Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's all in the...

Red Sox, last 5 games: 2-3.
Blue Jays, last 5 games: 0-5.
Yankees, last 5 games: 2-3.
Red Sox's position: 1st place, by 1 game.

Struggling is swell when everyone else is. (Unless you like actually opening up your lead, that is.) Another Lester start ruined by one bad inning, another Lester loss. Good timing to suck, guys. Now, can we stop?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Knuckle Up.

Don't even stop to contemplate where the Red Sox would be without Tim Wakefield. (Okay, fine, here's my thought: 3rd place, but only because I think Clay Buchholz is actually ready.) Just be thankfully he's still around, and when he's been good, has been amazing. As Prospectus points out, this team is freakishly overperforming against its rotation. Three key reasons: generally excellent offense, best bullpen in the majors, and on those days no one is hitting, Tim Wakefield.

Sadly, all the headlines on the Worldwide Leader in Entertainment and sometimes Sports, and various other sites, were about that much younger man looking much older, Zombie David Ortiz. Swinging at bad junk in the dirt, missing Zombie B.J. Ryan's 86 mph fastball, mauling and decapitating Kevin Millar (then discovering to his disappointment no grey matter there, just some kind of Frito dip), the signs of decay and undeadness have not faded. Does Dave Magadan still work for the Red Sox? Are we really going to have to bullshit with Washington as they ask for Buchholz in exchange for Nick Johnson? Is Chuck LaMar the new shadow GM of the Nationals? Self-esteem or not, doesn't keeping Papi in the 3 slot put pressure on him he isn't exactly up for right now?

Sigh. Even after a nice win, I got me some questions. Youk's back, anyway. Keep him away from Ortiz during his feeding hours.

(Thanks to LOLJocks for the Ortiz as Fred Sanford pic.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

the west coast is not our best coast.

The Mariners have won 3 of their last 13 games. 2 against the Red Sox.

The Red Sox had the bases loaded and scored no runs.

They had the third out of the ninth in their (Nick Green's) glove, and threw it 15 feet too high.

They went 2-4 on their (blessedly final) West Coast trip.

Their supposed offensive leader was given the series

As YFSF pointed out, they're 17-16 against teams that don't rhyme with New Pork Thank Ye's.

Without that 12-game winning streak? Forget it.

This team is not intact, its offense is not its actual offense, and this is not our beautiful three-game deficit with just an +18 run differential, but it's a suck spiral all the same.

Daddy gotta win. (Again.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

(In the time it took me to write this title, Daniel Bard struck you out on three pitches.)

I'd say it's not supposed to be this easy, Daniel, but I know it hasn't been easy. 2007 alone is the sort of season some top prospects never come out of, but you have, and goddamn if you haven't come out better for it.

Papelbon's fastball has that peculiar arm action and wiggle; yours is pure explosion, and the secondary stuff last night wasn't looking bad either.

One day, maybe not that far away, when you're pitching in the 8th, with Ramirez in the 7th, Okajima/Delcarmen in the 6th, and Masterson ready to do whatever, we will have a team that can handle a shutout yet shaky five innings from a Matsuzaka, or, yes, a Clay Bucholz. One strikeout in two innings, one walk, one hit, and a lot of really bewildered looking swings: chops, pops, and just one inherited runner scored.

Taking a 4-0 lead and losing 8-4 couldn't normally be considered a good night. But it clearly wasn't the Red Sox's night. It was yours. And we want more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mid-May Review.

Is it too early in the season to contemplate where the major leagues stand? Well, there are two answers to that, and neither is true.

a) Fuck no! It's mid-May, and the Nationals and Orioles (alas, mid-Atlantic), and the Padres and Pirates (in spite of early hot starts; this is why we daren't review in April) all look pretty dead. Oakland seems it was a paper tiger, insomuch as, you know, paper tigers don't have claws, or blood running through their veins.

b) Fuck yes! Especially since the MLB schedule-makers were smoking more salvia than usual this year. (Eastern examples: Toronto will have played every other American League team by the time they finally play the Red Sox [and haven't played the Rays yet, and are just playing the Yankees for the first time now], while Boston is finishing up their West Coast travel...right now.) You can't solidly judge a baseball team when it has yet to run through its own division, let alone the league.

So aside from the teams that are as fucked as the '88 Orioles, and no team is that fucked, there's still time for change. All the same, the Sox are 20% through the 2009 campaign, so the land is starting to get...laid?

By division, along with the chances my predictions will be the least bit right, here are your major leagues.

