Play Ball!

Apr 13, 2012 by

It’s our favorite time of year here in the offices of Old 67.  Our interns are finding themselves spending more time fetching us beer than updating our facebook page, and like any good baseball fan, we’re all worked up over what the first week of the season means in the grand scheme of 2012 Baseball.  This is as it should be.  Spring is best with the smell of fresh grass, a strong cold beer and an umpire yelling, “Play Ball”, everything else will fall in to place.

Below is a string of email, texts and conversations between Matt and I during week one.  It’s meant to be read the way a baseball game is meant to be viewed – at your own pace with your favorite beer.  Pardon any misspellings or errors in grammar – we both were drinking and flailing away at our tablets while watching the games, I could have cleaned it up more, but then you probably wouldn’t be reading it until next week sometime, and then what would the point be?

Enjoy the post and enjoy the season – if you’re fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of a Major league or Minor League stadium, get out and see a game this weekend.  Drink a beer for me while you’re at it, I’ll certainly have one for you.

Matt

Jamie Moyer is 49 years old and had a decent enough spring to make the rotation in Colorado.  I am wondering why Wakefield retired, he still has a good 5 to 7 years left in him.  At the very least, he could still be used as a mop up pitcher for a starter that had a short outing.  Anyway, what are your thoughts about the Braves picking up Livan Hernandez?  His player profile states he is 37 years old, what does the come out to in Cuban ballplayer years-45 or so?

Alan

At least 45, probably closer to 50.

You know, I’m disappointed in Wakefield’s retirement, too.  I have a soft spot for the knuckleballers; maybe they’ll bring him in at the trade deadline.  Livan Hernandez on the other hand…This seems like one of those typical late to the party moves by the Braves.  I don’t know what it is about us, but this happened with Schuerholz, too, where we get all excited about someone and feel like we have to have him, but then we don’t get him until years after he is productive.  Think Todd Hundley or David Martinez.  Here’s one thing I’ll say about having him though – at least he won’t be pitching against us.  In the last three years, Livan is 27-37 with a 4.48 ERA.  In that same time span against the Braves?  6-3 with a 2.84.  So if we only use him in mop up and blow outs, we should be ok, it’s almost like winning by subtraction.  Or something.

So talk to me about your bullpen situation – Bard is starting, Bailey needs surgery – who are you guys going to go to now?  And how happy are you to have Papelbon’s dumbass out of the way of the Boston Media now?

 

Matt

Besides our short stop situation and which Carl Crawford will appear in Boston, which I will gladly address both later, the bullpen worries me the most to the point that I feel I need to begin drinking now.  If anything Papelbon was my security blanket.  He will be missed, especially with the Sox current state of uncertainty regarding this year’s bullpen.  I am sure his best years are behind him and no one will miss is lame Irish dancing and prancing around, but I must say he performed at an extremely high level last year.  The Sox late August and September woes had nothing to do with their bullpen, Bard, Aceves, and Papelbon were all exceptional. (Bard did tire at the end) The starting pitching failed and quality starts were few and far between.  Now that Bard is in the rotation, no true closer, and who can really tell if Aceves will repeat his successful 2011 campaign, the Sox have real big holes to fill this year.  So without further ado I present the 2012 Boston Red Sox bullpen…..

91

Alfredo Aceves

RP

R

R

29

6-3

220

32

Matt Albers

RP

L

R

29

6-0

225

40

Andrew Bailey

RP

R

R

27

6-3

240

64

Michael Bowden

RP

R

R

25

6-3

215

66

Chris Carpenter

RP

R

R

26

6-4

220

61

Felix Doubront

RP

L

L

24

6-2

165

53

Rich Hill

RP

L

L

32

6-5

220

37

Mark Melancon

RP

R

R

27

6-2

215

46

Franklin Morales

RP

L

L

26

6-0

210

 

Now back to my drink…..

