Sunday, July 31, 2005

Work is a Four-Letter Word

Although they say the only sure things in life are death and taxes, 'work' comes pretty close. Is being independently wealthy everything it's cracked up to be? I'll never know.

Two things that I've never heard are "I have too much money," and someone on their deathbed saying "I wish I spent more time at the office." The conflict between the desire for more and the wish for more time off remains immutable.

People line up pretty quickly against Manny Ramirez because "he makes so much money." That's a relatively weak argument in comparison with helping out your business because another employee (Trot Nixon) is unavailable for whatever reason. Responsibility to the team counts, too.

There isn't a business in America where corporate executive types receive exactly the same treatment as the men and women on the line. Doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs don't punch the clock. Well, maybe lawyers do, so they can get billable hours. As a colleague reminds me, "remember the Golden Rule, he who has the gold makes the rules."

Concerning the height of hypocrisy, I'd ask the following questions. "Do you ever not want to go to work in the morning?" "Have you ever called in sick or taken a personal day for a marginal reason?" "Have you given your employer and your job one-hundred percent attention, determination, and focus every day of your life?" "Have you ever been late for work?" "Have you ever left work a few minutes early?"

I've worked pretty hard for over the last thirty years from college, medical school, internship and training, and in medical practice. Have I ever struck out (yes), been overtired (all the time), disenchanted (certainly), disenfranchised (absolutely), or wished I were somewhere else doing something else (regularly)? My guess is that applies to practically everyone, because work is a four-letter word.

Was Manny Ramirez 'right' to insist on a day off because he had been promised one? Is Manny self-absorbed and immature at times? Does trading him for spite provide addition through subtraction?

Manny's a flawed athlete and professional, who's made mistakes and will continue to do so, here or elsewhere. We can get twenty-five choir boys and finish 0 and 162, or try to work with talented athletes to maximize performance. Which do you want?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Why the Desperation

Manny Ramirez is not the problem. Note that absent Manny, David Ortiz didn't see anything to hit and his production will fall.

The issue is additional pitching staff stability, although Bradford seems to have helped. It would be great to get more for the top of the rotation, which would clearly require trading something of value, and at this point Bill Mueller has looked pretty sharp lately, too.

If the Sox are just trying to dump Manny, that's hardly a viable strategy to build a better team.

"We eat our young"

Sports sometimes rewards athletes handsomely, and despite the mercurial Boston weather, they sometimes choose to settle here. Not surprisingly, we might see them at the same restaurants, stores, or theaters that we patronize.

I remember going into the local YMCA to shoot a few hoops, and who's there but JoJo White. All we share is a polite smile, as he is working with his daughter on her game. Does JoJo need my approval for his accomplishments? Not really, he just wants to help his little girl. Hank Finkel is a fixture in the local scene, and it's hard to be anonymous and seven feet tall.

When I met Ronnie Lippett, we were both parents on an AAU team. Like me, he was more interested in the games than the past. He did confide his great respect for Ray Berry, whom he said was the best pro coach for whom he played, because he could handle the players as men best.

Jerry Moses introduced himself, and I was surprised, as in 'Jerry Moses from Yazoo, Mississippi?' A very pleasant fellow, but we never talked baseball.

None of these gentlemen got celebrity treatment, nor did they ask for it. Like other professionals, athletes want respect for what they do, and space for their private lives. Most will accommodate reasonable requests, but they want to be able to share some free time with their friends and families. That isn't asking so much.

While we vilify them in the media (and on the internet), we admire them for their special talents, even when their performance isn't at peak levels. Unfortunately, the fact that they make a lot of money, by any standards, often makes us feel a certain entitlement, to their time and to success...that's our problem, not theirs.

Maybe Fenway, Gillette, or the Garden need a sign over the entrance, "we eat our young", because so often Boston does that. Maybe I read that somewhere, or maybe I'm imagining it, but sadly, it's often true.

Make No Mistake

keywords: trades, Red Sox, minor league development, Theo Epstein, John Henry, Manny Ramirez

Red Sox management faces some substantial challenges this weekend, as they try to balance winning, business, player development, public relations, and team chemistry. What must be going through the minds of ownership and GM Theo Epstein as they effect 'decision analysis' this weekend?

Winning. Coming off of a championship season, Sox fans keep high expectations, in addition to paying baseball's highest prices. Any deals have to consider the impact on winning now and long term. Posturing about a new stadium in our lifetime is over, as the Sox have committed to renovating Fenway to the best of their ability, while continually jacking up prices. Do Aubrey Huff (first base) and Mike Cameron (right field) compensate for the loss of Manny Ramirez' formidable bat and protection for David Ortiz? The impact on Ortiz has to be calculated.

Moving Ramirez doesn't help the pitching, which is currently the team's Achilles Heel.

