Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Inanity of ESPN

I was watching ESPN's Baseball Tonight the other day, and they mentioned Brett Favre. By itself this wouldn't be particularly surprising, as it's ALWAYS appropriate to work the 40-year-old quarterback into media coverage of any kind. No, what was shocking to me was the context of the mention, when they implied that the impact Jim Thome would have on the Twins would be comparable to the impact Favre had on the Vikings.

Lull in the conversation? Let's talk about Brett Favre!

There are so many things wrong with this that I hardly know where to begin, so let's start with the obvious: comparing baseball to football is like comparing apples to tires. Take the sport with by far the most games, and compare it to the one with the fewest, and then take it one step further and take a DH and compare him to a quarterback. If you had to choose the position on the diamond to dub the "quarterback" it would be catcher, and maybe pitcher, center fielder, or shortstop, but never designated hitter.

Then there's the sheer inanity of the idea that one [aging] hitter could have a season-changing effect on a team. In 2008, Thome had a WARP of 2.9. To put that in perspective, his new teammate Joe Mauer had a WARP of 7.1. Bill James predicts that Thome's 2010 line will look something like this: .245 BA, .374 OBP, 29 HR, 81 RBI. I'm not trying to belittle a line like that, since it would be rather impressive, but (as much as it pains me to say it) what Favre did for the Vikings was pretty special, leading them to a 12-4 record and the playoffs. If Thome can have that kind of impact on the Twins season, expect them to finish some where around 122-40.

I actually hope Thome does well with the Twins: I like them (unless they're playing us), and I'm always impressed with their ability to field such a good team for reasonable cash. However, the ESPN analysts need to do some work on their comparison skills, and here's a special tip: I never turn on Baseball Tonight to hear about Brett Favre.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Channing Tatum: Sox Prospect...?

Is it just me, or is the resemblance between Channing Tatum (left) and Sox prospect Ryan Kalish (right) uncanny? (Somehow, this is the largest and best quality photo I could find of Kalish, so if any of you have a better one, send it my way!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stop teasing me, Connecticut!

Today, it was fifty degrees and pouring rain in Hartford. There's no snow to be found; indeed, there's even green grass. All these things conspire to make me feel like baseball is closer than it truly is, and I'm not a fan.

As of tonight, there are twenty-three days until Spring Training. There are more than two months left until Opening Day [Night?] on April 4th.

I don't know about you guys, but as much as I try to distract myself with basketball, football, and hockey, the reality is that I spend the entire winter counting down the hours until I get to see baseball again. Winter break is a temporary respite, as I can take solace in the MLB Network, but all too soon I have to return to Trinity College and the realm of basic cable.

I got some good baseball books and movies for Christmas, and I received some Red Sox themed games for my birthday, but there's nothing like the real thing. I even stooped to the level of watching Sportscenter's "All Favre, All the Time" coverage for half an hour just to hear the thirty second blurb about Johnny Damon (but that's another post).

The moral of the story? It was rainy and miserable all day, Hartford is trying to trick me, and there's no baseball in sight, so if any of you have any quick cures for the offseason blues, please let me know!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Bay Breakup

The Globe (online) has a feature on the front page of their sports page this morning describing the "Worst Sox Breakups." The photo gallery includes players like Johnny Damon, Nomar Garciaparra, Wade Boggs, and, for some inexplicable reason, Jason Bay.

Obviously, I would have liked to keep Jason Bay in Boston, but with all the conversation about his suddenly suspect knees lately, I think the front office made the correct choice. You know the whole story by now: the Sox apparently pulled their 4-year, $60 million deal off the table this summer because of concerns about the left fielders knees, and came back with several offers that contained "medical contingencies." Bay refused those offers, as is his right, and signed with the Mets for 4 years and $66 million, with a club option for a fifth year. Maybe everything didn't work out as planned, but I would hardly call the situation a contentious breakup.

According to this story from's Rob Bradford, posted on Thursday, Bay had several independent physicians examine him, and none found any cause for concern:

"Listen, I could understand the club wanting all these medical contingencies if I had spent any recent time on the DL, but I had no history of being a risk for injuries and I wasn't hurt."

