Monday, August 31, 2009
-The most important of all the reasons is their schedule. They play reasonably well against bad teams. They play well at home. And they play very well against bad teams while at home. They are playing twenty games against the gutter-sluts of the American League--Chicago, Kansas City, Baltimore, Toronto, and Cleveland. Nine of these games are at home, and unless Francona wants to play the B-team and prevent more sweeps like he did against Detroit earlier in August, they very well might win nine out of nine. They will most likely win 15 of these 20 games.
They have twelve games against the Devil Rays, the Angels, and the Yankees. They very well may lose nine of these twelve. That would put them at 18-14 for their final 32 games. The Rangers would therefore have to go 21-12 with ten of those games against LA and Tampa. Tampa would have to go 23-9 with thirteen games against the Yankees, Tigers, and Rangers. It'll be close between Boston and Texas.
-Beyond the schedule, the Red Sox are giving some indications that they might not actually suck offensively. Jason Bay is kind of coming back, FPS is traditionally very strong when playing against minor league call-ups in September, and Nancy (at least for now) is battling through his devastating groin injury and is playing his best baseball since last June. We all know the story behind Santa Claus and his post-June 6 numbers and how he's in the top 5 in the AL in both HR and RBI since then.
-Most importantly, the bullpen, though it's likely they will lose some games against the good teams like Tampa, LA, and the Yankees, is serviceable enough to beat those bad teams. Billy Wagner looked a lot better than I thought he would this weekend, and there are bound to be some guys from Pawtucket who might be counted on for an inning.
-As long as Beckett's healthy and gets it back together, the rotation might be stabilized with the addition of Buchholz and the juice guy. If Beckett goes on the DL, all bets are off.
-As much as things have seemed bad lately (it seems like the players hate each other, the media, the fans, the city, beating the Yankees, or in JD Drew's case, baseball), this team is actually playing like a playoff team, winning 14 out of 20. That's .700 baseball. All they need to get their date with a first-round sweep is play .562 baseball. It shouldn't be hard.
But then again, it's the Red Sox.
For the first six innings Friday night, CC Sabathia did what he's been doing for quite some time now: making people look silly. The White Sox couldn't get a thing going off him, and he had 10 K's and no runs in through those first six. Coming out for the 7th, he made his first real mistake to Dye, a fastball up and and away that Dye crushed to right-center for a double. No biggie, mistakes happen no matter how locked in you are, and if a guy capitalizes a guy capitalizes.
But the next batter was Carlos Quentin, and Sabathia walked him on 5 pitches, most of which were not even close. When a pitcher has gone 6 innings and issued no walks while striking out 10, and not only walks a guy, but walks a guy badly, and does it right after making his first real mistake of the game, all in the 7th inning of a 2-0 game, when you have a back-end of a bullpen that has not only been dominant, but is rested, and the starter is a lefty and there are FIVE consecutive righties coming up, you should have people getting ready in a hurry. Not that Sabathia is not going to get the next batter - he is. He has earned that right, both with his overall history and his pitching this season, especially of late. His pitch count was under control (nearing the 100 marker at this stage), and he should get one chance, if not two, to finish what he started.
But he shouldn't just get to finish the 7th inning no matter what, especially with the warning signs (Dye double on mistake and a barely anything close walk to Quentin) that should have been apparent to everyone. This is especially true when Phil Hughes, he of the 1.23 ERA as a reliever (before 1.1 more scoreless innings today) has thrown 8 innings all month on the 28th of the month. This is even more true when, again, 5 righties in a row were due up. In 2009 Hughes is holding righties to a .193/.247/.320 clip. He is striking out 5.11 of them for every 1 walk. 150 righties have come to the plate against Hughes this year, and he has struck out a whopping 46, or nearly 33%, of them. CC Sabathia has been very good against righties this year as well - you pretty much have to be to be as good as he has been. But it is nowhere near the dominance Hughes has exhibited.
So you would think Hughes would be up. He wasn't. Bruney was. I might say that Girardi is just trying to rest guys. But Hughes has barely pitched. Not only that, but it is good for both Hughes and the Yankees for him to pitch more, not less. The more he pitches, the higher his innings total this year. Good for Hughes. The more he pitches, the more the Yankees get effective pitching. Good for the Yankees. What's more, Hughes went 1.1 innings today, so the idea that Hughes was being rested is right out the window.
Back to the game. CC gives up a first pitch double to Rios. Good piece of hitting, but still we went from giving up nothing in 6 innings to two doubles and a walk, and it is now a one run game with runners on second and third with nobody out. We should be very concerned at this point about CC. Bruney is up, but this is the wrong guy. CC stays in anyway, so it's moot. CC gives up a fairly hard hit ball to Ramirez, Cano makes a leaping grab. A few feet up, right, or left, that's a two run single. Those are the breaks, good one for the Yankees, but now we are double, walk, double, hard hit ball to second for CC. Really have to wonder if he has anything left now. Stays in. Ramon Castro grounds to third, Quentin out at the plate. First effective batter for CC in the inning, now 5 batters in.
Now, this is the big one. CC has now battled back from second and third and one run already in, nobody out, to first and second, two outs, and still only one run in. With two outs and the top of the order back up, this is where you would really think you would go to Hughes. CC has thrown a ton of pitches, there is a clear diversion from him in the first 6 to him in this inning, and he is one out from getting out of it. Hughes is fresh, let him get the last out of the 7th and then pitch the 8th. Stays with CC. Infield single to load them up by Nix. CC still stays in. Game-tying single to right, and the only reason it wasn't the go-ahead single (the count was full on the hit, so the runners were off) is that Ramon Castro is one of the slowest players in baseball.
All said, CC was out there for 26 pitches. He gave up as many hits in that inning (4) as he had in the previous 6 (4). He gave up more walks (1-0). And he gave up more runs (2-0). And when it was all said and done, he didn't come back out for the 8th to face the lefty in Thome! SO WHAT WAS THE RATIONALE TO LEAVING HIM OUT THERE FOR THE ENTIRE 7th?!?!?!?! Just because? Because he has earned it (how do you earn staying in when you don't have it)? Because he's CC and Girardi is just going to throw him until he reaches 110+ pitches most nights no matter what? The only reasonable thing I can think of is that Girardi wanted to see how CC would respond in that situation. But does he really need to see that? CC is not a rookie, or even a relatively new player. He's been in every situation imaginable essentially. He does not need to be tested.
Phil Hughes came in and not only pitched a scoreless 8th, but struck out all three batters he faced swinging. This is what we are now dealing with when Hughes comes out of the pen. And sometimes CC isn't going to be able to give you 7. Sometimes he might not even have it at all. But sometimes he definitely isn't going to be able to give you 7. AND THAT IS OK. It can also change quickly sometimes, like it did Friday. It happens to all pitchers, and CC is not immune. You have it one second, the next you don't. It is the mangers job to decipher this. Joe Girardi did not cost the Yankees the game with this move, but he easily could have, and he did cost CC the win. CC deserves better. It's not nearly the most important thing, but CC also has a shot at the Cy Young. If he is going to get it, win total is going to be an important thing for him. So Girardi isn't helping him out there either. While I'm sure CC wanted to finish it, Hughes gave the Yankees the best chance that inning. Sabathia should not have been left out there for 4 hits, a walk, and 2 runs.
Quickly changing subjects, the Yankees' handling of Joba Chamberlain has become a circus. Skipped starts, 8 days rest, and now shortened (3 innings!) starts on regular rest. I commend the Yankees for trying to make changes when something is not working (clearly 8 days in between starts was not working), but for a 23 year old with his talent they need to have more of a plan. Throwing a bunch of things against the wall and seeing what - if anything - sticks is not the way to handle Joba Chamberlain, he's too valuable. They have been yoking him around from the very start. And if you look back, they took a kid who was the talk of baseball in 2007, striking out everything that moved, and two full years later have a guy that still has no role. Of course, this is not all their fault. Chamberlain got hurt last year and that cost him and the team. But starter, reliever, starter, reliever, starter, half-starter, and eventually this season (we hope) full-starter again is not good, and you have to wonder how much that has to do with his ineffectiveness at times (as well as his injury last year).
The Yankees handling of their young, ultra-valuable pitching this year has been scary. The knee jerk reactions to both Hughes and Wang, and now the situation with Joba. The Wang situation went as bad as possible from a baseball perspective, and the jury is still out on Joba. You may say Hughes has gone glowingly, and to a large extent it has. But two things. One, the Yankees semi need a starter now, and if anything were to happen to any of the first four, they'd completely need a starter. They are paper thin in terms of rotation depth. Not having Hughes available to start, no matter how good he has been in the pen, is an issue. Two, the Yankees have now set themselves up for the exact same situation with Hughes next year as they did with Joba this year. Hughes is going to throw even less innings this year than Joba did last year, so it will be even more significant. This is not the way that you handle young starters. It just isn't.
