Tagged: Toronto Blue Jays

A lil’ Championship Fun….

I picked this up from SB Nation:  And I can’t really argue with it.

Papi WWE Champion

These comparisons are based on the 2013 editions of each team. Yes, the all-time Yankees would be “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase or Hulk Hogan or whatever; the 2013 Yankees are neither of those. So kick back, enjoy and try not to take things too seriously.

Just kidding; it’s pro wrestling discussion on the Internet! Tear each other limb from limb!

The Boston Red Sox are John Cena

Cena at FenwayNo one over the age of 12 wants to admit it, but John Cena is absolutely outstanding at what he does. The problem is that everyone is sick of him. They’re sick of his dumb shirts, they’re sick of his Sincere Serious Voice, they’re sick of him constantly Beating the Odds and they’re sick of him in general. That’s the Red Sox. They’re terrific this year — again — after an epic collapse and a lost year. They used to be America’s darlings until they won 3  World Series’ and the country got exposed to Red Sox Nation. Wait a minute … Red Sox Nation … the “Cenation” …

The Tampa Bay Rays are Daniel Bryan

You know the story of the Rays by now. They don’t get any help from anybody. They’re a small-market team in the second-worst stadium in the league, playing in front of no one, with one of the smallest payrolls in the league. But it’s okay; they’ll still be one of the best teams in the world, year after year. They’ll do it their own damn selves. Daniel Bryan, AKA “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson has been wrecking shop coast-to-coast in independent federations for 13 or so years and he’s always been exactly this good. Always. Now he’s the hottest wrestler on the planet and wrestling fools for an hour on Raw and everyone is like “lol where the hell did this guy come from?”

The New York Yankees are the Undertaker

Red Sox versus Yankees

Spends most of the year injured, but will still never lose.

The Baltimore Orioles are Booker T

Everyone likes the Orioles in some way. They’re not really a team that lends itself to intense hatred. They probably don’t even have a real arch-rival (maybe the Giants for stealing their colors). I bet they think they do, like the Padres and Mariners have arch-rivals. But they don’t. Everyone loves that the Orioles are doing well again (except Yankees fans). Everyone likes the team’s history (except Yankees fans) and of course everyone is crazy about those gorgeous uniforms. (Yankees fans, you like the uniforms okay, right?) The Orioles have been up, they’ve been down, they’ve been the best, they’ve disappeared. That’s Booker T: no one really hates the guy; lots of people think of him very fondly. His career is all over the place. I mean ALL OVER THE PLACE. He was a tag team specialist, he was a guy who lost the rights to his name so he had to start wrestling as G.I. Bro, he feuded with a guy over shampoo, he was suddenly a foreign king, he kicked around in TNA hating everything before reinventing himself as an announcer. Like the Oriole’s, there is some aspect of Booker T’s career that you can recall fondly.

The Toronto Blue Jays are 2013 Chris Jericho

Jericho 2013 Rumble

We had such high hopes, but then it was all just terrible.

The Detroit Tigers are Kane

Kane has been extremely popular and successful for like 15 years. He’s been pretty much every champion there is, crowds love him, he sells merchandise and rarely makes a fool of himself in the ring. All that said; there’s nothing really getting worked up over. At the end of the day, he’s still just Kane.

(I am so sorry, Tigers fans.)

The Cleveland Indians are Tatanka

Yep.

The Kansas City Royals are Chainsaw Charlie

It should have been a can’t-miss opportunity. Mick Foley was just starting to set the world on fire as Mankind following his infamous interview with Jim Ross and being tossed off that cage. Everyone knew he was a crazy guy who would do just about anything to get ahead. Who better to bring in to be his tag team partner than Terry gosh dang Funk? So Funk and the (then-)WWF put their heads together and … introduced Terry Funk as “Chainsaw Charlie,” a guy in suspenders who wore panty hose on his head.

The Royals during the offseason were determined to make a big splash. They traded away the top prospect in all of baseball and got woefully shortchanged on the deal. They traded, they spent, they seemed to make a bunch of bad decisions and now… It could have been amazing. Instead, they’re wearing panty hose on their heads and wondering what went wrong.

The Minnesota Twins are The Miz

Because WHOOOOO CAAAAAAARES

The Oakland Athletics are ACH

I know; you’ve never heard of ACH. ACH is an amazing pro wrestler who is out there killing himself in front of 15 people in a rec hall in a ring that looks like it has linoleum for a mat. But he’s not going to stop; he’s just going to keep being great at what he does. And the people who DO show up love him to death and realize they’re watching something special. So you can see how there might be SOME parallels. Just throwing it out there.

The Texas Rangers are Ricky Steamboat

Ricky SteamboatRicky Steamboat is probably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. But he never rose much higher than “second fiddle.” His contemporaries were more colorful, or more charismatic, or just more interesting. He got right up against superstardom, but never really got over the hump. That’s where the Rangers are finding themselves now. Ricky Steamboat won that match at WrestleMania III, but Randy Savage will always be more beloved. Can the Rangers find a way to make themselves memorable?  (For those who don’t know, he’s pictured here holding the WWF/WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship: It’s like winning the American League pennant but not winning the World Series… sorry)

The Seattle Mariners are Al Snow

In one of his books, Mick Foley uses “Al Snow” as a euphemism for taking a poop. The Mariners are not as bad as all that. Mostly because the Astros are in their division now. But I mean, come on; the Mariners are Al Snow.

The Chicago White Sox are Zack Ryder

From tarnished and shamed, to a long stretch of awfulness, to a relatively-brief period of intense success. Then they vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.

The Los Angeles Angels are Scott Steiner

Once amazing, but now bloated with … contracts. Flashes of brilliance interspersed with deep slumps of sheer insanity. Either way, you can’t look away. Always, always, always entertaining. For better or for worse.

The Houston Astros are Dennis Rodman

Yes, Dennis Rodman wrestled. He fell asleep on the ring apron. He’s one of the worst wrestlers in history, but you can’t even be mad, because he’s Dennis Rodman. Like, what else is he gonna do, you know what I mean? I hope you know where I’m going with this.

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Fact or Fiction… ?

Well, Congrats to Barry Larkin, the singular inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2012.

