October 2008

Hard to believe it’s over

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I really hate for it to end like this. I could have sworn we were going to The Show, the Fall Classic. One-hundred percent, I thought we were going to The Show.

This has been such a great season, and this was such a great team, it makes me sick to think that it’s over and we didn’t go all the way. I really thought we had the team to get it done. Walking away is so hard when you’ve gone through so much with a team for eight months.

It’s really hard to swallow. I thought we were taking it back to Anaheim for Game 5. We came back, and when I got that single to drive in the two runs to tie it, the guys were going crazy. I was trying to go the other way like that, hit it hard. He threw me a fastball that I was able to drive, and it was an awesome feeling to see Tex and Vlad score. Tying up the game in that situation, with two outs and two strikes on me, that was a thrill. I felt like we had all the momentum, that we’d be coming home for the decisive game.

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And just like that, we didn’t make the squeeze play work, they got a couple of hits, and our season was over.

The thing now is, you don’t know who’s coming back next season. You can’t say you’re going to be in this position again and have a team like this. This was the chance. This was the team. Unless everybody comes back — and we all have no idea how that’s going to turn out — we won’t get another chance with this team.

In a perfect world, I would love to have Mark Teixeira back, Frankie Rodriguez, Garret Anderson, Darren Oliver, Juan Rivera, Jon Garland — all those guys. But that’s out of our hands. That’s the business side of the game, and you never know what’s going to happen there. We have to trust our management people to make good moves and keep us strong and competitive.

What hurts for all the guys in this room is that we feel we’re a better team than those guys, but they’re moving on. That’s hard to take. It was little things here and there. Maturity. Some guys probably learned a lot this postseason that will help them in the future. You have to be 100 percent mentally committed to getting it done.

For me there are two seasons — the regular season and the postseason. I’m happy about what we did in the regular season. We made it to 100 wins, the first team to do that for this franchise, and that’s something we should all feel good about. We hung together and made a lot of great things happen. The fans were great, and I think we gave them a good show.

But the postseason, that’s a big disappointment. I’m just really upset about October. Maybe in time we’ll all be able to understand what happened, why we didn’t get it done, but right now, it just doesn’t make sense. We had so much talent on this team, so much camaraderie. I’m so proud of these guys, what they accomplished.

I think we all just need a little time to get over it. Before long, we’ll be back at it with Mike Scioscia and the staff, bringing big hopes and expectations to 2009. But right now, it’s a little too painful to put into words.

Hard to believe its over

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I really hate for it to end like this. I could have sworn we were going to The Show, the Fall Classic. One-hundred percent, I thought we were going to The Show.

This has been such a great season, and this was such a great team, it makes me sick to think that it’s over and we didn’t go all the way. I really thought we had the team to get it done. Walking away is so hard when you’ve gone through so much with a team for eight months.

It’s really hard to swallow. I thought we were taking it back to Anaheim for Game 5. We came back, and when I got that single to drive in the two runs to tie it, the guys were going crazy. I was trying to go the other way like that, hit it hard. He threw me a fastball that I was able to drive, and it was an awesome feeling to see Tex and Vlad score. Tying up the game in that situation, with two outs and two strikes on me, that was a thrill. I felt like we had all the momentum, that we’d be coming home for the decisive game.

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And just like that, we didn’t make the squeeze play work, they got a couple of hits, and our season was over.

The thing now is, you don’t know who’s coming back next season. You can’t say you’re going to be in this position again and have a team like this. This was the chance. This was the team. Unless everybody comes back — and we all have no idea how that’s going to turn out — we won’t get another chance with this team.

In a perfect world, I would love to have Mark Teixeira back, Frankie Rodriguez, Garret Anderson, Darren Oliver, Juan Rivera, Jon Garland — all those guys. But that’s out of our hands. That’s the business side of the game, and you never know what’s going to happen there. We have to trust our management people to make good moves and keep us strong and competitive.

What hurts for all the guys in this room is that we feel we’re a better team than those guys, but they’re moving on. That’s hard to take. It was little things here and there. Maturity. Some guys probably learned a lot this postseason that will help them in the future. You have to be 100 percent mentally committed to getting it done.

For me there are two seasons — the regular season and the postseason. I’m happy about what we did in the regular season. We made it to 100 wins, the first team to do that for this franchise, and that’s something we should all feel good about. We hung together and made a lot of great things happen. The fans were great, and I think we gave them a good show.