Business. John Henry didn't get to be one of the richest men on the planet because he was stupid. Moving Ramirez provides considerable payroll flexibility for the future. Reportedly, Henry is adamant about not paying any of Ramirez salary if Manny is traded. Freeing up payroll could allow the Sox to acquire a power-hitting first baseman and allocate more resources to the pitching staff. Realistically, the minor league strength of the team is the pitching, and protecting those assets remains paramount.

Player Development. With Varitek and Mirabelli locked up through 2008 and 2006, the path for Kelly Shoppach is blocked and rumor has it he's headed for Colorado as part of the Bigbie trade. Theo Epstein has said that Jon Papelbon, Jon Lester, and Hanley Ramirez aren't going anywhere, and Craig Hansen probably isn't either, as the Sox must have some concerns about Keith Foulke's return to form. The Sox seem to have a number of solid prospects at the A and AA level. I have no idea how they view Abe Alvarez, either as the poor man's Mark Buehrle, or Bruce Chen.

The Sox seem very reluctant to move players up, probably for a variety of reasons- fear of failure by the young players, major league service time, forty-man roster shifts, or criticism about passing over 'established' choices. It's hard to imagine that Theo Epstein would fear for his job security.

Public Relations. After winning, what's more important than PR. Rumor has it the Sox had as much concerns about some of the players who are gone off the field as on it. One would imagine that Epstein would like to follow the Patriots model with more character guys for whom baseball is important. Varitek, Nixon, Renteria, and Mueller are clearly those kinds of players. However, how is Mueller's refusal to play second base so different than Ramirez' behavior?

Team Chemistry. I'm a believer that it's overrated. Performance is underrated. As long as players are playing hard and to their maximum performance, the team has the best chance of winning. Numerous dysfunctional teams (Oakland Raiders, Oakland Athletics in the past, late 70s Yankees teams and others) performed splendidly despite rivalries and jealousies. The GM who fills his clubhouse with chemistry guys who don't produce ends up being the guy looking for a job. Alan Embree supposedly is a great guy, but didn't get it done, and he's gone. Bill Mueller is a professional, former batting titlist, but hasn't had a great year, is a free agent, and has a potentially able backup in Kevin Youkillis.

Summary. Maybe Manny Ramirez is gone, but if he goes, I suspect that it will substantially effect the offense, particularly David Ortiz. Without a great or even solid pitching staff currently, diminished offense will produce fewer victories. As Earl Weaver said, "it's all about what happens on that little hump in the middle of the field."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Manny Being Manny or Manny-Handled?

Oh, to be one of those Johnny-come-lately types who only knows championships and winning. That's not I.

Having started watching the Sox around 1961, I never had the privilege of watching Ted Williams, but he occasionally failed to run out the odd groundball, and heard the raspberries. Yaz, architect of the Impossible Dream, also sinned against the baseball gods, and caught the wrath of the fans. Jim Rice wasn't the smoothest left-fielder, but learned the wall, and in addition to being a feared slugger, grounded into too many double plays. Boo! Mike Greenwell had a brief shining career, and a longer one of mediocrity. Now we have Manny.

How much passion is enough? At times, Manny makes dynamic catches, and his twelve outfield assists aren't enough. But you can't put up numbers on the bench, and how can't Terry Francona feel 'torqued off' by Manny. Obviously, Manny is a sensitive guy, and he's good with the younger players, and most of the fans recognize the man can flat out hit. The Sox knew what they were getting when they brought the elephant to the party, hoping their fence would get knocked down. Now they reap what they sow.

L'affaire ROOTS (Royal Order of The Splinter) only answers to 'saving face'. Manny played hookey, and can best extricate himself, Terry Francona, the team, and management with a simple apology. I truly believe that he was tired, and wanted a day off. Hell, I'm tired and want a day off. A true professional works through it, 'sucking it up', but who among us doesn't have some shortcomings. Yeah, we don't make twenty million, but sometimes we forget to show up for an event, or don't pay a bill on time, or don't tell our wife and kids that we love them often enough. It's never enough. Honestly.

Manny doesn't have to kiss anybody's butt here. A simple 'I am truly sorry and will try to do better,' is enough. Play ball.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

No More Nails

Every game seems to be a life-and-death struggle, even against the lowly D-Rays, who have some athleticism and lack pitching.

Speaking of pitching, my son reminds me that Mike Myers is the Sox second best reliever (after Timlin). Although the Sox have cleaned house (arthroscopy for Foulke, highway for Embree and Halama), the remainder of the furniture, including Bradford and Jeremi Gonzalez aren't exactly Spahn and Sain.

Manny Delcarmen looked good in his cameo yesterday, with real heat (no Allen Ripley or Al Nipper fastballs) and some presence. Nobody's putting him in Cooperstown, but at least he has better stuff than the tryout squad.

The Nixon injury throws a monkey wrench into Theo's plans, as neither Stern, Hyzdu, or Welcome Back Kapler are everyday players.

Here's my radical suggestion, which has an absolutely zero percent chance of happening.

