The PawSox will play for a third diffferent manager in as many seasons when they take the field at McCoy Stadium in April. Ron Johnson finished a five year stint in Pawtucket and was replaced by Torey Lovullo for 2009 when RJ moved up to Boston as first base coach for the Red Sox. Lovullo will take the same position with Toronto, working with new manager, John Farrell, north of the border. The Sox have promoted 46 year old Arnie Beyeler from AA Portland to AAA Pawtucket.
I spoke on the phone with Arnie the other day, not to interview him, but to introduce myself and welcome him to the PawSox family. After all, we will be spending a lot of time together, starting in late March in Fort Myers. There will be plenty of time to interview the skipper then. Beyeler had been on a whirlwind since his promotion. Beyeler had just returned to the United States from South America where he was coaching in Winter Ball. Arnie expressed gratitude to the Red Sox organization for the confidence they had shown in him. He added that he was looking forward to meeting the people of Pawtucket when he came to town in a couple of weeks. While he was looking forward to the job, when we spoke, he was really looking forward to spending Christmas in Ponte Vedra, Florida, with his children. Seems like a very nice guy. He has big shoes to fill in that department. This will be my eighth season with the PawSox and I’ve had the extreme pleasure of working with RJ and Torey as well as Buddy Bailey in 2004. Nonetheless, I look forward to it very much.
Speaking of RJ, lately there have been some stories published which have shed some light on his absence from the coaches box the final third of 2010. While I have known the reason since it happened, I kept it quiet out of respect for the Johnson family. We all did because of our deep admiration for Ron and his wife Daphne, and their kids. Their youngest daughter, Bridget was involved in an horrific accident while horseback riding near their home in Tennesee. It was an automobile accident that killed the horse she was riding and severed her leg, near the knee. After attempts to re-attach the limb and countless surgeries, Bridget is home. She is doing great and is scheduled to be fitted for a prosthetic leg soon. RJ has been a pillar of strength for his family. He refuses to look at anything but the bright side. “Heck Hydes” he told me, “We are blessed. ‘Bridgy’ is alive. No internal injuries, no brain damage. She is alive and that’s a miracle.” Bridget is tough. She has refused to use a wheel chair and is determined to ride a horse again. Joe McDonald of ESPN Bosston recently travelled to the Johnsons’ home and did a feature which will be on the website soon. I encourage everyone to read it. No one gets to the heart of a story like my man “Joey Mac”.
I wish the Johnsons, and all my friends a Happy 2011. 2010 was a bittersweet year. We lost our dear friend, Ben Mondor. McCoy Stadium will never be the same. Time marches on, however. It is up to us to carry on his legacy, doing things the “PawSox” way. I have always relished my role as a good-will ambassador for the PawSox. It may sound cliche, but I think you’ll agree. We could use some Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men and Women. Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s the best ever.
Santa has been working overtime to make all the good little girls and boys of Red Sox Nation happy this month. First, he made sure that Adrian Gonzalez wound up in Boston. Then he gave us another gift in Carl Crawford. It eased the sting of losing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, no doubt. I was fantasizing about a lineup that would include V-Mart. Unbeatable, right? I was speaking the other day to a friend of mine who posed that very question to Terry Francona. Tito, who has to be thrilled about the upcoming season was philosophical. It was after they got Gonzalez, but before they landed Crawford. His message was that the Sox were on their way to becoming very good. They would put a powerful lineup on the field every night. The Sox are happy to have Jarrod Saltalamacchia as their catcher and the “Captain” Jason Varitek as his mentor. They have always liked “Salty” and have high hopes for him. Tito felt that you didn’t necessarily need to get a ton of offense from the catchers’ spot. In the short time Saltalamacchia was with the PawSox I saw glimpses of power. Playing everyday and being amongst so many great hitters in the lineup, he could thrive. But Boston is going to content with his defensive contributions.
The “bow” on top of the package, though, was not something that the Sox got, but something the Yankees didn’t get. Cliff Lee, courted by New York and Texas, spurned his American League suitors and signed with Philadelphia. What great news for Boston. The Yankees didn’t get Cliff Lee. That’s 15-20 wins that they won’t get, or have to come up with elsewhere. I can’t wait until the Sox get to Yankee Stadium and take advantage of the short porch in right field. So, there’s no Cliff to worry about until October. Seems clear that the Phillies and Red Sox are destined for a showdown in the World Series. As formidable as the rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka is, the Phillies send out Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels. What a potential Series that would be. Do we even need to play out the regular season?
