Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Nine innings 04.19.04

Playing a fast nine innings while waiting for Gary Sheffield to throw the ball in . . .

1) I watched the ring ceremony on TiVO for probably the sixth time the other night, and for some reason it struck me during this viewing that someone who should have been there wasn't. No, not Pedro, although it would have been nice. Pokey? Woulda been cool, too, but not who I'm thinking of. Nope, not even Jimmy Anderson. I'm talking about Maurice Vaughn. Yeah, Big Mo. The Hit Dog. The Patron Saint of The Foxy Lady. Don't you think he should have been out there with Rice and Lynn and Yaz and Pesky and all of the players that defined certain generations in Sox history? Make no mistake, he defined the '90s for the franchise, and for mostly good reasons: His hop-on-my-back-fellas MVP season in 1995 (seems longer than 10 years ago, doesn't it?); his kindness and generosity with the Jimmy Fund; his prominence in a time when the Sox clubhouse finally became a melting pot; his accountability even in his most disappointing moments; his love of dancin' girls and egg and and cheese sandwiches. Yeah, Mo was a definitive Red Sox, all right. He was basically Ortiz with some baggage. I wish he could have been there to share in the day, and I hope there is a good explanation for why he was not.

2) I know, I know, I'm always pimpin' the Portland Sea Dogs in this little corner of cyberspace, but . . . Go. See. Them. Now. Dammit. Their 10-0 start (now 10-1) suggests how loaded the Sox's Double-A team is, but it doesn't tell the whole story. This ballclub is the first real evidence that Theo Epstein's vow to build "a player development machine" is progressing nicely, and perhaps ahead of schedule. You already know about Hanley Ramirez, the precocious phenom shortstop with more tools than Home Depot. He is worth the price of admission and then some; in fact, I'm convinced that if the Red Sox make the postseason this year, he will be on the roster in a SuperSub role. He's that close. And there are others that have a big-league future. Starters Jon Papelbon and Jon Lester, reliever Manny Delcarmen and Cla Meredith, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, first baseman Jeremy West and outfielder Brandon Moss make this perhaps the most prospect-laden team in the minors. So go already. Get up there and check these guys out while you can. You'll have to pay a lot more to see them in a few years.

3) My wife, recoiling upon seeing Tom Brady's new buzzcut while watching footage from his 'Saturday Night Live' hosting debacle: "It's like the day the school nurse would come and check everyone for lice, and two hours later one kid would come back to class with a crewcut. That's what he looks like - the lice kid." (Editor's note: I know this is ostensibly a baseball column. I just felt like this good, old-fashioned lice talk deserved a place in the lineup. Editorial decision. Carry on.)

4) A day after fearless turtlenecked warrior Gen. Georgie-Porgie Steinbrenner-Patton gave marching orders to his $212 million toy soldiers, they put a 19-8 whuppin' on the Devil Rays, the elixir for what ails the rest of the AL East. Hmmm . . . wait a minute. 19-8. Score seems familiar. Why do I suddenly think Yankees are supposed to lose four in a row now?

5) Words to mark: One of these days, maybe in a game-deciding situation, Kevin Millar is going to get busted for taking his foot off the bag too soon. His sly little trick of skipping off the base to catch an infielder's throw - thus making it look like the ball is there sooner than it really is - is all too obvious now, in large part because Millar has the grace and footwork of a breakdancing hippopotamus. Time for Captain KFC to come up with another trick. Say, like hitting a fair ball out of the park once in a while.

6) The three sweetest righthanded swings yours truly's beady eyes have ever seen:

2) Manny Ramirez
3) Albert Pujols

My point: Hell, no, I wasn't worried about Manny's "slump" (39 at-bats without a homer), and anyone who was hasn't been paying attention. He goes through these brief stretches of Offermanitis every single year, and then - bang - he unleashes that powerful, elegant, absolutely perfect swing, and suddenly that slump is launched at a high speed toward the Mass. Pike. Then, with one homer in the bag, he inevitably goes on one of his patented tears where he looks like the greatest hitter who ever lived. (He's not, of course, but he's in the Honorable Mention argument.) Have I mentioned that he has four homers in his last 11 at-bats? Until he's stricken with pharyngitis or caught chillin' with Enrique Wilson, Manny should be the least of a Sox fan's worries.

7) Good news: David Wells and Matt Clement beat the Devil Rays. Bad news: Clement and Wells beat the Devil Rays. I have no doubt the Sox's new starting pitchers will get their share of victories against the dregs of the American League. But I worry about both of them against Team Evil, Wells because of their familiarity with his stuff, and Clement because he struggles to command the strike zone, a flaw the patient Yankees are adept at exploiting. It's nice to see each of them get that first win for their new employer, but I'm not ready to invest my trust in either just yet.

8) If Glenn Ordway and his band of Wonderlic-flunking boobins (yes, boobins) waste one more minute blathering about this Sheffield/fan altercation story, I think I might take detour off I-93, head to their studio, and pistol-whip every one of them with Terry Cashman's guitar. Listen, peeps: When all the opinions are spewed and all the words are spent on this insanely blown-out-of-proportion story, there is really only one question that matters: Who gets that House doofus's sweet seats?

9) And finally, today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Ah, Pat Dodson. The Bob Zupcic of first basemen. Or the Kevin Romine?