Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No Urgency

I thought I would be able to go to bed early tonight, already writing half of a post lauding the Red Sox' road record. A win tonight, which is no longer a sure thing as I write this, would have meant 12-4 on the road in their last sixteen. A stark contrast to this post, written when the Red Sox were three under .500 on the road. No matter what happens tonight, the team is well on their way to winning the 22 games in 4 months on the road, a dramatic example illustrated in this post commending how at least they're a good home team. Granted, they've played against teams like the Nationals and a mid-train wreck Tigers, but winning on the road is winning on the road.

This game, however, is an absolute abomination, and a lot of it has to fall on the manager. The team was clearly a game where the visiting team was hoping it would be rain-shortened and they'd have half of a vacation day. It did not turn out that way. But as the Orioles started to mount a comeback, the Red Sox still acted like they were on vacation. They were okay with spotting the Orioles a few hits, a few runs. The entire second half of the game was like watching a Papelbon outing. Absolutely no urgency to get guys out and put this thing away. (By now, Papelbon has blown the save he's about two months overdue to blow.)

Maybe Rusty Masterson, despite the same initials, is NOT Ramiro Mendoza. He looked great. For two innings. Then he started missing location, badly. Francona, not noticing the fact that Rusty was letting the Orioles creep back with several more outs to go, kept him in for way too many batters. Until there was a crisis.

Then Okajima, despite overwhelming evidence from the get-go (a single and a hard liner in the 7th) that he was not going to be effective tonight, was allowed to face four (4) batters in the eighth. Clearly okay, because the Red Sox at one point had a nine-run lead. No need for urgency.

And once Francona realized it might be an urgent situation, he puts in the king of spotting the other team some baserunners. And finally Papelbon paid for the fact that the new him loves to run his mouth more than he loves to get guys out.

Lugo is terrible. If you cannot move to cover second base on a ground ball up the middle, you should quit baseball altogether and play the piano. Same goes with not being able to protect the plate in the ninth inning down by a run. By the time his contract expires, he should be playing next to Gagne for the independent Quebec Capitales.

While on a whole, I still believe what I've been saying about how blowouts are the best games for your bullpen to show their human side, letting a reliever stay in the game for a third inning and not taking him out until he surrenders five (5) consecutive hits is an irresponsible thing to do. It shows a complete lack of urgency, which I believe is a particularly unprofessional, bush-league (literally) thing to do after a rain delay. I think the Red Sox are a good team, but good teams don't choke nine-run leads.

Cold streak. Market value down. Time to sign Jason Bay.

And you know what?

John Smoltz, with a start he truly shouldn't be disappointed about, didn't deserve this.

Eric Gagne, Two Years Later

We'll start with the stuff happening south of the Mason-Dixon line. Red Sox came out of Atlanta unscathed, including a very frustrating Sunday afternoon game. Watching a Wakefield game, making sure they retain that lead, is almost like watching the US-Brazil soccer game on Sunday, with a constant sense of anxiety.

As far as last night goes, another good night for Lester, and another bad night for Ramon Ramirez, which is not really a good thing at all. Nancy Drew continues to be the Peter Gibbons of major league baseball, doing just enough to not get criticized. I was a day away from talking about his 0-8 to end the weekend, including his Saturday game when he struck out looking, struck out swinging, struck out check swinging, and hit a weak ground ball to second base. He's been invisible in this lineup. Last night he wasn't invisible and was, for one night, maybe worth $14 million a year.

Anyway, last night I went to Nashua to see Eric Gagne pitch in the Can-Am League for the Quebec Capitales. I showed up to watch Gagne get lit up, because he has three pretty big strikes against him: Steroids, Boras, and almost sabotaging the Red Sox' 2007 season. But he got shelled so bad that even I felt bad.

If you didn't know, the former Dodgers marginal 6th starter before juicing is on the comeback trail as a starter, and they're crazy about him in Quebec, his hometown. They were not crazy about him in Nashua, as about 240 people showed up in reality, few of whom knew this was the same guy who pitched with the Red Sox less than two years ago. It's a pretty precipitous fall. He was a lot smaller and, surprisingly, a lot worse, which is hard to do.

In the first, he gave up two runs, having his unimpressive stuff sprayed all over the place. Another run or two in the second inning, and a clean third inning I'm pretty sure. He occasionally threw a pitch that made you remember he was once a major leaguer, but that happened only about three times all game. In the fourth, he started to really get shelled. He gave up two absolute bombs to the American Defenders, and surrendered another one to the warning track. He left the fourth inning with six runs under his belt.

Then they brought him back out for the fifth, where, among other hits, he finally induced a shallow outfield pop-up. That fell between two of his players for a double. After the fifth, he had eight earned runs. And they brought him back for the sixth, when he got drilled by a comebacker and threw the ball over the first baseman's head. He finished the game with nine runs, eight earned, and 14 hits.

It was inexplicable how his manager continued to trot this guy out inning after inning just to get lit up. But it was pathetic in a sympathy-inducing way. It looked like Gagne knew how far he had fallen, and he always seemed like someone who had pride in his pitching success. He made a lot of admirable comments to the media when in Boston, admitting that he sucked and admitting it was embarrassing and unacceptable to suck the way he did. I could just imagine how much of a disaster last night was. And that's why even I felt bad, especially after they brought him back out for the sixth.

But again it shows that steroids are well worth it as the rules are currently constructed. He was a borderline major leaguer before he juiced, then he threw 83 straight saves. The day before the Mitchell Report, he got a $10 million contract with Milwaukee despite not deserving anything given his performance the year before. Perhaps if Gagne would have never taken steroids, he would have ended up with the Quebec Capitales much earlier than 2009. But he got a record. And he got paid.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Different Year, Different Team

A big part of me feels like I should be posting about Mariano Rivera today. But we have a small group of intelligent readers who know how good he is, and we've discussed it many times before. One thing I will say is that it is not easy to find someone who in this day and age who (1) is better at doing their particular job, in any sport, than Rivera is at closing baseball games and (2) does this job with the ultimate professionalism that he does. He's the best ever.

Six games shy of the halfway point in the season, the Yankees find themselves with the third best record in baseball. It's been a roundabout effort to say the least, and interleague play is a perfect example. It seemed like the Yanks were struggling mightily against the Senior Circuit, but ended up with a 10-8 record. It seemed like the Red Sox never lost, and yet they ended up 11-7. In a way, this is a microcosm of the entire season to date.

A big reason for the Yankees' overall success this season has been thier new acquisitions, and with nearly 50% of the season gone it is reasonable to begin looking at their contributions. They were on display this weekend, with Sabathia and Burnett going 14 innings of 4 hit, 1 run, 14 strikeout baseball combined, Swisher kicing off the scoring Saturday with the first opposite field shot by a lefty at new Citi Field, and Teixeira both starting and creating most of the Yankees' offense last night with the two run double in the first.

This type of production, especailly recently, is nothing new to these four, and the Yankees have the best record in baseball since May because of it.

Since May 8th, Sabathia has made 10 starts. He is 6-1 with a 2.83. He's pitched 7 innings or more in 9 of those 10 starts, with the only stray being the game he left early with a sore biceps. He's now gone past the 7th inning 7 times already this season. To put this in context, the Red Sox did this as a team 17 times last year, and they are considered to have very good pitching. He's been one of the best pitchers in baseball, and that's what the Yankees needed, wanted, and thought they were getting. That's what they've gotten.

Similar to Sabathia, Burnett has been outstanding. He's the only newcomer that hasn't gone on a very cold streak, but has been at his best lately. Since April 30th, he has a 3.38 ERA and has averaged just shy of 7 innings per start. In the last month he's been even better, and since May 27th has gone 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA. Really it's just been the two debacles in Boston. On the season, he's now at 3.93. But he's allowed 11 of his 41 earned runs, just over 25% of the total, in 2 starts and 7.2 inninigs vs. Boston, or about 8% of his total innings pitched. While that is troubling as Boston is the one team you want him to beat more than anyone else, the flip side is that he has essentially been dominating against everyone else. The Yankees thought they were getting a guy that, though inconsistent, is on more than he's not, and when he's on he's as good as there is. That's exactly what they've gotten.

Teixeira requires very little explanation. Since May 4th, he's .314/.402/.670/1.072 with 17 homers, 18 doubles, and 48 RBI. He's been the best offensive player on the team, and despite his horrid May, is OPS+ing 149, the best on the Yankees and one of the best around baseball. He's also been playing about as good a first base as you can play. The Yankees thought they were getting one of the best all-around players in baseball, and that's exactly what they've gotten.

Unlike Sabathia and Teixeira, Swisher did not start cold. His swoon came in May, where he was bad in a way similar to Tex in April. Still, his 128 OPS+ ranks second on the team to only Teixeira. His 14 home runs from the bottom of the order have been a major boost to a lineup that struggled mightily last year. Most significant, perhaps, is that he's been getting the job done on the road and is not a product of the NYS. At home he's .177/.373/.323/.696 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. On the road he's .284/.373/.634/1.008 with 11 homers and 32 RBI. When you look at the way that most of the rest of the team has trended home/away, this has been important. Considering that the Yankees only gave up Wilson Betemit (who the White Sox have already released) and Jeff Marquez (who has an 8.16 ERA at AAA this year), and in addition are only paying him $5.3 million in '09, the Yankees are pretty much playing with house money with Swish. Anything he provides is a positive. He's given a lot more, and that's even better. The Yankees thought they were getting a versatile player with plus power and plus on-base ability on the cheap, and that's exactly what they've gotten.

The rookies should not be ignored either. Aceves, Gardner, Coke, Cervelli, and Robertson were not major contributors to last year's team. Aceves has a 2.27 ERA and has been the most valueable member of the pen not named Mariano. Gardner's OPS+ is 107, and anything he gives over 100 is house money. At 100, he's easily breaking even because of his legs. Anything above, it's just that much more production. Coke has a 3.31 ERA, and oppossing batters are hitting .189 off of him. Cervelli is batting .269, has a cannon for an arm, the pitchers all love throwing to him, and his energy is contagious. Robertson has a 2.60 ERA. All of these guys, like the four big boys, are a big reason this team has the third best record in baseball after missing the playoffs last year.

