Monday, June 30, 2008

Leading Off and Playing Left Field...

Brett Gardner.

This is not ideal. Ideal is batting 9th and playing Center Field, with Damon leading off and in Left. But I guess we have to take baby steps here, and I'm fine with that. No update on Johnny, I know his foot has been barking, but hopefully he is just getting a day.

We've talked about it a million times. Melky has been nothing shy of terrible the last two months, and Gardner has been lighting it up at AAA. You have to at least give Gardner a shot. Maybe he hits, maybe he doesn't, but there is no risk. The only possible downside, if Gardner does in fact replace Melky in center, is ruining Melky's confidence. But if his confidence is ruined, could he possibly play any worse? Also, if you are ever going to be for real, getting benched won't ruin your confidence, it will motivate you.

I have no idea what Gardner will do, but I hope the two things he does really well, get on base and run, are things he continues to do. The Yankees have always been pesky at the bottom of the order, and they haven't been so far this year. Gardner could change that.

If he doesn't, the Yankees will have lost nothing. It is difficult to imagine Gardner being worse than Melky, no matter what he does. And hopefully the plan is to put Melky on the bench for a few weeks, to see if that turns him around. I see all positives here. It took a little while, but at least it didn't take any longer. Good spot.

Bull****

I understand and don't necessarily disagree with my boy Mr. H's commentary on the Red Sox' bullpen. It is not notable when relievers do a good job; however it is a big deal when they blow games. And all in all, Mr. H. right about Delcarmen pitching reasonably (REASONABLY) well as of late except for Saturday night (where he was awful).

Edit, 1:05 PM Monday: OOPS. By "OOPS" I mean his June OOPS before Saturday was .214. That is not "reasonably" well. That's outstanding. Five baserunners. Thanks to Gunn for pointing it out.

The general consensus in the newspapers this morning is that Okajima's lack of effectiveness stems from the fact that his splitter is not moving. The Herald quoted an anonymous Houston player referring to it as a "batting practice fastball." Many are blaming it on his lack of confidence in the health of his wrist.

If your splitter doesn't split, that usually is not good. If your splitter doesn't split and your control is shakier than it was previously, that's usually not a good combination.

Also, a factor overlooked is that Okajima's numbers in Japan were also not even close to as good as they were last year. As much as Craig thinks Okajima's the best thing to come over from Japan since Nintendo, holding expectations that high for the guy is unreasonable and unfair.

But any way you look at it, it is maddening and frustrating to see Okajima give away another game. Especially when it means dropping into second place behind the Religiously-Neutral Rays. And especially especially when anybody watching, Gamedaying, or (in my case) listening to it on the radio ALREADY KNOWS the game is over with a runner on first, one out, and Okajima coming into the game. I mean, I don't even think Craig, who is the biggest Okajima apologist on this website, was too surprised about what happened.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Subway Series Recap

But tHe YaNKEes neEd to SwEep the MeTs wE can"t LOse the SuBWay SerIEs!!!!!1

Obnoxious Pink Hat Red Sox fans get a lot of play, on this blog, and in a lot of places. This is largely the result of Pink Hats in Boston being new, as Pink Hats only show up when and where there is winning. As such, even though they don't get nearly the hype they do in Boston, Pink Hats exist in New York, and they drive me insane. And I know those Pink Hats were probably out in full force today when they saw the lineup Girardi posted for the Subway Series finale against the Mets. Betemit, Cabrera, Christian, and Molina don't give the Yankees the chance to win that Giambi, Abreu, and the scorching hot Robbie Cano do, and losing to the Mets, especially in a game that decides the series, drives Pink Hats crazy.

And in not giving the Yankees the best chance to win today, the Pink Hats are right. But you can't win every game, the season is long, guys need rest, and losing the Subway Series DEFINITELY should not factor in. Facing a pitcher whom lefties are hitting .180 against, and righties are hitting .280 against, is a perfect time to rest the lefty hitting Giambi, Abreu, and Cano. The Yankees had already won the Shea version of the series, and while sweeps are nice, 2 out of 3 is what you are always looking for. Not to mention three against Texas, the best hitting team in the AL, and four against Boston, who they are chasing, all without a day off coming up. Guess what, these games, and the rest of the season, matter more than the Subway Series. Of course, you'd still like to see the lineup do a lot more than they did against Oliver Perez today, but these things happen when the B lineup is out there. Girardi knows that the Yankees are 24-13 in the last 6 weeks (and getting A-Rod and Posada back), and that the upcoming games are way more important than winning the season series vs. the Mets. Great spot by him.

As for the rest of the series, Game 1 is one of those ones you really miss Chien-Ming Wang. That's pretty much all you can say about that.

I was at Game 2, and it's really amazing how it never stops being fun being Pedro Martinez's daddy. Whether it's a well pitched 2-1 loss, or getting knocked around for 5 runs in 5.2 innings (and getting outpitched by Sidney Ponson), this guy just cannot beat the New York Yankees. Although I like Pedro now, I still love that the Yankees always beat him. Just something about it. And a good job by Ponson. After working out of two major jams in the 2nd and 3rd with an impressive sinker and a good curveball, he used that sinker and curveball to mow the Mets down the rest of the way. I don't expect much from Ponson moving forward, but the Yankees have had a lot of luck catching lightning in a bottle the past few years. He could be the guy this year. He doesn't have great stuff, but the sinker is 92-93, and when he has the curveball and split working, it could be enough if he throws strikes. Again, maybe long shot, but it's been the Yankee way of late.

Game 3 was the best played game both ways. Andy Pettitte was excellent, and the Yankees did just enough against Johan Santana. The Yankee bullpen continued their dominance as Veras continues to emerge, Farnsworth continues to get outs when it counts (not blowing games), and Mariano Rivera continues to earn every penny he makes and then some (22 for 22 saves, 36.1 IP, 17 hits, 42 strikeouts against 3 walks, 3 earned runs, 0.74 era...terrible contract, right?). Remember when we had the big bullpen debate, when Joba Chamberlain was in the Yankees' bullpen? Now he's gone, and I'm still not sure New York doesn't have a better pen than Boston (and I'm not being snide here). Every time I turn on Baseball Tonight, Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen are surrendering game winning runs, and these are the guys everyone was drooling over (again not taking a jab, just commenting). Boston has blown 13 saves, good enough for fifth worst in the Majors. The Yankees have blown 4 saves, best in the Majors. This is mostly because of how great Veras has been (2.96 ERA, no blown saves), and how bad Okajima (3.15, 6 BS) and Delcarmen (3.97, 2 BS) have been in big spots, but if I was offered Okajima and Delcarmen for Veras and Farnsworth (4.00, no blown saves), I wouldn't do it. Yes, that's me talking about Kyle Farnsworth, but you know what, he's getting the big outs. Rivera and Papelbon is a Pick 'Em, but there is no question Rivera has been better this year, which is what I am talking about.

You don't like to get shut down like you did today. But again, B lineup, and good to get a decent start from Rasner, who has come down to Earth, but is still pitching effectively, which is actually just as encouraging as his lighting hot start, because effective (4.42 ERA currently) is what we are looking for from him. Also, David Robertson looks good, and could be a nice addition to the bullpen. Solid fastball, great curveball, and looks like he has a nice makeup. He certainly has done it at every level, including closing at Alabama, which is big in my book. I love getting people who have closed before, especially at bigtime college programs.

Overall a solid weekend for the Yankees, a split being just what I had hoped for last week. The Pittsburgh rainout, up 3-1, is infuriating, but nothing you can do about that. Big nine game homestand coming up. Three with Texas, four with Boston, and two with Tampa after an off day. Then the Pitt makeup game and three at Toronto before the break. If the Yankees can continue to play above .500 baseball for this stretch, they will be in good shape at what will be a much needed (and fun) All-Star Break.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Flow Sounds Better Than Average

But is C.C. Sabathia really a savage who would damage any [opposing hitter] trying to front on his clique?

I would say no. I heard on SportsCenter this morning that Sabathia, the central figure of the 2008 mid-season trade rumors, is looking for Johan Santana money at the end of this season. You do not have to be a sabermetrician or stat geek to know that C.C. Sabathia is not Johan Santana. Or even close. I chose today's title because Sabathia is better than average, just like The Game's flow. Sabathia is a very good pitcher. Santana is an elite pitcher. (The fact that I think the Mets will not get their money's worth out of Santana is irrelevant.) Therefore, Santana got paid like an elite pitcher and Sabathia should get paid like a very good pitcher.

Here are Santana's statistics (IP/W-L/ERA (ERA+)/WHIP/OBA/K/HR) in his last few years before cashing in:
2002: 108.1/8-6/2.99 (149)/1.23/.212/137/7
2003: 158.1/12-3/3.07 (148)/1.10/.216/169/17
2004: 228/20-6/2.61 (182)/0.92/.192/265/24
2005: 231.2/16-7/2.87 (155)/0.97/.210/238/22
2006: 233.2/19-6/2.77 (161)/1.00/.216/245/24
2007: 219/15-13/3.33 (130)/1.07/.225/235/33

Here are Sabathia's in the last seven years:
2001: 180.1/17-5/4.39 (102)/1.35/.228/171/19
2002: 210/13-11/4.37 (100)/1.36/.252/149/17
2003: 197.2/13-9/3.60 (122)/1.29/.255/141/19
2004: 188/11-10/4.12 (106)/1.32/.252/139/20
2005: 196.2/15-10/4.03 (104)/1.25/.248/161/19
2006: 192.2/12-11/3.22 (140)/1.17/.247/172/17
2007: 241/19-7/3.78 (143)/1.14/.259/209/20

With the exception of the last two years (which admittedly are the two most important), that ERA+ looks extremely average. Like The Game, he's better than average. But that's really all you can say. Is he dazzling? No. Is he a franchise pitcher? No. Is he a superstar? No. While it's debatable whether Santana is now, an era in which he was both was taken into consideration by the Mets.

Sabathia is known as an innings-eater, and he misses very few starts. But Santana clearly has a lot more 200+ inning seasons. With the exception of his rookie year, every year Santana's been in the league has seen a WHIP better than Sabathia's career best. While wins and losses are often a crummy indicator, there was a five-year stretch in which Sabathia was only 13 games over .500. Sounds more like Barry Zito than Santana.

