Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hot Stove Heating Up-Time for Red Sox to Cook Up a Deal or Two?

Yesterday brought reports of two more free agent signings, including the first big free agent deal of the hot stove season: Braves catcher Brian McCann to the Yankees for around 5 years 85 M ( including an option year which could bring the deal to over 100M).  Late Saturday St. Louis reached agreement with Tigers SS Johnny Peralta for 4 years/52M.  These moves follow the trades from earlier this week of Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler and the Angels sending OF Peter Bourjos to the Cards for 3B David Freese.  Other free agent signings that effected the Sox ( as do all of the moves listed above) at least indirectly were pitchers Jason Vargas to KC, Tim Hudson going to the Giants, and in a move that very directly effected Boston, the Phillies re-signed their free agent catcher Carlos Ruiz.

So where do the Red Sox fit in here and when do they jump in?  Let's go around the diamond to exam where the Sox stand at this moment, two weeks before the winter meetings.

Catcher-  We will start here because the moves made by other teams so far have caused the most issues for Boston.  Brian McCann was reported to be the Sox top target by many accounts to replace their own free agent catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  But it was also rumored that McCann would get a deal between 75 to 100M for at least five years, which he did.  I never felt the Sox would or should invest in a contract of five years for McCann.  Yes for about six years McCann has averaged 20 or so homers a year and considered a defensive upgrade over Salty.  But for the last two seasons McCann and Salty have almost identical numbers for home runs, RBI, BA, OBP, and OPS.  McCann has thrown out runners at a 24% clip, Salty around 20%.  For the huge money thrown at McCann, I felt it made more sense to re-up Salty.

But I think the catcher the Sox really wanted was Carlos Ruiz, now off the market.  Ruiz fit the free agent profile the Sox followed last winter: coming off a down year, but with strong seasons before,  and a strong clubhouse presence.  Plus, I think the Red Sox felt Ruiz could be had for two years, maybe for around 20M. The two years are important because the Red Sox seem to be building a bridge at catcher to last year's Sea Dogs catcher Christian Vazquez and/or next year's Portland receiver, Blake Swihart.

So without Ruiz as an option, now what?  First is there a reasonable chance that Saltalamacchia returns? And can they get Salty to sign for only three years?  With the inking of both Ruiz and McCann, there is no doubt Salty is the next best catcher left on the free agent market.  Which is why I ask if the Sox can get Salty to bite on a three year offer, because there is no way in the world, he takes less than three after Ruiz got three and McCann five.  In addition, the Red Sox chose not to make the 14.1M qualifying offer on Salty. making his services even more appealing to other teams.  My guess the Sox may get Salty to take three years, but it would take around 36M total to get it done. At this point, I would peg the odds on a Salty Dog reprise at about 25% because several other clubs ( Texas, Jays, Rays, Twins, Angels, and maybe more) are also looking for catching.

Besides Salty, the other remaining FA catchers are AJ Pierzynski and Dionner Navarro.  neither does much for me, but the Sox have shown at least a modicum of interest, and either would make an okay platoon partner for David Ross.  If Salty leaves my guess would be, Ben Cherington trades for a Ross partner.  The name heard overwhelmingly in Reds C Ryan Hanigan.  Hanigan is available and is a strong defensive catcher with 40% rate of throwing out runners for his career.  Hanigan is basically another David Ross, although about 6 years younger. His career OBP is .359, but that is the end of his offensive skills, he has no power at all, hitting few homers or doubles.  He would fit the desire not to block the young catchers.  If it is Hanigan the Sox MUST beef up the offense elsewhere.

First Base-  This spot is still up in the air until the free agency of Mike Napoli is decided.  This week's Fielder-Kinsler deal greatly impacted Napoli, as Texas was considered Boston's strongest competitor for Nap.  The Rangers, Napoi's old team, may even have been the favorite.  At least three other teams have been mentioned as interested in Napoli: Rockies, Mariners, and Mets.  And there is a slight chance Texas is still interested as they are in the market for one more bat.  But the Sox have to be seen as the favorite, all that may need to be decided is if the Sox can get Napoli to accept a two year ( or two plus an option) deal or will they give in and sign Mike for around 3 years for between 39 to 45M.

