Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hello again, hello

So this popped into my email from reader SB1902 (apparently, he's a droid) earlier today:

"[You wrote] 'Should be back in these parts with a new column tonight, one that might even include a mea culpa regarding Tony Clark's dirtbag status.'

"Saturday. Underlined, Saturday, for the new column. I'm ready to go read Bill Simmons's latest thoughts on Lindsey Lohan."

First, I always appreciate it if, when you guys are calling me out for being a Blog Tease and/or a lazy slug, you make me laugh, and that certainly did it. As far as the reader's point . . . um, yeah, my bad. Honestly, I intended to peck something out after the kids went to bed, but by the time the wee ones actually do go to sleep, I'm so beat I can barely lift a finger to type. The next night I zonk out on the couch cuddling the laptop won't be the first.

(Commence gentle weeping for my plight.)

(Shh. Listen. You can actually hear my wife rolling her eyes right now.)

Anyway, I'm pathetic, I know, but there's my mea culpa. And that's the only one you're getting tonight, punks . . . which brings me to our little Tony Clark controversy. It seems I rattled some cages by picking Clark for my All-Dirtbag team the other day. Let me clarify: I picked Clark for the reason reader AJM suggested in the comments section - he was more interested in helping the union than helpirng the Red Sox win baseball games. Nice guy? Sure - one writer I respect calls him a "true gentleman." Scummy thing to do? Absolutely, considering his incompetence (and his goober manager's insistence on playing him) was crucial in derailing the Sox's season. I've heard nothing but nice things about Clark, and I noted that when I wrote the piece, but what he did in 2002 was . . . well, dirtbaggish. I'm sticking to it.

As for a few other things we've been meaning to say . . .

• Man, that performance by Josh Beckett Sunday . . . it defined the term "ace." He matched up with the opposition's best pitcher, on the road, and escaped the most dangerous jam by striking out their best hitter (Adrian Gonzalez) with the tying run at third in the fifth inning . . . and he did it with a breaking ball, something that never would have happened a season ago. Those of you who aren't newbies who found us via Boston.com know that I was one of the last men standing on the Beckett bandwagon a season ago, probably to the point of being an apologist. But it was just so damn puzzling to see that cocky kid who whupped the Yankees in the '03 World Series on their own turf struggle so much with - well, with everything - as he adjusted to the American League. Even I wondered if he'd ever get his act together, particularly as it became apparent that Hanley Ramirez was going to be a star. One dazzling half-season later, and it's nice to be reassured that this trade wasn't such a bad one after all. He's the ace we all thought we were getting.

• Speaking of aces, watching Jake Peavy pitch against the Sox Sunday, I was again reminded of last summer's ridiculous rumor that the Padres might consider swapping him for Mike Lowell. I made the point then, and I'll make it again now: The only way the Padres would trade Peavy is if Danny Ainge somehow ended up with Kevin Towers's job. Even with his struggles last season, he has to be as close to untouchable as any pitcher not employed by the Minnesota Twins. Peavy is 26, he's got that intense competitive streak that only the ultra-elite pitchers seem to possess, and he might have the most electric stuff in baseball this side of a healthy Felix Hernandez. Seriously, how much did his ball move on Sunday? I don't know how anyone ever hits the guy.

• You've probably seen this elsewhere by now, but it turns out the self-proclaimed VP of Common Sense doesn't have a whole lot of it himself when it comes to his beloved NBA Draft. Because it's probably not good form to snicker with such blatant schadenfreude, here's my own list of the five players in Thursday's draft who will be the best pros: 1) Greg Oden. 2) Kevin Durant. 3) Corey Brewer. 4) Al Thornton. 5) Mike Conley. When I'm proven to be a McHale-like moron in the next few years, you can come back here and mock me. You know, provided I haven't ditched this place for a VP of Common Sense gig by then.

• Turns out Josh Bard could hit a knuckleball a whole helluva lot better than he could catch one. All right, Mike Adams-caliber jokes aside, I have to admit I'm a little weary of the whole Tim Wakefield experience right now. Yeah, I know he's a class act off the field and the team's elder statesman and yada-yada-yada, but 1) It's as frustrating as hell when he sails through four innings, and then his knuckleball deserts him and suddenly there are five runs on the board before you know it, and 2) He's the reason Chicken Parm Mirabelli remains employed, and that's practically an unpardonable sin at this address. I'm sure I'll write some appreciative ode the next time he rips off three wins in a row, but for now, he's nothing but an aggravation every fifth day.

• I enjoyed Gordon Edes's piece earlier this week on the longtime friendship of Tito Francona and his righthand man, Brad Mills. Perhaps it's because the self-effacing Francona underplays his own ability so much, but it's worth remembering that in 1982, Francona, Cleveland's Von Hayes, and that Ripken kid in Baltimore were considered the three best hitting prospects in baseball. Knee injuries quickly turned Francona from a phenom into a journeyman, and I think his personal experience as a player helped make him so deft at handling personalities - he's the rare manager who can relate to the hotshots as well as the roster fillers, because he's been both.

• Mark Buehrle to Boston? It's a fun rumor, but I've got mixed feelings. While Buehrle has a proven track record, would be fine Schilling insurance, and is having a nice bounce-back season after tying for the league lead in hits allowed a year ago, I'm wary of giving up anything of consequence for a soft-tossing free-agent-to-be who has already expressed a desire to pitch for his home-state St. Louis Cardinals next season. He's a rental, and I hope Theo is willing to pay nothing more than a rental price, meaning that he hangs up his phone the minute Kenny Williams mentions Buchholz, Ellsbury, or Lester.

• If the Celtics make this proposed (or is it imagined?) four-way swap in which the Celtics would get Jermaine O'Neal while giving up Al Jefferson and the fifth pick, Danny Ainge should be banned from the New Garden for life. At this point, I'm not sure I'd trade Jefferson straight-up for O'Neal, a skilled, smart, and selfless player who happens to have a chronic shoulder injury and who the last three seasons has missed an entire season's worth of games (82, though The Brawl cost him 15 of those). His scoring average has dipped from 24.3 ppg to 20.1 to 19.4 in that time, and though he's more than two years younger than Garnett, it's fair to wonder whether he's already begun his decline. It's a shaky trade on a number of levels - it'd be nice if Ainge could pull off a three- or four-way trade where his team isn't the one getting shafted - but I'm comforting myself with the belief that there is way more fact than fiction to this. Jim Gray, who originally reported the rumor, is a notorious Kobe Bryant lackey, and this trade sounds like something a member of Bryant's entourage would come up with himself while fiddling around on RealGM.com. I ain't buyin' it. Please, someone tell me Ainge isn't, either.

• Rod Beck, the universally liked reliever who died Sunday at 38, came up with one of my all-time favorite quotes back when he was with the Sox. Asked about his conditioning regimen, which appeared to consist of nothing but 12-ounce curls with the occasional donut lunge mixed in, Beck replied: "I've never heard of anyone going on the disabled list with pulled fat." Yes, the guy was an original. RIP, Shooter.

• As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

I still say the affable former Sox shortstop, now the Padres third base coach, had a better arm than his Cooperstown-bound little brother does. Trevor Hoffman is a converted infielder who took to pitching as a last resort to salvage his career in the Reds system. Considering that Glenn hit .242 with a Lugo-like .622 OPS in nine seasons, maybe the Sox should have done the same with him back in the day.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Elsewhere . . .

Just a quick note to let you know the new Fox column is up right here. This week's episode features some love for the Rockies, a compelling comeback story for a Cardinal, and the pictured random baseball card of the no-longer-mustached dude Dice-K outdueled last night.

Should be back in these parts with a new column tonight, one that might even include a mea culpa regarding Tony Clark's dirtbag status. We'll catch up with you then.

