Sunday, December 30, 2007

WARNING: NON-RED SOX RELATED CONTENT

Teams that I post about here seem to do pretty well, so I thought I'd throw up a little Redskins/Cowboys post here and see how fate treats it. No analysis here. I like to think I'm analytical about baseball, but theres not much hope of that with football (though footballoutsiders.com is a fabulous progressive-thinking site).

Its a big week for us Redskins fans. Its Dallas Week. And its not any old Dallas Week, its win-and-we're-in-the-playoffs Dallas Week. I'm pretty much going to jump about and scream like a monkey for three plus hours. I hope everyone else's Sunday is equally enjoyable.

Lets go Skins!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

SANTANA: WHO WE'LL GIVE UP TO GET HIM

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog recently posted on what effect a Johan Santana trade would have on the AL East standings if he was traded to either the Red Sox or the Yankess. The post also took into account the loss of certain players given up to get him. Its an interesting read. The gist of it is that the Red Sox have a few games on the Yankees to start with. If Santana goes to NY the AL East race becomes essentially a dead heat with the Yankees having a slight edge. If Santana comes to Boston the Red Sox (obviously) increase their lead by a few games to something like a four or five game lead, I can't recall which. These numbers are nothing more than food for thought, but they are interesting nonetheless.

You don't need any numbers to know that adding Santana puts the Red Sox in the drivers seat not only in their division but in the American League. Pairing Santana with Beckett could be a deadly combination in the regular season and especially in the post season for years to come. But, at what price, and what would the extracted players do to the Red Sox going forward?

Funny you should ask. Many different sources seem to think that there will be movement on a potential Johan Santana trade in the next few weeks. Of course, we've been hearing that for the past month or more, but if things are going to heat up soon, it makes sense to take a look at potential deals now, from a Red Sox perspective, and see what affect the different proposed deals would have on the old towne team.

Rather than examine potential packages, I'm going to take a look at the players who could be given up in trade, see where they fit into the Red Sox picture in the next few years, and what the cost of giving them up is likely to be.

Jon Lester - Lester projects somewhere between a #1 and a #3, and as a young cost-controlled left-hander who throws hard, he is a very valuable commodity. But the 2008 Red Sox rotation is full with Matsuzaka, Beckett, Schilling, Buchholz, and Wakefield all on the roster, so despite the fact that Lester started Game 4 of the World Series, there may not be a spot in the rotation for him come spring time. He may still need some seasoning anyway, as his control tends to vanish from time to time. Its conceivable that both Schilling and Wakefield will leave Boston after this season which would open two slots in the rotation, one of which would likely go to Lester. Lester's value to the Red Sox in 2007 is likely that of an injury replacement, but he won't be used to his highest and best value until 2008.

Still, with Santana in hand and signed for about five or six years, the Red Sox would be replacing a potentially good left hander with the dominant left hander in the majors. The difference, besides the quality of the pitchers, is the cost. While Lester, if he progresses could be had for likely under $20M cumulatively over the next six seasons, Santana is likely to cost six to seven times that figure. Is the potential difference in quality worth the exorbitant cost?

Jacoby Ellsbury - Ellsbury is the next great Red Sox center fielder. He cemented himself as a fan favorite with his performance in the playoffs and World Series when he replaced the ever-struggling Coco Crisp, and hit close to .500 in the process. Still, for all the love thrown his way, Ellsbury is not without his flaws. He could be more selective at the plate, and until he shows more power his ceiling is limited.

All that doesn't mean he isn't a very valuable player. His speed makes him among the fastest players in the majors right now, and nobody questions the quality of his defense in center field. If he's able to add some power to his game he could be a perennial all-star, but even if he isn't, he could still be an above average player both at the plate and in the field.
Losing Ellsbury would mean that the Sox would be stuck using Crisp in center again next season (more on him in a moment). It would also mean that the Sox would eventually have to either develop another center fielder in a few years (Ryan Kalish?), or if nothing materializes on that front, go out and pay for one on the free agent market. Center fielders who can hit aren't cheap. Plainly put, losing Ellsbury would weaken the club at the plate in 2008. In 2009 the scenario would be the same (Crisp=little offense) or it would require the Sox to go shopping and spend (a lot) more money.

Coco Crisp - Since coming over from Cleveland, Crisp has both improved and declined. When he arrived many questioned his defensive abilities, while many, including myself, thought that he could at least continue developing into a productive hitter along the lines of Johnny Damon. Crisp has put his defensive doubters to sleep with stellar work in center field, but at the same time his offense has fallen off a cliff. Instead of building on his production in Cleveland, his offense has steadily declined to the point where he lost his starting job to a a rookie (Ellsbury) in the middle of the playoffs.

Including Crisp in a Santana trade would be ideal as it would open up center field even more for Ellsbury, and it would allow Crisp, a classy guy who I've enjoyed rooting for, to start for a potential contender going forward. Even better, trading Crisp would not have much of a negative impact on the 2008 or subsequent clubs, as his position would be filled cheaply by Ellsbury who should have little problem replicating Crisp's production both offensively and defensively.

Jed Lowrie - As a first round pick, the Red Sox have invested some time and money into Lowrie's development, and last season was the first where he began to show what the Sox saw in him when he was drafted. Lowrie is very much like current Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia in that both get on base very well, play a decent second base, and are slightly challenged to play a major league quality shortstop. If the Sox could put either at shortstop, they'd likely do so, but as Pedroia has already established himself as one of the better young second basemen in the game, there is little place for Lowrie to stick in Boston. Even if Lowrie could play shortstop adequately, the Sox would have to move Julio Lugo, and doing that may be more difficult than convincing the President about global warming.

But that doesn't mean Lowrie won't be a good major league player going forward. If he can continue what he started this past season, the Red Sox could be trading away an all-star caliber player. However, Lowrie comes with a caveat, which is that last season was his first of above average offensive production. If he isn't able to replicate his 2007 season going forward then he won't be worth much either in trade or in Boston. Trading Lowrie now could be selling high on him on a mediocre player, or it could be trading a young cornerstone infielder. The question is, which is it?

Justin Masterson - I won't pretend I know much about Masterson. He is apparently likely to make the big leagues as a reliever in the Mike Timlin mold, i.e. a sinking fastball guy who gets strikeouts and groundballs, though I believe he has been starting thus far in the minors. If that is what he turns into he will be a valuable commodity, but he's not there yet. Masterson will start the year in AA Portland, so he's far from a proven major leaguer now. He is a nice guy to have in the system, but he isn't anyone who should prevent the Red Sox from acquiring Johan Santana.

So that's it. I really like Jed Lowrie as a player but the Sox won't really have a space for him to play every day any time soon. Lester is similar in that if Santana is coming the other way his loss is more than smoothed over, though there are some who think that Lester could be 75% of Santana for 20% of the cost. Like Lester, Ellsbury is someone who the fans have grown attached to. Losing him has the greatest impact on the 2008 team of any of the potential players going to Minnesota. Masterson is a nice player to have, but isn't anything to worry about giving up.

There are a million things to consider when making a trade like this, and I won't pretend to have the answers, but I will echo Seth Mnookin who said that he enjoys rooting for 'his guys' meaning players who have come up as Red Sox. I agree with that sentiment. Emotionally, I like the guys the Red Sox have now and I think we can win the World Series again next season without trading for Santana, even if he ends up with the Yankees. However, this is a potentiall Hall-of-Famer in the prime of his career that we're talking about, so its no small thing to acquire a guy like this. Just think of what it will do to the Yankees if Santana comes to Boston. Theres a thought to fall asleep to, huh?

Overall, it could go either way. I'm just glad that this isn't a decision I have to make.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

WELCOME WINTER

And like that, another Christmas/Shopping Season ends.

Its such a let down after Christmas is over. Not because I love Christmas, though I do enjoy the lights, but because the end of Christmas season leaves behind simply the cold and dark of winter. Three more months of cold, and if we're lucky, a bit of snow will set the scene.

Then one cold winter day, a couple trucks push through the snow and arrive outside Fenway Park. There they'll be packed to the gills and they'll hit the road heading south for Fort Myers, Florida.

Spring Training will poke a few notes of warmth through our cold winter. Images of the players stretching and long tossing in short sleeves with palm trees in the back ground will be published in the paper and broadcast on the news. Those of us lucky enough will take a few days off work and relive our childhood watching a few games that don't matter under the sun. We'll reappear at work the following week sporting a sunburn and a unmovable grin.

That's what I'm living for now. Truck day, the beginning of Spring Training, and the start to another great season of Red Sox baseball.

Happy Holidays to you all, and remember, Spring Training is just fifty days away. Stay warm!

Friday, December 21, 2007

NOTHING TO REPORT & '07 BOX SET REVIEW

Its been a little while, but I'm back.

I've been working at a new job, and as I wrote before its an hour away from home which means 2 hours are spent commenting every day. That is time that I would normally be devoting, at least in part, to FPE. But thems the breaks, right? Maintain your dumb baseball blog or accept a good job.... hmmm... (still thinking)...

Nothing to Report

The other reason I haven't posted too much recently is that there hasn't been a whole lot to post about. Sure there have been rumors up the wazoo, but not much concrete has happened. Ellsbury and Lester are still Red Sox, Francona is still going into the last year of his deal, and A-Rod is still a Yankee, despite Scott Boras's best attempts.

