Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Need To Be Back

Great to have DV back, he's got some good stuff going on below, and it looks like there is more coming from him soon.

Sorry I haven't been updating much either. Lot's of LSAT diagnostic action going on, not enough blogging. But I have been able to follow everything, and want to wait to see what happens by 4 P.M. today, mainly with Gagne, before getting into anything. I will be at the Stadium tonight and tomorrow, but there will be plenty of time for blogging.

I put a little something on Win Shares (and particularly how bad Damon's are and how good Coco's are) in the comments of DV's last post. For anybody missing Damon or tired of the people in Boston who inexplicably are, take a look.

How Youz Damon Baseball

Boston Dirt Dogs sucks.

It's really a shame that the most reliable, entertaining, and convenient Red Sox news source is even more biased than 1) How Youz Doin Baseball or 2) NESN.

Last week, during a 1-0 Red Sox loss, center fielder Coco Crisp was gunned down at the plate when he was jogging home instead of running hard. It was a bonehead move. It partially cost Boston the game (I'd also blame the lack of timely hitting). It was a major news story on WEEI the next day, as it should have been. Though others blame it on on-deck hitter Manny Ramirez giving him no sign to run faster, I'd say you can put the blame on Coco. It would have been okay for Dirt Dogs to run "Burnt to a Crisp: Coco Screws Up and Blows Off Media."

Instead, they make it about Johnny Damon's willingness to talk to the media, and for anyone who has read any of my writing since February knows that I have a huge, HUGE problem with that. So huge that I couldn't sleep tonight and instead I'm writing about it AGAIN on this blog at 1:30 AM.

This guy has hit .366 since June 14, a span of what is now 37 games, which is a good 23% of a baseball season. This is not a Brian Daubach-style hot streak anymore. The guy's hitting, and though he won't continue to hit .366, I believe he will continue to hit at a .280-.290 clip for the rest of the season. Not to mention his defense, which makes Darren Lewis look like Wily Mo Pena.

(Note: Pink hats don't know who Darren Lewis is, but will loudly tell you that "Mo" is short for "Modesto.")

And while we're talking about 23%, let's talk about guys who are 23% effective. Like, say, Johnny Damon. Day-To-Day, who Scott Boras claimed was the best leadoff hitter of all time, has hit .230 in the same clip, which also spans 37 games. He's been given more limited playing time because he's probably not even cut out to be a major league center fielder anymore. How many games has Damon cost the Yankees this year? Ask Pat.

Somewhere, the author of Boston Dirt Dogs is lighting another candle in his window hoping Damon will come back some day. He's listening to emo music and crying himself to sleep. Maybe he's suffering from writer's block, because it's becoming pretty hard to compare his boy to his boy's replacement. Because the replacement has performed head and shoulders better on the field. Only having 9 extra base hits since June 13 doesn't help.

So 15 hours from the trade deadline, I've had a change of heart: I'm hoping the Red Sox find a way to improve the team (I'm a big fan of those old Reggie Sanders rumors from last week), even if it means giving someone up. I want the Red Sox to win a World Series. This year. With Coco Crisp in center field. And yes, the main motivation here is spite.

Meanwhile, I want Boston Dirt Dogs to change their name to How Youz Damon Baseball, and have the contributors co-author this book with Damon: "Idiots: How I Suckered A Team Into Paying $52 Million For An Absolute Stiff." If they love how he talks to the media so much, and they love his presence so much, it would be a great leap in their journalistic careers.

Good luck editing the "um's" and "uh's" out of that.

I'm back

...and I'm better than ever...and I'm gettin that cheddar (see terrellowens.com for more).

Seven-game Nashua Pride homestands and subsequent three-day road trips are not good for my status as a baseball fan. When I have to make cell phone calls asking my boys whether the Sox won and whether Coco got a hit, you know something's wrong.

But I'm back for a few days, and I have a lot to talk about. It'll be impossible to talk about all I want to talk about, but let me line up all that I HOPE I'll be able to talk about in the next few days:

-The Texeira/Saltalamacchia trade is a classic good trade for both teams involved. It makes the NL East a lot more interesting, with the Phillies active and on a winning streak despite the devastating Utley injury, the Mets' pitching staff struggling (see The Big Ticket's comments) to the point that April's being evened out, and the Braves committing themselves to 2007. Should be fun to see it play out.
-Same with the Central. The Cubs have gotten it together, and I just saw Ted Lilly's stat line. How's that for another example of mediocre AL starters who have thrived much more in the NL?
-I'm pissed off at Boston Dirt Dogs again, despite the fact that they're giving the Pride some publicity. I'd like to tell you why--but chances are you already know.
-A little bit of Red Sox negativity. It was great to read about them going 5-2 on this road trip, but can you really be bullish on a team where two starters are in constant danger of being sent back to AAA?
-A little bit on Jermaine Dye (hopefully I can spit it out before the trade deadline/a done deal).
-A reiteration of my philosophy about the Yankees being a team designed to beat the living piss out of bad teams--as they have done.
-A little bit more about what I would do if I were elected President of Red Sox Propaganda Nation.
-A terrific article about Cal Ripken, Jr. promised by one of my boys who now works for a newspaper in Vermont.
-My new, revised American League East prediction.

As the more macro-kinda guy on this blog (I don't just call myself the GM because I'm arrogant--though it is a factor), tomorrow is one of my favorite days in the baseball calendar. We got Prospect Theory and a whole bunch of other personnel theories flying all over the place here, and it's really exciting.

I just hope I can deliver on all my promises.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A-Rod hits 499

Alex Rodriguez is on the verge of securing another milestone, #500, and will be the youngest player ever to do so. He has already had one of the best careers ever, and we are watching perhaps his best season yet unfold. He has 35 home runs, 102 rbi, and 96 runs scored in 100 team games, 99 of which he's played in. He is one of only a few players in the last 50 something years to reach 100 RBI in less than 100 team games, and the first Yankee to do it since Gehrig and Dimaggio both did it in 1937. He is creeping up the all-time list (I believe he is 3rd or 4th) for consecutive seasons with 30 homers and 100 RBI with 10. Even more impressive is that tonight's home run made all of those same 10 years at least 35 and 100, and he has the record for most seasons with those minimum numbers at that very 10.

It is simply incredible. He may not go down as the greatest ever, but if he keeps playing a few more years, his name will be in the conversation. And he will almost certainly have to be in many people's Top 10 non-pitchers all-time, and he will be the first player in the last 30-40 years to get that type of consideration. My Top 10 is Ruth, Williams, Mays, Aaron, Gehrig, Cobb, Musial, Mantle, Wagner, and Dimaggio. The first five are in order, and the rest might be too. Obviously, that's just my opinion, and others are going to have other names in there. But I think a lot of people would agree on most of them. When it's all said and done, we may have to think about Alex Rodriguez for that list as well. It wouldn't be easy to bump one, but he is on his way to making people think about it, for sure.

Meanwhile, I knew I wasn't going to be happy no matter what happened in the Boston/Cleveland series this week. I guess I just have to be happy that if the Yankees win they are gaining ground on somebody, though I would like that ground to be more.

Speaking of the Yankees winning, this is exactly what they needed. They were facing the daunting task of five consecutive four game series coming out of the break. No matter who you are playing, this isn't easy. Tonight's win secured that they will have won the first four of them when they head to Baltimore for the final four game set (sort of, they have the suspended game to complete) before a much needed and deserved off day Monday. They have gone 12-3 since the break, and have won 17 of their last 22. That is why they are back in both races, although Boston has played very good baseball of late as well, and hasn't given up the ground they would have if they had continued playing their mediocre baseball of the last two months this week.

The Yankees are playing tremendous baseball right now. Hitting. Starting pitching. Bullpen. Quality from all three at the same time. They need to ride this as long as they can, and then once they stop being this hot and/or run into higher quality teams, continue to play consistently good baseball. We all know what the Yankees needed to do in the second half, and right now they are setting an incredible pace.

As for both teams at Tuesday's deadline, this is what I see. Reader/commentor John made the key point about the Red Sox in his comment on the post below. If the Red Sox were to get another bat, which I think they need and want, they have nowhere to put it. The only two bats you really want out of the lineup are Drew and Lugo, and they have $21 million invested in them combined, so that would be a lot to swallow to give up the prospects necessary to get a bat that would displace one of those two. I think they will end up adding an arm to the pen, even if it isn't someone ultra-exciting. I wouldn't rule it out either, because I think the Sox know what a Gagne type guy would do to the back of the pen, basically shortening games in which the Sox are winning to 6 innings, much like the Yankees of the late 90s with Nelson, Stanton, and Rivera.

As for the Yankees, I think they may end up getting both the best pitcher and hitter available at the trade deadline. And they will give up zero prospects to do so.

Phil Hughes is slated to start Sunday for AAA, and move his pitch count from the 77 or so he was at last night to around 100. The plan is to the have him join the Yankees rotation the following weekend against the Royals at home in Igawa's spot. Is he ready? Last night he needed only 77 pitches to get through 6 innings, giving up only two hits, walking just one, and striking out 7. If he can stay healthy, nobody in baseball is getting a pitcher of this caliber.

Giambi has been taking live BP and doing typical spring training type drills for over a week. He will play in his first minor league rehab game Friday. He could be ready in as little as a week, and it shouldn't take a hitter more than two weeks when healthy to be game ready. Is he ready? Giambi hit .322 with 4 homers, 5 doubles, and 17 RBI in April before battling the foot injury in May and going on the DL. He hit 37 homers and had 117 RBI last year. If he is as healthy, rested, and ready to as he says he is, few teams if any will get a bat with this type of power potential.

Finally, there is the issue of Joba Chamberlain, who is reaching Phil Hughes levels with his prospect status. In the first AAA start of his career tonight, Chamberlain went 5 innings, gave up only 4 hits and one walk, and struck out 10. He, as well as Ian Kennedy, have made the rare jump from High A to AAA in the same season, but both of their performances this year merit it. Because of Chamberlain's power arm (routinely 98 mph, even in the later innings) and bigtime plus slider he is capable of pitching in a big league bullpen right now, and there are discussions of him doing so in the late innings for the Yankees, shades of Mariano Rivera in '96. I don't know if I agree with this idea longterm, but it would almost be certain to help now. I just love that we have guys like him, Hughes, and Kennedy.