-- TATB Management


Friday, June 22, 2007

The All-Time Red Sox All-Dirtbag Team

These are the good ol' days for Red Sox fans. Not only is the ball club a perennial contender well on its way to another compelling autumn, but it seems the ownership emphasizes character in its players. Oh sure, Curt Schilling is something of a blowhard, and we're still not really sure what happened with Julio Lugo in Houston. But for the most part, we can feel pretty good about rooting for this group of players. It's funny, a buddy of mine mentioned the other day that he likes the personality of this team even better than that of the World Series champs of '04. While I consider that statement borderline blasphemous - I ate up the Cowboy Up antics, Cabrera's handshakes, etc., and given the tense atmosphere in Boston at that time, I don't think they would have won without being so ridiculously loose - I certainly understand why someone would admire the professionalism (not to mention the starting pitching) of this crew. But our appreciation for these recent Sox teams got us talking (reminiscing certainly is not the right word) about the days when we didn't have it so good, when Dan Duquette annually failed chemistry and the clubhouse was populated with more Dirtbags than Dirt Dogs. Coincidentally, I also received an email Thursday morning from a reader suggesting I write about my least favorite Red Sox of all-time. And so, with all of this considered and the people demanding some negativity, we offer you this, our All-Time All-Dirtbag team. Try to enjoy it more than you did when these bums actually played here.

Jim Leyritz:
The embedded Yankee started the '98 season as the starting catcher, but griped and moaned his way out of town after losing playing time to some kid named Varitek. Good. Riddance. Honorable mention here goes to Rick Cerone, another all-talk, no-action type like Leyritz who was more interested in playing clubhouse lawyer than actually playing the game.

Tony Clark:
Bright, friendly, and respected, he makes our anti-team for spending '02 seeming more concerned with baseball's labor strife than with helping the Sox win some freakin' ballgames. With co-conspirator Grady Little's help, he deftly sabotaged the Red Sox offense in '02, hitting three homers in 275 at-bats for a whopping .556 OPS. (For perspective, that's two points higher than Cesar Crespo's career OPS.) Frankly, after what I saw that season, I'm shocked he's still in the bigs.

Jose Offerman:
Believe it or not, he's still playing, for the Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks, and as evidenced by this piece by ESPN's Jeff Pearlman, he's still in denial about the decline of his own skills. Says the perpetually sour Offerman, now 38: "A baseball player knows when his time is up. And I still have three years left in me." Say whaaaaat?

Mike Lansing:
I suppose it's somewhat of a copout to put this All-Universe jerk at shortstop since second base was the primary place he stunk it up for the 2000-01 Sox. But he did fill in during Nomar's various forays to the disabled list, and there simply must be a spot on the team for a player who was so delusional about his own abilities that he once tore the lineup card off the dugout wall and shredded it in full view of the media after discovering his name wasn't on it.

Shea Hillenbrand:
Arrived in 2001 as a wide-eyed, gosh-I'm-just-happy-to-be-here kid, a ballplayer version of Opie Taylor. Departed in 2003 as a loudmouthed, overly entitled lunkhead with a vocabulary that would make John Rocker blush. Okay, maybe that's a little exaggerated, but honestly, I've never heard more horror stories about a player's public conduct than I have about Hillenbrand.

Wil Cordero:
You know the reason. Let's move on . . .

Carl Everett:
Our team captain, this dinosaur-doubtin', Kulpa's-melon-buttin', Globe-hatin' blockhead remains the epitome of the 2001 Sox, a collection of individuals so despicable (Manny, Pedro, Lowe, Varitek, and a few others excluded) that I actually quit watching baseball for awhile. God, I hated that team.

Dante Bichette:
By the time he loafed his way to Boston, this chronic whiner was more slug than slugger. (As you probably figured, he did keep himself in terrific physical condition after his playing days ended. Don't click here if you're still eating your breakfast.)

Roger Clemens:
It's always about the money. And yet the disingenuous dope never fails to claim it's about everything else.

Matt Young:
As long as his decision to give three years and $6.8 million to Young, a jittery lefty with a phobia about throwing to first base and a career record of 51-78, remains on Lou Gorman's resume, his decision to trade this guy will continue to rank as his second stupidest transaction as far as I'm concerned. (Upon further review, this probably isn't entirely fair to Young, who was by all accounts a gem of a guy. But man, was he terrible.)

Ugueth Urbina:
Depending on which version you believe, he got into either a heated argument or a rock-'em, sock-'em fistfight with Tim Wakefield over the volume of his stereo on a team flight in '01. Considering the dark developments in Urbina's life since then, Wakefield has to figure he was lucky Oogie didn't have his trusty machete on the plane with him.

Jack Clark:
Strike out . . . buy a Ferrari . . . strike out . . . buy a Benz . . . ground into a double play . . . buy a Caddy. No wonder he ended up bankrupt.

Joe Kerrigan:
All these years later, and I still can't believe he had the audacity to ask Manny to change his swing. I mean, he won eight games as a big-league pitcher - what the hell does he know about hitting? And of course he can never be forgiven for trying to make Pedro pitch meaningless September games with a shoulder injury, one so serious that he practically had the release point of Dan Quisenberry before, in a justifiable rage, he ripped off his jersey during a workout and announced he was shutting himself down. If ever I was going to go for the R rating on this blog, it would be to describe this backstabbing, incompetent weasel.

(Special shout-out to reader Jim Bell for suggesting this topic. Now let me know in the comments who I forgot.)

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Sure, his head's roughly the size of the Coke bottles, but . . .

No time for a full Nine Innings tonight, seeing that I just got home from Boston and it's freakin' 2:09 a.m. But before I zonk out, I do have a few grievances to air . . .

Don't get me wrong, I still think he's a borderline sociopath who has no qualms about irrevocably damaging the game he claims to love . . . but I have to admit, I enjoyed the Barry Comes To Fenway experience the last few days. Every at-bat definitely felt like an Event, capital E, whether he was clocking a Dice-K pitch toward the Pesky Pole or getting outwitted by Hideki Okajima with the game on the line. It was great theater, and maybe it's easier to say this knowing that the Sox swept the series, but it almost would have been a letdown had he left Boston without homering. I also have to give him credit for his good-natured manner in dealing with the heckling and his apparently sincere appreciation for the city. Oh, of course I still hope his final home run is No. 754, and no one wants the circus to stay in town forever, but the Bonds sideshow was a fun weekend diversion at the least.

My first thought when I heard that Brendan Donnelly was going on the DL. Uh-oh. Quick, someone stop Tito from re-anointing Timlin as his main righty setup guy. So far, so good, though: Francona went to Joel Pineiro (whom I still think is going to help this team) in the big situation today, and Pineiro came through, inducing a crucial double-play grounder. Pineiro's got the stuff, and who knows, maybe he's about to start getting the corresponding results.

I know, I've been pushing Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski's "Soul of Baseball" blog a lot lately . . . but man, the thing's just such a joy to read, I feel obligated to pass it along. Posnanski's passion for the game comes through in every post. His list of the five sweetest swings in baseball history is something I wish I'd thought of, and he writes the way I wish I could.

At first I was pretty sure. Now I'm convinced. Tony Soprano died.

How phenomenal has A-Rod been this season? Put it this way. He has six more home runs than Manny and Papi combined. And yet the Sox are 8.5 games up. Crazy game, ain't it?

I think I've finally figured it out. Glenn Geffner sounds like a Connecticut School of Broadcasting newbie who listened to way too much Bob Costas growing up. Conversely, it is an absolute pleasure to listen to Dave O'Brien call a game, and he and Uncle Joe already have terrific chemistry.

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

You just know that next year's card will picture our new favorite goofball bowling the baseball to first.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

TATB Live: Sox vs. Big-Head Barry

Two thoughts before we dig in here:

1) Barry Bonds is going to hear it tonight, and you, me, and Henry Aaron know he deserves every last boo. But I only hope Sox fans lean toward the creative side rather than the obnoxious side, because I get the sense certain Bonds apologists (boo-yeah!) are just waiting to say Boston disgraced itself in its treatment of baseball's most accomplished walking pharmacy. Go ahead and let him have it, Sox fans . . . but stay classy in doing so. Slowly climbing off soap box . . .

