Tagged: Adrian Gonzalez

“The Trade”

Staying on our Dodger Blue theme…

I peiced this together from various sources, including Gordon Edes and ESPN Boston.

On August 25, 2012, the Dodgers and Red Sox completed a 9-player deal which sent past-present-and probably future All Stars Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and (indepensible utilityman) Nick Punto to Los Angeles for the (until then) forever underperforming James Loney and four minor leaguers.

Traded Trio

Entering 2013, Gonzalez had $127 million remaining on his contract and Crawford had $102.5 million remaining. This was the first time in MLB history in which two players were involved in a trade with $100 million remaining on their contracts.

* Carl Crawford (via ESPNLA.com):  “That was one of the toughest times in my life, ever, from when I was a little kid, 1 year old. It definitely was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life to be traded over here. You make $20 million, but it’s not like they’re begging me to hit a home run every time I go up there, you know what I’m saying? It’s not like I need to go 5-for-5 every at-bat and, if I don’t, I’m considered the worst player on the planet.”

Jonny Gomes was a teammate of Carl Crawford with the Tampa Bay Rays, but the Red Sox outfielder said he can’t relate to where Crawford is coming from when he talks about about how “bad” he wants to beat his former team, the Red Sox.  “To tell you the truth, every team and organization and manager and GM I’ve left, I’ve left on good terms,’’ Gomes said. “I talk to ’em all, talk to a lot of ’em in the offseason, reach out to ’em all. No hard feelings against any of ’em. I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me. The last thing I want to do is ‘try harder’ against my [former] teams. I try hard every night.’’

* Josh Beckett (via WEEI.com):  “It just got way too personal for me,” he said while rehabbing in the Dallas area. “It wasn’t just like, ‘Hey, you suck on the baseball field.’ It was now, ‘Hey, you’re a bad person.’ It was getting personal. It wasn’t even about baseball anymore. It was definitely time to make a change. I think everybody from the front office to the players recognized that, we’ve moved on and now here I am.”

The Red Sox are 84-80 since the deal (remember, part of that includes the Bobby Valentine regime), the Dodgers 91-70, with each in playoff position at the moment.

The financial impact
The Dodgers had a 2013 Opening Day payroll of $216.6M, the second-highest in MLB behind the Yankees ($228.8M). That was a significant increase from their 2012 Opening Day Payroll of $95.1M, which was 12th-highest in MLB.

The $121.5 million opening day payroll increase was easily the largest in baseball between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Next on the list is the Toronto Blue Jays, who increased their payroll by $42 million.

There’s still quite a bit of money left over on the contracts of the players the Dodgers acquired. Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett will be owed a combined $213 million after the 2013 season ends.

With those savings, the Red Sox were able to re-load in the offseason, spending more than $125M on impact free agents such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross and Koji Uehara.

Victorino has posted 4.4 WAR this season, better than any player the Red Sox sent to the Dodgers has performed this season.

The star: Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez at FirstOf the five major-leaguers involved in the trade, Gonzalez has been the most valuable for his team this year, with 3.3 Wins Above Replacement. Gonzalez’s value has come in the form of big hits. He has six game-tying or go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later, the most of anyone on the team. Gonzalez rates fourth in the majors and second in the National League in Win Probability Added, a stat that sums the value of every plate appearance (and stolen base/caught stealing, based on how much it adds to that team’s chance of winning). The only players who rate higher than Gonzalez are Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt.

Though Gonzalez has provided value, his power numbers are still not to the level that they were from 2009 to 2011 (and, by his own admittance after his arrival in L.A., probably never will be the same following his shoulder surgery while a member of the Padres).  Gonzalez had a .536 slugging percentage and .231 isolated power (extra-bases per at-bat) over those three seasons. The last two seasons, those numbers are .460 and .162.

* Adrian Gonzalez (via ESPNLA.com):  “For the most part, we underperformed last year in Boston and we didn’t win. The year before, we won. We just didn’t make it to the postseason at the end. I had a good time. The only things I had there weren’t really a big deal.”

