So that was an uneventful week, eh? Nothing to report from the world of Major League Baseball. I mean, sure, there was that smallish incident on Thursday where the NL MVP won his appeal of a PED suspension. But no one really cared about that, MLB conducted themselves like professionals, and there was only muted and rational reporting of the incident. Case closed, let's move along.
Besides, who the hell cares about the National League? It only exists to provide a sacrificial lamb for the Red Sox to slaughter in four games this October. (I kid, assorted friends who root for NL teams. Mostly.) In Sox news... Well, spring training got under way. No games yet, but the players have reported. Bobby Valentine's running around signing autographs, leading workouts, and tossing cliches at beat reporters. Jacoby Ellsbury is jumping really high.
We're right on the verge of a new season, everyone. And pretty soon, we'll all get to watch as the Red Sox hand the fifth slot in the rotation to Vicente Padilla. Who will swiftly be ordered by a Nicaraguan court to hand over said slot to his children. Who, let's be honest, really couldn't be much worse than John Lackey. It's an exciting time to be a Sox fan.
Let's recap it, shall we?
The week began much as the last one ended: with a farewell to Tim Wakefield. Wake's career holds an important spot in Sox history, and we've all taken different things away from it. Cee Angi brilliantly explained what Wake means to her in a piece on Monday.
The book was closed (kind of) on another longtime Sox fixture on Tuesday. Reports surfaced early that morning that at long last, MLB would hand down a decision on compensation for Theo Epstein. Marc Normandin provided analysis on some Cubs prospects that would make for reasonable compensation. Then it was revealed that the comp player would come from the Cubs' 40-man roster, rather than their larger prospect pool. Damned news cycle. Regardless, after an hour or so of poring over that roster and dreaming of Matt Garza, or even Randy Wells, an announcement! The Cubs would have to give up 26-year-old righty Chris Carpenter. Marc had the rundown on Carpenter, who could wind up Daniel Bard 2.0, or could wind up a righty Andrew Miller. Regardless, no more "Sox are totally gonna get Starlin Castro!" comments. At least until late July.
Hey, speaking of seemingly interminable sagas with disappointing conclusions, how about Roy Oswalt's free agency? Ben Buchanan covered Oswalt as an obvious fit for the Sox roster, and on Thursday, the announcement was made that Roy would make an announcement. And that announcement was: that he'd be keeping his options open in case some team needed a starter later in the season. This led to my wonderful girlfriend coining a new word:
Oswalt, v. To be offered baseball tickets, but reject them in order to watch on TV. We had a spare ticket for Bill, but he decided to Oswalt.
So Roy's not going to be pitching in Boston. C'est la vie. The Sox still have plenty of pitchers, all eager to get starts this season. Matt Kory talked about one of those pitchers, lefty Felix Doubront, whose 2011 season left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Which is saying something for a pitcher in Boston kit last year. In more speculative pitching games, Marc tried to assemble a five-man rotation out of the Sox farm system. Suffice to say the Sox aren't heavy with high-upside arms at present, which makes it all the more reassuring to have two top-flight pitchers under 30 in the rotation now (and maybe a third in Bard).
How do the Sox plan to build up their stash of pitching in the minors? Well, the simplest way is generally through the draft, and Boston has spent the last decade aggressively targeting amateur talent, often spending lavishly to acquire top players. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement may make this more difficult, as Marc covered on Monday. As he points out, Boston, as a big-market team, has more options than most franchises in acquiring talent by other means, but it will bear watching in June how the new CBA affects the Sox' draft strategy.
The Red Sox, as you may have heard, hired a new manager last fall. How will his style differ from that of Terry Francona? From all accounts, Bobby Valentine places more emphasis on discipline and fundamentals, and is a more tactically-minded manager. So there's that. But most of the difference involves pudding. And bowling balls to the knee of Ryan Sweeney. Matt Kory gave us the inside scoop.
One of the bright spots of the 2011 season was the explosion onto the scene of Jacoby Ellsbury, Slayer of Fastballs. Ellsbury had always profiled as a prototypical leadoff hitter, with doubles power and speed to spare on the basepaths. Now that he's shown an ability to rake with the best of them, is leadoff really the ideal spot for him? Marc took a look, and concluded that the team's probably best served keeping Ells up top.
To finish out the week, Matt Sullivan continued his quest to discover the best tools among Sox players. This edition's discussion: Best Offspeed/Breaking Pitch. The community (and writers) differed quite a bit on this, with strong support abounding for Buchholz's change, Beckett's curve, and Bard's slider. Any of them could be the right answer, they're all simply unfair pitches when on. And in less than six weeks, we'll get to see them all in action against hapless AL opponents. Opening Day's getting close, folks. Enjoy the weekend.