It will be interesting to see what happens by Tuesday for both teams.

Daisuke In a Big Spot

I haven't talked much about one of my favorite pre-season topics lately, and now I'm going to. Couldn't watch the game last night, obviously, but I wish I could have. What a game from Daisuke against a good hitting team and opposing one of the premier pitchers in baseball. He one upped Sabathia at the end of the night, and deliverd the game right to Okajima and Papelbon. This is the Red Sox bread and butter. No matter how they hit, if the starter delivers the game to Okajima and JP, its nighttime more often than not.

Watching Daisuke in April, I saw him up and down. Watching him in May, I watched him perform terribly. I didn't get to see him in June, where he was absolutely lights out. But I have to admit, at the time, checking the box scores every week, I thought he had arrived, and chalked April and May up to a very understandable adjustment period. As we are seeing from the stuggles of many Japanese hitters and pitchers alike, the hitting in Japan may not be what we once thought it was on a broader scale.

Then he came out in July and started stinking the joint out again, with a terrible start in a relatively big game against Detroit. I didn't know what to think at this point. Maybe he wasn't as good as advertized? The whole year is going to be an adjustment? It also seemed like he was having his worst games against the best hitting teams (Yankees, Tigers, Indians in particular), which wasn't a good sign.

But then he came out last night and locked the Indians down. It is difficult to tell too much from the highlights about someone's stuff, but one thing was readily apparent. It looks like Daisuke has learned and adjusted to the fact that he is not the power pitcher in America that he could be in Japan. His 91-93 mph fastball is not good enough to just get ahead on that and that alone, and then try to put hitters away with his off-speed stuff. He is learning to pitch backwards, or at least mix his pitches more early and late in counts. Further, and equally as important, I think he has realized that his slider is his out pitch. I talked about this earlier in the season, that it looked like Daisuke's "nine" pitches didn't all make the grade against Major League hitters it terms of being consistent parts of his aresenal. Some of them are good pitches, but nothing more than that. Save his slider of course. It is plus, and it is filthy. It looks like he is now going to it when he is ahead, with success, and that is what he should be doing.

Meanwhile, the Yankees continue to play good baseball. Important for Mussina to step up and pitch well tonight and get a win so the pressure for another series win doesn't fall on Igawa tomorrow. The Yankees are currently only four games back in the loss on the Wild Card.

Reader/commentor Oz asked recently about potential trades for the two teams. I will say more about this shortly, but I know I don't see the Yankees doing anything big. Maybe a bullpen arm they can get cheap. I do see the Sox making a move, I just don't know where. The Yankees promoted both Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy to AAA yesterday, which is a bit odd considering they started the season in High A, and you rarely see that big a jump in a season. It is deserved, but it will be interesting to see what their motivations are.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Catching Up

With everything that went on with these two teams Friday-Monday, and as much as I always have to say, a DV style list is the only way to get up to speed.

1. Congratulations to Jon Lester on not only coming back from everything he's been through, but coming back and pitching well. He's an incredible story, and the fact that it looks like he has lost nothing off of what was a lot of talent is all the more impressive. All the best to him.

2. I found myself torn over what I wanted out of the Cleveland/Boston series. Now that Boston won game one, part of me wants to see them sweep, because I think they are a better team in the long run, and that would bring Cleveland right back to the Yankees if the Yankees keep winning. The other part of me never wants to see Boston win a game.

3. Shelley Duncan cannot keep the pace he has started on (4-12, 3 HR, 7 RBI in 3 games). But it's a no lose situation bringing a guy like him up. He treats every AB like it's Game 7 of the World Series because he wants to prove himself. Brings a lot of energy, gives the whole team a lift. He also pushes guys who are struggling and don't want to let him take their spot. Since Shelley got called up, Damon is 6-12 with 4 doubles and 7 RBI.

4. Alex Rodriguez now has 100 RBI in 99 team games, 98 of which he's played in. Yo. He is also reportedly looking into buying a 40,000 Sq. Ft., 9 acre estate in Greenwich, CT. It's unlikely he would buy a property like this if he was leaving.

5. Manny Ramirez may be back. The swing he put on that home run yesterday was vintage. No effort, billion feet to right-center. Yikes.

6. Is Cleveland on the rocks? I hope so. Guys don't want to sit next to other guys in the dugout. Trot Nixon calling closed door, players only team meetings. As a fan of a team trying to catch them, you love to hear this stuff. You just hope they don't rally around it.

7. Coming off the bad two game slide, the Yankees have bounced back to win four in a row and score 54 runs in the process. That's what the Yankees will need the rest of the way. Coming off a five game winning streak, they lose two, and come back and win four strait and counting. Shows me something.

8. Big reasons for this? In July Matsui is batting .349 with 9 homers, 5 doubles, and 17 RBI. For the month Cano is hitting .377 with 5 homers, 2 doubles, a triple, and 17 RBI. Abreu is hitting .370 with 4 homers, 6 doubles, and 22 RBI for July. But Cashman's an idiot for having the audacity to think that these guys, all of whom have been All-Stars, could actually be part of a productive offense, right? They look like the players on the back of their cards, and are changing the complexion of the offense along with Jeter, Posada, Rodriguez, and Melky, none of whom have cooled off a bit. Not to mention Andy Phillips is continuing to show the Yankees he doesn't want there to be a trade for another first baseman (which there shouldn't be), as he seemingly gets a hit in every big spot he's in.

9. I like the Jose Molina trade. Typical Cashman, making a trade that definitively upgrades the team without giving up anything (Jeff Kennard was a mid-level prospect, not even in the system's Top 30). Molina is a legitimate back-up catcher who has a lot of experience and a cannon for an arm. He can't hit much, but he can hit more than Nieves, and will at least give you consistently professional at-bats. Nieves seemed like a great guy, but he really couldn't play, and if the Yankees want to keeping making a run at the season, they can't afford to continue to catch Posada as much as they have and expect to keep getting the outrageous offensive production they have been getting out of his bat.

10. The Yankees have come out since the break and gone 10-3. The Red Sox have gone only 7-5, yet still have a 7.5 game lead in the division. The Yankees picking up 2.5 games over that stretch is significant, but it shows how difficult it is going to be to make up all that ground. They are playing out of their mind, the Red Sox are playing just above .500, and you only get 2.5 games. I think the Yankees can keep playing well, but the Red Sox are going to get hot again at some point, especially with Lester back and Manny getting going. Then making up ground will be really tough.

11. This might end up being the most inactive trade deadline of all-time, continuing a trend that started a few years ago. Revenue sharing has allowed a lot of mid-market teams to have confidence they can sign their own stars in free agency to be the core of their future, making fewer and fewer teams sellers. Consequently, big market teams who like to feast on these players in free agency are seeing how weak the free agent classes have been of late, especially on the pitching side, and therefore don't want to be buyers and give up their own prospects, realizing that they need to base their own futures upon them and not FAs.

12. I really want to see what happens in the rest of this Cleveland/Boston series. I have no control over it, obviously, but whatever happens could really help the Yankees if they keep winning.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Drew Got Robbed Of A Home Run!

JD Drew hit a ball toward the left field wall for the third time of 2007, and it went over the wall. Clearly it should have been a home run. Obviously the umpires are part of the conspiracy against Nancy Drew, just trying to make it harder for him to solve The Mystery of the $70 Million Contract.

Drew is the only player who has ever gotten a bogus call like this. Or at least that's what Red Sox fans would lead you to believe.

The way it is, he still hasn't homered since June 20th, and this still isn't the longest home run drought of the season for Drew. He has 6 this year. Six. And 37 RBI. The OPS of the $14 million man is league average. I'd give more statistics illustrating how awful this season has been, but to his credit, he has gotten a hit and some RBIs in each of the last two games. And no weak ground balls to the right side.

I'll leave you with this, before I go to the third game out of a seven-game Pride homestand. As awful as this year's been for Nancy, his 2007 performance so far is not that much of an outlier. In 2002, he hit .252 with 8 home runs and 56 RBIs. His OBP was slightly lower, his SLG was slightly higher, and he struck out more than 100 times. There are also three more seasons over the course of his career where his home run totals were under 20.

Yet he still got signed for 5 years and $70 million.

Update (Sunday, 12:20 AM): Sean McAdam has fallen off the bandwagon and wrote a terrific story about this in the Providence Journal a few days ago.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Yanks Promote Shelley Duncan...Finally!

The Yankees called up 27-year old Shelly Duncan from AAA today. I'm not going to sit here and act like this is anything to be overly excited about. He has great minor league numbers, but the son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan and brother of Cardnials outfielder Chris Duncan obviously has limitations, or he would have been called up in previous years.

However, calling up the DH is a no-brainer, and it should have been done two weeks ago at the very latest. Why? Because the Yankees' current DH is batting .233/.337/.323 with 16 extra-base hits and 28 RBI in 84 games. He is also the leadoff hitter, and has scored only 49 runs for a team that is third in baseball in runs scored. So yes, Duncan strikes out a ton and probably has holes in his swing that project poorly against Major League pitching, but when your current DH's numbers look like that you are willing to take a shot on his .295/.380/.577 with 25 homers, 79 RBI, and 44 total extra base hits in 91 games at AAA this year. Damon's OPS is .660, Duncan's is .957. That's a joke.

Obviously Damon is facing much tougher pitching, but you have to wonder if Damon could put up the numbers Duncan has in the minors this year. No chance. So why not see if Duncan can give you more than Damon has at the Major League level, because he probably can with obscene numbers like that, even with his limitations. Give him 2-3 weeks as the DH until Giambi gets back, bat him 9, have Melky leadoff, and put Damon on the bench where he belongs, and use him only as a pinch-runner. Even if Duncan bats under .250, there is blatantly all sorts of power in his bat, so let's see if he can run into a couple of fastballs and hit a 3-run homer or 2-run double that could change a game and help the Yankees get a win, the type of impact Damon hasn't had since June 6 in Chicago.

