Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Thursday, August 28, 2008

THE RIVALRY THAT WASN'T

Red Sox Close Final Chapter At Yankee Stadium Quite Fittingly

The Red Sox/Yankees much-heralded historic rivalry really hasn't been much a rivalry at all. The truth is, during the 86 years Yankee Stadium has been open, the Yankees have virtually owned the Red Sox, going 483-284-4 against the Sox at the venerated Stadium. And regardless of where the two teams played, the Yanks hold the edge with a 994-778 all time record.

And the Yankees 26 Championships are the most of any North American sports team. The Red Sox have won seven, and famously went 86 years between numbers 5 and 6. Since 1920, the Yankees have won 39 pennants while the Red Sox have won six. From 1920 through 2004 -- an 85-year span -- the Yankees finished with a better record 67 times. During this period, the Red Sox finished second in the standings to the Yankees 13 times.

The point is, it really hasn't been much of a rivalry at all, folks.

Since the inception of the ALDS and the Wild Card format, the two clubs have squared off in the ALCS three times ('99, '03, '04). The Yankees have won two of the three. They have also met in the last series of a season to decide the division winner three times. The Red Sox won in 1904, and the Yankees won in 1949 and 2005. So, it took the Red Sox 100 years to beat the Yankees in a title-clinching game.

And then, of course, there was 1978, when the Sox blew a 14.5-game lead they'd established over the Yanks in mid-July. The two teams wound up with with identical 99-63 records, resulting in a one-game playoff on the season's final day. Red Sox fans are all too familiar with the legend of Bucky "F*%&@*G" Dent, a shortstop with a grand total of 23 career homers over six previous seasons, who hit the game-winner into the screen above The Monster. With only four homers coming that season, he should have been called "Lucky."

The sad truth for Red Sox fans is that this supposed "rivalry" has resulted in many sad truths. The Yankees were almost always the better team, beating up on the Red Sox mercilessly, year after year, decade after decade.

The 2004 season changed the Red Sox' fortunes. Boston has now won two World Series Championships in this decade (or century, or millennium), and the Yankees have won none. It's a nice feeling for Sox fans to finally experience the view from the top. It's a spot previously reserved for just the Yankees. Which is why winning the final Series against the Yanks at the Stadium is so special.

As the record indicates, the "Bronx Zoo" has largely been a House of Horrors for the Red Sox. There have been few grand moments, the kind that are memorable to Sox fans for the right reasons. There was Pedro's 17-strike out, one-hit gem and, of course, Game-7 of the 2004 ALCS, which has got to be the single greatest moment on a very short list.

The Red Sox have had trouble in other team's ballparks all season, and hold a losing record of 34-37 on the road. But they have not lost a road series this month, winning four and splitting another. Beating on the Yankees is just the icing on the cake. The Sox are 16-8 since the July 31 trade deadline, when a certain dread-locked outfielder was shipped out of town.

The team's confidence has got to be sky-high right now. Embarrassing the Yankees in historic Yankee Stadium seems a fitting, if unexpected, send-off. The "House That Ruth Built" may be viewed as hallowed ground in the world of baseball. Yet it has been anything but sacred for the Red Sox. The Sox were the first opponent, and the first victim, in the inaugural game at Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923.

For the Red Sox, trouncing the Yankees, winning their final series at the Stadium, and extinguishing any last hopes the Yanks had of making the playoffs, is quite fitting. It's what's referred to as "poetic justice."

Historically speaking, it's just the kind of thing one would expect the Yankees to be doing to the Red Sox. Oh, how the tables have turned since 2004.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

FOR SOX, THERE'S MORE THAN HISTORY ON THE LINE IN BRONX

While there is the usual hype and interest in the upcoming Yankees/Red Sox series in New York, this one will be extraordinary.

This is the final season for the venerated Yankee Stadium and, as such, it will be the Red Sox final visit there.

The Sox were the Yankees very first opponent at the Stadium, on April 18, 1923. The Yankees won that game 4-1, just as they went on to win the vast majority of games between the two clubs over the ensuing 86 years. The Yanks have a 482-282-4 record against the Sox at Yankee Stadium. It's hardly a surprise; through last season, the Yankees had the best all-time regular season winning percentage in baseball at .567, the result of a 9383-7162 record.

But none of that really matters now. The Yankees appear to be all but out of the playoff hunt, and the Red Sox are fighting for their own playoff lives. Trailing Tampa by 4.5 games with 32 games to play, the Sox face a tall order in trying to win the AL East again.

