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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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 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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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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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:
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.
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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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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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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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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