When it rains, it pours…diarrhea

June 3rd, 2007 → 10:30 pm @

Yup – I’m still trying to recover from my move, but I’m glad yesterday’s game at least showed that I didn’t jinx the Sox with this post. (I know: as I write this it’s 4-0 Yankees in the top of the fifth. But let’s not forget about yesterday.)

A couple of comments, though, are in order. For anyone who didn’t actually see yesterday’s game, it’s hard to communicate how brutally inept the Yankees were in the seventh inning. Every team will have a couple of these innings, and when things are going along more or less as normal, that’s fine. But things are not going along more or less as normal…and it had to hurt for New York to throw away this game. Just for fun, let’s recap the mistakes, step by step. We’ll put the score in bold, followed by how many outs there should have been and how many runs should have scored in itals.

1. Joe Torre continues to ride his relievers harder than…well, this is a family blog, so let’s leave it at that. In any case, he leaves Scott Proctor in the game after Proctor gets three straight outs in the eighth. The chances of Scott Proctor getting through two consecutive innings unscathed is about equal to the chance of A-Rod and Jeter starting a men’s group together.
2. Bobby Abreu, taking a page from A-Rod’s “how to look manly on the field” manual, pulls up short on Ortiz’s imminently catchable ball to deep right. One out.
3. After an IBB to Manny, Proctor walks Youk on four pitches. This came as a surprise to absolutely no one…except, of course, for Joe Torre. Bases loaded, none out.
4. Robinson Cano flubs the throw to second on what should be a tailor made double-play ball from Mike Lowell. Cap’n Intangibles, intent on proving he’s a hero, forces a wild throw to first. Instead of bases loaded and one run in, there are two runs in, runners on second and third. Two runs, one out, no runs, three outs (if Abreu had caught Ortiz’s ball, and depending on what Manny had done); one run, two outs (if Cano had thrown on target), one run, one out (if Jeter had held on to the ball).
5. Tek gets and IBB, followed by another Cap’n I error on a WMP grounder. No runs, four outs or one run, three outs regardless of whether or not Cano had helped turn the DP earlier because of this ball’s DP potential.
6. Coco singles to shallow center on a ball that appeared as if it might be caught. With Jason “Speed Demon” Varitek hanging close to second, Melky Cabrera has a relatively easy force-out at third…except A-Rod seems to have noticed a hot blond over by first base and drifts over behind the mound, leaving no one to field a throw. In any case, Lowell scores, and Torre, who actually looked like he was falling asleep earlier in the afternoon, is revived from his siesta and pulls Proctor from the game. Three runs, one out, no runs, five outs or one run, four outs.
7. After a Julio sac fly, Dustin “I Will Cut You” Pedroia singles in WMP. Five runs, two out, no runs, six outs or one run, five outs
8. David Ortiz, long a black hole in the Sox’s lineup, grounds out to end the inning. Five runs, three out, no runs, seven outs or one run, six outs.

Phew. That’s a rough inning. My point, of course, isn’t to gloat; it’s to illustrate that when you’re in a shitstorm, everything smells crappy. The Sox have a long and not-so-glorious history of creating their own problems. That’s exactly what they haven’t been doing this year…and it’s exactly what the Yankees have been doing. It must feel veritably Sisyphusian over their in the Bronx. And with all that, really, who was surprised that Roger was scratched from his first start of the year?

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Joe Torre & Red Sox & Yankees

No, the Red Sox did not pound me in to an euphoric stupor (And: thoughts on the Yankees)

May 30th, 2007 → 5:09 pm @

There’ve been a couple of things going on:

1. I moved this weekend.
2. The place I moved into came with all of the previous owner’s crap.
3. I can be superstitious. (Look what happened to Wake in his next two starts after I posted this piece.)

That said, not even I am so self-centered to think that the Sox’s 14.5 lead over the Yankees could be affected by little ol’ me. (Think about this: the Sox could lose eight straight games, and the Yankees could win eight straight cames, and the lead would still be 6.5 games. Yes, that is definitely incredible.)