As I wrote the other day, even Theo Epstein assumes that the Red Sox need to win at least 95 games each season to qualify for the playoffs. And that's for good reason; since 1997, no AL East winner has won fewer than 95 games, with the exception of the 2000 Yankees, who won 87. In fact, during that span, the division champ has averaged 99 wins.

At this point, considering Tampa's red hot and consistent play (79-50), the Sox may be fighting for the Wild Card spot, and it will be a battle, indeed.

Entering the three games series in New York, the Red Sox (75-55) currently hold a 1.5-game lead over Minnesota (74-57). But the Twins are clearly in the hunt for the AL Central crown, trailing the White Sox (75-66) by just one game. That means the Twins are closer to their division rival for the Central lead than they are to the Red Sox for the Wild Card.

Again, it will be a battle. The Red Sox, White Sox, and Twins will be checking the standings daily, and one very good team will not be playing in October.

The Red Sox need to win 20 of their remaining 32 games to reach 95. If they don't, you can bet the White Sox or Twin will. That means that the Red Sox - a team with a .577 winning percentage this season - need to win 64% of their remaining schedule.

That's the real reason this upcoming series in New York is so important. It's not history, or anything else.

Good luck to the Sox. As I said, it's a tall order.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

FOR BUCHHOLZ, A LONG, RAPID DESCENT

With injuries to Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Bartolo Colon and Tim Wakefield this season, pressure mounted on the Red Sox organization and forced them to keep 23-year-old Clay Buchholz in the rotation long after he should have been sent down to the minors.

The most recent outing by the former "Can't Miss Kid," on August 20, was just the latest example of his long, yet rapid, demise. Buchholz surrendered five earned runs over just 2 1/3 innings. It was not an isolated incident. In fact, it was part of a months-long trend.

Over his last 10 appearances (nine of them starts), the former wunderkind pitched just 42 innings, giving up a whopping 43 runs on 62 hits and 27 walks. That amounted to a cumulative ERA of 9.21. Over that stretch, Buchholz went 0-7 while his ERA ballooned from 3.71 on May 2 to its current 6.75.

It's the kind of thing that could break the confidence of any veteran, much less a kid with just 18 career starts.

In fact, while calling the game last Wednesday night, analyst Jerry Remy spoke at length about Buccholz's lack of confidence and apparent desperation. The kid looked lost on the mound and seemed to be just as confused about his slide as everyone else. Standing on the rubber in a big league ballpark is a tough place for a young man to face that kind of uncertainty.

The sad reality that's played out before our unbelieving eyes is that Clay Buchholz is a mess. He can't help the Red Sox this year. Perhaps that should have been realized months ago. But the team has suffered numerous losses to its starting rotation and was forced to let Buchholz unravel out of sheer desperation. Clearly, the kid needs time to get his head straight in the minors, and during the offseason. A good pitching coach will have to work with him all winter to get things right and restore his beleaguered confidence. He'll be okay eventually, but not in time to help this year.

It was a case of too much, too soon. After his no-hitter against Baltimore last September -- in just his second Major League start -- everyone thought we were witnessing the emergence of the next Roger Clemens, another fellow Texan and former blue-chip Sox prospect. As of this moment, that expectation hasn't been realized. Hopefully it will in time.

Right now it's Portland. This winter, who knows? But being anywhere other than Boston, away from the outsized glare and spotlight of its rabid media and fans, should help. Boston is a place with enormous and unusual fan interest and expectations, and that pressure isn't well-suited for even many veterans. It's something the organization considers with every free agent or trade consideration.

Going away should give Buchholz the time he needs to figure things out and rediscover what it was that made the Red Sox so confident, and so excited, about him in the first place.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

BYRD WATCHING

Over 22 starts with the Indians this year, Paul Byrd went 7-10, with a 4.53 ERA. Those numbers, combined with the fact that Byrd is a free agent after this year, persuaded a disappointing and under-achieving Cleveland team to put him on waivers.

It was quite surprising that the veteran actually cleared waivers. Since no one claimed him, the Sox were subsequently able to strike a deal with the Indians.

But Red Sox fielders will be kept busy during Byrd's outings. The 37-year-old truly pitches to contact, and will rely on an excellent defense behind him to keep runs off the board.

In 138.1 innings this season, Byrd has given up 156 hits, to go along with 24 walks. Though the walk total is among the best in baseball (9th out of 98 big league pitchers), it still amounts to 180 baserunners over those 138.1 innings. That's worrisome. And Byrd is not a strike out pitcher, fanning just 56 batters this season. That amounts to just one K every 2 1/2 innings.

