Dear John, I am Sorry

The 2013 ALCS has been nothing less than an instant classic through the first three games.  The Red Sox will go into Game 4 with a 2-1 series lead, something that seemed improbable at best going into the 8th inning of Game 2 at Fenway Park.  In Game  1, the Red Sox were only able to produce 1 hit…1 god damn hit… to quote the great Harry Doyle en route to a 1-0 loss.  In Game 2, Detroit looked to take a commanding 2-0 lead with the Sox facing the unenviable task of facing Justin Verlander down two games to none.  Then Big Papi struck.

David Ortiz.  Big Papi.  Senor Octubre.  Red Sox fans have witnessed Ortiz’s heroics for a decade now.  It came to the point 963805-tigers-red-sox-baseballwhere many fans were almost expecting Ortiz to deposit a first pitch Joaquain Benoit change-up into the Boston bullpen for a grand slam to tie the game. A grand slam that sent Torri Hunter sprawling head over heels into the Boston bullpen.  A grand slam that made a Boston Cop a local hero and coined a term, Horganing. A grand slam that will be talked about for generations. A grand slam that gave the Red Sox life. The Red Sox offense had been anorexic through the first 17 innings of the ALCS.   The Big Dog ate, and completely changed the complexion of the series with one swing of the bat.  Red Sox fans take what Papi does for granted.  But let me be the first to say, the man is clutch.  Time and time again he has come up big, in the times the Sox have needed him most.  I mean a grand slam! In the eighth inning! With 2 outs!  Are you kidding me?  Isn’t that what small children dream of every day?

One inning later Jarrod Saltalamacchia plated Jonny Gomes to walk off with Game 2.  The Red Sox were going to board a plane to Detroit with the series tied at 1.  A series, which arguably, would’ve been 2-0 in Detroit’s favor.  Think about it for a second.  The Red Sox were no hit through the first 5 innings of each game.  Detroit fired their absolute best shot at the Red Sox.  What have we said about the Sox all year?  Man, these guys are resilient!  Every time we were ready to discount the Sox, they came right back with a massive win.  Game 2 was no different.  Why are we surprised?

Going into Game 3, all the talk was about Justin Bie- sorry Verlander.  Verlander has been incredible in October, nearly lackey-big-10340.runtouchable.  No one was talking about John Lackey.  No one has been more critical of The Underbite then yours truly over the lifetime of the Lackey contract.  What Lackey did in Game 3 against a potent Tiger lineup will rank right up there in Red Sox lore with the names Pedro and Schilling.  Lackey matched zeroes with Verlander, through 6 innings.  I can’t think of another Boston athlete in my lifetime that has drawn as much ire from the Fenway Faithful, then made amends, and now has drawn the same amount of praise from Sox fans.  From chicken and beer, to Tommy John, to pitching like an ace in the biggest game of the season, John Lackey has earned this year’s salary and then some.

Mike Napoli came to the plate in the top of the 7th inning boasting a feeble .111 batting average in the playoffs.  Napoli changed Game 3 with one swing, mashing a Verlander offering to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.  Coincidently, Napoli’s first major league at bat came against Justin Verlander.  Napoli turned the clock back to 2006, and hit a home run to the same exact spot at Comerica Field in 2013.  This proved to be enough.

I wasn’t overly excited about the quick hook John Farrell gave Lackey after 6.2 innings and 97 pitches.  During the regular imagesseason the Red Sox bullpen was much maligned.  In October? They have been lights out.  Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa preserved the 1-0 lead giving way to Koji Uehara who slammed the door on Game 3 giving the Sox a 2-1 series lead.  Tazawa struck out Miggy Cabrera with straight gas with ducks on the pond.  Each pitch, New England held its collective breath as the young righty struck out the reigning AL MVP in the biggest spot of the season.  Uehara came in and made rather quick work of Prince Fielder with runners on.  Fair to say Uehara and Tazawa both have Marbles!

