Thursday, August 31, 2006

You Can't Lose 'Em All

The Dog Days of August became either the Dead Dogs, the Lie Down and Rollover Dogs, or the Beaten Like a Dog Days for the Sox as they tied the record of most losses (21) in a month by a team that entered in first place.

Nonetheless, we have to ask is the glass half empty or totally empty? Let's presume that the walking wounded recover and that Jon Lester's health problem isn't serious. I think that leaves the Sox with a good core, and lots of money for free agency.

The core?

C - Varitek
IF - Youkilis, Lowell (contract), Pedroia
OF - Ramirez, Pena, Crisp (just never got totally 'right')
DH - Ortiz

SP - Schilling (1 year), Beckett, Papelbon, Lester
RP - Delcarmen, Wakefield

Yes, that leaves a lot of room for filler, including shortstop, at least one outfielder, and almost half the pitching staff. Can Edgar Martinez step up into the bullpen? Does Mike Timlin have anything left?

As for the 'best' free agent pitchers, there's Zito, Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Seibu Lions, Jason Schmidt, Adam Eaton, Ted Lilly (at least he couldn't beat us if he were us), and Mark Redman. Brad Radke and Mark Mulder may have health issues. If you get AL pitchers, then at least you know they can pitch in the AL. Get a Jason Marquis or Jeff Suppan and you could get a rude surprise.

Need a bat? And a glove? Torii Hunter or Gary Matthews, Jr are middling, Carlos Lee and Gary Sheffield can hit, and Nomar's not coming back. The Sox have this fantasy on Julio Lugo, or he's got pictures.

The Sox made some outstanding defensive plays today (Pedroia, Kapler, Pena) and turned some stylish twin killings. Although the results aren't there (until tonight), the effort isn't the problem. And as for the Franconaphobes, you can't manage better without better players, and he has barely had enough guys to make out a lineup card.

Although maybe today's game wasn't enough to bring back hope, at least it was entertaining and we won't see a homer like Cora's pinball shot for a long time.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Layman's Overview of Cardiac Rhythm Disturbance

David Ortiz was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital for evaluation. By report he had a history of palpitations, and presumably must have had documented rhythm disturbance (likely tachycardia or fast heart rate).

My comments are totally generic as I know nothing of his situation, prior health, medication use, or family history, information that his physicians will seek.

As a broad overview, tachycardia is divided between supraventricular (sinus tachycardia, atrial fibrillation and flutter, reentrant nodal rhythms) and ventricular tachycardia. As a first pass, physicians will want to know about medication use (caffeine, alcohol, cold medications, etc. - nothing to suggest cocaine or amphetamines), thyroid or other metabolic disease, and chemical balance (calcium, potassium, magnesium) and whether there are clues from the surface electrocardiogram.

Presuming the specific type of rhythm is known, physicians will try to determine whether circulatory (coronary artery disease), valvular (rheumatic or mitral valve disease), or myopathic (e.g. dilated, hypertrophic, infiltrative e.g. sarcoid or restrictive cardiomyopathy) disease exists.

In addition to heart monitoring, patients are likely to undergo transthoracic echocardiograms, ambulatory EKG monitoring, stress testing which may or may not lead to invasive testing, and if the rhythm disturbance is more severe, electrophysiologic testing. Some patients will have isolated electrical disturbances (e.g. lone atrial fibrillation), i.e. no structural, circulatory, or metabolic explanation is found.

Depending on the type of rhythm disturbance and underlying cause, there are many types of medical treatment and some types of invasive treatment. In addition to diagnosis and initial management, there will be intense examination of the patient's response to exercise, possibly under a variety of stimuli.

In treating the 'celebrity' patient, the most important elements are no different from treating all patients, trying to provide the necessary evaluation and communication to effect optimal outcome.

This is not designed to speculate on either the type of dysrhythmia or cause, but rather to provide background for readers. The evaluation is fairly standard, and we all wish the Sox slugger a speedy and full recovery.

I'm sure that we'll get whatever information the Ortiz family chooses to release, which is totally appropriate.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fantasy Baseball

To paraphrase the very doubtable Tom Cruise in Risky Business, "talent, there is no substitute." Yes, the Red Sox are showing up, but the JV Sox can't compete. Our boys have gone from among the top ten in the majors this year to the bottom ten. What happened?

Chaos in the front office. Are lasting scars a part of the Lansdowne Landscape? It wasn't about the money, but autonomy, and the end result has been mediocrity.