UPDATE 4:09 PM: Shelly Duncan is in the lineup DHing and batting 9th. Good. Melky Cabrera leading off and playing center field, Johnny Damon on the bench? Wrong. Melky sits, Damon leads off (if that's what you want to call it) and plays Ccenter (if that's what you want to call it). Very, very, very bad. This is not okay. I'm sorry for being so repetitive this week ripping Damon, and it isn't just about how bad I think Damon is. It is simply that he is not producing, Melky is, and yet Damon continues to be put in the leadoff spot every day because they think he is "close to coming out of it". The Yankees don't have time for this. Now Melky is getting bumped instead of Damon for Shelly Duncan. This defies all logic, and makes me want to jump off of my roof. Honestly.

Potential Trouble in Yankeeland

Uh oh.

Two days ago I wrote about momentum, and how the Yankees finally have it. They lost a game yesterday that they should have won. Those are the ones you can't afford to lose, because there are going to be losses that you should have lost. But its one game. They still have momentum.

Sort of.

For now.

Friday night's starter: Mike "I'll make an excuse if I don't pitch well" Mussina. Saturday day: Kei "The Yankees should post me for Japanese teams to bid on" Igawa. Saturday night: Matt "Pat F. actually feels most confident in my start, which is scary" DeSalvo.

Uh oh.

The Yankees suddenly find themselves yet again in one of those potentially awful, rally-killing, devastating to their playoff hopes situations that plagued their first half. It is tough to sweep four game series, but I told people beforehand that it was a critical game to win considering Wang was on the mound and because of the next three games' starters.

The Yankees didn't get that game. Now they are depending on Mussina, Igawa, and DeSalvo to not turn this into a quick 3 out of 4 losing spell, or worse. True, in at least two of those games Tampa Bay is running starters out there who are even worse (TB hasn't announced a starter for Saturday day, but it's tough to imagine him being worse than Iggy). This doesn't really matter to me. So far this season, the Yankees have always come up small in this exact situation. They are winning baseball games, then a little adversity, a bad break, or a few not so desireable pitching match-ups and suddenly they drop five games in the standings. This is an opportunity to make a statement that this isn't going to be the case in the second half. If they don't...nighttime for the Yankees' season.

This pressure isn't on if they had won yesterday. But they didn't. The Yankees aren't in a position not to split, and really they need 3 of 4 from Tampa Bay at home. But as I've said repeatedly winning 4 game series, especially on this type of continuing basis with this type of pitching going, is difficult to do. But this is the Yankees' reality. Wow do I absolutely despise 4 game series. I don't have a good feeling about this.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Another 0fer for the "Leadoff" Hitter

Johnny Damon was hitless today (again), as the Yankees lose a 3-2 game that could have gone either way. After Wang surrendered all 3 of his runs bottom 7 to put the Yankees in a 3-2 hole, Damon was leading off top 8. The crowd was on its feet, encouraging the Yankees to attack and get it right back with the top of the order up. But they were confused. Even though Jeter bats second, he is the top of the order, because Damon cannot be associated with any positive word like top, high, good, etc. He is a bum, and a bottom feeder. Disgustingly weak AB culminating with a pop out to short right, and no rally is started.

Damon is not the reason the Yankees lost this game. Although he walked and scored a run (anybody can do that, including the 9 hitter), he did nothing to help, especially considering his role in the leadoff spot. Had he been any kind of spark, the Yankees could have scored more runs. But he wasn't and he isn't. He had no hits in this series, and even though they won despite him the last three games, it caught up to them today, and they can't afford to keep having that happen.

The Lead Is Down To

Not to blame anyone specifically, but Drew might want to change his number to 43, 3, or 31. As in...
43: Weak ground ball to second base (4-3 on your scorecard)
3: Weak ground ball to first base (3)
31: Weak ground ball to first base, pitcher covering (3-1)

0-4 Wednesday night with two weak ground balls to the right side. 4-29 with 8 weak ground balls to the right side since July 6.

The fact that this guy is going to be wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform when I'm 26 years old makes me want to jump off a tall building.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Momentum

The big difference between the Yankees at the beginning of the season and the Yankees now is momentum. Momentum is so important over the course of a 162 game season, and for much of the first half it was difficult for the Yankees to get any due to injuries and lack of starting pitching. Then the offense was fatigued, both physically and mentally, from carrying the load and got tired and tight for about a month. With the exception of that one stretch in early June, they could never put anything together.

All of this has changed for the better. They are largely healthy. They are getting good if not very good starting pitching. The offense is firing, especially late in games and in the clutch. Everything is clicking. And the result is momentum, which they have right now after beating the Jays tonight to secure back to back 4-game series wins coming out of the break. And they have Wang going tomorrow.

That Wang is going tomorrow is probably the best example of why the Yankees look, feel, and are so different than they were early in the season. In April or May if they got a mini-streak going, or got a nice win, they would have another AAA starter going the next night to usually end the rally. This effects the entire club, as it wears on everybody mentally to have to always pick another young starter up, and they end up pressing.

Now, after an extra inning win last night, they get a great start from Clemens and 6 runs in the 7th and 8th to win tonight, and have their best pitcher going tomorrow for a sweep. Everyone has to be feeling good, feeling relaxed, and expecting to win. That attittude matters in a big way, and when you combine that attittude with the talent on this team, it can create a lot of momentum, and a lot of wins.

The Yankees Will Win The AL East

Ask some of my friends. I was saying this earlier, but I was going to wait a while until I posted it online. I'm ready to post it online: The New York Yankees will win the American League East in 2007, and the Boston Red Sox will fail to make the playoffs.

Why, you ask? Strength of schedule. I touched base on this a bit in the comments earlier this afternoon, but it goes down to the basic theoretical principles of baseball. They say these things: Good pitching beats good hitting. But good hitting will demolish bad pitching. A team can (and will) make the playoffs if their pitching staff sucks but they can at least hit somewhat. Examples: The New York Yankees in the last five years. Their pitching has been deplorable. However, they've still won the East every year. They've lost in the playoffs because their good hitting has run into good pitchers and their bad pitchers ran into good hitters.

As Pat wrote in his "senior thesis" over the All-Star Break, the Yankees are playing the majority of their games from here on in against teams that flat-out suck. The Yankees still have 22 straight games against the scum of the American League, and 44 out of their last 70 are against KCR, TBD, CWS, BAL, and TOR.

Go ahead, Sox fans, tell me that Boston has 42 games against the same five teams, including 13 straight at the beginning of September. But have the last two games given you any indication that it's a good thing? The fact that Coco Crisp was visibly pissed off in the eighth after hitting a triple (but narrowly missing a home run) with two outs speaks absolute volumes about this team's ability to get the timely hits.

Plus, the team's starting to run into something that I considered inevitable: PITCHING 'IF'S. Wakefield is not getting the job done. Matsuzaka is inconsistent. Schilling is on the DL. And Tavarez doesn't get yanked when he starts to suck. I can't believe I'm writing it, but Josh Beckett can't do it all himself.

But back to the strength of schedule argument. For some reason, the Yankees had been losing lots of games against these bad teams, but it's still true that they're 21-9 in games decided by 5 or more runs. Now that their offense is starting to get it together again (despite Johnny Damon's futility), look for more of those games that Baseball Reference calls "blowout games." This is the Yankees' bread and butter. Even if the Trenton Thunder or the Tampa Yankees' pitching rotation has to pitch instead of Igawa or whoever, it won't matter. The offense is too potent and will feast off of terrible pitchers.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox' anemic offense is not guaranteed to rack up 10 runs a game against bad pitchers. Look how they did against Omaha...I mean, Kansas City. Look how they did Sunday. Every time a Triple-A pitcher pitches against them, the Red Sox lose. (I'll write more about this at another time...or in the comments if someone wants to call me on it.)

Conclusion: Red Sox will not win as many games against bad teams as the Yankees will. Boston's lead is now 7, and there are still over 40 games apiece against bad teams. The Yankees--because they're the Yankees--will take the majority of the head-to-head games. And that's enough to make up the difference of seven games.

The Yankees will win the East this year, and then get destroyed in the first round of the playoffs because their pitching sucks. Good pitching beats good hitting. Good hitting will demolish bad pitching.

Source: I got nominated

My boy JB claims that yesterday when he was at work he found out that I was nominated for the "prestigious" position of Red Sox Nation President. He found my name on an online list of people who have been nominated.

If you're not familiar with the presidency, please refer to the Red Sox version and the Dirt Dogs version.

And if you're not familiar with the way I feel about this promotion, please refer to everything I've ever written about the Boston Red Sox, specifically Red Sox Nation and Red Sox fans.

I really really hope JB made this up and that nobody actually shelled out $15 to nominate me. Paying money for this is slightly more retarded than paying money for a pet rock and slightly less retarded than paying money for JD Drew and Julio Lugo. And the fact that people are actually nominating themselves or others is another indication of...

1) The new demographic of Red Sox fans who will use their fan-dom of the team to boost their own social status. No price is too high. These fans will spend a fortune to buy new merchandise, purchase cards to prove to their friends that they're "real" fans, and generally annoy the absolute crap of anyone who has been around since before 2003.
2) The fact that the Red Sox market their team more aggressively than a minor league team. The difference is: most minor league teams need aggressive marketing strategies, and the Red Sox don't because everyone already attends all of their games. They are basically trying to charge people at the back of a line $200 to cut about half of the line...plus have a shiny card and a megaphone so they can more loudly boast how real they are. Great business...except for the fact that IT ALIENATES PEOPLE!

More details on my rumored nomination as they become available. If the nominator happens to be reading this blog, I have a question: Did you really give the Red Sox $15 for this?

Follow-up question: Because each nominee automatically gets a Nation membership, when do I get my plastic card in the mail? I can't wait to flash it to everyone I know, letting them know how much of a better fan I am.

Gimme a break.

Non-Stiffs in the Red Sox Offense

Note: If a player is on this list, he is not a stiff. For now, I am not going to throw these people under the bus. They are contributing in one way or another.