If by some chance Napoli leaves, the Sox have internal options. In order they are Mike Carp, Daniel Nava, and Will Middlebrooks.  After hitting 9 HRs and and OPS of .905 in only 205 ABs, Carp is a hot commodity when other clubs call the Sox talking trade.  The moving of Nava or Middlebrooks to first would be intertwined with other dealings involving their old positions.

If the Sox turn to external replacements for Napoli, there are two most often mentioned.  First is free agent 1B/OF Corey Hart from Milwaukee.  Hart hit 30 homers with 83 RI in 2012, but missed all of 2013 after surgery on both knees. He is apparently looking for a one year deal to revive his career.  One trade possibility, according to Peter Gammons and others, is the Giants Pablo Sandoval, who is a free agent a year from now.

Most likely Mike Napoli is the 2014 first sacker for Boston.

Second base-  Nothing to see here.  After having surgery to repair his thumb, Dustin Pedroia will hopefully come back in 2014 with a even better offensive season to go along with his Gold Glove defense.

Shortstop/Third base-  These positions are connected due to the ability of Xander Bogaerts to play either.  And it is almost a certainty Xander will be in the 2014 Opening Day lineup at one position or the other, depending on the landing place of free agent Stephen Drew.  A number of observers feel the Sox would very much like Drew back at their price, which would put Xander at third and Will Middlebrooks in limbo.  If Drew leaves Bogaerts and Middlebrooks are the SS/3B combo.

Both free agent signings of yesterday effect the Drew situation.  Many people ( me included) felt St. Louis would be the team to sign Drew.  The only reason I can think of for the Cards taking Peralta instead is the QO draft pick loss attached to Drew.  This may limit Drew's market to the point where Boston will have the best offer on the table for him.  The Pirates are still one team I would expect to show interest.  But the McCann deal also could impact the Drew market.  The Yankees have been heavily rumored to have interest in Drew.  In fact, they offered him more money than Boston last winter, but Drew took the team with more likely playing time in Boston.  The Yanks still want him as Jeter insurance or maybe even as a third base option.  The reason McCann's signing matters is the Yankees now have all ready given up their first round pick.  If they sign Drew they would only lose their second round pick.  Watch this situation.

I think the chances of Drew retuning are about 33%, and it is likely Bogaerts and Willie Middle man the left side of the infield.  The only other possible action here this winter would be even if Drew goes, the Sox acquire a veteran third sacker, like Aramis Ramirez and include Middlebrooks in a bigger deal. But I think the kids will be at short and third.

Left Field-  The most likely scenario here is another season of platooning Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes.  Although, like Carp, Ben Cherington is getting tons of calls asking about trading Nava.  Free agent Carlos Beltran name is high on the Sox wish list reportedly, and at his age could not be expected to handle right field at Fenway, if he signs, Beltran would have to play left.  He is looking for maybe three or four years, and at his age, Boston would not go there, plus loss of draft pick is tied to Beltran.  The most likely reason the Sox would need to a make a big change here would be to offset loss of offensive due the loss of all ( or most) of their free agents.  One other free agent mentioned on occasion for LF is Curtis Granderson ( again with loss of draft pick), would the Sox go there??

If the Sox feel a need to trade for more offense here is there a chance to deal with Oakland? The A's have a history of dealing players ( usually pitchers) unexpectedly.  Could Boston acquire Coco Crisp or even Yoenis Cespedes for a package of kids?

Center Field-  Still feels like Jacoby Ellsbury is leaving town for a huge payday some where else.  Reportedly the Red Sox are still interested and might go for something like 5 years 90M. Might.  Agent Scott Boras is looking for Carl Crawford type deal of 7 years 142M or so.  Still seems to me Jackie Bradley, Jr. is the 2014 center fielder.  Despite JBJr's struggles in April in the bigs, he put up a solid AAA year, with his typical plus-plus defense and a OBP around .370.