Sabathia is good, but he gets hit a lot. Sure, a lot of that time we're talking about dinky hits, but they add up. Santana, though he gives up a lot more home runs (especially lately), has been comparatively unhittable. Sabathia struck out 209 last year; Santana has been over 200 K's in each of the last four. Santana's career pre-contract worst is better than Sabathia's career best.

The only argument Sabathia might have going for him is that unlike Santana, the numbers are going in the right direction. Just a few months ago, I argued against the Red Sox acquiring Santana because of unimpressive 2007 statistics, and--sure enough, he has not performed to expectations in 2008. Sabathia, however, seems to be getting better every year. Look at his walk totals: He's starting to look like someone who's really starting to get his stuff together. His numbers have dropped off a bit this year, but not in an alarming way like Santana in the second half of 2007.

But what I'm saying is a year like last year was surprising for Sabathia. For an extended period of time, that kind of performance was routine for Santana. Similarly, last night was a great start for Sabathia, and for a long time that's a routine performance for Santana. While Sabathia can be placed under the "promising" category, Santana was "proven" (and the Mets just decided to ignore the downward trend because of how "proven" Santana was).

You pay money for great, not "better than average." And you pay money for "proven," not "promising."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Timlin or Chris Smith?

The Joe Borowski rule has been broken pretty often this season, and the latest offender would have to be Mike Timlin. That rule, by the way, is "If you suck, it does not mean you are injured. It means you suck." Joe Borowski was promptly placed on the DL after an unsurprising blown save against the Red Sox. The same week, Tiger Woods lost the Masters and suspiciously needed knee surgery (he's since redeemed himself). Timlin was placed on the DL Saturday retroactive to June 17, and by June 26 he was already making a "rehab" appearance in Pawtucket.

Hmmm.

Well, if it is indeed the breaking the Joe Borowski Rule, Timlin is fixin' to be making a lot of rehab appearances in Pawtucket, because he hasn't shown all season that he is "healthy" (in other words, "good") enough to pitch at the major league level anymore.

But my real question here is: If he actually is injured instead of just breaking the Borowski Rule, what is going to happen when he is healthy enough to pitch again? Not to say the bullpen's been great lately, but it's been a serviceable major league bullpen. The logical choice is to send down Chris Smith, who started his season here, then pitched well in Pawtucket, and (with the exception of the second batter he faced in the majors) has pitched pretty well in Boston.

His total stats in 2008: 46 1/3 innings, 8 runs (7 earned), 32 hits, 4 HR, 8 BB, 44 K, .195 OBA (Pawtucket), 1.52 ERA.
Timlin's MLB stats: 21 2/3 IP, 18 runs (17 earned), 29 hits, 3 HR, 11 BB, 12 K, .322 OBA, 7.06 ERA.

How long are the Red Sox going to put their sentimental relationship with Old Yeller in front of putting the best players on the field? The numbers speak for themselves: Timlin could get guys out in 2004, Smith can get guys out in 2008. And the last time I checked the calendar, it is not 2004.

Terrible Draft

I really dislike burying DV's posts, especially ones as good as the one below. I read it a few months back when he wrote it, and it's very worth the entire read.

I have a lot to say about a lot of things today, but am not going into all of them in depth. I'd like to talk about the gutless Mets, moving Pedro back to pitch at Shea with a nice, soft, non-DH, pitcher-filled landing ground instead of pitching him on schedule, with the chance to stick it to the Yankees at the Stadium. I know the Yankees have been treating Pedro like a rented mule for a long time, but have a pair, and pitch him on schedule.

I'd also like to talk about MLB's scheduling, and how the Yankees rarely get a day game before traveling. This drives me insane. Not only is it inconvenient to begin with, but then when anything goes wrong, like last night, its a total screw job. I know it's all about ratings, and I'm fine with that. Make the money. But make everyone else play night games right before they travel too. Make it fair.

The only thing I REALLY want to talk about tonight is the Knicks First Round Draft pick. I can't really explain what I felt, standing behind the bar last night, when I saw Stern mouth his name (no volume) last night. Frustration. Anger. Disagreement. Confused. Concerned. Mystified. All of these things together. That's what I felt when the Knicks drafted Danilo Gallinari.

I like the NBA. But I love College Basketball. After baseball it's easily the sport I follow most closely, probably watching 10-12 full games per week, never missing a St. John's game. I see a lot of players, and therefore I take a big interest in the draft. So let's take this step by step.

For me, the Knicks needed a combo guard who could both play the point and score. So before I take the best forward available (which the Knicks did not), I would have taken O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon for sure, and had thoughts about D.J. Augustine. Since the first two were gone, I would have taken Gordon. He's big. He's explosive. He can put it on the deck. And he has unlimited range. When you average 20 a game and bang 70 3's your freshman year, in a major conference, you can score. And he wasn't just a chucker. He has court presence. With what was left on the board, I'd have taken him without blinking and been thrilled with it.

Now, if Donnie Waslh, Mike D'Antoni and Co. want to take a forward, believing they can get a good point guard via the trade this off-season (lots of rumors of Lee for Felton), I can accept this. But how about taking the best forward available? This is Mr. Joe Alexander (I would have taken Love if he was there). A little undersized, sure. But a great blend of ATHLETICISM and TOUGHNESS to go along with size and skill (note the capitlalized words, they will be important in a second). Plus he's battle tested, playing in the best, most physical conference in America the last three seasons (that would be the Big East, hands down).

This is not to knock Gallinari. He might turn into a very nice player. Maybe even great. But the odds are not on his side. Every year, we hear all this hype about the next European or International guy, and it seems like at least four or five get taken in the First Round every year. Forget franchise player. You know what, forget impact player. Heck, let's even forget all about any sort of contribution, positive or negative. How many of these guys are even on their respective rosters after one or two seasons?

A bit harsh? Yes. But you get my point. You look around the NBA, and there just aren't THAT many International players making bigtime impact. At least relative to all the hype we hear every year. Of course, we hear hype about American players too. But it seems like this hype at the very least usually translates to good, or servicable, or contribution. In other words, it doesn't translate to bust, which is what a lot of International players turn out to be. The skill may be there, but in many cases they just aren't capable physically. With American players that are college tested, the one thing we can almost always determine is that they are prepared physically.

Let's just say I'm an odds guy. So this is a risk I am almost NEVER willing to take. Sure, maybe Gallinari might have more upside than either Gordon or Alexander. But what are the chances either of those two bust? Not as high as Gallinari. And that is why I'm so upset over this pick. The Knicks needed something solid. They needed something proven, something tested. And let's not foget, it isn't like Gordon (especially in my eyes) or Alexander are limited to just being contributors. There is a lot of upside with them as well. So instead of getting something with upside and a fallback of good, the Knicks got upside with the fallback of a total waste of a #6 pick. They got a big old Jon Bandi Question Mark. I'm out on that.

Fun little sidenote that made the whole experience somewhat more tolerable for me. When Stern opened the envelope for the Knicks pick, he was clearly smirking. Not a spiteful Captain KKK smirk when one of his pitchers throws something besides a fastball and it gets hit for a single (as opposed to a homerun), but a "I can barely keep myself from laughing because I know how pissed Knick fans are going to be" smirk. You could tell how hard he was fighting it too, which was the best part. High comedy.

I am right, I swear I'm right

So "Vindicated" hit the shelves last week...or two months ago. It didn't cause as much of a stir as "Juiced," but it was certainly worth reading. The book was not as good as "Juiced" for many different reasons: 1) it was a lot of recycled material we all already read or seen on the news (unless you're Bud Selig), 2) there were not very many shocking revelations (some will be outlined here), and 3) it flat-out was not even close to as funny as the first one, as Jose didn't really tell tales of "imports," "slump-busters," and toting pistols in sports cars. I am done with my book report. It might be long, but I tried to split it up so I can talk about various topics without being too overwhelming.

Jose's Credibility: Okay. The guy's in financial trouble, mostly because he wants to drive big cars and live in big cribs like Rick Ross and R. Kelly. He admits that himself. Unlike other people with no money, he actually has some substance that will get him money. That substance would be a pretty sizeable story about the steroid history in baseball. Yes, he exaggerates to sell books and make the story a bit more sensational. (So did David Wells. So does the Boston Herald 365 times a year.) It's not that hard to read past the exaggerations with a discerning eye. Unless you're Bud Selig and you don't read at all. Jose also presents a lot of conspiracy theories (MLB pressuring Palmeiro to perjure himself to kill Jose's credibility, the Bush family keeping Clemens out of the first book, etc, etc, etc.)

The Bull: A central theme in "Vindicated" is that Jose considers himself a quiet, introverted, shy individual. He mentions it constantly. Shy guys don't flex their muscles, bang a lot of girls, drive sports cars, write books blowing the cover off of widespread scandals, or schedule dozens of radio interviews to promote said books. If there is ANYTHING within the context of this book that hurts Jose's credibility, it's this.

On Roger: Jose was going to name Clemens as someone he suspected of doping in the first book--the same way he named guys like Giambi and Bret Boone. It got edited out of the book. He also recorded interviews with 60 Minutes and Pedro Gomez. The Clemens part, again, was edited out. Jose theorizes that some powerful people related to Texas baseball (the Bush family) might have something to do with it. But he adds that he's a sucker for conspiracy theories.

June addendum: He also wrote many flattering things about Clemens in "Juiced," including how Roger was the only ballplayer he knew that didn't cheat on his wife. Obviously, that part can now be classified as fiction.

On Roger and B-12: Roger, Tejada, and Palmeiro have all hidden behind the "B-12" excuse. They are probably more retarded and even less well-read than Bud Selig, which is hard to fathom. In "Juiced," Canseco wrote that "I'm getting my B-12 shot" was always slang related to getting shot up with the juice. This slang was thrown around frequently because steroid use among players was THAT widespread. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if Canseco was exaggerating there too. But it was written in his first book. It just seems that everyone was talking about how much Jose sucked instead of actually reading his book. If they had done the second, they'd think these three guys were even more full of crap than they already do.

On Roger and loyalty: I don't question Jose's credibility as much as your average guy. Idiot? Scumbag? Egomaniac? A guy who doesn't have his head straight? Sure, absolutely. But why would he make up major lies now if he's so pissed off about being called a liar last time around? He will, however, change his opinion on things. In the second book, he flip-flopped on his "steroids are the future" opinion. He also said that after listening to Clemens talk to him and talk in front of Congress, he thinks Clemens didn't do it. Even he he knows something about Clemens, like Clemens saying "you have Deca-Durabolin bulging out of your veins," (that was in the book) he would cover for Clemens. He won't say anything for sure one way or another, but out of loyalty and perhaps post-witch hunt stupidity, Jose is loyal enough to not snitch on his boy. "I played favorites," he said regarding not putting Magglio Ordonez in his first book. Same can be said for Clemens. Maybe he's not telling the "whole truth," but nobody ever does.

