Monday, August 30, 2010

Making it interesting?

Alright, things look pretty bad. By losing two out of three to the Rays (and heartbreakers, at that), the Red Sox fall to 6.5 games out of first place and the Wild Card - seven games out in the loss column.

So does this mean it's over? Not necessarily, but barring a spectacular collapse by one or both of the teams they're chasing, it's now going to be damn near impossible. Unfortunately, we're behind the wrong New York team when it comes to hoping for a collapse, as the Yankees' Queens neighbors are particularly practiced at late-season floundering theatrics.

Where are the moribund Mets when you need them?

Many of you might ask: So what's the point in watching? Well, first of all, if these Red Sox get their act together and somehow scrape a spot in the postseason, you'll want to say that you're one of those fans who kept the faith.

Even if they don't, and even if this series turns out to be the straw that finally broke the camel's back, there's a lot of good baseball left. This is a good team, and they play exciting baseball most of the time. Sure, the last two nights have ended badly for us, but there was a lot of edge-of-your-seat performances before the final score made us all collectively bang our heads against that proverbial wall.

Take Saturday's game: we had a gem from Buchholz, an impressive catch from Drew (while the wisdom of catching that ball is open to question, the degree of difficulty involved in actually getting to it through those awful bullpens is not), and a SportsCenter Top Play from none other than the young Ryan Kalish.

During the series we've seen a lot of skill from guys most of us had never heard of until the 2010 Parade of Carnage got underway: a couple of assists by Darnell McDonald, some key hits by Daniel Nava, and an RBI from Yamaico Navarro. I mean, we've all heard about Ryan Kalish, but you'd have to be SUPER tuned in to even have known what position these other guys played in the Sox minor league system, let alone think they could make an meaningful contribution.

So maybe the tail end of 2010 will turn out to be an audition for 2011, and it's not the end of the world. Most teams would have packed it in long ago: where would the Rays be with season-ending injuries to Carlos Pena and Ben Zobrist? If BJ Upton played just 20 games? If Matt Garza was doing his best 2006 Matt Clement impression and David Price missed two months?

Likewise, where would New York be without Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson for a sizable chunk of the season? What if you subtracted CC Sabathia from that rotation? Phil Hughes?

I know this is all hypothetical, but the point is that this team is nothing to scoff at. The fact that we can even boast the seventh-best record in baseball at this point in the season is borderline absurd - factor in the toughest division in the game and you're really talking crazy.

I hate to quote a Yankee to sum up a post about the tenacity of the 2010 Red Sox, but as Yogi Berra famously said: "It's not over til it's over."

It's not over yet, Red Sox Nation. I don't know about you, but the one thing I've learned this season is to never count this team out.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So far, so good...

Keep it going, Clay!

Jon Lester started the series off right last night, going seven shutout innings, allowing just 2 hits and one (unearned) run. David Price was good, but Jonny KKKKKKKKKK Lester was better. Bard and Paps came in to close things out, and while the closer managed to put the tying run on base, he did not allow a run.

The bats were all over Price: though they scored just three runs on the lefty, there were hard-hit balls all over the place, and the Sox notched ten hits.

Victor Martinez in particular had a great night, going yard twice (both off of Price), for just his second and third home run since coming off the disabled list with a broken thumb. Papi had a double (and scored a run), and Darnell McDonald legged out a triple to round out a powerful showing for the Sox.

Tonight has the American League ERA leader, Clay Buchholz, facing off against Tampa Bay righty Matt "The Spitter" Garza. Despite being a generally good pitcher against the Sox (3.64 career ERA; 7-3 record), Garza's ERA of 3.62, while respectable, is over a run higher than Buchholz's 2.26.

Overall, I think the Sox have a good chance of taking this one... and you know I'll be watching, hoping, and rooting for another win.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Let's get ready to RUMBLE!!!

Bring it on, Jonny!

The Sox had a chance to pick up a game-and-a-half on the Yankees and the Rays on Wednesday, seeing as they played a day/night doubleheader and both of the aforementioned clubs obligingly lost.

However, it was not to be. Felix Hernandez was, predictably, awesome, and as Daisuke Matsuzaka'a suddenly-stiff back got Jon Lester scratched and moved to TONIGHT's start, Tom Wakefield really didn't have a chance. So our boys only managed a half-game gain... but it's better than losing ground.

So what's a team to do? Well, taking all three games this weekend in Tampa would be a great start in getting back into the playoff hunt, and the pitching matchups look pretty promising.

