Tag:Boston Red Sox
Posted on: June 15, 2011 8:01 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 12:02 am
 

Love Letters: The Asinine Edition

As I periodically do, a reminder: The term "Love Letters" is simply a tribute to a column in one of the newspapers I read as a young boy in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press. So if you're looking for something steamier, well, go to your local Congressman's office or something. ...

FROM: Karl T.
Re: Weekend Buzz: Gonzalez, Fielder, Kemp packing heat

Asinine ... what a magnificent word!

And it can be used for sooo many occasions.

FROM: Jeff A.

I'm shocked that you didn't mention Jose Reyes. He may be the best player in baseball at this time. Give the man his props. He is doing more than any of the guys you mentioned. Those guys don't glove as well as he does. The man has what, 33 multiple hit games. Other ball players are awed by him.

But Mets owner Fred Wilpon says it's asinine (or something to that effect) for him to expect Carl Crawford money, so how good can he be?

FROM: Rich B.

Scott,

As a Red Sox fan, I was torn when they made the Adrian Gonzalez trade. I mean, I knew we were getting a great power hitter, but I had my reservations about the trade for two reasons: 1. I didn't want to give up Casey Kelly, and, 2. I didn't like that the Sox were blocking Lars Anderson's path to the majors. So ... now I'm not sure if I was right for the wrong reasons, or what!

Listen, Anthony Rizzo is going to be a good player. But few are ever going to be Adrian Gonzalez. So stop beating yourself up and put your mind to use on the next big dilemma of our time: Five Guys Burgers and Fries or In-N-Out?

FROM: David R.
Re. Weekend Buzz: Indians' losses are rival Tigers gain

Scott,

Should we really be all that surprised about the Indians collapse? Let's be honest, they were a nice feel-good story to start the year, but now their lack of talent is finally catching up. There is no one in the rotation that is any more than a 3 starter, Shin-Soo Choo isn't hitting, Travis Hafner is hurt, and outside of Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana, I don't see much else talent-wise. The Indians have been overachieving all season.

But here's the thing: Choo should be hitting far better, and Carmona at times looks like a top-of-the-rotation starter. That said, the overachieving looks like ancient history.

FROM: Jason
Re.: Arsenal of young studs has Royals set for serious rise

This sounds all good and I do agree but ... what about their true natural hitter, Clint Robinson? Why is he overlooked? His numbers are sick, and I believe he is their best hitter -- he has batted over .300s consistently. I would like to know where he fits in, as he is the oldest, I believe.

You're right, the guy is unbelievable. He's hitting .372 in June alone at Triple-A Omaha. But he's a first baseman and Hosmer is at first. The Royals have too many good young players, and when was the last time you heard that?

FROM: Jason
Re.: Griffey Sr. taking long road back to bigs

I liked your article on Ken Griffey Sr. I'd like to see him get his chance to manage in MLB, but not sure if he will ever get the chance.

I don't think so, not being that he's already 61. He's still got fire, though: I heard a rumor that he was recently suspended for three games for bumping an umpire during an argument.

FROM: Mike B.

Scott,

I'm sure I'm not the only one to point this out to you, but just in case -- you do know that greater Bakersfield has a population of over 600,000 people, don't you? The only thing bush league about Bakersfield is Sam Lynn Ballpark. And the only thing preventing a new ball park is that little thing called the economy. To be honest, I haven't seen a tumbleweed around here for years.

I'll tell you this: There's nothing bush league about the Moo Creamery. That place can bring it. The Toasted Almond ice cream is incredible.

FROM: Barry W.
Re.: Killebrew was no killer, except when it came to slugging

Nicely done. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a cocktail party where Mr. Killebrew was as well. I spoke with him for a few minutes and he couldn't have been nicer and seemed just so happy to be there. Later, as we all grabbed some dinner, he walked over with his tray and stood at our table and asked if we minded him sitting in the empty chair at our table. Can you imagine that? He joined us that night, casually, and I peppered him with questions about who was the toughest pitcher on him, etc. We had more than a few laughs. And then, at the end of the night, a friend of mine and I were walking down the path towards the exit, when suddenly I felt someone literally jump on my back. It was Mr. Killebrew. Walking between me and my friend, he throw his arms over our shoulders and with a giant smile said, 'Where are we going now?!'

Also attending that dinner was Steve Carlton, and I just remember thinking what a huge difference there was between the two men not only in attitude but just the ability to be themselves around other people. I can tell you that it is a story I tell over and over, and it is one of my nicer memories. Our time here is short and the majority of us do not leave much behind, but a form of immortality can be living forever in someone else's stories and memories. Hopefully I am able to do justice to his memory each and every time I do tell that story. I can tell you that each and every time I tell the story, I do so with a genuine smile on my face. Thanks for the column.

That is a fabulous story. And thanks for telling it now.

FROM: Jay D.

I remember meeting Mr. Killebrew as a youngster before a Cleveland Indians' game, and even though I wore the hat of the opposing team, he was SO nice, SO gracious! I have tried to keep the exactly same smile and the exact same attitude toward kids that he did. He may have been small, but, the sporting world lost a true GIANT.

With sadness,
Jay D.
NE Ohio

FROM: Brian

"Listed at 6-feet, 190 pounds, until cancer slipped a final fastball by him Tuesday. ..." Really? A man loses his life to cancer, and you're making baseball metaphors? I typically enjoy your columns but this line is unprofessional, disrespectful and a literary stretch I'd more likely expect to find in a high school publication.

The man spent his entire life playing baseball, involved in baseball, and is a Hall of Famer. What should I be doing, making roller derby metaphors?

FROM: Bill H.

Scott,

Great piece on one of my first baseball heroes. I watched him play for the old Senators and blossom into a tremendous slugger. Even when the Nats became the Twins and I couldn't stand them, I still rooted for Killebrew and followed his career closely. This is a genuinely sad day for baseball, one many modern fans may not understand.

Our responsibility is to help make them understand, my friend. Thanks.

Likes: Praise be for day baseball, the MLB Extra Innings television package and XM/Sirius radio broadcasting all those days. Because when I landed flat on my back, ill, Wednesday, with a fairly significant fever for the first frickin' time in 11 years, it sure was nice to have baseball on the telly. ... Pittsburgh -- the Pirates! -- at .500 on Wednesday, the latest point in the season they have not had a losing record since 1999. ... Midnight in Paris, the new Woody Allen movie. Not great, but entertaining. ... The slice of "royal wedding cake" I had in Kansas City last week in the hotel restaurant. There was some celebration going on downtown honoring the late Princess Diana and, in relation to that, the pastry chef at the hotel "recreated" the actual cake served at Diana and Charles' wedding back in 1984. It was sort of like carrot cake -- had that consistency -- only it was cinnamon-y. And the frosting was thick as bathtub caulk. It was delicious -- and the most expensive darned piece of cake I think I've eaten in my life ($8.75 a slice!).

Dislikes: Clarence Clemons, stroke victim. Many prayers for Bruce Springsteen's Big Man, who is fighting the battle of his life. Here's to the man who brought so much joy, soul and music to so many others.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When the change was made uptown
"And the Big Man joined the band
"From the coastline to the city
"All the little pretties raise their hands
"I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh
"When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half
"With a Tenth Avenue freeze-out"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Tenth Ave. Freeze-Out



Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 5:39 pm
 

Love Letters: The Boston Stinks (or Not) edition

I picked the Red Sox to win the World Series this year. They started 2-10, so a bunch of folks flooded me with notes. So now, with the Red Sox having won five of their past six and charging toward .500 (10-12) I'm sharing those notes (along with some reaction to other things). As for Boston, how about now we just see what the rest of the season brings?

From: Jeff P.

Scott you're high. The Red Sox won't even make playoffs.

Not high. It's Mountain Dew.

From: Shawn

Your Red Sox pick isn't looking very good.

Great thing about Boston is, so far nobody's noticed I picked the White Sox to win the AL Central, too.

From: Voodoo

BoSox worst team in baseball at 2-9.

They've gone 8-3 since then, and I noticed I haven't heard from you.

From: Rebecca

If the Yankees are the best second-place team $200 million can buy, then it follows that the Red Sox are the best last-place team that 160 million can buy!

It followed for about a week. So you've got that going for you.

From: Jeff

Really ... you think predicting Doc Halladay as a Cy Young winner [last year] was impressive? Come on ... and Boston? Lots of hype, but no pitching help.

Matter of fact, I think picking both Halladay and Felix Hernandez for the Cy awards in pre-season last year, and correctly picking Zack Greinke as the AL Cy winner coming out of spring training in 2009, is darned impressive. Yes.

From: Chuck

Season predictions: BoSox will grab most trophies, including W.S. Heh, heh, heh.

I hope all you folks taking the time to needle check back with me six months from now.

From: Amie T.
Re. These Virginia sluggers miss more than they connect

Come on, Scott! What was it a slow news day or something? If you compare the amount of talent in all college and professional sports that come out of the Tidewater area, my hometown, and compare it to a few MLB guys who strike out a lot -- the strikeouts are but a small drop in the bucket. Have you ever spent a spring weekend observing at any organized Little League baseball park in Hampton Roads? What you would see is dedication and love of the sport. We are a hard-working, military and industrial community -- very blue collar -- and we deserve better than this. I have always enjoyed reading your articles, but I take GREAT exception to this! You can do better.

Loosen up, Amie. The column was written in good fun, and it's clear that Michael Cuddyer, David Wright, Justin Upton and the rest enjoy teasing each other. They're class acts and you're lucky to have them.

From: Mike C.

As a point of interest, the Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge played for U of Virginia Commonwealth. I enjoy your columns.

Yes he did, and thanks for bringing him into the conversation, Mike. But he's not nearly as adept at whiffing as the others!

From: Bill H.
Re. Baseball the best medicine for Padres coaches battling cancer

Scott,

Great story on the Padres coaches. The kind of behind-the-scenes piece you do really well. I enjoyed your spring training reports, as always.

Thanks, Bill. And the best part is that bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds learned the other day that the tumor on his pancreas has continued to shrink, so hopefully he'll be a candidate for surgery soon.

