A year ago, Red Sox fans were anxiously awaiting word on whether Jim Rice would FINALLY be elected to the Hall of Fame. Thankfully, he was. Now, we wait for word on the newly elected members of the Hall. To me, there are three clear-cut choices for Cooperstown, whether or not the baseball writers in all their wisdom choose to see it that way. They are:
Jack Morris – With his devastating fork ball and Hall-of-Fame porn mustache, Morris was a dominant pitcher throughout the 80s and early 90s. He was THE MAN on World Series championship teams in Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto. (Not to mention he pitched what is arguably the greatest World Series game ever – Game 7, Minnesota-Atlanta.) He may not have the padded stats that mindless Hall voters have think for them, but anyone who followed baseball during that time knows Morris was consistently great and one of the very best pitchers of his day.
Bert Blyleven – Disregarding for a moment what I just said about mindless stats, let me say the most compelling case for Blyleven’s induction is one simple stat: The fifth most strikeouts . . . ever. Blyleven spent his career bouncing between a who’s who of the game’s worst teams . . . teams that made today’s Royals look like the Anaheim Angels. And, for them, Blyleven was great. He didn’t get a ton of wins, and because of that suffered when it came to Cy Young time, but he was great. Understand, strikeouts are not some meaningless stat. Simply, each time a guy strikes out against you, your stuff was too good for that major league hitter. It’s not like wins, where you can muddle by with mediocrity if you are on a good team. Because of a long career on several good teams, Don Sutton got wins and is in the Hall of Fame . . . somehow. He wasn’t half the pitcher Blyleven was.
Roberto Alomar – Arguably the greatest second-baseman to ever play the game. During the 90s, if a team wanted to win, they went out and got Alomar. The Blue Jays, the Orioles, the Indians, all were elite teams in large part because of Alomar. Offensively, for a second-baseman, he was great. Defensively, for a second-baseman, he was incredible. His election should be a slam dunk.
Reports are that the top free-agent pitcher on the market — and longtime Sox nemesis — John Lackey took a physical with the Red Sox this morning, which could be a precursor to a deal.
If true, it’s an interesting move, and honestly one that I didn’t see coming. Given the depth of the Sox rotation, I didn’t believe they’d spend money on a big free agent pitcher this offseason, preferring instead to tweak their offense and save money for next offseason, when the team has some big decisions to make.
Signing Lackey will give the Sox an amazing starting rotation, with the front four being Beckett, Lackey, Lester and Matsuzaka — who, if he is anything like how he finished this past season, could next year be that amazing pitcher we’ve all been waiting for.
But this move could also set off an interesting chain of events. One of the most interesting ideas I’ve heard is that bringing in Lackey could give the Sox the flexibility to move Clay Bucholz, thereby possibly making a deal possible with San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez.
Another thing is what will now happen with Roy Halliday. Toronto NEEDS to move him this offseason. With the Sox out of the running, does that mean Halliday is headed to the Bronx, or – if they lose Lackey – will the Angels make an aggressive push to land him? Should be interesting . . .
This isn’t going to happen. There is absolutely, positively no chance of it.
BUT . . .
The Boston Globe’s Eric Wilbur has an interesting piece today outlining a scenario in which the Sox might be able to get ace pitcher Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. (http://www.boston.com/sports/columnists/wilbur/2009/07/07/the_roy_factor/)
Except for a couple of freak injuries – including a fractured leg from a line drive – Halladay has been the best pitcher in the game this decade. The only reason you don’t know it is those injuries and that he has played on a mediocre team. If he had been on the Sox or Yanks, or even a franchise like the Twins that has made the playoffs a few times in recent years, fans would recognize his greatness.
Despite the weak squad around him for years, Halladay has dominated opponents and been amazingly durable; a pitcher who throws complete games like this is the 1950s. And he shows no signs of slowing down. He is signed til the end of 2010, and wants to pitch for a contender. He is the kind of talent it would be worth packaging Clay Bucholz with Michael Bowden or Josh Bard to get. That’s a lot of potential talent to give up, but you always give up “potential” to get a sure thing when that sure thing is the best in the game.
Again, this won’t happen. It’s hard to envision the Jays dealing Halladay within the division. And they are a team that wants to win now, not in five years. Still, it’s fun to think about . . .
Let’s just hold on and take a breath for a moment, Red Sox Nation. I know how much you despise the Yanks. I know how good it feels to be up 7 games to zero against the Yanks this season. You’re excited. So am I.
But it doesn’t mean anything.
If you’ve perused the papers and baseball websites this morning, you’ve noticed all the articles about Boston’s dominance over the Yankees this season. Some articles talk about why the Sox are so much better, how they have a psychological edge, better pitching, etc. Unfortunately, it’s all garbage.
