Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, July 31, 2006

A LOST OPPORTUNITY?

Despite all the hoopla of the last couple of weeks, the trade deadline came and went in a rather anti-climactic way for the Red Sox.

So many names had been mentioned as possibly coming (Lidge, Schmidt, Jones, Soriano, Lugo) and possibly going (Lowell, Loretta, Crisp, Pena, Nixon), and yet with the exception of former Ranger reliever Bryan Corey, the Red Sox roster looks the same today as it did yesterday. Red Sox Nation certainly wasn't expecting Corey -- they were expecting much more.

But the Sox, perhaps rightfully so, kept their eye on the future and refused to part with the foursome of young arms that every potential trade partner wanted -- Papelbon, Lester, Hansen, and Delcarmen. The Sox took the position that these guys are no longer prospects. They are the future, and the future is now.

Clearly, Papelbon is untouchable. But Jon Lester has also made himself invaluable this year with consistent starts that have resulted in a 5-1 record, and a 3.49 ERA. Outside of Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, Lester is the one sure thing in the Sox rotation at this point. And that's why management may regret not trading for another veteran starter before the deadline passed. The Royals' Mark Redman, for example, would have been a perfect fit in the five spot.

The Sox don't necessarily need a frontline starting pitcher, or another superstar slugger like Andruw Jones or Alfonso Soriano, to make it back to the playoffs. They need consistent pitching from a staff that has been anything but this year. A mid-level veteran would have served their needs just fine.

It's hard to tell how much David Wells has left in the tank. To be fair, considering that this was only his third start of the year, tonight's outing was like another spring training game for him. Wells spent more than 130 days on the DL this season, in three separate stints, and he's had no time to find his rhythm or his groove. And it showed tonight. The large lefty struggled in his no-decision, giving up eight runs and eight hits over just 4 2/3 innings. As it was, Wells entered the game 0-1 with a bloated 8.64 ERA, and his poor performance tonight will hardly improve on that, or earn anyone's confidence.

So what do the Sox find themselves left with after three consistent starters and a 43-year-old question mark? More questions.

Kyle Snyder has been a bit of an enigma this year. Cut loose by the woeful Royals, for whom he'd gone 2-9 over the last three seasons, the 6'8" righty has somewhat pulled it together since coming to the Red Sox. Snyder came on in relief of Wells tonight and pitched brilliantly, firing 4 1/3 innings of one-hit baseball in which he struck out six. He's now 3-2 with the Sox, with a 4.68 ERA, and has struck out 22 batters in 25 innings.

But the question is, which Kyle Snyder will continue to show up down the stretch? If it's the new and improved Kyle Snyder, the Sox are in luck. Having that pitcher in the number four spot would be a blessing. But he's got to prove he pitch more than just five innings at a time.

So who will be the number five starter? That's the million dollar question.

Tim Wakefield is on the DL with a stress fracture to his ribs. Considering how vital a pitcher's ribs are to his delivery, and just how much stress that delivery puts on the ribs, it's anybody's guess how long he'll be out and how fully he'll recover before returning. Wakefield turns 40 on Wednesday, and 40-year-olds aren't the fastest healers.

That leaves the Sox with Matt Clement, who's on the 60-day DL and who's pitched well for exactly one half season since arriving in Boston, as well as two rookies -- David Pauley and Kason Gabbard. Be prepared for the sobering, yet likely, reality that the Sox starting five will be filled out by two rookies down the stretch. I know, a frightening possibility indeed.

Pauley has made three starts, is 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA, and looks quite unprepared for the Bigs right now. In those three starts, Pauley lasted a total of 16 innings and surrendered a total of 31 hits. Obviously, he'd be well served pitching at least another year at the Triple A level before the Sox even consider promoting him.

Gabbard gave a decent account of himself in his lone appearance this season against Seattle. Going 5 1/3 innings, Gabbard gave up eight hits and three runs (two earned), with three Ks and two walks. Hardly overwhelming stuff, but it may warrant another outing. The Sox may not have another option.

