likely going to see some serious revamping before Opening Day (which is MUCH too far away). But, if the members of the rotation listed above can match their projections (and if one or two of them *cough*Buchholz*Lester*cough* can exceed them), I think 2011 will be a much more productive year for the Sox, at least pitching-wise.