Saturday, April 23, 2005

Comeback!! Oh, wait... Nevermind

With each pitch Scott Kazmir threw last night in what would turn out to be a crap-tastic 5-4 loss to Tampa last night, I couldn't shake two reoccuring thoughts.

1) Wow!
2) The Mets are SOOOOO stupid.

I'll address these one at a time. For the first five or so innings the Red Sox, maybe the major's best offense, had no chance against Kazmir. No chance what so ever. Kazmir hit as high as 97 on the gun, but was routinely around 95 when he needed it. His breaking ball broke into the strikezone when the Sox hitters weren't expecting it to, and it broke out of the zone when they swung. To use the venacular of the kids, Kazmir was "off the hook."

As for point number two, the Mets are truly, incredibly, painfully, and amazingly stupid for getting rid of Kazmir for a mediocre talent like Zambrano. Actually, let me revise that. Forget Zambrano. They're all those things for simply getting rid of Kazmir at all. Who would think that all it would take to pry a premiere young left-handed pitching talent (like Kazmir) away from a team desperately in need of a premiere young left-handed pitching talent (like Kazmir) is a guy who walks every other batter, but thats ok because he throws hard.

In an unrelated matter, what in the hell was Terry Francona doing sending Alan Embre in to pitch the ninth inning of a tie game? Isn't that why the Sox have Keith Foulke?

Friday, April 22, 2005

An Olde-Fashioned Duel

Last night was like the playoffs. It felt that way to me. Especially the last three or four innings when it became apparent that one run would mean the difference in the game one way or the other. Everyone was standing and cheering. The crowd was about evenly divided between Red Sox and O's fans, with each side making themselves heard. I couldn't even count the number of "Lets go Red Sox!" cheers that came up to support the Sox when they needed it.

Clement was on his game, like Wells before him. To hold a team with a lineup like the O's scoreless for 18 consecutive innings is a very impressive not to mention rare feat. I hadn't been to a game where runs were at such a premium since I saw Pedro throw eight shutout innings against Bartolo Colon back in 2000. I think the Sox won that one 2-0. Derek Lowe got the save.

After the game ended I had a cool moment in the men's room after the game (hold yr jokes for just a moment please). This should let you know how many red sox fans were at the game, by the way. So, I was waiting in line at the urinal and someone shouted "Who's in first place now" and instinctively I yelled "Red Sox!" and everyone in the bathroom (about fifty or sixty people) cheered. It was pretty cool.

And it is true: the Sox are actually back in first place today, thanks to last night's win. Its monumentally early (this is about the millionth time I've written that sentiment) but its nice to be in first anyway. Better that than last place, right?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Accidental Suicide or Alls Wells that Ends Wells

I didn’t catch much of the Sox/O's game last night. I was on my way back from my girlfriend's apartment in West Philadelphia to my apartment in Old City. The two are separated by about city 45 blocks, so the best way to get back and forth is by subway. Philly's subway isn't great, it’s a bit dirty, and its far from comprehensive in terms of city coverage, but if you live close to it as I do then its pretty convenient.

I had walked from my girlfriend's place to the Subway stop at 40th and Market. My place is at 2nd and Market, so it usually takes about fifteen minutes to get to my apartment once I board the train. So, I was waiting in the station for the train for about 15 minutes before the train came. As it was pulling up I noticed that everyone on the train was getting up. 40th street isn't the stop everyone usually gets out at, so this was a very strange thing, and I mean everyone on that train was getting up to get off the train. As the doors opened and people began to flood off the train, some subway employee began broadcasting over the intercom. This person said that train service was being discontinued because someone had just thrown themselves in front of an oncoming subway train one station down. This morning I found this on

Posted on Thu, Apr. 21, 2005
Man stable after falling between SEPTA train cars

A man fell between two cars on a SEPTA train last night in West Philadelphia, disrupting train service for about 45 minutes. Police said the man, who was not identified, fell between the cars in the westbound tracks of the El at 30th and Market Streets about 9 p.m. He was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was listed in stable condition. Trains began running again about 9:45 p.m.

So, my question is twofold: 1) why would they announce something as gruesome as someone jumping in front of a subway train over the loudspeaker in a train station, and 2) why would they announce something like that if it isn't true? I don't have the answers to these questions, but I'd sure like to ask someone.

So, when I finally made it back to my apartment and flicked on the game (love that MLB Extra Innings!) the Sox were up 8-0 and Wells was finishing off the O's in the 8th. I wouldn't expect this type of performance from him every time out, but it was good to see him do well in a Sox uniform against a team that not only isn't Tampa, but has a real Major League lineup that can hit homers and everything.

Wells allowed three hits over his eight innings of work, walking only one. Thems good results right there. Since I didn't get to see the game I don't know how much of Wells results last night was attributable to the Sox defense, but from reading the Boston Globe's account of the game it sounds like Wells had 'it' from the beginning.

This is good news. Things always look rosier after a win, especially a win like this, but the Sox rotation looks like its starting to round into form. Next step: the bullpen.

I'm going to catch the Sox in Baltimore tonight. I'll check back in tomorrow with a report on the game.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Sox Blow It; Sign Wakefield

How's that for a misleading headline?

Last night the Sox blew a game they should have lost, and signed Tim Wakefield to an extension. First the game, then the contract.

How do you characterize getting out-hit 13-6 and only losing 4-3 in the ninth? Is that good or bad?

Bronson Arroyo pitched well enough to get the win, departing after seven innings with the score at 1-1 lead. Big Papi's two run homer in the bottom of the seventh put the score at 3-1 and put Arroyo in position to get a win for his efforts. Alan Embree came on to face the Jays in the 8th and just like that Arroyo's lead disappeared. The crap parade continued as Keith Foulke came on in the ninth to protect a tie and blew it after getting the first guy and going 0-2 on the second guy. Red Sox starters: 7 innings, one run. Red Sox relievers: 2 innings, 3 runs. Yuck.

Enough about that. In other less depressing news, the Red Sox signed Tim Wakefield to a 1,000 year, $4 Billion contract yesterday. Ok, not really, but with a few simple advances in medical science it could come to that. But even then, not really.

The contract is really a one year contract extension for 2006 at $4 Million with a few incentives. What makes it such an interesting deal is that it contains a provision for a $4 Million option for the next season in perpetuity. For example, after the '06 season the Sox can pick up Wakefield for '07 at the same $4 Million price. No irritating haggling with an agent, no back and forth about 'value', no discussion of money whatsoever. After the '07 season they can do it again for the '08 season. Same price. They can pretty much do this forever. All the options are club options. The decision is up to the Red Sox each off season. Do they want Wakefield next season? If so, fork over four mill and he's yours. If not, decline the option and he's a free agent.

Needless to say, this is a very strange deal. Essentially, this is Wakefield saying 'I don't want to bother with any of that pesky free agency stuff. I want to be in Boston as long as they want me there.' As refreshing as that may be to many fans (and don't many fans need refreshing?) and as good a deal as this seems to be for the Sox, one has to wonder if this deal is really in Wakefield's best interest.

If you listen to talk radio you'll often hear people complaining about the money that athletes make. Some mullet-head will call up and say 'What's the difference between three million and four million dollars? These athletes are all over-paid anyway!" While there are a number of problems with such a statement, I'm going to just address the 'difference' part. So, what is the difference between 3 or 4 Million dollars? Well, the difference is a Million dollars! One Million dollars! That's a lot of money. If someone were offering me a million dollars I'd sure take it. That's what Wakefield is potentially turning down. I'll be the last guy to say that $4 Million isn't very much money, but ballplayers have a limited earning potential and with this contract Wakefield is essentially foregoing the opportunity to maximize that potential. Does he get something in return for this? Sure he does. He gets the assurance that he'll be a Red Sox through 2006 for sure, and as long as he stays around league average probably for a number of years beyond that. He obviously trusts management (to sign a deal like this he has to), and he obviously considers the $4 Million he'll earn each year of this deal to be fair payment for his services.

Let me be clear: I don't think this is a bad deal for Wakefield, just a strange one, especially in light of the fact that just this spring he was saying he didn't want to be the one to go to the bullpen when Wade Miller comes off the disabled list. By signing this deal he's tied himself to a team that has five other starting pitchers signed through next season and in most cases beyond. Wells is on the first of a two year deal, Clement is on the first of a three year deal, Schilling has (I believe) two more years left after this one, and Arroyo and Miller are both under Sox control for next season. That doesn't mean Wakefield won't be a starting pitcher for the Sox, but it does mean he might not be. In either case he'd be a valuable asset to have, but if he wants to pitch exclusively as a starter then this probably isn't the deal for him.

I assume that Wakefield must know all that though.

As a Red Sox fan, I'm very happy with this deal. Wakefield is a decent-to-good starting pitcher who is equally good from the bullpen. He has developed a reputation (deserved or not) as a yankee-killer, a reputation that only increases his value to the team. Furthermore, by all accounts he's a good guy who genuinely cares about the Red Sox, and the Boston area.

