Tuesday, May 30, 2006

White-knuckle flight

Well, what were we expecting, I mean really? After all is said and done, these are still the Boston Red Sox. Bizarre downturns are to be expected. Head-scratching losses are to be expected. Abysmal, coronary-inducing relief performances are to be expected. Ladies and gentleman, we are about to enter what I like to call The Dark Times.

Every year it happens, although this year could be pretty damn terrible. The Sox start losing a few games they should win, confidence gets a little shaky, then somebody or 4 people hit the DL, and it's time for the team to gut it out for a few weeks until they can right the ship. Let's see what we're up against at this point.

  1. $9 Million per year #4 starter Matt Clement has gone batshit. Opposing hitters are going up there with this strategy: "stand there until he walks you - it should only take 4 pitches - but if he gives you that meatball down the gut, kill it". There is no easy solution here, even via trade. Either Clement figures it out or we are going to be seeing some pretty creative rotation managing.
  2. Morbidly obese #5 starter Fatty McFatFat is also hurt after getting nailed by a line drive off the leg, hit by AAAA player Nick Green (just to add insult to injury). The downside here is that he was pitching very effectively at the time, and we don't know the extent of the injury yet. He could be out for some time. The upside is that the shock of his corpulent mass hitting the earth didn't shake down the new construction at Fenway. Best case scenario, and one that this season relies pretty heavily on, is that he medicates himself with beer and comes back strong.
  3. The Jeep, Risky Dave and the Anti-Christ are all over the place. They need to figure out if they suck or are decent, and be that. The inconsistency is making Tito's job very difficult and is causing me to engage in homicidal thoughts that frighten my wife. (note: for new readers - hahaha! right - Taverez is The Jeep, Seanez is the Anti-Christ, and you can probably figure out the last guy)
  4. Ditto Keith Foulke, except he's not supposed to be decent, he's supposed to be money. His ability to completely shit the bed is one of the biggest issues we have going on right now. On top of that, he's a dick. But whatever; he can be a dick if he doesn't pitch like Rolando Arrojo.
  5. Mike Timlin is injured, although it doesn't appear to be serious. Still, Mike is 62 years old, and probably won't heal as fast as he used to. Also, if he is unwise and convinces Tito to let him go hunting while he rehabs, there is an excellent chance he could be shot in the face by a member of the White House cabinet.
  6. Wily Mo Pena Super Genius is injured. While Manny is healthy this is more of an entertainment concern than anything else, but still, that counts - it's just fun to watch Wily Mo strike out and look puzzled in one at-bat, then single on a fluke grounder that gets stuck in the catcher's eyeball in the next at-bat and act like it's a perfectly normal occurrence .
  7. We apparently managed to rejuvenate POS Randy Johnson in ESPN's Sucky Game of the Week last week. I guess the Sox just like the Yanks to feel good about themselves. That is the kind of warm fuzzy thinking that is great at the coffee shop and in traffic, but which pretty much blows in a pennant race. While the Sox are playing above their Pythag expected win percentage the Yanks are well below. The expected correction puts the Sox into second place by a fair bit.
  8. Toronto is still pretty damn good. If we had to go into a three-way playoff with the MFYs and Toronto right now, I'd have to put even money on Toronto given their health.
Now, from looking at this list you might be thinking "Holy Crap! All is lost!!" and there is a good chance you could be right. But this is a good baseball team. Let's look at what the Sox have going for them:

  1. Manny and Papi. Still the best 3-4 combination in baseball, and a delight to watch at the plate. Manny has been bothered by some dings, but he will need to step up now.
  2. Mike Lowell's Lazarus impression. Who'd have thunk it? Of course his BABIP is well over .400 and that is pretty much impossible to maintain but still he has been a shining star. His glove at third has been impeccable also.
  3. Coco Crisp is back. Like Wil Smith, Coco is a guy who can energize teammates, except apparently relief pitchers. I am predicting that once Coco hits his stride he is going to start winning games by himself, sometimes by rapping in center field.
  4. Beckett and Schilling are winning games. Both pitchers are going out there with the mindset that they will win, and are not deviating from this focus. While they continue to control games the team will stay in the race.
  5. Papelbon continues to be a revelation at closer. It's been said before but a good closer makes things easier on the rest of the staff. Correlatively, an Anti-Christ makes things harder on the rest of the staff - this is intuitive.
  6. Youks and Loretta are really hitting well. The numbers are there, for sure, but they are each taking great at-bats, making pitchers work, and doing good things with mistake pitches. Clinical, professional hitters - fun to watch.
  7. Defense! The Sox infield is great, and the team defense overall is the best in the bigs, at least in terms of error rates. It could be overrated, it could be underrated, but it's definitely a plus.
  8. Everyone has to worry about injuries. Troy Glaus could shatter at any moment. Burnett might never make it back. The Unit is always one foaming tirade away from the DL. Sheffield might have an "accident" while in County Jail. It's all about staying in the race.
So. Basically, we're right back where we were on Opening Day. Lots of questions, lots of good things on the table, lots of baseball to be played. I don't know why I waste so much time looking at it, but I do. These are the Boston Red Sox, and they just sort of worm their way in there. Let's hope they do the same for the ALCS.

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