Draft Picks Day 1

55 – Nick Hagadone – LHP
62 – Ryan Dent – 2b/ss
84 – Hunter Morris – 1b/of
114 – Brock Huntzinger – RHP
144 – Chris Province – RHP
174 – Will Middlebrooks – RHP

 

Here is MLB’s draft page that gives the picks and for upper talent, commentary too.

 

Soxprospects has hyperlinks to the picks so far.

 

Baseball America, of course, has complete draft coverage. Much of their site requires a subscription, but you can still gleen interesting bits of info, etc.

The Boston Herald devoted some ink (or memory) to the draft.

 

The Boston Globe did the same, but they also included some video of the top 2 picks.

As Close As One Can Get

Curt Schilling pitched a 1-hitter today losing his no-hit bid with 2 outs in the 9th. Shannon Stewart broke up the no-no.

The no-hitter would have been nice, but the win was better. The Red Sox bats have gone flat, so Schilling took it upon himself to prove the axiom that good pitching beats good hitting. Schilling stepped up today putting an end to a 4 game skid, like any good stopper.

I’m not sure Schilling will be in Boston next season, but he really stepped up to the plate today. He was hitting 93 mph on his fastball, about as hard as he’s thrown all season (I think he hit 94 once 1 or 2 starts ago).

Over the past 5 games, Boston has been outscored:

12-16.

That means they’ve averaged 2.4 runs and allowed an average of 3.2. That tells me it isn’t the pitching, it’s the offense. Over that 5 game stretch, Boston has 11, 10, 3, 8 and 4 hits while drawing 4, 1, 7, 3 and 3 walks. Boston has had men on base, but they haven’t brough them home. They’ve hit into a ton of double plays over this rough patch.

Like I said yesterday, Boston is allowed a losing streak, but it would be nice to see the offense wake up a bit. They are 3rd overall in runs score, so I don’t know how much more we can expect.

Boston heads to Arizona for 3 starting Friday night.

These west coast trips are tough. The games are either on far too late to be practical or too early to be seen by anyone that has to work.

Red Sox Draft Day – 2007

The 2007 MLB Entry Draft happens this Thursday in Orlando, FL. What makes this draft different than years past is that it will be televised on ESPN2. Stop the presses!

 

The bad news for Red Sox fans is that the Sox don’t have a 1st round pick. The Red Sox lost the 20th overall pick by signing free agent Julio Lugo (given his current performance, this hurts a bit). The Red Sox don’t actually pick until the 55th overall (a supplemental pick for losing Alex Gonzalez).

 

Here are their picks rounds 1-5:

 

55
62
84
114
144
174

 

MLB.com has coverage of this event online.

 

SoxProspects.com has Red Sox coverage.

 

While it isn’t likely we’ll see any of the players selected Thursday in a Boston uniform anytime soon, don’t forget that in a short few years, we might be talking about the replacements for JD Drew, Julio Lugo, Kevin Youkilis (free agent in 3 years), Josh Beckett, etc.

 

Also don’t forget that it was just 2005 when the Red Sox picked:

 

Jacoby Ellsbury 1 (23 overall)
Clay Buchholz 1s (45 overall)
Michael Bowden 1s (47 overall)

 

These 3 are at Pawtucket, Portland and Portland respectively and all might be helping the big club before the season is out.

 

In the meantime, the Red Sox (of Boston) have really stunk since arriving in Oakland. Their offense is not delivering in the clutch. Old friend Lenny DiNardo walked 6 Tuesday night and still got the win.

 

Players like Lugo, Crisp and Drew are entering an important phase. If they cannot fix whatever ails them, changes need to be made. That old idea that management spends the first 1/3 of the season evaluating the roster, the next 1/3 figuring out how to make adjustments and changes and the final 1/3 playing it out and making a playoff push, well for Boston, they have played the first 1/3 and now Theo Epstein must be snooping around looking for ways to make this team better. Is it a bad team? No, at least the record suggests it isn’t, but there are a few weak spots and Epstein and Co. hopefully have a few ideas as to how and fix them.

