Thursday, July 31, 2008

No Blood, No Sweat. No Tears

I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.

You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs - Victory in spite of all terrors - Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.- Winston Churchill, 1940

The Red Sox traded current malcontent and future Hall of Famer Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers for Pittsburgh outfielder Jason Bay in a three way deal. Departing will be 7 million dollars, Brandon Moss, and Craig Hansen. The money goes to the Dodgers to pay Ramirez' salary, and Moss and Hansen go to Pittsburgh.

Manny held a figurative gun to the head of Sox ownership, which had seen the team implode on the field, and Manny assuming the role of Grand Pooh Bah while playing at his convenience on his terms. Ramirez' antics had reduced the Sox to a joke on the field this week against the Angels, and the Sox had to move him or face total meltdown.

Ramirez was less of an enigmatic figure than a petulant star, a man with a great work ethic in the cage and video room, but self-absorbed with both his value and respect.

For manager Terry Francona, Ramirez' departure means the perpetual rock in the shoe disappears, but only time will tell what Bay brings under the bright lights. Team leaders have to be relieved that the distraction vanishes, but they also have the responsibility to raise the team's level of play to playoff caliber.

I think Moss will be a twenty homer guy who can hit .280 and Hansen may develop faster without the spotlight of Boston. You never know whether a guy like Moss could reappear sometime in the future.

Was Ramirez a misunderstood hitting savant or sophomoric narcissist? Manny exemplifies the difference between baseball and football. Manny never matured into the kind of leader who understood that winning and the team meant more than his performance. I celebrate his contribution to the contemporary Sox' pair of World Championship. But I weep not for his departure, as his intransigence and selfishness forced the Red Sox to move him.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Was That?

The Red Sox are playing their worst baseball of the season tonight, for whatever reason. Totally lacking in crispness and execution, they look totally discombobulated, as we head into the trading deadline.

The Patriots would throw a marginal veteran over the side in response to such indifference, but the Red Sox have to weigh the 'panic' approach versus a realistic examination of their prospects.

Sometimes you need players to overachieve, and currently there are few certainties with this team, other than Manny being fanny. For a guy who has made a fortune and largely produced at a high level, he shows incredible bitterness and contempt for ownership. Who is he likely to hurt in the end? Guys like Terry Francona who has taken many a bullet for him, and in the end, himself. Only a handful of teams can hand out 15-20 million dollar a year deals, and most of them dogs frankly won't hunt. Maybe Scott Boras can sweet talk the Yankees into throwing Mad Money at Manny, but maybe not.

At least for now, moving Ramirez looks like addition by subtraction, as you've gotta feel the Sox would play with more heart with Brandon Moss in the lineup.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Run Out of Town

"Run out" has been an issue, as in running out ground balls, baserunning in general, but now it's Manny running himself out of town. Why I'd like Manny to find a new home? Manny's playing a child's game for princely money. Why not be happy? Manny's entitled to make as much money as he can with his next contract. The issue at hand is Manny playing out his contract with the effort and concentration 'expected'. Okay, so maybe expected for Manny is less than for some.

Why I'd like Manny to stay? First, he can hit, and second, he's not as bad defensively as you might think. He's probably as good as Jim Rice at playing the wall, and he usually catches what he can reach, unlike Gator Greenwell. But even more, I don't want to give Daniel (Dan lies as she hugs NY) Shaughnessy the satisfaction of saying HE forced Manny out of town. I don't like it when writers ("I'm a columnist not a writer") try to become the story instead of reporting the story.

The Angels look to be the class of the league after delivering the Sox another thumping. Of course, in a short series anything can happen. Their lineup with Kendrick and Kotchman hitting, and their small ball capabilities certainly warrant attention.

Joba (the Hun) Chamberlain. What is the matter with this Cro-Magnon? Major League Baseball needs to bring the righthander in for a trip to the woodshed and perhaps some psychiatric testing after yet another head-hunting adventure with Kevin Youkilis. I believe in 'karma' as in what goes around comes around. Are the powers that be oblivious to memories of Tony C and Kirby Puckett or are they just dragging their knuckles in deference to the Yankees? Higher powers have blessed Chamberlain with the stuff to be a big winner, but time will test him not only physically but mentally. Pitchers are entitled to work inside, but beanballs deserve sanctions before Chamberlain pitches himself out of active service.

