Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Lightning 4.18.2010

  • Cinco de Mayo----your over/under day for Red Sox Nation panic:

In case anyone hadn't noticed, the Red Sox have the exact same record (4-7) as the Mets.

The main difference is that the Red Sox recent history of success has shielded them from the full-blown abandon ship mentality prevalent in Mets fandom (of which I, sadly, am a willing participant).

In short, the Red Sox have earned some leeway; the Mets haven't.

Even with that wiggle room the Red Sox have, there's no denying that the concerns from objective analysts (again, of which I'm one) that they simply do not have the firepower to score enough with their newfound emphasis on defense is coming true in the first two weeks of the season.

They're old; they're carrying hitters coming off their career years and cashing in; their lineup is pockmarked with limited hitters and declining stars. Aside from Dustin Pedroia, none of their veteran stars are pulling their weight. You can pretty much guarantee that Kevin Youkilis's production will be up to his career expectation by the end of the season. Victor Martinez will start hitting as well. But what of the other imperative bats from whom they need to get something, anything?

David Ortiz is again facing questions of his declining bat speed and non-existent power; Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre are----and were predicted to be----limited offensive players. Marco Scutaro is Marco Scutaro. All the pitching the club has isn't going to do much good if they can't score; and there's no getting past a club that has failed in the clutch and is currently 10th in the league in runs scored and last in home runs. Much like the signing of Julio Lugo, it's not as if they weren't warned.

It's 11 games; there's no reason to panic....yet; there's no denying that there are issues that have to be causing quiet consternation inside and outside the Red Sox that will eventually reach the boiling point. The club's success and intelligence in the John Henry/Theo Epstein era has earned them time to hope their plans come to fruition; but this is not to suggest they're infallible. As the bullpen-by-committee experiment failed miserably in 2003; as they collapsed in 2006; and adjusted their plans in mid-stream without openly admitting as such, the same thing is going to happen if they continue playing like this.

The offensive woes are going to spur them to do something desperate sooner rather than later; and that will lead them to again pursuing Adrian Gonzalez. The inherent pomposity is evident in the likes of Mike Francesa who masks ignorance with arrogance as he states something to the tune of (I'm paraphrasing): "when the Red Sox need something, they'll just go out and get it" as if it's that easy.

It wasn't that easy in 2006 as each and every deal they attempted fell apart and they did absolutely nothing; and I don't want to hear that they had a plan in place that led to the 2007 championship. They won the 2007 title by filling their holes as they throwing money at the problems and masked that reality with the cloud of "genius" that hovers around Epstein like the ill-thought-out opinions emanating from the asses of Curt Schilling and Francesa.

My best guess at the drop-dead date of "giving it time" will be Cinco de Mayo----May 5th. At or around that date, the Boston papers and fan base are going to have one thing to say: "GO GET A BAT!!!"

If that bat is Adrian Gonzalez, and Padres GM Jed Hoyer is as smart and cold-blooded as an executive as he purportedly learned to be working under Epstein for all those years, the price for Gonzalez in the winter will be substantially higher now----and the Red Sox might not have a choice but to pay it as they continue to stumble and fall hopelessly behind the Yankees.

"Giving it time" has a short shelf life in Boston and New York.

Such is the price of success and the appellation of "genius".

  • Managing vs Monkeying:

Jim Tracy is a manager.

He runs his club on the field as best he sees fit to keep the loyalty of his players; win games; and do what's right based not on some abstract set of guidelines and numbers mandated by the front office and a desire to self-protect, but based on his vast experience dealing with players and overall baseball smarts.

I've long been an admirer of Tracy and can make a case for him being the best manager in baseball.

Last night's no-hitter pitched by Rockies burgeoning star Ubaldo Jimenez was a testimony to Tracy's deft handling of his players.

Jimenez threw 128 pitches in no-hitting the Atlanta Braves. He was wild up until he found his groove in the late innings. Jimenez issued six walks through the first five innings, but after that, he blew the Braves away retiring the last 15 batters he faced. Such a zone is only achieved by giving a talented pitcher rope to figure it out.

That rope was provided by his manager, Tracy, who through all his years as a minor and major league manager, player and coach, learned the nuances of managing by doing rather than a book of stats and sacrosanct numbers that delineate exactly how to deploy players as if they're factory-created foodstuffs that lasts forever, but should never be consumed if you know what's good for you.

