Youkilis to Sit Saturday

Terry Francona announced today that Kevin Youkilis is the odd man out in game 3.  He didn’t say if Youkilis would also be the designated sitter for game 4.  With Youkilis on the bench, David Ortiz will play first.

I expect that Youkilis will play game 4 and Lowell will sit and if there is a game 5, Ortiz will sit as the Red Sox will be facing Jeff Francis, a lefty, again.

World Series – Game 2

A night of outstanding pitching for the Red Sox.  Curt Schilling was able to get his creaky joints working enough to get him through 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.  Schilling admitted after the game that he wasn’t able to get loose in the top of the 6th, hence the quick hook at only 82 pitches.  A solid game for him..

As good as Schilling was last night, I was most impressed with Hideki Okajima.  Time after time this year, he has stepped up.  Last night he gave the Red Sox 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K.  That is amazing middle relief and allowed Terry Francona to go right to Jonathan Papelbon in the 8th.  Great job.  Where would the Red Sox be without Okajima this year?  Probably playing golf.

Papelbon also deserves credit.  After giving up a single to Matt Holliday (Holliday had 4 of the 5 Rockies hits last night), Papelbon noticed Holliday’s 89 foot lead off first and easily picked him off.  Holliday after the game said he knew he needed to get to 2nd to get himself into scoring position, but he gave away his intentions with his ridiculously large lead.  Hat’s off to Holliday though, he was basically all Colorado had in game 2.

The bats took the night off (for both teams).  Game 3 Saturday night in Colorado.  Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Lynn native Josh Fogg.  A 2-0 World Series lead is nice, but no guarantee.  You remember 1986, don’t you?

Notes:

 - For all the calls for Jacoby Ellsbury to replace Coco Crisp, he is hitting .188/.316/.188 (yes, a .504 OPS) in the postseason and .143/.333/.143/.476 in the World Series.  Despite his lack of production, he still seems to be far more productive than did Crisp (.156/.182/.188/.370).  Ellsbury is popular right now and even if he isn’t hitting, people are happier to have him in there right now.  Perception is an interesting thing.  Let me know your thoughts on whether Ellsbury or Crisp is the better option right now.  I say Ellsbury as they have won all games he has started.  That doesn’t mean Ellsbury had a ton to do with those wins, but why mess with it, right?

 - I was lucky to be at Fenway last night courtesy of my bro (thanks bro).  We had standing room only tickets, but we had little luck finding room to stand.  Fenway was packed dangerously full last night.  There was one moment just prior to the game when were negotiation traffic at the top of the firstbase grandstands where the mass of people basically stopped.  There was no Fenway security to help and panic/anger almost boiled over.  One father was with his young son and even asked me for help keeping an eye on the poor kid.  The crazy part was I was shoulder to shoulder with a Boston Fire official who had little to say about the issue.  I’m not sure if he was working or just taking in the game.  Fenway just doesn’t have the real estate to allow for such crowds.  They need to either limit capacity (best idea) or expand.  Expanding is probably limited to vertical expansion, but whatever they need to do to make the place safe, they ought to do it.  Until they do expand, they seem content to put up temporary seats anywhere possible to pack ‘em in.

World Series Game One

Josh Beckett striking out the side in the top of the first and Dustin Pedroia hitting a lead-off home run in the bottom of the first basically set the tone for game 1.  The Red Sox pounded the Rockies who looked a bit lost.

In case you didn’t hear Fox broadcasters mention the fact the Rockies were coming off an 8 game lay-off, well they were coming off an 8 game lay-off.  I have no idea if that was the real reason nothing worked for them, but that certainly will be the theory.

I’m glad the Red Sox put this one in the books, but there is a ton of baseball left and they cannot expect Colorado to roll-over again.  Boston will have to work hard to make sure they stay focused.  We should all hope Terry Francona does his best Bill Belicheck impression and, no, not start using videotape, but convinces his players that they did make mistakes and that one game does not a World Series Champion make.

Notes:

One of the funniest conversations ever was when Fox had a microphone on Royce Clayton.  Clayton and Coco Crisp were talking about Taco Bell’s promotion giving away free tacos if anyone stole a base in game one.  "I ain’t got my taco."

Eric Gagne worked his 2nd consecutive "clean" inning.  Maybe keeping him on the roster was a good move despite his work coming in garbage time.

Fox broadcasters were questioning why Beckett pitched through 7 innings thinking Francona should have yanked him sooner.  I have to assume it was because he only ended up throwing 93 pitches and any chance you get to save the bullpen, you take.