But the postseason, that’s a big disappointment. I’m just really upset about October. Maybe in time we’ll all be able to understand what happened, why we didn’t get it done, but right now, it just doesn’t make sense. We had so much talent on this team, so much camaraderie. I’m so proud of these guys, what they accomplished.

I think we all just need a little time to get over it. Before long, we’ll be back at it with Mike Scioscia and the staff, bringing big hopes and expectations to 2009. But right now, it’s a little too painful to put into words.

We’re alive — and dangerous

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We’re alive and kicking. That’s all we asked for, one win to keep us going. We’ve got a heartbeat, and like I said all along, as long as this team has life — as long as we’ve got innings, pitches, a pulse — we’re dangerous.

Let’s get the play that cost us three runs out of the way first. It was my fault; put it all on me. I should have gotten there, called off Howie Kendrick and caught that ball. We haven’t had a single ball fall like that, in that spot, all season — and it happens in a game we have to win. But you’ve got to move on, let it go. That’s what I told Howie between innings. It was in a tough spot. I was shading Jacoby Ellsbury toward left-center, and Howie had a long way to go. But it’s my turf out there, and I should have made the play.

It’s kind of strange, really. I didn’t make an error all season, and the other night in Anaheim in Game 2, Mark Kotsay hit a ball to me that was acting like a knuckleball, and it went off my glove. It’s crazy. But you can’t let things like that get you down. Not in this game, when you play every day. You’re tested all the time.

I love how our guys responded in this game, playing big when it counted. Our young guys have come alive. They’ve gotten over their anxieties and trying to do too much, and they’re settling in and just playing now. Erick Aybar got that big hit for the winning run. Howie got a couple of knocks and put down that bunt after Mike Napoli’s single in the 12th inning. Man, Napoli was incredible. That guy is so strong. He was swinging from the heels in the first game, but tonight he was smart, taking good swings. He’s so strong, he can hit it out without a big swing.

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Reporters are asking me why I tried to stretch that single in the ninth inning. I hit it down the line, and from what I saw, it was going to take a great play to throw me out. If Jason Bay doesn’t put it where he did — if it’s a little wide either side of the bag — I’m at second with nobody out, and we’re in business. I was hustling, going for it, and a guy threw me out with a good throw. It happens.

That’s six straight games we’ve won at Fenway Park. One more and we’re going home with a chance to go to the ALCS. Hey, I’m not getting ahead of myself here. We know all about Boston, how dangerous those guys are. But we’re dangerous, too. They know that. You don’t get beat six straight times in your own house and not have some respect for that other team.

We really like playing here. The fans are great, the park is great. It’s intense, and I think we thrive on that.

I’ve got a lot of confidence in big John Lackey going against Jon Lester in Game 4. Lackey comes after you and pounds that strike zone. I love that. He keeps his guys in the game. I think we’ll have a better idea with Lester the second time around, especially the younger guys who were still new to all of this.

You learn a lot about yourself as you go through these postseason games. I love how our guys have responded. Nobody got down after losing the first two. We stayed cool, stayed supportive of each other. That’s how you win in October, by hanging together, playing hard and smart, making good things happen.

We’re alive. We’re kicking. Now we just want to keep it going and bring this series back home to our fans — and our Rally Monkey. No more talks about losing streaks, no more negativity, please. That monkey is off our backs.

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Were alive — and dangerous

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We’re alive and kicking. That’s all we asked for, one win to keep us going. We’ve got a heartbeat, and like I said all along, as long as this team has life — as long as we’ve got innings, pitches, a pulse — we’re dangerous.

Let’s get the play that cost us three runs out of the way first. It was my fault; put it all on me. I should have gotten there, called off Howie Kendrick and caught that ball. We haven’t had a single ball fall like that, in that spot, all season — and it happens in a game we have to win. But you’ve got to move on, let it go. That’s what I told Howie between innings. It was in a tough spot. I was shading Jacoby Ellsbury toward left-center, and Howie had a long way to go. But it’s my turf out there, and I should have made the play.

It’s kind of strange, really. I didn’t make an error all season, and the other night in Anaheim in Game 2, Mark Kotsay hit a ball to me that was acting like a knuckleball, and it went off my glove. It’s crazy. But you can’t let things like that get you down. Not in this game, when you play every day. You’re tested all the time.