1) Elevate Papelbon to middle relief, with promotion to starting if merited.
2) Move Manny Ramirez to right field
3) Promote Hanley Ramirez (hell, we've got all the Millar/Mueller/Millers) around and play him in left, batting ninth. He can't be any worse than Manny and I bet that the promotion would energize him and get the Sox a guy playing with his 'hair on fire'.
4) Promote Jon Lester to Pawtucket

The closer issue remains unsettled. Schilling clearly doesn't have the same stuff and command as he had, and it's impossible to project what he will do. Should we be down on him? Hardly, it's just asking a lot for him to be the savior without more time.

Will Clement miss a start or more? I've practiced medicine for almost 25 years, and seen a lot of 'head bumps' and not a lot worse than his. People with far less trauma get 'post-concussive' headache (the brain gets rattled pretty hard in the tight box we call a skull) and the heat and physical stress of pitching are going to make it tough on Matt. Good luck to him.

What do the Sox need? A solid run of good starting pitching would help a lot. Let's hope that Arroyo (presuming he stays) and Miller can get it together.

Theo, don't forget to charge the phone. Our nails are chewed off.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Case in Point

"Winning isn't everything, it is the only thing." - Vince Lombardi

The Red Sox (reigning World Champions) morphed into Red Sox redux amidst injuries (Matt Clement with a terrifying Floriesque beaning on the mound, Trot Nixon injured swinging), defensive struggles (Renteria), rookie debut (Manny Delcarmen with a powerful inning), and Curt Schilling struggling but hanging on.

The Sox won ugly but at least they won. If Nixon goes on the DL, then Hyzdu, like Zelda, might get extra lives. Meanwhile Jon Papelbon got his first AAA win with 8 Ks in 5 innings as the Pawsox won the first of two. Papelbon might be headed north as well, especially if Clement can't clear the cobwebs or worse.

Theo must be wearing out the cellphone batteries by now.

The Ultimate Reality Check

Theo Epstein and the baseball staff have to be asking themselves - is this team, as currently constituted, good enough to win again? If not, how much of the farm system are they willing to try to get the necessary pieces? How much will this disrupt the clubhouse?

Realistically, Varitek and Damon have been outstanding, and Manny and Ortiz have produced at expected levels. Nixon has been a disappointment (you wouldn't trade him for Carl Crawford in a nanosecond?), and the infield has been near catastrophic, with mediocre defense (including Edgar Renteria), and very limited production.

The pitching has varied, barely adequate in the rotation, with problems everywhere except Timlin in the setup role (inherited runners?) and Myers as LOOGY - lefty out of the pen to get one guy. Schilling doesn't look anything like last year's version with either command or velocity, and that's the reality.

Okay, so the Sox are in first. That and $4.25 will get you a bottled water in Fenway.

In parts, the team has grown old, and is not very 'athletic' as a whole. Too many of the parts are purchased not developed.

We can't leave 'em, but it's hard to love 'em as they are, and they certainly aren't good enough to win the AL (never mind the whole enchilada) without a substantial retooling. Sorry to burst your bubble, Dr. Pangloss, but that's how it is.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Amateur Hour

Ultimately the General Manager, through the field manager determines the 'acceptability' of play of each player. Management, not players, remain accountable and responsible for the team on the field. Money can't play, and I don't mean Don Money or Norm Cash either. All of which brings us to the strange case of Kevin Millar.

Millar is Mister Intangibles. He isn't particularly consistent at the plate, can't run, and his defense is mediocre not average. Obviously, his tools as wordsmith ("Cowboy Up") and clubhouse demeanor exceed his day-to-day contribution on the field. One can only wonder when this neo-Greenwell can wear out his welcome via underachievement.

Okay, let's look at the numbers. For the whole season, which is the only standard we have, not July, but we'll get back to that. Of the fourteen regular first basemen, Millar is tenth in OPS (.754) and tied for last in homers (4). He is twelfth in slugging percentage, tied for last in both runs scored and runs batted in (RBI), and last in the combination of runs plus RBI.

Okay, so he's done 'better' lately. In July, he's slugged a mighty .818 OPS, with no homers, five RBI, and scored 10 runs.

So, you might argue, that because of the overall strength of the offense, you might be able to tolerate his offense if he were a great defender. Well, there's the rub. He's not even close, with mediocre range and mediocre hands.

Why does Terry Francona keep running him out there? Astrology, a OUIJA board, compromising photographs, orders from the front office, or mediocre competition? Anyway, last year Theo repaired the 'fatal flaw' by getting the 'ball-hawk' Mientkiewicz, who at least could pick it at first. If only Sox fans would picket Millar at first. Could Roberto Petagine or Kevin Youkilis be any worse? I doubt it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Want What You Have

Life presents us with a thousand paradoxes. We want meaning when often there is none. A cloud generated from fractal mathematics might look like an animal or a face, but remains solely a mathematical construct.

