Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Nine innings 05.31.05

Nine innings while wondering when Randy Johnson turned into Jamie Moyer . . .

1) Raise your hand if right about now you're feeling guilty about dumping on Edgar Renteria during his slow start. (Slowly raising hand.) The cat knows how to break out of a slump in style, huh? During a three-game set in the Bronx, Renteria went 10 for 22 with two homers and six RBIs, raising his average all the way to .295. It was our first extended look at at how potent a force he can be in this lineup, not to mention a reminder that it was foolish to dismiss eight years of excellence on the basis of two awkward months. It struck me that the warm round of applause Renteria received at Fenway last night was more of an apology for our impatience than a thank-you for a job well done. To paraphrase a particularly annoying saying Yankees fans like to toss around, Renteria is a true Red Sox now. He's been booed, he's been cheered - and he's stuck it to the Yankees on their turf. Welcome aboard, Edgah.

2) Let's see . . . Bronson Arroyo has been shelled so thoroughly in his last two starts, you have to wonder if he's tipping his pitches . . . Tim Wakefield is coming off one of his excruciating Bad Timmy starts in New York, having walked seven . . . Wade Miller was lit up by the Blue Jays, reminding us that it's going to be a long road to dependability . . . so, yeah, guess we can shelve that "Who goes to the 'pen when Schilling returns" argument for a while, huh? This week, everyone but David Wells and the shockingly terrific Matt Clement looked like he belongs in the bullpen - in Pawtucket.

3) Glad to see Wells switched numbers with Renteria, giving up No. 3 and ceasing to pay homage to his hero and kindred spirit, Babe Ruth. The single digit looked just plain weird on a pitcher's jersey, and besides, doesn't Boomer know that Babe references around here are so 2003? In a related note, how is it that Wells can look like Whitey Ford in one start and Betty Ford in the next, yet appear to have the exact same repertoire, location and stuff in both games? Can anyone answer this for me? Anyone? Bueller?

4) Not that I'm certain John Olerud is the solution at first base, and not that I'm advocating trading Kevin Millar to Japan for homesick Gabe Kapler, but I've seen more quality at-bats from Mr. Magic Safety Helmet in three games than I've seen from the KFC Cowboy in two months. Just sayin' is all.

5) I want to tip my cap to A-Rod for revealing this week that he is in therapy, particularly since he said he made the revelation so kids won't feel that there is a stigma attached to getting help. (Especially kids with purple lips and a penchant for slapping people when things aren't going their way, I presume.) But the cynic in me can't help but wonder if this is one more ploy to restore some luster back to his tarnished image. I hope it's not, I do, but A-Rod's history of insincerity and calculation when it comes to public perception has to make you wonder, as the Bergen Record's Adrian Wojnarowski articulates so well in this column.

6) Yo, Tito: We love ya, man, and you earned a few managerial mulligans last fall, but hey, just a word of advice: Alan Embree and his mysteriously shrinking fastball against any decent righthanded hitter? Bad idea. Bad, bad idea. That ball Gary Sheffield hit Friday night was going so fast it turned to talcum powder before it cleared the fence. Embree has been awful this year. It's time to give Matt Mantei more responsibility at his expense.

7) I appreciate that the Sox's braintrust searches for creative solutions to its roster problems, and I agree that there needs to be a way to get Kevin Youkilis and his ready-for-prime-time bat into the lineup more often. (Suggestion: Kevin Millar, first baseman, Hiroshima Carp.) But trying him at second base is not the answer. Youkilis has subpar range at third base. At second, he'd make Todd Walker look like Roberto Alomar in his prime. Besides, I can live with Mark Bellhorn and his baseball-repellent bat, as long as he continues to turn the double play well and get on base at a decent clip.

8) All right, Yankees fans, you can put down your crayons, slip back into your comfy Jeter Jammies, and yell to mom upstairs in the living room that you won't need a ride to the post office today after all. Yes, you can save all your barely coherent letters and emails, because I was kidding there about Johnson turning into Moyer. Of course that's silly. He's really more of rich man's Mark Hendrickson, wouldn't you say? Tall, mediocre, doesn't strike anyone out . . . ah, still kidding, Vinny. Still kidding. Ha-ha. (Nudge.) Actually, it's becoming apparent that the AL East race will come down to which team's aging ace performs closer to his peak self. If Schilling comes back and approaches something close to his 2004 level, the Sox win the division . . . unless Johnson, who has been good but not great, finds his Cy Young-worthy form of 2004. Then the race is on.

9) As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card . . .

. . . as Joe Castig would say: "Can you be-LEEVE it?" Yep, the insufferable
Tim McCarver, who comes across as the Yankees' No. 1 superfan/apologist/rumpswab on the Fox broadcasts, actually played for the Red Sox. If you asked him about it, I bet he'd deny it ever happened, then spew some pre-programmed incoherent babble about Derek Jeter's "calm eyes" or Mariano Rivera's "elegant gait." What a windbag.