Thursday, September 30, 2004
It was a nice little run, this Yankee-chasing business but it is time to move on. For the ninth consecutive season, the Red Sox will not win the division. They have, however, accomplished what any team's goal ought to be and that is to qualify for postseason play.
The Twins handed the Yankees two games yesterday and Pedro Martinez was shelled in Tampa Bay as the great Pedro lost his fourth consecutive start. If I am going to come on here and get all dreamy-eyed about the potential of the Red Sox lineup, I also had better shoot straight about the question marks surrounding this Red Sox pitching staff. Despite a dominant month from Curt Schilling, the Red Sox have a team E.R.A. of 4.71 - this compared to a season-long figure of 4.19. As for Martinez, his September regression has been particularly alarming when you consider that in August, the 1999-2000 Pedro had reappeared, sub-1.00 WHIP, 11+ K/9 and all. Sure he wasn't facing the stiffest competition but this fact alone fails to account for such stark September mediocrity.
And so now, instead of dreaming about what could have been - a triumphant steamroll through the postseason, offensively bludgeoning the opposition while serving up absolutely no soup on the pitching side, Red Sox fans must now come to the reality that the healthy-Nixon-lineup is no longer a luxury. While we can certainly expect considerable improvement from Martinez, it appears that the current state of the Sox staff has necessitated the scary-good lineup I have prophesied the last couple of days.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Since the Sox won, put a little pressure on the Yanks, the bullpen got some work (6 no-hit innings of work!) and Derek Lowe pitched himself out of the postseason rotation, I am not sure last night could have gone any better. Kevin Millar hit a two-run home run in the top of the 11th inning to lift the Red Sox to a 10-8 victory. Since we really have killed Kevin here in the past, let's take a look at what he has done since July 1st and compare him to some names with a bit more cache. Month by month OPS...
Now, I am not drawing any conclusions here but I am just pointing out that, for about three months now, Kevin Millar has been every bit the hitter Manny, David Ortiz and Gary Sheffield have been and quite a bit better than everybody's favorite Angel. If Kevin Millar keeps this up and Trot Nixon returns to form, the Red Sox will feature 4 900+ OPS types (Manny, Ortiz, Millar and Nixon), 4 800+ OPS types (Damon, Bellhorn, Mueller and Varitek) and...well...Orlando Cabrera.
Turning our attention to the division, the Red Sox now stand 2.5 games back of the Yanks. It remains unlikely that the Sox would catch the Bombers but with Johan Santana pitching today in the doubleheader's opener, isn't a sweep possible? And with Pedro going tonight, the Red Sox probably ought to win, no? So that would leave the Red Sox a game out with four to play for each club. The Sox play four in Baltimore while the Yanks wrap up the year in Toronto. And with Vazquez and Kevin Brown scheduled to go on the weekend, and yesterday's rainout possibly necessitating some rotation shuffling (WOTS anybody?), let's just say it's possible. Monte Carlo suggests the chances are a bit under 7%.
Either way, since both the Yanks and Sox are in anyway, the real drama is taking place out west, where the NL Wild Card and AL West races are both in dead heats so be sure to check out some Cubs, Giants, A's and Angels coverage.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
98 MPH fastball, waist high over the middle of the plate and Ramirez just unloaded - turning a 3-2 lead into a 5-2 lead with one mechanically perfect swing that launched the baseball to straight-away centerfield on a line, not landing until it had cleared the canvas at Tropicana Field. It might be the hardest I have ever seen a baseball hit. With the confluence of the velocity of the fastball, the location of the pitch, Manny's brute strength and flawless swing, Ramirez had, for a brief moment, achieved a hitter's utopia of sort - everything came together for a moment. When he arrived back at the dugout, Bill Mueller had the exact same look on his face that Johanna and I did watching it - eyes wide open, eyebrows raised, mouths agape - "what sort of freak are you anyway?" Mueller seemed to ask with his facial expression as he high-fived Ramirez.
The Red Sox clinched the Wild Card last night and unlike last year's raucous throwdown at Fenway and the neighboring bars, replete with the Kevin Millar oratory, this year's club popped a little bubbly and patted each other on the backs but seemed to me to be a far more forward looking bunch. There were a slew of quotes I could choose from saying mostly the same thing but since we are all merely inhabitants in Manny's world, here is his quote from this morning's Globe...
"I think this is the year," Ramirez said. "But we haven't accomplished anything yet. We're going to take it to the next level and see what happens."
Manny, keep hitting like you are and I think I have a pretty good idea of what happens.
Monday, September 27, 2004
Given the AL East standings coming into the series on Friday, I didn't expect a whole lot of excitement and really there wasn't. The Sox took two of three from the Yanks and I guess if I am going to recap, there were interesting tidbits and bigger picture signs to be picked out even if the games' outcomes were largely inconsequential. So here we go with some bullet points...
- Pedro had this to say after he failed to hold a late lead and took the loss on Friday night;
"I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy. I can't find a way to beat them at this point. You just have to give them credit and say, 'Hey, you guys beat me, not my team.' I wish they would [expletive] disappear and never come back. "
The quote itself, when read without considering circumstances, sure seems to be the stuff of utter resignation and a dire defeatist. But let's cut Pedro some slack. If the Sox were going to make any noise in the division race, they needed to sweep and with Pedro and Curt Schilling going in the series, it seemed at least possible. So for Pedro to squander a late lead and, in his mind, to fail his teammates late in a ballgame against the Yanks again was discouraging to say the very least. I have never seen him look so upset with himself as he was after Hideki Matsui's home run. And soon after the game with the result's bitter taste still very much lingering, he made some uncharecteristically passive remarks. I would like to state that I am not even a little concerned about Pedro's psyche, that fans should cut him some slack and that I have all the confidence one could have that he will be a vital part of forthcoming postseason success.