From: Joe W.
Re.: Oblique injury is in, so beward of the sneeze

Acid wash to skinny (jeans)? Even your 80-year-old community college prof would have picked up on your lack of concern for details. Don't rush the color, Scott.

Must admit, I've never been scolded before over the subject of blue jeans. But I feel lucky to have a job where that sort of thing can come up.

From: Jim B.
Re.: For a team with no expectations, Indians are making headway

Hey Scott,

Pitching and defense win games. The Tribe has had great pitching and defense this year. Signs are that Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson will take their excellence deep into the season. Expect Carlos Carrasco to be good all year, too. The injury bug is always an issue for pitchers, and it will likely bite them this year, too. Being a young staff does suggest less risk. With David Huff waiting in the wings, they have a high-quality backup ready to enter center stage. Over the long season, depth becomes important. After passing the quality arm test, the starting rotation will have to pass the endurance test before they can be considered top-notch.

True. But, at least, so far, so good.

From: Matt B.

Mr. Miller,

Indians fan here, getting the MLB package on cable. Trouble is, I can't watch my team when they play the O's or the Nat's because somehow Cary, NC -- near Raleigh -- is in the viewing market for D.C./Baltimore. We are approximately 300 miles from the D.C. area, or 73.12 hours if you drive it. Plus, there are no cable stations in my area that show either Nats or O's games. Does MLB care about its fans?

I think the answer is yes, but you sure couldn't tell it by the blackout areas on the Extra Innings package. That's long been controversial and so much of it seems to make no sense. I'm pretty sure that the blackout areas and TV areas were drawn up for MLB by untrained monkeys. I'll pass along your complaint.

Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Short Hops

Some quick mid-week notes:

-- Brandon Belt, who will be back and will be productive one day, made Wednesday's decision easy on the Giants by hitting just .192 with a .300 on-base percentage and .269 slugging percentage. It was a given since opening day that somebody would be the odd Giant out when Cody Ross (calf) was healthy. Belt's ongoing struggles combined with a weak defense with Aubrey Huff in right and Pat Burrell in left made it a no-brainer. The lesson in Belt's demotion to Triple-A Fresno (on his 22nd birthday, no less!): It's just not that easy. Not a new lesson, just one that needs reiterating from time to time. When Belt hit .282 with three homers and 13 RBI in 71 spring at-bats, Giants fans had visions of Buster Posey II. But Posey, who punched the accelerator as soon as he arrived last May, was the rare exception. Belt leaves with just one homer in 17 games (60 plate appearances).

-- What are the odds of the 8-8 Cubs splitting today's doubleheader with the Padres? So far this season, the Cubs have been 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8. Even I can do that math.

-- And they don't even get paid overtime: Kansas City has gone extra innings in five of its first 16 games. At that pace, the Royals would play 48 extra-inning games this season. The major-league record is 31, held by the 1943 Boston Red Sox.

-- Into Wednesday's series finale in Oakland, the powerful Red Sox remained historically impotent: 0-7 on the road, their worst-ever road beginning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, surpassing 0-6 in 1927. It's not historically bad by major-league standards, however: The Nationals started 0-8 away from home just two seasons ago.

-- The Padres were confident that they had a better-balanced lineup even without Adrian Gonzalez's bat, but they were shut out in four of their first 16 games. At that pace, San Diego will be blanked 41 times this season. Yes, that would be a record. The current NL mark for being shut out in a season is 33, held by the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals. The AL mark is 30, owned by the 1906 Washington Senators.

-- Yes, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp is off to a sensational start, leading the NL with a .438 batting average and ranking second with a .514 on-base percentage. But before declaring that he's turned it around from a disappointing 2010, let's let things play out another couple of months. Kemp ALWAYS plays well in April: Coming into this season, his career April numbers were a .312 batting average, .362 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage -- his highest numbers of any single month all season.

-- That said, my favorite Kemp moment so far this season occurred in the second game against the Giants. At first base and running on the pitch, Kemp read a ground ball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval perfectly. Not hesitating, he blew around second base as Sandoval was throwing to first and easily made it to third. It was a great play that involved athleticism, talent, instincts and smarts. When Kemp is on like that, he's as electric as anuybody.

-- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips not only is a big fan of shortstop Paul Janish, but also of Janish's family. Phillips says Janish's mother is a mean cook.

Likes: The Farrelly brothers are moving along with plans to bring The Three Stooges to the silver screen, bringing in Sean Hayes of Will & Grace to play Larry. Better news would have been coaxing Sean Penn to change his mind on Moe, but, alas, no such luck. Curly is Will Sasso of MADtv. But with filming supposedly set to begin in Atlanta soon, still no Moe. Speculation: Hank Azaria, who voices in The Simpsons.

Dislikes: Rented Wild Hogs the other night. A couple of pretty funny moments but, overall, not so good. Strong cast, though: William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei, John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence.

 Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"As I walk on
"Through troubled times
"My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
"So where are the strong
"And who are the trusted?
"And where is the harmony?
"Sweet harmony.
"'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away
"It just makes me wanna cry
"What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?"

