Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sox' Bloated Corpse Floats Down River Styx

When Shaun Marcum took the mound, I know what you were all thinking: "This guy will probably two-hit us". And you were right. With Shaun's pedigree, it was perfectly reasonable to expect him to put together a 10 strike-out, one walk, two-hit shutout for 8 innings. I mean, up until yesterday he had a sparkling 1.8:1 strikeout to walk ratio, and a dominant ERA of 4.92. He is clearly one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Conversely, you might have been thinking: "This Red Sox team is pretty much done". And you'd also have been right. Right now there are very few storylines worth watching on the field, and for me they all revolve around seeing the young kids perform.

We should never see Gabe Kapler on the field in place of David Murphy - this is a useful time for Murphy's development (Tito loves his veterans, though). One has to assume he will make the team next year as the 4th/5th outfielder, and it would behoove the Sox to do everything in their power to get him comfortable in the bigs. He has looked good defensively, one gaffe aside, and he does have a nice swing. Not much you can say about a guy in 19 ABs, but all his peripherals are in line with a guy who isn't yet overmatched. One early-bird reported that he has tremendous batting practice power, so there's that. Not useful, but nice.

Pedroia has made some adjustments in his swing, holding his hands higher and loading the bat better, and has come alive a little bit at the plate. He continues to have simply awful luck, with a BABIP of just .183, despite a decent line-drive percentage at 22.5% (to give an example, Loretta's LD % is 27.2 but he's hitting 100 points better). His 7% K rate is the best on the team.

McAdam has a good story on the two positional players here. The Pawtucket Times has a heartwarming article on Loretta's helping Pedroia ease into the majors. Again, Loretta shows what a professional and stand-up guy he is. If only his legs weren't made of cement, I'd keep him on this team until he retires.

Another, less happy storyline that has come up in recent weeks revolves around the Red Sox coaches. There has been a lot of message-board speculation around the various coaches recently, mostly focused on the pitching coaches. The media (well, McAdam, with the Worcester G & T commenting also) have recently unearthed some comments pointing at Papa Jack, article here. It appears Papa Jack is not, um, helpful if you aren't hitting well, which, to me, is kind of important. When you are hitting well, one would sort of think the coach's job is pretty much just to say things like "good hit", which even I can probably do fairly well (my Meyers-Briggs test be damned). Personally, I've long thought his "one size fits all" hitting approach was particularly damaging to a guy like Crisp who got here by relying on his natural abilities and "doing his thing", as it were. We'll see; he strikes me as the Lee Trevino of the Red Sox.

The complaints against the pitching coaches stem from the frankly craptacular performances by players who fans felt should have done better. Craig Hansen in particular has looked like a shadow of the kid the Sox signed out of St. Johns, and has been tinkering with his mechanics essentially his entire time as a pro. Beckett has obviously struggled until recently making a couple changes (delivery, more two-seamers) that one could argue should have been made much sooner. And recently Cla Meredith attributed his success to moving away from what the Sox staff had indicated should be his approach. Link to the Olney blog is here (reg. required), but the highlight is:

  • "He decided to bag some of what the Red Sox development staff had tried to encourage him to do. Right-handed submarine pitchers often have trouble against left-handed hitters because the left-handers see the ball longer, and the Red Sox had pushed Meredith to focus on throwing the ball inside to lefties -- to jam them. After being dealt to the Padres, Meredith decided to go with his own approach: Keep the ball away from them, sinking the ball to the outside corner."
Currently the Sox have two heads in Nipper and Wallace, and one would expect in this case too many cooks can spoil the soup, as it were. That said, Wallace's health is a concern, although most folks would probably prefer him as the coach, anecdotally.

Apparently we will learn the day after the season ends who will stay and who will go. The "charges" against Papa Jack are pretty damning, and since he has about 47 hitting DVDs out there I'm sure he'll be all-right, so I'm guessing he's gone. I think I'd like to see some changes just to shake things up and add a little life. This was not an impassioned team this year, and while the White Sox have proven that even passion (or, depending on your perspective, insanity) doesn't win every year, it's kind of nice to have.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sea Dogs clinch EL Title; Sox take two from NY

Sea Dogs Win! Sea Dogs Win!

Yesterday the Sea Dogs beat Akron in Game 5 of the Eastern League championships to win their first title, behind an eight-inning, 3 ER start from Devern Hansack. It marked the first time Hansack had gone deeper than seven innings in his career. Immediately after the game Hansack was called up to Boston and has been added to the 40. A big day for the Nicaraguan. Game story is here.

