Interleague play, well a series anyway, got interesting for 2011

Now this, although not ideal, would make interleague play more interesting.

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Tampa Bay – going back to it’s roots?

That’s not a good thing – at least not if you root for the Rays.

Let’s face it, after the exodus of good, young players this off-season and the addition of aging, declining players….players are not looking at Tampa Bay as the place to play for a possible championship.

Congratulations – you’ve returned to what you started as – a spot for aging veterans come on the way to the end of their career

Remember Fred McGriff, Paul Sorrento, Dave Martinez, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Ozzie Guillen, Bobby Witt, Norm Charlton, Greg Vaughn, Dwight Gooden – all one-time big name players that arrived to play in the Trop, all very much past their prime and ending their career in Tampa (or soon after) between 1998 and 2001.

You know, back when you were the Devil Rays, somewhat aptly named because the team seemingly was where players careers came to die.

Yes, those years were the emergence of Dan Wheeler, Aubrey Huff, and Victor Zambrano, but let’s face it – players didn’t look at Tampa Bay as place to go to be competitive.

The only reason why the 2011 Rays will perform better than those Devil Rays – good young pitching, and an established farm system – something the expansion Rays were trying to build back then.

Is it February 14th Yet?

Less than a month away from Pitchers and Catchers reporting for spring training, which means baseball is again almost upon us.

 

The Red Sox made their welll-known splashes in the Hot stove portion of the year by signing Carl Crawford, Dan Wheeler, and Bobby Jenks and trading for Adrian Gonzalez. The offense and defense of the Sox look solid for the upcoming 2011 season, assuming Adrian rehabs from his offseason shoulder injury in time to get ready and be effective.

No matter what a team looks like on paper, it’s how they perform on the field that matters. And although the Sox look good on paper, their are questions, which can not be answered until baseball starts.

Will Adrian be ready for opening day? while the news is promising that he has been playing ctach, reports are that he has not been raising his glove hand to catch balls thrown over his head.

There could be an issue if Adrian has any setbacks. Although Youkilis can fill in at first and Francona can have another player at Third base, like Jed Lowrie, the offensive drop between Gonzalez and Lowrie (or any other fill-in hitter) will be a big issue.

Who will emerge as the Primary catcher? Varitek is (offensively at least) no longer an everyday catcher, and fans saw a vast offensive improvement as a backup, but Saltalamacchia has not shown to be that much of an offensive upgrade over Tek. Salty has been working with Gary Tuck to improve his skills behind the plate, and with the additions of Gonzalez and Crawford offensive production ma not be as important for this year. Let’s not also forget the difference in difference in pitching with who was catching behind the plate (which was 3.87 with Tek and 5.22 with Martinez), which was the main reason why the Red Sox did not resign Martinez. And of course, if Adrian suffers a set-back, the pressure of increasing offensive output may be too much for Tek to achieve, and may put too muich pressure on Salty resulting in decreased defensive stability.

Who will be the everday shortstop? Ok, Marco Scutaro is the de-facto everyday SS, but he is really a second baseman, not a shortstop. As much as Boston fans love to point out how Derek Jeter is over-rated defensively, they love to ignore that Scutaro is defensively equivilant to Jeter in range – but less reliable. with just 40 less chances than Jeter, Scutaro had 3 times as many errors. Jed Lowrie is not a shortstop either, although he could fill in, he is much better suited for the corners and second base – but defensively has both better range and fielding abilty than Scutaro. There is a reason why Iglesias was projected to be in the Boston Clubhouse this season until his injury filled 2010 season delayed his arrival.

And finally, how will this bullpen hold up? The additions look great, but given the steady incline in Okajima, Jenks, and Papelbon’s ERA/WHIP over the past few years, this bullpen may not be quite as solid as it initially appears. Will Jenks and Okajima be the Jenks, Papelbon and Okajima of 2004/05, or will they reprise their 2010 year and become a bullpen that looks good on paper but does not perform well: the 2011 version of Matt Mantei, Keith Foulke, and Alan Embree?

 

Then again, these questions might all be answered early on in the season and before spring training comes to a close, and that’s why they play the game.

Red Sox catching up; Joe West.

The Red Sox started last weekend 8.5 games behind the Rays.  And even thought the Rays and Yankees faced the Worst NL teams while the Sox played the best, and after taking 3 games in Tampa, the Red Sox now sit 5.5 games behind the Rays for First.

Yes the Sox still are 2.5 games behind the Yankees – but they are gaining ground, and putting themselves into a better spot in the AL east. The Red Sox pitching has shined, allowing only 4 runs in 27 innings against the Rays (MLB’s best team going into the weekend), and 8 runs in 26 innings against the Phillies (the NL’s best team).

 

But one of the biggest stories tonight was Joe West: Red Sox fans, you remember Joe West; he’s the umpire who openly criticized the Yankees and Red Sox for their games “taking too long.”

 

Well, maybe games would go faster if he called a larger strike zone, and didn’t call Phantom Balks.

 

I’ve watched the video a number of times, and I don’t see a balk in either case. Really, Joe West, I’d like to know – inform us what Buehrle did to balk. I’d like to know what I’m missing, and I’m sure the announcers (who also do not seem to know where the balk was called) would like to have some clarification too.

 

Hey Bud Selig – if you fine, reprimand, suspend Harrelson for his comments on the air about Joe West, then you should really give that same punishment to Joe West as well. This was obvious instigation on the part of West.

