The last couple weeks have been very busy for me, all with the Olympics, school, sports, and life in general. I know this happens a lot, and I always end up apologizing for stopping every few weeks. Life is busy, and mine is very busy right now, but I have to face the facts that I don’t have a lot of time on my hands and that I should use whatever free time I do have to do the things that matter most to me, one of which is blogging.
MLBlogs is always one of my top priorities, but I sometimes just don’t get around to it. During baseball season, there is more to write about, so everyone posts more, but during the winter months things have been straight up dull. The few huge trades of the offseason came early on, and most of January up until now have drifted along at a sluggish pace, with nothing much going on. However, we have now nearly reached Spring Training, and then the season.
As the countdown clock on the MLB.com homepage alerted me this afternoon, we are roughly 19 hours away from the entrance of pitchers and catchers to all Spring Training camps (some are already there). On the eve of this glorious day, as I really have nothing negative to reflect on involving the offseason, I must say that things are good in the baseball world.
The Red Sox are looking like an above-average team at this time. All baseball fans know that the sport we love is at times extremely unpredictable, so there’s really no telling what will happen to the Sox this year. Who knows what I’ll be saying in the middle of August. Last year, we consistently “had the Yankees’ number” in the beginning of the year, but spring turned to summer, and then… well, you know what happened then. Last year, a certain team from Boston was also expected to have a fabulous pitching staff. This dream was soon forgotten, as Dice-K conveniently chose not to disclose the details of an injury suffered during the World Baseball Classic.
After the Matsuzaka’s collapse, the rest of our staff slowly declined. We had a good pitching staff, but not a great one. Additionally, these next couple years will be some of the last in which guys like Josh Beckett will be able to pitch at top form. I hate to admit it, but he’s aging, and no one lasts forever. In the end, surprisingly, it was relief pitching (even our closer, Mr. Papelbon, of all people), that really killed us, both literally (e.g. Game 3, ALDS) and figuratively.
If the pitching staff can stay strong throughout the season and hold on for that final push at the end into the playoffs, we will be helped enormously just by that effort. However, there is still a gaping hole that has been occupied by Manny, Ortiz, and Bay, respectively: the power hitter. We need an offensive spark, someone that can clean up the bases and drive in runs. There aren’t many types of offensive players that directly translate into wins like a power hitter does. Several guys could step into that role, but right now no one seems to be ready. I’m still hoping that we might acquire someone that fits this role, but it seems unlikely.
So, aside from the normal griping and doubts about the team, I am pretty happy right now. Because, in 19 hours, we will have takeoff. Away we go!
It was a glorious day in baseball yesterday. Unfortunately, all that day has left me with is a feeling that things can only get worse from here.
First, it was a fiesta on my fantasy team. CC Sabathia made one of his best starts of the year, holding the Twins to 1 run and 2 hits in 7 innings. This more than made up for Johnny Cueto’s disastrous outing yesterday (see my post from yesterday).
Also, Paul Konerko, previously just a utility player for my team, really came through after my decision to start him: He hit 3 homers!
In Boston, Josh Beckett followed up a brilliant performance by the A’s rookie pitcher Brett Anderson with a great outing, getting his 10th win on the year.
(. Jason Bay also looked back to form as he went 2-3 with a homerun in the 2nd inning. Is his weeklong slump over? Let’s hope so…
And finally, in New York, the one thing that could brighten the mood as the Mets lost once again (yeah, I sort of like the Mets) was the sight of this guy getting ejected:
(that really looks like a mug shot, doesn’t it?)
So why do I keep getting the feeling that after this great night in baseball, things are only going to get worse from here?
Well, my fantasy team certainly hasn’t looked like it did last night before this season. CC has been good, but there is still much room for improvement. Konerko has also had a pretty good season, but a 3 homer night is rare and won’t likely happen again for him this season. I guess, on the bright side, Johnny Cueto can only get better from here!
For the Red Sox, it doesn’t look as much like things will get worse. We haven’t been amazing lately, but we are still the best team in the AL and things are still fine. Jason Bay has certainly been in a slump lately, and he won’t get much rest and relaxation during the All Star break. Let’s just hope we can hang onto this division lead and keep the pace in the second half of the season.
So, maybe I exaggerated a bit. I don’t know, can things get any worse with Manny?
Here’s a fantasy team update for anyone who’s interested…
-I won my last matchup 9-3, now I have 60 wins on the season and I’m still in the running for the top 4
-Andrew McCutchen has basically forced Melky Cabrera out of the starting lineup; I was even more happy with McCutchen after that 13 game hitting streak, the longest this year for a rookie
-However, Melky might get back into the lineup as Juan Pierre, my other great pickup, will go back to being only a role player as Manny returns to the team in a few days or so
-I am really eyeing Wakefield as he again impressed me, getting the 1-0 nothing win last week; a trade could be in order very soon
-I officially have 5 of the top 15 hitters in the AL on my team, and no more than 2 or 3 in the NL; I can’t figure out why
I also thought I should talk a little about Joe Mauer and his chase for .400. He still can’t be statistically considered the best hitter in the majors, because he’s below the required amount of plate appearances, but whenever he passes that mark (he might not reach it until the All Star break), see ya later Pujols, and the others up there. Mauer is in a different class, Pujols is one of the only guys who can even compete with Mauer’s stats right now, and Mauer is a good ways above even him.
Anyone who read the article in Sport Illustrated this week should be as full of discouragement for Mauer fans as I am, as it was loaded with reasons why it will be extremely difficult for Mauer to bat .400 this year. As Joe Sheehan discussed in his sidebar article in the issue, Mauer also needs a fair amount of luck and the ability to keep pace with his stats so far to reach the hallowed mark last reached by the great Ted Williams. He’s hitting about 1 in 4 of his fly balls this year for homeruns, more than two times more power than he’s ever had. As Sheehan said, if this powerful streak drops off a little, Mauer’s average could suffer.
Among other reasons adding to the difficulty Mauer should continue to encounter on his chase for .400 are the fact that only 2 men alive played with a .400 hitter, and the fact that so many players “destined” to hit .400 after a hot first half, or in the case of George Brett and Todd Helton, even a hot first 5 months, have suddenly dropped off and ended up to 20 points below .400. If Mauer can reverse that pattern and keep up the hot streak through September, he will have beaten all the odds. I guess that is pretty obvious.
We could witness history this year, folks, and I’m rooting for Mauer.
Also, Tim Wakefield is making his 383rd start for the Red Sox, and therefore passes Roger Clemens for first in this category. Congratulations Wake!