Dear David Ortiz

Dear David Ortiz,

The game just ended, and your career is over. I don’t think I have been more disappointed since the 1986 World Series.

I was fifteen then. I’m rather older than that now, but I still pictured your swan song through the eyes of a backyard fantasy. I pictured the swing. I pictured the ball in it’s no-doubt-about-it flight deep into the night. I pictured Fenway standing as one as Don Orsillo would say, and screaming themselves hoarse as Don Orsillo would do. I pictured the jog around the bases, the helmet toss, and the hop on home plate.

Heck, I even pictured how I’d write about it—turns out some gods do answer letters.

But as disappointed as I am, I refuse to think of your career in sad terms.  You have brought me more joy than almost anyone else in this life.

I remember when you first arrived. You joined a pretty good team that was looking for a little more from first base—a little help to go from being a good team to a championship team. I remember when you took the job and didn’t let go.

I didn’t like how that season ended, but the next one? Well, 2004 will always be with me and your heroics that year will always remind me what happens when you keep faith not in miracles but in people.

That feels like a lifetime ago and it is in no small part because you took a team that couldn’t ever manage to get over that last hurdle and turned it into a team people hated for winning so much. On your watch, the Sox lost in the playoffs in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2016 and while the last one still stings, the unutterable joy of 2004, 2007, and 2013 will ease that pain.

I already miss you. I miss your smile. I miss your swagger. I miss the way you spoke for my city and my team the way so very few ever could. You leave behind a team that should be very good even without you but I rather suspect I will never stop missing my Big Papi.

Enjoy your retirement. You deserve it.

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Some Random Thoughts About The SuperBowl

I’ll skip past the deflated ball nonsense. Once I heard there was only one ball significantly under the required pressure, it lost all meaning to me.

Winning is more than fun. I wanted this SuperBowl more than any but the first, which makes that win the fourth most excellent win of my life.

The narrative that the Patriots didn’t win the game so much as the Seahawks lost it is annoying, at least in part because it’s so damn stupid.

Pete Carroll did cost the Seahawks the game. Or rather, the difference between Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll is why the Patriots won and the Seahawks lost. It wasn’t the play call, that’s stupid. If they wanted to run four plays—and they did—then they had to pass on one of them and it had to be either second down or third because they didn’t have the time outs to stop the clock.

And there it is.

Why didn’t they have the time outs to stop the clock? Because the team didn’t get to the line of scrimmage quickly enough after the Kearse magical reception and they had to call one there.

Yes, that’s right, a Pete Carroll coached team wasn’t disciplined enough to get to the line of scrimmage quickly after a long pass play and it cost them the time out that dictated the play call.

And, of course, even after the interception, the Patriots had to do something with the ball. Before the Seattle penalty, Brady was standing in the end zone to receive the snap. Sure, he probably could have snuck for a yard or two, or at least gotten out of the end zone to avoid the safety, but it’s not a sure thing.

So the Pats bet that a Pete Carroll coached team would be undisciplined in a big moment on the highest stage the game has. And they won.

But it’s more than Pete Carroll’s deficiencies, it’s that the team had prepared well enough to know what that formation meant. There’s a moment where the coaches recognize the formation and immediately send Butler in. He recognized the formation and knew where the pass was going, so he could get there before the receiver had a chance to catch it.

Because make no mistake, that was a pass play that is successfully completed almost every single time.

Almost.

2013 Red Sox Preview: Infield

The infield for the Sox is, surprise, in a bit of flux.

Dustin Pedroia is clearly one of the cornerstones of the team, both because he consistently produces, and because he’s a vocal mouthpiece. It works because he plays his balls off and produces, and it works because he runs his mouth like nobody’s business.

None of the other spots in the infield are really stable.

Mike Napoli was supposed to provide some stability at a position where the organization doesn’t have a lot of depth but the hip condition pretty much killed that. The impression I get is that he can go along without symptoms for a long time, but someday his hip is simply going to degrade too much, too quickly, for the Sox to make him a long term commitment. If he’s still the Sox first baseman in 2015, it is likely he is on a third one year contract.

That makes finding depth at the position one of the organizations priorities for 2013. The folks in the minors aren’t terribly exciting. If you look at Baseball Americas top 30, you don’t find a first baseman until you get to #23 Travis Shaw who played a month at AA Portland with results that were uninspiring. If either Middlebrooks or Bogaerts own the position, perhaps Garin Cecchini moves over to first, but he hasn’t played above Hi-A Salem and that’s a long ways away.

Xander Bogaerts is really the one driving the action. If he projects to stick at short for several years–and at this point the consensus seems to be that he does–then he’s going to own that position. That leaves Jose Iglesias without a position, almost entirely. It would be incredibly difficult for someone with Iglesias’ hitting history to develop enough ability in that area to make up for the gulf between him and Bogaerts in terms of total package. I rather suspect that Iglesias would make a phenomenal utility infielder. He clearly has the defensive chops at short, and the transition to second probably wouldn’t be particularly difficult. In addition, he seems to have enough speed and base stealing chops to be used in that role off the bench.

Still, for this year, it will be Will Middlebrooks at third, coming off a 2012 where his slugging surged and he cemented his spot on the big club in the short term, he is also coming off a hand injury. Hand injuries tend to linger so my expectations for him are rather tepid. Still, there are not a lot of immediately available options and he’ll likely be his own best replacement.

At short, Stephen Drew is here on a one year make-good contract, and I don’t think there is a person in baseball who thinks he’s here longer than that. He’s trying to make good from two relatively sub par seasons that his supporters will suggest is due to injury. If they’re right, he’s going to be more than adequate. If they’re wrong, it just hastens the day when we’ll see Iglesias or Bogaerts.

Rays Recap, Rangers Preview

Despite the loss in Game 4 there is no way to look at this series and not be pleased. The Sox beat the snot out of the Rays twice and split two close games. It doesn’t get much better.

And now we have the Rangers, another potential Wild Card rival. Lester pitches against Colby Lewis and Beckett pitches against Derek Holland. The Sox should be favorites in both games. Win them both and the Sox are at .500 after twelve games. I don’t have to tell you that’s four games ahead of 2011.