Category Archives: Baseball

2011 Boston Red Sox Predictions

2011 Boston Red Sox

With Major League Baseball’s opening day looming just two weeks away (March 31), it’s time for my 2011 Boston Red Sox predictions. Following an offseason highlighted by the signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, I think that NESN has said it best with their slogan for the Sox 2011 campaign — “We’re all in.”

The Offense — Contrary to popular belief, the Red Sox had plenty of offense last year — they finished second in MLB in runs and slugging percentage. This year’s offense is that much more dynamic — Carl Crawford essentially gives us a second Jacoby Ellsbury on the base paths, in the body of a much better hitter. A left-handed Adrian Gonzalez should bring Fenway’s right field fence to its knees, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are just hitting the stride of their primes, and David Ortiz is  coming off a good season. There will not be a more fun offense to watch in baseball, with the Sox combination of speed and power.

The Pitching — Critics like to poke holes in the Red Sox pitching staff. I look at it like this — John Lester has been just about as good as anybody the last few seasons. Clay Bucholz has finally lived up to his potential, following a 17-7 season with a 2.33 ERA. And my Red Sox pleasant surprise of the year is going to be John Lackey — I’m expecting a big season out of him. Clearly frustrated with his performance last year, Lackey arrived at camp 15 pounds lighter and ready to roll. I’d look for 16-10 or so out of him this year. That leaves us with the Red Sox perennial question marks — Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett. These guys both have fierce stuff, but get lit up more than your average patron at a Grateful Dead concert. Who knows what to expect out of these guys — if either of them give us a season substantially over .500 we can consider it a bonus. As for the pen, Papelbon is obviously a bit of a question mark. No pitcher has ever saved 35+ games in a season to more criticism. The likes of Daniel Bard and newcomer Bobby Jenks should help sure up the closing roll.

The Question Marks — The Sox have 3 questions marks in my eyes. The first is middle relief, where the Sox did do some substantial offseason work. That said, I’m not as sure of the bullpen as the rest of Boston seems to be. I am always leery of relievers — a few closers aside they are usually just pitchers not good enough to be starters. I’m not predicting anything terrible here, I’m just not quite sure who is going to emerge as the backbone of the middle relief crew.

The second question mark I see is the shortstop position, which I consider to be the 3rd most important position on the field. I’m not buying into Jed Lowrie, and I never bought into Marco Scutaro. I was a big Nick Green fan myself and saw big things for him. Even so, every team has to have a weakness somewhere and I don’t think this is a big deal.

The biggest question mark in my eyes, by far, is at the catcher position. Jason Varitek is valuable in his leadership and the experience he brings working with the pitching staff, but he’s a glaring weakness in all other ways and likely won’t be able to play too many games. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is young, unproven, and inexperienced — not what you’re looking for in the catcher of a World Series contender. I think that the Sox will miss Victor Martinez much more than any player that they lost — Adrian Beltre included.

2011 Season Prediction – I’m not going out on a limb here at all, but I think the Red Sox will meet the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. While the Phillies’ starters are undoubtedly superior, I think that the Red Sox offense will be dynamic enough to score the runs needed to beat a lackluster Phillies offense. I hereby predict that the Red Sox will win the 2011 World Series — and don’t call me a homer — I predicted that the Yankees would win the last two seasons.

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The Red Sox Player Missed Most

Bill Hall

By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA

I’ve made it pretty clear by now that I don’t think this off-season could have gone much better for the Red Sox – I may or may not have called my father after midnight in the middle of the week to inform him that we had landed Carl Crawford. His response – grumble, “great,” click – whatever, he goes to bed at 9:00pm these days. That said there is one player that I’ll be missing come April. Bill Hall.

Psych! I bet you thought I was going to say Adrian Beltre – No, I’m all about Youkilis at third base and prefer not to have Sox left fielders systematically taken down over the course of the season. Surprised? Yeah, me too – because I spent the entirety of last season ripping on Bill Hall. His name became an adjective; you totally blew something, you “Bill Hall’d” it – how’d the interview go? Oh man, I Bill Hall’d it. It’s similar to the expression “I dropped the ball,” because it seemed throughout the course of last season that all Bill Hall did was botch routine plays. In reality, he didn’t play that badly – it’s hard to catch the ball all the time when you’re playing every single position on the field – at the same time. That’s an exaggeration, but at times it felt like Bill Hall was the only healthy player on the Red Sox squad. The night he came in and pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning (the only pitcher that night to do so) I felt like David After Dentist: “Is this real life?”