Balance becomes imbalance. For the first half of the season, the Sox led the league in defense, were in the top quarter in offense, and had enough pitching to compete. Yes, warning signs were out there, most notably the relatively narrow run differential. The Sox were able to win a lot of close games, thanks to defense and Jonathan Papelbon, but mean reversion caught up with both Papelbon and the Sox, coupled with other factors.

Injuries. There's no crying in baseball, but the Sox plummeted with a combination of the prolonged absence of Tim Wakefield, a greybeard who had mostly avoided prolonged DL time, and the ultimate catastrophe, the loss of their figurative and literal backstop, Jason Varitek. Yes, their competitors had injuries, too, but Varitek's loss crippled the pitching staff, as the replacements lacked the game management skills so finely cultivated by Varitek. Trot Nixon's absence brought about an excess of right-handedness.

Trending becomes trading. The Sox on the upswing, notably Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell, came back to earth in the second half. Coco Crisp has never seemed to become untracked, and the stellar work of Mike Timlin over the past few seasons has evaporated in the August heat.

Growing pains. The Sox relied on Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen, and Craig Hansen, and other than Papelbon, the rest have lacked consistency, showing their inexperience and at times lack of command. It's tough enough to learn at the Major League level, but here again Varitek's absence proved costly.

"It's a soap opera every day." This is really overrated. Manny Ramirez's attitude and injuries really only came after adversity set in. When the time came to step up against the Yankees, Manny answered the call, but didn't have enough help. The excellence of David Ortiz both at the plate and in the clubhouse wasn't enough to carry this flawed team.

Trading places. I want to believe that the reason the Sox didn't pull off any major deadline deals was that they realized that one player or two players, with heavy financial commitments, weren't going to put them over the top. Having Bobby Abreu in right field doesn't solve the mound of troubles the Sox have shown lately.

Effortless? Effort isn't the problem. Terry Francona is doing what he can with what he has. Nobody envisioned a rotation including Kyle Snyder and Kason Gabbard in late August. Francona has tried small ball, but small ball is tough in the 'Three-Run Homer' circuit. Tonight the Sox have no major league stars in the lineup, and it's hard enough to win with your best, never mind something less.

Tonight the Sox have victimized themselves with walks and a balk. They haven't hit, but have made several remarkable defensive plays, one by Hinske in right, and two by Cora at short. They're hustling.

It's not the media. It's not the road trip. It's not the 24 hour bug, sunspots, or the economy. Winning has become fantasy. You don't win in professional sports without enough talent. The horses have left the barn. The only thing left is mucking out the stalls.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Make the 'Bad Manny' Stop

Why do we insist on making baseball a morality play? As much as the most ardent fans among us may protest, baseball is a multibillion dollar entertainment business, its stars play a game and do not work miracles, and all in the industry, from players to peanut vendors have clay feet, like the rest of us.

Let's argue it both ways. Players have bad days. They weary of the 'marathon', they argue with their wives and girlfriends (we hope not at the same time), they get injured, have slumps, and occasionally aren't good people but self-indulgent boors. Like the rest of us.

Manny Ramirez doesn't bust it down to first base every at bat. Manny gets paid spectacular money to give his total effort. We expect him to prepare and perform at the highest level, satisfy the wishes of every reporter and every fan, and do it with a smile. Manny regularly produces forty homers, a hundred twenty RBI, hits .300 and plays a lot better leftfield than is generally appreciated.

Do you give 100 percent, every minute of every day, every week? Does every other major league player? Does everyone on the Red Sox? If David Ortiz grounds out to second and runs '90 percent', are we on his case?

Manny Ramirez doesn't have the commitment to play for the Red Sox. He sometimes demands a day off (for whatever reason), and might even feign injury or illness to get one. The dog eats his homework, illness in his family keeps him away from us, and he's seldom a great interview.

The last three seasons, Manny has played over 150 games a year. He averaged 112 runs scored, 42 homers, and 125 RBI. The 'good Manny' argument always gets down to those damn numbers, right? During those years he was an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger each year, and averaged fourth in the MVP voting. He was in the top ten in on-base percentage and slugging each of those years, and led the league in each category once during those years. He was in the top three in homers two of the three years and the top four in RBI each year. For sabermetricians, he was in the top five in runs created each year, and led or was second in two years. He averaged over ten assists and was the World Series MVP. That sounds like commitment to me.

Manny is moody. Supposedly Manny was upset about not getting credited for a hit in the Yankee series. Manny may have not wanted to play. At times Manny can get frustrated at work. Manny even has been known to socialize with the enemy, in the infamous Enrique Wilson case. (A billion Chinese couldn't care less.)