LOCKS:
-Dustin Pedroia. Funny, you don't really hear anyone calling for this guy to be sent down to AAA anymore. The guy's doing what's expected of him and then some. He's hitting .311 and his OBP is almost at .400. He walks (33) more than he strikes out (23). Well over a quarter of his hits are for extra bases, and he has as many doubles as Manny (21). Quit hatin. The little guy's for real.

-Mike Lowell. I was a hater when he came over in the Beckett deal. He hit .235 with 8 home runs in 2005. He had a VERY disappointing July last year, and he had a largely-ignored slump when he went a month without hitting a double. People have said he's slumping. Not really. He's hit in 18 of his last 20 games, and he's hitting .305 with runners in scoring position (something that a lot of the Sox have had trouble with this season). He actually drives people in instead of choking with guys on base. He's eighth in the AL in RBIs. I can't believe I'm saying it, but I'd sign him to another two years and 18 million dollars.

-David Ortiz. Yup, he hasn't hit for power. Shut up. He's still ninth in the league in home runs. He's second in the league in doubles. He's a point behind the league lead in OBP and his OPS is still over a thousand. Idiots still think he's a one-dimensional hitter and he sucks if he's not hitting 50 home runs a year. He's hitting .320. True, he only has 59 RBIs, but you know what? IT'S HARD TO GET RBIS AS A 3-HITTER WHEN YOUR LEADOFF HITTER IS HITTING UNDER .200! Don't rag on Ortiz. He's not the problem.

-Alex Cora. No, he's not hitting .400 anymore. But is there a better utility infielder in baseball? It's true that he strikes out a lot, doesn't walk, and isn't hitting .400. But he's a bench player. What do you expect? (Actually, you can call him the slugger off the bench, because his .450 slugging percentage is higher than Wily Mo Pena's abysmal .363.)

NOT LOCKS, BUT...
-Jason Varitek. I'm one of the first to admit I'm not ga-ga over Captain Intangible, but his year last year offensively made me want to eat a gun. And 35-year-old catchers go nowhere but down, you'd think. Not the case for Varitek. He hasn't been good, but he's hit .302 in the last month. He'd be a lock, but he doesn't get hits when they matter. He's hitting .320 with the bases empty, but a miserable .228 with men on.

-Kevin Youkilis. It is true that the Red Sox have started slumping since he's stopped hitting. He's hit .252 since June 1st, and that's not good. However, he's hitting .367 with runners in scoring position and .370 with men on. And if you're hitting .307 over the course of the season, I'm not going to rag on you.

-Covelli Loyce Crisp. The Fastest Member of Red Sox Nation is the hottest hitter in the American League right now. Okay, that's an exaggeration. His average is up to .265, and if you were to ask me, he will hit above .285 by the time all is said and done. His re-vamped swing has given him more power, and I think the Coco Crisp of April-May is all but dead. Since the beginning of Hitting Streak #1 (June 14), he's hitting .370 with 4 HR, 14 RBI, and an OPS of 1.047. Hitting Streak #1 lasted eight games, he took one oh-for, then Hitting Streak #2 lasted nine games. His plate patience is vastly improved from Coco Crisp 2006. He's been generally good, but not perfect on the basepaths. It is true that he's generally a singles hitter, but his slugging percentage is higher than the guy who's making $70 million to be a #5 hitter.

And as long as we're comparing him to overpriced stiffs, I haven't heard anyone talk about how he's not Johnny Damon lately. Hitting Streaks #1 and 2 have helped Crisp prove that this team's center fielder's name is "Coco Crisp," not "Johnny Damon's Replacement." The fact that Johnny Damon is one of the worst hitters in Major League Baseball not named Julio Lugo this year doesn't hurt either. I couldn't be happier about it.

P.S. I can't wait to see Hitting Streak #3, which started last night, extend to 57 some time in September. You heard it here first.

ON NOTICE:
-Eric Hinske. Yes, he's been terrible. He's hitting .192. I mean, he seems like a good guy, but it would not be too far-fetched to say he should be designated for assignment. But his slugging percentage is higher than JD Drew's. Think about that for a second.

As far as I'm concerned, the guys on this list are not part of the problem. There are names who are not on this list. I'm not directly saying they are part of the problem, but I will say they cannot qualify for the list of Non-Stiffs in the Red Sox Offense.

Yankees Winning Despite Bad Decision Making

The Yankees are playing their best baseball of the season right now, which really doesn't say much. But they are actually playing great baseball. Finding ways to win close ones. Beating good pitchers in low scoring games. Beating bad pitchers in high scoring games. Coming from behind multiple times in the same game to win. All that good stuff.

They have won 5 of 6 since the break and 10 of 13 since that miserable series against Oakland to get them to 7 in the loss column behind Boston and 6 in the loss column behind Cleveland. They are only 6 games into this 29 game stretch against lesser quality teams, and if they keep playing this good consistent brand of baseball for the next three weeks they could find themselves right back in the thick of things by August 8th, when the stretch ends, before an off day on the 9th when Cleveland comes to town.

But there are some issues. I don't know who is responsible (Torre and Cashman are the frontrunners), but it has to stop.

What are the problems? 1. The fact that Johnny Damon is still leading off. 2. The fact that Kyle Farnsworth pitches in a role other than mop-up, let alone the 8th inning of close games.

In what other profession to you get to fail repeatedly on the scale that these two do and keep your spot, especially when there are other viable options?

Johnny Damon is batting .238 with a .339 obp and has only 16 extra base hits, 3 of which have come since June 7, over a month ago. Forget the fact that despite being a bench player for the better part of April/May Melky Cabrera's .282 avg. blows Damon's out of the water. The important part is that since becoming a starter at the end of May Melky is batting over .330 (including .392 in July) with 11 extra base hits. I understand you can't bench Damon, because we have nowhere else to go with the DH right now. But how does he not get moved down in the order, to say, NINTH, with those numers? Considering how attractive an alternative Melky is in that spot, that a change has not been made in the leadoff spot is embarrassing. Damon is going to cost us games not scoring the runs in front of Jeter, Abreu, Rodriguez, Matsui, and Posada that he should be.

I can't even talk about Kyle Farnsworth still getting the ball in the 8th inning. At the least, its an adventure, like Sunday against the Devil Rays. Comes in with a 2 run lead in the 8th, surrenders two doubles to give up a run, and requires Andy Phillips to make a great play on a blistering line drive to get a DBP and get out of the inning with the lead intact. At worst, he blows the game, or at least tries to, like last night. Pettitte goes toe to toe with Roy Halladay, and hands a 1-1 game to Farnsworth in the 8th. After allowing a runner to reach first, Farnsworth throws over to first when the runner is literally standing on the bag, and a completely wild throw allows the runner to move to second. Then he gives up a couple of rockets, one which was caught, one which was a double, to give up the lead. The Yankees have to then come back to win the game. How does Farnsworth still get the call, especially the way Vizcaino is pitching? Forget that Vizcaino's overall numbers are still better than Farnsworth, evein after posting 5.79 and 9.00 ERAs in April/May. The important part is that he had a 0.77 in June, and is sporting a 1.80 thus far in July. He has allowed 3 earned runs in his last 21.2 innings. Farnsworth is going to cost us games that Viz will not. Same with Proctor and Bruney for that matter. That he gets the ball before these guys is a joke.

Whoever (Torre/Cashman) keeps going back to these two in these roles is going to cost the Yankees games that they need. I don't know if it's Torre trying to cover for Cashman and the $19 million he has invested in these two annually. I don't know if it's Cashman who is behind them being used this way. I don't know if it's Torre just making repeatedly terrible decisons. But there is no justification for Damon leading off over Cabrera or Farnsworth getting the ball over Viz, Proctor, or Bruney. It is terrible decison making, and the Yankees, despite playing great baseball right now, are in no position to lose games because of bad managerial/front office decision making. Please stop it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yankees in a Tough Spot, Plus Post #200

Most importantly, this is the 200th post on HYD Baseball. Personally, it has been a lot of fun doing this since January. The readership/commentorship has been awesome, and the fact that we have a base of knowledgable, opinonated fans on the blog is what makes it enjoyable. The dialogue and back and forth has been great, so from both DV and I, thanks.

Back to baseball, the New York Yankees are in a very difficult position.

Winning four game series is very difficult, no matter who you are playing, and the in the Yankees four tries in four game series, they have won 3 of 4 three times (at Chicago, Minnesota, at Tampa) and got one split (Seattle). Good work in four game sets.

After winning their second four gamer in as many weeks, and playing their most consistent baseball of the year, it is becoming apparent that the Yankees are not going to go away. Two weeks ago it seemed like they might, and that for the first time in my life as a true baseball fan (since 1995), the Yankees might play a meaningless game for the wrong reasons. But it looks like they are going to keep it at least interesting deep into September.

Keeping it interesting and making the playoffs are two very separate things though, especially considering how far back they are of Boston and Cleveland, and how few opportunities they have to make up ground head-to-head against either of them. That said, I'll be suprised if the final margin, one way or the other, isn't within a few games (lets say 4-5).

So, there are 15 days left until the trade deadline, and if you're the Yankees, what do you do? This is the tough spot. If it is going to come down to a few games, an Eric Gagne or Mark Teixiera are going to unquestionably help put more games in the win column than you would have gotten without them. But can they put you over the hump, and not just get you closer? What is the price? If you get them and you don't make the playoffs, how much does it hurt the organization/farm system? If you get them and you do make the playoffs, is the long-term cost too high? Is it even worth it? All important options to weigh when you are 8 back in the loss column in the division, 7 in the Wild Card. If the Yankees were 3-4 back, picking up a Gagne or Cordero or Teixiera or even a change of scenery guy like Dye is a no-brainer. But 7 and 8 in the loss column, I don't know.

It probably comes down not only to how they do in the next two weeks, but how they do relative to Boston and/or Cleveland, because that is the battle they are fighting. They are too far back to just worry about how they are playing, they need to factor into every decision they make how Boston and Cleveland are playing as well.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Click Clack

You could have heard this coming.

