Thursday, July 3, 2008

10 Pre-Fourth of July Thoughts

Well I'm just as frustrated about that abomination in Tampa as the next guy. Let's be clear too, the best team definitely DID win each of those games. Just as frustrating to me are the last two games of the Houston series, which they lost but could have won each as Saturday saw a bullpen implosion in the late innings and Sunday saw them strand 13 runners en route to only scoring 2 and losing 3-2.

Enough on that. Here are 10 thoughts for you heading into this holiday weekend.

1) One of my biggest concerns for the team heading into the year was having two pitchers on the staff in Dice-K and Jon Lester that seemingly needed acts of god to get through five innings in under 100 pitches. Lester has moved towards alleviating that knock on him, but of his last ten starts, only 6 would be qualified as "quality" (6+ IP, >3 ER) so obviously there still is room for improvement. Dice-K conversely has only pitched 6+ innings three times in his last ten starts. To call that atrocious would be kind. The guy is supposed to be the team's number two starter. Bottom line that is unacceptable and the Red Sox will NOT be able to hang in the race if Dice-K continues on with his five and dive routine.

2) I don't want to spout hyperbole and I don't want to be over-dramatic but I think Jon Lester's start tonight against the Yankees is the biggest of his career to date. Not only do they absolutely need a win tonight, but seven or eight strong out of Lester would be an enormous boost to the team. Furthermore, with a solid showing against an equally patient and potent lineup like the Yankees who will be fresh off hanging an 18 spot on Texas, Lester can prove once and for all that he can beat all comers and not just middling, impatient offenses. He took a great step in this direction in his start against Philly a couple of weeks ago (7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 1 BB) but unfortunately now, freshest in our mind is his 5 inning, 6 run and 9 hit affair last Saturday at Houston. Still, the biggest step possible for him in his career right now would be subduing a lineup of the Yankees ilk as he has historically had trouble with deep, patient ones. In his 5 career starts against Cleveland, Detroit, and the Yankees he has a 7.40 ERA in 24.1 IP while allowing 47 baserunners (31 hits, 16 BB) in that time. As I said, a win and quality start tonight goes a long way towards Jon Lester dispelling the notion that he can't beat the big boys. And it could not come at a better time either.

3) I'm really glad that Delcarmen and Hansen went right back to sucking after I talked them up the other day. I really don't know how much more slack these two can be given. It seems like we have been one step forward four steps back with them for the past two years. At some point they just need to move on. Can Justin Masterson and maybe Portland Sea Dog hot shot Michael Bowdoin make it in the late innings? Who knows but it has to be worth a shot. As for what becomes of Manny and Craig? Well I still think they have value to other teams and I can almost promise you that packaging those two guys to an NL team can 100% net them either a good veteran reliever or an outfield bat. Problem is, I hate trading for relievers because doesn't it seem like those moves NEVER pan out? Relievers are just so damn streaky you hate to put too much stock in a mid-season acquisition even if they are having a good year. The Eric Gagne disaster is a recent and disturbing memory, but let's not forget the Scott Sauerback and Scott Williamson disasters of 2003. In fairness to Scott Williamson, despite his 6.20 ERA during the regular season with the Sox he did pitch lights out in the postseason that year while Sauerback did not even make the roster. Still, as a point I really don't like the idea of mid-season bullpen acquisitions and because of that I think the Sox will just have to get creative with what they have.

4) I am feeling a monster weekend series for Manny in New York. He always plays great at the Stadium and I think he is right about at the point where he is going to explode. 3 HR and 10 RBI over the 4 game set would not shock me.

5) Dustin Pedroia bottomed out at .262 on June 15. Less than three weeks later he is now standing at .311. That is crazy. He has raised his batting average almost 50 points in just 16 games.

6) The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of making a run for CC Sabathia if he can be had for a reasonable price. While another bat or bullpen help may be a more pressing, big picture need, I must admit that the thought of bringing aboard a second pitcher that along with Beckett you can pencil in for 7+ good innings pretty much every start is a very tantalizing option. Right now the Sox really don't have a certifiable Number 2 starter and I really believe the entire staff, especially the bullpen would be greatly bolstered by adding another front of the rotation, good to great innings-HAeater to the fold.

7) If I had to put my money on the Yankee I think will kill the Sox all weekend, I would have to say that Yankee would be Jason Giambi. He always seems to kill them (career .270 hitter against them with 33 HR and 103 RBI in 163 games) and do you realize that he leads the team in home runs and is second in RBI? No joke. The guy is having a great season and will probably find his way on to the AL All Star team. It's amazing when you think about all that he has put himself through the past few years that he is playing as well as he is. Then again, it is a walk year for him. (And notice I said "put himself through" and not "gone through". Pretty much every piece of adversity that Giambi has faced he has brought upon himself. With that being said, there is something about the guy that I really like. If I could pick one big leaguer to go out for a night of debauchery with, he would probably top my list.)

8) It looks it is so long to James Posey. You hate to see him go, but you have to understand the circumstances too. I know that he could still conceivably re-sign with the C's - and I'd love to see that happen - but if some team out there ponies up four or five years for him and the C's are only offering him between one and three, then he has to take the longer deal right? Because he really only has value to a winning team, where ever he goes the team should at least be decent and with that in mind I figure he will take the guaranteed cash. At 31, this is probably his last chance to score a relatively long term, big money, guaranteed NBA deal and if he spurns the Celtics for money from another top tier team than I really cannot begrudge him. In his shoes, I'd probably do the same thing. His contributions to the team in the regular season and playoffs were pretty comparable with what Keith Foulke brought to the 2004 Red Sox. Ignoring what went on with Foulke from 2005 on, that is awfully high praise for Mr. Posey and he will be missed.

9) Did you all see the item in the Globe the other day about how Sam Cassell wants to come back to the Celtics for one more year and then become an assistant coach on the staff starting in 2009-2010 a la Avery Johnson? A little presumptuous no? Seriously, is there any reason whatsoever that Sam Cassell should be brought back? I really could not think of a stupider move for the team that wouldn't involve bringing back Vin Baker, Raef LaFrentz, and Dino Rajda. Honestly, three months of Sam Cassell damn near brought me to my grave so I can't even imagine what seven or eight months would do.

10) Football season is about 2 months away and quite honestly, I'm still hurting from the Pats Super Bowl defeat. It's tough to get too down on things when I see no reason going into the season that they should not be on the short list of Super Bowl contenders and probably the favorite if not the prohibitive favorite. Still, thinking about 18-1 just really, really sucks. So what is the cure for what ails me? I'd say a rousing blowout victory in Week One against the Chiefs with 250 yards and 3 TDs from Brady including a bomb to Randy Moss, 120 from Laurence Maroney, and a few big hit glimpses of the future from Jerod Mayo. That will do it. That will cure my still festering hangover. Until then though, the ghosts of last February 2 still loom large.

Happy 4th.

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