Good Stuff

Thanks to blmeanie for this link.  Blmeanie gave us this site which is a hoot.  This guy does some hysterical impressions of Red Sox batters.  He actually has all teams covered and you can find them on his site.

The Youkilis impression had me struggling for breath.  Good stuff.

Oh yeah, Peter Gammons, via ESPN, is reporting that the Red Sox are working on a deal to acquire Mark Kotsay.  Kotsay is nothing special with the bat (.752 career OPS), but he does play good defense and is needed with J.D. Drew going on the DL today with a strained lower back as a result of a herniated disc (previously diagnosed).

A Kotsay deal reminds me of the Bobby Kielty signing last year.  Let’s hope he too can hit a game deciding home run in game 4 of the World Series.  By the way, Kielty never made it back to the Majors this year having struggled in the minors.

Anyway, The Fielding Bible by John Dewan, says about Kotsay, "Kotsay covers a good amount of ground in center field.  He combines good range with good reads on the ball, good routes and a strong, accurate arm.  His 18 baserunner kills over the past 3 years (2003 – 2005) is second only to Jim Edmonds in center field in that time period."

So a defensive bench player.  My question, if Coco Crisp is also good defensively (with the glove, not with the arm), what gives?  If Drew comes back is Crisp or Kotsay a goner?  Kotsay has hit better than Crisp.  But, Crisp has another year left at $5.25mm or so.

Interesting development.  Anyway, enjoy the batting stances.  Mo Vaughn was great too.  Also, glad to hear Yaz is back home after triple bypass surgery.  Be well number 8.

Last Call

The Red Sox open a 3 game set in New York tonight marking their last ever regular season visit to Yankee Stadium.

Of course it would have made far more sense to have flip-flopped the locations of the last 2 series meetings between Boston and New York (the 2008 regular season ends with New York at Boston), but some schedule maker was asleep at the wheel on that one.  No matter, we can all expect a barrage of images and memories of all the great games played between these two teams at Yankee Stadium.

Ok, enough on nostalgia, let’s talk baseball.

If the Red Sox want to hang on to their 1.5 game lead in the Wild Card, the starting pitching has to come around and get healthy.  Josh Beckett is hurt, Tim Wakefield is hurt, Clay Buchholz was banished to Caribou Maine, Daisuke Matsuzaka remains quite painful to watch while winning, Paul Byrd is doing what he always does (allowing plenty of base runners) and Jon Lester has been good.

As we head down the stretch, I feel comfortable with Lester, Matsuzaka and Byrd.  I say this only because those are the only health starters Boston has.  I’m worried about Beckett as any kind of tingling in the  hand makes me think of Tommy John.  Buchholz is no longer an option in 2008 and Wakefield had to miss a big chunk of the 2007 playoffs with the same injury he is battling now.

Not a good place to be in.  Bartolo Colon is doing well in his minor league rehab and should be an option in 7-10 days, but if the Red Sox want to lock down a post-season spot, they need Beckett healthy.

Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield sounds much better than Lester, Matsuzaka, Bryd, Colon if the post-season were to start today.

As you’d expect, with these injuries creeping in, the Red Sox pitching has not been good over the past 28 days posting a 5.00 ERA, yet still going 14-10.  Over the past 14 days a 6.25 ERA, but 8-4 and over the past week, 6.00 ERA yet 4-2.  So while the pitching is not good, the offense is.  28 days, .283/.367/.462.  14 days, .297/.383/.507 and over the past week, .275/.361/.477.

A big contributor to the offense has been Jason Bay.  Since being acquired at the trade deadline, he has gone .333/.385/.529 scoring 20 runs, 4 HRs, 18 RBI and 3 SBs.  Bay hustles every play and seems to be actually thinking while playing baseball.  It is refreshing to see.  Add to it, he has played some good defense thus far.  His range is well below league average but that tends to happen in left at Fenway.

Notice few if any have talked about Julio Lugo’s return?  Jed Lowrie has done a much better job as his replacement and I don’t expect he’ll lose his job even if Lugo were to return today.

Jason Varitek has shown some life, going .265/.375/.559 over the past 14 days.  Good to see.

I have not given up on the Red Sox winning the AL East, but the Tampa Bay Rays need to lose a few now and again for that to happen.  Boston has 6 games remaining against the Rays after all and can make up all ground necessary in a matter of days if they play well.  With the injuries to Crawford, Longoria and Percival, I really expected them to falter a bit, but no such luck.  They are good.

Where the Rays are not good is at having good fans.  They drew just 19,157 for Sunday’s game against the LA Angels?  That is a joke.  Tampa ranks 26 out of 30 teams in attendance at 21,303 per game or 51.1 % of capacity.

Attendance ranks based on capacity from ESPN:

Boston – 37- 104.1% capacity

Detroit – 39,896 – 99.4%

Chicago (N) – 40,728 – 99.1%

Philadelphia – 42,325 – 97.3%

New York (A) – 52,869 – 92.0%

Los Angeles (A) – 41,204 – 91.5%

Much baseball to be played, but this time of year tends to go by in a flash.

