Shortstops: Jeter and Bogaerts

So maybe it is premature to mention Derek Jeter and Xander Bogaerts in the same breath, but I can’t resist.  Jeter just announced that this coming season will be his last and Bogaerts is preparing for his first full season.  But there is something about them that seems to be to be so similar.  Maybe it has to do with demeanor.  Maybe it is just being Red Sox fan hopeful.  Whatever it is, I was struck by the comparison.

Derek Jeter is the Yankee that even Red Sox fans admire.  Tyler Kepner wrote in the New York Times about his retirement.

The greatest compliment we can give Derek Jeter, as he prepares to leave the grandest stage in baseball, is that he never let us down. He has made thousands of outs and hundreds of errors and finished most of his seasons without a championship. Yet he never disappointed us.

This is no small feat for the modern athlete, in an age of endless traps and temptations.

From cheating to preening to taunting — even to defensible acts, like fleeing to a new team in free agency — the hero, almost invariably, breaks our heart sometime. Not Jeter.

He grew up beside a baseball diamond in Kalamazoo, Mich., dreaming of playing shortstop for the Yankees, and that is what he has done. He has never played another position, never been anything but No. 2 for the Yankees. But this season, he announced Wednesday, will be his last.

“The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward,” Jeter said in a statement on Facebook, adding later: “I could not be more sure. I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”

Derek Jeter in 2008 after breaking Lou Gehrig’s mark with his 1,270th hit at Yankee Stadium

Derek Jeter in 2008 after breaking Lou Gehrig’s mark with his 1,270th hit at Yankee Stadium

If Frank Sinatra were around, he could sing “My Way” at Jeter’s retirement.

Jeter is perhaps the most secure, self-confident player in baseball, a sharp contrast to the disgraced Alex Rodriguez, whose season-long suspension means that he will never again be teammates with Jeter. Groch [Dick Groch, the scout who signed Jeter] said he noticed these traits while scouting Jeter, who smiled under pressure and showed the leadership skills of a chief executive.

Derek Jeter always knew who he was and never acted out of character.

And what of the Red Sox rookie?  Xander Bogaerts, the kid from Aruba who speaks four languages (Dutch, English, Spanish, and Papiamento [the official language of Aruba]) also grew up playing baseball.  Even though he was called up last August, he remains eligible for rookie of the year for 2014.  Peter Abraham profiled him in today’s Boston Globe.

Xander Bogaerts took a few ground balls at third base last Friday. That ended when Red Sox manager John Farrell arrived at JetBlue Park over the weekend.

“He told me to go to shortstop and not to worry about third base,” Bogaerts said Wednesday after a lengthy workout. “I hope that means something good for me.”

As it stands today, Bogaerts is the shortstop. But that could change if the Red Sox sign Stephen Drew, who remains a free agent on the eve of spring training officially opening. Until Drew signs, Bogaerts can’t be sure exactly what role he’ll have.

“Nobody has said anything to me about it,” Bogaerts said. “It’s definitely not perfect, but I have to play baseball no matter what. I can’t worry about it too much. I’m working at shortstop every day and trying to get my reps in and get ready.”

I think the Sox need to forget Drew, even if he is a great fielder, and go with Pedroia, Middlebrooks and Bogaerts. Time to see how the kids do.

Xander Bogaerts during the ALCS vs. Detroit

Xander Bogaerts during the ALCS vs. Detroit

We will need to see how he matures but Bogaerts seems, so far, to be cast in a Jeter mold.

But with players now on the field, Sox officials have been more measured with their comments about Drew and seem ready to start the season with Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base.

That the two arrived at camp early and have been working hard with infield coach Brian Butterfield doesn’t hurt their chances.

The 21-year-old Bogaerts is certain to make the team regardless. He hit .250 in 18 regular-season games last year before emerging as a starter in the postseason. Bogaerts started eight games in October, entering the lineup for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series and staying there.

Bogaerts was 8 for 27 (.296) in the postseason with four extra-base hits and nine runs scored. Teammates marveled at how unaffected he was by the atmosphere.

“I learned so much about the game last year, the preparation you need,” Bogaerts said. “The other teams will find your weakness right away. I need to get better at everything, especially recognizing pitches. But I know I can do it.”

Last October, Joon Lee wrote a long profile of Bogaerts for Red Sox blog, Over the Monster.  One quote stood out for me.

“I’ve always been a pretty quiet guy,” Xander said. “I don’t really go out a lot so I try to stay out of the most trouble as possible. Nothing good happens at night so that’s why it’s good to stay at home.”

