Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Coming Soon...

The site will be back full force after the 4th of July. Sorry for not being able to provide a bit of work-day distraction for you all lately.

Last night's game was, of course, a horror show. The Red Sox are quickly becoming the league whipping boy, and, whether fairly or not, are being put in a very tough position. There's little reason to believe they'll take more than one of the next two, then they go to Atlanta where they have had trouble in the past. After that comes Oakland and Texas, two clubs that have had their number. This has the potential of becoming a very ugly scenario, especially to a team that has already lost 3 of the last 4 series. Nomar has looked like a mess, both papers are taking him to town this morning, and Sons of Sam Horn has eight pages about the potential of trading him. I didn't give the thought much credence until I read a recent Theo remark: "We need to give this a period of time and if things don't get better, then we'd be more open-minded about change for change's sake." You ever hear a GM mention change for change's sake before? No? That's because they never do. It's referred to more commonly as "desperation". But that doesn't make it an inherently bad idea, does it? Desperate times, as the man says. And if you were changing some pieces of the Sox puzzle, which ones would they be? You know you can win with Pokey at short, you know Bellhorn is going to score 100 and drive in 90, and you know Nomar is gone at the end of the year. You don't think Theo is seriously considering this right now? Hey, San Francisco might be interested in getting a real bat behind Bonds for a few months. Maybe Frank McCourt wants to bring his hometown hero into LA to get some hitting going? Bring him in cheap for half a season and see if it's a good match. I'll tell you right now, this whole thing makes a lot more sense than I thought.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Drafty McDrafterson

For a thorough if somewhat tough to follow breakdown of tonight's draft, check out The Russillo Report, written by The Zone's Ryen Russillo. Russillo's site is a bit messy, but he is, for The Ninth's money (may not exist), the most knowledgeable radio host in Boston.

Sox tied at 3, and Francona has had his best bullpen usage game yet. Making Ron Gardenhire look like, well, Ron Gardenhire. It would be very tough to lose three straight series.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Hot Points

No game last night, but there seems to be two major things going on with the Red Sox today:

Via Peter Gammons - Beltran to the Sox, Williamson and Youkilis to the A's, Mark Teahan, Mike Wood (prospects) from the A's as well as Kelly Shopach to the Royals. Is there a single person who thinks this is a good idea? Giving the A's the closer they need, sending away our two highest prospects, and getting a very good but not great player for three months in return? Sure, that sounds like fun - where are the bumper cars? Beltran will not sign this year, and in all likelihood is going to be loving New York in '05. In order for him to play everyday, Manny becomes a DH and Ortiz has to play 1st full time. Yes, our offense improves, but we've lost our best trading chips and still have big rotation question makes. Not to mention the hole that Swilly would leave in the pen. All for a guy that no one feels Boston really needs. Why are we talking about this exactly? Randy Johnson waives his no-trade, then we've got something. Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, Eddie Guardado -- all appealing. But an Acura for the price of a Mercedes when we only get to put a couple hundred miles on it? No gracias.

Don't Panic, We've Got Curtis Leskanic - Before the game tonight, Boston will announce the acquisition of set-up man Curt Leskanic, formerly of the Royals. Has had a terrible year so far, up until the last few weeks. He may or may not have a tear in his rotator cuff (hey, he'll have something to chat about with Pedro), but in the past has had some good years. A lot of people have compared this to grabbing Todd Jones, but The Ninth thinks it's more than that. We tabbed him as a player of interest in our Free Agent-rific
discussion last season, and we (I) think he can be of value. He was nasty with Kansas City last year coming down the stretch, totaling seven holds and two saves in only 26 innings. His ERA was under 2 and found himself almost entirely in crucial situations. If he's healthy, he'll help. And not just more than Malaska.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Reality Test

Alright readers, here's a little insanity test.

1) Did you wake up in a panic on Thursday morning after the Rockies had beaten Boston twice in a row? Were you concerned that perhaps the season was slipping out of control?

2)Were you elated on Friday morning when you opened your eyes and remembered the demolition job the Sox put on the Rockies the day previous and thought maybe they could catch the Yankees after all?

If you answered "No" to both of these questions, then you're a sound, reasonable human, and you probably live outside of 495. If you answered "Yes" to one of them, you're a bit over-emotional, but you'll probably turn out ok in the long run. If you answered "Yes" to both, well then, you need to relax. It's only June babies, relax and have some fun.

