Wednesday, June 29, 2005

BACK AGAIN

Sorry for the delay in posting. As many of you know, my beautiful wife and webmaster recently had a surgical procedure to remove her thyroid and I am happy to report that she is recovering well and true to form she is resisting all advice to rest and relax. Thank you to all for your well wishes for Kat.

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PLAYING CATCH-UP:

There is so much to catch-up on that I will try to hit on some main points and try to keep the rambling on to a minimum:

FISHING FOR MARLINS:

So is the Carl Pavano versus Matt Clement debate closed for at least this season? Pavano has an ERA near 7.00 at the Stadium versus under 2.50 on the road. Hmm, can we say, DOES NOT HANDLE PRESSURE WELL? Clement, who was supposed to have issues with dealing with pressure, has been very consistent this season and has been the ace of the staff with Curt Schilling injured and David Wells ineffective and injured for stretches.

Maybe it is bad luck for the Yankees because, like with Jose Contreras, the Red Sox made no bones about going after him in force, but Pavano has been uncomfortable in his role as the Yankees big gun. Of course, one underrated liability of pitching for the Yankees is having Jorge Posada at catcher. Posada is an excellent offensive player, but his defense and game management have long been suspect. The Big Unit is close to having former Pawtucket Red Sox catcher John Flaherty as his personal backstop as he has pitched his best games for the Yankees with him behind the plate instead of Posada.

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EDGAR:

Edgar Renteria is starting to look a lot more comfortable at the plate. He is driving the ball to right-center field again, which is a good sign. When he tries to pull everything, we see him grounding out to short stop, which he did way too many times in April and May. If he takes the fastball up the middle, pulls only the off-speed stuff, and takes anything on the outside half of the plate to right field he becomes the dangerous hitter he was in Florida and St. Louis.

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FOULKED UP:

What in the world is the matter with Keith Foulke? I am about to give up. The fastball is not locating well and the change-up is coming in at 84 MPH, much too fast. Foulke had a huge struggle in 2002 and lost his closers job with the White Sox, so this is not the first time he has struggled, but he did not pitch all that bad then in comparison to now.

Maybe Foulke is just distracted because he misses hockey so much. Is he following the lock-out too close? Is it coincidence he pitched so poorly following the outburst from the disgruntled and insensitive hockey player Jeremy Roenick? Was it just my imagination, or did Foulke pitch best when there was a slight thawing in the NHL owner-player dispute?

OK, maybe not, but that is all I have for options. But without his effectiveness like in 2004, the Sox are in trouble in October.

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THE FUTURE APPEARS DUSTY:

Dustin Pedroia, the starting second baseman for the 2006 Boston Red Sox was recently promoted to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. Far from looking overmatched, the 2004 second round draft pick has been continuing his rapid ascent through the farm system. With Hanley Ramirez looking to be ready to play in Boston by 2007 at the absolute latest, the Sox are finally on the path to having young impact players to supplement their veterans as they get younger and able to lower their payroll. Rather than dealing off their young prospects, I would rather that 2006 be a year to transition in their younger players such as Pedroia, Ramirez, David Murphy, Brandon Moss, Chris Durbin, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, and possibly Adam Stern if they keep him around and get ready for a sustained run of winning with a young and talented team in the future.

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TRIPLE CROWN:

I was riding the train home reading a book on the Red Sox (one of the six billion published after the 2004 season) and got to thinking about Yaz and how he was the last player to hit for the triple crown, that is he led the league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. In the almost forty years since, there have been a few players who have made runs at the Triple Crown, but no one who sustained it for an entire season. Most cases would have someone who could lead the league in home runs and ribbies, but the batting average would hover around .300 and never seriously challenge the league leader (see Jim Rice in 1978 for example). However, these days there appear to be some young stars that may be able to make a run at a triple crown. They combine power with average and, with the exception of Ichiro in the A.L.; there are not many singles hitters like Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew, and Wade Boggs who would steal the batting titles every season. A quick rundown of the potential Triple Crown threats:

AL:

A-Rod, Yankees: Yes, I think he is arrogant, over-paid, and a bit of a tool, but he can hit. A-Rod, if he ever got locked in for a full season that included Ichiro in a slump (see this season for example) could add the batting crown to his list of accomplishments.

Miguel Tejada, Orioles: Tejada has one weakness, and that is he likes to hack away at the plate. This may diminish the batting average enough to take him out of serious consideration; however, he is probably the most dangerous hitter in the game right now with runners on base. If he got the batting average up, Miggy is a definite Triple Crown threat.

Vlad Guerrero, Angels: See Tejada. I think Vlad would be the second most dangerous hitter in the game with runners on base, but either way, one cannot go wrong with Guerrero or Tejada.

NL:

Albert Pujols, Cardinals: Simply the best all-around hitter in baseball. He hits everything. The guy could probably hit under water. A beautiful swing and power to all fields, Pujols is easily the favorite to eventually win a triple crown.

Derrek Lee, Cubs: Until this season, putting him on the list would draw ridicule and guffaws. A solid player for the Marlins since the late nineties, Lee has been a wonder in his second season with the Cubs. Presently, he is over .100 points above his career batting average and leads Pujols by .040. He is second in home runs by one and RBIs by four. Can he maintain this pace with no protection in the line-up in Chicago? I do not know, but he has a heck of a chance to make a run at the Triple Crown.

Miguel Cabrera, Marlins: The power numbers are not quite there just yet, but he is only 22 years old. As he matures and adds power, Cabrera will likely challenge Pujols stake to the best all-around hitter in the game.

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CWS:

The Texas Longhorns, in an underdog role the whole College World Series for some bizarre reason (yeah, they slumped a little late in the season, but they were still, in my opinion, the team to beat), rolled through the finals with a minimum amount of drama as they held off the Florida Gators. J.B. Cox was dominant as the closer, a role he stepped into after setting up current Oakland Athletics closer Huston Street last season. I was certainly hoping he planned to stick around Texas for his senior year but that does not seem very likely since he went in the second round to the Yankees. I hope he holds out for big bucks and goes back into the draft next year. Cox has a good fastball and nasty slider, and I have no desire to see him setting up Mariano Rivera this fall and next year.