 

Boston has lost 3 in a row and while they are entitled to an occassional slump, it’d be nice to see this team click offensively.

 

Thompson And DeSalvo Down

The Yankees optioned Matt DeSalvo back to Columbus which wasn’t a surprise, but sending Kevin Thompson there as well was.
Now, the good news is that Chris Britton survived the cut and it appears the Yankees are actually going to allow him to pitch for the big league club. Britton has certainly earned a chance, dominating at Scranton with a 0.78ERA in 23 innings while looking pretty good last night as well.
The question will be what happens later this week when Roger Clemens will have to be activated to start on Saturday? My guess is that Sean Henn, who just got recalled today, will go back down, unless the Yankees send Ron Villone away. Henn has been starting in AAA which may be a sign that the Yankees are going to use him as a long man from now on and could increase his chances of sticking.
Sending Thompson down is interesting because if the Yankees are really going to DH Damon regularly, they wouldn’t be able to move him to outfield without losing the DH if Abreu, Matsui or Melky were injured in a game. That means that either Damon is going to move to first fairly soon or the Yankees are taking a stupid risk.
I say stupid because the Yankees recalled Chris Basak. Now I have nothing against Basak, he was my choice to replace Miguel Cairo as the utility guy, but Basak hasn’t played outfield to my knowledge. The Yankees may think they have the second coming of Clay Bellinger, but what evidence do they have he can play all those positions? For this team, I would rather see Basak and Thompson than Basak and Cairo, but I would have settled for Cairo and Thompson. Promoting Basak now is taking a strange risk, but I will approve if it means chucking Cairo later on.
Now, Cairo is going to start tonight over Phelps which is a mistake. I know Phelps is a butcher with the glove, but is Cairo that much better of a firstbaseman defensively? I will go into this more tomorrow, but the Yankees haven’t been the run-scoring machine we thought they would be and Phelps would definitely outhit Cairo.
So, we have a team that has 13 pitchers and a bench of Nieves, Cairo and Basak. That is not a good combination and hopefully the Yankees get down to 12 pitchers quickly and rebuild the bench.

Disrupted Scar Tissue

It doesn’t sound good and that’s what Roger Clemens has in his groin, but he says he will be making his start on Saturday. I say we wait until he throws a bullpen on Wednesday before believing that.
Since Clemens used to pitch for the Red Sox, maybe he can get some advice on a cure from another Boston "legend".

We’ll Take It

Hey, 2 out of 3 in Boston is nothing to sniff at and while the Yankees leave 12.5 back, they at least gained some ground this weekend. They showed they can go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox, now the question is can they overcome an almost impossible deficit?
I don’t know, but the Yankees have almost half a season to figure things out. The Red Sox and Yankees won’t play again for 70+ games. And if the Yankees can play .100 percentage points better than Boston over that stretch, they will still be at least five games back of the Red Sox.
So, don’t expect a division crown coming in 2007 and I still think that means Clemens is a bad idea right now, but tonight should be a happy night, so we will leave that until later today (it’s already Monday.)

A Productive Loss

The Red Sox might have lost Friday night’s game, but they forced the Yankees to empty out their bullpen. I say they forced them, but what it was more like an overreaction.

 

Joe Torre, managing from the clubhouse walkway after being thrown out of the game earlier, had acting manager Don Mattingly use 6 relievers!

 

Myers – 0.1 IP
Bruney – 1.0 IP
Farnsworth – 1.0 IP
Proctor – 0.1 IP
Villone – 0.0 IP (2 pitches)
Rivera – 0.2 IP

 

What’s going on? Don’t the Yankees have a long reliever? Wang left with a 6 run lead in the 6th. The Red Sox got 2 more runs before eventually losing 9-5. So Torre thought he needed 6 relievers to hold the Red Sox for 2 runs.

