Monday, July 31, 2006

No Cavalry This Year: Sox Stand Pat

A snoozer of a trade deadline has come and gone, and with the exception of journeyman mediocrity Bryan Corey, the Red Sox did not acquire any new faces. We heard rumors of massive multi-player deals that were in the works, ever in the works, but nothing reached consummation. Except, perhaps, the growing feeling among the other GMs that Theo and Co. were yanking them around (if you believe illegitimate Steinbrenner offspring Buster Olney).

The initial reaction to this of course is one of disappointment. It's fun to get new shiny things, and there are so many glaring holes on this team that we all assumed that would be exactly what happened. It is painful, but we will continue to see the Anti-Christ take the mound. We will continue to watch 90% of all ground balls to the second base area turn into base hits. And we will continue to wonder "will we ever win a game behind a #5 starter again"? It's tough.

However, this front office values the future and in today's baseball where parity is becoming the norm, that means keeping your young prospects. GMs around baseball know the pressure Theo and co. are under playing against the Yankees in the East. The asking prices for mediocre players are inflated and the asking prices for quality players are sky-high. Maybe this scenario demands they get creative and put together multi-team blockbusters, or perhaps they feel that is the best way to get value regardless of the market. Whatever the reasons, these complicated deals are notoriously difficult to close, and when the smoke cleared this afternoon, there was no fire.

The Yankees improved their team in the short-term with the additions of Abeu and Lidle. While Lidle is not dominant, it's safe to say he's better than Chacon, and certainly better than Kyle Snyder. He is insurance. Abreu gives them a run creator, and a solid all-around ballplayer. He he has an OBP of .427 and has some spped with 25 SBs, which in the Yankee lineup is going to translate into runs, and runs have a way of translating into wins.

The short version at this point appears to be that the Sox will once again be fighting for the wild card in the AL East. Nothing is over, but they are playing three wins above their pythag wins right now, and their schedule gets tougher in the second half. The Yankees rotation is solid from 1-5, and they are going to score more runs from here on in. It is what it is. Nothing is easy in the AL East.

Still, let me reiterate: nothing is over. The Sox don't have a #4 or #5 starter, but perhaps that will change. Wells' outing tonight is...well, awful... but he's thrown five innings and hasn't collapsed in a pile of fat and BBQ sauce yet, so there's hope. Wake should be able to rehab in time for the playoffs. Wily Mo Pena, Super Genius will be in the lineup every day and due to his magical powers anything can happen. The last point is probably the one you want to hold on to. Remember the magic.

Edit: Fuck the magic, Varitek has apparently left the game with a knee injury. As I've noted before Doug Mirabelli's understanding of game calling consists of the phrase "I call it a game because that's what it is." If the injury is serious we're pretty much screwed.


Today's interesting tidbit from the farm is this: Greenville is being no-hit through six innings by a pitcher whose last name is "Outman". He is a very literal person.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sox Forfeit, Yanks Cheat Again, Bosoxwest rants

Alert: ranting below.

In a piece of shocking misfortune, I spent a considerable sum of money purchasing tickets to a game that Tito Francona forfeited. Sadly, I didn't realize Tito had done this until I arrived to understand that he had supported Kyle Snyder, our fragile 5th "starter", by granting him the peculiar game-calling skills (and bat, of course) of idiot non-savant Doug Mirabelli. Dougie was wise enough to insure that the only truly dangerous bat in Oakland's lineup (Frank Thomas) saw a grooved fastball whenever he wanted one. He somehow seemed to be unaware that Kyle doesn't throw his fastball with any control and in fact is more comfortable with his curve.

Dougie was also skillful enough to swing at every off-speed offering from Dan Haren, then head back to the dugout marvelling at Haren's "not that fast fastball". Basically, watching Dougie today was like repeatedly punching ones-self in the crotch. As it turns out, the Oakland folks don't even bat an eye when crotches are self-punched, so that worked out well in an unfortunate way.

Short story is Snyder looked like a dog who'd been kicked by his master (he had) and performed in a fairly uninspired and self-defeating fashion. I think it's safe to say he lacked passion today. I'm just basing this on the 12 minutes it took him to walk from the mound to the dugout after each half-inning, and the fact that his chin never left his skeletal upper chest. Maybe I read too much into the body language - look how wrong I was about Derek Lowe and Clement....errr....nevermind.

