Saturday, May 31, 2003

Historically speaking.

Red Sox record since my birth: 2116-1864 .532
Red Sox record since I began grade school: 1631-1462 .527
Red Sox record since I graduated high school: 618-515 .546
Red Sox record since I graduated college: 264-231 .534
Red Sox record since I started this web log: 1-4 .200

Today’s 10-7 loss to the Jays is the ugliest in a while. In addition to pitching woes, the Sox have to be concerned about how good the Toronto offence is. Could it be that we’re heading into June in the thick of a legitimate three team pennant race?

Probably not. Taking nothing away from the Blue Jays merry, merry month of May, the current congestion atop the AL East standings heading into the season’s third month isn’t unprecedented. In fact, it’s pretty routine.

AL East 5/31/00

BOS 29 19 -
NYY 28 21 1.5
TOR 28 26 4.0
BAL 23 27 7.0
TBD 17 34 13.5

AL East 5/31/01

BOS 29 22 -
NYY 29 22 -
TOR 26 27 4.0
BAL 24 28 5.5
TBD 15 38 15.0

AL East – currently

NYY 32 22 -
BOS 31 23 0.5
TOR 31 26 2.0
BAL 26 27 5.0
TBD 21 32 10.0

Toronto finished just 4.5 games off the pace in 2000 when the Yankees won the division with 87 victories. In 2001 the Jays finished well off the pace, 16 games back. I don’t think the Jays have enough pitching to stay competitive – with the Yankees. However, from the looks of it – especially with Pedro on the DL – the Sox staff may have just as many long term problems as Toronto’s. What the Red Sox have that the Blue Jays don’t, of course, is a rotation in which the top three pitchers have all won at least 17 games in a season with the Sox. It’s just a matter of time before it gets straightened out, right? Right?

Ah, whatever. Four losses in a row – damn Sox!

Meanwhile, out west. A Bay Stater by birth, and a Washingtonian by geography, I’m an east-coast-centric guy. For perspective, I’ve checked out a couple Arizona newspapers for takes on the Kim/Hillenbrand trade.

The Arizona Republic introduces Hillenbrand to readers by noting that he was “born and raised in Mesa and attended Mountain View High School and Mesa Community College”. Kim, the paper remind readers, is “best remembered for taking an emotional beating after giving up three home runs to the Yankees in back-to-back World Series losses in 2001”. The article is accompanied by a shot of a crestfallen BK Kim squatting on the mound as triumphant Yankees circle the bases. A second article by Mark Gonzales notes that the right-handed swinging Hillenbrand will add balance to the D’Back’s lefty saturated lineup and that with 38 RBIs, Hillenbrand leads Luis Gonzalez by nine.

Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen savages most personnel in the Diamondbacks organization from starting pitchers to radio broadcasters en route to calling the trade a tossup. Hansen calls Hillenbrand a 20 homer-80 RBI guy, probably overstating his power potential. (Hillenbrand, remember, totaled 30 homers for his two-year career entering this season and the strength of the Boston lineup has aided his impressive RBI total this season).

Welcome (back) to the desert, Shea. Hansen virtually takes all pressure off his team’s new third baseman writing:

“What the D'backs need more than a productive season by Hillenbrand is for Steve Finley to earn his keep; for Danny Bautista to do something, anything (he has scored a scant eight runs); and for Tony Womack to take a few pitches, get on base, steal a few, and put himself on second base when Gonzalez and Junior Spivey come to bat.
They must also hope that they don't have to resort to using the Tucson Sidewinders' pitching rotation much longer.”

Can anyone imagine the Boston media giving Kim a free pass like that?


Friday, May 30, 2003

Morning after. After sleeping on it, I'm more comfortable with the Hillenbrand for Kim trade. And waking up this morning to the news that Derek Lowe had a biopsy on his nose in the same place where a cancerous growth was removed last winter, this trade makes even more sense.

I'm a big Shea Hillenbrand fan. I love his aggressiveness despite his proclivity for easy outs when he's over-anxious. I love his run producing potential and that he hits the ball on the nose with such frequency. I love his improving defense and his seamless move to first base.

Indeed, it's the defensive hit that the Sox will take that makes me most nervous about this trade. Hillenbrand has certainly outplayed Millar and Ortiz at first in an infield that is defensively very shaky.

Leaving aside my reservations, there's a lot of up-side. I hadn't realized that BK is only 24 years old or that he lead the league in "tough saves" -- a save recorded when the pitcher enters the game with the tying run on base. His first start since coming off the DL was also impressive.


Thursday, May 29, 2003

Toss up. I got a knot in my stomach reading news flash: Hillenbrand for Kim. I'm hopeful that young Theo is on the money. I can't say that I agree.
Truth Brigade. ''It was a quality pitch that was called a ball." -- Brandon Lyon in this morning's Boston Globe on walking home the winning run for the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth.

I didin't see last night's game. I didn't see the throw by Manny, or Hillenbrand getting cut down at the plate. I didn't see Walker getting picked off first, or Lowe getting roughed up on the road yet again. And no, I didn't see The Pitch.

