The Sox are one game up in the Wild Card race with 3 to play. And a day after Jacoby Ellsbury’s dramatic home-run that will hopefully inject some life into this team, all people are talking about is John Lackey’s post-game tirade against the press.
For those who don’t know, Lackey — who was seen swearing and showing up his manager on television when Terry Francona removed him from the game last night — went on a tirade against the media after the game because a TMZ reporter texted him 30 minutes prior to the game to ask him about filing for divorce from his wife, who is currently battling cancer.
Now Lackey, who continues to make Carl Everett look like Albert Einstein, has created a distraction in the final days of a season for a much-hyped team that is on the edge of crumbling. He may be the only player in Red Sox history who could make fans think JD Drew isn’t so bad. Between rolling his eyes when teammates don’t make plays, his historically terrible season, and cursing out his manager (who has stood by him all season) for taking him out of a close, must-win game given said historically terrible season, Lackey is making a strong case for most hated Sox player by Sox fans ever.
While we’re on the subject of Lackey, I know a lot of people think his filing for divorce is a terrible thing and feel so bad for his wife. And it is a terrible thing. But don’t feel bad for her because of this. That’s what you get when you marry somebody strictly for money. How do I know she married him strictly for money? Well, then, did she marry him for his good looks, his intellect, or his charming personality?
Meanwhile, this Red Sox team is arguably the least enjoyable Red Sox team of the last 16 years. Sure, the 2001 team had a lot of selfish jerks and that team imploded late in the season. But, at that point, the Sox still hadn’t won the World Series yet, and they had fought through an incredible number of injuries to key players like Pedro, Nomar and Tek to stay competitive until September. The 2006 team also imploded late in the season, but they were competitive for most of that season and we got to watch Papi’s push for the team home run record. But this team, with it’s huge payroll, superstar line-up and 100-win expectations were SUPPOSED to dominate this year. But right from the opening bell and their 2-10 start, this team has been a terrible disappointment, and hard to root for. Still . . .
Sometimes you have to wonder what kind of intelligence test you have to flunk to be a professional sports writer. For example, check out today’s piece at http://www.Boston.com. by Nick Cafardo.
In the article, Cafardo makes a ridiculous and terrible arguement for keeping Jacoby Ellsbury instead of trading him for Adrian Gonzalez. He describes Gonzalez as the last piece to the team’s offensive puzzle, but then goes on to describe Ellsbury like he is the second-coming of Willie Mays. Cafardo makes it sound like we’re talking about trading a guy like Gonzalez to get a guy like Ellsbury.
Ellsbury is an immensely likeable player — both as a person and on the field. He’s exciting to watch. But, let’s not fool ourselves, the benefits he brings to a team are nowhere near the benefits an Adrian Gonzalez brings to a team.
Speedy leadoff hitters are great to have. But not absolutely necessary. Witness the Red Sox championship teams of 2004 and 2007. Last year’s champion Yankees featured Derek Jeter as their leadoff hitter. The Red Sox featured some great teams when Wade Boggs was their leadoff hitter. So let’s not overvalue how crucial Ellsbury is to this team.
Cafardo goes on to make the amateur talk-radio yahoo arguement that instead of sending off Ellsbury, the Sox should merely include one or two more prospects. That’s all fine . . . if that’s what the Padres want. I’m sure Theo is in no hurry to deal both Buchholz and Ellsbury to anyone. And is probably trying to negotiate a lesser deal. But, if the Padres won’t budge on prospects instead of Ellsbury, the Sox have a decision to make.
And, if they must deal Ellsbury, then they should do it.
Reports are the Padres are seeking both Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez. The inclusion of both Ellsbury and Buchholz in a deal is sure to make many Sox fans cringe, but it’s a deal worth doing.
Often in baseball it does seem a team can get something for nothing, especially when one rich team can acquire a star player from a poor team for little more than cash. It is only money, after all. However, in the real world, to get something of real value, you have to give up something of real value. And that’s the situation the Sox are in chasing Adrian Gonzalez.
The past three season, Sox fans have enjoyed watching Ellsbury — from his amazing speed on the basepaths to his fearless, wall-crashing defense. He’s an excellent ballplayer, and may someday be a great leadoff hitter. But Ellsbury will never give a team as much as Adrian Gonzalez does. And, although it hurts to give him and Buchholz up, it’s worth it.
