Eastward Ho

As I write this, the Red Sox are on a plane heading to the Eastern lands  Actually, they are flying West, but you they will end up in the East.

That behind us, it was an interest past 24 hours for the Red Sox.  Firstly, the players threatened a boycott of the entire Japan trip over a pay dispute for coaches and staff.  Previous trips to Japan had coaches and staff getting a stipend, but for some reason this trip did not.  When it became apparent, the Red Sox players tried to right a wrong.  And please, don’t try and educate me on the greater nonsense of this issue.  I understand that $40k for a trip to Japan for the players is a joke.  But I do think that equal pay for equal effort is important here.  If an assistant trainer is not going to get a stipend, then his/her ability to afford such a trip might be limited.  Again, $40k is a joke, but equal pay for equal effort is my stance (I think $100 a day would suffice frankly).

Here’s what we know:  Daisuke Matsuzaka will start game 1.  Jon Lester (seriously, who’d have thought this) will start game 2.

Terry Francona has made it clear he will not risk injury to win these 2 games.  No pitcher will pitch back-to-back to games.  In addition, MLB allowed Boston to bring 30 players with 3 needing to be declared inactive prior to game 1.  That means there will be a bevy of arms available during the 2 game set.  Overuse should not be an issue.

Bartolo Colon was assigned to minor league camp, presumably in an attempt to get him some more work.  He was never a candidate to start game 1 or 2, so him pitching in warm Florida is a good idea.  My guess is that when he is ready, he’ll be on the big-league squad.  If I am not mistaken, he needs to be on the roster prior to game 3 in Toronto to have his contract guaranteed.

2 exhibition games and then 2 real games (3/25 and 3/26 early AM) in Japan and the season is underway.  This season came very quickly.

Question:  What’s your take on the AL East this year?  Here’s my take:

Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles (O’s will be deep in 5th, they blow).  As an FYI, Boston Herald writer Tony Massarotti has it:  Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays, O’s.  Interesting.

How Old Do You Feel Now?

Personally, I think they best line in the movie is either the part about candlesticks or when Susan Sarandon asks Tim Robbins if he thinks "Dwight Gooden makes love with his socks on", but whatever your favorite part, I bring you some sad news.  "Bull Durham" is now 20-years old. 

In honor of the 20th brithday, ESPN has done an amusing update of the movie.  Isn’t it sad how realistic it sounds?

Joba To The Pen

Just heard on WFAN that Joba will start the season in the bullpen.  He has a limit of 140 innings or so this year which makes this not a surprise.  The questions I have are 1- how soon do we get him to the rotation and 2- how long will it take to stretch back out? 

Joe Girardi said his future remains as a starter, so this will be very, very interesting to watch.   

Would This Be Ironic?

Check out this little study that just came out.  Now, before we go and excuse the athletes remember that they knew they were breaking a rule when they used HGH and this study doesn’t account for the psychological benefits of using it.  But, it does raise some interesting questions.

On other news, Bill Traber looks like he punched his ticket for the bigs today with another strong performance.  It’s hard to argue with the results so far and the guy has been lethal on lefties in his career.  The problem is, he is a one-trick pony.  Righties hit him and hit him hard.  Having him on the team almost forces you to carry 12 pitchers and that isn’t a good thing.  

And, it looks more and more like Joba will start the season in the bullpen.  Mussina, Hughes and Kennedy have shown enough to win spots in the rotation, so I would expect Joba back in the 8th inning.  It makes sense with the Yankees need to keep his innings down, I just worry that they will have a tough time moving him out of that role.  With Traber joining Joba, Mo, Farnsworth and Hawkins, that leaves only two spots in the pen.  I thought Karstens was a lock until he blew up the other day, now I am not really sure who will make it. 

One last note, Brian Williams announced on NBC News tonight that JP Morgan bought Bear Stearns for less than the Yankees are going to pay Alex Rodriguez.  That’s simply amazing. 

Gooden’s Doing Better Than We Thought

It seems reports of Gooden’s demise may have been premature.  The biggest shock for me in this article was the fact that Dwight Gooden is a grandfather at 43. 

Surprise Cut

In what I considered a bit of a surprise the Boston Red Sox cut Doug Mirabelli.  Here’s why I’m surprised.

Mirabelli is probably the best hitter of the back-up catchers in camp (Kevin Cash and Dustin "Dusty" Brown being the others).  Now Brown has hit a bit in the minors, but has only 27 at bats at AAA (none at MLB) while Cash, well Cash has just not hit since 2005.  I can’t say what it was that caused him to stop hitting, but for some reason, no longer can hit for average nor get on base.  A bad combo.

Back to Brown, he has slowly made his way through the Red Sox farm system (Red Sox 35th round pick in 2000 draft).  He gotten on base a bit, but with each promotion, he has gotten worse.

While hitting is important for the back-up catcher, the key will be his defense.  And with that in mind, Cash has the edge.  He successfully caught Tim Wakefield last season and is far more experienced.  I expect the decision will come down to Cash or…Mirabelli.  Yes, Mirabelli.

The Red Sox might just have decided to waive Mirabelli because his deal had far too many incentive clauses for a now borderline major leaguer.  I think it is a toss-up between Cash and Mirabelli at this point.

The sad point in all of this is that the Red Sox really have done a poor job in grooming Jason Varitek’s replacement.  Barring a trade, I just don’t know who will take his place.  I know I’ve railed on this subject before, but it’s the truth.  George Kottaras stopped hitting once the Red Sox got him for David Wells in 2006.

