You knew this day was coming, so any feigned outrage or battle cries of “traitor” are simply disillusioned.
You knew Jacoby Ellsbury’s time in Boston was over. You knew the Yankees were a likelihood based on the amount and length of contract he and agent Scott Boras were after.
You knew the Yankees were probably just stupid enough to give it to him.
That’s not to demean what Ellsbury meant to the Red Sox during his seven years here. When he was on the field, he was a dynamic player, one who helped the franchise to a pair of World Series titles, something only the likes of David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, and Jason Varitek can also claim to have done the past 95 years. But after being burned with the Carl Crawford debacle, there was a zero percent chance the Red Sox were going to get in a bidding war for a player who is a nice complement to have, but hardly the face of a franchise, no matter just how darn cute his mug might be.
Seven years, $153 million. Your New York Yankees are back in business.
It’s not always an exact science, but I’m a sucker for Baseball Reference’s Most Similar Players list. Here’s Ellsbury’s Top 10:
1. Pete Reiser (952)
2. Shane Mack (942)
3. Angel Pagan (935)
4. Russ Wrightstone (935)
5. Johnny Moore (932)
6. Beau Bell (932)
7. George Watkins (931)
8. Roy Weatherly (930)
9. Happy Felsch (925)
10. Danny Taylor (924)
Shane bleeping Mack.
Reiser was a career .295 hitter who played mostly for the Brooklyn Dodgers in a career that spanned from 1940-52, so let’s use Mack as a more contemporary comparison for Ellsbury. Mack was a good player during his time with the Twins, and his 1997 season with the Red Sox wasn’t all that bad when you look back on it, but in the wake of losing Roger Clemens to the Blue Jays, nothing was going to please fans that terrible campaign. Mack was three years older than the 30-year-old Ellsbury will be when he first dons pinstripes, and by the age of 34, he was out of the game.
Mack had more consistent power than Ellsbury has displayed, hitting double-digits in home runs from 1991-94 with the Minnesota Twins. Ellsbury has done that once, during his magical, and somewhat, ahem, irrational season in 2011 when he hit 32. Remove that one season from Ellsbury’s docket, and you’ve got Coco Crisp.
Crisp will make $7.5 million next season with the Oakland A’s.
Ellsbury will make northward of $21 million.
For a team with gobs of cash wrapped up in Alex Rodriguez (if he plays), Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia, and a farm system that just awarded the Red Sox a No. 1 draft pick by signing Ellsbury, the Yankees are the antithesis of what the Red Sox are managing to do with their payroll, after clearly losing their way with boneheaded “splashes” in recent years. Who just won the World Series again? It wasn’t the Dodgers, and it certainly wasn’t the Yankees.
This from Bill Madden of the New York Daily News:
I’m just not sure what the Yankees are trying to prove here. Now they’ve agreed with Ellsbury on a $21.8 million per year deal that will almost certainly be another financial disaster three or four years down the road, while giving them another “legs” player in the outfield when what they really needed there was a power bat. What happens to Brett Gardner? Are they trying to send a message to [Robinson] Cano that, if he doesn’t come drastically off his eight-year, $25 million per year demands, they’re moving on? Is this their way of saying to the Red Sox: “We’re back!”?
Whatever, this reckless, show-their-financial-might signing by the Yankees makes no sense, other than being another example of the Yankees’ intention of buying their way out of a situation in which their player development department has been bankrupt for years.
The Yankees are back to being like the arrival of the FBI in “Die Hard.” Their moronic moves are predictable and eventually, they will catch up to them once again. It’s nice to have some sense of normalcy once again though, isn’t it?
Ellsbury will be 37 at the end of his deal, whether or not he spends the bulk of it in New York. Hey, Magic Johnson could swoop in and deal for him in a few seasons, once the allure of Crawford wears off in Los Angeles. But just as the Yankees have proven just how dumb they are with this Ellsbury deal, nor would they have the smarts to pull off such a coup.
The Yankees are back to being payroll idiots, and the Sox will raise a pennant in the spring.
Shane Mack won a pair of World Series with the Twins too. He made just over $10 million in his career. Half of what Ellsbury will get in 2014.
Good for him. He’s laughing all the way to the bank.
As for the rest of us, we’re just laughing at the Yankees.
Here’s the only stat you need to know about the Houston Texans: Since wearing their ridiculous varsity jackets to Gillette Stadium last December, the team is 4-13, including a playoff loss to New England, and a 2-9 start to the 2013 campaign.
If there ever were a prototypical fraud team in the NFL, well, there it is.
This week’s picks:
Zuri Berry, Boston.com: Patriots. “Plenty to like about the Patriots after their 34-31 overtime win over the Denver Broncos. Now going into Houston (2-9), the Patriots have only to worry about staying healthy on a somewhat questionable field.”
Globe staff: All New England (Patriots by 7 ½).
John McClain, Houston Chronicle: Patriots 30, Texans 13.
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 34, Texans 17. “I wonder if the Texans will dare to wear those neato, whiz-bang varsity letterman jackets to the game against the Patriots, the ones they donned for last December's trip to New England? Probably not, since Houston lost that game 42-14, and then followed that up with a 41-28 loss in Foxboro in the AFC Divisional playoffs. Again, it bears pointing out that not much of anything good has happened to the Texans since those jackets were trotted out. Houston has lost 13 out of its past 17 games starting with that Week 14 game against the Pats. As for New England, the schedule is about to turn favorable, and 13-3 suddenly looks within reach. And did anyone in Pats-land notice I nailed the 34-31 final score of last week's OT thriller against the Broncos? It's a gift.”
ESPN.com staff: Patriots across the board.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports.com: Patriots 34, Texans 20. “The Texans have lost nine straight and are reeling. The Patriots are coming off a tough victory against Denver. I think there will be some carryover from that, but after a slow start they will get it going. The Texans aren't very good right now. Hard to believe these two met in the playoffs last season. Blowout.”
CBS Sports.com staff: All Pats.
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 27, Texans 20. “Preseason, you circled this as a possible AFC title-game preview. Now it’s half of that. Pats have lived up, despite injuries. Texans have been a monumental disappointment. See this one close, though. Houston gets a bit of a lift from coach Gary Kubiak’s expected return to sideline after a health scare. More than that, English figure to be going through the motions after that emotional miracle-rally over Denver.”
USA Today staff: Pats, Pats, Pats.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 42, Texans 13. “It was nearly a year ago that the Patriots brought the 11-1 Texans back to reality with a 42-14 drubbing in New England. Since then, the Texans are 4-13. The letterman jackets are in mothballs, and the coaching staff is about to get exterminated.”
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 38, Texans 14. “New England beat Houston easily last year, when the Texans were good. The Patriots will surely beat the Texans easily now that they’re bad.”
Yahoo! sports staff: All Patriots.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 38, Texans 13. “The last team the reeling Texans want to see when they have lost nine straight games is the nemesis that is New England. The Patriots beat them up twice, 42-14 and 41-28 last season, and that was when Houston was a good playoff team. Now it’s a shell of that team in freefall. While the Texans won’t be dusting off those letterman jackets, Tom Brady will be big man on campus again.”
Shaughn Daniels: Suspiciously quiet.
It says here: Patriots 35, Texans 24. Andre Johnson can still be a game-changer for Texas, but unfortunately for Houston, he’s not a miracle-worker.
So, what does it all mean?
