Thursday, May 22, 2008


Assuming Bartolo Colon gets one more start while Clay Buchholz is on the disabled list and pitches reasonably well, does Buchholz stay in the minors?

If Colon isn't the answer in the five-hole, and the Sox are concerned that Buchholz isn't progressing as hoped, then is Justin Masterson the answer?

Can too much depth in the starting rotation be a problem? Consider - Currently the rotation is Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakedfield, Jon Lester, and Colon. Waiting in the wings or coming back from injury - Masterson, Buchholz, and Curt Schilling. The beauty for Schil is that the pressure will be off if he makes it back from the DL as he'll be moved into the five slot of the rotation.

The follow up question really is, then, who's the odd man out? Matsuzaka is pitching like an ace; Beckett is struggling, but that's unlikely to last; Wake is being Wake; and Lester is pitching better than any starter without a Japanese name - which leaves whoever is taking the last spot in the rotation - that leaves a pretty solid group of four starters from which to choose.

What's the likelihood that the Celtics will go to Detroit up two games to nil? I have my concerns. The Celtics outplayed what looked like a rusty Pistons squad in game one and didn't exactly take the game running away.

What are the chances that the NFL and the NFLPA come away from their impending talks with a much needed rookie salary cap? Considering Union big-wig Kevin Mawae has publicly expressed the need for one, I think the chances are pretty good. Should be interesting, though, to see if the Union looks for a concession from the owners for something that they have already noted as one of their own needs.

The Yankees are approximately where they were a year ago this time. Can they overcome the rough start two years in a row? I have my doubts. As I've noted before, Chien-Ming Wang is pitching like the number two starter he is, but would-be ace Andy Pettitte is pitching like a 2/3, Mussina is another year older and will have a couple of winning streaks peppered with starts like his last where he couldn't get out of the first. The one bright spot in the rotation has been Darrell Rasner - who's likely to fall back to Earth and begin pitching like he has in his past trips to the majors.

That doesn't even account for a line-up whose skills are eroding with age.

The Yankees aren't the only team performing well below expectations - can Detroit and Seattle overcome their sluggish starts as well?

Are the Rays for real?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Master of his destiny and other thoughts

  • Justin Masterson is going to make it hard for the Red Sox to justify keeping him in Pawtucket. Masterson is now 1-0 in two starts spanning 12.1 innings and a minuscule 1.46 ERA. It could have been below one had the bullpen held when it took over the game.
  • Am I the only one that was worried that Masterson wouldn't get the much deserved win when Terry Francona went to the bullpen?
  • Within two years the Sox starting rotation is going to be Matsuzaka, Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, and Masterson. I think that Buchholz or Masterson could still go in a trade - but it's going to have to be an absolute can't miss trade that will help the team for years, or Sox fans will have Theo's head on a pike.
  • Watching the NBA playoffs I think I can say without equivocation that the Celtics are a different team when Rajon Rondo is sitting on the bench. The interesting thing is that Eddie House has been playing like a man possessed the last couple of games, but there has been little trickle-down from him to his teammates, whereas Rondo sets a tempo and intensity that has seemed to be infectious when he's on the court.
  • For all the regular season promotion of the Celtics' new Big Three as being Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, in the post-season its been Garnett, Pierce, and Rondo, with Allen a virtual no-show. If Allen can find his game, then opponents are going to be in trouble.
  • Considering the overall age of the Celtics, it would be nice to see them steal a game in Detroit and maybe get a little rest before the finals. That said, Detroit has been the team that has concerned me the most. Of all the teams the C's have played this post-season, they're the one I think can steal one in the Gahden and could send the Celtics packing.
  • I don't know what to think of the NFL owners opting out of the current agreement with the NFLPA. For pretty much the last two decades the two groups have been able to hammer out agreements before any real strife, but I have a hunch that this negotiation is going to be more contentious than anything since the lock-out in the 1980's.
Quick shots from Yankee Land...
  • Hank Steinbrenner has to be on the verge of an apoplectic fit. Between a construction worker who happens to be a Red Sox fan jinxing the new stadium, the Sox riding atop the AL East and the Yanks languishing at the bottom, and his team struggling and looking either too old, or not yet ready for prime time, the clock is ticking on the time bomb that is Steinbrenner.
  • After pitching over his head in his last five starts, Mike Mussina returned to form against the Orioles, lasting only two-thirds of an inning and giving up seven runs. Granted, only one run was earned (although watching the highlights, I don't know that I completely believe Yahoo's box on that), but at least six were scored with two out. Mussina just couldn't get out of the inning.
  • Speaking of pitching that's going to contribute to Hank's head popping like a bloated tick, the Renaissance of young pitching in Fenway is going to give the man a conniption. The would-be veteran aces of both the Sox (Beckett) and Yanks (Pettitte) are struggling, but the number two's - Matsuzaka and Wang - aren't. However, Matsuzaka is looking like the ace he was in Japan while Wang looks like the number two pitcher he is. However, the real bad news comes from the home-grown products...The vaunted young starters, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, are a combined 0-7 with a 9.00 and 8.48 ERA respectively. There are two quality starts between them, and the Yankees 2-10 in their combined 12 starts. I guarantee you that Hank is eying not only the 5-2 Johan Santana, but the Red Sox young arms have to be what will put his snit over the top. Masterson, Lester, and Buchholz are a combined 6-5 with a no-hitter and two complete games.
  • Hank also couldn't have been happy to be reminded of Alex Rodriguez's prowess at the plate when it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Yeah, but" didn't apply

I railed against the proposed Lester-Santana trade during the off-season. I believed the Red Sox would be giving up too much to get the vaunted (former) Twin ace.

