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Not one of the Guys: Mike Lowell , Jason Bay , Craig Breslow

Posted by athomeatfenway on January 5, 2010

It was G-R-E-A-T while it lasted.

Jason Bay.  Craig Breslow.  Mike Lowell

What do these 3 have in common besides the fact that they have worn a Boston uniform ?

Not much, it might seem at first.

The 36-year-old Lowell is a .280/23/98 guy with 1 GG, 4 ASG’s, 1 WS MVP and two Championships.  He beat cancer.  He is loved & respected in the clubhouse.  He attended Florida International.

Jason Bay, 31 years old, is a .280/33/107 guy with 1 ROY, 3 ASG’s, and no championships.    He lends credence to the idea that Canadians are just plain nice people, especially to the fans and media.  Jason went to Gonzaga.

Craig Breslow, 29,  is a lefty reliever who projects to 68 relief appearances with a 2.79 ERA.   He has had 4 good years playing for 5 different teams.  He pitches with guile.  He is loquacious.  He graduated from Yale.

One thing that all 3 have in common is that they are not what you would call “one of the Red Sox boys”.  They are not organization players.

Lowell was the millstone around Josh Beckett’s neck when he arrived in Boston in the Hanley Ramirez trade.

Jason Bay was the hard hitting stop-gap measure that filled leftfield when Manny Ramirez was sent packing to Los Angeles.

Craig Breslow was picked up as a spare part for a befuddled bullpen in 2006, a year in which the Sox missed the playoffs.

When the Sox let Breslow get away, they said goodbye to one smart  kid. Mr. Breslow graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry before turning pro.

Being a Connecticut native like Breslow, I rooted for him to catch on with Boston.  He was good for a while, and less of a mystery the more he pitched.  Still, he soon persevered and progressed in Cleveland, Minnesota & Oakland.

When I spoke with Breslow last month at the World Series Club of Hartford County hot stove dinner, I expressed my dashed hopes that he would catch on with the Sox.  Breslow replied, “Well, I just wasn’t one of their guys.  That makes it harder.”

He said a mouthful.

Clearly, Jason Bay isn’t one of their guys, either.  The Sox didn’t give Bay and his agent a clear indication that it was time to accept their $60 Million or move on.  They made that decision, kept it to themselves and moved onto to Mike Cameron, leaving Bay alone with the Mets on the dance floor.

There have been more than a few whispers around Boston this winter that Mike Lowell will surely be productive next season, wherever he is, but something is missing from Lowell’s relationship with the Sox, some favorable predisposition between front office and player, like the one Manny DelCarmen enjoys.  It is the absence of good feelings that persuades the Sox that it is OK to eat $9 Million of Mike’s $12 Million salary just to be rid of him, as when they tried and failed to arrange in a deal with Texas for Max Ramirez.

(Max happens to project to .217, 19, 86 in a full season he would likely not get to play behind V-Mart & Tek, by the way.).

Mike Lowell just isn’t one of the Red Sox “guys”.

David Ortiz is, of course.

Mike Lowell would be more productive bat in the DH slot than Big Papi.

But that’s not the way you make out the lineup card if you have made Ortiz the face of the franchise and publicly given him a trophy anointing him as The Greatest Clutch Hitter in Red Sox History.

I project David at .249, 19, 75 next year if he stays healthy.  He’ll strike out more than he ever has — on 27% or 28% of his official at bats — as he continues to slow down.   If he does better than that, I’ll wonder what he’s been putting in his nutrition shakes.

Bay, Lowell and Breslow have not gotten the benefit of being one of the guys, like Mr. DelCarmen.

Manny D. has his supporters in Red Sox Nation.  He’s big, he throws hard, and when he has a good inning he’ll get a ground ball and strike out two with a mid-90’s fastball.

But Manny has stretches when he allows 40% of inherited runners to score.  His ERA for September was an ungodly16.20. He is 54% more likely to yield a hit or a walk than to K a batter.  He’s had some very bad Sundays, which makes one wonder how he is spending his Saturday nights.

A lot of teams have been interested in the hard throwing DelCarmen, but he’s one of the guys, and as such is sticking w the Red Sox.

I only wish the front office valued Lowell & Bay as much as they esteem this kid.

It’s good to be one of the guys.

This Lefty is just getting started.

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Max Ramirez awaits his shot in the Bigs

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 22, 2009

Max is knocked down, but definitely not knocked out by Jeff Mathis.

Arlington is the hottest place to play MLB Baseball and Boston is one of the coldest.

Max Ramirez & Mike Lowell won’t be going from one extreme to the other after all.