Now comes the hard part.  The 2013 Ballot will be flooded in worthy, clouded and questionable candidates. Of the first year candidates hitting the ballot for 2012, only Bernie Williams, @ 9.6%, earned enough votes (above 5%) to remain on the ballot for next year.  Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell made fairly significant increases in their percentage numbers, however a few of those numbers will look to drop as ‘hold-overs’ tend to dip when big name newbies hit the ballot.  Those names will include;

  •    Barry Bonds: OF Pittsburgh, San Fransisco
  •    Roger Clemens: RHSP Boston (A), Toronto, New York (A), Houston
  •    Mike Piazza: C/DH Los Angeles (N), Florida, New York (N), San Diego, Oakland
  •    Curt Schilling: RHSP Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia (N), Arizona, Boston (A)
  •    Kenny Lofton: CF/OF Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago (A), San Fransisco, Chicago (N), Pittsburgh,  New York (A), Philadelphia (N), Los Angeles (N), Texas
  •     David Wells: LHSP Toronto, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore, New York (A), Chicago (A), San Diego,  Boston (A), Los Angeles (N)
  •     Sammy Sosa: OF/DH Texas, Chicago (A), Chicago (N), Baltimore
  •     Craig Biggio: C/2B/OF Houston

Now, looking at the list, one doesn’t see a first ballot inductee (as opposed to the 2013 ballot and Greg Maddux’ 1st year of eligibility).  Both Bonds and Clemens carry the statistics of greatness but are deeply embroiled in the PED issue due to various and on-going reasons.  Piazza, arguably one of the greatest offensive catchers in the game, played in the Steroid Era and, like Bagwell, will have to endure.  Craig Biggio and Kenny Lofton were big-name stars but are on the bubble at best.  Sammy Sosa, like McGwire and Palmeiro, will probably earn enough votes to stay on the ballot as voters continue to judge the Steroid Era for its’ fact and fiction.  David Wells, well who knows.  He’ll probably survive to the next ballot but with Schilling taking some votes away and Jack Morris still on it, who can say for sure?

So let’s take a look at what appears to be the next great debate;  Curt Schilling versus Jack Morris.

Some say that Curt cannot get into the Hall if Jack Morris is excluded and vice-versa.  Others believe that a few of their average to just above average regular seasons give way to their post-season efforts, while experts contend that the HOF isn’t based wholly on post-season theatrics.  As Brian Kenney of Clubhouse Confidential put it, “Many people mistake Jack Morris for being the post-season pitcher Curt Schilling actually was.”  So, let’s see where this takes us.

  •                                  Luis Tiant (19)         Jack Morris (18)         Curt Schilling (20)         David Wells (21)
  • Wins/Losses(%):  229/172 (.571)            254/186 (.577)              216/146 (.597)              239/157 (.604)
  • ERA:                                3.30                               3.90                                 3.46                                4.13
  • ERA+:                              115                                 105                                   128                                 108
  • Strikeouts:                     2416                               2478                                3116                               2201
  • K/BB:                              2.19                                1.78                                 4.38                                 3.06
  • WAR:                               60.1                               39.3                                 69.7                                 50.7

Well, those are the basics.  Wells is eliminated on ERA alone.  At 3.90, Morris has the highest ERA of any legitimate Hall of Fame candidate and if elected, would have the highest ERA for a starter.  Wells played for some great teams and Championship teams to accumulate that winning percentage, including some great personal accolades and 3 All-Star appearances, but he’s out.

Now let’s take a look at the post-season stats in the three-horse race.

  •                                     Luis Tiant (3 Series)         Jack Morris (7 Series)         Curt Schilling (12 Series)
  • Wins/Losses (%):            3/0 (1.000)                             7/4 (.636)                                 11/2 (.846)
  • ERA:                                        2.86                                          3.80                                            2.23
  • Innings Pitched                     34.2                                           92.1                                            133.1
  • Strikeouts:                                20                                              64                                              120
  • K/BB:                                       1.82                                           2.00                                           4.80

Tiant broke through in 1968, after he altered his delivery so that he turned away from the home plate during his motion, in effect creating a hesitation pitch. According to Tiant, the new motion was a response to a drop in his velocity due to an arm injury. Twisting and turning his body into unthinkable positions, Tiant would spend more time looking at second base than he did the plate as he prepared to throw. In that season, he led the league in ERA (1.60), shutouts (9, including 4 consecutive!), hits per nine innings (a still-standing franchise record 5.30, which broke Herb Score’s 5.85 in 1956 and would be a Major-League record low until Nolan Ryan gave up 5.26 hits/9 innings in 1972), strikeouts per nine innings (9.22, more than a batter an inning), while finishing with a 21–9 mark. Beside this, opposing hitters batted just .168 off Tiant, a major league record, and on July 3 he struck out 19 Minnesota Twins in a ten-inning game, setting an American League record for games of that length. His 1.60 ERA was the lowest in the American League since Walter Johnson’s 1.49 mark during the dead-ball era in 1919, and second lowest in 1968 only to Bob Gibson’s 1.12—the lowest ever during the Live Ball Era.

Known as El Tiante at Fenway Park, in 1972 Tiant regained his old form with a 15–6 record and led the league with a 1.91 ERA on his way to winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. He would win 20 games in 1973 and 22 in 1974. Though hampered by back problems in 1975, he won 18 games for the American League Champion Red Sox and then excelled for Boston in the postseason. In the playoffs he defeated the three-time defending World Champion Oakland Athletics in a 7–1 three-hitter complete game, then opened the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His father and mother, having been allowed to visit from Cuba under a special visa, were in Fenway Park that game to watch their son defeat The Big Red Machine in a 6–0 five-hit shutout. All six Red Sox runs were scored in the seventh inning; Tiant led off that inning (the designated hitter was not yet in use in World Series play) with a base hit off Don Gullett and eventually scored on Carl Yastrzemski’s single for the first of those six runs.  Tiant won Game 4 as well (throwing 163 pitches in his second complete game in the series) and had a no-decision in Game 6, which has been called the greatest game ever played, after Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game-winning walk-off home run in the 12th inning.

In his 19-season career, Tiant compiled a 229–172 record with 2416 strikeouts, a 3.30 ERA, 187 complete games, and 49 shutouts in 3,486.1 innings. Tiant is one of five pitchers to have pitched four or more consecutive shutouts in the 50-year expansion era, with Don Drysdale (six, 1968), Bob Gibson (five, 1968), Orel Hershiser (five, 1988) and Gaylord Perry (four, 1970) being the others.  He was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.

  •      4 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA, leading the league twice.
  •      5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins.
  •      7 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league 3 times.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.

3 All-Star Games.  4 time 20 game winner.  3 times appearing on the American League Cy Young balloting, twice finishing in the top five.  4 times appearing on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top ten.

Jack Morris played in 18 big league seasons between 1977 and 1994, mainly for the Detroit Tigers, and won 254 games throughout his career.  Armed with a fastball, slider, devastating splitter and a fierce competitive spirit, Morris played on three World Championship teams (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, and 1992 Blue Jays). While he gave up the most hits, earned runs and home runs of any pitcher in the 1980s, he also started the most games, pitched the most innings and was the winningest pitcher of the decade.  On April 7, 1984 Morris no-hit the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.  In 1986, Morris racked up 21 wins, but was overshadowed by eventual Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox.  Despite a sub par season in 1989 when he won only 6 games, he still finished as the winningest major league pitcher of the 1980s, with 162 wins during the decade.

