Sunday, July 03, 2005

Nine innings 07.03.04

Playing nine innings while wishing MLB's umpires would put as much effort into the getting the call right as they do baiting players and managers into unnecessary confrontations . . .

1) George Steinbrenner has lost his fastball. The old George Porgie - or should I say the former Georgie Porgie, since he turns 75 tomorrow - would never have allowed the Yankees to have played this listlessly for this long. He'd have fired Joe Torre, sent Bernie Williams to the glue factory, and had Howard Spira follow around Jason Giambi to dig up dirt in hopes of voiding his contract. Hell, he might have had Derek Jeter spayed/neutered just for the fun of it. But now, we keep hearing stories about how Steinbrenner isn't going to stand for it much longer, that heads will roll . . . but nothing ever comes of it. All he does now is issue vaguely threatening, quasi-inspirational missives from his bunker while watching his Tae-Bo tapes.

Nope, not the same. Since he's too busy Sweatin' To The Oldies to do anything about his Titanic-sized disaster of a team, and since I really hate seeing the poor little pinstripers struggle, I'll do it for him.

Three suggestions that would help fix the Yankees:

1) Call Billy Beane. Tell him you want Mark Kotsay - a center fielder with range, a patient hitter, a dependable, unsung ballplayer who'd have fit right in on the '98 team, a Bill Mueller-type, really - even if it means giving up one of your phallically named pitchers. You've got enough Wangs on your team. You can spare one.

2) If Beane says he's keeping Kotsay, inquire about Eric Chavez. He's a fantastic third baseman, a Gold Glove winner with a lefty swing made for Yankee Stadium, but his contract may be too rich for Oakland's blood. What's that you say? You already have a third baseman? Well, yeah, you do. Pretty decent one, too. But he's really a shortstop, and he's a better shortstop than the guy you have playing there, dontcha think? It makes sense, moving your shortstop-playing-third-base back to shortstop, because then you can move your current shortstop to center field, where he'd surely fill that gaping void left by Bernie Williams's untimely fossilization. I mean, you're always saying how spectacular your shortstop is on pop-ups - well, let him chase a few more of those in the outfield, and maybe fewer groundballs up the middle will get through the infield, know what I'm sayin'? Putting him in center would make the defense better all around, and voila, your pitching's better too. What's that? You think he'll resist? His identity, his Hall of Fame hopes, are tied to playing shortstop? Well, I'm sure he'll get over it. He is the captain, after all. He puts the team first, right? Makes his teammates better, etc., etc. Well, this would make his team better. And besides, he's 31, and this guy did it, at age 29:

And George, really, I think we all know that Derek Jeter is no Robin Yount. Don't we?

3) Have one of your minions - Smithers, Constanza, Jim Leyritz, whomever - listen to WFAN around the clock. And whenever a Camaro-driving, Buttafuoco-looking Yankees fan calls in with some ridiculous trade proposal - and trust me, this is a full-time job - you have your minion get his name, number, and address, go to his house/trailer/mom's basement, and read him this form-letter, since chances are he can't read it himself:

Dear Joey,

Thank you for your recent trade suggestion to Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN. Unfortunately, we have no use for (Sammy Sosa) (Ken Griffey Jr.) (Larry Walker) for we have abandoned our mission of assembling the entire 1997 All-Star Team in pinstripes. Also, your suggestion that we trade (Carl Pavano) (Mike Stanton) (Kevin Maas) (Horace Clarke) for (Albert Pujols) (Vlad Guerrero) (Johan Santana) (Pedro Martinez) was a pleasant one, but once again you forgot one thing. THE OTHER FREAKIN' TEAM IS TRYING TO GET SOMETHING DECENT IN THE TRADE. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???

Good luck with the court case,

George Steinbrenner
"The Boss"

All right, while the last one doesn't really "help" the Yankees, it does seem necessary nonetheless.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting for Steinbrenner's call. I keep hearing he'll have some openings soon.

2) The TATB staff took a field trip to lovely Hadlock today to catch the first game of the Sea Dogs' doubleheader and finally see top pitching prospect Jon Papelbon in person. The verdict, hammered home by six no-hit innings in which he occasionally hit 95 on the radar gun and threw his curve and change for called strikes at will: He will help the Red Sox. This season. Perhaps very soon. To put it another way: After Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett, he is the most impressive pitcher I have seen in 11 years of watching the Sea Dogs. I'll be furious if he is included in any trade that doesn't bring back a Grade A player - someone no worse than Burnett - though I imagine Theo has him listed in the "untouchable" category. Yeah, he's that good.

3) I also was appropriately awed by Hanley Ramirez, but that's nothing new. If Edgar Renteria is driving the kid's bandwagon - and that seems to be the case, considering he made the unprecedented-by-a-Sox-shortstop gesture of offering to move to a new position once the kid is ready - then I'm glad to be aboard. Ramirez homered over the chintzy Plywood Monster in left field while doing something only the truly gifted can pull off: he adjusted midswing, hesitating slightly because he was out in front of the pitch, then absolutely unloaded on the helpless baseball. While it was just the fifth homer for Ramirez - he's been hampered by injuries and his numbers are fairly pedestrian - it strikes me as funny and a little curious that a certain segment of Sox fans is quick to anoint Dustin Pedroia the superior prospect simply because he has accelerated past Ramirez to Triple A. Pedroia, an All-America at Arizona State, was drafted by the Sox in part because he was nearly a finished product, a player who was already peaking in terms of getting the most out of his ability, and they were desperate for prospects at the higher levels in their organization. They knew he would climb fast, and he hasn't let them down. But that by no means suggests he will be even close to the player Ramirez is five years from now, and I guarantee Theo would graciously dismiss any suggestion that he will be. Pedroia projects to be a Jody Reed-type, a scrappy, physically limited doubles hitter who bats around .290 and connects with all those fans who bought Darren Bragg rookie cards and admire players who remind them of themselves. For Ramirez, who is actually four months younger than Pedroia despite seeming like he's been on the prospect radar for a decade, the words "future MVP candidate" always seem to slip into the Baseball America scouting reports, and there's a reason Pedroia has moved from shortstop and the big-league incumbent has offered to move: Hanley Ramirez has the talent to be the next superstar shortstop. I don't know about you, but I'll take the potential of future greatness over the guarantee of future adequacy every time.