If the deal does happen, the question is what will Boston’s outfield look like? In all likelihood, newly-acquired Mike Cameron would move into centerfield. That would open up leftfield for a free-agent addition like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, although at this time both look unlikely. Perhaps more likely would be the Sox sticking with Jeremy Hermidia in leftfield, possibly platooning him with another addition.
Hermidia is a very interesting player. He came up to the majors in Florida about four seasons ago with a ton of hype. Unfortunately, he has never lived up to that hype. The thing is, he’s still only 25. He’s still two years away from the magic age of 27 — the well-documented age at which many major league ballplayers breakout. Hermidia is much too young and talented to be written off — even though many people already have. Maybe he’ll never be that superstar. But it’s still just as likely that we may someday look back and say Theo got the steal of this offseason.
Let’s face it: The Sox were banged up, and the Devil Rays were the better team. They’re probably going to win the World Series. Just freakin’ wonderful. I’m not in a good place right now. Let’s stop talking about it.
Anyway . . . . . on a positive note, once we get past this bothersome World Series, we get to embark on one of the most exciting times of the year — the Hot Stove Season. It’s the kind of thing blogging was invented for. So, let’s just get beyond this thing we’re not talking about and move forward. Let’s see what Boston’s current weaknesses are and what we can hope to expect from this Hot Stove Season.
Papi’s Wrist — There’s no offseason solution to this. All we can do is hope and pray that Papi’s wrist is better by next season and he becomes the hitting terror he once was. But the cold hard truth here is wrist injuries are scary things for hitters. There was once a future-Hall-of-Famer named Nomar Garciaparra who won a batting title with the highest average for a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio. Then Nomar was hit by a pitch and messed up his wrist. Goodbye Hall of Fame title; Hello title of Mr. Mia Hamm.
Jacoby Ellsbury — This is another one of those wait-and-see situations. Luckily, Ellsbury’s offensive struggles this year stemmed from his youth instead of any injury. We know he can play. And we know young players do struggle at times. Eventually, Ellsbury will be fine.
Jason Varitek — Whether the Sox resign him or he leaves in free agency, the team needs to find his replacement now (actually, I believe I said last year at this time the time was last offseason). Even if he stays, his best days are far behind him. And his performance is only going to get worse in the coming years. He is a great catcher, but the he-calls-a-great-game thing only works if he’s hitting +.240 . . . not .220.
Mike Lowell — I will likely catch some serious hate here. I love Mike Lowell as much as anybody. And, sure, everybody gets injured and he’ll probably come back at 100 percent next season and have a great year. But all the more reason to trade him. Lowell has had a great run in Boston, but he’s not a guy you can bank on year in and year out; over his whole career he has had his up’s and down’s. Fact is, he’s not getting any younger, and you can expect more common injuries and declining production the next few seasons. The good thing is Lowell has trade value. He has put up great numbers the past few years, he has two years remaining on his contract, and his salary is manageable. And Theo has long coveted the idea of a power-hitting first-baseman. Which leads us to . . .
Sign Mark Texeira — Texeira is a young, switch-hitting, power-hitting first baseman who could be a huge addition to a questionable Sox offense. Of course, in this situation you deal away Lowell. Sure it hurts, but imagine a lineup with Pedroia, Ortiz, Texeira, Youk, Bay and Drew as your 2-7 hitters. October 2009, here we come. The only question is how insane the Yankees will go this year. They have money coming off the books too, and a Wall-Streetesque situation of the rich getting richer with huge dollars coming in next season from their new ballpark, they could put up insane money to sign every free agent they want. Let’s hope they exercise some sanity.
Trade for Saltalamacchia — The Rangers have too many good, young catchers and need to deal. The Red Sox have the need for a catcher and the goods to offer. Salty has been one of the most highly-touted prospects in recent years. And although he has struggled somewhat at the big-league level, he is still extremely young, and those struggles might just have brought his value down enough to secure a deal. By the same token, thankfully Coco Crisp’s performance in the second-half and October may have upped his value where teams may be interested in grabbing him and a prospect.
