Archive for November, 2008

Welcome Curt

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

So we’re sitting down back in August, Tim Murphy and I, making a ‘wish list’ of contributors for our new venture. To be honest, the list wasn’t that long in my mind. Big names weren’t hard to identify, but finding big names who were going to deliver big things when it came to the written word on a consistent basis was another sort of task, entirely.

Before we could even put pen to paper to kick off the roll call, one name was thrown out.

Curt Schilling!”

For our purposes, the name made all the sense in the world. I made the argument that very, very, very few people could do what Curt could do, which was supply the kind of voice that was powerful enough to reverberate through the internet equally on both the local and national levels. He had already proven his ability to do so thanks to his blog, 38Pitches.com, and wasn’t about to lose the kind of passion that made his stuff — no matter the subject — a must-read.

So in the spirit of ‘you will never know unless you ask’, we asked. We weren’t alone. Our wish list wasn’t the only one with Curt placed at the forefront. National. Local. You name it. To Curt’s credit, he had built such a unique product in regards to his blog that a myriad of Web sites were standing in line hoping to invite 38 Pitches aboard.

Our hope was that Curt would see the same potential that brought us all to WEEI.com. Fortunately, he did.

This past week, in his 38 Studios office, Curt officially agreed to join our team. He will write columns and blogs every week, participate in video blogs, and schedule live, interactive in-game blogs during the season, while also appearing on the WEEI Radio Network each week, including an in-studio spot once a month.

You’ve already gotten a sample of what Curt can do over Thanksgiving thanks to his two-part series on the five-year anniversary of his courtship by the Red Sox. And this week he will be shipping along entries while on tour to support our troops in Kuwait.

As for whether or not part of Curt’s immediate blogging future will include documenting a return to the pitching mound, I can’t help you there. You’ll just have to log on every other minute to find out.

Welcome Curt.

Red Sox announce spring training schedule

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

The Boston Red Sox today announced that tickets for all 2009 spring training home games at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers , Florida will go on sale on Saturday, December 6.  The club also released its 37-game spring schedule, which includes 18 games at City of Palms Park.

Tickets will also be available beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 6 at the City of Palms Park box office, on www.redsox.com, or by calling 877-REDSOX9.  Handicap accessible seating is also available by calling 877-REDSOX9.

Boston will open the spring schedule on Wednesday, February 25 with split squad games, hosting Boston College at 1:05 p.m. at City of Palms Park and traveling across Fort Myers to take on the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium at 7:05 p.m.

The Red Sox will square off against the Mayor’€™s Cup rival Minnesota Twins five times, twice at City of Palms Park including a 1:05 p.m. start on St. Patrick’€™s Day.  Boston will meet the Tampa Bay Rays in a 2008 ALCS rematch for four games, two at the Rays new spring training home, Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.  The club will face the New York Yankees twice this spring, March 13 in Fort Myers and at Legends Field in Tampa on March 24, both 7:05 p.m. starts.  Additionally, Boston will host Team Puerto Rico in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game on Thursday, March 5 beginning at 12:05 p.m.

2009 tickets will remain at the 2008 prices, part of Red Sox ownership’€™s 2009 ticket price freeze.  This will mark the third time in four years that ticket prices for games at City of Palms Park have remained unchanged.

Tickets for the Boston College and Northeastern University games will be half price.

The City of Palms Park box office will be open Saturday, December 6 from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 7 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.  Beginning Monday, December 8, the Fort Myers box office and the Red Sox Team Store at City of Palms Park will be open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, with the exception of December 27-28 when both will be closed.

The Red Sox have sold out every Grapefruit League game at City of Palms Park since March 16, 2003, including 11 dates in 2008, increasing the club’€™s Grapefruit League sellout streak to 73 home games.

The Red Sox have trained at Fort Myers since 1993.

Prior to the start of the exhibition season, Red Sox will hold workouts at the organization’€™s Player Development Complex, which is located at 4301 Edison Avenue in Fort Myers . Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Thursday, February 12 and will work out for the first time on Saturday, February 14.  Infielders and outfielders report on Monday, February 16 with the first full squad workout on Wednesday, February 18. All workouts are open to the public free of charge and shuttle buses are provided from City of Palms Park at $2.00 per person.

