Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How To Say Goodbye To Your Captain: Jason Varitek's Best Moments

It was inevitable. Varitek wasn't going to play forever, and I knew it. My hope was that I'd never have to watch him play for another team. Well, with the announcement that he is going to retire on Thursday, the Captain has granted me one last wish. He played his entire major league career as a member of the Red Sox, and he should leave the game as a member of the Red Sox. I hate to think he'll be gone, but if he has to leave, this is the way to do it.

I wouldn't care about baseball if it weren't for Tek. He was the hook that drew me in, and it will be hard for me to love this team as much without him on it. A touch dramatic? Sure. But that's what I'm all about. In honor of Varitek's 15 years with the Sox, I wanted to recount some of the legacy he leaves behind and highlight just what a significant part of the Red Sox organization he's become. This is going to be long-winded, so here's your chance to get out now.....

Ok. Too late. Let's do this.

  • Tek is the only player from Georgia Tech to have his number (33) retired.
  • He is the only player in history to play in/on the Little League World Series, the college World Series, the Olympic baseball team, and Major League World Series

  • There have been 1645 players in the Red Sox organization since 1901. There have been 19 team captains in that time span. Only one other catcher has been made captain in team history (Deacon McGuire in 1908), and he only lasted one season as the captain.

  • Since 1923, there have been four team captains: Foxx (1940-1942), Yastrzemski (1969-1983), Rice (1985-1989), and Varitek (2005-2011). Yaz was the only captain in history who served a longer tenure than Tek.

  • Jason is the only Red Sox catcher to ever have caught 1,000 games, his 1,000 being played on July 31, 2006. He finishes with 1,418 games as a catcher and 1,546 total games (the other 128 games were split between DH'ing and pinch hitting)

  • He has played in more postseason games than any other Sox player in history. He has played in 63 games over the course of 14 series.
  • Jason has the most post-season home runs for a catcher in history with 11. Johnny Bench and Javier Lopez each hit 10.
  • He has the most opening day starts for a catcher in team history, starting in 10 straight opening days (2000-2009)

  • Tek is the only catcher in MLB history to have caught 4 no-hitters (Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester)
  • Devern Hansack's rain-shorted game on October 1st, 2006 could have possibly been #5 for Tek.
  • He has also caught 8 one-hitters and  20 two-hitters.

  • Appearances on Sox All-time lists include
    • 9th for games played (1546)
    • 9th for doubles (306)
    • 10th for RBI's (757)

    • 9th for extra base hits (513)
    • 9th for sac flies (43)
    • 10th for intentional walks (59)

    • 4th for strikeouts (1216)
    • 4th for hit by pitches (61)

  • His professional resume includes:
    • three All-Star appearances
    • 2005 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards
    • Two World Series rings (but you all knew that)

  • From 1997 to August 1999, Tek wore #47
    • Since then, he's donned that old familiar #33 that we know so well.

  • Jason hit his first grand slam on August 5, 2005. His second one didn't technically count towards his career stats as it happened on March 8, 2006 during the World Baseball classic. His third came against the Yankees on April 25, 2009.

  • Back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs have occurred only seven times in major league history. Tek became part of this phenomenon on April 22, 2007 against the Yankees, being the fourth player in a row to hit a home run (other players were Manny Ramirez, JD Drew, and Mike Lowell)

  • Tek has only been ejected from a game five times in his career. The most memorable one?
  • He is the only Red Sox player to feed his glove to Alex Rodriguez.

For all the moments we've shared... the good times and the not so good times... for the professionalism, for the game calling, for all you've brought to your team, I salute you, Jason Varitek. Thank you for all those summer evenings we've spent together at Fenway. I truly hope to see #33 hanging from the Fenway facade, but if it never comes to be, we'll always have the memories. You'll always be the captain to me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

This Just In: Tek Set To Retire

According to the Boston Globe, Jason Varitek has announced that he will retire on Thursday.

I have three days to get my 'goodbye Tek' post ready. For now, I await further information

Beckett Blabs: Pitcher Opens Up About Priorities

Quick quiz. You're a major league pitcher. Your wife is expecting. Your team is faltering. You make a ton of money. Where should your focus be?

A) Baseball. All baseball and nothing but baseball.
B) Family. Wife and child have to come first.
C) The caloric count of your last meal.

The baseball-centric of my mind would like to believe the answer is A, but the logical side of me realizes that it's really B. I wanted the Red Sox to do well last season as much as any fan, but I will never EVER fault Josh Beckett for saying that his wife and daughter became his number one priority last season. I'm sure traveling with the team when your wife is eight or nine months pregnant must be hard. Especially for the first child. I would (and I'm sure he would) think less of him as a human being if he weren't slightly distracted. And he should never have to apologize for that.