Chris Carter and Brandon Moss are both making noise in Spring Training in their attempt to win a roster spot on the 25-man squad.

Curt Schilling was placed (or moved to) the 60-day DL meaning he won’t be seen until June at the earliest.

Opening day (dawn) 12 days away…

There’s A New Guy in Charge

Hit a Yankee at your own risk.  After years of taking it on the chin with Joe Torre in charge, the Yankees showed that they have had enough today.  Now, I don’t condone what Duncan did, that was over the line, but Phillips hitting Longoria was perfect and I will bet you anything that Joe Girardi ordered it. 

Good for him, I am sick of watching pitchers hit Jeter and the rest of the Yankees and not see their hitters get dusted.  Girardi sent a message today and the AL better pay attention to it.

As for Duncan’s play, that was unfortunate to say the least.  You could see this one developing from a mile away and Duncan even talked on Sunday about having to decide between third and home what he would do to a catcher.  Well, he didn’t get to third, he got to first and made a bad decision.  I am sure that someone in the Yankees’ clubhouse will pull him aside on it.  I bet his Father will give him a call.  If Elliot Johnson had been standing at second, that might have exonerated Duncan to some extent, but Iwamura didn’t do anything and should not have had to deal with that.

And, Jon Maddon should just zip it.  He showed no concern for Cervelli the other day and he didn’t start Johnson today which would have give the Yankees a chance to "punish" the right guy.  Someone would have hit Johnson and this thing would have been over.  I hope the Yankees play Duncan against Tampa on Saturday and when he gets plunked this thing ends before someone else gets hurt.   

 

M*A*S*H

I’ve been big on saying I don’t put much stock in Spring Training games.  But time’s a awaistin’ and there are some developments that concern me and should concern you, assuming you are a Red Sox fan.

It is being reported that Josh Beckett will not be ready for opening day.  He is suffering from back spasms, a condition that can flare up time and time again.  That’s your ace.  Strike One.

Daisuke Matsuzaka isn’t a lock to head to Japan either as his wife is due with their first child.  She is due the day the club is schedule to travel to Japan.  If she goes past due, his ability to attend is in question.  That’s your #2 starter.  Strike 2.

Julio Lugo has missed the past 8 games with a back injury.  Coco Crisp is still on the roster and has only played 8 innings this spring, Curt Schilling is done for a minimum of 3 months and likely the year.  David Ortiz doesn’t have a HR yet, nor does Manny Ramirez.  Clay Buchholz has been bad, so has Julian Tavarez, Kyle Snyder, Jon Lester (good last appearance) and Matsuzaka have been bad and the Red Sox are 4-8 in Spring Training play.  Strike(s) 3.

These sorts of things happen in baseball, but this combined with the toll that is expected to be taken with the extreme travel ahead, the Red Sox might start and end the month of April with their heads spinning.

Old friend Mike Greenwell was in town to throw the opening pitch.  Somehow he has managed to grow a denim mustache.  In all seriousness, he admitted in an interview that had it not been for his wife, he would have tried steroids.  Interesting.

I Still Have A Chance!

Ok, so my childhood dream of playing for the Yankees didn’t work out, but this news from Peter Abraham makes me think I still have a shot.  For instance, when I compare myself to Billy Crystal I find that:

We are both too old for rookie ball.

We were both born in New York.

We both love the Yankees. 

We are off to a good start here, right?

But then again, Billy Crystal is a movie star and I am not (yet).  

Ok, points to Billy, but I still have an ace up my sleeve….

I have never appeared in a movie wearing a Mets hat.   

So, I think this should be a done deal.  Billy and I are practically the same and while he has the fame, I have the non-Mets hat thing on my side.  Makes sense, doesn’t it? (a guy can dream, right?) 

 

One Week In

Well, the Yankees have played "real" games for a week now and you can start to see a couple of things developing in camp.

First, Joe Girardi has wiped the slate clean with Kyle Farnsworth.  This has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the press, but what is the downside to this move?  Sure, none of us believe Farnsworth will amount to anything, but Girardi wouldn’t be doing his job unless he tried something new with the guy.  Joe Torre was a guy who had his favorites and he played them, Kyle was not one of them and while it isn’t an excuse for his stuggles, it probably didn’t help.   Why not see if you can get something out of the guy with a new regime in charge? 

Next, the battle for the last couple of spots in the bullpen is getting very interesting.  Girardi has gone on the record as saying he wants a long reliever in the bullpen and with the need to keep the innings down for the kids, that makes sense.  So far, Jeff Karstens has taken the lead in securing that role with very good pitching in week one.  I woudl guess he is competing with Rasner and Igawa and I think he will beat them out.  You can’t question his toughness (remember hte broken leg) but his strikeout rates in the bigs have been lousy.  He is still only 25 and could be a decent arm in the pen, but the strikeouts bear watching.

Despite his good start, I am not sure if Billy Traber will make the team.  Traber is certainly good against lefties (career .613OPS against them) but he gets killed by righties (.894).  That is about as one-dimensional as you can get and the Yankees take away flexibility if they go that route.  Even with a long reliever, you want guys who can pitch innings in the bullpen and Traber won’t cut it in that department.

Lastly, you can expect the final spots on the roster to come down to the final days of camp.  Ensberg, Woodward, Lane and Green will battle it out for the bench with Ohlendorf, Veras, Albie, Bruney and Britton fighting it out for the bullpen spots.  One name that I didn’t mention is Brett Gardner.  If he keeps up his hitting, he will force his way into that conversation, even if the Yankees don’t need to take another outfielder.