2) Dave Roberts is going to hear it tonight, and just as he's the polar opposite of Bonds in terms of personality and character, his reception will be the polar opposite of Bonds's as well. You surely need no reminded that his stolen base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS is perhaps the defining moment of that cathartic postseason, and other than his return for the ring ceremony in 2005, it's the first time he's appeared on the field at Fenway. Here's hoping his ovation blows away the Dr. Charles-orchestrated salute to Trot Nixon a few weeks ago. Without Roberts and his fleet feet, we might be talking about an 89-year drought right now.

All right, time to score some runs for once and get a win . . .

Roberts is leading off, and he looks genuinely touched as 37,000 or so Sox fans salute him in unison. (Though I have to admit, I thought the ovation would last longer.) Of course, while he's one of ours when it comes to all the highlight films and misty watercolor memories, he reminds us that its the Giants who keep his bank account full these days, singling to right off Julian Tavarez and coming around to score on Mark Sweeney's double into the corner. It's 1-0, Giants, and so much for sentiment.

Randy Winn grounds to second, moving Sweeney to third (they're so fundamentally sound in the NL) and bringing up Bonds and his size 24EEEEEEEEEEEE head. The reaction was pretty much one massive group boo, but it was hardly of the vicious Get-the-bleep-out-of-here-you-cheater nature the WEEI banshees led us to believe would take place.

Bonds pops weakly to Pedroia, who holds Sweeney at third. Guess who forgot to put his HGH on his pancakes this morning?

Tavarez heaves a one-hopper past Varitek, Sweeney trots home, and its 2-0, Giants. Just the start the Sox needed. Has A-Rod homered tonight yet?

Considering the over/under on the amount of runs the Sox would score tonight was probably one given the way they've been swinging the bats, this has to be considered a fantastic start. J.D. Drew gets brushed by a Barry Zito pitch, and wee Dustin Pedroia follows two pitches later with shot into the Monster seats, tying it at 2. By the way, is it obvious that my jokes about Pedroia's height are a pathetic way of trying to mask the fact that I was completely wrong about the kid? It is? Shoot.

Well, this is just a wonderful development. Papi argues a called third strike, slams down his bat and helmet on the way back to the dugout, and promptly gets tossed by home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo. As much as I hate to say anything negative about Papi, there's no denying he deserves this. First, the pitch was a strike, and second, it seems like he's never taken a called strike that he didn't complain about, which means he's probably getting the reputation as a pain-in-the-you-know-what among the umpires. And frankly, getting tossed from a game at a time when the Sox' offense is struggling and their lead in the AL East is shrinking by the day is inexcusable. He should be better than that.

Remy sums up the developments so far with his usual succinctness: "Plenty of action already tonight, with Bonds nearly hitting a home run [he just missed wrapping one around the Pesky Pole], Pedroia hitting a home run, and Ortiz getting tossed from the ballgame." If I've said it once, I've said it 1,000 times. There's just nothing like the Sox-Giants rivalry.

You know, I like to think I follow baseball pretty closely, especially now that I have the gig at Fox. I devour Buster Olney's blog daily, follow the minors like a "Baseball America" junkie, watch "Baseball Tonight," pretty much everything you'd expect. So it pains me to admit that I have no freakin' idea who this Schierholtz kid is that's currently at the plate for the Giants, and there were about a half-dozen guys one the Diamondbacks' roster last weekend that I wouldn't have been able to pick out of a lineup of baseball cards. Either I don't know as much as I think I do, or there are a lot of obscure players currently breaking through in the lesser league. I'm going to pretend that it's the latter, thank you very much. (And Tavarez, who I have heard of before, cruised through a 1-2-3 inning.)

Coco Crisp draws a two-out walk, but Julio Yugo grounds to third to end the Sox' half. I think my new policy is going to be to take my snack 'n' pee breaks during Lugo's at bats. (But not at the same time, sicko.) Good thing he's got only three years and $27 million remaining on his contract after this season. You're a sly one, Theo.

Roberts grounds to Pedroia to leadoff the inning as Tina Cervasio cuts in with a clip of Roberts talking about the warm reception and thank-yous he gets from Sox fans everywhere he goes - including, according to his anecdote, the bathroom. I don't imagine he's exaggerating - a buddy of mine ran into Roberts at a bookstore in San Diego a couple of years ago, and he couldn't pass up the opportunity to thank him for The Steal. My friend says Roberts was remarkably gracious, and told him a day doesn't pass when he doesn't encounter a Sox fan somewhere who wants to tell him how much 2004 means to him. As far as legacies go, that's surely not a bad one.

Tavarez works out of a minor jam (two-out double by Winn, intentional walk to the Human Syringe).

Upon further review, some nifty NESN split-screen camera work shows this Randozzo guy apparently had it out for Papi, peering at him all the way back to the dugout as if waiting for an excuse to run him. Says Remy: "If he had done that right around Randozzo at home plate, I'd certainly understand the ejection, no question about that. But that far away? C'mon, gimme a break . . . You can call that a homer call all you want, but that's the facts." As it is, Wily Mo Pena will be your DH for the remainder of the evening. Enjoy.

Drew singles (he's the present-day Rickey Henderson!), Pedroia reaches on a bobble by Sweeney, and Zito does the impossible and walks Wily Mo. So here's Manny, and isn't he about due for a two-homer, six-RBi night? Yes, yes he is. But he'll have to get the other five ribbies latee, because this time he bounces a fieder's choice to third to make it 3-2, Boston. It's probably worth noting that Manny was busting it down the line.

Youkilis hits into a double play to end the inning. Is it too late to take his name off the All-Star ballot?

Benjie Molina of the Flying Molina Brothers leads off by hitting a one-hopper to Tavarez, who, against all odds, does not bowl the ball to first base, but actually throws it. Go figure. The Giants go down 1-2-3 again, and as usual Tavarez is giving the Sox everything they could ask for from a fifth starter.

NESN just showed Jon Miller, the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball play-by-play guy who is also the voice of the Giants. Maybe it's just my imagination, but he looks so much happier without Joe Morgan blabbering cliches and Big Red Machine anecdotes in his ear.

Ray Durham makes a nice play to throw out Coco on a roller up the middle, getting him in a bang-bang play at first. For some reason, I sympathize with Crisp in his current offensive struggles a lot more than I do with Lugo, perhaps because Crisp is actually doing something to help the team (Gold Glove defense in center) and seems anguished by his inability to buy a hit these days.

Lugo swipes second - his 19th without being caught, so I guess he is doing something to help the team - but this one comes with an asterisk. It appeared Zito had him picked off, but first baseman Sweeney threw to third to make sure Mike Lowell wouldn't break for home, and Lowell scurred back to third safely. Typically heady play by Lowell, and the Sox reap the benefits a moment later when Drew, who is apparently an amalgam of Rickey, Rock Raines, and Lou Brock as a leadoff hitter, ropes a two-run double over Roberts's head in center to make it 5-2, Sox. "Imagine if he finds himself as a leadoff hitter," Remy says with a laugh. Pedroia follows with his third hit of the night, scoring Drew to make it 6-2, prompting Orsillo to exclaim, "Here are the runs the Red Sox have been without lately!" Eloquent, Don-O, you vinyl-covered automaton. Vin Scully couldn't have put it better.

Roberts pokes a one-out double to right, Sweeney bounces one to Youkilis for the second out . . . and then, wouldn't you know it, Tavarez busts out his mad bowling skills once again, fielding Winn's slow roller along the baseline and rolling it even slower to Youkilis for the third out. Francona looks like he just swallowed a wad of Copenhagen, but whatever works, right?

Sox go in order in the bottom half. Man, Barry Zito is going to be worth every dime of that $126 million, isn't he?

Here's Bonds at the plate . . .

. . . and here's Bonds as an Alaska Goldpanner in, I believe, 1983.

Man, the dude really hasn't changed a bit.

Bonds bounces to second as Sox fans jeer him with what sounds like three or four different chants. The lack of cohesion is mildly disappointing. Maybe they should just go with the trusty old "steeee-roids" chant that used to greet Jose Canseco back in the day. Don't make it more complicated than it is, people.

