The weather situation for the first part of Game Five on Monday was really a no-win situation. If they were to call the game early, it would have been an overreaction. If they were to not call the game, it would have continued to deteriorate the way it did Monday night. They probably should have called it earlier, but because of baseball's failure to have any kind of publicly-known or written policy about rain and playoff games, there was the typical indecision and uncertainty that has been characteristic of Bud Selig's tenure as the commissioner of baseball. Let's just say it pissed some people off a lot more than it pissed me off.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The weather situation for the first part of Game Five on Monday was really a no-win situation. If they were to call the game early, it would have been an overreaction. If they were to not call the game, it would have continued to deteriorate the way it did Monday night. They probably should have called it earlier, but because of baseball's failure to have any kind of publicly-known or written policy about rain and playoff games, there was the typical indecision and uncertainty that has been characteristic of Bud Selig's tenure as the commissioner of baseball. Let's just say it pissed some people off a lot more than it pissed me off.
As far as being a tactical manager, the other major part of managing, I'd probably give him an F, at least in October. It was like he didn't want to win these playoffs, and I'm not just saying that. We won't rehash any other game. We won't even deal with the first part of Game 5. We'll just deal with tonight.
3 innings. Whoever scores more wins. If you give up 1 run, you're in trouble. 2, it's probably lights out, esepcailly if you're the Rays and Brad Lidge is looming. And it was for Joe Maddon tonight. And that's because he wanted to go to Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell with the game on the line. Fed us all this stuff pregame about how he didn't want to burn pitchers in case he had to pinch hit. Joe, we're talking about an elimination game here. Check that, an elimination 3 innings. You cross the pinch hitting bridge when you get to it. Your first job is to keep runs off the board as long as you can. The best way to do that is to run your best pitcher out there. That would be David Price, not Grant Balfour or J.P. Howell.
Nothing against those two guys. I know they've done the job all year, and Maddon has been repeatedly quick to remind us of that. And that's part of the issue. It's as evident as ever that "what got you here" should go out the window in the playoffs. It should be what will win you this game or this series. You simply cannot compare a 162 game season to a 5/7 game series, an elimination game, or an elimination 3 innings. You just can't.
What's worse, after all the jive about burning pitchers for pinch hitters, he uses J.P. Howell to bunt Top 7, only to face Pat Burrell, who has an OPS 131 points higher against lefties than righties for his career, Bottom 7. This makes sense. If you were going to do this, why not just do it with David Price? I'm not kidding when I say he is probably their best pitcher, and he's definitely better than Balfour and Howell. Again, no offense to them, these are just the facts. They are middle relievers/set-up guys for a reason, and David Price is a #1 pick in the Majors in his first full season for a reason. And he sat on the bench while middle relievers/set-up guys gave up 2 runs in 2 innings of a 3 innings game. I'm a big believer that you have to win and lose with your best players playing. Joe Maddon did not do this tonight, nor for a majority of these playoffs. He did not put his team in the best spot to win tonight. And that's a bad job by him.
Also, I have to say something quick about Tim McCarver. I know it's a tired subject, but during Game 4 he said something that might top all else in he and Buck's storied analyitical history. Someone hit a groundball up the middle, and Iwamura dove and knocked it down, ultimately not having a play. McCarver gives us something like this: "Smart play by Iwamura there. Infielders are taught to sometimes leave their feet, dive, and knock the ball down even if they don't have a play." My roomates and I were like, ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm...when is it a good time NOT to knock the ball down? Is it ever a good idea to not try and make a play if you might be able to make the play? When is it better to have the ball rolling into the outfield than not rolling into the outfield? Just incredible.
Finally, last but not least, happy off-season!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Teixeira, a Boras client, was first drafted by the Red Sox in the ninth round of the 1998 draft. He was offered well over slot money, but turned it down to go to Georgia Tech. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. He was drafted later in the first round by the Rangers and signed for a record $9 million signing bonus before his first professional game. That record still stands today. Teixeira also has a few somewhat-controversial comments about signing bonuses and people asking draft prospects “signability” questions. The concept of determining signability is not difficult.
Teixeira is generally regarded as a nice guy and someone who works hard in the offseason and plays hard during the season, which sets him miles away from J.D. Drew territory. However, like Drew, he comes with a reputation of being an elite player--a "difference maker," if you will. But also like Drew, this reputation is inflated, as Teixeira is much more of a role player than a difference maker. He puts up pretty impressive statistics (much better than Drew’s), but not elite statistics. He also has a reputation of being an A-Rod type who pads his stats during low-leverage situations while having no meaningful hits in his life.
Despite playing hard (unlike Drew) and not being a dick (unlike Manny or A-Rod), Teixeira has a reputation of being a little bit insincere. He talked about loving Texas and wanting to win a championship with Texas, but cranked the Heisman on a long-term, big-money offer. He talked about loving Atlanta and wanting to stay there, but he said Atlanta never gave him an offer for a contract. Braves GM Frank Wren refuted these comments. As Rowland’s Office said, someone’s lying, and they’d bet it was the guy who sleeps on Scott Boras’s couch. It also sounds a lot like how Nancy was talking about how pleasant Los Angeles was...four days before pulling out (sorry, this is TEX Ed, with a T) of his contract.
Perhaps the most dumbfounding part of my research in Tex Ed was the bottom line. In July, Boras told Jayson Stark that this role player is looking for $23 million a year. Yikes. Once again, in the spirit of the World Series, no recommendations within this post (the comments may be different), but $23 million a year would be the highest average annual salary for any player that is not making Yankee fans yearn for October 1, 2017.
Go Phillies. Nice fall/winter hats out there.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Tonight the pitching matchup is that friggin punk loser Garza versus Jamie Moyer. Red Sox fans especially should be pulling both against Garza and for Moyer. Garza, if you don't remember, threw at both Pedroia and Youkilis in the series best known as the Coco series. He's hit seven batters in this calendar year. Two of them were Pedroia.
Meanwhile, Moyer was 7-1 for the Red Sox in 1996 before he was traded to Seattle. He wasn't as much of a junkballer then as he is now, but I don't think anyone would have pointed at the guy and identified him as someone who would still be playing in 2008. He's one of six members of that team still playing today. At least two are coaches, two have played with the Nashua Pride, one is a bestselling author of two books Bud Selig didn't read (Juiced, Vindicated), one is the protagonist of another book Bud Selig didn't read (Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball), and one is referenced in a Stephen King short story that Bud Selig may have read (The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon).
It will be interesting to see how many people rush the Taco Bells in Massachusetts on Tuesday after Jason Bartlett stole a base in Game One. I'm thinking there will not be a need for police detail this time around, because it is not popular to talk about how cute Jason Bartlett is around on high school girls' Facebook pages.
F Bartlett, by the way. He's the punk who started the Crisp incident in the first place.
I cannot believe it's the third game of the World Series and Joe Buck is still playing the "EVan LONGORA IS ONE LETTER AWAY FROM EVA LOL!!!1" angle. Goodness. Go Phillies.
Meanwhile, I agree with Pat in saying that we really don't want to talk about offseason plans until...well, the offseason. Only a few more days of baseball left until 2009, can't take them for granted.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Yesterday, the Yankees hired Bill Livesey as a pro scout. Livesey worked as both a scout and Director of Player Development for the Yankees in the 80s and early 90s, and has made other high ranking stops throughout baseball. His son Steve is the Minor League Hitting Coordinator for Tampa. The only person to be involved with the organization since it's 1996 inception, he is given some of credit for the team's rise, and he was just named the Rays' Development Man of the Year. Clearly, the Livesey family knows baseball.
This may not seem like big news, it is. Bill Livesey has been around the game forever, and has a track record of identifying and developing talent. This is an important role. But even more important perhaps is that it signifies clearly which direction the Yankees are hopefully moving. They see the way a team like Tampa Bay has done things, and they want to use their competitive advantage (money) to operate that way, just better. And they want to surround themselves with the people who are going to help them do that.
So while a guy like Livesey, who was around when they built a team around Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, is clearly going to help the Yankees on the field, this hiring is significant because it is further proof of which direction the Yankees are trying to head. And that's the right direction. Talent identification and player development ultimately resulting in sustainability year after year.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Half of that is unfortunate. I will agree with Canseco as he says he betrayed his friends by actually naming guys who took the drugs. I agree that names shouldn't have been in the book, because (as we've seen in other steroid incidents, most notably the Mitchell Report) your average idiotic sport fan decides to focus solely on the names named instead of the actual content of the book. The same exact thing happened in the Mitchell Report.
Lost in the fury about the names named in "Juiced" was a story about a baseball player explaining why he took steroids, what they did to him (he claimed it was a good thing three years ago), and why steroids caught on throughout the sport of baseball. He blamed Major League Baseball for letting it get out of control, and that's probably the most important part of "Juiced." Of course, Bud Selig and other people who had better things to do than actually read the book just remember McGwire, Palmeiro, and Giambi. Not Ivan Rodriguez, though. He just lost all that weight in the wake of the book's publishing because he wanted to become more nimble behind the plate.
