for July 23-31, 2003
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July 31, 2003 (II)
Boston's newest starting pitcher is Jeff Suppan. Going to Pittsburgh is Freddie Sanchez. And because the bit players from the July 22 deal are back with their original teams (and Lyon is returning to Boston), the entire deal boils down to: Suppan and Sauerbeck for Sanchez. And as much as I like Freddie Sanchez (even if he will be 26 next season), that's a really good deal. This afternoon on ESPN, Harold Reynolds stated the obvious when he said Theo has "embarrassed the field" this season.
IP ERA WHIP BB/9 K/9 Lowe 134.0 4.84 1.48 3.09 4.97 Wakefield 136.1 4.16 1.34 3.56 8.05 Burkett 115.1 4.99 1.42 2.89 5.85 Suppan 141.0 3.57 1.26 1.98 4.98
So what does the pitching staff look like?
Pedro Kim RH
Lowe Sauerbeck LH
Wakefield Williamson LH
Suppan Timlin RH
Burkett Embree LH
Jones/Mendoza RH (possible 12th man)
If Boston keeps an 11-man staff (and even if they go back to a 12-man), I see no way for Mendoza to stay with this team (many feel the Mendoza era should be over). And that is one loaded bullpen. ...
The Red Sox and Yankees are dueling, and Epstein (Kim, Sauerbeck, Williamson) has consistently kicked Cashman's ass (Benitez, Orosco) this summer. ... New York got ripped off when it sent its top prospect, Brandon Claussen, to Cincinnati for Aaron Boone. The Yanks also got Gabe White for a PTBNL and traded Ventura to LA for two minor leaguers. ... A story headlined "Red Sox GM is making Boss squirm" includes these sweet words from Theo's father, Leslie Epstein:
Is it true Steinbrenner summoned all of them down to Tampa? He must be asking them, 'How come this little jerk is making you guys look like fools?' They wanted both Scotts [Williamson and Sauerbeck] and we got them. We're supposed to have the depleted farm system, right? What's going on here? I don't like to gloat over [Brian] Cashman getting reamed by his boss, because I know he's a good guy, but if Darth Vader The Convicted Felon should be discomforted, well, it pleases me to no end. ... The fact that my son is part of doing that to him is even better. ... I've always been a Red Sox fan. I hated the Yankees so much. To me, rooting for them would be like voting Republican.
I love that entire family. ... Aaron Gleeman takes a long look at the Sox pen and likes what he sees (scroll down to July 30):
... I would say the current Boston bullpen has to be considered one of the best in baseball. ... In my opinion, a team can get by pretty well with 3 dependable relief pitchers in the playoffs, and having 4 is just a bonus. The Red Sox may have 5 and, at the very least, they have 2 guys that can definitely get the job done. ... [Williamson and Kim] are now, without a doubt, one of the top 1-2 punches in any bullpen. ...
The Red Sox have transformed their bullpen from bad to good and it's not only good, it's flexible. And it's all because Theo Epstein, Bill James and the rest of the Red Sox front office got together and decided it was dumb to let a meaningless statistic control the way they ran their bullpen. ... The Red Sox are for real this year. ... they've got smart people in the front office who are willing to do things that the media may not understand, because it won't matter what Peter Gammons and Harold Reynolds called their bullpen back in April when they're playing in October.
All we know for sure is that the Red Sox have decided they have a chance to win the World Series in 2003. ... You gotta love it. While George Steinbrenner issues statements, signs old guys, and worries about the Red Sox, Epstein keeps dealing for the best available Scott. ... These 2003 Red Sox are proactive. They're thinking like champions. They're not done yet. And they won't be done until they finally win the whole damn thing.
After tonight's start, Pedro Martinez will fly to Santo Domingo to join Juan Marichal and inaugurate the XIV Pan Am Games. Pedro will rejoin the Sox Monday in Boston and pitch against Anaheim on Wednesday.
