756

While it has nothing to do with the Yankees or Red Sox, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on Barry Bonds hitting his 756th home run.

It seems fitting that in a summer of scandal for sports that we are confronted with the notion of Barry Bonds as the greatest home run hitter in history. I doubt there are many fans who believe Bonds attained this record naturally, but if you are skeptical, just pick up “Game Of Shadows”. For those of you like me who believe he cheated, this has been a joyless spectacle.

756 was the most-hallowed number in sports and today it is nothing more than a sad reminder of a decade of cheating and scandal. We can take comfort in the knowledge that someday someone, maybe A-Rod, maybe not, will supplant Bonds.

So Long Wily Mo?

Well, after saying I didn’t get why the Red Sox considered Bobby Kielty an upgrade over Wily Mo Pena, Kielty was signed to a minor league deal and Wily Mo cleared waivers.  What does this mean?  It means Wily Mo can now be traded anytime this month as part of the waiver trade deadline.

I also heard, with nothing to back this up, that Kielty has a clause in his contract that he can become a free agent if the Red Sox don’t call him up after 7 days in the minors.  That to me sums it up.  Pena is a goner and Kielty is going to be a Red Sox in about a week.

It would have been nice if the Red Sox could have given Wily Mo 500 plate appearances in any given year just to see what he could do.  I think where ever he goes, if he gets playing time, he will be a very production hitter (average obp, but high slugging).

Of course the official transaction hasn’t taken place and if the Red Sox cannot find suitable return value for Pena, they might just hang on to him.  If they do move Pena, it will likely be for a player to be named later.  A waiver trade that does not included a major leaguer in return has to be for the infamous PTBNL because minor leaguers cannot clear waivers as a rule (I think The Javy Lopez for Adam Stern trade was like that last year).

Anyway, as I write this, the Red Sox are losing 4-7 in Anaheim while the Yankees have already won.  There was a bit of a dust-up in the Yankees/Toronto game that might just fuel the Yankees already burning fire too.  That makes it a 5.5 game lead…

Roster Moves

WFAN is reporting the Yankees have brought Giambi back and activated Chamberlain for tonight’s game. Miguel Cairo has been DFA and Bruney sent to Scranton.

It is encouraging to see Cairo sent away because as much as people loved him, he just wasn’t good enough with the bat to stay on the roster. .252./.308/.318 is just not major-league level numbers. Yes, he could play defense and steal a base, but that was not enough to keep his job.

The thing that will be interesting to see is how Torre mixes in all his weapons now. Duncan has shown great power and should get shots when a lefty pitches. Betemit has looked good so far and can help some of the infielders get a day off now and then. The big problem will be the DH spot. Torre said yesterday that Cabrera is “our centerfielder” which means Damon and Giambi are going to share a position. Giambi got hurt playing first, so I don’t see him in the field anytime soon and Damon hasn’t been put back at first in a couple of months. Andy Phillips has been solid, but .291/.333./.396 isn’t enough production at first, so trying Damon there again seems to make sense. (Then again, Damon’s numbers this year are worse than Phillips’)

Keeping Giambi and Damon happy is going to be a struggle, but it is a much better situation than the lack of a bench the Yankees had at the start of the year.

As for Bruney, the Yankees should see if Nardi Contreras can work some magic on him. Maybe he truly can’t throw strikes consistently, but the Yankees have to do everything they can to help him. He certainly has the arm to be a big part of the bullpen.

That Didn’t Take Long

Multiple sources are reporting Joba is on his way to Toronto and the only question is who is he replacing? (Please be Farnsworth) I can’t imagine the Yankees will make him pitch the ninth tomorrow, but it will be fascinating to see what they do with him. Let’s just hope that Torre doesn’t burn his arm out in 50 games.

Season Analysis

The Red Sox have been a just slightly above .500 team since June 1st.  To be specific, they played .679 ball through June 1st going 36-17.  From June 2nd to August 5th, they went  32-26, a .552 clip.  Basically they came out of the gate like gang busters but have coasted a bit since (with expressions like "clip," "gangbusters" and "out of the gate," I sound a bit like a "rube").

I did some digging, which I’m sure most of you have done too and here is why the Red Sox have fallen of a bit.  These are June and July splits (i.e. they include June 1st):

Youkilis: June – .264/.395/.368, July – .219/.348/.356

Varitek: June – .234/.322/.403, July – .294/.398/.368 (July yielded a good OBP, but little production).

Lugo: June – .089/.170./139, July – .313/.377/.448.  Lugo was good in July, but beyond horrendous in June.

Drew: June – .325/.404/.558, July – .213/.318/.307.

The Red Sox have had a few players that have not necessarily been awful in both June and July, but who have had one good and one bad month or vice versa.  As for the pitching:

Beckett: June – 4.46/1.30 (era/whip), July – 3.50/.1.11

Wakefield: June – 6.00/.1.47, July – 5.52/.1.42 (wow, those are bad vitals yet he went 7-4 in that time).

Tavarez: June – 3.30/.1.30, July – 6.75/.2.03 (very bad in July).

The good news is that while these individual performances have hurt the Red Sox somewhat, the Red Sox limited their poor production on an individual basis for the most part.  In fact, despite these individual weaknesses, the Red Sox actual Win/Loss % through August 5th is .613 (68-43).  Their expected (Pythagorean Winning Percentage – a Bill James creation) is .630 (70-41).  So they have basically produced a record consistent with their run production/prevention. but the success was overstated in April and May and understated in June and July.  It’s funny how things even out.

In other news, Eric Hinske has taken a 3 day leave of absence to deal with family issues and Brandon Moss was called up to take his place.  Bobby Kielty is still an option for the bench but somehow he has 5 teams vying for his services.  You tell me, what’s the appeal of Kielty?  He does fair well against lefties, but he has proven he is not an everyday player.  I just don’t see him as an improvement over Wily Mo Pena lest we forget Wily Mo (or is it just Wily) hit 26 HR’s for Cinci in 2004 (in only 336 at bats) and 19 HR in 2005 (in only 311 at bats).  Wily Mo has the slugging edge while Kielty has the OBP edge.  What do the Red Sox need more?  I say stick with Wily Mo…again.

Citgo Sign photo used with permission from Lumiere2005 via flickr.com.

What Happens Tuesday?

Kudos to Joe Torre for going for it this afternoon with his bullpen. The last three innings were Vizcaino and Rivera, his two best relievers. The question is, what happens if the Yankees are in a close game tomorrow night? I can’t see either Vizcaino or Rivera being used, so that leaves Farnsworth, Villone, Brower, Karstens and Bruney to pitch critical innings. Anyone else see a problem here?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad they got the win today and I can’t argue with how they did it, but this is where you need Scott Proctor. Since he is gone, the Yankees have just over 24 hours to find someone who Torre will trust in a similar role.

That will be next to impossible, but if they are truly going to remake the bullpen, now would be a good time to do it, They may need a different name for tomorrow and whether it is Ramirez or Chamberlain, the Yankees need to figure it out quickly, no one wants to see Kyle pitching with the game on the line and it would be best to just send him away soon.

The truly amazing thing is that the Yankees are now tied for the wild card. On July 1st they were 38-41 and 8 1/2 games back of Detroit. The Tigers have gone 14-16 since then while the Yankees have gone 24-9. Cleveland has also cratered at 13-17 since then. So, the two AL Central teams gave the Yankees the opportunity and the Yankees have made the most of it by feasting on weaker teams. Now the schedule gets much harder, but the playing field is level. 50 games to go and we have a horse race.

Who Is It?

Can anyone tell me exactly who the Yankees are bringing up to the bullpen?  The Journal News has either Ramirez or Chamberlain, Newsday has Jim Brower, while the Post definitively states it’s Joba time.

While the speculation is interesting, the important thing is that the Yankees have broken a pattern by designating Mike Myers for assignment.  Usually, they have coddled veterans and given them the benefit of the doubt at every turn.  And, since Myers has the lowest ERA on the staff (2.66) it stood to reason that he would be safe if the Yankees decided to make a change.  But, Myers was brought in with one job to do, get lefties out, and he isn’t doing it.  

The Yankees may finally be willing to take some chances with younger players and while I still am uncertain about the Joba experiment, the overall trend is great.  We will see if they stick with this when Jason Giambi is activated Tuesday. (the easy move is to demote Duncan, the right one is to DFA Cairo.)

We will know the identity of the "mystery pitcher" by 1pm when the Yankees play the Blue Jays.   

