Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Line that is Dead

Wow, busy day on the site yesterday. Surprisingly, 2 of 3 from New York (accurately predicted in this space, I might add) has a way of spiking interest. A more enterprising unpaid columnist would've seized the opportunity and pieced together a boffo column for all the new readers to faun upon, this one however got the afternoon off because of computer problems at the office, so went home and ate some chinese food. Eddie Andelman would've been proud. If he were still alive. Anyhoots, the Sox took another last night behind a very good Pedro start (rain and Terry Adams ruined his line), great two-out hitting, and balanced production from the entire lineup. Sounds a lot a group I like to call the 2003 Red Sox. The club seems to be getting it together, and if they can hold on through this insane road trip and get into the creamy filling that is their August schedule, who knows what could happen. My one hesitation: doesn't it seem just a little too Hollywood for this all to be started by a fight with the dreaded Yankees and the billion dollar poster boy that Boston couldn't afford? I mean, that's the beginning of the third act in Major League 6, not the turning point in an actual baseball season. Right? We'll see.

For now, there are more pressing matters. Saturday is July 31st, which we in the baseball world know better as: the 506 year anniversary of Columbus discovering Trinidad. 505 was sweet, but 506 will be even sweeter. In celebration of Trinidad's being invented, Major League Baseball has declared that all player trades must cease on such day, and therefore it will be. With Trot Nixon down and out for an unknown period, Boston is going to have to redirect its pitching inquiries for outfield help, and they'll have to get something done. Gape Kapler has been good, but he has a rich history of playing well for two weeks then stinking it up, so we shouldn't get carried away. He's a very nice 4th outfielder, but doesn't have the consistent offensive ability to be a nice 3rd one. So, much like women, Theo be shoppin'.

Problem is, and we've all heard this plenty, very few are sellin'. While there are a good number of clubs that aren't likely to make the playoffs, that aren't many that are so far out that they're comfortable admitting it. The National League especially is loaded with teams that are having their first decent season in years (Milwaukee, Cincinatti, New York, etc), and, even though they're not really going anywhere, they think the PR of finally keeping a team together is worth the couple prospects a trade would bring. And you know what, they may be right. But it's screwing with the Annual Trinidadian Mining of the Losers, and that's no fun. So here's a list of players that might be out there, broken down by team that is accepting failure. They might not all be on the block, but RJ isn't coming, so we have to do a thorough search. Be advised, I do think there is one gem in the bunch.

Tampa Bay: Having a surprise season, but not so surprising that they wouldn't move some players. Problem is, and we'll see this a lot, their real quality is in young, cheap, talent, and that's the last thing they would ever trade. In terms of pricey veterans, you have Tino Martinez and Jose Cruz Jr. both drawing a bit of interest. With Millar getting hot I think Boston would prefer to leave him at 1st and focus on outfield, so Tino would be out. Which is why I don't get the Meintkiwicz talk. Wouldn't Millar hurt the outfield as much as Dougie Fresh would help the infield? And he can't hit. Anyway, Jose Cruz is great defensively, and probably an upgrade over Kapler, but not by much. Has never really put it together offensively, and really let San Francisco down in the playoffs last year with an 0-for-ALDS. An option, but not a great one.

Toronto: Who knows what's going on with Frank Catalanotto? One minute he's available, the other he's not. Often he's hurt, sometimes he's not. The guy can definitely hit, and could be a super-sub if or when Trot returns. But he has an abdominal tear that will require surgery after the season and is causing him chronic pain. And it's not clear whether J.P. really wants to move him in the first place. A lot of question marks here, but Frank is certainly Theo's kind of player. One to watch.

Baltimore: I guess if you were really desperate you could trade for Jerry Hairston who's been playing right and could give some backup at second base, but who really wants to do that?

Detroit: Not much of quality here that isn't a young pitcher. Dmitri Young is the best hitter on the club and can get it done, but coming off a leg injury may not be able to play outfield. Making 7 million this season and next, which isn't too bad if you can find a place for him start, but does this team really need another 1B/DH/OF? With the leg injury, don't see this happening. There's also Bobby Higginson, but he boasts the rare combination of not being better than Gabe Kapler and yet being much more expensive. Rondell White is having a very nice year, but he might be cheap enough (2 yrs, 6 mil) for Detroit to keep.

