Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Sunday, September 25, 2005

IT ONLY MATTERS IF THEY MAKE THE PLAYOFFS

The Sox victory over Baltimore on Saturday was the team's 90th win of the season, making it the fourth consecutive year the team has accomplished that feat. That ties the record set by the 1914-1917 Red Sox teams. For the competitive club, it also marked the sixth time they've met the mark in the last eight seasons, and the 24th time, overall, in club history.

The Sox have been a very consistent team over that stretch, but it only matters this year if they make the playoffs. After all, that's what it's all about. They didn't come this far, and work this hard, to be sent packing in the earliest days of October. It all comes down to this final week, and most likely to next weekend's season-ending series against the Yanks at Fenway. It will surely be someone's season ending series. Neither team can count on the streaking Indians losing and surrendering the Wild Card spot. Even if the Indians pull ahead of Chicago to win the division, the White Sox would still likely end up as the Wild Card winner.

The Sox can't control whether or not the Yankees win or lose, but they can control their own destiny. All they can do is win - they have to win. The clubs are dead even with seven days, and seven games, to go. The best team will win the division, as well as a berth into the October hunt for a World Series title. It's winning time. Go Sox, go!

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

LET'S HEAR IT FOR JOHNNY O

Consider the contributions of John Olerud this season and what an outstanding addition he's been for the Sox. After missing almost the first two months of the season, Olerud came on strong and has maintained a steady presence in both the field and the batting order, getting clutch hits when his team needed him to. And he didn't even cost them a player or cash considerations. Just a reasonable contract.

In 80 games and 157 at bats, Johnny O has knocked in 34 runs while banging 7 homers. For comparisons sake, Kevin Millar has played in 130 games and had 438 at bats, producing 50 RBI and 9 homers. The output seems fairly similar yet it isn't even close because Olerud has produced his numbers with 64% fewer at bats. Incredible. And when it comes to hitting, Olerud still comes out ahead. While Millar has 120 hits and sports and a .274 average , Olerud has 48 hits and a .306 average. Olerud has 40% fewer hits in 64% fewer at bats. Again, very impressive.

Millar turned 34 today, and Olerud is 37 and will remain that age through next season. Whereas Millar has likely played his final season in Boston, let's hope that Olerud is willing to come back as a backup first baseman, and that the Sox make him an offer to do so. He is an experienced veteran who remains productive and still plays excellent defense.

If this were a contest of personalities, well then Millar would win hands down. He's kept things loose in the clubhouse and the dugout during his time in Boston, and has remained a very popular figure among his teammates. And until this season, he'd always been quite poplar with the fans as well. But for some reason, Millar has slumped miserably this year, and the Sox have John Olerud to thank for bailing him, and the rest of the team, out during a time of need with few other options.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

IT'S HOMER TIME!

While some key Red Sox bats (Varitek, Nixon, Renteria, Mueller) have gone cold at a most inopportune time - a September playoff hunt - David Ortiz has been Red Hot and Manny Ramirez, after a mild homerless slump, appears to have regained form as well.

Ramirez homered in the seventh inning last night, giving him 40 on the season. It was the fifth season in his career that he's hit 40 or more home runs, and he joined Carl Yastrzemski as the only Red Sox players to hit 40 or more in three different seasons.

Ramirez and Ortiz have combined for some remarkable offensive production this year. Ramirez's first-inning RBI single was the 270th RBI by the pair, surpassing their 2004 total. Ramirez later drove in two more with his 40th homer of the season, bringing their combined season total to 272, the fourth most by Sox teammates. The record is an unfathomable 318, set by Ted Williams and Vern Stephens in 1949.

Ortiz, who leads the AL with 46 home runs and the Majors with 140 RBIs, may win both AL crowns and will probably outpace his teammate, Ramirez (40 and 132). And Big Papi says he's been rubbing it in.

''I always give him some trash about it," Ortiz said. ''Manny says, 'Here I am, better hurry.' I say, 'You better hurry.' "

Ortiz's 46 homers have tied him with Jim Rice for the second highest single-season home run total in Red Sox history, narrowly trailing a Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx who holds the club record with 50. In the season's final week, Ortiz is vying to become only the second player in Sox history to belt 50 homers in a season. As it stands, Ortiz is already the most prolific single-season left-handed hitter in Sox history, surpassing the likes of 1967 MVP Carl Yastrzemski and Mo Vaughn (1996).

Big Papi's 87 homers over the span of the last two season are a club record, eclipsing the consecutive season mark previously set by Foxx in '37-'38. And Ortiz isn't simply the beneficiary of Fenway's "short porch" in right field either. His 27 road homers so far this year broke Ted Williams' team mark of 25, set back in 1957.

The dynamic duo of Ortiz and Ramirez have carried the Sox offense all season long, and for the team to advance into the playoffs it appears that they'll have to continue doing so. Here's wishing them well; good luck boys!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A STAR IS BORN

The starting pitching has been decent most of the year, and lately it's been excellent. Bronson Arroyo had a perfect game going through five innings last night, and when he left after seven had given up only three hits and one run, on his way to improving to 13-9. That's a good sign as the Sox enter the stretch run for a chance to defend their World Series title.

