Falling From the Sky

Just to break away from the Hernandez Probe and the Celtics trade talks for a bit, I decided to write about another story. Yesterday in Brooklyn, a 1-year-old baby boy crawled through an open window in a second-story apartment. He then began to fall straight to the ground before a random woman walking by  caught him. Talk about lucky. However, that person wasn’t so random in the NY area. It was the daughter of famous baseball Head Coach Joe Torre. Cristina Torre caught the baby after he bounced off of an awning at a FroYo shop. She had to position herself to Cherry-Pick the baby after he bounced. The baby and 3 other children were taken by protective services because the parents were charged with child endangerment.

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Class Act

Just one day after the attacks at the Boston Marathon finish line, the country was still hurting—and will be for some time. I do not want to get into details about all of the events that occurred on April 15th, because we all know what happened.  I would like to point out a Class Act last night. The New York Yankees played Fenway’s classic “Sweet Caroline” song in their third inning to honor those in Boston for what they had to go through. They also issued the following statement (ESPN):

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families who were affected by the bombings and our respect and admiration go out to the police, medical personnel and first responders who acted so heroically,We stand united with the participants, volunteers, staff and spectators of the Boston Marathon and the people of Boston.”

Also, before the game even started they were showing their support. Instead of just having their trademark logo on the big screens around the stadium, they had both their logo, and the Red Sox emblem on it with the words “United We Stand”. Even if you hate the Yankees, you have to respect this.

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Pedro’s Back

The Red Sox have signed Pedro Martinez! However, it’s not to pitch for us, even though he is probably still better than 90% of our team. His new position will be Special Assistant to the GM. This is the second former player that the Sox front office has brought in, after Jason Varitek was given the same title over the off-season.pedro zimmerThese two have been brought in to assist with the development of young pitchers. Pedro won 2 Cy Young Awards here and a World Series ring. In his career, Pedro is 219-100 and recorded 3154 strikeouts. We all know all about his fun attitude and intensity for the game. Why not bring in some leaders that can still relate to the players? Especially when they are proven champions.

Red Sox Legend DUI

By now, most of you have already heard that Red Sox great, Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk was arrested on charges of driving under the influence. He was found asleep behind the wheel in the middle of a cornfield. There was an open bottle of Vodka on the floor of his vehicle. Fisk was brought to the hospital and released from custody the next morning after posting bail.

During his 24 year playing career, Carlton Fisk is most remembered for running down the line, waving his home run fair during the 1975 World Series.

Farrell Introduced

John Farrell was officially introduced as the 46th manager of the Boston Red Sox today at noon. Everyone down the line from Owners, Chairmen, General Manager, and even former and current players were on board to congratulate Farrell. Most of them even stood up to say a few words about him and everyone spoke so highly of him. With much praise about his leadership skills and intelligence all around the game of baseball, it is no wonder why the Sox made this choice so quickly, as soon as they were given permission to speak to him from the Toronto Blue Jays.

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Loving the Yankee Struggles!

This is not only a Boston sports site, this is an Anti-Yankee site. That being said, what is happening with Alex Rodriguez is just hilarious to me.  Joe Girardi sits him and then has to make up excuses like, he is only bad against right-handers.  While riding the pine, A-Rod put a note on a baseball trying to get a woman in the stand’s phone number. She was an Australian Bikini Model, but still.

Now, there is a rumor going around that the Marlins and Yanks may be in talks of a A-Rod trade. But will A-Rod actually take his talents (or lack thereof) to South Beach?  A source said that Yankees President Randy Levine told his good friend, the owner of the Marlins, Jeffrey Loria, that “he can have him.” It is expected that Miami is the only place that Rodriguez would consider accepting a trade to. He has 5 years and $114 million left on his contract.

Do you think Miami would be stupid to trade for him?

