Lee and Jesse Play Name Those Sox – Part 1

As March begins, Lee and Jesse – the resident Red Sox Fans here at I-95 – decided to try and pick the 25 man roster that the Red Sox will break camp with this season. Thrilling – we know. Here is the resulting back-and-forth:

From: Jesse Martineau
To: Lee Lubarsky
Subject: Red Sox starting 25
Starting position players
I will start with the starting 9.  And, to make things even more impressive, I will attempt to put them in the original batting order.
The entire wild card here, of course, is Crawford.  The Red Sox 1st 5 should be Ells, Petey, Gonzo, Youk, and Papi – in that order.  After all, that is the order that had the Sox score more runs than anyone last year.  So, clearly that line-up works.
However, should Bobby V. actually post that line-up for the first game, Crawford will start crying uncontrollably and will have to be coaxed out of the locker room.  And since we can’t have another season where Crawford is absolutely horrendous (seriously, Jason Stark ran the numbers, and Crawford had the worst season of a Red Sox starting outfielder EVER.  How amazing is that?  He was worse than Darren Lewis’ wost year.  Or Darnell McDonald.  Or anyone!)
So, because Carl is a Captain Sensitive, we need to make him hit #2.  Which fucks up everything else, but still needs to happen.  (Note: I am making the assumption that Carl will be healthy for opening day.  He is already hitting, so I’m guessing he may be ready.  If he is not, all the easier.)
So, my projected starting line-up:
1.) Ellsbury, CF
2.) Captain Sensitive, LF
3.) Petey, 2B
4.) Gonzo, 1B
5.) Greek (Jewish) God of Walks, 3B
6.) Papi, DH
7.) Salty, C
8.) Ross, RF
9.) Aviles, SS
(Quick aside: I am beyond thrilled to be pencilling in a guy who, only last year, couldn’t hack it as the fucking Royals utility man as the opening day shortstop.)
Bench
This now brings us to the bench.  Here are the guys that I think are a lock to be on the bench:
INF- Punto
OF- Sweeney
C- Shoppach
Guy I think is most likely to be the final guy on the bench:
OF- McDonald
I actually think McDonald is a solid final player on the roster.  Plays capable defense in every OF position.  Can pinch run (overlooking how he ran us out of a couple of games last year).   Seems like a likable guy.  Can’t hit for shit.
Others I can conceivably see making the team:
C- Lavarnway
It is tough to keep 3 catchers.  But he is probably major league ready, at least as an offensive player.  Would be the best right handed hitter off the bench.  But, considering Papi doesn’t like being benched, and that they already have 2 other catchers, I don’t see how he plays.
UTL- Nate Spears
I actually am going to make Nate Spears my pick to be on the 25 if Crawford can’t go on opening day.  He had a cup of coffee with the big boys last year, and the people in the organization seem to really like his professionalism.  He can also play pretty much every position besides pitching and catching.  The big problem is that Spears is not on the 40 man roster, so they’d need to make a roster move.  But I think they would probably just move Rich Hill to the 60 day DL.
Pitchers
OK, I’ll start with the starting pitchers, in rotation order:
1.) Lester
2.) Chicken Eatin’ Texan
3.) Computer stealer
4.) Bard
5.) (more on this later)
I think the top 4 are pretty straightforward.  Feeling pretty confident about the order as well.
Guys who will definitely be in the pen:
Bailey (will close)
Melancon (primary set-up man)
Morales (best lefty option)
Albers (was real good last year until his arm fell off due to overuse caused by the fact the rest of the pen was terrible)
Guy who will definitely make the team, though role is still up for grabs:
Aceves
I think the Sox clearly want this guy to be in the pen, because he was ridiculously valuable there last year.  That being said, if all the other 5th starter options prove to be terrible – a very real possibility – they may have to start him right off the bat.
Guys who I am pretty sure will make the team, though also not sure if they will start or come out of the pen:
Doubront/ Miller
Both of these guys have the same story.  They are both lefties.  Both were thought to be top prospects at one point in their lives.  Both also have yet to prove they don’t suck as major league pitchers.  Fortunately for them, both are also out of options, and the Sox don’t seem to want to give up on either yet.  So, unless either has an ERA of about 100 this spring, I see both on the team.  Best case scenario for the Sox, one of these guys starts.  That would make NH Ben’s wildest dreams come true.
This leaves 2 possibilities.  Situation 1 is if one of Aceves, Doubront, or Miller start.  Situation 2 is if the Sox really want to keep Acevez in the pen and Doubront and Miller use this spring to confirm they suck.
If situation 1 is a reality, there are a number of options for the final bullpen spot:
Bowden
He was also once thought of as a major prospect… now, not so much.  He is also out of options.  Seems that the Sox have given up on him starting, but they may not want to let him go altogether.  That being said, he kinda sucks.
Chris Carpenter
Might be kept just so the Sox brass don’t have to admit they let go of a top class GM for a minor league middle reliever.
Clayton Mortensen
Might be kept just so Sox brass don’t have to admit they traded their starting shortstop for a minor league middle reliever.
Jesse Carlson
Former NH Fisher Cat makes him a personal favorite.  Can actually be a serviceable LOOGY.  But, considering I already have 3 LHP in the Sox pen, I don’t think another LOOGY is necessary.
Scott Atchinson
Also a serviceable option, but signed to a minor league deal.  If he was competing on an even playing field with Miller, Dubront, and Bowden, I bet he makes the team.  That said, he is the only one that doesn’t have to pass waivers, so he starts in Rhode Island.
Ross Ohlendorf
Has a funny name.
Padilla Flotilla
I somehow see him making this team.  More on this below.
If situation 2 is reality, there are a number of options for that final starting spot:
Aaron Cook
The new pitching coach loves him, so that should count for something.  Unfortunately, he can’t pitch.
Carlos Silva
Used to be good.  Unfortunately, he attends the El Guapo school of conditioning.  Rumors he only signed with the Sox for the free chicken and beer and now might be looking to get out of his contract.
Padilla Flotilla
Seems mental.  Completely mental.  But also seems to be the kind of guy that can impress in very small amounts… say, over the course of a spring.  Come the heart of the season, nobody will have any idea what you will get on a day-to-day basis, in a Dice-K kind of way.  He is almost guaranteed to drive me crazy, which is why he is guaranteed to make the team.
My prediction:
The final starting spot goes to Padilla.  Doubront and Miller move to the pen.  Bowden gets cut, doesn’t clear waivers, and starts for some garbage team, such as Houston.