And that's the tough part about this trade deadline passing without an addition to the pitching staff. There are so many questions, and so few good answers right now. The Yankees got Corey Liddle and Bobby Abreu for low-level prospects, and you have to wonder if the Sox couldn't have done the same in obtaining a proven veteran pitcher. And that's all they really needed -- no superstar, no ace -- just a quality arm that could fill the four or five spot down the stretch.

Let's just hope the Sox don't look back on this day as a lost opportunity.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Friday, July 28, 2006

FIRST BASEMAN MAY BE PART OF SOX PLANS

At 6'5" and 250 pounds, young Colorado first baseman Ryan Shealy is huge.

But Shealy hasn't had much time to impress in the big leagues. Last year he played in only 36 games, but got 30 hits in just 91 at bats for a .330 average. Though he hit just two home runs, the Red Sox think he has genuine power potential.

So far this season, Shealy has appeared in just five games for the Rockies, notching two hits - both doubles.

But here's why the Sox see so much upside; last year, in his first season above Double-A, Shealy hit .329 (165-for-502) with 28 home runs and 104 RBI in 144 games in the Colorado farm system. Shealy also proved himself to be sure-handed at first, committing no errors in 163 chances.

The right-handed slugger lead his Triple A team in home runs, RBI, doubles (30), and runs (85), tied for club lead in walks (41), and also sported an eye-popping .601 slugging percentage. Those gaudy numbers earned him Triple A All Star honors.

All things considered, it's no wonder the 26-year-old has garnered the interest of not only the Red Sox, but also Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore, Toronto and Anaheim, as well.

Why would the Rockies be willing to part with a player of such potential? One simple reason; Todd Helton.

Where Shealy fits into the equation for the Sox this season is uncertain. He could be a back up to first baseman Kevin Youkilis, providing the occasional break. Or, he could allow Youkilis to shift to third, giving Mike Lowell a well deserved rest from time to time.

But the Sox are probably thinking more long term with Shealy, despite the fact that he turns 27 next month. Mike Lowell has only one more year on his current $9 million per year contract, and moving Youkilis back to his natural third base position may be part of the team's agenda for 2008.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

THE DYNAMIC DUO

Sox slugger Manny Ramirez now has 28 homers this year, and with just four more he'll pass Mo Vaughn (230) and take sole possession of fifth place on the Sox all time list. And in that place he'll likely remain for good, behind Dwight Evans (379), Jim Rice (382), Carl Yastrzemski (452) and the immortal Ted Williams (521). Once he passes Vaughn -- in the next week or so -- Manny would have to hit another 150 homers just to pass Evans. Since he only has two more years on his contract -- not including the two option years -- he'll likely be gone from the Sox before he has a chance to advance any further.

Coming into Tuesday night's game, David Ortiz led the majors with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs in his 97 games. The previous club record for most home runs through 100 games was the 32 hit by Jimmie Foxx in 1938. That year Foxx finished the season with a club-record 50 homers. Ortiz could very well break that 68-year-old mark this season.

And before the year is out, Ortiz could find himself in 11th place on the club's all-time home run list. Big Papi currently has 153 career homers with the Sox -- in only four seasons -- and with just one more will tie George "The Boomer" Scott for 14th. After that, it will be a quick ascension into a 12th place tie with Carlton Fisk and Tony Conigliaro (162). And if Ortiz keeps up this torrid pace, it's not inconceivable that he could catch Jackie Jensen (170) for 11th place by year's end. That would require 17 more homers before the season concludes, giving him 51, which would be a new Sox record.

For Red Sox Nation, watching these two prolific sluggers has been a joy and something truly special. The pair have homered in the same game 11 times this season, and 41 times in their four years together. And before this year's All-Star break, they had combined for 55 home runs -- the most ever by a Red Sox tandem.

A duo like this doesn't come along very often. Over the course of the past four seasons, Ramirez and Ortiz lead every pair of Major League teammates in home runs and RBI. In that time, the pair have combined for 306 home runs and 940 RBI. Absolutely remarkable by any standards.

