Thursday, July 3, 2008

Back from break...a little late.

It has been a long time, barflies, but June became the month I squandered most of my vacation days while working double time at the road office to make up for it, so sadly, the ol' barangrill went a bit to seed. I'm also sorry to come back to this state of affairs.

Bullpens and relief pitchers are funny things. The relievers so critical to 2004's success, especially in the extra innings of the middle of the ALCS, fell flat on their faces in 2005, in no small part because Keith Foulke's knees died for our sins during said series.

The seemingly boffo (TM, Variety) Eric Gagne trade didn't work because...well, there's a myriad of reasons best summarized in the famed phrase "Gagne sucks" (or "Gagne suces" in his native tongue), but apparently saving meaningless games for a sub .500 team and holding leads for a World Series contenders are bananas and pomegranates.

And without even touching upon Jon Papelbon's uptick in blown saves, because he still looks quite right, it's apparent that Hideki Okajima's present fall from form has hurt the team immensely, because Manny Delcarmen has come into the set-up role, and Manny Delcarmen is no '07 Okajima. No, no, no, no.

Last night, in a game a frustrated Sox team really could have used to stay within 1.5 games of the best team in baseball/first place Rays (and no, I still can't believe I typed that phrase), the Sox got the best of the Floridians in the Inefficiency-Off between Daisuke Matuszaka and Scott Kazmir (5 IP a piece, 4 runs for Scott, 1 for Daisuke). That's the good part.

Then came the odd but not wholly surprising appearance of Hideki Okajima in the 6th inning. Tito gets 3 points for putting him into a clean inning (Okajima's ERA is deceptive, since he's allowing more inherited runners to score than even Mike Timlin did in a similarly deceptive [recurring theme] 2005 season) but -5 points for the earlyness of this. Unless the plan was to pitch Okajima 2 innings, I just don't think he's the 6th inning pitcher. Hansen or Aardsma, anyone?

And then came the 7th.

And there went the lead. Craig Hansen ultimately took the loss because in a reversal of order, Hansen relieved for Delcarmen (supposed new 8th inning man, in for an ineffective Aardsma, who probably shoulda been pitching the 6th...) because Delcarmen could get no one out. Six pitchers in all, essentially the whole bullpen minus Papelbon, got into this game, with only Javier Lopez and Okajima somewhat undisgraced. And there's your game.

Four of the five losses the Medias Rojas have currently strung together are of the one-run variety, but although the sabemetrician's maxim is that one-run games are something of a matter of luck, these particular losses have either been caused by

a) Blow-ups by the setup men, or
b) Games made close by not-quite-successful 9th inning rallies. In other words, the sort you can't expect to win.

What it all adds up to is that it feels like it's 2005 all over again to me. My hope is that Big Bartolo comes back good and healthy, so we can throw a new set-up man into the mix. Here's a hint who: newspaper headlines can't help but call him Masterful.

And, oh yeah, in schadenfreude news, the above happened. A few things to note:

1) Cynthia and Alex's children's names: Natasha Alexander and Ella Alexander. Want a son much, Alex? That's not naming, that's branding. The only thing possibly dumber would be if both the Rodriguez girls' names had the initials HR in them. But even that arrogant stupidity wouldn't be original.

2) Cynthia may have left Alex for Lenny Kravitz. Alex might be shacking up with (swallows a small bit of throw-up) Madonna. This would mark the first time a marriage broke up and the shattered pieces both went to (considerably) older mates. And as far as Madonna is concerned, this would again mean that, if you believe Jose's tales of hooking Alex up with a PED dealer, A-Rod is just following Jose Canseco's lead. Years after the expiration date, no less. (Shudders again.)

Get A-Good lawyer, A-Rod!

(Shudders again at bad joke.)

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