On the Mitchell Report: Ohhh, he had a lot to say about this one. As he should have. Jose blows some smoke out of his butt about the Red Sox' bias. As I've said before, that is pretty bogus. It's just that the only guy Mitchell and his boys talked to, despite their ridiculous budget, happened to work in New York. That's the only reason. There are a thousand Radomskis. Jose does talk about how stupid Radomski's clients are, paying in personal checks and mailing the stuff to their own homes.

He does provide some quality stuff in this chapter, however. He talked about how congratulatory the report was to the MLB and the MLBPA, saying their cooperation is why baseball came back so strong after 1994. He called that a "crock," and the only cooperation that helped baseball come back was the fact that they all let the steroids scandal happen.

Jose also blasts Mitchell and his boys for doing a half-assed job. Yup, pretty much. According to Jose, the Mitchell lawyers didn't really care what he had to say. He never talked to Mitchell. The people Jose named never showed up in the report, but Brian Roberts did. I'm sure that a lot of the stuff he said about his experiences with the Mitchell lawyers was exaggerated. But is it really that incredible that the lawyers still just questioned Jose's credibility like everyone else still does despite his being correct about everything so far? That's what I find the most ridiculous.

On Arn Tellem, Giambi, and Brian Cashman: He never mentions Cashman by name (he should), but he talks about how Giambi, despite being a known juicehead, got a huge contract--and they wrote a steroids-related clause in his contract. Canseco writes: "way to stop the scourge on drugs, guys! Way to put more of a premium on a player's entertainment value than on his health! Way to use steroids to sell the game!"

On why players juiced: To keep their jobs. Steroids are "a leg up" and a "shortcut." But with the use of steroids, players could work out harder than ever without getting as tired. If you are fighting for a job with a guy who can work out six hours a day, you are probably going to do stuff--even if it's illegal--to enable you to work out six hours a day. He specifically mentions Shane Monahan as a perfect example of why 80% of players were on the juice.

On the villains: This part is totally unfair, because Bud Selig has done such a great job cleaning up baseball from steroids, and they will continue to lead the way when it comes to drug-free sport. Oh, wait a second, that was sarcastic. Jose names MLB as the reason steroids were as big as they were. A lot of this is recycled material, which is present throughout the book. He re-printed his testimony to Congress about how MLB has no interest in exposing the truth and will exploit its players by letting steroid use stay legal/undectectable in order to keep their pockets swollen. He said that people missed the point of "Juiced," claiming it was an exposé of Major League Baseball. Instead they just focused on the names, which is what we've been saying on this blog for over a year.

On A-Rod: Even Bud Selig knows what Canseco alleged in the book, so I don't have to write it again in an already too long post. What's important here is that Canseco called A-Rod "cautious" when talking about the juice. Cautious with his language, asking about how "one" can find it instead of how "I" can find it. He was cautious about how Jose may have had "trouble" with his steroid use. Knowing this and knowing everything we all know about A-Rod's inability to make decisions and image-consciousness (we don't see many pictures of him with a beer bong), I believe he never did steroids. Not because he has morals (Canseco pointed out that A-Rod's $252 million was twice as much as Kevin Garnett's American sports record $126 million contract). Not because he loves baseball (Game 4, 2007 World Series). But because he's a coward.

On Magglio Ordonez: The Sox just finished a three-game series against Detroit. June addendum: Now you know how old this book report is. Why isn't anyone talking about Jose poking Ordonez with roids and Ordonez not denying these allegations? I'm flabbergasted. The way I see it, he should be ridiculed like McGwire, Giambi, and Bonds right now.

Maybe the media thinks that MLB has already fixed the problem (way to do kinda-independent testing, MLB. Way to suspend Guillen and Gibbons, MLB. Way to exercise the "Bonds Clause," MLB). Maybe the media is just sick of steroids. If they're sick of it, I want to know why they're not sick of Spygate (linked to zero deaths so far), and I especially want to know why they're not sick of the NFL Draft, to which they devote 12 minutes of SportsCenter EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR THE TWO MONTHS! But yeah, you're right, steroids is beating a dead horse.

Maybe they're playing the credibility card--again. Yes, Jose has made a lot of mistakes. He exaggerates. He loves the spotlight. He loves money. Jose deserves credit for Juiced, but instead people are STILL calling him a liar. How did that work out last time?

Somewhere in Milwaukee, an illiterate numbskull is laughing.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Joba Chamberlain, The Starter

I have done a lot of talking on this blog about Joba Chamberlain, the reliever, which is not surprising given my love for prospects. I have done almost no talking about Joba Chamberlain, the starter, which is equally surprising, given I love starting pitching prospects more than all the rest.

It can be summed up pretty quickly. He's good. He has the makings to be one of those arms an organization grows every other decade. After watching these first five starts, he's one of those guys you look at and just say he has to stay healthy. That's it. Everything else is there.

This is not to say that he is going to reach his full potential, be a 20 game winner, win multiple Cy Young's, and be a big game pitcher. It is way to early to determine that. No matter what, I'm sure there will be some speed bumps. But the talent is there. There is no real ceiling, he has that much in him.

This is also not to say Joba won't experience injuries, which is the real concern. It is somewhat safe to say if he stays healthy, he will at least be good. He wasn't really given a smooth transition, and yet he made it one. The Yankees are 4-1 in his starts, he's struck out 25 in 25 innings, and he has a 1.80 ERA as a starter. Pretty smooth, to say the least, and shows that he can probably, at worst, be a #2/#3 type starter.

But we have seen injuries derail talent like this regularly, especially amongst pitchers. Joba is a big guy. He also seems to have a tendency to let his arm drag behind his body, not getting it through his delivery on time, which is not good (I could be seeing things, and I could be nitpicking here). I don't mean to sound pessimistic, because I'm not. I just want to point out that I see injury, which is a concern for any young pitcher, as the only real thing that could make him ineffective.

His fastball is as quality a pitch as there is in baseball. A big question mark was his ability, as a starter, to keep it up over 100+ pitches. Last night his 97th pitch was 98 mph on the gun. He's been smart, operating 94-96, and getting more out of it when he needs/wants to. His slider is still filthy, and his curveball looks great. He's only flashed the changeup, and I think he needs to use it more when he starts seeing tougher lefties. To be fair, Houston has a good lineup, but outside of that he hasn't seen a bigtime lineup. Good lefties are going to fight his fastball off the other way and look to drive his breaking balls. Right now he is relying on beating lefties with his fastball, straight up, and then getting their bat started early (protecting fastball), and dropping a breaking ball on them. Eventually they will start guessing one way or the other, and beating him when they guess right. The changeup takes the guess out of the picture in large part, because it is a totally different pitch, and he needs to do this.

Having Joba in the rotation, while it sort of saves the Yankees with the Wang loss, sort of makes the Wang loss sting a little more. With Wang, Joba, Pettitte, and Mussina, you have four pitchers you trust. Get something out of that fifth spot, and you are really turning the rotation over, something the Yankees haven't been able to do since 2003. Now you only have three guys you trust, and are scrambling for two spots, which is a big difference from just one. With a healthy Wang, the Yankees really would have had the chance to do some big things with the rest of this regular season pitching wise.. Now it's just another offensive dogfight.

Tonight is not a must win. There are no must wins in June. I've said something along those lines a million times. But this is the next step down. You don't want to drop back to back series against NL Central teams going into a 4 game series with the Mets, who treat every Subway Series like the World Series. Win tonight, you go into the weekend looking for a split or better, hopefully get the split, and come out of Interleague Play 11-7, and everyone feels good. It was last year that the Yankees went 1-5 in their last 6 Interleague games, turning what would have been a big plus on the schedule into a disaster. It would not be good to let it happen again.

A Better Day All Around

Yesterday, both Pat and I had a lot to complain about. He complained about umpiring confrontations and I complained about the coverage of last night's Red Sox game. Surprisingly, he didn't complain about the Yankees' performance against Pittsburgh, but I'm assuming that's a result of him not wanting to re-live the 2007 season again.

Today is a better day on all three fronts. As Pat will likely talk about today, Joba Chamberlain is transitioning into the starter role better than most people expected. Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo went back to doing their jobs last night on NESN, and they went back to doing a very good job. And on SportsCenter this morning, I saw an umpire confrontation with Marcus Thames of the Detroit Tigers, but it was instigated by Thames, not the umpire. So good job on that one.

Just some other observations:
1. After three doubles last night, Coco Crisp's batting average is up to .271.
2. It is good to hear that David Ortiz is only a few weeks away from being back to playing baseball. Assuming that Nancy Drew's hot streak is a thing of the past, his return would be very well-timed.
3. Tim Wakefield is the man. I will probably never really complain about his performance.
4. Does anybody actually care about Roush Fenway Racing? I would assume the answer is yes. Like hockey fans and pro wrestling fans, racing fans are very, very devoted to their sport, and they would absolutely gobble up tickets to last night's Red Sox game just to see the NASCAR gimmick. Only thing that doesn't make sense there is...the game was already sold out to baseball fans. It seems like the minor league style NASCAR promotion (par for the course with the Red Sox) fell on deaf ears last night.
5. An okay article about pink hats in today's Globe. They come close to getting it:

Gillin believes that anti-pink hat sentiment is likely the result of an identity crisis, the growing pains of a fan base trying to redefine itself.

Close. It's moreso an uncomfortable assimilation between the former "most knowledgable fans in sports" and people who use their newfound fanhood as a way to call attention to themselves (the article mentions people waving to the TV camera on their cell phones), but they're getting there. It's almost been five years since Pink Hat Nation's infancy (October 2003: OMG i WANT TO SEA THE RED SOCKS BEAT THE YANEKES!!!!11 OH THEY LOST I KONW <3 BRAKE TO!!!1). Despite not learning the English language, some of those fans have actually gained some knowledge about the team and the sport. However, they still primarily follow the team because they want to be fashionable, and that's why the assimilation has been so uncomfortable. I'm sure we'll have a raging comments section about this, and I'm expecting to earn my master's degree in this subject matter by October 2, 2011.