Lowell needed thumb surgery.  The deal is dead.

Max Ramirez would have been valuable in the mix for the BoSox with Victor Martinez and the aging Jason Varitek.

THE FACTS ABOUT MAX

Taking his 55 MLB plate appearances into consideration, Max projects to full season numbers of .217, 19, and 86, if he can ever break through the log jam of MLB ready youngsters the Rangers have lined up behind the plate.

Max is stuck behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden, who split the catching in Arlington.  Salty projects to .251, 16, and 63.  Teagarden projects to .236, 27, and 87.

Ramirez is 25 years old and a three-time All Star in the minors.  He was traded for Bob Wickman in 2007 and for Kenny Lofton in 2008.

Scouts have compared Ramirez to Victor Martinez.  Like V-Mart, Ramirez is unlikely to become a gold glover behind the dish, but he’s gotten better.

He made a play at the plate on 7.7.08 that made the high light reel for the year.  Jeff Mathis steamrolled Max at the plate, knocking him groggy.  Max held onto the ball and forced Mathis at the plate.  Then Max gathered himself and threw out Casey Kotchman as he tried to advance to 3rd, completing a double play.  Try googling up the video.  It’s worth it.

On Dec. 15, 2009, Peter Gammons commented that Max was leading the Venezuelan Winter League with 11 homers, but was also leading it in the consumption of chicken.

Peter was just joshing.  Max checks in at 5 ft 11” and 176 stones.

As of today, 12.22.09, he is hitting the ball well with the Tiburones de La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League, with a .252 B.A., 13 HR’s and 36 HR in 210 AB’s

(Tiburones was the Spanish title of the Spielberg movie JAWS.)

Max was born and resides in Barquisimeto, VZ, the birthplace of the Orioles shortstop, Cesar Izturis.

.

Max was born on October 11, the same date as 3x World Series Champion Orlando Hernandez, and the not-so-immortal Jarvis Tatum, Mike Fiore and Buttercup Dickerson.

Max is the 22nd Ramirez to play in MLB

Maximiliano is his full first name.  As in Belliard, Soto and Hudgson

245 MLB players have hailed from Venezuela,  including  Bobby Abreu, Luis Aparicio, Tony Armas, Asdrubal Cabrera, Miguel Cabrera, Chico Carrasquel, Dave Conception, Vic Davalillo, Alex Delgado, Andres Galarraga, Alex Gonzalez, German Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez, Carlos Guillen, Ozzie Guillen, Felix Hernandez, Victor Martinez, Melvin Mora, Dioner Navarro, Magglio Ordonez, Juan Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana, Cesar Tovar, Ugueth Urbina and Omar Vizquel.

Not bad.

Max’s career is an unfinished canvas.  Had he come to the land of Dirty Water, he would have fit right in.  But I doubt this is the last that we will hear of Max Ramirez.    Catchers that are ready for Prime Time are a rarity.   This 25-year-old backstop should get shot somewhere.  Expect him to make the most of it.

He's a contact hitter.

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Review: DEEP DRIVE Mike Lowell

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 26, 2008

deep-drive

DEEP DRIVE, A long journey to finding the champion within.  By Mike Lowell with Rob Bradford.  Foreword by Josh Beckett.    256 pages.  2008.  Celebra books.

 

This book is a great baseball story and an even better human one.

 

In Short – Lowell’s family are refugees from Castro, and he grows up a scrawny kid near Miami.  He works his ass off, turns the skinny build into a productive one.  599 guys are drafted in front of him, but he grows into the Yankee Organization Player of the Year before being traded to the Marlins.   Cancer interrupts his life TWICE.  Steroid rumors swirl but do not prevail.  He loses his swing.  He is betrayed by money grubbers.  He overcomes it all.

 

Lowell wins the World Series twice.  Lowell becomes a World Series MVP. 

 

Great Player.  Great Teammate.

 

It’s a great read and you should pick it up.

 

*******************

 

 

Lowell’s Dad, Carlos, at age 11, escaped from Cuba to Puerto Rico.  Carlos played baseball on the San Ignacio H.S. team.  He played his college ball at St. Joseph’s in Philly, where he tossed a no-hitter and won the MVP Award.  Carlos competed for the Puerto Rico National team.

 

Mike Lowell was raised in Florida where he changed High Schools when it became apparent he wouldn’t get adequate playing time while studying with the good Brothers at Christopher Columbus High School.  The last two spots in the batting order of the Christopher Columbus freshman team were historic.  Batting 8th and playing SS was Alex Rodriguez.  Batting 9th and playing second base was Lowell.