****

In the latest news that will continue to keep me up at night, this just came across ESPN….So now what? 

http://espn.go.com/boston/mlb/story/_/id/7769256/2012-spring-training-boston-red-sox-andrew-bailey-need-surgery-according-team-source

Ben will now begin working real hard to improve the bullpen; I hope he and Bobby can stay cordial with each other!

Enough of my early season misery and somewhat unfounded negative outlook.  Let’s talk about the final season for Chipper.  Seems like just yesterday my friends and I were raiding CVS for packs of baseball cards in hopes to find the elusive Chipper Jones rookie card.  As a Brave fan, how will you remember Chipper’s career?

Alan

I’m sad to see Chipper go.  He’s always been a bit of an enigma to me.  He’s so freaking smart when it comes to hitting, so self-aware, but when he opens his mouth about anything else, he almost always puts his foot in it.  His smack talk to JD Drew when Drew was sitting out with a neck injury was unnecessary, especially since it was Drew who ended up carrying the team while Chipper began what I unhappily refer to as “The Injury Years”.  He did the same thing last year with Heyward, instead of supporting the kid; he trash talks him to the media.  These are the kinds of things that people who don’t know how to lead, do in an attempt to lead.  It almost never works.  I won’t even go into his ill-fated retirement talk last year, or even worse, his retirement talk from 2010 – way to talk about giving up when the going gets tough Chipper.  Maybe when I said self aware, I meant self absorbed.

But Braves fans can easily forgive him for that, because the Braves never needed him to be a leader, they just needed him to hit.  They had Smoltz and Glavine, and one of the best managers in the game to lead the team.   Chipper just needed to do what he did best, and day in and day out his consistent hitting in the three spot was crucial to the team’s success, especially his play against the Mets in 1999.

Everybody thinks of Chipper as being a hall of famer now, but a few years ago, there were discussions about whether or not he was.  Until 2007 He’d never led the league in anything, he had some all star games and an MVP to his name, but so do a lot of guys who aren’t hall of famers.  I think the biggest detriment to his “HOF Worthiness” was that when you think of the Braves and 14 straight, you think about Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz; you don’t think Chipper Jones.  As those guys started dropping off, Chipper remained, and he continued to play at a high level, even with the injuries.  The guy led the league in OPS at 35 and the next year, at 36 he led the league in AVG and OBP.  In an era when everyone has a chance at 400 home runs, Chipper managed to be one of the most underrated players in the game.  I’m not saying people didn’t say he was great, they did, but I don’t think they realized how great he was, and then suddenly he had 450 dingers 2500 hits, 1500 RBIS and a lifetime 400 OBP.  If it’s possible for those numbers to sneak up on us, they certainly did with Chipper. 

He’s a first ballot hall of famer, and I’m sad to see him go.  I’m glad he’s not going to try and stick around for 3000 hits; I think it’s entirely possible that he could hang around for three more years and retire with 500 home runs and 3000 hits, but that last year wouldn’t be very pretty.

I’m not looking forward to that hall of fame acceptance speech though, that will be painful.

So we’re a game into the season and you’re bullpen fears came true in game number one.  Tell me something positive about this year’s red sox…

Matt

Something positive………………..Let me think on that, I am somewhat distracted as I watch Bar hit some tennis balls.

What was the question?

Alan

Someone stole that poor woman’s clothes.

It only took Gonzales a game and a half before he used Livan Hernandez and he did the exact opposite of what he said he would do.  Instead of bringing him in to mop up, he brings him in to a tie game with two men on.  Having Livan on the staff means the Braves can use Christian Martinez in more high pressure situations in the middle of the game, but he didn’t do that.  He brought in Livan Hernandez, who did exactly what you’d expect him to do:  throw a bunch of low to mid 80s pitches while letting the tying run score.

He gives up two hits in his next inning of work, but manages to not only record a strikeout but also allow a run to score.  So, the game is 3-2 going into the seventh, seems like we might bring in Martinez here, or maybe even O’Flaherty.  Nah, I know, let’s bring in Chad Durbin, he of the career 5.10 ERA.  That goes about as well as you’d expect it, solo homer to Duda.