I imagine George Steinbrenner had to be rolling in his grave. He left the Yankees to his sons, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Seems that Brian Cashman has never been more important to New York. They mishandled the Derek Jeter deal. Jeter has been vocal in his displeasure with New York.and that can’t bode well. Just another reason to be happy this holiday season. Things are good right now. Spring Training is a couple of months away. There are “t’s” to be crossed and “i’s” to be dotted. Minor deals to be made. A bullpen to be replenished. But, for now, thank you Santa. You’ve done a great job.
I am not a guy who gets overly excited about a lot of things (although I was absolutely giddy after the Patriots humiliated the Jets). However, you can officially consider me excited about the state of the Nation. By that, I refer to the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics as of December, 2010.
The Sox blew away the competition in Orlando, where the annual Winter meetings were held. Now that I better comprehend the Adrian Gonzalez deal, I am excited about that. He will sign some time in 2011 and be a fixture at first base. Carl Crawford has been a thorn in the side of Boston forever. Now he is one of us. Think of this potential lineup on Opening Day.
Your bench will be deep. Mike Cameron could platoon at DH and provide depth in the outfield. Jed Lowrie could contend for the shortstop spot. Everyone is frothing at the mouth (rightfully so) over budding superstar Ryan Kalish. The rotation is set. You have to have good comeback years from Beckett and Lackey. Buchholz and Lester are both “aces” and Daisuke isn’t a bad fifth starter. The pen is anchored by Jonathan Papelbon, who I believe is still a premier closer. Daniel Bard is extremely valuable. It is really heady stuff. There can’t be any way the injuries of 2010 repeat themselves. The addition of Crawford is awesome. I get a kick out of the “experts”. They contend that the Sox batting order is too heavily laden with left handed hitters. I’d rather have a good lefty batter than a mediocre righty. The balance of power has shifted and this could be, and should be a 100 win season for the “good guys.”
The Celtics are on a tear. Thursday night, they found a way to beat the 76ers in Philly. The Big 3 have never been bigger. Rajon Rondo is emerging as the best point guard in the NBA. I absolutely love the addition of Shaquille O’Neal. Not only for his play, but for the leadeship and levity the “Big Shamrock” brings. Glenn Davis has become so valuable and when Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West and Jermaine O’Neal get healthy, is there a deeper team in basketball? The Celts make those cold winter nights much more bearable.
The Patriots are amazing. Two reasons. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. If there was ever a guy you could put your faith in, it’s Coach Belichick. With the youngest defense in the NFL, The Pats are 10-2, tied for the best record in the league. The man knows how to evaluate talent and coach it, as well. When his career is over, he may go down as the best coach in NFL history. Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the NFL. He may not be the quickest afoot. He may not have the strongest arm. When the chips are down, though, he is the man I want under center. The word “great” is overused and cliche, but does it apply anywhere more than it does with #12? As long as Bill and Tom are together, the Patriots will be an elite team.
My point is this. We have the best team in MLB, NBA and the NFL. It doesn’t get any better than this. I predict a clean sweep in 2011. The World Series, The NBA title and The Super Bowl. How great would that be?
I am a little unsure about how I feel about the Adrian Gonzalez trade with San Diego. Obviously, It will be great to have him in the lineup in 2011. That being said, Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named later are a very high price to pay.
First, The Sox have yet to sign Gonzalez to a long term deal. We had a roller coaster Sunday, wondering if the deal had gone through or not. The Padres get the better of the deal, it seems to me, if Boston can’t sign Gonzalez beyond this year. Trades are a gamble for both sides, no question. This one is risky for the sake of the contract and Gonzalez’ surgically repaired right shoulder. He passed his physical, yes, but it really seems like Theo went out on a limb to make this trade. Believe me, I want it to work out, but I’m not even close to being ready to sip any Kool-Aid on this one. It was one of baseballs’ worst kept secrets how much Epstein coveted Gonzalez and the San Diego front office knew it.
Second, with Jed Hoyer as General Manager of the Padres and Jason McLeod and Josh Byrnes working in the front office, there was no way the Red Sox could slip a “suspect” in with the prospects. That group all worked in Boston for Theo and McLeod was responsible for drafting the trio. You have to believe that if the Padres wanted those young men specifically, they are all fast track guys with big upsides.
I suppose that if the Sox win the World Series in 2011, it will be worth it. How many more Julio Lugo type deals will Boston live with though, and still allow Theo to keep his job. We saw fan interest dwindle in 2010 with all the injuries and mediocre play. Epstein has a fairly good track record. Not impeccable, but good. Two World titles buy a lot of good will, but the sellout streak will come to a screeching halt this year (although some might say it did last season) if Boston doesn’t make a run at the A.L. East crown.