Lee’s Response to come in Part II

Valentine’s Day in Boston

As the resident Red Sox fan here at I95, I feel it is my duty to weigh in on the Bobby V announcement in Boston. That and no one has posted since August and our ad revenue needs to bump up before the holidays.

I’m firmly in the “this is a good thing for the Red Sox clubhouse” camp. Valentine brings with him major league managerial experience (which is important to the owners) and is a self-described Bill James disciple (which is important to GM Ben Cherington and his advisors). But what does he bring to the rabid fanbase that is partially to blame for Terry Francona stepping down, and a number of players to question whether or not playing in Boston is worth the drama.

My take? As fans – we’re in good hands. Valentine not only did a really good job of getting the ’99 Mets to play as a team, but he kept Rickey under control, which is kind of like getting Manny Ramirez to not do steroids for ten minutes. Yes, he called Beckett out this year for taking too long during pitches (which Beckett does)  and yes, he said he was faster than Carl Crawford, but I’m sure it will all be water under the bridge come the spring. [Insert nail biting]
 
What Valentine has done is win. His Mets teams were far less talented (Sorry guys) than the 2011 Sox, he brought the Chiba Lotte Marines their first Japan Series title (which is a big deal), he is LOVED in Japan for harmoniously mixing the American style of training with the fighting spirit that is the hallmark of Japanese baseball (which is an even bigger deal for an American gaijin), he is the Director of Public Safety for the city of Stamford, Connecticut – the man invented the wrap for crying out loud.

Valentine has been criticized for never winning a division title.  Newsflash –  the Red Sox won exactly one AL East title under Terry Francona – arguably the greatest Red Sox manager in the last 75 years – and that was partly due to the fact that the Yankees “only” won 94 games in 2007. Valentine’s Mets won the Wild Card in 1999 and 2000 partly because the NL East was won by a little team from Atlanta led by a starting rotation of Millwood-Glavine-Maddox-Smoltz and had a lineup featuring  NL MVP Larry Jones and NL ROY Rafael Furcal. I know the late-90’s Braves didn’t exactly have the same offensive firepower as the early-2000’s Yankees (insert steroids joke here) but the NL East was the AL East before the AL East was the AL East.  

I think that he has the personality (or ego if you’re so inclined) to be able to go into the clubhouse, lay down the rules and rally this team, all the while deflecting the media spotlight from the players. And after the chicken and beer fiasco, the players could use a little less media spotlight.

