I just got back from the long, rain-soaked affair at Fenway, so forgive me if I cop out and bring you a guest column by Marlins Today‘s writer, Andy Lavin — also a Red Sox fan. Below the article, you will find two pictures (and notice the one above with Okajima!) I took at the Red Sox game versus the Giants on June 17th, plus a video of Barry Bonds’ blast (that I only FINALLY got around to putting up). You can hear the clapping of my father (grew up a Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds fan) and some anguished cries of the Bonds haters. Enjoy!

Written on July 4th

Hideki Okajima
I’ll be honest, what this guy has done has not only surpassed my expectations, but blew by them at the speed of sound.
We all know Papelbon is as good as money in the 9th inning. Well, the Sox and their fans now have a guy who’s as good as money in the 8th inning. His numbers on the year:
2-0, 0.88 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 41 IP, 22 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 10 BB, 37 K
And here we thought all the buzz was going to be for the other Japanese signing.
Dustin Pedroia
Nobody has enjoyed the meteoric rise this Sox second baseman has enjoyed over the past two plus months.
On May 1, the little bugger was languishing with a .172 BA and presumably left for dead and questioned by many whether or not he was ready for the big league level.
Since then, he’s hit a scorching .371 (62 for 167) to bring his season avg alllllllll the way up to .320. On top of that, his OBP has jumped over 100 points from .294 to .401.
He has emerged as a surprise catalyst for this team and a much-needed one while the team’s $9M/year darling dud Julio Lugo tries to break the Mendoza line himself. Pedroia’s resurrection from the dead would make Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers proud.
Kevin Youkilis
Yooooooooouk! has had a monster first half for the Old Town team and is well on his way to his best single season of his young career. He’s always been an on-base machine and this year is proving no exception. He checks in with a .420 mark in that category. But what’s more impressive is he’s got the high BA to match. His .329 avg is good for 8th in the American League and is currently 50 points higher than his career-best .279 average set last season.
Mike Lowell
Gotta throw him in there simply because of the power numbers. Currently he’s on pace for a 23-25 HR season and 105-110 RBI. Not bad for a guy that some deem washed up. If he stays on pace, he’ll threaten his second-most productive HR season (27) set in 2004 and his best RBI season (105) set in 2003.
Want more? His .293 avg puts him right at his career best which he achieved in 2004, and the guy is still a doubles machine. He’s on pace for over 40 doubles once again.
Josh Beckett

What do you get when you mix one full year in the AL to learn the league and learn from mistakes with an improved mental approach to the game? An 11-2 record with a 3.38 ERA, a WHIP of a buck-ten, and your new staff ace. Sprinkle in a pinch of a 4.15 KK/BB ratio (his previous best was 2.86) and 1.88 BB/9 ratio (his previous best was 2.92) and you have yourself a recipe for one of the top pitchers thus far in 2007.
He did come down to earth a little bit in June, as did most of the team, but all great pitchers have down months in a six month season, and even with that, it wasn’t terrible.
He has a shot along with Dan Haren to be the starter for the AL in the All-Star game.
Julian Tavarez

The hot-tempered SP/RP hybrid has given the team some much-needed stability in the back end of the rotation. He’s not going to be in contention for the Cy Young, but he’s given the team several quality starts and more often than not has given the Sox a chance to win when he takes the mound.

David Ortiz/Manny Ramirez

Power outage, anyone? 13 HRs from Papi and 11 from Manny wasn’t exactly something I was expecting as we close in on the all-star break.
Julio Lugo
I think this about sums it up:
Wouldn’t it have been easier to re-sign Orlando Cabrera?
J.D. Drew
Didn’t like this signing when it happened and hate it even more now. $14M/year should get you more than .257/6/32. If Drew was a dinosaur, he’d be a Flopasaurus.
Alex Cora
I’ll end this with Cora simply because I want to go out on a good note. In a perfect world, he’d be in there over Lugo. But, alas, he’ll have to settle for being the bench guy extraordinaire on this ’07 Red Sox club. Following a May where he hit .294, he plummeted in June (again, like most of the team) to .216. But you can’t argue the body of work. On the year he’s still at a very respectable .282 and seems to come through for the team more often than not when Tito calls his number.

<a href="https://firebrandal.com/files/2007/07/daverobertswelcomebackfenway61707.jpg" title="Dave Robert