March 2010

NO NEWS SEEMS TO BE GOOD NEWS

     Is it just me, or has it been inordinately quiet down in Fort Myers?  They’re a few weeks into Spring Training and there have been no controversies, holdouts or dissension.  How can that be?  Probably the biggest news from Florida came the other day when we learned that Ryan Westmoreland was to undergo brain surgery in Arizona.  That is enormous news.  Other than that, dullsville!!  You can go virtually man for man down the Boston roster and they’ve been writing the same stuff over and over about these guys.

Dustin Pedroia-  Chip on his shoulder.  Wants to prove everyone wrong.

Kevin Youkilis- Works hard.  Is intense.

David Ortiz-  Will it be the Big Papi of old, or an old Big Papi?

Mike Lowell- Publicly, no bad feelings. Consumate professional

Marco Scutaro- Should be a good shortstop until Jose Iglesias is ready

Adrian Beltre- Don’t be surprised if he hits a lot of home runs at Fenway.

Jacoby Ellsbury-  He’ll adjust to left field

Mike Cameron-  He’s old but he’ll be fine in center.

J.D. Drew-  Can he stay healthy?

Victor Martinez- Is he durable enough to catch every day?

Jason Varitek- Can he handle backup role?  Any gas left in the tank?

Josh Beckett-  Contract.

Jon Lester- Ace in waiting.

John Lackey-   Pitching in Red Sox Nation

Tim Wakefield-  He’s old and still ticking.

Jed Lowrie- Health.

On and on it goes.  The one guy I don’t read about ever, is Matsuzaka.  I, for one, am extremely tired of his ailments, and the constant “mystery” that shrouds Dice-K.  It’s been a really long winter and we are getting closer to Opening Day.  I am going to Florida and my reports from the “Fort” will begin this weekend.  As usual, I’ll give you the latest and hopefully the greatest on the PawSox and the rest of the “Nation.” 

SAY A PRAYER FOR RYAN

     Devastating news from Fort Myers, where the Red Sox, PawSox and other affiliates are preparing for the 2010 season.  Outfielder Ryan Westmoreland is off on a medical leave of absence, going to Phoenix, Arizona to deal with a seemingly serious health issue.  Ryan is apparently dealing with a problem known as a cavernous malformation in his brain.  I was told he suffered a seizure last week at Training Camp and after heading north to Mass General Hospital in Boston on Friday for an examination, he is now going west to the Barrow Neurological Institute where he will be under the care of Dr. Robert Spetzler.  Brain surgery is reportedly scheduled for Tuesday.

     The cavernous malformation occurs when there is a cluster of overly-dilated blood vessels in the brain.  Surgery is delicate and can provide a resolution if the entire formation is removed.  If any of it is left behind, it can grow back.  Important to note, that according to what I have read, it is not cancerous.

     The 19 year old outfielder from Portsmouth, RI has battled  labrum surgery, a broken collarbone and most recently, dental surgery, before this latest problem.  The Westmoreland family has asked that their privacy and the privacy of Ryan be respected and the Red Sox say they will have further comment when the time is right.

     Westmoreland, rated the top prospect in the organization, according to “Baseball America” had come to camp in great shape, lean but much more muscular than last year.  He was said to be in good health prior to the current diagnosis.

     I am definitely not a religious guy, but I will certainly be including him in my prayers.  Please do the same.  

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

     Wow!  Has anything ever meant less?  Nomar Garciaparra retired as a Red Sox.  Baseball people are lauding this manuveur as if Nomar and the Sox split the atom or cured cancer.  There was a news conference and an accompanying announcement that Mia’s hubby was joining ESPN.  Nomar last wore the hallowed uniform in 2004.  Remember 2004?  The Red Sox won a little tournament called the World Series.  It was a tough trade to make, sending him to the Cubs, but was later hailed as a brilliant move that helped reverse the “Curse of the Bambino.”  Now Nomar got a ring, but he was a faint memory when the champagne corks were popping in October.  I’m not saying he didn’t deserve a ring, but I had just as many hits against the Cardinals as he did.  Forgettable stops in L.A. and Oakland capped off his 14 year career.

     I love the Red Sox.  You know I do.  After a while you get a little tired of the Public Relations machine, though.  Everything is so calculated and orchestrated.  Nothing is organic.  Are we going to forget that Nomar didn’t play for Boston for the last 5 and a half years of his career.  Of course not.  It’s strictly a PR move.  The Sox look humble for welcoming back the prodigal son.  Nomar flashes his “Aw Shucks” smile and all is forgiven.  But not forgotten.  Nomar goofed when he turned down 15 million a year from Boston in his last contract negotiation.  He, as a lot of other players tend to do, overestimated his value.  I think we’re all a little too sophisticated to be fooled by this.  I defy anyone to be completely honest and tell me what type of reaction you had when you heard.  If it elicited any thing more than a very slightly raised eyebrow, there’s something wrong.