I love how our guys responded in this game, playing big when it counted. Our young guys have come alive. They’ve gotten over their anxieties and trying to do too much, and they’re settling in and just playing now. Erick Aybar got that big hit for the winning run. Howie got a couple of knocks and put down that bunt after Mike Napoli’s single in the 12th inning. Man, Napoli was incredible. That guy is so strong. He was swinging from the heels in the first game, but tonight he was smart, taking good swings. He’s so strong, he can hit it out without a big swing.

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Reporters are asking me why I tried to stretch that single in the ninth inning. I hit it down the line, and from what I saw, it was going to take a great play to throw me out. If Jason Bay doesn’t put it where he did — if it’s a little wide either side of the bag — I’m at second with nobody out, and we’re in business. I was hustling, going for it, and a guy threw me out with a good throw. It happens.

That’s six straight games we’ve won at Fenway Park. One more and we’re going home with a chance to go to the ALCS. Hey, I’m not getting ahead of myself here. We know all about Boston, how dangerous those guys are. But we’re dangerous, too. They know that. You don’t get beat six straight times in your own house and not have some respect for that other team.

We really like playing here. The fans are great, the park is great. It’s intense, and I think we thrive on that.

I’ve got a lot of confidence in big John Lackey going against Jon Lester in Game 4. Lackey comes after you and pounds that strike zone. I love that. He keeps his guys in the game. I think we’ll have a better idea with Lester the second time around, especially the younger guys who were still new to all of this.

You learn a lot about yourself as you go through these postseason games. I love how our guys have responded. Nobody got down after losing the first two. We stayed cool, stayed supportive of each other. That’s how you win in October, by hanging together, playing hard and smart, making good things happen.

We’re alive. We’re kicking. Now we just want to keep it going and bring this series back home to our fans — and our Rally Monkey. No more talks about losing streaks, no more negativity, please. That monkey is off our backs.

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On to Boston — and stayin’ alive

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What can you say after a game like that? It was intense, start to finish. We went at it toe to toe with the Red Sox and came back strong after they dropped the hammer on us early with that Jason Bay three-run bomb in the first. I think our guys showed a lot of heart, and we’re going to need everything we’ve got in Boston to get back in this series.

So much happened in this second game, I don’t even know where to start. Bottom line, the big bombs killed us — Bay first, and then J.D. Drew. Bay, I guess he’s the new Manny. He’s swinging the bat like Manny Ramirez in this series. Frankie Rodriguez had 62 saves for us this year, and I’ll take my chances with him out there any time. But Drew hits a two-run bomb off K-Rod, and what can you do? Baseball’s a crazy game.

Hey, as long as we have a breath, we’ve got a shot. They haven’t won anything yet. It takes three games to win this thing, and they’re going to have to earn it. I think we showed tonight the kind of character we have. We’re going to keep fighting, I can tell you that much.

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You probably want to know about my knee, the left one. We’ll be treating it, and even though it’s sore now, I’ll be out there. I’m old school. This is October, and this is what you live for as a baseball player.

It was all adrenaline when I reacted the way I did on that call at first base in the third inning. We were making a comeback, we had two guys on, and I thought I beat the throw from the shortstop, Alex Cora. The call went against me, and I got excited and jumped up and came down on the knee wrong. I was being intense, going all out — and in the heat of the moment, sometimes you get upset like that. I’m not going to apologize or call it a stupid thing to do. Man, when you’re out there competing, you’re throwing everything you’ve got into it. That’s all I was doing.

We were taking care of business, being patient with Daisuke Matsuzaka, getting guys on base, stirring things up. I got an RBI single in the first inning after Mark Teixeira and Vladimir Guerrero singled, and I was trying to do that again in the third when I got thrown out on that call. In the fifth inning, I hit a bullet to left field for another RBI after Tex and Vladdy walked.

Those two guys were great tonight, getting on base all night long, trying to get us started. It’s a pleasure to play with guys like that who really know how to play the game right. This team is loaded with talent, and it’d be a crying shame for it to end too soon.

In my last at-bat in the ninth against Papelbon, I was trying to get on base to get it started. That’s why I dropped the bunt. It didn’t work out, but in that situation, down two runs, we needed a baserunner. Papelbon’s good. You’ve got to give credit where it’s due.

Some of our guys are trying a little too hard, trying to do too much. They need to relax when we get to Boston. I’ll have a talk with Howie Kendrick, like always. He’s a great kid, with a tremendous future in this game. He had a rough night, but he’ll bounce back. He’s strong. I know how that is — when you’re young, you want it so bad, controlling all that adrenaline isn’t easy.

