MLB Offseason Review

Hey everyone, Dan here.

Ever since the San Francisco Giants recorded the final out against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series last year, this date has just been flashing in my head…. April 5th… April 5th….

Despite the winter seeming to drag on forever, the Super Bowl is now over. And that means we are officially on the fast track to baseball’s opening day. But that’s not to say that the winter didn’t produce some real highlights. This was perhaps the most crazy, active, and wild offseason in baseball in the last 20 years. But who put themselves in the best position? Who gutted their team? It’s time for thefoulline.com’s official offseason review!

The Nationals Don’t Need Any More Pitching

So what do you do if you lead Major League Baseball in ERA and get knocked out of the postseason because you scored 9 runs in 4 games? You make upgrading your offense the goal of your offseason, right? Nah, you go out and give Max Scherzer $210 million. The Nationals go with the “you strengthen your strength” approach and it gives them the strongest MLB rotation since the 1995 Atlanta Braves. If they can get anything close to what Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman are capable of, Washington has to be considered the World Series favorite.

The Padres Want to Be Relevant Again

Finish last in the majors in runs? No problem. Add Matt Kemp? Check. Add Justin Upton? Check. Add Wil Myers? Check. The Padres GM gets a gold star for his offseason, taking big steps to rebuild this team and energize a franchise that hasn’t been interesting in a long time. The real kicker here is that they managed to completely rebuild their offense without giving up a single one of their top three prospects. New Padres GM AJ Preller looks to be a rising superstar in the GM ranks.

Cole Hamels Is Still a Phillie… For Now

I expect this to change. The Phillies have nothing to gain from keeping Hamels. They’re easily the worst team in that division, and it would serve them well to get Hamels’s contract off the books and bring in some young talent to fully start their rebuilding process. Add Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon to the list of Phillies players that need new homes in 2015. I still think the Hamels deal gets done. The Phillies will lower their price as the season approaches. Prediction? Hamels is pitching in Fenway Park in 2015.

Billy Beane Has Either Lost His Marbles, or He’s Five Steps Ahead of Everyone

So is Oakland trying to contend, or trying to rebuild? I’m lost here. They trade their best player, Josh Donaldson, for prospects, then turn around and flip their #1 prospect to Tampa Bay for Ben Zobrist. They sign Billy Butler for $30 million, but then flip away Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and Derrick Norris. I know Billy Beane has entered into the Bill Belichick territory of “trust him no matter what,” but even I can’t figure out what he’s doing. I think I’m gonna go watch Moneyball again.

The Red Sox Retool; the Rays Restock

The two best teams in the AL East in 2013 both tanked to the bottom of the division in 2014. The Red Sox rebuilt their entire rotation and the left side of their infield. I’m not a huge fan of Pablo Sandoval, but leaving AT&T Park can only be good for him. I think Hanley Ramirez loses a lot of his value moving away from shortstop, but there’s no debate, if he’s healthy, his bat will tear up Fenway Park. I don’t think the Red Sox are done. In a division that’s really up for grabs in 2015, a Cole Hamels trade could make the Red Sox favorites to take back the AL East crown.

The Rays dealt away several fan favorites, lost Joe Maddon and Andrew Freidman, and hired the youngest manager in the Major Leagues. But this was necessary. Tampa Bay went all out trying to win a World Championship in 2014, and it failed miserably. Now it’s time to get younger, rebuild the farm, and take a new approach to contending. This will be a down year for the Rays, but they’re not quite in full rebuilding mode yet.

What did your team do this offseason? Are they contenders or pretenders? Let us know what you think of how your team’s winter went. Spring training is right around the corner, and I think 2015 is going to be the best year at thefoulline.com in a long time.

Pitchers and Catchers report in 12 days!

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.

I Believe

364 days ago I wrote a post called “Keeping the Faith, Part 2.” At that time Boston was in a 3-1 hole to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series, and they were getting ready to face CC Sabathia in game 5. One year later, I find myself in a similar position, full of hope and optimism and sitting in front of my laptop. Can Boston make another comeback and crush the hopes and dreams of Rays fans everywhere? I not only hope so, but I’m going to give the reasons why.

  1. Scott Kazmir is pitching tonight. Why would Joe Maddon do this? He is either hoping that Kazmir rebounds from his last several poor performances and pulls out a win, or he’s that confident that “Big Game” James Shields will be money in game 6 at Tropicana Field to win it in front of the home crowd. Whatever the reason, I giggled a little when I saw Kazmir as tonight’s starting pitcher. This series is at least going back to St. Pete.
  2. The Red Sox have played horrible baseball. This the all-or-nothing, backs-to-the-wall scenario that shows a team’s character. Like Gene Hackman said in The Replacements, “winners want the ball.”  The Red Sox are the defending World Series Champions. Let’s start acting like it.
  3. 1986, down 3-1 to the California Angels in the ALCS. 2004, down 3-0 to the NY Yankees in the ALCS. 2007, down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. They’ve been here before and have won. They will do it again.
  4. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. There is no way in hell that these guys throw another crappy game like their last time out.
  5. Big Papi actually got an extra-base hit last game. The offensive flood gates are officially open.
  6. There is no way that the Rays can keep up with their 8 home runs a game pace. MLB is going to start charging them for lost baseballs.
  7. Dice K is a ninja. The Rays won’t know what hit them.
  8. Jason Varitek got the hole in his glove stitched up, so no more inning-extending passed balls.
  9. The Sox only have to win three measly games. A three game winning streak is nothing. They’ve done it 16 times this season.

So now you can see how obvious it is that Boston will rally back and win this series. I almost feel bad for the Rays…

Go Sox!

Love to Hate

Let me start by saying that I hate the Rays. With the exception of Evan Longoria, who is obviously a superstar, and Carlos Pena, who goes unnoticed as the Rays’ team leader, I hate every player, coach and manager on that team. Is it sour grapes because they’ve won the season series with Boston? Maybe. But unlike the national media, I do not see these Rays as the darlings of the league. I find them utterly unlikeable, and I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.

Maybe it stems from their stupid name. What exactly is a Ray? Does it mean a ray of hope for a team that had sucked for so long? Is it short for x-ray, to describe the transparency of the fair-weather fans that are suddenly so eager to jump aboard the bandwagon? (Dan excluded, of course.) Whatever it means, it’s a stupid name. Sure, Red Sox is not the manliest name, but at least I know what it means.

Maybe it’s because of Jonny Gomes and his endless string of cheap shots. Or Carl Crawford’s gangster neck tattoo. Or maybe it’s because Gabe Gross looks like he should be selling life insurance instead of patrolling right field. Maybe it’s B.J. Upton’s never-ending wad of chew that never leaves his left cheek. Or Dioner Navarro’s stupid kiss to the dugout after every hit. I even hate Joe Magrane and Dewayne Staats. I hope that they both suffer from non-cancerous polyps of their vocal cords.

I may not like these guys, but I am not going to discount their success playing in and winning the hardest division in baseball. These guys just find every conceivable way to win, and it drives me absolutely nuts. I’ve watched a lot of Rays baseball this year, and I’m pretty sure that they have never lost. This team is giving me nightmares.

Now, being the stubborn Sox fan that I am, I still like Boston’s chances to go to back-to-back World Series, and here’s why. First of all, Boston has a ton of postseason experience. Normally this would be a bigger advantage, but unfortunately Tampa has proved to be oblivious to pressure. Secondly, Boston has the best scouting department in the majors. They have consistently prepared Boston for every postseason opponent the last several years. They can pinpoint another team’s tendencies and weaknesses and exploit them. Thirdly, Boston has not played their best baseball… yet. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim handed the Red Sox this series on a silver platter, with their shoddy fielding and ill-advised suicide squeezes.

These guys are ready to fire on all cylinders. Jon Lester is an Ace, Papelbon is pitching lights out, Jason Bay and J.D. are coming up with huge at-bats, and there is no way in hell that Dustin Pedroia has a repeat performance of the ALDS.  I also see Josh Beckett knocking off the rust and regaining his form from past postseasons. This is a team that is ready to take off.

Boston wins this series in 6.

Fair or Foul results are in!

What started out as a close competition on who was the team MVP has turned into a commanding defeat by Mike Lowell. First a career year, then a World Series MVP award, and now most importantly Mike Lowell has won the Fair or Foul question of the week as voted on by thefoulline.com readers.

This was a really tough decision, as both players played great this season and were the backbone to the team’s success. But like he has done all year, Lowell came through in the clutch to win this prestigious award.

All year long, Mike Lowell has been a great clubhouse guy and a team leader. He is universally respected by the Red Sox players and management, which was reinforced during the World Series parade when several Sox players held up signs to Re-Sign Lowell!! Lowell is also active in the community and has proved to be a great influence on the younger Red Sox players. Mike Lowell is a great player, but I’m starting to think that M.V.P. might stand for Most Valuable Person.

My top 5 favorite games of the 2007 season.

Here are my five favorite games from the Red Sox 2007 season.

  1. The Mother’s Day miracle: Boston rallied from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5. What I remember about this game was Josh Beckett left the game early with a “finger” problem, and suddenly everyone’s thoughts turned to the blister problems that have plagued Beckett his entire career. Also, Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles was shutting the Boston bats down all game, allowing 0 runs on three hits. Being that it was Mother’s Day, I turned the game off in the top of the ninth inning to take my wife out to dinner. I was shocked when I came home and saw that the Sox won.
  2. Schilling throws a one-hitter: 4o-year-old Schilling was one out away from throwing the first no-hitter of his Major League career against the Oakland A’s. After the game, Schilling admitted that he shook off Jason Varitek’s sign on the Shannon Stewart single. I may have jinxed this one. With two outs in the ninth and the no-hitter still intact, I phoned my buddy Dylan to make sure he was watching. Before he could even pick up the phone, Stewart singled. End of the no hitter. Sorry about that, Curt.
  3. Clay Buchholz throws a no-hitter: In only his second Major League start, Buchholz dazzles the Baltimore Orioles and gives Red Sox fans a glimpse into the future. I was working at the fire station during this game. It seemed like every time I tried to sit and watch the game, I would get dispatched for a call. In between taking patients to the hospital I would check the box score. I finally made it back to the station and watched from the seventh inning on. I found myself wishing for two things: not to get another alarm and for this kid to make history. Both wishes came true.
  4. Game 5, ALCS: Josh Beckett keeps the Red Sox season alive with another dominating post-season performance. This was the game that solidified Beckett as one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time. The Red Sox were able to put a stop to Cleveland’s three-game winning streak and seize the momentum heading back to Fenway.
  5. Game 4, World Series: Jon Lester starts game four after beating cancer, allowing 0 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. A gutsy performance from the 23-year-old. Bobby Kielty homers on the first pitch that he’s seen during the entire World Series. Mike Lowell further endears himself to Red Sox fans with a double and a home run, leading to his World Series MVP award. And Papelbon closes the door with five outs to help capture the second Red Sox World Series in four years.

These were my favorite games. Please post your comments and tell me which games were memorable for you.

2007 Red Sox year in review

Coming into spring training in 2007 the Boston Red Sox were a very different team than the one that finished in third place in the AL East. After a very disappointing 2006 season, the Sox made a huge splash in the free agency market, landing notable players Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, and the biggest prize, Dice K Matsuzaka. Boston had set a few goals in the offseason to improve team speed and starting pitching and bolster an inconsistent bullpen.

With a bunch of new players added to the roster, there were a lot of questions concerning the 2007 Red Sox in spring training. With Jonathan Papelbon set to join the starting rotation, the Red Sox had open tryouts for the closer position. Guys like Joel Piniero, J.C. Romero, and Mike Timlin all took their turns trying to close, all with out success. Curt Schilling came in to camp looking heavy and out of shape after an offseason of promoting his video game company. Josh Beckett was a question mark after his disappointing first season in the American League. Boston gave the starting second base job to an untested rookie in Dustin Pedroia, even after he failed miserably during his 2006 September call-up. Of course Manny was being Manny, going back and forth on wanting to play for the Red Sox. And it seemed like David Ortiz had something hurting from day one. It was hard to predict how this team would do. This was a team that had the potential the play in the World Series or suffer the same fate as the 2006 team.

We all know what happened next. The Red Sox jumped out to huge lead in the AL East behind some great early season pitching by their starters, and Jonathan Papelbon jumped back into his closer role. Even though new starters Lugo, Pedroia and Drew were struggling miserably the first months of the season, Terry Francona kept running these guys out there, giving them every chance to turn things around. Despite the poor performances by these players, the Sox kept winning, eventually increasing their lead in the AL East to a whopping 14 1/2 games over the New York Yankees.

There were times during this season that I really thought I was in Bizzaro World. Big Papi went from a home-run crushing powerhouse to an on-base percentage machine. Manny Ramirez stopped hitting home runs and seemed to ground into a thousand double plays. Mike Lowell went from a career .280 hitter to the Red Sox MVP and team leader in clutch hits and RBIs. Kevin Youkilis turned into the best defensive first baseman in the American League, committing zero errors at the position all year. And Japanese import Hideki Okajima went from Dice K’s security blanket to an All-Star set-up man.

Going into the All-Star break, the Sox had finally started to get some production from Pedroia and Lugo. Beckett was pitching the best baseball of his career and Boston was holding the best record in the major leagues. Then things began to change for the worse. Schilling’s lack of offseason conditioning finally caught up to him, landing him on the disabled list for six weeks. Manny strained his oblique muscle and began the longest oblique-muscle rehab in the history of baseball. The New York Yankees started playing great baseball, eventually cutting the Red Sox lead to 1 1/2 games.

All these things turned into a blessing in disguise. Without the injuries to Schilling and Ramirez, we may have had to wait another year before seeing rookies Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury take the league by storm. If the Sox didn’t get beat up by the Yankees at the end of the season, they may not have learned the resilience to never give up when the playoffs rolled around. With this team, it seemed like they seized every opportunity and dictated their own fate.

The Sox eventually won the AL East and with a healthy roster and the playoffs starting, the Red Sox looked to be a team of destiny. They buzzed through the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, sweeping them in three games behind the pitching of Beckett and the offensive rebirth of Big Papi and Man-Ram. In the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, it was time to jump on Beckett’s back again. It was also time to put our faith in the future as Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Youkilis carried the offense, helping Boston to rally from a 3-games-to-1 deficit and advance to the World Series.

In the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, it was men against boys. Boston got solid contributions from every player in the lineup. Every game someone new stepped up to be the hero for the Red Sox, eventually leading to a four-game sweep and the second World Series title in four years.

The Boston Red Sox came into the 2007 season full of question marks. Would Manny be back? Who would be the closer? Will Dice K live up to expectations? Could Boston finally dethrone the Yankees? As these questions were eventually answered, a new one popped up.

How many World Series can the Red Sox win in a row?

The birth of a dynasty

The Boston Red Sox are World Champions. It’s nice to see that they were finally able to break the three-year curse that has plagued them since 2004. Even though this was a four-game sweep, there was some great baseball being played. Colorado proved to be a dangerous team that never quit, even up to the last pitch thrown.

I can’t say enough about this team. From the manager all the way down to the role players, everyone contributed. It seemed like someone different would come through each game. One night it was Beckett, then Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, Lowell, Timlin, Kielty, Okajima, Papelbon. Someone always rose to the occasion. This is truly a team for the ages.

Let’s start with Terry Francona. Everything this guy touched turned to gold during the playoffs. Start Papi at first base? Put a rookie in to centerfield? Start Jon Lester in game four? Pinch hit Kielty? All of these moves were money. Francona showed that he knows his players, and in turn they want to perform well for him. I also like that Francona was playing for the win last night. He threw most of the bullpen at the Rockies last night. These guys were running on fumes and still got the call. If the Rockies had rallied back and won, Boston would have been in trouble. Oh well, we know how that ended up.

I think it’s time for the Sox to make Mike Lowell an offer he can’t refuse and lock him up for three more years. This guy has solidified the third base position for Boston and should be rewarded. As for A-Rod, who cares. I don’t care where he ends up, as long as it’s not with the Yankees.

The Red Sox are loaded with young players that can flat out play. Lester, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youk, Papelbon, Buchholz, Delcarmen, Dice K are all under 30 years of age. This is a franchise whose brightest days are still ahead of them.

Check back tomorrow for the Red Sox Year in Review.

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

That is all.

And then there was one…

Am I the only one that was getting a little nervous when Colorado scored five runs in the seventh inning? Was anyone else having flashbacks of Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone? What the hell is wrong with us?

This is a different Red Sox team. This team is made up of guys that never quit. After seeing their lead cut to one run they could have panicked. Instead, they got back to basics and put four more runs on the scoreboard. I got the feeling during the eighth inning, when Boston responded to the Rockies rally with three runs, that the Colorado players were finally beginning to realize that they were over matched. This was a punch to the gut not only for the Rockie players but also for their fans.

While I am on the subject of the Rockies fans, am I the only one that was a little disappointed in their performance last night? I kept hearing all week that once the series went to Colorado it was going to be totally different ballgame. That the fans were crazy and acted like the 10th player on the field for the Rockies. Instead I saw a stadium of people sitting on their hand the whole game. They didn’t make a peep until the seventh inning when the Rockies finally scored. And when they did they responded with the lamest chant in sports history. “Rockies………………. GO!” They need to (a) change their chant, (b) change their batteries, or (c) buy a metronome. Not to mention the towel waving was pathetic. These fans really need to watch the Cleveland Indian fans from games 3 and 4 in the ALCS for a Towel Waving for Dummies demonstration. Colorado had the tamest 50,000 fans I’ve ever seen.



“Crazy” Rockies fans in action

I thought Dice K looked great last night for the first four innings. He didn’t try to get cute with his pitches and, with the exception of Todd “Chin Beaver” Helton, didn’t get into any really long battles with the Rockies players. These long at-bats have been what’s plagued Matsuzaka this year, driving up his pitch count and tiring him out. When Dice K started to wear down in the sixth inning and walked two batters, Terry Francona did the right thing and pulled him. It was a solid performance from the rookie pitcher that I am sure he will build on for future post seasons.Speaking of rookies, Jacoby “Wonderboy” Ellsbury and Dustin “The Little Engine That Could” Pedroia were awesome. Did these guys not get the memo that they are rookies? Instead of going a combined 7 for 10 with four RBIs, they were supposed to be sucking their thumbs in the corner. But these two are wired differently then most. They have ice water in their veins and play better on the bigger stage. They make something happen in every game they play in. I really look forward to watching these guys play in Red Sox uniforms for the next ten years.

Here are thefoulline.com’s quick hits for game 4:

  • How the hell did the Rockies make it to the World Series with a rotation of Francis, Jimenez, Fogg and Cook? These guys are even worse then I thought. If Aaron Cook can make it past the fifth inning tonight, I will eat my Red Sox hat.
  • What a great time for Julio Lugo to start playing his best baseball of the season. He got on base three times last night and made two great defensive plays. He reminded me of Plastic Man on the run-saving line drive he caught. It was a great play at a pivotal time in the game.
  • Please put Javier Lopez in the same hole Eric Gagne is hiding in. He sucks. Just because he has a funky delivery doesn’t mean he can pitch.
  • How about Big Papi at first base last night? He looked pretty good. Maybe it was the six run lead, but I wasn’t too nervous with him out there.
  • Jon Lester will complete the most inspirational comeback in sports this year when he wins game four for the Red Sox tonight.
  • I’m stuck on who I think is the MVP of the World Series. If Beckett pitched one more game, I think he would win it. But right now I think it’s a two-horse race between Dustin Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon. I’m voting for Pedroia.
  • Get the champagne on ice.