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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Red Sox continue to dominate! But there is work to do!


Ok, so its only May (almost June), but the Boston Red Sox are on fire. It's hard to fathom this early out from September that the Sox are absolutely guaranteed to win the division. It's almost asking for trouble to make such claims - even with the New York Yankees dying on the vine and 14.5 games out. But its noteworthy, that his has to be one of the first times I can remember the Sox being this far ahead of the entire AL East pack.

It's the way the Sox have managed to win that surprises me most. Most Sox fans would agree that in the past several seasons its been about Manny and Papi and their heroic homeruns that have given the Sox their go-go juice. But that's not the case this year at all.

While both of those guys are contributing (and Manny batting around a mediocre .268), its been the bats of Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, and the rest of the cast and crew stringing together victories in almost a small ball fashion. It's bizarre to think that a team that has players (like Coco Crisp) who seems to try to bunt his way on base every time seems to keep rolling over the opposition. And Sox have done just that - most notably over the pitching staffs of Detroit, Anaheim, and Cleveland.

Sox pitching has been a surprise in both directions. Curt Schilling has fallen out of the "Ace" category by his inconsistent starts, yet "wacky" Julian Tavarez and Sox veteran Tim Wakefield have had better than expected outings. Dice-K (Daisuke Matsuzaka) and Josh Beckett (8-0) have been - as advertised: Lights out all season long.

And the biggest surprise, and the guy that's on track for my vote for MVP is Hideki Okajima. Wow, out of Heaven on a chariot comes Hideki. This guy is the real deal in the bullpen! Reliever or closer, it doesn't matter - he just shuts them down - 1-2-3!

But this wouldn't be a Red Sox column if I didn't whine and bith about something, so let me list my criticisms and concerns - in WEEI-fashion about the team here:

  • Manny Ramirez has to become more productive in the line up. It seems each year his "late start" gets later and later. I don't know if this is a product of age, or if they've just scouted Manny to death and the AL has his number. I have noticed that he gets the no swing, high and inside strike often. He only has eight homeruns so far, and for Manny - that's dismal.
  • Jonathan Papelbon seems to be struggling in his closer role, or at best has been inconsistent. Loading the bases on Monday is another example where he puts himself in a very tough spot by allowing baserunners in the 9th inning. Eventually (and it already has once) this will come back to bite him and the Sox will lose a few in the late hours.
  • Willy Mo Pena needs to step up. He was supposed to be the next big thing and he's a young gun shooting water pistols. He's batting a lackluster .237, and his fielding ability is poor. We can excuse a guys fielding ability (we tend to overlook David Ortiz on this point) when he's contributing to run totals. But Willy Mo is in trouble, and from what I've seen he'd be lucky to be able to throw out someone at home if he were standing on the mound. At minimum, he needs to get the lead out and pick up the ball and get the damn thing back in the infield more quickly. Perhaps its not enough playing time, but whatever it is, he needs to fix it.
  • J.D. Drew is another guy we expect more from, particulary when he was brought on to replace Sox-legend Trot Nixon at such a phenominal price. Drew is batting .232, and he's no Dwight Evans out there in right field. And it should be pointed out that he's battled back to .232 from the abyss. He seems like he's a solid player. Let's hope he picks it up or shouts of "Nancy Drew" will be echoing in Fenway.
  • Coco Crisp. Ok, his fielding has been heroic out there - particularly diving to catch fly balls and so forth - some catches were game savers (he'd better since he clearly doesn't have a strong arm out there as evidenced by the extra bases taken by the opposition when he retrieves the ball on one hop). But instead of swinging the bat, we find him bunting out to third. I'm not sure what that is all about but its not helping his .234 average. I'm still waiting for Coco to help me forget about why we didn't need Johnny Damon.
  • Dustin Pedroia is finding his groove. Three weeks ago, this entire column might have been about him and his inability to get on base. However, his defensive play is unbelievable. It will be interesting to watch his career though, can a guy who's 5'9", small, and lacks power make it in the big leagues? Time will tell.
  • Jason Varitek. Tek is one of my favorite players and his homer last night shows that despite his .270 average comes through when needed. And moreover, he's the strategist behind much of the success from the mound. Tek is the heart and sole of this team, but I hope and pray that he stays healthy, and doesn't break down or get an injury. If Tek goes down, I would expect to see some backpeddling by the Sox to a certain extent. Mirabellis is good, but he's another guy up there in age, and its asking a lot of him to catch Wakefield and everyone else day after day.

But notwithstanding all my criticisms, our team continues to put up numbers in the "W" column. The 2007 Red Sox play as a team, with a sprinkle of offense here and good pitching there. There are no heroes as in previous seasons - every win is a team win. And I think the best is yet to come.

And my only gripe with the Red Sox organization doesn't involve any of the players, coaches, or trainers. It's actually the only thing that I would change about the Sox organization if I had my way. Last year the Red Sox didn't renew the contract of long time Red Sox play by play radio announcer - Jerry Trupiano who has been a staple and fan favorite sitting beside "the voice of the Red Sox" Joe Castiglione for many years. I miss his homerun calls "Waaay Baaaack" - even those that were caught in deep right field.

The Sox decided to replace Trup with two other guys meant to split the duty with Castiglione - Dave O'Brien and Glenn Geffner. Of the two, I prefer to hear O'Brien. O'Brien is informative and his voice doesn't aggitate the listener in the way that Glenn Geffner's does. He seems to have good chemistry with Joe, and the two compliment each other well. Moreover, O'Brien comes across as having respect for Castiglione over the airwaves, seeking Joe's thoughts and supplementing his comments.

Listening to Glenn Geffner is like listening to a little league baseball game on your local cable access channel. Geffner is downright hideous in his play by play routine, giddy, and full of useless statistics that annoy the listeners. He often provides statistical detail that leaves Joe Castiglione quiet and fans yearning for Jerry Remy. It's really becoming an issue as fans have really voiced their negative views of Geffner's style and hope he isn't renewed next year. Some fear that he is a friend of Theo Epstein's and he's probably not going anywhere. (I recommend checking out www.38cliches.com for some great commentary on this top.)

Please Theo. Forget your ties to old friend Geffner. He's killing the games, and forcing Joe to carry him through 9 innings. Please, set things right and send him to the Sea Dogs. Or better yet, West Hartford Little League just might create an opening for him so he can shine at the level where his talent lies.

2 comments:

LC said...

Thanks for the link. I've returned favor, if that's ok.

www.38cliches.com
lc

The King said...

No problem. In fact, I modified the post - same paragraph - to show your site's URL. Keep up the awesome work! And Go Sox!