-- Nick Lowe, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

 

Posted on: April 11, 2011 11:45 pm
Edited on: April 11, 2011 11:49 pm
 

Love Letters: The Manny Being Juiced Edition

I beat Manny Ramirez like a piñata after the coward retired and disappeared before he could be slapped with a 100-game suspension for violating another performance-enhancing drug test. Now it's your turn. ...

FROM: Court
Re. In final stunning act, Manny is uncovered

Scott,

Thank you again for another slam dunk, take-no-prisoners column on another complete fraud of a baseball player and human being. I remember years ago writing to you about the demise of Barry Bonds' show Bonds on Bonds and getting a very kind and personal e-mail back. You have never been a moral relativist with this issue, or an apologizer for these guys, which I respect enormously.

Look, as fans of sports I take the Charles Barkley approach ... these men and women are human beings and bound to be riddled with faults and insecurities and I expect them to screw up in life every once in awhile. If my life were laid bare for all to see, it wouldn't be pretty. I suspect it wouldn't be pretty for anybody. But these guys are frauds, liars, cheats, ad infinitum.

There is a difference between a grown man who can say, "I screwed up, I'm human, I expect the outrage. But I will do my best to come back and make it right, and I might screw up again, and I'll take what's coming. And I'll treat human beings as equals, everyone."

And then there's Barry Bonds. And Manny Ramirez, and Roger Clemens, universally regarded asses. And that's that. I just wish these guys would all go away, away, away. We all know there will be a jury nullification on the Bonds trial, but I don't care. Just go away. You are a piece of human garbage and now that you've lost about 50 pounds, Barry, you don't look so tough anymore, do you? Again, you stand with dignity and class, Scott. Always enjoy your columns.

Thanks for the kudos, but take no prisoners? Your take on these guys makes me look like Mister Rogers. Nicely done.

FROM: Greg P.

So everything was right with Manny -- and baseball, I guess -- when my Indians were losing him, Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez and more. So now it's time to be indignant? Yeah, but not for the reasons a big market shill like yourself believes.

Careful, there: If your Indians keep winning, I'm writing about them next.

FROM: Barry W.

All well and good, but the one question that keeps nagging at me is why no one has bothered to out the Red Sox teams Manny played for, including their two championship years. Also, I hear Curt Schilling blather on and on and point fingers at everyone around him ... except his own teammates. How about someone asking him, as he enters the room on his high horse yet again, how he missed guys shooting up around him in his own locker room? Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar, David Ortiz, and Manny ... it's starting to get crowded in here.

Schilling also was very vocal about how many players were using steroids until he was called to testify before Congress. Then he wilted like an overripe banana.

FROM: John D.

Please ... Manny Ramirez is like a Frankenstein monster that didn't know his boundaries. Several organizations -- Boston, too, Miller -- put his ability to hit a baseball above everything else, like acting a fool in several facets of the game that fell under the auspice of Manny being Manny. He probably just figured he could continue to get away with the stuff he did in the past if he could start hitting, again. Speaking of, if anybody doesn't think he was taking while playing for the Red Sox, I've got a bridge in Manhatten I'd like to sell them.

And I'll help you with the paperwork. I think it's clear he was juiced in Boston, and I didn't mean to insinuate otherwise.

FROM: David K.

So does this mean the Mitchell Report is just a piece of fiction? George Mitchell, an exec with the Red Sox, said no Sox were involved. I recall laughing heartily when I learned of the above and was quite astonished that the report was accepted as absolute truth by all on planet earth.

Doesn't mean Mitchell Report is fiction, just grossly incomplete. Though I'm not at all sure everyone on "planet earth" took it as gospel. I know some monkeys who didn't.

FROM: Jack S.

Typical reporter, kicking someone while he's down. I still don't think the performance enhancers can help you hit the ball or there would be a lot more guys hitting 50 home runs in the '80s and '90s. Manny is one of the best pure hitters to play the game -- performance-enhancers or not. Love the time he spent in Boston, thankfully we knew when to get off the roller-coaster. Should show a little respect for Him.

You mean, like Manny has respected the game? Like Manny respected the Rays ... before quitting on them? Like Manny respected the Dodgers ... before quitting on them? Like Manny respected the Red Sox ... before quitting on them? What game are you watching?

FROM: Michael S.

I just wish that one of these bums would have to pay back some of the millions of dollars they got signing contracts that were based on results that were tainted because of steroid use. I know that will never happen, but it should because it's fraud.

I'd pay to see it.

FROM: Stewart D.

Your column hit the Manny nail on the head. Agreed, good riddance.

Now if someone could just hit Manny on the head.

 

Posted on: February 20, 2011 6:43 pm
 

Verlander wants to be Mr. April

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander is a three-time All-Star, has logged 200-plus innings for four consecutive seasons, has won 37 decisions over the past two and owns a career 3.81 ERA.

So what to work on in spring training?

April.

"I'm a little more focused on some things I need to come out of the gate strong," Verlander was saying the other day in Lakeland.

Last April, Verlander went 1-2 with a 5.53 ERA over five starts.

Put those aside, and the Pride of Old Dominion University was 17-7 with a 3.07 ERA the rest of the way beginning on May 1.

