Terry Francona: ‘They’re All In For This Year’

Terry Francona still believes the Boston Red Sox have a chance, despite their 52-51 record! (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan for NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan 

Following Monday’s contest against the Detroit Tigers, ESPN analyst and former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona expressed his outlook toward the local nine.

“They’re all in for this year,” exclaimed Francona on ESPNBoston.com. “With the payroll they have, the players they have, they have to try and win. That’s the way they’re geared, [and] their fans won’t let them do anything different.”

The Sox have won three consecutive contests, but remain locked in fourth place in the American League East. They’re eight and a half games behind the New York Yankees, as well as four games behind Oakland for the Wild Card.

However, despite the distance between them and New York and Oakland, Francona believes that their current winning streak may be exactly what Boston needs to propel them toward the playoffs.

“This is the timing. They’ve got nine more games left at home, they’ve finally fought their way over .500, they need to stay there and gain some ground,” added Francona.

Boston is 26-28 at Fenway Park this season, and will attempt to continue their current trend for the next few days against Detroit, Minnesota and Texas.

Question of the Day: Do You Believe In The Red Sox?

By Matt Noonan 

OK… OK…OK… After Friday’s awful performance against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox currently reside in the American League East basement. They’re 49-51 overall, and have lost seven of their last 10 games.

If they’re going to make a so-called, “run,” they’ll need to win at least 42 games to conclude the season with 91 wins. Yet, can they do it? Do you believe in this team? Does this team have what it takes to earn a Wild Card spot in the American League?

Post your thoughts below or continue the conversation on Twitter (@NoonSportsBlog) or Facebook (Facebook.com/NoonSports).

Few Thoughts On Clemens Perjury Trial

Did Roger Clemens earn another win for the record book? (Photo Credit: New York Daily News)

By Matt Noonan 

Once Monday’s news was announced about Roger Clemens, it became quite easy to realize that government and sports don’t coincide.

Clemens, who was acquitted of charges toward lying about steroids and human growth hormones to Congress in 2008, was officially sent out of a Washington courtroom as a “free man” on Monday.

And while many are continuing to scratch their heads over this particular case, it certainly emphasizes the fact that an athlete is more powerful than a group of non-baseball fans, ahem…the jury.

Of course, he will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game.

The Rocket spent 24-years in the big leagues, and walked away with a record of 354-184 on the bump. He appeared in 11 All-Star Games, earned seven Cy Young Awards, paced the American League with the most wins by a flame-thrower in ’86, ’87, ’97, and ’98, and was awarded the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award in 1986.

Yet, excluding those various credentials, it’s unlikely that his name will ever be scratched from the so-called, “steroids era.”

Baseball has become a game of cheaters. Players seem more focused on their various accolades than winning a World Series, and the same could possibly be said for Clemens, right?

Clemens will certainly be remembered as a cheater, as well as someone who maneuvered his way forward with various performance enhancement drugs to extend his career, and one example could be seen when he joined the Toronto Blue Jays for a two-year stint in ’97-’98.

The right-hander hadn’t earned 20 wins or more since the 1980’s, and after a few up-and-down seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Clemens’ numbers skyrocketed in Canada, as he won 41 of 54 games. He also earned two back-to-back Cy Young Awards, too.

So, did the government strike out or did Clemens earn himself another win for the record books?

Well, according to the New York Times, this particular trial was a so-called, “waste of government time, and money.” Clemens became the second Major Leaguer to sneak through the cracks — the first was Barry Bonds, who was sentenced to one month of house arrest after a seven-year investigation in April of 2011. And while Bonds was convicted on one of four charges, (obstructing justice) he still managed to walk out of the courtroom.

Clemens avoided 10 years in federal prison, but will now be faced with the difficult task of convincing the baseball writers that he deserves a spot in the Cooperstown, (he’ll need 75 percent of the ballots to earn a spot).

All in all, I believe that he cheated. Clemens, Bonds and others turned America’s Pastime into a game that’s no longer linked to the days of Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and others.

Will baseball ever resort back to the “good ole days?”