Upon hearing that the Red Sox had not resigned Bill Hall for the 2011 season I felt oddly disappointed about it – my initial reaction was: How could we not resign this guy! He was our entire team! Obviously resigning Hall wouldn’t make sense for the Sox or Hall himself but hindsight is 20/20 and the reason I hated on him so much is because he was stepping in for players whose shoes were hard to fill. When you’re used to Dustin Pedroia, Bill Hall is just not going to cut it, even if he plays solidly. I didn’t know what I had with Bill Hall ‘till he was gone and now that he’s the regular second baseman for the Houston Astros he’ll probably bat .356 or something, rock Hideki Okajima every time he faces him, and I’ll start hating on him all over again.

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Daisuke Matsu-Sucka?

Daisuke Matsuzaka

By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA

The Boston Herald’s Red Sox Blog published a story entitled  “How Daisuke Might Pitch When He’s Not The Story,” in mid-February  — when I read it I was skeptical. Daisuke was described as arriving at Spring Training “tanned and relaxed.” Tanned, alright, but relaxed? I haven’t seen Daisuke look relaxed since he showed up stateside in ’07 – every time he’s on the rubber he gets that weird eyebrow crinkle where he looks like he’s about to cry, and he’s  always sweating, no matter the season. I’m at the game in a layer of Under Armor and he’s out there sweating. The point the story made was now that Daisuke is not at the center of both Japanese and American media attention he will finally have the chance to be a normal pitcher.

Consider this — Daisuke’s spring training ERA is 10.80 — if this is “normal” then we’re in for along season. Granted he’s only had two outings and it is just spring training, but Clay Buchholz has only had two outings and his ERA is zero. I’m in Ft. Myer’s now and had the (not-so-great) pleasure of watching Daisuke pitch on Saturday afternoon against the Florida Marlins. The man got lit up. Fine, he was working on his off-speed pitches, Saltalamacchia says his curveball looks better than ever, and the Dice himself was unconcerned with the start, but I’m stillsitting out there watching him give up seven runs in an 11-2 loss. Honestly, I don’t care if Daisuke feels good, because I don’t feel good about the perceived “best team in baseball” getting embarrassed by the Florida Marlins.

The Herald can write what they want about Daisuke, if people want to project that this year he might get back to the brief dominance he achieved throughout his ’08 season with the Sox that’s fine with me, but in a pitcher I appreciate consistency. (To those who are thinking, brief! He went 18 and 3 that season! I say for the amount of money are paying this guy I should get a couple more of those kinds of seasons before he earns the adjective “dominant.”) This is why my favorite Sox are Lester and Buchholz, even Lackey, who although not dominant last year came out to the mound with consistent stuff for every start and, arguably, just didn’t get enough run support. If you like a pitcher that dazzles once every five starts then Daisuke is your man, but I prefer dependable performance to the occasional sparkle. So while the Herald waits around for “tanned,” “relaxed,” “new look Dice-K” to show up to Fenway park, I’ll be sitting on my hands waiting for his damned contract to run out. Is it 2013 yet?

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The Brilliance of Carl Everett

Carl Everett dinosaurs

With little else to share this weekend and following a week filled with more Charlie Sheen quotes than an entire episode of Two and Half Men, I thought I’d revisit one of my favorite sports quotes of all-time — courtesy of former Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett. I’m sure you’ve all hear it, but it’s worth revisiting from time to time for a chuckle.

Carl saysThe Bible never says anything about dinosaurs. You can’t say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Somebody actually saw Adam and Eve. No one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

My immediate question has always been — how did they get on this topic?

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Joba (Chamberlain) the Hutt

Joba Chamberlain

By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA

Boy, could this Red Sox off-season get any better? Theo Epstein makes moves to sign Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Cliff Lee decides to take his talent to the National League, Andy Pettitte retires, and now Yankee reliever Joba Chamberlain shows up to Spring Training looking, well, a little doughy. Of course, the Yankee organization does not want to focus on the weight, but General Manager Brain Cashman did say that Chamberlain was, “obviously heavier” and gave no indication as to whether the pitcher weighed in above or below the number suggested for the beginning of Spring Training. Chamberlain says it’s all muscle, but I say cue the Joba-the-Hutt jokes because if he’d been getting ripped in his bi’s and tri’s Cashman wouldn’t have called him “heavier,” he would’ve called him “fitter.” It’s not the weight that really matters – that’s just another excuse for me to rip on the Yankees — but  rather the question of preparedness. This extra weight around Joba’s middle suggests that perhaps he spent a little too much time watching pod racing and not enough time busting his butt at the gym. He didn’t work as hard in the off-season as he could have, or even should have, as a player who struggled last year and who’s future with the Yankees is up in the air. If I had something to prove I’d do my best to show up to Spring Training with a Situation style six-pack.

