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Why DeMarlo Hale was one of the best managers I ever had — and why he’s a strong candidate for the Red Sox now 10.18.12 at 8:13 am ET
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Without DeMarlo Hale, I might never have been a big leaguer.

The Red Sox will interview ‘D’ as their fourth managerial candidate on Thursday. I played for him for three years — in 1993 in High-A Fort Lauderdale, after I was drafted in the 10th round out of Providence College; in 1994, for a full season in High-A Sarasota; and in 1997 in Double-A Trenton — and I think the world of the guy. He and Eric Wedge are the two managers that I just clicked with, personality-wise. As much as I’ve been preaching that I think this team needs a new set of eyes, I have a hard time saying DeMarlo Hale would not be a good choice. I think he would be.

(Click here to listen to Merloni discuss this post on his show earlier today.)

When he managed me at the start of my career, I was always an older player for my level — 22 when I started pro ball — and so I think he always treated me a little differently. We always had a good rapport. I think he communicates with his players individually and gets the message across of exactly what he expects of them.

First of all, I would never question his baseball knowledge, his in-game knowledge, when I played for him. The minor leagues are a little bit different — where you have to get guys into games as a matter of organizational priority, and the manager is also the third-base coach, so he’s watching the game from a different perspective than a big league manager — but he was always on top of the game.

He always got his message across to the players, and he got his players to play hard and made us realize, at that level, what we were trying to do, what the goal was to get to that next level, and how we were going to get there. The years I played for him were some of the better summers I’ve ever had. We had great chemistry on those teams. We played the game hard.

There was a time in 1994 in Sarasota when he didn’t feel like we were playing up to par. He just put us through absolute hell for about two to three weeks — he called it two weeks of ‘Hay-ull’ — two weeks of hell. It was A-ball, but he kicked the crap out of us to the point where it woke us up. That year, we finished last in the first half and we won the second half in a landslide. We didn’t get much help in the draft — even though Nomar Garciaparra joined us, he was just getting started in the game. It was really just our team. We just turned it around. It was a credit to DeMarlo. Read the rest of this entry »

Johnny Damon clears the air about the Red Sox 12.08.10 at 5:17 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Johnny Damon would love to come back to Boston.

J.D. has been around the Winter Meetings. I talked to him by phone earlier today about his interest in returning to Boston, as well as the reasons why he turned down an opportunity to return to the Sox last season.

J.D. wanted to make it clear that his decision to refuse the waiver claim by the Red Sox in August was never about the city of Boston, the Red Sox organization or the fans. There is no ill will there. It was solely about his desire to remain with a Tigers team that he loved. He loved the team, he loved his teammates, and he hoped to stay with the Tigers beyond 2010.

“You know me. I’ve always been extremely loyal to my teammates,” he told me. “A lot of them expressed their desire to keep me around. My intention was to return there this year, but they had other plans.”

Just because Johnny decided not to return last season, it doesn’t mean he’s closed the door. In fact, he’d love to come back.

“Obviously, I’d love to return to Boston,” he said. “I loved playing there, and I think it would be a perfect fit, with the chance to win again. I know I could do that in Boston.”

Physically, J.D. feels great. He spent a lot of last year as the Tigers DH. The only stress he put on his body was trying to score from first on doubles. He still feels like he can play left field regularly, and he feels like he can still hit against lefties.

It may be a long shot for the Red Sox to bring Johnny back. However, it was important for him and Red Sox Nation to know that the decision to stay in Detroit was never anything personal.

Read More: Detroit Tigers, Hot Stove, Johnny Damon,
How Adrian Beltre could affect the Red Sox interest in Scott Downs 12.08.10 at 4:59 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — According to a source familiar with the situation, the Red Sox‘ interest in Scott Downs may depend on Adrian Beltre‘s landing spot.

Given the Sox’ history, they are inclined to keep as many top draft picks as possible. Downs, the left-hander who spent the last several years in Toronto, is a Type A free agent, meaning the Sox would have to surrender a draft pick in order to sign him. If the team does not sign another Type A free agent, that would require the Sox to give up their first-round pick to sign Downs, the No. 24 overall pick in next year’s draft.