This team has so much talent they can just play right through most of this stuff. And that's great. Really, as a fan you just love it. This team is so much fun to watch. But they have to try to figure the young pitching stuff out. Right now it seriously looks like they have no clue. In the same week Joba Chamberlain started on 8 days rest and then went 3 innings and threw 34 pitches. In that same week Phil Hughes threw 2.1 innings. Think about that for a second. These are probably the Yankees' two most important players of the future, and this is what is going on. It's a circus.
Friday, August 28, 2009
On May 27, 2002, in a Red Sox/Blue Jays game, Ben Affleck decided to join Sean McDonough and Jerry Remy in the broadcast booth for five innings trying to promote some terrible movie he was putting out. During those innings, he decided to insult several Red Sox players, most notably Trot Nixon and current media member Lou Merloni. Some of the things he said included "hitting .192 is a mockery of your career" (he was hitting .250 at the time) and something along the lines of Merloni only being in the majors because he was Nomar's friend.
What is it they say about people who live in glass houses?
For some reason, NESN didn't treat this behavior the same way RFK Stadium treated my friend's behavior. So Friday night they decided to have Affleck use the Jimmy Fund telethon as a way to vault himself back into the booth and promote his new movie, Extract. I haven't seen anyone use cancer as a self-promotion vehicle this much since the Tom Green Show. Though he didn't say anything idiotic this time around, it was tasteless in the first place that this guy was let within fifty feet of that booth. If you looked at Remy's face during the whole interview, it looked like he felt the same way.
Shame on NESN. In 2002 Affleck had the privilege of going into the booth and talking for a while specifically because he was famous. And he's only famous because he's Matt Damon's buddy (more on Damon and why he's my favorite celebrity, no homo, in a second). And during that time, he overstepped his boundaries and then some.
Ben Affleck is everything that's wrong with this franchise right now. Affleck, despite what he said recently to former hater Bill Simmons, IS that obsequious celebrity that loves to pledge his loyalty to a team as long as it gets microphones in his face. For some reason, he has become some kind of authority regarding the team. People I'd rather have give me Red Sox insight include the Franchise's brother (who thinks Joe Hesketh, Carlos Quintana, and Tom Brunansky are still on the team), Craig from the comments section who is always wrong, the Boston Dirt Dog, Skip Bayless, Scott Boras, my grandmother, Barack Obama, and Suzyn Waldman.
He gets the good seats and never refuses an interview, as if he loves interrupting the broadcast of baseball games so he can promote his terrible movies. He wears a Red Sox hat to be seen--just like your average fan from this decade: "Jessica from Brighton."
Conversely, Matt Damon got the good seats for a Red Sox/Yankees game a few years back. The national broadcast went up to him to get an interview and he told them to go away: He was at the Red Sox game to watch the Red Sox play baseball. Which is the absolute opposite of the way Affleck exploits his hometown and its baseball team.
But despite all of this, and despite five innings of inappropriate comments in 2002, NESN still let Affleck back into the booth. I'll openly admit that the Washington Nationals have made a lot of mistakes (and the suspension of my friend is NOT one of the mistakes). But they would not have made this mistake.
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka: On July 28, Matsuzaka blasted the Red Sox publicly in a magazine, saying it's their fault, not his own, that he got hurt. The Boston training regimen is not as strong as the one in Japan, and the only reason he played well the last two seasons was because he was spending his "savings" he built up in Japan.
Manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell, in uncharacteristic moves, lashed back at Matsuzaka.
SP Clay Buchholz: After lighting up the minor leagues but not receiving a promotion, Buchholz told New England Cable News in mid-June that it's "frustrating at times." If he hadn't been terrible last year, this problem wouldn't have happened.
RP Jonathan Papelbon: While not complaining about his contract, decides he wants to be the general manager, blasting the real GM's potential decision to bring in Billy Wagner, asking "what has he done?"
RP Billy Wagner: Firing back back at Papelbon, Wagner said publicly "Let Papelbon be 38 and have Tommy John surgery."
C Jason Varitek: In May, Varitek started to refuse comments about his performance throwing runners out. Of course, this is after he began refusing comments about his hitting. I couldn't find a link, but I heard somewhere that within a day or two of Victor Martinez's arrival, he said something along the lines of "I'm a player. I want to play." If true, this is the second time since last October that Varitek has complained about playing time.
1B Kevin Youkilis: In the latest outburst, Youkilis blasted the Boston media and Boston fans two days ago, saying that what he loves in Boston is "between 7 PM and the end of the game." He had a lot more to say, blasting the media for being more negative (try playing here ten years ago) and how "people keep writing crap."
SS Jed Lowrie: He's pissed off because he doesn't want to go on another minor league rehab. Amalie Benjamin said Lowrie is "weary of setbacks" and Lowrie himself said "It's getting to the point of the season where it either responds well or it doesn't."
3B Mike Lowell: Perhaps the most legitimate beef of all, Lowell says "I probably don't need as many [days off] as I'm getting." Jason Bay agrees.
DH David Ortiz: This guy is just an idiot. If your own biographer is bashing you for your comments, you're doing something wrong. He said the media, who doesn't even mention the steroid stuff anymore, is being too mean to him for reporting that he tested positive for a steroid test. What a freaking joke.
RF J.D. Drew: "My [insert body part here] hurts."
To Brad Penny's credit, he does not join this list upon his release yesterday. He said all the right things. And he was effective for a while when he needed to be this year.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The hope is that the Yankees make the playoffs. And if they do the one thing that you want to take care of, besides not abusing his arm, is having him ready for the playoffs. Now, it is important to point out that taking care of his arm is a big deal, and one that you can't blame the Yankees for. This is a reality that a lot of teams have to deal with, and they are trying to find situation where they can take care of his arm and have him contribute this year, which is the right thing to do. But again after taking care of his arm, getting him ready for a potential playoff race in September and then October is the biggest thing.
I think having him pitching completely normally for 3-4 weeks in September hopefully leading into October is the best way to do that. I remember the Tigers doing it with Justin Verlander in 2006, and it worked well. They shut him down in August for a few weeks, and then brought him back in September and he was in full rhythm for the playoffs. Pitching on eight days rest like Joba did Tuesday is not going to be helpful to him or the team, not only in the game he starts on that extra rest, but also long term. It's too indecisive. Two weeks off is like taking a quick DL stint. Players do this all the time. Then you come back, build him back up slowly for 203 starts, and then have the training wheels completely off for his last few starts in September. The hope is that the Yankees have a lead where they have the luxury to control these things, like him having a very defined pitch count/innings limit in his starts off the downtime. As it stands right now they have just that. So this is feasible. I doubt they'll do this, and while I appreciate the position they are in, I think there is a better way to handle it. Maybe I'm wrong.
Long rest, regular rest, whatever, the second point is that Joba Chamberlian needs to figure out how to get the last out of innings. All 7 runs he allowed Tuesday were with 2 outs. All 4 runs he allowed in his start before that were with 2 outs. 3 of the 4 runs he allowed in the start before that were with 2 outs. That's 14 of the last 15 runs he's allowed coming with two outs. Small sample size to the point where maybe it's not fair to say that he has to figure this out, because it could just be a rought stretch in this department, but an alarming trend nonetheless. I don't think this has much to do with the irregular rest as his last two starts were on regular rest and he struggled in this regard in those starts as well. It probably has more to do with being a 23 year old who is still learning. As I (and most everyone) has been saying since the beginning of the year, Joba needs to be more agressive with his fastball. As filthy as his slider is (and his curveball isn't far behind), what made him who he was in 07 and 08 was that power fastball that he threw to corners. When he's gone well this year, it's because he goes to the fastball. Then it seems like he gets away from it. I don't know if this is because he feels he has it some nights and not others or what. But I do hope he finds a way to throw it with more consistency, especially with two strikes. Way too many sliders with two strikes, especially when you have the fastball he has to keep hitters off it.
Speaking of the 2 out issue, this isn't one that only Joba is having. This isn't even an issue that only the pitchers are having. It's the whole team. Andy Pettitte allowed 1 of his 2 runs with 2 outs tonight (not a big deal, but you'd like to see the Yankees have a game where they allow none). CC Sabathia allowed all 4 of his runs with 2 outs Sunday, and speaking of this not just being about the pitchers, most of those runs had to do with 1 and 2 out defensive issues. 13 of the 14 Red Sox runs Saturday came with two outs, and 11 of 11 on Friday. Again maybe just a small trend, but this is really not good. The Red Sox and Rangers scored 39 runs on the Yankees from Sunday to Tuesday, which is disgusting of and within itself. But when you consider that 37 of those 39 runs came with two outs, it becomes even moreso. And the reason is because they were always one pitch/play away from getting no runs. While you can't expect to make that pitch/those plays every time, you want to make it at a much higher clip than the Yankees' did the four games prior to tonight.
