Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

...Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah...

Those are lyrics to a U2 song glorifying the condition suffered by Nancy Drew right now and Coco Crisp a few weeks ago. Nice.

Good extra-inning win by the Red Sox' baseball players last night. The decision-makers...not so much. You may think last night proved me wrong and saying that Papelbon was necessary to save (like what happened the other night when they lost) until the 13th so he could get the save. Wrong. I would have written this at 12:15 AM last night if the Red Sox had lost that game in the 12th...you know, like they were ninety feet away from doing with Timlin on the mound again. Maybe neither Francona nor Brad Mills watch their own team's previous games. Because they're certainly not learning from them.

In the 12th inning, Mike Timlin came into the game and Papelbon continued to rot in the bullpen. The same thing as the other night nearly happened, with Timlin getting whacked for a double, issuing an IBB, watching a successful bunt, and issuing another IBB. But this time, Timlin got the job done and didn't let the run cross the plate. The next inning, the Red Sox scored and gave Papelbon a three-run lead to protect. But he got his save. He got the "S" next to his name, and that makes everyone happy.

To recap: Timlin, who commits many errors (not literally), has a zero-run margin of error. One run, and the game is over. Papelbon, who rarely gives up runs, has a three-run margin of error. Not that I trust Timlin with a three-run lead, but he's less prone to fatally f*** up when he has three runs to work with. The most crucial innings--the ones they needed to be error-free--were not pitched by the best pitcher. They were pitched by the guy who almost always f***s up.

But Papelbon got the save. If this makes sense to anyone, please let me know.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Internal Struggle"

In a comment the other day, The GM wrote about the "internal struggle" I was bound to go through this season with Joba Chamberlain. I know what is right for the future, not just with Joba, but the entire youth movement. However, I also want to go 162-0, and if the Yankees have learned anything at the 1/3 mark of their first full season operating in this way, it is that what is right for the kids and what makes you 162-0 are clearly not always going to coincide.

If last night was any indicator, the Yankees are going to go through an internal struggle of their own this year, at least with Joba. Publicly, they say they are going to do what is good for Joba. However, their actions suggest they want to *try* to do what is right for Joba AND do what is right for the current Yankees at the same time. First, this is very difficult, if not impossible. Second, thus far, "what is good for the Yankees" is definitely getting more love than "what is good for Joba", and that is a dangerous game to play.

Mr. H astutely pointed out in a comment last night that throwing Joba for 1.1 innings and 28 pitches does not constitute stretching him out. I see this in a big way. The Yankees would counter by saying he went on to throw two more simulated innings in the bullpen, getting his scheduled 55 pitches (which Mr. H may not have known, but I like his argument, so I'm going to pretend he did know and decided it wasn't sufficient). In theory, I'm fine with the Yankees thinking. Pitches are pitches, arm strength is arm strength, and those are the two things Joba needs right now, whether it's live or in the bullpen.

But if baseball and "theory" always matched up when it came to young pitchers, the Yankees wouldn't be 3-12 in games started by Hughes and Kennedy and 23-15 in games started by everybody else (Editor's Note: I can't physically think about that statistic for more than three seconds at a time, otherwise I will explode.). So I tend to be with Mr. H on this one. Joba hasn't recorded more than six outs in a single game all season. In his most recent outing (last night) he recorded four. And now he's ready to start on Tuesday? Even if they have someone ready in long relief because of an anticipated short start (they will) is it really "the best thing for Joba" for him to throw more than three innings? And if he only throws three innings, why is he starting? I don't buy that these pitches in the bullpen are the same as pitches in the game. I just don't. So I don't see how any of this makes sense that he is moving this quickly.

Moving him to the rotation is clearly the right move for the Yankees AND Joba. But after that, the two have already gotten crossed up in the Yankees' "internal struggle", with what's good for the Yankees winning. What was good for Joba was to close that game out last night (getting ALL the way to a whopping 2.1 live innings pitched). But he got bumped, because what was good for the Yankees was for their closer to make sure they didn't get swept after a devastating loss Tuesday. I can only imagine there will be more of this, if not with Joba, then someone else. Ultimately, what's not good for Joba, as well as what's not good for the other youngsters, is not good for the Yankees. I hope that everyone in the organization has a handle on this, and that Joba and the other young talents start winning this internal struggle, even at the cost of what is good for the Yankees now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No way, really?!?!?

I woke up at 4:55 this morning for a track workout and turned on ESPN. Right after hearing that Mike Timlin was put into a tie game in the ninth and the opposing team won the game in the ninth, I took out my camera phone and took a picture of an equally surprising event:

The sun rising in the east.

Good God Almighty. I understand that the guy surrendered an infield single and an intentional walk, which means you might want to give Seattle credit for bunting and junk, but he got smacked on the last pitch of the game. Which is not at all different from what we've seen all friggin season. Last time Brad Mills managed this team, I wrote him a memo telling him to pay attention. It looks like he pays attention and takes actual data into consideration as well as Ross Kaplan did a few weeks ago when I called him out on this blog. Here is some data that Mills may have missed, or may have just flat-out ignored.

-Mike Timlin has faced 71 batters this year. Twenty six (37%) have reached. Twelve (17%) have scored. That is better than it was on April 29. But we're talking about a third of the season now.
-Mike Timlin is now 0-6 with a career ERA over 11 at Safeco Field.
-Mike Timlin had pitched four innings in the last week. In his last six innings pitched, he had only surrendered one run. Due to the stochastic nature of baseball or due to the fatigue of a 42-year-old arm, he is absolutely the wrong guy to put in there. Yup, Lopez is terrible. Yup, Hansen is terrible. But isn't there another guy in the bullpen?
-If Francona is tossed from a game, Mills's job is to WIN BASEBALL GAMES, NOT TO GET SAVES FOR HIS CLOSER. PAPELBON WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET A SAVE IN THE TENTH INNING IF THERE IS NO TENTH INNING. IF MIKE TIMLIN PITCHES IN THE NINTH IN A TIE GAME, HIS 6.89 ERA DICTATES THERE IS A 76.6% CHANCE HE WILL GIVE UP A RUN AND THEREFORE A 76.6% CHANCE THERE WILL NOT BE A TENTH INNING.

Pay attention, Brad Mills. There are heaps of evidence that dictate that Mike Timlin should not be trusted unless the Red Sox are experiencing a double-digit lead or deficit. What the heck do you do on the bench while Francona got burned every week by putting in Gagne? Learn? Gain experience? Or play Game Boy? My goodness gracious.

Matsuzaka fatigued? Great.

Special thanks to Angel Hernandez for overreacting and becoming just another example of an umpire looking for a reason to start a fight. Julio Lugo doesn't have a chainsaw, Angel. And thanks to Francona for getting himself tossed. I never thought I'd say it, but the Red Sox need him to stay in the game. Maybe he'd put Timlin in, too. But at that point, it would just look like one person in the organization is delusional.

One more afterthought: Maybe it's not quite at the Aichar Igawa level, because he said he was "frustrated" about "getting beat." But did he really say he was throwing the ball well? That he was locating the ball well? Once again...really?!?!? Please, Mike, refer to the Josh Beckett rule of evaluating pitches: "Good pitches don't get hit." If you find you're pitching well but are still getting lit up on a consistent basis, it might be time to call it a career.

I Want to Make Sure I Don't Forget Anything

And that's why I'm posting at 12:51 AM.

This isn't just about the loss. If the Yankees won tonight, I was already preparing a "Lucky" titled post. So all of this is applicable, win or lose.

This game was disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. In no particular order, some thoughts. I'll try to be articulate. If random letters are missing it's because they flew off due to slamming of keyboard on the floor.

1. Defense. Fudamentals when playing defense. It's part of the game. Three absolutely and totally unecessary erorrs in a single game is not an option. Alex Rodriguez. Just because the ball is hit towards the line doesn't mean you have to throw off balance, especially when the ball is roped and Ramon Hernandez is running. Plant, and throw on a line. Being out by five steps is just as good as being out by seven. Further, just because it's a fast runner, doesn't mean you have to rush the throw. You had Brian Roberts by a full step, don't have to get him by two. Robinson Cano. Get in front of the ball. Period. In total, two errors on routine plays, one on a very makeable play. All from their two alleged "plus" defenders.

2. Ian Kennedy. Before your postgame shower, take your slider, and shove it right up your A$$. It's a terrible pitch. On a 20-80 scale scouting scale, I'd say the bidding would open at -1284. Never use it again. Every time you do, it ends up in a mit...in the fair section of the stands. Fastball, curveball, changeup. That's it.

3. Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, Mark Newman, Dave Eliand, rest of moronic Baseball Operations and Managerial Team. When you traded for Ross Ohlendorf last year, he was a starter. He wasn't very good. You made him a reliever, he was very good. You kept him in a relief role because you realized he was better in short stints. You prepared him all winter and spring as a one inning reliever because of this discoery. Then you promptly turned him into the teams' unofficial long reliever. Every time he comes in the game, he's excellent for one inning, and gets lit up in the second. I'm so angry about this, I'm just going to leave it at I don't understand.

3. Related, and adressed to the same parties. How does a team with such up and down and shaky and unrealiable starting pitching not have a true long reliever?

4. Derek Jeter. Wow. How to be a leader. First and second, two outs, pitching change, Alexander Emanuel Rodriguez at the dish. And you get picked of second??? Really??? Let me ask you Derek, what do you think is the difference facing #13 just into the game with runners on vs. facing him to start an inning with the bases empty? Further, you can't get down a bunt now? Nice game.

5. Joe Girardi. I realize the protein shakes probably allow for limited mental awareness on a daily basis, and therefore asking you to think beyond the scheduled nine innings may be a stretch, but how about taking a shot. Tomorrow is Andy Pettitte, followed by Joba Chamberlain. Thursday is an off day. I realize Mariano Rivera had already thrown two innings and 31 pitches. I understand he clearly was tiring in the second inning. But at least give us a chance to win the game, and bring Mo back out. Because when you go to Hawkins, the game is over. He isn't satisfied giving up the tying run, the winning run has to come in too. He wouldn't have to pitch until Friday. At least go into it with a pitch count in mind, say 40-45, let him throw 9-15 pitches and see if he can get some outs, and then go to Veras (not Hawkins) with less of a task (say 1-2 outs) at hand. And if Mo gets lit, at least you gave yourself the CHANCE to close it out, because that is what Hawkins is going to do anyway.

