With 64 games remaining…it’s coming down to the wire

July 23rd, 2007 → 11:33 am @

So: there are 64 games left in the season, the Sox are within a whisker of having the best record in baseball (.602 winning percentage vs the Tigers’ .604), they’re 7.5 games up on the Yankees, they’re fourth in the AL in runs scored, 3rd in OPS, and 2nd in OBP. Their pitching staff has the second best ERA, the second most K’s, and the second best batting average against.

All of that’s good news, and (and yes, this has already become a very tired refrain) if anyone told any of you during spring training this is what the baseball universe would look like with a little more than a week left in July, you’d be ecstatic. If I was a betting man (note: I am a betting man), I’d put good money down on Boston to win the AL East.But since bloggers and sportswriters alike need something with which to occupy their time (and space, whether that be virtual or actual), let’s break down some numbers. Since the beginning of June, the Sox have been a .500 team (on the dot, actually, with a 23-23 record); during that same period, the Yankees have been a .640 team. That’s a good stretch of time; if those numbers were to hold for the remainder of the year, the Yankees, with 93 wins, would win the division by 2 games.

But wait! If you go back and count off 64 games (the number of games actually remaining in the season) and replicated those patterns, you’d end up with the Sox winning the East by…7.5 games, since both teams have put up 36-28 record in that time. And certainly you’d be more likely to expect the Sox to play at something closer to a .600 clip than a .500 clip, right? Because, really, how many good baseball teams play .500 ball for months on end?

How about the ’04 Boston Red Sox? (You had to have seen that coming.) Before running away with the, er, Wild Card in August, the Sox had a three month stretch — May through July — in which they played .500 ball (.506, actually; they were 41-40).

All of this still leaves me without any discernible point. Fear not; I actually have several.

1. It’s patently ridiculous for sportswriters to declare in May (or June, or July) that a race is “over” unless it’s actually, mathematically over. Nevertheless, that’s what lots of people were doing, from the folks over at “Baseball Tonight” to almost every newspaper in the greater New England area. (That tendency is excusable; it takes someone with a true dedication to stupidity to posit the opposite.)

2. The Yankees were never, ever as bad as they looked. They have a scary offense — as shown by the fact that they’re leading the AL in plenty of offensive categories. And their pitching staff is good enough to carry them along: Clemens-Mussina-Pettitte circa 2007 is a far cry from Clemens-Mussina-Pettitte circa 2003, but it’s not awful; throw in Wang and the potentially terrifying Phil Hughes and you’ve got yourself a rotation.

3. Inre #2: It is time once again to praise Joe Torre’s bullpen management. If — and this is an enormous if, obviously — the Bombers do make it to the playoffs, the combo of aging starting pitchers and a bullpen full of dead-arm relievers is going to be a big problem.

All of this, I suspect, will make for a fun couple of months. If I was being forced to guess (note: I do not need to be forced to guess), I say Boston’s division lead will be as low as 4 games and that they’ll ultimately end up winning the East by somewhere between 6 and 8. Oh, and I’d also guess that New York won’t be in the playoffs, A-Rod won’t be in the Bronx come next spring, and Joe Torre will wish he’d retired a year earlier.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Red Sox & Sports Reporters & Yankees

I won’t even bother saying his name…

June 24th, 2007 → 11:44 pm @

I know, I know — I’ve been forsaking my duties. And I’m still behind on my work, so I’ll be forsaking some more. But I’ll duck back in for a couple of quick posts, the first of which…is about Murray Chass! Many of you will remember that it was less than two weeks ago when Chass wrote, “At the rate at which the Yankees are slashing into Boston’s lead in the American League East, they will pass the Red Sox in the standings by July 4.” At the time, the Sox led New York by a mere 7.5 games. After today’s Sox win/Yankees loss, the Yankees are back below .500, stuck in third place, and 11.5 games out of first. Oh, and the Sox have the best record in all of baseball. For the Yankees to overtake Boston by Independence Day would truly be miraculous: each team only has 8 games between now and then.

Murray so consistently displays an almost total lack of awareness about the game of baseball — how it’s played, what it means, how to write about it — that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he remains one of the very few New York Times columnists the paper doesn’t make you pay for reading online. (I will admit that even I was somewhat surprised that the paper didn’t even put him on the front page of its sports homepage.) (Oh, and want a rich combo of delicious irony and total boneheadedness, check out today’s column, in which Chass bitchslaps ESPN for not bringing up steroids during a discussion of whether or not Sammy Sosa would make it to the Hall of Fame. Murray, the man has more than 600 home runs. The only reason they were even having that conversation was because of steroids!)

Post Categories: Murray Chass & Sports Reporters

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

Suck it, Jayson Stark (All praise the wobbley knuckler)

May 11th, 2007 → 9:53 am @

I, kid, I kid…but on a morning like this one, this story on “Pitchers You’d Pay to Watch” raises my hackles. (To be fair, Stark’s story isn’t supposed to be representative of his thinking; he queried 20 GMs, assistant GMs, and scouts. But that’s a group that’s been known to be fairly ignorant when it comes to baseball…)

You could probably more or less guess the makeup of this list after downing a half-case of Sam Adams: Santana, King Felix, Dice-K, Clemens, Oswalt, Wagner, Zumaya. Pedro and Peavy got votes, as did Beckett and Bedard. And — here I’ll quote Stark — “(believe it or not) Tim Wakefield.” Jamie Moyer did not get a “believe it or not.” Tim Lincecum did not get a “believe it or not.” But Wake did.