9th inning, down 4-2, we finally see Martinez come in and pitch a scoreless inning of ball.  Three Up, three down:   better keep that kid on the bench; the Braves won’t get any practice in the field if he keeps doing that kind of thing.

Two games, two runs, and two losses.  Against the Mets.  Shit.

Matt

I find it interesting that both the Braves and Red Sox continue to mirror each other in the 2012 season.  Both experienced major collapses at the end of last season and now they both get swept in their first series of the year.  Different problems but same results. 

Alan

It’s kind of eerie really.  It’s as if they want us to talk shit about them.  Why would they do that? What can they possibly gain? Do they just want us to be assholes?

Freddi did it again on Sunday.  Braves were down 7-0 and managed to score 4 runs in the 7th (Thank you Lucas Duda! I love that name, Duda, saying it over and over can bring on a trance like state, sometimes even inducing hallucinations.) Another run, thanks to McCann, so that going into the ninth, its 7-5.  Francisco and Heyward go down leaving the braves with only one out.  So who’s at the plate?  Jack Wilson of lifetime 307 OBP fame.  Eric Hinske is on deck.  Eric Hinske is the guy we have specifically on the team for these situations – but he’s busy waiting for the pitchers position to come up.

Why would Freddi do that?   We know he’s not afraid to pinch hit for a position player because he had just done it that same inning, subbing Francisco for Diaz.  The only way I can figure we were saving our supposed best pinch hitter instead of using him while we still had a chance is that he isn’t really our pinch hitter – he’s our designated hitter.  Unfortunately since the Braves are in the National league, he can only be used once.

It’s not like using Hinske over Wilson guarantees a braves win, in fact it only increases their chances marginally, but even so why wouldn’t you take the marginal advantage?”.

It just shows more poor decision making by Freddi a trend that continues from last year.  Just like my drinking.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Matt

I am watching the red sox on the MLB extra innings free preview.  The Jays young pitcher Alverez has some nasty stuff.  Maybe the sox can put something together in the later innings.

Or maybe the sox can take enough pitches to get his pitch count up so they don’t have to see him all night. Jesus, I am now hoping for high pitch counts from the opposing teams starting pitcher.  Talk about setting my expectations really low.  This might be a season of higher than normal alcohol consumption.

Alan
Yeah, I’ve really lowered my alcohol consumption over the last few years, that’s clearly going to change, and from that I can only infer that the Atlanta Braves don’t care about my health.  I’m glad that Freddi got a chance to see how Francisco hits lefties (he doesn’t) since now we know that he also can’t catch or throw the ball.  I’m glad that we haven’t had to watch Kimbrel pitch (He only CLOSES), and that Venters and O’Flaherty have only pitched one inning so far, but that Livan Hernandez, the huge fat guy throwing 74mph, has the most innings pitched of anyone other than the 4 guys who’ve started.  I’m thrilled that we have the only NL DH in all of Baseball and that we still can’t figure out simple things like when to visit the mound and when to yank a pitcher.

If Freddi makes love to his wife the way he manages a pitching staff, she must be awfully confused as to why he keeps rubbing her kneecaps and squeezing her elbow, then asking if she’s cumming yet.

I understand it’s early in the season, I really do, but these are the kinds of decisions and actions that speak to something fundamentally wrong with the team and its management, not early season jitters or rustiness.  I’m not panicking, I haven’t given up, and its only 4 games, but I’m not having fun.

Oh, and in the wildcard era – 27 teams have started the season 0-4; only two have made the playoffs – the Diamond Backs in 99 and the Rays in 2011.  Only 8 of those teams had winning records, and only 2 of them won more than 90 games.

This sucks.

Matt

I foresee you and Freddy having many unpleasant conversations this year.  I hope Freddy knows what he’s getting in himself into. (It might be time to drunk dial his ass)  As far as the Sox new skipper, Bobby V, it’s too early for me to assess anything.  I have watched three games so far and there were no moves I would question.  The Tiger series was about our bullpen’s inability to close a game, and two bad starts from Beckett and Buchholz. 