Two quick notes from last night:

- Despite the results, Wang does not look good. 11-2 groundball/flyball is a positive, and he definitely seems to be trending in the right direction. But his sinker is still all over the place, is up far too much, and most importantly is just not sinking the way it used to. ESPN did the comparison last night and it's like two different pitches, what he's throwing now vs. what he threw last year and before. I'd say he's still pitching well enough to stay in the roation. Related, that should mean Hughes to AAA. Hughes needs to start somewhere, and now that it seems Wang is staying in the rotation, Hughes should be starting at AAA. Keeping him in the bullpen does not allow him to get his innings, and that's what he needs. Andy Pettitte is not pitching particularly effectively as it is, and you certainly can't keep giving him one year contracts forever. Hughes has showed he's ready to at least be a #5 starter, and to do that next year they need him to be stretched out. In addition to being ready if a need arises this year.

- In a 3-1 game with 2 out and a runner on 3rd, Girardi pitched to Castillo with the pitcher on deck. The runner on 3rd represented 50% of the lead. Walk Castillo, get to the pitcher, and get out of it. Don't let anybody but the pitcher beat you in that spot, but especially don't let a swith-hitting slap hitter batting lefty face a righty sinkerballer, because all slap hitters want to do is hit variations of fastballs the other way. That's exactly what Castillo did, grounding one up the 3rd baseline. Didn't Girardi manage in the NL? Makes no sense.

Friday, June 26, 2009

John Patrick Smoltz

I feel bad burying Pat's post (It's okay, Danny. My post can be summed up by asking why the Yankees don't have any outfielders who can catch the baseball. Have a great day. Love, PF), but I haven't been this steaming mad at the Red Sox for a long time. At approximately 10:05 last night (2:05 AM Ireland time) I heard John Smoltz, after getting absolutely shelled by one of the worst teams in baseball history, say that he can't be disappointed with his outing. My jaw dropped as he wore a great big grin on his face. This guy has had a short leash with me for a long time because of his big mouth, but last night was shocking.

I understand what he means: His second, fourth, and fifth inning were serviceable. By "serviceable" I mean better than Matsuzaka. However, he got shelled in the first and shelled in the third. He missed his location hideously--so hideously that the Washington friggin Nationals led by absolute superstar Josh Bard could capitalize on his mistakes. The first inning alone represented over a third of his outing.

But John Smoltz is happy with his pitiful performance. He thinks the real major league baseball games that counts in the real American League East standings and cost the Red Sox a real half-game is just like another minor league rehab start, where it's just part of the rehab process. No, John. This is like the MLB All-Star Game: This One Counts.

He gave the Nationals credit. Yes, good for them for hitting poor breaking balls up in the strike zone. His post game presser showed absolutely no regard for the fact that this game was just as significant as the other 161. No frustration or anger about the fact that he got lit up. And as much as Smoltz's career has impressed me, this does not sit well with me.

I'm also not sure why the Red Sox and Smoltz feel so strong that this guy is entitled to a spot in the rotation. Before Matsuzaka got "hurt," Smoltz was talking as if he just assumed he'd be inserted into the major league rotation on his own schedule. And that pisses me off. I'm not sure why a reclamation project should feel as entitled as John Smoltz has acted. It's not 1995. Smoltz should realize that he does not deserve a long leash. Clay Buchholz is in AAA and he is probably a better option overall right now. If Smoltz continues to put together performances like the one last night, keeping Buchholz in AAA is detrimental to the team.

And it's also a lot like the Schilling reliever experiment of 2005. In the interest of an injured pitcher with a big mouth and a sense of entitlement getting minor league rehab while in the major leagues, Francona and the Red Sox fooled around and cost themselves games. Games that could have given them the AL East title. It's like the priorities of the player supersede the priority of winning baseball games.

That is not okay. I am disappointed. You should be disappointed. Even if John Smoltz is not.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Can't The Yankees' Outfield Catch?

As I type this, Brett Gardner just dropped a routine flyball in short centerfield for an error. This lead to two runs. Since the start of the Red Sox series, Swisher, Damon, and Gardner have all just flat out dropped flyballs. Not difficult plays. Balls that were right there for them that they just dropped. Unbelievable. This is something you maybe see once or twice in an entire season. Not only have I seen drops four times in the last two weeks, but you also have to consider the misplays that all four of them have had at different points that have been absolutely awful. Really, unbelievable. Why can't these guys just catch the thing?

UPDATE, 9:26 PM: What are Aceves and Posada (and whoever else might be involved in calling the game) doing calling back to back curveballs in a 1-1 count, with 2 outs, and nobody on to Javier Vasquez? Both going for balls allowed Vasquez to walk, bringing up McLouth who doubled, and setting up a 2nd and 3rd situation where a single ties the game. Make Vasquez get a hit, throw strikes.

UPDATE, 9:53 PM: How about Derek Jeter? Stealing 3rd for his 17th of the year, after 11 all of last year. Batting .305 and playing his best defense of the decade, the kid appears to be back. Let's hope it continues. Big spot for Rodriguez.

UPDATE, 10:00 PM: Big knock for Rodriguez. It's late here, probably it for the night. Enjoy the rest of the game for those who are watching.

UPDATE, 6:21 AM: Good win. would have been nice to stay away from Mo, but with the tying run on deck you have to go to him if he's available. On Mo, 499 is pretty incredible. Just a great career. Here's to it continuing for quite some time.

Yankees need to go get two from the Mets this weekend and get out of interleague play at .500, and more importantly get back to winning consecutive series and generating positive momentum after losing series to the Nationals and Marlins.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's All Startin To Make Sense

Two years ago, when two of my friends got banned from RFK Stadium forever for getting way too drunk at a Nationals game, I chalked it up to them acting like idiots and taking advantage of the $5 ticket price by overcompensating with beer.

Now it all makes sense: The Nationals might be the worst baseball team most of us have ever seen. Jason Varitek would probably agree with that statement, but you wouldn't know it because he doesn't talk about his hitting anymore.

Anyway, some general observations:

Number 46 may still be delusional about hitting .353 this year, but if I were told he was going to be hitting above .300 toward the end of June, I'd be happy. Again, I'm not sure if they're pitching to him the same way they were pitching to him when he was struggling, but he is hitting the ball very well. He has certainly shrunk the dead zone low and outside, taking the ball the other way and sometimes hitting the ball into the gap. He's not as frantic and urgent to finish the at-bat when he's up there. He's not an All-Star. But he's not a terrible baseball player.

David Ortiz's problem was not strength. You read it here on HYD Baseball first. It is nice to see that he's starting to get the timing back. His numbers now are .219 with 7 home runs. (Mike Lowell, in his disastrous 2005, had eight home runs between April and September.) Considering the way he started, that's not that bad.

The Red Sox bullpen has been playing poorly lately, from top to bottom. The team is very fortunate that it hasn't really come back to bite them. But every bullpen, as we've noticed, will have its ups and downs. If the Red Sox can get the downs over with when they're playing AAAA teams like the Nats, it's a good way to retain this five-game lead in the East.

So the bullpen's dodging bullets. The Red Sox are winning games over the weekend they should have lost. The Smoltz speculation will mercifully be over tomorrow, when he actually starts pitching again. Everything's right with the world.

More Questions Than Answers

On June 4, I ran into a buddy of mine from high school who went on to play college baseball on the subway home. The Yankees had a day game against Texas that afternoon, and him being a big Yankee fan as well, we talked baseball. That afternoon was Wang's first start. I've talked here on a number of occasions how the Yankees mishandled Wang, and that it's not his fault, and we discussed that and put it aside in our conversation. What I wanted to ask him, as a former pitcher and member of very good high school and college rotations for 8 years, was about the timing of his reentry to the rotation. The Yankees scored 8 runs to win that day, 8-6, and would go on to win 2 of 3 against Tampa over the weekend, giving them 19 wins in their last 25 tries. At 19-6, he told me you don't change anything. Unless it's a super talent that you know is ready to go, you stick with what's working. Even if long-term you think the player you are bringing back will offer more production than current members of the rotation, there is such a thing as five guys being in rhythm, no matter what their talent level - and let's be honest, the Yankees' five at the time weren't lacking for talent. It's not just the rotation either, but the rest of the team can be affected by shakeups. Wang coming in and getting blasted twice puts more stress on the offense to score and the bullpen to provide more effective innings. Bringing Wang back on a 19-6 streak, mixing things up at that time, raised more questions than answers.

Since the Tampa series, the Yankees have gone 4-9. Is this totally because of Wang? Of course not, not even close. Despite the record and Wang's struggles, the Yankees are pitching well of late, though not as well as before his reinsertion into the rotation. The offense has been on a two week and climbing hiatus, and they are major culprits here. But as we said above, shaking up something that is working can affect other parts of the team. Who knows if that is the case here, and really it isn't the most important thing in this analysis. What is important is why the Yankees so frequently have struggling players in the lineup and hot players on the bench. One of the Yankees' strengths is their depth. The Yankees have ten players (10, 1-0) who have OPS+'s of 101 or higher. That's ten above average players. Forget the fact that they have a lot of stars, and three guys (Teixeira, Posada, and Swisher) with OPS+'s of 132 or higher, essentially turning in big seasons to date. Because that is the issue. Just because they have a lot of talent does not mean the same guys should be playing all the time, or even have any sort of hold on a lineup spot where other options are available. Offense is a game of failure, with the best guys failing 7 out of 10. And this certainly is not arrived at by players going 1 for 3 every night. It's a game of stretches. Part of a manager's job description is maximizing hot stretches and minimizing cold stretches. Not by shaking things up day to day, because nobody can predict that. More so by not being afraid to pull the trigger for a more extended period of time on a lineup change. Gardner was awful to start the season, and Melky was hot. It took far too long to make that change, because there are confidence issues on both sides of that coin. Conversely, on the day Melky crashed into the wall in Texas, he was .323/.368/.481. Since he is .194/.282/.339. across 18 starts. Meanwhile, Gardner has been playing great baseball, batting .349/.429/.395. Yet Melky has had significantly more at bats. Swisher struggled mightily through May and rarely got a blow. Despite what can only be described as massive struggles, coming off surgery, Rodriguez started the first 38 games off the DL, 36 at third base. The Yankees have 10 guys with above average OPS+'s, and they have a back-up catcher hitting .288 in Cervelli. They have options. When a manager has options, he should use them. Why he doesn't is a question and not an answer.

