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June 3, 2008
Journal photo / Bob Breidenbach
BIG PROBLEM: David Ortiz normally points skyward in thanks, usually after hitting a home run (above). Now he -- and the Red Sox -- may instead be pleading for help. Yesterday's MRI revealed "a partially torn ECU (or extensor carpi ulnaris) tendon sheath in his left wrist," reports Joe McDonald, which placed Ortiz on the disabled list for what the team says is an indefinite period. But the co-author of Ortiz' autobiography, the Boston Herald's Tony Massarotti, lays out a grim scenario: A month's immobilization of the wrist, with season-ending surgery a possibility if rest fails to correct the problem. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo has a slightly more optimistic take, saying Ortiz will need two weeks in a soft cast and could be back in the lineup two weeks after that; he mentions surgery only as an after-the-season possibility, quoting Terry Francona as saying an operation in the near future is "highly unlikely."
Such reporting variance usually means the outlook is muddled and that no one really knows what the future holds. (Sean Casey, whose playing time figures to increase, worries that it won't hold good things for Ortiz, telling the Globe's Gordon Edes how important the wrists are to a hitter. And ShysterBall's Craig Calcaterra notes that a similar injury ended Ken Caminiti's career.) But nature, and Red Sox Nation, abhors a vacuum, so my friends at Sons of Sam Horn and Royal Rooters -- along with our own Your Turn board and the folks at The Baseball Think Factory's Sox Therapy -- are discussing the issue as we speak, and one name continues to pop up, over and over and over:
The blog LyfLines lays out the case for Bonds ("a perfect fit"), but wonders if the Sox have the "guts/brain/nerve/common sense/chutzpah/arrogance/what-have-you" to sign him. Lyford, I'd say that the attributes you lay out are mutually exclusive. Do they have the guts, the chutzpah, the arrogance? Sure. You'd need all that, and more, to sign Barry Bonds. But brains and common sense? Those gifts tell you to avoid Barry Bonds at all costs, at least for now.
First things first. We just don't know a) how long Ortiz will be out and b) how affected he's going to be by all this. Suppose Cafardo is right and Ortiz is back in the lineup, good as new, in a month? Then what do you do with Bonds? Bench him? Platoon him? (With who?) Release him? The only position Bonds can possibly play is left field, and that would give you a three-into-two LF/DH quandry with Bonds, Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. One of them would have to sit out every game. You might be able to do that in Strat-O-Matic or a fantasy league, but in real life? How do you think that's going to go over?
But here's a far more important piece. You'd have to be a Bill James Online subscriber to read them, but Bill James did two Bonds columns last week, pre-Ortiz injury. In the first of them, he states: "I don’t want anything to do with Barry Bonds. Why? Simple: I don’t believe in his future, I’m not convinced of his value in the present, and I’m not interested in the past." And the reason he doesn't believe in Bonds' present: "Bonds, in my view — like [Babe] Ruth in 1934 — has reached a point of such extraordinary narrowness of his skills that there is an imminent danger that the structure will simply collapse at any moment — as it did on Ruth in 1935."
Then, when called out on it, James explained further a few days later:
"[When] a player reaches the point where ALL that he does is hit, he is normally very near to the end . . . .if you look at old players who have a very high OPS and essentially no other skills, what happens to them is that they suddenly collapse. They go from 'valuable' to 'out of the game' or 'still in the game, but worthless' in one year." And he lists examples: Mark McGwire. Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell. Henry Aaron. Willie Mays. Stan Musial. Ted Williams. Jackie Robinson. Joe DiMaggio. Hank Greenberg. Mel Ott. Indian Bob Johnson. Edgar Martinez. Even Jason Giambi, who, he points out "had an OPS of .971 [in 2006], one of the highest in baseball. In 2007 he suffered a dramatic dropoff. He may not be finished; maybe he’ll come back, but. . . . it wasn’t a good experience."
(It's all available in great detail in Bill James Online. If this doesn't convince you that the nominal subscription fee -- I believe it's $1 a month -- is worth it, nothing will.)
And one last thing: Bill James is a member of the Red Sox baseball-operations staff, so you know this viewpoint will be heard in organizational meetings in the days ahead.
Signing Barry Bonds right now, at this moment, is a panic move and we've seen where panic moves have gotten the Red Sox in the past. It led them to trade Josh Bard and Cla Meredith for Doug Mirabelli. It led them to bring in (the other) Javy Lopez as a backup catcher. One of the best things about the last two years is that the team has built such organizational depth that it's lessened the need for panic moves. Thanks to that depth, the Sox have other options; the blog Sox and Pinstripes lays them out.