This is another in a series of excellent deals from Theo (Wade Miller, Ortiz, Schilling, etc). The Yankees certainly don't get this type of creativity from their GM. As long as Theo is in charge the Sox stand a good chance of competing, and that's all you can ask for as a fan. This deal is just another example of that.

Monday, April 18, 2005

My Theory That Has Nothing to Do with The Germans Love for David Hasselhoff

Its hard to sweep a Major League team. Any Major League team. Baseball is such that, as George Steinbrenner is finding out, even a $200 Million team can have a bad couple of weeks. Over the long haul (say, about 162 games) that team will likely play better than a less talented team, like the Devil Rays, but in a short time period anything can and often does happen. This is why I'm so happy that the Red Sox swept Tampa (Tampa Bay is a body of water, not a city). Even a team with the obvious problems that Tampa has is quite capable of stealing a game or two or even three from Boston. I should know, the lone game I caught at Fenway last year was August 9th against Tampa, a game in which future Sox John Halama out-dueled future Boston Icon Curt Schilling. It was the last time he had lost a game at Fenway up until Schilling's most recent start against NY.

This leads me to my Pet Theory of the Season That Has Nothing to Do With David Hasselhoff or German People (aka PTotSTHNtDWDHoGP). It all comes down to the Orioles.

But let me back up a second. Last year the Red Sox won 98 games, an excellent showing for the season and enough to capture the wild card in the AL. The Yankees won 101 games and won the AL East. It didn't end up doing them much good, but still that's the Sox goal - to win the division. The key to winning the AL East is Baltimore. Last year the Yankees went 49-27 against AL East opponents. If you take out their record against Boston, who won eleven of nineteen, the record jumps to 41-16. That's a .719 winning percentage, equivalent to a final record of 117 regular season wins (I rounded that figure up from 116.5). That's a ridiculously good record, and it's the product of a lousy Tampa team and a Toronto team that was destroyed by injuries last season. However, the Orioles are another story. They only won 78 games, but their run differential was much better than that leading to a Pythagorean record of wins in the low to mid 80's. Judging by that they were a good team last season that encountered some lousy luck. Still this didn't stop them from rolling over and dying whenever anyone showed up in Baltimore wearing pinstripes. The O's got creamed by the Yankees last season, to the tune of losing 14 of the 19 meetings between the two. Conversely, whenever anyone showed up wearing a red "B" on their hat the O's turned in the '27 Yankees. (I was also in Baltimore to see Curt Schilling get beat by Daniel Cabrera last year, in just about the only decent game Cabrera threw that season.) The O's managed to win 13 out of the 19 games they played against Boston last season. A vicious triangle developed between the teams last season, wherein the Sox would beat the Yankees, the Yankees would beat the O's and the O's would beat the Red Sox.

This leads me back to my PTotSTHNtDWDHoGP. For the Sox to capture the AL East this season they have to break that triangle. They have to beat up on the O's, and even if they fall off a bit against the Yankees they'll still finish with a better record on the season. The reason this is preposterous is that they'd have to do everything else the same, which strikes me as mildly unlikely. However, for some reason I still find this idea interesting to think about.

This is why I'm so happy with the sweeps that took place this weekend in Boston and Baltimore. It appears the O's aren't scared of the Yankees anymore, and it seems that the Red Sox got right back on track as soon as Tampa rolled into town. Both of these are good signs for Boston (and I suppose Baltimore too, but I'm not so concerned with them).

This week the schedule reverses itself and the Sox take on Toronto and Baltimore while the Yankees play Tampa and uh... Toronto. Ok, it doesn't totally reverse itself, but a bit. I'm interested to see if Tampa can split with the Yanks (it's only a two gamer) as well as to see how Boston plays Baltimore.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Mmmm... Tampa Bay...Sox Win 10-0

It sure is nice to just watch a baseball game that, 1) isn't part of some medievil blood-feud, and 2) the Red Sox put away early. It helps when the Yankees implode in Baltimore as well. Never hurts to pick up a game in the standings on the Hired Guns.

So, with the help of Hideo Nomo, the Sox finally get back to .500. Welcome back, boys. May you never see the south side again.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Its amazing to me that Gary Sheffield can take a shot at a fan while the ball is in play and everyone blames the fan. I was watching the game on NESN with occasional switchbacks to ESPN and it was clear to me at the time, and confirmed by multiple replays, that the fan was not trying to attack Sheffield. The fan definitely made contact with his hat, but beyond that it is difficult to say. It is entirely possible that the fan made contact with Sheffield, which should not happen, but Sheffield should not, repeat NOT, be allowed to go back and punch the fan WHILE THE BALL IS IN PLAY!

I don't mean this as a Red Sox apologist, but this is ridiculous. Ok, enough about that.

RED SOX 8, yankees 5. Now thats what I'm talking about. In the over-used words of Terry Cashman, I'm talking baseball. Not Gary Sheffield and his temper. Not a moog Red Sox fan who despite sitting right by the right field foul pole managed to spend more money on beer than he did on his tickets. No. The story here is the home runs given up by Randy Johnson (three by my count including what might charitably be described as a bomb by Jason Varitek that went so far over the monster it caused a pileup on the Mass Pike) (ok, not really). The story here is the lousy umpiring by the entire crew, who not only missed that obvious called third strike on.. wait for it... wait for it... Sheffield! that ended up costing Boston about four runs, but also missed the very first play of the game when Millar's tag was about two minutes too late to get a streaking Womack. The Womack was called out anyway.

I like that... from now on I shall refer to Tony Womack as "The Womack."

The bad calls went both ways, and then to top it off the home plate guy got all sensitive on us and started indescriminantly tossing Red Sox coaches for perceived slights both real and imagined, though mostly imagined. He did this, totally seriously now, because he could "read their lips." Ok, man, is your job as an umpire or a lip reader? I'd say after last night's performance you should start looking for a third gig, cause it's obvious you can't do either.

Depsite all the extracuriculars, last night's game was a rousing success for the Sox. They took a game from the Yanks in which they were outplayed until Tom "Gas Can" Gordon came in and doused the game with his legendary can of gas, leading to a three run outbreak by the Sox. Additionally, they won a game in which Randy Johnson started for NY and you aren't supposed to win those. Especially so when a castoff from the Pittsburgh Pirates starts for your team. If they stole one from us last night when we threw our best pitcher and left about 8,000 men on base, then we stole one right back in the same fashion.

So, now the Yankees leave Boston and I can't say I'm sorry to see them go. The games against them are always exciting and always meaningful (though not always in the way that I'd like them to be), but is it just me or does it seem that the Sox play these guys all the damn time!? Its time to play a team that doesn't have four MVP candidates in the middle of their lineup, it's time to play a team who's roster costs under $200 Million. It's time to play a team that thinks that winning 43% of their games in a season makes that season a rousing success.

Bring on the Devil Rays!

The Evil Empire Strikes Back

This doesn't bode well for the Red Sox: in their three wins they have scored 7, 6 and 8 runs, a seven run average. In their five losses they have scored 2, 3, 5, 5, and 2 again for an average of 3.4. I know the God of Sample Sizes frowns upon such silly exercises as the one above. Obviously there are extenuating circumstances up the wazoo, but right now these are the numbers that we have to work with. Well, I could make up some new numbers, but I think you'd all realize that the Sox haven't become the first team ever to win 200 of their first seven games.

This lack of scoring has to do with a number of different things. First of all, the fact that a number of Sox haven't started hitting yet, most notably Manny Ramirez who was hitting just over .200 when last I checked (last night). Manny has also gone nine games without homering, the longest draught of his career to begin a season. It’s a bit of a loaded stat, but it does indicate that he's not hitting which is why I mention it. Another Sox who has gotten off to a bad start is Edgar Renteria. A bad start may be understating things, as Renteria has made a number of costly errors in the field and seems to ground into double plays whenever he gets the opportunity. He did get two hits last night, so maybe that will signal somewhat of a breakout for him, though I have watched about five of the seven games this season and have yet to see Renteria hit the ball hard.

The biggest concern for me is that in their seven games the Sox have allowed an average of 6.43 runs a game. While there have been some fielding miss-cues (Hellooooo Edgar!) 95% of this hideous number falls squarely on the semi-able shoulders of the Sox pitching staff. To say they haven't pitched well so far is, again, an understatement. Yesterday was the first quality outing from the bullpen that I've seen, and yes, I did miss the first two Toronto games. But still, Mantei, Halama, Timlin, Embree and even Foulke have pitched at replacement level at best so far. And the rotation hasn't been a whole lot better. The return of Schilling could be a positive sign, as even the runs he gave up seemed to come when he was tiring in the fifth and sixth innings. But the Sox best pitchers shouldn't be taken deep by the Desiccated Remains of Bernie Williams and Jason "I'm sorry for...uh... you-know-what" Giambi. That’s an ignominious ending if I've ever seen one.

The brightest spot so far in this young season is that it's still a young season. There is plenty of time to catch the uh... Blue Jays?...and even more time to humiliate the Yankees yet again this year. I look forward to both. I just have to keep in mind that the baseball season is a marathon not a sprint, and this isn't time to jump off the bridge/throw your beer against the wall/scream swear words while your girlfriend is on the phone with her mom telling her that she's moving in with me. Yet.