In this story, there was enough information to come up with a way for Major League Baseball to investigate what matters--how to stop the steroid and HGH epidemic that continues to permeate the sport. Of course, they're too lazy, apathetic, and avaricious to do anything that benefits the long-term well-being of the sport. Canseco hinted to that, as well. And, as he intended, he was a tremendous pain in the butt for MLB. Without Canseco, the steroid thing would have been glazed over and Paul Byrd would still be dealing HGH (maybe he still does anyway). Without Canseco, there would be no poorly-constructed document about the history of steroids in the game (the Mitchell Report) and there would be no Congressional hearings. There probably wouldn't be any accountability for the guys getting caught doing the stuff. Insert a Jay Gibbons/Jose Guillen having no suspensions because of a labor deal joke here.
So on that front, Canseco did the right thing, and it's unfortunate that he wishes he took the right thing back.
What is not as unfortunate is the fact that he regrets naming names. My friends know I'm not a fan of snitching on your friends. Maybe because I'm a rap fan, maybe because I'm Italian, maybe because I'm very loyal to my friends and teammates. I was once called out, perhaps on this blog, for being so anti-snitching but still so pro-Canseco, as Canseco's one of the biggest snitches around. I replied by saying that I disliked steroids more than I disliked snitching. I stand by that.
But the cover could have still been blown about steroids if Canseco had not snitched on his own boys. Plus, there would have been more clues about the infrastructure of a baseball steroids network and why a baseball player would take steroids. Without the names, people might have actually focused on that instead of focusing on how Wilson Alvarez poked himself in the butt with a needle.
Bottom line: Canseco should not regret writing the book, as it stopped baseball from letting steroids get further swept under the rug. He should, however, regret naming names because a) it's snitching on his friends and b) it got in the way of what's important in the book.
These offenses are eerily similar, in that they both have heavy tops of the order and scrappy back ends with guys who get big hits. They also both hit a ton of homeruns, have had a penchant for the big spots, and have proven themselves to be tough. Philly was directly involved with the Mets becoming the first team in baseball history to blow a 3 game lead or more on September 1st or later. Tampa Bay acted like the Yankees were nothing and Boston not much more on their way to this magical season. Individually, I love Jimmy Rollins (one of my favorite non-Yankees in baseball, he's the kind of player and personality the Yankees need) and Jayson Werth. I also love Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton. I think these things will cancel themselves out.
So per usual, especially in the postseason, it comes down to pitching. Philly has had the bullpen advantage all year but if Maddon has finally woken up to David Price that margin becomes smaller. Lidge and Madsen to give them an advantage on the back end, straight filth on both counts. However I don't expect this to decide the series.
I do expect starting pitching to decide the series. I like Hamels tonight over Kazmir. Both lefties, Hamels' stuff, primarily the change, will play more to the big part of the park in right, where as I think Philly might try to wear out the short porch in left on Kazmir. I like Shields over Meyers in Game 2. And then the big advantage is Game's 3 and 4 for me. Garza has the power stuff to hold Philly down in that little league field, where as Upton, Pena, and Longoria must already be licking their chops thinking about the soft-tossing, fly-ball inducing, left-handed Jamie Moyer with those short fences. Joe Blanton has shown a little flair for the big spot this postseason, but he's going to be getting a look at an AL East lineup (check out his AL numbers before the trade this year), whereas Andy Sonnastine is used to facing lineups as good as Philly's on the regular. And he's shown this postseason he knows how to pitch.
I could see Philly winning a Game 5 again behind Hamels, and maybe even one of Games 3 and 4, but ultimately I think the Tampa pitching is just going to be too much relative to what they have. I just cannot envision a scenario where Matt Garza, as hot as he is, loses to Jamie Moyer, as much as I respect him. And if that's a case, getting 4 of the other 5 is too much for Philly to climb, and I don't think we'll even see Garza and Shields a second time. Tampa Bay in 6.
What do you think? Does anyone even care?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
This game had a lot of things going into it. One of the two enigmas of the year was shelled (Matsuzaka), while actually looking better in a lot of his pitches than he did in a lot of the games he somehow did not get shelled. The offense, for the first seven innings, looked like it would continue to roll over. It was over and I'm sure Shaughnessy was already searching for his old obituary articles so he could copy and paste the new names into the same articles.
There were some outlets that compared Coco Crisp to Dave Roberts in 2004. Fair enough. I still think the most riveting thing written about Game Five was Pat's post (click here) about Coco Crisp. And maybe me being an unabashed Coco supporter makes Game Five more important to me than it really is.
But we're talking about a team basically left for dead, beaten in a war of attrition in one game, then beaten soundly in the next two (and it looked like three) games. They were seven outs from not just any elimination, but an embarrassing elimination at the hands of the long-time gutter sluts of the AL East.
Then there was a minor contribution from the okay but not good player who, for some reason, has continued to be maligned in Boston. That was followed by a huge contribution by a guy who was once great but is no longer great, trying to salvage what was so special about 2006 and 2004.
Then it was capped off by the other enigma, Nancy Drew, the guy who only cares sometimes, putting together an at-bat where he actually looked like he cared about saying "F you" to everyone. And he did it. That was followed by Coco putting together his biggest at-bat as a player and what may have been the biggest at-bat as a fan in my life. Awesome. Tie game. I had not had as much fun being a baseball fan for a long, long time.
Everyone remembers where they were when Dave Roberts stole that base. (I was sitting on this same couch, on fall break.) Everyone in 1999 remembers where they were when Troy O'Leary hit his home run (about five feet away from where I am now) and Pedro throw five perfect innings of relief. Everyone in 1975 knows where they were when Carlton Fisk hit his home run (I wouldn't be born for another 9 and a half years).
Game Five might be different, because there were so many things that went on. Lots of people have stories about how they changed the channel and changed back. But I bet every Red Sox fan will remember where they were when 1) Ortiz hit his home run, 2) Nancy hit his home run, 3) Nancy hit his walkoff double, or 4) Coco fouled off questionable pitch after questionable pitch and lined a single into right field. And this transcends the color of the fan in question's hat.
After two solid years of defending Coco Crisp to the point of absurdity, there I was, half a mile away from the Tobin Bridge, knowing I might have to jump off if Coco had struck out at a ball in the dirt, either from embarrassment, disappointment, or inability to handle my text message charges. But he came through. That's what watching baseball is all about.
The Sox lost in 1999 and in 1975, and they also lost this year. But the heroism in Game Five will definitely be remembered in the same vein. Not just Coco. But also Papelbon, Ortiz, and Nancy. The Sox lost to a better team, we had to endure eleven games of TBS coverage, but Game Five made this October worthwhile nonetheless.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Let's start with vendor management. We're talking about a $6 billion industry, about 20 times as big as the total assets of the banks we work with. Golden age. That's why Bud Selig doesn't care about steroids. They are in a symbiotic relationship with TBS, where TBS delivers the product, the Division Series and one Championship Series, to the consumers. MLB entrusts TBS, who assumes responsibility for delivering the product in an effective and enjoyable way. The Steve Harvey Show debacle aside (we'll get to that later), TBS did a terrible job delivering the product in an effective and enjoyable way. FOX's coverage is obnoxious, but at least most of the time they do not mess up incontrovertible facts other than the first names of various baseball players like Bill Wakefield and Brandon Arroyo. But TBS's coverage featured so many factual mistakes that it's downright irresponsible.
We already went over how they were talking about Jason Varitek's glove webbing so he can catch Tim Wakefield (Kevin Cash catches Wakefield). We already talked about how they were talking about 33-year-old Pedro Feliz developing into a bigger power hitter as he reaches the peak of his career in a few years. Featherston left me about a three-minute voicemail about how they were mistaking an 81-MPH slider for a 92-MPH fastball. And Buck Martin-ez (that's pronounced like the last name "Martin" with an "ez" at the end) pronounced David Ortiz's name incorrectly all game. You might need a Spanish phonetics lesson.
The fact that Ron Dar Ling and Chip car-RAY were openly rooting for Tampa and that the camera constantly showed Maddon was also unforgivable. There's also been so much crap that I can't even remember anymore.
In the fifth inning, Tampa Bay strung together three hits before the first out. During the third hit, an overexcited Car-RAY screamed something along the lines of "NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF TWO-OUT HITS!" Again, there were no outs. A comment that was either totally irrelevant or a reflection that the guy covering the game was not even watching the game. So irresponsible.
And therefore, MLB should probably immediately cut ties with this vendor that is doing just an absolutely deplorable job. In banking, if an institution sticks with an vendor proven to be irresponsible, not only is the vendor subject to disciplinary action, but so is the organization. And I believe the Steve Harvey Show incident is enough to have MLB sever whatever contract is between the two organizations so that TBS has broadcast its last baseball game.
TBS "delivering" baseball to us was just about as effective as having Joba Chamberlain as a taxicab driver on Friday. It's tantamount to USPS contact a trucking firm to deliver some mail while knowing that there are people smoking crack in the back of the trucks and lighting packages on fire, then letting...Joba Chamberlain drive the truck on Friday.
Which brings me to business continuity. If the backup systems are located at the same place as the regular systems, regulators would laugh at you. Because if the power goes out, your business stops. If people need to withdraw some money...well, tough.
