Archive for August, 2008

Lugo dealing with alleged scam artists

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Julio Lugo explained his recent absence from the team after Sunday’s Red Sox 4-2 loss to the White Sox.

The injured shortstop has been in the Dominican Republic attempting to straighten out a situation in which he was unable to sell land he purchased in February because the three men who sold him the $1.7 million, 4,600-foot plot never owned the property in Santa Domingo.

“I just want my money back,” Lugo said. “It’s a mess.”

Lugo may have to return to the Dominican for this week’s court date. The three men who are involved in the alleged scam are Edwin Baquero Alvarez, Luis Manuel Ruiz, and Alan Ceballos.

Greatest second baseman ever?

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Okay, though Ozzie Guillen might be ready to confer that title on Dustin Pedroia, such a claim remains a bit of an exaggeration. Clearly, however, Guillen–the 1985 Rookie of the Year–has a soft spot in his heart for a player whose productivity defies his appearance. And Pedroia is doing just that, to the point where it is fair to ask what kind of historical standing his 2008 season enjoys. Pedroia is hitting .327 with 15 homers, 14 steals and 106 runs. That crowded stat line is rare for his position.

This list of second baseman who have hit .300 with 15 homers, 15 steals and 100 runs is both short and impressive: five Hall of Famers (Rogers Hornsby, Charlie Gehringer, Jackie Robinson, Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg), one likely Hall of Famer (Craig Biggio), one fringe Cooperstown candidate (Roberto Alomar) and a couple of perennial All-Stars (Alfonso Soriano, Chase Utley). Also noteworthy: presuming that he gets that steal and that his batting average doesn’t crater over the season’s final month, Pedroia will be younger (he turned 25 earlier this month) than any of those players when they achieved those four markers in a season.

This all comes as a shock to the scouts who considered Pedroia little more than a utility infielder of AAAA-player. Many who saw him at Arizona State dismissed him as a two-tool player, someone with a good glove who might hit for a passable average, but with no arm, no power and no speed. Even as he blitzed through the Red Sox minor-league system, scouts still had their doubts, as Pedroia’s Double-A manager recounts in this story: “There was a scout the other day in Baltimore, a guy who’s been doing it for a long time and saw (Pedroia) play in Triple-A, and had him in at best as a major-league backup who could not play shortstop. He had him as a utility guy.”

Now, Pedroia is finding ways to beat opponents in every phase of the game. He makes up for a lack of raw speed through great baserunning instincts; he hits for average; he hits for power; and his nightly diving plays have established him as one of the foremost defensive second baseman in the American League.

Claus posed a question, and I think it’s a good one: “Who else that looks like him does what he does?” Drop your thoughts either in the comments section or in an email to me at aspeier@weei.com.

The story of Josh Beckett’s elbow

Friday, August 29th, 2008

There had been seemingly no time in Josh Beckett’s stay with the Red Sox that he has exuded more -relief/delight/happiness/relief. The right-hander came back from Pensacola, Fla. carrying the clean bill of health delivered by Dr. James Andrews.

First, I give you what Beckett said when addressing the media upon his return to Fenway Park, just after Red Sox batting practice …

Now to some more insight that you won’t find on the video …

What Beckett didn’t say was that there was some discomfort when throwing his 50-pitch side session Tuesday. Enough so that he continued to pick the brain of Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell regarding what it felt like when the elbow ligament got bad enough that Tommy John Surgery needed to be performed. (Farrell had gone through the process.)

After talking to Farrell, there were enough similarities in the two cases that it caused some concern for Beckett. Red Sox manager Terry Francona had made it clear to Beckett throughout the process that if the ace didn’t feel like his normal self he wasn’t going to send the pitcher out to the mound on Friday.

So, Wednesday, it was determined that a face to face visit with Dr. James Andrews would be a good idea.

Of some consolation was that Beckett had undergone an MRI on his pitching elbow after last season at the request of the Red Sox for insurance purposes. While the pitcher never saw the results, it was encouraging that the team was able to secure the insurance (which wasn’t the case in 2005 when attempting to get an agreement locked up with Lloyd’s of London to protect his pitching shoulder).

