Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Lightning 5.9.2010

  • Red Sox problems go deeper than flawed construction and poor strategy:

Lest anyone believe that the Red Sox four-game sweep over an Angels team in need of an exorcism solved all their problems; and as has been proven in the first two games of the still-in-progress series against an injury-riddled Yankees team, this current Red Sox roster is in deep, deep trouble.

Their meager showing in these first two games is only a microcosm of the larger problem----a problem that won't be solved by waiting it out and hoping that the statistical parts of the fading body yield the expected results in practice.

Not only are the Red Sox far behind the Yankees in the standings and in reality, but they're also outgunned by the Rays and the Twins.

Where is their path to the playoffs?

Let's say hypothetically they right the ship enough to crawl back into contention (or make a desperation deal to try and save the season), are they going to overtake the Rays? The Yankees? Two teams in their own division? And what about the Twins? In fact, right now, the Red Sox aren't better than: the Tigers or the Rangers; and you can bet that the Angels are going to right the ship; and I still haven't lost faith in the White Sox.

Where's the opening for the Red Sox?

It can't be lost on questioning observers that for the second time in five years, they let Alex Gonzalez walk away for a glossier statistical replacement at shortstop and saw said replacement not live up to his billing that the numbers indicated. Gonzalez----a defensive ace with pop whose on base percentage wasn't, nor will it ever be that which the Red Sox base their lifeblood----hit his 10th homer last night for the Blue Jays. First, in 2007, they replaced Gonzalez with the disastrous Julio Lugo; now, they've got Marco Scutaro. Scutaro's played well and been essentially what the club expected, but could they use the more dangerous Gonzalez instead? At a far lower price?

Gonzalez is earning $2.75 million this year.

Scutaro is earning $5 million.

Normally, this wouldn't even be an issue for a financial powerhouse like the Red Sox, but it is an issue because payroll constraints are often used as a reference of convenience when they haven't made necessary moves to improve the club in the present.

That's what happened in 2006 as the world crumbled around them and they stumbled out of the playoff race late in the season and responded by flinging money at each and every one of their problems.

Rewarded with a second championship in four years, the mantle of "genius" again wrapped itself protectively around GM Theo Epstein and the Red Sox ownership. Context be damned.

Where is it now?

The lusty media hordes whose affair with the Red Sox appears to be based more on fear of criticizing the stat zombies and being attacked than in examining them objectively are holding their fire in savaging a club that is floundering and living on reputation.

Injuries are no explanation for the dead-in-the-water way they're playing. Floating aimlessly with little leadership and answers from Terry Francona----a good man; but an overseer and conduit from upper management to the field----what is there for them to do?

Would Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury have made that much of a difference to transform this crew from a 15-16 punching bag for the Yankees, Rays and Twins? For the Orioles?!?!

Clutching for some hope----an outlet; a symbol of faith to maintain the pleading facade as they grovel at the altar of Theo----the shattered fantasy of "run prevention" and "pitching and defense" is tumbling into the sea like a poorly crafted North Korean bomb.

It won't take much longer for the frightened masses who've rained accolades down on this organization for their "intelligence" over the past few seasons to sharpen their talons like opportunistic predators and begin picking away at the carcass of this dying entity.

The vultures are called as such and look like they do for a reason----eating the dead begets the look of death.

They had a Plan A of eschewing power for pitching; for defense. And it's not working.

Look at their schedule and then look into the mirror. Think about it. What's their record going to look like on May 26th after a brutal stretch in which they play the Blue Jays, Tigers, Yankees, Phillies and Rays? Are they going to be closer to playoff position or hopelessly buried?

Examine the way they've played so far this year; the scheme to outsmart everyone else with this self-destructive strategy and answer the question honestly.

They're going to be 12 games out of playoff position by the end of the month.

I know it.

You know it.

Most of all, the Red Sox know it.

And there's very little they can do to stop it.


  • The Stephen Strasburg "secret":

I'd never really looked at Stephen Strasburg aside from a few of his clips shown on highlight shows, but has it been mentioned how long his arms are?

Walter Johnson's secret to his supposedly amazing velocity were his long arms. With a simple, buggy-whip sidearm delivery, the stories of Johnson's amazing fastball wasn't leg drive; mechanics; or brute strength----it was the gift of his long arms.

While Nolan Ryan had his physical gifts, attention to conditioning, along with naturally proper mechanics and leg strength; and Bob Feller and Goose Gossage had motions that defined power, it's hard to reconcile the ease with which the aforementioned Johnson and now Strasburg seem to derive such force so effortlessly.

As he was walking off the field from his Triple A start the other night, I noticed his arms and hands (they're huge) and realized that his velocity isn't from mechanics or arm speed alone, it's from the distance his arm is able to travel to pick up speed and the leverage from those hands.

