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2006 Red Sox Notes

October 1, 2006

It seems only fitting that the best Red Sox pitching performance of the year would occur in the final game of the season and be pitched by a 28-year-old rookie who had never won a major league game. Devern Hansack, the 14th pitcher to start a game for the Red Sox this season, pitched five innings of no-hit ball to blank the Orioles 9-0. The game was called after five innings because of rain. Despite the victory, the Sox finished in third place in the AL East, one game behind the Blue Jays.

Thank goodness for the Orioles and the National League. The Sox were an exceptional 31-5 this season against the O's and the NL, but only 55-71 against everyone else. The Sox were only 10-9 against Tampa Bay this season.

Some positive news to end the season:

Player of the Week: Devern Hansack, of course. His week: 1-0 with an ERA of 0.00. No hits, one walk, six strikeouts in five innings of work.

Player of the Month (September): Once again, David Ortiz. Big Papi batted .292 in September (plus a .480 on base percentage) with 7 homeruns, 16 RBIs and 15 runs.

September 25, 2006

Three straight losses have moved the Red Sox into third place in the American League East. Not that it really matters. The Red Sox will wrap up an extraordinarily difficult this week as they host Tampa Bay for two followed by Baltimore for three. David Ortiz whacked his 53rd homer on Sunday to add to his new Red Sox record. Unfortunately, it appears that Big Papi will not win the MVP award that almost certainly would be his if not for the time he missed with the heart concerns and the fact that the Sox disappeared from contention four weeks early this season.

Player of the Week: David Ortiz, who returned to form this week with four homers and five RBIs. He also batted .348 (8 for 23) and reached base 12 times in six games.

September 17, 2006

It's a shame that the Red Sox didn't win just two more games along the way. If they had, the upcoming series with the Wild Card leading Minnesota Twins would mean something. As it stands, even if the Sox sweep Minny this week they will be five games behind the Twins with nine games to play. If the Sox were five or six games behind, a sweep would keep them in contention. It's quite disheartening to be out of the race by the first week in September. Now I know how Royals fans feel. The only difference is that they feel it about a week into May every season.

Player of the Week: Mark Loretta, who was 9 for 28 this week (.321) with 4 runs and 3 RBIs. Mike Timlin was considered for his three saves but was roughed up for four runs in his outing on Tuesday so I went with Loretta.

September 11, 2006

Any glimmer of playoff hope for the Sox disappeared this week. After winning two in a row over the White Sox early last week, the Red Sox were at least part of the Wild Card discussion. The Wild Card fever was only temporary as the Sox quickly lost three more games in a row, two in painful fashion. In a way it is good that the Red Sox have no false playoff hopes. Now the Red Sox can play the young guys for the rest of the season. This will help their development down the line. I haven't decided whether to call the Sox the Pawston Red Sox or the Bostucket Red Sox. I think I like the former.

Player of the Week: Believe it or not, my choice is Julian Tavarez who won both of his starts this week. Tavarez was hardly spectacular -- he pitched 11 2/3 innings and gave up five runs -- but I can't even remember the last time a Sox pitcher won back to back starts so Julian gets the nod.

September 3, 2006

Things have gone from bad to worse to "are you kidding me?" for the Red Sox. By my count, 19 Red Sox are either on the DL or have missed games because of injury. Ironically enough, Curt Schilling has been one of the four or five healthiest Red Sox this season. The Red Sox actually posted a lineup with a 3-4-5 consisting of Mark Loretta, Kevin Youkilis and Eric Hinske last week. The starters in the first three games of the Toronto series were Julian Tavarez, Kyle Snyder and Kevin Jarvis. Worst of all is the fact two Red Sox were diagnosed with life-threatening health problems within days. The Red Sox have managed to pack about ten years of bad luck into a six week timespan. It has become surreal. I can't help but feel like the Red Sox are in year two of another 86 year stretch of bad luck.

It's one thing to see injuries. It's quite another to see two players leave the team for health problems that are potentially fatal. It appears that David Ortiz will be fine but anytime the heart is part of the equation, you can't help but be concerned. For Jon Lester, the news was much worse. Thankfully, Lester's cancer is treatable and there is every reason to believe that he will beat the disease. I think I speak for most Red Sox fans when I say that baseball just doesn't seem very important right now.

To make matters worse, several former Red Sox are performing well and making Theo Epstein and Company look bad. Freddy Sanchez, who was traded for Jeff Suppan in 2003, is leading the National League in batting average at .345. Bronson Arroyo is seventh in the National League in ERA and second in innings pitched. Josh Bard is batting .326 with 7 HR. Cla Meredith has an ERA of 0.84 in 32 innings of work. Bard and Meredith were traded for Doug Mirabelli. Derek Lowe has 13 wins and and ERA of 3.79. Johnny Damon is having a big year but I don't think anyone can fault Red Sox management for that. The Yankees financial advantage is the only reason why Damon is not still in a Red Sox uniform. The Josh Beckett trade looked like a steal at the time, but as of right now the Marlins appear to have made the better deal. Anibal Sanchez is 6-2 with a 3.22 ERA and Hanley Ramirez is batting .287 with 13 homers and 104 runs. I expect Beckett to bounce back next season but if I could trade Beckett for Sanchez and Ramirez right now, I probably would.

Player of the Week: The POW goes to Kyle Snyder who beat the Blue Jays on Friday night, 2-1. Snyder gave up no runs and two hits in seven innings of work. He struck out eight and walked only two.

Player of the Month for August: Manny Ramirez, who batted .378 (with a .500 on base pct) in August with 5 homers and 16 RBI. David Ortiz was a close second (.276, 10 HR, 16 RBI).

August 27, 2006

The Red Sox missed a huge opportunity this week to gain ground on the Yankees. The Yankees were 2-4 this week but so were the Red Sox. The Red Sox only glimmer of playoff hope comes from the fact that the Yankees are also a lousy baseball team right now. If you take away the sweep over the Red Sox, the Yankees are 6-10 since August 7th. The Angels scored 26 runs on 43 hits in their weekend series with the Monees.

The Red Sox blew another late inning lead on Saturday in Seattle. Here is a list of the games that the Sox have blown in the 7th, 8th or 9th innings since the game before the All Star break with the pitcher or pitchers who blew the lead in parentheses.

  1. 7/9: The Sox led the White Sox 5-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and lost 6-5 in 19 innings (Papelbon).
  2. 7/13: The Red Sox led the A's 3-1 through six innings and lost 5-4 in 11 innings (Hansen,Delcarmen).
  3. 7/23: The Red Sox led the Mariners 7-5 through six innings and lost 9-8 (Delcarmen).
  4. 8/6: The Sox led the D-Rays 6-2 though six innings and 6-4 through seven innings but lost 7-6 in 10 innings (Timlin, Papelbon).
  5. 8/9: The Sox led the Royals 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth and lost (Papelbon).
  6. 8/10: The Sox led the Royals 4-2 through seven innings and lost 5-4 (Schilling).
  7. 8/16: The Red Sox led the Tigers 1-0 through six innings and lost 3-2 (Schilling).
  8. 8/18: The Sox led the Yankees 10-7 through six innings and lost 14-11 (Hansen, Timlin).
  9. 8/20: The Sox led the Yankees 5-4 with two outs in the ninth inning and lost 8-5 in 10 innings (Papelbon).
  10. 8/26: The Red Sox led the Mariners 3-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning and lost 4-3 (Timlin).


Player of the Week: David Ortiz, who was 6 for 21 with 3 HR and 4 RBI.

August 21, 2006

Words can't really describe how bad the last eight days have been for the Boston Red Sox. The pitching in the past week has been so awful that I have actually longed for guys like Vaughn Eshelman, Erik Hanson, Rolando Arrojo and Rod Beck. The Red Sox have managed to lose in every conceivable way: they scored 11 and lost; they gave up two runs and lost; they lost a game that they led with two outs in the bottom of the ninth; they lost a game in which they had nine extra base hits but were 0 for 16 with runners in scoring position; they lost a one-run game in which the last Sox batter (Pena) was called out on a pitch a foot outside the strike zone. What made matters worse is that the two Yankees that really cost the Red Sox this weekend (Abreu and Damon) were two players that could very well be in a Red Sox uniform if the Yankees and Sox were in the same universe financially. No one should make excuses for the Red Sox. They absolutely stink right now. Their play is shameful. However, no Red Sox fan should accept any grief from the Yankee fans. The Yanks are gluttons whose success results only from their ability to spend money that no one else has (coupled with a lot of bloop hits). How many teams would love to have acquired Bobby Abreu? At least five or six teams could have offered more than the Yanks in terms of prospects but no one else could afford his 2007 contract.

Costly injuries, the growing pains of a young pitching staff, the failure of some key veterans and plain old bad luck have created a perfect storm that has just about knocked the Sox out of playoff contention. Four games in the Wild Card is far from insurmountable but those four games look like ten the way this pitching staff is throwing. If there is hope, it lies in the fact that David Wells is pitching well and that Keith Foulke made two solid appearances over the weekend. If (Big IF) the Sox can survive the West Coast trip and get Wakefield and Varitek back in early September, they could make a run. This assumes that Josh Beckett can find himself and at least one middle reliever can find some consistency. Normally, a West Coast trip is the last thing a slumping team wants, but in this case, I think it could be a good thing for the Sox. The long road trip may provide an opportunity for the team to regroup. They could of course lose seven of nine and be out of the race. I haven't entirely given up, but I am on the brink.

Player of the Week: I contemplated not naming a Player of the Week for this week. The team was putrid top to bottom and probably doesn't deserve any recognition. In the end, I decided to give the Player of the Week to David Wells. Wells won the only game in a devastating 1-7 week. He didn't even pitch that well on Wednesday against the Tigers (6 1/3 IP, 4 ER) but you can't help but be impressed when a rotund 43-year-old returns from multiple injuries to beat the best team in baseball.

August 13, 2006

The Red Sox turned things around over the weekend following one of the most dismal stretches in recent memory. The Sox were 3-7 against the Indians, Rays and Royals. Even with the sweep over the Orioles, Boston's 6-7 record over the past two weeks against some of the league's weakest teams is highly disappointing. The Sox should have gone 9-4 at worst against that crew. The good news is that the Yankees are equally terrible and now hold just a one game lead in the AL East as the two teams get closer to their five game showdown next weekend. That series could mean everything .. or nothing. As I've said before, I expect someone to come out of that winning three of five.

The bad news is everywhere. Josh Beckett simply cannot pitch well on a consistent basis. Jon Lester is still doing a decent job for a rookie but his last four starts have been far weaker than his first eight. The bullpen is an unmitigated disaster and even Jon Papelbon has been mediocre over the past eight days. The defense hasn't even been as sharp as it was earlier in the season. On the plus side, David Wells pitched well on Friday and was able to go seven innings. Doug Mirabelli has actually homered in each of his last three games and Wily Mo Pena has a seven game hitting streak which includes three homers. On Sunday, the Sox scored 11 runs without a single hit from Manny Ramirez (0 for 3) or David Ortiz (day off).

Player of the Week: Wily Mo Pena, who was 9 for 24 this week with 3 homers, 9 RBI and 7 runs. The Sox desperately miss Jason Varitek. The miss Trot Nixon a lot less.

August 6, 2006

Today's game was certainly the low point in the Red Sox season so far. The Red Sox got an unexpected solid start from Jason Johnson and took a 6-2 lead into the seventh but the bullpen again managed to squander it all and lose in extra innings. The fact that Jon Papelbon gave up a game-tying run to Dioner Navarro says it all. The previous two homers Paps surrendered were to Chase Utley and Jermaine Dye. That is understandable. But Dioner Navarro on an 0-2 pitch. The Sox are now playing in the Twilight Zone. To make matters worse, the Yankees keep winning and are now two games up in the AL East. The only bright spot is the fact that Boston has a week and a half to get its act together before the Yanks come to the Hub for a five game series beginning on the 18th.

Coco Crisp batted .387 this week with four stolen bases. Mark Loretta batted .353 with three doubles and a homer. Manny Ramirez batted .357 with 3 HR and 7 RBI and extended his hitting streak to 22 games.

Player of the Week: Who else? Big Papi. David Ortiz hit 5 homers and drove in 8 runs this week while batting .370. He added another walk-off homer on Monday night and almost single-handedly beat the D-Rays on Friday night. He also became the first Red Sox player to hit 40 homeruns in three consecutive seasons.

August 2, 2006

The Red Sox finally surrendered first place on Tuesday evening following another lousy performance by Jason Johnson. Why the Red Sox continue to let him start games is a mystery. Even Big Papi couldn't rescue the Sox on Tuesday night. with the exception of the the Ortiz game-winning homer, the past three days have been an absolute nightmare for the Sox. They lost starting position players to injury on consecutive days, the Yankees took over first place by percentage points and David Wells was shelled. The only positive I can take from this is that the Sox are not playing the Yankees or one of the Wild Card contenders. The Sox still have another couple of weeks to get things together before the big five-game Yankee series later this month.

