Monday, April 23, 2007

Sox/Yanks, Phil Hughes and more

I can't say enough about last night's game, and it's mostly already been said anyway. I didn't catch much of the Sox historic back-to-back-to-back-to-back dingers because I was actually watching "The Sopranos" and only saw replays except for Varitek's bomb, which I caught live. Dice-K wasn't as sharp as we all wish he was, but he battled, and got a hard-earned victory. Big games last night were had by Mike Lowell, obviously, but getting lost in the shuffle was a possible break-out game by Dustin Pedroia. He hit the ball hard, especially on his first extra-base hit of the year, and made a potentially game-saving grab at a key spot late in the game. I think it was important for him to get out there and make a strong showing after Alex Cora had been so good in recent days. Pedroia of course has a much higher ceiling than Cora, but he'll need more games like last night to cement his place as starting 2nd baseman.

As I write, WMP just dove and made a catch on what actually did look like a trap, and then doubled off a very surprised Aaron Hill. We'll see what the final ruling is on that one. Timmy Knucks is dealing again, should be no surprise there. I'm not sure what it is but he's got more control over that knuckler this year than any time I can remember recently. Good for him, and definitely not good for opposing hitters. Now looking at the replay, it does look like Wily Mo did catch it. Hill was confused because the 3rd base umpire made the out call and not the 2nd base umpire. That's why you've always got to be on your toes, kiddies!

Thursday night, the Yankees will call up righty Phil Hughes, the 20-year-old phenom that graced the cover of the 2007 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, to make his MLB debut against at Rogers Centre in Toronto. I had lauded the Yanks for refusing to call him up during the recent troubles with their starting staff, but the decision to call on Hughes smacks of desperation after being swept by Boston. Hughes has had one good start out of three at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he had never pitched before this year. The book on Hughes is that he's the complete package, with stuff, command, and fortitude to be an ace in the Bronx. He figures to be the Yanks best homegrown starter since Andy Pettitte. Besides a mid-90s four-seamer and a high-80s two-seamer, he features an absolutely devastating curveball that according to BA is a "true power breaking-ball" in the low-80s. BA's concerns with him were his still-developing change up and his durability. They also felt like he'd make his debut in June, but the situation has dictated a much earlier call-up. I expect Hughes to struggle out of the gate, and it remains to be seen if this move is permanent. Certainly he'll be a fixture for the Yankees in 2008, but this will be a big test, with the Yankees really needing a shot of life right now. For fantasy purposes, someone probably already has him in your AL-only league, but in a mixed league, take a shot on him, stash him on your bench until he makes a big start, and then ride the wave because this guy is going to be the real deal.

Sad news about David Halberstam tonight, who died in a car crash in California at age 73. I have only read two of his books, "The Teammates" and "The Education of a Coach," plus his introduction to "The Best American Sportswriting of the Century," of which he was the main editor with Glenn Stout. What I have read of his was the top grade of American nonfiction writing, and made a significant impact on me as a young writer hoping to replicate his style. Halberstam was a genius with words and sentence structure, and I will read much more of his works to try and find exactly how he made his words sing so beautifully. The world of not just sports but the world of writing has lost a true legend.

Way to go Dustin, puttin' the Sox ahead. The Sox need more runs so they won't have to rely on Timlin or Piniero to finish the game. Later.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sox vs. Yankees, Round 3, and other things

Needless to say, this has been an excellent series for the Red Sox against the Yankees. They've proven to be more efficient in most phases of the game than the Yanks, and it's been fun to watch the matchup bring out the best in some Sox players (Okajima, Crisp, Cora, Ortiz, others).

I'm hoping tonight's game will give Dice-K an opportunity to pitch with a lead. The Sox haven't seen Chase Wright, and in recent years it seems like the Red Sox don't do so well against guys they don't have a book on. Of course, Jeff Karstens would beg to differ. I think if the Sox can get Wright on the ropes early, Matsuzaka can settle down against the vaunted Yankees lineup and not have to press right out of the gate. The key for Dice-K, as always, will be whether or not he can harness his offspeed stuff. He did that in KC, but didn't against the M's and the Jays and the results were clear.

You've got to love how the Red Sox have plowed through Yankees pitching over the past two days but the only thing anyone wants to talk about on TV is how A-Rod is tearing up the world. I wonder why nobody cares to mention that he lined out to second base in the 9th inning on Monday. No, he's not God, people. Sorry.

In other news, don't look now but the Blue Jays have dropped five straight and were swept by the Orioles over the weekend. It seems like injuries have depleted some of their key components, but after a while a team like Toronto can't use that as an excuse. And last time I checked, none of those injured guys were starting pitchers. If the health problems don't go away, the Jays don't have any prospects they could seriously move to bring in new players. They will need to ask Adam Lind, a fine power prospect that starred for the Fisher Cats a few years back, to fill in some offense for the time being. Meanwhile, the O's have won eight of nine and Nick Markakis has taken the team on his back. Erik Bedard is an ace and Daniel Cabrera has finally found it. Watch out of the Orioles. Seriously, I mean it.

Some people have expressed to me their dismay about Alex Gordon, and the terrible start he's gotten off to. Yesterday he hit his first home run in front of the Royals fans, and it seemed like he would finally be ready to break out. But today against Ramon Ortiz and the Twins Gordon went 0-4 with 2 Ks. For fantasy owners that have Gordon, I don't think there's any reason to drop him especially if you're in a keeper league. Just stash him on your bench until he starts hitting, because he definitely will. According to those that watch him every day, he's not doing anything that points towards him not being able to handle the pressure, or him mechanically not being where he should. Gordon will be fine, trust me. He's got more talent than he's shown.

That's all for tonight. Look another post tomorrow evening.

The First Post...

Hi there folks. As you can see, I've created a new blog to replace the old one that I used to keep in my AOL profile. I'm going to try and use this space exclusively for talking about baseball, and not just the Red Sox, and I'll hopefully use it a lot more than I've used my old one.

I made this new blog so that people could see it without me having to be online. This will be helpful this summer when I'm stuck at home with my lousy dial-up connection. And because this is online so that everyone can see it, maybe I'll be more motivated to write more often.

If you still want to check out posts from my old blog, I'll leave the link to it in my AOL profile. My screen name is JakeOD21 for those of you that don't have it already.

The title of my blog isn't very exciting. If anyone has any ideas for something new, let me know!

Bookmark this page! Check back often! I look forward to working in this space and I welcome all of your comments and suggestions.