Thursday, August 26, 2004

Game 124

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 11, Toronto Blue Jays 5

Curt Schilling must be happy. Not only is he a 16 game winner, but he's beaten the Blue Jays for only the third time in his career and the first time this year. I missed most of this game too (notice a trend here?) but I did see the Manny, Ortiz (x2) and Cabrera homeruns this morning on Sports Center. They were just making the Jays pitching look BAD. Ramiro Mendoza continues to pitch well and Francona actually had the amazing idea that *maybe* just because Curt is pitching well, he shouldn't leave him in the whole game. He even made a comment to the press that made it sound like it was his idea all along, although somehow I doubt that - especially since he has done the exact opposite three times this year.

The bad news of the night: Doug Mientkiewicz (whose name I can now spell without having to look it up - go me) pulled his shoulder trying to stretch a single into a double. He's day to day right now, but my heart stopped for a moment when I saw the headline as I thought what every Sox fan has to be thinking when seeing an injury report: "when will the string of injuries end?" Hopefully he'll be back soon. GO SOX!

Game 123

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 4

Mirabelli was the hero of the night with a three run homer, Timlin seems to be back on his game, Ramiro Mendoza is finally paying off and the loss to two nights ago seems to be related more to the genius of Ted Lilly than anything else. It seems that the Sox are finally turning that corner that Francona likes to talk about...but the entire West Coast still remains to be played, so I'll continue with my one-game-at-a-time philosophy.

Moneyball: Since I've finally read the book, I can offer a slightly more authoratative opinion on its contents. First of all, let me say that I thought that it was a wonderful book. Lewis explained everything very clearly, went into the histories and the philosophical development of the major characters in great and interesting detail, told a few thrilling success stories and created an excellent piece of non-fiction. I came away from it completely satisfied.

As for its has certainly been proven to me that statistical analysis is an excellent way to build a baseball team, or at least attempt to build one. The idea that a science can exist behind something like baseball is immensely appealing to me and I certainly plan to make use of these more scientific methods for my own fantasy baseball exploits. That said, I still don't think it makes a good managerial philosophy - I think you need a manager who understands the statistics and how they work but still knows how to go with a gut feeling, especially in the playoffs which, as Billy Beane himself has said, are a statistical crapshoot because of the small sample size. Whether or not the Sox can pull of a playoff or even a World Series berth (or, dare I say it, win) with their current management setup remains to be seen. GO SOX!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Game 122

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 0, Toronto Blue Jays 3

Well, Ted Lilly finally got his first win against the Sox, striking out 13 batters in the process. I didn't listen to the whole game, but while Pedro pitched pretty well (three runs, ten strikeouts and three walks in seven innings), Lilly was lights out. Can't win 'em all...

I think the Moneyball review will have to wait until tomorrow - I wore myself out looking at Yahoo! Fantasy Football stats.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Games 119 - 121

Final Scores:

Game 119: Boston Red Sox 10, Chicago White Sox 1
Game 120: Boston Red Sox 10, Chicago White Sox 7
Game 121: Boston Red Sox 6, Chicago White Sox 5

Another exciting one throughout. Red Sox score early, making it 4 - 0 by the second inning. Derek Lowe managed to keep it together, despite not being completely on and having some poor Mark Bellhorn defense behind him until the 7th, when a two run homerun forced him out of the game. From there a weird situation led to 5 pitches thrown in about 10 minutes: Lowe's final pitch (leading to a commercial break), then Leskanic ended the 7th with a single pitch (another commercial break). The White Sox foolishly left starter Freddy Garcia in, even though he had thrown 117 pitches and Manny made them pay for it with a homerun, leading to Garcia's removal (commercial break number three). Then Chicago reliever Damaso Marte gave up a homerun to Ortiz and a single to Varitek before he was pulled - for the final commercial break.