At this point, they've given us reason to expect greatness. In 2004, Ortiz and Ramírez became the first pair of American League teammates to hit 40 home runs, have 100 RBI, and bat .300 since the Yankees Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1931. That year, they also became the the first teammates in major league history to each have 40 homers and 40 doubles in the same season.

Those of us who are witnessing their offensive fireworks will never forget them and what they've accomplished. We will speak of these amazing feats long after Manny and Papi are gone. We will tell our children, our grandchildren, and anyone else who will listen, about what we witnessed.

Watching them perform is a true joy, and we should feel grateful for the spectacular displays that they have provided us, and will continue to provide us, on an almost nightly basis.

Long may they reign.


Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

WHICH TREND WILL PREVAIL?

By almost all accounts, the Red Sox are having a great year. After tonight's win in Oakland, the team has a 60-38 record -- their best since 1979.

But going into the weekend series against the Mariners -- in which the Sox dropped two out of three -- the Red Sox had a surprisingly lackluster record against quality competition. And the M's wouldn't necessarily be considered quality competition -- they entered the weekend at 44-51, or seven games below .500. Perhaps that should be a matter of concern.

Consider the following:

Against teams over .500, the Sox they were just 18-24 -- a .429 winning percentage. How can that be be, when they have the second best record in baseball?

It's simple; they've beaten up on weak teams. Thank goodness for inter-league play.

Against the National League and the woeful Orioles, the Sox were 24-3, an .889 winning percentage. But against everyone else, the Sox were just 31-33, a mere .485 winning percentage. Yes, it's hard to believe, but it's true.

And the Yankees? Well they were 24-20 against .500 plus teams, a .545 winning percentage. And of course, they've done it without Sheffield and Matsui, two potent, All Star caliber bats.

The Sox have the luxury of playing the majority of their remaining games (36 of 64) at Fenway, where they are 32-13, or .711 -- the second best home winning percentage, after Toronto. As a result, they may be able to outperform their recent history.

They'll need to, because a losing record against winning teams will simply result in another first round bounce. If they outlast the Yankees and win the division, the Sox could get home field advantage if they draw the AL West winner -- assuming they maintain a better record. The winner of the AL Central -- the Tigers or White Sox -- will likely end up with the best record in baseball (and homefield advantage) and the runner up appears poised to win the Wild Card. The division rivals will square off 10 more times this season, which will help determine the winer. So far this year, the division leading Tigers are just 3-6 against the White Sox.

The Red Sox will also play 37 of their remaining 64 games against teams presently over .500. According to current trends, that does not bode well.

The big question, as we enter the season's final two months, is which trend will prevail for the Red Sox? Their winning ways at Fenway, or their losing record against the winning teams they'll largely have to face down the stretch?

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

WHAT'S IN A NAME? THE ORIGIN OF "THE RED SOX"

Ever wonder how, and when, the Red Sox got their name?

The name originally belonged to the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, a charter member of the first league, the National Association of Baseball Players.

Due to slumping attendance in Cincinnati, the team folded and then re-formed in Boston in 1871, electing to keep their nickname. The National League was then formed in 1876 and the Boston Red Stockings became a charter member.

At the time, nicknames were not as important as they are today and teams went by many different names. Over the years, the Red Stockings also came to be known as the "Red Caps", the "Beaneaters", the "Doves" and the "Pilgrims". In 1912, this Boston team changed its official nickname to the "Braves." The team eventually moved to Milwaukee in 1953, before relocating to Atlanta in 1966.

The present day Boston Red Sox began their inaugural season in 1901.

That year, Ban Johnson formed the American League to compete with the National League and the new Boston club was formed.

Until the 1908 season, the team wore dark blue stockings and did not have an official nickname. They were simply known as "the Bostons" or "the Boston Baseball club." Since Boston was then a two-team city, some newspaper writers referred to them as the Boston "Americans", as in "American Leaguers". During 1901-1907, their home and road jerseys simply read "Boston", except for 1902 when they sported the large letters "B" and "A", denoting "Boston" and "American."