Nick Punto
Both Crawford and PuntoBeckett have dealt with significant injuries that have been hindrances to their value. But another player has been a surprise contributor.Punto has been worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement for the Dodgers this season. If that holds up, it would be the third-highest single-season total of his 13-year career, his highest since posting a 2.4 WAR in 2008.
Punto’s value stems from that he can play a pair of positions adequately. He’s contributed five Defensive Runs Saved at both shortstop and third base, two spots where he’s had to fill in due to injuries.

Punto may not be an imposing hitter, but he’s an annoying one for pitchers to face. His 4.29 pitches per plate appearance rank tied for fourth in the majors, among those with at least 250 plate appearances this season. In addition, in 13 games this month, Punto has a .475 on-base percentage (fifth in the NL among players with at least 30 plate appearances) and eight RBI.

* Nick Punto (via ESPNLA.com):  “Pedroia is the heartbeat of that club, and when he’s not happy, it’s not a good thing. He was definitely not very happy.”

Gonzalez Punto Dodger Blue

And the results have definitely shown for both teams.

The Red Sox are looking to become just the seventh team since the current divisional format began in 1995, and the first in the AL since the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, to go from worst-to-first in their division.  This would be the first time in franchise history that the Red Sox won their division/league the year after finishing in last place.

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“Two Captains, One Destiny”

That was the tagline from Star Trek: Generations.  One of the lesser Trek films but definitely the one which brought most Trekkies war of words in the Kirk versus Picard battle to a zenith.

Hypothetically, till we hear otherwise, Jason Varitek is gone.

And hell, since were getting more questions than answers… let’s rock…  I’m Bobby V., my first year at the helm, I’m psyched, nervous and in need of a team captain.  Do I leave it to the veterans to guide the team?  Do I not appoint, anoint or christen a new captain and just seize the role of Supreme Leader? Should I go with the highest paid perennial all-star and MVP candidate who works with a proven yet quiet determination?  Do I look to the two-time World Series Champion, the most clutch Designated Hitter in the history of the team (who made a d!ck of himself during ‘the fallout’)?  How do I not give a serious look at the stalwart, rugged and unwavering 3B who always seems to be somewhere on the MVP ballot?  Or I do take the risk of getting a no holds barred tell it like it is in your face pint-sized MVP who is the first to arrive, the last to leave and has been consistently reminded he’s just too damn small to be in the major leagues.  In the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh Hell Yeah!”.  Dustin Pedroia.  Pedey may in fact be the baseball equivalent of SCSA, or for a modern-day wrestler, C.M. Punk.  Both are guys who let their personal lives, struggles and feelings permeate their ‘characters’ and both are the wrestling equivalent of Kevin Millar.  I’ll go to war with either ‘One-Five’ any day of the week and a doubleheader on Sundays.  Pedey was the loudest voice following the destruction of Tito Francona and the first we heard from following the confirmation of Bobby V’s hiring.  Like Varitek, he’s a proven warhorse on the field and his voice and opinion obviously counts for something off it.   For as much as Valentine is going to take the ‘pressure’ off the boys and make it an atmosphere where they can play… let’s remember that he’s there because the last manager made it too comfortable.  If we’re supposed to believe the reputation, Bobby is a diva… and should have a captain who can balance that image with one of his own.