In the bottom of the eighth, with a runner on first and one out, Ben Davis hit a routine fly ball to Manny off of Mike Timlin. Manny slipped on the poorly tended outfield grass and an easy out turned into runners on second and third. Timlin then managed to get the next two outs without scoring a run. I gotta say, I feel privileged to have watched that feat twice in a season - last night and Arroyo in his recent game versus Tampa Bay. The Sox have now swept their past two series, are one game up in the wildcard versus Texas and Anaheim and 5.5 back from New York, who are in a 6 out of 7 slump, in the East. Manny Ramirez had an obscene 11 RBIs over the series. Robin, who was watching the game with me yesterday, made the joke that Manny, who had scored more runs than the White Sox, was winning the series 2 - 0.

In other news, Varitek has chosen to serve his four game suspension while the Sox play three games at Toronto and their first game against the Tigers, when it is more strategic to do so. Hopefully Varitek, who is hitting .448 with a .507 OBP in the month of August will still be hot when he comes back against Detroit.

Mark Bellhorn is back from the DL, although I'm still not sure how much use he'll be - he struck out three times last night, made one error and has already struck out once tonight. He'd be a useful player if he didn't attempt to be so discerning in his pitch choices. Reese, Youkilis and McCarty are still recovering but are apparently making progress.

Tomorrow, I review Moneyball, which I finally read. GO SOX!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Game 118

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 4

Now THAT was an exciting game. Pedro ran into some problems in the beginning, so that by the time I turned on the game around 8:00 it was 4 - 2. But the Sox mounted a two run comeback with two outs in the fourth, including a bomb by Jason Varitek onto Ted Williams Way. From there, the game stayed in an exciting tie until a third of the way through the bottom of the ninth inning, with a fantastic catch by Manny, Ted Lilly plunking Ortiz and the two getting excited about it, some tough at bats, etc. Finally, in the bottom of the ninth, Dave Roberts led off with a walk. After a botched bunt attempt (and some dancing around by Roberts, who still has no stolen base attempts with the Sox) Johnny Damon grounded into what might have been a double play, but got lucky and beat the throw to first. The Jays switched pitchers and Orland Cabrera greeted Justin Spier by hammering his slider off the center field scoreboard, where it popped into the air, giving Damon just enough time to score from first. The video feed doesn't do the event as much justice as it deserves, but MAN, what a great ending. The Sox are now 14 games over .500 for the first time this season and tied with Texas for the wildcard.

In other good news, Dr. James Andrews (aka, Doctor Number Three) has determined that Scott Williamson does not look like he will need a second Tommy John surgery. Instead, Williamson will go on a rehab and strengthening program over the next 10 - 14 days, which will determine if he is able to avoid the surgery and come back before the season is over. Like Nixon's potential return, a healthy Williamson could be very important come the playoffs, especially considering how he pitched last year. Final game of the homestand tonight, Wakefield versus Batista. GO SOX!

Game 117

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, Toronto Blue Jays 4

So, the mysterious defensive switch: Doug Mientkiewicz played second for the second time in his life (he's played one inning before, for the Twins) and did fairly well. Derek Lowe pitched really well...three of those four runs were taken in bad defensive plays, as Orlando Cabrera had a BAD inning at short. The offense more than compensated and Keith Foulke was able to close the game out in two inning save.

Injury Report: Again, you ask? Yeah. Turns out Kevin Youkilis has a bone bruise. 15 day DL for him. David McCarty is on the 15 day DL for a ganglion cyst on his right wrist and Scott Williamson has been moved to the 60 day DL to make room for the replacements: Curtis Leskanic, who was activated today and Earl Snyder, called up from Pawtucket to play third until Bellhorn comes back (he'll probably go on rehab assignment by the end of the week). Pokey Reese should be back about a week after Bellhorn's return and most surprising of all, Trott Nixon may be back in September, after spending much of his time on the DL strengthening his upset quad. All in all, it seems that my prayers were *partially* answered. I'll take what I can get, though, especially if that means getting Trott. GO SOX!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Game 114 - 116