 

A-Rod transferred to Westminster H.S. due to a lack of playing time and Lowell left for Coral Gables H.S. for the same reason.  Imagine what Brother Herb Baker might say today about not having foreseen the potential of these future MLB All Stars.  According to this book, Baker was pretty stoic about it.

 

Before going to Florida International with close to a full ride, Lowell was recruited by Notre Dame assistant Coach Pat Murphy, who would later coach Dustin Pedroia at Arizona State.

 

After developing as a second baseman throughout High school and College, Mike was selected by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 1995 draft.  He was shocked when the Yankees informed him they intended to convert him to a catcher.

 

They didn’t stick with that decision after seeing what great hands he had at third.

 

Mike had little power at first.  He was underweight at Oneonta (NY Penn League) and Greensboro (A).  But in 1996 and 1997 he gained 25 pounds of muscle, batting .344 for half a season in Norwich (AA) and hitting 15 Homers in half a season in Columbus (AAA).  In 1998, he played 126 games for Columbus, batting .311 with 25 HR’s.  Mike made his MLB debut on 9-13-98 at Yankee Stadium in front of 47,471 fans.  He singled in his first at bat.  Although he was the starting 3rd baseman that day, he was behind Scott Brosius on the depth chart.  Still, he was the Yankees 1997 Organization Player of the Year and had a terrific 1998.  Thus, before the post-season, Lowell was told he would be the 1999 starting third baseman on the Yankees, unless Brosius won the World Series MVP, an unlikely possibility…..

 

……and that is exactly what occurred. 

 

Lowell was traded to his hometown Marlins on Feb. 1, 1999. 

 

He had no objection to playing in hometown Miami.

 

But within a month of the trade he was diagnosed with cancer.

 

1999 was a rollercoaster.  Traded, then diagnosed, he underwent surgery and chemo, was sent down to AAA to rehab, and was required to prove he was still major league capable in May. 

 

By Oct. 1, 1999, Mike had batted .253 with 12 home runs in 97 games and was informed he would be a starter for the 2000 squad.

 

“Surviving cancer was, and always will be, my toughest battle. I laugh when people talk about how tough it is to deal with the boos of fans….when cancer comes calling, baseball takes a backseat…having 40,000 people at Yankee Stadium tell me I suck is a nice diversion.”

 

 

NUGGETS

 

 

THE STORY OF “PAM”:  Lowell clarifies why MLB players might be wary about people pretending to be friends.  The story of “Pam”, a BFF of Bertica, his wife, makes the point.  Friends since they were age 15, “Pam” was injured in a car accident with Bertica at the wheel during Lowell’s rookie year.  At first unconscious, “Pam” recovered pretty quickly and all was well.  Some months passed, and then “Pam” stopped speaking with Bertica.  Suddenly, the Lowells were hit with a $1.2 Million law suit alleging pain and vision issues for “Pam”.  At that point, Lowell had made $60,000 total playing 4 years of pro ball and had $7,000 in the bank.  “Pam” and her attorney were stunned when Mike showed them his IRS returns.  The money grubbers slunk away.  They were not heard from again under after Mike signed a major contract the following year.  Ultimately, they sued for $600,000 and Lowell settled for half of that to put it behind them.  Unfortunately for Bertica, the emotional injury cast a shadow for two years.

 

 

THE IRON MAN  SONG:   Have you sat in Fenway wondering how the music dude selected Black Sabbath’s IRON MAN for Lowell’s at bats ?  Turn to page 161.  The story involves getting beaned in the noggin by Adam Loewen and then diving into the field boxes to make a catch in the top of the next inning.

 

BEING GROUNDED:  Mike Lowell is a grounded individual.  “I’ve always said that I play baseball but that is not who I am.  That’s part of who I am.  But I’d much rather be a good father, husband, friend and brother…the game is just what everyone sees, but there is so much more to me.”

 

As Jackie Kennedy said, “If you screw up raising your children, it really doesn’t much matter what else you achieve with the rest of your life.”

 

 

BE POSITIVE:   “You can choose to harp on negativity  — I certainly could have when cancer came calling, or when the hits were hard to find in 2005 – but if you choose the positive you’re going to get the most out of life.  It has worked for me, and I’m not about to stop now.”

 

 

 

AMERICA IS A PLACE TO START AGAIN:  Lowell’s family believed, achieved and overcame Communism & Cancer. 

 

The Seattle Mariners’ Don Wakamatsu today became the first person of Asian ethnicity to be a MLB Manager, rising above a different and regrettable form of oppression.