In 1991, Morris signed a one-year contract with his hometown Minnesota Twins. He enjoyed another great season, posting 18 wins as Minnesota faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Morris started for the Twins three times, with his final outing being Game 7. In a postseason performance for the ages, the 36-year-old hurler, known throughout his career as a clutch “big game” pitcher, lived up to his billing by throwing 10 innings of shutout baseball against the Braves as the Twins won the World title on a 10th inning single by Gene Larkin that scored Dan Gladden.  Morris was named the World Series MVP for his fantastic performance.  Following the 1991 season, Morris spurned the Minnesota Twins, his hometown team, and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He earned 21 wins for the second time in his career (and the first ever 20-win season for a Blue Jays pitcher), though he rode the wave of superior run support from his offense, given his 4.04 ERA that year. The Blue Jays reached the 1992 World Series against the Braves and despite a sub par World Series performance, he won a third championship ring as Toronto beat Atlanta in six games. He won a fourth in 1993, as the Blue Jays repeated as World Champions with a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Morris did not pitch in the postseason, however.

  •      5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league in 1986.
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Complete Games, leading the league in 1990.
  •      12 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league twice.

5 All Star Games.  3 Time 20 game winner.  Appearing on the AL Cy Young ballot 7 times, 5 time finishing in the top five.  Morris appeared 5 times on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top 15.  4 Time World Series Champion including the 1991 World Series MVP award.

During the Phillies’ pennant run in 1993, Schilling went 16–7 with a 4.02 ERA and 186 strikeouts.  Schilling led the Phillies to an upset against the two-time defending National League champion Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. Although he received no decisions during his two appearances in the six-game series, Schilling’s 1.69 ERA and 19 strikeouts (including the first 5 Braves hitters of Game 1, an NLCS record) were enough to earn him the 1993 NLCS Most Valuable Player Award.  After losing Game 1 of the WS to the Toronto Blue Jays, he pitched brilliantly in his next start. With the Phillies facing elimination the day after losing a bizarre 15–14 contest at home in Veterans Stadium, Schilling pitched a five-hit shutout that the Phillies won, 2–0.  Schilling was named to the NL All-Star team in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and started the 1999 game.

With Arizona, he went 22–6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2001, leading the majors in wins and innings pitched. He also went 4–0 with a 1.12 ERA in the playoffs. In the 2001 World Series, the Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in seven games. Schilling shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award with teammate Randy Johnson. He and Johnson also shared Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2001 “Sportsmen of the Year” award. During the World Series Schilling received two other honors, as he was presented that year’s Roberto Clemente and Branch Rickey Awards, the first Arizona Diamondback so honored for either award.  In 2002, he went 23–7 with a 3.23 ERA. He struck out 316 batters while walking 33 in 259.1 innings. On April 7, 2002, Schilling threw a one-hit shutout striking out 17 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Both years he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Johnson.

On September 16, 2004, Schilling won his 20th game of 2004 for the Red Sox, becoming the fifth Boston pitcher to win 20 or more games in his first season with the team, and the first since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in 1978. Schilling ended his regular season with a 21–6 record.  On October 19, 2004, Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.  Notably, he won this game playing on an injured ankle—the same injuries that contributed to his disastrous outing in Game 1 of the ALCS.  These injuries were so acute that by the end of his performance that day his white sock was soaked with blood, which is now referred to as “the bloody sock”.  Schilling was once again runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2004, this time to Minnesota Twins hurler Johan Santana.  Later, the entire Red Sox team was named Sports Illustrated’s 2004 Sportsmen of the Year, making Schilling only the second person to have won or shared that award twice.  For the 2006 season, Schilling was said to be healthy.  He began the season 4–0 with a 1.61 ERA. He finished the year with a 15–7 record and 198 strikeouts, with a respectable 3.97 ERA.  On May 27, he earned his 200th career win, the 104th major league pitcher to accomplish the feat.  On August 30, Schilling collected his 3,000th strikeout. On June 7, 2007, Schilling came within one out of his first career no-hitter. Schilling gave up a two-out single to Oakland’s Shannon Stewart, who lined a 95-mph fastball to right field for the A’s only hit.  He earned his third win of the 2007 playoffs in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series leaving after 5 1/3 innings, striking out four while allowing only four hits. With this win, he became only the second pitcher over the age of 40 to start and win a World Series game (Kenny Rogers became the first just one year prior). As Schilling departed in the 6th inning, fans at Fenway Park gave Schilling a standing ovation.

Schilling has the highest ratio of strikeouts to walks of any pitcher with at least 3,000 strikeouts, and is one of four pitchers to reach the 3,000-K milestone before reaching 1,000 career walks. The other three who accomplished this feat are Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, and former Boston Red Sox ace and teammate Pedro Martínez.

  •      1 time finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league in 2004.
  •      2 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
  •      4 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Wins, leading the league in 2001.
  •      7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Strikeouts, leading the league twice.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in ERA (1 time in the American League).
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Complete Games, leading the league 4 times.
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Shutouts (1 time in the American League).

6 All Star Games.  2 time 20 game winner.  Schilling appeared on a total of 4 Cy Young Award Ballots (3 National/ 1 American) finishing second 3 times.  He appeared on the Most Valuable Player ballot 4 times (3 National / 1 American) finishing in the top 10 twice.  3 time World Series Champion including a 1993 NLCS MVP award and 2001 World Series MVP award.  A Roberto Clemente Award/Branch Rickey Award/Babe Ruth Award winner in 2001.

At the end of the day, it becomes a two-horse race, my sentimental favorite Mr. Tiant dropping off.  But as we have seen, there are questions, answers and some of the numbers are deceiving.  Yes, Morris has some great numbers but has negatives to go along with them.  For all the experts who tout Jack’s big game post-season prowess, Curt buries him.  Sure, Morris has four WS titles, but pitched below average in one and didn’t even pitch in another.  The big 1991 performance against the Braves?  The Bloody Sock game in 2004.  Looking past Morris’  wins and the fact he has more losses, Schilling sports a higher win percentage.  Who played for more perennial contenders?  Who played for better run producers?  And on and on…..

The questions will wage on, but the timetable is fairly limited, adding more fuel to the fire.  This year marked Morris’ 13th on the ballot, leaving two more attempts.  In two years, this could be a battle for the ‘Golden Age’ Committee or Veterans committee or whatever the guys who keep deserving but still breathing players out of the hall, therefore keeping their divided annual shares in tact, call themselves.

“Latin America’s Team…”

So, as previously mentioned and perhaps no so widely publicized, the Florida Marlins have taken a bold step to re-brand themselves.  In making themselves ‘Latin America’s Team’ and taking advantage of their new retractable dome stadium (in ‘Little Havana’ no less) the Fightin’ Fish changed their moniker and uniforms to have a more local flair.  The Miami Marlins it is.

The Florida Marlins, the bargain basement two-time World Series Champions (known for their post championship fire-sales) are no more.  Announcing that the roughly $50 million payroll was going to expand, the Ozzie Guillen led Marlins made offers to not only Albert Pujols (with reports ranging from a ‘lowball’ offer to a substantial offer) and Jose Reyes (again, nothing solid reported but supposedly under $100 million) but to pitcher Mark Buehrle as well.  It is also believed the team will make advances to K-Rod in the coming days, just another Latin/Dominican player to be courted.   And to solidify it all, Ozzie has stated that these offers are not just publicity bluster but serious offers.