Tonight, Jon Lester goes against fellow southpaw David Price, Saturday has Clay Buchholz going agsint the Spitter himself, Matt Garza, and the finale on Sunday will see John Lackey facing off against James Shields. It looks like we should be ready for a couple of pitchers duels - only my favorite kinds of games!

So, as always, the members of Red Sox Nation will be watching, rooting, and hoping... because if being a Red Sox fan has taught me anything, it's that you have to have faith!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rainy Day Blues

I was planning on seeing King Felix go against Johnny K Lester at this afternoon's matinee... However, the weather has other plans.

Because of the rainout, I will be seeing LAST night's starters, David Pauley and Josh Beckett, while people with tickets to last night's tilt get to see MY boys. Needless to say I'm very upset about it, but hoping for a good game anyway.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Say What? Waiver Rules and Johnny Damon.

Could this be in our future?

First of all, everybody take a nice, deep breath. There are 48 hours between the time that the Red Sox put a waiver claim on the oft-maligned Johnny Damon and the time that some action must be taken.

I understand that Red Sox Nation is currently in an uproar, which does nothing but expose our collective ignorance of how waiver claims actually work. This is particularly sad because I take pride in the fact that this fan base is always zealous and well-informed, and while the "zealous" part is covered by the shrieking emanating from all of New England, we're clearly not as wicked smahht as we like to think.

But no worries, friends. You don't have to admit to your baseball-obsessed neighbors and coworkers that you don't understand the waiver-wire, because I'm here to help explain.

As I'm sure you know, normal trades must be completed by the July 31st trading deadline, but if you pay attention you will also have noticed that the Sox generally get some new players after that deadline every year (Paul Byrd seems to be an annual favorite).

  • After July 31st, all trades must be done through waivers, and if these players aren't acquired by August 31st, they are not eligible to play in the postseason.
  • Teams can put any players on waivers, and they do not need to tell the players in question.
  • Once a player is on waivers, other teams have 48 hours to put a claim in on that player.
  • If multiple teams put in a claim, the team with the worst record in the league the player is currently on. If no teams from that league make a claim, the player goes to the team with the worst record in the other league.
  • Once a player is claimed, their team has three options:
  1. They can pull the player back. If this happens, he cannot be traded for 30 days.
  2. They can work out a trade with the team that claimed him. Other players in the trade must also pass through waivers UNLESS they are not currently on a 40-man roster.
  3. They can simply give the player to the other team, getting nothing in return, but the new team must pay the player's remaining salary.
  • If no one claims the player, he can be traded to any team in the league.
So what does this mean for the Red Sox and Johnny Damon? First of all, it is very likely that the Red Sox put in a claim simply to stop the Yankees or Rays from getting him; since they are behind both teams in the standings, the Tigers could not trade Damon to New York or Tampa Bay once the Sox claimed him.

However, Damon has a no-trade clause that includes many teams, including Boston, so he can refuse to go, which would still keep him from the Yankees or Rays. Honestly, no Sox fan should be surprised, since there's been rampant speculation that the Sox would claim Manny Ramirez to keep him from their rivals, should he get placed on waivers by the fed-up Dodgers.

As for the wisdom of acquiring Damon? It can't possibly hurt this team's chances any more than the ludicrous 2010 Parade of Carnage, and Damon's former Sox teammates (Varitek, Papi, and Wake, chiefly) seem open to the idea. At this point, what do they have to lose?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Royal Pedigree?

Though I didn't take this photo, I was present at Felix Doubront's MLB debut in June, and he struck out Manny Ramirez during his first return to Fenway Park.

It's always about the pitching. Despite two rain delays totaling two hours and forty-three minutes (according to the estimable and meticulous Peter Abraham), Clay Buchholz went six innings and allowed no runs, scattering five hits and three walks.

Daniel Bard relieved then Buch in the seventh inning, and stumped the Jays; despite a wild pitch and a walk, the presumptive close-in-waiting got through the frame with two strikeouts, and without letting up a run.

However, for me, the most interesting pitching performance was by youngster Felix Doubront, who came in to pitch the eighth inning while the Sox were leading by just three runs. As we have come to expect from the young southpaw, Doubront got through the inning with a small hiccup of an infield single.

The Red Sox would score two runs in the bottom of the eighth, and so the warming-Papelbon sat back down and allowed Doubront to finish the contest.

Despite a triple(!) by David Ortiz, I think the most exciting aspect of the game was the pitching of Felix Doubront, who proved (once again) that he is capable of pitching in important situations. Sure, this wasn't the World Series, or even a particularly high-stakes game, but it wasn't a blowout, either.

