Could Ortiz Match Williams In His Final At-Bat?

Few Hall of Famers can say that their final Major League at-bat was a memorable one. Mickey Mantle popped out to Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocello in 1968, who by then was merely a shadow of the player he once was. Babe Ruth, playing his final year for the Boston Braves in 1935, grounded out, a less than stellar ending to a career that had all but turned into an embarrassment (A pinch runner often took Ruth’s place in his last season because he had become too heavy to run). Even our own Carl Yazstrezemski’s final at-bat was uninspiring as he popped out in the bottom of the seventh against the Indians in Ortiz Match Williams1983. Many in the Red Sox Nation are hoping that David Ortiz won’t go the way of Mantle, Ruth, and Yazstremski when he takes his last at bat this season. In fact, I’m hoping he’ll leave the game the same way Ted Williams did, but in the post-season instead  of the regular season.

Ted Williams, a.k.a. the Splendid Splinter, bid adieu to baseball on September 28th, 1960 when he hit a solo home run to center off of Baltimore’s Jack Fisher in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Sox the edge in a 5-4 win. No other Hall of Famer had ever homered in his last at-bat, and none to date have done it since (as far as I know). But that was in a year when the Red Sox weren’t playoff contenders (they finished 7th in the American League with a 65-89 record). So if the Red Sox make the playoffs this season after a two-year hiatus, Ortiz might not only leave the game in a memorable way of his own, but might do so at Fenway Park during the World Series, perhaps with a home run of his own.

Winning the World Series for Boston with a home run is a LONG shot for Ortiz, and many factors would have to align perfectly in order for there to even be a chance of that happening (If Ortiz pulled that off I’d push to have the Baseball Hall of Fame’s five-year waiting period waived so he could be inducted right away). But if the Sox reach the playoffs, then Ortiz will have a chance to reclaim his role as a clutch hitter (he did hit five home runs and batted .400 in fourteen playoff games in 2004, including a game-winning home run in Game 4 of the ALCS). So if Price and Bucholtz throw the heat, Bogaerts hits over .300, and Betts and Bradley Jr. keep playing like the Gold Glove winners that they are, then I think it will be safe to dream about what Big Papi will do in his final at-bat. Whether it will be with a home run or not remains to be seen. But when we’re talking about Big Papi, anything is possible!

Overview and Commentary on ALCS Games 3-5

ALCS Games 3-5

Mike Napoli crushing the ball in Game 3. Courtesy of fdlreporter.com.

Let’s take a look at the rundown of ALCS Games 3-5.

Game 3 was an exciting one with John Lackey providing, in my opinion, one of his finest performances, in both regular and post-season play, against an always tough Justin Verlander. Management of the pitching staff was close to perfect, too. John Farrell got it right. He pulled his starter at the right time, whether the starter liked it or not (and Lackey didn’t)! He let Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and, of course, Koji Uehara, do their thing in the final innings, but not overdue it, which can be tempting. This strategy worked. And would you believe it, Mike Napoli provided the home run that would clinch the win 1-0. Yes, Napoli is awake! The trend continued through Game 4 and 5 as he continued to contribute to the offense.

Jake Peavy didn’t seem to help the Red Sox in ALCS Game 4. What happened in the second inning was soul crushing. There was talk by sportscasters that his vision is poor at 20/300. You’ve got to wonder whether he can see anything at all. Furthermore, with such bad eye sight how is Peavy effective as a pitcher? The Tigers took advantage, living up to their name, and scored so many runs that by the 3rd inning a Detroit win seemed a foregone conclusion. After all, the bullpen was not ready to perform so early in the game.  In addition, the Sox defense was just horrific during Game 4. I don’t think I have seen this team play such poor defense all season! It seemed everyone took a bite out of a Butterfinger before Wednesday night’s tilt.

The only good that came of Game 4 was one Xander Bogaerts.  He made a name for himself as a major league offensive player, making management think twice about his potential.  He made people think “Hey why isn’t this guy in the lineup?” Sure enough, Thursday night’s Game 5 rolled around and he was in the lineup batting just before David Ross.

Game 5 was the polar opposite of Game 4. The Red Sox got the momentum going early off of pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Clearly, they learned a lot from Game 1. Jon Lester remained fairly solid, but faltered a bit; the offense saved him. Farrell turned to Junichi Tazawa first, and Craig Breslow next, to toss the middle innings. I believe that middle reliever combination was far more effective and should be utilized more often. It was right for the Tigers lineup, and also for Breslow, as I feel he needs additional bullpen time to warm up before taking the mound.