Like John Lackey – ok, he doesn’t have a six-pack – but he did arrive in Ft. Myers looking pretty svelte. Perhaps he wants to prove he can live up to the hype that he fell a bit short of in 2010 – that he’s worth the $82.5 million contract the Sox gave him. Whatever it is, something lit a fire under Lackey’s butt and instead of joining Joba at the buffet he amped up his cardio routine and lost about 15 pounds for the start of the 2011 season. This was at no urging from the Red Sox staff – now that’s taking some initiative. So really what I’m saying here is that the Red Sox look much better than the Yankees coming into 2011. No literally. We’re better looking. So what if the Yankees have Alex “the popcorn eater” Rodriguez at the hot corner? They’re down Pettitte’s cheekbones and we’re up a Jon Lester, a Clay Buchholz, and a newly slim Lackey. I say, bring it Yanks, because baseball is life and the same saying applies: “When you’re hot you’re hot and when you’re not you’re not”.

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If Pujols and A-Rod Were Paid on Commission

Pujols A-Rod

This time of year sucks. Football is over, baseball hasn’t started, the NBA is at the midseason point and March Madness has yet to begin (sigh). That said, I naturally find my thoughts turning to the upcoming baseball season this time of year, and I came across one hell of stat.

Albert Pujols was in the process of negotiating a contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals, a process which has come to a halt until the end of the season when he’ll either resign with the Cardinals or become a free agent. The Cardinals supposedly offered him a deal that would make him between the 6th and 10th highest paid player in baseball — not to shabby, but not a deal worthy of the best player in the game. So think for a minute — what if these superstar athletes were paid based on their actual on-field performance, a la a waiter or a salesperson?

Since the 2001 season, A-Rod has earned $594k per home run, and $204k per RBI. Albert Pujols has earned $237k per home run and $79k per RBI.

Absolute craziness, and further evidence that athletes are overpaid (especially A-Rod). Think about it. You stroll up to the plate with a runner on third, maybe half hungover, and slap a single up the middle. Cha-chingggggg — $204k in the bank. My god.

One final note while I’m ranting on the baseball front. I’d like to send a shout out to a former Yankee (yes, you heard me correctly). Hideki Matsui. This guy delivered the Yankees their last World Series title on a silver platter, never once complained about his role, and had countless other big-game hits for the Yankees. Yet he gets little or no credit — you never heard any buzz about Matsui in New York. Sure, he’s foreign, older, quiet, reserved, and generally not tabloid material. But if someone like Nick Swisher ever contributed half as much to the Yankees as Matsui did, he’d have the entire city of New York eating out of his palm. You know I’m right. Just sayin’.

When’s the first pitch?

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Bring on the Baseball — Sandlot Style

The Sandlot

By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA

I’m just going to go ahead and skip right over the Super Bowl. The Steelers lost so I have nothing to gloat about and the only thing that matters to Bostonians is that Big Ben Roethlisberger is still one ring behind Tom Brady. I think it’s safe to assume that I can speak for most Pittsburghians and New Englanders alike when I say, I’m over it. Honestly, I was over it last Thursday. If I saw that Clay Matthews vs. Troy Polamalu hair montage one more time on ESPN I was going to tear my own hair out. Time to move on to more important things – like baseball.

Our fair city has one week left to wait for Red Sox pitchers and catchers to report to Fort Myers, Florida for spring training. I’ll tell you the first thing that I’m going to do, plop right down on my couch and watch The Sandlot. Now, I may catch some flak for this statement but it is my opinion that The Sandlot is one of the greatest baseball movies of all time. Yeah ok, Field of Dreams, The Natural, Eight Men Out, they’re good, but seriously, can anything top the scene of buck-toothed and be-spectacled Squints faking a drowning at the pool so he can get mouth to mouth from hottie lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn? I think not.

The sandlot clan played some pretty sweet ball too. The team’s conglomeration of neighborhood misfits and scrappy style of play remind me of the 2004 Red Sox; Kenny DeNunez’s windup looks a whole lot like Pedro’s, Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez is cracking homers like Manny,and “Yeah-Yeah” – totally Kevin Millar. They even have jacket and jersey clad, expensive bike riding rivals — the  Tigers — who are, of course, the New York Yankees. The sandlot crew  blew those snobs out in a backyard brawl just like the Sox blew out the Yanks in 2004’s ALCS game 7. Proving that dirt, heart, and a little trash talking à la round-faced catcher Ham Porter – “Is that your sister out there in left field, naked? She’s naked?” – were more important than expensive jerseys and highly paid free agents. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of trudging through ankle-deep slush or I’m nostalgic for a time in my life when bike riding wasn’t just for hipsters, but this movie feels like just what I need to get me through the next week and into the start of the Boston Red Sox 2011 season. I can’t wait to play ball.

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