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Francona to take your calls

11.18.09 at 8:26 am ET
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Red Sox Manager Terry Francona will join the Dale & Holley show for a full hour on Wednesday afternoon. The show will be broadcasting live from Fenway Park on Wednesday as it awards the grand prize from Mohegan Sun’s “Lunch with Tito” promotion.

Tom Chagnon of Providence, R.I., will get to eat lunch with Francona and the Dale & Holley crew at Fenway. After lunch, Francona will join the show LIVE on-air from 1-2 p.m. Francona will talk about the team’s offseason and even take calls from listeners.

So, be sure to tune in to Wednesday’s show for must-listen radio with Terry Francona and the Dale & Holley show.

Helping Hand: How a Sox Official Helped Greinke’s Cy Young Path

11.17.09 at 3:34 pm ET
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Zack Greinke‘s path to the 2009 Cy Young Award — an honor that was conferred upon him on Tuesday, is nothing short of remarkable.

It is, after all, less than four years since the young right-hander considered walking away from the game altogether. A baseball prodigy with incredible talent and aptitude for the game, he lost his passion for his craft while dealing with a crippling social anxiety disorder. The notion that he was going to take a sabbatical from the game became something of a forgone conclusion — Royals officials were far more worried about Greinke’s well-being and future off the field than they were about what happened on it.

Allard Baird, now an Assistant to GM Theo Epstein in Boston, was the Kansas City general manager at the time. He recognized during spring training of 2006 that Greinke’s condition required him to be away from baseball.

‘€œThis is a kid’€™s life,’€ Baird explained this summer. ‘€œYou’€™re talking about a young man with a future of being a father ‘€” having kids, having grandchildren ‘€” all these things were the focus at that point, for me.

‘€œI’€™d be lying if I said I thought there wasn’€™t a chance that he’€™d [walk away from the game],’€ Baird continued. ‘€œThe focus was not on baseball. The focus was on the person.’€

Baird was fired by the Royals later that year, but at the end of 2006, Greinke returned to baseball. He was brought back gradually, first pitching in the bullpen, then graduating to the rotation, and over the past two years, emerging as the most dominant pitcher in the American League.

Though a victim of incredibly poor run support with the Royals this year, Greinke went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA for Kansas City this year. He held opponents to one or no runs in 18 of his 33 starts, and recorded the lowest ERA by an American Leaguer since the 1.74 ERA of Pedro Martinez as a member of the Red Sox in 2006.

He has shown everything that led Baird to take the right-hander out of high school with the sixth overall in the 2002 draft. Greinke matches a filthy arsenal with an incredible feel for pitching, something that places him in the category of a Martinez or Greg Maddux with his ability to read what a hitter is doing and attack an opponent’s weakness. That notion was reinforced one time when Greinke chatted with Baird after the former Kansas City GM had moved on to the Sox.

“He’€™s a good scout for a young kid. He broke down our hitters, the bat planes of our hitters. He’€™s got such a good feel. He’€™s advanced in terms of his physical ability, what he can do with the baseball, but he’€™s advanced mentally ‘€“ dissecting hitters, looking at their strengths, looking at their limitations,” said Baird. “There are few guys in this game that, when you go and face a good hitter, they’€™ll say get beat with your best pitch. Don’€™t pitch to his weakness ‘€“ pitch to his strength. He has the ability to pitch to a hitter’€™s weakness. And he’€™s a young kid. Few guys have his touch and feel and quality of stuff.”

Those occasional encounters notwithstanding, Baird has watched Greinke’s ascent from afar. The two stay in touch by text and periodic phone calls. Despite the fact that Greinke’s success is not tied to that of the team for which he works, Baird nonetheless is in a unique position to appreciate the pitcher’s path, and his accomplishments.

‘€œI personally know what he went through. For him to be here, knowing what he went through, is pretty darn big. I don’€™t think he’€™ll ever get enough credit for that,’€ Baird said this summer. ‘€œThat’€™s outside of his baseball abilities, how he took this head-on. We talk about mental toughness in this game, this guy has mental toughness beyond what could be imagined.’€

For more on Greinke’s career, and Baird’s role in it, click here.

