February 29, 2012

Rosenthal: Expanded Playoffs To Begin This Year

MLB will add a second wild card team from each league to the playoffs in 2012, expanding the number of post-season teams from eight to ten. The two wild card teams in each league will play a one-game playoff before the Division Series begin.

Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports:
The agreement on the additional wild cards is not yet final, and one source said there are "still a few loose ends" to resolve. But an announcement could occur as soon as Thursday, sources said. ...

The final details are not known, but officials discussed changing starting times for the final day of the regular season, the one-game wild-card knockout and possibly Game 1 of the Division Series. ...

The problem in '12 is that the regular season ends on Wed., Oct. 3 and the World Series will begin on FOX on Wed., Oct. 24. Squeezing in additional wild-card games never was part of the plan.

February 28, 2012

The Leap Year 11

Eleven major league players were born on February 29, from from Dickey Pearce (1871-77) to Terrence Long (1999-2006).

The list also includes Pepper Martin, Al Rosen, and one-gamer Al Autry. None of the 11 players played for the Red Sox.

Valentine Pushing All The Right Buttons, Mocking Yankees


Bobby Valentine, the latest provocateur in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, said Tuesday that the Jeter flip play was no big deal and talked about how Jason Varitek, who will announce his retirement on Thursday, "beat up" Alex Rodriguez.

Daily News:
[He] started his tenure as Boston manager by saying he hated the Yankees.

Tuesday, he turned it up another notch by mocking Derek Jeter's legendary "flip" play and reveling over how Jason Varitek once "beat up" Alex Rodriguez in a notorious brawl between the teams. ...

On Tuesday, Valentine told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla., that Jeter was "out of position" on the famous play in Game 3 of the American League division series against the A's ...

Valentine also delivered a jab that is sure to please Sox fans when he was asked about Varitek's retirement and responded:

"From afar, he was everything that you want in a guy who wore a 'C' to be. He was a man's man. He was a big hitter when needed. He was the leader of the pitching staff. He was able to beat up Alex. All that stuff is good stuff. He was exactly what he was supposed to be."

Valentine, of course, was referring to the July 24, 2004 fight between the teams at Fenway where A-Rod and Varitek begin to jaw at each other at the plate and Varitek, still wearing his mask, pushes his mitt and free hand into Rodriguez's face, sparking a brawl.
My emphasis, of course. It has been more than eight years and Yankee fans and New York writers remain obsessed with the fact that Varitek has his mask on in that picture. Naturally, they forget (or choose to forget) that Jorge Posada did the exact same thing at least once.

Back in 2007, I linked to a short clip of Dumbo engaged in a shoving match with a Tampa player and - GASP! - he keeps his mask on. Sadly, MLB's Video Police had the video removed. ... It doesn't look like I saved the clip. I'd love to have it, though.

Logic States Beer Ban Should Apply To Fans At All Parks

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who banned candy and ice cream from the Yankees clubhouse a few years ago, supports Bobby Valentine's post-game Prohibition:
I think with what has happened with some of the accidents and liabilities it makes sense to me. You have to be careful in this day and age. You don't want people drinking and driving. You don't mind a guy having a beer, but when you are home. You are going to get in a car and drive home. I think it's a pretty good policy.
It appears that Girardi failed Logic 101. According to his statement, shouldn't teams ban the sale of all alcohol beverages from ballparks? After all, we don't want hundreds of fans having too many drinks and driving home impaired or drunk in this day and age, do we? Yet I don't think Girardi or Valentine or any other manager will be insisting that his employer stop selling beer to paying customers.

February 27, 2012

Jason Varitek Will Announce Retirement On Thursday

Godspeed, Cactus!

After 15 seasons, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek will announce his retirement this Thursday.

Globe:
Only Carl Yastrzemski (23 seasons), Ted Williams (19) and Jim Rice (16) had longer tenures with the Red Sox without playing for another team.

Varitek played in 63 postseason games in his career, helping the Red Sox to the 2004 and 2007 World Series titles.

Varitek leaves the Red Sox ninth in team history in games played (1,546), doubles (306) and extra-base hits (513). He is 10th in plate appearances (5,839) and RBIs (757).

Read: Matthew Kory (OTM) on Varitek.

Francona Calls Beer Ban "A PR Move"

Terry Francona, speaking on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" show, says Bobby Valentine's clubhouse ban on beer is nothing more than a PR move.
I don't think it's a surprise that they put this in effect, or the fact they announced it. It's probably more of a PR move just because, you know, the Red Sox took such a beating at the end of the year.

I think it's more of a PR thing. We used to tell the guys, "You have certain privileges, don't abuse the privileges or they'll be taken away." And it wasn't specifically in one area. There were many areas you talk about. You look back at this, these are guys that earned my implicit trust. You know, guys that we had won World Series with. So I probably felt different about it than a new guy coming in. And he certainly has the right to do what he wants because he is new, and that's why you get different people.

[Was this the right move?]

Again, I think it was a PR move. I think if a guy wants a beer, he can probably get one. You know, it's kind of the old rule ... If your coach in football says no hard liquor on the plane -- I mean, you serve beer and wine -- somebody's going to sneak liquor on the plane. If you furnish a little bit, it almost keeps it to a minimum.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon countered Valentine's annoucement yesterday by saying that members of his team are free to enjoy a beer after a game if they want.
We're not the Boston Red Sox. I've said it a hundred times. For me at the end of the day, I'd much prefer our players making good decisions, and if you're of legal age, and the game is over, and you've sweated and lost a bunch of pounds and you want to sit down and have a beer, I see nothing wrong with that.
Last October, Maddon said:
To say a grown-up can't have a beer after a game? Give me a break. That is, I'm going to use the word, "asinine," because it is. Let's bring the Volstead Act back, OK. Let's go right back to prohibition and start legislating everything all over again. All that stuff pretty much annoys me, as you can tell.
Also: Josh Beckett will not apologize for being distracted in September because his wife was due to give birth.

David Ortiz is tired of the Boston media "always talking trash".

I don't like the idea of batting Jacoby Ellsbury third because (a) his power surge has been for only one season, (b) there is not a decent alternative at the top of the order, and (c) I want Adrian Gonzalez batting in the first inning of every game (and Valentine is unlikely to bat him first or second).