The Santana situation may heat up again sometime in the near future, but nothing seems to be going on now. Many people seem to think that the Twins won't go into the '08 season with Santana on their team simply because that could limit what they get in trade for him. Personally, I don't see the harm in it. If they don't get the value in trade that equals 1 year of Santana, negotiating rights, and two first round draft picks then they'd be stupid to deal him. Truth be told, they may be stupid to deal him anyway, but at least they could justify it.

Hank Steinbrenner Is An Idiot

In other news, Hank Steinbrenner is an idiot. The apple didn't fall far from the tree with this one. A while back I wrote that when George is gone I'm going to miss him - not because I like him, but because he's so easy to dislike. But now that his idiot son is attempting to bring back the gory days of the 70's (yes, gory) with his buffoonery, I'm less likely to miss the original. Still, this has the ability to be fun for Red Sox fans, and in truth, really any non-Yankees fan. Steinbrenner may be an idiot, but it seems his brand of idiocy is at least an entertaining one.

2007 Red Sox World Series DVD Mini-Review

In still other news, I finally received my 2007 Red Sox World Series DVD box set. Its great to have and I've enjoyed watching it, except for one thing: the games are edited. The 2004 Red Sox World Series DVD box set contains the unedited broadcasts of each ALCS and World Series game. No commercials, but other than that its exactly as if you were watching it on TV. The 2007 version is different. Someone at MLB must have decided that the games were too long, so their solution was to cut out some 'unimportant' parts in between at-bats.

This may save some time, but the effect is jarring. One minute you'll see Lugo pop up to shortstop, and the very next second Pedroia is standing in the batters box about to face his first pitch. It destroys the continuity, and makes following the announcers trains of thought very difficult in spots. No comments on Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, but its actually even more difficult to follow what they are saying when one of these 'edits' takes place.

Other than that, watching each game in its (mostly) entirety is a lot of fun. All the stress is removed because you know the Sox are going to win (and isn't that a great feeling?) so you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the baseball. Its a great buy and I recommend it for any true Red Sox fan's DVD library.

As for my off-season plans, I am planning on finishing my 2007 retrospective, I'll be taking a look at the Red Sox off season and checking on their potential for 2008. I'll be posting these during the off season.

Happy Holidays
In any case, a happy holidays to you all. Check back periodically for more fabulousness, and as always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

SANTA SANTANA or YO HO JOHAN

It’s December, so that means one thing: Christmas. Oh, and the Red Sox and Yankees are in heated competition for a player. So, fine, two things.

This time it’s Johan Santana who is the apple of the team’s collective eye. As the consensus best starting pitcher in baseball, Santana should be a no-brainer for the Twins to resign. If he wants to, he should be able to spend the rest of his career as a Twin.

But the ever-cheap Twins, owned by the richest man in Major League Baseball (no, not Alex Rodriguez), Carl Pohlad, are again looking to pass the dinner check to one of baseball’s big spenders when it comes time to pay up. Why a team with good attendance, tons of up-and-coming talent, and a great young core of players is looking to trade away their best player in the prime of his career is, sadly, rather simple. As a two-time Cy Young winner (should be three), Santana won’t settle for a hometown discount. Minimally, it will take about 5 years at $20 Million per year to sign Santana, but likely the price will be a good bit above that. I’ve heard as high as 5 years, $150 Million, but who knows.

Simply put, the Twins are too cheap to reward their best player with something close to his worth on the open market. So rather than wait for him to play out his contract (he’s a free agent after the ’08 season) they’re going to trade him. But they’re going to have to trade him to a team that can, 1) afford to extend his contract at market value, and 2) afford to give the Twins what they want in terms of prospects in return. That’s a massive undertaking, which is why the bidding is down to the Red Sox and the Yankees. The Angels, Mets, and Dodgers all have the money too, but are reportedly either pursuing other options (read: Miguel Cabrera) or don’t have the prospects to compete.

The Red Sox could get this deal done now if they really wanted to gut their farm system. The Twins seem to like the Red Sox prospects better than NY’s. But, fortunately, the Sox are holding off. The Yankees, drool dripping down their pock-marked twins, are having trouble not throwing everything in the pot, and may just hand Minnesota the keys to their farm system any moment now.

Answering the essential question, “Should the Red Sox trade a significant portion of their farm for Santana and then give him a huge contract?” is problematic. It is so because, despite published reports, it’s impossible to know exactly what the teams are offering for Santana, and what type of contract Santana would demand upon a trade.

Are Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Michael Bowden, and Jon Lester and $150 Million too much to trade for six years of Johan Santana? Before answering, ask yourself how Santana would look as the Sox number two pitcher behind Josh Beckett and in front of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling, and Clay Buchholz.

But before answering that, answer this: how much better will Santana be than Jon Lester over the next six years? Undoubtedly Santana will out-pitch Lester, but by how much? Is the difference equivalent to the worth of Lowrie, Bowden, Crisp, plus the difference in their salaries over that period (we’ll say about $140M)?

It’s a tough decision to make. Jacoby Ellsbury makes Crisp expendable, and Bowden is good but has yet to pitch above AA ball. The road to stardom is littered with pitchers like him. (This isn’t to say that he won’t turn into a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher, but we have no way of knowing that now.) Lowrie looks like a good major leaguer who can play an adequate middle infield position. In other words, he looks like a valuable player, but unless the Sox can trade Julio Lugo and his ridiculous contract (signs point to ‘No’), and/or the Sox are going to trade Dustin Pedroia there doesn’t look to be much room for him.

The difference between Lester over the next six years and Santana over the next six years could be sizable, but it’s probably not worth the money plus the potential of the other players involved. Plus, Lester doesn’t figure to be a bad pitcher going forward. If he can get his control in hand a bit, he could be a legitimate #2 guy, and for a whole lot less money.

The Yankees on the other hand, now run by ‘70’s era George Steinbrenner buffoon/baboon Hank Steinbrenner, who shoots his mouth off to the press as if he’s trying to surpass his father’s former bluster, might just trade the farm. In fact, if Joba Chamberlain hadn’t come up and pitched in the majors last season, you might be hearing about how the Yankees would trade anyone under their control for Santana. They may yet do that anyway.

Personally, I say let NY have him. He’s a great pitcher, but I don’t think even he is worth the haul that Minnesota is asking for from Boston. Let the Yankees trade away their future for a chance to compete next season. Let NY pay Fruitbat and Dumbo (Rivera and Posada) $80M, Santana $150 Million, A-Rod, $300 Million. Let them blow their payroll past the $250M mark.

And then let them finish second again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

MIKEY DOUBLES RETURNS!

Theo resigned Mike Lowell to a three year $37.5M contract (because we're supposed to care about these things). Lowell will once again man the hot corner in Boston, keeping Gold Glover Kevin Youkilis at first base.

I'm surprised at this. I can honestly say I didn't expect it to get done on either end.

First of all, I thought that Lowell would get four years from someone. Maybe he did get a four year offer but elected to come back to Boston, but I kinda doubt it. The Yankees have A-Hole, and Phillies have their heads up their collective arse and so Lowell probably realized Boston's offer was as good as it was going to get for him.

Not that he didn't want to come back (I'm sure he did), but a year guaranteed at $13-14M is serious money. You don't think Johnny Damon loved Boston too? He got $12M to forget about that, and forget he did. I'm sure Mike Lowell would have forgotten too. Thats not a knock on Lowell, its just the nature of the business.

I'm surprised about this from the Red Sox perspective too. If Lowell hits like he did this past season then he'll be worth the money the Sox just spent on him. However, Lowell has never hit like he did last season in his career until last season. If there is anywhere that Lowell can keep this type of production up its in Boston. Fenway Park is made for the swing of Mike Lowell.

But even hitting in his dream park, Lowell is getting on in years. Will he be as productive, or productive enough in three years at age 36? Maybe. The Red Sox certainly didn't think he would be productive enough at age 37 though. Of course, you never know what the market will do, so even if Lowell steadily declines (as anyone without blinders on expects him to do) this deal could end up looking good in the end.

And with that, the Red Sox off season comes to an end. Well, not really, but sort of. You might see a Coco Crisp trade (OK, you probably will see a Coco Crisp trade), but other than that the 2008 Red Sox are pretty much set. We've got six starters, a closer, a setup guy, and one starter at every position. That doesn't mean the Sox won't explore other options. Thats their job. But, I don't expect anything else substantial will happen.

So, welcome back Mike Lowell! We're glad you never left.

Monday, November 12, 2007

RED SOX RETROSPECTIVE: PART 2

This is the second in a three or four part retrospective about the 2007 World Series Champion Red Sox. In case you missed it, part one is here.

***

The End of Spring

Before the starting gun sounded, we had a bit of controversy. Or, maybe not controversy, but… intrigue? Or maybe debate…?… Whatever. Jonathan Papelbon, who the Red Sox were planning on using as a starting pitcher following a season of successful relief pitching (that is, until he hurt his arm in early September), started having nightmares. Hows that for controversy/intrigue/aw whatever? These nightmares culminated in Pap switching back to the bullpen. But more on the nightmares in a minute.