Meanwhile, hours later, the Yanks take yet another game from the Texas Rangers on a ninth-inning dinger by baseball's longest-running cheater Jason Giambi. Over several days of beers and chatter the west coast Red Sox fans have come to two conclusions:
  1. Jason Giambi has put on a physically impossible amount of muscle in the past 18 months and will soon be dead from the abuse, but will continue to help the Yankees win and will ultimately be without legal recourse, per his contract with George Steinbrenner.
  2. The Texas Rangers have been paid to drop games to the Yankees as part of the A-Rod trade. In 2006 alone they are 2-8 against a PEDestrian Yankee team, and today's loss was a bona fide work of art. Only Tampa Bay and Kansas City have rolled over with such girlish alacrity, but of course that was to be expected.
There isn't much to be done about number one, and it's pretty difficult to prove number two given how truly incompetent the Hart/Showalter combo is, so essentially we're left hoping a streaky and sometimes unimpressive Red Sox team can somehow outlast a Yankee squad riding an ungodly streak of pure luck, clutch performance, and the latest in performance enhancing drugs.

Notes from the Coliseum

Here are a couple things I noted from watching the Sox - As series in Oakland...
  • A's fans are even worse than I remember. On Monday there was an 80/20 Sox fans to A'sfans split, which really bummed me out, because the Giants have great attendance and a baseball team that is far less impressive than the A's. However during today's day game the ratio normalized, due to (as I learned to my distress) the ability of the A's senior citizen set to attend. It was like watching the Sox game on the TV in the living room while the kitchen TV was blaring Happy Days in the background. Unnerving, quite frankly.
  • Wily Mo Pena, Super Genius is a behemoth. He is gigantic, is freakishly fast, and threw so hard in a between-inning catch with Van Buren that JVB had to start loading up and firing his throws back to avoid being shown up. If he is traded by the Sox I will be very very disappointed, unless it's to the Pats.
  • Mark Loretta is a statue. I cannot stress this enough. His lateral movement is that of a fully-retrofitted multi-story tower during a mild breeze. Several times we all got very excited to watch important ground-ball basehits roll up the middle on the second base side only to discover to our dismay that with Ellis at second they were routine outs. We had just been fooled because they were hits for the A's. Pedroia must be licking his chops.
Trade Talk

Everything I have heard thus far has struck me as absolute hooey. I'm not just saying this just to use the term "hooey" either. One of the stories has the FO in the mix for Lugo, which I have to think is just a smokescreen to up Toronto's output for the 30-year old rental. If it were actually in their plans to move to a more offensively talented SS I would hope they target 26-year old Wilson Betemit in Atlanta, who put up an OPS near .800 in limited time last season and is at .844 thus far this year in just under 200 ABs. Rumor has it the Yankees have already done so. In the long term, I think allowing them to acquire Betemit would be a far worse outcome than if the Jays acquired Lugo for two months. He would provide the Yankees with a three-position utility man off the bench with some pedigree, or allow them to move Cano for pitching.

In spite of Snyder's tough outing today I am pretty sure the rumored Lieber/Burrell acquisition will not happen. Lieber is not good enough to warrant taking Burrell's albatross contract. Actually, to me, Lieber is not good enough to trade for. I'd question signing him as a free agent. He hasn't impressed in the NL, and that speaks for itself. He is known for pounding the strike zone (although not recently), and would benefit from the Sox defense when pitching to contact, but he's just not worth anything in the way of young talent.

Burrell is a decent hitter with some power and a good batting eye, but is a poor situational hitter and his defense is poor due to his injury woes. He is owed 9.5 Million next year, 13 Million the following and has a team option for 14 Million in 2008. No thanks.

This of course still leaves us in the unenviable position of waiting on the return of Wells, and/or Wakefield, and hoping whatever patchwork measures are taken in the interim work out. The dealing deadline looms in 4 days and from all accounts the sellers are gouging. I'd prefer we don't bite. But then, I'd also prefer we keep winning. This probably explains why I'm not a GM.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Red Sox Draftee Update

I thought I'd compile some basic stats for the guys we drafted this year, as a quick follow-up for those of you who care. I find it entertaining to follow them from the beginning, so if you only care about the big club, indulge me.

Note on the images: I know they are godawful, but I cannot spend another second figuring them out. Hopefully they enlarge OK.

Position players first:

Obviously the guys who stand out (good) here are Bates, Daeges, and Chambers, who I think has surprised a few people in a Jeff Natale sort of way. The thing to note about Chambers, apart from his stellar strike-zone knowledge, is that he's hitting .275 with a .288 BABIP - just below average, and so he's not getting a lot of luck. Conversely, Bates's BABIP is at a freakish and unsustainable .434. Given that Bates is also controlling the strike zone extremely well and hitting for power it's hard to argue that he's getting by on luck - I'm just saying if Chambers had a few seeing-eye hits, he'd likely be up over .300 in BA. In order to be supportive of Bates since his promotion, I am refraining from inserting a joke about his motel or the creepy deaths occurring therein.

