Tagged: Playoffs

Red Sox Reversal of Fortune Day

Schools are in session today. Government offices, universities and private businesses are open as well. You wouldn’t know it by driving down the street, but today is a national holiday – at least it is in Red Sox Nation. Today, two years ago, Edgar Renteria hit a grounder to Keith Foulke, who flipped the ball to Doug M. (please don’t make me spell his last name) and clinched the Red Sox first World Series title since 1918.

As a lifelong Red Sox fan – since I was 7 in 1975 – I have seen the Sox come so close several times, only to fall short. 2004 was a different story. Ian Browne, the MLB.com BoSox beat writer, posted an interesting recount of the 2004 ALCS and World Series on his Brownie Points blog at www.redsox.com. I encourage you to read it.

I’m glad the jeers about "the curse" are over. I never believed in it. Especially comparing the BoSox with the Cubs. Unlike the Cubs, the BoSox have been to the playoffs numerous times, and the World Series several times. Even many of the years when they did not reach the post season, the BoSox were in legitimate contention.

The Yankees definitely have a tremendous track record. Yet a bulk of their World Series titles were won long, long ago. After 1964, they had a drought from 1965-1976. After winning back-to-back titles in 77 and 78, they did not win again until their impressive run in the late 90s. So the Yankees are not immune to droughts.

The Yankees’ World Series titles were more impressive in the 40s and 50s than the modern-day titles, since in the 90s and present day, the Yankees have such an expansive payroll that they are built to win, and there is no excuse for them not to win year after year.

It is very rewarding for, not only BoSox fans, but for fans of any team in MLB to see the Yankees fall short. Believe me, the only baseball fans rooting for the Yankees are Yankees fans themselves.

That said, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is a historic part of baseball, and the game is made better because of it. It’s actually more interesting when both teams are legitimate World Series contenders since the games are more meaningful.

So on this momentous day, let’s celebrate the Red Sox first modern-day World Series title, and the Yankees’ drought that will hopefully continue for the long term.

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Thoughts About the Playoffs and More

Amazing. That word aptly describes Kenny Rogers’ post-season performance to date. First the Yankees (thank you, Kenny). Then the A’s. Now the Cardinals. I think it would be a fitting scenario for the series to reach six games and Rogers win the clincher in Detroit. Craig Monroe is another Tigers player who is shining in the post-season, as is Carlos Guillen. Man, do the Red Sox need a shortstop like Guillen who can play adequate defense and produce at the plate. Julio Lugo, anyone?

Here are some more thoughts about the playoffs,and baseball and sports in general:

  • I read where Jamie Moyer signed a two-year contract extension in Philadelphia. Here’s hoping that Kason Gabbard becomes the BoSox version of Moyer. Sure, Moyer doesn’t have great stuff, but he finds a way to win 10-plus games each season. Gabbard has similar stuff and showed promise in 2006.
  • Jeff Weaver and Jeff Suppan have pitched well in the post-season, and both of free agents. Still, I hope the BoSox don’t sign either. I prefer Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla or Ted Lilly as a No. 5 starter. I wish we could have the Suppan trade back. I believe the Sox gave up Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez in that deal (or was that the Bronson Arroyo trade with Pittsburgh that I’m thinking of?).
  • Spring training can’t arrive soon enough. Just as I am a lifelong and devoted BoSox fan, I am also a lifelong and devoted fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Boston Celtics and Ohio State Buckeyes. OSU will likely win the national title in football, and maybe even in basketball, so that is fine. The Celtics have an exciting young team and could grab the 7 or 8 spot in the playoffs, but they are likely to do no better than that. The Steelers? Well, at least we won the Super Bowl last season because 2006 does not look promising.
  • I agree with the anti-Tim McCarver sentiments. I have never liked his broadcasting style. I truly do not understand why he has remained in the booth for the playoffs and World Series for so long. I can at least stomach Joe Buck. My favorite baseball broadcasting team is Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.
  • Dave Magadan is the new hitting coach and John Farrell is the new pitching coach. Two good signings, in my opinion. Now that they are signed – and Theo Epstein has inked his deal – I’m anxious for some player deals to take place. I’m sure Theo is chatting with several general managers at the World Series. The GM meeting in Naples is in November, and then the MLB winter meetings will be held here in Orlando in December. Perhaps we will know by then whether Manny will be with the BoSox in 2007.