I’m a little bummed that we won’t ever get to see that trio play for Pawtucket. I first met Casey Kelly when I was the voice of the Syracuse Chiefs and his dad, Pat Kelly was the manager. Young Casey, 8 or 9 at the time hung around the ballpark. He was a nice boy and he has grown into an outstanding man. I wish him well. I don’t know Anthony Rizzo, but I have heard great things about him. He, like Jon Lester, has battled cancer. How can you not root for him? Fuentes is very often compared to his cousin Carlos Beltran and is still just 19 years old.
The stove is finally heating up. The Red Sox have made a splash. Ironically, it was the great work that McLeod did as the scouting director for Boston that enabled the Sox to make the deal, and thus help his new club as well. You never know how a trade will work. I have a feeling the jury will be out for a while on this one.
The late, great comedian, George Carlin is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant and insightful comics of all time. One of his signature bits was a comparison of football and baseball.
“Baseball is played on a diamond in a park. The baseball park. Football is played on a gridiron in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.”
“In football, you wear a helmet, in baseball you wear a cap.”
“In football, the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy, despite the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line. In baseball, the object is to go home and to be safe! I hope I’ll be safe at home!”
The reason I quote Carlin is because I am looking forward to the Monday Night Football Game between the Patriots and the Jets (My Yankees of football. I hate them just as much!) In baseball, if the Sox and Yankees are getting ready for a series, usually all the quotes are politically correct. Maybe every once in a great while, someone will say something that would be considered “bulletin board” material, but not usually. Terry Francona and Joe Girardi (and Joe Torre before him) all act with a great deal of decorum. So polite, in fact, they all might be invited to Prince Williams’ impending nuptials (If not Prince William, maybe Prince Fielder).
Rex Ryan, the brash, oafish head coach of the Jets is the perfect villain. He may as well be wearing a top hat, while twirling his mustache and plotting to tie Giselle Bundschen to the railroad tracks. Hate Rex and the Jets with a white hot passion that I usually reserve for Jeter and the Yankees. I am, however, tremendously amused by his quote concerning Coach Belichick and the Monday Night matchup. Ryan told the Boston Globe- “As much as I respect and admire Bill Belichick, I came here to kick his a**, and that’s the truth.” As much as he rubs me the wrong way, that’s cool. No mincing words. No “coach-speak”. No misinterpretation. Rex Ryan was refreshingly candid. Maybe you can only speak this way in football. I don’t know. I’ve never heard a baseball manager say anything like that. Guys like Francona and Girardi usually try to diffuse the situation. Old Rex is pouring gasoline on the fire. Other shots may be fired across the deck before the game. That is to be expected. I really hate to admit it, but I respect Ryan for telling the truth. He reminds you of a college frat brother, who is always mouthing off.
“Dean Wormer” famously told “Flounder” in the movie Classic “Animal House” that “Fat, drunk and stupid was no way to through life .” I don’t know if Ryan drinks at all, and I really don’t think he’s stupid. He has rekindled the rivalry between the Pats and Jets.
You know I LOVE baseball. But you have to admit, George Carlin knew what he was talking about.
By now, we’ve gotten over the disappointment of Victor Martinez signing with Detroit. Soon, we’ll have to get over Adrian Beltre signing with another team. For now, we must be content with the Sox plucking Jordan Parraz from the waiver wire scrap heap. Something has got to happen. I guess we trust Tito when he tells us to “let the winter play out.” If you’re bored, I don’t blame you. Thank goodness for the Patriots and the Celtics. Unfortunately, those two teams don’t play every day like the PawSox and Red Sox. As a result, I find myself bored to tears most nights during the offseason. Sunday is good because there’s plenty of football to watch. Monday night, you have the NFL and college basketball. After that, Tuesday night I watch “Chopped” on the Food Network. Four chefs compete for a ten thousand dollar prize by preparing an appetizer, entree and dessert with a basket of mystery ingredients. It isn’t odd to find an ostrich egg, popcorn or squid in the basket. Hey, I know, but I am bored. Wednesday, I watch whatever game is on. Thursday night I play “pitch” with a group of guys at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Middletown, RI. (I am currently the leading point getter in the league. Unfortunately, I have no chance to win the points title, since I miss the final two months of the card season, when baseball restarts.) The weekends are again good for college sports on Saturday. If it sounds dull, it is. Although I’m not ready to start up yet with baseball, by New Years Day, I will be. The Holidays keep me busy, but by January 1, I am chomping at the bit.
As you may know, I enjoy going to the movies. “Due Date” with Robert Downey and Zach Galifianakis is the best one I’ve seen lately. Very funny. Look forwad to watching my all-time favorite movie very soon. Now that Thanksgiving is over, I feel like it’s ok to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’ve seen it at least a hundred times. Love it and never get tired of it.