Unfortunately, Jason Varitek will not be available for that series. His injury is devastating for the Sox. Varitek has not been hitting all season but his average is still 60 points better than Doug Mirabelli's. He's also a better defensive catcher and a team leader. I am less concerned with the Nixon injury. Trot's offense has been abysmal the past month. It's a good chance to see what Wily Mo is made of. Gabe Kapler is a great defensive player and decent with the bat.

When I look at the July statistics, it find it amazing that the Red Sox were able to go 15-12 for the month. Of the nine regulars in the lineup, only three had a July average of better than .255. Here's the list: Lowell .255, Loretta .253, Crisp .243, Youkilis .236, Varitek .231 and Nixon .187. This group produced very few homeruns and drive in few runs. On the other side of the coin are the three guys who are carrying the offense. Alex Gonzalez batted .300 or better for a second straight month (.325 in July with 3 HR). Manny Ramirez batted .340 with 9 HR and 29 RBI. He has been absolutely torrid since late April with the exception of one 0 for 18 streak. Then there is Big Papi. He batted .339 in July, had an OBP of .429, hit 14 homers and drove in 35 runs. Just imagine how many runs he would have driven in had Youkilis and Loretta had better months at the plate.

As far as the pitching goes, only one starter (excluding Gabbard) had a July ERA of less than 4.50 (that was Lester at 3.82). Schilling and Beckett had July ERAs of 4.74 and 5.06, respectively. The bullpen was okay early in the month but has been terrible of late. The July bullpen ERAs do not look as bad as I thought they would: Papelbon 0.71, Seanez 0.87, DelCarmen 3.52, Hansen 4.20, Tavarez 4.26, Timlin 5.56. DelCarmen has been solid for the most part and it looks like Seanez has his act together. Timlin concerns me. Age and/or injuries might be creeping up on him.

Some Red Sox fans are angry that Theo and Company did not make any trades at the deadline this year. It would have been great pick up a starter that would improve the team but there really wasn't anyone out there that was available for a reasonable price. I commend Theo for not trading away a player like Lester, Hansen or DelCarmen to pick up some .500 journeyman like Corey Lidle or a washed up Greg Maddux. The Sox have been burned so many times (most recently Suppan for Freddy Garcia). I did not want to see it happen again. To get a superstar like Andruw Jones, Barry Zito, Dontrelle Willis or alike, it would be worth giving up a Hansen or DelCarmen and maybe a Lester but those guys weren't really on the trading block unless their teams were overwhelmed. It's disappointing that the Yanks picked up Abreu for so little in return but what can you do? If anything, I was surprised that the Red Sox were not able to get another middle reliever. That could still happen in August. I am happy that they didn't trade any pieces of their young pitching puzzle. We just need to hope that Wakefield and/or Wells are healthy soon.

Player of the Month - July: Jon Papelbon had another great month as did Ramirez and Gonzalez but the runaway Player of the month is David Americo Ortiz. Once again, .339, 14 HR, 36 RBI in a month where two-thirds of the lineup was in a slump. Add to that two more game-winning "walk off" hits. If Ortiz doesn't win the MVP this year, there should be an investigation.

July 30, 2006

The Red Sox continue to play mediocre baseball. Since a 14-1 stretch against the National League, the Sox weekly won/loss records have been as follows: 3-4, 1-3, 5-2, 3-3. Add it up and you have a record of 12-12 over the past four weeks. Thanks to that soft stretch, the Yankees are only one-half game behind the Sox in the AL East. The Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox and Twins are separated by just two games and it looks like only two of those four teams will reach the playoffs. Over the next 17 days, the Sox will play ten home games and six road games. The two road series will be played against the Devil Rays and Royals. The home series will be against the Indians, Orioles and Tigers. Following those games, Boston plays a five game series at Fenway with the Yankees. The soft schedule gives the Sox a great opportunity to expand their lead in the AL East. As tightly contested as the Sox-Yanks series has been, I fully that series in mid-August be 3-2 in favor of someone.

Player of the Week: Big Papi of course. David Ortiz was 9 for 27 this week (.333) with 2 HR, 7 RBI, 6 runs and another walk off hit. The man is carrying this team right now.

July 23, 2006

This would have been a great week had the Sox pulled out Sunday's game. It is ironic that the Red Sox, who have the best in the majors and have set the major league record for most consecutive errorless games, lost in large part because of one of the worst defensive plays I have ever seen. Adrian Beltre's inside the park homer in the eighth inning had to be seen to be believed. Between Coco's misjump, Manny whacking the ball back toward the fence and Coco's impossibly horrid throw to the infield, the Sox looked more like the Bad News Bears than a team that could break the major league record for fewest errors in a full season. Beltre's unconventional homer came with two outs and Timlin retired the next batter so it is more than likely that play cost Boston the game. It is hard to believe that a team who has a setup man with a 2.29 ERA (prior to today) and a closer with an 0.54 ERA could cough up so wins in the late innings, but they have.

All things considered, I was very impressed with Kason Gabbard on Saturday. He could have very easily won the game. All five of Seattle's runs were a fluke of sorts. A weak infield dribbler that died near the third base line led to Seattle's first two runs, a bad call and an error caused the third run to score (charged to Gabbard) and a popup that managed to land between Crisp and Gonzalez led to the fourth and fifth runs (charged to Tavarez).

The starting pitching has been pretty solid over the past nine days. During that time, the Red Sox have three shutouts (the first three of the season) and the starters' ERA is 2.88 (not including Tim Wakefield's injury-plagued start on Monday). That's excellent when you consider that three of those eight games were started by rookies and two were started by a guy with only 22 career starts.

Player of the Week: Jon Lester had a chance to grab the POW award with a win today but he really did not pitch well after a brilliant effort on Tuesday. This week's award goes to Josh Beckett who tossed eight great innings on Wednesday (0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts). The runner-up is Jon Papelbon, who saved three consecutive one-run wins (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday).

July 16, 2006

What a miserable eight days for the Red Sox. Just a week ago, the Red Sox were one out away from taking a four game lead in the AL East to the All Star break. After Two heartbreaking losses, two blowout losses and a Yankee sweep over Chicago, the Sox find themselves just one half game in front in the division. I felt there was a very good chance the Red Sox could gain a game and a half between Thursday and Sunday. They actually lost two and half games in the standings. Ironically, Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, who homered with two outs in the ninth against Papelbon last Sunday, was the tying run when he struckout today to end the game against the Yankees.

Don't let the 8-1 score today fool you. The Red Sox could have easily won 1-0 today. They key pitch of the game came in the fifth inning when Kyle Snyder hit Adam Melhuse (a .227 hitter in the back). This loaded the bases with no outs. The next batter walked followed by two strikeouts. So, if Melhuse is retired (or bunts), there is a good chance that Snyder gets out of the inning without giving up a run (Oakland scored five that inning). Tavarez gave up three runs in the ninth but had the Sox been ahead 1-0, Papelbon would have of course come in.

Player of the Week: This is a pretty easy call. Curt Schilling was sensational on Saturday night (7 IP, 2 hits, 9 K's, 1 BB). Curt is now 11-3 and very much in the running for the AL Cy Young award.

July 12, 2006

Technically, the All Star break is not the midpoint of the season (the Red Sox have played 86 games) but for all intents and purposes, Thursday begins the second half of the season. Despite a disappointing final week of the first half, the Red Sox are in a great position to win the American League East this year. Boston is currently 53-33 (on pace for a 100-62 record), three games ahead of New York in the AL East. The Red Sox have the added advantage of more home games in the second half than their AL East rivals. The Red Sox play 44 of their final 76 games at Fenway (+12) as compared to 38 home/38 road for the Yankees and 35/39 for the Blue Jays. The Sox are (knock on wood) fairly healthy. They desperately need a healthy David Wells and a few players are banged up, but all things considered Boston is in much better shape than New York. Of the Red Sox next 21 games, 15 are at home and all the games are against the AL West and the two bottom feeders in the AL Central (KC and Cleveland). The Yankees and Jays will play seven times during this time. Needless to say, this is a great opportunity for the Red Sox to put some space between themselves and the rest of the AL East. Here's a brief first half recap and a look ahead to the second half:

First Half Surprises (the Good Kind)

First Half Disappointments

Hopes for the Second Half

MVP and Cy Young Races

July 9, 2006

Sunday's game in Chicago was easily the most frustrating game of the year. Twice the Sox had the lead heading into Chicago's final at bat but Chicago rallied both times. For the first time this year, the Red Sox lost a game in which they handed Papelbon the ball with the lead. Papelbon's first two blown saves later turned into Red Sox victories. Luck was not on Boston's side on Sunday. The Red Sox spent most of the day hitting line drives directly at Chicago players while the White Sox grabbed several cheap hits including a crucial infield hit in the bottom the 19th. The White Sox also survived an 11th inning baserunning error where Jermaine Dye rounded third base then failed to retouch third as he scurried back to second base following a Trot Nixon catch. Had the Red Sox noticed Dye's mistake, they could have had an easy double play and probably would have won the game. Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek were 0 for 9 and 0 for 8, respectively. Even the big guns had tough games. Ortiz and Ramirez were a combined 2 for 15 with three strikeouts. Ortiz grounded into two double plays. It was not the kind of game you want to take into the All Star break.

The lone bright spot was Julian Tavarez, who pitched four shutout innings (one hit, one walk). Tavarez has given up just one run in his last 11 innings of work.

Player of the Week: I'm not sure the Red Sox should have a Player of the Week given the misery of the last seven days but the obvious choice is David Ortiz. Big Papi was 9 for 30 this week (.300) with 5 HR and 12 RBIs. He also scored seven runs.

July 2, 2006

If the Red Sox win the AL East, they will probably be able to credit their play against the National League. Boston finished interleague play with an incredible 16-2 mark. This contrasts sharply with the early years of interleague play when the Sox had a terrible record against the NL. For the most part, the American League has dominated interleague play this season.

The Red Sox were 5-1 this week and are 14-1 since being swept by the Minnesota Twins two and a half weeks ago. It appears that the Twins series was a wake-up call for the Red Sox.

Player of the Week: The choice this week was not difficult. David Ortiz was 8 for 19 this week with 4 homers, 7 RBIs and 8 runs. He was on base 10 of 21 times this week. Big Papi has raised his batting average from .264 to .276 in the last nine games.

June 30, 2006

The Red Sox 12-game winning streak ended on Friday night as the latest attempt to find a fifth starter, Jason Johnson, pitched miserably in the first two innings. The Red Sox ended June on a losing note, but it was a great month for the Sox. Boston was 17-9 in June (they were also 17-9 in May). The bats are warming up (the Sox averaged 7.6 runs per game during the winning streak), the starting pitching has been much better (2.89 starters ERA during the streak) and the defense has been simply amazing (17 games without an error).

There was a lot of talk this season about the Red Sox offense. Many people felt that it would take a step back in 2006. The Red Sox led the majors in runs in 2003, 2004 and 2005. After a slow start, the Red Sox are now second in the majors in runs per game. The White Sox are averaging 5.8 runs per game, the Red Sox are averaging 5.6. The pitching still leaves something to be desired (17th in the MLB) but things are going in the right direction. As poorly as the bullpen has been at times this season, it has improved since last season. The Sox 2006 bullpen ERA is 4.15. Last year, it was 5.15. If you remove Papelbon from the 2006 mix, the bullpen ERA is 4.95. The defense, needless to say, has been astounding. The Red Sox have committed only 23 errors this season, 12 fewer than the next best defensive team (Seattle, 35). Boston is on pace to shatter the major league record for fewest errors in a season.

Curt Schilling's value simply cannot be overestimated. Last season, the Sox were not a championship caliber team mainly because Schilling was not healthy. The Red Sox were only 5-6 in Schilling starts last year. In 2004 and 2006, the Red Sox are an amazing 39-10 in games started by Schilling. The Sox are 25-8 this season when Beckett and Schilling start (23-21 otherwise).

Plenty of Red Sox were great in the month of June. Mark Loretta batted .330 in June after a .404 month of May. Youkilis batted .309 with 15 RBI and 17 runs. David Ortiz batted .277 with 8 HR, 22 RBI and 20 runs. Manny Ramirez batted .309 with 7 HR, 21 RBI and 17 runs. Trot Nixon batted .386 with 1 HR, 14 RBIs and a .465 on base percentage. Alex Gonzalez batted .352 with 3 HR, 10 RBI and no errors. In limited action, Alex Cora batted .325. On the pitching side, Jon Papelbon was 2-0 and converted 5 of 7 saves in June. His ERA was 0.68. Curt Schilling was 2-0 with a 2.85 ERA (37 K/5 BB).

Player of the Month: On the numbers alone this is a tough decision, but anyone who has watched the Red Sox the past month knows that Big Papi was the Player of the Month and the team's MVP. His three-run walkoff homer beat the Rangers 5-4 on June 11th. His grand slam was the key hit in a 9-3 win over Washington on June 21st. He hit another walk-off last Saturday to beat the Phils 5-3 in ten innings and two days later drove in the winning run in an 8-7 12-inning victory.