Of course, the switch wasn’t made simply because Paps couldn’t sleep at night. The Red Sox had brought in a number of different candidates to close, but the problem was that none of them could pitch effectively. And this was still in Spring Training. Of the pretenders to the throne, the chief culprit was Joel Piniero who, despite being a good guy, couldn’t pitch very well. He proved this over and over until he was banished to the National League (where he later signed a pretty healthy contract, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

The other issue in play was Pap’s shoulder. After throwing a good number of innings as closer, in September of ‘06 Paps shoulder popped out of joint (a “subluxation”). This lead to a number of medical diagnosis wherein the Red Sox were told that Papelbon would be healthier if he was in the starting rotation. So, the Red Sox obliged, and moved Papelbon into the starting rotation.

Though he said differently at the time, Paps didn’t like it one bit. He wanted to be a closer. Now we get back to the nightmares, which Paps was apparently having because he was doing something (starting) that he didn’t want to do (or so the story goes). One day Paps walked into Francona’s office after some prompting from a teammate and told the manager that he wanted to close. Francona took it to Theo Epstein, and all of a sudden Paps was healthy enough to pitch out of the pen. To read the papers, one would have thought that a tsunami had hit the city of Boston. But, no. It was only the return of Papelbon to the bullpen.

Moving Paps out of the rotation closed up the only major hole on the roster, but it also opened up a new hole in the rotation. This necessitated finding another starting pitcher. The Sox had had some success (minor though it was) in having His Craziness, Julian Tavarez start some games as the 2006 season was spinning in smaller and smaller circles down the commode. As there weren’t many other options and Tavarez had been at least somewhat effective, the Sox moved him into the fifth starter spot in the rotation. The move was widely thought to be a placeholder until Jon Lester proved himself recovered and ready to return to the rotation.

The 2007 Red Sox went into the year with the rotation as follows:

1. Josh Beckett
2. Curt Schilling
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka
4. Tim Wakefield
5. His Craziness, Julian Tavarez


The Beginning

The Red Sox got off to a great start. By the end of April they were 16-8, and had a 4.0 game lead in the AL East. Conversely, the Yankees were 9-14 and obituaries were being written up and down the east coast. The Red Sox were getting good pitching and good enough hitting, which would become a reoccurring theme during the ’07 season. Mike Lowell got off to his typical blistering start, hitting .314/.371/.547 in April. .297/.402/.615 with seven homers.

Part of the reason the Sox fast start was so impressive was that they did it without many contributions from a good portion of their lineup. Dustin Pedroia was horrible, hitting .182/.308/.236, leading many fans to call for his benching in favor of future Hall of Famer Alex Cora. Manny Ramirez wasn’t much better, hitting .202/.314/.315. Bleah.

Still, the Red Sox kept winning. May saw them go 20-8, improving to 36-16. This brought their AL East lead to an unfathomable 11.5 games. The Sox were cruising. Meanwhile the Yankees were struggling. They followed up their losing April with a losing May, bringing their record to an unsightly 22-29, 13.5 games behind the Red Sox.

It looked like an easy, stress-free summer was on the horizon. Uh, right.

***

Part 3 soon to come...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

CABRERA

Heres the thing: if the Red Sox can get Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins without stripping their farm system, they absolutely have to do it. But, if they can only get him by stripping their farm system, then they should think long and hard about it, and then do it.

Why? Because Cabrera is Manny Ramirez, only 24 years old. In the last three years, Cabrera's OPS+ has been over 150 (100 is average, 101 is 1% above average, etc.). Thats incredible. Plainly, this guy can crush the ball.

But, for those of you who don't go to bed with arcane baseball stats dancing in your heads, let me make this easier. Cabrera, playing his home games in a football stadium that plays like a football stadium, has hit over .320/.400/.560 each of the past two years. And he's only 24, or did I mention that? This guy is one of the top ten hitters in the game, maybe in the top five, and he's younger than everyone else on the list. Would you trade for Pujols? Well, this is almost the same thing, except six years younger.

The Red Sox don't have a player like this in their minor league system right now, and thats saying something because the Red Sox have quite an impressive stable of minor league talent. In fact, I can't think of when the Red Sox had a comparable hitter in their system. Maybe you'd count Nomar? Yaz?

There are of course some possible downsides to this, but this is a chance the Red Sox need to take for two reasons. First, this player can anchor the Red Sox lineup for the next 14 years, long after Manny and Papi have passed into retirement. Second, every game Cabrera plays for the Red Sox is a game he doesn't play against the Red Sox. Cabrera is the best hitter on the market. Yes, better than A-Rod. Trading for him would prevent the Yankees from doing the same.

I'm not going to get into who the Sox should give up for Cabrera. I can't negotiate with the Marlins here, and I don't know how they value the Red Sox young players, nor do I really know how the Red Sox value their own young players. The only thing I'd say is be very wary of trading Clay Buchholz. Anyone else, any other combination of players, any sum of money, and it'll be time to fit Cabrera for a pretty new uniform with "Red Sox" across the front.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

THE RATS ARE JUMPING SHIP

In news unrelated to the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox, the Yankees are experiencing a jailbreak of sorts. First A-Rod heads for the exits, then Posada says he wants to listen to offers from other teams (read: Mets), and now Annndddyy Pettitte declined his $16M option to stay with the Yankees.

I hope you won't think me rude for chuckling softly to myself.

But seriously, this is just too funny. If there is any actual news I'll surely post some analysis, but for now, some library-volume cackling is all I can offer.

SOX SIGN SCHILL

The Red Sox completed something in two days that I thought they'd never be able to accomplish: they resigned Curt Schilling. Ol' Schil wanted to come back to Boston so badly that he took a lower base salary with some incentives.

Now the salary wasn't that low at $8 Million, and with incentives it sounds like he can earn more next season than he did in 2007, but if Curt wanted the full $13 Million like last season then the chances of this happening were very slim. Plain and simple, Curt Schilling took less money to play in Boston next season. He could have got more money and more years elsewhere, but he wanted to stay in Boston and he took less of each to do so.

This is great news for the 2008 Red Sox. Schilling isn't a great pitcher anymore, but he is still a very good one. The '08 Red Sox rotation is starting to take shape. If you slot Schilling into the number three spot, things look like this:

1. Josh Beckett
2. Daisuke Matsuzaka
3. Curt Schilling
4. Clay Buchholz
5. Jon Lester
5b. Tim Wakefield

Exactly how Francona slots the starters will have to wait for a few months, but having six viable starters for five slots is huge. Especially since two of those starters are over 40, and two of them are under 25. This is a very smart move by Theo Epstein and the Red Sox.

Not only that, its great to have the old man come back. Glad to have you back, Curt. Its like you never left.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

OPTIONS, FARRELL & FREE AGENCY

This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just thought it was awesome. That is all.

Some notes on a few Red Sox-related off-season happenings:

1. The Red Sox picked up the player options on two pitchers, one expected and the other, well... not so much. Predictably, the Sox picked up the $4M player option on Tim Wakefield. At that price it almost doesn't matter what Wakefield's role will be in the '08 team. He can relieve, start, or both, but the Sox don't have to make any decisions now. They can sort it out later depending on how the rest of the off-season plays out.

More unexpectedly, the Sox picked up His Craziness, Julian Tavarez's '08 option, which cost them $3.85M. I'm not sure where Tavarez fits in on the '08 squad, possibly as an innings-eater out of the pen. I imagine that the Sox feel that they can easily move him either during the off season or spring training if it turns out that there is no place for him.

2. Pitching coach John Farrell has turned down the opportunity to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates (or at least to interview for the job, which he likely would have gotten). What a surprise. Still, this should be great news for any Red Sox fan. Farrell did a very impressive job this season with Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, and Daisuke Matsuzaka and I'm very much looking forward to seeing him work with Clay Buchholz next season.

***

In the coming weeks the Sox will have to make offers to free agents Mike Lowell, Curt Schilling, Doug Mirabelli, Brendan Donnelly, Eric Hinske, and Mike Timlin. I wouldn't be surprised if the Sox brought back half that group or more. Here's a quick run-down on each:

Doug Mirabelli: With the re-upping of Tim Wakefield, Dougie's return becomes more likely. The fact that there really aren't any other great options out there (the list of free-agent back-up catchers reads like a who's-who of players you don't want on your team) makes this an even easier decision. Unless the Sox can convince some decent catcher to come to a World Series winner to play backup, the devil you know beats the devil you don't.

Eric Hinske: Despite playing on a World Series winner this season, Hinske's career has been on a downward trajectory ever since winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. To put it bluntly, Hinkse was awful this season, hitting a is-this-guy-done-? .204/.317/.398. If the Sox think that Hinske can better approximate his career .255/.336/.434 line he might be worth having on the bench again. If not, better to move on. There are other guys who can play multiple positions and won't hit like Mario Mendoza.

Mike Timlin: Timlin was surprisingly effective in 55 innings this season. He wasn't great, but for a 41 year old he was pretty decent. Of course, hitters don't grade on a curve, and theres a good chance that the Sox just wrung the last bit of effectiveness out of this stone. Whether or not the Sox bring him back will have a lot to do with who they see in their bullpen next season. If Craig Hansen is legitimately prepared to pitch in the big leagues and the Sox are actually intent on Julian Tavarez taking up some innings out of the pen, Timlin may have to take his fatigues elsewhere.