None of our readers ever gets upset over not getting credit for what they do. And all of us can't wait to get to work EVERY day. And we never get frustrated with our boss, coworkers, or customers.

Manny gets paid a fortune to do what he does. Manny isn't putting out enough effort to get paid more money than all of us. Why is he getting paid so much to play a game?

Most fans don't get paid as much as professional athletes. "Life isn't fair". Schoolteachers and nurses perform more valuable work than rockstars, but they don't get paid like them. If any of us can do what Manny can, we'd get paid close to what he gets paid, unless of course, we worked in some desert like Kansas City where we'd only get paid half as much. And by the way, if you get paid more than you're worth, exactly whose fault is that?

We're positive that Manny's negative. Maybe Manny isn't the happiest guy in an incredibly shrinking universe. I'm not happy that Pluto is only a Disney character instead of a full-fledged planet. Can we accept a guy for what he is, a mercurial first ballot Hall-of-Famer who has the talent to hit a baseball better than 99.99999998 percent of humans?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Win Today

With another West Coast swing upon us, one thing Sox do not need is denial. Yesterday, and the recent series, is history, and the only thing that counts is winning today.

We often hear talk about the baseball season being a marathon, and it may be, but to win a marathon one cannot fall miles behind with yards to go. What management and the team needs to focus on is winning today, not worrying about winning a series or a road trip.

"Why do we fall?" "So we can learn how to get up," echoes Bruce Wayne in Batman Returns. What the Sox need to remember, is not so much the bat man, but the pitch man, starting with Kyle Snyder and continuing down through the pitching staff.

Thirty-eight games is still almost a quarter of the season, and realistically, winning the division if the Yankees play just 22-19 requires the Sox to go 28-10 (hope I got the math right). That friends and foes alike is a tall order.

If either the Twins or Chisox finish second in the central and go 94-68, then the Sox must win 25 and lose 13 just to tie. Considering how they're playing lately, a mountain to climb indeed. That is not denial, but recognizing the predicament the Sox face. Denial is not just a river in Africa.

Entitlement Mentality

Prior to 2004, reality muted expectations. July leads were expected to wane in late summer, and October surprises always brought disappointment. Then the glorious World Series victory of 2004, following the apocalyptic crash of Baseball's gods, the Yankees, changed everything. Twenty-five guys, twenty-five caps was banished by Theo and the Trio, the Bloody Sock, and the Idiots. Loserville no more.

One championship, and you expect the taste every season. Like a cocaine addict, you've got the high of victory and you want more. You crave it; you demand it; you lust for it. Pinch yourself.

What a difference. Following the recent homestand, all we hear is 'down the toilet, circling the drain, blow it up' and so on. The only question isn't 'are we printing playoff tickets' it's 'who's getting the tar and feathers?'

Inevitably, people feeling victimized need to find somebody to blame. "It's Theo's fault for not making a big deal," or "damn Francoma, doesn't know how to handle a pitching staff." You can't make chicken salad out of, er, chicken feathers. Try some numbers on for size. August team ERA 6.13. Worst in the AL. August opponents average .311. Worst in the AL. Record 6-14, second worst in the AL. Post All-Star break ERA, 5.50, worst in the AL.

We don't have to bring in CSI or Mystery Science Theater 3000 to solve this. The pitching staff isn't getting the job even close to done. Can it be solved? You think the Sox are hiding better pitchers somewhere? You think Roger Clemens is walking through that door?

What Sox fans have to hope for is a momentum-killing start tonight by Kyle Snyder, and then some 'mean reversion' to adequate from there. If you truly believe the Sox are as bad as they're playing right now, then why worry about it, because they aren't fit to compete for the playoffs never mind another title.

Step away from the window. Put away those unpleasant thoughts. Focus on the positives, a beautiful day in Boston, some tomatoes or beans on the vine, a summer breeze at the beach, and take comfort in what's ahead. Football season.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Lost in Translation

Last year, Fenway was 'America's Most Beloved Ballpark'. A radio ad today called it 'Boston Best Ballpark'. Tomorrow it will have to be 'The House of Pain'. The Bombers dispatched the Red Sox five straight, Cool Hand Luke cryin' shame, for the first time since 1951, ergo the worst beating of most of our lives.

But let's not confuse justice with just is. The Yankees have a superior player to the Sox at every position except leftfield and DH, and in most instances it's not close. Yes, there is a payroll difference, and yes Jason Giambi still looks 'artificially enhanced', but those are still the facts. The better team won (even with two blown games), and the Red Sox are not one player away. Period.

