Posted on: March 30, 2010 8:50 pm
With the start of the baseball season less than one week away (yes, a week , with Red Sox vs. Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball), it means only thing: it is time to dust off the magic eight-balls, look into the future and predict where the 30 teams will end up at the end of the season.
(I should point out that I won a pool last season in which we made predictions about the 2009 season before its start, and so needless to say, when I use the word "prediction" I am really meaning "cerifiable locks and spoilers" for the 2010 season.
Let's start with the American League East:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, I know the Yankees are defending champs, and they had a great 2009 season. But I am not impressed with the moves that they made to stay atop the best division in baseball. CBSSports.com has the Yankees, Sox, and Rays as the top three teams in baseball heading into Opening Day, and with those other teams, the Yankees needed to do better than Javier Vasquez and Curtis Granderson. Vasquez will disappoint again as he did during his first tour in New York (he's simply an N.L. pitcher) and Granderson has to fill the roles of three outfielders (Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera - also with no Xavier Nady returning). As for the rest of the team, well this year simply makes them one year older. The Sox will indeed have enough offense to back the best all around pitching staff in baseball. The Rays remain essentially the same, but will get more from Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton. The Orioles have good, but raw, young talent (this will be Adam Jones' coming out party), enough to leapfrog the Blue Jays out of last place, who will be the designated whipping-boy of the mighty A.L. East.
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detriot Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals
Traditionally a mediocre division, the Central is shapping up to be... well, mediocre, again . Last year, the Twins made a late run to win the division last season, and they have improved by adding players such as Orlando Hudson, and have enough to overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan. (This only means that the Twins will not have to wait to the last day of the season to win the division with only 85 wins.) The White Sox have gotten better, with a very strong rotation headed by Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy. But their success is not automatic, with Buerhle falling off after his perfect game, and Peavy struggling from injuries recently, and offensively, they will be forced to rely on busts (Alex Rios), aging veterans (Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones) and still developing youngsters (Gordon Beckam, Alexei Ramirez) to fill in around Carlos Quentin. Detriot remains a couple of starters away from the playoffs, while Cleveland and Kansas City will compete for "quickest A.L. team to 100 losses."
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Oakland Athletics
Possibly the most interesting and exciting division in baseball in 2010. The Mariners stand as one of the most improved teams in all of baseball, adding Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The Lee-Felix Hernandez 1-2 punch is one of the best in baseball. The Rangers also figure to be stronger, with ample pitching and an always impressive offense. But, perhaps most importantly for the Mariners and Rangers is what is absent from the Angels, long the dominant team in this division. They lost depth everywhere, but remain the same fundamental team of the small ball philosophy, which can always prove to be difficult to play against in September. They have a decent lineup, but no power outside of Kendry Morales, and Matsui and Joel Piniero were not the solutions to the holes in the lineup and rotation left by Figgins and John Lackey, and their bullpen also remains an issue. As for Oakland, not all is as bad as it seems. They have serious young pitching depth and a their first real base-stealer/leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson in Rajai Davis. They, like the Orioles, are definitely moving in the right direction, but luckily for the Athletics they play in sunny California in the now suddenly wide-open A.L. West, which could start to attract a free-agent bat or two.
A.L. Wild Card:
New York Yankees
Is there any chance that the Wild Card will come out of any division besides the A.L. East in the forseeable future? I really cannot envision a situation where that would come about. Although the Rangers and White Sox may be worthy of post-season play, there is no way that two teams from the Central or West will win more games than either the Sox, Yankees, or Rays. Whoever wins the East should do so with around 100 wins, where the second place team will likely have at least 95, and that is just too many games for anyone else to keep pace.
Red Sox vs. Twins
Mariners vs. Yankees
These teams matchup well with each other, but it comes down to the Red Sox and Yankees having more talent in the bottom half of their roster. The Twins do not have the depth in the rotation to hang with Boston, and the Yankees overpowering style of offense will lead to another ALCS rivalry.
Result: Red Sox, Yankees, both in 4
Red Sox vs. Yankees
The two best teams in the A.L. will feature two of the best rotations in baseball. The Yankees have the advantage on the offensive side, but the Red Sox have the pitching depth. The Yankees would likely have to use CC Sabathia twice in the ALDS, while the Sox can afford to only use their starters once, which means that the Beckett/Lackey/Lester order is preserved for this series. The Sox bullpen is also stronger, as is their bench.
Result: Red Sox in 6
N.L. previews coming soon.
