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!