Keoni De Renne's bases-loaded triple in the third turned out to be the back-breaker. It was De Renne's first triple of the season, and in fact just his eighth extra-base hit. After the game Keoni was notified that he would not be called up to Boston. Probably ever. Still, a clutch performance by the diminutive Hawaiian.

Personally, I think this is a huge victory for the Sea Dogs and the Sox organization. This sort of playoff experience is great for the prospects on that team, and there are a few who we are hoping will make an impression with the BoSox, notably Jacoby Ellsbury, Brandon Moss, and new guy George Kotteras. Edgar Martinez and Chad Spann are also MLB hopefuls but missed the series. It's even more impressive that Portland pulled off the win without these key cogs. I wish to god NESN would televise these games, but apparently they can't, because they are retarded. Or maybe there's a more technical reason.

Sox Sweep Doubleheader

Yesterday was kind of fun, although meaningless, wasn't it? Always nice to take two at the Toilet, even though the Yanks will shortly buy another division win. The reason it's nice is because the real losers are Yankee fans, and whenever they lose, I'm happy. I know there are good Yanks fans out there, because I've met some of them, but often even those guys are apologists for Yankee spending - the sense of entitlement is in their DNA, like expansive body hair. It makes me crazy. It annoys and embarrasses me that the Sox spend $70 Million more than Oakland and KC, and all the rest. I feel that each time we lose - especially to them - it adds insult to injury to everyone involved, to all of baseball. Not Yankee fans - they believe that not only is the fiscal lopsidedness their right, they believe it is a moral imperative. They're baseball's version of the Duke brothers in Trading Places.

Anyway, off the soapbox and back to baseball, or what passes for baseball in the Bronx. We probably won't get a salary cap imposed in this space. Torre didn't play his full contingent in either game yesterday, resting his players for the upcoming playoffs. So, we didn't really take down the $200 Million machine in all it's fullness. Still, there were a few high points for the Sox to take away from the wins.

Number one, Kyle Snyder put together another good start, going five innings, striking out seven, and only giving up a couple runs. Moreover, he bailed himself out of a couple jams, including a bases-loaded nightmare that would have caused him to implode just a few weeks back. I am starting to believe this kid can be a decent #5 starter. Certainly, for the money, we have to keep him next year. There doesn't seem to be a predictive "Kyle Snyder Face"; that's good.

Number two, Pedroia had a clutch pinch-hit double for an RBI, and looks much more comfortable at the plate. He also jacked a Mussina pitch about 400 feet down the line, just missing an HR, in the second game. Let the DPed are begin.

Number three, Crisp hit the ball well and made a spectacular catch to rob Mr. Potato Head Jorge Posada ("You say potato, I say Posada") of a tater. Everyone in this organization needs him to perform well, and I think he's finally settling in. I for one will be disappointed if we pull the plug on him in the offseason. He may (will) never be a superstar but we have not yet seen what he can bring to this ballclub.

Lastly, the Sox dingers. David Murphy hit his first ML homerun in the first game, and Big Papi hit his 49th of the season. With Manny out his quest for Fifty hit a bit of a snag, but he'll pull it off somehow. He's Big Papi, and if you won't give him strikes to hit, he'll golf your weak-ass junk pitches out of the yard. He is tired of walking. I can say this because he and I talk a lot, usually with me asking him questions and taking his non-responses for affirmatives.

The Twinkies are next, and this series is going to be the tough one. We are extremely fortunate they shut Liriano down. Let's hope Wake gets some of that old magic back tonight.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pedroia Not Winning Lottery

It goes without saying that when you come up and hit .122 in your first 18 games, people are going to go batshit and generally act like you molested their sister. Or, maybe that just happens around Fenway, or maybe it happens anywhere if you're ARod, regardless of your stats. At any rate, the Dustin Pedroia bandwagon has not left the carport.

Let's look at some of Pedroia's peripherals though. In point of fact, his low numbers can at least partially be attributed to simple bad luck. His BABIP (BPA), or Batting Average on Balls In Play, is just .119. Average is around .290. To some degree this can be explained by his not hitting the ball hard in some at bats - Wily Mo's BABIP is .410 for example, because even his grounders get through the infield in a hurry - but in many cases it's just bad luck, and some spectacular defensive plays. We all remember the Anaheim series.

Pedroia is only striking out once every 11 ABs, which at 9% ties him for best on the team. This is a key indicator. He's not walking as much as expected but once he settles down from this tough beginning he'll start taking more pitches and getting on base, and I think we'll all be satisfied with having him on the team. He has nothing left to prove in AAA, that much is certain.

This brings up the next question, which is what do we do with Loretta next year? Defensively he turns the double-play well but his range is atrocious. Still, he's far from the worst available. Offensively you know what you're going to get, but you'll probably get it with DP, and maybe a bit more. Loretta would really just be a back-up player next year, IMO, but would that be acceptable to him? There are probably 6-10 teams that would benefit more from having him start over their incumbent. He's a better bat than Cora, although Cora is better defensively, and they're both smart baseball guys who are great to have in the clubhouse. We'll see how it plays out.

Portland Game Three

At 6pm ET today Portland plays game three of their playoff series against Akron. The Sea Dogs lead 2-0 in the series and coule clinch the Eastern League title with a win today. Supposedly you can listen free from WBAE here.

Andrew Dobies gets the start for Portland. He was a 3rd round draft pick back in 2004 out of UVa. He's a work in progress who has a tendency to give up the big innings, but reports are he's recently added a cut fastball that has helped him mitigate this.

Sox Head Into Bronx

There isn't much to say about this mismatch. Really, the only game we should even have a chance at winning is the Tavarez start (I have stopped referring to him as the Anti-Christ after he told me it hurt his feelings and he couldn't face his kids - also after he stopped sucking). Tonight's "Tee-Ball By Beckett" start could be nigh on unwatchable. But I'll still watch it, because we repealed the Prohibition Act.

So, in absence of a win, here are a list of things you can still root for in the Sox-Spanks series:

  1. Wily Mo Pena hits a 600-foot home run into the parking lot which strikes a Yankee fan in the head, thereby stopping an in-progress mugging.
  2. Bobby Abreu's gigantic ass attacks and consumes Randy Johnson before it can be stopped.
  3. ARod strikes out 5 times in a single game and is mauled by angry Yankee fans on his way out of the stadium. He placates them with free haircare products.
  4. Kyle Snyder performs the Wizard of Oz number "If I Only Had A Brain" in between innings.
  5. During a bench-clearing melee Don Zimmer appears from nowhere and attacks Julian Tavarez - you know how this ends.
  6. Manny is called upon to pinch-hit and play an inning in left, and urinates against the left-field fence.
  7. Jason Giambi spontaneously explodes into a massive liquid spray of equal parts HGH, grease, sweat, and guilt.
  8. Derek Jeter comes out of the closet before the first game, saying "Some of you may think less of me now that you know I'm gay, but look at it this way - at least I don't throw like Damon."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Newsflash! Murray Chass Revealed To Be Twelve-Year Old Boy

In a stunning series of events, it has been revealed that incompetent sports "writer" Murray Chass has been dead for years, and is in fact a twelve-year old Yankees fan who managed to hack into Chass' NY Times corporate network account.

Chass, best known while he was alive for his ability to like bagels AND donuts, made the sports scene while covering the Yankees (and to a lesser degree high society badminton) in 1969 with his article "Amazing Mets Win World Series; Yankees Still Better". Chass' ability to drive circulation allowed Times editors to dispense with the laborious processes involved in fact-checking and accountability, which just increased Chass' already prolific ability to spew forth poorly constructed drivel. New Yorkers could not get enough.

It has seemed that Murray ("Shiny Murray" as he's known to Mary Tyler Moore fans) would always be there for Yankees fans and others with a low-grade education, and in voice he has, but since the recent unmasking of twelve-year old Barry L. Iterrit, there are now more questions than answers.

Thus far Barry has refused to answer the question everyone is asking: "WHEN?" We don't know how long Barry has been churning out the spurious articles, but we do know his heart was in the right place. When asked why, he responded:

"When I found out, my first thought was that my Dad might go crazy and do something stupid, so I decided to just, you know, fake one article or maybe two to buy some time. I figured the paper would replace Murray with someone else my Dad could understand, like that guy who wrote 'Everybody Poops', or Joan Rivers. I was just trying to help. We Yankee fans need Murray to feel good."

At this point, we only know that the charade has been going on at least since 2003. That's when Barry hired James Avery, best known for his role as Will Smith's father on 'Fresh Prince", to portray Chass at a ceremony to receive the 2003 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. When investigators pointed out that Avery was African-American and Chass not, Iterrit replied "he was the best I could do". Low turnout and an open bar at the awards ceremony are attributed to the success of the impersonation.

For now, the investigation goes on, but that can't succor fans, players, and former clinch George Steinbrenner, who are reeling. One Yankee player who requested anonymity stated:

"I don't know what to think. For a while I wondered about the quotes, I mean, they made no sense and I couldn't remember saying any of them, but I just figured that was Murray's way. He was always pulling for us and bashing - I mean really, savagely bashing - the other teams, so it just seemed best to go with it. I guess in retrospect it should have been obvious that the writing, and the agenda, was juvenile, but it's tough enough remembering to take the HGH without...wait....ummmm...nevermind."

The stunning news of the hoax might have caused upheaval throughout Yankee-opolis, but once again a familiar face saved the day. Boss George Steinbrenner stepped up and reassured everyone, everywhere, that the organization would go on. He made a statement yesterday afternoon from his vacation bunker outside Berlin, saying:

"We acknowledge that this is a difficult time for the Yankee family. Rest assured that Murray - er, Barry - will remain on the Yankee payroll - er, New York Times payroll - until further notice. It is the message that is important, and the message will remain."

Follow-up questions, including "what is the message?", "is that a full turtleneck or a dickie?", and "do you ever shampoo?" were met with silence, and in one case, a hired thug beating.

Note from author: This is a parody. Murray is still with us, and sadly, still writing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fun On The Farm

As the big league club re-enacts the Great London Fire, I hope people aren't missing the great stories we have going on in the minors. Currently Portland and Wilmington are in the playoffs with Lowell still fighting for a spot.

Tonight Portland evened up the series against Trenton by pounding the Yankee wannabees by a score of 10-3. New guy George Kottaras DHed and went 2-4 with a HR and a stolen base. Ellsbury went 2-4 with 2 RBIs, both hits coming in the 7th when Portland knocked out starter Tyler Clippard and scored six runs. Seadog starter (and resurgent semi-prospect) Tommy Hottovy pitched six innings and held the Thunder to 3 ER. The final game in the series is tomorrow.

In Wilmington, things didn't turn out so rosy. Michael Bowden pitched extremely well, but his team disappoints him as Wilmington fell to Frederick 2-1. Bowden went 5.1 IP, allowed just one hit (but gave up three walks), and struck out 5. Both runs scored were the result of errors, although Bowden was charged with the first run.

The first run scored when Mark Wagner committed a throwing error on a steal attempt by Paco "Don't Call Me Taco" Figueroa. Paco would score from third on a groundball single by the next batter. Bowden got out of the inning with a routine GB and then a swinging K.

The second run scored when a fielding error by second-baseman Iggy Suarez allowed Pete Maestrales to score from second (Iggy has been "wedgied" in punishment and may miss tomorrow's game after complaining of a "broken asscrack"). Justin Masterson, who was promoted two stops to Wilmington from Lowell, came in and induced the GDP to close out the inning, and went the next 3.2 innings without incident. He struck out 2, walked one, and allowed zero hits. If you haven't heard it elsewhere, let me be the first to say it: Masterson is the shit. I pray he can be developed into a starter, and then not traded (not necessarily in that order).

The Blue Rocks' bats were silenced by Frederick pitcher Craig Anderson, who at 5-1, 4.78 for the season wasn't supposed to pitch 7 innings and give up just 5 hits and a run, but Aussies are a crafty bunch, as we all know. Natale, Lowrie, Johnson, Wagner and Suarez all singled for Wilmington, and Suarez added a BB (not enough to save his asscrack, sadly).

Otness, Bell and Corsaletti went 0/3. Corsaletti also walked and scored. Easy Andy Pinckney took the 0/4 collar and struck out twice to earn the trip to Dairy Queen. Even as we speak, he is morosely eating his Dilly Bar and gearing up to have a huge day tomorrow.

In Lowell, the newly-enhanced Spinners team beat curious Scottish low-A team Aberdeen 6-1. Kris Johnson, Jordan Craft, Dustin Richardson and Josh Papelbon combined for the win, allowing no earned runs. Note: I linked to Johnson's Sox Prospects page instead of directly to the stats page because his picture looks like he's headed straight for Death Row.

Hot bat Mike Jones and Jonathan Still, who DHed, combined for 5 hits and 4 RBIs in the game. Manny Arambarris walked three times, which should only improve his .365 OBP. Little unusual in a #3 hitter, but at least he's showing patience.

In most cases, if we don't pay attention to these guys now we never will, since the vast majority will never make The Show. But for now, it's the perfect cure for a crappy Boston Red Sox season, and it might just be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Red Sox Nation: Civil War

As if Theo Epstein weren't have a bad enough year already, the prospect he traded away (with another, higher-rated prospect) for under-achieving posterchild Josh Beckett (and $9 Million dollar pretty good guy Mike Lowell) threw a no-hitter tonight for the Florida Marlins. Anibel Sanchez, who also shut down the Spanks during his first start in Yankee Stadium, has the Nation in an absolute uproar. And who's fanning the flames? Official Theo-hater Ken Rosenthal, entitled tonight's episode of his "Drunk Alone" column "Sanchez has no-hitter; Red Sox have no clue". Interestingly, he also panned the Front Office for not trading any prospects at the deadline. I guess he just sucks.

However, Ken's ability to take both positions is schizophrenically representative of the civil war going on throughout Red Sox fandom in this, the Red Sox team's personal equivalent of the Chinese calendar's "Year of the Spastic Colon". Everywhere, sides are taken:

A) The front office are idiots! They keep trading away these great prospects for guys that suck. Beckett sucks, Crisp sucks, Mirabelli sucks. And, their free agent signings also suck! Renteria sucked, Seanez sucked; Tavarez sucks, Clement sucks! Meanwhile, Meredith, Bard, Sanchez and (um) Renteria are great!


B) You are an idiot. Proven MLB talent is extremely difficult to acquire. Most prospects flame out. These are the risks of doing business. Success in the NL means absolutely nothing in the AL East, as the aforementioned pitchers have proven so succinctly. It's far too early to decide on the recent trades, and at the time, nobody complained on any of these acquisitions, so kindly shut the fuck up.

Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong, and that will never change. The name of the game is talent evaluation, the key root word being "value". The FO determined that Josh Beckett's MLB-proven talent and upside (bear in mind he's 25) was worth more than the "raw" abilities of Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez. Ramirez had struggled at AA (.720 OPS his second go round) and Sanchez had an injury history, so they rolled the dice. Were they blinded by Beckett's Yankee-beating in the World Series? Maybe. Did they underestimate the abilities of the two young kids? At this point it sure looks that way.

It's going to come down to this, and correlatively, to hindsight. On every deal. Win-win deals appear to be a rare commodity these days, because you're trading apples and oranges (veteran for prospect, cheap for expensive, etc.), and because these deals don't go down in a vacuum, generally. The Crisp deal is a favorite for the prospy-lovers because Marte was so highly-touted and Crisp has struggled (I myself had difficulty with this one), but because Crisp was supposed to play up the middle, and Marte is a corner, the values are skewed.

In this particular case Crisp has revealed himself also to be a corner, but at the time the thinking was that we need a CF and he fit the bill. And this highlights the concerns we should have with the FO. Not that they trade prospects, or that they wouldn't trade prospects for proven vets, but that some of the guys they bring in don't perform as advertised. Are they accurately evaluating MLB talent?

It appears that they have a good eye for natural talent - take a look at how the prospects are performing; sadly for other teams in some cases. So why when they acquire guys who have had success elsewhere in the bigs do they shit the bed in Boston? Certainly to some degree it's the change in leagues. You could also argue it's the insane nature of the fans and media here, but the fans and media in New York are by and large career criminals who defy evolutionary theory, yet every player who goes to NY invariably improves unless he is a freakishly hideous beanpole redneck with a penchant for theatrics. Is it the coaching? Perhaps; I'm certainly beginning to wonder about the Sox coaches ability to help players improve at the big-league level, Papa Jack excluded. Is it the chemistry? Does this team require an "idiot leader" to succeed?

Honestly - who the hell knows? Personally I think it's a little of each. If you don't have $200Mil to spend on payroll winning the World Series truly is catching lightning in a bottle. And even if you do, there are no guarantees, thank Christ. This year just went to shit, end of story, and now we're pissed off, and everything sucks.

Let's look at the bright side though. If HanRam and Anibel continue to have success in Florida, in a few years we'll be able to trade for them during the Marlins fire sale. We'll still be able to afford them then. God help us if the guys we trade have a better first season, though. There will be hell to pay.

AA Red Sox vs. Yanks

In case you haven't been paying attention, the Portland Sea Dogs are struggling against the Trenton Thunder in the AA playoffs, almost even as we speak. They lost today 3-1. The positive was that Sox prospect Devern Hansack had a good outing with 2 ER in 6.1 IP. The negative was that Yankee uber-prospect Philip Hughes K'ed 13 while BBing one in 6 innings and basically dominated. When he arrives, we are in for bad times. Game Two is 7:05 PM EST tomorrow.

Ending on a High Note

Wilmington (High-A) is also in the playoffs. Clay Buchholz started today and here is his line:

6 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 10 K

When he arrives, we are in for good times.