 

 


DATE OPPONENT SITE TIME
       
Wednesday, February 25 Boston College (SS) City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Wednesday, February 25 Minnesota Twins (SS) Hammond Stadium 7:05 p.m.
Thursday, February 26 Pittsburgh Pirates City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Friday, February 27 Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlotte 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, February 28 Northeastern (SS) City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, February 28 Cincinnati Reds (SS) City of Palms Park 7:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 1 Minnesota Twins Hammond Stadium 1:05 p.m.
Monday, March 2 Baltimore Orioles Fort Lauderdale 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday, March 3 Cincinnati Reds City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Wednesday, March 4 Off Day    
Thursday, March 5 Team Puerto Rico City of Palms Park 12:05 p.m.
Friday, March 6 Florida Marlins   1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 7 Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlotte 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 8 Tampa Bay Rays City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Monday, March 9 Pittsburgh Pirates Bradenton 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday, March 10 Baltimore Orioles City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Wednesday, March 11 Off Day    
Thursday, March 12 St. Louis Cardinals Jupiter 1:05 p.m.
Friday, March 13 New York Yankees City of Palms Park 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 14 Baltimore Orioles Fort Lauderdale 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 15 Baltimore Orioles City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Monday, March 16 Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday, March 17 Minnesota Twins City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Wednesday, March 18 Off Day    
Thursday, March 19 Cincinnati Reds Sarasota 7:05 p.m.
Friday, March 20 Pittsburgh Pirates City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 21 Florida Marlins   Jupiter
Sunday, March 22 Philadelphia Phillies City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Monday, March 23 Detroit Tigers City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday, March 24 New York Yankees Tampa 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday, March 25 Cincinnati Reds Sarasota 1:05 p.m.
Thursday, March 26 Off Day    
Friday, March 27 St. Louis Cardinals City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 28 Minnesota Twins City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 29 Philadelphia Phillies Clearwater 1:05 p.m.
Monday, March 30 Atlanta Braves Orlando 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday, March 31 Tampa Bay Rays City of Palms Park 1:05 p.m.
Wednesday, April 1 Pittsburgh Pirates Bradenton 1:05 p.m.
Thursday, April 2 Minnesota Twins Hammond Stadium 1:05 p.m.

Sources: Initial offer to Varitek for one year

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the Red Sox‘ initial contract offer to free agent catcher Jason Varitek this offseason was for one year. It was not determined what the monetary worth of the offer would be, although indications were that it didn’t approach the annual average commanded by Jorge Posada ($13.1 million).  Varitek’s agent, Scott Boras, referenced the Yankee catcher’s contract as an appropriate point of reference when assessing his client’s worth at the General Managers’ meetings early this month. Red Sox officials refused comment on the negotiations, while Varitek’s representatives did not respond to inquiries on the matter.

Saturday Morning Radio Show

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

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Coco excited for new role

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Coco Crisp just concluded a conference call, and declared himself excited for the opportunity to return to the American League Central and resume his career as an everyday player with the Kansas City Royals.

“My agent told me that there was a possible trade in the works within this week. All that waiting and anticipating to see where you go or even whether it happens kind of keeps you on edge. When I finally got the news that I was going to Kansas City, I was excited,” said Crisp. “It kind of woke me up. It was kind of early around here, about 7 in the morning. I wasn’t fully awake yet.”

Crisp described his experience in Boston as “bittersweet.” The opportunity to play for a World Series winner and in a baseball-crazed market were unquestionable positive experiences.

Still, there was a sense of some disappointment with how the tenure had gone. When he arrived, he was coming into his own as a member of the Indians, but things got off to an ominous start when he broke his left index finger in his first week with the Red Sox. From there, he dealt with a variety of injuries that limited his performance, as Crisp hit .271 with a .330 OBP and .390 slugging mark with the Sox.

“It was a learning experience, definitely. That’€™s first and foremost how I’€™d classify it,” said Crisp. “On the field and off the field, it helped me grow.The one negative thing aspect that came out of the whole thing was that I was plagued by nagging injuries pretty much the whole time I was there, except a month here and a month there and towards the end of (the 2008) season…It’€™s been an up and down ride. Most of the time, I’€™ve enjoyed myself over there, even though it was difficult.”

Crisp believes that both he and Jacoby Ellsbury stand to benefit from the increase in playing time, and the fact that they both will assume everyday roles as centerfielders.

“Ellsbury is a young guy who is coming to that day and age where he needs the opportunity to play everyday for everybody to know exactly what he can bring to the table,” said Crisp. “We didn’€™t get a full idea of what he was capable of. You can kind of tell, but I think this year coming up, with him playing everyday, hopefully he’€™ll have a great season and be able to show everybody that he’€™s going to be in the big leagues for a very long as a premier player in the big leagues.