Now the Red Sox go into Wednesday night with 2-1 series lead.  Doug Fister will be the opposition.  While he is nothing to sneeze at, he is not Verlander, Scherzer, or Sanchez.  Red Sox fans had been dying to get the Detroit bullpen after the aforementioned triumvirate had pitched 21 innings struck out 35 and given up just two runs.  Now Boston is in the driver’s seat in this series.  Jake Peavy will take the mound tomorrow night.  Peavy, who will be motivated to show Boston they were the big winners in the deadline trade that sent Jose Iglesias to Detroit.

Speaking of Iglesias, he is who no one is talking about.   In Game 2, he made a horrible decision trying to throw Jonny Gomes out on a sure infield hit.  His throw went into the Boston dugout and Gomes was able to take second base with no outs.  Gomes’s run won the game.  In Game 3, he pinch hit, yes Boston fans you read that correctly, and struck out on three pitches.  Meanwhile, Peavy was awesome in the ALDS against Tampa going 5.2 innings giving up just 1 run and throwing just 74 pitches.

There is no doubt this series has been an instant classic.  It will continue tomorrow night at 8 o’clock.  I wish life had a fast forward button.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

First Half Red Sox Recap

When the Boston Red Sox left Fort Myers in March to embark on their 2013 campaign, few (if any) believed they would be in the position they are at the All Star break.  I thought I was wearing my usual hometown shades when I said they would be a .500 team.  What the Red Sox have done is amaze everyone.  On this date, the Red Sox are in first place in the American League East.  They also have the most wins in all of baseball.  There are many different people and various factors Red Sox fans can attribute this success to.

Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington was finally given the keys to the car from Larry Lucchino late last season.  Cherington quickly unloaded a ton of ben-cherington4salary and even more ego in one foul swoop by sending Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles.  Cherington then went to work in the offseason by bringing in solid baseball players that had an even better attitude.  Goodbye headaches. Hello Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, and Mike Carp.  More importantly, Cherington was able to give Bobby Valentine the pink slip.  Keep in mind Bobby V was never Cherington’s guy in the first place.  With Bobby V gone, Cherington traded Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays to grab the man he wanted all along, John Farrell. What was once labeled as a season where the Red Sox needed to win their fan base back, they now find themselves in playoff contention.

John Farrell

Farrell has been exactly what the Red Sox needed coming into the 2013 season.  He has been the anti-Bobby V.  Have you heard any incidents within the Red Sox clubhouse this season? Remember last season when we knew everything that was going on between manager and players? Remember when Will Middlebrooks made 3 errors in one inning and he came in to the dugout to be greeted by Bobby V saying “nice inning kid.” Farrell has handled any issues going on in-house expertly.  He has even handled the unpredictable Alfredo Aceves admirably.  Farrell also helped Jon Lester get back to his old self early in the season. Granted Lester has struggled recently.  Be that as it may, the pitching staff as a whole, has benefitted from having Farrell in the dugout.  Clay Buchholz is 9-0 with an ERA below 2.  If not for a nagging shoulder injury, he would have started the All Star Game and would undoubtedly be the front-runner for the Cy Young award.  Thank you, John Farrell.

The players

Remember the criticism Red Sox management received when they gave David Ortiz his long-awaited multi-year deal in the off-dustinseason?  Big Papi has rewarded that decision to the tune of a .317 batting average with 19 home runs and 65 runs batted in.  Many baseball writers (Heyman, Morosi) have Dustin Pedroia as their first half American League MVP.  Yes, they have Pedroia over Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera.  Pedroia has missed one game this season.  He has made one error.  He is hitting .316 with 6 home runs and 56 runs batted in.  He is doing all this with a torn ligament in his thumb.  The man is a beast.

Daniel Nava has turned in Trot Nixon.  Nava should have been named an All Star after the stellar first half he put up for the Red Sox.  In the preseason Nava was an after thought.  Many people figured he would be playing elsewhere by now.  When Jackie Bradley, Jr. struggled in April, Nava was red-hot.  He is yet to really cool off.  He has been a steadying presence whether hitting leadoff, second, or sixth in the lineup.  The man the Red Sox once acquired for one dollar is hitting .288 with 10 home runs and 52 runs batted in.  Tell me he doesn’t remind you of Trot Nixon with a clean uniform.

