Red Sox's title streak was built on foundation of local players
When Red Sox fans think of Portland, it's invariably Maine that jumps to mind. And Seattle is just a faraway city with a lousy team for...
Seattle Times baseball reporter
When Red Sox fans think of Portland, it's invariably Maine that jumps to mind. And Seattle is just a faraway city with a lousy team for the Sox to spank.
Yet as the Red Sox mount a charge for their third World Series victory in five years, their organization has a definite flavor of the Pacific Northwest.
With Josh Beckett hampered by injuries, their playoff ace has become Jon Lester, out of Tacoma's Bellarmine Prep. Lester, 24, won the World Series clincher last year with 5-2/3 shutout innings against Colorado, and is 3-0 with a 0.77 earned-run average in five postseason games.
A key member of their lineup is outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who as a rookie led the American League with 50 stolen bases and has a .349 average in 15 postseason games, including a .438 mark in last year's World Series. Ellsbury, 25, is from Madras, Ore., and attended Oregon State.
Then there's Jed Lowrie, a product of Salem, Ore. (and later Stanford), who has become the Red Sox's starting shortstop. Lowrie, 24, ended Boston's AL Division Series against the Angels with a walkoff single in the ninth.
"I think the Northwest tends to get overlooked — but not by the Red Sox," said John Booher, who scouted the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada for Boston from 2002 until this past February, when his territory became Texas and Oklahoma.
In addition to those three homegrown Northwesterners, the Red Sox also have outfielder Jason Bay from Trail, B.C., who attended Gonzaga.
Booher vividly remembers his introduction to Lester, back when he worked the Northwest for the Florida Marlins. He had gone to scout another pitcher, but it was the opposing hurler, Lester, then just a freshman or sophomore, who caught his eye.
"He was very noticeable," Booher said in a phone interview. "He had presence on the mound and a great arm. Even at that age, you knew he would really be an exceptional athlete."
Gary Rajsich was the Boston scout who wound up signing Lester, drafted in the second round in 2002. Booher, however, signed Ellsbury, the Red Sox's first-round pick in 2005.
"He was an exceptional athlete, an exceptional runner," Booher recalled. "You knew he was going to have the skills to be a really good defender in the outfield. He got scouted very heavily within our scouting department from top to bottom."
Beyond those three — Lowrie was a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds in '05 — the Red Sox have a trio of University of Washington players in their farm system:
• Nick Hagadone, a left-handed pitcher and former rotation mate to ace Tim Lincecum, was Boston's top pick in the 2007 draft (55th overall). Hagadone underwent Tommy John surgery in June, but Booher believes he'll rebound. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Hagadone went to Sumner High School.
"This is a phenomenal young man, one of the toughest kids I've been around," Booher said. "I have no worries about him coming back."
• Richie Lentz, a right-handed pitcher from Woodinville High School, had Tommy John surgery during his Huskies career, dropping him to the 19th round in the 2006 draft. But he's shooting up through Boston's system as a reliever, striking out a mind-boggling 112 batters in 77-1/3 innings this past year in Class A and AA. He's projected as a future closer.
• John Otness, a catcher from Tacoma's Wilson High School and UW, was signed by Boston as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and has played the past two seasons for Class AA Portland.
That's Portland, Maine, by the way.
What's the HD holdup?
As a relative newcomer to the wonderful world of high-definition television, I can't believe I waited so long. I've been absolutely stunned by the quality of the picture and the enhancement of the viewing experience.
So add me to the crowd of those not happy with the fact that none of the playoff games on TBS — all four division series, as well as the AL Championship Series — were available in HD for Comcast customers.
In Seattle, Comcast services the vast majority of cable homes (1.2 million). New research shows that 21 percent of the Seattle television market is now high definition. TBS broadcasts in high def via other outlets (such as satellite) and in other markets, but Comcast has not yet added the service in Seattle.
Last year, which was the first for TBS as part of its seven-year contract to broadcast playoff and regular-season games, I questioned Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp about the absence of HD on TBS. He said the company was unable to add TBS HD in time for the playoffs, but that they were "definitely committed" to adding more HD content.
I questioned Kipp again Friday, and he replied, via e-mail, "We're planning to add several more HD channels throughout the next year, and TBS HD is among the channels we are seriously considering."
As a follow-up, I asked how he would respond to customers upset they can't watch this year's division playoffs and ALCS in HD. His reply:
"We are all sports fans, too, and definitely understand why baseball fans would prefer to see games in high definition. Watching sports in high definition is just a much better experience.
"The baseball playoffs are the number one reason why TBS HD is being considered for possible carriage on our cable systems in Washington state. We expect to make announcements within the coming weeks to let our customers know about the HD channels we plan to add over the next year."
I hope I won't have to make this same query then.
Cross yet another name off the Mariners' GM candidate list. According to baseball sources, the M's were denied permission by the White Sox to interview Rick Hahn, their assistant general manager.
Hahn, 37, is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Harvard Law School and Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management. He also worked two years in the sports agency of Jeff Moorad and Leigh Steinberg before joining the White Sox in 2000 as director of major-league administration.
This past week, Oakland assistant GM David Forst decided not to interview for the position. And Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, who loomed as a potential top candidate if he opted to leave the Brewers, now appears likely to return to Milwaukee. Owner Mark Attanasio has said he wants to extend the contract of Melvin, who is currently signed through 2009
The Mariners motored through the first round of GM interviews this week, talking to Peter Woodfork and Jerry DiPoto from the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization, Toronto assistant Tony LaCava, Dodgers assistant Kim Ng and Mets assistant Tony Bernazard. The Mariners are also considering two in-house candidates, interim GM Lee Pelekoudas and vice president of international operations Bob Engle.
There may be more preliminary interviews next week before a handful of candidates are brought back for a second round.
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