According to ESPNBoston.com, Boston Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury received the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Ellsbury, who played just 18-games in 2010, posted some staggering numbers that certainly raised some eyebrows this past season. The centerfielder finished the year with 32 home runs, 102 RBIs, and a .321 batting average. He also led the MLB with 364 total bases, and 83 extra-base hits.
Also, according to ESPN.com, “Ellsbury achieved some Red Sox firsts, hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs from the leadoff spot and joining the 30-30 club (30 homers, 30 steals) by stealing 39 bases.”
Yet, despite the award, Ellsbury and the Red Sox posted a MLB worst, [7-20] record in the month of September and were eliminated from the playoffs by the Baltimore Orioles during the team’s final regular season game.
The Red Sox kept control of first place in the American League East after a brutal week facing off against Cleveland for four games and the Yankees for three more. Boston split the first series with Cleveland, with Jacoby Ellsbury collecting walk-off hits in two consecutive games, the second of which was a home run. The Sox then took two of three from New York.
There are few hitters in all of baseball hotter than Ellsbury right now. After his two-walk off performance in the Cleveland series and dropping the first game of the series to the Yankees, Ellsbury exploded on Saturday for six RBI, including a 3-run home run off of CC Sabathiato put the nail in the coffin for New York. Sabathia is now 0-4 against Boston this year, an impressive statistic considering he is 16-6 with a 2.81 ERA even after the Beantown shelling. For those of you who are mathematically impaired, like myself, only two of Sabathia’s losses have come from teams not named the Red Sox. Not bad considering at this point Sabathia is the American League Cy Young front-runner, who is now 6-9 all-time against Boston with a 4.19 ERA in 19 games.
As hot as Ellsbury was, Carl Crawfordwas out for blood this week, raising his batting average from the mid .240’s all the way up to .260 after hits in seven consecutive at-bats (including a 4-4 performance on Saturday) and collected three more hits in the series finale against New York. Crawford is hitting the pitches he was missing earlier in the season, either due to not seeing the ball well or pressing too hard at the plate. Right now, Red Sox fans are seeing the Crawford Boston paid for, and now that he seems more comfortable at the plate, the rest of this season and seasons to follow should result in better numbers from Crawford.
Josh Reddick further impressed critics with a walk-off hit against Phil Hughes of the Yankees on Sunday as well, plating Darnell McDonald for the win after Marco Scutarojump-started the Boston rally off of Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning, just as ESPN was rolling it’s montage of greatness to Rivera and giving Boston no chance of winning. Scutaro lead off the ninth with a Green Monster double, and Ellsbury laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, which moved Scutaro to third. Dustin Pedroia, who was -10 with five strikeouts against Rivera leading into the at-bat, clocked a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Scutaro. The win put the Red Sox back on top in the East by one game. This week Boston hits the road for three games in Minnesota, beginning tonight and finishing on the West Coast against Seattle over the weekend.
Wake Goes For 200
Tonight’s game against Minnesota will see Tim Wakefield log his third attempt at career win number 200. The game will begin at 7:10 EST.
Boston MVP Candidates
One cannot ignore the top three hitters in the Boston lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez are all having fantastic years. Gonzalez still leads the Major Leagues in RBI (91), hits (159), and batting average (.348), but the power numbers are down from what most fans expected. The point of hitting home runs is to drive in runs, and home run hitters are to do that copiously, so having Gonzalez leading baseball in RBI with only 18 homers is an extremely impressive statistic. This may be due to the fact that Gonzalez is second in doubles with 34, and has peppered the Green Monster repeatedly in his time at Fenway.
As good as Gonzalez and Pedroia have been, the Red Sox MVP at this juncture has to be Jacoby Ellsbury. Red Sox fans clearly has no idea what the organization was missing last season when Ellsbury was limited to only 18 games due to injury. Ellsbury is batting .318 with 19 home runs (his previous season-high was 9 in 2008), 72 RBI and 31 stolen bases. That’s all from the leadoff guy. There is no better table-setter in baseball right now. The most noticeable trend to me is that from day one of this season, Ellsbury has been much better about working the count and making opposing pitchers work hard to get him out as opposed to last year and years past in which 2-pitch groundouts to second base were frequent. Ellsbury has been the epitome of a difference-maker this season and having him, Pedroia (who is making a great case to reclaim his number 1 AL second baseman status from Robinson Cano), and Gonzalez all bat in the first inning is one of the large reasons Boston is the offensive powerhouse is has become this season.
