Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How they're doing so far

Rejected title of this post: Question: What Better Time To Make Critical Judgments Than After 14 Games of a 162-Game Season? Answer: There's No Better Time! Let's Judge!

And with that spellbinding intro out of the way, here's TATB's quickie take on the early, mostly encouraging returns of the 2006 Red Sox:

Jason Varitek: Man, I hope his ass is okay. Er, let's just move on ...

Kevin Youkilis: Surprisingly stellar in his first significant playing time at first base, and while he'll never knock down the Coke bottles, he almost never fails to have a quality at-bat. He's a clone of a young Dave Magadan, which isn't an insult at all.

Mark Loretta: Reminds me of Jody Reed at his best. Smart hitter, more punch than you think, catches everything he can get his glove on. Just a great trade.

Alex Gonzalez: In terms of the ballclub's offense-at-all-costs tradition, he's sort of the Bizarro Red Sox player: He has no plate discipline, and when he encounters an off-speed pitch, he looks like a blindfolded kid trying to whack a pinata. He sure is a treat to watch at short, though. Might be better than Cabrera.

Mike Lowell: His bat is slow, but there's enough crappy pitching in the AL that he'll end up hitting 15-20 homers. Add that moderate production to his Gold Glove defense, and ultimately he's an asset.

Manny Ramirez: Yup, he's pretty much sucked. And come October, his numbers will look something like this: .300-40-130. If you're worried, you're probably just looking for a reason to gripe about him.

Coco Crisp: Even though the finger injury has delayed his Fenway debut, the Nation adores him already, and Johnny Damon is jealous.

Trot Nixon: He's got the annual Nagging Injury Caused By Awkwardly Diving For A Misplayed Ball out of the way, so good health willing, maybe his hot start is signifying a .300-25-90 season to come.

David Ortiz: Good Lord, is it possible that he's still improving? That he gets anything to hit in clutch situations is a tribute to the general stubbornness (stupidity?) of big-league managers. I don't even want to consider what recent Red Sox history would be like without him.

Curt Schilling: We know he's not prone to understatement, but when Schilling says, "I feel like I'm the best I've ever been," well, we can't help feeling pretty damn good about this team's chances.

Josh Beckett: I've been an unabashed fan since his brief stopover with the Sea Dogs (he whiffed the first 8 batters he faced in his Double A debut), I've believed since the day the trade was made that he will be the 2006 AL Cy Young winner, and his starts are turning into must-see events much in the way Pedro's and Roger's used to be. My appreciation for him made clear, I must air one complaint: Given that he seeks vigilante justice whenever he determines an opponent (Ryan Howard, Shea Hillenbrand) isn't "respecting the game," shouldn't he tone down the fist-pumping histrionics just a bit? Competitiveness is great; I just like it better when the hypocrites reside in the Bronx.

Matt Clement: You know the scouting report: Sweetheart of a guy, better-than-average stuff, excruciatingly painful to watch. Maybe he'll continue to pitch well enough against the dregs of the league that one of them will eventually trade for him.

Tim Wakefield: It's been rocky as he's still getting acclimated to his new catcher (and vice versa), but ultimately he'll get his 13-17 wins, rescue the staff a few times, and prove as steady as a knuckleballer can possible be.

David Wells: Take your parting gifts - the case of America's Best and your bottomless box of coconut glazed Munchkins - and just go away already, okay Big Fella?

Jonathan Papelbon: Lights. Bleepin'. Out. And have you heard him interviewed? He even sounds like Clemens. I'm geeked like Pete Carroll at a Trojan pep rally.

Julian Tavarez: He's lucky Joey Gathright, a black belt who may or not be an apprentice of Chuck Norris, didn't snap his scrawny neck.

Keith Foulke: He's on his way back, and even Johnny From Burger King has to admit that he's handled everything with class this season.

Mike Timlin: He's one of my favorite Sox and I'd never bet against him, but I'm worried that he's slipping. It seems like he gives up a couple rockets in every appearance. Just something to keep an eye on.

Lenny DiNardo: When your long reliever could crack the rotation for at least half the teams in the majors, you know you've got a deep staff. I like him - in style and stuff, he's sort of a destitute man's Andy Pettitte - and given the chance, he might evolve into the lefty version of his ol' wingman, Bronson Arroyo.

David Riske: Haven't seen much. Haven't liked what I've seen.

Rudy Seanez: Decent stuff, lousy results, a.k.a., the story of his mediocre career. Why Theo signed him at age 37 after one outlier of a season in a pitcher's park, I have no clue. Here's hoping Hansen or Delcarmen takes his job by July.

Wily Mo Pena: All right, lay off, you jackals. Sure, the kid is flawed - defensively, he's such a one-man tornado that he makes you long for the days of Rudy Pemberton - but his raw power is phenomenal, he's showing signs of improving his strike-zone judgment, he's open to advice from Papa Jack, Papi and anyone else willing to help, and oh yeah, he's 24 freakin' years old. He could be an asset to this team for a long time, providing the talk-radio banshees and fellow mouthbreathers don't succeed in permanently turning him into a scapegoat or a punchline.

Josh Bard: And while you're at it, cut him a break too. He's catching too much flak . . . what's that? . . . yeah, yeah, ha, that's the only thing he's catching. Good one, Bob Saget! Listen, he's diligent, and he'll figure out this knuckleball thing soon enough. In the meantime, quit pretending Mirabelli was Johnny Bench.

J.T. Snow: Still Pennzoil-slick with the glove, but Youks is rendering him obsolete, which is probably a good thing.

Alex Cora: Occasionally makes a boneheaded error, but for the most part he's a savvy baserunner and dependable, versatile defender - in other words, just what you want from a utility guy. What, you prefer Cesar Crespo and Ramon Vazquez?

Adam Stern: Plays three outfield positions well, has a strong and accurate arm, is a better baserunner than he showed last year, and while the results are lacking, he seems to have an idea at the plate. So now we know: He belongs.

Dustan Mohr: Quadruple A hitter. Gabe Kapler without the personality.

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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Because sometimes it really is random.