Speaking of Rodriguez, the way he was handled is mystifying. Girardi himself admitted he flubbed this one. Now you have CC talking about his workload ("could be the 120 pitches," when talking about his bicep) this year, which is greater pitch count wise than it has been at any point in his career. You have Rivera laying on the trainer's table throwing up in the 8th inning, and pitching the 9th, in a situation where a save wasn't required. You have Posada with a sore hamstring and being allowed to play right through it, only to pop it the following week. We've heard about how these guys ask in the lineup/to keep the ball. No kidding. Part of the manager's job description is to force guys like this out when it's in their and the team's best interest. For Girardi specifically, this excuse doesn't register anyway. He brought Josh Johnson (who by the way, is very real), back out after an 80 something minute rain delay. He had Tommy John surgery the next season. He let Anibal Sanchez to 114.1 Major League innings across only 17 starts (so we're talking about 230 innings over a full season type pace - for a rookie), in his first season at the big league level. He also allowed Ricky Nolasco, another rookie, to 140 Major League innings. Like Johnson, both of these players were injured the following year. Girardi has a history of working guys too hard. Why does he do this? That's a question, not an answer. None of us know for sure. The Big Ticket and I always talk about the Kazmir trade as Duquette potentially making a trade for the sole purpose of saving his job at the end of the year. Become slightly better now but really hurt the team long term. But the long term wasn't his concern, only keeping his job was, and that's the now. Girardi will likely lose his job if he misses the playoffs this year. Is that why he is working Sabathia and Rodriguez so hard? Again, more questions.

Finally, if you've been reading the papers, reading the blogs, listening to the radio, or watching the broadcasts, you know there have been rumblings about Girardi losing some of his veterans (though nobody has said who) for a second straight season. Now that it's for real, and the Yankees are struggling, that easy going guy in Spring Training is supposedly out the window. It's easy to be any particular way in March. What matters is how you are when the lights go on. The word that gets used over and over again is "tense". I'm not even sure that he always means it, but when you look at him in the dugout, that's what he exudes. I can only imagine that's what he's like in the clubhouse and before games, and the players' rumblings about this confirms it to some extent. But it isn't hard to come to that conclusion anyway. He's a smart, cutting-edge, numbers oriented manager. Whether you agree with that or not, he's tight, and that's not a good thing for a season that lasts as much as eight months. Why is he like this when he says he's not going to be? You know the drill.

I'm no longer going to talk about this in bulk. The small group of readers we have here knows how I feel. I'm sure I'll talk about in-game decisions and big stuff that might come up, but I'm not going to beat this thing into the ground. He's not the worst manager, but he's also not the manager I'd thought he'd be when I advocated his signing after Torre was let go, which is to say a good one. This is chiefly because for me, I find myself asking a lot of questions. Not just why did he do this or that in a particular game, because that's with every manager. Also with big, important themes in terms of the way he operates. The above are just a few examples. He has become almost a mysterious character to me, one that I simply cannot figure, especially his timing (or lack thereof), the way he overworks his players, and why he's so tight all the time. Quite honestly, I feel like there are more questions than answers. Managing the Yankees is the most coveted managing position in baseball, maybe in all of American sports. While he may not be the worst, somebody with this many questions cannot be the best. A position in this type of demand should have the best.

Monday, June 22, 2009

No Fehr of Bodily Harm

Word came out today that MLB Players’ Association chief Donald Fehr, an uber-heel among baseball fans for the last decade and a half at least, will be stepping down in nine months. So soon? This guy’s legacy is probably going to end up pretty unfavorable, as it should be. It should be mentioned that in some respects, he’s taken his constituents a long way, just as his predecessor Marvin Miller did. Players’ salaries and other benefits skyrocketed under his watch. It might be because he was negotiating against an incompetent commissioner, but hey, whoever wins the AL Central this year gets to go to the playoffs, you know what I mean?

However, he will go into the books as the guy who loved steroids, the guy who was more stubborn than Roger Clemens on the floor of Congress, and the guy who is continuing to resist any kind of halfway-reasonable drug testing in baseball. Donald Fehr is a joke.
In the 1994 strike, he overplayed his hand and projected himself as the arrogant negotiator, even though Bud Selig’s salary cap idea was undoubtedly poorly-conceived, poorly-researched, and poorly-structured. I was only nine years old when it happened, but knowing everything Selig has done since, I feel it is a safe assumption. Fehr still emerged as the heel.

What Fehr did to re-gain favor, however, is his most egregious crime. His poor job negotiating civilly in 1994 almost eradicated baseball from the United States, and in order to save baseball, he was one of many parties to turn the other way. The other parties were negligent, but Fehr was the one who failed to do his job above all others. For those of you with strong animosity towards George Bush, saying he ignored his constituents to push an agenda and an unpopular war, you should shine your animosity toward Fehr, who DID NOT act in the best interests of his constituents for the last twelve years.

At union meetings, several years in a row, Texas Rangers player representative Rick Helling voiced his concern about the growth of steroids in the game. As they were becoming more rampant and more necessary for people to retain their jobs and their union benefits, clean players were being pressured into taking highly-dangerous illegal substances and, in essence, agreeing to perhaps sacrifice years or decades of their lives to keep their jobs. Most unions try to keep their constituents away from, you know, coal mines, high buildings, asbestos, and other harmful working conditions. Donald Fehr did not do this. His constituents chose at an alarming rate to subject themselves to extreme bodily harm—just because the MLBPA wouldn’t listen to Rick Helling and other clean players who were concerned about what was going on.

Thanks to Donald Fehr, the dirty players, the ones who are breaking U.S. federal law, were protected at the expense of the law-abiding clean players. He continued to cover for the dirty players and disregard his law-abiding constituents as the steroid news hit. This continues to be the case, as the MLB drug testing policy, despite Fehr’s claims that it is top-notch, is still an absolute joke. While Fehr and his cronies (one who said steroids are no worse than cigarettes) sometimes get credit for the “re-opening” of the collective bargaining agreement, that is a farce: He wouldn’t have done a thing if he didn’t have Congress breathing down his neck. Same goes for Selig. But if you argue that in the last fifteen years, Donald Fehr worked in the best interests of his constituents, you’re wrong. Like Scott Boras, Donald Fehr worked in the best interests of Donald Fehr. Donald Fehr was okay with steroids because he didn’t want to be the guy who ruined baseball by being a jerk during the strike.

Come March, when this scumbag who should probably be indicted for widespread drug conspiracy and a massive cover-up finally steps down, Fehr will be at the helm for 25 years. He is not per se resigning as the “embattled” Donald Fehr. He is not resigning under scandal.

He should be.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wide Scope

Three Red Sox-related things today:

Let’s start totally off the field: I was on the Green Line Friday night headed toward the Fenway Park area. Lou Merloni came on the trolley. While it’s weird that he was on the Green Line in the first place because it doesn’t go to Pawtucket, it was almost definitely him and I did a double take. Nobody else in the train, full of Red Sox fans, seemed to recognize who Merloni is. Maybe that would make sense for a utility infielder from 7-10 years ago, but he’s on the radio all the time. He’s on NESN and Comcast SportsNet all the friggin time. He’s recognizable. But none of the Red Sox fans on this train recognized him. That says a lot about what “Red Sox Nation” is all about right now.

Somewhat off the field: I didn’t know that ramping up too fast to play in the World Baseball Classic caused Troy Percivalitis. (For those who may be new, that's a severe condition where you go on the DL not because you're injured, but because you suck.) But peace out to Matsuzaka. It should be interesting to see what Smoltz is capable of—it seems like the team has a lot of wood for what this guy has to offer. It seems like the fans have A LOT of wood for Smoltz. I am not convinced. Previously I was kind of confused about why Red Sox fans are so eager to pull the trigger on a rotation move, saying that Matsuzaka should be the odd man out, how Penny should be the odd man out, how the guy with the nine wins should be the odd man out. I don’t know why nobody’s saying Smoltz should be the odd man out, as the other guys (well, maybe not Matsuzaka) had been pitching proficiently. Smoltz was supposed to be INSURANCE. INSURANCE means JUST IN CASE something goes wrong. Nothing had gone wrong yet, so until Daisuke crapped the bed, the insurance should have been just that instead of talking about return times to the media. Maybe we should just flat-out cut communication lines from Pawtucket, because Buchholz should shut up too. You don’t suck last year, you don’t get yourself in this position.

Speaking of popping off to the media, good job by Matsuzaka: After sucking really hard on Friday, he said that he didn’t deserve to be part of the rotation. At least he hasn’t come down with a serious case of Suck Patrick Denial.

On the field: Matsuzaka is a disaster. Beckett is a beast. And Sunday was a game the Red Sox had absolutely no business winning. Between Drew taking strike three right down the friggin middle, having it called a ball, and hitting one off the wall…the bullpen not getting things done, as should be expected because of the stochastic nature of baseball and the fact that even the best relievers in the league are still relievers…and the fact that Papelbon flat-out sucks. His 1-1 with 15 saves is more misleading than Matsuzaka going 18-3/2.9 last year.

A thing on Wakefield: I know the haters will say that the knuckleball didn’t knuckle today, and generally, it is true that unlike other pitchers, his numbers suffer when the wind blows in. He made the best out of a bad situation on Sunday, though, and it’s unfortunate that the bullpen struggled as much as they did today. Walking out with another win would have been nice, because not even the emo kid would refuse to take a guy with ten wins on the All-Star Team.
The fact that it ended up being Nick Green with the walkoff Fenway Park home run is pretty fitting. I mean, I can’t add it into the Lugo Loss column (now stands at three), but did the Red Sox win this game because Lugo was not playing shortstop? Hmmmm…

And one more final thought on Matsuzaka: The Gunn said in the last comment section (that had a lot of weekend activity—thank you) that this move was made about two months late. Not sure if that’s totally fair. After all, the guy DID have a 2.90 ERA, no matter how misleading it was. He deserved a little bit of a leash. So he got it. Then it got shorter, and he knew he was pitching for a job. When he continued to falter when pitching for a job, that’s when you make the move. That’s what happened. The Red Sox executed it reasonably well minus the part with giving Smoltz a microphone.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hey, A Good Mazz Column!

Tony Massarotti decided to stop crying about the Red Sox not getting Mark Teixeira for a little while so that he could write a somewhat-thoughtful column in the Globe on Wednesday. He re-visited the somewhat-controversial 2005 trade that sent Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez to Florida and Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and Guillermo Mota to Boston.

Anyone who knows me, even if they didn’t know me in 2005, would know that I considered this trade to be extremely short-sighted and against the Red Sox’ interest of rebuilding and creating a lower-cost team centered around home-grown players. Granted, Ramirez did have some problems in 2005, with a sub-par season in AA and a few behavioral problems, but Sanchez was also a very highly-touted prospect, lighting up Single A Wilmington at the time.

On the other side, Beckett was a guy who was brilliant in the postseason, but had failed to put together any kind of elite season, and even when he did pitch well, he came down with a blister problem every month or so, landing him on the DL. Lowell was a guy who hit .235 with eight (8) home runs and fifty-eight (58) RBIs in 2005, absolutely paralyzing the “Can I Write A Check” fantasy team.

We all know what happened since the trade: 2006 featured Beckett giving up 36 home runs, walking 9 in a game, Lowell hitting a lot of doubles in May but hitting a lot of outs for the rest of the season, Ramirez winning ROY, and Sanchez pitching a no-hitter. 2007 featured Sanchez blowing his arm out, Beckett pitching his best season, and Lowell putting forth a brilliant season on the way to the World Series. 2008 featured a Lowell injury, Beckett being fat, and Ramirez being one of the top five players in baseball.

The question posed by Massarotti in this article is: If given a do-over, would you pull the trigger on the trade?

I would not. It is still not good business practice to trade one of your best pitching prospects and your top offensive prospect (especially in a farm system that has almost zero power hitting) for a guy who can’t stay healthy and a guy making a lot of money to hit .235. Especially if the hitter is a shortstop and the current shortstop (Renteria) was an absolute disaster. Totally counterintuitive to their so-called philosophy of not mortgaging the future for the shiniest object on the trade market. The existence of Julio Lugo in a Boston uniform is a byproduct of this lack of patience.

Let’s think about worst-case scenarios: Beckett would have been unimpressive, as he was in odd-numbered years, and would have gotten a lot of blisters, cuts, and avulsions on his finger. Lowell would have been like 2005 Lowell. At the time of the trade, how likely was that? I’d say very likely. And the worst case with retaining Ramirez and Sanchez? Ramirez still probably would have been one of the better shortstops in the league and…well…Sanchez would have blown out his arm. So keeping Ramirez probably would have been the best worst-case scenario.

The best-case for Beckett and Lowell would have been 2007 the whole time. The best-case for Ramirez and Sanchez would have been August-September 2006 the whole time. Let’s say they wash each other. Which was a more likely situation? I’d say Ramirez and Sanchez reaching this potential would be more likely than the .235 hitter on the wrong side of the 30 and the blister guy.

The 2007 World Series probably would not have happened, but who knows. It remains to be seen if Beckett and Lowell will continue to deliver World Series championships. And we will never know how many championships could have been actualized with Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. I’ve generally enjoyed watching Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. But to answer the question, if given the decision to make the trade again, I probably would NOT make that trade.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wang vs. Hughes

The title of this post is slightly misleading because it isn't really one against the other. Ideally, both are pitching well and the Yankees have a surplus on their hands. But right now, the Yankees are going to have to make a decision. They are sort of at an impasse with both players. As I discussed last week, they have botched both to date in my opinion, and that has not helped the team in turn. They need to have one start at the Major League level and one go back to AAA to either work on things further (Wang), or get innings and stay warm in the event that there is a Major League need (Hughes).

As far as Wang's start tonight, so-so. No doubt, he caught a series of really bad breaks in the 4th inning. Posada had Harris out by a foot trying to steal second and Pena just dropped the ball. Then Guzman grounded to third and was clearly out, but called safe and Harris advanced to 3rd. Instead of the inning being over, it was 1st and 3rd and no out. Then Nick Johnson drove a pitch to left-center that would have been a run scoring double but Melky made a bad misplay and turned it into a two-run triple.

But he also made a lot - a lot - of mistakes that the Nationals didn't take advantage of that other teams probably would have. I know the Nats aren't a terrible offensive team, but they aren't a good one either. As easy as it would be to chalk a lot of this up to those three consecutive blunders in the 4th - and that was a big factor - the flip side of that is that a lot of those elevated sinkers that were fouled off probably would have been knocked by a better offensive club.

At the same time there were a lot of positives. 10 of the 15 outs he recorded were on the ground (an astounding rate) and he also struck out 4. His velocity was more in that 91-93 game where his sinker has more late bite and he has a little more command of the pitch. His slider was as good as it's ever been and that's where he was getting a lot of the swing and misses. That pitch, along with his 4-seamer, is huge in keeping hitters, especially lefties, off his sinker. Not a great outing, but not a bad one either. Outside of that one tough inning, Adam Dunn hit a 3-0 fastball 450, and that's going to happpen. Certainly enough to get another start.

What makes this tough is how easy Phil Hughes is making it look. Yes, he has a little extra stuff out of the pen, as most pitchers do. That taken into account, it is still difficult to say that if you had to choose one to start one game right now it would be Wang. Hughes looks better, and there is also the issue of Wang being 0-5, and the Yankees being 1-5 (-4) in games started by him. They are 36-23 (+13) in games started by everybody else. Like with Hughes and Kennedy last year, as much as you want to give them time, this becomes difficult to ignore.

Wang is different, though. He has that (impressive) track record. And it probably hasn't just disappeared, and tonight was evidence of that, even if he isn't what he was yet. That is sort of to be expected at this point, it's going to be a building process. If the Yankees can build him back up to anything near what he was, the team is much improved. With all these things considered, I think Wang is in the rotation for now. Give him at least two more starts - one at Atlanta and one at home against Seattle - to see if he continues to build. After all, this shouldn't be so rushed if he continues to show small improvements as he did tonight. Send Hughes back to AAA tomorrow and have him start on Wang's days so he's ready. By the time Wang makes two more starts, and certainly by the time it would be time for a third start, the 10 days necessary to pass before Hughes can be recalled will have passed. If Wang stands still or regresses, you go back to Hughes.

The way Hughes is pitching really is the tricky part of this. You want to build Wang back up, but when there seems like there is such a viable option staring you in the face it makes patience difficult. That probably shouldn't be the case, especially when you are talking about someone with the ability and track record Wang has. If there were no other option, tonight would seem like a huge deal probably. But since he was just so-so and Hughes is right there it seems like Wang has to be even better. That's not fair to him. But at the same time this team needs to worry about the now a little bit too. Not as much as they did when they had a knee-jerk reaction and rushed Wang back, but enough that if he doesn't continue to build, you have to think about Hughes. Either way, it's nearing that time when Hughes need to start again, if not here, than at AAA. So that decision needs to be made. As great as it would be to have an arm like that in the pen this year, it would be a lot better to have an arm like thjavascript:void(0)at starting for a lot more years after this one. That means innings and further development as a starting pitcher.

Some other thoughts from tonight:

- John Lannan was working about as quickly as you can work. Good job outta him, I wish more pitchers were like that. But if you're the Yankees, goodness gracious. Step out. Call time. Step in then step out again. Take some extra time looking down at third base for the signs. Take an extra long time getting to the plate in between batters. They let Lannan dictate the pace, and did little if anything to throw him off. He rushed back on the rubber and it's like they felt obligated to rush back in the box. Inexcusable. To me, this comes back to managing/coaching. If the staff isn't going to mandate their players do things like this, what are they there for?

- It continues to baffle me that this team does not have one viable pinch-hit option. If someone is a little nicked up, and has to sit like Jeter did tonight, there is not one bat on the bench to pinch-hit for Pena late in the game. Not one. Meanwhile Angel Berroa continues to sit there. He has 4 at bats since May 4, and 16 on the entire season despite being on the roster since April 25. I would have a very difficult time articulating how confusing this is to me, especially considering there are four guys at AAA hitting well enough to at least warrant an *opportunity* to be a bat off the bench late in games when we don't play the A lineup.

- Melky Cabrera's decision to dive for that ball was really not a good one. It's amazing. Damon, Swisher, Cabrera, and Gardner are all above average outfielders range wise. Yet they all have made some of the dumbest plays you can imagine this season. All four of them. Mistakes happen, but they have gone above and beyond the call of duty misplaying balls, diving for balls they shouldn't, missing cut-off men with throws, etc. This should probably stop.

- Brett Gardner really is fast. They pitched out right after 3 throws to 1st and still couldn't get him in the 9th. Then he just took 3rd. Very valuable asset off the bench late in games, something the Yankees have not had in a while.

- Damon's home run leading off the 9th tonight is a perfect example of what we were talking about yesterday. I obviously don't have the exact charting of the homer, but eyeballing it, it looks to be in the general vicinity of where the dimensions are most dissimilar. It was a crushed low line drive that just cleared the fence. If that fence was 10 feet further back, like the Old Stadium, that ball probably doesn't hit the wall on the fly. That's a pretty dramatic difference. Think about everything in between, and you can see how so many more homers are going to be hit just based off of this difference.

- Losing a game by one run with the tying run on third and less than two outs is tough to take. Losing under those circumstances to the Nationals is even worse. Losing under those circumstances with your hottest hitter at the plate on a hard hit grounder turned double play is much worse. Have to give the kid Lannan a lot of credit. But the Yankees can't allow him to work that quick. They just can't. You have to slow someone who wants to work that quick and is in a rhythm down. I'm still baffled that they just let him do it the way they did. Just gave the game away it seemed like.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The New Yankee Stadium And The Long Ball

By the time you're reading this tomorrow morning, I'll have attended my third game at the New Yankee Stadium as I am going tonight. I've already reviewed the Stadium, and I don't anticipate having to take that any further unless I really notice something. It's a really nice place, but I think they took it a step too far. That said, the novelty of it seems to be wearing off and people seem to be into baseball again. The Stadium was never as empty as it seemed, as I said after my second trip, and it was mostly that people were anywhere and everywhere but in their seats. The Yankees wildly overpriced certain seats, but this is why I'm a big believer in the free market. It corrects itself. Nonetheless, the Yankees continue to lead baseball in tickets sold per game, and though they will sell less seats this year than the last few thanks to the overpriced tickets and the economy (they were going to anyway since there are less seats), the team stands to make who knows how much more money due to increased prices and attractions. All is right with the world in this regard, so the attention has been averted elsewhere with the Yankees and their new Stadium.