I was impressed with Felix Doubront last night against the Jays.  Just in his 4th career start I thought he pitched well and battled through difficult innings.  He kept the Jays hitters off balance and left the game after 5 innings and 101 pitches and 2 runs giving the Sox a good chance to get a win.  The Sox tuned to Scott Atchison who pitched 3 brilliant innings and then the 2011 version of Aceves showed up to close out the 9th for the Sox first and much needed win of the young season.

It will be interesting to see how Bard fares tonight in his first start.  Sox fans, and the media, were already calling for Bard to be added to the bullpen after the Tigers series.  We can only wait and see.   

A few positive notes to share are the fast starts from two typical slow starters-Ortiz and Pedroia.  Ortiz is becoming a much smarter hitter, taking pitches the other way and not playing into the shift.  He off to a torrid start and seems like he still has some life, being 48 years old and all.  (1.071 OPS through the first four games)  Same can be said about Pedroia, who outside of the Sox pitchers had much to do with last night’s win.  He homered and started off the 9th inning rally with a double.  He won’t be able to play cribbage anymore with Tito but I am sure he can find something to do with Bobby V.

Funny thing about this game of baseball….one day your team looks like they should be playing AAA and then you have a whole new positive outlook after a game like last night.  No wonder this game can lead to insanity….

Alan

I’m proud of you for using OPS – we’ll have you talking about WAR in no time!

And – Thank god chipper is back.  2 for 2 – double and home run.

Matt

And the Astros tested him early with a bunt.  

Alan

I love that.  It’s what you have to do as the opposing team; you never know you might get a hit and expose him.

I’m liking this Pastornicky kid.  He’s composed and has a nice simple swing.  He hasn’t been nearly as bad in the field as I was led to believe, so that was a nice surprise.  If he can hit 265 with 10 dingers I’d be stoked.

Matt

I think Bard should close.  Not to mention the fact that the Sox desperately need a closer.  Look at the money someone like Papelbon can get on the open market.  I not saying Bard wanted to become a starter to potentially boost his earning potential but I wonder…

Alan

Yeah, he had a rough night, too.  Who would u start in his place?

Matt

That’s a real problem especially since John Lackey is out for the season after Tommy John surgery late last year.  That would leave us with Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller.  I am surprised Miller never panned out because he would be my 5th starter.  Bard will probably be more affective as a starter than both Miller and Padilla, but I think his stuff is best served in the late innings.  I also thought the long term plan was to make Bard the eventual closer.  

So I guess the sox hands are tied right now and must go with the current rotation.  I heard a rumor today that Cole Hamels is interested in moving to Boston.  He wants a 7 year deal and his father is from south Boston or somewhere in the vicinity…

It sucks that the free preview of MLB extra innings ends soon.  Why can’t I just pay some type of season pass just for my team?  This is where baseball fails in terms of thinking about the fans, especially if those fans live in a different part of the country….. You can purchase NESN down here but they black out every Sox and Bruins game…

Matt

Today’s Red Sox/Jays game begins precisely at 12:37.  What is that?  Why are there not rounding rules in play when it comes to first pitch times?  I believe Bud needs to look into this and come out with an explanation for these odd times.  Here’s an idea, how about start the game at 1:30-no other events, meetings, Congress sessions, rocket launches, show times, interviews, or other sports organizations start anything at these strange times as baseball does.

I know it’s early in the season but I feel the Tigers, Rangers, and to a somewhat lesser degree the Rays are the elite in the American League.  Monumental late season collapses and key injuries could derail their playoff run but from what I see in regards to their personnel and play from last year into the games so far this year those teams are well above anyone else. 

The Rangers are the deepest and the most well rounded, plus they are now a vet team in terms of playoff experience.  Verlander for the Tigers will be instrumental in stopping any long losing streaks.  Madden no matter who’s on his roster or how limited his payroll somehow can get the most out of his players year in and year out.  I think he is currently the top manager throughout all of MLB.  Some other team could come out of nowhere or the Yankees and Sox can muscle their way in acquiring a big name player with immediate impact, which is often the case.  That being said, I think the AL pennant winner will hail from Michigan or Texas this year.