July 31, 2003
Stupid is as stupid does. Wednesday's lineup:
Todd Walker is "hitting" .194/.231/.296 in July. Why, why, why, why is he hitting #3 (and #2 every other goddamn day)? ... [banging head on desk] ... And during last night's game, Mendoza (who had no sinker at all (again)) was pulled with Texas ahead 6-1 in the 5th -- not completely out of reach. Gump brings in Shiell, fresh off the plane from Pawtucket, and likely the worst choice in the pen. Shiell hit a batter and then walked two to force in the 7th run. He was followed by Jones and Timlin. Now why did the Red Sox pitchers get better (talent-wise) as the game went on (and got further out of reach)? Timlin was obviously able to pitch tonight, so why couldn't he have been brought out in the fifth inning and (if possible) give the team a chance to come back (although Boston was helpless against Cy Ellis). ... Again, Gump Little proves he understands (and has learned) nothing about using his best pitchers in high leverage situations. And he allowed a game that was not out of reach trickle slowly into a sure loss. Again. ... My hope of maybe using the Committee idea was clearly a pipe dream. It was ridiculous to even consider it. ... Scott Williamson should join the club Friday in Baltimore.
From Todd Jones's latest column in The Sporting News:
In Boston, there is a distinct line between the media and the players. To be honest, the media here is brutal. They are the most negative spin doctors I've run into. They make big deals out of nothing. ... In fact, in spring training, there are meetings about how to handle the media in Boston. Reporters here ask the same question six different ways. They figure you're not smart enough to figure out they're asking the same question, and you'll answer it just to get them to leave you alone. They will ask the question like, "Do you think Player A or Player B should have caught the ball that cost you the game?" You give them Player A, and the headline says, "Jones says Player B didn't hustle, cost Sox the game." You're like, "Huh? What just happened?"
As seen on Musings from RSN blog:
slugging average (minimum 5000 plate appearances)
1 Babe Ruth .690
2 Ted Williams .634
3 Lou Gehrig .632
4 Jimmie Foxx .609
5 Hank Greenberg .605
6 Manny Ramirez .599
7 Barry Bonds .595
8 Mark McGwire .588
9 Joe DiMaggio .579
10 Rogers Hornsby .577
July 30, 2003
Hot Damn! Boston's newest relief pitcher is Scott Williamson (traded from Cincinnati for Phil Dumatrait, a PTBNL and between $1 and 2 million). Theo Epstein says the chance of Kim returning to the rotation this season is "remote". Epstein added: "We did not use all of our resources for this trade. That's what I like about this deal, it leaves the door open for making another trade." (Suppan perhaps?) ... Some stories from the Cincinnati papers here and here and here.
Has a bullpen been improved so much in so short a time? Look at who has been out and in since April:
If it happens, it'll never be called by name, but NOW would be the time for the bullpen-by-committee. Depending on match-ups and work load, Kim could close or Williamson could close with Kim throwing the 7-8; Sauerbeck can be used for a spot lefty or two, freeing up Embree for one or two-inning stints. Kim, if rested, could perhaps go the middle three innings in a mop-up of a Mendoza or Burkett melt-down. The combinations are enticing. ... What statement will Steinbrenner release about this? Great Headline in Newsday about George summoning Cashman to Tampa: "Get Down Here and Fix It" ... Woo-hoo! Yes, I'm gloating, even if it is July.
Tuesday night: Bill Mueller (who is known far and wide as a "professional hitter") belted 3 home runs, including two grand slams, becoming the first player in history to hit grand slams from both sides of the plate in the same game. ... Here are the 12 players who have hit two grand slams in a game:
Player Team Date Innings Tony Lazzeri Yankees 5/24/36 2nd, 5th Jim Tabor Red Sox 7/ 4/39 3rd, 6th Rudy York Red Sox 7/27/46 2nd, 5th Jim Gentile Orioles 5/ 9/61 1st, 2nd Tony Cloninger Braves 4/ 3/66 1st, 4th Jim Northrup Tigers 6/24/68 5th, 6th Frank Robinson Orioles 6/26/70 5th, 6th Robin Ventura White Sox 9/ 4/95 4th, 5th Chris Hoiles Orioles 8/14/98 3rd, 8th Fernando Tatis Cardinals 4/23/99 3rd Nomar Garciaparra Red Sox 5/10/99 1st, 8th Bill Mueller Red Sox 7/29/03 7th, 8th
Mirabelli has been used as Wakefield's personal catcher because Grady feels he can handle the knuckleball better than Varitek. If that was once was true, it isn't anymore. Mirabelli was charged with four passed balls in four innings last night, and he mishandled a couple other pitches. It's time to stop this nonsense. Varitek is hitting too well to be benched like this. Let Mirabelli's starts be dictated by either an opposing lefty or when Varitek needs a breather, not because a certain Sox pitcher is on the hill. ... Boston is at #3 in CBS's Power Rankings (behind San Francisco and Atlanta (and ahead of the Yankees)).