According to, Doubront

"utilizes a 91-94 mph fastball, a very good 79-81 mph changeup with screwball action, and an impressive-but-inconsistent mid-70s curveball. Flawless and fluid downward pitching motion with excellent control. Deceptive delivery, hitters don't pick up the ball until late, causing his fastball to look a little faster. Used to struggle against left-handed batters, but seemed to fix this issue in 2009. He has a reserved and modest demeanor, but is aggressive and poised on the mound. "

Well, we're certainly seeing all that, and I think Doubront's promise extends far beyond being a poised reliever. If so, I think he needs a nickname... Prince Felix, anyone?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Another Crushing Blow

As you all know, I missed my hubby's first two games back from the disabled list to watch some Baby Sox play in Portland. It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time; after all, he'd be back for the rest of the season, and it was a good chance for me to get over to Hadlock Field.

God, I miss this face.

As usual when I show a moment of weakness is my dedication to the big club, the baseball gods have their revenge by smiting one of my boys. In fact, the only major injury I've seen this season was that of Jacoby D-Ellsbury, and you already know my feelings about him.

But I digress. The plucky second baseman played a total of two games up in Boston before that left foot started hurting too much for him to bear - and that's quite a lot for a man who was taking ground balls on his knees just days after the initial break.

So it was back to the DL for Pedey, and what's worse is that his absence is likely to be longer for 15 days. Obviously, the in-your-face infielder wasn't pleased with the news: "I'm upset. I feel like I let everybody down... I can't really do much. I tried, so hopefully it heals up and I'll get back in there."

It's a huge blow to a team that was waiting on tenterhooks for its most spirited player to return: Pedroia was supposed to be the motivating factor for a hotstreak that would carry the Red Sox into the playoffs. Pedroia is not worried, at least out loud: "We'll be fine. Guys will step up. They have all year. I'm just one guy. Guys have gone down all year, and guys have been able to step up and help us win. We still have a great chance at getting to the playoffs and winning the whole thing."

I actually agree with all this bluster... If the Red Sox pull off a miracle and make it into the October party, I think they can win it all. However, they no longer "have all year." There are thirty-nine games to play, and they currently sit seven games out in the division and 5.5 back in the Wild Card. They either have to catch the seemingly tireless Rays, or the Yankees with the bottomless pockets, and with each passing day it seems less likely it can happen.

Of course, I hate counting ANYTHING out until the numbers say I absolutely must, because I learned my lesson in 2004: never say never, especially when the team in question is as talented and determined as this one.

As Kevin Garnett would say: ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE!!!!!!!!!

I'll say this much for certain: if these Sox make it to the promised land of the playoffs, it might be the best ride they've had, and a joy to watch for sure.

[Quotes are from this article at, and standings are as of this evening.]

Friday, August 20, 2010

Quote of the Day

I think the boys over at Surviving Grady said it best:

"Oh, and as for last night’s game? Screw the game. We’re fighting cancer, man."

Dustin Pedroia rallies the troops of Red Sox Nation at the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon.

PLEASE donate to the Jimmy Fund: Click here to give online, call 877-738-1234, or text KCANCER to 20222 to give $10. Every little bit helps.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why I give to the Jimmy Fund:

Today, the Red Sox are hosting the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon to raise money and awareness about the Jimmy Fund. The following is a re-post of my September 25, 2009 entry entitled "Baseball as a Coping Mechanism," which should explain why even a broke college student like myself makes sure to give every year.

"Surviving cancer is, and will always be, my toughest battle. I laugh when people talk about how tough it is to deal with the boos of the fans or the high expectations of big market baseball. Hah! You want to know what tough is. John Kruk knows. Andres Galarraga knows. And Jon Lester has come to find out. When cancer comes calling, baseball takes a backseat. Having forty thousand people at Yankee Stadium tell me I suck is a nice diversion." -Mike Lowell, Deep Drive

Cancer took my mom last month. Today would have been her sixty-second birthday.

When I came back from boarding school with a renewed obsession for baseball, my mom humored me, watching all the games with me (with intermittent naps), and even picking a favorite player (David Ortiz). After I read Mike Lowell’s book, I knew she had to read it, too. The above passage caused Mikey to replace Papi in her affections.