How in the world does Texas winning the CWS make a Boston Sport blog? Hey, I have rooted for the Longhorns since I was a kid (what, BC pre-Flutie? Georgia and Herschel Walker? Notre Dame? Oklahoma? Uggh. I had to root for someone on Saturdays in the fall.) When Roger Clemens joined the Sox I had a reason to follow Texas in the CWS (where the only mention of NCAA baseball was the Sporting News for coverage of the CWS or Baseball America paper which was for serious amateur and minor league baseball nuts, which at the age of ten meant I picked it up occasionally at a drugstore.). Now if Texas could just beat Oklahoma this fall…

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ORIOLES:

Now that the Red Sox have moved ahead of Baltimore in the standings, the talk radio shows, newspapers, and national press have trumpeted the demise of the Orioles. A nice run while it lasted, they said. The decline of the Orioles is upon us, they wrote. Hold it right there. Eric Friedman and his new team of destiny the Baltimore Orioles are not out of it yet. Yes, they have issues, but what team does not?

One important point is that they get Javy Lopez back. Geronimo Gil and Sal Fasano just do not fill that gap behind the plate in the lineup or working with the pitchers. Just getting Lopez back should settle the staff down a bit. Also, plugging Lopez back into the lineup should help the Orioles offensively as well. Maybe with the added protection in the lineup, Sammy Sosa may finally get untracked.

The starters have been shaky, but with Lopez back and the front office pulling off a trade for a veteran near the deadline, that should help stabilize it somewhat. Everyone knows Bruce Chen is not a number one, two, three or even four starter, but Rodrigo Lopez and Erik Bedard are both very good starters. Daniel Cabrera is still a work in progress. Sidney Ponson, well, I have no idea about the Sid and I doubt that anyone in the organization does either.

The Orioles are still an offensive juggernaut, they have a lights-out bullpen, and they should be able to hang in the race until October. I am not counting them out just yet.

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DRAFTED:

Yikes, this is running long. I will pick up the draft talk tomorrow. For now, I will grade it five Duffman hip thrusts out of five. More to follow later.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

BRONSON’S NEW LOOK

No, Bronson did not cut his luscious locks, so calm down Kathy. The Sox starter acted on his own advice to mix up his pitches more and worked in a change-up effectively in his last start. After having been so effective with basically just a fastball and curveball, the hitters started to sit on his curve and whack the ball around. With the change-up being thrown for strikes, Arroyo is able to get the hitter off-balance and get ahead in the count to set-up his wicked curve. With two more solid starts after his brief stumble, Arroyo is making it difficult for the Sox to move him back to the bullpen when Curt Schilling gets healthy.

The Red Sox have the best starting pitching, when healthy, in baseball this season, even without Pedro Martinez or Derek Lowe. If their starting pitching stays consistent and strong this season, I do not think Baltimore, New York, or Toronto will be able to keep pace.

Baltimore has a mix of youngsters and reclamation veterans who are finally hitting the wall. Toronto just needs time for their staff to mature behind Roy Halladay. The Yankees rotation is an eyesore, with over $90 million allocated to the starting staff alone, their most consistent starter has been AAA call-up and MLB minimum salary pitcher Chien-Ming Wang.

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SNORTIN MORTON:

The Patriots signed a kick/punt returner, Chad Morton, the other day adding to their already impressive depth. What I found most impressive was the quote from his agent, Leigh Steinberg:

My advice to him was that 10 years ago if you could play for the 49ers or Cowboys, you ought to take it - and now that same adage is true for the Patriots. If a player has an opportunity to play for the Patriots and they want him and a role is there, why not enjoy that experience? In the contemporary National Football League, they are the state-of-the-art franchise. from: MetroWest Daily News, by Mike Reiss.

Morton, only two years removed from a fight over his services as a free agent between the Jets and Redskins, is likely insurance on punt returns should Troy Brown be cut, Kevin Faulk get injured, or Tim Dwight not be healthy. Morton also could team with kick returner Bethel Johnson to give the Patriots two kick returners (wait, Tim Dwight would make it three) who are a threat to take it the distance every time they touch the ball.

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THEY PLAY HOCKEY IN BOSTON?

Rumor has it that hockey is close to an agreement with a salary cap between $35-40 million. Bad news for most teams (like the powerhouses Detroit & Chicago with more than that already allocated next year in salary), but great news for the Bruins who have less than $5 million in salary on the books. Expect, if there is an agreement, an overhauled Bruins roster with a lot of stars on a one-year contract for cheap money. It would be a buyers market and the Bruins in the drivers seat. An article the other day in the Herald highlights Harry Sinden and his long-range planning:

This has been the Bruins' plan all along. It seems to be working out just as they hoped. For B's fans, it could be a very interesting month of July. - Boston Herald, Stephen Harris


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STANKEES:

If I were a Yankees fan, I would be more concerned with the Big Unit being tagged for seven runs in three innings than excited that they put up thirteen runs in the eighth inning against a AAA bullpen.

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GAME SEVEN:

Double-yawn. Is anyone watching these games? Tip-off after 9:15pm? Give me a break. Of course, watching Chauncey Billups and knowing that Rick Pitino traded him away from the Celtics midway through HIS ROOKIE SEASON for next to nothing still burns me up. Both teams are boring. Neither one is halfway interesting (just imagine what a series it would have been if it had been Miami versus Phoenix).