In 1903, the team, then known as the Boston Americans, defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the first World Series.

A number of sources claim that the team had a variety of nicknames in those early years, including the Boston "Pilgrims", the "Puritans", the "Plymouth Rocks" and the "Somersets" (for their owner, Charles Somers). Despite the claims, the present day organization doesn't recognize all of these names.

However, the name "Americans" is well documented. A Washington Post writer is said to have coined the name "Pilgrims" in 1906 as an antidote to the rather common "Americans." By 1907, this name was occasionally used in Boston newspapers. However, Boston's National League team was also known as the Pilgrims from 1909-1911.

The name Red Socks was chosen by new owner John I. Taylor after the 1907 season.

On December 18, 1907, Taylor announced that, beginning with the 1908 season, the team would start wearing white uniforms with bright red stockings for home games and, as a result, would be officially known as the Red Socks, the nickname that has identified them ever since.

Because large news type prevented such headlines as "Stockings Win!" from fitting on a page, the nickname "Sox" was adopted by the Boston newspapers, who wanted a more headline-friendly form of "Stockings."

And there you have it, a brief history of the name "Boston Red Sox".

PAPELBON SAVES

Bulldog closer Jonathan Papelbon converted his 27th save in 30 chances last night against the Royals. In the process, he continued to rewrite the Red Sox record book, and extended the team rookie record he already holds.

Pitching the final frame, Papelbon retired all three batters he faced to secure yet another victory for the Sox. Papelbon's 27th save tied him with Jeff Reardon (1992) and Ellis Kinder (1953) for 8th place on the Sox' single-season saves list.

The rookie phenom became the first Sox rookie pitcher to be named to the All Star team since Don Schwall in 1961. Schwall also went on to win the Rookie of the Year award that season. Could Papelbon follow suit? It's a good bet.

As promised, I will continue to update Papelbon's performances and chart his progress as he moves up the list. He has a genuine shot at 50 saves this year, which would be the top performance by any Sox closer in team history. With each successive outing, Papelbon continues to make his case for Rookie of the Year. As it stands, the Louisiana native's 20 successful save opportunities to start this season are an MLB rookie record.

Here's a look at the Red Sox all-time single-season saves leaders:

1. Tom Gordon - 46 saves in 1998

2. Derek Lowe - 42 saves in 2000

T- 3.Ugueth Urbina - 40 saves in 2002
Jeff Reardon - 40 saves 1991

T- 4. Jeff Russell - 33 saves in 1993
Bob Stanley - 33 saves 1n 1983

5. Keith Foulke - 32 saves in 2004

T- 6. Heathcliff Slocumb - 31 saves in 1996
Bill Campbell - 31 saves in 1977

T- 7. Lee Smith - 29 saves in 1988
Dick Radatz - 29 saves in 1964

T- 8. Jonathan Papelbon - 27 saves in 2006
Jeff Reardon - 27 saves in 1992
Ellis Kinder - 27 saves in 1953

T- 9. Lee Smith - 25 saves in 1989
Dick Radatz - 25 saves in 1963

Monday, July 10, 2006

FIRST HALF SUMMARY, SECOND HALF OUTLOOK

After playing 86 games, the Red Sox are 53-33 at the All Star break; an impressive first half indeed. That means 76 games remain in the season's second half.

If the Red Sox suddenly went cold, perhaps suffering another injury in their starting rotation, and played just .500 ball the rest of the way, they'd still finish the year with 91 wins. In past years, that likely would have earned a Wild Card berth.

Not this year. With the Tigers (59-29) and the White Sox (57-31) playing lights out ball in the AL Central, it would require a catastrophic meltdown of historic proportions for any other team to win the Wild Card. That means the Red Sox will have to maintain their torrid pace, and win the AL East for the first time since 1995, to make it back to the post season again.

What's disturbing is that the Yankees, despite a rash of injuries, have hung tough in second place and remain just 3 games back in the standings. And the Blue Jays, minus their big offseason free agent acquisition A.J. Burnett for most of the first half, remain within striking distance at just five games out.

