Tag:David Ortiz
Posted on: May 17, 2011 2:18 am
 

Another Mother's Day Miracle

The Boston Red Sox again have won a game against Baltimore that should have been out of reach late in the game. It's not Mother's Day again, but it's the middle of May, so I'm willing to call it another Mother's Day Miracle. This one pales slightly in comparison, but it should definitely be a motivator for the players to continue to improve their play.
The players that were the same: Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek; Orioles: Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis. So, the names have mostly changed, with of course a few exceptions. What else is different? And what else is the same?

Both games happened at Fenway Park; I'm sure this helped the Sox as the crowd was definitely going to get behind any rally, and Sox fans are relentless and willing to give their team every opportunity to win a game. They will stick around as long as it takes until there are three outs in the bottom of the ninth. It's a passion that had earned them serious heartache for 86 years until they finally won the World Series in 2004.

Gary Cederstrom and Lance Barksdale were umpires at both games; Cederstrom was at home plate and Barksdale was at second base on May 13, 2007. Cederstrom was on second base and Barksdale was on third base on May 16, 2011.

Other than some of the players being the same, not much else can be said for similarities; even most of the players are at considerably different points in their careers than four years ago. The stars of the Red Sox and Orioles from four years ago are mostly gone, many due to retirement. David Ortiz is doing about as well as he was four years ago, but he is certainly declining as he gets older. Josh Beckett is still a star of the Red Sox pitching staff, but he lost his ace status to Jon Lester (as well as the opening day starter this year). Thankfully, his blister and finger issues have seemed to have gone away. During the game in 2007, he left the game because he had a skin tear on his finger. Kevin Youkilis was batting sixth and playing third and this year he is batting clean-up, but still playing third--though it's after a couple of years playing first. Jason Varitek was behind the plate for both games, but he is a significantly different hitter than he was four years ago. He's still a fantastic catcher and calls a great game, pitchers still love having him behind the plate, but he doesn't hit anywhere near as effectively as he did years ago. He did have a very important impact on both games though. His lines from both years are similar and impressive: (4AB, 1R, 1H, 2RBI) and (5AB, 1R, 2H, 2RBI). It was sweet to see him have a positive impact at the plate because it doesn't happen anywhere near as often as I would like to see it, but I still like the captain. Both of the other Sox players had positive impacts as well in both games.

The Orioles players that were involved in both games are at decidedly different stages in their careers also, but are amazingly enough still hitting in the same batting order that they were four years ago. Why is this amazing? Brian Roberts is still an okay second baseman, but he's hitting barely above the Mendoza line at .221 this year. Why would a team continue to hit a player that is struggling so badly at the top of the order? Even the Red Sox moved Carl Crawford down in the order after a very slow start. Crawford is in the prime of his career and has always been at or near the top of the order, but the Sox moved him down to sixth to allow him to see better pitches and to try to help him out of his funk. Markakis was just starting his career as a regular starter for the Orioles four years ago, and is now a foundation piece of their young team.

The weather was considerably different for this Miracle. Four years ago, the weather was sunny and a bit chilly at 58 degrees. This year it was raining and miserable and even colder at 48 degrees. Part of the temperature difference was the time of day. Four years ago it was a day game starting at 3:10 while tonight's game was a 7:10 start.

In 2007, Jeremy Guthrie had pitched an absolute gem against the Red Sox and he was taken out in the ninth inning. This ended up being a bad decision. Guthrie had allowed only three hits and one run. In less than an inning, that would become all for naught, as the bullpen would allow six runs in the ninth to lose the game. This year's game was also becoming a gem for the Orioles starter, as Chris Tillman had allowed zero runs after five innings. Buck Showalter removed him from the game because of stiffness in his back. Mike Gonzalez would quickly allow the Red Sox to get back in the game by allowing four runs in less than an inning. The Red Sox continued to chip away at the lead until they got the two runs they needed in the bottom of the ninth inning to win. Josh Beckett had to be removed from the game in 2007 because of an injury. This year, Terry Francona may have been better served to remove Daisuke Matsuzaka after his first inning scare where he was hit just above the belt with a line drive. He pitched terribly, giving up seven walks and five runs in less than five innings.

The Baltimore Orioles had a record of 18-20 following the Mother's Day Miracle of 2007. Right now they have a record of 19-21. The team has been mediocre for quite a few years, and their place in the standings has always been near the bottom, with the exceptions of early season when they have started out hot like this year.  The outcome of the game would have drastically different results for the standings for the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. In 2007, the Red Sox would have a 25-11 record to lead the division handily. Following this Mother's Day Miracle, the Red Sox have for the first time this year, gotten over .500. They are tied with Toronto for third in the division.

Games like this can allow a talented team like the Red Sox to flourish. Wins like this bring teammates closer together as they realize that their combined struggles can only be overcome by combining their talents. Adrian Gonzalez has been hitting as well, if not better, than expected this year, while players like Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford are finally starting to rebound from early season struggles. Wins like this will hopefully start the rest of the players toward better and continued success.

Posted on: April 8, 2011 11:11 pm
 

This is How You Treat Us?!