For TBS, the backup systems were located at the same place in Atlanta. Do the people there really not have the foresight that the whole building might have a problem and they might need a backup facility? What if Joba Chamberlain had been driving around the neighborhood on Saturday night and crashed his car right through the control room, wrecking both the primary and backup systems? Would the American public just have to watch the Steve Harvey Show all night? If the backup were at another facility, there's a much lesser chance that both would be knocked out. Although Carmelo Anthony might have been driving around another place at the same time.
It's a reckless business practice and prevented the product from being delivered at the time MLB may have needed it the most. It's hard to believe that MLB can't sever the contract with TBS. Because it's extremely irresponsible. MLB not taking action against TBS for what happened on Saturday reflects almost as badly on MLB as it does on TBS.
You've heard that there's only one October. You'd think TBS would spend the other eleven months of the year making sure things wouldn't get F'ed up during that one October.
So that's it. The Tampa Bay Religiously-Neutral Rays, despite (as Pat covered in a great way) habitual poor managing by 50-something emo kid Joe Maddon, are going to the World Series.
What happened last night is that the Rays exploited the Red Sox' weaknesses, plain and simple. Those weaknesses, of course, include the fact that the rules of baseball dictate that Jason Varitek must get his turn at the plate about four times a game. We spoke all season about how Varitek is a liability, Cora is a liability, and sometimes Drew is a liability. Against lefties, Ortiz struggles and Joe Maddon decided this time around that he'd pitch David Price against Ortiz. At least he learns from mistakes.
Terry Francona's "loyalty" toward Varitek was irrational all series. He justified letting the stiff hit in the seventh by saying that Tampa would just put in a lefty against Casey. Casey against lefies is most likely better than Jason Varitek against anything but a tee. Hopefully we don't have to worry about this next year. F.
Garza is a headhunting punk, but last night he was a good headhunting punk. He changed speeds very well and his pitches had terrific movement. He was a great addition to my fantasy team this year, he almost no-hit the Yankees, and we saw why last night. Big game. Lester was absolutely tremendous, almost as good as Garza was. Almost. And he was facing a better lineup than Garza was.
I've talked to Pat on the phone for about three hours in the last week, and about two of those hours I've heard him gush over David Price. Last night we saw why. I'm not even going to talk too much about JD Drew's indecision over whether to swing the bat. Typical JD Drew. So good some games, so absolutely pathetic and clueless the next. October 2, 2011. But, to be fair, the guy lived up to all the hype I've heard this week. Even if Nancy had swung at that pitch, no chance. You will most likely never see Nancy go through a ten-pitch at bat, battling and battling like Coco in Game 5.
Coco Crisp was one of three Red Sox to get hits, and it's not much of a surprise the way he's been swinging the bat. He's not trying to do too much, and he was arguably the Red Sox' best hitter in this series. If Coco Crisp is your best hitter in a series, you're most likely in trouble. And the Red Sox were. They were thoroughly outplayed in this series. They were outhit by a better hitting team. Notably, the Red Sox' bullpen (with the exception of Game 2) was better than the Rays'.
Ups to Jason Varitek, no sarcasm attached. Reporters asked him about his future and he declined comment. Last time the Red Sox got eliminated in the playoffs, a fellow, um, Scott Boras client, um, had plenty to comment about.
I have a lot more to say. Not much to say about Saturday night's game, which was a ho-hum game, really. Varitek did the Bellhorn thing and got his one hit of the season, but from the pulse I've seen around here it doesn't even come close to making up for how friggin bad he was not only all series, but all season. Beckett was good, not great. The Rays looked like they were pressing, as Pat already addressed. Unfortunately, they got it together in Game 7. That and the fact that the Red Sox couldn't hit.
The Red Sox were not the best team in the American League this year. They did what they were capable of this year. Frustrating, yes. But certainly not unexpected.
I have two posts on deck, one regarding the legacy of Thursday night's game. The fact that Tampa won this series doesn't take away from the fact that it might have been the best baseball game I've ever seen (an anonymous poster said it was unlike anything he's ever seen before, including the games in 2004). The Reds won the series featuring the Carlton Fisk game, too. But it was absurd and is something I'll probably talk about for the rest of my life.
I also have a vicious post regarding TBS's coverage of the Steve Harvey Show, I mean, the ALCS. Awful. So bad that I will have to write a full post about it.
Looking forward to the discussion today.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
There really isn't much you can do to get your team to actually relax. After blowing a 7 run lead, the natural inclination is to press, and there is almost no way to break that until something good happens. So what you have to do as the manager is try to make something good happen, try to get them to relax. Joe Maddon did not do this.
Gabe Gross and Ben Zobrist have given the Rays nothing all series. I'd have to double check, but I think they are both sporting ofers. So when Navarro gets on to lead of the 5th, bunt them. Don't let them make out, then try to hit and run with a catcher only to get Navarro gunned down at second. Bunting players who are not hitting to get someone into scroing position is a way to try to make something good happen. It's also something the Rays have been doing all year. Now it looks like Maddon is too tight to make the simple play. With a little simple baseball, that home run could have been a two run job, giving the Rays the lead, and maybe they relax. Didn't happen because Maddon didn't want to bunt a guy who doesn't get any hits. Nice.
But the 8th is where Maddon really had a chance, and he really blew it. His team had been tight and over-agressive at the plate all night. The word is just pressing. Coupled with how hot they had been, and that they were bound to cool off, I think a lot of people expected this. But in the 8th they got a shot at a rookie pitcher who was understandably nervous and wild himself to start, walking the #9 hitter. Baseball Managing 101 would say, down 2 runs, with a runner on first and the leadoff hitter up, and a rookie pitcher who just issued a walk on the mound, you put the take sign on until he throws you TWO strikes. Masterson went down 2-0, and then threw a strike to go 2-1, with Iwamura half checking his swing, leading me to believe he did not have the take sign. He should have had the take sign there, and he should have had the take sign on 2-1. Instead he swung at a slider that missed location by the entire plate one side to the other and was way low to go to 2-2. Then he swung at a ball off the plate for strike 3. Five pitches, one in the strikezone, right after issuing a walk, and he gets a strikeout. Then Upton comes up and swings at a ball to start his at bat, and flys out on a ball. Then Pena comes up and swings at the first pitch to fly out. Inning over. Game over. Probably series over, and the Rays never got a shot because there manager didn't want to make a rookie pitcher throw strikes in the 8th inning of an elimination game.
All thigns considered, from Game 5, to the way this game had gone to date, this is inexcusable. Not bunting earlier in the game is bad, but this takes the cake. Maddon had the perfect chance to relax his squad, take the bat out of Iwamura's hands and the pressure off, and make Masterson settle in, which he didn't. He could have had first and second with no outs and probably forced Papelbon into and uncomfortable spot for a six out save. Instead he sat on his hands, and watched his young, inexperienced, pressing, nervous, shaken players swing at balls, just like he watched them not bunt and make out earlier. Nice managing, how to do put your team in a good spot. Gave Game 5 away. Did nothing to give your team a better chance in Game 6, when they needed you most. This may go down as one of the biggest managerial blunders ever, at least that I've witnessed.
Red Sox are winning this series, and I'm not even trying to pull any sort of reverse jinx here. I've been saying this since Tuesday night. Sox can find a way to win Game 5, we'll see a Game 7. The way Game 5 went, if the Sox won 6, I said it would be over. And I think it will be. I wouldn't classify myself as rooting for the Red Sox, obviously, but if they do win, whoa baby am I going to have some fun/light on fire 66.6% of Sox fans out there in this space. Actually, I'll probably do so win or lose, because the flip flopping from "the look in their eyes" when dominating Anaheim to "excuse making central" when down 3-1 to Tampa to "this is just what this team does" when forcing and probably winning a Game 7 is just too much for me to handle. This is 2008, not 1999, let's get with the times.
That said, good job by the Red Sox tonight, especially the bullpen. Bad job by Joe Maddon. Again. It will be intersting to see what he does tomorrow, if anything. Might be a lost cause at this point, and a lot, maybe even most, of that is on him.
This morning I want to talk about J.D. Drew, specifically regarding his role in that game and therefore how it adds another layer to Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the $70 Million Contract. The guy got the job done. Twice. Add that to his home run off of Francisco Rodriguez, his home run in Game Six of last year's ALCS, and his Daubach-esque month of June 2008, the guy has been very much responsible for the Red Sox winning some games.
Notice how I said "some" games. We'll get to that later.
In these big spots, we've seen that Drew does indeed have that immense talent that made him the collegiate player of the year, garner the #2 draft pick in the 1997 draft, and inspire much more hype than his actual production deserves. Here, Pat and I disagree: Pat doesn't believe Nancy is a top-20 talent in baseball, whereas I think he might be. Maybe. At the same time you think about how he hits against some lefties. But maybe. I'm not going to go overboard like my boy Fenway Jack (formerly Jack Sox), saying that watching Drew is like watching Kobe Bryant and LaDanian Tomlinson, but he's theoretically a damn good baseball player.
The fact that the theory does not translate into practice with any kind of consistency is really the essence of how frustrating it is and maddening it is that this guy is going to be playing everyday on my favorite team until October 2, 2011. And big ups to Jack for recognizing that instead of busting my balls for the "Worth Every Penny" argument.