4) I'm beginning to wonder if the Sox are using NESN and The Boston Globe Pre-Game Show as some sort of taxi squad. Dave McCarty, just a few weeks after being given his release, is getting a shot as a studio analyst, and I'd bet you dollars to creme horns that he'd rip off that three-piece suit and put the uniform on again before Theo could finish saying the word "comeback." (Come to think of it, he may be a better lefty option out of the 'pen than Alan Embree at this point.) And who would argue if useless utility infielder Ramon Vazquez were dropped in favor of Gary DiSarcina, who no doubt can still wield the leather at age 36? Or if The Eck suddenly switched gigs with, say, John Halama? Or if Kevin Millar finally realized he's a better talker than hitter, and told Sam Horn in his own unique way that, "Gosh dang diddly, Sammy, even you'd have more than four dingers at this point . . . . so Cowboy Up, big fella, and lets pull the ol' job switcheroo! Yeeeee-hooooo! Psst, hey, wanna swig of Jack?" I think I'm on to something here. If Eric Frede is hitting cleanup today, I'll really be suspicious.

5) I suppose one can question Keith Foulke's common sense for throwing that snide "Who cares what Johnny from Burger King thinks?" wisecrack out there when asked if the fans' booing bothered him. Insulting the paying customers certainly isn't going to make things any easier for the mushballing closer. But if you're pretending to be up in arms about the comment, well, you need to lighten up, Francis. Who among us wiseguys hasn't used "You want fries with that?" as a punchline at one time or another? And the self-righteousness on WEEI about the whole episode just blows me away. Am I wrong, or isn't there a certain multi-chinned host on that station who dismisses disagreeable callers by telling them to "go back to flipping burgers"? Hypocrites. Bloated, sports-ignorant hypocrites . . . oh, and that goes double for the shrill co-host - we'll call him Larry here, to protect the innocent - who said these exact words today: "Everyone remembers Lou Gehrig's quote: "I'm the luckiest man in the world." And you, Larry, have to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth to have the job you do. You should be asking me if I want fries with that. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

6) Remember a couple years ago - I think it was near the trade deadline in 2002, if memory serves - when the Sox were said to be considering trading Casey Fossum to the Rangers for Kenny Rogers and a prospect? (Cameramen are shuttering at the thought. Get it? Shudder? Shutter? Dude, it's late, okay?) Well, anyway, the prospect in the deal was none other than Travis Hafner, whom Theo Epstein coveted and the Rangers were willing to move because he was blocked by Mark Teixeira. Hafner, who was eventually traded to Cleveland for pitcher Ryan Drese and catcher Einar Diaz, had it his way with a grand slam against Foulke a few days ago, and he's been hammering Sox pitching all season. I'm not saying the deal should have happened - Fossum did eventually bring Curt Schilling, after all - but can you imagine the Sox lineup with Hafner instead of KFC Kevin? The Sox would score 1,000 runs this year.

7) Pedro would have put one in Reed Johnson's ear by now. Hillenbrand's, too. And Gregg Zaun's. O-Dog Hudson's, also. And Frank Catalanotto most certainly would have been sent ducking for cover . . .or to the emergency room. Dammit, when are these mediocre Blue Jays hitters going to stop treating Fenway like their personal playground? And when are they going to realize they're the freakin' Blue Jays and start rolling over for the Sox like their supposed to? (Just sounded like a Yankees fan there, didn't I? I was trying to. Honest.)

8) Heaven knows I've spent enough words in this space moaning about Peter Gammons's habit of ripping a player, then once that player starts hitting/pitching/smiling for the cameras better, reversing field like Gale Sayers and bestowing upon him praise, and maybe even his patented Very Special Person honor. True to form, Ol' Gammo was on the 'EEI airwaves this week, blathering on breathlessly about Manny Ramirez's renewed passion, not more than a month (and 10 home runs, it should be noted) after he snidely and irresponsibly trashed him for not caring. It's part of the Gammo package, I suppose, part of his rumor-mongering charm, even if it diminishes what's left of his journalistic credibility. But this . . . this is something even more inexplicable. I can't believe he wrote this, considering how tuned in and passionate he is regarding Red Sox history:

Carl Everett does not get credit for what he means to the White Sox, not only as their only legitimate lefthanded threat against righthanded relievers, but for the edge and energy he brings to that team.

I've got my thesaurus right here in front of me, and strangely enough, nowhere does it tell me that "edge" and "energy" are synonymous with "divisive lunatic who does not believe in dinosaurs but believes whole-heartedly in head-butting umpires on Family Day." At least he hits righthanded relievers well, though.

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

Carl Pavano: The embedded Red Sox, perhaps?