June 25, 2006

Big Papi did it again. His ability to come up with big hits, especially big homers, is simply amazing. It's hard to believe that anyone pitches to him in situations such as the one Tom Gordon faced on Saturday. This is why the Sox could not afford to give away Manny Ramirez. Ortiz would be walked almost as much as Barry Bonds if not for Ramirez. Speaking of Manny. Through 16 games this season, Ramirez had no homers and only 6 RBI. He has 20 homers and 45 RBIs in 52 games since.

The only thing more amazing than Big Papi's clutch hitting is the work of Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon lowered his 2006 ERA to an unimaginable 0.24. He has now struck out 39 batters and walked only 5. Papelbon has now given up one run in his last 40 appearances (51 1/3 innings).

Starting pitching continues to be the key to success. In the last eight games (all wins), Sox starters have given up just 15 runs in 49 innings. That's an ERA of 2.76. It was very encouraging to see Jon Lester have a second consecutive excellent start. He struck out 10 batters on Wednesday night. It appears that Papelbon, Lester and Beckett will be the core of the Sox rotation in years to come. You can't help but be excited about that.

Most of the Red Sox hitters had solid weeks: Loretta (11 for 23, 4 runs), Cora (5 for 7, 4 runs), Ortiz (6 for 20, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 runs), Ramirez (8 for 17, 3 HR, 9 RBI), Nixon (8 for 16, 3 RBI, 4 runs), Gonzalez (5 for 12, 4 runs).

Player of the Week: All of the players mentioned above were worthy of the Player of the Week award. I am giving the nod to Ramirez.

June 18, 2006

The Red Sox picked up their fourth sweep of the year on the heels of being swept for the first time all season. The Red Sox won three in a row over the fading Braves thanks in large part to starting pitching and Jon Papelbon. Lester, Beckett and Schilling gave up just five runs combined in 18 innings of work over the weekend and Papelbon saved all three games. The offense did its part as well. Jason Varitek had a big three-run double on Friday night. Youkilis and Ortiz homered on both Saturday and Sunday.

The Red Sox survived a tough 19 game stretch that included 15 road games including series against the Jays, Yankees and Tigers. The Red Sox were 9-10 during the three week period. I was hoping for something better than 9-10, but things could have been worse. Game-saving ninth inning homers by Youkilis and Ortiz helped the Sox to two key comeback wins.

Jonathan Papelbon's performance continues to be ridiculous. In his last 39 appearances dating back to September 19th of last year, Papelbon has given up just one run in 49 innings of work. During that time, he's surrendered just 25 hits and 5 walks. He has 42 strikeouts during this stretch.

The two Red Sox regulars who struggled the most in the first couple of months have improved dramatically in June. Jason Varitek is batting .304 since May 29th and Alex Gonzalez is batting .325 in the month of June. Trot Nixon has been great all season. He's batting .382 in June.

Player of the Week: Alex Gonzalez, who was 8 for 18 this week (.444) and continues to play spectacular defense.

June 12, 2006

The Red Sox managed to regain the lead in the AL East despite dropping two of four to the Rangers over the weekend. The Sox won both games started by the veterans and lost by games started by the rookies. The Red Sox are now 11 games over .500. Curt Schilling is 9 games over .500. The Sox pitching staff has not had many solid games of late. The staff has given up three runs or fewer in only 6 of the last 22 games (27%). They gave up three runs or fewer in 18 of the first 39 games (46%).

Overall, the Red Sox bullpen has been better than it was last year (it could only get better) but in reality most of that improvement comes from one person, Jon Papelbon. The ERAs of some of the key middle relievers are disturbing: Seanez 4.56, Tavvarez 4.66, Delcarmen 5.23, Foulke 5.63.

The defense has been weak the past two weeks as well. The Sox committed only 15 errors in their first 48 games. They have committed 8 errors in the past 13 games. I hope this is not a trend.

What a moment for the Red Sox and David Ortiz in Game One on Sunday. I have never seen a Red Sox player with the flair for the dramatic that Ortiz possesses. It is simply amazing. Ortiz now has five walk-off homers with the Red Sox. The walk-offs are simply the tip of the iceberg. He's done it with singles, doubles and eighth inning homers. Watching on Sunday, I was afraid that Loretta would bounce into a DP. All I wanted was for Papi to have a chance to swing the bat. Thankfully, the batters in front of him allowed that to happen.

Kevin Youkilis had a nice week. He was 7 for 18 with 2 RBIs and 3 runs. He reached base 12 times in 23 at bats. Manny and Big Papi each had a pair of homers this week. Jason Varitek was 7 for 19 with a homer and 4 RBIs.

Player of the Week: Trot Nixon, who was 11 for 24 (and reached base 14 of 27 times) with a homer, 4 RBIs and 7 runs scored.

June 4, 2006

The Sox have reached the one-third mark in the regular season. This early in the season, the individual "on pace" numbers don't mean a whole lot, but they are always interesting to examine. Here are some of the "on pace" statistics:

Player of the Week: Jason Varitek, who was one of the few Sox to hit this week. In four games, Tek was 6 for 17 with a homer, 4 RBI and 3 runs.

Player of the Month (May): Mark Loretta, who batted .404 in May 16 RBI and 17 runs. He also played stellar defense. Loretta edged out Mike Lowell (.316 with 5 HR and 17 RBI), David Ortiz (5 HR, 28 RBI), Jon Papelbon (0.71 ERA, 9/9 in saves) and Manny Ramirez (.333 with 9 homers and 21 RBI).

May 28, 2006

Let's start with the good news: the Red Sox were 5-2 this week and will begin their 11 game road trip with a two game lead in the AL East. The Sox offense is really hitting its stride with nearly every Sox regular hitting the ball well. Even Alex Gonzalez had a nice week at the plate. The defense has been spectacular, especially in the infield. Beckett and Schilling are both pitching well and Tim Wakefield put together his best start of the year on Sunday afternoon. Jon Papelbon remains virtually unhittable.

As for the bad news ... the Red Sox really should have been 7-0 this week with a six game lead over New York (instead of two). On Tuesday night, with Boston trailing 4-1 in the top of the seventh, Francona inexplicably allowed a tiring Wakefield in the game to face A-Rod with two men on base. I think every Sox fan in New England knew what would happen next -- A-Rod launched one over the Monster (when the Yankees are ahead by three or more runs or behind by six or more runs, there is no better hitter in the game than A-Rod). The Sox scored three in the bottom of the seventh and eventually lost 7-5. More than likely, Francona's poor decision cost the Sox the game. On Wednesday, the Red Sox scored six runs but lost largely because of a ridiculous top of the second inning. After retiring Giambi and A-Rod, Matt Clement walked Robinson Cano, gave up an infield hit to Bernie Williams (which hit Clement), walked Terrance Long, HIT KELLY STINNETT to force home a run, gave up a single to Cabrera to score another run then surrendered a double to Jeter to plate two more. The Sox ended up losing by two runs. That second inning was the difference. As for the other bad news, the Red Sox bullpen after Papelbon and Timlin is underperforming right now. Foulke had problems this week and the performance by Seanez and Tavarez on Sunday was downright embarrassing. Matt Clement is a disaster right now. The Sox also have some minor injuries to worry about. Pena (wrist) and Ramirez (back) both missed time this week. David Wells took a line drive off his knee (the bad knee) in his first start off the DL. Mike Timlin has a tired arm and has not been available over the past few days.

The next three weeks will be a huge challenge for the Red Sox. In the next 21 days, the Red Sox will play 20 games, 16 of those on the road. This stretch includes road series against the Jays, Tigers, Yankees, Twins and Braves and a home series against Texas which includes a day-night double header. Here's the positive side: after this stretch of games, the Red Sox will play 53 of their final 94 games at Fenway (+12). In fact, 44 of the Red Sox 75 games after the All Star break will be at Fenway (+13). By contrast, the Yankees play 37 of 75 second half games at Yankee Stadium (-1). The Jays play only 35 of their final 74 at home (-4). If the Sox can stay in first place through the All Star break, they will be in great shape to win the AL East.

Although passed balls and lack of run support have had a lot to do with Tim Wakefield's poor record this season, most of his problems this season can be traced back to the number of walks Wakefield has given up. Last season, when Wakefield went 16-12, he walked an average of 2.7 batters per nine innings. Between 2002 and 2004, his walks per nine were 2.8, 3.2 and 3.0. Wakefield won more games than he lost in each of those seasons. Prior to Sunday's start, however, Wake had walked 3.7 batters per nine innings. Obviously, the last thing a knuckleballer who gives up a lot of homers wants to do is walk people. Sunday's 8 IP, 1 BB performance was very encouraging. Hopefully, we'll see a repeat of last season. In the first half of 2005, Wakefield walked 3.5 batters per nine innings. In the second half, that number shrunk to 1.8.

It's hard to understand why the fan behind the Red Sox dugout was giving Keith Foulke such a hard time on Friday night. Foulke was absolutely awful on Monday against the Yankees but all things considered, he's pitched well of late. If you take away that one outing against the Yanks, Foulke has given up seven runs in 22 2/3 innings since April 19th. That's an ERA of 2.78 if you exclude Monday's game. That's not up to closer standards, but it's pretty good for a seventh inning guy. Foulke has struck out 21 and walked only three batters this season. That is outstanding.

For those of you who are South Park fans, you have may have noticed that the 8-9 batters in the Yankees lineup on Tuesday were Terrence and Phillips. That's Terrence Long and Andy Phillips.

Who's HOT -- Josh Beckett (4-0 with an ERA of 2.33 in his last four starts); Mike Timlin (had gone 12 consecutive appearances without giving up a run before his outing on Thursday); Jon Papelbon (0.35 ERA, 18 saves in 18 chances); the Red Sox defense (a league best 15 errors this season); Kevin Youklis (his on base percentage is up to a Boggsian .440); Mark Loretta (.410 batting average in May); David Ortiz (27 RBI in May); Manny Ramirez (8 for 12 with 4 HR and 10 RBI in the Yankee series this week); Mike Lowell (is on pace for a major league record 74 doubles); Alex Gonzalez (7 for 15 this week); Alex Cora (6 for 11 this week).

Who's NOT -- Dustan Mohr, Willie Harris, Doug Mirabelli (all batting less than .180); Jason Varitek (batting .212 in May and .202 this season at Fenway); Matt Clement (15 earned runs allowed in his last three outings combined).

Player of the Week -- Schilling won twice this week but the award has to go to Manny Ramirez. He was 8 for 12 in the Yankee series with 4 homers, 10 RBI and 5 runs scored. He was 10 for 21 and reached base 12 of 23 times this week.

May 21, 2006

The Red Sox were 4-2 on their brief road trip, both times losing the third game of the series. The Sox moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. The bad news is that Boston could easily be ahead of New York by 3 1/2 games. The Yankees had two miracle wins this week: On Tuesday, they trailed 10-1 to the Rangers but won 14-13 on a bottom of the ninth two-run homer by Jorge Posada. On Saturday, the Yankees were down 4-0 heading into the ninth inning against the Mets but rallied to tie the game against Billy Wagner. They won the game in the tenth inning on a hit by the immortal Andy Phillips.

The Sox are now only two games in the loss column behind Detroit for the best record in the AL. That's right, Detroit. The Tigers are capable of staying in the playoff race all season. At present, four Tigers regulars are batting over .300. Four Tigers have at least 9 homers already. Magglio Ordonez (.316, 11 HR) and Chris Shelton (.315, 11 HR) have done both. Detroit's starting pitching has been amazing. Four of the five pitchers in the rotation have an ERA of 3.50 or less and all five have winning records. Kenny Rogers is 7-2 and has yet to beat up a camera man. There have been some stars in the bullpen as well including Fernando Rodney (1.42 ERA in 19 innings). The Sox and Tigers will meet up in Detroit for a three game series beginning on June 2nd.

Player of the Week: There is no doubt that Josh Beckett was Boston's Player of the Week. He went 2-0 this week, giving up four earned runs in 14 innings of work. Beckett struck out ten batters and walked just three in his two starts. Oh by the way, he also became the first Red Sox pitcher since 1972 to hit a homerun.

May 14, 2006

The Rangers swept the Red Sox this weekend in an abbreviated one game series. The Red Sox have now been rained out three times in the past two weeks. That will mean some double headers down the road and that is rarely a good thing. The Sox grabbed two of three from the Yankees thanks to some decent pitching from Beckett and Wakefield and a whole lot of baserunners in the first and third games of the series. The Sox scored only five on Thursday but left 15 runners on base. The Sox have now taken three of four from the Bronx Bombers this year.