 

When you get a 6 run lead, you bring in your long reliever/mop-up guy. For the Red Sox it is Kyle Snyder. Prior to tonight, Snyder had only pitched in 16 games. Because he had pitched 1.1 IP two nights prior, he only went 1 IP Friday. But he and only 3 other relievers covered 5.1 IP. The Yankees 6 relievers covered 3.1 IP.

 

My point is, Torre overreacted and used 6 relievers from a bullpen that is already on life support. That’s good news for Boston I would think.

 

Let’s hope for a better effort Saturday from the Red Sox.

 

Table Setting

This weekend’s series in Boston lacks the normal passion we normally see when the Yankees come to town. New York is dealing with one of its worst runs in years and things don’t seem to be getting much better.

 

There are a few story lines I thought I should discuss. First off, the ARod incident Wednesday night. For those that missed it MLB’s website has a link. Here is a description if you cannot get to the link:

 

Yankees up, men on 1st (ARod) and 2nd (Matsui), 2 outs. The batter hits a pop fly to the 3rd baseman. Because there are 2 outs, the runners are off on contact. ARod arrives at 3rd just when Howie Clark, the Blue Jays 3rd baseman, is about to catch the ball. ARod calls out "Mine" and Clark backs off thinking it is his teammate calling him off. The ball falls in and Matsui scores, inning still alive.

 

The play ended up to be insignificant from a game result standpoint as the Yankees walked away with it to a victory. The real drama came from so many people saying ARod pulled a "Bush League" play trying by trying to fool the Clark.

 

I could not disagree more. I think ARod’s play, while not normal or encouraged, is no different than many plays we see in baseball everyday.

 

Examples include: phantom tags, where a 2nd baseman never really touches 2nd for a force out on the first half of a double play. Runners faking towards home when an outfielder makes a catch in order to draw a throw. The idea being, perhaps the outfielder will airmail it over the catchers head allowing an easy score. Or, and in my opinion this is the best example, the middle infielder play where the fielder fakes catching a ball to induce a runner from 1st into a slide. This might prevent him from taking 3rd as it interrupts his progress.

 

Well, this last example, in my opinion, nullifies the argument that what ARod did might cause injury by forcing infielders to crashing into each other. Well, first off, when you are called off on a play, your first reaction is to lower your head, knowing roughly where the ball will land, and locate your teammate(s) to avoid a collision, no? No fielder, once called off, keeps his head up, eyes towards the heavens and runs off in hysteria. He locates obstacles and stays clear.

 

Going back to my last example of fielder deviousness (the fake the catch, to force the runner into a slide, we will call this the “fake catch”), I can sight 3 clear examples that forcing a runner to slide is FAR more dangerous than calling off a fielder:

 

Coco Crisp sliding into 2nd breaks a finger.
Manny Ramirez sliding into 3rd breaks a finger and then vacations in Pawtucket for 10 days.
And the worst, most devastating injury was Robin Ventura, March 21, 1997, sliding into home and breaking both his tibia and fibula all the while dislocating his ankle and causing a compound fracture of one or both of the aforementioned bones.

 

My point, sliding into a base can be very dangerous, especially when it is a non-routine slide. That is to say when a player is sliding thinking it might be a close call. If the “fake catch” is accepted and can cause a player to engage in an activity that is routine, but also potentially dangerous, especially when the stakes are raised, then why can’t ARod make fool a fielder into a mistake?

 

I believe this kind of thing happens more often than the Blue Jays will admit. The key point here is that most fielders don’t fall for it. When Clark fell for the fake out call from ARod, he and his teammates, especially shortstop John McDonald, felt really dumb and lashed out. Please don’t be insincere and tell me your favorite team or player, doesn’t do something to gain an extra advantage, be it faking a catch, faking a dash towards home, faking getting hit by a pitch, setting up in the batters box with a foot slightly outside said box, leaning into a pitch, claiming fan interference on a misplayed ball. The examples go on and on.