It's been a disturbing pattern: Over the past three Aprils combined, Verlander is 3-8 with a 6.28 ERA over 16 starts.

That's why Verlander this spring is keeping a list of five bullet-point items in his locker.

"Every day I'll look at that list," he says. "They're just some things I worked on in April when things weren't going right. Things that helped me get to my May and June form."

In a way, Verlander is concentrating on his own Daylight Savings Time program.

"Trying to set the clock forward a month," he says, grinning. "To May."

He was not specific in what those bullet points are.

But he is specific when he's on the field.

"I don't just work on those things when I'm throwing in the bullpen," Verlander says. "I'm working on them at other times, too. Like even when I'm playing catch every day."

As they say, spring forward ... and try to avoid falling back.

Sunblock Day? Only another suitable-for-framing 85-degree day with no humidity.

Likes: Love Josh Beckett wondering if Boston can win 100 games and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins is predicting 100 wins for the Phillies. We'll see. ... The gulf at Punta Gorda off of I-75 is a beautiful sight on a sparkling, sunny day. ... Things are going much better on the drives since I picked up an iPod plug-in for the rental car's auxiliary jack instead of relying on the cigarette lighter cable that tunes to a particular radio frequency. Crystal clear music for the drives now, instead of intermittent static.

Dislikes: So at 7 Sunday morning, I'm in Circle K getting coffee (OK, there's the first problem). I head to the men's room. It's locked. The gal behind the Circle K counter sees this and instructs me, "Use the other one." Really? The ladies' room? "Nobody's in it," the gal says. At this point, it sounds like the men's room is out of order. So still in an early-morning haze, I open the ladies' room door and take a step in. And there's a lady sitting there on the toilet, pants at her ankles, and she immediately throws up her hands and lets out a scream. Rightfully so. The Circle K woman apologizes profusely. I get my coffee, pay and get the hell out of there as quickly as I can before the lady emerges from the restroom.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It was 1990 give or take I don't remember
"When the news of revolution hit the air
"The girls hadn't even started taking down our posters
"When the boys started cutting off they're hair
"The radio stations all decided angst was finally old enough
"It ought to have a proper home
"Dead, fat or rich, nobody’s left to bitch
"About the goings on in self destructive zones"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Self-Destructive Zones

Posted on: February 19, 2011 7:56 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Outtakes from the Red Sox camp, and a reminder to look beneath the gaudy exterior of Boston's winter:

-- While Boston's additions of marquee men Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez got all the attention, it would be a colossal mistake to underestimate the additions of relievers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to the Red Sox's power brigade.

"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost way too many games, or the chance to win games, late," manager Terry Francona says.

No kidding.

For one thing, closer Jonathan Papelbon, eligible for free agency this winter, had his worst season in 2010, posting a 3.90 ERA and blowing seven saves.

For another, partly because of Papelbon's blowups, the Sox ranked 14th among AL bullpens with a 4.24 bullpen ERA. Furthermore, Boston as a team ranked 23rd in the majors in allowing an average of 4.60 runs per game.

Wheeler and Jenks maybe are under the radar to the average fan, but you'd better believe they're not around here.

"There are a lot of ways a good team can get off track and get derailed," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein told me during a weekend conversation on one of the Boston practice fields. "There is no way that's as painful as having a bad bullpen, or running out of quality guys out there."

To that extent, Epstein said, the Sox really wanted to focus on bullpen depth this winter -- and not just the first seven or eight guys, but nine and 10 deep.

"Jenks, we all assumed, was going to get a closer gig," Epstein said. "Everyone in the game thought he was going to be non-tendered, but he actually turned down a couple of closer roles to come here, which we all appreciate."

Working behind Papelbon and set-up man Daniel Bard, and alongside Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Matt Albers and others, mark it down: Jenks and Wheeler will be pivotal weapons for Francona this summer.

"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost too many games, or the chance to win games, late," the manager said. "We felt like we were going to Bard too much, or wanting to go to Bard too much. I don't think we did. But we lost games late, and then there were games that were close where we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win like good teams should.

"I think we feel like we have some reinforcements. We're a little bit deeper, and that's the hope. Because last year was difficult."

-- Jenks declined to say which clubs he turned down this winter, simply saying the chance to sign not only in Boston, but with a fully loaded Red Sox team, was too good to turn down.

"It's a great organization and somewhere I wanted to play," Jenks said. "I didn't think it would be this soon. But once the opportunity came around, I jumped on it.

"It didn't hurt that they had made all of these moves, too."

The Sox traded for Gonzalez on Dec. 5, signed Crawford on Dec. 13 and signed Jenks on Dec. 21, three days after they signed Wheeler.

After closing for the White Sox for his entire career, Jenks signed specifically to be a set-up man. But you know how things work -- if Papelbon struggles like last summer, Francona has options.

Especially if Jenks feels as good as he does right now. Struck by elbow inflammation last season, Jenks says it's a thing of the past, and various X-rays and MRIs seem to support him.

Jenks is 29, posted a career-high 4.44 ERA last year but has 173 career saves over six seasons. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract with Boston.

"I came here knowing my role," he says. "It's an eighth-inning, seventh-inning thing, a set-up role. I feel very good. Terrific. Nothing from last year is bothering me."