The stark reality is that Paul Byrd gives up more than a hit per inning and has a WHIP of 1.3. That's a lot of base-runners, and it's kind of scary.

All of this means that when Byrd is on the mound, the ball is often put in play. And that results in too many baserunners. And baserunners ultimately lead to runs. What's more, Byrd has allowed 25 HR, this season, tied for most in the AL.

So, you may ask, why did the Sox make a move for him? Well, there is an upside.

When the Sox acquired him, Byrd was tied for the most wins since the All Star break. Though he'd started the year poorly, Byrd had won all four of his starts since the break, with a 1.24 ERA. In each three of those starts he went at least seven innings, and he'd pitched his first complete game of the season in his final start with the Indians, a 4-2 win against Toronto, in which he out-dueled Jays ace Roy Halladay.

But in his first start with the Sox, Byrd went 7.1 innings, giving up four runs on 10 hits, and took the loss. Not exactly what the Sox were hoping for.

Interestingly, Byrd credits 287-game winner Bert Blyleven with helping him to rediscover his curve ball after a recent lesson. And it's that conversation to which he attributes his subsequent success.

In all, Byrd is a good, veteran pickup for the Sox, who obviously have no faith in Clay Buchholz, or in the health of Bartolo Colon.

Just hope the Sox play stellar defense whenever Byrd pitches over the remaining six weeks, and hopefully longer.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ELLSBURY THE THIEF

With two steals in last night's game Jacoby Ellsbury now has 40 thefts this season, moving him into a tie for 5th place on the club's single-season list. It's the eighth time the feat has been accomplished in team history, and Ellsbury is the sixth player to do it.

Here's a look at the leaders:

Rank Player Year SB

1 Tommy Harper 1973 54
2 Tris Speaker 1912 52
3 Tris Speaker 1913 46
4 Tris Speaker 1914 42
4 Otis Nixon 1994 42
5 Harry Hooper 1910 40
5 Billy Werber 1934 40
5 Jacoby Ellsbury 2008 40

As you can see, the Sox earned their reputation as a team that didn't steal many bases, going 20, 39, and 21 years without a 40-steal season from any player. And it had been 14 years since the last player, Otis Nixon, earned the distinction.

Ellsbury started the season strongly in the steals department, but then tapered off as he reached base less regularly. With Ellsbury's slow down, Tommy Harper's 35-year-old mark, once thought to be in jeopardy, looked like it would remain safe. But with six weeks to go, and just 15 more thefts needed to break the mark, it's certainly within the rookie's reach once again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ACES HIGH

Quick. Guess who leads the Red Sox in wins this season? Josh Beckett? Wrong. That would be Daisuke Matsuzaka. Guess which starter leads the team in ERA? Beckett? Wrong again. That would also be Matsuzaka.

With a 14-2 record, and a 2.74 ERA, Matsuzaka is finally living up to the hype this year. But those are the sort results the Sox were expecting when they signed him to a six-year deal after the 2006 season.

But perhaps the biggest surprise this year has been Jon Lester.

By now we've all seen the highly impressive and well-publicized resume: just the third pitcher in World Series history to win a Series clincher in his first post-season start; a no-hitter at Fenway Park in May; a complete-game shutout at Yankee Stadium in July; and A.L. pitcher of the month for July, going 3-0 in four starts, in which he allowed just seven earned runs and lasted at least seven innings each outing.

After some early struggles this season, Lester has gone 9-1 since May 25. He is in the midst of a true breakout season, perhaps even surpassing the boldest expectations the organization had for him. The lefty has now made 16 quality starts, tying Tim Wakefield for the team lead.

And Lester, who famously recovered from cancer treatment, is now so strong that he leads the club with 167.2 innings, surpassing the 144.1 career innings he'd amassed coming into this season. The 24-year-old is giving up less than a hit an inning, and has yielded just 12 homers this year.

Most impressive of all, perhaps, is the fact that he's overcome his tendency to walk batters. The walks led to high pitch counts and early exits. The issue plagued his Major League development, right up until early this season. But over his last 10 starts, going back to June 22, Lester has not given up more than three free passes in any game. In fact, over that period the emerging star has averaged just 1.3 walks per game, a stellar figure. And in all but one (when he went five), Lester lasted at least seven innings.

