Monday, July 31, 2006

Nine innings: 07.31.06

Playing nine innings while waiting for Theo to pull off an unexpected deal . . .

1. First reaction to the news the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu from the Phillies: How perfect. Another overpaid, over-30 offensive star for Georgie Porgie's collection. But fending off my cynicism for all things pinstriped for a moment, let me offer my honest assessment this way. I didn't want Abreu in Boston, but I'm not all that thrilled with him joining the Yankees, either. I wrote about this the other day, but Abreu is as enigmatic as any elite player in baseball, excluding Manny Being Manny. The pros? He's an on-base machine who will fit anywhere the Yankees slot him in the lineup. He has a gorgeous line-drive swing and is just about an impossible out when he's in a groove. And he's a fine defensive outfielder when the mood suits him . . . which leads us to the cons. Sometimes, he plays with a charmless indifference - he dogs it so often on grounders that Manny looks like David Eckstein by comparison, and he'll have days where he plays right field as if he's shagging batting practice. And his power shortage since last year's All-Star break is nothing short of alarming: in 171 games and 604 at-bats, he has just 14 home runs - and none in his last 132. The player he has been this season is worth a fraction of his eight-figure salary. It's a risk the Yankees can afford to take, and it's not like they gave up anything for him, but I don't think anyone really knows if he'll help as much as his talent suggests he should.

2. So how will the Sox counterpunch? Actually, I'm not so sure they should, because there just doesn't seem to be a whole lot out there on the market. The one intriguing player whose name keeps popping up in rumors real and Steve Phillips-imagined is Scott Linebrink, the Padres' consistently effective setup man. But the more I thought about it, the more I doubted Linebrink would be the pitcher in Boston that he is in San Diego. For one thing, he's no phenom, but more of a journeyman than I ever realized - the Padres actually got him for the $20,000 waiver price from the Astros a few years back - and I'm immediately suspicious of middling middle relievers who suddenly become effective in San Diego. I've seen a few too many Rudy Seanezes and Jay Witasicks revive their careers there (hmmm, could it be the close proximity to Tijuana?) then go on to revert to lousy form once they are sent off to perform in bigger markets and smaller ballparks. Linebrink's been nothing but excellent for San Diego . . . which makes me wonder why they'd move him, especially with Trevor Hoffman nearing the end. Maybe he's worth the risk, but for now, color me skeptical. The other name prominent in Red Sox trade rumors is Devil Rays shortstop Julio Lugo. Frankly, this mystifies me. Lugo is a decent offensive player with good speed, but he's erratic defensively with a scattershot arm, and if I recall correctly, he ended up with Devil Rays after Houston released him following an arrest for punching his wife in the face. Why Theo and Co. seem so fixated on this guy - his name has been coming up in trade rumors for a year now - is something I've never understood. I don't want him messing with the clubhouse chemistry, or the chemistry of that stellar infield defense. Lugo could have a negative effect on both. I'd rather stand pat.

3. This Week's Reason I Hope Jerry Trupiano Takes Up Skiiing:

I'm driving into work Wednesday listening to the first inning of the Sox-A's game. Joe Castiglione is reading Kyle Snyder's life story from the media guide. After telling us about every excruciating detail of Snyder's life up to and including his conception, birth, high school basketball career, medical history, and the number of chicks he hooked up with at North Carolina, he mentions Snyder's dad is an acclaimed heart surgeon who does "pro bono" work in Sarasota.

Enter Troop: "I used to eat at Sonny Bono's restaurant in Houston."

It is then, after the single tear runs down my cheek, that I start thinking a Castig-Jack Welch pairing would be an upgrade. (And I'm not even going to get into Troop's "Way back! WAY BACK! . . . And IT'S . . . caught at the wall!" call of a Trot Nixon fly ball in the 10th inning of a tie game Saturday, because really, it's no longer news when he painfully - or is it deliberately? - misjudges a call. By the way, I hate him.)

4. Cory Lidle is the slop-throwing embodiment of a league-average pitcher, but considering the Yankees' fifth-starter alternatives were Sidney Ponson, Shawn Chacon, and apparently either Ed Whitson or Dennis Rasmussen, he'll likely be an upgrade. All things considered, though, I'm glad he's headed to New York rather than Boston. Rather than acquiring a Lidle or a Jon Lieber (whose fastball is barely exceeding the speed limit these days), I'd rather take a chance that David Wells has enough bullets left in that blessed left arm to contribute down the stretch. While Wells looks like he has been on the Chris Farley diet plan - seriously, he's probably put on 20 pounds since he's been "rehabbing" - he is as effortless a pitcher as I've ever seen, and if his creaky knees can hold on through October, he will help the Sox more than any third-rate starter they might acquire.