A real plus for the Sox is having Bradley and Bogaerts at major league minimum salary ready to step in for Ellsbury  and Drew.  This could potentially allow the Sox to swing a big money deal for another player. One example of this type of player is Matt Kemp. In recent days reports have surfaced ( mostly by Nick Cafardo, so take it for what it is worth) LA and the Sox have discussed Kemp.  He has 7 years and 126M left on his deal, so the Dodgers would need to eat a significant chunk to make a deal happen. More concerning than his money is his injury history of the last two years.  Kemp is only 29, but will his injuries derail the rest of his career?  Kemp could be an option to boost the offense, but he would be a risky one.

Right Field- Two things to mention here.  First since Shane Victorino had been a center fielder until 2013, everyone assumes Vic is a candidate to replace Ellsbury is center.  But Victorino put up a Gold Glove season covering the rugged terrain of Fenway's right field.  With the presence of Bradley, Jr. for center, the Sox seem better served to leave Shane in right.  Unless.....
Secondly, will/can the Red Sox convince Miami to trade 24 year old right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.  First off a deal breaker would be having to include Xander Bogaerts.  The whole idea of the a trade would be to team Xander and Stanton in 3/4 holes of the Sox lineup for a decade or so to come.  But the price would be very steep, some speculation is along the lines of Felix Doubront, Middlebrooks, maybe Bradley, one of the AAA pitchers ( Webster, Ranaudo, Barnes) maybe even Henry Owens and Mookie Betts.  One of Vazquez or Swihart maybe instead of Bradley or Betts.  You get the idea, 5 or 6 of all the top prospects except Bogaerts.  Would it be worth it?  Probably.

DH-  David Ortiz.  The only thing to maybe see here is this week word came out that Papi is hinting he would like an extension this winter.  Supposedly as part of last winter's two year deal, the sides agreed not to revisit until this deal was over next winter.  Expect to hear more on this.

Bullpen-  With a likely desire to move Brandon Workman back to starting ( at Boston or AAA), the Sox could use another arm or two.   One is hopefully a returning Andrew Miller, and the Red Sox may have obtained another this week.  The picked up Burke Badenhop, a 30 year old righty from the Brewers.  The former Ray is known for throwing lots of ground balls and walking very few batters.

Rotation-  The main question here is do the Sox keep all six veteran starters as John Farrell implied at a post World Series presser.  Two reasons that I feel they trade at least one of them.  First, I know the old saying you can never have enough pitching, but they do have six not five plus Brandon Workman and Franklin Morales.   In addition to about 6 or 7 starters ready for Pawtucket.  At some point they have to make room for one or two of the kids..Workman, Ranaudo, Webster, Barnes, De La Rosa, even Henry Owens.

The other reason, and going all the way back to the beginning of this post this is why the Jason Vargas signing matters to Boston,  you can get valuable pieces for pitchers.  If Vargas is worth 32M, Ryan Dempster at 13M or Jake Peavy at 14.5M for next year are going to have a viable trade market.  As would John Lackey since he is due to pitch for minimum wage in 2015.  And as I mentioned in regards to Stanton above, even one of the other starters could go in a blockbuster.

So even though none of Boston's free agents have signed anywhere, nor have the Sox pulled off a trade of note yet the hot stove is lit and in the next two weeks leading up to the winter meetings, you can expect the Sox to join the fun.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

RSM Red Sox Top 20 Prospects--Post Season Edition

Back in August we planned on rating ( as we do each month during the season) the Red Sox prospects after the completion of the minor league seasons in early September.  Here it is November, and due to the extra attention garnered by the big club in September and October, we had not yet published the list. But here it is an expanded version of our usual Top 12.  These are the Top 20 kids in the Sox system as of the end of the 2013 season. It is a deep list representing the deep, strong system the Red Sox have assembled.  Of course, this will not happen, but every name on this Top 20 has a reasonable to definite chance of helping the Red Sox from all ready ( Bogaerts, Workman) to 4 or 5 years from now.

