Monday, October 24, 2005

Nine innings 10.24.05

Playing nine innings while wondering when someone - an opponent, an ump, a teammate, William Ligue Jr. - is going to sucker punch the relentlessly annoying A.J. Pierzynski . . .

1) There's no doubt that despite his recent Schiraldi Moments, Houston's Brad Lidge is one hell of a pitcher. The cat might have the tightest slider since Dave Stieb, and he'd probably be an excellent major-league pitcher armed only with his sizzling fastball. But can Tim McCarver, Joe Buck, Thom Brennaman, Bob Brenly, Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens, Bombo Rivera, and whomever else is in that overstuffed Fox broadcasting booth please stop referring to him as "the best closer in baseball." I've heard that precise statement twice now this postseason, and even if Lidge hadn't given up game-winning homers to Albert Pujols and Scott Podsednik (now there's two names you never thought you'd see in the same sentence) in his last two appearances, he's still got about seven years of meritorious postseason service to go before he can even be mentioned in the same breath as that cutter-throwing machine in the Bronx. You'd think McCarver, who never misses a chance to slobber over Mariano Rivera's "elegant gait," would scoff at such silly talk. Then again, I'm pretty sure he's asleep by the third inning most nights.

2) Flipping channels the other night, my clicker happened to stall on ESPN Classic while it was showing the official 2004 World Series video - you know, the one where the Red Sox win it all at the end. Great flick, two thumbs up, four stars, and all of that. I've probably seen the hour-and-a-half video, oh, 20 times by now, which prompted my wife to say, "How many times are you going to watch this thing, anyway?" (Come to think of it, her gripe might have had something to do with the fact that it was her birthday.) I answered, "Oh, at least 500," - and now I'm thinking that was a conservative estimate. Maybe it's because the Season After is behind us now, and the reign is about to end, but I found myself enjoying the thing more than I have since the first viewing. Suddenly, Millar's you-better-not-let-us-win-this-one routine induced chills again, Cabrera, steady and stylish, was where he belonged, D-Lowe was proving gutsier than we ever knew, Foulke was meeting every challenge and then some, Schilling was transcendently heroic, Pedro was flashing that megawatt smile, and all of it was just so . . . perfect. And when it was done, I came to what I suppose is a rather obvious conclusion, but a meaningful one nonetheless: The farther away we get from that moment, the more precious it will be. I guess it took the end of this season to make me realize how much I missed the last one.

3) The thought of George Porgie steaming as his refugees battle it out for the championship he suddenly can't seem to win is a lovely notion, of course. Unfortunately, the oft-repeated statement that four-fifths of the Yankees' 2003 rotation - Clemens, Pettitte, El Duque and Contreras - is pitching in this World Series is just not true. In 2003, the Yankees rotation looked like this: Clemens (33 starts); Pettitte (33); Mussina (31); Wells (30); Jeff "Ed Whitson" Weaver (24). Contreras made just nine starts, while El Duque wasn't even New York property; he missed the entire season with the Expos due to an injury. It's interesting that four ex-Yankees are pitching in this series, but their histories as employees of the Evil Empire aren't quite as intertwined as we have been led to believe.

4) And the winner of the Gorman Bagwell Andersen Award for stupidest transaction of the past season goes to . . . Bill Stoneman of the LA Angels of A, for this beauty that found its way into agate type Dec. 17, 2004

Los Angeles (AL): Waived pitcher Bobby Jenks and shortstop Alfredo Amazega.

Seriously, what was Stoneman thinking? HOW COULD HE RELEASE THE GREAT AMAZEGA!!!???? HOW COULD HE???? HE'S THE NEXT HONUS WAGNER!!?? All right, I kid. It was brain-dead stupid to give up on a kid with the ability of Jenks, no matter how checkered his past. (On the plus side for Stoneman, that was also the day he'd learned he'd lost out on the bidding for Matt Clement. So it wasn't all bad.) And because I'm usually making a jack-booted idiot out of myself on this site, here's proof that I actually recognized this as a lousy move (if not the drastic mistake it is proving to be) at the time. This is a snippet from an email I sent to my cousin Kris the White Sox Fan when Chicago signed Jenks. If you want my cuz to vouch for this, he shouldn't be too hard to find. He's the guy who was sitting next to the White Sox dugout last night in a Bob James throwback jersey, stirrup socks, and no pants. McCarver was smitten. Anyway, the email:

The White Sox picked up a really interesting prospect today, a kid named Bobby Jenks from the Angels. He throws in the high 90s with a nasty breaking ball, but he's supposedly a raging boozer, not all that bright (to be politically correct), and he was raised by what sounds like the Unabomber's extended family. He should fit in nicely.

Okay, so it's not exactly a review straight out of Baseball Prospectus. But at least I knew who he was and what he threw, which still puts me ahead of the Fox analysts. Hell, I keep waiting for McCarver to take one look at him and say, "Pardon me, but when did the White Sox get Sidney Ponson, and my, what an elegant gait he has. (Thud.) Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

5) I'm rooting for the White Sox in this thing, in part because their fans (the real ones, not the ones who were wearing Cubs t-shirts a month ago) have long been Red Sox fans' kindred spirits in terms of unfulfilled hopes, but mostly because I want Kris - a White Sox fan as fiercely loyal and only slightly less perverse than he's usually portrayed here - to experience the overwhelming joy that I felt when those hopes were finally fulfilled last year. But man, it ain't easy. While the White Sox have their share of admirable players - Mark Buehrle, Jermaine Dye, and the amazing Paul Konerko to name three - I've had a tough time swallowing Ozzie Guillen's act since he flashed the choke sign to Indians fans on the last day of the season, and I have a really tough time rooting for Carl Everett at anything, though I might side with him in a fight-to-the-death with Pierzynski. The White Sox have more first-ballot Hall of Fame jerks than any team not dressed in pinstripes. It's a good thing Clemens is on the other side to balance it all out.

6) Considering the deals he obviously cut with the likes of Podsednik, Chris Burke and Aaron Small this season, I'd say the devil himself might have the makings of a pretty decent general manager. Maybe the Red Sox would be interested if Theo gets away. Have to figure he's already pretty familiar with Lucchino.

7) Wouldn't it have been great if we could have skipped last night's 2,837,883d promo for a very special "Prison Break" and returned to the action before Pierzynski was throwing the ball back to Jenks after the first pitch of the somewhat important ninth inning? It's pretty obvious Fox does this deliberately - coming back late from a commercial break has been an ongoing problem for sometime now, and I seem to recall them missing a David Ortiz home run last season. Considering they think this is acceptable, I can almost foresee the day when their baseball "coverage" is going be condensed highlights of What Just Happened (sponsored by Levitra) wrapped around three hours of commercials and promos for their unwatchable shows.

8) If you have any ideas on how the Red Sox can improve themselves this offseason, well, hell, send them along, because I'm having a hard time coming up with any. The free-agent list of position players reads like a who's-who of future Hanshin Tigers (sayanara, Millar), it seems highly unlikely that anyone is going to offer true equal value for Manny, and their desperation for a top-shelf starting pitcher may lead them to the cruel late-season realization that A.J. Burnett is nothing but Matt Clement with better stuff and a cockier attitude. This is a crucial offseason for the Sox, and with the Idiots Era apparently in past tense now, what happens in these coming months will go a long way toward determining how competitive the team is in the next five years. In other words: Management needs to quit screwing around with its negotiating ploys and ego trips and give Theo want he wants. Doesn't he deserve to make more than, say, Alex Cora?

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

You know, Larry Andersen probably could have helped the Red Sox' bullpen this season.