Monday, July 16, 2007

Marked man

Playing nine innings while wondering what Papi and his torn meniscus were doing playing in the All-Star game . . .

1. I know it's probably cold and heartless of me given all that he has overcome, but if the Texas Rangers are willing to take Jon Lester as the centerpiece in a trade for Mark Teixeira, I hope Theo says, "You've got yourself a deal, Daniels," without even a single sentimental second thought. Teixeira is exactly the hitter the Sox need, and it would free them up to trade Mike Lowell (c'mon, you really expect him to hit in the second half like he did in the first?) for some depth. I'm not sweating the Sox' ongoing lethargy - the Yankees are too flawed to take advantage, and besides, the Sox went through the same thing in '04 and that turned out okay - but the more I see this lineup get shut down by the likes of Jesse Litsch and Ryan Feierabend, the more one-run games I see them lose, the more certain I become that they need another Grade A bat in the heart of the lineup. Yeah, there are signs that Manny and Papi are about to bust out of their power drought, but isn't it still alarming that they had a combined 30 (thirty!) fewer homers at the break this year than they did a season ago? Teixeira, who already has put up seasons of 38, 43, and 33 homers at age 27, would ease their burden tremendously, and that he's a switch-hitter only enhances his appeal. And as arrogant though it may sound, I'm convinced that once Teixeira, an East Coast kid who recently ripped the Rangers for their lack of commitment to winning, got to experience playing at Fenway, he'd do everything in his power to stay after his contract expires in '08. Yes, Lester is a talent, no doubt, and we'll never question his spirit or his mental toughness after all he's endured. But I still wonder about his command issues, and while 'EEI callers seem to fail to grasp this concept, to get something you usually need to give something up. For Mark Teixeira, giving up Lester would be worth it.

2. The Mike Timlin rejuvenation is one of the more pleasant (and downright shocking) developments of the season, and it couldn't come at a better time considering that the next time we read Brendan Donnelly's name in the newspaper I suspect it may be accompanied by a reference to a visit with Dr. James Andrews.

3. Had to chuckle when Cable-Access Geffner, while talking with Dave O'Brien about the Police's upcoming visit to Fenway during today's radio broadcast, put on his public relations hat and dutifully rattled off the list of all the great acts who have played there in recent years . . . but one rather notable omission. Mick who? Never heard of him, Dr. Steinberg. Then again, Geffner admitted he wasn't much of a fan of Sting and the boys back in their stellar '80s heyday, which I suppose really shouldn't come as a surprise. I'm pretty sure that's when Geffner was going through his "Like a Virgin" phase.

4. Wily Mo Pena is by all accounts a good-natured, hardworking kid, and there's no denying he has the raw physical talent to hit 35+ home runs in a major league season someday. But even to those of us who thought dealing Bronson Arroyo for him was a shrewd move must admit the truth right now: It would be better for him and the ball club if he moved on. He needs to play every day for a ball club like Kansas City or Pittsburgh (Xavier Nady for Wily Mo? Yes, please) where he can get the 500 at-bats he needs to hone his skills, particularly when it comes to pitch recognition. I like him, and I root for him to make it big, but it's just not going to happen for him here.

5. When - not if, when - A-Rod opts out of his contract with the Yankees and leaves his private New York hell behind after this professionally redemptive season, what he should do is sign with the Angels, who are a perfect match: They have a desperate need for a hitter of his talents, and they happen to play in a city and a ballpark that are as inauthentic as the player himself. But I've said it before and I'll say it again: Four seasons after they first courted him, I think there is a very real chance he ends up with the Red Sox. It would be doable financially (Lowell, Clement, Eric Hinske and Curt Schilling are coming off the books), it would work roster-wise (Lowell is a free agent), it would work from both sides' presumed desire to stick it to New York (c'mon, you don't think he hungers to beat Jeter?), and most of all, it works just like it did in the winter of '03-'04, when he was willing to take a pay cut to come here and Larry Lucchino and Dr. Charles were practically giggling like schoolgirls while plotting how they'd market him as the face of the franchise to all the loyal sucke . . . er, residents of Red Sox Nation. I'm not saying I want this to happen (though if we can root for Randy Moss, accepting A-Rod as one of our own probably won't break the Hypocrisy Meter), and I'm not saying it will happen . . . but I think I would be more surprised if the Sox don't try to make this happen than if they do.

6. In case you missed it - and I'm really hoping you did - Jeter won the ESPY for the Best Baseball Player. So to answer the longstanding question, yes, there is an award more meaningless and arbitrary than the Gold Glove.

7. I tend to think Jason Varitek gets too much credit for certain immeasurable things, such as his game-calling. There are a lot of pitchers who have faltered on his watch while later thriving elsewhere, and I'm with Remy; Why was Papelbon messing around with a cutter with the game on the line against Detroit last week? Going back further, why would anyone ever call for a low-and-away fastball to A-Rod? (I know, I know, let it go). But there is simply no exaggerating his value to the Red Sox right now, not only because of his somewhat surprising bounce-back season at the plate at age 35, but mostly because the dropoff from Tek to Dougie Chicken Parm is like going from Jessica Biel to Jessica Tandy. It's so unappealing that you don't even want to think about it.

8. I wrote about this in my Sox GameDay column a few days ago, but I'll regurgitate it here in case you didn't see it. I'm convinced Clay Buchholz will be pitching for the Red Sox after four or five starts at Pawtucket, provided things go as well in Triple A as his talent suggests they will. He's on the same path Papelbon was on in '05: half a season at Portland, a handful of starts at Pawtucket, and then a promotion to the big leagues as a live arm to help the playoff push. You might recall that by the end of the '05 postseason, Papelbon was the Sox' most effective pitcher. I doubt that will be the case with Buchholz, simply because the Sox staff is so much deeper and more talented than it was in '05 (see: Matt Clement, Game 1 starter, ALDS), but he will be a factor, whether it's in the rotation or as one more power arm out of the 'pen.

9. As for today's Completely Random 8x10 Photo*:

Fourteen years after Dan Duquette insisted Stairs could hit big-league pitching if someone just looked past the bowling-pin physique and gave him a chance, the 39-year-old Bangor, Maine resident is still proving him right.

* - Because we couldn't find a card of him in a Sox uni.

P.S. - For those of you who aren't tired of reading my nonsense after this disaster, here's my lastest Fox column, if you missed it. Man, I'm awesome at this self-promotion stuff, aren't I?

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