Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dog Days Wind Down

The Red Sox always seem to inspire some extra emotion and controversy, and nothing changed today. The Sox acquired former closer Billy Wagner from the Mets, likely guaranteeing themselves a pair of first round compensation picks if nothing else.

After dropping two of three to the Yankees, the Sox rebounded with an ugly win over the Pale Hose last night and are battling ugly again tonight. Jacoby Ellsbury set the team record for steals; somehow I expected a Hendersonesque holding up the bag...fortunately we didn't see that.

Jon Lester pitched 6 2/3rds pretty good innings, allowing three runs, the last two on a wild pitch strikeout and a liner off Mike Lowell's outstretched glove. Unfortunate.

On the other hand, Victor Martinez delivered a pinch single to score Nick Green, pinch-running for Jason Varitek who had doubled.

More on Wagner...you can never have too many quality arms on the staff, and Wagner adds another option against the tough lefties like Matsui and Pena down the stretch. Daniel Bard seems to have hit the wall recently, not having many clean innings, and suffering 'wild in the strike zone' with too many centered fastballs.

Ironically, the key to the stretch run could be the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who won 33 games in two seasons, and has largely been unavailable this season.

If we have to rely on the combination of Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa against the big dogs, then we'll all have pretty short fingernails by October. Let's hope that Tazawa can have a sizable fraction of the career of another 'three A' lefty, Frank Tanana.

Jerry Remy has returned seamlessly to the booth, which we would have expected from such a seasoned professional. He and Don Orsillo both seem to be able to view the RemDawg's ordeal with a touch of humor, even commenting on Remy's relationship with Wally, now back in the booth.

One of my daughter's California friends, displaced New Englanders got a new dog, which they've named 'Rem' as in Rem the Dog.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Better Days

I can look at Josh and think of 'better days".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On the Sox and Baseball: Random Thoughts

  • Congratulations to the Pedroias, joy into their lives.
  • Peter Gammons correctly noted last year (I think), that a lot of 30-something ballplayers would start to look old (absent PEDs). That prediction has come spot on.
  • What's a pitcher's out pitch? Does he have a swing and miss pitch? Buchholz may have the most swing and miss pitches on the staff.
  • Not to say that Beckett and Lester can't make you miss...
  • If Victor Martinez is the cause of Beckett getting lit up last night, then is the cause of Buchholz pitching well tonight?
  • Maybe Alex Gonzalez doesn't have his old range, but he still looks pretty good out there.
  • Maybe Jason Varitek is VERY banged up. A .505 OPS post All-Star break would bang me up.
  • I keep waiting for Ellsbury to eclipse Tommy Harper's base theft record. Could be getting really close.
  • Alex Rios to the White Sox for nothing...except tons of dough. Maybe Toronto ends up the winner on that deal.
  • Jonathan Papelbon has a career WHIP ratio of 1, and this season 1.31. More important, his career K/BB ratio is over 4, this year under 2.5. Boston, we have a problem.
  • I liked the Daniel Bard that wasn't Craig Hansen better...get well soon Craig.
  • Is Steve Strasbourg worth 15 million? He would have been worth even more to the Sox or Bombers.
  • Great to see Jerry Remy coming back part-time Friday. Be well, RemDawg.
  • That being said, I enjoyed hearing some other voices, too.
  • Some of Viola's anecdotes were precious, including the one about the catcher coming out to the mound for 'face time' on a national TV game.
  • With more back problems, is Tim Wakefield's career approaching life-support?
  • We're disappointed in J.D. Drew. Do you think J.D. is disappointed in us?
  • We don't appreciate what Kevin Youkilis means with his versatility.
  • I'm tired of beanball wars. It's gutless BS.
  • And that doesn't mean the inability to pitch inside.
  • When the first maple bat shatters and impales a player, will MLB do something about it?
  • What about if a fan gets injured seriously from the same?
  • Will the Sox need to restructure the team at 4 positions (2 OF, SS, 3B) next year?
  • Have you seed anything uglier than the Buchholz Baserunning this year?
  • Formula one? Remove the starter with the go-ahead run at the plate. Will Terry bite?
  • Does Francona really have a uniform top under his pullover?
  • Do you all know what "oil can" means? (Beer can)
  • Does anyone still throw the spitter?
  • I feel better when players catch popups with two hands. They do drop them.
  • I really want to see Junichi Tazawa succeed. Please don't have the Red Sox career of Jin Ho Cho...or Brian Rose.
  • Where have you gone John Wasdin?

Friday, August 14, 2009

State of the Nation: Mid-August

The Red Sox recovered from a disastrous road trip through Tampa and the Bronx, returning to win three of four from Detroit. The Sox face the Rangers tonight, locked in a wild card battle, not to concede the divisional race.

Unfortunately, the road has been Kryptonite for the Sox this season, with the Sox 38-18 at home and 27-31 away from Fenway Park.

Relative to some of the teams they face, particularly Tampa, the Red Sox seem to have less athleticism and more age among the position players. Jason Varitek to put it politely is not in the prime of his career, and the consistent availability and production from J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz certainly have declined. Naturally, Ortiz homers just after I write this sentence.

It's no different for major leaguers than aging physicians (like me). When I recently worked seven days a week for several months, I'm feeling it. Big time. And I'm not doing it out in the heat. When does experience outweigh age-related decline? Bill James spends a lot of time figuring that out with his Win Shares system, which the Sox trend. I'd be shocked if they don't have a Win Shares/dollar calculus going as well.