“It’€™s nice for me to move aside and get out of the way, and for the Red Sox to allow this to happen by trading me and allowing me the opportunity to come to a team where I now have the opportunity to play everyday instead of being a filler guy’€”even though I got a lot of playing time last year due to other guys going down and being injured,” said Crisp. “I’€™m getting an opportunity to show everybody exactly what I’€™m capable of. I’€™m happy for that opportunity.”

Coco traded to Royals for Ramon Ramirez

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

The Red Sox used a position of surplus to achieve greater flexibility in their pitching staff, trading centerfielder Coco Crisp to the Royals for reliever Ramon Ramirez. Crisp, who was part of a four-man outfield rotation with the Sox, will now fulfill his desire to be an everyday centerfielder, while Boston gets a pitcher who was one of the best setup men in the American League in 2008 as well as increased financial flexibility.

“Fortunately we were able to come up with a deal that I think is going to help both teams,” said Royals G.M. Dayton Moore.

Crisp was, at times, a valuable contributor to the Sox. After breaking his finger just one week into his Red Sox career, the outfielder never fulfilled the lofty expectations that accompanied his dynamic arrival in Boston (Crisp was quite possibly the most impressive member of the team in spring training in 2006).

Due to surgery following the 2006 season, he was not able to follow a normal strength program entering 2007, and his performance suffered as a result. His strengths as a hitter, particularly his pull approach on fastballs as both a right- and left-handed hitter, were somewhat neutralized by Fenway Park thanks to the Green Monster in left and the deep fences in right.

Still, he was an exceptional defensive player in 2007, while his offense picked up this year.

Crisp hit .283 average with a .344 OBP and .407 slugging mark this year, largely on the strength of a very strong second half (.315/.392/.403). He then hit .417 with a .517 OBP in the playoffs to punctuate his finishing kick.

That performance, coupled with a changing market, created more demand for Crisp than existed following the 2007 season. Last winter, the free-agent market was saturated with centerfielders, including Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones and Aaron Rowand, among several others. This year, the only free agent with recent experience as a starting centerfielder is Mark Kotsay, who spent October playing first base for the Red Sox.

Though Sox G.M. Theo Epstein said that interest in Crisp “was not as widespread as I expected,” the 29-year-old became a subject of inquiry at the G.M. meetings, and the Sox were in trade talks with the Royals and one other team about Crisp.

Though Crisp entered the year having expressed a clear desire to be an everyday player somewhere, his situation in an outfield timeshare in Boston worked out surprisingly well in 2008. Thanks to long stints on the sidelines by J.D. Drew and David Ortiz, he ended up with 409 plate appearances this year. All the same, Crisp’s agent made clear that the outfielder was eager for a full-time job, rather than a repeat of the 2008 arrangement.

“Careers are fleeting. A player wants to be able to contribute as long as he can, as well as he can, and he wants to do that by being on the field,” Steve Comte, Crisp’s agent, said earlier this month. “We’re going to let (Sox G.M. Theo Epstein) do his job. Covelli has been extremely patient. I can’€™t say it’€™s been the easiest of rides. I think the Red Sox and certainly Theo know how we feel…We’€™re confident he’€™s going to do the right thing not only for the interests of the Boston Red Sox but also for Coco.”

That forecast came to fruition today. The Royals acquired Crisp–a Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder in 2007–to chase balls in their vast centerfield expanse. They plan to feature either Crisp or David DeJesus as their leadoff hitter.

“He’€™s somebody who has a lot of experience. He’€™s been a part of championship teams. The ability to play centerfield and have success at the top of the lineup was big for us,” said Royals G.M. Dayton Moore. “Centerfield is a very important position, even moreso in our ballpark. It’€™s a huge ballpark. There’€™s not a lot of homeruns hit here…We felt Coco Crisp was the best player available to us in centerfield.”

The right-handed Ramirez, meanwhile, bolsters the the back-end of the Red Sox bullpen. He features a fastball that typically registers in the low-90s but that touches as high as 95 as well as a slider, but it is his changeup–which acts like a split-finger fastball–that generates ample swings and misses.

Ramirez spent much of the year pitching in the eighth inning for the Royals. He went 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 71.2 innings this year while holding opposing hitters to a miniscule .222 average.

Ramirez was even more devastating against right-handed hitters, whom he held to a .153 average (lowest in the A.L. and third lowest in the majors among pitchers with at least 50 games). Only the Cubs’€™ Carlos Marmol (.103) and Philadelphia’€™s Brad Lidge (.105) ranked higher. In his career he has held righties to a .198 average with an OPS of .586.