Pitching Assignments For First Week Are Announced

The pitching assignments for the first week of spring training games have been announced. There will be baseball on Thursday!
March 1 at Twins ("B" game), 1 PM
Alfredo Aceves
Daniel Bard
Clayton Mortensen
Jesse Carlson
Tony Pena, Jr.
Alex Wilson
Will Inman
Justin Thomas

March 3 vs. Northeastern, 2:30 PM
Jon Lester
Justin Germano
Michael Bowden
Matt Albers

March 3 vs. Boston College, 7 PM
Felix Doubront
Junichi Tazawa
Doug Mathis
Chorye Spoone

March 4 vs. Twins, 1:30 PM
Josh Beckett
Andrew Miller
Mark Melancon
Justin Thomas
Tony Pena, Jr.
Scott Atchison

March 5 at Twins, 7 PM
Clay Buchholz
Vicente Padilla
Will Inman
Jesse Carlson
Brandon Duckworth

March 6 vs. Orioles, 1:30 PM
Daniel Bard
Alfredo Aceves
Alex Wilson
Clayton Mortensen
Michael Bowden

March 7 "B" game vs. Twins, ?
Jon Lester
Chorye Spoone
Drake Britton
Matt Albers
Justin Thomas
Scott Atchison
Doug Mathis

March 7 at Blue Jays, 1 PM
Carlos Silva
Junichi Tazawa
Mark Melancon
Tony Pena Jr.
Justin Germano

February 26, 2012

9 Things That Will Happen In 2012

A little bit of fun, somewhere between a wish list and serious prognostication:

9 Things That Will Happen In 2012

1 - Adrian Gonzalez will hit three home runs in a game.

2 - A Red Sox pitcher will strike out the side on 9 pitches.

3 - Boston will score 20+ runs in a game.

4 - The Yankees will be no-hit.

5 - Daisuke Matsuzaka will be the team's best pitcher in September and give a revelatory performance in October.

6 - A Red Sox player not named Jacoby Ellsbury will hit an inside-the-park home run.

7 - Joe Girardi will be fired as Yankees manager after CC Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain are caught mid-game wolfing down Nutty Buddies and Ring Dings in the clubhouse.

8 - There will be at least four games in which we do not curse the presence of Nick Punto.

9 - The Red Sox will win the 2012 World Series - clinching Game 6 at Fenway Park!

What are your 9?

February 25, 2012

It's Awesome O'Clock In Fort Myers

Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

From SoSH's Spring Training Pics thread

Valentine Bans Beer In Clubhouse; Henry Apologizes To Crawford

So much for Bobby Valentine treating the Red Sox players like adults and not children - although perhaps after the news of John Lackey's, Jon Lester's, and Josh Beckett's clubhouse picnics last year, it was inevitable. A transcript from the Globe's video clip:
There's no beer in the clubhouse and no beer during the last leg of plane trips.

Q: How did you come to that conclusion?

It's just what I have always done, except for when I was in Texas, I guess. I'm comfortable with it that way.

Q: How was that received?

You mean like standing ovation or booing? [laughs from Valentine and media] I didn't get either of those. There was probably something in between a standing O and standing boos.
The rules are fine with David Ortiz:
We're not here to drink. We're here to play baseball. You know what I'm saying? This ain't no bar. This is an organization, a place that needs a lot of athleticism. Alcohol has nothing to do with that. People have alcohol in their houses. If you want to drink it, drink at home.
Oh, I will!

Listen: Forget the injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz, forget Carl Crawford's rotten year and forget getting absolutely no production from right field. Forget the September slide and Tampa Bay's concurrent surge, and fried chicken and cold foamers, forget it all. The Globe knows the real reason why the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs - they passed out ALDS scouting reports during G162's rain delay and angered the karma gods.

Three days after Red Sox owner John Henry claimed that his comments last fall about not wanting to sign Carl Crawford were not actually about Crawford, he apologized to the Sox left fielder for those same comments. Crawford:
When someone is genuinely sorry for something, you can tell. I think he was genuinely sorry for it. I apologized for the season I had. ... I like those kind of meetings where you just kind of clear the air and make everything better. ... He handled it really well and made it really easy for me. It wasn't nothing I had to get off my chest. It wasn't like I hated the guy or nothing like that. ... I think we both share the same goal which is to help the Red Sox win.
David Ortiz has lost 17 pounds. ... Matsuzaka, 31, expects to pitch the US until he is 40 years old. ... Lester, Buchholz, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Bailey, and Daniel Bard (using a wind-up for the first time since 2007) have all thrown live batting practice. ... The Red Sox first spring games are next Saturday (March 3) against Boston College and Northeastern University.

February 23, 2012

Playing Pepper: 2012 Red Sox

Dan Shoptaw of C70 At The Bat and the founder of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance asked three Red Sox bloggers (two from Canada!) some questions about the upcoming season.

Click here now!

Here are my comments (and 2011's Q&A):
1) What was your opinion of the team's offseason?

I'm undoubtedly in the minority, but they did a decent job. No big names, but Cody Ross and Nick Punto can each play a variety of positions. New GM Ben Cherington has stockpiled a bunch of arms for the bullpen and the back of the rotation. And as much as I love and will miss Terry Francona, I have warmed up to the idea of Bobby Valentine as manager.

2) Josh Beckett seems to alternate good years and bad years. Are you worried 2012 will be a down year for him?

No. See #3.

3) Will the collapse of 2011 play any role in the 2012 season?

September 2011 is a distant dot in my rearview mirror, but I know many fans are still angry. The media will giddily stoke those emotions if the team gets off to anything other than a great start. The players, especially Beckett and Jon Lester, should be extremely motivated to atone for their pitching performances in the final month and the beer and chicken stories that came out in October. The collapse should have only a positive effect in 2012.

4) Is there a prospect that will make an impact on the team this season?

I don't think so. Both third baseman Will Middlebrooks and shortstop Jose Iglesias need another year in Pawtucket.

5) Where will the team finish in their division and what are you most excited about for 2012?

