Thursday, May 05, 2005

HALAMA-LLAMA

I have been shouting into the darkness for months that John Halama-Llama should be in the starting rotation for the Red sox. Halama, against a slowly improving Tigers squad showed the value of a veteran lefty at the end of the rotation. Mixing speeds and location, mixing off-speed pitches with more off-speed pitches, throwing like a Jamie Moyer lite, Halama kept the Tigers off-balance enough to keep the Sox in the game until super-sub Doug Mirabelli grand-slammed the Sox to victory.

A couple of quick points:
1. How in the world did Theo Epstein talk Doug Mirabelli into staying on in Boston as a backup to Jason Varitek? Yes, I know he got a deal with escalator clauses in case Varitek left and he assumed full-time a catching role, but considering that no other team even made an offer to Varitek, Mirabelli would presumably have every reason to leave, rather than stay on a s a back-up.

What impresses most about Mirabelli is his growth as a hitter. When originally signed by Dan Duquette to transition Scott Cross-Eyed Hatteberg out of town, Mirabelli had a reputation as a good fielder with minimal hitting skills. At first, he showed that the initial profile fit him like a glove; however, over time, he has improved his hitting and slugging to a level which projects out to all-star numbers if he could keep up the pace for 140 games. A lot of credit should go to Papa Jack who has reportedly put in a lot of time with Mirabelli in the batting cage.

2. Bringing up Jamie Moyer still makes me think back to the great trade of giving Moyer away to the Mariners for back-up outfielder Darrin Bragg. I appreciated the hustle and gritty style of Bragg in his years at Fenway, but in no way would I believe that this trade did anything but rob the Sox of the soft-tossing left-handed Yankee killer they so desperately needed for the past five years. Moyer would have significantly narrowed the gap all those years as runner-up to the Regular Joe led Yankee squads.

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YANKEES MAKE DRASTIC CHANGES, EXCEPT FOR WHERE IT TRULY MATTERS:

Speaking of the Yankees, I flipped between the Sox game, Yankees debacle against the Rays, the Celtics choke job (more on that later), and the Orioles-Blue Jays match-up, which was easily the best game: a well-pitched 1-0 Blue Jays victory. Kevin Brown had his usual horrible game for the Yankees, getting battered for 13 hits in 5 innings against the only team he could beat last year (he went 4-0 against Tampa).

The Yankees also unveiled their new and improved line-up last night. It appears that the Yankees cannot get enough second basemen in the lineup, as Womack moves to left field and soon to be traumatized rookie Robinson Canofilled in at second base. In the outfield, Bobblehead Matsui moved from left to center and the broken-down Bernie Willliams wil platoon at designated hitter with Roids Giambi. Giambi and Williams now make-up the $27 million dollar designated hitter platoon, or about the same amount as the Devil Rays or Royals payroll.

How this improves the Yankees, I do not know. Womack takes power away from a corner outfield position, which is always a no-no; Giambi and Williams become part-timers, A-Rod is still not at shortstop, and the pitching needs another overhaul just months after being the focal point of the off-season. But I am not complaining, just pointing out the obvious to George and company.

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BIG GAME CELTICS:

Once again, the dynamic duo showed what got one of them run out of town last time: an unfailing ability to choke in the clutch. Be it Antoine firing up a wild three-pointer, or Paul Pierce trying to dribble behind his back and losing the ball rather than trying to pass the ball to an open teammate, the Celtics leaders coughed it up down the stretch for the second time on their home court - a huge no-no.

To be fair, Ricky Davis and Raef LaFrentz both had their moments down the stretch (what was that air-ball three-point attempt fired up by LaFrentz?) in game five, which begs the question: if the veterans are out their for their leadership and experience, and do not display such attributes, then why not play the energetic, aggressive on defense, always hustling young guns down the stretch? To say that the veterans are not getting it done down the stretch is an understatement.

The clich├ęs are going to be pulled out for game six. It is a must-win. The Celtics have their backs against the wall. It is win or go home time. Game six will be the true test of the Celtics character. Can they gut out two wins in a row, including one on road? I hope so.

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