for July 9-22, 2003
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July 22, 2003
Sean McAdam looks at the possible pitchers available for trade and wonders if John Burkett might not be Boston's best option. ... Jeremy Giambi's batting average is up to .193; on-base percentage of .352 is quite a bit higher than leadoff man Johnny Damon's .329. ... Since the arrival of Byung-Hyun Kim, the Red Sox bullpen ERA is 2.20. ... Will Nick Johnson join the Yankees in time for the weekend series with Boston? Torre says it's "a possibility, not a probability."
July 21, 2003
Pedro and Manny on the media's fuss (yawn, yawn, and zzzzzzzz) over their leaving before last Sunday's game and Pedro arriving late on Thursday (John Burkett also left early, but the paternalistic media didn't freak out over that). ... Theo Epstein says the Sox are concentrating on picking up a pitcher and have their eyes on Escobar and Lidle (Blue Jays), as well as Weaver (Yankees), Suppan (Pirates), Williamson (Reds), Ponson (Orioles) and Trachsel (Mets). Ken Rosenthal says Boston "would need to overpay to persuade the Orioles to move Ponson within the division." ... Allen Barra on "Pete Rose on Trial" ... Rob Neyer comments on two truly idiotic columns (I'm loath to do it, but here's the offensive one) ... English as a second language in the big leagues ... Baseball Prospectus on the Red Sox (7/15) and their mid-season awards ... More from BP: Will Carroll's "Under The Knife" AL Mid-Season Health Report:
New York: Miss Derek Jeter for six weeks? Bernie Williams for six? Nick Johnson for most of the season? Mariano Rivera spends as much time in Tampa as the Bronx? Ten million dollars worth of Jose Contreras burning like a Cuban cigar? Make it hard for Jason Giambi to see? It sounds like too much for any team to overcome, even the dreaded Yankees, and yet there they sit on top of the standings like Don Zimmer on a doughnut. The Yankees don't need depth, but they certainly don't have it. It's impossible to count them out, but this is a team at the end of the current line. Mark Littlefield manages to keep the team as healthy as possible and any winning next year should be directly credited to his rehab work with Brandon Claussen and Jon Lieber. The Yanks have many advantages financially, but no team can buy health. Grade: D
Boston: As Theo Epstein remakes the team in the image of Bill James, he shouldn't forget that much of the success of the team is based on the work of Chris Correnti. No other team relies on one player as much as the Red Sox, so keeping Pedro Martinez healthy is paramount. Beyond mere health, the team must strike a balance between usage and protection as well as using its bullpen and rotation to help further that mission. Tim Wakefield is valuable beyond any numbers for this team. The position players have been in great condition and healthy. Grade: B+
And from Joe Sheehan's AL Mid-Season Review:
[T]he East has become the two-team race it was expected to be. Both the Yankees and Red Sox have fought through one particular weakness that at times threatened to take down their season. After losing half their starting lineup at one point or another, the Yankees are now healthy, waiting only on the return of Nick Johnson ... The Red Sox suffered through a series of bullpen meltdowns in April as they struggled to implement a new way of managing their relief pitching. Since moving Byung-Hyun Kim to the pen full-time on July 1, however, their relievers have posted a 2.15 ERA. ...
The Yankees have added Armando Benitez to pitch the eighth inning, but could still be in the market for relief. ... The Sox need a starting pitcher to replace Casey Fossum ... Despite the Yankees' four-game lead, I don't think they can hold off the Sox, especially since Pedro Martinez appears set to approach 30 starts and 200 innings. The Sox have the better offense and bullpen, and what they lack in rotation depth they make up for by having The Best Pitcher Alive. I'll stick with my pre-season prediction: Sox in first, Yanks in second.
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Mariano Rivera enters Yankees games to Metallica's "Enter Sandman"; Armando Benitez has changed his theme music from "Who Let The Dogs Out?" to Metallica's "Fuel". Yeah (snicker) that'll help. ... Two games each against the Tigers and Devil Rays before the big Yankees series (NY has Toronto and Baltimore). Memo to Red Sox bats: these are very important games (not must wins, not yet). If Gump is ever going to adopt a killer instinct, now is the time. Ideally, Boston is no more than 2 games back on Friday morning ...
July 20, 2003
Boston's two lowest OBP players are getting the most plate appearances: (Walker .335 and Damon .331). ... Nixon #1 OBP (tied with Ramirez) .409 is batting 7th; Mueller #2 OBP .404 is batting 8th; Varitek #5 OBP .357 is batting 9th. ... The top OBP guys in July are batting 6-7-8-9: Ortiz (.368) Nixon (.421), Mueller (.500) and Varitek (.426). They are also the tops in OBP for the last 30 days: Nixon (.456), Mueller (.455), Varitek (.398), Ortiz (.380). ... Damon and Walker should be switched with Nixon and Mueller. Now.