Right now, I’m exhausted. This was intense baseball, all night long. But we’ll be ready to roll on Sunday night. We’ve played some great baseball in Fenway Park this year, and I don’t see why we can’t do it again. We’ve still got a heartbeat. We’re still a dangerous team.

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On to Boston — and stayin alive

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What can you say after a game like that? It was intense, start to finish. We went at it toe to toe with the Red Sox and came back strong after they dropped the hammer on us early with that Jason Bay three-run bomb in the first. I think our guys showed a lot of heart, and we’re going to need everything we’ve got in Boston to get back in this series.

So much happened in this second game, I don’t even know where to start. Bottom line, the big bombs killed us — Bay first, and then J.D. Drew. Bay, I guess he’s the new Manny. He’s swinging the bat like Manny Ramirez in this series. Frankie Rodriguez had 62 saves for us this year, and I’ll take my chances with him out there any time. But Drew hits a two-run bomb off K-Rod, and what can you do? Baseball’s a crazy game.

Hey, as long as we have a breath, we’ve got a shot. They haven’t won anything yet. It takes three games to win this thing, and they’re going to have to earn it. I think we showed tonight the kind of character we have. We’re going to keep fighting, I can tell you that much.

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You probably want to know about my knee, the left one. We’ll be treating it, and even though it’s sore now, I’ll be out there. I’m old school. This is October, and this is what you live for as a baseball player.

It was all adrenaline when I reacted the way I did on that call at first base in the third inning. We were making a comeback, we had two guys on, and I thought I beat the throw from the shortstop, Alex Cora. The call went against me, and I got excited and jumped up and came down on the knee wrong. I was being intense, going all out — and in the heat of the moment, sometimes you get upset like that. I’m not going to apologize or call it a stupid thing to do. Man, when you’re out there competing, you’re throwing everything you’ve got into it. That’s all I was doing.

We were taking care of business, being patient with Daisuke Matsuzaka, getting guys on base, stirring things up. I got an RBI single in the first inning after Mark Teixeira and Vladimir Guerrero singled, and I was trying to do that again in the third when I got thrown out on that call. In the fifth inning, I hit a bullet to left field for another RBI after Tex and Vladdy walked.

Those two guys were great tonight, getting on base all night long, trying to get us started. It’s a pleasure to play with guys like that who really know how to play the game right. This team is loaded with talent, and it’d be a crying shame for it to end too soon.

In my last at-bat in the ninth against Papelbon, I was trying to get on base to get it started. That’s why I dropped the bunt. It didn’t work out, but in that situation, down two runs, we needed a baserunner. Papelbon’s good. You’ve got to give credit where it’s due.

Some of our guys are trying a little too hard, trying to do too much. They need to relax when we get to Boston. I’ll have a talk with Howie Kendrick, like always. He’s a great kid, with a tremendous future in this game. He had a rough night, but he’ll bounce back. He’s strong. I know how that is — when you’re young, you want it so bad, controlling all that adrenaline isn’t easy.

Right now, I’m exhausted. This was intense baseball, all night long. But we’ll be ready to roll on Sunday night. We’ve played some great baseball in Fenway Park this year, and I don’t see why we can’t do it again. We’ve still got a heartbeat. We’re still a dangerous team.

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Let the dogs out!

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We’re down a game in this series, but we’re not out by a long shot. I know what a team can do when it comes together and plays the game with something to prove. I’ve seen it firsthand.

My first exposure to the postseason was in 2002 with the Twins. In ’01, we were in first place the whole season until Cleveland came back and beat us. We were up by five games in July. We were a young team, with guys like David Ortiz, Jacque Jones and Corey Koskie. We would up in second place, and it was devastating.

That winter, there was all that talk about contraction, how they were going to contract the Twins and the Expos. I was getting calls all winter, people asking me what was going to happen. I thought I was going to be somewhere else. But we got everything worked out, and we came into the 2002 season determined to show everyone what we could do with our $40 million payroll.

Ron Gardenhire was in his first season as the manager. Nobody had us winning the American League Central, but we ended up taking the division with 94 wins and going to the AL Championship Series. That’s when we ran into the Angels, and you know how that turned out.

We went up against Oakland in the AL Division Series, and they had that rotation that was the best in baseball — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. We had to beat the best rotation in baseball. Johan Santana was in our bullpen. Our starters were Joe Mays, Eric Milton, Brad Radke and Kyle Lohse.