Trade deadline approaching, will Sox stand pat? The Angels have just traded Casey Kotchman and a minor leaguer for Mark Teixeira. Although Kotchman is a future star, that certainly establishes the Angels as favorites in the AL. The biggest issue for the Sox is not necessarily acquiring more talent, but having the existing talent produce at a championship level.

The Sox certainly don't want to trade top prospects for suspects. They have plenty of players in demand (Buchholz, Bowden, Reddick, and others) but shouldn't settle for rentals if they are giving up potential stars, especially pitchers AND taking on salary.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Manny: Going Places?

Has Manny Ramirez finally 'sat' his way out of Boston? Ultimately, it boils down to the Oprah question, "are you better off with him or without him?" Certainly, it 'feels' as though his production has declined, although only the Sox can know what metric they use.
From a Win Shares perspective, Manny's three year moving average seems to be declining.

The big question is how Manny's act plays in the clubhouse. Does the clubhouse leadership see Manny as a productive eccentric or a debilitating distraction?

And what do the Sox get for the enigmatic outfielder? With plenty of teams in contention for playoff spots, the Sox can hope to benefit from the "Winner's Curse" where teams overbid for perceived value. Everyone can envision Manny getting a fresh and productive start in their lineup.

Let's hope that the Sox have karma working for them. They certainly could use a little more pop in the lineup and consistency in the bullpen. But do you want to give up a Buchholz or Bowden for an Aaron Rowand or a front line package for Jason Bay? I don't know.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The Red Sox pitching staff has some 'erratic' performance today, especially defensively. Clay Buchholz falls down on a chopper, although he had enough athleticism to make the play, if the umpire makes the right call. Jonathan Papelbon plays greased pig with a chopper down the first base line in the eleventh. Craig Hansen shows how 'not to' field your position in the twelfth.

Ironically, it was Seattle fielding that turned the game around, however, as Seattle butchered a Kevin Youkilis gapper, and the Sox score three in the 12th to win, while Craig Hansen ekes out a save leaving the bases juiced.

Equally ironically, it was Jacoby Ellsbury igniting the rally, when he has struggled to get on base for what seems like weeks, leading off the twelfth. It shows the importance of the leadoff man's success.

Final irony, the Sox go to rainy Seattle for sunshine performance after the disappointing sweep by the Halos, and come home with a 3-3 trip.

Justin Masterson goes 2 2/3 strong innings tonight for the Sox in his first relief effort for the Sox. As noted by Remy, the hard slider down and in to the lefties (their blind spot) proved highly effective.

Sean Casey, the Mayor, filled in for Manny today, as Manny's saga of timely injury continues. Rumor has it the Mets want to trade half their minor league for Ramirez. Let's hope that Theo is at least charging his cell.

And Heidi, please stop pulling your hair's just not your best least you have choices!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lest We Forget

The Red Sox have one pitcher in the top 10 in ERA in the AL, Jon Lester, courtesy of his seven plus shutout innings last night.


Lester............... 132 1.31.. 2...... 8... 3... 3.20

Santana............ 130 1.22.. 3.1.... 8...7... 3.10

I won't claim that Jon Lester is the same pitcher as Santana, who has a much longer track record, and a salary in the stratosphere. But to think that the Sox contemplated trading Lester and other cornerstone young players for the high-priced spread, we have to say so far the economics (value in the broad sense )of the deal has worked out.

The Sox have a couple of other pitchers in the top 25 of ERA leaders, Tim Wakefield at 15 (3.69) and Josh Beckett 24 (3.98).

The Sox remain second in runs scored and sixth (3.82) in ERA.

Deadline deals: If all goes well, the Sox get the best deadline deal available, the return of David Ortiz, which in effect substitutes him for either Ellsbury or Crisp, neither exactly tearing it up lately. That gives the Sox potentially productive hitters from Pedroia, Ortiz, Manny, Drew, Lowell, and Youkilis, with the battle for the leadoff spot still likely to go to Ellsbury for now.

Anybody and everybody has to see how they are relentlessly pounding Ellsbury inside, making him prove he can deal with that hole.