Yes, your New England Patriots are now 8-3 on the season, on the heels of Sunday night’s epic come-from-behind win over the Denver Broncos. New England’s 34-31 overtime win puts it firmly in place as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, particularly after Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts vomited all over themselves in Arizona. As it stands now, with five weeks remaining in the NFL season, the Broncos and the Patriots own the top two seeds in the conference, are well on their ways to first-round playoff byes, and perhaps a sequel of the drama that unfolded in frigid Foxborough.
The Texans, Browns, Dolphins, Ravens, and Bills remain for Bill Belichick and Co., a schedule that gives the Patriots opponents with a combined 20-35 mark on the season. The Broncos’ opponents (Chiefs, Titans, Chargers, Texans, and Raiders) are a combined 25-29. If the season ended today, both would wait at home as the Chiefs and Bengals and Titans and Colts faced off in the wild card showdowns. But only the Colts, Chiefs, and Bengals seem to have a legitimate inside track on the playoffs right now. The remainder of the AFC is a complete mess.
At 5-6, the Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets, and Dolphins all remain in play for the final wild card slot. It was only three years ago that we witnessed the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks “earn” a playoff spot (and as it turned out, a postseason win over the New Orleans Saints), and the possibility that we could have another sub-.500 team playing in January remains a distinct possibility again.
Heck, even the 2-9 Texans aren’t officially eliminated yet, and they have the parity on top of them to thank for it.
The Titans' schedule still has games at Indy, at Denver, and home against the Arizona Cardinals, all of a sudden in the NFC playoff picture, so let’s not exactly mark their spot in ink just yet. In reality, the final playoff spot should come down to Baltimore or Pittsburgh (slated to face off Thanksgiving night), or the Chargers, who solidified their presence with a final-drive win over the Chiefs, who have their own pivotal game coming up Sunday afternoon against the Broncos. By the time the weekend is over, the Patriots could be 9-3, with a win over the Texans, while one of the Chiefs or Broncos will improve to 10-2 and the other will fall to 9-3.
The Broncos, Patriots, and Chiefs all play three of their final five games on the road. But the Chiefs can theoretically go from a five-seed to the No. 1 seed by beating Denver Sunday, which could put the Broncos on the road for a possible divisional playoff game. In that scenario, the No. 6 seed would have to take down the likes of the Colts or Bengals in the AFC wild card game in order for the game to be played in Foxborough, as the Chiefs would get the lowest-remaining seed with the No. 1 spot. If Denver hangs onto the No. 1 seed, and the Patriots maintain No. 2, a rematch won’t be possible until the AFC title game in Colorado.
Or, if the Pats can leapfrog both the Chiefs and Broncos for the No. 1 spot, the AFC Championship could be back in Foxborough for a
second third straight year.
The Patriots could lose their final five games and probably still make the playoffs with an 8-8 mark based on the vanilla contenders. Perhaps only the Ravens and Dolphins remain as serious challenges. The Texans, Browns, and Bills are all last-place teams and are a combined 10-23.
And think, had Monday night in Carolina turned out differently, the Patriots are 9-2 this morning, with the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
It still might happen, with plenty of football left to play.
But that’s really all we know.
To be honest, I have no idea what to expect Sunday night.
Should Wes Welker even play – he was held out with concussion systems at practice Wednesday – against his former team when the Broncos visit the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, the reaction from the evening crowd should be a resounding, positive welcome for the wide receiver. Should be.
It should have been the same with Adam Vinatieri, and the former Patriots hero got a worse welcome in Foxborough than Bob Kraft’s casino plans when he returned with the Colts in 2006.
Not coincidentally, that was also a late kickoff, just as this weekend’s NBC showdown between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, with the former trying to lead his team to the second seed in the AFC playoff picture. Lots open at noon. That’s eight hours to imbibe “debate” over Welker’s departure.For the most part, Boston sports fans understand when appreciation is warranted for the town’s former athletes, and when they should receive a frustration level that would even make Debbie Clemens cry. (The “Have another donut” signs should have been the least of her worries.) Yes, there are those who will forever hold it against Boston fans how they treated Johnny Damon’s return with the Yankees in 2006, but it’s always been the long-standing position in this space that the jeering was warranted following an offseason when Damon simply wouldn’t shut up about how “special” it was to put on the Yankee uniform weeks before he had ever even stepped foot in their Tampa spring training facilities. The “tsk, tsk” to this day from some members of the esteemed BBWAA over the whole incident shows they never got that evening right. Then again, what do they?
When Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford eventually return to Fenway Park? Maybe that should be more hysterical laughter than anything else following the events of last month. The reaction to Tyler Seguin was generally surprising when he returned with the Dallas Stars, and the debate over whether Tim Thomas should have been booed and cheered had he played in net for the Panthers two nights later began as ridiculous and delved into absurdity.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett? Please. Doc Rivers? Boo, jeer, hiss.
When it comes to Welker though, the outcome is far less predictable. Mind you, the Patriots fan base isn’t into giving any kudos to the opposition, no matter what the case. If you disagree on any one point, the Internet mafia will come after you with claws better suited for digging their dignity in the sand, and will go on to no end to defend their religion. It’s a mentality that has even seeped into the media, and notable this week as writers and radio hosts sniped at each other over the end of Monday night’s loss to the Panthers. Was it interference or not? Who cares? It was a bad pass. End of discussion.
These are the same fans who remember the two dropped playoff catches (again, the one in the Super Bowl was a bad pass, but mea culpa there) and conveniently forget that Brady’s interception sealed the Colts’ win over the Patriots in the 2006 AFC championship game, and was a Troy Brown strip away from doing the same against the Chargers a week earlier. Where are the sour grapes there? Welker caught 100 passes in five of his six seasons here and set the team record for receptions. But he’s remembered for two drops instead of being a pillar of consistency (hello, Danny Amendola).
Whether it was money or friction with Bill Belichick, we’ll never know the real story why Welker isn’t still here, but all he’s done with Manning this season is score nine touchdowns and is projected for another 1,000-yard season. As for how he’ll be received Sunday night, unfortunately I lean toward more of a disgruntled welcoming, one that will only get worse should the Broncos pull away.
With a loss, the Patriots would be 7-4, and could be closer to the Jets and Dolphins than the Broncos in the playoff picture come game’s end. Welker would be 10-1 with his new team, with the inside track to another Super Bowl appearance.
But hey, who really knows what to expect anyway.
Not only has the shark been jumped, at this point it’s far behind on the horizon.
Maybe it’s time to start and wonder if the Patriots feel the same way.
The latest in the developing saga that is Rob Gronkowski’s off-field life is that the Patriots tight end will play a role in the new “Entourage” movie, a film nobody wants, but hey, we got “Grown Ups 2” for some reason as well. According to TMZ, the same outlet that outed Gronkowski for a racial slur at an event over the weekend, “the NE Patriots' stud is going to be hugging it out with Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier and the rest of the boys from ‘Entourage’ in their upcoming feature film.”
This, of course, is only the latest in Gronkowski’s overexposure, and we’re not talking about the time he posed nude for the cover ESPN Magazine’s “Body Issue.” A new rap video dedicated to the tight end debuted yesterday on GronkNation.com (yes, that’s a thing), his family is pitching an animated series about life in the wacky Gronk household, and – perhaps most frustrating for Bill Belichick – the day it was announced that Gronkowski would return to the field earlier this season, sponsor Body Armor Super Drink pushed a two-minute video about his recovery in which Gronkowski uses more “I’s” and “Me’s” than a six-year-old making out his Christmas list.
If the Patriots haven’t told Gronkowski to cool it yet, maybe it’s time.