I don't want to make too much of the 3-1 start against the Yankees but based on the early returns, I'd say that the Red Sox are the better team. By any measure, the Red Sox are the superior defensive team. Damon and Crosby made great plays in the recent series but the web gems were far outweighed by the various drops, some of which were Bad News Bears-like. The Yankees clearly have a lot more power in the lineup than the Red Sox but I'm not sure they will score more runs than the Red Sox this season, especially without Matsui for a few months, if not the rest of the season. Undoubtedly, they will pick up a veteran to replace him. The Red Sox offense is starting to produce the way we all had hoped they would. That is, not a ton of power (other than Ortiz and Ramirez of course) but a high on base percentage and plenty of doubles. Even Alex Gonzalez homered against the Yankees. As far as the pitching goes, the Schilling-Beckett combo looks better than Mussina-Johnson duo at this point. Mussina has pitched well but Johnson appears to have lost it. On the other hand, in the 3/4 spots, Wang and Chacon have pitched better than Wakefield/Clement this season. Right now, Jon Papelbon is a better closer than Mariano Rivera. Both teams have had mixed news out of the bullpen.

I haven't forgotten about the Blue Jays. Their lineup has battered American League pitching this year. Five Blue Jay regulars are batting .336 or better. Three players have a slugging percentage of better than .610. Halladay and Lilly are pitching well and B.J. Ryan has been as good as Papelbon in the closer's role. The down side for the Jays are injuries. Burnett is on the DL and it looks like Chacin will miss some starts. Halladay is coming off a major injury as well.

Player of the Week: It was a pretty easy choice this week. Mark Loretta was 9 for 16 against the Yankees and 9 for 19 for the week. He scored three runs and drove in five against the Yankees in New York. Loretta was batting .207 on May 3rd. He's now at .274. I have to believe that .300 is not far behind.

May 7, 2006

After dropping to 15-12, the Sox have won four consecutive games to match a season-best seven games over .500. The offense is finally starting to pick up. Five Red Sox regulars are batting .314 or better and one of those who isn't, David Ortiz, already has 11 homers and 28 RBIs. Another, Mark Loretta, has eight hits in his last four games. The starting pitching was solid in five of six games this week (the five wins). The only bad news was that the bullpen coughed up a win on Wednesday night against the Blue Jays. Even Jon Papelbon gave up a run in that game (the winning run). It was the first run the young righthander had given up since September 19th of last year (a span of 27 innings).

The Yankees are also playing good baseball. They will enter the upcoming series in the Bronx in a tie for first place with the Red Sox in the AL East. The Red Sox were scheduled to play the Yankees 12 times between May 1st and June 8th. In other words, Boston and New York were scheduled to meet 12 times in the first 62 games and only 7 times in the final 100 games (because of last week's rainout, it will now be 11 and 8, respectively). The Red Sox and Yankees will play only one series after August 21st. The Red Sox will also play 11 of their 19 against the Blue Jays prior to June 1st. This makes absolutely no sense. The good news for the Red Sox is that 8 of their final 12 games will be at Fenway.

Player of the Week: There were a few good candidates to choose from this week. Mark Loretta broke out of a slump and batted .346 (9 for 26) with seven runs this week. Manny Ramirez batted .500 (9 for 18), reached base 17 of 26 times this week and scored six runs. Kevin Youklis batted .440 (11 for 25) with two homers, four RBIs and eight runs scored. The award this week, however, goes to Mike Lowell. Lowell batted .381 (8 for 21) with six runs scored, six RBIs and six doubles. Lowell has 21 hits in his last 13 games.

April 30, 2006

After a great 11-4 start to the season, the Red Sox slumped to a 14-11 record in April. The Sox have now lost seven of ten games and were nearly swept by the Devil Rays. The good news is that all of the other top AL contenders, except for the white hot White Sox, also played poorly in April. In the AL, only the White Sox and Tigers were better than three games over .500 in the month of April.

First the good news: Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett both look healthy and for the most part have pitched well. The Foulke-Timlin-Papelbon late inning relief trio has been excellent (9 runs allowed in 40 2/3 innings). Keith Foulke is throwing well and appears to be healthy. The Red Sox defense has improved as they have made just 11 errors in 25 games. Kevin Youkilis is off to a very nice start. He's played excellent defense at first base and is batting .299. David Ortiz has already hit 10 homers. If he hits another 65 this season, the New York writers may even give him some MVP votes.

There is more bad news than good. The Red Sox offense has been sluggish to say the least. The team that has led the AL in runs in each of the past three years is currently ninth in that category. The Sox are also ninth in batting average and tenth in homers. Albert Pujols has more homers (14) than the the entire Red Sox team (13) if you subtract Big Papi's contribution. Ramirez and Ortiz appear to be the only Sox right now with any power. Nixon, Youkilis and Lowell are off to pretty good starts as far as batting average goes but Varitek and Loretta look awful. Varitek doesn't even look like the same person at the plate. Gonzalez has been pretty close to an automatic out. In fact, I always fast forward through his at bats when I'm watching the game on Tivo. Alex Cora, Dustan Mohr, J.T. Snow, Adam Stern and Willie Harris are all batting .200 or less. The Red Sox should create a new reality TV show to fill out their bench. The Red Sox have been very good defensively except for Wily Mo Pena and Josh Bard. Bard's inability to catch the knuckle ball and Pena's inability to catch .. well, the ball .. have cost the Red Sox at least ten runs this season and possibly two Tim Wakefield starts. At this point in the season, I can't get too upset with Bard. But, if he doesn't improve quickly, he could ruin Tim Wakefield's season. The late inning relief, as I said, has been great. The middle relief has been much like the debacle of last season. Tavarez, Seanez and Riske (in one appearance) have given up close to one run per inning. Clement and DiNardo are all off to lousy starts and Wells is back on the DL (meanwhile, Bronson Arroyo is 4-0 with a 2.34 ERA and has even hit two homeruns). Coco Crisp's injury has had a devastating impact on the offensive production.

Player of the Week: It is hard to choose anyone this week. I guess it comes down to Mike Lowell (10 for 23, 1 HR, 3 RBI) and Jon Papelbon (three more scoreless innings and two saves). Papelbon saved both Sox wins this week, so I'll give it to the rookie.

Player of the Month: There were not many strong candidates this month. Kevin Youkilis (.299 avg, .406 OBP, 1 HR, 14 RBI) is off to a good start, as is David Ortiz (.278, 10 HR, 20 RBI). Curt Schilling looks healthy after a miserable 2005. He's 4-1 with 2.88 ERA and leads the AL in strikeouts. The clear cut winner, however, is Jonathan Papelbon. All Jonathan did in the month of April was convert all ten of his save opportunities while not allowing a run in 14 1/3 innings of work. His strikeout to HIT ratio was 2:1 (his K to BB ratio was 7:1). Most importantly, Papelbon closed out 10 of the Red Sox 14 wins, four of which were one run saves. Including the playoffs last year, Papelbon has not surrendered a run in his last 26 2/3 innings. Amazing.

April 23, 2006

The Red Sox finished off a 4-3 week with a victory on Sunday in Toronto. The Red Sox are 10-3 this season against Texas, Baltimore, Seattle and Tampa Bay but are only 2-4 against the Blue Jays. Based on what I have seen so far, I believe that the Jays will be in the AL East race all season. They have a very potent lineup, a top notch closer in B.J Ryan, a nice 1-2 punch in the rotation with Halladay and Burnett and a decent 3-4 with Lilly and Chacin. However, Burnett is already on the DL and Halladay is coming off a serious injury so like the Sox, injuries could be a big factor this season for the Jays.

What is it with the Blue Jays fans and the non-stop booing? When the Sox were at bat, just about every pitch that was called a ball drew boos from the Blue Jay fans. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. These are the same people who boo the Star Spangled Banner when American sports teams visit Canada. Whining and booing has replaced hockey as Canada's national pastime.

Wouldn't it be great to have the QuesTec umpire stats in the box scores? If a pitcher gives up eight runs, everybody will know it. If a home plate umpire is wrong 30% of the time, there is no record of it. QuesTec is not perfect, but I think if the data was published we'd have a better understanding of who the best umpires are. On Friday night, it really seemed to me that the strike zone was much larger for Blue Jay pitchers than Sox pitchers. I love to know if my impression was correct.

I think the Red Sox actually cost themselves a win on Friday by scoring two runs and remaining at bat for a long time in the top of the eighth inning. Josh Beckett was forced to sit for probably 20-30 minutes between innings and was not the same pitcher when he returned in the bottom of the eighth. It is always difficult for a pitcher to wait through a long inning but it is particularly difficult when that long inning occurs late in the game. I can't blame Francona for leaving Beckett in the game though. He had only thrown 78 pitches and the four run lead seemed pretty safe. Hopefully, that will be the last time this year that the Sox blow a four run lead in the final three innings.

I'm very happy that the Red Sox are not wearing those silly X-men-like batting helmets like so many major league teams. The Mets, Orioles, Cubs and Dodgers are among the ugly-helmet teams. HERE is an example. Who in the world thought that these would look good? Do they serve a purpose?

The post-steroids era isn't exactly what we thought it would be. Eleven players already have eight homeruns including David Ortiz. Albert Pujols has 8 HR and 26 RBI though 18 games. The Tigers and Reds already have 30-plus homers.

There wasn't a clear-cut Red Sox Player of the Week this week. Curt Schilling had a great start against the Devil Rays to run his record to 4-0. Jon Papelbon added two more saves and another 4 1/3 scoreless innings (11 1/3 for the season). Mark Loretta had the biggest hit of the week when he homered to win the Patriots Day game. Manny's bat came alive this week (.375, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 runs) and Kevin Youkilis continued his great start (.367, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 6 runs). Trot Nixon batted .455 this week but only drove in two runs and scored once. In a close race, the winner is:

Player of the Week -- David Ortiz, who batted only .267 this week but hit four homers, drove in seven runs and scored eight times. Big Papi could be on his way to an even bigger season than last year.

April 16, 2006

Pitching continues to be the story for the Red Sox. Schilling, Wakefield, Beckett, Timlin and Papelbon were outstanding in the first three games of the Seattle series. Sox pitchers gave up only six runs (four earned) in those three games. In reality, only one of those runs was the fault of a Sox pitcher. The three runs surrendered by Wakefield on Saturday were the result of two passed balls by Josh Bard and an outfield blunder by Wily Mo Pena. Wake deserved a complete game shutout. The two runs scored off Beckett on Sunday were also a result of Wily Mo's poor defense. Wakefield has had two good outings in a row and Schilling and Beckett are each 3-0 with ERAs under 1.70. Papelbon and Timlin have combined for 12 scoreless innings this season. Keith Foulke has given up two runs in his last five innings of work. However, those two runs were the fault of ... you guessed it, Wily Mo Pena.

The pitching has been great, but you can't say the same for the offense. The Sox lineup on Saturday did NOT include Varitek, Loretta, Lowell, Crisp or Nixon. With Ramirez mired in a big slump, it is going to be tough to score runs with that lineup. Even Big Papi looked lost this weekend at the plate. This will change soon, of course. Manny started with a slow two weeks last year before going on a homerun hitting binge. I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen again. Trot Nixon is expected back tomorrow. That is great news for the Sox. Pena's hitting has been okay but he is absolultely lost in rightfield at Fenway.

David Wells health is certainly a major concern. The Arroyo trade made sense to me at the time, but seeing Wells struggle makes me wonder. It would be nice to have Arroyo in the rotation right now. If Wells doesn't get healthy or comes back but continues to be knocked around, the Sox will have a decision to make. Do they move Papelbon to the rotation, trade for a starter or bring someone up from AAA? The Papelbon part of that clearly depends a lot on Keith Foulke. If Foulke looks good, moving Papelbon to the rotation is probably an easy call. If Wells falters, Roger Clemens' name is bound to surface.

Player of the Week -- It's a pretty easy call this week. Josh Beckett was 2-0, giving up just two earned runs in 14 innings of work. He gave up one of those runs in the first inning of Monday's game and the other earned run was the fault of Wily Mo. His current ERA of 1.29 is the best in the AL.

April 9, 2006

It is difficult to find anything negative to say about the first week of the season. Just about everyone is playing well and the key players appear to be healthy (Coco's finger injury appears to be minor). Obviously, we can't judge this team based on a week of action but it is nice to get off to such a great start, especially on the road. Here's the good news:

As for the bad news, both Riske and Seanez had bad outings last week. This isn't any reason for concern. One bad performance stands out more when it happens in the first week of the season. Mike Lowell had a homer this week but batted only .190. It is very early, but so far I am not impressed with Lowell's bat.

The Sox are well positioned to get off to a phenomenal start this season. Josh Beckett will start the first of three games against the Blue Jays this week at Fenway. After that, the Sox host Seattle for four games and Tampa Bay for three. The Mariners and Devil Rays lost 93 and 95 games last year, respectively.

Player of the Week -- Plenty of Red Sox had a great week but it really came down to Curt Schilling and Trot Nixon. I'm giving the Week One Player of the Week award to Curt Schilling. The Sox ace was 2-0 this week with an ERA of 1.93. He struck out nine and walked just three in 14 innings.