Place is the guy we want to watch of course, as he was the number one pick overall. He's just 18, which if you think about it is almost scary. He's started a little slow but it's very, very early for him. He suffers from having a very dull name, and therefore is difficult to poke fun at, but if he can overcome this handicap I think he'll have a long and productive career.

A lot of the other guys are not adjusting particularly well, as one can see. For some that is not much of a surprise but there are a couple who were probably expected to do better out of the gate. My guy is Khoury; he struck me as a Pedroia-type gamer and I still expect him to pick his game up and make the next step. I think he has a lot more than he's shown thus far, although to be fair he's not quite in the tank or anything. Nevertheless, I predict he starts to improve steadily. Otherwise I will be dumping his ass and adopting slightly odd My Space character Kris Negron.

On to the pitchers:

Cox, Johnson and Masterson are the class of the group, but you might have guessed that already due to Sox Prospects having them listed as the 11th, 12th and 15th top prospects in the system. Again, Sox was moved to Wilmington with surprising alacrity, prompting some pundits to wonder if there was a chance the FO wanted to see him in Boston in September. I struggle with this theory given how much he was used in the College World Series. I think the feeling is that he is simply too advanced for Greenville.

Richardson and Beazley are intriguing. Richardson evidences good control and the ability to strike guys out, but also seems to get ripped on occasion. Beazley's line is solid, but at this level you kind of need a little more than that, and he needs to keep the ball in the park. Still, there is time, and given his college (granted, it was Randolph-Macon) line of 108 Ks to 18 BBs in 88 innings, I think he'll be given full opportunity to show what he can do.

Lawson cannot find the plate. With Clay and Craft waiting in the wings he will need to do better. Actually, even if Don Rickles (may he rest in peace) were all that was waiting in the wings, he'd need to do better.

The interesting and sort of heart-warming line in the table is, naturally, Josh Papelbon's. I won't pull the announcer jinx on him like Orsillo did on Delcarmen yesterday (because Don is a tool), I'll just say that I like it. It seems like it's hard to know what you're going to get with a submariner (for reference see Bradford, Chad) but Josh can compete at this level, that's for sure.

More On Natale

Jeff Natale continues to be one of the more fascinating prospects in the system. Since his promotion to Wilmington his batting average has suffered (he's at around .250) but otherwise he is still pretty astounding at the plate. His OBP is still .417, he is walking 20% of the time, and his IsoD, at .169, is the best of any player in the entire organization, Red Sox included. His Secondary Average is .346, top five in the Sox minor league organization. One has to assume the BA and SLG will come around - it's almost like he's just studying high-A pitching right now. Anyway, somehow this kid has to work up enough defense to find a way into the lineup everyday as a position player. Really fun prospect to follow, regardless.

Red Sox Stats

I am plugging this site because it is sweet. It's as simple as that. Try Not your average stats site.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Didn't See That One Coming

What to say? Seattle came in hitting like their body parts were falling off during swings, and turned it right around, finishing with a .340 BA and a stunning .424 OBP as a team over the course of the series. The Sox for their part hit .245, although they got on base per usual at .367. Seattle outslugged us .471 to .424. Essentially, looking at those numbers your first thought has to be "well, that explains how we dropped 2 of 3".

The thing is, if you left Friday afternoon at 5pm to fly around the world and came back to find out the Sox dropped two of three, your first thought would probably be "Snyder and the rookie dropped the ball". But of course, nothing could be further from the truth, unless you said "Tito would never prefer Gabe Kapler's bat to Wily Mo's". .

Both Snyder and Gabbard held up well, making the Mariners look like, well, the Mariners - a mediocre offensive team that can be controlled. Certainly, they did not dominate but they gave the team a chance to win, which the relief corps did not. So as not to harp on anyone in particular, since noone performed well in both games, I'll just point out that the collective ERA of the Sox relievers was 7.44 for the series, and then I'll comment that that blows dog. I would rather see Kyle Snyder on the mound every five days until the day they bury my pasty, bloated, seaweed-wrapped ass (I'm just guessing on that last part) than see Julian Tavarez take the mound ever again. I think I've actually said this before, and while sober.

The good part about tonight's game was that they kept fighting. Sort of like Randall "Tex" Cobb did against Larry Holmes. Okay, that metaphor has no real basis but Tex was in Raising Arizona, and I love that movie, and that is the real silver lining today.