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FANTASY TRADES:

I trade Baez and Looper this week in my fantasy league for some slugging outfielders, and the minute they are off my roster they both turn in star closing performances on the same day. Just my freaking luck.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

SURVIVAL OF THE FATTEST

C.C. Sabathia versus David Wells: somehow, I expected that game would be closer to 2-1 than the 10-9 final as it ended. Wells, as usual, is as consistent as oil in water, as Good David took a seat to allow Bad David to pitch the first game of the series against the mighty Chief Wahoos. In fact, Sabathia did not look well either in this battle of the girth. Of course, for all we know, cheeseburgers, Doritos, and beer were the post-game spread in the clubhouse and C.C. and Boomer just could not wait to hit the buffet.

While the Red Sox offense and Manny Ramirez were hot against the Indians, the bullpen, outside of Mike Timlin, struggled. Alan Embree and Keith Foulke, after both looking good recently, returned to their troubling struggling ways, or did they? Embree gave up a homer on a 3-2 fastball, other than that one pitch, he did not look bad. Foulke was hit hard and his fastball was lacking bite, which in turn limited the effectiveness of his change-up. If this was a physical issue (back, knees, etc) a little rest could be all that Foulke needs. The most vexing issue of the Sox bullpen woes is that they struggling relievers are not Lenny DiNardo and Anastacio Martinez, but the proven veterans like Foulke, Embree, and Matt Mantei. Management is in a tough spot because they expect the struggling veterans to turn it around, but how long can they wait?

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TEMPEST IN TAMPA:

The Devil Rays beat the Yankees for the fifth time in their opener. Last season, the Devil Rays beat the Yankees four times all season. I like the idea that the Yankees and Sox cannot pencil in a 50-7 record against the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Devil Rays this season like they could in years past.

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BENCH PRESS:

The Sox strength rides on the pine. The one thing that will separate them from the Orioles and Yankees down the stretch is their ability to overcome injuries and give players a rest with their deep bench. John Olerud should be starting at first as should Kevin Youkilis at third. The infield depth also boasts Ramon Vazquez, who, do to injuries, has yet to show off his decent fielding and hitting abilities as a back-up to Renteria.

The outfield boasts a third major league starter on the bench in the disgruntled Jay Payton. Payton, while understandably upset at his lack of playing time, is necessary to the team (see: Roberts, Dave in 2004) as with Trot Nixon, Manny Ramirez, and Johnny Damon all dinged up, the need for a fourth outfielder is of extreme importance (I certainly cringe at the thought of Kevin Millar in the outfield for an extended period of time). In roughly one-third the at-bats, Payton has matched the power numbers and RBIs put up by Gabe Kapler last season. Is it a coincidence that major improvement in 2004 coincided with the arrival of Dave Roberts via trade and Trot Nixon from the disabled list and moving Gabe Kapler back to the bench? Somehow, I doubt it.

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NBA PLAYOFFS - FANTASTIC:

YAWN! Are they still playing? I doubt I have watched three minutes total, and I want those three minutes of my life back!

If the Shaq and Wade Heat or the Phoenix Run and Gun Suns were in the finals, I would stop by occasionally for a game or two, but with the boring Spurs versus the dreadfully dull Pistons, I will continue to pass on these snooze-fests.

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A-ROD TALES:

For this anecdote you need to know that my boss, Jim, at work is a huge Yankees fan. From 1997 to 2004 I was heaped upon with non-malicious abuse from him for my allegiance to the Red Sox. Anyway, he usually will refer to me as Theo (as in Epstein), Nomar, or Manny when addressing me in correspondence and I usually refer to him as A-Rod, Jeter, or Steinbrenner. OK, on to the hopefully humorous anecdote.

So my boss sends me an instant message the other day at work that reads: Hey Red Sox, its A-Rod here. I responded: A-Rod, aren’t you late for your therapy?

The man was in hysterics; it made his day, to say the least. I thought it was pretty funny myself, but, alas, I am also afraid it was funny in the had to be there kind of way.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

TRUE COLORS

Any Derek Lowe fans out there? Good, because I will be trading you his sorry ass from my fantasy team. I can hear Cindy Lauper belting out the lyrics to the D-Lowe 2005 theme song: And I see your true colors shining through! Yes, I bought into the hype. I thought that, armed with his ridiculous contract, Lowe was ready to turn it around in Lala land.

Yes, the 3.69 ERA is down from the abysmal 4.50 and 5.40 ERAs he put up in Boston, but the 5-7 record is typical D-Lowe. Granted, the Dodgers are not going to score him eight runs a game like the Red Sox did, but he has not looked like the confident pitcher he was in the post-season. My major gripe is that for almost half the season, he is killing my fantasy league team!

Does anyone else still want to argue that Lowe belongs in Boston instead of Matt Clement?

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SHAVE OFF THAT GOATEE:

Matt Clement has already turned heads and pitched as well or better than expected this season. The Boston Globe recently ran an article stating that Clement has actually pitched worse, numbers wise, than last season. Why the Yankees did not go after him is unfathomable, but I am certainly not complaining: for a team that stressed the advantage of having pitchers who can make batters swing and miss in key situations, they instead pass up on two pitchers who have been superb with that part of the game: David Wells and Matt Clement.

Wells all but got down on his hands and knees and begged New York to bring him back. Clement was viewed as a consolation prize for the Sox after the Yankees bagged Carl Pavano. The Sox also went hard after Brad Radke in addition to their former farmhand, but fortunately came up empty on both counts. Like the A-Rod deal, apparently sometimes the best moves are the ones you do not make, no matter how much you want to at the time. As long as Clement keeps throwing strikes, and with Jason Varitek behind the plate I do not see him allowing Clement to stray off course too much, he should be the consistent #2 starter that the Sox front office envisioned him being.