Tonight Bronson Arroyo attempts to redeem Red Sox Nation against the Big Mustache, uh, er, Unit and take the series too boot. God speed, young Bronson! The eyes of millions of chip-eating, beer swilling, couch-slouching fans, not unlike me, will be upon you, much like the spinach dip upon our shirts.

Or, put another way: Sox/Yanks tonight. Go Sawks!

Monday, April 11, 2005

John Kruk & Harold Reynolds are Morons!!

John Kruk and Harold Reynolds said on Baseball Tonight on espn the channel that Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts should not have worn Red Sox jerseys when they came back to Fenway for the Ring ceremony on Monday.

Ok, where to start with these idiots...First of all, Reynolds started off by saying that "it was a shame that this [non-Sox players wearing Sox unis] is what we're talking about after the Red Sox put on such a great ring ceremony." Well then, jackass, if its such a shame then don't talk about it! Don't pretend that you don't have any control over what you talk about.

But as to the actual meat of Reynolds' comment, I agree wholeheartedly. He and Kruk SHOULD find something else to talk about! Heres a random suggestion: The Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years! Why don't you talk about that?

As to their actual argument (predictibly steeped in idiocy), why shouldn't Lowe and Roberts wear Red Sox jerseys? This ceremony was to honor the 2004 Red Sox team that came back from near impossible odds to beat NY, win the ALCS, and then stomp an excellent Cardinals team in the World Series. Both Lowe and Roberts were members of that team. I say "were" for two reasons. 1) as both Kruk and Reynolds point out neither player plays for Boston this year, and 2) both players did LAST year. This ceremony had nothing to do with the 2005 Red Sox team. Nothing. Matt Clement did not get a ring. Neither did David Wells. Why you ask? Because neither player was on the '04 Sox team. But, you say, they both are on the '05 team. Exactly! We're talking two different years, and two different teams, a concept that both Kruk and Reynolds fail to grasp.

Why these two guys have these jobs is frankly beyond me. Not to say that they do a bad job of talking into the camera or that their job is easy. I wouldn't try to advance either argument. But there simply has to be someone out there who can both talk to a camera and who has something useful to say, of which both Reynolds and Kruk do not.

One final note and then I promise to let this matter drop: you know when John Kruk starts talking about the "right way to play baseball" that he's full of shit. That lardass sure played the game right when he played, if by playing it right you mean being an unkempt slovenly pig. Can you imagine him saying this: "A-Rod's problem is that he spends too much time in the weight room. He needs to eat more Ho-Hos. Also drink more."

Good job, John and Harold. I'd say next time just stick to analyzing the sport, but I'd rather you didn't do that either.


You know it's a good day when you get to pound the yankees with your world series championship rings on. After today's 8-1 pasting Joe Torre might find a mirror image of the words "World Champions" on his forehead in tomorrow morning's mirror. This win pulls the Sox into a tie with the Hired Guns, with an impressive 3-4 record. Both teams have beaten each other twice, and lost two of three to a divisional opponent. Two more in Boston on Wednesday and Thursday and then we're rid of their pinstriped asses until a three gamer in NY in the end of May.

Wednesday's game features the return to the Fenway mound of Curt Schilling. He'll be opposed by Jaret Wright. The Thursday game matches Randy Johnson and Bronson Arroyo. It will be an interesting remaindure of the series for sure. Schilling got bombed in his minor league appearence for Pawtucket. He should be able to turn it on in Fenway against the yankees, but even if he isn't able to, you have to think that the Sox can get to Wright, who looked somewhat more than hitable, giving up six runs in four innings for a tidy 13.50 ERA in his only start of the season against Baltimore. We could have a 13-12 game on our hands tomorrow.

I was in NY this past weekend to catch Johnson in action against the O's and he looked fine, but not nearly Cy Young worthy. I still think he's taking his time rounding into form, but if he stays at his current 3.50 ERA pace then he won't be the difference maker that NY is paying him $16 Million a year for the next three years to be.

So, welcome back to Fenway, Boys. Thanks again.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Thats the second time this short season that the Red Sox have come from behind in the ninth inning on the road, only to have their bullpen blow it in the bottom of the ninth. Thats a pretty big buzz kill right there. Against the yankees it was Keith Foulke, and today the arsonist de jur was Mike Timlin who, after getting one out, gave up a single and then a smashed double into the gap that ended the game as the runner scored all the way from first.

After my initial anger over this upsetting ending to the game subsided, I looked at the box score and saw that the Sox actually out-hit the Jays. This is good in a way, and in a way it's not. It's good because it means that their offense is working. The hitting with runners in scoring position will come. The Sox will score their runs in time. Of that I am confident. Its not good because they went into the ninth with a chance to win a series on the road against a team that they're better than and couldn't do it.

A few things I'm wondering:

-Why wasn't Foulke pitching in the ninth? Timlin is a good pitcher, but thats not his spot in the game. Usually, or at least hopefully, the Sox would use their best reliever in that situation (which is Foulke) to preserve the tie and give the Sox offense another shot at scoring the winning run. I'll chalk that up to not having Francona in the dugout. However, I don't believe that Timlin was the guy you'd want in pitching in that situation. I really hope this was just a brain fart and not a case of Foulke being held back for use against New York.

-Clement's walk total was huge. Five in six innings. Other than that it looks like he pitched very well. He's always had walk problems, so this is nothing new. The Sox knew this when they gave him a big contract. But I was hoping that somehow the walks would start to go down a bit. A walk an inning is a good way to lose a ballgame, even if you do strike out a guy an inning. That still leaves two guys putting the ball in play against you per inning, and when you hand the other team a free baserunner each inning you are setting yourself up to give up a bunch of runs. As a pitcher you have to make other teams earn their way on base. Essentially, this is the aspect that Curt Schilling fixed which allowed him to go from a decent pitcher to a great one. He still strikes out the same number of guys he always had (maybe even a few less), but he's cut way down on the walks. Clement needs to do this as well if he hopes to be similarly successful.

In better news Yankees lost as well, losing their series with Baltimore at home 2-1. The standings (yes, I know, its too early for this) look like this after six games:

Toronto 4-2
Tampa Bay 3-2
Baltimore 3-3
NY 3-3
Boston 2-4

I point this out not because it is the exact opposite of what I and many others predicted it will be at the end of the season.

Still, it would have been nice to steal Sunday's game and take the series in Toronto. Hopefully we can get the bullpen situation sorted out and get on the good side of .500, preferably this week against NY.

Friday, April 08, 2005


I'm going to New York city tonight to see Randy Johnson pitch (and hopefully lose) against Baltimore tomorrow at the Stadium. As I wil be away from my computer there will be no posts this weekend.

However, in better news, I quit my job this afternoon (well, gave two weeks notice) so soon I will have nothing better to do than to write dumb crap on this stupid blog that nobody will read. Yeah!!

Have a great weekend. More on Monday. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


What a difference a day makes, especially when the season is only three games old, and your team hasn't, you know... won yet.  Just when you think that the whole Sox/Yankes thing is getting, like, SO played out, they come up with another game like last night's.  Picture this: the Red Sox had finally slayed the beast, winning four in a row in a more-than-impossible mission to come from behind and beat the NY Hired Guns in the ALCS.  Then to lead off the next season, the Sox go to NY and get swept.  Ugh!  We all thought that monkey was off our back, right?  Well, think again.  Back to square one. As a friend of mine says, "ya can't win fer lose'n."  Who knows what that means, but talk about falling off the horse that you got back on after it kicked you.  Or something. 

Enter Alex Rodriguez, aka A-Rod, aka A-Hole, aka Lightning-Rod (as in for criticism).  Actuallly, wait.  I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Enter Mariano Rivera, aka Mo, aka... well, Mo.  So, Rivera's the best closer since the Eck plied his trade in Oak-town way back when Jose and Mark were ass-jabbing each other in the clubhouse bathroom before the game.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  The Red Sox have owned Rivera to a greater degree than any other team in baseball, which is to say not much.  Still, for all the games he's beaten the Sox, Rivera has given some memorable games back.  The Varitek/A-Hole slugfest last July, where Billy Mueller homered off Rivera to win the game.  Then there were games 4 and 5 of last year's ALCS.  I won't recount them in detail, but suffice it to say the Sox got to Rivera then too, though the task handed to him in game 5 was an almost impossible one. 

That brings me to yesterday.  With the Sox down 3-2 (again) going into the ninth inning Torre goes to Mo (again).  And the Sox get to him (again).  Well, kinda.  Mo didn't have his best stuff though if you listened to the NY announcers never does against Boston. After loading the bases he K'd My-Man-Trot Nixon (the official Red Sox of FPE).  Then up comes Manny, who hits a not-particularly difficult grounder at A-Hole at third.  He was about to get out of the inning.  All A-Hole has to do is field the ball, throw it to Womack at second who will send it on to Tino at first to complete the game ending double play.  Game over, Yankees sweep, Daaaaaaaaa Yankees sweep. 

Except no! 

Re-enter A-Rod. I didn't see it live, but I did see it replayed about a thousand times in slow motion, and you can see as the ball gets there A-Rod's eyes get bigger and bigger, like a little kid standing in front of an on-coming car. The ball gets there in between bounces, and hits the heal of A-Rod's glove, bounces up and falls harmlessly to the ground. A-Rod grabs at it, gets part of his hand on it, and drops it again! When he its it, Manny's gotta be thinking that the game is over, but when he looks up it's like Christmas in April. Thank you Santa-Rod! Thanks to A-Rod's accidental generosity, one run scored to tie the game. After that Mo imploded (again).  When the dust had cleared the Sox were up 6-3 and Torre had to go get Mo. As he walked off the mound the boos of the short-memoried yankees fans rained down on him. 

The Sox added another, but it didn't matter at that point. You never go into a series hoping to win one out of three, but if you have to win only one this would be the one to win, and if you get to chose how to win it this would be how I would chose. A ninth inning comeback against the other team's best reliever aided by a cruicial error by the other team's best player. Redemption!  The season isn't over after all! 

So, who's in who's head now?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005



OK, that one hurt.  Although my enthusiasm for this season is not extinguished, I will admit it took a beating yesterday as Jeter's homer sailed over the fence not ten minutes after I loudly proclaimed my love of all things Varitek.  Nothing like waiting five months to get smacked in the nuts, huh?  Well, a few more nut smack'ns (sounds like a cereal, eh?) won't kill me.  

Just debilitate, not kill. 

Still, despite getting blown out on opening day (thanks Boo!-mer)  and having our best reliever lose the game in the ninth inning to the over-rated captain of our arch rivals, I'm not worried about the Red Sox season.  Maybe its because I've learned patience, and the value of sample size, or maybe its because I've had several drinks and a few white pills I found in my girlfriend's cabinet (Mydol?), but either way the point remains the same.  I'm not panicking.  Not now, not yet.

I do have some concerns, however.  Concerns which in the glare of victory might seem cute and fuzzy, but when groping around in the darkness of defeat feel a bit like the tail of what might turn out to be a grizzly bear. 

Concern #1: Relief pitching

Foulke isn't going to be the first pitcher ever to go through the year with a 0.00 ERA.  We were pretty sure about it before yesterday, and now we're positive.  But my concern isn't with Foulke who, like all relievers, will have some rough patches but, unlike all relievers, is really an excellent pitcher.  My concern lies with the rest of the bullpen.  There isn't anyone besides Foulke and Halama in the Sox pen who isn't either oft-injured or old, or both.  This might not turn out to be a problem, and I'm the first one to admit that Theo Knows All, but there is more than a little bit of risk being assumed here.  Old players frequently break down.  Oft-injured players frequently get re-injured.  Bullpens are fixable on the run, as opposed to oh, say... starting rotations (I'm looking at you, Brian Cashman) and I trust Theo to fix whatever needs to be fixed when it requires fixing.  The only problem is this: the way you find out if its broken is that it breaks.  When the bullpen breaks that means you lose a number of games you could have won.  This isn't a good thing for a team trying to compete with the likes of the NY Hired Guns, the LAofAofAofA smallballers and the Oakland Geniuses among others.    

Concern #2: Me freaking out

Theres really not much to say about this.  The title kinda says it all.  If the Sox lose today to the yankees then you can expect me to retract everything I've said about sample size and patience, and then fall on the floor and roll about in a pool of my own fluids.  Fortunately this is a website and not a television so nobody would have to witness the sight firsthand.

And now it's time for what I hope will be a re-occurring feature here at FPE.  I live in Philadelphia, and as such do not have access to Boston, Fenway Park or the Boston Red Sox players.  But, even given my proximity to nothing Red Sox related, I still have a few questions that I'd like to have answered.  So, this feature will be called "One Question for..." and in it I will post one question that I would like to ask a player, broadcaster, sportswriter or anyone of prominence to the Red Sox.  I invite whomever reads this to steal the question and ask that person.  Don't worry about crediting me.  This isn't about credit, this is about bringing information to light.

So, without further poo-poo, I present One question for Edgar Renteria: Who is the offensive and defensive sinkhole you've been replaced with? 

Monday, April 04, 2005


Ok, old joke I know.  But what can you say?  Its only one game in a long (read: looooooooooong) season.  Everyone knows Randy Johnson is a better pitcher than David Wells.  If the Red Sox had a chance to trade Wells for Johnson straight up, they obviously would, contracts and all.  But you try to make due with what you have, and the Sox just weren't able to do that last night, falling to the Hired Guns 9-2 in a game that wasn't quite that close.  Still, and this is my party line for the day: I'd rather have game seven in October than "game eight" last night. 

But it wasn't reassuring that the Sox looked hung over (and they might have been, we're looking at you, Kevin Millar) all game.  After the first inning, everything they touched turned to poop.  Wells didn't have much, and what he did have the Yankees hammered, totaling ten hits against Boo!-mer.  Hey, at least the Sox got to work their bullpen, using seven guys (Seven guys!?!?). 

You have to love ERAs after the first game.   27.00.  Quite an ERA to be sure, but that's the ERA that two members of the Sox pen have at this point. 

Still, you'd be fooling yourself to think that if the Yankees are healthy they aren't as good as Boston.  They are as good, or better. The question is, can they stay healthy?  I'll match Schilling and Johnson up, man to man, but if Schilling isn't healthy then you have to go to plan B.  We all saw how well that worked and that was plan B for the team with actual depth. 

Behind the shiny new 9-2 veneer, the best laid Yankee plans are already going awry.  Kevin Brown's Paleolithic era back is starting to show signs of crumbling.  Its hard to know if its from just normal wear and tear or if we're still dealing with shockwaves from Kevin Brown's The Wall, part one.  Regardless, the Yankees scratched him from his scheduled start this Friday vs. Baltimore, and just to make extra sure he won't be pitching anytime soon, put him on the DL.  So, trivia time!  Question #1: Who was the first of the '05 Yankees to be put on the DL?  Question #2: Who won't be the last?  The ages of the Yankees starters have been discussed ad infinitum, ad nauseum, but you should know that if you add the ages of Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, and Mike Mussina, you get a person older than Baseball itself.  Kev-dy Pav-ight-ina was born in a log cabin in 1829.  The son of ten hard work'n and somewhat bewildered parents, he/they built up his/their arm muscles through a combination of log splitt'n, ball scratch'n and... well, that's probably more than enough of that. 

So, my point: last night, while a big  game and nice to win, wasn't the real test.  Every inning that one of the geriatric Yankees doesn't pop something in his arm, every inning that something doesn't explode in their leg, is an inning closer to the World Series.  But, as my dad once said when talking about my chances of meeting Miss Right, "It only takes one [pitch to blow yr arm off]."  Well, dad, one down and four more to go. 


And now, an update from the Here's Some Perspective File: Which team has the longest streak of opening day wins?

Answer: Tampa Bay, with five.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Matty's Personal Opening Day

I just got a ticket to see the Yankees play the O's on Saturday the 9th of April. Randy Johnson will make his second start in MF'n pinstripes. He'll opose someone wearing a uniform with a hat that say's "O's" on it. Man, those hats are dumb looking... does it really matter who's pitching for Baltimore? If Johnson is on the Yankees will win, if not the O's will probably score a bunch of runs and make the game competitive. The Yankees should score a bunch of runs off whoever Lee Mazzili throws up there (and I do mean "throws up"). If I'm lucky I'll be wearing my Red Sox hat and road uniform ($49 on sale!) to an 11-9 O's win in NY.

Last season the O's managed to lose the season series 14-5 or some such awfulness, so Matty's Key to Boston's Second WS Championship (MKBSWSC) is:

the O's must beat NY this season.

Because we won't.

Last year the Red Sox won the season series from NY 11-8. No small feat that. We also managed to lose the season series to Baltimore by a similar score - this is all off the top of my head so forgive the vague-itude - of something like 12-7. No small feat that either. Every time the Sox played Baltimore either the Sox would forget their bats in the clubhouse, or one of Baltimore's pitchers would have what could charitably be described as a career day. I was in Baltimore last year for Curt Schillings ignominious loss to Danial "The lovechild of Sandy Koufax and Juan Marical" Cabrera. Cabrera of the 12,000,000.00 ERA. Of course he's unhittable against Schilling and the Sox.

Anyway, for the Sox to capture the AL East this season they have to beat up on Baltimore, and/or the O's have to be semi-passible against NY. Hopefully on Saturday the 9th my iron lungs will be a small part of Baltimore's resurgence against NY this season.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Matty on Steroids

I had a very difficult time with the recent steroid hearings. There a number of problems with them, and while I won't try to list them all, I do feel compelled, in these lean baseball-related news times, to comment, if only a little bit. Let me take a few statements that have been put forth by the media and baseball pundits and run em through the ol' ringer.