It's hard to pinpoint where today's fiasco derailed. Obviously, in the final analysis, you hate to say things like "well, we got beat by Adrian Beltre, Eduardo Perez and Richie Sexson, what're you gonna do?" To me, Adrian Beltre's cartoonish inside-the-parker was just an unnecessary, insulting chapter in a game that disappointed me so many times I actually turned it off to go pull carpet staples from my recently unearthed hardwood floor. That's right; I turned to manual labor instead.

Tomorrow night I won't have that option as I'll be at the Oakland Coliseum watching the team live and wondering between innings how the hell any stadium could suck so badly. I hope I only have to wonder that about the stadium. Looking at the bright side, there's this: A's fans never go to games, and so there are always more rabid Sox fans there acting like monkeys and generally making a drunken nuisance of themselves. I enjoy this, and I think the team does too. Last year Mike Timlin orchestrated the removal of some poor drunken A's fan, an act performed while Timlin simply stood with his arms crossed on the dugout roof taunting the poor hick mercilessly. It was a work of art, and was extremely well received by Sox Nation west-coast.

Oh, yeah, that...

In AA ball today the Portland Sea Dogs were no-hit. Pitcher Miguel Pinango took a perfect game into the 9th when an error ruined it for him. Miguel is not the second coming of Nolan Ryan, so the Sea Dogs are probably not feeling real good about this (like they would if it were Nolan v.2). Still, as DLowe proved, some nights guys put it all together.

My point here is that as tough as the Sox loss was tonight, there were worse outings. It's not much, I know.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Lowell On The Block?

Rumors are abounding that first-half favorite Mike Lowell is being shopped around for starting pitching. Initial rumors, as usual, focused on San Diego, although if they ever had any validity reports are that the talks are stalled, perhaps pending a third team's involvement (per Jayson Stark's ESPN chat). It's hard to know how much of this is just smoke thrown up to influence the Jays in dealing Hillenbrand, but one thing seems apparent: Lowell is in fact on the block.

I count myself one of the number of Lowell's fans. Largely, this is an emotional state where I like that Lowell bounced back from a career-worst year. He's a professional, a good clubhouse guy, a gold-glover at third, and has hit beyond anyone's expectations thus far. I think, just maybe, it's the "thus far", coupled with his $9Mil price tag, that has him being shopped.

Historically Lowell is not a good second-half player. In each of the years 2002-2004 his OPS dropped around 200 points after the All-Star break, which is kind of a collapse. Last year it actually improved, but that was because during the first half of the season he was possessed by Rondell White. His OPS this year dropped from .986 in May to .701 in June, so Theo and co. probably went "uh-oh" and are trying to sell reasonably high, since for July he's back up to .844 (despite being under .600 over the past week like nearly everyone else).

The feeling may be that the writing is on the wall for a poor second half. It's pretty hard to argue with the statistics - Mike has a career second hald OPS of maybe .750, and it's hard to justify paying a guy $9Mil a year for that (or I suppose, $4.5Mil). I am guessing the logic here is that you move Youks over to third, where his .750-.800 OPS will cost far less, and then go get Ryan Shealy using one of the blue-chippers. It's a stretch for me though. I'm not sure that I understand exactly how Lowell gets moved unless you are paying a ton of the freight, and I'm not sure that it makes the team better even if he falls off in the second half since the IF defense gets worse. I would say that I am dubious at best that the FO finalizes a trade I like with him in it.

Won't You Come Home Jeff Bailey, Won't You Come Home?

The other day I talked a little bit about almost-prospect Jeff Bailey. He has intrigued me a little bit, largely because he has no home in the organization, but keeps performing for Pawtucket. He does play a couple positions (mostly 1B and some catcher, looks like) but has DHed for the PawSox. As I noted before the guy can hit. The thing is, he's 27 years old.

It struck me that he reminded me of someone, and that someone was Brian "Cementhead" Daubach. Both guys bounced around a while then figured it out late. Dauber really figured it out at age 26, so he was ahead of Bailey, and his year in AAA was really immense, but Bailey is putting up some decent numbers. Who knows, maybe he can find his way into the bigs yet. Christ, he has to hit better than Doug Miagentsfhhcytucoz, right?

At least, Tito thinks so: ''What Jeff Bailey is," Francona said, ''is a guy I think can hit. I think Jeff Bailey can hit good pitching. I don't want to see him get lost in the shuffle because of what he went through as a catcher. He can hit."

He probably won't hit for the Sox, barring some really bizarre circumstances, but hopefully he'll hit somewhere. Good luck Jeff.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


The Sox just keep getting it done this week, although they are going to have a tough time of it in Seattle. Snyder pitches tomorrow, which obviously doesn't give one a warm, fuzzy feeling, and Saturday and Sunday they face King Felix and Jarrod Washburn.

