Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm thankful for David Ortiz! Suck it, every media member!

Allow me to preface this by saying that if I had more time, I would have brainstormed the ideas I'm about to put forth (for anyone looking to recruit me for a potential job opening, I totally brainstormed this. I almost promise).

There's a reason I enjoy reading Bill Simmons' articles more than anyone else's in the world. For as interesting, humorous and accomplished as Simmons is as a columnist, and make no mistake, he's one of the best, he's a fan first and a writer second. That's what I love about him. He writes from a fan's perspective.

That's why I'm thankful for David Ortiz. He's bringing out the fan in me at a time when a diehard Red Sox fan like myself should be on suicide watch. And the fan in me has a few thoughts in times like these.

First, to the media. Hey fellas (this means you Howard Bryant, Dan Shaughnessy, Jay Mariotti, etc.), why don't you give the whole "2004 and 2007 are tainted" claim a break. Yeah, I understand you're desperate for readership and everyone who isn't a Sox fan (and some who are and want to sulk) is going to be on your article like a Yanks fan on "1918" chants in 2003, but that doesn't mean your argument is correct. If you'd like to name me one team that wouldn't have an asterisk next to a World Series title since the turn of the century, I'll be glad to agree with you that Boston should. But since it's generally assumed that just about everybody and their kids were on steroids at some point within the last decade, why does Boston stand out from everybody else? I'm not justifying what Ortiz, or any of the other BoSox did, but let's not be too quick to jump on their championships when we live in a world where no championships would be clean.

Second, to fans of baseball, quit casting stones at players of other teams who are juicing when there's no doubt that every ballclub has someone who's used PEDs at some point in their career. Jose Canseco is quickly being revealed as truthful, as his book's accusations have continually been accurate. He guessed that 80 percent of players were using, though has since adjusted that number to 95 percent (19 of 20 players). Not to toot my own horn (beep beep) but I didn't even jump all over Alex Rodriguez when allegations surfaced about him using steroids. That's because it was only a matter of time before some Sox were alleged to be on the juice. It's so common in the game, that no fans are cheering a squad full of natural-born athletes anymore. Chant "steroids" all you want at opposing players (this includes fellow Red Sox Nation members) but do it only to get inside the heads of the other team. Don't do it thinking your boys are high-and-mighty and play the game the right way.

Finally, to Big Papi himself. Thank you David. You helped bring two World Championships to a city which hadn't seen one in almost 100 years. Sure, you tested positive in 2003, but when penalties became enforced in 2004, you apparently quit, not costing your team games via your suspension. That's something your buddy ManRam can't even say. You have vowed to face this matter head on and despite being faced with the claim an hour before Thursday's game, you managed to keep focused and delivered a huge three-run shot which led Boston to a much-needed win. Thank you, Papi.

As for me, I'm still a fan of Papi. Still a fan of the Sox. Still a believer in our two World Titles. And still a baseball fan. Sure, I grew up in the Steroid Era, but I still love the game. And I'm not putting any asterisk next to that statement.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dear Roy Halladay, come to Boston.

Before I begin, let's get one thing straight. The Boston Red Sox don't NEED to make a deal to win the 2009 World Series. With the current roster in place, there is at least a 30% and maybe a 40 or 50% chance for Boston to win their third title in six seasons. They have a top-3 bullpen, top-3 rotation and top-5 lineup. And they have the best home-field advantage in the game. Tough to beat.

And as recently as 10 minutes ago, before I tuned into Baseball Tonight, I was on the "Why would you make a trade? The team is stacked as is!" train. Well, I caught another one. Thanks, Tim Kurkjian.

If Boston was to send Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard north of the border in exchange for perennial All-Star Roy Halladay, it would all but guarantee the Sox the 2009 championship. What lineup, save for the nine greatest position players in history, could go through the righty-lefty-righty threesome of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Roy Halladay? Send up Mantle, Maris and the Bambino in the heart of your order. I don't care. Good luck winning four of seven versus a team you haven't beaten in eight tries this season, especially when they roll out that rotation.

Whether Boston deems that sacrificing the future for Halladay justifies one guaranteed title remains to be seen. But Beckett and Halladay become free agents together after the 2010 season and the Sox will almost be forced to let one go (ideally Halladay based strictly on age), so any potential trade will mean the Sox are looking only to the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Yes, the farm system is stocked, but Boston could get a handful of prospects and/or proven position players for the Bard/Buchholz tandem in another potential deal.

If you asked me on Friday whether I would want the BoSox to make a deal for Halladay, I would have adamantly said 'no.' But with a 3-game lead in the AL East, and a 6.5 game lead for the Wild Card, Boston can clinch a playoff berth and most likely a World Series appearance with a trade for Halladay.

After an 86-year drought for one, a third title in six seasons sounds pretty good. Bring it on and bring Roy Halladay to Beantown.

Friday, July 17, 2009

There goes another overpaid, underachieving SS

I might have been Julio Lugo's biggest advocate during his 2+ years with the Boston Red Sox. I endured countless snide remarks about his poor play, both at the dish and in the field. I kept the faith, even when he left me no reason to. I remember the days he hit at or close to .300 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and kept waiting for him to hit like he did then. And kept waiting. And kept waiting.

When Lugo blamed his poor 2008 campaign on being lactose intolerant, I believed him. And I still do. His downfall in 2009 wasn't even so much his own fault - he was hitting a respectable .284 with a home run and three steals in 37 games. He never lost the job. Quite frankly, Nick Green won it.