Oh, and by the way, Cesar Crespo's OPS: .385. That's two numbers, added together, equaling .385. Happy New Year.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Asked and Answered

Apparently the answer to my question yesterday about how long it takes Nomar to flip his lid was about 10 hours. This interview is fairly ridiculous, but you could see it coming. While he should have learned to have a tougher skin in eight years, ask yourself why, if his injury progressed almost identically to Trot's, did he get sniped and Nixon didn't? He's being a nuisance, but there is a point to his bothering.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Ol' Grind

First post of the week on Wednesday. I know, I know, not the kind of quality performance I'm being paid for. I know you don't much care, but job #1 (crappy internet company) and job #2 (actor) have kicked it into high gear simultaneously, leaving job #3 (award-winning internet sports writer) looking for its mommy at the grocery store. The station wagon's gone baby, and I ain't sure it's comin back. The next week will be spotty at best, but fear not, I shall return. It's too bad, because these games with the Rockies sound quite interesting. I'm glad a team in Colorado exists, because the atmosphere provides a lot of fascinating intellectual challenges, but I'm happy as heck that it isn't my team. They've gone through more organizational shifts of strategy than a fat lady at the check out line (no idea what that means), but they still keep losing. It seems like their best plan was the most simple: get guys who hit far. The best Rockie teams by a good margin were those in the mid-90's, squads that boasted pure sluggers like Bichette, Burks, a healthy Larry Walker, and Vinny Castilla v1.0. Those guys were each a solid bet to drop 40 bombs a year. And they made decent clubs, even with Kevin Ritz, Armando Reynoso, and the ghost of Billy Swift starting games. At some point (probably around the time Dan O'Dowd took over) the Rockies decided this was sort of a foolish way to build a club, and got more pitching-focused. Sounds good on paper, but paper hasn't tried to pitch in Coors field. Since then, Colorado has pretty much stunk, and not won enough at home to offset how wildly dreadful they were on the road. It seems like the key now might be to build a team that can win 50 games at home, split on the road, and hope for the best. How do you do that? Score lots and lots of runs. Does anyone have Dante Bichette's cell phone?

Anyway, enough on Colorado. Many others have discussed it far better (using, you know, math) in the past. If you're interested, this post on SoSH lays out some pretty interesting thoughts. And yeah, it's a little dorked out. A couple of quick thoughts before I go back to wizork:

-The Yankees are making things very tough right now, but Boston has won 2 of 3 each series since, ahem, Anaheim. In the long run, that'll do just fine.

-Schilling ain't going anywhere near the disabled list, and Pedro and Dlowe are throwing their best ball this year. Joe Morgan was right, the difference with Martinez has nothing to do with his curveball - it's all the heat. He has 4 more mph's and his ball is moving. It's the difference between a swing and miss on 2-2 and a foul ball or a bloop hit. Huge. You never had to worry about Derek. Hate to say I told you so, but it's to hard to say I told you so without it.

-How long before Nomar takes his position in black face wearing number 3 and starts sarcastically yelling, "Hey, my name is Pokey, I've been here two weeks and everybody loves me! I can't hit a lick, and I've never been an All-Star, but can't I jump high! Aren't I just the greatest?! Sure Nomar's played here for eight years, but I'm speedy and I smile a lot! Hooray for me!"?

-Kevin Millar is slowly but surely pissing off every fan in Red Sox Nation.

Gotta go folks....

Friday, June 11, 2004

Two by Nine, 06.10.04

Sorry gang, busy day, but...

1. How many times in Nomar's career has someone intentionally walked the previous hitter to get to him? I would say less than five. Maybe it happened a few times in his rookie season, but he hit mostly leadoff then and I doubt they were walking too many #9's. We saw it last night though, and he made them pay. Double off the wall, 2 RBI's. Boy was that fun.

2. The great thing about Manny is sometimes you can tell a ball is gone before he even swings. When you saw Valdes' saggy little curve start to bend toward the heart of the strike zone last night, you just knew Manny was gonna lose it. Sure enough, over the monster seats. D-licious.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

6 Innings of Nomar

Well, he was back last night. And he swung at the first pitch. Wouldn't have been right if he didn't. Nomar bounced a nice single through the left side on the second pitch he saw, then in his next at-bat, ripped a ball to left field. It was caught, but it was one of those lasers that only he seems to be able to hit. He later made one of his trademark plays in the hole, but Hands Dominique couldn't pull the throw out of the dirt. Or avoid tossing the ball in the stands immediately afterwards. You've just been Dominiqued! Garciaparra's most notable moments however, happened before he put the uniform back on.

