|Jacoby Ellsbury has his goals and the 2012 AL MVP might just be one||02.26.12 at 4:42 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Speaking publicly to the Boston media for the first time since Detroit’s Justin Verlander narrowly edged him out for the 2011 American League MVP, Jacoby Ellsbury said Sunday that he admits he was a little disappointed that the best year of his career so far didn’t result in winning the award.
“Well, we’re playing against the best competition in the world,” Ellsbury said. “Obviously, I did everything I could, left it all on the field last year. When I found out about the results, I was happy for Justin Verlander but at the same time, being as competitive as I am, I wish I would’ve won. I bet if you ask all those other guys, they would say the same thing, too. That’s how I look at it, we’re playing against the best players in the world, definitely held my head high and finished second.”
Ellsbury hinted that that award might be one of the goals he’s setting for himself this season as he looks to follow up a season in which he batted .321 with 32 homers while driving in 105 runs.
“I went into my workouts how I went about it last year and made goals for this coming season,” Ellsbury said. “I think the biggest thing is to continue what I’ve been doing. Those goals, I always say at the beginning of the year, I revisit them throughout the season. They’re personal goals. I’m just excited for coming into this season.”
In edging out Ellsbury, Verlander became the first starting pitcher in 25 years to be voted Most Valuable Player, adding it to the Cy Young Award he also captured.
Verlander earned the American League MVP honor, receiving 13 of 28 first-place votes and 280 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Ellsbury was second with four first-place votes and 242 points, followed by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista with five first-place votes and 231 points, Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson with 215 and Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera with 193.
|Is Jacoby Ellsbury the leading man? A look at the American League MVP field||11.21.11 at 10:48 am ET|
The American League MVP field is incredibly competitive this year, with strong cases to be made for no fewer than five candidates, all of whom impacted the game in a variety of ways.
The top candidates include a pair of center fielders who combined power and speed to serve as game-changing, multifaceted contributors, a starting pitcher whose season was so great as to put him in position to become potentially the first starter to take home MVP honors in 25 years, when Roger Clemens won Cy Young and MVP honors for the Red Sox in 1986.
There is a traditional middle-of-the-order slugging first baseman, and the single most ferocious hitter in the league, but one who happened to play for a team that was never really in contention.
Here’s a look at the top five AL MVP candidates (in alphabetical order):
JOSE BAUTISTA, BLUE JAYS, THIRD BASE/RIGHT FIELD
Bautista was no one-hit wonder. For the second straight year, the Blue Jays thumper delivered a monster season. He led the AL with 43 homers and an astonishing 132 walks, the foremost combination of power and patience in the game. Bautista hit .302 with a .447 OBP, an AL-leading .608 slugging mark and 1.056 OPS, continuing a mid-career transformation like few others in recent memory (his two best seasons came at age 29 and 30).
Bautista did fade down the stretch. Through the All-Star break, he had across-the-board video game numbers: .334/.468/.702/1.170 with 31 homers and 65 RBI. In the second half, he was human: .257/.419/.477/.896 with 12 homers and 38 RBI. He will also get knocked down in the eyes of some voters for the fact that he played on a team that went 81-81, landing in fourth place in the AL East. Read the rest of this entry »
|John Kruk on M&M: ‘I’m still going to stick with the Red Sox’ in the playoffs||09.08.11 at 12:45 pm ET|
ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk joined Mut & Merloni Thursday to share his thoughts on how the American League playoff race is shaping up as well as who the contenders are for postseason awards.
Kruk noted that the American League playoff picture is more cloudy considering the injuries to Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, but he said he still believes the Red Sox will pull through.
“I’m still going to stick with the Red Sox,” Kruk said. “I picked them early and what the heck, they’re still there.”
If Beckett’s sprained ankle turns into a lingering injury, however, Kruk said the Red Sox could easily have their October cut short.
“With this injury to Beckett, you don’t know now if he can go on three day’s rest if they were even going to think that way anyways,” Kruk said. “If Beckett’s not healthy and he tries to come back and he’s not healthy and pitches poorly, the Red Sox might be a quick out against whoever they’re going to play, Detroit or Texas or the Angels.”
Kruk agreed with Curt Schilling‘s comments from his appearance on Mut & Merloni on Wednesday when Schilling predicted that either Curtis Granderson or Jacoby Ellsbury will win the AL Most Valuable Player award.