Kansas City: Matt Stairs. In right field. Again. No thanks.

Seattle: Randy Winn would be a nice fit in the second whole, and can play the position. He's at cheap money this year, but he's signed for 3.75 mil in '05 which is high for the 4th outfielder he'd have to become. Boston would really prefer a guy who's booked for only this season. A quality player though and a capable option.

Pittsburgh: Their players are young and cheap. No need to trade.

Montreal: Their players are horrifying.

Cleveland: Now this is where it gets interesting. Matt Lawton is in the midst of a career year for the Indians and has legitimate five tools. He'd be a great hitter in front of Tizzle and Manny, and has enough speed to cover the Fenway right field. Before this season Indian GM Mark Shapiro would've lit himself on fire to unload Lawton, but now it's unclear. Sure Cleveland likes to dump payroll, but with a team around .500 they might think a veteran or two is worth holding on to. The biggest problem is his contract, which has him at about 7.5 for this season and next. Just like with Randy Winn, that's ok for a starting outfielder, but what do you do later in the season or next year when Trot is 100%? But is .300, 16 HR, 52 RBI so far worth it to Theo? If they could find a way for the money to work, I think this would be a great choice, but that's a big "if".

Arizona: Danny Bautista is another outfielder in the midst of a career year. A hot April has a lot do with it (1.041 OPS), but he's had a few injury problems of late. A free agent at the end of the season, Arizona would probably be more than happy to part ways. Not a guy that will change the face of the lineup, but a more qualified hitter than Kapler, and made some nice contributions for the Dbacks in the '00 series.

Colorado: Ok, I mentioned one gem in the rough, and here it is. The best player realistically available, in my opinion, in terms of both cost and return would be.....not.....Larry Walker.....but.....Jeromy Burnitz. I know, I know, he was a mess in '02 in New York. And yeah, he's playing in Colorado which screws everything up. But the .959 OPS, the 21 HR's, the 71 RBI - that's not all fake. When players leave Colorado, they do not automatically regress to their road statistics (.249/.325/.480 for JBurn) as many people suggest. Because the Colorado air flattens out curve balls so severely, Rockie players are more susceptible to them when they go on the road, giving them unusually lousy away numbers. This makes their home stats look even more ridiculous. But in reality, when they leave, this normalizes some. Simply, they're not as bad as they look on the road, or as good as they appear at home. It's somewhere in the middle. And that I'll take from Burnitz. Especially because he's making 1.5 million, will be a free agent, and plays a good right field. And has always wanted to come to Fenway. Remember the All-Star game in '99 where Jeromy seemed to be going out of his way to tell everyone how much he loved Boston? Every interview he did was like a Dad making a pitch to his kids for a vacation. Wouldn't that be a great fit? Maybe he's excited to get to Beantown, pumped to be in a pennant race for the first time ever, and slugs some. Worst case scenario he's an ok hitter with occasional pop who has a cannon in right and can platoon with Kapler. And he'd be cheap, so cheap in fact that Colorado might not see any point in dealing him. But if I were Theo, looking at the other options, I'd give this a try. He's having the hottest month of his season now (1.185 OPS), and maybe he can bring some of that with him. And you know he'll bring great clubhouse presence. Go for it. They don't need a star, they need a solid pro who has a chance in the playoffs. Any other ideas?