The Return Of Carl

I am as likely as anyone to criticize Carl Pavano, but that doesn’t mean I will root against him tonight.  When you really sit down and think about it, Pavano is probably the worst signing in team history and the really sad thing is it should have been a good story.  Remember the press conference and Carl and his family, all Yankees’ fans smiling for the cameras?  Remember that shutout he pitched in Seattle when the 2005 Yankees were getting off the mat and recovering from an 11-19 start with a ten-game winning streak?  Carl Pavano had the fans on his side and then he got hurt and it all went downhill from there.

I like Mike Mussina and when he called out Pavano I noticed.  I think Pavano decided at some point in his many injury rehabs that he had had enough and he didn’t want to play baseball anymore.  The honorable thing to do would have been to retire, but you don’t earn $10 million a year in retirement.  So, Pavano half-assed his rehab, didn’t tell the team about his car crash and all the other things we have read about the past three years.  Contrast that with the way Hideki Matsui basically willed his knee to get better this season.  Mussina wasn’t the only one who criticized Pavano for a lack of heart, some players posted insulting stories about him in his locker.  So, it is fair to say that some of those players will probably not welcome him back tonight. 

Over the last couple of days I have seen some pretty shocking articles about Pavano.  Some suggested that the Yankees shouldn’t start him out of spite.  Some, like this one, suggest that Pavano will kill any momentum the team has by setting foot in the locker room.  Both are silly points to try and make. 

The Yankees cannot play the spite game with Pavano.  When they decline his option at the end of the season both sides will move on from this unhappy marriage, but until then they owe it to everyone to see if they can wring out some value from him.  To deliberately keep him out of the majors as some have suggested is silly.  If it helps Pavano get a deal from another club next season, so be it.  The Yankees can’t care about that right now and there fans shouldn’t worry about it.  If Pavano wins all his starts and is brilliant on the mound that is great for the Yankees.  If some club sees that and gives him a big deal as a result, that is there problem  And, while there are some Yankees who can’t stand Pavano, all of them are professionals and they want to win.   

As for the fans, we are free to boo if we want.  If Pavano ever takes the mound at the Stadium I would imagine his reception would be very, very cold.  He deserves all the boos he gets and while I would never tell someone they can’t boo, ask yourself before you do so, does this help my team win?  Instead of booing, I would recommend just sitting silent, turn your back even, it would be much more powerful.  But hopefully, Pavano gives us something to cheer about because like it or not, we need pitching right now.   

Stock Up On Canned Goods Now

If you haven’t heard, the Yankees announced that Carl Pavano will start Saturday.  If he takes the mound it could mean the world is ending, so take steps to prepare now. 

If you are keeping track, the Yankees have gotten 19 starts and 111 innings with an ERA of 4.77 from Pavano in exchange for $40 million.  If this were Hollywood, Pavano would now go 7-0 the rest of the way and then lead the team to a World Series title.  Since it isn’t I am going to head for higher ground. 

Godzilla Returns

Just in time for the stretch run, the Yankees get a boost tonight with Matsui back in the lineup.  While he won’t be able to play the field, his return should be a boost for the offense.  Girardi just said on the pregame that the plan is to play Damon in center with Nady in left and Matsui at DH.  That also means Giambi is back at first.

This should be interesting to watch.  I am somewhat surprised that Christian got sent down because it means Gardner is now on the bench, but I guess he would not have started in AAA with Melky there.  I just wonder if Damon will hold up in center every day and Giambi will hold up at first.  I imagine Girardi will do a lot of shuffling of the lineup with Abreu sitting against lefties and maybe we will see some Damon at first?

I do wish the Yankees would get back to 11 pitchers, but they seem to feel the need for 12 right now.  It was nice seeing Billy Traber pitch 2 innings the other day, but do we really need him?   

Don’t Look Now….

While the news is that Hideki Matsui is rejoining the team on Tuesday, I am more interested in a potential move for Saturday.  The Yankees will need a starter then and heading into tonight there were two probable candidates.  The first, Phil Hughes, did not pitch well tonight at Scranton.  I think he gets another shot at AAA before the Yankees recall him.

The second guy is…wait for it…Carl Pavano who pitched very well in Trenton tonight.  I know, he will probably get a paper cut tomorrow that ends his rehab, but he probably the guy who will get the call for Saturday.  Think about that for a minute, how weird a year has this been?  It will get stranger on Saturday if I am right.   

Good Move But….

The Yankees finally realized what has been obvious for awhile, Melky Cabrera isn’t an everyday centerfielder right now.  Sending Melky to the minors is a good move because the Yankees have some big questions heading into 2009 that they need to answer and centerfield is a big one. 

Maybe Gardner can play there and the next few weeks will give us a good idea if his bat is ready for the majors.  The Yankees are not going to commit to a centerfielder in free agency because Austin Jackson has had a good year in AA, and he looks on track to make the club in 2010.  Damon can certainly cover the ground out there, but he is better suited to left right now.  That’s fine too, because Matsui doesn’t seem capable of playing left everyday anymore either.  I would imagine next year’s club will have an outfield of Damon-Gardner/Melky-Nady (Nady has been great btw) with Matsui at DH. 