Clearly, the tight end’s focus on other projects hasn’t affected his play on the field. Yet. He remains the best tight end in football, and a physical force for the 7-2 Patriots, who are beginning to emerge as possible Super Bowl favorites in the AFC after some early-season soul-searching. He’s been everything Tom Brady could ask for since returning to the field, minus his disappearance in the Miami game.
But haven’t we seen this script before? Young player becomes a star on and off the field, and eventually, the off-field stuff budges its way into his effectiveness at his everyday job. There’s no guarantee that’s going to happen with Gronkowski, but let’s look at the facts; his family seems awfully eager to capitalize on everything he does, and that may have to soon become a concern for Belichick and the Krafts.
Brady is in the same boat, but he’s too cerebral and competitive to allow his endorsements of jet-setting way of life to affect his job. Nobody’s arguing Gronkowski’s competitiveness, but the intelligence factor? We’ll just let that hang there.
At 24, fame and fortune can have a way of catching up with you quickly, and it’s not like Gronkowski hasn’t had to deal with injuries during both his collegiate and professional careers. That potential down time can only lead to more opportunities, more books, more movies, more “Gronk”-inspired merchandise, more “ladies-only” parties like at Harvard Monday night.
If there’s something Belichick hates, it’s a distraction, and Gronkowski’s perpetuity in the names pages on a daily basis could become one. Not yet, of course. But if you don’t think it’s something that Patriots are keeping an extremely keen eye on, you’re fooling yourself.
Then again, he hasn’t killed anyone, either.
Can we please stop with the Brian McCann nonsense?
And by nonsense, I mean the fervent protests as to why the Red Sox shouldn’t pursue the free agent catcher.
Yes, throwing moola at high-priced free agents is what got the Red Sox in ultimate trouble the past four soulless years, and it was Ben Cherington’s restraint last offseason that helped assemble the World Series champions. The same reasons many fans don’t want to see Jacoby Ellsbury locked up long-term for $100 million-plus (injury-prone, the Scott Boras factor, could start losing his boyish good looks around the fifth year of the deal), are the arguments against getting into any sort of marriage with any high-priced free agent. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about Carl Crawford.
But McCann presents an intriguing possibility for the Red Sox, who may be waving goodbye to fellow free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia after not offering the catcher a qualifying offer earlier this week. Maybe that’s a precursor to working out a deal worth less annually than the $14 million Boston would have been on the hook for in 2014 had Saltalamacchia accepted the offer, or perhaps it was a sign the Red Sox were prepared to move on, and begin their pursuit for the likes of McCann.
Catchers, after all, are like starting pitchers, the crème de la crème are few and far, and worth premium resources.
Nobody is calling McCann Carlton Fisk, but 2013 was the only season since his rookie year that he played in fewer than 121 games. The last season he failed to hit as many as 20 home runs was back in 2007, and though his OPS has slipped the past two seasons, it was over .800 from 2008-11. At 30, he’s a year older than Salty, but comes with a much better reputation of handling a pitching staff, which is significant considering how willing John Farrell was to go with David Ross behind the plate for much of the postseason run. And with David Ortiz bound to ride off into the sunset at some point, McCann could slide into a full-DH role by his third season in Boston.
But the question is, if you only want to go three with Saltalamacchia, would you be willing to go five with McCann?
Why not? It’s not like the ceiling is much higher for McCann, but the consistency year-to-year is an attractive factor for sure. You lose the switch-hitting factor with the left-hitting McCann, but really, (and this does sound silly to say) the difference between signing Saltalamacchia for three years at $30 million or McCann at five years, $75 million is a mere $5 million per year for the next three seasons. Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey made a combined $11 million last season for 36 total innings.
It’s not just that the Red Sox have the cash to toss at free agents, and can survive even when there’s $11 million wasted, but in 2014, they’ll have even more resources with which to build their club. The new TV deal between Major League Baseball and Fox, ESPN, and Turner, doubles the amount of money each team will receive from the networks, from $25.53 million to $51.67 million next year. While the David Glasses and Jim Pohlads of the world will more than likely pocket that extra revenue and build another outdoor kitchen at the Telluride manse, the Red Sox are more than likely to re-invest those funds in their payroll. That might mean giving Mike Napoli a two-year deal, and having to succumb to giving Stephen Drew $14 million when he eventually accepts that ridiculous qualifying offer.
Where else you want to spend it? Maybe the Sox think they can have a more potent lineup with Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson in left over Daniel Nava. Jackie Bradley, Jr. seems a shoo-in for center, and Shane Victorino is here for two more seasons. There’s nothing on the market that makes you want to give up on Will Middlebrooks (unless Xander Bogaerts moves to third full-time), and, barring trade, the rotation is already stacked.
Doesn’t it make sense then to invest in catching?
"Certainly Boston is a city that Brian likes, and he has always respected the organization and the front office," B.B. Abbott, managing partner at Jet Sports Management, told the Boston Herald. "Obviously, the coaching staff and clubhouse unity is attractive. He has also always been fascinated with the fan base, their support of the Red Sox and the history of the organization. Boston would certainly be a place that would be a consideration for Brian."
Abbott, of course, probably repeated that same speech to 10 other teams, so it’s easy to not make too much of it. But it’s a statement that was probably also sent out to the Yankees, who also have interest in the free agent catcher, and a nifty little short porch in right field that might make McCann drool.
They have the cash. They have the need. Let’s stop arguing why McCann doesn’t fit here and think of the possibilities instead.
Thank you … uh ...
Tyler Seguin’s return to the Garden ice Tuesday night with the Dallas Stars isn’t going to prove anything about whether or not the Bruins were correct to cut bait with their young superstar, just as they’ve yet to see much production from the package they received in return last July. Even if Loui Ericksson returns Tuesday, after suffering a concussion at the hands of Buffalo brute John Scott on Oct. 23, and scores a hat trick against his former team, it’s not like chants of “Thank you, Seguin,” are going to wisp from the rafters of the Garden in line with the way Bruins fans taunted Phil Kessel whenever Seguin displayed a flash of brilliance against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Despite Seguin’s disappearance in the NHL playoffs this past spring, the trade that sent him and Rich Peverley to the Stars in exchange for Ericksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, and Matt Fraser on July 4 was still a jaw-dropper. Even if Seguin didn’t quite mesh with the Bruins’ two-way system, you just don’t give up on 21-year-old budding superstars, especially one that was the centerpiece of what was once thought general manager Peter Chiarelli’s fleecing of the Maple Leafs when they took on Kessel in exchange for two first-round picks. But as witnessed in the first round of last season’s playoffs, Kessel has clearly matured as a player, a status he’s taken into this season, when he’s fifth in the NHL in scoring with 18 points for the second-place Leafs.
Seguin, now playing center full-time, leads the Stars in scoring, netting six goals, as many as Bruins team leader Milan Lucic, and maybe his maturity on the ice is burgeoning before our eyes. But what an unmitigated disaster Seguin must have been off the ice, in the dressing room, and in team meetings for the Bruins to essentially package him to Dallas with Peverley for a package that many would probably consider grading a “B” at the end of the day.
To their credit, the Bruins didn’t treat Seguin’s exit like the Red Sox did Terry Francona’s in 2011, when cowardly allegations of pill-popping and other assorted behavior leaked, though there was probably plenty of material to do so. There are stories of a guard at his hotel room during the playoffs so he wouldn’t sneak out to Daisy Buchanan’s. There was the time he showed up for morning skate in the same clothes he had been wearing the previous day. There was his broken alarm clock, which may or may not have ever been fixed. There was reportedly a “Don’t text her, bro,” listing in his phone, and a litany of rumors of Seguin’s off-ice activities.