You need to keep 2 out runs off the board, and this goes back to what I wrote about two days ago. The Yankees need to tighten it up. They do most if not all of the "big" things well. The hit well overall, they pitch well overall, and the defend well overall. But they are prone to defensive blunders at inopportune times, as we discussed the other day. As we see here, they are also prone to not bearing down and getting the final out, at least recently. And I could also tell you about how they rely on the homerun too much and don't do a good enough job manufacturing runs, because they don't. While none of these are awful things, they are things that can swing a short series. They are the "little" things, and the Yankees can improve in that department.
How about Andy Pettitte? 11-6 with a 4.18 overall, 3-0 with a 2.84 in his last 5 starts. As big as Sabathia and Burnett have been, with Wang's injury and Joba's innings limit/inconsistency, Pettitte's contributions this year have been very significant. At the very least he's been a great #4 starter, and has looked a lot more like a #3 lately. With the poor second half he had last year and the questions about his ability to put together a full season swirling, it's nice to see him doing his best work of the season to date late in the baseball calendar. Hopefully it continues, because if the Yankees do make the playoffs the Andy Pettitte we've seen for the last month or so would be a difference maker.
This is a totally different feeling from anything else. Am I supposed to be happy the Red Sox won? Sure. But I am not happy with the way it happened. Paul Byrd was never chiefly responsible for any of the Red Sox' wins last year, and he was the only other known steroid guy to wear the laundry after being implicated. It's a bittersweet night.
Great work by Tim Wakefield tonight, though, and also a great job by Victor Martinez and the first baseman's glove. If he can pitch seven every five days at a level even close to tonight, that gives me a hint of optimism about this team.
I'll miss the Chicago White Sox, though.
In other news from New Hampshire, the American Defenders of Nashua (formerly the Pride, my former employers) got locked out of their stadium. Their new owners, including Dan Duquette, owed the city of Nashua some $45,000, so the city overnight changed the locks and parked a tractor on home plate. Pretty childish, but funny.
Speaking of New Hampshire and to go full circle, nandrolone user Alene Reta beat some of my buddies in the CIGNA/Elliot Corporate 5K a few weeks ago. He won $1600 for breaking the course record. Good thing they don't test for his "asthma medication" in Manchester.
Enjoy Pat's post. Please refrain from any comments about Youkilis's big mouth. Remember, I always write on Thursday nights.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
After a little bit of review, I am as skeptical about this trade as Papelbon is. I don't see him running for adidas New England RC with me anytime soon, though, so I feel like it's slightly more okay that I express my concern. His career stats, including his stats up to last season when he hurt himself, speak for themselves, but those have to be thrown away and Wagner must be compared to other pitchers within eleven months of Tommy John surgery. Well, it's fair to say that there isn't a big sample size. But we can safely say that while may players come back and pitch well after TJ surgery, it usually takes a while. Success is very rarely achieved immediately. Matt Mantei came to Boston after TJ surgery. That didn't work.
Monday, August 24, 2009
But I'm not totally sold. Part of this is that the Yankees haven't secured anything yet, there is baseball left to play. Another part is that everybody is writing so much about how built they are for success (as mentioned above), you can read/watch/listen to it anywhere. This will be a different perspective. Perhaps most importantly, I have legitimate concerns about this team in a short series if they make the playoffs.
(Disclaimer: As most here know I'm a believer that the playoffs is more about who is hot than who is better - or more built for success. However I certainly acknolwedge that certain teams are constructed more favorably in terms of having a better chance to play their best baseball at the right time. Just wanted to get that out of the way so that this analysis doesn't seem hypocritical.)
Let's use Sunday night as a case study. Derek Jeter homered on the first pitch, the type of quick lead you dream about in a playoff game. CC Sabathia came out and struck out 3 of the first 5 batters he faced, the type of early dominance you dream about in a playoff scenario. In the middle of that, Hideki Matsui homered to make it 2-0. In a playoff game, 2-0 with your ace on the hill is a lead you need to take care of. Sometimes, that has to be it.
The way it looked early, it might have been for New York Sunday night. Sabathia had that kind of stuff, and he's been pitching to that kind of tune (5-0, 2.65 in his last five starts), which again is the type of hot pitching you dream about in October.
But from the start, his defense failed him. Robinson Cano made an error on a routine groundball from Ellsbury. No harm, no foul as Sabathia picked him off and hung a zero. But he was immediately forced to the stretch, and a pressure situation with Ellsbury on first. There is a lot of data that it is not the total pitches, it is the type of pitches. High stress is obviously the worst, and a prolific basestealer on first with a contact hitter at the plate and the middle of the order looming is high stress.
It would only get worse. Leading off the bottom of the 4th, Jason Bay hit a bloop over second. Cano covered enough ground...but was too far towards first base. The ball fell in for a single. Not a routine play, but a play a Major League second baseman should make. One out turned into a runner on first. Sabathia then got two quick outs, striking out Lowell and getting Baldelli to line out to third. At this point the inning should have been over. Sabathia had gotten results more than good enough for three outs. But the inning pressed on, more pitches, and more pitches from the stretch. He got what should have been his fourth out when he popped Varitek up behind first...but Cano either misjudged the ball in the wind or just over ran it, and the ball fell in on an error. Forget that error, Varitek should have never been up to even put the ball in play, the inning should have been over. More pitches, more pitches from the stretch, and this time a completely defensively produced run in for the opposition.
A similar thing would happen in the 6th. After Youkils rocketed the only hard hit of the game off Sabathia to left center, Sabathia got Bay looking, a massive out not allowing Youkils to advance. He then popped Lowell up to left-center, what should have been the second out. But Damon and Melky let the ball drop in. Neither took charge and the ball just dropped. Instead of again stranding Youkilis on second, he was now on third with less than two outs with Lowell on first. Sabathia then got Baldelli to fly to right - what should have been the third out of the inning - but instead it was a sac fly. Another defensively produced run. Also more pitches, and more pitches from the stretch.
Despite all of this, Sabathia still gave them 6.2 innings and, as they all said after the game, bailed the Yankees out multiple times. It easily could have been a lot worse. The real issue is what could have been. Sabathia had the stuff last night to deliver this game to Mo, maybe more. But because he was forced (as you can see above) to repeatedly throw extra pitches, and repeatedly throw them from the stretch in high stress situations, he was out before the 7th was over.
The issue here is not Sunday night specifically. The Yankees won and that's great. The issue is when you slightly change the variables, which is going to happen on any given night. Sometimes the Yankees are going to need Sabathia, with his A+ stuff, to hold a 1-0 or 2-0 lead, especially in the playoffs. But he can't do that if they don't make the routine plays behind him. Further, sometimes the Yankees are going to need Sabathia to give a bigtime effort when he doesn't have the stuff he had Sunday night, which is very possible, but only if they make the plays behind him. You get where I'm going.
Yes, the Yankees are a very well-balanced team. They get a ton of offense, they get good starting pitching, and Hughes and Rivera (as Bandi aptly pointed out), shorten the game to 6 or 7 innings if the Yankees have a lead. But their biggest weakness is that despite immense talent, they have players who for various reasons are prone to mistakes. Swisher leads the AL in road homers, but he can have concentration issues in the field. Cano is batting .314 and slugging over .500 from second base, but he can have concentration issues in the field. Melky Cabrera has been one of the most clutch players in the game, batting .318 in late and close game situations and being one off the lead league in walk-off hits, but he can have concentration issues in the field in the field. Damon and Gardner, while not struggling with concentration, are just prone to making knucklehead gaffes (Gardner mostly because he tries to hard, Damon because...I don't know why, but it happens to him). While he has no concentration issues, at this stage in his career Posada just isn't all that great of a defensive catcher.
That leaves you with three of the nine players who are going to get significant playing time in the field (Jeter, Teixeira, and Rodriguez) who you really feel confident in consistently playing defense at a high level PLUS not making the big mental mistakes. I'm not talking about errors here. That happens. I'm talking about not getting in front of a groundball to be best prepared for it, not taking charge on a flyball and letting it drop, dropping really easy flyballs more than once in a blue moon, etc. The Yankees have way too many guys who do this stuff.