Manny Ramirez retired today. It's the end of an era that should have probably ended a couple of years ago. This isn't Manny being Manny as his attitude has so affectionately been described, this was Manny getting out with the last shred of respectability that he could leave with. If he had stuck around, he would have undoubtedly been suspended. The last time he was suspended it was for 50 games; I don't recall right off what the suspension for subsequent issues involving performance enhancing drugs (PED's) is. Would this have been a one year suspension? If so, did Manny just speed up the inevitable? He retired rather than face the humiliation of another suspension. Another suspension would have brought his career to a halt anyway.
Manny hasn't been exceptionally relevant in baseball for a few years now. If you are into fantasy baseball, do you remember when Manny was his generation's Ryan Braun? He was a first round pick, which as an outfielder is huge. My guess is that you probably didn't even consider drafting Manny in this year's fantasy baseball draft. If you did, other owners in your league snickered as you picked him up, but secretly hoped that he didn't perform to 75% of what he used to do, and probably still could do. If so, he was a steal. Imagine picking up a player in the 20th round of the draft that batted .275, hit 20 homers, had 85 RBI with 75 runs scored--that would be the find that won your league!
Thanks for the memories Manny. You provided that lethal combination with David Ortiz that got the Red Sox a couple of World Series rings this century. You provided a bit of comic relief in an otherwise stodgy old sport. It was fun cheering for you to take those massive swings against the rival Yankees, and be successful. I remember hearing that the Red Sox signed Manny and thought: this is the guy they need in the middle of their lineup. I wasn't excited about the amount of money, but wasn't it great when the commissioner's office devalued the contract so that it ultimately became less than what he would have gotten if he had gone and resigned with the Cleveland Indians with the contrac they offered? Still eight years and $160M was a lot of money to a guy that was arguably a poor outfielder with a bat.
I remember being at the Philadelphia Phillies game that first time they were playing interleague play at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia. I had seats right over by the third base line and quite near the front--it was the section of the stands that juts out very close to the foul line. Manny made an amazing catch while sliding into the wall that night. I was so close to the play that I couldn't see Manny because he had disappeared below the level of the wall. He got up with that wry smile that he had when he knew he just exceeded people's expectations of him, but not his own expectations. The guy I had gone to the game with had gotten up to go to the bathroom; when he got back, I told him that he had just missed the play of the game.
I remember that same smile while watching the Red Sox against the Yankees--I forget the year and the circumstances. I do remember the opposing player. Enrique Wilson had just nutted a fly ball over the left field wall in Yankee Stadium. Manny somehow got to the spot at the wall where the ball was going over. It seemed like he was jumping seven rows into the stands to rob Wilson of his homerun, but it was probably just the front row. Because it was Manny, it was larger than life. Enrique was rounding the bases in the fashion of a person who had known that he hit it out of the park. As he rounded second, the look on his face went from glowing delight to bewilderment; why were his teammates not lauding his achievement?! He looked at Manny, and there was that wry smile. Manny had not only robbed Wilson of that homerun, he had robbed the entire Yankee team and all of their fans in attendance, watching on television, and those that would later find out as they watched the highlights.
I just wish those were the ilk of memories that flooded my thoughts. Instead, I'm stuck with the memories of how Manny left Boston, how his attitude became bigger than the team could handle. I remember the irritation I felt when Manny refused the Dodgers' contract offer of one year and I believe $20M. He wanted two years and $50M. Nobody else was bidding anywhere near that, but he refused to believe that his career was ebbing. He got big money and two years from the Dodgers. I don't believe it was $50M, but I think it was close. I really stopped paying attention during that ordeal. Manny was overpricing himself, and distancing himself from his adoring fans. The game was no longer the game that it was while he was playing in Cleveland. It was no longer the game/business it was while playing in Boston, where he was worth the hassles because he truly was one of the few difference makers in the game. This was Manny's narcissism. Unfortunately, there were still some that were willing to feed that hubris.
Posted on: April 4, 2011 7:45 pm
 

Are the Red Sox in Trouble?

The Red Sox got swept in a three-game series against the Rangers to start this season. Sure the Rangers are a very good team; they were in the World Series last year, but are they that good? Or are the Red Sox just stinking up the joint to start the season? Nothing has gone particularly well for the Sox.
The hitters aren't firing on all cylinders, though some normally slow starters are showing some very nice early signs of life for the first time in a few seasons--David Ortiz are you listening? Thank you for hitting this April. Carl Crawford is being moved down in the batting order to seventh to take the pressure of the guy. He's apparently trying too hard. Woudln't you be trying super hard after signing a 9-figure deal in the offseason to play for one of the most storied franchises in baseball history? I'm not a fan of moving a guy down after three games. It's too small of a sample size to lower his confidence even more. Can you imagine the conversation in Tito's office: Carl, we're moving you down in the order to try to get you out of this funk that you're in. We think you're trying too hard. Carl sulks away from the office thinking he's the third-worst hitter in the Sox lineup; he's only better than Saltalamacchia and Scooter. If his confidence was waivering before, just think how it is now. Tito just pushed him off the ledge! Thank goodness Crawford is the professional that he is. He was able to understand that it was not a blow to the confidence the team has in him, but only a way to allow him some time to work out the kinks. He bounced back nicely with a couple of hits in his first game batting out of the seven hole. Crawford will be fine, and his stats will adjust as the year goes on, as will his confidence. I'm sure Francona will put him back at the front of the lineup once he shows signs of life.
 
 
 
 
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