Of course, the Yankees also brought in the Big Unit and Jared Wright in their quixotic quest to replace David Wells, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettitte. Wright, with a history of getting hurt, amazingly has barely pitched this season due to injuries, and he was ineffective when he did pitch. The Big Unit has been erratic at best. He appears to be struggling to adapt to the fact that his fastball is getting hit for the first time in his career. He has had some good performances surrounded by a lot of struggles. Not exactly what the Yankees expected in return for their top minor league pitcher, Brad Halsey; their ace from 2004, Javier Vazquez; and their top minor league prospect and future replacement for the aging Jorge Posada, Dionner Navarro, who the Diamondbacks promptly turned around and packaged off to the Dodgers.

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PETEY:

Let me clarify my thoughts on Pedro Martinez once and for all. Do I think Pedro is one of the five best pitchers in baseball? Yes. Do I think the Red Sox made a fair offer with a two year deal? Yes. Do I think that a three year deal was stretching it for a player with his fragile physique? Yes. Do I think the Mets are insane for handing out a four year deal to Petey? Yes.

Martinez, for one or two years at $12 million or so, is a very good deal. After two years though, I would be very hesitant to guarantee him any money, let alone more than $10 million a season. I think the Sox did well by not caving in to Martinez, and letting him go to the Mets. The deal may look bad this season and next season, but by 2008 the Sox will have the last laugh.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

TITILLATING

How is this not the major news story? We all know that in the debacle that was Tyson versus McBride, the man who loves pigeons more than Bert from Sesame Street, Iron Mike Tyson, tried to head-butt, bite, and break the arm of tomato can Kevin McBride. But now McBride is saying that Tyson bit his nipple! As soon as I get home I am rushing to see if this is on the HBO On-Demand. Biting ears is one thing, but biting the nipple of another man is just plain kinky. (Nipples, eh? Maybe I should mention Hazel Mae again!)

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SHUT THE FOULKE UP:

Kudos, high praise, and a huzzah for Keith Foulke and his admission that he talks to WEEI because they give him a free truck to go on the radio (sponsored by Ford). I think this type of disclosure is overdue. These athletes are used to getting meal money, drinks comped at bars, free clothes in boutiques, free Gatorade and sunflower seeds, tobacco lobbyists pandering to them with free Skoal, and more. Why should they talk to some schlep writer for free? If I were famous, I would demand a free subscription to the Globe and Herald before I talked to those yips. Good for Foulke, I say.

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NUMBER FIFTEEN:

One of my newest advertising links is numberfifteen.com (http://www.numberfifteen.com), a site dedicated to number fifteen on the Red Sox: Kevin Millar.

Millar is an interesting persona on the Sox, as he serves as media liaison and resident joker, but also does not provide a lot of power out of a power position. Obviously, the Sox knew what they were getting when they pried Millar away from Japan in a controversial waiver move about which I do not remember the details nor do I care to recall the specifics, although I imagine taking on Danny Tomori who was smacked around all spring training and has shown nothing at Pawtucket so far was some kind of final restitution.

Millar has also shown that he should not be allowed to get complacent about his role on the team. For the past two season, he has not started hitting until direct competition in the form of Doug Mientkiewicz last season and John Olerud this season. Also, for all his clubhouse leadership and support from Terry Francona, he has been a whiner and moaner whenever his playing time is cut. What a team player!

Despite his intangibles, I do not see how the Sox bring back Millar for anything short of a fourth outfielder/back-up 1B/back-up DH role at a major discount next season when he is a free agent. Millar is a liability in the field and does not have the necessary power to take up such an important position in the lineup. We all love the cowboy, but we will still love him next year when he plays twice a week and we have a legitimate 30+ home run hitting first baseman.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

JINX

So on the way home from softball, I am listening to the Sox game, completely out of sorts due to a fill-in announcer for one of the wonder twins on WEEI, and find out David Wells is working on a no-hitter. Rushing in to turn on the television, I am just in time to see him give up the first hit of the game for Cincinnati. Just my luck.

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FOUR IN A ROW:

It is amazing to see the effect of great starting pitching on a team and their fan base. As Earl Weaver said back in when he managed the Orioles in the seventies, it all starts with pitching. I would also add that it all starts with starting pitching. The Sox starters in the last four games have gone 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA. No, I do not expect that type of dominance to continue, but with the return of Curt Schilling, the rotation should improve. For those idiots who say the Sox are getting a free ride this year from the fans after winning the championship, I can only say talk to me during a losing streak.

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I LOVE IT WHEN YOU CALL ME BIG PAPI:

Why teams continue to pitch to David Ortiz in situations with runners on base is beyond me. I would pull a Barry Bonds and walk him every time he came up to bat with runners on base as long as the bases were not loaded. Why teams continue to allow him to hurt them is beyond me. Time and time again Big Papi rises to the occasion and smacks a clutch hit for the Sox. I do not care if Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Edgar Renteria, Trot Nixon, John Olerud or Kevin Millar is hitting behind him in the lineup, I would take my chances with any of them before taking my chances with Ortiz. Hard to believe a guy that was released by the Minnesota Twins and was expected to back-up Jeremy Giambi when he signed with the Red Sox is now the most feared clutch hitter in baseball except maybe for the incomparable Albert Pujols.

* * *

MANNA:

Has Manny finally found his stroke? His single to right field was a more telling at bat than any of the three home runs in three games. When Manny is locked in he hits to all fields with power to the gaps. When he tries to pull the ball, he hits into endless double play ground outs to short stop (see also: Renteria, Edgar). If Manny is back to form, and remember he is getting into the mid-thirties in age when power hitters not on steroids (see: Bonds, Barry) tend to slowly lose their power stroke (see: Luzinski, Greg; Kittle, Ron; and Kingman, Dave), he should see the batting average and power numbers spike upward in the next few weeks and months.

