December 2011

Red Sox won’t have to know Yu too well

Wow. Never thought the $51.1 million bid the Red Sox made five years ago for Daisuke Matsuzaka would be topped. But in swooped the Texas Rangers, who won the latest Japanese sensation Yu Darvish with a $51.7 million bid, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan.

The Rangers have 30 days to make a deal with Darvish, otherwise he is returned to his team in Japan.

This is a win for the Red Sox, if only because the Blue Jays were heavily rumored to have posted the winning bid on Darvish. So instead of facing Darvish five or six times a year, the Sox will only have to see him once or twice.

The AL West will be a must see division this year with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson with the Angels, and now Darvish in Texas, assuming the sides can make a deal.

Matsuzaka wound up signing a six-year, $52 million deal. It will be interesting to see what Darvish gets from Nolan Ryan and the Rangers.

Darvish seems to be more of a pure power pitcher than Matsuzaka and also looks to have a sturdier physical presence. But how will he fare in the Texas heat?

And for all of Matsuzaka’s detractors, if Darvish can pitch the next two years like Dice-K pitched his first two years for the Sox, the Rangers have themselves a pretty good pitcher. Their goal is to make it last a lot longer than that.

Fenway Park The Centennial worth the read

Looking for a coffee table book that’s light enough to carry around from room to room, or even out of the house? Searching for that book that is rich in narrative and illustration?

Saul Wisnia has produced such a read with “Fenway Park The Centennial, 100 Years of Red Sox Baseball”.

The cover photo of Fenway during a day game makes you feel like you’re at the park and all but makes you want to order a hot dog. And aside from the 176 pages of memories the book offers, there’s also a companion DVD narrated by Carlton Fisk, the Hall of Fame catcher.

Wisnia covers every generation of Fenway, and even includes a prologue of Boston’s 40 years of professional baseball before the “lyric little ballpark” was invented.

The Grand Opening in 1912  is covered in rich detail, as Wisnia informs readers of the three straight rainouts before the park finally opened, and of course, the backdrop of a much bigger story taking place at the time — the sinking of the Titanic.  Did you know that the deepest part of center field at Fenway during its opening was 550 feet? The right-field power alley was 405. Hard to imagine Big Papi would have put up many power numbers in Fenway’s first version.

The book sweetly transitions from the Babe Ruth Years to the beginning of Tom Yawkey’s regime, when the park underwent major renovations.

There’s all the requisite information you would want about Ted Williams, including a photo of “The Kid” taken in Life Magazine.

You want to see how high Boo Ferris’s leg kid was? Check out page 71 in the Near Misses chapter. A grand stand ticket to the 1946 World Series — illustrated on page 75 — went for $6.

The Red Sox weren’t the only local team to inhabit Fenway. The Boston Patriots, long before the glory days of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, spent Sundays in the Fenwas from 1963-68. The photo on page 96 with the yard-lines in the middle of the baseball diamond is surreal.

The 1967 Impossible Dream, the best thing to happen to Sox fans until 2004, is covered in all its glory.

Did you know soccer star Pele played at Fenway in 1968? That’s another interesting side note from this book.

Most of you know all about modern Sox history, from Fisk waving it fair to the heartbreaks of Bucky Dent, Mookie Wilson and Aaron Boone, all the way to the championship glory in 2004 and ’07. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting to look back on it through Wisnia’s words and the pictures in the book. There’s a great shot of Pete Rose, dressed in civillian clothes, sitting in box seats behind home plate as the Red Sox take batting practice during the pre-World Series workout in ’75.

There are sweet vignettes throughout the book, such as that Aug. 7 game in 1982, when Jim Rice helped care for a four-year-old boy who was struck by a foul ball.

From Mike Greenwell riding a horse after the ’95 Division clincher to Mo Vaughn facing Toronto’s Roger Clemens to Nomar Garciaparra signing autographs for his adoring fans, this book takes you back through the years. There is Pedro Martinez lighting up the 1999 All-Star Game with a giant All-Star Game logo jumping out of the picture from the top of the Green Monster.

A former journalist for the Washington Post, Saul Wisnia is now the publications editor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the cancer-fighting institution that has worked in tandem with the Red Sox for more than half a century.

