By Chris Cue
April 16, 2009
Are you a “Give me the bad news first” kind of person? If you are, then what has transpired over the last several days should fall right into line with how you like to deal with things. You’re probably happy that if there is going to be bad news, that you get it out of the way now instead of August or September. You’re also probably right about that. Any team that is going to have to deal with issues regarding players is better off knowing what the problems are early instead of late. In the Red Sox case, the problems may not be long term, but better to deal with adversity now then when it really counts.
Let’s start with Josh Beckett and his 6 game suspension. A case can be made either way on if it was deserved or not, but how the Red Sox played this one is key. The team could have opted to have Beckett begin his suspension immediately and that would have allowed the remainder of the starters to stay on regular rest. Thus, Beckett’s absence wouldn’t really have effected the teams rotation in terms of needing a spot starter or someone pitching on short rest. However, instead of doing that, the Red Sox opted to appeal the suspension. Understand, very few disciplinary judgments are ever reversed on appeal, so not taking advantage of the timing was a bit peculiar on the Red Sox part for the onlookers of this situation. Once again, what appeared to be an odd decision by the Red Sox front office to us, turned out to be a smart decision based on knowledge they had that most others didn’t. If the Red Sox had allowed Beckett to use the timely suspension, where would the team be now considering Matsuzaka’s condition? It’s seems pretty clear that the Red Sox thought something might be up with Dice-K, so delaying Beckett’s suspension by appealing it was the smart move.
It seems that everyone and their Grandmother wants to blame the WBC for Matsuzaka’s “Dead Arm” problem. A word to the wise here: Pitchers get dead arm problems whether the WBC is being played or not. It happens. That’s not to say that the WBC wasn’t a contributing factor, it more then likely was. However, going back to the “Do you want the bad news now or later?” mentality, isn’t it better to have this happen now rather then later in the season when he is really being depended on? Make no mistake about it, this dead arm issue would have reared it’s ugly head not matter what sometime this season. Matsuzaka’s workload last season and his early throwing routine this year simply made the issue appear sooner rather then later. As crazy as it may sound, be thankful it happened now and not in August. Only being 3.5 games back in April is a lot easier to overcome then being 3.5 games back in August or September. There’s plenty of time and the Red Sox have plenty of options. This isn’t a make it or break it time of year, so knock on wood that once Dice-K is back, he’ll fresh for the remainder of the season. He just needs to give his arm time to recuperate and then he should be fine….at least that’s the teams hope.
Jed Lowrie was the source of more bad news for the Red Sox this week. Lowrie who looked so good in Spring Training was clearly struggling at the plate during the first part of this season. We now know why. Lowrie was attempting to play through soreness in the same wrist that had given him problems last season. Lowrie showed up Monday and informed Terry Francona of the problem he was having. Tito said: “The more we started talking to him and pushing a little bit, (we) realized we needed to get this thing checked out.“. The team sent Lowrie back to Boston and after visits to several doctors, the decision was finally made to treat the injury with a few well placed shots and a couple of weeks of rest. The Red Sox feel confident that after this rehab period is over, Lowrie should be very close to good as new. Nick Green will fill in for Lowrie until that period of time is over. Green, who is an excellent defender should limit the impact of this injury for the short term. Remember too that Julio Lugo isn’t far from returning either. Once he is up and running the Red Sox should then be stocked and ready to go…..hopefully getting the injury bug out of the way sooner rather than later.
Keep your fingers crossed that indeed is the case. All things being equal, health is sure to be the major factor when it comes to who is and who is not playing into late October.
By Chris Cue
April 13, 2009
Judging by comments made on articles and chat sites I’ve
read, it appears there is a vocal minority out there that don’t check their
calendars very often. I’m not talking about just Red Sox fans either. Six games
into the season, the panic members of several teams fan bases have begun their
“Sky is Falling” predictions.
We’ve had these “It’s Early” conversations before haven’t
we? We are 6 games into the season. Let me repeat that. WE ARE 6 GAMES INTO THE
SEASON. Having major concerns at this point is jumping the gun a bit don’t ya
think? It shouldn’t surprise anyone that some players have started the season
Hot or Cold. It happens every year. I’m sure fans all over would like to see
their teams “plans” come together and be firing on all cylinders from
day one, but that rarely (if ever) happens.
So, yes I’m sure Red Sox fans would feel really great right now if Papi was
hitting long ball after long ball, if Ellsbury had an OBP near .500, If Dice,
Lester and Wake had shut out the teams they faced, if Jed Lowrie was 12 for 24
at the plate, if Mike Lowell suddenly found some blazing speed and if the Sox
were 6-0…..but that kind of stuff doesn’t happen right away with some players
or teams. In some cases, it never will all year, but you have to find out what
you have don’t you? You have to stay the course and allow some of these guys to
play up to their norm or potential.