6. Related, Latroy Hawkins. Let's get real. We all know you stink. But at least try. There is a runner on third with less than two outs. The only objective in your mind should be making a pitch that cannot easily be lifted. However, you could have walked up to the plate, sized up the middle of the plate and belt high, grabbed a T, placed the ball on the T, and it wouldn't have been a better pitch to lift than that last won you tossed tonight.

7. Speaking of that runner on third with less than two outs, back to Derek Jeter. Be a leader. You had A ZERO POINT ZERO percent chance of throwing Melvin Mora out at the plate. The game is already tied. How about keeping Huff at second base. Latroy Hawkins is on the mound. At least make them get a hit to win it. Nice game Captain Clutch.

8. Back to Joe Girardi and the coaching staff, and probably some Wilson Betemit too. How about some positioning of your fielders? Ramon Herndadez is batting with 1 out in a tie game, and we aren't guarding the lines (against a double). I can understand with two outs and nobody on. But with 1 and 2 outs, you guard THE FREAKIN LINES. If Betemit is playing first base instead of second, that Ramon Hernandez double is a groundout. Then Mo throws less pitches. Then maybe he goes the three he could have gone anyway, and the Yankees win this game.

9. Alex Rodriguez. You are not the only player on this team. We hang four on them. Your 23 year old pitcher gives them all back. Ideal? No. But it was reality, and it was a very long inning. What do you do? SWING AT THE FIRST PITCH (popout). Not only was Burres on the ropes (a reason to take) but Kennedy needed to catch his breath (another reason to take). This game involves some thought, not only about yourself, but about your team. Your freakish ability does not make up for how stupid you are sometimes.

10. MLB Umpires. Terrible job with the weather decision making. Either the weather is playable, or it isn't. Don't wait until a half inning. Joe Girardi took a Protein Shake timeout to explain this to you, and if he can figure it out, anybody can. You don't get to decide that one at-bat is more important than another. It was pouring. With two outs and runners on second and third, the Matsui at-bat is huge. We all knew the game was going to be delayed. What gives you the idea it's okay to wait for the half inning? And you looked like a moron, because Joe Girardi called you on it. He went out and told you that you were going to call it right after the Matsui at-bat, and that's exactly what you did. Pathetic. It isn't about timing or significance or anything. Either the conditions are playable or they aren't. Incredible how non-sensical and poor the umpring is. Sad actually.

The only good news is that the Yankees are hitting. Everyone almost. Absolute must not to get swept tomorrow. They should be going for the series win, because they had a million chances to win tonight, but they don't understand basic, fundamental baseball principles, and don't play with any level of intelligence. In that sense, they didn't deserve to win tonight, and they got exactly what was coming to them nine times over by my count (umpires are not an excuse, so #10 is out).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wait, this is a bad thing?

Below, Pat has a much more reasonable post than this one I have right here. If you want Sox stuff, look two posts down. If you want Yanks stuff, look one post down. If you want semi-offensive comments about umpires, senior citizens, the 1999 ALCS, and Skip Bayless, please read this post.

I wrote on May 8th about how umpires are becoming way too combative and looking for a reason to butt heads with everyone. Many think they are bigger than the game, and I have a big problem with that. I respect the profession of umpiring, because it's a necessary job, most of the time they are underappreciated, and they only get their names recognized if they screw up (see Tim Tschida or John Hirschbeck). They also take a lot of abuse from players, managers, and fans. Edgar Renteria doesn't have the mental makeup to be a major league umpire, let's say. But to paraphrase a NESN argument, fans are paying money to see David Ortiz or Rich Harden, not to see Laz Diaz (um, you're going to call me safe, um, right?)

Many umpires have forgotten that last point, and the home plate umpire for Friday night's game is no exception. We learned in October 1999 that the umpire in question was arrogant, stubborn, and unprofessional, and we learned in 2000 that his arrogance, stubbornness, and lack of professionalism resulted in baseball making significant officiating changes for the better. (For more about this, please read the comments section for Pat's latest post.) But once again, Tim Tschida showed a lack of professionalism and decided to think of himself as bigger than the game.

Nancy Drew broke his bat and wanted to apply pine tar on his new one. Tim Tschida wouldn't let him. I have not read one way or another if he would have let his close personal steroid-using friend Chuck "Knobby" Knoblauch do it or if he would have let Jose "the runner" Offerman do it, but that's a different story. Hitting coach Dave Magadan said something from the dugout and was promptly tossed. Maybe he said the magic words, but he didn't even come onto the field before getting thrown out. Just another instance of an umpire (and an incompetent one) being way too trigger-happy and combative, looking for a reason to get into a fight and throw his weight around. Him getting a promotion to a crew chief a year or two ago is only a few steps down from the absurdity of Eric Gagne getting a raise.

Dustin Pedroia in a Globe article on Saturday talked about how Tschida's power trip was potentially dangerous: "We don't want J.D. to take a swing and throw his bat in the stands and hit some kid or some older lady or something," he said. From here, I apply the title of this post. The proportion of "older lad[ies] or something" to total "problem" ticket customers is slightly higher than the proportion of weak ground balls to second and strikeouts to total JD Drew at-bats. So maybe a maple bat to the dome could knock some freakin' sense into old people.

I also have no problem with the baseball owners' priority of speeding up the game--strictly from a work standpoint. It is nice to be home by 10:00 at night. If the owners and the commissioner were as hard on steroids as they are on pine tar, maybe there would be a test for HGH by now. Way to go, Bud.

However, as a baseball fan and moreso as a fan of NOT listening to Skip Bayless debate baseball game safety on ESPN FirstTake, I'd agree with Pedroia and an irate David Ortiz. Gaining a few seconds here or there might sacrifice the best quality possible. And just as people are okay with watching painfully long movies as long as they're good* people are okay with watching painfully long baseball games as long as they're good.

Tim Tschida's ego is a bigger problem for baseball than the pace of games.

Score Runs

(Please see DV's weekend recap below).

Sorry for the lack of posting over the weekend, I was at the beach, and that's as big for me as running is for DV. With the season for the Yankees finally settling into some level of normalcy, I'd like to take a look at both teams' on this blog #1 pitcher at the 1/3 mark of the season later this week (Wang and Beckett).

For now, I'd like to thank the New York Baseball Yankees for coming to the incredibly difficult realization that you have to score runs to win. The pitching has still been so-so, but the reason they are winning is because they are scoring. Why it needs to take them 45 games to realize this, I have no idea. It's not rocket science!

If you want to know why the Yankees are scoring now (besides #13 being back) you can look at two players' April/May splits.

April
Player 1: .151/.211/.236
Player 2: .164/.313/.411

May
Player 1: .325/.369/.494 (after back-to-back 0'fers the last two days)
Player 2: .321/.479/.642 (with an OPS of 1.120)

Those aren't splits, those are continental divides. Player 1 is Robinson Cano. Player 2 is Jason Giambi. Both were pathetic in April. Both have been sticking in May. Neither is a long sample size, but Cano's career line is close enough to the May line that you hope he is just going to just continue on his way (and the Yankees need him to do so). After all, after a slow start, he did hit .340 over the final three months last year, after hitting .342 in 2006, so we could see even more from him. We may need to remove him from "streaky" and place him in just "slow starter on an amazingly frustrating level". He's been consistently excellent after the spring is gone.

If the Big G keeps up anything close to his May line, however, I'm pretty sure the Knicks will be able to package their first rounder for the '92 Michael Jordan. However, he has been so good, even if he has a massive and likely falloff, if can stay around where his season line is currently (.230/.387/.508), and hit 30 homers (all very realistic), he will have had a very productive season. Like I said, I wasn't too worried about Cano. But as far as I was concerned, the Big G was cooked. It's good to see he still has it in him in a big way, even if it doesn't continue, because we know it's there. The Yankees need production from Cano. They could really use it from Giambi.

On the other end of the spectrum are Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera. My word do these two stink. I'm not writing either of them off because both had feverish second halves last year, and both started hot, so it wouldn't be fair for me to praise the slow starters and punish the hot starters who are now cold. But I don't know if there is anything in baseball tougher to watch, in my opinion, than weak swings. I can't stand it. Swing the bat! Damon and Melky are putting on daily clinics in the weak swing department for about a month now. I'm not saying they won't turn it around, but I am saying they need to sooner rather than later. I have to imagine Brett Gardner is breathing down both of their necks, and this team could use the speed.

Speaking of stinking, as of yesterday's disgusting loss to the Orioles, wasting yet another gem from Darrell Rasner, I'd like to introduce everyone to the new and improved Yankee bullpen, minus Joba Chamberlain. Latroy Hawkins, Jose Veras, Ross Ohlendorf, and Kyle Farnsworth are fun when they are getting people out in low leverage situations and we can marvel at their power arms. They aren't fun trying to protect leads, and they aren't fun trying to keep winnable games, like 1-0 games in the 7th, close. It's amazing. Ten days ago the bullpen looked like this team's biggest asset. But when you subtract Joba, and all of the sudden the guys who were getting outs in innings 5-7 are being asked to get outs later than that, this bullpen is awful. It's not even that I think that these guys stink. I don't...when they are pitching in the middle innings. I don't want them near the mound in the 8th. It's still the right move, but yesterday could be classified as the first "Joba loss". More often than not, that doesn't happen with him in there.

Big start for Ian Kennedy tonight. I'm calling it "out of the woods" night. After one good start, IPK needs to build upon it, as he is the furthest thing on this planet from being out of the woods. After one whole week of playing well, the Yankees need to win after a loss, as only Ian Kennedy is further than they are from being out of the woods.

The night time is NOT the right time.

I am getting old. First I turned 23 and it became a lot less likely for me to have rock-hard abs according to Peyton Manning. Now those friggin West Coast games are getting too late for me to watch without falling asleep. Maybe it has something to do with running at 4:30 in the morning, but whatever.