6. No game tonight. I'm thinking tomorrow's work day will involve editing and updating my Jose Canseco book report that I wrote over two months ago.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Lows Every Day

First, read DV's post below about last night's Red Sox game. It was on in the bar, and I had no idea what was going on, other than that there were at least as many shots of Orsillo and Remy with someone inbetween them in the booth as there were of the baseball game, which was even bothering me, and I was watching two other games at the same time.

The title above would be referring to Major League Baseball Umpires. They are literally reaching new lows every day. The actions by the homeplate umpire in last night's Mets/Mariners game (I don't even know his name) were a joke. Laughable. Disgusting. Arrogant. Embarrassing. Pathetic. And it was a perfect example of what umpiring has become all about. Umpiring itself, for the show of it. Not umpiring for the sake of the game.

Curveball to Beltran. Questionable strike call. It was inside and down. Not saying it wasn't a strike. Not saying it was. Both sides could have a case. Beltran, although I have no idea what he said, did exactly what you like to see batters do when they disagree. He didn't look at the umpire. Didn't show any emotion or disagreement on his face. He calmy said his little piece about where he thought the pitch was, and from the looks of it, it looked like he was saying nothing more than "ball was low". This is 100% by the book the way you are supposed to go about this, the way UMPIRES want players to go about this. Not arguing. Not making a scene. Not looking at them. Not yelling. Not showing them up. You could say Beltran was being respectful.

Of course, the favore was not returned. The homeplate umpire walked in front of the catcher, and started talking to Beltran, looking at him. He then wiped the plate, still talking to him, still looking up at him. This, by itslef, is disgusting. Beltran disagrees with your call, does it the right way, then YOU show him up? And this will be the same guy complaining when someone shows him up, guaranteed.

What's worse, Jerry Manuel (probably upset by the way the umpire treated Beltran) comes out to argue (slash protect his guy from being shown up this way). What does the homeplate umpire do? Gives him about five seconds of saying his piece, CLEARLY BUMPS JERRY MANUEL, and throws him out of the game. ?!?!?!?!?!???!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!?! You can't make this stuff up. The homeplate umpire went out of his way to bump the manager of a baseball team.

After that, because clearly, the homeplate umpire is not the star of the show yet, he throws Beltran out after Manuel has left the field. Again, it barely looked like Beltran was saying anything. Whatever he was saying, the homeplate umpire should have realized he was already totally out of control, and just ate it.

Of course, that is too much to ask. It's all too much to ask of umpires these days. They blow calls left and right. This you can deal with as a player, a manager, a fan, whatever. And you would hope that this would be enough for them. But it isn't. And that is the part that I just can't handle. I can't handle that blowing calls they know they blow a lot of (granted, difficult ones, but they KNOW how many they blow) isn't enough. They have to act with a level of arrogance and desire for the spotlight that is almost unfathomable from a group that does their job so poorly to begin with. You want to blow the calls, great. But after that, STAY OUT OF THE WAY OF THE GAME. They just don't do it. Last night should be a big suspension for that umpire. I'm talking 10 games. Umpires should be held to higher standards. It will be interesting to see what Major League Baseball does here. I doubt I'll be satisfied.

Unwatchable

Scooter the talking baseball on playoff baseball games? Joe Buck's "disgusting act" call regarding Randy Moss's fake-moon? Joe Morgan's five-inning-long explanation of why Manny Ramirez plays too shallow? Wilmington High School football on public access television? ESPN's NFL Draft coverage? Ben Affleck using his undeserved celebrity status to call Lou Merloni terrible on NESN? LeBron James having "no regard for human life?" TBS missing at-bats in the playoffs so they could play one more Frank TV commercial? The two-week eulogy of the late Brett Favre after he passed away on March 4?

Skip Bayless?

All of these would be examples of better sports coverage than last night's game on NESN. It was by a landslide the most poorly covered sporting event I have ever seen in my entire life. Shame on the Red Sox, shame on NESN, and shame on Jerry Remy for allowing "Jerry Remy Night" to supersede the baseball game that was going on. The parties involved prioritized the anniversary of a guy showing up to work for 20 years, interviews with B-list celebrities (though it was nice to see Bob Kurtz), reminiscing about old times, and similar nonsense instead of doing their jobs. As sports broadcasters, it is your job to broadcast the game that's going on instead of talking about yourself.

Honoring Remy before the game? Sure, that would have been fine. That would have been respectful. Talking about it non-stop if the game was rained out? That's okay too. But Remy, Orsillo, and [insert irrelevant celebrity here] decided to draw it out throughout the entire game. We are watching NESN and suffering through the "kidney dialysis," "It's Why We Watch" and "spit in the glove, kid" commercials because we want to hear people talk about the baseball game that's going on.

WATCHING YOU DWEEBS CHAT ABOUT YOURSELVES FOR NINE STRAIGHT INNINGS. IT'S NOT WHY WE WATCH.

It's too bad, because last night's game that we saw some plays of in between shots of the FREAKING broadcast booth was a pretty good baseball game. It wasn't a 7-2 yawnfest with a million errors. There was a great eighth-inning comeback. Papelbon bounced back. Varitek got his one hit for the month of June (and it was a key hit). Nancy's new cold streak is something for broadcasters to discuss. Pedroia is back to hitting the ball the way he's supposed to instead of swinging for the fences. But we missed ALL of that, because Jerry Remy showed up to work on June 24, 1988. Unfortunately, he didn't show up to work on June 24, 2008.

Mr. "Bank at Sovereign, Buy Your Lexus and Clothing in Watertown, Buy My Merchandise, Vote for Me, and Drink My Kool-Aid," as of last night, is no better than Joe Buck, and I mean that. Joe Buck is an awful announcer partially because he feels like he is more important than the game. Injecting his opinions about Randy Moss's "disgusting act" is a perfect example of Buck's arrogance and thinking his opinions and his views as a follower of the game is more important than doing his job and talking about what is happening on the playing field. Remy was nearing that point more and more throughout the 2007 season, and though he backed off slightly in 2008, yesterday put him over the top. He's just as bad as Joe Buck.

And he's also just as bad as the umpires who decide to be heroes with their calls and make themselves more important than the game.

Moreso, shame on the NESN producers for turning "Arizona at Boston" into this circus. Are ratings sagging so much that you have to do this gimmicky nonsense (Roush Fenway Night tonight is similar)? Adding fluff like Sox Appeal to your schedule is one thing: You can ignore that. Watering down the quality of your baseball coverage is different, because in this region, you can't get the Red Sox anywhere else. I can't MLB.tv the coverage from the opposing team's broadcast, most likely a broadcast that hasn't totally lost its direction.

When I saw the Affleck clip on TV last night, I realized that one of the reasons American society is going down the crapper is the fact that people put celebrities on a pedestal. Because of this, shows like Entertainment Tonight (which is worse television programming than the Jerry Springer Show) exist. And because of those shows and paparazzi, famous people are incapable of living normal lives anymore. That is terrible.

But the only thing worse than that is famous people who realize they're famous so they put themselves on a pedestal. Affleck talking trash on NESN years ago is an example. Affleck interrupting Red Sox games so he could get himself on television again. And Remy doing what he did last night is another example. He didn't seem a bit ashamed of what happened last night, and neither did Orsillo. If he hadn't lost his direction, he wouldn't have reveled in his own glory and would have instead done what he's done for eighteen years out of the last 20: Stop the madness, do his job and provide color commentary on Red Sox baseball.

(Two asides: 1. You don't see me talking about marathon running too often on this blog, despite the crap I've done in the last nine months. 2. Matt Damon is my favorite actor because when ESPN tried to interview him during a Red Sox game, he told them to piss off because he was watching a Red Sox game.)

Unfortunately, between the endorsements, the shameless promotion of a fake fan club, the constant sales pitches, and longevity, Jerry Remy and Red Sox broadcasts on NESN have lost their way. It's a shame because, all in all, I liked Remy's analysis through 2006. Last night's broadcast, despite being a terrific baseball game, was probably a worse option than watching the new reality series "I Survived a Japanese Game Show."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Some Years, Everything Just Goes Your Way" (Part 2)

Pat said maybe a week ago, quoting Shane Spencer, that some years everything seems to go a team's way. If that quote rings true for any team this year, it's Boston. Though the Red Sox are not by any means running away with the AL East like the 1998 Yankees did (they had a 10-game lead ten years ago today), all month long I have had a growing feeling that the 2008 team was destined to win this division. Not because they're far and away the best team in the division, because they're not. Not because the Yankees or the Religiously-Neutral Rays suck. They have just played consistent ball despite a multitude of setbacks. Think of it this way:

A. Julio Lugo's defense, as deplorable as it has been, has only cost the Red Sox two or three games.
B. Jason Varitek gets about one hit a month, but it always happens to be in a key spot.
C. Mike Lowell went down and Sean Casey stepped up fine.
D. Clay Buchholz went down and Justin Masterson stepped up fine.
E. Beckett's start has been un-ace-like, but Jon Lester--the biggest question mark in this rotation--has stepped up to a point where he's pitching like an ace.
F. The bullpen has been atrocious and Papelbon has proven four times this year that he is NOT Mariano Rivera, but the team remains in first place.
G. Pedroia hit about .175 for a month and nobody noticed because everyone else was hitting.
H. Youkilis hit about .175 for a month and nobody noticed because everyone else was hitting.
I. Ortiz hit .100 for a month and people noticed, but they still hovered around first place.
J. Coco has not sucked. Lugo has not sucked at the plate.
K. The team is bad on the road, but makes up for it by being unbeatable at home.
L. Despite Joel Piniero never throwing more than 13 pitches in the game Sunday, indicating awful plate patience, the Sox still won the game (just wanted to throw that observation in there).

But more than anything, it's because David Ortiz suffered what could be a season-ending injury and the Red Sox' offense has scored 5.04 runs per game compared to 5.00 runs per game before the injury.

And it's all because of J.D. Drew. He's been a monster from the 3-hole and, as many have already said, he's shown a flash of the brilliance that has elicited the hype that makes people think he does not suck. He has already exceeded his 2007 home run total in less than half the regular season. He has the highest batting average on the team. And he's getting the RBIs we said he needed to get while discussing his 2007 total before the season started. He's second in the league in OBP and runs scored and third in OPS. He's fifth in runs created. I set David Murphy as the standard to which his RBIs must match, and I didn't anticipate Murphy to be fifth in the AL in RBIs. Drew is still behind Murphy, but only by six.

