Changes

Well, it’s been almost a month since the Red Sox lost game 7 of the ALCS to the damn Tampa Bay Rays. I think it’s finally time to come out from the dark recesses of thefoulline.com headquarters, dust myself off, and talk about what I think Boston needs to do to improve their team.

This is a pivotal offseason for the Red Sox. There are some glaring holes in the Sox lineup that need to be filled. If this team remains unchanged, they’ll be watching the playoffs on television in 2009.

There’s going to be a lot of Hot Stove activity going on in the next couple of weeks. The damn Yankees have $90 million coming off their books and are eager spend to improve their poor pitching, and like it or not, the Rays are going to be here for a while. If Tampa acquires a legitimate closer and a quality right fielder they’re going to be dangerous. The American League East is no longer a two-horse race.

So if I were Theo Epstein, this is what I would do, in order of importance.

1. Sign Mark Texiera.

Tex would tear up Fenway Park offensively and play Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. This MUST be done! A switch-hitting. perennial All-Star first baseman does not become available very often. As an added bonus, Tex is a free agent, so it wouldn’t cost Boston any of its young talent to acquire him.

Of course, this means Kevin Youkilis is moved to third base, and Mike Lowell is odd man out. I would try to convince a healthy Lowell to learn how to play first base and become Boston’s super-sub. With Lowell playing a mix of first, third and DH, he could prove to the rest of the league that he is healthy, and improve his stock for a trade. (Minnesota and the White Sox need a third baseman). It wouldn’t be the most popular move in Boston, since Lowell is such a class act, but we are here to win ball games. Get out your checkbook, Theo, and make it happen.

2. Derek Lowe makes his triumphant return to Boston.

Lowe is the type of sinker-ball-throwing, ground-ball-inducing pitcher that is tailor-made for Fenway Park. He’s proven to come up huge in big games, as in the 2004 playoffs, when he won the deciding game in all three playoff series. Not to mention, he wants to pitch in Boston again. He may even give Theo a discount.

I look forward to a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Dice K, Lowe, and Wakefield. This would keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen to help solidify the 7th and 8th innings before turning it over to Papelbon.

3. Deal a solid pitching prospect, namely Michael Bowden or Clay Buchholz, for either of Texas’s catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden.

They each have different strengths: Salty is still a raw talent that hits pretty well but needs to improve defensively. Teagarden is a solid defensive catcher with a laser-rocket arm, and he has the potential to put up some big power numbers. What they have in common is that they both are ready to be a starting catcher in the majors.

I’m starting to lean towards a  Buchholz for Teagarden deal, but either way it’s an upgrade of the aging Varitek. Thanks for all of your hard work, ‘Tek. We’ll see you at Jason Varitek Appreciation day.

4. Trade Julio Lugo for a bucket of used baseballs.

Jed Lowrie is ready to be the everyday shortstop. Lugo sucks. Find some sucker GM to take him off our hands.

…..
It almost seems too easy to improve this team. If Boston makes these moves, you can go and get the champagne on ice. If not, it may be a long season.

Don’t Stop Believin’

OK, now this is getting crazy. Boston looked lousy during games 2, 3, and 4 and 2/3 of game 5. Meanwhile, Tampa was playing like a team on a mission, trying to make up for ten years of futility. Suddenly during game 5, the switch was flipped, and like a modern version of Freaky Friday Boston began playing loose, youthful, carefree baseball, while Tampa turned into a  cautious, conservative baseball team that’s playing not to lose, instead of pushing the action and trying for the win.