The stat slash lines used are for batters: HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS.  For pitchers it is W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.  The team listed after each player is where they finished the season.  Here are the top Red Sox prospects:

1. Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B- Boston.  After watching Bogaerts start every game of this year's World Series at third for Boston, everyone has seen the future.  After beginning the season at Portland, Xander was promoted to AAA in mid June.  His combined line was 15/67/.297/.388/865.  In the post season for Boston, Bogaerts hit .296 with three doubles and a triple among his eight hits, while scoring nine runs.  The only question for Bogarts to start 2014 is will he be the starting shortstop or the third baseman.  There are prospects, then there are prospects like Xander Bogaerts.

2. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF- Boston.  With free agent Jacoby Ellsbury 99.9% out the door, it is a very real possibility that Bradley, Jr. is the starting center fielder for the 2014 Red Sox.  And a fierce debate is underway in Red Sox Nation whether Jackie is ready.  Those who say no seem to be basing their opinion on his failure to hit in April, when he earned the chance to begin 2013 with Boston. However, if you take a look at his 2013 season at Pawtucket ( in and around his four stops in Boston), he continued putting up very similar numbers as the rest of his career.  10/35/.275/.374/.842 in only 80 games. Two things stand out, as he has throughout his minor league career, Bradley, Jr. put up an outstanding OBP .374. In addition Jackie hit 10 home runs in only those 80 games ( plus two more for Boston).  And as usual, Bradley, Jr. played very outstanding defense in center.  Bradley is not Bogaerts, maybe no other prospect in baseball is, but he will be an outstanding major league center fielder for years to come.

3. Garin Cecchini, 3B- Portland. Cecchini represents the lead man of the next wave of Sox prospects, the ones who have not yet reached AAA or even Boston.  But if not next year, certainly by 2015 this outstanding hitter will arrive.  Like Bradley, Jr. the strongest facet of Cecchini's game is getting on base. In 2013,  Garin payed 63 games at Salem ( A) and 66 for the Sea Dogs at AA. His combined line was 7/61/.322/.443/.915. His OBP at Salem was .469 and .420 at Portland.  His future as a Sox third baseman is intertwined with Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks.  It is not out of the question, Cecchini could be moved to first base or left field.  But his bat will play in the big leagues.

4. Henry Owens, LHP- Portland.  Owens just missed being third on this list. Out of all of the starting pitchers on this list ( and you are about to see several in a row), Owens likely had the most outstanding season in 2013.  His combined line for Salem and Portland was 11-6/2.67/169-68/1.13 while throwing 135 innings.  He led all Red Sox minor leaguers in K's, tied for first in wins, third in ERA and fourth in WHIP.  Near the end of his time in Salem, over a four game stretch, Owens incredibly put up a hitless streak of 19 1/3 innings.  After his promotion to AA, he also hurled five no hit innings in one of his starts.  His ERA and WHIP were actually lower for Portland than Salem.  Because Henry is still only 21 and due to a likely all ready full of prospects 2014 Paw Sox rotation, Owens will likely begin 2014 back in Portland.

5. Brandon Workman, RHP- Boston. Workman, as with Bogaerts, was an integral part of this year's World Championship for Boston. And also as with Xander, Workman began his season at Portland, then onto Pawtucket, before arriving in Boston.  Workman due to innings pitched and service time in Boston,  has lost his rookie status for 2014.  He is still on this list, though, due to the question of his role.  Will he be part of the Boston rotation or bullpen going forward? After pitching well in three starts when he first came up to Boston ( including taking a no hitter into the 7th vs. the playoff bound A's), it certainly seems he is capable of starting at this level.  Workman's 2013 big league results were enough to nudge him up the list ahead of the next three right handers.