The Boston Red Sox World Series championship in 2004 transformed a franchise and its fan-base. The lovable losers who endured heartbreak after heartbreak, year after year, became the toast of the town, the best of the best, and the indomitable champions. Their players were rock stars, their swagger unmatched, and their run so historic, it was unprecedented.
It was also the last day of the Red Sox I knew and loved. It was the last day of true blue, die-hard Red Sox fans who went to the games and kept scorecards. It became the dawning of a new era, one where the Boston Red Sox threatened to become more of a tourist attraction than an actual sports franchise.
So now, I ask the Boston Bruins to look at the Boston Red Sox and avoid this happening to them.
In 2004, the concept of “Red Sox Nation” hadn’t quite existed. We didn’t call it that, at least. We had legions of Red Sox fans, smarting from the heartbreak of 2003. The offseason was so hot, with both New York and Boston loading up on talent, with a war of words coming from both sides, that sniping took place from everywhere. It ratcheted up the intensity of the 162-game season, as every day seemed to anticipate the two teams meeting in the American League Championship Series. It became a 12-month odyssey drama, where fans from both sides waited with baited breath for the inevitable rematch.
That’s the way it had to be. It was so intense that it engulfed baseball. Every game against any opponent became the Red Sox hating the Yankees and vice-versa. When they played each other, the games were 4-hour marathons that soured our very being, as we obsessed over every pitch and agonized over every at-bat.
When the Red Sox won, we celebrated with the euphoria of the previous 12 months. Never before had one calendar year given us the drama of the previous 100-plus years of baseball. Under the bright lights, Red Sox fans rejoiced with the epic comeback that exorcised our demons, finally and eventually making St. Louis a footnote to the breaking of the Curse.
I occasionally pop in my DVD from that season and go back to that moment. I occasionally think back to the day when I ate and slept with the Red Sox. And I think back to when the team had character, its players were human, and its fan base rich with baseball knowledge and appetite. But, unfortunately, those days are long gone, and I don’t know if we can ever really get back to them.
You see – the Boston Red Sox, now in their 7th season since that championship, morphed from a team of human players and hungry fans to a team of stale players without personality and a fan base that’s morose with “fair-weather-ness.” The Red Sox tickets are ridiculously overpriced, their concessions expensive, and they went from being a cultivation of baseball tradition to a cultivation of the term we all have come to hate – “pink hat.”
A “pink hat fan” is the fan that isn’t afraid to spend $400 or more to enjoy a night at the ballpark. The pink hat fan makes sure to be out extra early from work or go into town extra early for the game. The pink hat fan goes to a bar beforehand and becomes intoxicated at someplace that’s cliché – like The Cask and Flagon. The pink hat fan goes to the game in the 3rd inning, goes to the wrong section, stands in front of about 25 people trying to figure out where the seat is, then eventually sits down in the 4th. During that period, the pink hat fan has gone to the beer line twice, making sure to get the two-beer selling max that Fenway imposes. By the time the 7th inning rolls around, the pink hat is sufficiently hammered, making a fool out of himself or herself, and not paying attention to the game. The pink hat fan, if a female screams her head off for Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia, yet has no idea what position they play, even though it’s on the scoreboard behind their bleacher seat. And the pink hat fan can’t wait for the 8th inning, when he or she can stand up and drunkenly croon “Sweet Caroline.” They’re probably leaving early so they can get a good seat at a bar for postgame shenanigans, stumbling home in the early morning hours before waking up and proclaiming the day before to be the “BEST…DAY…EVAH!”
The pink hat fan is the ultimate enemy to a fan who stuck with his or her team through thick and thin. What’s worse is that you can’t stop the pink hat from infiltrating your fan base because ticket prices don’t know identities. Ticket agencies like Stubhub and Ace Ticket don’t check your fandom at the gate, and the organizations’ ticket box office don’t either. The more people that cram into a game is the better for both the ticket office and the resale agencies, because demand drives ticket prices up, and higher demand drives more demand further up.
Let me explain.
Back in 2000, the average ticket price at Fenway was $28.33. That price was a 17% increase from 1999. This was during the height of the Pedro Martinez era, but it was still during a time when the Red Sox were failing to qualify regularly for the playoffs. By the time the Red Sox unveiled their 2004 champions banner on Opening Day 2005, the average ticket price was up to $44.56. In five years. That’s an almost 65% increase from the 2000 sales price. In 2005, by the way, the Major League average for a ticket price was a shade over $21, and the 2003 World Series Champion Florida Marlins had an average price of $15.55.