The Red Sox were something that we shared. She didn't have any real affinity for professional baseball before I did (though she grew up in rural Connecticut, so the Sox would have been a logical choice), but she started paying attention because it was important to me: I loved the Red Sox, she loved me. Therefore, she loved the Red Sox, too. The other members of my family are what you would term "casual fans," they don't know very much about the players, don't really watch on TV, but, like all good New Englanders, they have Sox hats and are happy when the home town team does well.

When we were in the hospital last month, the Red Sox were on the telev
ision every night. The first night we were there was the night of Victor Martinez's two-out, go-ahead double in the ninth inning, and when he hit it I leaped out of my chair, feeling that I shouldn't yell in a hospital. My mom felt no such qualms, and shouted her excitement. She then looked at me and said, quite seriously, "You know, I really liked Justin Masterson... but this new guy looks promising." I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Red Sox provided an escape these last few years when I needed one, and they were something for my mom and I to enjoy together when we could. Her first trip to Fenway was last June, and Tim Wakefield pitched the Sox to a win over the Diamondbacks. We went twice this summer, once to see Jon Lester pitch 7+ perfect innings (and a complete game) against the Rangers in June, and once to see Brad Penny toss a gem against New York the next week.

"I never thought I'd get to go to Fenway Park," she told me more than once. I'm so glad that she did.

Even when I was away at school, she would watch the games so she could talk about them with me (and, as a lifetime coach and phys. ed. teacher, she had a deep love of sports). I have a saved voicemail on my cell phone from April 26, 2009. She called me during the game, while my phone was off, and left the following breathless message: "Wow, Kayla, I really hope you're watching the game, because Jacoby Ellsbury just stole home, and it was AMAZING!" As soon as I got the message, I called her back and we discussed it at length.

My mom valued sportsmanship highly, perhaps because of her keen awareness that life isn’t fair, she expected sports to be fair… She even infamously pulled out a rulebook in the middle of a field hockey game last season in order to correct the referee. As those she coached well know, she never advocated arguing with the umpire, so if she was upset, there was something very wrong. Sure enough, she was right, and another person learned that it’s very unwise to doubt Deryl Fleming when it comes to field hockey. She taught me to always respect the umpire, and the only time I ever saw her visibly upset over a call in MLB was last year. Mikey Lowell, whose book she had just finished, starting arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. "Well," she reasoned, "Mike never argues, so if he thinks it's a bad call, it's a bad call."

I can't thank everyone enough that helped her and our family through everything: all the food, and the rides, and the support, meant more than anyone will know. I wish there was some way for me to thank the Boston Red Sox, and specifically Mike Lowell, for giving her, and me, something to believe in and hope for right up until the end.

Click here to give online, call 877-738-1234, or text KCANCER to 20222 to give $10. Every little bit helps.

Down on the farm

I missed my second Sox game in a row last night, postponing my visual reunion with a certain previously-injured second baseman. Some might question my dedication to the local nine, but only if they didn't know where I actually was: watching some baby Red Sox at Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine.

Four summers ago, a young man from my hometown of North Conway, New Hampshire was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the second round. Since then, southpaw Jeff Locke was included in a trade for Nate McLouth, and is now in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, currently pitching for the Double-A Altoona Curve, meaning his schedule finally includes an easily reachable game for his legions of local well-wishers.

Locke delivers to Sea Dogs right fielder Matt Sheely.

Of course, I love Hadlock Field and the Sea Dogs, and would go any day of the week, but the Curve's presence in Portland made it easier to entice people to accompany me, so I've been there the last two nights. Unfortunately, the Sea Dogs lost both games, but what seemed like all of North Conway was happy last night as Locke, the "Redstone Rocket," pitched seven innings of shut-out baseball and got the win.

All was not lost for the junior Red Sox, as their own pitchers allowed just one run on four hits, and all three of the hits allowed by Locke were for extra-bases, as Jorge Padron (LF), Ryan Khoury (3B), and Che-Hsuan Lin (CF) all smashed doubles against the overpowering lefthander.

Tuesday night was less crowded, but still disappointing for those who root for the home team, as the Sea Dogs fell, 2-4. However, Jose Iglesias returned from the disabled list with a hit and several spectacular plays in the field, while catching prospect Luis Exposito went 2-for-5 with a double.

The "road to the show" stops in Portland, Maine.

While injuries on the big club have all but depleted the major league-ready talent from the Sox system, there is a light at the end of Theo's "Bridge." The Sea Dogs, at least, look like they're weathering the storm; their players are performing well, and though they currently have a losing record, that can be attributed to the loss of stars like Ryan Kalish and Felix Doubront to bigger and better things.