April 2, 2006

Opening Day is just twenty-four hours away. The Red Sox will open the 2006 schedule in the great state of Texas against the no so great Rangers. The three game series begins on Monday afternoon. Schilling, Wakefield and Beckett are expected to take the hill in those first three games. The Red Sox were 9-20 in Spring Training but as we all know, that means nothing. Wins and losses in the Grapefruit League are meaningless. How the players are performing individually in the Spring means a little more. The most encouraging stats of the spring were the numbers put up by the Red Sox 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup. Coco Crisp hit .431 in the Spring with seven extra base hits in 51 at bats. Mark Loretta batted .353, also in 51 official at bats. Kevin Youkilis hit only .234 in the spring but blasted four homers in 47 at bats. The only offensive numbers that jump out in a negative way are those of Alex Gonzalez, who batted .130. Pitching stats mean less than offensive numbers in Spring Training because pitchers are more concerned with how they are throwing than getting people out. The ERAs of Beckett (5.14), Schilling (6.75) and Wells (11.25) really don't concern me. One spring pitching line that impressed me, however, was Craig Hansen's 10 2/3 IP, 5 hits, 0 runs. Even in the Grapefruit League, you can't help but take notice when you see those numbers.

Few experts are picking the Red Sox to do much this season. Of the 19 writers on, only ten are predicting that the Red Sox will make the playoffs (five said they would win the AL East). None of the 19 are picking the Sox to go to the World Series (five picked the Yanks to win the AL and one chose Toronto). This is understandable given all of the question marks surrounding the Sox.

Those first two questions will probably tell most of the story. If Beckett, Schilling and Foulke are healthy, I could easily see the Red Sox going maybe 47-19 in games started by Beckett and Schilling. If the team can have a fairly modest 53-43 record in games started by Wakefield, Clement and Wells (or maybe Papelbon) then we are looking at 100 wins. This also would require an offense that is at least close to what the Red Sox have had in the past three years and better support from the bullpen.

Here are numbers for the projected staters:

Schilling21-6, 3.26 ERA8-8, 5.69
Beckett9-9, 3.7915-8, 3.38
Clement9-13, 3.6813-6, 4.57
Wakefield12-10, 4.8716-12, 4.15
Wells12-8, 3.7315-7, 4.45

and the bullpen:

Foulke5-3, 2.17 ERA5-5, 5.91
Timlin5-4, 4.137-3, 2.24
Tavarez7-4, 2.382-3, 3.43
PapelbonN/A3-1, 2.65
Seanez3-2, 3.337-1, 2.69
Riske7-3, 3.723-4, 3.10
DiNardo0-0, 4.230-1, 1.84

Basically, the Red Sox are hoping for the 2004 versions of Schilling and Foulke, the 2005 first half version of Matt Clement and the 2005 version of everyone else.

Please click HERE to read my comments on the 2006 lineup.

2006 MLB Predictions

AL EastYankeesMoney, money, money, money .. moooooney
AL CentralIndiansWhite Sox will fall back to earth
AL WestAngelsNot on the A's bandwagon .. yet
AL WildcardRed SoxBetter defense, better bullpen
NL EastBravesMets and Phils not quite ready
NL CentralCardinalsThe only easy pick
NL WestDodgersNomaaaaaaaaaah!
NL WildcardCubsHealth is the big question
AL ChampionAngelsBest combo of pitching and hitting
NL ChampionCubsBartman denied tickets
World ChampsCubsRed Sox in '04, White Sox in '05, I see a trend

Players of the Week

10/1: Devern Hansack
9/24: David Ortiz (7)
9/17: Mark Loretta (2)
9/10: Julian Tavarez
9/3: Kyle Snyder
8/27: David Ortiz (6)
8/20: David Wells
8/13: Wily Mo Pena
8/6: David Ortiz (5)
7/30: David Ortiz (4)
7/23: Josh Beckett (3)
7/16: Curt Schilling (3)
7/9: David Ortiz (3)
7/2: David Ortiz (2)
6/25: Manny Ramirez
6/18: Alex Gonzalez
6/11: Trot Nixon
6/4: Jason Varitek
5/28: Curt Schilling (2)
5/21: Josh Beckett (2)
5/14: Mark Loretta
5/7: Mike Lowell
4/30: Jon Papelbon
4/23: David Ortiz
4/16: Josh Beckett
4/9: Curt Schilling

Players of the Month

September: David Ortiz
August: Manny Ramirez
July: David Ortiz
June: David Ortiz
May: Mark Loretta
April: Jon Papelbon

2005 Red Sox Notes

October 10, 2005

The Red Sox bid for a second consecutive World Championship ended on Friday at the hands of the Chicago White Sox. As was the case in Game 2, the Red Sox lost the game in the middle innings. In Game 2, Tony Graffanino's error led to the winning runs. In Game 3, the Sox failed to score after a bases loaded, no outs situation in the sixth inning. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez of all people retired Varitek, Graffanino and Damon to preserve a 4-3 White Sox lead (which eventually became a 5-3 ChiSox victory). The Sox were essentially one fielding play (Game 2) and one big hit (Game 3) away from taking a 2-1 series lead into Game 4, but it wasn't meant to be.

The Red Sox problems in the ALDS mirrored their problems in the second half of the regular season. Six or seven players carried the Red Sox through the final month of the season (Ramirez, Ortiz, Wakefield, Wells, Timlin, Papelbon and, to a lesser extent, Damon). In the playoffs, it was pretty much the same cast of characters getting the job done while the rest of team failed to pull its weight. Friday's game was ridiculous as the combo of Ortiz and Ramirez homered three times while no one else could muster any offense. Even a mediocre contribution from the rest of the lineup would have given the Red Sox games 2 and 3. The Red Sox failed to score after the sixth inning in the three games. It is hard to believe that this is the same team that averaged 7.3 runs per game between August 1st and September 1st.

But, as they say in the GEICO commercials, there is good news. The Evil Empire was eliminated in the first round as well. Thank you, Angels. The best part of last night's game was A-Rod grounding into a double play in the ninth inning. The Yankees didn't belong in the playoffs in the first place and it would have been an even greater injustice had they advanced to the second round or beyond. The Yankees final payroll was $202 million, $76 million more than the Red Sox and well over double the league average. Despite the payroll, they needed to win game #161 just to make the playoffs and couldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs. They Yankees have spent close to a billion dollars in the past five years on All Stars and former MVPs yet have not won a single championship. That is truly pathetic. On a dollar-adjusted basis, the Yankees are probably one of the ten worst organizations in all of pro sports.

If the Red Sox had to lose, I'm glad it was the White Sox who beat them. The Red Sox streak of 86 years without a title has received most of the attention over the past twenty years, but the White Sox hadn't won a playoff series in 88 years. I really hope the Chicago Southsiders win it all. They don't have many fans, but the ones they do have are very loyal. It would be nice to see their patience rewarded. By the way, the Houston Astros have never played in the World Series. This could be another historic year.

Back to the Red Sox. By itself, this was one of the most difficult Red Sox seasons ever. The lack of production from the corner infield positions, the late inning collapses, the injuries, the ups and downs of the starting rotation, Manny being Manny, the bad defense and the questionable managing/third base coaching would have been enough to send Red Sox Nation over the edge if not for last year's championship. I think most Red Sox fans are still too caught up in the 2004 season to be overly bothered by what happened in 2005.

The Good News:

The Bad News:

What's Next:

If I had to guess, I'd say that the following players will definitely be back: Ortiz, Varitek, Nixon, Mirabelli, Schilling, Papelbon, Wakefield, Timlin, Foulke and Renteria. Renteria will be back only because no will want to absorb the remaining $30 million of his contract.

I think the following players have somewhere between a 50% and 80% chance of being back next season: Ramirez, Damon, Clement, Graffanino, Olerud, Myers, Bradford and Wells. The Ramirez situation of course is based solely on what the Red Sox can get in return for him. They are not going to give him away.

I'm pretty certain that Millar, Miller, Arroyo, Harville and Gonzalez will be elsewhere next season. With Papelbon moving to the rotation, either Wells, Clement or Arroyo needs to go. Wells has the best chance of staying because he is a lefty. Arroyo is more likely to be traded than Clement because he is cheaper and probably more marketable.

Either Kevin Youkilis or Bill Mueller will not be back. The Red Sox cannot leave Youkilis in the minor leagues or on the bench any longer. He needs to play every day, either in Boston or someplace else. The Red Sox may even dump both Mueller and Youkilis and pick up a new third baseman.

That brings me to the Red Sox needs for next year. Obviously they cannot go through another year getting only 27 homers out of the corner infield positions. They also need a legimate bat the follow Ortiz and Ramirez in the lineup. If Damon leaves, the Sox will be left without a centerfielder or a leadoff hitter. If all goes well with Schilling's recovery, he could anchor a staff followed by Wells, Papelbon, Clement or Arroyo and Wakefield. A free agent signing could be in the mix though. The bullpen will need a lot of work even if Keith Foulke is healthy. Hansen and Delcarmen will have a good chance to start the season in the pen. The Red Sox will probably seek a lefty to join or replace Mike Myers. Of course, if the Red Sox make a blockbuster deal involving Manny Ramirez, who knows what the team could look like next season.

October 5, 2005

The 2004 championship season may have ended "The Curse" but I'm not sure it reversed it. The black cloud that hung over the Red Sox between 1919 and 2003 seems to have returned in 2005. Well, maybe it's a different cloud or a different curse. Wednesday's game against the White Sox was a throwback to 1946, 1978, 1986, 1999, 2003 or any number of seasons in between. David Wells was solid and the Red Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead through three innings. Things were going exceedingly well until the fifth inning when a double off the chalk, a seeing-eye single, and an error by the normally sure-handed Tony Graffanino set the stage for a two-out, three-run homer by White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi that gave the ChiSox a 5-4 lead they would never relinquish. I'm not sure but I think "Tadahito Iguchi" means "Bucky Dent" in Japanese. Just to make things a little more painful, Edgar Renteria made the final out of the game with a man in scoring position and Mr. Clutch, David Ortiz, on deck.

The good news is that the series is returning to Fenway and the Sox have been great with their backs to the wall over the past three seasons. In the last nine games in which they have faced elimination, the Sox are 8-1. Of course that record could easily be 9-0 (thanks, Grady).

Ortiz and Jason Varitek were both 3 for 8 in Chicago. Manny Ramirez was just 1 for 7, but drove in a pair of runs in the first inning of Game Two. Bill Mueller was 0 for 8. I don't have to tell anyone how bad Matt Clement was in the first game. Jon Papelbon pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in his first postseason action. The White Sox outhomered the Red Sox 6-0 in the two games. The White Sox outhit the Red Sox only 20-18 and Red Sox pitchers surrendered only one more walk (3 in all) than Chicago. Both teams made only one error, but Boston's cost them a game. The most interesting stat: the White Sox left only five runners on base in the two games. FIVE! They put a total of 27 runners on base in the two games (20 hits, 3 walks, 3 HBP, 1 error) and 19 of them scored. That's an amazing ratio. By contrast, the Red Sox pushed home only six of 21 base runners.

October 2, 2005

For the third year in a row, the Red Sox will be the American League's Wild Card entry. The Sox won yesterday to force a tie at the top of the American League East at 95-67 but officially the Yankees will be given the division title because of their 10-9 advantage over the Sox in the season series. It would have been nice to see the Sox take home the division crown for the first time in ten years, but for the most part, it doesn't matter. Division titles are not as meaningful as they once were and because the two teams finished tied, I don't really consider the Yankees to be AL East Champions. In fact, taking the Wild Card rather than the division may be a blessing in disguise. New York has to travel across the country to face the red hot Angels while the Sox travel just one time zone to face a White Sox team that was ice cold before winning their final five games of the season. On the down side, the fact that New York gets credit for the division title means that the Monees would have home field advantage should they meet the Sox in the ALCS for the third year in a row.

For now, I'll take my chances with the ChiSox for four reasons. First, as I said, the Angels are playing better baseball than the White Sox. Los Angeles of Anaheim (I really hate that name) is 14-2 since mid-September while Chicago is about a .500 team since mid-July and 12-11 since the first week of September. Second, the #1 starter in a five game series is so critical and I think the Angels have the better ace. Bartolo Colon is 10-2 in his last 12 decisions. Jose Contreras is 9-1 with an ERA of just over 2.00 since the beginning of August, but I would rather face Contreras than Colon in a playoff game (or two). Third, the Angels have Vladimir Guerrero. The White Sox top slugger is Paul Konerko. Advantage Angels. Fourth, and most importantly, is the closer spot. Anaheim has a playoff-tested first rate closer in Francisco "KRod" Rodriguez. Closing for the White Sox in the playoffs is the inexperienced Bobby Jenks.

The Wild Card round should be great. I can easily see Boston-Chicago, New York-LA and Houston-Atlanta going five games. I would be surprised if the Padres take more than one from the Cardinals, but you never know. One hot pitcher can transform an entire series and Jake Peavy is certainly capable of shutting down the Redbirds.