* * *

AFC RIVALS:

So is it another year and another 5-1 or 6-0 inter-division record for the Patriots? Time to take a peek at what the Pats rivals in the division have been up to and their season preview:

Miami Dolphins:
The Dolphins, one of the two teams to beat the Patriots last season, are a team in serious transition. A new GM, a new coach, new coordinators, new players, impact draft picks, and new philosophies. At best, if everything gels quickly, the Dolphins could make a run at .500. Still no quarterback (Gus Ferrotte!?!), a rookie RB and the return of Ricky Williams (a nightmare waiting to happen, would Oakland give the Dolphins a sixth round pick for Ricky?), still Chris Chambers and a bunch of chumps on the receiving end, and an offensive line in flux. Not a good combo. The defense was strong last year, but with major shake-ups in the secondary (good-bye Patrick Surtain, too bad on the injury Will Poole, hello Tebucky Jones!) and the transition to a 3-4 defense, even that is up in the air. Most likely, a 5-11 season.

New York Jets:
The Jets believe that they were this close to the Super Bowl last year. Whatever. They upset San Diego (the curse of Marty), and should have beat the Steelers (rookie QB in the playoffs); however, they would have had no chance against the Patriots. The Jets got by with Curtis Martin and a strong defense that played it safe in the cover-2. Well, much like when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their stud defensive lineman and linebackers began to age, the Jets defense (other than Jonathan Vilma, who is a stud, but with a knee ready to blow out this summer) is looking a little rough. Jason Ferguson was a huge loss. There is no other way around it. He WAS that defense. With the likely hold-out of defensive end John Abraham, the Jet defense still has major holes (I did not mention the secondary because, with their cover-2, it does not matter who is there). The Jets offense was Curtis Martin and dump-off passes. Expect more of the same and a lot of 14-10 games. The Jets, at best, are 9-7.

Buffalo Bills:
The deluded legions of fans in Buffalo (hey, it is football 24-7 there, I should cut them some slack) are already planning their vacation around the Super Bowl as they have replaced the one element holding them back: Drew Bledsoe at quarterback. No, Tom Brady did not go to Buffalo, but rather a late first round pick from 2004, J.P. Losman. Losman, who, according to the Bills, walks on water, performs miracles daily, and is telepathically connected with all members of the offense, should be a considerable upgrade over the mortal Drew Bledsoe. The defense is very good, not great, but good. The offense, well, I still am not drafting Willis McGahee in first three rounds in fantasy football just because I do not believe his knees will stand up to a full year pounding. Losman, even if he is as good as advertised, needs time to gel with the offense, and Eric Moulds is older with unproven kids around him. The Bills have another fight to get to 8-8.

So, it looks like less than stellar play again this year from the AFC East (not including the Patriots, of course!).

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HAZEL MAE:

Apparently, according to my beautiful webmaster (yes, I admit it, I am sleeping with her. Of course, I will have been married to her eight years this week, so it is o.k.), I mentioned NESN morning sportscaster Hazel Mae in a blog in the past and that I am getting a lot of traffic to the site by people finding the site via a search for her. Well, now I feel obligated to bring up Hazel Mae if only it will help me look good to the advertisers by getting more hits. So, here are some titillating comments to draw in those web searchers looking to…God only knows what they expect to find: I was watching NESN this morning, standing in front of the TV nearly nude as I watched Hazel Mae show the highlights of the Sox game. In fact, I was half naked when Hazel Mae mentioned the Yankees score. What a boob I shouted when Hazel Mae showed the replay of the error in the outfield by Manny.

There, that should do it.

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GOD HELP ME:

For the life of me, I cannot get Beverly Hills by Weezer out of my head, and I do not even know all the words which makes it ten times worse. It is almost as painful as watching the Pirates hand the game the other night to the Yankees. Jose Mesa, you are a virus on my fantasy team and I would wish you exile to baseball hell but you are already pitching in Pittsburgh.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

CEMENT CLEMENT AS #1

Matt Clement turned in another solid performance as he staked claim on the number one spot in the starting rotation with Curt Schilling out of action for most of the first half of the season. Clement, save for a few clunkers, has been remarkably consistent for a pitcher whose consistency has long been the consistent complaint of his make-up on the mound (does that even make sense? Could I maybe throw the word consistent in there again?).

Clement has been everything advertised as he has taken advantage of the run support and veteran presence behind the plate that was always lacking in Florida and in Chicago. With more success has come more confidence; more confidence has led to a more polished and controlled pitcher on the mound.

I wish I could say I told you so, but I am more than willing to admit that I did not. I hoped Clement could transition to the American League as well as he has, but really thought he would turn in a Derek Lowe-esque 13-12 year. Either he has improved a lot since he flashed his unfulfilled potential in Florida and Chicago, or else he is finally on a team with run support which is likely the most glaring difference between this season and his past.

* * *

OPPONENT QUALITY:

Are the Sox back on the winning track, or are meager teams like Cincinnati the reason the wins keep coming? Of course, it could just be due to the fact that they are the best team in the league at home and are now settling into an extended home stand.

Either way, the team needs to get Kevin Youkilis in the lineup every day. I cannot emphasize this point enough. EVERY DAY. I do not care if he takes at bats away from Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn (Tito, please for the love of Johnny Pesky and Frank Malzone, put Youkilis at third and Mueller at second), or Kevin Millar at first base.

* * *

YANKEE BASHING:

No, for once it is not me. Tom Verducci at SI.com takes the Yankers to task for their insipid decision to move Tony Womack to left field. Sure, I have railed against it as a move that defies common sense and logic, as Womack is not even an adequate second baseman with his hitting. His only asset, speed, is negated by hitting before A-Rod in the lineup, where you do not want a guy running the team out of an inning with their best hitter up at bat. He also ripped into Giambi, who the Yankees have no choice but to play now that Tino Martinez is no longer on pace for 90 home runs, and, to a lesser degree, Ruben Sierra.

