Friday, May 29, 2009

At the 1/3 pole

A third of the way through the season, we know the following:

  • Everyone in the AL East is deeply flawed, and nobody as currently constituted can run away with the division.
  • Jason Bay may or may not be a candidate for AL MVP, but he’s far and away the odds on favorite for 2009 Red Sox MVP.
  • Bringing back Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek worked out ok, don’t ya think?
  • When he’s healthy, JD Drew is almost worth his ludicrous contract.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury is beginning to resemble a Grady Sizemore clone, and will soon surpass him and become the best leadoff man in the business.
  • What David Ortiz is going through can’t be termed a slump anymore. Until something else happens, it’s his reality, and therefore the team’s reality. Something has to give.
  • The strength of the 2009 Red Sox was supposed to be its rotation, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Everyone in the rotation has been badly shelled at least a couple times (tonight it was Wakefield), and as a result, there is no true ace this year. We thought we had three. In truth, we have none.
  • Fortunately, the Red Sox have what nobody else in the majors possesses: serious reserve depth in the wings in the form of no-hit kid Clay Buchholz, who’s dominating the International League, and future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who may or may not make his Red Sox debut around the time that his old friends from Atlanta show up for interleague competition.
  • Don't forget flamethrower Daniel Bard and Mr. Poise, Michael Bowden. Those two have already proven to be every bit as good as advertised
  • Thank God for Justin Masterson, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen and the rest of the bullpen.

Since the division (and the league) remains up for grabs, the Red Sox have plenty of time and resources available to plug the open holes in the roster.

  • Shortstop: Maybe Jed Lowrie will come back and set the world on fire. I hope so, since the platoon of Julio Lugo and Nick Green is serviceable, but barely more. The offense isn’t much and the defense is abysmal. Jack Wilson’s available in Pittsburgh. GRAB him.
  • DH: Nobody loves Big Papi more than I do, but c’mon. He’s behind on fastballs and completely fooled by offspeed stuff. Nobody’s being careful with him. They don’t need to be. Pitchers go right after Ortiz, and he’s not able to make anyone pay. Below the Mendoza Line with 1 measly home run won’t cut it, no matter what happened from 2004 through 2007. He left 12 men on base IN ONE GAME. That’s usually a stat representing a team’s futility for a game, not one man. Luke Scott in Baltimore, Jack Cust in Oakland, Mike Jacobs in Kansas City and Hank Blalock in Texas may be available real soon now, and worth pursuing.

Not signing Mark Teixiera means the Red Sox have money in the bank. They still have one of the deeper farm systems in the game, and have talent to burn if there’s a long-term advantage to be had. What happens at the trading deadline will determine who wins the American League East, and perhaps who holds the advantage for the AL pennant. With the right moves, it could be Boston.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nobody is above the game

Manny’s suspension is proof to me that there is a God. Manny Ramirez is a man who, while possessed of perhaps the greatest batting eye and hitting smarts of his generation, still managed to take advantage of every opportunity he’s had to disrespect his team and the game of baseball. In his time with Boston, Ramirez betrayed his teammates by not bothering to hustle if he didn’t feel like it, feigned injuries and sat out pivotal games in his own little mini-revolt against some perceived injustice, played such laughable defense that at times that it was sometimes difficult to discern if he even knew a regular season game was in progress, then ultimately bailed on his own team, refusing to play and forcing them to unload him on the Dodgers. Once he got his wish, he turned the effort spigot back on, and led Los Angeles to the 2008 playoffs with Ruthian performances that showed the rest of Major League Baseball once and for all that he had intentionally tanked on his team in Boston.

Finally, this year he’s tested positive for a banned substance, and gave a pathetic excuse that is only a half step more plausible than “my dog ate my homework”. He’s only gone for 50 games, but the damage will be permanent, just as it will be for Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and Roger Clemens. They all disrespected their teammates and the game of baseball. Bonds and Clemens managed to add contempt for the laws of the United States of America, too, so their penalties are going to be a bit more severe.

I’m a great believer in karma, and I am sure that what happened to Manny was just the baseball gods extracting their retribution for all his sins. This summer, Jim Rice will be inducted in Cooperstown at long last. Though I’m on record as saying Rice’s stats make him only a borderline Hall of Famer, his character and respect for the game were second to none. In that respect, he should stand proudly alongside Tony Gwynn, Carlton Fisk, Frank Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr, and everyone else who played the game the right way throughout their great careers. Rice worked his butt off, played clean, and did it right. Even when he wasn’t taking banned substances, Ramirez didn’t care about “the good of the game”, if he even understood the concept. No matter what happens when he returns in July, we’ll always know who Manny really is. Manny being Manny is nothing to be proud of.