Bay has a valid point, but the Sox medical team saw something, and they've seen things other teams have missed in the past (Hello, Pedro Martinez!). However, unlike most of the other players and coaches in the Globe's gallery, Bay fired no parting shots at the Red Sox, which makes his situation vastly different from, say, Manny Ramirez's. Bay also was diplomatic throughout his year and a half in Boston: though he'd admitted he liked the idea of staying in Boston, he had never promised anything to the fans, a la Johnny Damon.

It seems to me that the Globe might be trying to stir up some drama where none exists. Both Bay and the Red Sox seem ready to move on. The Jason Bay era was short and often sweet: this wasn't a franchise face that was snubbing the Sox, it was a difference in medical opinion, and, if you recall, the Sox medical team was right, and the Mets' wrong, about Martinez a few years back. For now, I stand by the decision to let Jason Bay walk... if he rakes for the next four years without injury (though in cavernous CitiField, that's a BIG "if"), that will be another story.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dustin "Daddy" Pedroia

It's official. Dustin Pedroia is a homebody. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, and his obvious devotion to his wife and son is refreshing, so long as he's also still devoted to winning (I don't think that's ever going to change). I stumbled upon this piece by the Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson yesterday, and I just can't let it go without comment.

"It's been the greatest thing. Having a baby really changes you. You feel so fortunate. I look at life differently. I feel more at ease, more laid back, and I love the idea of being a great father. It's fun watching him grow every day." - Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia? Laid back? I didn't think I would ever see those words together, but there it is.

It seems that Dustin "Daddy" Pedroia circa Mike Lowell's 2007 charity event has been replaced by Dustin Pedroia, Daddy.

The before.... and the after...

I'm sure it's all for the best: Pedey isn't the type to let his work suffer. In fact, it's probably good that he has something besides baseball to be enthusiastic about. And if Dylan's anything like his father, he's going to be one cute kid:

Sorry, couldn't resist... but in all seriousness:

Clearly, the focus was acquired at an early age...

As was the hustle...

And that smile!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Perspectives on Paps

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I think Jonathan Papelbon is an excellent closer, and I'm very pleased that he's wearing a Red Sox uniform for the time being. However, I wrote a post yesterday entreating the young pitcher to get some perspective, and I stand by what I said.

Papelbon is one of the top closers in the game, right now. However, closers don't tend to have long shelf lives, and he's already twenty-nine years old. You can toss out Mariano Rivera, because he is either a freak of nature or an android (the jury's out), and Papelbon has yet to touch the dominance that Mo reached his very first year in the majors.

According to, Papelbon's most similar player is Takashi Saito, and his most similar player through age 28 is Bryan Harvey (9 seasons in the majors, ending in 1995). The "godfather" Rivera? Didn't crack the top ten on either list, so everyone STOP throwing out that comparison. In fact, if last year was what we can expect in the future, count me out: his walk rate more than tripled, and he was absolutely painful to watch at times (that said, I'll admit that he got it done... except in ALDS Game 3).

Earlier in the offseason, I wrote this piece rattling off reasons Paps could be traded... Not that I think he SHOULD, necessarily, but Theo has done stranger things. Please don't get me wrong: I value Papelbon a lot, but his attitude gets on my nerves at times. Just because the market dictates that he make $9 million dollars does not mean he "deserves" it. (I don't have the time to get into this now, but baseball's pay scale needs an overhaul.) Papelbon is one of the least involved members of the team when it comes to charity, and I think he would benefit a lot from some volunteer work and/or fund-raising. You're nearly thirty years old, Paps... it's time to grow up and realize something we all learn at some point: the world doesn't owe you anything, nor does it revolve around you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Papelbon Deserves

Theo Epstein kept his arbitration-free streak intact, as the Red Sox came to terms with Manny Delcarmen (one year, $905,000), Ramon Ramirez ($1.1 million), and Jonathan Papelbon ($9.35 million). I'm a big fan of Ramon Ramirez (though I refuse to call him "Ram-Ram"), and we've all heard the "MDC has the best 'stuff' on the team" company line. I have no problem with either of their contracts.