But, if Beltre was to be signed by a team without a protected first-round pick (meaning a team picking after the No. 20 pick), they would get the signing team’s pick. For instance, if the Rangers — who have the No. 26 pick in the draft — moved third baseman Michael Young to another position and signed Beltre, it would mean that the Sox get the first-round pick from Texas.

That would give the Sox three first-round picks (the No. 19 pick from Detroit, their own No. 24 pick, and the pick from the Rangers). According to the source, that may make the Sox more willing to lose a first-round pick.

If, however, a team with one of the first 18 picks in the first round signed Beltre — for example, the Angels, who have the No. 17 pick, or the A’s, who have the No. 18 pick — the Sox would get a second-round pick for him. That would leave the Sox with only two first-round picks, making them more reluctant to part with their own.

The source also said that if the Sox were still in the market for a Type A free agent ranked higher than Downs by the Elias ratings — namely, Carl Crawford — then signing the reliever would cost a second-round pick. That would be another scenario that might make it easier for the Sox to sign Downs and lose a pick.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, carl crawford, Hot Stove, Scott Downs
Letting Victor Martinez go made no sense 11.24.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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Since the season ended, I’ve said over and over again that I believed that Victor Martinez should be the Red Sox No. 1 priority.

Offensively, he’s about as consistent as it comes. If you take out 2008, in which Vic’s season was cut short due to an injury, you could pretty much pencil in a .300 average, 20+ homers and around 100 RBIs every year. That’s the type of consistency that you invest in long term.

He’s a switch hitter who can hit in the middle of your order. Those numbers are even more impressive when you can get that kind of production from your catcher. Look around the game, how many catchers can you say that about? Of the 30 teams in the league, I can count only three others who would excite me: Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Brian McCann. Other than that, there may be a few others who you could live with.

But when you have one of the four best hitting catchers in the game, the last thing you want to do is lose that guy for $8 million dollars over the course of four years. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t make much sense to me.

Defensively, is he a great catcher? No, but who is? I’ve talked an awful lot about how splitting time behind the plate in 2009 set Vic back defensively early on this year. He got in bad habits and it took some time to get back to where he felt comfortable throwing the baseball again. If you continued to watch Vic as the year went on, you saw him do just that. He was no longer a liability throwing runners out. As a matter of fact, he was pretty good at it.

It’s obvious that the Sox did not view Victor as someone who would remain a catcher throughout the term of the contract. Maybe they are right. But can’t you at least admit that he would be an above average hitter in this league for the next four years no matter what position he plays? Maybe Vic could catch for the next two years and then move either to first base or DH. That could happen. He could also catch for the next three of four years. How do we know? The bottom line is that even if he does move to first or DH the last two years of his deal, he’s still going to hit. He always has and he always will.

As much as I wanted the Sox to sign Vic this offseason, I would have understood if they had not done so if some team came and completely blew him away with a deal. I was afraid that a team would come in and offer Vic a five-year deal for about $60 million with maybe even an option year. That might scare me away.

But when the Sox come out and say that they were willing to go the four years that Vic signed for, just not for as much money as the Tigers gave him (and other teams were willing to give him), I have problems with that. In years past, I’ve agreed with not going the extra year on guys they’ve let go. It didn’t make sense. But this wasn’t the case.

Now, they may soften the blow and trade for, or sign, a big time left-fielder, but to me, I’ll take the catcher. It’s a specialty position. You can’t take a first baseman or third baseman and put him behind the plate. You can take a right fielder or a center fielder and put him in left. In other words, there are only 30 catchers in this league; there are 90 outfielders you could plug in left field.

I’ve got the emotional side of this move out of me now, so let’s see if I can find a silver lining. Are the Sox trying to accumulate draft picks because there is a major trade in the future and they are trying to replenish their farm system because they know they are going to lose a few of their prospects? Could be.

But that would mean that they would have to actually make a trade. File that one under “we’ll have to wait and see.” The other rational side in all of this is that, if you ask me, I don’t think that scoring runs will be the downfall for the 2011 Boston Red Sox. It still comes down to pitching. Take a look at the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Their lineup did not scare you at all, but their pitching staff did. That’s how they won the World Series.

