Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Christ is now a Yankee. This statement is wrong to me on nearly every level, but deep down it has a sort of allegorical fit. Christ moves to New York, shaves his beard, cuts his hair, and in essence converts. The only true religion in Manhattan, of course, is money, and Johnny has been baptized by their John, Scott Boras.
A lot of people in marketing-victim Red Sox Nation are disturbed tonight, wondering how the Red Sox management could possibly have let JD get away. How could they not have jumped at the opportunity to pay Johnny Damon more money per year than Vlad Guerrero!!??!! Yes, I am only partially joking. No, wait, I was joking just there, in the previous sentence I was totally serious. Furious George is going to pay JD more money than Vlad Guerrero (and Miguel Tejada for that matter).
Listen people. Captain Christman is a consistently good ballplayer. In certain games he is a great, even transcendant ballplayer (for reference see Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS). But he is 32 years old. He throws like Bill Gates. He has had a litany of injuries that on my softball team would guarantee him starting status as reward for all-out play until we were propping up his corpse at third, but which do not make me give him a four year deal at YES network money.
He is a liability in a multi-year deal due to his age, niggling dings, and propensity toward what I like to call "Southern craziness". His second half stats in 2005 were not great, generously speaking. His BABIP was unnaturally high at .343 for the season in 2005 - he was essentially "using the Force" on many of his ground balls and soft bloopers. This statistic is very unlikely to be repeated (although Rod Carew says hi).
The real issues here are twofold:
1) Christ left the Sox for the Spankies. Ordinarily, this would be insufferable, tragic, but honestly - has ever a retard groomed himself for that team more than JD? The low IQ, the self-absorption, the purely evil agent, the waxed chest, the wife with fake tits - he has been playing for NYC off the field for years. It's time he went home. Let him go.
2) We have no Centerfielder. This is an actual problem, rather than an hysterical reaction. The two names on the table at this point are Jeremy Reed and Coco Crisp, both of whom I would much rather have than Cavechrist. But now the cost has gone up. Arroyo is a certain goner if we trade for either player, and the semi-accomplished Crisp will cost more; a bitter pill to swallow in spite of the additional revenue realized from breakfast-related marketing tie-ins.
Overall, I still have faith in the hydra that represents the Boston Red Sox. But they've got a lot of work to do, and unfortunately for them, everyone on earth knows exactly what they need and what they have to get it with. This is not what is generally referred to as "bargaining from a position of strength", but luckily there are teams out there whose fans are only coming to see games on "Molotov Cocktail Night", and this levels the field a teensy bit (I mean you Seattle and KC).
There is a lot of hot stove left, and I for one would like to see some cooking. Until April, it's all I have left.
Friday, December 09, 2005
The Sox have made two fairly savvy trades in the past week, let's take a look!
First off, we traded uber-fratboy and Wakefield valet Doug Mirabelli to San Diego for 2B Mark Loretta. Mirabelli certainly had value, although if the Sox have any faith at all in Shoppach this was mitigated, but Loretta, if he reverts to anything resembling 2003-2004 form in Fenway, will be a monster addition at 2B. Obviously this could be said to be a short-term fix with Pedroia nipping away at the Bigs, but it works on every level. I think everyone agrees this trade benefits everyone involved.
On a more controversial note (at least to Braves fans) the multi-headed monster traded milquetoast SS Edgar Renteria to Atlanta for can't-miss (WARNING! WARNING!) prospect Andy Marte. Actually, according to both Schuerholz and Lajoie, Marte is already major-league ready, and will somehow be inserted into the Sox lineup in 2006. With Marte, Lowell and Youks all on the team, you can be sure that either one guy gets dumped in the remainder of the offseason, or is grumpy 'til July (and my money's on Youks, I'm sorry to say). There is some possibility that one of the trio moves to 1B, but I'm thinking they end up in a platoon there with Petagine (I hope) or a late-offseason pick-up like Snow. At any rate, there are worse problems to have than too many decent RH bats in the line-up.