Really, I have no problem with Papelbon's contract, either. Numbers seldom lie, and he's definitely a quality closer. It's his attitude about such things that really rubs me the wrong way sometimes:

"Understand, I'm in the prime of my career. Why would I give up something? I'd give up something if it's fair to both sides, but I want to do things for my fellow closers, just like [Mariano Rivera] paved the way for me. I want every closer out there, man, to get every penny they deserve.'' -via Gordon Edes,

Let's be honest here, Pap... You don't want to do anything for your fellow closers. You want to take care of Number One, and that $9+ million goes a long way. And what, exactly, do you think you "deserve?" You think that because you throw a ball with accuracy and velocity, you deserve to make more money than any reasonable human being needs?

Here's a newsflash for you, Jonathan: people don't always get what they deserve. In fact, most people never see a fraction of it, and a huge portion of the world lives on less than a dollar a day (you might have heard something about Haiti...?). Most people work much harder than you do, Paps. Let's see some humility, or at least some gratitude... because right now? The only thing you deserve is a healthy dose of perspective.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Viva Big Papi!

As we were getting ready to leave for the mountain this morning, my sister and I realized we matched (this happens far too often). I was wearing a Jon Lester Red Sox shirt, she was rocking Big Papi, and I mentioned that 2010 was the last year of the slugger's contract. She was alarmed, and asked me what was going to happen, which, of course, I could only guess at.

The Red Sox will not offer David Ortiz the most money to stay, that much is certain. Whether they'll offer him a contract at all, and whether he'll sign for short money to stay in Boston are separate issues entirely. My assumption is that because of Papi's status as a fan favorite, Theo will throw him a bone: a short contract for little money, with the understanding that he might no longer enjoy the everyday role he has occupied for the last few years. Will Ortiz take a deal like that, or will he take the money from some small market team who's so desperate for power that they'll take an aging slugger?

Of course, all of this is speculation based on the assumption that Ortiz will have a season similar to last year's. If he bursts out and has a great season, say goodbye. There's no way in hell that Theo will give big money to a one-dimensional slugger who will be at least thirty-six during the 2011 season (like all foreign born players, I take his age with a grain of salt). And if he does go elsewhere, what will that be like here in New England?

Four years ago, David signed an extension with the Red Sox, and, according to this story, he made the following comments:

"I can see as long as I've been here any time we walk away from a player or a player walks away from us, people feel that. I think our fans, they need to hear some good news, something nice coming through the organization. The past couple of years I think people were just getting annoyed with it. I'm pretty sure New England is going to take this as the good news. I want to finish my career as a Red Sox player."

We've heard all of that before... Of course, he was referring to the departure of the core 2004 championship teams, Johnny Damon specifically, but how badly does David Ortiz want to stay in a Red Sox uniform? Ortiz means so much to so many; everyone in Red Sox Nation has their own Papi story.

Many are related to the above video...

The first Red Sox shirt I ever purchased with money I earned myself was #34, and I still have it (it's a little small now). For the collective sanity of New England, I hope things come together so David can finish wear that same #34 until his playing days are over (which will likely be sooner than he thinks).

Every little bit helps, everyone!

Interestingly enough, this is my last blog post as a teenager. I'm glad Papi could be its topic.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Down on the Farm

With all of the free-agent signings this winter, it's easy to forget Theo's comments early this offseason, warning of a possible "bridge year." When the Sox GM first dropped the b-word, fans panicked, thinking we would be in for a lackluster year while biding our time for the prospects to pan out. Clearly, that's not the case, but we are in between waves of big-league ready prospects.

The next year or so probably won't see any impact players coming from the farm system - at least, there won't be can't miss guys like Pedroia ('07), or Ellsbury ('08). However, in 2011 and beyond, brace yourself to see a flurry of talent coming up.

