April 2008

The Greatest of the 90′s On One Team?

     “I know a way we can get Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. and we won’t have to give up that much.”

                                            -George Costanza

 

     George may have been having a hallucination of sort back in the 90′s when he suggested this for comedic purposes, but it is a very real possibility if one team wants to do it bad enough.  And Seattle makes the most sense.

 

     Buster Olney suggested in his blog yesterday that Seattle is a perfect spot for Griffey to land.  He obviously had his best years there, and they need a corner OF or two, and a DH, possibly, on that second suggestion.  I was reading Rob Neyer’s blog yesterday and they mentioned how the Mariners were trying to win now, obviously, with the acquistion of Bedard, and the extension for Ichiro, etc.  And I almost forgot about the aging, struggling offense (which hasn’t been “too” bad, but has holes).  They may be able to fix the DH slot with Jeff Clement, their number one prospect in the minors who is actually a catcher, as I learned in Olney’s blog too.  Or they could go a different route.  Wait until Griffey belts his 600th home run and then try and make a move for him shortly after.  They shouldn’t have to give up too much as the Reds can deal with the hit and would take pleasure in getting something in return for the “star.”  Griffey has a team option I believe next season, and by moving him they won’t have to pay all that money and would get something decent as well.  

 

     The other side of this is that, if they seriously want to win now as they seem to be trying to do, they could lure away Bonds from the tv and make a serious run at the Angels.  As they are constructed now I have a hard time believing that they make the playoffs.  Although I do feel that even after their slow start, they will eventually be in the race, or above .500, a winning record of some sort.  

 

     But imagine a lineup with Bonds and Griffey.  Maybe they could bat Griffey third and Bonds fifth, slotting Sexson in the middle and hoping that “protection” exists.  It may be too late for Sexson, no matter which spot he hits in, or which team for that matter.  Or maybe, Bonds fourth, and Griffey sixth, if Griffey wouldn’t mind slotting down a few spots to have him bat where his ability allows him to.   

 

     And I understand the negatives to this too.  Bonds is a clubhouse cancer.  We all know that.  But Bonds could be what the Mariners need to make a run at a playoff spot.  So cancer or not, he may be a bigger positive.  And of course Bonds is over 40 years old now too, so who knows how good he is anymore. 

 

     And the negatives to Griffey are; that he is 38 years old, plays in a weaker league, in a hitters haven, and has an OPS+ below the average so far.  I expect him to be an above average hitter if he stays healthy, but how much better I do not know.  He is not a very good defender anymore “they” say, but maybe Ichiro can get to some of the balls that he does not.  And of course, he would be moving to a pitchers park, which won’t help his power numbers, only hurt.  Bonds may be the better player at this point, if he has been working on his hitting that is.  But Griffey should be an upgrade over whoever they are throwing out there now.  And there is no doubt that a Griffey and Bonds combination would be more effective than a Vidro and Wilkerson combo (if you read Neyer, he rips on Vidro all the time).   

 

     If they want to win now, then its not all that far fetched, at least in my eyes.  This is only valid though if they don’t have to give up too much to get Griffey.  But if they want to coast along and win 85 games or whatever, without much help coming from within, then they can do that too if they wish.  But I do understand that they may not want a guy like Barry Bonds, and that is completely understandable.  But if they get both, then the fans may very much like that, because I know they would love to have Griffey back in an M’s uniform.   

Is Mariano Rivera the best closer ever?

Probably.

Joey Are You Worried Yet?

     

 

     Yes, the title is a slight variation of a segment featured on Bill Simmons’ podcasts.  Actually, the only difference between my title and his title is that my name is “Joe” and his (the guy Simmons has as a guest) is “Johnny.”  As a matter of fact, it is a complete rip off the title, and I take no credit for the almost, emotionally enveloping aura that surrounds it.  It is difficult for me to take in how one is reading this blog, after being emotionally strewn from one side of their mind to the other side, and then back again. 

 

     But the title actually reflects what some fans may be thinking about our Boston Red Sox.  They may be worrisome, nervous, troubled…and any other synonym that “Merriam Webster Online” provides.  And just for the heck of it, synonym has no synonym, but why would it? 