Oh Hey, Sox-Yanks Game

As much as I’ve been trying to pretend it’s offseason for the Sox, it’s hard to ignore completely when the Yanks are in town. ESPN and sports analysts have been talking about the expected lack of interest in the Red Sox-Yankees game tonight at Fenway for the obvious reason being that the Sox aren’t in the picture. Earlier today there were a couple thousand or so tickets still available on StubHub starting at just $17, an unheard of price for a game against even the worst of teams. On the other hand, they’ve also brought up how the Sox could play spoiler to the recently struggling Yanks who are close to losing their playoff spot as well. It’s a weird situation, one we’re certainly not used to dealing with. So it begs the question, does it matter to you at all?

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O Captain! My Captain!: Varitek Set to Retire Thursday

On July 31st, 1997, the Boston Red Sox received Derek Lowe and first round pick Jason Varitek from the Seattle Mariners for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb. After being traded as a minor league prospect, there was no way Varitek could have imagined playing his entire 15 year major league career with one team. Similar to Tim Wakefield, it was assumed by many that V-Tek would walk away after the season ended last year. News has now broken out that Jason is set to announce his retirement Thursday at Fort Myers.

Throughout his long baseball career, Jason was always a winner. He is one of only two players in the history of baseball to play in the World Championship of the Little League Championship, College World Series National Championship, and the World Series in the MLB (Ed Vosberg is the other for those keeping track). His high school also won the State championship for Florida in 1990 and was ranked as the number one team in the nation by USA Today.

I hope your starting to get the “pitcher” (pun intended, horrible, but a pun nonetheless) because it was felt by many Sox fans that V-Tek knew some of the pitchers better than they did themselves. He was never the best hitting catcher, but not the worst either. Despite this, Jason was the perfect battery mate for every Sox pitcher (with the exception of Timmy and his knuckleball) and perfect teammate. He was crucial to both championship teams in 2004 and 2007 and Captain of the Red Sox from 2006 on. He caught a Major League record four no-hitters, which is a true testament of how well he could call a game behind the plate. I hope Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway were able to learn a lot from Jason Varitek in their short time with him. His endless preparation and knowledge of the game was a huge benefit to the Sox pitchers throughout the last 14 years.

My favorite Varitek memory (along with many other Red Sox fans) came on July 24, 2004. In one of those summer games vs the Yanks at Fenway on Fox, A-Rod got pegged by Bronson Arroyo. Naturally, A-Rod started to bitch back at Arroyo, yelling “F*ck you, F*ck you.” There was no way Tek was having any of that and shoved his glove square into A-Rod’s face and starting a bench clearing brawl. The Sox went on to comeback from a 9-4 deficit and beat the Yanks 11-10 in the 9th by scoring three on the “invincible” Mariano Rivera. The game immediately went down as an all time great. That moment seemed to be the turning point of their championship season. The Sox posted the best record in the bigs from that point on and developed a much-needed swagger against the Yanks and Rivera that proved crucial when they were down 3-0 in the ALCS.

It’s going to be tough in the Sox clubhouse this year with all the crap that unfolded during their September collapse. Not having guys like Wakefield and Varitek won’t help, but as I have said before hopefully guys like Salty and Adrian will step up like they said. As I noted in my catcher positional rankings, I hope that the Red Sox can reward Varitek similar to how the Pats treated Kevin Faulk. The only difference would be since Varitek will be officially retired, his role will be a coaching job within the organization, not the player/mentor role Faulk had this past year. Either way, Timmy and V-Tek will be missed greatly, both in the clubhouse and on the TV screen. They are true heroes of Red Sox Nation and they deserved to be honored for their accomplishments.

Which brings me to this poll question, feel free to put in some comments.

 

AL East Position Matchup: Left field

On the agenda today is Left field. Left field looked like it was going to be a very weak spot last month when it was announced that Carl Crawford underwent offseason surgery on his wrist. It was recently announced that Crawford has high hopes to be back for Opening Day, which is great news for the Red Sox. Hopefully he can start living up to his contract.