At 4:15 yesterday Nomar held a little press conference about getting back from the injury, and it was carried in and outside of Boston. He answered questions about what he was expecting that night, how much he would he play, what delayed his comeback, even if he was trying to stick it to the Sox management. Some goofy questions, but mostly standard stuff. Would've been easy enough to give some pat answers, smile to the writers, and get on with preparing for the game. But Nomar didn't do that. No, instead, he put on his most passive aggressive smile, his most subtly sarcastic laugh, and went about scolding the men who wanted his information. It wasn't Barry Bonds or Carl Everett territory, but it was almost as obnoxious. Nomar is too smart, and, honestly, too polite, to overtly demean a reporter or insult him, so he takes the edge off. He pretends like he's having a good time, like he's enjoying a playful back and forth, and peppers each of his remarks with a forceful laugh. "Nomar, did you feel like you took your time coming back?" "Ha ha, no no, were I to have taken my time, old chum, I wouldn't have returned 'til frightful late August! What a predicament that would have been, eh?" That's what he wants us to hear, but it's not what it sounds like. There's a tension in his voice and an anger in his tone. Rather than "hey friend", he seems to be expressing more of a "shut up jerk." The constant subtext is, "how dare you ask me that?". But he's subtle about it. He talks in such a manner that if ever called on being unpleasant, he could simply note that he was laughing and had a smile on his face. Yes, he's technically filling his role as a helpful ballplayer, but the animosity is so palpable you feel sorry for the reporters. Not an easy feat. You know Nomar hates having this conversation, and he's going make the writers pay for putting him through it. It's very awkward, and more than a little childish. It seems from his reaction yesterday and his comments in the past that Garciaparra genuinely cares for the fans of Boston, but can't tolerate their emissary, the reporters. It's an understandable stance, but it's one that might eventually steer him out of the city. Don't you think? How do you agree to stay in a place where you know you'll have to have a daily root canal? That's what yesterday's press conference sounded like, and it was no worse or better than the questions he must face everyday. So while it was nice to have Nomar back between the lines, the live glimpse we got of him outside them was far more significant. We've heard before that he doesn't like it here, but yesterday we got to see it. Too bad really, could've been a fun day.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Tonight's actual lineup:

Damon CF
Bellhorn 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Garciaparra SS
Varitek C
Millar RF
Dominique 1B
Youkilis 3B

Daubach outrighted, Brown sent down. Nomar and Malaska up. Certainly some surprises...

Oh Happy Day

As Silvio likes to say, "Just when I thought I was out....". The Ninth unfortunately had to miss last night's game, so I can't relay much about how Pedro actually looked. From all tell however, he was spectacular. Best start of the year, perhaps the best in a long while. Fastball consistently in the mid 90's with sharp curveball and control. Sounds like a blast, too bad I missed it. Luckily, the evening was captured on TiVo (get one - now) and will be perused at my leisure - the way God intended it. So last night, we had a dominant Pedro, tonight we have the return of Nomar. Holy Christmas.

Nothing has been announced officially yet, but Dirtdogs has him coming back this eve, and they're right far more than they're wrong. This brings up a few points of interest. Firstly, be prepared for lots of days off. The average manager is pretty careful with the returning injured, and Francona has shown an extreme, shall we say, sensitivity, to this issue. I would expect him to start tonight and tomorrow (one of the two at DH), then have Friday off, followed by starts in both weekend games. Monday is a travel day, so his next game off will probably be Thursday, which is a day game after a night game. Managers hate that. He also will probably sit on Saturday, for the same reason. Fans are able to accept this sort of thing early on, but take this as a warning, it will go on longer than you wish. Obviously they're using mittens with Nomar (and their other wounded), so don't expect to have your Everday Eddie back quite yet.

Another issue is the lineup. Does Tito break Nomar in in the two hole, or does he give him back his usual three slot? Or perhaps will he try out the Manny/Nomar switch he discussed in Spring Training? Hard to say. My guess is tonight's lineup will look like this:

Damon CF
Youkilis 3B
Garciaparra SS
Ramirez LF
Ortiz DH
Varitek C
Millar RF
Daubach 1B
Reese 2B

Maybe Bellhorn gets the start, and the 6-8 hitters could move a bit, but that's my best hunch. Looks a lot better, doesn't it? But let's not get too greedy. Word is Nomar extended his rehab mostly to get his timing right, and we'll probably see some residue from that tonight. Usually against returning players, pitchers go with lots of offspeed stuff and fastballs on the hands. They figure either your bat is slow or your timing is off, and for a few days they're probably right. So look for that. But, let's not forget Nomar's triumphant return from wrist injury in '01 -- first game back: game-tying home run. Can't you hear Doughnuts now? "Welcome Back Nomar Garciaparra....". Ah promos. Anyway, the point here is: we're all very excited to have Nomar back, but we should temper our enthusiasm with reasonable expectations. He might be great, but he probably won't. He'll miss some days, and he'll take some ugly swings, and responsible fans ought to prepare themselves. Honestly though - screw responsibility. I hope he hits one out.