     There is a certain amount of irony in Nomar working for ESPN.  Although it defies my personal experience with Garciaparra, he was notoriously bad with the media.  To his credit, he acknowledged it.  He didn’t explain it, but he did acknowledge it.  I’ve talked before about his stint with the PawSox in 2004.  He was delightful.  Did interviews happily and fit right in.  He and I sat in the visitors’ dugout at Louisville Slugger Field and watched a tornado bear down on the ballpark.  He told my soccer-playing daughters that his wife said “hello” and added that he said “Hi” as well.  Absolutely a pleasure.

     Dean Spanos owns the San Diego Chargers.  After releasing future Hall of Famer, LaDainian Tomlinson, he had the nerve to say he hoped LT would retire as a Charger.  I’m sure that was a great comfort to the guy who “carried the mail” for San Diego for all those years.  It’s been done before and apparently it will continue to be the norm. 

     The only comfort I got out of this free agent signing, was that it was one more move than the New England Patriots have made this offseason.  No matter.  I wish Nomar well.  I like him.  

STEVIE GOES TO THE HOSPITAL

     As I mentioned in my last entry, I was to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery last Friday at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, RI.  I did, and I live to tell the tale.  It really is remarkable what they can do these days.  I arrived at the hospital on Friday morning at 6:30, and was home by noon.  After checking in, going against the advice of my “friend” Joe Dias- “Get there an hour earlier” he said. “It’s going to take a while for them to shave you down.”, I nervously waited for Dr. Dubois to do his thing.  It seemed like an eternity, but in reality, it was about an hour.  In that time, at least 7 people asked me name, date of birth and what I was there for.  I was a little too agitated to give a “wiseguy” answer, so I played it straight.  “Steve Hyder, August 14, 1961, my left knee.”  Finally the good Doctor showed up wearing a Celtics surgical cap.  “What did that mean?” I wondered to myself.  Would he do a good job for the first three quarters of the operation and blow it in the final minutes?  Was he, like KG, Ray and the Truth, getting older and not as good as he was in 2008?  I needed to relax.  Dr. Dubois is a tall, sophisticated, dashing and debonair looking dude with a nice relaxed attitude.  He took out a “Sharpie” (one like I’d use to sign autographs if anyone ever asked) and put a big star on my left knee. I guess surgeons are no different than ballplayers or broadcasters.  Guys look out for each other.  He was talking me up to the anesthesiologist, a good looking gal who was getting ready to “gas” me at any moment.  “Did you know our friend here Mr. Hyder is the radio announcer for the PawSox?”  She politely smiled, looked at me and said “Clay Buchholz used to live in my apartment building.  He was my neighbor when the tires were stolen from his car.”  Instant connection!  Guys are a very different breed.  Moments away from surgery and you’re lying there wondering if she liked you.  What’s not to like?  The partially shaved leg.  The hospital gown.  The terrified look on my face.  That was the last I saw of her.  Another “medical type” informed me that my surgeon was a Yankees fan and the Celtics hat was a rare departure from his usual NY cap.  I asked if it was true.   He just smiled, winked at me and said “You have to know your audience”.  I didn’t delve further into the topic because I passed out.  Next thing I remember I was lying in a bed, left knee wrapped.  It was over.  I was elated that I lived through the operation.  I was thrilled that he performed the surgery on the correct knee (couldn’t say right knee because it was the left one…get it?)  I felt surprisingly good.  The anesthesia wore off, they gave me a couple of saltines and a can of ginger ale.  A fellow named Don came in and showed me how to use crutches and suddenly a wave of nausea hit me.  I’m not sure if it was because the medication was getting to me, or if I was getting sick listening to his story about his sons’ baseball career. (It was the coaches’ fault.)  Anyway, I was ready to be sprung from the place.  I got dressed, they put me in a wheelchair and this 80 year old candy striper started wheeling me through the halls of Memorial Hospital.  I wished I was back with “crutch guy” hearing another tale.  I felt another wave of nausea and I warned the old bat that I needed a “Barf Bag”.  She honestly asked me why.  I told her that it might have something to do with her trying to break the sound barrier with my wheelchair.  I felt like Chuck Yeager.  She frantically searched for a little basket or pan, frightened that if I did “lose my saltines”, she’d have to clean it up.  “You do look a little green around the gills” she admitted.

     The knee continues to feel better every day.  I’m starting to get around without the crutches.  The throat is still a little sore from the intubation (breathing pipe down the throat)  The anesthesia and Percoset are happily out of my system so I haven’t been “sick” in a couple of days.  I am saddled with another terrible affliction, however.  BOREDOM.  I’ve watched as much TV as humanly possible.  Done every croswsword puzzle I can get my hands on.  Logged onto every website I know of.  I even watched every single moment of the Oscars (Congratulations Jeff and Sandra).  I am going stir crazy.  My daughter Eva suggested I take a cruise in  my car around Ocean Drive in Newport with the windows open and an Eagles CD blasting in the stereo.  It sounds like a really good idea.  She knows her dad.  So now you know what it’s like for a 48 year old guy to get knee surgery.  Thank the Lord for Spring Training and my upcoming trip to Fort Myers.