NL East

Predicted winner: Mets
Current leader: Mets

Thoughts: Something about this Mets team seems real fucking shaky already, but it isn't Johan Santana. The Phillies can't keep up their 8-10 home record. The Marlins will hover around .500. I can't understand the Braves, but no one can misunderstand the Nationals. If Boras keeps Stephen Strasburg from D.C., you can just move the team to Portland now.

NL Central

Predicted winner: Cubs
Current leader: Cards

Four teams either lead or are within 1.5 games of the lead, including the somewhat surprising St. Louisians and the all-pitch, not-much-hit (???) Red Stockings. And Milton Bradley is injured. Which is not surprising. Stay tuned.

NL West

Predicted winner: Diamondbacks
Current leader: Dodgers

Thoughts: Boy, I fucked this one up; some promising young teams come to fruition, others become too overvalued to trade away, and between the Diamondbacks and the Rockies, this division is full of promising 2007 teams in for long 2009 seasons, and a stumbling path downward from there. Only the Manny motherfuck can make this division interesting. Look out for the Giants.

AL West

Predicted winner: Angels
Current leader: Rangers

This. Division. Sucks.

AL Central

Predicted winner: Indians
Current leader: Royals?

Thoughts: And I thought I was being audacious to pick the Royals to finish not-last. Greinke (and to a lesser extent, Meche) could carry this team to the playoffs in a division where no one is bad, but no one is that good. (Note: author still believes the Indians aren't that bad for some reason, although Fausto Carmona's looking like a one-year wonder with a one pitch people have finally learned not to swing at.) When Coco Crisp is happy, I'm happy. (And when Coco Crisp is traded for a reliever with a sub-1 ERA, I'm even happier.)

AL East

Predicted winner: Boston
Current leader: Toronto

Bet you thought this was where I was going to call Toronto a mirage, right? Well, maybe: I don't believe Overbay is going to continue a career year, that Millar is going to keep seeing inside fastballs, that Marco Scutaro is at all capable of doing what he's doing, or that a team with Doc Halladay and four guys that weren't supposed to start this year (including a replacement FOR a replacement) can keep it up.

But you know what? The mirage scheduling goes both ways. They've beaten the schedule they've received thus far: now they have to face real teams. I'm intrigued to see what happens.

I don't get the Rays, but I'm still scared of them.

I don't get how Johnny Damon has become a half-Japanese Brady Anderson, but he seems to be all the Yankees have right now. Even if everything else--Sabathia, Texiera, even Wang--settles itself, they've still got to use their bullpen sometimes, and that bullpen, including Mariano Rivera, sucks. (Right now.)

The Orioles aren't very good, but they aren't good for the right reasons.

The Sox started horribly, tore through everyone for two weeks, and has been pretty good since, and unlike the Jays, they've been doing it in spite of freakishly bad performances, rather than on the weight of good ones. Beckett and Lester will settle themselves, and Matsuzaka will probably be his brilliant and infuritating self soon. Wakefield won't have to carry the weight by then. Ortiz might not have to carry the weight no matter what.

This team is second best in the real major league, and not everything is going right. That's actually a very, very good sign.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

(Another empty speculation on the Manny Ramirez news.)

What we know:

--Xavier Paul is a-coming to the majors. Get excited, L.A.!
--Manny claims this was a personal thing.
--It wasn't a steroid.
--He tested positive for it in Spring Training...and kept using it?
--It was something a Miami doctor gave Manny.
--The NL West sucks. The Diamondbacks I picked to make the World Series haven't shown up this year. This makes the division interesting, but it doesn't make it of any real interest to outsiders.
--Frank McCourt is considering using the $8 million he just got back to buy Oil Can Boyd, Rich Garces, and any other former Red Sox he hasn't signed yet. He ain't happy about it, though.

What don't know, but might be so:

--Some left fielder's doctor is about to be slapped with a lawsuit.
--Manny just being randy and dumb? Possible.
--Manny being masky? Also possible. Them Game of Shadows boys say so, anyway.
--Both possible? Well, it isn't easy to bone when your body ain't making testosterone. And estrogen isn't exactly a mass-marketed alternative to Viagra.
--A lot of shrill, stupid conversations will go on. Red Sox will make universal defensive statements, especially David Ortiz. Colin Cowherd will continue his descent into rings of hell they're actually still building. The Post will come up with a headline that is funny at first, and then progressively less so at each succeeding view. There will be talk, talk, talk.
--If this unwinds in a certain direction, you get the whole package, including a sketchily-written book next spring training. (Unless Jeff Perlman writes it, in which case I'm buying it.)
--And if it goes that way, the whole of Manny's Red Sox years will be tarnished with a thick, gray-green patina of doubt.
--But we don't know where this is going. Which is why I'd rather not be yet another windbag until I have a little more dust to blow around.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Orioles are "Hummingbird."