July 19, 2003
Link to the Bill James profile in The New Yorker; another James profile from pitch.com.
Damon 1st .331
Walker 2nd .335
Nixon 7th .409
Mueller 8th .404
Could the Red Sox please give the players with the better on-base percentage more plate appearances? Thank you. Redrum summed up the current mindset of this Red Sox Sox fan: "I hate this team. If I didn't love them so much I'd stop watching."
July 17, 2003
Armando Benitez is now a New York Yankee. While many in the Nation are upset that a division rival has acquired a reliever with excellent numbers in games in which he is not imploding, I'm thrilled with the deal. (And my Yankee fan wife is wailing and gnashing her teeth, hoping to awake from what must obviously be a nightmare!) The Yankee party line is that a change of scenery will help and Benitez will feel less pressure being a set-up guy for Rivera rather than shouldering the closer load himself. I disagree. First, myriad statheads have showed that more games are lost in the 7th and 8th innings than the 9th. And those frames will apparently be Armando Time. And second, how can there be less pressure setting up in the Bronx for a first place team (and a very impatient boss) than closing for a last place team whose own fans know is going nowhere? I don't buy it. Did the Yankees made this deal in part to keep Benitez out of Boston? I doubt we'll ever know the true extent of the Red Sox's desire for Benitez, but I have to believe it was very slight. ... What was also amusing about reading the New York papers was that until very recently, Cashman was saying the Yankees wanted nothing to do with Benitez, and now he is saying Benitez, "by far, stands head and shoulders above anybody else available." It's probably not exaggerating too much to say that Cashman has put his job on the line with this trade. ... I sense that many Yankee fans will be watching Benitez as we watched Mendoza earlier this season. How many good outings does he need to post before you don't cringe when he comes out of the pen?
Since 2000, Benitez has the same percentage of saves converted as Troy Percival (87.9), which is not much lower than Rivera's (88.4). Comparing Benitez to Rivera in those 3½ years, Benitez strikes out more batters (fewer balls in play) and walks fewer batters per 9 innings and has a lower opponents' batting average (.188 to .213). Benitez's career opponents batting average with men on base (.172) is lower than Rivera's mark in 1996, when he set-up (.210) and lower than Jeff Nelson's average from 1996 to 2000) (.237). So is perception getting in the way of reality? ... We'll know how well Benitez deals with the Bronx -- and a teammate who said he was "about as reliable as a schizophrenic on crack" -- soon enough. If Torre keeps with his plan of bringing new guys into games right away, it might even be tonight -- under the harsh lights of Yankee Stadium.
July 16, 2003
This deal would be so bad for Boston it hardly merits mentioning, but ...: "A Red Sox source confirmed that there have been at least internal discussions involving a three-way deal among the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers in which Boston would get Jeff Weaver, the Yankees would get Juan Gonzalez, and the Rangers would get two Sox prospects, possibly Kevin Youkilis and Freddie Sanchez." ... John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times, with another way to make the All-Star game count: "Players on the winning team each get a private jet out of town; the losers get a middle seat in coach on a commercial flight."
July 15, 2003
Judging from Sunday's 3-0 loss to Detroit, the Red Sox began their All-Star break one day early. It was also one of the weakest lineups of the season. Manny was absent for personal reasons (and may not have played anyway), Walker got a day off (before the All-Star break?) and Damon was back at the top of the order. Now Ledezma threw a beauty, so maybe it wouldn't have made any difference, but isn't Grady's job to construct the best possible lineup? What is particularly galling is that this crap comes after Grady pointed out (pace not having Pedro face the Yankees) that games against the Tigers and Devil Rays are just as important in the long run as those against New York. And yet here is Gump -- again -- not putting his team in the best position to win. But as Grady would be only too quick to say, "You can't win them all. My boys tried their best and that's all you can ask. Now I'm taking them all out to Dairy Queen for ice cream."
Roger Clemens has replaced Barry Zito on the AL All-Star team. The announcement was a surprise to Zito: "If I had some black-and-white explanation, it would make more sense. It has nothing to do with me or my physical situation. I don't know if they didn't feel comfortable with me pitching on one days' rest. I could have given them more than the one batter I had last year." So many pitchers deserved the honor more: Mussina, Hudson, even Joel Piniero, who has won more games, lost fewer games, has a lower ERA, pitched more innings, allowed fewer hits and given up fewer home runs than Clemens.
A bigger non-story is that the Sox were down because Pedro and Manny were not with the team Sunday. If this team needs these two guys cheerleading on the bench to beat the likes of Detroit, let's just concede this season and look ahead to 2004. ... Mazz grades the Red Sox ... Mark Fidrych advises Dontrelle Willis ... BP interviews Kevin Youkilis. ... Josh Levin: "If rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for General Motors, then rooting for this year's Mets is like rooting for a used Oldsmobile with a persistent urine smell."
