Tagged: Wakefield

Catching the Age Curveball

So he is let go, just like that. Everyone’s been debating about Ellsbury replacing Crisp, but the first young-vs-old started earlier last year over the home plate. I had no idea when I was watching the games with Mirabelli playing DH that it was probably his ultimate test. I suspected he would be gone next year, not this week.

It’s funny. Mirabelli we often see as the other half of Wakefield, for the last five years. Then let’s not forget the short stint when he was traded to the Padres which ended with the fanfare of the Massachuesetts State Police escorting him from the airport straight to Fenway to catch for Wakefield in a game against the Yankees.

His being able to catch the knuckleball was his distinct advantage and niche. One that he was bound to loose eventually when his own DL time forced the Sox to look else where and Cash started proving himself capable  with the same skill.

What an opportunity for Cash. If Wakefield makes the first game (I still keep my fingers crossed for him to get the honour), Cash just may be making the biggest entrance he has ever known.

So, au revoir, Mirabelli. You certainly had been some good years here and I hope you find satisfaction wherever you end up.

Whom to feature?

Final thoughts before I hit the sack.

The Red Sox has four games to play in Japan. Two exhibition games against Japanese teams and two against the A’s as the season opener.

A lot of the focus has been on Beckett and his back problems and how he might not be pitching in the opener against the A’s. There there’s the speculation on who fills in the “ace” slot and well as who gets the honour of taking the first game.

All this comes down to symbolism, really. The concept of an “ace” is identifying one individual who is deem the “best” and the one to get the team started on the right foot. It’s no guarantee that he will get the team a win. It’s no guarantee that there is one clear ace in a team.

For the Red Sox, there was. Beckett had the only 20 wins in the majors last year (it pleases me to still see his stat sitting on the mlb.com page with the gigantic number 20). He was the pitcher that gave the team their few wins in the end of the month when the team went through a slump of sorts, dropping the 10+ win lead over the Yankees down to periously close to 0. His second game led to the pivotal turn-around on a losing streak against the Indians for the ALCS. There’s something about the way he pitches and the way he works that encourages the team and makes them think they can win. It is Beckett that made me understand the term and the meaning of an “ace.”

Part of it, I suspect, is psychological. Yes, he pitches well. But even the games when his pitching was not as clean as it could be, the team’s offense would be more aggressive and the run support would start coming in. There’s something about the assurance of having one of your strongest teammates playing side-by-side with you.

So, back to the opener. No one has mentioned who would pitch in the exhibition games. Well, technically, they don’t count towards the season, yes, but those are more of outreach or ambassadorial functions, aren’t they?

Dice-K: By default would probably have had to pitched at one of the two games against the A’s, partly because he’s in Japan, and mostly because he still remains a Japanese symbol and MLB wants to convey the gesture of appreciation and friendship by giving the Japanese another chance to watch their greatest star play one more time. But all that is trumped by his expecting his second child. As a woman, I say, good for you to get your priorities straight.

I have to ask: is he *that* good? I have watched him pitch only a couple of times, even on tv. I had not been impressed. He’s not bad. But I find that he’s not all that awe-inspiring, to be honest. I am more impressed by his compatriot Okajima.

Lester: I’m glad he is given the consideration. He truly is one special kid. And inspiring. Looking beyond all that emotional stuff, though, he has provided very solid outings lately in the spring training games. He’s delivering and he’s delivering as a starting pitcher. He already showed that he could by finishing off the World Series for the Sox. It would be oddly nice to have him pitching the next official game, the opener, wouldn’t it?

Wakefield: Is, to me, the true star of the spring training season. I was lucky to watch his start last week. Crisp, solid, clean, confident are words that come to mind to describe his performance. So far, two appearances, five innings, 0.00 ERA and 2 hits. The best of the batch. Remember the heart-breaking news last fall that he would not be playing in the World Series? Remember how his shoulder injury was gut-wrenching news to the Red Sox fans? Especially after an impressive 17-win season, at age of 41. Few fans know the Red Sox long enough to remember a team without Wakefield. He first joined the Sox in 1995. He has been on the team the longest- now, in a world of trades and free agency, *that* makes his a true Red Sox player both in heart and in uniform. And he intends to stay to hold the record as the most games won, pitching for the Red Sox. He currently ranks second with 154, trailing to Cy Young and Clemens’ 192. If I haven’t made my case on how he is a Red Sox lifer- he just did for himself. He probably wants to shoot for 200 and he wants to stay long enough to do that.