The absence of Jason Varitek has been telling and the truism about 'strength up the middle' didn't lie. Yes, Johnny Damon has added something extra to the Gothamaniacs, and even the most loyal Red Sox fan can't seriously croon, "Nomah's Bettah".

So what's the team to do? Hair shirt, fall on their swords, or try to suck it up? I'll continue to insist that the Sox aren't going quietly into the night, that would be letting us off too easily.

Youth will be served. Nobody is saying that Papelbon, Lester, Delcarmen, and Hansen belong in Cooperstown, or even the Red Sox Hall of Fame. But what they do provide is more than hope; they lend financial flexibility, payroll flexibility to a team that (no matter what you think) has a payroll 70 million dollars less than the Steinbrenners.

Their presence probably allows something like 30 million reasons why the Sox can compete more effectively next season (not discounting the chance of some late season heroics this year). Presumably the infield will look something like Lowell or Hinske, Pedroia, Youkilis, and Loretta or Gonzales. If Alex Cora slipped in there somewhere, it wouldn't be a loss, to have the highest baseball IQ in the lineup.Yes, the Sox could use more power at the corners, but stout defense brought smiles and wins, until Varitek went down and the pitching went south with him.

The outfield isn't the problem, and Varitek presumably will be back soon. The thirty million dollars fixes the pitching staff. Starters next year can include Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Lester, and either Wakefield or another $tud. Hansen, Delcarmen, Timlin in a narrower role, and some $tandout reliever$, including a clo$er, and you're back in business.

Everyone wants to crucify Theo Epstein for not making the Godfather move at the trading deadline. Maybe the GM saw this team for (pardon the expression) the transition team it is, preparing to try to make the playoffs every season, instead of trading the Bagwells, the Schillings, and the Eckersleys of the organization.

Will the front office make mistakes? Inevitably. Could the manager make a different move occasionally? Surely. But the product on the field isnt' of championship caliber now and understanding it sooner, rather than later, might help some of the Nation sleep better.

I have no dog in this fight. But Pyrrhic victories aren't Series victories, and the season isn't over yet. Firing the GM, the manager, the pitching coach, and the batboy isn't going to make the lineup better than the Yankee$. Dong ma?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bad News Beans

We used to hear about WWJDD. Maybe the question we should be asking is 'what would Bill Belicheck do?' As the weekend goes along, it's looking a lot more like the Boston Massacre of 1978, where the Yankees scored something like 40 runs in a four game series. Unfortunately, the Bombers have already scored 39 in just three games.

It's tempting to put the blame on those who cannot fix the problem, that is GM Theo Epstein and skipper Terry Francona. Does anybody think that they're not putting the best they have out there. The Sox don't even have the Wakefield on three days rest option, with workarounds for the rest of the staff.

Maybe we're just suffering 'growing pains', as the youngsters (Papelbon excepted) haven't been able to deliver, and the veterans (Seanez, Tavarez, and Timlin) ain't what they used to be. The Jermaine Van Buren experiment has pretty much worn me down, and heck, I don't have to actually throw him.

Options, aside from wholesale changes which isn't an option. Do nothing, and rely on the 'bad stretch' theory. "You're never as good as you look when you win and never as bad as when you lose." Right now, the Sox don't just look bad, they're playing poorly. Dispatch a veteran. I think that was a Belicheckian move. Team meeting. In the old days, we used to call this 'soul searching'. You have the choice to lay down and die like dogs or try to climb out of the hole. Francona surely deserves more than he's getting. Youth movement. Dustin Pedroia can play now, but the Sox would be looking to get fifty cents on the dollar for whomever. Although I'm following the minors, I'm not sensing an abundance of major league ready talent. Kason Gabbard deserved more than one start, but he's not exactly lighting it up in Pawtucket.

Everyone knows that they're smarter than the Sox management (right), but the karma is bad, the games are bad, and the results are bad. There's nothing worse is the 'verse than having to rely on hope, but 'momentum is only as deep as tomorrow's starting pitcher'. Maybe Curt has something left and the team can get a night's sleep and come out fighting instead of dying.

Close But No Cigar?

Red Auerbach used to celebrate another Celtics' victory by lighting his famous cigar. Although occasionally close, the opposition never caused that cigar to explode. A C's victory inevitably ensued. Always.

As the Red Sox are close, at least geographically, within the pennant race, they tempt us to remain brave, trustworthy, courteous and the whole host of Boy Scout adjectives. Especially when confronted by our antithesis of Red Sox Nation, the Evil Empire.