Not a wild and crazy guy.  Yes, I know, Jeter didn’t exactly stay at home, but he never talked about his personal life.

Derek Jeter and Xander Bogaerts:  The past and the future?  We shall see.

Photograph:  Jeter, Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Photograph: Bogaerts, Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Can we send David Ortiz to the budget negotiations?

It has been a discouraging last few days with the only real bright spot being Friday (and then we went back Saturday) at Symphony Hall with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We wanted to hear Thomas Ades, Polaris a second time and Friday night the BSO did not do Franck’s Symphony in D Minor which my husband loves.   But we came home Saturday night to no budget/debt ceiling deal and the Red Sox striking out, also.  I often tune in to some of the Sunday news shows, but couldn’t stand to hear any more Republican Congresspersons who have no clue about what the debt ceiling is much less understand any thing about the economy.  One of my friends posted this on Facebook the other day

Despite their lofty status in managing American affairs, it appears to me that few Congresspersons have any meaningful understanding of how their chronic politicization of economic policies substantially degrades, perhaps permanently, the dollar’s status as the global reserve currency. Evidence of the dollar’s decline to a commodity status is increasingly apparent. In time, every American will feel a crippling pain that no amount of political negotiating can cure.

Given this state of things, I retreated to a game of Civilization V where I could control, more or less, my own universe until after Sunday dinner when the Red Sox could take over.  But, after watching strike out after strike out with Clay Buchholz pitching sooo very slowly while getting slammed around in the sixth, I retreated.  I woke up just before 6 am this morning having just had a dream that I woke up and the Sox had come back.  I turned on the radio, I found that is was true!

Peter Abraham explains

In what has been a season full of memorable late-inning victories at Fenway Park, the Red Sox saved the best for when they needed it the most in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series Sunday night.

Trailing by four runs against the Detroit Tigers, the Sox tied the game on a grand slam by David Ortiz in the eighth inning then won it, 6-5, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to drive in Jonny Gomes in the ninth.

The remarkable victory had the players chasing Saltalamacchia across the outfield and the sellout crowd of 38,029 chanting “Let’s Go Red Sox!” as they left Fenway.

“When you back us into a wall, you either do two things: cave or fight. We’re gonna fight,” Dustin Pedroia said.

That wall was hard to get over. The Sox had scored one run through the 16 innings in the series, going 3 for 51 at the plate with 30 strikeouts. Detroit starter Max Scherzer allowed one run on two hits over seven innings and struck out 13.

And then.

Will Middlebrooks doubled to left field off Jose Veras to start the rally. Then Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk off Drew Smyly.

Al Albuquerque was next out of the Detroit bullpen. He struck out Shane Victorino for the second out, but Pedroia singled to right. Third base coach Brian Butterfield held Middlebrooks, wanting to make sure Ortiz got his chance.

Ortiz swung at the first pitch, a changeup away, and was strong enough to pull it into the Red Sox bullpen in right field for his first career postseason grand slam and the fourth in Red Sox history.

Right fielder Torii Hunter tumbled over the wall trying to make a catch as Boston police officer Steve Horgan raised his arms in joy. Bullpen catcher Mani Martinez, who was warming up Koji Uehara, casually turned and caught the ball.

It was bedlam at Fenway and the crowd kept cheering until Ortiz emerged from the dugout and tipped his helmet to them.

“My idea wasn’t to go out and hit a grand slam,” Ortiz said. “If I was telling you about thinking about hitting a grand slam, I’d be lying to you now.”

A hero of postseasons past, David Ortiz rounds third base — as the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera looks on — to a standing ovation after his grand slam in the eighth inning tied Game 2 at 5.

A hero of postseasons past, David Ortiz rounds third base — as the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera looks on — to a standing ovation after his grand slam in the eighth inning tied Game 2 at 5.

Gotta love David.

There was still a game to win. After Uehara retired the Tigers in order, Gomes was again the catalyst.

He reached on an infield single off Rick Porcello and took second on a throwing error by shortstop Jose Iglesias, the former Sox player known for his defensive skills.

“No is not an option for this team,” Gomes said. “Once I got on second, I was going to do anything I could to score.”

Gomes advanced on a wild pitch and scored when Saltalamacchia singled to left field.

“I felt good,” Saltalamacchia said. “Trying to hit the ball up the middle and take your chance.”

It was the 12th walkoff win of the season for the Red Sox.