At this point in the season, Jose Iglesias has to be the Rookie of the Year in the American League.  Iglesias started out the season with the big club while Stephen Drew recovered from a concussion.  Iglesias was hitting over .500 when Drew came back. Iglesias was in Pawtucket for about a month.  He was pressed back into duty and has continued to hit the ball well for the Red Sox.  Many were concerned about his offense.  Often times it may not be pretty.  It may be an infield hit, it may be a blooper down the line, but either way it looks like a line drive in the box score.  Keep in mind Iglesias is just 23 years old. I do not expect him to hit over .350 the rest of the year.  As a matter of fact, I fully expect him to finish the season slightly below .300.  But I do know this.  I want him to play shortstop everyday for the Boston Red Sox.  The kid plays spectacular defense.  The kid belongs in the big leagues.

The last man I need to mention in this post is John Lackey.  Who would have thought he would be the Red Sox horse going intobos_a_lackey_b1_600 the All Star break.  Lackey is throwing the ball extremely well after an awful first 3 years with the franchise.  He is hitting 96 on the gun.  He is getting numerous swings and misses.  His ERA is below 3.  Now, anyone that has read my writings over the past few years now my hatred for John Lackey.  I would be remiss if I failed to give credit when credit is due.  With Jon Lester struggling and Clay Buchholz “hurt”, John Lackey has been the man in the Boston rotation.  To think his season looked over before it got started in Toronto in his first game this year.  Lackey has been awesome for the Red Sox and I do hope it continues.

The Red Sox are 58-39 and 2.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.  The second half of the season begins Friday.  Saddle up Sox fans the road to the playoffs is upon us.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

Red Sox Back to Their Winning Ways

The Boston Red Sox came into their May 14th tilt vs the Tampa Bay Rays in third place in the American League East.  Many believed the Cinderella Sox were starting their skid into the basement of the division like many had predicted in the winter.  They were facing a stretch of 20 games in 20 days with 14 of those games away from Fenway Park.  Here we are on June 3rd, and the Red Sox are atop the American League East by 2.5 games, continuing an improbable 2013 season.  They went 13-7 over the last 20 games culminating in taking 2 out of 3 from the Yankees in the Bronx.

During this stretch they were bitten by the injury bug.  They lost Will Middlebrooks, Shane Victorino, and David Ross to the 040813_nava2disabled list.  Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury missed time as well.  The Red Sox have shown if they are anything, they are resilient.  The most pleasant surprise two months into the season is the production of Daniel Nava.  Coming into the season, Nava was an after thought.  Everyone expected Jonny Gomes and Jackie Bradley Jr. to patrol the outfield.  With Victorino hampered by a variety of injuries, Gomes off to a slow start, and Bradley Jr. figuring things out in Pawtucket, John Farrell was able to turn to Nava.  Nava is hitting .297 with 8 home runs and 37 runs batted in.  He is tenth in the American League in OPS at. .880.  That is better than Robinson Cano, Carlos Santana, and Ian Kinsler.  He has also been solid with the leather.

Dustin Pedroia is having an all around amazing season.  Word came out this week he tore a ligament in his thumb on Opening images-1Day. His .333 batting average and eye-popping defense make it seem there is no injury at all.  There has not been one game that has gone by where Pedroia hasn’t robbed someone of a base hit.  Water covers two-thirds of the earth’s surface.  Dustin Pedroia covers the rest.  He has played in every game this season and is yet to commit an error.  He has 153 assists and 93 put outs.  Someone put a call into Mr. Cano and alert him his Gold Glove is coming back to Boston, where it belongs.

Look at David Ortiz’s stats.  He his hitting .333 with 10 home runs and 36 runs batted in.  It is easy to forget that he actually missed nearly the first month of the season.  Hopefully he continues to stay healthy.  The Red Sox are a much different team with his bat in the lineup.  Fellow bash brother Mike Napoli has been producing as well.  Twice this season, opposing teams have intentionally walked Ortiz to get to Napoli.  On both occasions, Napoli made them pay dearly by hitting two grand slams.  Napoli has 45 runs batted in on the season.  If he can stay healthy throughout the season, I firmly believe the Red Sox should honor their original contract offer to him.  Give him a 2 year $27 million deal.

