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May 6, 2008
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: The numbers -- or at least most of them -- scream "ace." Record: 5-0, the second-highest number of wins in the league. ERA: 2.43, fourth-best in league. Batting average allowed: .158, second-best in the league. (All this, incidentally, is courtesy of the invaluable Projo Stats.) Daisuke Matsuzaka (above), by most measurable accounts, should be considered one of the best pitchers in the American League, indeed in all baseball.
Except . . .
Steven Krasner, writing the story of last night's 6-3 Red Sox win over the Tigers, lays out the case against Matsuzaka in eight simple words: Ball one. Ball two. Ball three. Ball four. He does not throw strikes, at least not with any consistency, and too many games resemble the water-dripping-on-the-forehead torturefest of last evening. By the time Terry Francona took us all out of our misery and lifted him after five excruciating innings, Matsuzaka had taken nearly two hours to throw 109 pitches, walk eight batters, and escape disaster through a combination of his admittedly superior skills (he allowed only one hit in those five innings), clutch pitching (a two-on, one-out strikeout of the sublime Magglio Ordonez in the fourth), and some luck (hard-hit balls that were caught, such as the two-out, two-on liner snared by J.D. Drew for the final out in the fifth, preserving a 4-1 lead). His performance was put into some historical perspective by Chuck Waseleski via the Boston Globe's Extra Bases blog.
Francona, noting that Matsuzaka was still suffering the aftereffects of last week's bout with the flu, chose the glass-is-half-full approach -- as he nearly always does -- in his postgame comments, lauding Matsuzaka's heart and competitive spirit. (Maybe Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press captured that dichotomy perfectly when he noted that, through three innings, Matsuzaka was on pace "for the never-seen 210-pitch no-hitter.") In the Boston Herald, Rob Bradford pointed out that while Matsuzaka often pitched like this last season, this time around he's winning these games.
Baseball -- especially professional baseball -- is a bottom-line business, and there's more than something to be said for someone who wins mosts of his starts, style points be damned. The problem, as articulated by Baseball Musings' David Pinto, is that Matsuzaka is a strange hybrid "of being wild, but at the same time very tough to hit." The troubling question: At what point will it become more important that he's wild than it is that he's tough to hit?
AUTHOR, AUTHOR! Just as his book Deep Drive, written with Bradford, is about to hit the shelves, Mike Lowell broke out of his season-long slump with a 3-for-5 night that included a home run and a double (and a near-homer in the seventh inning that was snared near the fence by Tigers left fielder Gary Sheffield). (projo.com) "Talk about a cheap publicity stunt," cracked the Herald's Steve Buckley, noting Lowell is set to do a series of book interviews today.
NEVER MIND: Remember when news of Curt Schilling's arm woes first surfaced in February? And how his personal physician, Dr. Craig Morgan, stated that "the percentage of [Schilling] being able to pitch effectively [without undergoing Morgan-recommended surgery] is probably between zero and five percent"? And the whispers that Schilling, while never saying so publicly, agreed with Morgan and was angry with the Red Sox for forcing him to undergo more conservative treatment? Well, Schilling is about ready to start throwing again and now he's saying the Red Sox were right all along. (Boston Globe)
HERE AND THERE: The rest of Krasner's notebook contains items on the bullpen, specifically the problems of Hideki Okajima when he enters games with runners on base and how Craig Hansen didn't help himself last night in his quest to earn a more prominent relief role; the continued offensive resurgence of David Ortiz, and Bartolo Colon's performance in a rehab stint in Florida.
LET'S MAKE A DEAL: The Sox' bullpen could be short a man soon; according to the Denver Post, the Rockies are trying to trade for Julian Tavarez.
IT'S AS IF DOM DeLUISE WON THE 100-YARD DASH: Bet you can't guess which team is tied for the league lead in stolen-base differential and leads in stolen-base percentage. (www.yfsf.org)
PLEASANT VALLEY SUNDAY: Baseball Analysts' Rich Lederer tells us about his morning and afternoon at Fenway last Sunday.
I REMEMBER CLELL: A stroll through the SI Vault led to Chad Finn reminiscing about Butch Hobson. (www.boston.com/sports/touching_all_the_bases)
BEEN THERE: The Sox will miss the struggling Jason Verlander in this series, and ex-Tiger Jack Morris, now working part-time as a Twins broadcaster, says he knows why Verlander is struggling: "His shoulder. There's something wrong with his shoulder." (Detroit News) Morris had bursitis in his own shoulder and thinks Verlander, based on the way he's throwing, is suffering from the same pain.