At the same time, however, he has shown extended flashes of said brililance like this before, as also pointed out by the talking heads in the newspapers and the television. However, each time he slips right back into the Nancy Drew we got to know so well last year. Maybe it has already started: He's 2 for his last 15 with five weak ground balls to the right side.

I am pretty confident that we'll see the old Nancy Drew back, the one that provides more questions than answers. But when that happens, I just have that feeling that Manny will get hot again, Pedroia's going to get back to .310, and Coco Crisp will start hitting .500 for a month.

Especially the last part.

Who Else Could Help The Yankees?

Yesterday I wrote about Derek Jeter. And I feel strongly that the Yankees NEED him to start playing if they are going to continue winning when the schedule heats up. Of course, it wouldn't hurt if Cano started hitting either, since he has a track record as well. Outside of these two upping their production, where else could the Yankees legitimately get a boost from in the second half, one they are probably going to need? Let's run down a few of the top names.

-Brett Gardner. Everyone who reads this blog knows him all too well. But it isn't a joke anymore, not at all. The fact that he isn't up already is questionable. Bronx gives you all the numbers regularly, and all you really need to know is that he has plus OBP skills and plus plus speed, tools that typically translate at every level, and the latter is something the Yankees could really use. The Yankees will have to make some moves this weekend with the double header, and I hope one of them is adding a pitcher for Moeller (Karstens, Ponson), then adding Gardner for that pitcher when the weekend is over, as we don't need 3 catchers or 13 pitchers any longer. He has earned it, and Melky is doing nothing to keep him off his back.

-David Robertson. Former University of Alabama closer is sporting a 1.74 ERA in Scranton. Throws strikes, his fastball moves, solid-average changeup, and a Major League ready curveball. There is no reason not to at least see what he can do, especially when LaTroy Hawkins is sitting in the bullpen.

-Ian Kennedy. In his first rehab start last night he allowed 1 run on 3 hits in 3 innings (pitch count), striking out 7 against 0 walks. 9 outs. 7 K's. I don't care what level it is, that's impressive. There is clearly something in there, as he has succeeded at every level in his career in a major way minus April of this year. When he comes back up, you hope he is more like he has been the rest of his life, not April. The rest of his life, he's been dominant. In April, he was awful. I'd settle for good.

-Phil Hughes. I don't see a contribution this year. But he'll probably get a shot so he's on here. He was inconsistent last year after the injury, and this year just plain stunk, with mechanical issues aplenty. The Yankees should learn from Edison Volquez, and just groom Hughes in the minors until he has everything worked out. Then when they bring him back, do it with no expectations, and with a commitment to letting him take his lumps so he learns his lessons. I doubt they will, though. Look for him in August.

-Mark Melancon. Personal favorite. Ripping AA to shreads. There is little doubt in my mind he can get Major Leaguers out right now, as he's an absolute animal with filthy stuff. The only thing that concerns me here is that he's already at 54 IP. Of course, this is great coming off TJ surgery, with the Yankees clearly building up his arm strength again. This is the right thing. But it may mean we won't see him in the Bronx this year, as they really focus on getting him fully back for next season. Which again, is the right thing. Just stinks if we have to wait another year to see this machine.

-Alfredo Aceves. Getting a lot of hype, and deservedly so. Signed out of the Mexican League last year, he's flat out pitching, with a 1.95 ERA between Tampa and Trenton over 97 IP. He was just promoted to Scranton, which tells me the Yankees want to get a look. And they should.

-JB Cox, Alan Horne, Daniel McCutchen. I put these three together because we've talked about them a lot before. All three will probably get a shot, in that order. Again, they should.

It should not come as a surprise that every name on this list but one is a pitcher. First, it's the way the Yankees farm is right now. Heavy at the top with pitching. Second, it's what they need. Gardner is unique in that there is a center field need right now, and he brings a speed element the Yankees could really utilize at the bottom of the order. Outside of that, this team needs pitching. I'm not knocking Darrell Rasner or Dan Giese, because there is nothing to knock to date. But at some point there might be. In the bullpen, Veras looks great, Ramirez good, and Farnsworth can contribute if used properly (not in the 8th inning), ditto Ohlendorf (one inning at a time, please). As the schedule gets tougher, this team absolutely needs another quality bullpen arm. My gut tells me another starter is going to need to step up at some point as well. Last year Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy answered the door when the Yankees were in a very similar situation. Can one, or more, of these names do it this year?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Time To Start Playing, Derek

The Yankees are playing pretty good baseball lately. Since they hit rock bottom at 20-25 almost exactly one month ago, they have gone 21-10. In my opinion, this has a lot to do with a soft schedule, which comes with pluses and minuses. The fact that they haven't just won, but dominated the soft schedule is good. The fact that they haven't yet played well against good teams is bad, because good teams will expose your weaknesses, something these bad teams just don't do to you. So this recent torrid streak is a mixed bag for me.

Last week, DV called my lack of concern over the Wang injury, in relation to a tight playoff race, laughable. I think I need to continue to clarify here. If I was a betting man, I would say the Yankees are not going to win the East, especially without Wang, despite being only 4 out in the loss side with over half a season to play, and I was operating my Wang analysis on this premise. However, if I was a betting man, I would also bet on the Yankees to win the Wild Card. When push comes to shove, I like the Yankees to be better over the next 90 games than Tampa Bay and Oakland. So while losing Wang clearly hurts, and might have impacted the AL East race, I really don't care about that. Even if it is close (it probably will be somewhat, with the Red Sox winning), it won't matter if the Yankees have the Wild Card, which I think they have a good shot of getting, with or without Wang. That's my whole point.

To tie these two paragraphs together, I think the Yankees are going to have to play slightly better baseball than they are right now, against a weak schedule, if the want to do win the Wild Card when the schedule gets tougher in July, and a lot tougher in August and September. I think they will do this, and it could come from any number of places, including Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Mark Melancon, David Robertson, JB Cox, any combination of these names, or even one we don't expect. However, all of these are relative unknowns when compared to one name: Derek Jeter.

Prior to this year, there is really nothing bad you could have said about Jeter. People would try. They'd say he's a punch and judy, or bloop and bleeder hitter. Yet I think we all know you can't be a career .318 hitter (prior to this year), consistently be in the Top 10 in the majors in line drive percentage, average 32 doubles per year, post a very respectable .845 career OPS, or be the only shortstop in Major League history to have five 200 hit seasons (he has 6) by dropping balls over the second baseman's head. They say he isn't a good defender. Certainly not great, but certainly good enough to play the position for the Yankees for a long time, which has to mean something. They say he's overrated. Take a look at his baseball-reference stat page, and tell me where you see overrated. When these are the major criticisms against you, and you have serious numbers to refute them, you know they are digging. You get into the positives, such as doing nothing but winning, and you know you are a pretty good player.

While this all matters for his career resume, none of this matters in 2008. At least for me. There is no pass. There is no free ride. He's been terrible, capital T. If he was wearing a C on his uniform this season, I would not be able to watch the games. I now know what DV has been talking about all these years.

Sure, the batting average is down. But more concerning are the on-base and power numbers. He's not swinging at good pitches, and he's REALLY not driving the ball, especially to that right center gap, which is a lot of his game. And that's the nice part of the evaluation. The not so nice part is that he has been INCREDIBLY untimely (double plays, strikeouts, etc.), and outside of that game winning homer in Houston, hasn't been all that clutch, two staples of his career.

He's actually playing better defense this year from what I see, and the numbers bear this out. But that isn't going to be the difference for the Yankees. While they could get boosts from a lot of guys (like the ones I mentioned above), none have the track records Jeter does, and therefore none are the candidate he is to do so. Simply put, they need Jeter to be Jeter. Getting on base, hitting with RISP, and putting KO punches on opposing pitchers, things he just isn't doing. And it's crushing the Yankees.

To his credit, when A-Rod was out, he went nuts, batting like .360 for nearly a month. But before that, and since this recent mini-hot streak, the Yankees have been doing whatever they have been doing despite him. Because of his track record, he is the obvious choice to give this team the lift they are going to need when they are playing Boston and Anaheim instead of Houston and San Diego. Because of his track record, you almost feel like he is going to do it. But what if he doesn't? Maybe then it's time for me to be more concerned with Wang and Tampa Bay.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Schilling out, now what?

They say you can never have enough pitching. Having a surplus of pitching means your team is not screwed if, say, someone like Curt Schilling announces he's not able to pitch until the All-Star Break. However, when the All-Star Break comes around, the team's pitching is doing great with their former fill-ins, and the fill-ins are probably better than Schilling would be coming off an injury in the first place?

Send Masterson to the minors? Designate Colon (who's been okay, better than Schilling would have been after an injury) for assignment? Send Lester to the bullpen? Of course, we just had this conversation while talking about Matsuzaka and Buchholz coming back off the DL. Like "fixing the glitch" on Office Space, the situation sort of worked itself out when Colon swung too hard.

Now, of course, the glitch has been fixed again, and we will no longer have to have any conversations about whether Schilling should start, relieve, or retire with his diminished post-injury capacity. Is it worth wasting innings, starts, or games to have this guy come back, we would have asked. But now that Schilling (whom I like, let me say again) has called it a season, the Red Sox will not have to go through that kind of conundrum.

That's a relief. For now. If two of the six starters go down, things would be pretty ugly and I'd go back on what I'm saying now. But I'm relieved for the Red Sox from a baseball standpoint (not needing to make those tough decisions) and I'm relieved for Schilling. As I said back in February, Schilling getting the surgery and retiring would make the most sense for him, too. He can be a family guy without the humor and concentrate his attention to his startup business ventures, which probably took up a bit too much time in his previous few years, including notably the 06-07 offseason. Not that there's anything wrong with that...anymore.

As an afterthought, I want to wonder in writing whether the Red Sox are going to balk at giving Schilling surgery again. It's been four months and it hasn't gotten any better. I also wonder if Schilling's going to gloat "I was right, I needed surgery" in his blog, and might use this against the Red Sox so he could sign somewhere else next year. I hope it doesn't happen, but it should be interesting to see what happens in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Little More On Wang

I want to make sure I clear up my stance on this. Losing Wang clearly hurts. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball in terms of production. You can't get around this. But there are season-ending injuries, and there are injuries that just make the season more difficult. In my opinion, because of the ferocity of the Yankees' lineup, Wang's injury is the latter.