Yet the Red Sox kept selling out game after game as people went scouring for tickets. Resale organizations like Ace and Stubhub allowed for legal scalping, and it became common to see ticket prices reach in excess of $150 for a day game against Cleveland. New York Yankee games saw ticket prices climb over the $300 for bleacher seats, as people didn’t put a value on going to a game. It was the place to be seen; the clothing to wear, and the pricing reflected that. But, in the midst of all of this, the die-hard fan, the one who truly wanted to watch the game, got priced out.
From 1990-2001, I went to at least one Red Sox game per season (I have the ticket stubs to prove it). We used to be able to decide that we wanted to go into the game, get tickets the day of at the box office, and enjoy an afternoon at Fenway watching the Red Sox. We did this for the first time when the Texas Rangers were in town, and I vividly remember Roger Clemens pitching against Nolan Ryan. It was a family outing and a way for my dad, who had just stopped working two jobs, to spend time with his family. It became almost a rite of tradition that one day over the summer, we would pile into the car from Cape Cod and make the drive to Fenway to sit in the stadium and watch the Red Sox.
After 2001, though, I stopped going to games. I didn’t attend a Red Sox game again until 2005, when I went as part of a contingent representing the Cape Cod Baseball League. And even then, I got the ticket for free, and the opponent was the Kansas City Royals. I occasionally checked prices for games, but the Fenway box office was usually sold out and the online retailers were far too expensive for my collegiate checkbook.
From that 2005 season, I sensed something was different. And that something became what I’ve noticed every time I’ve gone since that year – the fan base at the game and the atmosphere was totally different. I used to walk up to Yawkey Way, get a sausage, and go into the game. Now Yawkey Way is a Fan-Fest. I used to go into the Twins Enterprises souvenir store to go shopping; now it’s blocked off as part of the Fan-Fest. I used to go to a game and keep the scorecard based off what I saw, cheering the players the whole time. It’s now about High Definition video boards that tell me how to score it, and beer being dumped on me while I’m trying to. And, the worst part of all – the 7th inning stretch and “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” has been replaced with that obnoxious screaming of “Root root root for the RED SOX” and the 8th inning Sweet Caroline drunken karaoke.
So where am I going with all of this? Why am I complaining about going to Fenway Park? And, more importantly – what does this have to do with the Boston Bruins?
Well, I’m venting about the majority of the Red Sox Nation, for one. This whole concept turned into a cash cow that now makes going to a game seem like a carnival more so than a baseball game. And people from out of town want to go to a game for the antics more so than the fact there’s an actual baseball game on display. That makes me thumb my nose, and it really bothers me that I love the game of baseball, and save for once a year when I go to a game and get annoyed by pink hat fans, I’ve been reduced to watching this team on television.
Secondly, I don’t want the Boston Bruins to turn into the pink skate brigade. It follows the pattern – the first championship in forever, an exciting game led by a bunch of characters, and the team that we love reinventing itself. Nothing compares to the 2004 Red Sox, especially in their popularity, but city officials projected the same amount of people to go to the Bruins parade as who went to the Red Sox parade.
I don’t want, in four years, to go to a Bruins game and be repulsed at what I see. I don’t want Zombie Nation to become Sweet Caroline. I don’t want Brad Marchand to become Jacoby Ellsbury. And I don’t want the TD Garden to become like Fenway Park, with overpriced tickets, even further overpriced concessions, and players who don’t have as much character as their predecessors.
The Bruins are champions, and I feel vindicated. Like Red Sox fans in my age group (and in my brothers’ age group), I feel so emotionally relieved and euphoric over the trophy coming home. Daily emails about hockey and hundreds of hockey games later, I feel the same way my dad did in 1970 and 1972. I’m so proud of the Boston Bruins, and I’m so proud to be a Boston Bruins fan-base.
The Sox seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday, June 4 with a ninth inning debacle that saw the Oakland Athletics score four runs to tie the game. The A’s took the lead in the 11th only to see Boston claw back with two outs in the bottom of the frame when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled in Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the tying run.
In the 14th inning came J.D. Drew, whose previous four at-bats saw him swing for the Golden Sombrero. Drew hit an 0-1 pitch sharply into right-center to score Carl Crawford from second and the game was won.
Saturday’s game was pretty much the week from Boston. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and in other games were forced to claw out of a hole in an effort to put up a W in the AL East standings.