I remember Bandi remarking to me during the 2004 ALCS that he had never really noticed before how important turning your own lineup over, and not allowing the other team to turn their lineup over, is in playoff baseball. He's exactly right. That entire series was about how often the Yankees could get Jeter, Rodriguez, Sheffield, and Matsui to the plate and how often the Yankees could get Damon, Ortiz, and Ramirez to the plate. When you make mental mistakes like the ones the Yankees made Sunday night, not only does it create the opportunity for a team to score runs they never should have, not only does it force your own starter to throw more pitches, but it turns the other teams' lineup over more. While it didn't really seem to matter Sunday night becuase, quite frankly, the Red Sox don't have the type of lineup that you worry about turning over, in the playoffs there likely will be. Kinsler, Young, and Cruz. Pujols and Holliday. Hunter and Guerrero. These types of one two punches are out there. If the Yankees get there, they'll have a lineup of their own that teams won't want to turn over. If the Red Sox get there, they may very well be firing on all cylinders with Pedroia, Martinez, Youkilis, and Bay and you'll want to keep them away from the dish then too.
The beauty of the playoffs is that, despite their tendancy for a lack of concentration, the Yankees could go on a three week stretch (like they have this year) where they play the crispest baseball imaginable. But when we talk about teams who are built to "more likely" have a certain thing happen, the Yankees, despite being pretty good as a team defensively, are a team more likely to not make all the plays behind their pitchers than you want them to be. At least more than you want a championship team to. Elongating innings, giving teams extra outs, making their pitchers work harder than they have to, these are things the Yankees have been prone to this year. Not likely to fly if they make the playoffs. Very possible to win even with this issue, but a lot more difficult. They need to clean it up.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
These very same people almost started a revolution after Josh Beckett's last start, when Varitek sat with a sore neck and Martinez caught. Beckett got shelled by the Blue Jays that night. So all of the people who lack thinking skills (hence the Varitek love and the inability to use the ! character) attribute it to the fact that Martinez sucks at game-calling and that Varitek is about 90 times better than any other catcher in the league.
Maybe tonight, with Beckett letting up eight runs and missing locations in the strike zone frequently, people might just say that Beckett is slumping, as many pitchers do. He'd been unhittable for like three months. This is bound to happen sometimes. (Of course, Francona will not realize this. I'd blast him about Waiting for Seven again, but there are many other things to talk about tonight.)
Ask Cliff Lee how much Victor Martinez sucks at calling games. Ask CC Sabathia. Is Varitek, the guy who can't hit, can't throw baserunners out, and decided to have Beckett throw two straight curveballs in the same place to A-Rod (whoa, I just criticized his play-calling--forgive me!), really so much more capable than anyone else in baseball at calling games?
That is ridiculous. Burnett/Posada might be a little bit different, but that's not in the scope of this post. And please, I dare you to throw the "he's the fifth-best offensive catcher in the league!!!11" argument.
Do the Red Sox have the balls to flat-out non-tender Jonathan Papelbon? Amid rumors that Billy Wagner might be coming to Boston (I'm neutral toward this move), Papelbon decided to talk trash and express his doubts about the new addition. This may be the first time in the history of baseball when a player has ever insulted a potential future teammate. Papelbon said that Wagner, given his recovery from TJ surgery, would be "kind of like the Gagne thing," asking "what has he done?" That comment cannot be spun any other way than the way it was clearly intended. Congratulations to Papelbon, because I thought Jim Rice would have easily clinched the "dumbest comments of the weekend" award by saying Derek Jeter is a poor role model.
The guy has pitched poorly all season despite living a charmed life. The guy has whined about his contract. He has claimed that he should be the closer over Mariano Rivera (who, unlike him, is an effective closer) in the All-Star Game at Rivera's home stadium. He has said he wants to set the bar for closers after three years' service. He sees himself "in the Hall of Fame" in twenty years. And now he wants to be the general manager. If the Red Sox non-tender him this off-season, I wonder what the going rate is for a pitcher who's lost 3 MPH on his fastball, can't get guys out without loading the bases first, walks guys at an alarming rate for a closer, wants to make personnel decisions, and can't follow Chris Rock's Rule #6 for not getting your ass kicked by the police?
Update: I just heard some woman (who is Maureen Mullen?) on NESN defend Papelbon's comments, saying his outspokenness is "what we love about him." The other woman on the set last week said that Nick Green was a young player. Sometimes Keith Hernandez is right.
AJ Burnett is worth every penny. Brad Penny: Welcome to the bullpen. At least you'll be better than Fernando Cabrera. Michael Bowden: Welcome back to Pawtucket. The only prospect having a worse year might be Lars Anderson. Junichi Tazawa might want to surrender fewer hits to prove to me that he's too good for a year in Japan. And tonight, in the ninth, a non-sarcastic good job to Nancy Drew for stealing second with Varitek up so he could prevent a double play. Varitek, of course, struck out looking.
I have a challenge for everyone: Watch the replay of this game at 3:00 AM Monday morning and take a shot every time Joe Morgan says the term "dead red." Could make for an interesting work day.
Friday, August 21, 2009
During probably the second half of Joe Torre's tenure in New York, he started getting criticized for being too loyal to certain players, namely those in the Four Rings Club plus guys like Tanyon Sturtze, Tom Gordon, and eventually Paul Quantrill and Scott Proctor. His loyalty to Bernie Williams (and I'm sure FTB will have plenty to say about this) created a rift between him and the front office, as Williams had been long past his effectiveness as a player on a championship-caliber team.
Somebody--and it may have been Pat--theorized back before this blog's inception that the vast majority of major league managers have a short period of effectiveness. And this goes for both the hard-asses and the players' managers. In a book written by Rick Petrocelli about the 1967 Red Sox season, Dick Williams himself said that after only a few years, he yelled so much at a team that the players stopped listening to him. And on the other side you get guys like Torre and Francona who, after a certain period of time, become too loyal, too compassionate, and grow too much of a heart.
It is becoming more and more evident this season that Francona is either close to reaching or has already reached that critical point where his effectiveness may be waning. And remember once again that I categorize myself as a pro-Francona guy.
In the summer of 2008, Francona went on the record for saying that he will "always" trust Jason Varitek because he's seen Varitek hit the ball 400 feet "too many times" to ever take him out of the lineup. In the playoffs, he pinch hit for Varitek and Varitek cried about it. More recently, Varitek has cried more about playing time after the Victor Martinez acquisition. Right now I'm questioning whether Francona has the gumption to sit Varitek if the catcher continues to drain this team's offense. And this is because he is too loyal--because he will always trust Varitek and because he's seen the guy come through "too many times." Unfortunately, he's no longer trustworthy and those "too many times" all came 3-5 years ago.
The same goes for David Ortiz. Francona has been just as careless about playing Ortiz as Ortiz has been careless about his vitamins and supplements. While he may actually make the cut for remaining in this lineup due to his staggering power numbers since June 6th, he should at least start to think he's very much on the bubble.
For a reason you gotta think is loyalty, Francona might be sticking with these two guys way too long. And Mike Lowell is the one getting screwed. No, he can't move around much, but he can (and should) play DH on a more regular basis. Sure, he hasn't been with Francona through thick and thin as much as Varitek and Ortiz have. But the guy's hitting almost .300 and at some point, it's time to put aside the loyalties (which are natural) and put the best guys in the lineup.
Cool, rational decisions are the ones that ultimately win baseball games for you. And a manager, to maximize his effectiveness window (if this is even possible), has to separate the emotions from the reality.
A Bill Heywood had to do that in the movie Little Big League in a memorable scene. A veteran player who had just been released said "I'm supposed to go home to my wife and say I got let go by a 12-year-old kid, but it's okay because he likes my baseball card?"
Francona loves Ortiz's baseball card and Varitek's baseball card. But the manager needs to make the decisions to help the team win.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Further, certain moves he's made have panned out bigtime, and I have to give him a lot of credit for that. Just check out the seasons Jeter and Damon are having. While a lot of that is them performing no matter where they hit, it is clear that at this stage Jeter is more suited to leadoff and Damon to bat second, and this was the type of great outside of the box thinking where managers can actually seriously impact their team's overall success.
Finally, Girardi seems to be built to manage when things are going well. You might say that's obvious and would be true of any manager. But Girardi seems to really excel at it. He's noticeably looser (as opposed to the tight face Bandi often references), he's more animated (as opposed standing still like a statue on the top step all game), and he looks like he's having a blast doing the only thing in the world he wants to do (as opposed to wearing the pain of every loss on his face). It's when things are going bad that Girardi really seems to struggle. Obviously, the team is not struggling right now at 31 games over .500, so he has not made following my rule difficult. And I think it's a good rule. When a team has the best record in baseball, even if it is almost all about the players, you have to give the manager credit and I'm more than willing to do that.
