Keeping the Faith
At this time tomorrow, I'll be airborne en route to Fort Myers for the fifth annual "The Triumphant Red Sox Fan Goes to Spring Training" excursion. Here are but a few of the news items that precede me:
The next time I post here, it'll be from the warmth and sun of Florida, where I will enjoy a blissful week not involving brushing snow off my car in the morning. See you then.
This inquiry came via e-mail today from Pat:
Great questions, both of them. Clement's situation has been the best kept sescret in town since his last game on June 14, 2006. After that appearance, he flew back to Boston for an MRI and hasn't been seen since. News has been hard to come by, though last night Rotoworld.com noted that Clement underwent surgical repair of labrum and rotator cuff tears. Yesterday, this was in the Providence Journal:
Matt Clement, who had shoulder surgery late last year, has been in camp working with the medical staff. Manager Terry Francona said he was impressed with Clement's work ethic to return, and added that the right-hander would be playing catch at some point late in spring training, beginning his long rehab throwing program.
I can't imagine he'll be back before Labor Day, though who knows? I will admit I was wrong when I thought (along with about a gazillion other people) that his problem was all mental.
On the second question, Lester will be competing for a starting role, but my guess is he'll start the season in the bullpen. He certainly won't displace Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, or Daisuke Matsuzaka. Terry Francona seems adamant that Jonathan Papelbon will also be a starter. That leaves Tim Wakefield as the fifth starter, so if Lester hopes to crack the rotation, there's his chance, unless someone gets hurt. There is also the possibility he'll start the season in Pawtucket, especially if the team is concerned about his conditioning following his cancer treatment&mdashalthough Lester himself insist he's been working out and feels great. I certainly think he'll end up a starter, probably in '08.
Lester will undoubtedly be a starter anywhere he goes unless absolutly needed, he has commented in the past about how he likes to prepare for a start rather than the uncertainty of knowing when he will have to pitch, my best guess would be that Lester will be on a strict program in Pawtucket in an attempt to bring him back slowly following his chemotherapy treatments and we wont see him until after the all star break unless someone goes down, and when we do see him it will be in a starting role, also his stuff does not seem to be condusive to 1 inning stints
Anonymous, I agree about what he is best suited for. His major league starts last season were terrific. This is a very good reason to send him to Pawtucket to start the season, IMO.
Manny Ramirez' relatives are the most unlucky group of people in the world, having a history of getting sick or dying at the beginning of spring training and at the all-star break almost every year.
This year's unlucky loved one is Manny's mom, who while still alive (at least for now), just had surgery for what WEEI is reporting is a cancerous tumor on her ribcage but Julian Tavarez says wasn't cancer after all. Naturally, Manny's mom's dedicated son will be by her side in her hour of need, not to be seen in spring training environs until March 1.
2006 was a rare illness- or death-free year for la familia Ramirez, so Manny was able to take an extra week to finish his training in Florida before he reported to, um, spring training in Florida. The slugger's lateness the previous four years was due to the deaths of his many grandmothers.
The Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum wishes Mrs. Ramirez a full recovery which we fervently hope and totally expect will be complete by the mandatory spring training reporting date on March 1. We also strongly advise her to be careful around July 6, a date around which we know the Ramirez family is prone to dying.
I'd love to be bothered by this...but, well, I agree with the players. As long as he shows up ready to play, I couldn't care less if he shows up late or not.
AND, according to Rob Bradford's blog:
In other news, Julian Tavarez confirmed that Manny Ramirez told him yesterday that the slugger won't be reporting until March 1. The mandatory reporting date is February 27. Tavarez, who has known Ramirez since he was 17 years-old, said that Ramirez has been occupied with caring for his mother, who was thought to possibly have a cancerous tumor in her rib cage. After undergoing surgery, Tavarez said, she is doing fine. Both Manny and his mother are in Westin on the other side of Florida.
If this ended at spring training, it wouldn't be a big deal. What bugs me is that it's the same attitude that leads to his annual strike at a time when the team does need him to be there.