 

UPDATE: Peter Abraham is reporting that it is Jim Brower. You can forget the stuff I wrote above about a new approach. Brower hasn’t been good since 2004 and while he has been closing well at Scranton, it’s hard to see how this will help.

Red Sox Trade Deadline Review 2007

First off, I realize taking a vacation only to miss the MLB non-waiver trade deadline is just a terrible thing.  Secondly, sticking you with Peter the Yankee fan is really akin to saying "I don’t like you."  So, sorry for both.

But something nice sure did happen while I was away (btw, the place I go is literally like stepping back in time with only dial-up, limited cell coverage, no cable or satellite TV.  It’s like being on an island…wait, I was on an island).  The Red Sox acquired Eric Gagne.  Gagne is not the pitcher he was from 2002-2004, but since coming back from major arm issues, he has put together a great 2007 thus far.  What makes Gagne different since coming back from injuries?  Namely his strikeout rate.  Gagne struck out 114 in 82.1 IP in 2002, 137 in 82.1 IP in 2003 and 114 in 82.1 IP in 2004 (yes, he pitched 82.1 IP 3 straight seasons).  Those K rates are off the charts good.  So far in 2007 he has struck out 31 in 34.1 IP.  Still good, but not nearly as impressive as before.  Having said all that, Gagne’s addition is welcome and it is nice to see Boston making a major move prior to the deadline.

What the Red Sox didn’t do was acquire offense.  So get used to the starting 9 and the bench as I don’t think the free agent pool nor the waiver trade deadline will yield much help.  Jermaine Dye was one possible target (he has hit 2 HR’s since the deadline), but apparently the White Sox didn’t like what the Red Sox had to offer and are now trying to re-sign Dye to a long-term deal themselves.

So moving on, the Red Sox as they are currently constituted are likely to be the guys on the field come playoff time (let’s make the playoffs first of course).  That’s not such a bad thing.  With an 8.0 game lead, an added arm to the bullpen and the return of Curt Schilling to the rotation, the Red Sox have no excuses.

As for who the Red Sox gave up to get Gagne:  Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and and pre-pubescent Engel Beltre.  We know a fair amount about Gabbard and Murphy, but Beltre was a big question mark.  He is only 17 years old and was signed at 16 (is that legal?).  Per SoxProspects.com, Beltre is "Five-tool left-handed hitter with excellent power potential.  Strong arm and good range in centerfield.  Highly touted signing out of the Dominican Republic, signed for $575,000.  Hustles at every step . Very projectable as a power hitter once he grows into his body."

Others said he had potential to be a Ken Griffey type hitter.  A stretch to be sure, but he certainly was a decent prospect.  So give Boston credit, they took an end of the rotation starter, a roll/bench player and a 17 year old prospect and turned that into Gagne.  Sure, they also had to deal with $ issues like guaranteeing Gagne’s incentives, but with 2 months left (1/3 of the season) it costs the Red Sox about about $4.6m total.  Not terrible.  I calculate that based on a $6m base salary and $3m in incentives that were guaranteed of which Texas paid $400k and the Red Sox $2.6m.

It is nice having Delcarmen, Gagne, Okajima and Papelbon in the pen right now.

Other news, Brendan Donnelly is going to have Tommy John Surgery.  Not sure if he figures into their plays in 2008 as it is not likely he’d be ready to pitch until mid-late 2008 if he is lucky.  Also, Curt Schilling is set to start Monday night in Anaheim.  Keep an eye on Bobby Kielty.  He was recently waived and can be had by the Red Sox.  Not sure if he is an upgrade to Wily Mo Pena though.  I say stick with Wily Mo.

Must Read

Sorry for the not updating the Betemit for Basak move, but another thing that I missed from Wednesday was this.  Just read the first paragraph.  We all know this is true and I am very glad the Yankees’ front office has agreed. The question now is, how do they prevent it from happening again?  It seems unlikely that Torre is about to change after almost 30 years of managing, so how exactly are they going to get him to use and not overuse rookie pitchers?  Stay tuned….

Karstens Up

The Yankees have recalled Jeff Karstens to take Proctor’s place on the roster. My understanding is that Betemit hasn’t made it to the Stadium yet, so Basak is still active as of now (6:10pm) Interesting that Karstens got the call, I wonder how Joe will use him? I have a feeling this is only the beginning and we will see Ramirez and Chamberlain here soon.