So since I will not complain, I would simply like to explain a series of connected situations that I do not understand.
On Tuesday night, in a 7-2 game, David Roberston started the 9th inning. Now, Robertson has been throwing great baseball lately. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 7 appearances (6 entering last night), and has the *HIGHEST* K/9 in the American League (starters and relievers with the minimum number of innings) thanks to that great curveball and the good late knock he has on his four-seamer. Robertson allowed runners on first and second with no outs Tuesday night, and Mariano Rivera was up in the pen. This would be the Mariano Rivera who is 39 years old and had a little bit of a tired shoulder last week, getting up in a 5 run game with a hot pitcher on the mound. Roberston struck the next two batters out and got out of the inning without incident.
Tonight, in a 3-1 game in the 7th inning, Alfredo Aceves was in his third inning of work. Now, Aceves has not been throwing good baseball of late. He had allowed 9 earned runs in his last 12.1 innings, had already allowed a run in this game, and had a runner on second base with two outs. Girardi does not have Phil Hughes up. Aceves allows a single, scoring the runner on second to to make it 3-2, and follows that up with another single to put the tying run in scoring position at second. Girardi still does not have Hughes up. In this critical situation, Girardi goes not to Hughes but to Phil Coke, who has been abominable this month with a 10.80 across 6.2 innings. This would be the Phil Hughes who just turned 23 years old, has no publicly known physical issues, and had pitched 5.2 innings in August (this game was played on August 19th). It would seem from an outsiders perspective like he's ready to pitch in this critical situation, if not before it got so critical.
So in a 7-2 game and runners on first and second in the 9th, Mariano is up. In a 3-1 and 3-2 game with runners in scoring position in the 7th (with one being the tying run), Hughes is not up. I do not understand this. And we can't say that Girardi is afraid to Hughes for more than one inning because (1) he's done it before and (2) he uses Rivera for more than 3 outs all the time, so it should follow that he is willing to use someone much younger with the ability to go more than one inning for more than 3 outs as well. I just do not understand this.
Anyway, overall absolutely fantastic job by Girardi and the Yankees not having a letdown after the Red Sox series. 7-3 in the next 10 is a great job. Again, this is really where Girardi seems to get it done, not allowing his team to let up when they are winning and things are going well. I really do want to compliment him on this as he's been excellent of late, even considering the tactical decisions that I don't understand. Boston next in what is an important series on a number of levels for both teams. That Sabathia/Beckett matchup on Sunday Night Baseball is one of the reasons this game is so great. Go Yankees.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Boston has won their sixth of nine. Granted, it's not a very confidence-boosting six of nine, because while some of the Detroit series was good and tonight was good, the team has not played very well. Jason Bay is getting it back a little bit, and Clay Buchholz (especially tonight) has been rocking it.
The offensive struggles, the five-game Youkilis suspension, the first eight innings of Friday night's game, Francona throwing Drew under the bus, mailing in the Verlander game, Brian Anderson in the field, Clay Buchholz on the basepaths, the pitching last night, Junichi Tazawa being shaky at best, and two stinkbombs against a Texas team with momentum have stuck out a lot more than the fact that the Red Sox have actually posted a .667 winning percentage so far.
A win tomorrow would achieve Holley's goal for being confident about this team's resilience and playoff chances. They very well may win tomorrow. But they may carry as little momentum as possible for a team coming off of seven wins out of ten.
Stay tuned for a Pat post with a lot more relevance than this one.
This is what happens when you watch Baseball Tonight while putting together a blog post. An original purpose of the previous post was to point out how Brett Favre might be the biggest d-bag in sports right now. Favre has taken the ostentatious, obsequious, attention-craving “I Come In Early” approach typically employed by Alex Rodriguez. This guy so desperately craves favor and attention that he has retired and un-retired incessantly since March 6, 2008.
The coverage on March 6 was deplorable, as it seemed like the guy was killed while successfully blowing himself up on a mission to blow up a comet or an asteroid threatening the earth. And it has just re-hashed itself once when he started to unretire, when he officially unretired, when he retired again after several interceptions, when he thought about unretiring, when he said he’d remain retired, and now when he unretired again. Seriously, F this guy.
“I did it for all the right reasons.” Let’s try to figure out these reasons:
- To F with the Packers
- To remain in the limelight
- To make $10-12 million while skipping training camp (Manny Ramirez?)
- To “compete,” or, in other words, throw a lot of interceptions (this could be solved by not retiring in the first place
- To one-up John Smoltz’s “it’s not the 1990s anymore” denial
This guy is as self-important as A-Rod. Shut up and either retire or unretire. It’s preferable if you just retire and go away. It’s similar to how A-Rod should shut up about how early he comes in and should just play baseball.
Equally at fault is the media. Like in a Treehouse of Horrors episode of the Simpsons when giant billboard characters started wreaking havoc on Springfield, maybe Brett Favre will just go away if you don’t look at him. The media should glaze over his un-retirement like they glazed over Ivan Rodriguez’s obvious steroid use.
I went out to eat last night and there were two Brett Favre channels out of three TVs in front of me—ESPN and NFL Network. I had acid flashbacks of being injured and doing two hours on the elliptical machine at the gym with Michael Jackson coverage on one channel on one TV and Michael Jackson coverage on another channel on another TV. This was on like July 28th and Michael Jackson died on June 25th.
Another subtle jab at “Red Sox Nation:” During both instances, the Red Sox game was underway but was not televised at either venue in favor of the aforementioned Favre/MJ coverage, ESPN60 with Vince Young, and the Little League Softball World Series.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
-Let's start with a non-D-bag, and that's Alex Gonzalez. Right before the infancy of How Youz Doin Baseball, I protested the notion that Gonzalez was the offensive disaster everyone claimed he was. During the two months of 2006 when he was actually healthy and playing everyday, he hit about .330. Granted, it was a hot streak and not indicative of what he was capable of. But it was about 35% of his time in Boston, and everyone says he sucked at the plate. That made no sense to me. The thing that was the most mind-boggling is that they let him sign with the Reds for 3 years and $15 million while they signed a guy who could hit for 4 months. For four years and $36 million. While injuries were not kind to Gonzalez or the Reds during his 2 2/3 years there, I was glad to see his name on the ticker.
Bringing him back at his current state is not a groundbreaking move. But it will stabilize the infield a little bit. And I doubt he could possibly be worse than Nick Green has been since May 15th at the plate. I hope he can prove to this town that Theo made a mistake not only with who they brought in, but also who they let walk.
-On to the D-bags. People wonder about the special treatment that Ortiz is getting for his steroid use. His comments throwing the media under the bus is laughable, by the way. Maybe later this week I'll have something to say about Ortiz vs. Massarotti and why it's especially notable. But his light treatment is like capital punishment if you compare it to the treatment that Ivan Rodriguez is getting. This guy is such an obvious juicer and people are just letting it slide. They want to keep Clemens and Bonds out of the Hall of Fame because of their use, but not Pudge? He was in Canseco's book (page 133). He lost 40 pounds immediately when the scandal hit, but ESPN said it was so he could become more nimble. They still call him a future Hall of Famer. Is it because all of Canseco's first book was fictional? What a joke.
-Papelbon is really bad and really lucky. He grooved three tonight, and it's a good thing Toronto is incompetent. Of course, this game would have been 10-0 if Varitek were calling the game. He's such a good game-caller.
-No sushi for Stephen Strasburg, and I'm surprised. He signed a $15.1 million signing bonus, which is significantly less than the $50 million he was looking for. I was already prepared to throw him under the bus tonight, as I was pretty surprised he didn't turn down the deal and go to Japan so he could become an international free agent. People would have criticized Boras, but at the end of the day, the agent works for the player.
Boras doesn't need a blog, a Twitter, or even a website to market his services. Everybody knows what he's about. And that's doing whatever possible to get his commission. He will rip off owners (Varitek, 2009). He will try to destroy the draft and its competitive balance provisions (Varitek, 1994; Drew, 1997). He will slap the sport in the face (Rodriguez, 2007). He will even work against the interests of his own constitutents (Ramirez, 2008). He may get you the biggest contract, but it's at a price.
The way I see it, when the player decides to become a Boras client, it speaks volumes about the kind of person the player is. That's why I no longer mention the name of the Red Sox' centerfielder. The player knows exactly what he's doing. And, perhaps most importantly, at the end of the day, it's the player that makes the final decision. The player hires Boras, not the other way around. So if something were to go wrong with Strasburg, Donovan Tate, Bryce Harper, or Forty Six, blame Boras as much as you want. But it's the player who's to blame.
Monday, August 17, 2009
- I talked before the season about this being one of the best Yankee teams on paper I can remember seeing. So far this season paper has translated into reality. As of late last week, this team had the third best record that any Yankee team had ever had at that point in the season. Think about that for a second. All those years, all those great teams, and this squad had the third best record ever. Offensively they are also turning in one of the best collective seasons ever by a Yankee team. While this has been aided by right field in the new stadium, their depth and ability is undeniable. Nick Swisher bats 8th more nights than not, and he has 20 homers, 17 on the road. That pretty much sums it up offensively. They have been getting outstanding starting pitching, and the bullpen has been excellent. Since May 4, Yankee "The Guys From SWB" have a 3.47 ERA. Ironically for this blog, Boston relievers currently have a 3.47 ERA on the season, and this is up substantially from the first two months. While Boston relievers should certainly get credit for their outstanding work, the point is not to discredit them. The point is to say "The Guys From SWB", for whom it was supposedly laughable to compare them to their Boston counterparts, have been very comparable after the first 25 games or so. If they are The Guys From SWB, Boston's pen is the Guys From Pawtucket. All this aside, this has been one of the more fun seasons I've had as a Yankee fan. They are very good, they are exciting, and they are an easy bunch to root for that has good chemistry and seem to have fun doing it all. Great stuff.
- This is the obligatory, "Can you imagine if Boston had signed Mark Teixeira?" portion of my post. Wow. Subtracting what he's done for New York and adding it to Boston, not just for this year but for the forseeable future is scary.
- Even with the hot start to the season, I would have guessed the Yankees would stay away from Damon next year because of his age, sudden defensive decline, and concerns over his playing so hard and through so many injuries finally catching up to him. Now it's tough to see them not bringing him back. If he'll take a one-year deal, that's a no brainer. Even a two-year deal, if that's what it takes to get him for next year, might not be out of the question. His defense has been much better of late, he is again proving to be durable, he knows how to use right field at Yankee Stadium as well as anyone, and it is just flat out tough to find #2 hitters with a 129 OPS+. When you take into account the Yankees outfield situation moving past this year, the Yankees might be smart to stay away from an underwhelming outfield free agent class and stick with what has been working for four years now. One more full-time year followed by a possible full-time, possible part-time year not only seems within question, it seems likely if that is the direction the Yankees go in.
- Really good to see Robinson Cano having a great bounceback season. Since his OPS+ (124) is two points higher than Pedroia's was last year, I'm voting for him for MVP.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
"I said, 'Look at the the scorecard. You have to,' " Francona said. "We already put a pitcher into [sic] run. That's all we got to do, put somebody out in [expletive] right. It would have been like a circus."
Due to two swings in October and one month of June, Drew has been nothing short of a disaster in Boston. His body language indicates he doesn't care. His performance certainly indicates he doesn't care. How can a guy with such highly-regarded tools suck as bad as Drew does? Most likely lack of effort. However, a large share of Red Sox fans have given Drew the benefit of the doubt due to those two big swings.
If that Francona quote gets any legs, Nancy may finally get some of the criticism he deserves. Seriously, as I've said before, if the ultimate player's manager criticizes you, you have to be screwing up pretty royally. This is not the first time Francona has given a subtle jab to Drew due to his unwillingness to play at 99%, but it is the first time he's used the F-word. This speaks volumes about JD, even if the .254 batting average, the 89 strikeouts and 63 weak ground balls to the right side by a guy considered so gosh darn talented haven't already.
Drew wasn't healthy enough to play in the eighth inning last night. He was apparently healthy enough to hit a home run in the ninth, though. Furthermore, Drew left the game on July 31st with this groin injury, and he has hit .290 since suffering this injury. A reasonable conclusion: Drew is not that hurt. He just doesn't want to play baseball.
Not counting his then-record signing bonus that he gained after holding out for an entire year and trying to exploit a loophole in the MLB draft process, Drew has made roughly $78,000,000 in his career. If you show up to work and hate every minute of it, if you would rather have the Red Sox put Clay Buchholz, Ramon Ramirez, or third base coach DeMarlo Hale in right field than play one freaking inning in a little bit of pain, just retire now. Just leave. Go home. Just go the F home to Hahira, Georgia so the Red Sox can play someone who at least gives half of a s*** about winning baseball games. I'd rather see Brian Anderson in right for the rest of the year than hear any more of this crap that baseball fans have seen JD Drew pull for the last freaking decade.
Eighty million dollars are enough to take care of your family for the rest of your life, JD Drew. If there's nobody on the bench and you still want to leave a game due to an injury that doesn't prevent you from driving a ball 400 feet, you should retire. Your apathetic attitude seems to be contagious with this lethargic Red Sox team. And Terry freaking Francona is dropping F-bombs to you.
Please retire now. Because October 2, 2011 is not nearly soon enough to see the end of this behavior.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The Red Sox had the opportunity to sweep the Detroit Tigers today, but Francona decided to not take the Kevin Youkilis suspension into consideration when promising days off for Pedroia and Nancy Thursday. A major league lineup probably would have had their fair share of problems with Justin Verlander, but is it inconceivable that they'd be able to muster three freaking runs to support Clay Buchholz (who is pitching quite well)?
Well, a lineup that's missing Youkilis, Pedroia, and Drew will be missing a guy who hits for extra bases, a guy who hits, and a guy who doesn't hit but walks a lot. If they're all replaced by guys who either can marginally hit (Kotchman, Reddick) or can't hit at all (Woodward), honey baby, it's going to be hard to score some runs.
Francona's been much better about giving every competent baseball player a day off simultaneously while throwing out the B-team for the last several years--probably for as long as HYD Baseball has been around. But today was a day when he decided to punt his chance to sweep a first-place team. If' it's a marathon instead of a sprint next weekend against the Yankees, every win counts, right? So why concede a winnable game?
Look, Youkilis is going to be out of the lineup no matter what. For those five games, you probably don't want to be taking too too many other guys who are formidable major leaguers out of the lineup. They can wait one freaking day, or five freaking days. Did they want to party last night? Probably. But a hung over Pedroia is probably better than poor Chris Woodward. This was a winnable game that was lost.
Also, batters 4-9 were 0-19 today. That is unacceptable. Batters 1-3 were okay, but the real killer was that Ortiz struck out three times and Bay struck out all three times, so no matter where 1-3 were, 4 and 5 weren't advancing them anywhere. That's awful. Even JD Drew hitting a weak ground ball to second base would advance a runner on second to third, leaving them one fly ball away from a run. But as I said yesterday, while Bay will strike out quite a bit as he has all his career, David Ortiz should not be in this lineup.
The NESN radar gun is fast, too. People can't throw 100 in the eighth anymore.
Have a good weekend.
-Last night's win was good. It is so nice to have Josh Beckett on again. I don't want to jinx anything, but right now would not be a very pleasant time for a blister problem.
-Would Youkilis have charged the mound if Mike Lowell wasn't playing well? If Casey Kotchman were not on the team? Just a thought.
-While I'm on that subject, upon Youkilis's return, Sports Illustrated thinks David Ortiz, steroids or no steroids, should be the guy benched. He's just not getting the job done. It's true that Varitek isn't either, but you need a DH to hit. Mike Lowell is hitting .297 with only two fewer extra-base hits than Ortiz...in 85 fewer at-bats. He should be the DH, Youkilis should play third, and Victor Martinez should play first.
-The doom and gloom may have subsided a little bit, but when it was going on, there was a puzzling absence of people attributing the slide to replacing Matsuzaka with Smoltz and Tazawa. It was somewhat expected that either Wakefield or Penny wouldn't be able to last the season without a prolonged absence. However, Matsuzaka going down was not expected, and even when he was on the mound, he was ineffective. It is an underrated factor that a guy who went 18-3 (we know, we know) with a 2.90 ERA last year has been replaced by pitchers who collectively have an ERA north of seven.
--On Monday afternoon, Michael Holley said on WEEI that the next ten games--four against Detroit, three at Texas, and three at Toronto--will define whether this team can contend. They've already won three out of the ten. All they have to do is break even for the rest of this stretch and they'll be at least in decent shape before they prepare for likely another drubbing at the hands of the Yankees.
-Yesterday was the 15-year anniversary of the strike. I have a Bud Selig tribute in the draft section. Look for that probably on Tuesday of next week.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Not a lot to be said about the weekend as a whole. The Yankees did everything you wanted and then some in literally every phase of the game. 3-1 would have been great and a sweep, especially the way they did it, is just awesome and could not have come at much better of a time. Let's get right to it.