Brenden Donnelly: It depends on what the market is for Donnelly... which is a stupid thing to write, because its true of every free agent in the game. Anyway, if Donnelly will be happy with an invite to spring training then I'm all for it. Otherwise, it might be best to cut bait while the cut'n is cheap.

Curt Schilling: As much as I'd like this to happen, I think its unlikely. $13M is a lot to pay an old injury-prone fastball pitcher who's lost his fastball. Conversely, Schilling has shown that he can still get major league hitters out, and what is $13M to the Red Sox? If there has ever been a pitcher that the Sox have owed, even after his time with the team was up, Curt is it. Not that an '08 contract will be charity. With the Sox depending on so much young pitching going into '08 its not a bad idea to have Ol' Schil around for one more season.

Mike Lowell: This gets complicated real fast. With Kevin Youkilis able to play either first or third, the Red Sox have some maneuverability, at least in theory. They can go after a first baseman or a third baseman and simply move Youk to which ever position remains unoccupied. But, after Lowell (and A-Rod) there really aren't any good corner infielders to be had on the market. This means that either the Sox sign one of those two guys (and be stuck with them for the long term, or in A-Rod's case the next millennium) or they wait a year and try break the bank on Mark Teixeira like every other team in baseball.

Their other (Third? Fourth? Seventh?) option is to make some sort of trade. Rumor says Miguel Cabrera is available, but you can expect the bidding to start at Clay Buchholz and escalate from there. Is that a good deal to make? Maybe, but its definitely something the Sox should look into. More on this possibility later.

The easiest thing would be to see if a deal can be struck in the three year range Lowell. If not, the Sox need to start looking at other possibilities, like Cabrera, and like A-Rod. Maybe Hank Blaylock can be acquired. Maybe Adrian Beltre can be pried loose. If Lowell opts to go elsewhere, the Red Sox have many options, but many of them will involve some major maneuvering. The road of least resistance is to resign Lowell, and for a team that just won the World Series (have I referenced that enough?) that just might be the right path to go down.

***

Soon, part II of my 2007 Red Sox retrospective. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 02, 2007

RED SOX RETROSPECTIVE: PART 1

This is the first in a three or four part retrospective about the 2007 World Series Champion Red Sox.

***

The free agency signing period is just around the corner, but before I jump all over that, A-Rod, Lowell, Schilling and all the potential trade targets will have to wait one post. So often we are so eager to take the next step that we over look what is happening now, or in this case what just happened yesterday. Who is the next playoff opponent? Who will the Sox sign in free agency? Where will A-Rod go? I want to lend my unnecessary voice to all these questions, but I’m going to wait a day or two. Instead, I want to spend a moment dwelling on the 2007 Red Sox.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about how I thought the team would come together, and how I felt they were the team to beat. The Red Sox were my pre-season pick to win the World Series (I had them beating Arizona) and they came together exactly as well as I’d hoped.

Not that this took any type of genius to discern. This team was stacked from the beginning. So, just to clarify my own thoughts, I’m going to take a look back, all the way back, before they were the Team That Won The World Series For The Second Time In Four Years.

You may recall the Red Sox weren’t always the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. Nope. In fact, at this time a year ago, they were just another team who had missed the playoffs. Actually, that’s not even true. The 2006 Red Sox were an injury-riddled disaster that went from a solid hold on first place in the AL East to a broken shell of a team in one month.

On July 21st, 2006 the Red Sox whipped Seattle 9-4 bringing their record to 59-36 and increasing their AL East lead to 3.5 games. One month later the Red Sox lost to the Yankees 2-1 putting their record at 69-55 and dropping them 6.5 games behind the Yankees.

It only got worse from there. On September 1st the Sox were 8 games back, and on the 13th they were 11.5 games back. Their injury list read like a who’s who of Red Sox players: Manny, Varitek, Papi, Papelbon. Lester was diagnosed with cancer, and the Sox were forced to run the hideous Jason Johnson out for 29 innings (in which he gave up 26 runs).

The Sox September slide reinforced the need for new blood in the ’07 team, and the front office went about fixing the roster. The Sox let David Wells, Trot Nixon, Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, Javy Lopez, and Carlos Pena (oops!) go. Despite that list, the front office didn’t make many changes. Instead, they brought in younger players with some targeted free agents.

Loretta was allowed to depart and rookie Dustin Pedroia was given the second base job. Julio Lugo was signed to play shortstop, filling the hole left by Gonzalaz, and J.D. Drew was handed a huge check and told to report to right field to replace fan-favorite Trot Nixon. Oddly enough, Drew was even given Nixon’s old number.

To fix the holes in the rotation, the Red Sox acquired the 26 year old gyro-ball throwing Diasuke Matsuzaka from the Japanese leagues. The Sox envisioned Matsuzaka stepping into the rotation and being the number three starter behind Schilling and Beckett. Many questioned the huge outlay of cash, but some thought that Matsuzaka might be one of the best pitchers in the majors before even throwing a pitch. They also moved talented young closer Jonathan Papelbon into the rotation. Between Beckett, Papelbon, and Matsuzaka, the Red Sox would have three young studs.

Based on these large financial outlays, people expected big things from the ’07 Red Sox. I wasn’t alone in picking them to go to the World Series. Still, many thought that the Tigers, fresh off an embarrassing World Series loss to the historically-bad-for-a-league-champion Cardinals, were the best team in baseball. Their young pitching staff had aged a year, and they had traded serious young talent to the Yankees to get the powerful bat of Gary Sheffield. Others thought the Angels or Yankees would be the team to beat in the AL.

There was no consensus, but to me it was easy to see the immense talent that assembled on the practice fields of Fort Myers in late February. In fact, I went down to see it for myself. Not that a fan who catches three Red Sox games in mid-March can glean anything significantly predictive from the experience, but it was plain to see that the Red Sox were a good team.

***

Part 2 soon to come...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

JUST CAUSE




Just because the Red Sox won the World Series (again!) doesn't mean I'm giving up over here. The reason for my occasional absences is my new job. Specifically, the time my new job requires me to be at work (7:30am) and the distance that I live from my job (at least 1 hour away). Combined, this means that I have to get up at 5:45am.

Yuck.

Of course FPE will be with you all off season, offering insights that you yourself would never have thought of, even if someone put a loaded poodle to your temple and yelled "Tell me or I'll make it pee!"

One such insight, which is all you'll get tonight because I have to get up in 9 hours and I need my beauty rest (ugly people need beauty rest even more than pretty people), is that the Red Sox should sign Curt Schilling for one year at whatever million dollars.

The reason is because there is no other option available. Schilling might be asking for more than he's worth on a yearly basis, but he's only asking for it once (i.e. only one year's worth). This makes him a bargain because any supposedly decent pitcher that the Red Sox sign will require a much larger commitment in terms of years, and therefore money.

Schilling may be old and he may have lost 8 or 9 mph off his fastball, but the guy can still pitch. He's not going to win the Cy Young next year, but then thats why we have Josh Beckett. Ol' Schil doesn't have to win the Cy, he just has to be a better-than-league-average pitcher, and we know he can do that. He might not be healthy all year long, but thats why we have Tim "A steal at only $4M" Wakefield.

Between Schilling and Wakefield the Sox can put together a better than league average #3 starter who can throw 200+ innings. This is immensely valuable. The Sox can afford this $17M (Schilling + Wakefield=13M+4M) extravagance because 2/5 of the Sox rotation next season will cost them under $1M combined. Lester and Buchholz should be #4 and #5 in the rotation next season, and neither is even arbitration eligible.

With Schilling, the Red Sox starting rotation will earn $36M combined, or an average of $7.2M
a piece (I included Wakefield's salary, but not Daisuke's pro-rated posting fee). With Schilling the team will have 6 starters for five spots, which is high-quality insurance (in case of injury). But more importantly, with Schilling they'll have the best rotation they can have going into Spring Training.

Now, I'm going to bed. Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

HOLY CRAP!!! WORLD SERIES CHAMPS!!!




The Boston Red Sox won 4-3 tonight, sweeping the Colorado Rockies and winning the 103rd World Series!!

Lots of celebrating tonight in Boston and New England to be sure, but there was a little celebration in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia tonight as well. Congrats to the Red Sox for a job well done, and thanks for another great season of Boston Red Sox baseball.

I'll be back tomorrow with more here at FPE, but for now

THE BOSTON RED SOX ARE THE 2007 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!!!!!

LETS GO SOX!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

SOX WIN BEHIND MATSUZAKA, OFFENSE; TAKE COMMANDING 3-0 LEAD IN WORLD SERIES

With Daisuke Matsuzaka suddenly struggling after five brilliant innings, Terry Francona decided to go to his bullpen. In came Javier Lopez to face lefty Brad Hawpe. Lopez is a decent pitcher, but is mis-cast as a lefty killer. Yet thats exactly what Lopez was charged to do. It was the first time all post season when I've openly questioned what Francona was doing. Hawpe had struck out a billion times in a row (may not be quite accurate) and all on fastballs. Lopez's fastball is decidedly mediocre, while Daisuke's is good, yet in came Lopez and out went Matsuzaka.

