Projo SoxTalk with McAdam: Running wild on the base paths
Click the play button below to hear Sean's comments, recorded this morning. The topics: Jon Lester's outstanding showing in Philly, Terry Francona's mild reprimand of Jacoby Ellsbury, Curt Schilling's setback, and the dismissal of Willie Randolph (which Sean saw coming months ago).
Here are some excerpts from Sean's comments:
On Lester: "The top of that [Philadelphia] lineup is as formidable as any in the game right now, and an outing like last night's is another reminder of what Lester is capable of."
On Ellsbury, who was caught stealing last night: "It's funny, it was only a few days ago that Ellsbury was talking about how the team trusts him now more, in terms of when to go and when not to, than even at the beginning the year. But last night was a reminder that, as good as he is and as good a base runner he is and as fast as he is, sometimes he makes mistakes in judgment."
On firing Randolph: [The Mets] did it in a highly unorthodox and decidedly unclassy way -- making him fly across the country and then Omar Minaya flies out during the game and then waits for Randolph and a couple of coaches at the hotel after the game to dismiss them at about 3 o'clock in the morning Eastern time. It was highly unusual and I think it's kind of symptomatic of an organization that's really in a mess, and that's why I don't think changing from Willie Randolph to Jerry Manuel is going to change much there."
Curt Schilling, who has hit a plateau in his attempt to rebound from a serious shoulder injury, was scheduled to meet with Red Sox team physician Thomas Gill Wednesday morning, but that date was pushed back until later in the day.
So instead of being examined at 9 a.m., the exam is now scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA -- Opting to err on the side of caution, manager Terry Francona elected not to put Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game.
Factoring into his decision was the Sox' regularly scheduled day off on Thursday, which in essence provides two days off for them.
Ramirez has been battling a hamstring problem that is low on his right leg, behind his knee. He aggravated the problem when he took a mighty cut and missed a pitch in the seventh inning of Tuesday night's game.
Francona asked him after the at-bat -- Ramirez flied to left -- how he was and Ramirez said he felt the hamstring tighten up. So Francona took Ramirez out of the game, replacing him in left field with Jacoby Ellsbury even though there was the possibility Ramirez might have gotten another at-bat in the game.
The Sox will be going home after Wednesday's game and will open a three-game series at home against the St. Louis Cardinals. Ramirez likely will be back in the lineup, as the designated hitter.
Youkilis, meanwhile, is out for the third straight game because of a sore back. He felt spasms in the back Monday, and has been getting better, but Francona, using "common sense," is keeping him out of the lineup again Wednesday and expects him to be ready to play Friday, as well.
My apologies for the delay in posting this; as I mentioned earlier, Cox Cable's Internet access went down for about an hour this morning. But we're here, and so with no further ado . . .
'WE HAVE THE FULL PACKAGE HERE': That's Coco Crisp's assessment of the Red Sox, and last night that package included a team-record six stolen bases (including one from Julio Lugo, above). It also included shutout pitching from Jon Lester, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon -- quite a feat in the bandbox known as Citizens Bank Ballpark -- as the Sox defeated the Phillies, 3-0. Steven Krasner has the details, focusing on Lester's more-than-impressive seven-inning, 99-pitch performance. He also has a separate blog item on Papelbon, who rebounded from Saturday's blown save in Cincinnati by blowing away the three batters he faced in the ninth, striking them all out on fastballs in the 95-97 mph range. And they weren't chopped liver, either; Papelbon's victims were Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth.
They play again this afternoon as they attempt to complete the road trip with two wins in three games against the Phillies and four wins in six games overall. Check back for all the details.
INJURY UPDATES: Bartolo Colon was forced to the disabled list because of the back injury he suffered while unhinging himself with his nuclear batting swings the other night. Chris Smith was recalled from Pawtucket for the second time this year, and he'll probably be here until Daisuke Matsuzaka is activated on Saturday; let's see if he gets into a game this time. Curt Schilling, meanwhile, is headed back to Boston to have his balky shoulder checked. Terry Francona says he hopes it's just "a bump in the road" in Schilling's rehab. Krasner has both stories.
ONE OF THESE DAYS WE'LL FILL THE JOINT WITH OUR OWN FANS: The good news is there were 31,607 at The Trop last night, which at first glance would indicate that Rays Nation is finally getting excited about its young -- and very good -- ballclub. The bad news is about half of them were there to root for the Cubs. But the home half went home happy as Tampa Bay pulled out a 3-2 win over Chicago. (Tampa Tribune)
I know, I know. F Troop references are a sure sign of age. Wonder if my friend Repoz still regards me as "ever-hip"?
(Repoz . . . now he's hip!)
YEAH, WE TEASE HIM A LOT 'CAUSE WE GOT HIM ON THE SPOT, WELCOME BACK: Now to further bury myself with Welcome Back Kotter references. But it fits -- I guess -- as the Rays celebrated the return of ex-manager Lou Piniella. (Tampa Tribune) The St. Petersburg Times' Gary Shelton was happy to see Piniella, but is happier that Joe Maddon, and not Piniella, is now in the Tampa Bay dugout.