The Magic of Game 7s

Game 7. In either the LCS or the World Series. Nothing is more magical in professional sports. I’m glad that the NLCS has reached this point. I can’t think of anything more exciting in the postseason of any professional sport than the on-field celebration of the team that wins Game 7 in the LCS or World Series. There is much more electricity in baseball than there is in football, basketball or hockey – especially when the home team wins the deciding game.

Who in Red Sox Nation did not shed a tear and/or feel a chill when the BoSox beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. As exciting as it was when Renteria grounded the ball back to Foulke to seal the sweep of St. Louis in the World Series, it didn’t match the emotion of winning Game 7 against the Yankees, especially after the disappointment of the preceding season’s Game 7.

I don’t need Tommy Lasorda to tell me that the playoffs are exciting. The saying, "You can’t script October," is accurate. You never know when you are watching the next magic moment in baseball history – such as Kirk Gibson’s homer off Dennis Eckersley, Joe Carter’s blast off Mitch Williams, and, of course, Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 dinger in the ’75 World Series off Pat Darcy.

As a professional writer, it is important that my creative juices are flowing. In my home office, I have a wide array of baseball art and photographs. On the wall facing my computer is a framed photo of Fisk hitting the dramatic home run in the 12th inning. That was the first World Series game I ever watched. I was 7, and though I lived in southwest Ohio (where I grew up and lived until relocating to Orlando four years ago), I became captivated by the Red Sox and have closely followed them since.

I imagine that there will be tears of joy flowing from Mets or Cardinals fans tonight. Games like these are why it is so rewarding to be a fan – supporting your team in good seasons and challenging ones – because it is sweeter when you win and heartbreaking when you lose. I feel a void this month without the BoSox in the postseason. I’m hoping to experience that jubilation once again next year at this time.

What are your favorite post-season moments in baseball? Feel free to share.

An Assortment of Baseball Musings

No particular subject today, just an assortment of thoughts and musings:

  • I remember hearing that the BoSox were trying to get a reliever from Detroit at the trading deadline. I think Wilfredo Ledezma’s name arose. He would be a decent left-handed arm. So would Jamie Walker.
  • John Farrell seems to be a good signing by the BoSox. Since he has helped develop so many young arms in Cleveland, hopefully he can do the same with Hansen, Delcarmen, Lester, Gabbard and the prospects.
  • I don’t think bullpen depth will be an issue for the Sox in 2007. Tavarez earned a chance to be a spot starter and long reliever. Foulke can be an effective middle reliever (though not set-up man or closer). Devern Hansack, Gabbard, Breslow, Lopez could battle for one or two spots. If Hansen and Delcarmen aren’t traded, I think they will be effective, though I think it would be best not to use either as a set-up man or closer. They need more seasoning for those roles. That said, I think the Sox need a closer and a set-up man (eighth inning guy), and maybe a left-handed specialist if Breslow or Lopez aren’t effective enough.
  • Jamie, who is a regular on this blog and the RedSox.com blog, suggested that the BoSox move Wily Mo Pena to center and Coco Crisp to right. Interesting idea. I do think Wily Mo can be a 40 home run guy and still hit .290 or .300. I just have a feeling that he is going to be traded before spring training. I also think the Crisp will be dealt. However, it they aren’t, I think they will make significant contributions to the BoSox in 2007.
  • I’m rooting for the Tigers to win the World Series. What a great turnaround story. It’s good for baseball to see an underdog like the Tigers win instead of a group of arrogant, elitist primaddonas like the Yankees.

Ding Dong: The Wicked Yankees are Dead

OK. Maybe this headline is harsh. Perhaps the Yankees are not as wicked as the witch from the Wizard of Oz. However, it was a tremendous pleasure watching the Yankees – the team that allegedly had the most potent lineup in the history of baseball – fall flat on their faces in the ALDS. It couldn’t have happened to a group of more arrogant, underachieving primadonnas.