That attention now rests squarely on the shoulders of the amount of home runs being hit. It is unlikely that they will set any records, but the total at the new park will probably be above and beyond anything the old stadium ever saw. We haven't really talked much about it here - mostly because while I think it is an issue that needs correcting it also isn't that big of a deal - so I'd like to get a few observations in.

First and foremost, something very important. People are going gaga comparing this year directly to last regarding home runs (and to a lesser extent runs). There is an inherent problem here. The 2008 Yankees were an average offensive team. They scored 789 runs, 10th most in baseball. They were an average power team, hitting 180 home runs, tied for 9th. They were not healthy (Posada, Matsui, Jeter) and they had a number of severe under performances (Cano, Cabrera). Not only have they been healthy and had pretty much every body bounce back - which should not be underestimated - but they added two more serious home run threats in Teixeira and Swisher, the first of which is one of the premier hitters/power bats in the game. Swisher is now the #8 hitter and he had 24 jams last year. This team was going to score more runs and they were going to hit more home runs than last year's team. Considering that when they face a righty with their A lineup (like tonight), they have 7 lefties or switch hitters (with the two righties being Jeter and Rodriguez - not exactly chopped liver and guys with power to right), they are especially going to hit more homers at home with the short porch in right. That simple. So a straight comparison to last year is going to be skewed.

Second, Major League Baseball introduced a new ball into baseball this year. I don't have the most up to date data, but as of earlier in the season this ball was travelling 6 feet further per home run. This has, obviously, created more home runs. Last year 4 teams hit 200 home runs or more. This year 10 teams are on pace to do so. So home runs are up around the league.

So before you even get to anything about The New Yankee Stadium, more home runs are going to get hit in this park than the year before. Do these two factors account for all of the increase? No, and that's what we'll get to next. But they are major players, and it's important to remember it's not just the Stadium if you are trying to take a level headed approach and not just slam the stadium, which most - because it's the Yankees - want to do.

The New Stadium has been a factor too, however. We were told it was going to be the same dimensions. Not true. It is the same down the lines, to center, and to the gaps. But between the right-center gap and the right corner the wall, previously curved, is now flat. This has created a wall that in some cases is as many as 10 feet shorter. Further, the wall, previously 10 feet, is now only 8. A closer wall and a shorter wall is going to create more home runs. Balls that were well in the park last year are now home runs. Accuweather had a report last week that estimated 20% of the stadium's home runs have fallen in the area that would have been in play last year but are now out with the new dimensions. That is not an insignificant number.

So when you add up a more powerful home team, a ball that is carrying further around baseball, and shortened dimensions, you get more home runs. The dimensions itself account for 20% of he total. The ball and the team take up a percentage as well. It's possible between these three factors that all of the home runs can be accounted for.

It's also possible that they do not. Jet streams, wind tunnels, and bandboxes? I have no idea. But if they are a factor, I am going to go ahead and guess they don't come close to touching the other three things I've considered above, as the data suggest they are the strongest players. The problem with them is that they sound too easily fixable and not enough the fault of the Yankees. Jet streams, wind tunnels, and bandboxes sound like major issues that are tough to fix, and therefore create an easy avenue to slam the Yankees for building a really expensive stadium with so many issues not easy to fix. Probably not reality, though.

At the end of the day, I'm not a big fan of the home runs. I like parks that play close to even, and even though the Old Stadium was a slight pitchers park, if I had to pick one I'd take a slight pitchers park over a slight hitters park. But the New Stadium is playing like a slight hitters park, and that just doesn't seem like something to get that worked up over like so many are. Because the key word there is "slight". Yankee Stadium, despite a million home runs, is not creating this overall offensive explosion above and beyond anything you might expect from a home team as talented offensively as they are. Runs are more important than home runs in evaluating a stadium. The New Yankee Stadium is creating as many runs that would not have been created in a "neutral" park this season as Fenway has averaged across the last 5 seasons. So while you'd like to correct the home runs, the park overall is not playing like some sort of joke, as many who are intent on slamming the place will have you believe.

So I just can't get to crazy with it, mostly because it is so fixable. You move the fences back and add a few feet on top, and already you're back closer to normalcy. Very simple change, and it probably starts playing like the Old Stadium, which is just fine. However, I'm not so sure how "not fine" this stadium is. The sample size is way too small. But the Yankees are 20-12 at home. With their resources, is it possible a stadium yielding more homers plays to their advantage? They have the ability to bring in and develop power bats that can take more advantage of the dimensions than can other teams, and they can bring in and develop the type of pitching that can reduce other teams' ability to take advantage of the dimensions more than other teams' pitching can reduce their ability to take advantage of the dimensions. We'll have to see how it plays out over a full season, and the point will probably be moot as I'm sure some changes will be made, but it's something interesting to think about.

HYD Baseball Events: All-Star Break

As we approach 1,000 posts at How Youz Doin Baseball, Pat and I are excited to announce that for a few days in July, this site will belong to the readers. Well, it probably always does, but this week more than ever before.

In honor of the All-Star Break, Pat and I will take a break and turn it over to the All-Stars. Depending on the number of responses, we might have more than one post a day, but we want to open up the floor to guys like Bandi, the Gunn, the Bronx, John, Ross Kaplan, and the other all-stars that make this website a worthwhile time investment everyday.

First, you'll have to get a hold of me. Most of you have my contact information and can contact me or Pat using your preferred medium. If you don't (I'm thinking the Bronx), email me at pumpfe26@yahoo.com by July 1st with the subject line "HYD Baseball--All-Star Break" and I can accomplish what I need to do. As most guest columns, you only have one column, so you gotta make it count.

Sample topics would include:

>Craig talking about why Julio Lugo's BABIP on the second Sunday in May is high over his career and therefore he does deserve to be a major league baseball player.
>The Bronx talking about who the F he is and how he found How Youz Doin Baseball.
>JB with a comprehensive outline of the NL Central race.
>Bandi on his problems coping with the loss of Manny Ramirez.
>The Big Ticket's efforts to deport Jose Reyes...or elect Jose Reyes as president, depending on the day.

Pat and I reserve the rights to edit or refuse any posts due to content, but we don't expect that to be a problem. We're both pretty excited about this, and we hope you are, too.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dear Abby

Dear Abby,

I am new at my job and while pretty quickly I’ve earned several promotions, not everything is good in my job situation. See, everyone has these really high expectations for me because I’m pretty talented at what I do. Sometimes they don’t understand that I’m still a kid in a very high-pressure job. That is not really that big of a problem, though, as it comes with the territory.

My problem is that one of my co-workers yesterday made a big mistake at a key juncture, which he has been inclined to do for, well, I’ve heard, the majority of the last three years. He makes a lot of money, a lot more than he deserves considering how badly his job performance has been. But basically the mistake he made sabotaged a project I was working on. Once I realized he sabotaged it, I lost my head a little bit, and everything came crashing down.

One of my co-workers from my department has been complaining about this guy sabotaging his projects repeatedly and habitually since he started working for the company three months ago. I didn’t really listen to him, because he kinda seemed like a weird dude, running his hands through his hair every five seconds and daring people to drink a gallon of milk in one hour. But now this problem co-worker has sabotaged me. So as weird as the Gallon Challenge guy might be, everything he’s saying is starting to make sense.

I have struggled a bit since my latest promotion to this high-pressure position, and I’m afraid that senior management will see my performance and demote me. I’m not really sure what to do. I’m not going to say yesterday’s disaster was all this guy’s fault. I know it’s partially mine. But what should I do? I don’t want to get demoted.

Sincerely,

Phreaking Out in Philadelphia

Thursday, June 11, 2009

More Professional At-Bats

It's too bad Pat can't write tonight, because tonight's game is probably more about the Yankees than about the Red Sox. About Sabathia perhaps stiffening up while Manny Delcarmen looked jinxed from my nice comments the other night. About Girardi pulling a Grady Little. About the bullpen being so hideously bad that Girardi had little choice but to pull a Grady Little. About Teixeira--the only NY starter who failed to get on base--lying down during the Yankees' biggest must-win game of the season.

On the other hand, maybe it's about the Red Sox just as much. Brad Penny pitched another professional game, though he had to throw A LOT of pitches to only get through six innings. It was not a brilliant six innings of shutout ball by any stretch of the imagination, but he got out of jams. It was about Papelbon actually pitching a clean inning. But most of all, it was about how, in Mike Lowell's words after Game 4 of the 2007 World Series (the A-Rod opt-out game for those who have no problem with Boras), the Red Sox put together a series of professional at-bats.

The rally was a single, a walk, and three more singles. Nobody was being a hero. Pedroia didn't try to be a hero and score from second with no outs. Every batter, even Drew, just did his part to get the requisite amount of runs across the plate. Jason Bay, in the middle of a strikeout binge, did not strike out, instead hitting a sac fly. That's all you need to do. And every guy did it perfectly.

Southwest of here, they're going to talk about Girardi. Pat sent me a text reading "fireable," but I somehow think that he'd give Girardi heat no matter what. He yanks CC, Aceves lays an egg, and Girardi leaves the $189 million workhorse who pitched brilliantly sitting on the bench instead of bringing him out against Nick Green, who historically can't hit major leaguers, and JD Drew, who historically can't hit lefties.

As it was, he stuck with his ace, just as Grady Little once did. I feel like once a guy reached base, it's time to get Coke up to face Drew. CC was definitely left out there a little too long--you don't take chances with a guy 110 pitches deep into the game after sitting on the bench in the rain for a long inning. Pitch him, fine, but don't let him try to work himself out of a jam. That's where Girardi deserves criticism.