So very early Friday morning Beckett flew down to Florida, arriving at just about the same time as Dr. Andrews, who was coming in from Birmingham, Ala. The pitcher was told they would be performing an MRI arthrogram, which involves shooting dye into the subject’s area of concern and limits activities for a few days until the substance has drained out of the body. The last time Beckett had undergone such a procedure was in 2003.

After being injected with the dye, Beckett went through approximately 25 minutes in which he underwent analysis by Andrews’ MRI machine. After studying the results, Andrews informed the pitcher that there was no reason to fear the worst, ligament damage. In some respects, because of Beckett’s commitment to taking care of his physical condition in the past few years, parts of his arm looked in better shape than they did in ’03.

The end result was one happy pitcher, and some equally relieved teammates.

“We’ve got our horse back!” exclaimed Dustin Pedroia after hearing the good news.

It’s not on youtube

Friday, August 29th, 2008

“You should see the video.”

The charge comes not from me but from Jacoby Ellsbury. On a day when instant replay will be available for the first time at Fenway Park (some good fodder on the topic from the Inside Trags can be found here), it seemed only appropriate to consult the record and revisit a disputed homer from 2004.

Ellsbury is still scraped up from his unfortunate encounter with a chain-link fence in Toronto on Sunday, but said that the catch he made in the Rogers Centre was child’s play compared with his run-in with an even less forgiving fence in Oregon State University’s Goss Stadium in a game against Stanford. (Yes, I just linked to my own blog entry, an act that I find grotesquely meta and self-indulgent. I beg your forgiveness.)

“This one (from Toronto) didn’t look too bad. The other one (in college), I dove headfirst. I jumped over the (warning) track, I caught it, (had) momentum, I hit the pole,” said Ellsbury, recalling that Goss featured a chain-link fence with posts that were inexplicably placed in front of the wall. “It was gross looking…All the skin off the side of my face was just rubbed off from the fence. I had a concussion and (there was) blood everywhere.”

There is disagreement about the result of Ellsbury’s efforts. While Ellsbury insists that he caught the ball, the umpires ruled it in play, permitting Jonny Ash to sprint around the bases for an inside-the-park homer. Current Sox teammate Jed Lowrie, who was a member of the Stanford team, that call.

“I remember seeing (Ellsbury) flying the air head-first into a pole-slash-chain-link fence,” said Lowrie (who, it is worth noting, did not have a concussion when observing the event in question. “We got a homerun out of it. Either way, it was a phenomenal play, and it just showed that (Ellsbury) is willing to sell out for his team.”

Ellsbury, who watched replays of the play shortly after he made it, said that he would love to revisit video of the event. Only there is no evidence of the play to be found: not on youtube.com, not through the Oregon State Athletics Department, and, to date, not through the Stanford Athletics Department (though they’re kindly trying!). 

So, while New England waits for results from Josh Beckett‘s visit to medical confidant Dr. James Andrews, I am issuing a call to arms: if anyone can find the video of Ellsbury’s play, send me the link and you’ll get a pretty sweet haul — EITHER a signed copy of Mike Lowell’s Deep Drive: A Long Journey to Finding the Champion Within OR a rare nesting doll of Nuggets big man Nene

Until we find the actual video, I encourage submissions of other great man-meets-wall moments in outfield history. An obvious choice to get this rolling would be Rodney McCray’s minor-league beauty from the early 1990s. (Interestingly, while Ellsbury played for the OSU Beavers, McCray was playing against the Portland Beavers when he achieved his infamy.)

Add your suggestions to the Comments section, or feel free to email me at aspeier@weei.com.

Beckett scratched from tomorrow’s start

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Josh Beckett will not make his scheduled start tomorrow against the White Sox due to ongoing discomfort with his pitching elbow. The Red Sox starter will instead fly to Birmingham, Alab., to visit with orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, the doctor on whom Beckett relies for medical advice. (Colleague Rob Bradford offered a bit of insight on that medical relationship in this story.)

‘€œHe’s just not quite 100 percent,’€ said Sox G.M. Theo Epstein. ‘€œHe’s getting better, but again, not quite 100 percent. So as much for his peace of mind as anything, he’s going to see Dr. Andrews on Friday morning.’€

‘€œWe had him penciled in (to start on Friday), but you guys could probably tell from our answers over the last few days that we thought this might be a possibility,’€ added Epstein. ‘€œIt’s the right thing to do.’€

Epstein said that the numbness and tingling that afflicted Beckett during his last start, against the Blue Jays on August 17, has ‘€œsubsided for the most part,’€ but that ‘€œthe elbow itself doesn’t feel 100 percent.’€ That being the case, the team remains committed to getting its titular ace back to full health before it puts him in a game.