The Yankees traded Raul Mondesi (due in part to "production" that was sinking like a rock and because after being miffed at being PH for on Saturday in Boston, he showered, dressed and left the park before the game was over). ... You know what's funny? Everyone and their grandmother laughs at how pathetic the Red Sox farm system is and how stocked the Yankees is. Check this out from the Times:
The Yankees' farm system is thin ... The lack of other prospects [other than Brandon Claussen] has caused the Yankees to miss out on Williamson, Sauerbeck and Ugueth Urbina ... the Reds believed they could have gotten more money from the Yankees than from Boston, but preferred the Red Sox's prospects. ...
July 29, 2003
to fear -- This could be Red Sox' year [Newark
Bombers in for a tough race [Bergen Record]
Fate sees Sox gain foothold -- Feeling is that curse may be history [New York Daily News]
No Relief from the Curse of the Armando [New York Post]
Are the Yankees worried? They (and especially their fans) should be. But King George has a message for RSN: ''We didn't play well in Boston, but I'm not getting down on anyone. It's a long season and a long way to go. They haven't won anything yet.'' Larry Lucchino thought the statement was "unusual" and Mike Lupica asked:
Who said they did? It is the Yankees who are in first place, who have the best record in the league, the Yankees who are always declared the winner of everything by the Yankee media every time they win any kind of big game. But Steinbrenner, with one line, sounded as if he is chasing them.
The back page of Lupica's paper? PANIC. ... If Boston is going to make a move and take over first, they are advised to do so before August 11. On that day, they begin a 25-game stretch (until September 7) playing teams with records all above .500.
A mystery AL executive tells Baseball Prospectus:
AL: The Red Sox stole Kim from the Diamondbacks. That was a great move for them, and a total f***up for Garagiola. Hillenbrand's the same ballplayer as at least 10 guys they could have had for free. Instead, they give up a quality arm that can work in any role on the club, and they're going to be clawing for a shot at the Wild Card. ... [Hillenbrand]'s not bad, but he's not worth Kim. Hillenbrand's no mystery. ...
BP: Who makes the postseason in the AL?
AL: The Yankees, Mariners, Royals, and Red Sox. ...
BP: Who wins the World Series?
AL: San Francisco.
Finally, John Sickles on the Greek God of Walks, who was just promoted to Pawtucket.
July 28, 2003
The wait between Saturday afternoon's game and Sunday night seemed longer than the All-Star break, but now that the Yankees series is in the books, it's good to have a day off to regroup before getting back to action. ... When Pedro faced Giambi with the based loaded in the second inning on Friday, I realized I was nervous and tense -- in the second inning? In retrospect, it made perfect sense. ... These three games showed how evenly matched Boston and New York are -- if I thought the Red Sox came thisclose to sweeping, there was at least one Yankees fan who thought his club was equally close to sweeping. ... They are very much alike, though I still have to give the edge to the Sox in offense, bullpen and bench. Winning the East doesn't seem like that big a obstacle at this point. ... Grady Little has gotten smarter. It was great to see him pinch-run Jackson for Walker on Sunday night in the middle of the 7th inning rally. Jackson should be playing second in the final two innings of any close game (unless Grady wants Walker to hit in the 8th), because Walker has zero range and Kim gives up ground balls. Many fans were shocked that Grady sent Ortiz up to hit on Saturday, but it seemed the logical choice. What shocked me was that it marked a clear shift in Grady's thinking -- he was managing to win, rather than accepting the tie and worrying about his infield alignment in the 10th. We''re going to need to see that attitude every day if the Sox are going to do anything this fall. ... Whether Theo has given him a pointer or two, I don't know, but Epstein has idiot-proofed the team quite a bit since April, lessening the chances of Little gumping a game away.
And still ... Damon and Walker are batting 1 & 2. This must stop immediately. There is no reason on Earth why Walker belongs in the 2 hole. And even with Damon's recent increase in getting on base, Nixon and Mueller should replace these two right away. I'm probably worrying too much about lineup construction, but even with this hi-octane offense, I want to see the guys who get on base most often to get the most trips to the plate.