The bottom line is that Lester is on his way to becoming an ace, if he isn't one already. One thing's for certain; he's become a stopper. In nine starts following a Red Sox loss this season, Lester is 5-1, with a 1.41 ERA, 14 walks, and 48 K's.

Lester has become a pitcher that manager Terry Francona can count on every fifth day. When he pitches, the Sox expect to win. Overall, the Washington native is now 12-4 this season, a stunning 75% winning percentage. And his 3.17 ERA is ninth in the A.L. For comparison's sake, Beckett is 11-9, with a 4.34 ERA.

Jon Lester may have gone from developing young left-hander to fully developed Major League pitching sensation. How much better he can get is anybody's guess, but that possibility has got to terrify opposing hitters. As it stands, they are only batting .258 against him.

Having Lester, Beckett and Matsuzaka anchoring the Red Sox staff over the next few years will make them perennial contenders, and the envy of the league.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

News & Notes

Varitek's Divorce Linked to Downward Spiral? Rookie Lowrie to Supplant Lugo Permanently? David Murphy, We Hardly Knew Ye, But We Miss You Already.

Jason Varitek filed for divorce on July 28. The Red Sox captain has been married to his wife Karen since 1996 and the couple has three daughters.

One has to wonder if that off-field drama is related to Varitek's abysmal plate performance this year. Personal turmoil of that sort has got to be a considerable distraction. Varitek entered today's game batting just .213 -- the third lowest average in the majors.

The veteran catcher turns 37 next April, and has clearly been in decline for a couple of years. But his at-bats have been just awful this year. The latest example came when he grounded into a double play in the fourth today, leaving the bases loaded.

According to Peter Gammons, the Sox have spent a half year looking for young catchers in other organizations in the event that Varitek gets a 3-or-4 year deal somewhere else this offseason. That kind of offer seems almost unimaginable at this point, given his age and rapid offensive decline.

The Sox have expressed interest in the Rangers' Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as well as Rangers' minor league catcher, Taylor Teagarden. The Sox are hoping to develop Mark Wagner so that he can supplant Varitek.

Pawtucket catcher George Kottars, who came over from San Diego in the David Wells trade, hasn't lived up to expectations, batting just .237 with 15 doubles and 64 RBI. However, his OBP is over 100 points higher (.341) and his 21 homers are third on the PawSox.

As of Wednesday, the average production of Major League catchers was a .251 average, with 10 homers and 52 RBIs.

If Varitek departs, the pickin's will be slim.


Jed Lowrie continues to impress. The shortstop hit yet another double today, his 14th of the season. Lowrie is proving himself to be a big league shortstop on a day-by-day basis, and although no one likes to see a player lose his job due to injury, Julio Lugo might not get his back in Boston.

Consider how the two Sox shortstops stack up:

Lowrie: 44 games, 14 doubles, 3 triples, 1 homer, 30 RBI, .318 Avg., .377 OBP, .492 Slg.

Lugo: 82 games, 13 doubles, 0 triples, 1 homer, 22 RBI, .268 Avg., .355 OBP, .330 Slg.

As you can see, Lowrie's stats are better -- in some cases much better -- in almost half as many games.

He's already won his manager's confidence.

"You bring a young kid up to play, and you basically hope that he makes the plays, and knows how to play the game, and things like that," said Terry Francona.

Management was hoping that Lowrie would be steady, show decent range, and make the routine plays. Just manage the position, and don't make any costly errors. Anything else he could do at the plate would be a bonus. Lowrie was hitting just .268 with the PawSox this season. But with the big league club he's since outperformed all reasonable expectations.

"All of a sudden, it seems like he's getting a big hit every time he comes up, and there seems to be men on base, and his production has been off the charts," said Francona. "So it's been a welcome addition. In maybe an area where you don't have a right to expect that much, it's been great."

Expect the Sox to shop Lugo this offseason with the anticipation of eating much of his remaining salary, two years at $9 mil per annum.


Former Sox prospect David Murphy is having a standout rookie season, leading A.L. rookies in RBIs, hits and doubles. All of that has made Murphy a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. But after a recent collision with Pudge Rodriguez at the plate, he's expected to miss two-to-four weeks with a knee injury.

Murphy would have added some punch to the Sox offense this year as an every day outfielder. Coco Crisp, for all his defensive prowess, is still struggling to hit and his trade stock has totally plummeted. Crisp is batting a meager .247, with a .300 OBP, just 6 homers and only 29 RBI. Makes you wish he was included in the Eric Gagne deal instead.