Oakland swept the Red Sox. Shocking. Not really. Jon Lester pitched like the bad Jon Lester again (SportsCenter noted how he threw less than 50% of his first pitches for strikes--same old story). I am not surprised, but I just hope he can minimize that from happening. Well, duh.

Question for Pat and the scouting guys: Is this Hannahan guy for real, or is he a Mike Blowers/Frank Catalonotto/Julio Lugo type who sucks for 150 games but takes it to the next level against Boston? The .224 batting average and .336 slugging percentage would suggest he's the latter.

I shouldn't have said anything nice about Javier Lopez, because he went back to the old Javier Lopez again. You know, the one who's being paid to get lefties out. It's hard to get lefties out if the ball lands on the other side of the fence.

SPEAKING OF getting old, when the Red Sox put Timlin into a 6-3 game on Sunday, I was extremely disappointed. Putting in Timlin is basically conceding the game and admitting it's over. I wonder if Hillary Clinton's thinking about going to the bullpen yet. I got changed to go running and returned to the television and there were already two runners on with no outs. (Note: After research, I found out one of the guys reached on Julio Lugo's 12th error. Shocking again.) To his credit, he got out of the inning and lowered his ERA to 6.60. But the fact that a guy who's stunk so badly is getting the ball with a sweep looming and only a three-run deficit is troubling.

I am not thrilled about Tim Wakefield saying his pitching mechanics are off. His next start is important after his last three starts where he is 0-2 and has posted an ERA of 11.77 and an opponents' OPS of 1.127. Seems like the Over-40 Shutout against Detroit was a long, long time ago.

Conversely, Bartolo Colon's pitching mechanics are on. As last night's game was fast-paced, I was able to see his entire start except for when I was slamming a Wiffle ball bat against the grounds while watching the Celtics. Right now he is looking like he can pull off being a power pitcher again. He located his fastball well and just blew a lot of guys away. Is he a better starting option than Buchholz? Who knows. But right now I would be content with him in the rotation and Buchholz taking the roster spot of one of those terrible relievers.

Most importantly of all (not really) is that it seems like the Coco Crisp Pout has vaporized. There was an article late last week in the Globe about how there is a three-man platoon (with Nancy being the third), and all three men are playing well. Coco's not pouting in the dugout anymore, and he's not pouting on the field anymore either. That is nice. Let's look at the May OPS numbers:

Nancy: .835
Ellsbury: .726
Crisp: .842

Let's get the guy with the highest OPS some more at-bats, huh?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dice-W

In his post earlier this morning, Pat became the latest on the "Let's Call Him Dice-BB" bandwagon which probably includes almost everyone in the United States of America. Not that I'm going to defend the guy, because Pat already did that himself. Yup, Matsuzaka walks a lot of guys. But it is absolutely true that he does not give up many extra-base hits (18) and has held his opponents to a .192 average and .313 slugging percentage (which is 30 points lower than Lugo's--which says a lot). So despite being Dice-BB, he has been Dice-W. As in "win."

But eventually a lot of walks and a couple of dinky singles here and there will bite Matsuzaka in the butt. I mean, a lot of walks and a couple of dinky singles made the Red Sox somehow think JD Drew was worth seventy million dollars (more on him later). But Matsuzaka's ERA is 2.40 (179 ERA+) despite a WHIP of 1.32, just below the league average of 1.39. His 8-0 record is a reflection on his unhittability, but you also have to think some luck factors into it. The timely hits have not come this year for the teams he has defeated. Out of his 10 starts, two were against winning teams (two against 25-23 Oakland). Two were against a putrid Detroit team (including a game with 4 walks but no runs and one with 8 walks and only one run).

My point is, a team that doesn't absolutely suck can capitalize on Dice-W's walk issues. Teams that aren't terrible can put together some timely hitting, and by "timely hitting" I mean they can get a dinky single or two while runners are on base instead of doing a scaled down version of the Coco Crisp thing--getting dinky singles when the bases are empty. Coco has obviously done it more, because he gets a crapload of dinky singles with the bases empty.

If Dice-W runs into some good teams that can hit in a timely fashion, eight walks and one run will NOT happen. Eight walks and six runs will be more likely. A 2.40 ERA is not sustainable the way he's pitching. He has to keep people from reaching base all the time.

Once again, I'm not trying to be critical. His knack for preventing the timely hit has been great, and that's why he's 8-0. I'm just saying I'm a little concerned.

In other news, congratulations to Nancy/D.L./Mr. Baseball Drew. The man with the swing tailor-made for Fenway Park according to Theo Epstein hit his first home run over the Green Monster in his 348th plate appearance at the ballpark. If given enough opportunity, a monkey with a typewriter will type all of William Shakespeare's sonnets in order. Similarly, if given 348 plate appearances, Mr. Fenway Park Swing will FINALLY hit a home run over the Green Monster. Hopefully between now and October 2, 2011, he can do it three or four more times, but I understand that's asking a lot. With his grand slam, Nancy pulled within seven RBIs of David Murphy before Murphy tacked on another two last night. Ghost ride the whip!

Is it time to send the Alternate Captain (Julian Tavarez) back up to the major leagues? The Kansas City Royals turned an 11-3 game into a save situation thanks to Hansen and Aardsma. Hansen's ERA is up to a Timlinesque 7.56. That gives me sleep apnea. Either that or nausea.

To finish on a positive note (because, well, the Red Sox are on a seven-game winning streak, and that is good), Javier Lopez is getting the job done. At least sometimes. His numbers against lefties are back around .161. It seems like triple that, but there have only been three games where he's come in and failed to record the one out he needs. He hasn't been bad.

Also, the Red Sox are doing EXACTLY what they're supposed to be doing. This is what won the Yankees the Wild Card last year. They're playing crappy teams, and they're obliterating crappy teams. They don't have to play particularly well to beat bad teams, as yesterday's game showed (at least for the pitching). Each of these seven wins means just as much as a win against the Yankees or Religiously-Neutral Rays. Just gotta keep going. But they're doing everything right at this point.

That said, the Red Sox always sputter in Oakland. Time to make that stop, and make 100% of Dice-W's opponents under .500. Oakland is the origin of both ghost riding the whip and the whistle tip. Plus, it's the franchise who had the nerve to designate 2005 fantasy team all-star Dan "The Second Coming of Ted Williams" Johnson for assignment. Make it happen.

Finally

Finally, the Yankees won a series. Finally, Ian Kennedy really pitched well. Finally, they can go into a new series with some sort of momentum. FINALLY, the Yankees are the worst defensive team baseball has seen in the last 25 years.

Ian Kennedy had his strongest outing of the season last night. You don't like the four walks, but you love the four hits, especially when only one was for extra bases. He took the Dice-BB approach. Dice-BB is walking a whopping 6 per 9, but is limiting hits, especially of the extra base variety. Essentially, Dice-BB isn't giving in and coming over the plate, forcing hitters to hit his pitch or take first base. He clearly has the confidence in his stuff to deal with a runner on first, and after all, a runner on first is better than a runner jogging around the bases.

Kennedy was getting squeezed in on lefties and away from righties, but he didn't give in. He kept making his pitches, and refused to come off the corners, even in 3 ball counts. I loathe the base on balls, and hope Kennedy can eventually reach the point where he doesn't need to use the Dice-BB approach, but for now it will certainly do, and I hope he has the success with it Dice-BB is having.

The defining moment in the game was Kennedy striking out Markakis and getting Huff to fly out softly with the bases chucked and one out in the third. He was able to show his changeup early in counts to set up his fastball with two strikes, and that's exactly what he did to Markakis. The fastball had late life we haven't seen since last September, and the life and command of it was the difference tonight. If Kennedy gives up a hit there, the game is over. Good spot by him. Set up the opportunity for the big knock by Robbie Cano.

Of course, the Yankees' defense created this jam. OF COURSE. It really is incredible how poor this team is defensively. It's almost inconceivable how incapable they are of executing simple baseball plays. 1st and 3rd, one out. Roberts on 1st. Great pitch out call from the dugout, they have Roberts by so much he stops in his tracks. What ensued was the poorest execution of a rundown I have ever seen. To start, when a runner is on third, you do not approach a rundown the way you normally would. You always, ALWAYS, force the runner downhill, meaning away from second base. If the runner is caught between 2nd and 3rd, you move him towards 3rd, not only bringing him towards the runner (for a tie-up), but brining the ball closer to and towards homeplate for a potential throw. If the runner is between 1st and 2nd, like last night, you move the runner back towards 1st and get him there, also moving the ball closer to and towards homeplate for a potential throw.

Last night, Cano gets the ball at 2nd, and should have been in charge of the play right away. He should have taken Roberts all the way back to first, and flipped it to Giambi at the last second, all the while checking the runner at 3rd, and making the easy throw if he breaks (Sidenote: it SHOULD be very easy to get this runner if he breaks. Think about guys getting canned from the outfield tagging, and now imagine someone tagging with the ball a mere 100 ft. away. It's an easy play for everybody but the Yankees I'm sure). Instead, Cano flips it to Giambi with Roberts 35 ft. away from first. Now Giambi (GIAMBI!) has to chase him back towards second, moving away from homeplate if the runner breaks. Giambi taks about 5 steps, the runner takes a one step break, Giambi looks at him, and he retreats toward 3rd (totally caught off the base). If Giambi makes a sharp, accurate throw, he's out easily. EASILY! But Giambi throws a one-hop looper to A-Rod and everyone is safe, runners now on SECOND AND THIRD, which is what the Orioles originally set out to do, and even though the Yankees put the right play on, STILL COULD NOT EXECUTE. TERRIBLE job by Cano not taking charge of the play, PATHETIC job by Giambi for being so incapable in the field.