No Dogs? While David Ortiz rehabs at Portland, 1B Lars Andersen and OF Josh Reddick move up from Lancaster, both with OPS over .900.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sox Resume Second Half Tonight

Well, the All-Star break is over and the Red Sox will resume their second-half schedule at Seattle. The Sox hope to achieve a berth in the World Series for the third time in five seasons and have the home field advantage following the exciting 15 inning win over the NL.

Tonight, Washington local Jon Lester returns home to face the Mariners and help the Red Sox to second half success. Jed Lowrie is expected to start at short and Dustin Pedroia expected to have a multihit game.

Oh yeah, the Sox limped out of Anaheim, beaten to a pulp by the halos, with a lethal combination of weak hitting and untimely pitching breakdowns. Ugh.

Thank goodness it was either too late or I had something better to do. Anybody need a Red Sox Nation card?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Uggla Duckling Spared

In a very competitive All-Star Classic, the AL tied the game at 2 late on a J.D. Drew homer, and has a bases loaded no-out situation in the tenth after consecutive errors by Florida second baseman Dan Uggla.

Drew lined a two-out homer into the right field porch at Yankee Stadium in the 7th, and Jonathan Papelbon was touched up for an unearned run in the 8th. Mariano Rivera came into the game with a man on in the ninth and pitched an inning and two-thirds scoreless for the AL.

Grady Sizemore grounded into a force out at home, followed by a repeat by Evan Longoria, who had tied the game at three in the bottom of the eighth with a two-out ground rule double.

Justin Morneau faces Aaron Cook, who forced a weak tapper to shortstop which Miguel Tejada turns into a great play at first nailing Morneau by half a step.

The AL plays into the 11th without any bench players, with Terry Francona having exhausted his oversized bench already. The AL is also running out of pitchers, left with Kazmir on short rest, Sherrill (Baltimore) and Soria (KC).

The pregame ceremonies were the highlight of the game, including a number of the All-Time greats including Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Brooks and Frank Robinson, and Yogi Berra. If I could have picked a few boyhood stars who weren't present, I'd include Sandy Koufax, an introvert among extroverts, and Carl Yastrzemski.

This would be my 'boyhood All-Star Team'

C - Johnny Bench
1B - Willie McCovey
2B - Joe Morgan
SS - Dave Concepcion
3B - Brooks Robinson
LF - Carl Yastrzemski
CF - Willie Mays
RF - Hank Aaron (honorable mention Roberto Clemente)
RHP - Bob Gibson (honorable mention to Jim Palmer, Luis Tiant, Catfish Hunter)
LHP - Sandy Koufax
Closer-Rollie Fingers (honorable mention Dick Radatz)

Well, it's getting late and it's put up or shut down for the AL and me...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Trivia (obvious)

There are only two days a year without major professional sports games. Pretty easy, huh?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Living Dangerously

How can you describe Daisuke Matsuzaka as a pitcher? Some have called him a 'power nibbler', others simply maddening. What you have to recognize is the force of sheer competitive fire that allows him to do what he does. Live dangerously. Plus, is he not the Gold Glover at the pitching position?

They noted that (now) in twelve at bats with the bases loaded he has yielded one walk and no hits. All of which is astounding when you consider his WHIP (walk/hit ratio) which is 1.39. In other words, his WHIP ratio with the bases loaded is 0.25, or less than 20 percent of that without the bases loaded.

Lugo, going, gone. Julio Lugo is out with a muscle pull, which gives the Sox a comparison to the output with Lugo. Will the real Julio Lugo please stand up? He is a high energy, athletic player who just hasn't met management's or fans' expectations, who also has a World Series ring. Fuggedaboutit.

Red Sox first half MVP? NESN will discuss the first half MVP of the Sox, which has to come from among J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia. The Sox could have fallen off disastrously when David Ortiz went down, but didn't. Why? The June output of J.D. Drew filled in more than admirably and kept the Sox close, while they wait for Tampa to have some mean reversion.

First half Red Sox Cy Young Award. Jon Lester.

Varitek-nically speaking. WYSIWIG. What you see is what you get. The hitting slump continues, with the July OPS at .499 and JV struggling to stay over the Mendoza Line. Has the mileage finally caought up with him, or just a prolonged slump?

Manny Ramirez. Will Scott Boras be cashing in (negotiating) a new deal for Manny somewhere?
Manny's OPS was .930 in June and is 1.048 in July. Why doesn't it feel like it?