So, with all that, if it can’t be Beckett, Wakefield deserves the honour to start the opener. Ace or not, Wakefield has poured his heart and soul for the Sox longer and more sincerely than anyone else. And I would love to see him given the nod.

Let’s go Home!

Ouch. I realise this is spring training, hence the opportunity for the coaches to play all his players and try to figure out the nuances of the teamwork in different configurations. That would easily explain why we watched each position be played by at least three players. But that knowledge didn’t alleviate the pain if watching a 7-run 9th inning by the visitors.
                              

Note: if anyone wishes to go to City of Palms stadium, realise that the visiting team dugout is on the 1st base side.

                           

Highlights:
– Wakefield. Looking as crisp as ever. I am relieved… especially given his heart-breaking sidelining in the post-season.
– Watching Lowe pitch. Horribly, but I hold a soft spot for anyone on the 2004 team (with the exception of Damon).
– Seeing the back of Torre’s head, rather up close.
– Watching a very crisp and solid double play at the top of the first… that could have been a triple play if it was warranted.
                            

It’s not even the season yet, and I already have more to add to Tales of Crazy Sox Fandom

At the top of the 9th, with a solid lead of 5-2, the Dodgers tie with a groan-inducing three-run homer. As the next few batter unfold in excrutiationg slowness, filling up all the bases, the fans started the ever present “Let’s goooo, Red Sox, clap clap clap-clap-clap.” The few but determined Dodgers fans countered quickly with their “Let’s gooo, Dodgers!” during the Red Sox claps. The two choruses went back and forth in perfect rhythm for quite a while, amusing not just the rest of the audience but the baseball players as well.

An exasperated voice finally shouts in his version, voicing the opinion of many: “Let’s go home!!!”

~crack~

As soon as he said that, Dodger’s Repko hits a home run into the left field, with the game winning grand slam.

Well, that’s not the “home” I would have wanted. But it did resolve that complaint and prevent extra innings.

                         

Tomorrow: Twins. I have landed a home plate box seat. Yippee.

How Red Sox are you?

I’m clapping like a gleeful 4-year-old with the news of the clubhouse exercising the option for Wakefield. Yes, he is injured. Yes, he had not had a good postseason. Yes, he had not had a good end of the regular season. But 17 wins in a season? It counts for something. It counts for a lot. Then there is also the intangible.

I alluded often to the “Red Sox identity.” The postseason really emphasizes on how professional baseball is different from school teams. It’s business. I don’t say it in a demeaning way, just factually. But, given all that, once the player is on a team, he plays for the team. I didn’t see a single person on that team being half-hearted about the World Series win, even if he was bound for free agency. All this, after all, is a team sport.

But some players got deeper into the sense of team and seem to adopt the team as his home team. Those players identify themselves as a member of that specific team, regardless of pay, and regardless of team’s hardware or lack thereof. Of course, this sense of is limited to some common sense factors like decent treatment from the clubhouse, some level of loyalty to the coaching staff and nucleus team composition.

Some players I feel had developed a true sense of Red Sox identity:

  • Varitek (obviously, the captain)
  • Youkilis
  • Ortiz
  • and Wakefield (for whose return I truly celebrate)

Some, I hope, will develop as they go deeper into their budding careers, and some of whom are starting to show it, but are really too rookie to tell:

  • Papelbon
  • Pedroia
  • Ellsbury

Finally, some who want to, providing the club demonstrates some reciprocal treatment:

  • Lowell
  • Schilling, to some degree

And I’ll dare to say it: sometimes I feel Manny is Red Sox, other times I wonder if he plays more for himself. He certainly has helped define the Red Sox with his seemingly carefree and loose attitude. But who has his loyalty? We may technically hold the contract but what is his heart saying? I can’t tell.