Finally, could the umpiring possibly have been any worse since the start of the 2007 season? I think the percentage of calls they get vs. calls they miss league-wide is probably near one-to-one in that time period. I realize Giambi, like 100 other players in the majors, is not afraid to take one on the elbow and go to first base. But last night he blatantly tried to get out of the way. You want guys to stop taking inside pitches off the elbow, enforce the rules, and force them to stop hanging over the plate before the first pitch of the AB even comes. Even if Giambi hadn't moved and took the pitch off the elbow, it would have been a bad call because of the inconsistency. The fact that the ump TOTALLY blew the call in that spot is a really bad job.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Joba to the Rotation=Great Move

Another good job by Darrell Rasner last night. I had a basketball game and didn't pick the game up until the 9th, and thus didn't see any of Rasner's start. But I saw extensive highlights, and that was enough to show me that Rasner is still throwing all five of his pitches, or at least four, for strikes. Guys taking 88 mph fastballs right down broadway for a called third strike usually means a pitcher is coming at them a lot of different ways in the zone. 61 of 95 pitches for strikes is confirmation, and all of this is the key for Rasner, who has been a pleasant surprise.

A-Rod has had an immediate (and much needed) impact. Much has been made of the effect he will have on the guys in front of him and the guys behind him, something the Yankees desperately need. This is undeniable, as #2 guys need their #1 to get true value. That's what makes them #2's. But it is important not to lose sight of what A-Rod brings himself. This is a guy capable of driving in 100+ and scoring 100+ between now and the end of September. For a team that has scored 189 (what a bunch of fairies!) through 46 games, having a guy that can be involved with 200+ runs all by his loneseome over four months could be a very big boost.

I was glad that I caught the 9th because I got to see, before I was told, that Joba was moving to the rotation, something I was scared the Yankees would be incorrectly tenative to do. When he came in for the 8th up 8 love, it could have been just to get work in. When he came in for the 9th up 8 love, you knew this was the first physical step in stretching him out to be a starter.

Good for the Yankees for thinking big picture and not right now. Already, we can see the impact this move could have on the present. If Joba goes one inning last night, he's available tonight. Now that he went two, he'll be unavailable. If the Yankees are trying to protect a 1 run game in the 8th tonight, they will have to go to an option that will be FAR more willing and able to blow the lead than Joba would be, which means greater potential for a loss. This will undoubtedly happen a few times in the month it takes Joba to build up to starting. Doing something during a season that sacrifices the chances of winning even one game is not the Old Yankee Way. Clearly, this is the New Yankee Way.

And good for the Yankees. This is something they have to do for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, if Joba spends a full season in the bullpen, totaling say 60-70 innings, that means he will only be able to go about 100-110 next year, which would be a step back. Given Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina's situation (and probability of not being in the rotation next year), the Yankees can't afford to take a step back with someone who *could* be their best starter in 2009. He needs to go his full 140-150 this year, so he will be ready to go 175-180 in 2009, and have no limitations the year after.

Second, and just behind #1 in terms of import, is for all the "how could they take Joba out of the pen?!?!!?! he's so dominant back there!!!!!" Yankee fans. Do you have any idea how many starters with elite stuff could dominate as set-up men or closers? A lot. How many set-up men and closers can dominate as elite starters? Not many, if any. Closers are typically closers because they can't start. Not durable enough for 200 innings with their frame/delivery (probably your K-Rod types), reliance on one pitch which would never work as a starter (your Rivera types), they are better at getting jacked up for short periods of time, etc. Starters are starters because they CAN start, and Joba CAN start. 200 innings are far more valueable than 70, as long as you have a closer. And the Yankees have a closer. If they didn't, it would be a different conversation. But they do, so you don't leave an 8th inning guy who can start in the 8th inning.

Third, Joba is not built to relieve. I've been saying this for a long time. At best, he's a big guy. At worst, he's carrying around too much weight, something he may or may not have to battle during his career. Bodies like this can be successful starters, we've seen it many times before, especially if they work to stay reasonable (which Joba has). How many big guys have been bigtime relievers, WITH career longevity? Take a look around the league at elite closers. Take a look at them, then take a look at Joba. Already, we have seen a decline in Joba's ability to find his A+ stuff every night like he did last year. A lot of this has to do with the lack of electricity that comes with being semi-old news (unlike last year's electricity joyride), and not actually closing out the game (always electric). A lot of this also has to do with a starter's body trying to get ready to blow it out every other day, as oppossed to being consistent for 6-7 innings every 5th day. Joba is sort of like a marathoner's body, albeit good sprinting speed, trying to consistently win the 100 yard dash when he's in the pen. Not good.

Finally, this is just the first of what is without question a series of moves for the Yankees with young players this year. This is now going to be an annual thing for the Yankees (and Red Sox). Joba, Justin Masterson, Jacoby Ellsbury, these guys are not mistakes, and each year both clubs are likely to see prospects not just come up, but have major impact like each of these players have. For the Yankees, former University of Arizona closer and personal favorite Mark Melancon (pronounced Mel-an-sin) is putting up video game numbers in the minors right now, just like Joba did last year. In his last AA outing they stretched him out to three innings. He was scoreless with no hits, no walks, 4 strikeouts, and a 5-0 GB/FB ratio (ie. no balls hit out of the infield). If they called Joba up last year, there is no reason they won't call Melancon up this year, with the same 8th inning expectations. Former University of Texas closer JB Cox and starter (who has the stuff to relieve) Dan McCutchen are not too far behind Melancon's video game numbers, if at all (though I don't personally think they have his ceiling).

Whether these guys can come in and replace Joba's production in the 8th inning or not, good for the Yankees for having a plan with all of their prospects (not just Joba) and sticking to it. After all, his move to the rotation opens a door for Melancon, and this is good for everyone's long-term development. Putting the future (and the foundation to win the friggin' World Series again) in front of today is not easy. But that is what the Yankees are doing. Good for them. And good for them for being creative with it, stretching Joba out in the majors instead of the minors, even though this could also cost them more games due to the uncertainty of his performance as he gets stretched out and uses his curveball and changeup more consistently, etc. Just a good spot all around by Yankees. Difficult (with a $200 million payroll) but solid (perhaps future championship) decision making.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Prospect Theory 346

It's been a while since I wrote a Prospect Theory post, but that's because it is a very fluid subject matter. A new lesson in Prospect Theory is being shown with both teams that remain the focus of HYD Baseball. There are a few things to note at this present time, and I'll try to do it logically and concisely. But first I gotta thank my boy Jack Sox for pointing it out in the first place.

"100 million dollar player development machine, indeed." That's what Jack wrote a few minutes after Jon Lester's no-hitter the other night. And it got me thinking. I can't imagine any other minor league system that has produced so many impact players in such a short time. But then again, I grew up with the Lou Gorman/Dan Duquette system where really hot periods included...

1) Steroid user Mo Vaughn, John Valentin, Aaron Sele.
2) Jeff Suppan, Nomar Garciaparra, Wilton Veras.
3) David Eckstein, Adam Everett, Casey Fossum, Lew Ford, Freddy Sanchez, Carl Pavano, Brian Rose, Matt Murton.

After the John Henry/Theo Epstein regime took over, in a very short period of time, the Red Sox developed a great deal of the 3rd-wave guys and a series of incredible draft classes. The Henry/Epstein regime and their minor league development team deserves credit for Murton, Kason Gabbard, Kevin Youkilis, Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, David Murphy (who has 11 more RBIs than Nancy right now), Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen (the 2007 version), Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Moss, Jed Lowrie, Craig Hansen, Jacoby Ellsbury, and now Justin Masterson. It seems like for every Jeff Suppan or Lew Ford the Red Sox used to develop, there is one mid-level player like Suppan or Ford (such as Murphy or Lowrie) and one star (such as Papelbon or Pedroia).

Is there another system that develops as well as this team? Maybe Florida. Maybe Tampa Bay. Maybe Seattle (with Felix Hernandez and Pacman...I mean, Adam Jones). But I'd say right now the Red Sox' $100 million machine is paying incredible dividends. I could compare it to another $106 million investment, but that's way too easy.

And there are three elements I've noticed that have resulted in more Pedroias than Verases:

1. Scouting. Have the Red Sox really drafted anyone terrible in the first few rounds the last few years? Sure doesn't seem like it. They have identified probably more acutely than other teams which players have major league skills and which ones don't. I'm not going to pretend to know how they do it, but they do it and they're darn good at it. Physical makeup, mental makeup, etc, etc, etc. The Red Sox seem to be doing it better than anyone.

2. Development research. It seems like the Red Sox have a very specific process and timetable for each of their prospects. Obviously, it has to be tweaked quite frequently (see Daniel Bard and his deplorable 2007 season). But it seems like very few of these guys flame out in the minors. I mean, Masterson was on a strict pitch count here at the AA Affiliate. Very few of them are rushed through the system too quickly (Hansen and Cla Meredith are exceptions to the rule). And it seems like there is a lot of knowledge about how to make sure few prospects are "lost" in the minor league system. It takes a lot of manpower and a lot of hours, but somehow these guys pull it off.

3. Money. The larger-market teams have found a new way to outmuscle small-market teams, and that is exposing the weaknesses of the draft system. Perfect example is Hansen. Guy was lights out with St. John's a few years ago. He would have been drafted much higher by crummier teams, but he was a Boras client. Therefore, he wouldn't have signed with any of those teams and instead would probably play a year with the St. Paul Saints or spend another year at school. Basically, he would become a holdout and the small-market team would go a draft without retaining their first-round draft pick. Lots of players are doing this, which is disgusting. But it's good news for the Red Sox, Yankees, and other teams who exploit the inefficiencies of the draft.

Anyway, if you do everything right with all three of the aforementioned elements, you get results like what the Red Sox are getting right now. The Yankees aren't too far behind. Maybe in a few years (which I'm sure Pat is rooting for big time), the Yankees can see results almost mirroring what the Red Sox are enjoying right now.

I am pretty critical of this entire ownership group because of off-the-field things they do. I'm critical of Theo Epstein because of extremely questionable moves he made for people who are blocking these prospects from roster spots. But these guys are unquestionably running up the score on the entire field when it comes to minor league development. And therefore they deserves a lot of credit.

2008 Yankees

I appreciate DV's post below, but I want to note that I wasn't holding out. I would never leave him hanging on this blog, and certainly don't want him to feel like he has to ask me to post, or for anyone to feel that there is a reason I'm not posting (I mean this blog isn't THAT serious). I didn't post because I didn't feel like posting. The reason I didn't feel like posting isn't because I'm depressed, or because I've given up, or anything like that. The reason I haven't posted is because I don't have anything to say. I wrote about this 2008 season last year, in 2007. If we had a blog at the time, I would have probably written the exact same things in 2006 and 2005, and maybe even 2004.