I’m also not sure what to add about this recent run. I fully expect the Sox to return back to earth, but even then I think their place in this world will be pretty lofty. It could be a very fun year.

I am, however, willing to weigh in on the Yankees. The last five games have shown a number of good reasons why the Yankees, while undoubtedly playing below their true talent level at the moment, may be in for a world of pain from here on out. Without further ado:

1. Joe Torre’s stupefyingly stupid bullpen management has finally come crashing down on his shoulders. I’m on record as saying that Torre, along with Schill and Papi, deserves credit for the 2004 ALCS: if Torre hadn’t ridden Tom Gordon into the ground, he might have been able to do something besides throw batting practice when the season was on the line. This year, with everything going to hell, Torre’s been even worse than usual. (Anyone wonder what would happen if you combined Dusty Baker and Torre? Just asking.) He very likely cost the Yankees two games this past weekend alone: when he yanked a cruising Mike Mussina in favor of a tanked Scott Proctor, who proceeded to cough up a double and three consecutive walks…two of which brought in a run; and when when he yanked Tyler Clippard after 76 pitches, a move which simultaneously continued to drive the bullpen into the ground and moved the game quickly out of reach.

2. The team’s reaction to said bullpen management is bubbling up. After Clippard (who looks like he’s, at most, a sophomore in high school) was pulled, even he thought it okay to knock Torre to the press: “I never really had a terrible inning. I never got in a bad rut. I was very, very surprised. You’re a starter and your team is in the game. Yeah, I want the ball.” Mr. Clippard, welcome to the Bronx. And this is just a couple of week’s after Proctor joked that his four-game suspension was the only way he was going to get any rest. “They can wear me out pretty heavy before that,” he said, while waiting for his appeal to go through. Indeed they can. Just look at last weekend for the results.

3. The impending arrival of Roger “Mercenary” Clemens. Several weeks back — when the Yankees looked like they were scuffling as opposed to imploding — Kyle Farnsworth got all uppity about Clemens’ “family” clause. I’m with Farnsworth on this one: when you’re paying a guy more than any player in the history of the game, it’s not too much to ask that he actually, you know, show up. Before the Clemens signing, most everyone on the team gave lip service to the notion that whatever Clemens did wasn’t going to bother them. That might have even been true…if the team had been winning. That’s no longer the case. And if Clemens has a shitty start (or three), you can bet sure as Manny will end the year with somewhere between 30 and 40 HRs that something is going to go down in that clubhouse.

Anyway, there you have it. Now don’t blame me if the Sox don’t win every game for the rest of the season…

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Joe Torre & Red Sox & Yankees

Memorial day reading: pitching prospects, offensive scuffles, Gold Glover Julio Lugo (and FTM)

May 25th, 2007 → 12:15 pm @

It’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s 90 degrees…and I’m moving. Perfect timing! But I haven’t forgotten my blogalicious duties, so without furtherado, this wrapup/compendium:

* Some good news on the Sox’s home-grown pitching talent front and some thoughts about why it’s best to remember the all of the implications of every action. Jon Lester has been ripping it up at Pawtucket to the tune of around .8 Ks per inning and a 1.62 ERA. We all saw lefty Lester’s potential last year, and we all hope he’s back in the bigs soon. One thing we might all not know: if the infamous A-Rod for Manny trade had gone down in the winter of ’04, Lester wouldn’t be here…because he was slated to go to Texas as part of the deal. In other minor-league news, Clay Buchholz is getting raves at AA (to the point of folks saying he out-dueled Clemens earlier this week). The Sox were able to draft CB because of the compensatory pick they got when Pedro signed with the Mets. Every rational person would admit that, thus far, Petey hasn’t been worth his annual salary in New York. If Clay develops into a reliable fourth starter — and people are talking about him as much more than that — he’ll definitely be worth his. (One last interesting Buchholz note is that he dropped as low as he did in the draft because of a laptop theft in high school. I got arrested in high school (and did lots of stuff I should have been arrested for but wasn’t) so I’m fully in favor of second chances…

* Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Rob Bradford’s work. He has a recent couple of pieces worth checking out. His most recent post in his always-worth reading Herald blog, The Bradford Files has several interesting tidbits, including details of Sox players’ off-season workouts (I’m not going to be trying those anytime soon) and part of a Q/A with Eric Hinske. These are the types of things blogs should have: interesting notes that wouldn’t make it into the paper and standard-fare Q/As that aren’t jaw-droppingly revelatory but are interesting nonetheless. (One especially interesting note is Hinske’s thoughts about Theo’s relationship with the players.) And a Herald article from a couple of days ago is another example of why I’m a fan of Rob’s: a evergreen feature on Sox advance scouts Dana Levangie and Todd Claus actually teaches you something about the team you might not know even if you were an obsessive reader of all things Red Sox related…

* Speaking of evergreens, Gordo has a nice piece in the Globe about the job of official scorers. This is an perfect example of a story that oftentimes wouldn’t make it into the paper for all the wrong reasons: because it seems obvious to everyone on the inside. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that’s not the case for your average reader.

* Two interesting perspectives on the Sox’s recent successes…and reasons why they might not be the winningest team in baseball when all is said and done. The ProJo’s Sean McAdam weighs in on the J.D. Drew’s struggles and the bullpen’s successes. McAdam finds Drew’s offensive suckitude troubling (you’ll get no argument from me there) and the bullpen’s lights-outedness unlikely to continue (ditto). But — and this is a big but — it seems like there’s a logical inconsistency behind thinking a consistently good player won’t return to his level and a group that’s collectively over achieving will fall back to earth. The Telegram-Gazette‘s Bill Ballou looks at all of the Sox’s underachievers (Crisp, Drew, Hinske, Pineiro, and Manny) and sees an illustration of Francona’s skills as a manager: one of the ways he keeps the clubhouse functioning smoothly in a tough-to-play-in town is by showing faith in guys when they’re scuffling. As Ballou notes, sometimes in pays off (Damon and Bellhorn in the ’04 playoffs) and sometimes it doesn’t (Bellhorn and Millar in the ’05 season). One point I’d add: it’s not always just that Francona is showing patience; sometimes it’s that the players are acting like whiny little punks (Millar in the ’05 season).

* Speaking of Manny, if the Sox weren’t tearing it up, we’d be hearing a lot more about his general suckiness, a topic Edes covered earlier this week (and one that’s been receiving some attention over at SoSH). Edes talks to the scout that signed Manny about his seeming hesitation at the plate. It’s hard not to get a tinge of panic when watching him walk back to the bench after being called out on strikes one more time; on the other hand, I was with the Sox in 2005, the Gammons “he just doesn’t care out there” year, the “I’m worried about my mom and her blood transfusions” year, the black-hole until late May year. History says there’s no reason to expect this to be any different. Emotions worry otherwise.

* And finally, for everyone out there who thinks the Lugo signing was, based on the evidence thus far, an unmitigated disaster, here’s an interesting factoid: John Dewan, author of The Fielding Bible, says Lugo’s been the fourth best defensive shortstop in all of baseball.


That’s it for now. It’s gonna be a hot one this weekend, and you don’t need to be back at work until Monday. That means, of course, that it’s an absolutely perfect time to read Feeding the Monster, which is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!). And, of course, free signed and personalized bookplates are here for the asking. They’re really nice. Seriously: ask anyone you know who has one. Or just write in. But whatever you do, act today.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Clay Buchholz & J.D. Drew & Jon Lester & Julio Lugo & Manny Ramirez & Rob Bradford & Sports Reporters

Looking ahead, looking behind: the outfield’s noodle bats and the gold-dust sprinkled Sox