 

     So the Sox have dropped five straight.  Three to the once lowly Rays, who are going to be closer to .500 then they have ever been, unless they somehow finish way over the mark.  They have talent, one of the best farms in baseball to be exact, but we all knew that going into the season.  And now they have swept us.  I’m sorry…I am supposed to be objective, let me rephrase that.  The Rays have swept “them.”  All 30 teams are simply “them” to me now that I changed my background from a Red Sox logo to an MLB logo.

 

     Anyway, the answer to my question, if I may, is no, I am not worried.  This team has as much talent as any team in baseball.  And while it may not have some significant advantage in its everyday lineup, it does have an advantage in depth.  Lowell goes down, replace him with Sean Casey.  Great guy, great teammate, and oh yeah, he can hit .300 like it’s nothing.  If Drew needs a day to rest, or 25 for that matter, Coco can come in and give us defense that few teams can matchup with.  If Ortiz needs a day off, Manny can move to DH, and all of a sudden the outfield is incredible on the defensive side of the ball, with Coco, Ellsbury, and Drew.  Drew does have good range by the way, he just makes dumb mistakes sometimes.  

 

     And another reason I am not worried is because the last two starts, have been great.  Buchholz struck out nine, and gave up only two hits, but was handed the loss anyway.  Beckett struck out thirteen, and was also handed a loss.  Both great performances that the casual fan will see as a failure because each pitcher ended up with “L.”  Beckett is an ace, and he is one of the five best pitchers in baseball.  Now I tend to think of him as the best at times, but then I must step back and think about how that is in part because I see him do great things so often.  So one of the five best is pretty fair I would think.  Anyone want to disagree?  And as for Clay, he will be molded into an ace eventually I think, but somewhat surprisingly to some, he may end up much closer to “Ace” status THIS season.  Although, they may send him down for a short stint so they can control his innings later in the season.  As soon as “Medical Records” recovers from his eight different ailments.  (Medical Records is what I think of when I think of Colon.  All offseason, every time Keith Law spoke of Bartolo, he always mentioned that his “medical records were disasturous.”)  I have no idea if that quotation mark goes inside or outside of the parenthesis. 

 

     But I think the biggest difference between this year’s offense and last year’s offense will be Ellsbury.  I think he brings energy, which is always nice.  He brings hunger, which doesn’t hurt either.  And best of all, from a winning perspective, he brings talent.  And his bat over Coco, in my opinion, is a huge upgrade.  He may be 35-40% better in terms of OPS+.  And Ellsbury is no slouch in the field either, he just has to learn the terrain, and the sooner he starts/started, ultimately, the better.

 

     I think Drew will have a better season too.  As he is doing currently.  Although JD is caught in one of his inevitable slumps again, where he grounds and pops everything out, while adding a single or a walk to the box score.  But he will get back on track. 

 

     Lugo is going to be better than he was last year, almost exclusively because he has to be.  But the errors Lugo, What is the deal?  7 errors already.  I know he is no defensive wiz, but he isn’t the worst SS in baseball either.  Bottom half I would say.  And we do have Lowrie if Lugo were to revert back into what he was a year ago. 

 

     And Manny, Oh Manny.  He wants to play another six years, he says.  Fine.  So he gets into the best shape of his life and has started off the season red-hot.  Why couldn’t he do this every season?  Last season his OPS was .629 in April.  In 2006 it was .865, which is pretty good, but still below his career numbers.  This season his OPS stood at 1.071 before today’s game.  I wonder why he couldn’t just be this motivated all the time.  And he looks so incredibly locked in too.  I have so much faith when he comes to the plate now.  Doesn’t matter who is on the mound, or what they throw.  I still feel he can come through right now.  But I believe the team has a “team option” each of the next two years.  So I don’t know why they would to pay him when he is 42 years old.  Why not just pick up the options?  And if he wants to walk when he is 38, then let him do so.  He is a Hall of Famer and is still one of the better hitters in all of baseball.  But I doubt he will be when he is 38.  And even if he is, how good will he be when he is 39?  Maybe better than average, but not great I would guess.    

 

     Anyway, I dislike losing, as does every fan.  But I am not worried.  The Red Sox still have one of the most talented teams in baseball, and unless Ortiz never recovers, or some other significant injury happens, then they will be good.    

 

    

Gagne Gets a Pass.