 

Lowell’s Dad and Father-in-Law were victimized by Castro. 

 

Wakamatsu’s grandparents were victims of the U.S. Government. 

 

They lost their home and were imprisoned in a World War II internment camp.

 

Baseball reflects America.  The good and the bad.

 

 

DEEP DRIVE is a story of family strength.   It’s a good read.  Tackle it and be rewarded.  Red My fellow Sox fans will be rewarded to know that though we lost Teixeira to the Yankees we have retained a man of singular character and skill.

MVP gets 2 cars & a Disney Parade !

MVP gets 2 cars & a Disney Parade !

Posted in BASEBALL, BASEBALL BOOKS, Boston Red Sox, Mike Lowell | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Michael Bowden impresses with Win #1

Posted by athomeatfenway on August 31, 2008

Aug. 30, 2008

Fenway Park

 

All of this on Ted Williams’ birthday.

 

 

Michael Bowden took the mound today for his first MLB start backed by a makeshift Sox line-up featuring the “strongest 160-pound man in Baseball” batting cleanup.

 

Ellsbury (CF), Lowrie (3rd), Ortiz (DH), Pedroia (2nd), Kotsay (RF), Bay (LF), Tek (C), Bailey (1b) and Cora (ss).

 

Pedroia would reach safely for the 10th AB in a row and hear the MVP chant. 

 

 

Bowden did not have it easy.

 

He faced a ChiSox starting 9 that already poled 185 HR this year. 

 

The 3-4-5 hitters, Quentin, Dye and Thome, have 96 HR between them. 

 

Add to that the sensational rookie Alexei Ramirez (.310/15/60), a still potent 38-yr-old Junior Griffey, and a few other clutch performers, and this was no team of pushovers facing Mr. Bowden.

 

Bowden was as advertised in terms of a powerful, condensed pitching motion.  After walking Cabrera on 5 pitches to start the game, he fired four 92 MPH fastballs to Pierzynski, inducing a 1-3 double play.  5 fastballs later, he grounded Quentin out to third to record his first MLB inning, facing the minimum 3 batters.

 

Bowden would put up only 5 innings this night.   He wouldn’t go unmolested.  But he limited the damage, showing great character and composure in tight spots.

 

In the second, he worked his fastball and a 77 mph cutter to get 2 strikes on Jermaine Dye, but with the crowd calling for the rookie’s first MLB strikeout, Dye smashed the ball 390 ft. to the Garage Door area in dead center.  It had HR distance but hit the CF wall 10 ft below the fans in Bleacher 36.  Two batters later, Bowden gave up his first run in the majors when Alexei Ramirez stroked a 2-2 fastball on a line before Bay in left and turned on the speed to register a double and an RBI.

 

With the crowd still waiting for his first K, Mr. Bowden then fed Nick Swisher a fastball and three 78 mph Cutters, striking Swisher out on a cutter in the dirt.   Swisher, a very good player, looked like a bad one.

 

The 2nd inning damage was 1 run.  Ramirez was stranded on second.  Bowden kept his cool.

 

Bowden gave up one more run this day.  That run almost never scored because Joe Crede, the runner, almost produced an out instead of a triple.  Crede led off the 3rd by smacking the 8th pitch Bowden hurled 379 ft to the base of the left center wall. There, Ellsbury caught up with it, and on the ball’s descent, tipped the fly up not once but twice before it fell for a triple.  He stuck his glove out at the end and just missed it.  Not an easy catch potentially.  A great try by the centerfielder.

 

Crede, who could have been out, trotted in two batters later on Pierzynski’s ground out to Pedroia.  1 run.

 

Bowden fired fastball after fastball over the course of his outing.  He threw about 60 fastballs out of 89 total pitches. 

 

Power Against Power

 

Bowden disarmed Carlos Quentin, holding the MVP candidate to personal O-for-three before leaving. 

 

Bowden displayed his intangibles in the fifth.  After yielding two singles to Cabrera and Pierzynski, and with Dye on deck, he fed the power hitting Quentin four 92 mph fastballs, two of them partially over the plate, two of them not. 

 

On the second pitch, with a 1-0 count, two ducks on the pond, Bowden was not afraid to pound another fastball in letter high to the White Sox slugger.

 

Power against power. 

 

Quentin couldn’t catch up to it. 

 

Bowden did not get Quentin to chase the pitches out of the zone, but he did make him fly out to Bay on the last pitch.   Then he stranded two ChiSox when the slugger Dye flew out to Bay on a ball with HR height to the track.