He has a 2.14 ERA with 97 strikeouts and 44 walks in 105.0 career innings outside of Coors Field. In 2008, Ramirez was one of just three A.L. relievers with at least 70 strikeouts, 70 appearances and an ERA under 3.00, joined by Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez and Chicago’€™s Matt Thornton.

“We believe we’€™ve acquired a young, controllable reliever that can really help our bullpen,” said Red Sox G.M. Theo Epstein. “He’€™s very quietly had a tremendous amount of success in the major leagues…We were looking for that kind of upgrade and depth.”

“You need to give up something to get something,” said Moore, who acquired Ramirez from the Rockies this spring in exchange for former Sox prospect Jorge De La Rosa. “Our people even felt he might be able to close at some point in time in his career. He’€™s a good pitcher…He’€™s a pitcher who stays on the attack with his fastball. (He has a) very good changeup. He commands the down-and-away strike very well with power.”

The move opens centerfield for Jacoby Ellsbury, who finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting after hitting .280 with a .336 OBP and .394 slugging mark. Though Crisp had better numbers in each category, the Sox are confident that Ellsbury–who played spectacular outfield defense and led the American League with 50 steals–will continue to improve.

“Expectations were probably unreasonably high for him given the numbers he put up in a very small sample in the 2007 postseason,” said Epstein. “One thing we like about young players, especially young players who work hard like Jacoby does, is they get better. They get better with opportunities.

“He’ll certainly have a chance to play next year, and to continue to improve his offensive game. Obviously, his defense and baserunning are already championship caliber. As he grows into his swing and continues to figure it out from an offensive standpoint, I think we’re going to really see a dynamic player.”

There are ancillary benefits to the addition of another bullpen arm, particularly one who is not yet arbitration eligible. Ramirez will allow the Sox greater flexibility either in the potential usage of Justin Masterson in 2009 or in using some of their pitching depth in a trade this offseason.

“He does give us the flexibility to start Masterson if that’€™s ultimately what we feel is in the best interests of the club,” said Epstein. “Both Masterson and Ramirez dominate right-handed hitters. In that way, Ramirez could potentially replace Masterson in the ‘€˜pen.

“(But) it’€™s not easy to find a controllable reliever with a good track record and plus stuff,” Epstein continued. “Whether we keep Masterson in the ‘€˜pen or not, we feel like adding Ramon can only make us better.”

The Sox must now find a right-handed hitting fourth outfielder who is capable of playing centerfield. But that task, the team felt, would prove more manageable than an effort to find a potentially dominant bullpen arm.

“With the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury (as a starting centerfielder),” said Epstein, “we felt like we would be able to find a complementary outfielder on the market easier than we would be find a valuable member of the bullpen. That’€™s why we made this trade.”

Crisp has one more year remaining (at $5.75 million) of a three-year, $15.5 million deal that includes an $8 million option for the 2010 season. Ramirez, who has pitched parts of the past three seasons for the Rockies and Royals, is not yet arbitration eligible, and remains under team control for the next four years.

The Evan Grant Interview

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Click here to listen to the Big Show’s interview with Rangers beat writer Evan Grant, who left American League MVP Dustin Pedroia out of his Top 10 on his ballot.

Here is a partial transcript of the interview, which aired on Tuesday afternoon:

Evan Grant: Sure, fire away. Before you go into any questions let me say this. I know Red Sox Nation is extremely passionate and I did vote Kevin Youkilis as the AL MVP.

(Where was Dustin Pedroia, 11 or 12?) Grant: He was in different ballots I had cooked up as late as mid-September I was toying around with him as my AL MVP … It was probably before he had some big, big games in late September.

(When did you file the ballot?) Grant: I didn’t file the ballot until after the season was over …

(Did you not say at one point you were viewing him as the AL MVP?) Grant: I did say that and I did say at one point and time I had scenarios where I considered him as my AL MVP … The stats I weighed the heaviest I think when it came down to everything were things like OPS, batting average with runners in scoring position, clutch hitting type situations. And when I looked at Kevin’s numbers compared to Dustin’s numbers, they dwarfed them in those situations.

Grant: What I did want to say was it was completely and totally, based on what my all my colleagues, all of whom I respect very much, have voted today was that my opinion was totally wrong. Dustin Pedroia did belong on the ballot and he did belong in the top five. When it came down to it, again I looked at those numbers and looked at guys individual success. I’ll just go back and look, I’ve wrote this down since I’ve been bombarded today, Pedroia was 18th in OPS in the league, he was 30th in batting average with runners in scoring position, he was 53rd in OBP with runners in scoring position …

(Runs, doubles, hits, multi-hit games …) Grant: It’s entirely acceptable if you don’t agree with my opinion.