We got a sneak peak at Josh Reddick this season, as he had 63 plate appearances for the big club in the second half. The young outfielder hit just .169... but he did clobber two home runs. In 63 games in Portland (AA), Reddick hit .277 with an OPS of .871, but when he made the jump to AAA Pawtucket, those numbers fell to .127 and .373. There have been some theorizing that Reddick's pitch recognition skills just weren't at AAA or major league caliber yet... but that's certainly something that will improve with time. Fun fact: William Joshua Reddick is his given name, and though he throws right-handed, he's a lefty at the plate.

It's official: Casey Kelly is going to be a pitcher. At first, the big righty (6'3") said he wanted to play shortstop, and for the last two seasons in the minors has been pitching to his innings limit and subsequently playing at shortstop. Kelly's numbers as a pitcher are considerably more impressive than those as a batter, as he boasts a career minor-league ERA of 2.08, and a batting average of just .219. Fun fact: Kelly has an extensive baseball genealogy - uncle Mike Kelly and father Pat Kelly both played in the majors, while his brother Chris is currently in the Rays' system. [Bonus fun fact: I'm calling dibs on him. Right now. He's Off the Monster's Dustin of the future.]

Ryan Westmoreland is one of the most impressive young men in the Red Sox system, and that's really saying something. He was an all-star in high school, both on the field and in the classroom, passing on a full scholarship to Vanderbilt to sign with the Sox. He missed all of last season after breaking his collarbone running into an outfield wall, but performed admirably in 2009. Playing mostly as a DH for Single-A Lowell, Westmoreland hit .296 with an .885 OPS. Fun fact: Westmoreland is the first player profiled on Off the Monster who is younger than I (three months, 9 days younger, to be exact, with a birthday of April 27, 1990).

Ryan Kalish is the Golden Boy of the future - heck, he's even an outfielder. However, even if you look beyond the chiseled face (please, look beyond the chiseled face) Kalish is one to watch. Playing most of 2009 in Portland, Kalish hit .271 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs in 103 games, and according to he has the potential to be a lead-off guy with some pop. Fun fact: he played center field as a kid, but is open to all outfield positions: "I want to get to the big leagues so it doesn’t really matter where I am at. I’d play first base as long as I make it."

In a position the Red Sox desperately want to fill, Luis Exposito is very promising. He has a career minor-league batting average of .280, with an OPS of .785, and has the potential to be an everyday catcher with good power. One criticism Exposito gets is that his game-calling needs some work - Jason Varitek, your skills are needed here! He has a good arm, and is adequate at throwing out base stealers, something Sox backstops have been struggling mightily with lately. Fun fact: Exposito speaks both Spanish and English, and, by all accounts, has matured into a very positive clubhouse influence.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the signing of International Free-Agent Jose Iglesias had some bearing on Kelly's final decision to embrace the pitcher's mound. Iglesias is highly touted as an excellent defensive shortstop, and even at the young age of 20, scouts are projecting potential Gold Gloves in his future. His bat is average at best, but an average bat and sparkling defense at shortstop would be a major boon for the Sox, who have been struggling to fill the hole since 2004. Fun fact: Wikipedia lists two different birthdays for Iglesias (January 5 and May 1, 1990), and his age has to be questioned a bit, given the fact that he's a Cuban defector. Still, it's not as if he's secretly 35, but an extra year or two wouldn't be unheard of.

On a totally girly and unrelated note, these boys aren't half bad-looking... I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to get my butt over to Portland this summer to catch some of these guys in action for less than $10. Hopefully I'll see some of you there!

[Thanks to and for stats and insight!]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

John Lackey: Playing to Win

When I was in high school, my field hockey coach had a saying for every occasion, which my teammates and I jokingly termed "Keeley-isms." They were just little quotes that could inspire or motivate, but they've stuck with me. There was one in particular that we would hear at halftime, and it kept us working at 110% throughout the second half: "Play to win. Don't play not to lose."