Maybe it'll all change. Maybe two weeks of Sean Casey as DH, or of an everyday outfield of Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco Crisp and J.D. Drew (with Ramirez as the DH), will demonstrate the need for more offense. Maybe the news on Ortiz will get worse, and the team will decide it needs to find another big bat. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Don't make decisions based on maybes. It's June 3. There's plenty of time to decide what the right path should be.
Right now, Barry Bonds shouldn't be on that path.
AND IN KEEPING WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE NIGHT . . . Thanks to Hideki Okajima (above), the news about Ortiz didn't dampen the joy of a thrilling, come-from-behind victory. Instead, it merely deepened the gloom as Okajima, entrusted with a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth, allowed three singles, two walks and a bases-clearing double to the seven batters he faced and handed the Orioles a 6-3 victory. (projo.com) Why Francona left him in for seven batters when it was pretty obvious after three -- at the most -- that it wasn't his night is a matter that was trampled by the postgame news about Ortiz; nevertheless, that didn't stop our friends at SOSH from discussing it. Okajima told the Japanese media afterwards -- apparently, he didn't talk to American reporters -- that he was disappointed in his performance. (Boston Herald) That makes all of us, Hideki.
NO REST FOR THE WEARY: The Sox don't get the option of mourning Ortiz' loss. Tonight starts an A.L. East showdown with the Rays, who are anxious to prove themselves worthy of the first-place position they've been holding for the last week or two. (St. Petersburg Times) They're being fueled by their pitching (Tampa Tribune), and who thought we'd ever be able to say that about a Tampa Bay team? Orioles manager Dave Trembley told the Herald's John Tomase that the Rays are in it for the long haul -- "They're not going to go away . . . They're a good team" -- which means this is actually the first of several showdowns the Sox will be facing in the next four months. (They go to Tampa on June 30-July 1-2, and Sept. 15-17; after this series, the Rays make their final visit to Fenway on Sept. 8-10.) And even though the attendance figures at The Trop don't yet show it, excitement is mounting in central Florida if the blog Rays Index is any indication; they're already talking magic numbers. After last night's Red Sox loss, it's down to 99.
MASTERING THE MOMENT: McDonald reports that Justin Masterson, still unbeaten in the major leagues, will get the start for the Sox tonight.
GET THIS MAN A SCHEDULE: When Coco Crisp was seen packing his bags after Sunday's game, the whispers started. Had he been traded? Was he finally sick of his situation and jumping the team? It was none of that, McDonald discovered: Coco merely thought it was a three-game series and that the Sox were heading home Sunday night.
AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: Ortiz is hurt. Sox cough one up in the late innings. And now comes word that Hazel Mae is leaving NESN. (projo.com)
NO HELP HERE: Don't count on Kyle Snyder to bolster the bullpen any time soon. Last night he apparently reinjured the groin strain that had him on the DL from May 16-27. (projo.com)
WHY, IN MY DAY . . . In his Historical Baseball Abstract books, Bill James used to run a series of quotes from retired players in each decade (heading: Old Ballplayers Never Die) saying how much better the game was when they played and how modern players couldn't hold a candle to the old-timers. Jim Rice made his bid for the next edition in a speech Monday when he trashed Manny Ramirez and said Jonathan Papelbon was the only member of the current Red Sox who could have cracked the starting lineup of the 1975 team. (watertowndailytimes.com)
IT'S STARTING: The angst about Joba Chamberlain's move to the starting rotation -- the "Who's gonna pitch the eighth??" wail from the keep-Joba-in-the-bullpen crowd -- is growing this morning after the dastardly Kyle Farnsworth turned a tie game into a Yankee loss in five pitches as Minnesota rallied past the Yanks, 6-5. (New York Daily News) Peter Abraham says don't blame Farnsworth; blame, instead, the guy who put him out there in the eighth inning despite the mountain of evidence that proves irrevocably that you can't trust Farnsworth to pitch with the game on the line. (LoHud Yankees Blog) Besides, says Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the real culprit last night was Andy Pettitte, who couldn't hold leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-4.
TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT: The guy who didn't pitch the eighth last night will be out there in the first tonight, making his starting debut. The Daily News' Mike Lupica says Joba Chamberlain now starts his attempt to live up to the hype. "They ask an awful lot of this kid," Lupica concludes. "Time will tell if they have asked too much."
HERE AND THERE: The focus on Ortiz kept me away from my normal Web-surfing spots and the deadline to upload this is here, but two last items: Ozzie Guillen and Ken Williams will attempt to clear some very thick air between them sometime today (Chicago Tribune), and Bill Hall has asked for a trade from the Brewers. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
-- ART MARTONE
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