If the Red Sox don't improve on last year's 90 wins, I'll be shocked. I say 95 wins and first place (by a whisker) in the East. One poster at Sons of Sam Horn recently said, "The underestimation of this team is staggering." And I agree. At worst, this team has simply moved sideways from 2011, when it began September on track for 100 wins. And it seemed like everyone and his grandmother had picked the 2011 Red Sox to go all the way. They will be in the thick of it all year. Boston had the worst hitting RFers in the AL last year; Ross and Ryan Sweeney should absolutely improve on that. The LFers were (believe it or not) middle of the pack to a bit better than average (5th in avg, 7th in obp, 3rd in slg), and Carl Crawford (whose OBP never topped .300 last year) has got to be more productive this year. Crawford's improvement should offset any decline from Jacoby Ellsbury. Marco Scutaro was a tick above average at shortstop and even if Mike Aviles cannot match Scutaro's production, the lineup is still one of baseball's best. Lester and Beckett return, a healthy Clay Buchholz replaces John Lackey, who had one of the worst seasons of all-time last year. I am most excited to see what Daniel Bard can do in the rotation and I'm extremely curious what Daisuke Matsuzaka will give the team when he returns in late June (or so). This off-season has dragged and dragged - and I am ready for baseball!

February 22, 2012

Bob McClure Talks Pitching

Alex Speier has an excellent article on pitching coach Bob McClure and his thoughts on pitchers Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller, Fleix Doubront, and several others.

On Bard:
If Daniel's in the rotation, I think that at some point you still have to keep an eye on him. How long ago did he pitch 100 innings? You're not going to go out and let a guy like that pitch 220 innings. I think we've seen enough of the studies where, if a guy is 30, 40, 50 innings over [his innings total of the previous year], that's enough, and if they go 70, 80 innings over what they did prior to, you usually see a downside the next year, or it might be the following year.
On Miller:
I think Andrew can be a starter. But I don't believe he can be a starter stepping two feet across his body. I don't think you can repeat and command a baseball by being that off line, then having to redirect as the ball is coming out of your hand. ... I don't know anybody that's accurate that steps that far across his body. ... The reason you're not on line is you get on your toe and push yourself that way, so we're going to the exact cause first – what's causing it? He seems to understand.
On Doubront:
Most guys who bang their heel (on their landing foot) hard -- some guys will bang it soft and they're alright; Maddux did it; he hit his heel for his landing foot, but he was very soft on his landing foot -- Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, there's about 20 of them that hit [the mound hard on their heel with their landing foot], which causes [the elbow/forearm] to get underneath, every one of them has blown out. I thought Verlander was going to, but someone fixed him. Someone's changed him. ... Doubront lands this way (smacks palm against hand) a little bit, which causes [stress in his elbow] and he's going to get hurt ...
McClure impressed me more in this one article than Curt Young did all of last year.

Also: David Ortiz is in camp and talked a bit about leadership and his new contract.

Finally?

It sounds like 2012 will be (really!) Mariano Rivera's last season.
I made my decision already. But I'm not ready to tell you yet. ...

This is something everybody goes through. It's just a matter of time. How many times did I tell you guys this is my last year? Seven or eight years: "I'm not going to play after this year" and then I sign a contract for two more years, three more years. But this one is different. This is it. This one is my decision. ... It's irrevocable. ...

Decisions like that always are hard. They involve what you do and what you've been doing for 22 years. Decisions like that are always difficult, but they have to be made.
Last season, Rivera had the 5th-lowest WHIP of his 17-year career. He is 42 years old. ... I do hope he gets to play center field before he goes.
Page 6: Slappy is busy "brown bagging it to swanky restaurants along South Beach".

February 21, 2012

Crawford Has New Swing, Desire To Take Leadership Role

Carl Crawford thinks he'll be ready for Opening Day.
In my mind, I think the odds are good because I definitely don't want to miss any games. That's my goal right now, to make it for opening day.
Crawford added that he doesn't know when he will be "all the way healthy", so the team will likely take a more conservative approach. Manager Bobby Valentine has previously said Crawford might miss the first three weeks of the regular season.

Crawford also gave his opinion on John Henry's statement that he had not been in favour of signing Crawford as a free agent before the 2011 season.
I can't do nothing about what he said. I can just go out and play. It was unfortunate that he feels that way but there's nothing for me to say to him but go out and play. ... I wasn't happy about it. I was a little surprised to hear the comments ... I just wish those words hadn't come out.
Crawford finished the 2011 season with an OPS of .694 (his worst year since his rookie season in 2003). His on-base percentage never rose above .295 during the entire season.
It's definitely going to motivate me to play well this year. I don't even want to think about last year too much because it was so bad ... I think I'll shorten that [batting stance] a little bit. It seemed like I was late all the time on the ball, so I'll try to do a better job of getting ready — little stuff like that that's going to help me get over the hump from last year.
Henry has attempted to explain his comments, saying they were not really about Crawford, per se.
Again, this wasn't about Carl. At the time, I was opposed due to too many lefties in the lineup and particularly in the outfield. Also, our two best prospects were left-handed hitters. My answer was an honest, off-the-cuff response on a radio station to a false assertion that ownership signed him for offseason PR purposes.
Dave Magadan, on Crawford's new swing:
[I]t looked better. It was a very straightforward, simple movement. He was in line. He was squared to the ball. That's what you want.
Crawford also wants to take a greater leadership role. Last year, after a .155/.204/.227 performance in April, he was tentative and "didn't want to assert myself the wrong way".

Dustin Pedroia greeted the press this morning:
Hey, media. I knew I smelled something. ... I'm jacked.
Nick Punto (5-9), on FY:
He's probably the first [player] that I'm taller than.
Punto said playing for the Red Sox is "kind of a dream come true".

Ryan Sweeney wants to win the right field job outright: "I've played there quite a bit coming in and playing against the Red Sox." Sweeney's competition for the job is Cody Ross. Sweeney, on closer Andrew Bailey:
I think he's going to thrive off the fans. He's an intense guy ... I think that's a good mentality to have when you're playing in a big market like this. I don't think he'll have any problems with it.
Clay Buchholz weighed in at a trim 184. "I feel lighter on my feet than I did last year, all year." ... Ross Ohlendorf has a stiff back from driving to camp from Austin, Texas, and has not thrown for three days. ... Mike Aviles has the biggest calves you have ever seen. ... Kevin Youkilis spoke about his injuries last year and how it limited him in the field. ... The only position players not in camp are Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz.

