Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ray Ban

Well, what goes for last night's punk starter goes for Casey Fossum, too. Chicken-bleep, horse-hockey, bush league stuff hitting Renteria in the first inning, drawing warnings to both benches. Maybe tomorrow night you'll get the warning before the game starts. Perhaps "Yankee Bob" could serve you up a 3 day big chicken dinner (bad conduct discharge) for being a general menace to Major League Baseball. But I digress.

"Not So Mighty" Casey Fossum hung around long enough to get the well-deserved loss, issuing three gopher balls (Millar, Mirabelli, Ortiz), before departing to allow the game winning run, courtesy of the Ray pen.

Millarbile dictu, Kevin Millar pulled an anti-Samson using the bleached crew to deliver two out of the yard, including the game-winning Coke Bottle Shot.

The Talisman, Kevin Youkilis, is back, while Manny Delcarmen puts on extra gas mileage shuttling between Boston and Pawtucket.

Tomorrow, we'll see who gets promoted from the Rhode Island Red Sox, presumably Shoppach (injury?), Stern (injury?), DiNardo, Delcarmen, and maybe Justin Sherrod.

Meanwhile, the Commish, busy taking David Wells to the woodshed, ought to do something about LuLu before somebody gets hurt. But, of course, the Gutless One- Mr. Tie Game, Mr. Steroid Wimpout- is probably still licking whatever wounds Don Fehr and Gene Orza dish out.

Random Thoughts on Last Night's Action

Scott Kazmir, you are a punk. You have a live arm, a reasonable idea, and then you hit Graffanino to start the game. The left-hander's natural corner is the outside to right-handed batters, and you miss two feet inside the other corner. You and Lou deserve each other. Should they abandon the DH in your lifetime, you'll need chain mail to bat.Lou, do you call pitches?

Trot Nixon is looking dead red against Baez, and you oblige. I'm sure you'll be whining about the umpiring (not great), but you blew it. Take responsibility.

Schilling's outing was a tale of two pitchers. The first two innings looked like Night of the Living Dead and the last four were The Terminator. It's amazing what hitting spots can do, even with a bit of squeezage from the umpire and a decent Tampa lineup. Still, there were an awful lot of balls hit out to the track...

Johnny Damon, you've obviously earned the money. I hope that you're willing to stick around for Varitek money.

Olerud must have been something to watch in his prime. He still has that sweet swing that only lefties have.

Welcome back, Kevin Youkilis. I don't usually agree with Pete Sheppard, but you definitely deserve the PT over Kevin Millar.

So, the latest craze is bleached crew cuts? I'm all for it as long as it helps guys play better.

Did anyone else think that 'Shag' Crawford had a rough night in left field last night? He kinda staggered after a couple of flyballs, and always seems to get caught 'in-between' with the wall.

Julio Lugo makes me nervous when he bats. Julio, need an agent?

I don't know about you, but I still have no confidence in Bradford. You don't look like Jason Voorhees out there to me.

It's tough when on August 30th, we're still auditioning for the bullpen.

Keith Foulke is throwing strikes in Lowell. Unfortunately, the Short Season guys are wailing on them.

Yankees lose! Yankees lose! How about that Ichiro, up to 15 dingers.

Is it better to have Oakland or the Los Angeles Angels of California, USA, the Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy in the playoffs? Maybe Shaughnessy can write a column comparing Anaheim and Oakland, 'red, white, and blue versus black and blue, Disney World versus Dizzy World...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Rotten Grapefruit

Double digit wins for Wells (10), joining Arroyo (10), Clement (11), and Wakefield (13). Somehow, Wells seems like the most 'consistent' of the bunch, probably because he throws strikes.

I continue to worry about mechanical flaws in the delivery of Arroyo and Papelbon contributing to their problems. I certainly hope that the baseball staff is reviewing the tapes/doing self-scouting to try to identify and correct possible problems.

The Sox captured their first series in four, thanks to an offensive outburst and some sharp defense at third (mostly sharp) by Bill Mueller, who has been on something of a hitting tear.