We must remember that the Red Sox embody 'toying with our emotions', and a calamitous collapse, especially on Jimmy Fundraising Day, hardly seems an appropriately ambivalent 'pain trade'. Jason Johnson's performance earned him a bus ticket out of here, and Jon Lester's OJT stint at Fenway never engendered more pain.

Are we in for another Boston Massacre reminiscent of 1978, the good old days of Butch Hobson and Bobby Sprowl? Sprowl's portside promise never delived a single win in parts of four years baseball service. Time does wound all heels.

Sure, Sox fans can lament dollars unspent on Abreu (over 27 million the papers say, counting luxury tax for 1 1/3 seasons), trades unmade for Roy Oswalt, and the sting of injury to stalwarts Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and Trot Nixon. But 'there's no crying in baseball', and the Bombers have endured the loss of Matsui and Sheffield, and Carl Pavano has been largely MIA since picking up his 40 million/ four year deal.

For the most part, the crisp (not Coconut Arm in center) defense has remained, and the offense, while inconsistent, hasn't been abominable. The Sox struggle lies at the feet, or more appropriately at the arms of the pitching staff, where our "no lead is safe" mantra about venerable Fenway Park has proven true. Although fashionable to hurl Philippics at overpaid middle relievers like Seanez and Tavarez, the entire staff can take Shakespearean discomfort in "the fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves." All too frequently, the Sox play catchup, and holding a lead for the entire bullpen has become as troubling as eating soup with a fork.

Castigating Theo Epstein for a lack of deadline deals and an abundance of cash conservation begs the question. As currently constituted, "are the Sox good enough to be a championship contender?" If Epstein and his minions decided no, then accepting a pennant race transition team in lieu of throwing good money after bad pennant prospects makes abundant baseball and financial sense. Of course, they can't publicly pronounce their abdication from title dreams, but maybe they whisper it within the Fenway bunkers.

So don't tear up your Red Sox Nation cards, punish the big-screen television, or kick the dog. Embrace the Sox for what they have always been, a mercurial tease within the baseball universe.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


So often the baseball season parallels the sport of rock climbing. I'm sure that elite rock climbers have periods where they feel invincible, and other times they must wonder why they accept the challenge.

The NL East represented good handholds, favorable weather, and perfect health. Who could have guessed that Tampa and KC would have been the sheer face of cold, wintry death? The other day the Boston Globe had an absurd column asking whether the Tigers were 'real'. At this point in the season, the Tigers of 2006 eclipsed the World Series Champion, 35-5 starting Tigers, who were very toothy. Pitching, pitching, pitching. The Tigers have it in abundance, with live young arms, the kind the Sox are trying to assemble.

The Sox acquired Eric Hinske in a waiver deal, which gives them some corner pop. What next, Shea Hillenbrand?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Curse of Mrs X

Well, I went almost to the end of the known baseball universe (Vail), but I'm back to wonder whether I'm a jinx.

Speaking of jinxes, I recently met a man. Mr X. (names are changed to protect the innocent) who was a former employee of the New Yorkahs. El jefe Steinbrenner found it necessarily to terminate his business relationship with said individual. Unfortunately for Steinbrenner, that was a serious mistake, as Mr. X informed me that Mrs X put a curse on the Bombers (2001). You don't believe in curses? The results seem to speak for themselves. Small children in New York have never known that Championship Feeling.

Enough Schadenfreude.

As for the Sox, after the debacle known as Tampa and KC (my excessive nocturnal entertainment theme), the Sox came back to pluck the once-proud Orioles.

Alas, the Tigers invade Fenway tonight and the Law of Averages is catching up with the Sox so far, as the Tiger losing streak is softening, just in time to disrupt the Sox.

All those naysayers on Wily Mo Pena can't be continuing to ride the Bronson Arroyo train, are they? Arroyo is 9-8 and his post-All Star break numbers are 0-2, 4.91, which would make him what he is in the AL, limited. Wily Mo, who fans wanted to run out of town has a 1.036 OPS post the break in 61 at bats. I'm not claiming he'll be the right-handed Ortiz, but he looks like a keeper.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Good News, Bad News

The bad news was the extended security check at Logan. The good news was that they didn't force us to divert our plane to Kansas City.

The Royals, one of the worst teams in MLB, have the opportunity to sweep the Red Sox tonight. Say it ain't so, Joe Castiglione.

At least it hasn't been one thing, it's been everything. Maybe Curt Schilling can continue his amazing streak of avoiding personal two-game losing streaks and pull the Sox out of this tailspin. Doug Mirabelli homered tonight, so anything is possible.

