Will the Muddy Chicken Be the Next HOF Second Baseman?

Joe Morgan’s peak came just as I was learning baseball and as I have said many times in this space, none of your first-person source material deserves any weight (or respect) until you are at LEAST ten years old. Having said that, as a competent witness for his entire career, Roberto Alomar was the best second baseman I ever SAW and I congratulate him on his entry today into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

As Alomar receives baseball’s highest honor, the spotlight for the day is on second-base and given that, I would like to point something out …. The Muddy Chicken is quietly putting together a hall of fame resume. Granted, his bus isn’t pulling into Cooperstown just yet but he’s headed West on highway 90 and he just passed Springfield. Continue reading

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Reddick-ulous!

It could come as early as July 18th. Or, because of a variety of circumstances, it may be pushed off until the July 22-24 Seattle series. But the day of reckoning is coming. Or should I say, the day of Reddicking!

I am sure Manager Terry Francona is dreading the moment. But with Carl Crawford coming off the DL shortly, Francona  soon faces that dreaded moment where he will have NO choice but to sit a HEALTHY JD Drew and write Josh Reddick’s name on the lineup card. Against a right-handed pitcher, no less.

Being a loyalist to veterans, Francona is loathe to ever side with an up-and-comer over one of his established guys. That is why AARP considers Francona to be one of their closest allies in the managing ranks. But in this instance, the case is open and shut. Reddick deserves to play. And Reddick will play.

No longer can Francona protect Drew. The aging and disinterested Drew has brought this upon himself with a level of play that can, at best, be described as uninspiring. The numbers don’t really need much illumination. Suffice to say, they are terrible and show no signs of lifting. And as Drew throws up one hitless night after another, it becomes clearer that there are no sizzling streaks left in his bat. Continue reading

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Like Portugal’s Debt, Tuesday Night Red Sox Victory Downgraded to Junk

Earlier today, Portugal had its debt downgraded to junk. A similar thing happened tonight in Boston where S&P was ready to bestow a solid “investment grade” rating on the Red Sox victory over Toronto but in light of Jon Papelbon’s meltdown, my sources tell me the victory’s rating has been reduced to junk. And truthfully, one has to wonder if it actually was a win as it sure seemed like Eddie Encarnacion’s right foot touched home before Jason Varitek touched him for the game’s final out. Oh well, they all count the same.

Just a few thoughts on tonight …..

* The big news is obviously Jon Lester and his early departure. The Sox are saying he strained his lat and Comcast’s Sean McAdam has a source telling him that means two weeks. If that is the case, it might mean just one start. Here is the math … Lester will miss his Sunday start but with the break, the Sox could slot him at the back of the rotation coming out of the break, meaning he would go again on Tuesday, July 19. Sounds like two weeks to me, no?

* What will the Sox do on Sunday? It could mean a spot start for Ace Aceves. Or the Sox could dig into Pawtucket and bring up Kyle Weiland or Kevin Millwood.  Both would have to be added to the 40-man, a fact that probably leaves Aceves in the lead to make that start. That said, Mike Cameron’s departure leaves an opening on the 40-man so I wouldn’t rule out Weiland, particularly since he has been burning up the International League since mid-May.

* Tonight’s Pap meltdown was probably a little overdue. But boy, you could really feel it pick up steam after Bautista took him deep. I can forgive the Bautista shot but giving up a big hit to John McDonald is hardly the stuff of heroes. As far as saves go, that was about as “hack” as they come.

* To all the Buster Olney’s of the world … “THAT IS WHY YOU BLOCK THE PLATE!” Nice sling by Darnell, by the way.  I am just about done with Darnell but it is worth mentioning that Carl Crawford probably throws an incompletion there.

* Here is a wonderful piece of reactionary logic from our friend Pete Abraham tonight. Check out this tweet: “I’d doubt Lester starts Sunday. Sounds like a DL for sure. More to come after the game.” Pete, if Lester is headed to the DL “for sure,” that doesn’t leave much room for “doubt.”

And finally, after two years of unemployment ….. I start a new job tomorrow. This time, I will be writing about the markets and framing investment ideas for a reputable (and expensive) subscription-based news service. I’ll still be blogging here, but brevity will be a theme going forward.

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Should the Red Sox Stop Serving John Lackey?

Here is a frightening statistic that relates to the human disaster that is John Lackey. Since 2000, “63” is the worst “ERA+” of any qualifying starter in the AL. That horror show authored by Jose Lima in 2005. Mind you, “100”  is indexed to an average league pitcher. Well, this morning, John Lackey’s ERA+ weighs in at 54, which is grotesquely lite ….. even for a junior flyweight who just made it through 39 days of Survivor.

Lackey’s three-length lead in this distasteful category can be partially explained by the fact that most pitchers, when they are experiencing horrible seasons, are cutoff before they can amass enough innings to “qualify.” So guys like Dontrelle Willis, who in 2008 couldn’t find home plate much better than John Wall, doesn’t’ pop up when one screens for horrifying ERA+ totals.

The logic here is quite clear. At some point, teams don’t let their guys go out there to be killed every fifth day. True, the Royals and Tigers let helpless guys like Jose Lima and Nate Robertson take the ball often enough to qualify for dubious year-end distinctions, but that says more about those club’s poor options than it does about their masochistic tendencies. Continue reading

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Say Goodbye To Mike Cameron

I was wrong!