You may say that if the Giants were in the AL East they may not have even made the playoffs. I don’t agree. Take a look at who won the AL East this year. The Tampa Bay Rays. Did their lineup scare you? No, they won because of their pitching.

There is a long way to go this offseason. The Sox will eventually put a team out there that they believe can win. That team may not excite Red Sox Nation but it’s not the team’s job to do so. Yeah, their ratings are down, but the only way to get ratings up is to win. That’s it.

The glory days are over. The Sox will never again own the months of April, May or June as long as the Celtics and Bruins continue to make runs deep in the playoffs. What they need to do is own the month of October, and the only way you do that is to play for a championship.

If you ask me, that plan took a hit yesterday when they let one of the best hitting catchers in the game go.

Read More: Lou Merloni, victor martinez,
Why it’s time to trade Jonathan Papelbon 11.17.10 at 8:19 pm ET
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Let the games, and rumors, begin.

The general managers’ meetings are under way down in Orlando and things are starting to heat up. When it comes to your Boston Red Sox, be ready to hear how they are in on every major free agent out there. Part of it may be due diligence and part of it may be sincere interest. We will probably never know which it is, but one thing that we do know is that the Sox have holes that need to be filled, and because of their roster flexibility, there isn’t a position on the field other than second base where they can’t improve.

Theo Epstein already has come out and said that improving the Sox bullpen will be one of the priorities this offseason. We all know that they need some help in the ‘pen, but could addition by subtraction be the answer?

I think it’s time to trade Jonathan Papelbon. Yes, I have had a change in heart. I preached all season long that Pap wasn’t going anywhere and that the Sox needed to add arms, not lose them. But, going into his last year of arbitration before he hits free agency following the 2011 season, Papelbon will cost the Sox close to $12 million in 2011.

As long as Pap is wearing a Red Sox uniform, he is indeed the closer of this team. Which leads us to the real issue. Jonathan Papelbon is still a very good closer when you compare him to others around the league, but he is no longer an “elite” closer. All you have to do is look at the last couple of years. His walks per nine innings are up. His hits per nine innings are up. There is just too much inconsistency in his game these days whether it is due to his mechanics or just the wear and tear given the position he plays.

One of the main reasons why I didn’t feel that the Sox should trade Pap this offseason was because I didn’t feel that there would be much of a market for him. I don’t think that has changed. He is due an awful lot of money next year, and given his desire to test out free agency following 2011, any team that would entertain acquiring Pap may only have his services for one year.

If the Sox were to find a match, I don’t see them getting anything more than a few prospects as well as possibly having to eat some of Pap’s salary. I know that doesn’t sound like a good deal, but if the Sox were to get a couple of prospects that, say … Jed Hoyer out in San Diego likes as well … it may become extremely beneficial in their pursuit of Adrian Gonzalez in the future.

OK, so why the change of heart? Two reasons.

No. 1. Have you seen how many quality relievers are available in this free agent class? If it’s lefties you’re looking for, you can start with Scott Downs, but it doesn’t end there. How about names like Brian Fuentes, Pedro Feliciano, Randy Choate or Arthur Rhodes, to name a few. Oh, you’d rather have a quality righty coming out of the ‘pen? OK. How would you feel about Grant Balfour, Matt Guerrier, Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch, Kevin Gregg or Frank Francisco. I know I’d feel pretty good if the Sox could get a couple of those guys.

No. 2. In order to sign a couple of pitchers from that list, it’s going to cost you. It sounds like Theo Epstein has already earmarked money for at least one reliever in free agency. The Sox can take the $10 million or so that they will be saving by dealing Pap (even if they pick up some of his contract) and sign a couple more of those guys.

My point? It’s time to hand the job over to Daniel Bard. There couldn’t be a better time. With the quality in this year’s free agent class, the Sox can surround their young closer with three veteran relievers. I think that we’ve all seen enough from Bard to think that he is more than capable of getting the job done.

It will soon be decision time for the Sox on Jonathan Papelbon. Do they trade him? Do they offer him arbitration? Do they let him go? The last one seems extremely unlikely, but ask yourself this: If you are starting to lose confidence in your closer, why hand over close to $12 million and put yourself through six months of second guessing about who to bring in in the ninth?