I like the team’s effort to reach out and court the Latin American community, and perhaps the Latin community as a whole.  In Boston, during the days of Pedro Martinez (and especially during the 2003-2004 seasons where he and Big Papi were teammates) the Latin/Dominican fans were energized and brought a new flavor to not only Fenway Park but to the Boston area and Red Sox Nation as a whole.  With former revered players such as El Tiante, it was made all the more magical.  This could be the Marlins chance to convert many of those Latin fans who flock towards the publicity of teams like the Yankees and Dodgers (who have great Latin followings, especially in the California market) for fans who can latch on to their ‘own’ team and not just a dynasty or logo.

Of course, questions abound.  Will a new stadium really give the recently lackluster Fish such a financial push to be perennial contenders?  Will the re-branding be enough to sway King Albert let alone the vast latin fan base they seek?  Should they start small (Jose Reyes, Aramis Ramirez, K-Rod among others) and build around their youth?  How will MLB’s announcement of a second Wild Card effect their chances in the NL East?

Well, if anything, the new Miami uniforms will add to the revenue.  The Marlins, whose fan base has always been cloaked in invisibility to match the seating at Landshark/Dolphin/Pro Player stadium usually show up for the playoffs in droves so they’ll be buying shirts, caps and jerseys instead of tickets during the regular season.  Now, perhaps unknown to many a baseball fan, the Marlins have retired the jersey #5 (in honor of one of their original front office personnel who died suddenly and his fave player was Joe D’).  In fact, no player has ever worn it.  Would it be re-circulated for Albert Pujols?  Would he settle for a #55 or maybe a #25?

Personally, I’m not impressed.  Maybe it needs to grow on me, maybe they’ll tweak it in the next season or two.  I can easily admit I’m an old school uniform lover and having been born into Red Sox Nation, rivals with the Yankees and having a rich sporting history in Boston, I’ve been spoiled uniform wise.  The Celtics and Sox uniforms have changed little in their respective legendary tenures (apart from a few road variants and alternative jerseys) and aside from the 1995-2006 years, the Bruins have sported the same general look for their black n’ gold heritage (although all of hockey, thankfully, has gone retro in the recent Reebok years).   The Patriots transitioned fairly well from ‘Pat the Patriot’ to their current ‘Elvis’ jerseys even through the brighter Bledsoe years.  The Marlins home jerseys should read ‘Marlins’ across the front, not ‘Miami’.  There’s a touch of retro in there, but it got lost in translation.

But, since the recent trend has shown us ‘what goes around comes around’…. Toronto has gone back to the 1992-1993 glory days and “put the Blue back in Blue Jays” while the Orioles have brought back a touch of the 1970’s in the cartoon bird upon their caps….

…. perhaps Miami’s gate revenue, television ratings and playoff appearances should tell us that in the near future.

In other news:  The Red Sox have contacted current ESPN analyst and former MLB/Japanese manager Bobby Valentine in regards to their managerial opening.  Since Dale Sveum apparently gave the Sox a last chance to hire him before taking the Cub’s job, that tells us that neither Cherington nor the ownership group has seen a candidate they feel comfortable with.   I just can’t understand what has taken them so long to do so.  In my mind, the Boston position is one that, at this point, shouldn’t be handed over to a novice.  You don’t learn to drive on a V-12, 8 gear super-car… and there are names out there… Bobby Valentine, Tony Pena (former KC manager and current ‘Bombers bench coach) or maybe even a Joe Torre.   Let’s not forget, both Joe Torre in 1996 and Terry Francona in 2004 were considered ‘failed’ managers, but obviously being placed in the right organization under the right conditions with a talented roster can change that.  I’m not saying we need a big name like Torre or LaRussa but experience should count for something when guiding a $160 million payroll littered in All-Stars, past & potential MVP/Cy Young candidates (and winners), Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers.  And it needs to be addressed fairly soon.

Let’s take a closer look…

With nearly 200 Free Agents on the market this winter, there’s oodles of Hot Stove speculation, especially since The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs and both the Phillies and Yankees dropped out in the first round.

Looking at the list, here are a few FA’s that I feel the Sox should give consideration and in the order most of the experts have them ranked.

C.J. Wilson, SP:  Wilson is the top pitcher in the market and deservedly so.  He’s won 15 games the last two seasons as part of the Texas Rangers machine but fell apart in this years playoff run.  The talent pool for starters is thin and Wilson will probably command a greater price tag than the $82 million or so both John Lackey and A.J. Burnett received, and that would be a lot for a guy who’d project as the 3rd or 4th starter.  Inquire but move on.  (Signed by LA Angels @ Winter Meetings)

Roy Oswalt, SP: Oswalt, as he did in Philadelphia, could fill the #4 hole in the Sox rotation, but as the Phillies already established by declining his option, it won’t be for silly money.  Chances are he could return to Philly, but the Rangers (he’s established in the Lone Star State) and probably Yankees will inquire with some real interest.   

David Ortiz, DH/1B: Big Papi would be foolish to leave his folk-hero status in Beantown but this is a business and easily his last chance at the big paycheck.  Aside from the Scarlet Hose, I feel the Angels and Rangers could be real contenders for his services while Toronto, Seattle, Minnesota and Cleveland test the waters.  The ‘Bombers could send out a phone call or two just to p!ss of Sox fans.  (Accepted arbitration from Boston)

Mark Buehrle, SP:  Many ‘in the know’ have mentioned St. Louis as a possibility while others believe he’ll stay put in Chicago.  He’s a good talent and calming presence worth a look.  Since Texas, Miami, possibly the Angels and probably Yankees will be looking, we should too.  (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)

Jonathan Papelbon, RP:  Cherington has said he’d love to bring back both Ortiz and Papelbon for deals that make sense to everyone… however Pap’ is the best closer on the market and will be of interest to Philadelphia, possibly Miami (a showboat presence for a showboat manager) and any other team who can both spend big and be a contender.  If he’s not in Boston, look in the Phillies bullpen. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/13)

Ryan Madson, RP: Philly could be looking to keep him as he might be an alternative to Papelbon or a Heath Bell.  Madson has progressed nicely over the past few seasons and depending on what Boston plans to do with Daniel Bard or Aceves (convert them or make one closer in waiting), with or without Pap’, Ryan should be on the radar. (Signed by Cincinnati 1/11/12)

Grady Sizemore, OF: Sizemore is not the Indians slugger from just a few scant years ago, but he is still only 29 and worth a look.  A year removed from microfracture surgery most believe Grady should be eased back in to a starring role, getting 70 to 80 starts as a OF/DH platoon.  Rushing back to be the Cleveland slugger and star outfielder may have been what caused his several setbacks.  He could be worth a one or two-year deal to a big market team with room for him in such a situation.  Both he and Josh Willingham present better alternatives to Carlos Beltran (whom I omitted from this list). (Signed by Cleveland 11/29)

Heath Bell, RP: All signs point to Bell staying put in San Diego but he’s definitely worth the effort of a phone call or two should the Papelbon contract drag out or just not materialize.  (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)

Josh Willingham, OF: Willingham played in Oakland whose stadium, the O.co, is massive and still put out 15 homers and a respectable slugging percentage.  Now, put that right-handed bat in Fenway and watch his numbers flourish.  He could platoon well in RF and present a viable option to Carlos Beltran. (Signed by Minnesota 12/14)