It took the Bruins three seasons to understand that he was a boy among men, far too immature to play the style Cam Neely and Claude Julien demand in Boston, or maybe it was simply that he was too young, not far removed from having his butt kissed for the better part of his lean years, and was simply unwilling to do as he was told, a characteristic that sort of leaked out when his Mommy tsked tsked the reporting of the guard at Seguin’s hotel upon last July’s trade.
“That's crap. Oh, my God. That's stupid stuff. That's very unfair to say that. He's a professional. That makes me very angry,” she told the Toronto Star. “You know what is happening? Boston is now trying to justify why they're getting rid of Tyler. Obviously, they don't want a fan backlash against Chiarelli.
“Now they're making up stories.”
If that’s the case, the “stories” seemed to be pretty rampant from a lot more sources than Causeway Street.
For comparison sake, Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, one spot before Seguin, has eight points in nine games with the Edmonton Oilers, and will be out another week or more after suffering a knee injury last month. When it comes to Hall-Seguin, the latter has been more durable from a playing standpoint, while the former already seems leaps and bounds ahead in the mental capacity of what it takes to succeed in the NHL.
Whether or not Seguin will wake up to that fact is difficult to say for a guy who could only legally drink as recently as 10 months ago. But think of just how bad it must have actually been for the Bruins to bid sayonara after 203 games in a Boston sweater. Eriksson and Reilly Smith may mesh better with the Bruins’ distribution. This year. Down the road, Seguin’s blossoming may have Stars fans thanking Chiarelli vociferously at every meeting.
“I’m not going to sit here and say even when I’m not playing against Boston that I don’t want to go out and prove people wrong or prove some of you people standing here wrong,” Seguin said. "That’s what you do every day. That’s not going to change.”
Step one is Tuesday night, but frankly, it’s going to be some time before Seguin learns to walk that talk.
This is the best.
Pure, unbridled joy.
That’s what we have in Boston today, folks.
The Boston Red Sox are World Champs, and yes, you can believe it.
Happy Halloween, indeed.
While it’s difficult to compare these bearded chaps to the idiots of ’04, can we argue that this was the most satisfying Boston title since the ’01 Patriots? There’s something to be said about coming out of nowhere, chips down and what have you. These Red Sox had it all; charisma, attitude, and, most importantly, an everlasting will.
Look, we can’t exactly equate what happened at the Boston Marathon with winning a title. That’s a trite exemption that I fear many will take today. But the way these Red Sox players rallied around a city in pain is something to take note of.
This IS our %$%^# city.
Whatever grief we may have given the Red Sox for signing David Ortiz to that two-year-deal in the offseason seems sillier than any Mr. Show sketch you can imagine. We criticized the Sox for paying for a face, the face of a franchise going nowhere, in order to sell tickets at their annual Christmas affair.
Boy. Man. Were we wrong on that one.
The moment Ortiz took that microphone in April, we should have known. Watching his speech after winning the World Series MVP trophy only sealed the thought clearer. Ortiz “gets it.” He s one of us. And frankly, in a baseball landscape littered with free agency and jumping for the nearest dollar, we should have appreciated that.
Jacoby Ellsbury, are you listening?
Word association. Ortiz. Bostonian. Ellsbury. See ya.
That’s eight professional sports titles since 2001 for Boston, nine if you count the Cannons, which nobody does. My children are eight months, three years old, and six years old, and they have been alive for four titles combined. How does that happen? I had to wait for Larry Bird to come this way from Indiana to see my first.
Not like I have to tell you, but Boston is a special place. You come here, and you don’t go home. It’s why what happened in April resonated so greatly, especially in a city that doesn’t take %^$# from anyone.
THIS IS OUR %$%^& CITY.
Maybe that’s why this title, above all others, feels so special. It comes on the heels of a city in mourning, and for a resilient fan base that deserved nothing less than this after the past two years.
The 2001 Patriots, of course, came on the eve of Sept. 11, and transformed a city of “Loserville” into a town of champions.
Nothing will beat 2004, but this. This is close.
Celebrate, Boston. Take your kids to the parade, and have no fears. That’s, after all, what this country is supposed to be about. My children and I will be there. And you know what, maybe we’ll park ourselves right in front of The Forum as the Duck Boats pass.
The Sox are World Champs. And Boston is the greatest city in the world.
John Lackey can pitch the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title.
Think of the absurdity of that statement.
The Red Sox are one win away from their third title of the past decade, a status that would have had you laughed out of barrooms throughout New England had you made it back when Ray Bourque was hoisting the Cup for the Colorado Avalanche.
My God, what a ride.
This World Series between the Cardinals and Red Sox has been gripping, and simply makes one think of which has been the most satisfying of the eight titles Boston has cherished since Vinatieri split the uprights in New Orleans. Was it the Patriots winning the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history? The Red Sox breaking an 86-year “curse?” The Celtics going from sad sacks to champions? The Bruins beating up an entitled Canucks squad for their first Cup since 1972?
It’s a great debate, for sure, and while nothing can quite beat the feeling of the 2004 Red Sox’ World Series win, it’s still in the mix for the argument as to which one you’ll appreciate most.
I don’t know, maybe we’re just caught in the moment, but this wasn’t supposed to happen. As dramatic as the Bruins’ run was in 2011, they should have been there the year before, if not for…well, we won’t go there.
At the same time, the ’04 Sox should have been there in 2003, had it not been for that Boone fella. Oh, and Grady Little.
Actually, they would have been there if not specifically for Grady Little.
The Celtics? After the trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, would anything but at the very least an Eastern Conference final not have been a letdown? The ’07 Sox were a machine, as were the ’03 and ’04 Patriots.
No, you have to go back to the 2001 Patriots for this type of potential, unbridled joy. This is Dante Hicks territory that makes everything all the more surprising, elating, and just downright…well, fun.
The Red Sox can win the World Series on their home turf for the first time since 1918. As Ken Fangs pointed out Monday night, it could be the first time the franchise celebrates in Boston since the advent of television or radio.
Only the Celtics in this magnificent run have the boast that they got to celebrate a world title in front of their fans. If the Sox do it Wednesday or Thursday night, watch out.
It will be amongst the biggest parties this city has ever seen.
That’s not a suggestion for stupidity, as local colleges as prone to do during times of celebration during Boston titles, and it’s not like Czar Menino will allow such a fuss anyway by boarding up bar windows and cracking down on public gatherings. But it will be a party all the same.
One more. One more win and the Red Sox will deliver the World Series trophy at Fenway Park. And it’s John Lackey’s duty.
Up is down, right is left, and…oh, hell, just enjoy the ride.
Expect the unexpected.
That appears to be the theme of this World Series, which has so far been an epic battle between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, one of the best title bouts in recent Major League Baseball history. But damn, how odd have the last two nights been?
Obstruction. Cardinals win. Pickoff play at first. Red Sox win.
I don’t even need to delve into any sort of archives to conclude that those scenarios have never happened in consecutive evenings. Spring training, regular season, or postseason.
Which brings us to tonight, with the series tied at 2-2, and the final game of 2013 being played in a National League park. The World Series will return to Fenway Park Wednesday night for Game 6, when we can get rid of the silly, yet, “cerebral” National League rules, and get the Red Sox as a whole back on the field.