Jose Iglesias belongs in Boston.  Pedro Ciriaco does not.  Will Middlebrooks is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Mike Carp, Jose Iglesias, Jarrod SaltalamacchiaJune 8.  When he comes back, I sincerely believe Ciriaco will be given his walking papers.  He has been atrocious this season both mentally and physically.  He has brought back memories of Julio Lugo in the field, and has been an airhead on the base paths.  Iglesias has been producing for the Sox at the plate and his signature defense has been on display at short and third.  If the Red Sox send Iglesias down again, they will lose this kid forever.  They can’t afford to do that.

A look ahead shows the Red Sox have a rather difficult schedule over the next 13 games.  They host the Rangers for three games.  Remember how the Rangers sent them into a tailspin after sweeping the Sox earlier in the season in Arlington.  The Angels come to town after that and then they travel down to The Trop to take on the red-hot Rays.


I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF


2012 Boston Red Sox Offseason Blueprint

The Boston Red Sox went 69-93 in the 2012 season.  Their worst record since 1965.  Like most Red Sox fans, I was miserable all summer.  In fact, I was miserable since late November, when the Red Sox brass inexplicably decided to hire the worst man possible for the job in Bobby Valentine.  This wasn’t just hindsight being 20/20. If you comb our archives, there is a post I wrote on November 4, 2011 titled “The Search for a Manager” after Terry Francona left Boston. The basic gist of that post was making sure the Red Sox hired anyone but Bobby V.

11 months later, I am here at my laptop, and the Red Sox are again without a manager. A lot has changed in Boston though.  Adrian Gonzalez, who was supposed to remind us of Manny Ramirez, is out in LA along with Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett.  There are more holes in the lineup card that accompany the vacancy on the top step of the dugout.  Will they give David Ortiz the contract he wants? Will they re-sign Cody Ross?  Are they going to go into an all out youth movement?  Will they explore trading Jacoby Ellsbury?

The manager search doesn’t really concern me much because Bobby V is no longer available.  Dave Martinez, Sandy Alomar, and Bill Mueller are all guys that I would really like to see manage the Sox.  John Farrell and Mike Scioscia will either have to get fired or the Red Sox would have to trade for them. I can’t really think of any candidates that I absolutely don’t want like Bobby V last season.  I trust that the franchise is okay this time around with whomever they decide to hire.

Midway through the 2012 season, I started to think the Red Sox should give David Ortiz a Kevin Garnett like contract.  3 years $30 million would shut Ortiz up for a while, it would allow him to retire a Red Sox, and at the time he was performing at a high enough level to warrant that type of offer.  Then he injured his Achilles running the bases and was essentially out for the season.  This injury changed my mindset on Ortiz.  He is only asked to DH and he can’t stay on the field.  I would offer him a 2 year deal for $18 million.  I only offer him the multi-year deal because of what he has meant to the Red Sox organization the last 10 years.  The Red Sox are wise enough to know there isn’t much of a market for Ortiz being jus a DH.  The fact that he wasn’t able to play a whole season also plays into the Red Sox favor when they sit down at the contract table.

If Ortiz digs his heels in and proves difficult to re-sign, the Red Sox do have fall back options.  There have been numerous reports out of Arizona that GM Kevin Towers will explore the trade market for Justin Upton.  The 2005 first overall pick is just 25 years old.  He is a five tool player.  Put Upton in right field. This would allow you to move Cody Ross to left once you re-sign him, or he could even become your DH.  Because Upton is just 25 years old I feel its ok to give up your prospects.  Upton would be a part of the youth movement.  In my eyes only Matt Barnes is your truly untouchable prospect.  Go ahead and trade Xander Bogearts, Jackie Bradley, Allen Webster, and Bryce Brentz.  I believe the return you are getting here is much more valuable than question marks that are in the farm system.

