HALFWAY THERE: They hit the 81-game mark last night, the exact midpoint of the season, and while it may not seem like the Red Sox have done what former Packers running back Travis Williams once (delightfully) described as "anything fantabulous," they're on pace for 98 wins. That's how they'd finish if they repeat their 49-32 first-half record, a mark they reached with a 5-0 win over the Diamondbacks that, Joe McDonald writes, was the result of some stout pitching by Tim Wakefield and a nice performance from his personal catcher, Kevin Cash. Cash's contributions included a put-it-away three-run homer in the eighth -- for which he received congratulations in the above picture -- that put the game into the "safe" category.
As impressive as 49-32 may be, it's actually a game behind the 50-31 record they had at the midway point in each of the last two seasons; in neither year were they able to maintain that performance over the second half. But there's a big difference this time around. They played their 81st game this year on June 25. Last year they didn't play No. 81 until July 2. In 2006, it came on July 4. And that's pretty much when it always falls -- July 4 in 2005, July 6 in 2004, July 1 in 2003, etc. The fact that it came more than a week early this year means there's a lot of air built into the second-half schedule . . . time the Sox can use to a) rest their everyday players, b) get extra days off for their starters, c) better manage their bullpen, etc. Did you realize that the longest consecutive-day stretch the Sox have from now until the end of the year is 13? (They'll do that twice, from tomorrow to July 9 and then again from Aug. 8-20.) They'll be off on 10 of the remaining 14 Thursdays this year (counting today), and 3 of the remaining 13 Mondays.
These Sox aren't particularly old and creaky, but some of the regulars do show some age; the more time off they can get, the better. And Peter Gammons had a particularly telling quote on this topic during his last ESPN Radio appearance -- more on that in a moment -- when he said: "I’m still firmly convinced that the reason the Red Sox won the World Series was the 50 less innings pitched that Josh Beckett threw as opposed to C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. I think those guys just hit the wall in that series and Josh Beckett was pitching in the World Series like it was April 20."
The more rest you have now, the more energy you have later. That's why it may be easier for the Sox to continue to play at their current pace in the last three months.
IT STARTS NOW: Speaking of rest, the suddenly slumping J.D. Drew got some last night; McDonald gets Terry Francona's reasoning. Drew was replaced by Brandon Moss, and perhaps there's no more telling sign of Randy Johnson's mortality than the fact that the Red Sox were willing to start a rookie left-handed hitter against the Big Unit. Can you imagine that happening in 1997 or so?
NOTHING'S OVER UNTIL I SAY IT'S OVER: If you thought the end of Schilling's season, and perhaps his career, would at least put his feud with Dan Shaughnessy on hold, guess again. Schilling updated his "Not a thing in the world to be upset about" entry on 38pitches.com to call Shaughnessy a liar over a specific piece of Shaughnessy's farewell column the other day -- in which Dan said Schilling announced his impending surgery on WEEI Radio without telling Red Sox management he was doing so -- and then went on to a number of remarkably personal insults, which, if nothing else, will play spectacularly to Schilling's target online audience.
FORESIGHT: It's a hot topic today, but Joe Maddon was warning us about maple bats back when his team was still known as the Devil Rays. I had to go to Google to get the cached version of a Tampa Tribune story from July 24, 2007, in which he raised the issue "because I really believe somebody's going to get hurt if there's nothing done about it."
JOBA RULES: "The debate is over," declares Peter Abraham (LoHud Yankees Blog), and it certainly appears that way after Joba Chamberlain pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings in picking up his first win as a starter as the Yankees blanked the Pirates, 8-0. (New York Daily News) The Yanks, point out Abraham, have won four of the five games started by Chamberlain (even though last night was the first time he got credit for the victory) and the evidence is incontrovertible that the best utilization of his skills is in the rotation. Now, he adds, all they need to do is find another starter.
'THE AGES' IS A RELATIVE TERM: The Rockies made a comeback for the ages last year in reaching first the postseason and then the World Series. Thanks to their puny N.L. West foes, Tracy Ringolsby thinks another one could be in the offing. (foxsports.com)
AND FINALLY . . . All those "Hi Don and Remdawg!" signs don't cut no mustard in Cleveland, where Orsillo and Remy -- unable to ride Manny Ramirez' coattails, apparently -- had a tough time getting into Jacobs Field one day: