The Red Sox have been hot. Smoking hot. Colorado Rockies hot. But a nine-game road trip threatens to cool off any team. The Sox kick off the trip against the Washington Nationals. Yes, the Nats are horrible at 20-47, but this Nationals team is playing hard for embattled manager Manny Acta and recently took two of three from Toronto and beat the Yankees a couple of times as well.
A look at the pitching match-ups in my morning Boston Globe (last paper subscriber, ever! Whoo-hoo!) made me spit out my coffee, as the Nats young guns just do not look MLB ready compared to the Sox. Of course, that means they'll probably sweep the Sox just because I wrote that here. Really, with John Smoltz stepping in for the injured Dice-K, Brad Penny has become the weakest link in the Red Sox rotation. Consider, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Shaky-Wakey are the three most consistent performers right now, and Smoltzie should be a huge upgrade. Penny really, really, really sould be moved, but credit Theo for waiting for someone (Cubs? Mets? Rangers?) getting desperate enough to give up a top-line prospect.
Speaking of trades, the same goes for Taka Saito, as his role in the bullpen will likely be filled by phenom Daniel Bard. Personally, I think the Sox would be fine with Justin Masterson back in the rotation, which will allow for Javier Lopez to return as that extra lefty that Terry Francona can keep in the pen for that one batter and save Oki-Doki for a clean, full inning if necessary. Saito, as much as we all have come to lean on him, is closer quality for a team desperate for bullpen help (the Mets wish they had some prospects now, eh?). Most importantly, he has a history of injuries and has been remarkably healthy this season (knock on wood, c'mon, I need something to knock on....bingo, side table, that works) and its time to trade high.
I have heard some talk that the Sox are crazy if they mess with success and make any moves, but the team has to think long-term while at the same time going for it all this year. The Sox can win without Penny and Saito this year (Michael Bowden would be a great addition to the bullpen this fall as well), and owe it to their future to get another young power arm or a young corner outfielder or infielder who can hit for power while they have the chips in hand.
Can we just take a minute and admire Jason Bay this season? Speed, defense, power/slugging, and on-base percentage, he has been everything thhe Sox could hope for and then some stepping into the role as big man in the lineup. Bay brings a current VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of 27.9, tops on the team; .317 EQA (equivalent average), second only on the team to Youk; and an OPS (On-base Plus Slugging average) of .970, second again to Youk. He's been slamming the ball off and over the Monster to a tune of 36 extra base hits with 18 home runs. Jay Bay, keep making that money every swing of the bat.
SITUATIONAL LEFTY COMING IN:
Prediction--Five Possible Red Sox Second Half Heros:
- Dustin Pedroia: He's going to get hot this summer, and when he does, he can carry this offense through the dog days of August.
- Jonathan Papelbon: Hard to believe, but he has yet to get comfortable on the mound this season as he tries to continue to find out how to protect his shoulder. Scary.
- Jed Lowrie: We love you, Nick Green, but when Jed comes back, the job is his for the rest of the season. If healthy, he can show how well he can hit.
- J.D. Drew: Remember that insane hot streak last summer? Yah, I believe he has another one in him.
- David Ortiz: Because we have to believe!
- BONUS! - Julio Lugo: Well, he is hitting .300, right?
Top Five Yankee Bashing Rants for the Day:
- Brett Gardner/Melkey Cabrera: A two-headed non-monster in centerfield. They've both overacheived so far and they both still are mediocre.
- Chien-Ming Wang: From a consistent 18 game winner to...no wins?
- A-Rod: "Wahhhhhh, I'm mentally fatigued." Can he do anything more to consistently make himself unlikeable? Keep up the good work, dipshit.
- Alfredo Aceves: The league is about two weeks from getting the book on you, kid. Enjoy that first-half success while you can.
- Mariano Rivera: Has he finally gone from otherworldly to great? Quick, get another cousin from the pool cabana to sacrifice to the Baseball Gods.
- Albert Pujols is the best hitter in baseball, bar none. Like I told the Lovely Mrs. B. when I told her I named the cardinal in the back yard Pujols and she asked what I called the female mate: "I call the female "Manny" because he's Pujol's bitch!"
- My kids are just infatuated by a baseball player named "Poo-holes".
- My daughter (all of five) still considers Manny as her favorite Red Sox.
- My son (all of seven) still loves Pokey Reese (though Curt Schilling is still his favorite Red Sox player).
- Me, I can't decide between Eddie Jurak and Chico Walker.
- Juan Pena and Paxton Crawford were supposed to be the next great young Sox pitchers, remember?
- What ever happened to Robinson Checo, the Dominican Mystery Man?
- What ever happened to the Gin Blossoms? They coulda/shoulda been huge.
- I like that extra high camera angle NESN is using when broadcasting from Nationals Park, or whatever the heck they call it in D.C.
- Speaking of NESN, just why is Kathryn Tappen on TV?
- No one else wants to say it, but I will: Remy who?
- Eck! Eck! Eck! Hall-of-Fame starter/reliever/drinker/announcer.
- Still waiting on my invitation for John Henry's wedding.
- Maroon Five/Shmaroon Five as a wedding band? Bahh, nothing at his wedding will top the "Kirk Noises" from my pal Eric's best man speech for my pal Kirk's wedding last weekend. Instant classic! (Sorry, you had to be there.)
- Why is it on FIOS I cannot watch Fox25?
- Oh, to protect me from Butch Stearns. Wow, what a considerate company.
- OK, I finally will admit it. Theo, you &%#!&^ blew it giving away Bronson Arroyo for Wily Freaking Mo Freaking Pena! Seriously, how many wins did that trade cost the Sox?
- Ramon Ramirez not winning the 10th Player Award would be the biggest tragedy (sorry Nick Green).