1) Baseball is forever stained by Steroids.
This just isn't true. This is hardly the biggest scandal to ever hit the sport, though you'd certainly think so by listening to reactionaries like Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times and Bill Plachke of the LA Times. As a fan of the Boston Red Sox, the last baseball team to integrate (thanks to the ever immortal Pumpsie Green), I can tell you that people do get over the injustice eventually and remember that it isn't the people who run it but the sport that we all love. Yes, it can take a long time for this recovery to occur, but even suggesting the damage that steroids have done to baseball is comparable to the rampant racism who's domination of the sport through it's initial 100 years has yet to be alleviated, is tantamount to comparing George Dubya with Abraham Lincoln. In my humble opinion steroids aren't even comparable to the gambling problem that almost brought down the game in 1919.

2) Any player who used steroids should have his records banned or at least marked with an asterisk.
What is baseball's obsession with the asterisk? Can anyone explain this to me? Anyway... If you mark records made by players who are suspected of steroids then you're beginning a slide down a slippery slope. What about players who are suspected of or known to have gambled in the turn of the century? What about players who used (and continue to use) greenies and other uppers before games? What about pitchers who scuff the ball, or batters who cork their bats? And if your only concern is the integrity of baseball's sacred records, then what about expansion, lowering the mound, tightening the ball, the DH, shrinking the ballparks and even more expansion? The point is that there are different circumstances to every era, which when looked at through the prism of baseball history, must be explained. Would Bob Gibson be able to go a whole season with a 1.26 ERA against teams like the '04 Red Sox and '04 Yankees with a lowered mound, and decreased strike zone? Would Babe Ruth have hit 60 homers against today's specialized pitchers who employ pitches like the splitter that hadn't even been invented back in 1920? Would Ty Cobb have hit .400 against black and Hispanic pitchers like Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana and Javier Vasquez? Ok, maybe Vasquez... The answers to these questions are as unknowable as who took steroids, how much they took, and how much it altered their on-field performance.

3) Players who used steroids are cheaters and morally bankrupt scum.
To any person who thinks this is accurate I would politely remind them that back in the late 80's and early 90's not only weren't steroids banned in baseball, but the weren't even illegal! This retroactive judgment is simply blatant hypocrisy. I don't recall reading many articles about how steroids were ruining the game anywhere back then, and the reason for that is simple: nobody was writing them. This is not to suggest that I condone taking steroids, but it is difficult to call someone out for speeding when there is no speed limit, even if they were going 120.

4) It is easy to hit lots of homers when you are on steroids.
This is one of the underlying assumptions that people make when the talk about asterisks and cheating. But there is simply no proof that steroids improve your performance as a baseball player. I would like to think that people would be a bit more analytical about this sort of thing without just rushing to judgment and condemnation. I know steroids can make you stronger and when you are stronger you are able to increase your bat speed and therefore are more likely to hit the ball farther. What we don't know is by how much. Anyone who has ever stood in against a 90 mph fastball, or an 85 mph curveball that drops off a table knows how difficult it is to just make contact, let alone hit the ball 370 feet. When you combine questionable increases in performance with suspected health problems it becomes debatable whether or not steroids are help or a hindrance.

Something we do know, or at least are reasonably sure of, is that steroids don't improve your hand-eye coordination. What I mean by that is steroids will help you hit the ball farther, but they won't help you to hit the ball in the first place. If you can't hit a curveball (maybe like myself) then you can take all the steroids you want with no improvement on the field to show for it.


On to another topic, I flipped on the ol' tele today and came across my first spring training game of the year today. Phillies vs. Indians. Jon Lieber and the fight'ns vs. the Tribe. I could care less about either team, but just for an hour or so I was transfixed. It was sunny down in Florida; I could hear the calls for peanuts and beer. Baseball is back, with it spring, summer, and another run at the World Series for the Red Sox. It's about time.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Matty's Baseball Mini-Primer '05

I started this as a look at up-and-coming teams in the league, but I got too into it and it turned into entire capsules on all the divisions.  It's not researched, everything is off the top of my head, but hopefully it'll be somewhat enjoyable to read.


AL East
As with all things, we start in the AL East.  The Red Sox should win 100 games.  Period.  They're too good not to.  I think the Yankees could win that many as well.  Or not.  It really depends on injuries for them, but they should make the playoffs or come really close trying.  They're hitting is too good, and their pitching is too deep (though the quality of their starters is debatable).  I think the Blue Jays will be better this year (more Halladay, for one), and if they stay in the race into June they can add lots of payroll thanks to the new owner.  I'm not sold on the O's who should score runs again, but probably won't prevent many.  The Rays, like always, have nothing and will suck.

AL Central
I think this could be the year that a team sneaks in and beats out the Twins.  I'm not sure it'll happen but it could.  The Twins probably have the best starting pitching in the division, based mostly on Santana and Radke. I'd give them 90ish wins.  I think a team that could take a big jump this year is the Indians.  I know this is a relatively popular pick, but they scored so many runs last year with such a young lineup that, taken as a whole they'll likely do it again.  The Indians problem is the same as everyone else's: pitching.  They have some young studs (jake westbrooke, cc sabathia) who need to step up, and who are a year older and a year more likely to do so.  I'd pick the Indians as a team that could sneak into the playoffs.  The Tigers are over-rated (hard to believe for a team that hasn't finished .500 for twelve seasons), but they just don't have any pitching after Bonderman, who is still 21 or 22.  Bonderman should improve, but after him they have nobody.  Despite trading Carlos Lee for Scott Posednik (shudder!) the White Sox actually had a good offseason.  They have quite a decent front five too, so, if their lineup produces they could give the Indians and Twins a run for the division.  KC is toast.

AL West
I really think the A's can win this division, so I guess, right there, that's your upset pick.  They almost won last season, and they improved their offense and their bullpen a whole lot over the offseason.  The question for them is their starting pitching.  Zito should be fine, and Blaton and Harden are coming into their own as top-of-the-rotation starters.  That leaves Danny Haren (formerly of the Cardinals) and someone else (from the Braves) who they got in the Mulder and Hudson trades.  I've looked this up and based on the stats I've seen both those new guys will be good to very good pitchers for their slots in the rotation. The only question is 'when?'  So, the A's winning the west is another 'upset' pick I guess.  The Angels are good, but I'm just not sold on their starters.  Also, they have a number of guys who are injury-prone which could come back to bite them.  The Rangers are the Indians last year. They can hit real well, but they still STILL don't have any pitching.  (Come on, guys, it's only been 5 years now!  Sheesh...)  Seattle should score more runs thanks to Beltre and Sexson, but again (sensing a theme here?) they don't have much in the way of starting pitchers.  I think they will finish last again.

NL East
This division is more wide open than everyone thinks it is, which means it's really wide open.  The Braves have added one good starting pitcher, but have lost immeasurable offense and, thus far, haven't replaced it.  They have a few young guys who could play well, but they haven't brought in anyone who can reproduce JD Drew's numbers.  They have the best rotation in the division, and for that you have to consider them the favorite, but I think they'll have trouble scoring runs all year long.  Mondesi + Hunter does not = Drew.  The Mets are intriguing.  I'm not as concerned about their bullpen, though I doubt it'll be a high point for them.  I think they're going to have trouble in the back of their rotation.  I think Benson will be decent, better than what most non-Mets fans are expecting, and I think Pedro will be terrific, but I'm not on the Glavine Wagon.  His numbers have been slipping for the past few years.  That guy they picked up from TB for Kazmir, Zambrano, he's as over-rated as anyone could be.  So he throws hard? So what?  It doesn't do you any good if you can't hit the broadside of a barn.  With Beltran and a healthy Floyd in their lineup, plus a year of Reyes (maybe?) and Wright, their offense should score more runs.  I'm just not so solid on the 3-5 of their rotation.  

The Marlins suddenly have some offense.  Now if only Josh Beckett and AJ Burnett can stay healthy.  They added Leiter and Delgado, too.  They should be a solid team, though they'll give the Mets and Nats a run for their money in terms of the Worst Bullpen in the Division title.  The Phils are interesting.  They could be very good, if things come together, but more likely they'll win about 84 or 85 games again and miss the playoffs.  I like the Lieber signing, at least for this season and next and letting Milton go was a sign that Ed Wade isn't a total moron.  They should score runs, as the 2-6 of their lineup are good.  Their bullpen is good too, though better with the guy they shipped to the Yankees for the desiccated remains of Kenny Lofton.  If two out of three of Padilla, Myers and Wolf remain healthy and improve this year then the Phils will make a good run, but it's tough to pin yr hopes on guys who haven't ever either been healthy for a full season or thrown well for a full season.  I think to make the playoffs the Phils will have to add some players at mid-season to cover up for some deficiencies, and as Wade has never really done that successfully before, it's tough to say he will this year.  The Nats could win 70, which for Washington, would be 70 more wins than we've had last year.  Or for that matter, since 1971.  Go Nats!  The Termel Sledge Fan Club starts now!