Friday, July 23, 2004

Who Knows

A close personal friend of The Ninth remarked, as we were simultaneously watching the Orioles embarrass the Sox 10-5 on Wednesday night, "you know they're gonna come back and take two out of three from New York, don't you?". But not as something to look forward to, more of a "isn't that the annoying sort of thing they'd do?" thing. Play like junk against Baltimore, execute easily the most pathetic defensive play of the last 10 years on an inside-the-parker, and then inexplicably take down the blessed Yankees. Only in Boston do we consider that a nuisance. For other fans that progression is serendipity, for us, it's an addition to the "Reasons Why We Hate The Team That We Also Love" list. At the time, I refused his prediction, saying there was no way that team could beat anyone two out of three. But after seeing how they played on Thursday night and looking at the pitching matchups, I think he might be right. They're gonna turn the car around just when we were ready to get out. Those little bastards. Last night they looked sharp and ready. Wake pitched shutout ball, the bullpen was quick and painless, and the defense got outs. They have some momentum. The pitching matchups feature Schilling vs. John Lieber tonight, Charles Bronson Arroyo against Tanyon "Are You Kidding" Sturtze, and then Jose Contreras v. Lowe. You could make a case for Boston in all three. And it all begins tonight, at a packed Fenway Park. There's just something about Friday nights at Fenway. The crowd brings a special energy in with them. It's like they've been looking forward to the game all week and won't let it be ruined now. There's a crazy excitement that's equal parts weekend elation, happy hour discounts, and old-fashioned hometown spirit. You can feel the place buzz right through the tv, where you have Sean McDonough in his due place at Jerry Remy's side. Everything just feels like a win. The crowd knows it, the umps know it, even the players seem to know it. They play better at home on Friday nights. They look like the team they're supposed to be: hard-hitting, high-pitching hot dogs. And you know what? It shows in their record. The Sox are 7-1 this year in Friday night games at Fenway, and they'll be going for 8 tonight. Watch out. They might stink it up. Or, the crowd might not let them.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


When did the Red Sox forget how to play baseball? They should be paying us to watch this junk. More and more of this, in my opinion, is beginning to fall on Theo's shoulders.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Roster Moves

A couple of afternoon roster moves for the Sox. Malaska up, Nelson down. Not much, but it will help. Also, Pokey goes on the DL and taking his place is.......not Crespo! Hallelujah. Youkilis recalled. That means someone thinks Bellhorn can play shortstop. We'll see. With Nomar getting the night off, tonight's infield could very well have Mueller at second, Bellhorn at short, and Youkilis at third. Oh boy.

Hurry Up Theo

As those of you who have been (ahem) consistently reading know, The Ninth does strive to remain patient. A great deal of this space has been filled trying to dissuade panic on such topics as Derek Lowe, Terry Francona, the Sox defense, and others. God, I'm a failure. Anyhoots, I think there are two distinct truths in the Boston sports scene: 1) Everyone ignores the big picture, and 2) Everyone overreacts. It happens for every team, all the time, no matter what. The Patriots have been able to avoid it some, but that's mostly because they haven't lost a game since 1982. But not the Sox. The Sox are tied for third best record in the American League and a spot in the playoffs, but nobody cares. We're screwed, we're going down, it's all over. Who cares about the next, oh, 70 games? Honestly, it can get pretty exhausting, and it's more than a little, well, stupid. Agreed? Ok. So let's talk about what an idiot Theo is.

Jimmy Anderson and Joe Nelson are not major league pitchers. Their statistics suggest that and their ability certifies it. What exactly is Terry Francona supposed to do with them, have them mop the galley? Fans can complain all they like about strange choices with the game on the line, but Tito's got two one inning relievers (Timlin and Embree), a great closer, and four guys who got lost on the way to the bus station. Leskanic has good stuff, but his results have been iffy and his health is questionable. Ramiro Mendoza is either still hurt or still scared or Francona wants nothing to do with him. Williamson is great when healthy, but who knows when that's gonna happen. So what bullets does Terry have in his gun? If Boston is in a game that they have any plans of winning, there are really only two options (3 if it's the 8th or 9th), and Embree and Timlin's workload is already starting to show. Not acceptable. You could tell that Francona didn't know who to go with yesterday in Seattle, and it's not because he's dumb, it's because his bullpen's empty. He tried an over-matched Joe Nelson for a while, and when that failed he followed with a hilarious warm-up attempt by Mendoza. The guy's hands are tied, and with a doubleheader and no day off until next Thursday, it'll only get worse. Maybe Willy will come back and maybe he won't, but how hard is it for Theo to get a reinforcement? Would Buddy Groom really break the bank right now? Is Steve Reed's asking price so astronomically high that you couldn't pry him out of Colorado? I mean come on, I'm not demanding Eddie Guardado or Jose Mesa or anything, just get a serviceable reliever who can get some outs. Give Francona a chance. What happens if Pedro goes out in the fifth tonight? What are they possibly going to do? See if Cloninger has anything left? Yeah, har-dee-har-har. But when Jimmy Anderson and the Ghost of Ramiro Mendoza give up five runs in the last 4 innings and hand a game to Baltimore, no one's going to be laughing. You got that Bender? I'm sure that Epstein will get an arm or two at the deadline, but the Sox need these players now, and it's negligent to keep waiting. I refuse to believe the cost is so terribly prohibitive. Foulke's unavailable, Leskanic's unavailable, I'd be very surprised to see Timlin, and maybe Embree can give you an inning. So who's gonna close out a tight one? Better yet, who's gonna keep it a tight one. Oh, and they're playing two tomorrow. Terrific.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Bottom