- I took little from Saturday and Sunday's games other than comfort that the Yanks do not have the Sox's number. Not that I really thought it to be the case but New York had won three consecutive times against Boston and so consecutive romps reinforced for me my belief that the Red Sox are indeed better than the Bombers and need not fear them.
- There were a few "big picture" items that I did take away from Saturday and Sunday's games on the starting pitching front. First, it was encouraging to see Tim Wakefield hang in there and throw with some effectiveness Saturday night. I have said here that the 4th playoff starter was looking more and more like it was going to be terribly problematic for the Sox but if Wake can pitch anything like he did going forward, that will more than suffice with this Red Sox offense.
The other matter that looms is that a starting staff that was beginning to show signs of rounding into form was hit pretty hard all weekend. Mike Mussina pitched well enough for the Yanks Friday night but still gave up two home runs and was only able to go six innings. But far more so than Mussina, who has been very good of late, it was the Bombers' two prized offseason starting pitching acquisitions that kept questions about this staff very much topical. Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown lasted a combined 5 1/3 innings, giving up 9 runs on 13 hits. I will be fascinated to see how Joe Torre decides to position his postseason rotation. I think I would go Mussina, El Duque, Brown and then Vazquez with Jon Lieber very much prepared to enter a game early on should any one of these hurlers not have it early on. Stay tuned...
- I want to end today's entry with a note on this season's offense. They now have scored 904 runs this year and with seven games remaining against some shoddy pitching, eclipsing last season's total of 961 is unlikely but within reach. So how have they done it? Without Trot Nixon for so long and Nomar out for much of the year and the offensive downgrade to Cabrera and the presumed offesnive downgrade to Bellhorn and Mueller's regression to pre-2003 form, how are they so close to equalling 2003's output? Manny and Ortiz have improved marginally but what has easily offset the afoementioned downgrades has been the play of three Sox regulars. First, Mark Bellhorn has not been a downgrade at all and in fact has represented a significant upgrade offensively over Todd Walker. There is a very reasonable argument that he has been the AL's best second baseman. Second, Johnny Damon has played as though he were in Kansas City again this year - an on-base terror with some life in his bat in front of some serious hitters. Third, despite his recent struggles, Jason Varitek has had a career year. It also ought to be noted that since Kevin Millar opened his stance in Seattle, he has outperformed both Manny and David Ortiz and is now 4th in the AL among first basemen - a remarkable feat given his dismal start to he year. If Trot Nixon can come back in 2003, 950+ OPS form for the postseason, this lineup goes from merely baseball's best to downright scary.
Friday, September 24, 2004
When 40% of your starting pitchers throw batting practice every fifth game, it makes it tough to win on nights when these gentlemen pitch. No need to go into why this may be problematic in the postseason again.
The most memorable part about last night's game was the broken-hearted kid's face that NESN captured after David Ortiz flew out to end the game. He was so primed for a third straight Sox walk-off victory and when he was let down, the anguish on his face was a great reminder of baseball's continuity. So many of all different ages for so long have been pouring their heart into the game. And just as my grandfather likes to tell me about Bobby Doerr's bat speed, this youngster, sixty years from now will probably have a whole slew of stories of his own about a little bandbox called Fenway Park and the great Ramirez, etc.
The Yanks are in town tonight. I don't know about you but I'm not really that into it. Bring on the postseason already.
Dirt Dog is pretty funny this morning, by the way.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
I thought this little bit uttered by Curtis Leskanic and printed in today's Globe was a fitting title to a little wrap-up of last night's game. The Sox shook off a mediocre start from Bronson Arroyo, a blown save from Keith Foulke, a golden opportunity squandered in the bottom of the ninth inning, a tenuous situation in the top of the twelfth when the O's loaded the bases against Curtis Leskanic and in Orlando Cabrera's case, personal tribulations, as the OC hit his first Fenway homer to give the Sox the win in the bottom of the twelfth.
Pickin' each other up the whole game.
The Yankees lost and the Sox now trail by 3.5 games.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
For the second straight year, I will be sharing my opinion of the award winners for the two leagues before the end of the season. The same argument still stands...I want to judge people on how they do during the regular season, not the playoffs (though there are some out there that think the 19 playoff games tell more than the 162 seasonal games). Today, I begin with the managers of the year.
National League Manager of the Year
3. Jim Tracy (LAD) 86-64
As you will read ahead, I picked all the division winners. I think it should be noted that the concensaus pick for the winner of each division is not represented on this list. Tracy righted a ship with no offense. DePodesta gave him better tools this year, but Tracy has utilized them well enough not to be the worst offense in baseball again.
2. Tony LaRussa (STL) 98-52
Was supposed to be an also ran, a small daliance that kept the Astros and Cubs from mingling with the Milwaukees of the Central. All he did was guide his team to the best record in baseball. As a note, I still think his career is overrated, but he's done an excellent job this year.
1. Bobby Cox (ATL) 89-62
This was supposed to be the year the reign ended...for the 4th year in a row. The Schuerholz/Cox/Mazzone triumvrate might be the most successful in baseball history at taking questionable pitchers and making them useful again. If only Cox didn't handcuff himself in the playoffs by carrying unnessecary parts on his bench.
American League Manager of the Year
3. Ron Gardenhire (MIN) 88-63
The Twins have clinched their third straight division title, despite having a team that isn't as talented as the White Sox, who now sit 12.5 games out. His candidacy is being supported by Johan Santana, who is having an exceptional season. How Santana goes in the playoffs is how the Twins go.
2. Eric Wedge (CLE) 73-78
Wedge has the Indians being frisky a whole year a head of schedule. Next year, they will be an official pain in the ass, and year after, I bet they win the Central.