Felix has not been lights out in his last few outings, and his season ERA is near five, but he excellent control, misses bats, and as we know the Sox have a history of, ahh, struggling against guys the first time they face them. To add a little flavor to the game it appears that AA Seadogs starter Kason Gabbard will be called up to pitch since Timmeh's rib injury landed him on the DL. This will be a fun game to watch.

Washburn has an ERA of 1.86 in his last three starts, and held the Spanks to just a single run in 6 innings in his last outing. He'll be going against Lester whom as we know is coming of an impressive start against KC.

Seattle, blessedly, is hitting for shit in July, so that gives one hope. They have a team OPS of .661, which is just brutal. Ichiro is basically the only guy on that team to fear, although Betancourt is a promising young IF.

Speaking of hitting for shit, check out these impressive stats, representing the past 30 days:

The words "not good" spring to mind don't they? The K/BB rate is what immeditately jumps out at you, and is plenty troubling. Youks having an OBP under .300 is obviously pretty crappy, and having Crisp, at .307, as your other option to lead off essentially means you're fucked. Papa Jack has some work to do, looks like.

Minor Movement

Down on the farm there was some juggling, as hot bat Aaron Bates was promoted from Lowell to Greenville. Bryce Cox, who has been in pro ball about 4 minutes, was promoted to Wilmington, in spite of not really impressing in a couple outings (1.41 WHIP). He appears to be on the fast track due to his filthy stuff. It's a curious move, I'll be interested to see how he adapts. Lastly (of note anyway) SS Manny Arambarris was promoted to Lowell from the GCL where he was hitting .333 with no pop (.427 SLG). He's a corner IF now so really needs to show some pop to stay there, but at 21 he has a chance to fill out and grow power, I suppose. I'll follow his progress, mostly because I enjoy saying "Arambarris".

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Welcome to Boston, KC Royals!

Realistically, a couple wins against Kansas City shouldn't do too much to erase the memory of the Sox being outplayed on nearly every level for 3 of the 4 Oakland games, but it's hard to bitch after Lester and Papelbon combine for a one-hitter. Sure, the Sox bats remained meek, allowing Brandon Duckworth his best outing of the season by far, but I'm content to focus on the positives. It's a win, a great outing by the productively wild Lester, and I saw neither Seanez nor The Jeep. If I were to write a movie script about the game I would entitle it "The Night Without An Anti-Christ". It would be a feel-good comedy, and Jon Lester would be played by Brandon Routh, still wearing the Superman costume.

Right now, we all know where the Sox are. Hanging onto first place in the AL East by a fingernail, down to three starters, and scuffling at the plate. If they were my college rugby team, the clubhouse would have a prominently displayed giant handwritten sign that reads "Sack Up". The sign would most likely have little pieces of hurl on it, but the message would be undiluted.

The short story is these guys simply have to tough it out. There are no deadline deals in today's MLB. There are nearly 20 teams out there with a shot at the playoffs, and the teams who are out of it will be charging a king's ransom for an impact player. Carlos Zambrano is not walking through that door, people.

However, shockingly, there is still a chance Fatty McFatFat will be back in the rotation soon. He is scheduled to throw a simulated game tomorrow, barring a setback in his kitchen tonight, and I can't believe I'm writing this, but his chubby ass might indeed be the cavalry if he can approximate his numbers from last year. With Wake suffering from back problems, and Snyder and Johnson suffering from being Snyder and Johnson, Wells will be warmly welcomed back to the fold. Clement, not so much.

Meantime, the team has to continue to find ways to win. We can hope the Oakland debacle will serve as a reminder of the cost of sloppy, uninspired baseball, especially in light of the rematch next week. Until then we've got to get through some tough games against Texas and Seattle. My assumption is that the return of cartoonish utility man Wily Mo Pena Super Genius will prove to be just the tonic the team needs to catch fire again.

Minor League Notes

Like his fellow first-round pick David Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be adjusting to the rarified air of his promotion without issue. Thus far Ellsbury is hitting .400 with 4 SBs in his first 25 ABs.

Murphy himself has improved in every offensive category since his promotion to AAA Pawtucket, and seems determined to shake his projection as a fourth outfielder (although Chip Ambres says "hi"). Thus far in Pawtucket he has an OPS of over .900, but more importantly has cut his K/BB rate way down, walking 24 times to 34 Ks, versus 11/29 in AA.

Favored son Dustin Pedroia has fully recovered from his injury and after a slow start to the season is now htting above.300 and has an OBP of .384. The power is not great, as one might expect from a guy of his size, but he continues to impress with his batting eye, and has walked 35 times to just 24 strikeouts.