If there was even any doubt that the Yankees are the most arrogant self-absorbed organization in professional sports it was erased when the Yankees complained because the Texas Rangers pulled some of their stars out of the final game of the season in the third inning, helping the Angels to beat Texas and grab home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. ARod, a former Ranger, led the whine parade. This is amazing considering that Joe Torre pulled Mike Mussina from the Sunday start against the Sox, who battered replacement starter Jaret Wright. So according to ARod, the Yankees can rest players when Cleveland has a playoff spot on the line, but Texas cannot remove their starters when New York merely has home field advantage on the line. To his credit, Yankees GM Brian Cashman did not complain about Buck Showalter's decision to remove Young, Teixiera and Blalock early in the game.

Player of the Week: Manny Ramirez, who completed a great year with a great week. Manny batted .409 in the final week of the season with 4 homers, 9 RBIs and 6 runs.

Player of the Month for September: David Ortiz, who smashed 11 homers and drove in 29 runs in the month of September. He also batted .320 for the month and scored 19 runs. He also hit three game-winning homeruns. Honorable mention goes to Manny, who batted .288 in September with 9 HR and 23 RBI, Tim Wakefield (2-1, 1.99 ERA, 34 K, 7 BB) and Jon Papelbon (3-0, 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 innings).

September 27, 2005

The Red Sox missed a golden opportunity to not only move into the lead in the AL East but to move to within one game of the Chicago White Sox for the best record in the American League. Tim Wakefield put together another great performance in the day portion of the day-night doubleheader but Curt Schilling could not hold onto a three-run lead in the nightcap. The Sox were able to use Papelbon and Timlin to lock up the win in the first game. Terry Francona did not use Timlin or Papelbon in the nightcap as the bullpen gave up the game in the eighth and ninth. I can't really blame Francona for keeping his two best relievers out of the nightcap after pitching in the early game. Monday's weather, which forced Tuesday's doubleheader, may have cost the Sox a game, but there is really no way to know for sure. The key to yesterday's games were walks. In game one, Sox pitchers walked only two batters. Last night, the Sox bullpen alone walked four batters. Toronto's leadoff batter walked in the eighth and ninth innings. In both cases, the batter that walked scored on a sac fly.

The split moved the Sox into a tie with the Yankees in the AL East and a tie with the Yankees and Cleveland for first place in the Wild Card. The Yankees lost to the Orioles 17-9. I'm not sure that this weekend's Jets-Ravens game will match that scoring outburst. Chicago lost again and Anaheim won again to clinch the AL West. Only three games separate the White Sox, Red Sox, Indians, Yankees and Angels. According to my calculations, there are still 48 different AL Playoff possibilites (teams and seeding).

First the good news. Tim Wakefield continued his outstanding work, giving up just three hits and one unearned run in seven innings. Wake is 8-2 since his last start in July, including a 1-0 loss to the Yankees. He's given up just nine earned runs in five September starts (1.99 ERA). On the negative side, Curt Schilling gave up four runs or more for the fifth time in seven starts since moving back into the rotation.

The offense has also gone south. Last night was a prime example as the Sox didn't score after the fourth inning. In their last ten games at Fenway, the Red Sox have averaged only 3 runs per game. Ortiz (.286, 10 HR, 25 RBI) and Ramirez (.290, 8 HR, 21 RBI) have been putting up MVP-type numbers in September. Graffanino (.308, 11 runs) has also been excellent this month, but the rest of the offense is not pulling its weight. Other than Ortiz and Ramirez, no Sox player has more than two homers since September 2nd. The September batting averages are not very good -- Damon (.275), Renteria (.230), Varitek (.171), Nixon (.260), Millar (.283), Mueller (.281) and Olerud (.255). Olerud is batting only .213 since a 3-for-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI day on September 1st. Someone on this list needs to step up over the next five days.

September 25, 2005

The Red Sox hadn't swept a road series since late June (the Phillies) before going into Baltimore and taking three crucial games from the Orioles. It helped that Red Sox Nation turned out in full force this weekend at Camden Yards. It must have felt like a home game for the Sox who edged above .500 on the road (41-40) for the eighth consecutive season. The sweep moved the Sox into a tie with the Yankees for first place in the AL East. Both teams trail the Indians by one-half game in the Wild Card standings. The three teams are tied in the loss column. The White Sox are three games ahead of Boston and New York. Here are the schedules for this week.

    Red Sox -- Toronto (4), New York (3)
    Yankees -- at Baltimore (4), at Boston (3)
    White Sox -- at Detroit (4), at Cleveland (3)
    Indians -- Tampa Bay (3), Chicago (3)

Obviously, the Red Sox are in better shape than New York because they play all seven games this week at Fenway where they are 50-24 this season. The Yankees are on the road all week where they are only 38-36. On the other hand, Toronto is a much better team right now than Baltimore. The Orioles were 28-13 at the one-quarter mark. They are 42-72 since. The Jays are 9-5 against the Red Sox and may have single-handedly ruined the Red Sox season. The Sox can change all of that with a sweep this week.

The LA Angels, who are two behind the Sox and Yanks, are four ahead of the A's as they travel to Oakland for a four-game series. The Angels can clinch merely by winning two of four games in that series.

The Red Sox could wind up in a very strange situation if they clinch the division before next Sunday's game but the Yankees are still in contention for the Wild Card. By resting their starters the Sox might be helping the Yankees into the playoffs. It would be an interesting predicament that the Yankees could also face. If that scenario does occur, it's not likely to occur until next Sunday because I doubt that either the Sox or the Yankees will pick up three full games over the next five days.

Player of the Week: There is no doubt that it's Manny Ramirez. Manny popped five homers and drove in ten runs this week. He batted .296 (8 for 27) and scored 8 runs. Manny and Papi have now combined for 87 homers and 275 RBI this season. No Sox tandem has put up numbers like this since 1949 when Ted Williams and Vern Stephens combined for 82 homeruns and 318 RBIs.

September 22, 2005

The horror, the horror. That is the best way I can describe the last four days for the Red Sox. While the Yankees were winning four in a row against Baltimore (three by one run), the Sox were busy losing two of three to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (despite outscoring the Rays 26-17 in the series). On Wednesday night, the Red Sox went from a division leader with home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs to a game behind Cleveland for the Wild Card. Following Thursday's games, the Red Sox were still on the outside looking in but also just three games behind the fading White Sox for the best record in the American League (which comes with home field throughout the AL Playoffs). What a crazy year in the American League.

Thursday's day off was the first one the Red Sox have had in exactly one month. They desperately needed it. The Sox are 10-10 since beginning the month of September with a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox offense has been sluggish of late but they put on a show on Tuesday in Tampa Bay. Ortiz and Ramirez both hit two homers, the Red Sox had 18 hits through five innings and at one point, the 3-4-5-6 hitters in the lineup were 15 for 16.

For more on the Sox, Yankees, Indians and the MVP race, please take a look at my latest version of Random Notes.

September 18, 2005

The Red Sox were 4-3 last week enabling the Yankees to cut their lead in the AL East to a mere 1 1/2 games heading into the final two weeks of the season. It's looking more and more like the three game series between the Yankees and Sox to end the season will mean something. The Yankees are at home for all seven games this week (4 vs Bal, 3 vs Tor) while the Sox are on the road for six (3 at TB, 3 at Bal). Next week, the situation reverses. The Sox play their final seven at home (4 vs Tor, 3 vs NY) while the Yankees are on road (4 at Bal, 3 at Bos).

The Sox and Indians now have the same record. This will obviously become important if the Yankees pass the Sox in the standings. The Indians still have a chance to win the Central. They are only 3 1/2 behind the White Sox heading into a three game series in Chicago this week. The Tribe needs to win two of three to have a realistic chance to catch Chicago. The two teams play each other the final weekend in Cleveland.

The American League races have been pretty dull in recent years but not this season. The second place teams in all three divisions are within 3 1/2 games of first place and the Yankees are within 1 1/2 games of Cleveland in the Wild Card standings. In each division, the top two teams will play each other over the final two weeks. Cleveland and Chicago play six times, Oakland and Anaheim meet four times and Boston and New York, of course, play three more times.

The NL division races have pretty much been won by St. Louis, Atlanta and San Diego. The Wild Card race is still heated with Houston, Philadelphia and Florida all within two games. Washington is hanging by a threat four games back.

It is hard to find anything more frustrating right now than Aaron Small's 8-0 record. How in the world did this happen? The 33 year old had won 15 games in his career coming into this season with an ERA of 5.49.

Player of the Week: It has to be Big Papi once again. Ortiz batted .385 (10 for 26) with five homers and nine RBIs this week. He's batting .310 in September with 7 HR, 14 RBI and 10 runs.

September 14, 2005

For the third time in just eight days, David Ortiz hit a game-winning homerun in the late innings of a tie game. On Wednesday in Toronto, Papi broke up a 3-3 tie with an eighth inning blast. On Monday night, he homered in the eleventh inning to give the Sox a 6-5 win. Last Tuesday, he hit a walk off homer to beat Scott Shields and the Angels, 3-2. I am not a big believer in the "clutch hitter" phenomenon. Over a 162 game schedule, the top players are going to get some big hits which bring the big Sportscenter highlights but when they fail you rarely hear about. For example, Derek Jeter is known as a clutch hitter, but I have seen him fail in key situations many, many times (and I don't watch that many Yankee games). Reggie "Mr. October" Jackson is career .278 hitter in the postseason. For most players, bring "clutch" may be nothing more than the law of averages. David Ortiz, however, has come through in big situations enough times to warrant official "clutch hitter" status. Many of those big hits have been homeruns and he's had the game-winning hit in the late innings of at least four different playoff games in the past two years. He's so good that guys are actually pitching around him to get to Manny Ramirez, who is arguably one of the ten greatest hitters of all-time.

When September began, I really didn't think Ortiz had much of a chance to win the AL MVP. A-Rod has put up slightly bigger numbers and Vlad Guerrero is the lone big weapon on a possible division winner. Even more importantly, both guys play the field and are quite good at it. Given what's happened in the past couple of weeks, I'd say that A-Rod remains the likely choice but Ortiz now has a very good chance. Papi has six homers and 12 RBI this month already. He's also batting .345 with runners in scoring position and .370 with runners in scoring position and two outs. A-Rod's numbers are .276 and .278 in those two situations, respectively. I'm guessing that most of the MVP voters are still undecided and Big Papi is making a great case for himself.

What is it with umpires and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? It seems like the lowly Rays are always getting hosed by the umpires. Tonight, with the score tied 4-4, Derek Jeter appeared to have struck out with the bases loaded and two outs. The umpires ruled, however, that Jeter checked his swing. He was given a second life and promptly drove in two runs which proved to be the difference in a 6-5 Yankee win. In a game at Fenway earlier this season, Lou Piniella nearly lost it after an umpire reversed his call on a key play in the late innings (I think Tampa ended up winning anyway). It makes you wonder if the umps have it in for Lou. Either that, or they are amused by his antics when he doesn't like a call.

September 11, 2005

Heading into last Thursday's game, the Red Sox were on the verge of pulling away from both the Yankees in the AL East and the Angels in the race for home field in the first round of the playoffs (aka. the "2 seed"). Now, four days later, the races have tightened. The Yankees pulled to within three in the AL East and LA's surprising sweep in Chicago moved the Angels to within two games of Boston. The Sox lack of clutch hitting on Thursday and Sunday and poor defense on Friday cost them a chance to pull away from the competition. They still have the inside track for the AL East title and home field in the first round, however. The Sox play 11 of their final games 20 at home and will play the Yankees at Fenway in the final weekend of the season. The Yanks play only seven of their final 20 at home.

It was a shame that the Red Sox wasted such a great effort by Tim Wakefield on Sunday. Wakefield may have pitched his best game of the year but the Sox couldn't push across the tying run. They did nothing against Randy Johnson in the first seven innings but had plenty of chances in the final two innings. In the eighth, the Yankees botched an infield popup but luckily for them, Adam Stern was on first base, so they were able to get the force play at second. With two outs and two on, Johnny Damon came within two feet of tying the game, but his drive off of Mariano Rivera was just foul down the rightfield line. He then grounded out to end the eighth. Edgar Renteria led off the ninth with a hard line drive ticketed for centerfield, but Rivera stabbed the ball with an outstretched arm. The Sox then put two more men on base, but Rivera was able to strikeout Olerud to end the game. Rivera was very shaky but luck was on his side. Had Damon's drive been two feet to the left or Renteria's drive a foot to the right, he blows the save. I don't call them the Luckees for nothing.

The Red Sox offense has cooled a bit over the past week and a half. They have averaged 4.0 runs per game over their last ten. In the ten prior to that, the Red Sox averaged 7.1 runs per game. On the other had, the Red Sox pitching has been better of late. Boston opponents have scored 25 runs in the last eight games (3.1 per game). Sox pitching had given up 6.5 runs per game in the previous ten contests. The starters have been particularly good lately and have given the bullpen some much-needed rest. Sox starters have gone eight innings or more in six of the last nine games. The rotation's ERA is 3.00 over that time. Mike Timlin is surely grateful. He's worked just once in the past eight days.