- Good learning experience for Joba Chamberlain Thursday night, and I thought he handled it well. He didn't have his best stuff nor his command, and yet he found a way to minimize the damage. Guys with Joba's talent are going to be able to dominante 2-3 times out of 5 without even getting too worked up. It's what they do with those other 2-3 starts that determines what kind of pitcher they become. Going 5 innings and allowing 4 runs in Game 1 of a critical series in one of those "other 2-3 games" (where he doesn't have his best stuff), putting his team right in a position to win, is a good start.
- Can't say enough about A.J. Burnett, C.C. Sabathia, and Andy Pettitte. In big games, those were three of the most dominant consecutive pitching performances I can remember seeing in the regular season. There were tons of big hits, no doubt, but these three were the biggest reason for the Yankees' sweep. 22.1 shutout innings is difficult to argue with.
- Mark Teixeira is .313/.450/.708/1.158 against Boston this season. 5 of his 29 homers, or more than 1/6, have come in 12 games against the Red Sox. This is important to point out not only because you want guys who are going to play well against your biggest division competition, but because if he wasn't hitting against Boston he'd be getting ripped just like A-Rod used to. The media is definitely giving Tex some love, but nothing compared to what they'd be giving him if he was faltering in the big spots. So I'm here to point out how much he's thriving in those very spots. In a column in yesterday's Globe, Bob Ryan referred to him as Mark (Worth Every Penny) Teixeira. I like that. I'm going to start calling him M-WEPT as a result. I have to admit that I was wrong. I stated that Mark Teixeira was a 1A player, very good but not elite, the type that you want, but you don't move other players around to get. Not accurate. You move other players around for Teixeira. He's that good, and a lot better than I thought he was. And I thought he was really good.
- Speaking of clutch, it's wild how good Rodriguez has been in the big spots this year. 12 of his 21 homers have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead, 6 of them in the 7th inning or later. I obviously have no idea, but it seems like he's just said screw it, I'm just going to play baseball and not worry about anything else. Whether he actually is or not, he looks more relaxed. Those two homers this weekend were absolutely massive.
- I understand the reasons why Dustin Pedroia gets a pass in Boston. I really do. But he has not given the Red Sox what they needed from him so far, and I'm surprised this hasn't gotten a bit more attention. He's not a problem by any means, but he's also not making bigtime plays in terms of giving them the production they need, and that's what he's supposed to be doing. His 106 OPS+ is one better than Melky's 105, which is the lowest out of Yankees' regulars by 11 points. He seemed to have more chances to do damage than anyone else on the team this past weekend, and did not get the job done. Not only has he not played like the defending MVP, but he hasn't even played all that much above average. The Red Sox need more, and perhaps his play in Tampa and yesterday at home is him starting to do that.
- That Red Sox bullpen still looking a thousand times better than the boys from SWB?
- Kevin Youkilis is just a baseball player. I told this to DV on the phone Thursday night. He does whatever this team asks of him. Bat second, clean up, play third, play left. And he does it well (I don't care about those issues in left Saturday, he played left better than most corner infielders would in a pinch like that). It's a pleasure to watch.
- Josh Beckett is successfully putting together his second very good season of his eight year career. And this may very well be his best, he's dominant out there. But it's just so funny to watch him pitch. He tries to play it like he's Mr. Zen, calm, cool, and collected on the mound, "MLB VP of Playing the Game the Right Way", as nomaas.org used to say on the sponsorship of his baseballreference page. But you know he's an absolute hot head just ready to burst at any moment. Friday night he plays it calm, plays it calm, plays it calm putting up zeroes. Then in the 5th he gets in a jam, gets Jeter to ground out to third to end a bases loaded threat, and he absolutely freaks out, pumping not only his fist but his entire body, screaming all sorts of curses in the process. Who does he think he's fooling with this poise stuff? If there is one pitcher I could choose to have 7 shutout innings ruined by an Alex Rodriguez 2 run shot to break a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the 15th, it's Beckett. Because you just know he's flipping out inside about it while struggling not to show it outwardly, and that's the type of confusion we like to see with Josh, because it results in more outbursts like the the 5th inning Friday night, where I was literally laughing on the couch the entire commercial break at his outburst relative to the persona he likes to present.
- I understand why Sergio Mitre is getting starts. I'd rather see Aceves get the spot or Gaudin get a chance, but I also get that the Yankees' #5 starter is probably not going to make or break their season at this point. That's a small luxury they now have with a lead in the division at this stage in the season, one that the Red Sox did not have with Smoltz. Still, if there are at least potentially better options, they should try them. Further, what actually bothers me is the justifications given for Mitre starting. Cashman says to look around the league at other #5 starters. He also says the Yankees had won 3 of his 4 starts prior to last night (now 3 of 5). Girardi has said similar things. First, I didn't know the Yankees were now setting their standards based on what other teams do. Clearly, the Yankees are not other teams, so they theoretically should have a better #5 than the average, just like they have a better just about everything else than the average team, so this is not a good defense. Second, 3 of 4 is a small sample size, and related I was not aware that our offense scoring enough runs to cover up for bad pitching is suddenly a defense for said bad pitching. Just tell me that there aren't necessarily better options right now and while they try to figure out what they might do with the spot, Mitre continues starting. I can accept that.
- To this end, Aceves should get that spot and it looks like he might. He's pitched 3 and 4 innings respectively his last two times out, so they may be trying to stretch him out. It's a loss in the bullpen, but he can go back there eventually. Those three scoreless innings Friday were the unsung story of the game for the Yankees, huge effort from Aceves. He's been doing this all year and it should not be overlooked.
- As Mr. H said in the comments section the other day, it's not just that the Yankees swept the series, it's the way they did it. Especially Sunday. Getting a lead back, then having Damon and Teixeira going back to back, with the image of Teixeira holding the bat above his head running down to first wondering if it's fair or foul, it's not the way you want to lose. That's why you have to give the Red Sox a lot of credit for grinding out a win last night (and now tonight). Excellent job there.
- The Yankees are 32-11 since late June. Only 11 losses in 1.5 months is very impressive. They have put themselves in outstanding position. The key is to not have any letdown, and that starts tonight after a tough loss last night (which is now a win, so good job by them especially coming back late...again). Go Yankees.
Monday, August 10, 2009
That, of course, would be Junichi Tazawa, who not only gave up a bomb to A-Rod on Friday night, but who also--along with the Red Sox organization who deserves just as much flack in this area--did more than his part to undermine baseball in his home country of Japan. His declaration that he would refuse to play professional baseball in Japan and the Red Sox complicity with this ploy has undermined what was a 47-year-old "implicit understanding" that MLB teams would not do this.
The fact that Tazawa would abandon his country altogether is puzzling and deplorable. On the one hand, if his team in the Japanese league were paying him peanuts, that would be one thing. But Yu Darvish makes nearly $2 million a year plus performance bonuses, and he will surely cash in either through the posting process or after nine years in the Japanese leagues (probably the first). Importantly, however, Darvish has the opportunity to play in front of the fans who will follow him for the rest of his career. (For the record, ESPN wrote an article a year ago how the defection of players like Darvish--nevermind Tazawa who never played in Japan in the first place--is devastating to the NBL.) This is a good thing both for the Nippon Baseball League (NBL) and the MLB, as Darvish fans will undoubtely follow his new team like Japanese fans follow Matsuzaka.
Tazawa has basically thrown up the middle finger to the NBL for an overwhelming (sarcastic) sum of $1.1 million a year for the next three years (until he's roughly the age Matsuzaka came over to the US). He's thrown up the middle finger to Japanese baseball in general, as well as all of its fans. Now that Tazawa has done what he did, the other most disrespectful but elite amateurs will undoubtedly follow suit until all the best talent doesn't even reach the NBL. The NBL will basically be an independent minor league, and the talent will be depressed from its current 4-A level to an inferior product. Japan doesn't deserve that.
But Junichi Tazawa, starting in Boston tomorrow night, doesn't care.
Right now the Red Sox have a player on each extreme: A guy who cares about his home country too much and a guy who doesn't give a damn about the very same home country to the extent that he refused to play in their baseball league like every other Japanese player since 1962. That's how special Junichi Tazawa thinks he is.
Of course, the Red Sox are more than happy to play along. Brian Cashman last September said that he was not going to enter the Tazawa market out of respect for the rule and for the integrity of Japanese baseball. The scrappier, steroid-free, and more honorable Red Sox franchise did not follow suit.
If Tazawa more resembles Aychar Igawa (which many scouting reports say) than Daisuke Matsuzaka, the player will be banned in Japan for two or three years. Hopefully he'll also be rejected from the next Japanese World Baseball Classic team for disrespecting the nation and its league. I've had conversations with many different people who say that the late-2000s Red Sox teams have had a lot of dislikable players (it's no secret how I feel about Drew, 46, Varitek, Ortiz, and Byrd). The addition of Junichi Tazawa reinforces this.
