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The last thing Boston GM Theo Epstein needs, other than for Richard Griffin to get a job at the Globe, is my advice. But the best game in recent memory got me wondering about what ails this most engaging of teams. I’m not a Sox fan, but neither do I have any particular animus for them, Ben Affleck notwithstanding. So consider what follows a mission of conscience more than anything else. Like it or not, here’s my three-step plan to get the Red Sox to playoffs…
I can’t recall exactly where I heard or read it–probably in multiple
places–but the catchphrase for the week is that X number of teams, where X is
in the low-20s, are within Y games, where Y is six or fewer, of a playoff
As of this morning, those figures are 20 and six. Twenty teams are within six
games of a playoff spot as of July 9.
Now, I shouldn’t complain too much about this. It’s positive press for
baseball, the kind of accurate reporting of the game’s competitive balance
that shows that baseball isn’t a wasteland in which four teams have a chance
to succeed and 26 act as a Greek chorus for them. Baseball provides great
races, the kind of thing that the NBA and NHL don’t have, and that the NFL has
largely because its season is 1/10th the length.
Still, I can’t help but have a problem with the sudden discovery that baseball
is competitive. After all, for years now I and others like me have been trying
to make the point, standing on soapboxes and street corners to argue against
the prevailing notion that MLB was hopelessly broken. Now, as if everyone
received the same talking points memo, lines that could easily have been
written by me or Derek Zumsteg are finding their way into beat writers’
columns and color mens’ commentary.
Coming and going, the White Sox are still ruled by the disabled list. Frank Thomas isn’t going to do his best Curt Schilling imitation; bone chips in his ankle are likely to put him on a surgeon’s table. The surgery, while minor, would keep him out for six-to-eight weeks. In essence, the Sox swap Thomas for Magglio Ordonez. While the Sox had hoped to keep Ordonez on the shelf through the ASB, the Thomas injury forced their hand. Slipping a bit lately, the Sox are still in the thick of the AL Central. A healthy lineup down the stretch is a must to keep up with the deep Twins.
For weeks, I’ve been watching a dip in the velocity of Brad Penny. Actually, it’s his pitches that are losing velocity, but there’s finally a clue as to why. While most have assumed that his frayed labrum was finally voicing it’s disapproval or that he was going through a dead arm period, the reason is simpler. Penny has had an infected cut on his knee. His leg drive has been cut and the repeatability of his motion–never a strength–has also been impacted. Cuts, like bones, heal on a predicatable schedule, so this is a good time to buy low on Penny.
There was some speculation that Eric Chavez could be back as early as Thursday, but it was unclear if he’d joined the team prior to the game. It’s widely expected that Chavez will be back in the lineup on Friday, picking up where he left off when his hand was broken. Chavez will be a boost to the A’s offense, but the pitching staff is where the problems have been most pronounced. Tim Hudson’s oblique problems could pose problems down the stretch, and the A’s can ill afford to further tax their weak bullpen.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
The Giants page at ESPN.com currently features the headline, “Alou Still Believes in Tomko.” Alou also believes in the lone gunman theory, that the Beatles reunited to record “My Sharona,” and that “Joe Sheehan” is just another one of Joyce Carol Oates’ pen names. He may even be right about one or two of these things but not about Tomko, who has pitched in 212 career games and has seen more balls get whacked than the kid who got held back twice at the boys’ school. At this point, waiting for a turnaround is an act of blind faith equivalent to eating McSushi. Despite (or perhaps because of) the name on the label, you know that things can’t turn out well. Tomko is symbolic of the problems with the Alou/Giants approach this year: on both sides of the ball they’ve wasted precious resources on automatic non-contributors. Perhaps at times they didn’t have any other options, but that’s the whole point of team-building: what you don’t have, you try to find, as opposed to pretending that your Tomkos will somehow learn to be Marichals. GRADE: C+
The Rockies are going nowhere fast, but it’s hard to get very upset about it because my town is finally getting a Papa John’s. Consuming a Domino’s pizza is akin to chewing a very salty tire, so we’ve stuck with the local product for years, most of it of variable quality. “Variable quality” also describes the CRockies, who in the first half have gotten Matt Holiday and Aaron Milesoff to major league careers–for what that’s worth given the former’s lack of real production and the latter’s age and lack of plate discipline–as well as salvaged Joe Kennedy, probably the most impressive stroke of all. As for the second half, perhaps Ian Stewart will get a shot at Visalia, or–dare we hope!–double-A. For the mnemonically impaired: Ian Stewart is the Rockies’ third base prospect. Ian Anderson was the singer-flautist in Jethro Tull, while Dave Stewart was the male half of the Eurythmics. Golly, why didn’t those two guys ever record together? GRADE: D