Interestingly the only comparable K/BB rate on the team belongs to Alex Machado who has walked 35 times to 27 Ks. When we talk about a lack of power, however, Machado's name comes up pretty quickly, as his SLG is .337.

The other name down in Pawtucket is the little discussed Jeff Bailey. Bailey is a pretty non-defensive 1B/DH, but he can hit. He strikes out 25% of the time, but given his .514 SLG and .383 OBP, it's perfectly acceptable. In fact, his numbers compare quite favorably to Roberto Petagine's 2005 AAA numbers, but he has the misfortune of being blocked by crowd favorite Youks instead of fat miscreant Millar. Essentially he's a back-up bat, and nothing more, but he's a good back-up bat.

The rookies are starting to flatten out down in Lowell and the GCL, I'll take a look at them again in a week or so. Also, there are a couple of possible signees still under construction (notably Giardino and Kalish), so hopefully something will work out there. I'll post as soon as I find anything out.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Red Sox Prove Murphy's Law (Again), Lose To A's

Wow. Last night was a head-shaker, wasn't it? You have Lester, a guy who is going pretty well in spite of his bizarre on-again off-again relationship with the strike zone, versus Esteban Loioza, a guy who has a pretty steady relationship going with Suck. You have a two-run lead going into the 7th in spite of leaving eleven baserunners stranded through that time. Then it all unravels.

Stranding guys is not at all out of the ordinary for this team. Historically it's one of their strengths, and getting a lot of guys on base means you'll strand some guys. It's disappointing that as a team they're hitting just .266 with RISP thus far into the season, but what can you do?

However, two-run errors by Loretta are certainly surprising. Having Willie Harris, whose only reason for being is baserunning, picked off first with nobody out is a little unnerving. Allowing Ronald McDonald to steal his first base of the season in a one-run game sort of bothers one a bit, doesn't it? I mean, that is just sloppy baseball.

I'm going to chalk it up to rust after the break, but when you're playing the A's and you're looking at Loioza, Zito, Haren, Blanton you kind of need to beat Loioza, don't you? At least, you should try.

The bright spot in the game was Varitek: two hits, two BBs and an RBI. Outside of he and Ortiz, guys did not look sharp. Manny in particular was missing the exact pitches he wanted, which doesn't warm the heart. Still, it's one game.

Looking further afield, a growing concern in my mind is Youks' slump. He is 5 for 39 and hitting .128 in July, and looks to be moving his front foot all over the place before he swings. In this lineup he needs to do two things up top - get on base, and drive in runs. He is not driving the ball right now, and this is hurting us. He is still trying to get on base through the walk but pitchers aren't afraid to throw him strikes so it's more difficult. We know he's a student of hitting though; he'll come around.

Breslow Promoted

The Sox brought LHP Craig Breslow up for a cup of coffee today. Craig has been doing a good job in relief for the PawSox, and is 5-1 thus far. In 45IP he's got a 50/17 BB/K figure, and overall has pitched very consistently throughout the season. He doesn't have a significant split against lefties, except perhaps that he likes to walk them, so I'm not sure how he'll be used if it all. Still, I'm glad he's getting a chance; he's got some ability and he'll get his feet wet.

It should also be noted that Craig is a pointy-headed former Yale student who loves to talk bonds and valences in the dugout, which makes him a teammate and crowd favorite. He was selected for the IL All-Star team, and although he did not make an appearance, he was able to successfully impart an understanding of Van der Waal's Forces to Andy Marte by using as metaphor Andy's easily severed relationship with the Red Sox organization.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Barry "U.S" Bonds

As a Red Sox fan living in San Francisco I have a somewhat unique perspective on the entire Barry Bonds fiasco so I am going to take ten minutes here and chip in. Not because I am not sick and tired of the entire affair, but because there is one particular aspect of it that is driving me crazy.

First off, let me be clear: I think Barry is a tool. He is a megalomanic, an enfant terrible, a deranged psychopath. Take your pick. Second, I think he knowingly used performance enhancing drugs. I think that because there is no other conclusion to come to unless you are willfully deceiving yourself. Third, I think when healthy Barry can hit a baseball, as well as anyone playing today.

So Barry will likely be indicted for perjury and/or tax evasion, and that's probably okay. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, it seems like that's a pretty decent deal for ol' Barry.

Here's the thing that bothers me. If one stipulates that my three points are true, and one agrees that Barry deserves his punishment, then how in hell is Jason Giambi getting a free pass? He absolutely qualifies for point #2, and that's the only one that's proscribed anywhere! This is the guy that kept the Bosox out of the 2003 World Series while at the very height of his PED abuse, and nobody says jack! He gained 40 pounds of muscle in three months, and nobody says jack! He is single-handedly keeping the Yankees in the AL East race, and nodoby says jack. I can only assume this is because of his heartfelt non-apology for using steroids.

