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 . . .
Maybe you’re feeling really good right now. Heck, the Sox beat Chicago last night. They still lead the wild card. They just picked up Billy Wagner. You think there’s a lot to feel good about. If this is you, and you don’t want to be brought down by a tsunami of negativity, you should click away right about now.
I have a lot of anger and frustration built up by the way the Sox have played these last few weeks. And it’s high time I let it out. Consider yourself warned.
-In Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS, I said if J.D. Drew did something big, I’d never bad-mouth him again. Of course, he hit that grand slam. And since then I’ve tried. I’ve REALLY tried. But how much can one Red Sox fan take?!?! The highest paid player on the team is our $15 million a year NUMBER EIGHT HITTER!!!! A gutless, pathetic underachiever his entire career, Drew is proving right all the people who said he’d be a terrible signing for the Sox . . . and that includes his old teammates and managers with the Cardinals and Dodgers who said he was gutless. If his recent .235 average and slot as the Number 8 hitter isn’t enough to enrage you, how about the fact he asked out of a game against the Texas Rangers — the same Rangers in a dogfight with the Sox for the wildcard — in the ninth inning of a game in which CLAY BUCHHOLZ WAS USED AS A FRIGGIN’ PINCH RUNNER!!!! And we have TWO MORE YEARS on his horrible contract!!! AARRRGGHHH!!!
–Jonathon Papelbon is a whiny, high-maintenance diva. Recently asked about the possibility of Billy Wagner coming to Boston, Paps said he is the closer and doesn’t see any reason for another closer. That the bullpen is fine and doesn’t need fixing. Maybe it has to do with speculation the Sox would bring back Wagner as a set up man to Daniel Bard next year, and deal Paps in this offseason. Don’t like that, Paps? Well, you’re the one who has been saying you are going to free agency to cash in with the highest bidder, even if it is the Yankees. So suite yourself. And, in case you haven’t noticed lately, you’ve been doing a great Calvin Shiraldi impression. I hope we do deal you.
-In June, were you among the chorus of fans saying how we just couldn’t possibly deal Brad Penny. How you feel about that now? His recent appearances have even made us long for the days of John Smoltz. And how about Smoltzie’s debut with the Cards. What a nice little kick in the stones for Sox fans.
-So much for the theory that Josh Beckett just needed to be caught by Jason Varitek. If this is a sign of things to come, we’re screwed.
-Hey look: The offense finally woke up. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. These team has problems, and we actually might be best served in the long run by not making the playoffs this season. You see, if we do get there and have a decent run, the feeling that the team needs serious changes might be dulled. That would be bad. Let’s face it, Mike Lowell and Big Papi are breaking down right before our eyes. They aren’t going to get better. If Theo is going to rejuvenate this team, he needs to replace them this offseason. And while he’s at it, how much longer til it’s time to admit J.D. Drew was a mistake and find ourselves a new rightfielder?
-I friggin’ hate the Yankees.
-I need a drink.
Anyone looking for proof that you can do something to curse your team look no further than this blog last night.
At 10:27 p.m., I posted an entry on how the Red Sox had a done deal with Mark Teixeira, and talked about how to move forward. Not 20 minutes later, John Henry sent out an e-mail stating the Sox were out of the Teixeira sweepstakes.
We still don’t know what happened yet. Maybe the Angels’ desperation got the better of them and they went to 10 years. They certainly were looking at a dark place if they missed out on Tex, and needed him more than the Sox. Maybe the foolish Nationals made a desperate insane offer. It wouldn’t be the first time a franchise that couldn’t afford a superstar bid out of their league (Texas/ARod). If that’s the case, expect them to look to deal him within three years . . . and expect Tex’s complaining about the franchise not winning to begin in two.
Still, all hope is not lost . . . yet. This is Scott Boras and the Red Sox . . . two entities who have said deals were dead in the past, only to have them be revived later on. So, until a deal is announced and a physical has taken place, this thing isn’t over. But it doesn’t look good.
If the Sox don’t get Tex, you have to start to wonder about next year. They have a good team in place, and, if everyone is healthy, they should be fine. But, given the age of Lowell and Tek, and given the fragility of JD Drew, and the uncertainty of Papi’s wrist, there will still be a lot to worry about heading into the season.
As we look toward 2009 with visions of Mark Teixeira at first base, fans might be forgetting about another star who’ll be playing his first full season swinging at the Green Monster next year: Jason Bay.
Ever since he arrived in Boston at the trade deadline, Bay has kind of slid under the radar. Maybe it’s because he wasn’t hitting clean-up; maybe it’s because he wasn’t a nationally-known figure, having played for the Pirates and all. But for the last few years Bay has been one of the very best position players in the game. He consistently put up great numbers in Pittsburgh, even though most of the time he was the lone bat in the lineup. When he first came to Boston, I predicted that he’ll put up better numbers overall than Manny will during the next two seasons (the would-be option years in Manny’s contract). We got a glimpse of how good he is during the second half last year and the playoffs. And we saw how good he is defensively. Now, with half a season in Fenway under his belt, there’s every reason to expect he’ll be even better in 2009. Especially if he’s slides under the radar in this line-up.
If we do sign Teixeira (which looks like a real possibility right now), consider our Opening Day lineup for 2009 compared with last year. Considering Manny’s decline and Bay being in the prime of his career, I expected a net offensive gain having Bay in our lineup rather than Manny. (Not to mention the huge defensive upgrade.) Now consider having Teixeira versus Lowell. While Lowell’s been good, given his age and injury risk — not to mention previous levels of production — the net gain with Teixeira is huge. While everyone has been comparing Teixeira’s production with Manny, it’s important not to forget how good Bay is.