Paul Maholm, SP:  A left-hander on the market is going to get attention no matter what (see Darren Oliver and soon to be returning Jamie Moyer), so at 29 Maholm could be worth a look.  He finished the season with a shoulder problem sending him to the DL, but his consistency to cause grounders could be a great lefty complement to Lester in the rotation. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/10/12)

Jonathan Broxton, RP:  He’s a reclamation project coming back from non-reconstructive elbow surgery, but then again the Sox love those low-risk high-reward incentive laden contract players.  With the way the bullpen collapsed in September, call him.  (Signed by KC Royals 11/29)

Kerry Wood, RP:  Wood has salvaged his career as a late-inning specialist (if only Brad Penny would follow his lead) and put the gloom of lost potential in the past.  The Sox considered him at the trade deadline the last two seasons, so there’s no reason not to consider him now.  (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/13/2012)

Jim Thome, DH:  Thome could present a poor man’s solution to David Ortiz should Big Papi take his talents elsewhere.  Thome is a legendary clubhouse presence and could still hit a few of those HOF home runs at Fenway’s friendly confines.  I expect he’ll return to Cleveland (if the Indians ‘do the right thing’) but anyone in the AL who can’t land Ortiz or Beltran may come calling. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/5)

Hideki Matsui, DH/OF:  Like Thome, Godzilla could find a late career flourish in Fenway as Big Papi’s replacement.  He’s still a threat in the middle of the line-up and my gut tells me he’ll continue the pilgrimage north (LA to Oakland) to Seattle and play alongside Ichiro for the Japanese owned Mariners.

Takashi Saito, RP:  He’s older but still a workable component to a bullpen.  Plus, we’ve had him before.  Worth the look.  (Signed by Arizona 12/12)

Brian Sanches, RP:  A young arm who was worn out by the Marlins bullpen.  Placed in the right situation, he could be a valuable addition to a pen armed with Jenks, Bard and Papelbon.

Jason Varitek, C:  ‘Tek appeared to adapt well to his new role of mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season.  As a tag team, their numbers were comparable to many others at catcher in the league, especially during the mid-months when the Sox were the best team in all of baseball.  Ryan Lavarnway is still at least a half-season from a steady role on the big club, and while some have called for any old veteran to back-up ‘Salty, I say stick with what works.  Let him continue to groom Jarrod, then work more with Lavarnway and transition from mentor to his next life as an MLB coach and future manager.  His silence during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ and ‘Pitcher-gate’ (after all, he is The Captain) is the only reason I could see him not being offered a return.  As many Yankees fans have noted in regards to FA Jorge Posada, I can’t see ‘Tek in another uniform. 

Tim Wakefield, SP/RP:  Like Varitek, The Time Lord is a proven veteran commodity for the Sox.  He can pitch from wherever he is asked to and can flash that knuckleball on many an occasion.  He’s 6 wins away from tying both Clemens and Young for all time on the Red Sox wins list, and could easily get there with a solid rebound year.  While he too was silent during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ as well as ‘Pitcher-gate’, he’s an established veteran that could assist the new manager in the rotation, bullpen and clubhouse.  Though, like in the case of ‘Tek, it may just be sentimentality.

The Holidays are upon us… must be Hot Stove!

Isn’t it crazy that the Hot Stove season can be just as exciting as the real deal?

Due to the ongoing CBA negotiations and other technical stuff which isn’t expected to be resolved till the Thanksgiving time-frame, the real heat of the Hot Stove could be closer to December.

Teams that could definitely make a splash:

The Los Angeles Angels. Several members of the Halo’s front office were let go following the rather inept offseason of 2010-2011.  The ‘Napoli’ fiasco (turning Texas down and then trading him to Toronto knowing Texas would obtain him from the Jays) and taking a pass on Adrian Beltre (who lives 30 minutes from the Stadium) who both went on to solidify their only division rival (well, with money, anyway) and have great postseason stats will do that.  Even with the division facing expansion (The Houston Astros joining the AL West) the Rangers are their biggest foe (in town rival Dodgers should be fairly quiet facing their sale to new ownership) and the Angels need to make up ground to keep pace.

The Miami Marlins: New stadium, new branding and a good deal of dollars to invest.  The Fish are looking to become ‘Latin America’s Team’ and have already taken a few steps to push that.  Signing Ozzie, Latin baseball’s poster boy went a long way as did the geographical name change but look for a few changes in the playing personnel too, especially with a number of Latin free agents available and the owner’s decision to increase payroll.

The Washington Nationals: They’ve rebuilt and now it’s time to contend.  The Nat’s have shown some signs of brilliance and an ability to contend in the NL East (the Braves and Phils aren’t going anywhere) with the talent assembled.  Like Miami, they have money to spend and a hungry fan base.  Plus being friends with Scott Boras helps.

The Chicago Cubs: Theo has arrived and brought a number of his former Red Sox employees with him to build a new Dynasty in baseball’s only other historic Cathedral.  He may not have as much payroll as he did in Boston but he has enough to make a splash and be taken seriously in the market.  No, the Cubs won’t be serious playoff contenders next year, but building for two and three years down the road starts right now.

Darkhorse Candidates:

The Los Angeles Dodgers: No, I don’t see them being serious contenders for Prince Fielder (though they should have been under better circumstances) or the top five to ten in the market, but with a pending sale both Frank McCourt and MLB may believe a few prize pieces to complement the established core could go a long way to frost the cake.

The New York Mets:  Again, I don’t see a lot of big name consideration but the brain trust finally came to the overdue decision to bring in the fences at CitiField and by cutting loose Jose Reyes and possibly David Wright they’ll have money to spend on some flashy re-treads who could show some power.  The owner’s financial situation may be too shaky for a Pujols or Fielder to settle on.  Plus they need to contend with the Yankees on the back page.

Now, I’m not expecting the Sox to be big players in the market, they have a set team and may be playing ‘gun-shy’ because of their recent past signings (Crawford, Lackey, multiple members of the bullpen), but they will dabble and pick some fruit from the lower B & C tier.  After all, anyone in their right mind knows Carl Crawford will rebound and so for that matter could John Lackey.  If I had a bum arm, a wife with cancer who decided to divorce me and was in a generally p!ss poor mood for the entire season… yeah, I’d be a rather poor teammate, drinking and fast food pickin’ in the clubhouse who had one of the worst starting pitching seasons in Sox history (and we had Matt Young in early 90’s too.. Yeesh!).  Just remember, now he has something to prove (or at least should) and will be easier to off load if he turns it around.

Anywhoo!  Here is a list of the Scarlett Hose free agent players:  Erik Bedard, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield.  Obviously, of these eight, Big Papi and Pap’ are the one’s to watch while Wake and ‘Tek are the sentimental faves.