Because J.D. Drew is by absolutely no means worth $70 million any more than Scott Brosius is. Brosius was the 11th-highest-paid player on the 1998 Yankees, the team he helped with more clutch hits than A-Rod has had since Little League. That is the case because, like Brosius likely did with his mediocre numbers, Drew has cost the Red Sox quite a few games, too. For each game like last night, there are two games like Game Four, when he struck out twice and hit two weak ground balls to the pitcher. An uninspired performance, and this is not atypical for J.D. Drew.
Drew's consistent underproduction paired with the heroism he displays very infrequently (like the four big hits and the month of June) is indicative of a questionable desire to play baseball. This topic is not up for debate on this blog: The theory has been thrown out in every city he's played in. We're not "misinterpreting" Drew's body language, because the actual results corroborate the theory that this guy, despite all the talent he has, just flat-out doesn't give a crap very frequently.
I have had at least two track teammates over my life (one in high school, one in college) who are exactly like this, minus the $70 million part. Immense talent, infrequent flashes of absolute brilliance, but a frustrating inability to keep focus on the task at hand. These guys, like "Drew" in the song referenced in the title...and the "Drew" playing right field for the Red Sox, are "the kind of flawless I wish I could be." My college teammate's one of my better friends, and I've told him explicitly how frustrating it is. Kid could be a friggin Olympian. He just laughs it off, because he just doesn't get it.
Could you imagine putting Drew's talent together with the desire of someone like Kevin Youkilis or Dustin Pedroia? That would be the "Mickey Mantle" caliber results we've heard about since the Clinton administration.
As Jack pointed out, that's part of the intrigue of J.D. Drew and the potential of this happening is why teams consistently overpay this guy. The fact that he does have such talent (along with the unparalleled greed thing) and doesn't care, as evidenced not only by his body language, but the way he sits out games at 99%, his reputation as a guy who plays lackadasical in the outfield and at the plate, and the fact that he would rather take a walk instead of getting a hit in a big spot more often than not (this has already been discussed here) is why come 2011 I will probably write a book about my J.D. Drew experience.
The guy is Good Will Hunting. He could be the best mathematician in the history of the world, but prefers to beat the piss out of people on a basketball court, work with his construction buddies, and use the F-word quite liberally. The professors who have done math all their lives, as well as theoretical "math fans" who are paying to watch him do math, just don't understand why he's, as Steve Prefontaine would say, "sacrificing the gift."
He's got it. And sometimes he wants to use it. He used it on Thursday night. And he became a hero. Again.
It's too bad he can't keep it together with any kind of consistency
Coco Crisp is not a great baseball player. He's also not a terrible player. He's somewhere in the middle. Yet in Boston, for whatever reason, he's been treated more like a terrible player than he has like someone in the middle.
After not playing in Game 1, Coco got a start in Game 2, and doubled twice. He then got sat down again in Game 3 in favor of a guy who was 0 for the series (and most of the season). For any of you that have been a part of sports, you know this is not easy. It's not easy to go out and perform big in a game, perform better than your competition, and then get sat down the very next day for no discernable reason. But it happens, and you have to deal with it. Some put on a game face for the good of the team, and make the most of the opportunity when they get it. Some sulk and aren't able to overcome it.
Last night, Coco Crisp put on a game face for the good of the team, and made the most of his opportunity. And while everyone is going to talk about Drew and Papi, they should be talking about Coco just as much. Because he's the only player (of reasonable talent) that was in that lineup last night who has had to deal with ups and downs and inconsistent playing time and a team and a fan base that, for whatever reason, has never really accepted him. Warranted or unwarranted, like or dislike what he brings to the table as a player, I think we can all agree this has been the case. He's not a regular, he's not a bench player, he's somewhere in the middle of that. And that's probably one of the toughest things to be in sports.
And yet Coco stood up last night. Down 2-0, with the air taken right out of Fenway with another Upton blast, while most of his team had been rolling over for the better part of 3 games, Coco did perhaps the most un-roll-over thing you can do. He walked. Down 7-0, with two outs in the 7th and a runner on it looked like Boston was going to roll over for still another inning. Coco singles to keep what would be a 4 run inning alive.
Then in the bottom of the 8th inning, again with 2 outs, again with a runner on second, and with the game hanging in the balance, Coco dug in to the left side batter's box, down 7-6. Be mindful, if he makes out there, it's going to be tough for Boston to win the game. It's tough to get a third consecutive rally started when you are losing. When you are tied, not as much, because it's game on. They needed to score right there, and tie the game while they had the chance.
What did Coco do? In probably the biggest spot in his career, he put together probably his best at bat. 10 pitches. Cut down on his swing once he had two strikes. Might have swung at a few borderline ball 4's, but was not going to take strike 3. He was clearly thinking shorten up, put the ball in play, make them get a stop. That's what he did, and they didn't get a stop.
And that was the biggest play of the game last night. Ortiz and Drew got them back in, and Drew ultimately put them over the top. But Coco won them that game. We've all seen it. That spot was the spot. He makes out there, Tampa Bay takes the Red Sox best shot twice and still has a lead, and they probably win the game. Tough to rally a third time when you're losing. Coco made sure that wasn't necessary. Because of him, the not regular but not bench player who has had more ups and downs than anybody in Boston the last 3 years, the Red Sox are playing baseball Saturday night. In my estimation, the reason for that is, despite the turbulence, Coco Crisp cares about the team, which is not always easy to do when you are in the position he's in. Good for him.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Good Joe was starting Scott Kazmir tonight. The fact that he had a feel for his player in this spot is great, as Kazmir was excellnt, but not the most important thing. The most important thing is Maddon protecting against something like this. Something like this being a 7-0 lead being blown, completely out of the starters' control. When this happens, you want your ace going the next day, not a guy coming off a crappy start. The guy coming off the crappy start might thrive in a game like tonight, but Game 6 (especially the way game 5 went) is now a whole separate animal. Game 6 is probably more important than Game 7, so I give Maddon credit for being on his game here. The Red Sox were bound to do something like this. If you could imagine anything being more devastating for Tampa, which is tough, it would be taking this loss behind a Shields start of the same quality as Kazmir's. Shields could have given you more length, maybe. But it's tough to ask for more than a 6 inning, 2 hit shutout. This type of thing was happening no matter who started. At least, from the Rays standpoint, they have their guy going in Game 6.
Bad Joe was the arrogance in the 7th inning. Arrogance meaning, with the game in hand, up 7-1, with 2 on and 2 out, allowing a right-hander who had made a mess of the inning already to face David Ortiz. Maddon can tell me all he wants in the postgame about how good Balfour has been in that spot. Gimme a break. David Ortiz hasn't been David Ortiz lately, Maddon got a little complacent, and chose to allow three lefties to sit in the bullpen while Ortiz became Ortiz again (something the manager should always be weary of facing a player of his stature), and changed this series. His hit was the hit, forget Drew and Coco and Drew. Maddon could have at least attempted to protect against it. You don't want to take away from the Red Sox comeback here. But this game was at least 50% (and that's generous) Tampa Bay giving it away behind their manager. Howell came on and disposed of Ortiz in a hurry two innings later. I wonder if being lefty had anything to do with that. That's what you get when you don't make moves because you think you are cruising and you think another player is down. You pay.
Further, something that is getting little to no play in this series is David Price. For all we talk about Shields and Kazmir and Garza, David Price probably has better stuff than all of them, he's left-handed, and he's ready to get people out right now probably as well as anyone sitting in that Tampa pen. Sure, he's a rookie, but he got outs for you in Game 2. Where was he tonight? With Kazmir throwing a lot of pitches through 6, and the bottom of the order due up in the 7th, that might have been a nice spot for Price to come in. Boston hasn't gotten much of a look at him, and yet they surely know how filthy he is. Down 7-0, you could almost imagine a collective "oh no, now him" from those guys. You aren't going to get the same reaction to Grant Balfour or Dan Wheeler. Dan Wheeler is out there throwing 20 consecutive 89-91 MPH sinkers to left-handed/switch hitters. Wonder if one a one (or three) will get blasted. David Price can give you 96-98 with a serious slider, from the left side. No way that could be of use while Ortiz and Drew and Kotsay are launching balls all over the park.
Again, good job by the Red Sox, don't want to take that away. You have to capitalize on mistakes, and they did. But up 7-love and 7-1 and 7-4 and 7-6, there is no excuse to sit there and let it get out of control the way Joe Maddon did. He was complacent and arrogant and didn't respect a couple of really good hitters with a history of getting hits in the clutch. And he paid for hit.