Brandon Moss. Okay, I'm carrying water for this guy. The more I see him hit, the more I feel sure that he's going to be a very productive major leaguer. His OPS for 7 days is 1.049 (note the rampant abuse of short-term, small sample statistics). I think Moss has .280, 20 homer, 80 RBI potential with good defense. Brandy Moss...

Tim Wakefield. 14th in ERA, 19th in strikeouts. Okay, so I don't like to see him pitch against the Yankees, but otherwise, he's still got plenty of juice.

Kevin Cash. Doug who?

Heidi upgrade over Tina and gotta figure this job is a steppingstone to a big network gig.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fenway Ground Rules

The Sox swept the Twins today with an 18-5 thrashing that must have been close, until a disputed/overruled triple play opened the floodgates and the Sox put the game out of reach with a seventh inning explosion.

But what you really want to know is what does working for the Red Sox entail. What are the ground rules? A former Sox employee laid out some ground rules for female employees.

"Here are the places where the Red Sox players hang out. Don't go there."

"You won't change them." (The implication that rich, often married players aren't throwing away their lives for you).

"If there is a problem, you will lose your job, they will be protected." (Obviously, in the great tradition of the rich and famous...The Yankees, A-Rod, and Madonna evidently did not get the memo).

The message, loud and clear, was that employment was contingent on professional not personal relationships with the talent. Baseball Annies need not apply.

This doesn't come as any surprise, as I doubt that the Red Sox Rules differ from other professional organizations. The military doesn't allow officers to fraternize with enlisted people. Hospitals? Don't ask, don't tell.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Direct Line to Theo? Not?

Here's a passage from the column of the 5th, nearly prescient.

Tomorrow's newspaper today.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Shake It Up

Dang, is this painful enough? The Sox can't seem to generate scoring threats without the generosity of the opposition, as a few meager hits and rarely a walk aren't getting it done. So, in the name of 'the backup quarterback' controversy, here's a suggested lineup with some whys.

CF Ellsbury - we're gonna live and die with the kid
2B Pedroia - a magical player who proves it over and over
RF Drew - All-Star and deserving it
1B Youkilis - Manny needs something different
3B Lowell - still close to .300 and driving in runners
DH Ramirez - does it say in his contract he hits third or fourth
LF Moss - the kid will hit if given the chance
C - Varitek - he's had some better swings tonight
SS - Cora - Lugo's had a good night defensively, although Youk saved him an error

Too many guys really struggling at the plate right now. David Ortiz can't get back soon enough.

Is it just me, or does Daisuke look like he's challenging hitters tonight? And isn't he throwing more fastballs?

Red Sox ERA by Month

April 4.27
May 3.66
June 3.61
July 3.48

Aw heck, what do I know anyway? Terry Francona's had the horseshoe hasn't he?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Replay Revealing

Shows how much tennis I watch (almost none)...the replay at Wimbledon was stunning in its simplicity and accuracy.

And as the Red Sox fritter away another late inning lead, Alex Cora couldn't even knock down a 99-hopper up the middle by the Yankee newboy. No matter, as Cano was about 30 feet from home plate anyway, and there's NO WAY Cora or Lugo throw him out from his knees sprawling to his left.

Tim Wakefield gets snakebitten again, and if A-Rod hustles, he can be at Madonna's celebrating by midnight. Dang.

I got my wish, sort of, that Manny got a day off. Only problem was he got into the game and never stopped vacation mode, taking three Rivera offerings for strikes. Sheesh.

Joba Chamberlain pitched reasonably well with the game evolving into a typical high pitch count marathon. He also chucked one behind Youkilis' thighs just to remind Youk who's the bigger fastmole.

Random Acts?

A father was beaten by a man on the Cape with a baseball bat on the Fourth of July because he had New York license plates and may have been a Yankee fan.

What is the matter with some people? It's a GAME, meant to be entertainment. I'd rather see the Red Sox never win another game rather than have one person battered because of the Red Sox.

It's not about sport, sportsmanship, or competitiveness and certainly not about honor or courage. Was the alleged assailant intoxicated or a sociopath? Who knows? But real sports fans everywhere should condemn violence of any kind associated with sports.