NOW I KNOW HOW THE GUYS FEEL

     Next time you hear someone say that so and so is undergoing “minor surgery”, think twice.  I am going under the knife on Friday at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket to have the posterior horn of the medial meniscus repaired in my left knee.  Arthroscopic surgery.  I’ve talked about it on the air so many times in regard to athletes, I almost felt qualified to perform it myself.  It ain’t so minor when it’s you.  I do have full confidence in my surgeon, although I’ve only met him twice.  Would it be considered bad taste to draw a star on the left knee to make sure he operates on the correct one?  I am clearly aging and although I’m in better shape today than I was a couple of years ago, the body can’t take the pounding that it used to.  I tore the cartilage while refereeing a freshman basketball game at Portsmouth.  Worst part was, it happened early in the game and except for my fellow official that day, I didn’t let on.  I was content to let the coaches think I stunk or was lazy.  Anyway,  I never had surgery before so I don’t know how I’ll feel on Saturday.  If I’m up to it, I’ll give you a full report.  If not on Saturday, as soon as I can. 

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     Caught the first exhibition game of the year on NESN Wednesday night as the Red Sox shut down a feisty Boston College team, 6-1.  For the most part, the pitching was sensational. (it’s early I know) but everyone got the job done.  Kris Johnson was the only Sox hurler to surrender any runs.  It was great to see the likes of Michael Bowden, Junichi Tazawa and Randor Bierd in action.  Jose Iglesias provided a bases loaded double in the skirmish.  It was just a taste, but boy did it taste good.

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     This week on “PawSox Insider” I’ll be joined by Jim Callis, editor of “Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2010″.  We’ll talk about the process of identifying the top 30 prospects in each organization and of course we’ll focus on the Red Sox future stars.  Sportswriter Maureen Mullen will join me from Fort  Myers where she is covering Spring Training for various media outlets.  “P.I.” will air on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. on WHJJ Radio (am 920)  You can also listen to it any time by logging onto pawsox.com.

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     Thanks to the Pawtucket Rotary Club for having me as their guest speaker on Thursday.  I’ve been there several times before, but always with my pal Ron Johnson.  This time I went solo.  I know I didn’t look nearly as handsome as I do when I’m standing next to RJ.   

PROSPECTING FOR PROSPECTS

     There is a lot of information on the internet.  Maybe, too much.  There are countless websites devoted to Red Sox Nation.  Some are pretty good, others, not so good.  You could spend hours a day looking up info on your beloved club.  Soxprospects.com rates the future of the organization, listing the top young players in the chain.  Looking at it the other day, I noted that most of the top young talent is not projected to start the season in Pawtucket.  That is not to say, that at some point, they wouldn’t wind up at McCoy in 2010. 

     According to the website, Casey Kelly (#1) is ticketed for Portland.  The top pick of the 2008 draft will focus his attention completely on pitching from now on, after splitting time between shortstop and pitcher.  He is getting favorable reviews for his early work in Fort Myers.  He seems to be on the fast track and I wouldn’t be surprised if he joins our little travelling band at some point this season.  then again, he is just 20. 

     Ryan Westmoreland (#2), the ultra-talented outfielder from Portsmouth, RI will begin his campaign in Greenville.  At the tender age of 19, Ryan has been called a “Jacoby Ellsbury with power”.  High praise, especially considering that comparison came from a Red Sox official who knows both well.  Westmoreland is coming off a broken collarbone and recently had wisdom teeth removed.  I look forward to his McCoy debut, although realistically, it probably won’t happen until 2011.

    There are only two in the top ten prospects projected to commence the season with the PawSox.  Josh Reddick (#4) and Junichi Tazawa (#8).  Josh caused my most embarassing moment of the offseason.  It came at the Westin Hotel at the Boston Baseball Writers dinner.  We were standing next to each other and I introduced myself to him.  He asked me if I remembered talking to him last season.  I was completely baffled.  No one ever looked less familiar to me.  Now, in fairness to me, his hair was completely different, but no excuse.  He was a good sport about it.  I must be getting old.  He is a very talented kid.  Very soon, I think everyone will recognize him.  Tazawa has already made his Boston debut.  All the 23 year old veteran of the Japanese Industrial needs is a little seasoning.

     Here is the rest of their top ten and their projected homes for the start of the 2010 season.

     #3-OF Ryan Kalish   Portland

     #5-1B Lars Anderson   Portland

     #6- 1B Anthony Rizzo   Salem

     #7- SS Jose Iglesias   Salem 

     #9- SP Stolmy Pimental   Greenville

     #10- SP Michael Bowden   Boston

     This is according to their website.  When questioned, Sox brass like Mike Hazen usually tell you that no decisions are made until Spring Training is nearly over.  The Red Sox are far too organized and well run for me to completely believe that.  Guys get a chance.  Some play “up” and others play themselves “down” or in some cases, “out”.  No doubt, lots of “pins and needles” for the guys.

     Of the second ten prospects,  pitcher Dustin Richardson (#18) and catcher Mark Wagner (#19) are projected for Pawtucket.  1B Aaron Bates is #29 while SP Adam Mills is just one behind at #30.  Interested to see how things pan out. 

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