Game 1 Just Hours Away

ESPN is reporting that both J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell are capable of hitting, but not necessarily ready to play the field.

So my proposal:  Petition the commissioner, for many of you, you already consider him a Red Sox apologist, and ask for 3 DH spots.  Lowell, Drew and Ortiz in the DH whilst players like Alex Cora and Coco Crisp play the field without hitting.

Done and done.

It is good news that Drew and Lowell feel OK to hit, but they really need to feel good about everything at this point.  While in the post-season most players have an injury or two, these 2 must have more than the basic injury.  I’ve had my issues with Drew, but having watched Lowell, he is not good to go.

So if Drew is can play the field, great.  That leaves Lowell as the first pinch-hitter off the bench and Crisp the primary base stealing threat (ala Dave Roberts) and outfield defensive replacement.

The Red Sox need to get out of the blocks quickly in this series.  Reader Blmeanie suggested that David Ortiz could be the deciding factor offensively.  If he has healed sufficiently and can make a early statement, the Red Sox have a much better chance.

I still take the Red Sox in 5 as the they have many good players and have a bunch of players that have been to the post-season and won important games.  The Angels are a very good team but seem to fade in post-season play.  Perhaps this year will be different as they still have a bunch of returning veterans and a few new all-stars (Hunter and Teixeira).

First pitch:  10:00pm Wednesday night (that’s what they say.  My guess is more like 10:15pm).

Cash Is Back

Great news, the biggest question off the offseason has now been answered, our GM is back.  Now we can focus on the business of baseball.  My plan is to spend the next couple of days going though 40-man roster and giving a thumbs up or down on who should return.  The Yankees have a number of free agents and some prospects in the minors who will need to be protected.

What do you think, are you happy Cash is back? 

Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

Everything for the Yankees starts with the GM and we are all waiting on Brian Cashman.  The Steinbrenner Boys have asked Cashman to let them know this week if he wants to return as GM and then they will strike a deal with him.  Cashman’s answer is expected very soon.

I for one would like to see the Yankees retain Cashman.  He has done a solid job as GM and if you start at the end of 2005 (when he supposedly gained autonomy from George) his moves have been mostly good.  We can fault him for not getting Santana this year, a move which probably cost the Yankees the playoffs, but I want to wait on judging that until a few more seasons have passed. 

What is clear to anyone who has watched the Yankees this season is their need to get younger.  Even with $80 million coming off the payroll, that won’t be accomplished easily.  The position players are all older except for Cano, Cabrera and Gardner.  The top levels of the minors don’t offer much help, except for Jackson.  So, trades will have to be made.  Cashman’s departure would be very destabilizing for the organization and make the process of getting ready for 2009 much harder.  Hopefully, he chooses to return and for now we wait. 

ALDS – Red Sox vs. Angels

Game 1 in Anaheim Wed Oct 1, 10:00pm - Jon Lester (16-6, 3.21) vs. John Lackey (12-5, 3.75)

Game 2 in Anaheim Fri Oct 3, 9:30pm - Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.90) vs. Ervin Santana 1(6-7, 3.49)

Game 3 in Boston Sun Oct 5, time TBD – Joe Saunders, (17-7 3.41) vs. Josh Beckett (12-10, 4.03)

Game 4 in Boston – TBD

Game 5 in Anaheim – TBD

The Red Sox and Angels meet yet again in the ALDS.  Last year, the Red Sox took care of business in quick fashion as they did in 2004 against Anaheim.  But in both 2004 and 2007, they had Manny Ramirez.  In the 6 games covering the 2004 and 2007 ALDS against Anaheim, Manny hit 3 HRs and had 11 RBI.

Additionally, the Red Sox, unlike 2007, don’t have home field advantage.  Oh and did I mention they went 1-8 against the Angels this year?

Now to address the 1,000 pound gorilla in the room, the Red Sox might be without their playoff ace Josh Beckett.  As you know, Beckett strained his oblique a few days ago and it has Red Sox officials worried enough to pencil him for game 3, he’d normally be in for game 1, and to proclaim that while they expect him to be ready, the are monitoring his health.

I’ve never had an oblique injury, but Mike Lowell has and he missed a month.  An oblique injury can linger and for the Red Sox to think he’ll be fine in about a week is dubious but they know more about his health that I would.

Strike one against Boston.

The good news for the Red Sox is they still have a good rotation.  Jon Lester has been very good this year and no matter how frustrating and difficult it is to watch Matsuzaka, he has been effective, albeit in a playing-with-fire style.