Game 114: Boston Red Sox 7, Chicago White Sox 8
Game 115: Boston Red Sox 4, Chicago White Sox 3
Game 116: Boston Red Sox 4, Chicago White Sox 5

Oh, those one run games. I only got to hear the first part of Friday's game (which did not go well for the Sox until after I turned it off) and the last part of Sunday's game, which had an exciting rally at the end, although the Red Sox couldn't pull out a win. Jerry Troupiano blamed the bullpen for the run differences in both Friday's and Sunday's games, but the offense was partly to blame too - Friday ended with a bases loaded strikeout (Varitek) and Sunday ended with a bases loaded dribbler (Cabrera) after the Red Sox failed to move their runners more than a base per hit. Ironically, the guy who closed both games, Shingo Takatsu, was the guy I picked up for my fantasy team on Friday to replace Williamson, who's encountered more problems on his road to recovery (see below). In any case, the Red Sox find themselves tied for first place in the wildcard again tonight.

Injury Report: Kevin Youkilis had a meeting with Sandy Alomar's shinguard on Sunday during a play at the plate and it gave him a contusion on his leg. Youkilis' injury has had some interesting effects on tonight's defense, but you won't get to find out about that until tomorrow. Ha. Kevin is day to day.

Scott Williamson may be out for the rest of this season and possibly a good deal of next season, after being told by his doctor in Cinncinati that he's going to need Tommy John Surgery for the second time in his life. Since Williamson is a free agent after this year, it's very possible that we may have seen the last of Williamson in a Red Sox uniform. It's too bad, really on a number of levels - he's a good pitcher in general, has had a positive effect on Sox pitching this year and the Sox need him badly right now. Williamson will be going (or his MRI will be going, the details weren't clear) to Birmingham, AL for a third opinion. The decision will be announced on Monday.

Curtis Leskanic may be back as soon as tomorrow, Mark Bellhorn before September. Pokey Reese and Ellis Berks still do not have definate timetables. I pray daily for no injuries. Derek Lowe just hit Carlos Delgado in the back for running into Doug Mientkiewicz back in the second. GO SOX!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Game 113

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 0

Three game winning streak. Three out of four games taken to win the series. Five wins out of the last six games. Thirteen games over .500 for the first time this season. Complete six hit shuttout game from a vintage looking Pedro on 109 pitches. Word.

Micah and I like to pick apart Francona's managerial decisions - it's easy to do and fun, in the way that communicating with people who can't hear you is fun. Micah's reaction to Pedro's complete game was, of course, that it was a stupid idea. He's right, of course - using Pedro to finish off the Rays when he could be saved for his next start (against the Blue Jays, it looks like) is, as I said yesterday to Nikki, like using a nuke to kill a bug.* I wonder if Francona gets caught up in the moment and forgets he has the power to pull his pitchers - not a good thing for a manager, but it's not like I haven't said that about Terry before.

Contreras returns to Fenway tonight in a Chicago uniform instead of a Yankee one - the question is whether or not it will make a difference. He's going up against Wakefield, who is 0 and 5 against the White Sox since 2001, so I will not declare the odds in anyone's favor at the moment. The White Sox make me irrationally nervous, too. I think the spirit of Frank Thomas lingers over the team, irrespective of his current injury status. The power of the Big Hurt compels you, or something like that. Robin, Nikki and I will attempt to go view the game at a local (Brooklyn) bar, despite it being a Friday night, when Red Sox baseball is in the capable hands of Sean McDonough, Jerry Remy and the rest of the WSBK team - and not on cable. GO (red) SOX!

*That's not really fair - the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are not bugs; in fact, they're fast becoming my second favorite team because they're fighting for third place in the AL East with a $28 million payroll. And maybe this situation is more like using a nuke to kill a bug when the nuke should be saved for bigger installations and the complement of bug spray is working fine. God bless my twisted, twisted metaphors.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Game 112

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 14, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4

I think Derek Lowe was in danger once last the first inning, after the Rays took the lead 1 - 0. He got out of that inning fine and did fine the outing, until he was pulled after 5 and 2/3 innings with the recurrence of The Blister. The offense capitalized on mistakes early and often (Millar went 4 for 4, Varitek hit a three run double, etc.), the defense was excellent and the game was basically over by the third inning. Ramiro Mendoza, who pitched an inning and a third, continues to be consistent. I had to listen to the game instead of watching it - apparently just because says the game will be ESPN doesn't mean that it will, in fact, be on ESPN everywhere. Ah big deal.