I’m not sure, but once again, the government failed to send a message to all baseball fans and players that cheating is not allowed in a game and life.

Daily Noontime – May 30, 2012

Daniel Nava drove in three runs on Tuesday, as Boston defeated Detroit, 6-3! (Photo Credit: CTPost.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s “hump day,” which means this week is somewhat over, right? OK… OK… here are some headlines, news and stories from the city of champions.

* The Boston Red Sox earned their 25th win of the season on Tuesday, as they defeated the Detroit Tigers, 6-3. David Ortiz cranked his 11th home run and 18th double of the season, while Daniel Nava recorded three RBIs. Also, Daniel Bard picked up his fifth win on the bump by tossing 5.1 innings and yielding five hits and two earned runs. Bard also recorded four strikeouts before he was relieved in the sixth for Rich Hill.

* Boston has now won 12 games at Fenway Park this season, and will attempt to even their home record on Wednesday against the Tigers — Jon Lester faces Drew Smyly — first pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM.

* According to reports — Carl Crawford is two weeks away from throwing. The Sox outfielder has apparently tallied 60 swings of a tee, but is 10 days away from being able to test the arm, which he believes will be the “true test.”

* The New England Patriots announced on Tuesday that they released the 2007 first-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts, Anthony Gonzalez. The wide out, who was a free agent this past winter, has been hampered by injuries and hoped to revive his career in New England.

* Finally, the Boston Celtics will attempt to even their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat on Wednesday — tip is scheduled for 8:30PM.

Daily Noontime – May 25, 2012

Jon Lester will be on the bump Friday for the Boston Red Sox! (Photo Credit: Chowdaheadz.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy Friday to everyone, and welcome into the final Daily Noontime of the week! Let’s kick-off Memorial Day Weekend with some news and headlines!

* The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will begin their three-game series on Friday at Fenway Park — Jon Lester opposes Alex Cobb – first pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM.

* According to various reports — Bobby Valentine strongly believes that if the Sox continue to play the way they’ve played the past 20 games, they’ll win the championship. Boston is 18-12 since blowing a nine run lead to the New York Yankees on April 21, which is the third best record in the American League behind Baltimore (20-10) and Tampa Bay (19-11).  If the Sox continue on this particular path, they’d finish their current campaign with 93 wins.

* The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will conclude their Eastern Conference semi-final series on Saturday at 8PM at the TD Garden. Boston has won three of five meetings against Philadelphia in the seventh game dating back to 1965.

* Sources confirmed on Thursday that Avery Bradley will need shoulder surgery to repair “small tears that have compromised the structure of his ailing left shoulder.”

Recapping The Third Day Of Boston Red Sox Baseball (Links)

Alex Avila hit a two-run blast in the bottom half of the 11th, which helped Detroit sweep Boston on Sunday! (Photo Credit: TotalProSports.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

The Boston-Detroit series ended in heartbreak, as the Tigers rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the 11th, which lifted them past the Red Sox, 13-12. Alex Avila‘s two-run blast provided Detroit their third consecutive win.

Here are some links and recaps from Sunday’s afternoon contest.

* After watching their third game conclude with a loss, Boston’s Bobby Valentine apparently is dazed and confused about his ball club.

* Against Boston on this particular date – Avila was the true hero for Detroit.

* Once again, WEEI’s Alex Speier writes about the Sox up and down bullpen that once again didn’t prevail.

* Comcast Sports New England provided an interesting piece about how the Sox blew two leads – one in the ninth and one in the 11th – which allowed the Tigers to win.

* The Detroit Free Press crafted a piece about the Tigers offense, which produced when it needed to.

* After three games – CBS Sports believes that Boston has a closer problem.

Dear Red Sox…Really?

By Andy Lindberg

I had to sit back and think on this one for a little while.

After the Yankees blew a 7-0 lead to Tampa Bay (which would most likely never happen if the Sox didn’t need NY to win) and the Red Sox kept stranding runners, I got that sick feeling of the inevitable.  I went through all the stages of grief in about 3 minutes, finally culminating in the acceptance that my favorite baseball team was about to complete the most epic collapse in their history, and they were going to do so is stunning Hollywood fashion.