Minor trouble brewing for Tavarez. With one out, Ray Durham singles, and moves to third on Molina's single. (By the way, I'm pretty sure that if they raced around the bases, Doug Mirabelli would lap Molina. The guy is so slow that time stands still when he runs.) But the Sox starter escapes, getting Schierholtz to ground to second. Pretty impressive performance tonight by Tavarez, especially given the team's semi-desperation for a win.

After third baseman Pedro Feliz punts Crisp's one-out grounder, Zito's night ends when Bruce Bochy gives him the hook. I don't want to belabor the point that this was a poorly-conceived signing by Brian Sabean and the Giants, but according to Bill James, Zito threw the second-most pitches below 80 mph in the AL last season, trailing only a certain local knuckleballer. My point: In terms of stuff and results, Zito barely resembles the young ace who went 23-5 in 2003. He's little more than a lefty junkballer now.

Drew, who is obviously the greatest Red Sox leadoff hitter since Wade Boggs was devouring chicken, Miller Lite, and Margo Adams, singles off reliever Randy Messenger to drive in Crisp, who had swiped second., and it's 7-2, Sox. It's like I've been saying, all the Sox need to get their offense going is to get that albatross Ortiz out of there. (Actually, I shouldn't even joke about a Papi-less lineup, should I? Bad karma - bad, bad karma. What say we scratch that joke from the record before the baseball gods get wind of it.)

Zito's final line: 5 1/3, 5 hits, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 6 ER. Hey, but at least the chicks dig him.

Now that's pretty baseball. With Drew running and the second baseman covering the bag, Pedroia pokes his fourth hit of the night through the vacated spot. Somewhere, David Eckstein is nodding his tiny transluscent head in approval.

Cervasio, who's due for a Murrow Award one of these years, has an exclusive with Ortiz's son, D'Angelo, who can't be older than 4. The kid's adorable, though a suspicious mind might note he looks more like Manny than he does his old man.

Another easy, breezy inning for Tavarez, though Remy points out that he seems to be limping and favoring one of this legs in his follow-through. No one in the Sox dugout seems particularly concerned, however.

Sweeney makes the final out of the inning, and I just want to drop a name Simmons-style here and note that he was a year ahead of me at UMaine and is a hell of a good guy. Which, come to think of it, is probably one reason why he's managed to last 13 years in the big leagues despite hitting .257 with just 41 career homers. I think even Bonds likes him.

Manny (who walked) is having a typically good old time chatting with Omar Vizquel while standing at second base. What are the odds that he remembers they were teammates for seven years in Cleveland? Fifty-fifty? In all seriousness, with the benefit of hindsight, it's astounding those Cleveland teams never won a championship, though I suppose they have Jose Mesa and Tony Fernandez to blame for that, as well as a pitching staff that never really had an ace. But those Belle-Thome-Manny Era lineups were so ridiculous, Manny sometimes batted seventh. (And while we were giving you Tribe flashbacks, the Sox get nothing and like it.)

The Sox have a new pitcher, and Remy dutifully informs us that "Okajimer" hasn't worked since the Sox were in "Arizoner." If anyone wonders why he doesn't have a national gig other than for reasons of his own volition, that classic Mass accent is probably why.

Bonds greets Okajima with a single. Must have rubbed some cream and the clear on the ol' Louisville Slugger between innings. (Sorry, pervs, but that's not a euphemism.)

Crisp singles to left off Jack Taschner, whom I couldn't pick out of a bullpen full of generic middle relievers. He appears to be lefthanded, however, which means he'll probably pitch another 20 years.

Two runs, eight Ks, 6.1 innings from Roger Clemens-Waldman tonight . . . um, not that I'm scoreboard watching or anything.

Drew just hit another one on the screws that Roberts ran down in center field. We joke about the whole leadoff thing, but he really does seem to be swinging the bat well lately, even if he hasn't always gotten the results. Yup, I suddenly have some hope for him - when he's been healthy, the guy has always hit.

Pedroia drills his fifth hit into the left-center gap, driving in two more runs (his fourth and fifth RBIs of the night), making it 10-2. And like I told you guys all along, the kid is going to make it no matter what all the numb-skulled naysayers claim. (Oh, okay, I'll admit it - I WAS WRONG! DOES THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY? I THOUGHT HE'D BE AS EFFECTIVE AS A LAWN GNOME! INSTEAD, HE'S A 1/16 REPLICA OF ROGERS HORNSBY! I WAS WRONG! AHHHHHHHHH!!!

All right, Manny's been lifted from the game, which is my cue to check out as well. But before I go, I offer you one more parting shot:

Give the guy a great hand tomorrow, too, Sox fans. For a priceless moment like the one he gave us, it's the least we can do.

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Of chicken parms and fillet o' fish

Check it out. It's Dougie, a couple thousand chicken parms* ago.

Anyway, just a quick post to let you know that the latest FOX Nine Innings column is posted here, which of course includes the obligatory Red Sox item. (Hint: Think miniscule second baseman with a big swing. No, dummy, not Remy). Also, I got clearance from the TATB Head of Household to liveblog Big Head Barry's Fenway debut Friday night, so be sure to check back around 7ish for lots of unnecessary play by play, steroid chatter, and one-liners so lame that even Lenny Clarke wouldn't use them on the Big Show. Do I know how to sell this thing or what? Seriously, hope to see you then . . . and what the heck, here are few more quickie thoughts before I crash for the night:

• I have to admit I wasn't particularly sold on the Rockies coming into this series, but after watching them take two of three from the Sox, I'm thinking they could be a legit contender in the NL West. Even though he could walk through your neighborhood unrecognized, Matt Holliday is one of the most complete hitters in the game today, Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins (a notorious second-half hitter), and Todd Helton form an excellent heart of the order, Kaz Matsui looks like the player the Mets thought they were getting so many years ago, and Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook have better stuff and especially poise than I ever expected from a pitcher who makes his living in Colorado. Maybe they caught the Sox at a bad time, but that sure looks like a good ballclub to me.

• Here's hoping things change, and the sooner the better, but at the moment, December 5, 2006 is beginning to look like a dark day in Red Sox history.

• There's nothing that infuriates me more as a fan than an Orsillo/Remy giggle fit while the Sox are getting pasted. It's at those moments that I miss Sean McDonough the most. While he didn't shy away from silliness in the late innings of blowouts, he'd at least draw a few astute observations out of Remy about what's going on with the team before delving into the nonsense. Orsillo is all too willing to talk about "Sox Appeal," Wally the Green Monster's home life or any other inanity that happens to be programmed into his head at the moment, and it's maddening.

• It would be cool if the *%&*#*#* Yankees lost once in a while, and to borrow a line from the great philosopher Forrest Gump, that's all I got to say about that.

• Funny, but this morning I didn't hear anyone talking about it's imperative to sign Curt Schilling to an extension. Ain't it odd how that happens?

• I'm not ready to blame Dave Magadan for the Sox's offensive slide just yet, but could it hurt to call the Dodgers and see if they might consider taking him in a straight-up swap for their novice hitting coach? The way this Sox team is swinging it at the moment, I find myself longing for the not-so-long-ago days when Billy Ballgame was battling for a batting title from the ninth spot in a loaded lineup.

• If you caught a certain commericial during the NBA Finals last night, I have absolutely no doubt that you are walking around this morning saying "Fillet O' Fish" in a British accent. Whoever came up with this marketing concept is either A) brilliant or B) someone who consumed a wide variety of illicit drugs, probably in large quantities. (Actually, it appears the ad is brainchild of Aaron Ruell, the actor who played Napoleon Dynamite's brother, Kip. Now it's starting to make sense, though I have to say I'm surprised McDonald's is even hip enough to approve of such quirky marketing techniques.)

• As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Back in the day (the day in this case being sometime in 1978), the Rockies' manager was one of the game's great phenoms, considered by some (notably Sports Illustrated) to be the second coming of George Brett. Unfortunately for his aspirations, he was the first coming of Clint Hurdle, and hit .259 in parts of 10 big-league seasons before realizing he might be more suited to managing the game than playing it.

