Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Game 61: Julio Lugo is Not Here For His Glovework

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, Tampa Bay Rays 4

Masterson: not so masterful when you're facing a good team, it seems. Or maybe it's just that Akinori Iwamura hits better in Fenway than almost anywhere else and maybe should learn to play shortstop so he can come to Boston and replace the joker we've got playing there now. I'm just saying. Anyway, two sinkers that didn't sink found their way over the way tonight - including one courtesy of Mr. Iwamura - and Masterson had almost as many fly outs as he did ground outs. Maybe he was nervous about Manny's hometown reception post 500 homer milestone. Or maybe he was just so relieved that the doctors chose three weeks of immobilization over three months (or more) of surgery recovery for Papi's ailing wrist in the hopes of a scar tissue heal.

Speaking of shortstops, Robin remarked that ever since the aforementioned Lugo personally blew two saves for Papelbon, he seems to make an exit stage right for defensive replacement Alex Cora. We were curious, so I mined Baseball Reference and found that yes, since May 9, Alex Cora has replaced Julio Lugo at shortstop for every Papelbon appearance except for two: May 10, when Lugo was in the dog house, Cora wasn't available (I believe he was injured at the time?), and the Sox had Jed Lowrie (the once and future successor to the position) make the start; and May 30, when Cora and Lugo did a role reversal. Papelbon's record in that time: eight appearances, one earned run, six saves in six chances. I think the numbers speak for themselves (but I'll say it anyway): Julio Lugo is persona non grata when Papelbon is on the mound.

I wonder who made the call (or the request): was it Francona, adopting his no nonsense pose by putting his shortstop in some sort of extended purgatory for his extremely poor defense, or was it Papelbon, star closer and future ca-drillionaire (good to see that investment is paying dividends, by the way), throwing around some political muscle by getting Lugo off the field when there's a save situation on the line. As odd as he's proven to be, I like the idea of Paps being a bit of a prima donna, storming into Terry's office, slamming the door, exclaiming something like "I can't work under these conditions," and demanding Lugo get the defensive replacement treatment, all while wearing a smoking jacket. I'm a big believer in ball players having personality, you know?