Tag Archives: Carl Crawford

Oh what a night

Welcome to the Easter edition of The Baseball Buffoons.

While many of us (myself included) were glued to the 2 OT Bruins game last night (CA-REEEY, CA-REEEY), the Red Sox continued their impressive turnaround. I watched enough of the Sox game during the Bruins intermission’s to see that they were doing well, but it wasn’t until about the 5th inning that I could give them my full attention.

After calling for Dice-K to be traded 2 weeks ago, I’ve been shocked with how he’s pitched. In his last 2 starts, that’s the number of hits he’s allowed: 2. His breaking stuff has been excellent and he’s consistently locating his fastball.

Crawford is showing signs of breaking out of his beginning of the season funk, going 2 for 4 last night with an RBI. Let’s hope this continues.

The area that I’m most concerned with now is catching. Have the Sox lost confidence in Saltalamacchia? It seems that way because Varitek has been catching a lot more games than an over-the-hill backup catcher normally would/should. Varitek’s offense is anemic, but the Sox seem more than willing to let that go as long as the pitching staff is doing better. And they have been since he’s been catching more. This is certainly an area to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

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2011 Rays Primer

Ever since their 1998 inauguration the Rays have held a very special place in my heart. I grew up only an hour or so away from Tampa/St. Pete and was thrilled to have a major league team so close (the Braves played several hours away, and does anyone really care about the Florida Marlins and whatever they’re doing in Miami?). There is no doubt I suffered through several embarrassing seasons, but I did not waver. I steadfastly stood by their side as I watched fellow 1998-inaugural-Diamondbacks win the World Series within 3 years, and as the Marlins completely dismantled their team and still won another World Series within a few years, all before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays learned how to stop pooping their pants and eating their boogers for breakfast (two things I’m still working on).

Finally, of course, the Rays’ time came. 2008 was the most glorious year, and few fans of other teams know what it’s like to have their team go from a bottom feeder to battling on the grandest stage in less than a year. The bandwagon grew as August turned to September and September turned to October, but those of us who still wince when we hear the phrase, “The Hit Show,” knew who the true fans were.

But 2008 is gone, and 2011 is upon us. The banner-waving Rays teams of the past few years ago have largely been taken apart for financial reasons. Even though I knew it was coming, I shed a few tears when Carl Crawford left. Pena’s gone. Garza. Bartlett. Iwamura. Edwin. Balfour. Wheels. And even though they were only with us for one year, Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano left a deep mark, and I’ll miss the fear their glares instilled in opposing batters (I challenge you to find a better set-up/closer duo in the entire league last year).

2011 brings challenges to Tampa Bay. The numerous personnel losses meant there would be several new faces. The entire bullpen had to be replaced, but I believe Andrew Friedman and the rest of the front office did an admirable job of picking up some guys from trades and free agency, and promoting others from the farm, to fill it with what should be a solid staff. Will it put up as good of numbers as the pens of the past few years? We shall see, but from what I’ve seen over spring training it appears they’re gradually putting their stuff together.

Many people believe the Rays are at a big disadvantage because they think Crawford and Pena can’t easily be replaced. While that may be true, I think the Rays’ front office made possibly the greatest deals of the season by bringing in former Red Sox Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez for around $7.5 million total. Damon may not have the same production at the plate as Crawford does, and not nearly the same value defensively in left field, he’s still got something left in the tank and has been performing pretty well so far this spring. Meanwhile, Ramirez has also been showing he’s still got plenty left, and he fills a hole in the DH spot, a spot that Tampa has had severe problems filling over the past several years. Much skepticism has surrounded Manny since he joined Tampa over 1) if he has anything left in the tank, 2) if he will gel well with Joe Maddon and the rest of the team, and 3) if he will get bored halfway through the season, become lazy, and be benched. Valid skepticism to be sure, but if spring training is any indication, Manny will prove all the haters wrong. He’s been playing very well; Maddon and the rest of the guys already love him; and he has a newfound passion for the game, because as he says, he’s “got something to prove.” Indeed, on multiple occasions already Manny has requested to travel and play in games he and other starters weren’t regularly scheduled to play in. Does that smack of laziness to you? [Now that Manny has retired, all of that is now invalid. That’s what I get for scheduling posts to publish after breaking news occurs.]