A few quick ones:
-Bud Selig was scheduled to meet with the NBL commissioner in October 2008 about the problem created by Tazawa. Indicative of the rest of his commissionership, I found nothing about what happened at this meeting or whether it happened at all.
-Speaking of punk pitchers who don't understand the concept of paying their dues, Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals are not even close to an agreement with a week to go before the signing deadline. I think it's extremely possible if not likely that Strasburg plays in...Japan!...next year.
-Manny Delcarmen is frustrating to watch. It is nice, however, for Jason Bay and Jonathan Papelbon to pick August 10th to not suck.
-Kathryn Tappan just said Nick Green is a "young player" and it's nice to see him hit well for once. Nick Green turns 31 next month. Maybe she is related to Buck Martinez, talking about Pedro Feliz's upside at age 33. But her job is to follow one freaking team. Unbelievable.
That one member is Ramon Ramirez.
Ramon Ramirez is well on his way to assuming the role of The Sphynx from Gone in 60 Seconds--the guy who doesn't say anything but just acts like a badass the whole time. When Ramirez threw at Teixeira and then A-Rod during Saturday's game, he proved to be the only one willing to man up and defend his teammate. It was like when Memphis Raines was in a heated discussion with rival car boost Johnny D, then Sphynx emerges in the background and blows up Johnny's car.
People around here say Ramirez got a quick hook. That's absurd. He threw at Teixeira and then threw at A-Rod. And that was the only sign of life shown by anyone on this team.
The Red Sox averaged two runs a game. They went thirty innings without scoring a run. They went 0-17 with runners in scoring position over the last three games. Pedroia went 1-13 over this stretch, which is frustrating because 46 always seemed to be on base when he couldn't do anything. The runners on base numbers would probably be worse, but they didn't have much opportunity to get runners on base in the first place. When they did, they grounded into double plays.
Impressive pitching performances by Beckett, Buchholz, and Lester were all wasted--especially Buchholz. An impressive pitching performance by the Red Sox bullpen was wasted on Friday. My weekend was wasted. And I'm pretty sure everyone feels the same way.
There is no way the Red Sox can make the playoffs after this. The Washington friggin Nationals can score runs against the Yankees. AJ Burnett walked six guys on Friday. I can't even put together a coherent post right now. So I'm done. Maybe Pat will put up something of substance and with analysis today.
Except for one thing: David Ortiz is an absolute disgrace. On the baseball field, on the podium, everything. He was looking for "answers" for ten days, and he actually did poorer than Alex Rodriguez did. I can't wait until he is long gone. And this is not me turning on him. This is him disgracing the game.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I went to the Blink 182 concert tonight with the Franchise after tailgating with Mr. H and Matt. They were unbelievable, and I am writing this post from the parking lot after not seeing a pitch of the game. Thank goodness. I did get a few updates from John and Pat, so I know what happened. It’s time to compare.
- Blink 182 was in the height of their popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- John Smoltz was in the peak of his career in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- Blink 182 is one of the best bands of the era and is a sure-fire Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band. Other contemporary all-star bands such as Smash Mouth were popular during their height, but are long gone.
- John Smoltz is one of the best pitchers of his era and is a sure-fire Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher. Other contemporary all-star baseball players such as Mark McGwire and Ken Caminiti are long gone.
- The guy with the funky voice (Tom) from Blink 182 forgot some of the words tonight and he’s lost a bit of the funkiness in his voice.
- John Smoltz doesn’t throw as fast…or as accurately…as he could have in 1998.
- The drummer (Travis) from Blink 182 has had to recover from major injuries and is back touring again.
- John Smoltz has had to recover from a major injury and is back playing again.
- Blink 182 has shown a bit of versatility during its heyday, from high-energy songs to something that resembles ballads to songs that are rude just for the sake of being rude. At the end of the day, their songs are pretty similar but still pretty awesome.
- John Smoltz has started, closed, and started again and has been very effective in both because no matter what his role was, his approach and effectiveness was pretty similar.
- Many people in the stands went to the concert to enter a time warp, when it was 1998 and everything was right with the world. At least that’s how I felt. Many spectators’ mental capacities were impaired by mind-altering substances.
- John Smoltz takes the mound for the Red Sox every five days and tries to enter a time warp when it’s 1998 again. His mental capacities, such as the ones that evaluate a good pitching performance, are severely impaired by denial.
These parallels illustrate that Blink 182 and John Smoltz have quite a bit in common. There is an monumental difference, however:
- Blink 182 friggin ROCKED tonight.
- John Smoltz GOT FRIGGIN ROCKED tonight.
Have a good weekend, folks.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The offense got the memo that they didn't want to win last night's game. Great game by 46, who hit three weak ground balls to the right side and an additional weak ground ball to the left side. Pedroia stranded a few runners last night, continuing a pretty disturbing recent trend with runners on base. Even with Victor Martinez, this team is going to have problems hitting. On Monday, I feel like it will be inevitable that we will be having doubtful "Will the Red Sox make the playoffs?" discussions.
The problem about this was the fact that this was a very winnable game. Penny kept the Red Sox in this game, which is his job, especially last night. The offense didn't appear as if they cared. Francona needs to flip over the postgame spread.
To look forward to the Yankees series, here are some wonderful facts: a) John Smoltz is pitching one game, b) Clay Buchholz is pitching one game, and c) Sergio Mitre is NOT pitching any games. The Red Sox' will probably mail in the Smoltz and Buchholz game, and the way things are going, they'll probably spectacularly blow one of the starts by the guys who are good at baseball.
I don't know what the feeling is in New York: Could be anxiety because the Yankees haven't won a game against Boston yet. But they could well be aware that the Red Sox can't hit, that two of their pitchers this weekend can't pitch, and that they (the Yankees) haven't lost a game in about two months.
John Smoltz doesn't quite realize yet that it's not 1998 anymore, so who better to kick off a series that will be reminiscent of a 1990s-era Red Sox/Yankees matchup?
In late news, to counter the Yankees' pickup of HGH abuser Jerry Hairston, Jr, the Red Sox have brought back HGH abuser Paul Byrd, whose dentist knows all about his thyroid problem and therefore prescribed Byrd tens of thousands of dollars of the performance-enhancing drug that baseball doesn't want to test for. Awesome.
In the style of all radio stations right now playing "best of" episodes, you'll probably see a post about Pete Rose instead of a recap tomorrow. That's because instead of watching Smoltz give up eight runs in three innings and talking about how he's really turned the corner and is pitching well, prompting me to cut myself, I will be joining thousands of people who actually do cut themselves at the Blink 182/Fall Out Boy concert.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
This is thinking. Mitre has not been good, and like I said in the comments section earlier if the Yankees are trailing in the game and Mitre can't give you innings or is getting shelled, you don't want to have to burn out your bullpen just filling innings right before a critical four game set with Boston. You don't need Cody Ransom on the roster with Jerry Hairston, Jr. now on the team and Ramiro Pena waiting at AAA. So get an extra arm here that can fill innings if necessary. Very good job by Cashman and Girardi here. It's a little thing, but these little things matter, especially at this stage in the season.
Please coninue commenting on The GM's post below.
In the interest of keeping it brief and giving most attention to Pat’s post, I’ll just say some quick things:
-The Rays left about thirty guys on base over the course of this game. If I were a Rays fan, I would be writing unflattering things about the entire team except for Evan Longoria after a game that probably felt like a loss.
-This was also a testament to the Red Sox middle relievers. They pitched somewhat-poorly, but, like Papringhausen all season, they got out of the jam instead of walking the winning run in like most middle relievers do. We can’t crucify the Sox’ bullpen tonight, but we can safely put to rest the “BARD SHOULD BE THE CLOSHER” talk.
-While we're talking about Bard...was he throwing slower? Was the Tampa Bay radar gun slower? Or is the Fenway Park radar gun oversensational? Just thinking in writing.
-Bad job by the offense today. Pedroia’s GIDP was devastating. But no matter which way you look at it, the Rays’ bullpen has been pretty bad for the majority of the season. Gotta score a run here or there.
-If JD Drew is less than 100%, he clearly does not want to play baseball. He should just stay home. He is now up to 55 weak ground balls to the right side.
-Why don’t the Red Sox pitch more carefully to Evan Longoria? Unlike guys like Mike Blowers, Frank Catalonotto, and Julio Lugo, this guy is not just good against the Red Sox—he’s good against everyone. He should be given something similar to the Barry Bonds pitching treatment. I’d look up the numbers, but I’d just get angry.
-Lost in the mess from the second half of the game was a stellar pitching performance by Jon Lester. Bummer.