 

Mark Buehrle, 2 balks in a single game: Seriously? Mark Buehrle had only 2 balks in total since the start of the 2006 season going into today. Even better, the last time Buehrle was called for a balk on a move to first, June 27th 2009; Buehrle didn’t actually throw the ball to first. That was because Konerko wasn’t covering first base, like Buehrle apparently thought he was. That takes us back to his previous balk in a bases loaded situation on August 7th, 2006 against the Angels. Hey, guess what, that Balk was on a pitch to the plate, not a move to first. Now since the start of the 2006 season, Buehrle has picked off 31 baserunners (35 including 4 this season) with 1 balk to first because he didn’t actually throw the baseball to first.

So Joe West calls 2 balks on a pitcher in one game. A pitcher who “commits” as many balks over the course of three innings as he had over the course of 4 seasons.

 

And the announcers are right; he was going to call a balk at the first opportunity. Of course, I just wonder how much faster that game would have been over if Joe West didn’t call the phantom balks, and eject both Ozzie and Buehrle. And of course, ejecting a pitcher who’s known for being a fast paced pitcher doesn’t help in keeping those game times down.

 

The reason I mention this: Get ready to see more Joe West, Red Sox fans.  He’ll be behind the plate for the First game – and After Pedroia’s comments about West’s comments, I wouldn’t be surprised if West made some questionable calls against Pedroia tomorrow night. 


And I hope Red Sox fans give Joe West the loud “welcome” he deserves when his name is announced prior to the first pitch.

Lester and Youkilis Dominate Twins!

Kevin Youkilis went 2 for 4 with 4 RBI, 3 of them coming in the 3rd with this Monster of a homerun into Center field that cleared the top of the camera platform and hit off of the brick wall behind it.

The view of the pitchers mound from the Green Monster looked awesome, as Jon Lester threw 103 pitches (76 for strikes) on his way to a 6-2 complete game victory over the Twins.

 

The only major blemish on the night came in the bottom of the 7th, when Victor Martinez’s hit into Right field was interfered with by a fan, costing the Red Sox a run. Now granted, the Sox didn’t need the run, but fans reaching into the field of play is one of those things that drives me up the wall.

Do baseball fans remember Steve Bartman? Do they remember the uproar over the (incorrect) perception that he cost his team a chance at a World Series title? Have Baltimore fans forgotten Jeffrey Maier?

The fact is that if you had to buy a ticket to get into the ballpark, you should not be reaching out after a ball in play or running onto the field.  All those other people paid good money to watch ballplayers, and not you, on the field. And so back to those people on the field that really matter:

 

The performance of both Lester tonight and Clay Buchholz yesterday means that the bullpen will be well rested. Hopefully, John Lackey can keep this winning streak alive.Unfortuantely, that might be easier said than done.  The Red Sox roll into Philly with a winning streak, with Lackey matching up against Cole Hamels, then Daisuke gets paired with Kyle Kendrick Saturday and on Sunday Wakefield faces off against old foe Roy Halladay.

 

This should be a good series. I’m just hoping the Red Sox can pull out a couple of wins before going down to Tampa.

tough road ahead for the Red Sox

Tonight the Sox play their last home game against the Minnesota Twins. Yes, the Twins won’t be back in Boston until sometime in 2011.

The Sox almost need to pick up a win here tonight, because the next upcoming Series for the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays are much kinder to the Yanks and Rays than the Sox.

 

The Red Sox get to go and play the NL East leading and defending NL Champion Phillies, then while the Yankees play NL East cellardwelling Mets and the Rays play the lowly NL Central cellardwelling Astros. There would be no surpise if the Yankees and Rays pick up a game or two in the standings against the Red Sox this weekend.

 

Hopefully the Sox can take advantage of the Yankees and Rays beating up on each other to pick up a game on one of those teams with a win tonight, and we’ll be seeing something like this at the end of tonights game:

jon_lester_no_hitter_red_sox_3.jpg

Go Sox!

A classless move.

On Wednesday, the New York Yankees filed a formal protest with the Commissioners office about how pitcher Josh Beckett came out of the game on Tuesday night.

Now Yankees manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman are making the claim that the Red Sox violated the rules when Manny Delcarmen replaced Beckett in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Nevrmind that Girardi hinted that the red Sox may have pulled Beckett out because he was in trouble and not hurt, and nevermind that this complaint was filed after the Red Sox placed Beckett on the 15 day DL.

 

Girardi and Cashman both claim that the Red Sox violated MLB Rule 8.03, that the Red Sox did not indicate an injury prior to motioning to the bullpen.

Maybe Girardi and Cashman should look more closely at the rulebook, particularly rule 8.03 which they claim was violoated, and then look at Rules 8.06 and Rule 4.19

“Rule 8.03:

When a pitcher takes his position at the beginning of each inning, or when he relieves another pitcher, he shall be permitted to pitch not to exceed eight preparatory pitches to his catcher during which play shall be suspended. A league by it’s own action my limit the number of preparatory pitches to less than eight preparatory pitches. Such preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time. If sudden emergency causes a pitcher to be summoned into the game without any opportunity to warm up, the umpire-in-chief shall allow him as many pitches as the umpire deems necessary.

 First notice there is no mention about order of notification of injury or replacement in rule 8.03

Second, the number of pitches the relief pitcher gets is definitively a judgement call by the umpire-in-chief.  This is clearly the case based on the last sentence in rule 8.06, which states:

“The substitute pitcher will be allowed eight preparatoy pitches or more if in the umpire’s judgment circumstances justify.” 

And since the number of preparatory pitches a pitcher may have is a judgment call by the umpire, the Yankees should definately refer to Rule 4.19:

“Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpire’s decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire. In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final.”

But then again, I never though World Series Champions would have to resort to such a classless manuever and file a formal protest about the manner of replacement of a pitcher during the game after the pitcher, whose replacement they are protesting, is placed on the 15-day DL. Clearly, Beckett was, and is, hurt.