One of the most critical criteria in player evaluation is the willingness to admit you are wrong. As a stock trading afficionado ( , I recognize that losses/mistakes are inevitable and that "a small loss is a professional loss." Today, GM Theo Epstein attempted to correct that, jettisoning Mike Remlinger in favor of the second coming of Abe Alvarez, who is the poor man's Mark Buehrle, or maybe the middle class' Bruce Chen. Alvarez throws strikes, changes speeds, has a funky delivery, and can't break glass. If he can somehow add a screwball to his repertoire, will we reminisce about Mike Cuellar?

Cuellar was the soft-tossing southpaw who had a remarkable career for the Baltimore Orioles ( Cuellar won 20 games four times, at least 16 seven times, and had an outstanding career winning percentage of .587. I remember someone saying of Cuellar, "he throws rotten grapefruit up there, and how far can you hit a rotten grapefruit?"

Let's hope that Abe, just a kid at 22, can come up with some rotten fruit of his own to toss up there. I worry about his lack of a fastball, and then I recall guys like Cuellar, Stu Miller, and the latter-day Frank Tanana (52nd in career wins) who got guys out with guile and guts. Oh, yeah, Jamie Moyer is now up to 98th on the career wins list, i.e. in the history of baseball.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Harsh, You Call That Harsh?

The long season, a.k.a. marathon, that constitutes baseball tries even the most patient souls. After a dispirited road trip, the Sox returned home to Fenway to eke out a victory against the Tigers last night. Whether the Tigers lost or time expired was in doubt.

Tonight, a comedy of mound errors subjects even the most patient Sox loyalists to wonder whether hemlock is preferable to HDTV (by the way, I don't have it). Bronson, the noted singer, Arroyo, continued to make us wonder which is his day job. Somehow, the spreadsheet that Theo must maintain concerning 2006 must have a question mark where Arroyo's name used to be.

Jeremi (non-Nirvana) Gonzalez got lit up like a Christmas tree in relief of the polysyllabic one, Jonathan Papelbon, whose fastball wasn't well located and whose complementary pitches didn't fool anyone tonight. Worse still, the Ivy League professor, Mike Remlinger continued to 'throw it in and duck', although he might make an exemplary batting practice pitcher.

Meanwhile, Jon Lester (Lester we forget), tossed 7 scoreless innings and Craig Hansen awaits a chance to fail or to succeed. Of course, it's impossible to know when young players are ready, but unfortunately it's all too painful to watch old pitchers fail.

The pressure exists for Theo Epstein and the rest of the baseball braintrust to do something. We hear statements everyday like "stay the course" and "cut and run", but concerning the pitching, it seems more about accountability than anything else. As a group, the pitching staff seems to have re-entered the "Grand Funk" zone, as most have to be too fine to succeed, lacking overpowering stuff. Even guys like Papelbon and Schilling, with better stuff, still need to locate.

Gary Peters, the grizzled lefthander of yore talked about being 'wild in the zone', throwing too many fat pitches. Jin Ho Cho suffered that malady years ago, in a remote Asian Contagion (yeah, I'm Asian, so what of it?).

Maybe Theo can't overhaul the entire staff, but short of bringing in a new field goal kicker and run-stopping nose tackle, he's got to do something to compete in the football scoreboard. A simple start would be to stop the desecration of Bill Lee's number by Flat-Ironed Mike Remlinger and see if Hansen's got the goods.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Snot For Pen

Okay, so the Sox are the reigning World Champions. Well, "uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." Is the pitching good enough? Let's review where we are.

Starting pitching. The rotation is Clement, Wells, Wakefield, Arroyo, Schilling, and/or Papelbon. Wade Miller, injury or otherwise, hasn't been dependable. That doesn't separate him much from the rest of the starters. All of the starters have had their moments, but as for winning the 'big game', it's hard to choose. Clement, at this juncture has the best raw stuff, Wells the savvy, Arroyo the funk, and Schilling is still a question mark healthwise. Papelbon has the electric stuff, but some minor mechanical issues, and his secondary pitches are unproven. Wakefield's knuckleball is frequently effective and he is the streakiest of the bunch.

In a short series, the Sox staff without a healthy and dominant Schilling doesn't match up particularly well with any of the major contenders.

The bullpen, despite endless tweaking by Theo (Prozac in the water cooler yet?), remains a major question mark. Long relief has been solid at times with Jeremi Gonzalez, but unspectacular. Mike Myers has been generally productive as the LOOGY (lefty for one guy), and Schilling as closer gave mixed reviews. Mike Timlin has struggled recently with a lot of mileage, and Remlinger has (apologies only) been forgettable. Chad Bradford hasn't made even Terry Francona hate Jay Payton and who knows when or if Keith Foulke returns.