I just told you what I think they should do. Now, I’ll tell you what they are probably going to do: They’ll bring back Pap and I’ll be asked the same question I did all last year.

“Why don’t they just let Baaaaahd close?”

Good question!!!

Read More: adrian gonzalez, arthur rhodes, brian fuentes, Daniel Bard
October thoughts: The World Series and the Red Sox offseason 10.29.10 at 11:29 pm ET
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Just a few thoughts while watching the World Series:

Beckett, not Lackey, might be the one who cost the Red Sox a shot at Cliff Lee

The Red Sox signed John Lackey last December 14th. The Philadelphia Phillies traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners on December 17th. Before Lee was traded, it was believed that the Phillies would do anything they could to try to re-sign the lefty. Once he was traded to the Mariners, you had to believe that it was a one-year rental.

I don’t blame the Sox for not holding out for Lee by not signing Lackey, but you could question extending Beckett knowing that Lee would be on the market at the trade deadline or during the offseason. I really thought that the Sox would hold out and wait and see how Beckett did throughout the season, and more importantly late in the season, seeing that he had struggled down the stretch in the two previous years. Don’t get me wrong, once they signed him to the four-year deal, I may have been surprised they didn’t wait, but I still thought it was a good deal at the time. But, did it cost them a shot at Lee? I think it did.

You need more than an ace come playoff time

If you look back at the American League Championship Series, there were two clear cut aces in CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee. After that, there were a lot of question marks.

Lee wasn’t available at the start of the ALCS, after pitching Game 5 against the Rays in the ALDS. So, to me, the big game to me in that series was Game 2. The Yanks used their playoff experience to come back and take advantage of a “fragile” Texas bullpen and take Game 1. It had me wondering if the Rangers could come back from that disappointing loss. It was left up to the Game 2 starters Phil Hughes and Colby Lewis. Lewis gave the Rangers exactly what they needed, keeping the Yankees bats in check early in that game. The same could not be said about Hughes, as the Rangers jumped all over him early. The same three guys in the Ranger ‘pen that got beat up during game 1 — Clay Rapada, Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day — bounced back and shut the door on the Yanks. After that game, it was over.

Fast forward to the World Series. After the much-hyped (but disappointing) pitching duel between Lee and Tim Lincecum, it was left to the Game 2 starters. Did you have more confidence in C.J. Wilson or Matt Cain?

The moral of the story: If your “ace” happens to get beaten in Game 1, you have to have confidence in the next guy to even the series.

Don’t underestimate Ortiz — a DH doesn’t come that easy

I expect that David Ortiz will have his option picked up. If you ask me, that option should be ripped up and replaced by a two-year deal this winter. I’m hearing a lot that the DH has been devalued these days. That’s because there just aren’t that many hitters in the game who can do what David Ortiz can do. Do you really think that the Tampa Rays are happy platooning Willy Aybar and Dan Johnson? No, they do because they don’t have a “David Ortiz” to plug in there everyday. (Tampa Bay tried to get a real DH with Pat Burrell. That was a failure. Burrell never produced for the Rays, who released him this summer.)

Ortiz’ struggles against left-handed pitchers are well documented. His numbers aren’t what they used to be. But at the end of the day, when the season is over, the numbers are there. Over the last two years, he has hit 60 home runs and has driven in over 200 runs. Good luck finding someone who can do that through free agency.

Bullpens are a must

I’ve always felt that World Series are won and lost because of bullpens. Obviously your starter needs to set the tone, but as we’ve seen in this World Series and ones of the past, even “good” starts may only last six innings. After that, the pressure is on. If you don’t have a guy that can get you out of a jam in the sixth and then have another two or three guys to hand it off to your closer, you are in big trouble. Which brings me to the closer. You often hear that pitching the ninth is a “different animal.” It is, but pitching the ninth in the playoffs or the World Series is a completely different level. The game has to be over if you have the lead in the ninth.

Defense…Defense…Defense

During the course of a season we see a lot of plays that, if they were made, would be considered great plays. If they are not made, more often than not they go down as a hit. In the postseason, those plays NEED to be made. The games are so intense that every mistake gets magnified. When you play the best teams in the game, you cannot give them outs by kicking the ball all over the field. Ask Brooks Conrad. If the poor guy didn’t have a meltdown in the field during the NLDS, the Giants may not be in the World Series.

