Red Sox April 2004

Patriots Day 2004

 

The Red Sox took 3 of 4 against the Yankees this holiday (in MA anyway) weekend. I’m not getting too excited though, there are still 150 games left.

 

It was nice to see both Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling hold the Yankees to 2 runs apiece and even Bronson Arroyo on Monday, despite a rough start, battled and kept his team in the game.

 

Only Derek Lowe’s disaster of a start on Sunday failed to meet muster. I won’t dwell on it too long, but his 10 days between starts may have had an impact, although I really don’t know. Why didn’t he throw a simulated game in between? Who cares, you can’t win them all after all.

 

The one common denominator in the 3 Red Sox wins was the bullpen. In the Red Sox wins, the pen pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. Not too shabby.

 

Add to that the 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for Lowe on Sunday and the bullpen went 13 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 9 walks, 8 k’s and only 1 run. While the walks were high, the hits were low, so all in all, an overwhelming success.

 

Imagine me writing about the strength of the Red Sox bullpen last year at this time.

 

So the Red Sox are at 7-5 and head to Toronto for 3 and then on to the Bronx for 3 more. Certainly not an easy trip ahead.

 

A side note, what a day Patriots Day proved to be in the Boston sports world. The Red Sox won, the 108th running of the Boston Marathon came and went, the Patriots traded for Corey Dillon and the Bruins….wait, the Bruins are an embarrassment.

 

Other than the Bruins, quite a sports day.

 

Back to the B’s for a second. What a pathetic lump of an organization they’ve become. In the past 10 years, they’ve won one playoff series. All the while losing 6. Oh yeah, they completely missed the playoffs in 1997, 2000 and 2001.

 

Face it Bruins fans, there are just too many things working against us. 1.) A terrible place to watch hockey (or any sport for that matter) in the Fleet Center. The bowl is so wide and spacious, there is no way to generate any noise. It is the exact opposite of the Boston Garden. 2.) The constant neglect of the regular season squad by ownership has sent once faithful fans packing. So on any given night, the New England Revolution are more likely to be talked about at the water cooler. 3.) Finally, look at the on ice leadership for the Bruins. You have Captain Joe Thornton. He is amazingly talented, but is there a player in the league who took more stupid penalties than he did all season long? No. Wait, yes, his Assistant Captain, Martin LaPointe. He took just as many, if not more. As for the other Assistant, Sean O’Donnell, I’ll give him a free pass.

 

So the Bruins really need an ownership change, but since that isn’t likely to happen, I think it time Jeremy Jacobs sent Mike O’Connell and Harry “I haven’t won a Stanley Cup in 33 years” Sinden packing.

 

In the time the Bruins last won the Cup, the Canadians have won 7 times, the Oilers 5 times, the Penguins 2 times, the Islanders 4 times, the Flyers twice, the Avalanche twice, the Red Wings 3 times, the Devils 3 times and the Stars, Flames and the Rangers once each.

 

So save yourself some grief and root for the Celtics…oh crap. I mean root for your local High School teams.

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2004

 

Francona’s Way

 

A week and change into the season and we are starting to get a better idea as to how Terry Francona is going to manage. While it is far too early to see if his style is a good one, there are a few points I’d like to comment on.

 

Francona pulled Pedro Martinez midway through the top of the 8th in his most recent start because Pedro had exceeded his pitch count. Who cares? I care. Last year, Grady Little would have left him in out of respect.

 

Respect? Grady’s idea of respect was to allow a competitor to pitch his way out of trouble or in some cases allow him to finish what he started. I certainly can understand how that approach would endear a manager to his players, it just isn’t sound strategy though. Especially with Pedro.

 

Respect, when it comes to a fragile shoulder, is taking a guy out so he can pitch another day. It is also understanding when to get a player out when he has nothing left. Francona is a student of relevant statistics. The stat that told him batters hit Pedro at a .370 clip last year from pitch number 106-120 was enough for him to realize Pedro had given all he could give.

 

How many pitches did Pedro throw in his last start? 106.

 

In addition, I liked Francona’s use of David McCarty in relief in the April 9th game. It’s hard for me to understand why people were so upset by it. With Ramiro Mendoza unable to pitch and Bobby M. Jones unable to throw strikes, Francona didn’t have much choice.

 

Down three runs with runners on in the top of the 9th, Francona brought in McCarty to spare further bullpen usage. While McCarty wasn’t effective, he did finish the 9th.

 

I suppose my biggest gripe about this is why did Boston management think Jones was worthy of a bullpen spot in the first place and how did they manage to overlook Mendoza’s injury?

 

Jones is a bad pitcher. My guess on him is that he has a ton of talent, but can’t seem to get it coordinated with his head. As a result, he wows his employers during spring training, but crumbles when it matters.

 

His career 5.77 era and 1.73 whip ((hits+walks)/innings pitched) prove he is lousy. That’s over 324.2 innings and 6 seasons.

 

I’m being serious here, Jones has never really had a good season whatsoever. The Sports Forecaster has each of his pro seasons listed. Take a look for yourself. Only his 2003 AAA stats were something resembling good.

 

I don’t mean to get on his case, but I have to ask Theo Epstein why he thought Jones had a better chance of contributing than Tim Hamulack or Mark Malaska.

 

As for Mendoza, I think it is time the Red Sox just sent him packing. If he was unwilling/unable to pitch when it mattered, how was this fairly important revelation missed prior to the game? To that I say, “Who cares.” Just release him and move on.