In other words, lots of questions at the front and the back end of the staff, and it's difficult to beat the other teams into submission home and away, and the Sox road play has left a lot to be desired.

Is Craig Hansen another Cla Meredith? Let's hope not. At least up until tonight, he had been unscored upon professionally, and hoping that Lenny DiNardo is your answer seems misplaced.

If the Sox can win it all (again) with the pitching as constructed, then truly we can thank divine intervention - or general mediocrity.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

California Dreaming

Sometimes it's good to step back and take a look at the forest, and nestled amidst the wooded mountains of Ojai Valley, California this weekend, I have that opportunity.

The Sox invaded Angel Stadium (what, no naming rights) Thursday night, and got hammered (as so often seems to happen in the first game of road series this season), before coming back to win Friday night.

"You can see a lot by just watching." - Yogi Berra

Talking with a number of conference attendees out here, I get the sense that last year (including Yankee fans) people considered the Red Sox a special team, and that sense doesn't particularly carry over into 2005. Admittedly, the Sox have enjoyed terrific seasons from Johnny Damon (a 'career contract year'), Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez. However, the infield has generally been mediocre (compare Mueller, Renteria, Graffanino, and Millar to Blalock, Young, Soriano, and Teixeira for example). Last year's rotation could call on Schilling and Pedro Martinez for almost divine intervention to disrupt even a hint of a losing streak.

But wait, the Sox are still 70-50, have a four game lead over the Yankees (decimated by injuries), and control their own destiny. Jonathan (don't call me Jon) Papelbon has impressed, and Jon Lester is just over the horizon to step in if necessary. Clearly, the Sox are trying not to reproduce the Bobby Sprowl experience of the seventies.

A lot of questions remain. What becomes (if anything) of Mark Bellhorn, completing his rehabilitation at Pawtucket? Will Olerud or Petagine fill the gaping hole at first base? Can Keith Foulke (arguably the rightful 2004 Series MVP) regain his form? Do Clement, Arroyo, Wells, and Wakefield constitute formidable enough pitching to carry the team down the stretch? Will Curt Schilling be durable enough to rejoin the rotation?

If strength up the middle is necessary in all the major sports, checkers, and chess, the latter questions remain paramount. It surely appears that GM Theo Epstein is going to have to 'dance with the ones that brung 'em', as it remains highly unlikely that any pitching manna will fall from heaven.

Coming off a championship season in 2004, where the stars aligned perfectly to allow the Sox to rebound from the nadir of emotional fluctuation, the Sox must rely on pitching 'on a wing and a prayer' with more hope than consistency as their fuel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cruel Truths

There can only be twenty-five players on a professional baseball roster, and sometimes capable, affable, deserving players simply get less opportunity than they deserve. For example, management continually recycles worn out relievers (like Mike Remlinger), sending promising young pitchers (like Manny Delcarmen) for more apprenticeship.

Remlinger, the latest in the Chad Fox, Ramiro Mendoza, Joe Blow Saves saga, actually lowered his E.R.A. last night by allowing 4 runs in an inning. On the Red Sox usenet newsgroup, he became Remlidinger after surrendering a grand slam.

When Trot Nixon returns, who goes? Adam Stern seems locked in via Rule V, and Gabe Kapler isn't going anywhere. Does Roberto Petagine go, while Kevin Millar underachieves month after month?

Previewing the late August roster of 'who counts', it looks like this:

C (2) Varitek and Mirabelli (a no-brainer)
IF(6) Millar, Olerud, Graffanino, Mueller, Renteria, Cora
OF(5) Ramirez, Damon, Kapler, Nixon, Stern
DH(1) Ortiz
SP (5) Clement, Arroyo, Wells, Wakefield, Papelbon
RP (6) Schilling, Foulke, Timlin, Myers, Bradford, Hansen (yes, Matilda)

That leaves Remlinger and Gonzalez on the outside, Bellhorn likely DFA'd, Kevin Youkilis in Pawgurtory.

September callups?
Youkilis, Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Petagine, Delcarmen, Lester (maybe), Alvarez (maybe), Shoppach, Sherrod...GMs worry about service time, whereas breaking the rooks in might be helpful, too.