If you look at it from a numbers perspective, this argument bears itself out. If the Yankees were to get league average production from Wang's replacement, they'd lose 1.6 wins the rest of the way. Since the Yankees are likely to get worse than that from Wang's replacement, at least in the near future, let's call it 2 wins. Obviously, you'd love to have these wins, as 2 wins can be a lot in a tight playoff race. But in recent years, this would not have changed the Yankees' standing at the end of the year. So unless it's a tight playoff race, losing Wang will not cost the Yankees their season. Their offense is just too good.

Losing someone like A-Rod is season ending. He himself is good for 5 wins the rest of the way. And again, that doesn't factor in the way the rest of the lineups' production will decrease without him in there. Let's guess, and call it 2 more wins. That's 7 wins. 7 wins will cost the Yankees a place in the playoffs.

And that's the point here. The perception (acurately) is probably that when a team loses a player that leagues the majors in wins over nearly 3 years, it's a huge blow. And this is probably true for most teams who don't have the type of explosive offense the Yankees have. But the Yankees have it. So this injury is not season ending. It just makes things more difficult, because you are going to lose a couple of wins.

Related, Bandi made an excellent point in the comments section yesterday about the Yankees trading Wang. For the right pitcher, I think this is an excellent idea, and with Wang two years from FA, one that could be mutually beneficial. The Yankees don't need bigtime pitching in the regular season, just in October, and Wang isn't a guaranteed lockdown in October. But other teams just want to win more games, and a guy like Wang could help them do that, on the relative cheap for at least two more years. If the Yankees can make Wang the centerpiece of a deal for a Bedard type, I'd do it.

Finally, the more and more I think about it, the more it's needling me that the city of Boston has now won more championships than the Yankees in the last 90 years. Call me petty, I liked that since the Yankees won their first, they, by themselves, had more championships than any city in America. And the Red Sox have a pretty good ballclub this year. Get on your horse Cashman. Get on your horse Girardi. I don't need the Red Sox bettering themselves to a World Championship every 30 years on average over the last 90, and extending the distance in this race. 1 every 45, while not 1 in 86, is more workable, and not only keeps Boston off the boards, but gives us a chance to even this puppy back up at 27! Winning more championships than every city in the country since you got your first is a nice little bragging right. I'm not asking for too much here.

It's Why We Watch When 17 Happens (Volume 9)

"You guys watched the Celtics when they sucked because I watched the Celtics when they sucked and you had no choice."
-John V.

Pretty true, but I'm not going to pretend I watched them THAT closely. I'm a self-proclaimed one-dimensional sports fan and that sport would be baseball. My dad (and my brother for that matter) are not, and it is true that my dad especially did watch them every night when they sucked. And...

1. I probably feel happier for him after the Celtics won last night than I felt after the Red Sox won in 2004. When he was growing up, they were good. When he was my age, they were good. Then Len Bias decided to snort a few too many lines, Larry Bird got old, my dad started to have kids, they decided to employ dudes like Chris Ford and M.L. Carr, and the Celtics sucked pretty hard for about two decades. The fact that they're good again now as he turns 50 is nice. I'm happy for myself, for the rest of the Celtics fans, my boy John D, but especially my dad. It would still be like this if he hadn't reportedly thrown constant Pat-level temper tantrums throughout the playoffs.

2. They say back then that the Celtics respected Magic Johnson and the Laker Team. I do not respect Kobe Bryant. He is a smug scumbag with zero titles sans Shaq. Don't you remember when Phil Jackson said he was "uncoachable?" The only thing I liked about that guy the last two weeks is the fact that I made constant jokes about his run-in with the law in Colorado a few years ago.

3. Speaking of jokes in bad taste, the Jemele Hill suspension thing, at first glance, was an overreaction in my mind. Granted, I'm a blogger with no credibility, but I have no problem with the references she made. It's called "shock effect to prove a point." But when I found out that she called for Don Imus's firing over the "nappy-headed hos" comment beforehand and THEN made those references, she lost a lot of points. That said, she is not my least favorite personality on ESPN FirstTake.

4. I wanted to compare the Celtics' celebration with that of the Red Sox in 2004. I mean, the Red Sox players were happy and everything and their celebrations were great. Manny's trophy presentation, paying more attention to pointing at his friends instead of the Commissioner of Baseball, remains one of my favorite Manny moments of all time.

They said they understood what winning that title meant to Red Sox fans after the 86-year drought, and I believed them. That is, until last night. Last night I realized that those three guys (Garnett, Allen, and especially Pierce) were the ones who truly understood what Red Sox fans went through. They are all elite players, but time was running out and they were getting the feeling that they might never actually win a championship. Now that they did it, the weight was lifted. Please refer to Garnett's postgame interview. That's how Red Sox fans felt in October 2004.

5. Garnett's postgame interview leapfrogs him over Bob Knight, Manny, Joe Namath, and Randy Moss, putting him in the same category as Bill Parcells (1993-1997) and Coco Crisp (June 4-5, 2008).

6. I'm glad the playoffs ended with the 39-point blowout. I'm happy for Celtics fans that it happened like that. They've have gone through enough nailbiters--there was no need for one more. I'm mentally exhausted and I'm not even a hardcore Celtics fan. I'm also glad there isn't a Game Seven, because I'm physically exhausted. Not to mention that KG (not the basketball player, but my girlfriend who is tired of competing--and losing--to the Celtics in addition to the Patriots and Red Sox for my attention) would explode if Game Seven became a reality.

7. Jon Lester is really, really good when he's on. When he's off, he's pretty bad. But the frequency of good starts compared with bad starts is a lot better than I thought it would be. This is not "third starter ceiling" material.

8. In response to the Willie Randolph/Omar Minaya business, I agree that Minaya's botched this one really bad in several different ways. The public relations angle is obvious. The timing angle is also obvious. But the first column I read yesterday (I wish I remember whose it was) said that Minaya should have taken the fall like Bavasi did in Seattle. (Bavasi should have been fired for not trading for Coco Crisp.) Minaya's the one who made personnel moves for guys who just flat-out aren't that good, but ever since his arrival in NY, it seems (at least from afar) that he's been given immunity. Billy Wagner, Carlos Delgado, Pedro, Beltran. Sure, they're good, but they're not THAT good. I'm curious to see what the Big Ticket (not the basketball player, the HYD fan) thinks.

9. In response to Pat's Ramon Ramirez remarks yesterday, when he's unwilling to give up a mid-level prospect for the guy who could be the difference between a playoff contender and a World Series contender (not to say Shawn Chacon was one)...I disagree. And I wrote about this a year ago in Prospect Theory.

10. That's the number of the guy who hit the Red Sox' game-winning home run last night, his third in a week. He also had two stolen bases and was not thrown out trying to steal third base last night. We don't hear about Coco being fast anymore though, do we? Nick Cafardo wrote about this today in the Globe, and wrote that other teams who didn't want to trade for him settled for inferior players.

11. Last, but not least, I'm scared about Pat's characterization of Bill Simmons as someone who is worthless and "just recite[s] sports history and make[s] pop-culture references." Because that sounds a lot like me.

Celtics Win

There are many differences between Bill Simmons and myself. I have friends. I go out at night (or during the day, for that matter). I'm not a midget. I've hit puberty. I can make at least elementary analysis regarding sports, not just recite sports history and make pop-culture references. And perhaps most of all, I don't hate the Celtics just because they share a city with the Red Sox, like Simmons hates the Knicks because they share a city with the Yankees (which is to say, no good reason at all). The Knicks and Celtics have no real rivalry, and therefore the Celts are fine by me. So congratulations to all you crazy Celtics fans out there. Both teams were incredibly obnoxious, making it a lose lose for me and many neutral fans I know, but the Celtics were clearly the better team, and it is nice to see the best team win. Well done.

However, there is one little negative that comes with the Celtics win tonight. It is their 17th NBA Championship, and if you add the Bruins (5), Patriots (3), and Red Sox (2), the city of Boston now has more championships in the last 90 years (27) than the Yankees (26). Just sayin...

I'd also like to thank Eli Manning once more for allowing me to really be okay with this Celtics win.

Congrats again to all the Boston boys and girls out there on a much deserved championship.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Classless Mets

Terrible. That's all I can say about this. Terrible. Not the firing Willie Randolph part. Even though it is the player's fault (as it almost always is), this is baseball, and sometimes you just need to make a change at the top to shake things up. But I don't know if this could have been handled more poorly. Bad job.

Willie Randolph is a good guy. Whether or not he did a good job as a manager, he is a good guy. And he deserves to be treated with class and respect. The Mets failed on both counts. His job status has been in question for nearly a month. Last week the Mets experienced as bad a week as you can have. So then you let him stay on for the weekend, win two out of three. And then you fly him out to Anaheim where he wins again. And then you fire him, alerting the public through a press release just after 3 AM Eastern Time. Awful.

On top of that, you have all sorts of other stuff coming out today about how he has been undermined by the front office. Listen. Either you let a guy do his job or you get him out of there. Don't tamper with his job and expect that he is going to be able to do it successfully.

What's more, on Friday you have Omar Minaya saying that Willie is his manager, that he has full confidence in him to turn things around. He gets fired just over 72 hours later, and you have the Wilpons saying that it was Omar's decision. So either the General Manager or the Ownership is doing a total fake job here, and that's terrible. Again, Willie Randolph deserves a lot better than this.

The Yankee fan can't get too crazy here, because the Yankees didn't exactly ace the Joe Torre situation. But the Mets have totally outdone them here. This is in the middle of the season. And it was handled like a total mess. Nearly a day has gone by, and still nobody really knows what the deal is here. Totally unprofessional, no class whatsoever. And you wonder why the Mets can never win. It's a non-stop circus over in Queens.

Colonoscopy

So the Red Sox are now six starts and 33 innings into the "No risk, potentially high reward" experiment otherwise known as Bartolo Colon. I believe Pat mentioned the term "lightning in a bottle" when talking about Shawn Chacon a few years ago. That's what Colon looked like, but it looks like now that lightning is gone.

