Sunday, April 30, 2006


What the....? I leave the country for two weeks and the team goes to shit?!? I am displeased. If this behavior continues I may have to begin referring to myself in the third person. You don't want Shea doing that. Shea will annoy the fuck out of you.

First, let's state the obvious. This is the worst possible time for the team to be slumping, if they are in fact slumping, with the Yanks and Jays coming to town. Regardless of what's happening, they have some important games upcoming, and they need to be better than they are.

They have lost 7 of their last 10 games. Toronto handled them easily, taking Beckett down and pounding on the unsuspecting Lenny Dinardo. Cleveland also took 2 of 3 and embarrassed Beckett in a 15-3 blowout. Worst of all, the Sox dropped 2 of 3 to Tampa Bay, including today's headscratcher in which Rudy Seanez was allowed to pitch in a one-run game (why? why?!?!?). This doesn't paint a pretty picture but if Tito doesn't throw this one away by bringing in Rudy, they are riding a two-game winning streak and nearly played .500 ball on the road, and all is not lost. It's early, and I am not going to call this a full-on slump, but the Sox are not playing to potential.

The most obvious issue is Crisp's finger injury, which has kept him out far longer than expected. It looks like he'll miss 33 games all told, which for those of you who struggled in maths, is over 20% of the regular season. That hurts. Stern projects to be the closest thing to Crisp as a player but it appears the Sox don't think he's ready for primetime (.190 in 20 ABs doesn't feel like Christmas, but it's only 20 ABs) and this gives the FO the opportunity to see what Wile E Mo Pena, Super Genius can do. Crisp brings a lot of energy and ability to the team, and while statistically Youks has performed, the top of the lineup is not the same without Coco.

The top of the lineup is also not the same without Mark Loretta. Loretta's average has dropped nearly 50 points since his walk-off HR on April 17th against Seattle, and while at this point in the season that doesn't spell disaster, it's a little disturbing, isn't it? You have to wonder if Papi or Wily Mo pounded him a little too hard on the helmet during the walk-off celebration. With Crisp out and Youks riding the Lark 2000 around the bases, he needs to show a bit of the gap power he advertised in SD. I was high on Loretta coming into the season and I think he'll turn it around, but this week would be a good time to start.

Manny obviously had a slow start, possibly due to his not realizing the season had started. A couple weeks back Johnny Pesky pulled him aside and using hand-puppets explained that it was time for Manny to play for real, and since then he's picked it up and his OPS is now around .900. Ortiz is doing what Ortiz does, but when Loretta and Manny are hitting it makes his job much easier.

Overall, this team is just not getting it done offensively. Let me shock everyone for a second. As of today, the Boston Red Sox have scored the fewest runs in the AL East. They have scored 117 runs to New York's 144. The Rays have 120, second-to-last. As a benchmark, Cleveland (largely thanks to the Sox) have scored 154 runs to lead the majors.

When you sign Alex Gonzalez, your runs scored figure is going to drop. He cannot hit - at all. When Coco returns, Loretta normalizes, and Manny gets hot this team will score runs, although fewer than last year because they have AGon in the nine-hole, and Dustan Mohr is getting PAs. Still, they will score runs. The idea of course is that their run differential stays the same or improves, and this is accomplished through, you guessed it, pitching and defense. Here is where we are seeing some disappointing figures.

Defense is not a pressing concern in the infield. Lowell's D has not been as advertised, as he has three errors already, and a starting-team-lowest .952 fielding percentage. Since he's hitting well it's a wash but this illustrates the unfortunate theme that Sox players are not playing to potential. Cora also has 3 errors, and he's only been in 6 games (he's a....ahhh....late inning defensive replacement). Still, Gonzalez has been stellar at short, and Loretta and Youks are capable.

Defense in the outfield is troubling right now, since Manny is Manny; Wile E Mo is, well, wow; and Trot is old and slow. Still, if it's cost us more than one game I'd be surprised.

Defense behind the plate is solid as usual when Tek is catching, but is apocalyptically bad when Josh Bard settles in. I am pretty sure there is an entire betting room in Vegas specializing in Knuckleball Keno (a new game every five seconds!) where you take odds on every pitch that Bard commits a passed ball. It is nearly impossible for the Sox to win when he is behind the plate. If guys aren't taking free bases on the 10 passed balls, they're swiping one of their 12 bags thus far - in only 7 games. Short story, Wake is 1-4. This needs to be addressed, or this team does not make the post-season, end of story.

Starting pitching is the thing that concerns me thus far. Pitching stats for 2006 are below:

C Schilling 4 1 2.88 6 40.2 32 0.97 7 40 0.90
T Wakefield 1 4 3.90 5 32.1 30 1.28 11 18 0.84
J Beckett 3 1 4.50 5 32 27 1.25 13 21 1.69
M Clement 2 2 6.14 5 29.1 37 1.79 15 22 0.93
L DiNardo 0 1 7.36 5 18.1 31 1.99 5 8 1.99
K Foulke 2 1 3.71 13 17 11 0.76 2 16 0.53
J Papelbon 0 0 0.00 13 14.1 7 0.64 2 14 0.00
R Seanez 0 0 8.68 9 9.1 12 1.98 6 14 2.97
M Timlin 2 0 1.93 11 9.1 11 1.76 5 6 0.99
J Tavarez 0 0 5.40 8 8.1 9 1.36 2 6 2.22
D Wells 0 1 15.75 1 4 10 2.75 1 1 6.75
J Van Buren 0 0 3.00 1 3 2 1.00 1 1 0.00
M Delcarmen 0 0 13.50 3 2.2 8 4.09 1 2 0.00
D Riske 0 0 18.00 1 1 2 2.00 0 0 9.00

What jumps out? With the exception of Schilling, the starters are not controlling the strike zone, and giving up far too many walks. In the cases of Beckett and Dinardo, mistakes are turning into home runs. Wake is giving up runs since Bard can't catch him (his WHIP and HRR are normal for him), and Clement simply sucks no matter how you slice it. With Fatty McFatFat on the DL, this is not a bedtime story for Sox fans. The much-vaunted Red Sox pitching staff is not off to a strong start (well, except for Arroyo). I know what some of you may be thinking, and before you ask, Jon Lester is not off to a strong start either - he is 0-4 with a 6.94 ERA in Pawtucket, and needs some more seasoning. It goes without saying, I mean really, it does, but these guys have got to throw strikes and get ahead in the count. This team cannot win without quality starts.

The bullpen looks good - Papelbon is a beast and Foulke is coming back - with the exception of the aforementioned Rudy Seanez who quite frankly is the anti-christ. He should be DFA'd very shortly. I will take anyone from Pawtucket, or Portland, or the Stop & Shop over Rudy. I would prefer to see Mad Jeep pitch a couple innings then leap into the stands to sucker-punch a toddler than see Rudy Seanez pitch in a Red Sox uniform ever again. That is all I will say about that.

So this is a big week for your 2006 Red Sox. In the division they are currently 8-7, and as of today are in second place behind the hated Spanks who have gone 7-3 over the past 10 games. The MFYs come in for a quick 2-game kiss, then the Jays (who are 4-2 vs. the Sox this year) come in and Halladay goes against Clement for the Rolaids Spring Classic. Then Baltimore, and our nemesis the otherwise-crappy Rodrigo Lopez, comes in for a visit. There are no easy games for this team. If the Sox do not step up in several key areas, it could be a long, hard spring.

God, I missed baseball.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Wow. I hope everyone is enjoying April 11th, 2006, know from this day forward as Baseball Clown Car Day. It's not over yet, but we've had all sorts of good things happening!

First off, mere seconds after Joe Soxfan pronounces Mike Lowell dead by pointing at him and yelling "yah dead Lowell!" Mike goes 4-4 against Toronto with three doubles. Not only that, but he hits to all fields. Apparently rumors of his demise are premature.

Later in that same game Tito does me a personal favor and inserts Wily Mo Pena Super Genius into right field to replace the - gasp! - hamstrung Trot Nixon. Using his superior intellect WMPSG waits until Foulkie gives up his signature 340-ft. fly ball out, but turns the tables on everyone by pushing it into the bullpen for a homer. This move, which WMPSG also styled on last season as a Red, is now known simply as the Super Genius. Again, Wily Mo is the gift that keeps on giving. If he did not have the same name as a beloved cartoon character, he'd be dead now.