It was no secret the Red Sox pitching this season was terrible at best.  The staff ERA was over 5.  In fact the staff was so bad, there were people actually excited that John Lackey was coming back next season.  As it stands right now the Red Sox will head into Spring Training with a rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, and Franklin Morales.  The nice thing about that last sentence is it didn’t include the name Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Daniel Bard will have the entire winter to get over his mental breakdown in 2012.  It is my hope that whoever manages the Red Sox will keep Bard in the 8th inning to set up Andrew Bailey where he belongs.  Morales will be in the rotation depending on the development of Rubby De La Rosa.

Zack Grenike is available in free agency and the Red Sox should avoid him like the plague.  Greinke’s mental health issues are well documented and we have seen many players come through Boston and show they could not handle the environment.  Imagine what will happen to Grenike?  The only free agent pitcher that genuinely interests me would be Dan Haren but I fear his price tag will be a bit exorbitant.  As far as trade targets, a guy I have wanted for years might be available in Matt Garza.  Garza proved when he was with the Rays that he can pitch in the toughest division in baseball.  Garza is just 28, so he might command a similar package to that which would be required to land Justin Upton. The other interesting trade target is Josh Johnson.  My problem with him, however, is the man just can’t stay healthy.  I have real reservations sending away top prospects for someone who isn’t reliable.

While there is a part of me to see Adrian Gonzalez gone, I have to be realistic and acknowledge his departure leaves a rather large hole in the lineup and at first base. James Loney came to Boston as a part of the AGone deal and in 30 games he just .230. with 2 home runs and 8 RBI.  His best season was in 2008 when he hit .289 with 13 home runs and 90 RBI.  There isn’t much else out there in the first baseman market.  I am not excited about James Loney coming back to Boston, but I think the Red Sox can get him back dirt cheap and he will be serviceable for them.  I’d say sign Mike Napoli to play first base just so the Sox don’t have to oppose him any longer but that theory proved wrong with Carl Crawford. He also suffered a major regression the second half of the season. The other options are Adam LaRoche (who will be overpaid by someone this winter) and Nick Swisher. Truth be told, I would love to see Swisher in a Red Sox uniform but I know that won’t happen.

I hope the Red Sox don’t get involved in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes.  I don’t care about his history and all that jazz.  I am more concerned about paying someone top dollar from the ages of 35 and on.  Alex Rodriguez is a prime example of why not to give massive contracts to athletes in the twilight of their careers.  Hamilton will turn 32 next season and he figures to command at least an 8 year contract in the neighborhood of $175 million.

Lastly, the Red Sox will need to figure out what they want to do at shortstop.  I would like to see them give Jose Iglesias the nod in 2013.  I can probably hit better than him but his defense is outstanding.  I believe in run prevention and Iglesias in my opinion could help out that starting rotation quite a bit.  He gets to balls that he has no business getting to.  I’ll tolerate the .200 batting average if it means outstanding defense.  Bat him ninth, let him sacrifice bunt whenever he can, and let him learn how to hit big league pitching on the job.  There is no one really available via free agency either.

I expect this offseason to be interesting for the Red Sox.  I am hoping management is just as sick of losing as the fan base is.  I miss the days of 2004 and 2007.  The Red Sox have not made the playoffs since 2009 and in that year they were swept by the Angels.  I sincerely hope that the Boston Red Sox are at rock bottom right now because I can’t imagine it being any worse.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

Ranking the Boston Champions

There is no doubt the last 10 years have been the greatest 10 years of any sports town in history for Boston.  No other city comes remotely close to having 7 championships in ten years.  So where do I rank those 7 championships? Let’s have a look.

7) 2004 Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers

Tom Brady was a stud in this one as he threw for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns leading the Patriots to a 32-29 win over the Panthers.  Adam Vinatieri was the hero again as he hit a 41 yard field goal to with 4 seconds left to put the Patriots ahead for good.

Memorable Moments: Vinatieri’s game winning field goal; Vrabel’s 2 sacks and touchdown reception; 37 total fourth quarter points

6) 2005 Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles

The Patriots winning this Super Bowl cemented the theory that the Patriots were the 2000’s dynasty in the NFL.  Tom Brady started to draw comparisons to Joe Montana.  And perhaps best of all the Patriots beat loud mouth Terrell Owens.  The Patriots also became the first team since the Denver Broncos to win back to back Super Bowls.

Memorable Moments: Branch’s 11 receptions; Rodney Harrison flapping his arms like an eagle after his second interception; Another Vrabel TD reception

5) 2007 Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies

The Rockies were the hottest team in baseball going into the World Series in 2007 after winning 15 of their last 16 just to make it into the playoffs.  They then swept the division series and league series and were forced to wait as the Red Sox finished their series with the Indians.  This 2007 team was a lot different from the 2004 team as it was a team that was led by Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.  Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury arrived on the scene as well while old friends David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling were still doing their thing.

Memorable Moments: Pedroia’s home run off Francis; Sox come back from 3-1 deficit against Indians in ALCS; Papelbon’s Irish Jig

4) 2008 Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers

While I am more of a Celtics fan than I am a Bruins fan, this championship has to fall just below the Bruins.  The Celtics were able to stack their team by trading their roster away to acquire Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  Quite frankly, if the Celtics hadn’t of won the championship in 2008 I would have been incredibly disappointed.  But it was pretty sweet to embarrass the Lakers on their home court.  I was also very happy to see Paul Pierce win a title after all the years he put in with the Celtics.

There may not have been a more deserving athlete in Boston than Paul Pierce when he was finally able to raise that trophy high above his head.  Pierce had been in Boston his whole career and never publicly spoke out about how bad the team was or publicly complained.  Sure, he was mad when they stunk, but Pierce stayed quiet and he was rewarded when Danny Ainge got him a true supporting cast for the first time in his career.

Memorable Moments: Pierce in a wheelchair; Mike Breen:”And the Celtics are embarrassing the Lakers”; Ray Allen crossing over Vujacic

3) 2011 Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks

The Stanley Cup hadn’t been in Boston since 1972.  The Bruins were able to win in overtime of Game 7 against their archrival, the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round, sweep a Flyer team that came back from a 3-0 lead the year prior, and beat the Lightning in Game 7 on their home ice, before capturing the Stanley Cup in Game 7 in Vancouver.  They did it without their best player, Nathan Horton who was knocked into next week by Aaron Rome in Game 3.  They won it with perhaps the most dominating playoff performance ever by a goalie in 37 years young Tim Thomas.

During these playoffs, Zdeno Chara missed time with a dehydration illness, Nathan Horton missed time with his concussion, and they were down in the Montreal and Vancouver series but showed how resilient they were after a season of fans questioning the team’s heart.  These Bruins most certainly had heart.

Memorable Moments: Tim Thomas’ overall performance; Horton’s concussion; Recchi’s last game; Thornton the enforcer; Bergeron getting bit by Burrows

2) 2002 Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams

No one expected the Patriots to stay within 15 points of the Rams in 2002.  Hell, the argument could be made the Patriots weren’t even suppose to be there after Brady fumbl- I mean tucked the football in against the Raiders in the AFC Championship.But Bill Belichick pulled off his best coaching performance in his first Super Bowl win as he was able to slow down “The Greatest Show on Turf.”  The Patriots were able to completely neutralize Marshall Faulk and from there, rookie Tom Brady was able to manage the clock and not turn over the football enabling Adam Vinatieri to kick a game winning 48 yard field goal.  While Brady was named MVP, (16-27 for 145 yards) I will forever argue JR Redmond, Jermaine Wiggins, or the Patriot Defense was far more deserving of the honor than Brady.

The coolest part of this Super Bowl was Bill Belichick having his whole team introduced instead of individual introductions.  This set forth the value of unity amongst a team and started the trend that continues today of teams being introduced rather than individual players.

