Grading The Boston Red Sox Winter Moves

A Look At A Busy Off-Season For Boston

The 2009 Boston Red Sox disappointed Red Sox nation with a three-game sweep out of the playoffs at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels.  With the standard of winning at an all-time high in Boston and at Fenway, the Red Sox front office had a very tall task ahead of them this off-season.

We flirted with the “bridge to 2011” talk for a while from Theo Epstein but the actions shown by Theo and company have provided us with a solid bridge from 2009’s bitter ending to a optimistic beginning in 2010.  Whether you like the Boy Wonder or not, the moves made by Epstein have garnered a grade of B+ from Tommy Boy this off-season.  

So, an off-season that started with the left-side of the infield, ended with the left-side of the infield as the signings of Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre bolstered the infield defense in an attempt for the Sox to transition from a team that scores a lot of runs, to a team that prevents a lot of runs. Along the way, fans became skeptical with the Boof Bonser’s, Ramon Ramirez’, and Tug Hullet’s of the worlds inking their way to Boston.  

But after failed attempts to negotiate with Jason Bay and the unwillingness to go the extra mile on Matt Holliday, the Sox punched in their big ticket of the off-season with John Lackey.  The bulldog Lackey will don a Red Sox jersey in 2010 and beyond as the Sox hope the 32-year-old will solidify the rotation for years to come.  

Boston also signed and acquired veterans Mike Cameron and Bill Hall to bring versatility and experience to the Red Sox lineup and bench with the former moving speedster Jacoby Ellsbury to left field.  The Red Sox and Theo Epstein earned a B+ from me this off-season because they improved in four positions while declining in one.    Lets take a look at the projected starting lineup of 2010 compared to that of  the opening day lineup in 2009.

2009                                                  2010

1) Jacoby Ellsbury (cf)           1) Jacoby Ellsbury (lf)

2) Dustin Pedroia  (2b)         2) Dustin Pedroia (2b)

3) David Ortiz (dh)                  3) Victor Martinez (c)

4) Kevin Youkilis (1b)            4) Kevin Youkilis (1b)

5) J.D. Drew (rf)                        5) David Ortiz (dh) 

6) Jason Bay (lf)                        6) J.D. Drew (rf)

7) Mike Lowell (3b)                  7) Adrian Beltre (3b)

8. Jed Lowrie (ss)                    8. Mike Cameron (cf)

9) Jason Varitek (c)                 9) Marco Scutaro (ss) 

With improvements at starting catcher, shortstop, and third-base (as well as No.3 pitcher with John Lackey) the Boston Red Sox should be able to make up for the lack of Jason Bay or a big slugger in the lineup.  With one of the more balanced lineups in recent history, the Sox do not have any proverbial automatic outs (unlike last year with shortstop, catcher and at times DH).  

There are concerns about the lineup missing a power bat and these are legitimate.  However, if David Ortiz plays like the Big Papi of June 1 and beyond last season (27 HRs and 93 RBIs) in 2010, then the Sox should be fine with the additions of Scutaro, Beltre, and a full-year of Martinez to replace the lack of Bay’s bat.  

The bullpen lost the likes of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, but the additions of Wakefield, Bonser, other Ramon Ramirez, and another year of Daniel Bard, should help ease the pain of the two relievers leaving for the Atlanta Braves.  

The Boston Red Sox have allowed themselves to field a very competitive team in 2010 while not mortgaging their farm system or financial flexibility.  This will allow the Sox, who have the contracts of Josh Beckett, Julio Lugo, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, and Jason Varitek (possibly Beltre-which is over $45 million) coming off the books in 2010, to be active shoppers in the much sexier and intriguing 2010 free agent market.  

Seems like the boys in the front office deserve a grade of B+ at the least.  But I will keep the A’s in my pocket until next off-season when the Sox bring in franchise-changing players from both the minor leagues and free agency.  

Maybe we should just tell Bud Selig to hit the fast-forward button in 2010.

Red Sox Sign Beltre

Free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre has reached tentative agreement on a one-year, guaranteed, $10 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, multiple sources have told ESPN.com and ESPNBoston.com.

The deal will pay Beltre a base salary of $9 million in 2010. It includes a $5 million player option for 2011 and a $1 million buyout, and is contingent upon Beltre passing a physical exam, the sources said.

Beltre batted .265 with eight homers and 44 RBIs for the Mariners last season, his 12th in the league. He was limited to 111 games due to injuries-Full Story

Welker Tears ACL, MCL

New England Star Wideout Sidelined For Playoffs

As the New England Patriots prepare for their AFC wild-card showdown with the Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick and company will have to gameplan for the Ravens defense without one of their offensive stalwarts. 

Wes Welker.

Welker tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee during New England’s 34-27 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday and will presumably miss the rest of the season.