-- Francona on the bullpen: "We've had pretty good teams here, and I think those things have a way of evolving. ... I do know the teams that we've had here that have been really good, our bullpens have always been good. It's hard to have a really good team and not
 
Sunblock Day? Oh baby, this spring is to last spring in Florida as a day on the beach in Hawaii is to an Alaskan winter. Well, maybe that's hyperbole. But it was 85 degrees in Fort Myers today and it's been a drop-dead beautiful week. Think my neck is burnt. Need more sunblock.

Likes: The optimism of early spring in every camp. ... Lakeland. Passed through there the other day and it's like a town caught in the 1970s. Love the marquee outside the Southside Cleaners that without fail, every year, keeps cheesy sayings on its marquee. On one side this year, it read: "To err is human, to purr is feline." On the other side: "Synonym: A word you use when you can't spell the other word." ... Then, the marquee at the church down the street checked in with "A daily prayer reduces your cares." ... The gumbo and crawfish etouffee remain superb at Harry's Seafood Bar and Grill in Lakeland. ... Dairy Queen. ... Buddy Guy's performance with the Rolling Stones on Champagne and Reefer is reason alone to Netflix Shine a Light. Knockout stuff.

Dislikes: New year, new batting practice and spring training jerseys. Every chance to try and soak more money out of the fans. Detroit's are navy blue with white shoulders. What the hell? Looks awful. Cincinati's have a ridiculously large "Reds" scripted across the front. Loved Brandon Phillips' tweet in reply to a fan who asked what he thought of them: "It's NOT my cup of tea, but I'm happy to have one, though."

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well, the plane touched down just about 3 o'clock
"And the city's still on my mind
"Bikinis and palm trees danced in my head
"I was still in the baggage line
"Concrete and cars are their own prison bars like this life I'm living in
"But the plane brought me farther
"I'm surrounded by water
"And I'm not going back again"

-- Zac Brown Band, Toes

Posted on: February 8, 2011 2:43 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2011 2:44 pm
 

Love Letters: The Spring is Almost Here edition

Last mail call before spring training. Now, doesn't THAT sound nice? ...

FROM: Bert L.
Re.: Red Sox, Brewers, Phillies reign over winter carnival

Your column with trades and teams making them was an absolute riot. Very funny and very factual. Being in South Florida, I loved the Hanley Ramirez bit about hustling and the A.J. Burnett bit about salt and snow trucks. Thanks for the well written and well thought out entertainment.

May need some sand to dump on Burnett as well as salt to make sure he's good and thawed for spring camp and beyond.

FROM: Alan

You'd really put A-1 on filet mignon? You're about as smart as a bag of hair.

Depends on who's cooking the filet mignon. If I'm grilling it, no need for A-1.

FROM: Alex B.
Re.: Contrite Joyce seeks new beginning after haunted winter

Mr. Joyce is an inspiration to me. He has taken the wave of anger head on, stoically endured it, preserving what I believe is the most beautiful thing about baseball: That it is about the controlling of chance, and ultimately about the human element of judgment. I may be alone in this, but I believe what happened in that game is the best argument against replay-officiating in baseball. The controversy of judgment and the finality of the moment has been the spice of our nation pastime since its beginnings. But honestly, I had stopped thinking about that game, and I assumed everyone else did too. I hope that's the case soon, but I will remain his fan. Thanks for writing the piece.

I think he made a lot of fans and, as I wrote, he put a human face on the umpiring profession. And some of those guys really need it.

FROM: Kurt K.

Hi Scott,

Very well written article on Joyce. It was really interesting to see what he has been up to recently. What a class act Joyce is. I am sorry that it had to happen to Armando Galarraga but I am actually glad it did happen. It just shows what true sportsmanship is all about and why baseball is so much classier than all other professional sports.

Another thing: When baseball sells seats to a World Series, the seats are actually there for the ticketholders.

FROM: John B.
Re.: Rangers can't let demand get old before dealing Young

How about this for a deal? Michael Young to the Mets for Carlos Beltran. Works for both teams, fills needs and clears problems. Could work!!!

I like your thinking but here's why it won't work: The Mets are not on Young's list of eight clubs to whom he will accept a trade. I don't see Young being interested in playing for the Mets. And Beltran has a full no-trade clause.

FROM: Frank D
Re.: Needing youth, quickness, Angels instead opt for Wells

Love your passion, but I think too many are underselling Vernon Wells. If you look at his numbers in 2008 and 2009, though they were down, they were, in fact, superior to Adrian Beltre -- who got a huge deal and a lot of positives. Wells brings grit, power and pride to the Angels. Coupled with Torii Hunter, you have two pros who will play hard, produce and lead a team fighting for the AL West. They also have the best manager in MLB and he'll know how to get the most out of Wells. Napoli already has been dealt to Texas, and Rivera is an oft-injured 4th OF who jakes it. The Angels gave up nothing, but money to get a quality player with character.

You're right about Rivera, and Napoli wasn't ever a Mike Scioscia favorite. And you're right that Wells is a pro, just like Hunter. But that's a lot of dough for a player where there are other, more significant needs.