Something I noticed last night, which gave me immense amounts of gratification: I still do this a little bit, but up until recently, as a result of the team's defensive woes this year, I would jump every time even the most routine play needed to be made, for fear of collision or error. This surge of nerves was not helped by the Red Sox announcers, who, when they got excited over an opposing team hit, would do so because someone had made an error. Now, post-Nomar trade, I find the reverse is true - when Joe or Jerry get excited over a hit, it's usually because someone has just made a fantastic play. I must say, I'm pretty darn grateful. GO SOX!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Game 111

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4

An excellent job last night - here's to more fun tonight watching the game on ESPN. I didn't listen to the entire game, but the most exciting moment for me by far was the sixth inning, when Lugo singled, Huff singled, Baldelli tripled...and then Arroyo kept him on third for the next three outs. Brilliant. Heck, not only is it brilliant, but it continues to make me excited about what this pitching staff can do when it works. Let's see, what else...

Manny was back in the lineup again last night - which continues to mutate like a deranged virus. I think we can give up on the idea of it ever being anything close to stable, even when everyone is healthy. I just watched the Doug Mientkiewicz super play where he did a full out stretch/dive thing to get Carl Crawford out at first. Incredible play and maybe the sort of thing that could give Derek Lowe (who's pitching tonight) the confidence he needs to be what he is: a ground ball pitcher.

Finally, I was inspired to do some thinking about how involved I've gotten in the fortunes of the Red Sox and it seems like I've been basing my moods any particular evening on how they fare - not particularly healthy. As a result, I'm going to try and tone down the negativity a bit and approach this blog from more of a love-of-the-game standpoint, starting with a new sign off: GO SOX!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

This made my day

From this article


Credit goes to Terry Francona for starting Dave Roberts in the leadoff spot in his debut as a starter with the Sox in Tampa. Unfortunately, Roberts went 0-for-5, and Tito's week spiraled downhill from there. In yet another horrendous pitching move, Francona left in a cooked Bronson Arroyo (who had already thrown more than 100 pitches) with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh inning last Wednesday. He served up a inevitable grand slam that cost the Sox a win at the Trop. Francona's gaffe was overshadowed a bit by third base coach Dale Sveum, who ran Dave Roberts into a critical out with none out in the ninth inning of the 5-4 loss. Sveum also got a runner thrown out at the plate the very next night. Additionally, the Sox gave up their American League-leading 75th unearned run of the season in Tampa, an ominous stat where Francona must share the blame. Saturday night in Detroit, after not seeing his name in the lineup for the first time in two weeks, Kevin Millar openly berated his manager and his lineup choices. His reward? Millar got penciled back into the lineup after his good friend Manny Ramirez caught the flu at the last minute. And Millar was back in Sunday, too. And Monday. By all appearances, it looks to us that the manager has lost control of this team.

Grade: F

Game 110

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 8

Well, it seems Terry "I'm Sunshine and Rainbows" Francona was wrong again. Terry, you can't let Schilling pitch a complete game and expect him to do well on his next outting. Tonight was the second time he's proven that this year and tonight was yet another game the Sox couldn't afford to lose - not when all of our other competitors lost as well. But I guess you'll managing with your head in the clouds while the Red Sox continue to be a streaky ball club, won't you, Terry?