I find it interesting that the Yankees – with their unlimited financial resources – fielded such a subpar rotation and bullpen. Sure, the Yankees pulled away from the BoSox. Yet any person who understands the game of baseball knows that – even the Yankees with their unlimited payroll – could not have overcome the unprecedented rash of injuries that befell the BoSox this season. A high payroll does not do any good when key parts of the rotation, bullpen and position players are on the disabled list.

As I have mentioned before, reaching the playoffs is not a measure of success for the Yankees. Though it is very true that an unlimited payroll cannot buy chemistry and a pre-written script for October, it does give the Yankees a tremendous advantage over every team when they can plug their holes at the trading deadline and add any player they desire. Because of the financial resources at Steinbrenner’s feet (bolstered by the revenues of playing in the largest media market in the country), the Yankees should be held to a higher standard. If they reach the World Series, that is a successful season. Anything less is a failure. Yankees fans are downtrodden on the Yankees.com blog. Rightly so. It is another season that the game’s highest payroll did not produce even a World Series appearance.

That said, let’s talk about 2007. I imagine that the BoSox payroll will remain in the same range as this season. I think that we can expect better results, considering that 2006 was unusual because of the rash of injuries. I have included an article from today’s Boston Herald written by Michael Silverman. It makes some intriguing points. There are so many different scenarios with the BoSox – so many decisions to make – that it will be impossible to accurately predict what will happen. Here is my number one wish list:

  • Trade Manny to the Angels for Ervin Santana and a prospect. If they cannot get Brandon Wood, perhaps they can pry Orlando Cabrera in the deal.
  • Move Coco Crisp to left field, and sign Torii Hunter to play center field (if the Twins do not pickup his option), or deal Crisp to Atlanta in a package for Andruw Jones, and sign Lee or Soriano to play left field.
  • Move Mike Lowell and his salary for a closer or a set-up man, switch Youkilis to third base and sign a power-hitting bat to play first base.
  • Trade for Brad Lidge, or sign Eric Gagne.
  • Resign Loretta to play second, sign Lugo to play short and use Pedroia in a utility role (he can play second and short, after all, and Hinske can play first, third, right and left).
  • Resign Nixon to a one-year deal. I’m not sure what to do with Wily Mo. I like his potential, but as Silverman points out in this article, center field is his better position, and I’m not sure if the Sox can afford to give him a chance as a full-time center fielder.

Here is the article:

Manny sets tone for Sox: Outfield plan hinges on Ramirez
By Michael Silverman
Boston Herald Sports Reporter

Saturday, October 7, 2006 – Updated: 12:02 PM EST

It’s October, so of course it’s not too early to begin revving up the “trade Manny, keep Manny” debate.

    That dilemma has been a staple of every Red Sox offseason since 2003, but it has ultimately amounted to lots of talk and no action. However, with just two guaranteed seasons (of productivity) remaining on his massive contract, Ramirez has never been more alluring to other clubs.

    The Red Sox will surely seek to capitalize on that fact and dangle Ramirez to the teams who would be most interested – the Angels, specifically – in the hope that they can get promising pitchers in return. They’d then have to try to replace Ramirez’ production somewhere else.

    That is the theory, at least. Undoubtedly, the exploratory stage already has begun but will need to gain traction by mid-November, before the free agent market picks up. Trading Ramirez is a massively complicated proposition, however, and the chances of it happening likely are less than 50-50. Therefore, discussion about how the Red Sox outfield shapes up for next year might as well proceed as if he is coming back.

    The same could be said of center fielder Coco Crisp, a topic of conversation with other teams in the days leading up to the July 31 trading deadline. Crisp had a disappointing year, but conventional wisdom about the cause of his struggles has changed in recent weeks after a pin was inserted in Crisp’s fractured finger, an injury he suffered in April.

    Instead of Crisp being a case of miscalculation by the Red Sox’ scouting department, the belief is that lingering problems with the finger were the root of his struggles, and that after a winter of healing, he will be the player the Sox expected.