Without a doubt, the second half will be both interesting and exciting.

Playoff contenders in both leagues will be fishing in the same small pool of worthwhile trade bait, and most will be looking for pitching -- as always. Low supply, coupled with high demand, will equal high prices.

While it's difficult to imagine the Red Sox, a team of savvy veterans and talented youngsters, falling apart in the second half, they will be hard pressed to continue winning at a .616 clip. But the heat will be on, and at this point waiting for a Yankees collapse is a fool's game. After all, they've won nine of the last ten AL East titles.

The Red Sox will have their work cut out for them, but at this point they have to be considered the favorite in the East.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

ABREU TO SOX? DON'T BET ON IT

A current media report claims that the Yankees aren't the only team with an interest in Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu.

According to today's New York Post, "The Red Sox have made multiple inquiries to the Phillies about Abreu's availability even though they have Trot Nixon in right."

This is certainly an interesting claim, but one with questionable veracity. Why would the Sox, given Nixon's outstanding play this season (.322 AVG., .427 OBP), and the inexpensive Wily Mo Pena waiting in the wings, make a move for the talented, but expensive, Abreu?

Like Nixon, Abreu is 32, and has seen his home run production suddenly diminish this season. While Nixon used to be capable of hitting 25 homers annually (but not since 2003), this year he's dropped to just six. Likewise, Abreu has hit only 8 homers so far this year, to go along with his 59 RBI. A career .302 hitter, Abreu is batting .286 this season with a .442 OBP. Over the last seven seasons, Abreu has averaged 24 homers and 96 RBI. So while his home runs are down, his RBI are actually up.

But for that production, the Phillies are paying him $13.6 million this season. The contract is guaranteed next season at an eye popping $15 million, with a club option for 2008 at $16 million. Abreu also has a complete no trade clause, but probably wouldn't balk at coming to a contender like the Red Sox.

Nixon, who becomes a free agent at season's end, will make $6.5 million this year. Even if he were to seek a raise next season, his salary could double and still remain below Abreu's.

That's not not likely to happen, but it only brings into question the wisdom of such a move, and hardly lends credibility to the Post report.

When healthy, Nixon is a very similar player to Abreu. Over the same seven year span, including the last two seasons when he spent time on the DL, Nixon has averaged 18 homers and 67 RBI. A lifetime .282 hitter, Nixon also has a respectable .371 OBP. But Nixon's numbers are a bit misleading and should viewed with the consideration that in his first two regular seasons with the Sox ('99, '00), he never played in more than 124 games. But over the next three seasons, when his playing time increased, Nixon showed his true colors. Over that span, 2001-2003, Nixon averaged 26 homers, 90 RBI and 87 runs. Then injuries ruined his 2004 season, and impacted 2005 as well.

So if the Red Sox want to get younger, or cheaper, in right field next year, Abreu is not the solution. He may provide slightly more offense than Nixon, but it will come at a whopping price. That doesn't add up.

If the Sox choose not to resign Nixon, Wily Mo pena will most likely be the reason. The 24-year-old Pena will make $1.25 million this season, and will only be eligible for arbitration the next two years. During his last two seasons with the Reds, the power-hitting Pena averaged 23 homers and 59 RBI while never playing in more than 110 games.

Lastly, why would the Sox mess with the great team chemistry that has resulted in their best start in twenty years, and one the five best in team history. The Sox had won 53 games going into today's contest, and sport a .624 winning percentage. The general consensus is that the only thing the team needs is an additional pitcher, not an everyday player. Their lineup has no holes, and they certainly don't need a right fielder at this time.

All things taken into consideration, the Abreu to Boston rumors would seem to have little merit.


Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

THE ROOKIE AND THE VET

So far, Jon Lester has proven to be everything, and more than, he was said to be.

The unflappable Lester became the first Red Sox rookie starter to win his first four decisions since Aaron Sele began the season 6-0 in 1993, helping the Red Sox beat the defending World Series Champion White Sox 7-2, Friday night in Chicago.