Boston, I can guarantee you, does not have a care in the world going into Game 6. It will be interesting to see how the Rays respond. If they want to win this series, they'd do well to turn right around and do so in Game 6. You let this sucker get to 7 and that's not going to be a fun spot. I don't think Shields will be affected too much. He'll pitch how he's going to pitch. It's the offense Tampa Bay has to worry about. That's where you get the tightness. They've been relaxed, and they've been mashing. They are bound to cool off at some point anyway, even had they gotten blown out tonight. Now, given the way they lost this game, they have the unwelcomed additions of pressure and swirling questions about whether or not they can finish this series given Boston's penchant for the comeback. And with every inning that goes by where they don't score runs, it only gets worse, and they'll only get tighter and tigher. It will really be interesting to watch.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
"Jon Lester, getting taken onto Landsdowne. Tim Wakefield, getting taken onto the Mass Pike. Jacoby Ellsbury, going 0-23. JD Drew, striking out twice, and tapping out to the pitcher twice IN THE SAME GAME. There's only ONE ALCS. There's only ONE POSTSEASON. There's only ONE...OCTOBERRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!"
It would have been better if he had worked Captain K in, but he had left me a voicemail the week before telling me that you can't intangible first base, and then playing the song "Superman" as Captain K's theme music, so I guess he figured that sufficed. Anyway, the Red Sox are in a familiar spot on the brink of elimination, and DV is losing his mind.
In not atypical fashion, I'm flip flopping on Maddon's decision to use Kazmir tonight. Yesterday, I was with everyone else that it was not a smart move. But it was bugging me, and I was thinking about it a lot last night, and a lot this morning. I kept saying, "there's no way he's making this switch just because of Kazmir's and Shields' small sample size performance at Fenway." Of course, I have no idea what he's thinking, but I don't think it's this. He's just saying this publicly to keep Kazmir's confidence up.
What I really think his reasoning is is this. Yes, he could try to step on the Sox throat tonight with Shields. But that would mean taking all three games at home from a veteran club, defending a World Series, that has made a habit of getting in and out of this very position. The odds are not in his corner. Further, tonight is a game with little pressure. Win and the series is over. Lose and you're still up 3-2 and going home. If there is a Game 6, that one has pressure all over it, because if you lose, the next day is elimination day against a Red Sox team that has been great on elimination day.
Given the choice of having both pitchers on full rest, he chose to give Kazmir the game with less pressure. Maybe he'll find a groove since he's comfortable at Fenway, maybe the Rays will get some runs early, and maybe they'll win Game 5 behind Kazmir. If they don't, they'll have their best pitcher ready for a Game 6. I think Maddon liked this more than potentially losing behind Shields tonight (again, we are talking about sweeping Boston in Boston) and then giving Boston a chance to even the series off against a pitcher he probably just doesn't trust that much right now, and rightfully so. I think it's a really good move.
On a final personal note, I have the chills thinking about being up 3-1 on Boston. Few people believe me when I say this, but my boy can confirm, I had a bad feeing the Yankees were going to lose that series after Game 4. I just remember how loose the Red Sox seemed down a run at the end of that game. It made me nervous that they almost didn't seem to care and had no pressure because nobody expected them to come back. And then the way they won that game, with Rivera blowing a save and Papi hitting a walk-off in extras, I remember just wishing it had been a 10-0 blowout, because it was so physically and emotionally draining for the Yankees and the exact opposite for the Red Sox. Few people, if any, thought the Red Sox were winning that series. Few people, if any, were concerned about the Yankees. But I honestly and truly was. I hated that Game 5 was a day game (there is something creepy about Fenway during the day in October), I hated the way the Yankees lost the night before, I hated having to come back 15 hours off that kind of emotional letdown and play a team full of life, and again, I hated the fact that it was no pressure vs. all kinds of pressure. My word, I just hate that series, and I particularly hate thinking about 3-1 leads against the Red Sox.
Enjoy the game tonight, feel free to discuss here. Go Yankees.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
-Scott Kazmir. In the 2004-5 offseason, in an earlier incarnation of my writing, I said that Kazmir is going to end up being the next Jaret Wright: A young, successful pitcher with occasional control problems and occasional headhunting problems. A cocky punk who enjoyed his success too early and would burn out. As I said in an earlier comment, he's almost halfway done to fulfilling the prophecy and signing with the Yankees, only to be traded two years later for an overweight reliever.
-Carlos Pena. I spoke to an authority who competed against Haverhill High School and says that they're a bunch of punk losers. If you're from Massachusetts, you've heard that Pena is from Haverhill. And if you're from Wilmington and read HYD Baseball last week, you know that Haverhill is right next to Pentucket, our #2 most hated rivals.
-James Shields. Another headhunter. Punches like a girl.
-Grant Ball Four. Another headhunter. And you gotta root for a reliever with a last name like "Balfour" to issue a lot of "ball fours." F Grant Ball Four. He is a punk loser.
-Troy Percival. While I do admire the fact that he's the ultimate anti-Nancy Drew, screaming at his manager when his manager thinks he's hurt. you gotta root against a guy who has TWICE been pulled out of Red Sox games while sucking due to phantom injuries he insist aren't happening. Which brings me to...
-Joe Maddon. F this F'ing guy. Dude, you're 56 years old. You wear emo glasses. Do you listen to Panic! at the Disco? They're about a quarter of your age. You take out Percival due to phantom injuries because you don't have the balls to tell your pitcher that he should be pulled due to the fact that he sucks. You scream from the dugout to Coco Crisp. You teach your players to play dirty and throw at people. There's a reason everyone in the AL East hates your team: Because you allow them to be friggin punks. Good job, Joe. Way to act your age.
-Akinori Iwamura. How many Japanese players are there in the Major Leagues now? Well, Iwamura's a nice player, but he's one of the worst. Iwamura pimping a home run is like Kevin Cash pimping a home run. Know your role, Iwamura. You are a punk. Don't pimp home runs.
-Jason Bartlett. I would put money on Bartlett's brains more than any of these other punks. This punk puts his legs down when someone's sliding headfirst into second base. That crap, along with not being that good of a baseball player, ruined Coco Crisp's baseball career. But Jason Bartlett is okay with that. I'm okay with throwing at him every time he's up.
-Religiously-Neutral Rays fans. Other than that one heckler who has been there the whole time. Someone asked me what the Rays' version of pink hats are. I said:
Rays fans. They nailed the Red Sox fan stereotype in the "New Sawks Jersey" video, but it is not hard to exaggerate the answer. Just ask the loser in the Olympia Sports commercials
In conclusion, F the Tampa Bay Religiously-Neutral Rays. Pull a Gilbert Arenas and drop 84-85 on these friggin losers, let's get it.
This team HATES to lose, and that's why it's hard to imagine them doing so once they get into the playoffs. Other than J.D. Drew, name one player on the team who wouldn't want to kill everyone within 10 feet after a series loss like the Angels had.
The GM, October 7, 2008, 10:04 PM:
As far as the hatred for losing, I agree--to a certain extent. It really has waxed and waned all season long, as they have played some supremely inspired baseball for a while (during which I anointed them as a good team or even at one point a team of destiny) and have played some "I want to go home" baseball. It is difficult to keep that intensity over a 162-game schedule. But as far as having it in the last week, I will agree.
To follow the Joe Buck mold, the way the Red Sox (Jason Bay, Justin Masterson and Sean Casey get a free pass) have played the last two nights have been a disgusting act and it's unfortunate that they couldn't care about winning for more than four days. Because after Timlin blew that game on Saturday night, the Red Sox look like they want to go back home and hibernate until February.
To briefly address yesterday's topic, I understand Craig's points and they are very well-founded, but I will stick with my boy Pat's views that Francona should have pulled Lester earlier. While Craig says all they had to do after Game Three was win three games out of four and it doesn't matter which ones they are--and that is true--now they NEED to win tomorrow. It would be nice to have Lester pitching tomorrow after only having thrown 40-50 pitches the other day.
I believe both papers have spoken about the booing for Varitek at Fenway Park. If you go hitless for the series--AND you whine about your playing time, you deserve to get booed. I don't care if you're the Pope, although Benedict might be better at the plate at this point.
Huge congratulations to Francona for finally playing Coco Crisp instead of 46. It only took him 23 hitless at-bats to realize that 46's weaknesses have been hideously exposed by the Religiously-Neutral Rays. And big ups to Coco for proving why he should have been in the lineup the whole time. Nice double play. F.
Ortiz. More like Or-dinary. I've been saying this for a month, but what a bummer. I'm glad he finally got a hit, but he's hitting like the Minnesota version of himself. Unlike last year, when his power was limited but he still hit .330, there are very few redeeming qualities to his injury-riddled 2008 season. But let's not say this is a steroid thing. Ortiz, going all the way back to the Minnesota days, had been very injury-prone. This is nothing new. The Ortiz glory years were just a period when he was fortunate enough to not suffer injuries.
My dad is not a Francona fan. Everything the last few days has been Francona's fault. And while he's managed this series very poorly, last night there was not much he could do. Masterson was stretched out and he's likely cooked for the rest of the series. It is not Francona's fault that Delcarmen sucks and can't keep the ball over the plate but away from the Green Monster Seats. It is not Francona's fault that Lopez and Timlin are deplorable pitchers. Plus, at that point it no longer mattered. The game was not winnable, and that's the exact situation where those two disasters should pitch.
Either way, great job by all three of those pitchers. A trip to Pawtucket might do Delcarmen some good. He sat on the bench after getting lit up last night and had a look on his face of "oh well, I still have a job." Let's remind him that as a major league reliever, he should not have much job security.