As much talk about the Rockies winning their first 2 rounds so easily resulting in the 8 game lay-off and how it might impact their performance, we are now going to hear about how such an easy game 1 victory might impact the Red Sox later in the series.

Did you realize only 5 guys on the active roster were around when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series?  Mike Timlin, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.  Tim Wakefield was on the 2004 squad, but is inactive this round and Kevin Youkilis was on the team in 2004, but not on the active roster for the World Series.  When I heard that on Fox, it made me realize just how quickly a team can change.

Fox also showed a stat that the Red Sox set a record for largest game 1 margin of victory in a World Series.  The previous high was 11 and the winner of game 1 went on to lose the World Series in both instances.  It is stats like those that make you realize that it is just 1 game and no matter how big the margin of victory, it all gets left in that game with game 2 starting with a clean slate.  It is also Fox’s way of sensationalizing everything.

Joe Buck went to lengths to tell us that Todd Helton has always been just as good a hitter on the road as he has at home in Coors.  Really?

Career numbers for Helton:

home: .367 avg, .465 obp, .663 slg, 1.128 OPS, 185 HRs

road: .295 avg, .394 obp, .502 slg, .896 OPS, 118 HRs.

Joe, does that look like the same production to you?  What a lame, lazy comment.

Thursday night is listed again as an 8:23pm start (Wednesday’s game was listed as an 8:23pm start, but really got underway at about 8:35pm).  Curt Schilling vs. Ubaldo Jimenez.

Boston Red Sox – 2007 American League Champions

I was told the last post I had featured a lame title (thanks Peter).  How does this one sound?

News:  Tim Wakefield has been left off the roster due to injury.  Sad because he is a long time Red Sox and no one is more deserving of this opportunity than Wakefield.

Taking Wakefield’s place?  Kyle Snyder.  Not a huge surprise, he pitched fairly well this year and can give you move than a few innings at a time.  Julian Tavarez was also a candidate and I think most would have expected him, but he threw a ton of innings this year and really wasn’t sharp for the 2nd half of the season (5.48/1.59) and very bad in September (7.27/1.50).  Snyder probably fills the long relief/spot start role.  Let’s hope we don’t see him pitch an inning.

Surprise retention:  Eric Gagne.  Despite being, well, terrible thus far in a Red Sox uni, he made the cut.  Perhaps his game 6 outing, a "clean" inning, did the trick to convince management and Francona.

Keys to the World Series match-up against Colorado:

Ellsbury stays in the line-up.  This was actually confirmed by Francona today, so no worries there.

Jon Lester has to step up in his game 4 start.  He pitched well in his 2nd post-season appearance (game 4) shutting out the Indians over 3 innings, but he also imploded in game 2 with 2 earned runs in 0.2 IP including a HR allowed.  So he was certainly a mixed bag in the playoffs and this being his first postseason start, he needs to submit a solid outing.

Terry Francona has to figure out a way to best maximize the offense for the Colorado games.  With no DH, he has to figure out a rotation for Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz.  I would give each one of them a night off and forget trying to figure out a way to get all 3 in.  I heard one suggestion on the radio today to bench Lugo, have Ortiz at 1b, Youkilis at 2b (yes, you read that right) and Pedroia at ss.  Please, let’s not play that game.  Why would you move 2 very good fielders out of their position just to get Lowell, Youk and Ortiz all in the same game?  Bad Idea Jeans.

Game 1 Wednesday night at Fenway.  Josh Beckett vs. Jeff Francis.  8:23pm first pitch on, yes, you guessed it, Fox.

Two Must-Reads

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While I continue my plans to dismantle the Yankees (joking) I thought I would point out two very interesting articles on the net today.

The first is a very different take on the Joe Torre decision.  I like Heyman and I think he is usually very plugged into the Yankees’ situation since he used to cover them for Newsday, but I hope he is wrong here.  At this point, it is a pointless argument, but Heyman’s piece is really about the first one I have seen that didn’t praise Joe for his choice and therefore I pointed it out. 

The second is far more important.   Let me say right off the bat before the Boston fans rise up against me that I don’t think there is a conspiracy here, but like Rosenthal concludes, this is a terrible job by baseball.  Bad job by me that I hadn’t realized before that Mitchell was a member of the Red Sox organization, serving on the board.  He should be required to step down from that immediately because even though I trust his integrity, it is a potential conflct of interest and a bad position for a person who has to be neutral to be in.

What If?

Just spitballing here, but what if the Yankees did something totally out of character this offseason and did a complete rebuild of the team?  What if besides agreeing that Hughes, Joba and Ian are in the rotation they didn’t resign Posada and Mo, let A-Rod walk away and traded some veterans for more prospects? 