It's games like that that make you wonder what the point of all this is anyway. What a waste of time.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Nine by Nine; 07.18.04

Haven't done one of these in a while...

1. There are must win games and there are better win games, as in "you better win this friggin' game or I'm gonna punch a hole in the fan." Yesterday was the latter. Must wins are the kind of things that if you don't pull out, you're in serious danger of not getting where you want to be. Like mathematical danger. Although people talk about them as early as May and June, they really only exist in September. Before then, there are no musts. There's always time to correct whatever silliness you've created. But there sure are betters. Games that are important in the standings, but matter more for momentum, progress, and self-confidence. Had the Red Sox lost yesterday they would've dropped 3 of 4 to Anaheim and spoiled their first series of the 2nd half. Not the kind of thing that kills the postseason, but it certainly makes everyone feel a little worried. Talk shows rant, writers rave, and players are forced to tell us "hey, it's only July." And yeah, we know they're right, technically, but we also know they just lost a game they were supposed to win. And they sure as heck better win the next one. Luckily though, Schill pulled it out, and splitting on the road against Anaheim ain't so bad.

2. You know, people have a lot of bad things to say about Dan Duquette and a lot of good things to say about Theo Epstein, but Theo gets to spend at least 30 million more and he still has empty holes on the roster. Jimmy Anderson? Joe Nelson? Cesar Crespo? This is the best we can do with all that cash? Maybe I'm forgetting, but I don't remember too many guys like that getting serious time on a Duquette roster, and his clubs came up with a comparable amount of wins. The Ninth is speaking in generalities, and recognizes that if you look at DD's best teams their 1-25 were a bit suspect, but they did win. And they did it for a lot less bucks. That's all I'm saying.

3. The first five innings yesterday were just about as boring as baseball gets. Seems like there's been a lot of that this year.

4. But in the 6th, things perked up. Against pitchers that are motoring along, like John Lackey was for the first five, the important thing is to get them into the stretch. Anything that will disrupt their rhythm and mess with their focus is good. And because a lot of pitchers work better from the wind-up (especially young ones), you can usually get more hittable stuff. They keep runners off base because they're in the windup -- and they're in the windup because they keep runners off base. Hooray! A walk or an error or a bloop single can make the whole thing come undone. Yesterday, it was a walk. Damon got to first, and Lackey found himself in the stretch for only the third time of the day. And with a basestealer on to boot. What followed? Bellhorn single, Ortiz homer. Lackey was never the same. Somewhere, Earl Weaver is smiling. Or dead. Maybe he's just dead.

5. From balls and strikes to pitcher warnings to out and safe calls, that was easily the worst umpiring series I have seen. In the regular season of course (lest we forget ALCS, 1999, Superstar Tim Tchida). I think Lackey did hit Nomar on purpose, but if a warned Curt Schilling hitting the guy who homered against him doesn't warrant an ejection, what does? If he shot him? Would than be enough? What if he shot a fan? What is the warning for if you're not going to use it?

6. Francona is really dug in on this Manny issue, because there was a perfect chance to have him pinch hit yesterday and he didn't do it. In the 6th inning the bases were loaded and Dave McCarty was coming up. There were two outs, so it was make or break time, and because the bags were juiced, there was no way Anaheim could put Manny on. Up 3-1, it was still a tight game, but Boston had a chance to blow it open. Good time for your best hitter to pick up a bat. Where was Manny? Ritz Carlton'ing it up at the end of the bench. It's not totally clear what the issue is between Ramirez and Tito, but some serious stubbornness is involved.

7. Uh....Gabe Kapler? No, he shouldn't play more, but this sure is nice. All hot-dog-eating ladies in the monster seats, you are duly warned.

8. It almost, ALMOST, looks like the old Nomar is back. Yesterday he took a high and away fastball, normally the classic ingredient for a Garciapopup lunch special, and slammed it to right field. All the way to the wall and, thanks to an unpleasant play by Vladie, a triple. Impressive, Manny-like, going the other way stuff. Last year, his shoulder flies open and that ball is spinning to Erstad in foul ground before you can say "Fifteen Million".

9. Remember folks, the 2003 team didn't come together until Labor Day in Philadelphia. That's the beginning of September. Month and a half away. All it takes is two weeks of very good baseball to build a sustainable lead that can last the summer. Know how many road games Boston has left against teams with records above .500? 12. A dozen. All season. Not so bad, is it?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Irresponsible Predictions

The only thing less logical than midseason predictions of postseason matchups is preseason predictions of postseason matchups. We resisted that absurd little rite of passage in March, so now it doesn't seem so lame to try it out. At least we have three months of information to go on, as opposed to Opening Day when two ESPN writers picked the Vikings as sleepers in the National League. So we'll make a few picks, try to be as daring as reason will allow, and cross our fingers for the best. And yes, when we get one or two right you will never hear the end of it, even though that means we got the other 7 or 8 wrong.

---- Sad but true. The Red Sox could make up 7 games in the next 76, but it isn't something I'd bet The Official Ninth Farm and Wildlife Preserve on. They'd have to gain one game for every eleven played, and that's not easy against a team that figures to play some pretty solid ball. They've done it before (9 back before Morgan Magic), but unless the Yankees hit a cold stretch, they won't be doing it again.

---- I've had enough of the Twins, and I think Kenny Williams has finally made enough short-sighted deals to push the CWS over the top. Sure he gave up a ridiculous amount of prospects for Freddy Garcia (as he did last year for Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett), but it'll work for this season. Unless the ankle injury to Frank Thomas is worse than expected, and with him, you just never know. But the Twins just don't seem to have that old zip. Not a single everyday Twinkie has an OPS over .850, and that puts a lot of pressure on an already over-taxed defense and pitching staff. Their manager, Ron Gardenhire, makes Whitey Herzog look like a progressive thinker, and their refusal to start rookies Morneau and Restovich isn't helping.

AL WEST CHAMPION: Anaheim Angels
---- To be honest, I don't particularly like anyone in this division, and I don't understand how they keep winning. Texas has four good players (Teixeira, Young, Blalock, and Soriano) and a nice closer, but that isn't enough, and that rotation in the playoffs would fold faster than a stiff napkin. Could you imagine ex-Yankee Kenny Rogers starting Game 1 of the ALDS in Yankee Stadium? "Daddy, what happened to Kenny?", "He's dead son, he's dead". I've never understood how Oakland wins without any hitting, and with Zito looking shakier than a strawberry Fribble (sorry), the big three can't carry them again. Can they? Can they? I'm sorry, but no team that depends heavily on the offensive contributions of Scott Hatteberg can continue to make the playoffs. Right? Suddenly I'm not feeling so confident. Why Anaheim? Because their bullpen will be nasty again with a 100% Donnelly, I believe Colon will pitch better, and I think the Unit might be making a visit. They have the prospects, and the owner has been willing to spend. I vote with Jesus - go Angels.

AL WILD CARD: Boston Red Sox
---- Like I'm gonna pick someone else? The Red Sox are going to make it, just because their roster is so much better than their competitors. That doesn't mean however that they'll bust in with and S on their chests. I feel good things coming, but this bunch is very hard to predict.

NL EAST CHAMPION: Atlanta Braves
---- Every year it's the year. This time, for sure, without doubt, 100 percent, let it ride on the slide, the Braves are not winning the division. We've heard it forever. And guess what, they always win anyway. The Phillies are better, the Marlins are better, heck even the Mets could give 'em a run on paper, but that hasn't mattered before, and it won't now either. With a great GM and brilliant coaching, the Braves always seem to be right there in the end, and if for no other reason than that, the Ninth picks them to be again. It would be Bobby Cox's finest hour, and he should get Manager of the Year if he pulls it off. If Cox were managing the Phillie roster they'd be the best team in the game. Conversely, if Larry Bowa were in charge of the Braves the state of Georgia would have already had two failed attempts at seceding from the Union. There's that much difference.