 

Bowden never looked to be in serious trouble.  He surely put runners on base, yielding 4 hits in the 4th and the 5th, but no one scored.

 

He was aided by one double play, initiated by him self in the first.

 

 

More than a fastball

 

At the end of the day, Bowden had a fine first outing.  His fastball, 5 or 6 mph slower than Manny Delcarmen’s or Josh Beckett’s, had the movement needed to stay away from the heart of the plate and give the White Sox batters conniptions.  Although heavy on the heater, Bowden mixed in an effective Cutter (77 mph), Curve (78 mph), and a Change (85 mph).  He really made Swisher look bad with the curve in particular.

 

Licking His Chops

 

Young Alexei Ramirez stood on deck while Griffey made the last out in the 9th.   He was asked what he thought of the kid who started tonight.  Alexei smiled sweetly at the questioner in the second row.  He looked like a cat licking its whiskers after biting the mouse on it’s hind quarter, but somehow letting it get away.  He smirked, but said nothing.

 

Bowden gets an A+ for cool.  He gets an A+ for getting ahead in the count.  He gets an A for controlling the rythym of his outing.    

 

He gets a B- for overall performance though, unable to keep the able ChiSox batters off the bases. 

 

We’ll someday see how he does against the Ginger and Mary Anne’s in Baltimore, Kansas City and Seattle.  

 

Ellsbury, Pedroia & Kotsay win it 8-2

 

Mr. Bowden owes thanks to the self-acknowledged “Strongest 160 pound Man in Baseball”, and a few other mates, for notching his first MLB victory on Ted Williams’  90th birthday, by a score of 8 – 2.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Charlie Zink, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Manny Ramirez, Matsuzaka, Michael Bowden, Mike Lowell, NESN, RED SOX, Ted Williams, Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield, Uncategorized, Youkilis | Leave a Comment »

FOR THE RECORD

Posted by athomeatfenway on August 4, 2008

 

Fri., July 25    Joba outduels Beckett  1-0

 

Sat. July 26    Wake’s first bad outing since May 18, Yanks win 10-3

 

Sun. July 27   Lester cruises over Ponson, 9-2.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Fred Lynn, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jim Rice, JOBA CHAMBERLAIN, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell, NEW YORK YANKEES, RED SOX, Ted Williams, Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield | Leave a Comment »

MIKE LOWELL: SO LONG, GOOD LUCK, GOD BLESS

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 10, 2007

Nobody barehands a ball and fires from Fenway’s 3rd Base Line better than Mike.  No one since Brooks Robinson.   No one hit in the 5-hole and protected Manny until Mike stepped in.  Nobody in the Sox Clubhouse brought a more balanced sense of self and team.  Nobody came through as often as Mike Lowell.  Lowell was the Sox Most Valuable  position player.  One can’t easily discount Big Papi as the perennial Sox MVP; he beats Lowell in every category but RBI.  But while David is watching tape and contemplating his next bedazzling fashion move, Mike is snagging liners and snapping off rocket-like throws.  He may have err’d in April & May, but he was a Gold Glover from June to October.  AND I AM GOING TO MISS HIM !   Place your 50 cents on Lowell leaving for a 4-year $60 Million contract elsewhere.  Ball Players are as human as you and I.  They’re just thinner and better coordinated.  Imagine yourself with a winning lottery ticket with two convertible options:  Would you really opt for the 3-year $45 Million over a guaranteed $60 Mill ?   Mike is as good as gone.   So get ready for Theo’s next big move:  Subtract Mike Lowell.  Move Youk to Third Base.  At first base place one 32-year old player with a lifetime .306 BA and 518 HR, a guy with 156 RBI, and 54 HR in 2007 with two recent gold gloves at the toughest position in baseball; a guy with Ortiz-like power to hit in the 5-hole.  What a lineup ! — Ellsbury leading off, followed by Pedroia, Ortiz, Manny, A-Rod, Youk, Tek, Drew & Lugo.  Can this lineup run ?  Can it score 900 Runs ?  Can it reduce the AL East competition to rubble ?  Can it make the A-Rod commemorative hand bag the hottest seller at Twins Enterprises on Yawkey Way ? Is your stomach turning ?   Yes, yes, yes, and yes !   Sorry guys & gals.  We’ve tolerated unspeakable pain in the past.  We will adjust.  Good Luck and God Bless, Mike Lowell.  Hello, A-Rod, in the parlance of pirate T-shirt around Fenway, Jeter no longer suck you in a way that calls your manhood into question.

Posted in BASEBALL, Mike Lowell, RED SOX | 3 Comments »