His book is a great way to get Sox fans primed for the 100th season of Fenway, which will be celebrated in a big way before the April 20, 2012 home game against the Yankees.


Bobby V. talks on a variety of topics

Bobby Valentine had no shortage of energy or opinions in a half-hour session with the media at today’s Winter Meetings.

Daniel Bard’s role for next year?

“Well, Daniel Bard is an extremely talented pitcher from everything I’ve been watching on video, things I’ve seen statistically and everything that I’ve watched on television or live.  Electric stuff.  And talking to him on the phone, he seems like the guy everybody wants.  I’ll do what’s right for the team.  If you need me to close, I’ll close.  If you need me to start, I’ll start.  That’s the greatest thing in the world, and it could also be the worst thing in the world because I don’t think it’s fair to him to put him in that position.   That being said, we’re going to put him in that position, and we’re going to see how things come to pass as the winter meetings close, as the winter goes on, as we add to our roster, and as Spring Training develops.  I wish I had a good answer.  I know he’s a real talented pitcher.”

Do the Red Sox need to get into better shape?

“Well, again, I’ve taken a lot of my knowledge from other sources, so it’s not firsthand knowledge.  But I’ve met with trainers and all the front office staff.  I’ve read everything I think you guys have had to write about the Red Sox because I’ve been able to do that on planes.  It seems like they let it get away or some of the guys let it get away.  I think they understand that.  I’m not going to have to have them do extra sprints in Spring Training.  I think that these are great athletes, world‑class athletes, mature adults who get it and understand.

“After talking to some of them on the phone and leaving other messages, I’m sure that if they didn’t agree with the message or didn’t agree with the conversation, they would say, everything was perfect and we’re just going to do it again the same thing.  I don’t think anyone thinks that’s the way it’s going to happen.”

Batting orders? Would he like to keep Carl Crawford in one spot?

” You know, when I talked to Adrian, he mentioned how hitting in one spot in the order wasn’t important to him.  And so different guys have different strokes.  But I can tell you that in the thousands of games that I’ve managed, I never made out a lineup card thinking about one guy.  It’s always about the group and how you fit in kind of together for the whole lineup.  Hell’s bells, I’d love to have one lineup and use it for 162 games, but it’s more than likely I’ll use 162 lineups than one lineup.  So there’s going to be lots of moving parts.  I’ll talk to Carl about that.

“If someone has a thing ‑‑ I remember when Mike Piazza came to the Mets, and he said, I can’t hit unless I’m batting third, and he batted fourth and had some of the greatest years of his life playing for the Mets.  Sometimes they get over it.”

Thoughts on Yu Darvish?

“I have no idea if his talents will translate at the Major League level if he came here, but he’s a quality pitcher.  He has size, quality, velocity, breaking balls, very good hands.  He makes the ball do a lot of crazy things on its way to the plate.  Great competitor.  If those things translate into another uniform, whether it’s another uniform in Japan, who knows, if he leaves a free agent next year or whatever.”

Sveum, Mills, Farrell weigh in on Sox

Three former coaches from  Red Sox championship teams all held court at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday as managers of their respective teams.

Yes, Terry Francona, who was officially unveiled by ESPN in a conference call Tuesday, has a bit of a managing tree.

Dale Sveum, the Red Sox third base coach in 2004-05, is the Cubs’ manager, and interviewed twice with Boston before Bobby Valentine was hired.

Brad Mills now enters his third year as manager of the Astros after serving as Tito’s bench coach in Boston from 2004-09.

And John Farrell, Francona’s pitching coach from 2007-09, is entering his second year with the Blue Jays, and reportedly was the object of Boston’s affection this winter, but the Blue Jays weren’t going to let him out of his contract.

Was Sveum surprised his dialogue with the Red Sox didn’t go any further than a second interview?

“I don’t know if it was a surprise or not.  It was basically that time where somebody was going to offer me a job or not offer me a job,” Sveum said. ” So the Cubs offered me the job first and that’s kind of where it ended up anyway, after my second interview.  After going through all those second interviews, it was just nice to get one offer.”

