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Boston Red Sox: "Hell Yeah, I Like Beer" Video, Starring the Starting Pitchers

Country music singer Kevin Fowler released a music video for his single “Hell Yeah, I Like Beer” back on July 22.

The entire Red Sox starting rotation makes cameos in the video.

Yup…Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Tim Wakefield—all five of them sing their praises to booze.

Fowler’s video created a little buzz in Red Sox Nation when it was released.

However, it’s really now over two months down the road that Fowler’s video is really gaining press and momentum.

Look here. And here. And here. And here.

“I Like Beer” is getting all of the press it’s getting now, of course, with the infamous and now well documented revelation that all of these guys, save Wakefield, routinely retreated to the clubhouse during games in off days to throw back beers, chow down on fried chicken and play video games.

The irony is terrible and also way too easy. 

How can any Red Sox journalist resist the urge to reference Fowler’s video in any column about the alcohol-aided shortcomings of Boston’s starting pitching?

That Lackey and Beckett get the bulk of the screen time among the pitchers just adds fuel to the fire.

It’s truly all too perfect.

That said, I, and probably many other Sox fans, do think the beer-chicken-video-games story has become more than a bit overblown.

That said, Lackey, Beckett and Lester going lax on their conditioning probably did contribute to their personal and the team’s overall September shortcomings.

Point is, these guys’ clubhouse antics is just too good of a story to pass up.

And any good story needs a good name. 

A buddy and I have decided to forever call this incident “The Curse of the KFC.” 

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Dustin Pedroia: Amid Red Sox’ April Struggles, His Hot Start a Reason to Celebrate

Eleven games into 2011, the Boston Red Sox are 2-9.

They’ve dug themselves a nice little hole to work out of, huh?

Amid the many things that are going wrong for the Red Sox, there are some things that are going right

David Ortiz is having his best spring in years. Adrian Gonzalez has settled in nicely. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are both coming off superb eight-inning efforts.

The brightest spot for this Boston bunch, however, has to be Dustin Pedroia, who is having an excellent start to 2011 after missing more than half the season last year with a broken foot.

Last Thursday the Sox sat at 0-6 after a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss to the Indians. Reporters asked players to speculate about the reception they would get at Fenway the next day in the team’s home opener.

Dusty didn’t mince his thoughts, challenging the team’s fans to stand their ground, while appealing to both their pride and his own:

“We need ’em. We need someone on our side. Carl and Youk and J.D., they were getting yelled at the whole time. It’ll be good to have someone cheering for us for a change. You’re either two feet in now or you’re two feet out. Let us know now, because we’re coming.”

Pedroia walked his talk the next day, giving the Fenway crowd something to cheer about by sparking the Sox to their first win of the season. In what’s becoming a home-opener tradition, Petey swatted a homer over the Monster.

Absolutely nothing had been going Boston’s way prior to last Friday, and Pedroia took the team on his back off the field and then carried them to victory on the field.

The Laser Show mashed all weekend against the Bronx Bombers, going 9-13 with the aforementioned home run, as well as five RBI and four runs.

Pedroia’s good April is timely. If Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury ever figure out how to hit a baseball again, Terry Francona might bat Pedroia three, behind Ellsbury at leadoff and Crawford at two. Through Monday, Pedey’s three doubles and .333 RISP are good indicators that he would excel at the third spot.

It’s also been especially comforting to see Pedroia hit his stride after playing all of two games in 2010 after June 25. His return to form stands in stark contrast to the early season struggles of fellow DL mates Kevin Youkilis and Ellsbury.

The Red Sox certainly missed Pedroia’s bat last season. Of course, his wasn’t Boston’s only major injury; however, he missed more time in 2010 than any other position player besides Ellsbury.

Dustin Pedroia’s hit the ground running in 2011: maybe some of his teammates can start to follow suit.

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10 MLB Stars Whose Slow Starts Are Nothing To Worry About

Cold starts at the dish in April are nothing new to baseball. They are as old as the game itself. 

Opening a season poorly is difficult for a player to hide. Bury a two-week slump in the middle of July, and nobody will bat an eyelash.

Begin a new year with a couple of rough series, and those numbers out on the video board start looking awfully funny. 

Nonetheless, when a perennial hitter kicks off a new season with an ugly slump, it’s hard not to get carried away and wonder if something fundamental has changed about their approach that spells offensive doom: i.e. Carlos Pena’s hideous .196 average last season.