     Once again Eric Gagne coughed up a game into his hand, and handed it to another team.  However, unlike some of his failures over the past two years, this time he gets a free pass. 

 

     Gagne had thrown in three consecutive games and this was his fourth.  Why?  Why would they take this risk?  He had been successful in the past three appearences, but even that is too much.  Four days straight is too much to ask for a pitcher to have success in.  And I really have no idea what Ned Yost was thinking.  Unless he knows that Gagne has some hidden superpowers, which believe me, he doesn’t, then he should have used another reliever.  Yost apparently listened to what Gagne had to say, and basically left it up to Gagne, according to ESPN.com

 

     This is where a manager must take over.  Rather than listen to his player, the manager must say to himself, “This is the 4th day in a row I am going to use this closer, it just doesn’t make sense.  I must go with someone else.”  But he did not, and Gagne lost the game.  But it was really Yost that cost them this win. 

Some thoughts while watching the Sox

     -  Daisuke has the potential to do well.  And he is doing exactly that this season.  But once again he has a pitch count that is just TOO high.  Through four innings, he has only given up one earned, surrendered three hits, walked two, and struck out three.  Not bad at all.  But he has already thrown 81 pitches, 48 of which have been strikes.  That has to change for him to get better!.  A team like tha Yankees will understand going in, that they can just wait for Daisuke to take himself out of the game.  And being out of the game by the sixth inning is very realistic, each time he takes the mound, especially opposing a great, and patient offense like the Yankees (We saw this in his last start against them, although it was a little ridiculous that night, as Matsuzaka is never quite that erratic).  If he starts coming after the hitters, he will be fine.  Occasionally, he will be roughed up by some bats, but he will also give up fewer baserunners over the long haul, and miss a few more bats too.  I have said numerous times that Matsuzaka should and probably will be a “pretty good” pitcher.  However, the only way he will be great, is if he starts to come right after the opposition.  But nevertheless, he is still pitching pretty well so far tonight. 

 

 

     -  Ortiz just awoke from his terrible slump.  At least for an at bat.  An opposite field grand slam, which was very unexpected.  He jumped on the first pitch and took it over the monster, off of the now “removed from the game” Luis Mendoza.  Who knows if this will lift Ortiz from the cellar, but it doesn’t hurt, and best of all it HELPS the team.

 

 

     -  Crazy game last night between the Padres and Rockies.  But it seems to make a little more sense, if one were to think about it.  A large, spacious park that is Petco, where it is difficult to hit the ball out.  One great, and one good pitcher squaring off.  A team in the Padres that isn’t exactly a great hitting team.  And a team in the Rockies that isn’t exactly a great hitting team on the road.  Two teams that had pretty good bullpens last season (It is too early to tell how good they are going to be this year).  But of course no 22 inning affair makes much sense.  I wish I could have caught some of it.  Or maybe I don’t, I did have to work this morning.   

 

 

     -  During last nights Red Sox-Yankees broadcast on YES Michael Kay and Al Leiter were discussing Mussina.  Leiter defended Mussina, and stated that he can still have some success, even with an 86 or so MPH fastball.  Kay basically disagreed, as he pointed out that Mussina didn’t do well, or more accurately, was pretty bad last season.  And Kay had a point.  But what I really think Leiter was getting at, is that it is possible for a pitcher to have some success with below average velocity on his fastball.  See:  Maddux.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean Mussina will adapt to that.  Leiter pointed out that it is all about location, and that is obvious.  And it is easy to tell when Mussina misses his spots, because the ball just seems to travel very far.  So I think in a sense, they could both have been right.  Kay may be right in thinking that Mussina may not have “success,” so to speak, but there is the possibility that Kay should look at Mussina having “success” as him simply not being a terrible pitcher, on a team that has a great offense.  But there is the possibility that Mussina is too “stubborn” as Leiter did put at another time in the game, and will never be effective again in any sense of the word. 

 

     My opinion is that Mussina still has a shot to be an effective fifth starter.  But this may be the wrong league, and also the wrong division for him.  I have never disliked Mussina, but I have never liked him either.  He has just always worn the wrong uniform.  But he may have to switch leagues if he wants to experience success again.  But the guy has had a good career.  Not a hall of famer in my opinion, but isn’t that far off either.