Memorable Moments: Vinatieri’s field goal; Patriots’ entrance; Madden suggesting Patriots run out clock; The final drive; Wiggins; Redmond; Troy Brown

1) 2004  Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals

It took 86 years for the Red Sox to win the World Series.  They suffered the dreaded Curse of the Bambino.  A stretch that saw Bucky bleepin’ Dent hit a lazy fly ball that landed in the netting of the Green Monster to win the division for the Yankees, they saw a routine ground ball trickle through the legs of Bill Buckner off the bat of Mookie Wilson to push the 1986 World Series to a seventh game, and they saw Aaron Boone hit a walk off home run in 2003 that sent the Yankees to the World Series.  The Red Sox didn’t only not win, they put their fan base through through the most painful of losses.

2004 was especially memorable because they were able to do what no other team in baseball had done before: Come back from a 3 games to 0 deficit to win the ALCS against, yes, the New York Yankees.

Memorable Moments: Roberts steals second; Schilling’s bloody sock; “Don’t let us win this one”; (Fully recognize all the memories are from the Yankee series but can you say you have any memories from the actual World Series?)

***A previous version of this post had Tim Thomas listed as 36 years young.  Thanks to a faithful reader for pointing out that he is 37 years young.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

Mumbles: Blizzard Edition

After shoveling for nearly two and a half hours, I feel the need to rant.  It is usually ideal therapy for me so I figured there is nothing better than to sit down at my computer and just let it have it.

* First and foremost, all you people out there who love snow and are the outdoorsy type were either dropped on your heads as children or should make an appointment to get your head examined, pronto.

*Yesterday, the Patriots took care of business by dismantling the Bills giving them home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  While this is an obvious advantage for the Pats, let us not lose sight of the fact that the Pats just last season were blown out on Foxboro turf by the Ravens 33-14 in the first round of the playoffs.  The Patriots could play host to any number of teams as the AFC playoff picture hasn’t quite come into focus yet.  To be honest there isn’t a clear cut team that I am “comfortable” with the Pats facing after their first round bye as each team poses it’s own set of problems.

*Going into this season I was hoping the Patriots would use the Raiders pick to scoop up Alabama’s Mark Ingram.  Now with one week to go in the regular season, that is no longer the case.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been incredible for the Pats this year.  He has carried the ball 209 times this year for 928 yards and 12 touchdowns, without a fumble.  In fact during his 3 years in the league spanning 309 carries he is yet to fumble.  (Lord, I hope I don’t jinx the man).  He has also been great in the back field in picking up blitzes to protect Brady.  He along with Danny Woodhead have been a very pleasant surprise this season.  What’s even better is they are both young and can share backfield duties for years to come.  Their success has enabled the Patriots to concentrate on other areas come draft time.

*I am really hoping that the Celtics aren’t about to partake in their annual swoon after Christmas.  Last season the Celtics were 23-5 going into Christmas day, eerily similar to this season.  Last season they played the Lakers and lost, much like they did with the Magic this season.  Last season, after Christmas the Celtics played less than .500 ball and got a 5 seed in the playoffs.  I am hoping the Celtics can maintain the dominance they have showed this season because I feel home court advantage will be important to them come April as evidenced by their 13-1 home record, best in the NBA.

*Many fans are wondering if the Celtics will make their usual trade deadline move as they have the past 3 years (PJ Brown, Mikki Moore, Nate Robinson).  Such a move will be unnecessary as they will actually be getting healthy around that time.  Expect Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Jermaine O’ Neal and Rajon Rondo to all be fully healthy come mid- February.  I have long said this is the deepest team I can remember in the NBA.  For that very reason I think they are the best team in the NBA.

*There has been a lot of discussion as to what the Boston Red Sox batting order will be come 2011.  Some writers (Gordon Edes) actually think that Dustin Pedroia will bat 5th or 6th.  Now what bothers me is that he is a so called expert and gets paid to offer his opinion on such matters.  But how can one man who has his amount of access to the club even think this?  Why would anyone bat the league leader in runs scored when healthy (2008-118 runs 2009-115 runs) deep in the lineup and not have him set the table for the big boppers?  His logic escapes me and if anyone can help me understand what he is thinking it will be greatly appreciated.