"On Saturday, a day after being removed in the fourth inning with recurring tightness in his right hamstring, right fielder J.D. Drew was out of the lineup. Eric Hinske spotted Drew in the lineup and batted eighth."

-Ian Browne's Red Sox Notes on mlb.com.

Drew left the game on June 1 with the same hamstring problem and missed 3 out of the next 6 games. He left the game last night and has at least tonight and Sunday off. Sure, I won't complain about it too much because he'd been hitting before his most recent 3-17 slump. But a guy with such a lucrative contract and such a long detailed history of missing games with injuries will inevitably have his ailments talked about.

"Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the 70 Million Dollar Contract" continues.

Friday, July 13, 2007

26 million reasons to put down the joystick

"I made some critical mistakes this winter in many places and one of them was allotting time properly. There were many significant non-baseball real life issues that came about 4-6 weeks before camp opened. I NEVER skipped a throwing day, never, but I didn't do some things I probably should have."
-From Curt Schilling's Boston Dirt Dogs interview Monday.

Seriously, man, maybe it's just me. My friends think it's ridiculous that I miss softball and Monopoly, I show up late to work, and I sleep for 12 hours on my days off, and it's all because of running. I run my butt off, and nothing ever comes between me and working out.

I make 0 million dollars a year.

Curt Schilling makes $13 million a year for his athletic endeavors, and he lets video games get in the way of his workouts. I'm not trying to pry, whether it's Green Monster Games or just playing World of Warcraft against East Quad residents in his basement, but either way. When it's time to go running, I eventually put down the MarioKart controllers.

Not only that, but before the season he was trying to get a contract for another year at the same salary. And he showed up at the beginning of the season out of shape. Mighta been a good business decision for his other endeavors, but not a good business decision for his day job.

If this current injury trouble is a product of not working to potential during November-February, which Schilling infers in the interview, it's bad business for his own endeavors of playing another year at $13 million.

Also bad news for his team that's trying to win a World Series and will be playing either a) without their ace, b) with a diminished ace, or c) acquiring Mark Buehrle for much too high of a price. Thanks a million (or 13).

To his credit, though, at least he admitted it. You can't blast Schilling for being dishonest. He takes a lot of heat on this blog, but I'm glad he actually addressed his preseason shape, albeit 5 months later.

Yankees Need to...

1. Beat bad teams. They are 24-20 against teams over .500, which shows their capability. After tonight's win they are a horrific 19-23 against sub-.500 teams, which shows why they are where they are. If they were simply as good against bad teams as they are against good teams, they'd be in a totally different spot. These next 28 games are critical to get that -4 way up.

2. Win on the road. They are 26-18 at home, and a miserable 17-25 on the road. Again, they need to get that number in the plus, while continuing the great play at home.

3. Have Bobby Abreu put the bat on the baseball consistently. In the Yankees 43 wins he is hitting .391 with 35 rbi, 43 runs, and 5 homers. In the Yankees 43 losses he is hitting .154 with 9 rbi, 15 runs, and one homer. Those are scary numbers. He doesn't have to be what he has been in Yankees wins thus far, but if he can just be more consistent, the Yankees will win a lot of games in the second half.

Tonight was a good start to the second season for all of these things: a win on the road against a sub-.500 team with Abreu going 3-5 with a double, a home run, and 3 rbi. Pettitte was better, and getting the win despite battling through a few jams should give him confidence going forward. Most importantly his stuff was long again tonight, after being so short his last two starts, especially with the cutter. When his cutter is long with late break he is tough, and that is what the Yankees need him to be.

This is it for the Yankees. Right at .500 with 28 games remaining in this "stretch". The key for them is to blow .500 out of the water and have it be in the rear view mirror by the first week in August. Get to 10 games, 12 games over, then see what you can do with the final 50 games. They had this chance a month ago and blew it. They don't have time to play 16-12 against these teams, let alone anything that resembles the 4 games under they currently are against sub-.500 clubs. They need to put together 5 game winning streaks, lose one, then rip off another 4. If they get the pitching and hitting they've been getting the last 8 games, they'll have a shot. Tonight was a good place to start. Tomorrow is a big test as Kazmir is a tough lefty, and they haven't hit lefties at all this year, especially on the road.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Yankees/Red Sox: Mid-Season Reports

Second half starts tomorrow, and the Sox are 9 up on the Yankees in the loss column of the AL East. A lot has happened over the first 80 some odd games for these two teams. Here are some brief recaps, one facet of the game at a time, for each team.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Offense: Marred by inconsistency, both collectivelly and amongst certain individuals. Despite having scored the third most runs in the majors (464) to date, and being high in many offensive categories, they have been far too streaky, hitting excessively in high scoring games for a week at a time, then not hitting at all for a week. Rodriguez, Jeter, and Posada are the only players who have performed well above league average (way above, in fact) for their position consistently, with Matsui coming on late to put him in the plus as well. Melky is the last true bright spot, batting over .330 since becoming a starter on May 26th, and he has settled nicely into the 2-hole. I've said it before, I'll say it again, he's a different player when he starts. Cano and Abreu have had streaks, but they are in the minus. Damon is so embarrassingly in the minus when you factor him in not only as a CF, but a leadoff hitter, I really am incapable of going into it.

Defense: Not good, not bad. Sabermetrically, statistically, objectively, whatever you want, Rodriguez is the best defensive 3B in baseball, and the numbers are all there to back it up. Ridiculous/bizarre turnaround after the last two years. After a terrible rookie year, Cano followed it up with a great defensive year last year, and is continuing it this year, and has been the best defensive player on the team sabermetrically to date. Cabrera is in the plus at all three outfield spots, and that's just tracking it. Add in his arm, you have one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. Cairo has been solid. Sadly, thats about it. Jeter is his usual, great to the hole, makes the big plays, couldn't get to a beachball up the middle. You can only hope to DH Damon. Matsui and Posada play slightly in the minus. Abreu is afraid of the wall and the grass.

Starting Pitching: Team ERA of 4.36, right in the middle of the pack in the majors, which makes sense, considering it was so bad early and has been so good lately. The main problem is that the key four, Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, and Clemens, have all failed to get hot at once. Wang has been terriffic, and continues to be one of the best in the game, but even he had two rocky starts (San Fran/Baltimore), when the Yankees really needed him to be good. After being great for two months despite questionable peripherals, Pettitte has had two atrocious starts back to back for a nice little market correction on his numbers. Mussina started slow, but has been filthy in June/July. Clemens has been untouchable in his last two starts, you just hope he can keep it up, because we have seen him be not so untouchable prior to these two starts. The key to this season will be the four of them (and Phil Hughes in 2-3 weeks), being good almost every time out, consistently, as a group.

Bullpen: Outside of Rivera, and Proctor when he isn't pitching three times a day, what a joke. Vizcaino is going to have to keep doing what he's done the last two weeks to join Rivera and Proctor if they want to have a chance in the second half. Why is Chris Britton at Triple A? Does anybody know?

The Good News: They played their best baseball of the season against Minnesota and Oakland, taking 5 of 7 from two very good teams. Phil Hughes' rehab assignment is underway, and he looks good. Should be back in 2-3 weeks, and they need him, because they can't afford to be dealing with Igawa once every five days. They need those games. Hideki Matsui looks like Hideki Matsui again, and could be the go-to RBI guy A-Rod needs to help him in the second half. The first 29 games out of the break are against Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Baltimore, and Toronto. 51 of their remaining 77 games are against these five teams.

The Bad News: They need to win 48 of those 77 games just to get 90 wins, and I don't know if that's good enough for the Wild Card. You are probably talking about 50-27, 92 wins, just to be in the picture.

BOSTON RED SOX

Offense: After a blistering start, has come back down to earth, but has still been good. 8th in baseball with 435 runs. Scored when it counted all the time in April/May, not as much recently. A couple of reasons for this. David Ortiz, and a great spot by DV for noticing this well over a month ago, is hurting. The average and the OBP are phenomenal, but 14 homers and 52 RBI in 81 games is not David Ortiz. The fact that he is hitting so many doubles (29) as oppossed to home runs is also telling. If anything, like DV said, the fact that he is able to do this while hurt is a credit to him as a hitter. But this version doesn't help the Sox nearly as much. Manny Ramirez is a bigtime concern. He is liable to turn it on at any time, but this is the worst he has looked since becoming a big leaguer. The below average results aren't the main issue either, as he is taking tons of bad/off-balance swings, something you never used to see from him. Teams are also working around Papi to get to him, and he isn't coming through, which is a big problem. Lowell and Youkilis have been oustanding, but they had great first halves last year too, and we all remember what happened to them in the last three months of '06. Keep an eye on that. Relative to expectations, Pedroia and Varitek have been pleasant and important suprises. Crisp has been good lately. The $14 million old #5 that is the new leadoff guy, and the $9 million old leadoff guy batting below the Mendoza Line? DV handles those accounts.

Defense: Not last year's team, but that is mostly because of the Gonzalez/Lugo switch. Crisp has been the best defensive CF in baseball in terms of tracking it. He's big in the plus, along with Lowell. I don't have metrics for any of these guys like I do for the Yanks, but it doesn't look like anybody out there is performing significantly below average with the glove. DV?

Starting Pitching: Was beyond imagination for the first two months, has slowed a little with the loss of Fatboy, but still a team ERA of 3.76 in the AL is tremendous, and good enough for third best in baseball. Beckett is close to putting together his first full effective season, although he's been more touchable lately. Matsuzaka was never bad, and now he is really settling in, and you can see this in the total correction he has made in his K:BB rate (123:38), an area where he struggled early. Wakefield is his usual self. Tavarez has given more than any Boston fan could have hoped for, and something most teams would love in their #5 spot. But not having Schilling is big, and if he doesn't come back to not only be healthy, but effective, at the very least this will have playoff implications.