A few last thoughts: Is Ortiz starting to get it back? And if the Red Sox are so good at putting together such an impressive series of professional at-bats, why on earth can't they do it on the road?

Commentary East of the Hudson

First of all, read Pat's post below. It might take you a few minutes, but it's a worthwhile read and there are some very good underlying themes behind it. It's worth your five minutes. Comment on it too.

As far as game commentary from this side of the Hudson River goes, this was a very important win. Now the very worst the Red Sox can do is end this series tied for first place. They have beaten the Yankees in a blowout and they have beaten the Yankees in a game where they just barely held on. A little shaky with Ram-Ram, who's hit the rough stretch that every reliever hits, but a very clutch performance by the Red Sox bullpen. Hideki Okajima's inning and a third very well may have been the best pitching of his American career, including fooling the right-handed Jeter with the game on the line.

I can't wait to hear what From The Bronx says about Nick Swisher. Bad day at the plate, striking out looking on like a 50 mph curveball. Bad day on the basepaths, inexcusably getting doubled up on a pretty routine line drive to shortstop. And bad day in the outfield, letting a very catchable ball go right on f'ing past.

An added layer of drama last night was the result of how important it was for the Red Sox to never lose the lead. Tim Wakefield, as they were saying on the radio earlier this week, has never gone to an All-Star Game, and now he has eight wins on June 11th. Every win he nails down, the closer he is to achieving that goal. While this is probably not as good as his 1995 season, it might be his second-best in a Red Sox uniform. Anyone who has been following this team for any kind of significant period of time has to be rooting very hard for Tim Wakefield. While he did not look fluid or comfortable at all last night, his line--especially against the New York Yankees--indicates that he pitched reasonably well.

While I do agree with Pat's commentary on how important Teixeira's been to the Yankees being this close, throwing the Red Sox into the argument when it comes to acquiring a first baseman when they already had a first baseman is asinine--as it was all winter.

Just one more thought on Beckett vs. Burnett two nights ago, to illustrate how bad Burnett was, Beckett didn't surrender any walks. So it wasn't like the strike zone was getting squeezed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cashman and Girardi Have Really Screwed This Up

From a Yankee perspective, this game is not the story tonight. The story is what has become a ridiculous, silly, and near laughable situation with the (mis)managment of Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes.

There are three elements to this. (1) Chien-Ming Wang. (2) Phil Hughes. (3) The Yankees. Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, and whoever else might have been involved in the decision making have managed to screw up all three. Outstanding job outta them. Let's briefly disect this one at a time.

(1) Chien-Ming Wang. Somewhere just before or on Thursday, May 21, the Yankees announced publicly that CMW was going to Scranton for another start. They felt that was what was best for him. The night of May 21, Joba Chamberlain got hit in the leg by a line drive in the first inning. They won that night and were on a 9 game winning streak. The injury did not appear serious, but for some reason the Yankees panicked, and activated Wang for the next night's game against the Phillies. They didn't want him to start in the minors on that Sunday - when he was scheduled - so that he could be available to relieve Joba on Tuesday if necessary. The second the Yankees had a potential need (Joba made his next start, so it was unnecessary), what they had already decided was best for Wang was out the window. Wang, who had two relief appearances to his name compared to 98 starts, and none since 2006, was suddenly pitching out of relief. He pitched 3 innings against the Phillies that Friday, 2 against Texas the following Wednesday, and 3 innings four days later on Sunday. Then, without a start at any level in over 2 weeks, he was thrown back into the rotation. Screw up and jerk around, start to finish.

(2) Phil Hughes. After an impressive start at Scranton and with Wang struggling, Hughes was promoted on April 28th. He made 7 starts, and allowed more than 3 earned runs or less in 5 of them, 4 or less in 6. Dominating he was not, but he was the definition of "keeping your team in the game and giving them a chance to win", which is really all you can ask out of your 5th starter, especially when they are 22 years old. He was also showing flashes of his potential, tossing shutouts against Detroit and Texas. After over a month of solid pitching, the Yankees decided Wang was getting a shot back in the rotation ans Hughes was the odd man out. Despite the only two relief appearances of his career coming in the 07 playoffs, Hughes was put in the bullpen. He didn't see any game action for 7 days. Then he pitches 1 inning in a 1 run game, gets a day off, and is brought into a game IN THE MIDDLE OF AN INNING, where he continues to pitch 3.2 innings in relief, having thrown 11 pitches in a game across the last 9 days. This is a 22 year old kid. I think sometimes we forget how young that is. Kids he graduated high school with are graduating college this year. Think about someone you know that age and then think about them not only pitching at this level, but being jerked around like this. We've talked about this before, but the Yankees have mishandled Hughes at other junctures. Like with the knee-jerk reaction to Wang, they seem to protect him right up until they have a need, then that's out the window. For someone so young, with so much talent, who they seem to believe in so much, and is potentially so significant to our future, this just doesn't seem to make any sense. At all.

(3) The Yankees. Joba Chamberlain getting hit in the leg by a line drive set this whole thing, which ended up being totally unnecessary, in motion. At the time the Yankees were starting to really win for the first time all season. It was the last juncture at which they needed to make a panic, knee-jerk reaction. That's exactly what they did. The team hasn't really been crippled by it (outside of the way they've mistreated Wang and Hughes). Wang has made two starts and the team has gone 1-1. But the real issue is the mess they've created moving forward. There is really no way you can justify starting Wang over Hughes next Tuesday in Washington. As most everyone reading this blog saw tonight, the two pitchers are in different stratospheres right now. Wang allowed 6 hits and 3 walks in 2.2 innings, striking out 3. Hughes allowed 2 hits and 2 walks in 3.2 innings, striking out an impressive 5. Outside of one mistake to a really good hitter in the one place you really can't make a mistake to him (little 4-seamer or cutter that was supposed to be in that leaked out over the middle and that's Youk's happy zone), the Sox didn't get anything going against him and that allowed the Yanks to come back in this game. And all this pitching in a situation he hadn't pitched in before, in Fenway and against the Sox, down 4-1 no less.

At the same time, what do you do with Wang? His pitching at the beginning of the season was what started all of this, but since then it's really been the Yankees who have put him in this situation. They brought him back when even they themselves thought he needed more work. Then they just decided to start him, and now that he's really struggling again starting, they have put him (once again unnecessarily) at a career crossroads of sorts. Keep him in the rotation, and you risk him continuing to get bludgeoned and losing confidence that way. Pull him from the rotation after only two starts, and you risk crushing him mentally that way. Without being overly dramatic, it really is a mess. And it's almost all the Yankees' doing. Yes, Wang was awful early. But that doesn't mean you mishandle the guy from there on out. Now not only he, but one of their youngest talents and the team itself, are all in tricky spots.

There is a school of thought out there, advocated by almost all of the analysts on the Yankee postgame tonight - including respected ex-players Singleton, Cone, and Flahrety who all know a thing or two about pitching - that the Yankees have to stick with Wang. That once they committed to him they have to go with it. If not next start, the next one, or the one after that. Eventually he'll get back to being the guy he was.

While I agree in theory and for the sake of Wang (which the team owes him at this point), the Yankees have such a clear better option at this point that I don't know how you can do it. It's not going to do Wang or the team any good to let him keep getting lit either in the hope that he'll pop himself out of it. He's so off that they'll be able to tell almost as well at AAA when he's really made improvements and righted himself. Yes, the velocity is back, and everybody seems excited about that. But what everyone forgets is that when Wang is at his best is when he's working at a lesser velocity because his ball moves more. There were times in previous seasons when they had to work with him on getting his velocity down from 94-95 like it was tonight down to 90-91 where his sinker really had bite. Right now, no matter what velocity, his sinker just isn't biting. It starts to plane downwards far too early and as we saw tonight, hitters have an easy time laying off it when it's down and when it's in the zone they can bang it. When he's right, his ball is at the bottom of the zone and just below and there isn't much hitters can do about it. That's just not the case now. Hughes needs to start and Wang needs to go back to the minors (through a phantom DL stint) to work on it there. Although it's not ideal because of the way the Yankees' management has screwed this up, it's probably the best option for all parties involved at this time.

I thought Girardi's and Posada's postgame pressers were telling. Usually you see a manager come out strong behind his pitcher that of course he'll make his next start when asked if he's going to get to make his next start. But Girardi said it was something they'd have to discuss. When Posada was asked a bunch of different questions about Wang, he kept saying, "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know." Posada did go on to say he thinks Wang has earned another start because of what he's done in the past. But everyone seems to be caught between feeling bad for Wang and frustration with what is going on as, the lack of improvement, and the lack of a discernable answer.

As a final aside, something a lot of people in the media and online alike are talking about recently, with the question being: can you imagine if the Red Sox had signed Mark Teixeira? There's no doubt they wanted him, and there's also little doubt they thought they had him as their offer was very competitive. Had they gotten him, before even thinking about what they might have turned someone else into in a trade, just think about what he alone would mean to these two teams. Where would the Red Sox be with him? And where, I mean where, would the Yankees be without him? It's scary to think about it, to be honest. He's essentially a player right out of the Red Sox mold recently - plus OBP, plus power to all fields, grinds, never gives at bats away, every at bat is a tough one, hits in the clutch, plays great D - just in a Yankee uniform. The Sox have wiped the floor with the Yankees in offseason acquisitions recently. Every player both coveted and the Red Sox got (Schilling, Matsuzaka) worked out. Every player both coveted and the Yankees got (Contreras, Vazquez, Pavano) were between average and stinking the joint out. With this in mind, coming in and getting Teixeira when the Sox wanted him to the tune of 160+ million is no small deal. There wouldn't even be a comparison between these two teams.

Sometimes numbers don't tell the whole story. Sometimes there are times your team needs you, you don't come through, and it doesn't show up in the boxscore. Could be after a tough loss or set of losses, and you go 0-for-the-next-game. I think this is the quote.

0-6 against their primary competition in the division heading into the night, embarrassing loss the night before. 4-5, two doubles, and a home run. Whatever may have been said before, true or not, is being dispelled now. Outside of Albert Pujols, there is not a more complete non-pitcher in the game. The uniform he wears is one of the only reasons the Yankees are only a game back in the division. The uniform he doesn't wear is the only reason the Red Sox aren't by far and away the best team in baseball.