Seriously, if they made a movie about Moneyball, last night is already in production.

The Red Sox didn’t just screw up, they re-defined the word.  From now on, a complete and total epic, disastrous let down should be known as a “Red Sox.”

Boston had the Wild Card in the bag and were very much in contention for the division in early September.  Instead, Boston went 6-20 in the month.  Try counting their wins on their schedule page.  It’s heart-wrenching.

If you’re a Yankee fan–like my cousin–you now have fuel for the fire for decades of verbal torture.  In all honesty, this even may trump the 2004 playoff comeback, because as big of a choke as that was for the Yankees, teams have won four games in a row plenty of times before.  Blowing a 9.5 game lead in less than one month of play?  Not so frequent.

I don’t know whether I’m really all that mad or if some small portion of my brain had me prepared for this.  I’m in a a state of shock, no doubt, but angry, how can you be angry at this team?  Extremely disappointed is the better term for how I feel.  Massively disappointed, like if your kid jacked the keys to your car and went on a bender after dropping out of law school with a 4.0 GPA and a sure fire job offer at a top-tier firm disappointed.

I don’t have kids, but I imagine the feeling is comparable.

Red Sox fans should demand a shakeup.  There is no question the Boston brass has made terrible moves in the last two years that have directly led to this collapse.  Spending a combined $224.5MM on Carl Crawford and John Lackey being the most brazen of them.

$224.5MM.

On two players.

Are.  You.  Serious.

The Red Sox got away from what had made them a premier franchise in the first place.  They once had a stocked farm system rated near the top every single year.  Boston groomed studs far more often than they bought them and extended them for relatively cheap compared to market value.  The Red Sox have tried to slug it out over the free agent market with the Yankees to flex their wallets.  That is a fight few teams, if any, can win.

There is a considerable amount of money coming off the books for Boston, and there must be a rift in the clubhouse.  Players know how each other performs.  To the Boston brass, sometimes it’s better to cut your losses.  You’re going to end up paying obscene money anyway, sometimes it’s better to pay these guys NOT to play, and I’m not talking about Crawford.

This post may be incoherent, but such are my thoughts on this Red Sox season.  I can’t wrap my head around it.  They came in with a whimper and left limping even worse.  For a team that held so much promise, we may now realize that this franchise may be suffering for the long haul.

Daily Noontime – September 28, 2011

It all comes down to ONE MORE GAME!

Whoa … It’s “Hump” Day! Happy Wednesday to everyone and welcome into a grand edition of the Daily Noontime! Let’s kick-off the day with some news and headlines. Also, here’s a shout out to the Boston Red Sox too – Go Get ‘Em! 

Headlines: 

* The Boston Red Sox used four home runs to beat the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday to defeat the Baltimore Orioles, 8-7. Also, they’re still tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League Wild Card, who defeated the New York Yankees, 5-3.

* According to the MLB, if there is a two-way tie in the American and National League for the Wild Cards – they’ll play a one-game playoff on Thursday.

* The New York Times broke down the third week of the NFL in a “film review,” so check it out.

* Apparently the NFL has revamped the Super Bowl logo for the championship in 2014, which will be played outdoors at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

* If you live in Cincinnati – don’t expect to watch the Bengals-Buffalo Bills game because it’s going to be blacked out on television.

* In case you missed it, Milwaukee’s Price Fielder hit three home runs on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which helped the Brewers pick up an important 6-4 win.

Games to Watch: 

* Boston at Baltimore (MLB) – 7:05pm eastern 

* New York Yankees at Tampa Bay (MLB) – 7:10pm eastern 

* Philadelphia at Atlanta (MLB) – 7:10pm eastern 

* St. Louis at Houston (MLB) – 8:05pm eastern 

Video of the Day: 

The final day of the MLB season has arrived, but there’s four teams fighting for two playoff spots, which means, cue “Don’t Stop Believing!”

Plenty of Baseball Remains for the Red Sox

Adrian Gonzalez has the Red Sox cooking, while Josh Beckett keeps the pitching staff intact!