6. Matt Barnes, RHP- Portland*.  It was really a tale of two seasons in one for Matt Barnes in 2013. After dominating class A in two stops in 2012, Barnes hit Portland this April and the Eastern League initially hit back. His ERA for April was 8.79.  This horrible start masked somewhat an eventual turnaround. After the All Star break, his ERA was a sterling 2.66. At the end of the year, Barnes was sent up to AAA, and in his only regular season start, Matt pitched 5 1/3 three hit shutout innings, with seven K's. For the year Barnes had 142 strikeouts with only 48 walks, and he led the organization in K per 9 innings with 11.28 ( Henry Owens has 11.27).  Barnes still has the dominant stuff and will go back to Pawtucket for 2014, and could be ready for his first appearance in Boston next year.

7. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP- Pawtucket.  After a dismal injury filled 2012, Ranaudo returned to Portland and blew through the Eastern League to the tune of 8-4/2.95/106-40/1.09.  He pitched in the EL All Star Game and the Futures Game.  After a promotion to Pawtucket, Anthony continued to pitch well going 3-1 with a ERA of 2.97 ( nearly identical to AA). His 2014 season should begin back in AAA as part of a star studded Pawtucket rotation, but like Barnes he could be knocking on Boston's door.

8. Allen Webster,  RHP-Pawtucket* In some quarters, the shine was tarnished somewhat on Webster's rising star due to some rocky spot starts for Boston.  And he continued to have command issues. But after the  yo-yoing between Boston and Pawtucket subsided Webster's performance improved.  In July and August in 46 2/3 innings had an ERA of 2.51 and struck out 49 and best of all walked only 15.  Webster still has the dominant sinking fastball that so awed the Red Sox camp last spring, and is still a mid rotation type prospect. 2014 will be a big year for his future with the Red Sox.

9. Blake Swihart, C- Salem.  Swihart began the year as the youngest player in the Carolina League, and was one of only three of our Top 20 ( excluding '13 draftees) to play for only one team all year.  Swihart was drafted two years ago out of high school with a rep for being an outstanding hitting prospect who may or may not be able to handle the defensive part of catching.  And a hitter he is, at age 21, Swihart was in the Carolina League top ten in BA, OBP, OPS, SA, and triples.  But the best news of all was on the supposed weak part of his game.  Swihart's defense stepped forward by leaps and bounds, he threw out 41% of would be base stealers and in fact was named as Defensive Player of the Year in the entire system by the Red Sox.  He will begin next year at only age 22 at Portland, and Blake along with 2013 Sea Dogs catcher, Christian Vazquez , are reasons the Red Sox should not ( and likely will not) sign any catcher to a long term deal.  If not for all of the strong pitching ahead of him on this list, Swihart could easily be third or fourth on this list.

10. Mookie Betts, 2B- Salem. This 2011 fifth round draft pick, was the one player this year who exploded up our list.  His year began at low A Greenville and after a brief slow start, Mookie began to rake and hit with power and he did not stop for the rest of the year, even after a promotion to high A Salem.  His combined line was 15/65/.314/.417 ( .418 at G'ville and .414 at Salem)/.923.  Betts led the entire system in Slugging % at .506.  He is an outstanding defender at second ( after being moved from SS while at Lowell earlier in his career), but of course second base is occupied in Boston for years to come.  There is some speculation that eventually Mookie could be moved to the outfield, if not as a full time outfielder at least to make him a super sub type player.  The presence of Pedroia could also make Betts a part of a trade package this winter, if the Sox attempt to swing a big deal. Portland awaits for 2014 if Betts is not dealt.

11. Christian Vazquez, C- Portland.  After spending nearly all year at AA, Vazquez was promoted to Pawtucket, where he caught for the Paw Sox in the Governor's Cup playoffs.  Vazquez may have the best throwing arm for a catcher in all of baseball.  His arm is compared to the Molina brothers ( who Vazquez works out with in the off season) and by some with Pudge Rodriguez.  His question has always been can he hit enough to play in the big leagues. This year showed some definite promise, he was streaky as he had a couple of extended hot stretches and some slumps but his overall line was 5/48/.287/.375/.766.  If Vazquez can put numbers remotely resembling those, he will have a long and productive big league career. 2014 should start at Pawtucket, and his chance to play in Boston will largely be determined by the off season maneuvering by Ben Cherington and his plan for behind the plate in Boston.

