Tuesday, May 16, 2006

PLAY BALL

While the Northeast remains saturated with rain, the Red Sox travel to Baltimore, home of the Friedman clan (or do I just refer to them as the urban Baltimore Friedmen?), in an effort to actually play a game for a change. After the emotionally charged series with the Yankees, the Sox had trouble getting up to play against the Texas Rangers and Kameron Loe and were promptly shut down rather easily before the rains came. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and now we see the once-mighty (circa late seventies/early eighties) Baltimore Orioles on the horizon. Some quick thoughts on the match-up before first pitch (hopefully, as there is a 40% chance of rain):

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THE SOX DRAWER, OR LOOKING FOR A MATCH-UP:

In looking at the pitching match-ups, the Sox run out their two studs versus the two duds the Orioles match-up against them. While Schilling and Becket are a combined 9-3 with a 4.36 ERA. The Orioles match-up Red Sox Killer Rodrigo Lopez of the 1-5 7.08 and former Red Sox for a cup of joe, Bruce Freaking Chen and his 0-5 8.42 stats. In the finale (weather permitting of course), the fantasy team nightmare scenario plays out as both pitchers are on my fantasy team: Shakey Wakey and Eric Bedard. Pitch both? Pitch one? Pitch neither?

Fortunately, I have a hard and fast rule that I bench EVERYONE when they play the Sox (provided I remember to check my roster), and with Bedard it is no exception. Of course, when I picked up Bedard off waivers he was 4-0 with an ERA under 3.00. Since I added him, his cumulative stats are 4-2 4.63. Yeah, another great move, Bent.

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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU:

Whatever happened to having Wakefield pitch between Schilling and Beckett to break-up the power pitchers with the knuckleballer? One rain-out and the plan is off. In theory, it sounds well, but I wonder if studying the significance of the move was a Bill James special project?

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BACK TO NORMAL:

Hmm. Kevin Millar is hitting a robust .220 (note, below Alex Gonzalez) with 2 home runs (Dustin Mohr has 2 in one-third the number of at-bats). But, hey, he is great in the clubhouse, right? Yes, he had a pinch-hit two-run single the other night to pull ahead of Alex Gonzalez in the RBI Derby (13-11), but since it was against the AAA Kansas City Royals, how excited can you get about it? I mean, John Halama Llama got the win, but you will not see me clamoring for the Sox to get him back and stick him in the number five spot in the rotation to replace Lenny DiNardo. Now, personally, I like Kevin Millar. I wish more ballplayers enjoyed the game as much as he does, but the Red Sox had no business playing him last season, let alone resigning him for 2006.

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BACKLASH:

So now that Alex Gonzalez and Jason Varitek have the same batting average and near identical power numbers, how long until the over-reactions kick in and the chant goes up at WEEI to make Doug Mirabelli the regular catcher and chastise Theo Epstein for signing Varitek to the 4 year $40 million contract? Of course, Varitek and Gonzalez are both likely to finish the season hitting around .260/.275 with 15 home runs.

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MISCELLANEOUS:

I hope Barry Bonds retires with 713 home runs.

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How ridiculously good are the Chicago White Sox? I was watching them last night (note to ESPN: fire Joe Morgan, keep Jon Miller.) and Mark Buehrle gave up seven runs in the first inning. Pull the starter, exhaust the bullpen, game over, right? Nope. Buehrle settled down, shut down the Twins for the next five innings, and earned the win as the White Sox pounded the enigmatic Carlos Silva and won 9-7. I may not be a big Ozzie Guillen fan, but that White Sox team is so much fun to watch: great starting pitching, solid bullpen, speed, power, and balance in the line-up.
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Mike Maroth is 5-2 with a 2.18 ERA for the Tigers, and yes, he was a gift from Dan Duquette and the previous Red Sox regime to the Tigers for a dead-arm pitcher and a bucket of balls.

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Hard to believe, but Nomar actually looks good for the Dodgers. He has lost some bulk, got some bat speed back (remember, that wrist injury in 2002. Wrist action is vital for hitting), and looks happy and healthy. He will probably never hit 20 or 30 home runs or hit .370 again, but he is good for .315 average, 15 homers, 40 doubles, and 115 ribbies batting somewhere near the middle of the order. I have no ill will for #5. I wish he had handled himself with more grace on his way out and realized the opportunity he had to stay in Boston with the new ownership group, but all-in-all I still root for Nomar. Also, he gets kudos for his comment (where I read it I forget), and I paraphrase here, that this off-season it was between New York (Yankees) or the Dodgers and he chose L.A. because he still considers himself a Red Sox and could NEVER play for the Yankees. I hope Johnny Damon read that quote and finally realized why he was booed, will continue to be booed, and I will boo him in 30 years when he is signing baseballs at a memorabilia show.

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More good news: the Sox draft at 27, 28, 40, and 44 in the first round of the amateur draft in the beginning of June. The 27 pick is theirs, 28 is the Yankees for signing Johnny Damon, 40 is the sandwich pick compensation for Damon, and 44 is the sandwich pick compensation for Bill Mueller.

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BOXING IN BOSTON:


I stayed up (somehow) on Saturday night, enjoying a pizza and a beer with Kat to watch the Ricky Hatton-Luis Collazo fight. Simply a great match-up of welterweights. My Dad always said that welterweights are the best fighters, pound-for-pound, and considering the state of the heavyweights and the drawing power of the 155 lb and less fighters right now, it looks like he is right once again.

Hatton came out strong, had a quick knock-down early in the first round, and by round three it looked like the Irishman was going to be going straight to the Black Rose for a Guinness before too long. However, Collazo fought back and took control of the fight, before Hatton got a second wind and won a few more rounds. Collazo gamely fought back and had Hatton on the ropes in round 12, but could not put him away. Hatton, with both eyes swollen badly, fought back strong in the final minute or so of the final round and probably won the fight right there. Collazo should have put him down and out right there. Hatton hung on for the well-deserved, close victory, as HBO breathed a sigh of relief since they had just signed on Hatton to a big deal.

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