Bullpen: Great overall numbers. Papelbon is filthy, needs to stay healthy over a full season. Okajima has been filthy, needs to show that his performance isn't an abberation. He wasn't close to this good in Japan. If he was, more teams would have been on him, and the Sox wouldn't have gotten him so cheap. I know he added the split and its been a big part of his success, but as hitters see him more and adjust this is a big second half story to watch. I know other guys have good numbers, but these are the only two you can trust in a big spot right now. Manny Delcarmen has been good in a small sample size, but he needs to show he can find the strikezone for more than a 10.2 inning period before he gets the ball in a tight spot. Sox need an arm in the pen if they want to compete with Detroit and Anaheim.

The Good News: They have a 9 game lead in the loss column on the divison, and if they just play well against a mediocre schedule, they will win it. They have a chance to get healthy and make the 1-2 key moves they need to make to be serious World Series contenders.

The Bad News: They need to make 1-2 moves to be serious World Series contenders. It might not have looked this way in April/May, but there has been a big market correction on this team since June 1. Since then they are 17-18 over 35 games, and have been swept by Seattle and Detroit in the last two weeks. There is no way they are even close to Detroit or Anaheim right now in a 5 or 7 game series. And without Schilling, Papi, and Manny doing what they do, this isn't going to change without making 1-2 big moves in the rotation or in the pen. The primary problem here is a lot of teams looking to make the same moves, like Detroit, Cleveland, and definitely Anaheim (although they may be looking more for a bat...and they'll get whatever they want with their farm system) can put deeper and more attractive prospect packages together.

Hitting "Like A Little Bitch"

So it came out in the Boston papers today that David Ortiz's knee is ailing and he will likely require surgery in the offseason. This should come as no surprise that he's been injured all season.

I wrote about a month ago that Ortiz's swing is different, and it's presumably because of the leg problems he's been suffering. Chalk up another one to me.

However, today's report in the Boston Herald cites a "close source" who claims that Ortiz's health is not behind the power outage that's been discussed all season. I'm not sure if the "close source" is telling the truth, but let's just say that I disagree.

I'm writing this to reiterate what I also wrote in 38 Bitches Volume 8, and that's to give Ortiz some huge credit. It seems like he is well aware that he's had warning track power this year while in years past he's clearly had home run power. Therefore, he's hitting the ball in a different style. He's not swinging for the fences every time. He's hitting toward the opposite field. He's getting a lot of singles.

I just finished his memoir last night, and he talked in great detail about how he didn't like the approach to hitting his coaches in Minnesota made him take. He's been quoted in Seth Mnookin's Feeding the Monster as saying they made him hit "like a little bitch" where all along he thought he could hit the tar out of the ball.

This year, clearly, he can't hit the tar out of the ball. So he's hitting like a little bitch. And though it's not as desirable as having 55 home runs out of him, I'm not going to complain about a .314 average and a .434 on-base percentage (good for second in the league). I said it last month, but it's about time to give Ortiz credit for being one of the best overall hitters (as opposed to sluggers) in baseball.

Monday, July 9, 2007

We Don't Want to Ignore Red Sox Prospects

Much like the Yankees, the Red Sox are paying a lot more attention to their farm these days as well. It isn't quite what the Yankees' is, but it is a clear cut top 10 minor league system, and it is lead by OF Jacoby Ellsbury, SP Clay Buchholz, and SP Michael Bowden.

Ellsbury and Buchholz were named to the Futures Game along with the Yankees' Joba Chamberlain, who I wrote a lot about below. Ellsbury went 0-4. Buchholz allowed a homer and struck out 2. Not great performances, but who cares, you can't tell much from watching one game, let alone an All-Star Game.

Except to tell when guys are going to be good, and Ellsbury and Buchholz should be at least that. Ellsbury is Major League ready, thats why he has already been called up. In topprospectalert.com's revised mid-season Top 100 Prospects, they have Buchholz at #3 behind only Justin Upton and Phil Hughes, and up all the way from pre-season #32. Making that kind of a jump in half a season says a lot about Buchholz's stuff and performance thus far at Portland (15 starts, 7-2, 1.77 ERA, 55 hits, 4 homers, 116 strikouts to 22 walks and a .180 BAA in 86.2 innings).

Ellsbury and Bowden are also on this list with Jacoby at 12 (up from 27 pre-season) and Bowden at 63 (N/R pre-season). Bowden has struggled at Portland so far, but his performance at Lancaster prior to his promotion as well as his billing out of North Carolina last year warrant this ranking.

I guess you can't keep me from having a post about prospects and not mentioning the Yankees. They have six players on this list. SP Phil Hughes (2), SP The Great Joba Chamberlain (18), OF Jose Tabata (22), Ian Kennedy (35), Dellin Betances (51), and Matt DeSalvo (65).

DeSalvo is a bit of a suprise being on this list at all, as he certainly isn't in the class of any of the Yankees' pitchers in front of him, and probably a lot of the pitchers in front and behind him on this list (plus some not on it at all). But people have always been split on him, and he does have a Major League change-up as well as great numbers in the minors. But Yankees' fans saw too much of him this year, and with all the depth and talent in the system, if he doesn't make a big jump in fastball velocity and/or control, he will never be a consistent part of the rotation. If he did make some adjustments, I wouldn't mind him as a long-man in the pen, and he could probably pitch on some teams' back-ends.

The other five are no doubters, and while I'm having a big Yankee Minor League Propoganda Day, if you look at Hughes', Chamberlain's, and Kennedy's numbers in comparison to Buchholz's and Bowden's, you can see why people are so juiced up about the Yankees pitching. Buchholz is a Top 5 Prospect, and all three have numbers on his level. Bowden is rated highly by many, is good enough to make a Top 100 list in his first full season, and all three of them blow his numbers out of the water. The Big Three is real.

Joba Chamberlain Pitches in Futures Game

There is a lot I want to talk about at the break in regards to the Yankees, Red Sox, and the season in general. But first I want to talk about Joba Chamberlain.

Joba (pronounced J-abba) pitched the top of the third inning for the USA team in yesterdays Futures Game, the Minor League All-Star Game. I had seen him before on video, but it was from a tough angle behind home plate. So this was my first chance to really see him live.

I was excited because Chamberlain is catching some serious hype this season. More than one scout from another organization has placed his upside above that of Phil Hughes, the #1 rated pitching prospect in baseball going into this season. Others have said that if he were promoted to the bigs right now, he'd be a #3 for most teams. And while I may not agree with the Hughes comparison just yet, and think that the #3 starter assessment may be a little bit of a stretch, there is reason for Joba's hype, as the numbers speak for themselves. In 12 starts at High A and Double A (the toughest level to pitch at) combined, Chamberlain is 7-1 with a 2.26 ERA. In 67.2 innings he has allowed only 45 hits and one home run while holding opponents to a .190 BA against. He has struck out 99 while walking only 22. On second thought, maybe I can see where those lofty comparisons and assessments are coming from.

Seeing him pitch for the first time yesterday, its safe to say that he looks as good as the numbers indicate, and the hype is certainly not unwarranted.

He did allow a walk, a steal, and a weak RBI grounder through first and second in his one inning of work. But who cares, its the All-Star game, he was looking to show off his stuff. And his stuff is impressive. His fastball was consistently 95-96, he topped out at 98, and never went below 94 with it. For a kid only 21 years old, thats a big arm. He showed a filthy, tight slider and an average curveball. He has a change, but I didn't see any yesterday, as he was just looking to show off his devastating fastball/slider combo. Both rate as plus pitches, and he understands how to play them off each other. After he showed one batter two sliders early in an AB, one for a called strike one for a swing and miss, he struck him out with a 98 mph fastball up and away that was in the catchers mit before the guy started swinging. Just disgusting.

At 6'3" and 230 pounds, Joba has a Brad Penny type build and Justin Verlander type stuff, although his breaking ball isn't at THAT level yet. Even though he was only drafted last year in the Supplemental First Round out of Nebraska, he is close to Major League ready, and the Yankees should see him by next year. Based on what I've now seen to go along with the numbers and reports I read constantly, it's easy to see why he is projected as a frontline starter.

There will still be a lot of people who don't believe the Yankees minor league pitching is for real, and perhaps for good reason, because the Yankees haven't developed pitching for so long. Believe it. We know about Hughes. Above is Chamberlain. The final piece of the Big Three is Ian Kennedy, the Yankees' '06 First Round Draft Pick out of USC, who they took with their first pick in front of Chamberlain. In 17 starts between High A and Double A combined this season, he is 11-2 with a 1.71 ERA. In 100 innings he has allowed only 60 hits and 4 home runs while holding opponents to a .176 BA against. He has struck out 115 against only 36 walks. You can't fake these numbers. One scout from an opposing team who watched him recently simply wrote in bold letters "FAST TRACK" on the top of the page. Moving quickly through the organization just like Hughes and Chamberlain, Kennedy should be making a '08 big league debut as well. Oh yea, and there is some Wang guy in the majors who might do a good job in front of this trio going forward. And this doesn't even include other standouts like Jeff Marquez, Alan Horne, Brett Smith, Kevin Whelan, and Delin Betances.

So while '07 is going to at best be a trying season (more on this to come soon) and at worst could be a big dissapointment (MUCH more on this coming soon), Yankees fans can look at the pitching Cash Money is developing for the Yankees' first time in over 10 years, and take comfort in the fact that building pitching is how you win championships, not buying guys like Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa, Jaret Wright, and even Mike Mussina for that matter. At best, they are good for making the playoffs followed by an early exit, and thats not good enough. At worst, well, you're watching the worst if you're watching the Yankees this year. So while its brutal right now, at least Cashman and the organization are doing it the right way again with the proper goals (a World Championship) in mind. By doing it this way, seasons like '04-'07 are going to be much further and farther between than back to back to back to back years of questionable pitching, because there is too much quantity, quality, and depth of arms in the minor legues.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Jayson Stark Is A Big Meanie

Jayson Stark has named Red Sox SS Julio Lugo the American League's Least Valuable Player for the first half of the season. This is a totally unfair assertment. As one of my co-workers pointed out, he "cherry-picked" stats that make Lugo seem worse than he is...you know...worse than a leadoff hitter who is being paid $9 million a year to hit .190:

No full-time player in Red Sox history has ever made it through a season with a sub-Mendoza batting average and both an on-base percentage and slugging percentage under .300. But Lugo is working on it -- thanks to the 7-for-79 (.089) June debacle he just staggered through. That microscopic average made him just the third player in the last 44 seasons to bat under .100 in any calendar month. And the 0-for-33 funk he tossed into the middle of it was the longest 0-fer by a Red Sox position player in 16 years. And ohbytheway, out at shortstop, Lugo has already committed more errors (nine) than his predecessor, Alex Gonzalez, committed all last season (seven).