Had a nice Thanksgiving. Hope you did, too. Been busy this fall. My father Tom celebrated his 85th birthday in October. My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in early November and my mother, Lucille just had her ??th birthday. Lots of good times. Nice for a change. Be that as it may, I’ll be happy with some baseball news. It’ll give me something to blog about.
Even though the season has been over for months and the Hot Stove really hasn’t been stoked up just yet, I am itching for some kind of baseball news. I don’t know about you, but it’s getting to be about time for a tasty, juicy, hunk of good baseball news. For example, when will the Red Sox name a successor to Torey Lovullo in Pawtucket?? Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer, was just named the manager of Lehigh Valley, the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Sandberg has done a great job where ever he’s been. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on the Red Sox radar. Supposedly, “Ryno” wanted to return to the organization that originally drafted him as a player. What is it with these guys wanting to come “full circle?” Who needs symmetry. Life is messy with loads of gray areas. Not everything is black and white.
Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners was named the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2010. His record was a very mortal 13-12. “King Felix” lead the A.L. with a tidy 2.27 ERA. He also lead the junior circuit in innings pitched, was second in strikeouts and held hitters to a measly .212 batting average. Hernandez outdistanced David Price of the Rays and the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia in balloting. I guess Hernandez couldn’t be held accountable because his team stunk. I’m not sure he deserved the award, but I stopped getting upset about things like this years ago. I was thrilled to see that a pair of former PawSox standouts finished in the top six in the voting. Jon Lester was fourth and Clay Buchholz finished sixth. That is so exciting, to think of the pair that will be the nucleus of the Boston rotation, just a few short years ago, pitched at McCoy. Lester went 19-9, 3.25 and lead the league with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Buch was second in the A.L. with a 2.33 ERA. He boasted a 17-7 mark. Those are our guys.
Heard from my friend Josh Wetzel, radio voice of the Rochester Red Wings. Told me that Jeff Bailey signed a free agent deal with Minnesota. More than likely, Bailey will play some for Rochester this year. Bailey, was the I.L. MVP in 2008 after a standout season as a member of the PawSox. Jeff spent most of 2010 in the Pacific Coast League with the Arizona organization
As ideas of turkey, stuffing and cranberry have already started creeping into my mind, so have some of these thoughts…..
The acquisition of Andrew Miller from Florida may be a steal. The former North Carolina teammate of Daniel Bard has been an underachiever since he was drafted in the first round (#6) in 2006. The Sox ferried Dustin Richardson off to South Florida in exchange for Miller. Ironically, this past season, former PawSox manager Torey Lovullo was asked about the greatest prospects he’d ever seen. He said Ryan Kalish was the top position player he’d managed and he said Miller was the pitcher that ranked #1 in his mind. Ironically, Torey is now with Toronto and won’t have a chance to manage Miller. That’s ok, but I wish John Farrell was still around. He seems to have a knack with young pitchers like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. As for Richardson, he seemed to “fail” his audition with Boston. I’ve noticed over the years that the Sox unload you at almost the moment they think youi’ll never help the Big Club. Richardson, the stoic Kansan, once appeared on an ESPN reality TV show, while a student at Texas Tech. The 6’6 Richardson was a finalist on “Knight School”, competing for a spot as a walk-on for Bobby Knights’ basketball team. Of course, I hope Richardson flourishes in Florida and Miller enjoys a renaissance with the Sox.
Anybody know where Theo Epstein is spending Thanksgiving this year? Hopefully in Arksansas with Cliff Lee. I understand that they enjoy roasted “roadkill” on that day. The fondest wish is for a meaty animal like a raccoon or possum. No one could cook that stuff up like Granny on the “Beverly Hillbillies.” (That Irene Ryan was a beautiful gal!!! Frances Bavier , a.k.a. Aunt Bea is still my favorite, though!)
Anyone else tired of the NFL’s recent crackdown on “hard hits?” We train our athletes to become as strong and as fast and as violent as they possibly can and then fine them for doing their job. I understand the whole “helmet to helmet” thing and we should protect against injury, concussions, etc. I’m glad that baseball doesn’t fine you for hitting the ball as hard as you can. While I’m taking shots at other sports, anyone dumb enough to fork over $60 to watch the pay per view fight Saturday? For much less than that, you can come to McCoy Stadium and watch the PawSox play. You’re guaranteed nine innings, and the pay per view doesn’t come with snacks.