But as become customary in his short tenure with the Sox, Lester had some rocky moments. After walking two and throwing a wild pitch in the first, Lester escaped further trouble by merely yielding a sacrifice fly to Jermaine Dye.

The young lefty also managed to work out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the third by only allowing another sacrifice fly to Dye, before getting Joe Crede to roll into an inning-ending double play.

With a cool-as-can-be attitude, Lester seems to flirt with, even court, danger without a hint of fear.

Said manager Terry Francona, "He's shown a very good amount of poise at a young age. You have to have stuff with it or it doesn't matter. It's a nice combination. He keeps his composure, he keeps his wits about him. He executes pitches."

With his six hit, two run performance over six innings, Lester dropped his ERA to an impressive 3.06, helping the Sox win the last five games he's pitched. Oh, and those six hits -- they were all singles.

But the Sox didn't win on pitching alone.

Slugger David Ortiz continued his dominance with his league-leading 30th homer in the first inning. With his blast, Ortiz became the 29th player in history to have 30 by the break, and the first since Barry Bonds in 2003.

But that wasn't the only reason Ortiz's two-run shot had historic significance. Big Papi became the first Red Sox player in history to have 30 dingers before the All-Star break. The legendary Carl Yastrzemski had previously held the team record with 29 homers at the break in 1969. However, the break came late that season, July 23, and the Sox already had played 96 games, 12 more than the Sox had played this year. After cooling off a bit in the second half, Yaz finished the season with 40 homers. That may have been, in part, due to pitchers making their adjustments and pitching more carefully to him. Will the same thing happen to Ortiz? We'll have to wait and see, but he has the distinct advantage of hitting in front of Manny Ramirez, another future Hall of Famer.

Entering today, Papi's totals of 30 homers and 84 RBIs had him on pace to hit 58 longbballs and drive in 163 runs.

With numbers like that, and a team that appears poised to make the playoffs yet again, the burly Dominican could very well be on his way to his first, and well deserved, MVP.

What Ortiz is doing this year has hardly been a surprise, as we've all become accustomed to his heroics over the course of his 3 1/2 years in Boston.

What has been a surprise, however, has been the contribution of the 22-year-old lefty from Tacoma, Washington.

Lester's surprising maturity and confidence have been a godsend to a beleaguered Sox rotation that currently has two starters on the DL. And if they are going to continue on their path of dominance, hopefully leading to a return World Series Championship, they'll have to count on more of Lester's uncanny nerve and veteran-like poise to get there.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

PAPELBON SECURES 9TH

Outstanding rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon continues to rewrite the Red Sox record book.

Pitching the ninth against the Devil Rays tonight, Jonathan Papelbon secured his 26th save of the season, building upon the team rookie record he already holds. Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 frame to secure another victory for the Sox.

The rookie phenom has converted an impressive 26 of 28 save opportunities this season, and became the first Sox rookie pitcher to be named to the All Star team since Don Schwall in 1961. Schwall also went on to win the Rookie of the Year award that season. Could Papelbon follow suit? I'd bet on it.

Papelbon is now in sole possession of ninth place on the Red Sox single-season saves list.

Next up, with 27 saves each, are Jeff Reardon (1992) and Ellis Kinder (1953), in 8th place on the list.

As promised, I will continue to update Papelbon's performances and chart his progress as he moves up the list. He has a genuine shot at 50 saves this year, which would be the top performance by any Sox closer in team history. With each successive outing, Papelbon continues to make his case for Rookie of the Year. As it stands, the Louisiana native's 20 successful save opportunities to start this season are an MLB rookie record.