Though Murphy is a corner outfielder, imagine JD Drew in center, with Murphy in right, and Jacoby Ellsbury as the utility outfielder playing all three positions. That would have given each of the three outfielders much-needed days off, with time to recover from back-to-back night/day games and time to rest and recuperate from nagging injuries as the grind of the season wears on.

The downside of the Gagne trade wasn't that he was a bust, it's that the Sox didn't get more for Murphy, Kason Gabbard and Engel Beltre, who may end up being the best player of them all.

One can only imagine now.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

MANNY'S DANGEROUS PRECEDENT

Since joining the Dodgers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, Manny Ramirez has been going off. The ball must look like a beach ball to him right now. And NL pitchers look like Little Leaguers against him. Dodger fans are ecstatic. And why wouldn't they be. The Dodgers have a swagger that was absent pre-Manny, and they are winning right now. What's not to like?

The way Manny behaved in Boston, forcing a trade, that's what. And all fans of the sport -- or anyone who still values integrity, commitment, and honoring an agreement -- should be concerned.

Apparently baseball's "powers that be" share this concern. MLB has reportedly begun an investigation into Manny's final days in Boston. And there is plenty of reason to do so.

All of a sudden, Manny's allegedly ailing knee now seems pretty healthy, doesn't it? Add to that the fact that he and/or Scott Boras reportedly petitioned the Red Sox to stay in Boston after the trade was initiated. All he wanted was for his two option years dropped and he would behave. That's ransom, or blackmail, depending on how you view it.

Manny held the Red Sox hostage to his demands by dogging it, and not hustling to first base or in the outfield. It was also reported that he refused to board the team bus in Anaheim for the trip to the airport. When Manny finally arrived in Seattle, he suddenly started complaining about a sore knee. It seemed to come out of nowhere. But he never sought treatment from the team trainers. A subsequent MRI showed no injury or damage to either knee.

The truth had been revealed; Manny was a bullshitter, a quitter, and a crybaby whiner who put his personal interests first, ahead of those of his team. Not exactly what you'd call a team player.

But all of that came after he'd already slapped teammate Kevin Youkilis in the face in the dugout (caught on live TV), and pushed a 64-year-old traveling secretary to the ground because the older gentleman wasn't certain he could secure all 16 of the tickets Manny had requested for that evening's game in Houston. Apparently Manny never considered the fact that it was a road game, in a National League park, and that maybe some of his teammates might also want some of the limited available tickets. It didn't matter; Manny comes first in Manny's World. And apparently Manny, the multi-millionaire, also never heard of Stub Hub.

Manny signed an eight-year contract that gave the Red Sox control over him for an additional two years, at their option -- all while compensating him at the rate of $20 mil annually. Then he decided he wanted to change the terms of the agreement.

Scott Boras filled Manny's head with visions of a new four-year, $100 million pact. But that could only be secured if the Red Sox didn't pick up Manny's option in 2009. And since he'll be 37 next May, the clock was ticking on such a long-term deal. The question is, who will pay a guy nearing age 40 $25 million per year? Furthermore, Boras stood to have Manny on his client list for three years with no compensation if Manny didn't somehow get out of his deal. That's why dropping the two option years was a requisite to approving any trade, including the one that ultimately sent him to the Dodgers.

This whole charade is so obvious. And the whole thing really stinks. There's a foul smell in the world of baseball, and the stench could affect the very heart and integrity of a great game.

MLB has got to show some backbone and issue some sort of punishment to both Ramirez and Boras. An awful precedent has now been established, and it could serve as the template for any disgruntled players that want to get out of their contracts and hit the open market. That's now a distinct possibility and that outcome is very disturbing.

American society lives by the rule of law; contractual obligations must be upheld. They are important, even critical, agreements between parties. Manny's actions turn this whole notion on its head. If you don't like your contract, act up and force your way out. That's supposed to be illegal. And the insane thing is that -- as opposed to the vast majority of personal contracts and obligations that most Americans will ever sign or hold -- this one called for the guy in question to be paid $20 mil annually!! And it wasn't good enough for him!! How much more out-of-touch can one man be?

MLB needs to take action and come down hard. And hopefully the rest of baseball will come together collectively and not reward Ramirez for his poor behavior. Cancers should be cut out, not fed.

Manny expects to be paid $25 million annually in the years that he will be 39 and 40. Please, let sanity -- and justice -- prevail.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ZINK'S START AMOUNTS TO AN AUDITION

This is More Than Just a Spot Start for the Minor League Veteran

Tonight's start for Red Sox prospect Charlie Zink could prove to be be an audition for something bigger.