By Matt Noonan 

The Boston Red Sox reached an important milestone on Sunday, which was [.500].

Yes, they reached it, and while there won’t be any celebrations, Duck Boats or a state of the union, the Red Sox return home to Fenway Park on Monday and plan to continue this “winning trend.”

Yet, why are we all so excited? The season isn’t anywhere near half-over and yes, Sox fans are elated, but why? Why, Sox fans, why? Heck, we didn’t even win the World Series, so is there really a need for this much joy?

I find it hard to fathom that various Bostonians are feeling good about “their team,” especially after Boston’s incredibly slow start in April. Losing six games in a row, as well as a handful of contests against the Los Angles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays the past few weeks isn’t good news.

John Lackey shouldn’t make anyone feel special, as his last two starts have been dreadful. He’s allowed 19 hits, 17 runs and two home runs in two back-to-back games. So, can someone please explain to me, why this isn’t a cause for concern? Shouldn’t we be chastising the front office about this struggling pitcher?

How about the bullpen, hasn’t this unit been unreliable?

What has Bobby Jenks done to help this team? Jenks, who has yet to earn one save this season, has struck out 10 batters and owns a [9.35 ERA], so again, this isn’t a good sign, right?

Although, rather than focusing on the negatives, allow me to state some positives, as the Sox offense has been improving, especially since their opening series against the Texas Rangers. They rank 10th in the MLB with runs [173], 11th in batting average [.257] and 10th in slugging percentage [.405].

Boston’s shinning stars have clearly been both Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez, who have definitely overcome their slow starts. Beckett leads the team with a [1.75 ERA], while Gonzalez has led the offense with nine home runs, 34 RBIs and 26 runs.

So, again, I understand the need to go dancing in the streets, but let’s remember Red Sox fans, this season is far from over. There is still a great deal of baseball left to be played and yes, many stories that aren’t “written in the stars,” so as long as they keep playing, we’ll keep having opinionated words to share about our beloved Boston Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox 2011 Preview: Pitchers

By Brian Maloney

Well, here it is, our final installment of previewing the Boston Red Sox. Here are some thoughts on their pitching staff.

Starting Pitchers:

The starting rotation for the Sox will be the same rotation we saw last season, with perhaps a different starting order.

Jon Lester has been announced as the Opening Day starter when the season begins in Texas. The lefty, easily capable of approaching the 20-win mark, is a true ace and should compete for the Cy Young Award.

John Lackey will get the start in game two. Last off-season’s big signing was good for 200 innings and 14 wins last season, and that will be the target yet again.

Clay Buchholz is the third starter in the rotation. This could really be Buchholz’s breakout season, as he could make the jump from mid-rotation to top-of-the-line starter.  This will only be Buchholz’s second full season in the big leagues. Last year he put up a 2.33 earned run average (ERA) through 170+ innings.  If he can keep the ERA about the same and give the team 30+ innings, there will be nothing else to ask of him.

Josh Beckett will get the first start in the second series of the season.  Tito is holding Beckett back to let him fully recover after getting a baseball to the head during Spring Training, and possibly so he doesn’t have to open the season in Texas.  Beckett is still a fantastic starter, being downright dominant at times.

Daisuke Matsuzaka needs to have a coming out party this year.  The clamoring to move him will only increase this season if he doesn’t show that he was worth every penny of the gigantic deal he got a few years ago.  Once batters were used to the funkiness of his delivery, his deceptiveness was lost.  He needs to go more than five innings, 120 pitches and have the bases loaded every inning.  Red Sox nation does not need to have collective heart attacks.

Bullpen:

The Sox have seven spots in the bullpen. Four are set in stone, leaving three uncertain.

Jonathan Papelbon is locked in as the closer, but this year he will have to be successful to keep his job. Set-up men Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks are ready, willing and able to take the closer role over, if Papelbon should not return to his old form. They will fill the seventh and eighth inning roles for the time being.

Bard fits the hard-throwing mold that Papelbon already uses and he can blow the best of hitters away.

Jenks has previous experience as the closer for the Chicago White Sox and has shown that he can get it done.