12. Trey Ball, LHP- GCL.  This rating is strictly on the basis of Ball being the number seven overall pick in the 2013 draft.  The Sox had not picked that high in 20 years, and the Indiana high schooler is labelled a can't miss power lefty by all the scouts.  After signing, Ball pitched only 7 innings, so 2014 will be the real start of his career in the Red Sox system. 

13. Rubby De La Rosa, RHP- Boston. Rubby, due to his big league time with the Dodgers and Red Sox,  is no longer rated on some prospect lists, but since he did not establish himself with the Red Sox in '13, we are including him.  He has slipped from his mid top ten ranking of earlier this year.  That reason is it is becoming more apparent that De La Rosa's role in Boston will be in the bullpen.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, Rubby could figure in a big way in the 2014 bullpen, maybe he is even the heir apparent to Koji.  He like former ex-Dodger farmhand, Allen Webster, needs to throw more strikes. Depending on off season moves for any other bullpen arms, Rubby very well starts 2014 in Boston's pen.

14. Deven Marrero, SS- Portland.  2012's first round pick is quickly working his way up the Red Sox ladder, finishing the year at AA Portland after spending most of his year at Salem.  His offense is somewhat suspect hitting .252 with 2 home runs for the year.  But defense is Marrero's forte, and now that Jose Iglesias has been traded, Deven is next up on the shortstop depth chart for prospects, if Xander Bogaerts does not claim the job and ends up at third base.  Deven will begin 2014 at Portland.

15. Manuel Margot, CF- Lowell. This 19 year old completed his first minor league season stateside.  At Lowell his line was 1/21/.265/.341/.687, but these numbers do not tell his story. Margot is blazing fast and a " plus-plus defender".  His offense is still a projection at this point but when he fills out his power is expected to improve and also projects as a likely lead off hitter.  He could be the next international signee who tears up the system ( a la Bogaerts).  2014 likely begins at Grenville.

16. Bryce Brentz. OF- Pawtucket. Brentz is above ten spots further down this list than a year ago.  Partially this is due to the plethora of prospects above who have passed him, not of his own doing.  But also, Brentz missed nearly all of spring training after accidentally shooting his own leg.  And he also missed a large part of the season due to another injury.  But in only 88 games Brentz still had 19 home runs ( tied with David Chester for the organization lead) and 64 RBI.  Brentz has big time right handed power, and for whatever reason(s) that is in short supply throughout the big leagues.  Due to this fact, Brentz will get a chance to play big league ball, and if he stays healthy that will likely be in 2014.

17. Drake Britton. LHP- Boston.  Like Bogaerts and Workman, Britton played for Portland and Pawtucket before moving up to Boston to help with the title drive.  Unlike the other two, Britton was not on the post season roster.  But his regular season appearances, all out of the Boston bullpen, seemingly has cemented his future as a power lefty out of the pen.  2014 may begin at Pawtucket or Boston, but it will be pitching relief.

18. Brian Johnson, LHP- Salem. Boston's second first round pick in 2012, put together a good year despite fighting some injuries.  His line for Greenville and Salem ( and a GCL rehab stint) was 2-6/2.54/84-25/1.12 in 85 innings pitched.  He may return to Salem to begin 2014, but a trip to Portland will come during the year if not at the start of the year.

19. Jon Denney, C- GCL  Power hitting high school catcher from Oklahoma.  2013 third round pick, who fell from the first round due to signability issues.   Like Trey Ball, 2014, when Denney likely begins at Greenville, will begin to showcase his pro talent.

20. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP- Lowell.  Another 2013 draftee ( 2nd round).  Stankiewicz with one year of JUCO ball under his belt was assigned to Lowell rather than GCL.  The 2011 Mets second round choice put up a line of 0-0/2.29/15-2/0.97  in 19 2/ 3 innings as a 19 year old.  He almost certainly will begin 2014 at Greenville.