Warm and sunny in Vail, although the air's just a little thin; probably like in the Sox offices these days.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Psychotic Lowlives?

Mal: Fellow called Badger.
Harrow: I know him. And I think he's a psychotic lowlife.
Mal: And I think calling him that is an offense to the psychotic lowlife community.
--From Firefly, the Series

It ain't easy being green, or a Red Sox fan. You'd think that the magical 2004 season with cataclysmic collapse of the Bronx Bombers and a World Series title would erase the angst from the collective consciousness of Red Sox Nation. Fat chance.

Management takes heat for not taking on enough salary (extensions of Ortiz and Beckett, anyone), for not trading prospects for overpaid ragarms (sorry Kip Wells), and being acused of general indifference to the Sox plight. Try this one on for size. The current version of Sox, Stardate 2006.112 isn't good enough to win the AL East, never mind the whole enchilada. The number three starter is Jon Lester, who might be a top of the rotation guy someday. He's not today. Not his fault, as he's pressed into a role that is a stretch for him. The offense has sputtered mightily, aside from the 3-4 spots, and much of the lineup has been slumping.

Admittedly, per Earl Weaver, "you're never as good as you look when you win or as bad as you look when you lose." Of course, losses to Tampa and Kansas City get magnified, as though you're an ant under a magnifying glass on a sultry summer day. And why not? If you can't beat the Weak Sisters, can you expect to compete with the Big Dogs?

The Sox will not fold. The catastrophic drop approach isn't the Sox way. Too easy for everyone. No, if it's baseball death, it will be Shakespearean, with much knife-twisting pain along the way, salt in the wounds, and all that. And no, Red Sox fans are not psychotic lowlives. That would be unfair to the psychotic lowlife community.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Relative Strength

With an off day to refuel the Sox, let's take a look at the offensive production of the team, comparing not TEAM versus TEAM statistics, but position versus position production.

DH - There are five DHs who qualify, with the top 2 in OPS being, Travis Hafner 1.060 and Jim Thome 1.050. Wait. David Ortiz leads in runs created (100) versus 97 for Hafner and 91 for Thome. Obviously, not a problem area.

C - Among 9 qualifiers (plate appearances) Jason Varitek ranks eighth with an OPS of .743. Joe Mauer (.970) and Jorge Posada (.875) dominate.

1B - Kevin Youkilis is 4th in runs created (77) and 6th in OPS (.842) but leads AL first basemen in runs scored (76). Better as a leadoff hitter than in the five hole.

2B - Mark Loretta is seventh in OPS (.743) but leads in runs created (62). Okay, so he's not Joe Morgan, but Joe Morgan isn't playing anywhere else in the AL either.

SS - Alex Gonzalez came billed as good field, no hit. Alex is 6th among AL shortstops in OPS (.762) and tenth in runs created. Hitting tenth doesn't help. He's not the problem either.

3B - Mike Lowell is fourth in OPS (.822) and fifth in runs created. Of course the problem is that Lowell did a lot of his damage early and he is either wearing down, injured, or reverting to 'expected' levels.

LF - Manny Ramirez has a 0.200 lead on the rest of AL leftfielders and also a wide lead in runs created (97). Ortiz and Manny and the rest can sit on their fanny?

CF - Coco Crisp doesn't have enough appearances to qualify for OPS ranking and is tenth among AL CFs in runs created. Coco gets an incomplete, but would probably rate a C if we were handing out report cards. Coming back in midseason from injury is tougher than it looks.

RF - Trot Nixon, who gets platooned and is on the DL, is fourth in OPS (.822) after a massive slump, and eighth in runs created at 54. For a corner outfielder, Trot hasn't been putting up big numbers and his production amidst age and injury has suffered.

So the numbers support your observations, Ortiz and Ramirez are carrying the load, and the rest of the team has scuffled, although Loretta and Gonzalez have done at least as well as the Sox could have expected.

You expect the stars to be, well, the stars, but the relative underproduction of the surrounding cast, admittedly affected by injuries has put the Sox in the postion of being close in the standings, but fading coming down the stretch.Did the Sox err in not trading the prospects for a bat or a Lidle? NO. The Sox may well rally going down the stretch, but as currently constituted, they aren't that CLOSE to sacrifice the future for what I'd view as a 15-1 shot based on the team, warts (injuries) and all as of August 7th.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Running on Empty

David Wells comes into tonights game at number 64 on the All-Time Wins list. I've gotta give him major respect for that.

Wells doesn't have a ninety-mile an hour fastball to complement his control and his curveball anymore. He's out there on guts and guile, not on gas. He can still occasionally fool the young punks, but they're clearly catching up to him, hardly surprising at age 43.