    In right field, a critical position at Fenway Park, there appears to be just a small chance that Trot Nixon will come back. Declining production and his free agent status dictate that both he and the team look elsewhere first.

    The idea of Wily Mo Pena replacing Nixon still is a stretch. Pena is a decent center fielder, as he showed while subbing for Crisp. However, as a corner outfielder, especially in Fenway’s spacious right field, the circuitous, tenuous routes he takes on balls are early indicators of an outfielder with poor instincts.

    Maybe he can improve, but Pena is still too rough around the edges to project as the everyday right fielder. Perhaps he will eventually fill that role, but he could – or should – wind up being shopped around. If the Red Sox feel they can improve at that position on the free agent market or via trade – and there’s little doubt they could do just that – then they can let some other team take a flier on Pena.

    The cases of two premium free agent outfielders, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee, must be monitored closely, as will that of Gary Sheffield (whose 2007 option is held by the Yankees), since the Red Sox have such a glaring need for a quality hitter/slugger in the No. 5 hole.

    On the trade front, a couple of names also will come up, primarily the Blue Jays’ Vernon Wells, who has one year remaining on his contract. Since the Jays and Sox areA.L. East rivals, it is hard to imagine Wells coming here unless it was a three-way deal. But the Red Sox still have to ask.

    The Sox also will consider the likes of Andruw Jones of the Braves, Torii Hunter of the Twins and Pat Burrell of the Phillies.

    The outfield’s shape for 2007 hinges entirely on Ramirez. Once his status is settled (if it ever truly can be), the rest of the strategy should begin to emerge quickly.

The Yankees in the World Series? I think not.

As first-timers to this blog can surmise, I am a lifelong and devoted Red Sox fan as well as a devoted fan of the game itself. And let me add that – though the Sox had an unprecedented rash of key injuries to overcome – the Yankees were a better team this season, which will not be the case in 2007.

Anyway, with those facts out of the way, I must say that I am ecstatic about today’s win by the Tigers. Yankees fans are likely very concerned, and with good reason. The series is tied, and the next two starters for the Yankees are Randy Johnson (who is a shell of his former self) and Jaret Wright (just like Cory Lidle, if I’m a MLB hitter, I can’t see enough of Wright).

What seemed to be an easy series for the Yankees is now a challenge. The Yankees will have to slug to win, since their starting pitching is subpar, and their bullpen is not dependable (outside of Rivera and maybe Bruney). The Tigers have an exceptional bullpen, which will likely be needed with Kenny Rogers on the mound.

It will be very good for baseball if the Tigers win this series. The Yankees, with all of Steinbrenner’s resources from being in the largest city in the United States, have an unlimited payroll and no excuse for not fielding the best team year in and year out. Not even the Red Sox, who I admit are far from a small market team, have the resources to spend with the Yankees. So if the Yankees can buy any player they want – and can plug any hole at the trading deadline – they should be held to a different set of expectations. It is an accomplishment for most teams to reach even the ALDS, much less the ALCS. If the Yankees do not win the AL each year, then their fans should hang their heads in frustration because their team has no excuse not to win.

What amazes me is, with all of their financial resources, the Yankees have a pitching staff with only one solid starter (Wang). Mussina is very hittable, Johnson is subpar and Lidle and Wright are inconsistent and very, very hittable. The middle and long relief is subpar as well.

Pitching wins championships. The Yankees should get by the Tigers, but the A’s will be waiting for them. The A’s have the starting pitching and bullpen to minimize the damage from the Yankees bats. And they have enough offense to win. Of course, I hope the Yankees are disposed of by the Tigers. An ALDS series loss is very disgraceful to a team with unlimited resources.