If you can, I highly recommend a visit to Hadlock Field. The Sea Dogs put everything they have on the field nightly, and it's fun to watch the future. The field itself is a gem: you won't pay more than $12 to watch, and there's not a bad seat in the house - unless a local hero is in town, general admission seats can easily land you 10 rows behind home plate.

It's a great destination, and Portland is a great city. The local fans are knowlegable - both about the Sea Dogs and the big club - and are always happy to chat. Every Red Sox fan should make it a point to catch some minor league games, and if Portland is a feasible destination, you'll have a great time.

You might also see a sweet vanity plate like this one... Spotted outside Hadlock Field last night.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today's the day!

Good lord, I've missed this man.

This is it. The day we (I) have been waiting for since June 25th. Seven weeks without Dustin Pedroia, while the Red Sox have fought to keep their collective heads above water. While we fans missed the diminutive second baseman and his antics, the Sox at least got to keep him in the dugout, even as certain other injured players chose to stay away.

I believe in this team. As things stand this morning, the Red Sox are 5.5 games back - both in the division and the Wild Card, as the Yankees and Rays are tied. They have 42 games to play, and though it seems unlikely, I think they can make a run at it.

More importantly, the Red Sox believe in themselves. They think they can get it done, and Dustin Pedroia backs up his smack-talk with action. I fully expect him to go on an absolute tear.

Remember the laser show he put on the day before Doomsday? Three home runs in a game at Colorado? I know we'll get to see him pick up where he left off: if it's possible for one man to pick up a team and win them a spot in the playoffs, Pedey will do it.

And even if he can't? Well, I get to watch him again, every day, out on that field.... where he belongs.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A study in contrast

Friday night, Beckett was the deer...

The last two games in Texas have been polar opposites. Friday night, we had a heartbreaker: Josh Beckett was handed a six-run lead early in the game, and he couldn't hold on. Last night Jon Lester pitched a masterful 8 innings of shutout ball.

On Friday, the offense absolutely exploded, scoring nine runs on thirteen hits, including five homers, but the pitching was a mess, though the bullpen managed to hold on for a few innings until Tim Wakefield gave up the game-winning home run in the bottom of the eleventh.

Yesterday, the offense was somewhat anemic, only managing one run until the top of the ninth, when they scored two additional insurance runs. However, the pitching last night was phenomenal. Jon Lester was masterful, and though Scott Atchison got into a spot of trouble in the bottom of the ninth, Felix Doubront came in with the tying run at the plate and closed out the game without allowing a run.

Given my druthers, I would like to see a combination of the two performances going forward: sparkling pitching performances coupled with explosive run production for the rest of the season would be great. Daisuke Matsuzaka goes this afternoon, so we'll see if my wish gets granted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I think I can...

The Red Sox are... dare I say it... turning things around. They picked up a game on New York last night - something they failed to do while IN New York - and while the Rays won, I think this team still has a shot.

Call me an optimist (it might be the first time), but I still believe this team can make the playoffs, and do well there. Dustin Pedroia is tentatively expected back next week, and while Kevin Youkilis is not coming through that door, Pedey could provide the spark they need to go on a tear.

Last night's game was a bit of an oddity, as Daisuke Matsizaka was brilliant in the first inning, and fell apart later on, but his teammates had his back, scoring seven runs, and the bullpen was pretty good. Youngster Felix Doubront was particularly impressive, working out of a sixth-inning bases-loaded jam by striking out Travis Snider.

Doubront did allow Jose Bautista to tie the game in the seventh inning with his 35th homer of the season, but again the bats came through (!), with a Mike Lowell home run and a Jed Lowrie RBI double. Papelbon closed it out with limited theatrics, and the Sox notched their sixty-fifth win of the season.

Clay Buchholz is currently going for number sixty six... Let's go, boys!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Save us, Jon!

Has anyone ever noticed how many Red Sox possess some form of the name "Jon?" There's Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, John Lackey, and John Farrell... And guess what the "J" in JD Drew stands for? Yes, Jonathan (his name is, in fact, David Jonathan, so I'm not sure how he came up with JD, but I digress).

Does one of these players hold the key to salvaging the season? I'm temped to say it's John Farrell, since he has influence over so many of the players, but in the end these are grown men who are responsible for their own performances.

Personally, I'm hoping they ALL turn it up a notch and start getting it done, starting with Jon Lester's start this afternoon.

Lester is 4-1 against the Yankees in his career, with a 4.01 ERA in ten games; in 2010, he is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts. Take from that what you will, but Jon's not been at his best since the All-Star break.