NL CENTRAL CHAMPION: St. Louis Cardinals
---- Did you know Milwaukee is four games above .500? Good gravy. I mean, they're not gonna win or anything, but that deserves some recognition. St. Louis has a very strange club. They have the best record in baseball without a single starter having 10 wins. Matt Morris and Woody Williams are their best pitchers, but they're having off years. Chris Carpenter has been a God-send (both to them and my first place fantasy team), but you don't get the feeling that is going to last. A capital G Great offense will keep them afloat though, as Pujols, Rolen, and Jim Ed can salvage a lot of mediocre starts. I don't think they'll continue their pace or go far in playoffs with such a rotation, but a seven game lead is enough to hold off Chicago, Cincy and Co.

NL WEST CHAMPION: San Diego Padres
---- Sure, they're the hot sleeper pick, but there's a reason for that: they're pretty good. And the rest of their division is pretty eh. They play in a ridiculously lop-sided pitcher's park, but that tends to be a pretty good thing for a team's record. They need Jake Peavy to come back strong, and Adam Eaton must continue to show progress in harnessing his impressive stuff. This club has however, a much better offensive balance than San Fran or L.A., and the back end of their bullpen can pitch with anyone. Look at these baserunners allowed: Akinori Otsuaka (1.04 WHIP), Scott Linebrink (1.13), Trevor Hoffman (0.95). Youch. They're far from a shoe-in, but the new park and the quality turn-around has got to be giving them an energy edge over their California competitors.

NL WILD CARD: Chicago Cubs
---- Just too much pitching to not find the playoffs somehow. Healthy Prior and Wood, followed by Zambrano, Clement, and Maddux? Get out of town. Their offense and bullpen are nice too, but honestly, with starters like that, it doesn't really matter. They're the anti-Cardinals. On another note, if The Ninth is right (I laugh in the face of "if"), and Philly misses out on the playoffs, there should be a Senate sub-committee investigating Larry Bowa's job security. There hasn't been this big a waste of talent since Venus Flytrap was relegated to the overnight shift. Thome leading the league in homers, Abreu having a career year, Pat The Bat alive and willing, and a nifty little pitching staff to boot? This team needs to be playing better, just as it should have last year. Here's a little tip for GM Ed Wade: if your players every use the word "mutiny", even if it's just a joke, or say, refer to something else, like "hey, you wanna rent Mutiny on the Bounty tonight", fire your manager. Just fire him. It isn't worth it. The team costs too much, and decent managers are too easy to find. How Larry Bowa survived last season I have no idea, and if they miss the postseason and he survives again, it'll be a miracle. Santa Claus doesn't have that kind of job security.

****Late Amendment: Dusty Baker strikes again. If, as it may be, Dusty's well-documented abuse of young pitchers has ended Mark Prior's season, then the Cubs chances are ended right along with him. You gotta like the Phils a lot more for the Card, even with inconsistent starters and Bowa calling the shots.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Bottles and Cans

  • 2 Hamburgers, One Hot Dog, Corn on Cob, Potato Salad, Two Pieces of Cake, 6 Beers.

    4th of July: Spirited Celebration

    5th of July: Dangerous Lack of judgment

  • It's hard to get used to seeing those 77's and 78's in the RBI category for Manny and Ortiz. How do you get 80 RBI's in 86 games? I remember when you could lead a team with 90 for the season.

  • Mark Blount was a nice keep for the Celtics, and I'm delighted that Antonio Mcdyess is slipping away to Detroit. If you have qualify every evaluation with "if he's healthy...", then maybe it's best to keep the 20 mil in your pocket. I mean, you're not the Knicks, are you? Word is that Eric Williams and Rodney Rodgers are in mind for mid-level exemption money. I always liked E-dub, but he works much better as defense and energy off the bench than as a starter.

  • Anyone else think Randy Johnson is getting a little tired of Schill and Unit show?

  • "Hello Mr. Odom, I'd like to welcome you back to Los Angeles. It certainly has been a lo....uh, Mr. Odom? Wait. Please, sir, Lamar, where are you going? Mr. Odom? We really should be heading over to practice now...Coach was very specific about tha - Lamar, I don't think you're allowed to smoke that in here. Or anywhere. Please don't use that gesture, sir. Mr. Odom, please come back! Oh boy.