Rooting on the A’s; Fixing the BoSox Bullpen

Impressive. That is the appropriate word to describe the Oakland A’s. They have the best rotation of any team in the playoffs, a strong bullpen and an adequate offense. Since it is unlikely the Tigers will beat the Yankees, the A’s represent the best hopes of Red Sox Nation watching the Yankees fall in the ALCS. Fortunately for everyone but the Yankees and their fans, the Yankees rotation is subpar. Wang is definitely the ace. Mussina is hittable, and guys like Randy Johnson and Cory Lidle are nothing to fear. Rivera is still the greatest reliever in the game, yet the Yankees bullpen is very hittable. Hopefully, the A’s can sweep the Twins and get their rotation in place for the ALCS.

Fixing the Sox Bullpen

I encourage you to read the following article, written by Michael Silverman in today’s Boston Herald. It details the needs Boston has in its’ bullpen. I agree with the idea to trade for Brad LIdge. I also like an incentives-laced deal with Eric Gagne, or signing Kerry Wood to serve as a closer, if his arm and shoulder are healthy.

If the Sox can bring Foulke back for his $3.75 million option, that would be a benefit considering how he pitched at the end of the season. Perhaps he could be the set-up man. I also like the talk about acquiring Scott Linebrink from San Diego and/or J.C. Romero. Joe Borowski might be ideal as a set-up man, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with him as a closer. What do you think? Here is the article:

Assembling an effective and dominating major league bullpen is just about the toughest task facing any general manager. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is no different than his peers in this regard.

    The biggest bullpen mistakes of his tenure (Rudy Seanez and Ramiro Mendoza jump quickly to mind) outweigh his good moves (Mike Timlin most of the time, Alan Embree for awhile, Keith Foulke for one year), with the rest of the acquistions ranging from inconsistent to unimpressive (Terry Adams, Curtis Leskanic, Scott Williamson, Byung-Hyun Kim and Mike Remlinger).

    Figuring out how to make the bullpen a more consistent and productive unit in 2007 is going to tax every ounce of gray matter in the cubicles along Yawkey Way.

    Atop the to-do list is figuring out how to replace Jonathan Papelbon in the closer’s role. The team made do with Timlin in that role after Papelbon got hurt in early September, but there is no guarantee Timlin will be back and no gut feeling in the clubhouse that Timlin is anything more than a set-up man at this stage of his advanced career.

    Craig Hansen, viewed by so many as the closer of the future, seemed to take a step or two backward as the season progressed. He has yet to harness his stuff and be a consistent, never mind occasional lights-out reliever. He may well need more seasoning in the minors before the team decides to give him another try.

    Foulke is probably the biggest question mark, both contractually and competitively. He pitched well down the stretch as his health returned. The club most likely is not inclined to pick up his $7.5 million but Foulke would be hard-pressed not to accept his $3.75 million option, considering the unlikelihood he could approach that on the open market.

    So Foulke probably stays. The team would love it if he could reclaim his closer’s job but they won’t count on that happening.

    The most intriguing name that keeps popping up is Houston’s Brad Lidge, who more or less lost his job at the end of the season but can be a dominating closer. There was a significant sentiment in the Red Sox clubhouse to trade for Lidge at the Aug. 1 trading deadline. If the Astros will entertain trade talks concerning Lidge, expect the Red Sox to be a major player.

    On the free agent front, there are few exciting options for a front-line closer, although Joe Borowski might draw some interest, maybe too much, based on his 36 saves for the Marlins this season.

    Other available free agent relievers include Russ Springer, Doug Brocail and even ex-Red Sox Chad Bradford and Darren Oliver, each of whom pitched very well for the Mets.

    The Red Sox, and every other team, have always loved the Angels’ Scot Shields, but it would take a big talent, probably in a multi-player deal, for the Sox to pry Shields loose.

    Other arms who might inspire the Red Sox to inquire about in a trade include Scott Linebrink and J.C. Romero.

    Manny Delcarmen hit his own bumps in the road along the way this past season, but he likely has earned a spot in the 2007 bullpen. He showed improvement overall and the Sox can ill afford to dismiss the grooming of young talents such as Delcarmen.

    The Red Sox saw glimpses of goodness from Julian Tavarez, Kyle Snyder, Kason Gabbard and Devern Hansack down the stretch. If none of them make the rotation, they could be front-end candidates for a bullpen that needs more help at the back end.