As I alluded to earlier, the Braves fans are going apeshit over the fact that they've lost a top prospect (because they are SO short on them) and gained a - at least recently - mediocre shortstop. Sox fans are pretty excited about this trade for exactly the same reasons. The controversy created on the Sox side stems instead from the rather sudden realization that this leaves the team without a starting shortstop, in a free agent and trade market that (stipulating that Miggy Tejada is a whackjob) is without any good ones. Gammo talks about Alex Gonzalez, who as any fantasy league owner knows, is the white chalk outline of an homicide at the plate.
SOSH fiends are going back and forth about moving Pedroia to short. Cora seems to be fairly roundly derided. I would love to see Pedroia given a shot at SS (the assumptive model here is The Eckstein Anomoly), but I'd also be OK with Cora there. Most of the crap he's taking as in reference to his bat, which, and I hate to disagree with guys that are vastly more intelligent than I am and have access to better statistical data, does not seem much worse than Rent's was. Compare:
(I apologize that my HTML is such that I had to use the image copy, but there it is. I'm pressed for time, and couldn't format the table on the fly)
I look at these numbers and naturally their shocking unimpressiveness jumps right off the page, but still, people were quite willing to have Renteria back in 2006, with the vague notion that he would put up marginally better numbers, for $10 million dollars! Cora (whose "full" season numbers were in pitcher-friendly Chavez Ravine - I didn't take the time to park adjust - and in the 9-hole as opposed to Renteria's #2 in front of Ortiz) makes a fraction of that but the argument could be made that he will perform at the plate just as well as Edgar would have. Plus, look how many times the guy gets hit by pitches! Sox fans love that! For what Cora's making, if he puts up an OPS of .740, I'm laughing all the way to the bank. And if he puts up an OPS of .720 (which is more likely) I'm still thinking, we just saved a ton of money.
It would be nice to have a top-notch shortstop, or even a top-notch shortstop prospect quite frankly, but if we have to scrape by for a year with mediocrity at the position, at least we're not vastly overpaying for it. To my way of thinking, we're in that position without making a single phone call.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Sure he's 25, and most people are assholes at that age, and sure, several of his assholicious moments have come at the expense of the Yankees (which is nice), and sure, when an asshole is OUR asshole I tend to tolerate them a bit more (this is a lie; I am all things intolerant) - but can you see the fireworks between this kid and Schilling? Is this not the worst-case scenario for the clubhouse, and best-case scenario for Dan Shaughnessy? I don't know, maybe I overrate these things. But I like to see guys pulling for each other, I like a harmonious clubhouse. I think in a town like Boston where you can never get away from the office, it helps to like the people you work with. This is the only town in baseball where the clubhouse is your quiet time.
All the above being said (rather laboriously, but still), I have no trouble at all with the acquisition of Beckett. Rationally, I don't even have a big problem with the price we paid. You always go with the proven commodity, and Beckett is an historical Yankee-killer, although those were the pre-juice-poster-boys Yankees. No matter how you look at it, at 25 years old, with killer stuff, he has a lot to offer this ballclub for years to come. He's an ace.
Here's the thing though: I was so looking forward to watching these kids come up. Tracking Hanley and Sanchez (et alia) through the Sox farm system was(is) tremendous fun; it was like gambling with no downside. Now they're gone, and Lester is the last remaining blue-chip prospect with all-star talent who is close to the bigs. I love Pedroia, he's a gamer and I know he'll be a successful ballplayer, but it's not quite the same with him. He's a fait accompli; some of the romance is missing for me. With the others we had a chance to watch three exciting could be-should be gems blossom, and just possibly catch fire simultaneously - can you imagine what if? And now it's gone, pending physicals. Alas, that's the business, and that's the game. I wish them well, and will soldier on.
OK, ok, realistically I understand that Hanley is most likely the latest in a long string of guys with sports bodies and gas station brains (no offense to the pump jockeys out there; I've done it). What can you do? For whatever reason, some guys never quite "get it". Sanchez, based on what I have read, projects to be a pretty useful major leaguer. But will he be Josh Beckett? I don't know that I'd fly to Vegas on those odds.