Sure, you have to focus on the negatives, Jayson Stark, you big jerk. Lugo hasn't been that bad. He's just been...you know...really unlucky. A lot of those weak ground balls to short would have been hits, but Lugo's just run into a group of shorstops that are REALLY REALLY good at fielding weak ground balls right at them. He's a really good player.

I've cherry-picked some stats that have highlighted the positives just as Stark picked out the negatives. Get ready: This will open your eyes.

Lugo's BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is an astounding 1.000 during games in which he strikes out three times.

He's also a perfect 1.000 with a Hall-Of-Fame 4.000 slugging percentage while leading off the game on Pacific Time Zone Friday night games in cities located between the 33rd and 34th parallels. Nobody in baseball has been that successful in those situations.

Bottom line is, lay off Lugo. He's really not bad at all.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Lotta Great Stuff on the Blog

All sorts of great banter going on by both usual and unusual suspects the last few days, awesome stuff. Good to see the blog picking up as we get into the heart of the summer and baseball season.

Couple of different things I wanted to comment on.

Good stuff by DV and Bandi about fans. I don't like bandwagon fans, but I have come to accept them and can't take them too seriously. It is interesting how these type of fans come and go, but it really should be expected. When teams are good, they always show up. They were all over the place with the Yankees in the late 90s. During my early college years, Boston's showed up.

I despise this phenomenon, but some good has come of it, which might play a role in my recent acceptance of it. The Yankees owned New York baseball from 95-05, 11 seasons. As a diehard Yankees fan, I would always catch heat from Mets fans for the amount of bandwagon fans my team had. Mets fans claimed they had "truer" fans than did the Yankees. Not true, I said, it was simply that we had bandwagon fans because we were good, but we still had plenty of true fans. It was just that the Mets were so bad and had so few fans that only the truest stuck around. I said that if the Mets ever became good, their club would experience the same thing, and there would be a mix of true fans and bandwgon fans. Still, I was told for 11 years that I was wrong, and that Yankees fans weren't of the same quality as Mets fans. This bothered me to no end.

Well, here we are in 2007, and we have New York Metropolitan fans coming out of the ABSOLUTE NATIONAL WORDWORK. Sometime around July of 2006 these bozos started looking at the paper, saw the Mets were going to make the playoffs, and boom, you started seeing multi-colored David Wright and Jose Reyes t-shirts everywhere. This is when you knew they had arrived. I couldn't be happier about it.

On the topic of fandom, I feel inclined to do what DV just did, and reply to my boy Adam's comments about the Rangers in a post. I know I am not a big Rangers fan, and have never claimed to be, but I am a fan. And as a New York sports fan back in the New York area, who isn't excited about the Rangers, no matter to what extent you are a fan? The buzz surrounding Drury and Gomez and the expectations of this years' team is sick, and its only July. I have two buddies who are diehards (like drive home overnight from Notre Dame to go to first-round playoff games at the Garden diehard), and watching them suffer the way they did prior to the last few years and watching how pumped they are now makes it that much better. If we are talking about true fans, the Rangers might have the best in the country. Worst in the league or best, the Garden is packed every night for the Blueshirts, and its going to be awesome watching a team with these kinds of fans be as good as they are going to be.

Back to baseball. Quality stuff from the Yankees against a good Twins team this week. Never easy to win a four gamer, and doing it against a playoff contender is even better. Biggest series of the year coming up against the Angels. 2 of 3 is a must. You get 2 of 3 then you have your 6-4 homestand agaisnt three quality teams. Even with the horrific roadtrip, they will be 18-13, 5 games over, in the last 31 games. They'll need to be far better over the final 79, but that is at least something to build on. The Angels treat the Yankees like an Independent League team (no offense DV) and swept them at The Stadium their last time in town, so we will see.

But 2 of 3 essentially gets you to .500 at the All-Star Break, and considering all of the injuries and slumping and lack of production and Johnny Day-To-Day and Kyle Farnsworth, there are worse places a team could be. And speaking of building, Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano, and Hideki "I'm no longer trying to pull every ball for a home run, and now that I stopped, I'm actually hitting home runs" Matsui are showing signs of really becoming the players they used to be. Those three are the key to the Yankees second-half, no questions asked.

Further, Melky Cabrera is playing like the '06 Melky Cabrera. Phil Hughes makes his first rehab start Monday. If that goes well, he's slated for a Major League return the last week of July. That's the best addition any team will make at the trade deadline. The playoffs are still a dream at 8.5 out, but baseball is a funny game of averages, and the Yankees averages in all facets can only go up.

Finally, more than one person has at least slightly questioned by exuberance and/or evaluation of the Yankees farm system since this blog began. Yes, I am a Yankees fan, and yes, I do really like the Minor League baeball and prospects, so I could see where a bias could be perceived. But I follow all teams' prospects, I read a lot of information daily, and I try to be objective.

To this end, the Yankees do have a very good Minor League system. It has a good overall rating, but it isn't the best or even top 5, and this is because of its lack of position prospects. I'll be the first to admit this. They only have one legitimate front-line guy in Jose Tabata, and while he is a Top 25 player in the minors, having only one of these and a bunch of "wait and sees" is atrocious.

However, the pitching in the Yankees' system blows everybody else out of the water. We're talking the second best system isn't even close, not in terms of depth, quality, or anything really. And it isn't me saying this, I've only seen a few of these guys pitch, and even then I'm no talent evaluator. It is scouts and analysts giving them this praise.

They have a featured article in this month's Baseball America, with scouts from other teams' commenting on each pitcher. Let's put it this way, even if only half the stuff these scouts are saying is true, its still impressive. Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy are getting hyped the way Oakland's big three did back in the early 00's. Jeff Marquez, Alan Horne, and Brett Smith are all sporting big numbers at Double AA, the toughest minor league level to pitch at. The list goes on, I won't bore anybody with it.

I'm not sure any of what I just wrote has any real significance. I just wanted to point out that I'm not blowing smoke when it comes to my evaluation of the Yankees' farm system. When it comes to minor league baseball and prospects, I'm no bandwagon fan.

A Short Post on Ellsbury

It's been a pretty busy week, so I haven't been able to see too much of newly called up Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. But I have seen enough to say this much:

1. He has the same number (46) as John Wasdin. I'm not sure if that's a good thing.
2. I like his stance and I like his swing. He's not as big a guy, but his swing is a lot like one of my all-time favorites: John Olerud. It's also worth noting that Olerud could be one of the slowest people in the history of baseball, while that's not the case about Ellsbury, who not only is fast, but has a lot of hustle and a lot of balls (as evidenced by the second-to-home trick on that wild pitch the other night.
3. I saw this headline in the Herald a couple of days ago: "Ellsbury a part of Drew error." I was hoping it would be another Gerry Callahan rant on the asininity of the JD Drew signing--with the fact that he's potentially putting Ellsbury out of a job as just another reason the 5-year deal was an "error." I was wrong, but if the shoe fits...
4. He's a good hitter. He can get little dinky hits off of bad pitches. I'm very impressed so far.

Otherwise, great game tonight for the Sox. Nancy's actually snapping out of it and one of these days Lugo might be on the right side of the Mendoza line. Beckett's finally starting to act like a hothead again, and Lowell continues to be...well, hot. Coco hit a grand slam, so he's not going to submit to Ellsbury-mania without a fight. You know how I feel.

And I'm glad the Sidekick got the nod for the last all-star spot, though I'm pretty sure the people who voted 25 times from 100 different IP addresses are the same people who don't have jobs and bring their "Look at me Remy" signs to Sox games all over the country. The Tigers don't have the "luxury" of thousands of overzealous Pink Hats. I'm just sayin. I'm just sayin.

Re: Bandi, Pink Hats, and more

I'm going to take advantage of my authority as an administrator to respond to the terrific comments with a new post instead of something that will be buried in the comments.

Frequent contributor Jon Bandi writes this in the comments section:

There obviously lots of die hard fans and lots of fake fans. I would put myself somewhere in the middle. I like the Sox a lot and tend to feel physically ill when they fall apart on the field (like in the 2003 series against the yankees) or when they make a stupid trade. I follow the comings and goings of the sox on a daily basis, though I listen to more games on the radio than I watch on TV. Also, I don't memorize miniscule baseball data, or remember the exact happenings of games that occured when I was 4 years old. Oh well. I also recognize that football is now the number one real American sport.

Pink Hats (this is the term regularly used for the new wave of overzealous but dimwitted fans--it has nothing to do with the color of your hats, though there is a disproportionate number of these fans who wear pink or green hats) would never say what Bandi wrote: "I would put myself somewhere in the middle." Football would never be the #1 real American sport in the eyes of a Pink Hat--unless they're talking about Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Pink Hats claim to be huge fans, and they back this up by hoarding merchandise, buying as many Red Sox tickets as possible, then show up at those games, act obnoxiously loud, write signs to Jerry Remy so that they can get themselves on television, and talk loudly about the hot-ness of Johnny Damon or Gabe Kapler while paying little if any attention to the baseball game. Despite all of this questionable behavior, they will tell you how huge of a fan they are, and they would never--NEVER--say they are "somewhere in the middle" or "not a hardcore fan."

Responding to Tim C, my grandmother is a relatively new Red Sox fan. She watches the games regularly, and understands about 60% of what's going on. A memorable family moment was when she (an Irish immigrant) was baffled by the skin color of a guy named Troy O'Leary. However, she is not a Pink Hat, because she never claims to be the hugest Red Sox fan. She doesn't discharge an air-horn at the old folks' home every time Josh Beckett throws a strike for the first pitch of a game and subsequently doesn't pay any attention to the rest of the game. She doesn't crave attention as a Red Sox fan and she doesn't hoard merchandise or buy Red Sox Nation cards.