It's nice that Josh came out and responded to so much of the criticism against him. Not for nothing, I think he did a damn good job hiding the fact that he had an ankle injury. Some may question the validity of the ankle problems, (and I may be one hundred percent wrong about this) but Beckett really doesn't strike me as the type to lie over something like that. Straight shooter is the phrase that comes to mind when thinking about him. He's crass and grumpy. If you're going to be crass and grumpy and tell people things they don't want to hear, you're probably not making up an ankle injury to use as a scapegoat. Again, I could be wrong. That's how I feel.

We're going into a new season. Josh is coming off the best year of his career. He's had time to rehab any lingering issues with that ankle. His wife and daughter are both presumably healthy, and he seems to have his head in the right place. Media, please stop asking Josh to apologize for last year. Let's just let him get on with THIS season and be happy with that.

No Drinking In The Clubhouse: Bobby Bans Beer

And Tito thinks it's just a public relations stunt. I'm sort of inclined to agree with him, but at the same time, I believe it's a PR stunt that needed to be done.  I don't know what really will go on in that clubhouse this season, but if they didn't come out and say that they were enforcing stricter rules for the players, that's just more for the media to bitch about.

Now do I actually think that grown men need to be told that they can't have a beer once in a while? Not really. They should know when they should and shouldn't be cracking open a cold one. I've made my thoughts on drinking during games clear. I don't think the players should be drinking during games, even when they aren't playing. If you're getting paid millions of dollars to play a game, the least you could do is try to take it as seriously as the people who pay to watch you play. Not all of the people who pay to watch you play, of course. I'd say the average serious fan, not the die hard fanatics who live and die with every pitch. Actually, I'd like to know that the players are taking their jobs at least as seriously as I take mine. It's not that much to expect from a bunch of adults.

There's something about Valentine that I like. I have to reserve judgement because we haven't, you know, seen any games yet. I liked Tito's style, and even though Bobby's is apparently much, much different, I think it might work. I want to believe that the changes will make a difference. According to almost every member of the media around this time last year, the Sox were a 100 win team. Yes, there have been changes and I think some of those changes have made the team a slight bit weaker, but I don't think they're an 80 win team. We need focus from the players, and we need luck. You gotta have a little luck on your side, you know.

Anyway, I like hearing that Ortiz is backing up his new manager. Even if he truly does not believe in what Bobby V. is saying, as long as he comes out and keeps up the united front, I'm happy. Now let's see the rest of the team buy-in and we'll be ready to roll. There's a bunch of talent on the Sox... if we have to treat them like children to make them live up to their potential, so be it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ryan Braun: Now Innocent?

So Ryan Braun becomes the first person in MLB history to overturn a drug suspension. Not because he was innocent, but because the samples were tainted. He was so sure from the very beginning that it would get overturned, and he was right. So that means he's innocent, right?

On an interesting note, MLB has already issued a statement to say that they 'vehemently disagree' with the reversal of the suspension. Obviously, they saw something in his original tests that convinced them he was guilty of taking banned substances. Of course, I'm too skeptical of Bud Selig's operation to just agree with his office just because they think we should. I'm actually more apt to believe that anything they say is a lie or is wrong. That's just all the years of drug cover ups and doing everything against the best interest of baseball, is all.

Not to go all conspiracy theory here (ok, I'm going all conspiracy theory here), but Braun was so sure that the sample was tampered with. Maybe faced with a drug test he knew he couldn't pass, he tampered with his own sample. I don't know what happened, and I don't know if Braun is actually clean or not, but what I do know is that most people will be suspicious of him for the rest of his career. It's a shame, but that's how it has to be.

Either way, unless MLB can overturn the non-bias third party's decision to remove Ryan's suspension, Mr. Braun can hold his head high... or something... that he'll get to play those fifty games. And he'll have those fifty more games this year to see everyone staring at him like he's done something wrong. Oh, the 'post-steroid' age....

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fausto Carmona Does Not Exist: But The Guy Who Plays Him On TV Does

I hadn't heard about this prior to today, so excuse me if I am once again late for the party. Meet Roberto Hernandez Heredia, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

Apparently, last month Roberto was arrested on charges of using a false identity to obtain a visa. He's since been put on the Indians' restricted list, but is hoping to receive a pardon so he can rejoin his baseball team. Oh yeah, and he's also three years older than he was claiming. Huge surprise there, right?

I blame the Indians for this. I mean, I blame Roberto first and foremost, but I blame the Indians for not doing their due diligence on this guy. I don't want to accuse all Dominican players of falsifying their information to come play in the states, but it seems to happen on a pretty regular basis. And the players that do this are giving their fellow Dominicans a bad rep. Maybe back in the day, it was an easier crime to get away with, but there's so much media and so much connectivity through the internet that if you are any kind of recognizable character, your every move can be traced.