By and large, however, the Carlos Penas are the exception to the rule. Good hitters typically shake off their April blues and will start cooking by May, if not sooner.

Here are 10 MLB stars whose slow starts are nothing to worry about:

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Manny Ramirez to Retire After Notification of Drug Violation

After being notified of a drug violation by MLB, Manny Ramirez sent notice of his retirement to the league office on Friday, as reported The New York Times.

The Rays announced earlier this week that Ramirez had left the team to attend to a personal matter.

An announcement from the league office reads as follows: 

“Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Rather than continue with the process under the Program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed. MLB will not have any further comment on this matter.”

Ramirez, 38, was previously served a 50-game drug suspension in 2009, when he was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

If Ramirez were to serve a suspension for this current violation, he would miss 100 games, the penalty for a second drug offense.

A lifetime ban from baseball is the penalty for a third drug-related offense.

Ramirez, a 12-time All-Star, retires as a career .312 hitter with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBI. This was the start of his 19th Major League season.

Ramirez split the bulk of career between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, playing eight seasons for each team.

Ramirez signed a one-year, $2 million contract with Tampa in January. He was batting .059 with one hit in five games.

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Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds and XX Retired MLB Stars We Wish Would Just Go Away

The scars of MLB’s recent past are beginning to heal and fade. The Steroids Era is growing smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror.

It’s been over six years since Major League Baseball was first embarrassed on Capitol Hill in the “steroids hearings” of March 2005. Over three years have passed since the release of the Mitchell Report.

Despite the march of time, there are still a handful of retired MLB stars who, well, we simply wish would just go away—Jose Canseco and Roger Clemens among them.

These players, whether we liked them or not, earned headlines during their playing days for just that—playing the game of baseball and playing it very well.

Now, in retirement, they grab headlines from time to time for all of the wrong reasons—not only adding further public embarrassment to their already tarnished images but, often, also bringing further shame to a sport that is increasingly gaining momentum in distancing itself from a checkered recent past.

Can’t these guys just go away?

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2011 MLB Predictions: Josh Beckett and John Lackey Looking To Rebound

Josh Beckett and John Lackey were both treated to lavish paydays last season. To say that neither of them lived up to their deals in 2010 would be a colossal understatement. 

Lackey inked a five-year, $82.5 million deal when he signed with Boston in December 2009. Beckett and the Sox agreed to a four-year, $68 million extension last April.

Both pitchers then went out and combined for a 20-17 record, a 4.91 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP.

Not exactly the stuff that wins Cy Youngs, huh?

Let it be said that Lackey was not as awful as Beckett. “Big John” did manage to lead the team last year in both quality starts (21) and innings pitched (215).

Beckett, however, presents a different story. It’s hard to imagine him being any worse than he was last year.

His alarming 10.6 H/9 was a whole two hits above his career H/9 figure. His 1.54 WHIP easily surpassed his previous career worst, a 1.32 mark in 2003.

So, what gives in 2011?

Both pitchers can fall back on legitimate excuses, though neither would ever do so publicly.

Lackey could offer that he was adjusting to a new city and a new division. He could point to Beckett, citing his ghastly 2006 which he followed up with a brilliant 2007.

Lackey just genuinely never looked like himself last year. He struggled all season with a new approach to his fastball, using his cutter almost exclusively over his four-seamer.

The cutter, which Lackey seldom ever threw before 2010, accounted for a whopping 41.9 percent of his pitches last year.

On the other hand, his the four-seamer, which Lackey had gone to over half the time in his three previous seasons, accounted for only 15.2 percent of his pitches in 2010. (FanGraphs)

Beckett, meanwhile, battled injury much of last year. He missed two months with a lower back strain, finally going on the DL in late May after a horrific start to the season.

Prior to his DL stint, Beckett was 1-1 in eight games with a 7.29 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. After coming back in late July, Beckett went 5-5 in 13 starts with a 4.94 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP.

Not exactly a massive turnaround, but the difference nonetheless signals some sort of improvement and righting of the ship.

Like Lackey, Beckett’s 2010 reveals an usual pitch-selection breakdown. He used his four-seamer less than half as often as he normally does, and he also got away from using his good curveball.

Instead, Beckett went with his two-seamer, cutter and change-up more often than he ever had before. (FanGraphs)

As the Red Sox get ready to head to Texas to open the 2011 regular season, both Lackey and Beckett remain question marks, particularly Beckett, who has had a rough spring.