* If you don't get the chicken parm reference, well, let's just say we're a family site and all, and we're not about to link to it here. But see, there's this little thing called Google . . .

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fade to black

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. The Red Sox lineup tonight had better have Kevin Youkilis and/or Dustin Pedroia at the top, and Coco Crisp-Tinsley and Julio Yugo at the bottom. I realize that Tito Francona stands by his players and gives them every opportunity to swing their way out of slumps, and sometimes, such as in the case of Pedroia earlier this season, that's an attribute. But for both Crisp and Lugo, this is no longer a slump; they've both been wretched offensive players for over a full season now, and their inability to get on base ahead of Papi and Manny is murdering the Sox offense. It's time for a shakeup, hopefully starting tonight.

2. If the Celtics hang on to the No. 5 pick, I vote for choosing Florida's Corey Brewer. I don't think he'll be a superstar, but he is adept at just about everything a player can do on a basketball court, and he strikes me as one of those guys who's going to be a key component on a winning team, sort of like Josh Howard in Dallas.

3. Remember when ESPN Classic actually showed, you know, classic sports? Now it's a drab mishmash of poker reruns, bowling, and Stump the Schwab marathons, with an occasional game mixed in, usually one that promotes something on the network that night. Back when you could click it on and randomly catch, say, the '86 NBA Finals highlight film, or a This Week In Baseball from the '70s, or the Kellen Winslow Chargers/Dolphins playoff game, I was gleefully addicted. Now, it might as well be the 24-Hour Rosie O'Donnell Network for all that I watch it. Chalk it ups as another great idea slaughtered by ESPN's marketing suits.

4. I'll always appreciate Mike Timlin for what he meant to the Sox in 2003 and '04, but it's gotten to the point where I dread even seeing him warming up in the bullpen during a close game. I appreciate Francona more than any other Sox manager of my lifetime, but his current blindspot for Timlin drives me nuts; why can't he realize he's no longer the pitcher who was so effective in the eighth inning a couple of seasons ago, and refrain from using him in tight situations? Wasn't he paying attention last August?

5. The national media, almost unanimously from what I can tell, came away from Patriots minicamp raving about Randy Moss. Certain members of the local press are predictably yowling that he was dogging it. So excuse me while I give Peter King credence for once.

6. A few posts ago I linked to a Bo Jackson column written by the great Kansas City Star columnist, Joe Posnanski. I should also have mentioned then that he maintains perhaps the most interesting and certainly the most well-written baseball blog you'll find. Ostensibly it's to promote his book on the legendary Buck O'Neil, but Posnanski veers off in various fun directions all the time, such as his recent post on the icons for every major-league franchise. It's become a must-read for me, so check it out if you get the chance. If you liked his Bo column, you won't be disappointed.

7. I suppose this could work in a Frasier-spinning-off-from-Cheers sort of way, but man, I just can't imagine the antics at Dunder-Mifflin being as funny without Dwight K. Schrute.

8. After watching the brilliant "Sopranos" ending 25 times on YouTube (before HBO yanked it for copyright reasons, apparently), I agree with the theory that Tony got capped in the restaurant. I just can't help but think the conversation earlier in the season between Tony and Bobby in which Bobby ponders what it's like to get whacked and finally concludes, "Maybe everything just goes black" was David Chase's way of foreshadowing the show's (and Tony's) final moments.

9. The hunch here is that Asante Samuel will sign the week before the season opener. It's understandable that he's frustrated that he can't cash in Nate Clements-style, but he's still due to make nearly $8 million this season, which is about $7 million more than he's made in his career up until this point. He'd be a fool to waste a pretty decent payday and a season of his prime in a hissy-fit of a holdout.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

This is most blatant airbrushing job I've ever seen . . . that is, until Amanda Beard.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Weekend update

A few table scraps while waiting for the Yankees to claim J.C. Romero . . .

• Heard a lot of yowling from the hindsight specialists on 'EEI this afternoon that Theo Epstein made an egregious mistake by not taking up Curt Schilling on his offer to pitch for a mere $13 million dollars next season. Can't say I'm surprised at the banshees' reactionary outcry, considering that Schilling's masterpiece against the A's Thursday was the best pitching performance we've seen around here since . . . well, probably since Derek Lowe's no-hitter in 2002. (No offense, Pedro.) But for those who are yelping that the Sox should sign Schilling now, it might be time for a reality check. Schilling is going to be 41 years old in November, he struggled mightily in the second half last season, and while his cumulative numbers (6-2, 3.49 ERA) are very good, it's worth noting that he's battled inconsistency, particularly against the Yankees. Of course I hope he pitches well enough the rest of the season to warrant a new deal here, and I'm certain that his threat to test free agency would prove empty should he receive a reasonable offer from the Red Sox. But that does not mean it's not prudent of the front office to wait and see if he can make it through the season as an effective big-league pitcher before committing to him for the next one.

• One more thing about Schilling: You had to find it amusing that the Yankees, according to the New York Times' Tyler Kepner, hooted and hollered like they'd just won something important after watching Shannon Stewart bust up Schilling's no-hitter. We all know that Schilling is a polarizing personality who won't be winning any league-wide popularity contests (remember Ed Wade's infamous quote: "He's a horse every fifth day and horse's --- the other four"). But this sure looks like further proof that the conventional wisdom is wrong and the Sox-Yanks rivalry really does mean as much to the players as it does the fans. I also can't help but wonder how Johnny Damon reacted during the whole thing, considering his wife and Mrs. Schilling weren't exactly sorority sisters during Damon's days in Boston.

• If you ever wondered why Mike Lowell is universally acknowledged as one of baseball's good guys, consider this anecdote from Peter Gammons:

On April 20, Courtney Butcher of Worcester, Mass., a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, called her father, Jim, to talk about the Monster seats Jim had purchased for the family for the Sunday night game. Lowell was her favorite player. That night, right after Courtney talked to her father, she and three friends were killed in an automobile accident. That Sunday night, Jim took his other children to the game. In the 4-HR inning, Lowell's shot went right to the Butcher family.

The next day, a friend of the family called Sarah Stevenson of the Red Sox, who relayed the message to Lowell, and he signed a uniform with these words: "Courtney, May God Be With You, Rest in Peace." He also sent word to Jim Butcher that he would homer for Courtney. The wake was that Tuesday, April 24, and Lowell's uniform was draped over Courtney's coffin. That night, he homered against the Blue Jays.

• In the 2003 MLB amateur draft, the Red Sox selected Baylor outfielder David Murphy with the 17th pick in the first round. Two picks later, the Arizona Diamondbacks plucked the other player the Sox reportedly considered, University of California first baseman Conor Jackson. While Murphy, now at Pawtucket, has plodded through the Sox system and projects as a fourth outfielder in the big leagues, the highly regarded Jackson has emerged as an everyday player in Arizona, putting up a respectable .817 OPS this season. My point? In my usual roundabout way, I have two: 1) The Sox probably took the wrong guy. 2) The hype surrounding this week's MLB draft LIVE ON ESPN2!!!! was ridiculous. Half of the kids taken in the first round will never be heard from again unless you live in a Double A city. No one knows if their favorite team took the next Murphy, Jackson, or Danny Goodwin, and they won't for a few years. Which is why, despite ESPN's typically over-the-top coverage, this will never be a Big Event on the scale of the NFL or NBA drafts. Leave it in the agate type, where it belongs.

• Congratulations go out to Roger Clemens-Waldman, who pitched well enough in six innings today to qualify for a quality start. Goodness gracious, give that man a raise! Now, if you don't mind, could someone please let me know when the disingenuous oaf is done with this tuneup b.s. and decides to start earning his $4.5 million monthly stipend against actual major league lineups? Excepting Jason Bay, the Pittsburgh Pirates might as well be the Nashville Sounds.

• This dreadful Julio Lugo experience makes me realize just how much I wish they'd re-signed Orlando Cabrera and avoided this aggravating annual game of Mediocre Shortstop Roulette. Full confession: Yeah, I did think Edgar Renteria would be an upgrade. But that doesn't mean I wanted to see Cabrera go.