“I think it’s the center fielders in the East, Granderson and Ellsbury,” Kruk said. “And the thing is, it’s two unexpected great years. You thought Ellsbury would be a good player. You didn’t know he’d be a great player. You didn’t know what you’d get from Granderson because he really struggled last year. When you have a guy who’s hit seventh and eighth and even ninth in the lineup, and now all of the sudden, he’s hit third every single day against righties and lefties like Granderson is doing, driving in runs and hitting home runs.
“Both guys are so vital to their team’s success and if either one of them got hurt and was out for awhile, both teams would really really struggle to win games because that’s how great these two players have been for their teams.”
Kruk acknowledged that Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who won his 22nd game of the season on Wednesday, is having a great season, but said he does not think pitchers should win the MVP because of the limited number of games they participate in.
“In the clubhouse, it’s the pitchers and the regular guys,” Kruk said. “The pitchers hang out amongst themselves. They should have their own award and they do and that’s great. I know what Verlander does has been spectacular. And any pitcher, [CC] Sabathia‘s like that, [Jon] Lester‘s like that, the guys in Philly are like that.
“It’s not what they do the day they pitch, but it’s what they do the day before and the day after they pitch that really is vital to the team and can save a bullpen. They only play 35 days, 34, 35 days. It’s hard for me to say this guy is our most valuable guy because he’s only played 35 games. I’ve always struggled with that.”
|Curt Schilling on M&M: Red Sox’ season riding on Josh Beckett’s health||09.07.11 at 12:03 pm ET|
Former Red Sox pitcher and current ESPN analyst Curt Schilling joined Mut & Merloni Wednesday morning. Among the topics discussed was Josh Beckett‘s sprained right ankle. Schilling, who is no stranger to ankle injuries, said that he is not sure how serious Beckett’s injury is as Boston heads toward the postseason.
“Their season’s riding on it, that much is clear, but I don’t have a clue as to what’s going on,” Schilling said. “I think it’s going to be very Belichickian around there for the next few days to a week as you try to get information.”
Beckett sprained his ankle in the fourth inning of his start against Toronto on Monday. While the sprain was good news to those expecting a more serious injury, it is still unclear as to when Beckett will pitch next. Schilling said that even if Beckett is not at full health for the rest of the season, it is important that he is able to pitch before the playoffs begin.
“We’re never 100 percent; last time I was 100 percent I was like 13,” Schilling said. “My concern is this: I don’t want him to have to work back up to pitching going into the postseason. … When you’re rolling into the postseason, you literally want to be gearing up like you do at the end of spring training going into the season. You want to feel like, ‘I’m executing some stuff, I’m doing some things game-plan-wise,’ and then you’re rolling into the postseason. If it’s anything other than that, it doesn’t bode well for them.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
On injured pitcher Clay Buchholz possibly returning for postseason: “He’s throwing flat ground, 60 feet. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being pitching in a big league game as a starter, he’s at step 2. … You’re asking him to go onto the mound in front of the most rabid, loyal, passionate audience in the world, in the most important games of his life. That’s tough to do with a healthy regular season finish into the postseason.”
On the American League MVP race: “I think it’s going to come down to [Curtis] Granderson, to [Jacoby] Ellsbury, to [Adrian] Gonzalez, to Pedey [Dustin Pedroia], all stealing votes from each other. It’ll end up being a close vote, but I think you’re going to see Granderson or probably Ellsbury win it.
On who will win the AL playoff races: “I would tell you that it’s going to probably end up being the way it is today, in my mind. The Yankees, the Tigers, the Rangers, even though I like [Mike] Scioscia‘s Angels, and I think you’ll have the Sox coming in as the wild card.”
|How the Yankees finally got to Jon Lester||08.06.11 at 12:46 am ET|
Red Sox fans have seen this movie before.
An ace pitcher is cruising along against the vaunted Yankee lineup, like Jon Lester was on Friday night. The Sox left had allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings, throwing just 73 pitches in the process.
Then, boom. All of sudden, the Yankees start taking pitches, fouling off pitcher’s pitches and making every swing count. The Yankees still work the pitcher as well as any team in baseball and they proved it again Friday night, trailing 2-0.