Baseball weaves itself into the tapestry of society. In 1964, Halberstam views the pennant races in the context of race relations. Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax shows us how the legendary southpaw emerges not only as a star but an unlikely, unwilling, and introspective Jewish hero from Bensonhurst. Koufax the 'Greek God' becomes Koufax the superstar, yet humble enough to support struggling rookies and veterans alike, while his body breaks down from Olympian innings and pitch counts literally running over 200 at times.

Fast forward to 2005. Social issues remain concerning war and peace, prosperity and ethics, privacy versus government intrusion, terrorism, religion and secularism, isolationism and imperialism. Sports heroes have the opportunity to be cultural champions, but of what? Society remains polarized concerning most of the pressing contemporary issues. Athletes who speak out have little to gain, exposing themselves to charges of ignorance, bigotry, sexism, or worse.

While we need heroes, legitimate profiles in courage, most often they are ordinary people fashioning extraordinary actions, rather than celebrities out of their arena. When an athlete or celebrity ventures into these areas, we are quick to repudiate their motives or their expertise, especially if their position conflicts with our core beliefs.

Yes, I want my heroes to be larger than life, paragons of virtue, with firm positions on critical cultural and social controversies. But here's the rub: I want an intersection with my beliefs and values, opinions based on fact not ideologies, on science and statistics, concise and logical. Yet I don't want prepackaged merchandising either, but sincere and heartfelt truths, springing from intelligence, integrity, and energy. I want too much, but I'm not giving up hope.

Noise or Signal?

One week to go before the trading deadline, and the Red Sox hold a 1 1/2 game edge on the Yankees, and in the broader Wild Card perspective, the Sox are up a game on the Twins and two games on the surging Athletics.

Billy Beane sold off two of the Big Three, has mediocre offense, and yet has come roaring back on the arms of Danny Haren and Rich Harden, with some Barry Zito thrown in for good measure.

The O's get addition by subtraction with Sidney Ponson moving back to the NL in exchange for Phil Nevin.

The Sox continue to lead the AL in runs scored, on base percentage, and OPS. Conversely, they are 11th in ERA (4.82), and 11th in opponents OPS. Worse still they are dead last in relievers OPS (.810).

So, what does the roster/rotation look like coming into the stretch. I'm going to presume one major deal, probably involving getting more relief.

C - Varitek Mirabelli
1B Millar Olerud (Petagine?)
2B Graffanino Cora
SS Renteria
3B Youkilis Mueller
OF Ramirez
OF Damon
OF Nixon
OF Stern
OF Kapler
U Bellhorn (DL)

P Schilling
P Wells
P Wakefield
P Miller or Arroyo
P Clement
P Acquisition/
RP Gonzalez
RP Myers
RP Bradford Halama
RP Timlin
RP Foulke (DL)
RP Rookie Callup (Papelbon/Lester/DelCarmen)

Players in Bold Red possible trade

The question for Theo Epstein is what type of trades constitute 'signal' versus 'noise' that creates only change for change sake. Additionally, if the club wishes to keep salary discipline (that's a joke), then they cannot trade away premium minor league talent (Ramirez, Papelbon, Lester, DelCarmen, Sanchez) that can become the core of the team with contained salaries.

Anibal Sanchez lowered his ERA last night in AA to 1.23 and has 22 strikeouts in 13 plus Portland innings. I'm only pleading that Lester's skipped start doesn't mean he's trade bait.


Well, back from a cruise and the Sox, playing mediocre baseball, remain in first place, thanks to the remaining mediocrity in the division.

Of course, were I to go to Fenway, I'd need a program, because Bellhorn is on the DL, Alan Embree (reputedly a very good guy) is gone and Kevin Youkilis is subjected to the Coach Boone 'up-downs'. Tony Graffanino is here, and so is Adam Hyzdu (why?), and Kapler is at Lowell.

Meanwhile, Papelbon had another dominant performance at Pawtucket (in a Gibsonian 1-0 loss) and Jon Lester has his start 'skipped' to rest and to work on mechanics. Please Theo, do not even consider trading the organization's one power LHP prospect.

Schilling is in the pen, or is he back in the rotation, and we're talking about trading Arroyo for A.J. Burnett, another soon-to-be mercenary on the free agent market.

Hanley Ramirez is playing second, and Pedroia has been bitten by the injury bug and AAA pitching.

Is Manny DelCarmen the next piece?

Time to let the smoke clear before we trade away something else for rent-a-players.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Not Going Anywhere

Nothing like a crisply played, well-pitched baseball game. Maybe we'll see one tonight, but I'm not holding my breath. Because the Red Sox and Yankees believe in plate discipline (capitalizing on the paucity of good pitching in baseball), the games drag on and on.

Yesterday, with ostensibly two of the best pitchers in baseball starting, the game went 3:34, with 186 pitches from Red Sox hurlers and 154 from Yankee twirlers. Good for hotdog and water vendors, not good for mothers with small children.