Wells has only given up one earned run so far, as he was a victim of a David Ortiz miscue at first, and his declining stuff. He reminds me of the old lion, being pushed out of the pride by young challengers. And so it must be.

Terry Francona seems to have a pattern, pitching Hansen, Delcarmen, and Timlin in front of Papelbon when the game is on the line, and the 'Z' squad, Tavarez and Seanez when the Sox struggle.

Too bad Casey Fossum couldn't get guys out when he was on the Sox.

Anybody notice that Dustin Pedroia is in the lineup at third base tonight for the Pawsox. Obviously, the Sox are trying to prepare for whatever contingency arises amidst the injury bug. Keith Foulke threw a pair of scoreless innings, and he could certainly have a role in the bullpen, if he can get healthy.

It hasn't been made very clear who the Sox are trading to the Orioles for Javy Lopez, either Adam Stern or Alejandro Machado by rumor. Stern is blocked ultimately by both Jacoby Ellsbury and Wily Mo Pena in the longer term plans. As for Lopez, the D-Rays are running on him as though he were 'the one-armed man', and he hasn't made anybody forget Johnny Bench at the bat either.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cowbell Up!

The Sox got a big win at the Juice today, on Cowbell Night. Sox fans had a chance to ring in the beginning of the road trip, sparked by a pair of Ortiz homers, winning 3-2.

It's not easy to get into the manager's head, but let's try. The Sox pitching is scuffling, based on today's report that Schilling's 7 innings were the first seven inning start since July 20th. Is that possible?

Tim Wakefield's absence hurts the rotation a lot, as Schilling, Beckett, and Lester are now the top three, with Wells and Jason Johnson major question marks.

Papelbon and Delcarmen are looking like the top two out of the pen, followed by Timlin and Hansen, with Snyder the long man. Corey, Tavarez, and Seanez are looking for roles. At least one must go to allow the Sox to have more position player depth, especially if Lowell remains injured.

Lefty Phil Seibel is in the wings at Pawtucket, and one wonders if Chris Smith can be far behind after today's initial performance.

Ortiz now is at .289/.393/.629/1.022 amazing. But don't forget Manny Ramirez at .317/.429/.626/1.055. Ortiz is first in homers, RBI, total bases, and second in runs scored.

Coming into tonight the Sox are second in runs scored, first in defense, and seventh in ERA. They are also third in K/BB, as often mentioned a good predictor for subsequent ERA.

The Sox hold a half-game lead on the White Sox for the Wild Card.

Daydream Believer

I want to believe, that most professional athletes are larger than life, All-American he-roes. In addition to their athletic prowess, they're good to their families, have a sunny disposition, don't take alcohol, drugs, or performance enhancers, and they might even be kind to kids and like animals. I'm sure some meet these stringent goals, but probably no more than doctors, lawyers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.

So, do we need some classification to help us identify the wheat from the chaff? Please feel free to use it for athletes, rock stars, and dog catchers. I'm not going to give examples because frankly I don't know many pro athletes, and if I did, I don't think I'd rat them out.

1. Bunyanesque. Larger than life, all-around good guy.

2. Delightful rogue. Flawed but intriguing personally.

3. Lothario. See below for married players.

4. Philandering hypocrite. Kinda speaks for itself.

5. Shylock. Tightfisted rich guy.

6. Self-absorbed narcissist.

7. Miserable buzzard.

These aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but it least they give us somewhere to start.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Eat Crow

You'll never see, "Eat BLANK" on Family Feud, either the new or the old version. Many Red Sox fans have failed to appreciate the hitting genius of Manny Ramirez, author of 9 consecutive years of at least 30 homers. Or the invaluable protection that he provides to David Ortiz.

Well, a lot of Red Sox fans need to EAT CROW. No, Manny isn't a paragon of concentration, occasionally failing to run out a grounder, or pausing to admire his batting handiwork. But great players have great statistics, and that fits Ramirez to a tee.

Ramirez is tied for third in the AL in homers, and came into the season with an on base percentage of .409 and slugging percentage of .599. He far exceeds the expected Hall of Fame standards and Hall of Fame monitor for career production, found at Among 'similarity scores' to Manny's career or by age, you find Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Duke Snider, and Joe DiMaggio. I never saw Snider or DiMaggio play, but that's lofty company.

Starting the season, Manny's in the Top 50 all-time of MVP votes (42), on base percentage (40), on base slugging percentage (10), home runs (33) , RBI (59) , intentional walks (48), fewest at bats per home run (5), and grand slams (2). He's one of the top hitters in the history of baseball.

