Or at City of Palms Park.
Last week the Red Sox media sufficiently launched us into panic mode about the upcoming season, which seems to be a talent of theirs. However, this week was full of relief and promise.
Josh Beckett was pretty down on Monday about his back; we have to understand, this guy is a competitive beast. But today he played catch with John Farrell and his back didn’t bother him at all. Farrell was "excited," and indicated Beckett was where the doctor’s expected him to be. Beckett won’t be flying to Tokyo, as if anyone really though the Sox were stupid enough to send their ace on an 18 hour plane ride half way around the world. This marathon called the major league baseball season is long, and being ready for Opening Day is no big deal. I want Beckett to pitch effectively in October, not April.
No word on Schilling, although I thought I heard someone say somewhere he might start tossing the ball in a few weeks. Does anyone really think he’s going to pitch again??
Lester had a solid outing, Colon threw with surprising strength (topped out at 93-94 mph), and Dice K didn’t implode, which is the summary of starts this week. Dice K will be going to Japan, thanks to his wife giving birth this past Saturday to their second child, first son. If that child is half as cute as Dice K, I want to pinch his cheeks.
Kyle Synder came out of frickin’ no where and threw three scoreless innings today. Well, I guess it’s not out of no where, but I am still always surprised when he turns in a good outing. That guy is either ON or imploding big time. He seems nice enough, and does lots with the Sox charities, but I don’t think he’s reliable. Maybe he just needs definition to pitch well, ie starter or bullpen?
The bats finally started to come alive. Good old ‘Tek had a three run shot, little Pedroia knocked in a solo homer, and even some of the minor leaguers took their turn with the long ball. Something else that eased my mind this week was looking at the 2007 Spring Training stats; the Sox are about the same as this time last year. See, Spring Training really doesn’t mean anything!
Another factor preventing me from having an accurate view of Spring Training 2008 is the lack of games I have been able to view. If I could actually watch the Sox play, things might be different. MLB.TV promises over 150 Spring Training games, which means you get to watch about 5 of your team. Go figure.
I believe in God, but I also somewhat believe in baseball karma. I didn’t like it when the media was walking around saying, "The Red Sox are the new Dynasty in baseball." I didn’t like it when the players said, "We’re the team to beat." Baseball karma has a funny way of taking away everything just when you get comfortable.
Confidence is one of many traits that spurred the 2007 Sox to their 2nd World Series championship in four years. Cockiness was not. George Steinbrenner is cocky; the Red Sox were getting cocky, and now look what’s going on in Spring Training. Maybe it’s like theatre: bad dress rehearsal, good show. Or maybe it is the Curse of Papelbon’s Jersey.
Papelbon forgot his jersey for one of the away Spring Training games. Apparently there’s always an extra Manny jersey around. So he donned #24 and pitched the game. Maybe that was just too much for the universe. Could you imagine combining the personalities of Paps and Manny? I think the universe would explode, or implode. I’m not quite sure which.
All joking (or is it?) aside, the 2008 Boston Red Sox are not doing so great. You can never have enough starting pitching. Someone should embroider that on a **** pillow. I hope Beckett’s injury is just a hiccup to his first Cy Young award. Where is Curt Schilling? We haven’t heard anything from the notorious talker in at least a week. Lester was stellar today; his pitching performance sure was a boost. Now where are those bats?
PS, I bought Wheaties just because it had Josh Beckett on the box. Talk about a marketing buy. I didn’t know they still put professional athletes on Wheaties. I’m kickin’ it old school. I took the cereal out of the box, put it in a container, and the box has been proudly displayed on my desk ever since.
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.
Curt Schilling came right out and said it today: He believes he needs surgery.
No NESN for me down here in South Carolina, but I watched the portion of the interview posted on the Globe page. The video cut off after 10 minutes and 44 seconds, which makes me wonder how much longer reporters asked the same questions over and over about Schilling’s shoulder. Granted, I know we haven’t heard him speak about the shoulder before today, but I think the media session would have been much more productive if someone had just brought a karaoke machine and handed Curt the microphone. "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, ‘no, no, no!’…"
Many New Englanders think Schilling is a donkey’s butt, and will promptly tell you so, as they do when they give their opinion on all things Sox related. In reality, Schilling just tells it like it is; so do most people from the North, so I find their disliking of him strange. I think the dislike has more to do with Schilling publicly professing faith in Christ (GASP! How dare he!) and being Republican. It is almost more than a good Democratic from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can stand. I happen to pretty much adore him, from a baseball and from a personal standpoint.
In short, while he saw three different doctors, and got three different opinions, Schilling says he still trusts the opinion of Dr. Craig Morgan, the orthopedic surgeon who operated on his shoulder back in 1995. Schilling spoke of "medical egos," citing how he was cautioned against going to Morgan in 1995, but Morgan is the "Papelbon of his profession. He’s a specialist. The shoulder is what he does." However, due to the legal ramifications of his contract, the Sox basically own the rights to decide what course to take with Schilling’s shoulder health, and Curt has chosen to believe the team approach will work. “You might find it hard to believe,” Schilling said with a smirk, “but I really don’t think I’m the smartest guy in the room when it comes to medicine.” The rehab program is currently not strenuous, but it should be clear within the next month or so whether it will work.
Schilling seemed pretty down hearted about the whole ordeal. Because he is a professional athlete and has fought against much adversity, he is trying to be optimistic and mentally get behind what the Sox want him to do. He realizes the mental aspect, the attitude, is almost just as important as the physical work. However, all the positive thoughts in the world will not fix his shoulder. He seems to be facing the fact that realistically, he could never pitch again. While he seems depressed about the possibility of that happening, he also seems to have accepted it. "It is what it is," he told reporters.
I think Schilling might be done. He sure is talking like he’s done. I wish he had just let last year be it and at least gone out in a blaze of glory. The interesting question is, if he does have end up having surgery sometime within the next couple of months, will he be able to pitch again this season? If not, will he try to pitch again next season, and if so, with what team? I have a hard time seeing Theo sign him again after this mess, but I can almost bet some team would take a chance, most likely in the National League.
Eric Gagne apologized to his teammates today about his name on the Mitchell Report in a publicly issued statement. His teammates are right there at Spring Training; don’t know why he had to issue the statement publicly, but I digress. In his statement, Gagne said, "[My name on the Mitchell Report], that’s a distraction that shouldn’t be taking place. I’m just here to help the Milwaukee Brewers get to the World Series and playoffs, and that’s all I really care about." Hmmm. Who really thinks that will happen, especially if he’s anchoring the bullpen?