I hope the young baseball players take heed... it seems like a good idea to tell your team that you're younger. Unfortunately, when the truth comes out as it so often does, you just end up looking like an ass.
It's fine. My only vivid memory of Fausto Roberto Carmona Hernandez Heredia is this:

Yup. That's Fausto's reaction to giving up JD Drew's 2007 ALCS grand slam. Thanks for the memories, whatever your name is!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Timmy Wonderpitches: The Definition of "Class"

Every time I stepped on the field, I gave everything I had. All I ever wanted to do was win. - Tim Wakefield, February 17, 2012
I don't believe in my lifetime I will ever get the privilege of seeing another athlete that possessed the character and class that Tim Wakefield exhibited every time he stepped on the field. For whatever need the team had, in whatever role the gave him, Tim always gave his all. During his retirement speech, he explained how he felt honored to have had the chance to play on the same field as some of the greats. I only hope he can walk away from the game knowing that so many of us felt just as honored to have the opportunity to watch him play.

We love Tim Wakefield here in Boston. I know this isn't the last we've seen of him, but for all the wonderful moments we've shared together through the years, thank you, Tim. I wish you nothing but the best in your retirement.

Here are some of the better Wakefield pictures from my collection that I could find. I didn't always have the best seats, or a good camera, but I got what I could.

My first ever game at Fenway. Wakefield pitched. Tek and Bellhorn hit home runs. Sox won.
Wakey and Timlin, Spring training 2006

Pictures from Sept 12, 2007
Trying to get Wake, but got most of Schilling instead. Obviously 2007 victory parade.

April 22, 2009
April 20, 2010
May 22, 2011
Timmy attending The Varitek Charity Putt Putt, 2011
September 13, 2011

Congratulations on a wonderful career, Tim Wakefield. I guess that old knuckler will only be knuckling in back yards from now on. The things I expected to last forever...

Manny: Back In Baseball

It's official. Manny Ramirez will negate his retirement and make his return to professional baseball, signing a minor-league deal with the Oakland A's worth $500,000.

Manny is as polarizing a figure as any baseball player. Most hate him. Lots are just sick of him... and then there are folks like me. While I have long since grown weary of his ridiculousness, there is that part of me deep down in my baseball-loving soul that will always love Manny despite his stupidity. He was the center of so many of my favorite baseball memories, no matter how sick of him I get, I can't hate him. Trust me, I've wanted to. Never have I been so disgusted with a player and not been able to muster up the hate.

Much like my best friend is forever forgiving of Roger Clemens, I guess Manny just gets a permanent pass in my book.

I welcome him back to baseball with open arms, but I have a baseball cap and dark sunglasses on so no one can recognize me. It's my dirty little (no-so)secret. I love Manny Ramirez and his gorgeous swing. I just wish he wouldn't do such boneheaded things. Here's to salvaging what's left of your reputation, Manny. Do it cleanly. Please.

Spring Training: It Is Upon Us

To be completely honest, I thought about writing that post about Timmy a grand total of once this weekend during the brief moments of free time I found myself in possession of, and I realized I couldn't do it yet. I haven't gone through the pictures... and I really don't want to use other people's pictures. I'll do it later. Tim deserves a full effort from me.

But I did want to celebrate the opening of camp. No matter who shows up early, pitchers and catchers reporting means that camp is open. I've thus far avoided any major media outlet, because I don't care to hear rehashes of last season's ending. I'll be hearing enough of it through the course of this season. So all I really know is that players have reported. Some Live from Spring Training thing taped on my TiVo last night, so I'll watch that as I'm putting together my Timmy post.

I'm excited, guys. It's been a really long off-season, and I can't seem to completely escape from the 'chicken and beer' taunts. It's tricky being one of the few truly devoted baseball fans around the water cooler, because (as I'm sure so many of you have experienced), more casual fans want an explanation of what happened. They want a player to blame, and they want a forecast for the new season... and I can't provide any of that information. As much as a lot of people want to blame Beckett, I need to remind those people that Josh (while shitty in September) posted the lowest ERA of his career (2001 not included since he only played four games) and allowed the fewest number of hits he's allowed since 2004. Besides, I'm a complete and utter homer for Beckett, so I'm not going to blame him. I'm also not going to blame Lester, because I don't have to. All I can do is say that I don't think the team, as a whole, really tried. Maybe I'm wrong, but from my point of view, that's what I saw. Individual players like Pedroia and Scutaro and Ellsbury still gave it their all, but it just seemed like a majority of the team was distracted. So there. It was a team collapse, not just a pitching staff collapse.