Peter Gammons noted that as long as Valentine and Cherington have the opportunity to work together, this partnership will work. HOWEVER – if the Red Sox front office [John Henry/Larry Lucchino] continues to undermine the “baseball people” in the organization by going on talk radio to complain that they were personally opposed to the Crawford signing, and leak information inappropriately – be it about Francona’s pain medication or about hiring a new manager before they tell all of the candidates – it won’t matter who the manager is.

Past Their Prime – Episode 6

A little late in posting this week – mostly because we’re still in shock that Manny retired and that he called to clue us in on what’s important in life. Check out the first segment – Manny must have learned that by reading The Secret.

In addition to the Manny drama, Lee and Jesse butcher the NHL playoffs and talk about the best athletes-turned-politicians ever. Thrilling analysis – we promise.

Welcome to all our new listeners from the Temple University School of Law. We apologize in advance.

Who doesn’t like a $25 gift certificate to an establishment more than 300 miles from your home? Send your sports-related question to us at PastTheirPrime@gmail.com and following us on Twitter at @_PastTheirPrime. All prizes are in the mail – we promise.

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Past Their Prime – Episode 5

We managed to make it through five episodes. Cause for celebration.

This week, Lee and Jesse talk about the most unrealistic finish to a Butler season since Benson became governor. Look it up.

Also, we give our MLB predictions, try to talk Red Sox fans off the ledge and debate which is easier – getting 76ers playoff tickets or hating Spike Lee.

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A Message to Red Sox Nation

Brethren,

The Red Sox will win a game this season. Take a minute to let that sink in. I’ll wait.

The Red Sox will win a game this season. Here’s how I know:

1. One of the Red Sox’s slogans this season is “We Won’t Rest . . . Until You Run Out of K Cards.” If that’s the case, they haven’t been sleeping much lately. However – Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett will not combine for the 196 strikeouts they are now were on pace to record after the first time through the rotation.

2. Kevin Youkilis will not hit .133 this season. He’ll probably end up closer to .313. Same numbers, different order. And he’ll hit home runs. More than two.

3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not the cause of the team’s pitching woes. Let me remind you that despite what his bio on the Toronto Blue Jays website says, John Farrell is no longer the pitching Coach for the Boston Red Sox. He manages the Blue Jays. I’ve seen him doing it on TV. Red Sox pitchers are now working with Curt Young who did wonders in Oakland, but still may need some time to “gel” with his new staff in Boston. I’m not blaming Young, but I’m also not putting the blame on the 14-lettered shoulders of the man they call Salty.

4. Marc O’Scutaro and JD Drew will not be batting a combined .125 in August. In fact, I doubt either of them will be seeing regular at-bats in August. Call it a hunch. Call it intuition. Call it both of these guys have a history of injuries and neither of them are getting any younger.

5. Dice-K will not be the number 5 starter all season. While he is the current owner of the lowest ERA by a starter, he nibbles at the plate more than a picky 8-year old. Alfredo Aceves will be in the rotation mid-year, he will be a legitimate #5 starter and you will love him. Trust me – I live in New York and he can pitch.

6. I love the idea of Dennys Reyes. I love that his nickname is the Big Sweat. I love that he’s the second coming of “El Guapo” Rich Garces. I love that the Red Sox list him at 250 pounds when Bartolo Colon is listed at 265. I don’t love that he’s the only lefty in the bullpen. Felix Doubront may not be the replacement and the same could be said for Okajima, but one of the three will be a reliable lefty come September.

7. Tim Wakefield will win at least one game this season. When all else fails, trot out the 44-year old knuckleballer who has been playing professional baseball (1989 Single-A Welland Pirates) longer than Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias (January 5, 1990) has been alive. It’s bound to work.

So step back off the ledge, stop calling your local sports talk station to yell about Theo and Tito and above all else, keep calm.

Unless the Red Sox are swept by the Yankees this weekend. Then you can start to worry.

Dr. Tagg Says Relax: They’ve Played 3 Games!

Let the overreaction begin!  The O’s are undefeated and the Red Sox are winless.  THE END OF THE WORLD HAS COME!  Let’s psychoanalyze this thing shall we…

The Red Sox Are Doomed? STOP IT!

So Red Sox fans are bumming today after the Texas Rangers swept them in a three-game series in Arlington.  All the nay-sayers are coming out of the woodworks, dooming Boston’s hopes with 159 regular season games remaining.  Nevermind that Texas is the defending American League champions with a terrific offense.  Was it surprise to anyone that Boston’s pitching was lackluster?