HOT TICKET: $850 for a seat behind the dugout. That's just one example of the sticker shock Yankee fans are in for when the team moves into its new stadium next year. (New York Daily News)
JOBA RULES: The Yankees may be prowling for starting pitching, but Joba Chamberlain is staying in the bullpen. (New York Daily News)
STAY THE COURSE: They also plan to stick with Jason Giambi at first base, at least for now. (New York Post)
WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM? You can almost hear the Bronx accent of ESPN.com's Bill Byast as he bellows that the Yankees start slow every year, and they always make the playoffs every year, so whaddya worried about now??
HE CALLED IT: The Daily News' Mike Lupica remembers that one of Brian McNamee's lawyers, Earl Ward, said, "Brian knows a lot about Roger's moral character. And if some of the stuff were to come out, Roger Clemens would look very, very bad." And he remembers when he said it: In January. Ward looks positively visionary these days.
NICE TRY: Still, the blog Sports Law Blog says these titillating disclosures of Clemens are all well and good, but none of it -- unless the judge is missing a few brain cells -- will be admissible into his lawsuit against McNamee.
REUNITED: The paths of Joe Torre and Willie Randolph, who spent so many years together in the Yankee dugout, are passing again this week at Dodger Stadium. Yahoo.com's Tim Brown reports that they're in different places . . . and not just geographically. Speaking of geography, things have gotten so bad at Shea Stadium -- Mets fans can't get past last September -- that Randolph says the team prefers to be on the road. (New York Post)
YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU GOT 'TIL IT'S GONE: The New York Observer's Howard Megdal says current Mets whipping boy Oliver Perez is a lot more valuable than he's being credit for and his "loss would be staggering" if the teams allows him to hit free agency.
ANNOUNCERS, THUMBS UP: The blog Basebology gives Tim McCarver a little loving "for his refusal to play along with Joe Buck's idiocy in regards to jinxes and curses during the Cubs - Cardinals game on Fox Saturday afternoon."
ANNOUNCERS, THUMBS DOWN: Jeff Brantley -- who's already made a name for himself in the Reds' broadcast booth this year -- is now irritating some of the Cincinnati players with his on-air remarks. (mlb.com)
STRANGE BREW: The Sporting News' Gerry Fraley thinks the Brewers have deficiencies that need to be fixed before they can consider themselves contenders.
NEW PARK, OLD PROBLEM: Yahoo.com's Jeff Passan examines the Nationals' low attendance figures, even though the recently opened Nationals Park is a jewel.
REMEMBER WHEN? The Chicago Sun-Times has a 10-year anniversary piece, including video, on Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game.
TONED DOWN: Ozzie Guillen was less profane, but no less passionate, as he pleaded with White Sox fans to be patient with his team. (Chicago Tribune)
NEVER ENDS, DOES IT? But just as the controversy over Guillen's foul-mouthed tirade had subsided, word comes that the White Sox were doing nasty things to some blowup dolls in their Toronto clubhouse Sunday in a light-hearted attempt to break their slump. For this, Guillen offers no apologies. "One hundred percent of the people in the clubhouse are 18 years old, and that's a private thing," he told the Chicago Sun Times. "If the players do it in the dugout where everyone can see or in the hotel lobby -- we did it in our clubhouse, and a lot of things happen in the clubhouse."
HERE AND THERE: Jimmy Rollins went 4-for-4 in a rehab game Monday (Philadelphia Daily News) . . . The Braves picked up Greg Norton from Seattle (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) . . . The Orioles' Adam Loewen has no structural damage in his pitching arm (Washington Post) . . . Mark Mulder continues to struggle in his Triple-A rehab assignment for the Cardinals (rotoworld.com) . . . Francisco Liriano, on the other hand, pitched well in Triple-A last night (rotoworld.com) . . . Good news for the Blue Jays: B.J. Ryan's been given clearance to pitch back-to-back days (mlb.com) . . . Ken Griffey Jr. played last night despite the fact that his best friend died of cancer earlier that day (frontier.cincinnati.com) . . . The Indians have dropped Jason Michaels (blog.cleveland.com) . . . Steve Traschel's spot in the Orioles rotation could be in jeopardy. (Baltimore Sun)
OLD FRIENDS: Nomar Garciaparra, recovering from a pulled left calf muscle, resumed baseball activities yesterday (mlb.com) . . . Bronson Arroyo says there's nothing wrong with him except that he's pitching terribly (mlb.com) . . . Keith Foulke pitched well in a rehab stint and is about ready to rejoin the A's (mlb.com) . . . The Brewers plan to stick with the embattled Eric Gagne as their closer. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
-- ART MARTONE
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