Thursday, May 25, 2006

Catching up

Quick thoughts on the Sox while my daughter takes her afternoon snooze . . .

• Oh, one day, they'll be right. One of these years, Manny Ramirez will suffer a slump that extends through the summer, and all the morning show jackasses who are quick to suggest trading the one of the most productive hitters of all time for a collection of worn-down gamers and prospects they couldn't pick out of a pack of baseball cards will almost be justified in their feeding frenzy. But after Manny's 4-homer fireworks display during the Yankees series - you could just see him getting locked in, couldn't you? - I am glad to report that such a nosedive will not occur this season. Manny is being Manny once again, and I mean that in the 45-homer, 125-RBI sense. The haters will just have to find something else to occupy their time - making ignorant fun of Wily Mo, I suppose, or wondering why Renteria bunted for a hit against the Orioles in that game a year or so ago, or dare I suggest even watching a game to its conclusion once in a while.

• Oh-fer-5 with four strikeouts? Guess there's no need to drill Big Papi now, huh, Mike Vaccaro?

• I've written a lot of idiotic things in this space, and to quote that painful Red Roof Inn commercial we're force-fed 60 times per Sox telecast, chances are better than "remote" that I'll write a lot of idiotic things in the future. But I have to admit, it's going to be a long time before I spew something as stupid as my recent comparison of Lenny DiNardo to Andy Pettitte. What can I say? Sometimes the medication fails me.

• I believe A-Rod when he claims he had no idea where the ball was during his three-run homer Tuesday night. I will say, however, that only a five-star phony of his magnitude would evoke such skepticism.

• I'm officially worried about Jason Varitek. I don't know if he's hurt (remember him hobbling down to first a few weeks back?) or if the World Baseball Classic had an adverse affect on him, but something is not right. His swing has never been Griffeyesque, but now it's downright hideous, and even mediocre pitchers are having little trouble messing up his timing. Maybe it's just a slump - probably it's just a slump - but his age equals his uniform number now, and as every study suggests, very few catchers are productive at 33 and beyond.

• You say Willie Harris, I say Donnie Sadler with slower wheels.

• I've always liked Gabe Kapler - he's probably the most articulate athlete I've ever interviewed, and he just plain gets it, as evidenced again in this morning's Bob Ryan column - but as a ballplayer, he seemed like little more than a replacement-level journeyman, someone you're always trying to upgrade upon. But after six weeks of Dustan Mohr and Willie Harris, well, thank goodness he'll return soon to remind us that a fifth outfielder can actually be useful. Welcome back, Kapler. The Fenway Sweathogs have missed you.

• Trust me, I am not making this accusation in hindsight: Terry Francona bleeped up by sticking with Tim Wakefield too long Tuesday night. Ten straight balls is a pretty clear indication that a pitcher has lost it, and when a knuckleballer such as Wakefield suddenly goes bad, crooked numbers can go up on the scoreboard in as fast as you can say walk-walk-homer. But I am not going to fault Francona for leaving in Matt Clement to take a beating last night, because I'm convinced the manager was sending the player a message: You were pissed we skipped your turn against the Yankees last week? Prove me wrong. Prove to me you can handle the pressure, pitch out of trouble and win a meaningful game. In the end, all that Clement proved was that his manager's limited faith in him was justified. I doubt he'll be pitching against the Yankees again anytime soon if the Sox can help it.

• Kyle Farnsworth is by all accounts a meathead, but does he ever have some filthy stuff - maybe even enough to overcome his Jeff Weaver-Kenny Rogers-Ed Whitson meltdown potential. If I were a Yankee fan, I'd much rather see him on the mound than his predecessor, Tom Gordon.

• One more item regarding Clement: Don't know if you noticed last night, but after he got hit by Bernie Williams's line drive, he began flinching at batted balls that were nowhere near him. Coincidentally - or maybe not - that's also when his command and concentration went on the fritz. You'd be a fool not to believe that last summer's frightening incident in Tampa Bay remained in his consciousness, but until last night, I had no idea that it was still affecting him to this extent. But for every pitcher who recovers from being drilled in the head with a liner - Mike Mussina and Bill Swift come to mind - there are the Bryce Flories and Herb Scores, hurlers who never feel comfortable or safe on the mound again, and thus never pitch effectively. I'm not saying Clement is in the latter category, but I'm not ready to say he isn't, either.

• Scott Erickson and Terrence Long to the rescue? And Erubiel Durazo and Richard Hidalgo are on the way? Well, damn, let's just concede that 27th championship and get on with enjoying a Sox-free, stress-free summer already. Seriously, you'd think with all of their resources - and Brian Cashman's supposed acumen as a GM, of which I remain skeptical - the Yankees would do a better job of accumulating second-tier talent and maybe even an actual bench. The days of Darryl Strawberry, Role Player, must seem long ago to the Bronx faithful.

• I'm not one to write off a future Hall of Fame pitcher after a handful of rough starts . . . but man, Randy Johnson is a mess, overthrowing his fastball and sacrificing any semblance of command to make up for the MPH father time has taken. And his once-unhittable slider? It's so flat, it might as well have a neon Hit Me sign. Giving up a Mass Pike bomb to Manny is one thing, but when Kevin Youkilis is swinging from his heels against you, you know you've got troubles. It'll be interesting to see how - make that if - Johnson recovers from this. He clearly has no use for Jorge Posada, and with inexperienced Ron Guidry drawling in one ear and know-it-all Joe Kerrigan babbling into the other, it seems he's got a lot of people telling him what he's doing wrong, but no one yet with the solution.

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Speaking of Guidry, this kid is his second coming - yes, I think Kazmir is that talented. For a Mets fan, this has to be the equivalent of seeing Jeff Bagwell in a Red Sox uniform.

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