1. Buck Showalter (TEX) 83-67
Who expected this? They traded their best player, Alex Rodriguez, for a player that has hit worse than Mark Bellhorn this year. If you said you believed, you're a lier.
Also recieving consideration: Felipe Alou, Terry Francona, Phil Garner, Mike Sciosca.
Without any comments, here are my worst managers of the year:
1. Al Pederique
2. Larry Bowa
3. Frank Robinson
1. Bob Melvin
2. Ozzie Guillen
3. Tony Pena
While I am not really up for getting into specifics here, suffice it to say that my father has experienced some tough times over the last few years. As devoted a Red Sox fan as I have come across, the man had not stepped foot in Fenway Park since the 1999 All-Star Game. He was there for three games in the 1967 World Series, saw Fisk's home run, Bucky Dent's pop-up that wouldn't land, Yaz Day and much, much more. And yet he had not been to Fenway in five years to watch arguably the best five consecutive Sox teams in the last fifty years.
When we entered the Park, he was visibly moved and uttered to me, "I feel like I've rejoined society". You see, the invitation I extended to him to accompany me for the game coincided with the first truly good bit of personal news he had received in years. It was perfect. The energetic and wildly enthusiastic baseball junky that raised me had returned and I can't tell you how neat that was. It was like we were riding home from one of my Little League baseball games, side by side, coach and player, father and son, dissecting the particulars of the game and enjoying the hell out of each other's company.
And what a joyous game for such a landmark personal event. Curt Schilling was on as he has not been on all season. The Baltimore Orioles were helpless. It's hard to know how many strikeouts a pitcher has when you are in attendance at a ballgame but after Curt Schilling struck out David Newhan to end the eighth inning, my dad suggested we try and count the plays the Sox had made in the field. "Pokey made a couple plays and there was the lazy pop-up to Damon...um.... Minky made a diving stop...and oh there was a couple plays by Mueller and a foul pop to Varitek." But that was about all we could come up with. My father said, "I think Schilling has 14 K's." As he has been so many times in my life, he was right.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Sox, seemingly hellbent on getting their ace the win he deserved, managed to squeeze a run across to give the Sox a 1-0 lead on a pinch hit Kevin Millar sacrifice fly. It was the most wild reaction you could imagine to a sacrifice fly. Fenway was electric.
Without a view of the pitching scoreboard, we did not know how many pitches Schilling had thrown and were disappointed when Keith Foulke came in for the ninth. But despite what the box score may say, Foulke did not pitch terribly - a single to Tejada and a home run to Javy Lopez after what seemed like 6 strikes but alas, the Red Sox had blown the lead in what had been the most exhilirating game I attended all season.
Interestingly, my father explained to me earlier that when you experience a spate of misfortune, as he has, even when things start to look brighter, there is a feeling of impending doom - something will come along to turn the tides of even the most uplifting moments. And sadly, the game that was supposed to be so uplifting for him had morphed into little more than a microcosm of his last three years.
But when Kevin Youkilis walked to begin the bottom of the ninth and Bill Mueller followed with a double, just as recent events in Dad's life had suddenly turned for the better, so had the Sox's fortunes. And just as abruptly, they turned for the worse again when David McCarty and Johnny Damon left Mueller and Dave Roberts (pinch running for Youk) standing right where they were on 2nd and 3rd. Ironically, the game was in the hands of Dad's least favorite and perhaps my very favorite Sox, Mark Bellhorn. "Impending doom" lay ahead for the second time in the night and the thirtieth time or so in the last three years for Dad. But his son was reassured and I could sense him doing everything he could to pry and self-install some of the hope I was overtly emanating and he begun cheering wildly for Bellhorn and clapping with the Fenway crowd. And when Mark Bellhorn hit that ball and it landed in right-center field, it was an unprecedented shared moment of happiness.
There was a lesson last night.
Sure there can be doom around any corner but there is an equal chance that endless possibility lay around the very same corner.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Here's a hypothetical...
So the Sox wrap up the Wild Card and because of a late surge from the Minnesota Twins, they must open the postseason with a trip out to the Twin Cities for a best-of-five set. In the opener, Johan Santana, in the midst of an historic run of pitching dominance, outduels Pedro and earns Minnesota a 1-0 series lead. In Game 2, the Sox bounce back on the strength of a strong outing from Curt Schilling. In Game 3 back at Fenway, Bronson Arroy pitches well enough to win as the Sox get to Carlos Silva. The next night however, the Sox get trounced after falling behind early due to Tim Wakefield or Derek Lowe's (take your pick) ineffectiveness. Of course this sets up a trip back to Minnesota to face the guy currently making Sandy Koufax look like Kirk Rueter. Does that sound good to anybody?
The Sox have two weeks to solve their 4th starter problem, a potentially fatal flaw of an otherwise spectacular postseason club.
Monday, September 20, 2004
This is a good thing...
As some of you have noticed, my writing has become almost non-existant this summer. The reasoning is that I started a new job which has really sapped my internet posting time. That is coupled with an old back injury, and a hateful wood chair at my home computer, and the result is Sully's House.
Not that I mind, I think Sully has done a great job, and judging by your e-mails, you agree with me.
Anyway, this is the crux of my post. Last year, there were two times where we had multiple-month breaks, mostly because I was burned out. This won't happen this year. As the year draws to a close, I will be posting much more often.
If you have been a reader for a while, you know that last year I did my award breakdowns before playoffs...I will try to get that done, starting tomorrow with the Managers of the Year.
I will also be doing the playoff previews like last year. The only difference is that they will have more juicy stats for you to pour over and ignore. Those will come when the matchups are finalized.
Finally, this offseason, I will be reworking the side bar on the right to create a comprehensive listing of all the blogs I like, or find interesting, as well as some other stuff.
