Monday, January 07, 2008


This goes to the GM, head coach, owner, front office person, or any other guy/gal who doesn’t actually play, but makes a major impact on a team. Here are the nominees:

Scott Piloi - VP of Player Personnel, New England Patriots
Theo Epstein - GM, Boston Red Sox
Danny Ainge - Executive Director of Basketball Operations, Boston Celtics
Bill Belichick - Head Coach, New England Patriots
Josh McDaniels - Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots
Terry Francona - Manager, Boston Red Sox
Doc Rivers - Head Coach, Boston Celtics

And the winner is…

Danny Ainge!

Ainge has been much maligned in this town, but in one off-season, the people have forgotten things like trading Antoine Walker (then reacquiring him), skipping over Ben Wallace in the draft, and hiring Rick Pitino as head coach. Pioli and Epstein have both assembled amazing teams, but their task this year was to take a good team and make it great. Ainge, on the other hand, took a horrible team and made it great. The trades orchestrated for Garnett and Allen have thus far paid off as the Celtics have returned to relevancy, will probably return to the playoffs, and may just return to their old stomping grounds: the NBA Championship.


This goes to the most exciting, exhilarating, exhausting game that involved a New England team. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a victory for the good guys. It just has to be an amazing contest.

Here are the nominees:

1/22: AFC Championship Game - Indianapolis Colts 38, New England Patriots 34
4/7: NCAA Hockey Championship - Michigan State 3, Boston College 1
4/20: Okajima Emerges - Boston Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 6
10/25: Soggy Comeback - Boston College 14, Virginia Tech 10
10/25: World Series Game 2 - Boston Red Sox 2, Colorado Rockies 1
11/4: Super Bowl XLI ½: New England Patriots 24, Indianapolis Colts 20
11/16: Celtics Hang on in Miami: Boston Celtics 92, Miami Heat 91
12/29: Pursuit of Perfection - New England Patriots 38, New York Giants 35

And the winner is…

World Series Game 2!

This was a great year for great games, as you can see from the nominees. I could have probably come up with 20 more great games to nominate, but I think this post is long enough as is, don’t you?

The Red Sox destroyed the Rockies 13-1 in Game 1 of the World Series, but Game 2 was the first nail in the coffin. It was a neo-classical pitcher’s duel, and by that I mean it turned into a battle of bullpens.

Curt Schilling got the start for the Sox, and the Rockies went ahead 1-0 in the first inning. A hit batter, an infield single, and a throwing error allowed Todd Helton to get an RBI groundout. The Red Sox got a few free passes in the following innings, but didn’t get a hit until the 4th. That’s when Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez was figured out by none other than JD Drew. Drew’s base hit advanced Lowell - who had walked - to third. Varitek hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Lowell and tying the game at 1-1.

In the bottom of the 5th, a two out walk to Ortiz, followed by a Ramirez single, set-up Lowell. The soon-to-be World Series MVP hit a double off the Monster to score Ortiz and give the Sox a 2-1 lead.

Then it was Schilling’s turn to come undone. After Matt Holliday singled and Todd Helton walked, Francona hooked Schilling, replacing him with Okajima. Hideki got out of the jam with a groundout and a strikeout. He retired the side in order in the 7th, and struck out the first two men he faced in the 8th before being relieved by Papelbon. Okajima retired 7 straight batters, four via strikeout.

The Red Sox came close to adding on to their lead, but were unable to get the big hit. It was up to Papelbon to save the game.

Papelbon’s first batter was the dangerous Matt Holliday, who reached on an infield single. But Jonathan had something tricky up his sleeve. Knowing that opponents know he doesn’t throw to first very often, he baited Holliday into taking a big lead. Papelbon gunned a pickoff throw to first, beating Holliday and ending the top of the 8th in dramatic fashion.

Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 9th, striking out Helton to begin the inning, and Hawpe to end the inning and the game.

The nerve wracking win all but sewed up the World Series. The red hot Rockies had been derailed in a 13-1 blowout, then a 2-1 nail-biter. They seemed off. They couldn’t get the big hit, and their pitchers were being brutally exposed.

The Red Sox would win Game 3 10-5, then wrap up the Series with a 4-3 win in Game 4. But Game 2 was the back-breaker. Colorado wanted desperately to split the games in Boston, but were forced to go back to Denver empty handed, with 2 demoralizing losses under their belts, and a ferocious Red Sox team circling for the kill.


