No matter which way you look at it or what side you were on, last night’s Red Sox/Yankees game was an ugly mess, an embarrassment.
For both teams.
There are no winners when the score gets to 15-9, not in any practical sense. You don’t get to 15-9 without there being spectacular failures on each side. Both teams flat out stunk. And you know what? I’d be saying the same thing if the Red Sox had come in on top. Coming in at four hours, eight minutes, this was entirely too long for a nine inning game of no special consequence.
Clay Buchholz looked pretty bad, but I suppose it wasn’t all terrible. He did have a scoreless inning in the second, I guess that should count for something. Just seemed that he couldn’t locate the ball. Whether that was some bad strategy, hoping players would swing and miss those bad pitches, or whether it was an off night, who knows. Chien-Ming Wang was awful, flat-out awful. If it seems like I’m being harder on him than Buchholz, it’s not because one’s a Red Sox player and one’s a Yankee. It’s because Buchholz is the #5 man in Boston’s rotation, and Wang is the #1 man in New York’s. You expect more out of your #1 guy, you have to. And after his tremendous start last Friday, you really expected more out of Wang. And Buchholz… well, he’s got great stuff, undeniably, amazing potential, but I’m still not sold on him being ready for prime time. For that matter, I’m not sold on Lester either. I know they’re going to be very good, and very important parts of the rotation for a long time to come. But Buchholz has looked anything but unhittable, and Lester takes seven hours to pitch four lousy innings.
And no Red Sox starter has pitched 7 innings this season. Not a one.
I give Josh Beckett a free pass on that because he essentially missed spring training. He hasn’t had the chance to get stretched out, and with each game he’s gotten better. He pitched 4 2/3 innings in his first start and looked brilliant through the first three or so before he started getting tired, and last time around, he pitched 6 2/3, looking brilliant through about five before wearing out. So there’s been measurable progress there, and he’s had great stuff.
But everyone else?
Tim Wakefield is hit or miss, and he’s probably always going to be that way. With the knuckleball, you just never know… but he knows what he’s doing, and I feel at least when he goes out there that he’s going to give the team a chance to win. He’s a professional, he doesn’t get rattled easily, and somehow he always finds a way to get outs. Daisuke Matsuzaka started off the season with a less than stellar start, threw two back-to-back quality starts, and then returned to the ways of old in his fourth start.
But you know what? All of the pitching in the world can’t help you if your shortstop makes more errors than Hillary Clinton recalling her achievements as first lady. Who knows what might have happened if Lugo had turned the ground ball that Julian Tavarez so desperately needed into the inning-ending double play it was meant to be? Then you have a tie score with your best relievers waiting to be used, instead of a deficit not worth using your best guys to hold on to. I’ll never know what the front office sees in this guy. Sometimes he hits, more often than not he doesn’t, and even if he does have a multi-hit game, it seems as though he finds the least important moments to get those hits.
Timlin? It’s hard to tell if he’s been unlucky, had an off night, or if he’s out of gas altogether.
And Jacoby Ellsbury continues to demonstrate that despite what the Pink Hats might say, despite all of the ladies fawning over how “dreamy” he is (note to people in my office: just because I’m in my cubicle doesn’t mean I can’t hear you when you talk about him right outside of it), he’s not ready to be an every day major league player. He gets fooled each and every time they throw the ball inside on him. 0-5 last night. Meanwhile, Coco Crisp has been off to a great start but the idiots are too busy demanding he be traded/hung/shot to notice that he should be the everyday center fielder.
In a perfect world, Ellsbury, Lester, and Buchholz would all be headed back to AAA to refine the areas of their game that need the most work. Wishing these problems away isn’t going to make it so. Printing more merchandise with their names and numbers to sell to fair-weather fans isn’t going to make them better. But alas, the surplus of starting pitching we were supposed to have isn’t there, and there’s simply no better options available to the Sox. (Please remind me why they traded Kason Gabbard for Eric Gagne? Someone like Gabbard would be perfect right now. If you had Kason Gabbard, you could send Buchholz back down to the minors to work his problems out. If you had a healthy Curt Schilling, you could send Lester down too until he figured out where the strike zone was and remembered how to challenge hitters.)
Make no mistake, the Yankees didn’t have a good night either. I don’t care what team you are, if you give up nine runs, you should lose the ballgame, period. They stunk; we stunk more.
Swept by Toronto.