David Ortiz: A Type-A free agent who has ranked in most experts Top 10 or close to it.  Yes, he had a great year, almost a ‘comeback’ year but in the end it was a ‘contract’ year.  Papi has the cache to demand his price for a what will probably be his last big payday but the market for a professional DH has dwindled greatly.  Sure, the power is there and he can still be a middle of the order threat in the right line-up (taking home his 5th Silver Slugger), but the stars still need to align both contract wise and probably (with most veteran players) championship caliber talent wise as well.  No, he won’t be as beloved elsewhere.  He’s a big personality and a great media darling but he’s a part of Red Sox lore and you can’t just transplant that, even if he did shoot himself in the face with the ‘Yankees are great’ comments in the Francona/Theo fallout, plus the fact Youk may require more DH time to avoid these late season breakdowns, especially with Will Middlebrooks seasoning in Pawtucket. I don’t forsee much NL interest due to his limited mobility at first.

Teams who might show interest:

1. Boston: Obvious.

2. Los Angeles Angels:  A big-ticket draw who can re-shape that line-up in a hurry and appeal to LA’s latin fan base.  They are contenders in the West and would sign him to keep Texas from thinking about it.

3. Toronto Blue Jays: A power hitter who does well at the Rogers Center but they Jays could climb as high as 3rd in the AL East.

4. The Texas Rangers:  A world champion and veteran presence who could change the face of an already great line-up.  If they can’t sign Prince Fielder, he may be a power hitting 2nd chance prize.

5. New York Yankees: He’s a part of Boston’s folk-lore, so he’s worth a look just as the Sox looked at both Jeter and Mo Rivera last off-season.  They’re the ‘Bombers so they can afford him and will obviously be in contention, but they don’t need him and don’t really have the roster space.  With A-Rod declining in the field, he’ll need more DH time to avoid injury as will a grooming Montero, aging Posada (should they re-sign him) and possibly Jeter as well.

I see him staying put, but if the Angels or Rangers offer 3 years and silly money…

Jonathan Papelbon: Type-A free agent who had a good rebound year but more importantly progressed as a leader with maturity.  Pap’ has said for years he’s been drooling to hit the market and I don’t see him jumping without due diligence.  There are several other closers on the market, however, Papelbon is obviously the best pick, ranking in the mid to late teens on most experts FA lists.

1. Boston: Obvious

2. Philadelphia: The closer’s role has been somewhat by committee the last few seasons and after the downfall against the Cards in the NLDS, they may be the serious contenders for a proven closer.

3. Los Angeles Angels: He’d go great with the Rally-Monkey.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Would be another jewel to package with the young core to entice a new owner.

5.1 Washington Nationals: If they’re making an honest push, they’ll make contact but K-Rod or maybe even a Joe Nathan could be a cheaper alternative if Prince or Reyes are on the radar.

5.2 Chicago Cubs: The Cubs can offer a ‘reasonable’ contract, and Theo’s experience will definately dictate that as the former Sox GM praised Pap’s progress as a mature leader who found the next level in his game.

If he doesn’t go to Philly, the Sox may be the next best landing spot for a big payday and shot at another title.  If he can accept a leadership in rebuilding role, Theo’s Cubs could be a very distinct Darkhorse candidate.

Tim Wakefield: Sure, he’s closing in on tying both Clemens and Young for all time Sox wins and is old enough to say he played in Scarlett Hose with the Rocket, but he fits in where ever he is asked and he’s still the Time Lord who can flash some brilliance in the flutterball.  His silence in the ‘Pitcher-gate’ fall out may go against him as a veteran leader in a clubhouse looking for change.

Jason Varitek: He rebounded a bit with a lighter work load in his role as mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season.  With Lavarnway still needing some seasoning in Pawtucket for both his defensive and offensive prowess (probably a mid-season call up with some back-up catcher/DH duty), I can see ‘Tek coming back for one more year as back-up before transitioning to his life as a coach and manager in the major leagues.  Like Wakefield, he may suffer from the silence regarding ‘Pitcher-gate’ and the fall-out may go against him.

Now, a few of the other groceries available in the winter market…

Albert Pujols, 1B: The best player of his generation seeking a contract to match.

1. St. Louis Cardinals: He’s a an established legend in a rabid baseball town and two-time WS Champion with the ‘Cards.  However, LaRussa was his mentor and King Albert may not be giving a hometown discount.

2. Miami Marlins: The Marlins should be hip deep in the biggest Latin player this side of Ozzie Guillen, who just happens to be the new manager for the Fish.  While increasing payroll, it still might be too steep to relocate the King.

3. Toronto Blue Jays:  The Jays are looking to compete in the AL East and obviously Pujols would be the trigger to get them on the right track.  He’d put a$$es in the seats but probably limit them beyond that.

4. Los Angeles Angels: Since the Dodgers can’t do it, it’s up to the Halos to try to bring one of baseball’s biggest marquee names to LA.  Arte Morneo would love to put this Latin juggernaut in the line-up, but may need to pick up more pitching and line-up depth for the money.

5. New York Mets: Nothing serious, but it would trump the Yankees Hot Stove season on the back pages.

This will probably drag out but will make a great Christmas present to either Miami or front-runner St. Louis.

Prince Fielder, 1B: He’s only 27 and been one of the best hitters in either league for the past six years.  Probably not A-Rod money (Rodriguez was younger in his initial free agency), but easily Mark Texiera dollars.

1. Washington Nationals:  He’s the cornerstone to build on and become the new ‘it’ team in the NL East.  They have the money to spend and have taken years to rebuild to this point.  Baltimore is an afterthought in this mid-Atlantic market and the Nats can finally put the Montreal stigma in the rear-view mirror.

2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers, for all their power and prowess, went to the WS without a bona-fide 1st baseman.  Adding Prince shores up the corner position, adds incredible power to an already potent line-up and ensures Texas a ticket to the dance for years to come.

3. Chicago Cubs: Theo will call in for King Albert but could give serious consideration for the Prince instead.  Fielder is younger and will most likely be cheaper, but could easily carry the hopes and dreams of Cubs fans while kicking Brewers fans in the gut.  Plus, one would think the smaller confines of Wrigley may increase those already gaudy numbers.  It may be the first big step in Theo’s plan for the future.

4. St. Louis Cardinals: Pujols is obviously the priority but should talks stall, turn ugly or just not meet on paper, another star of the NL Central certainly couldn’t hurt.

5. Darkhorse: It’s hard to imagine an off-season like this, with a player like Prince Fielder, where both the Dodgers and Mets are basically tied up in a corner and forced to watch.  This could give teams like Miami, Seattle or Toronto a chance to get into a better negotiating position.

Too close to call for me.  The Cubs offer history and a massive media market to a shy kid who could be the darling of a hungry fan base while Texas may be the best chance at a quick fix WS title.  I’d avoid St. Louis and the endless comparisons to Albert and settle for Washington, whose money is still green, if I had to.

Jose Reyes, SS:  He may have wanted Carl Crawford money but the poor dear is fragile and may have to settle for four or five years just under a hundred million.

1. Miami Marlins: Jose is friends with Hanley Ramirez (who already supposedly stated he’d move to third or another bag for his buddy) and could flourish under Ozzie Guillen.  If Pujols is off the radar, signing Reyes and maybe an Aramis Ramirez could go a long way remaking and re-branding ‘Latin America’s Team’.