Hey, Dan Shaughnessy, why don't you write an article about the impact of late-season and September callups on pennant races and the playoffs. Want me to get you started? You could start with K-Rod...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

You Know It Don't Come Easy

David Ortiz isn't the Red Sox' most compelling player for nothing, having a flair for the dramatic and a winning, engaging personality. Personality aside, ninth inning, game-tying homers attract attention.

The Sox have a bit of the Jekyll and Hyde hitting achievement, .370/,464/.834 at Fenway and .355/.452/.808 on the road, although it is the best OPS in the AL on the road. Kevin Millar's road performance was recently particularly highlighted, a rather anemic .315/.292/.607.

Jonathan Papelbon had better command of his stuff tonight, but still came away with a no-decision with 2 runs allowed in five innings. Thus far the bullpen hasn't been spectacular, as Timlin and Varitek elected to go upstairs on Maglio Ordonez after Ordonez missed a sinker (the theory being to change the hitter's eye level). The Big O promptly delivered a sac fly.

The Sox have plenty of pressing issues for the future. It looks as though the five spot is Papelbon's with Wade Miller on the shelf, and the closer position looks pretty shaky. "What's the difference between outspoken and obsequious?" Answer: "Three bad pitching performances." Curt Schilling had generally been getting the job done until recently, where his 'counter' pitches, particularly the splitter have deserted him.

Meanwhile, in the nether regions of 'farm land', Dustin Pedroia cracked two homers and had five RBI last night, while Mark Bellhorn continues to struggle. Craig Hansen has been solid at AA Portland, and Manny Delcarmen has returned to Pawtucket to get some needed work. Jon Lester didn't have it tonight, although Portland took the first game, and David Murphy continues to hit the ball after a forgettable start.

The Nation continues to struggle with the 'football mentality' of every game being life and death. Wins are viewed as 'expected' and losses all too often as either disasters or unnecessary. The saying goes that you win 60, you lose 60 and what happens in the other 42 determines your team. We expect to win 70 and lose 50 based on hitting, and pitching decides the rest.

Get well soon, Christopher Nixon.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Book 'em, Danno?

"Imagination is more important than information." - Einstein

Last Monday I wrote a very brief piece entitled "Popularity Contest", ranking of the popularity of current Red Sox players, obviously led by David Ortiz. I actually considered a broader discussion, emphasizing the changes in the racial climate in Boston, exemplified by the popularity of numerous Boston minority athletes. But I digress.

I didn't go into great detail (like you didn't know Big Papi?), but I was mildly surprised to see what seemed like an expansion of my outline a few days later in the Boston Globe by the newspaper's Daniel Shaughnessy. You know, the anagram, "Dan lies, as he hugs NY".

The beloved Shaughnessy has written a couple of pretty good books, Seeing Red and The Curse of the Bambino (see, no hard feelings, Danno), and the odds are pretty good that he's never even heard of my blog. It's just the timing, the circumstantial evidence that bothered me.

Seriously, maybe D.S. has turned over a new leaf, as some (including I) recognize him as the epicenter of New England negativity. Sure he's had some clever columns (his tale of two cities columns were once unique - you know Boston's New England clam chowder versus Manhattan clam chowder, The Hub against the Big Apple, Billy versus Bill Lee, and so on), but maybe the expansion to television and radio dulled his razor sharp wit. Or maybe he just mellowed with time and the near annual Patriots' championships.

Now, it doesn't make much sense for me to take on Dan and a million Globe readers with my daily hit level of about a hundred (evidently a billion Chinese couldn't care less), and I don't want an apology, a radio appearance, or even a Globe key chain. I'm just putting you on notice, Dan, just because I'm balding I'm not envious of your Chia Pet 'do', but I'm watching you.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Everybody in Boston is a baseball expert, right? Who are some of the most underrated players in the American League. Some are pretty obvious, while others are less obvious.

We'll begin on the mound, because pitching is so critical, as illustrated by the Sox turnaround in concert with bullpen stabilization. Two very underappreciated players are Carlos Silva of the Twins and Cliff Lee of the Indians. Silva is only 7-6, 3.42 but has an outstanding WHIP of 1.17, and a K/BB ratio of 7.38. He averages only 12 pitches per inning. He is economical with pitches, averaging 3.04 pitches per plate appearance. Conversely, Wade Miller throws 4.04 per batter and Clement 3.87.