The Red Sox received RHP Chris "Not That One" Carpenter from the Cubs as compensation for former GM Theo Epstein leaving for Chicago. The two teams will also swap PTBNLs. The Sox scouted Carpenter in AAA last year and in the Arizona Fall League. Cherington:
We're really happy to have him. He's a young power-arm reliever who we think has a chance to be a really good big league pitcher.
ESPN's Keith Law says Carpenter has a "tremendous arm". Bobby Jenks was moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the roster for Carpenter.

February 20, 2012

Media's Narrative: Lester Good, Beckett Bad

Both Jon Lester and Josh Beckett spoke yesterday about the team's performance - and their underwhelming starts - last September and while both men admitted to mistakes and lapses in judgment, the media created a clear narrative: Lester Good, Beckett Bad.
Lester embraces leadership role (Journal)

Unapologetic Beckett cites "lapses in judgment" (Journal)

Jon Lester regretful, Josh Beckett resentful (Herald)

Jon Lester now Sox' main act (Herald)

Josh Beckett comes up lame (Herald)

Beckett: At least it's a start (Globe)

Lester: "I take complete responsibility" (ESPNBoston)

Hot Button: Did Beckett say enough? (ESPNBoston)
(Only Ian Browne at MLB believed both men took their respective shares of blame.)

The building up and subsequent tearing down of athletes in the sports media is nothing new. It's as common baseball as runs, hits, and errors. There is apparent demand that athletes who have wronged us debase themselves publicly and beg for forgiveness. That's what we need so we can have "closure".

Is it possible that Lester has a clearer understanding of PR and is simply mouthing better-sounding platitudes? Could Beckett be heartsick about how he performed last September and truly sorry about his mistakes? Of course, it's possible. Maybe Lester finds it easy to publicly take "complete responsibility" and perhaps Beckett's hard-ass personality means that what he confessed to yesterday is the full admission of guilt certain writers and fans feel is essential to hear. But I honestly have no idea.

I do not know the inner workings of either man's mind and heart. And neither do you. And, despite their daily proximity to both pitchers, neither do Steve Buckley nor Peter Abraham nor Gordon Edes. Those writers can make far better guesses than we can - and that's why most fans will believe their accounts as gospel - but they don't actually know for sure.
The Globe's Nick Cafardo began his article by saying "We're not here to rate the mea culpas of Red Sox pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett yesterday at JetBlue Park." Then he spent most of his time rating the mea culpas of Red Sox pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett yesterday at JetBlue Park.
[Beckett's] level of accountability for the Sox' September collapse at least was greater yesterday than in his recent MLB Network interview ...

Lester has shown the most accountability of any player for the transgressions of the starting rotation last season. He was outstanding again yesterday ...

[I]n his own way, Beckett at least took some steps yesterday.

February 19, 2012

Beckett: Lapses In Judgment, Mistakes In Clubhouse

Updated!

Some comments on the end of the 2011 season from Josh Beckett:
I had lapses in judgment, I can't speak for everybody else. I want to keep it at that.

I had things going on and I got distracted. ... [G]oing forward I would definitely change not being distracted.

We made mistakes in the clubhouse, and that's about as far as I'll go talking about the clubhouse.

I put on a little bit of weight [towards the end of last season]. I don't have a reason for it.

There's also some ill feelings toward some people. [Q: When you say people...?] There's people.
("People" who leaked information about the lapses in judgment and mistakes in the clubhouse, no doubt.)
Example
Jon Lester:
[The fans] should be [angry]. We didn't play very good. With all the other stuff added on top of that, it's obviously going to make it worse. I don't blame them for being mad. ... We stunk. I stunk. I take complete responsibility for it. ... With that being said, we've all learned from it. We've all moved on. I'm sure that's going to be a big theme in spring training for a lot of guys. We're moving on and we're looking forward to 2012. ... I think a lot of fans don't think we care and that we're a bunch of babies, but we do care. We want to win and we want to get back into the playoffs and hopefully bring a World Series back to this town ...
More Lester here. Video clips of both Beckett and Lester at ESPNBoston.

February 17, 2012

Wakefield Will Announce Retirement Tonight

UPDATED!

Tim Wakefield will announce his retirement at 5 PM tonight in Fort Myers. The announcement will be broadcast live at redsox.com.

Wakefield pitched for 19 seasons, 17 of which came with the Red Sox. He finished his Boston career with 186 wins, 3rd on the team's all-time list, and was a part of two World Series championship teams. Only three men played longer for the Red Sox: Carl Yastrzemski (23 seasons), Ted Williams (19), and Dwight Evans (19).

I really wish he had been able to get to 193 Red Sox wins, but he still had one hell of a career. One of the 25.
Example
Wakefield:
This has been the hardest thing I ever had to do, so it's with a heavy heart that I stand here today to say that I've decided to retire from the game of baseball. Ever since I was a little boy, all I ever wanted to do was play baseball. Even at an early age, after I learned cursive, I would always practice my autograph in hopes that I would become a big leaguer. Those hopes became a reality and I've been lucky to be able to live out my dream for the past 18 years. ...

I remember in '95, the first time I stepped out of that dugout and saw the Green Monster the first time, I knew I was in the place I belonged. To be able to share the same field with the greats before me as well as the ones I played with is truly amazing. There have been many ups and downs along the way, but one thing is for sure. Every time I stepped on the field, I gave everything I had. All I ever wanted to do was win. And the bigger goal was to win a World Series for this great city. Finally, after 86 years, we were able to do that. ...

When it came down to it, I had to take a hard look at what I thought was best for me, my family, and the Red Sox. There is nothing that I want more than for this team to win, and it's hard sometimes to take yourself out of the process. But in my heart, I feel that by retiring, I'm giving them a better chance to do that. ...

I've been wrestling with this decision for a long time, this whole offseason. ... I never wanted to pitch for another team. I always said that I wanted to retire as a Red Sox and today I'm able to do that.
Alex Speier, WEEI:
According to Barry Mesiter, the agent for Tim Wakefield, the knuckleballer turned down four contract offers for this coming season -- including one guaranteed major league offer -- in order to either return for or retire as a Red Sox.
Example
Wakefield finished his Red Sox career #1 in innings pitched (3,006), games started (430), and batters faced (12,971), #2 in strikeouts (2,046) and appearances (590), and #3 in wins (186).