Which is odd: the knuckleball is a dying art, and when a knuckleballer is on his game, there’s little that’s more fun to watch. I know Zumaya can throw 100 mph gas; I also know I can’t distinguish between a three-digit heater and a 92-mph heater, and if you say you can with your naked eye, you’re a stone-cold liar. Felix’s slider is a nasty, nasty weapon; Oswalt is fun just because he’s a fucking tiger, and Dice-K is, well, Dice-K. But watching a dumpy 40-something toss up paper airplanes that make professional ballplayers’ eyes bug out like Wile E. Coyote’s (and make them swing with such ferocity as to risk throwing out their backs)…now that I’d pay to watch. Especially because you’re likely to see it less and less as time goes on.

There’s also the fact that, at the moment, Wake is, hands down, the best starter in the league. He leads the AL in ERA (1.79.) He leads the league in BAA (.189). He’s put up six quality starts in seven games, compared to five each for Beckett and Schill. After last night’s absolute beauty of a game, he has a May ERA of 0.00, a May WHIP of .714, and lefties are hitting .132 off him for the month. On the season, he’s given up about 20 percent fewer hits than Beckett (38 vs. 31) and a little more than 30 percent fewer than Schilling (45 vs. 31). Even taking into account the fact that he obviously won’t keep this up all year, I’m still willing to bet he’ll have been year-end stats than Roger “Give me $8,000-per-pitch or I’ll stay in Texas” Clemens.

The lack of respect for Wake has been a bit of a bete noire for me as of late, and when I get something stuck in my craw, I’m likely to keep on gnawing on it until I can force it down. I’m thrilled that Beckett seems to have given up the bullheaded ways of his (recent) past. I’m also excited that Schilling appears to be closer to the ’04 model than the ’05 model; the Sox need both of these guys to play deep into October. But it would be nice if, instead of another SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight segment on one of these two, or instead of another full-length feature about Dice-K, someone, somewhere (besides here, I mean) decided to highlight a 40-year old pitcher who’s demonstrated the beauty of a skill that looks to be in its twilight years. After all, if you were a kid, wouldn’t you want to get noticed (and paid) for bringing the high heat (even if it resulted in a mediocre record) instead of getting looked over (and underpaid) for quietly making the best hitters in the world look like fools?


There’s no better time to read about your favorite team than when they’re doing well; it’s a truth that I quite well growing up in Boston. Which is why this is 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. There’s no better way to add to the glow of this springtime dominance than to revel in the victories and triumphs of the last several years.

Post Categories: Sports Reporters & Tim Wakefield

Sick of me yet? Because now I’m on your breakfast table…

May 6th, 2007 → 9:18 am @

Well, if you subscribe to the Globe, anyway: I wrote the cover story in this week’s Globe Magazine on the risks and long-term health consequences of pro-athletics and the shifting allegiances among athletes, agents, team doctors, owners, and players. It was a sobering story to write, and nowhere are the risks (and consequences) more frightening than in pro-football, where players ritually abuse their bodies (and their minds) without the safety of a guaranteed contract. Let me know what you think…

Post Categories: Boston Globe & Sports injuries & Sports Reporters

Gordon Edes on evaluating the past (and predicting the future)

May 6th, 2007 → 9:13 am @

I’m in Boston this weekend (for an engagement party — my own, actually — which is why I’m going to need to split in a second), which gives me a chance to read the paper copy of the Globe with my morning cereal. I was very happy to see an article by Gordon Edes that looked at last year’s trades in the context of what’s been going on recently. It’s rare that you get this kind of retrospective look at recent history when there don’t seem to be clear cut answers, and rarer still when there’s a re-examination of moves that engendered criticism when they occurred (or soon afterwards). (I’m not holding my breath waiting for Shaughnessy to re-visit this statement: “Is anybody rethinking that Johnny Damon decision now? On a day when Coco Crisp was rested, Damon continued his Bang Bang tour through Boston…”)

As Gordo points out, things look a lot differently now than they did at various points last year: to take the most obvious example, Anibal Sanchez has just been shipped to AAA, and Josh Beckett looks like the pitcher everyone hoped he’d be. The one thing I would have liked to see: an acknowledgment that it’ll be many years still before we can fully appreciate the pros and cons of these deals…just as it won’t be until the end of next season before we’ll know whether it was a good idea for the Mets to offer Pedo four guaranteed years.

Post Categories: Gordon Edes & Sports Reporters & Trades

Tomorrow, they’ll get to sniff his perineum

May 4th, 2007 → 9:49 am @

An early favorite for 2007’s biggest (or best, depending on your perspective) baseball-related headline boner of the season:

Royals to Get a Taste of Angels’ Colon

(It’s unclear if angels even have anything stored in their colons. That’s definitely not the case with this particular colon…)

Post Categories: Bartolo Colon & Human anatomy & Sports Reporters