After the game is long over, the hits keep coming. Adam Stern played his second game today in place of the injured Crisp, going 1-4 and knocking in two runs with a double while also stealing third. It's only two games but he's doing pretty well and one would think this is a somewhat notable MLB story. Not John Kruk though - during the primetime baseball segment of ESPNNews he calls Stern " Adam Stein". Adam, call your mom, she'll be so proud!

Meanwhile, down in New York, Andy Sisco delivers a pitch to Derek Jeter that is such an unbelievable gift that during the slo-mo replay you can actually see Jeter's eyes widening in shock. A high cutter with absolutely nothing on it, moving right up into the eyes - Derek's absolute favorite pitch. His facial expression as he hitches in shock, then deposits it into the left-field stands, is priceless. The pitch is so pathetic that you can feel Jeter pitying the poor bastard even as he strokes it out. Kansas City is just sad. At least they're not owned by Jeffrey Loria, I guess.

Lastly, my personal favorite. Bronson Arroyo hits his second home run in the past week against Glendon Rusch, the same guy that he hit his first career home run against a mere six days ago. Not only does he go yard on Rusch, he goes STREET! Somewhere in Wrigleyville a drunk is explaining to disbelieving onlookers that he was brained by Bronson Arroyo's second dinger of the week. Not good times, great times!

I'm giddy. With Nixon injured I think we're going to get to see more of the Super Genius, and more of Stern, my personal prospect. Two great tastes that go great together. Bring it on.

Coco, we hardly knew ye.

This is today's 10-minute post. I am in a hurry to drive an hour in a monsoon, because I like that sort of thing.

As everyone knows by now, Crisp has broken a finger while sliding awkwardly into third base. He'll be out anywhere from two weeks to a month or so. Some of you will recall the incredible animosity Manny generated when he pulled the exact same stunt a couple years back. Crisp is getting a flyer here, for a few reasons:

  1. He is generally athletic. When not hitting Manny looks like the type of guy that if you saw him running with scissors, you would simply assume he'd be dead inside 3 minutes. Crisp is getting the benefit of the doubt here in that people are assuming it was simply a fluke play.
  2. It's extremely early in the season, and the Sox have been winning. This makes everything a little easier to take.
  3. Now people can indulge in the guilty pleasure of seeing what Adam Stern has without cheating on Coco. I dare not even hope the unhope-able, that we could see one-man circus Wily Mo Pena Super Genius roaming center field like the Sasquatch. I would pay almost any price for that ticket ("Sometimes, when they hit the ball hard, I don't know where it is going").
Now, Mohr was called up, so the general assumption is that Stern will play against RHPs and Mohr will play against lefties. I don't actually know that that is true though. Stern does not have classic splits (you'll have to trust me on this, I don't have time to look it up again) and Mohr's lifetime .261/.345/.470 against LHPs doesn't exactly give one wood, so I would not be surprised to see Stern get most of the at-bats here. I think it serves him and the team better than trotting Mohr out there because he tries hard. Just off the top of my head I'm going to say Stern's defense is going to be a couple-three runs better than Mohr's over the course of a month, and that might be good enough for a win.

You hate to lose Crisp at this point because he just came out of the gate on fire, but if Stern performs the Sox are in an solid position for 2007. Nixon's ticket is up and Stern has a cannon arm if he has to play RF. Unless he shows more power than I think he has though, I see him more as a trading chip, since the Sox are historically not a team to build around multiple players of that type, and coming up you've got a lot of those (Ellsbury, Lowrie, Pedroia, Corsaletti). If Stern is ready for primetime, I suspect we won't keep him long. I could be wrong though; the guys at ST have been saying that like Ichiro he puts on a long ball show every batting practice.

I am a big fan of Stern, obviously. I'd love to see him mature into a 20/80/30 (HR/RBI/STL) guy and patrol Fenway's outfield for a few years. We need more Canadians - I am always saying that. Ask anyone.


As most of you who have known me some time will attest, I controll all sports, by forcing players and teams to do the exact opposite of whatever I predict. Please note how my earlier posts have turned Zito and the As around, heated Youkilis' bat up, and in general made all readers wonder if I am not a total idiot. As it turns out, I am a total idiot, it's just that that post is not an indicator of my idiocy, it's just a sampling of a gift I have.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Giddy Up!

First off, is there any better feeling in the world than being wrong about something you really wanted to be wrong about, even temporarily? Props to the A's for taking two of three from the Spanks! Granted, they had more help than anyone could possibly imagine, but still. Sometimes a little luck is all a team needs to start feeling good about their chances.

On to the barn-burner at Texas last night. This is a game that you have to feel pretty pumped about winning, because while you watched it you were repeatedly punching yourself in the nuts. Beckett threw about 70 (68?) pitches through the first 4 innings, and could not locate his curveball to save his life. Watching every at-bat go to 3-2 was nerve-wracking, and I was certain Texas was going to open it up every inning until Beckett got pissed and started mowing people down. His thing seems to be that he needs to be pissed to pitch well, which is fine. In fact, in the historically Irish-dominated hearts of Red Sox nation, anger is the only acceptable emotion - he's going to be a fan favorite in no time.

The real story of the game last night was the bats - or lack thereof. Given Beckett's propensity towards pitching out of trouble, you sort of figured he'd be able to keep us close after the first few escapes. The ongoing issue was - would the Sox ever get on the board? The Rangers had their much-heralded ace that noone's ever heard of Kameron Loe on the mound, and all he did was induce ground balls. Of his 23 outs, 19 came via the ground ball, including two double-plays by Big Papi, who had one of his worst days as a professional hitter (and maybe ever). His final line? 0-4, 2 DPs, 1K, 4 LOB. No bueno.

In the end of course, good things happened. Nixon was able to solve Loe for a dinger on a mistake pitch, and it was enough. Manny had another assist from left field on a Sveum-esque put-out at home plate on Teixeira, who is quite frankly appallingly, embarrassingly slow of foot. Loretta continues to prove his worth, and was the only guy who was consistently on base. Snow hit the ball on the nuts three times, albeit in the end had nothing to show for it. Beckett settled down, and he and Tek seemingly got on the same page, to finish the 6th and 7th innings strong. While Timlin looked pretty damn awful (shocker!) Paps came in to close the game out with a 1-2-3 9th including two Ks.

Anytime you take two of three on the road you can be pretty pleased, even if it is the Rangers. Still, there are some questions remaining at this point. First off, Manny looks terrible. He is hitting .100. He's taking his pitches and getting on base, but he just looks lost on his cuts. One has to assume he'll figure it out, but if he's not hitting things get decidedly easier for other teams. Ditto Youkilis, who is below the Mendoza line still. Tito is a guy who likes to stick with his guys so Youks will get his at-bats, but with Snow making great contact this is something to watch. Let me say this again: as much as I like Youks, Snow has plenty left and I have no problem with him at first nearly every day. The KB, less so.

On the pitching side of things, there are some same-old same-olds. Foulke was passed up for Paps last night, which is indicative of his current situation at less than 100%. This is something that hopefully works itself out over a ration of low-lev situations, but we'll see. Timlin looks like, well, Timlin - too many balls in play, too many base-runners. Eventually his rate of return will fall below what is acceptable for a set-up man in close games. Hopefully that happens next year, but the off-season acquisitions point towards the FO hedging their bets on that. He's on a short leash. Luckily we do now have the simply abysmal David Riske, and of course The Jeep, currently serving time in baseball's Crazy Jail. If Foulke is healthy, and Paps remains in the bullpen, the writing is on the wall for at least one of these guys come summer.

Lastly, but most importantly, will Wake and Bard be able to get on the same page? Bard looked handicapped in game two of the series. and Wake seems to be a guy who needs to know that his pitches aren't going to skate to the backstop. One unsubstantiated rumor mentioned on SOSH has a scout for one MLB club stating that the Sox will have a new backup catcher in the next few weeks. I'm not sure I buy this - how can it help to bring in someone with a completely new learning curve? I would prefer to give Bard some time to settle in before I shoot him, but it may well be that Wakefield can tell whether a guys has the hands necessary to catch the knuckler and has already pulled the plug. Who knows?

If Bard goes and Riske continues to suck like there's no tomorrow, Crisp becomes a very expensive centerfielder. Fortunately, if he continues to play like he has, I doubt you'll hear too many complaints, even from me.


Let's see how our dearly departed are doing, shall we?

J Damon 15 3 6 3 0 0 1 0.438 0.600 0.400
Hanley 13 2 6 1 1 0 3 0.500 0.692 0.462
Millar 8 4 4 1 0 0 3 0.556 0.625 0.500
Mueller 11 0 6 0 0 0 5 0.571 0.545 0.545

Hmm. The Small Sample Size sign is on, but these guys seem to be enjoying their new homes. I'm sure everyone is well aware of Bronson's big game yesterday (win and HR to help his cause), so thus far in 2006, it's a good year to have left Boston. Good. I for one wish them well.

Much more baseball to be played, many more stories to watch, many questions to be answered. It's April, and life is good. Giddy up.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Won, and Oh...

The Sox came out of the gate strong yesterday, breaking an unfortunate streak of five consecutive opening day losses with a sold win against a Texas Rangers team that simply cannot pitch. A team that plays in a ballpark that was designed for only two things:

1) Proximity to maximum possible number of strip clubs
2) Hitters

One game is obviously far too early to make a judgment, but it smells a little bit like those pundits who argued that Kevin Millwood wasn't the answer may have been right. At least he's not Chan Ho Park.

On the other hand, the once-and-future-king Curt Schilling looked really tough on the mound in his first real start since fully rehabbing his much-storied Frankenankle. He showed good velocity (depending on who you listen to, he was in the mid-90s on the heater) and location, and refrained from striking anyone in the skull. You have to be pleased.

The Red Sox internet community is agog with wonder at the one-two combination of Crisp and Loretta. Crisp continues to impress with his speed, if not his mathematics, and Loretta is proving that last year's downturn was simply injury-related. By the time pitchers get to Big Papi and Manny they'll have already had a pretty rough time of it. Coco also has shown flashes of brilliance in the field, although it's too early to assess his long term performance there. I suppose one could make the argument that it's far easier to play center when you know that you have to get to every single ball you possibly can. I am certain it never crosses his mind that either Nixon or Manny will be tracking down balls to the gap, or even in many cases to right or left field.

Offensive question mark (in the movie of his life he was to be played by Frank Gorshin until Frank's untimely death) Mike Lowell went yard yesterday and appears to be gaining confidence at the plate. Count me among those who think he can regain some semblance of his former hitting ability. I don't think we'll see him in his prime, or producing at a $9M a year clip, but he will produce. I like him on this team; I think it's a good fit.

Youks continues to refuse to hit, and has vowed that he will not hit again until people stop referring to him as the "Greek God of Walks". He has stated on numerous occasions that he does not like the moniker, partly because he is not Greek, but more importantly because it hurts his feelings and sometimes makes him cry. Nevertheless, with a (in my opinion) perfectly capable JT Snow behind him and a Korean behemoth waiting in the wings to eat Fenway Park, he needs to step it up.

AGon was a pleasant surprise yesterday, going the other way for a couple of hits. I assume this approach is the brainchild of Papa Jack in an effort to help him see the ball a bit better, and prevent him from winning his "pulled balls" contest with Lowell. If it continues I think we'll see his performance at the plate improve overall (not saying much). His defense continues to sparkle, although his baserunning leaves a wee bit to be desired, per yesterday's gaffe.

Foulke did not look good but was quoted as saying he was working on his fastball given the comfortable lead, and just wasn't spotting it well. The jury is still out on Foulke, but thus far its still looking like "12 Angry Men". Papelbon mowed through his inning in 13 pitches, and has the make-up of a guy who will breathe down Foulkie's neck as the season gets warm.

For the most part the team performed as designed, and that is a great sign. The pieces have looked pretty good in the abstract, but we want to see how they fit together, and the early returns are encouraging. Time will tell, but this team looks to be built to contend.


Leaving the Sox for a bit, I will share some thoughts on the debacle that was the Yanks - Os game last night. First off, no one should be surprised. Zito's ERA was 6.60 last April and 6.83 the April before that. Those numbers are so staggeringly bad I don't even have to look any deeper. His ERA against the MFYs for 2005 was 7.59, for 2004 it was 5.79 (in an odd juxtaposition). As a team the Spanks are hitting over .300 against Barry over the past two seasons. There is, in fact, not one shred of evidence available to mankind that states that Barry Zito would not get annihiliated last night. And lo! He got annihilated.

In spite of the utter lack of surprise with which I greeted this outcome, this was still a brutal game to watch. Oakland's recent history of rolling over against the Yankees is really starting to piss me off. They were 2-7 against the MFYs last season. This trend continues. The worst part of it is you can actually see them losing the game while they're playing it, in their body language and facial expressions. With Tejada gone the team lacks an offensive leader. I think they're hoping Frank Thomas will be that guy, and he made some strides last night by taking Johnson deep, but this is why you simply cannot bet on the As to win anything. They have no fire at the plate.

Pitching and defense wins championships is all well and good, but that assumes you can score runs against good teams, and they don't; not consistently. They averaged fewer than 4 runs per game last year against the Yanks, Angels, and Cleveland, and exactly 4 runs a game against Minnesota. They averaged 5.7 runs per game agains the Sox, but scored 35 of their 58 runs in two games (of 10) in which the Sox pitching went in the crapper. The aberration last year was against Chicago AL, where they went 7-2 and averaged almost 6 runs per game. Overall, I would describe that as a "nice to have". Maybe Billy feels they can keep other teams to three runs a game with shocking consistency. I'm not a believer.

On the other side of the diamond you have the most hate-able Yankee team in my lifetime. Let's take a look at this roster full of gems:
  • Randy Johnson: An absolute piece of shit, probably the worst human being in the Bigs.
  • Gary Sheffield: Well, he's a proven cheater, holds his own front office hostage by refusing to hustle when he wants a trade or refusing to hustle if he is traded, and hates everyone, even his own teammates. Oh, yeah, and he assaults fans. A career criminal.
  • Jason Giambi: More pathetic than hate-able, but a proven cheater whose every MLB accomplishment is tainted. Has never taken an at-bat naturally.
  • A-Rod: No one on earth likes this guy. Cheated on national television, got caught, and was unrepentent, because he's better than you. Just ask him - he's better than you.
  • Indian Name "Throws Like Girl": Johnny Damon has earned his turncoat stripes, and people frown on that. They start frowning about 2 seconds after you claim that you were being "disrespected" for $10 Mil a year. According to that math, 99.9999% of all Americans are living in a constant state of disrespect.
  • Jorge Posada: This is probably just me, because he looks like an effeminate dashboard troll. Still, that is not that likeable.
Basically Jeter and Williams are the only two guys on that team for whom it's possible to feel any empathy. Fruitbat (Rivera) seems like a decent guy but he is utterly devoid of personality. Mussina is a cypher. Cano is an unknown. The pitching staff after Johnson and Mussina are temps. When you think of the 2006 New York Yankees, you think "douchebags". The problem with this is that naturally, if you're a Yankees fan, you've gotta defend these guys. This creates an untenable situation in terms of relating to the outside world, because the message being sent to everyone is "we don't care about you, we don't care about fair play, we don't care about baseball - we just care about winning". This is not good for anybody. This is the exact same attitude the US is perceived as having to the rest of the world, and look how well we're doing!

At any rate, one of the reasons I'm happy with the 2006 Sox is that this squad's focus on professionalism over Idiocy. Even I was sick of the Idiots and their media presence. I want this team to play baseball. I want them to win, but mostly I want them to play good baseball, and represent Boston in a manner I can be proud of. I think this team (Wells scares me a little) will focus on those things, and I think this is a team that Boston fans will remember fondly, World Championship or not. It's a little easier to enjoy the games now, isn't it? For that I will always thank the Idiots. I just won't miss them.