• As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

From Saturday's AP story on the draft:

Former outfielder Kevin Romine had both of his sons taken on the first day: California high school catcher Austin Romine went to the New York Yankees in the second round, while brother, Andrew, a shortstop for Arizona State, was taken by the Los Angeles Angels in the fifth round.

Wait a minute . . . Kevin Romine is old enough to have two kids drafted? Man, as if I didn't feel like I was on the fast track to geezerhood already. I was almost sure he was still buried in Pawtucket, playing with Randy Kutcher, LaSchelle Tarver, Dana Williams, and Pat Dodson (and David Murphy, I suppose) and waiting for that elusive break.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Pail hose

For the three of you who asked, my latest Nine Innings column on FOX Sports.com is posted here, with this week's lead item focusing on the status of that familiar bucket-headed dude in the picture. We appreciate every click, so thanks for checking it out if you get the chance. -- TATB Management

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

26 down, one to . . . doh!

Well, I've gotta assume you're checking out a certain other blog to get the real scoop on what went down this afternoon in Oakland. Then again, we can't imagine Curtis Montague Schilling will peck out anything on his keyboard tonight that will be more telling than this quote he offered in the immediate aftermath of his near no-hitter:

"With two outs I was sure I had it," the 40-year-old Schilling said. "I shook off [Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek] and now I'll have to deal with a 'what-if' the rest of my life."

Yup, that about sums it up. He was one out away from the first no-hitter in the 425 starts in his distinguished career. Varitek wanted a curve. Schilling went with the heat. Shannon Stewart was operating on Schilling's wavelength, and instead of becoming the third-oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter, the Sox starter was left with his third career one-hitter and his sixth victory of the season.

Of course, once you get past the awww-shoot disappointment of missing out on something historic - and man, I was sure he was going to get it after Lowell stayed calm and got the out on that one-hopper off his midsection - the win wasn't a bad consolation prize, especially considering how aggravating the past few days have been.

They needed this one, if only to ease the minds of the panic mongers among us. While I remain convinced that the Sox will win the AL East this season, and probably with relative ease, their recent slump (five losses in six games) coupled with the Yankees' sudden signs of life was enough to hit me with the same feeling I had after Asante Samuel's interception gave the Patriots a 21-3 lead in the AFC Championship game: Yeah, this fat lead is great . . . so why don't I think it's enough?

Maddeningly, in losing four straight for the first time this season, the Sox offense had been tamed by retread Joe Kennedy, not to mention Lenny DiNardo, who held the Sox scoreless Tuesday despite looking every bit as uninspiring as he did in his three seasons as roster fodder in Boston. The theory that the Sox's deep pitching staff would prevent extended losing streaks is a popular one, but it's proven little more than an empty cliche on those days when the offense strings together a bunch of zeroes on the scoreboard. Sure, Papi's first-inning homer stood up today, but the Sox aren't going to get a one-hit masterpiece every day. It's time for Manny to go on a power tear, time for Lugo, Crisp, and Drew to do something at the plate to justify their baseball existence. It's time to start scoring some runs again.

Today was about Schilling and his terrific, nearly historic, pitching performance. Here's hoping the next few days, we're talking about some outstanding hitting, too.

* * *
One more thing I just wanted to share. This comes from an online Q&A by Rangers beat writer Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The question concerned the possibility of the Rangers trading slugger Mark Teixeira. I thought Grant's reply was funny in a dude-step-away-from-the-crack-pipe sort of way.

The Rangers may be able to take advantage of the New York Yankees' current desperation. The Yankees, fighting for their lives, have no first baseman to speak of right now and if they are going to make a run at Boston, Teixeira's bat would be a huge addition. If the Yankees are willing to include Philip Hughes in trade talks, well, the Rangers might be more receptive to answering the phone. But you can bet that the minute the Rangers hear from the Yankees, they will let Boston know, just in case the Red Sox want to acquire Teixeira to keep him from the Yankees. I think I'm on record saying a dream package would be lefty Jon Lester, first baseman Kevin Youkilis and center field prospect Jacoby Ellsbury. There is no impetus for Boston to consider something like that – unless they decide they need to keep Teixeira out of the Yankees' hands.

Wait, so let me get this straight. To keep Teixeira "out of the Yankees hands," the Sox might consider giving up Youkilis, Lester, and Ellsbury for the 27-year-old slugger of some accomplishment, albeit one who comes with one glaring red flag: His contract is up after next season and he is represented by Scott Boras, who almost always takes his players to free agency. So to tally this up, the Sox would get a year-and-a-half of Teixeira for their starting first baseman (a 28-year-old who happens to have a higher OPS than his Texas counterpart at the moment), an extremely talented and poised young pitcher, and the best position prospect in their organization? Well, heck, sign me up. Why not throw in Clay Buchholz, too? Get it done, Men of Theo! All right, maybe I'm going over the top with the sarcasm here, but I think Grant, even in a dream scenario, is missing the point: Because of his contract status and the track record of his representation, Teixeira doesn't have nearly the market value a player of his stature normally would. As usual, Buster Olney articulated this much better than I could when he analyzed the situation this way earlier this week:

Boras's presence in this matter, as Teixeira's agent, will cut into the first baseman's trade value even more, because any teams interested in Teixeira know that the player almost certainly will walk away as a free agent, rather than sign a long-term deal. Other teams might be more aggressive with their trade offers if they believed they had a real shot to sign Teixeira to a moderately priced extension that ties him to his new team for three or four years -- but with Boras involved, that's probably not going to happen. Boras will probably be asking for a nine-figured deal (as in, $100,000,000).

What the Rangers will probably get, then, is some tepid offers. Maybe a couple of decent young players, but almost certainly no top-flight pitching prospects -- which is what Texas needs -- because teams just don't offer up their Garzas, their Lincecums, their Lesters any more.

Right on, Buster. But they're welcome to have J.C. Romero and Joel Pineiro any time they want them.

* * *

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

David Price, selected first overall by the Devil Rays today in the suddenly waaayyy overhyped MLB draft, is the first lefthanded pitcher to go No. 1 since the Yankees selected the star-crossed Brien Taylor in 1991. Here's hoping the comparison ends there and Price manages to avoid any and all life-altering fistfights.

(By the way, I'm resisting the temptation to make a joke about Taylor being scheduled to start for the Yankees this weekend. Heck, the way they're going the last few days, he'd probably end up with a win.)

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hard-hitting Sox

Scattered Sox-Yanks leftovers from Saturday while wondering how long it will be before Doug Mientkiewicz remembers how to spell his name . . .

Loved this quote from Mike Lowell explaining why the Yankees shouldn't be upset at his Daniel Graham-style beatdown of Robinson Cano: "They taught me how to do it." I'm guessing there are only a few fans with a greater base of knowledge than your average Pink Hat who don't know this, but yes, Lowell actually came up with the Yankees. He went 4 for 15 in a cup of coffee in '98 before they traded him to Florida that offseason for a trio of future Cy Young award winners, Todd Noel, Ed Yarnall, and Mark Johnson. Lowell acknowledged he was taught that was the correct play in that situation while he was a Yankee minor leaguer, and I have admit I was surpri . . . er, impressed when Tim McCarver (my FOX Sports homeboy - we actually carpool together, along with Kevin Kennedy and his enormous makeup kit) immediately recognized it as such, saying, "That's the right play there. Good play." Joe Morgan would have mentioned that the player Lowell creamed was a second baseman, his segue into another mindnumbing, nonsensical story about his days playing second base for the Reds.