With Welker out, the Patriots will have to heavily rely upon the play of rookie Julian Edelman, Randy Moss, and Sam Aiken to pick up the slack of Welker’s absence.  Welker finished the season with a franchise record 123 catches for 1,348 yards and four touchdowns.  

With Edelman left to handled the bulk of Welker’s workload, many fans hope the mini-welker can in fact play like No. 83.  With the injury to the Patriots star wide-out, many fans will also second guess why Welker was playing in the first place in a seemingly meaningless season finale.  

If the Patriots had won, they would have secured the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs without having to wait for the result of the Cincinnati and New York game but as it turned out, even with the loss to the Texans, the Patriots secured the No. 3 seed due to the Jets drubbing of the Bengals.  

So, what remains after the Week 17 loss in the standings is the loss of Wes Welker on the field for the rest of year.  

(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

Bruins Look To Satan For Offense Help

BOSTON, Mass. — The Bruins made the signing of
veteran winger Miroslav
Satan
official Sunday and he was on the ice skating at the team’s practice
at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass.

Satan

Satan

“I think this is a team which will have a chance to go deep in the playoffs
and I think the way the team is built, I think it could use a player like me,”
Satan said.

Satan’s friendship with Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara also played a part.-Full Story

Winter Classic was “Classic”

The Boston Bruins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 before a packed Fenway
Park on Friday in the outdoor contest that has caught the imagination of the
public and sponsors.

More than 300,000 fans entered a lottery for the 39,000 tickets on offer
while television ratings have skyrocketed.

“If there is any indication to the traction this is getting from sponsors and
advertisers — business partner investment has increased at about 66 percent a
year so the message is taking hold,” Bettman told reporters.

“The business community has realized and recognized that this is a great way
to reach customers, to reach sports fans, to reach our fans.”-Full Story

Bye Bye Bay

Mets & Jason Bay Agree to Contract

Oddly quiet all off-season, the New York Mets finally made their
long-awaited answer to the significant moves of their crosstown and
divisional rivals — that would be the Yankees and Phillies,
respectively — agreeing to terms with free agent left fielder Jason
Bay on a four-year deal believed to be worth around $65 million.

The deal, first reported by WFAN’s Mike Francesa, remains unofficial

pending a physical. Bay had been seeking a guaranteed fifth year from
his suitors — which included the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels,
Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants — but had to settle for four
guaranteed years plus a fifth-year club option that would vest if Bay
hits certain, as-yet-unspecified durability thresholds.-Full Story

Joey Bites Yankees Fans

This little guy may look fluffy & friendly now, but if you do need to put a scare into any Yankees fans you may know, send them our way.  Joey is soon to be approx. 240 pounds…& he will Bite Yankees Fans:

We’d love to see pictures of your pet in their Boston Sports Gear.  Send photos to rachel@chowdaheadz.com

What Boston Sports Fan Should Be Thankful For These Holidays…

Lots To Be Thankful For As A Boston Sports Fan

Tis’ the season to be jolly, or at least amiable for people around the hub.

Boston sports fans may be turned off by the overall play from the Patriots, injuries to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, a lack of consistency from the Bruins and of course, a lack of a big bat in the Red Sox off-season shopping.

But don’t be down, it could be worse and Boston sports fans have many things to be happy for or about, especially during the Holiday season.  Here is a list of five things Boston sports fans should be thankful for…

1) The Coaches: Oh what would we do without our managers and coaches?  From Bill Belichick and Terry Francona, to Doc Rivers and Claude Julien, Beantown is lucky enough to have some of the creme of the crop when it comes to head coaches.  Sure, many come with their own faults but for the most part these four figure heads bring a sense of professionalism and integrity (cough Belichick) to the city of Boston and their fans.  

2) Tom Brady: We New Englander’s love TB.  Sure, many others see him as a pretty boy who whines to the referees but we see him as the handsome gentlemen who is one of the best quarterbacks of all-time and dates Giselle.  What we would do to spend one day in Brady’s shoes.  We are thankful for the presence of No. 12 because he brought three super bowls to the Patriots organization and his underdog story has touched us all in some way or another.  

3) Championships This Decade: The total tally is six in the past eight years and has turned Beantown from the city of losers into the city of champions.  Once accustomed to losing seasons and bottom-dwelling franchises, Boston is home to six total championships this decade with three going to the Patriots, two to the Red Sox, and one to the Celtics.  The Bruins have been playoff-bound for a majority of the decade and are on the heels of a Championship.  What a difference a decade can make.

4) Superstar Players: Early on it was Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Joe Thorton, and Paul Pierce and now its turned to John Lackey, Kevin Garnett, and Zdeno Chara.  With David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Antoine Walker, and Randy Moss in between, the organizations in Boston have brought the superstars to our beloved city.  Now considered one of the biggest stages and places in sports, its no wonder that big-name players are inking their names in Boston’s checkbook.  It certainly beats the days of Jiri Welch, Jose Offerman, Anson Carter, and Andy Katzenmoyer.

