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.
How’s it going? First, let me say I’m a big fan. I love your passion for the game, your versatility in the field, even that crazy goatee. And what’s up with that batting stance?
But that’s not why I’m writing this letter. No. Youk, I’m writing to help you. It’s about last night’s fight. You see, Youk, I was a little embarrassed for you. When you first got plunked and decided to charge the mound, I was really excited, thinking you were going to throw that lightweight rookie pitcher a beatdown. But once you got out there . . . well, Youk, there’s no easy way to say this . . . it was like you were a graduate from the Judy Garland School of Girl Fighting.
First, you threw your helmet at him. I really have no problem with that action; he threw a rock more than 90-miles-an-hour near your squash. But the fact is you shouldn’t have needed to. You, sir, are a jacked-up corner infielder. He is a skinny pitcher who probably would have whooped by everyone on GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling). Instead, you should have been throwing him around and then throwing punches down.
Of course, it soon became apparent why you threw your helmet at him: You had no idea what you were doing. Maybe you were just never in a scrape as a kid. Maybe your dad never wrestled with you. Maybe you’ve never even seen a fight because you’re not that into violence. Whatever the reason, you looked completely lost. After throwing your helmet at him, I expected a tackle/takedown. Instead, you lunged at his upper body, making it easy for the skinny wimp to judo-flip you onto your back. Not smooth. You should have wrapped up his lower body and taken him down.
But I’m not writing this to criticize you, Youk. I’m writing this to help. Before you decide to charge the mound again (which, given your performance last night, you probably shouldn’t), you need to start watching something called UFC. It stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship, Youk. You probably haven’t heard of it, Youk, but it’s pretty big. Watch it and think about how they approach guys. They don’t go in arms flailing like those girls in your third-grade class, Youk. They have technique.
Thanks to the internet, I’ve embedded a video of Randy Couture for you to study. Once you’ve studied this, search for other videos of guys like George St. Pierre, Dan Henderson and Sean Sherk. Their takedown approaches should help you if you ever decide to charge the mound again. But take time to practice it — maybe start with a little guy like Pedroia, then move on to someone a little bigger, like Jason Bay, before you graduate with a Big Papi, or even a Jim Rice if he’s walking around the clubhouse.
And, if you ever want to use J.D. Drew as a practice dummy, feel free.
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.
Each April, as the baseball season is still in its infancy, we watch as favorites struggle out of the gate, and hopeless underdogs tantalize fans as they hover near first. And each year I say the same thing: Talk to me on Memorial Day.
During those early weeks of the season, we don’t have enough material to work with in judging what teams are for real and which ones aren’t. To me, it seems you can’t really take stock of the contenders and pretenders until you reach Memorial Day.
Now, here we are a few days past the holiday weekend, and, as I look at the Major League Baseball standings, I just don’t know what to think. With so many pre-season favorites struggling, and so many pre-season clunkers hanging tough, this to date just may be the most topsy-turvy baseball season in recent memory.
As fans oohed and aahed at the early struggles of the Tigers, Indians and Yankees, I patiently waited for them to spend May rising toward the top of the heap. Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for the Devil Rays, Athletics, Marlins and Cardinals of the world to plummet back down to their rightful places near the basement. And now that we’ve passed Memorial Day, I’m still waiting.
Entering June, what are the Rays still doing hanging around? They’re good, but not this good, are they? Can you really see this team hanging around til September, or even making a push for October? At this point, I’m hesitant to make a guess either way. Given my Memorial Day theory, they should have started to fade by now. Maybe they’ll hang til August . . . but that’s got to be it. It’s just got to be.
The Yankees? I thought they’d have pitching problems . . . but while I’d like to say I saw this coming, I didn’t. This team is not good, and there may be too many holes for them to plug this year.
Still waiting for the Tigers and Indians to play like they are supposed to. Maybe they haven’t received the memo that we’ve reached Memorial Day. And someone please tell Ozzie’s Sox they are overdue to start fading. Not too long ago I said they weren’t for real, and that the Royals were real. Brilliant.
And what is more surprising: That the Athletics are still contending (and just swept your Sox), or that the Mariners added another ace this year and are absolutely, positively terrible?