Where is Rog-ah? Most likely limping around a golf course somewhere in Texas, berating the Hendricks brothers on his cell phone about how its their fault he signed with the lousy Yankees and wondering why this Waldman woman keeps leaving him creepy, breathless messages. And while it's not really our style to get all Simmonsy on you and gloat about a sorta-correct prediction (mostly because we're just about always wrong; see Pedroia, Dustin, Too Shrimpy To Hit), we cannot pass up the opportunity to remind you that A) we said upon his resigning with the Yankees that there was no way Clemens would pitch in this series against the Sox, and B) that his accelerated trip through the minors would inevitably result in a muscle pull, a chronic problem of his in recent seasons. To quote the great Troy Brown: I've got bingo! Now, as far as the injury goes, a "fatigued right groin" (we're trying desperately to avoid an Andy Pettitte joke here) doesn't sound too serious, and we have to figure the delayed launch is precautionary on the Rocket's part, if not the Yankees'. He'll be making his season-debut against that longtime and hated New York rival, the mighty Pittsburgh Pirates, soon enough. Heck, if I were a Yankee fan - and I'm at least a mustache, a dented Fiero, and a stained Jeter t-shirt short of being that - I'd be more bummed that Philip Hughes is probably done until August after spraining his ankle while rehabbing his pulled hamstring. I haven't seen much of Hughes, but what I have seen convinced me that every syllable of hype regarding this kid is legitimate. I thought he was capable of giving the Yankees a top-of-the-rotation starter who could go deep into a ball game, something I think even the most delusional Yankee fan would admit Clemens probably won't be able to do. (Whoops. Should have said the second most-delusional Yankee fan. Hello there, Suzyn.)

So Kevin Youkilis's hitting streak comes to an end at 23 games, and wasn't the way it met its demise appropriate? With the Sox holding a comfortable lead during Youkilis's final at-bat, the Sox's hot-hitting first baseman could be excused if he hacked away at a pitch or two outside the strike zone in an attempt to get the thing to 24. But instead, the streak died because Youkilis was true to himself: as usual, he refused to swing at a bad pitch, refused to waste an at-bat for a chance at prolonging a personal accomplishment, refused to deviate from the disciplined approach that has made him such an irreplaceable offensive player this season. I was not surprised to see the Fenwas fans acknowledge the end of the streak with a warm ovation, but it was nice to see nonetheless. As Uncle Joe pointed out on the radio, patience doesn't lend itself to long-hitting streaks, so this really was a quite an impressive feat.

Have you noticed that A-Rod seems to be going out of his way to goof around with Manny? The first time I picked up on it was after Manny threw him out at second in the series opener, and the NESN cameras caught A-Rod trying to get the Sox left fielder's attention upon returning to the Yankees dugout. (I think Manny was too busy chasing butterflies to notice.) There was another similar instance today, though the exact moment escapes me. Anyway, my point here is twofold: 1) Manny had better know that fraternizing with A-Rod is a good way not to get invited to Derek Jeter's next pajama party. 2) A-Rod is such a poser it'd be pathetic if it weren't comical. ("Look at me! I'm having fun out here! I'm carefree! Now please stop teasing me for being into strippers who look like Ric Flair!")

Come to think of it, now might be a good time for Larry Lucchino to ask Mientkiewicz to return that silly ball.

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Moose's mug hasn't changed much since his days as a fledgling Hagerstown Sun - even the vaguely condescending smirk is about the same. And in a semi-related note, remember when Mussina vs. Schilling was all but a guaranteed pitchers' duel? Seems like a long time ago right now, though I like the chances of our old guy better than those of their old guy. As one of my Yankee fan buddies noted in an email this afternoon, Mussina has been doing a fine Frank Castillo imitation this season, and I don't think that is meant as a compliment.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

TATB Live: Sox vs. '62 Mets

The rain has stopped after a half-hour delay, the Sox have taken the field, A-Rod has finally arrived after a delightful afternoon with a worn-out peroxide case at the Foxy Lady . . . and I've got the laptop, the clicker, and am fully prepared to be glued to the couch for the next three hours. So let's play ball already. But before we get this thing going, a few quick thoughts:

• The Sox's lead over the Yankees in the American League East is 13.5 entering tonight. Come Sunday night, here's hoping it's at 16.5 and Joe Torre wakes up Monday morning to learn that the classy New York tabloids are demanding Georgie Porgie roll some heads. Sox fans have been waiting a lot of years to spend a nice summer without concerning ourselves with the Yankees. Don't waste the opportunity now - win tonight, win tomorrow, blow 'em out Sunday, and stick a fork in 'em for the rest of the year. Who needs the drama besides the 'EEI banshees?

• I always think of Tim Wakefield as something of a Yankee killer, perhaps because of his efforts in the 2003 and '04 postseasons (Aaron Boone excepted), but he has a 7.84 ERA against the Bombers this season and has won something like one of his last eight starts against them. My point: Now would be a real good time to start living up to his reputation.

• I'm beginning to realize that Derek Jeter's barely concealed disdain for A-Rod actually reflects pretty well on the captain. Who knew that judging a person's character was an intangible?

All right, to the ol' ballyard . . .

. . . and while we're still writing pecking out our lame intro, the Yankees go 1-2-3, with Mike Lowell throwing out Captain Jetes on play right out of the Brooks Robinson Gold Glove Handbook. Not a bad start for Knucksie.

Here's one of those wasted early opportunities that sometimes come back to haunt you. The Sox load the bases with two outs on a walk by Papi, a single by Manny, and another walk to the rotting corpse of J.D. Drew, but Lowell grounds to One-Step Range Jeter to get Chien-Ming Wang off the hook. Seems to me he's one of those guys who tends to settle down if you don't get to him early, so this might be one we're lamenting later.

Tom Werner is seated alongside Christie Brinkley. If they're actually a couple, then that's a major upgrade from Katie Couric. In baseball terms, that's like trading Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson.

A-Rod's leading off the inning. Surprisingly, he does not come to the plate to the strains of Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls." He works a walk. By the way, would it be cruel to suggest that Mrs. A-Rod is a first-team member of the Butterface All-Stars? ("Yeah, dude, her body's hot, but her face . . .") It would be? Okay, then let's just say A-Rod always does what he can to ensure he's the prettiest one in the room.

Wakefield is threatening to turn this one into a blowout early, and not the way we'd hoped. After A-Rod's walk, he whiffs Jorge Posada, but Robinson Cano, one of the main culprits in the Yankees' offensive underachievement, cranks one into the rightfield seats to make it 2-0, Yankees. Bobby Abreu (the Yankees' version of J.D. Drew) then doinks one off the wall, and Wakefield walks the next three hitters (including Benedict Damon with the bases loaded), to make it 3-0, Last-Place Team. Fortunately, Jeter hits into a 6-4-3 double-play on the first pitch he sees to limit the damage. Intangibles!

Dustin Pedroia pokes a double to right, putting runners at second and third with one out, and I have to admit the little feller is winning me over. I still wonder how he gets away with swinging like a righthanded-hitting Reggie Jackson up there, but what's going on with him right now seems to follow the pattern of his entire career dating back to college: he struggles at first in adjusting to each new level, but eventually he gets comfortable and becomes a very productive hitter.

After Julio Lugo plates Coco Crisp with an RBI groundout to cut the lead to 3-1, Kevin Youkilis works a walk after taking a ball three that everyone in the ballpark the home plate umpire thought was a strike. That's the kind of respect you get when you're hitting .354 and have a 22-game hitting streak. Papi, who has jokingly referred to himself as Ichiro during his recent power outage (16 games without a homer), Suzukis one to left to score Pedroia. Then Manny follows with one of his patented yup-he's-locked-in ropes to right to load the bases, pulling his incredulous how-did-you-not-score? comedy routine when he sees Youkilis still standing at third. Unfortunately, Manny is probably right in wondering why DeMarlo Hale didn't take a chance, considering that Drew is up next, and Drew pops to third to kill the rally, just as you, me, and Manny expected he would do.

One out, and here's A-Rod again. Got an email from a reader this morning suggesting Dr. Charles and the Red Sox production team should play the snippet of the seagulls from "Finding Nemo" chirping "Mine! Mine! Mine!" on the scoreboard every time he prances to the plate. I suppose I'm not doing it justice if you haven't seen the movie, but hey, I thought it was a clever idea. However, the Sox fans in the third base boxes apparently had their own creative ways of taunting A-Rod tonight - there are a lot of dudes wearing masks with a blonde woman's face. Whatever it takes, I guess. Of course, the best way to get to him is to make him look like a fool on the field, and Manny does just that, playing A-Rod's wall ball perfectly and making his trademark, oddly effective quick-release throw to nail him by five feet at second. It must have been a long walk back to the dugout, though at least he got to check out what he must have thought were some hottie blondes on the way. Anyway, it's an easy inning for Wakefield.