Monday, June 07, 2004

Nine by Nine, 06.06.04

1. First things first, Derek Lowe looked quite good yesterday. Yeah, he didn't pitch that deep, and he did give up the bomb to Mike Sweeney, but his stuff looked quick. The lateral movement that we've discussed before was replaced with a nice, sharp horizontal one, and ground balls were not finding holes. The one pitch that was hit quite hard, Sweeney's home run in the first, was a hanging curve and not a flat sinker, which is good news, I guess. That pitch was actually sort of a turning point. Before it, DLowe was tentative, concerned about how the game would turn out. He looked to be aiming the ball, hoping this wouldn't be another afternoon of disaster. But after he gave it up, he settled, almost saying "ok, that's out of the way." From there on, Lowe was very tough. He attacked the strike zone hard, and even with distinctly mediocre umpiring (one of the most uneven games this season) he kept ahead in the count. For a pitcher who has had a lot of trouble out of the stretch, it's somewhat egg and chicken - did he pitch well because he kept runners off base, or did he keep runners of base because he pitched well? Not really clear. But his sinker was moving, and he was throwing it for strikes. That's the important first step, and it will win more times than it won't. Tony Cloninger said over the weekend that you're going to look up at the end of the season and Lowe's going to have 16 or 17 wins, and I'll bet you dollars to donuts he's right. For now, he's going in the right direction.

2. Ken Rosenthal posted this annoying rumor this weekend, which details a scenario in which the Yankees could send Contreras to Florida for Carlos Beltran. Uh..... what? How exactly do you trade away a wildly overpaid 4th starter, and get back an All-Star centerfielder? Even if you do pay most of Contreras' contract, it doesn't make sense. The Marlins, who apparently would use Jose as a set-up man, are so desperate for relievers that they'd rather have an unproven, non-closer than just keeping Beltran themselves? Have they watched Contreras? He makes inconsistent look consistent. If Florida could nab Beltran and felt like financially they had move him again, why wouldn't they at least go for an established, dominant reliever? Guardado? Dotel? Hawkins? Farnsworth? Heck, I'd rather have Williamson than Contreras, wouldn't you?

One other thing about Beltran, now that we're discussing it - why is he so good again? Great player, sure. All-Star, absolutely. But I'm not sure his presence swings the AL East (or any division) power structure one way or the other. Having watched him several times now, he strikes me as more of an Andruw Jones than a Barry Bonds. Which is nice to have, but how much does it cost? He's only had an OPS over .900 once.

3. I don't know about you guys, but The Ninth is getting a smidge tired of the law firm of Crespo, McCarty, Martinez & Dinardo. Yesterday's lineup had last season's number nine hitter batting third, and Kapler, Crespo, and Reese kickin' it in the caboose. I'm less angry than I am bored. It's just not fun watching these guys. And is Cesar really the best utility man available? Yeah, he had a nice spring, but the guy is a mess offensively. As Dave Moss would say, this guy couldn't find his bat with two hands and a map. Well, he'd say that, but he'd mean something else. I accept that utility guys don't hit, but two 2 RBI in 75 AB's is a punchline, not a statistic. I know that Theo could've improved this slot if he wanted to - so why didn't he want to? And then, when you're done with the offense, you have more uninteresting mediocrity in the bullpen. Please - Burks, Nomar, Trot, Willy, BK - come on back. It's just not as fun without you.

4. In the second inning Terry Kraft called a pitch over McCarty's shoulders and 3 inches off the plate a strike. Probably one of the worst calls I've ever seen. Just because he's a bad player, and it's early game, doesn't mean you get to ad-lib on the strike zone Ter. That wasn't a strike, and you know it. Oh, and by the way, you stunk the rest of the game too.

5. Boston scores runs best when one of the opponents punches his teammate in the face while trying to throw the ball. That really gets a rally going.

