Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Disabled List & Other Stuff

Well, Keith Foulke made his way back to Boston Tuesday and there's a good chance he'll land on the DL because of balky knees. I'm not sure what a six-foot, 210 lb. pitcher is doing with bad knees, but that's where we're at (I mean, it's not like he's a running back, or a grizzled NBA vet; he's a guy who throws 20-30 pitches, three times a week).

I don't think anyone disagrees with Foulke taking a little time off. Whether it's his knees, arm or head that's actually ailing him is beside the point at this stage of the proceedings. Perhaps more important is getting Foulke ready to play later in the season. And while Foulke shouldn't be the closer (at least right now), I almost fell off my chair when I heard that Francona was the impetus for the change. I don't know how much input Theo has in such decisions, but good for Tito either way. Next on the to-do list is getting Olerud as many starts as possible in place of Millar. And last night was a good start. Seriously, this is a good thing. A lot of times FranComa Tito's been criticized for not making changes (and yes, I know a lot of that criticism is from me) and sticking with a player seemingly way too long. It's not a stretch to think that he stayed too long with Foulke too, but at least he made the decision to give him a little time off. And unlike Millar, who has yet to convince me that he should be starting on this team, Foulke actually played a big part in that whole World Series thing last fall, so you can almost understand why Francona might've been a little slow to pull the trigger.

Now, what do Theo and Tito do about the bullpen. In the interim, it's the dreaded 'bullpen by committee.' Even more disturbing (frightening?) is something Francona mentioned yesterday:
"We've always felt with the game on the line, we want Foulke, (Alan) Embree, (Mike) Timlin," Francona said. "I still feel that way. We've just lost one of our main guys so we'll continue to do that."
Yeah, that was the primary problem with the Red Sox being able to hold late inning leads -- you know, the whole Foulke/Embree experience, coupled with a few games of Timlin unable to retire inherited runners in critical situations. I'm much more comfortable with the twelve pitchers on the roster each throwing 10 pitches a game if that's what it takes to get people out on a consistent basis.

[Aside: As I'm writing this I'm watching the Rangers sneak back into a game that the Red Sox led 7-0. With men on first and second with one out, Kevin Mench (by the way, if Trot Nixon competed in Nathan's all-you-can-eat every day for three months, you'd get Kevin Mench) smokes a double down the third base line. Every game I yell the same question at the television and tonight is no different. Why in the hell doesn't Francona move Mueller on the line with (a) a knuckleballer pitching, (b) a pull hitter at the plate, and (c) a situation where you'd like to avoid doubles? Huh? Is there anybody out there who's has any idea why the Red Sox refuse to move Mueller closer to the line in critical situations? There is no doubt in my mind that Boston leads the league in 'doubles given up down the third base line.' If you don't believe me, just watch for an inning or two. You'll see. God, it's infuriating.

Aside #2: A lot of people make fun of Derek Jeter for not having very much range. In fact, last year I wrote something about why Red Sox fans hate Jeter and I got this very appropriate comment:
"Into centerfield past a diving Jeter" sums it up - he doesn't have the range of a really good shortstop, but he dives so it looks like he's trying hard.
I mention this because even though I'm currently on the Bellhorn bandwagon, I've never seen a guy (other than Jeter) dive for more balls in his general vicinity and not make a play. And I guess the reason he's not able to make a play is because he never actually touches the ball. Don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative of Bellhorn making the routine play -- something he seemed to struggle with last season -- but I wouldn't mind him actually showing some range. As it stands he's about as mobile as Kevin Millar, sans the quick first step (OK, that's an overstatement even I can't get behind).

OK, back on earth...]

Also, for all those people who thought that Schilling was going to show up in Boston and reel off 15 straight wins, yeah, that's probably not going to happen. In fact, it doesn't even look like we'll see Schilling for at least another week. And don't get me wrong, Schilling version 2004 would do a lot to ease some of the problems this pitching staff has endured thus far in 2005. But unless he can throw some middle relief and close, in addition to starting every fifth day, his impact on the travails of the bullpen will be minimal. Of course he might throw complete game shut-outs and that too would solve a lot of problems.

But before I get to far ahead of myself, I should probably point out that the Sox actually won in the first game post-Foulke. Having Wakefield pitch eight quality innings certainly makes the bullpen's job a lot easier. Having Papi and Manny hit bombs on the way to an early 7-run lead doesn't hurt either ... and neither does a 1-2-3 ninth inning courtesy of Mike Timlin.

Totally random thought about another MLB team:

ESPN's Page 2, like most of ESPN, could be better. Today David Schoenfield has a column about what fans hate most as it relates to their teams. Surprisingly, it wasn't that interesting. And in fact, it was a little silly, especially when I read his entry for the Nationals's Public Enemy #1:
Cristian Guzman. Guzman is hitting .201 with a .239 on-base percentage and .291 slugging percentage. Why was he still playing every day until his recent hamstring injury? He's the worst regular in baseball, having one of the least valuable seasons in history. They have to sit his sorry butt on the bench. It's not even an issue and if he's still playing after the All-Star break, it says a lot about Frank Robinson, Jim Bowden and the Nats' pennant chances.
Look, I don't think anyone would argue that Guzman isn't an atrocious hitter. The fact that they're thinking about renaming the Mendoza line the Guzman line should be a not-so-sublte hint. But unless Schoenfield just got back from Mars, I'm not sure why he asks, "Why was he still playing every day until his recent hamstring injury?" Uh, well, maybe because the Nationals are one of the best teams in baseball over the last month and a half and Guzman's actually a good defensive shortstop. And if you don't believe me, take a look at the stats: Guzman ranks sixth in fielding pct.; 17th in range factor; and 16th in zone rating. Not only that but Guzman has only made six errors, which ranks fourth. It's not like the Nationals have eight other guys who are also hitting .200 and Guzman is single-handedly losing games for them. Currently their five games ahead of the Braves in the AL East so I'm not quite sure why 'they have to sit his sorry butt on the bench.'

I've been to a couple of Nationals games this season and I know some fans are inclined to boo Guzman, but my buddy Andy is the biggest Nationals fan I know and he's pro-Guzman. He makes a simple point that I tend to agree with: "the guy makes great plays in the field" and defense is a really big part of this team's success. And if Schoenfield needs more proof, let me introduce exhibit A.