That was the beginning of the only rally the Rockies have had all World Series. But, heres the beauty part: it wouldn't be nearly enough. The Rockies were out-hit, out-pitched, out-fielded, out-managed, and just plain out-classed last night as they have been throughout the whole series. The Red Sox rolled behind a ten run performance by their DH-less offense, beating Colorado on the road 10-3.

The Sox got offense from unexpected sources tonight, including Julio Lugo (1 hit, 2 walks, 2 runs scored), Jacoby Ellsbury (4-5 with 2 runs scored), Coco Crisp (1 hit and 1 run) and most surprising of all, a two run single by Daisuke Matsuzaka. In all, the Sox offense has done something that no other team in the playoffs could do and beat the Rockies at home. The win puts the Red Sox on the edge of a World Series title and simultaneously pushes the Rockies to the brink of elimination.

We'll debate Francona's bullpen choices later, but for now, the Sox are one win away from being crowned 2007 World Series Champions.

Jon Lester goes for the Red Sox tomorrow. He'll be opposed by Aaron Cook. Gametime is the FOX-erific 8:35pm. With three hours of commercials on top, the game could run 5 hours.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

SOX SHUT DOWN ROCKIES, TAKE 2-0 LEAD IN WORLD SERIES

You could make the argument that the Rockies got lucky. They scored their only run on a hit-by-pitch, a single off someone's glove, and a ground out. The Red Sox, conversely, left baserunner after baserunner in scoring position. They hit the ball hard, but right at Rockies fielders. Somehow it all amounted to only two runs for Boston, but it could easily have been five or six.

This was a 5-0 game masquerading as a 2-1 game. And the Sox won anyway. In doing so, they take the commanding two games to none lead as the World Series goes to Colorado for the first time in Major League history.

As good as Curt Schilling was, and he was excellent, the Red Sox bullpen was better. Between Schilling, Okajima, and Papelbon, there were few chances for Colorado. Their best chance likely came in the sixth inning when with one out, Schilling walked his second batter to put runners at first and second. That was it for him, as Terry Francona went to Hideki Okajima.

Okajima got a ground out to Youkilis for out number two, and a strikeout to end the inning. Then he threw 1 2/3 more scoreless innings before yielding to Papelbon with two down in the eighth inning. Okajima faced seven hitters and struck four of them out. He didn't walk anyone, nor did he give up a hit. In fact, other than Holliday, the Rockies hitters went 1-25 against Red Sox pitching on the night.

After coming on in the eighth, Papelbon gave up a single to MVP candidate Matt Holliday, but promptly picked Holliday off before even throwing a pitch to Todd Helton. In the ninth, he struck Helton out, got Atkins to fly out and then struck out Hawpe to end it. Game over. 2-1 games don't come any more stress-free than this one, especially in the World Series.

The Sox now get a day off as they travel to Colorado. The World Series resumes on Saturday night at 8pm EST with Daisuke Matsuzaka facing Josh Fogg. Since the NL park doesn't allow for a DH, it will be interesting to see if Francona tries to maximize his offense by playing David Ortiz, or his defense by playing Youk at first base. I suspect Francona may mix and match by playing Ortiz at first for the first two games and then Youk would replace him in Game 5 (should it be necessary).

The reason is the Rockies are throwing two right-handed pitchers in Games 3 and 4, so it makes sense to put the lefty Ortiz in there (not to mention Ortiz is maybe the greatest clutch hitter in baseball today, and this from someone who doesn't really believe in clutch hitting). In any case, I bet Ortiz starts at first in Game 3. If Matsuzaka can throw strikes the Red Sox can take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

But thats for another day. For now, we can all savor the 2-0 cushion for a day and a half.

More this weekend.

Go Sox!

SOX BEAT LIVING CRAP OUT OF ROCKIES; I GET NEW JOB, WORK TOO MUCH

Apologies for the lack of postings around these parts recently. Just out of graduate school (if you count 5 months as "just"), I started my first post-graduate full time job this past Monday. Its been great so far, but its also been taking up a lot of my day (huge surprise there, huh?), especially since I have the slight misfortune to live over an hour away from my job of choice. This means that in addition to learning everything, my eight hour days are actually ten hours because I have an hour of travel time on top of each. On top of that, the Red Sox have the nerve to keep playing baseball every night and that pretty much kills my day right there.

I'm sure once I get my sea legs about me I'll be able to keep this blog up. This isn't good-bye, nor is it even a hiatus. Its simply me, the writer, apologizing to you, the reader, for not keeping up my end of the bargain.

***

So, how bout them Sox, huh? Game 1 came too quickly for me to post my prediction, let alone anything that would qualify as a World Series preview. Allow me to post-date my prediction and say the Red Sox win in 5.

More when I get a moment to breath. Stick with me, folks.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

WE'RE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!

Its late and I have to start my new job tomorrow, so I'll just write this:

THE BOSTON RED SOX ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!


HELL YEAH!!


SCHILLING, DREW CRUSH INDIANS, SEND SOX TO GAME 7



How long have we all been waiting to say "Drew wins for Red Sox?" Well wait no more, my friends, J.D. Drew has come through (finally)! With the bases loaded and two down in the first inning, Drew crushed a 3-1 fastball into the center field camera box. After that the rout was on.

Unfortunately, I didn't see any of it. My father was celebrating his 59th birthday and the dinner reservations were for 8pm EST. I asked my friend George to text me with updates on the game. The following are texts I received from George during dinner:

8:54pm: "Grand Slam... JD Drew muthafucka!!! 4-0 Sox bottom 1"
(I yelled something after receiving this, leading the french waiter to ask me what the score was)

9:41pm: "RBI single... Drew again! Read that last line again!"

9:45pm: "Carmona out, 5-1 bottom 3"

9:46pm: "6-1! Ellsbury RBI."

9:55pm: "10-1, I am not lying. This is fucking awesome. Enjoy your dinner."

That concluded the texts, but not the scoring. The Sox tacked on two in the bottom of the eighth against Joe "Why the Indians keep running me out there is beyond anyone's understanding" Borowski.

This sets up Game 7 tonight at 8pm. The starters will be Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jake Westbrook, but its going to be all hands on deck for both teams. The entire Red Sox pitching staff should be available to pitch tonight, with the exception of Curt Schilling. Same goes for the Indians, who also won't have Curt Schilling.

More tomorrow if I get a moment. If not, here's the obligatory sign-off. This isn't over. Not by a long shot.

LETS GO SOX!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

GAME 6: ELIMINATION GAME 2: PUTTING IT ALL ON THE TABLE

This series has been a seemingly never-ending succession of one-act plays, each more important than the last. Josh Beckett authored a brilliant piece Thursday in Cleveland, and now, to mix my metaphors into a delicious sauce, the baton has been passed to Curt Schilling. It will be up to him to keep the series, and the Red Sox season, alive.

Just as I wrote about Game 5, the Red Sox need to treat this game as the end of the world (no, not really, Manny). If Schilling doesn’t have it, that fact needs to be discerned as early as possible in order that the damage inflicted is minimal.

All conventions need to go out the window. There is no pride or shame in this game, only winning and losing. If Schilling runs into an especially tough patch in the fourth inning and Terry Francona decides he’s done enough on the day, he shouldn’t be afraid to bring in Jonathan Papelbon if the situation calls for him simply because tonight's game means the season.

***

Indians starter Fausto Carmona, all of 23 years old, spent the vast majority of last season in the minor leagues. He threw roughly 100 innings over three levels last year (including a rough stint as Cleveland’s closer). This year, he’s already thrown well over 200 innings. This represents a violent jump in usage, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Carmona’s performance began to lag under the vastly increased workload.

As well as Carmona has pitched this year, and he has pitched incredibly well, he may not be ready for the pressure of this game just as his body may be wearing down some. This may be nothing, or it may be an advantage for Boston. We’ll see tonight.

While the Sox ultimately won Game 5 handily, they had C.C. Sabathia on the ropes all evening long and seemingly couldn’t put him away. The Sox will likely not get as many chances against Carmona, but they will likely get some. How well they take advantage of those chances may be the difference between playing a Game 7 or not.

***

In other news, Francona hinted that he might alter the lineup and bring in Jacoby Ellsbury for the perpetually struggling Coco Crisp. Potentially removing Crisp makes me wonder how important Crisp’s knowledge of Fenway’s center field is. Schilling is a decided fly ball pitcher, and unless he happens to have a killer split going tonight, its unlikely he’ll strike many people out. So, by modus ponens (if ‘a’ then ‘b’; a, therefore b) there will likely be many fly balls lofted towards center field by Indians hitters as long as Schilling is in the game.

Ellsbury doesn’t lack for range, but he does lack familiarity with areas such as the Triangle in center and the confluence of the Green Monster with the center field wall, which can shoot balls along the wall towards right field (and past unsuspecting center fielders). The question Mr. Francona must answer is how valuable is the difference between Crisp’s knowledge and Ellsbury’s and is that difference greater than the value of the difference between their respective batting abilities.

I will go on record as being in favor of the switch as Carmona’s decided ground ball tendencies will likely continue to stymie Crisp’s hitting. (At this point it appears the Indians could put a peach and a wheel of cheese on the mound and they would stymie Crisp’s hitting abilities.) On the other hand, Ellsbury is so fast that he can actually beat out routine ground balls for hits. I have actually seen him do this. Whats more, in a game where the Sox are going to need every run they can get, Ellsbury’s ability to get an extra step or two compared to Crisp could be the difference between scoring and being called out at home.