Let’s look at the history of a few Boston Captains… Ted Williams was the best hitter of his and arguably any generation while also being a loud, foul-mouthed know it all with an ego the size of his home state and a hatred for the ‘Knights of the Keyboard’ to match.  Captain Carl was a lifelong Red Sox who carried the respect of the ‘The Nation’ and quietly took the teams he was given on his Hall of Fame shoulders for a good deal of his twenty plus year career bridging the gap between Ted and Jim Ed.  But, let’s look at a few other Bostonians to wear the ‘C’.  Eddie Shore refused an anesthetic while a doctor sewed his ear back on.  Bobby Orr, only the greatest hockey player to wear skates (sorry Wayne Gretzky lovers, but Wayne only played forward… Bobby played defense and dominated the all-around game) and he shared his captaincy with Bucyk and Espo for the most part.  Ray Bourque was known simply as ‘The Captain’, a quiet yet powerful presence who led by example and had no problem putting himself before the team (except when he requested a trade due to his age and knowing the B’s weren’t going anywhere) nor did his alternate captain and Hall of Fame partner Cam Neely, a player of equal quiet ferocity who as president of the Bruins changed the landscape of the entire franchise and helped deliver the Stanley Cup.  Big Z is in the same mold, with no fear of physically defending his teammates on the ice and setting the example in the locker room.  Bill Russell, Hondo, Bird and Garnett… nuff’ said.

Sure, Varitek will in no way be an easy act to follow, but nor should he be.  A team is a changing dynamic and requires someone who can change with it.  That, if anything, would be the undertone of this off-season.  Change and adaptation.  Bobby Valentine is that change while Dustin Pedroia is the adaptation.

“No prize for 2nd place….”

But if there was, Jacoby Ellsbury definitely deserved it.

Sure, people will be debating this one for a while, but in the end, Justin Verlander had himself a fantastic season. But, so did Pedro Martinez in 1999. In fact, looking back at the various stats and research, Pedro had a better over all pitching season in 1999… but wasn’t voted the first starting pitcher since ‘The Rocket’ Roger Clemens in 1986 to win both the Cy Young and MVP awards in a single season.

That, I have a problem with.

  •                                                        1999 Pedro Martinez                     2011 Justin Verlander
  • ERA                                                        2.07                                                 2.40
  • Wins                                                        23                                                     24
  • Losses                                                      4                                                        5
  • K’s                                                           313                                                   250
  • WHIP                                                    .923                                                 .920
  • BB                                                            37                                                      57
  • Innings                                                  213.1                                                 251
  • WAR                                                       8.3                                                    8.5

Yes, Verlander threw his second career No-Hitter and was the American League’s answer to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and eventually Clayton Kershaw.  However, Pedro pitched a SABRmetric statistically stronger season in the midst of the steroid era, a season which again saw combined league home run totals reach new records, had that Hall of Fame inning in the All-Star Game at Fenway and was the American League’s answer to Randy Johnson.

Both won the American League pitching Triple Crown.

Both led their respective teams to 90 plus win seasons (and both made it to the ALCS)

Pedro finished 2nd in the BBWAA voting, with 8 First place votes (1 more than winner Ivan Rodriguez) and was intentionally left off 2 ballots cast.

Many of the ‘experts‘ who have spent weeks of expensive air-time on both radio and television debating the issue and who now proclaim “Well, now the precedent has been set” must be either retarded or just stupid. Verlander is one of several pitchers to win both awards including Kofax, Fingers, Blue (also the last switch-hitter to win an MVP), the aforementioned Clemens and most recently Dennis Eckersley. No, the precedent wasn’t set, it was just another salvo in the argument of ‘everyday’ players versus pitchers and the qualified standards of being ‘Most Valuable Player’.  Of course, a lot of these experts are the same who contend that the award is not a popularity contest…. really?  Ask Albert Bell about that… I’m sure he remembers who won the award in 1995.

1999 Nomar   1999 Ivan Rodriguez  1999 Manny  2011 Ellsbury  2011 Adrian Gonzalez   2011 Pedroia

AVG               .357*                        .332                         .333                   .321                        .338                          .307

HR                   27                             35                             44                      32                          27                               21

RBI                 104                           113                            165                    105                         117                              91

OPS               1.002                        .914                         1.105                  .928                       .957                           .861

SB                    14                             24                             2                         39                            1                               26

WAR              6.5                            6.0                           8.0                      7.2                         6.9                             6.8

In ’99, Manny Ramirez, who had a statistically greater year with Cleveland than MVP winner Pudge Rodriguez did in Texas, finished third in the BBWAA voting behind Pedro.  Nomar, winning the first of two consecutive batting titles, finished seventh while all played for 90 plus win playoff bound teams.  This year, Ellsbury finished a solid second ahead of Toronto’s Jose Bautista (who’s 2nd half of the season really didn’t merit his finishing ahead of Granderson, Cabrera or perhaps even A-Gon) third place finish. Adrian Gonzalez in his first year with the Scarlett Hose finished seventh and I’m including Petey who came on strong in the 2nd half to accumulate a ninth place vote.