Art Martone has noted the rub-it-in quality of the Gotham Saturday tabs:
Give Red Sox Fans Another Reason To Feel Cursed [New
Familiar Fenway Finish [New York Post]
Boston Left With Same Old Misery [New York Daily News]
Same Year After Year For Red Sox Faithful [Newsday]
In Rhode Island, even his own paper was not immune:
You get the feeling that the Red Sox and Yankees could play 100 close games, and the Red Sox would never find a way to win one. -- Sean McAdam, Providence Journal, July 26, 2003
I don't understand why every column has to be so extreme, either "the sky is falling" or "we're going all the way" (although honestly, "we're going all the way" columns are pretty rare in the Boston media). I suppose it's easier to write cliches than a thought-provoking piece, but it makes for some odd juxtapositions. When Boston rallied to win the final two games, closing the AL East to 1½ games, some writers, like John Harper of the Daily News, now wondered if some type of seismic shift had taken place:
By the end of the night, however, the Sox looked more defiant than desperate. Suddenly all the history between these teams didn't seem to matter even a little bit, as the Sox pulled off a stunning 6-4 comeback victory that had to leave Yankee fans considering a frightening possibility: What if the mojo between these teams has truly changed? ...
The Sox didn't just win a big one. They sent the Yankees heading for the West Coast muttering to themselves after the kind of late-inning collapse that is supposed to happen to the team with the fabled curse in these games. ... By game's end, everything had changed. Perhaps for good.
Well that's a bit much, even for me, but luckily for Yankees fans, Mike Vaccaro of the Post stuck to the script:
... Nobody truly believes the Red Sox made any kind of permanent dent into this AL East race this weekend, even if they did win two of the three thrilling games that will leave New England hoarse for the rest of the week. The Yankees certainly don't believe that. And shouldn't. ...
The Yankees and Red Sox will meet again at Fenway on August 29-30-31 ...
News: Casey Fossum was optioned to AAA and Lou Collier called up. Fossum will be stretched out in anticipation of starting one of the games in a doubleheader with Baltimore on August 8. The move gives the Red Sox 14 position players (and 11 pitches) for the first time all season. Collier played mostly left field and shortstop in Pawtucket.
July 27, 2003
July 25, 2003
Three games against the Yanks, and both cities are buzzing about hit by pitches. (New York: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7; Boston: 1 and 2 and 3. The Daily News featured this headline: "Sox Make Sweeping Vow: Expect to finish weekend in first," but there is nothing about sweeping in the story. The closest thing is Damon: "We feel like we've got the upper hand. We know we can get to them (the Yanks). We did it before - we'll do it again." ... Boston's team slugging percentage is .502, well above the major league record of .489, set by the 1927 Yankees. ... RC27 chart from Eric Van:
---- ----- ---- -----
Nixon, Trot 7.74
Giambi, Jason 7.56
Ramirez, Manny 7.52
Mueller, Bill 6.89
Garciaparra, Nomar 6.43
Varitek, Jason 6.42
Posada, Jorge 6.29
Millar, Kevin 6.19
Soriano, Alfonso 6.06
Ortiz, David 5.97
Jeter, Derek 5.95
Mondesi, Raul 5.23
Williams, Bernie 5.10
Matsui, Hideki 5.06
Damon, Johnny 4.84
Sierra, Ruben 4.63
Walker, Todd 4.49
Ventura, Robin 4.29
Giambi, Jeremy 4.20
Garcia, Karim 3.74
Zeile, Todd 3.39
Mirabelli, Doug 2.95
Jackson, Damien 2.61
Flaherty, John 2.18
Wilson, Enrique 1.50
Eric also notes: "Soriano is one 0 for 4 away from being the player on either team who is on base least often to be knocked in by his teammates, but he hits first. Bernie Williams is the second worst player on either team for knocking in his teammates, but he's the Yankees' cleanup hitter." Wow ... a lineup even more screwy than Gump's.
Friday's pet peeve: The pitch-by-pitch accounts at MLB, ESPN and CBS are often wrong, sometimes wildly wrong. Baseball is a game in which every little action is recorded; how hard is it to watch pitches? This is from CBS and my scorecard of Wednesday's game on NESN (T/B serves as both Tampa/Boston and top/bottom):
T2 Baldelli bss bsf
T3 Hall cf ff
T4 Martin c s
B5 Mirabelli bbsc bbss [Mirabelli K on 3 big swings]
T6 Perez SAC7 b-sb-cs SAC7
T6 Huff cf ss
B7 Damon b bb
B7 Giambi bscb sbcb
B7 Damon bsbfb bsfbb
T8 Huff CBS referred to fielder's choice as double play
B8 Jackson bfbbc bsbbc
Umpires have different hand signals for a swinging or called strike, as well as a separate signal for a foul tip. So what's the big deal? Reporting Huff's FC as DP is also quite common at CBS; double plays are also often labelled as triple plays. And check out Perez's 6th inning at-bat -- CBS says he hit a sacrifice fly on the first pitch, when actually, there was a ball (and a stolen base), a called strike and a swinging strike before the fly out.