Lee is more of the guy who seems to pitch well enough to win. At 12-4, 4.26, WHIP 1.35 his stats aren't overwhelming. At 26 years old, a lefthander, and with a salary of $345,000 he's a general manager's dream.

Concerning hitting, the Indians' Travis Hafner is third in the AL in OPS at .981, with 18 homers in only 324 at bats. David Dellucci of Texas has an OPS of .906, with 21 homers and 75 runs scored in 324 at bats. Paul Konerko of the White Sox isn't a household word, but has 200 career homers and 30 this season, at age 29. He could be a 500 homer player in the making.

On the Sox, the 'obvious' overachievers from the staff are Mike Timlin, who (inherited runners aside) has been exemplary. His 1.42 ERA, 0.16 homers per nine, and 2 walks per nine innings are particularly noteworthy. The other surprise has been Mike Myers, who has been the only consistent LHP from the pen.

Offensively, Johnny Damon's .386 OPS has been a consistent and 84 runs created is third on the team after David Ortiz (91) and Manny Ramirez (86).

Saturday, August 13, 2005

What's A Sportswriter to Do?

Amidst the sea of plenty, have pity on the Lords of the 4th Estate, our noble and esteemed colleagues from the print media (i.e. the people Joe Sportsfan actually reads).

Day after day, year after year, losing campaign after another their task was to humiliate and decry the performance of Ye Olde Towne Team. The World Series wasn't a panacea, but fortunately the Sox continued to provide grist for the ink-stained mill. There's Terry's pectoral pain, Curt's talus troubles, the Foulkester's failures, and so on.

Of course, over the long baseball season, there is no end to the travails that any organization will endure. If you don't have enough of your own, then there's always steroids, especially used by the Lying Liars (Rafael P., that's you), managers to jettison (pity poor Pena), or you can even cross sports to dump on Terrell Owens.

But we digress, let's look at where the Sox stand, 5 games up on the Yankees, with 48 games to play, 26 at home, where they have the second best record in the majors. First, let's look across at the National League, the home of the wretched, where the Ancient Soldier from the American League (read Roger Clemens) is unhittable, and the Cardinals, so easily vanquished in 2004, have the best record in baseball. Wannabes like the Padres, Nats, and even the Cubs contend for playoff positions while teams like the Tribe or Texas would be division leaders.

The starting pitching has stabilized, with a certain level of consistency sufficient amidst offensive splendor. Clement, Wells, Arroyo, Wakefield, and, er 'fill in the blank' with Papelbon, Lester, or Abe Alvarez. For the most part, they'll give you six to seven innings of three to four run pitching. They may not be the greatest, but that's baseball in the Questech era.

As for the bullpen, it used to be Myers and Timlin, then mix me a gimlet. Now Curt Schilling has firmed up the end-game (gave a little excitement last night, huh?) and Bradford's not so bad and even Little Manny might have a place, at least until Craig Hansen rumbles to the mound. Why does he remind me of John Vukovich (?) in Major League.

Defensively, well, let's not get defensive about it. We don't have an Beltran-Cameron train wrecks, barely, as Manny and Edgar narrowly missed. Neither of them have caught what we'd expect, anyway.

Offensively, now that's home cooking. Graffanino has been a revelation (gawd, let there be no positive drug tests), Manny and Ortiz are the deadliest combination since Mantle and Maris (really), JV has given varsity performance all year behind the plate and at bat, and What Would Johnny Damon Do? Just hit baby. Edgar has scored the third most runs of any AL shortstop and is hitting almost .280. Mueller has started to hit, Kapler has forgotten about the Rising Sun, and Kevin Millar tells funny anecdotes and has colorful warmup duds.

So, forget about any worries (1978), Cardinals (1967), or bygone miscreants (see ya' D-Lowe, thanks for the post-season) and enjoy the stretch run. How about that Cassel guy? He can pitch, too.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Confessions of a Sox Addict

I love the Sox, but that was bad baseball last night.

If Mike Hargrove were the 'Human Rain Delay', then Doug Brocail is 'Thunderstorm City'. He threw about 200 pitches in 2 innings, most of the strikes fouled off by Manny. Actually, Rangers pitchers threw 192 pitches in just eight innings, including seven walks and a hit batsman.