Trade for Peavy — Yeah, I know. We have a boatload of starting pitching. We have Lester, Beckett, Matsuzaka . . . and then a lot of questions. Schilling won’t be back. Wakefield is too much of a wildcard to depend on at this point. And you can never . . . NEVER . . . depend on unproven youngsters to fill out your rotation (ask the Yanks how Hughes, Kennedy and Joba carried them this year). This offseason, let the Yankees throw boatloads of cash at C.C., D-Lowe and Burnett. I’ll take dealing some of our young arms to the Padres for Peavy. If you hate dealing prospects, remember you never know how they’ll turn out. Wasn’t Casey Fossum going to be the next Tom Glavine?
I went to Tuesday’s game . . . and I haven’t been able to blog, think about the game or anything to do with baseball since . . . This is a struggle . . . . . Alright . . . I can do this . . . I think . . .
First, let’s state the obvious: The Red Sox are done. The Devil Rays have been getting great pitching, while the Red Sox have not. (BTW, Madden’s decision to pitch Kazmir tonight — where he’s been great at Fenway — is brilliant.) Even if they get three great pitching performances out of Matsuzaka, Beckett and Lester — a real possibility — their bats are so bad right now there’s almost no chance they can take three straight games. This isn’t 2004 or 2007; this is a depleted, banged-up lineup. As I’ve already blogged about, Ellsbury hasn’t hit at all, Papi is hitting under a buck, and Varitek, Kotsay and Lowrie aren’t offensive juggernauts. And if Crisp is in instead of Drew, that leaves us with just three actual live bodies in the lineup — Pedroia, Youk and Bay.
This offense hasn’t hit all October — they squeaked through the Angels series — and there is no chance they suddenly snap out of it for three straight games. Too bad. A Red Sox and Phillies World Series would have been classic. Now, we’re stuck with the Rays and their 15,000 fans and the Phillies, a good – but flawed – team with a passionate local base but no national following. Maybe a panicked Bud Selig can get the umps to stop squeezing us.
Regarding Tuesday’s game, I made a classic blunder. Just hours before the game, I started searching for tickets, just to see what was out there. I searched all around out of curiousity to see if I could stumble on some reasonable prices. Not to be a kiss-up here, but I was shocked when I saw how low the prices were on our very own sponsor — Vividseats.com. I know my editorial integrity is at stake here. But it’s the truth. To be honest, the prices were so low I actually almost wondered about the site’s legitimacy. But it was real, and the price was too good to pass up. So I grabbed the tickets and went to the game. Unfortunately, as it turned out, I scrambled to get tickets to a game where it felt like I had Carlos Pena cleat-kicking me in the cojones each half-inning for nine long innings.
And now I’m thinking about that game again. And I’m feeling sick again.
I can’t do this anymore.
I used to think SI’s Tom Verducci was one of the more respectable baseball writers out there. It might be time to rethink that.
While the Devil Rays were cruising to an 8-1 beatdown of the Sox today, Verducci made a comment during the broadcast saying that when the Sox traded away Manny Ramirez, they changed from a run production team to a run prevention team.
The Red Sox didn’t trade Manny to get Alex Gonzalez or Doug Meinkewicz. They got Jason Bay — a .300/30+/100+ type of hitter. And, last time I checked, Bay’s bat wasn’t the problem with the Red Sox offense this October. On paper, they still have a great offense. But the reality is this:
-Lowell is injured, replaced by one Mark Kotsay — who has been hitting like a pitcher.
-Ellsbury, Ortiz and Varitek have been an abyss of outs. Ellsbury just simply hasn’t been hitting, Varitek looks like he is auditioning for retirement, and Ortiz is just behind on pitches he normally takes deep (and he isn’t shooting to the opposite field). Important Note: Don’t think Ortiz isn’t getting the pitches now that Manny is gone. He’s been getting the pitches; he just hasn’t been hitting them.
-The Jed Lowrie/Alex Cora slot in the offense has been mediocre at best these playoffs. But, if Ellsbury and Ortiz are hitting (and maybe Tek starts hitting north of .230), that isn’t an issue.