NL Central
If the Cubs rotation can stay healthy I like them to win this division. Prior should be fine, as should Zambrano, which should be enough to take the division right there.  They also have Wood and Maddux as well, which makes quite the foursome, so if they can score just a few runs (which for them will be harder than it really should be) they should take the division. Also, I think Nomar has his last great offensive season this year.  Last year St. Louis caught lightning in a bottle.  Their offense is for real, but their rotation has nothing but Mulder, and they gave up a couple good young players to get him too.  The Astros lost too much last year, with Beltran and Miller leaving.  They still have Clemens and they should have Pettitte back too, so they'll win a few games if those two old guys don't get hurt. Also, Brad Lidge is the best reliever in baseball.  Seriously. Milwaukee could be the shot in the dark pick to make a run at this division.  If Prior is hurt then Ben Sheets is the best pitcher in this division.  Also, the Brewers have a few young guys coming up who can club the ball.  I haven't looked too much into their team yet, but I've liked what I've heard. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are going to be bad.

NL West
The Dodgers are going to be a good team.  Drew should be healthy and will replace Beltre's production.  I'll never understand the amount of money that Depodesta threw at Derek Lowe, but at least Lowe should give them a lot of innings.  He can't be any worse than he was last year.  The Giants are going to be one huge media circus this season.  Their everyone's early season pick to miss the most games to injury this year too.  I think the average age on that team is something like 35. Seriously.  San Diego has some good young players, so they should be competitive.  Arizona is run by a bunch of imcompetents, and so is Colorado.  Neither of those teams will sniff .500 after June.


Surprise picks: this year the Indians, A's (if you can call them a surprise) and White Sox in the AL and San Diego, the Brewers and Cubs in the NL.
AL Division Winners: Red Sox, White Sox, A's AL WC: Yankees
NL Division Winners: Braves (somehow), Cubs, Dodgers
NL WC:  Whoever finishes second in
the NL East... probably Florida

--Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Verducci's MIP Award?

I love spring training! It's the time of year when everything is new, baseball included, and I get impatient waiting for the warm weather to come and with it the new baseball season. Of course there are some downsides to Spring Training. For instance, there is very little actual baseball to write about. The players are busying themselves with practices, drills and more practices. So with no games going on, the media has to find things to write about, or in this particular case, make them up. So we get all sorts of predictions, fluff pieces about what the players have done in the offseason, and ranking articles. Ranking articles are perhaps the most pointless, though sometimes well done ones can spark an interesting conversation. Who are the top five players in the game? Who are the best pitchers in the National League? These are subjective questions to be sure, but thats their beauty. There are no wrong answers (ok, a few), and as long as you can defend your choices it makes for interesting discussion.

Recently, Tom Verducci of came up with a list of the five most indispensable players in baseball.  Heres the link: Not to spoil the suspense, but here's his list:

1. Bonds
2. Santana
3. Thome
4. Tejada
5. Berkman

I have a few quarrels with this list in both conception and follow-through, but hey, at least he got the first guy right, eh?  Bonds is at the top of just about any top five list in baseball, including the top five hitters, the top five Giants, the top five left fielders, the top five self-absorbed a$$holes, and the top five players most likely to endorse flax-seed oil.  Still, how do you not include Vlad Guererro, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez or Randy Johnson?  Verducci's rational is explained in this paragraph:

I know Randy Johnson means so much to the Yankees, especially in October, and Curt Schilling is the cornerstone of the Red Sox and Albert Pujols is the rock of the Cardinals, but those teams have the resources and star power to survive without them. With that in mind, based on their relative importance to their team's chances of contending, I'll give you my list of the five most indispensable players in baseball...

So, Verducci is essentially picking his top five MVPs not including anyone who plays on the Yankees, Cardinals or Red Sox.  Interesting idea.  I'm not sure what the purpose of such a list would be, but since the bastion of purposeful information that is found fit to publish it I'll just assume that it's over my head and go along with it. 

Lets talk a minute about this "relative importance to their team's chances of contending" statement.  To me, this means a couple things, namely, to qualify for this list 1) A player's team must have a chance to contend, and 2) this player must be the most important player on that team.  This would seem to eliminate players like Thome and Tejada right off. These players aren't the best players on their own team (Thome), or are on teams that have no chance of contending (Tejada). But maybe I'm being nit-picky here...

How about follow-through?  How about the list itself?  As I said, Bonds deserves the top slot.  You can't argue with that.  Jason Schmidt asside, the Giants would be the Diamondbacks without Bonds (just as the Diamondbacks would be the Giants with Bonds).  That leaves slots two through five open.  Lets take a look at those individually: 

#2 Santana:  Santana's year last season was pretty indispensable.  He deserved the AL Cy Young award and, in what was probably some sort of clerical screw up, actually won it.  His pitching was a major part of the Twins winning their third straight AL Central title.  Without Santana they might not have been able to go on to lose to the Yankees in the Divisional round of the AL playoffs.  Perish the thought!  Since Verducci mentions in his rational that he's only concerned with a player's "importance to their team's chances of contending" you have to wonder about this pick (and, indeed, just about every player that follows, but I'll get to that).  The fact that the Twins won the Central last year in Santana's Cy Young year was obviously taken into account, but what about the 2003 season when he won only 12 games?  (Ok, to be fair he was 12-3.)  Or maybe in 2002 when he went 8-6?  The Twins won the Central the last three years with Santana as a major contributor ('04), an important cog ('03), and a member of the pitching staff ('02).  But maybe I'm not being fair here.  Verducci was talking about a player's team's "chances of contending."  Maybe he's only concerned with this upcoming season.  I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here.  Verducci's rational seems to be 'the Twins are a small market team with the best pitcher in the AL last season, so obviously that pitcher deserves to be on this list.'  Ok.  I'll go along with that.  If Santana goes down this year the Twins are probably in some trouble.  But the lousiness of the AL Central division leads me to believe that they might win it anyway, with Brad Radke as their ace. 

#3 Thome: This might be the one I have the most trouble with. First of all, Thome isn't even the best hitter on his team. That would be Bobby Abreu. Check out last seasons stats:

Thome: .274/.396/.581
Abreu: .301/.428/.544

Thome has an edge in slugging percentage (42 homers to Abreu's 30), but that's mitigated by Abreu's higher batting average and higher OBP (which is essentially a function of his higher batting average, but I digress). Then add in that Abreu plays a good right field and has a great arm (13 assists last year), Neither guy has missed many games, Abreu has missed a total of thirteen games in the last four seasons, while Thome has missed 22 in his two years with the Phillies. You might not agree that Abreu is better, but even if you don't you have to conceed that it certainly is close, and that alone should knock Thome off Verducci's list.

Secondly, Thome has had two monster seasons in Philly, but in both years the Phillies haven't won anything. With the lineup essentially unchanged from the past two seasons, how can you claim that Thome's bat is the most vital piece of the Phillies chance to contend when they haven't 'contended' the last two seasons with his bat. Last season the Phillies finished ten games behind the Braves, which was an improvement over the previous year when they finished fifteen games behind the Braves. To quote the great Branch Rickey, former GM of the Dodgers, "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you." If the Phillies couldn't win their division or the Wild Card with Thome, it makes it difficult to argue that he's one of the five most indespensable players in all of baseball.
#4 Tejada: Tejada has been a vital part of a lousy team. The Orioles finished last year 20 games behind Boston for the Wild Card and 23 games behind New York for the division lead. How this is contending I don't know. Considering that the O's haven't added any starting pitching in the offseason to sure up their major glaring weakness, I don't think you could call Tejada's team contenders. Unless Verducci is figuring that the Red Sox or Yankees aren't going to win about 100 games each I don't see how the O's are going to play any important role in the upcoming season other than spoiler.

#5 Berkman: This is an curious pick by Verducci. Why not Mark Prior, Pedro Martinez or Josh Beckett? Sure, Berkman is an excellent player, but we already know he's going to miss at least the first two months of the season after injuring himself playing flag football in the offseason. Are four months of Lance Berkman worth more to the Astros than six months of Mark Prior or Josh Beckett are to their teams? I'm not so sure. Or how about this: are four months of Lance Berkman worth more to the Astros than six months of Roger Clemens? I'd bet the Astros would rather have Clemens. In the article Verducci says that he put Berkman here because of the Astros loss of Kent and Beltran. That makes sense in that with the defection of those two guys Berkman becomes the de facto most important offensive player on the Houston roster. Maybe it's just me, but I think the Astros are headed to a clear third place finish this season with Berkman or without him, so in that vein I wouldn't have Berkman anywhere near the top five most indispensable players. Roger Clemens or Roy Oswalt would make a better argument, but not Berkman.