The concern all year long, however, has been the bullpen pitching. Alan Embree, John Halama, and Blaine Neal were all unceremoniously released, and Matt Mantia was lost for the season due to injury. Curt Schilling returned to the rotation, Keith Foulke has remained ineffective and lacks confidence, so it's been left primarily to Mike Timlin, Mike Meyers, and Chad Bradford to hold down the fort. But somewhere along the way came a nice surprise. A 24-year-old rookie pitcher.

Jonathan Papelbon threw another scoreless inning on Saturday, and has yet to allow a run in five appearances this month. Pitching the eighth, Papelbon recorded two outs before yielding a double to Jason Kendall, who advanced to third when Edgar Renteria made yet another error (his 28th) while attempting to field a relay from Trot Nixon. The big righty then stiffened his resolve, getting Mark Kotsay to fly to Manny Ramirez to end the inning.

Earlier this week, Papelbon earned his first major league victory by pitching three hitless innings of an 11 inning affair against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

"He came through our Minor League system and kind of flew through it," said manager Terry Francona. "Everybody raved about his makeup, his willingness to compete and his maturity. I think we were prepared for him to be [pitching this well] at some point."

But this soon? The youngster has made 11 appearances this season, including three starts, and now has an impressive 2.67 ERA. In 27 innings, Papelbon has given up just 27 hits while striking out 25 opposing batters. Pitching that well in the heat of a pennant race is incredible for a guy who started the season in A ball. Yet, Papelbon has been unflappable in pressure situations. ''We're asking a lot of him," said Francona. ''I see no reason not to."

His ability to rise to the occasion has earned the respect of his teammates. That's not easy on a veteran team that is coming off a World Series Championship.

''He comes in consistently throwing the ball hard and where he wants to," said Arroyo. ''I'm amazed each time he goes out there."

And Papelbon's consistency has softened the loss of last year's bullpen hero Foulke. Papaelbon has now usurped Foulke, and everyone else, as the set-up man, or bridge, to Timlin.

"Papelbon is . . . realizing he's going to be in there in the seventh, eighth innings in crucial times. I feel that has definitely helped us out late in ballgames", added Arroyo.

Saturday's win put the Red Sox a season-high 26 games over .500 for a second time this season. Now at 50-23, the team has baseball's best home record for a .685 winning percentage. The Sox have won at least 50 home games for the 13th time in club history and the third season in a row. Previously, only the 1986-88 Red Sox had achieved that distinction.

As Dorothy once so famously said, there's no place like home.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

BIG PAPI'S BIG MILESTONES

With his two run blast in the eighth, David Ortiz established not only a single-season personal best for himself, but also a a new single-season best for designated hitters. Ortiz's 42nd homer of the year was his 38th as a DH, eclipsing the mark previously set by Edgar Martinez in 2000.

Papi's 83 homers over the last two seasons are just three behind Jimmy Foxx's club record set back in '37-'38. And his eight multi-homerun games this year are just two behind another Foxx owned club record.

Ortiz continues to make a strong case for himself as the AL MVP. Where would the Sox be without him?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

HE DON'T PRACTICE, RENTERIA

I've been saying it since the spring, and I'll say it again. Edgar Renteria is grossly overpaid. ER had two more errors on Tuesday night, pushing his season total to an embarrassing, and major league leading, 27. That's just two short of his career high, and you heard it here first - he's a lock for a new personal worst. That's not the kind of career high the club was hoping for when they signed him last winter. A career high in batting, or home runs, or RBI would have been nice, but that would have been overly optimistic. The line so far; .279, 7 HR, 61 RBI.

Renteria won't end up with 200 hits and he may not even score 100 runs on the highest run producing team in baseball. Pretty lame as far as I'm concerned. And it's certainly not worth $10 million per season. With those kind of numbers, Manny Ramirez looks like a flat out steal. Renteria's contract will make Johnny D. worth about $15 mil per season when those negotiations conclude. I hope it doesn't turn out to be too rich for the Sox.

I'm sure Edgar tries hard, and he's not a complainer or a cancer in the clubhouse. But really - how can he, or anyone else, justify that contract? They can't - no one reasonably can. The Sox overpaid, and unless they can unload ER's bloated contract, they're into him for another $30 mil over the next three seasons. Ouch.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

WAKEFIELD OUT-DUELED IN BRILLIANT EFFORT

Tim Wakefield couldn't catch a break on Sunday. Call it bum luck. Though it would have seemed improbable at the start, on a day in which he may have pitched the finest game of his career, he ended up losing a heartbreaking 1-0 contest.