It was not a great week for the offense: Damon (5 for 17), Renteria (6 for 29), Ortiz (5 for 20, 1 HR), Ramirez (5 for 23, 1 HR), Millar (5 for 19, 1 HR), Olerud (4 for 12, 1 HR), Varitek (2 for 18), Nixon (5 for 24), Graffanino (7 for 20, 1 HR), Mueller (6 for 20).

Player of the Week: Tim Wakefield, who was 1-1 this week but deserved two wins. He pitched two complete games (17 IP), gave up just 11 hits and 3 earned runs. He struck out 19 and walked just 4. Had he won today, he would have had a chance to win 20 games.

Here is the likely rotation for the remainder of the season. Obviously, the rotation will change if the Sox clinch the division title prior to the last game of the year.

@ Tor (3) - Arroyo, Clement, Wells
  Oak (4) - Schilling, Wakefield, Arroyo, Clement
@ TB (3) - Wells, Schilling, Wakefield
@ Bal (3) - Arroyo, Clement, Wells
  Tor (4) - Schilling, Wakefield, Arroyo, Clement
  NYY (3) - Wells, Schilling, Wakefield  

September 8, 2005

I would say that the bottom of eighth inning of Thursday night's game was the most frustrating half inning of the entire season. The Red Sox, down by three runs, left the bases loaded after Ramirez, Renteria and Ortiz all struck out looking. Ortiz's "backwards K" was on a 3 and 2 pitch. No one should blame the umpire. All three strikeout pitches appeared to be in the strike zone. The ninth inning was nearly as painful. The Sox again left the bases loaded, this time striking out three times swinging (Olerud, Millar, Petagine).

The Sox missed out on a chance to solidify not only their AL East title hopes, but also home field in the first round of the playoffs. A win would have moved the Sox a full six games ahead of the Angels in the race for home field. This week's series with the Angels impacts home field, but also first round matchups. If we assume that the White Sox hold onto the best record in the AL, the Red Sox win the East and the Indians take the Wild Card, the team with the second best record in the AL would face Cleveland with home field advantage. The team with the third best record would play the White Sox without home field (the White Sox would not play the Indians because teams from the same division cannot meet in the first round). What a difference. These would be the matchups if the playoffs were to start tomorrow:

    AL: (3) LA Angels at (1) Chicago White Sox
    AL: (WC) Cleveland at (2) Boston
    NL: (3) San Diego at (1) St. Louis
    NL: (WC) Houston at (2) Atlanta

When Ortiz came up against Shields in the eighth inning with bases loaded, I half expected the Angels to pull a Kelly Leak/Bad News Bears strategy and walk Papi with the bases loaded. As I suspected, Shields threw an off-speed pitch to Ortiz on the 3 and 2 pitch (a rarity with three balls and the bases loaded). Shields was not going to risk throwing a fastball and even if he walked Ortiz, the Angels would still be up 3-1 with two outs facing Olerud. It was great pitch selection.

Though they are no longer in the pennant race, the Devil Rays and Blue Jays have had a huge impact on the AL East race this season. The Jays are 8-3 against Boston and the Rays are 11-5 against New York. The Sox still have six games left with the Jays while the Rays and Yankees meet three more times.

How tight has the Yankees-Red Sox battle been over the past three years? The Red Sox are 33-32 against the Yankees since the start of 2003 including the playoffs (17-15 at Fenway, 16-17 in New York). If the Yanks take two of three this weekend, the teams will have split 68 games. It doesn't get any more competitive than that.

September 4, 2005

The Red Sox finally got some big production from the first base position this week. John Olerud was 8 for 15 (.533) this week with 3 homers and 11 RBI. He also scored five runs. In his three starts at first base this week, Kevin Millar was 4 for 11 (.364) with 3 homeruns and 6 RBIs. Millar and Olerud had combined for just eight homeruns prior to this week.

Since a rough start in Detroit on August 17th, David Wells is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.29 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 8/1. In his last five starts, Matt Clement is 2-0 with an ERA of 2.18.

Big Papi socked another four homers this week to give him 37 on the season. He's also driven in 119 runs, scored 100 and walked 83 times. These numbers give Ortiz a very good chance to win this year's AL MVP award. Here are the main candidates:

I hate to say it, but A-Rod has to be the front-runner going into the final four weeks. His numbers are comparable to Papi's but Rodriguez plays in the field and Ortiz does not. A-Rod's batting average and homer advantage probably put him ahead of Ramirez of ahead. Konerko will get some votes because he is the best hitter on the best team (at least record-wise). Guerrero could win his second MVP in a row if he has a big September and the Angels remain in the race into the final week.

As for the AL Cy Young, it looked like Roy Halladay was the top candidate before an injury ended his season. Bartolo Colon (18-6, 3.24 ERA), Mark Buehrle (15-7, 3.00), Jon Garland (17-8, 3.28), Johan Santana (13-6, 3.07) and Mariano Rivera (35 svs, 1.40 ERA) are my top five right now.

There is some suspense in the NL as well. New Hampshire native Chris Carpenter (20-4, 2.28 ERA) has the inside track over Dontrelle Willis (19-8, 2.55) for the Cy. Roger Clemens (11-6, 1.57) will wind up in top five but his lack of wins will keep him from being seriously considered for the award. Derrek Lee (.344 avg, 39 HR, 95 RBI) could win the NL MVP in spite of the problems the Cubs have had this season. Albert Pujols (.335, 35 HR, 100 RBI) and Andruw Jones (.273, 44 HR, 111 RBI) should join Lee in the top three. Though Jones is far behind the other two in batting average, he is probably the most valueable to his team. It will be an interesting vote.

After playing some weak teams over the past several weeks, the Sox get back into the meat of the schedule. Over the next 14 games, they will play 11 against teams they are battling the Sox for either a playoff spot or home field advantage in the playoffs. The other series during the next two weeks is against Toronto, a team that has given nightmares to the Sox this season. Here are the matchups if the playoffs began tomorrow:

    AL: (WC) Yankees at (1) Chicago White Sox
    AL: (3) LA Angeles at (2) Boston
    NL: (WC) Philadelphia at (1) St. Louis
    NL: (3) San Diego at (2) Atlanta

The Red Sox will move to within three games of the White Sox in the race for home field in the AL if they can win on Monday afternoon. If Chicago wins, they will be five ahead of Boston and very tough to catch.

Player of the Week: John Olerud, for the second time in five weeks.

August 31, 2005

The Sox finished the month of August with a 18-9 record and a 2 1/2 game lead in the American League East. This marks the first time since 1995 that Boston has been in first place heading into September. The pitching was not very good in August, but the offense kept the Sox in first place. The Sox have scored seven or more runs in 13 consecutive home games, an American League record. The Sox are 18-1 in their last 19 games at Fenway. I haven't seen the Sox play this well at home since the "Morgan Magic" days back in 1988. The Sox won a club record 24 in a row at home that season.

Here's an update on the Wells/Clement - Pedro/Lowe comparison. The ex-Sox have an ERA of about a run less than the new Sox, but the new Sox have a pretty solid Win-Loss record and have probably given management more bang for the buck.

Player Starts W-L ERA Salary
Wells 24 11-6 4.44 4,075,000
Clement 26 12-3 4.27 6,500,000
Total 50 23-9 4.35 10,575,000
Player Starts W-L ERA Salary
Martinez 27 13-6 2.90 10,875,000
Lowe 29 9-13 3.91 7,000,000
Total 56 22-19 3.40 17,875,000

Several Red Sox regulars were red hot at the plate in August.

Johnny Damon was about the only Red Sox batter to cool off in August. Damon batted only .252 during the month. On the pitching side, things were not so rosy in August.

The bullpen didn't perform much better. About the only consistent pitcher the Sox had in August was Chad Bradford (15 games, 2-0, 2.25 ERA).

Player of the Month: It would be hard to argue with Mueller, Graffanino, Ortiz or Ramirez. They are all worthy. The slight edge goes to Big Papi. The 11 homers are impossible to ignore.

August 28, 2005

The Red Sox suffered through another disappointing week, going 3-3 against the lowly Royals and the pesky Tigers. The Sox began and ended the week with David Wells victories. Wells pitched 12 innings this week, giving up only two earned runs. In between, the Sox dropped three of four. In Tuesday's game, the Red Sox put a total of 12 runners on base between the fifth and ninth innings but not a single one of those 12 runners scored and Sox lost in extra innings. Three of those innings ended with the bases loaded.

Saturday was even more frustrating. The Sox lost despite leading 6-0 through three innings. Meanwhile, the Yankees scored five (yes, five) in the ninth inning to beat the Royals 8-7. The Royals botched what would have been a game ending double play with the score still 7-3. The Yankees' ability to get lucky breaks in the ninth inning at home has gone from bizarre to Twilight Zone episode. Anyway, in a week where most of us thought that the Sox could gain ground on the Yankees, they actually lost 2 1/2 games in the standings.

The good news is that 22 of the final 34 games are at home, where the Sox have won 68% of their games. The Yankees, on the other hand, play 20 of their final 33 on the road where they are below .500. However, the Sox need to take advantage this week because the Home/Away split will be about even after the Yankees return from this week's trip to Seattle and Oakland. Here's a breakdown of the remaining schedule:

     BOSTON:   Home (22) - TB (4), Oak (4), Tor (4), Bal (3), LAA (3), NYY (3), CWS (1)
               Away (12) - TB (3), Tor (3), Bal (3), NYY (3)
     NEW YORK: Home (13) - Bal (4), Tor (3), Bos (3), TB (3)
               Away (20) - Sea (4), Bal (4), Oak (3), Bos (3), TB (3), Tor (3)

Milestone: The Red Sox recorded their 204th consecutive sellout at Fenway on Sunday. This is the second longest streak in Major League history behind the Cleveland Indians who sold out at Jacobs Field 455 consecutive times between 1995 and 2001.

Tony Graffanino is batting .457 at Fenway since joining the Red Sox. In those 12 games, he has 12 RBIs and 18 runs scored.

Player of the Week: David Wells, who had two of the three Red Sox wins this week. Wells gave up just two earned runs in 12 innings of work. He struck out 12 batters and walked just two.

August 21, 2005

The Sox had a disappointing 3-4 start to the road trip. They could have easily been 6-1, but they could have also been 0-7. Six of the seven games were extremely close.

Between August of last season and May 10th of this year, the Red Sox had gone 14-1 in games started by Bronson Arroyo. Since then, the Sox are 6-13 when Bronson has taken the hill.

Ramirez and Ortiz are on pace to drive in a combined 295 runs this season. As I've mentioned previously, Ramirez and Ortiz could become the first teammate duo in either league to drive in 150 each since Ted Williams and Vern Stephens in 1949.

Curt Schilling will return to the rotation on Thursday. Here are his final closer stats (assuming he doesn't return to that role):

     W-L   SV/OPP   IP     ER   H   K   BB   ERA
     ---   ------   ----   --   --  --  --   ----
     4-3    9/11    24.1   14   25  27   6   5.17

The American League pennant race has essentially come down to seven teams battling for the final three spots (the White Sox have virtually locked up the AL Central). The Sox and Angels lead their divisions. The A's, Yankees, Indians, Twins and Blue Jays are all within five games of the Wild Card lead. Thanks to the White Sox recent skid, the Red Sox are just 4 1/2 games behind Chicago for home field throughout the AL playoffs. The Red Sox are one game ahead of the Angels for what would be home field in the first round of the playoffs.

The National League has a bit more drama. The Cardinals are cruising to home field advantage but 12 of the other 15 teams have a chance to grab a playoff spot. If the playoffs started today, these would be the matchups.

    AL: (WC) Oakland at (1) Chicago White Sox
    AL: (3) LA Angeles at (2) Boston
    NL: (WC) Philadelphia at (1) St. Louis
    NL: (3) San Diego at (2) Atlanta

Edgar Renteria had a good week. He was 10 for 32 (.313) with a homer and 5 RBI. David Ortiz had 5 hits, 3 homers and 8 RBIs against Detroit, but was only 2 for 15 against the Angels. Bill Mueller was 11 for 25 this week (.440).

Player of the Week: Jon Papelbon, who pitched 11 2/3 innings this week and gave up only two runs. The Red Sox were 2-0 this week in Papelbon starts, 1-4 otherwise. The Sox are now 3-0 when Jon has been the starter.

August 14, 2005

The Sox have now won 13 games in a row at home and are 14-2 since losing to Tampa Bay on June 25th. The Red Sox hitting has been the key. They are averaging 7.6 runs per game over the last 16 contests and 8.5 runs per game in the 14 victories. They have scored at least 7 runs in each of their last six games. The Sox picked a good time for an offensive surge because the pitching and defense has not been stellar. Boston opponents have scored at least four runs in all 11 August games.