Quite frankly, I'm just not interested in covering the exact same story again. Especially because, in my eyes, there is no story. It's the first third of the season, and the Yankees are injured and not playing good baseball, which is resulting in more losses than wins. They have made a habit of this early in the season for the last five seasons. In those seasons, they have gotten blazing hot over the summer, and made the playoffs with ease. Doesn't mean they will this year, just proves that they can. And they certainly can again this year, despite all the negative media attention you'll see for the next few weeks, especially in the New York papers (if they get hot in the summer again, the same writers burying them now will go wild praising their "relentlessness" "never quit attitude" and "understanding that it's a marathon", as if they believed in them all along, they always do).

Nobody knows what is going to happen with this team. Nobody ever does. They might start swinging the bats and get a jolt from Joba Chamberlain, Mark Melancon, JB Cox, and Brett Gardner, and make the playoffs. Or it might finally be the year where injuries and age and general underperformance finally catch up with them. After all, they are due.

Either way, I'm not interested in covering it daily. I did it last year. I don't want to reevaluate their playoff chances after every game. It's a waste of time. In an e-mail to me this morning, DV said that he thinks they can't win the East because they are too flawed and their is no "stretch" of games against easy teams for them to capitalize on like last year, especially because Tampa is improved. This is fine, because it is his opinion. But I could give you a million reasons why they can make it (not that I believe one way or the other), like the fact that the toughest part of their scheduele is out of the way, and from now until August the meat of their schedule is made up of games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnatti, Houston, San Diego, Kansas City, Seattle, Texas, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, and Seattle. None of these teams are that serious. Of course, to that the reply could be the Yankees aren't that serious right now either, so on and so forth. We've heard ALL of this before, we've said ALL of this before, for the last four seasons.

And that's my point. We've heard all of the reasons on both sides of the ball before. Unfortunately, everyone is going to be subject to all of them again every day on ESPN and in the paper. But not here. I'm not doing it. It is a royal waste of time, because ultimately we are just going to have to wait and see what happens. There are too many games left, and as The Gunn pointed out in the comments, they've done it more than once before with the same question marks facing them, with a similar core of players. And as I'll tell you, they also very well may not do it this year. Let's just wait and see. It's all you can do with a talented but injured and underperforming roster that has 117 games left.

Me? I'm not depressed. I'm not giving up. I know what the team is capable of. For all my craziness in the present, I'm pretty level headed about the big picture, both for a season and beyond. Still, in the present, I'm just frustrated. It is so frustrating watching Cano not cover second base and the Orioles scoring 6, 2 out, unearned runs last night. And it is so frustrating because they do this now every year. One year it is going to catch up to them. But almost every team will go through a 40 or 50 or 60 game stretch in a given year where they play near .500. The Red Sox, if I remember correctly, did it for around 80 games last summer and still won 96 games. Which is why we just have to wait and see. The Yankees seem to do it at the beginning of the year every year. Either they play their way out of it, or they don't. Probably 50/50. I want to leave it at that and analyze the individual players and the individual games separate of their connection to the friggin' playoffs.

In unrelated news, I sat right behind Kevin Millar's family last night. His mother, his father, and two women, one of which I'm assuming is his wife. I've always thought Millar seemed like a pretty good (and funny) dude, and he confirmed that last night. He caught a foul ball grounder in the 8th that he didn't have to flip to the stands but he went out of his way to do so, to his father sitting in the first row, for him to distribute. Immediately everyone started clamoring for it. Instead of flipping it to some bozo, Millar's father waited until everyone settled, then looked around and found the youngest girl in the section (maybe 5 years old) who had been trying to get a ball tossed to her all game and looked on the verge of tears that the game was almost over and she didn't have one. You would have thought she just got to Disney World for the first time when he gave it to her. Rock solid by the Millar's.

The Holdout

Got a text message from our beloved Pat F today after I asked him to stop holding out and speak about his favorite baseball team. He is tired of the same old crap that happened last year--everyday wondering if this team is toast or not--because it's depressing. And that's too bad, because I believe it was Freud who said that people who are depressed are usually the most insightful. Or something like that. So we might want to use today's comment thread to ask Patrick to come back because we miss his insight and especially his entertaining negativity at the Yankees' rock-bottom point. Perhaps some of the best Pat F posts in history are the ones where he throws everyone--EVERYONE--under the bus, and I think we all know that ranting like that makes him feel better.

Didn't watch the Yankees game last night--I had my plate full with the Red Sox and Celtics--but I do know what happened. Big Jeter throwing error. Huge Johnny F***ing Damon error. Balls simply hit over Bobby Abreu's head. Mussina getting rocked. Eight unearned runs. And only two runs by the potent Yankee offense against Daniel Cabrera and friends. Bob Klapisch is already writing off the Yankees' 2008 season as one that "crashed and burned beyond all recognition."

Without the prospect of a 29-game resurrecting stretch this year against the cupcake Rays, Orioles, Royals, and other disasters (mostly because the Rays aren't cupcakes anymore), the Yankees are in pretty deep crap. I am very eager to hear how the NY guys on this blog feel about the Yankees. Is it over? Will A-Rod and Posada save these guys? Honestly, I think Pat would feel somewhat better if they were toast, so we wouldn't have to go on the same ride we went on last year. Instead he could find positivity not in the dinosaurs that are polluting the Yankees' current roster, but in the future. Thanks to Brian Cashman, the present looks pretty crummy, but the future looks unbelievable. Even Bronx thinks so, and we all know he's not a Cash guy.

MEANWHILE, in Boston, Justin Masterson pitched well again last night and Bartolo Colon is pitching tonight. According to Francona, Masterson was very effective while throwing mainly a two-seamer and a slider, but not many changeups. Not bad. It is sad that he won't be here at the AA Affiliate anymore, as he's been sent back down--to Pawtucket.

By the way, Okajima's A LOT more human this year than he was last year. He was bad last night. And he started the inning. Good for Papelbon for understanding that sometimes you have to come in while an inning is in progress.

A point about Colon: His leash better be short. The Red Sox don't have to sacrifice games just to make this guy feel good about himself. They did that too much with Schilling in 2005. If there are better options than Bartolo, it is what it is. If he isn't that good, Clay Buchholz or--shoot--Julian Tavarez should have a roster spot over him. If Colon gets lit up two or three times, the Red Sox shouldn't be waiting for the guy, because there are better options available.

And the Red Sox' offense? Well, the Red Sox biggest offensive weapon last night continued to prove that he should be playing everyday. At this point last year Coco Crisp was hitting .223 (and played a major role in my Senior Week), and today he's hitting .297 with two more extra-base hits than JD Drew and a slugging percentage of .455. The Cleveland Coco is in the house. Oh, and by the way, let me reiterate that the guy he replaced made a costly error last night and according to Klapisch looked "lost" last night.

Life is good here. It's not good for Pat. But that doesn't mean we don't need him here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Holy crap (part 2)

Sorry for the lack of posting, I've been away from my computer on a four-day weekend (before another 10-day work week starting tomorrow). Draw your own conclusions about the Milwaukee series--it was good, Beckett gave up a lot of home runs, the Brewers were too cowardly to pitch Gagne, and Tim McCarver talked about a concussion test for about four innings.

But I want to acknowledge the Jon Lester no-hitter despite the fact that I have to run to the dentist in a few minutes. From what I saw, he threw the ball harder than I've ever seen him throw. He also located the cut fastball better than he ever has before. To compare it to Buchholz's no-hitter, I don't think he was nearly as unhittable as Buchholz, but that's simply because he doesn't have quite as good stuff. This is not news.

The general consensus on Jon Lester is similar to that of Ian Kennedy: Not projected to be an ace, but projected to be a good middle-of-the-rotation guy. That's fine, and yesterday probably won't change that at all. What it hopefully will change is the question mark aspect of it. Nobody was quite sure if he would work out the control issues, and in his last few starts (as people except for Kaplan would notice by reading previous posts here) he has done that. Yesterday was just the masterpiece that hopefully proves not only to the observers but to Lester himself that he can keep the ball over the plate as long as he keeps his composure. And that he can succeed by keeping the ball over the plate.

He's been doing that a lot in the last month or so, and that is very good news for the Red Sox. Better news than just one no-hitter.

Friday, May 16, 2008

All-CPIB Team (Outfield, DH, Coaching)

LF: Jay Payton. Not a bad player. I actually liked the guy. And he didn't suck when he was on the Red Sox either. What he screwed up was the way he requested to be traded. Like Coco Crisp (who has handled it stellarly), he wanted to go elsewhere so he could play everyday. Coco said back in March that he wasn't going to be a [expletive] about it. Well, Payton decided to be a [expletive] about it, apparently orchestrating a clubhouse blowup. Not a good call.

CF: Izzy Alcantara. Another lesson on why prospects are not always sure things. Izzy was a minor league hotshot, hitting .285 with 29 bombs in the minors in 1999 and was called up in the middle of the 2000 season for Jimy Williams's Red Sox team. He started out pretty well, starting his career 6-16 in the majors with a home run. Then, on July 1, 2000 in Chicago, he made a big mistake. He gave minimal effort to track down a single dropped in front of him in right field. The runners advanced on his lack of effort. Jimy Williams (cantankerous and quirky as he was) didn't like this, promptly benched him for the next two weeks. Duquette refused to send him back to Pawtucket and Jimy refused to play Izzy. Just another reason that time period was so fun for Red Sox fans.

Izzy, like Offerman, also got some publicity for on-field altercations in the minors. Back in Pawtucket in 2001, Izzy thought he was being thrown at, so before charging the mound, he kicked the catcher and knocked him over. This incident brought ESPN highlights and a group of dirtbag fans from Wilmington to heckle him as he returned to Pawtucket as a member of the Indianapolis Indians on May 10, 2002.

RF: J.D. "DL" "Nancy" Drew. Hmm. A player who misses a lot of time with minor injuries, looks like he doesn't care, has a chronic history of underachievement, makes a LOT of money, and according to former manager Tony La Russa is satisfied with a 75% effort. I wonder if he'll be able to play in Boston. October 2, 2011.