The Moneyball approach isn't objectionable, it's just tedious when the teams employing it get together. What about the rest of the AL. Yesterday, Cleveland-Chicago was 2:46, Tampa-Toronto 2:54, Texas-Oakland 2:54, Angels-Twins 2:59, Royals-Tigers 2:44, and Seattle-Baltimore 2:39, in a battle of slopballers, Moyer versus Chen. By the way, Jamie Moyer has 200 wins...(why can't we get guys like that?).

Speaking of Moyer, three more wins and he'll be in the top 100 pitching winners in history. He'll also be able to collect Social Security, right? He's finished in the top 10 in ERA five times, won 20 games twice, been in the top 4 in winning percentage four times, and is in the top 10 in active players for career wins. He'll need a ticket to get into Cooperstown, but he's had a very good career, one he can proudly discuss with his grandchildren (they're probably in Little League now).

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Four-Letter Words

I had some good news and some bad news tonight. I fell asleep shortly after Curt Schilling climbed his Mount Olympus, ready to assume his place among the baseball gods. Shortly thereafter, I awoke to find the Sox trailing 8-6, after a mind-numbing A-Rod two-run shot.

Unfortunately, Mariano Rivera had his Superman suit on tonight, and the Sox surrendered on strikes to drop the series opener.

Failing to protect 4-0, 5-4, and 6-5 leads certainly created more than a little disappointment, and the great Closer by Former Phillie plan gets off to a glacial start. Mike Mussina managed to hang around longer than he deserved, and one starts to get the feeling that some subtle changes in the club's construction are under way.

Meanwhile, down on the farm, Hanley Ramirez has been clubbing the ball lately, and seems energized, either by the promotions going on around him, or the realization that his turn may be coming closer than any of us appreciate. David Murphy, he of the 'no stick' has miraculously raised his average to .285, and although he looks like he needs some weight room time to me, has opened a lot of eyes.

Manny DelCarmen proved himself human tonight with a blown save loss for the PawSox, but Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia accounted for five hits, three runs scored, and two RBI.

Local kid (?) Steve Langone took the loss for the Wilmington BlueRocks. I haven't seen him (presuming it's the same Langone) for a dog's age, but wonder whether he's got enough stuff to go with the finesse and control. It's hard not to root for any local guy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ba$eball, Lie$, and Videotape

The All-Star break allows us to reflect on the game of baseball. Baseball remains great enough that the people who run the game could not destroy it, however hard they try.

Players who genuinely love living their dream become the exception not the rule. How many of us dreamed of standing in that field of green in front of Fenway's Monster? Passion ebbs domestically, imported from our impoverished southern neighbors. Sparkplugs like Miguel Tejada, David Ortiz, and Vlad Guerrero become the catalyst for maintaining contact with the fans. Other exceptions exist, too. Jason Varitek is renowned for his video study trying to give his pitchers the subtle edge that breeds victory.
Players overestimate their role in the galaxy. Johnny Damon, the self-proclaimed 'Idiot' talks of being almost universally known. Humility and ability never became mutually exclusive. Gary Sheffield rebuffs the concept of a world tournament, 'made up'. John Rocker lambastes fellow travelers from worlds different than his, and Carl Everett dismisses both dinosaurs and Rocker's targets, too. Kenny Rogers bites the media hands that feed him and his family, and is rewarded with an All-Star trip.

The elegant symmetry of the sport allows a properly fielded groundball to defeat the fleetest runner. Historical ballparks construed a balance between pitching and hitting achievement. College baseball distorted reality with the aluminum bat, and major league baseball did it with rabbit balls, smaller parks, lower mounds, and ultimately juiced players.

When confronted with the distortions, baseball elects denial, principally via organized 'labor', a Union run by the rich for the rich. Millionaires quarrel with billionaires over who will become enriched further, fastest. Players on the cusp of shattering records weaken and atrophy, for reasons unknown or unspoken. Fans become endless taps for revenue, with player hubris growing steadily.

Umpires become hostage to videotape, as Ques-Tec enforces what common sense could not. The strike zone regrows and home run totals shrink.

The challenges facing baseball and humanity intertwine on this common ground. How both choose to overcome their struggle will determine their ultimate survival. It's hard to feel good about either's progress, with self-interest ignored and self-destruction their chosen path.

Dunk You Very Much (Celtics OT)

Blog Radio

Periodically, someone is moved to respond pro or con to an opinion. That's great. I have been wrong, may be wrong, and will again be wrong in the future. Your opinion counts just as much as mine, except of course, concerning faith and morals (pitching)...just kidding.

If Jim Rome, or talk radio hosts say something ludicrous, false, plain wrong, or biased, then half the time it becomes gospel. In a word, NOT. The lowliest 12 year-old has the right to his opinion. If Larry Bigbie is the kid's favorite 'great' player, that doesn't demean Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente, the kid just likes Larry Bigbie.

