Thursday, April 13, 2006

WHERE DID I GO?

Oh yes, the Bent-man is back. Where have I been? Work, work, and more work. It happens. But I can take a deep breath and get back to the keyboard at last. So has anything happened in sports? Hah! Where to begin? I guess we start with the Red Sox starting rotation and then jump around all over the place through the Boston sports landscape.

RED SOX:

The Red Sox are 6-2 as I write this. Amazingly, the Red Sox have morphed into the kind of team I dreamed they could be since my childhood. Fantastic starting pitching, a great bullpen, solid defense, and a strong line-up. Today I feel like talking about the glue of the team: the starting rotation. Tomorrow the bullpen, and then the offense and team defense.

STARTING ROTATION:
Josh Beckett: The bad news? He has not pitched up to anything close to his potential so far this season. The good news? He is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts. Since the Red Sox swung the deal to steal Beckett away from the Florida Marlins, I have been struck by how Sox fans were nonplussed by the move. This kid is 25, has four killer pitches, is just beginning to scratch the surface of his talent, plays with raw emotion, and is a potential 20 game winner, front-of-the-rotation workhorse. Fans are finally seeing just how good Beckett can be for Boston. I compare this move to the deal Dan Duquette swung to get Pedro Martinez for Tony Armas Jr and Carl Pavano.

Curt Schilling: So this is what a healthy Curt Schilling looks like. Hard to believe, but this is really the first time since 2003 that he has been able to rear back and bring the cheese. Big Schill is 2-0 and a 1.93 ERA through his first two games. More importantly, he has taken the two little big dawgs (Jon Papelbon and Josh Beckett) under his wing and given the Sox pitching staff an identity (other than Pedro and the Jamokes, as they were known from 1998 through 2003).

Tim Wakefield: Well, I call him Shaky Wakey for a reason, right? One horrific performance followed by an solid performance. Wake, unlike the Inside Track gals at the Boston Herald and the WEEI Screaming Moron Society, has apparently adjusted to not having future first ballot hall of famer and fifteen time gold glove winner Doug Mirabelli on the receiving end of his knuckleball. Wake will win about 15 games. He will have that one stretch where he is unhittable for about three games; then, he will have that stretch where he gets bombed two or three games in a row. Hey, it comes with the pitch. His consistency is in his inconsistency.

Matt Clement: Arguably the forgotten man in the Red Sox rotation, where he is probably very happy to be. Before getting beaned last season, Clement was an all-star and arguably the number one starter. I remember writing an entry titled: CEMENT CLEMENT AS #1. Witty, I know. I should be working at the Metro, I know. Anyway, the point is that he went out, got beaned by a batted ball, and never was the same again the rest of the season. Well, Clement looked great in his first start until he ran out of gas. He hopefully can get in a comfort zone unequalled at any time in his career: he is the number four starter; he is the forgotten man: everyone talks about the emergence of Beckett, the resurgence of Schilling, the consistency of Wakefield, and the zoo that is David Wells; he can just show up, do his job, hit the shower, and disappear for four days. If the Red Sox can keep him in his comfort zone, Clement can be the kind of starter to win 15 games in the number four spot. Of course, there is a reason is he has been one of the most erratic, frustrating pitchers in the game. He is a gamble. He could win 20; he could lose 20. No one knows.

David Wells: What to say about Boomer? Obviously, it is still spring training for the big guy, but do you want to be the one to tell him he needs three more starts in AAA? Me neither. Wells will improve, eventually (say, May?). But he has gone from the April 2004 ace to the 2005 number five starter. How the hell is that possible? Hmm. Acquire the best young pitcher in baseball. Check. Get your number one starter healthy. Check. Have your summer ace bounce back from his horrific second half of 2004. Check. Trade Bronson Arroyo to Cincinnati for a young slugger loaded with potential. Check. Have other old fart in the rotation healthier than your current number five starter and have the manager insist on sticking him at the #2 spot in the rotation. Check. Other young stud starter closing games until regular closer is healthy from double-knee surgery. Check. Well, I guess that makes perfect sense in retrospect. Expect double-digit wins from Wells this season. If he gets (relatively) healthy, he can remain an asset (or trade bait).

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WHERE HAVE ALL THE RED SOX GONE?

How are the displaced Idiots doing? The joy of conning my wife into getting the MLB package allows me to switch from seven to ten games a night (which must drive her insane). No problems, I will repay her one way or another. (p.s., thanks, Babe. I appreciate it.)

Bill Mueller had a strong first week. Too bad he will be on the DL two or three times this season. Everyone loves Billy Ballgame. He is hitting some sick number (.469 at the moment). I like Mueller, but Lowell is comparable defensively and has a lot more pop in his bat (He already is proving he was made to hit in Fenway Park).

Kevin Millar is ripping up AAA, as he hit two homers off the Devil Rays pitching staff last night. Of course, against major league pitching (aka the Red Sox), he came up a little short. In fact, he looked downright overmatched against Jonathan Papelbon at the end of one of the games.

Nomar: Is he still in the league? Just kidding. I have my fingers crossed that Nomie will get into at least 50 games this year.

Johnny Damon: Just remember, we got Coco Crisp for ¼ the cost of Damon. In three years, Theo will look like the smartest GM in baseball (And Kathy chimes in with: not just the hottest GM in baseball). Damon could hit .400 this year and it was still a smart move by the Red Sox.

Pedro: The Pedro Martinez shoulder blow-out lottery is on and I have July 7 as the date. Otherwise, he has done alright so far.

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