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They were up on us, 2-1, but we came back and won the fourth and fifth games. When Eddie Guardado threw that last out at Oakland, and Ray Durham popped it up to Denny Hocking, there was this incredible feeling of joy and accomplishment we all had. I mean, think about it. The winter before they were talking about contracting us, and here we were beating the best rotation in baseball and going on to the ALCS.

We didn’t know John Lackey was waiting for us with his 97 mph gas, and Frankie Rodriguez was coming after us. And the Rally Monkey, making everybody go crazy. And, oh yeah, Adam Kennedy with his three home runs in Game 5 after he hit seven all season.

The Angels beat us at our game. That’s when I really began to admire the Anaheim Angels. I saw similarities with us — and nice weather with a great stadium. When they went on and won the World Series against the Giants, it gave me hope. If we’d beaten that team, it probably would have been us winning the World Series.

You can do great things in this game with talent and the right attitude. The Twins that year showed how far you could take it, and so did the Angels. Play the game right, play together, with everything you’ve got, and you can move mountains.

What we have to do now is come out and play with emotion, not play scared. But we also have to play smart. Be patient, take the walk if it’s there. Let somebody else drive you in. We’ve got weapons all through out lineup. Move the runner over, hit the cutoff man, run the bases aggressively, but be smart about it, too.

Hey, we know what we can do. You don’t have the best record in the Major Leagues and win 50 games on the road without having some mental toughness to go with the talent.

The Red Sox are the champions. We’re trying to take the crown off their heads. To do that, you’ve got to get that dog in you. That dog means being a little more aggressive, not being too timid. It’s time to let the dogs out. Woof-woof.

Time to get busy, not down

hunterreverseswinging550x25.jpgThis one was hard to take. I felt like we were ready to take it to the Red Sox, to play our game, and we didn’t get it done. Jon Lester was tough, man. Sometimes you have to give a guy credit. He was dealing some nasty stuff, and we couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it.

Big John Lackey was on his game, too. John deserved better. We should have scored more runs for him early when we had chances. It’s frustrating for everybody, but we have to get it out of our system and come out with the right attitude for Game 2 on Friday. You’ve got to have amnesia in this game. Hopefully, some of the younger guys can let this one go. This is still new to some of the guys, and they have to come out and play with the same fire and energy and confidence they had all season.

Maybe it helps, having the day off between games. Maybe we can use it to get rid of this game. We have to do that. We have too many good athletes in this room to get down on ourselves. We played great baseball all season, and there’s no reason why we can’t pick it up against Daisuke Matsuzaka and get back in this series.

I feel good having Ervin Santana out there for us. He’s been lights out all year. This kid has great stuff, some of the best stuff in the game. We all have confidence in him, and we’re going to get busy and get him some run support.

In the playoffs, one thing you can’t do is let something take the edge away from you. That might have happened when Vladimir Guerrero got thrown out trying to go to third when I hit that blooper over first base. He didn’t know it was going to fall in, so he hesitated for a second. I was surprised he kept going, but he was trying to be aggressive, make something happen.

hunterfollowthrough275x375.jpgVladdy is a great player, an all-time great player. He’ll bounce back. You don’t do what he’s done over his career without having the ability to shake something like this off. He was swinging the bat good, hitting some shots, so that’s a good sign. We have to focus on the positives now, not get caught up in the negatives. That can take you down if you’re not careful.

I was saying before the game that this reminds me of high school football, Friday night lights. I had all that adrenaline going for this game — I didn’t need any coffee, I can tell you that. My eyes were huge tonight. The key in big games like this is to use all that energy to your advantage, to take it to the other team. You’ve got to play the game with all your heart and soul, and you can’t be second-guessing yourself about things. Go with your instincts, let it flow.

We know who we’re facing here. These guys, the Red Sox, are the champions. You can’t just play them. You’ve got to beat those guys, take it to them. They’re not going to let you have it.

I think this was a good experience for the young guys, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Mike Napoli. We’ve got veterans, but we’ve also got these young guys, and they’re learning about themselves. They got the first game in, and now they can go out and play. These guys have a ton of talent. We saw that all season. They’ve just got to trust their instincts and let all that talent flow.

We’re coming to play in Game 2. Friday night lights. We’ve got to go after it with everything we’ve got. We’ve got to take it to those guys.

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