Manny was out sick tonight with the flu and the lineup was jumbled around again...and the Sox couldn't string the majority of their eleven hits into anything useful. I could harp on the lack of consistency again, but why bother? It's not like it makes a difference.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Games 107 - 109

Final Scores:

Game 107: Boston Red Sox 3, Detroit Tigers 4
Game 108: Boston Red Sox 7, Detroit Tigers 4
Game 109: Boston Red Sox 11, Detroit Tigers 9

A wild and wooly weekend. I was in the Pocanos for a weekend-long goodbye party for Ric, who's moving to Kansas. He tells me he'll be 25 minutes away from Kansas City, so there should be some saving grace - I do worry though that he'll be swallowed up by the corn and we'll never hear from him again. The upshot for this blog, though, was that I was away from all things baseball for the whole weekend and thus missed all of the fun. Even though I was in an extended roam area, I did have repeated urges to call anyone with acess to the Internet just to get an update on what was going on, but managed to resist the siren call of such foolishness and its associated 40 cents-a-minute charges. I'm so proud.

Anyway, the three big things from this weekend:

First, the Yankees may be on a tear, lengthening the lead to 10.5 games after this Friday's loss, but Texas has lost three in a row and is now tied with the Sox for the wildcard, with Anaheim half a game behind. As I write this, Texas is losing 6 - 2 in the top of the 7th in Baltimore and the Sox are playing Tampa Bay at home tonight with Schilling pitching. It's the little things that make me happy.

Second, Tim Wakefield ties a major league record of six homeruns given up in a game, which hasn't been done since September 24, 1940 (Philadelphia A's versus the Red Sox, the A's pitcher, George Caster, went on to lose the game), but the Sox still win the game, 11 - 9. While this record certainly isn't something to aspire to, the fact that Wakefield ended up getting the win anyway shows that at least this team doesn't freak out in a bad situation - or gets mad enough that they won't be held down, especially by the Tigers.

Third, Kevin Millar kindly confirmed what I've been saying for a month now: Terry Francona needs to do a better job defining the roles of his players. Of course, Millar then backed off from his attack on Sunday, which is probably better for team unity, but the point, I feel, was still made. To quote Sunshine himself:
"We need some consistency in this lineup one time. It's Aug. 7 and we're still checking the lineup to see who's playing and who's hitting where. We're in a dog fight now, but if we have to really go with 55 different lineups a week and stuff like that, we'll win two and lose three and win two." Couldn't have put it any better myself. Francona, of course, probably doesn't see it that way and an article in the Boston Globe focused more on the breakdown of the relationship between the players and the "player friendly" manager that the outburst from Millar represented. What I don't understand is, if this club plays .500 ball over 88 games, a situation that is universally acknowledged as a Problem by all concerned, why does Francona think that his current managing style still works well? Coming into this home stand after a long road trip, Francona is still all sunshine and roses about the future, according to the Globe. Where is the telling point here, when the organization realizes that staying the course will not fix the problem? When does everyone realize that the Red Sox manager has a worse case of optimism than the average Red Sox fan? I'm just hoping that these next few weeks will prove that I'm dead wrong and that the even-handed managing style of Terry Francona steers the Sox to a brighter, championship-filled future. YANKEES SUCK!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Game 106

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Devil Rays 5

It's not the Hall grand slam that bothers me. It's the fact that Dale Sveum totally misjudged where Baldelli picked up Doug Mientkiewicz (when is he going to get a shorter, easier to spell nickname?) single and sent Dave Rogers from second. Sveum was quoted as being surprised that Baldelli could throw that hard, but the ball landed in fairly shallow center and Rocco grabbed it in the middle of the outfield, not towards the warning track. I don't care how fast the guy is - if you're down by a run in the ninth and have a bunch of hot hitters like the Sox have, you don't need to take those sort of risks. Maybe I'm being a bit hard on the guy, but this is Boston - we take everything seriously. If you don't like it, go work for a team like Arizona. They had a frickin' Baseball 101 published in the newspapers there during the '01 series, for chrissake. And, of course, because both Texas and New York won yesterday, Texas won today, New York is about to win and the Red Sox aren't playing until Friday, I'm not in the best of moods about the whole thing. Bah. YANKEES SUCK!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Game 105

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2

You know, I thought I had heard it was a four game series this week...but I was wrong. It's a three. I blame ESPN. That does means that this is first series since the road series that the Sox have won since playing Kansas City back in early June. Interestingly enough, since that series was the series right before Nomar came back, the length of the drought coincides exactly with the length of Nomar's 2004 playing time with the Sox. How mystical and stuff.