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Report: Billy Wagner drawing plenty of interest

11.16.09 at 7:44 pm ET
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According to FoxSports.com, Billy Wagner’s agent, Bean Stringfellow, has heard from eight teams in regard to interest in his client. Stringfellow identified five of the clubs — the Red Sox, Washington, Atlanta, Houston, and Baltimore — but said that the final three wished to remain anonymous.

Stringfellow said that all of the teams who have called, with the exception of the Red Sox, have done so with an eye to adding Wagner as a closer. The agent also said in the report that teams have not been scared off by the fact that Wagner is a Type A free agent and would cost any team that signed him (except the Red Sox) a draft pick when the Sox offer the reliever arbitration.

No, Daniel Bard didn’t win the ROY

11.16.09 at 2:32 pm ET
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The Red Sox were not able to stake claim to the American League Rookie of the Year for the first time since Dustin Pedroia earned the honor in 2007, with Oakland closer Andrew Bailey taking the prize for ’09. Florida left fielder Chris Coghlan was named the National League’s ROY.

Bailey converted 26 of 30 save opportunities for the A’s, while finishing with an 1.84 ERA in 68 appearances. He struck out 91 and walked 24.

The Sox’ best candidate was reliever Daniel Bard, who finished his first big league season with a 2-2 mark and a 3.65 ERA in 49 games. He struck out 63 in 49 1/3 innings, while walking 22. Of qualifying rookie relievers, Bard was tops in strikeouts per nine innings, coming in at 11.49, topping Texas’ flamethrower Netali Feliz who was at 11.32 in his 31 innings of work. Neither pitcher received a vote.

Here are the results of the voting for Rookie of the Year in both leagues. As for who was the best American League rookie in other various categories:

Wins: Detroit’s Rick Porcello, 14

ERA (For Starting Pitchers): Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann, 3.94 (just a touch better than Porcello’s 3.96)

Innings Pitched: Niemann, 180.2

Strikeouts: Oakland’s Brett Anderson, 150

Opponents Batting Average: Anderson, 2.65

Saves: Bailey, 26

Home Runs: Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold, 15

RBI: Chicago’s Gordon Beckham, 63

Games: Texas’ Elvis Andrus, 145

Times on Base: Andrus, 174

Stolen Bases: Andrus, 33

Slight increase for some Red Sox tickets

11.16.09 at 2:23 pm ET
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The news is out regarding the Red Sox’ ticket prices for the 2010 season. Here is the team’s press release:

The Boston Red Sox today announced prices for existing seats and standing room tickets available to the public at Fenway Park for the 2010 regular season and tickets available to the public for 2010 Spring Training games.

Following an across the board freeze of all ticket prices in 2009, approximately two-thirds of the tickets at Fenway Park will stay at 2009 levels or increase by $2 for the 2010 season and no single price category will increase by more than $5.  In 2010, 63% of the tickets at Fenway Park will be $52 or less, with the lowest ticket price remaining at $12.

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Where in the world is Daisuke Matsuzaka?

11.14.09 at 10:31 am ET
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Yesterday, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s location was a Nike Store in Tokyo, as this photo from Sanspo.com proves.

A week ago Dustin Pedroia was the first to hint that Matsuzaka will end up at Athletes Performance in Arizona this offseason when appearing on the Mut and Bradford Show last week. (Pedroia will be on once again at 2 p.m. Saturday, taking your calls.)

When contacted, the nice folks at Athletes Performance said that nothing was definite, but the particulars were in discussions to bring Daisuke to Arizona.

The entire subject did lead to one of the more curious moments of the general managers meetings. When asked what Matsuzaka’s plans were for the offseason, his agent, Scott Boras, would only offer: “He was noticeably different when he came back to Boston and he’€™s got a workout regime he’€™s carried on in Japan. I haven’€™t discussed his offseason schedule with him ‘€¦ I think players have to come in in great shape. Their talent is best served when they’€™re in great shape. Anything other than that I think it’€™s an issue both the players and their camp and the team and their camp should earnestly discuss if that’€™s not the case.”

Haven’t discussed the offseason with him? Considering all that surrounded the Matsuzaka’s fitness this calendar year, that did, indeed, seem somewhat out of character for the all-encompassing presence that is Boras.

Eight Red Sox Arbitration Eligible

11.13.09 at 7:38 pm ET
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Closer Jonathan Papelbon heads the list of eight Red Sox players who are under team control for next year but are eligible for salary arbitration. Players who fall into that category have fewer than six years of major-league service time but more than three years.

There is a separate group of arbitration-eligible players, known as Super-2s, who rank among the top 17 percent of service time for players with between two and three years of service time and who spent at least 86 days in the majors in the previous season. This year, the cutoff for Super-2 eligibility was two years, 139 days in the bigs. The Sox do not have any players who qualify for Super-2 arbitration eligibility; in fact, during the administration of GM Theo Epstein, the team has had only one Super-2, when Bronson Arroyo qualified for salary arbitration in 2005.

The list, with 2009 salaries and career service time:

1B Casey Kotchman ($2.885 million): 4 years, 144 days

RHP Jonathan Papelbon ($6.25 million): 4 years, 64 days

OF Jeremy Hermida ($2.25 million): 4 years, 33 days

RHP Manny Delcarmen ($476,000): 3 years, 133 days

RHP Ramon Ramirez ($441,000): 3 years, 113 days

RHP Fernando Cabrera ($700,000): 3 years, 104 days

OF Brian Anderson ($440,000): 3 years, 53 days

LHP Hideki Okajima ($1.75 million): 3 years, 0 days

Agent: Bay, Red Sox Continue ‘Open Dialogue’

11.13.09 at 2:49 pm ET
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Joe Urbon, the agent for free-agent outfielder Jason Bay, said that he has remained in contact with the Red Sox since the end of the season about his client. While Urbon also has talked with several teams who have expressed interest in the outfielder — who won the Silver Slugger Award as the top hitting left fielder in the American League on Thursday — the Sox currently have an exclusive window to discuss contract terms with Bay that runs through Nov. 19.

Come next Thursday, all 30 clubs are free to discuss years and dollars with Bay. Neither Urbon nor the Sox expect that an agreement will be reached before the close of that exclusive negotiating window. Even so, the agent suggests that the two sides plan to continue their conversations about a potential return if and when Bay starts negotiating with other clubs.

“There’€™s just as good a chance of Jason staying with his current club as there is with him going to any other club,” said Urbon. “We’€™ve had communication with Boston. I’€™ve spoken with [Sox GM Theo Epstein]. It’€™s been very candid. I think there is a sentiment from the club and from Jason and frankly from myself that we don’€™t see any reason why he won’€™t proceed to free agency. With that said, we don’€™t see any reason why we won’€™t continue to have open dialogue with the Red Sox, along with other clubs that are interested. We’€™re all on the same page with regards to that.”

To date, Urbon said, conversations with clubs have focused on the outfielder’s combination of durability and productivity. Urbon declined to detail the clubs with whom he had been in conversation about Bay. Even so, he made clear that interest in Bay has been widespread, representing teams from both the American and National Leagues — a fact that would suggest that the market for the outfielder is not being impacted by concerns about his defense.

“Interest has been very well distributed between the two leagues,” said Urbon. “Not one club mentioned anything about [defense]. I think it becomes a talking point, because it’€™s worth talking about and dissecting and evaluating, but at the end of the day, his ability to play a consistent left field, clubs are well aware of it. I haven’€™t heard any issue or concern about whether or not the player can play defense in a bigger park, a smaller park, an East Coast park, a West Coast park. It really wasn’€™t an issue.”

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Bay wins first Silver Slugger

11.12.09 at 6:33 pm ET
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What figures to be a memorable offseason for Jason Bay has started out on a good note for the free agent outfielder.

It was announced by Major League Baseball that Bay has won his first Silver Slugger award, presented to the best players at their respective positions in both the American and National Leagues.

“It’s exciting to win my first Silver Slugger,” Bay said via a text message, “especially given the number of great offensive outfielders in the AL.”