So the Sox get better. The Mike Lowell question remains to be answered, and at the price tag, it might have some impact on the Manny question. Since my behavior in these matters is to focus on the underdog aspect of the game, I am hoping they keep him, he comes back to have a monster year, and Youks becomes the greatest first baseman since, er, Kevin Millar. I like to ignore likelihoods.
You see, if I have to have a point, this is it: it's fun to hope for crazy shit.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
An example of this might have been one of those wax nose and moustaches, which as kids we mistakenly took for candy. Or, it might have been plastic fake vomit. Or, it could be the position of General Manager of the Boston Red Sox.
The trouble with the Yankee swap was that it was so fast that you hardly had a chance in the whirlwind of events to really look at what you were picking. Rational thought rarely entered into it. In the current Sox GM situation, however, guys appear to have that one extra night to realize that the job would suck ass. This is trouble for the team.
However, as Gail Nokes states in Raising Arizona, "I'd rather light a candle than curse your darkness". So, I have a solution. I will take the job. I'm not rational or sensible. I have shown no ability to wrestle with authority in any of my prior positions in the workspace. I am physically incapable of sucking up (leading to a conversation with management at B of A that included the phrase "don't let the door hit you in the ass"), but nobody likes a good suck-up. I toady painfully. So I'm a personality fit.
On the baseball side of the house, I was a star in little league, all the way up until I lost almost total interest in living my dad's projected dreams. So I understand the game, -ish. Where I make errors in talent evaluation I will almost certainly balance them by getting guys that make up for a lack of ability with a blue-collar, "dirt dog" attitude. I will not trade for any truly fat players unless they have ironic nicknames. If a player is completely insane I will make sure that they are also injury-prone so we only have to put up with their shit on the field until a hammy blows out. I'll get one decent year out of every reliever I sign. I'll over-spend on somebody every year, because I can. Basically, I will encompass years of Boston General Management in one devil-may-care package. Why not?
Best of all, I come cheap. They can lowball me, I don't care. I'll be there for the fans, not the Apprentice wanna-be owners. And when Larry starts to get on my nerves and acts like a craphound, I'll show them by drinking watered-down Fenway beer on the job. It will be perfect.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Will we get Theo back, will we get a new GM, will the new GM destroy the franchise (for reference, see Jim Bowden), will Manny be back next year being Manny, will Christ be back being Captain Caveman, etc., etc.,....there are so many things hanging over our heads, and yet we know nothing, just little tidbits of dried news crumbs that are fed to us, and which do not sate our hunger. This is a dramatic re-enactment of the past week and a half, in which each day I wonder if something good will happen to the olde towne team, and go to bed the same way. I'm simultaneously bored, and going insane.
Theo being gone is obviously bad. That being said, Moore's resume thus far looks pretty spiffy, as evidenced by the astonishing player development in recent years in Atlanta. So I hope they sign him, although I liked the Kim Ng angle alot too, largely due to my belief that since she currently resides in Southern California she is extremely hot and probably shoots adult films on the side. This is not abnormal thinking either, trust me.
It's bizarre, the half-life of the offseason. On the one hand, I like the guys we've got, and want to see them succeed. On the other hand, I'm a Boston fan, capable of turning savagely on any player who takes a statistical dive (see Kevin Millar, 2005), so I've got to wonder about Manny and Christ and The Pro, and think rationally about getting some younger, cheaper blood in there. On top of it all, I sometimes just like getting new guys in, it's almost like buying new shoes or a new car. The novelty of rooting for somebody new, giving them a fresh start, gives me a little boost. I was dying for Petagine to get a chance last year, because all the evidence pointed to him being able to flat-out hit. I hope to do that again this year.
The key is getting new guys that aren't stiffs. Nobody likes fresh blood that sucks. (Well, that might not be true. Cubs fans do, God love them. The boo is like crack rock to the average Cubbie fan. It endears them to the players.) Hell, in Boston we don't like fresh blood that's standard issue. If you're not awesome, you do suck.