If anything, I think many will agree that the Red Sox collapse in September weighed like an anvil on Jacoby’s chances, which is unfortunate given he was one of the few players (Adrian’s ‘power outage’ but sustained average) who thrived during the season ending swoon.  If the Sox had won just two more games, this blog post might just be moot.

With the age of Moneyball in what some have deemed its ‘twilight’ (especially under the terms of the new CBA) and the Bill James Sabermaticians now fully entrenched throughout MLB, more and more statistically curious tidbits of information continue to hit the mainstream.  For example: Babe Ruth, arguably one of Baseball’s greatest players (as compared to marquee draw), won his only MVP award in 1923 (keep in mind it was a ‘league’ award as compared to the defunct Chalmers Award and pre-dated the current BBWAA MVP Award).  Using todays metrics… Ruth should have taken the award 12 times.  That’s eleven more times than he actually won it and all based on his actual factual numbers.  Shout out to Brian Kenny on MLB Network’s Clubhouse Confidential for combing through the blinding historical numbers and keeping it entertaining.  Would love to see his team take a look at Ted Williams lifetime stats.

“Gentlemen, start your engines…”

The clock is slowly ticking down to the start of September and the 2011 season is about to hit its stride.  However, there is one helluva straightaway before we get to turn four.

Now granted, be it in NASCAR terms or whatever vehicular jargon you like, the Sox are in pit row.  The pitching has since sputtered, the line-up is thumping over a blown tire and while the fuel has been fine, thinning the mix for the length of the race has been a problem.  Luckily, at this point anyway, we’re not alone as our neighbors roughly 150 miles to the southwest have been in the same race.

Lackey has been anything but the ‘second ace’ we expected were getting when the ink dried on the contract.  In fact, from one start to another, you’re not sure which version of the big hoss will show.  Wakefield has been stuck, seemingly, in nuetral.  However, in Wake’s defense, the Time Lord has pitched fairly well and kept opponents at bay as well Miller or the semi-Lackey but just hasn’t had the stability behind him.  Lester is for a better word ‘back’ and Beckett is looking as if he’ll be completing a great ‘comeback’ year.  Bedard, well, there is yet another question mark.  Yeah, the ERA isn’t horrific but do we have time for a ‘work in progress’ we may only be renting anyway?

Youk, who’s been in and out of the line-up with various injuries (which to his credit he has attempted to play through) may have picked a ‘good’ time to go out on the DL.  Big Papi was already riding the bench and should be back and well into getting his swing on by the time Youk returns.  A-Gon has been hampered by a neck problem which has stolen his home run stroke and now Jacoby ‘The Machine’ Ellsbury is hitting a slight breakdown.  Well, believe it or not, we should still be OK.  Petey rode in the slow lane early and has picked up an MVP caliber season since while Crawford, extremely slow to adapt to his new surroundings, is again hitting his stride following the mid-season  injury.  Combine that with Marco, Reddick, Salty/Tek’ and the on and off mix n’ match pieces we’ve been plugging in… along with A-Gon’s ability to still hit for average if not power… we’re hanging in there.

But not by much.

Now comes the time of year where you need to take every series.  Splitting a four game series won’t be enough.  Now its three out of four or two of three.  Sure, you can’t sweep every series, not should you expect to, but taking the series is without a doubt.  So the question is… who do we need to line up in our sights and show no mercy..?