That being said, I'm ready to move forward. I harbor no ill will, except against the front office who made Tito walk. I still think it was the wrong decision, but it was theirs to make. Maybe Valentine will be what this team needs. Maybe he'll muck things up even worse. All I care about is that in a few days, pretend baseball starts. And a month or so after that, real baseball starts. And I can't wait to see what the guys have in store for us this season.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy: Wakefield Set To Announce Retirement

Call me ridiculous, call me a fool, but when I got back from lunch and heard the news that Tim was calling it a career, I wanted to cry. I didn't.... yet. I'll save that for later (what? I'm a very sentimental person. Sue me!).

Without exaggeration, my head is spinning a little from this news. I was nine when Tim joined the Sox. I have not known a team without Tim Wakefield. I should have known this was coming, but I didn't want to believe it.

I will get together some of my favorite pictures and put together an 'I love Timmy Wonderpitches' post. I just needed to post something right now. I know I'm not the only one who wishes it didn't have to end this way....

To all my fellow Sox bloggers out there, I implore you... take a minute to reflect on Tim and all he's done for the Sox. I honestly believe we are worse off without him than we are with him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beckett: Securely In Camp

Spring training is a wonderful time for me, as I'm sure it is for most fans. When the season ends, there's a lot of confusion. For some seasons, the end brings a lot of anger and anonymous sources and rumors and general unpleasantness. I get pretty reactionary, though I try not to. Usually by spring training, I have my feelings on each player sorted pretty thoroughly.

While yes, I agreed that Josh didn't help the team in September and his attitude probably wasn't a positive thing in the clubhouse. For about a week, I was convinced it might be time to part with Beckett. For the rest of the winter, I tried not think about what pieces should be moved to bring the best out of the team. Now, spring training is on the verge of commencement and I can say, I am as happy as I've ever been that Beckett is in camp.

According to a bunch of people whose opinions probably don't matter all that much to me, Beckett looked good throwing 50 pitches out of the pen. That's the kind of news about Beckett that I want to hear.

Of course, Lester was in camp earlier than Josh, so the reporters, if they so choose, could have a field day writing about how Jon is more motivated for the season than his right handed counterpart.

To be clear, I don't believe that for a moment. I'm just sort of waiting for one of the sports writers to get on it. Any minute now.

Four more days till the rest of the pitchers and catchers join the few ultra-motivated individuals who are already there. Guys, I can't wait. The hunger for baseball... it's rising again and I won't be able to quell it. Opening day can't get here soon enough.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ortiz: Officially Contractually Obligated

The problem with updating my blog before I read any other baseball sites is that I tend to be late to the party on certain topics. For example, my last post said that I couldn't wait to see how Papi's arbitration hearing would go. Well, I then proceeded to surf the internet and found that there will not be a hearing.

The big man has agreed to a one-year, $14.575M contract. It's not two years like I hoped for, and it's not $16M like Papi hoped for, but it's enough to get Papi back in that familiar jersey for the upcoming season.

The Red Sox don't like arbitration. Theo had never gone through arbitration (to my knowledge) with any players during his tenure here. Looks like Keebs is determined to follow a similar pattern. I'm ok with that. At least David is still on the team. I don't know what I would do without him.

Truck Day: My Second Favorite Day In February

I know I missed posting on Truck Day. I was pretty busy, and only home long enough to score a couple of opening day tickets (I could not even begin to express in text how excited I am about this). But just because I didn't post doesn't mean that I forgot about the event.

I love truck day. It means baseball is coming. It would be my favorite day in February if my birthday wasn't in February. Valentine's day comes in probably fourth, after my birthday, truck day, and reporting day. No matter how terribly the season ended, and it was pretty freakin terrible, truck day means we are going to have the chance to start over. No records, no tough losses, no terrible performances, no rain delays... just 162 days of pure sun-shiney bliss. Every game is a day game in my head. And when the truck leaves for Florida, it reminds me that long afternoons of home runs and Fenway Franks are right around the corner. It makes me happy.

This year, there are going to be a lot of changes to get accustomed to. New GM, new manager, lots of familiar faces that will be missing from the crowd. Most notably, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. I have to admit, despite my excitement for the new season, my heart breaks that neither has been brought back yet. In my mind, there IS no team without Jason and Tim. They have literally been parts of the Red Sox since I started watching baseball. The fact that they are simply not there doesn't sit right with me. I'm still going to hold out hope. If I'm honest with myself, I know I will be holding out hope all season. It will be, 'ok, well maybe they're still negotiating. Jason and Tim will join the club for spring training,' and then 'still negotiating. There's time to get them on the opening day roster,' and the after that will be 'the trading deadline is a perfect time to bring in some veterans who need jobs. Jason and Tim would be perfect for that!' I won't be able to let go until I know there's no hope left. So many changes... at least we'll still have Papi... I hope. His arbitration meeting is scheduled for today. I'm interested to see how it turns out.

Pitchers and catchers reporting day is on my birthday this year. I'll be out celebrating, and I will have a drink in honor of number 33 and number 49, whether or not they're back.