(There is no way somebody who watches the game of baseball and say Dustin Pedroia is not in the Top 10 candidates) Grant: I can only tell you as the month of September takes place I constantly put together an MVP ballot. I look at the entire season. After many conversations with players in the past I kind of changed my tune a bit. Most players have told me you shouldn’t value September over everything else because it is a 162-game season and you can’t because Carlos Quentin was hurt in September he can’t be considered …

(Yes you can) Grant: Well, that’s your opinion. I will be happy to tell your listening audience and all of New England that if they feel I was wrong in leaving Dustin off the ballot that opinion is entirely acceptable to me. But to suggest I don’t watch the game or to suggest I don’t know what is going on is a little bit unfair.

(I’m suggesting you didn’t watch Dustin Pedroia) Grant: I don’t cover the Red Sox.

(You cover baseball) Grant: I told you he was a Top 10 candidate. I just didn’t put him in the Top 10.

(How do you feel when your colleagues voted him as the MVP and you don’t put him in the Top 10) Grant: It makes me feel like my opinion is wrong … So I’m wrong, how wrong am I? … This is unproductive. If you wan’t to say I’m really wrong, then I’m really wrong.

(Everybody is entitled to their opinion) Grant: I’m obviously not because the minute I come on the air and do what I did you make me out to be an idiot.

(Reason?) Grant: I’m not going to convince you guys.

(What did Pedroia do or not do to fall out of your Top 10) Grant: He merited all the consideration in the world to be in the Top 10, but on the day after the season when I looked at all the numbers over the course of the entire season the body of numbers suggested that as good as a candidate as he was for the Top 10 I thought in my mind I could be comfortable with the other 10 guys.

(Grady Sizemore at nine?) Grant: I can see where people would … again, everybody else may be right and I may be wrong in retrospect and I will live with being wrong. I will tell you in a number of emails I have responded to people that I got too cute in trying to analyze the final two spots on the ballot. But do not sit here and insinuate Grady Sizemore didn’t have an outstanding season.

(How did things change after Pedroia had such a great August) Grant: Again, it’s based on the entire body of numbers over the course of the season. I know Pedroia won a Gold Glove at second base and Grady Sizemore is considered a Gold Glove defender in the outfield, too. Is Pedroia a better candidate in retrospect? Guys, I’ve acknowledged that time after time after time. I am telling you when I put together the list on the day after the season, ultimately the numbers I came up with all of that stuff led me to think hey wait a minute I don’t want to overvalue Pedroia’s guttiness and grittiness and if anything I may have erred on the side of statistical analysis.

(Did you take into consideration that he struck out only 52 times) Grant: No, I did not … I don’t know why I would take into account the number of strikeouts in an MVP candidate.

(Are you serious) Grant: How far down the list of strikeouts does it have to be to be considered an MVP? Where did Ryan Howard finish in the National League MVP? Where did he finish in the voting?

(I think where our disagreement is is that you don’t understand his game) Grant: What I value is getting on base and producing runs.

(He led the league in runs scored. The answers you’re coming up with ) Grant: I’m glad you guys have that opinion and that’s where you stand on that, but again this is a guy who did not lead his team in on-base percentage his numbers were dwarfed by Kevin Youkilis … I’ve been voting for the MVP for about 10 years now, I know how the ballot works.

(It’s not who is No. 1 or No. 2, it’s who is No. 10) Grant: Guys, all I can do is tell you is you’re right, you’re right and I’m wrong. I admitted I was wrong on my ballot in retrospect. If that’s what you’re trying to get out of me that’s what you’re getting out of me. I do not understand the process of continuing to go back and ask why I left him off the ballot. I just told I left him off the ballot.

(Trying to get answers) Grant: When I gave you my answers you’re not accepting them.

Grant: I’ve told you why I left him off the Top 10, you don’t buy that and I accept that.

(When you submitted your ballot did you think it was going to be controversial?) Grant: I didn’t really concern myself with whether or not it was going to be controversial. I think ’99 was the year when I voted Pedro (Martinez) No. 2 and people were asking why the guy left Pedro entirely off the ballot … It is such a subjective award. It is so full of every year trying to put together what you’re impressions are and no matter what you say you only have a limited amount of exposure to each guy …

(In this day and age it is different) Grant: I’ll tell you this, I do have an opportunity. I cover my club about 12 hours a day, I sleep for about 6 or 7, and then the rest of the time I try to have a life. If you want to question my integrity, or whatever you want to do on that end, I don’t think that’s fair. If you want to disagree with my vote that’s entirely a fair point.