We open a four game set with the Rangers of Texas in Arlington who will obviously be no push-over and then return home for a month-ending home stand.  First we see the Athletics, late of Philly and Kansas City (and possibly soon of Oakland), for a three game series and after an off day welcome the New York Highlanders for an all important AL East match-up (of course, we visit the Bronx Zoo in late September for the final weekend of the season, amidst a Baltimore sandwich series).  We then open September with the final game of the Pinstripes series in the friendly confines and then welcome… guess who, the Texas Rangers for yet another volley of Defending AL Champs stew.  The remainder of the month is as it should be, an AL East love-fest where we play what seems like 400 games against the Blue Jays and Rays (strangely, both teams having towns that begin with ‘T’ and names that end in ‘..’ays’) with the aforementioned Baltimore sandwich with Yankee filler.

Those same Pinstripes will be home for a series against the wandering A’s, a visit to the O’s and then have the aforementioned sleep-over at Fenway.  There month however… isn’t as AL East lovey-dovey as ours.  In fact, they have a West Coast road trip amidst the love-fest to visit Seattle and the Los Angeles Americans (as compared to the Los Angeles Nationals).  The ‘Bombers also will play the final two weeks of the season with no day off as a one-game visit from the Twinkies will fill that date on the calendar.

So all we really need at this point is for the pitching woes to sure-up, the bullpen to get some new life and the hitting to get back on track while the opponents from the city so nice they named it twice to get some serious fatigue and jet lag, but with some of the seniors playing on their team, that might not be a problem.

That’s A Good Question….

With the Pinstripe Captain reaching his 3000th hit in such ‘Grand’ fashion (as any New York scripted Yankee milestone would be), there has been a lot of talk, blogging and general conversing on where he ranks all-time for the game’s most historic team.

This tidbit is lifted from www.thepostgame.com :

Where Does Derek Jeter Rank On The List of Greatest Yankees Ever?

Written by: Steve Henson

Now there are six.

The greatest New York Yankees have long been counted on one hand. Babe Ruth is the unquestioned No. 1, after which the order is debatable but not the names: alphabetically, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle.

Add Derek Jeter to the mix.

Jeter became the first Yankee to accumulate 3,000 hits in pinstripes when he hit a solo home run off Tampa Bay lefty David Price in the third inning Saturday in the Bronx. Jeter, who just returned after spending three weeks on the disabled list with a calf injury, singled in the first inning for No. 2,999. In his next at-bat, Jeter ripped a full-count slider from Price into the leftfield seats.  And despite the recent cyber-trend to disparage Jeter’s game and accomplishments, he deserves mention alongside the best to play for baseball’s most storied franchise.

Precisely where does he rank? From a poetic standpoint, No. 2 would be the perfect perch. Cue a tape of Bob Sheppard to make the announcement:

“The shortstop, number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2.”

But that’s a difficult case to make. To eclipse every Yankee except Ruth, Jeter would need to bounce back offensively through 2013. He’d need to change positions so his deficient range at shortstop recedes into memory. And the Yankees would need to win two more World Series with Jeter a driving force through those postseasons.

Today, though, Jeter has gained entry into the land of the elite. A Fab Five is now a Sparkling Six.

Here’s our list, in reverse order. Class, grace and a certain “Yankee-ness” count. So do stats. Only accomplishments with the Yankees are considered.

It all adds up to “greatness,” an admittedly imprecise blend of hard numbers and subjective notions.

6. Yogi Berra

Berra was part of a major league record 10 World Series champion teams, was named American League Most Valuable Player three times and played the most demanding position on the field. He also developed an iconic oracle-like persona with his fractured speech and hilarious yet astute observations. And at 86, he’s not only the lone living member of the Sparkling Six besides Jeter, he still wears pinstripes. Berra anchored the team during its late-1940s and 1950s heyday, succeeding Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickey at catcher and playing alongside DiMaggio and Mantle. He has the fourth-highest Wins Above Replacement of any catcher in history.