2. Washington Nationals: Again, they have the money and he could fit nicely with what the Nats hope to do this offseason.

3. San Fransisco Giants: Jimmy Rollins may be a better investment for the G-Men but I look for them to make a fairly serious inquiry on a still moderately young big name.

4. New York Mets: It’s a longshot at best but he’s been there, has a fan base and is still marketable as a Met.

5. Darkhorse: The Red Sox may only be a bit off the radar if they feel Jose Iglesias is going off track, especially since Scutaro isn’t a long-term fix. St. Louis is in the market as well and don’t count out interest from the Yanks (Jeter and A-Rod are aging…).

I can easily see him amending his asking price / years to be part of something special in Miami.  Anywhere else, he’s cashing in.

C.J. Wilson, SP: He’s had a couple of above average regular seasons now, but fell apart in the playoffs.  However mediocrity is always rewarded (John Lackey & A.J. Burnett) when starting pitching is thin.

1. Texas Rangers: Texas is certainly a good place to be these days, so I’d be surprised if he wanted to leave.  But if the Rangers are going for Prince Fielder then it may tie things up.

2. Los Angeles Angels:  Hometown OC kid who the Halos can afford to add to an already impressive front half of the rotation (and lure away from rival Texas).

3. New York Yankees: He’s a big-ticket AL pitcher. Nuff’ said.

4. Boston Red Sox: I think the Sox will take a fairly serious look at a young guy who can win 15 games.  I think the Bombers will take it more seriously as Cherington may want to avoid a big-ticket pitcher for a rehab/low-cost alternative for the #4 and #5 starter.

5. Darkhorse: Obviously each of the bigger market teams will have a look with Chicago (both), St. Louis, Washington and maybe even Seattle on the bubble but he has WS experience now and again the market is thin.

The Angels should be able to pry him free, especially if he’s perceived by Texas as a choke artist in the playoffs.

Carlos Beltran, OF: 2011 was supposed to be the contract year but once he got to San Fransisco the remainder of the year stalled out on him.  There’s still a market for his bat, even if his outfield mobility is waning.  The Red Sox and Yankees are expected to make calls on him as are several other clubs.  I’d imagine he’ll land in the AL for a platoon OF/DH role but probably won’t be worth the years/money expected.  Grady Sizemore may be a better alternative for someone wanting to take a chance.

Roy Oswalt, SP: He’s older and obviously a bit more hittable, but he’s still Roy Oswalt.  He’s not necessarily out of Philadelphia, but he’s going to be cheaper if he’s in.  Most teams will call in on this one, especially from the NL, but The White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees love older innings eaters who cost money.  The Rangers will probably give some serious consideration for mid-range money for the guy who carried the Astros for years.

Jimmy Rollins, SS: He’s not the same player he was four or five years ago but his skills, passion and leadership could easily make him a valuable alternative to Jose Reyes.  He’s looking for four years, but an incentive laden three years plus an option for a contender may work.  Both the Cardinals and Giants could go deep for his services, but San Fransisco might win out as the Cards wait on Pujols.  Washington and Seattle (and don’t count out the Mets) could call on him for some veteran stability as well.

Grady Sizemore, OF:  He’s not going to rate very high on anyone’s FA list due to his injury plagued past, but he’s only 29 and will be a year removed from micofracture surgery.  For a big market team in need of a platoon OF/DH type, he could definitely be worth a try.  Boston should be on the phone with serious consideration (after all, they used to have J.D. Drew) as could a team like the Rays.  If he gets the right situation and is held to under a hundred games, it could supply enough rest to build towards his old self.   He could fall somewhere between Carlos Beltran and a Josh Willingham.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B: He opted out of Chicago which may have saved Theo the buyout fee.  One of the better hitting 3rd basemen in the NL, there aren’t a lot of options on the market this off-season.  Definitely not Adrian Beltre but may translate as a 3B/1B/DH for an AL club.  Look for the Miami Marlins to give a serious look as a Pujols fall back plan to team with Reyes and Hanley.

David Ortiz, DH/1B: see above.

Ryan Madson, RP:  Like Oswalt, he’s not necessarily out of Philly, but with the steps he’s taken in the past few seasons he’s definitely sought after.  The Phillies and Red Sox (depending on what they plan to do with Bard) could be at the top of the list (especially if both end up scrambling for Papelbon) but so could any big market team in need of late-inning help.

Edwin Jackson, SP:  Yes, he’s a WS Champion but he’s been traded more than a few times and you really have to wonder why for such a young and seemingly capable guy.  He’ll command a salary in the market (perhaps too pricey for a #4 or #5 type guy the Yankees or Red Sox need) but that could leave anyone to step-up.

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: see above

Carlos Pena, 1B:  His average was down but over all Pena still performed for the Cubs.  Most figure he’ll land in Milwaukie to replace Prince Fielder but I could see the Rays (he has a history), Rangers (if they don’t land Fielder) and Pirates (could be cheap but established) calling as well.

Heath Bell, RP: His K’s were down but he’s still a possible alternative to Papelbon or maybe a Madson.  Probably staying in San Diego, he could still command more than a few inquiries.

Francisco Rodriguez, RP: K-Rod will probably get a lot of attention as a Papelbon alternative even though he’s still a 9th inning rollercoaster.  A few teams will probably call for his set-up qualities as well as closing prowess, the Reds and Red Sox among them but look for Ozzie’s Marlins to make a big push.

Josh Willingham, OF: Even though he played in the caverns of Oakland’s O.co Stadium, Willingham still posted respectable numbers.  Moving to a smaller home field will probably work wonders for him.  The Mets, Red Sox, Braves and Rays could come calling.  Boston could be a viable option as they need a right-handed RF in Fenway to platoon.

Johnny Damon, DH/OF: Damon has transitioned well from everyday outfielder to spot starter/DH and mentor for teams with younger emerging talent just as he did in Detroit and most recently Tampa.  Plus he can still hit.  Arizona would appear to need someone to fill those shoes and maybe even the Cubs (Theo won a title with Johnny) but I see him staying in the AL, possibly for Toronto, Seattle or the Angels if not returning to Tampa.

Now obviously there are roughly 200 free agents on this year’s market.  I’m not covering them all, just touching on some of the more notable players crossing everyone’s wish lists.  There are a lot of B and C type players, veterans, rehabs and retreads who will be circulating as well.  In my next post, I’ll touch upon a few more who I feel the Red Sox in particular should explore.

“Gentlemen, start your engines…”

The clock is slowly ticking down to the start of September and the 2011 season is about to hit its stride.  However, there is one helluva straightaway before we get to turn four.

Now granted, be it in NASCAR terms or whatever vehicular jargon you like, the Sox are in pit row.  The pitching has since sputtered, the line-up is thumping over a blown tire and while the fuel has been fine, thinning the mix for the length of the race has been a problem.  Luckily, at this point anyway, we’re not alone as our neighbors roughly 150 miles to the southwest have been in the same race.