It should be an interesting game. The Sox have begun to claw their way back, and they can even the series tonight. This thing isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.

GO SOX!!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

THEY DID IT AGAIN

In last night's post I mentioned Indians fans waving '2007 World Series' towels during the game. I tried to find a good picture, but I couldn't. The best I could do was this:


You can see some of the towels in question being waved by fans. Unfortunately, you can't read what they say at all.

But, as if that weren't enough, more evidence of the Indians hubris has poured in to FPE HQ. After yesterday's ridiculous '2007 World Series' towel waving, comes a report from the paper of record in Cleveland, the Plain Dealer, about 'Cleveland Indians 2007 World Series' t-shirts which are now for sale in and around Cleveland.

Again: huh?!? Apparently its been so long for Indians fans that they've forgotten it takes four wins to advance to the World Series, not the three they currently have.

Ridiculous. If anyone has a photo of either the t-shirt or the towel, kindly post it in the comments section.

BECKETT IS NAILS: SOX WIN, TAKE SERIES BACK TO BOSTON

Tonight, Beckett put the whole team on his back and took them the 638 miles back to Boston. He was helped along by Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis, who homered over the left field wall in the top of the first to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. The Indians only run of the night tied up the game in the bottom of the inning. Sizemore hit a bloop double, Cabrera singled, and Hafner grounded into a double play.

After that, Beckett put the clamps on. No Indians crossed the plate the rest of the night. It was all Boston from there on in. The Sox cruised to a 7-1 win, and the series heads back to Boston for Game 6 on Saturday night. Curt Schilling will face Fausto Carmona in a rematch of Game 2.

More on this match up and the game later.

***

I did want to note something though. During the ninth inning when Papelbon was putting the screws to the Indians, FOX showed a close up of one dejected Indians fan in the stands. He was holding one of the white towels that Cleveland fans had been maniacally waving all night. The towel had, "2007 World Series" imprinted on it.

Um, are you F'n kidding me? The Indians are up 3 games to 1 heading in to Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, and all their moron fans are waving around 2007 World Series towels? Is everyone in Cleveland mentally deficient? You don't get World Series towels until you actually make it to the World Series!

When I posted earlier that I thought the Red Sox would win the series in five games a friend of mine accused me of inciting the Baseball Gods. He said my act of hubris (presumably picking my team to win) would be negatively reflected upon the Sox. I disagreed, saying that I only posted what I thought, and it was not an act of hubris. Well, even if my post was hubris, it pales in comparison to this. If there ever was an act of hubris, waiving World Series towels in the fifth game of the ALCS is it. Thats simply asking for it.

So, not only did the Red Sox dominate the Indians and bring the series back to Boston for Game 6, but 48,000 stupid Indians fans turned the Baseball Gods against their team as well.

***

Of course, none of this means crap if Curt Schilling doesn't throw a good game on Saturday. The Sox have shown they are patient enough to hit Carmona, at least a little bit. Carmona is likely at least somewhat tired due to his huge workload this season. The difference will be how Schilling pitches. Can he shut down the Indians? Can he keep the game close and give the Sox a chance to win?

We'll find out the answers to these and many other questions on Saturday, but for now, the Sox are taking this thing back to Boston. Theres some fight left in us after all. This thing isn't over yet. Not by a long shot.

LETS GO SOX!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

GAME 5: ELIMINATION GAME 1: HOW THE SOX WIN

This is it, Part I.

The Sox have dug themselves a huge hole and now we all get the pleasure of watching them dig themselves out. Josh Beckett and his back problems will pitch for Boston with the season in the balance. A good performance from a starting pitcher should be a good step towards a win, but the Sox haven't had one of those (a win or a good performance from a starter, take your pick) since Beckett last pitched in Game 1 of this series.

So, for fun, lets construct a scenario where the Red Sox come back and beat Cleveland. Here's what happens and why:

Game 5: Sabathia has thrown 250.1 innings on the season, and his arm is tired. He is moderately effective early, but tires in the middle innings. Manny does some damage and the Sox take a 4-1 lead. Josh Beckett's back tightens up and he is out after 7 despite pitching well. Okajima and Papelbon come on to preserve the game. Sox win, 4-2.

Game 6: The series returns to Boston where Curt Schilling faces Fausto Carmona. Carmona threw 102 innings last year, and so far this year he's thrown 228 (post season plus regular season). He was less effective last time out and that trend continues here. The Sox hit him hard and he doesn't last through the fourth. Schilling himself is less than perfect, but he goes six and leaves with the Sox up 7-3. Cleveland mounts a comeback against the back end of the Boston pen, but Papelbon comes on (again) to save the day. Sox win, 8-6.

Game 7: Matsuzaka vs. Westbrook. Westbrook's sinker doesn't sink as much, and the Sox hit him hard too. He doesn't get out of the fourth. Matsuzaka does his typical dance with death, but ends up throwing five decent innings. He leaves with the Sox up 5-3. The Indians come back to tie it up off of our middle relief, but Manny and Big Papi make sure that the Sox win this one. Sox win, 7-5.

Seems plausible, right? We take the first step tonight. This one isn't over. Not by a long shot.

LETS GO SOX!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

CLOSE BUT NOT OVER

The Sox pitching staff, the rock upon which their 96 victory regular season performance was built, has performed badly in this series. I'm not sure what the story is behind that, but its certainly not something I was expecting, nor was it something that anyone who analyzed the series beforehand could reasonably expect. It would be like me saying before the series started that Travis Hafner would strike out 12 times with zero hits in four games (I'm just making that number up, I have no idea how many times he's struck out). Not only would there be little basis for saying it, but there would be ample historical evidence (Hafner's entire season and indeed his whole career) to point to against it.

But thats the thing about a short series (yes, seven games is very short). Just about anything can happen, and having the better team is no guarantee of winning, just as how having the worst team in the majors is no guarantee of losing.

Could the Red Sox still come back? Absolutely they could. Will they? I'd say they have a pretty lousy chance of doing so, simply because winning three games in a row while facing Sabathia and Carmona would seem unlikley. But of course it could happen.

If Sabathia and Carmona pitch like they did earlier in the series than the Sox have a decent shot to even things up. But first they have to win tomorrow. When you're facing elimination, it doesn't make any sense to start planning for the future because if you don't win now there won't be any future anyway.

To that end, the Sox need to ride Beckett for as long as he is useful. If that is ten innings, so be it. If its only two, then they need to get him out of there with as minimal damage as possible. Utilize Papelbon for two innings if need be. Put Okajima in for 2 2/3 innings if they need to.

If the score is 4-2 (doesn't matter who is ahead) in the seventh, and they need to go to the bullpen, the only two guys they need to chose between at that point are Okajima and Papelbon. Once those guys have thrown enough, then you move on to the rest of the pen if need be, but not before. Its time to stop putting your trust in guys who you think can do the job and start relying heavily on guys you know can do the job.

That, and they'll need the Indians bullpen to help them out. More Borowski and less Betancourt should do the trick.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

PANIC TIME


Its hard to be optimistic after tonight's performance. It was a tremendously disappointing and dispiriting one.

I really don't feel like rehashing the whole game which is probably fine because I really doubt you feel like reading about it. Wakefield was fine until unraveling in the fifth. Thats where the game turned. Francona brought in Manny Delcarmen and he was terrible. Let me say that again. He was terrible. I love Manny, but you just can't have relief pitching like that in playoff game. He took a bad inning and made it a horrendous one.

But thats all in the past. All that matters now is Thursday's game. Josh Beckett will get the ball with the season on the line. He must pitch well or we're done. Simple as that.

ITS BUCKLE DOWN TIME FOR SOX

I believe the Red Sox have to win tonight if they want to have a reasonable chance to continue their season. If the Sox lose tonight, I'm sure we'll hear a whole bunch about the 2004 Sox and how being down 1-3 isn't as bad as being down 0-3. I'd like to bet the first one to head this off at the pass.

The 2004 team was great, one for the ages, but this is not the '04 team. Its a completely different group of guys, for better or worse.

I won't go into the many differences in any detail here (much less hitting, much more bullpen this season), but these are different teams with different strengths and different weaknesses. Just because they both had "Boston" across their chests when playing road games doesn't mean they are remotely similar teams.

As unlikely as the '04 team's comeback from down 0-3 was, I'd say it was more likely than a comeback from down 1-3 by this year's Sox. This year's version of the Red Sox needs to simply win. Drama and 13 inning homers aren't what this team does well. Winning 5-3 with a bunch of singles, walks and a few doubles while keeping the game in hand with solid pitching in the late innings is what this team does well. Strangely enough, its what they need to do tonight.

***

I missed yesterday's game entirely as I was traveling from Dallas and Houston back home to Philly. As such, I don't have much to say about the Red Sox performance in Game 3. I will say in light of Daisuke Matsuzaka's recent performances, the Sox will have to reconsider how much they allow Matsuzaka to throw both in and between starts next season.

It was a complicated situation when he came over from Japan because of the workload that he was used to in and between starts. The Sox did not alter Matsuzaka's routine too often and allowed him to throw on game days before and sometimes before and after starts (unheard of in MLB) which he had done in Japan.