As well discussed on Sports Radio today, a lack of reliable starting pitching (at times I've called it Lester and Beckett and the heck with it) taxes the bullpen, and produces tremendous inconsistency. Will Tim Wakefield get healthy, and will Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa fill the gaps in the interim?

The loss of Kevin Youkilis to suspension could never come at a good time, as for the most part, he, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury have provided the most consistency, with Jason Bay and Lowell coming to life during the recent homestand. Overall, from a totally objective standpoint, the Sox do not have as good a lineup as either the Yankees, the Rays, or the Angels, and would be the underdog against any of them in a seven game series, despite the 8-4 advantage over the Yankees this season.

Of course, baseball being what it is, anything can happen in a short series. The problem for the Sox remains to get to the playoffs.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bitter Up

Six games against the Red Sox divisional rivals beckoned, and the Sox have simply spit the bit, with five consecutive losses, including two bitter extra innings defeats.

The Sox offense has disappeared, with eight hits and no runs in the past twenty-four innings of futility. Fans old enough to remember 1978, Bobby Sprowl, and the Boston Massacre have witnessed the biggest collapse in thirty-one years.

David Ortiz and the steroid fiasco simply become a sideshow, with the center ring futility focused not on management failures, but simply underperformance under the bright lights.

As fans, we ask does Jason Bay have not only a troublesome hamstring but a hole for breaking stuff away that opponents finally found as his Achilles heel? Will J.D. Drew ever find his stroke again? Is Mike Lowell finally succumbing to Father Time?

The Sox appear in dire need of a catalyst to awaken a team that is pressing, literally on life support in the divisional race. The start pitching, decimated by injuries became Lester and Beckett and the heck with it, and the offense has gone David Copperfield and vanished.

Blame Theo Epstein? He acquired more offense. Finger Terry Francona? He's a gunslinger with no bullets these days.

Sox fans simply have to take it, while waiting it out. Me, I'm reduced to watching Left Coast baseball at A T & T Park, with Matt Cain, garlic fries, and a Ghiardelli Sundae. Could be worse.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sox and Steroids

Did anyone doubt that Red Sox players would eventually appear on "The List"? We can diminish the 'cheating' aspect because we root for laundry, but our bitterness over a pair of Jason Giambi homers in the ALCS softens when we realize that Red Sox hitters had juiced, too.

We may never know who 'just did it' and who didn't, although we all harbored suspicions over bulked up cover boys and supercharged homer production and slugging percentage from guys who hadn't produced oversized numbers.

MLB and its players union never really wanted the genie let out of the bottle. Owners raked in the dough from fannies in the seats, players' salaries skyrocketed, and the game's popularity soared. When does exposing the man behind the curtain ever seem the thing to do?

High profile hearings embarrassing stars like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire put the Commissioner and his minions on notice that public airing of needle-stained laundry didn't play nearly as well as a bloody sock.

Sox fans snickered at A-Rod's outing and the recent double dip of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz simply serves us the crow that we deserve. The inclusion of an Eric Gagne in the Mitchell Report didn't provide either red meat or a wake up call. But our fascination with Big Papi gets undermined by the realization that at least some of his production was tainted.

Of all baseball's cheaters, who has come off 'cleanest' and who's fared worst? The latter provides no challenge with Barry Bonds leading the parade, and Roger Clemens, never proven beyond all doubt, came a close second. Andy Pettitte took the smallest hit, containing the damage with an apology and a "taking one for the team explanation."

So what should David Ortiz say and what will he say? Obviously, we don't know the facts, and some players probably have inadvertently taken banned substances. The old saying about it's easiest to remember the truth comes to mind. But even within the truth, Ortiz might be able to contain the damages. Or not. But whatever he says, I hope he touches on the three R's - respect for the game, remorse for his actions, and regret that they might adversely influence behavior of younger athletes.

Baseball could have handled this with blanket amnesty for players who simply admitted their mistake and acknowledged a subsequent "zero tolerance" policy. But both owners and players (and their attorneys) had too much hubris and too much money, willingly defrauding the public who simply believed the lie.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Chronicles of Reddick

The Sox-Orioles contest produced not only a victory but signs of improved energy. Some story lines both overt and under the radar:

  • Kevin Youkilis with 4 hits and consecutive homer games
  • Victor (V-Mart) Martinez with his first Sox appearance, RBI, and standing ovation
  • Dustin Pedroia with a first inning homer
  • Josh Beckett gets his MLB leading 13th win
  • Josh Reddick showed contact and power with a pair of doubles in his MLB start
  • Daniel Bard gives another dominant relief appearance with 2 strikeouts in the ninth in a non-save situation; Bard has evolved into the number two option in the pen
  • The Sox turned three double plays to shutout the O's
  • The downside? J.D. Drew and now Jason Bay with hamstring tweaks
  • Sox fans seemed everywhere in Camden Yards as Fenway South proved friendly
  • Jacoby Ellsbury continued his outperformance with another multihit game and 48th stolen base as he closes in on the Sox record of 54 by Tommy Harper
The Sox had delivered more ennui than excitement recently and a short-term reversal is badly needed headed into Tampa and the Bronx.