Doug Mirabelli is now a sizzling 2-for-his-last-23 after singling to left past A-Rod (still checking out the masked blondes) and Jeter (still shooting hate lasers at A-Rod). Crisp, who reached on a fielder's choice and swiped second, holds up at third, and the Sox have something brewing.

Pedroia, a gritty, gutty little gamer whom you'll recall I've championed all along, doubles to left, and it's 3-3. Also, Hideki Matsui plays left field like he's blindfolded. Just thought I should mention that.

Don Orsillo, my favorite vinyl-covered automaton, mentions a stat that everyone's been repeating the past few days . . . and damned if its not one that's worth repeating again. When Roger Clemens gave Suzyn Waldman the most pleasure she's had in years by - goodness gracious! - showing up in Steinbrenner's box, the Yankees were 5.5 games back of the Sox. Four weeks later, they're 13.5 back, which means they've lost two games per week in the standings since the Rocket's announcement. Man, I do love that stat.

So I abandon my post here at the keyboard for a minute to help Mrs. TATB put the kids to bed, and I come back just in time to see the Yankees, with the bases loaded already, take a 4-3 lead on a wild pitch. Time to get Wakefield out of there, and don't let me ever mistake him for a Yankee killer again.

Wakefield's still in there, one out, and the Yankees lead, 6-3, now. I rarely have a beef with just about anything Terry Francona does, but seriously, what's he waiting for? It's apparent that Wakefield doesn't have it tonight, and worse, it's one of those nights where, typical of a struggling knuckleballer, he's giving away runs (he's walked in one, another scored on a wild pitch, a third on a passed ball). Don't let this one get out of hand. Get Kyle Snyder in there.

And after another walk . . . here's Snyder, about four batters too late. I knew he was pitching well, but I have to admit, I didn't realize he had a 1.53 ERA. Not too shabby for a long reliever.

Snyder hits A-Rod (unintentionally, we're sad to report), bringing up Posada, who promptly rips a three-run double into the left-field gap, blowing this one open at 9-3. It's a six-run inning, the Yankees have batted around, and Wakefield ends up charged with eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. Not quite what we had in mind at the beginning of the night.

An eight-pitch inning for Wang, who's helped by Manny double-play grounder, his team-high, Rice-in-'87-like ninth of the season. Drew also grounds to second. At this point, he should change his number from 7 to 4-3.

Uh-oh. Lowell, who was hit by a pitch earlier in the game, is replaced by Eric Hinske. Given that Lowell leads the Sox in homers and RBIs, it's fair to say his absence for any length of time would be damaging. Here's hoping it's just precautionary.

I keep hearing how Bobby Abreu looks indifferent at best these days, but man, I don't think the Sox have gotten him out since he came over from the Phillies. He just clanged his second double of the night off the wall. And who said the Yankees weren't hitting, anyway?

Just as Lloyd Bridges once picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue, I apparently picked a bad day to start liveblogging the Sox. (Snyder just walked Melky Cabrera, the Yankees' seventh freakin' free-pass of the night.) So we're going to change gears a little bit here if/until the Sox get back into the game and comment on a few peripheral Sox-Yankees items.

• Seems like every time I read about one of Mike Timlin's rehab appearances at Pawtucket, he's giving up a run and a couple of hits per inning, which has done nothing to alter my suspicion that he's cooked. I appreciate him for all he did from 2003-05 (he was as guilty as anyone for what happened last August, IMO), but it's because of those watercolor memories that I worry Francona will be tempted to use him in crucial situations, something he hasn't been able to handle for some time now. I'm not saying I think he should hang it up . . . but it might not be the worst thing, just to save Tito from the temptation.

• Looks like Jason Giambi might be done for the season after injuring his foot "circling the bases" against the Blue Jays. I'm guessing "circling the bases" is a euphemism for A) "getting his foot shattered by a Selig henchman" or B) "sticking the needle in so far that it chipped a bone," but the way he was going, this might be a blessing for the Yankees anyway. It gives them the chance to play Cabrera regularly in the outfield while DHing Damon, Abreu, or Matsui, which probably makes them a better defensive team while keeping the old dudes' legs reasonably fresh.

• Is it me, or has Jerry Remy seriously toned down the pimping of his RemDawg trinkets this season? Wonder if he got a talking-to from Dr. Charles. Probably woke up one morning to find Wally the Green Monster's severed head in his bed.

• I don't care what he low K-rate suggests. If Wang can stay healthy - and judging by his minor-league track record, that's a big if - he can be a very successful pitcher for years to come. That sinker is an incredibly effective out-pitch, and it's not like he's a slopballer - his radar-gun readings reach the mid-'90s. I'm not going to hold it against him because he's uncommonly efficient.

• Papi's on pace for 29 homers. That's hardly lousy, but it makes you wonder how much those hamstrings are bothering him.

• After Wakefield's performance tonight, I officially consider Julian Tavarez the fourth starter.

• I usually forget to mention these things here, but while I think of it, my latest column on FOXsports.com is up, just as it is every Friday. Check it out if you get the chance.

• Quick note from the game: Torre just got tossed after the third-base ump blantantly blew it and called Bobby Abreu out on an attempted steal of third. My question is this: Why's he stealing third in a 9-3 game? That strikes me as something A-Rod would do. Also, Drew has left the game with a hamstring strain. There are no words for what a flop he has been so far.

• Even though he has just six fewer RBIs (31) at the moment than he had all of last year, I still don't get the Sox front office's fascination with Julio Lugo. He's played better than expected at short, but he's a mediocre offensive player who isn't getting on base nearly enough from the leadoff spot. Tell me again what was wrong with Orlando Cabrera?

Well, we're in the eighth now, it's still 9-3, Yankees, Remy and Orsillo are getting giggly, and it looks like the Sox lead over New York will be 12.5 in tomorrow's newspapers. I guess that 16.5 thing isn't going to happen after all. But I do want to mention, before I sign off for the night (assuming there is no miracle comeback in the works), that even if the Yankees sweep this series and cut the Sox lead to 10.5, I am entirely convinced that the Sox will win the American League East this season. There is zero chance that the Yankees can re-enact their comeback of '78, for one reason more than any other: Terry Francona is a far superior manager to Don Zimmer. He knows how to handle a pitching staff and manipulate a bench, he doesn't bury quality players with petty grudges, and he'll pace his regulars over the course of the season so they aren't deep-fried come September. Futher, this Sox team is much more well-rounded than the '78 crew that had a fearsome lineup, no bench (see: Frank Duffy), and a mediocre starting rotation after The Eck, while these Yankees, with their endless pitching question marks and aging core, are vastly inferior to the Guidry-Gossage-Reggie club that went 100-63 that season. The only people that think this severely flawed Yankees team has a chance to make up 12.5 games over the Red Sox in the coming months are the same ones who refuse to admit that the events of October, 2004 changed the dynamic in this rivalry forever. The Sox are better, and assuming there is no deluge of injuries, the final standings will confirm as much.

Postscript:As Remy just noted, things just got interesting for the rest of the weekend. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Youkilis just got drilled in the shoulder by Scott Proctor (pitching for the 2,838th straight game), and Youks, who extended his hitting streak to 23 earlier in the game and thus probably figures he shouldn't have to put up with such b.s., started heading toward Proctor as the benches emptied. Proctor was ejected immediately, arguing the dismissal vehemently, and it appeared Posada was trying to convince Youkilis that the near-beaning was accidental and not retaliation for Cano getting hit in the top half of the inning. Whether it was intentional or accidental, it's fair to say that the odds of A-Rod getting a faceful of Varitek's glove tomorrow just increased exponentially.

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