His longevity also means he was #1 in losses (168), home runs allowed (401), walks (1,095), hits (2,931), earned runs (1,480), wild pitches (125), and hit batsmen (176).

His 38 home runs allowed in 1998 is a Red Sox single-season record. He threw 15 wild pitches last season, good for 4th-best on the team's all-time list.

February 16, 2012

Valentine: A Lot Of Players "Frowning" At Increased Activity

Bench coach Tim Bogar explains the new work schedule in camp - no more standing around:
[W]hat we're trying to implement this year is that they're all going to be doing some type of baseball activity at all times during practice, so there's not a lot of standing around. There's not a lot of dead time. ... I think what's going to jump out to them is all the skill work and the detail work that is being worked on constantly on all six fields down here. You're going to have your live BP, but you're also going to have guys working on pickoff plays, baserunning, reading balls off the bat, you're going to have guys standing in tracking pitches, and doing all kind of things. You're not going to see the normal stand around the cage, watch batting practice and stand in the outfield and shag. Instead of shagging players are going to be doing baseball activity which will benefit them in the long run. ...

[Valentine] said there wasn't going to be one emphasis. The emphasis is to play the game correctly in all areas. He doesn't want one thing more important than anything else. He wants everything to be emphasized equally and with the same importance. So when you talk about pitchers' fielding and their PFP, and you talk about cut-offs and relays and you talk about infield play, bunt plays, catchers' throwing … there's ton of areas that need to be worked on and improved and Bobby wants it to be emphasized exactly the same. There's not one area. If it's one area, it's the game of baseball.
It's impossible to argue with any of this. And it would be fantastic if this added activity would translate into better fundamentals during the season - outfielders hitting the cut-off man, pitchers covering first and backing up third and home, players not making bone-headed decisions on the bases - but I'm skeptical. Can a few weeks of extra drills overcome years of actual in-game practice?

Valentine claims that some players are "frowning" at the change of plans.
When I look at the program we devised, I don’t think of it as tough. But it seems it's different because a lot of people are frowning. I just asked them to give (it) a few days. We all know that no one likes change except for those who are making other people change of what that person want them to. I happen to be one of those guys who likes change because guys are doing what I want them to do. I would bet there will be 100 guys who won't really like it because it's change for them. But they'll get used to it.
If the Red Sox have a good April, Valentine will look like a genius. If they get off to another slow start, he will be blameless as the players will catch the heat for ignoring the manager and remaining tied to 2011's poor attitudes. It's all about the narrative.

The players are saying the right things to the media, however.

Clay Buchholz:
Sometimes when you veer off the path that you need to take, you need someone there to tell you, "Hey this is where we need to go and I see you doing this." In that aspect, it's going to be good for us.
Adrian Gonzalez:
One of the things I really like is that in spring training we're going to pay attention to a lot of details. Not just doing things for the sake of doing them, but actually doing them to get something out of it. ... Spring training is something that is really going to set the tone for the rest of the season, I think.
Valentine comes a little to close to "elegant gait" and "calm eyes" territory for my comfort when he talks about how to tell when players like Ryan Lavarnway and Jose Iglesias are ready to stick in the big leagues.
Sometimes how a guy walks through the clubhouse - you look at it, you can figure it out, you can almost see it. I don't mean once. But by March 20 or so, whether he thinks he belongs or the guys around him think he belongs, that's a part of it. You can see it.
Well, Bobby V better add a few clubhouse walking drills to the new schedule. Gotta make sure we swagger better than the Yanks and Rays.

Valentine also says he would like more games so he can better evaluate the players he has. Split-squad and intra-squad games are not as plentiful as in the days of yore "because there's a lot of lazy people in the game today".

February 15, 2012

McClure: Bard Transition Is "Old School" Move

Pitching coach Bob McClure said he doesn't see what the big deal is about turning Daniel Bard into a starter.
We all used to do it [McClure's stats]. A lot of us were brought up through the pen and then went into the starting rotation. If you're going to look at Bard, go back 30-40 years ago. Even Jim Palmer started out of the bullpen. Back then, you'd get your feet wet, develop a third pitch, and then, "Let's look at this guy and see how he does." He's got his feet wet as far as being a reliever. He's had success already as a pitcher in the big leagues, so that's not a transition. The Orioles were famous for doing it. It's old school.
Bard wants to leave the memories of his 10.64 ERA (13 runs in 11 innings) last September in the past.
You can't help but think about it. But it's over with. It was a fluke thing for the team and for me personally. I'm not stupid. I know if I pitched better, we'd be playing in the playoffs. ... I think I had five good months and one really bad one and it just happened to be that one bad one came in September.
In June, July, and August, Bard allowed only four runs in 34 appearances (36.1 IP, 0.99).

Josh Beckett threw 50 pitches yesterday. McClure said he
looked pretty sharp. He looked very healthy. ... I think it shows the rest of the guys how serious they are about wanting to get this thing going. ... The stuff that happened last year, it happened. It's unfortunate but it happened. He's coming in here with something he wants to do and that's win the division.
Beckett's 2.89 ERA was 5th-lowest in the AL and only MVP/Cy Young winner Justin Verlander allowed fewer hits per nine innings. Beckett slumped in September, however, posting a 5.48 ERA in four starts.
I've been off the mound five or six times at home. That's my usual schedule. I'm ready to go.
John Tomase of the Herald looks at the Sox's pitching staff:
The Sox return the game's No. 1 offense, and Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and the gang will score plenty of runs this season. The real mystery is how many the team will give up.

The Yankees, Rays, Angels and maybe even the Rangers expect to feature better starting pitching in 2012 than they did in '11. It’s unclear if the Red Sox will be able to make the same claim.

[U]ntil we see [success], it's hard to be anything more than cautiously optimistic.
McClure on Daisuke Matsuzaka:
Everything looks good. It looks like he's throwing naturally. It doesn't look like there's any hindrance to his delivery.
Clay Buchholz arrived in camp today. This Sunday is the official date for pitchers to report.