5. Caught a few innings of one of those "Red Sox Classics" on NESN Sunday afternoon, a Sox-Tigers game from August '88. Beyond a seven-RBI performance by Dewey Evans, it didn't seem all that classic to me, though there were certainly enough comical and compelling reasons to watch. A few scattered observations: Rookie color analyst Jerry Remy squeaked like a backup singer for Alvin and the Chipmunks, and curiously, he kept referring to the "Tigahs." You can take the boy out of Fall Rivah but. . . It's a wonder what a two-pack-a-day habit and a phonics course or two will do for your voice . . . To borrow a phrase from Phil Hartman's Sinatra, Ned Martin has chunks of Don Orsillo in his stool . . . Six of the nine Sox starters had wicked pornstaches. Kevin Kennedy must have felt all tingly watching this team . . . I'm not saying everyone nowadays is on some performance enhancer or another, but the current Sox ballgirls are bigger than the '88 Sox's starting infield . . . Curiously, most of them also have better mustaches . . . I tried to resist that joke, honest . . . For perspective, Clemens was five years into his Sox career at this point. Amazing . . . Mrs. TATB, upon seeing Sparky Anderson: "Wow, he's old. He must be dead now, right?" . . . Nope, still kickin', and only 72. I bet he was born looking like he was 60 . . . In his prime, Alan Trammell was every bit the player Captain Jetes is . . . If only he could have mastered the fist-pump . . . Fenway looks so much more beautiful now than it did then. The Monster needed a coat of paint, the infield dirt looked like a high school field, and the outfield had more bare patches than my lawn. Doesn't even look like the same place.

6. I hate to do this because I like the guy personally and as a pitcher, but dammit, you jackals and mouthbreathers are forcing my hand, so here goes: Bronson Arroyo has not won in eight starts. After an 8-2 start, he is now 9-7. He has a 5.45 ERA in July. He is not going to win the first of 47 consecutive Cy Young Awards this season. He may not win more than he loses. Yes, he would help the Red Sox . . . but so will the manchild he was dealt for, Wily Mo Pena, and judging by Limp Nixon's well-practiced Freak Injury Grimace last night, we should be pretty freakin' grateful that this kid is around. So what say we let it go now, okay?

7. A kindly reader informed me that The Office's Jenna Fischer - the Official Stalkee of TATB - appears sorta nude in August's edition of Jane magazine. Now, I've never bought Jane, even for the articles. Hell, I've never heard of Jane. But it's amazing what you can learn - and see - with the assistance of Google. I'll be in my room if you need me.

8. According to, the three most similar players to Bruce Sutter are, in order, Doug Jones, Tom Henke, and Jeff Montgomery. Wow, check out these baseball immortals, Dad! Jeff Montgomery! As if I needed further proof that Sutter - who had a few phee-nomenal seasons (check out '77) and a few lousy ones in an injury shortened career - has no business in the Hall of Fame. Even if you are a believer that Sutter's legacy is enhanced by his trendsetting mastery of the splitfingered pitch, you simply cannot justify his election ahead of the criminally overlooked Goose Gossage, the second-most dominating closer I've witnessed (the incomparable Mariano Rivera being his lone superior). Gossage's comps happen to be a couple of guys named Fingers and Wilhelm. Now that's Hall of Fame company.

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

In honor of our old friend Crazy Carl getting a pink slip from the Mariners this week, and because this cracks me up every time I read it and it'd be a shame if anyone misses it, here's a hilarious comment reader Andrew left on my last post:

I love Carl Everett jokes. I live in Chicago and I'm a White Sox fan. I attended a game a couple years ago, when Everett was playing for the Sox. I was sitting with a few friends a few rows behind the Sox dugout.

His first time up, Everett hit a slow roller up the third base line that should have gone for a hit. Third base had been playing him deep, and the ball took forever to get up the line. Forever.

Of course, Everett was thrown out by a mile. As Everett walked back to the dugout, the park fell oddly silent, one of those random moments of quiet that sometimes descends during a game. A friend of mine took full advantage, yelling, "A Stegosaurus would have made it," just as Everett approached the dugout.

The entire section broke up, and Carl stopped at the steps of the dugout to glare at us. Good times.

(Dabbing at tears) Sometimes you guys make me so proud. (sniff)

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