The only thing I could think of in watching the latter stages of the no-no was that the automatons of the managing world----specifically Yankees manager Joe Girardi----would've denied his young pitcher history; would've taken his overmanaging and the thumb under which he operates via front office edict to the extreme and ignored the runaway train that was Ubaldo Jimenez and yanked him from the game.

Girardi generated headlines and head shakes when he openly and unnecessarily announced he would've pulled ace C.C. Sabathia with a no-hitter intact against the Rays last week. Sycophants like Michael Kay lauded the decision on air, parroting the oft-heard and silly company line (again paraphrasing): "we're about 'team' here; not individual achievement".

This is all well and good; but any baseball veteran or intelligent observer will tell you that the art of building a team that believes in itself; trusts their manager; and galvanizes for a legitimate run lies in humanity rather than a conduit to overused and out-of-context stats and guidelines.

After Girardi's sorry showing in last year's playoffs, the veteran players know that they're always at risk for their manager to sabotage them with some stupid bit of statistical application or desire to show he's in charge by "doing stuff"; by nitpicking; by overmanaging.

I'm not focusing on Girardi as anything other than an example; he's not the only manager functioning as a front office conduit, carrying out orders and doing what the numbers say----he's the prime example because a week ago, Girardi would've done the exact opposite of what Tracy did; and what that is is managing.

Girardi's incapable of such a thing through inexperience and fear; and that's why Tracy is so much better at what he does.

  • More on managing:

There will be ad nauseam stories about the 20-inning duel of ineptitude between the Mets and Cardinals yesterday. All I'm going to say about it is that the difference in managerial security was evident as Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made some inexplicable maneuvers in losing the game for his team.

La Russa allowed his relief pitchers to bat not once, but twice with the bases loaded and 2 outs in extra innings. Both times they were retired. Then, as the game droned on, La Russa was forced to use infielder Felipe Lopez; and outfielder Joe Mather to pitch. The Mets did everything they could to blow the game, but eventually won the war of attrition thanks in large part to La Russa.

There was no viable reason for La Russa to save his last remaining bat, backup catcher Bryan Anderson. This was a "we'll figure it out later" game in which a manager has to use every tool at his disposal to get the thing over with, and because of La Russa's odd strategic choices, the Cardinals lost.

Just imagine if it was Mets manager Jerry Manuel who chose to save his last remaining bat and was reduced to using Jeff Francoeur to pitch? Manuel is under fire (justifiably) from everywhere for his game calls; if he'd done what La Russa did? Forget it.

Bottom line, Tony La Russa gets away with things because he's Tony La Russa. Period. Other managers don't. It's only fair based on resume, but it doesn't excuse the inexcusable. There are questions about yesterday's game from La Russa's standpoint and there should be. What he did was stupid.

  • Too soon to panic in Baltimore:

I find it laughable that a 1-11 start is supposedly has Orioles GM Andy MacPhail "feeling some heat" for the terrible start. Bill Madden's column today in the NY Daily News makes that very claim.

It wasn't long ago that the Orioles were completely haphazard and rudderless with overpriced, declining veterans and rampant spending patching together a crumbling foundation that needed to be torn apart and rebuilt.

And MacPhail has done just that.

The Orioles organization is packed with talent both on the mound and at the plate. They do need a new manager to replace Dave Trembley. This is not something new. I've been saying for years that Trembley is not the man to run things on the field for a young and still-learning team.

They need a young, fiery type who's not going to put up with garbage----a Joey Cora. There are calls for Bobby Valentine in Baltimore and there will be talk that I am dampening the idea because I want him to take over the Mets. I want Valentine to take over the Mets----that's true; but I'm not making this statement about the Orioles to keep Valentine free; the Orioles are not a good spot for Valentine.

At his age and with his pedigree, Bobby Valentine is going to want to win immediately or have a club with talent to turn things around quickly within the next three years by flinging money at their issues. The Orioles have to continue growing organically and if they started going the Peter Angelos-route of spending to keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox, they'll find themselves running into the same wall that put them in the position to need to call on MacPhail and give him the keys to the franchise in the first place.

I've long said that the perfect spot for Valentine is Tampa. Baltimore and Valentine is a bad match.

Did no one expect growing pains from the Orioles as they try to turn the corner? If anything, it should be seen as a positive that for once they haven't gotten off to a fast start only to fall apart as the season unfolds. Maybe the opposite----a terrible start----will yield the opposite result. They're young and talented and being built the right way. This freakout is overblown and needless.

  • I know all there is to know about the blocking game...