She's a casual fan, and doesn't pose to be any more. Bandi claims to be a somewhat-casual fan (though I'd personally give him a lot more credit than that), and doesn't pose to be any more.

Pink Hats are casual fans who would possibly go back to their shanties if the Red Sox don't make the playoffs in back to back years. They are very casual fans, but they claim to be hardcore followers to somehow boost their social status. They fill the seats, act too loud and stupid, and piss off the original gangstas.

It would be like if I were to go to a Patriots game and started talking like Sean Salisbury. I don't know that much about the Patriots. I'm no more than a casual fan, and I'm not going to act like something I'm not.

You don't have to know Ivan Calderon's 1993 on-base percentage to be a real fan. But don't act like you're the biggest Red Sox fan in the world if you're just a casual onlooker who wants to get five seconds on NESN. As the Rock once said, know your role and shut your mouth.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"Go back to your shanties!" (Part I)

About 75% of the time, I am basically ashamed to be a Red Sox fan. Not because the team sucks, but because there's no way to differentiate me from all these Red Sox fans who suddenly showed up after Game 2 of the 2003 ALCS.

Because these fans are obnoxious. They buy their $199 "Red Sox Nation" membership cards, cheer very loudly at restaurants when people are trying to eat but Kevin Youkilis gets a single to lead off an inning, wear Red Sox apparel everywhere (maybe some post I'll outline the names they wear), and are trying to call as much attention to themselves as possible. I think Eric Wilbur put it best:

"...all the more boistrous in the case you might not have noticed their stark-white "Schilling" jersey, a forgotten tag revealed when they raise their arms to scream at the top of their lungs for the starting lineup. 'See? I'm a big fan.'"

He's absolutely right. All these yahoos (mostly those who have the money to blow on a brand-new Schilling, Drew, or Lugo jersey) jumped on the bandwagon after Game 2 of the 2003 ALCS. They saw that the Red Sox might actually win the World Series this time, and they wanted to be there for it. "Hey, look at me, I love the Red Sox."

Then they saw Game 7/Aaron Boone happen, and it was even better: "I suffered just like the other fans from all those other years. I'm a real fan now. I get it. And I have to show the world I get it by buying a lot of merchandise. I have to show everyone how big of a fan I am."

If you were actually a big fan, you'd shut up and watch the game instead of pissing people off.

During the last road trip, these overzealous newbies finally got the attention they so badly crave. Tony Gwynn (subscription required) got annoyed. Tony Massarotti of the Herald noticed it. That Eric Wilbur column was his absolute best--so good that I might have to devote a whole different column to it.

Do people even have jobs anymore? I'm really trying to figure this out. How can people from Boston afford to take a few days off from work, then fly to Baltimore, Atlanta, San Diego, Seattle, Toronto, Cleveland, Arizona, or any other location just to wear their pink (or green) hats and piss off native fans? I mean, Boston's not even that big of a city. How many people actually do this?

I'm all for home-field advantage, and taking it away from the bad guys, but it's obnoxious and downright rude when people's impressions of Red Sox fans are like this (from a recent Buster Olney column): "[Gwynn] hates flying, anyway, and from his perspective, this ride must've been particularly awful, because half the plane was filled with Boston Red Sox fans, who travel to follow the team, en masse, the way that fans of the University of Tennessee football team travel.

"After the flight landed, the pilot...got onto the p.a. system and said, 'Go Sox.'

"And that was enough, apparently, for the future Hall of Famer. Gwynn stopped by the cockpit on his way off the plane, looked at the pilot, and said, 'Not in my town.'"

I can imagine the scene. For the entire flight, nobody had any idea who Tony Gwynn was, because they didn't follow baseball until 2003. They talked about the Red Sox, how impressed they are with Pedroia and how they "kept the faith" when he was hitting .100, talked about all the exotic places they brought their green jerseys, which version of Red Sox Nation membership cards they bought, how hot Gabe Kapler is and how therefore he should be playing right field instead of Nancy, and how much they miss Johnny Damon--mostly because of his cute butt and because they just don't like Coco as much. If you say a bad word about Nancy Drew, they'll accuse you of being a Yankee fan.

The pilot says "go Sox." The male fans clap very loudly. The female fans say "woo." Everybody else on the plane wants to scramble off because it's friggin annoying.

Tony Massarotti of the Herald calls this new rash of overzealous Red Sox fans "both commendably loyal and as intrusive as the Hollywood paparazzi." He writes, "if you're not from Boston, it's easy to look upon Sox fans as being loud and obnoxious."

Pretty much.

The thing to wonder about, though, is, who are these people? It's a phenomenon not unlike the new socioeconomically diverse crowds of golf fans in Happy Gilmore. Shooter McGavin told them to go back to their shanties.

But where are the shanties? These fans in the ATL or Arizona or SD, are they from those respective places? Did they hear about the habitual losing of the Boston team, get caught in the propaganda machine of the new ownership group, and become fans after watching one too many "Bambino" montages on the 25% of Red Sox games that happen to be on FOX? That phenomenon happened in Boston; did it happen elsewhere?

Are they a group of overzealous idiots from Boston, who have no regard to their jobs, their children's attendance at school, and the common decency guideline of "Don't Be That Guy?" So they take vacations all over the country and get confused when they see a guy in Boston wearing a Shea Hillenbrand #29 t-shirt? Honestly, I don't know the answer to this.

I have very little desire to attend more than one Red Sox game a year nowadays, because these people are in Fenway Park every night. They're speaking very loudly in the seats behind me, until a guy sitting next to me turns around and tells them they're being rude. The response is "do you have any idea who my fah-thah is?"

You may remember the movie "Fever Pitch," when Drew Barrymore asks Jimmy Fallon what the Curse of the Bambino is. (I wish I didn't.) Everybody around has to fill her in, one person adding one tidbit, piece by piece. (If you ask me, I think it's a shoddy easy-way-out solution by lazy screenwriters--but that's just me). I found that scene particularly irksome, because Red Sox fans don't act like that. They shut up and watch the game and let idiots like Drew Barrymore figure it out herself.

But I'm afraid it's not like that anymore. This scene is no longer inconceivable, because everyone will add in their two cents in order to indicate how well-versed they are in Red Sox History According To Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, And Scooter The Talking Baseball.

F.

And now these people are taking the road, so the only place I really want to ever watch a game is at home. At home, we can shut up and watch the game. We can change the channel once the "Language Barrier" commercial or a "Sox Appeal" promo comes up. We have to hear Remy talk about how he's the acting interim president of Red Sox Propaganda Nation, but other than that, it's not too obnoxious.

In my house, we're all Irish (though not as much as my potato-eating co-author), but the Red Sox still aren't green. The Red Sox still aren't pink or yellow. Nobody's Coco Nuts, and nobody is buying membership cards. We've just done the same thing we've always done since the Butch Hobson days. We follow the protocol of "Don't Be That Guy," shut up, and watch the game.

But for people from out of town, there's no way to tell the difference between people like my dad who know who Phil Plantier is and the people who have to clap loudly when they hear "Go Sox" on a plane to San Diego.

I'm glad I got that off my chest. And I'm not even done yet. I haven't even started to talk about the Eric Wilbur column yet.

Season Over?

It might be anyway, but if Alex Rodriguez is out for any extended period of time, goodnight.

He "strained" his left hamstring in a collision with Morneau at first. He left the game a few minutes later after trying to stay in. Considering the luck the Yankees have had with hamstrings this year, none of this is a good sign. He didn't seem particularly upbeat in his postgame interview, either, and he usually is even when things are going bad.

The good news is that there was no major pulling up lame after the play, and he walked off without much of a limp.

The bad news is that the Yankees can't afford to lose him even for these next six games until the All-Star Break.

This couldn't have really come at a worse time. The Yankees played one of their cleanest baseball games of the year tonight, and I think might have found the lineup that they are going to roll with. Melky 2, Jeter 3, Abreu 7, Cano 9. Both Abreu and Cano have been taking good at bats and putting good swings on the ball for about a week, and appear to be coming out of it a little.

Clemens was dominant. Dominant. 8 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 4 SOs, 1 walk, only 97 pitches. In control the whole way, retired the last 15 in a row. Had great late life on his fastball, and used both of his breaking balls only sparingly in favor of two different splitters he featured. One hard at 86 with sharp late action strait down. The other the one he has shown all year, at 83-84 with big air movement tailing down and away. It seemed like the addition of the harder split was a difference maker. This was Clemens being a stopper after a miserable weekend offensively, and giving the offense a chance to come alive. This is why you go out and get him. Got his 350th win too, which is an incredible feat.

But none of this matters if A-Rod is out. They need to win 4 of these next 6 games. And I'm pretty sure they need him to do it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

How can you be that retarded?

Just trying to catch up on some stuff from the last week.

I was on my way to bed when I wrote my last post, and I only briefly touched the topic of Julio Lugo making one of the biggest baserunning blunders in recent history. But seriously, it continues to blow my mind.

Lugo is from the Dominican Republic, where (at least according to every book I've read about Dominican baseball) they start playing ball around age 4. According to the David Ortiz book, every part of the Dominican is as into baseball as Boston is. Baseball is king. Baseball is what you play in the streets. It's what you do in the D.R. So you'd think you'd have a bit of common sense if you've been playing ball nonstop for 28 years.

When you are fast (which Lugo is), you typically score on a single. Especially if you're off on contact with two outs. You score almost automatically on an extra base hit.

Kevin Youkilis (who was up at the time in question) gets a hit about 32.9% of the time, as evidenced by his .329 batting average. So standing at second base, as a fast guy, you will score 32.9% of the time.

By stealing third base, you will score 32.9% of the time anyway. You won't score on a sac fly like you would with zero or one out, because there are two outs. Stealing third will get you nowhere.

Lugo tries to do it anyway. It's absolutely baffling. How can you be this stupid? You are a professional baseball player, you have played likely tens of thousands of games over your life, and you can't figure this out?

2010. This guy's going to be the Red Sox' shortstop until 2010. This is why I'm reading don't-kill-myself books.