 

Lastly, I was very sorry to see Brian Daubach cut loose when the Red Sox brought Frank Castillo up as a boost to the bullpen. As it turned out, they didn’t need Frank Castillo making the move unnecessary in hindsight. That’s not to say Castillo won’t contribute in the next few days, but his presence was certainly a result of last week’s overworked bullpen.

 

According to Wednesday’s Boston Globe, Daubach cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Pawtucket meaning he could be back in Boston in no time. With the Red Sox carrying 12 arms, Daubach will have to wait until the starters are completely stretched out and the bullpen ready for an 11 man staff.

 

A big series starts this Friday. The Red Sox will host the Yankees. While it is too early in the season to give these games too much attention, they’ll make for some good baseball.

 

The match-ups (as of Wednesday’s rainout):

 

Friday 8:05 pm – Javier Vazquez vs Tim Wakefield
Saturday 1:20 pm – Mike Mussina vs Curt Schilling
Sunday 2:05 pm – Jose Contreras vs Derek Lowe
Monday 11:05 am – Kevin Brown vs Bronson Arroyo

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2004

 

161-1?

 

The Red Sox still have a chance to win 161 games this year. Phew. I thought the prospect of a 160 win season so unappealing, I nearly swore off the 2004 campaign.

 

Honestly, have you ever seen such hysteria after an opening day loss? It was one game. So what? The Red Sox started the season off 0-1. Well now they are 1-1, happy?

 

I have to say the actual hysteria seems driven almost exclusively by the media. I normally am not one for talk radio, but I happened to catch a fair amount of it Tuesday. WEEI’s Dale and Neumy show devoted an inordinate amount of time to the Red Sox 0-1 start and the furor caused by Pedro Martinez leaving the ballpark prior to the completion of the Sunday night’s game.

 

Let me get the Pedro thing out of the way. Was it wrong? Yes. Should his teammates be annoyed? Yes. Is it a big deal? No, not really. After all, this sort of thing probably happens all the time. But in cities like Kansas City, Seattle, Los Angeles and Miami, this sort of thing is dealt with and everyone moves on and no one really gives a crap, at least not the fans.

 

In fact, the media probably doesn’t even consider it news worth enough to write about it save perhaps for a brief mention in the team “notebook” section.

 

So, let’s allow Terry Francona the time to talk to Pedro and put the issue in the past.

 

Back to Tuesday’s game. Curt Schilling stepped up and pitched solidly in his Red Sox debut. Add to that the great performances from Alan Embree, Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke and one could conclude the Red Sox just might do alright this year.

 

I’m certainly happy for the win, but if the Boston media doesn’t get a grip, I might not be able to read another paper, listen to another AM station or watch a sports news segment for the rest of the season.

 

It used to be that people wouldn’t really start paying attention to the Red Sox until mid-May or so. In May, the weather starts getting consistently nice, college students are just completing their finals, younger students start dreaming of summer vacation and there are enough completed games in hand to start forming an opinion of the Red Sox chances.

 

With this year’s approach, talk radio is already worrying about the Red Sox ability to compete. It is just too much, too soon.

 

Notes for Tuesday’s game.

 

Johnny Damon must be thrilled with Kevin Millar and his wandering ways. For those who missed it, Millar playing RF and Damon playing CF collided making what should have been a routine play on a fly ball. While Damon was the one delivering the blow to Millar’s head, he must not have taken kindly to yet another Red Sox teammate running into him.

 

Surely he was thinking about the playoffs last year and his collision with Damian Jackson. Interestingly enough, immediately after Millar hit the ground, Damon stood over him without showing much concern, but rather, what would appear, disbelief.

 

I guess this goes to show not having an experienced everyday RF (Trot Nixon) in there is a risk.

 

I have to say I love watching Foulke pitch. That change-up is just devastating. Even though he has had trouble getting his fastball into the 90 mph range, he does such a good job matching his change-up delivery with his fastball delivery that no batter is safe.

 

I’m not sure I had realized this, but the Red Sox have 3 set-up guys in their pen that can each hit 95 mph with their fastball. Alan Embree has been known to hit 96 and 97, Scott Williamson can hit 95 while healthy and Mike Timlin easily tops 94 while occasionally hitting 95 (a recent development in his lengthy career). That is some good stuff. Let’s hope they all stay healthy, no guarantee especially with Williamson and Embree.

 

Late in 2003, I wrote about Derek Lowe being a weak link in the Red Sox rotation. Specifically that he was far too up and down for the Red Sox good. Well, I’m beginning to wonder if I was just plain wrong. Perhaps his inability to prepare for the 2003 season was the key factor in him not performing consistently in 2003.

 

Wait, I’m falling into a trap. How can I start gushing about Lowe based only on his spring training numbers? I can’t. Let’s talk in mid-May.

 

Some payroll numbers:

 

Per my new favorite payroll site, Dugout Dollars, the Red Sox have a cap number of $129.54mm. With the luxury tax triggered at anything over $120.50mm, it looks like they’ll have to pay some extra this year.

 

The interesting news is that they are only at $72.83mm for 2005 and $52.80mm for 2006 with the luxury tax kicking in at $128.00mm and $136.50mm respectively in those years.

 

The New York Yankees are as follows:

 

2004 – $195.18mm
2005 – $170.44mm
2006 – $117.29mm

 

Can they afford to pay the luxury tax? Don’t worry, I’m kidding.

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)