Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Nine innings 10.11.05

Playing nine innings while suspecting that Chris Burke's Astros teammates call him Corky . . .

1) Those who think the rumor that the Sox will trade Manny for Carlos Beltran is a swell idea simply aren't familiar enough with Carlos Beltran. Sure, he is a phenomenal talent - I imagine most fans' most vivid recollection of him was his Willie Mays imitation in the postseason for Houston last year - and at his best he might be the most complete ballplayer around. But there's the catch - way too often for someone of his ability, he's not at his best. He had a terribly mediocre (.266-16-78) season with the Mets after signing a 7-year, $119-million contract in the offseason, a contract, by the way, the would be a far greater albatross than the three years remaining on Manny's deal. And not only does he underachieve, but he often appears disinterested. You can say the latter about Manny, but you can never, ever say the former. This is not meant to demean Beltran - he is a breathtaking talent, and maybe he would thrive in Boston after getting away from the dirty airport runway the Mets call home. But at the moment, postseason with the Astros looks like one dazzling, perfectly timed salary drive, a tease of what he might be rather than what he is. If the Sox make this deal, only to get the New York version of Beltran rather than the Houston version, Red Sox fans who haven't done their homework on this guy could be in for a rude awakening, particularly when they realize he's here at the expense of Manny and free-agent Johnny Damon, whose position he will take over. When Beltran does something inexplicable - such as failing to run out a two-hop grounder in Tampa - and he's got 20 fewer homers and 60 fewer RBIs than the harmlessly goofy, historically productive guy he was traded for who occasionally pulled the same nonsense, don't say I didn't warn you.

2) Hey, what say we quit acting as greedy and self-absorbed as Yankees fans and please stop talking as though White Sox bopper Paul Konerko is all but a lock to come to the Red Sox as a free agent? While I suppose there might be 70 or so million reasons that could entice him here, all indications are that he has about as much interest in calling Fenway home as Carl Everett does. Yeah, yeah, we know, Konerko was born in Rhode Island. So? He moved to Arizona as a teenager, and has said time and again he'll either re-sign with the White Sox (likely) or kick back on the west coast (he did come up as a Dodger). Need more evidence? Let's see, he's also revealed that his dad was a Yankees fan, has suggested in the past that he's really not that enamored with the Fenway experience, punishes the Red Sox as if he doesn't like them very much, and, oh yeah, plays for a better team. I mean, c'mon, we New Englanders pride ourselves on being perceptive - what else does he need to say for us to get the hint? Thanks, but I wouldn't play in this hellhole in front of you psychos even if you guaranteed me I could face Matt Clement every single game. It's arrogant of us to just assume he'll come here despite every indication that such a notion does not appeal to him at all. (And for those of you who think he'd be an adequate replacement for Manny: He had, arguably, the best year of his career, though 2004 was very similar. Manny hit five more homers and drove in 44 more runs. Give it up.)

3) Read somewhere in the last few days that A-Rod wears No. 13 in homage to his boyhood idol, Dan Marino. Perfect. Two historically productive, blessed-from-the-heavens athletes who mysteriously melt when the moment arrives to separate the champs from the chumps. The only way that connection would be more appropriate is if it were revealed that Marino had a fetish for purple lip gloss.

4) . . . and speaking of A-Rod, how predictable was the first part of that Yankee ninth inning Monday night? Trailing 5-3, Captain Jetes leads off with a rocketed single to left, then aims his patented awe-inspiring fist-pump A-Rod's way, mouthing the words, "Let's go!" . . . A-Rod nods, digs into the batter's box with that practiced and just-too-perfect look of intensity of his face, chokes the bat so hard a sawdust pile forms near his feet . . . and promptly hits into a spirit-crushing 5-4-3 double play. I'm pretty sure Jeter gave him a fist-pump in the back of the head on the way back to the dugout. Seriously, someone needs to slip Jeter some truth serum or ply him with enough of his favorite Berry-Berry Daiquiris that he's willing to reveal his honest feelings about A-Rod. Jeter's annual post-defeat, subtle but transparent digs at his teammates - such as some version of the disingenuous "I've said it before, a lot of the players who won those rings aren't here anymore" - are getting repetitive, seeing how we've heard them five years running now. Time to rip someone, Cap'n.

5) I'm willing to give Edgar Renteria the a clean slate next season, though the Sox did him no favors by waiting until after the season to reveal he was hampered by a back injury. I suspect if an injury were such an issue, we would have heard about it sooner if only to protect him from the boo-birds and talk-radio banshees, and that the real truth behind his dismal first season in Boston can be found in this quote from Theo: "We expect that Edgar will report to camp in top condition." Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think there might be an insinuation there.

6) And in a related note, these playoffs have been a reminder forgotten how much pure fun it is to watch Orlando Cabrera play the game. Oh, I know he actually had a worse offensive season than Renteria, and I know Angels fans spent the early part of the season pining for David Eckstein, who apparently quit baseball to become a dentist, but I think they'll tell you now what the Yankees have realized two years running: Cabrera is at his best when the spotlight is the brightest, when the games matter the most. As Joe Buck said last night: "Cabrera is becoming quite a postseason stalwart." He sure is. And, man, that dazzling defense - what the Sox would have given for a shortstop who was either steady or spectacular, let alone both. I'll just say it already: they should have kept him.

7) Bet no one was happier to see Jason Giambi win the AL Comeback Player of the Year than Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds. Gives them something to shoot for, so to speak.

8) What else is there to say about the Sox? The better team won, the four best teams remain in the playoffs, and that's how it's supposed to be. It's the justice of the baseball gods, and that's that, right? Well . . . okay . . . there's actually a lot more to say about the Sox, and the reason I've been sporadic with my posts the last few days is that I've been pecking away on a longer column that attempts to put the season into perspective. I've always enjoyed doing the season wrap-up column - they're kind of fun to look back on a few years later, at least until the name "Grady Little" catches your eye and rekindles the rage - and I want to get this one right. Can't say I have yet, but it should be posted in the next few days. As always, thanks for putting up with my madness.

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

Yep, Craig Biggio is that old - he actually played for the Astros when they wore a version of those rainbow atrocities they called a jersey. I'd be tempted to call this the worst uniform ever, but the '76 White Sox and '78 Padres beg to differ.