Friday, September 30, 2011

Neither Will Your Readers

Pat:  Sorry to bury your post.  But this is big news.

John Henry fired Francona.  Apparently he thinks Lebron James is a better asset to his portfolio than the manager. 

I agree that the team needs someone else, but it shouldn't be JWH making the decision.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ALDS Preview: Yankees/Tigers

For the first time in a while, we don't have the Red Sox late season situation to discuss. I think the topic has been covered pretty well, and I'm sure it will be revisited as people get some time away and the resultant perspective. Not just perspective in regards to the meltdown, but more importantly perspective in terms of what this means for the broader context of where the Red Sox are going. They've gone from winning the World Series, to losing in the ALCS, to getting swept in the ALDS, to missing the playoffs two years in a row. Those things obviously don't all point to a steady decline the way the shear end results indicate (getting bounced at different points in the playoffs is not necessarily a true indicator of talent), but clearly this is not a team heading in the direction they want to be right now, and I'm sure that will be addressed here.

Moving onto previewing the Yankees division series matchup, I think a lot of this series will boil down to Sabathia vs. Verlander. Both are very clearly the ace of their respective staffs, and a there is a lot of playoff question marks after that in both rotations after that. In terms of both overall and underlying statistics, both were probably the two best pitchers in the American League this year as well. It's a bigtime matchup, and even bigger in the context of a 5 game series. That is because both are slated to start Game 1 and a potential Game 4. If one can take control of that matchup, they likely put their team in the driver's seat in this series.

Beyond that, the starting pitching is pretty similar. The Yankees have a better and deeper bullpen (4th best bullpen ERA in the majors to 25th best bullpen ERA in the majors), but the Tigers do have some strong arms on the back end in Valverde, Benoit, and Alburquerque. In the postseason the back-end influences games far more than middle relief in most cases, so the Tigers will have a chance to make an impact here. They will be up against Rivera, Robertson, and Soriano, which is no small task. Especially because the Yankees do have more depth, so should the starting pitching falter and it becomes a contest of middle relief, guys like Hughes, Burnett, and Wade could provide separation. The Yankees also have Logan to neutralize lefties.

The Yankees have a better offense, scoring 80 more runs than Detroit this year. But that is somewhat misleading as the Tigers were 4th in runs scored in all of baseball, only two behind the Yankees who were 2nd in baseball in runs scored. They also have a lot of right-handed/switch-hitting bats, which could help them make things tougher on Sabathia.

As far as the Yankees' offense, they are as deep and talented as any team in the game. For them it's a matter of not having guys disappear. Naturally, in a short sample like the playoffs, some guys are going to get hot and some are going to be cold. The key for the Yankees is having that relentless 1-9 attack, just like they do for most of the regular season. When they do that, as we know, they can make even the best pitches work and get them out of the game early. The problem is, in a playoff setting, the Yankees have at times had complete zeroes in the lineup and that has allowed elite starters, and even just good starters, get in bigtime grooves against them. That was rarely more evident than against Texas last year. They don't work counts, they don't get guys on base, pitchers aren't having long innings, and it starts to look like everyone is thinking home run.

Can't have that in the playoffs. Have to think small, and let the big extra-base hit come when it comes. It's all about getting baserunners and moving them along. A big part of that happening is minimizing the amount of bats that are totally neutralized, because that stagnates the lineup and prevents the lineup from getting in a groove and turning over. Based on the last two postseasons, the biggest players to watch in this regard are Teixeira, Swisher, and Gardner. Tex and Swish have gotten a few big hits each, but for the most part these three have been non-factors. The Yankees need more from them this postseason.

Overall, the Yankees need to come out on the offensive. They're at home, they had the best record in the league, and they played good baseball for a long time to end the season. I'll be at both Game 1 and Game 2. No matter how many times the Yankees get there, playoff baseball, especially the buzz the day before and the day that it begins, never gets old. Go Yankees.

'27 Yankees Retain Title of "Best Team In League History"

Their major threat, the 2011 Boston Red Sox, billed in January as the best team ever, failed to make the wild card today. 

That's okay, though, because it wasn't their fault.

NESN.com's Eric Ortiz:  2011 Red Sox Will Challenge 1927 Yankees for Title Of Greatest Team in Major League History

How Youz Doin Baseball's The GM:  Dan Johnson's Baby Shampoo.  No More Tears.



Y'all have a good Thursday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Game 162/163 Reaction Thread

Like many of the Red Sox players (hunting, contracts, getting Ken Rosenthal a good scoop, Dunkin Donuts commercials)...
the Red Sox owners (Roush Fenway Racing, Liverpool, #6, Sweet Caroline in the 8th inning)...
and the Red Sox' general manager (putting blame on Francona, the Chicago Cubs)...
I have other things that are distracting me from late-season baseball.  Like three straight days of classes.  Of course, if the Red Sox showed up in either April or September, this would not be an issue.  But they failed to do both of those things.

I'm watching.  But I can't come up with 500-1,500 words to write about it.  At least not tonight.

So this one's all yours.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tales from the Text Machine

I pretty much spilled it all in last night's comment section.  Hopefully I can remember a month and a half from now to commemorate the Red Sox' 2011 season with my three-comment rant from the office this afternoon.

Currently the Best Team Ever is up 5-3 and the Rays and Yankees are tied at two.  I have more work to do than the Red Sox' bullpen after Erik Bedard departed early tonight, so I'm going to give a Red Sox September-level effort toward this post.  I imagine whatever ends up happening tonight will be reflected in the comments section.  I also anticipate that my cell phone is going to be asking me to delete some texts soon, but as this is my easiest medium of communication with my co-author, I don't like to delete texts when the team is struggling because that's when I maximize overall cleverness.  To avoid this problem, it's time to publish.

PF, 9/5, 4:27 PM:  Who is going to end the year with more HRs, Montero or Drew?
DV, 4:30 PM:  Montero.
PF, 4:31 PM:  How many does Drew have? (Answer is 4).

PF, 9/16, 7:03 PM:  It's good that the Sox are relying on a guy [Beckett] who lets his gut get out of control EVERY YEAR tonight.  Look at that thing!
DV, 7:08 PM:  These guys obviously give a [expletive] about their jobs.  Wrap your ankle, you [expletive].
PF, 7:09 PM: He'll pitch lights out tonight. The PF jinx.
DV, 7:10 PM:  Fat and happy.  Big contract.  Find a salad bar.  If my [expletive] mom is saying the same stuff as you, it's a problem.
PF, 7:11 PM:  Did [your mom] just see the same shot I did of him in the bullpen?  His gut was popping!
DV, 7:13 PM:  That was her commentary when he got hurt.  Way to stand on the base after the Julian throw got away, Adrian. [in reference to the Julian Tavarez post-comebacker bowl]
DV, 7:13 PM:  [in reference to the 50-run series prophecy] 41 more runs in 80 remaining outs.
DV, 7:14 PM: Staff ERA of 13.50?  That would be pretty standard.
PF, 7:15 PM: I'll tell you what, Tampa is a smart team, first pitch bunt testing Beckett.
DV, 7:15 PM:  Whatever.  Swing away.  Francona will let him surrender seven bombs tonight.
DV, 7:17 PM: [after a home run] Six more. 

DV, 9/17, 6:38 PM: [In a key spot with a man on and 46 up] GIDP.  Calling it now.
DV, 6:40 PM: [after the pitcher threw a wild pitch and 46 grounded out] One wild pitch away from genius.

DV, 9/19, 2:01 PM:  Best team ever.
PF, 4:06 PM:  Two wild stats: Boston hasn't won a game since August 27th in which they've scored less than 9 runs.  And Boston has gotten 4 quality starts in their last 23.
DV, 4:08 PM: "Yet one run is all it might take to win a game on some days with the starting staff the red sox have assembled." -E. Ortiz

DV, 9/20, 11:39 AM:  How do you spell the last name of the Red Sox' manager?
PF, 11:44 AM:  Francona.
DV, 11:45 AM:  Wrong.  O-R-T-I-Z.
PF, 11:46 AM:  How so?
DV, 11:48 AM:  Making [expletive] pitching staff decisions.  Shut the [expletive] up and hit.  [Expletive] guy thinks he's the GM too.  Wah, I deserve an extension.  Wah, we need a power hitter. [Expletive] you.
PF, 11:48 AM:  What did he say about the pitching?
DV, 11:49 AM:  Aceves should start.  Popped it off to the press.  Whether or not he's right (he is), shut the [expletive] up.
PF, 11:59 AM:  Yeah, they don't need more mock GMs right now.  They need someone to step up and win games.
DV, 12:01 PM:  Whatever.  They're two up with ten to play.  They can coast now.  Didn't you read the Fangraphs percentages?  Losers.