Plus, not even Paul Byrd's HGH is going to help him pitch well on Tuesday after being absolutely blown out on Monday. I miss Julian Tavarez. At least he was good at this role. Byrd sucks, even for a mopup guy. $24,800 is too much HGH for one person to take, so I hope he is a better drug dealer than a pitcher. But then again, Mr. Nice Guy from the movie Half Baked was a better drug dealer than Byrd is a pitcher.
Thanks to Lester and Wakefield for making this whole situation possible.
Nights like last night are why I consider the "Worth Every Penny" people, referring to Nancy Drew's two big home runs in the 2007 ALCS and 2008 ALDS, to be certifiably insane. Way to whack the ball. And way to jog listlessly to first base after your two tap-tap-taparoos to the mound. Oh well. You still get your paycheck on the first and the fifteenth, don't you Nancy? Unfortunately, the listlessness seems to be contagious, as this tired, beat-up team looks like it would rather go golfing.
Maybe they'd rather see their kids than play baseball. Insert "A-Rod Does Stairs at 6:15 AM" joke here.
The Remy Report reports that Trot Nixon wants to come back. There is no opening because the Red Sox already have an injury-prone right fielder who sits against lefties, kinda sucks against righties, and hits an occasional big home run. Why do they need two? October 2, 2011.
Monday, October 13, 2008
We always here in baseball that pitchers "just don't have it" some days. From the best to the worse, it happens to them all. Today, Jon Lester clearly didn't have it. More specifically, he never found his cut fastball. It was staying flat over the plate. Lester needs his cutter to be effective, because it is his only way to neutralize right-handed batters. His change-up just isn't developed enough yet. This is especially confounded in Fenway Park, which is so friendly to right-handed batters. Both Upton's and Longoria's homers were on cutters that didn't bite. At that point in the game, it wasn't likely he was going to find it either. All bad things.
Which makes my question to Francona this. Why leave him in when it was an issue of him just not having it? If I were picking a pitcher (1) to win one game for me or (2) head my 2009 rotation, Jon Lester would be in my Top 5 on both counts. He's blossomed into one of the best pitchers in baseball. He's also been a model of consistency for the better part of FIVE months. One of these games was bound to happen. BUT, it is unlikely that it would happen twice in a row to a pitcher of this stature.
So at 2.1 innings and maybe 50 pitches (?) after the Longoria homer, get him out. If you get him out then, you can bring him back for a Game 5, a game you are guaranteed, and he'll be pretty rested. When you let him go 5.2 innings and 96 pitches on a day he didn't have it, you don't give him a chance to come back on anything less than 3 days rest, and at that point, it's possible the series could be over. I would bet on that not happening, but I'm also not the manager, who should be ensuring it doesn't happen.
If the game were 5-3, that's one thing. But 5-0, the way Garza was throwing, is a tall order. Hand the ball to Paul Byrd, and tell him it's his game to win or loe. Maybe you come back, maybe you don't. If you don't, at least you have a bullpen that is on full 2-days rest (much needed) for Wakefield tomorrow. Then, no matter what happens in the Wakefiled game (where you never know what you are going to get), you have your best pitcher lined up to either take the series lead or keep the series alive. Matsuzaka was brilliant last time, but I think everyone would rather see Lester in that spot. Even if you wouldn't, today was essentially a wasted Lester start, which is where Francona did a bad job in my opinion. When he doesn't have it, don't leave him out there to continue to not have it. Get him out, so you can get him back into the series more expeditiously. Wasting him is just that, a waste.
Also a bad job today giving Ellsbury, now 0-21 in this series, the start over Crisp. This situation is overhpyed on this blog, but it's not about that situation anymore. It's about winning games, and right now Ellsbury is crushing the Sox at the top of the lineup, and Crisp is hot. Crisp has always been a streaky player, and the manager needs to try to ride him when he's going and sit him when he's not. Similarly, might be time to rearrange the lineup with Papi. This is not as pressing as either of the above issues, because it might be too much of a shake-up and you don't want to send a panic message. But getting Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jason bay as many AB's as possible is the way this Red Sox offense needs to be thinking right now.
This Red Sox team has made a habit of getting down early in the ALCS and coming right back, so if you're asking me there is a lot of baseball left to play. But this team is not as good or healthy as the 2004 or 2007 squads. Francona is managing like it is those teams, and it isn't. They might still be able to win despite this, but it would help if Francona made it easier on them.
Do not underestimate the residue of hard feelings in the wake of Francona hitting for Jason Varitek a second time in these playoffs. Tito lifted Varitek for J.D. Drew against Dan Wheeler in the ninth inning of Game 2. It's refreshingly bold given Tito's reputation at a "player's manager" and it makes good sense, but be assured the captain sees this as an act of abject betrayal.
Captain K was among the worst offensive players in major league baseball in 2008, and I'm sure he's pretty high up there for the last three years as well.
If you are among the worst offensive players in major league baseball, there will be times (like almost always) you will be lifted for a pinch hitter. Deal with it.
The free pass Varitek has had with not just fans but also with his own manager has been frequently maligned on this blog, and I gotta commend Pat and the commenters for that. I mean, we've seen instances all season where Varitek continued to hold the bat and continued to devastate his team's chances to win baseball games. Even as recently as seven days ago, Francona has talked about his irrational "trust" in Varitek, because he refused TWICE to have the .220 hitter bunt with no outs to 1) move a guy into scoring position and 2) to prevent 46 from hitting into ANOTHER double play.
As referenced in the previously-linked post, Francona also never pinch-hit Sean Casey for Captain K, for the same reason: Trust.
Another dreadful stretch of at-bats prompted Francona to realize that you can't trust your way to victory, and he decided to bring someone off the bench. Unfortunately the guy on the bench was J.D. Drew, but that's beside the point today.
And apparently Varitek was pissed off about it. And apparently he told some media members about it. It's like the guy doesn't realize it's not 2003 anymore. I understand we are talking about putting in Nancy and Kevin Cash, which is not that much of an upgrade, especially if you saw Nancy's gun on the last play of the game Saturday night. But does Varitek not realize that someone--anyone else in that lineup gives the TEAM a better chance to win?
I understand that Varitek's a competitor who, unlike the guy who hit for him, cares quite a bit about winning and losing. But he's also someone heralded as a leader, a team player, a role model, and someone who puts winning as a team above individual accomplishments. You know, a captain. And the reason people (even here to a certain extent) give him the free pass no matter how badly he performs is because he's a leader.
Mouthing off about getting pinch hit for when you are a .220 hitter sounds less like a leader and more like an undermining egomaniac who might be going crazy. Will you still call him Superman?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
This is what happens when Beckett can't keep the ball in the park. Francona Waited for Seven this time around, which would normally drive me nuts, but I want to see each starter out there for as long as possible because every out the starter doesn't get increases the fact that the Red Sox would have to run Timlin out there later, which is the equivalent of the white flag.
By the way, that's also why I will not rag on Francona a bit for leaving Matsuzaka in for the eighth inning, unlike my co-author.
In 2008, I know it seems like more, but there were seven times Javier Lopez came in and failed to retire a batter. There were nine times he faced one batter and got the out (including one double play). That is a terrible percentage and a much more telling statistic than his decent ERA.
Great game by Kotsay. Awesome game by 46. I might have to take back the part about him just getting it in the playoffs. Tampa's apparently got a scouting report about how he can't hit pitches in certain zones...and has pitchers who can execute on it.
All sarcasm aside, people off the hook today are the bullpen minus Lopez and Old Yeller, Bay, Youkilis, Ortiz, Pedroia, and...Coco Crisp.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
They sit in the bullpen all day, clearly not thinking about what they have to do if they come into the game, which is "don't walk guys." Hideki Okajima's first three pitches to Evan Longoria were away from the strike zone. He is having trouble finding the plate. So drawing a walk to give Carl Crawford a change might not be a bad thing.
But Longoria got the green light on 3-0. And so did Carlos Pena in the eighth. We're talking about a two-run game against the Red Sox bullpen, and we're not talking about the worst part of the order sitting on deck, so this is different from me saying JD Drew goes up there looking for a walk in the crossroads of the game. I admire the fact that those two guys wanted to drive in runs, but they were bad decisions.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is some kind of idiot savant. He walks the entire world frequently, like he did in the first inning. Somehow he escapes. Is it a statistical fluke? Maybe, but he does it all the time. He does it against bad teams and, as we saw last night, he does it against good teams. I don't even know what to think anymore. In the first inning, I texted my boy Johnny that there was a 35% chance we'd see Old Yeller in the game. Matsuzaka loading the bases and working himself out of a jam every inning might mean he won't last four innings was my argument.
A more bizarre thing is that after the first, he was brilliant. Obviously. He still nibbled constantly, but it worked. Sometimes watching him is like having that roommate in college who has terrible work habits but still somehow gets A's. You know. A paper's due at 10:00 AM on Friday. By 5:30 PM on Thursday they have not started it. They've talked about starting it, but instead decided to creep on Facebook or read How Youz Doin Baseball. They might go out for an hour on Thursday night and write the paper three or four beers deep, almost finishing at 4:30 AM. Then waking up, writing the last paragraph, and saying "here goes nothing" at 9:00 AM. Pass it in, get it back, and they get an A- or B+. Every time.
