Sunday, July 31, 2005

Really Dead Line

Games 102 through 104 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Twins 5
Red Sox 6, Twins 2
Red Sox 4, Twins 3
Record: 59-45
If we come out of this ridiculous soap opera of a week with a five-game winning
streak, we ought to be f*&^%0-ing estatic. - SoSH poster

I couldn't have said it any better, so I won't. I chronicled Wednesday's lineup below - the Sox went on to win that game easily. John Olerud was the Sox' cleanup hitter in the final 2 games of this weekend's set against the Twins as Manny Ramirez went on walkabout - and the Dark Helmet drove in 4 runs in those games and 8 in the series. Jon Papelbon made his major league debut today, and struck out 4 of the first 8 major leaguers he faced, and 7 total in 5 2/3 Clemens-esque innings (early, wild Clemens, mind you - but the kid was bringing it). Gabe Kapler returned to Boston from his Japanese tour and immediately contributed 2 hits and 2 runs. Adam Stern got picked off - again (on a brighter note, his barmitzvah went splendidly). In short, it was among the more bizarre weeks of this or any Sox season - and the Sox responded to the chaos by running off 5 consecutive wins. Idiots rule. And I take back all that stuff I said last year about the Vichy Twins - your capitulation this week was much appreciated.

The week's big circus was the Manny to the Mets saga. I'm interested in my colleague's take on the deal, but I can't say that I ever took it very seriously. The most realistic deal I saw involved the Sox sending Manny to the Mets and Hanley Ramirez, Kelly Shoppach, and Jon Lester to the D-Rays, with the Mets sending Lastings Milledge and Aaron Heilman (or some other prospect) to the Rays and Mike Cameron to the Sox, and the Rays sending Danys Baez to New York and Aubrey Huff to the Sox. Knowing as I do that Theo Epstein is not dumber than a fucking rock, I put the odds of that deal closing at somewhere between the odds of Manny joining Mensa and Kevin Millar passing a microphone without yapping into it.

The simple fact of the Manny matter is that the Sox will not get equal value in return for the game's premier run-producer, even if someone is willing to eat his salary. As he himself noted in the jubilant aftermath of today's win (a win made possible when he entered the game as a pinch-hitter and drove in the game-winner in the bottom of the 8th), "That's just Manny being Manny, man. I want to be here." And as much as that sentiment makes rational men batshit, we don't traffic in the rational here in the Nation, so welcome back, Manny - please refrain from thinking and commence bashing.

Weird trade deadline all over the place. After all the hue and cry that generally leads up to this date every year, nearly nothing of any import happened. A few mid-level talents moved - a Randy Winn here, a Kyle Farnsworth there - but none of the big names packed their bags. Nobody got A.J. Burnett, nor did the Rangers move Alfonso Soriano and his slider-missing bat. (Aside - were I a major league manager I'd fine any of my pitchers that threw him anything but offspeed stuff well off the plate.) The Orioles cemented their reputation as baseball's worst-run organization and my hatred of their franchise in one fell swoop, trading Larry Bigbie and his potential for Eric Byrnes and his Ritalin. The Yankees picked up Shawn Chacon, which helps their rotation, but only marginally.

The Sox got Jose Cruz, Jr. to add to their outfield-by-committee, in their only deadline move. With Trot Nixon out for a least the next several weeks, Cruz and Kapler will platoon in right, leaving Stern as all-purpose fill-in and designated pickoffee. Not optimal, but I suppose anything's better than giving Adam Hyzdu meaningful at-bats.

The best deal the Sox made was the one they didn't. You could see the fear in David Ortiz' eyes after Saturday's game, when the Twins walked him 4 times in front of Olerud - his future was writ large in the Minny staff's errant tosses. With Manny still in the fold, the league's most fearsome 3-4 combo remains intact. The other best moves the Sox made aren't moves at all - they have to be patient and pray that modern medicine knows what the hell it's doing. Pretty simple calculus to me at this point: if Curt Schilling returns to anchor the rotation and Keith Foulke gets back in time to solidify the pen, the Sox are the best team in the AL. If not, the Sox go down to the wire for a playoff spot, with no better than a puncher's chance. At least the offense looks to be there all the way.

The team that should feel best about the deadline activity is the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds are clearly the class of the bigs this season, and with nobody else making significant advances this week, the Cards should be the odds-on favorites to finish what they started last year before Destiny steamrolled them.


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