Mills is getting a chuckle over Francona’s move to broadcasting.

“Every time I talk to him now I say is this off the record or on the records,” laughed Mills. ” I’ve always told him, too, that if he’s on TV he might have to spend two hours in makeup just to be on TV. But you know what, all that aside, you know how much I think of him and how great a job that he did there in Boston.  And he’s going to do a great job with ESPN, as well.  You guys ought to know that even better than I do.  It’s pretty cool.  And I’m thrilled to death for him to be able to do that.”

Farrell on the perceived interest the Red Sox had in him to be their next manager?

“Well, first and foremost, I’m a Toronto Blue Jay.  There was a lot of speculation, an article that started out that created a lot of feedback, and I totally understand Paul and Alex’s approach to having to change a policy to deflect and really squelch out a distraction that started to be created,” Farrell said. “You know, it’s humbling when your name is associated with a potential opening, but I’m completely happy here, committed to the Blue Jays, and to think about any other place or any other position while you’re doing your own is a disservice to where you are.  I’m excited about being here and look forward to putting this team together to win a World Series here.  That’s our stated goal.  That’s what our goal has been, and I’m happy to be doing it here.”

Thoughts on Boston’s  September collapse and the fallout that came with it?

“I never saw some of the things that people would read about,” Farrell said. ” I really can’t comment on what took place inside of the clubhouse there.  I know in the time that I spent there, I didn’t see the things that were being reported on.     They’re our opponent, so it’s our job right now to attempt and work towards overtaking them in the standings, and that’s our approach day in and day out.  I really can’t comment on what took place there.”

How about Bobby Valentine as the new Red Sox manager?

“Well‑respected baseball guy,” Farrell said. ” The Red Sox are always a challenge for anybody, and they’ve got a lot of good players.  We’re going to have to play extremely well to move ahead of them.  Changes take place all over this game, but we know they’re going to be a very tough opponent.”

Not much else has happened Red Sox-related here in Dallas thus far today. Andrew Miller re-signed for one non-guaranteed year. David Ortiz has until midnight at the end of tomorrow to accept arbitration. Boston is expected to meet with Ortiz’s agent Fern Cuza here in Dallas today.


Lasorda thinks Valentine a great hire for Sox

Tommy Lasorda has always had a close mentor/protege relationship with Bobby Valentine, so it’s no surprise that the Hall of Fame manager thinks the Red Sox got the right man to manage them.

Lasorda is here at the Winter Meetings in Dallas as part of the committee that selected Ron Santo as the newest Baseball Hall of Famer.

“I’ve seen him plan for a game. I’ve never seen many managers do that. He can plan for that game as good as any manager I’ve ever seen,” Lasorda said of Valentine.

And Lasorda and Valentine have always shared an energy component.

“He’s got a lot of enthusiasm. What he’s got to do is get that team to play for the name on the front of their shirt and not the name on the back of theire shiret. If he can do that, he’ll be successful,” Lasorda said.

Lasorda has little doubt that Valentine can unify the Red Sox.

“That’s the ability that the manager has to have, to be able to put them all together. You have to get them all on one end of a rope and pull together. If you can do that, you’re going to have success. if half get on one end and and half get on the other end, you can do that all day long and all you’re doing is pulling against yourself. You have to take 25 guys and you have to make them believe that they’re the best in baseball and he can do that.”

Lasorda surmises that Valentine could have returned to the managers long ago, but was waiting for the right landing spot.

“Here’s a place he wanted to come. He could have been with a few other clubs, I know that. He didn’t want to be there. He wants to be here in boston the minute he got a chance to manage boston, he grabbed it real fast. He loves boston. There’s a lot of Italians in Boston and he’ll get along real well in the city.”

Lasorda also thinks it’s unfair to mention the decline of the Mets at the end of Valentine’s tenure. “I brought our team to the World Series one year and the next year it didn’t work out.”

Valentine has already sought out Lasorda since being named Boston’s manager last week.

“Well I’ve already given him some [advice]. Just a conversation,” said Lasorda. “He wants to know how I feel. We talked. He played for me. He was one of my favorite players. He played for me in the Rookie League. He played for me in Triple-A. He played for me in the Dominican Republic. He asks me questions at all times.”