There are other new faces, too. Position players like outfielder Sam Fuld (gained in the Garza trade) and Zobrist-esque utility man Eliot Johnson worked hard and have earned themselves a spot on the roster.  Look for relief pitcher Jake McGee, promoted from AAA this season, to wow some people. I don’t expect newly-acquired Kyle Farnsworth to proclaim domain over the closer role, but he should be able to hold his own until the Iceman, J.P. Howell, takes over in a month or so after recovering from surgery and missing all of last season. Dan Johnson will take over Pena’s spot at first base, and while he may be a “new” face to outsiders because he hasn’t had much playing time, within the Rays system and among the Rays faithful he is already a legend for his clutch pinch-hit bombs against the Red Sox. He may not be on par with the Gold-Gloved Pena defensively, but it will be very difficult for Johnson not to surpass Pena’s sub-par batting average, and he certainly has the ability to mash just as many homers.

But perhaps the main reason why the Rays have just as much chance to win the A.L. East as they have over the past few years is because the rotation is pretty much the same, if not better, than those past years. Sure, we lost Garza, who threw the first no-hitter in Tampa Bay history. But the rest of the highly-effective staff of 2010 still remains:

1)David Price, a perennial Cy Young contender

2)James Shields, who gives up home runs like nobody’s business, but is the “old man” on the staff at 28 and can still get the job done

3)Jeff Niemann, who faded over the second half of the season, but can still be an intimidating force

4)Wade Davis, who started off fairly slow but picked it up and played extremely well over the second half of the season (and who the front office just signed to a long-term deal, which should indicate how valuable the Rays feel he is)

In addition to those four enters Jeremy Hellickson, MLB’s top prospect on almost every top-prospect list in existence. He should easily be able to replace Garza’s production, if not surpass it. HellBoy was called up last year and promptly dominated, going 4-0 with numerous K’s. He’s got great control of his stuff and has only continued to work on it over the offseason.

Almost everybody is counting the Rays out this year, but it will be to their own chagrin. You can take my word as a rabid Rays fan with a grain of salt, but don’t be surprised if I’m right. If I’m wrong…well, then I’ll just be another baseball buffoon.

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What did this weekend tell us?

Can we glean any information about the Sox from their opening weekend fiasco in Texas? I think we can, but I also believe that it is far too early to become overly-concerned about these issues.

1) The Sox supposed top 3 pitches all got roughed up by a potent Rangers lineup. Does this speak to the ability of the Rangers to be an excellent offense? Absolutely. Ian Kinsler tore the cover off the ball this weekend, and he is poised to have another excellent season.

2) With the pitching getting roughed up, should we flag it as an area of concern? Potentially. Hopefully the starters don’t continue to give up so many home runs to the other team (11 given up this weekend), but this will be an area to watch.

3) David Ortiz is off to an excellent start. After a solid weekend, perhaps no one outside of the Sox locker room predicted that he would begin the season like this. I certainly didn’t.

4) We should not be concerned with Crawford being dropped to the 7-spot. Tito said before the game that Crawford was trying too hard, and his increased success on Sunday shows that he was more relaxed. Will he stay in the 7th spot in the batting order? No. The Sox need him, Ellsbury, and Pedroia at the top.

5) I missed Don and the Remdawg more than I thought. They do an excellent job of blending solid analysis with humor. They both clearly enjoy working with each other and this is reflected in the quality of the broadcast. Also, I still love Heidi Watney.

Drop us a line with any of your thoughts from the weekend as the Sox road trip continues to Cleveland.

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