Monday, March 07, 2005

Nine innings: 03.07.05

Playing a quick nine innings while waiting for the Sox to make it five Ws in a row against the Yankees tonight . . .

1) I'm sure Lobel or that vacant, grinning suit-mannequin named Burton told you all about it at 11:30, but Hanley Ramirez turned a pretty sweet 6-3 triple play against the Phillies today, snaring a liner that looked like a sure single to start it all. I suspect it'll be the most memorable contribution the superprospect shortstop makes to the big-league ballclub this season - his progress through the minors has been gradual but not forced, and I don't expect Theo and his player personnel peeps to suddenly rush the still-maturing 21-year-old now. I'm guessing Ramirez starts this year where he finished the last - in Double A Portland, with the Sea Dogs. In fact, I'm hoping he does, because while he still needs to polish his collection of physical tools, I can say this with no hesitation: Of all of the fine players who have passed through Portland on the road to the big leagues - Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Kevin Millar, Mark Kotsay, Charles Johnson, and a scrawny kid named Renteria, to name a few - none, with the possible exception of Beckett, stood out as a mortal lock for stardom the way Ramirez does. Call it what you will - in my vocabulary, "charisma" or "duende" come the closest - but the kid has that elusive, hard-to-define characteristic only the great ones are blessed with. I know I sound as silly as a Yankees fan blathering about Captain Jetes's intangibles, but you'll see, just you wait. Better yet, don't. Zip up to Portland this summer, or cruise down to Pawtucket, and watch this kid play. You'll understand. Hanley Ramirez has "it."

2) Forget Johnny Pesky, and Tedy Bruschi too. If the Sox want a truly beloved Boston athlete to throw the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day there is only one choice: 'Toine, Savior of the Green, Revivor of Celtic Pride! You're not sure if I'm kidding, are you?

3) I'm not saying Mark Bellhorn looks fat, but the Sox second baseman appears to have swallowed the entire first-episode cast of "The Biggest Loser." Okay, I guess I am saying he looks fat.

4) It's been a controversy-free spring so far, but I predict the peace and quiet will screech to an end April 4. That's the scheduled release date for Johnny Damon's book "Idiot," touted as an insider's chronicle of the 2004 Sox season. Why am I wary of this guaranteed National Book Award winner? Two reasons: Damon's co-author, Peter Golenbock, has a reputation for writing controversial tell-alls, including the memorable "The Bronx Zoo" with Yankees reliever Sparky Lyle, and Damon has always been more forthright than your average cliche-spewing jock, sometimes to his detriment. Something tells me this collaboration will reveal some stuff that might have been better left behind clubhouse doors. Consider this excerpt from the book's dust jacket:

I’ll give you the straight dope, including who’s got the biggest mouth (hint: his first name is Kevin); what Pedro Martinez was doing all those times when you couldn’t find him on the bench; what game David Ortiz should never play; and why I sometimes question Curt Schilling’s sanity. Memo to Curt: the statue of you is being erected.

Gulp. This thing's going to be trouble.

5) It's no "Sweet Caroline" . . .


. . . and of course we love that "Dirty Water." And I realize the song was shoved down the collective throats of the fandom by Charles Steinberg and his roving pack of public relations elves. But . . . dammit, I like the Dropkick Murphys' "Tessie." A lot. I commute from Maine to Boston, and the tune usually finds its way into the CD player sometime during the trip. Sometimes I even sing along. (That was me in my chick-magnet Toyota Matrix rockin' out next to you in the Tunnel the other day. You didn't have to point and laugh, you know.) I like the bagpipes, the piano part, and how it reminds me of Bill Mueller's game-winning homer off Mo Rivera in the "I'm Jason Varitek, b*tch" game. (The song was featured in a NESN commercial along with that season-turning game's highlights.) So, yeah, it's me, I admit it. I'm the one Sox fan who likes "Tessie." And just because I know you will mock me for this, I hope it plays on an endless loop in your head for the rest of the day. ( "You are the only-only-oohh-OHHHN-LEEE!")

6) It's this simple. My tolerance for David Wells will grow in direct proportion to how many games the rubber-armed pantload wins. If he stays out of traction and somehow goes the whole season without getting punched out by some liquored-up Southie goon at 4 a.m., I say it's reasonable he wins 16-18 games and makes us all proud to call him an Idiot. But if he or his troublesome back acts up and this season ends up being an $8 million washout, I'm going to think of him as I've always thought of him up until the day he signed with the Sox: as a bloated, loudmouth $&*#& who rubbed the Curse of the Bambino nonsense in Sox fan's faces every chance he got, particularly after Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. I'm ready to forgive, but it's up to Boomer to make me forget. Seventeen wins should do the trick just fine.

"Way Back! Er, scratch that . . ."

7) First sign of spring: Flipping on the car radio and hearing the smooth vocal stylings of Jerry Trupiano (and of course, the nasally yet oddly reassuring tones of Joe Castig.) Second sign of spring: Trupiano attempting an inane play on words ("BuckTROT is facing TROT") followed shortly by a horribly botched call: "There's a DRIVE. Deep left. Way back! WAY BACK! . . . (pause) . . . and it's caught on the edge of the warning track by Burrell. (Pause.) He got that one down by the end of the bat.") Three exhibition games in, and Troop's already in mid-season form. The man misjudges more flyballs than anyone since Gator Greenwell.

8) I found out the hard way that the "Baseball Prospectus" isn't a useful tool for fantasy baseball geeks. Using it as my prime draft-day resource last year, I put together a juggernaut that escaped last place for exactly one day in the Globe rot league. (Friggin' Roy Halladay killed me. I hope his rotator cuff tears all the way down to his spleen. Not that I'm bitter.) That said, it makes for fascinating - and often humorous - reading, and I was pumped and jacked to receive my 2005 copy via Amazon a few days ago. (It will not be accompanying me on Draft Night 2005, rest assured.) A few of BP's more interesting observations regarding the Sox:

~ They paid too much for Edgar Renteria and would have gotten more bang for the buck with a Julio Lugo-type. (Disagreed.)

~ They paid too much for Jason Varitek but simply had to do it because of how much he means to the fanbase, calling it a "political" move. (Agreed.)

~ Orlando Cabrera wasn't much of a defensive upgrade over Nomah at short, and in fact O-Cab's defense has "been in decline for several seasons." (Did they actually watch any games, or did their calculators tell them this nonsense?)

~ Johnny Damon played "great" defense in center field. (Damon was good, but not nearly as good at tracking flyballs as he was pre-Damian Jackson head-butt.)

~ Bronson Arroyo should be "an above-average performer at a bargain price." (Agreed, and he should be in the rotation over Timmy Knuckleball when/if Wade Miller comes back.)

For what it's worth, BP also predicts a bounce-back, Cy Young-caliber year for Halladay. Uh-huh. Fool me once . . .

9) Red Sox 11, Boston College 5. Yep, looks like the Sox are the favorite in the Big East again this season. Gotta be the 10th straight year I've used that joke, and damned if it's still not funny.