DV, 9/20, 11:00 PM:  These games have to end earlier.  Can't wait so long to watch NESN's original program SCHOOLED!  Best team ever.
DV, 11:01 PM:  Good times never seemed so good SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD!
PF, 11:02 PM:  Sorry bro.  At least Tampa lost.
DV, 9/21, 7:51 AM: Don't be sorry, they deserve it.

DV, 9/21, 4:53 PM:  Just stumbled across President Adams's desperate letter about Colby's "financial situation."  Ah, that was a fun day.

DV, 9/22, 12:07 PM:  I should go to the Fenway bridal festival on Sunday that the Sox are advertising.  As a journalist.  Touching me, touching you!

DV, 9/23, 11:55 AM:  Theo Epstein is a [expletive] [expletive].  "Hey, it's not my fault that my expensive players suck!  It's Francona's!" [Expletive] you.
DV, 12:45 PM:  Also, the AL East predictions on the Worldwide Leader as cited by NoMaas is damn amazing.  [100% of ESPN's "analysts" picked Boston to win the AL East.  The GM, as you may remember, did not.]
PF, 1:26 PM:  I was sending that around yesterday to my buddies.  Another buddy sent it to me.  0-50?
DV, 3:36 PM:  Good thing Theo traded Yamaico Navarro for Aviles.  Otherwise they'd have no #5 hitter tonight.  Best team ever.

DV, 9/25, 2:40 PM:  Electric Stuff versus Best Team Ever.  Something has to give!
PF, 2:51 PM:  YES just gave the stat:  43% of all Boston starts have been quality starts this year.  League average is 53%.
DV, 3:08 PM:  Beckett is a tough guy and Lackey is a bulldog.
DV, 3:12 PM:  Also, why did Bigelow Green Tea take out Wakefield?  Didn't pitch long enough to get win 201.  What the [expletive].
DV, 3:42 PM [shortly after 46 hit his 30th home run]:  46 will not get a hit for the rest of the season.  Got his 30/100. 
DV, 4:11 PM [when they lost game 1, citing Eric Ortiz]:  Every day should feel like Xmas for Curt Young.  The former A's pitching coach didn't have anything close to the horses he has now.
PF, 4:13 PM:  If they lose tonight, is it tied?
DV, 4:14 PM:  Yes sir.  Best team ever.

DV, 8:21 PM:  Yanks will find a way to win this game.
DV, 10:27 PM [after 46 grounds into a double play]:  MV GID P.
DV, 10:31 PM [referring to Morales]:  Does Montero throw another strike before the end of the night? [He does.] I'd give even odds.
PF, 10:58 PM:  He did his job.
DV, 10:59 PM [as the game stretches deeper into extras]:  Fair.  How pissed is JD right now?
DV, 11:20 PM [after 46 homers]:  Wow.

DV, 9/27, 12:23 PM:  Watching the news at lunch.  A good mood-boosting food - green tea!  No wonder [expletive] Francona has no worries about his choking team.
PF, 12:42 PM:  Saw something today putting it squarely on management's shoulders for Lackey/Matsuzaka debacles and having no depth/plan B's behind them or anyone else in event of injury.
DV, 12:44 PM:  Eh, I wouldn't call that fair.  Andrew Miller was Plan B.
PF, 12:52 PM:  Good enough.  I guess there is enough else to blame management for as well.
DV, 12:53 PM:  Drew and Beckett and organizational attitude are on management.  Lackey and Crawford are not. [Debatable, looking back at it, as that's poor scouting.]
PF, 1:19 PM:  I have to put Crawford on management.  Sucker bet on a guy coming off a career year, paid him for what he was rather than what he'll be on the wrong side of 30.
DV, 1:20 PM:  Crawford in 2015 is on management when he can't [expletive] run anymore.  Crawford in 2011 is on Crawford.
PF, 1:25 PM:  Fair point, and I'm a proponent of that theory as you know.  In "win now" years, you sacrifice some long-term risk for short-term gains.
DV, 1:27 PM:  By "win now" you mean "television ratings are down," right?  Reaching out, touching me, touching you!
PF, 1:38 PM:  They are going for it this year, and they were from the start.  Agonz and Crawford clear evidence of that. 
DV, 1:40 PM:  Yeah, agree without sarcasm.  TV ratings and membership card/commemorative brick sales were down.  Gotta be up 20%.
DV, 1:42 PM:  #6 being a disaster in the fourth quarter didn't exactly help JWH's portfolio.  [Expletive] baby.  The whole team emulates #6.

DV, 2:53 PM:  46 is a [expletive] joke.  That caught stealing last week was unconscionable, selfish, and detrimental to winning.  [Expletive] that guy.

DV, 6:29 PM:  Jed Williams hitting cleanup.  The .199 average and .571 OPS since 6/4 must be why.

Best Team Ever

A few quick ones, as the Best Team Ever enjoys their first day sharing a first place tie with Tampa atop the wild card race:

1.  Sorry.  Can't kill John Lackey for flipping out at the media the other night.  I know you want me to, but I can't do it.  It's a group of guys he doesn't (and probably shouldn't) trust, and someone probably leaked his cell phone number to TMZ.  Crush him all you want for his lack of performance on the baseball field.  And you can't crush him for divorcing his wife in the middle of her cancer battle, either.  We're not talking about John Edwards here.  Suppose she was tired with his whining and making the whole thing about himself and his life sucking back in May. 

2.  Josh Beckett is an ace.  Notice how he didn't use the curveball last night?  Anyone see him in the dugout tugging on his right middle finger during last Wednesday's game?  You know where I'm going with this.  He continues the trend of a guy who cannot pitch through an entire baseball season.

3.  Credit due to 46 for his home run on Sunday, but what are the chances he plays tonight?  Also huge ups to the bullpen.  Can't believe Franklin Morales gave some innings.

4.  Jed Lowrie should not hit left handed.

5.  Go easy on Adrian Gonzalez as he gravitates toward the two most inefficient things you can do as an offensive player.  He has a sore shoulder. 

6.  Tampa's playing the Yankees, so the Red Sox can coast into the playoffs now.  Just keep the same attitude they've had all year.  They have better things to do than play baseball next week, so I have better things to do than watch them play baseball next week.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Creeped Out

I've been trying all year, and this week was the final straw.  Win or lose tonight, Carl Crawford has earned his own post for his role in the failure of the Best Team Ever.  This guy is a complete joke.

We should have known early that this guy wasn't fit for the job.  He's a guy who depends on speed, which is not exactly aligned with the Red Sox' overall offensive philosophy.  In fact, he has barely stolen all season (largely a product of the fact that you can't steal first base).  He didn't have a spot in the lineup.  Some of his friends from home insinuated that he would have some time adjusting to the spotlight in Boston.  And then there came the stories about how Theo Epstein had people tail him like private investigators, something Crawford was "creeped out" by.  We should have known.

Everyone gave him the benefit of the doubt in April, with Joe Sheehan (I think) of Sports Illustrated saying that the team should not worry about his slow start.  He didn't do anything overly stupid in the first few months except for a long series of bad swings.  Then the focus started to wane, something that has spread throughout the Red Sox' roster. 

There were the poor caroms off of the wall and many misplayed fly balls.  There were the missed cutoff men.  There were some missed signs.  There was poor baserunning.  There was straight-up poor concentration.  And it's one thing if you just flat-out suck at playing baseball (example: Coco Crisp), but it's another thing when you suck at thinking, lack focus, or let your physical tools go to waste.  Carl Crawford is not Coco Crisp.  But he lacked the concentration to play any better than Coco Crisp did this year.  And as much as it seemed like he cared about winning, cared about doing well, and all that, his actions since being benched against David Price are the ultimate in inexcusable.