The Red Sox seem poised to earn a victory at home either Saturday or Sunday night. I look forward to the outcome. Though I wanted (and misguidedly predicted) the Sox to win in 5 games, I am glad our beloved team will be back on the grass at Fenway.

Just like Dorothy said, “there is no place like home,” and that could not be truer for this team.

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With ALCS Game 2 Won, Sox Must Prepare Offense for Game 3

ALCS Game 2

Courtesy of nydailynews.com/sports

What just happened? I thought we were cooked for sure during last night’s ALCS Game 2. The comeback kids of Yawkey Way do it again against the Detroit Tigers bullpen. Never, I mean, never, count these guys out! Red Sox Nation is grateful for Detroit’s weak bullpen and Superman, David Ortiz, to save the day with a four run homer. WOW! Rarely am I speechless, but tonight I am at a loss for words.

We squeaked that game out. Where do we go from here, as the series moves to Comerica Park in Detroit?

The Red Sox players must focus on believing in their offensive talent. The hitters already show great plate patience. If a Sox player decides to hit, they must start the swing a bit earlier. Unfortunately, there is little time to work on this with the hitting coach with only one day off for travel. My second suggestion, one a bit more likely to take place, would be watching some game tape of Justin Verlander.  Finally, adding pinch hitters and pinch runners earlier in the game may throw off Detroit’s defense. Inserting players that the Tigers are not expecting may be the key to run production earlier in the game.

On the defensive side, pitchers must keep the pitches low and inside. Big guys like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder seem to love the high fastballs. For this fan, it looks like Cabrera and Fielder see these pitches as mere lobs over the plate. Pitchers must keep their emotions in check. One cannot be too pumped up like Jake Peavy or too down in the dumps like Clay Buchholz.

I’m not sure if any of these strategies will work. The Sox seem comfortable allowing the game to unfold naturally, relying just as much on skill and experience as they do grit and hope. Red Sox Nation and Sox players must dig deep for the kind of hope that helped us win Sunday night.

What do you believe will happen on Tuesday night?

Hoping for some old (Dodger) trash to return to Fenway

return to fenway

Winslow Townson/Getty Images; Jim Rogash, via Getty Images, Ray Stubblebine, via Reuters, Elsa, via Getty Images, Mark J. Terrill, via Associated Press
Clockwise from top center, the Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and Carl Crawford for Dodgers first baseman James Loney.

For the Red Sox, Aug. 25, 2012 was like any other trash day. Well, except one thing:

The trash man handed the Red Sox a check for $270 million.

This trash guy wore LA Dodger Blue, and the money went to their purchase of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from the Red Sox. The Sox needed no special trash sticker here. It was legitimate trash.

Now, I want this trash to return to Fenway.

I just can’t help it. It’s all I’ve been thinking about lately – Dodger Blue. And I don’t think I’m alone.

While the Sox are battling Detroit for the American League Championship, I’ll be thinking of the Dodgers – and how badly I want them to win the National League Championship Series. (doesn’t look good so far as they lost Games 1 and 2 to the Cards).

Adrian Gonzalez. Carl Crawford. Josh Beckett. Those stinkin’ bums.

Admit it: you want them coming back to Fenway Park for the World Series, too.

To me, this would be poetry at its best. Three of the most hated former Red Sox of all-time, in all their pretentious, arrogant glory, coming back to Yawkey Way to battle for the Series. Self-absorbed professional athletes vs. self-less ones.

The Red Sox beating them would put the ultimate stamp on this 2012-Bobby-Valentine-last-place-amnesia-campaign that we call the 2013 season.

Last year’s Red Sox season, you see, was like having a motor-oil milkshake for 162 games. Sure, Valentine’s to blame for about 103 percent of it all, but it didn’t help we had to deal with Whiny (Crawford), Phony (Beckett) and Texty (Gonzalez).

They are what was really wrong with the Red Sox last year. Overpaid and under-performing, and just bad for the team. Not chicken-and-beer bad. I didn’t even mind that. They’re baseball players. They eat and drink.

Those Dodger guys served a self-imposed isolation last year. While Dustin Pedroia and Papi were on Yawkey Way trying to play baseball, those guys were on Deer Island. They just didn’t buy in, and once things started to get bad, they made it worse by being cold, distant and just downright bitchy.These guys – except Beckett in 2007 (kinda stinks he’s injured) – did nothing for us but make a horrendous season worse.

They were trash, one piece of trash I’d like to see again on Yawkey Way, just so we can tie it up and toss it out again.