The umpires managed to get it wrong on the Kapler homerun (hasn't the umpiring been atrocious) and Christopher Nixon must have got tossed for being too into the game.

Actually, finding a lot to complain about concerning the locals recently, as winning covers up a variety of sins like inconsistent relief and defense.

Hey, all those people looking to dump Manny Ramirez, doesn't that look foolish now, as he goes on an AL Player of the Week tear, leads the league in RBI, and his OPS is up to 0.985.

Don't worry, we'll all have something to whine about soon, whether it's the return of Mark Bellhorn, or the Remlinger Factor, or something.

Oh yeah, where's Papelbon, or Lester, and how come Kevin Millar can't hit for power like the rest of AL first basemen?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Popularity Contest

Who's your favorite Red Sox player? Who are the most popular Red Sox players? Popularity surely shouldn't determine security, but maybe it makes it difference. If you're a 'rat buzzard' and equally talented to a more popular player, that might get you a ticket out of town if Theo has to make Sophie's Choice.

It also makes a difference whether you're a pitcher or an everyday player. Most of us 'associate' with everyday players, not as though we should associate with any of these athletes. About the only thing most of us have in common with them is human DNA, and probably a big appetite.

Life's choices allow us to be lumpers and splitters, so I'll lump the players into quintiles from most popular to least popular, realizing that I'm trying to project other people's opinions onto my biased opinions. Hey, we're not about being right, just having an opinion.

Quintile 1
David Ortiz
Jason Varitek
Johnny Damon
Trot Nixon
Manny Ramirez

Quintile 2
Tim Wakefield
Curt Schilling
Bronson Arroyo
Kevin Millar
Gabe Kapler

Quintile 3
David Wells
Mike Timlin
Edgar Renteria
Bill Mueller
Matt Clement

Quintile 4
Mike Myers
Tony Graffanino
Doug Mirabelli
Kevin Youkilis
Manny Delcarmen

Quintile 5
Jeremi Gonzalez
Chad Bradford
Wade Miller
Alex Cora
Roberto Petagine
Adam Stern

DL (Mark Bellhorn, Keith Foulke)

Okay, so what do we do with this information? The 'less popular' players are either new, reservers or unknown quantities, or quiet. The 'more popular' players are either better known, stars, or 'good interviews'. Jose Cruz, Jr. we barely knew ya.

Friday, August 05, 2005

On the Road Again

Foreshadowing. Like in the movie Karate Kid when Daniel sees Miyagi practicing the 'crane technique'. When Johnny Damon tripled and got stranded at third (early 2000'/Greg Maddux strike zone redux) and then got homerdomed on Lew Ford's triple, then you had the feeling the sky was falling - at least for today.

The Twins owe the Sox a little payback for last weekend's Twins-slapping, and eight game winning streaks are made to be broken. Even if you had a 60 percent chance of winning daily, the odds of an eight-game streak would be 0.6 to the eighth power or 1.68%.

And as well as the Sox have played lately, how about the Oakland A's? Maybe Billy Beane deserves his reputation. And speaking of Beane, my son Conor, the Orioles fan, reminded me that Larry Bigbie is the embodiement of the 'looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane' theme, a big stud who can't hit. Maybe that's what the Sox supercomputer finally spit out.
Roberto Petagine got shut out in his first game, so he's back to being a AAAA player, right?

Meanwhile, the other day Abe Alvarez and Anibal Sanchez both tossed shutouts, and Sanchez' E.R.A. is at 0.98. Admittedly, double A and a small sample size, but let's not be hasty here. Maybe the Rays could mix up Sanchez and Anastacio Martinez.

El Guapo is hitting 89 on the radar gun in Florida, and about 89 times 3 on the scale probably.

Can anybody think of a reason why Jon Lester hasn't gone up to Pawtucket with Jon Papelbon? Papelbon worked an inning tonight with a walk and two strikeouts. Lester leads the Eastern League in ERA (2.47) and is second in strikeouts (131 in 116.2 innings).

Right now the Sox have some very solid pitching prospects on the doorstep in Papelbon and Lester, a promising hard-thrower in Sanchez, the crafty junkballer in Alvarez, and Craig Hansen working up to a likely AA assignment.