5. Derek Jeter

Jeter’s stature and leadership are unsurpassed. His production in the media hellfire of the Bronx has been phenomenally consistent. His five World Series titles and overall postseason excellence set him apart from other active players. In 2001, his flip of a relay throw to home plate and his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the World Series are among the most memorable moments in Yankees history. Of course he’s slipping at 37: Mantle, DiMaggio and Gehrig were retired at that age. Yes, he’s made more outs and hit into more double plays than any other Yankee and he’ll probably pass Mantle for most strikeouts. One milestone begets others for the player with the most plate appearances, official at-bats, hits and stolen bases. Each category speaks to longevity, durability, toughness and resilience.

4. Mickey Mantle

Like DiMaggio, Mantle retired at age 36. Like Jeter, his defensive skills eroded with age and — in Mantle’s case — injury. But like Berra, Mantle played 18 Yankee seasons because he broke in at age 19. He and Willie Mays vied for the title of best player on the planet through the 1950s and much of the ’60s. The switch-hitting Mantle was AL MVP three times and he led the Yankees to 12 World Series, winning seven titles. He might have had more natural ability than any player ever, but he frittered away some of his talent partying. Who knows the numbers he could have amassed had he not been such a carouser? That question need never be asked of Jeter, who by remaining productive for two more seasons could swap places with Mantle.

3. Joe DiMaggio

The Yankee Clipper was the team’s most majestic player, and only Gehrig and Jeter approach his stateliness. DiMaggio’s greatest accomplishment is his record 56-game hitting streak. A close second is his nine World Series titles, behind only Berra in Yankee history. DiMaggio’s offensive numbers across the board are exceptional per season, but his career totals are lacking because he retired after 13 seasons, at least four fewer than the others on the list, primarily because he missed three years serving in World War II. At age 35 in 1950 DiMaggio had a stellar season that mirrored his career numbers. A year later his performance declined because of nagging injuries and he hung ’em up after helping the Yankees to one more World Series championship.

2. Lou Gehrig

As he was in the Yankees lineup from 1925 to 1934, Gehrig is immediately behind Ruth on the list of Yankee Greats. When the measure is a blend of batting statistics, World Series titles, impact on baseball, impact on New York, larger-than-life persona and unforgettable nickname, The Iron Horse noses out the rest of the pack. Gehrig’s greatness was perhaps best displayed after Ruth left the Yankees. Gehrig led the team to three more World Series titles for a total of six, and he batted .361 with a staggering 1.208 OPS in the postseason. His career was tragically cut short at 36 after 17 seasons because of the rare disease that bears his name.

1. Babe Ruth

Besides singlehandedly introducing home run power as the game’s most lethal weapon and gate attraction, Ruth also made the Yankees the greatest team in baseball. Before his arrival in New York in 1920, the franchise had a losing record. In Ruth’s 15 seasons with the Yankees, and for the next 30 years beyond his departure, they had only one losing season. His career offensive Wins Above Replacement of 143 is easily the franchise best and he holds the trifecta of highest batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.484) and slugging percentage (.690). Ruth won fewer World Series titles with the Yankees (four) than any of the others on this list. But he delivered, hitting 15 homers in 117 at-bats. .