Here's a look at the Red Sox all-time single-season saves leaders:

1. Tom Gordon - 46 saves in 1998

2. Derek Lowe - 42 saves in 2000

T- 3.Ugueth Urbina - 40 saves in 2002
Jeff Reardon - 40 saves 1991

T- 4. Jeff Russell - 33 saves in 1993
Bob Stanley - 33 saves 1n 1983

5. Keith Foulke - 32 saves in 2004

T- 6. Heathcliff Slocumb - 31 saves in 1996
Bill Campbell - 31 saves in 1977

T- 7. Lee Smith - 29 saves in 1988
Dick Radatz - 29 saves in 1964

T- 8. Jeff Reardon - 27 saves in 1992
Ellis Kinder - 27 saves in 1953

9. Jonathan Papelbon - 26 saves in 2006

T- 10. Lee Smith - 25 saves in 1989
Dick Radatz - 25 saves in 1963

A FAILED EXPERIMENT

The fifth starter on most Major League teams isn't very effective. That's a given. But you'd like your fifth starter to at least provide you with a chance to win. After all, the other four starters aren't going to win every time out, so you can't just accept defeat every fifth day knowing that your bottom of the rotation pitcher will unquestionably get smoked.

With that in mind, the Jason Johnson experiment needs to come to an abrupt, and merciful, ending. The Indians knew what the were shedding when they released him last month.

For the second time in a row, Johnson could only get through a mere four innings before being yanked. But before his inglorious exit, the damage had been done. Watching Johnson give up more hits (7) and runs (5) than innings pitched was like watching a rerun of Ground Hog Day. Haven't we seen this film before, and don't we know how it ends? No command, no control (four walks), no win. He even suffered the ignominy of having Carl Crawford steal home on him. It was the speedy outfielder's second steal of the inning. Ugly.

After allowing 11 base runners through just three innings, Johnson reminded everyone why he's lost more than three times as many games as he's won in the first half of this season. The alleged sinker baller, whose ball never sinks, now has an 0-2 record since joining the Sox -- to along with a ghastly 10.13 ERA. In his last 12 outings, Johnson is just 1-10. And overall this season, the troubled righty is 3-10 with a 6.35 ERA.

Someone has got to step up and fill the gaping hole that is the number five spot in the Sox rotation. It certainly won't be Matt Clement -- at least not any time soon.

Clement was shut down after just 17 pitches in a Gulf Coast League game in Fort Myers on Tuesday. While warming up for the second inning, the recovering Clement felt soreness in his right biceps, which is exactly what put him on the disabled list in the first place. It's not likely that anyone feels compelled to have him back in the rotation too soon anyway; so far this season, he's 5-5 with a 6.61 ERA.

Kyle Snyder, the 28-year-old giant, would certainly be an upgrade over the inept Johnson right now, and he comes at essentially no cost.

In his sole outing with the Red Sox last month, Snyder went five innings and gave up three runs. And in two starts with Pawtucket since then, he's thrown 13.1 innings, giving up three runs and 16 hits. Yes, the hit total is high at more than one per inning, but the runners aren't scoring. And with the Sox stellar defense, there's reason to believe that trend would continue.

Right now, the free agent market is thin and no one wants to see the Sox part with any of the young talent in their system -- short of acquiring Dontrelle Willis. And don't count on that happening. You can go ahead and exhale.

Craig Hansen looked dominating last night, striking out the side in the bottom of the eighth. If he continues to mature, and remains consistent with his progress, it's conceivable that the Sox could move Jonathan Papelbon into the rotation. That would be even more likely if the Sox are able to pick up a talented veteran reliever before the trade deadline. Still, it's hard to imagine tinkering with the very best aspect of your bullpen, in the form of the very best (arguably) closer in the game.

Time will soon tell, but, one way or another, the Sox cannot keep throwing Jason Johnson out to the wolves every fifth day. They've been feasting on his ineptitude each and every time, much to the Sox detriment.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

PAPELBON SETS NEW ROOKIE RECORD

In an inning and a third of work against the Marlins today, Jonathan Papelbon secured his 25th save of the season, a new Reed Sox rookie record. The previous record had been held by Dick Radatz since 1962, a 44 year span.

Once again, Papelbon looked impressive and continued to baffle hitters, surrendering no runs, no hits, one walk and whiffing one batter, en route to a 4-3 Sox victory.

The rookie phenom has converted an impressive 25 of 27 save opportunities this season, and will likely be named to his first All Star team today.

