Monday, July 30, 2007

All Baseball, All The Time

I've decided that I'm going to post about baseball all week. That's right, every day will be a baseball entry, including my team by team update on Wednesday and Thursday. Chances are I'll get bored with this, but I will persevere!! Or preserve. Or whatever I should be saying there.

I just hope I don't get distracted by something midway through the week. For example, this morning, as I waddled my way through downpours, I wondered if holding an umbrella while lightning was around increased your likelihood of getting struck by it. Kind of like a mobile lightning rod. I even considered holding off my 'Baseball Week' so I could post about it, but decided it really didn't deserve it's own entry.

If you're wondering, I concluded that it probably did increase your odds of getting hit, but the chances are so remote anyway, it might not make that much of a difference. Besides I make sure I hold the handle part (whether it be wooden or plastic) so if I the umbrella did get hit, I wouldn't take the brunt of the strike. Sure the umbrella would be welded to my hand for the rest of my life, but I would most likely live. You can see how easily sidetracked I get.

Okay, first things first. If you haven't read it yet, catch up on French's Jon Lester post. Please ignore my profession of love in the comment section as I was probably drunk and experiencing another blackout. It happens.

Anyway, I thought of French while watching the second start for Lester and realized early on that this was much more important and more telling indicator from a pure baseball sense than his first start.

First, we were going to find out how well he bounced back. Is Lester really ready for the grinds of being a major league starter? Would he hit the wall in the fourth or fifth inning? Adrenaline played a big role in his first start, but this one was going to tell The Nation how ready he really was. Conclusion: He's ready. I thought he looked a bit weary as he left the mound in the sixth inning, but he came back out and got two more outs (and gave up two homers) before being relieved.

Second, would he be effective? Forget stamina (although that plays a big part in how well he would pitch. Please see: Inning, Seventh), but would he pitch as well as he did against Cleveland? Conclusion: He looked good. Forget the seventh inning when Jonny Gomes and Josh Paul each hit home runs off him. As Remy said at the time, they were living on borrowed time with Lester anyway. I think Francona basically put him out there to see how he would do. Besides the pitch Gomes hit out was above his shoulders, for crying out loud. And Paul hit one to the opposite field, so it wasn't like the pitches Lester was throwing were all that bad.

Finally, and this is just from a fan's perspective - meaning mine, was the comfort level of watching him pitch. To give an example, watching Tavarez pitch was always a bit of a roller coaster ride. Even when he was doing well, there was always a nagging feeling that no lead was safe. I kept waiting for the inevitable implosion. Walk, hit, walk, hit batter, home run. Could happen at anytime with Tavarez. After the first two innings Saturday, I was completely at ease watching Lester. If anything, he seems more effective this year. Last season his pitch count would be in the 70s by the third inning. He hit 99 in the seventh before being taken out. Good sign.

Which brings me to a nickname. I want to call him Lester the Molester because I get the impression the batters feel somewhat violated after facing him. His stuff isn't over powering or impressive and his delivery is vanilla, but he gets outs. On Saturday, he just kept getting the Rays to fly out. Like they were just missing some of the pitches. You could see the look of confusion on their faces when they walked back to the dugout like they were thinking 'What the hell, I should have hit that pitch'. Some looked disgusted and kept watching the jumbotron for the replay to see what the pitch was or how they missed it.

In a nutshell, that's Lester. He is far from impressive, but he is sly and deceiving and his pitches seem to move at the last second. Anyone in Red Sox Nation remember Bruce Hurst? Lester reminds me a lot of him. Both lefties, both seemingly benign, both highly effective. I'm sure Lester will have some rough starts as hitters figure him out, but that happens to all pitchers. Considering what he's been through off the field, this on the field stuff is a piece of cake.

Nice to have you back, JL.

A few other thoughts.

Nice to see NorthEastern alum Carlos Pena having a good year. Sure it's for a crappy team, but he was always one of these guys I thought would be a star but just couldn't seem to put it together. Had a nice first few months with the Tigers a few years, back, but then proceeded to go into a prolonged slump and was sent back to AAA by July. Now he's hitting .282 with 25 homers, 67 RBIs and an on base percentage of .391.

I think we can label Jonny Gomes a certified Red Sox killer. What the hell? First he takes a pitch from Lester at eye level and drives it approximately 480 feet, then he ties the game with a two run shot off Papelbon of all people! I was stunned when that happened. I think even Papelbon was stunned. I've nicknamed him 'Fuckin' Gomes', by the way.

It's probably nothing, but I heard A-Rod's name brought up by Jose Conseco over the weekend in regards to steroid use. Can't say I'd be surprised if this turns out to be true.

I also got quite pissed off at some of the accolades being thrown towards Barry Bonds over the weekend. Things like 'First ballot Hall of Famer'. Bob Ryan on 'The Sports Reporters' explained his view thusly: Since Barry basically had a Hall of Fame career before everyone suspected he started taking steroids (and there seems to be little doubt in anyone's mind he took steroids at some point) that is reason enough to vote him in. To this I cry 'Bullshit!' How can you make any sort of distinction between him and McGwire? Are we just assuming McGwire took steroids his entire career, therefore everything he did is in question? If so, shouldn't the same be done with Bonds? Why the double standard? And what about Sosa? Where does he stand? There is no proof he did anything, but we all have our doubts, don't we?

And there, being inducted into the Hall of Fame, was a player everyone seems afraid to talk about when it comes to 'roids. Cal Ripken. You're telling me this guy gets in on the first ballot after playing all those games in a row and not one person has any doubt in their minds he may have taken steroids at some point in his career? I know I've written this before, but the one thing steroids is known for is it's recuperative powers. Meaning it helps your muscles and joints recover quicker from a workout. And not one person suspects the man that played in 21 seasons and 2,632 straight games never did anything questionable in an attempt to keep that streak alive? I'm not saying he did, I just think the question should be raised. Considering he played in the apex of 'The Steroid Era', I find it highly doubtful he didn't at least contemplate it at some point. Might be nice if someone as respected as him would talk about it, at least.

Tony Gwynn, on the other hand, appeared to have played in the steak and cheese era. Holy crap is that man large!

Heard a rumor (that I hope is not at all true) that the Red Sox might pursue A-Rod in the off season. Lowell is a free agent at the end of the year and the Sox are one team that could afford to lure him away from the Yankees. Please, if there really is some sort of higher being, don't let this happen. I would still be a fan, but I would hate myself and feel dirty and cheap.

That's it for today. Coming tomorrow, my tribute to a local boy who made good.

Today's distraction: Don't worry, I'm not making all the distractions baseball related. Although there are enough games that I could conceivably do just that. Today I'm giving you Line Rider, which can become addictive once you figure out all you can do with it. I like trying to get the guy to wipe out, but continue on his way to the end. I'm sadistic when it comes to my virtual creations.

No comments: