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Gammons Talks Manny, A-Rod on The Big Show

10.21.09 at 6:09 pm ET
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ESPN Senior Writer Peter Gammons checked in with The Big Show on Wednesday to take stock of the postseason. Gammons discussed the blown calls during the playoffs this year, the breakout Octobers by CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez, and the latest installments of drama surrounding Manny Ramirez.

Gammons suggested that the Dodgers were probably unconcerned about the fact that Ramirez was showering in the ninth inning while his team was suffering its walk-off loss to the Phillies, but he did suggest that other incidents — including a failure to hustle after a Shane Victorino triple in the sixth inning of L.A.’s 5-4 loss on Monday — were of greater concern.

“I don’€™t think [showering during the ninth inning] plays badly in the clubhouse. Some of the younger players have been laughing with me for a year about, ‘€˜Manny’€™s a leader.’€™ Please. Manny is Manny. He wasn’€™t a leader. Casey Blake is the guy Matt Kemp and all of them follow everywhere. I don’€™t think it bothers them,” said Gammons. “I remember in 1986. When the ball went through Bill Buckner‘€™s legs, Keith Hernandez was sitting in front of his locker in his underwear drinking a beer.

“I don’€™t think it bothers them that much. Manny kind of goes his own way. It bothered me more on the ball that Victorino hit down the line that Manny kind of sauntered over and lobbed the ball in. To me it was a little bit of lack of respect for the situation, not unlike the whole business of not running a ball out when John Lackey had a no-hitter in Fenway Park.

“What’€™s interesting is there’€™s no doubt in my mind, considering all that will be hitting the gossip pages of L.A. over the next few months in the McCourt divorce, there’€™s no doubt in my mind that if there weren’€™t a player option, there’€™s no way the Dodgers would pick up the option of Manny Ramirez. They would say, ‘€˜Good bye, good riddance.”

Gammons, who also conducted the ESPN interview in which Alex Rodriguez admitted in February that he used steroids, suggested that Rodriguez’ dominant postseason (in which he is hitting .407 with a 1.469 OPS, 5 HRs and 11 RBIs in 7 games) is the byproduct of a great player who is suddenly unburdened of the weight of “the need to pretend that he was perfect.”

“Alex said to me several times during the year that once he was basically stripped naked in that interview, sweating and hyperventilating and all the rest and had to admit that he wasn’€™t perfect, he went back to being a normal human being. That need to pretend that he was perfect I think drove him half-crazy,” said Rodriguez. “Now he’€™s just another guy. Plus, I remember him saying this to me in April, he said, ‘€œYou know what? The steroids or whatever, if the Yankees win, it will all be forgiven. It’€™s not about me, it’€™s about the Yankees.’€™ It’€™s a lot easier to go play when you’€™re thinking about the team and not yourself. I think he stopped thinking that everyone in the world was watching him, and I think it’€™s helped a lot. It’€™s been a remarkable transformation. It really has.”

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, peter gammons,

Options Abound for the Red Sox

10.21.09 at 2:13 pm ET
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The Red Sox hold (or, in some cases, held) options for the 2010 season on seven members of the club. If exercised, the players (in most cases) can be retained for next year. If declined by the team, then the players become free agents. Here is a quick look at those players, as well as the timelines for decisions about the options:

Josh Beckett (team option): His $12.1 million option for 2010 vested when he made his 28th start of the season on Sept. 7.

Alex Gonzalez (mutual option): The club has until five days after the World Series to make a decision about whether to exercise its $6 million option for next year. If it declines the option, it must pay a $500,000 buyout. Since it is a mutual option, if the Sox do pick up the option, Gonzalez would then have two days to decide whether to accept or decline the chance to return to Boston on that one-year, $6 million deal. If he declines the option, he also voids the buyout.

Victor Martinez (team option): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to make their decision on Martinez’ $7 million option for next year. Insofar as G.M. Theo Epstein has already proclaimed Martinez the team’s primary catcher for 2010, it would appear that the catcher/first baseman need not concern himself with the possibility of a $250,000 buyout.

Takashi Saito (team option): Based on his 2009 earnings, the Sox could have retained Saito on a one-year, $6 million deal with a potential $1.5 million in incentives for 2010. Instead, the team attempted to outright him, resulting in the right-hander declaring himself a free agent, thereby removing the possibility of an option. Saito remains open to the possibility of returning as a free agent. Indeed, the attempted outright assignment was done precisely so that Saito could become a free agent who was could re-sign with the Sox this offseason.

Jason Varitek (team and player options): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to decide whether to exercise their $5 million club option on Varitek for next season. If the Sox decline their option, then Varitek would have five days from the time of being notified of the club’s decision to decide whether or not to exercise a one-year, $3 million (with the possibility of another $2 million in incentives) player option.

Billy Wagner (team option): The Sox formally agreed not to pick up Wagner’s $8 million option for the 2010 season at the time that he agreed to waive his no-trade clause. Instead, the team is on the hook for his $1 million buy-out. The real intrigue with Wagner revolves around whether he will be offered arbitration, and if he is, whether he will accept it. As Wagner told Rob Bradford, he anticipates that the Sox will make the offer and he will decline it in order to become a free agent and pursue the opportunity to close elsewhere.

Tim Wakefield (team option): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to exercise their recurring $4 million option on Wakefield. Barring any setbacks following his “successful” surgery today, the Sox would appear likely to retain the services of a player who likely ranks as one of the top two free-agent bargains in Red Sox history.

Read More: Alex Gonzalez, billy wagner, Jason Varitek, Josh Beckett

Wakefield undergoes successful surgery

10.21.09 at 1:27 pm ET
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According to a Red Sox team spokesperson, the surgery on a herniated disc in Tim Wakefield’s back was a success. The procedure was performed at Mass. General Hospital Wednesday morning. It is assumed that if the prognosis for Wakefield’s recovery remains positive — as was predicted heading into the operation — the Red Sox would pick up the 43-year-old’s $4 million option for the 2010 season. 

‘€œWake is someone that is in our plans and we hope makes starts for us next year and is a member of the rotation,’€ said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein during a press conference the day after the conclusion of the Red Sox’ season. ‘€œWe haven’€™t sat down and finalized anything. Obviously we want to see how the surgery goes and then both sides will sit down and talk.’€ 

Wakefield has said that doctors told him that the procedure would not hinder his preparation for next season. The disc had pressed on a nerves in the 43-year-old’€™s back, causing weakness in his right leg. Wakefield managed to pitch four times after making the American League All-Star team, but was left off the Red Sox’€™ American League Division Series roster. He finished his 17th major league season going 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 21 starts.

Infielder Nick Green was also supposed to talk to the Red Sox’ team doctors regarding whether he would need surgery to correct the slipped disc in his back which kept him out of action for the season’s last few weeks.

Manny Being Clean

10.21.09 at 9:26 am ET
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Joe Torre and Terry Francona forged a bond over the course of their time as rival managers in the American League East. Occasionally, out of public view, they would take a few moments to compare notes from their perspectives as the managers of the Yankees and Red Sox. Now that Torre is out of the American League East and managing the Dodgers, the two have taken delight in the fact that they can commune out on the field before spring training games in the Grapefruit League, no longer having to conceal their friendship from public view.

Next time they get together, apparently, they will have quite a topic to discuss.

Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez is again at the heart of some controversy for his actions during the National League Championship Series between his (and Torre’s) club and the Phillies. On Monday, Ramirez was removed from the game for defensive purposes in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Dodgers leading 4-3. Rather than remain on the bench, Ramirez — as first reported by FoxSports.com — went into the clubhouse and showered. By the time he had emerged, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins had ripped his two-run, game-winning, walkoff double to the gap in Philadelphia, and the Dodgers had gone from tying the NLCS at two games apiece to standing on the brink of elimination, down 3-to-1 in the best-of-seven series.

“When I came out, they were turning the TVs off and everybody was coming in,” Ramirez told reporters.

Torre shrugged off the incident. Though he did concede that “it probably doesn’t look good,” he also said that it wasn’t unusual for his slugger to behave in this manner.

“Manny has so much confidence, and when we get a lead late in the game, and I’ve taken him out, whether it be for defense or we have a big lead, when we go up to shake hands after the game, he’s in his street clothes. So it’s really nothing different than he’s done before. I don’t think it’s disrespect of anything,” said Torre. “He wasn’t going anywhere until the game was over, and we can’t put him back in the game. But that’s not something I thought was unusual since individuals are all different anyway. But he’s always done that, so it’s nothing that last night was going to be any different.

“As we say, Manny is Manny. He’s a cool customer. But he certainly didn’t have any lack of respect because of that. I think the way it turned out, it probably doesn’t look good. But it’s nothing different than he had done before.”

Of course, the Dodgers will forgive Ramirez his ablution if he can help the team erase its deficit. In 2007, in his final playoff run with the Sox, it was Ramirez who suggested that “it’s not like it’s the end of the world” if the Sox were to be eliminated from the playoffs when down 3-to-1 to the Indians in the ALCS. The Sox embraced that notion, and outscored the Indians, 30-5, over the next three games en route to a World Series victory.

If the Dodgers are to do the same, then Ramirez will likely have to be a major factor. Thus far, he is hitting .250 with a homer and three singles in the first four games. Interestingly, he has yet to walk in the series, a sign that either the Phillies are not backing away from challenging him or that Ramirez is being unusually aggressive in his plate approach this postseason (or both). In that context, it is also worth noting that during the Dodgers’ first-round sweep against the Cardinals, St. Louis walked Ramirez just once, thus ending a streak of eight straight postseason series in which Ramirez had walked at least twice; his still-active streak of 16 straight postseason series with at least one walk (dating to the 1997 ALDS) is also in jeopardy.

Read More: Dodgers, Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez, Terry Francona

The Greatest Game Ever

10.20.09 at 10:59 pm ET
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The most memorable game in the history of baseball was played between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds 34 years ago – Oct. 21, 1975. And it was played, of course, at Fenway Park.

There is no disputing the significance of Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 American League Championship series to Red Sox fans everywhere. Winning those two games against the Yankees provided the momentum for the greatest comeback in modern sports history.

And every Red Sox fan has Oct. 27, 2004 committed to their memory for their rest of their lives as Game 4 completed a World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, ending 86 years of heartbreak.

But when it comes to epic moments on the greatest stage baseball has to offer there is still one game – one night – that will live on in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.

It was 34 years ago that Game 6 of the 1975 World Series was played between the favored Big Red Machine and the underdog Red Sox. With the Reds heading back to Boston up, 3 games-to-2, they needed just one win to end a half-decade of near-misses.

The weather would provide a dramatic and appropriate metaphor. Three days of rain delayed the contest, which began on a crisp New England autumn night and ended in the early morning hours of Oct. 22.

But it was not only how it ended on Carlton Fisk’s tantalizingly dramatic home run off the left field pole that made this game a classic. It was everything that led up to that moment at 12:34 a.m. that made Game Six the greatest game ever played in the eyes of baseball fans around the globe.

Now, there’s a book out that details that night. “Game Six-Cincinnati, Boston and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America’s Pastime” by Mark Frost not only addresses the game but the personalities in and around the game.

“This was epic drama on a stage I’d never witnessed before,” Frost said. “That feeling stayed with me all these years. It’s an attempt to bring back to life that entire evening, one of the greatest stories in American sports.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 1975 World Series, Carlton Fisk, Cincinnati Reds, Game 6

Chat with Red Sox Hitting Coach Dave Magadan

10.20.09 at 3:17 pm ET
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Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan has generously offered to drop by the Virtual Press Box on Thursday at noon to take questions in the second installment of WEEI.com’s Thursday baseball chat series.

In his third season with the Sox, Boston finished third in the A.L. in runs and second in the league with a .352 OBP, .454 slugging mark and .806 OPS. In fact, the Sox have ranked in the top three in the A.L. in each of those categories in each of his three seasons with Boston.

Before he joined the coaching ranks, Magadan spent 16 seasons in the majors with the Mets, Marlins, Mariners, Astros, Cubs, A’s and Padres. He compiled a career .288 average with a .390 OBP. After retiring, he entered the Padres system, first as a minor-league hitting coordinator and then on San Diego’s big-league hitting coach from 2003-06.

Chat with Red Sox Hitting Coach Dave Magadan

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Saito Open to Returning to Sox After Becoming Free Agent

10.19.09 at 5:42 pm ET
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Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito cleared outright waivers on Monday, and elected to become a free agent. As noted last week, the Sox and Saito found such an outcome mutually beneficial, since having Saito become a free agent via this process allows the Sox to negotiate with him this offseason about a possible return. Had the Sox instead released the pitcher after declining his $6 million option (with a potential $1.5 million in incentives for 2010), the club would not have been eligible to negotiate with him until May 15.

Saito is open to re-signing with the Red Sox, though the pitcher plans to talk to other clubs as well. According to a baseball source, the Sox have expressed some interest in bringing the right-hander back, though there have not been any discussions of specific contract terms. In 56 appearances that spanned 55.2 innings, Saito finished the year with a 2.43 ERA, the eighth lowest by an American League reliever with 40 or more appearances.

Read More: Takashi Saito,

Iglesias impressive in AFL debut

10.17.09 at 8:31 pm ET
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Shortstop Jose Iglesias, a 19-year-old who signed a four-year, $8.2 million contract with the Red Sox in July, provided an impressive offensive debut in the Arizona Fall League while playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, going 3-for-5 while scoring three runs, walking twice, and hitting a home run in his first two games.

Iglesias’ homer was a two-run blast, coming in the fifth inning of Mesa’s 12-5 loss to Surprise against Mets’ prospect Josh Stinson.

Iglesias, the youngest player in the AFL, will share time at shortstop with fellow Red Sox prospect Casey Kelly. Kelly started his first game for Mesa Saturday night, hitting eighth against Peo Saguaros. 

In other AFL news, 2009 top draft pick Stephen Strasburg pitched 3 1/3-innings of scoreless ball, allowing just two hits, in his debut for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, Friday. The Washington Nationals‘ top prospect threw 50 pitches — 32 strikes — while having his initial offering reach 99 mph.

“It was a great feeling,” the 21-year-old told MLB.com. “It was great to have a lot of my family come in from San Diego to watch this. It’s been a long time since they were able to watch me pitch. This was the first time for me to be pitching in an actual [pro] game. I was extremely excited to be out there, and I can’t wait to get out there and do it again.”

In case you forgot, Strasburg signed a $15.1 million contract with the Nationals just minutes before the Nationals were set to lose his rights, on Aug. 18.

Lowrie: ‘The Prognosis Is Good’

10.16.09 at 5:30 pm ET
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Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie, whose season was hampered by the need for surgery on his left wrist in April and a difficult recovery process from it, met with Dr. Donald Sheridan — the specialist who performed surgery on him in April — and was told on Friday morning that his wrist should be fine after an offseason to recover and strengthen the area.

“The prognosis is good,” Lowrie wrote in an e-mail. “With rest, strength and conditioning it should be 100 percent.”

Lowrie hit .147 with a .475 OPS in 32 games this season. Sox general manager Theo Epstein said at the conclusion of the season that the team believes in the young infielder’s talent, but until he proves the ability to remain healthy over the course of a big league season, the team will need other options as short. All the same, the Sox still consider the best-case scenario for their shortstop position in 2010 to be Lowrie’s emergence as a healthy and productive big leaguer.

“Lowrie is an important factor for us,” Epstein said on Monday. “This is a young player we really believe in who has been hurt as a big league player. We’€™ve not seen the type of player he can be yet at the big league level because he’€™s been playing hurt the entire time. At some point, the player has to get healthy to be able to show what he can do and to be able to help the organization.

“I don’€™t think we can hand a job to him because he hasn’€™t proved his health yet at this point. But at the same time, I wouldn’€™t be surprised if we’€™re sitting here at this time next year, hopefully with champagne and not having one of these post-mortems, but looking back and saying, ‘Wow, he really got healthy and proved himself in winning that job or playing his way into a meaningful role,’ ” Epstein continued. “Now it’€™s on him. He’€™s got to get himself healthy and make an impact. We can’€™t stake our season on the hope that he’€™ll be healthy. We have to have other options.”

Read More: Jed Lowrie, shortstop,

Red Sox Acquire Top Indy League Prospect Rodriguez

10.16.09 at 5:09 pm ET
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The Red Sox purchased the contract of Reynaldo Rodriguez, the 2009 Rookie of the Year in the independent Golden Baseball League, from the Yuma Scorpions of the Golden Baseball League. Playing for a team owned by former Sox shortstop Edgar Renteria and his brother, Edinson, the native of Colombia hit .335 with a .380 OBP and .486 slugging mark while adding six homers, 48 RBIs and 18 steals (in 21 attempts) to his line in 74 games. He was named the GBL’s top prospect by Baseball America.

Rodriguez played first base for the Scorpions, though it is unclear whether that would be his most likely position in affiliated baseball. He exhibits more speed (and less power) than players who usually stay at that position.

“He’€™s not a prototypical first baseman. He’€™s kind of lean and wiry. He’€™s just not a big, burly power-hitting first baseman,” said Yuma President Mike Marshall, who spent several years in the majors with the Dodgers, as well as portions of 1990-91 with the Red Sox. “He’€™s a guy that hits for average. Everywhere he goes, he hits .330, .340. He’€™s a gap hitter [with] a lot of power to right and right center. He uses the whole field and has occasional power, but he’€™s more of a hitter. You think of a power hitting first baseman ‘€“ he’€™s not that. He’€™s an average, RBI, stolen bases gap hitter with occasional power. He really handles the bat well. Doesn’€™t strike out much. He looks kind of like [current Dodgers first baseman James] Loney from the right side.”

At 22 (he turns 23 on Jan. 1), Rodriguez is unusually young for a prospect signed out of an independent league. He spent a couple years in the Yankees‘ farm system (after signing with the Yankees as a catcher) and performed well as an older player in the Dominican Summer League, where he finished among the league leaders in average in both 2005 and 2007. But he was hampered by an arm injury and released in ’07.

Rodriguez returned to Colombia, where he was one of the better hitters in the Colombian winter leagues. There, as was the case in the GBL, he showed an ability to hit well against much older competition. He shows a consistent ability to put the barrel of the bat on the ball, and his athleticism, solid performance and the low cost of acquiring him convinced the Sox that it was worth taking a shot at signing him. Marshall suggested that Rodriguez “absolutely” could represent a diamond-in-the-rough with big-league potential, though Marshall qualified that assessment.

“I don’€™t know his past, but I know that he’€™s young enough to be able to move up through the ranks,” said Marshall. “This isn’€™t a rookie league or an A-ball league anymore. There’€™s Double-A, Triple-A and big league guys all over the place. The same is true when he goes back to Columbia. Do you project him as a big leaguer? I don’€™t know. That’€™s a tough thing. The position he plays right now, sometimes they want a little more power. I will say this ‘€“ he was a top five hitter in this league.”

The Sox will follow Rodriguez during his winter league season in Colombia to consider whether he will compete for a job as a first baseman or outfielder. Rodriguez will come to spring training on a tryout basis, giving the Red Sox time before deciding if they want to sign him to a contract for the 2010 season.

The Sox have been increasingly aggressive in recent years in trying to acquire top independent league talent, as evidence by the acquisitions of outfielder Daniel Nava (who hit .352 with a .458 OBP and .533 slugging mark this year as a 26-year-old splitting this year in High A and Double A ball) and relievers Robert Coello (2.05 ERA as a 24-year-old in High A Salem) and Derek Loop (4-3, 1.89 as a 25-year-old for Salem and Portland this year).

Read More: edgar renteria, reynaldo rodriguez, yuma scorpions,
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