I won't bother coming up with my five MIP but here are some names that I think Verducci missed on: Jake Peavey, Tim Hudson, JD Drew, Pedro Martinez, Bobby Abreu, Barry Zito, Josh Beckett, Mark Teixera, Mark Buehrle. All these guys are going to play major roles in deciding where their respective teams will finish this upcoming season. To me, I'd put all of these guys above the last three that Verducci mentions.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 25, 2005


A while back, a yankee fan conceded to me that the Red Sox lineup is better than that of the yankees, but challenged me to prove that the Sox rotation was the better of the two. What follows is my attempt to do that. To do this I first ranked the pitchers one through five and then compared them straight up, one vs. one, two vs. two, and so on. I didn't do much statistical analysis in this piece, even of the amateur variety, which is pretty much the only kind I can adequately comprehend. Mostly that is because I put this together at work and didn't want to get caught looking stats up online, as I'm on thin enough ice already. I'd rather not be the first guy to get fired trying to prove that Matt Clement is better than Carl Pavano.


#1 Schilling vs. Johnson:

While Johnson is the better pitcher, I would argue that Schilling is the best big game pitcher in baseball. Johnson also has 5 years on Schilling not to mention some serious back and knee problems that have limited his effectiveness in some seasons, as recently as two seasons ago.  If Johnson is healthy you have to pick him as the better of the two, but the question is will he stay healthy.  A healthy Schilling is obviously much better than an injured Johnson. (Taken out of context that last sentence could sound bad.) When healthy Johnson is the 21st century's Sandy Koufax, but when injured he regresses to the 21st century's Gene Brabender, who's name I am not making up, and who posted a 4.36 ERA for the Seattle Pilots in 1969.  Its important to note that I'm talking about the best starter in the NL last season vs. the second best starter in the AL last season.  This is quite a match up.  Both are excellent strikeout pitchers with terrific control, but overall I have to favor Johnson. There really hasn't been as dominant a pitcher since the mound was lowered in 1969, inexplicably sending Gene Brabender's ERA skyward. But back to the matchup at hand: Johnson is a better pitcher (see sentence #1) but since Johnson's health is in serious question, I'm going to wimp out and call it a draw.

Advantage: Even 

#2 Clement vs. Mussina:

This looks like an advantage for the Yankees.  In one sense Mussina is the AL's version of Curt Schilling, having almost won the Cy Young a number of different times, though never quite reached that pinnacle. The only thing is Mussina is 36, and last year he had the worst season of his career.  He turned it around towards the end, but his numbers were quite less than spectacular even after the turnaround.  Basically, he's not the pitcher he was when he came to New York, or when you could count on him for consistent excellence back in Baltimore. Come to think of it, it's been a while since anything in Baltimore has been consistently excellent, but I digress. Mussina has had injury problems over the last couple years which have limited his innings.  Clement, too, has had injury problems, but as a guy who is six years younger (are you noticing a theme here?) he's much less likely to get those nagging injuries which can cause you to miss a start or two, or to just not be at your best. All of Clement's numbers last year were excellent except wins and losses, but those are more due to lack of run support than anything else.  He had a higher strikeouts-per-9-innings than Mussina, more total Ks, and a lower ERA (granted in the NL, but it was about a run lower, which is still significant).  There are questions about Clement, no doubt, though I believe he will have an excellent year with the run support that the Sox give their pitchers.  I wouldn't be surprised if Clement ended up with much better stats and Mussina ends up on the disabled list for a good part of the year.

Advantage: Red Sox 

#3 Arroyo vs. Pavano:

Some people would argue about Arroyo as the Sox #3, but since he was one of the eleven best starters in the AL last year in terms of ERA I won't be one of them.  Last season Arroyo had a better ERA than Zito, Mulder and Mussina did.  So if we accept Arroyo's legitimacy, then we can move on to the match-up. Pavano comes with a number of questions attached to him.  First off, he was a successful pitcher last season, but his peripherals aren't great.  He doesn't strike out lots of guys and his ERA last year was assisted by luck in two forms: 1) very low batting average on balls in play which is due for a regression towards the norm (i.e. more batted balls will fall in for hits against him this year than they did last year), and 2) the Marlins excellent defense, which the Yankees definitely don't have, especially in their outfield.  Still, his good numbers last year in terms of wins and ERA are what he's being paid for this year and over the following three.  But what about every year before last?  He's had some injury problems which have slowed him a bit, and like Clement and Wright he's got an under .500 career winning percentage.  That doesn't mean he's a bad pitcher, but it raises the same questions that Wright's (and Arroyo's and Clement's) record raises about him.  Personally, I'd rather have Arroyo, as he's younger and much cheaper.  Arroyo's walk rates in the minors were unreal, and now that he's started to challenge hitters a bit more inside (see A-Rod, Plunking of) his strikeouts are improving too. But since there is a massive amount of selective data in this past paragraph, and since the Red Sox tried hard to sign Pavano too, I'll be a gentleman to the yankees fans out there and call it even. (I'd still take Arroyo though.)

Advantage: Even

#4 Wells vs. Wright

As a number four starter, Wells doesn't seem so bad, does he?  If Wells is the Sox number two guy, then I conceed thats a worrisome thing, but if he's the number four then that's fine with me.  The guy can't get anyone out without his defense (though his strikeout numbers were comparable to Pavano's last season, which should tell you something), but he doesn't walk anyone at all ever.  His control is really incredible and because of it, as long as he can stay healthy, he can eat innings.  He's going to allow some runs, but that should be made up for by the Sox offense, which has been #1 in all of baseball the last two years in terms of pretty much everything important.  I'm not that worried about him staying healthy because he was healthy all last year (like Johnson).  He's also a big-game pitcher, like Schilling, which will be nice to have come October.  Contrast that with the Yankees who have a number of guys who have historically failed in the post-season (Mussina & Johnson come to mind, and if you don't believe me then you should check out Johnson's post season ERA.).  Wright is a guy who has been a mediocre-to-bad pitcher throughout his entire career, save one season (last season) and one month (his post-season stint with Cleveland in 1995).  He doesn't throw as hard as he used to thanks to injuries, but he seemed to put things together last year and turned in an excellent season for the Braves.  Obviously the yankees are paying the guy who had a 3.28 ERA for the Braves last season, but, what if the guy who got cut by San Diego shows up?  I'm willing to go out on a limb and say it won't matter too much as most teams would kill to have a guy like Wright as a number four, but the yankees are paying him $21 Million, so it'll be interesting to see how long of a leash the keep him on. Of these two guys you'd have to say that Wright has the most upside.  We've seen the best that Wells has to offer, but he's old now and he's not going to radically improve.  Wright isn't young anymore (he's 29), but he could be an excellent pitcher for NY this year, especially stashed at the end of their rotation.  Or he could be Leo Mazzone belongs in the Hall of Fame exhibit 43A, who implodes as soon as his uniform fails to say "Atlanta" across the front.  You might dispute me with this, but I'm going with Wells here.  He's much more of a known quantity. 

Advantage: Red Sox

#5: Miller/Wakefield/Halama vs. Brown

This match up is the first one in my humble opinion to be a slam dunk for the Sox, and really the first slam dunk of any of these match-ups.  Brown has clearly lost it.  He's just not a very good pitcher anymore, and even more than that the Sox have his number, and even more than that the Yankees hate him and would like nothing better than to get rid of him.  I still wouldn't be surprised if they dealt him sometime during spring training, maybe to Atlanta.  But regardless, he's just not a very good pitcher anymore and on top of that he makes a ton of money.  (Thats not really here or there, but I think it's funny that they Yankees are paying their #5 starter, who they would gladly give away for nothing in return, $15 Million.)  Miller is a good pitcher, but his injury concerns are frightening.  He's won 45 games for the Astros over the 3 years before last ('91-'93), and was one of the best starting pitchers in the NL during that time.  The question is will he be healthy enough to throw much throughout the year.  The answer is probably not, as he most likely won't start throwing in an actual game until June. Wakefield is a knuckler so I'm not so worried about his age, but his effectiveness has gone down over the last three years despite what he did to the Yankees in the post-season last year (me likee!). It doesn't bode well for him as a rotational starter.  His best role is probably spot starter and long reliever. Halama is ok.  He'd be best used as an innings eater out of the bullpen, but if Miller is hurt and Wake is ineffective then he's the Sox man, at least till Theo can find someone else.  Still, for pure pitching (keeping finances out of it) I'd take Miller or Wakefield over Brown.  The only guy of the three that Brown beats out is Halama, but since two guys have to get hurt for him to see the rotation, I'm giving this one to the Red Sox.

Advantage: Red Sox

Total: Red Sox 3, yankees 0, with 2 even match-ups.  You could dispute me on that and say the yankees win 3-2 or even 4-1.  Ultimately however, the yankees are playing with much more fire than the Red Sox are.  Brown, Wright and Pavano all come with significant questions about their history and effectiveness over the long term, and Mussina and Johnson are just plain old.  If Miller is healthy and effective (granted, a big "if") then the Sox take this.  If not and the Sox have to turn to Wakefield or god forbid Halama, I could see the overall advantage shifting towards New York.  But, even with my Selective Data/Homer Scoring System (copyright MK Industries, 2005) it's quite close.  The difference will probably be made up by who gets injured and who doesn't, at least up until the trade deadline. 

Thanks again for reading.