In the meantime, the Red Sox are blessed to have Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz both locked up through 2014 at deals that are far more club-friendly than Lackey and Beckett’s contracts. 

Moreover, if the younger of the two pitching duos continues to turn in Cy Young-worthy seasons, any misgivings and whining from fans concerning Lackey and/or Beckett is much minimized, for whatever that’s worth.

Aside from their respective on-field performance, it is still simply quite baffling that GM Theo Epstein handed Lackey and then Beckett the kind of contracts he did.

For these two pitchers, talented as they have been, to obtain the kind of deals they each did is stunning, given their ages, their abilities and the overall arcs of their respective careers.

Yet, one does not even need to parse apart these two as individuals; Beckett and Lackey each track near the top of the other’s comparison charts on Baseball-Reference.

Lackey and Beckett are big-game pitchers. They’re grinders. They’re innings eaters. They’re World Series winners. They are both never particularly stunning during the regular season, however both have October reputations that are well-deserved.

But are Beckett and Lackey great? Were they ever great?

Never mind greatness, the bottom line may just be that both are not even good anymore.

Some good indicators from last year though may point towards smoother 2011 seasons for these two.

Yet, the fact remains that if these two big-game Texans are ever going to live up to their XL contracts, it starts now.

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MLB Predictions: 5 Ways the Tampa Bay Rays Can Still Sting the Boston Red Sox

Matt Garza’s a Cub. Ditto for Carlos Pena. Jason Bartlett is a Padre. Rafael Soriano now calls the Bronx home. Grant Balfour’s in Oakland. Carl Crawford is, of course, now a Boston Red Sox, as is Dan Wheeler. Dioner Navarro? He’s a Dodger.

After a winter heavy on exits and light on entrances, Tampa Bay entered camp this spring with prognostications of hopeless mediocrity.

The contending team of the past three seasons? Lost to the winds of financial reality, which has never been a happy reality for the Rays.

A general sentiment still pervades that Joe Maddon’s depleted team is prime to be sliced and diced by the New York Yankees, the vastly retooled Red Sox and a potent Blue Jays squad on the up and up.

Weakened? Yes, the 2011 Rays are undoubtedly an inferior team to the 2010 Rays. But crippled? Hardly. The Rays are still a well-rounded team that will continue to challenge and perhaps even vex the Red Sox. Boston hasn’t won a season series against the Rays since 2007, going a combined 24-30 against Tampa since 2008.

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Boston Red Sox Rumors: 10 Signings or Trades That Could Clinch AL East Title

It’s not even February, however the Boston Red Sox have been all but given their rings as 2011 World Series Champions. Hello? We have to actually play all those 162 games to decide things, people! Cliff Lee be damned, the Yankees are still a pretty solid team, yes? Does it not seem premature to declare the AL East, never mind the Series, as a lock for this Boston team?

While Boston is certainly an early October favorite with their monster offseason moves thus far, they are still a team that has distinct and pronounced weakness.

There is still plenty of wood to be burned in the hot stove, and Theo Epstein is no dummy—he knows Boston weaknesses, and he has the resources, both financially and in the Red Sox farm system, to pull off a trade he wants or sign a choice free agent.

So let’s size up the 10 available players the Red Sox could either sign or trade for that would help them seal the deal in the AL East, a major step towards the ultimate achievement—a World Series title.

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Boston Red Sox: Power Ranking the Top 10 Prospects Left in Their Farm System

Blockbuster trades at the major league level often tend to shake things up at the minor league level, and the Boston Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez last November was no exception. The Red Sox were forced to ship three of their top prospects off to San Diego to seal the deal: RHP Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo and OF Reymond Fuentes. That trio were ranked, respectively, as the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 6 prospects in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America just prior to their being traded.

Unlike the Milwaukee Brewers, however, who decimated their shallow farm system to obtain Zack Greinke from Kansas City, the Red Sox system is deep, and the Adrian Gonzalez trade did not significantly deplete the talent that Boston has across their organization.

The top 10 prospects remaining in the Red Sox farm system generally fall into one of two categories. They tend to be either (1) Young players still a few years away from the majors with tremendous upside, or (2) Accomplished minor leaguers who would crack the starting nine on many other Major League club.