This is what I had to say about the Mike Cameron signing on December 15, 2009:

“Folks, Mike Cameron is not Willie Mays. He’s not Ken Griffey. And he probably isn’t Ellis Burks. That being said, he’s not Jay Payton either. Instead, Cameron is a relatively affordable guy who is a GREAT fielder and can rake left-handed pitching. And at just under $8M/yr, he represents good value, provides the RS with lots of flexibility, and should prosper at Fenway Park.”

It turns out Cameron didn’t hit anything, he couldn’t stay healthy, he gave the Red Sox no flexibility and his value ended up being in the red, not the black. Ultimately, his WAR over 1.5 seasons was -1.0, meaning a replacement player would have provided more production at roughly 6% of the cost.

The Sox simply had no choice but to Euthanize Cameron. His impotence at the plate had been diagnosed as chronic, he was beginning to look challenged in the field and he was taking up a roster spot at a time where the Red Sox need more options, not less.

The obvious replacement is Danial Nava who is nursing second degree burns from a blistering June. Granted, Nava didn’t blow anyone away after he made his historic debut last season, but he slashed 402/500/561 in June and even a 240/310/370 split would be a big improvement over Cameron.  Another replacement could be Yamaico Navarro who might not be a regular outfielder but with Kevin Youkilis walking around on a bruised wheel, the Sox might opt for a little inf-of flexibility.

We can now close the book on Cameron and truthfully, Cam’s signing is one of the worst blemishes on Theo Epstein’s resume. Certainly on par with Julio Lugo and in the conversation with John lackey. And with that, I would like to apologize to Jay Payton for implying back in 2009 that Mike Cameron was not in your league. It turns I was wrong.

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Adrian Gonzalez is Not Being Asked to Return Punts!

There is one reason and one reason ONLY why it might not be a great idea to put Adrian Gonzalez in RF during the Sox upcoming nine-game tour through the National League. And here is a hint …. It has nothing to do with remote possibility that Gonzalez might get hurt out there.

But that is what some critics of the move are hanging their hat on, arguing that moving Gonzalez to RF needlessly exposes the Mexican Masher to injury. Put him out there, and Manager Terry Francona is putting the season on the line, some apoplectics argue.

Wait a second. Is there some peer-reviewed medical study that confirms – or even suggests – that a player’s risk of injury is noticeably higher in right field than it is at first base? Did I miss that entry in the latest Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine? If so, it is probably because I was too busy reading these reports on Albert Pujols broken arm.

Folks, nobody is suggesting that Gonzalez return punts, fight the Mexican drug cartels or grab a mop and clean up one of those Fukushima reactor vessels. He is being asked to swap gloves and play right field three or four times.

To think that this is a risky proposition one has to think that playing RF is somehow more dangerous than playing first base. The scientific literature is silent on this issue and common sense tells us that if there is an increase in risk, it is statistically insignificant. Beyond that, if you weigh that increase against the fact that Gonzalez will only be out there a few times, the odds of something bad happening, relative to the odds of something bad happening while Gonzalez is at first are infinitesimally small.

A much better reason for opposing the move is simple … Gonzalez might suck out there. Remember Kevin Youkilis out in left? Well, there is no saying this won’t be worse. Much worse. And that could ruin Gonzo’s groove at the plate and lead to runs for the opposition. If you are going to oppose the move, it is on these grounds that you should base your argument.

But please, stop with the injury talk. Because Adrian Gonzalez is perfectly capable of running down fly balls without pulling up lame. So if it were up to me, I would give him a shot out there. And if he looks even modestly comfortable, I’d give him a second shot. Not because I want him out there regularly. But because I want David Ortiz to hit and I will try almost anything that keeps JD Drew and Mike Cameron on the bench.

Batting third and playing right field …. Adrian Gonzalez.

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Lackey Loses Another Fight With Adversity

Was it really a surprise that John Lackey wasn’t able to overcome a thirty-eight minute rain delay and handle the worst offense in the National League? More importantly, was there anyone out there who didn’t wager during the delay that Lackey would come back and immediately issue a four-pitch walk? That was free money for the taking.

So we got another puny and gutless performance from Senor Lackey this afternoon. Hardly sharp before the delay, Lackey came back onto the field after play resumed and simply crumbled. Here is the sequencing for those who missed the car wreck: four-pitch walk. Hit batter. Bunt single. Strikeout. Walks in run. Hits Bartlett to score another. Wild Pitch scores a third run. And a Single to right scores a fourth. FOUR RUNS ON ONE HIT! Sayonara Johnny.

Surely, John’s post-game comments will be chalk full of excuses. He’ll talk about not being able to get a grip and the moisture and the delays. Maybe he’ll add something about his problems at home. You can’t rule out some mention of a health issue. On the board at 5-1 is the possibility he will bring up “The Killing” and how the finale really screwed with his between-start routine. And this is a real longshot, but I just bet two chips that he links today’s outing to the passing of either Clarence Clemons or that jackass from Jackass.

In Lackey’s defense, the conditions today at Fenway were pretty crappy, particularly after the delay. But I can’t offer total absolution because Lackey’s performance in the fourth inning was particularly puny and particularly gutless. Yes, it was raining. And the conditions weren’t great. But rather than show grit and focus, Lackey wilted and then quit. Hopelessly over-matched when pitted against some precipitation.

This should have surprised nobody because one of many things that Lackey has proven since coming to Boston is the following: HE CAN’T PITCH THROUGH ADVERSITY. When the competition is soft and he gets a clean trip, he can be serviceable. But the second he gets bumped, he is vulnerable to a collapse. Today he got bumped. And then he collapsed. Really just par for the course when it comes to John Lackey.

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