Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Nine innings: 05.09.07

Playing nine innings while feeling a whole lot better about the Hanley Ramirez trade these days . . .

1. Okay, so maybe we went a little over the top with our Kinison-like rant in ripping Roger Clemens the other day. It's just that of all of the things about Clemens that aggravate us - the convenient "tweaks" when a game isn't going his way, his knack for shrinking when the moment calls for him to stand tall, his demand for more perks than any diva in Hollywood, his phony aw-shucks demeanor - it's the oaf's chronic dishonesty that bugs us the most. Why did he have to stand there in Steinbrenner's lair and, peering smugly at the Yankee Stadium peons below, try to claim that he's back with the Yankees because they so quaintly "came and got him out of Texas"? Why can't he just admit that it's about what it has always been about with him: THE MONEY, STUPID! There's nothing wrong with that, particularly in this day and age, and yet the disingenuous rube thinks he's fooling us by claiming it's about everything but the cash. Who's he trying to kid? Remember when his name came up in the Jason Grimsley case? His first concern was that it was going to cost him endorsements. He's made $100-something million in his career, Koby, Kielbasa, Klambake, Kareem, and all the other "K" kids are financially set for several lifetimes, and yet he's more worried about losing his five-figure gig pitching Preparation H than about how being pegged as a juicer would affect his legacy. And still, in the face of his transparent greed, he has the hubris to act as if his cause is something far more noble than further engorging his bank account. What a fraud. Let me just make one more point before I go ballistic again: Had the Red Sox somehow outbid the Yankees in this charade - and given the desperation in the Bronx, that was not going to happen - you know he'd have fed us a similar line of Texas bull about how much coming home to Boston means to him and all of that treacly, Dr. Steinberg-scripted nonsense. Would we have eaten it up? Well, I suddenly find myself looking forward to watching Randy Moss play for my favorite team after years of despising the guy, so in the spirit of the truth I'll admit that, yeah, I'd swallow a heaping helping of hypocrisy and probably cheer Clemens, even though I'd hate myself in the morning. Hey, we sports fans are suckers for sentiment. Just ask Roger.

2. Unless David Ortiz actually enjoys the WEEI-driven conjecture about his own enhanced performance since he became a Red Sox, he'd be wise to refrain from any further head-scratching proclamations that he doesn't believe Barry Bonds knowingly used steroids. We appreciate Papi's good (if ill-informed) intentions, but he must realize than any time a slugger of this era speaks up in defense of Bonds, he immediately becomes a target of steroid suspicion himself. As for a certain other Sox player who weighed in on Bonds Tuesday, let's just leave it at this: When Curt Schilling had his chance before Congress to opine on steroids' impact on his profession, he clammed up to the point that we half expected him to pull the Sammy Sosa No hablo Ingles routine. Please, spare us the sanctimony now.

3. The pining for Alex Cora to play every day has died down now that Dustin Pedroia has begun to look like he belongs, and that's a good thing. While Cora is certainly a valuable member of the roster - this isn't the first time I've said he's the best utility player the Sox have had in my lifetime, and it won't be the last - he's a 31-year-old who has a .246 average in 10 big-league seasons. As a certain local football coach might say, he is what he is. The Sox are wise to give Pedroia an extended chance, and should he prove incapable of handling it, Cora should remain in the reserve role in which he thrives, while someone out of the Graffanino/Grudzielanek/Loretta cookie-cutter is brought in to take the majority of the at-bats.

4. If you thought you've been saying, "Did you see that catch Coco made?" on a frequent basis lately . . . well, according to Bill James via Seth Mnookin, there's a good reason for that, and it's not because you're suffering a flashback to that excruciatingly ubiquitous NESN commercial of a season ago. Crisp has been dazzling in center field lately, averaging roughly one Web Gem every other game or so, and at the plate and on the bases he's starting to look like the dynamic player the Sox coveted as Johnny Damon's successor. Hmmm, maybe he's going to thrive here after all.

5. You've probably heard this by now, but it's worth hearing again, because this hilariously shrill snippet of Yankee propaganda is so over-the-top that even Georgie Porgie mouthpiece John Sterling seemed taken aback. This will never get old. Heck, I'm putting it into heavy rotation on the iPod just to bring a little more comedy to my day. And for the record, I'm pretty sure Suzyn Waldman is what Glenn Geffner would sound like if he worked for the Yankees, idolized Liza Minnelli, and had a more masculine voice.

6. Toronto's Vernon Wells is becoming the Joe Carter of era, an outstanding all-around player who spends an inordinate amount of his time absolutely slaughtering Red Sox pitching. And like Carter, his predecessor by a generation as a Blue Jays signature player, Wells is an affable star whose ego has not swollen in proportion to his salary, as this fun story indicates.

7. Thirty-one games into his Boston tenure, Julio Lugo is the same guy I saw all those years in Tampa Bay: occasionally exciting, often erratic, and not someone you're terribly interested in having on your favorite team. I'm not going to go all Lobel on you and wonder why the Sox let Alex Gonzalez depart, because his currently stellar offensive numbers will be subpar once the summer is over. But I still don't understand Theo Epstein's fascination with Lugo, let alone for the 4-year, $36-million price tag.

8. Despite his Mark Clear imitation in his 2007 debut last night, we're going to stick by our binky and repeat our preseason prediction that Devern Hansack will be a valuable contributor to the Red Sox pitching staff this season. His command was clearly on the fritz last night; judging by what I saw of him last summer in Portland, that's highly unusual. Hansack is a strike-throwing machine with good movement on his low-90s fastball, a decent changeup, and a tight, sharp slider that is a major-league out pitch, as Frank Thomas found out last night. He's 29, with an unusual backstory and hardly the Baseball America pedigree, but you can hold me to this: Given a fair chance, Hansack will succeed in the big leagues.

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

Macha, the less-than-beloved former A's manager who once employed Terry Francona as his bench coach, is the latest addition to NESN's cadre of studio analysts. The early verdict: Though he's got about as much charisma as a sanitary sock, he brings an insider's knowledge when he talks about players' strengths and weaknesses. We still wish The Eck had the gig every night, but Macha has the potential to be a decent second option.

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