Basically, Giambi IS Barry Bonds, except that he doesn't abrade the press. He doesn't qualify for point #1, and that seems to be getting him off the hook. So, logically, Barry is really being persecuted for being a douche, which, in a vacuum, I'm fine with. Unfortunately we are not in said vacuum.

Now, I'm glad that people are trying to clean up baseball, and certainly I cannot defend Barry Bonds, but I'll say this - the Giants are not going anywhere, with or without their 42-year old problem. If the Yankees somehow sneak into the playoffs because they were carried by a guy who is a paramount poster child for the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs, there should be a lot of pissed off fans in the town that gets bumped. I just hope it ain't us.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sox with two new signees

The Sox have signed Rice reliever Bryce Cox and Stephen F. Austin pitcher Brian Steinocher. Of the two, the Cox signing is significantly more significant, as my great uncle Chim-Chim used to say. Cox has been assigned to Lowell, but general speculation is that he will not remain there.

Cox has been described as a "success story for guys who have the yips" by John Manuel, in that at one point in time last season he simply could not find the strike zone, a la Ebby Calvin 'Nuke' LaLoosh. After his pitching coach adjusted his arm angle he became silly dominant, but due to the poor overall stats on the season, or a fear that the yips would return, he fell to the Sox in the third round, and may turn out to be one of the steals of the draft.

ESPN mentions him here and says "This year, there are a number of players who have the potential to make an immediate impact in the big leagues. Of players drafted this year, North Carolina ace Andrew Miller and Rice's Bryce Cox appear ready to make the jump. Miller, the sixth overall choice, has been a favorite of the scouts all season. Cox, who pitched 2.2 innings of relief against Miami today and came into the game throwing 97 mph, was selected in the third round by the Boston Red Sox."

Cox pitched for Rice in College World Series last year, and made three appearances. Here are the lines from those games:

Game One: 2 2/3 IP, 0 BB, 1K, 0R
Game Two: 2 2/3 IP, 0BB, 2K, 0R
Game Three: 4 2/3IP, 0BB, 6K, 0R

In the biggest games of his career he was lights out. That's a lot of usage for a young kid over the span of a week, so the Sox may be seeing how his arm is feeling by sending him to short-season ball, and they'll definitely coddle him a bit, but as long as the Anti-Christ Brothers are on the roster I think he will be one to watch.

Steinocher was a kid who basically threw a ton of innings at SFAU, put up an ERA of just over four and got no run support. It's hard to know these things but at this point one assumes he's filler, but at least he's living the dream.

Manny Being Meniscus?

The current dialogue is around Manny missing the ASG because (maybe) of a meniscus tear in his balky knee. If this is the case, or even if the knee feels like it's the case, people should cut the shit with Manny. Having been the recipient of a torn meniscus I can say that under no circumstances would I go play for a bunch of fucking Suits with no interest in baseball (the only people who actually get tickets to the game) so I could have the pleasure of waking the next day with my knee locked up. If Manny doesn't improve my guess is they'll get him an MRI then DL him when the Super Genius comes back. The surgery would only keep him out for a month or so and he'd be fresh for the stretch run.

In other injury news, David Wells remains hopelessly obese, and Matt Clement remains mysteriously broken. Both are expected to move quietly to the suburbs and golf.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Red Sox vs. White Sox: Chicago Dreaming

Despite being brutalized by food poisoning the night before the flight I toughed it out and headed to Chicago this past weekend to enjoy the Sox in the city of the current World Champion White Sox. I went with two goals in mind. One, to watch the Sox play, and hopefully win, and two, to hurl insults at Ozzie Guillen until he charged the stands with a bat and started beating men, women and children to death indiscriminately until he reached my row. I achieved only goal number one, after my wily ticket shyster failed to come through with the third row seats I was promised. I had a great time, but I really had my heart set on being the straw that snapped Ozzie's fragile psyche.

The first thing you notice about some White Sox fans is that they are a bit like the geek Nouveau Riche here in the Bay Area. After years of punishment they're suddenly on top of the world, and they have no idea how to handle it. Unfortunately, in some cases their best guess seems to have been to act like Yankee fans, which makes for some uncomfortable conversations. This bad-apple subset by and large does not have much baseball knowledge. One guy said, in talking about how great it is to enjoy baseball for a world champion team, and I quote: "It's awesome sitting in the car on the way home listening to Podsednik hitting bombs". Granted, when Clement is pitching everybody has a chance, but still. There is no response to this statement that doesn't begin with the phrase "what is wrong with you?" I was unimpressed.