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Jonathan Papelbon: He Isn’t Heading Anywhere, But He Won’t Be Staying, Either

Jonathan Papelbon is gearing up for his sixth season as closer for the Boston Red Sox. The upcoming year will be the third straight that Papelbon has pitched on a one-year contract. Next fall, Papelbon will become a free agent for the first time in his career, and will presumably seek a long-term deal with a per annum rate of at least $10 million.

Given the team’s fiscal wariness, given Papelbon’s personal desires, given that Daniel Bard is waiting in the wings and given that the Red Sox are trying to add some late-inning depth to their bullpen, the following question becomes honestly legitimate: Will the Red Sox trade Jonathan Papelbon?

Before I answer that question, let’s size up Mr. Papelbon. “Paps” has long been a fan favorite in Boston, and he has never recorded fewer than 35 saves over the course of his career. He is a four-time all-star and a World Series champion. For all of his success though, the Red Sox, as I hinted at in the previous paragraph, are at a crossroads with their 30-year-old star reliever.

It all comes back to the man’s fastball. Papelbon’s success, thus far, has been tied to the pitch: A mid-to high-90’s four-seamer with decent late movement, both horizontally and vertically. Over the past two seasons, Papelbon has lost a little of the zip on his fastball, and, in what is perhaps a related development, he has thrown more splitters and sliders in the hopes of having hitters create swinging strikes with balls out of the zone. (Check out his charts on FanGraphs).

The results have been mixed. 2009 and 2010 were departures from the sterling efficiency that characterized Papelbon’s first three years as Boston’s closer. Papelbon issued 24 walks in 2009 and 28 last season. As a comparison, his season totals from 2005-2008 were 17, 13, 15, and eight. In 2009, Papelbon seemed to get away with his mistakes: He shaved half a run of his season ERA from 2008 even though his WHIP rose from 0.95 to 1.15.

In 2010, however, Papelbon’s control issues and inability to get through the ninth inning efficiently began to statistically show. His eight blown saves last year were a career high, as were his 3.90 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. As a comparison, Paplebon’s career numbers in those same categories are 2.22 and 1.03, respectively.

Papelbon has, however, been wise to reinvent himself as a pitcher, if that is indeed what he has been attempting, with his increased use of his splitter and slider and his decreased use of a definitively slower fastball. If he is able to develop even just one of those pitches in a true “plus pitch,” to use the parlance of scouting, Papelbon will continue to find success at the Major League level. Cutting down on those walks wouldn’t hurt, either.

But returning to the question central to this article: Will Boston trade Jonathan Papelbon? The answer, I am inclined to think, is no.

Boston will certainly not trade Papelbon over the winter, at any rate. With his off year in 2010, Papelbon’s trade value is low right now. A much more likely trade scenario would be for Paps to be dealt at the July trade deadline, when the demands for relief pitching is high and teams on the fringe of contention are looking to plug their gaps and make a push for October. (Milwaukee trading for CC Sabathia in July 2008 is a prime example of such a trend, albeit for starting pitching.)

However, Papelbon’s trade-ability also rests on his 2011 performance. If he is able to pitch closer to his career averages next season, not only would it make little sense for Boston to trade away a productive closer, it would up the level of offer which Boston would be willing to listen to. A strong 2011 would all but insure that Papelbon will be classified as a Type A free agent next winter. If the Red Sox, as expected, do offer Papelbon arbitration next year (before he of course refuses it to become a free agent and get paid like a king) then the team will receive two draft picks from the team that does sign Papelbon. A trade during the 2011 season for a Papelbon who is pitching well would have to either trump those two draft picks or dramatically resolve a possible weakness of the 2011 team. An offer involving a good young catcher, however, would probably pique the interest of Boston GM Theo Epstein, who does not appear ready to toss all of his eggs into one basket with Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

For all intents and purposes however, Papelbon is likely done in Boston after 2011, regardless of how he fares next season. I doubt the Sox will hear a trade offer they like, but I can’t imagine Papelbon accepting arbitration next winter with the avenue of free agency becoming available to him for the first time.

The Red Sox won’t extend Papelbon a serious long-term offer because they are confident in the abilities of Daniel Bard, the 25-year-old fireballer who has all but been officially named heir-apparent to Papelbon. Bard has pitched excellently as a set-up man ever since being called up the majors in May 2009. Bard sports a high-90’s four-seamer that he mixes in with a half-decent low-80’s slider and high-70’s slurve. He still has his control issues, but Bard seems to have all of the right tools, the right mindset and the durability to be a closer worthy of filling the shoes that Papelbon seems poised to leave.

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