Next season, rest will need more emphasis. The fact that the MLB schedule requires pitchers to throw on four days rest compared to six days rest in Japan means pitchers throw more pitches in higher stress situations in a MLB season than they do in a Japanese league season.

Throwing more games in a season with less rest between each means that Matsuzaka put a massive strain on his arm compared to what he is used to. Right now he's probably just tired. Worst case, he's hiding an injury. Its also possible its a bit of both, though with the rigorous medical testing the Sox put their pitchers through, I'm guessing he is just tired.

***

Tonight, the Sox have to win. There is a huge difference between being down 3-1 and being tied 2-2. Huge.

The Sox should be able to hit Paul Byrd, but the Indians will likely be able to hit Tim Wakefield as well. Terry Francona will likely have Wake on a short leash, though his options for replacing him in the early innings don't look promising considering the back end of the bullpen's performance in Game 2.

Maybe the Sox can take a page from the Yankees book and use a starter to throw an inning or two should Wake falter. It should be Schilling's throwing day and so he would regularly be scheduled to pitch a few innings on the side.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

ALCS GAME 1: SOX WIN 10-3, TAKE 1-0 LEAD IN SERIES

Beckett didn't dominate, but with the crushing done by the Red Sox offense, he didn't need to. The Sox cruised to ta 10-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians last night and took a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series in the process.

Tonight, Schilling goes against Carmona, the other talented and young 19 game winner for Cleveland.

If the Sox can win tonight, they'll take a commanding 2-0 lead back to Cleveland to face the lesser lights of the Indians rotation. If Cleveland wins, they'll head back home having achieved a satisfying split in enemy territory.

Tonight, whatever advantage the Sox gained when they won home field advantage will be on display. Carmona is a 23 year old, and though he has pitched exceptionally well this year, he may be susceptible to some early game jitters. His last win against the Yankees was at home, and he'll get no such sympathy from the audience tonight. Carmona is also the Indians best pitcher who is available to pitch tonight, so if Eric Wedge has to make any pitching changes he'll be substituting a lesser pitcher into the game.

If he does make some mistakes early, the Sox offense needs to take advantage and put him on the ropes while they can.

Game time tonight is 8:15pm EST.

Friday, October 12, 2007

TRAVELING

I'll be traveling this weekend to the land of big belt buckles and even bigger guns this weekend. Due to that, I'll likely not be updating here at FPE. I'll be watching the Sox and I'll be back on Monday night and hopefully put something up then.

Please check back around that time, and as always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

ALCS: RED SOX/INDIANS PREVIEW


My predictions for the division series were awful. In the NL, I predicted the Phillies to win in five. Instead, they were swept by Colorado. I predicted the Cubs would beat the Diamondbacks in four, but Chicago was swept also. At least I got the number of games right in the AL. I said Yankees in four, but it was Cleveland who won. Oh for three. Sounds like Jeter’s batting line. (Low blow!)

The only series I got absolutely correct was the Red Sox sweep of the Angels, and in truth, that’s the only one I felt strongly about. So, prepare yourself for more bad predictions here at FPE as I tackle…

Both Championship Series

NL

Colorado (NLWC) vs. Arizona (NLW)

Can a team that was outscored on the year really make it to the World Series? Can a team that everyone had written off for dead two weeks before the season ended either? Can a bear poop in the woods? Can my wife make mean cracks at my expense? Does my crotch itch? The Cardinals (I know this is everyone’s excuse. “X team sucks, but just look at the ’06 Cardinals.”) proved that you don’t have to be a good hitting team, or a good pitching team to win the World Series. All you have to do is go up against a series of teams playing badly. Theres a recipe for champions, right there.

Both have strengths, but both of these teams have serious weaknesses too. At least right now the Rockies strengths seem to be coming to the fore more than Arizona. Colorado certainly has a better hitting team than Arizona, and right now they probably have better starting pitching as well.

I’m not going to get any more in depth than that here, so I’ll just say this:

Prediction: Colorado in Five. Bet the house on it.

AL

Cleveland (ALC) vs. Boston (ALE)

Make no mistake about it, the series that follows this will be the World Series in name only. The two most talented teams left in the playoffs are facing each other here.

Lets start with an overview. Both teams finished the season with identical 96-66 records. The Red Sox have the homefield advantage by virtue of their 5-2 record versus Cleveland in the regular season. Despite the regular season results, these teams are not perfectly even.

The Indians scored 811 runs on the season and allowed 704. The Red Sox scored 867 and gave up 657. The Red Sox have scored and been scored upon at the rate of a 101-61 team, while the Indians results translate to a more modest 91-71 record. You’ll notice that the Sox have a ten game advantage according to Pythagorean record. This is more indicative of the difference between these two clubs than the equal win-loss marks they achieved in the regular season

As for hitting, the Red Sox have scored more runs, but they’ve done so in a home park that this season very slightly favors hitters, while the Indians have played their home games in a park that slightly favors pitchers. Thus, maybe the numbers are more similar than I may be giving credit for.

But, remember that baseball schedules aren’t even any more, so like the NFL you have to take the quality of competition into account.

The average non-Red Sox AL East team scored 815 runs while giving up 822, for a Pythagorean record of 80-82. Conversely the average non-Indians AL Central team scored 751 runs while giving up 785, for a Pythagorean record of 77-85. It seems the Red Sox had a more difficult schedule and did more with it.

Of course, these teams aren't the same ones that began the season, so simply comparing their respective seasonal stats doesn't do justice to who these teams are now. To that end, and I acknowledge that this is an imperfect measure, if you compare how the teams hit in their division series, you can see that the Sox scored more runs than did the Indians, and they did it off a better pitching staff.

The Sox scorched the Angels by a cumulative 19-4 score in their three games, for an average score of 6.3-1.3. The Indians won by a cumulative score of 24-16 for an average score of 6-4. The Red Sox were more dominant in their match up.

Now, they were playing different teams, and though those teams won an equal number of games in the regular season (94), you could make an argument that the Yankees were a better team than the Angels. I acknowledge that that argument could be made, but I won’t be making it here. The argument you can’t make is New York’s pitching staff is better than Anaheim’s, because it isn’t. The Sox hitters faced more difficult competition and yet scored more runs.

Conversely, you can’t make the opposite argument, that Anaheim’s hitters were better than New York’s. Of course that isn’t true, but then the Indians gave up more runs than Boston did, befitting the fact that they faced more difficult competition.

As for the pitching staffs, Cleveland’s #1 and #2 starters match up well with those of the Sox. Both Carmona and Sabathia are excellent starters and equal to that of Boston’s Beckett and Schilling. (Carmona is probably a better pitcher at this point than Schilling, but how do you pick against Schilling in the playoffs?)

After those two, the Indians staff starts to get mediocre in a hurry. Despite the win, Byrd didn’t pitch very well against New York, and Westbrook got lit up. In Boston, Matsuzaka didn’t pitch very well either, but he has more of a track record of success than either Cleveland counter part. The wild card for the Sox is Tim Wakefield. He missed the Division Series due to poor health. If he is healthy enough (and he threw a successful side session today according to Boston manager Terry Francona) he’ll throw Game 4 in Cleveland, likely against Byrd.

Heres how I see the match-ups:

Game #1: Sabathia at Beckett
Advantage: Boston

Game #2: Carmona at Schilling
Advantage: toss up

Game #3: Matsuzka at Westbrook
Advantage: Boston

Game #4: Wakefield at Byrd
Advantage: toss up

Game #5: Sabathia at Beckett
Advantage: Boston

Prediction: Boston in five.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

YANKS ARE DONE: INDIANS COME TO FENWAY ON FRIDAY

Good-bye, Roger. Good-bye Derek and Johnny and Alex. Good-bye Jorge and Mariano and Robinson. Good-bye, Yankees, it was fun, but we're moving on, and you all have some locker cleaning to do.

It was an amazing night. Just before the Cowboys kicker booted two game winning field goals, the Yankees succumbed to the Cleveland Indians in Game 4 of their ALDS match up.

Somehow the Yankees didn't beat the ever-loving crap out of Paul Byrd and his myriad of 78 mph fastballs, slower changeups, sub-changeups, slow-sub-changeups, super-slow-sub-changeups, and well, you get the picture.

Byrd throws a bunch of junk. He's basically Eddie Harris from the movie Major League. ("Up your butt, Jobu.") Yet, just as in the movie, the Yankees couldn't do much with him, and the Indians survived with an improbable 6-4 win, taking the series 3 games to 1, and advancing to the American League Championship Series to face our Boston Red Sox, this Friday at 7pm EST.

(An interesting side note: Did you know that the role of Yankees slugger 'Clu Haywood' was played by former pitcher Pete Vuckovitch? Yeah, I didn't either.)

So thats it. Indians/Red Sox. I'll post some predictions here later in the week for the ALCS and the NLCS, but right now I just want to talk Yankees here for a few seconds.

What are the Yankees going to do this off season? They’ve been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs for the third year in a row. George Steinbrenner, despite having fewer working brain cells than our president, issued a warning before Game 4, threatening to fire manager Joe Torre if the Yankees didn’t come back and win the series. They didn’t, so will Torre be fired? If so, what will that mean for impending free agents Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada who have played under Torre their entire careers and (from what I hear) see him as a father figure? Will they chose to look elsewhere now? Will the Yankees pick up Bobby Abreu’s $16M option, or pay his $2M buy-out and let him walk? Will A-Rod opt out, and if so, will Brian Cashman go back on his word and not attempt to resign him? Will Brian Cashman even have a job at that point?