On the surface, it might seem like it comes to the same thing: if you've won, you haven't lost, and if you haven't lost, you've won. However, the mindset is completely different: if it's field hockey, being up by six goals at the halfway mark can make you complacent (typical field hockey scores are 1-0, 2-1, etc.), but the idea of playing to win keeps you pushing for that extra goal, it keeps you hustling back on defense, and it keeps you doing everything you can to beat the other team. In baseball, of course, there's no clock. The game isn't over until the last batter is out, and so playing to win is of the utmost importance. Baseball teams routinely come from behind to win, scoring as many as twelve runs (1911 Tigers and 1925 Athletics) to seize victory.

So why bring this up now? Well, as I was perusing today's baseball stories I stumbled across a profile about John Lackey written by the estimable Amalie Benjamin, with the following quote from Lackey's former manager, Mike Scioscia:

“John is not afraid to fail. He’s not going out there afraid to lose."

Benjamin goes on to capture the extreme confidence and high expectations that Lackey has for himself:

"[He] elicits a 'Never’ from his former manager when asked if Lackey ever has felt he was ready to be taken out of a game. [He's] the guy who is unyielding as a pitcher, unwilling to give an inch from the confidence that he can and should always win."

In short, Lackey is the guy playing to win. Every day. And because he is a pitcher in the American League, all he can do is take th
e ball, holding on to it as long as possible. Lackey is not playing for a no-decision; he's playing for that W, every time. Lackey joins Jon Lester and Josh Beckett in a rotation that always wants the ball, and never plays "not to win." I know some of you weren't the biggest Lackey fans while he was playing out in Anaheim, and you may have questioned Theo's decision to bring him to Boston, but he sounds like a great guy to have on your team. I know Amalie Benjamin wouldn't write a profile bashing the Sox's highest profile acquisition, but she's really sold me on Lackey. If he has half the character she describes in her piece (fierce competitor, great clubhouse personality, community guy), I'm thrilled to have him.

So is it time for baseball, yet?

On a semi-related note, don't these two look similar? Do the Angels actively TRY to acquire weird-looking players?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Innocence Lost

The award for least surprising news of the decade (thus far), goes to one Mark David McGwire, for finally admitting that he used steroids during his career, including during his record-breaking 1998 season.

This home run brought to you by the wonderful world of chemistry!

McGwire released a statement earlier today, and it included all of the usual components: apologies, contriteness, and the qualificaton that "I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too."

Oh, Mark. Well, at least it's all out in the open, now... even though we've all known as much for the last ten years. I don't know about the rest of you, but I was eight years old in 1998, and I was as aware of the home run race as anybody else: one of my teachers told us that Sammy Sosa was clean, and that McGwire was on steroids, so the consensus in my third-grade class was support for Sosa. Now, of course, we know that neither man was clean, and that the true single-season home run king is Roger Maris, despite the fact that his record of 61 has been "broken" six times, by Sosa (3), McGwire (2), and Barry Bonds (1).

The most stirring sentiment in McGwire's release was the following:

"I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."

I bet that's a wish that countless men share: how many current and former major leaguers live with the dread that they will be the next name published, their name forever tarnished because of one stupid mistake? In 1998, baseball was still struggling to regain its fanbase after the debacle in 1994 when the World Series was canceled, and along came this pair of sluggers in a race to reach one of baseball's most exciting records. Why on earth would the commissioner delve too deeply into such a boon for attendance and television ratings? Let's not pretend that most of us would have acted differently: perhaps we would have done something before things got so out of control; perhaps not.

McGwire then toes the official line in claiming that the game is totally clean now:

"Baseball is really different now - it's been cleaned up. The commissioner and the players' association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I'm glad they did."

Let's not fool ourselves: there are players out there beating the system right now, with the use of HGH (which has no accurate testing procedure). However, the days of rampant and open clubhouse drug use (Hello, late-90's Texas Rangers!) are over, and good riddance. Unfortunately, the game isn't out of the woods yet - that will only happen when the last user retires from the game completely, which isn't exactly in the cards for the next forty years or so. And until then? Well, I plan to be a fan of the game as always... but a little less innocent than I was way back in 1998.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It may be irrational, but...