The Red Sox rotation is full of question marks but I suspect they will begin to put the pieces together as the season progresses.  All their pitchers are capable of having productive seasons.  I am not so quick to write off Lackey, Beckett and the rest.  Once the offense begins to click and the pitching improves, watch out for the Sox.

And Craw Crawford, who is a grinder and a member of the Potomac Gnats (my fantasy team), will be back.  He is pressing at the moment.  Francona recognized that and put him seventh in the lineup.  He went 2-4 yesterday with an RBI.  Relax, he’s on a new team.  Give him a few games to adjust.

The Orioles Are Going to Knock Off the Yankees & Red Sox, or BOTH? NO THEY WON’T.

Baltimore went to Tampa and swept the Rays.  Big deal?  Not really.  The Rays are not what they once were.  I truly believe the Orioles will win more than they lose this year but they won’t sniff 90 wins, meaning they won’t catch either the Bombers or the Sox.  Will they give them fits throughout the year?  Absolutely.  Buck has made it clear that his Birds will be competitive in the East.  The O’s pitching staff will improve while the offense will have inconsistent days.  Baltimore is a .500 team which beat a .500 team this past weekend.  I’m thrilled for the O’s.  A return to past glory will be great for the city and for baseball in general.  It just isn’t happening in 2011.

The New York Mets are 2-1 and they won their first road series right away. Maybe they are better than we thought? NOT LIKELY.

Despite Sunday’s performance of Mets legend R.A. Dickey, the Mets showed their true colors twice this past weekend.  Mike Pelfrey pitched like complete crap for an “ace” and Frankie Rodriguez blew a save in his first opportunity (yeah, he hasn’t pitched in a regular season game since August but isn’t that what a closer gets up for).  Looks like the Mets to me.  And in that last game, don’t give the Amazins too much credit.  Javy is on his last legs as a reliable starting pitcher, if he has any legs arm to speak of.  Besides, Florida Miami committed three errors, leading to three unearned runs.

Pelfrey revealed that his rotator cuff was all kinds of wrong last season.  That makes me very concerned about 2011.  If Pelfrey’s ERA hovers over four and the rest of the rotation does what I expect, then the Mets will go nowhere as I predicted.  Additionally, the Mets have all kinds of fiscal decisions to make when the trade deadline approaches.  We all know Reyes is gone, Beltran will probably be injured, who knows about Bay and Wright will be streaking along and alone.  Does that sound promising?  This little promising start will crash and burn eventually.

2011 Pre-Season All I-95 Teams

The start of a new season brings excitement, unlimited possibilities, and the opportunity to make some wild predictions with minimal accountability. In the spirit of the new season, I present the Inaugural Pre-Season All I-95 Team:

Position American League National League
Catcher Matt Weiters – BAL Brian McCann – ATL
First Base Adrian Gonzalez – BOS Ryan Howard – PHI
Second Base Robinson Cano – NYY Dan Uggla – ATL
Third Base Evan Longoria – TAM David Wright – NYM
Shortstop Derek Jeter – NYY Hanley Ramirez -FLA
Left Field Carl Crawford – BOS Jason Bay – NYM
Center Field BJ Upton – TAM Shane Victorino – PHI
Right Field Jose Bautista – TOR Jason Werth – WAS
Designated Hitter David Ortiz – BOS n/a
Starting Pitcher Jon Lester – BOS Roy Halladay – PHI
Relief Pitcher Mariano Rivera – NYY Francisco Rodriguez – NYM

Red Sox Reign: 2011 MLB Predictions SUPERList

It’s been four years since the Red Sox added a world championship banner along Yawkey Way.  Well, they will not need to wait any longer.  I predict that the Boston Red Sox will win their eighth World Series title in 2011, honoring the 100th season of baseball at Fenway Park.

2011 MLB Regular Season Division Predictions

NL East: Atlanta and Philadelphia will battle it out for a majority of the season.  The crucial series between these two clubs will be the last series in Atlanta.  It may well decide the East.  I anticipate a decent showing from Florida Marlins.  I fully expect the Nationals to raise their stature but fall short of .500.  The Mets: don’t trust them.  The Braves take the Wild Card because Philly wins the season series.

NL Central: The Reds will be the class of this division.  St. Louis and Milwaukee will keep Cincinnati honest but won’t play a factor late in the season.  The Cubs and improved Astros will win around 75 games.  Meanwhile, the lowly Pirates will lose 100 games… again.