Jacob Luft, another SI.com baseball writer, jumped on the anti-Yankee bandwagon last week. He brought up some great points about the questionable trades and signings. He includes: Not picking up Jon Lieber's extension and subsequently investing $21 million into Jaret Wright's scary medical history, trading Jose Contreras for Esteban Loaiza, allowing Orlando Hernandez to get away, including Yhency Brazoban in the Jeff Weaver-Kevin Brown deal ... yeah, those are all doozies. But none of those players deserve the title of "The One Who Got Away" as much as Nick Johnson, the Nationals first baseman who ranks in the top five in the NL in batting average (.333), OBP (.448) and OPS (.978).

All I can say is that it is about time the Yankee Dynasty started crumbling. Throwing money at problems is never the preferred way to build a team. The albatross contracts hanging around the necks of the Steinbrenner-ites are what they deserve for their arrogance and free-spending ways.

* * *

CEMENT CLEMENT AS #1

Matt Clement turned in another solid performance as he staked claim on the number one spot in the starting rotation with Curt Schilling out of action for most of the first half of the season. Clement, save for a few clunkers, has been remarkably consistent for a pitcher whose consistency has long been the consistent complaint of his make-up on the mound (does that even make sense? Could I maybe throw the word consistent in there again?).

Clement has been everything advertised as he has taken advantage of the run support and veteran presence behind the plate that was always lacking in Florida and in Chicago. With more success has come more confidence; more confidence has led to a more polished and controlled pitcher on the mound.

I wish I could say I told you so, but I am more than willing to admit that I did not. I hoped Clement could transition to the American League as well as he has, but really thought he would turn in a Derek Lowe-esque 13-12 year. Either he has improved a lot since he flashed his unfulfilled potential in Florida and Chicago, or else he is finally on a team with run support which is likely the most glaring difference between this season and his past.

* * *

OPPONENT QUALITY:

Are the Sox back on the winning track, or are meager teams like Cincinnati the reason the wins keep coming? Of course, it could just be due to the fact that they are the best team in the league at home and are now settling into an extended home stand.

Either way, the team needs to get Kevin Youkilis in the lineup every day. I cannot emphasize this point enough. EVERY DAY. I do not care if he takes at bats away from Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn (Tito, please for the love of Johnny Pesky and Frank Malzone, put Youkilis at third and Mueller at second), or Kevin Millar at first base.

* * *

YANKEE BASHING:

No, for once it is not me. Tom Verducci at SI.com takes the Yankers to task for their insipid decision to move Tony Womack to left field. Sure, I have railed against it as a move that defies common sense and logic, as Womack is not even an adequate second baseman with his hitting. His only asset, speed, is negated by hitting before A-Rod in the lineup, where you do not want a guy running the team out of an inning with their best hitter up at bat. He also ripped into Giambi, who the Yankees have no choice but to play now that Tino Martinez is no longer on pace for 90 home runs, and, to a lesser degree, Ruben Sierra.

Jacob Luft, another SI.com baseball writer, jumped on the anti-Yankee bandwagon last week. He brought up some great points about the questionable trades and signings. He includes: Not picking up Jon Lieber's extension and subsequently investing $21 million into Jaret Wright's scary medical history, trading Jose Contreras for Esteban Loaiza, allowing Orlando Hernandez to get away, including Yhency Brazoban in the Jeff Weaver-Kevin Brown deal ... yeah, those are all doozies. But none of those players deserve the title of "The One Who Got Away" as much as Nick Johnson, the Nationals first baseman who ranks in the top five in the NL in batting average (.333), OBP (.448) and OPS (.978).

All I can say is that it is about time the Yankee Dynasty started crumbling. Throwing money at problems is never the preferred way to build a team. The albatross contracts hanging around the necks of the Steinbrenner-ites are what they deserve for their arrogance and free-spending ways.

* * *

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A CALL TO ARMS

Bitching about pitching: that is what it has come down to this season for Red Sox fans. The inconsistencies of the starting rotation sans Curt Schilling and the Chernobyl bullpen have left the Red Sox in the same place they have been all season: chasing the Orioles and never getting enough momentum to generate a charge at first place.

Rotation:

Really, the rotation is one of the top five in the game, and I am hoping that the pendulum swings more towards sustained, solid consistency in the rotation until Schilling returns. Tim Wakefield, as a knuckleball pitcher, is going to be up and down, that is a given. Bronson Arroyo, though twenty-eight years old, is really coming off his rookie year and still learning to pitch effectively and consistently. Matt Clement has been very good and very consistent, with only two poor performances all year. Wade Miller is still finding his comfort zone and the Red Sox are going to give him time to straighten himself out. Finally, David Wells is hopefully in shape enough to be able to run off four or five straight solid games.

A staff with Schilling, Wells, Miller, and Clement all healthy and pitching well would be unstoppable in the second half of the season. The Sox, and pitching coach Dave Wallace, need to find out how to get these starters on track.

Bullpen:

Basically, the Sox returned the bullpen which won them the World Series and added Matt Mantei to fill the role of the middle reliever who can get a big punch-out. Alan Embree has been atrocious and may need to spend some time on the DL with a mysterious injury to work himself back to where he should be in Pawtucket. Mantei, when fully healthy, and Mike Timlin, make it tough for right-handed hitters late in the game. They will be needed in July, August, and beyond. Mike Myers has been great, and with Schilling returning in July or August, Wakefield or Arroyo can help with depth in the bullpen will be improved

* * *

INCOHERENT:

What in the world is Richard Seymour doing showing up at team charity golf outings and ring ceremonies at the Kraft estate in the days following him skipping out of the mandatory camp. I do not know who is giving him contract negotiation advice, but his agent needs to find a better way to get results. I have no problem with Seymour trying to get a new deal, but he has got to realize that where hold-out is linked without doubt to the questionable character of Terrell Owens, this is not a way to build up public support.

I agree Seymour deserves more money that Marcus Stroud, who he has outperformed since they both came into the league, but I do not see what he hopes to accomplish by not showing up for a mandatory mini-camp and then popping in the next day to pick up his ring? That is bad, bad advice. Seymour is earning almost $3 million this year. He signed a six year deal as a rookie, presumably without any type of automatic weapon held to his temple by Bill Belichick (though I am sure there are a few writers in town who would contend that Belichick has jack-booted goons doing just that thing to the poor souls on the team trying to negotiate a fair dollar).