May 18th, 2007 → 9:39 am @

These next six days will be interesting ones for the Sox. Tonight — god and the weather providing — will mark the beginning of this year’s interleague play; last year, you’ll remember, the collective National League pretenders gave RSN the false impression that the team was one of baseball’s elites. It’s unrealistic to expect the Sox to duplicate 2006’s 16-2 performance…but I’m not sure anyone would be surprised if they did. Especially with the roll the team’s on right now. In the last five days, the Sox took full advantage of Sam “Brain Fart” Perlozzo’s missteps for a Mother’s Day Massacre that is not likely ever to be repeated, and swept the first-place Tigers — er, make that formerly first-place Tigers — in a doubleheader despite the fact that in the night game, J.D. Drew was out of commission, Papi was on the bench, and Schilling looked as if he was serving up batting practice. The Sox are 12-4 in May. Seven of those victories have been by a margin of one or two runs. There haven’t been any giveaways. Life is good.

But there’s no reason to focus on May alone: the Sox, at 28-12, have two fewer losses than any other team in baseball and four more wins that any other AL team. This, despite the fact that the team’s starting outfielders are collectively batting .244 with 11 home runs (seven players have hit 11 or more) and 48 RBIs…and that Manny, JDD, and Coco all trail Dustin “Rudy” Pedroia in batting average (.253) and OBP (.356). Oh, and despite the fact that, a quarter of the way into the season, Manny projects to finish the year with the lowest home run total (24), the second lowest RBI total (100), and the lowest hit total (148) of his career.

But back to these next six days. The Yankees (who’ll throw out their 11th starter of the year) are facing a pair of the Mets’ lefties this weekend. The Bronx Bumblers are 3-7 versus southpaws thus far in 2007, and the Mets are on the tail end of a week that was as blessed as Boston’s, with two wholly improbable walk-offs versus the Cubs in the past three days. (Yesterday’s was the result of a five-run ninth in a game most of New York’s biggest bats started on the bench.) It’s not a stretch to think the Sox could pick up another two games on the Yankees by the middle of next week…which would put 11.5 games up.

Indeed, why not? The Sox do seem to be sprinkled with gold dust these days…but baseball is an unfair game good luck can turn bad right quick, especially because the Yankees, as epically sucky as they’ve been, aren’t likely to keep on getting this many bad breaks day after day. With Beckett headed to the DL, Schilling coming off of two sub-par starts, and Tavarez being relied on to turn in a solid start every five days, a bad couple of weeks isn’t out of the question. It’ll happen at some point.The team will weather it just fine. And the fans and the media should, too. Everyone agree? Good.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Interleague play & Manny Ramirez & Offense & Red Sox & Winning streaks & Yankees

Torre, Theo, the RS bullpen, and the black plague

May 2nd, 2007 → 11:52 am @

Like I said below, I’m going to be getting to some things a bit late…

A month into the season, we’ve seen a bunch of interesting things.

* The Yankees have been sucking. They also appear to have picked up the pesky black plague bug that infected the Sox last August.

* There’s going to be lots of talk about whether or not Joe Torre should be fired as long as the worst $200 million team in history stays in last place. Or third place. Or second place.

* Last night notwithstanding, the Sox’s bullpen has been lights out.

* Hideki Okajima is a stone-cold stud.

* Despite some disappointing performances at the plate — i.e., everyone in the starting lineup save for Youk, Ortiz, Drew, and Lowell — the Sox are, overall, doing fairly well offensively.

* This whole Schilling-Beckett-Dice K thing could work out pretty well.

And now for some quick thoughts on the above:

* Brian Cashman is getting some heat for the Yankees roster and it’s age/failure to produce. That’s not entirely fair (although not entirely unfair, either). The injury thing is hard to predict — Mussina is getting on in years, sure; on the other hand, but Wang could have reasonably been expected to stay healthy. And while Cashman has exhibited some creativity/flexibility in jettisoning some of his overpaid veterans, he’s still saddled with guys like Jason Giambi — and Giambi, at least according to almost everyone surrounding the Yankees — was one of those Steinbrenner “I have to have him RIGHT NOW” players that Cashman seemingly had little to do with.