OK, look, while it can be argued that watching NL baseball provides a more couch-managing game than it does in the AL, complete with enough second-guesses of the manager to fill a landfill, playing under different rules truly undermines a big piece of what got the Red Sox here in the first place. In an anemic offense, which the Sox have truly displayed in St. Louis (hello, Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury), the absence of a guy like Mike Napoli is solar-glaring. No, he can’t catch. No, he won’t play third. No, he can’t play center, and no, he won’t pitch. Trying to find a place for him in the lineup is a moot point, which makes the Sox presence in a NL city all the more frustrating, and it’s not like you’re removing David Ortiz, who is only hitting over 1.000, or something close to that nature, from the lineup.
You define yourself as a team over 162 games, two playoff series, and then have to risk the World Series based on the No. 9 spot in the lineup? It’s akin to having the three-point line in the NBA’s Western Conference and not in the East. Ridiculous.
And spare me the argument of the “pace of the game” when Sunday night’s game went ‘til midnight.
In any regard, the Sox have one more chance in St. Louis to take a 3-2 lead heading home, and have to feel good about sending Jon Lester to the mound based on his Game 1 performance. Of course, the Cardinals have to feel ecstatic about Adam Wainwright, considering there’s a general feeling he’ll bounce back from his early hiccups in the initial frames of this series.
Of course, that start wasn’t all Wainright’s fault, as Pete Kozma and David Freese played the part of wide-eyed athletes on the game’s biggest stage. Drew still owes Wainwright a thank-you card for his only hit of the series, an infield pop-up that the Cardinals hurler apparently feared like fruit dropping on Johnny Appleseed’s head.
The Sox won, 8-1, and the offense –other than Ortiz, of course - has been out of commission ever since.
It’s a best-of-three now, and Boston has to love the fact that playoff stars Lester and John Lackey – who added bullpen maven to his resume Sunday night – are going in the next two. But the Cardinals are no slouches in that department either, with Wainwright and Michael Wacha, respectively, taking the hill.
It’s going seven. You know it is.
If Monday night is anything like Saturday’s heartbreak or Sunday’s intensity and aggravation (I think it's safe to say we've seen the last of Craig Breslow), we won’t need defibrillators throughout New England, but professional counselors on a needed basis. We love baseball because, like any other sport, anything can happen. It’s not your typical back-and-forth nature of our other major sports, which is why it drives us insane at this time of year. Sometimes there’s no rhyme, no reason to what happens. Game 5 could end on a triple play, a ground-rule double, a pass-ball strikeout, or an alien invasion and we probably won’t be as shocked as the last two nights.
The unexpected is in the waiting, which probably means Drew goes 4-4 with six RBIs in Game 5.
And if the third base line could just not come into play for one game, we’ll take that too.
Will he or won’t he?
Are we tired of this yet?
Conflicting reports Friday suggested that Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz was either on target to make his start in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, or that he was doubtful to face the Cardinals in St. Louis, this all coming on the heels of the Red Sox' 4-2 loss at Fenway Park.
In other words, hey, Clay Buchholz.
Bloody sock? Nope.
Bloody hell, Clay.
“Our plan is for me to pitch Sunday,’’ Buchholz told the Globe on Thursday. “I might only have one start left but I’ll give it everything I have. I should be OK, but at the same time, if I feel like I can’t help the team, I’m not going to go out there.’’
Geez. Denny's does less waffling than this guy.
Look, nobody can accurately criticize Buchholz for an injury that none of us has currently experienced, but for the love … enough.
Buchholz, of course, missed three months during the regular season with a neck injury we’re supposed to believe came on the end of sleeping with his child the wrong way. Now, after two sub-par starts in the postseason, it’s a sore shoulder he’s dealing with?
Our sports are littered with stories of athletes who persevered even in times of physical hardship when the moment called for it. Love him or hate him, and whether or not you truly believe (hello, Gary Thorne) that it was actually ketchup on his sock that historic October evening in the Bronx, Curt Schilling is the shining example when it comes to that matter in recent Red Sox history. Ask Patrice Bergeron, who only played in the Stanley Cup Finals last June with a cracked rib, what he thinks about Buchholz having an “owie.”
OK, so perhaps that isn’t fair, after all. Baseball calls for a precision and accuracy that other sports can circumvent, regardless of athleticism or mental stamina.
Buchholz clearly has the former. The latter is another matter entirely.
Fool me once, fool me twice. If this were a first-time incident with Buchholz, who would we be to judge? But this guy is beat up more often than a piñata dropped from 45,000 feet. And now his World Series start may be in jeopardy because of “soreness?”
Way to buckle down, Clay.
It’s nice of Buchholz to predict that he might have “one more start” in him though. What must a guy like Dustin Pedroia, who has battled through injury all season long, think about that with the Red Sox three wins away from the World Series. Classifying a player as fragile or injury-prone is one thing. Questioning whether or not a player has the competitive juice to battle through such situations is more of the concern when it comes to Buchholz.
Never mind Sunday, as the Red Sox look to the future, they have to ask themselves if this is a guy they can depend on.
History has shown us it’s probably not going to be the case. History is also at stake here this week.
Someone may want to let Buchholz know. These are the moments that can define your greatness.
Too bad that it seems like he doesn’t really care all that much about his.
Labels can be misleading.
Yes, Jon Lester is the ace of the Red Sox, a status he proved during Wednesday’s Game 1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, a game that might go down as one of the most memorable postseason affairs that we’ve seen in Boston.
That “1A” moniker? Forget about it.
Lester is your man, the horse that you want at the front of your rotation.
End of story.
Of course, then there’s the Vaseline angle.
There always has to be something, right? From Eric Mangini to Tyler Melling, someone always has to call us out.
In case you missed it, here’s what Cardinals minor league pitcher Melling Tweeted last night during the game.
Jon Lester using a little Vaseline inside the glove tonight? pic.twitter.com/IyQn2iqg5f— Tyler Melling (@TylerMelling) October 24, 2013
Then, there’s this.
OH MY GOD ALERT THE TROOPS.
Frankly, who knows what Lester had going on last night. He was dominant in the win over the Cardinals, but … I don’t know. Doesn’t this seem like sour grapes? Sorry Cardinals fans, but you dropped the ball, twice. Literally.
Well, actually that’s not true. You actually have to have possession of it to drop it. Right, Adam Wainwright?
“I don't think it was jitters,” Wainwright said after watching … well, who knows exactly he was doing. “I don't know what happened.”
It was an all-around embarrassing performance by the Cardinals, escalated by the comments of a guy not even on their staff.
And so Lester’s label goes from stud ace to cheater in the matter of a 12-hour span. Et tu, Cardinals?
Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s not exactly a secret that the Cardinals have been somewhat of a miracle organization over the past decade or so, replacing players at a rate that Billy Beane probably can’t figure out. What’s your secret, St. Louis?
Hell, even the Yankees can’t figure out a way to maintain such brilliance anymore.
Melling, for the record, is a 25-year-old pitcher who just finished the 2013 season in Palm Beach, going 3-4 with a 4.93 ERA. The Cardinals drafted him in the 39th round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Miami University of Ohio. Based on the Cardinals’ record of making stars out of nothing, he should probably win the Cy Young Award next season.
You want to call a guy out, then you’d better bring something better to the table than what Melling had at his disposal. Boy, the Cardinals have had some offseason from a perception standpoint, huh?
Chest-beating aside over how you perceive yourselves to be the best fans in baseball, this latest incident takes the cake. See no evil, hear no evil, because you have no idea when the accusers will be pounding on your own door.
Was Lester pulling a Charlie Donovan on the mound Wednesday night? Heck if we know. It has been an ongoing issue with this staff though, made most known by Toronto Blue Jays analyst Dirk Hayhust, who accused Clay Buchholz of doctoring the ball back in May. Spit? Vaseline? Sun tan lotion? Take a guess.