 

In this case, the Blue Jays fell for it and were embarrassed. I would be too, but you move on. Don’t be so naïve to think this kind of thing has been going on since baseball started. And, please tell me, what has baseball become, a non-contact chess match? Baseball is played at times at a painfully slow pace but can ramp up into an adrenaline pumping craze. Things happen quickly and players will often do what they can to get an edge.

 

I realize my opinion on this is probably the in the minority, but for all of ARod’s faults, and I believe he has many, I have no problem with his actions Wednesday night. Now, if I baseball like I think I know baseball, ARod will receive a nicely wrapped package under his ribs the next time he faces Toronto in the form of a fastball. Baseball polices itself and I expect that to happen here too. It is this retaliatory reason alone that we probably don’t see this play more often.

 

The other story line is why isn’t Roger Clemens facing Boston this weekend? If compensation is a gauge, Roger is the most important player on the Yankees. If that is true, why not stuff him into the fray as soon as possible? He last pitched this past Monday and would be able to go again Saturday. Why not start him?

 

My guess is that given what has happened to the Yankees since it was announced he was rejoining them, they fear what would happen if he were to struggle badly against Boston. What would that to do the morale of the team and fan base?

 

But most of all, I was really hoping Clemens would pitch in Boston if for no other reason, it would have been a really good game to watch.

 

Fri: 7:05pm – Wang (3-4, 4.13) v. Wakefield (5-5, 3.36)
Sat: 3:55pm – Mussina (2-3, 5.86) v. Schilling (5-2, 3.68)
Sun: 8:05pm – Pettitte (3-4, 2.51) v. Beckett (2.65, 8-0)

 

Update: In watching Baseball Tonight (Thursday 10pm edition), Dusty Baker, Orestes Destrade and Fernando Vina, all former players, sided with me that the play was NOT Bush League. Come on people, this isn’t ballet we are watching.

 

Trot Nixon

The Red Sox play three against the 2nd best team in the AL tonight in the Cleveland Indians.

 

The Indians have some great everyday players, Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner to name a few. Their pitching is deep too with C.C. Sabathia and up and coming Fausto Carmona (although that 1.35 K/BB ratio isn’t good. Compare that to Josh Beckett’s 3.91 and Daisuke Matsuzaka’s 3.04).

 

The biggest thrill for most Red Sox fans will come tonight when Trot Nixon is introduced. Nixon won’t go down as one of the top Red Sox to ever play but he is widely considered one of the most popular. I tried to put my finger on just why he was and remains so popular and realized it was because he tried hard, was affable and enjoyed being a Red Sox.

 

Welcome back Trot, you are a class act. I just hope tonight marks the beginning of a 3-game mini-slump for you.

 

12.5

The Red Sox hold a 12.5 game lead on the Yankees. No disrespect intended to the Yankees, but the Orioles are the closest to Boston right now at 11.5 games back.

The Yankees seem to be disastrously broken. They have the talent but nothing is clicking right now. I am astounded that things have gone so poorly.

That being said, the Yankees can never be counted out.

Focusing on the Red Sox, I figured some grades were in order. Consider these mid-term results.

Lugo: Grade D. Lugo is being paid far too much to have this poor an average (.231) and OBP (.296). I expect he’ll pick it up as he might just be dealing with the "first year in Boston" issue many struggle with.

Youkilis: Grade A. Leads the team in AVG, OBP and runs. He has played solid D and makes pitchers work very hard. I was stunned his name was mentioned so much in trade talks this off-season.

Ortiz: Grade A-. Good average, great OBP. His slugging is a bit off pace from the last 2 seasons, but with Manny’s early struggles, I don’t think he is getting as much too hit.