FROM: Scott D.

Nice hatchet job on the Angels Scott. It will be interesting to see what you have to say if Wells brings a big bat to go with his contract. Three center fielders in the outfield adds up to a great defensive unit, and Mike Trout is waiting in the wings. If the underachievers from last year play up to potential, we could see the Angels winning the division and more, again. Enjoy your vacation, moron.

If Wells plays a key role in the Angels winning this year, here's what I will say: I was wrong. But I'm not counting on it. I still think Angels need infusion of youth and speed.

FROM: Travis B.

Dear Mr. Miller,

I respect your words but I disagree. The Angels don't need a lead-off man -- Peter Bourjos can do the job. Vernon Wells is the power we needed just in case Kendry Morales can't answer the call. To drive in runs.

Come on, Bourjos batted .204 with a .237 on-base percentage over his 51 games in Anaheim last summer! Unless he grows into his offensive shoes in a hurry, I don't put him anywhere near the leadoff slot.

Likes: On deck in just a few days: The daily spring training Bull Pennings with news, notes, quips, likes, dislikes, the whole package. And, of course, the rock and roll lyrics. A Florida (and then Arizona) travelogue. Stay tuned. ... Could go from a Green Bay Super Bowl title to a Milwaukee Brewers' playoff appearance later this summer. The Brewers have made some great offseason moves. Wisconsin is a fabulous sports state. Could be fun. ... The Eminem/Chrysler/Detroit Super Bowl commercial. If you missed it, it's here. ... Jane Leavy's biography of Mickey Mantle is a terrific read. ... Go see The Fighter. You will not be disappointed. Christian Bale is everything you've heard, Mark Wahlberg is good and Melissa Leo -- one of the most underrated actresses around -- is as great as she usually is. ... Hey, the groundhog saw his shadow! Spring is right around the corner. Right?

Dislikes: The waiting for spring training to begin. Seems like it takes forever, doesn't it?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well it's 9th and Hennepin
"And all the donuts have
"Names that sound like prostitutes
"And the moon's teeth marks are
"On the sky like a tarp thrown over all this
"And the broken umbrellas like
"Dead birds and the steam
"Comes out of the grill like
"The whole damned town is ready to blow"

-- Tom Waits, 9th and Hennepin

 

 

Posted on: December 15, 2010 1:11 pm
 

Love Letters: The Crazy Winter $$ edition

OK, here's the mail call from this week's monster Phillies/Cliff Lee deal -- followed by some reaction from the winter meetings and Adrian Gonzalez/Boston -- but I'm warning you New Yorkers:

I don't give a crap if Lee's annual salary in Philly will be more than it would have been with the Yankees. Plain and simple, he left nearly $30 million of guaranteed money on the table. There is no disputing that. So don't tell me that he really didn't sign with Philly for less money. Because he did. Period.

FROM: Jim
Re.: In the end, Lee chooses (Brotherly) love over money

Your sense of reality is as delusional as these baseball players. You make it seem like he is making such a big sacrifice. You have no idea what goes on in the real world, and articles like this are sickening to the middle class and upper-middle class people of this country. Gee Scott, Cliff made such a sacrifice. My heart bleeds for him. Write something with substance. Your article was ridiculous.

I have no idea what goes on with the middle-class people in the real world? Really? Let's see ... drove my daughter's car pool to school for the third day this week today. Driving car pool to schlep her and two of her friends to volleyball practice after school later today. Hauled the trash and recyclables out to the curb this morning for trash day. Helped nurse my wife following her hip replacement surgery for the past five weeks after returning home from covering the World Series (imagine, we don't have full-time, in-home staff). Signed off on my daughter inviting seven friends over Saturday for a Christmas cookie-making party. So what is all of this, the upper class? The poverty class? Sounds suspiciously like middle class to me.

FROM: Dave S.

It is heartwarming to see a pitcher follow his heart and go to a league that allows him to be a complete player rather than being pressured by the Players Union into taking the money from the highest bidder ... aka CC Sabathia.

Like at the end of the Grinch, when the old Grinch finally understands the meaning of Christmas.

FROM: Barry R.

I love your work. However, when will sports writers get this salary thing right? He is being paid more per year by the Phillies than the Yankees or Rangers offers. He gets to say that. If he works seven years, he'll make more than the Yanks and Rangers offers if he take a huge paycut in years six (which won't happen with the option) and seven. He's making more per year, and likely more overall than the other offers. He gets his cake and eats it too.

Thanks, and I love that you take the time to write. But Lee will turn 33 next season. He will be 38 when his first five years with the Phillies is up. Odds are overwhelming that he will not see year seven in this deal. And odds are whelming that year six might not ever appear given health issues.

FROM: Mike
Re.: Blockbuster deals make BoSox winners of winter meetings

The Red Sox right now look more blockbuster than Blockbuster. You are correct since Blockbuster is in bankruptcy.

Don't worry, no way a judge allows the Red Sox in bankruptcy court. Daisuke Matsuzaka works too slowly even for the courtroom. He'd slow the proceedings down so much, even a discussion of tax law would be a thrilling upgrade.

FROM: Tom B.