Exactly a year ago today, I wrote this post about Mark Teixeira's New York press conference. It was my third post ever, and I'll admit that I might have overreacted in some respects. However, I stand by one thing in particular: I LOVE hating Teixeira. But why, exactly, is he as high as #2 on my Most-Hated Yankees List (Contemporary Edition)?

Is it the team-leading 39 home runs he hit in 2009?


Is it because his wife wears the pants?

Nah... I don't hold grudges based on that stuff. But just look at her... it's like she's practicing remote mind control.

Is it the idiotic face he makes when he's hitting the ball?

No, but we're getting closer...

I'm pretty sure it's the fact that he can look like this:

Dear god, why? Mark Teixeira just strikes me as an annoying human being. Would I like him if he played for the Red Sox? It's possible... But I don't pretend to be rational about these things. Mr. Leigh is officially #2 on the Most-Hated Yankees List (Contemporary Edition) - brownie points to those of you who can guess my #1.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Everything you own in a box to the left...

According to the Providence Journal, Jacoby Ellsbury has been relegated to playing left field for the near future. Mike Cameron has almost exclusively been manning center field for his entire fifteen-year career, and he's good at it.

As quick as Ellsbury is - and we've all seen that speed in action, ahem, Andy Pettitte -

Cameron is the better defender, at least according to metrics such as UZR and WAR. Though Ellsbury's quickness is undeniable, he tends to take a roundabout route to balls hit in his area, resulting in the inefficient use of his blazing speed.

Understandably, Golden Boy was a bit upset when Tito called to break the news:

"He was worried that it was a demotion, which it is not," explained Francona. "I kind of insured him of that. I just think we're tying to put guys where we think they can make the biggest impression. Cam was great, for a guy who is 37-years-old and played center field his whole life, he said, 'Hey, I'll play anywhere.' So it was just a decision based on what's best for our team." -

Ells has played left field as recently as 2008, when he was platooning with Coco Crisp (remember him?), and he performed very well. While Jacoby doesn't have a cannon for an arm, he's no Johnny Damon, either, so I don't see this arrangement becoming a problem, though it does leave Jeremy Hermida out in the cold.

Ellsbury is too young to play the scorned lover card and pout - the man's still making the league minimum - and I'm sure he's too proud for that, anyway. As things stand, I like the Red Sox outfield. A lot.

Monday, January 4, 2010

No, not THAT Adrian.

Off the Monster would like to extend a cordial welcome to the newest member of the Boston Red Sox: Adrian Beltre. As much as I'd like to think Theo was going for a certain first baseman from San Diego and simply got mixed up, I agree with the sentiments of the Globe's Peter Abraham:

"Long-term, this suggests they do not believe they can pry Adrian Gonzalez away from the Padres any time soon. It also would seem to indicate that Mike Lowell will either play off the bench or be traded."

Not that this is particularly unexpected, but I won't pretend to be thrilled about it. Beltre is absolutely an upgrade defensively over Lowell, but he's not the bat that Mikey has been over the course of his career. Of course, part of the issue here is that Mike is getting older and, as we've been noticing, much more fragile. Though Lowell hit .290 last season, he only played in 119 games, and as he's already been part of an attempted trade, he's clearly not the first choice (if you ask the front office).

Beltre has been a power bat in the past; it's entirely possible that last season's failures were a fluke, and that he'll recover in the next year. However, the way the deal is structured, we'll be stuck with Beltre if the production doesn't return, and if he has a monster year, then he won't trigger the player option.

Sentimentally, I love Mikey. Ideally, I want Adrian Gonzalez. But practically? I guess I'm okay with Beltre.

Friday, January 1, 2010

10 for '10 - Ringing in the New Year!

Most people come up with resolutions for New Years... and inevitably, they get forgotten by Valentines Day. This year, Off the Monster is writing a list of New Years wishes - which are, of course, much better than resolutions in that they require absolutely no commitment on my part.

10. Tim Wakefield will maintain his health for the season, and will reach the Red Sox win record by the end of 2011. Is there a better guy in the organization than Wake? You all know my thoughts on the matter, so I'll spare you, but I think we can all agree that he deserves some major recognition for his contributions to the Red Sox over the years. Another franchise record would be wonderful.