...and if he knows, maybe he'll explain.

I'm not getting into a loose-cannon bit of accusations and name-calling; you can take this for what it is based on facts.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated blocked me from following his tweets on Twitter.

For anyone unfamiliar with Twitter, the way it works is you "follow" people and their tweets show up on your timeline. They can choose to follow you back or simply allow you to read what they write. Heyman follows very few people, so his choosing not to follow me is purely understandable; but blocking isn't.

The only back-and-forth interaction I've had with Heyman was when I first joined Twitter last August and he wrote something about the Royals not trading their veterans for prospects; I said that maybe they didn't want people to think they'd given up. He responded (the only time he ever answered me) with something to the tune of: "Giving up? Are they in it?"

I wrote in a posting the next day that Heyman didn't do sarcasm.

He didn't block me then.

In fact, I didn't even realize he was no longer on my timeline until someone "re-tweeted" something he said; he was one of those people (there have been a few) who pop up on my timeline and I say, "Oh yeah, what happened to them?" not realizing I no longer followed them.

Occasionally there are glitches in the system where people are unfollowed inadvertently; so I clicked onto his profile, tried to follow and saw that I'd been blocked.

No, I don't know why.

I'd get it if I bothered him; if I threatened him; cussed at him; called him names; or whatever. I have no idea what it was I did aside from disagreeing with him and for writing that he didn't understand sarcasm.

Heyman rarely interacts with people and it lends itself to the perception that he thinks he's too good to respond----even those who aren't as combative or challenging as me.

I have never blocked anyone. There are people on Twitter who literally hate me. A friendly voice told me I'm the most despised man in sports. Apparently it's because I say what I think regardless of casualties.

Here's something that is repeatedly missed in dealing with me: It's.....nothing.....personal.

As much as I unload on the stat zombies; on Paul DePodesta; on Trey Hillman; or Jerry Manuel----it's not an attack based on anything other than baseball. I don't know these people. I'm sure that most of them are nice enough; it has nothing to do with anything. I don't cuss; I don't call names; I don't attack for the purposes of an agenda.

I've had others block me because of reasons unknown. One Yankee fan with whom I had a brief scuffle comes to mind; a Diamondbacks fan who didn't appreciate my assessment of his team is another. I didn't hit them that hard that I can recall. I don't see how a man can block another man because of such silliness online.

Someone needs to explain to Jon Heyman that he's showing himself to be a remarakably weak person if he chose to block me because I disagreed with him or did so in a way which he thought was an attack. The point of Twitter isn't to drop little notes to the masses as if you're some despot who's deigning to share information with the great unwashed masses. It's to interact with people.

If you want to see the difference between those that get it and those that don't, Roger Clemens interacts with people when he's on Twitter; he tweeted back-and-forth with me a couple of times.

In case he didn't realize it, Jon Heyman is not Roger Clemens.

Maybe someone ought to tell him that if they can reach the perch upon which he seems to place himself.

  • I'm your favorite one man show....

A million different ways to go.

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is still available on Amazon and I-Universe in paperback and E-book. And now on Barnes and Noble.com.

In addition to that (as the lyrics from the Kindle song in the bulletpoint suggest----ah, what passes for my brain goes to bittersweet places from the past) it's available for download as an E-book here.

4 comments:

She-Fan said...

Twitter is like a giant cocktail party. You can hang with the guests you want to talk to and avoid the ones you don't. Unlike the Yankees beat writers on there who welcome interaction, Heyman probably uses it to drop newsy items, not to interact, as you point out.

theBrooklynTrolleyBlogger said...

Don't worry. I won't make your eyes bleed with another long comment today. I posted my last comment to you as a post (on blogspot and mlblogs) and linked you in. Hope ya don't mind. There's a thing or two I'm still questioning regarding Theo's moves lately. But like you say, LaRussa and him have the cache and outstanding credit with the bank. Manuel's resume is littered with road kill from everyone he's thrown under the bus since Chicago.
mike

Sal Cartusciello said...

Another point on the Jimenez no-no. He went to the stretch after walking Heyward to start the 5th and never went back to windup. Good coaching by Apodaca to get him in comfort zone for the night.

Spoke about LaRussa moves on today's podcast. I'm scared that I may be thinking like you.

Jeff said...

I have heard that LaRussa never uses the backup catcher unless he's absolutely needed... like, someone gets hurt and he's the last straw. That doesn't mean I agree with it, but I'm not one to second guess the best manager in the Majors.