Curt Young should be the next Red Sox pitching coach

Curt Young should replace John Farrell. Young was a minor league pitching coach with the A’s when Terry Francona was the big league bench coach. The Oakland A’s struggled to score runs but pitching was not their problem. Their staff had the lowest ERA in the American League. Curt Young is more than qualified and a great guy to boot.

Where did this come from with Javy Lopez?

Javy Lopez….really? Lefties hit .162 off of the former Red Sox lefty in 2010. That would have been nice to have, huh? Unfortunately for Javy, he got off to such a poor start with the Sox in 2009 that he just couldn’t recover. He is a left-handed specialist, not a mop-up guy. If you look back in April of ’09, Javy was brought in for some tough situations for someone who is asked to just get lefties out. Too often he was brought in to give the Sox innings in a blowout. Because of that, Lopez often found himself facing all right-handed hitters. That is not putting him a good position to succeed. He lost his confidence to get guys out, but as we are seeing in the postseason, he is still more than capable of getting the job done.

The Sox shouldn’t let the marketing department dictate their offseason

There is a feeling out there that the Sox need to make a splash this offseason in an attempt to create interest in their product. I don’t agree with that. If the marketing and sales department get involved in the team-building aspect of this organization, I will be shocked. The front office should not be concerned how their team is perceived by its fans. They should be concerned with doing what’s best for the organization and bringing a championship back to Boston.

All of last offseason, I listened to fans calling this station to voice their opinions of how bad this team was going to be, saying that because they let Jason Bay go, they weren’t going to score enough runs to compete. Theo Epstein and company knew that the team they put together would be just fine. I know they only won 89 games, but when they were healthy, scoring runs was not the problem. They were leading the major leagues in runs scored before they got hit with injuries.

As far as interest goes, those days are over. From 2004 to 2007, there were two seasons in this town, football and baseball. The other two big teams weren’t close to being championship caliber. Those were the glory days for both teams.

Why did ratings drop this year? It’s simple: The Celtics and Bruins were going deep in the playoffs and nobody really cared about the Sox for the first few months of the season. By the time the attention had switched over to Yawkey Way, the Sox started to lose piece after piece due to injury. Fans looked at this team and didn’t believe that they were capable of winning a World Series. That was the reality. No matter what they did at the trade deadline, the Sox could not win it all without Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury. Say what you want, but Kerry Wood was not bringing a championship to Boston.

Read More: brooks conrad, Cliff Lee, curt young, David Ortiz
The case for why Felix Hernandez should win the Cy Young 09.30.10 at 1:48 pm ET
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I realize that the Yankees and the Rays are still battling it out to see who will win the AL East, but I’m more concerned with the other race in the American League: The Cy Young.

There are five legit candidates this year: CC Sabathia, David Price, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, and Felix Hernandez. (No disrespect to Trevor Cahill, who has had an outstanding year, but I just can’t put him in same class as the others.)

You can make an argument for each one of them. If you look at wins, than Sabathia may be your guy. If you look more at ERA, than its between Hernandez and Buchholz. The final vote may be one of the closest races in recent history.

My opinion?  I give the nod to Felix Hernandez.

I just think that King Felix has been the most dominant pitcher in the game this year. I know that he only has 13 wins on the year, but you have to take into consideration how bad Seattle’s offense was this year. The Red Sox, Rays and Yankees have scored 290, 287, and 337 more runs, respectively, than the Seattle Mariners.  But with a race this close, I chose to take a deeper look and see how each pitcher did against the AL East. I don’t think that this should be the deciding factor, but as we all know, the East is the best division in baseball.  Take a look:

CC SABATHIA: 21-7, 3.18 ERA, 237 2/3 IP, 197 K’s

Against ‘€¦

Baltimore (6 starts) 5-1, 3.56 ERA, 43 IP, 31 K’s

Boston (4 starts) 1-0, 3.96 ERA, 25 IP, 17 K’s

Tampa Bay (5 starts) 1-2, 3.38 ERA, 34 2/3 IP, 29 K’s

Toronto (1 start), 1-0. 1.08 ERA, 8 1/3 IP 8 K’s

Total: (16 starts) 8-3, 3.41 ERA, 111 IP, 85 K’s

(CC’s numbers are good but nothing blows you away.)