DH: Carl Everett. Unlike Nancy, Jurassic Carl cared. But maybe he cared too much. He headbutted an umpire. He popped off about pretty much everything in this hilarious Sports Illustrated article (and later in a Maxim article, as told by SI's Jacob Luft). He didn't like the Boston media, specifically the gentlemen from the Boston Globe, as he told Gordon Edes to take his curly-haired boyfriend and get the F away from him. Curt Schilling can play in Boston because he doesn't care about what the Curly-Haired Boyfriend says.

Bench:
-Wilton Veras. The first Lowell Spinner in the Major Leagues was last seen as the third baseman of the New Jersey Jackals. And he had quite a bit of upside.
-Steroid user Ed Sprague. A Red Sox-killer in Toronto, he hit .111 in his first 36 at-bats and never really recovered.
-Bernard Gilkey. Like Gabe Kapler, Gilkey was brought in as a waiver-wire stopgap. Like Kapler, he was on fire his first game, hitting a single, a double, a home run, and getting four RBIs in his Red Sox debut. Unlike Kapler, he didn't have the charisma to keep the momentum going after he stopped hitting. This might be part of the reason Barry Bonds didn't want to play here.
-Tony Clark. He wasn't a bad baseball player before his time in Boston. He wasn't a bad player after his time in Boston. But he may have been the worst first baseman in baseball during his time in Boston.

Manager: Tony La Russa. Theo Epstein clearly has a lot of faith in his manager Terry Francona, and he seems to value Francona's opinion quite a bit. If Tony La Russa were the manager of this team, things might have been different. Renteria wouldn't have happened. Drew wouldn't have happened. The payroll would be lower. I don't care if he never managed in Boston--this is my team and I'll do what I want. Heck, my coaches don't even have to be baseball coaches...

Coach: Rick Pitino. "All this negativity that's in this town sucks. And it stinks. And it makes the greatest town, the greatest city in the world lousy."

Pitching staff coming soon.

All-CPIB Team (infield)

Well, it's a lazy, boring Friday here at the AA Affiliate. Sox didn't play last night. Not much to talk about. Last week there was a request for the All-Can't Play In Boston Team. As our anonymous commenter said, the possibilities are endless. But here's what I came up with. These guys are all people who a) lacked the mental toughness to play in Boston, b) lacked the public relations savvy to play in Boston, or c) were okay for other teams but sucked in Boston. I limited them to the 1990s and beyond, because, well, I was born in 1985.

C: Josh Bard. Acquired as a Tim Wakefield personal catcher. He couldn't catch the knuckleball. In six starts, he surrendered ten passed balls. Most importantly, it seemed like he let the criticism get to him. No worries: He was traded with Cla Meredith (a CPIB teammate) to San Diego for a sub-.200 hitter.

1B: Steroid user Mo Vaughn. You may wonder why I put the Hit Dawg on here. I mean, he was a fan favorite in Boston for a long time despite the snide comments regarding his weight. He jacked a ball about 475 feet to center field. His skills were as sharp as the needles he was jabbing himself with. He was a favorite of mine and a favorite of the "Glove Dawg," the other MV who happens to frequently comment on this site. He won the MVP in 1995 in a Red Sox uniform. So why is he on the Can't Play in Boston team?

The way he handled his contract situation. He popped off on the radio, first talking about how "it doesn't matter about the money. I don't need anymore money. I just want the opportunity to win some games." So he signed with the Anaheim Angels, who came in DFL in the AL West at 70-92, 25 games out of first place. The Red Sox made it to the ALCS starring Tim Tschida that year. Good job.

He also said Boston fans were "STOO-pid," a clip still played frequently on WEEI, and he blamed the negativity of the Boston media and Boston fans when his father was suffering from a urinary tract infection. Those last two paragraphs should answer all your questions.

2B: Jose Awfulman. GM Dan Duquette brought Offerman in to "replace Mo Vaughn's on-base percentage." Said on-base percentage was over league average in only one of the four years of his $26 million deal. He had 45 stolen bases in his last year before Boston; he had 40 in his three-plus years in Boston including a 60% SB success rate his first year. He was an all-star in 1999 and got to meet Ted Williams I'm sure, but other than that, he was a disaster. I think it was the Herald that compared Lugo's defense to Offerman's. His incident involving hitting a pitcher with a bat in a brawl in the Atlantic League is further evidence that he doesn't have the toughness to play in Boston.

(Note: I should just refer to Offerman as "the runner" like Tim Tschida did after Game Four of the 1999 ALCS. By the same token, I'm going to refer to Chuck Knoblauch as "Knobby," indicating that the player who got the benefit of the doubt is my close personal friend. The fact that Tim Tschida isn't umpiring Little League baseball is a disgrace.)

3B: Julio Lugo. Sure, Lugo is the Red Sox' current shortstop, but I'm moving him to third base because there is a much more fitting candidate available. Plus, moving Lugo's position is one of many reasons he's not tough enough to play in Boston. He was shuffled from position to position in Los Angeles, looked lost out there both in the field and on the plate, and pouted for three months while hitting .219. The next year, he hit .236 in Boston and blamed a digestive parasite for it. He pouted when he went 7-for-June. He pouted when he got booed. He pouted when his defense went down the toilet, committing 11 errors in the first six weeks of the 2008 season. He flipped out at the media when they asked him about his defensive problems when they finally cost the Red Sox more games. You're making $36 million. Time for a little bit of accountability, more performance, and less pouting.

SS: Edgar Renteria. He blamed the Fenway Park infield for his 30 errors, though he committed 14 of those errors on the road. He pouted more in one year than Melvin Mora has pouted in his entire career--and that's saying something. He resented the criticism he got for being a poor defender, a poor hitter, and a poor baserunner, and had an incredible ability to fail in the most key situations. Just like in 2004, it was Renteria who ended the Red Sox' 2005 season in a fitting way--a weak ground ball to second just like about a thousand others that season. Tony La Russa (we'll hear more from him later) said Renteria didn't have the mindset to play in Boston, and he was right. Renteria wanted out, and he got out--back to the National League, where he was not only not a liability, but an All-Star again.

Outfield, bench, pitching coming soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Comcrapstic

I was waiting for this to happen, because once the mention of the Mitchell Report was dropped, it was open season on Senator Arlen Specter presented by Comcast. I'm pretty opposed to making posts on this blog that have nothing to do with baseball, so I held off on any Spygate commentary. Now that Senator Specter presented by Comcast wants an independent investigation of Spygate--something compared to the Mitchell Report (which I'm pursuing a master's degree in)--this is where I draw the line. Thanks to the Mitchell Report comparison, Spygate is now within The GM's jurisdiction of relevance. Therefore I'm going to go to absolute friggin town on Specter presented by Comcast.

Why don't I just call the Pennsylvania senator "Arlen Specter?" Well, that's because the Comcast cable company has contributed $153,600 toward Specter presented by Comcast's campaigns. I figure that kind of contribution is worth naming rights, so I will just give my fickle, inconsistent Internet service provider everything it paid for.

I respect very little about what Specter presented by Comcast is doing by pursuing independent investigation of the Patriots and their against-the-NFL-rules (notice how I didn't say "illegal) espionage. What I do respect, however, is his loyalty. Unlike Chien-Ming Wang and Ian Kennedy, Arlen Specter presented by Comcast will stand up for his boys no matter what. He'll tilt at windmills if the windmills are in a legal battle with his boys over the NFL Network. The NFL doesn't want Comcast to charge customers extra for the Network. Comcast does because, well, I don't know. Maybe Comcast just wants all its customers to switch to the satellite dish. Or it wants to exploit desperate NFL fans the same way the Red Sox gouge their most desperate fans with membership cards. So these two parties are in a cat fight right now. Wonderful.

So just as a loyal mobster, gang member, or headhunting pitcher would do, Specter presented by Comcast is going back after the NFL. He wants to get revenge on the NFL for suing Comcast. And he's using the malicious acts of one team (the New England Patriots) as the vehicle to mess with the NFL. Mature. Now he wants to use taxpayer money to investigate (baseball's money was used in the Mitchell investigation) a breaking of the rules that resulted in no felonies and no deaths.

Specter presented by Comcast says football fans deserve better because it's calling into question the entire integrity of competition in the sport. What? Really? It was one team that was caught cheating. That team was punished severely, both competitively (by losing a draft pick) and financially. The NFL destroyed old tapes that just proved the same thing as the new tapes proved. Okay. What's your point? Why pour your time into this? Why pour my money into this? To make an example out of one team out of thirty-two--a team that has already been made an example of?

By the way, if that one team (the Patriots) did happen to videotape the Rams' walkthrough (which they didn't, nice responsible journalism, Boston Herald), what difference does it make for the NFL as a whole? Nothing at all. It means a lot for that team, and I don't understand why the government has to spend all this time and money investigating one team.

If this was a league-wide problem (like steroids in baseball), that would be another thing. But Specter presented by Comcast just has it out for the Patriots and just wants to be a pain in the NFL's butt, providing bad publicity all offseason. What he doesn't understand because he's just as clueless as those congressmen in charge of the baseball investigation is that he's not making the NFL look bad right now. He's not making the Patriots look bad right now. All he's doing is making himself look bad, and as he dodges questions regarding his affiliation with Comcast, he's making himself look even worse. What a clown.

"I've been at this line of work for a long time and no one has ever questioned my integrity," Specter presented by Comcast said about being presented by Comcast. Well, that's because you haven't done anything this outlandish so that people had a right to question your integrity. Big thumbs up to the people of Pennsylvania for re-electing this imbecile so many times. And yes, I know I'm from Massachusetts.

Does Arlen Specter presented by Comcast really think the NFL wants to cover up what the Patriots did? If that's the case, Roger Goodell would have just told Eric Mangini to stop snitching instead of having it blow up the way it did.