By comparison, MLB (which in the past had a habit of double counting balls and fouls) had the correct pitches in all of the above except Baldelli's 2nd inning. MLB also erred in saying Perez's sacrifice fly went to right instead of left. In Thursday's day game, CBS screwed up a few more times.
B6 Millar bccf fbcf
T9 Crawford bff bfcf
T9 Perez CBS did not include his at-bat (cbbb/5-3)
Another annoying thing is not giving the actual play that retired the batter. MLB, for all its faults, is the only website that does the right thing. Everyone else describes various outs like this:
grounded out to first was the play 3U or 3-1?
grounded out to pitcher was the play 1-3 or 1U?
fly out to left center who caught the ball?
fly out to right center who caught the ball?
struck out might have been thrown out 2-3
sacrificed to pitcher could have been 1-3, 1-4, 1U
also seen as sacrificed to first/third/catcher
out advancing to second gives no information on who made the play
out at home give no information re: relay/assist
out at second/third on FC, again no information on who made the play
July 24, 2003
Is Grady Little getting smarter? Starting Ortiz and Giambi last night was smart; bringing in Sauerbeck to begin an inning facing lefties was smart; putting Jackson in to run (and then play 2B) foir Walker was really smart. What the hell is happening here? Is Grady learning? Or is Theo idiot-proofing the team? Whatever it is, I'm impressed. Grady hasn't pulled an obvious Gump move since the All-Star break. [One note: He let Mirabelli hit to start the 7th and then pinch-ran Kapler for him; why not simply let Varitek pinch-hit and save Kapler for later in the game?]
I got one. I finally got one.
I'm looking at it now. Truth be told, it doesn't look different than any of a dozen or so other hardballs we have lying around the house. ... For 40 years -- which is how long I've been going to big-league games -- I've been on the outside of an exclusive club: Those who caught/grabbed/recovered a foul ball, or a home-run ball, or a batting-practice ball, at the park. On any given day or night, this club expands by several dozen people. Yet I'd never gotten one. I'd never even come close.
July 23, 2003
Trade: Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez (AA closer) to Pittsburgh for two left-handed pitchers, Scott Sauerbeck and Mike Gonzalez (AAA). Sauerbeck, 31, should be in Fenway tonight (trade and stats discussed here, here, here, here and here). (The Yankees yesterday picked up 72-year-old Jesse Orosco.) Because New York was also interested in Sauerbeck, news of the trade was not well received in Yankeeland. ... I like this deal. Lyon was picked up for a mere bag of shells, did very well in April and was used to acquire an upgrade. In essence, Boston gets Sauerbeck, Gonzalez and four months of Lyon for Martinez and $20,000 (Lyon's waiver price)." And Theo pissed off Steinbrenner and Cashman. What's not to like?
From Bill Madden:
Meanwhile, an interested observer of all this Yankee-Red Sox intrigue last night was Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, who smiled and shook his head when someone suggested the Yankee owner was not happy about the Red Sox getting Sauerbeck.
"You think he's mad now?" said Ricciardi. "Wait till they get Escobar!" ...
Cashman['s] Plan B was to trade struggling and expensive Sterling Hitchcock to the Cardinals for the equally struggling and nearly-as-expensive lefty reliever Steve Kline. "Dreck for dreck" is the way one baseball official described it. Unfortunately, the Cardinals, after seeing Hitchcock continue to pitch like dreck Monday night against the Blue Jays here, decided to keep their own dreck.
Ha! (JP was apparently kidding.) ... Derek Lowe said last night's 7-4 win was his best game of the season. Throwing sinkers and changeups almost exclusively, he threw just 85 pitches in 8 innings and got 18 of his 24 outs on the ground. ... Bill Mueller is a professional hitter ... Nomar turns 30 today; here is an annoying column about the man. ... With the Tuesday rainout in New York, the weekend match-ups are now: Pedro/Wells, Burkett/Mussina and Lowe/Weaver.
Boston Herald: Ex-umpire supervisor Phil Janssen has told the National Labor Relations Board that former MLB VP Ralph Nelson destroyed evidence that showed the Questec pitch tracking system was being manipulated. The alleged shredding occurred in Bud Selig's New York City office on July 19, 2002. MLB also allegedly offered hush money to a whistleblower who witnessed the shredding.
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