Being a complete baby about things if you're a well-paid professional athlete is inexcusable in my book when you're hitting .330 with 120 RBIs, which is why after Adrian Gonzalez pulled his Ken Rosenthal crap last week, he entered my doghouse as well.  But Crawford is combining this deplorable behavior with downright stupid decisions on field.  The constant misplaying of fly balls and being, despite your speed and health, Mike Cameron out there because you suck at focusing is unconscionable.  Seriously, hit a cutoff man.

And here's a news flash.  I do appreciate the accountability, because your ability to say that you suck when you suck is something that your entire roster is unable to do for some reason, but you wrote your blog post about "Sorry for the bad season" on August 26th.  Coincidentally, this is the eve of the last time the Best Team Ever strung together two consecutive wins.  Since then, there have been 27 games, and the Best Team Ever has won seven of them (pending tonight).  Wow, this is exactly 1/6 of the season!  Good thing you were already apologizing for 2010 when there was more than a sixth of the season left to go.  Nice focus, Carl.

Here's another news flash:  When you suck (and your name is not John Lackey, Jason Varitek or Mike Timlin), you're going to get benched on a non-Devil Rays team.  Sorry.  That's life.  You want to hit against David Price?  Try hitting against the dregs of the American League first.  When some of the real players on the team are actually hurt (or are JD Drew), don't fake a neck injury.  That's disgusting.  Let's tell the truth here: You "hurt your neck" pouting.  Grow up, you punk.

And while you were taking your two-day pout break, I heard Gordon Edes approached you, as reporters are paid to do.  Wait, wow, a guy actually doing what he's paid to do!  That's like you hitting .300, not misplaying fly balls, and hitting cutoff men!  So when this guy does what he's paid to do, you flip out on him and tell him to "ask the captain."  Well, everything I said about your accountability in your poorly-timed apology blog post, I take that back.  You suck as much as the rest of these country club whiners.  Go away.  I don't want to see you again until April either, so please continue to gag away the wild card lead to your old team that you were too good for with your pathetic .255 average.  Hopefully in the meantime, instead of inviting those very same reporters into your gym Rocky III style, you should extract your head out of your rear end.

I'm creeped out by your play.  You should be too, because it's embarrassing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Further Accountability

Theo Epstein:  The performance of JD Drew, Bobby Jenks, Josh Beckett, and others who have performed prettty much at their expected level is Terry Francona's fault.

Theo Epstein:  The poor scouting of Carl Crawford (despite private investigators) and John Lackey (despite the progressively worse numbers since 2002 with the exception of 2007) is Terry Francona's fault.

Theo Epstein:  I don't have the balls to admit to my lack of accountability, so I'll let my boy Peter Gammons out to dry and call him a liar.  After all, he was wrong about Lackey's elbow.

Have fun in Chicago, you freaking wimp.

Best Team Ever.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Milestone Afternoon

There's been a lot said, written, and speculated about accountability surrounding the Boston Red Sox.  This is a culture that, at least in my eyes, hit its defining moment on September 30, 2009.  This was following a season where I wrote in this very space that I was happy the season was going to be over.  Quoted from that article: 

Lester, Beckett, and Youkilis were the victims of bad calls. Papelbon's the victim of a front office who doesn't agree with his infallibility. Drew's the victim of sore glove hand and a slave driver in Francona who makes him play through sore groins. Francona says that David Ortiz has been a victim of media criticism (maybe he should have been more careful with his use of vitamins and supplements) and that he deserves an apology.

Please take responsibility for your actions.  Obviously in 2009, they didn't do that.  They were all victims.  The entire team, including (as you'll see) their general manager, was from the 1990s.  I'm perfect.  If something bad happens to me, it's not that I F up.  It's because of bad luck or because it's someone else's fault.  I'm perfect.  I'm infallible.

And, of course, I'm smarter than you.

On September 30, 2009, Theo Epstein went on 98.5's Felger and Massarotti and started congratulating himself on a wonderful JD Drew contract.  "I thought you guys were gonna ask me about JD Drew having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders," he said.  This is a fact, however misleading, but instead of talking about how his team backed into the postseason, takes accountability for stuff like Lugo...or Drew in seasons 1 and 2...or any of the other mistakes he's made, he goes down that avenue.  Similar to all of his players, he thinks he deserves to be absolved of all blame, criticism, or objective analysis of his decisions, even if things go wrong.

Since then, they had a season in which they were in first place on July 3rd, then melted down, citing injuries instead of citing an ineffective closer, poor play by two of their starting pitchers, and a general manager who was unwilling to budge from the idea of the "bridge year."  We could get into blaming an ineffective medical staff, but I already devoted two posts in this late summer to that.

Then comes this year, when two large acquisions were made.  The team, and there were some legitimate seasons for it, was heralded as the best team in baseball history, then they failed to show up to play baseball in August.

Instead of accountability and saying the team is playing like crap, players were talking about how they're just starting to get their work in.  Cool.  You showed up to camp around Valentine's Day, so you had to wait until the games started to get yourselves acclimated to baseball.  No more golf.

Instead of citing overwork, lack of talent, showing up to shape fat habitually, and grooving pitches down the middle, you blame an elbow injury.

Instead of admitting that you got shelled and that your stuff is mediocre, you say you threw a series of great pitches (maybe except for one) and felt great.  This is Suck Patrick Denial.  You grimace at the umpires, you grimace at your fielders, you grimace at your manager, because you're a victim of their unfair treatment.  You say you don't want to blame problems in your personal life or your elbow, but you mention them anyway (which is kind of offering the excuses in the first place).

You blame a phantom "impinged shoulder" instead of your lack of any interest in playing.

You say the schedule is unfair because your pitchers have to hit instead of your lack of any interest in playing bad National League teams and racking up somewhat automatic wins.

You blame the bat that goes through your legs instead of actually going after the ball.

You blame the restrictive nature of your airplane seats instead of blaming your apathy toward playing certain games.

You blame a slew of injuries instead of the source of the injuries:  Being a fat drunk slob.

You blame a calf injury instead of saying you just don't feel like playing the rest of the game.  You hit a home run on that calf injury, but instead leave an incompetent player out there to make a game-blowing error.

You blame a sore shoulder on your poor performance instead of your lack of focus.  While doing so, you don't even have the balls to say it to the guys covering you everyday.

You blame the schedule and the rain and games that run too late for being unable to show up for the next afternoon's game - against the same teams who also experienced the rain delays.

You blame late nights of travel and lie down like a bunch of dogs instead of having a Red Bull and showing up to play in the face of any kind of adversity.

You blame the Little League park in which you had an ERA of 2.86, a run better than road games, in 2009.  Granted, your splits were not friendly in 2010 or 2011.  But your home/road splits were 2.86 versus 3.86.  But yes, you're a victim of the freaking ballpark, not a victim of failure to get the ball over the plate.

It's never your fault.  You're perfect.  If something goes bad for you, you're just a victim of extenuating circumstances.

Just like your general manager.  He's infallible.  He's smart.  Instead of owning up to his own error during a third of five mediocre/forgettable to bad seasons, he's talking about the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders.  As they say, it rots from the head down.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Terry Francona, Fat Little Girlfriend

"Now, their fat little girlfriends have some obvious advantages. For one, their fat little girlfriends are telling them what they want to hear, which is how great you are and how easy it’s going to be."
-Mike Leach, October 2009, after his Texas Tech team lost to a three-touchdown underdog.

Terry Francona is a "fat little girlfriend."  As you can see in the post below and in this post, he's not the manager anymore; David Ortiz is.  Terry Francona does exactly what the fat little girlfriends at Texas Tech did.  He lets these guys get away with anything, and he deserves more than his fair share of blame for this Red Sox month-long coast.  All season, he's been telling this team how great they are and how easy it's going to be. 

Even when he was asked about the playoff rotation and he channeled Jim Mora, he was joking about the possibility that his team might not make the playoffs.  He's taking the regular season as seriously as the rest of these pampered whiners.  Maybe at some point he's going to realize that it's not so much of a freaking joke anymore.