Would it cost them anything except tv ratings?  I don’t think so because the Yankees are about to enter a 2-3 year period where every ticket they have is going to be sold.  Think about it, next year is the last time baseball will be played in Yankee Stadium.  How many people are going to want to go at least one last time?  And in 2009, how many people are going to want to go and see the new ballpark?  

So, if the tickets are going to be sold anyway, what about a two-year rebuilding plan. Let’s put Duncan in right for a season and see what happens.  Let’s get some young hitting prospects in some trades and see what happens.  It will never happen, but the Yankees would probably be much stronger down the road if they did do it. 

Final Round of the Playoffs

The Red Sox are in the World Series.  Give credit to the Cleveland Indians, they are a good squad and will probably be good for the next few years, unfortunately for the Red Sox and the rest of baseball.

Boston was able to win the game without having to use a starter in relief or by completely taxing the bullpen, although Terry Francona was plain wrong in having Hideki Okajima start the 8th inning.  Hideki had thrown 2 quality innings and just doesn’t have more than that in him, that’s why he was shut down in September because he had, for lack of a better term, a tired arm.  Come on Terry.  The team does have 2 days off now, so that is a good thing.

That criticism aside, good series Terry.  You eventually made a solid decision in benching Coco Crisp and inserting Jacoby Ellsbury.

I can’t believe how close this game was and then how it went out of control.  Dustin Pedroia proved anyone (me) that doubted how ready he was for post-season play, wrong.  If it were up to me, I would have benched him in game 6 (2-4 with a walk) and maybe tonight (3-5, 5 rbi).  Down 3-1, the Red Sox pulled it out.  I was fairly grumpy these past few days, but never threw up the flag.  This team is good, perhaps not great, but certainly good enough to compete.

Classic postgame moment:  Chris Myers, interviewing Manny Ramirez, tried to ask Manny about the "controversial" play when Kenny Lofton was held at 3rd on the ball hit off the grandstand seats along 3rd.  Manny clearly thought Myers was asking about the ball Julio Lugo dropped when Manny had a chance to call him off.  Total miscommunication, quality entertainment.

In game complaints with Fox.  Both Joe Buck and Tim McCarver said it was a forgone conclusion that Lofton would have scored had Joel Skinner waived him in on the previously mentioned play, yet Fox never showed a shot of where Lofton was when Manny fielded the ball.  So to tell me that something is a guarantee, yet not provide anything to back it up is weak.

Anyway, here is the schedule, get your sleep in now.

World Series game 1 Wednesday @ Fenway, time TBD (I imagine some later than late times as usual).  UPDATE:  SOME TIMES NOW PUBLISHED.

Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 COL @ BOS Wed Oct. 24 8:23pm  FOX
Gm 2 COL @ BOS Thu Oct. 25 8:23pm  FOX
Gm 3 BOS @ COL Sat Oct. 27 8:23pm  FOX
Gm 4 BOS @ COL Sun Oct. 28 8:23pm  FOX
Gm 5* BOS @ COL Mon Oct. 29 TBD FOX
Gm 6* COL @ BOS Wed Oct. 31 TBD FOX
Gm 7* COL @ BOS Thu Nov. 1 TBD FOX
* – if necessary

The Next Yankee Manager

Mitchell said it in the comments the other day and Andy and I have talked about it a lot recently.  You never want to be the guy who who follows the guy- you want to be the guy who follows the guy who followed the guy.  To put that into English, you don’t want to be the guy who follows Torre. 

That is a very important point as the Yankees start their managerial search.  This is not the time to turn to Don Mattingly.  Mattingly is a God in the Yankees’ universe and putting him in as manager now will only end badly.  The expectations are too high and if Mattingly follows Joe, I think there is a very good chance that things end up with Mattingly turning his back on the Yankees after being fired.  And to me, that is too high a price to pay. If I am the Yankees, i send Mattingly to AAA to manage for a year and then bring him back as bench coach in 2009.  Some seasoning would not be a bad thing and I think Don would be more than happy to agree to that situation if there was a plan to eventually make him the manager. 

And that is the tricky dance the Yankees will have to negotiate in this search.  The ideal situation was to give Torre two more years with the understanding that he retire after 2009 to some other position in the organization.  Since that won’t happen, who could fill that slot and basically keep the seat warm for Mattingly while also developing some of the younger talent?

Obviously, Joe Girardi is out of this discussion, he wants to be a long-term manager.  That doesn’t bother me because as much as I like Joe and admire the job he did in Florida, I have a lot of concerns with how he used his young pitchers.  Maybe it was the situation he was in down there, but Girardi abused Dontrelle Willis and didn’t handle some of the other young pitchers very well.  He is not the guy who I want deciding how to use Hughes, Joba and Kennedy next season.