I'm not saying this to flame Dan or anyone else that doesn't like Teixeira. I'm just saying this as a fact. Anyone who has been paying attention this season sees what he's doing, the kind of impact player he is. If he was doing it in a Red Sox uniform instead of a Yankee one, the AL East would probably be a joke.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Three Culprits

This is one you just have to turn the page on, as much as any. The Yankees just got beat tonight, and it's the first time that's really happened in a while. Most of their losses recently have been close, coming down to the final innings, and where they often do something to give it away. Tonight they just got beat start to finish. You have to accept that, move on, and make sure you get 1 of the next 2. There is rarely any time that getting out of Fenway 1-2 is a bad thing. This is definitely not one of those times. As I always say, just don't get swept.

Three culprits tonight that pretty much made sure this game was a loss, and they split it about 33% each.

1. A.J. Burnett. Never gave the team a chance. David Ortiz is batting .197 with 3 homers and 24 RBI on the season. He's batting .316 with a homer and 7 RBI against the Yankees. This is why I say I won't count him out until he retires. Still, nobody else is having a problem getting this guy out. That's on both the pitchers and the coaching staff. Burnett grooving fastballs right down the middle is probably not the best way to do it. He has to pick Rodriguez up after that error too.

2. Which brings us to Alex Rodriguez. He isn't playing bad defense. He isn't playing terrible defense. He's playing run-enabling defense. Pettitte working nice and smooth yesterday, gets a groundall and an error opens up the door for a three run inning to tie the game. Burnett struggling down 2-0, but not out of the game at all, gets a groundball and an error opens up the door for two more runs to double the deficit. You can't give teams like Tampa and, especially, the Red Sox, even more especially, in Fenway Park, extra outs. They will turn them into runs. Just make plays. Further, after Damon and Teixeira made Beckett throw 13 pitches in the first inning between the two them to get an out (Damon) and a walk (Teixeira), Rodriguez gets a 2-1 fastball right down the freaking pipe. He pops it up about 20 feet from home plate to Youkilis. This difference in this game early was that the first pitch the Red Sox got to punish they punished for a 2-run homer from a guy whom not much is expected to take the early lead. The first pitch the Yankees got to punish they didn't punish from a guy whom things are expected and failed to capitalize on the opportunity to take the early lead. In a game like this with the weather like this, taking the lead early is massive. Rodriguez is so streaky offensively it really is incredible. When he's going well, he drives pitches anywhere. When he's going bad, he can't do anything with pitches middle-middle. What's more, he seems to take this into the field with him a lot. He needs to at least put a charge into that pitch.

3. Which brings us to the offense. They should be embarrassed. I know Beckett is hot, but he's not a dominating pitcher against a good lineup the way he dominated the Yankees tonight, and his career to date reflects that. He hasn't compiled a 4.10 ERA across 654 American League innings and a career 5.80 ERA against the Yankees because he's secretly a really good pitcher. Those runs didn't magically score themselves more than every other inning, they scored them and he gave them up. He wants to do this against the Mets, the Twins, and the Tigers, fine. Not against a team that fronts as a serious offensive team with the second most runs in the majors. Rolling over like that is ridiculous and unacceptable. They hit him all the time, and just decided they couldn't be bothered tonight. The at-bats were awful for everyone but Teixeira who, oh my, took a few pitches and worked two walks instead of impatiently swinging at stuff out of the strikezone all night because, gasp, we were down a few runs. This was not the Yankee attack we've seen for most of the last month and it was a bad time to do it. They needed to light Beckett up tonight and instead just allowed him to coast. Hopefully they are equal parts motivated by tonight's performance and ready to put it behind them tomorrow, because they may need to get a lot of runs off Wakefield tomorrow with Wang going in order to avoid heading to Thursday still needing the one win they need to avoid a sweep.

Monday, June 8, 2009

We're Shipping Up To Boston

I don't like that song. Even with the word Boston in it, I thought it was pretty good when I first heard it in The Departed. Upbeat with heavy Irish flavor is usually going to go over well with me. Then the Celtics started playing it, minus points. Then Papelbon started using it as his entrance music, and it was all over. Oh well.

Don't make any mistake about it. The players are all going to tell you that this is just another series. To a large extent they mean it and to a certain extent it's true. As a player, as opposed to a fan, that's probably part of how you have to think to make it through a 162 game season. But this is not just another series, for either team.

The Yankees are 0-5 against Boston. Despite the best record in the American League and a one game lead in the division, this is just not going to cut it. Boston has beat them every and any way they want this year. They've beat them early, they've beat them late, they've beat them high scoring with the bats, and they've beat them low scoring with pitching. It looked like the Red Sox expected to win all of those games, and they did. The Yankees need to change this. Allowing the Red Sox to just walk all over you like this makes winning the division much tougher, because of how well you have to play against everyone else. These games count double in the standings, and it's an easy place to makeup, or right now extend ground.

On the flip side, despite being 5-0 against the Yankees, the Red Sox trail the division by a game. Since the last time Boston saw the Yankees and swept a two game set (and after the ensuing two game sweep by the Rays), New York has gone 21-8 and won 8 of the 9 series that they played. Boston has gone 15-13 and won only 3 of the 9 series that they played (two sweeps while not getting swept at all was huge). For them, this is a chance to stabalize a bit. Not that things are out of control. They are 9 games over .500, only a game out of the division, and if the season ended today they'd be the Wild Card as they have the third best record in the American Leauge. That said, the trend for most of May is not what you want to see. With the division leader coming in, this is a chance to win a series that counts double, reverse that trend, and get back on track.

It's far too early to really be watching the standings. It's not too early to sort of be looking at the standings. The bulk of interleague play is upon us and before you know it it's July and teams are making the moves they need to make for the stretch run. In that sense, this series really matters.

Burnett/Beckett tomorrow, Wang/Wakefield Wednesday, and Sabathia/Penny Thursday. Burnett's been good lately, Beckett has been outsanding lately, edge Boston. It's fitting that Wang and Wakefield are facing off, as each starter could give you anything from great to horrible. Sabathia against Penny is probably the biggest edge in the series (to Sabathia), but Penny has had some luck this year and as DV said tonight, he's not sold on Sabathia in a big spot. He pretty much showed me everything he needed to show me in those back-to-back-to-back must win starts on three days rest, but I'm also interested to see him in his first start as a Yankee against the Red Sox, in a park and against a team that are not friendly to lefties no less. Offensively, we know what the Sox are all about at home, they are built to score there. The Yankees probably have the most potent offense in the game right now. Should be a fun series. Unfortunately it looks like the weather is a little shaky, especially tomorrow, but hopefully we'll get all three games in all three days.

A few other quick Yankee notes:

-Alfredo Aceves. This is what people like Bronx and I who believed in the Yankee bullpen were talking about with strength in numbers. When you have that many candidates with stuff and ability, some of them are bound to work out. Aceves, maybe one of the longest shots at the start of the season, has been the Yankees unsung MVP. He's 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA. In 23.1 innings he's struck out 24 against only 5 walks, and has allowed only 19 hits. He's had the Ramiro Mendoza-like quality of being able to pitch effectively in many different roles, long, short, early, late. 20 of the Yankees' 34 wins have been via the comeback, and 5 of those have been when trailing entering the 8th inning (more than last season's total of 4 already). Aceves has been a huge part of that. He keeps deficits close, tie games tied, and leads intact. Hopefully it continues. When Bruney comes back, and with the effectiveness of Coke when used in the right spot, the Yankees will have three guys they can trust to get to Mo. While this is not flashy, it's effective, and that's all I ever thought the bullpen would be.

-Speaking of that effectiveness, the Yankee bullpen has done the job since April. They had a 6.46 ERA that month (which I still think is largley attributable to Wang's lack of length and effectiveness), but then a 4.04 in May, and now a 2.35 early in June before another three scoreless innings tonight. Again, not flashy, but out of their large group of options a few have been very effective (Bruney, Coke, and Aceves), and that's what makes up a solid pen. With the starting pitching and offense this team has been getting, if the bullpen can just continue to be at least as solid and unnoticeable as they have been, that's big. And they have been solid and unnoticeable on this 21-8 run.

-I hope we get some clarification on Phil Hughes soon. He pitched one very impressive 1-2-3 inning against Upton, Crawford, and Longoria (who he blew away with a 94 MPH fastball swinging to end the inning) tonight, but outside of that has thrown exactly 0 innings in the previous 8 days. I hope they just have him in a holding pattern until Wang goes one way or the other (good or bad). If good, Hughes goes back to the minors. If bad, maybe one more chance and then Hughes is there to 1. relieve him and 2. take his spot in the rotation back. I hope it's the former, Wang pitches well, and Hughes is back to the minors. As my father said to me yesterday, having a pitcher with that kind of ability waiting at AAA in case a need arises is a major luxury. And Hughes has shown that ability and even moreso that potential more than ever at the Major League level this year. That's why it is important he is treated properly. I'm sure that's the Yankees' intention, but they have mistreated him the past when a need has arisen. I'm hoping this need for him to be "Wang insurance" doesn't stretch to much further. Hughes needs to get work in as a starter, at the Major League level or at AAA, so that he can get his innings and be ready to start later this year and beyond if needed.

With the way he looked out of the pen tonight, I'm sure there will be those that think his stuff plays better there and that he should be there, just like Joba (Isn't one of these cases enough to drive everyone crazy talking about it ad nauseum? Goodness gracious.). Like Joba, they may be right. But we don't know yet, and since they have both already shown the ability to be very effective startes, they need to be given every opportunity to do that before a switch to the bullpen is even contemplated. That's why within another week or so Hughes needs to be starting somewhere, either in The Bronx or at AAA. As they said tonight on YES, keeping him in the bullpen for too much longer makes it more and more difficult to get him back to starting this year, and that's not good for him. I'm sure that's not the plan. At least I hope not.

Why Me? Why Me?