Here's an idea:  Less cribbage with Dustin Pedroia.  You're supposed to be their manager, not their friend.
Here's an idea:  No more dicking around with the Wakefield thing.  How about letting the player earn his 200th win by lasting five innings?
Here's an idea:  If David Ortiz is healthy enough to play the next day with a sore back, pinch hit him the night before.  This pussy had a sore back after sleeping wrong on the plane.  That's okay, it's a marathon so you can let the inmates run the asylum.
Here's an idea:  Stop pitching Kyle Weiland.  It's about winning games, not getting the kid confidence. 
Here's an idea:  If Daniel Bard clearly doesn't have it, don't give him thirty pitches to choke away any games.  Let the spoiled brat in the bullpen come in for four outs.  At least get him freaking ready to make it look like you're paying attention.  Tonight he's pitching in the eighth for the third time all year.  It's okay, because when you're the Best Team Ever, it's going to be easy and you'll never have to dig deep.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Here's an idea:  When the above happens once, learn from your mistake.  Seeing that Papelbon is pitching now, it took not one, but TWO losses for his manager to wake up.
Here's an idea:  How about getting Papelbon mentally prepared for a 4- or 5-out save BEFORE MEANINGFUL GAMES so that it's not foreign territory when it counts!

Hey, it's okay because Red Sox fans still sang about the 9-year-old girl on a horse in the middle of the eighth.

Francona's Bigelow Green Tea consumption has clearly made him completely unable to manage this baseball team.  Guess what:  It's not the 2004 team anymore.  It's not a bunch of guys who want to win, make history, or really do anything except for go through the motions.  This was evident when they showed up ill-prepared to play in April and when they took the interleague season off by dropping hideous series to San Diego and Pittsburgh. 

The 2004 team could discipline itself.  There were a couple of overpaid prima donnas, but their egos were large enough that they wanted to be part of the team that made history.  Those guys cared enough to be compatible with a player's manager instead of a hard-ass. 

This team, and essentially every team since the 2009 group of whiners, needs someone to drive the ship.  Of course, the Red Sox are a little unclear about that, as they have their designated hitter giving advice to the general manager ("WAAAH, WE NEED A POWER BAT!"), the manager while filling out his lineup card ("WAAAH, I DON'T WANT TO BE MOVED DOWN IN THE ORDER!"), and now the manager as he designs his PITCHING rotation ("WAAAH, START ACEVES, WEILAND SUCKS!").  There's also an additional boss on this boat because the backup catcher has this idiotic "Captain" designation.  Too many people are driving the ship.

As a result, what you see is your left fielder last year complaining about not playing center and taking his time to return from a questionable injury because his feelings were hurt.  You have a starter showing up his teammates and his manager.  You have a third baseman talking about the competitive disadvantage his $180 million team has against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  You're complaining about scheduling and your second baseman, once heralded as gritty and competitive, downplaying the significance of being in first place.  Yup, it's as long as you're backing into the last spot on September 28th.  And you have John Lackey.

You have a bunch of guys paid much more than the average player who are not playing to potential, are failing to play fundamental baseball (Lackey covering first base, Crawford's lack of slide, Aviles's two caught stealings, 46's inexplicable caught stealing, and, if you want to go back to last year, Drew's fate-sealing web gem in foul territory last year), all show up to spring training fat, lazy, and out of shape, and fail to make the playoffs.  On the radio they talk about a "country club attitude," which is evident because "Second Base Cup" was a spring training event on NESN.  Good to know the whole organization is focused on the right stuff during training camp.  All Chad Johnson's doing is Twittering.  At least he's not golfing.

This has happened before with the "Gold Sox:"  The 1960s.  And those teams SUCKED under their player's manager up until they hired Dick Williams who was, by all accounts, exactly what his first name suggested.  They were not untalented.  But they were unmotivated.  And here we are, 45 years later, and they're right back to where they started.  But at least Caroline Kennedy's in her fifties now and not nine.

Under Francona, golf is the top priority in February and March.  A faraway, nebulous October is the top priority in April, deemphasizing the games at hand.  Yankees games and AL games are more important than Pittsburgh and San Diego games, so those games don't matter.  Losing first place in August to the Yankees in a weekend series determining who's starting the final third in first place is mundane enough to have your former MVP mock its importance.  Two hundred wins means more than one win.  Health and rest take priority over the ultra-risky four-out save in June or July.  Forty stolen bases is better for your contract than not making outs and tying up baseball games.  When you have an 11-game lead, it's in the bag and it's about locking up the third-starter spot.  It's about saving face with the national media by starting to chat up a shoulder injury. 

Winning has not been a priority for this team.  This is a reflection of the manager.

And now that it is, they're not ready for it.  This is also a reflection of the manager.

The whole time, the manager's job has partially been keeping this team focused.  But instead the manager is corroborating their toothless excuses for sucking, is covering for them when instead they should be accountable, and is enabling them to prioritize the wrong stuff, because he is reinforcing the notion that they're the Best Team Ever.  He's telling them what they want to hear, how great they are, and how easy it's going to be.

Terry Francona is the Fat Little Girlfriend that all these babies want.  But it's not what the Gold Sox need.

Here's the manager



De Niro:  What should I do?
Ortiz:  THROW HIM OUT!
De Niro:  You hear him.  He just said throw him out, he's the boss.  Who should I start?
Ortiz: TELL HIM TO START ACEVES!
De Niro:  Hey, he just said it, he's the boss.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So Where Do The Yankees Fit Into This?

First, congratulations to Mariano Rivera for becoming baseball's all-time saves leader. I said everything that needed to be said about that last week. Now I'll just add that it is fitting that the best closer ever - and one of the best pitchers ever - has the most saves ever. It's a nice touch that he reached this milestone in the same season that Jeter got 3,000 hits. Two amazing career achievements for two amazing careers that highlight both their longevity and ability to consistently compete at an elite level over the course of all of those years.

Much of the talk lately has been about the Red Sox and Tampa Bay, and rightfully so. The Red Sox were able to hold off Baltimore tonight, and in doing so kept their streak alive of not winning a game since August 27 where they scored less than nine runs (which is incredible on a few different levels). It also kept the Yankees' magic number at 5 for the AL East and 4 for the Wild Card with 10 games to play. The Yankees' play an interesting piece in this, not only because they too are competing for a playoff spot, but because they play Tampa for 7 and Boston for 3 to end the season. Not only do they have control of their own destiny, they are also going to have a lot of impact on the Sox and Rays destiny as well.

First things first, the Yankees need to play to lock up a playoff spot and win the division. It's business as usual unless they are able to do those things. As we've seen many times in recent years, you don't have a playoff spot until you have a playoff spot, no matter how good it might look. There have been teams in far more commanding positions than the Yankees now to miss the playoffs in recent years. So nothing is near a give on that front yet. In addition, home field always matters to me.

Beyond their own obvious interests, though, how do they factor into these last 10 games for the Sox and Rays? It could become an interesting question. If they are able to lock up a playoff spot and the division at some point before this weekend is over, do they play next week in their last three games against the Rays? That's a time you'd typically be resting guys, and it might only be more so if they have a chance to keep Boston out by rolling over for Tampa.

On that point, I'm of the mind that I want Boston out. I don't care that Boston isn't playing well. And I don't care that Tampa could very well run right over the Yankees in a potential playoff series too. Streaky teams with talent like the Red Sox are dangerous, perhaps especially when they are able to survive stuff like what they are going through now. It's like they have a new life, they stop pressing because the pressure of collapsing is off, and they play with a chip on their shoulder nothing to lose attitude. They play in that funky park where they score runs at will it seems, and I just don't want anything to do with them.

It's moot for now, because the Yankees aren't in the playoffs yet and are not guaranteed to get there by any stretch. The Red Sox are proof of that right in front of them. But if they are able to get in, the Rays should see Scranton Wilkes-Barre's best next week. Outside of lining up the pitching rotation, I see no reason for that not to be the case. Get people some rest, and keep the more dangerous baseball team off the dancefloor at the same time. Hopefully the Yankees will have that luxury, and if not, they key is to just make sure they get in themselves. Take advantage and play good baseball to close out the season.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Amazing

Poor you.

"We had a 300-foot fly ball that goes out for a homer.  That's the difference in the game.  That's the joy of playing at Fenway Park.  It takes some away and gives some to other guys.  If we're in Tropicana, that's an out."
-Jon Patrick Lester, who gave up a two-run home run in the first inning of Saturday's game.  Would have been a solo shot had he not walked an eager "pesky" (Dave O'Brien's word) rookie on four straight pitches.  Thanks for turning into Javier Lopez.  You come in from the bullpen and can't find the plate.

If that one quote doesn't sum up the 2011 Boston Red Sox, I don't know what does.

Stealing third base does you no good if there are two outs and you're the fastest guy on the planet.  Learn how to play baseball.  MVP.  I've said all season that 46 might be the dumbest player on baseball.  How can I go back on that?

Tim Wakefield is just plain not that good.

It's time for Buck Showalter to back up the trash he talked in March.  Lackey and Weiland should be able to help.

JD, sorry to hear about your sore neck, which has delayed your comeback from sore finger...which has delayed your comeback from sore shoulder.  Somehow, sabermetrically-savvy Red Sox fans still vouch for this guy. 

A related topic:  Yankees fans STILL kill Kyle Farnsworth.  Who decides he has a sore elbow.  This kind of toughness in the face of injuries makes me wonder if the Red Sox will be pursuing him anytime soon.

On a rare positive note, seems like Beckett is going to be okay.  I wonder why he missed so much time with his sore ankle in the first place if he fielded that bunt as smoothly as he did (not sarcastic, more critical).  Also, good for Mike Aviles (not sarcastic either, but the next sentence is).  He should keep knocking balls out of the park so he eliminates the possibility he gets picked off first base at a critical time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hang Fifty

Okay, the Red Sox and Rays' series, perhaps to be called the Boston Massacre III by Sunday afternoon, is now underway.  The Rays took the first game, 9-2, to narrow the Red Sox' lead to three in the wild card.

Bottom line:  They deserve it.  They deserve to lose this race.  The four-game sweep followed by elimination by Tampa would be justice for the 2011 Red Sox.  While they are still not as purely dislikable as the 2009 version of whiners and self-congratulators, it's pretty darn close.  You got Lackey talking about how great he is after getting shelled, you got Youkilis whining about competitive disadvantages when the team sends out a B-team effort against the Padres and Pirates, and Ortiz continuing to whine about his contract situation.

What the 2009 version didn't do, however, is coast for the entire first month of the season, the entire last month of the season, and in many different times in between.  There is no personal pride with this team, there is no desire to win, and these guys read too many articles by Eric Ortiz about how they're the best team to ever live.  No games matter until October.  That's disgusting.

How about this?  The Yankees have prioritized games between March 31st and September 28th.  Now, because the Red Sox are melting down into a puddle of mediocrity, apathy, and complacency, their consistent hard play will enable them to rest some players, get their rotation ready, and be ready for the postseason as the regular season comes to a close in thirteen days.

How about this?  The Phillies (a heavily-cited team on the radio today) won behind Cliff Lee today.  Though he blew a ninth-inning lead, he gave up five hits, one run, and struck out twelve in nine innings.  Wait, nine innings in a regular season game...after they already clinched a playoff spot?  That's reckless!  He might end up getting a tight calf, or a sore back (but that kind of stuff typically happens on an airplane like it did to David Ortiz), or a swollen middle finger!  Why win regular season games?

Because winning should be a fun experience for a baseball team.  Even in the NBA, putting together a clearly-superior team is FUN because you can throttle the competition.  Hanging 50 points on an opponent in a four-game series should be something you'd be trying to do.  Winning creates chemistry and a good work environment.  And it also means that you can prepare for the playoffs instead of having the last twelve days devoted to holding off a team who actually gives a crap.

The Red Sox, in contrast, prioritize days off, resting, and treating the regular season like a marathon.  Not the way someone like me treats the race, of course, but one of the people who show up for the finisher's medal.  Not trying to win, just finish.  As Ben Affleck once said in the movie Boiler Room, if you want vacation days, go teach third grade public school.  It is an organization-wide thing, starting with Theo Epstein, moving down to Francona and the players, and finishing with the fans who will sing about an 11-year-old girl on a horse even if the team's down seven.

I am on the verge of openly rooting for a reality check.  A big (and growing) part of me is hoping the Red Sox' bullpen keeps on throwing meatballs, walking and/or hitting guys, and melting down.  This growing part of me is hoping that Beckett gives up eight runs and walks off the field with no limp because his injury is just a built-in excuse for continued suckitude.  There is a part of me that hopes that the Rays hang fifty runs on the Red Sox in this four-game series just to show the Red Sox that decent teams that care can throttle other teams.  Good teams that care can actually fulfill Eric Ortiz's prophecy. 

The entire organization needs a vicious reality check, a vicious punch in the stomach.  I wrote not long ago that the JD Drew attitude was contagious, but it was suggested on the radio today that it's not the Drew attitude.  It's the Theo Epstein and organization-wide attitude that has been embodied by JD Drew.  Can't believe I'm saying it, but I'd prefer Steinbrenner and Billy Martin blowing up and demanding accountability any day of the week over this fat, happy, complacent group of TV show producers. 

The fact that the radio announcers are fabricating excuses for these whiners is laughable.  "If Clay Buchholz got his 17-18 wins this year, imagine what the implications would be in the standings" was said somewhere around 9:10 tonight.  How about if Crawford showed up this year?  How about if Lackey didn't have an ERA of six?  How about if their manager prioritized actually picking up some wins against horrible Pittsburgh or San Diego teams?  Those might have some implications, too.  How about if the team played like the Phillies, seeing HOW MUCH of a lead they could pull off?
The Rays are having fun in the regular season, and they're killing it (despite being not that good of a team - the Orioles games are an indication of that).  They're messing around and wearing varsity jackets while the Red Sox rest slightly-tweaked ankles, sore calves that are healthy enough to hit a home run on, and tweaked backs suffered while sleeping on a plane.  Red Sox are playing for a tomorrow that they think they have the mandate to assume.  The Rays are playing for a tomorrow that must be earned.

Forty-one runs to go in three games.  Given the state of the Red Sox, 13.6 runs per game is not unfathomable.  But it's the nail in the coffin the Red Sox so sorely deserve.

600 and 6 Starters

Mariano Rivera recorded his 600th save last night. Congratulations to him. It's just another great accomplishment in a career full of them. He's now one away from tying Trevor Hoffman's all-time saves record of 601, and if he can tie and break those it will be an even bigger accomplishment. These milestones and records are just another opportunity to reflect on what an incredible career Rivera has had. He's in his 17th season, has appeared in 1,037 games, and has pitched 1,207 innings. Over that time he has a 2.22 ERA, 1106 strikeouts (which seems like a ton for a reliever), and a flat 1.00 WHIP.

And that's excluding his postseason performance, which is even more impressive. Another 94 appearances, 139.2 innings, and 42 saves. The truly absurd numbers, though, are the 0.71 ERA and the 0.766 WHIP. Over the course of 15 separate postseasons, those 94 games, and 139.2 innings (which amounts to about two full extra seasons for Rivera innings wise) he has allowed 11 earned runs. Eleven. And now at the age of 41 he has a 2.05 ERA. I have never seen an athlete that is better at what they do than he is at what he does. Maybe as good, but never better. Amazing athlete, it's been a pleasure to watch his entire career. Congratulations again to Mo.