I preached patience with Lester's early struggles. According to medical personnel, it can take up to two years to get back to full strength after cancer treatments...if at all. We're still less than two years removed from even the diagnosis and Lester absolutely dominated the Kansas City Royals in his start, throwing a no-hitter (with a little bit of help from Jacoby Ellsbury - one of the other key components in the trade package with the Twins).

Some people will look at the fact that it was against the Royals and say "yeah, but...," but that would be wrong. Sure, one to nine, they're not a dominant hitting team, but one to seven they have only one player hitting below .260, Jose Guillen (.241 after Lester's start), and he's currently seventh in the American League in RBI production. Lester also had to pitch to the leader in batting average (.331), Mark Grudzielanek three times on his way to the offensive shut-down. The Royals currently have the fifth best batting average in the American League - better than presumed offensive powerhouses like the Yankees and Tigers.

There is no "yeah, but..." here. Just a dominating performance against a decent offensive team.

I'm still not saying that Lester is necessarily going to become Johann Santana, but I still don't think Santana was worth trading Lester.

A few quick notes about the start - Lester is just one of three pitchers to win the deciding game of the World Series and the following year throw a no-no. It's him, Sandy Koufax and then back in 1915 Rube Foster did it for the Red Sox. That's not just good company - that's rare company.

Think about that for a second - Lester, Koufax, and Foster. Not Tom Glavine, not Pedro Martinez, not Roger Clemens, not Bob Gibson, Bob Lemon, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Don Larsen, Cy Young, nor Steve Carlton. A who's who of Hall-of-Famers didn't do what Lester did - and Lester has done it with the extra degree of difficulty of doing it while recovering from cancer.

Jason Varitek has now been behind the plate for four no-hitters, and it could have been six had Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling not shaken the Sox catcher off in the ninth inning of games in which they came close. I bring this up because Varitek is nearing the end of his career - he might have four seasons left after this as catchers at his age can deteriorate quickly.

His offensive numbers are solid, but not Hall worthy. But has any catcher been better at calling a game? Has any other catcher been behind the plate for four no hitters? Maybe, but I haven't found him.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Four thoughts about recent events

With the exception of Matsuzaka, the pitching and defense remained a problem for the Red Sox in their three game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers. That said, the hitting has come around - Hell, David Ortiz has heated up, and last among the regulars with a .250 batting average.
Here are some numbers for the rest of the American League to consider - the Sox lead the majors with a .295 team batting average, hits (472) and a .461 slugging percentage, and lead the AL in On Base Percentage (.366), Runs Batted In (228), and Runs (239). If the bullpen solidifies and the rest of the pitching staff solidifies, it's going to be a long season for the challengers in the AL East.

I've read about a lot of different things done to bust out of a slump, but I never needed to know about Jason Giambi and his gold thong. What's more, I never needed to know that Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter have worn his thong.
That's right, the Yankees have shared underwear that is essentially butt-floss. Even by my standards...ew.

Staying on the Yankees, as always, the team was a popular choice to win the AL East. They were picked along with the Tigers and Mariners by some. All three are dead last in their respective divisions, and the best of them (record-wise), the Yanks, would remain in last even if they swapped divisions with the last place team in any other division in baseball.
The flip side for the Yankees - they're at 20-24 through 44 games this season...exactly where they were this time last year. Unfortunately, their pitching is no better than it was this time last year either.

The Bengals released Odell Thurman. Not a big surprise, the team has finally decided to do some house cleaning, getting rid of troubled wide-out Chris Henry, and now Thurman who just came off a two year suspension.
Thurman will likely get one last shot, probably on a team like the Raiders and at the veteran minimum, bit the veteran linebacker has effectively destroyed any of the real market value of his talent by being a complete butt-head off the field.
When the Bengals are cleaning house, it is, in essence, a new day in the NFL, and boneheads like Henry, Thurman, and Adam Jones need to pay attention because all that money they thought they were going to have is going to evaporate in a hurry.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Box

There are times that players will do things integral to winning a game that don't show in the box score. In football it's sometimes a crushing block that sends a message (see Drew Bledsoe's crack-back on a Jets defender in 2002 while QB'ing the was a decleater).

In game seven against the Cavs, it was Eddie House.

The game was won on the shoulders of the long-suffering Paul Pierce who stepped up big and refused to loose, but the tone was set in the second quarter by Eddie House. House outran Wally Szczerbiak to a loose ball that went almost the length of the court, starting in the Cav's end of the parquet. The journeyman guard who has played for eight franchises in his eight NBA seasons absolutely sacrificed his body, catching up to the ball just before going out of bounds, tapping it back to teammate James Posey.

Posey, showing the same presence of mind that House did in tapping the ball back to him, turned and shot in spite of the fact that his momentum was bringing him out of bounds under the basket. He got the foul and sunk the two frees.

The points might show as Posey's in the box, but those were House's baskets.

That doesn't even take into account for when House channeled Larry Bird on the Cavs inbound pass in the games fading seconds. The AP described it well -

But Eddie House intercepted the pass and, as the final seconds ticked off, James turned and walked toward his bench, his chances of reaching the East finals dashed on the court where the Cavaliers were 0-6 this season.
My question - if this game acts as a catalyst for the Celtics to finally look like the team on the road that they were during the season, will the Eddie House hustle-play be looked at as the spark? Will it be JR Redmond diving for the sideline to stop the clock, dragging two defenders with him? Will it be Dave Roberts sparking a Red Sox rally? Or will it be just another great play lost to a box score that has no accounting for it?