So what am I saying? Nothing, obviously. I've got no compass, no direction, I'm just hanging here, waiting, waiting for a glimpse of what's to come, some sense of who I'm rooting for next year. I'm waiting, and I hate it.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Click above to throw up in your mouth
There is no way in hell that this can be true. Let's look at this glancingly - just glancingly, because to stare at it directly might cause permanent synaptic damage.
The Red Sox will trade Manny Ramirez, arguably the best RH hitter in baseball without 100+ million dollars in guys hitting behind him, for an $8 Million Dollar man made of papier mache, and a guy who is paid 8.5 million dollars next year to (assuming no regression) completely suck ass. Why on earth would they do this, unless the plan is to gut the payroll and sell the team? This would be, bar none, the worst trade since a guy named Larry Anderson was involved. I refuse to believe this is true. The repercussions among the fan base would have to be given one of those friendly hurricane names like "Stan".
The only way I could see this happening, even remotely, would be if they simply released Erstad outright once the deal is done. Of course, that provides no solution for the gaping hole at first. Crap, I have no point here. I am just making shit up.
Ok, actually, I have one point here. There is no way this trade gets done unless the Sox get pitching back. End of story. I will not be proven wrong on this.
(Please God, don't let me be proven wrong on this)
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
There is a large contingency (and a very small part of me) that says "tough crap". These guys make millions of dollars a year. The play a game for a living. They have everything they want. They can suck it up and be nice to the fans - the fans pay their salaries! I can understand the logical argument being presented but largely this is a bunch of bullshit. Every human being has a right their privacy. By stating that when they are out they are in the public eye and therefore belong to the public, you're dehumanizing these people, turning them into little puppets for you to play with because you're bored with your life and want to grab a tiny piece of what they have. Not only is it not right, it's despicable.
When ballplayers are at the ballpark, they should be held accountable - that is their workplace, it's why we love them; because they step into the arena and do what we cannot. When a guy makes millions of dollars a year and reports to camp out of shape, shame on him. When a guy doesn't run hard on every single ball in play, shame on him. When a guy sits out because he's tired or has a ding, shame on him. But when a guy complains because he took his kids to McDonald's and they got molested 45 times by total strangers, he has a right. If you can't respect other people, no matter what their job, shame on you.
So, so long Theo. I know working with Lucchino, a true douchebag in the moistest sense of the word, surely hastened your departure. But knowing that most of us think our bosses are tools, I suspect that the killer was - you could never escape the job. Where would you go? When I get to the point that I want to kill my arrogant megalomaniacal overlord (strangely, I have one too), I can leave and do something that relaxes me, or nothing at all. I don't think Theo had that option. I think that at 31 years old he wasn't ready to be owned, not even by this team that he truly loves. Not even by this public who adores him. So he's walking away, and it's probably the right decision for him.
That's what we loved about Theo right? He could make the hard decisions. He could analyze, assess, pull the trigger, and not look back. It separated him from us. For us, the hard decision is to look at the man you admire, the man you maybe love in a strange way, and leave him the hell alone. Admire him from a distance, and take some pride in your reserve. That's the team play. I hope we learn to make it.
Monday, October 24, 2005
The Captain Caveman story will certainly be one to watch. JD is in a strong bargaining position. He again put up good numbers in 2005 although his power figures dropped considerably from 2004. The theory that as Damon goes, so goes the Sox offense was pretty defensible this year. CF is a tough position to fill, as is the leadoff spot in the order. No matter how you slice it, Johnny is the premier free agent on the market for CF, and maybe period. The problem is, Caveypoo wants a 5 year contract, and he's well on the wrong side of 30. There is a good chance that he's a Finley-type physically who will play well into his late 30s, but there is also a good chance that one of these days he'll hit the wall too hard, at too awkward an angle, and that will be that. You hate to downgrade a player because he plays too hard, but there it is. We Bostonians remember Freddy Lynn fondly, but we didn't want him in the outfield at 35. There is really no free agent market at the position other than JD. So it looks like the Sox will be looking at Damon, or a trade, or a non-tender acquisition (for example, would they really want to try and fix Corey Patterson? In Boston?). The list of names is long, and unlikely. I have no idea who will be patrolling Fenway's center field next year. I don't think anyone does.
