November 2007

The World Series DVD

I went to the premiere of the World Series DVD Monday night at the Wang Theatre, and it was a good time.

MLB Productions did a great job on the DVD. I think the visual images are even more impressive than 2004, which is probably a sign of technology more than anything else.

Just like in ’04, the regular season is barely covered. There’s nothing about Buchholz’s no-hitter or Dice-K’s first game or Schilling’s near no-no. In a few quick instants, it seems like we are already at the division clinching party on Sept. 28. But NESN — from what I’ve heard — will put out a season DVD much like Faith Rewarded.

The World Series DVD is all about the playoffs. And there are a lot of good interviews with players. Lowell seems to be the Millar of the ’07 film as he is quoted the most. There’s also good, insightful stuff from Henry, Lucchino, Werner, Theo, Tito, John Farrell and just about every key player on the entire team. I never saw Coco Crisp or Manny interviewed. The latter surprised me a little because Manny got to be so vocal with the press starting about midway through the ALCS. But just about every other key member of the team is heard from during the movie.

If I had a critique of the DVD, I think the ALCS comeback from 3-1 was glossed over way too much. They didn’t even show Lofton being held at third in Game 7 and the Okajima DP that followed.

The action shots in all three playoff rounds were great. Josh Beckett on a big screen looks even more filthy than he does from the front row of the press box. There is one World Series
highlight of Pedroia’s key double in Game 3 where you can see in the background Julian Tavarez on the top step of the dugout imitating Pedroia’s swing as it was in progress. That looked pretty cool.

The champagne shots were great from the winning clubhouse at Coors. The on-field celebration after the last out was also pretty cool, as you can hear Schilling wrap up Dice-K and tell him he’s proud of him and you can hear Francona saying "Thanks for everything" to Ortiz as he hugs him. There’s a lot of stuff like that that makes the DVD well worth the watch. In fact, most Sox fans will probably watch it five or six times. At least until the NESN DVD comes out.

Matt Damon did a really good job on the narration. He didn’t over-do it at all. As you’re watching the DVD, he just kind of becomes another narrator and you’re not saying — oh, that’s Will Hunting from Good Will Hunting. All in all, I give the DVD 3 and a half stars. It would have been four if they would have gotten more in depth on the ALCS comeback.

Did anyone else see it yet? Please chime in with any and all thoughts.

Ian.

Giving Thanks

It’s the annual time of year to give thanks. Let’s do it from a Red Sox standpoint.

Josh Beckett: Thanks to this ace, a 3-1 deficit seemed like nothing in the ALCS. The Red Sox don’t come close to winning the World Series without Josh Beckett — period.

Jonathan Papelbon: He is so automatic, you almost take him for granted. As long as Papelbon is closing games for the Red Sox, everyone is going to assume the game is over when he comes sprinting out of the bullpen.

David Ortiz: He played hard and he played hurt all year, showing again why he might be the most beloved slugger in team history. Also, when the Sox were down 3-1 in Cleveland, it was Ortiz who took charge during a team meeting and demanded the players to realize what it meant to have "Red Sox" on the jersey. And he demanded that players stop looking around and waiting for someone else to step up. After that, the Red Sox didn’t lose another game.

Manny Ramirez: To a pure baseball fan, is there anything more enjoyable then watching this man hit when he’s locked in?

Dustin Pedroia: In my mind, this little sparkplug was the face of the 2007 Red Sox just like Johnny Damon and the free-flowing hair and beard served as the face of the ’04 Sox. When i think back to this playoff run, I’ll think of Pedroia’s spunk and guts on both sides of the ball.

Curt Schilling: The guy has big game guts, period. His postseason track record is the stuff of legend.

Mike Lowell: The World Series MVP was determined to get a four-year deal but when he couldn’t get it from the Red Sox, he decided to stay anyway. You have to love it when a player follows his heart, and not the dollar signs. As Lowell said, "I was financially secure before I signed this contract.". It’s a refreshing take that would be nice to see more often.

Jason Varitek: The definition of captain. The definition of a leader. The definition of a player who will do anything to win a baseball game.

Clay Buchholz: This man — who still looks like a boy — provided the most surprisingly magical night of the entire season.

Terry Francona: The biggest common denominator between the comeback from 0-3 in ’04 and the comeback from 1-3 this year? The manager never soured on his team, not even at the lowest possible point.