Tags: Adam Jones, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Andruw Jones, B.J. Upton, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Carlos Quentin, Casey Kotchman, Chicago White Sox, Chone Figgins, Cleveland Indians, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers, Felix Hernandez, Gordon Beckham, Hideki Matsui, Jake Peavy, Javier Vasquez, Joe Nathan, Joel Piniero, John Lackey, Johnny Damon, Kansas City Royals, Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Buerhle, Melky Cabrera, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Opening Day, Orlando Hudson, Pat Burrell, Paul Konerko, Rajai Davis, Rickey Henderson, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Xavier Nady
Posted on: July 31, 2009 5:11 pm
The Boston Red Sox were one of the busier teams leading into today’s 4pm trading deadline.
The major deal was the Sox acquiring Cleveland Indians All-Star catcher Victor Martinez, and the minor deal was swapping first basemen to get Casey Kotchman from the Atlanta Braves.
Martinez is the biggest offensive pickup of the 2009 trading deadline. Martinez had a injury plagued 2008 season that lead to mediocre numbers, but he has picked it up again in 2009 and reestablished himself as one of the best offensive catchers in the game.
A switch-hitter, he gives the Sox excellent versatility in the line-up and on the field. While not official, it is expected that he will play predominantly at catcher and designated hitter. He is a better left-handed hitter, and that will allow the Sox to rotate Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek in the line-up against lefties.
The Sox gave up RHP Justin Masterson, who had been splitting the year in the bullpen and rotation, and minor league pitchers Nick Hadagone and Bryan Price.
Masterson was a solid cog of the Red Sox team, but often found himself as the odd man out. The Indians will probably utilize him as a starter, which is where most scouts see him headed, but the Sox were never in the position to give him a chance to develop in that respect.
Hadagone was the biggest chip the Sox gave up. A left-hander in class-A Greenville, Hadagone underwent Timmy John surgery and recently returned from the disabled list and was very impressive. Price is a right-handed pitcher also in Greenville.
The other trade, while it possesses less excitement, was much more peculiar. The Sox obtained Kotchman, traded as the major component of the deal that brought Mark Teixeira to the Angels, for recently acquired Adam LaRoche.
It is odd not because LaRoche only spent a few days with the Sox, or that the Sox traded him because of the surplus of first basemen the Sox possess after getting Martinez. It is strange that the Sox would trade him, an everyday player, for another left-handed first basemen used to playing everyday.
Terry Francona is going to have to do an incredible job of juggling the line-up to make sure everyone gets enough at-bats to be happy. Kevin Youkilis has to play everyday, an one would expect that Martinez is also going to be in the line-up everyday.
This means that somehow Francona has to rotate them so that Varitek, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz get playing time. Lowell’s time figures to be cut the most, as Youkilis will likely play most of him games at third base for the rest of the season.
Given Martinez’s poorer numbers against lefties, and Lowell and Varitek’s success, they will be playing against left-handers. But while Varitek has been described as a walking ice-pack and Lowell is coming off of hip surgery, they can’t be thrilled at the prospect of their playing time being reduced.
Kotchman has likely drawn the shortest straw. His playing time will be significantly reduced as virtually every other player in this rotation can play multiple positions, where Kotchman is relegated to first only.
Back up catcher George Kotteras will return to triple-A Pawtucket. He is the personal catcher for knuckle-baller Tim Wakefield, who is on the disabled list. He won’t be activated for a few weeks, at which time the Sox will have to decide who should catch him.
To replace Masterson, the Sox have several immediate choices to pick from. Southpaw Javier Lopez was optioned down at the beginning of the season because of terrible struggles, but he has turned his season down in the minors. The Pawtucket Red Sox’ closer Fernando Cabrera is mowing down hitters with an ERA under two while being perfect in save chances. Lefty Hunter Jones and righty Michael Bowden have already pitched out of the bullpen this season for the Sox, and they also have Japanese prospect Junichi Tazawa.
Until Wakefield comes back from the DL, one of those triple-A relievers figures to replace the gap in the bullpen.
Heading into tonight’s game against Baltimore, the Sox are a significantly upgraded team both offensively and defensively. The only problem will be getting a group of good players fair playing time, which any manager will tell you is a good problem to have.