Now, the infield! The Sox could potentially lose every infield player save Renteria (and there are those who wouldn't mind seeing them make the sweep). This means that unless they want to start Alex Cora at 2B, something has to be done. I feel OK saying they do not want to do this.
Let's look at it positionally:
1B: I think it's safe to say the black hole known as Kevin Millar's offensive production will go away. I think it's also safe to say that John Olerud made a favorable impression and could be back at cost. Roberto Petagine put up a 1.ooo+ OPS in Pawtucket and had good at-bats for the big league club but never got into Tito's good graces, perhaps owing to his lack of clowning. Still, for those of us who believe AAA numbers are a decent predictor of MLB performance, we'd like to see him get a shot...problem being, we don't need two platoon left-handed 1Bs(although each of them could blow a hamstring getting out of the recliner). The free-agent crop is pretty thin here. Paul Konerko is the obvious cream, but his pricetag skyrocketed in the 7th last night and he seems content to stay in Chicago. There are a couple guys that could be had on the trading block, but the costs might be prohibitive. Adam Dunn would be a fantastic addition to the club, but Cincy would undoubtedly ask for every pitching prospect we have plus a testicle. That's not good. Aubrey Huff could possibly he had for an Arroyo/Shoppach combo, but the lefty thing creeps up again, as does the "worst full year yet" thing. This will be an interesting story. I'm hoping we sit tight, suck it up with Olerud and Petagine and maybe add an Eduardo Perez. Even if these guys don't play that well, they would have a three-player platoon with over 100 years on the planet - that's got to count for something.
2B: Keep Graffy. One meaningless but egregious error aside, it's difficult to think you'll improve on the package he brings to the table for the money.
3B: This is interesting. Mueller is a fantastic player and with Varitek I think the professional spine of the team. But with his knees going, and the likelihood that he'll get some strong offers in the market, the Sox may need to look to Youks to step in. He has certainly shown he's ready to get his chance. The Free Youks bandwagon will be ecstatic; I suspect that most of us, even when/if Youks succeeds, will find the departure of Mueller bittersweet. The forward thinkers have put out the theory that the Sox should go after Furcal to play SS and move Renteria to 3B. I'm not a huge fan. It's not impossible, nothing is, but Renteria appears to be a guy who doesn't adapt well to new environments, so at $10 mil a year, I'm not experimenting.
The infield x-factor is Glaus. Obviously this guy would hit extremely well at Fenway - and most other parks for that matter - when healthy. Problem being, of course, he's made of cellophane paper. He wants to play 3B but his shoulder's shot. Could the Sox pick him up and convert him to 1B? Maybe. Does he want to do that? Rumors say no. Sometimes guys come around, but other times, Jay Payton says Hi.
The Sox are fortunate right now in that they have a lot of high-level prospects in the pipeline, and these are prospects that over the next couple years need to be indoctrinated into the major league ballgame. One thing that I hope the front office takes into account is the fact that these guys need leadership in the clubhouse and on the field. That's a big reason why I'd like to have Graffanino on the squad while Pedroia gets his feet wet. It's a big reason why despite Renteria's iffy first season in Beantown I'm happy we have him. 2006 won't be a rebuilding year, not entirely, but only a fool would think it won't be a building year.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
On top of the spend, you've got a lot of other things going on in the fabulous world of Manny. One, he's a wierd dude. I don't understand why this bothers some people, but apparently it does. Two, he's never been confused with Charlie Hustle. I personally don't think Manny is lazy, because on occasion he'll surprise you with his effort on the field, and off the field the guy is a workhorse. I think sometimes he FORGETS to play hard. You know, he's humming a little tune, and he gets to the good part, and he sort of forgets that that grounder to deep short might be beaten out for an infield hit. Three, his defense can only be described as "white-knuckle". He plays the wall pretty well, he led the league in assists, but his, er, playmaking itself can be harrowing. A Manny error is almost always catastrophic, and brings to mind the Keystone Cops, or Three Stooges (oddly, the other left-fielder who brings to mind the Three Stooges is the Yanks' Hideki Matsui, although in his case it's due to his well-documented resemblance to utility stooge Shemp). These things, plus Manny's occasional rest day - he still plays more games than nearly every positional player on the team throughout the course of the season - drive the fans crazy and lather up the media but are not the reason he's being shopped around.
The reason Manny is being shopped around is because he's 33, getting a little longish in the tooth, and the law of diminishing returns is starting to kick in. If they deal him this year, in terms of productivity they will lose on the deal in 2006, almost certainly. They will probably lose on the deal in 2007, and might lose on the deal in 2008. At the plate, Manny PRODUCES. Not only does he put up numbers himself, he protects Papi. He makes pitchers nibble, throw more pitches. He enhances the line up. This is inarguable, but time will take it's toll, and bizarrely his contract does not at all reflect this other, equally inarguable, fact. So, Theo et al. are looking to get something back while it can still be said that Manny is near his peak years.
The Mets are likely the only taker for Manny, and most likely the Sox would get Beltran in return (although you'd have to hope for more) after his craptacular year in New York in 2005. Even with the savings on that contract - only about $2 Mil in 2006 - there is no way Beltran plus crappy free-agent signing equals Manny's offensive production next year. No way. But the Sox have another problem to solve: do they want to give $40 - $50 Million and 4-5 years to an aging caveman who ironically throws like a girl? Probably not - so they need a centerfielder.
It's not really a win-win, not really. Not for next year. The free agent market doesn't have enough quality to replicate the offense Manny brings to the table. But I'm betting that Theo can see that production coming from somewhere next year or the year after that, and he wants to have the money to go after it. So he's selling high. He's a bright guy, our Theo.
I hope we sign him soon.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Ok, so in the case of the Angels-Chisox game from Wednesday night, it turned about to be a little anti-climactic within the framework of "great baseball", but still, what a week! Last night's Houston-Redbirds game was fantastic playoff baseball: great pitching, great D, some clutch hitting (although being a statistically educated man I am aware that there is no such thing as a clutch player), and guys playing hard and getting dirty.
Would I trade anything for 4 years of Jim Edmonds, even at his advanced age? Of course I would! I'm not a total idiot. Well, that's not true, exactly, but still, you've gotta love how Edmonds plays the game, unless you're his manager or GM, in which case you're probably waiting for him to do something to end his career. So, simply put, I'm not here to make cogent arguments, I just type things at random.
On the warm stove front, the big Boston news today (or rather, non-news) is that the ownership group and Theo Epstein are pretty far apart in the salary negotiations for Theo's contract. This is beyond my limited intellect. I mean, what more could you ask this kid to do? Are they waiting for him to sign an incentive-laden contract that pays him an extra $250K if the team wins two World Series IN THE SAME YEAR? Actually, if the winner of the MLB World Series were to actually play teams from the rest of the world thereafter, I suppose this would be possible. And, in fact, appropriate (for background, mockery, see: Eddie Izzard).
But that is something that we Sox fans will obsess over until it's done; we need Theo to keep this team moving forward. In some way this will nag at us all say long, as will the question of what happens with Manny, and whether or not Clemens will go straight to hell or spend a few millenia in purgatory signing autographs for fat kids. Hot stove, it gets under your skin. Let's face it; the offseason in many ways can be more fun than the season, in the same way that dreaming about that girl in high school that you never hooked up with can be more fun than actually hooking up with some skank in college that is far less attractive, but is, um, in season, as it were. So there's that.
All things being equal, 2005 has been a good year for baseball, even for Sox fans. Not a great year, but a good, semi-satisfying holdover year. I think in ten years time many folks will look back on this year as something of a watershed season in the modern game.
For myself, I'll look back on it as the time I grew to vaguely fear Edgar Renteria. But that too shall pass (I hope; Christ, we're on the hook for $30 Mil more).
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Looking at the picture above, I know what you're thinking: "What could possibly go wrong"? Well, umm, as it turns out, when two super-athletes get a head of steam going, and put all that momentum into a full-on headfirst dive that results in their skulls colliding, the middle of the road answer is that at least one of their faces basically shatters. And the other one doesn't feel so hot either.
Correlatively, you might be wondering "What's going on here - is this the Shocking Baseball Injury Blog"? I'm here to tell you no - it isn't. I pray I never have to write about such things again. But while I'm no kind of journalist, you have to admit this is news. I have been watching all kinds of sports for over 30 years, and with the possible exception of Joe Theisman's leg this is the most horrific incident I've seen. The irony here is that these are probably the only two guys in the Bigs that could have accomplished the feat on that ball. Cameron is a Gold Glove caliber positional player with better than average speed, and Beltran is a burner in CF. Maybe Crawford and Baldelli ( if they were ever healthy together) get to that ball simultaneously on speed alone, but in most cases one guy will be just a tad bit out of position, or the other guy doesn't have the wheels. Freakish.
But then, that's been the Year in Baseball. Thus far we've had two pitchers and at least two batters hurt with balls getting fired off their heads, two pretty bad collisions and then this terrible one, a guy breaking his toe kicking an inanimate object in anger, and my personal favorite - the probable Rookie Of The Year falling down his stairs carrying groceries, and breaking his collarbone. Out for the season.
Nevertheless, the game goes on, and we're getting down to the nitty-gritty. The Sox remain atop the East, but the Yankees are still in the hunt, thanks to the magnificently idiotic managing of Buck Showalter (historically I would insist that his decision-making was evidence that he was gambling against his own team, or on the take from Steinbrenner, but now I know that that would get me in trouble so I'll just say he's incompetent to a cartoonish degree). Baltimore is in utter disarray after the waggish (not often you can use this as a double-entendre and pun) Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, and every Oriole starter began needing them. Toronto is still the lurker in the deep, but I think with Halladay out - with freakish injury - they're not for real.
Regarding the Sox, there are a great many questions to be answered, mostly around the starting rotation. As touched upon last week, staff "ace" Matt Clement has entered the "Dark Time" - the second half of the season. Aaand, is one might expect from looking at his historicals, he sucks now. Obviously taking a rip off the back of the head doesn't do much to improve your game, but there we are.
Wells is old and fat, and probably completely insane, but right now is the most consistent guy in the rotation. Wakefield is either Brilliant, or OhMyGodNOOOOO!! Yes, these are the guys we're happy about.
Arroyo is, well, a conundrum. Coming into the season I was so high on this kid, I surprised myself. The Great (just ask him) Schilling himself said he had "balls the size of Saturn"! I mean, that is pretty high praise, bearing in mind that Saturn is a planet and all. But apparently these balls can occasionally get in the way of throwing your fastball for strikes, and this results in hitters teeing off on your junk, and basically knocking you and your giant nuts out in the 4th. But then again, sometimes the planets align, if you'll pardon me extending the metaphor, and Arroyo is lights-out. It's tough as a fan to see someone walk out there and wonder "Will I get Jekyll, or Hyde?"...(for reference, see Wakefield, Tim).
In the most interesting development of the season, "insurance policy" starter Wade Miller is taking a much-needed stint on the DL, with some recurring tightness in his total inability to strike guys out. This means that with Schilling still relegated to the bullpen (which he is using as practice to pitch during the 2006 Home Run Derby), it will be rookie Jon Papelbon getting the call from Pawtucket.
Now, nobody is more excited for rookies than I am, and by all accounts Papelbon has the make up of a big-league starter. I really hope he comes up and does well. His first start he pitched better than expected, going almost 6 innings and only giving up a couple runs while striking out 7. It's hard to expect that wil be the case for the rest of his efforts though, as he'll get scouted, and guys will start to catch up to his stuff. The question mark is: the first time he gets dinged up, how will that affect his confidence? Hopefully he's the made of the stern material guys need to be to play in Boston. We'll see shortly. In the meantime, it's fun watching the messageboard guys try to come up with a nickname for him - Arroyo's, as you might imagine, is Saturn Balls.
In an unrelated note, my softball team Chaunch beat up on the evil Cobras this weekend, scoring so many runs, and spanking them so badly, that I never even once wondered about the score. All I know is that they have a Bad Person on their team who ruins the game for everyone, and disgracing him made everyone's day. Still, since Chaunch is Love, we did it with kindness, and walk-up songs, and PBR. You see, if people could just do everything with kindness, and walk-up songs, and PBR, there would be no war, no famine, no um, work...well, you can see where I'm going, but still it's not a bad idea.
As it turns out, the current Yankees ballclub may be the most easily disliked team we'll see in some time, for a couple of reasons.
First off, the payroll. It's not just unfair, it's insulting. The real message to everyone who doesn't subscribe to YES is "we don't even have to make an attempt to play fairly with you, you're beneath us". Looking and listening around the country, there is more anti-Yankee sentiment now than I've ever seen, and I've spent 20 years trying to drum it up. The Steinbrenner mentality (read: Bush administration mentality) is that Might Makes Right. Welcome to the Dark Ages, folks!
Second, the cheating. On top of the $200-million plus dollars a year they're spending on these guys, they also feel the need to cheat. Both Giambi and Sheffield have essentially admitted to using performance enhancers, and the saddest story of all is that unless you live in a world clouded by fever dreams, it's fairly obvious Giambi is back on them. It's impossible to know all the hows and wherefores, but anyone who hits the gym in their 30s knows that the muscle doesn't pile on free'n'easy anymore, certainly not with the ability to lift anything for days afterward. For Jason to have thrown on 25 pounds of muscle in 6 months while simultaneously finding his hitting stroke, well, God just didn't build us like that. While it enrages me that the Sox coughed up the 2003 ALCS in significant part due to his two drug-enhanced HRs off Pedro, I pity him his future.
However, and this is the interesting final point, the MLB's luxury tax is actually starting to even the playing field a bit. Two years ago this same team of Yanks would have most likely entered the playoffs with a rotation that included Ben Sheets after a midseason acquisition, or at least entered 2006 with him after signing him in the offseason. The money Milwaukee received from the revenue sharing deal helped them to sign their ace to a multi-year contract. If small market teams continue to make smart decisions with their young players, the future may see them continuing to make the signings they need to compete, and limiting big-market teams' ability to win all the top-dollar players. Sure, as long as Scott Boras is alive the Yankees will get more than their fair share of the pie, but the environment appears to be tempered.
So this could, maybe, might mean future Yankee teams might be human enough that they are no longer universally hated. They may play prospects they actually developed. They may not spend twice as much on their starting rotation than several small-market teams' entire payroll. It's a good thing.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are now a couple-three years into being a big-market team but thinking like a middle-market team. They didn't realize the fruits of this modality shift in 2005 and may not in 2006, but in 2007 the landscape will most likely have shifted. If all goes well they will have 3/5 of their starting rotation populated by players they drafted and developed. The middle of the infield may be the same. They will attempt to leverage their dollars to overpay for the missing pieces in competition with the Yankees, rather than go toe to toe on spend with them at every position, which is not feasible, even with the rabid fanbase known as Red Sox Nation behind them. In the near future, it looks like Sox teams will be build on the principles of balance and constistency, and this should translate into contention with their resources. This is Theo Epstein's legacy, one which I hope he continues to build from Yawkey Way (read: please get his contract done).
Clearly, the Sox are not alone in this approach to general management. Even as we speak, the remaining 2005 playoff agenda features teams that were built with balanced spending and development and a healthy respect for playing the game the right way. Sure, the team I root for and the team I love to hate are out of it, but I'm finding myself happy enough just being able to watch great baseball. No matter which of these teams end up in the final showdown, we should be treated to an epic World Series, untainted by the spectre of animosity that has shadowed the AL East for so long.
I'm kind of looking forward to it.