Theo Epstein: He laid out a mission statement when he was hired in Nov. 2002, saying that he wanted to build a scouting and player development machine and a team that could compete for a championship every year. That mission has been lived out and the Red Sox are on the verge of perhaps becoming the model franchise in baseball.

Happy Thanksgiving to all readers and all their family members. Also, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who is part of my wonderful family, and to all of my good friends as well.

All the best,

Ian.

Lowell staying put

Everyone in Red Sox Nation can now rest easy. When the Red Sox kick off their 2008 season in Tokyo, Lowell will be at the hot corner and probably batting fifth.

The deal — according to numerous media accounts — is close to done, and likely to be announced on Tuesday. Lowell is getting about $12.5 million per season for a three-year deal. It seems like a good deal on both sides.

There are conflicting reports on whether Lowell actually received a four-year offer from another team. The Red Sox stayed true with their philosophy, which is to set a value on a player and stick to it. Lowell is a sensible and smart guy, and even if he could have made a little more money elsewhere, he probably knows that he’d be happier in Boston.

The Red Sox have now become a model franchise. They have professional veterans — such as Lowell — still in their prime. They have loads of young talent, as Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury were more than happy to demonstrate on the October stage. And they have a lot of pitching, from Beckett to Dice-K to Papelbon to Lester to Buchholz.

As far as the short term and long term, I’d be hard-pressed to find the last time the Red Sox were in this good of shape as an organization? Maybe it was the mid ’70s when guys like Rice and Lynn and Burleson were coming through the ranks and joining established players like Yaz and Fisk and Evans. But those teams didn’t have the pitching that this team does.

Now that the Lowell deal is basically done, what is next for Theo and Co.? Probably bullpen depth. Also, there is the matter of what to do about center field. Ellsbury is obviously ready to play. What would Coco bring back in a trade?

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. Sorry for the sporadic blogging of late. I’ll be fortified over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Later,

Ian.

Lowell in limbo; Beckett falls short

I know it has to make most Red Sox fans queasy that Mike Lowell can now negotiate with all 30 Major League teams. Give the Red Sox credit for this. They worked hard to get something done before their exclusivity window closed, but at this point, they seem to feel uncomfortable giving Lowell four guaranteed years.

Lowell is a sensible guy and ultimately he will be driven by his heart and by common sense, and not the dollars and cents. But how big a deal is that four years to him? I guess we’ll find out soon. He’ll have to weigh out all the pros and cons and maybe decide if he’d be happier in Boston for three years than he would be somewhere else for four years.

It remains to be seen what kind of players the Yankees will be through this whole thing. Remember how secretive they were with Johnny Damon and then they swooped in right at the last minute?

I’d like to see Lowell come back. Not only is he a terrific player, but he’s a clutch player and a team leader.

Now, to the other news of the day. Josh Beckett lost the Cy Young Award to C.C. Sabathia. All the voters can do is look at the numbers and go by as many personal observations as they had throughout the year. Watching Beckett all year, it was amazing how locked in he was. I’m sure Cleveland writers would say the same about Sabathia.

In the end, Beckett won a World Series and the ALCS MVP and I’m quite sure that means more to him than an individual award.

Schill back to Fenway hill

Even on the morning of the World Series parade, Curt Schilling sounded like he was preparing himself for the inevitability of leaving the Red Sox. Maybe the right-hander didn’t know quite how much the Red Sox wanted him back.

Now, it is a done deal. He will in fact pitch for the Sox in ’08 and it makes perfect sense. Schilling loves pitching in Boston and the Red Sox weren’t going to find a replacement on a market that has almost no pitching.

This is yet another reason why the Red Sox went so hard for Dice-K last winter. They knew that available pitching was drying up and that teams that have quality arms tend to keep them under their contractual control in this day and age.

So Schilling has incentives this time around and that might drive him to have more of a wire-to-wire season than he had in 2007.

Sure, you could have plotted out a rotation of Beckett-Matsuzaka-Wakefield-Lester-Buchholz. But you can never bank on the success of young pitchers. Also, you can never count on all five of your pitchers staying healthy.

The staff looks a lot deeper with Schilling coming back.

Now, it’s on to MIke Lowell. It sounds like the Red Sox are very determined to bring him back and that’s a good thing. It’s hard to imagine this team without him.

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