I thought the Marlins would be good . . . . good enough to challenge for third place. And the Cardinals should have been making their golf plans for October by now, not thinking about playing baseball in the fall. And remember when we thought the Giants would be so much worse — SO MUCH WORSE — than the Padres. Ah, yes. Those were the days.
We are just over two weeks into the season and hitting that fun early time of year when some teams are doing surprisingly well early and making excited fans wonder: Are they for real? Let’s seperate the pretenders from the contenders.
Baltimore Orioles Sure, the O’s may have started out 6-1, but c’mon. This team has nobody on it except for some young players who are still a few years away from making an impact. Pretender.
Kansas City Royals I know, they’re the Royals. Still, Zach Greinke and Brian Bannister are the real deal — exciting young arms with great stuff. Gil Meche might be considered the ace of the team, but in reality he gives the Royals a very good Number Three. The lineup has some exciting young players with a world of upside, the tops being Alex Gordon who after disappointing last season looks ready for primetime. Funny as it may sound, this might be a team who could really use a stick like one Barry Bonds. They could stick around long enough to contend for a wild card this season, so consider them a contender, but this team is truly poised for next season.
Chicago White Sox The White Sox are a tough, tough team to read. On paper they have more talent than a team like K.C., so if I’m going to consider the Royals contenders, then . . . Still, there is something uneasy about a team that tanked so badly last season and is made up of a lot of aged vets. Given that the division suddenly seems wide open, it is hard to count anybody completely out of it. Still, I just don’t believe in the White Sox. Call it a gut feeling. Pretender.
Detroit Tigers Okay, so they’re not surprising in a “good” way for their fans. Still, their start has been surprising to say the least. The national media, which was on the Tiger bandwagon in a big way a month ago is suddenly jumping off like it is the Titanic. Slow down. This is still a very, very good team. And by August their mini-slump in early April will be a distant memory. Contender.
Oakland Athletics In the midst of a rebuilding phase, the A’s seemed poised to battle the Rangers for the basement of the division. However, despite three losses to the Red Sox, Oakland has started off the season in first place. But don’t believe in them. They have good arms in Joe Blanton and Rich Harden, but Billy Beane knows this isn’t his year. The team will fade toward the back of the pack quickly, and don’t be surprised if Beane deals Harden this summer (Boston is a nice place to live, Rich). Pretender.
Florida Marlins Before last season, I picked the Marlins as one of the teams I thought could surprise in 2007. But, they didn’t. Still, this is a team stacked with great young talent. It could be that time when that young talent clicks, and if Anibel Sanchez comes off the DL looking strong in June, watch out. All that being said, at the end of the day I liked this team a lot better when they had Miguel Cabrera. And, the team that won it all in 2003 was built by one John Henry — not MLB Public Enemy Number One Jeffrey “The Bandit” Loria. That team also had some vets on it, including Ivan Rodriguez. And there are too many other titans in the division. So where do they stand? Hell, if I know. They probably won’t beat out the Mets and Phillies, as those teams have the resources to make a mid-season deal. But, the Marlins could conceivably contend for third place, which is a good season for them. So . . . Contender.
St. Louis Cardinals What’s up with the Cardinals having the best record in baseball right now? They have no business doing that, especially when I picked them to contend for the division’s basement. They’ll fade soon . . . I think. Pretender.
- Varitek just smacked a home run to tie the game. Count the homer he should’ve had in Oakland, and he’s been hitting the cover off the ball so far. What was that I was saying about him the other day? (He is so going to cash in at year’s end.)
- Might be early to say this, but with two homers in four at bats, it would seem Jacoby Ellsbury hits Roy Halladay well. Once Tito is ready to go with him as the everyday centerfielder/lead-off man come June, Ellsbury is going to be electric this summer.
- Beckett has great velocity today. They’ve really got to pull this one out, as it would suck to see them get swept.
- Is it just me, or is anyone else scared to death that the Tigers have been terrible so far this season and they are coming to Fenway. I keep hearing this whisper of “breakout.”
- Sure, the bullpen was horrid yesterday, but something even more troubling was cameras showed some (alleged) Red Sox fan clapping together . . . thunder sticks. When did we become the Angels?