That's Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Red Sox blew some opportunities last night, including some blown opportunities by my favorites Nancy and Captain K, but Tampa blew more, most notably in the first, seventh, and eighth. The top story is obviously the starting pitching by Daisuke Matsuzaka. He really is that roommate.
Grant Ball Four is a friggin punk. Youkilis is the man. And Joe Maddon is an emo loser.
I hope the other Sox fans make a weekend visit to HYD. I'd love to hear what you had to say about Game One.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Buck and McCarver are terrible. We all know that. The crazy thing is, they might be getting worse. Let's look at some highlights from last night.
-Former catcher Tim McCarver talking about Cole Hamels beating Manny Ramirez with a fastball. Only problem here is that it was a changeup. It looked like a changeup, and McCarver not only played, but caught, so he should know what a changeup looks like. But if that was over his head, it was 81 MPH. Hamels only has three pitches, all running at distinctly different speeds, so one could just watch the radar gun and know what it was. If this is still too much, Ramirez was about 30 feet in front of the pitch with his swing. Unfortunately, this is all too much for Tim McCarver. This wouldn't be so bad if it was Buck just calling a pitch and moving on. This is McCarver, in a slow motion replay, giving us totally inaccurate information as analysis.
-The 10 seconds (minimum) of silence after the Chase Utley home run. Not a big spot in the game or anything. Phillies had done nothing off Lowe for 5 innings, and just tied the game with one swing. Terrible. After the silence McCarver comes in with some monotone statistic about Utley. Phillies fans have been playoff starved for over a decade. This was THE turning point in the game. Give us something, anything.
-McCarver getting a pass, the above and Buck was the motivation for this entire post. I don't know how much play this has gotten in New England, but Buck's totally lackluster call on the David Tyree catch in the Super Bowl has earned him a lot of attention in New York. Again, perhaps THE play in the game, and Buck gives us something to the tune of "Manning escapes, throws, caught," with an excitement level akin to if he were discussing algebra. I don't know how continually doing this is okay. Isn't the whole point to be excitable in big spots?
-After Blake Dewitt makes a shoe-string catch on a soft liner to second, he threw it to first just to make sure. I don't blame him, with the umpires these days. Buck immediately tells us, "You don't have to throw it to first when you make the catch." Thanks. Goodness. I don't even know what to say.
We went from non-stop stupidity and terrible jokes to non-stop stupidity, monotone calls, and silence. We've essentially traded terrible jokes for monotone calls and silence. While this may seem like a gain, I miss the terrible jokes. At least they were making an effort. Now they are just sitting up there, with huge things happening, and not saying a word or giving us very little. Terrible.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
1. Got an unbelievable voicemail from Pat about FOX's coverage, specifically Tim McCarver. The guy is lost, talking about Cole Hamels's 81 MPH fastball. What I find more unforgivable is not that he was furthering his "Manny Ramirez Sucks" campaign once I turned on the TV to catch the guy's third at-bat. It's fine to have an opinion, and the fact that McCarver voiced his opinion early this week is fine. The fact that his opinion, for the first time maybe ever, matches up with mine is also fine. But to stop calling the game just to criticize a player is heinous and is no better than NESN's Jerry Remy Day.
2. Bad call for the Red Sox to include Mike Timlin on the ALCS roster. I'm serious: Gil Velazquez is most likely not capable of starting a monumental one-game collapse. Timlin is.
3. Pedroia has to start hitting. If you look at the numbers, he struggled early on in the 2007 playoffs as well and is now a .234 career postseason hitter. Before you call the Sample Size Police on me, I'm not comparing him to Mrs. Strahan but he has to start hitting.
4. It was a pleasure to watch some parts of the Phillies-Dodgers game. Cole Hamels is pretty decent. Derek Lowe is, too, and I miss him. Citizens Bank Park is an embarrassment, as pop-ups are hit to the wall. Probably due to the temperment of the Philadelphia fans it might not be a viable option, but Manny could hit 60 home runs there next year. By temperment I mean Philly fans don't like overpaid prima donnas who shun a team that bent over backwards just for the sake of making more money for Scott Boras. More on this later.
5. I still don't trust Brad Lidge. He could go on a Gagne-type streak and I still wouldn't trust him.
6. Good call on putting Wakefield in as the Game Four starter. Not only because I really dislike Paul Byrd and everything in baseball he represents. But because Byrd's postseason numbers aren't exactly strong. He has pitched through the sixth inning exactly once in five starts. Unless he's awful, Wakefield can give innings. I trust him to put together a start like the Detroit start next week.
7. Big ups to Google.com for making Old Google available. I did some research on what was being written from 1997 to 2001 about a Red Sox outfielder. Let's just say after reading what I read, all the kinda-guilty feelings I've had for criticizing a mild-mannered dude who loves his family almost as much as he loves weak ground balls to second base goes completely out the window.
8. I've already made playoff predictions so I'm not going to alter anything. Plus, if I picked the Red Sox to win and they didn't win, I'd be blamed for jinxing. But the ALCS could go either way. The Anaheim series made it look like what the Gunn said: The Red Sox minus JD Drew are in the "I don't want to f'ing lose" mode, and they've proven to be pretty good when in that mode. However, they've hit Tampa Bay multiple times riding a big series win making it look like they're in that mode--just to look like a dead team walking. Could go either way.
9. Though I'm sticking to my prediction, I am not rooting for a Red Sox/Dodgers World Series. After reading the Drew/Old Google stuff, I firmly believe that the fans of Philadelphia deserve a National League pennant. Furthermore, I firmly belive they deserve to see Drew, who might be as hated as Terrell Owens there, in the World Series. Finally, I want to see Coco Crisp hit about three jacks in Citizens Bank Park. So go friggin Phillies.
UPDATE, 8:20 AM, Friday: The Boston Globe's article about Timlin almost had me choking on a Pop Tart this morning. This is what Francona said about putting Old Yeller onto the roster: "I know there will be a comfort level putting him on the roster.
Right. The same kind of comfort level inspired by a Timlin playoff appearance in the year 2008 is similar to the comfort level being felt on Wall Street right now. I suppose "uneasiness," "panic," and "suicidal thoughts" are comfort levels. Just low ones.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Red Sox vs. Rays
Dodgers vs. Phillies
Dodgers vs. Red Sox
AL MVP: Dustin Pedroia
AL CY YOUNG: Kevin Youkilis
AL MOY: Dustin Pedroia
NL MVP: Kevin Youkilis
NL CY YOUNG: Dustin Pedroia
NL MOY: Kevin Youkilis
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Boston did not win this series; the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim did. Pathetic baserunning, from Vladimir Guerrero getting gunned down at third all the way to Erick Aybar's inability to put down a bunt that was reminiscient of Coco Crisp last October. Careless defense from failing to put the glove down on a grounder to many instances of poorly-judged fly balls. There will be some awkward conversations between John Lackey and his teammates after his repeated looks of dismay. And I believe the Mike Scioscia managerial mistake of choosing Lester vs. Lackey in Game Four instead of Byrd/Wakefield against Jon Garland is something that would be discussed all winter if Angels fans cared.
To the Red Sox' credit, they eventually found the big hit three different times, so it's tough to harp on the missed offensive opportunities, especially 29 hours removed from Game Three. If an offense delivered in every single clutch situation, it would be a ten-run game every night.
Before it fades into oblivion, I do have to get the following three observations off my chest regarding Game Three:
1. J.D. Drew looked angry to be playing baseball during his pinch-hitting appearance. He really put up a fight in that strikeout. Watching that at-bat next after his previous at-bat (the 425-foot home run that makes me think he might not be that injured) is a microcosm of his entire time here.
2. When I saw Javier Lopez walk to the mound, I had a similar feeling to Game 2 of the ALCS last year (otherwise known as the Gagne Game). I knew the Red Sox would lose and I knew there were no better options available. Their bullpen lacked the depth to win this war of attrition.
3. On the bright side, the bullpen pitched really, really well in Game Three. They catch a lot of heat here, as any bullpen in baseball does on any blog like this one. But in the playoffs, minus last night and Lopez in Game Three, they've continued the momentum built in September when they went from "shaky" to "kinda shaky." There is also credit due to 46, of whom I'll probably never be a fan, but rises to the occasion time after time except for last night.
Without further ado, the positive things about Game Four:
1. Jon Lester. TBS was talking about how he threw first-pitch strikes and always found himself ahead in the count all year. I wondered if they were just making mistakes on purpose, because that is obviously not true. But the way this guy has put it together surprised the hell out of me. He's the best pitcher on the staff right now. He sure isn't the flashiest, but he is just never hit hard. And he doesn't walk people anymore. The intra-season turnaround is fantastic, and even if he wasn't somewhat lost in the beginning of the year, what he's done in the last five months now is brilliant.
2. Ummm...there was a walkoff hit in a game when it seemed a loss was inevitable. Huge double by Bay. Huge single by Lowrie. Duh. Obviously. Huge double by Pedroia earlier in the game as well.