Like most media, you say Boston made out great. All they did was replace hitters of equal value. If I recall, they lost Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. OPS for these hitters was about the same as Gonzalez and Crawford. So Boston stayed even so far. The biggest edge Boston has is that Pedroia, Youlkilis and Ellsbury will be back. They added a lot of payroll and gave away some excellent prospects for Gonzalez. Conventional wisdom has it that Gonzalez will struggle, lose .050 on OPS due to changing leagues. The ballpark will help both a bit. From the standpoint of improving from where they started the winter meetings I could agree, Boston did the most. But compared to the Yankees -- and I am not a fan of the Yankees -- I say they are the poorest run organization in baseball and have been for years. All they did was get back to where they were. Thanks for listening and keep your column going. I do like it.

Very well-reasoned points, sir, and as they say, that's why they play the actual games. Right now, we're grading paperwork, essentially. When the schedule starts in late March, maybe you'll be proven right. But I think you're under-valuing Adrian Gonzalez. He's going from one extreme to the other -- from Petco Park, which severely works against hitters, to Fenway, which works for them. And his style of hitting is so conducive to Fenway -- all those opposite field shots that will bang off of the Green Monster. We'll see. And as far as Boston being a poorly run organization -- the Sox do have two World Series titles since 2004, which is one more than the Yankees and two more than they've had for decades.

FROM: Grant MacDonald

I love your sense of humor and presentation of facts. Boston has indeed walked away the winter winner. I am sorry my Blue Jays can't compete since the early 90's. It's a shame to see the greed affect the game. For teams who can't compete, fan base will dwindle and the team may have to move on. This is just sad!

I know. In some of these cities, last one out, turn out the lights.

FROM: Steve H.

To the San Diego Padres:

Thank you so much for the early Christmas present. We have all gotten so much more competitive overnight [without any of us having to do anything!].

Sincerely,
The Dodgers, Giants, Rockies and D’backs.

Next thing you know, these four will be sending a joint Christmas card.

FROM: Chris O.

The Gonzalez to the Red Sox trade is another reason why MLB is losing its popularity in the past 20 years, and the ratings show it. EVERY time there was an NFL regular season game against an MLB playoff game, the NFL game got higher ratings. Even Two and Half Men and Modern Family beat out Games 4 and 5 of the World Series!

I have so many friends who don't care about baseball anymore simply because the Yanks and Sox hoard the free agents every offseason from the small-market teams. ... The NFL has a salary cap, salary floor, and parity has brought its best ratings in over 20 years because every team has a chance, and you never see a small market teams like Indy losing Peyton Manning to the NY Jets or Giants to Free Agency. If I were a Padres fan, I would not even care about the team anymore, because if you can't afford your best player, what is the point of rooting for them?

I am saying this as a Phillies fan, because they have become the Yanks/Sox of the NL and they just go out and get guys like Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt from small-market teams to improve their team. Hopefully things change, because MLB is slowly becoming a regional sport for fans.

It is very difficult to argue with your points, Chris. And your last sentence is ringing more and more true with each postseason rating dive.

FROM: Justin H.
Re.: The era's best GM, Gillick a master of the decades

Sure he built winners, but I think a lot of people overlook the fact that when he leaves a team, they collapse because the team got old and Pat Gillick had gutted the farm system to build the major league club by trading prospects and giving up draft picks for signing free agents.

This happened with the Blue Jays, it happened with the Mariners, and it will certainly happen to the Phillies as their veterans age and I think you saw the first signs of that last year. Think about the Jays first, who was drafted or acquired to replace Joe Carter or Roberto Alomar, David Cone or Jack Morris? Then look at the Mariners, who was there to replace Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Dan Wilson, Joey Cora, John Olerud, Jay Buhner, and Jamie Moyer? Now look at the Phillies, who is going to replace Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and you could already see the effect of losing Brett Myers to some extent last year. You could say the Phillies are exactly like the Mariners were when they were winning but they are aging now and they don't have any youth sitting on that bench learning and they have traded away the farm to acquire players like Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, and now have lost Jayson Werth, which will hurt them more than anybody realizes at the moment. Utley is hurt all the time now and Ryan Howard appears to be losing some bat speed and is prone to slumps and high strikeout streaks.

I think Gillick was great at taking teams with deep farms systems and decent major league clubs and using that to his advantage. You'd have to ask those fan bases if the winning for 4 years was worth the future. I'm sure in the Blue Jays and Phillies cases it is but in the Mariners case they did not win a World Series and are now in such a deep hole the end isn't in sight so I'd say it wasn't worth it for them. I personally think Pete Gillick is highly overrated.

You've hit on the knock on Gillick, that teams swirl down the drain after he leaves. But it's sort of like the "It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all" thing, isn't it? Gillick helped give four cities -- Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia -- some of their most exciting baseball in decades. Wouldn't you take that, however you can get it, if you're in those cities? And the flip side of that argument is, if Gillick wasn't the GM, there is every chance those cities never would have won during that time anyway.

FROM: Dbarv
Re.: Yanks, cut drama and give Jeter fair offer for an icon

IMO, Jeter is worth about 8 bucks an hour.

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com