In 25 games with Pawtucket this season, the knuckleballer is 13-4 with a 2.89 ERA, third in the International League. Though he'll be 29 later this month, he's young for a knuckleballer and finally looks Major League ready. With his experience and success this season, he'll be a candidate for someone's rotation next year. Tonight's start could well be a showcase for other clubs.

Tim Wakefield is suffering the same injury that sidelined him last year, and you have to wonder if, at age 42, this puts his career in jeopardy. The Sox don't want two knuckleballers in their rotation but, one way or another, Wake will retire sooner than later. Depending on the veteran's health, that could make Zink a candidate for the rotation in '09.

There aren't many guys throwing the knuckleball in the modern game; Wakefield was the only knuckleballer on any Opening Day Major League roster. And Zink was one of just three knuckleballers pitching at the Triple A level to begin the season.

It's been a long and winding road for the California native. Though undrafted (he had to try out for a low minors spot), Zink has been with the organization since 2002. As a middle reliever, he lead the staff with a 1.68 ERA in his first season, and by 2003 he was the only Sox prospect ranked in the top-50 by Baseball Prospectus. That was after he learned to throw the knuckleball.

But then Zink tumbled in 2004, going an abysmal 1-10, and dealt with a demotion from Portland to Single A Sarasota. That year and the next, he struggled with far too many walks and home runs allowed. His development had gone backwards and his train to the Bigs had gone off the tracks.

Yet Zink bounced back to lead Pawtucket in wins in 2006. However, he was still demoted to Portland in 2007, where he made the Eastern League All-Star team.

Aided and encouraged by Wakefield, who gave Zink advice on his motion, stride and delivery, Zink put in the hard work that, matched with an indomitable spirit, has finally paid off.

He's improved on his 11-6, 4.63 numbers from last year (split between Portland and Pawtucket), and has been one of the PawSox top pitchers this season, leading the team in wins and ERA.

This is Zink's seventh season, the last year under Boston's control. If he does not remain on the team's 40-man roster, he will become a minor league free agent at year's end, meaning he will be free to sign with anyone.

Surely he has value at this point. Surely the Sox would like to get some compensation for him rather than just letting him walk and sign with another team.

It's a good bet that Charlie Zink will be on some Big League club's Opening Day roster next season, be it the Red Sox or another team.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Post-Manny Era Shaping up Nicely in Boston

Leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline, it was clear that the Red Sox needed a shake up. They were in a funk.

The other Red Sox players had grown tired of Manny Ramirez’s act. Lower paid teammates don’t like prima donnas who get special treatment. And Manny was already treated pretty differently anyway—he got paid a hell of a lot more money than the rest. That’s one of the reasons the Red Sox didn’t bring Pedro back. He played by his own set of rules—just like Manny.

And Sox management may have felt even more compelled to act as they watched rival A.L. teams rapidly improve with wise deals.

The Angels had already proven themselves a better team—even before they got Mark Texiera. And after acquiring Xavier Nady and lefty Damaso Marte, the Yankees then acquired Pudge Rodriguez in another trade. Both franchises had upgraded their ball clubs while the Sox stood pat. The Yankee moves, in particular, made Brian Cashman look like a genius.

So when the Angels, who had just swept the Sox in consecutive series, landed the best player available, the A.L.’s best team got even better. That, coupled with the Yanks’ bold moves, made the Sox feel compelled to do something. They simply had to act after losing eight of twelve games after the break. The team looked flat, as if Ramirez had completely drained them.

Indeed, Manny forced the Sox' hand. The relationship was way beyond repair.

The current ownership/management group didn’t sign him and never liked his massive, long-term contract. They had wanted to be free of it, and him, for quite some time. Jason Bay for Manny, straight up, was not an even trade. It showed just how much the Sox wanted to rid themselves of Manny.

But Bay has certainly given a fine accounting of himself in his first two games in Boston, reaching base safely in six of his first 11 at-bats, including a triple, a homer, four runs, and three RBI.

And how about this contrast in the first game of the Post-Manny Era:

Jason Bay reached base safely four times, including a triple in the bottom of the 12th, ultimately scoring the winning run.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers ninth-inning rally fizzled when Manny grounded into a double play during a 2-1 defeat against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.

Poetic justice? Perhaps. An omen of things to come in Boston? We can only hope.

So far, the Post-Manny Era isn’t shaping up too badly for the Red Sox after all.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.