NL West: The World Champion Giants will fend off Colorado, who will fall a game short of the postseason.  The Giants and Rockies will pull away late, leaving the Dodgers behind.  San Diego and Arizona will bring up the rear.

AL East: The Red Sox will prevail over the Yankees, taking two of three at the Stadium in late September.  The Orioles will surprise everyone by posting a winning record – barely.  The Rays and Jays will take a huge steps backward as intradivision games against Baltimore, Boston and New York will not go there way.  The Bombers will get the wild card berth.

AL Central: Chicago will have one autumn success as the White Sox win the Central Division.  Minnesota and Detroit will both hold first place at points in the season while the Sox explode after the All-Star Break.  Everything settles down, the Tigers fade and the Twins can’t quite win enough.  Cleveland and Kansas City are the cellar-dwellers.  The Royals lose 100 games.

AL West: The team’s in this division will beat the hell out of one another.  Texas, Oakland and Los Angeles Anaheim will end up in a virtual tie toward the end of September.  The Rangers will eek out a division title with a mere 86 wins.  Seattle will enjoy the pain of 100 loses.

Interleague Play: AL 130NL 122

All-Star Game: AL 4NL 1

Awards:

Award National League American League
MVP Albert Pujols, STL Josh Hamilton, TEX
Cy Young Tim Lincecum, SF C.C. Sabathia, NYY
Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel, ATL Jeremy Hellickson, TB
Manager of the Year Fredi Gonzalez, ATL Buck Showalter, BAL

2011 MLB Postseason Predictions

ALDS: Red Sox over Rangers; Yankees over White Sox

NLDS: Giants over Braves; Phillies over Reds

ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees

NLCS: Phillies over Giants

World Series: Red Sox over Phillies in 7 at Fenway Park. MVP – SP Jon Lester, BOS

2011 Major League Baseball Predicted Standings:

National League 122-130 IL
American League 130-122 IL
East W – L East W – L
Phillies 93 – 69 Red Sox 100 – 62
Braves* 93 – 69 Yankees* 97 – 65
Marlins 83 – 79 Orioles 82 – 80
Nationals 76 – 86 Rays 79 – 83
Mets 74 – 88 Blue Jays 72 – 90
Central W – L Central W – L
Reds 90 – 72 White Sox 91 – 71
Cardinals 83 – 79 Twins 89 – 73
Brewers 82 – 80 Tigers 84 – 78
Cubs 78 – 84 Indians 67 – 95
Astros 73 – 89 Royals 62 – 100
Pirates 59 – 103
West W – L West W – L
Giants 95 – 67 Rangers 86 – 76
Rockies 92 – 70 Athletics 85 – 77
Dodgers 83 – 79 Angels 83 – 79
Padres 72 – 90 Mariners 61 – 101
Diamondbacks 66 – 96

Past Their Prime – Episode 4

This week Jesse and Lee discuss the Final Four that only an Uncool Dad from New Jersey saw coming and college basketball coaching jobs for those of us under 35.

We also get an East Coast baseball preview, Lee tips his hand about parenting and Jesse comes clean about his addiction to the Grandaddy of Them All – Wrestlemania!

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The Buck Stops Here!

Kudos to Orioles Manager Buck Showalter for taking shots (albeit cheap shots) at division rivals Yankees and Red Sox. Buck was brought into to change the culture of an organization that hasn’t been competitive in over a decade, often finding themselves in last place, well behind the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and even Blue Jays. Buck wants his team to know, to believe, that they not only can compete with these teams, but that they also can win. In a locker room filled with young and promising players, instilling confidence is a managers top priority.

Buck didn’t back down when asked about the Red Sox and their huge splash in the off-season, signing Carl Crawford and trading for Adrian Gonzalez: “You got Carl Crawford ’cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their butt. It’s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?’ “. Read between the lines and this is the message he is sending to his team: “I don’t care who we are playing, what their payroll may be, or the players on their team….I expect to win”.

Teams often talk of “bulletin board material” and how it motivates them to perform at an even higher level. I can understand this concept in a physical game, such as football, but I don’t put much stock in it for baseball. Will Jon Lester be able to throw any harder against the O’s to show up Showalter? Will A-Rod hit a longer homerun against them because Buck’s comments about Jeter (“Well, he’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets — and yes, he pisses me off.”)? The short answer is no. Bucks comments will do more good for his young team than it will do harm, so a week before opening day, I applaud him for lighting that fire.

I wonder if this line will make it into another speech of his this summer:

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