So now we have something to watch on the highlight reels other than strike out after strike out.  There is joy in Mudville after all.  The Red Sox head for Detroit to face Justin Verlander, still another one of the Tigers’ great pitchers.  Let’s end this with something to ponder.  My husband heard Verlander ask this question:  If a pitch grazes a Red Sox’s beard, did he get hit by the pitch?

Now if only someone would hit a grand slam on the budget and knock out Ted Cruz and his friends.

Photograph:  Jim Davis/Globe Staff

More on the Storm of 2013 – with Dustin Pedroia

We have a lot of snow here in Boston and the hot discussion is whether the T or train system could have reopened faster – not until tomorrow morning for the Monday commute.  For those of you who don’t know, the train is partially underground and partially above.  I can hear them working on the orange line which runs down the hill from our house and is above ground where we are.  And while our street has been plowed there are places where the wind has blown snow back across it and people are getting stuck.

But Brendan Lynch at public radio WGBH is trying his best to look forward to spring.  He is measuring the snow in Dustin Pedroias.  Dustin is the shortest member of the Red Sox.  I think that Brendan is working on the official Major League height and Dustin is actually shorter, but here is what was posted yesterday morning.  There have been so new totals since then so you can do your own math.

Spencer (which is near Worcester, MA) is now reported at 34.5″  clearly half a Pedroia.  Logan Airport (which will be the official Boston total) is 24.9″   And Jamaica Plain, a section of Boston right across those Orange Line tracks from us, is 25.5″  These totals are from David Epstein’s Weather Wisdon blog.

So while we aren’t quite half a Pedroia here in Boston, that is still a lot of snow!

Highland Park 2-9-2013

Another view of the park across the street.

Bye, Bye Bobby

Mercifully, the Red Sox season came to a close yesterday.  Daisuke Matsuzaka ended his run with a loss.  Poor fellow, he never adjusted to American baseball or maybe to Red Sox baseball.  The same for Bobby Valentine who was fired today.  Peter Abraham wrote this afternoon

The Red Sox moved swiftly after ending their season Wednesday night, telling Valentine that he would not return for the second year of his contract to manage the team.

The Sox finished 69-93, their worst record since 1965, and finished in last place in the American League East for the first time since John Henry and Tom Werner became owners 11 years ago.

“I’m disappointed, yeah,” Valentine said in an impromptu meeting with reporters after he first eluded them as he started a bike ride Thursday afternoon. “This is not the press conference that I was expecting at the end of the season.”

Not since 1934 had the Red Sox fired a manager after only one season. But the 62-year-old Valentine was a controversial choice to replace Terry Francona, and his tenure proved rocky.

“A lot of things didn’t go well, but an experienced manager is supposed to put his finger in the dike and keep the water on the other side,” he said.

Of course we had seen this coming for sometime now.  Bobby falling off his bike was symbolic of the season.

So now it is time to move on.  Sign Cody Ross.  Sign David Ortiz.  Hope that Ellsbury can stay healthy.  Ditto Pedroia.  And who should he the next manager?

Red Sox Lose - Getty.jpg

The Obnoxious Boston Fan  posted this advice for the new manager.

Dear Next Red Sox Manager:

Congratulations. Managing the Red Sox is a dream job for anyone who doesn’t have it. You will be the most scrutinized boss in New England, especially now that the FBI is no longer “tracking” Whitey Bulger.

Good luck, sir, you’re going to need it.

Every Red Sox fan – at least once or twice a game – knows that he or she can do the job better than you. Every move you make will be second-guessed, criticized, analyzed, applauded or jeered, depending on the result. You will almost always be wrong. We will almost always be right.

Very few of us know first-hand the challenges of managing multi-millionaires with guaranteed contracts and the massive talent and ego helped them earn those multi-million dollar deals. The Red Sox team that you greet on Day One in Fort Myers cannot bear any real resemblance to the team that sulked off the field in humiliating defeat Wednesday night in the Bronx.

Many of the core players will or perhaps should be the same – the cheerful Cody Ross, the surgically-repaired Dustin Pedroia, the hopefully re-signed and content David Oritz, the genuine Texas-Could-Be-Tough-Guy Will Middlebrooks, the-ever-consistent Clay Buchholz and the glad-this-season-is-over Jon Lester. This core has as much potential to win the coveted first or second-wildcard as does the Orioles or A’s and is strong enough to even reach the ALCS. There is neither enough firepower at the plate nor octane on the mound to win a division nor survive pair of seven-game series and win a World Series championship.

