Rest in peace, George Steinbrenner

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As a Red Sox fan, I never really liked George Steinbrenner.
He created today’s version of my archenemy. I rarely, if ever, agreed with what
he said or did, and every time I would see him at Yankee Stadium in his
turtleneck and blue blazer, I would glare at the television screen, hoping he
would feel my hatred.

With that said, I am mourning his passing today.

I was at work at my summer internship in London when I
learned of the news. I was reading boston.com after returning from my lunch
break and saw a bright red “breaking news” bar flash across the top of my
screen. “George Steinbrenner suffers massive heart attack, in very critical
condition,” it said. I knew then that he was gone. Sure enough, no more than
ten minutes later, the news was updated with reports of his death.

I immediately texted all the Yankee fans in my contacts to
let them know. Although it was after lunch in London, it was still early morning
back home. When my boss came over to review my work, I asked him if he knew who
George Steinbrenner was. Baseball is about as popular as taxes here, but my
boss still knew who he was and was saddened to learn of his passing.

I am a Red Sox fan, but above all I am a fan of baseball,
and I would be blind not to recognize the impact Steinbrenner has had on the
sport since he bought the Yankees 37 years ago.

Steinbrenner was a man who jumped over hurdles in his youth
and blew through them in his adult life. He had an incredible amount of passion
and drive that he channeled into his penchant for winning, and much to my
chagrin, he was very successful at that. As a stubborn man who always voiced
his opinions, he often fought with players, managers, even the commissioner of
baseball. For all the money he spent, he was not immune to fines. He was
unapologetically polarizing.

Because of Steinbrenner, Yankees fans have an entire
television channel devoted to their favorite team. Baseball fans have teams
offering players big money. Steinbrenner was the first to promote the idea of
shelling out fat checks in order to get quality players, and many blame him for
baseball’s lack of parity. He showed the Yankees how to win, and he showed the
world what it meant to be involved. His formula was no secret.

“Work as hard as you ask others to,” Steinbrenner once
said. “Strive for what you believe is right, no matter the odds. Learn that
mistakes can be the best teacher.”

Through his mistakes and his successes, Steinbrenner left a
mark on this world that will never and should never be forgotten – not even by
a Red Sox fan.

Offensive Reawakening? Drinking Controversy.

My blog will be doing double sports duty today, as of course there is plenty to talk about with the Red Sox, yet there is also a controversy on my school’s hockey team involving two players who have now been kicked off the team.

We’ll start with the Red Sox first.

After getting embarassed by the Orioles, the Red Sox have now taken two games from the Angels while showing the pitching talent Theo Epstein had promised in the off season. Buchholz was good enough on Monday night, departing the game in the sixth with a 7-4 lead, and Lester threw a gem last night, holding the Angels to one run on five hits through eight innings.

On Monday, the Red Sox batters actually looked like batters, exploding for 17 runs on 20 hits, highlighted by a seven-run sixth inning. Seven players had multi-hit nights. Mike Lowell went 4-for-4 in the DH spot with three doubles and four RBIs, Kevin Youkilis was on base five times, J.D. Drew went 4-for-5, and Dustin Pedroia, Youkilis, Adrian Beltre and Bill Hall all went yard.

It looked good.

Last night, the Red Sox struggled a bit more at the plate, but they were able to hit when it counted, batting around in a four-run eighth inning en route to a 5-1 win.

But keep this all in perspective. The Angels have the third worst pitching staff in all of Major League Baseball, besting only the Pirates and the Diamondbacks. They have the worst pitching staff in the American League. The Red Sox are still below .500 27 games into the season, and they have a tough weekend ahead of them against the Yankees. This success on the mound and at the plate will be good for the Sox’s confidence, but I still think it’s too early to think this team’s problems are solved.

And now, we move to what is being dubbed “St. Patty’s-gate”.

As some of you may know, I attend Boston University. Here, hockey rules all. We don’t have a football team or a baseball team, and our basketball team isn’t quite an elite force yet.

Our hockey team, however, has a legacy of domination. We won the national championship last year, and have won 29 of 58 Beanpots. Whenever something happens with the hockey team here, it’s big news.

So consider this. On St. Patrick’s Day, two days before an elimination playoff game that BU lost, at least four players were out drinking. Two were underage. The hockey team has a rule that players who are of age are allowed to drink only on Saturday nights. March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, was not a Saturday night.

In a subsequent bike ride that was punishment for breaking team rules, at least one of the players who was drinking on St. Patrick’s Day, 20-year-old Vinny Saponari, showed up late.