6. Does anyone else realize that Billy Superstar Beane has traded away the last TWO Rookies of the Year? Angel Berroa, last year's #1 freshman, left Oakland in the three way trade that brought the A's Johnny Damon. Two years ago, the AL ROY was Eric Hinske, who was sent away by Beane for lovable closer Billy Koch. It should also be mentioned that both Damon and Koch spent only one season each in Oakland. Not a lot of bang for your quality rookie buck. There were defensible reasons for these trades, but that's a lot of cheap talent to be letting get away.

7. Is there anything less logical than Royal fans booing Johnny Damon? Guys - he was traded! From a team that had Jeff Suppan, Mac Suzuki, Blake Stein, Chad Durbin, and Jay Witasick as its starting five. What was his fault exactly?

8. Nomar Garciaparra is leading AL shortstops in All Star voting, despite having very similar numbers to recently deceased U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The Ninth feels that Schill, Manny, and Foulke are locks for the team, while Tek, Ortiz, and Wake all deserve consideration. If, however, Nomar and Damon make the squad due to somewhat questionable voter judgement, it'll hurt the bubble players.

9. God Bless the Pistons. Do what the Spurs should've done and knock those Lakers out. Bums.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Loose Change

Because yesterday's game was dreadful, and because I have some random thoughts, we'll go a bit more free form today. And by free, I mean I won't number the notes. Irons, you are cast off.

One emailer asked this very morn: Do we officially start worrying about Derek Lowe? Well, something tells me, regardless of my answer, you will officially start worrying anyway. As I have mentioned before, this is not new ground for Derek. After May of 2003, Lowe's ERA was 5.36, it presently is holding strong at 6.84. While they both fall solidly in category of "really bad", this year he is a full run and a half worse. How do we explain this greater decline? Quite simply, bad luck. Last season, opposing batters were hitting in the high .280's against Lowe at this time, which was alarming, but right now they're at .338. That is absurd. Sinkerballers pitch to contact. They want the opponent to swing at the first pitch they see and drive it into the ground. Because there are more gentlemen standing around the infield with mits than the outfield, this usually creates outs. But if those balls happen to find holes, batting averages go up. Not much Derek can do about that. He can get the ball to sink, but once a batter hits it, his job is basically finished. Right now, balls are finding holes to the tune of .338. His groundball to flyball ratio is lower than usual, which isn't a good sign, but for those who have been watching him, his main problem has been control and not getting the double play when he needs it. You can tinker with the former, but the latter is a question for the Gods. As it, mostly, Derek's poor performance so far. Mechanics are an issue, especially in the stretch, but you can bet Wallace & Co. are on top of that. All you can really do now, sadly, is pitch him and wait. Sooner or later, that luck will change. Sinkers will sink, games will be won.

You just knew Keith Foulke wouldn't get the loss this weekend. He might blow the save, but the game would be won. Thanks to The Dominator and Dave McCarty. But how quiet was Fenway when Ibanez hit that three run bomb? It's like we forgot that could happen.

Alright, where the heck is Ramiro Mendoza? I know most of you are just happy to see him gone, but he's stealing money. He's getting paid a lot of cash, and if he's hurt then I'm Serena Williams. Mendoza is hiding down in Florida, hoping we'll all forget why we boo him so much. But someone should call him on it, because this is ridiculous. He doesn't even have a diagnosable injury.

A list of people who have more RBI's than Kevin Millar: Alex Sanchez, Pokey Reese, Miguel Olivo, Enrique Wilson, Bill Hall, and Mark DeRosa. There are articles about how he hit a home run yesterday. Yippee. So if he can't hit, and leads the league in outfield dives that don't result in a catch, why doesn't Tito start Kapler?

Kevin Youkilis remind anyone of else of Wilton Veras? Third baseman who comes up as a bench player when a surprise roster spot opens up and plays pretty well. People wonder if he can do it everyday. Then, all of a sudden, his predecessor gets hurt (for Veras it was John Valentin), and fans get their answer. For Veras, it was decidedly not. A few weeks good, then a few months very very bad. Youk has given us the good, let's see if he can hold it up. Remember how easily things can change when teams see you once.

Nomar might be back in a week, but the sad reality is, we need Trot more.

Gammons floated the possibility of a Youkilis, Abe Alvarez, and Shoppach package for Carlos Beltran. That seems like a lot without confidence you can sign him. And what happens to Damon? Also, it makes Varitek a must sign, which Boras would sniff out in a second.

Bronson Arroyo vs. Bartolo Colon sure smacks of "disappointing stay up until 1am", doesn't it?