“BullFrog is as prevalent across baseball as chewing tobacco and sunflower seeds," Yahoo’s Jeff Passan wrote earlier this year. “Major League Baseball can't exactly ban sunscreen. And players accept it as part of the game because they don't believe it leads to crazy movement on pitches like spitters of yore.”
Your move, Michael Wacha. Show some of that Cardinals “pristine” baseball spirit.
If you’re a Red Sox fan, you had to love the look on Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s face at the end of the game Wednesday. The man looked about as lost as the Titanic, struggling to find an answer to how his team lost the game. Kind of like the Tigers, no?
That’s a good sign, and you know what, so was Melling’s suspicion. John Farrell, ask to look at Wacha’s mitt.
Whatever Melling was thinking, odds are it’s going to bite his own franchise in the behind.
Thanks for all that ’04 business, St. Louis. But it’s go time now.
Two years without a parade is too long.
I mean, we had to endure the three years between when the Celtics won in 2008 and the Bruins raised the “World Series Cup” in 2011. That was something we simply can’t endure again.
Whaddya say? Next week. Boylston Street?
I’ll buy lunch.
World Series picks:
Matt Pepin, Boston.com Sports Editor: Red Sox in 7: The Red Sox tend to push things to their limit this season before coming out on top (see: 11 walk-offs), so I'm guessing the same will apply here.
Chad Finn, Boston.com columnist: Red Sox in 6: World Series MVP Jacoby Ellsbury ends his Red Sox career in memorable fashion.
Obnoxious Boston Fan, Boston.Com Bespectacled Hack: Red Sox in 5: The Red Sox rotation and bullpen is just too powerful for Cardinals lineup [even with Clay Buchholz]. The Red Sox beat Detroit in six games scoring just 19 runs. If they start hitting, this thing might be over in three.
Steve Silva, Boston.com sports producer: Red Sox in 6: Ain't no stopping them now, they've been through too much to get here. And it's only fitting they win it at home this time.
Gary Dzen, Boston.com sports producer: Red Sox in 7: Xander Bogaerts becomes a major factor at the bottom of the order. Home field will be the difference.
Adam Kaufman, Boston.com Sports Columnist: Red Sox in 6: You can't ask for a better, more evenly-matched World Series. Both clubs have strong rotations, deep bullpens, balanced and relentless, pitch-taking lineups, good benches, solid defense, and lots of homegrown talent. There's no lack of fandom, either. Best not to bet your life's savings on the outcome. Boston batters likely won't tag the St. Louis pen, as it did Detroit's, so it'll have to find a weakness on an imposing starting staff. Fortunately, the Sox have been awfully good at coming through in the face of adversity. Why should the World Series be any different?
Globe staff: Three out of four pick the Sox. From Dan Shaughnessy, who picks the Cardinals in seven: “No rings for John Henry. He’ll have to settle for Pulitzer Prizes.”
Michael Silverman, Boston Herald: Cardinals in seven. "Both managers are on postseason rolls, making mostly understandable and timely moves with their bullpens — their toughest job. Matheny has been blessed with starters who can go deep — his relievers went just 17 innings in six LCS games, while Farrell’s relievers went 21 innings. Farrell is not shy about going with a hot hand like Xander Bogaerts, and although his preference of Jonny Gomes instead of Daniel Nava is harder to explain, he has a little more momentum going right now."
ESPN.com staff: Fifteen out of 27 pick the Red Sox.
Tom Verducci, CNNSI.com: Red Sox in seven. “This World Series abounds with possibilities. St. Louis may get back its best clutch hitter, Allen Craig, from a foot injury. Boston will lose either Napoli or David Ortiz from its lineup without the DH in the games at Busch Stadium. The loss of the DH helps explain why AL teams are 11-22 in NL parks in the World Series since 2001. The Red Sox have homefield advantage; over the past 30 years, AL teams have won 14 of 17 World Series when they held the homefield advantage. Boston rookie Xander Bogaerts, 21, who displaced Babe Ruth as the youngest Red Sox player to start a postseason game, is both preternaturally calm and talented, a combination that makes him reminiscent of Andruw Jones in 1996 or Miguel Cabrera in 2003.”
Sporting News: Three out of five pick the Cardinals. From Bill Chuck, who picks the Sox in seven: “The Cardinals have Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal, Allen Craig returning, and great, great fans. The Red Sox have Dustin Pedroia, Big Papi, Jacoby Ellsbury, Koji Uehara, professor John Farrell, a bunch of bearded boys having fun, and the devoted Red Sox Nation. The Redbirds have a strong bullpen and a great ability to hit with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox have a different hero every night. After looking the stats, tendencies, and probabilities, there is one element that is immeasurable: Red Sox magic.”
Bob Nightengale and Paul White, USA Today: Red Sox. “The Red Sox have seen more pitches than any other team this season. They pride themselves on working deep counts and eventually wearing down the opposing pitcher, no matter how good he is. They got Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers out of a no-hitter after six innings because of a pitch count. They won two ALCS games when they had been stifled for six innings by Detroit's Max Scherzer, but turned around those games once they got to the bullpen. The Red Sox are fully confident they can win a battle of the bullpens with anyone and even more confident they'll get the chance to face their opponents' relievers.”
It says here: Sox in six. The Cardinals may be formidable, but you have to be nuts to bet against the Red Sox right now.
Get the duck boats ready.
This will be my son’s first World Series.
Well, technically, that’s not true. He was all of 14 days old when the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies, and he’s been around since the Phillies, Yankees, Giants and Cardinals have all won since.
But this will be his first World Series all the same.
I was all but a year old when the Red Sox faced the Reds in the 1975 World Series, only four when Bucky Dent became an expletive-laden household name throughout New England. My Red Sox postseason baptism didn’t come until 1986, the year I cried at the foot of my bed at the end of Game 7, with my mother rubbing my head, and asking aloud why she had introduced me to such heartache.
It’s all a bit different now, no?
One hundred and ten years after the Boston Americans won the first World Series, the Red Sox have a chance to win the eighth title in franchise history when they face off against the St. Louis Cardinals beginning Wednesday night. That’s something that seemed an impossible feat just nine years ago.
Yes, we may put the 86 years bit into over dramatics, but when you figure in ’67, ’75, ’78, ’86, ’88, the Ninja Turtle Guy, ’95, ’98, ’99, and ’03 into the equation, isn’t it a bit justified to have some heartbreak?
I mean, we’re not exactly the Seattle Mariners when it comes to this, but we also give a damn more.
We grew up knowing that the Sox would lose. We were raised upon expectations of hopelessness, frustration, and agony. One of my best friends signed my high school yearbook, “Go, Sox. They’ll never win.”
That was normalcy. If you’re not from New England, it’s a mindset you really can’t gather. There’s a rightful pride that runs deep here, but it comes with an inferiority complex that speaks to the level of the seasons. It has its ups. It has its downs.
And the Red Sox losing simply signified the end of summer, and a long, cold winter ahead.
No more. If 2004 morphed us into jaded, bandwagon pink beards, so be it. There’s something to be said about introducing our youth into something that we don’t assume won’t end in despair. It’s not really a matter of hopelessness, but there used to be a certain air of being a Red Sox fan. You knew what was around the corner, and it usually was.
“Why did I do this?” my Mom asked as I wept and the Mets paraded around Shea Stadium, wondering why she insisted on introducing me to such anguish.
She did it because that’s what we do here. Look, we all know the Patriots are kings of the sports landscape, and the Bruins aren’t far behind, but baseball is our fabric. It is the game that ties generations of New Englanders like no other place in the country. But it also delivers something completely different from what our ancestors wrought. We have all had grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts all dying and convinced the Red Sox would never win the World Series again.