Later this winter, after the winter meetings and other off season wheeling and dealing, we will bring you the remainder of the top 50 Red Sox prospects.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox

Two or three days have passed since the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in Game Six  at Fenway Park 6-1.  The Sox are now World Series winners for the third time in ten years.  For you Red Sox fans of a certain age or older just let that sink in.  Three World Championships in just ten years.  A different generation of Sox fans are living in this era.  As the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley tweeted the other night,  First graders around New England have now seen the Red Sox win a World Series, their years of suffering are over."

A few thoughts about Game Seven and then the World Series as a whole.

Game Seven:

It could not have been more fitting to have John Lackey on the mound and pitching so well to get the win in the clinching game.  His personal journey through the last two years as well as his relationship with Red Sox Nation mirrors almost perfectly that of the franchise itself.  An up and down 2011, crashing at the end, missing the entire 2012 season ( Lackey with Tommy John surgery, the team seeming missed the whole season due to disinterest and chaos), and finally arriving in 2013 with a rebuilt body, attitude, and performance.

The recipe to beat rookie sensation Michael Wacha ( who really was the only potential factor in St. Louis' favor going into Game Six) seem to be getting some early runs. And after Wacha loaded the bases on a couple of walks and hitting Jonny Gomes with a pitch ( the only batter Wacha hit all year), Shane Victorino nearly duplicating his ALCS winning grand slam, smashed a 2-0 offering high off the Green Monster to score three, the third on a great slide home by Gomes.  Despite St. Louis having runners on in nearly every inning ( especially a hairy 7th with a run in and three on when the inning ended.), this Victorino blast essentially ended the game and the series.

The next inning Stephen Drew finally snapped his post season long slump, with a long home run into the Sox bullpen.  In the same inning, Jacoby Ellsbury just missed a home run with a long blast to the base of the wall in right.  This shot was likely a good bye from free agent to be Jacoby.

St. Louis finally decided pitching to David Ortiz ( .733 BA, coming in) was a bad idea and walked him three times.  And how did that work? Papi came around to score 2 of the 6 runs Boston scored.

As mentioned above St. Louis put on one final furious, two out rally attempt in the 7th, but Junichi Tazawa got the last out to hold the Cards to one run.  Then, rookie Brandon Workman pitched a crucial 1-2-3 8th inning, ending any chance for the Cards to comeback.  Because they were not gonna score five runs in the ninth ( or any runs, likely) off Koji Uehara.  And just as fitting as John Lackey being the starting and winning pitcher, was the fact this season ended as champions with Koji striking out Matt Carpenter ( who led the NL in hits this year).

The literally loud buzz of the crowd at Fenway all night long could be heard seeping through each and every TV set in New England and beyond.  The game itself and the wonderful trophy presentation on the field was everything anyone in New England could have imagined for the last 95 years. (although the low hanging smoke from the fireworks going off behind the centerfield wall created a surreal effect and led me to wonder if someone had accidentally set fire to the grand ol' lady of a ballpark!!).

Some random musings about the World Series 2013:

*Nearing the end of the regular season, all were in agreement this team's achilles heel could be ( would be?) the bullpen getting to Koji Uhara. The cast of characters seemed to be Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and Brandon Workman.  Would the Sox supplement there usual 6/7/8th inning guys with Ryan Dempster? Franklin Morales? Someone else?  Basically no additional help was needed(except maybe for a shutout 8th inning World Series Game Four appearance by John Lackey).  These were the numbers for Taz, Workman, and Breslow for the World Series and postseason as a whole:

Tazawa  WS: 5 G 2.1 IP  ERA 0.00
               PS  13 G 7.1 IP ERA 1.23

Workman WS 3G 3.1 IP  ERA 0.00
                  PS 7G             ERA 0.00

Breslow   PS 10G 7.1 IP   ERA 2.45( Craig sort of crashed and burned in the WS, but the Sox may not get there without his ALDS and ALCS efforts).

The bullpen as a whole had a 1.28 ERA for the entire post season ( including Koji).