Anyways, back to the rankings:

(Once again for other positional rankings click here: C1B2B3BSS)

1. Brett Gardner, Yankees
2. Carl Crawford, Red Sox
3. Desmond Jennings, Rays
4. Nolan Reimold, Orioles
5. Eric Thames, Blue Jays

Brett Gardner was a no brainer in the top spot. If this was said before the season last year, it is almost guaranteed that most of Red Sox Nation would have been up in arms. Gardner has been one of the top defensive outfielders in the past two years (3.2 defensive WAR last year) and he’s a force on the basepaths (at least 47 SB’s in each of the last two years). Gardner came back down to Earth in batting last year from his ridiculous 2010 numbers and saw a drop in his BA (.277 to .259), but he still drew a lot of walks.

Carl Crawford is the true question of this division, and the Red Sox team. After a monster year in 2010, where he had a .307/19/90 line with 47 steals, the Red Sox signed him to a massive contract. Hoping for production close to his 6.1 WAR (wins above replacement) in 2010, they were rewarded with a whopping 0.0 WAR in 2011. Despite this, I can’t stand hearing Sox fans bitch about how bad the guy is. Yes, we overpaid for him, but what big signing haven’t we overpaid for?!? He had a horrible April, along with the rest of the squad, and then as he was starting to get into a groove, he got injured. His wrist was nagging him for a while and his hamstring’s were bothering him all summer. Speed is his forte, and he lost his speed last season, I don’t know what fans expected. I’ve heard how hard of a worker he is and I’m confident he will come back strong this year. It’s great news that he is on pace to come back earlier than initially planned, but I’d rather we make sure we don’t rush this one. Crawford was very consistent for the Rays with the exception of 2008 (marred by injuries) and I am confident he will get his mojo back this year and start to live up to (some) of his money.

Next up is the Tampa Bay Rays leftfielder, Desmond Jennings. Jennings was the main reason that the Rays were able to so willingly part with Crawford (that and the fact that the Sox put way too much money on the table). Jennings came into the big leagues on fire last year hitting .333 throughout July and August, until he finally cooled off in September with a .160 BA. Jennings has been touted as one of the top prospects for the last couple years. He is a great athlete and was voted the most exciting player to watch in the International League in the minors.He is regarded as a top baserunner and defensive player in the minors and I’m really interested in seeing how Jennings does as an everyday guy for the Rays this year.

The fourth spot was the hardest decision to make. Eric Thames was never a big prospect for the Blue Jays organization, but had a good run in his first year in the Majors last year. Nolan Reimold was a highly touted prospect, but is now 28 years old and has yet to make an impact for the Orioles. I’m not sold on Thames considering his struggles against lefties and weak fielding skills. Reimold has yet to pan out in the majors due to injuries and personal problems, but he has been effective in his small samples (13 HR in 267 AB’s last year). He has good speed, which pays off on the basepaths and makes up for his bad instincts in the field. Reimold gets the edge in this matchup due to his greater potential for a full year.

For other positional rankings click here: C1B2B3BSS

 

AL East Position Matchup: Shortstop

Great news as pitchers and catchers reported for the Sox yesterday.The first workout will be tomorrow and position players will arrive February 24, a day before the teams first full workout. The Red Sox clubhouse is still talking to media about the epic collapse from last year, with Lester and Beckett openly taking blame. Also, guys like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Adrian Gonzalez have already been vocal about assuming the leadership type of role this team needs.

Let’s get back to the matter at hand, ranking the shortstop’s in the AL East.

Find prior rankings here: C1B2B3B

1. J.J. Hardy, Orioles
2. Derek Jeter, Yankees
3. Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays
4. Nick Punto/Mike Aviles/ Jose Iglesias, Red Sox
5. Sean Rodriguez/ Reid Brignac, Rays

Derek Jeter is nearing the end of his career and the shortstop position has switched from a division strength during the late 90’s and early 2000’s to now the AL East’s weakest position. It seems like just yesterday Nomar was being called “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” by Sports Illustrated for Kids and featured with his shirt off on the Sports Illustrated cover labeled “A Cut Above.” Whether it was the cover jinx or not, injuries arose for the Beantown legend and the position has become vastly different from the days when Nomar and Jeter would duke it out as potential MVP candidates.