Did you know that Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin is 13th all-time in games pitched in the major leagues? With 961 appearances through the end of the 2006 season, he is behind only Jose Mesa and Mike Stanton among active pitchers. Notably, Timlin's career ERA (3.55) beats both Mesa's (4.27) and Stanton's (3.81).
These are the things you learn while listening to WEEI, as I was this morning when Dennis and Callahan interviewed Timlin in Fort Myers. Barring major injury or retirement before the end of '07, he is virtually guaranteed to make 39 appearances to reach the 1,000 game milestone, having pitched in more games than that in each of the last 11 seasons. Ironically, the only seasons in which Timlin failed to pitch at least 54 games were his second, fourth, and fifth seasons. His high water mark was in 2005 when he appeared in fully half the games that season.
Reliever Keith Foulke, on the mound when Boston ended its 86-year World Series drought, retired Friday just as he was about to begin competing for a closer's job with the Cleveland Indians.
[ . . . ]
The 34-year-old recently had elbow soreness and informed the Indians of his decision Thursday when the club's pitchers and catchers reported to Winter Haven, Fla.
"Reliever Keith Foulke, on the mound when Boston ended its 86-year World Series drought"... That, dear readers, is why all the boos that rained down upon Foulke over the last two seasons were inappropriate. This isn't a guy who said he'd never leave and then went for the money, or someone who complained that the team didn't give him "respect" (read: more money). He was a fine pitcher who laid it on the line for us when we needed him most. Many believe that he was hurt throughout the 2004 playoffs, yet he got the job done.
So he has a big mouth. So he lacks tact. So he isn't your prototypical baseball hero. Heck, by his own admission, the guy isn't even a baseball fan; if he had it in him, he'd have played hockey instead. The fact remains that Keith Foulke fielded the Edgar Renteria come-backer that would become the final out of 2004 and open the floodgates of a year-long period of euphoria. What he has done since isn't enough to have warranted turning on him the way some did.
Thus ends my lecture. I wish Foulke well in his retirement and thank him for what he did for my team.
You know I agree with you about Foulke and the boos.
I'm sad his career is over, but kind of glad that he ended it as a Red Sox player (okay, not technically but he DID).
He will be immortalized thanks to Joe Castiglione.
"Stabbed by Foulke..."
Foulke was my pick for MVP in the
wins over the Yanks in 2004 ALCS. We do not win without him closing the door, night after night, period. Did he continue to pitch to that level the next two years, absolutely not, but could the fact that he was overused come into play, you can answer that question.
The bottom line is Kieth Foulke is a Red Sox hero and should be appreciated more for what he accomplished in 2004.
Just minutes ago, WEEI's Jon Meterparel reported that former Red Sox closer Keith Foulke, one of the heroes of the 2004 World Championship team, has announced his retirement.
Foulke fell from grace among some Boston fans in 2005, when his performance fell of dramatically. The infamous "Johnny from Burger King"remark certainly didn't help matters and turned even more fans against him. Last year, he lost the closer job to rookie Jonathan Papelbon in the first few games of the season.
I vehemently disagreed with those who turned against Foulke. One of a handful of players without whom the Red Sox would not even have gotten to the World Series much less won it, he earned my eternal admiration. I can't imagine I am the only Sox fan to realize that his difficulties in 2005 and perhaps beyond were due in no small part to the fact that he, like Curt Schilling, laid his body on the line in '04. That should have earned him a pass with all fans, but sadly some have short memories.
With the A's claiming lefty reliever Lenny DiNardo off waivers yesterday, a bullpen spot opens up, most likely to be filled by another lefty, Hideki Okajima.
The 31-year-old Okajima, a Christmas baby in case anyone is interested, has played in the Japanese pro ball since 1995. During that time, he had a 3.36 ERA with 1.06 strikeouts per inning pitched. I can't find info (in English, at least) about walks.