Now let’s imagine Youkilus and Pedroia have years similar to last year . . . and that J.D. Drew plays 150 games . . . and that Papi’s wrist feels better . . . . . Ooh, this is fun.
One week before Thanksgiving, and the hot stove is ready to cook. You can expect a flurry of offers, rumors and speculation up until Turkey Day; then a flurry of signings the week after.
WHAT I LIKE SO FAR
The Coco deal: Scoring Ramon Ramirez – a 27-year-old strikeout reliever with a sub-3.00 ERA in the American League last year – is about as much as you could expect to get for Crisp. Thankfully, Coco performed great the last two months of the season to up his trade value. If you’re not a big fan of this deal, you should be. Don’t look at the last two months of the season and think it is a sign of things to come for Coco. He played in Boston three years, and we’ve seen the player he is: A guy who is an excellent outfielder but most of the time is excruciatingly frustrating at the plate with the exception of brief flukes (August & September). Crisp will be an excellent addition to a team like the Royals, and he could very likely find himself contributing on a team that surprises people next year. Meanwhile, you can never stockpile enough relief pitching, and hopefully Ramirez can be a solid contributor out of the pen in ’09.
Texeira Rumors: Although I still don’t count the Yankees out completely from the Mark Texeira race, I’m glad to read that most people seem to think them acquiring Nick Swisher signals they aren’t in it. But I’ll believe that once Texeira is in a Red Sox uniform. I’m happy that the Sox are considered the front-runners alongside the Angels in this race, and sound like they are positioning themselves for an aggressive run at the hitter with the most upside in this free agent class. Acquiring Texeira would give them one mighty lineup next season.
Catcher Rumors: Regardless of whether they bring back Jason Varitek, the Sox need to get themselves their catcher of the future. And it sounds like even if they do bring back Tek, the Sox are determined to get one of the young catchers from the Rangers, possibly even offensively-gifted Jason Saltalamacchia. This bodes well.
Lugo To Tigers: There’s a rumor that the Tigers might be interested in acquiring Julio Lugo and sending the Sox either Nate Robertson or Dontrelle Willis. I’d trade Lugo for a bag of balls, as I don’t think he has any trade value, so I’d love to see them get a pitcher. My one concern here is Dontrelle Willis’ contract, which I haven’t looked up. If I remember right, the Tigers signed him to a rich, long-term contract. If that’s the case, I might be scared. Maybe they take on each others’ bad contracts. And while Willis has been undependable and was downright terrible last year, his age and stuff means he still has a lot of potential upside. But at what price?
Yankees Are Still Rich But Stupid: The Yankees are poised to offer an oil tanker full of money and long-term years to C.C. (or LB) Sabathia this winter. Sabathia is a great pitcher, and he **dominated in Milwaukee this season (**=facing National League hitters). But he can be beat (see 2007 ALCS), and he can’t singlehandedly take a team to October. Plus, that kind of long-term contract for a pitcher — especially one with the girth of Sabathia — is a huge risk (Where Are They Now: Bartolo Colon). Tack on the fact that they also plan to payout big cash to get A.J. Burnett — a guy whose entire career has been marked by underachieving, injury-plagued seasons — and Derek Lowe — who last time he was seen in the American League was a headcase sporting an ERA north of 5.00 — and the Yankees could be putting themselves in a bad position for years to come. Sure, they are rich beyond belief, but even the Yankees aren’t immune from suffering the effects of numerous bad contracts. And, let’s face it, this is the same management team that thought they could win last year with three unproven rookies in Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain, and who brought in broken-down pitchers in Kevin Brown, Jared Wright and Randy Johnson.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
Sox In On Burnett: As I already stated, I am not a big fan of A.J. Burnett. But I know Sox owner John Henry is. So it is with a lot of concern that I’ve read the Sox are genuinely interested in Burnett. Hopefully they are just upping the price for the Yankees. If that’s the case, you can refile this in the above section. But if it isn’t, consider me even more worried about this than I was about the Sox chasing JD Drew. And you saw how that worked out . . . . . Oh, wait. Never mind.
Jake Peavy: There’s a few things I don’t like here. First, as I stated when rumors first surfaced that the Padres were dangling Peavy, I said the Sox should try to make this deal. Peavy has proven himself to be one of the game’s elite pitchers. His stuff, his track record, and his age make him a prime target to be among the game’s best for the next several years. And he doesn’t have the, ahem, “baggage” that Sabathia has. The Sox should be willing to move one of their top pitching prospects, as prospects are unproven and often don’t work out. And you always — ALWAYS — deal a prospect for an elite proven player. So I am concerned that the Sox are not involved in the Peavy bidding. Peavy can veto the trade, and right now doesn’t list the Sox as a candidate of his, but that could always be made to change, especially by the Red Sox. The other thing I really, really don’t like about this is I am now hearing the Yankees may be getting in on Peavy. Sabathia, Burnett and Lowe don’t scare me; the Yankees getting Peavy does.
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).
Moments before he jacked a pitch into the centerfield bleachers for a grand slam in Game 6 of last year’s ALCS, I said if J.D. Drew did something big at that moment, I’d never say anything negative about him again. Now, with his back aching, am I violating that pact by voicing my hope that Drew lands on the DL so the Sox can void his terrible contract after Year Three (next season)? I’m quite conflicted here.
BTW, how awesome was it to hear The Garden absolutely rocking the other night as fans chanted “MVP” every time Kevin Garnett went to the foul line during the Celtics-Suns game? It’s the first time the C’s have really been alive since the Bird Era, and it’s fun as (h)ell to have fans energized again. Can’t wait for the real season to begin (playoffs). In the NBA, the regular season really is extended preseason, because if your team isn’t in the Top 5 of your conference, you’d rather have a top draft pick.