So basically, you'll be getting a re-dedicated Jeff, and the same high-quality Sully to read this playoff/off season.
For me, this weekend was more a reminder that the Yankees are still a helluva ball club than cause for concern over the Red Sox. Saturday was just kind of silly and then spiraled out of control. Take away a few fielding blunders and it's a much different game. But the Yanks really showed something yesterday. They hammered Pedro Martinez while Mike Mussina was excellent.
I am swamped at work this morning so that's all I got at the moment. But Yanks fans have every right to be both happy and optimistic this morning.
Friday, September 17, 2004
You gotta hand it to the big man, he came just as advertised. I think today, the morning after he nailed down his 20th win of his innaugaral Carmine Hosiery season, a little retrospective on Schilling's season may be in order. Here is where Schilling ranks in the American League, from least to most telling pitching stats:
E.R.A.: 4th (Santana, Westbrook, Hudson)
WHIP: 2nd (Santana)
K's: 3rd (Sanatana, Martinez)
K's/9: 7th (Santana, Martinez, Bonderman, Escobar, Lee, Harden)
VORP: 2nd (Santana)
Support Neutral Value Added: 4th (Santana, Radke, Martinez)
Helping Schill lock down his 20th against the Devil Rays last night were Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon, who each homered.
OK, that's all I can muster up in the way of review...time to look ahead.
The Sox head down to the Bronx this weekend and literally as I type this, adrenaline is rushing through me. It is so flippin' on. And I know I am going to sound arrogant here but is there any doubt who the better team is? By any sophistacated objective measure, or this particular one I should say, this Red Sox team is better than the Yanks by just about the same margin as the Yankees are better than the Mets.
I am sure there will be tired "1918" chants and much hackery about the history of the rivalry, as if Gary Sheffield and Bronson Arroyo were both playing in 1978 or something. Well the Red Sox need not pay a lick of attention to any of it because they are better and they ought to have conviction in this fact. March in heads high, confident and focused, play as they are capable of playing, leave with a series victory. It's that simple.
Tonight, Bronson Arroyo opposes the new Yankees ace, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
Check out the usual suspects for some quality coverage. For a Sox angle, Joy of Sox, Bambino's Curse and the greatest thing that has ever happened to the internet, the Soxaholix, should keep you occupied. The Yankees boast some of the best blogs on the web. Larry Mahnken, Alex Belth, Jay Jaffe and Cliff Corcoran all do some great work.
c - Jorge Posada 264/403/469 (5.9 RC/27)
Jason Varitek 304/399/493 (6.3 RC/27)
1b - John Olerud 289/365/380 (5.5 RC/27)
Kevin Millar 299/382/484 (6.1 RC/27)
2b - Miguel Cairo 292/341/429 (4.7 RC/27)
Mark Bellhorn 265/374/460 (6.4 RC/27)
3b - Alex Rodriguez 290/379/516 (6.7 RC/27)
Kevin Youkilis 268/372/437 (6.2 RC/27)
ss - Derek Jeter 288/348/467 (5.5 RC/27)
Orlando Cabrera 291/323/459 (4.5 RC/27)
lf - Hideki Matsui 297/391/509 (7.5 RC/27)
Manny Ramirez 313/402/625 (7.8 RC/27)
cf - Bernie Williams 256/349/415 (4.7 RC/27)
Johnny Damon 310/388/474 (6.4 RC/27)
rf - Gary Sheffield 298/402/548 (8.1 RC/27)
Trot Nixon 288/352/477 (4.8 RC/27)
dh - Jason Giambi 214/353/391 (5.7 RC/27)
David Ortiz 298/373/600 (7.5 RC/27)
Bubba Crosby 143/192/286 (4.1 RC/27)
Tony Clark 231/307/483 (5.4 RC/27)
Felix Escalona 000/000/000 (0.0 RC/27)
John Flaherty 241/279/448 (3.6 RC/27)
Kenny Lofton 280/346/409 (4.7 RC/27)
Dioner Navaro 1000/1000/1000 (632.6 RC/27)
Andy Phillips 000/000/000 (0.0 RC/27)
Ruban Sierra 256/310/477 (6.0 RC/27)
Enrique Wilson 216/256/333 (3.4 RC/27)
Rickey Gutierrez 355/375/387 (2.8 RC/27)
Adam Hyzdu 500/500/1000 (32.5 RC/27)
Gabe Kapler 273/307/401 (3.6 RC/27)
Sandy Martinez 000/000/000 (-2.7 RC/27)
David McCarty 245/319/378 (3.5 RC/27)
Doug Mientkiewicz 227/280/320 (3.0 RC/27)
Doug Mirabelli 281/366/519 (6.9 RC/27)
Bill Mueller 281/363/447 (5.3 RC/27)*
Pokey Reese 228/275/313 (2.6 RC/27)
Dave Roberts 269/342/448 (4.3 RC/27)
*Out indefinately (knee)
New York: 269/354/459 5.7 RC/G
Boston: 284/361/477 5.7 RC/G
New York - 101.8%
Boston - 98.2%
New York - (-1.491)
Boston - (-4.862)
New York - (-4.8 BG) 72%
Boston - (-13.1 BG) 69%
New York - 3.26 per 550 PA
Boston - 1.04 per 550 PA
Bronson Arroyo 9-9 4.04 (35.468)
Orlando Hernandez 8-0 2.49 (26.080)
Derek Lowe 14-11 4.91 (22.401)
John Lieber 11-8 4.46 (21.954)
Pedro Martinez 16-6 3.43 (58.863)
Mike Mussina 11-9 4.74 (15.796)
New York - 86.098
Boston - 201.884
New York - 64.396
Tom Gordon - 30.601
Felix Heredia - (-4.066)
Steve Karsay - 0.548
Esteban Loazia - (5.178)
CJ Nitkowski - (-2.205)
Bret Prinz - 0.776
Scott Proctor - 1.590
Paul Quantrill - 13.909
Mariano Rivera - 32.292
Taynon Sturtze - (-7.298)
Boston - 94.390
Terry Adams - (-0.319)
Pedro Astacio - (-0.874)
Lenny DiNardo - 5.687
Alan Embree - 7.845
Keith Foulke - 34.433
Curtis Leskanic - 3.184
Ramiro Mendoza - 11.211
Mike Myers - 1.854
Mike Timlin - 14.831
Scott Williamson - 12.985
New York - 2.6 RpG, 1.16 IPpApp
Boston - 2.6 RpG, 1.00 IPpApp
Thursday, September 16, 2004
A win is a win and there were certainly some encouraging signs in last night's game but in our never-ending quest for big picture clarity here at Dewey's House, it is important to try and pick out the macro themes (if any exist) in any particular ballgame. Tim Wakefield, once again, was awful last night. He gave up 6 hits, 3 walks and 4 earned runs in 5 innings of work. With each start, Wakefield is making it more and more difficult for Terry Francona to pencil him into the postseason starting rotation. I honestly do not have an opinion on the matter right now. I like Tim Wakefield and am sensitive to the fact that he is the longest tenured Red Sox and has demonstrated great loyalty to the club over the years. It clouds my ability to render an objective judgment. So let's see if he can turn it around because that's the thing about Wakefield that we all should have learned by now. The minute you write him off, he can break off a month's worth of gems. So I am content to wait until the decision absolutely must be made.