How many Victoria Snelgroves must die for us to come to our senses? Yes, we can recite the litany of stupidity on the field ranging from beanball wars to soccer head butts and stick-swinging incidents in the 'heat of battle'. We reminisce over the lunacy of the Rudy T punchout, the ear-biting incidents, the 'Assassin' mentality of Jack Tatum, and so on.

I was recently coaching at a girls summer high school basketball game and a player chose to take a hard foul late in the game up around another player's head. Competitive? No, just idiotic and immature, reflecting poorly on her team, her community, her family, and most importantly, herself.

Real fans of sport should condemn sports-associated violence and threats of violence, whether 'part of the game' or just random acts from Manny Ramirez (pushing the traveling secretary) or Jonathan Papelbon (threatening escalation against the Rays).

It's not part of the game. Just stop.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

That's Baseball

Amazingly frustrating and partly self-inflicted defeat today, as the Sox wilted to The Transformer, Mike Mussina, who baffled them with a variety of offspeed pitches and an 87 mph fastball. Worse yet, in the ninth, Mariano Rivera escaped a bases loaded, no out jam with particular ineptness by the tail end of the lineup. Coco Crisp fanned on three pitches, struggling Jason Varitek popped up, and Julio Lugo whiffed on a cutter down the middle.

Justin Masterson pitched six credible innings, allowing a pair of runs, reduced his walks to a pair, and kept the ball in the ballpark.

Remarkably, there were SEVEN hit batsmen in the game, and you didn't get the feeling that any of them were the least bit intentional.

There's nothing cheaper than free advice and as I once read, the easiest thing in the world is spending someone else's money. There probably isn't anything dramatically better for the Red Sox than the return of David Ortiz, and we have to wonder whether that is coming this season or not.

What options even exist for the Sox at this time?
  • Shoring up the bullpen. This could happen in several ways, including improving the consistency of the existing pitchers, adding Buchholz to either the rotation (moving Masterson to the pen) or bullpen, and acquiring another reliever (probably costly with many suitors competing).
  • Rejiggering the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury started to bunt after Jerry Remy discussed it the other day.
  • Fixing Varitek. I'm not sure that his bat speed is the problem, but on more than one occasion I'm seeing him either drop his back arm (creating more of an uppercut swing) or simply jerk his head off the ball (can't hit what you can't see). I'm no hitting instructor, but I recall Joe Morgan (the Reds') doing a chicken wing thing to remind himself NOT to drop the elbow.
  • You go, Lugo. The Sox have a lot of money tied up in Lugo, and although he's improved defensively recently, he's giving them little production offensively. You can't expect Cora to do much playing once a week, and I'm sure the Sox don't want to give up on Lugo at 9 plus extra large a year.
  • Manny being Manny. We can put up with the nuttiness when Manny hits. When he doesn't hit, the craziness simply becomes contagious. Frankly, I'd rather see Brandon Moss in left tomorrow against Joba, rather than Manny. Just one day off, that's all. We'll see how Francona sees it.
I'm not saying that one loss should trigger mass changes, rather we should review the overall play of the team, the strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Lester Coming of Age

ESPN has its All-Star projections up, and not surprisingly, Jon Lester isn't among them. I can't muster a great argument for him, but conversely they project Daisuke Matsuzaka as making the squad. International politics aside, I don't see that as being likely either.

............... IP WHIP K/BB ERA
Lester.... 117.2 1.31 1.85 3.21

Matsuzaka 75 1.39 1.33 3.12

Note that won-loss record isn't included as it isn't a highly reliable measure of effectiveness, with miscellaneous components such as run support and bullpen support critical elements.

Since April, Lester has pitched 78 innings, allowed 75 hits, and his strikeout to walk ratio has been 54-18 (3). During that time his ERA has been 2.65 and his WHIP ratio (walks plus hits per inning pitched) fallen to 1.19.

In other words, Lester has given the Sox more innings, better innings (by WHIP and K/BB), and is going deeper into games. Even with the smaller sample size, Matsuzaka has not outperformed Lester.

W(h)ither Varitek?

If you asked me who is the most important player on the Red Sox, at first glance, I'd say Jason Varitek. Varitek's injury in 2006 coincided with the team's total collapse, and every Red Sox fan knows of his legendary preparation and how we believe that translates into the team's success.