And how we Sox fans obsess over our recently departed! There's Nomar (.145) back in the Cubs lineup, Pedro campaigning for Manny to defect to the Mets, and Derek (or is it drilling derrick) Lowe, whose theme song could be "Why Don't We Do It on the Road".

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pall of Fame

In the wake of the steroid scandal, we are starting to face some uncomfortable reality. Maybe Jose Canseco was the only guy telling the truth, even if were a bit enhanced.

The story reminds me of the Reagan administration, circa 1987, around the time of Iran Contra. I was working in Washington at Bethesda Naval Hospital. An unattributed Administration source (I'll call him Manny and he wasn't a patient so there's no doctor-patient confidentiality), told me that the only guy he trusted in Washington was Robert McFarlane. Ironically, McFarlane pleaded guilty to four counts of providing false information to Congress. The point isn't to indict politicians for lying (there wouldn't be enough courts in America to handle the business), but rather to show how difficult it is to tell when they are telling the truth.

So now that we have the truth about Palmeiro (and provisionally about other Canseco nominees to the Hall of Shame), what do we do with them? Raffy ought to get some good rest and swimming pool time during his massive ten-day suspension. For him to get caught enough times to get a serious suspension, he'll have to play to Julio Franco age. Franco, of course, knew God's dog when he was a puppy.

As one of the few good men with 500 homers and 3000 hits, Palmeiro was considered one of the upper echelon of hitters. I guess he still is, in the sense that Ben Johnson burned up the track, wind-aided of course.

Does Palmeiro belong in the Hall of Fame? Does President Kennedy get elected without dead people's votes in Illinois or President Bush the younger without some mysterious action in Florida? Does OJ Simpson belong in Canton after his exploits? The answers belong to the voters, whether sports writers, ordinary citizens, or impaneled jurors. As William Goldman said, "life isn't fair, it's just fairer than death, that's all."

Crime pays. Will Palmeiro get into the Hall of Fame? Probably. I also believe that Mark McGwire probably will, too, but it make take awhile. Gaylord Perry got in throwing spitters, so he cheated, and Jason Giambi's (he of the Yankee BALCO bash brothers) homers in Game 7 of the ALCS aren't coming off the board, either.

Would I vote for Palmeiro? That depends. If he came clean and penitent, then I'd forgive him. If he persists in the fantasy that steroids came in his ham and cheese on rye with special sauce, then I'd turn him down. Why? It's one thing if I'm stupid already, but don't insult my intelligence.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Pitching In

Because many of us grew up playing ball, and everyone here watches the Red Sox as a near-religious experience, we all believe we know at least as much as the manager, pitching coach, and definitely the third base coach. We don't. However, I know enough to share a few thoughts.

Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller summarizes pitching thusly:

1) Throw strikes
2) Change speeds
3) Work fast

ESPN gives detailed breakdowns of hitter performance by count. Obviously, hitters who work behind in the count seldom are good hitters. Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs was a rare exception. Strike one gives the pitcher a tremendous advantage.

"Hitting is timing. Pitching is disrupting timing." Pitchers without great 'stuff' can still get hitters out. Randy Jones of the seventies Padres, Doug Jones, and Mike Boddicker are all great examples of guys who had success without overpowering 'stuff'. Yesterday, the Sox threw Jon Papelbon against crafty veteran Brad Radke. If Radke had Papelbon's stuff, he'd be in the Hall of Fame. If Papelbon learned something from Radke yesterday, maybe he'll have as good a career as Radke.

Defense changes everything. Mark Belanger couldn't hit much better than Alex Cora, and definitely not better than Mark Bellhorn, but Belanger anchored those Orioles infields that seemed to be in the ALCS every year.

It's a refreshing change to see the Sox getting 'power arms' to the majors. That's not saying they can't use the next Greg Maddux, if someday David Pauley or another prospect becomes the second coming of Maddux. However, would you rather bat against Abe Alvarez or Jon Lester? Sure, Catfish Hunter could give you a 'comfortable' 0 for 4, but I'd rather take my chances against him than Nolan Ryan or Sudden Sam McDowell.

Good old fashioned country hardball has a lot to say for it. Alan Embree had velocity but limited movement. It looks like both Manny Delcarmen and Papelbon both have velocity and movement. If they can learn to harness their stuff, and get some breaking balls mixed in, that would make Theo Epstein's life a lot easier during the remainder of the season and beyond.