But, sending Melky down is not going to fix the 2008 club and in some ways it weakens it.  For everything Melky isn’t, he is still a good pinchrunner and defensive player.  I doubt he would have gotten picked off last night and I think the team is stronger with him on the bench instead of in Scranton.  

I know the Yankees won’t admit it, but I think the Melky move was more about waking up Robinson Cano than anything else.  Cano looked lost on the road trip and his bat has been terrible this year.  I don’t know what the reason for his regression is, but the Yankees have to figure it out. 

I am not ready to give up on the 2008 team, but the math is daunting.  if the Red Sox simply play .500 the rest of the way, the Yankees need to go 27-14 to tie them.  They still have six games left with Boston, so there is hope, but it is waning.  At some point, if things continue on this track, the Yankees will need to focus more on 2009 than 2008, but we aren’t quite there yet.  

When It Rains….

What can you say about that road trip other than it was painful to watch?  It isn’t the losses (well, it could be the losses) but the way they played, just stupid baseball.  Sitting here on August 14th and looking at the standings, it is hard to get excited.  The one thing the Yankees have going for them is that they still have games against Tampa and Boston to play.  They will need to win almost all of them to have a shot, but there is still a chance.

Unfortunately, the news off the field is bad.  Giese is hurt and headed to the DL and the Yankees are not going to sign their #1 pick according to this.  That’s a real shock because Cole was reportedly a huge Yankees’ fan and you know it wasn’t money that caused this.  We’ll see if it is still true at the deadline, but it is bad news if turns out to be true.

More on Byrd

A few weeks back a rumor popped up that the Yankees might make a run at Paul Byrd.  I scoffed, as is my way, at the idea of it.  Peter and I engaged in a slight back and forth and I left that discussion thinking the move would be ok, but not really an impact move befitting the Yankees.

Byrd has made some news in the past year most notably his use of HGH which he said was in full compliance with MLB, but turned out it was not.  For some reason, no action has been taken against him as of yet.

No matter, now that Byrd is a member of the Red Sox, to me he is the best pitcher ever.  All kidding aside, as I mentioned yesterday, it is a good pick-up for this time of year.  Is Byrd great, no, far from it, he is probably average in at best.

I was listening on the radio today (WEEI which has little credibility when it comes to evaluations of anything from their hosts) and they said Byrd was the hottest pitcher since the All-Star break.  True?  You tell me.

In his 4 starts since the break he is:  4-0, 1.24 ERA, 29 IP, 25 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 12 K.  Ok, he has been good, check that, great.  But consider prior the the All-Star break, the same pitcher was 3-10, 5.47 ERA in 102 IP.  That is an extreme and there is no reason to believe Byrd will continue to pitch at the level of a sub 2.00 ERA pitcher the rest of the way or a sub 4.00 pitcher either.

Byrd eats innings, can keep you in games for the most part, but needs a strong offense behind him because he does allow runs.  With Mike Lowell likely headed to the DL (finally), the Red Sox will find scoring runs a bit more difficult, although last night’s game was a poor indicator of that.

Other questions on Byrd.  Why didn’t the Yankees or the Rangers make a play for Byrd?  How did he slip to the Red Sox?  Perhaps that is an indication that yes he is a veteran, but just isn’t the best pitcher in the world.  Regardless, Byrd goes Friday night at Fenway.  With all this action, Charlie Zink, rough night last night, has already been demoted and it seems Clay Buchholz has dodged the minor league bullet for now.  I’m not sure he belongs up here now and think keep him up here but not using him might be worse than sending him to AAA to work things out.

A Byrd in the Hand

In a blockbuster move, the Red Sox overhauled their starting rotation with the acquisition of Paul Byrd in return for Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester.

Which part of the above is false?

I’ll quit playing around, the Red Sox did trade for Paul Byrd today for cash or a PTBNL.  Beckett and company are safe.

Byrd is a throwback and is capable of a decent workload.  He has made 31 starts in each of his previous 3 seasons and is on pace to do so again this year.  In 22 starts, he is 7-10 with a 4.53 ERA.  Far from terrible, but not overwhelming.  Bryd doesn’t strike anyone out (56 in 131 IP) but instead tries to keep hitters off-balance (don’t all pitchers) with an array of off-speed stuff and a deceiving delivery.

With this trade, I bet we see Clay Buchholz sent down, especially since Charlie Zink has already been named starter for tonight’s game.

Byrd represents an approximate $2.5mm rental (if I have my facts straight, Byrd signed a 2 year deal after the 2005 season with Cleveland that contained an option year which he is playing out right now).  If the Red Sox make the playoffs, I doubt Byrd would make the post-season roster, unless Tim Wakefield remains injured and even that isn’t a certainty.

Good pick-up, an average arm, about the best you can expect this time of year, to add some depth to the starting ranks.