Tags: Adam LaRoche, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Bryan Price, Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians, David Ortiz, Fernando Cabrera, George Kotteras, Greenville, Hunter Jones, Jason Varitek, Javier Lopez, Junichi Tazawa, Justin Masterson, Kevin Youkilis, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Teixeira, Michael Bowden, Mike Lowell, Nick Hadagone, Pawtucket Red Sox, Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield, Victor Martinez
Posted on: July 30, 2009 9:52 pm
The baseball world was already aware that Manny Ramirez was at least at one point in his career using performance-enhancing drugs thanks to his positive test at the beginning of this season.
The breaking news today came from a New York Times report that announced that fellow longtime Boston Red Sox David Ortiz was, along with Ramirez, on the list of 103 players that had tested positive for a banned substance during the 2003 season.
You shouldn’t be.
First, take into account the mathematical odds. There are 30 major league teams, each with a 25-man roster. That is 750 players. If we throw in even another five players per team that average significant enough time to be on the roster, that would give us roughly 900 players who were in the majors in 2003.
That means that one out of every nine players is on that list of being caught using PEDs, or about three per team. Some teams, no doubt, will have significantly more players on that list because of the environment in each clubhouse and the notable players that have already been identified as users: Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, San Fransisco Giants, Houston Astros, etc.
Throw the Boston Red Sox into that distinguished mix.
Second, and this is in no way to be interpreted as racially prejudicial or demeaning, there is clearly a seperate PEDs ring in the Dominican Republic. By that I mean that it seems that in the DR, it is much easier for individuals to obtain PEDs of varying nature.
Believe him or not, if anything that Alex Rodriguez said in his press conference addressing his usage was true, it was that he was a young kid who was able to get drugs that he had no idea what they were, except that it would make you stronger.
We have seen a trend that many of the top-level players who are caught using PEDs have a Dominican connection: Sammy Sosa, Miguel Tejada, Ramirez and now Ortiz, just to name a few.
Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, was that Ortiz was a castaway from the Minnesota Twins – a player deemed too big, too slow and too one dimensional to play in the majors. That expendable piece of the Twins organization went on to hit 41, 47, 54 (franchise record) for the Red Sox during the ’04-06 seasons.
At the time, we did see a large, very strong left-handed hitter that reminded us of Jim Thome every time the ball jumped off of Ortiz’s bat. He was 28 in 2004, the first year he hit 40+ home runs in a season, which is right in the middle of the prime of a hitter’s career.
While we thoroughly enjoyed Ortiz’s best years in Boston, and the two World Series titles that he and Ramirez helped the Sox win, this is by far the biggest moment of Ortiz’s career in Boston.
Bigger than walk-offs against the Angels and Yankees in the 2004 play off series; bigger than the Red Sox single season home run record; bigger than solidifying himself as one of the best clutch hitters and best designated hitters in the history of the game.
David Ortiz replaced Nomar Garciaparra as everyone’s favorite Red Sox player. He was always outgoing, gregarious and accepting of the media. Even through his recent struggles, Ortiz forced a smile on his face. No one outside of New York (and perhaps a few other teams still looking for ball that he has launched over their fences) had a bad thing to say about him.
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:56 pm
The Red Sox were once again unable to hold an early lead, and unable to push across runs late. Some thoughts on the game:
Josh Beckett had a better start than the line score would indicate. Simply, the Orioles did a much better job hitting. Beckett’s fastball was consistently down in the zone and at its usual 94-96 MPH range. His curveball was breaking sharply and his changeup was used sparingly but there did not seem to be much wrong with it. His delivery was fine, but the Orioles just out-hit him. It is very difficult for a lineup, especially a young lineup like theirs, to overcome a deficit against a great starting pitcher. The Sox went up but three runs in the first, and Beckett had retired the Orioles in order in the first inning, but they did not panic and were patient and were able to bang out some hits and put runs up early. Similarly, the game should not have been as close as it was. Jeremy Guthrie continues to be a nemesis of the Sox (everyone remembers the eight-plus shut-out inning performance last Mother’s Day), but the Orioles committed two errors behind him in the first inning which helped the Sox build a three run lead. The Sox should not be concerned by Beckett’s performance, because sometimes good just is not good enough.
The Red Sox are really suffering from injuries. Jacoby Ellsbury has been held out of the starting lineup for the past few games because of a knee injury, but he was forced to play in right field tonight when J.D. Drew had a nasty landing while attempting a sliding catch. Drew’s wrist completely rolled over, and the Sox reported that he the diagnosis was a sprained wrist. Coco Crisp had to leave the game later because of a stomach flu, and Brad Mills was forced to move Ellsbury over to center field and move Kevin Youkilis to right field. Youkilis was placed in the outfield because the Sox first string emergency outfielder, Julio Lugo, is still suffering from the effects of a slight concussion. Lugo was used in the outfield in 2006 with the Rays and with the Dodgers. Brandon Moss is still on the disabled list because of an appendectomy, so needless to say, the Sox are very thin all of the way around. If Drew has to go on the disabled list, and he may, considering the grim look that trainer Paul Lessard had when he first examined him, and given the fact that Drew is notorious for not playing through pain, then the Sox wil likely have to go to the minor leagues for outfield help, as they would only have one healthy outfielder in Manny Ramirez, and two questionable ones in Ellsbury and Crisp. To add to the swelling list of injured players, the likely replacement for any injured outfielder would be Bobby Kielty, but he was also just added to the disabled list. Moss is scheduled come off of the disabled list soon, so they could wait and hope nothing disastrous happens. Given the Sox long list of injuries and illnesses this season, it is a credit to their depth and overall team strength that they are still in first place.
The Sox offense is doing excellent this year, and their league-leading numbers are proof. However, the Sox are having difficulty of late hitting in pressure situations: late in the game, and with runners on base. The Sox opened the year with timely hitting and created an aura that they felt like they were never out of a game, and that confidence from the offense was carrying over into the other aspects of the team. Of late thought, it has been a different story. The Sox are not having the same explosiveness once the late innings come around. The difference between the Sox and the Orioles tonight was the Orioles’ ability to hit with runners on base and in scoring position. A microcosm of the Sox recent struggles occurred when Ramirez came up to bat with the bases loaded and nobody out. Ramirez had a long battle at the plate, before grounding weakly to the pitcher, who was able to start the 1-2-3 double play. When Mike Lowell stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third and two out, he lifted a soft fly ball to the left fielder. The Sox managed a run late in the seventh, but the game tonight was eerily similar to the night before in against the Twins. In both nights, the Sox were able to put up some numbers early in the first inning, but were not able to salvage a mediocre start.
Look for this recap following tomorrow’s series finale against the Orioles. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Posted on: May 10, 2008 12:06 am
The Red Sox had rallied back only to suffer their second ninth inning walk off defeat in three days. Some thoughts on the game:
Jon Lester had a decent start, going five plus while yielding five runs, three earned, and only walking one. He threw an astonishing 57 pitches through the first two innings, and needed only 41 to record the next ten outs. Lester’s struggles have been oddly inconsistent this year. Last year, we saw a pitcher, much like Daisuke Matsuzaka, look great over the first three innings, and then completely fall apart when the hitters came around again. However, when Lester has struggled this year, some games he will have trouble in the first few innings, and others will be more like last year. It may seem troublesome, but the fact that he is not having the same problem hurt him on every start shows some level of improvement. However, he still has not figured out how to retire hitters effectively. He has taken good steps to attack hitters and force them into pitchers’ counts, and has limited the walks, but he has not developed enough confidence in his pitches to attack them with two strikes. Opposing hitters are staying around too long and running the count up. Lester’s bane will continue to be his ineffectiveness with his pitches until he can decide what his “out” pitch, or pitches, are and until then, we will be tantalized by the starts where he does seem to put the whole package together.
No Red Sox fans are allowed to panic because of Jonathan Papelbon’s two blown saves in the past three days. All great closers have one or two weeks during the season where they seem to have lost it (it happens regularly to Mariano Rivera around mid-August), but he will regain his form. One thing that can be cause for alarm is that because the Sox have had few blowout wins this season, and most of their 23 wins have come on the strength of out-bashing the other team or out-finessing the other team with great starting pitching, there have been a lot of save opportunities. After seeing Papelbon falter at the end of the 2006 season, the Sox made it one of their priorities to make sure he was healthy at the end of the 2007 season. Theo Epstein stressed that Papelbon would rarely be used on more than two consecutive days and will always have a day off after throwing more than one inning, or when he has a pitch count that reflects that he had to labor (usually upwards of 20-25). This season, he has appeared in 17 of the Sox 38 games: exactly half. He pitched in 59 games in both of his first two seasons as closer, and it is ludicrous to think that he would continue pitching at this rate because at this pace, he would finish the year with 81 appearances. However, it may be that he is working a bit too much. He has simply been called on more because of the tightness of the games this year and the struggles by much of the other relievers. Look for Terry Francona to ease off Papelbon a bit, and maybe give him the next two games off, so that he can rest his arm and get what little, if any, confidence he has lost.