Today? Sox in six doesn’t sound so outlandish.
Sorry, Miss Hastings, but you’re going to have one tired kindergartner on your hands for the next week or so. If the past six years have taught us anything, it’s that these moments aren’t to be cherished lightly. The postseason isn’t a birthright, and the World Series, by any means, isn’t an annual occurrence. Even if you’re a Yankees fan.
My second son was born in 2010, just in time to watch the Celtics fall to the Lakers. A year later, I watched him crawl on the floor as the Bruins raised the Stanley Cup. My daughter is eight months old and doesn’t have a championship to her name yet.
She’ll get there. Right now it’s about introducing my oldest to what it means to be a Red Sox fan in October. Six years old, and a possible two World Series under his belt. Must be nice.
Yes, the game times suck, but let your kids stay up late. Apologize to teachers across the land.
They will remember this forever.
For better or worse.
Rob Gronkowski is going to play.
At least, we assume.
Still, didn’t this propaganda video explaining his absence seem odd? Then again, what else is new when it comes to this situation.
This week’s picks
Globe staff: Three out of five pick the Patriots (New England by 3 ½).
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 20, Jets 17. “No Vince Wilfork. No Jerod Mayo. No Tommy Kelly. A hobbled Aqib Talib. Other than that, this Patriots defense is locked and loaded. The Jets played New England very tough in Foxboro in Week 2, and I see the same kind of struggle unfolding in the rematch. If the "good" Geno Smith shows up and takes care of the football, New York can win this one. But the Patriots should have just enough firepower to get to 6-1 and drop the Jets below the break-even mark. You doubt me? Don't know if anyone noticed, but I did nail last week's Patriots comeback win over the Saints on the nose: New England 30, New Orleans 27. So there's that.”
Pete Pricsco, CBS Sports.com: Patriots 27, Jets 17. “The Patriots beat the Jets earlier this season in an ugly game. The Patriots didn't do much on offense. But I think they've figured some things out. That late-game drive last week will help get them going. Belichick will have some interesting things to throw at Geno Smith this time around. And the defense is much improved. Pats take it.”
CBS Sports.com staff: Seven out eight pick New England.
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 21, Jets 16. “The Upset Bird was on this game like a vulture on carrion, but I just can’t do it. Even depleted and decimated, the Pats just know how to win, witness last week. And NE’s 13-10 escape over NYJ in Week 2. Now Jerod Mayo is out, and Rob Gronkowski isn’t back yet, and still they’ll win. Jets DT Sheldon Richardson this week called Tom Brady the “complete opposite” of Superman. Which begs the question, “Who on Earth is Sheldon Richardson?”
USA Today staff: All Pats.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Patriots 21, Jets 9. “ If the Yahoo! Sports report is accurate, the Patriots will be without defensive leader Jerod Mayo for the rest of the season. If history has shown us anything, the Patriots will find a way to adjust and win 11 games. That includes this one.”
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Jets 20, Patriots 17. “The Jets almost beat the Patriots in Foxborough in Week Two. Since then, New England has lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo for the season. Aqib Talib could miss the game, and even if Rob Gronkowski plays how much can be expected after a nine-month layoff. Some will call this an upset. Under these precise circumstances, it really isn’t.”
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 17, Jets 7. “The Patriots have been dealing with injuries all year, and Jerod Mayo is their most significant injury yet. New England is ripe for an upset. Unfortunately, the Jets looked absolutely terrible on Sunday against the Steelers, and they just don’t look like they have the weapons on offense to pull the upset.”
Yahoo! sports staff: All Pats.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 30, Jets 13. “Now the Patriots can officially be more concerned about their defensive injuries (Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo) than anything on offense. Bill Belichick, however, will have some more good wrinkles for rookie QB Geno Smith after breaking down the first game tape. New England should take away the run and put Smith in uncomfortable situations. His more accomplished counterpart, Tom Brady, has proven he can still come through when it counts, regardless of the receivers. Still waiting on Gronk. “
It says here: Patriots 24, Jets 13. Don’t expect a repeat of last week’s dramatics.
Prove it, Clay.
With all due respect to starters Jon Lester and John Lackey, the Red Sox are one win away from the World Series, much in thanks to a bullpen that has dominated the Detroit Tigers over the course of the first five games of this dazzling American League Championship Series. Red Sox relievers have combined to turn in 17 innings, allowing only 12 hits and one run, that sole score surrendered by Junichi Tazawa in the seventh inning of Thursday’s 4-3 win, but that was only in addition to a couple of crucial double plays that helped the hurler escape late-inning jams. Other than that, Connecticut’s own (that’s new in the stylebook) Craig Breslow and closer Koji Uehara were dynamic in putting the Sox ahead in this series in a somewhat-plodding game that lasted three hours, 47 minutes.
Maybe Koji can twirl a complete-game in Saturday’s Game 6?
What a relief it was to see Uehara come in for the five-out save, if only because it meant the game might have completed by the witching hour. Uehara threw 27 pitches over 1 2/3 innings, striking out two and walking … oh, none. Again. It’s the type of effectiveness and speed of delivery we’re assured not to witness at Fenway Park when Game 6 gets underway.
Clay Buchholz makes Jeff Gray look downright Mr. McFeeley when it comes to speedy delivery.
One of the minor keys heading into this series was certainly Buchholz’s ability to keep the dangerous Tigers lineup in check, something he was hardly able to do during Sunday’s Game 2. Buchholz gave up five earned runs over 5 2/3 innings, and some of that has to be credit to the Tigers, who are able to think and react during the 26 seconds it takes Buchholz between pitches, the slowest such number in all of baseball.
If it weren’t for Jake Peavy dry-heaving on the mound at Comerica Park on Wednesday, Buchholz would have the worst line for a pitcher on the Boston ALCS roster. He’s allowed 15 hits over 11 2/3 innings against the Rays and Tigers, good for a 6.17 ERA, and despite his 12-1 regular season, the fans’ confidence in Buchholz is as low as it’s been in some time.
Of course, you could say the same for Lackey, who went toe-for-toe with Justin Verlander on Tuesday, and changed his perception in Boston faster than you can say “Popeye’s.” Time for Buchholz to do the same.
Buchholz’s 2013 season may have been a breakout year for the 28-year-old, but it was one that was also marred by his mysterious neck injury, which we were told came on the heels of having his infant sleep on him. In spite of losing him for three months, the Red Sox roared to the best record in the American League, and now, are on the precipice of their first World Series appearance since 2007.
Really, it’s no thanks to Buchholz.
In going up against Verlander, Lackey showed a certain confidence and attitude that we’ve never really seen from Buchholz. Does the latter have the same sort of attitude it will take to face soon-to-be Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, ol’ puppy eyes who’s become the apple of Joe Buck’s own?
In order to beat one of the Tigers’ two aces in Games 6 and 7, the Red Sox don’t just need a dependable arm to bridge them to the bullpen, but a bulldog who wants to make his name known as the reason why Boston won this series. Can Lackey do it twice against Verlander? It seems a lot to ask.
Which is why this series hinges on Buchholz Saturday. It’s up to him to deliver the Red Sox to the World Series.
It’s time for Clay Buchholz to finally prove he’s up to that challenge. Want to be considered an ace? No more excuses.
It’s up to John Farrell now.
Is he going to stick with the status quo, or make the moves necessary in order to win Thursday’s Game Five against the Detroit Tigers?