Free Agent signee Dan Wheeler has also locked in his spot in the bullpen as a middle reliever.  Wheeler will only be good for an inning at a time, but he will perform with a sub-3.50 ERA.

That leaves three spots open: Long Relief, Left-handed Specialist (LOOGY) and Middle Relief.

The Long Relief job has recently been Tim Wakefield’s position.  His ERA has been increasing over the last few seasons, but being in his mid 40’s, Wakefield can’t do this forever.  However, this is probably a tenure situation.

Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves and local boy Rich Hill are also candidates for this spot, especially Aceves and Hill with how well they’ve both pitched this spring.  Expect all to get a look this season, but Wakefield wins the spot for the time being.  He will also serve as the sixth starter.

The LOOGY spot really has two candidates: former All-Star Hideki Okajima and free agent Dennys Reyes. The key issues separating these two is probably that Okajima has minor league options and Reyes does not.  Furthermore, Okajima showed last year that he needed to change something in his game, as batters were starting to figure him out. This will be a tough call, but Reyes gets the bullpen spot, at least to start the season.

The Middle Relief spot is being fought between Bowden, Doubront, Aceves, Hill, Okajima, Matt Albers, Scott Atchison and Andrew Miller.

The Sox seem to like all of these players, so it will most likely come down to who has the option to go to Pawtucket to start the season.

Bowden, Doubront, Aceves, Okajima and Atchison have options, so they are out.  Hill and Miller are both signed to minor league contracts so they can be sent down without worrying about options.  So, if the Sox really want to keep all of these pitchers that leaves Albers as the seventh man in the pen.

This decision is solely based on keeping the players, not how they are currently pitching. Boston will inevitably have a pitcher or two on the disabled list to begin the season, therefore, resulting in more spots for that last group of players.

The Rest: Let’s take a look at the rest of the pitchers we may see this season, starting with the men who are competing for an Opening Day spot.

Bowden has been a long-time prospect in the system and he could be a full time player for Boston by the end of the season.  He has the flexibility to start or come out of the bullpen, although he has hit a wall at AAA and needs to break through.

Doubront has similar flexibility.  He has tremendous potential, but probably has a future as trade bait, especially with all the free agent signings of this season.  Look for him to get time in July to entice possible trade partners.

Aceves looks to be the best of the outside-looking-in pitchers going into the season.  He could probably fill the seventh bullpen spot, but Francona likes him as a Starter.  He will be the Opening Day Starter in Pawtucket.

Hill has the major league experience with the home-crowd pulling for him.  He has developed more of a sidearm release recently, which he needs time to perfect.  As we have seen with players such as Javier Lopez, there will always be room in Boston for a lefty.

Okajima is probably the most surprising on this list.  His not making the roster is mostly a numbers issue.  Any Sox fan knows what they have with Okajima and he will be back in Boston to fill the first bullpen injury spot.

Atchison is a solid relief pitcher and a good insurance policy. He made 43 appearances for Boston last season, so the team knows that he is reliable.

Miller, a former top prospect for the Tigers, ran into mechanic issues and was relegated to the bullpen in Florida. This is a reclamation project for the Sox; anything the team gets out of him is a positive.

Two other pitchers on the expanded roster not mentioned thus far are Junichi Tazawa and Stolmy Pimentel.

We all remember Tazawa for his appearances at the end of the 2009 season.  He missed all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he will get a few starts in Boston this season.  However, the team will not rush him back.

21-year-old Pimentel is only on the 40-man roster at this point in his early-career because he has been a professional since the age of 17, and the rules require him to be on. He is at least a season away from even spot duty in Boston, but his is a name to follow.

Two more veteran names that those who follow baseball may recognize are Brandon Duckworth and Lenny DiNardo.  Both are unlikely to be in Boston this year, but you will know them when you visit McCoy Stadium.

Starters: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka

Bullpen:  Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler, Tim Wakefield, Dennys Reyes, Matt Albers

The Rest: Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves, Rich Hill, Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Stolmy Pimentel, Brandon Duckworth, Lenny DiNardo