DAVID PRICE: 19-6, 2.73 ERA, 207 2/3 IP, 187 K’s

Against ‘€¦

Baltimore (2 starts), 2-0, 0.60 ERA, 15 IP, 15 K’s

Boston (3 starts), 2-1, 2.61 ERA, 20 2/3 IP, 20 K’s

New York (4 starts), 2-1, 4.39 ERA, 26 2/3 IP, 21 K’s

Toronto (4 starts), 4-0, 0.58 ERA, 31 IP, 23 K’s

Total: (13 starts) 10-2, 2.12 ERA, 93 1/3 IP, 79 K’s

(Winning 10 games in the AL East is impressive. After looking at these numbers, Price jumps up the board.)

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My Kenny Powers Moment 09.25.10 at 11:34 am ET
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If you haven’t yet seen the HBO series Eastbound & Down, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s all about a washed up baseball player named Kenny Powers who, since leaving the game, has struggled with life after baseball. His character is an example of everything that is wrong with today’s athlete. He took steroids. He did drugs. He’s basically the biggest ass you could ever imagine, yet for some reason, you can’t help but love the guy.

I was sent this article today and had to laugh. It features 15 professional athletes who have had real life “Kenny Powers moments.” I was mentioned as No. 5. Kenny Powers’ post career job is as a substitute teacher. I myself was a substitute teacher earlier in my career while in the minors.

It made me think about those early years. My first full season in the minors was 1994 in Sarasota, Fla. DeMarlo Hale was our manager, Rico Petrocelli our hitting coach, and Al Nipper our pitching coach. I often refer to that coaching staff as the ” Dream Team.” We had a lot of fun that summer. At that level, you really don’t think about the money you make. It’s all about moving up and getting closer to the big leagues.

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the average salary in High-A ball was about $1,200 a month for the five-month season. I’m not a math genius, but I’m pretty sure that’s $6,000 a year. When you make that kind of money, an offseason job is a must.

Which brings me to my point: Major League Baseball has to do something to help out these kids in the minors. Back then, the average monthly salary in Double-A was about $1,500, and the Triple-A salary was about $2,200. That just isn’t enough for a kid who is one injury away from getting called up to the big leagues. Organizations expect these kids to work out all offseason to prepare for the upcoming season, but not all kids can afford to go out to Arizona or Florida to work out for months before spring training.

Meanwhile, the draft is a joke. High schoolers and kids in college become instant millionaires. A mid-first round pick can make more than someone who has three years in the big leagues. Does that make sense? I really hope that MLB takes a look at it during the next bargaining agreement and finally reduces some of those signing bonuses and in turn gives that money back to the minor league players. If they are the future of the game, give them a chance and pay them like it.

Read More: eastbound & down, kenny powers, Lou Merloni,
An early Red Sox report card 09.10.10 at 6:35 am ET
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I know that the season isn’t officially over yet, but I think its time to reflect on the 2010 campaign.

I’m really not putting much stock into the remainder of the year. If Adrian Beltre or Clay Buchholz struggle down the stretch, will that change your opinion on the type of years they had? If John Lackey or Josh Beckett are lights out the last three weeks, does that mean they’ve had good years? No, I don’t think so. So here it is, the not quite end of the season report card:

Victor Martinez: B-

Missing five weeks obviously hurt, but Vic is still one of the best offensive catchers in the game. Defensively, he really struggled early in the year.  It was tough to watch at times, but if you’ve been watching lately, his throwing has improved. He’s now thrown out 23 percent of would be base runners this year. Given where he was in April and May, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Jason Varitek: C+

I would have given Tek a higher grade but its awfully tough to give a ‘B’ to a guy that has missed as much time as he has. I think that the one thing that Tek proved this year is that he can still produce when healthy. He will continue next year to be one of the best backup catchers in the game, if he can stay healthy.

David Ortiz: B-

After another slow start, Papi has put together a good year. Let’s face it, these days there aren’t as many guys in the league that hit 30 HR’s. He became the type of hitter that pitchers had to be worried about again. I don’t expect his numbers to jump in the future.  At this point, he is what he is.