Wakefield made only one mistake, giving up a homer to the resurgent Jason Giambi that just stayed fair and hooked around the right field foul pole at Yankee Stadium. The run came in the first, and was the only one that Wakefield would allow all afternoon. Unfortunately, it was one run too many. It was one more than Randy Johnson allowed during their duel. Johnson, who has struggled in his first season in New York, perhaps under the intense pressure and media scrutiny, rose to the occasion and pitched a gem of his own.

Wakefield gave up just three hits, struck out a career-high 12 batters, and went the distance in a complete game effort. Meanwhile, Johnson was able fan eight Boston batters, while surrendering just one hit. It was vintage Unit. He provided just the type of performance that we've come to expect from him in his Hall of Fame-type career. It was just Wakefield's luck. How often does a guy strike out 12 and give up three hits in a complete game, and yet be overshadowed by his counterpart? Not often.

Wakefield's knuckle ball moved brilliantly, baffling Yankee hitters and leaving them commiserating in dismay in the dugout. Doug Mirabelli even said that he had a tough time catching the knuckler today. Yet Wakefield issued only one walk in his commanding performance.

Unfortunately for Wakefield, and the Sox, he came up against a legend - and a determined one at that. Johnson turned 42 on Saturday, but pitched like he was 32 and in his prime on Sunday.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW

Over the course of the past three seasons the two clubs have seemed so evenly matched. And it's for good reason. Coming into Saturday's contest , the Sox and Yanks were 33-33 in 66 games since the start of the 2003 season, including the postseason. During that stretch, the Red Sox hit .282 against New York, while Yankee batters hit .256 against Boston pitchers. The Red Sox also had the edge in homers (101-78), runs (376-339) and slugging percentage (.471-.421).

But yesterday's contest may be an indication that the two clubs are heading in opposite directions. The Yankee pitching looked meek while Curt Schilling had his best outing of the year, giving the Red Sox hope that he's found his old form just in time for the playoffs. Schilling allowed just five hits in eight solid innings, leading the Sox to a 9-2 victory over their arch-rivals. Making just his seventh start this season, the big righty struck out six, walked two, and notched his first victory since returning to the rotation.

At this point in the season, many pitchers are fading and losing steam, the rigors of pitching into September having taken their toll. For example, Yankee starter Mike Mussina is struggling with a tendon problem in his pitching elbow and could be lost for the season. There probably couldn't be a worse time for a pitcher to go on the DL, and Mussina may be headed there. But if a pitcher ever has to go on the disabled list, Schilling's trip couldn't possibly have come at a better time. He's had almost the entire season to recuperate. After having spent so much of the year on the DL, and then pitching limited innings in a relief role, Schilling seems fresh and could be peaking at just the right time. Nearing the season's final weeks, Schilling has pitched just 67 1/3 innings.

He claims that he feels fine physically, and that it's just been a matter of working out the kinks and building his confidence. Yesterday's effort may have done the trick. For the first time this season, Schilling's fastball hit 96. Hopefully he's finally built up his shoulder and arm strength, and pitched himself back into top form.

There's nothing like a Yankee game to bring out the best in the Sox big-game pitcher. His previous effort against them had been much less encouraging, but that seems like a long time ago, and Schilling was a shadow of his former self at the time. Perhaps yesterday Schilling and the Sox finally saw the return of the shadow. That would be a good omen for the Sox and a bad one for the Yanks. They'll likely have to face Schilling once more on the season's final weekend and possibly again in the playoffs as well - if they're lucky. Now imagine that; the Yankees considering themselves lucky for the privilege of facing Schilling in the playoffs. Hard to believe.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A CALL TO ARMS

In his losing bid Thursday night, Matt Clement allowed only three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings. Though he's had some control issues in the past, Clement walked just two, hit one batter and struck out one. The righty had been on a bit of a hot streak coming into the contest, having won three straight decisions. But this was one of the rare occasions when Sox batters actually let the pitching down, instead of vice versa. The Sox were shut out for only the fourth time this year.

The much maligned Red Sox pitching staff now has four of the 22 AL pitchers with 12 or more wins. Matt Clement is 13-4, Bronson Arroyo is 12-9, David Wells is 12-6, and Tim Wakefield is 15-10. Though they have no true ace this year, all four of them could potentially end up with 15 wins apiece.

Over the course of five games, the Sox got eight innings each out of Clement and Arroyo and two complete games from Wells and Wakefield. In that stretch they gave up only 12 earned runs and provided their bullpen with some much needed rest. Those efforts helped the Sox end their season long homestand at 10-4. Those are just the types of outings the club will need down the stretch and into October if they are to defend their World Series title.

This weekend's series in New York will provide some insight into how the two teams presently match up in a playoff type atmosphere, and could be a preview of yet another possible October showdown. The adrenaline will be flowing on both sides in the three game series, as each team gets up for the other like almost no other opponent. Wells, Curt Schilling, and Wakefield are set to take the mound for the Sox in the hope of beginning yet another win streak. If they prove successful and take the series, it will not only place more distance between them and the Yankees in the standings, but will also define both teams in the season's final month.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.