9. Josh Beckett signs an extension that makes sense for both sides. Becks is thirty this year, so I don't see anything longer than four years and an option... but a motivated Josh Beckett is definitely something to look forward to, and if he spends the year gearing up for a payday, ultimately costing a few million extra dollars of John Henry's dough? So be it. Imagine a rotation of Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Matsuzaka, and Buchholz, with Wake for spot starts and extra rest. Wow.

8. The offense performs above expectations. Here's one that's a bit of a stretch. We've all been spoiled with years of Manny and Papi: that kind of firepower doesn't come along every day, and it would be selfish to expect to keep it forever. That said, the lineup does look a bit thin, and I have to believe the front office is hard at work to correct it.

7. Someone on the team wins a Gold Glove. Okay, I know the Gold Gloves are meaningless at best, and comical at worst (look no further than Derek Jeter's FOUR GGs for evidence of that), but I would like to see some recognition for what looks to be the best defensive team Boston has seen in years. If Youkilis stays at one position, I could see him being the team front runner: moving back and forth between first and third base (and left field!) have certainly hurt him in this area.

Photo from

6. Marco Scutaro breaks the Curse of Nomahhh. You guys know this story: since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra in 2004, Boston has had a veritable parade of shortstops. We've seen the good (Alex Gonzales, Orlando Cabrera), the forgettable (Gil Velasquez, Alejandro Machado), and the downright disastrous (Edgar Rentaria, Julio Lugo). Here's hoping that Scutaro can hold down the fort until Jose Iglesias is ready to step in.

5. Jason Varitek imparts his wisdom (and A*Rod ass-kicking mojo) to VMart. From what I can gather, the Red Sox Captain continues to display his class by acknowledging his reduced role for next year. That's got to hurt the man's pride: taking a backseat to the new guy in town can't be easy, especially to a guy who, not so long ago, was the cream of the crop, catcher-wise. Variek has given his heart and soul to this team - his dedication (on the current roster) is rivaled only by the aforementioned Tim Wakefield. I wish nothing but happiness for Tek this year.

4. On a related note, I wish for an extension for Victor Martinez. Apparently that Luis Exposito kid is pretty damn good, but he's only 21, and though he had some success in AA Portland last season, catchers generally take a long time to develop. In the meantime, I'm a fan of seeing VMart behind the dish for the near future, especially with Varitek there to mentor him.

3. A good year of development for Theo's boys. It's common knowledge that Theo holds his prospects in the very highest esteem; some of you would even say he values them a bit too highly. However, it can only bode well for the big club if some of the kids have good seasons. Even if those at the lower levels can't help in Boston yet, good seasons improve their value as trade chips, and some of them will undoubtedly make guest appearances at Fenway before the year is done. I for one will be keeping an eye on Josh Reddick, Iglesias, Lars Anderson, Exposito, and Junichi Tazawa, among others.

Lars Anderson: GET BACK ON TRACK.

2. A monster year for Dustin Pedroia. It's no secret around here that Pedey is my very favorite player. Last year was by no means a bad year, but I'm confident he'd be the first to tell you that it was a fluke and he can do better. I'm sure that a combination of pitchers taking the 2008 MVP seriously (finally) and midseason stress over his wife and unborn son affected his game - not that he'd ever admit as much. However, Kelli and Dylan are just fine, and Pedey has undoubtedly dedicated himself to improving every possible facet of his game over the offseason.

1. A World Series title for the Boston Red Sox. Seeing the celebrations in the Bronx (I tried to avoid them, but it was impossible to miss all of it) made me feel physically ill. Let's turn some of that around, shall we?

Less of the former, more of the latter.

One last thing: I'd like to thank those of you who read and comment on the blog. I started it about a year ago as a place for me to vent about baseball, and never really thought I'd have any sort of audience. I'm honored that you spend any fraction of your internet time reading something I've written, and I hope to exceed your expectations in the coming year. Feedback is always appreciated, and I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.