Speaking of turning it around on a dime, Tuesday night's co-recipients of goat-of-the-game, Mark Bellhorn and Kevin Millar, spearheaded an impressive Boston offensive attack as both players hit important home runs. Trot Nixon also looked impressive as he chipped in a pair of doubles. While I do not believe it to be necessary by any means, it would be impossible to overstate just how tremendous a healthy and productive Trot Nixon could be for this lineup. Replacing Game Kapler and Dave Roverts at-bats with something even close to the 2003 Trot Nixon represents an enormous upgrade.
Tonight, the jewel of Theo's offseason, Curt Schilling, goes for his 20th win of the season. Fenway should be rockin', both for Curt and as they get ready to send the Olde Towne team down to the Bronx for a little weekend business trip.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
If it wasn't so chilly at Fenway last night, I would have sworn it was mid-June. Runners stranded all over the place, boneheaded baserunning (Cowboy Up), swinging at bad pitches and inventing ways not to score runs. I mean, I have literally never even seen a bases loaded double play scored 3-2! The good news was that Pedro once again was spectacular. He had 10 strikeouts in 6 innings pitched. Another positive tidbit was that Trot Nixon came off the bench and hit a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning. I know folks around here have grown fond of Gabe Kapler and I do not begrudge the man. He doesn't write himself in the lineup and does the best he can out there. But man, he just cannot hit. It's hilarious but the Fenway crowd goes buckwild every time Kapler steps to the plate but when Mark Bellhorn does, there is still a smattering of boos.
If Trot Nixon can work himself back into anything even resembling his 2003 form, he has to play the majority of the time in right field.
Enough about the Sox last night. They lost but did not lose any ground in the playoff race as the Anaheim Angels lost as well (but lost grond in the AL East as the Yanks won). The real story at the ballpark last night was Tampa Bay Devil Rays rookie lefthander Scott Kazmir. Kazmir, who just a month-and-a-half ago was the Mets' property, outpitched Pedro Martinez last night, striking out 9 in 6 innings of work. Don't be fooled by the short outing. He was in total control but wisely, Tampa Bay has been closely monitoring his pitch counts, yanking him when he even starts to sniff 100 pitches. He threw 92 last night.
What a truly awful deal the Mets made at the deadline when they sent this kid to Tampa in exchange for proven wild man, Victor Zambrano. It was indefensible really even if you truly believed the Mets had a crack at the Wild Card. It's downright insane when you consider that, regardless of how close the Mets were at the time, they did not have the horses to hang with the other NL Wild Card contenders. In Kazmir and B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay has two 20-year olds that, sooner than you think, could be the cornerstone of Devil Rays respectability.
Tim Wakefield and Dewon Brazelton square off tonight at Fenway.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
- The Red Sox were off yesterday but with the Yankees pitching staff throwing the way it tends to these days, as long as the Yanks are playing, there is a good chance for some AL East ground-gainin'. And sure enough, the Yankees had their asses handed to them yesterday by the Kansas City Royals, 17-8 but don't be fooled by the score. It wasn't that close. While it is always fun to see the Bombers lose embarassingly, I wouldn't really put any stock in a Brad Halsey start when considering New York's postseason chances. The one lingering concern for the Yanks, however, is the way Paul Quantrill has been pitching of late. New York really only has two reliable arms in their pen these days with Quantrill's ERA well over 6 for the last six weeks or so.
- In the exciting NL 5-team Wild Card race, the two teams participating won yesterday. In an afternoon tilt that was played at US Cellular Field in Chicago due to scheduling problems resulting from the ridiculous Florida hurricane season, the Florida Marlins took care of the Montreal Expos. The Marlins scored all of their runs in the eighth and rode a solid start from Josh Beckett to the victory. The San Diego Padres, also beginning the day 2.5 games back of the San Francisco Giants, took advantage of another solid David Wells outing en route to a 9-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. This game wasn't that close either, however. The Padres jumped out on Odalis Perez and staked Boomer to a nice lead. When he left the game, the Padres had a 9-4 lead. A non-essential part of an otherwise stellar bullpen, Blaine Neal, took the mound with a runner on first and nobody out in the bottom of the seventh. He would not get an out. Three runs later, Bruce Bochy turned to two of his more reliable items, Akinori Otsuka and Trevor Hoffman, to close the game.
Monday, September 13, 2004
While a four game split against the American League's second worst club will undoubtedly leave a disappointing taste, the reality is that the Red Sox have had a wildly successful stretch against the AL West over the last two weeks, posting a record of 10-3. The Sox have a 5 game lead in the Wild Card and maintain an outside chance of catching the Yankees for their first AL East crown since Jose Canseco was hanging around Fenway in 1995.
I have to agree with Jeff here in that I have no idea why, if Tito wanted to rest some of his guys, he chose to do it in a a fashion that would have Dave McCarty and Pokey Reese in the lineup simultaneously. If it is your contention that Derek Lowe's grounder-inducing sinkers provide a nice reason to insert Pokey Reese back in the lineup at the expense of Mark Bellhorn's bat, I suppose I do not have a major problem with that. And heck, if you further postulate that it is so important to have solid infield defense for such a situation that you think it also provides an opportunity to rest the recently injured David Ortiz then I might fight you a little harder but again, I can deal. So now it comes down to David McCarty or Doug Mientkiewicz. With Kevin Millar again hitting at a level that justifies an everyday spot in a championship-calibel lineup, Doug Mientkiewicz has not played as much as he, or the Red Sox for that matter, thought he would. Yesterday, with big righthander Gil Meche (.813 OPS against by lefties from '01-'03) taking the hill for the M's and Lowe for the Sox, it seemed a nice chance to capitalize on Minky's slick glove and thus far underperforming lefty stick. He will never revert to 2003 .300/.393/.450 form without getting at-bats wherever and whenever he possibly can do so without hurting the team. And so I guess I just wonder, in a situation as taoilor-made for Minky as yesterday, why was Dave McCarty playing? Why is Doug Mientkiewicz on this team if not to take the field behind Derek Lowe with a hard-throwing righty on the hill and David Ortiz on the bench?
Pedro against the D-Rays tomorrow night back at Fenway.
Edit: Mientkiewicz was scratched with flu-like symptoms. Kinda renders the above invective moot but what the hell, we'll leave it up.
*I have internet in my house again. I do believe in unlikelyhoods.
*I don't understand the direct logic of starting Pokey Reese, and Dave McCarty at the same time. Neither can hit, and you kinda need that to win games. That said, I'm not upset that the Red Sox punted the game yesterday. They are up 6 with 20 to play, and a playoff spot is all but assured.
*Francona did make a great decision though, and that was playing Nixon with Lowe on the mound. Not only does it get Nixon out on the field, but it's a low stress game, due to Lowe's ground ball tendancies. Good move, Tito.
*Bad sign: Manny forgot how many outs there were. Good sign: That's the first time in a few months.
*Against the Devil Rays, the Sox are pitching Schilling, Pedro, and Wakefield. Talk about two bazookas and a peashooter to kill a fly (I'm not advocating changing the rotation around. I just think it's funny.)
*The Red Sox strength of schedule for the rest of the year is .502. The Yankees are .504. That means the Sox' chances of winning the division are pretty slim, unless they take 4 or 5 games from the Yankees.
*I don't have a good way to wrap this up. So now I leave.
Friday, September 10, 2004
- Last night reminded me of the game in Toronto a few weeks back when Ted Lilly cooled off a hot Sox lineup. Bobby Madritsch, at age 28, seems to be putting it together a little bit. He dominated last night. It happens.
- I am concerned, and I think seriously so, about Tim Wakefield. He has been so important to so many successful Sox teams over the years that it would be a shame to demote him in any way on perhaps the best Sox club over his tenure. But the lollipop routine is not getting it done and he has been just inconsistent enough this year that the risk of starts like his last two may just outweigh the potential reward of starts like this one.
- Orlando Cabrera continued hitting last night. If you can be pretty sure that this is the Cabrera you will be getting going forward, I think the Sox will have to consider throwing some big bucks at the guy.
- The Yanks swept the D-Rays yesterday. Give 'em credit. They certainly are not rolling over for Boston. I think the Sox will have to pick up at least one game in their remaining 6 head-to-head matchups in order to have a shot at the division.
- Schill tonight.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Sure Pedro Martinez's quote following the Boston Red Sox's 20th win in 22 games may have been a bit arrogant. He said...
"It means we are ready to play anybody on any grounds at anytime right now," Martinez said. "We're that hot. We're just rolling. Any team that stands in front of us is going to have a hard time."
But who could blame him? After all, many said after the Red Sox had won 12 of 13 against some of the more mediocre clubs in the American League that their win streak was as attributable to their so-so competition as it was to the quality of their club. There was just no way they could keep it up against the formidable AL West triumverate. But after an 8-1 stretch against Anaheim, Texas and including a three-day Bay Area desecration, I think some folks may begin to take this club seriously.
In his last 7 starts, Pedro Martinez is 6-1. He has pitched 50 innings in that span, struck out 60 and given up just 44 combined walks and hits. The Sox now have the two aces they thought they would back in February.
Beyond that, I don't really know what to add. It was another team effort offensively... Pedro Astacio made his first Red Sox appearance...Tim Hudson was terrible. But the story is that this team just keeps on rolling.
They open up a four game set in Seattle tonight.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Behind some solid work from Bronson Arroyo and a persistent offensive attack right through the lineup, the Red Sox were able to win game one of an important three game set against the Bay Area's junior circuit representative. Barry Zito took the loss and if it isn't time already, it is becoming pretty close to time to call a spade a spade. Zito is now just OK. For one reason or another, he is simply unable to develop any consistency controlling what once was a devastating breaking ball and this fact has morphed Barry Zito into a mediocrity. At times Zito can look great. He made Kevin Millar and Jason Varitek each look silly more than once last night. But then he hangs a breaking ball to Dave Roberts or offers up an 87 MPH fastball down Broadway to David Ortiz. It will be interesting to see what Oakland, should they make the postseason, decides to do about their rotation. A case can be made that both Rich Harden and Mark Redman would make for better options than the 2002 Cy Young Award winner (cough...ahem...bullshit!).
What was a cleanly played, ordinary ball game between two of baseball's best clubs turned a bit ugly in the eighth inning. Down a run, the evening's offensive star for Oakland, Mark Kotsay (2 HR's), led off the bottom of the eight with a quickly sinking, slicing line drive to the opposite field. Manny Ramirez charged hard and riskily went into a slide, for if the ball were to have eluded him, Kotsay would have been standing on third representing the tying run with nobody out. But Ramirez was able to smother the ball, albeit after it bounced. The third-base umpire however ruled that Ramirez caught the ball in the air. Kotsay and A's manager Ken Macha went ballistic, each launching their own succession of f-bombs right at the young umpire. Somehow, neither was ejected. Since the next two A's made routine outs, the play probably had a good chance of being forgotten, especially after the Red Sox tacked on three more runs to run their lead to 7-3 before Doug Mientkiewicz stepped to the plate in the ninth inning. And wouldn't you know it, Mientkiewicz hits a similarly soft liner of his own in Kotsay's direction, fading away from the A's centerfielder just enought so that when he arrives to make a lunging catch, the ball bounces just before his glove. The umpire saw it correctly this time and Minky had a single. The A's fans, probably venting frustration as much as protesting this particular call, began to litter the field with bottles and trash.
It was an ugly end to an otherwise enjoyable game. Mark Redman and Derek "crotch chop" Lowe go at it tonight. Expect a determined A's effort against Lowe.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Magic Number for Wild Card - 24
Magic Number for Division - 28
c - Damian Miller 289/354/439 (6.2 RC/27)
Jason Varitek 308/403/506 (6.4 RC/27)
1b - Scott Hatteberg 310/393/461 (7.6 RC/27)
Kevin Millar 298/383/464 (5.9 RC/27)
2b - Mark McLemore 252/356/313 (4.4 RC/27)
Mark Bellhorn 265/377/456 (6.3 RC/27)
3b - Eric Chavez 284/411/542 (7.4 RC/27)
Bill Mueller 287/368/461 (5.7 RC/27)
ss - Bobby Crosby 251/334/441 (4.6 RC/27)
Orlando Cabrera 281/306/459 (4.2 RC/27)
lf - Nick Swisher 600/778/1400 (55.8 RC/27)
Manny Ramirez 316/406/623 (7.7 RC/27)
cf - Mark Kotsay 303/359/443 (6.1 RC/27)
Johnny Damon 314/390/471 (6.2 RC/27)
rf - Eric Byrnes 288/350/481 (6.7 RC/27)
Dave Roberts 278/344/463 (4.6 RC/27)
dh - Eurbial Durazo 321/391/531 (8.7 RC/27)
David Ortiz 302/375/609 (7.7 RC/27)
Jermaine Dye 258/321/447 (5.2 RC/27)
Esteban German 245/286/302 (4.7 RC/27)
Bobby Kielty 210/313/362 (4.3 RC/27)
Billy McMillon 211/291/390 (3.9 RC/27)
Adam Melhuse 258/316/461 (3.8 RC/27)
Marco Scutaro 277/301/393 (4.5 RC/27)
Rickey Guiterrez 367/387/400 (2.9 RC/27)
Adam Hyzdu 000/000/000 (0.0 RC/27)
Tim Hummel 000/000/000 (0.0 RC/27)
Gabe Kapler 272/307/394 (3.3 RC/27)
Sandy Martinez 000/000/000 (0.0 RC/27)
David McCarty 246/323/384 (3.6 RC/27)
Doug Mientkewicz 221/260/324 (2.6 RC/27)
Doug Mirabelli 271/343/512 (6.1 RC/27)
Kevin Youkilis 281/384/461 (6.7 RC/27)
Oakland - 274/348/442 (5.7 RC/game)
Red Sox - 285/362/476 (5.6 RC/game)
Oakland - 106.7%
Boston - 97.0%
Oakland - 4.167
Boston - (-3.958)
Oakland - (-16.1 BG) 66%
Boston - (-12.8 BG) 68%
Oakland - 1.82 per 550 PA
Boston - 1.12 per 550 PA
Bronson Arroyo 7-9 4.24 (29.237)
Barry Zito 10-9 4.58 (26.198)
Derek Lowe 13-10 5.15 (16.395)
Mark Redman 10-10 4.50 (23.145)
Pedro Martinez 15-5 3.55 (52.758)
Tim Hudson 11-4 2.95 (46.956)
Oakland - 174.485
Boston - 179.106
Oakland - 71.662
Chad Bradford - 8.339
Octavio Dotel - 6.636
Justin Duchscherer - 22.000
Chris Hammond - 12.782
Jim Mecir - 10.073
Arthur Rhodes - 3.798
Ricardo Rincon - 8.508
Boston - 85.729
Terry Adams - (-1.570)
Pedro Astacio - 0.000
Alan Embree - 8.269
Keith Foulke - 32.857
Curtis Leskanic - 3.383
Ramiro Mendoza - 9.734
Mike Myers - (-0.172)
Mike Timlin - 12.354
Oakland - 2.4 RpG, 1.09 IPpAPP
Boston - 2.6 RpG, 1.01 IPpAPP
The Sox took two of three from the Texas Rangers this weekend, winning the two you might have expected them to. Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling won Friday and Sunday while Tim Wakefield took the loss Saturday.