This Award goes to a player or players who went through tough times - through injury, through illness, through personal matters, through a harsh slump - but came out on top.

There was only one nominee I could think of off the top of my head, so he wins it. And the nominee/winner is…

Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox!

Pedroia wasn’t a highly touted prospect like Nomar Garciaparra, Hanley Ramirez, or Jacoby Ellsbury were. He was a solid player in the minors, hitting .305 with 5 homers at AAA Pawtucket in 2006. He came into what has been a tough position for the Red Sox the past few years. In the last two decades, second base has seen the arrival and departure of Mark Bellhorn, Tony Graffanino, Mike Lansing, Jose Offerman, Mark Loretta, Todd Walker, Rey Sanchez, Mike Benjamin, Jeff Frye, Luis Alicea, Scott Fletcher, Jody Reed, and Marty Barrett.

When Pedroia entered the fray, he struggled. He hit .182 in April, with a poultry .236 slugging percentage and only a pair of RBI. Despite the success of the team, Dustin was becoming the focus of scrutiny from the fans. It appeared as though he didn’t have what it took to be a Major Leaguer.

But Terry Francona and the Sox stuck with him. And it paid off. Pedroia had an outstanding month of May, hitting .425, slugging .600, and getting on base 47% of the time. In June he hit .333, then .299 in July, .346 in August, and .302 in September.

He finished the season with a .317 average, a .380 OBP, 50 RBI, and 86 runs scored. He was 10th in hitting in the American League. Placido Polanco and Chase Utley were the only 2B to sport higher averages. Pedroia won the Rookie of the Year Award, getting 24 of 29 first place votes.

Pedroia hit .345 in the ALCS, with 3 doubles, a homer, and 5 RBI. In the World Series, he hit .278, with a double, a homer, and 4 RBI. He also filled a spot in the lineup that had been tossed around like a hot potato: the leadoff spot.

He stayed strong despite all the negative attention. He remained confident that he would find his groove. It’s hard for a player to begin a season in a slump, especially when it’s your first season. But Dustin’s ability to stay inside the game was a big reason why the Red Sox won the World Series.


This Award goes to a player or team that nobody expected to do well. It goes to someone that people had hardly heard of, but who has since become a hero.

The nominees are:

Dustin Pedroia - 2B, Boston Red Sox
Tim Thomas - G, Boston Bruins
Randy Moss - WR, Patriots
Hideki Okajima - RP, Boston Red Sox
Boston College football

And the winner is…

Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox!

Nobody knew anything about Okajima when the Red Sox signed him to a modest $1.25M per year contract. The signing occurred almost simultaneously with the Daisuke circus. With the Red Sox adding Matsuzaka, JD Drew, and Julio Lugo; Okajima didn’t get any attention.

Most fans saw Okajima as a perk given to Daisuke, a buddy from the old country to help ease the adjustment to the new, a fellow speaker of Japanese in the locker room who could be Matsuzaka’s surrogate big brother.

But we all found out that Okajima was in fact, a phenomenal pitcher. The wakeup call came on April 20th. Before then, Okajima had been used in somewhat of a mop up role, pitching in blowouts or losses. He had impressed Francona, though, so Terry put him into the fire.

On the 20th, the Yankees were in town. The Red Sox scored 5 runs in the 8th to go from 6-2 down to 7-6 up. But Papelbon wasn’t available to pitch the 9th. So Francona called on Okajima to face Jeter, Abreu, and Rodriguez. Hideki got Jeter to groundout, walked Abreu, A-Rod lined out, and Thompson struck out to end the game. It was Okajima’s first save of his Major League career, and it was about as hard as a save can get.

The next game, also against New York, Okajima pitched a perfect 0.2 to earn the first Hold of his career. He’d go on to get 27 Holds, good for 3rd in the American League. He also added 5 Saves, and only 2 Blown Saves.

By the end of the season, he appeared to run out of gas. On July 14th, his ERA was 0.79. This would balloon up to 2.22 by the end of the season. Until games 3 and 4 of the World Series, he was not scored upon in the playoffs. He still had solid post-season numbers, with a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 1.091, but removing those last two outings makes his numbers look astonishing. Apart from the last two games, he pitched 9.2 innings, allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, and 0 runs. That’s a 0.00 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.827.

Okajima went from a shot in the dark signing perceived by most to be an effort to please Dice-K, to an All-Star, to an integral part of the Red Sox World Championship. The only thing that would make him more like Tom Brady would be a degree from Michigan and a supermodel girlfriend.