Manny: Grade C-. Manny has gotten off to a bad start. His K totals are high, his power is low. This isn’t a huge concern as Manny has taken a month or two off in the past during a season yet always seems to end up in the same place.

Drew: Grade D+. Like Lugo, he seems to be suffering in his first year in Boston. Unlike Lugo, he is still getting on base (.349 obp). More importantly, he has stayed somewhat healthy, only missing a few games with a sickness and a bruised back.

Lowell: Grade A. He and Youkilis have really carried the team thus far, at least from the supporting cast contributions. Lowell got off to a hot start in 2006 too, and tailed off a bit, let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.

Varitek: Grade B+. His average (.276) and obp (.373) are more than enough to keep him in the line-up. I had feared he was all done just a few weeks ago, but with his rediscovered ability to get on base and his defense, he is solid.

Crisp: Grade C. His grade would be worse if not for his stellar defense. Crisp hasn’t found the stroke that made him so appealing a pick on for Boston, but he has been tracking down everything hit towards him.

Pedroia: Grade B+. Dustin has raised his average to .271 and his obp (.361) is great for any #9 hitter. More importantly, Pedroia never gives away an at bat. His 12 pitch, 9th inning at bat today against Gagne ended with him hitting a solo home run which ended up being the deciding run. His defense has been more than solid. I think Terry Francona should be commended for keeping him in the line-up despite his early struggles.

Schilling: Grade B. He has certainly done enough to give the Red Sox a chance to win most of the time. What is most concerning is the number of hits he is allowing per inning. Schilling does still have good enough command to limit walks thus keeping opponents OBP down. I am not ready to say he has officially gotten old, but without his velocity and his excellent command of years past, this Schilling might not be worth $13m a season.

Beckett: Grade A. Beckett was the most dominating AL starter prior to his injury. The good news is he had been able to throw his off-speed stuff for strikes. With his most recent injury, he’ll have to prove himself again, fair or not.

Matsuzaka: Grade B. Daisuke has been up and down. I’m impressed with what he has accomplished given the intense pressure he has faced. His make-up is off the charts. His in-game consistency is off right now and his 4.43 ERA is proof of that. But he is averaging almost a strikeout per inning and has a 3:1 K/BB ratio.

Wakefield: Grade B+. Wakefield has kept the Red Sox in most games. His 5-5 record is misleading as he has pitched better than that. He is still subject to bouts of inconsistency, but he is still a bargain.

Tavarez: Grade C+. I hear people rave about Tavarez thus far and scratch my head. I suppose if you thought prior to the season he was hopelessly overmatched, yes, I’d be happy with him so far, but he is a veteran pitcher who had 93 career starts coming into 2007. He has pitched well in spots, but seems to fall into the "one bad inning" trap, hence the 3-4 record. I am ok with him as a stop gap, but nothing more.

Papelbon: Grade A-. The only ding against him is his durability. Specifically Francona’s hesitancy to use him much. Then again, it might just be a function of the Red Sox playing so well. Since there is no urgency, why overuse him?

Okajima: Grade A. A major surprise, Okajima has pitched as well as a first year pitcher can. I’m not sure he’ll continue at this level of success, but so far so good.

The rest of the pen: Grade B+. Mostly good results from this crowded crew. Francona hasn’t had to overwork them which is partly the reason for their success. At the same time, with such limited use, players like Joel Pineiro and Kyle Snyder really haven’t had a chance to prove themselves.

There are a few others I’m leaving out, but so be it. The Red Sox are playing very well and have built a tremendous lead. I feel their only real enemy at this point is themselves. They cannot become complacent. The Yankees are capable of so much more and have a history of wiping out massive leads. Don’t get comfortable boys.

FYI, Sports Illustrated ran an article on the charity efforts of Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield. The 3 teamed up with Charity Wines to produce 3 wines, the proceeds of which will be given to their respective charity.

SI enlisted the help of Dr. Vino to assess each wine. You can check it out in the May 28th issue of SI, page 26.