Every team has a game plan going into the season, however that exact plan is
rarely still being executed once July rolls around. Teams and players are
streaky. A few get hot and stay that way and some only show flashes of what
they should be. But 6 games into the season…on April 13th….. is not when
Management or coaches should step back and analyze results to either make
changes or not. Can you imagine what the Red Sox lineup would be tomorrow if
they did that? With his current OBP Bay would be our lead off hitter, Youkilis
would be the DH, JD Drew would be batting 8th or 9th and Nick Green would be the everyday SS.
I’m not saying that team management should wait 3 months before deciding what
is going to work and what’s not, but after 6 games? It might be different if we
were talking about elite players that are injured and out for the season, but
that’s not the case here. I mean c’mon, it really is a little early to be
overly concerned about much isn’t it? What do you say some of you sit back and
see how things begin to progress to the norm before you start calling for key
players to be benched or replaced? This isn’t your first Major League season is
it? Or is it?
By Chris Cue
March 10, 2009
Just a few rambling thoughts this morning…
- A-Rod had surgery on his hip yesterday. Does anyone else think they missed the real problem by the distance of a torso and a neck?
- NESN isn’t televising another Red Sox Spring training game until March 17th. Just in time for us to watch the guys play in those funky green uniforms. Yee Haw! Even I think they look horrible….and I’m Irish.
- The WBC is being televised. Sure it’s baseball, but a “Mercy Rule”? Really? It’s kind of hard to take that seriously don’t ya think?
- With all the news of aches and pains coming out of the Red Sox and Yankees camps, would it surprise you to see Hawkeye, Trapper, Col. Henry Blake and Klinger show up to save the day?
- The Red Sox beat the Pirates yesterday with only 2 regulars playing in the game. Jon Lester and Jed Lowrie. It’s on the fence regarding if that’s impressive or not…..afterall, it was the Pirates…
- Joe Girardi seems to be loosening up on the Yankees this year. He took them to play pool with one another instead of practicing for a day. Who knows, maybe he’ll allow candy and ice cream in the clubhouse this season too.
- Anyone else been impressed with Jeff Bailey this Spring? Brad Wilkerson may be getting a run for his money for that final bench spot.
- Here’s a little piece of trivia for the younger generation…..Did you know that Team Canada’s coach was a former Red Sox guy? It’s true. Ernie Whitt was a catching prospect for the Sox and back in 1976 he played in 8 big league games backing up Carlton Fisk at the catchers spot. He hit his first homerun in a Sox uniform, then he was later sent off to Toronto in the expansion draft. Today, he’s considered one of the best catchers the Blue Jays ever had.
- I’m guessing the Terry Francona bashers are now happy to see him wearing eye glasses in the dug out. Make of that what you will…
- Finally, Jerry Remy has been noticably missed during the Spring Training broadcasts. Hopfully he’s on the mend from that bug he caught. Best wishes and a speedy return Rem-Dog~
By Chris Cue
February 16, 2009
If you have been following the Red Sox plan for 2009 (the one they settled on), then you are aware of the depth this club currently has. To put it plainly and without being too much of a homer, I can honestly say it’s remarkable. A conversation was started recently on a “chat” board regarding that depth and it got me thinking about what we are hoping for.
By the way, “thinking” too much can sometimes not be a good thing. That may be the case here. Before I get into the concerns I have, I want to point out that I’m probably qualified to be the poster child for people that views things as a “glass half full”. What follows (I hope) is an simply an objective look at the health of the Red Sox
Here’s the deal. When the Red Sox decided upon signing Brad Penny & John Smoltz to our Starting Pitching rotation, I wasn’t thrilled with Penny, but in both cases I thought they were good moves. Afterall, we have some depth in the pitching department. Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Buchholz, Masterson and Bowden are all capable of being effective in the starting role. So, Penny & Smoltz looked like low risk, high reward possibilities. Essentially, that means if they can perform, great. If not, then no harm no foul. Much like Bartolo Colon from last season, both of these quality gentleman have the potential to help in enormous ways if they can rebound to the form they have shown in the past. No issues there. Good move by the Sox front office in my opinion. You can never have too much pitching and we look solid for 2009 when it comes to depth in that department.