Yesterday, almost two months after St. Patrick’s Day, Vinny Saponari was kicked off the hockey team. He told the school paper that he was being dismissed for breaking team rules and then showing up late to the bike ride.

Corey Trivino, another 20-year-old player who was drinking that night, was suspended from the team. Victor Saponari, Vinny’s older brother who is of age and was also involved, was also kicked of the team for what BU coach Jack Parker called cumulative behavior unbecoming of a Boston University hockey player. Adam Kraus, a fourth player drinking that night who is also of legal age, has not been punished to date. Vinny Saponari was the only player of the four in the line-up for the playoff game two days after the drinking incident.

It’s a sad turn of events for BU hockey, as both Trivino and Vinny Saponari are valuable forwards on the team. The punishments seem to indicate that Vinny Saponari had to have done something drastically worse than Trivino, yet no information has come out yet on what that might be. The timetable also seems a bit sketchy, as it is now almost two months after the original event occurred.

I’m keeping an eye on this story as it continues to develop, but meanwhile, I’m trying to focus on the Sox’s offensive improvements and the Bruins’ playoff run. Until next time,
-A

.500

Stats don’t say everything.

By virtue of their sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox are now sitting at 11-11. If they win on Friday, they could finish April above .500. This is good news considering that they were 4-9 just nine games ago.

Yet I don’t think they are quite there yet.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m excited we won our last three series. I’m glad that over the last two games our run prevention theory is sounding more like a strategy than a joke. I’m relieved that Lester finally had a quality start. We have at least one regular starter (Adrian Beltre) hitting above .300.

But all of this has come against teams who are, well, bad. The Rangers and Orioles are both in last place, and the Blue Jays are starting their annual standings sinking. If we can only muster two runs per game against teams at the bottom of the standings, then how are we supposed to beat teams doing well in the standings?

Before the season, I thought this run prevention strategy would work. I thought our rotation would be one of the strongest in the MLB, and I thought we would hit way better than people expected.

When I see this team though, I know that we can’t rely on pitching to take us to the playoffs. We have young pitchers in Lester and Buchholz, a question mark pitcher in Matsuzaka, and two top pitchers in Beckett and Lackey who are bound to have their bad days. Our bullpen, if we don’t put in Bard and Papelbon, is unreliable at best.

I think Monday’s 13-12 victory was the rare game when the Red Sox can hit their way through bad pitching. We can’t rely on Darnell McDonald, no matter how magical he seems, to get that clutch hit for us every night.

And so here’s what I think the Red Sox should try first.

Before making any trades, the Red Sox need to utilize the bench. Jason Varitek has been hitting. If he plays every day, he may not hit as well, but he should play more often, perhaps every other day. The Red Sox are 6-2 when he plays, and they are 4-0 in his last four starts. Victor Martinez is not significantly better at throwing out runners than Varitek, and Varitek is definitely better with the pitching staff.

 Mike Lowell should also be DHing more, and he should definitely DH whenever there is a left-handed pitcher. Ortiz is not the hitter he used to be, and nothing will change that. Regardless of whether it’s because of steroids or age, it’s still fact. At .250, Lowell is not tattooing the ball, but he is hitting better than Ortiz’s .154. More importantly, Ortiz has a .241 OBP while Lowell is sitting at .333.

The Red Sox also need to see how much longer Cameron and Ellsbury are going to be on the DL. At this time, it looks like both will be going on rehab assignments, although that doesn’t seem to be coming anywhere in the near future. If by the end of the first week of May there is still no time-table for either player’s return, I think the Red Sox would need to look into a trade for a stronger fourth outfielder than the Jeremy Hermida-Darnell McDonald-Bill Hall combination. I would try to trade McDonald. His luck has to run out at some point, but he could be tempting for some teams.

 

Pressure Rising

I’ve been optimistic about the Red Sox all season long. I’ve promised friends and family that they will hit. I’ve promised rivals that they will make a run for a World Series title. I’ve promised myself that I will trust in Theo’s plan.

But today, the Red Sox dropped their fourth straight game. They are 4-8, four games below .500 and in fourth place in the division. They have only won one series all season. This is the worst start for the Red Sox since 1996, when they went 2-10 through their first 12 games. The Sox finished the season that year at 85-77, good enough for third in the AL East behind the Yankees and the Orioles.