The performances ennumerated above will forever serve as a huge bailout for Mr. Francona and Mr. Varitek. It is true that 46 looked as bad as anyone out there last night: Great game with the two tappies to the mound, a JD Drew-style WGB, and his tenth (TENTH!) double-play ball of the year. But with Francona and Varitek doing what happened last night, it is a symptom of a bigger problem.
First with Francona: There was going to be a longer soliloquy in this space if he didn't admit after the game that Lester took himself out after seven innings and that he would have preferred Lester to come back for the eighth. But I will cut that out given this information and given the win, because I always reserve the right of saying "you're the manager, you make the decisions of when someone's done." And I also reserve the right to wonder WHY THE F MASTERSON IS PITCHING AGAINST LEFTIES/SWITCH HITTERS. That wall-ball double was inevitable.
But what is troubling and downright alarming is his trust of Jason Varitek. As you may remember, in late July when there was constant questioning of why the hell the guy was getting at-bats while Sean Casey sat on the bench, Francona said the following (taken From It's Why We Watch Volume 11):
We need him. I believe in him. I will always believe in him. Sometimes when things are going tough, you don't bury him. It would be the easy thing to do, but I don't think it's right.
Dude, things have been going tough for three years now, and he looks especially lost in 2008. I actually feel bad for the guy, as he has become Gus Sinski (the character played by John C. Reilly in the movie For Love of the Game. John C. Reilly. Think about it.). But the guy really cannot hit anymore. Francona has been burned with this trust all year, and last night there were two situations where Varitek could have been useful by bunting along a runner instead of flying out. For some reason, even in a two-run game in the playoffs with a man on first and no outs, Francona doesn't want to take the bat out of the guy's hands. What the F. By the way, a bunt in one of these situations would have prevented the 46 double play.
As Mr. H. alluded to, last night was not an example when the LEADER BEHIND THE PLATE GREAT PITCH CALLING INTANGIBLE INTANGIBLE HANDLES THE PITCHING STAFF GREAT INTANGIBLE NOT ABOUT THE BAT INTANGIBLE CALLS A GREAT GAME PREPARATION PREPARATION INTANGIBLE SMARTEST INTANGIBLE GUY ON THE FIELD argument held any merit. The only good thing about TBS coverage compared to the NESN coverage is that they really put emphasis on the pitches being called all series long.
Last night was deplorable. There were way too many pitches "wasted" by guys who have the occasional control problem. You do not waste two pitches and nibble at the corners for the rest of the at-bat. I don't care if it's Vlad Guerrero or Dougie Mirabelli. But one of those eighth-inning at-bats might as well have been intentional walks. Not a good call in a two-run game and the heart of the order coming up.
What the F happened with the passed ball? Wow. Really? The Captain K free pass may have evaporated in that very moment. Because it's the difference between a double tying the game and a single tying the game (which is what happened). If the guy could hit, it wouldn't have been squarely on his shoulders. But he couldn't hit AND he made constant mistakes behind the plate, there is nothing for Varitek apologists to fall back on. Now they can fall back on one tag. Just as J.D. Drew apologists use the "Bellhorn Should Get $70 Million" logic of "two hits and one month justify two years of frustration and futility."
But anyway, Sox advance and that's great news. This series was like a tennis match: The Red Sox stayed close for long enough and waited for the other guys to make unforced errors. As they did stay close, they didn't play particularly bad baseball, nor did the Angels. But those unforced errors happened often for LA. Something to second guess all winter.
Monday, October 6, 2008
-As Pat had said, the Red Sox have been playing some very charmed baseball. That is not the same as good baseball. They've played well enough to keep them in the game and the big hit just happened to find them the first two games. Doesn't hurt that the Angels suck at judging fly balls this week and that they've played pretty poorly. That did not happen last night. I am not furious; it was inevitable.
-As the boys pointed out in yesterday's comment section, Beckett did not look good. Neither did F-Rod.
-Pat is right about my "conflict of interest." J.D. Drew is the Peter Gibbons of that organization. He's doing just enough to not get fired. The seven text messages I got Friday night, including my boy Jack saying that no matter what "stupid argument" I can put together, he's worth every penny. The fact that he won't play at 99% is another stupid argument for another stupid day.
-Julio Lugo failed to do just enough not to get fired.
-TBS is irresponsible. I met someone from Georgia last night who not only gave me the Jason Varitek Intangible bit (I had to bite my tongue), but also said he did such a good job catching Wakefield. This, of course, is not true, but the TBS gentlemen did a whole thing on it the other night. Irresponsible. They also said that the Phillies are hoping the young Pedro Feliz "develops" into a 20-25 HR hitter someday. Feliz is 33 years old.
-Mike Scoscia made a terrible mistake. Way to choose to see Jon Lester in game 4 against Wakefield or the Steroid User. It is not hard to determine that Jon Garland is better than either of those guys. If you have better pitching depth, it is usually a good call to take advantage of it.
Work time, have a great day.
Friday, October 3, 2008
While in most principles I agree with what Shaughnessy's saying, I can't help to think that Damon did the same thing and the very same newspaper (the Boston Globe) lobbied and lobbied and lobbied to cheer the guy. Let's take a look at what Shaughnessy said:
Regarding Ramirez's comments, Shaughnessy calls it "downright nauseating." He said he hopes the Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles meet in the World Series and if that happens is hoping for the fans to "tell Manny what you think of him when he finally steps into that batter's box."
We know what he thinks of you. He thinks all you Sox fans are losers who need to get a life. You just care too darn much. It doesn't matter how much love you showered on his head. You bothered him with all that caring.
Shaughnessy also expressed skepticism at Ramirez's comments about being "unhappy for eight years," as he should have. He also took exception about how Manny blasted the Boston media for writing "all that bull," but used that as an opportunity to talk about himself in typical Shaughnessy fashion. After talking about himself some more, Jack McCormick, and Manny's newfound hustle in Los Angeles (we've talked about it already and it is unconscionable, needless to say) and how the region's attitude is letting it happen, he closes well:
Just don't keep talking about how unhappy you were in Boston. Count your blessings and keep quiet about the Fenway years so we don't have to remind everyone of the shameful manner in which you quit on your team in order to gain free agency.
Okay. First of all, everything Shaughnessy said is correct. Ben Affleck said in the movie "Boiler Room" that whoever said "Money can't buy happiness" didn't have any. If you are unhappy with your privacy, remember you're making $20 million a year. Manny's actions in Boston and newfound hustle in Los Angeles is pathetic. Red Sox fans should give Manny the same treatment J.D. Drew gets in Philadelphia: Signs that say he's a disgrace to baseball, constant boos throughout the at-bat, and the occasional battery. The entire chain of events is indefensible.
Especially the fact that he won't shut the hell up to the media about how much he hated Boston fans, media, and the organization that gave him the $900,000 paychecks every two weeks. It is not hard to say the right things to the newspapers.
What I think is almost as heinous as what Ramirez did is the way that Shaughnessy tells fans to boo after he, Bob Ryan, Jackie MacMullan, and Chris Snow ALL pleaded fans to cheer Johnny Damon.
I wish I knew how to make a table in this blog, but I do not. I will start with things they both did:
1. Popped off to the media about the owner and/or front office.
2. Popped off to the media about how much happier they are in the new place, but continuing to compare and contrast it to Boston.
3. Sacrificed more guaranteed money (in Damon's case, Baltimore and Los Angeles offered more; in Manny's case, a $40 million head start with those two options), most likely a job orchestrated by Scott Boras.
4. Popped off to the media about how great of a baseball player they STILL are and how the Red Sox didn't give them a chance to prove it.
5. Continued popping off and popping off and popping off. This is called "running yourself out of town." It is not hard for a popular player to leave and not become reviled, and that is not talking. Neither Damon nor Ramirez got this memo.
6. Started very successful for their new teams and gloated about it.
Bad Stuff Manny Did that Damon Didn't Do:
1. Punched a traveling secretary.
2. Dogged it in Boston.
3. Failed to do his job in the efforts to get himself out of town.
4. Was generally unpleasant to the media while in Boston.
Bad Stuff Damon Did that Manny Didn't Do:
1. Started bitching about his contract demands fifteen minutes after the conclusion of the season, while Manny said "we'll just see what happens".
2. Had his father go to the newspapers and say that letting go of Damon was the worst mistake since Babe Ruth.
3. Talk about specific numbers of what could have kept him. Made the negotiations very, very public.
4. Kept on running his mouth while trying to barrel up some sympathy from fans: basically trying to turn fans on the front office and the team.
5. Consistently ripped the Red Sox' next center fielder.
Number four on the second column is the kicker. The journalists stepped up to the plate for their boy because he, um, was very, um, cordial, um, in, um, interviews. The only pain in the butt he ever created for them was editing the "um"s out of the interviews. Shaughnessy wants to throw the first nine-volt battery because he had to go through Manny's interpreter Julian Tavarez.
I'm not a Dan Shaughnessy player hater, but I am a Johnny Damon player hater. Big time. I would just like to see a little bit of consistency from the Boston Globe. Damon committed just as many crimes as Manny Ramirez did, but the Globe wants Damon to remain a hero while painting Ramirez as a villain. It's inconsistent and downright irresponsible.