Rays= Paper.

Returning AL Champions, supposed to be good for years to come, not terribly good thus far. Loses to Scissors, and most other teams, but in spite of being but a paper tiger, covers Rock. (And by covering it, defeats it? I've never understood this element of the game. You can still throw a rock through the fucking paper.) 42% of victories versus Boston.

Yankees= Scissors.

Some sharp edges acquired by free agency, mostly dull thus far. Even a rusty pair of scissors can cut through paper. (Yankees took 2 of 3 from Tampa, in Tampa.)

Red Sox= Rock.

Well-rounded team, potentially, from lineup to rotation to bullpen. Turns to Kryptonite around Tampa (losing 5 out of 7 so far...yeah, that's half of their losses), turns Scissors into shards of metal (winning 5 of 5 against New York, including two very similar games Monday and Tuesday night). Vulnerable, but still the best throw.

Oh, and the importance these teams have to each other's record thus far? Proof that we don't know shit until our team goes around the league, and further reason I hate the unbalanced schedule, because we won't be around the league until late July. The thrill of 18 games a year against all rivals is gone. Stop the madness.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Diversions: Little Philipino, Big Fists.

A poor stretch including three of four against the Boston nine's Kryptonite (10 losses so far this season, 6 to Tampa Bay...enough said) seems like a good excuse to not discuss baseball at all.

It'd be a little untruthful to, anyway; the Internet isn't yet setup in the new residence (a move which is the reason why I've been a bit itinerant here; forgiveness, please) so I didn't get to watch any of this weekend's brutality. Which is okay. I preferred the brutality I did see, and it didn't take three hours to finish.

It took 5 minutes, and 59 seconds, plus an unprecedented three national anthems, an awful undercard that I mostly missed (too distracted by the crowd at the other big TV cheering loudly every time the Bulls took an open shot, whether they missed it or not; most of these Polo-shirted punks were also rooting for Hatton, so the Celtics' win would only be the beginning of their shitty evening), and the standard amount of hoopla rendered all the more ridiculous by...well, what briefly followed.

The essence of Punch-Out! and the confounding of many a great pitcher, is telegraphing. If Bald Bull charges, hit him in the gut on the third step and he'll fall. Punch King Hippo in the gut when he reveals his belly band-aid. Pray to Allah you can catch the slight flickers and blinks Mike Tyson gives off. That's how you beat video boxing. Know when the curve is coming, it's not quite the knee-buckler it is in a fastball count.

But outside of the WVBA, telegraphing isn't supposed to be a big boxing matter. Speed, power and skill is, which is why smart money kept floating to Manny Pacquiao, and a 2-1 favorite turned 3-1 favorite. Natural size is, which is why Ricky Hatton, top of the junior welterweight ranks for nearly four years, never beaten at 140 pounds, was given a real shot of taking out a former 106-pounder by some. Both could brawl, so a knockout was expected.

Expected, yes. By this guy, yes. In this round, hell no. But apparently telegraphing can matter in boxing. Watch it again and you'll wonder why tenative ol' Money Mayweather or anyone else never figured out how easy it is; watch it a third time and you'll realize the timing, the openings, aren't quite as broad as you might think. Hatton didn't blink three times, or turn red, or have the jewel on the top of his head wink anyway. But he does cock his fists. He goes back before he goes forward. And as in the first knockdown, when you know the slower fighter is about to throw, and you are fast and powerful and a bad motherfucker, you can actually

1) See the punch coming.
2) Throw a right hook through the hole where his hands would be, obliterating his jaw.
3) Dodge the punch he started to throw before you were even thinking of connecting. And, oh yeah, that punch is being thrown while he falls on his royal English arse.

Ricky Hatton was always a limited fighter, but Pacquiao's accomplishment Saturday night should not be diminished. Paraphrase White Men Can't Jump, it's hard work making a man look so bad. It's harder work dominating any rank. It's ridiculous to dominate four (lineal championships) or six (divisions in which Pac has held belts), even in an era of excessive divisions. All hail the king, and crown his ass, no matter what it weighs in at next time.

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