Sean Casey and Alex Cora both were scheduled to play in their last rehab game with Pawtucket tonight, and come off of the disabled list this weekend. But due to bad weather on the east coast, the game was canceled. Since this series with the Twins goes for four games and wraps up on Monday, the Sox could decide to get them in another game this weekend in Pawtucket, and fly them out to Minnesota to arrive on Sunday, or wait and have them meet up with the Sox when they travel to Baltimore on Tuesday for a two game series. The weather does not look like it will improve Saturday, but it is unlikely that the Sox will bring both of them to Minnesota after such a short rehab. When they do return, Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie will almost certainly be sent back to triple-A.
Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game against the Twins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Posted on: April 17, 2008 10:54 pm
The Sox managed a split of the two game series against the Yankees, getting excellent starting pitching and some explosive home runs. Some thoughts on the game:
The Sox could not get their ace on the mound soon enough on this road trip, and Josh Beckett did exactly what a stopper should do. After missing a good portion of spring training, Beckett is now, for the first time, at full strength. His fastball was consistently overpowering the Yankee hitters for most of the night. He had on rough inning in the fifth, where he gave up all of the runs that the Yankees would score off of him. Beckett threw a lot of fastballs, only mixing in occasional curve-balls, and fewer change-ups, and got most of the Yankees out on the fastball. But it was not Beckett’s effective start that the Sox will ultimately benefit most out of. He went eight innings, and gave the bullpen a much needed day of rest after being worked extensively for the past few days. Beckett did today what he did all of last season which is show that he is one of the top five pitchers in the game and can effects the fortunes of an entire team, and by giving the bullpen the night off, he helps the team for tomorrow’s game, as everyone will be available.
Strange though it may seem to other teams based on the way that they pitch to him, but Manny Ramirez is an excellent hitter who is absolutely locked in at the early point in the year. Mike Mussina, no where near the pitcher he once was with the Orioles, gave him two 87 MPH fastballs on the inner half of the plate, and Ramirez crushed them into what must have totaled nearly 1,000 feet of home runs. Ramirez hit a home run and a two run double off of Mussina during the series this past weekend, and he is now leading the majors in home runs and RBIs. Ramirez, who is surprising loquacious and cheerful with two options for $40 million looming at the end of this year, has not had a hot start to the season in recent years. Ramirez typically heats up with the weather, and really starts to hit his stride by the end of May and on into June. He had a quote the other day when asked about David Ortiz’s struggles, and he said that it was early in the season, and Ortiz would come around, but until then, Ramirez would do all of the hitting for him. Ramirez was my preseason pick to win the A.L. MVP.
The excuse first circulated last year when the Sox acquired Eric Gagne, a life-time closer, who was highly ineffective as a set-up man. Some were saying that as a closer, so much of the success comes as a result of the adrenaline and how pumped up a pitcher gets when he has to come in and save the game. Tonight, Jonathan Papelbon entered the game with a four run lead, so a non-save situation, and gave up the first run that he has ever given up in his career in April, and then promptly gives up a solo home run to Melky Cabrera. While it seems unlikely that closers cannot pitch effectively with the lead unless they enter in a save situation, even the best do not seem to have the same intensity when they come in in a non-save situation. But, when the lead was cut to two, Papelbon looked as if he took his intensity to the next level and struck out Hideki Matsui for the final. Also, Papelbon struck out two in the ninth, which now gives him a staggering 16 strikeouts on the season in eight innings. His 16 K’s ranks sixth in the A.L.
Kyle Farnsworth took out the Yankees frustration against Ramirez when he came up in third at-bat by throwing a pitch behind the head of Ramirez. Intentionally throwing at a batter is obviously an extremely gray area, but there are few things more grizzly than seeing an already errant thrower leave a pitch anywhere near a team’s best hitter. Ramirez was inches from taking a 95 MPH heater off of the back of his head. Both benched were warned, but, and this has nothing to do with Red Sox and Yankees, if a pitcher makes that blatant of an attempt, with the first pitch he threw in the game, to hit a batter, Farnsworth has to be ejected. That way, the issue of retaliation is eliminated for the Sox, because Farnsworth, and possible Joe Girardi, are ejected and Beckett does not have to worry about facing a suspension if he decides to hit a member of the Yankees.