Nevertheless, by and large the people of Chicago are fantastic, and me and my Chitown-native friends had a blast. Especially watching the games Friday night and Saturday. Well, I had a blast; they got loaded and pretended it wasn't on.

After Lester's first couple of innings Friday night I was sure it was going to be the blowout we'd been keeping one eye open for - he had zero command of the strike zone. Zero. In fact, I've come around to thinking that he is so wild when he pitches that it is helping him. It's not like he's nibbling at the corners and hitters are waiting on one that misses just in their wheelhouse. He is missing by so much that when he throws a strike they are too stunned to hit it. By the time he settles in hitters haven't seen enough quality pitches to get a read on him, because in their first at-bat the ball was all over the place. Does this make sense? Not really, but it amuses me.

At any rate, Lester got the job done for 6 and MDC, Timlin and surprisingly Tavarez (trying to shake the Anti-Christ moniker) finished strong. The oddity of the game for me is that Brendan McCarthy, who pitched the 8th and part of the 9th for Chicago, gave up two dingers. This is the same Brendan McCarth who 3-hit the Sox last year. He was up in the zone this time, and it hurt him. I still think the kid has the stuff to be an impact pitcher if he stays healthy with his Ichabod Crane physique.

Saturday's day game, now referred to as the Burn Fest, was one of those wins where Red Sox fans were super-pissed for the first five innings, and White Sox fans were super-pissed the rest of the time. The watershed moment of the game of course was the Chisox failing to score with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 7th. Javier Lopez came in to K slugger Jim Thome and Hansen earned his socks by getting Konerko and Dye with some pretty sick pitches. This was good because it was Lopez who was traded to the Sox for David Riske, the same David Riske that took the loss for Chicago. This is one of those Muntz-ian "HAH-HAH!" moments we occasionally enjoy in life.

I missed Sunday's game while in the air (or most of it) but as everyone knows it turned into a very unnecessary 19-inning deathmatch featuring blown saves by both Papelbon and Timlin, and an eventual, predictable loss for Rudy "The Once and Former Anti-Christ" Seanez. Seanez is so unpredictable that you could use his ERA as an encryption key and feel pretty safe. On the more predictable side, Varitek went 0 for 8 in that game, bringing his two-game total in Chicago to 0-for-12. He was not singing "My Kind Of Town" on the flight home, methinks.

The Catcher position has become a bit of an issue for the Sox. Varitek is truly struggling at the plate. His numbers for the past week (small sample size, but these are shockingly bad):

28 3 2 12 0.167 0.488

No bueno. Naturally the strikeouts are the most appalling thing - he's striking out nearly 50% of the time. In fact, this line is positively Gorman Thomas-esque: feast or famine, and mostly famine.

Of his three hits, two were solo home runs, accounting for his two RBIs. One has to assume the guy is just gassed, but as grim as these numbers are, Tek has been in a consistent, prolonged, and pretty powerless slump for most of the season (see graph).

I'm not a professional scout, but to me it looks like his swing has just gotten insanely long, and slow. But then, it always looked a little like that. Perhaps he's just not seeing the ball well, or has suddenly aged 6 years.

On the other side of the bench we have the white spray-painted outline of Doug Mirabelli's corpse. Obviously, Dougie can't hit anything. On Saturday, apparently because he is an unconscionable tool, AJ Piersctgzinski was calling for Garcia to throw fastballs right down the gut how Dougie likes them, and Mirabelli was swinging right through them. He later singled up the middle off Riske just to piss GM Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen off, and I respect that, but he is basically done. After the game Ozzie called him "fat, gay-looking, and a probably into tupperware", or something like that.

Also the thing with Dougie is the pitch-calling, if it can be called that. As I mentioned earlier, the reason Sox fans were pissed off through the first five innings (or maybe this was just me) was because Mirabelli was either making, or letting, Beckett throw almost nothing but fastballs for the first 5 innings. I mean nothing but fastballs. This may have been partly because it was a very hot day and Beckett is prone to blisters, but it was pretty tough to watch the White Sox sit dead-red on every pitch and get what they were looking for. He had pretty good location, but zero margin for error, especially since he didn't own the plate. For some bizarre reason they will not let him throw inside. If he is going to throw nothing but heat, there has to be some fear there. Plus, who knows, as a bonus one might get away and bean AJ Piersczhzynski.

All in all a good trip for me and the Sox, assuming noone has incurred a lasting ding from the marathon game. Going into the ASB with a couple games in the bag isn't a terrible place to be, even if you have no #5 starter, your catcher is aging faster than the average Drosophila melanogaster, and two of your bullpen relief have been called the Anti-Christ. In fact, it's good times.