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.
Tito and Torre, long time friends, were able to show their true colors at last. Touching pictures, seriously. Somehow Joe Torre doesn’t look sinister and evil when he’s wearing Dodger blue. I got confused when I first logged on to watch the game. It said "Pitching: Lowe. At Bat: M. Ramirez." Wait a minute, don’t both those guys play for the same team? Oh yeah, Lowe plays for the Dodgers now. Can’t believe I had such a blond moment.
Today’s game: Wakefield was hot, relievers were NOT. How do you blow a three run lead in the top of the 9th? Oh, that’s right, allow a grand slam. That should do the trick. Good news is, this reliever is no one who will be even close to our major league roster. Gronkiewicz, you’d better be glad this game is spring training!
A Democratic congressman asked the FBI on Wednesday to drop its investigation into Roger Clemens because the pitching great had suffered enough from the probe into steroid use.
In a letter to US General Attorney Michael Mukasey, Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner said, "Roger Clemens has been shamed. I think the public record is replete with examples of how he did not likely tell the truth. What is the public benefit of continuing with an FBI investigation? Whether or not Roger Clemens may have committed perjury should not compete with real national security threats for the FBI’s time, attention and resources."
Um, OK. Whatever.
Maybe I’m naive in thinking rich, famous, influential people sometimes don’t get prosecuted for certain crimes because of the fact they are rich, famous, and influential. But give me a break. Drop the charges because "he’s suffered enough?"
Let’s think about it this way. I am an influential, rich, and famous sports, political, or Hollywood figure. I murdered someone. I am feeling incredibly sorry and guilty about it. I want to take back what I did. I wish it had never happened. But instead of admitting I committed the crime, which would show that I truly want to make things right and humble myself, I lie about it. I find the best attorney money can buy, and we present a good case, lies and all. Bad news, though. I talked about the crime to my friend when I was drunk one night, and he remembers. Oops. I don’t change my story, but I wish I could. Instead, I lie more because I am prideful. I am in great emotional, mental, and maybe even spiritual and physical, turmoil. Does the turmoil I am in make up for the crime I committed? Is the suffering I endure justice? I would dare to say the family of the murder victim wouldn’t consider that justice enough.
Lying under oath is not as serious a crime as murder, but by not pursuing the investigation, wouldn’t the Justice Department just be encouraging people to lie under oath? Roger Clemens may not have murdered anyone, but he took illegal drugs, most likely lied about it, and all for what? He was already a great pitcher, but he was greedy; he wanted immortal status. Now he has lost the respect of generations of baseball fans, writers, and maybe even the Hall of Fame, set an awful example for kids, and brought his own crimes upon his family. His immortal status is gone.
What do you think? Do you think Clemens is being punished too harshly, or being made an example of? Do you think law makers should leave the situation alone and let Bud Selig and Major League Baseball handle it? (Excuse me while I have a good laugh at that one…)
Bartolo Colon could be the surprise of the season; at least, I’m hoping. The word from camp: Colon is working hard on his mechanics and his body.
"Bartolo’s work ethic has been outstanding since the day he reported here," John Farrell, the Red Sox pitching coach, said. "His conditioning and cardio work with [strength and conditioning coach] Dave Page has been twice a day. He reports very early to get some of that work done. Then his fundamental work takes over. Then he’s in with the regular group during pregame work. Then he’s back in after we come off the field. So he’s doing everything we’re asking, and he’s putting forth an outstanding effort."
Farrell said Colon’s arm is much stronger than the Red Sox anticipated, even from the scouting reports received during the Caribbean Series. Farrell also noted Colon’s velocity was improved from the bullpen session a few days ago.
While Colon might not make the team out of Spring Training, if everything works out for him, he could provide valuable in case of injury, or relief, and help keep the innings down for young arms Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
You can never, ever have too much pitching. Here’s hoping Schilling comes back. He is still rehabbing on the Sox’s time table, and keeps insisting it is too soon to tell if it is working. If Schilling doesn’t make it back, kudos to Theo for doing the best to get us some starting pitching and bullpen depth.
My favorite Manny quote of the year thus far? When asked, ‘Will Bartolo Colon help the Red Sox?’ Manny responded:
"I don’t know. I’m not the pitching coach."
Duh, Reporter. Don’t you know Manny’s not a pitching coach?
Papelbon has been pretty vocal about wanting a new contract. Then again, is there ever anything Papelbon is NOT vocal about? I was watching Pardon the Interruption tonight and the subject was part of their Big Finish segment. They said, "Is this topic even worthy to cover? No, but they have to pay him extra for his river dancing." If Papelbon wasn’t so **** good, he wouldn’t have been able to get away with that, the river dancing and the public contract whining.
We’re 3-3 in spring training games right now, not that it really matters. The biggest issue the Sox have to sort out this Spring Training is their fifth starter and their bullpen. Good luck with that. Lopez screwed the game today, and I wish they would just designate him; he’s the lefty specialist who can’t get lefties out. They hit something like .298 against him, while right handers are hitting somewhere around .198. The first pitch Tavarez threw when he worked the first Twins game was nasty; I had hope until he threw the next pitch. It was a home run by Brian Buscher. Hmmm. Beckett has been impressive, as if we expected anything less. Dice K has also shown improvement.
The way men are still left on base (13 in today’s game) is somewhat troubling, but we’re not playing with all major league players, nor are we in a regular season where every game counts. Leaving men in scoring position was one of the main obstacles to our WS title, but thankfully our pitching was so good, and they found ways to overcome lower home run totals.
But I am getting ahead of myself. It’s only Spring Training, after all. Jeff Louderback from www.soxandpinstripes.com recently reminded us what Spring Training is all about.
"If you understand baseball – and the objectives of spring training – then you won’t get too concerned or too excited when you read the box scores. Spring training is a time when pitchers work on developing or improving secondary pitches, work their way into a routine and build strength and endurance to prepare for the 162-game season ahead. Thus the reason starters gradually extend their innings per game, and thus the reason many pitchers battle control problems and/or surrender an array of runs and hits. Spring training is also a time when hitters work on their timing, their stance, their swing and other techniques. With this in mind, don’t get worried when Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz have poor outings, as Lester did yesterday and Buchholz did today. Also, don’t place lofty expectations on a player who hits .400 in spring training and/or posts gaudy home run and RBI totals. Statistics in spring training mean very little. Of course, impressive spring training performances from minor leaguers trying to open a manager’s eyes, and veterans battling for roster spots, are important for the aforementioned players and help teams make roster decisions."
Jeff always says it better than I ever could.
The Sox played the Pirates yesterday, and who was playing first base? None other than Doug Mienkiewicz, the infamous thief of the 2004 last out World Series ball. He did finally give it to the Hall of Fame, grudgingly. He is trying to make the Pirates major league roster as their infield utility man. He lost 25 pounds in the off season, where his work out partner was ARod.
Blog Notes: I am going to try and update everyday. There’s just too much good baseball going on to not. I was able to fix my pictures in the album so they go in chronological order. Thanks to Dee for the suggestion.
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.