So this brings us to game 7. Which version of these teams will show up?

thefoulline.com quick hits

  • Jon Lester vs. Matt Garza, game seven, winner goes to the World Series. This is the match-up Boston fans were wishing for and Rays fans were dreading.
  • Regarding the TBS technical difficulty that caused first-inning coverage of last night’s game to be preempted by The Steve Harvey Show: According to a theory by thefoulline contributor Dylan “Conspiracy Theorist” Hamilton, TBS, concerned that the Rays’ current losing streak has reminded much of the Tampa Bay fan base how much they prefer Steve Harvey to baseball, did it on purpose.
  • The Sox bullpen has looked fantastic. Okajima gets better every time he pitches and looks like the Oki of 2007. Masterson looked absolutely scared shitless out there, and then he proceeded to shut down the Rays 1-2-3 hitters. Then there’s Papelbon. Tired, sore, gassed from pitching two tough innings in game 5, he goes out throwing 90 MPH fastballs with good location and gets the save. In a word… awesome.
  • High definition television is not kind to Kevin Youkilis.
  • Coco Crisp is doing his best 2007 Jacoby Ellsbury impersonation. Coco did more damage to James Shields last night than any punch would ever do.
  • Dan the #1 Rays Fan: Hang in there. This is still better than watching the Rays of the past. There’s still a lot of baseball left.
  • Jason Varitek saved his job with the Sox next year with a huge home run and an even bigger throw out of Dioner Navarro. That’s why he’s the Captain.
  • Terry Francona is the best manager in Red Sox history. Although the 78 pieces of tobacco wrapped in Double Bubble that he is constantly chewing during the game is pretty disgusting.
  • Josh Beckett dug down deep last night and pitched his ass off for 5 innings. This guy is a competitor.
  • James Shields is a tough pitcher with a promising future, but his “Big Game” nickname may have been a little premature. Names like that get invented in the postseason.
  • Dustin Pedroia is going to blow up tonight. He lives for moments like this, and he’s been too quiet for too long.
  • During the 6th inning of game 5 in Fenway Park, did anyone really think we would be watching a game 7?
  • There is no moment better in sports than the MLB playoffs.

Everything in Its Right Place

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • For the record, I wrote a few months ago that the Red Sox should make every attempt to trade for Johan Santana. This included dealing Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, pretty much anyone. Obviously the Sox front office is smarter than I am.
  • In case you missed it, Jon Lester threw a no-hitter against the K.C. Royals the other night. I’ve always figured that Lester would be a solid contributor for the Sox. He’s a guy that I thought could go out and win 12-15 games a year and be a solid #3 guy in the rotation. After Monday’s performance, I think I’ve underestimated his ability.
  • Watching the Sox as a kid, they were always a slow, prodding team that relied on the long ball. They rarely manufactured runs, and stolen bases were nonexistent. The 2008 team with Ellsbury, Coco, Pedroia, Youk and Lugo stealing bases and playing small ball is a lot more fun to watch.
  • Speaking of Lugo, his tenure in Boston may be coming to an end. What kind of message is Terry Francona sending when Lugo gets a defensive replacement four games in a row? Paging Jed Lowrie…
  • Jacoby Ellsbury stole 25 bases in a row to start his career, two short of the record set by Tim Raines. Ellsbury was thrown out on a pitch-out and a perfect strike from the catcher to second base, and he still was barely out. This kid is scary fast.
  • Manny Ramirez stated that he has stopped hitting home-runs on purpose. He said that fans aren’t excited enough about it, and he is going to wait to hit them on the upcoming west coast trip. The reason fans aren’t excited, Man-Ram, is that you’re hitting .178 with 11 strikeouts over the last 12 games. And you’re an idiot.
  • The Sox have had solid contributions this year from their young players: Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and Brandon Moss.
  • The Yankees “top” young players have done the following: Phillip Hughes 0-4, 9.00 ERA; Ian Kennedy 0-3, 8.48 ERA; Jeff Karstens 1-4, 11.05 ERA; Melky Cabrera, .252 batting average; Joba Chamberlain, 10 holds, 2.66 ERA, 700 cheeseburgers eaten. Advantage: Boston.
  • Bartolo Colon is wicked fat, but he pitched pretty well last night. He may make his Fantasy debut for the Yankeehaters next week.
  • Joba Chamberlain is joining the New York Yankees starting rotation. This is going to be just the boost the Yanks need to leapfrog the Blue Jays and seize fourth place in the division.
  • Ex-Sox and current freak show Eric Gagne is being sidelined with a shoulder “injury.” Have you seen this guy lately? Not only is he stinking it up in Milwaukee, but he may be the ugliest human on the planet. 7.45 ERA, multiple blown saves, $10 million… money well spent.