I apparently missed an exciting game last night, whilst Micah was destroying my Warhammer

My only real comment today is on the use or overuse of Schilling in situations like last night. Schilling is a workhorse and a competitor. He's as likely to want to be taken out as Pedro is (and please God, let that NOT be an indicator of things to come in October), although he's probably a bit less fragile. Last night was what, his second or third complete game of the year? I get nervous every time he does it because of the defeat he suffered after his first complete game, but maybe it's not such a bad does mean that the bullpen (who need their rest, especially until Williamson gets back) doesn't have to waste energy on an easy to beat team and can save themselves up for tougher competition. Bronson Arroyo tonight, working to get the sweep. YANKEES SUCK!
army and MLB Gameday clicked away in the background. Manny makes an incredible catch, Varitek homers, Bill Mueller drives in three, Schilling gives up six hits and two runs over nine innings throwing 116 pitches...good times. And Mark Mulder beat the Yankees.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Game 104

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3

Well played last night. Wakefield had one slip up in the first and gave up a two run homerun to Tino Martinez, but pitched very well otherwise, improving his record to 10 and 1 against Tampa on his 38th birthday. He's now pitched over 2,000 innings and has now has more starts than Luis Tiant in the Boston record books. Even though the defensive lineup was a little weird last night (McCarty at first, Mueller at second, Cabrera at short and Youkilis at third) it worked out pretty well - good defense was played by all involved. Youkilis and McCarty also got RBIs - McCarty with a rocket line drive homerun into left-center in the second and Youk with a two run double in the fifth, both off of started Mark Hendrickson. Embree and Foulke closed out the game without problem. The entire thing was on ESPN and the commentators spent much of their time talking about how much better Tampa Bay was going to be in a season or two, while the Rays' newest hope, 19-year-old B.J. Upton, had his first major league at-bat, then walk, then run scored and finally hit. I have to agree with ESPN on this one - they're going to be a fast, powerful team given some time and more of Pinella's excellent work. If they do manage to turn themselves into a major contender (read: Yankee Killer) with their tiny $23 million dollar budget, so much the better. It might lead to an interesting revolution in the way owners construct their teams and who knows, might even lead to a lowering of ticket prices at the more popular ballparks. Or I could dream.

DL List Update:
Everyone's favorite section. Mark Bellhorn is now on the 15 day with a fractured thumb. Reese is still working on his ribs and is expected back around when Bellhorn is. Ellis Burks is stretching his knee and lifting weights to get his leg back in shape and may be back before August is over. Williamson is now pitching without pain and may be back soon, although there's no announced time table. Leskanic and DiNardo are on the 15 day (I've heard healthy scratch suggested as the hypothesis) and hope to be back by the end of the month...I think. Depends on what your definition of a stretch-run is, but my guess is the end of August, or possibly September. Bill Mueller will continue to play second and Youk, who's .342 in his last sixteen games, will stay at third. Another trade addition, the Dodger's Dave Roberts, is apparently going to be mixed up in the outfield, although I can't imagine in what capacity except as a pinch runner (the man can run) unless Francona's going to insist on bench players randomly again or Kapler cools off. Of course, knowing the way things work, Francona will do the first and it will lead to the second, giving us all another reason to dislike him. Feh.

Schilling versus Rob Bell tonight, with Schilling ridiculously favored to win. The Sox have something like another twelve games against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays this season, who could be just the sort of punching bags this team needs to build itself up properly. YANKEES SUCK!