The Yankees are looking at the potential loss of their manager, GM, starting third baseman, starting right fielder, starting catcher, and their Hall-of-Fame closer.

Of course I don’t have any answers to these questions, but they are juicy ones to think about for sure. There are no free agents who come close to A-Rod or Abreu’s hitting ability. There are no free agent catchers who can compare to Posada, and no free agent closers who can hold a candle to Rivera. That said, A-Rod is going to command a huge contract extension from the Yankees, and $16M is a lot to pay for one year of Bobby Abreu considering his lack of power over the past year. Both Rivera and Posada will officially qualify as ‘old’ next season, but both will likely be looking for lucrative long-term deals considering their recent successes.

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say…

Cashman will keep his job, but Torre will be fired. Rivera will re-sign with the Yankees on a two year deal with a player option for a third at good money. Posada will flirt with the Mets, but will ultimately return to the Bronx as well, but for more money and years than the Yankees would have liked to pay (say 4 years $50M). The Yankees will pick up the $16M option on Abreu simply because theres nobody else better to waste it on, but will explore trading him like they did with Sheffield last winter.

As for A-Rod, the evidence is compelling that Boras will take his client onto the open market. This will release Texas from having to pay the remaining $21M of A-Rod’s salary that they sent along with him when he was traded to New York. This means that re-signing A-Rod to the same contract that he’s currently playing for will cost the Yankees $21M more than it does now.

It seems that A-Rod is not long for New York. In his last at-bat for the Yankees in the ninth, he fittingly swung at a pitch just outside the strike zone and hit a fly ball to the warning track in right field. The effort was emblematic of his time in New York so far. A good effort, and close to the promised land, but ultimately not successful.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow he ended up staying with the Yankees. In either case, it will be interesting to see what happens. Depending on how much turmoil is swirling in the Yankee front offices, there might not be much time to negotiate an extension in New York

***

I’ll be previewing the ALCS later this week, and writing more about the Red Sox and maybe even the Yankees, so stay tuned to FPE, and as always, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

MOVE'N ON UP: SOX SWEEP ANGELS, HEAD TO ALCS

Curt Schilling threw a beauty, while Ortiz and Manny both homered and the Sox won Game 3 on the road and eliminated the Angels three games to zero.

More to come when we find out who the Red Sox will be facing.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

GAME 2: DREW + BULLPEN + MANNY = WIN!; SOX UP 2-0

I saw Game 1 at my friend's apartment with a few other Red Sox fans. We saw it on my friend's (I'll be charitable here) 12" TV. It was great to be in the company of friends and we all had a great time watching the game together, but the TV was so small that we couldn't read either the score or the pitch count.

After Game 1, my friend went out and bought a $1,000 flat screen TV and hooked it up. We watched Game 2 on that. What a difference and what a game to break the new TV in on. We could actually see Manny's titanic shot head out over the Monster, over Lansdowne Street, and over the parking garage towards the Mass Pike and off into the night as the Sox celebrated.

Well, we would have seen it if we hadn't been jumping up and down screaming. And, Oh my God he crushed it. I don't have a whole lot to add to Manny's blast. My comment at the time was something along the lines of, "OH MY GOD!! HE CRUSHED THE #&$% OUT OF THAT!! AHHHH!!".

I did want to bring up the bullpen though. Its likely that the job the bullpen did to hold the Angels and keep the game close/tied may be forgotten in the pure power and majesty of Manny's homer. I suppose that would be OK. Thats the way of things, and especially the way of the national sports media.

But its important for us Sox fans to notice that after Matsuzaka turned in 4.2 innings of 3 run ball (and potentially more as he left runners on when he exited), the bullpen threw 4.1 scoreless and hitless innings. This allowed the Sox offense to wade through the Angel pen to the point where Manny could crush the Angels with one swing. Oh, and did I mention he slapped the crap out of that ball?

Manny's homer casts quite the literal and figurative shadow. Here are some other semi-unsung heroes of Game 2 which should be noted:
  1. J.D. Drew- OK, Drew got one hit and its not like he crushed the ball either, but it was a damn valuable hit. Drew's single with the bases loaded in the first brought home Youk and Papi and accounted for two thirds of the Sox runs up until Manny totally jacked one.

  2. Julio Lugo - Again, Lugo only accounted for one hit, but it was a well-timed one. Lugo's line drive single in the bottom of the ninth sparked the rally which was ended when Ramirez just creamed that pitch by F-Rod.

  3. Hideki Okajima - Okajima was the most effective of the Sox relievers, throwing 1.1 innings of perfect ball while striking out half of the batters he faced. Maybe that dead-arm period is over with?

  4. Terry Francona - In Game 1 of the Yankees/Indians series, Chien-Ming Wang was struggling for the Yankees. He had given up 4 runs in 4 innings and trouble was threatening again in the fifth. Torre sat on his hands and as a result a close game turned into a rout.

    Francona took the opposite tact, deploying his bullpen excellently in Game 2. He recognized that Matsuzaka was struggling and before the game could get out of hand he took evasive action. Unlike Torre, Francona recognized that a game in the ALDS isn't like a game in July, and as such you have to manage them differently. Whereas in the regular season a manager can wait around to see if his starter rights himself, in the post season and especially in a five game series, there is no such luxury. Francona prevented the Sox from falling any farther than a single run behind.
Tomorrow: The series moves to Anaheim and the Sox go for the win. Curt Schilling takes the mound opposite Jered Weaver. Game time 3:07pm EST.

MANNY!!!

Friday, October 05, 2007

YANKS WILL WIN/YANKS WILL LOSE

The Yankees will win tonight because:
  • Indians manager Eric Wedge stupidly used all his good relievers last night with a huge lead. He effectively neutered his own bullpen for tonight's game in order to protect a huge lead. Thus the Yankees will likely have to face a much weaker Cleveland pen tonight, and we all know what the Yankee offense does to mediocre pitching.
The Yankees will lose the series because:
  • Do you know how many times in 2007 C.C. Sabathia has pitched as badly as he did last night? Basically never, but he had a couple games where he allowed more runs in more innings pitched, so charitably, twice. If you care, here and here. Basically, its pretty unlikely to happen again so the Yankees squandered their chance to beat Sabathia. If you accept that the Yankees will lose to Sabathia again (which, of course, isn't any type of sure thing, but go with it for now) then they have to win every other non-Sabathia-pitched game to win the series.
  • Joe Torre did something stupid with his bullpen too. With the game already over in the seventh inning, Torre turned to Phil Hughes. Hughes is likely the Yankees third best starter behind Wang and Pettitte, and is a very valuable chip out of the bullpen as a spot starter should one of the Yankees starters fail.

    In fact, one could make a good case that Torre erred twice here. Once by not using Hughes in the early innings for an obviously struggling Wang, and once by using him in the late innings with the game's outcome already decided. If Pettitte fails out of the gate tonight, the Yankees will have nobody to turn to.
***

In other news, did anyone see Labron "The Frontrunner" James sitting in the front row of the Indians/Yankees game wearing a Yankees hat last night? He was interviewed on TBS and basically said that despite growing up in Akron, Oh (Indians or Reds territory), he roots for the Yankees. It also came out in the interview that he roots for the Bulls (though probably less so since joining the NBA), and Cowboys too! Sheesh... I bet he also roots for Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Manchester United, IBM, USA, The Republican Party, the Red Wings, and Brazil (men's) and Germany (women's) in soccer.

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

2004 was the best year ever. Because of '04 I make a concerted effort to be positive concerning the Red Sox simply because they deserve it. And when you consider their performance over the past four years as a whole, well, its pretty clear that this is a very good team with an excellent management team who knows what they're doing.

But despite that and in spite of myself, I still maintain a somewhat skeptical approach to baseball as a whole. I don't trust the universe and I'm still fearful of the baseball gods, vengeful though they be.

To that end, I'm a bit worried about how everything is turning up Red Sox roses in the first two days of the playoffs. In game one the Red Sox looked both healthy and totally unbeatable. Conversely, the Yankees looked healthy and entirely beatable, which is likely why they were beaten 12-3 by Cleveland last night. Thats two for two right there. I'm officially "wary."

But if you look beyond just the simple Red Sox/Yankees obviousness, the other teams that the Red Sox may encounter should they go on to beat the Angels don't look very good either. Yes, the Indians scored a billion runs off of Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang, but the Sox have done that too, and Indians ace and likely Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia didn't look very good either. In fact, the Yankees had him on the ropes in the fifth and couldn't finish him off. He didn't look very effective throwing five innings and giving up three runs while walking six.

Whats more, all the NL teams look highly beatable, but we kinda knew that already.

I guess what I'm trying to say is we're doing great so far. But we haven't beaten the Angels yet, or for that matter come close to doing so. Its only been one game and theres still a long way to go. Lets not get ahead of ourselves, though I admit its pretty easy to do.

Tonight: Game 2, Matsuzaka vs. Escobar. 8:37pm EST.

Lets Go Sox!!