I am sure that I, like most fans, want these players on our favorite team to get as much money as possible. I say bully for them for making millions at a game; however, the success of the Patriots is that they get great players, superb depth, and a championship team on the same budget that every other team has in this salary cap era. Unfortunately, some players are not going to be paid their full value in this competitive balanced world of the salary cap. That is just the price they pay to be on a winning team.

* * *

Monday, June 13, 2005

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS

Picking up some of the thoughts that are bounding around in my head at the beginning of the weekend:

Remember when in April the debate was about whether Bronson Arroyo or Tim Wakefield should go to the bullpen or not? I am thinking that they should both chill in the pen for a few when Curt Schilling returns and bring up lefty Abe Alvarez for a while. I like the idea of having two lefties in the rotation.

* * *

I think Tedy Bruschi should and likely will sit out the 2005 season if only due to the surgery he had to close a small hole in his heart. Of course, his return to the field in 2006 will likely be the biggest story of the decade.

* * *

You go, Richard Seymour. Hold out as long as you can. But you still will not see a contract extension this season. There is only player the Patriots will go out of their way for to re-do a contract with two years remaining and he just got his: Tom Brady.

* * *

I just cannot wait to see Doug Flutie playing for the Patriots again. I do not even care if it is pre-season only. I am worked up and pumped up for the NFL right now. Look out, Mimit, here comes an open field tackle! MEOWWWWW!

* * *

I wonder if Carl Pavano wishes he signed with the Red Sox right now.

* * *

I wonder when Bruce Chen is going to wake up. He should be the story of the season. Damn that Ray Miller.

* * *

1:05PM and 2:20PM starting times for Friday games should be declared null and void. No one reveres baseball tradition as much as I do, but I just cannot stand missing out on these afternoon games while I am stuck at work.

* * *

Speaking of baseball traditions, I am still pissed off from opening day that the Cincinnati Reds do not play the first game of the season anymore. They are the first professional team EVER. They deserve it. It is not that difficult to pull off. Damn ESPN. Damn ESPN to hell.

* * *

I miss Mike Greenwell crashing into the Green Monster in left.

* * *

Johnny Damon is no Fred Lynn. At least Lynn caught the ball when he knocked himself unconscious running into the fence in centerfield at Fenway.

* * *

Friday, June 10, 2005

ALLS WELLS THAT ENDS WELLS:

It was good to see Boomer breakout of his slump and pitch well. Like the little girl with the curl (or as we say in my house, like Emma), when she is good she is very good and when she is bad, run for cover; when Wells has been on his game, he is unhittable, when his location is off, warm up Halama in a hurry! Well, I should say it was nice to see the highlights on NESN as the game did not start until after 10PM. Of course, the Globe early edition on my doorstep has no game info as the game apparently did not end until around 1AM.

Edgar Renteria popped a homer in the ninth. Great news. I hope he is finally on track and can relax and start hitting the ball to right field with runners on base. He was never a dead-pull hitter with the Cardinals or Marlins, yet this year when runners are on base everything is to the shortstop on the ground. This is what happens when you try to pull every pitch out of the park. It was why Jim Rice hit so many double-play grounders in his career. Renteria, however, is not a home run hitter and should not be trying to jack the ball out to left field with runners on base. Apparently, he is still pressing a bit and hopefully will be able to relax at the plate soon.

Renteria and Wells are polarizing figures on the team; everyone has an opinion on them, either they are liked (for instance, yours truly) or they are hated (the O.C. and Pedro worshippers). I was clamoring for a Nomar for Renteria trade way back when Nomar first hurt his wrist. I have always loved how Renteria plays the game, from his smooth work in the field to his quick bat and speed and aggressiveness on the base paths. Unfortunately, he has been pressing so much this season that the real Edgar has taken the tack of J.D. Salinger and been virtually absent from the public eye.

Wells is one of those (literally & figuratively) larger than life characters who is so good for the game because of the enthusiasm and love of the game that he brings. Sure, he loves the Yankees and all things Steinbrenner, but so does my cousin Andrew, it does not mean you ban the person for life. (Sure, you harass them about it endlessly, but that is part of what makes life fun.) Also, Wells is a little bit kooky, and that always helps.

* * *

SECRETS:

I have the secret to turn around the season for the Yankees: trade A-Rod. It worked for Seattle and Texas.

* * *

HOLD OUT?


The big news out of the Patriots cap is Richard Seymour and his no-show. Seymour, with two seasons left on his rookie contract wants a new deal and probably should get one. Now, he is getting paid almost three million dollars this season, so I do not have a lot of sympathy for Seymour, but he is probably the best defensive lineman in the NFL. I know that with his size, strength, youth, intelligence, pass rushing, run stuffing, multiple position playing, and all around athleticism I do not know that there is another lineman I would want more than Seymour; however, he does have to realize that with the Patriots the money he would get on the open market is not going to be thrown his way two years before he reaches said open market.

As I have written before, I believe that the Belichick/Pioli team is well aware that Seymour could very likely be out the door to the highest bidder no matter what efforts they make to keep him, which is part of why they have built so much defensive line depth. I think Seymour is sending a subtle message to Belichick which he has received. How that plays out in the future is unknown, but it certainly bears watching.

* * *

Thursday, June 09, 2005

THE ST LOUIS BLUES

In retrospect, the Red Sox, heading into the final game against the Cardinals, are 6-6 against the Yankees and the division leaders they have faced over the last dozen games. Holding their own against the best is a decent place to be. What is bothersome about the team is they are not destroying the other teams on their schedule as they used to do. Toronto, Tampa Bay, Seattle, and Baltimore just do not roll over when they face the Sox (or the Yankees for that matter).

