Thursday, June 07, 2007

26 down, one to . . . doh!

Well, I've gotta assume you're checking out a certain other blog to get the real scoop on what went down this afternoon in Oakland. Then again, we can't imagine Curtis Montague Schilling will peck out anything on his keyboard tonight that will be more telling than this quote he offered in the immediate aftermath of his near no-hitter:

"With two outs I was sure I had it," the 40-year-old Schilling said. "I shook off [Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek] and now I'll have to deal with a 'what-if' the rest of my life."

Yup, that about sums it up. He was one out away from the first no-hitter in the 425 starts in his distinguished career. Varitek wanted a curve. Schilling went with the heat. Shannon Stewart was operating on Schilling's wavelength, and instead of becoming the third-oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter, the Sox starter was left with his third career one-hitter and his sixth victory of the season.

Of course, once you get past the awww-shoot disappointment of missing out on something historic - and man, I was sure he was going to get it after Lowell stayed calm and got the out on that one-hopper off his midsection - the win wasn't a bad consolation prize, especially considering how aggravating the past few days have been.

They needed this one, if only to ease the minds of the panic mongers among us. While I remain convinced that the Sox will win the AL East this season, and probably with relative ease, their recent slump (five losses in six games) coupled with the Yankees' sudden signs of life was enough to hit me with the same feeling I had after Asante Samuel's interception gave the Patriots a 21-3 lead in the AFC Championship game: Yeah, this fat lead is great . . . so why don't I think it's enough?

Maddeningly, in losing four straight for the first time this season, the Sox offense had been tamed by retread Joe Kennedy, not to mention Lenny DiNardo, who held the Sox scoreless Tuesday despite looking every bit as uninspiring as he did in his three seasons as roster fodder in Boston. The theory that the Sox's deep pitching staff would prevent extended losing streaks is a popular one, but it's proven little more than an empty cliche on those days when the offense strings together a bunch of zeroes on the scoreboard. Sure, Papi's first-inning homer stood up today, but the Sox aren't going to get a one-hit masterpiece every day. It's time for Manny to go on a power tear, time for Lugo, Crisp, and Drew to do something at the plate to justify their baseball existence. It's time to start scoring some runs again.

Today was about Schilling and his terrific, nearly historic, pitching performance. Here's hoping the next few days, we're talking about some outstanding hitting, too.

* * *
One more thing I just wanted to share. This comes from an online Q&A by Rangers beat writer Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The question concerned the possibility of the Rangers trading slugger Mark Teixeira. I thought Grant's reply was funny in a dude-step-away-from-the-crack-pipe sort of way.

The Rangers may be able to take advantage of the New York Yankees' current desperation. The Yankees, fighting for their lives, have no first baseman to speak of right now and if they are going to make a run at Boston, Teixeira's bat would be a huge addition. If the Yankees are willing to include Philip Hughes in trade talks, well, the Rangers might be more receptive to answering the phone. But you can bet that the minute the Rangers hear from the Yankees, they will let Boston know, just in case the Red Sox want to acquire Teixeira to keep him from the Yankees. I think I'm on record saying a dream package would be lefty Jon Lester, first baseman Kevin Youkilis and center field prospect Jacoby Ellsbury. There is no impetus for Boston to consider something like that – unless they decide they need to keep Teixeira out of the Yankees' hands.

Wait, so let me get this straight. To keep Teixeira "out of the Yankees hands," the Sox might consider giving up Youkilis, Lester, and Ellsbury for the 27-year-old slugger of some accomplishment, albeit one who comes with one glaring red flag: His contract is up after next season and he is represented by Scott Boras, who almost always takes his players to free agency. So to tally this up, the Sox would get a year-and-a-half of Teixeira for their starting first baseman (a 28-year-old who happens to have a higher OPS than his Texas counterpart at the moment), an extremely talented and poised young pitcher, and the best position prospect in their organization? Well, heck, sign me up. Why not throw in Clay Buchholz, too? Get it done, Men of Theo! All right, maybe I'm going over the top with the sarcasm here, but I think Grant, even in a dream scenario, is missing the point: Because of his contract status and the track record of his representation, Teixeira doesn't have nearly the market value a player of his stature normally would. As usual, Buster Olney articulated this much better than I could when he analyzed the situation this way earlier this week:

Boras's presence in this matter, as Teixeira's agent, will cut into the first baseman's trade value even more, because any teams interested in Teixeira know that the player almost certainly will walk away as a free agent, rather than sign a long-term deal. Other teams might be more aggressive with their trade offers if they believed they had a real shot to sign Teixeira to a moderately priced extension that ties him to his new team for three or four years -- but with Boras involved, that's probably not going to happen. Boras will probably be asking for a nine-figured deal (as in, $100,000,000).

What the Rangers will probably get, then, is some tepid offers. Maybe a couple of decent young players, but almost certainly no top-flight pitching prospects -- which is what Texas needs -- because teams just don't offer up their Garzas, their Lincecums, their Lesters any more.

Right on, Buster. But they're welcome to have J.C. Romero and Joel Pineiro any time they want them.

* * *

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

David Price, selected first overall by the Devil Rays today in the suddenly waaayyy overhyped MLB draft, is the first lefthanded pitcher to go No. 1 since the Yankees selected the star-crossed Brien Taylor in 1991. Here's hoping the comparison ends there and Price manages to avoid any and all life-altering fistfights.

(By the way, I'm resisting the temptation to make a joke about Taylor being scheduled to start for the Yankees this weekend. Heck, the way they're going the last few days, he'd probably end up with a win.)

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