‘€œWe have to take his long-term interests and the team’s long-term interests into account, first and foremost,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œWe don’t want to put any pitcher in a position where he has to take the mound at less than 100 percent.’€

The visit to see Andrews, Epstein suggested, does not indicate a dire long-term prognosis. It was instead described as an opportunity to get a second opinion from a doctor with whom Beckett enjoys a lengthy history.

‘€œWe’re pretty optimistic that this thing’s getting better,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œIt just makes sense. Josh has a great relationship with Andrews. He’s an accomplished doctor. Just get another opinion here, (and) hope (Beckett) comes back and can take the ball relatively soon.’€

Daisuke Matsuzaka will be pushed up a day to start on Friday, and the Sox have yet to announce a starter for Saturday.

Yankee Stadium, one last time

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Even a dominant Jon Lester could not prevent drama from entering into the final Red Sox-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. The Sox led 2-0 through six frames, but after Cody Ransom hit a double to left with two outs in the seventh, Lester was replaced by Hideki Okajima. Yankees pinch-hitter Jason Giambi crushed an Okajima cookie to dead center, the two-run missile tying the game 2-2.

So, it looks like we have a bit of time on our hands before the end of the game, particularly with Yankees skipper Joe Girardi managing for his team’s season. (Surely Girardi can’t feel that comfortable about the fact that his general manager tried to assume all the blame for his team’s struggles this year.)

A few notes to pass the time during a still-tied game:

  • Even with the outcome of today’s game in the balance, the Sox have more wins (6) on their current roadtrip than on any other this season. After starting the year 24-33 away from Fenway, the Sox have gone 10-4 while living out of suitcases, going 5-0-1 in their past six road series.
  • Jon Lester’s command (remember when that was an issue?) was impeccable today. He struck out eight and walked none in his 6.2 innings. He did, however, hit a pair of batters. It marked the second time this year that Lester had drilled a pair of batters in a game when he did not issue a free pass, the other coming in the brawl-filled tango with Tampa Bay on June 5. No other member of the Sox pitcher has accomplished the feat this year.
  • Alex Rodriguez probably wasn’t in line for too many free drinks in New York anyway, thanks to his ginormous contract. But he’s none too popular a fellow in the five boroughs at the moment, having fanned three times and stranded four baserunners in today’s game. Rodriguez also made a dismal attempt to take out his frustrations on a batting rack. As tantrums went, well, he might want to check a copy of Paul O’Neill’s Yankeeography.
  • Prior to today’s game, David Ortiz seemed almost amused that he is being treated with kid gloves by opposing pitchers this month. The Sox entered today averaging 6.25 runs a game in August. Ortiz had walked 21 times in his team’s first 23 games of August. He does not mind, and seems to have found new comfort in lineup life after Manny.

    “Right now, I’m just trying to be patient. You see what the situation is. I’m pretty sure you guys watch the game and see that they don’t want to pitch to me,” said Ortiz. “Everybody is worried about me, not pitching to me. But I’m not the problem. These guys are the ones doing it everyday. If you want to walk me, I’ll walk. Okay.”

More after the game…

Red Sox Revel in August Additions

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

It took little time for Jason Bay to realize that he wasn’t in Kansas (or, more accurately, Pittsburgh) anymore. Less than a week after the July 31 cyclone that brought him from the Pirates to the Red Sox, the left-fielder was caught off guard to hear that his new club had not concluded its maneuvering.

Boston had claimed Brian Giles, a two-time All-Star for whom Bay was once traded, off of waivers from San Diego. Though Giles exercised his right to veto the trade, the fact that the Sox were looking to add to what seemed like a full deck proved confusing for Bay.

‘€œI was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I’m not used to stuff like that. Someone was like, ‘Y’know, we like to try to win,”€ Bay recalled yesterday. ‘€œThat’s great. You’ve got everybody pulling in the same direction, not only the players but the guys above you. They’re doing everything they can to help you guys out.