Sometimes the rivalry is just what a pitcher needs to turn it on, and I hope he can... because I'm not sure those other Jons can go it alone.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Surprise! (Not)

Friday was a great day. The Sox took the first game in the Bronx, and the optimism started to emerge in Red Sox Nation: some fans anticipated a sweep, followed by a glorious fall from grace (and in the standings) for the defending World Champs.

Then came yesterday's farce. First of all, starting a baseball game at 4:10PM is absolutely ridiculous, and then we had to spend all afternoon and evening listening to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver gush about Robinson Cano (who is, admittedly, having a killer season).

Of course, the Yankees won last night, negating the one-game gain the Sox had made on Friday, but I can't say I was surprised. If you had asked me my expectations for the weekend on, say, Thursday night, I would have been quick to tell you that 3-out-of-4 was a reasonable outlook, and it's all about pitching.

Clay Buchholz has been far superior to Javier Vazquez this year; Josh Beckett instills more confidence in me than AJ Burnett; Jon Lester against Dustin Moseley is a little bit of a joke. However, CC Sabathia is one of the best pitchers in the game, and it's been clear that John Lackey has yet to quite reach his stride in the AL East.

I still think we can take the next two games, though I am rather annoyed at their start times... 8PM on a Sunday, then 2PM on a Monday? Geez, what about the working stiffs? With the way ratings have fallen this year, they really shouldn't be alienating fans this way. But I digress. It's going to be an uphill battle, but there's still time to make it to October.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Do you appreciate me NOW?!?

I thought we'd weathered the storm. Dustin Pedroia was out for an extended period with a broken foot, and for me that's top 3 WORST NEWS EVER. Unfortunately, just when we were all thinking that things couldn't possibly be worse, the baseball gods decided to piss all over our feeble dreams.

Kevin Youkilis will undergo season-ending surgery on his right thumb tomorrow, after tearing his abductor muscle. What did we do to get the universe so angry at us?!?

Say it ain't so, Youk!

This is a tough blow. Kevin Youkilis was snubbed by Joe Girardi for the All-Star Game, but his numbers have been more than All-Star worthy, batting .307 with a .975 OPS, 62 RBIs, and 19 homers in 102 games.

Youkilis is easily on the same playing field as the Mark Teixeiras, Justin Morneaus, and even Albert Pujols's of the game in several statistical areas, and yet he's rarely or never mentioned in the same breath as these players.

I'm sure a lot of this bias is simply aesthetic judgment: Youkilis has an unconventional stance, his body type is not that of the traditional star, and his goatee, while impressive, is not the type of facial hair associated with a golden boy. This is such a shame, as Youkilis is truly among the elite first basemen in the game, and, if given the chance, could probably be among the best across the diamond at the hot corner.

Youkilis is a sweaty, sweaty man... but he's also one of the best players in the American League.

Once dubbed "the Greek God of Walks" by Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, Youkilis has certainly branched out. The once-chubby 8th rounder with the funny swing and excellent sense of the strike zone has become a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat, and yet he's consistently overlooked, even in baseball-crazy Boston.

In 2008, there were some fans and members of the media that argued for Youkilis to get the AL MVP Award over teammate Dustin Pedroia, and though it pains me to admit it, they had a point. Pedroia's appearance as a scrappy fighter who succeeds at the major league level on sheer grit and attitude certainly helped him, but the same description could easily be applied to Youkilis. The Globe's Jackie MacMullan summed it up well: "He does not look like an MVP candidate; more a refrigerator repairman, a butcher, the man selling hammers behind the counter at the True Value hardware store."

Pedey, of course, was the 2008 MVP, while Youk took second place.

Youk went undrafted out of high school, and was left out again after his junior year at the University of Cincinnati - despite being first team All Conference USA and second team All-American - mostly because of his strange swing and stout build. Thankfully, the Red Sox took a chance on him in 2001.

In the years since, Kevin Youkilis has been so consistent that no one seems to notice what he brings to the team every day. A Gold Glover at first, and arguably as quick with the leather when Tito slides him across the diamond, Youkilis is not prone to streaks with the bat, but just plods along, ending with a batting average around .300, with nearly 100 RBIs and about 25 home runs each year.

And yet, there are few accolades for the sweaty gamer. The local press might give him a pat on the back once in a while, but he is all but ignored nationally, which is an oversight that borders on criminal. Perhaps his absence will teach Red Sox fans to appreciate him more, and finally show the national media machines what he truly means to this team.

I'm sure his teammates miss him already... I know I do.