Also, I have no idea where to place Crisp and Beckett. I hope Beckett joins the club in more ways than a contractual agreement. Being the ace certainly made him more appealing but how red does he bleed? How red is he capable of bleeding?

Countdown: 11 hours

I don’t remember being this excited in 2004. In fact, 2004 World Series was almost anticlimatic. After coming back from a 3 game deficit to beat the Yankees, victory was so sweet it didn’t seem like anything could be better, not even the World Series.

                     

Today, I’m going to be glancing at the clock. All. Day. Long. At least back in New England, I could get away with it to some extent because it is after all Red Sox Nation territory.

               

I am really bummed about Wakefield. I notice that fans are quick to criticise Dice-K. But it doesn’t seem to be the case for Wakefield. I mentioned that there are some players who develop a deeper sense of Red Sox identity than others and I feel that Wakefield is one of them. I really hope this is not the last we’ve seen of his pitching. Yes, he is 41 compared to Beckett’s 27. But he had such a strong start. Get well, Wakefield. We want to see you back next year.

What is up with the “Get Beckett to pitch” frenzy?!?

I get second guessing coaching decision. I get wanting the team to put the best foot out to win. I get the yelling at the team and at the tv screen in frustration.

            

But I do not understand why the news and fans are all second-guessing Francona’s decision to put Wakefield out and suggesting that the Red Sox is better of with Beckett even though he pitched just four days ago. Of course I say that because I disagree. Why sacrifice all for one single game in a long series? And why risk an unpredictable performance when it means less rest for a pitcher used to routine?

               

Have faith people. It’s just a one-game trail. And it’s baseball. It’s unpredictable. It’s just entertainment. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Hope and underdogs

Indians lead 2-1 in the series. I guess this wasn’t Boston’s night any more than yesterday was my day. Disappointing, sure. But not completely hopeless. I hope!Those of us who watched the 2004 ALCS series know that the slimmest of chances can and do happen. Yet, we also hope it doesn’t come to that.

                      

Those of us who coach know that a loss that results with losing a lead is oftentimes a good thing. It forces the team to reflect a bit, to eat humble pie, and to change gears and become the mental underdog. A couple weeks ago, a fellow coach walked up to me and expressed her hope that my crew beat hers not just that day for over the course of the remainder of the season. I was a bit startled by her desire at first and merely stuttered a “we’ll do our best.” What else was I to say, “No, not going to do it.”?!?! I don’t think so! 

                   

The mentioned coach wanted to give her team a blow to the pride. They had a solid crew, a solid team that performed well together since the beginning of the season. What she was having trouble working with was their attitude. The more they won, the more arrogant they got. And the less sportsmanship they exhibited.

                        

My crew, on the other hand, was the underdog. We had more novices to the sport, smaller athletes, and less competitive experience. Most of the guys just competed to have fun and to create a visual and sobstantive goal to train toward. These guys got a good taste of victory early on, though, winning a couple of their races. When I applauded them and congratulated them, a lot of them came up with excuses as to why luck favoured them and that it was only chance. Their modesty sometimes drove me absolutely up the wall!

               

In reflecting on what the coach told me, though, I realise now that my team’s sense of being an underdog has kept them grounded and motivated on not just working hard but also working harder.

             

I don’t mean to imply that the Red Sox has attitude issues. I doubt they do as I find some of the players to be extraordinarily friendly and oriented toward the host city of their team. They have, however, been riding on high clouds through the bulk of this year. A whooping in late August through September has forced them to buckle down and recoup some wins to salvage their AL East lead and eventual title. And perhaps having to trail in this series will be just what they need.

               

I’m excited about seeing Wakefield back in action. I’ll admit to being relieved to hear that he was not selected to pick in the ALDS. His last few outings in the regular season has been, bluntly put, pretty horrendous. His otherwise infamous knuckleball suddenly seemed like every batter’s ideal fastball. I also noticed that the management has tremendous respect for Wakefield. If he says he can’t pitch, they most likely would listen. So if my assumptions are correct, Wakefield’s selection may mean he *is* ready to get back into another postseason. So, go git ’em, guys!