Yes, the Red Sox are not scoring runs. In worse news, the team that was supposed to be about run prevention is about, well, run allowance. They are ninth in the American League with a 4.05 team ERA, and eleventh in the AL with a .981 fielding percentage. They have given up nine unearned runs in 12 games. Their supposed weakness at the plate is actually their strong point, as they are sixth in the AL with a .260 team batting average.

They have seven errors in their last five games, and have recorded at least one error in four straight games. Mike Cameron, who was supposed to be ridiculous in center field, dropped an easy catch last night. While I understand that he had a kidney stone, if he couldn’t play, he wouldn’t have.

Victor Martinez, who was supposed to be an improvement over Varitek behind the plate, is practically handing over the job to the captain. He’s currently batting .244, Varitek is hitting at a .444 clip. He’s 1-for-14 in caught stealing. While Varitek is 0-for-8, 1-for-14 isn’t much of an improvement.

And then there’s the pitching staff. Oh, the pitching staff. The Sox are supposed to have one of the best rotations in baseball. In reality, Lester, Buchholz and Wakefield are all struggling. The three combined have given up 21 runs in their last 21.1 innings. Prior to his last start, Beckett had been struggling as well, earning a 6.17 ERA over two games while only striking out five batters.

To say it has not been going well in Boston is an understatement. Yes, injuries to Ellsbury and Cameron have thrown the Red Sox a little bit off track, but they are not devastating enough to cause the Red Sox to go 4-8.

Frustrations is already mounting in the clubhouse. Pedroia told reporters last night that the Sox are throwing away games they should be winning. Nobody is hitting in big situations. Fielding has not been great. Pitching has been mediocre.

So where do they go from here? Is it time already for a line-up shake-up? Do they try to work out a trade? Part of me says that it is still very early in the season, but the team seems to just be getting worse instead of getting better. Could one player really make a difference here?

I think what the Red Sox really need to do is some serious soul searching. They need to decide to play tight and to play hard. If they can find a groove where they start winning, rhythm could start to do some work for them. It’s definitely time to re-examine their game plan, but I don’t think one trade would make a huge difference. Lester must figure out what he needs to do to pitch better, Varitek might need to play in more games to put pressure on Martinez to play better. J.D. Drew needs to start hitting. The Red Sox need to start trying harder.

For now, things just look bleak.

The Red Sox through eight games: What we have learned so far

Eight games into the 2010 season, the Boston Red Sox are exactly even. They’ve won four games, they’ve lost four games, and we’ve seen some early indications of what the rest of the season might look like. So, what have we learned so far?

Well, for one, the Red Sox can hit. This may have been the biggest concern amongst Bostonians, and while the Red Sox certainly have played in a couple of games where they could have used a few more hits, they have shown that they do have the capability to score runs.

In each of their four wins, the Red Sox have scored six or more runs. On the flip side of that, the Red Sox have yet to win a game in which they have scored less than six runs. This, to me, is more surprising than the fact that they can hit. All offseason, we’ve been hearing about “run prevention”, yet the least amount of runs that the Red Sox gave up so far this season came in the final game against the Yankees, when the Yankees left Boston with a 3-1 win.

What does this mean? The pitching staff isn’t quite there yet. Early in the season, it’s really difficult to assess a pitching staff. They have not yet gotten into a full rhythm, and most of what6-papelbon__1271285969_8402.jpg you see in April is not too indicative of what a pitcher will do over the course of the year.

Yet the bullpen does seem to be a concern. Three of the four Red Sox losses were charged to relievers, and they were charged to the Red Sox’s “best” relievers at that. Okajima took the loss after giving up an eighth inning go-ahead run to the Yankees on April 6th. Papelbon gave up two runs in the top of the tenth the next day. Bard gave up a two-run single to Rick Ankiel in the bottom of the eighth inning on April 9th, blowing a 3-2 Red Sox lead.

While this may be yet another example of early season pitching, the Red Sox don’t have much room for error in the bullpen. Ramon Ramirez has been terrible for the Sox. He’s made three appearances in 1.1 innings of work and has earned a 33.75 ERA. Scott Schoenweis has been okay so far, but at 36 years old, he’s a liability to break down at any moment.

Then there is J.D. Drew, hiding in the shadow of David Ortiz’s batting struggles. Drew is batting just .167, garnering four hits in 24 at-bats. Want to know who else has only four hits on the season? Yes, that would be David Ortiz. Drew is second on the team with strikeouts (10) and is tied for second-to-last on the team with seven total bases. Aside from his one home run, Drew has three singles, and none of those singles have helped the team. His two RBIs come from the home run.