Friday, February 18, 2005


I'm always looking to read good articles on baseball. The more I find the happier my day is. While 'good' is a subjective term, I am confident in saying that a good article on baseball can be a difficult thing to find. There are days when I can't find even one, and have to content myself with crap, like 99% of what is posted on these days. In that vein, I would like to continue in the fine tradition that was established way before my blogging time by such luminaries as Aaron Gleeman of the obscurely-titled, and talk about how crap-tastic Buster Olney is. Because I can't say it any better than this, I'm going to quote a friend of mine:

Let's continue to bash lazy hack Buster Olney. Exhibit B:

I couldn't even finish reading this, it's so ludicrous. I don't even know where to begin to criticize this. Ranking the Yankees ahead of the Red Sox is shaky but justifiable, I guess. Ranking the Phillies behind Seattle (!), Cleveland (!!), Texas (?!!?), and the f**king Mets (!!!!!) is too preposterous to even imagine. Then -- get this! -- he's got the A's ranked three spots behind the Phils! Whaaaa!?!? Yeah, that's right -- last in the AL West, behind the Rangers!

The Tigers are ahead of the White Sox. The Devil Rays are ahead of the Nats. And on and on it goes...

What a godforsaken fool.

My response to this:

To address the specific points brought up:
1) Beating on the A's for trading Mulder and Hudson has been a staple of the mainstream press, and I'm not surprised that it's surfaced again in this lazy-ass 'columnist's' rankings.  Why can't they put this guy behind the iron 'insider' curtain and free rob neyer?  Theres a T-Shirt someone should have thought of before me: Free Rob Neyer!!!  Anyway, the A's have vastly improved their offense, their bullpen and their bench from last year's team that lost the AL West title by one game.  Let me repeat that: one game!  Yes, they traded Mulder and Hudson, two good pitchers, but look what they got from both of those guys last year.  The innings will be the toughest thing to replace, certainly not necessarily the quality.  I'm picking the A's to win the West this year.
2) Yankees ahead of Red Sox: again, a staple of the (non-Boston) mainstream press.  As he says, it's at least a defensible position to take, though I have to say I think the Yankees are playing with a lot of fire this year.  Pavano, Womack, no Beltran means more Williams, Giambi, Wright, and Randy Johnson who I believe is 4,000 years old, just to name a few.  Any one of these could blow up in NY's face, and it's not like they have anyone who they can trade to plug holes at the deadline. 
3) Seattle and Texas have very little pitching to speak of, and I expect their records to show it.  The best pitcher on either of those teams is Jamie Moyer who is Greg Maddux-lite + 3 Years. 
4) Cleveland could have a very good season.  It depends on how their young pitching comes around, because they can already hit a ton.  I'm not prepared to knock anyone for picking them to play well this year.  That said, I doubt they'll beat the Twins, who have not only more dependable pitching, but straight up better pitching as well. 
5) Everyone (again, mainstream press is what I'm talking about here) loves the Mets.  Pedro, Beltran, an ex-Yankee/minority as manager, an ex-scout/minority as GM.  These are all things that make a good story.  The Mets should be fine in the field, decent-to-good at the bat, and god-damn lousy in the rotation after Pedro, who I believe is going to have a monster season.  Their pen as currently composed won't be an asset. 
6) The Tigers ahead of the White Sox is probably the stupidest thing Olney has done.  This is like falling for the hidden ball trick twice in the same game.  Not only is he miss-identifying how good the Tigers will be (probably below .500 again) but he's miss-identifying how good the White Sox will be (they'll challenge the Twins for the AL Central title and they have a good chance at winning it).  If you get a moment, take a look at the Tigers starting rotation, and then take a look at the White Sox starting rotation, then have a hearty laugh at ol' Buster's expense.

Thanks for reading.


Its been a while since I posted and I have no legitimate excuse. Well, other than there really hasn't been anything going on baseball-wise. But since SPRING TRAINING is finally here, and some of the snow has melted, I feel like talking a little baseball. So, you can expect some more posts up here soon concerning the WORLD CHAMPION Red Sox, the MFingYankees, the Great Choke of '04, and maybe something about other baseball teams as well. Who knows, I might branch out.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Pinstriped Poop

Today on his pinstriped blog, Steve Goldman asserts in response to a reader question, that the Red Sox trade of Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs had nothing to do with 'moneyball principals' and was consummated because Nomar was a problem in the clubhouse. He goes on to give examples of people in the workplace being disruptive and therefore bringing down productivity.

While I often agree with Goldman and think that he backs up his ideas well, on this point I disagree. I don't disagree that Nomar was a problem in the clubhouse. He may well have been, but a problem in the clubhouse who hits .333 with 30 homers will stay a problem in the clubhouse, i.e. not be traded. Nomar was traded because his defense was not up to snuff anymore due mostly to his injury. The fact that he was a negative in the clubhouse might have played a small role, as did the fact that the Sox would lose him to free agency at the end of the year.

As far as the whole moneyball thing, people often misread moneyball as a treatise on on-base percentage and patience at the plate. Moneyball is bigger than that. Its about value, and more specifically reading the market to determine what is undervalued at any one time, in order that someone (or some team) with limited resources can in effect buy low and have success.

How does this relate to the Nomar trade? Theo realized that he had to upgrade the Red Sox defense, and in this case, he was able to get two undervalued players that played key roles for the Sox down the stretch last season, for one over-valued player who would not have. Thats as 'moneyball' as it gets.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Minaya's Back Page Mets

Has anyone noticed how the Mets seem to be interested only in big name players? After singing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, news comes that they're after Carlos Delgado. Delgado is a good player, but he's 33 and is looking to make about $14-15Mill a year for at least three years.  Thats waaaaay overboard for him considering his health problems in the past and potential productivity a couple years down the road.  By the time the Mets are really looking to seriously contend he'll be too old and his contract will be too much of an albatross to help the team. 
I get the idea that Fred Wilpon said to Omar, "OK, you can spend whatever you want this offseason, but I want to upstage the Yankees. And if we don't win this year then all bets are off"?  I think Wilpon really does expect immediate results, though logic says he probably won't get what he's looking for.  The real questions for the Mets are, 1) what will they do this trading deadline when they find themselves fifteen and a half games behind Atlanta, and 2) will they spend money next offseason as well in order to compliment the players they just bought, or will Wilpon stitch the wallet closed and say "it didn't work last year so forget it this year." 

That said, I can't fault the Beltran deal too much.  They overpaid for what they'll get, but he's a quality player and they probably won't be too sorry about that deal down the line, considering Beltran's age.  Pedro is another story.  I'd love to read what the NY papers are saying about pedro in three years going into the last year of his deal.  Fire up the ol' flex capacitor, because this is gonna be hilarious. 
I've heard about the Met's TV deal which, the theory goes, has caused/allowed them to spend like crazy, but the thing that gets me is the Mets changing GMs this off season. Spending a ton of money isn't difficult for anyone who can sign their own name.  Figuring out that you want Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez on your team also isn't difficult. The team captains on any playground could figure that out.  Fixing the bullpen, which is a hole, is much more difficult and takes a bit more skill. 

It doesn't take a genius to out-bid the other guy for a name player, but unless you are the Yankees you can't have a name player at every position, which is where some subtly and intelligent analysis comes into the picture.  Minaya hasn't shown that he can handle that.  Contrary to popular belief he didn't do it in Montreal, and he hasn't done it in NY.  I'm not saying he was delt a fair hand in Montreal, because he clearly was not, but that team got worse and worse each year he was there, and there wasn't much he did to stop it.  That team is basically a shell now, with no marketable talent, no up and coming rookies, and very little in the farm system to pin future hopes on.  They're going to suck this year, and a large part of that has to be laid at Minaya's feet. I think this is an indictment of Minaya as a GM, which doesn't bode well for his tenure as Mets GM.

So, what am I saying? I guess what I'm saying is that the Mets are the darlings of the back pages in NYC right now, which is what Wilpon and Minaya clearly wanted, but I'm guessing somewhere around mid July things won't be as rosey as they seem now in Queens. I'm curious to see how Minaya and Wilpon react to that adversity. If the past is any indicator, I wouldn't be too optimistic.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Trips & Marky Mark

Wow, off season really can make you sick! I've had the flu for the past week, and let me tell you, it ain't no fun. But now I'm back! And only about half sick!

Let me throw something out there: I'm planning to go on a multi-park binge this summer, and I was wondering if anyone out there in cyberland has ever done something like that before and has any suggestions. I have a tenative schedule worked up which I might share here later on once it becomes a bit more finalized.

Anyway, anyone, anything?

BELLHORN: back in the fold

Theo has resigned two contributors to last season's World Championship run (did I mention that the Red Sox won the World Series last year? Its true, they beat the Yankees and everything). As a huge Mark Bellhorn fan, I have to say that I'm happy that the inevitable has indeed finally happened, and I don't mean that my cat has shoved her claws into my leg, though she has. Also, I think, with no statistical analysis to support this what so ever, that Arroyo is poised to have a great season for Our Sox.

Well, off to dinner. More later. I'm hoping to work up a lineup comparison between Our Sox and the Evil Empire's nine this weekend. Look for that. Thanks for reading. I apreciate it.