Bay led all AL outfielders with 36 HR and 119 RBI, while finishing third in OPS (slugging and on-base percentage combined), coming in at .921. The home run and RBI totals were the highest in the 31-year-old’s seven-year major league career.

Bay was the only member of the ’09 Red Sox to win the award, after second baseman Dustin Pedroia had claimed his first in ’08. Other recent Sox winners include David Ortiz (2004-07), Manny Ramirez (2000-06), and Jason Varitek (2005). Click here to see the history of Silver Slugger winners.

Varitek By The Numbers

11.12.09 at 2:39 pm ET
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Jason Varitek’s struggles at the plate over the last two seasons are widely known. They are a large part of the reason why he not only signed the contract that he did last offseason — a one-year, $5 million deal for the 2009 season that featured a team option for 2010 at $5 million, and a player option for 2010 of $3 million — but also why the Sox declined their option, and why Varitek exercised his.

Put simply, his offensive production was not merely among the worst in the majors during the second half of last year — it was also among the worst in the majors for a half-season over the last 25 years. Here is a closer look:

Comparing Jason Varitek to other MLB catchers:

* – In total 2009 OPS, Varitek’s .703 OPS ranked 18th among MLB catchers with 300 or more plate appearances.  However, let’s look at his OPS by month during 2009:

April –  .881 (.250 with 4 HR in 60 AB)
May –  .824  (.231 with 6 HR in 78 AB)
June –  .750  (.234 with 1 HR in 64 AB)
July –  .736  (.231 with 2 HR in 65 AB)
August – .483  (.135 with 1 HR in 52 AB)
September – .382  (.133 with 0 HR in 45 AB)

* – Following the All-Star break, Varitek hit .157 (21 for 134) with 1 HR and a .489 OPS. It was the lowest OPS  in the majors last season following the break.  In fact, it was the lowest post-break OPS by a catcher since 1985 (min. 150+ PA):

.489 – Jason Varitek, BOS (2009)
.505 – Mike Matheny, STL (2001)
.513 – Sandy Alomar Jr, CLE (1998)
.519 – John Flaherty, DET (1995)
.525 – Dave Valle, SEA (1987)

* – Against right-handed pitchers (with Varitek batting left-handed — his weak side), here are his monthly marks this season:
April –  .890 (.261 with 3 HR in 46 AB)
May –  .650  (.203 with 2 HR in 59 AB)
June –  .818  (.244 with 1 HR in 41 AB)
July –  .693  (.217 with 1 HR in 46 AB)
August – .460  (.111 with 1 HR in 36 AB)
September – .333  (.125 with 0 HR in 32 AB)

That adds up to a .487 OPS (.156 with 1 HR in 96 AB) following the All-Star Break against right-handers, the lowest among catchers and the 3rd lowest of any player in the majors (min. 100 post-ASB PA vs RHP):
.463 – Alberto Gonzalez
.473 – Jermaine Dye
.487 – Jason Varitek
.490 – Willy Taveras

Over the past three seasons, Varitek has a .575 OPS against RHP after the All-Star break, lowest among catchers and 2nd lowest of any hitter in the majors during that span (min. 350 such PA):
.526 – Brandon Inge
.575 – Jason Varitek
.628 – Ryan Theriot
.630 – Pedro Feliz
.636 – Jeff Keppinger

The next catcher on the list is Jason Kendall (.670), almost 100 points higher than Varitek.

* -‘Tek went 3 for his last 40 against RHP with 2 strikes (dating back to mid-July).

* – Against RHP with RISP, 2 outs, and 2 strikes, Varitek is 5 for his last 53 (.094) dating back to August, 2007.

* – The problems aren’t limited to offense, either.  Varitek threw out only 8.5% of basestealers in 2009, the lowest percentage in the majors:

8.5% – Jason Varitek (10-118)
14.9% – Mike Napoli (13-87)
16.8% – AJ Pierzynski (20-119)

In fact, Varitek’s percentage is the lowest in MLB over the past two seasons combined (min. 130+ attempts):

12.3% – Jason Varitek (23-187)
13.7% – AJ Pierzynski (31-226)
14.9% – Mike Napoli (22-148)

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