But with every negative, there is a positive. At least for me, Jeremy Hermida has been a great surprise. With Jacoby Ellsbury out of the line-up for the rest of the road trip, Hermida has gotten four starts in left field. He’s made his presence felt.

Hermida is 5-for-14 on the season and has six RBIs. Last night, Hermida hit a three-run double in the eighth inning to help propel the Red Sox to a 6-3 victory. As Ellsbury recovers from bruised ribs, and with a new Mike Cameron abdominal strain, Hermida will continue to see action in the outfield, and the Red Sox have to be excited about what he can do.

The Red Sox will be playing in the rubber game of their opening series against the Minnesota Twins today. Tim Wakefield will be on the mound looking for his first victory of the season, and the Red Sox will attempt to improve to over .500. And, only eight games into the season, anything could happen today. 

picture from boston.com

Opening Day

Ah Opening Day. It’s one of the best days of not just the baseball year, but the year in general. It’s the day that baseball starts again, and it’s the day when anything is still possible.
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I’m lucky enough to go to college in Fenway’s backyard, and I was even more lucky this year to actually score tickets to Opening Night for $47. Yes, that’s right. $47. I even had seats for that price, and pretty good seats, too, right in the middle of the infield grandstand on the first base side of the field.

I had a great time even though I couldn’t eat anything since it’s still Passover. The Red Sox, of course, rallied to win the game, making my night pretty sweet. Here’s some of my assorted thoughts from the festivities.

  • The improvements to Fenway this season are all very nice. The walkways in the grandstand seemed bigger and more even to me, which made getting to my seat nicer. I didn’t use the bathrooms, but my friend did, and he said they’re pretty cool. Behind home plate, the Red Sox built a new bathroom area away from the concession stands that is easier to get to. Apparently, the mens’ bathrooms have waterless urinals, and my friend said they were very nice. Behind home plate, the Red Sox revamped the concession stand at the top of the grandstand, and it’s now a lot less congested and completely open so it doesn’t get stuffy in there. I was able to get my $3.75 water much faster than usual.
  • The 5-year-old Herb Brooks impressionist is my favorite small child ever. His performance absolutely blew my mind, and when he said “Screw em,” Fenway Park went nuts. Perhaps we should thank him for the Red Sox rally.
  • I was once again reminded of how good Red Sox fans can be when Mike Lowell received the longest and loudest of the night. I know it’s tough for Lowell to be here, but I hope the fan appreciation makes it a little more bearable for him.DSCN4704.JPG
  • Johnny Pesky tipped his cap to the Yankees when he was announced before the game, and the Yankees all tipped their caps back at him. It was a nice moment reflective of the history and respect in the game.
  • Josh Beckett must have been overeager to ink his new 4 year deal after his outing last night. He could not get his curveball working at all. Let’s hope these early season jitters disappear soon.
  • If I were a Yankees fan, I would be very concerned by the pitching staff. C.C. was good until he reached 90 pitches, and I wasn’t sure why Girardi took so long to pull him. That alone cost the Yankees a few runs. Then, when the Yankee bullpen came in, I got my answer. The relief pitching was horrific last night. There is nobody in that bullpen who intimidates me, Rivera included. The Yankees’ starting rotation isn’t so deep either.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by how well Schoenweis pitched last night. When Tito brought him in, I thought he was waving the white flag. Let’s hope this continues.
  • There’s no way Marco Scutaro is 5’10.
  • The Red Sox lineup validated my theory that they will score more runs than people expect. While they don’t really have a big homerun bat (Ortiz is really slowing down), they have a lineup that can get singles and doubles and steal bases. Singles score runs too.
  • I don’t understand why Steven Tyler chose to get so drunk before singing God Bless America. He was embarassing, staggering, and slurring. That was more of an awkward moment than a nice moment.DSCN4749.JPG
  • Does Neil Diamond know how to sing anymore? He did a nice job saying Sweet Caroline, but his performance left me wanting the taped version instead.
  • It sure was nice to go to an early baseball game in April and only have to put a sweatshirt on in the fourth inning.
  • I can’t wait to see more from this team.
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State of the Union response

As part of my homework for one of my journalism courses, I was responsible last night for watching the State of the Union and picking out newsworthy quotes. As a registered voter in Massachusetts and a citizen of this country in a time of hardships, my interest in politics has been growing. I voted in every election I have been able to vote in since registering to vote in April of 2008.

Last night, I felt President Obama’s State of the Union hit the problems this country faces straight on. Greatest of all, he pointed out the unacceptable party line divide that is prohibiting Congress from doing anything useful.