It’s no secret that the Red Sox have been abysmal offensively in this series against Tigers pitching, hitting a collective .186 over the first four games with a .550 OPS. Not that the Tigers have been far and away much better (.242, .680), but that’s part to Tigers manager Jim Leyland shuffling his lineup Wednesday night in order to produce seven runs in Detroit’s 7-3 win. That’s one more run than the Tigers had scored in the previous three games combined.
The Red Sox manager needs to take a cue from his counterpart and shake things up. That’s not to say Farrell needs to play the desperation card, but Thursday’s game is pivotal in swinging this series one way or the other.
That means Will Middlebrooks, find the pine. David Ross, you get the call over Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Time for Farrell to start showing some skill.
As great as this postseason has been from a dramatic standpoint, Farrell hasn’t exactly painted himself in managerial glory. There was the curious Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Rays in which Farrell made more strange moves than Louie Anderson’s inevitable appearance on “Dancing With the Stars.” He left Clay Buchholz in far too long in Game 2 against the Tigers, sparking the dramatics that followed. Oh, and David Ortiz, that same guy, is looking for his first hit since Sunday’s grand slam. He’s also looking for his only other hit in this series.
You’re clearly not going to sit your most important hitter in a time of crisis, but something has to give with this lineup. Middlebrooks is hitting a paltry .100 with five strikeouts. Stephen Drew is even worse, with one hit in 13 at-bats, but if you think Farrell is going to sit his binky in place of rookie Xander Bogaerts, Dave Stapleton would like a word. Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino have struck out a combined 14 times in 28 at-bats.
Jake Peavy was bad in his start Wednesday, but was clearly denied a chance to escape when Dustin Pedroia booted a double play ball that would have limited Detroit’s damage to one run. But even allowing one run to Detroit is like playing in traffic for Sox starting pitching. The putrid offense has left no room for error, which probably has Jon Lester sweating bullets over what to expect when he takes the mound. One run? Against this Tigers lineup? Game 3 be damned, the Red Sox can’t expect to win that way every night.
"I haven't made a decision on tomorrow's lineup," Farrell said after the game, "but given the way the left side of the infield -- we're struggling a little bit to get production out of that side. So it's something that's being considered, for sure."
Like. Fer sure.
Not only should it be under consideration, but Farrell needs to understand the necessity. The Red Sox had the Tigers running scared after Game 3, unable to solve how they were down in a series they had dominated. Now, they’re right back in it with more confidence than they’ve had yet.
Change is good. Change is necessary.
There’s something to be said about sticking to your guns, and with your guys, over the course of 162 games. But when it comes to a best out of seven, you have to show skill and courage not necessarily needed in July against the Blue Jays. Farrell rebounded nicely from questions that arose in the ALDS.
On Thursday, he needs to silence them before they begin.
It’s going to take a lot to beat the 1991 World Series.
But this Red Sox-Tigers American League Championship Series is the best thing since.
Oh, ye who grew up in the steroid era, THIS is what baseball is about. Timely hitting. Clutch pitching. A bullpen that makes your heart leap into your throat at times.
It’s awesome, isn’t it?
The Red Sox are up 2-1 in the ALCS thanks to of all people, John Lackey, that chicken-eating, beer-swilling totem pole we had grown to loathe. That guy beat Justin Verlander in Game 3.
I mean ... I don't really know where to go with this.
In the wake of the Disney World-like nature that was Sunday evening (watch this as if you needed a reminder), it was somewhat easy, if not juvenile, to assume that Lackey would toss a game for the ages, even against the most feared postseason pitcher left in the business. When unexpected glory befalls you, it tends to stick around in a delirious fashion.
Then. It happens.
David Ortiz’s grand slam in Game 2 didn't just win the game on Sunday night; it changed the entire perception of this series, and it has the Tigers swirling in their own heads.
Ah, maybe that’s too easy and taking too much away from the job turned in by Lackey, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and ... yeah, that closer guy, in a thoroughly entertaining Game 3, but the Tigers are your 2011 Vancouver Canucks right now. Lost and no way out.
The Red Sox have the same eyes the Bruins did.
Maybe it’s not exactly “kill and destroy,” but there’s a confidence level there we haven’t seen since 2004 in baseball.
Maybe not even then.
Nine years ago, it was about, “If you don’t believe in us ...” and more that drove the team that broke the drought. This year? It’s more about chemistry, teamwork, and hardship, the trio of traits that many a sabermetric will insist doesn’t exist. Tell me this, if chemistry doesn’t exist, do you have a date tonight?
Ben Cherington has assembled the most-likable, dynamic Red Sox team since Kevin Millar booted Japan for the Back Bay. For all that Theo Epstein gave the Red Sox in his tenure here, let’s face it, he never, ever had the scouting eyes that his successor clearly has. Cherington was always the Watson in the front office, consistently with all the clues as Epstein’s Sherlock Holmes took the credit.
And that comes from a Theo apologist.
These games remind us why we love baseball. It’s not about “digging the long ball” but dodging it altogether. It’s about double plays in the eighth. It’s about players getting benched in Game 2 hitting the game-winning home run. It's about your third choice for a closer nailing down the win as he had done all season.
Baseball, as if you needed to know, is awesome.
But nights like Tuesday ... well, they only slam you in the head with that message don’t they?
Cherish this. It is the best ALCS you might ever see.
After all, it only happens every 22 years. Or so.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the summer of Morgan Magic.
That 1988 summer was when the Red Sox, led by interim manager Joe Morgan, shocked baseball by roaring back from 9 1/2 back at the All-Star break to win the American League East. It was a change in culture from former manager John McNamara. A change in baseball philosophy that instantly mixed into ingredients that sparked one of the most memorable baseball seasons we’ve witnessed in New England.
That sound familiar?
Boston won the American League East that season by one game over the Detroit Tigers. Had Lou Whitaker’s crew been able to win one more game, we would have had the first postseason showdown between the two teams.
Twenty-five years later, here we are.
ESPN.com staff: Split down the middle.
CNNSI.com staff: Five out of nine pick the Red Sox. From Tom Verducci, who picked the Red Sox in six: “Boston has been a terrific home team and opens the series at home, with more rest, less travel and more hitters who hit good pitching than the Tigers.
CBS Sports.com staff: One out of six pick the Red Sox. From Jon Heyman, who is the only one to pick the Red Sox (in seven): “It's Boston's year, and that's more a feeling than anything. The Red Sox have a great spirit about them, and it's hard to see a weakness. If you do, let me know.”
Ken Rosenthal, Foxsports.com: Red Sox in six. “This is the Tigers’ third straight trip to the ALCS and fourth in eight years, yet they have not won the World Series since 1984. Maybe this is their time. Maybe their elite players are about to get hot. But the Red Sox are so well-prepared, they always seem ready with answers. They lost three straight games on five different occasions during the regular season — but never four straight.
Red Sox in 6. At least, it had better be 6.
Would anyone bet against Verlander in Game 7?”
CBS Boston.com: Eleven out of 13 pick the Sox.
Paul White, USA Today: Tigers in six. “With Verlander back to his Cy Young Award-level self, the Tigers pitching can keep the Red Sox from stringing together enough baserunners to do major damage. Plenty of tight games but Detroit needs six of them to return to the World Series.”
Boston Herald staff: Three out of four pick the Red Sox.
It says here: Red Sox in six. Maybe we’re overblowing the Verlander factor just a wee bit. These games are going to come down to the bullpens and late-inning situations, and Boston is just far superior in that regard. Let’s hope John Farrell learned his lessons in Game 3 of the ALDS.
But Verlander in Game 7? Eeek. Sox have to be wary.