When looking at the team as a whole, even the most “pollyanna” of fans would have to admit that there are a lot of question marks with this 2009 squad. So much so that it may not give you that “warm fuzzy feeling” as a fan when thinking about the 162 games that lay ahead. Let’s take a look at that list of questionable players we currently have. Let’s see if the odds are with us or not. Let’s see if any of these players are unable to help, what options we have and if they will be good enough. I won’t make any predictions or determinations on this. I’ll leave that up to you, but let’s each look at what we have and what our options might be.
As a side note, I’d like to acknowledge that some of these players are less questionable then others, but if there is any doubt surrounding their health, I thought they should be listed.
Player / Concern / Depth behind them / Replacement result
1). David Ortiz / Wrist injury in 2008 / Rocco Baldelli, Chris Carter, Jeff Bailey and Lars Anderson / It would be extremely optomistic to veiw that any of Papi’s backups could contribute in the same manner he could if healthy. Major concern here.
2). Mike Lowell / Hip surgery to remove cartilidge / Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie / Youkilis showed that he can be as good at 3B as he is at 1B when Lowell went down last year. However, if that move is needed, then someone will need to take Kevin’s place at first. Jed Lowrie should do a respectable job there defensively, although his offensive production may not match that of a healthy Lowell. Major concern here as well.
3). Rocco Baldelli / Diagnosed with a type of Mitocondrial disorder that may limit consistent playing time / Mark Kotsay, Jonathon Van Every and Jeff Bailey / Kotsay would be fine (if healthy) in either LF or RF however, CF for him isn’t an option. Both Van Every and Bailey would be callups and neither currently has the potential to match Baldelli’s bat, but both would be adequate
in the field if needed. (Van Every in any OF spot, Bailey only at the corners)
4). Mark Kotsay / surgery for a displaced disc fragment / Rocco Baldelli (OF), Jonathon Van Every (OF), Jeff Bailey (OF, 1B) and Chris Carter (1B). / Bailey is the only one capable of really filling in for Kotsay. While Baldelli would be a great offensive sub, neither he, Van Every or Carter offer quality protection at 1B should Youkilis need to move to third.
5). JD Drew / Recently admitted to contiued back stiffness / Baldelli, Kotsay, Van Every and Bailey / Baldelli is the only one that has the potential to replace Drew’s bat. As noted, the question is: Can he do it full time? The others, while defensively fine as a sub do not have the ability to be the complete package Drew is when healthy.
(without going into great detail, the following are players that have questions that need to be answered, but may have suitable replacements or their injuries may be deminshed compared to others.)
Player / injury / concern
6). John Smoltz / shoulder surgery / not expected to contribute until June. At age 41 you have to wonder what the future HOFer has left.
7). Brad Penny / tendonitis and inflamation in shoulder / Penny has been injury plagued though out his career. Last season’s bout with a balky shoulder is the latest. That contributed to his 5.88era with the Dogers last season. If healthy, how does he perform in the AL East?
8). Tim Wakefield / Back stiffness and shoulder pain / Wakefield was shut down and not able to pitch in the 2007 post season because of these issues. He also had many of the same pains last season. Spring Training is 2 days young and already Terry Francona is reporting that he is currently struggling with back stiffness once again. Age may be catching up.
9). Josh Beckett / Oblique injury / Beckett in a press conference yesterday said that he was not anywhere near 100% during the post season of 08. While not a major injury, his weight and possibly conditioning was an alarm in 2008 heading into the season. Getting out of Spring Training this year without those concerns is something to watch.
10). Jed Lowrie / broken left wrist / Lowrie is a switch hitter and that injury (not fully known until the off season) is somewhat of a question because the Sox would like to know if that is what affected his performance from the left side of the plate last season. Easily healed, this wrist injury should not be a major concern when it comes to his ability to play. As a rookie, his consistent performance will be more of a question mark.
11.) Takashi Saito / partially torn elbow ligament / Saito was lights out with the Dogers prior to this set back. Rather then opt for a surgical repair, Saito opted for treatment instead. That’s understandable considering his age (39), but there are huge questions regarding his ability to set-up Jonathon Papelbon throughout an entire season without that elbow being a problem again.
12). Julio Lugo / strained quadricep / Like Lowrie, this is not a major injury. Lugo could rebound physically, but the questions that surround the name “Lugo” for the Red Sox go far beyond injury recovery. His concerns remain consistency both at the plate and in the field.
There you have it. 12 names. Add or subtract as you wish, but you have
to wonder if 12 is too many to hope for. I think the Red Sox will need a miracle to have everyone of them
return to their potential or former self. But is that a problem? There is a lot of depth to this team. There is also a lot of quality in that depth, but with that quality, there remains reason for concern as well.
Let’s hope Terry Francona has been practicing his juggling act. Keeping this team up to par while working around players unable to perform could be his toughest challenge yet.