Already I hear the frenzied response from Sox nation ringing in my ears. This is right up there with Bucky D. or Billy Buck they'll say. Without a shred of irony some will call it An All Time Choke. Forget it, Sox fans. This isn't 1986. This isn't 1978. This isn't even the Spurs on Tuesday night. This is May of 2003 and the Sox have just dropped four of six from the Yankees, no more, no less.

What I love about baseball is it's consistency. We take are lumps loving the Sox, especially on nights like last night, but we live to fight another day. That day is today -- shake it off, Sox fans, in 15 hours we'll be talking about another drama entirely.

Brandon Lyon has been a pleasant surprise this year but last night was a bad night. Maybe he got squeezed. Maybe not.


Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Truth brigade.

"Hopefully Pedro will be back soon and everything will be back to normal." -- Sox spot-starter/Pedro-understudy Bruce Chen in this morning's Boston Herald, just about saying it all.


Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Way Back. Well, we learned something about Chen -- he has a case of Wasdinitus. But he kept the Sox in the game. I'm just getting home and picking up the web case of the game. Enter Mendoza and promply a runner on third with one out.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Free Fall. Not only have the Yankees fallen from first place, they're also trailing Oakland by a game in the wild card race. The Bombers are also an astonishing 20-21 on grass (but 9-1 on turf). At five, they own the longest losing streak in the majors.

I'm looking forward to Bruce Chen's start tomorrow night. We'll have a chance to see what he's really made of.

Post-win glow. Considering that the Red Sox are tenth (out of 14) in the A.L. in team ERA, ninth in hits allowed, eleventh in walks, their seat atop the A.L. East is remarkable. Some of this may be related to their knack for getting a big out, killing a rally, and not giving up a big hit. The pitching staff is a relatively good sixth in OPS and a sharp fourth in home runs allowed. Today’s biggest pitch was made by Tim Wakefield with the bases loaded in the sixth, educing a huge 6-4-3 double play. Cutting down on big innings is the fastest way to sustained success.

Another very tangible reason for where the Red Sox sit is their depth. For the first time in nearly a decade a Sox fan can make the argument (while sober) that Boston’s bench is deeper than New York’s.

To wit, the follow players were not in the starting lineup for Boston or New York this afternoon:

For Boston:

Damien Jackson (a speedster, among league leaders in stolen bases, defensively skilled and versatile. Jackson replaced Lou Merloni, a crowd favorite in Boston, on the roster. It’s a good thing he’s played so well or the Fenway Faithful would be on his case).

David Ortiz (a defensively inadequate first baseman with lots of power and great in the clutch. He’s delivered big his after IBBs to Manny Ramirez on a couple of occasions this season).

Jeremy Giambi (another defensive liability with some power. Giambi is off to a very slow start that have Sox fans up in arms. His upside lies with his power – Giambi began to hit the ball with authority last week and belted twenty homers last season).

Jason Varitek (the Red Sox starting catcher was replaced by Doug Mirabelli today. Mirabelli is a fine defensive catcher with a reputation for handling pitchers. He also has a bit of pop, especially against lefties).

For New York:

John Flaherty (a great backup because of his skills as a pitch caller. Offensively he’s nothing special, but the Yankees already have arguably the best offensive catcher in the game in Posada).

Enrique Wilson (an average utility man who has trouble getting on base. A career .295 OBP will give a manager pause before sending him to the plate in a pinch).

Bubba Trammell (a fairly dangerous power threat with little speed or defensive assets).

Charles Gipson (see Enrique Wilson).

Bernie Williams (on the disabled list, forcing young Juan Rivera into action. Rivera tore up the minors the last couple of seasons and can help a team in the field).

So where does that leave us? Let’s call Mirabelli-Flaherty a push. I like Mirabelli, but he’s never played very many games and could break down where as Flaherty has been a starter in the past. Bubba Trammell is the Yankees answer to David Ortiz/Jeremy Giambi. I’ll take Ortiz because of his age and his ability to hit in the clutch and Giambi because he’s due to breakout. Finally, Damien Jackson defiantly out values Wilson and Gipson because of his blazing speed and defensive skills. The Yankees have two speed/defense types while the Red Sox have two power/pinch hitter types. I actually prefer the Yankees bench type, but for overall depth, I’ll take the Sox bench.

Clemens line for today.

5 2/3 innings.
10 hits.
8 runs.
8 earned runs.
2 walks
9 strikeouts
1 wild pitch.

133 pitches, 89 strikes.

Bad move by Joe Torre. In the sixth inning, Torre let Roger Clemens – one win away from the 300-win plateau – pitch to Todd Walker with two outs and runners on second and third. Clemens had thrown, by my count, 133 pitches. He’d lost velocity off his fastball and wasn’t locating his pitches well.

Walker ripped a 3-1 fastball into right field, scoring two runs and making the score 7-3.

Certainly the Rocket will win his 300th game and soon. It will be a special milestone for a special pitcher. But I have to wonder if the Red Sox weren’t his opponent, would Torre have let him stay in for so long? Let’s not forget, the Sox are up a game and a half on the Yankees on Memorial Day. Torre should worry about winning games for his team, not his aging pitcher.

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