I don't have much time at the moment but I just want to say that, having been in attendance Friday night, this run has once again reinforced for me how lucky we all are to be Red Sox fans. Cameron Indoor Stadium had nothing on Fenway Friday night. I had been to Sox games where cheers broke out here and there, different sections getting into it at different times. But Friday night, after the Monster scoreboard revealed that the Yankees had lost, something changed. And when Keith Foulke came in to close out Texas, 34,000, in unison, rose to their feet and joyously exclaimed "Let's-Go-Red-Sox"...clap, clap, clap clap clap. It was cathartic.
Something eminently wonderful is happening here in the hub. Everyone has a little extra hop in their step. Strangers in Sox gear smile at one another. Sure baseball is just a game and it is a bit trivial to pour so much into the Sox but when so many can feel such happiness, excitement and unity then it doesn't matter what is accounting for the emotions. It's worth it.
There is much written about how torturous it is to be a Sox fan. Well I want to call bullshit once and for all. I wouldn't trade my Sox fandom for anything in the world.
The Sox are in Oakland tonight and Bronson Arroyo squares off against Barry Zito.
Friday, September 03, 2004
One source of real gratification over the course of this Red Sox surge has been the fact that even some of the best and smartest scribes had written the Sox off. Stephen Goldman did so in a couple of his TEAMS columns on Baseball Prospectus and we even caught this nugget from Joe Sheehan's recent piece on the Anaheim Angels:
"When the Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs, I wrote, "The Red Sox essentially gave their playoff spot to the Cubs."
I see no reason to change my mind about that. (The recent good stretch by the Sox is as much about weak opposition as any benefits from the trade.) This Angels team looks almost exactly like the 2002 version, and it's entirely possible that, in an AL that lacks a great team, they're on the same path they were on two years ago."
What's particularly interesting to me is the level of conviction Sheehan must have had in his belief that Anaheim was better than Boston. Otherwise, why write that on the eve of the Halos' big visit to Fenway?
Of note is that he specifies that there is no "great team" in the AL. Well let's compare the Cards, the clear "great team" in the NL, and the Sox in a few vital categories:
Sheehan has been a big proponent of things such as Davenport's W3 column on the Adjusted Standings page of BP as being a more accurate measure of how good a team really is than just straight wins and losses.
This being the case, I wonder why then he doesn't fancy the Red Sox "great"?
I'd be interested to hear Sheehan's thoughts today.
David Ortiz sat out, Manny Ramirez went hitless, Boston was 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left 14 men on base, Derek Lowe took the mound drunk, Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn played with one hand tied behind their backs and Orlando Cabrera took the field with cement in his shoes.
Like a boy band member trying to see just how ridiculous he can look and still manage to pull any girl he wants, the Red Sox did everything they could to lose last night. It still wasn't enough.
Derek Lowe pitched 7 and 2/3rds innings and didn't give up a run after the third. There were some sparkling defensive plays, the first on-the-field, tangible signs that the deadline deal was a good baseball one. Or at least every fifth day, when Lowe takes the mound, it may be a good one. Dave Roberts, Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz all made memorable defensive stops, providing Derek Lowe with the defense it had to against a free-swinging contact machine like the Anaheim Angels lineup.
Offensively, the four runs definitely do not tell the story for Boston. The Sox raked last night to the tune of a .439/600 on-base/slugging line. Mark Bellhorn stayed hot with a pair of doubles and Dave Roberts also had two of his own. The dazzling Johnny Damon (.314/.390/.471) collected another three hits, Bill Mueller homered and Kevin Millar notched an important first inning double.
The Texas Rangers come to town tonight and will send, um, John Wasdin to the hill to face Pedro Martinez.
I don't anticipate a much different result.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Last night's win just didn't really do it for me. On the one hand I was impressed with the back end of Boston's bullpen. Holding the line against a lineup like Anaheim's is no easy task. On the other hand, I really believed that Bronson Arroyo had turned a corner - that he was going to pitch like a legitimate #2 starter the rest of the way. Maybe it was delusional of me but it's really what I thought. I suppose I am still not unconvinced that Arroyo can pitch at a high level but another clean outing would have provided a bit more conviction in that belief. His next start in Oakland Monday night will tell a lot.
Offensively, what the hell can you say? They're frickin rollin'. Is there a better one-two at the top of a lineup than Damon and Bellhorn right now? Man are those guys doing the job at the top of the order. And then once these guys get on, Manny is pounding, Varitek is murdering, Millar is, well, participating, Mueller's hot and even Cabrera and Roberts are hitting a litlle bit.
But tonight is the test. If the Sox, behind Derek Lowe, can defeat Bartolo Colon and the Angels tonight then shit, I'm all in. I will be interested to see what kind of lineup Tito puts out there. I think I'd go...
The Angels will be putting the bat on the ball all night and defense will be of supreme import. Enjoy!
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
I thought the Red Sox had had their fun? I thought these were the teams that would provide the inevitable rude awakening the Sox were going to get? I thought our southwesterly neighbors were going to start feasting on their portion of a cream-puff schedule?
Well if this is all still going to happen, and I suppose it might, it most certainly did not begin last night. The Sox beat Anaheim, 10-7, but it was much more convincing than the scoreboard would have you believe. Boston took a 10-3 lead into the ninth and Terry Francona, trying to give Mike Myers every opportunity to earn a prominent role in the Sox bullpen, turned the game over to the lefty. He quickly gave up four runs without an out. Keith Foulke entered the game and put a quick end to the nonsense. Manny Ramirez, as he will do from time to time, paced the Boston attack with two home runs while Curt Schilling pitched another good but unglamorous ballgame to earn the win. Also of note, Dave Roberts hit his first home run in a Sox uniform.
Meanwhile, down in the Bronx...