For all those who tried to run the guy out of town, don't forget that crow is best served cold.

DISpassionate Advice

We're the Diehards, the Sox fans who have endured years as the fan equivalents of bridesmaids, only to enter Nirvana in 2004, and expect, well. polygamy. It doesn't exactly work that way. Championship teams need talent, execution, health, luck, and especially pitching.

The everyday Sox lineup has 'extreme' talent in David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Even accounting for injuries, those are the players who can start for every team in the majors. Trot Nixon (offensively) and Jason Varitek (especially concerning preparation and handling of pitchers) have their moments, but neither are consensus All-Stars. The rest of the Sox infield have performed admirably, and better than expected. But Mike Lowell is not Mike Schmidt and Mark Loretta isn't Joe Morgan, although Loretta turns the DP as well as any second baseman I've seen. Alex Gonzalez has far exceeded expectations with the bat, and has fielded brilliantly. Coco Crisp hasn't been the player the Sox hoped for. Sometimes the issue isn't getting better players, but the players getting better.

On the mound, Schilling and Beckett have performed effectively in the 1-2 spots. Jon Lester is a rookie with great potential, getting great on-the-job training. If we're playing Game 3 of the World Series, how comfortable do you feel with version 1.0 of Lester? Tim Wakefield is hurt, and David Wells isn't the David Wells of yesteryear. The rest of the starting staff is patchwork, and the bullpen has shown signs of wear beyond Papelbon and Timlin.

What am I getting at? Is the team, as currently constituted, a Championship team? This isn't a knock on the team that has overachieved to date, but I wouldn't fly to Vegas to put down a wager on them. Neither Randy Jones, Dalton Jones, or Andruw Jones traded for young pitching gets them there. I'm not anywhere close to sure that Roy Oswalt or Roy Hobbs gets them there either.

The Red Sox have good balance (when healthy), a solid front office, a very functional manager, and young pitching that has a chance to be special. The young talent also gives them payroll flexibility to get more pitching and another bat.

The key to the remainder of the season isn't acquisition of Roger Clemens, Ryan Shealy, or Javy Lopez. The current team has to become maximally accountable and play their best baseball of the season, the kind that they played against the National League. Was it all about talent differential or something more? We'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hypocritical Mass

I enjoy listening to WEEI, a.k.a. Sports Radio, a.k.a. 'Nitwit Radio'. During today's AM 'drive' (I live close to work), the only thing I heard was commercials. The only one I remember was an advertisement for a hospital. Maybe that's appropriate for the Red Sox these days, with Jason Varitek hurt and Trot Nixon, too.

Of course, this afternoon, the PM nitwits, including sportswriters, were insisting that the Red Sox should have given up the young pitching for Andruw Jones. who is signed with Atlanta through 2007. Undoubtedly, these same baseball geniuses would be lambasting the Red Sox for losing too many 9-7 games after the departure of the kids. But that's their game, right?

I'm trying to recall the number of successful baseball GMs who had previous careers as prominent sportswriters. Help me out here. What's not to love about Red Smith, Peter Gammons, George Frazier, and Thomas Boswell? Sports journalists leave indelible marks on their community. But that isn't synonymous with drafting, developing, and maintaining a successful franchise. So you think I'm offering a blank check to Theo Epstein? Hardly.

In baseball, as in investing, you have to think about the "other side of the trade." The same argument emerged from Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Does the other guy know something that you don't? Is evaluating talent, signing, and deploying it the same as writing about it?

While on that subject, at least Melrose's Chris Snow got the job as Director of Hockey Operations for the Minnesota Wild. I'm not a hockey krishna, or even a hockey fan, but there's one sportswriter getting close to actually getting behind the wheel.

Sportswriters often feel a certain bluster, as in the Ron Borges (Boston Globe) and Bill Belichick relationship, something akin to the Hatfields and the McCoys. Perhaps a real history exists, but you'd have to expect that by now, it's strictly personal. To quote Cold Hard Football "
Borges implied that he has some dirt on Belichick that nobody else knows about:
"This fellow (Belichick) has cornered the market on convincing people with the help of his friends that no one has ever worked harder than he does and he's out, uh, you know, when everyone else is sleeping, he's working, when everyone else is eating, he's working, uh, I could say something, but I won't ... about uh, how at least some of his time is being spent... ”

Do I really care how Belichick (or Theo Epstein) spends his free time. If your team has a self-absorbed, obsessed management about improving their team and your prospects, then all the better for you, and unfortunately all the worse for them.