They said he was hitting 97 on the Pawtucket radar gun, and he was in the mid-to-upper 90s in his first starts in Boston. This time around, I believe his pitches were registering as 84 coming in and 197 going out. A bad day? Sure. But that's a really bad day, and low velocity was only one of his problems. His command was awful as well. If you are a power pitcher who can't blow people away and can't locate pitches, you are in for scenes like this:

Mike V: He's bigger than Jim Corsi.
(Bartolo gives up a bomb)
Dan V: He pitches just about as effectively as Jim Corsi.

His win against Baltimore (the one when Timlin got a high-five from Francona for turning a blowout into a SAVE STIUATION!!!!1) is now sandwiched in between two real stinkers. Don't tell Bartolo's biggest fan Mike V, but it's time to start thinking about Colon's long-term role on this team. In a perfect world not taking into account people's feelings, veteranship, innings load, and minor league options, it's not as a starter once Matsuzaka comes back. He's the sixth-best starter in the rotation, and he would be the best Ramiro Mendoza guy in baseball. It would do more good than sending Masterson back to Pawtucket.

I'm not saying he's not a serviceable fifth starter in this day in age. But I am going to say I'm concerned. And I'm also going to say he should be the guy skipped when the Red Sox get back-to-back Thursdays off, and that sending him to the bullpen and Timlin to the NESN studio* would be a better short-term move than sending Masterson to AAA.

*He. Is. Awful. Francona: You concede a two-run game in the fifth inning while a red-hot Nancy Drew is playing a Grudge Game (these happen in Philly, Atlanta, St. Louis, LA, and Arizona) by putting in Timlin? Really? Did you think he wasn't going to get lit up? Captain K said his "cutter wasn't cutting" and he "couldn't keep the ball down." And how this is different from the rest of the season?

"Some Years, Everything Just Goes Your Way"

If you've watched a Yankee game on YES this season, you've seen the commercial where Shane Spencer says the above quote about the 1998 Yankees, who put up the best season in the history of baseball. And he's right. Everything seemed to go that team's way, which, no matter how talented you are, you need to be that good.

This year, things are not going the Yankees' way. Their two best offensive players have missed over a month each. Their best reliever outside of Mariano Rivera has essentially missed the whole season. And now their most reliable starter is down until at least September.

This is unfortunate because this team was finally healthy, and after a frustrating first 6 weeks, was playing solid baseball, winning, and beginning to be some fun to watch. They have won 17 of their last 25 games.

Losing Wang hurts. Let's make no mistake about that. But I don't think it's devastating. Mr. H suggested in the most previous comments section that there might be nobody they could afford to lose more. I strongly disagree here. #13, Mo, and Posada are more indispensable year in and year out, and this season, Giambi and Damon have had more value to the Yankees than Wang has.

The reason is that this team is built to win behind an offense that scores a lot and a closer that doesn't blow many saves. That is why losing the key pieces in either of those departments would hurt more than any starter, even if it is the Yankees' best. Where losing Wang hurts is that it looked like the Yankees might have five reliable starters. Nobody that is going to blow you away, but nobody who stunk either, which is a great way to turn the rotation over. Now they have a hole, which is nothing new. It would have been nice not to have it, but they can probably live with it.

To be quite honest, I probably would have felt differently about this in March. If you told me Wang was going to be out for an extended period at that time, I'd probably have said the Yankees were in trouble. But losing A-Rod and Posada for over a month really opened my eyes to how much this team relies on offense. It doesn't much matter who pitches when this team is scoring. I also valued Wang then more than I do after these first 10 weeks. I haven't gotten to his analysis yet, but let's just say it wouldn't exactly be positive to the point where you'd walk away saying "The Yankees just can't lose this guy".

Don't get me wrong. Wang is this team's best pitcher. But while they have been going 18-7, he's had five starts, and given up 5, 5, 7, 1, and 0 runs. And they have won all five games even though he's been all over the place (like is replacement is likely to be). Which is the point. Wang plays every fifth day, as will his replacement. If he's out 10 weeks, that's what, 14-15 games he'd appear in that will now be pitched by someone else? If the replacement (Giese, Kennedy, McCutchen, Hughes, Horne) is reasonable in half those games, can the Yankees and their offense go 7-7, or better, in those games? Probably. And if so, is this really going to change their season? Probably not. This is why I view this as a lot better than losing a key position player for 60 games over the same stretch. Wang also doesn't have an impact on the rest of the rotation, the way an A-Rod or Posada have on the rest of the lineup.

Again, don't get me wrong. This isn't a good thing. It's also not a nothing thing. It hurts. But if Joba, Mussina, Pettitte, and Rasner keep games in the ballpark, and the offense goes like it has lately, the Yankees won't feel it that much. Maybe a couple of wins where Wang would have locked down on days the Yankees didn't score big. It also keeps them from having a hole-less rotation, which puts more pressure on the offense than there already is to keep the team on extended winning streaks. I could be totally off on this, too. But it isn't like Wang has been lights out this year. And it isn't like the Yankees' wouldn't rely on their offense even if he was healthy. Just look at the numbers above.

The one thing I don't want to see is a trade for a starting pitcher. The Yankees don't need it. I made the point for Santana, I'd make it for Sabathia, and I just made it above for Wang. Pitching only matters in the playoffs with this team (because of it's offense), and you can't guarantee me, for a lot of prospects, and a lot of money, that Sabathia, or anyone else, is going to perform in the playoffs (if the Yankees get there).

You can't rebuild halfway. Prospects are a numbers game. The more you give up, the more likely it is you are giving away the one, out of many, that will really be something. This just doesn't go for "big" prospects in "big" deals. To get Shawn Chacon, who turned out to be lightning in a bottle in 2005, the Yankees gave Colorado AA right-handed reliever Ramon Ramirez. Sure, Chacon was instrumental in the Yankees making the playoffs that year. But they lost in the First Round, and he lost his magic the following year, eventually being dealt away. Ramon Ramirez throws 95-96 with a devastating change-up, and is currently the set-up man for the Royals, posting a 3.31 ERA, with only 28 hits allowed and 37 strikeouts in 32.2 innings pitched. Oh yeah, and he's only 26 years old. Could the Yankees use someone like him? Who really won that deal?

If you are going to hold onto them, you have to try to hold onto all of them. Otherwise you risk losing the numbers game by giving away the wrong guy. Not just the future Joba's, but the Ramon Ramirez's, guys who can really help your club long term, not just for a two month playoff push to lose in the First Round. Hold onto them. It will pay dividends eventually, even if it isn't this year. In the meantime, the offense should be enough to cover up a lot of things.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Toss Up: Who Is Worse At Their Job?

Joe Girardi or Jerry Remy?

Hideki Matsui is amongst the league leaders in batting average. This means he knows how to hit, and is hitting well this season. It also probably means he hits both lefties and righties at least well. In Matsui's case, even though he is a lefty, he is actually hitting better against lefties (.342) than he is against righties (.316). Yet Girardi sat him against both lefties the Yankees faced this week. Somebody please explain this to me. If I saw these numbers, I'd be going out of my way to get Matsui in the lineup vs. lefties, not sit him. Especially in an NL park where it would be the perfect time to rest the struggling Melky and play Damon in center and Matsui in left. Not Girardi, he'll sit Matsui and bat the struggling Melky 6th instead! He lucked out last night with Melky getting some big hits, but that wasn't by design, that was luck. Stupidity. I can't take it.

Is there some rule on Fox where the color commentator has to be terrible? We've discussed the demise of Jerry Remy many times before on this blog. He went from above average to pitiful in less than four years. Being President of Red Sox Nation would get to my head too if I could wrap my head around what Red Sox Nation was, why I needed to pay to be a member, and what exactly it meant to be President.

Yesterday was particularly interesting (in a bad way) because Remy was on Fox. Not only was it my first time hearing him this year, but it was my first time ever hearing him not on NESN, where he can just act like a doofus and get away with it despite offering little baseball analysis. But he couldn't do this on National TV, and he was totally exposed, which was the interesting part.

I missed innings 7-9, so I can't comment on the totality of the broadcast. But I can comment on what I did hear. At this point in his career, he's basically a second play-by-play guy. We see a slider on the outer half taken to right field. The play-by-play guy tells us a slider was hit to right field. Then Remy tells us a slider was hit to right field (this exact example was one of many). Nothing about the quality of the pitch, nothing about the quality of the hitting. Just letting us know for the third time what happened, in case we didn't see or hear it the first time.

He was also incredibly obvious, which became my major beef with him on NESN. He'll go on and on for five minutes when somebody doesn't get a runner from second to third with no outs. It's like dude, we know. You're supposed to get the runner over. Don't tell us how bad it is that it didn't happen. You played baseball. Tell us why. Bad approach? Good pitching?

Finally, the worst part was that it wasn't a Red Sox broadcast, but Remy treated it like one. Is it natural for him, being that he's with them everyday, to have more Red Sox knowledge? Yes. But he is getting paid to do this. It's his job. There is no excuse not to do your homework inside and out on the Reds to be able to at least share some of his obvious thoughts about them (if he could provide analysis, he should be doing this as well). But he didn't. And that's terrible. When the Red Sox were pitching, we heard all about Red Sox pitching. When they were batting, ditto.

Just a bad job by someone who has turned into a really bad color analyst. We should let Orsillo work with Ken Singleton and Al Leiter and Michael Kay work with Remy, and switch which city gets the good broadcast team every series. This way Yankees and Red Sox fans will get a good broadcast for 81 games on the season, not zero.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's Why We Hit the SAP Button (Volume 8)

Holy crap. Nancy Drew is 18 for his last 36. And those 18 mean 18 hits, not 18 weak ground balls to the right side. I am loving the hate mail; keep it coming. But I believe it was some time last year that I said when Nancy hits, the Red Sox win. Has it ever been more true? Without further ado, here's the latest installment of It's Why We Watch:

1. Can't wait to drive home tomorrow just in time to watch Red Sox vs. Reds on FOX's national telecast. A great pitching matchup between Bill Wakefield and Edson Vazquez. The over-under on times McCarver starts talking about Thomas Edison is two.

2. I just Googled "Bill Wakefield" and found this gem on McCarver: His confusion between Tim and Bill is not new. He had the same problem in 1992, when he was presumably not too old to think. If you didn't know, Bill Wakefield, veteran of 119 major league innings, was McCarver's roommate for spring training for one year. Yes, one month.

