Good Luck, Jon

On the Yankees side of this page, we generally root for the Red Sox to lose every game and hopefully go out of business. Tonight is different as Jon Lester is taking the mound for Boston in his first start in the bigs after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Lester has made a courageous comeback and for one night we are going to put our partisan feelings aside and hope he has a great game and a long and healthy life.

Backup Plans

A great indicator of how bad Wil Nieves was is the fact that Jose Molina is considered an upgrade over him.  That isn’t to say I don’t like this trade, Jeff Kennard wasn’t going to help this team anytime in the future, but I just wonder why Cashman went with Nieves for as long as he did. 

Getting rid of Nieves is a positive, but adding Molina doesn’t mean they should stop looking for a backup.  For his carrer, Molina has been .237/.275./.319.  Those are terrible numbers and the Yankees still are screwed if Posada gets hurt.  Plus, Molina is 32 and with Cervelli still in A-ball and Montero quickly gorwing too big to be a catcher, there are no prospects anywhere near the majors who can catch.  Cashman may think he took a need off his list with this deal, but he still has work to do.   

How Will This Work?

Peter Abraham is reporting that the Yankees will recall Shelly Duncan from AAA today.  Nothing against Duncan, he is killing the ball at AAA, but I don’t get the move.  First off, Andy Phillips has played well and is a much better defender, so I don’t think Duncan will start unless the Yankees are suddenly benching Johnny Damon (wouldn’t argue against it, but I strongly doubt it)  So, Duncan becomes a righty bat off the bench I guess?

The harder part to understand is that Duncan isn’t on the 40-man.  That means they have to make a move and they are already faced with two moves in the near future when Karstens and Hughes come back from the DL.  Looking at the 40-man, I would guess Colter Bean and Bronson Sardinha are the top candidates to be let go, but Bean is scheduled to spot start for Scranton tonight.  Sardinha has gone backwards this year and is back in AA, but he is still only 24.  Does this mean someone else will be dropped?  Is there a trade about to happen?  Stay tuned….

UPDATE- Thompson has been sent down and Mientkiewicz put on the 60-day DL. Ok, that just delays things (they could do the same with Giambi when they want to bring Hughes back) for a couple of weeks. And, Damon is starting in CF with Duncan at DH and Melky on the bench.

This Has Got to Stop

The Red Sox seem incapable of bashing their way to victory.  If their pitching doesn’t shut the other team down, then there is isn’t a chance of a victory.  The Red Sox of recent were prone to winning slugfests.

What has gone right offensively thus far?

Pedroia, Youkilis, Varitek and Lowell

What hasn’t gone right?

Lugo, Crisp, Drew, Ortiz, Ramirez

Certainly Ramirez and Ortiz have been productive, but not to the degree we’ve become accustom.  Since the All-Star break, Manny has turned it on, so hopefully (never a word we like to use) he has found his way.

Let me illustrate some problems:

Ortiz vs lefties – .250/.352/.327/.679

Ramirez vs righties – .261/338/.416/.754

Lugo couldn’t hit against anyone through June (the #s are too sorry to post)

Drew – Has been getting on base (.366) but hasn’t produced anything.  His slg% is .385.  Wow, that is far from league average.  Drew’s struggles are more apparent when Ortiz and Manny aren’t hitting.

Oh yeah, Drew against lefties – .221/.291/.351/.641

Crisp against righties (231 at bats) – .255/.307/.364/.670

The Red Sox, for whatever reason, are not hitting.  The first thing most are inclined to do is to look at Dave Magadan the new hitting coach.  Well, hitting coaches are important, but they aren’t everything.  Well, perhaps he has played a role in this, but I think it unfair to lay the blame entirely on him.  Age, injuries, the inability to quickly adapt to playing in Boston, all play a part in these things.

With less than 2 weeks to the trade deadline, I would not be surprised to see a large trade happen.  A few ideas have already been discuss on my last post (comments), but my guess is that Red Sox management might feel compelled to deal a big prospect (Ellsbury, Buchholz, Bowden, Masterson, Bates or Bell) to make this offense right.

The most important thing for management to do is identify the real problems versus the temporary problems.  Is Ramirez really done?  Is Ortiz’s knee that big a deal?  Is Drew incapable of playing in Boston?  Or is Manny just in one of his funks (ala Manny’s struggles at the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005), and Ortiz just dealing with a few minor injuries and Drew just getting through the "First Year Red Sox Blues?"

I expect we’ll see some movement over the next 2 weeks.

The Red Sox have a 7 game lead on the Yankees.  The Red Sox have been a .500 team since Memorial Day.  Losing 2 of 3 to the Royals is not acceptable.  Time to stir to the pot I think.