But anyway, I know how much I said the baseball steroid investigation was justified use of taxpayer money. It's an important issue, and that's why I spent so much of my time researching and writing about the matter. And I'm sticking with my argument that the congressional steroid hearings (in theory--in practice they sucked because those numbskulls totally missed the point and made a player-by-player witch hunt about the whole thing) were worth taxpayer money. However, a prospective Spygate investigation is an absolute waste. And here's why:

There are very few similarities between the Patriots' against-the-rules espionage and widespread use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs among professional baseball players. Yup, they're both cheating. Yup, they're both probably the only way the competitive fabric of each game has been compromised (no, wait, that's not true at all). Yup, they're against the rules of a major league sport with an anti-trust exemption. And yup, they both teach bad lessons to kids. Good for Arlen Specter presented by Comcast--making an example of one NFL team is going to keep future 7th-grade classes from cheating on their social studies final. He's really making a difference.

In all seriousness, here is why Congress should have spent their time on baseball but NOT on the Patriots' espionage scandal:

Taking video footage of football teams is against the rules (something I already alluded to twice), but is not illegal. Steroids are illegal drugs, and so is growth hormone without a prescription. The baseball players might as well have been taking heroin. The fact that the steroids gave them a competitive advantage is hardly incidental, but the main point of Congressional relevancy should have been because using, possessing, and distributing the substances in question are FELONIES! Andy Pettitte's dad is an admitted felon!

The baseball steroid scandal is more widespread than the Patriots' videotaping scandal. It affects every team on every level throughout the sport and its minor leagues, whereas Spygate only affects one team. It affects the players taking the steroids, as well as their families and their finances. It also affects the people who don't want to commit felonies. The Patriots' thing was about, well, the Patriots and the teams being videotaped.

Most importantly, unless you ask Randy Johnson or Kenny Rogers, being videotaped never killed anyone. Steroids kill people. If kids want to grow up and videotape opponents...or cork their bats...or drill holes in their racecars...or throw spitballs...they will not be putting their health in jeopardy (unless other spitballers have SARS). If kids want to grow up and do steroids, they will be putting their health and lives in jeopardy. As well as their freedom, because, once again, steroids are a felony.

Just like the rest of Congress, who just wanted to bust individual players instead of addressing the more overarching problem and preventing it from continuing, Arlen Specter presented by Comcast missed the entire point. It is stupidity like that of Specter presented by Comcast that makes Americans detest their government.

Did you get the memo?

Probably not, because I haven't written it yet. But after yesterday's Red Sox game, I feel it is necessary to write a couple of memos to the Red Sox so that they won't forget certain things and lose baseball games as a result of being stupid.

Memo to Dustin Pedroia: You are not Troy O'Leary. You don't have to make unnecessary diving plays. You are not a Japanese little leaguer. GET IN FRONT OF THE FRIGGIN BALL and make the play. We're talking about fundamentals. In the middle of the season. Again.

(P.S. Pat F was right.)

Memo to the Red Sox offense: A baseball game is nine innings, not one inning. Scoring in the first inning and thinking that's enough for the entire game with your bullpen is not a good way to go. (Assuming nobody got that obscure reference, I'm going to move on.)

Memo to Pedroia, Ortiz, Lowell, and Youkilis: Just because J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo aren't in the lineup, that doesn't mean you have to make up for their production in the double play category. Grounding into four double plays in one game is a terrible way to win baseball games, a good way to lose, and a great way to make me destroy my own property and that of others.

Memo to Jon Lester: Good job yesterday. I have very little beef with you, and your recent good, economical outings are the main reason I've been bullish about your team lately. Speaking of bulls, please drink a Red Bull or two before your next start. Being tired in the sixth inning is one thing when you've thrown 100 pitches in the first five. But being tired in the sixth inning is a cause for concern when you've only thrown 56 pitches through the first five. Your economical pitching is good because it takes the ball out of the hands of your pathetic bullpen. It defeats the purpose if you get tired after five innings. You're not Roger Clemens. Sack up.

Memo to the Red Sox' Bullpen: Guess what? Sometimes you're going to have to come in during the middle of an inning. Sometimes there will be runners on base when you come in. F'ING DEAL WITH IT and get some friggin outs. Just because the guys are on base thanks to one of your incompetent colleagues doesn't mean it's okay for them to score. This goes double for Okajima.

Memo to Brad Mills: Pay attention. Your judgment yesterday makes about as much sense at having Mike Mussina pitch to Manny. Jay Payton's career OPS against lefties is 70 points higher than his career OPS against righties. Craig Hansen is a righty. Hideki Okajima is a lefty. Hideki Okajima has had an awful track record coming into the game with runners on. I'd rather have Hansen walk a run in than have one of Okajima's pitches go 450. As Eckersley said, if Hansen can't be trusted to get Jay Payton out, then why is he in the major leagues? F. Terrible. Yesterday we saw why he's a bench coach and not a manager.

Memo to Manny: You're the best. It wouldn't have been that way if you hadn't finished the double play.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It could be worse...

First and foremost, read Pat's post from earlier this morning. I wouldn't say he's in rare form, but it's a typical show of emotion that accompanies a particularly soul-sucking Yankees loss. Without further ado...

It's no secret around here how opposed to the Josh Beckett trade I was. I was wrong, I have admitted that, and I have since apologized for my constant criticism of Beckett and Mike Lowell.

Last night Beckett was bad. He had very little help from the Red Sox offense, and Manny Ramirez's key GIDP was the nail in the coffin. It also didn't help that the hottest hitter in the American League had a stomach bug and had to be removed from the game. (By the way, on May 13, 2007, Coco's batting average was .221. It is .315 this year. Let's see him get some more playing time in the wake of Nancy's injury so he can qualify for his rightful place, 6th in the AL in batting.) But as far as Beckett goes, there's really not much to talk about. Sometimes a guy sucks, even when he's the best 90% of the time. There's no reason for concern about this guy, I don't think.

Here's what's important, though. Beckett's pissed off about how he pitched last night. And that's good. I am more impressed with the guy every time he opens his mouth. He has the mindset of demanding perfection every outing, every inning, every pitch. And if that execution sucks, he'll let everyone know how much it sucks. He also had a philosophical discussion on what constitutes a good pitch: "Good pitches don't get hit."

Yup, the Red Sox are in a rough place right now. But it could be worse. Let's do a comparison with postgame comments of two pitchers who got lit up this last week, with information gleaned from Newsday's Kat O'Brien, the Journal-News's Peter Abraham, the Globe's Nick Cafardo, and the Herald's Tony Massarotti:

Beckett: "It was right down the [expletive] middle."
Aichar Igawa: "I thought the changeup worked well in terms of control."

Beckett: "They were all [expletive] tough innings."
Igawa: "The result was part of baseball. It can happen in any game."

Beckett: "I threw 104 pitches and I think I executed one of them."
Igawa: "The slider, I missed a few pitches. But besides that, they were pretty good."

Beckett: "It's [expletive] horrible. That's the only [expletive] word for it.
Beckett: "It bothers me when I don't do my job and my job is to execute pitches. If you execute pitches with my stuff, you get outs."
Igawa: "The thing I would like to work on is getting more strikeouts."

Beckett also isn't throwing his offense under the bus like pitchers on the team to the south.

Beckett: "Obviously, you’d like for the offense to pick you up, but you don’t want someone else to pick [the loss] up when you’re the one that’s [expletive]."
Chien-Ming Wang: "It’s tough pitching with no runs. It’s surprising because we have good hitters. I got my job done and kept the team close."

Yes, it sucks that Beckett pitched poorly last night. But what's good is that he's taking blame and demanding from himself nothing less than perfection. And that's more than what you can say for the Yankees.

Different Last Name, Same Joe

Joe Girardi is NOT a good manager. Joe Torre was. But we needed a change from Torre's stlye. We haven't gotten one with Girardi. This is infuriating, because we could have just stuck with Torre. If they are going to manage the exact same way, I'd rather have the guy with the bigtime proven track record in New York. It makes Girardi look that much worse, because the expectations were that he was bringing something different.

Last year, the New York Yankees had the best offense in baseball. They led the majors in runs, RBI, hits, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging, to start. It's not a perfect science, but VORP is probably the best overally measure of an individual player's offensive value, compared to other players around the majors. Alex Rodriguez was #1, and Jorge Posada was #8. Last year, the best offense in baseball, as you would expect, had two top 10 offensive players.

Currently, the Yankees are without these two players. As such, they are struggling to score runs.

THAT MEANS YOU HAVE TO PUT ON A FRIGGIN PLAY ONCE IN A BLUE FRIGGIN MOON GIRARDI.

Isn't it the manager's job to try to give his team every possible boost when they are experiencing injuries and struggling?

This team isn't scoring runs. They haven't been scoring runs. Damon leads off the game with a single. Does Girardi steal? Bunt? Hit and run? With perhaps the best situational hitter in the game at the plate? Nope. Ah, I know. Play the averages, just like Joe Torre. Jeter has great numbers against Edwin Jackson. Let's sit back and see if he gets a hit here. NEWS FLASH. IT'S DEREK FRIGGIN JETER. He's a .317 career hitter over 13 sesaons, is going to walk his way to being one of the all-time leaders in hits, and could retire tomorrow and make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. HE HAS GOOD NUMBERS AGAINST EVERYONE. PUT ON A PLAY. This team needs to scratch every run it can get. It needs a manager who is AGRESSIVE, putting pressure on the oppossing pitcher at every opportunity. Apparently this isn't Joe Girardi. Zero runs.

Top 2, 1st and 2nd, no outs. Cano at the plate. Hitting .350+ recently, very good contact hitter, can get wood to pitches well out of the strike zone. Play? No way. Let's see if Cano can double here, that's what sabermetrics says is the smart thing to do. Zero runs.

Inexcusable. INEXCUSABLE. INEXCUSABLE. Sure, the team could make this a lot easier by just hitting. BUT IT ISN'T ALWAYS EASY! ISN'T THIS WHAT THE MANAGER IS THERE FOR? TO HELP GET HIS TEAM THROUGH TIMES LIKE THIS, BY DOING EVERYTHING HE CAN TO PUT THEM IN A POSITION TO WIN WHEN THINGS AREN'T GOING WELL?