  • Mark Bellhorn at the halfway point (precisely, as it happens -- he has played exactly 81 games) has scored 62 runs and knocked in 50. If he manages a full second half, he'll end with....calculators ready.... 100 RBI and over 120 scored. That is, well, remarkable. Easily the overlooked stat of the season. Only two Red Sox second baseman have EVER knocked in 100, and one of them is Bobby Doerr. He did it six times through the 40's and 50's, but the other, old friend Del Pratt, did it just once. And do you know how many Boston two baggers have driven in 120? Ever? None. Zero. Goose Eggs. In the history of time. And somehow people want Bellhorn benched.

    As far as I can tell, the greatest season the Red Sox ever had from the position was in 1950 from Bobby Doerr. His line read: 103 R, 172 H, 29 2B, 11 3B, 27 HR, 120 RBI, 67 BB, 42 K, .294/.367/.519. If Bellhorn can get a full 162, he'll provide 124 R, 168 H, 36 2B, 4 3B, 22 HR, 100 RBI, 122 BB, 192 K, .268/.388/.443. How do you like that? Sure, there's a difference there, but it isn't a very big one. And people are missing Todd Walker? Bellhorn is a better defender, a better hitter, and much cheaper. He trumps Walker and brings more to the table than Pokey - he needs to play everyday. We all get a kick of Pokes, but Bellie has been quietly putting up historic numbers. You want to bench that just to get one highlight catch a week? No thanks.1) More people should be talking about what he's doing, and 2) He should play.

  • Early word is Clemens plans to wear another 300 patch on his glove tonight. "300 Reasons Piazza's Sucky".

  • The Ninth is constantly amazed by the lack of perspective and patience that fans and reporters have with major league managers. There are a couple great ones, many good ones, and a few crappy ones. But all of them, ALL OF THEM, make mistakes. You know why it seems like yours makes more? Because you don't watch the other ones everyday.

  • For one of the all-time idiotic rumor suggestions, check out (where else?) Dirt Dogs.


Monday, July 12, 2004

More Unit

Well, this should answer some RJ questions: Unit talks trade.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

RJ to Boston?

Ok, the win was sweet last night, but as we said yesterday, we want the sweep. On to some rumor mill fun.

Last night on NESN Boston Globe Sports Final Red Sox Weekly Whatever, Bob Lobel reported that the Red Sox were "heavily involved" in discussions for Arizona's Randy Johnson. Bob Ryan and Nick Cafardo were both in studio, throwing in some cents. Here's a breakdown for those who have lives.

FACTS (as reported):
- Theo Epstein is planning to meet with Randy Johnson several times over the All-Star Break to discuss waiving his no trade clause.

- Shonda Schilling has requested a seat next to Mrs. Johnson (bet she's a looker) during the game itself, ostensibly to promote living and playing in Boston.

- Randy's agent stated he's aware of no objections The Unit might have to playing with the Sox.

Ok, that's pretty much it for that category.

- Lobel suggested that Colangelo has no interest in making any deal with the Yankees as a result of their stealing away David Wells in 2002. Understandable, and was mentioned during the Schilling dealings this offseason, but hard to believe entirely. If the Yankees offered better players, the D-backs wouldn't take it? I could imagine Jerry C going with the Sox if the packages were a wash, but I doubt he'll be shutting the door on Cashman's foot any time soon.

- Ryan and Cafardo both felt that the Red Sox do not currently have the prospects required to get Johnson, and would need to trade big league talent to get them. The name that came up, of course, was Nomar Garciaparra. They had no evidence to support this, but they felt Boston would try to move #5, get youngsters, and turn some or all of them around to Arizona.

- Cafardo suggested he's been thinking this all along. Uh hu. That's why it's in all of your articles, right Nick?


There is some logic here. Theo has shown a great ability in the trade market to get the best player available (Floyd, Schilling, Sauerbeck, Kim), regardless of cost. His moves haven't always worked, but it seems more of his modus to get the big guns and leave the little stuff to others. RJ is, without doubt, the biggest of guns. Were the Red Sox not to make a huge move, it's hard to see how they could make a small one. They have no obvious holes or glaring weaknesses, and unless you can trade for a +10 in playing up to potential, they're basically set. Theo has obviously established a good relationship with Colangelo over the past couple of years, even if the Kim and Schill trades haven't worked out great. It makes sense that Epstein would pursue this angle hard, but who knows if it can actually get done.