It seems like we've been talking about the Yankees cutting their rotation from 6 to 5 for about 6 weeks now. And that's because we probably have. I'm not sure this conversation even matters. The Yankees don't seem to think it matters that much either. I think there are two good reasons for keeping it at 6. First, it's a good thing both for the doubleheaders and getting certain pitchers extra rest. Outside of Sabathia and now perhaps Nova, you aren't overly concerned with getting guys starts on regular days rest, and that allows you to give them - specifically Colon and Garcia - an extra few days to stay fresh. It might not be a bad idea to do the same for Sabathia at some point as well if the schedule/standings allow. Somewhat unrelated, at least reduce his pitch count in some of these games a little bit

Second, there's really no rush to go from 6 to 5, because 6 to 5 isn't the big decision. If the Yankees make the playoffs, 6 to 4 is the big decision. With as up and down as certain guys in the rotation have been, why not get the longest look at them that you can to make that determination? As some of the analysts have been saying, once you remove one of them from the rotation and put them in the bullpen it becomes harder to build them back up to starting. Taking that one step further, once you put one of them in the bullpen you are no longer getting a chance to see how they look in a starting role to evaluate for potential playoff purposes. In a way going from 6 to 5 might limit you as opposed to helping you. This may very be exactly what the Yankees are thinking on this front.

Big break for Boston today with Tampa losing. It's still very possible for Tampa to make this interesting, but when you are trying to make a big push like they are, as incredibly as they have been playing, you typically have to avoid back-to-back losses to teams like Baltimore. Getting this thing back to three the day after it stretched back out to four, right before a four game set with Boston, would have been big. Now Tampa needs to go 3-1, in Boston, just to get it to 2. That's a tall order with good but not great returns. It could end up being meaningless, but this just feels like one of those swings in a race like this, and it definitely swung Boston's way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Citing Specific Examples

I've wrestled with this one for much of the 2011 season, ever since when Allan Selig announced that major league baseball was moving irreversibly toward adding two more wild card teams to the playoff format.  Days before the announcement was made, to the best of my knowledge, I wrote a post entitled "Twenty-Seven Percent," saying that part of the magic of baseball is that you actually have to show up to the regular season in able to qualify for the postseason, something that is not true at all for two (if not three) of the other major professional sports leagues.  But as of late, largely because Tony Massarotti had some good points on the radio regarding "punishing" a wild card team for not winning their division, I started to sway to the other side.

The last week and a half of Red Sox baseball has brought me right back to where I started.

Right now, the Red Sox are up 6-5 in the bottom of the fifth, with the bullpen not yet having blown Tim Wakefield's lead.  When they do and the end up with not their FIRST, but their SECOND 2-10 stretch of the season, they are still one of three teams fighting for one playoff spot.  Using the 5-team playoff format, they would be one of three teams fighting for two playoff spots.  All things being equal (and bear with me for a while here), they would have a 66% chance of making the playoffs.

They do not deserve that.  The Best Team Ever, if they do indeed finish (theoretically) behind Tampa Bay (who's winning right now) but in front of Anaheim, do not deserve a playoff berth.  They're a team that failed to show up for April and failed to show up for September.  News flash:  The baseball season doesn't start in May, nor does it end in August.  If you're a basketball player, yes, you only have to show up for 2/3 of the games.  If you're a hockey player, yes, you can go 2-10 TWICE and still be fine for the playoffs.  I have always held and want to continue holding baseball to a higher standard than that. 

Making it to the playoffs should be an accomplishment.  It should be what generational disgrace Scott Nicholson thinks his Colgate degree is, not what his Colgate degree actually is (something anyone can do if he has enough money and/or is capable of thinking).  If this Red Sox team continues to collapse like it has the last eleven games and gets the theoretical fifth playoff spot, the playoffs are not an accomplishment.

It's also bad for the game, because the value of those early-round playoff games are diminished even more.  Next year, I won't have a blog and therefore I very well might watch a new episode of Jersey Shore opposite a wild-card versus wild-card baseball game.  And even without the blog, I feel like I am more than an average casual baseball fan.

Don't cheapen the game.  Don't cheapen the regular season to the point that this chronically underachieving switch-off Red Sox team could get a fifth playoff spot next year.  No more playoff expansion.  It's the right thing to do.

Monday, September 12, 2011

DV: Right Again

I do not dislike Josh Beckett.  At first, I did, and people who were followers of my pre-How Youz Doin writing or really my pre-How Youz Doin life in general know that very well.  But I like how he seems to care about winning, I like how he doesn't seem to care too much about money, I like how he is willing to retaliate, and I also like his accountability.  His quote of "good pitches don't get hit" is probably the best thing a Red Sox' pitcher has ever said.

But here it is, crunch time in his sixth season as a Boston Red Sox pitcher.  He's gone through two contract extensions, one when he was an injury-prone pitcher before the 2006 season and another when he was an injury-prone pitcher before the 2010 season.  When it mattered in 2006, he was healthy, but he gave up nine runs and walked nine batters during the second Boston Massacre.  When it mattered in 2007, he delivered.  When it mattered in 2008, Beckett was hurt.  Oblique injury, which (at least in my non-medical opinion) may have had somethning to do with showing up obese to camp.  Was pushed back in the ALDS and was ineffective in the ALCS.  When it mattered in 2009, Beckett started to break down, posting (Tony Massarotti's words) a 6.02 ERA over the "last quarter of the season" before being outpitched by Weaver in the "No More Tears" ALDS.  When it mattered in 2010, he was already out for the season.

Bottom line:  I was right.  Josh Beckett is a guy who cannot stay healthy.  I'll leave it to Felger to question Beckett's toughness.  He does, however, deal with facts.  Ankles can be taped.  Ankles can have cadaver tendons attached to them.  Ankle injuries are inevitable when you're a top-heavy pitcher landing on an inclined surface like the front of a pitcher's mound.  Those are facts.  But I do agree with Felger:  If you're as tough as you say you are, you are pitching sooner rather than later.

The Red Sox took a huge gamble on Beckett when they traded Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez for him.  He was a guy who could not stay healthy for a season, had a chronic blister problem, and may have some minor tears in his shoulder.  It could actually be argued that they derived more value out of Mike Lowell, because before his hip degenerated itself, he was serviceable for long periods of time.  Beckett has given this team a great 2007 season, a good 2011 season, bad 2006 and 2010 seasons, and inconsistent 2008 (oblique injury) and 2009 seasons.  Meanwhile, we've had the injuries listed above.  While we've heard about the blister problems on his hand when he was in Florida, we have not had any blisters in Boston.  We've had "cuts" on his finger and "avulsions" on his finger, though. 

Bottom line: Beckett has come pretty much as advertised.  He is Rich Harden or Ben Sheets with a higher ceiling.

Josh Beckett has spent more time on the disabled list since 2007 than JD Drew.  He has exceeded 200 innings three times:  Once in the magical 2007 season, once when he took the whole season at 90%, not throwing the Blister Curveball and therefore giving up thirty-six home runs, and once in a year when he had no bullets left by September.

Awesome.

Look, I understand that there are plenty of pitchers in major league baseball that cannot throw 200 innings or record 32 starts.  I understand that Beckett's team accounts for this and gives many of their starters a skipped start or a phantom DL stint for the sake of keeping them healthy at this point of the season.  I don't want to say the Red Sox invested in a complete lemon when they gave Josh Beckett not one, but two contract extensions.  He's on the team until he's 34.

Good luck.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tampa Massacre

First of all, happy birthday to upside upside potential prospect rookie young potential upside outfielder 46, who is now 28 years old.  Not even I can deny that he's had a great season, and here I can say I was wrong (to be balanced next paragraph).  But this is the prime of his career.  Let's stop pretending he's young.  Nice catch last night.

Let's go back to the last paragraph I wrote:  But the bottom line is, the Red Sox have Tampa right where they want them.  This weekend, they won't (they'll probably get swept, making it a 3.5-game lead which seems to always happen around this time of the year - the second-place wild card team never dies), but they should win the series.  Time to step on Tampa's throats.

I was pretty darn right about them getting swept, huh?  The genius Twitter account SoreGloveHand started hash-tagging "Tampa Massacre" on Friday morning as well, whoever that is.  Time to get the bus rolling.