One night left. Draft is tomorrow. Hopefully some time between now and the first pick, someone goes Tonya Harding on Stephen Strasburg's right arm. Either that or he goes motorcycle riding with Kellen Winslow or Ben Worthlessburger. Because this guy is a piece of trash.

Don't for one minute think in the next nine weeks that Stephen Strasburg is a victim, a victim of the system. He knows full well by hiring Boras to represent him that this draft process is going to be a long, arduous quagmire. He knows full well that all the things being outlined in this Jerry Crasnick article are going to happen. He knows that he's going to be taking "douchebag in stupid contract negotiation" minutes on ESPN away from Brett Favre. And he's fine with that.

Strasburg very well might get his money, though I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he ends up going to Japan. And if he does get his money from the Washington Nationals, I hope he enjoys paralyzing that franchise for several years. Want any free agents? Tough, because Stephen Strasburg got any money to spend on anyone better than Wily Mo Pena. Want to draft that equally-reprehensible punk Bryce Harper? Tough, because Stephen Strasburg got his money, too.

"Don't hate the player, hate the game," you might say. That's the best argument you can throw at me. Strasburg and Boras are not breaking any rules. Everything they are doing to undermine the entire draft institution is by the rules. According to the Crasnick article, tomorrow will start the shock waves that may change the slot rules for the MLB draft during the next collective bargaining agreement, unless Bud Selig forgets to do it.

Strasburg and Boras want $50 million. They want $50 million for a kid who, for the first time in his life, will be separated for an extended period of time from his mother, grandmother, and strength and conditioning coach who transformed him from a fat, lazy "Slothburg" who puked during wind sprints to what he became today. Out in the real world (I'm NOT referring to Tufts University), Strasburg could very well become lazy, injured, caught up in the culture, or find an oxycontin addiction. The difference between him and high-money international free agents is that they've all played professional baseball before. Did Junichi Tazawa (a whole different character assassination for another day) get $50 million after zero games of pro baseball experience?

Even the people who didn't flame out a la Darren Dreifort aren't necessarily someone worth paying $50 million for. The last Boras client touted as such a hot prospect was a right fielder in 1997 who was compared to Mickey Mantle. While he ended up an okay baseball player, the most notable achievements he's accomplished are the alarmingly high number of weak ground balls he hits to the right side and the amount of money he's gouged from various teams. For the record on the Drew injury front, it is notable to add that he has a sore shoulder.

Last, but certainly not least, is the alarming trend of people who have accepted Boras's actions since October 2007. Everyone knows what happened during that World Series, and the way I see it, anyone who had an account created for them on this website on or after October 28, 2007 is okay with prioritizing their own paycheck over the game. I am not okay with that. I dare you guys to say "HEY IF YOU WERR A BASEABLL PLAYER YOUD HIGHER BORAS TWO!!1" I'm already riled up about how much this guy sucks. So go ahead and push me.

If Strasburg, come August 16th, sees that he's going to Japan (which would most likely be the best scenario for baseball worldwide--long story), he's going to be hated nationwide. Actually, pretty much no matter what happens, he's going to be a divisive spectacle, much like Drew is in Philadelphia, just with more media scrutiny across the country. Maybe this punk kid with a questionable work ethic will, at some point, ask, "why me?"

The answer is, because you asked for it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trust

All season long, you’ve read on HYD Baseball that “I have 216 reasons to be worried about Jon Lester,” referring to his innings pitched total in 2008—a major jump over any other year in his career. And that doesn’t even include the playoffs.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, as Lester struggled in the first two months of the season, people like John Farrell and Terry Francona were talking about how Lester’s struggles, which mostly came in the form of one bad inning during each outing, were more of a mental thing. He starts getting hit once or twice and becomes a little frazzled, taking everything out of whack.

(A similar thing happened Friday night to Brad Penny as Julio Lugo let Lugo Loss #3 go by him repeatedly. Whatever. If you want to talk about it, fine. I don’t want to write a post about how Lugo sucks. I wrote about that in February 2007.)

So the Red Sox are pretty much ignoring the “he jumped a lot of innings” argument and have been falling back to the mental argument. And you know what, while I think a lot of the Red Sox organization is just a propaganda machine, maybe the experts of Francona and Farrell are right.

Maybe the Red Sox do know something about Lester, whether it’s something about his durability due to an efficient motion, that the sports radio callers, the bloggers, and the concerned fans know. Notice how I didn’t say “journalists,” because they have largely ignored the innings jump altogether.

After all, the Red Sox are extremely protective of their young arms. They value these pitchers as a commodity more than anything else, and it’s worked out pretty darn well so far. So why have they been so protective of Clay Buchholz, of Jonathan Papelbon, of all the minor leaguers (resulting in a lot of slow bullpen innings in the ticket office last year), but not of Jon Lester?

Thinking more about it, it can’t be negligence. Although this is the front office who thought that Julio Lugo and JD Drew were good ideas, they don't do anything reckless with these pitchers. It can’t be apathy. They have to know something. And sure enough, after Lester blew people away big time in his last two outings, a lot of the 216 concerns have melted away.

From here to the rest of the season, specifically pertaining to this guy, I am going to trust the Boston Red Sox. And Jon Lester. Not his mouth, because Suck Patrick Denial is something that takes a long time to cure. I’m going to trust his arm. And I’m going to trust the Red Sox front office. This is not a team who would mortgage the future for a few innings. They wouldn’t let a guy make such an innings jump unless they knew something we don’t know.

Matsuzaka’s jumped the shark in this town. And even with Lugo and Matsuzaka, it’s hard to win games when you put up one or three runs.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sore Glove Hand (Volume 6)

I know that a lot of people aren't too interested in baseball west of the Hudson River, but there are a lot of things to say from around baseball today.

1. Let's start in Atlanta. I had previously said some things about John Smoltz having a big mouth about the Braves' disrespecting him, but he gets amnesty today. The way this organization and GM Frank Wren treated Tom Glavine is tasteless and horrifying. In Atlanta and beyond, this is starting to be viewed as a situation where Wren signed Glavine as a PR thing after botching the Smoltz negotiations. They assumed he wouldn't be able to make a comeback and just retire, kind of like a Jerry Rice or Emmett Smith-style one-day contract.

Well, he made the improbable comeback and he might be able to help their baseball team. If nothing else, like Smoltz and Buchholz in Boston, he'd be an insurance policy if one of their front-liners falters or gets hurt. So they cut him? To stick him for $1,000,000 worth of paper? While financially it might make sense, I agree with Smoltz: You don't treat people like that.

Between that and former GM John Schuerholz disclosing information about Braves-Glavine negotations in a book last year--information that was supposed to remain private--the Braves have pretty effectively alienated a guy who truly loved that city. Bad job there.

2. The Nate McLouth trade is pretty good, though.

3. Congratulations to Randy Johnson. He's been quite a villain for the majority of his career--someone his wife said she didn't talk to during game days because he was so nasty, but when you take a step back, RJ has had quite a career. It's too bad HYD Baseball didn't exist during his perfect game against the Braves. For some reason I watched the last six or so innings of that game, and it was the best pitching performance I've ever seen. Looking at numbers (he threw like 70 pitches), it might have been the best pitching performance of most of our lifetimes. Add that a career of dominance through good stuff and intimidation, and this milestone is worth reflecting upon. He could also be the last man to reach 300 wins.

4. The anti-steroid battle is losing. The fact that Manny Ramirez is getting any votes in All-Star balloting is saddening, especially as a clean athlete in a dirty sport. People don't care if these players are putting themselves in dangers. If Ken Caminiti dropped dead, would anyone really care as long as he hit a lot of home runs? (Too soon?) Tasteless behavior.

5. Vicente Padilla got released. The Devil Rays are having a whole bunch of bullpen problems. Okay, I just want Padilla to be in the AL East.

6. Closer to home, the AJ Burnett suspension is absurd. He didn't hit anyone, and wasn't really even that close to the guy's head. As much as I don't like Teixeira or Burnett, the players handled the entire situation correctly. MLB is so friggin out of touch.

7. Michael Young, what happened to your range, bro?

8. As we discussed two days ago, the Red Sox executing this sweep against a first-place team on the road is a TREMENDOUS boost.

NESN Bad, The Blister Curveball Good

I was unable to watch the majority of Josh Beckett's flirtation with a no-hitter Wednesday night, so I decided I'd be able to watch the two-hour condensed version from 12:00 to 2:00. They'd show most of his start, considering he struck out nine and took a no-hitter into the seventh against Steve Phillips's Best Offense in Baseball History. You'd think that would make the director's cut.

Beckett did not pitch on "Red Sox In Two" until either the fifth or the sixth inning. We got to see the entirety of Nancy's home run, Eckersley gushing about the "sweet"ness of his swing (something we don't hear too much of when he strikes out looking or grounds out to second twice a night), and the full Bard/defensive implosion of the eighth inning. of a ten-run game. Goodness gracious.

A highlight of the NESN broadcast, though, was how the camera only had part of the Michigan State Lottery advertisement, with "Jackpot Grows Every 4 Minutes" cut down to "Pot Grows 4 Minutes." The attendees of the weekend Fenway Park Phish concert rejoiced.

From what I did see--late in the game, on Extra Innings, and on Baseball Tonight--I was impressed. Beckett's resembled the 2007 Beckett for nearly a month now, and we saw the rare appearance of the Blister Curveball. It's also notable that he blew people away and located the ball impeccably tonight. But the Blister Curveball is virtually unhittable. Arguably his two best outings of 2006 were one against Baltimore and one against the Angels. He dominated like he did tonight, his curveball was untouchable, and he left both games early due to blisters, cuts, avulsions, whatever, on his right middle finger.

After a disastrous '06 season that resulted in 36 home runs and the notorious Dan Vassallo meltdown on Anibal Sanchez Night, he threw all caution to the wind in '07 and threw the Blister Curveball with frequency--and success. He went on the DL with an avulsion on his finger--not a blister, of course--and this town came to the conclusion that if he has to go on the DL once or twice, but can dominate like he did that year, it was worth it.

He's throwing the Blister Curve again. If he goes on the DL soon, the Red Sox have Smoltz and Buchholz in reserve. This is good news for the Red Sox. Very good news.

Plus, Wakefield's pitching a day game tomorrow. Against Dontrelle Willis.