*In regard to the Sox lineup, here is something that hasn’t really been brought up.  Why not bad Carl Crawford ahead of David Ortiz? If Crawford was to bat in the 5 hole and Ortiz 6, there would be no more Ortiz shift.  A walk to Crawford would soon turn into a triple if teams were to employ the dreaded shift.  With the shift out of play, Ortiz is looking at 15 to 20 more hits this season.  At the same time I see the flaw in having back to back lefties in the lineup,  but I think it is more valuable to get rid of that shift as many times as possible.

*Last week I wanted Claude Julien fired and was calling for Santa to give him a shake weight to occupy his time.  Don’t get me wrong I still want him canned.  But how cool was it to see Shawn Thornton drop the gloves 2 seconds into the game against the Thrashers last Thursday night? I was calling for some kind of spark that would show me the Bruins did have heart.  Thornton produced that and then found the twine twice in a 4-1 win over the second best goalie in the NHL, in Ondrej Pavelec.  Hopefully Bruins fans will look back to December 23 as the turning point in the season, that got the boys in black and gold going.

*Speaking of the Bruins, I appreciate Marc Savard’s effort in trying to drop the gloves toward the end of the Atlanta game.  But what the hell was he thinking?  This is a man who was knocked out for an extended amount of time last season after a cheap shot by Matt Cooke.  Then missed the first few months of this season with post concussion syndrome.  I never want to see one of my guys turtle but that was an exception.  I understand he didn’t want to be the only one on the ice not dropping his gloves, but he has to realize common sense.  Don’t put yourself at obvious risk of furthering your injury!

I can now be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNtcf.

Who Will Step Up in June?

April wasn’t the best month for the Boston Red Sox.  We can all do ourselves a favor and forget about it.  We were too busy paying attention to the Celtics and the Bruins anyways.  It also helps that pennants aren’t won in April.  However, it is fair to say, there was nervous tension throughout April as many fans questioned the approach of pitching and defense.  David Ortiz and JD Drew had sub .200 batting averages and there was panic, although no one was paying attention.

May came.  And with it the emergence of Big Papi, JD Drew, and Adrian Beltre.  Papi showed that slow starts happen and he was a man possessed in May, hitting 11 home runs with 27 RBI’s and hitting over .360.  Screw the shift!  JD Drew who has the prettiest swing in all of sports actually used it to hit the ball and not just look pretty.  He upped his average from sub.200 to .280.  Beltre has quietly produced all season long hitting over .340.  Not bad for an acquisition that was used purely for defensive purposes.  Jason Varitek has made the Sox faithful happy he came back for one more year.

Also in May the starting pitching has come up big.  Jon Lester showed why he is the true ace of the Sox and possibly the best left handed pitcher in baseball.  Clay Buchholz has been a stud, tied for first in the American League in wins.  Dice-K has even shown glimpses of what he is capable of.  Because of this the Sox are 5 back of the Rays in the toughest division in baseball and 2 back of the Yankees for the wild card.

Now it is on to June.  Who will step for the team this month?  John Lackey has 5 wins coming into June but an ERA north of 4.50.  Josh Beckett hasn’t shown why he was worth his contract extension as he has struggled prior to going on the disabled list.  These are the two prime candidates to turn things around from the pitching staff and help shoulder the load that Lester and Buchholz have managed thus far.

Victor Martinez is having a 5 for 5 night at the time of this writing and is showing signs of heating up along with the weather.  Dustin Pedroia is in the middle of his annual slump but history has told us he will catch fire and tear up the league at any given point.  Jacoby Ellsbury will never be confused with Trot Nixon.  But whenever he decides to play through his nagging ribs injury he will help out the team greatly by just being in the lineup, allowing Marco Scutaro to go to the nine spot.

The June schedule is a soft one, one in which the Sox can make up significant ground in the Pennant Race.  Someone is bound to step up just like Ortiz and Lester did in May.  The Sox will be in the thick of things come September which is dangerous for Major League Baseball.  I hate to use the cliché but this team is built for the playoffs and we have seen what a solid rotation and timely hitting has done before.  Twice actually.