So the Sox have met one goal of being competitive with the best teams in the league (or leagues with this absurd marketing ploy known as inter-league play). What the team needs to do is play up to their status as the defending champions and start beating up on the lesser teams in the division such as the Yankees (yes, they are a lesser team), Toronto (who I still admire, but they do not have the talent that is in Boston), and Tampa Bay.

* * *

THE AMATEUR BASEBALL DRAFT - YES!!!

What a great draft by the Red Sox. They picked up their future center fielder who should be ready to play within three years with their first pick when center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The best news was their second number one pick which brought their future closer and likely set-up man next season, relief pitcher Craig Hansen. Hansen would fill the role, which I had said the Sox desperately need in the previous blog, of the young pitcher with the 97 mph fastball and deadly slider coming out of the pen in the seventh or eighth inning and get some key punch-outs and to take some load off the trio of aging veterans currently filling the role: Matt Mantei, Alan Embree, and Mike Timlin.

Hansen fell into the lap of the Sox only because of his agent, Steve Boras, who scared off a number of the small market clubs. Rumors originally had Hansen in the mix as a top three pick. If a college relief pitcher is expected to contribute immediately, like Ryan Wagner or Huston Street, I see no reason NOT to treat the draftee like a free agent and signing him to big contract. Or to put it another way, I would much prefer to give the money to someone who can contribute in 2006 than to a seventeen year old kid who may or may not be ready in three to five years.

* * *

DEPTH, DEPTH, AND MORE DEPTH:

The Patriots add Antaun Edwards for more depth at safety. On a side note, how many variations of Antuan/Antaun/Antoine/Antuwann etc are there out there in the NFL?

* * *

The Chris Redman era has a quick end in New England as the Patriots quickly cut the number of quarterbacks on the roster to four, which is where it logically belongs. Tom Brady, Doug Flutie, and Riders of Rohan Davey are 1, 2, and 3 with Matt Cassell, who according to some talking heads on FSN who were in attendance at passing camp, is a legitimate bona-fide quarterback prospect that just never got a fair shake in college being behind two Heisman Trophy winners in Carson Palmer and Matt Leinert. As I said on draft day, he could have been the second best quarterback in the college ranks and no one would know because he backed up (and nearly beat out in spring camp) the top QB in the country.

* * *

Final note: to all my Canadian, Dutch, & other non-related or pal readers, I love ya & keep reading! Thanks for the support, and feel free to drop me a line. Heck, anyone can send me a note with the link at the bottom of the blog or just send it to hal@bostonsportpage.com. I love talking sports as much as I love writing it.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

WELCOME BACK KOTTER:

Vacation - truly it is the sweetest word in the English language. Well, except for a few words that cannot be repeated in a PG environment. I am back from my first vacation in a way too long time, so thank you for coming back to the site, or if you are new, thank you for checking it out. There is a lot of stuff to catch up on, so I will skip it all and continue to blab on about whatever I feel like.

* * *

SOX NEED A SHAKE-UP:

Simply put, this Red Sox team looks a duplicate of the 2004 team. Good, you may say, that team won the World Series! Bad, I say, as that team needed a major kick in the rear at the trading deadline to get moving in the right direction. The strength of the team is also the weakness. The club is full of solid veterans at almost every position, truly an enviable position of strength. What the team lacks, however, is the dashing and daring of youth and especially speed. Pure speed and the ability to disrupt a game with sheer energy and enthusiasm is what the team lacks.

While Mark Bellhorn and Bill Mueller are the consummate professionals on a professional team, it does not change the fact that the benefits of Kevin Youkilis as full-time third baseman and Dustin Pedroia or Hanley Ramirez as full-time second baseman would be the spark that the team lacks currently in their offensive and defensive game.

Also, do not forget that eventually Adam Stern, the young speedster plucked from the Rule V draft this year will eventually get on the field and hopefully give the team a boost of speed and enthusiasm in the outfield.

The bullpen is also in need of a shake-up, and although Cla Meredith did not exactly serve as the rooster crowing a new morning for the bullpen that is more likely to recognize the Sugar Hill Gang than 50 Cent. (Drink Vitamin Water, because 50 Cent said so!) Meredith was the right idea in the wrong package. They need to bring up a strikeout pitcher; a kid with a high nineties fastball who is two years away from being the closer. OF course, I am not even sure the Sox have such a pitcher in their system. But think of the impact that F-Rod had in Anaheim a few years ago, that Ryan Wagner and Huston Street had with Cincy and Oakland respectively; these young hurlers can come in and strike out the side in the seventh inning with men on base and wipe out a rally or morale in a heartbeat. That is what the Sox bullpen lacks: that dagger in the heart strikeout pitcher. But, hey, the amateur draft is almost here, maybe there is another Huston Street who will drop.

The rotation, once looked on as a strength, is showing signs of wear. Rather than who deserves to sit when Schilling comes back, it is who deserves another shot at starting in hopes he turns it around. Both Bronson Arroyo and Tim Wakefield have looked like the third or fourth starter in the rotation. Asking them to do more this season was a bit over expectations.

Actually, I would not be surprised to see both relieving by the time the trade deadline sets beyond the horizon. Another starting pitcher is no doubt in the mind and plans of Theo Epstein.

* * *

ALTERNATIVE FUTURE - A-ROD ON THE RED SOX:

Did you ever wake up in the morning in a cold sweat as you have a vivid dream of what could have been with A-Rod on the Red Sox last season along with Magglio Ordonez on the disabled list all season? Team finishes third with an 80-82 record, Derek Lowe never has his mighty post-season and returns to the team along with Pedro who finishes the year 11-13. No, not a good way to wake up: running to the closet to make sure the World Series champion merchandise still exists. Of course, I did the same after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl: waking up in the morning not sure if Vinatieri hit the field goal or if he missed and they lost in overtime like in the dream I had that night.

* * *

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