February 14, 2012

Everyone Is Asking The Same Questions As Camp Opens

Michael Silverman (Herald) has nine questions for the Red Sox as spring training camp begins:
No one can declare these Sox are better than the 2011 version. Their rotation hasn't been demonstrably upgraded, their bullpen will be without at least one key component and there are enough looming intangibles related to last year’s implosion to cloud just how good this team will be.

The powers that be on Yawkey Way have placed a lot of faith in the notion that a couple of tweaks were all that were needed to cure the 2011 team. As the Sox look to end a two-year playoff drought, we all will discover if their faith was justified or blind.
Tim Britton (Providence Journal) asks three questions - rotation, shortstop, right field - and notes that the club has been more concerned about changing attitudes than personnel:
Coming into 2012, it's about change and challenge. The Red Sox aren't embracing a change in roster so much as a hopeful one in attitude, with hunger and conviction slated to replace hype and complacency. There are legitimate questions regarding the constitution of the lineup, the rotation and the players' mindsets.
Ian Browne (mlb.com) also has three questions: rotation, shortstop, Carl Crawford. Browne projects both Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves to be in the rotation. While an official decision has not been made, Bard spent the winter building up his endurance and arm strength. "I've been throwing a lot and everything feels great. This is what I want to be doing."

Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston is asking "10 Questions in 10 Days". Number 4 is: "Will the 'pen survive without Pap?" The others dealt with the rotation, outfield, and shortstop.

ESPN's Buster Olney called David Ortiz "a dinosaur" and talked about a change of philosophy throughout the American League when it comes to DHs:
There's no question that there's a real shift in philosophy that's been going on around the Red Sox, around baseball. I think David Ortiz is a dinosaur — he'll be one of the last guys where you'll see a team devote a lot of money to someone to be a designated hitter. I think teams, for the most part, like to keep that position more flexible, to give injured guys rest.
Finally, Herald columnist Gerry Callahan says the Red Sox need Josh Beckett to pitch well this season. Indeed. ... Beckett (and the Truck!) arrived in Fort Myers this morning.

February 13, 2012

Predictions From Athlon, USAToday Magazines

Athlon:
If you navigated last September without shaming yourself, your family, your employers and the city you call home, congratulations! You had a better month than the Red Sox. ...

Outside of Ellsbury, every player on the roster has room to improve and all of New England - not to mention the rest of baseball - will be watching hawkishly to see how they respond. ... The Sox have circled the wagons and proclaimed that they're not the freak show everyone thinks. Now comes their chance to prove it.
East        Central     West
Yankees     Tigers      Rangers
Rays        Cleveland   Angels
Red Sox     Royals      Mariners
Blue Jays   Twins       A's
Orioles     White Sox

Wild Cards: Rays and Angels
NL Divisions: Phillies, Cardinals, Giants
NL Wild Cards: Diamondbacks, Reds
ALCS: Rangers over Yankees
World Series: Rangers over Phillies
MVP: Miguel Cabrera (Pedroia #5, Gonzalez #6)
Cy Young: Justin Verlander (Lester #5)
Rookie: Jesus Montero
NL MVP : Joey Votto
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
USAToday:

One of the Burning Questions: "Are The Red Sox In Decline?"
East        Central     West
Yankees     Tigers      Angels
Red Sox     Cleveland   Rangers
Rays        Royals      Mariners
Blue Jays   White Sox   A's
Orioles     Twins

Wins: Yankees 98, Red Sox 92, Rays 88
Wild Cards: Rangers (93 wins), Red Sox
NL Divisions: Phillies, Cardinals, Diamondbacks
NL Wild Cards: Atlanta, Reds

Ortiz, Red Sox Split Difference, Avoid Arbitration

Buster Olney reports that David Ortiz and the Red Sox have agreed on a $14,575,000 contract for 2012, splitting the difference between their respective arbitration submissions. The hearing had been scheduled for later today.

Flo had wanted $16.5 and the club offered $12.65.

Peter Abraham reports that Adrian Gonzalez, Daniel Bard, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Bobby Valentine arrived in camp today.

February 11, 2012

Lucchino Says Red Sox Will "Fly By The Luxury Tax"

Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino disputed the idea that the front office is being frugal this off-season and trying to get its payroll under the new luxury tax cap of $178 million. Rather, he said it was a certainty that the team would "fly by the luxury tax".
We're going to have the second-highest payroll in baseball this year. The Yankees are from a different planet than most of the rest of us, because they're in the largest market in the Western world. But it's hard to understand that assertion given the level of commitment the club has made not to just to the Major League payroll, but to amateur signing bonuses, to international signings, anything related to the on-field product. I think this 2012 budget will be the highest budget in Red Sox history. It's been pretty high the last few years. ... Will we eclipse the luxury tax threshold? To be sure, we will - once again. So I think the talk of us not spending needs to be viewed in the context of real facts and in comparisons to real dollars.
Last year's payroll of $189 million was the highest in team history. Also: SoSHer SoxScout thought Lucchino sounded "absolutely pissed off" (mostly at the media, it seems) during the interview. ... So the team is not being cheap?
It makes me laugh. It just proves the old adage that you can't please all of the people all of the time. You certainly can't please all of the sportswriters much of the time. But that's OK. What's important to us is that our fans realize that we are in this to win it, and we operate accordingly. Are there financial constraints from time to time? Of course there are. No one has an unlimited budget to do absolutely everything they want to do. But with some common-sense parameters ... there is a powerful sense of obligation that our job is to commit to win, provide our fans with entertaining, competitive, winning baseball.
Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) reported that Fenway Sports Group, led by Red Sox owner John Henry, spent $179 million on Liverpool soccer players this year - "about 20 times what he spent on the Red Sox" - suggesting that because Henry "overspent on soccer", he has been nickel-and-diming the Sox roster, making moves like trading probable starting shortstop Marco Scutaro to free up a paltry $6-7 million.

It's an extremely lazy effort from Heyman; he does little more than recount player comings and goings on both teams and ask a question or two. Heyman would have us believe that John Henry got where he is today by being a moron with money. Of course, Heyman is not alone; Yahoo's Jeff Passan's Hot Stove column on the Red Sox is headlined: "Red Sox Pinch Pennies After Beer-Soaked Collapse".