But I don't blame him. I had roommates named Dan Moss, Tim Maguire, Fred Bailey, and Michael Collins. On this blog, I have mistakenly referred to Randy Moss as "Dan" and Mark McGwire as "Tim." On Christmas I watch "Fred" Bailey and his guardian angel and I listen to "Michael" Collins albums. No, wait a second. That's not true.

Tim McCarver is too old to think. He is only a few steps away from pulling his Cadillac up onto a walkway, speaking to the ticket windows from his car as if it were a fast food drive-thru, and shamelessly accosting women that would likely elicit a fine or an imprisonment for younger men. Not that I've ever experienced that here before.

3. Jon Lester is a very good pitcher when he's on. And he's been pretty on for a long time. It does concern me that he threw only sixty-eight pitches before he ran into trouble in the sixth inning (it seems like he tired). His seventh was good and efficient, though, and I said this same exact thing the start before his 130-pitch no-hitter.

4. Mike Timlin is a very bad pitcher when he's off. Wednesday was an example of that. But that is not news. He did accomplish something very important in that game, however. It was a 6-1 game, but by getting shelled he closed the gap to 6-3, which means IT EBCAME A SAVE SITATION!!!!!11 THAT MEANS PAPLEBON CAN PITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 Papelbon can be used for one out with a three-run margin of error, but the Red Sox go to Timlin, Lopez, or Aardsma before they go to him in a tie game in the eleventh.

5. I don't want to be President of Red Sox Nation. I don't want to be Governor of Red Sox Nation (you have to buy a $15 membership to become eligible). I also don't want to be a Senator of Red Sox Nation, a Congressman of Red Sox Nation, a Supreme Court Justice of Red Sox Nation, a State Senator of Red Sox Nation, a State Representative of Red Sox Nation, a Mayor of Red Sox Nation, a City Councilor of Red Sox Nation, a School Committee Member of Red Sox Nation, a City Moderator of Red Sox Nation, a Town Selectman of Red Sox Nation, or anything like that. If I wanted to be an Assistant to the Town Clerk of one of the towns in Red Sox Nation, would I still have to pay the $15? People are exploited less in Chinese sweatshops.

6. Not only did Nancy hit a home run yesterday, but he also hit the Green Monster for the seventh time in his Red Sox career (306 at-bats). So he either hits the Wall or clears it once every 36 at-bats, less than 1/4 as often as $36 million man Mike Lowell. Fenway Park Swing.

7. But even the biggest player hater in the world has to admit: 18-36 is pretty impressive. Lately, in this game of failures, his batting average is right around the same as the Yankees' winning percentage.

8. Nice game last night, Kobe Bryant. The Celtics came from behind on you without asking. You say you're going to get over this loss with wine, beer, and 20 shots. If you take 20 shots, doesn't that mean you're going to miss with 16 of them? In all seriousness, though, has anyone here seen such a strong difference between a team in the first quarter and the rest of the game? The Celtics' defense especially in the third quarter was incredible. How many times have the Celtics been outscored in the third this year? Three? Four? Great game.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

You Have To Do The Little Things

The Yankees are 33-33, which, 66 games through the season, is below their talent level. It's not the end of the world, especially considering nobody in the league has run away with anything (especially the Wild Card), but it's not ideal either.

True, some players, like Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Chien-Ming Wang in May, have underperformed on a mighty level. But others, like Darrell Rasner, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, and Johnny Damon (who has been one of the best left field bats in baseball), have overperformed expectations. Per usual, these things even themselves out.

So why are the Yankees still the definiton of average at this point? They don't do the little things. None of them. Last night's game is a perfect example.

Top 3, 1-0 lead, Damon walks, Jeter singles. 1st and 3rd, one out. Abreu and A-Rod in line. At the very least, you have to get 1 run here. Rasner has just thrown two of his sharpest innings of the season, striking out three, and you want to tack on for him. Thinking big, with the sizzling Matsui and Giambi behind Abreu and A-Rod, you are set up to do some damage. But Abreu strikes out looking. And then A-Rod strikes out looking. Leaving the bat on your shoulder with a runner on third base is inexcusable, especially with less than two outs. Not getting that run in is a big deal. It's a total momentum swinger when you don't get it in. The Yankees have failed to get it in at an alarming rate this year.

So the momentum swings, but Rasner comes out and gets a routine groundball just wide of first. Giambi fields, then air mails it over Rasner's head. So instead of coming out and getting a quick groundball out, Oakland is immediately on the offensive. They went on to score 6 of their 8 runs in that inning, and it isn't a coincidence.

Now, of course it doesn't help when Rasner, after retiring the next batter on a lazy flyball, allows six hits in a row. But that's just it, this is Darrell Rasner. No offense to him, he's been excellent. However, he hasn't magically turned into the '78 Ron Guidry. He's been good because he pitches to contact, and therefore needs his defense to give him the outs he gets. When Giambi muffs such a routine play, it isn't helping Rasner at all, because he's Darrell Rasner, not Ron Guidry. He's not going to be able to bear down and get two big strikeouts a majority of the time. Now all of a sudden, we have Hannahan bunting for a basehit, something that wouldn't have been a big deal without the error. Now there are two runners on. Now Rasner is really in trouble, because he's Darrell Rasner. He doesn't have big stuff, and instead of nibbling at corners like Darrell Rasner does, he has to come in on the plate more than he'd like to. And when he came in, he gave up five more hits, in a row.

This isn't Rasner's fault. He is who he is, and who he is can help the Yankees (it has been). But he can only help the Yankees if they do the little things for him. Like get runners in from third base. Like making routine plays behind him in the field. The Yankees don't do these things. None of them. They make the big catch. They hit the long ball. But they do not play sound, fundamental baseball. And they don't play to the situation, like realizing who is on the mound, what his limitations are, and how they can help him win. That is the main reason they are a .500 baseball team.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not Deep

That's all there is to say about the Red Sox' bullpen right now. It is not deep. Papelbon is good, obviously. But that's it.

Yesterday I have officially lost faith in Okajima. I will fall somewhere between the Pat F school of thought ("Okajima will get figured out") and the Craig school of thought ("He hasn't been that bad"). He's been bad, but it's partially his own doing. He's failed to locate the ball, and we have another classic example of bad command. He's missing both within the strike zone, where he's getting Timlined down the left field line with alarming frequency and away from the strike zone, where he's walking the bases loaded. With his own baserunners. Again. He's striking out just as many batters as last year (which would suggest he's not getting figured out), but he's walking a ton. And according to Varitek, he's hanging curveballs up in the zone. Wonderful.

Some nights, he does have that command, and those are the nights he gets 1-2-3 innings. But it is fairly obvious which nights are the nights he just doesn't have it. It's like night and day, and the bad days can be detected almost instantaneously. Maybe Francona should have a shorter leash with Okajima--if he's missing targets, he doesn't have the overpowering stuff to make up for it. And he probably shouldn't be in the game if he's just going to walk guys or get lit up.

The problem there is...who do they put in? Papelbon can't pitch everyday (and, of course, he only pitches during save situations). As we have gone over, the rest of the bullpen is unreliable at best. Craig Hansen? He's still a work in progress. Delcarmen? His progress is going backwards, it seems. The rest of the guys don't even need mentioning because it's June 11 and I've run out of clever ways to say they suck.

Real question is--when Buchholz, Matsuzaka, and (gulp) Schilling come back from the DL, there will be a surplus of starting pitching. Some of these guys (Masterson, Lester, Buchholz, Schilling)will have to go to the bullpen. Which ones should they be? And whom should they replace?

I'd like to know your thoughts, because I don't know which ones I'd pick yet.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

Hippies love to sarcastically use this term after President Bush marked the end of major military action in Iraq. Well, I've been meaning to use it in this post for a couple of weeks now, after I nearly choked on a Cheez-It reading this story on ESPN. Is Bud Selig really ready to take his focus off of steroids and onto maple bats? Does he really think the steroid problem in baseball is gone? Reduced, maybe. But gone, no. And it won't be gone until these new, progressive (hahaha) revisions are re-visited once again to include HGH testing. And FULL independence regarding the adminstration of drug testing.

If baseball has record revenues and record attendance (I've heard it's a "golden age"), they can't fork out the dough for HGH testing and instead wants to wait for the Olympics to do something about it first? That sounds like Selig is once again dragging his feet on stopping illegal drug use in his sport. No, wait, that can't be, because he said...

"Nobody wants a test more than I do." Obviously, Bud. The only two people who want a test less than you do might be Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. I am still chagrined that Selig hasn't been indicted on drug conspiracy charges. Selig doesn't want to think about his mistake anymore, so he's just going to ignore it. If you ignore steroid use and say "Mission Accomplished," the problems will obviously go away. Just ask George W.

Also on the steroid front lately has been the news about MLB's 2004 testing results and how, well, they kinda stopped doing it because of the concurrent BALCO investigation. Whether their moratorium skewed the numbers is irrelevant, as far as I'm concerned. The fact that there was such a moratorium in the first place is troubling. Just because the feds are investigating T.I. (as described in the song "You Don't Know Me"), does that mean they just flat-out stop listening to Young Jeezy (as described in the song "Keep It Gangsta")? No. If your job is to curtail drug use, you do your job. You don't take a vacation because people are busted by another entity. Also notably, you don't lie to Congress your boys taking a vacation that to my eyes corresponds to your apathy and unwillingness to rid the sport of drugs instead of corresponding with a concurrent drug investigation. Just another embarrassment and not really a big surprise.

The last thing I want to talk about this time around is Roger Clemens, other pro athletes, and Viagra. It's saddening that a drug (Viagra) that has done so much good (no sarcasm here) is being exploited the way it is. Shouldn't be a surprise, though. It increases blood flow to key areas, which means more oxygen to the muscles that need oxygen during a workout or...well, another kind of workout. But what are the options for curtailing inappropriate use of this drug?

1. Ban it altogether in baseball, track and field, football, and every other sport except for cases where Viagra is prescribed by a doctor. This would be toothless because it is not hard to get a Viagra prescription...or so the commercials would lead you to believe. Just like a lot of baseball players have been prescribed ADD medication since the outlawing of steroids, HGH, and greenies, there will be more baseball players than just Rafael Palmeiro who will suddenly have erectile dysfunction.
2. Ban it altogether. Period. That's a shame, because what if you are just flat-out impotent and want to compete in high-level athletics? Tough. Another example of a few bad apples spoiling it for everyone.

Of course, given MLB's alacrity (or lack thereof) to ban substances, this won't actually become an issue until at least 2020.