5) World-Class Owners:  Eh, may be stretching myself on this one but there is no denying the good the owners have been doing since taking over in the hub.  Bob Kraft has transformed the Patriots organization and is now reaping the benefits (deserving so).  Although John Henry and Larry Lucchino may take a lot of fire from fans, they have brought two championships in three years to a team that went 86 years without one.  That alone, deserves some recognition.  Then there’s Wyc Grousbeck and Jeremy Jacobs have done some great work with the Celtics and Bruins, keeping both teams competitive and resourceful in the past few years.    

So, there you have it.  Five things that Boston sports fans should be thankful for this holiday season.  It’s still a great time to be a Boston sports fan, even if the last time we’ve won anything was with the Boston Celtics in 2008.  Here’s to many more championships and seasons coming to the scene in 2010.  

Patriots Prove Themselves As Road Warriors

Moss And The Gang Finally Get A Road Win

The media had a field-day with the Randy Moss situation in the locker room and on the press, but Moss had a field-day on the field while silencing his critics– just by letting his play speak for itself.

Moss and company took their road woes and threw them out the window on Sunday as the New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 17-10 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Moss had five receptions for 70-yards with one TD as the Patriots star wide-out shut up critics and reporters alike who questioned whether Moss was giving up on his team and teammates.  Tom Brady was shaky on Sunday as he fought through rib, finger, and shoulder injuries.   

The Patriots finally got their first real road win of the season (minus the London contest with Tampa Bay) as they all but locked up the AFC East as both the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets lost on Sunday.  

New England heads home for their last regular season home game of the season with the Jacksonville Jaguars next week before ending the season on the road in Houston against the Texans.

(AP Photo) (AP Photo)  

Lowell To Stay With Boston After All

Trade To Texas Falls Thru Due To Thumb Injury

After the dust settled, the Texas Rangers deemed Mike Lowell’s thumb injury to big of a risk for $3 million and Max Ramirez.

So, welcome back to Boston Mikey.

The trade that sent Lowell to the Texas Rangers, along with $9 million, was called off on Saturday night as the Rangers found radial collateral ligament damage in his right thumb and ended the verbal agreement.

The deal was pending a physical from both players and approval from the Commissioners office but in the end it was Lowell’s health and Texas’ uncertainty that brings Lowell back to Boston.

Even with a class act like Lowell, it will be awkward for him and the Red Sox to reconcile after repeated attempts by Theo and company to trade away the 2007 World Series MVP.  Lowell has been nothing short of a model citizen and player for the Sox since coming to Boston in 2006 as “throw-in” chip of the Josh Beckett for Hanley Ramirez trade (which, by they way was not under Theo’s watch).

So with the 35-year-old back in the hub, what exactly do the cards hold for the hobbled third-basement?  Well, the Sox have made it clear they are comfortable going into 2010 with Casey Kotchman and Kevin Youkilis manning the corner spots in the infield, so a starting job, if healthy, could be in the cards for Lowell.  

If the Sox elect to choose Lowell, over Kotchman, by the end of Spring Training, its because they think his health is good enough for him to produce good enough UZR rating to keep the saber-metric geeks in the Sox office happy with the range of Lowell at third.

If not, it could be a sticky situation for a professional like Lowell as he won’t be happy sitting on the bench.  Not at this latter stage of his career.  Epstein and Francona have made it clear that they see David Ortiz as the DH for the Sox in 2010 and if the Sox elect to start Kotchman at first and move Youkilis across the diamond, Lowell could be lost in translation.

Not fair for a good guy like Mikey Lowell.

Patriots Season Hanging In The Balance And On Brady’s Shoulder?

Injuries Could Play A Big Role In End Of Season For Pats

Even the joy of becoming a father to a new baby boy couldn’t heal the nagging injuries of Tom Brady.  New England’s franchise quarterback, who has been fighting injuries to his right finger, rib, and right shoulder, was back at practice the past two days after missing practice on Wednesday.

With the Patriots, uncharacteristically, playing poor football in December, their AFC East and post-season ambitions are up in the air much like the status of No. 12.  However, it looks like Brady will suit up on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills but things don’t look as promising for two of New England’s more prominent defensive linemen.

Defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren did not participate in practice Friday as both are listed as questionable for Sunday’s contest. Other questionable players on the injury report are Tully Banta-Cain, Sam Aiken, Julian Edelman, Jarvis Green, Nick Kaczur, Stephen Neal, Fred Taylor, and Benjamin Watson.

Even with a semi-healthy Brady, the Patriots offense could be in cahoots without Aiken, Edelman, and Watson, spread wide for Brady and the New England pass offense.  

A lot of scenarios are hanging in the balance for Bill Belichick as fans will have to wait to see what he decides to do with his squad full of injuries that have them questionable for Sunday’s game.  And much like the injury report, the Patriots playoff chances could very well be questionable with so many players missing from the playing field.