Incredibly, the hard-throwing youngster is now tied for ninth, along with Lee Smith (1989) and Radatz (1963), on the Red Sox single-season saves list.

Next up, with 27 saves each, are Jeff Reardon (1992) and Ellis Kinder (1953), in 8th place on the list.

As promised, I will continue to update Papelbon's performances and chart his progress as he moves up the list. He has a genuine shot at 50 saves this year, which would be the top performance by any Sox closer in team history. With each successive outing, Papelbon continues to make his case for Rookie of the Year. As it stands, the Louisiana native's 20 successful save opportunities to start this season are an MLB rookie record.

Here's a look at the Red Sox all-time single-season saves leaders:

1. Tom Gordon - 46 saves in 1998

2. Derek Lowe - 42 saves in 2000

T- 3.Ugueth Urbina - 40 saves in 2002
Jeff Reardon - 40 saves 1991

T- 4. Jeff Russell - 33 saves in 1993
Bob Stanley - 33 saves 1n 1983

5. Keith Foulke - 32 saves in 2004

T- 6. Heathcliff Slocumb - 31 saves in 1996
Bill Campbell - 31 saves in 1977

T- 7. Lee Smith - 29 saves in 1988
Dick Radatz - 29 saves in 1964

T- 8. Jeff Reardon - 27 saves in 1992
Ellis Kinder - 27 saves in 1953

T- 9. Jonathan Papelbon - 25 saves in 2006
Lee Smith - 25 saves in 1989
Dick Radatz - 25 saves in 1963

T- 10. Derek Lowe - 24 saves in 2001
Tom Burgmeier - 24 Saves in 1980
Dick Radatz - 24 saves in 1962

Saturday, July 01, 2006

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE.....

After a significant lineup overhaul last offseason, Red Sox management thought they'd field a better team in 2006, built around pitching and defense.

On the first day of July, three months into the season and just about at its halfway point, this is an opportune time to compare this year's club to last year's, statistically speaking.

2006 2005
Record 48-29 45-32
Average .288 .285
Runs 430 434
HR 94 92
ERA 4.58 4.72
Fldg. % .992 .983


To start with, through 77 games, the Red Sox are off to their best start in twenty years. That's because the 2006 edition Sox are playing solid baseball in all facets of the game.

As advertised, the pitching and defense have both been superior to last year's team. But the big surprise has been the offense, which was expected to decline -- if only slightly. But by almost any measure, the Sox offense has been marginally improved this year. Impressively, the team batting average is up, as are home runs, while runs scored are nearly identical.

Most playoff teams are successful due to the first three, and maybe four, starting pitchers. At this moment, the first four members of the Red Sox rotation look about as good as any in baseball. It sure didn't seem that way just weeks ago. Jon Lester has been a blessing thus far. The bullpen still has question marks, but seems to be improving with the additions of Craig Hansen and Javier Lopez.

The defense is...well, record setting and unprecedented.

The offense has been the nice surprise. Trot Nixon has experienced a resurgence to the player he was prior to 2004, when injuries began to take their toll. Mike Lowell is a doubles machine, and though his power numbers are below his career averages, he's made a genuine contribution at the plate. Kevin Youkilis has outdone himself and surpassed all expectations. We've yet to see the true potential of newcomer Coco Crisp due to his lengthy trip to the DL, but he's expected to excel with continued plate appearances. Manny continues being Manny, and David Ortiz continues to establish himself as "the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history."

Last year's squad won 95 games and finished in a statistical tie with the Yankees at year's end. This year's team is more than halfway to that total, and the All-Star break is still a week away. And the best news is that the Sox will play more than half their post-break games at home, where their .730 winning percentage is tops in baseball.

So, far from a decline, this year's team is defying expectations, or living up to them -- depending on your perspective. But if this trend continues, the Red Sox could find themselves back in the playoffs yet again, and since they're better than last year, they just might get past the first round -- and who knows how far beyond that.

The more this team has changed, the more its success has remained the same -- and, in fact, gotten even better. So far, at least.

Let's hope the trend continues through October.


Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.