Lucchino laughed this off, too: "That has not been the case. There has not been a situation where that [Liverpool] was cited for a reason for us not to do something here [Boston]."

The Herald's Scott Lauber noted what Heyman must have somehow forgotten - that the Red Sox have laid out some serious coin in recent years, including spending close to half a billion dollars on four players: Adrian Gonzalez ($154 million), Carl Crawford ($142), John Lackey ($82.5), and Josh Beckett ($68). And so maybe they have to easy off a bit this year.

Lauber:
Henry spent 58 million pounds, roughly $90 million, in January 2011 to buy forwards Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. But Liverpool offset the cost by selling Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel for nearly the same sum.
Hmmm, I wonder why Heyman didn't mention that.

Lauber cites the real reason for the team's roster decisions - changes to the new collective bargaining agreement:
It's worth examining both the team's excessive spending in the past two offseasons and changes to the collective bargaining agreement that profoundly impact the Red Sox and the Yankees, the two most frequent luxury tax offenders. ...

Because of the spending of the past few years, Cherington wasn't going to have as much money to burn as predecessor Theo Epstein enjoyed unless Henry agreed to allow the payroll to climb closer to $200 million. ...

Under the new rules, a team can reset its luxury tax rate if it gets its payroll below the threshold even for one year. So, while the Red Sox are prepared to pay a 40 percent tariff this year because they will exceed the luxury tax for a third consecutive season, their bill would recede to only 17.5 percent in 2014 if they manage to stay under the threshold next year.
Which means that we will be hearing the exact same thing next winter.

Also: Over the last couple of weeks, WEEI's Alex Speier has written a series of articles about the team's finances.

Truck Day!

Red Sox employees began loading the truck at 8 AM. This is Al Hartz's 15th year driving the 18-wheeler. A crowd of about 100 fans gathered to watch.

The Boston Globe has many pictures, including this one:


February 10, 2012

Ortiz, Red Sox (Have Not) Agree(d) On Contract

Update, 10:55 AM: There is no agreement.
Example
Mary Paoletti, CSNNE, 10:09 AM:
David Ortiz & the Red Sox have reached an agreement, according to a Larry Lucchino interview with our sister station NECN.
No details yet on how much or whether it is for one or two years.

February 9, 2012

Valentine Speaks, Hill Throws Second Session, Lester Mum

Rich Hill threw his second bullpen session since undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.
Everything is going according to schedule. There's a long way to go still. Right now I'm throwing three-quarters sidearm. Prior to this I'd been throwing straight over the top. So we'll see as we progress what the team wants me to do.
Jon Lester, Aaron Cook, and Ryan Sweeney are also in camp. Lester has declined to speak to reporters until the official date for pitchers and catchers to report (February 19).

Bobby Valentine on talent and luck:
[Y]ou need luck with talent. Sometimes it's not the best team that wins but the team that plays the best. When at the end of the day, you're playing the best, a lot of times it means you had a couple breaks go your way. ... You keep building and keep changing as the year goes on. Other teams have won because they got out of the gate and went 35-5. There's all different forms and shapes with championship teams. ... I'm very eager to get down and start talking about players instead of my escapades or other things that have been going around the last month.
Valentine on Daniel Bard and/or Alfredo Aceves as starters:
The conversion thing, I just don't think it's as big a deal as some people want to make it because I lived it for 30 years. That's how people became starters. It's not such a unique physical thing. In our world, it's become more of a mental thing for how long it's going to take for them to get comfortable. ... I can't say that if a guy only threw 90 innings last year that he can only throw some number of innings this year. Now, there's history that can give me a barometer between what numbers he could possibly (achieve). But to just say that there's a limit to the number of innings, I don't agree with that.
Valentine, on the team's changing roster:
I'm comfortable until I'm not comfortable. I like the people we have coming to camp. If nothing changes, if all I can deal with is their past, it's probably not enough. But the world champions evolved as the season went on last year. The American League champions evolved as the year went on. Why should I think that we should see a finished product now?
Tim Wakefield will likely make a decision this weekend about whether he plans to pitch in 2012. The Red Sox have said next to nothing publicly about bringing him back for an 18th season in Boston.

February 8, 2012

Ortiz Arbitration Hearing Set For Monday

Alex Speier reports that the arbitration hearing between the Red Sox ($12.65 million) and David Ortiz ($16 million) is scheduled for Monday. The two sides could, of course, settle before that time. The Red Sox have not gone to arbitration since 2002, when then-GM Dan Duquette could not come to an agreement with pitcher Rolando Arrojo.

Scott Atchison, who turns 36 on March 29, cleared waivers and was assigned to Pawtucket.

Evan Drellich presents an organization overview with a peek at MLB's ranking of the Red Sox's top prospects:
The first four names - and five of the first seven - on MLB.com's list of Top 20 Red Sox prospects are hitters: Will Middlebrooks (third base), Bryce Brentz (outfielder), Xander Bogaerts (shortstop), Ryan Lavarnway (catcher) and Brandon Jacobs (outfielder).
Over the Monster notes ESPN's Keith Law's ranking of the Red Sox's farm system #18 of 30.

The Truck will leave Boston this Saturday at around noon.

February 7, 2012

What Do The Yankees Smell Like?

Wanna smell like the Yankees?

On February 21, you will have your chance. That's the day the team will introduce two "official fragrances" called, creatively enough: "New York Yankees" and "New York Yankees for Her".

(Note the overt sexism where what should be called "New York Yankees For Him" is simply "New York Yankees".)

Mike Silva, New York Baseball Digest: "Yes, every team has non-baseball related products. You have checkers, chess, teddy bears, etc. with the team logo. None of the 29 other teams believe they are bigger than the game where they create a fragrance and have a bourgeois party to announce it. ... What's next? Randy Levine on the catwalk modeling underwear?"

This reminds me one of the greatest quotes in Red Sox history. It's April 2005 and the Red Sox are opening the season at Yankee Stadium II. Doug Mirabelli walks into the visitors clubhouse and remarks: "It still smells like champagne in here."

February 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Babe!

Babe Ruth - known as the Colossus when he played with the Red Sox - was born 117 years ago today.