Pedro unsure of Ortiz’s landing spot

BOSTON – David Ortiz’s prediction for Pedro Martinez’s free agency landing spot after the 2004 season was well off the mark: “He ain’t going to no Mets,” Ortiz said at the time.

Martinez, of course, signed with New York. Now, with Ortiz facing his own decision about his playing future, Martinez on Saturday didn’t offer a firm guess about where his former Red Sox teammate would end up.

“I have no idea, but baseball has a dark side, and that’s negotiations,” Martinez said Martinez at a HomeGoods store in Beford, Mass., where he was signing autographs to promote a holiday toy drive. “I think David is going to look for some good in his family, and I think the baseball people are going to try to look for what’s more convenient for the team and fill their pockets. And it’s sad to say it that way, but both of them have to look out for what David wants, what’s more convenient to them, and hopefully they will finish like I did, on good terms, and have a friendship relationship, and actually not to have any sour grapes after everything’s said and done.”

Pedro Martinez signs autographs at a HomeGoods in Bedford, Mass.

Martinez, 40, signed autographs for three and a half hours on Saturday, 90 minutes more than he signed up for. In exchange, fans donated two toys: one to support pediatric cancer patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and another that went to underprivileged youth in the Dominican Republic through the Pedro Martinez and Brothers Foundation. About 450 people came through in all.

Charity work has always been a hallmark of Martinez’s, and the decision to hold the drive was Martinez’s himself.

“Three weeks ago, he called me and said, ‘I’d really like to do a toy drive,'” said Scott Shuster, president of the Jimmy Fund Council of Greater Boston. “It’s pretty remarkable just because he was that generous with his time.”

“I enjoyed it, because I enjoyed dealing with the people and the people here in New England, they love me and I love them,” Martinez said. “I figured Boston was a perfect place to come and do something like this and also help the kids, I love the kids.”

As respected a former player as there is, Martinez weighed on Boston’s hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager, saying he believes the new skipper will succeed.

“I think he’ll do OK,” Martinez said. “He’s experienced, he knows he has a lot of stars on that team and that he needs to keeps his composure. I think he’s going to be a role model as well, just like those players, and at the same time I think he’s going to be well respected by the players.”

Transparency and respect from his players, Martinez said, were the two things Valentine needs off the bat.

— Evan Drellich

V Day at Fenway

There was a buzz in the air at Fenway Park tonight. Bobby Valentine just brings that. It’s going to be fascinating to see how this chapter of Red Sox history unfolds. In truth, the Red Sox had Valentine at hello.

Once the offer came, Valentine just took it.

“I think my response time was about 20 minutes. And there was no counter offer that I asked for. I was very comfortable. Let it be known, I would have taken one [year],” Valentine said.

Instead, the Red Sox have him for two years, plus, if they desire, two club option years.

“That’s the way I would put it, that he’s the right man for the job,” said Red Sox owner John Henry. “The right man at the right time for this particular team. We’re set to win, we should’ve won last year, we’re built to win. We thought, in the end, that Bobby was the person most capable of taking us to where we want to go in 2012 and 2013. We’re not at a point right now where we’re building for the future. We are trying to win now. We always try to do both, but we felt he was the right person at the right time for this team.”

Valentine, by the way, is wearing No. 25, a significant number in Red Sox history because it was worn by Tony Conigliaro.

“I might have been his last roommate, and I think I was,” Valentine said. “He was trying to make a little comeback when I was with the Padres. I had such admiration for him. We both got beaned. We talked about it. I never was really able to talk to someone about when that ball slows down right there right before the impact, and it’s a lousy conversation. But I was able to talk to him about it and it was a bonding kind of thing.”

In a classy move, Valentine also paid tribute to his predecessor Terry Francona during his press conference.

“With all due respect to New York, I can’t imagine that there’s any tougher place to be good at what I’m going to try to do,” Valentine said. “Tito did a remarkable job, a fabulous job from viewing him outside and watching what happened over his tenure, you could do nothing but tip your hat and hope that you could replicate some of the wonderful things that he was able to accomplish.”