Baseball is a funny, quirky game. A hitter can be hitting like garbage, but if a bloop falls in the outfield, or a check-swing hit dies in the infield grass before it can be fielded, said hitter suddenly has an impressive hit-streak. At the same time, a hitter can be mashing line drives, but if they are right at people, they’re suddenly in a slump.
Same thing for teams. Sure, the Sox have had some dominant wins during this seven-game run against New York. But there’s also been some close ones — like last night’s one-run game — that, if Swisher fields a ball here, or someone gets a hit there, the Yanks gets some wins. And baseball karma is a funny thing, and things tend to even out over a long season. I remember a few years ago when the Sox started out something like 5 and 1 against the Yanks, but then proceeded to drop five of six games against them later in the year. That causes me to cringe when I think about later in the season.
Sure, I’m happy the Sox are getting wins. They need them, because despite their 7-0 record against New York, they are a mere one-game up on them. That doesn’t bode well over the course of the season. The Sox could go 19-0 against New York this year, but if they don’t win against other teams, they’ll lose the division. And, like it or not, this New York squad is a very good, and very dangerous team.
I just hope the Sox save some of these wins for October.
Some other thoughts:
-I noticed the MLBlogs frontpage had something on Roy Halliday’s dominance this season. He is amazingly underappreciated. If it weren’t for some freak injuries — like breaking his leg — and playing in obscurity in Toronto, he’d be considered the best pitcher in the game and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Throughout his career, he has been a dominant pitcher, a workhorse who throws complete games and stifles opponents despite having an inferior team behind him for most of these years.
-The Arizona Diamondbacks are killing me. The team that I picked to win the National League this year would currently be the worst team in the NL by far, if it weren’t for the Washington Nationals. The D-Backs are too talented for this. Heads should roll.
Early in the season, when teams and players are very hot or very cold, I often say “Wait and see where they are come Memorial Day.” Now here we are, at the end of May, and we can finally take a look at who are real players this year, and who are pretenders. So here are some of my thoughts on the year so far:
–Goodbye, Toronto. Thanks for playing.
–You have to be happy with where the Sox are considering Papi’s woes and that their starting pitching has yet to click.
–I hate to say it, but Papi looks done. Consider that this slump extends well back into last season. This happens a lot in baseball. You just hoped it wouldn’t happen to such a pivotal great in Sox history.
–I don’t know what’s more surprising: That the Devil Rays are four games under .500, or that the Orioles are only four games under .500. Actually, yeah I do. The more surprising one is the Orioles.
–The Tigers are winning the Central. But what’s up with the Indians? They just can’t put it together. Eric Wedge, meet the unemployment line.
–The Rangers are good, but not that good. They benefit from a weak division. And, yeah, I am saying the Angels are weak.
–Stick a fork in Matt Holliday. He’s done.
–Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would own the title of Team Owner I’d Most Like To Hit With A Shovel . . . if Mark Cuban wasn’t so damn annoying.
–The Cardinals won’t be near the top of their division come September.
–Ha ha ha ha. The Cubs are .500 and more than 4 games out! Ha ha ha ha ha . . .
–The Dodgers own the game’s best record by nearly 6 games . . . and they are probably only about the sixth best team in the game. They should send thank-you notes to all those Four-A teams that make up the rest of their division.
I know it is unbecoming to say “I told you so.” But . . . .
I told you so.
Back when the Sox were a lowly 2 and 6, and a lot of people were saying the sky was falling, I told you it was only April, the Sox are a good team, baseball is better viewed in the macro rather than the micro, and just wait. A 10-game-winning-streak-and-sweep-of-the-Yankees later and . . . well . . . who da man?
I should really stretch out before I pat myself on the back.
We’re now seeing the benefits of having a deep lineup, deep farm system, and the best bullpen in franchise history. The scary thing is our most-feared hitter hasn’t starting hitting yet (although he seems to be turning a corner), and our awesome starting rotation has seen its share of injuries and other bumps in the road. What is going to happen when this team is firing on all cylinders? It’s going to be a fun season.
On another topic, my low-life brother called me from New Orleans (where he was for work) the other day to, among other things, gloat about how awesome the Blue Jays were and how they were making him look like a genius for picking them to do well this year.
People, my brother is a moron. It would take the hand of God to make Jason look like a genius. Again, consider the date. It’s still April. The Blue Jays have all season left to fade back into fourth place. Foolishness like this is why my brother is trailing me badly in our fantasy baseball league.
- Sometimes when I see the October Gonzo guy holding a bat on the MLBlogs homepage, I think: “Prince looks like he doesn’t know how to hold a bat.” And then I think: “Gee, I wish he’d stop blogging about baseball and just go back to making music.”
- You have to be happy with the Sox taking three of four from the Jays this weekend . . . especially as they move to within a game of the Devil Rays. Admit it: You were ascared (I know I was) as the scorching-hot Jays came into town. Now the Sox have to do some damage down in Tampa Bay. But it’s highly questionable. How can a team that is 30 games over .500 at home be below .500 on the road?