1.  Darnell McDonald:  Congratulations.  You are now only arguably the worst offensive player in major league baseball, having raised your batting average above the Mendoza Line.  Since you bottomed out at .109 in late June (late June!), you've hit a blazing .250 and are now hitting .203.  But you should know that 46 is fast, can cover a lot of ground, and is more afraid of crashing into someone than most people are of Ray Lewis and his dawgs in a nightclub.  Get the F out of his way and let him make his own bed.
2.  John Lackey:  The Boston Globe said you were arguably the worst starting pitcher in baseball (phrasing intentional for the sake of repetition).  Not covering the base is inexusable.  Getting lit up by a weak-hitting catcher in John Jaso is inexusable.  But at least this weekend you admitted you sucked.
3.  Jon Lester:  When you needed to be a stopper more than any other time, you reverted to 2006 form.  Well, at least he's still four months younger than 46.
4.  Kyle Weiland:  Matsuzaka is not the best guy to emulate.  Over the plate, please.
5.  Carl Crawford:  It's called a cutoff man.
6.  Josh Reddick:  It's called a cutoff man.
7.  Dustin Pedroia:  Not a good time to become bad.  You still have a three and a half game lead in the wild card - yay!
8.  Adrian Gonzalez:  Not a good time to become average.  Please ignore the people talking about 46's higher home run totals and go back to being you.
9.  Daniel Bard:  Not a good time to be like the rest of the bullpen.
10.  Mike Aviles: All leading and base-stealing privileges are hereby revoked. Please stand with both feet on the base until the ball is put in play.
11.  Matt Albers:  Holy crap, are you a middle reliever or what?  You're Manny Delcarmen minus being from Roxbury!
12.  Michael Bowden:  I kinda feel bad for you.  What happened to your upside?  Your power, your good stuff?  You're like the girl everyone wanted to take to junior prom because you had great boobs, then gained a lot of weight in college and showed up to the ten-year reunion having lost a one-sided battle against gravity.  What happened?
13.  Josh Beckett:  We'll talk to you later on this week.
14.  JD Drew:  Thanks for being such a warrior.  Hope your impinged shoulder and sore finger are doing great, and hope your hunting gear is ready to go on September 29th, when the Red Sox are doing playing baseball for the year.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Stepping on the Throat

There are nineteen games left in the Red Sox season, twenty left in Tampa's.  Nevermind that these teams are playing each other this weekend and four additional times next week.  If the Red Sox continue on the current path, coasting into October, lining up their rotation for the playoffs, pitching Wakefield on three days' rest so that he can get #200, and letting Beckett sit instead of tape up his ankle - in other words, if they go 9-10 in these remaining 19 games, Tampa has to go 16-4 to tie them atop the wild card standings.

16-4.

While 16-4 would be a pretty spectacular finish, it's not unheard of.  I'm pretty sure both the Red Sox and Yankees put together a stretch of this magnitude at some point of the season (if I had cable/Internet I'd know for sure), and the Rays themselves may have as well.  Teams have won 20 games in a row as recently as nine years ago.  And guess what?  Tampa is a good team.  And I hate to say it, but they're probably the best managed team in the league.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are a team with a switch that can and does go off frequently.  The 16-6 figure is if the Red Sox play .500 baseball.  Let's say they replicate the last ten games and lose thirteen out of the remaining nineteen.  Tampa would only need to go 12-8.  If this were the borderline detestable group of whiners known as the 2009 Red Sox, a piece of me would hope this would happen.  Best believe JD Drew hopes it will happen, as hunting season is coming up and he doesn't want to be part of playoff baseball.

But the bottom line is, the Red Sox have Tampa right where they want them.  This weekend, they won't (they'll probably get swept, making it a 3.5-game lead which seems to always happen around this time of the year - the second-place wild card team never dies), but they should win the series.  Time to step on Tampa's throats. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Up and Down Red Sox

The Sox had back-to-back off days 10 days ago. Since then they've gone 3-6, and need a win tomorrow to avoid losing their third consecutive series. By no means is this the end of the world. There are still 20 games to play. You'd like to be playing better baseball at this stage of the season, but (1) every team goes through stretches like this, some times are just more noticeable than the others (the beginning and end of the season, as two examples), and (2) nothing about how you play in September matters if you get to October.

What is perhaps more interesting from an analytical perspective is the underlying performance, and how erratic the Sox have been in these last 9 games. They get shutout against the Rangers 10-0, win 12-7 the next night, lose 11-4 the next, then lose 1-0 in extras, before winning 14-0, and then losing 11-10. This all directly off scoring 2 in a loss, scoring 9 in a win, and scoring 2 in a loss to the Yankees. Teams are going to ebb and flow over the course of the long season, but the Sox are really all over the place. Not just in total, but their separate starting pitching, bullpen, and offensive components. Each have been a little bit boom or bust recently. The performance by the bullpen tonight, and getting caught stealing to end the game while staging a comeback, were exclamation point type examples of that.

I don't want to say that this is a microcosm of the Sox season, because that's a little bit too strong. Mostly because the overall performance has been so good. But 142 games into the season they remain very much a peaks and valleys team. They can be so good for so long, and then they can get into these extended ruts.

Without watching them every day, it's really hard to say why this is. I'm sure it's difficult to say why even watching them every day. After all, it might not be any more complicated than they're a streaky team. Nevertheless, I'd be interested to hear possible theories from those who do watch everyday. GM has talked about the "switch" theory, and I think there is certainly some merit to that. But I also think there could be some other things at play. Typically speaking, a "switch on/off" team would have the switch on right now. And even though this team likely will turn it on yet again, I'd like to hear any other insights or possibilities as to why this team - who has been so good overall - has gotten to that point by being so dramatically up and down.

September Wish List

Still a long three days until I actually get the Internet (or television for that matter) at my new house, so greetings from The GM At Work.  Now that it's almost a quarter over, I am providing my wish list for this coming September for what I'd like to see from the Red Sox.

1.  The switch turned on.  What, are the Red Sox now four games behind New York in the loss column?  Okay, maybe not, as they blew out Toronto last night.  This is how this team should be playing, Beckett or no Beckett, every night.  This is how the Yankees (a slightly inferior team) plays every night.  But the Red Sox, like the Celtics of late, turned the switch off over the past week.

2.  Bullpen stability.  I was at the Sunday game, and while Felix Doubront probably won't be on the playoff roster, that was a rough afternoon.  The walks, the home runs, everything.  Bowden, who also won't be on that roster, gave up the longest home run I've ever seen live.  But Albers is still pitching poorly.  Everyone except for the two solid guys and Aceves has been shaky at best.  Not the best momentum to bring into the postseason.  Now that they're pitching against a lot of September call-ups/minor leaguers, it's time to get things right.

3.  A .400 average from 46.  He's historically hit quite well against September call-up pitchers.  Time to do it again.

4.  A .400 average from Carl Crawford.  Magadan's got all the confidence in the world in this guy.  While moving this weekend, I read a Sports Illustrated article from April saying that Crawford's slow start is the least of the Red Sox' worries.  It's September 7th.  How about now?

5.  A healthy Josh Beckett.  This obviously is not going to happen.  But think about this and it may keep you up at night:  When was the last time Beckett was healthy in October?  Not last year.  Not either of the two years before.  It was 2007.  That was four years ago.  Is it time to return to the old 2006 refrain of "this guy can't stay healthy for a whole season?"  Starting to look that way.

6.  Iglesias innings.  The Lowrie experiment is not exactly successful.  Scutaro will likely be done after the year.  Aviles should not play every day.  Let's get this guy in for some meaningful at-bats just to see how he might be able to hit in the majors.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Four Yankees Deserving Props

Yanks have picked up 4 games on Boston in the last 7 days, extending their lead in the division out to 3 in the loss column. That's a pretty big swing for one week, and they need to continue to take advantage. With 23 games to play it's not a big lead at all, but it is substantial considering where things were at this time last week. I mention this before getting to the post because, as many have commented here, I do think winning the division and having homefield matters, and so it's worth really monitoring down this final stretch run of the regular season.

Moving on to the actual post, I want to give four Yankees who deserve a lot of credit...a lot of credit. This really probably was four four separate posts that because of time constraints, and because of other post-worthy things coming up, have been condensed into four paragraphs.