Hughes Update

I guess the raindrops ended in Trenton because Phil Hughes took the mound and went four innings allowing two hits, two walks and a run while striking out five.  I haven’t see any official word yet, but I suspect his next start will be in Scranton on the 23rd (Monday)  and could be back in the Bronx as early as the 28th.  I don’t think that will happen as the Yankees are going to obviously bench Igawa for Hughes and they are not on the same rotation schedule right now.  So, I would expect if everything goes well, Hughes takes the mound for the Yankees against the White Sox on August 2nd. 

From Now Until The Deadline

Two weeks from today is the trading deadline and the Yankees have 15 games left to find out exactly where they stand.  If the Yankees can feast on the mediocre schedule and go 10-5 or better, they should consider adding some players at the deadline.  If they do not, they should become active sellers.  Let’s look at each scenario.  

If they are buyers, they key area they need to strengthen is their bullpen.  Whether it was overuse in April or just mediocre talent, there is little in the pen that is worth keeping other than Rivera and (surprise) Vizcaino.  Bruney has had some positive results, but he doesn’t have enough control to trust him in big spots.  Myers is not getting lefties out.  Proctor is struggling with his command and his strikeouts are down.  Based on past results, Villone is going to blowup soon, Ramirez is untested and Farnsworth, well we have all suffered enough of Kyle I suspect.  

For the Yankees to make a run, they are going to need upgrades to the pen.  Now, they could and should go the internal route and let Ramirez show what he has while getting Chris Britton and Sean Henn back from AAA.  But, assuming they continue to avoid doing that, trading for some relief help would be priority #1.

The second thing the Yankees have to do is bolster the bench.  Even with Sunday’s outburst, Wil Nieves is hitting .132 while Jorge Posada is on pace for the most plate appearances of his career.  The Yankees have to find a real backup catcher and actually trading for a prospect who could fill in for Jorge in the future would be an even better idea.  

That would be the extent of the moves I would make to add players.  Phil Hughes should be back in about 10 days, so that should fix the rotation and the lineup is going to live or die with players like Abreu, Matsui and Damon either doing what they have in the past or continuing to struggle.  

Now, if the Yankees are sellers at the deadline.  Things get a lot more interesting.  The first and biggest thing they should do is go to A-Rod and sign him to an extension or ask him to waive his no-trade clause.  The Yankees need to play hardball with Alex and make it clear to him that they will not be used to benefit his negotiations for a new contract.  Alex has to know by now if he wants to stay or go, so make it simple for him.  Offer him 5 years and say $150 million on top of his current deal and if he doesn’t agree tell him that negotiations are over and you would like to trade him.  

I go back and forth on what I think will happen with A-Rod this off-season, but the more I look at teams and payrolls, the more I think his potential market is very, very small.  There are 12 teams that have a payroll of $90 million or higher so let’s start with those as the potential market.  Of those, the Orioles are out because they are not a contender.  The Mariners are certainly not going to welcome A-Rod back and I just don’t see the Cardinals making that type of move.  The Mets have no need for A-Rod, so that leaves New York, Boston, both LA teams, both Chicago teams Detroit and San Francisco.  The Cubs are going to have a new owner, but probably not in place in time to bid for A-Rod.  The Tigers have a lot of young pitchers who are going to make a lot of money so both of those teams are handicapped in this sweepstakes.  The White Sox would probably need to fire Ozzie Guillen (remember he ripped A-Rod) to have a chance.  The Angels have a lot of young talent and smart ownership, would they invest all that money in A-Rod?  No, I think this comes down to New York, Boston, the Dodgers and the Giants.  Boras can take a gamble if he wants to, but if the Yankees make it clear they won’t negotiate beyond July 31st, A-Rod will have a very tough choice.  

Even if they can’t trade A-Rod, the Yankees have some very good options.  Bobby Abreu would probably accept a trade if his option was picked up and the Yankees should do that and send him and some cash somewhere for prospects.  Farnsworth and Myers might hold some appeal and they should be sent packing.   

Red Sox Trade Needs

The Red Sox played well in the first 2 months of 2007, but have played .500 ball since June 1st or so.  The reasons for their uninspired play are as follows:

  • Julio Lugo
  • Curt Schilling’s injury
  • Lack of production from Ortiz and Ramirez
  • J.D. Drew not playing up to expectations
  • No pop off the bench

I’m sure there are more reasons and the reasons I did list above aren’t weighted equally, they are just pieces to the .500 play puzzle.