By Chris Cue
February 5, 2009
Call it “Tid Bits” or just a “Red Sox Run Down”, here are a few blurbs that are worth taking note of today…..
Kevin Millar is reportedly about to ink a Minor League deal with the Blue Jays. Good for Kevin! While I’m not much of a “Cowboy Up” kinda guy, Kevin was one of the “Idiots” and I’m glad to see he’ll have a home next season.
Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo appear to be at the center of what will be this years Spring Training drama. Terry Francona would not commit to either player having the full time Short Stop position locked down. A little competition never hurt anyone, but will the Red Sox fan base that lost confidence in Lugo be willing to support him once again if he wins the starting job?
Health Watch: Another story Red Sox fans will be closely following this Sping is the performances of Mike Lowell and David Ortiz. Both are reportedly doing fine, but the proof will be in their productivity. Lowell, who is hoping to be ready for opening day, is coming off hip surgery and Ortiz, who was bothered last season by a wrist injury, will each be watched closely. The Red Sox have a lot riding on both of these players being healthy and productive, so it’s safe to assume that until opening day, Theo Epstein won’t know if he’s done with the trade or free agent market.
Jon Lester, who showed up at camp 2 days ago, was recently tested and was shown to have one of the strongest shoulders in the Red Sox organization. It might be time to put away those worries about his innings increase last season.
Sub-Plot “C”: With Jason Varitek all but signed, sealed and delivered, further down on the “watchful eye” list will be who will win the backup catchers role. Honestly, this little battle should attract more attention then it will likely get from the press. It’s widely believed that Varitek’s role will be somewhat deminished from previous years making the backup catcher a little more important then just being Wakefields personal caddy. If Varitek is only going to see action for 100 or so games, then the #2 guy will be counted on for roughly 1/3 of the season. That’s nothing to take lightly.
The Nervous Nelly Club: Many finger nail biting members of the Red Sox fan base have turned their attention to what the team 100+ miles to the Southwest have done this offseason. It might calm their nerves a little bit if they remembered that in 2007, the Yankees actually won the head to head match ups with the Red Sox. The Sox however, won the AL East, the ALDS, the ALCS and The World Series that year. This also might be a good time to remember that there are 162 games in the season. The Red Sox only play the Yankees in 18 of those.
Final note: Truck Day is tomorrow. The long absense of Baseball being played is almost over. Close your eyes, use your imagination and you can almost smell the grass and hear the balls being hit off the bats. This is a great time to be a Baseball fan. Think about it, even the Pittsburg Pirates will be in first place on opening day!….Enjoy!
By Chris Cue
February 4, 2009
Terry Francona sat down for a little question and answer session with MLB.com’s Ian Browne recently. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, you’ll find the complete interview HERE.
There are a few answers that Tito gave that I’d like to put my 2 cents in on. The first is his response to the Short Stop position heading into Spring Training.
Francona: Well, I would say right now it’s pretty wide open. I’ve never really been in that situation here. It’s kind of a unique situation. You’ve got a guy who you give a four-year deal to for a lot of money and he gets hurt. A guy comes in and plays really well for a while and then he kind of tails off — but again, he handled himself really well and I think his future is really bright. He was also injured, to boot. Saying that, I don’t know if I believe in competing in Spring Training. What we’ll do is we’ll sit down with both of them the first day, we’ll explain to them how we feel. And we’ll try to put the best team out on the field. I’m also a firm believer that things take care of themselves. We’re not going to look at their batting average every day and things like that. We’re just going to try to put our ballclub in the best position to win. However that ends up, it will be my responsibility.
My take: I think I would rather have heard him say something along the lines of “It’s Lowrie’s position to lose”, but knowing Tito, he gave the politically correct answer as usual. I’m fairly sure that the job is indeed Jed’s to lose, however Tito wouldn’t have said “It’s wide open” if Lugo didn’t have a shot at winning his spot back. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. Either way, you can expect Lugo to get a fair amount of playing time. $9 million sitting on the bench isn’t easy to trade away. He’ll have to see action if the club intends to explore trade opportunities for Julio’s services.
Tito also had this to say regarding Jason Varitek’s possible reduced role in 2009:
Francona: I’ve heard all the talk but I’ve never had anyone ask me before. I think it’s unfair to say that before the season starts. Knowing Tek, he works so hard. Just for me to come right out before the season starts and say, yeah, we’re going to do this or do that … you know what? That’s not the case. The season will take care of itself.