And the players aren't getting off that easy. They should be forced to watch how excited Tampa Bay was when the pushed across the winning run on repeat 1,000 times. When Matsui hit that homer, they didn't even look excited. Check that, they didn't look excited enough. YOU JUST TIED a 1-0 game in the NINTH INNING. YOU STILL NOW HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN. GET FIRED UP.

I'm so tired of watching the same season on repeat. Every year, I say "They can't possible start slow again." Then I look up and it's 11-19, 9-11, 21-29, and now 19-21. Eventually, one year, this is going to catch up to them, and I am not going to feel bad. Shame on them for playing harder in August, for caring more in July, than they do in April and May. If Matsui had hit that homer in July/August, they'd be going wild, mark my words.

19-21 is NOT the end of the world. Thankfully the only team in the division playing well is Tampa Bay, and they haven't done anything close to running away with anything. BUT THIS TEAM COULD BE BETTER THAN 19-21, if they had a manager who knew what the definition of AGRESSIVE was. EMBARRASSING.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

R.I.P Judy Tavaranez Era

In early 2006, Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez were a two-headed monster with quite a knack for sucking at pitching. They were similarly ineffective, similarly overpaid, and basically interchangable. This inspired me to combine the two, calling them Judy Tavaranez. Needless to say, I wasn't a big fan of either. As far as I was concerned, Seanez already proved he couldn't pitch when he was part of the 2003 Bullpen By Committee disaster. And Tavarez (like a fellow Boras client) never really did anything to deserve the generous contract he got. Like Rudy, he was an occasionally-good reliever, except he broke his non-pitching hand in a fight with a dugout telephone after getting lit up in the 2004 playoffs.

In the span of a month, the Red Sox signed the two to over $8 million combined.

The player hating came to a peak on May 28, 2006 (my first weekend in Nashua), when Tim Wakefield pitched an eight-inning gem against the Devil Rays. Eight innings, no runs, five hits including a double by superstar Julio Lugo. Through eight, Wakefield had thrown 108 pitches and the Red Sox were up 5-0. As Tim McCarver once said, Wakefield doesn't even throw hard, so why not leave him in? Well, Francona decided to make the game more interesting by putting in Seanez, who promptly walked the bases loaded (similar to about 85% of his other outings that year).

Francona decided that it wasn't Seanez's day. So who did he put in to quench the fire? The unhittable rookie Jonathan Papelbon? No. The other part of the Judy monster, Julian Tavarez. As this was unfolding on the radio, I was getting ready for a level 8 flipout (last week's Lugo incident was a level 7). Julian walked two more guys and gave up a single. Tying run Carl Crawford was thrown out at the plate, but you'd think the lesson was learned.

It wasn't, because neither of the Judy Tavaranezes were DFAed after the game. It took another 24 appearances, 27 innings, 30 hits, 15 walks, one blown save, one shelling in an 18-inning game, and two bombs before the Red Sox released the worthless Seanez. And somehow Julian stayed on the team.

It was at this point that he started to grow on me. He became a lovable disaster like Curtis Leskanic from the 2004 team. He became Manny's spokesman, and because of his intangibles in the form of keeping Manny happy, I suggested last year that he deserved an "A" on his jersey because the Red Sox don't realize this is not hockey.

He was bad, but not terrible as a pitcher for the Red Sox. He was a bad (but not terrible) spot starter and a bad (but not terrible) long reliever. He also sometimes came in as a bad (but not terrible) short reliever. So that's why I found it to make absolutely no sense for him to be left off the playoff roster in favor of a terrible (worse than bad) reliver in Eric Gagne last year.

By the same token, I also don't understand why Julian was DFA'ed but Javier Lopez (who is terrible, not bad) and Mike Timlin (who is also terrible, not bad) are still on the roster.

Either way, I'm not heartbroken, because it's usually a good thing when you say goodbye to a bad reliever. But considering his intangibles and the fact that the Red Sox still have two terrible relievers on their squad, I'm a little bit uneasy about Julian's departure.

Not Built To Win Without #13

I had a basketball game last night at 8:15. The gym is two blocks away, and I like to get there early to get some shots up. I left after the Bottom of the 2nd thinking, "It doesn't look like I have to worry about Pettitte, but Matt Garza is going to shut this lineup down."

Part of the reason I watch or listen to every game is so that I don't have to have "the moment", when you finally get to your phone, radio, or TV, and in an instant find out what happened for the last five innings. When I got to my bag after the game and saw 5 New Messages, I didn't even need to look. I knew it was bad, and I was enraged. Even getting a big W on the court wasn't enough to spell my anger.

It turns out I needed to worry about Pettitte, and that's going to happen from time to time with this entire pitching staff. The real problem here is that this team is not built to win without Alex Rodriguez. As we stared at the 7-1 score (and the 10-4 Met game) in our apartment after the game, The Big Ticket, my roommate Donny, and my roommate Big B were all in agreement that it isn't just about #13's individual production, which was the most valuable in baseball last year (which obviously hurts to miss). It's just as much about what he does to the rest of the lineup.

The Yankees don't have a second #1 guy like the Red Sox, Phillies, Tigers, and many of the other top offenses in baseball. What they have is a lot of true #2's (Abreu, Matsui, and Jeter at least, Cano if he is going well and you could even say Damon). This is a great thing to have, but teams like this need their #1. It makes each of them more dangerous. They can only win without a #1 if they have GREAT pitching, something the Yankees do not have.

It's early, but this team needs Alex Rodriguez back badly. Jeter and Abreu need to start seeing more pitches to drive, and Matsui and Cano need the opportunity to do what they do best, which is punch the pitcher when he's down after dealing with #13. The list goes on. They could also use someone who can take over and win a game with one swing on the regular. Or at least the prospect of this occurance.

DV wrote a very useful recap of the Red Sox season to date yesterday. I'd like to do the same thing for the Yankees, except all I would write is, "Battling to stay afloat without A-Rod." This team has sent thirteen (13!) different players to the disabled list in the first six weeks of the season. As there are only 25 players on an active roster at a given time, this is a startling number to say the least. They miss Posada and Bruney, and could really use an effective Hughes, but it's really all about #13. It looks like it will be at least another week. Hopefully it's only that.

In other news, Ian Kennedy is pitching on Thursday after throwing only one inning for Scranton yesterday. Way to F it up, New York Baseball Yankees. Now a feel pitcher who got absolutely torched in his last tour in the bigs is going to be pitching on irregular rest, having not had a full start in nine days, against a good lineup, on the road. Not only is this irregularity wonderful for a 23 year old arm, I'm sure, but should be good for his effectiveness both short and long term as well. Make a decision. Are you going to always do what's right for Ian Kennedy, or always for the New York Yankees? Because it isn't always going to be both with young pitching.

Finally, I'm looking for a second opinion. I thought I read his lips, but did KG ask for ketchup or mustard on Lebron's spike last night?

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's Why We Watch (Volume 7)

So the season's a quarter of the way over, and we're all still trying to figure out what's going on with this year's Red Sox. Despite all the negativity that comes from my fingers day after day after day, I have to say that I'm impressed with the 2008 version so far. Sure, there are problems, and because it's my style, I'm going to continue to focus on the problems from here on in. That's nothing new. But all in all, this team has what it takes to secure another playoff berth. Here are some "It's Why We Watch" observations done, as always, in no type of logical order.

1. Starting with last night's game, I just have to make the following observations. The Julio Lugo game was worth one loss. Last night's game was worth exactly the same and I am not nearly as angry about it as I was about the Lugo game. No remote controls, no Swiffers, no nothing. And we are all guilty of that. It's just kind of funny. Wakefield got lit up, and that is bound to happen sometimes simply because of the nature of the knuckleball. It's something that Red Sox fans have learned to put up with and not really worry about, because for every outing like last night, there outings like his last one. His other loss this year came in a 3-0 shutout.

2. Also on the topic of last night's game, Timlin is bad. Craig Monroe drilled him for a game-clinching, momentum-changing bomb and his ERA still dropped over a run--to 10.00. His opponents' OPS is 1.112, which is higher than David Ortiz's career high and also higher than Barry Bonds's OPS during his 49-HR 2000 season. And don't say this is the result of a bad sample size: The season is 1/4 over.

3. Also with the season 25% over, it's worth saying that Nancy Drew's not playing terribly. Is he good? Hell no. Is he league average? Probably. Is he league average compared to people in his income bracket? No, he's probably the worst. Is he league average for corner outfielders? Nope. According to Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball, he's ranked as the 41st best outfielder in the league this far. Translation: By July 2008, Scott Cooper will still have two more All-Star selections than Nancy.

But anyway, his OBP is right around his .390 career average (.392). True, he's hit .235 over the past month with zero home runs, but he hasn't exactly cost the Red Sox any games. He's riding a six-game hitting streak and his not-disgraceful .284 average can't be considered a major byproduct of his pre-April 11 production anymore.

He's still not that good. Barring injury, he's well on his way to 120 strikeouts and 100 weak ground balls to the right side, and he's on pace for less than 40 extra-base hits. But he will walk and hit one single a night with his obligatory K and 4-3. Which sucks, but isn't THAT bad.

4. Coco Crisp is hitting .316 with as many extra-base hits as Nancy (8). In the last few days he has cranked a triple and two home runs, and he's hitting the ball hard every single time he's at the plate. But you're right, Red Sox fans. he should be benched. In all seriousness, the fourth guy in this outfield should be Drew, because he's a weaker hitter than Manny, Ellsbury, and Coco right now.

5. I already talked about Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ellsbury this weekend. This is the main reason this team's in first place.

6. I already talked about the bullpen all season. This is the main reason this team has more than five losses.

7. The starting pitching has to be in the same category as Nancy. Not good, but not awful. There are occasional glimmers of brilliance and occasional infuriating moments, like Matsuzaka's 8-walk game. All in all, it's looking like this rotation's going to be okay, even without the support of the two fat lugs in rehab. And the two lugs in rehab will be useful if someone gets hurt.

8. The old Olympia Sports commercials made me want to cut my wrists. The new Olympia Sports commercial (aforementioned cab driver driving a bald guy with his head painted like a baseball on Giveaway Bat Day) makes me want to cut my wrists. Vertically. Now I will only shop at their stores if they're selling Coco Crisp t-shirts at 75% off.