Prior to today's game - where he was 1-5 with a double - Derek Jeter had played 50 games since coming off the DL, or roughly 1/3 of the season. During that time he has hit .346/.396/.471 with 34 RBI and 32 runs scored. I'm not sure how a player who struggles like he did for the last 1.5 years doesn't just turn it around, but goes back to playing at as elite a level as he ever had, at the age of 37, but I can't say I'm surprised. Without question, Jeter's play was very frustrating for the 1.5 years prior to this resurgence. The same way it's frustrating when any player isn't really contributing. But this is a yet another reminder of why I have said, ever since the 2009 bounceback after his relatively down 2008, that no matter how poor Jeter is playing I will never count him out until he retires. No matter how bad it looks, and no matter how frustrating it is, he's done this type of stuff too many times for too long now not to be extended that treatment. You just can't count this guy out.

We've spent a lot of time talking about Jacoby Ellsbury in this space this year. And there are a lot of good reasons for that, especially between his good play the long-running debate we've had about this player for most of this site's history. What we haven't talked about is a guy whose play has been even more worthy of conversation, Curtis Granderson. As good as Ellsbury has been, Granderson has been that much better, truly one of the best players in the entire game. His 109 RBI and 126 runs are the most in baseball (the latter by 28, nobody else is even at 100!), and he is second in home runs at 38. All while playing one of the most premium positions in baseball. What's more, as Jeter and A-Rod have had extended absences, when Cano slowed in the second 4th of the season, as Teixeira has been streaky, as Swisher and Gardner got off to very slow starts, and as Posada has been up and down, Granderson has been the constant. He's been so consistent, you can barely find a week in the season where he was in a funk. It sounds a little much to say about a team with the most runs in the game, with the talent they have, and with mostly the whole lineup contributing the way it is now. But there was a time when those things were necessarily the case and Granderson was the main catalyst offensively, by far. These numbers would be elite at season's end, and he's still got a ways to go. Amazing season.

Russell Martin isn't the flashiest player on the Yankees. Not even close. And that's one of many things I love about him. He just goes out and competes and wants to win. He is a tremendous defender behind the plate, has good pop for a catcher, and has gotten big hit after big hit for the Yankees this year. The last two Thursdays alone he hit a go-ahead grand slam against the A's and a go-ahead double against the Sox in major spots. He has a role-player work ethic and mentality with talent and tools that are better than that of a role-player, very much in the model of so many players on those late 90's Yankees teams. He's been an absolute pleasure, has been a huge part of this team's success so far this year, and the Yankees need him to continue to be so moving forward.

You can't tell much about a player in his first four starts. But there are two things we do know after Jesus Montero's first four games. First, even if it doesn't ultimately mean much, it's better to get off to a good start than not, obviously. And Montero is off to a blistering start. He's hitting .385/.467/.846, scored the winning run in his first game (in Fenway against the Sox with first place on the line no less), and hit two homers today, the last of which was the difference in the game, getting two curtain calls in the process. For a player that could really help the Yankees the rest of this season, this has to be a tremendous confidence boost. Second, he looks the part. He hasn't at all looked overmatched at the plate, even against some really tough pitching. Further, there aren't many players in the game who can hit the ball over the fence to the opposite field the way he did today. Especially the first one, that reached the bleachers. The fact that he's doing it at age 21, in his 4th ever start, twice in that game, off of two different right-handed pitchers, is really impressive. One of the things that always got people excited about Montero was his power to all fields, and he showed a little bit of why today. Really, he's been showing a little bit of why he has been so highly touted almost every chance he gets. He may not be able to continue it at this rate, but he's showing himself to be someone who can help the Yankees' win baseball games right now, this year. That's always a great type of addition to be able to make to the roster, in-house, this late in the season. I would not be surprised if he wins the primary DH job within the next few weeks.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Death of the Rivalry

It's been a hot topic on a lot of media outlets around here in Boston, but the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry is pretty much dead (it was revived a little bit this week, but not much).  People are trying to figure out what the causes are for this, and nobody can really come to a consensus.  I'm not going to debate that it is dead.  Because it's true.  It's no longer make-an-appointment TV.  But here are some of the theories, divided into "Legit" and "Crap."

CRAP:
-The 19-game schedule.  The rivalry was alive and kicking when the teams were playing 19 times a year against each other.  In fact, for a while, it intensified it.  Plenty of opportunities to throw at each other and antagonize each other.  I wrote earlier this year (after the Sox/O's brawl) that 19 games against each other intensifies rivalries in an unnecessary way.
-No playoff meetings for seven years.  The five playoff games between 1996 and 2003 didn't cool off the rivalry at all.  Sure, this helps intensify it, but it wasn't the fact that there was a meeting, or even a ln intense meeting.  If intense playoff series made a difference, the A's would have had a fierce rivalry with both of these teams during the Moneyball era.
-The inconsequential nature of these games.  In the height of the rivalry, neither team was in the prime position to knock each other out of the playoffs.

LEGIT:
-Evolved fan bases.  We've discussed this at great length.  The Red Sox fan in 2011 is a lot different from the Red Sox fan in 2003.  Jessica from Brighton is a lot more concerned about singing Sweet Caroline than she is about shouting profanities about Derek Jeter's sexual preference.  In 2003, venom was rampant throughout the ballpark from the 2003 typical fan, Sully from Medford.  Not only would Sully question Jeter's preference, but he also know who Yuri Sucart is and would start chanting YU-ri SU-cart each time Yuri's Tic-Tac popping cousing came to the plate.  And chants like that would catch on with or without the impact of alcohol.  Fans went to Red Sox-Yankees games not to promote their upcoming film like Gigli, but to support the team, express their frustration toward the other team, and actually watch the baseball game.  They actually knew what was going on.  Same thing with the Yankees, as their real fans from the 1990s are now relegated to steerage.
-Fewer hatable players.  Even at the beginning of the HYD era, I had trouble saying a nice or respectful thing about Derek Jeter.  Now I can, because he's not nearly as hatable as he was.  People don't begrudge the way he dives out of the way of pitches on the inside corner anymore.  People around here have reverence for Mariano Rivera, and even Posada at this point.  Many Red Sox fans like Nick Swisher, and besides Burnett, there's very little negative to say about this pitching staff.  Meanwhile, Pat's wrote a post absolutely praising Pedroia and Youkilis.  Besides maybe Ortiz, I don't think Yankee fans wish specific harm on anyone.  In 2003, I was thrilled that Jeter went to the hospital due to an HBP.  When Posada pointed to his head while Pedro was pointing to his head during the Zimmer incident, I hoped Pedro threw right at him.  Gary Sheffield, while not smoking crack rocks, was popping off his mouth at the height of this rivalry.  Throw in Clemens, Wells, Manny Ramirez, Karim Garcia, Jeff Nelson, and others on both sides, and there were just a lot more guys to hate.  Does a 2011 Yankees fan hate Josh Beckett or Papelbon like they hated Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling?  No way.  Even Marco Scutaro has fewer hatable characteristics than Kevin Millar. 
-Less player buy-in.  On and off the respective playing surfaces, the Patriots and Jets don't like each other, and it's genuine (a Curt Schilling sound bite doesn't count).  They care.  This is the way the Red Sox and Yankees were.  Same with the Bruins and Canadiens.  Would Trot Nixon and Mike Mussina share an electric razor commercial?  Would Rivera and Posada be in a Jimmy Fund commercial alongside Red Sox in 2002?  Nope.  Beyond Enrique Wilson and Manny going out for a drink, things were different back then.
-Less executive buy-in.  The most front-office animosity over the past several years was over Teixeira.  But were any hotel rooms trashed like with the Jose Contreras disaster?  Were there any truly-resentful barbs going back and forth from the front offices?  Nope.  Probably since the Johnny Damon incident, all Red Sox-related animosity during contentious free-agent negotiations went toward the player, not the team.  And yes, guys, the absence of George Steinbrenner has been a factor.
-Overhype.  Everyone in the world wants to talk about it because at one point it was good copy.  At this point, people are tired of talking about it (the players), reading about it (the fans), and even watching it (check out the ratings during this midweek series).  It's not oversaturated, but it is overhyped.  The media is making something out of nothing.  The people listening to it have been the players (who downplay it) and the umpires (who overpolice it).  I like the Krasinski/Baldwin commercials as much as the next guy, but it's a little too much.