J.J. Hardy, Derek Jeter and Yunel Escobar all display plus gloves in the field, although Jeter is the only to have received a Gold Glove out of the three (he has received five total-his latest in 2010). Despite this, Jeter might now be the worst fielder out of three since his range has begin to diminish with his aging body. J.J. Hardy is ranked first due to his reinvented swing from the past two years. Hardy went from hitting 50 HRS in 2007-2008 combined to 11 in 2009 and 6 in 2010. Hardy was killed by pitchers (specifically lefthanders) in these two years, after Alex Eisenberg of Baseball-Intellect.com revealed some flaws in Hardy’s plate approach. He has spent the 2009-2010 battling through a wrist injury and other minor injuries. Hardy now has spent the end of 2010 and 2011 redefining his plate approach by shortening up his swing and lowering and extended his arms in the beginning of the approach. He has began pulling the pull more often and the results showed last year. In his bounce back year, he had 30 HRS and 80 RBI’s. I expect Hardy to hit around 28-34 HR in the hitter friendly Camden Yards.

Next up is Derek Jeter. In Big Nons story earlier this year, I chimed in the comments section giving my thoughts on Jeter: “Can’t call yourself a true fan of both the Red Sox and baseball unless you admit Derek Jeter is a great ballplayer. The guy hustles on the field and is the ideal team captain. Any time i see someone go full speed into a ball in the stands and dive in there with the fans the way Jeter did years back against the Sox, I’m impressed. “The flip?” One of the best heads up plays I have EVER seen a shortstop make. I mean “c’mon son” to any Sox fan that is not willing to have some respect for him.” Despite his declining skills, he is still a force as the leadoff man in the always impressive Yankee lineup. Due to his consistency in this leadoff spot in getting on base and getting himself in scoring position, he gets the nod for the second spot in these rankings. Yunel Escobar on the Blue Jays is the third ranked shortstop. Escobar has displayed the ability to consistently get on base throughout his four year career, even throughout his off year in 2010 (.366 Career OBP with .289 Career AVG).

All of the first three options display some sort of flaw; Jeter’s career is close to ending as he will turn 38 in June and both Escobar and Hardy have had issues with injuries throughout their careers. Despite this, all are better options than the situation the Red Sox and Rays are in. The Red Sox shortstop position opened up in late January when Marco Scutaro was traded. It will be temporarily fixed with Nick Punto and Mike Aviles. Both players are pretty good fielding shortstops, but have been utility infielders for the majority of their careers. Punto has just about zero power, but will reach base at a decent rate in comparison to other options (.249 career BA, .278 last year, .325 Career OBP-.388 last year). Aviles is a slightly better option offensively in terms of power and AVG, but he has a horrible OBP considering his higher AVG (.288 AVG and .318 OBP throughout his career). The real gem could be Jose Iglesias. He has been one of the top prospects in the Red Sox farm system for a few years now, with a glove that is very major league ready. He is touted as a future perennial Gold Glover. His only issue is batting, and its a big issue. He batted .235 in the minors last year, but he has slowly been improving throughout his short professional career. Due to his incredible fielding skills, he will most likely be forced to try and improve in the big leagues. As I’ve said before, I don’t care how good of a fielder he is, every Red Sox fan wants to see offensive production and there is no way he can last in Boston hitting barely above the Mendoza line.

Tampa Bay is in a very similar situation. Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac are both good options fielding wise, but both are worse hitters than Boston’s options, with the exception of Iglesias. Brignac batted .193 last year and Rodriguez batted .223. Unless one of these players figures out their troubles at the plate, Tampa Bay will have the worst situation at shortstop in the AL East.

For other position rankings click here: C1B2B3B