Boston went [3-3] for the week, first getting swept by the White Sox, and then sweeping the Athletics. The offense looked terrific overall, but the pitching was suspect, especially from the bullpen. If it’s not a save situation, I would seriously reconsider putting Jonathan Papelbon on the mound. While he thrives in tight game scenarios, non-save situations actually seem to give him trouble.
This week saw the Red Sox lose Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill, both until late next year. In Matsuzaka’s case, maybe never again. One would be safe in assuming Matsuzaka never pitches in a Boston uniform again given the rehab he will go through. Not to mention by July of next season, the Red Sox will have a set rotation because they have to compete. Don’t be shocked if Boston makes a few moves for a capable #3-4-type starting pitcher in the near future.
This week also saw preliminary All-Star votes come out. Don’t even get me started on how stupid fans are because they should NOT be allowed to vote for All-Stars, plain and simple. There’s no reason Mark Teixeira should be leading over Adrian Gonzalez. There’s no reason Russell Martin should be leading over Alex Avila and there’s no reason Alex Rodriguez should be leading over Alberto Callaspo or even Adrian Beltre.
If you even TRY and tell me Derek Jeter should be leading over Asdrubal Cabrera at this point, I will mentally smack you in the face. The only Yankee who should be leading at his position is Robinson Cano, because the AL second base field isn’t as great as it has been in prior years. Cano to this point is the most well rounded second baseman statistically.
Now, I do not vote for All-Stars until voting is nearing its end to give the players time to accumulate more stats. However the stats right now once again show dozens of players getting the shaft. But I digress. Expect a podcast on this subject later this week.
Coming up Tuesday night, the Red Sox for once play against the Yankees during the week. History has shown Boston own the Yankees in the first seven to eight games played against them, so look for the Yankees to throw down now.
On Friday the Sox stay on the road against Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays, who have played the Sox tough in Toronto this season, but overall, it’s going to be a hard week for the local nine.
It seemed as though in the middle of this past week, that Boston reaching .500 was a pipe dream. There was little consistency in the Red Sox efforts this week, even though with a Mother’s Day win, they secured a winning [4-3] record for the week.
The week started out nicely with Boston continuing its recent dominance over the Angels, winning the first two games 9-5 and 7-3, respectively. But then came three consecutive losses, the last two of which were an 11-0 drubbing by the Halos and a 9-2 spanking by the Minnesota Twins. But Boston came back Saturday and Sunday with wins in which the offense looked like it got back on track.
Adrian Gonzalez has been tearing the cover off the ball for the past week and has seemed to notice the large green wall in left field is very easy for him to hit the ball into or over.
Jacoby Ellsbury has a 17-game hitting streak and Carl Crawford is now batting over .200, his average sitting at .211 after Sunday’s contest.
The pitching had it rough with a brutal rain delay in the Angles series, but a few bright lights in the ‘pen are still Matt Albers (1.42 ERA), Daniel Bard (2.55 ERA), and shockingly enough, Jonathan Papelbon (2.70 ERA, 5 saves). The starters were decent for this week minus another horrific effort by John Lackey, who gave up eight earned runs in four innings against the Angles on Thursday.
Right now there is too much inconsistency on the part of the Red Sox and they have yet to put together a string of complete baseball games where the pitching and hitting both shine.
Sunday began the Jose Iglesias era at Fenway, far earlier than most projected it would. In the ninth inning, Iglesias came in as a defensive replacement at shortstop and made the final assist of the game, throwing 5-3 for the final out, which prompted an ear-to-ear grin from the rookie.
Personally, I was extremely stoked to see Iglesias because I love watching defensive monsters at shortstop. I was begging each Twin batter to hit the ball to short in hopes of Iglesias making a diving stop, performing a back flip and throwing the ball behind his back all in one grand effort to get the runner out at first. Now, that didn’t (and won’t) happen, but Fenway got its first glimpse of the possible future at shortstop. With Marco Scutaro now on the 15-day DL, Iglesias’ first at-bat or start is probably not too far off, and might be something to look forward to this coming week.
Ahead, the Red Sox wrap up the Minnesota series on Monday with Josh Beckett taking on Nick Blackburn before Boston heads to Toronto on Tuesday. Jon Lester opens the Toronto series, followed by John Lackey on Wednesday to round out a short, two-game series. On Friday the real test of the week begins with three games at the Hurt Locker in the Bronx.
I feel like Iglesias will rob Derek Jeter of a base hit with a diving snag and fire one toward third base to catch a napping Francisco Cervelli to end one of the games.