I envy those people who blog professionally. Some of us have real jobs that prevent frequent posting due to surf control restrictions. Darn banks.
Much has occurred this past week in MLB and Red Sox Nation. And yes, Hank, it is a Red Sox Nation after all. I have tried to remember all my witty comments and observations, but so much is always happening. I will have to blog more frequently!
In probably less covered but equally important news, Bruce Hurst, left handed starting pitcher (145-113), who played for the Sox from 1980-1988, was hired to evaluate minor league talent, and help players develop.
An interesting quote from Hurst reflecting on the Red Sox organization then and now: "This is my own belief, that this is the elite organization in baseball. In the 20 years since I’ve been gone, what I’ve seen from when I left to what we have now, it’s the epitome of what this place can be. I think every player back in my generation, when they left, there was always a certain amount of frustration, for whatever reason, and I think the frustration was the fact that they saw what it could become and it never reached its potential and now I think it’s reached its potential."
Speaking of being an elite baseball franchise, how ’bout them Yankees? I feel sorry for poor Brian Cashman, whom I actually respect. If Hank and Hal had it there way, they would have sold their best young arms for Santana, and gotten stuck with another bloated contract. Instead, Hank and Hal both like to open their big mouths; they must be every publicists worst nightmare. As if there wasn’t enough whining going on in Yankeeland, Hank said the following to the New York Times Play magazine.
"Red Sox Nation? What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order."
Right. Hal had to add his two cents.
The defending World Series champions have "a lot of talent, and [have] done very well the past few years, but let me put it this way: I don’t think [they] wanted to play us in the ALCS. So I will concede nothing. I think we’re better than [them]."
Right. The Yankees were outmatched by Cleveland, we were almost evenly matched with Cleveland, and yet, we didn’t want to face the Yankees in the ALCS? Excuses, excuses. Don’t get me started on the midges.
The 2004 comeback was, to this date, the greatest comeback in sports history. Period. I think Derek Jeter is still mental over it. The Red Sox Yankees rivalry has officially heated up, and it is not even Opening Day. Crazy.
Continuing on, the Red Sox 2007 team visited the White House Wednesday. Quick trip. They left that morning after an abbreviated workout and returned in the evening. Must be nice to have your own team jet; thanks John Henry! Say what you want about politics, but I think it would be cool to visit the president no matter if you liked him or not. It’s the flipping White House, for Pete’s sake!
Best stories out of the trip were Bush making quips about the players. He thanked Papelbon for wearing pants, said Manny’s grandmother must have died again. Manny’s excuse for not showing up in 2005 was his grandmother passed away. She didn’t, and is still kickin’. I buy into the whole "Manny being Manny" life style, but not showing up to meet the president and lying about it? That’s not cool, and I let Manny slide on a bunch of stuff because, well, he’s Manny.
One great story from the White House trip was Ortiz riding with the detail in the motorcycle side car. Helmet, GQ suit, chic eye glasses, and all. Tito tried it out first. He said between the exhaust, bouncing around, and 38 degree temperature, he could have thrown up. He told Ortiz, "You’ll love this." Ortiz took it in Big Papi stride, because, as he said, "I’ve got all my bosses watching me."
The Red Sox also took time to visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a hospital for wounded veterans. Beckett had the following to say, "I think the most rewarding part of the trip — I think you can ask anybody that went on that trip yesterday — was visiting the hospital," said Sox ace Josh Beckett. "I know I got to hear several stories, and as terrible as those stories are, it’s something like that that you get to hear that puts everything in perspective for you and makes you realize how fortunate we are to have people like that will go and do stuff like that. Those are heroes. Like I said, it definitely puts it in perspective for you."
Schilling cut to the chase with this quote, "You know what it is, hopefully, for some of the younger guys — it’s a chance to put ‘superstar’ and ‘hero’ and ‘brave’ to context. Seeing multiple amputees that are 22 with a wife and three kids, these guys are the true warriors, the true heroes. It’s staggering to see. If you don’t already have perspective, have it when you walk out of there. For me, it’s a chance to truly acknowledge them and tell them, ‘I’m not just telling you it’s an honor to meet you, it really is an honor to meet you.’ These guys, a lot of them are Red Sox fans. When they’re sitting there and they’re missing both legs and they’re in a wheelchair and they’re trying to get something signed for the buddy that saved their life that is still over in Iraq, it’s like, ‘OK, how bad are my problems?’"
Right on, Schill. Right on.
More to come tomorrow where I actually talk about baseball instead of human interest stories. Mostly.
Sunday is no day of rest for Theo Epstein, as two big pieces of news came out of the Red Sox front office.
Happily, Terry Francona signed a contract extension. The players were informed of the deal before yesterday morning’s workout. The skipper’s original contract started with the historic 2004 season, and would have carried him through the 2008 summer. The extension keeps the beloved Tito through 2011, with mutual club options for 2012 and 2013. If the Sox pick up Tito’s 2012 and 2013 options, he will have been manager for a decade, a feat no Sox skipper has managed since Joe Cronin’s consecutive 13 years (1935-1947). The extension carries a dollar figure of $12 million for 3 years, putting Francona just behind Joe Torre (3 years, $13 million) as one of the highest paid managers in baseball. Part of the extension includes an additional 250,000 for each year the Sox even make it to the World Series.
During today’s press conference, Francona said the following, "Today I feel like the ballclub showed a lot of trust in me, which I don’t take lightly. I appreciated it. I’m honored and I’m hopefully humbled by it. But I take it very seriously. As far as what happens on the field, I don’t think anything changes, how I feel about treating the players or talking to Theo, none of that will ever change. I got rewarded with this contract because of a lot of people’s hard work. I don’t kid myself about that. From the ownership to Theo to the player [operations] to the coaches to ultimately the players, I am aware of that. I don’t kid myself for one minute."
I am thrilled about this extension. I sometimes question Francona’s managerial decisions, but there is no doubt in my mind he is the right person for this job. Francona’s gentle, firm, and open personality, coupled with the way he handles the media, his concern for his players, and his knowledge of how the game works, makes him the ideal manager for the tough Boston market. The players certainly seem to love him, too.
"I know from the players’ standpoint, we feel like he has our back no matter what," said Mike Lowell, who added that he thought Francona had been underpaid in recent years. "I think there are managers in big markets that sometimes use the media to get to the players. You don’t ever see Tito do that, and I think players appreciate that. I think he provides an atmosphere in a big market where guys can be themselves, and that’s big."
"He’s the only manager I’ve ever played for up here," said second baseman player Dustin Pedroia, "but he’s the only one I want to play for." This picture was taken after Pedroia found out he grew 2 inches over the off season. Or when he was playing in the Comcast Ping Pong Tournament. You decide.
In extremely interesting news, the ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and now the Red Sox Official Website, is reporting the Red Sox have signed Bartolo Colon to a minor league deal with no guaranteed money. Colon was the 2005 AL Cy Young award winner before multiple problems with his shoulder lead to minimal interest on the free agent market. Pitching for the Angels, Colon was 1-5 with a 5.11 ERA in 2006, and 6-8 with a 6.34 ERA in 2007.
This move is certainly something to keep an eye on. If Colon regains his confidence and keeps his shoulder healthy, he could significantly contribute to Boston’s quest for back to back World Series titles. The deal is designed for the loss to be minimal to the Sox if Colon turns out to be a bust. We like those kinds of deals. No more Eric Gagne fiascoes, please.