Matt

So week one is in the books.  The Red Sox finished their road trip with one measly win to go along with five losses.  This all looks promising. 

Four of the games, actually all but of one those games were winnable.  One day it’s the bullpen, the next a bad outing by a starter (Beckett, Buchholz, and Bard), and finally non-existent hitting.  In regards to the hitting, looks like the Sox batters have moved away from their long time strategy of working pitch counts.  Now what we get is the opposing teams starter going deep into the game, impatient Sox hitters looking really bad at times, no timely hitting, and absolutely no production out of bottom third of the line-up. 

Here are my thoughts on week one:

Positives: (yes there are a few to mention)

  • Both starts by Lester and a solid start by Felix Doubront.  Unfortunately both of Lester’s starts resulted in a non-decision and a loss.  The Red Sox are 0-2 in both of those games.  Though Doubront did not record a win, he pitched well enough to give the Sox the ability to pull out their only win of the season to date.  I think he might have a decent year.  12 wins out of our 4th starter would be huge.
  • Ortiz and Pedroia off to a decent start with their bats.
  • And now Red Sox get to go home now.

Negatives:

  • Losing the closer and trying to make something out of a depleted bullpen.  Andrew Miller seems close, as he continues rehab this week.  I guess Rich Hill will be coming back soon but then again its Rich Hill.
  • Cody Ross plays left field and Mike Aviles plays shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.  This does garner much confidence in me or probably any Sox fan.

Other thoughts:

  • In the AL East alone, slow starts are going the death to teams.  I don’t see the Rays, Yanks, and even the Jays go on long extended losing streaks.  The Red Sox dug out of a huge hole last April to get back on top only to piss it all away.  This team has to play consistent ball throughout to at least be in the playoff conversation.  I know there is an extra wild card slot but you know the Angels and Rangers will take one of the WC spots for sure, which leaves one more which more than likely will come out of the AL East.  As it looks today, those teams are the Rays and Yanks.    
  • What to do with Bard?  I have no answer here but whatever it is (starter or bullpen) make a decision early in the season and stick with it.
  • The Sox should make a serious run to acquire Hamels or Greinke.  It would be great to somehow make this happen before the break.
  • Fuck it…Bring up the kid, Jose Iglesias.  Bobby V wanted him on the roster, but Ben Cherington went against his managers’ wish.  He is 21 years old but scouts say that he his ahead of his years defensively.  I am sure no one will expect much in the hitting department but I am would bet they feel the same about the current Sox SS Aviles.  It might have been wise to keep Scutaro on board at least for this year and give Iglesias the time to develop.  Scutaro hit extremely well last year, especially down the stretch and plays solid enough defense.  The Red Sox have used 20 different shortstops since Nomar’s departure in 2004…..yeah twenty…..
  • I hope Ben Cherington can make the moves needed to at least have the Sox content this year.  Bailey and Sweeny were the only major moves made in the off season, not much else happened.  A quiet winter followed by a slow starts in April and May, will get the fans all nutty by June 1st.  I hope he’s ready…..

Alan

My introduction to baseball was with the Atlanta Braves on TBS back in the 80s. Back then, TBS had all of their shows start at five after, so if you were watching an old rerun of The Carol Burnett Show, it came on at 11:05 and then followed up with Mamma’s Family at 11:35.  All of the baseball games were the same, start times of 7:35.  Being a kid I just figured that was the TBS schedule and that was how they rolled.  Later I realized it was all the teams that did it.

I actually like it.  Baseball is the only major American sport (I said major, which means I don’t count NASCAR.  NASCAR fans can suck it, I don’t care) with no time limit and I think the lackadaisical starting times are part of its charm.  Starting at 12:37 allows everyone to kind of wander into the stadium, grab a beer and settle in for the first pitch.  Its baseball!  We don’t do regimented starting times, or ending times.  We play the game when we feel like it.