 

 

     -  14 pitch inning for Daisuke.  Which is a good sign.  But he is at 95 pitches now, and will only pitch one more inning.  But again, I cannot complain about the most important result of the short term..the one earned run in five innings on the mound. 

 

  

News and Notes from around the diamond…

     -  First off, no one has ever used anything even close to this title.  It is completely original, and I am actually thinking about getting a patent on it, or a copyright, whatever. 

 

     -  How long are the Brewers going to have faith in Gagne?  I actually doubt that they have much faith in him now, but they paid him so much that they are going to give him his shot, regardless.  The one year part of the contract was a great move, but the money is ridiculous given what we have seen from this closer lately.  It cannot be fatigue, and it probably isn’t a health issue at this point.  This has been happening since he arrived in Boston last season.  It also doesn’t help when a pitcher throws a straight 91 mph fastball, on a 3-1 count, to Fukudome in a tough spot.  Keith Law picked up on this, as did I, and probably most others who watched.  Gagne does have one save, but a closer cannot expect to keep his job converting only 33% of the save opportunities that he is given.

 

       I witnessed the first failure of Gagne’s, as mentioned.  I also went back, using MLB.TV, and watched his successful save against the Giants.  He started off nicely, and it appeared that he had some nice movement on his changeup.  But after, I believe it was Brian Bocock, was retired, his pitches seemed to begin to miss their spots again.  Just like last year.  Luckily, he was facing one of the worst lineups ever assembled, and even more convenient was the fact that he was facing the 8-9-1 hitters of that lineup.  Although I wouldn’t be very intimidated if I was facing the heart of the order on that Giants team.  Well, I might, but a big league closer probably wouldn’t.  But Gagne retired the side in order, and earned his first save.

 

       But how many more chances is he going to get?  The offense isn’t going to be able to pick him up every time he fails as they have done both times so far.  And I want him to do well.  He is one of the players that I enjoy watching.  He just doesn’t get it done anymore.  And eventually the Brewers may very well be paying $10 million for a mop up guy. 

 

     -  Daisuke Matsuzaka is pitching extremely well thus far.  His outing against the A’s was nothing short of dominant.  Granted, the A’s are not the most successful offense, but it wasn’t just the swings and misses.  It was the way his pitches looked, the confidence he displayed, and of course the box score.  One out short of seven innings, 9 K’s, 0BB, and one earned.  One pitch that he left up to Jack Cust.  Very few balls were hit well, and he was simply on top of his game.  Yesterday, was more of the same…at times.  This time he gave up zero runs, but he walked four, and seemed to lose a little bit of his control as the game went along.  I am not complaining by any means, but he ended up walking four.  Overall, he pitched well, he just seemed to revert back to last years version for a few innings.  Walking the leadoff hitter, getting into a bases loaded jam, etc.  But the Tigers did not hit the ball well off of him.  It was just the four walks.  The Tigers had a few weakly hit balls fall in for hits as well.  But he is definitely impressing me this season, even with his first few innings of jitters in Japan.

 

     -  Bonderman vs. Lester tonight.  Which Lester is going to show up?   

 

    

2008

My predictions for the 2008 season.  A little late, but nevertheless here for the taking.

 

AL East:

     Red Sox     94 wins

     Yankees     93 wins (WC)

     Blue Jays   

     Rays         

     Orioles

 

AL Central:

     Tigers       96 wins

     Indians     92 wins     

     Twins

     Royals

     White Sox

 

AL West

     Angels     92 wins

     Mariners  86

     A’s

     Rangers

 

NL East

     Mets      93 wins

     Braves    88

     Phillies   88

     Nats

     Marlins

 

NL Central

     Cubs        88 wins

     Reds        83

     Brewers    83

     Cardinals

     Astros

     Pirates

 

NL West

     Dodgers     89

     Dbacks      88 (WC)

     Padres

     Rockies

     Giants

 

AL MVP:  Alex Rodriguez

 

AL CY:  Felix Hernandez

 

NL MVP:  David Wright

 

NL CY:  Johan Santana

 

 

    

    

Dice-K

Matsuzaka was fantastic tonight.  I don’t expect a 06′-07′ Beckett like improvement, but I do expect an improvement.  And tonight was a great start!

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