Last week, Massachusetts elected Scott Brown to the Senate, choosing him to finish the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s final term. This election eliminated the filibuster in the Senate in which Democrats held the all-important two-thirds majority. I did not vote for Brown and I am still hopeful that this country can achieve health care reform, but I am grateful that Brown’s election to the Senate will finally force our representatives in Washington to do what they are supposed to do: go past their party lines and work together to pass legislation that will benefit the citizens of this country.

The biggest issue this country faces today is not a struggling economy, two international wars, health care wrongs or environmental stalemates. Instead, it is the refusal of citizens to support anything that their political party will not support.

“If the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well,” Obama said. “Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.”

Now, I disagree that saying no to everything is even good short-term politics. What does it accomplish? While achieving agendas solely to benefit their parties, members of Congress are hurting the American people. They are preventing real, beneficial legislation from being created and passed. As George Washington warned in his farewell address,

“All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and
associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design
to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and
action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this
fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency . . . However combinations or associations of the above description may now
and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time
and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and
unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people,
and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying
afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Political parties are natural, almost an inherent side-effect of democracy. I do not believe that we should completely abandon these parties, but we need to remember that we cannot draw the line at a particular party’s platform. Democrats must compromise with Republicans, Republicans must compromise with Democrats. This is why we elected our representatives to serve in Congress, not to vote only Republican, but to discuss and create laws and reforms.

This country is in desperate need of health care reform. It is in desperate need of an economic fix. While it is fine to disagree with a particular bill,  it is a failure of the system to simply say no, I will not vote for that. Rather, it is imperative for Congress to say, “I disagree with that for these reasons, and these are my ideas and solutions for those problems.” Nothing productive comes out of simply saying no.

Obama has not yet ended the war, not yet saved the economy, not yet created viable health care reform, not yet changed the way our government works. He has, however, tried to create that change. It is time now for Congress, on the parts of both Democrats and Republicans, to change too. They need to start doing their jobs. They need to try.

In the Republican response last night, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell said, “Today, the federal government is trying to do too much.” Well Governor McDonnell, it is better to try to do too much than to try to do nothing at all.

Vote

Though I am a proud member of Red Sox Nation, I am also a proud citizen of this country and a resident of Massachusetts. I have already voted today. No matter who your candidate is, go out and vote. This is what you can do for your country. This is how your voice can be heard.

Boston Sports: A Study in Struggles

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            2007
was a hallmark year for the top two sports teams in Boston. The Patriots went
16-0 and fell one David Tyree drop away from perfection. The Red Sox, of
course, won their second World Series of the decade. Since then, both teams
have headed for the cellar.

            On
Sunday afternoon, when the Patriots were walloped by the Ravens, they showed
that their capabilities this season revolved around dominating weak teams while
choking or falling to good teams. They lacked talent on defense and a
versatility on offense (the Moss/Welker pair does not count as an abundance of
options) that ultimately put them in their place: on their sofas watching the
playoffs.

            Last
season, the Patriots lost Tom Brady in the first game of the season and still
went 11-5. While that’s all well and good, a team with a 16-0 record the
previous season should be able to win with or without their quarterback. The
Patriots fell short of the playoffs, but instead of raising expectations for
this season, they engaged in a series of inexplicable moves.

            Matt
Cassel’s performance in Brady’s absence was excellent for his stock, yet the
Patriots ended up trading not only him, but also Mike Vrabel for draft picks
that they subsequently traded away. They also traded away all of their first
round picks and passed on highly touted linebackers the team so desperately
needed.

            By
the time the Patriots showed up to training camp, they were missing Richard
Seymour, leaving only Vince Wilfork as a big name on defense. There was no
talent there, and while Belichick is a defensive-minded coach who does have the
capability to build himself a defense, he simply didn’t give himself enough to
work with.

            The
Patriots seem to be in the throes of rebuilding a championship caliber team,
yet they have not taken that last step in finding enough talent to lead them to
glory for unknown reasons. The prices cannot be too high. After all, the Kraft
group just built a majestic shopping plaza in Gillette Stadium’s front yard. So
why the mediocrity?

            Similarly,
since winning it all in 2007, the Red Sox seem unwilling to pay or acquire the
type of players necessary to bring baseball glory back to Boston. During the
summer of 2008, Manny Ramirez forced his way out of Fenway, so the Red Sox
brought in Jason Bay as a replacement. Bay was phenomenal in Boston, the kind
of quiet, team player that everybody needed in the aftermath of the Manny
circus.