Larry Bowa would be an intriguing candidate and if Mattingly got the job I would have wanted him as bench coach, but according to this, he is headed out of town.   (notice who the pitching coach is in that story too)  That is a big loss, because Bowa was a great third base coach and he did a wonderful job with Cano. 

Assuming he is gone, there is still another coach who could fit that caretaker role, Tony Pena.  Yes, things did not end well the last time Pena was a manager, but look at his record.  Pena is the only guy to get a winning season out of the Royals since 1993.  He did it with Darrell May as his ace (remember May in 2005?) and while he had Carlos Beltran, he didn’t have much else.  I think the guy is a pretty good manager and he knows New York.  Best of all, and this will sound very crass, he is expendable. Firing Tony Pena will not upset the Yankees’ universe the way that firing Don Mattingly would.  Pena can be the bridge between two iicons and there is a decent chance he will be successful in doing so. 

So, Pena is my guy, and the good news is that he is on the interview list.   I don’t expect him to get the job since the pressure will be on the team to come up with a big name, but I think he is the right choice.

Then again, maybe Torre and the Yankees’ management wake up Monday morning and realize the mistake they have made.   Sadly, I don’t see that happening.

 

Joe’s Story

Joe gave a riviting, if not very insightful press conference today that left me feeling empty.  Empty because it became clear to me that this is a divorce that never should have happened.

Joe made it sound like he left not over money, but over a lack of support.  

“The terms of the contract were the probably the thing I had the toughest time with,” Torre said.  “The one year for one thing, the incentives for another thing.  I had been there 12 years and I didn’t think motivation was needed.  I felt pretty well renewed every year going after something and we knew exactly what was expected here.  I just didn’t think it was the right thing for me, I didn’t think it was the right thing for my players.”

He also made it clear that this process was not a negotiation:

“When I expressed my dissatisfaction with the length of contract and the um….And the length of contract for the reason I think you are all aware of.  It’s just starts when you are in the last year of a contract especially for this organization you know after you lose two or three or four games the questions are going to come up again.  And again, it’s tough when you have to answer those questions, but you certainly understand they are going to be asked..  And I explained that and the fact that the incentives, which to me I took as an insult.  You know we basically get to postseason and now all of a sudden we are satisfied with where we’ve gotten to. “

It will be interesting to see how we view October 18, 2007, when we look back at it in a few years.  The Yankees ran off four trips to the World Series after they fired Casey Stengel and there are certainly many reasons to think that this current team can continue to make the postseason.  But, there will be tremendous pressure on the next manager and I can’t escape the feeling that both sides deserve blame in this situation.  Joe and the Yankees are both diminished today and I think both of them will have regrets going forward.  

But, go forward they must.  Thank you to Joe for a wonderful 12 years and good luck to him in the future, whatever he does.  Now, the Yankees have to get to work and first up is getting a manger.  We will discuss that further this weekend.   

Back to Boston

Nice offensive display and an amazing pitching performace by Josh Beckett.  Totally dominating with a little fire, saying hello to Kenny Lofton, was Beckett.

Back to Boston for game 6 on Saturday.  I will be unavailable between now and then to post, so please keep the comments flowing.  If you haven’t registered as a commentor yet, please do so, so I don’t have to approve your comments. 

Ok, my fence sitting is done.  On 2 issues anyway.  Coco Crisp needs to sit and so does Julio Lugo.

Coco – He looks lost, almost mentally distant from this game.  There were a few close-ups and he appeared sad, as if he was in shock.  I am not going to pretend to be a master of body language and facial expressions, but if forced to levy a diagnosis, I’d say this guy is shell-shocked.  Weird.  Anyway, get him out and insert Jacoby Ellsbury.  This is a change from earlier as I though the problems with the offense were more related to a general team-wide lack of urgency, but with Coco, there seems to be trouble.

Lugo has been just bad.  His error (it wasn’t an error but it should have been) cutting in front of Dustin Pedroia in tonight’s game and his overall lack of production (.167 avg in the ALCS) have earned him some pine.  It feels like the 1st half of the season again.  I don’t think Alex Cora is a longterm solution, but perhaps he is good for a game 6 start.

Dustin Pedroia bounced back tonight getting on base 3 times.  Fox did point out that he had been hitting the ball hard all series, so perhaps he never lost his stroke after all.

Checking out the boxscore, you’ll see the top 4 guys got on base (11 times between them) and it showed.  When the top of the order can stir things up, runs get scored.

Saturday 8:21pm @ Fenway:  Game 6