* The Torre defenders out there are right when they say there’s only so much he can do — he’s not out on the field. But — and this is a big but — two areas that Torre most definitely can effect are a) bullpen usage and b) keeping a bunch of spoiled brats (er, I mean athletes), focused and motivated over the course of a long season. In regards to a), Torre has a Dusty Baker-esque tendency to abuse his bullpen, a practice that cost the Yankees at least one trip to the World Series (in 2004, when the Yankees had to depend on the ghost of Tom Gordon) and could very well lead the team down the road to ruin this year. As for b), I’m a firm believer in the notion that sometimes good managers need to go just because a team needs a change. Torre’s been very good at keeping a highly efficient and generally successful team on course. His laconic style might not be so good for a team in crisis. (Quick digression: I also put some of the blame on Captain Intangibles, who, much like Jason Varitek, seems to view his role solely as someone who sets a good example on the field. Jeter could, and should, have stepped up any number of times this year. Take spring training: the best things he could have done for the team were defend Pavano when Mussina was whining and embrace A-Rod to quell the ongoing talk about conflict there.)

And…I gotta run. Looks like I’ll have to address the Red Sox part of this equation later on.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Brian Cashman & Injuries & Joe Torre & Yankees

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner…

April 10th, 2007 → 10:27 pm @

Actually, we don’t. (Obviously, I’m not talking about today’s game. That was decided by the end of the first inning.) The interminable FTM 2007 pre-season contest, which already seems to have gone on forever, is threatening to intermin some more: after a three-way tie and a three-way goose egg, we now have a two-way tie, with sonomasox and maranara each pulling in 1 (one) point, out of a total of 15, with sonoma getting Coco’s three put-outs correct and maranara correctly tagging Beckett with a sole earned run. It’s time to put an end to the madness. You both get a book. I hope you’re happy — I’m paying for these things* (and the shipping costs) myself. So email me your real names, mailing addresses, and your inscription of choice and I’ll get these out in the mail already…

* They’re only $17.16 on Amazon. (Cheap!) Free bookplates still available. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Contests

The kind of contest Keith Foulke would love: Sudden death shootout! Take 2!

April 6th, 2007 → 11:09 am @

SUNDAY NIGHT EDIT: Well, guess what…you all third-place losers lose again. So much for everyone choosing the obvious candidate. So here’s a contest where it’ll be truly difficult to pull off another menage: sonomasox, unforgiven, and maranara, you each need to guess:

* Beckett’s pitching line on Tuesday: IP, H, BB, K, R, ER and total pitches.

* Lugo’s batting line: AB, H, BB, SAC, HBP.

* Coco’s fielding line: put outs, assists, and errors.

That’s fifteen total categories. Each’ll be worth a point. Let’s get this damn thing over already…
The results of the FTM 2007 pre-season contest are in, and the winners are…still up in the air!

Sort of, anyway: sox5452 and richsim tied for first place, with 9 points apiece, but at the moment, we have a three-way tie for third place, with sonomasox, unforgiven, and maranara all clocking in with 8 points. Which means we’re going to a sudden death shootout.

Here are the terms: now I’m looking for the first home run from the heart of the order — Manuel, Papi, and JDD — so the three of you post the following in the comments section for everyone to see:

* Who’ll go yard first,

* What game that’ll be in,

* What inning, and

* How many men on base.

Each guess will be worth one point; obviously, if only one of you gets the player right, s/he’ll win. To keep things exciting (and fair), I won’t post either entry until I have both of them.

Meanwhile, sox5452 and richsim, both of you e-mail me with your names, addresses, and anything special you want me to write in the inscription. Nothing x-rated, though. Or too x-rated, anyway.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Contests