And he ends with this

You are fortunate to be replacing Bobby Valentine. It would be nearly impossible to do any worse in 2013 than he did in 2012. Valentine didn’t lose control of the Red Sox, he never had it, nor ever cared to. His presence was all about Bobby Valentine from his introductory press conference to final, whining farewells this week. This is not about you, it’s about them. If you can get through your first press conference without being the star of the show, that will be considered progress.

Simply doing a better job than your predecessor won’t be good enough. Everyone will demand a championship every year. But Red Sox fans as a whole are a patient lot and will give you and the organization a chance as long as they are treated like adults and not a bunch of six-year-olds who still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the second wildcard when the team is 12 games out in August. My parents both lived and died their entire lives without ever seeing a World Series parade in Boston. Most of their grandchildren, on the other hand, don’t remember a time when the Red Sox hadn’t won a championship  Trust me on this one, Mr. New Manager, Red Sox fans are a patient and forgiving, if given the chance.

Reasonable Red Sox fans – no that’s not an oxymoron – know this team is at least two years away from serious contention, if not three. You’ll have a guaranteed contract, probably at least three-years in length. So act accordingly.

Take charge.

Be the boss.

Lead.

Neither accept nor dispense bull—-, especially when dealing with the players.

Do not follow and get everyone else the hell out of your way. Dealing with the media is a part of the job, but they are not your core audience nor do they generate the bajillions of dollars needed to sustain the Monster and all whom work beneath its spell. Be professional and they will/should act accordingly. Don’t play them off one and another and don’t, under any circumstances, allow yourself to become the story with foolishness and faux threats to punch them in the nose. And you’re free to ignore what idiots like me say once you’re done reading this letter.

Simply put: “Do your job.”

The pressure is on, Ben Cherington.  Pick well.  We are waiting.

Stick a fork in the Sox

The Sox are done.  Maybe not officially, mathematically , but they are done.  It is almost as if Dustin Pedroia’s surgery took the air out of the last tire.  And I don’t think we can blame Hurricane Earl for the double header loss. I was hoping that they could stay close enough to the Rays and Yankees to take advantage of any collapse, but I don’t think that is to be.

They didn’t have a bad season, just a not so good a season for the Red Sox since they broke the Curse. 

I know that everyone will blame Theo Epstein and management for not making trades, but deep down everyone knows that wouldn’t have been the answer.  No one counted on all the injuries. (It is now reported that Mike Lowell has been playing with injured ribs.)  Epstein is in it for the long term and the young kids, the Navas, McDonalds (even if he isn’t all that young he’s pretty much a rookie), and the guys in Pawtucket, Portland and Lowell are the future.  Of course, in a couple of years if things don’t bounce back, then we can say Theo was wrong.

Here is Peter Abraham on the games that ended the season.

Well that was quite a day for the Red Sox.• First doubleheader sweep since dropping a twinbill to the Yankees on Aug. 18, 2006.

• Fewest runs in a doubleheader since losing 5-1 and 2-1 against Kansas City on July 16, 1976.

• They were 13 of 67 at the plate including 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position.

There will be much written about the season, but this picture kinda says it all.

John Lackey

We can only hope that the Sox stay professional and win a respectable number of the games remaining.  Over .500 would be nice.  But we know for sure that next year’s Sox will look very different. 

Get healthy, guys!  As they used to say in Brooklyn, “Wait until next year!”

 

Talkin’ Baseball: Rox and Sox

We went down to Brockton last night to see the independent Can-Am League Brockton Rox play a team from Northern New Jersey.  We’ve been taking in a couple of Rox games a summer for the last 4 or 5 years.  Great seats for not a lot a money, a nice little ballpark, no hassles getting in and out the park, and entertainment between innings.  (little kids running the bases and trying to beat mascot K-O the Kangaroo and stuff like that. ) What more could you ask for?  By my reckoning, the Rox have a winning record when we go.  To prove what fans we are, we have bobbleheads of Bill Murray (yes, that Bill Murray) and Saul Bustos.  I’m hoping that when slugger Melvin Falu retires, we can get his bobblehead to add to the collection.  Bill Murray is the Director of Fun for the team and, although no ones says, I assume a financial investor.  The Rox blew out Sussex Skyhawks last night winning 13-2.

Part of the fun is watching the little scoreboard where they post the Sox scores.  I looked at it at one point and it is  the 9th and the Sox are still down 4-2.  Then suddenly, the score is final and the Sox win 5-4.  People around me pulled out their phones to see how the Red Sox pulled it out.  (David Ortiz hit a walk off double with the bases loaded.)

