Thursday, August 14, 2008

Again, Four Thoughts for Thursday

1) Gary Sheffield has cleared waivers. Granted, Sheff is past his prime and incredibly injury prone these days. And oh yeah, he has another year at $14M left on his contract. But if the Sox can get the Tigers to pay all of his salary this year and between $8-10M of it next year then wouldn't he be a nice little addition to the lineup?

I don't care what state he is in, Gary Sheffield is always a menacing presence when he steps up to the plate and with Mike Lowell on the 15 day DL and maybe out longer, adding some right-handed pop to the lineup would be much appreciated. This is nothing against Sean Casey, but Sheffield brings an intimidation factor to the lineup that Casey just doesn't. They could play him at times at first base while Lowell is out and at other times in the outfield - against tough lefties maybe? - to give Ellsbury and Drew some time off. Sheffield may not be what he once was, but he would slide very nicely into the five or six hole of the lineup. I know it's not the 2004 Gary Sheffield that the Sox would be getting but he sure would be an intriguing addition.

There is one red flag here, and that is the fact that he wants out of Detroit because he does not want to be a platoon player. Well in Detroit he really is not, but in Boston he most certainly would be for this year and next. He is Gary Sheffield though and I think Tito would find a way to get him into about 80% of the games moving forward this year and probably about 75% next year. Next year is tough though because the Sox have locked up each one of their starting positions for 2009 including DH with the exception of catcher. I still think he could get 450 ABs or so shuffling between first base and the corner outfield spots next year if he so chooses to take on that super-utility role. And let's be honest, at this stage in his career, that is the type of player that he is. He will not find his way - on any winning team at least - as an everyday starter next year.

If they were to pull the trigger on a deal for him - and I seriously doubt they will even with the Tigers picking up a good portion of the tab - they would need to run the playing time scenario by Sheffield, a notorious malcontent. If he says he is cool with it on account of his vocal desire of always wanting to play in Boston then giddyup. If not, then oh well.

2) One more Gary Sheffield thought that I don't think most people realize. He should be a Hall of Famer. Seriously. Over his 21 year career he has an OPS+ of 141. He will retire with 500+ HR, a batting average in the .290s, and 1700+ RBI. Most telling though is that of the ten most comparable players to him via, five are current Hall of Famers (Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams, and Mike Schmidt) and the other five are recent or current players who are either a lock for the Hall of Fame (Ken Griffey Jr.), a near lock (Frank Thomas), very high-end borderline candidates (Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff), or a former lock who has disgraced himself (Sammy Sosa). Regardless, that is very impressive company.

3) The popular concern for the Patriots heading into training camp was the cornerback situation. Apparently, if you believe what the Globe's Mike Reiss has been reporting (and I do as he is for my money the best beat reporter by far covering any of the Boston teams) then this unit actually looks okay and has the potential to be much better than expected, buoyed by second round pick Terrence Wheatley and free agent pickup Fernando Bryant. The secondary may also add veteran John Lynch to the mix which I guess is a plus. If the Pats were ever to lineup Lynch and Rodney Harrison at safety at the same time they would certainly be one of the most intimidating units - from a hitting perspective - in the league. Unfortunately they would also probably be the oldest and coming from a defense that already features Teddy Bruschi, Harrison, and maybe Junior Seau I can't exactly say this is a good thing. Still, you can never have too much good secondary depth, especially now that free agent acquisition Tank Williams is gone for the year and from that standpoint I really think a Lynch signing would help.

And now comes the "but" from above. While the secondary has the potential to be better than expected, a rash of injuries on the O-line has the potential to ravage the season. With both Matt Light and Stephen Neal hurt and the looming OxyContin mess with Nick Kaczur, the Pats could be starting the season VERY under-manned in that department. That aint good folks. We saw what shaky O-line play could do in the Super Bowl and while that is an extreme example, no QB no matter how good can do what they want to do without protection. Let's remember the late Bledsoe Era when he spent most of his time (slowly) running for his life, taking sacks, and throwing bad picks. I'm not saying that is destined to happen but with the exceptions of a truly awful defense or a truly awful QB, nothing can sink a season like poor play from the offensive line. The first two are unlikely to happen so if the Pats are going to have a big Achillies Heal this year, more than likely the offensive line will take that title.

4) Just for fun, Jed Lowrie's 550 AB RBI pace is now up to 126 after 2 RBI in each of the last two games. Like I said, that number is really not sustainable seeing as he has a good but not spectacular .451 slugging percentage (comparable to Dustin Pedroia's .459 for reference). Still, it's fun to throw the RBI pace out there because it is so impressive. I really could not be happier about the Red Sox DP combination of the present and future in Pedroia and Lowrie.

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