Kevin Youkilis: B

Youk was having another very good year for himself before his season ending thumb surgery. His grade is as low as it is because he missed the final two months of the year. To me, his injury was the nail in the coffin for the 2010 Boston Red Sox.

Dustin Pedroia: C+

This is a tough one. Pedey had a good April, a bad May and a very good June. He is by no means a ‘C+’ player, but when you miss half the year that’s what can you expect. He’s the leader of this team. That’s why his injury may have been the biggest blow.

Marco Scutaro: B

Where would the Sox have been without Scutaro leading off this year?  The downside this year was his defense. But keep in mind what this guy played through. First, is was a herniated disc in his neck. Now we find out that he is playing — for some reason — with a torn labrum. His arm came up short this year, no question, but it had a lot to do with injuries.

Adrian Beltre: A-

He is the co-MVP of this team, (see Clay Buchholz). Offensively, he was an absolute machine, carrying this lineup at times. The only reason I didn’t give him an ‘A’ was because defensively, I was a little disappointed. Too many errors and, to be honest with you, I think that the official scorer was extremely generous at times.

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Read More: Adrian Beltre, Clay Buchholz, Red Sox report card,
Merloni: Lee would lift Yanks, but Sox still have hope 07.09.10 at 1:33 pm ET
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I’ve said over the course of the last month or so that I believe that Jon Lester is the best left-handed pitcher in the game. Over the course of the next 2½ months or so, he may have the opportunity to prove it. With the news that the Yankees are on the verge of acquiring Cliff Lee from the Mariners, the AL East will then possess unquestionably the four best lefties in the game (Lester, Lee, CC Sabathia and David Price).

I have to admit, when I heard the news that the Yanks were in on Lee, I thought it was a joke. It has turned into a nightmare for Sox fans. While the Sox are trying to get by with the likes of guys named Nava, Patterson, Shealey, Molina, Cash and Manuel, the Yankees are about to acquire a former Cy Young Award winner and maybe the most dominant pitcher in the game over the last month. In his last seven starts, Lee is 5-1 with an ERA of 1.68. Four or those seven starts were complete games. He also had 47 strikeouts to only three walks. This guy is a stud.

Back in 2004, I played with both Lee and Sabathia in Cleveland. At that time, CC already had made a name for himself, while Cliff was just getting his feet wet in the big leagues. As much as I love Cliff Lee, I don’t think that his “stuff” matches up with some of the best pitchers in the game. But this much I can say about Cliff and its what separates him from others: He’s got guts to go along with pinpoint control with all of his pitches. Those two qualities are unmatched by anyone in baseball. There is no stage that will rattle Cliff Lee. He will go to New York and not skip a beat. He also will make it extremely difficult on the Red Sox.

Now that I’ve got you walking onto the bridge, let me see if I can keep you from jumping. Before I try to make us all feel better, let me start by saying that this current Red Sox team has no shot of beating Cliff Lee and the Yankees. But if this team can get healthy ‘€” and that may be a big if at this point ‘€” I still think, even with Lee in New York, that the Sox can take down the Yanks. Remember one thing: The Sox don’t have to beat the Yanks over the course of the next 77 games. They just need to beat them in a seven-game series.

Yes, with Lee the Yanks will be loaded in pitching. They’ll have Sabathia, Lee, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett. That’s a dominating staff over the course of a season. When it comes time for the postseason, it gets even better. But the best way to beat good pitching is by matching it. Remember, the Sox still will be able to roll out Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey. This Red Sox team also has done a great job in grinding out at-bats and knocking out some of the best pitchers in the game earlier than they would have liked.

The Yankees seem to be acting more and more like the Yankees of old. They got a taste of a championship last year and apparently are doing everything possible to get themselves another one. Trading for Cliff Lee is a very good start. Does it guarantee them anything? Absolutely not, but even the biggest Sox fan has to admit that things aren’t looking so good these days. What Sox fans really should concern themselves with is the health of their own club. It doesn’t matter what player the Rays or Yanks pick up over the next few weeks, if the Sox can’t get healthy, they won’t be able to beat either.

Read More: Cliff Lee, Jon Lester,
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