No, dear reader, it’s not September 2007, although one couldn’t help but remember that disastrous trip up north last fall.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this team (well, counting last year’s too) looking more out of it. Another flight, another trip through customs, another opening day ceremony… now I’m just watching all of this on TV and I’ve had enough of it, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on the Red Sox, having to go through some out of the way travel only to arrive for seemingly endless hours of ceremony before a single pitch gets thrown. Though no one on the team was going to come out and complain, this is a team that very badly needs to get some equilibrium back, and the best way to do that for them is to go home. Fortunately, that’s up next. It’s somehow weird to me that these games are even counting, since it’s been a pattern of games that don’t count followed by games that do followed by games that don’t followed by more games that do… you figure somehow these might not count. The Sox haven’t even had a consistent schedule… couple here, couple there, these count, those don’t, etc. I gotta say, just from a fan’s point of view, that I’m sick of all the interruptions. One of my favorite things about baseball is that it’s always on, that tomorrow’s always another day, that after a loss you come right back and win one, or after a win you wake up with a clean slate and look to keep it up. This weekend we had three games in a row, and that’s the longest stretch of uninterrupted games so far. I’m looking forward to having more than two or three games without a day off in between. Then we’ll see some momentum.
FRIDAY: WAKEFIELD VS. MARCUM
Gotta say, this was the best of the three games to watch. Marcum pitched a great game for Toronto, and Wakefield was quite good through the first five. It’s really hard for me to go into panic mode watching a good team get played by another good team, and watching hitters get stifled by a pitcher who’s got everything working that day. Plus, it was the Blue Jays’ home opener, and maybe it’s just me not wanting to mess with karma since I’m going to the Sox’ home opener, but I can’t begrudge a team for winning their first home game for their fans. It was an exciting contest and I’m looking forward to seeing Wakefield’s next start.
Disappointing, but not a terrible outing from Buccholz. Sean Casey’s error at first really killed them. You hate to put it all on one player, but sometimes it just works out that way. If Casey doesn’t goof up, the game’s still winnable. I’m not ready to take away his #22 just yet. He’ll have a better day. The irony, though… Kevin Youkilis breaks the all-time record for consecutive errorless games at first, and then he gets a day off and what happens… yep, an error at first that kills the game.
SUNDAY: BECKETT RETURNS
Beckett looked fantastic through the first three, a little tired but still good in the fourth, and out of gas in the fifth. He’s one Manny Delcarmen pitch away from not finding himself on the losing end of this one, so what can you do? For a guy that hasn’t had a chance to pitch competitively basically all spring, who hasn’t really faced major league hitters yet, I think he did well. Next start should be back to normal.
Three errors in one game on Sunday, one on Friday, can’t really hit worth a damn… this was the guy they spent millions to bring to Boston? I don’t think he’s the worst player I’ve ever seen, but coming a year after Alex Gonzalez, the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever seen, Lugo’s deficiencies are glaring. Maybe I’m being too hard on the guy, but my heart still skips a beat whenever things set up for Lugo to make a routine play. Since Lugo hasn’t exactly done a great job of hitting, the decision to sign him long-term looks even sillier now. You really wonder what’s gonna happen to him if this keeps up, barely hitting above .200 and continuing to play a below-average shortstop. I wonder if Jed Lowrie will find his way up in September a la Dustin Pedroia in ’06. Something tells me that Lugo doesn’t finish out his four-year contract (three remaining, including this one) in a Boston uniform.
Which brings me to my next point, which is the Lugo and J.D. Drew signings. I don’t recall hearing any big hype around either of those guys before they were signed and overpaid, and I’m still not sure what the front office saw in these guys to make them overpay so drastically. They’re not bad, but they’re average… neither Drew nor Lugo has provided the team with anything that they couldn’t get for ten times less. And if Drew hadn’t been signed, there wouldn’t be a logjam in the outfield. Coco Crisp would play center, Ellsbury would play right, Bobby Kielty would be the backup, and in a couple years when Crisp’s deal ran out, Ellsbury would move to center and Brandon Moss could take over in right. Alex Gonzalez could have been signed to an extension after ’06 (did I mention I loved that infield that year?), and Lowrie could have taken over some point this year or next. Lots of money saved, more homegrown players on the field (which I prefer over high-priced imports, just more fun that way to watch them grow up), win-win for everyone. Whenever I have this conversation with people, they point out that being a top rated prospect is not a guarantee of success, and that’s true… but I’m not asking any of these minor league kids to step up and be Manny Ramirez. I’m asking them to hit better than Lugo, or to look more alive than Drew, and either way, that doesn’t seem like too much of a tall order. Long term free agent signings aren’t a guarantee either (see: Yankees, The, 2001-2007).
Tomorrow’s opening day, and I’ll be there… hopefully with some cool things to write about afterwards!