GLAD ALL OVER: Okay, how about The Dave Clark Five? (At least this'll please Sean McAdam, perhaps the world's biggest Dave Clark Five fan.) It described the feelings of yet another ex-Rays skipper, Larry Rothschild, who's also with the Cubs these days -- as Piniella's pitching coach -- and is happy his old team is doing so well. (Tampa Tribune)
IF THE RAYS ARE TO GET THERE . . . they'll have to overcome their schedule, which the blog Baseball Playoffs Now describes as the toughest in either league.
ACE AUDITIONS: With Chien-Ming Wang sidelined, the Yankees are looking for a new No. 1 starter. Andy Pettitte put in his bid with seven shutout innings, his second straight strong performance, in an 8-0 win over the Padres. (New York Post) Joba Chamberlain, incidentally, says he wants no part of the 'ace' moniker. (New York Daily News)
SHAMELESS: The president of Teamsters Union Local 202 in New York is furious that the Yankees keep asking for taxpayer subsidies as they complete construction of the new Yankee Stadium, saying the money the Yanks want is "the money we've been asking for from the city to save our members' jobs from leaving the Bronx." (New York Daily News)
'THIS IS DOG EAT DOG': The seeds for Randolph's fate were planted last September when the Phillies overtook the Mets and won the N.L. East. There wasn't a shred of remorse in the Philadelphia clubhouse, however, no matter how much they may like Randolph as a person.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: So how often is a manager fired after he's already been named to his league's coaching staff for that year's All-Star Game? Randolph's one of the few, if not the first, and N.L. manager Clint Hurdle will probably replace him with someone else. (Rocky Mountain News)
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The Jerry Manuel Era started inauspiciously. Jose Reyes threw a mini-tantrum when Manuel took him out of the game after he tweaked his hamstring in the first inning -- though they appeared to kiss and make up later -- and Johan Santana got clipped around in a 6-1 loss to the Angels. (New York Daily News) It was, says the Post's Mike Vaccaro, a fitting end to the Mets' day.
AND FINALLY . . . Congratulations to the Celtics, whose 17th NBA championship is celebrated by old friend Chad Finn. (And, not to be selfish or anything, but now that the quest is finished it'll be good to have Chad back on baseball again.) The Boston Herald's Rob Bradford says talk in the Red Sox clubhouse after their game was all about the Celts . . . and he also has an interesting anecdote about a Philadelphia rooter whose bitterness at Boston's overflowing sporting fortunes was self-evident.
Red Sox aren't the only team that can't win on the road
By Rick Hummel
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS - The only three teams in the major leagues that had winning records on the road before last weekend all would be in the playoffs if they started today. The Los Angeles Angels (21-12) and the Philadelphia Phillies (19-15 entering last weekend) lead their divisions, and the Cardinals (19-15) lead in the early stages of the wild-card race in the National League.
For a team to have a winning record on the road - no mean feat these days - one of its star players generally leads the way. In the Angels' case, reliever Frankie "K-Rod" Rodriguez has been almost unbelievable with 17 saves in 18 road games, a 1.06 earned-run average and a 0.97 opponents' batting average against.
Philadelphia reliever Brad Lidge has been almost as good on the road, saving 11 games in 15 appearances on the road with a 0.60 ERA and .151 opponents' batting average.
Then there is the Cardinals' Ryan Ludwick, who, apparently, has reached star status now. He is hitting .333 away from home with 11 doubles, 12 homers, 36 runs batted in and a .746 slugging percentage.
Inasmuch as there are 30 big-league teams, you no doubt have surmised that there were a stunning 27 teams that didn't have a winning record on the road before the weekend, including the once proud Atlanta Braves, who had lost 17 of their last 20 road games and carried a dismal 7-24 road mark into Anaheim last weekend.
While there were 27 road non-warriors, 25 teams had winning records at home. Not surprisingly, four of the five defectors were last-place clubs - Washington, Kansas City, Seattle and Colorado - although Colorado is at least at .500 at 16-16.
Before this latest rash of interleague play, the home winning percentage this year was .576.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the highest since the era of the liveliest ball ever, 1931, when home teams were at. 582. The only year close to that was 1978 at .573.
"I've been asked this many times by people in baseball and people outside it," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. And? "No clue," he said.
Two of the three teams with the best records in baseball, the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, have the best home records at 29-8 and 28-7, respectively. It would be easy to ascribe some of the advantage those teams have to the peculiarities of their own ancient parks except that the Cubs have had dozens of losing seasons at home in the long and storied history of Wrigley Field.
This theory doesn't hold water in Atlanta, where by-the-book Turner Field seemingly has no real home-field advantage, yet the Braves are 25-11 there.
In the Braves' case, notably, and perhaps in others, the methods in which managers use their closers may make a difference. Generally, a manager on the road won't use his closer until he gets ahead - even in extra innings - while at home he would use him in the ninth inning of a tie game.
The relief-strapped Braves are exhibit A of that theory because they entered last weekend with a ridiculous 3-18 record in one-run games and 21 straight one-run losses on the road dating to last August. No wonder oft-injured John Smoltz wanted to come back as a reliever and then got hurt again in the first game he pitched as he blew a lead.
Chipper Jones, who has hit .400 throughout all this, is as puzzled as everyone else. Speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jones said, "Everybody else executes. We don't."