If Tek needs rest, that’s my responsibility, to know that he needs rest. But again, that’s like saying you’re going to pinch-hit for a guy in February. I really don’t want to. That’s like saying a guy is going to have a tough year before the year starts. We’re talking about the captain of our team, and he means a lot. I just have to be a believer in him so we’ll let it play itself out. If he needs rest, we’ll give it to him. And again, you have to realize, he will be 37 years old. I understand that. I don’t want to run him into the ground because I’ve probably done that before because we rely on him so much. We’ll try to use good judgment.
My take: Again, I think we’re seeing the politically correct answers from Tito regarding Varitek. Reading between the lines here is what I think is important. Tito wouldn’t have brought up his age, pinch hitting for him or the fact that they have used him too much in the past if it wasn’t a concern. What is clear is that Tito is willing to let the season and Jason’s play dictate what he will and won’t do. If Varitek is batting .280 into July, I’m pretty sure Tito isn’t going to be thinking about pinch hitting for him. The converse of that is if he’s batting .220 at that time. If that’s the case, then I think the Captain will need to sit down during the late innngs of close games.
The entire Q&A is worth reading and I would encourage you to do so. Tito also covers other topic’s and players such as: John Smoltz, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell’s health concerns, Jacoby Ellsbury’s need for consistency, Clay Buccholz and Michael Bowden’s possible 2009 contributions, Daisuke’s involvement in the WBC, the addition of Rocco Baldelli to the club and he discusses his own health situation as well.
Just as a side note: Truck Day is this Friday and Jon Lester is already in Ft. Myers!
By Chris Cue
January 26, 2009
Going into the off season, all fans of all teams probably had their own set of priorities regarding what they would like to see their team accomplish. I’m sure each of us had one position or player that we saw as a “must have” item.
I’m looking for responses here, so I’ll offer a few questions. I’ll give my answers as they relate to the Red Sox, but please feel free to answer for your team. I’d honestly like to hear other viewpoints so that we can all become a little more educated across the league as opposed to keeping our focus solely on our hometown guys.
Q: Did your team address the “need” you saw as being the highest priority?
A: As a Red Sox fan, I’d have to say no. Going into this off season I had hopes of the team picking up a viable catcher for the future. That hasn’t happened yet.
Q: Are you happy with the acquisitions your team did make?
A: Yes and No. I like the majority of the signings the Red Sox made with one exception. Brad Penny. It’s not that Penny is so awful that I cringe having him on our team, he’s not. I do however, think we could have done better for his spot in our rotation. This is a highly debatable opinion, but I thought at a minimum we could have taken a flyer on Ben Sheets instead. At a maximum, I wouldn’t have minded A.J. Burnett. In my opinion, Both Sheets and Burnett have a higher upside then Penny if they are healthy. Health is the big factor here. I can only assume that the Red Sox saw less of a risk with Penny then they did with Sheets. Too bad, because I think the pay off (if there was going to be one) would have been much higher with Sheets than it will be with Penny.
Q: Are there any pieces to your team that you think should still be added? If so, who would you like to see fill those/that vacancy?
A: Yes there are a few.
1). The obvious one for the Red Sox is the full time catchers position. While the team does have enough bodies to fill that spot, the best available option in my opinion remains unsigned. It should come as no surprise that Jason Varitek is the guy I feel should fill that role this year.
2). I know I could be labeled as a greedy SOB, but I would still like to see the Red Sox add another starting pitcher. Yes, I’m talking about Ben Sheets. He just fits the profile on how the Red Sox do things too well. He can be had at a low cost and carries with him a potentially huge upside. With Wakefield, Smoltz and Penny all looking to be counted on this season, I’d like to have a Ben Sheets as insurance as opposed to a minor leaguer that may not work out.
3). Much further down on my list is our utility infielder. I had hopes of replacing Julio Lugo with another player that might give Jed Lowrie more room to breathe. What I mean by that is, he wouldn’t be competing for his starting SS position on a daily basis. Julio Lugo’s 9 million dollar contract sitting on the bench, may tempt the powers that be to play him more often then I would personally like. A return of Alex Cora to the backup IF spot because of his defense, would have been a good choice in my opinion.
Q: Looking at your team right now….as it’s presently structured, do you feel you have the players and personnel to be a contender in your division?
A: Without a doubt. Yes I do. It’s not as clear cut as say an Angels fan might look at their
current position and competition, but absolutely, I think the Red Sox will be in the mix. The teams competition for an AL East title is greater in my opinion then teams in the Central or the previously mentioned West might be, but considering what we have, Yes we’re definitely a player.
Please feel free to give your answers in the comments section or even ask and answer one of your own. I’m anxious to see how others view their teams and hopefully learn a thing or two.