And yesterday was the trade deadline.  While we were driving to Brockton, the new broke that we had picked up another catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  I remembered him from having the longest name on a major league jersey.  Saltalamacchia is going to Pawtucket to play some Triple A.  I believe he is the guy who developed some weird thing where he was unable to throw the ball back to the pitcher.  This is not a good thing for a catcher.  I assume Theo Epstein has some assurance that he is over that now.  Saltalamacchia is young and Veritek is about to retire so it may turn out to be a good move.

Bob Ryan writes in the Boston Globe today

There is no doubt massive disappointment among the Red Sox faithful. There were no blockbuster deals, only the acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, plus the addition-by-subtraction expunging of Jeremy Hermida and Ramon Ramirez, the former being designated for assignment, the latter sent to San Francisco. Instead of producing a familiar name belonging to a veteran, Sox management has settled for picking up a catcher who has failed to fulfill his promise and by promoting prized prospect Ryan Kalish from Pawtucket.

The Sox needed a veteran reliever, and they still need one. Theo Epstein was quite obviously unwilling to sacrifice a valued prospect, and you know what? Good for him. Sometimes you just have to accept that it’s just not shaping up as your year, and you simply focus more on the future.

So now we are waiting for Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Veritek, and Dustin Pedroia to get better and rejoin the Sox.  This has been a rough year and we have lots of games with Tampa Bay and the Yankees to win if the Sox are to make the play-offs this year.

Finally we have this nice story.

Perhaps Pawtucket Red Sox management was psychic.

In the nine years the team has held a bobblehead doll night promotion, never before had a former PawSox player appeared in a game that his bobblehead was given to fans at McCoy Stadium.

Jacoby Ellsbury put his name in Pawtucket’s “record book’’ last night when he played six innings in the first of two games against the Durham Bulls and went 2 for 4 with a run scored.

I think he is on his way back.  Maybe the Red Sox have a chance.

Tim Wakefield: All-Star

Tim Wakefield and I arrived in Boston around the same time.  I moved here in the fall 1994.  1995 was my first season watching the Red Sox. (I confess that I had live for many years in what was then Atlanta’s triple A city, Richmond, VA within walking distance of the ballpark and watched all the many Atlanta stars get their start.)  1995 was Wake’s first season with the Sox.  So I feel a special bond with Wake and feel so happy for his making the All-Star team.

 

The New York Times’ David Waldstein wrote

The Boston Red Sox will send the largest delegation of players to the 80th All-Star Game in St. Louis with six, and among them is one who has waited 17 years for the honor.

Tim Wakefield, the 42-year-old knuckleballer who has pitched in 18 postseason games, was named to his first All-Star team Sunday by Joe Maddon, the American League manager, after posting a 10-3 record for Boston. Wakefield will join second baseman Dustin Pedroia, outfielder Jason Bay, first baseman Kevin Youkilis, starter Josh Beckett and closer Jonathan Papelbon from the division-leading Red Sox.

Bob Ryan wrote one of his great columns this morning in the Boston Globe.

It has been 14 years since Tim Wakefield put on the finest demonstration of knuckleball pitching in the history of baseball.

No knuckleballer – not Hoyt Wilhelm, not Phil Niekro, not Belmont’s Wilbur Wood – ever has been as dominant over a stretch of time as Wakefield was in 1995 when he went 14-1 at the beginning of his Red Sox career. He flirted with a no-hitter or two, he pitched a 10-inning complete game against the Mariners, and he jump-started the Sox as they won the AL East. It was a virtuoso performance of the highest order.

Tim Wakefield is not going to Cooperstown. What he has done is make himself an indispensable member of 15 Red Sox pitching staffs. He has been a comfort to managers and a great teammate. What he did 14 summers ago set an unattainable standard, not only for himself, but for any knuckleballer past, present, or future. Were that all he ever did in service of the Red Sox, it would have been enough for the fans to remember him fondly.

But here he is, 15 summers into his Red Sox career. He is the franchise leader in starts, walks, and, yes, losses. He trails only Cy Young and Roger Clemens in victories. He is second to Clemens in strikeouts. He even shows up among the leaders in saves. If there was a category for Taking One For The Team, he’d be the clear leader in that one, too. He is the Grand Old Man of the Boston pitching staff.

Four weeks shy of his 43d birthday, he is also a first-time All-Star.

Congratulations, Wake.  You deserve the big hug from David Ortiz.  Consider that a hug from all of us.