If you wanted my opinion on the stock market, the defense budget, Sudan, or asparagus, you wouldn't come for it here. Just because I have an opinion about some Red Sox or MLB issue doesn't make it so. Have an opinion, your version of reality. But don't beat yourself up about an opinion, there will always be someone else to do it for you.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Lester the Molester

For seven innings tonight southpaw Jon Lester of the Sea Dogs (AA) has held New Hampshire to one hit, one walk and fanned 13.

Time for a promotion with consecutive dominant performances? Lester belongs with former teammate Jon Papelbon as he is just blowing away people in AA.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Let 'er Rip

According to ESPN (about the only thing left free with all the columnists going pay site), Kenny Rogers plans to attend the All-Star game in Detroit.

Okay, so Mr. Rogers has pitched very well in the neighborhood. Also he was voted in by the players. So let's all just smile, put on a happy face, and Kenny can enjoy the atmosphere, the adulation, the charisma attendant at the Mid-season classic.

Hell, no! Mr. Rogers is no ambassador of good will, rather a talented, spoiled, unprofessional, and boorish self-absorbed jerk who felt compelled to attack cameramen, TWICE. That merits not only a suspension but censure from baseball's showcase of stars. Players shouldn't be rewarded for being (frankly) jerks. Whether he realizes it or not, he is a role model.

So Bud Selig, do the right thing, and suspend Mr. Rogers from the All-Star Classic. Oh great and powerful wizard, just do it.

Fat chance.

Living on a Prayer

She says: We've got to hold on to what we've got
'Cause it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not.
We've got each other and that's a lot
for love -We'll give it a shot.

We're half way there
- Livin' on a prayer
Take my hand and we'll make it
-- Jon Bon Jovi

Mercifully, after yet another road trip, the Sox reach the All-Star break in first place, the unofficial halfway mark of baseball's marathon.

The pitching staff has been living on a prayer, but we can hope that the young guns are coming. Craig Hansen is only megabucks away from a shot, Manny DelCarmen has been lights out moving to AAA, and the Jons- Papelbon and Lester are pressing for time. There's bound to be some deals in the making...

Sox fans remember the Ripleys, Remmerswaals, Rohrs, and Sprowls who were either rushed or too limited to become fixtures in the majors. We remember the catatonic but brilliant Rogelio Moret, and guys like Jerry Stephenson who never made it, and Don Aase who ended up having a decent career, without ever helping the Red Sox.

Maybe the hardest part of being a baseball fan is patience. Fans demand effort and consistency, all too often hard to deliver. But watching guys like Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez at the Futures Game, the Nation needs to avoid panic to allow the young 'uns to develop.

Meanwhile, back in the asylum, management and manager Terry Francona have to deal with guys who are potentially short-timers with big egos and demands. Like Gary Payton, Jay is history after Cedric Maxwell's 'night at the opera' performance ME-ME-ME. Kevin Millar, a force only in the clubhouse, needs to boost his performance and cap his complaining or he'll be looking for a new home. Mike Timlin has done yeoman work in the setup role, but let's hope that contract aspirations aren't cramping his team spirit.

Is it asking too much to ask players to play hard, and try not to manage the organization? Baseball requires enough concentration to keep players busy trying to maintain or enhance their skills, without interfering with the broad goals of the organization - winning and development, both on and off the field. If a player doesn't want to be here, and has only his interests in mind, have the decency to go to management and ask out, behind the scenes. A little class goes a long way.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Question for the Day

Gotta run, gotta work. That's the curse of the profession.

Question for the day, "although most here obsess about the Red Sox, is this a likable team?" Last years merry band of idiots had a certain charm, but maybe success mandates reevaluation. After success, often introspection brings egocentric behavior as they say on radio WIFM (what's in it for me?).

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I Never Liked Him Anyway...

While it's raining in Crabcakeland, the Sox trail 2-1 to the Birds, as the Orioles struck for a pair of dingers by Eli Marrero (7) and Melvin Mora (15), he of the 5 mouths to feed (quintuplets). Trot Nixon nearly put the Sox ahead with a double high off the wall, only to get picked off second with the bases loaded to kill the rally. Bad Dirtdog!

GM Theo Epstein and the Baseball Bunch retooled the fringes of the roster today, exiling Jay Payton to the 'designated for assignment' list, promoting Rule V draftee Adam Stern (what are I-IV?), and trading Ramon Vasquez for Alex Cora, a defensive middle infielder upgrade. Lenny DiNardo, we hardly knew 'ya, also returns to the PawSox.

Payton apparently had a blowup after last night's game, and gave the Sox little option but to move him. Payton obviously had defensive skills and some pop in his bat, but couldn't displace any of the Sox regulars. Unfortunately, GM Epstein will have to seek 50 cents on the dollar for a replacement, unless he grabs salary.

Meanwhile Kevin Millar asks for a trade (supposedly) but no team had an immediate response to the Sox request for six dozen rubbed up baseballs. Future manager but current Idiot Johnny Damon conducted his own All-Star poll and favors either Timlin or Arroyo over Curt Schilling for the closer spot. As they say in Ball Four 'consider the source' about an evaluation of pitching savvy and arm strength. We can only hope there's still room in the woodshed after Tito Francona finishes ''counseling" the children.