            Yet
removing Manny from the roster meant the lineup card would be missing the
hugely important intimidating bat. The Red Sox had a bunch of players who were
good, but none capable of greatness the way Manny was. Ortiz has watched his
numbers drop over the last few years, and while Youkilis, Pedroia, Lowell and
Bay are good hitters, they do not have the power to change the course of any one
game with a single swing of the bat.

            During
the off-season after the 2008 post-season (where the Red Sox played above their
capabilities before eventually falling to the Tampa Bay Rays), the Red Sox
refused to spend the money to upgrade their team. Why? I could not tell you. All
I know is that the Red Sox began the season with a mediocre line-up, a
question-mark-filled pitching rotation, and a shaky bullpen. They exited the
season in much the same way.

            A
line-up where most of the power is coming from J.D. Drew? No thank you. Jed
Lowrie and Julio Lugo platooning (until Julio was traded and Lowrie was injured
. . . again) at short? Shoot me now.

            This
off-season, the Red Sox are starting to spend money. They acquired John Lackey,
Adrian Beltre and Mike Whoever-he-is, which is an improvement over last year,
but they still have not found that much needed bat for their lineup or a
bullpen that looks like it can hold a lead.

            Perhaps
this is just a play-off loss hangover, but it seems that the winning ways from
the first half of the decade are but a distant memory. Sure, I’m lucky that I
was able to witness so many championships in such a short time, so I shouldn’t
complain, right?

            I
wouldn’t complain if I saw a good reason for both teams to low-ball it
financially and put together a half-hearted roster. The Patriots and the Red
Sox have the resources to do more, attract better players, coach stronger, yet
neither team is fully taking advantage of those resources.

            If
I felt the NBA had any redeeming qualities, perhaps I would just move on to the
Celtics, yet I don’t foresee much basketball-worshipping in my future. I guess
for these next 36 days before Spring Training starts, I’ll dwell on my fan-hood
misfortune.

            Wait.
It’s an even numbered year . . . olympics or bust!  

Beltre!

Standing at a $165 million payroll, $5 million below the luxury tax cap, there have been questions abound about whether the Red Sox will continue their hunt for players like Adrian Beltre and Adrian Gonzalez. Theo Epstein and Co. answered those questions in a big way today by coming to terms with Beltre in a 1-year, $9 million contract with a second year option.

The Red Sox had a mediocre lineup last season. Losing Manny Ramirez meant losing an explosive bat in the lineup that Jason Bay, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia could not recreate. While Beltre has not come close to replicating his 48 home run season in 2004, he does have the potential for a 20 home run season or more every year. His 8 home runs last season were a bit of an aberration, especially considering he was playing with injured shoulders and a torn ligament in his thumb. Beltre also hits home runs heavily towards left field, so he is sure to make friends with the monster.

Beltre brings quality defense to an already defensively strong team. If the starting infield consists of Youkilis, Pedroia, Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre, the Red Sox will have four golden glove caliber players right behind the pitcher. Beltre’s most glaring weakness on defense is his tendency to not wear a cup.

The years and money could not be better for the Red Sox. $9 million is a decent price for a statistically declining Beltre, who earned $13 million from the Mariners last year. A second year for Beltre is worth even less, which works well for both parties. If Beltre does not improve this season, the Red Sox will only owe him $5 million should he choose to stay next season. If Beltre does improve, he can earn more money either here or elsewhere, giving him the incentive throughout the season to perform at his very best.

The Red Sox also escape an awkward situation with Mike Lowell. Casey Kotchman has not yet proven himself as an improvement over Lowell and Youkilis at the corners, but with the Red Sox foiled attempts to trade Lowell, it’s clear that Lowell does not figure heavily into their plans for 2010. Yet starting Kotchman over Lowell would be unwarranted, as Lowell did prove himself as a solid player when healthy with the Red Sox, even earning the 2007 World Series MVP honors. With Beltre, however, the Red Sox have a more defensively sound, younger, and somewhat healthier starter who is statistically comparable to Lowell over an extended period of time. While the Sox could try to trade Lowell again, not too many teams will jump at the chance to sign a player who has already failed one physical and has had an increasing history of injury. Now, the Sox can use Lowell off the bench more legitimately.

Overall, the Beltre signing, if he passes his physical, can only mean good things for the Red Sox. Sure, they will exceed the luxury tax threshold, but based on comments from Epstein, Henry and Warner throughout the off season, that seemed to be the plan all along. Beltre may just be the final check on the check list for the Red Sox’s winter shopping.

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