It is great to see the Sox playing great baseball at Fenway. The Sox play their next 10 games on the road but then end the season with 25 of their last 37 at Fenway (including the makeup with Chicago). The Sox play 13 of their next 17 games against three of the bottom four teams in the American League (Kansas City for 3, Tampa for 4 and Detroit for 6).

The Yankees' 10-3 blowout win over Texas on Sunday marked only the third time in the last 16 games that the Yankees won a nine inning game by more than one run. During that stretch, they are 9-7.

It was a great offensive week for many of the Red Sox. In four games, Tony Graffanino was 9 for 16 (.563) with a homer and 4 doubles. He also drove in 8 and scored 7. Roberto Petagine was 5 for 9 (.555) with a homer and 5 RBIs in three games. David Ortiz was 9 for 21 (.429) with 3 HR, 9 RBI and 7 runs scored. Big Papi reached base 13 of 25 times this week. Bill Mueller was 6 for 14 (.429) with 5 runs. Manny was 6 for 19 (.316) with a homer, 5 RBIs and 7 runs. Edgar Renteria was 8 for 24 (.333) with 7 runs scored.

Player of the Week: Because they were both so great this week at the plate, I'm giving the POTW to both David Ortiz and Tony Graffanino.

Here is a rundown of this year's Players of the Week:

August 11, 2005

What a great pickup Tony Graffanino has turned out to be. Mark Bellhorn's replacement has batted .339 with the Red Sox through 15 games. In the Texas series alone, he was 5 for 8 with a homer, 7 RBI and 5 runs scored. He has also played some solid defense and displayed some nice baserunning.

Manny Ramirez is absolutely sizzling at the plate. Since the trade deadline passed, Manny is 13 for 27 with 5 walks (a .563 on base percentage), 4 homers and 15 RBIs. The bad news is that Manny creates problems for management every single year. The good news is that it does not negatively impact his hitting.

Big Papi, by contrast, has cooled off. He's hitting just .209 since the break, though he has blasted 5 homers to go along with 18 RBI over those 26 games. Ortiz has also walked 25 times since the break.

Johnny Damon's 29 game hitting streak ended on July 18th against Tampa. He now has a new hitting streak going at 14 games. Amazingly, Damon has hit safely in 48 of his last 50 games.

It's nice to see the Sox playing good ball at Fenway once again. Prior to the current 11 game home winning streak, the Sox had lost 9 of 12 at Fenway. The Sox have scored 92 runs during the current streak (8.4 runs per game).

If the Yankees end up the playoffs, Mariano Rivera deserves serious consideration for MVP. Since blowing saves against the Sox in his first two outings of the year, Rivera has saved 31 games in 31 save opportunities. He's given up just four earned runs in 50 2/3 innings (0.71 ERA). Since that first series of the year, he has struck out 56 batters and walked just 8. If Rivera had been even average this season, the Yankees would be at least 10 games behind the Sox and hopelessly out of the playoff race. Every time I think this guy is losing it, he comes back even stronger.

Speaking of the Yankees, White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik partially leaped into the leftfield stands at Yankee Stadium on Monday. In the process, he was accidentally punched in the face by a fan. Unlike Gary Sheffield, however, Podsednik did not come up swinging. I'd like to think that Shef learned something from that, but I doubt it.

August 7, 2005

The good news is that the Sox bats came alive in time for them to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins this week. The bad news is that they gave away a win on Saturday night with back to back errors in the bottom of the ninth (first by Mueller then by Timlin). Mueller's error can at least be partially blamed on a bad hop which threw him off balance and probably caused his bad throw to first base. It's ironic that the Red Sox lost patrially because of a bad infield bounce just six days after the Yankees won a game solely because of a bad infield bounce.

Speaking of those Yankees, they had a streak of six consecutive games in which they trailed going into the ninth inning (three with the Angels and three in Cleveland). Unfortunately for Sox fans, they won three of those games. The latest came on Thursday when the Yanks got two in the top of the ninth to beat Bob Wickman. It was a classic case of over-managing as Eric Wedge removed starter Kevin Millwood after eight innings and only 94 pitches. Millwood retired the Yanks in order in the eighth.

Jason Varitek hit his first career grand slam on Thursday. This was Tek's 120th career at bat with the bases loaded. Needless to say, he was due. This was Boston's 11th grand slam of the season which is a club record. The major league record for most grand slams in a single season is held by the 2000 Oakland A's, who hit 14. The Sox are on pace for 16.

The bottom of the ninth inning on the road has been kind to the Sox this season. Six times this season the Red Sox have been tied heading into the bottom of the ninth away from Fenway. On five of those occasions, the opponent won the game in the bottom of the ninth. In the other instance, the Sox failed to score in the top of the tenth inning and lost in the bottom of the tenth. There was also one game in which the Sox led heading into the bottom of the ninth in Texas and lost when the Rangers scored twice against Keith Foulke for the win.

Since Curt Schilling's disastrous debut as the Sox closer against the Yankees, he has been quite effective. During that time, Curt has saved nine games in ten chances and has two wins (along with a loss). He's given up four runs in 15 innings (an era of 2.40). He has struck out 16 and walked 5.

Player of the Week: Manny "Perpetual Trading Block" Ramirez. Despite losing nearly two games to injury, the Sox slugger hit three homers, drove in ten and scored five runs this week. Manny was 8 for 15 this week (.533). He driven in 103 runs in 102 games this season. Imagine what his numbers would look like if he was hitting his usual .315 ...

July 31, 2005

The trading deadline came and went and neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees made any major moves. The Sox picked up some outfield help in the person of Jose Cruz Jr, who they acquired from Arizona for a pair of minor leaguers on Saturday. Cruz batted .213 with 12 homers for the D-Backs this season. Manny Ramirez was rumored to be on his way out of town by in the end, he remained a Red Sox (or is it Red Sock?). The proposed trade rumor, as ESPN reported it, would have sent Ramirez and Danys Baez to the Mets, Mike Cameron from the Mets to the Red Sox, Mets prospects to the Devil Rays, Kelly Shoppach and Anibel Sanchez to the Rays, and Aubrey Huff to the Red Sox. The deal was preposterous because of how little the Mets would be giving up compared to the Sox (a first ballot hall of famer and two top-shelf prospects) and Devil Rays (a marketable closer and an outstanding outfielder). This was the kind of trade proposal that normally could only have come from a diehard Mets fan calling WFAN sports radio at about one o'clock in the morning. I find it very hard to believe that Theo Epstein truly considered it. If he did consider it, things with Ramirez must be worse that we realize.

I love the reaction of the Fenway fans to Ramirez this weekend. By booing him on Friday, they made it clear that they did not approve of his spoiled prima donna act earlier in the week. Ramirez's whining about trades and days off in the middle of a pennant race is inexcusable. By applauding Manny on Sunday, the fans showed him that they are ready to forgive him and move on. Manny's off the field act has grown quite tiresome, but I think most Sox fans realize that they can live with it as long as he produces the gargantuan numbers that he has been putting on the board. The good news is that Manny, though annoying and frustrating at times, is not a clubhouse cancer they way Carl Everett was. Manny is capable of shrugging off last week's soap opera and so are his teammates.

Jon Papelbon looked absolutely overpowering at times in his debut on Sunday. Sox fans have every reason to be excited about seeing this guy pitch every five days in 2006 and beyond. I wouldn't be surprised to see a Schilling-Clement-Arroyo-Wakefield-Papelbon rotation next season. Papelbon struggled with control at times, but the gave the Sox just what they needed. Delcarmen, Myers, Timlin and Schilling pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings as the Sox came back to win.

The weekend was great for the Sox, but it was extremely frustrating to see the Yankees "win lucky" on Saturday and Sunday. The Angels' normally untouchable closer Francisco Rodriguez walked four - count 'em four - Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday before Hideki Matsui drove in the game winning runs. The Yanks scored three runs on just one hit in the bottom of the ninth for an 8-7 win. Sunday was even worse. The Angels led 6-2 in the bottom of the eighth but a grounder through the legs of first baseman Darrin Erstad enabled the Yankees to score three unearned runs and tie the game at 6-6. The Angels scored in the top of the ninth to go ahead 7-6 and it appeared the game would end of a weak Gary Sheffield grounder in the bottom of the ninth. But nooooo. The ball took a funny hop just before it reached shortstop Orlando Cabrera, allowing the tying run to score from third. The Luckees won it in the bottom of the tenth, again by a score of 8-7. If Major League kept a stat called "undeserved wins" the 2005 Yankees would have already broken the major league record. The Yankees no doubt deserved to be swept, but instead they took two of three from the Angels and remained 2 1/2 game behind the Sox.

Player of the Week: I am very happy to give this week's award to the veteran John Olerud. Old "Helmet in the Field" was 7 for 19 this week (.368) with 2 HR and 8 RBI.

Player of the Month for July: Here are the candidates:

The winner is ... Johnny Damon. What a season!

July 24, 2005

The week started and ended badly for the Red Sox but in between, they won four of five games and regained first place. After taking over first place on Monday, the Yankees lost five or six to end the week. Meanwhile, the Orioles are in free fall. They have lost five games in a row and are 8-19 since June 22nd.

The American League has been more competitive this season than it has been in a long time. Eleven of the fourteen AL Teams are within four games (in the loss column) of a playoff spot. The National League is pretty interesting as well with nine teams within three games of the Wild Card.

You can add "the A's starting slow then catching fire at midseason" to death and taxes as certainties in life. The Amazin' A's have won 26 of 32 games and are now tied for first place in the Wild Card standings. Four of five A's starters have an ERA of 4.26 or lower and two relievers - Huston Street and Justin Duchscherer have ERAs below 2.00. The A's offense is heating up as well. Rookie Nick Swisher has 11 HR and 36 RBI since the beginning of June. Oh by the way, Jay Payton is hitting .370 and has three homers in 27 at bats with Oakland.

In his last 35 games, Manny Ramirez is batting .328 with 16 homers and 46 RBIs. He has a .429 on base percentage over that time.

In six appearances as the Sox closer, Curt Schilling is 1-1 with two saves in three chances. Schilling has given up seven hits and three earned runs in seven innings of work. He has eight strikeouts and has not walked anyone.

Each member of the Red Sox current starting rotation has an ERA of between 4.05 (Arroyo) and 4.59 (Wells).

Player of the Week: Manny Ramirez, who was 5 for 19 (.263) with 3 HR and 6 RBIs this week. Thanks to eight walks, Manny reached base 13 of 27 times this week. He had the game-winning homeruns in the first and third games of the Chicago series.

July 20, 2005

Almost nothing has bounced the Red Sox way this season, so it was very nice to see the White Sox gift wrap a victory for the Red Sox on Thursday in Chicago. With the score tied 5-5 in the top of the ninth, ChiSox third baseman Joe Crede decided to get flashy and dropped a routine Manny Ramirez foul popup. Manny deposited the next pitch into the leftfield seats and Curt Schilling nailed down the 6-5 victory by retiring Chicago in order in the bottom of the ninth (though he did surrender the tying run in the eighth).

Strangely enough, this was only the second time in the last 24 games that a Red Sox game was decided by one run. By contrast, the Twins played eight consecutive one run contests between June 10th and June 20th.

Despite his troubles against lefties, Manny Ramirez is on pace to hit 44 homers and drive in 148 RBIs. David Ortiz is on pace for 39 homers and 147 RBIs. Obviously, both players have a great chance to drive in 150 or more runs. Manny and Papi could become the first teammate duo to drive in 150 each since Ted Williams and Vern Stephens in 1949. Since 1950, only eight players have driven in 150-plus runs in a single season. One of those players is Manny Ramirez, who drove in 165 runs for Cleveland in 1999.

The Red Sox have won nine of their last ten games started by David Wells. Wells is 6-1 with a 3.36 ERA over that time with a 36/8 strikeout to walk ratio. Bronson Arroyo is 4-2 with an ERA of 3.31 in his last seven starts.

July 17, 2005

Like the Orioles the weekend before, the Yankees took three of four from the Sox and edged closer to the lead in the AL East. Boston outscored New York 30-21 in the series, but a series of blunders and lack of clutch hitting enabled the Yankees to move to within one-half game of first place. The low point of the series occurred on Saturday when Kevin Millar stopped at third base on a slow single up the middle. Doug Mirabelli, assuming that Millar has scored, rounded second and was promptly thrown out. Bernie Williams wasn't even thinking about throwing to home plate on the play. It was simply ridiculous and cost the Red Sox a run, a potential big inning and possibly the game. The Sox won 17-1 on Friday night. It was the second time this season that Boston has beaten the Yankees by a score of 17-1. On the frustration scale, this series was about a 9.5 (out of 10).

On the plus side, Johnny Damon extended his hitting streak to 29 games on Sunday. He is five games away from tying the Red Sox record currently held by Dominic DiMaggio.

Player of the Week: Trot Nixon, who had two homers (one of the inside the park variety) and eight RBIs against the Yankees. Nixon was 4 for 14 and scored four runs.

Red Sox Notes
2007 Red Sox Notes
2004 Red Sox Notes
2003 Red Sox Notes