Compare that to DiNardo, whose career ERA in three seasons is 5.53 with a 0.65 K/IP ratio. In 2006, for the first time in his major league career, DiNardo also allowed more walks than strikeouts.
Baseball-wise, it makes sense to cut Lenny loose. For non-baseball reasons, I'm not very pleased. As a female fan, I get to look at it from both angles.
(Pic taken from my friend, the Red Sox Chick.)
It's a warm Tuesday in Fort Myers. All eyes (and cameras) are on Daisuke Matsuzaka as the new multi-billion-yen pitcher arrives at the Red Sox' training complex for the first time. The frenzied media capture his every move, his every gesture. Here's Daisuke, Nike duffel in hand, walking from his black Cadillac to the clubhouse. Here's Daisuke talking to some of the staff. Daisuke stretching his arm. Daisuke stretching his hammy. Daisuke running, throwing, smiling, laughing. It's The Daisuke Show, the 26-year-old righty and an audience of a hundred or so of his closest media buddies.
Wait a minute, there is one picture that shows someone else. Clearly, there is some mistake. That guy isn't famous. No one recognizes him. Is he a player? He looks about 16. A clubhouse boy, maybe? The guy who sweeps the sunflower shells out of the dugout after everyone is gone?
No, it's Matsuzaka's unlikely co-star in the spectacle, catcher George Kottaras, who according to the Boston Globe's Gordon Edes was tapped with no notice or fanfare to play catch with the newcomer. Timing is everything, and today Kottaras is the guy who walks into a Hollywood coffee shop and gets discovered by a television director looking for just the right face. The guy who stops at the convenience store on the way home to pick up a gallon of milk and, hey, while he's there, buys a lottery quick-pick that comes up a winner the next day. The guy who, in too much of a rush coming out of the hotel elevator, bumps into the woman of his dreams.
Yesterday, Kottaras had been working all morning on catching drills with Gary Tuck, the new Sox bullpen coach, when Edward "Pookie" Jackson, one of the Sox clubhouse men, stuck in his head and said Matsuzaka was looking for someone to play catch with.
"'OK,' I said," Kottaras said. "'It doesn't matter. I'll do it.'"
Way to play it cool, George.
They stretched, Matsuzaka did some light jogging and twists, and then he grabbed a ball and trotted 20 yards or so from Kottaras. Originally, that was supposed to be the media's cue to depart; Matsuzaka had conveyed to the Sox that he wanted his first game of catch to be private. But, evidently, he relented, because for the next 10 minutes or so, a ball passed back and forth between the two rookies — the catcher making the big league minimum, the pitcher with a $103 million price tag hanging from his sleeve. Kottaras said the sound of whirring cameras never stopped.
And that is the beauty of spring training. The superstar works alongside the guy with "upside" (translation: the hope that great potential will someday be fulfilled). It hardly matters that the gulf between them is millions of dollars, the difference between every media member knowing your name versus having to ask the security guy who that skinny dark-haired kid with the glove is. At spring training, none of that matters. They're just two players, less than three years apart in age, having a catch. Maybe later, they'll throw back a couple beers together.
The photographers don't get that. To them, there is The Next Big Thing and then there's the guy who got into the picture by accident. But to those of us who go to spring training to see the players, all the players, the chance to check out the young unknowns is almost as big a deal as the chance to see Daisuke's gyroball. It's the younger guys who will be signing autographs, posing for pictures with school kids who are thrilled to meet a real-life professional ballplayer. It's the younger guys who we'll remember five years down the road when we're flipping through an old scorebook saying, Remember when we saw so-and-so in his first major league camp and now he's an all-star? Or even, Remember so-and-so who had so much promise? I wonder if he's still in baseball.
Maybe Kottaras will become the target of the cameras, a franchise player, someone whose jersey is popular at the souvenir stands. But if not, he has had something most young prospects will never enjoy: a moment in the spotlight. No matter where his career goes from here, I'm sure he'll look back on this experience and smile.