As the old saying goes- “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” In this case I wish I wasn’t right, but as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, after John Farrell was hired by the Blue Jays as their manager, there was a very real possibility Farrell would hire his friend Torey Lovullo as a member of his coaching staff. It has happened and for the second straight year the PawSox will have a new manager at McCoy. I spoke to Torey on Monday night and he was understandably excited. “It’s a great opportunity. The Blue Jays are an organization on the rise and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
Torey quickly apologized to me for not getting in touch with me sooner. “I couldn’t talk to anyone for a couple of days.” He explained. “I knew what was happening and I didn’t want to lie to anyone.” While the veteran manager is excited to be returning to the Big Leagues, there are some mixed emotions. “It is bittersweet. I loved the opportunity I had in the Red Sox organization, but I am returning to the Major Leagues. That is obviously the goal for anyone in the minor leagues.” Torey and his wife Kristen were looking forward to a second season in Pawtucket. “We had already been planning to return to Cape Cod again during the All Star Break and were looking forward to the annual team outing in Newport.”
This stop will be Toreys’ fourth different city in as many years. His final season in Buffalo was followed with a season in Columbus, then a year at McCoy and now the Majors. Farrell didn’t need to do much of a sales job to get his friend to agree to join him. He knew exactly what buttons to push. “He pointed out how much closer Kristen would be to her hometown, Buffalo, New York and her mother. The Lovullos spend the offseason in Torey’s native Southern California.
Lovullo’s departure is just the latest move in what has been a tumultuous offseason for the PawSox. The death of owner Ben Mondor and the departures of Lovullo and hitting instructor, Gerald Perry to Oakland, will clearly give the old ballpark a new look in 2011. Torey assured me to have faith in Mike Hazen, the director of player development for Boston. “Hazen’s a smart guy. He will hire a good manager to take my place.” After a year with Buddy Bailey and one with Torey, with 5 seasons with Ron Johnson sandwiched in between, I am afraid my luck is about to run out. How many good guys are left??
This should be the final step necessary for Torey to prove he has what it takes to be a Major League manager. He had been interviewed in the past for such openings. The knock was that he didn’t have coaching experience at the highest level. He will get that in the extremely competitive American League East, battling Boston, Tampa and the Yankees on a nightly basis.
Personally, I am very fond of Lovullo. While I am thrilled for him, I feel the same way I felt when Bailey was fired in 2004 and RJ got promoted a season ago. I will miss the rapport we developed and the daily contact, talking about baseball and life. “You know” He told me. “We never say goodbye in baseball. We just say ‘see ya later’. It’s true.” he continued. “Our paths will definitely cross again.” I hope so.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the span of the last 50 years. I am closing in on my 50th birthday (August). My parents, Tom and Lucille are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this week. That is an incredible length of time. My entire lifetime. Think about it. About three weeks before my parents tied the knot, Bill Mazeroski hit his historic home run against the Yankees and Ralph Terry. Ted Williams retired and shortly after that, Carl Yastrzemski began his brilliant career in Boston. They had been married about 6 years when the “Impossible Dream” season unfolded in 1967. It, of course, ended in heartbreak as the Cardinals and Bob Gibson took the crown.
My folks had been married about 15 years in 1975. Arguably the greatest World Series ever took place between the Reds and Boston. Fred Lynn and Jim Rice burst upon the scene and the Sox and Big Red Machine battled for 7 games. In fact, Carlton Fisk hammered his 12th inning home run against Pat Darcy on my fathers’ 50th birthday, October 21, 1975. I vividly remember my mother worrying that no one would care about the party, because the game was going to be on, after being postponed 3 days by rain. The party was a hit, and so was Fisk.
The year of the heartbreak of 1986, as the ball was rolling through the legs of Bill Buckner, my folks were closing in on their 26th anniversary. I prematurely popped a champagne cork, as I wanted to “Savor the moment”. I have never heard the end of it. Families all have their inside jokes. Because of that, I have been the butt of that joke for the last 24 years. As my partner Dan Hoard s often likes to point out. I am still the only one who hasn’t forgiven Buckner. A grudge I’ve now proudly held for about half my life, or half my parents’ marriage. There have been good times and bad times. Wins and losses, ups and downs. I guess that’s life. And baseball.
My mother and father have lived through managers Grady Little, Butch Hobson, Joe Kerrigan and Jimy Williams. Pumpsie Green, Dick Stuart, Carmen Fanzone have all worn the most beautiful uniform in sports during the last half century. The Sox, like my folks, have settled into a pretty good routine, with Terry Francona and Dustin Pedroia and the gang. They listen to the PawSox broadcasts every night while watching the Red Sox on NESN with the volume down. A lot of things have changed over the last 50 years. Some things haven’t. Our love for the Sox, their love for each other. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Pop!