Portland Obervations and Red Sox Weekend Musings

So let me just get this out of the way to begin. Portland, Maine finished number one in Forbes 2009 Most Livable Cities survey, and after recently spending a few days there with my GF, I can’t imagine how the contest was even close. If you like beer, seafood, quaint, early 1800s architecture, history, water, sun-drenched piers, ease, Yankee accents (not the Staten Island kind), minor league baseball, laid-back, and dogs, than there is simply no competition. That last point is particularly important … Portland is more dog friendly than Bob Barker and as everybody knows, a city’s character is defined by how it treats its dogs. Yes, I was there when the weather was perfect so my vote may be somewhat uninformed, but if I could find a job up there, I would break my lease, call the movers and be settled in all before the Celtics celebrate their 18th championship in a couple of weeks.

With that out of the way, what happened while I was away, pouring down Allagash Whites and scarfing away at some lobster rolls? Well, it turns out the Sox didn’t do much to move up the power rankings by splitting a four gamer with the Royals. Dice K led off with a disgusting walkfest, Wakefield followed with a powerful reversion, Buchholz stopped the bleeding and Lester does what he does, which at this moment, is throw a baseball better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. Meanwhile, the offense certainly didn’t distinguish itself against the worst staff in the AL, managing just seventeen runs over the four games. Pedroia continued to struggle, Youkilis cooled off, and the team suddenly found it difficult to come up with any timely hits. There was some improvement on Sunday, but it should be remembered that the damage came off KC’s soft bullpen. So all in all, it wasn’t a great effort but on the bright side, it ended nicely considering how things stacked up Saturday morning.

Major Points of interest ……

There really isn’t much to say about Dice that hasn’t already been said. Was anyone really that surprised that he followed up a near no-hitter with an eight walk abortion? This is who Dice is ….. a wildly inconsistent pitcher who can’t be trusted to throw two quality starts in a row. It boggles one’s mind how this guy can limit opposing batters to a .218 average and yet his ERA is almost six. And now, he’s telling the Japanese press that he doesn’t feel just right. Something about his lower body being sore. Haven’t we heard this story before? We have and the next chapter reads like this …… “Matsusaka was lifted in the third inning tonight after surrendering seven runs on eight hits. His velocity was down and the speculation is Matsusaka might not make his next start.”  Anyone else looking forward to his Wednesday start?

I have been a pretty vocal critic of Tim Wakefield and the way he has been “handled” by the Red Sox this season. And of late, I have been forced to eat plenty of crow as Wakefield gave the Sox two quality starts and some pretty nice relief work. But the Wakefield I know and appreciate reared his ugly head Friday night and gave me plenty of material to work with. Here is my problem with Wakefield. He can throw well at times but when he is bad, as he was Friday night, he gives the Sox almost no chance to win. And he is bad way too often. Let the record show that Wake has started seven games this season and four of them were bad. And of those four, two were abysmal. As such, the Sox need to straighten Beckett out and straighten him out quickly.

Heading into Saturday night, the Sox were in a bit of trouble. Losing two straight and facing Zack Greinke is not what you want to do in a four-game set against KC at home. Luckily, Clay Buchholz was throwing and Buch totally shutdown the Royals offense on Saturday night. Folks, I got burned on this before, but I am real close to upgrading Buchholz. He’s been that good. Over his last four starts, he has given up just four earned runs in 27 innings and you have to like him against the Os on Friday. If he stuffs Baltimore that night, I will have no choice but to lift Buchholz from Hold to Buy, with a bias toward another upgrade. He could be a strong buy by the all-star break.  

I can’t upgrade Jon Lester any further as he is already on my ”core holdings list.” He wasn’t at his best yesterday but his “good” was clearly enough to overwhelm KC which, after blowing some early chances, couldn’t do anything with Lester after the third. Lester is simply the best lefty in baseball. Period.

* Here are the final May numbers for David Ortiz : .363/.424/.788 with ten home runs and twenty-seven RBI. The Sox probably won’t do anything with his 2011 option before year-end but at this point, it certainly looks like Ortiz could be in Boston next season.  Did ANYONE think that was possible a month ago?

* Here are the final May numbers for Youkilis:  .329/.521/.683 with seven home runs, thirteen extras and twenty-nine runs scored. It will be close but Youkilis has slightly better May numbers than Jose Bautista in the chase for AL player-of-the-month. If Youkilis doesn’t get it, it will be because of this weekend where he slumped and Bautista smacked another two dongs.

* So Mrs. Ellsbury is back on the DL. I will have more to say about this later this week but for now, count me in the Tony Massarotti camp who believes that Ellsbury is more hurt than injured and doesn’t want to dig herself a hole while playing at ninety percent.  She may think she is doing the right thing economically but there are consequences to this action and going forward, Ellsbury may find it hard to shake this “soft” label.

* Josh Beckett? Is this any way to treat the organization that just made you a very rich man? Sounds like Beckett is at least ten days away which means he will be pitching on June 8th with just ONE win on the season. And that is a best case. I didn’t have this factored into my pre-season outlook.  

* FARM REPORT: I mentioned a few weeks back that Ryan Kalish was ready to take off at Portland and this weekend, he did just that. Coming off an injury, Kalish went 5-5 on Saturday and he hit a bomb and a triple yesterday. He clearly is ready for Pawtucket and Kalish should be there in relatively short order. At this point, he looks like he has supplanted Josh Reddick as Boston’s best outfield prospect and the question now becomes: is he good enough to take over in right after Drew’s contract runs out in 2011? He certainly looks to have the power, speed and awareness needed to play in Boston.

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