July 12, 2003
Pedro is on track for the upcoming Red Sox/Yankees series, but Roger Clemens is not.
Boston's bullpen over the last 6 games:
IP H R ER BB K ERA WHIP 19.1 14 2 1 4 26 0.47 0.93
July 11, 2003
Pedro v. NY Update: Gump Little changes his mind: "We've talked about it with all of our people again and probably what we're going to do is start Pedro on Sunday (July 20 against Toronto) and then start Friday (July 25) against the Yankees." Translation: Theo hit the roof when he heard what I said yesterday and he smacked some sense into me. Pedro is happy with the decision. [New York response here and here]
Red Sox relievers in Toronto: 12 innings, 7 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 15 strikeouts. "You guys gotta get off the bullpen,'' Millar told the media. ... The L.A. Times reports the Dodgers were set to send Odalis Perez to Boston for Trot Nixon, but backed off Sunday from what would have been a multiplayer deal ... Clip and save: John Sickles picks the 2008 All-Stars (AL 3B: Kevin Youkilis, Boston). ... J. Kelly Nestruck, National Post: "At about 4 p.m., the newsroom hotline rang. It was Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox. ... [He] had found my cell phone after I forgot it in a taxi."
July 10, 2003
Huge win. The Nation bitched about Grady's moves as the Sox rallied -- in the end, I would have liked to seen Embree against the lefties in the 9th -- but Kim (pitching for the 4th straight day) struck out the side, including Wells and Delgado. Kim actually convinced Grady to let him pitch to Delgado instead of walking him; Mirabelli said Kim is "confident almost to the point of arrogance." Kim: "[A]s a closer I wanted to face him. And as closer, I wanted to get him out and get the faith of the team and the manager.''
WTF? In arranging the post All-Star rotation, Grady says Pedro may not face the Yankees in Fenway. Grady penciled in Lowe for the first game back, mentioned having another sinkerballer (Mendoza) following Lowe, and Pedro pitching the third game. Why not have Pedro pitch on the 12th as planned, get 4 days rest and start on the 17th? [Gump: "I don't want him flying in from the Dominican Republic and pitching the first game.''] He would then be on track to close the Yankees series on the 27th.
July 10 at Blue Jays Mendoza Mendoza
July 11 at Tigers Burkett Burkett
July 12 at Tigers Pedro Pedro
July 13 at Tigers Wakefield Wakefield
July 14 OFF
July 15 All-Star
July 16 OFF
July 17 Blue Jays Lowe Pedro
July 18 Blue Jays Mendoza Lowe
July 19 Blue Jays Pedro Wakefield
July 20 Blue Jays Wakefield Burkett
July 21 Tigers Burkett Mendoza
July 22 Tigers Lowe Pedro
July 23 Devil Rays Mendoza Lowe
July 24 Devil Rays Pedro Wakefield
July 25 Yankees Wakefield Burkett
July 26 Yankees Burkett Mendoza
July 27 Yankees Lowe Pedro
July 28 OFF
I don't know if this would work. Grady has Lowe and Mendoza on 7 days rest and Wakefield on 6 (though he could also relieve during that time). I have Lowe on 8 days rest, Mendoza on 10 days rest (he could relieve), Burkett on 8 and Wakefield on 5. And I don't know if my 3 pitchers are (overall) any better than Grady's.
Joe Torre (of course) is working things so Mussina and Pettitte will pitch in Boston; he also said he wouldn't try to avoid pitching Clemens in Fenway. ... Jason Varitek was voted the AL All-Star team's 32nd man ... A different mid-season classic: Stars v. Snubs. ... According to Ron Chimelis, Steinbrenner is "acting like the Cowardly Lion, snarling at Toto but crumbling when Dorothy gets in his face." ... And separated at birth? Ortiz & Esther Rolle ... Thanks to Art Martone's latest notebook, I've bookmarked Larry Mahnken's Yankee blog. Good analysis at first glance, including a look at the Red Sox/Yankees lineup by batting order (scroll down to July 6; he gives a slight advantage to Boston). He also thinks Bernie Williams should be moved to left, a move I agree with -- and one Torre clearly won't do, for fear of "dissing" Bernie. ... Pittsburgh's Randall Simon was questioned by sheriff's officers after hitting one of the Brewers sausage mascots with a bat. [Milwaukee news report]
July 9, 2003
The war of words continues.
Pedro: "Georgie Porgie, he might buy the whole league, but he doesn't have enough money to buy fear to put in my heart."
Cashman: Martinez "almost decided the entire A.L. East race with two pitches."
Grady: "He's seen Roger Clemens pitch a lot for his team. What's he seeing there? ... That's how you play the game. All of our hitters know the way Roger Clemens pitches. There's not a whole lot of conversation about that."