Amid all the other good signs from Strasburg that he's going to be great and durable, it's theStrasburgarmspic.jpg free-and-easy motion that are exacerbated by his genetic gifts.

I was taking a "wait-and-see" approach with Strasburg. How many other would be Hall of Famers have arrived in the big leagues and not lived up to their billing? I know now that not to be the case with Strasburg. He's not going to be a bust; he's going to be a mega-star.

  • No more stories of the 209?

Unfortunately for those among us who were getting a great deal of mileage and entertainment from Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden's war zone tales of a life he was lucky to survive and regale us with the Hemingway-like history of a battle-scarred and "hit the deck at a moment's notice" high school days; of not knowing if he'd make it home alive when finishing his Cheerios; of the way one is to conduct himself when in Braden's presence to prevent him from "going 209" on whoever dared to step out of line with him, he's been told to can it by an even more powerful force than the code of the street inherent with the "209".

Athletics boss Billy Beane has told him to keep quiet.

A quote from the Bob Klapisch article (nod to Mike Fierman for pointing it out to me on Twitter) stated as much:

The comments embarrassed A's general manager Billy Beane, who prides himself on running an intelligent, forward-thinking franchise. The A's might be living on baseball's equivalent of food stamps, but they're generally regarded as hard-nosed, clean players who aren't given to excesses like Braden's.

Beane, who was on a scouting trip in Mississippi on Friday, ended Braden's publicity tour in a brief but emphatic phone call with his starter. Reached later on, Beane said, “The player has been spoken to, and hopefully the matter should be over.”

If it wasn't over before, it is now. The league wasn't going to allow anything to happen anyway; and Beane put a stop to it. I'll be stunned if Braden opens his mouth about this publicly anymore. Maybe he should write a book though. I grew up in Brooklyn; ARod in a not-so-great part of Miami; but obviously we have no clue as to the meaning of "tough". Merriam-Webster should simply eliminate any and all definitions of the word and replace it with the simplicity of "The 209".

Perhaps we can look forward to a companion piece called "Dallas Braden's Guide To Propriety And Etiquette by A Guy Who's Lucky To Be Alive".

I'd read it.

Hell, I'll ghostwrite the thing with Braden if he wants. I love stories.

  • Viewer Mail 5.9.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Dallas Braden:

You just gave Braden more than his 15 minutes. Don't write about him and the world will be a better place!

Jane, I must relate the stories of the 209 for anyone who dare trespass. It's my duty. Lucky I didn't have to live it. Or die it.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Dallas Braden:

The "209"?! He was kidding right? Is that akin to Bonilla showing the Bronx? I could get into the baseball of it, but I have to be honest, I'm finding the situation hilarious - Keep it up Braden. Alex needs to take a page from Frank Robinson's book and hit a come-backer through the box; you know.., give em the ol' Charlie Brown treatment.

Sadly, I don't think he was kidding, Mike.

A true tough guy doesn't talk like that. You didn't hear Ray Knight yapping about his boxing background; Kevin Mitchell his gangland stories; Billy Wagner doesn't discuss his rough upbringing unless asked. Braden's looking for attention and taking a situation about which he was right and transforming it and himself into a running joke.

The saddest part is that Braden has the talent to be a good pitcher. Hopefully he'll do his talking from the mound from now on, but I wouldn't count on it.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

Speaking of mouths that roared, listen to my Podcast appearance with Sal at SportsFanBuzz from2010BaseballGuideCover.gif a week ago Friday----Prince on the Podcast link.

Also, my book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

I must've been away too long because my feelings are dead. I feel no remorse.


Joe said...

Scutaro has been fine. Using Alex Gonzalez as an example is ludicrous. NO ONE could expect this kind of production from him. Plus, he will regress a ton before the year is out, making that part of your argument invalid.

Gabriel said...

Joe is right, no one could have expected that Gonzalez was going to have that kind of power. He was expected to bat eighth or ninth in the lineup.

She-Fan said...

I wouldn't count the Red Sox out. The Yankees got killed by them early last season and turned it around in the second half. Maybe they'll make changes and get back in it, and who knows about injuries on the other teams.

Joe said...

She Fan, While this Red Sox team has a lot of talent, your Yankees last season were better than the 2010 Red Sox. And with the Rays playing very good baseball, the hill is even steeper. That being said, I do not think this Red Sox team was poorly constructed.

the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

...and Braden pitches a perfect game!! What a great development to this story. His head might explode to Mardi Gras float proportions!
...and the BoSox? They seem completely mismatched to me. A team with Drew, Cameron, Beltre and Scutaro is very yawn inspiring. This is like the failed "everyone is a closer" experiment. I'm sure Theo will try to be busy at trade deadline time, but he created a mess for himself. He strayed from everything he fought Larry Luchino about.