Monday, August 02, 2004

Games 101 - 103

Final Scores:

Game 101: Boston Red Sox 8, Minnesota Twins 2
Game 102: Boston Red Sox 4, Minnesota Twins 5
Game 103: Boston Red Sox 3, Minnesota Twins 4

Once again, the Sox fail to win a series on the road...but that of course was overshadowed by a few slightly larger bits of news. In reverse order of distress, they are: first, the decisions of the MLB Disciplinary Committee were announced on Friday. Ortiz, Schilling and Kenny Lofton were all fined. Nixon, Varitek, Kapler, A-Rod and Tanyon Sturtze were all suspended, Varitek and A-Rod four games, the rest three. The Red Sox players gained a bit of moral high ground after the decisions were announced by not airing their complaints about the penalties to the media - something Tanyon Sturtze seems to be especially awful at, since he came off as nothing but a whiner in the process. Maybe you shouldn't put someone in a chokehold next time, buddy. Ortiz started his suspension yesterday, a logical move when the Sox are facing a series of left-handed pitching, against which David typically has trouble.

The second piece of news is the Garciaparra trade, which I was hit with as soon as I got out of a car at a party on Sunday. "They traded Nomar?! No! For who?" In a four-team trade, Nomar went to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for first baseman Doug "I Have the Coolest Name in Baseball Except for Maybe Coco Crisp" Mientkiewicz (Twins) and shortstop Orlando Cabrera (Expos). Basically, this trade seems to be about two things: getting rid of Nomar, who's been unhappy since this past winter after the A-Rod trade business, hasn't been playing as well or (supposedly) been as positive a force in the clubhouse and improving the team's defense enough to make a run...for the wildcard (good Lord that's depressing). On the one hand, the idea makes sense - a infield of three Pokey Reeses and one Bill Mueller should reduce the number of unearned runs, especially when Derek Lowe is pitching. On the other, you think, "you had all this time to negotiate these deals and you traded one of the game's best shortstops for who?!" Nomar may have been halfway out the door, but Cabrera is a free agent next season and neither he nor Mientkiewicz have been hitting terribly well this year. Hopefully a change of teams will do them good for the rest of the season - assuming a proper role can be defined for them and for the rest of the players on this team. I, however, have been feeling down about the whole thing since I heard about it yesterday. It's hard to trade someone as loved as Nomar and feel good about it.

But the lack of role problem is the real point here and once again it brings up Francona's weakness as a manager: he doesn't know what to do with all of the talent he's been given to manage. It's the beginning of August - can you tell me who the Red Sox right fielder is? Is it Trott Nixon? Are you sure? It might Gabe Kapler - or it might Kevin Millar, despite his inability to play the position well. Or does Millar DH? I thought Ortiz did that? No, no, I get it now - Millar plays right, Ortiz DHs and David McCarty plays first! No? Well, how about second base? Mark Bellhorn, right? Pokey Reese, you say and Bellhorn plays third? I thought Mueller played third? Ah, right, only when Youkilis doesn't.

Yes, there have been injuries that have caused problems, but the real problem here is that Francona has used the depth he has been given to scattershot guys in different positions, depending on the day of the week. Admittedly, I thought this was a cool idea back in June...but I've definitely had the error of my ways proven to me numerous times at this point. Well, Terry, now's the time to get it right and pick a standard lineup and set fielding positions AND NOT CHANGE IT unless someone gets hurt. My suggestion: Varitek at the plate, alternating with Mirabelli when Wakefield pitches. Mientkiewicz at first, Reese (when he comes off the DL) at second, Cabrera at short, Mueller at third. Nixon (when he comes off the DL) in right, Damon in center, Ramirez in left and Ortiz at DH. Use Kapler (who has to serve a suspension anyway) to substitute for Nixon if Nixon's quad acts up again, use Millar as occasional DH and full time cheerleader and keep it that way. Because at this point, the Sox are 9.5 games behind New York in the AL East and 1 game behind Texas in the wildcard/tied with Anaheim and unless things turn around pretty fast in Beantown, there will be no joy for the Nation come October. YANKEES SUCK!