I’m glad opening week finally ended, and at least for the Braves, ended on a good note.  That’s the thing about this team.  They aren’t a bad team, and as long as the team plays well enough to keep Freddi out of it, they’ll do well.  If it comes down to a decision about a pitcher, or a substitution, he will most likely get it wrong.

That being said, I think I’ll follow your lead with my thoughts for the week:

Positives:

  • Tommy Hanson – he’s throwing the ball well and doesn’t appear to be suffering from any lingering shoulder strain.  He’s recorded 12 Ks in 10 innings and allowed only three hits.  He has allowed 6 walks, though.  Hopefully that will get better as the season moves along.
  • Brandon Beachy – Pitched pretty much just like he did last year, 5 innings of well-pitched ball.  If Freddy hadn’t been fielding the “all stone glove’ lineup, he might have come out with a W instead of an L.
  • Both pitchers are going to have to figure out how to pitch more than 5 innings for the Braves to be successful.  I know it’s only been one week, but this was an issue for Beachy all last year, so it’s worth mentioning now.
  • Chipper! – He’s back!  For the final time!  God I hope the Braves can keep him healthy.
  • Heyward – It’s nice to see him look serious, but also like he’s having fun.  Last year was an awful year for him.  I guess the Braves were burned by Frenchy, so instead of giving Heyward room to grow and work through his problems last year, they jerked him all around and rode him.  He’s shown patience with the bat, aggressiveness on the base paths, and a more compact swing.  I really hope the Braves do right by this kid, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and nearly limitless talent (nearly limitless, is that like virtually spotless?), he should be fun to watch for years to come.
  • Pastornicky – he’s composed, has a decent little swing, and some nice pop. 

Negatives

  • Livan Hernandez – Just for being there in critical situations.  To be fair, it’s not his fault, he’s just doing what he always does, its Freddi’s fault for putting him in situations that matter.
  • Mike Minor – Only one start, so it’s no big deal, it’s just a little nerve wracking to see him having the same issues – he can get through three innings, but anything after that is a crapshoot.  He’s in the majors, he needs to trust what got him there and throw it.  He can’t nibble and walk then throw it down the middle.  That never works out well.
  • Jurrjens – Again, to be fair, the guy just came off an injury plagued season, and was clearly done after 4 innings, but Freddi brought him back anyway.  Then, when he finally pulled him, he brought in Hernandez.  He really should have ended the day with a four inning no decision with an era of zero.  Instead he pitched four and a third, got the loss, and an era of 6.23.
  • Michael Bourn – I like this guy, but I’m starting to get a crappy Kenny Lofton feel from him.  Not the Kenny Lofton that managed to find himself on the winning team every year, but the one who played for the Braves in 1997 and clearly didn’t want to. Sure he hit 333 with a 409 OBP; he also got caught stealing 20 times and only stole 27 bases and played the least amount of games after becoming a regular player.  This was after stealing at least 54 bases every year for the previous 5 years, and stealing 54 the next year when he went back to Cleveland.  I remember watching him that year and actually missing Marquis Grissom.  Bourn just hasn’t played for the Braves the way he played for Houston and he doesn’t look happy.  I get a bad feeling from the guy.
  • Freddi – I’ve bitched enough about him, I don’t have anything new to say that I haven’t said already over the last week.  Is it too early to start the Fire Freddi Gonzales campaign?


Other Thoughts

  • I watched the Cardinals play twice this year.  They may be down Carpenter and Pujols, but they still look good.  I think they’ll be tough to beat this year in the NL.
  • It should be a wild one in the NL East this year.  The Phillies are looking a little worn down, but still have to be considered the best in show (Dog show reference!), but the Nats are certainly built for the future and aren’t out of the question for making a run this year.  Both the Nats and the Mets have had the Braves number, in the last year, so that just makes things a little tougher for the Braves.  The Marlins look decent on paper, but their live performance just doesn’t seem to match.  They might have a new stadium and some new players, but I think we’re going to see the same flailing from this team.  How long until they start blaming the fans again for their losses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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