Should Beckett not be able to go, I would expect Paul Byrd to start.  I have a great deal of respect for Tim Wakefield, but he has been a terrible post-season pitcher (17-10, 6.26 ERA ).  Byrd, while not great, is 7-5 in post-season play with a 4.80 ERA.  I will admit Wakefield’s win/loss is astounding given his ERA, but nevertheless, he can’t expect his offense to overcome that ERA.

As far as overall pitching staffs go, the Red Sox have a 4.01 ERA and the Angels 4.00.  Pretty even, but the bullpen for Anaheim has K-Rod and no matter how you slice it, 60 saves is impressive.  I like how Hideki Okajima has been pitching of late and Javier Lopez has been good all year.  Papelbon has been a bit shaky lately.  Overall though, I think the pitching match-ups are fairly similar. 

Offense:

Red Sox – .280/.358/.447 – 845 runs scored

Anaheim – .268/.330/.413 – 765 runs scored

I know I’m missing something, but it would seem the Red Sox offense is better, no?  Tell me where they aren’t?  They have more 2b, 3b and HRs and BB.  You see the stats above, but how about steals?  Ok, the Red Sox stole 120, the Angels 129.  I’ll give them that although the Red Sox have a better steal %, 77 to 73.

While the Red Sox offense certainly looks better on paper, what say you about Manny Ramirez?  Manny has been crazy good this year, but his Boston OPS, .926, vs his LAD OPS, 1.232.  That’s telling.  Manny didn’t want to play in Boston anymore.  He was a liability and had to be dealt.

I’m not saying he would tank in the playoffs like he might have continued to do in the regular season, but I think his teammates prefer his replacement Jason Bay when it comes to an effort standpoint.  As for Bay, he hasn’t been bad.  .293/.370/.527 in 49 games with 39 runs, 9 HR, 37 RBI.  About on par with Manny while he was here.  Bay finished the 2008 regular season with 111 runs, 31 HRs and 101 RBI and 10 steals with 0 caught.  Decent replacement numbers.

I believe the Red Sox success hinges on J.D. Drew’s health and to a lesser extent Mike Lowell’s health.  Drew works pitchers and is a tougher out than is Mark Kotsay or Coco Crisp.  Drew forces opposing pitchers to grind much harder.

Lowell?  Well he hasn’t had a great year and even if he’d stayed healthy, his projected performance wouldn’t be much better than good (i.e above average).

The good news is that both Drew and Lowell took BP today and are both good possibilities to start but I think after watching Lowell recently, he might start, but not finish.  He looks very unhealthy for a post-season run.

Anyway, that isn’t an in-depth analysis, but a few quick hits.

My prediction:  Red Sox in 5.  The Red Sox offense is better and their pitching is just as good as Anaheim’s if Beckett is healthy.  Beckett didn’t bring his A-game this year and the Red Sox still managed to win a few games, so even without Beckett at all, I say the Red Sox take this series.

What say you?  Am I crazy?  Is Beckett’s potential loss a far bigger loss than I am admitting?  Is Lowell’s bad health a bigger deal than I think?  The the obvious answer to these questions is "NO" but I’ll leave it to you to tell me otherwise.

Is This Smart?

I am all for getting Mike Mussina 20 wins this year, but Mariano Rivera is signed for two more years and has a shoulder that may need surgery.  Should he really be coming into the game in the 8th inning right now?  The Yankees better be damn sure that they know what they are doing here because this could be an costly good-bye present for Moose.

“A Wasted Year”

Leave it to Jeter to sum up the 2008 Yankees perfectly.  He is of course referring to the fact that the Yankees are missing the playoffs for the first time in his career, but it goes deeper than that.  New York entered 2008 looking to rebulid on the fly.  Young pitchers were put in the rotation with the hope that they would grow into their roles while the team competed for the division title.  It was a spectacular failure and it didn’t end with the pitchers.  If you look at all the young players on the roster, almost everyone of the them took a step back instead of forward.

Think about it, Cano came into the season as a budding superstar.  Cabrera was a decent outfield prospect.  Hughes and Kennedy were going to be rotation mainstays for the forseeable future.  Every one of them failed and badly.  Joba looked like a great starter, but now there are injury questions hanging over him.  And that is the bottom line with this season. If they missed the playoffs, but had injected a wave of youth into the team you could live with it.  But, the Yankees didn’t do that and now they have a very tricky offseason coming up.  