Jeter: "I don't think there has ever been anybody who said they tried to hit somebody."
Millar: "Remember, they ruffled the feathers first. They're the ones who talked stupid. And if they want to get into any headhunting thing, we've got the ultimate headhunter on our side. No one stands up for their teammates better than you [Pedro] do. ... This has turned into a big old stupid thing and it started with his [Clemens's] stupid comment that I should have got out of the way of his 95-mile-an-hour fastball. The classy thing would have been to call the clubhouse and see if I was OK."
Millar: "Put it this way: In a Clemens-Pedro matchup, see how many times Clemens throws at somebody. I guarantee nine guys in the Yankees lineup would say (to Clemens), 'Please don't throw at someone today.' Put together a Clemens-Pedro matchup and we'll see how many times he throws at people.''
Pedro, on whether Clemens threw at Millar: "I have no idea. It's obvious he was the one getting lit up. I wasn't."
My anti-Grady rants may sound like a broken record, but nearly every night he does something so bone-numbingly stupid that it cannot be ignored. How many lost wins this translates to, I don't know, but I'll bet it's at least three. And again, last night, against Toronto (in a series Boston really has to win 2 of 3, with the Yankees playing 37-50 Cleveland), he wasted 2 of his top 3 relievers knowing the game was quite likely going into extra innings.
After Wakefield threw an impressive 7 innings (98 pitches), Timlin threw 8 pitches in the 8th and Embree threw 7 pitches in the 9th. Little brought in Todd Jones for the 10th and 11th. Once the Sox scored in the 12th (after leaving the bases loaded in both the 10th and 11th), Kim got the save. So everything worked out for the best -- Jones retired all 6 batters he faced and looked good doing it -- but limiting Timlin and Embree to a combined 15 pitches, when Timlin had 4 days of rest and Embree had 3, was not ideal, considering the game could have gone more than 12 innings. Jones had actually pitched twice for a total of 3.1 innings since Timlin's outing. ... I'm also wondering, in light of Grady's late-inning bench moves: did Freddy Sanchez get caught messing with Gump's wife? I hope he plays tonight with Lowe on the mound. ... The Yankees were one-hit by Cleveland's Billy Traber, who retired the last 24 batters he faced (Flaherty's 3rd inning single was the lone NY base runner). With 74 games to play, Boston is 3 games back ...
One interesting thing Gump did: When Toronto pitching coach Gil Patterson turned around and spoke to Juan Acevedo a second time at the mound in the 10th, Little spoke with the home plate umpire, who ruled Acevedo had to leave the game after the current batter (Varitek). Although perhaps if Acevedo (who surrendered a single, double and walk with two outs) had stayed in the game, it would have been better for Boston. Toronto replaced him with a lefty who retired Nixon for the third out.
I was shocked to see Nixon leading off against Halladay. I hope Nixon (.403 OBP) stays at the top of the order (against RHP anyway), but since he went 0-6 and Damon (at #7 and a .317 OBP) went 3-4, Gump may go back to the more "traditional" lineup. He did say he would try Mueller too. What I'd like to see:
Rob Neyer interview with Larry Dierker, who has written a book: "This Ain't Brain Surgery: How to Win the Pennant Without Losing Your Mind" (excerpt here). Dierker on how to introduce the thinking of Bill James into the game and retain the respect of his players:
When I was broadcasting, there was a guy named Steve Mann who came down here to work in our baseball operations department ... we spent many a night having a beer and talking about the game -- about which strategies were antiquated, and which ones were still applicable. I also read a lot of the Bill James stuff, and so I learned what people who didn't have a personal investment in the game had to say about it. ...
When I became the manager, I kind of knew what were the smart things to do. But I also knew that if I did all of them, it would be at the expense of my credibility with the players. With that in mind, I just had to use my instincts to both win the game and keep the whole team in the spirit of pulling together. I didn't want to come off as an egghead guy who was just looking at numbers and ignoring people, and sometimes those considerations ran into each other. ... Whenever I was in a flip-a-coin sort of situation I'd usually make the move that I thought the players wanted me to make, because it really doesn't make that much difference, one way or the other. And you have to consider what the players are going to think."
Cubs skipper Dusty Baker is in the news:
It's easier [the heat] for most Latin guys and it's easier for most minority people. Most of us come from heat. You don't find too many brothers from New Hampshire and Maine and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Right? We were brought over here for the heat, right? Isn't that history? ... [Blacks'] skin color is more conducive to heat than it is for lighter skin people, right? You don't see brothers running around burnt. Yeah, that's fact. I'm not making this stuff up. Right? You don't see some brothers walking around with white stuff [sun block] on their ears and noses.
Damian Jackson offered his thoughts. Also: An update on Rick Ankiel in AA. ... Larry Stone of the Seattle Times on keeping score. ... Also, there was a rumor Tuesday that Darryl Strawberry had died.
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