‘€œIt’s definitely refreshing. If someone sees a need somewhere, you do the best you can to address it.  That speaks volumes for the organization.’€

The drumbeat has only become more audible since. During the four weeks that Bay has been in Boston, the Sox nearly acquired Giles and traded for Paul Byrd (assuming the balance of his contract from the Indians). Prior to yesterday’s 11-3 wipeout of the Yankees, the Sox acquired outfielder Mark Kotsay from the Braves in exchange for minor-league outfielder Luis Sumoza.

Sox G.M. Theo Epstein downplayed the significance of the deals, saying that they were dictated by necessity. Byrd was acquired when Tim Wakefield landed on the disabled list on August 12. Kotsay, a player who the Sox did not feel compelled to pursue earlier this month, suddenly became a key trade target when starting rightfielder J.D. Drew went to the D.L. with a back strain on Tuesday.

All the same, the two deals have provided the Sox with depth to withstand an August that has featured significant attrition. Rather than being left to lament new-sprung leaks, the Sox can admire the repair work.

‘€œYou try to keep pace, to cover your holes as much as you can,’€ said reliever Mike Timlin. ‘€œUsually, in this game, like anything else, if you’re standing still you’re going to get run over. We’re moving.’€

Kotsay will provide the Sox with an excellent defensive outfielder who can also serve as a quality lineup weapon against right-handed pitchers. The 32-year-old was hitting .289 with a .340 OBP and .418 slugging mark for the Braves, and .305/.361/.457 against right-handers this year.

He will start in right today against Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina. The prospect of getting dropped onto the roster of a World Series contender was exciting to Kotsay, for reasons that went beyond the reported $325,000 that he received for waiving his right to veto a trade to the Red Sox.

‘€œThis obviously is exciting to come to a club that’s in the playoff race, and especially one like Boston that has the history of a great tradition,’€ said Kotsay. ‘€œI’m just anxious to come over and in some way help this club, obviously reach its destination, and at the same time have as much fun as possible.’€

Kotsay’s new teammates were certainly delighted for his arrival. Those who know Kotsay from elsewhere’€”including Bay, who played with him in San Diego, and Mike Lowell, who was a member of the Marlins with Kotsay’€”described him as an ideal acquisition in Drew’s absence.

That was particularly the case since the pool of players who can be traded after July 31 dwindles thanks to the requirement that they pass through waivers.

‘€œHe’s a guy who can play all three positions, he’s a great defensive outfielder. He can do everything,’€ said Bay. ‘€œGiven the time of the year and probably the restrictions on certain guys, he’s probably one of if not the best name available. I think he’s going to fit in great here. He kind of seems like a pretty obvious fit.’€

Yet just because a player is a fit does not mean that a team will acquire him. Several members of the Sox who come from small- and mid-market clubs are familiar with the disappointment that follows a failure to address a hole when it spring up.

That concern has not re-emerged in Boston, particularly this year.

‘€œThere are a lot of organizations, I’d say, that send the exact opposite message where teams might think they’re in it and then they unload guys,’€ said third baseman Mike Lowell. ‘€œWe feel like we’re all on the same page, which is great.’€

The fact that the Sox continue to invest more resources in the 2008 team highlights the conviction that the club has legitimate visions of repeating as champions. Despite the fact that several regulars’€”including Drew (back), Lowell (oblique) and Sean Casey (neck)’€”are sidelined, the team is currently playing as well as it has this year.

The Sox are 16-7 since Bay’s arrival, the third best record in the American League in August. Their 6-2 mark on their current nine-game roadtrip marks the team’s best performance outside of Fenway Park this year.

Though 3.5 games behind Tampa Bay in the division, the Sox are well-positioned for their final 30 games, in possession of a 2.5 game lead over the Twins in the wild card.

‘€œWe haven’t been a good road team all year. We’re really banged up, and we’re having a pretty darn good roadtrip so far,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œWe’re nowhere yet, but we can’t help but be proud of the way we’ve gone about it from day one of spring training with a lot of little hurdles and moments of adversity that have (crept) up. We just keep grinding through it.’€

And so, the team has sought reinforcements at a time of year when rosters are often static. For newcomers to the Sox, such aggressive tactics have brought them into a brave new world.