At the end of the season, Varitek will become a free agent, and the Red Sox have a monumental decision on how to handle that. "Strength up the middle" is more than a cliche', as we realize its truth in baseball, basketball, football, checkers, chess, and practically any other competition. Sure Brazilian soccer fans and Scrabble players know the value of the edges, but baseball aficionados know what they know.

Can any of us take a dispassionate look at "The Captain." Let's try.

  • Varitek has backstopped two championship teams in the past four years.
  • He produced a .795 OPS, 51 home runs, and this included an .841 OPS and 33 home runs on the road.
  • He also had an .870 OPS and 9 homers against the Yankees
  • He had 326 strikeouts in 1270 at bats, 25 percent, give or take.
  • He's caught no-hitters by four different pitchers.
  • The Red Sox have no immediate replacement in the minors
  • If David Ortiz has been the soul of the team, then Varitek has been the heart.

  • His salary is over 10 million dollars a year
  • We can only speculate that he will accept nothing less than a three year deal (cf. Lowell)
  • He's 36 years old and has a lot of catching 'mileage' on his tires
  • He's mired in the worst slump of his career and looks awful at the plate
  • After excellent OPS in April and May, his June OPS was .381 with a .122 average
  • He is striking out at a 28 percent rate and this increased to 30 percent in June
  • Currently he is projecting at less than 3 batting Win Shares for 2008 (extrapolated)
  • His Win Shares rating for the past 5 years...19, 19, 8 (injury), 15, 4 with an extrapolated three year average of 15, 14, and 10. As they say on Wall Street, "the trend is your friend, until it ends."
  • Scott Boras is his agent
  • The Red Sox have several prospects showing promise (George Kottaras, Mark Wagner)
  • Fan's eye view? Only 44 percent of ESPN Rotisserie players have Varitek on their squad (yes, a very different metric, but data nonetheless)
Dugout Central looks at some catchers who played into their mid-30s and beyond and how they fared, noting 1200 games as something of a landmark for productivity decline.

The Sox have plenty of time to determine whether Varitek has simply worn out or whether this is just an aberration within a productive career. They simply have to project what he is likely to bring to the table over the next several seasons, versus the costs, and the substitutions possible, a complex economic problem that managers wrestle with daily.

But we, like they, must ask the question, "whither Varitek"?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

All-Star Team (and my candidate for write-in)

Who deserves to be on the AL All-Star team? Well, they won't all be there because of fan voting and because of the distribution requirements.

Baltimore - Sherrill (Roberts)
Boston - Papelbon, Youkilis, Pedroia, Ramirez, Drew
Chicago - Danks, Quentin, Pierzynski
Cleveland - Cliff Lee, Sabathia, Peralta
Detroit - Ordonez
KC - DeJesus (Grudzielanek)
Los Angeles - Saunders, F. Rodriguez (Guerrero)
Minnesota - Nathan, Maurer, Morneau
New York - Rivera, Damon, Rodriguez, Giambi
Oakland - Duchscherer, Harden
Seattle - Ichiro (Hernandez)
Tampa - Longoria (Upton, Crawford)
Texas - Kinsler, Bradley, Hamilton, Young
Toronto - Halladay (Marcum)

C - Maurer, Pierzynski
1B - Giambi, Youkilis, Morneau
2B - Kinsler, Pedroia (Roberts)
SS - Young, Peralta (Jeter)
3B - A-Rod, Longoria (Lowell)
OF - Hamilton, Quentin, Drew, Ichiro, Ramirez, Ordonez, DeJesus, Sizemore (Upton, Guerrero)
DH - Bradley

I've listed my choices, and yes, I know that Derek Jeter will be voted as the starting shortstop. He's making it on reputation so far. Tampa has been terrific, especially when you consider that Longoria MIGHT be their most productive player. I see him as a Troy Glaus-like player, but a core franchise-type guy. Brian Roberts and Placido Polanco are both worthy players, but I wouldn't be surprised if neither makes it.

J.D. Drew DESERVES to be on the team, not because of his numbers but because he carried the team with David Ortiz out. Ichiro is a dynamite player, but David Murphy has better numbers (really). Milton Bradley has to be there, and DH would be a good spot for 'Toys'. If Vlad Guerrero makes it, then that pushes out someone more deserving. Dustin Pedroia has a higher OPS than Vlad.