The good news comes from outside of Boston, as 24 year-old RHP Jon Papelbon yields only 3 hits and a run with 7 strikeouts and no walks in six innings during his first AAA start. Meanwhile, 21 year-old Anibal Sanchez moves up to Portland (AA) and pitches 4 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and fanning 6. David Murphy had 3 hits to raise his average to .271 as he tries to shake the 'good field, no hit' label so common to minor league suspects.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Printing Front to Back

The Red Sox brain trust reconstructed the rotation in 2004, getting a frontline starter (Schilling) and a back of the game finisher (Foulke), parlaying the results into a championship. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit both, and neither have approached last season's effectiveness.

Today, the Sox attempt to make the first last, moving Curt Schilling into the closer role, while we are told Keith Foulke will undergo knee surgery to correct a knee problem (? meniscus tear, loose bodies). Schilling's struggles in the minors may not be as magnified as closer (facing hitters once), while he brings his competitive fire and control to the bullpen.

We can only hope the best for Foulke, last year's deserving Series hero AND a guy in whom the Red Sox have a big investment going forward.

This probably diminishes a chance for either of the Jons (Papelbon or Lester - last night 7 shutout innings, 12 strikeouts) in the pen, but may increase their chance elsewhere.

The possible biggest loser in the shuffle- Craig Hansen. Surely Scott Boras has been massaging Theo Epstein's closer 'panic button' and now Scott's next call won't be answered 'Boston Red Sox, it's eleven o'clock, do you know where your closer is?"

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Half-empty or Half-full?

After 81 games, half a season, 38 at home, the Sox are 46-35, three games ahead of the Orioles, tied for the third best record in the American League. Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

Fans can take the high road and talk of virtually leading the league in scoring offense (one run less than the Yankees, who have played 82 games), in on-base percentage, and on-base slugging percentage. They can exult in having achieved a first half league virtually without a contribution from Curt Schilling, and minus the formidable arms of Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. Patrons can also celebrate having achieved competency with limited bullpen contribution and with 19 homeruns and 119 RBI from the infield of Mueller, Renteria, Bellhorn, and Millar.

On the other hand, Sox loyalists have to recognize the inconsistency of starting pitching, the abomination that has been the bullpen, and the generally mediocre defense.

Sox hurlers are 22nd in WHIP (walks and hits per inning) and on base average allowed. The Sox team ERA is 12th in the AL (4.85), and 13th in relief ERA (5.58).

The Sox are eighteenth in fielding percentage (.983), tied for next to last in caught stealing (13), and 20th in double plays.

The most telling indictment of the construction of the team is the simplest: Mike Myers is the second most effective pitcher in the Red Sox bullpen, behind Mike Timlin. Even Timlin has shown signs of cracking under the workload.

Without more effective pitching, especially relief pitching, the Red Sox won't be celebrating in October, they'll be the ones golfing. It's impossible to envision the Sox outslugging everyone to run through playoff competition as smartly as occurred last season.

The challenge for GM Theo Epstein and his staff is to retool the pitching staff without mortgaging the future either economically or developmentally. That's not so much to ask from an organization that charges landoffice prices for obstructed view seats and $4.25 for a bottle of water.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

60 - 60 -40

One of those days. The saying goes that you win 60 you lose 60 and what happens in the other 40 determines what kind of team you have.

Today was one of those 60 losses, where they got beaten. Every time Halladay needed the big out, he got it.

The bullpen struggle wasn't a factor, for once.

On the horizon, Papelbon pitched six no-hit innings last night with ten strikeouts. He and Lester should be untouchable.

On to Texas (a struggle between the Rangers and the seven strip joints in Arlington) and a showdown series with the Birds of Baltimore.

Presumably, the Sox will have at least four All-Stars with Damon, Varitek, Ramirez, and Ortiz. Clement is on the bubble with the team distribution issue.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Undependables

Keywords: Red Sox, Boston Red Sox, bullpen, baseball sarcasm

We now hear that David Wells' plantar fasciitis now relieves the Sox of the 'too many starters' problem, and the Sox need a spot starter tonight, to complement the undependables. If the starter gets in trouble early, that puts the Sox in bigger trouble, expending relief innings.

Many Sox fans are saying "Be patient, the Sox have quality pitchers out there. They'll come around." On the other hand, to paraphrase Billy Beane, "if he's such a good pitcher, why doesn't he pitch better?" Keith Foulke inevitably takes the lion's share of the abuse, although he hasn't been the biggest problem. He just happens to make the most money, making him an easy target, and also lacks media savoir faire, allowing him to get lit up not only on the mound but in the press.

Foulke's handiwork pales in comparison to that of 'Wild Thing' Matt Mantei (Steve Blass disease confirmed last night) and Alan Embree, who admittedly seems to be gradually turning the ocean liner of pitching command and control around.

