Monday, June 20, 2005

The Ninth Begins

Oh all right, I'll come back.

How to comprehensively catch you up on the Ninth's thoughts about this year's team? I know, it's not your fault, it's mine, but we can get past this. Let's go one by one.

Jason Varitek: Uh, did you see the plate block he pulled on Jack Wilson this weekend? For those of you who missed it, Jason leaned to his right to receive an incoming throw while dropping his leg like a New Jersey barrier over the left side of the plate -- and Wilson bounced off it like a drunk kid at a Green Day concert. It was the greatest bit of plate protection since Eric Byrnes simply gave up and went back to the dugout in the 2003 ALDS. I'm sorry (really I'm not), but Varitek must win the Gold Glove this year. Enough of this Pudge nonsense. And going into tonight's game, his OPS was more than 100 points higher than any other catcher's. Guess what - best in the game.

Doubling Doug Mirabelli: Other than his moderately homophobic behavior on "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy", Douglas has done little of note this season. Who thought that episode wasn't going to be offensive?

Kelly Shoppach: Somehow managed to strike out more times than he actually went to the plate.

Kevin Millar: I've gotta say, I was getting entirely sick of the Kevin Millar act. Play like crap, talk your mouth off, pretend like you're important. He kept saying "wait for me to get hot", and then asked for hard foul liners to be counted as hits. Then, whether it was closing his stance or Olerud putting on the pressure, he actually did get hot. He may end up with .280, 15, 80 after all. And his defense is better than he gets credit for. Who woulda thought. Now, if he could just hit to right field...

John Olerud: The Ninth has always loved Johnny O, ever since he watched the Mets entirely collapse after they replaced him with Todd Zeile. He's got enough left in the tank to be a perfect fit for pinch hitting and defensive replacements. Should start no more than twice a week.

Mark Bellhorn: Here's the thing, Mark Bellhorn stinks. The strikeouts are a hilarious running joke, but there are worse things in the world. And you know what's one of 'em? A .355 slugging percentage. The only everyday second basemen worse is Orlando Hudson, but at least he's a gold glover. Mark's OPS is under .700, which is not really acceptable for a major leaguer. He's still a major leaguer, right? He's great around the bag, but the hitting must be addressed. The Ninth has long heralded the numbers Bellhorn put up last year, but if doesn't improve soon, Theo will have to make a move.

Ramon Vazquez: Possibly the biggest disappointment on the Sox. Sad, but true. Has been a wasted roster slot all year, and somewhere in there he has talent. Could've helped pick up the slack for Bellhorn, but it ain't happening. Anyone have Mike Lansing's cell phone number?

Edgar Renteria: Very good, but not great. What exactly were you expecting? Wouldn't mind if he opened up that batting stance a little, give him a chance to use that wall.

Bill Mueller: A key to the Red Sox offense. Have you noticed how well they've clicked since he started hitting? I hope you haven't, because then that last sentence would be kind of boring. Gives Boston that vital, Scott Brosius-esque hitter at the bottom of the lineup. He'll be a very interesting contract case this winter, largely because of....

Kevin Youkilis: Peter Gammons says Theo has him starting at third in '06. He's ready for it. Good enough gap power and a nice little .870 OPS in limited action. According to various reports, Youk has taken ground balls at every infield position including shortstop, so you know Francona wants him involved. Could he use a little Rogaine, sure, but which of us is perfect?

(We've gotten to the outfield. You, and more importantly I, have earned a cocktail.)

Manny Ramirez: Leads the league in OF assists. How odd. The AL began this season the way they did '03, pitching Manny religiously on the outside corner. While he can certainly hit that pitch, it's hard for even Manny to consistently knock it out of the park. So he started to jerk the ball, flying open in an effort to pull. It's taken Ramirez at least a month to get out of the habit, but it looks like he's starting to come around. If Manny's offense is your only concern though, you're living a charmed existence. Hit a rope tonight, by the way.

Johnny Damon: More hits than any other AL'er, which is always nice. If there is a critique, it's the lack of power. Has had double digit home runs every year since '98 except for one, and right now Damon's got only two. But he's on pace for 115 runs scored, and that's what he's here for. Another tricky contract issue for the offseason, if only because Hanley Ramirez is going to play somewhere.

Trot Nixon: Cooled off a bit lately, as his OPS has dropped under .900, but having a very solid year. Wouldn't it be a good time to see if he can hang in against lefties just a little bit? If/when it comes playoff time, do you really want to see Jay Payton, or, more likely, Kapler-son getting starts? Maybe this is a dead issue, it's clearly never going to happen.

Jay Payton: A tricky situation. The guy wants to play, and I get it, The Ninth wants to play too. And if it weren't for this chronic knee problem and total lack of ability, I would. Problem is, he truly is a 4th outfielder. He's mostly started in his career, but for either bad teams or ones that needed a centerfielder. But there are still plenty of those clubs around, so if he wants 162, he could get it somewhere. Will probably get moved because Theo is a good guy, and because Kapler's presence is missed. He is what he is: good glove, decent stick. Have fun in Detroit.

David Ortiz: The best DH in baseball, an MVP candidate, and he looks funny when he runs. What more could you ask for? Oh, also he's ridiculously underpaid. Sure, we traded Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson, but Minnesota traded David Ortiz for an empty roster slot. Youch. We woulda thrown in Heathcliff Slocumb if they'd asked.

Ok, Sox are winning 9-4 and Bellhorn just struck out. It's sort of like watching Saturday Night Live and thinking, "wait, they're doing the Cheerleaders sketch again?". But they do, and it's always sort of fun. Anyway, we're almost caught up. Next time, the pitching...