Now that the truck is on its way to Fort Myers, join me on a stroll down memory lane. It was less than a year ago, April 2006. These were the players we saw in the frist two weeks of the season:
If you haven't kept track, the players listed above who are no longer members of the Boston Red Sox are J.T. Snow, Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, Dustan Mohr, Adam Stern, Trot Nixon, Josh Bard, David Wells, Keith Foulke, David Riske, and Rudy Seanez.
This year's 25-player roster to start the 2007 season is shaping up to be:
Those who are new to the team are Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Joel Pineiro, and Brendan Donnelly. The team may elect to go with one fewer pitcher to make room on the bench for Eric Hinske, who can play first base, third base, and right field. Kyle Snyder, Kason Gabbard, and Hideki Okajima are additional possibilities for the bullpen. In either or both of those cases, the odd pitchers out could be Lester, Hansen, and/or Delcarmen. Everyone else is likely to be optioned to the minors or released.
The pitching staff alone presents a fair amount of uncertainty to be worked out at spring training. Lack of infield depth is also a concern, especially if my suspicion that Pedroia is not-ready-for-prime-time bears out.
So what are the strong points of this team? ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian goes waaaaay out on a limb and designates the Red Sox the best starting rotation in baseball. I hope he's right, but a lot has to go right for that to happen. Matsuzaka has to live up to the hype (and the money). Schilling, Wakefield, and Timlin have to wring another season out of their aging bodies. Beckett has to cut down on the long ball. Papelbon has to work his magic for six to eight innings per appearance instead of two or three. Lester has to maintain his triumph over cancer. The other young guns, Hansen and Delcarmen, have to start producing like major leaguers. Tavarez has to remember how he pitched last September and do it again. Pineiro has to stop the five-season slide in his ERA. Someone, anyone, has to emerge as a reliable closer.
And that's just the pitching staff. Elsewhere on the team, Crisp has to prove his mediocre '06 was the lingering result of his early season finger injury. J.D. Drew has to show some toughness for the millions he's making. Doug Mirabelli has do hit. (Aside – could youngster George Kottaras put on a surge in spring training and displace Mirabelli?) Pedroia needs to stop being the second baseman of the future and become the second baseman of the present.
If high priced talent give the team their money's worth, it will be a good season. If the products of the farm system approach expectations, it will be a good season. If the team can avoid the injury epidemic that befell them last August and September, just when the could least afford it, it will be a good season. If, if, if. Just like every other season, the questions won't be answered until the team starts playing.
Here's a plug for the Villa Augustina school in Goffstown, New Hampshire, which is raffling off a baseball bat autographed by the 2004 Red Sox. Proceeds benefit both the school and Crispin's House, a program that serves at-risk youth. So it's a great way to take a chance on a piece of Red Sox history while doing something good for someone else.
Raffle tickets are available until March 16, with the raffle taking place March 17. For more information about how to purchase tickets in person, by mail, or online, go to RedSoxBat.com.
In case you didn't hear the great news back in December, our very own Jon Lester is cancer-free after off-season treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Jon is already in Fort Myers, itching to embark on the 2007 season.
Jon's illness has raised a lot of awareness among Sox fans about cancer in young people (Jon himself is only 23). One person who was moved to action is my good friend and sistah, Cyn, who is selling "K-Cancer" t-shirts to benefit Dana-Farber here in Boston and Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the two facilities where Jon recieved treatment. The shirts (green on navy is shown here) come in four different colors and have a ribbon with "K-Cancer" on the front, with Jon's name and uniform number on the back.
For more information and to see all the t-shirt colors, go to Jon Lester Watch. You can order a shirt by e-mailing Cyn. Get yours in time for opening day and help support Jon and other cancer patients who rely on the good work done at places like Dana-Farber and Fred Hutchinson.
People should know, only 23 of "the 25" on the bat--no Timlin or Leskanic on, but Tito and Williamson are on there, accounting for the 25 signatures. They also say Mike Lowell, but I'm guessing they meant Derek Lowe.