The hard-earned luxury of recent road success has created a potentially damning environment permitting the Sox to squander their momentum by playing not only losing but poor baseball. The Indians came to town and pitch-slapped the locals before Tim Wakefield, abetted by Nixon, Mirabelli, and Bellhorn stopped the slide. Last night Matt Clement lacked his best stuff, but indecisive defense by Edgar Renteria opened a crack in the dam, and the rest of the Jays exploited it and the bullpen to the tune of 15-2.

Panic mode? Let's hope not. I hope Theo tries to fill the gap from within, rather than making a Larry Andersen type move as a faulty and futile panacea. "He who panics first, panics best."

Friday, July 01, 2005

Halama Manteita

(to the tune of Hakuna Matata)

Halama Manteita! What a wonderful haze.

Halama Manteita! Ain't no passing phase.
It means no victories for the rest of your days
It's our strikeout-free philosophy
Halama Manteita! Halama Manteita?

Yeah. It's our bullpen! What's bullpenning? Nothing.

What's bullpenning with you?

Those two words will solve all your problems

That's right.

Take Hansen here,

Why, when he was a young pitcher...When I was a young pitcher

Very nice


He found his salary had a certain distaste

He could enrich Scott Boras without any haste

I'm a sensitive guy though I'm overboard
And it hurt that my friends watch the scoreboard
And oh, the shame
He was to blame

Thought of changin' his name
What's in a name?

And I got so depressed. How did ya feel?

Everytime that I...Hey! Hansen! Not in front of the fans!

Oh. Sorry Halama Manteita! What a wonderful phrase Halama Manteita! Ain't no passing phase
It means no victories for the rest of your days
It's our problem-free philosophy
Halama Manteita! Halama Manteita!

Take a Haiku

Theo, where's the pen?
Halama, Mantei, Embree,
Have no Foulkeing Clue.

Millar can't do it
What keeps him in the lineup?
Does he have pictures?

Gammons father pledged
A deathbed championship
His promise came true

No wait 'til next year
What have you done for us now
Please sign Craig Hansen

No cost free advice:
Like bullpen execution?
We're favoring it.

Johnny Burger King
Got ripped off tonight baby
More crowd noise in Lynn

Pitching Line

Mantei 0.1 1 5 5 4 0

Theo, are you alive?

Options in any particular order:
1) Alvarez up, Arroyo to bullpen
2) Sign Hansen
3) Meredith
4) Gonzalez

Real desperation:
1) Delcarmen
2) Papelbon
3) Lester

Mantei and Halama both are just hamburger out there.

More thoughts from Ron = MO-RON

So many thoughts, so little time.

Does anybody remember no ear flaps on batting helmets, or the inside 'helmet', on guys like Bob Montgomery, he of the train sets?

Do they ever use the 'donut' on bats, anymore, or is it all 'leaded bats'?

Do corked bats produce a physics-based advantage? Bill Nye the Science Guy wrote an article saying they don't?

Does Keith Foulke speak Spanish? If he does, maybe he shouldn't ever play in the Mexican League. I always want to call him Rich Foulke, but then again, maybe that's because I worked at more than one burger joint, including 'Full of Bull'. Really.

Maybe Kenny Rogers should have kept the singing gig. Guess we won't be seeing Mr. Rogers at the All-Star Game either. Did he have an All-Star bonus clause?

Larry Hisle.

If Bill Lee worked the grounds crew, would first base be 'Cannabis Alley'?(heard that one from Mike Adams).

The Remdawg must be cleaning up on all these promos, from the website, to the restaurant, to the All-Star Party...

When I go to the dentist I think of Jim Lonborg...I bet the drilling and cleaning still hurts there, too.

Why is it that nobody 'chokes up' anymore? Chicks dig the long ball? Looks like Reed Johnson chokes up. Looks like Mike Myers just 'choked up." Big time.

Some announcer said the other day that Terry Francona wears the pullover because he gets cold because he takes blood thinners. He may get cold, but not from the warfarin. Did you know that warfarin is rat poison?

You can't blame Keith Foulke for holding out for the truck. After all, it's hard to afford a good vehicle, especially at about 150,000 a save, give or take a few pesos. Plus, he has 'issues'.

The Sox used to own the Blue Jays. Not anymore. Maybe it's just Ted Lilly.

Do you think Eck could still run it up there with as much velocity as Foulke? Maybe Jeff Reardon?

I'd like to be able to write like Bill Simmons...even for a minute.

If you could get the best player in the game, who happened to be the worst guy in the league, an absolute clubhouse nightmare, would it be worth it?

'Twas good to see Dave McCarty on the broadcast before the game. He looks like he could still well as Millar.

Who's the best player in baseball and is he an untouchable? Who is untouchable although he isn't the best player?

Yeah, who am I to criticize? I never came close to making it, even with a high school tryout with the Reds. Did any of these guys get a tryout for medical school?