Theo Epstein must be hoping beyond hope that Lugo has finally figured things out.  It certainly seems like he has and his confidence is on the upswing.  If Lugo can just hit .270/.340/.400 the rest of the way, he suddenly is not a problem anymore.

To me, the biggest issue is the starting rotation with Curt Schilling not a part of it right now and Julian Tavarez not pitching particularly well (even though people constantly rave about him on the radio).  Tavarez is a nice option, but he is easily figured out after one time through the order.

I titled this post "Trade Needs" but some of the trade deadline solutions might well be in Pawtucket.  Jon Lester seems like a logical upgrade to Tavarez as this point.  Of course there are probably many more things to consider when determining whether to promote Lester.  If Lester is not an option, then perhaps a trade is in order.  While there is Davern Hansack and David Pauley at AAA, I’m not sure turning to them is the right answer.

As for Ortiz and Ramirez, they have both shown life since the all-star break, but it is their combined lack of power that is most concerning.  Ortiz apparently has some right knee issues, but Ramirez has just looked off all season.  His timing is off and his stroke seems inconsistent.  Let’s hope the first half vacation is over for both.

Drew is a worry, but with both Drew and Lugo, you kind of had to expect a first year struggle.  Boston does that to some players as does New York.  The bright lights, big city atmosphere is generally a shock to new guys and it takes them a season to adapt.  Let’s hope that is true for these 2 otherwise that was about $100m poorly spent.

As for no pop off the bench, only teams with good records can complain about this.  Building a starting 9 is hard enough, but to enjoy power off the bench is generally a luxury.  Wily Mo Pena has proven that he has power, but he doesn’t display it in spotty appearances.  It would seem he is best suited as a starter.  With Ramirez, Crisp/Ellsbury and Drew in the OF, he really won’t see much time.  It’s too bad because I’d love to see him start 120+ games just to see if he is real or not.  He did hit 28 HRs for Cinci one year, so the power is there.

So there you have it, I just uncovered all of the Red Sox problems.  Checks payable to me can be sent easily and frequently thank you very much Red Sox management.

Also, as you can see, we are chipping away at rebuilding what was once a glorious website.  Actually, you all remember our old front page, it kind of looked like we did it with crayons and finger paint.  We hope the new format/style, etc will be much better, but since both Peter and I have other crap to contend with (drinking beer, naps, anger management classes…court ordered), it is a slow moving process.  I hope you stick with us and continue to read.

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1-0 Win

Sweet 1-0 win today by the Red Sox. It was nice to see a strong performance by the pitching staff, but the bats again went silent.

I got my wish with Alex Cora replacing Julio Lugo today, but Cora went 0-3. The man I want in the line-up, Dustin Pedroia, went 0-4 (granted he did go 5-5 Friday night). I’m willing to give this team some time to figure out their offensive woes, but Lugo, Crisp and a to a lesser extent Drew had better figure it out. Theo Epstein can fix one of those problems, but not all 3 with a trade.

Drew – Here to stay and will stay in the line-up no matter what because of his contract and because he is getting on base at an ok clip.
Lugo – Probably here to stay as his salary is too big. Whether he stays in the line-up or not remains to be seen.
Crisp – Because his contract is moveable and because Jacoby Ellsbury (a/k/a Johnny Damon Jr) is already holding his own at AAA(.296/.377/.373), Crisp could be sent packing and thus is the most likely to be shipped out of town before the trading deadline. Does anyone think if Ellsbury were promoted today and started in CF the rest of the way in 2007 he’d hit worse than .230? By the way, Crisp is hitting .230 with an OBP far below .300.

Terry, What Gives?

Ok, I have been a pretty big supporter of Terry Francona this year but he is driving me nuts with one particular thing.

Benching Pedroia instead of Lugo in favor of Cora. Seriously, while it is only the 5th inning (Wednesday night), Cora has made an error to lead off the game, which lead to an unearned run, and left 2 men on in only 2 at bats thus far.

Wow. Lugo has become, shall we say, the worst shortstop in all of baseball. I realize he might just be in a slump, but he has stunk for about 1 straight year now.

More later…

BTW, sorry if you received a ton of notifications about my posts. Our notification system was hoarding them and then within the past 2 days decided to send them out all at once. Again, sorry.

In the meantime, while the Red Sox get blown out, check out this video I stumbled upon. I don’t know, but for some reason, it struck a non-baseball chord.

Update: Well, the Red Sox got pounded by the Rockies. This is a big disappointment for me as the Red Sox are a better team than the Rockies and they are better than the way they’ve played this month.

BTW The Yankees won again tonight and the Red Sox lead has shrunk to 8.5 games.