The Nomar case is a bit less straightforward. I'm not sure I agree that more prospects would be needed. Boston has one of the top catching prospects, one of the top young third baseman, and a slew of very solid A and AA pitchers. That's more than the Yankees have, for certain. Would a 40 year old starter net much more than Beltran, a 28 year old, 5 tool centerfielder? Maybe a bit, because he has one year left on his contract - but that looks a lot like the package they offered to Kansas City. The Red Sox might very well have enough now, without having to move their shortstop. The question is, would they want to anyway? Hard to say, especially with him tearing the cover off the ball since Saturday. If I had to guess, I'd say Nomar stays and Theo plays with a Youkilis, Shoppach, Alvarez grouping. Might work, might now. But please, whatever happens, no more minute by minute refreshes of Dirt Dogs. Let's keep this one out of the press, ok?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Back in Black

Well it's been quite a first half, hasn't it? Red Sox Nation has seen comebacks, blow ups, knee scopes, sheath tears, beard shaves, inside the parkers, outside the parkers, and of course, lots and lots of errors. We've watched it all with a modicum of patience, but when the junk has hit the fan, more often than not, so have our angered fists. The record isn't good, but it isn't all that bad either, and even the most pessimistic of fans have to feel comfortable about Wild Card competitors like Texas and Chicago. Right now though, that doesn't make a whole lot of difference. Right now we're having trouble forgetting the pre-4th massacre in New York, the disgusting 3 of 9 in Colorado, San Francisco, and Minnesota, and the overall mediocrity since May 1st. It's not just that their potential has gone unfulfilled, although that has been a hoot, it's that this hasn't been any damn fun. Yes, fans watch because they want their team to succeed, but they also want something much simpler: a good time. They want to relax on a Tuesday night when the other options are CSI: Dayton and Gay Black Alien Bachelor. They want to see a team to root for, that shows spirit and pleasure in 2-1 wins and 8-4 losses. The Red Sox have not been that, and we're starting to worry that maybe they never will.

Last night, Boston destroyed the A's. Two players that hold a great deal of Boston's future in their bats, Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar, both had big nights. It has become evident that Damon, Manny, and Ortiz are all going to contribute daily, and we won't really know where to look for back up. Game 1 against Oakland should have served as an inspirational retort to that dilemma, but The Ninth remains skeptical. And I have a pretty good feeling you do too. We've learned not to trust these Sox, and not in the usual "Sure, they get your hopes up now, but in September they'll break your heart again" Boston way, but in the "Tuesday was fun, I bet Wednesday sucks" way they do things in Detroit. These Red Sox are Vin Baker in stirrups: Day to mother f'n Day. There are really only two options. Either this is the worst stretch of the season, or they're a bad team. That's it. When Bill Simmons suggests that this year has been both a disaster and the happiest of his Red Sox life, I think he took one too many "writing sessions" with Adam Carolla. There is no happiest here, no good and bad, no ying and yang. This has been ying, ying, a bit more ying, and then finally, some more ying. We've been watching a very good team play not very well and waiting for that to change -- and it's been a few fireworks short of the 4th. Hey, maybe they'll pull it off. 81 games is forever, and when God invented easy months even he didn't plan on something like the Red Sox August. But until I see it, I will not believe it. There will be no exciting trades or thrilling acquisitions. They'll have to turn it around with what they've got now, and all that really entails is playing as good as (gasp) they're capable of. We all know they're better, we're just getting a little tired of waiting for them to show it.

So spare me the 11-0's followed by the 7-2 losses. I've seen it, I know what it looks like, and I don't want to see it again. Show me an 11-0, followed by a 4-1 Pedro win, rounded out by a nice Curt Schilling shutout. That's right, I want a sweep. Haven't I earned it? Haven't we all? And then, maybe then, after we've seen a decisive display of ball, will we think about having fun again. Because we're too sore and we're too tired to just give our affections away. There's still plenty of time to make 2004 a Season To Remember, but these Sox are going to have to earn it. Show us now, and we'll believe you later. Trust me, we want it as badly as you do.