Lackey has been anything but the ‘second ace’ we expected were getting when the ink dried on the contract.  In fact, from one start to another, you’re not sure which version of the big hoss will show.  Wakefield has been stuck, seemingly, in nuetral.  However, in Wake’s defense, the Time Lord has pitched fairly well and kept opponents at bay as well Miller or the semi-Lackey but just hasn’t had the stability behind him.  Lester is for a better word ‘back’ and Beckett is looking as if he’ll be completing a great ‘comeback’ year.  Bedard, well, there is yet another question mark.  Yeah, the ERA isn’t horrific but do we have time for a ‘work in progress’ we may only be renting anyway?

Youk, who’s been in and out of the line-up with various injuries (which to his credit he has attempted to play through) may have picked a ‘good’ time to go out on the DL.  Big Papi was already riding the bench and should be back and well into getting his swing on by the time Youk returns.  A-Gon has been hampered by a neck problem which has stolen his home run stroke and now Jacoby ‘The Machine’ Ellsbury is hitting a slight breakdown.  Well, believe it or not, we should still be OK.  Petey rode in the slow lane early and has picked up an MVP caliber season since while Crawford, extremely slow to adapt to his new surroundings, is again hitting his stride following the mid-season  injury.  Combine that with Marco, Reddick, Salty/Tek’ and the on and off mix n’ match pieces we’ve been plugging in… along with A-Gon’s ability to still hit for average if not power… we’re hanging in there.

But not by much.

Now comes the time of year where you need to take every series.  Splitting a four game series won’t be enough.  Now its three out of four or two of three.  Sure, you can’t sweep every series, not should you expect to, but taking the series is without a doubt.  So the question is… who do we need to line up in our sights and show no mercy..?

We open a four game set with the Rangers of Texas in Arlington who will obviously be no push-over and then return home for a month-ending home stand.  First we see the Athletics, late of Philly and Kansas City (and possibly soon of Oakland), for a three game series and after an off day welcome the New York Highlanders for an all important AL East match-up (of course, we visit the Bronx Zoo in late September for the final weekend of the season, amidst a Baltimore sandwich series).  We then open September with the final game of the Pinstripes series in the friendly confines and then welcome… guess who, the Texas Rangers for yet another volley of Defending AL Champs stew.  The remainder of the month is as it should be, an AL East love-fest where we play what seems like 400 games against the Blue Jays and Rays (strangely, both teams having towns that begin with ‘T’ and names that end in ‘..’ays’) with the aforementioned Baltimore sandwich with Yankee filler.

Those same Pinstripes will be home for a series against the wandering A’s, a visit to the O’s and then have the aforementioned sleep-over at Fenway.  There month however… isn’t as AL East lovey-dovey as ours.  In fact, they have a West Coast road trip amidst the love-fest to visit Seattle and the Los Angeles Americans (as compared to the Los Angeles Nationals).  The ‘Bombers also will play the final two weeks of the season with no day off as a one-game visit from the Twinkies will fill that date on the calendar.

So all we really need at this point is for the pitching woes to sure-up, the bullpen to get some new life and the hitting to get back on track while the opponents from the city so nice they named it twice to get some serious fatigue and jet lag, but with some of the seniors playing on their team, that might not be a problem.

Damn I’m good… sort of.

Well, if you’re going to make up some ground.. better do it now.  The next two weeks are slightly different for the Pinstripes than the Scarlett Hose.  The Yanks will be returning from Redlegs country to face the Rockies and the Brewers in The Bronx Zoo…. with neither team having been overly impressive lately.  July opens with ‘Subway’ series @ Citi Field and depending on the fill-ins for the ‘Bombers, it could be a fairly even match (should the Metropolitans still be fairly streaky).  The Boston Americans meanwhile will be taking on the entire state of PA with stops to meet Captain Jack Sparrow’s Bucs and then the pitching goliath known as Philadelphia Philadelphias (which I might add, many have picked as the World Series showdown this season.. PHI pitching versus BOS hitting).  From there it is into Houston… so as you can see, two thirds of that trip will be fairly uncomfortable. 

So fear not Virginia… like your summer, things are about to get more exciting and a lot warmer.”

As Captain James T. Kirk once said, “Those words were spoken by me.”  I made this comment back on the 21st in response to Miss Virginia’s ‘Bomber’s Blog (http://southernbelle.mlblogs.com/ which is a recommended read)… I’m a friggin’ genius… oh joy.  Why can’t I pick lottery winners this well?  Well that’s fine, now the Scarlett Hose can feel free to live up to my prophecy and kick some Texan ass in Houston to make up the lost ground on the Pinstripes.  The standings as of this second read something like this…

The New York Highlanders

The Boston Americans (2.5)

The Tampa Bay Smokers (4.0)

The Toronto Blue Jays (9.5)

The Baltimore Browns* (12.5)

*note: Formerly the St. Louis Browns (or original Milwaukee Brewers) not to be confused with the former Cleveland Browns.  So Baltimore can’t keep it’s own teams and colors (team called the Yankees, colors went to the NY Baseball Giants) but keep taking other city’s teams named ‘Browns’ who happen to share the color scheme?  Whatever works.

If we can take the Colt .45’s before heading into the last home stand before the break where we face the lower half of the AL East in the Maple Birds and O’s we should be in fairly good shape to set fire in the second half.  We’ll have to be since the Eastern Division love-fest continues with trips to Tampa and the aforementioned Baltimore.  The month will run through with a home stand against the Seattle Nintendos (think Ichiro could be moved by then?) and Kansas City Royalty.  We close with a visit to the Chicago Bleached Hose who haven’t been especially nice this season.   Riding into the break on a high note could be fairly important as the Pinstripe’s will be looking at a fairly matched schedule coming out of the second half gate.  They’ll close out with a Subway series at Citi Field against the still surging Metropolitans then travel to Cleveland to face Chief Wa-Hoo’s tribe before finally closing in the Bronx Zoo against the Rays.  They then get hip deep in the love-fest as they travel to both Toronto and Tampa before returning to the House That Ruth Financed to play the Athletics (diggin’ those yellow retro uniforms) and the Nintendos before closing the month with the O’s.

This past week was to be the preview of the Fall Classic… well, let’s hope we fare better in the fall.  But like a few of the MLB and BB Tonight analysts have said, “This was just a feeling out period…”  Curt Schilling did raise a fairly interesting point though, that the emphasis now has to fall on the All-Star Game because home-field in the World Series could make or break the series.  Think of the Sox having to open at Philly versus their fully healthy rotation with no DH?  (And before anyone out there starts giving me protests over “How do you know it will be the Sox?” Fine.  Think of the Yankees doing it, cause if it isn’t an AL East team versus the Phillies in the World Series you better pack your sh!t and jump in the TARDIS because the Earth will have officially fallen off it’s axis… ’nuff said) 

Congratulations go out to ‘Tito’ for winning his 700th game as manager of the Boston Red Sox.  Throw in two Championship titles since he took over in 2004 and I’d say he’s done a lot better than the people in Philadelphia ever imagined.   Also, Jon Lester’s victory on Wednesday was the 100th decision of his career (71-29).  For all he’s been through in his still young career and developing into his prime, kudos to him.