And the other help in getting to Koji came from the Sox starters in the World Series.  Jon Lester and John Lackey pitched 2 starts each deep into the game saving the bullpen.  And in the two shorter starts
( by Buchholz and Peavy) in each game starter Felix Doubront came in, in back to back games, pitching great ball to get the game to late inning relievers ( Doubront's World Series ERA was 1.93).

*The starting pitching as alluded to above was also great in the entire Series.  Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz each went only 4 innings but they were important innings, especially Clay's effort in Game Four when the Sox were down 2 games to 1.  John Lackey out pitched Michael Wacha twice, finally getting the win in Game Six.  Jon Lester was historically good and by winning Game Five, he all but sealed the Cards fate going back to Boston.

By historically good I mean these two things. First Lester has moved into third place all time in post season ERA for a starting pitcher with ten starts or more.  And the first two are Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Waite Hoyt.  Also, Lester pitched 7 2/3 innings in each start this Series and allowed no runs in Game One and only one in Game Five, winning both games.  The last pitcher to have two starts of 7 2/3 or more innings and allow one run total and be the winning pitcher in both games was Bret Saberhagen in 1985!  Before Saberhagen, you could go back to 1968 and 1967, when Bob Gibson sort of did it both years. Gibby had two complete game wins allowing one run total, but then each year went on to pitch Game Seven.  In 1968 he allowed 4 to Detroit in a loss, the year before he allowed only 2 runs to Boston in a Game Seven victory.  Before Gibson, you have to go back to the Yankees' Whitey Ford who had two complete game shutout victories vs. Pittsburgh in 1960 ( but the Yanks lost this WS 4 games to 3).

*Strong defense goes hand in hand with great pitching, and despite a few uncharacteristic errors by Boston ( if they only had not thrown the ball to third from the home plate area!!), the defense overall ranged from solid to superb.  The superb was mostly the middle infield combo of Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew. John Farrell was proven correct in sticking with Dirt ( Drew's nickname since he was a teen, apparently JD's kids even call him Uncle Dirt) at short.  And lost in the obstruction call was the initial play in which Pedroia makes a nearly impossible pick of a wicked smash as he played in and threw out the runner at home.

* David Ortiz.  Of course he won the MVP with .688 BA the highest all time for a player with as many at bats as Papi had in the WS ( Billy Hatcher holds the record of .750, but in only 12 ABs.)  But I will remember two things about Papi in this World Series.  First he played half of the series, three games, at first base and did so flawlessly.  And most importantly the impromptu team meeting he called in the dugout mid way through Game Four.  Down 2 to 1 in games and trailing in Game Four, the Sox responded to Papi, Gomes crushed a three run jack, and Sox never looked back.  Ortiz became the first non Yankee to be on three WS champions for the same team in 30 years,( Jim Palmer, Baltimore 66-70-83).

* Xander Bogaerts although not the most outstanding player in the series, acquitted himself extremely well, and was in the middle of several rallies.  He was all ready on course to be a great player, likely even a superstar.  This experience can only heighten his abilities.

*In case I have not mentioned this before, Shane Victorino is the toughest son of a bitch ever to play for the Boston Red Sox.

* Also this year I have mentioned a number of times, the fact this Red Sox team never lost four games in a row, and other than a bad 12 days in May, only lost three in a row twice.  This turned out not to be some fluke but maybe the most illuminating sign of the character and talent of this team.  Whenever things started to look like trouble was brewing, they would win the next several games, never having that losing streak.  The most vivid example of all happened in the World Series at the end of Game Three with the infamous game ending obstruction play.  It was the second loss in a row to the Cards and they were down 2 games to 1. The next two games were in St. Louis and things were beginning to look bleak.  But to lose the next game would be three in a row.....this team basically does not lose three in a row.  Instead after the horrific game ending obstruction call.....THE RED SOX NEVER LOST ANOTHER GAME.  This my friends was the epitome of the 2013 Boston Red Sox.  The 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox.

Thanks to the Sox for a wonderful year and one helluva ride.  Enjoy it Sox fans.