 With all of these talks of greatness and stats to prove it.. it begins the question (again) of who may qualify for top five or six for the greatest Red Sox of all time.  Obviously, the list is started with the unquestionable Number One in Ted Williams (not bias just fact), but who falls in after that?  Yaz makes the list somewhere in the 2 to 3 range, maybe even a Jim Ed or Dewey… names like Fred Lynn or Jimmy Foxx may spring to mind, members of Million Dollar Outfield maybe?  Carlton Fisk would seem to be a thought, and even though many will list him as the greatest Sox catcher just ahead of ‘Tek, the fact remains, he spent more years of his career in Bleached Hose than Scarlett.  Of course, talk then drifts towards Cy Young, Roger Clemens (who judging by his weight and much of the court documents was clean while in a Boston uniform), Bill Lee, maybe even Tim Wakefield..?
This will require much more investigative effort.
Moving on to other thoughts….
It’s the All-Star Break and the Sox have taken over first place in the American League East.  Sure, it isn’t a commanding lead, but hell we’re leading the ‘Bombers and even a half game up is still up, so a whole game is all the better.  The Sox have a very good number of worthy players attending the Midsummer Classic either through voting, manager’s decision or replacement.  However it happens, congrats to them!
1B Adrian Gonzalez:  In his first year with the Boston Americans, A-Gon has made an easy case in his first half season to make the list of top five or six Red Sox of all time.  Though many said he started the season a bit cold and required a month or so to adjust to Fenway’s dimensions (he, Ortiz and Lowry the only ones hitting in the first month or so…), he easily established himself as the anchor of the team having a profound effect on not only the line-up but his teammates, Big Papi inparticular.  His standing as top-vote getter at first, beating out the likes of uber popular Pinstripe Mark Teixeira and Miguel Cabrera was indeed worthy.
DH David Ortiz: The last few seasons had not seen the kindest starts for Big Papi, however this year proved much different.  Either through improved conditioning, different mental approach or as he has said, a bit of both combined with the surprising mentoring from A-Gon, Ortiz has reinvented himself as the premier DH in the League and once again one of the most feared clutch hitters, far different than the questionable talk from BoSox management to end last season.  With this youthful resurgance, Papi & A-Gon could become a more historically feared tandem than Papi & Manny, giving the Sox yet another power driven throwback to Mantle & Maris.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury:  His name being such a well known one in The Nation, it’s often hard to remember just how long he’s been in the big leagues.  Having led the CF voting for a majority of the time, his loss to a returning Josh Hamilton (of the disabled list Hamiltons) was a bit sour, however his being pencilled in as a postion reserve is just as good. This marks Ellsbury first trip to the Midsummer Classic and is well deserved especially when looking at the injury plagued career setback known as the 2010 season.
3B Kevin Youkillis: Now, obviously Youk is not having his best year… he’s been taking a beating physically at the plate (foul balls, HBP, twisted ankles) and making an honest attempt to re-adjust to 3B while hbbling on and off the field… but he’s been doing it quietly and with his normal intense passion.  Often overlooked by the majority of the League, having been surrounded by names such as Ramirez, Bay, Ortiz, Lowell, Pedroia, Lester, Beckett and Papelbon, he’s made top five in MVP voting a few times but is annually deserving of a trip to the Midsummer Classic.
RHP Josh Beckett:  A few seasons ago, there was question if the Sox should even resign him, nevermind to the contract he actually got.  Last season brought even more of the same.  If he wasn’t fighting a plague of nagging injuries it was almost as if he was fighting himself… a bit of that comfortability that plagued The Rocket in his final few years in Fenway.  But Beckett, like Ortiz, has re-lit the fire and showed up to camp a few years younger and as a re-invented player.  Despite the flu and a few passed starts due to various ailments, he’s shown himself once again as an elite pitcher and an anchor in the (when healthy) Trifecta of Boston’s starting rotation.
Honorable mention should of course go out to Jon Papelbon.  Even though the ‘Tower of Terror” has hit a pothole or two along the way, he is enjoying a resurgence as a premier closer once more, putting the bumps and dropping velocity of the past few seasons behind him.

Meanwhile, in The Hall of Justice….

(That’s a Super Friends reference by the way…)

Well, that’s the first Duckboat Parade down… and one to go.  Josh Beckett apparently had that mind this evening down in Tampa, allowing just one hit and collecting his first complete game since 2009.  Even sweeter coming against an AL East foe, dropping the Rays some 41/2 back in what will be a stretch where 14 of their next 30 some odd games come against the Scarlett Hose and The Pinstripes.  The season is a marathon and this could be the lead in to Heartbreak Hill where we can create some distance.  To me however, the best part is seeing a finally healthy, mentally focused Beckett looking like the Beckett we traded for oh so long ago and not the Beckett we were fairly hesitant to extend just a few off-seasons ago.

Meanwhile Kevin Youkilis has been nice enough to remind everyone that you just can’t pitch around this Boston Americans line-up.   Well, not anymore… the adjustment period is over.  If you walk one, you still have to face another.  And even when you walk the AL batting leader, you have to face a guy who is not exactly a slouch and is often forgotten for being in the top 5 of AL MVP voting for a few years… sure, you can walk him too.. but then you still have the ever rejuvenated Big Papi…. and should you go around him you have the fire-starting Crawford… of course this all contingent upon the fact you haven’t been initially torched by Ellsbury and Petey in the one two holes…

… Sh!t… we have a damned good line-up.

We’re getting hip deep into the season when the All-Star game is roughly a month away and the weather ain’t the only thing heating up (especially here in Vegas).  The Red Sox were enjoying the longest winning streak in the Majors this season, having outscored opponents 83-36 during that span but hit the wall against the Floridians who have been a tough play for them to date.

But streaks are like that… streaky.  When one ends, you might just start another.

Busy day… Busy day…

So let’s open with the Bruins… or as the press will have us call ’em, the “Killer B’s”.

I think we can all admit it.. when Nathan Horton was sent into limbo with that fairly questionable hit on open ice in Game 3, none of us knew how the home town team would respond.  Double edged sword, 50/50.. so on and so forth… but they did what was right and just as importantly, what was required when they took to the ice in the second period looking and acting like a team who not only deserved to be in the Stanley Cup Finals but could win it.  Even more importantly, they carried it into Game 4.  Minus the shenanigans, tomfoolery and for nearly 55 minutes, the theatrics, Game 4 for the Brown Bears was near perfect hockey.  Not perfectly executed but perfectly played to a point where the teams shortcomings and failings were negated by team play and the play of Tim Thomas.

Now obviously the B’s need to carry this momentum into Vancouver for Game 5.  But I can feel most confident in saying that if the Bruins can play two more games just as they played the last two… with dilligence, passion and imperfect perfection… the Duckboat parade will be on schedule.

Speaking of the last two games….

Really?  No.. really?  Joe Girardi needs to find something to b!tch about other than the play of his team so he singles out Big Papi for a bat flip (after having just been brushed back)… yes, really.  Now obviously this was taken with a grain of salt by most except for David Ortiz who responded by saying “I’m a home run hitter, I flip my bat.  I’m gonna’ hit another one tonight.”  And on cue for Papi’s well scripted season to date… he did just that.  No bat-flip, no drama… just the reality of another well hit home run from a home run hitter.  Ortiz is continuing the rejuvenation of his career, or at least he’s just not sucking for the first quarter of the season in what is known as the ‘slow start’.  David has credited A-Gon for his hot start and for making a personal impact that only Pedro has had on him previously.  Some speculate if it’s a friendship, a kinship in lefties or just some tutelage that has led to it.. but what ever works.  Big Papi has been impressive to start the season to say the least and is emerging as the Papi this team has needed since Manny decided to just be Manny.

So the rest of the evening wasn’t quite as pretty, that’s quite all right.   The Timelord was on the mound and once again held everything together enough for his Companions to keep the momentum going defensively and offensively.  The Pinstripes didn’t look old tonight but looking plain out-played is just as good.  Now is definitely the time to strike and keep attacking the ‘Bombers as even the press corps are getting antsy with the expectation of many a move being made to bolster the NY bullpen, rotation and bench.  San Diego is already falling out and they have some good young talent about to expire (Heath Bell among them).  Let’s hope Jed Hoyer remembers who built his farm system in a single trade this offseason… that’s right his former employers and bestest’ buds back in Beantown.  Of course, the Trolley-Dodgers and Metropolitans are singing what could be fire-sale songs of poverty….

Tomorrow is the ‘big’ one with Beckett versus Sabathia, but let’s get serious… for any real Member of The Nation and any real (no, I mean real) fan of the Highlanders… they’re all ‘big’ games.

Petey has returned to Boston for tests on his knee (injured in Baltimore earlier in the season) and could require surgery.  definitely explains the number fall-off, but if surgery is required it could keep him on the DL a minimum of a month.   Cross your Sox.. I mean fingers.