Green, a veteran journeyman, impressed the team with his performance in spring training and kept it going when given the chance during the regular season. That, couple with last year's emergence of Jed Lowrie, gave Boston three players for two spots.

Lugo stayed on the roster after Lowrie went down with an injured wrist, but everyone knew that Lugo stood as the odd man out when Lowrie was healthy enough to return.

Today, Lowrie returns to the Sox. Lugo does not.

Lugo was designated for assignment today by Boston in a move that allows them to activate both Lowrie and Mike Lowell from the disabled list. The Red Sox have 10 days to trade him or to release him outright, with the latter being the overwhelming probability. In either case, the Sox will be responsible for a few million dollars of Lugo's remaining contract.

Nevertheless, it solves a problem at the shortstop position for the Red Sox. Even as a fan of Lugo's, it was a move which had to happen.

Here's hoping he doesn't get picked up by an AL team and go Ronny Cedeno on the Sox during the last couple weeks of September.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This is what the AL has been reduced to?

Remember in the 1990s when Home Run Derbies had, you know, quality lineups in both leagues? In 1992, the AL's Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr., Joe Carter and Cal Ripken Jr. faced off against the Senior Circuit's Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield, Fred McGriff and some guy named Barry Bonds. Two years later, KG Jr. and McGriff returned, alongside Ruben Sierra, Frank Thomas, Albert Belle, Jeff Bagwell, Dante Bichette and Mike Piazza. Men's men.

Heck in 1997, when they expanded to 10 hitters instead of eight, the lineup was still a who's who of Major League sluggers with McGwire, Griffey Jr., Walker and Bagwell, as well as Ray Lankford, Nomar Garciaparra, Chipper Jones, Tino Martinez (who bashed 16 and won the event), Brady Anderson and Jim Thome.

But inexplicably, the event has fallen on hard times. What used to be an honor to participate in is now brushed aside for a day off. As a result, only the National League is stocked with today's best home run hitters. Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder are sure to put on a show tonight at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. In fact, the lineups are so one-sided, that the NL could sweep through to the second round.

On the AL side, fluke seasons from Brandon Inge and Nelson Cruz have been rewarded with appearances in the Midsummer Classic's premier event. Inge has 21 dingers at the break. He had 25 home runs total in 264 games over the last two seasons prior. Cruz one-upped Inge with 22 round-trippers during the first half. Ironically, Cruz's career home run total in 176 games entering the '09 campaign was 22.

After those two is Joe Mauer, known more for his batting average than his power. Mauer has 15 homers this season, despite missing 25 games over the first three months. The 15 is two more than Mauer has hit in any season in his career. In 561 games before this year, the Twins' backstop hit just 44 long balls, which averages just under 13 over every full season. Ouch. On top of that, no catcher has ever won the event. Awesome.

The final hitter for the AL, and the only real hope to do much of anything for the DH-laden league, is Carlos Pena, who only received entry into the event after being named Dustin Pedroia's replacement on the All-Star team. Pena has 24 big flies this year, but is hitting just .228 on the season. In fact, chances are the only reason he was named as a replacement is because the Rays made it to the World Series last year, so Rays manager Joe Maddon will lead the team. Although there's also a chance Bud Selig told Maddon that the AL desperately needed someone to represent them that wasn't a 100-1 shot on Vegas lines.

It's sad that in a league with proven All-Star sluggers such as Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Jason Bay, Justin Morneau, Miguel Cabrera and Paul Konerko, the American League settled for Cruz, Inge, Mauer and Pena. Should be fun watching the National League battle for bragging rights among each other since the superior league has been determined before the hitters step on the field.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I knew I should have pursued sports broadcasting...

I make it a rule to only watch BoSox games called by the hometown crew for a couple of reasons. One, if anyone is going to be biased and obnoxious, I want it to be the guys pulling for the same team as me. Two, Don Orsillo, Boston's play-by-play announcer, is respected enough to be assigned playoff games by TBS, which is more than most other broadcasters can say for themselves.

If I have no choice, like when ESPN or Fox picks up a game, or the Sox play the Mariners, I'm forced to sit through three hours of Rick Sutcliffe, Jon Miller or Tim McCarver. None of these guys, however, are more painful to listen to than the guy above, Dave Sims.

In fact, I can come of with four reasons why Sims is the worst of the worst. Enjoy.

1) Lack of knowledge. If Boston has runners on the corners with nobody out, Garrett Olson can't escape the inning with a double play ball because, as we all know, there are three outs per inning. Idiot.

2) I don't really know how to preface this, but just because a player has a name like "Gutierrez" does not mean you are required to try miserably to roll the R's in his name. Stop it.

3) He's exceedingly obnoxious. This should count for about seven reasons, but I'll limit it to one. He laughs at jokes which aren't funny. He's more of a homer than Rick Rizzs. Everything is 50 times greater when a Mariner does it. Routine plays are Web Gems. The list goes on.

4) He's in October July. I understand Seattle makes the playoffs about once a decade and to be within 15 games of first on Independence Day is an achievement in itself for M's fans, but just because you win a road game at Fenway does not mean you've clinched a trip to the World Series. If you were watching last night's game, though, you would have thought the Mariners won Game 7 of the ALCS. Hey Sims, you guys scored twice in the 11th and even when Mark Lowe gave up a bomb to the immortal George Kottaras (his first career blast), you thought it was baseball's greatest and most clutch save of the last 25 years. It wasn't.

Oh, and while I'm here, Theo, feel free to ship Saito anywhere. Maybe you can get a right fielder who swings the bat in return.