Fact is, right there are five unproductive slots in the lineup, all of which are currently underperforming. Hard to score runs with that being that case . . . with or without Manny.
And let’s not fool ourselves. The Manny you see currently playing for the Dodgers IS NOT the Manny who would have finished out the season with the Red Sox. Before the deadline, Manny was already shutting it down. Theo and Co. absolutely made the best of a bad situation.
Now, if three of those five slots would start hitting around .250, we can start getting back in this series.
ON THE ALCS VERSUS THE RAYS:
Get ready for some serious hate on the Sox. Get ready for them to be painted as the big, evil Goliaths — the New Yankees — by Sportscenter himbos. Get ready to hear the audible disdain for the Sox by Fox broadcasters as they get excited and root-on every Tampa run. Get ready to be overrun by news articles about those spunky Rays, those underdog kids from Tampa (maybe more coverage than the prez race . . . at least the issues). And get ready for the rest of the country to root against your team.
And, unfortunately, get ready for a long, difficult series, because these Devil Rays — even though they have no fans, even though they play in a tomb, even though they’re managed by a nitwit, even though they are a bunch of dinks who gang-up three-on-one and throw haymakers at a guy who is already pinned down (luckily they punch like flowers), and even though they have cheerleaders (yes, cheerleaders in baseball) who hop on top of the dugout when they hit a home run — are a good team.
All the pressure is on the Sox. And the Rays have all the advantage of being the underdog. I like our pitching, but our offense needs to start driving in runs.
ON BEATING THE ANGELS
I’m going to resist pointing out that I was at last night’s Red Sox game, that they are 5-0 in playoff games I attend, or asserting that their success has something to do with me (which seems pretty obvious). Instead, let’s actually talk about the game.
What an amazingly painful and wonderful rollercoaster ride of a game to be at. We got to appreciate seven shutout innings from Jon Lester. But, just when it looked like the Sox had it won, our anemic offense combined with a few walks and a wild pitch to make it look like we were on our way back to Los Angeles (or Anaheim?) to face certain series defeat. And when the Angels got a runner to third with just one out in the top of the ninth, the dread in Fenway was palpable.
I don’t know what Mike Scoscia was thinking calling a squeeze. I can appreciate aggressive baserunning. But when you have a runner on third with just one out, and you are staring playoff elimination in the face, you take the chance that your next batter will hit a sac fly, or one of your next two batters will get a base hit; You don’t take a big gamble with a squeeze . . . otherwise chances are you lose big. Gamble like that in July, not in October, in the ninth, facing elimination.
Given that we were looking at almost certain defeat, the volume at Fenway when we won it in the bottom of the ninth was explosive. The reaction was reminiscent of when Trot Nixon hit a walk-off to beat the Athetics in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS. High-fiving and hugging the strangers who surround you — equally passionate and insane fans — make you appreciate being a Boston fan instead of what they call fandom in places like Anaheim (or LA?) or Tampa.
ON OUR OFFENSE AND PAPI:
You have to expect our offense will come alive at some point. Pedroia and Ortiz will start to hit. And Varitek has to do something big at some point. He will. But, if they don’t . . .
I love Ortiz as much as anyone. But he looks terrible at the plate right now. He’s a shell of himself right now, and he is almost an automatic out in that three-hole. Give him two games to snap out of it. But, if not, Francona should maybe entertain moving him down (although there is no way — NO WAY — he will). The Sox have a deep lineup. And Youk, Drew and Bay are hitting well. A combo of those three in the 3-4-5 spot is mighty good, and, behind Ellsbury and Pedroia, would likely produce more runs than having an almost automatic out in Ortiz.
I know this is dangerous territory. I know this is close to herecy. Ortiz is my favorite Sox of all-time. I was there at Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. He’s the greatest clutch hitter of all-time, bar none. He should never be booed, no matter what. And, no matter what happens from here on out, his number should be retired. But we’re trying to win a championship. And, by Ortiz’s own admission, he’s not himself. Hopefully he goes 2-for-4 with a double (or maybe a HR) in Game 1, and this talk goes out the window. But, right now, he looks bad . . . and, as a result, the Sox offense looks bad. They need to be better, or Tampa is going to the World Series (a sure sign of the apocalypse).