White Hat Sports Headlines

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Grading the Sox '09

My sunburn is peeling off and all of my laundry has been done (though it still sits in the dryer, going on 27 hours in there) so that means it's time to grade the Sox.

The most impressive guys:

David Ortiz, the guy just looks like he's locked in. In the second game I saw him play in, he went deep off Francisco Liriano, OPPOSITE FIELD! Granted the wind was blowing out to left and Jason Bay hit one to a place that only Albert Pujols had hit before. The big guy was ripping the ball all over the park. I'll give him an A-, just so he has a little room for improvement.

Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay.

All three look like they are in the middle of June to me. What do all three have in common? They all played in the WBC this year. Maybe it could help these guys early, Pedroia has always said that he slumps at the beginning of seasons, always have and perhaps always will. It will be interesting to watch and see whether or not they will be able to avoid an early season slump. It's just something to keep an eye on starting next week (I had to throw that in there, I can't believe that the season is starting in just 5 days.) These guys are all getting A-.

Side note, Pedroia and Youkilis both looked like themselves, you couldn't even tell that they had an injury of any sort.

Jacoby Ellsbury, he looked pretty good, but I don't really see a lot that would suggest that he's about to break out. He hit the ball hard but he has still grounded out to second 4000 time this spring. It's something that has bothered me about the kid, he can scorch the ball and he can run down a deer, but when you hit the ball to the right side every time, it gets hard to leg out infield hits. I feel like Lou Brown talking to Willie "Mays" Hayes. B

JD Drew, he smoked the ball to all fields in batting practice, looked tough and poised, only played in one of the games that I saw. So the beat goes on. I have to give him in I.

Jason Varitek, might be on steroids. The guy who everybody gave up for dead last season has hit 4 home runs in his last 18 at-bats. Read that again. He is smoking the ball right now and he's doing it from the left side of the plate. Which was his worst side last year by a mile and didn't show signs of improving. Word is that Magadan has been working with him keeping his swing from the left side more quiet and having less movement before he starts his swing. I give the captain an A-

Chip Ambres, yes I'm grading Chip Ambres for giving me the greatest finish to a spring training game I have ever seen. Which is saying something because last year I saw a guy get gunned out at the plate to end a game with the Reds. The Red Sox blew a 7-4 lead in the top of the 9th, fell behind 8-7, tied it up and sent it to extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th inning with two on and two out and Raymond Payne "Chip" Ambres hit a 3-run walk off home run. Reading an update of today's game, he hit another 3-run homer, some how he's still in camp and has no chance of winning a job when camp is broken this weekend, but he's helping win spring training games. Perhaps Theo and Bill James found some numbers that suggested that if you want to win spring training games, you need to have Chip Ambres in the organization. A

Josh Beckett, this guy is looking phenomenal. The questions about his conditioning at the beginning of last year's spring training have not crept up this for the reason he's looking like Josh Beckett circa 2003. I think we're in for a big season for Josh Beckett and I think that the comparison's and friendly rivalry with Jon Lester could do something fantastic for both guys and bring out the best in them. A

Brad Penny, looked good but not great. He looked like he's in better shape than he has been in the last couple of seasons in LA. His velocity looked like it was down from where he has been, but his secondary stuff was fairly sharp as he was getting more swings and misses on his breaking stuff. This is key and wreaks of what John Farrell wants from Penny. He wants Penny to pitch instead of throw like he has the last couple of season. Perhaps he takes a little velocity off his pitches and uses a little less effort, he can stay healthy and still be very productive. I will go with a B- for Penny. But he has a tremendous room for growth.

A few random stories from hanging around spring training.

-Luis Tiant said that he shot an 88 an Doral last week. He seemed serious too.

- Dice, Okajima and Saito look incredibly comfortable with each other and with this team. Penny and Saito were together a lot out in the outfield together during batting practice. This could be something to watch this year and in the future. Boston has started to dominate the Asian market on players and I have no doubt that it has to do with the comfort level of the Asian players in this organization.

- I was having dinner in the Bell Tower section of Fort Myers at Taste of New York. Just before drinks arrive, I look at the group two tables away and notice that it's Takashi Saito and Junichi Tazawa having dinner. This keeps my streak or establishes my streak of seeing ballplayers at restaurants. Last year Joe Mauer, this year Saito and Tazawa. (Saito and Tazawa sounds like a tag team from the WWE that would be managed by Mr. Fuji.

-My final day in Fort Myers I caught a Twins-Cardinals game at Hammond stadium and I have to say I was blown away. It's a terrific ballpark, but not only that the practice fields surround the stadium. It was raining the day of the game so I walked down some steps and got to stand 3 feet away from Justin Morneau and Albert Pujols while they took batting practice. It was incredible the access that the fans had to the players and the Twins players seemed used to it. It was something that you would never really see from the Red Sox. It just really showed me the difference between small market and big market teams. Everything is different.

Sterling Pingree

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