Step 1 is figuring out who the GM is.  Cashman says he is going to decide next week if he wants to return.  We have to hope he does because I shudder to think who will run the club if he doesn’t.  Now we wait and enjoy one last start from Sidney Ponson today.  <sigh>

What Else Can Happen?

In a way it seems fitting, considering how the year has gone, but the news that Mariano Rivera has returned to New York for a MRI on his shoulder is troubling to say the least.  Short term, it is obvious that the Yankees will shut him down for the remaining three games.  But, the problem is what if this is a long term injury?  I suppose it is pointless to speculate at this moment, we just have to hope.

Can anyone else figure out the reason FOX moved Satuday’s game onto national tv?  I guess the Red Sox might still be in contention for the division title, but short of that the game will mean absolutely nothing.  They just made the decision this week, so they had to know the game was almost certainly going to be meaningless.  I just don’t get it.

Tonight is the final night of Carl Pavano’s Yankees’ career. I guess that is something we can all celebrate.   

The Rental Car

Well now that the Yankees are officially planning for 2009 we can talk about their supposed #1 target in the offseason CC Sabathia.  Sabathia is only 27, lefthanded and one of the best pitchers in baseball.  Unlike Santana last year, the Yankees can have him this offseason if they open their wallets wide enough.  (I am not paying much attention to the stories that he wants to play in California right now because I think that is just round 1 of the negotiations.)

The problem with Sabathia is he was traded to the Brewers this season and Millwaukee has used him the same way most folks use a rental car.  Translation, they are beating the heck out of him.  Today they will trot him out on three-days rest and they will presumeably do so again Sunday if the game matters.  Since coming to the Brewers he has made 15 starts and thrown less than 100 pitches three times (96, 97 and 99).

You can’t blame the Brewers, they traded for him with no intention of signing him to a long term deal so they are maximizing their use of him.  And, you have to give some props to Sabathia who seems to care about nothing more than pitching his current team into the playoffs- an admirable position in a "me first" world.  But, for teams thinking of signing him to a deal this offseason the warning lights should be flashing.  Sabathia may turn out to be fine, but that is a big risk to take when you are investing over $100 million into a player.  Sabathia could be a savior, but there is also a chance he could come into town with a tired arm and the Yankees need to move cautiously here.     

Clincha!!!

Yes, I know, I dusted off an old chestnut.

The Red Sox clinched a playoff birth and are still defending the 2007 title.

I’m thrilled the Red Sox secured a post-season spot now as it will allow them to give the wounded time off.  Mike Lowell, Coco Crisp, Josh Beckett and others will get a chance to take a week off.

As the playoffs approach, I’ll provide some analysis, but for now, time to partay.

Why Does Anyone Listen?

I am sure you have read some of Hank’s latest quotes today, I am not going to bother linking to them.  My question is, why does anyone pay attention to him anymore?  Like Curt Schilling, Hank likes to talk and talk and talk.  If he doesn’t get attention, he figures out a way to get it, but have you noticed something?  He doesn’t seem to be in charge. 

When the All-Star Game was conducted at Yankee Stadium, Hank wasn’t there.  When the Steinbrenner’s gave Derek Jeter an award on the field Sunday, Hank wasn’t there.  Hank has been to a couple of games in New York this year and that’s it.  But, you know who has been around?  Hal and Hal’s sister Jennifer.  

Now, we know that Hal doesn’t like the limelight and we also know that he controls the Yankees’ checkbook.  So, isn’t it reasonable to assume that Hal is in fact in charge right now and just doesn’t feel the need to broadcast it?  (BTW- I think the illusion that George is ok was smashed forever Sunday.  If he was remotely healthy, you know he would have been there.)  I don’t know the answer, but with the evidence continuing to pile up that Hank isn’t in charge, why do people listen to him?  (And yes, I know it’s the same reason Schilling still draws notice- papers need to be sold) 

Anyway, on the field Jeter is out of tonight’s lineup.  One question for Joe Girardi, why are you batting Gardner leadoff?  Damon is in the game, and Gardner’s OBP is barely above the Mendoza Line.  He shouldn’t hit first at all.  

We also know how the final starts will be doled out.  Mussina tonight, Hughes, Pavano, Aceves, Pettitte, Mussina.  I don’t know what the point of Pavano’s start on Thursday is other than trying to wring out some more value from signing him.  Ah well, 5+ games to go.