Yes, the Red Sox and Yankees get overrepresented, but that's what big money does.

If I could vote for a player whom I would WANT to make it, but is on the margin, that would be easy. JON LESTER, maybe the most improved player around, with a no-hitter, the complete game shutout tonight over the Yankees, fourth in innings and eighth in ERA.

Under Pressure

Red Sox fans have to ask, "are some of the younger players folding under pressure?" Sometimes you get beat, nothing to cry about. But last night the Sox simply beat themselves, from failing to cover first base, to suffering control lapses, to failing execution on the hit-and-run. The mercurial bullpen showed why some of the Sox younger players remain suspects. The first workout day of Spring Training, I guarantee you the pitchers grumble about how routine the fielding drills are, running to the cutout and then up the line to the bag to get the best angle.

And tonight it's off to the House That Ruth Built, more or less, with the locals smelling blood in the water. The Sox will present an usual battle of lefties with Jon Lester against Red Sox nemesis Andy Pettitte. Pettitte emerged relatively unscathed amidst the doping crisis, far better than his running mate.

Many Sox fans' eyes also will focus on Jason Varitek, mired in a slump of Mendozan proportions, with a three-for-forty eight drought with beaucoup strikeouts. Varitek carries the team on his defensive shoulders, but one has to wonder whether the odometer has rolled over on the Sox catcher. Scott Boras' blue book of facts on Varitek will read like a history book, with four caught no-hitters, two World Championships, and over a thousand appearances behind the dish.

Regrettably, JV is one for his last 19, hitting .216 with a .664 OPS. Among AL catchers with at least 150 at bats, Varitek ranks 16th in OPS.

As I say far too often, "it's not about getting better players, it's about playing better."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Death Rays

While Tampa's turnaround hasn't equaled the Celtics' this season, the Rays have at least regained the home field advantage as the Trop no longer merits the moniker 'Fenway South'.

The Rays have a legitimate pitching staff with Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Matt Garza in particular, and the Jays have more than adequate offense with Carl Crawford, Evan Longorio, Carlos Pena, and B.J. Upton in particular.

So how do the Sox stack up against the Rays, mano-a-fish?

Runs scored: Boston 2nd, Tampa 6th
Team ERA: Tampa 4th, Boston 6th
Fielding percentage: Tampa 6th, Boston 9th

Catcher: Edge...Rays (Jason Varitek mired in a miserable slump, Navarro over .300)
First base: Edge...Red Sox
Second base: Edge...Red Sox
Shortstop: Edge...even
Third base: Edge...even...Longoria's gonna be big-time, coming on fast
Left field: Edge...Rays (Crawford over Moss)
Center field: Edge...even
Right field: Edge Red Sox
DH: Edge Red Sox...if Manny can be Manny

The pressing issue for the Red Sox currently is the stability of the bullpen, with inconsistency plaguing many of the Sox' relievers, notably both Okajima and Hansen.

The Red Sox starting rotation now is also in flux:
  • Beckett, still tops, but not having a premium top-of-the-rotation year
  • Lester, is he the number 2?
  • Matsuzaka, still the power nibbler
  • Wakefield, the Ancient One still has a role
  • Buchholz (huh?)...expecting to see him back very soon
  • Masterson...back to reality leaving sinkers upstairs
  • long's that back been weak?
On the radar, Michael Bowden (not Bolton) has been getting it done at Portland.

Just wondering?
  • When will they do something about these shattering maple bats...before somebody gets killed?
  • Is Jonny Gomes the new Gates Brown?
  • What's Rocco Baldelli's future?
  • Is anybody counting out the Yankees? Not me.
  • Have you noticed the Tigers creeping back into the Central race?
  • Did you see that Saunders just won his twelfth for the Angels?
Will a revised lineup be:
  1. Pedroia
  2. Youkilis
  3. Drew
  4. Manny
  5. Lowell
  6. Moss
  7. Ellsbury
  8. Lugo
  9. Varitek
I think if Brandon Moss gets 500 at bats, he'll have 15-20 homers, 75 RBI, and hit .280, maybe higher if he gets platooned against tough lefties, and play good defense.