February 5, 2012

Nick Cafardo Still Refuses To Do Even Minimal Work

From today's Sunday Notes column:
Boras sees openings for [Johnny] Damon. The Yankees could use a DH type. The Orioles signed Wilson Betemit, but please . . . Betemit, who hit eight homers with two teams, over Damon, who hit 16 homers for Tampa Bay?
So Nick's entire argument for Damon's DH potential is that he hit twice as many home runs last year as (please) Betemit. Unfortunately for his readers, Nick did not take 30 seconds out of his entire week to find some extremely basic stats:
Damon    Betemit
Home Runs                16          8
Plate Appearances       647        359
PA/HR                  40.4       44.9
Slugging Percentage    .418       .452
And even though he was at the plate nearly twice as many times as Betemit, Damon hit only seven more doubles (29-22).

I am currently reading a book about a father weathering the Mitchell report/steroids scandal with his 7-year-old baseball-obsessed son, trying to explain what is going on. At one point, the kid looks at a baseball card, and sees that a guy's HR totals have dropped from the high 40s to 20 or fewer and asks his father if this guy was on the juice but then stopped. To the kid, roids = HR. The dad notes that the player in question was hurt a lot and did not play in as many games in those seasons. The kid apparently did not look at games played or at-bats, just home run totals.

Cafardo's quick look at home runs - WOW, Damon hit twice as many (OMG!!) - and seeming ignorance of relative playing time reminded me of that young boy. I am not criticizing the kid; he's only seven and is just learning about baseball. But that's the level the great Globe Sunday Baseball Notes column has sunk to.

Matsuzaka Airs It Out In Second Session

Yakyubaka.com:
Daisuke Matsuzaka tossed his second bullpen session on February 3 (February 4 in Japan) -- twenty pitches to a catcher that squatted in front of the home plate.

"While I threw at about 70% last time, this time I tried to throw as hard as I could. I am glad that I was able to throw at close to 90%," said Matsuzaka. "A part of me is still holding back. I want to continue examining my mechanics moving forward."
Example
Alfredo Aceves and the Red Sox avoided arbitration by agreeing on a $1.2 million deal for this season (with an additional $100,000 in potential incentives). The team's only outstanding arbitration case is David Ortiz, who is still hoping for a multi-year deal.

February 3, 2012

Lindy's: Angels/Phillies WS; Red Sox 3rd In East


Lindy's pre-season baseball magazine is on newsstands. Here are some of its predictions:

American League 
East        Central     West
Yankees     Tigers      Angels
Rays        Cleveland   Rangers
Red Sox     Royals      Mariners
Blue Jays   White Sox   Athletics
Orioles     Twins

Manager  - Ned Yost, Royals
MVP      - Albert Pujols, Angels
Cy Young - Jered Weaver, Angels
Rookie   - Matt Moore, Rays

AL Wild Card - Rangers
AL Pennant   - Angels
NL Divisions - Phillies, Reds, Giants
NL Wild Card - Diamondbacks
NL Pennant   - Phillies
The editors say that Boston's offense will keep the team in the race all season, but that beyond Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the starting pitching is "sketchy".

Beckett: "What Goes On In The Clubhouse Should Stay In The Clubhouse"

Josh Beckett, MLB Network's "Intentional Talk":
I think the biggest key is what Lester said to the end that, we stunk on the field and that was the bottom line. If we would have pitched better, none of that stuff would have even been an issue. ... I'm not saying we don't make mistakes in the clubhouse. [Millar] will definitely respond to that because, hell, they were drinking Jack Daniels and they won the World Series. It's just what goes on in the clubhouse, it's supposed to stay in the clubhouse. ...
Beckett added that "the team that we have right now is so talented".

Jacoby Ellsbury, Portland Tribune:
We just didn't win games at the end. We started the season off cold, were one of the best teams in baseball through the middle of the season, then fell off at the end. I don't think you can pinpoint one specific thing as a reason, but it was disappointing to all of us that it happened. ... I liked Tito. But sometimes when you don't win, changes are made. Managers get fired. Players can get traded at any time, too. You have to go about your business and be a professional about it. ... We already have a solid group of starters. I'm not sure what management has in store, but we have a pretty good team right now. There's a lot of motivation to get things done after what happened last season.
Yankees News: Cashanova recently signed Manny Delcarmen to a minor league contract. ... Mark Teixeira wants to bunt more often. ... Curt Schilling picks the Yankees to win the East.

February 2, 2012

Lester May Be In Camp This Weekend

Jon Lester may arrive at the Red Sox's spring training camp in Fort Myers, Florida, this weekend, with probable closer Andrew Bailey close behind. Manager Bobby Valentine is due to arrive on Sunday, February 12, aka Truck Day in Boston. The reporting date for pitchers and catchers is the 19th. (Photo found here.)

Valentine:
I like what we have. I don't think it's anything like a finished product. ... We have some questions to answer. Hopefully we'll get some of those answers in spring training. We may not get all of them answered in spring training. We may have more work to do as we get into the season, evaluate and see how guys respond.
Valentine said he wouldn't mind teams having expanded rosters in April as the season begins:
My overall philosophy on that is I wish the roster were extended through April so we could have real competition under the lights and real atmosphere, and not in this sunny park morning baseball/afternoon baseball atmosphere. But I think it's always good for guys to feel they have a chance to work and to make the team, so they work a little harder because the more you work and practice, the better foundation you have to last the entire season. ... I'm looking forward to seeing how it's going to play out. If I had a preconceived notion about what would really happen, then why would we even go to spring training? I've never seen any of the guys ever play other than Punto, or other than on television or in the booth.
Cubs president Theo Epstein praised Cherington for his "creative" work this winter:
[He] did a great job executing a strategy of acquiring a couple cost-control, impact pieces for their bullpen in Bailey and Melancon. That frees them up to experiment with Bard as a starter and maybe see what Aceves can do there as well, given they didn't really like the options in the free-agent starting pitching market. The position player group is really solid and with some of the creativity they've shown in building the bullpen it will all come down to the starting pitching ...

Edwin Jackson Heads To Natstown

Edwin Jackson has agreed to a one-year contract with the Nationals. The deal is in the range of $8-12 million.

February 1, 2012

More 2012 Sims

Another simulation of the 2012 season, run by SG over at RLYW. If I recall, he runs either 1,000 or 10,000 seasons and this is the average.