Even the best pitchers the Red Sox ever had – like Pedro Martinez, circa 1999 – have fallen victim to this in the last 15 years that Derek Jeter has been a captain. And Jeter was at the middle of things – or more to the point – the start of things on Friday night.
Eduardo Nunez fell behind quickly two strikes to open the sixth, with the Lester and the Red Sox in command, 2-0. Then six pitches – including two foul balls – later, he was on base with a walk. Jeter singled and Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI single to left-center and it was 2-1.
“Just really lost command,” Lester said. “You have to tip your cap to them. They did a good job being patient that inning. I threw some pretty good pitches they laid off, whether it was a ball or strike, they stayed within themselves and it seemed like the first five innings, we dictated both sides of the plate and in the sixth inning, they did.”
Lester would throw his final 35 pitches of the night in that sixth inning as the Yankees rallied for three runs off Lester.
“The first thing was Nunez’s at-bat, the fact that he was able a 3-2 walk after fouling off some really tough pitches,” Granderson said. “I think he threw pretty anything and everything at him. Derek got his first hit of the ball game, I got my first hit. Nunez read it really well and was able to score.” Read the rest of this entry »
|For the first time: Bobby Jenks-to-Daniel Bard-to-Jonathan Papelbon equals win||04.08.11 at 10:44 pm ET|
Friday was exactly what Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and skipper Terry Francona had in mind when they rebuilt the bullpen.
The idea was to have Bobby Jenks pitch the seventh, Daniel Bard the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon closing out games just like he has since 2007. And on Friday, that’s exactly what happened in a 9-6 win over the Yankees in the 2011 home opener at Fenway. Three of the hardest-throwing relievers in baseball. And all of them delivered.
Consider it a whole new take on “closer by committee.”
“I think that’s what they planned to do,” said Papelbon, who was perfect in recording his first save of the season and closing out Boston’s first win. “That’s the reason they brought Jenks here. I think as a bullpen unit down there, we feel like if you can get the ball to us in the late innings of a game with the lead, we should be able to hold it.”
The key to getting there was Alfredo Aceves, recalled earlier in the day before the home opener to take the place of the disabled Matt Albers. Aceves came in and did what starter John Lackey could not, put up a zero on the board against the Yankees.
“We put up four zeroes,” Francona said. “Aceves has been through this before. Bobby has pitched a closer with the White Sox. Regardless of who we’re [pitching], it doesn’t matter, we have to find ways to win.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Lowell: ‘I feel like I got whacked there’||09.25.10 at 3:19 am ET|
“NEW YORK — Initially, it appeared frightful.
The Curtis Granderson grounder with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning had something of a topspin hop to it, shooting up at Mike Lowell‘s face. As the first baseman turned his head, the ball cracked off the right side of it, catching him between the temple and the eye. Immediately, Lowell crashed on the dirt, clutching the side of his head.
“It looked bad,” acknowledged shortstop Jed Lowrie.
Yet it could have been much, much worse. In fact, Lowell declared after the game that he felt little more than a knot under the skin. Even he seemed surprised that the impact was not worse.
“When I hit the floor, [he wondered], ‘Am I still there?’ I didn’t see stars. I felt like the ball was still lodged in my head, but I never lost consciousness and I didn’t get dizzy,” recounted Lowell. “It hit right on the temple. That’s where I feel the bump. No fuzziness. I feel like I got whacked there.”
Sox trainer Mike Reinold burst out of the dugout to investigate Lowell while he lay on the ground. He was followed closely by manager Terry Francona.
Yet as everyone feared the worst, relief quickly followed. Not only did Lowell stand up on his own power, but he declared himself well enough to stay in the game. His presence proved short-lived. Lowell was replaced by Lars Anderson in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“I would have stayed in the game, but [the Sox had a lead of] 10-1 at the time, my eye started twitching a little, and I didn’t really want to hit like that,” said Lowell. “I had enough excitement for a day. But I feel fine. I feel good.”
Indeed, Lowell felt well enough to share a moment of amusement with the man who hit the ball that injured him.
“(Granderson) was great. [He said], ‘You all right?’” Lowell chuckled. “I said, ‘As long as they don’t rule it an error, I’m good.’”
Lowell got his wish. Granderson was given an infield single, and while he did leave the game, it appeared that a more significant injury had been averted. The ball off the head notwithstanding, it was one of the better games Lowell has had this year. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and reached on an error, scoring a season-high three runs.
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