Results tagged ‘ Red Sox ’

Youkilis Not Expected Back This Year

Two unimpeachable sources now advise that Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who appeared to jam his thumb while batting the other night, has in fact so severely torn a muscle – possibly a torn ligament – that whether or not he will actually require surgery on the injured hand, he is not expected to play again this season.

Youkilis is, as revealed earlier, headed for a further examination tomorrow by Dr. Thomas Graham, hand specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Further details as they become available.

Something Happened To Him

The very first entry in this blog was about the spring training work of a young relief pitcher, so impressive that it inspired home plate ump Tim Tschida to come over to the pitcher’s bench and say it was the most remarkable thing he’d seen all spring. Daniel Bard had not only struck out the Tampa Bay side, but he had cleared 100 MPH four times, and, according to Tschida he had put one in each corner of the strike zone. 

“How can you resist the temptation to take him north?,” I asked Terry Francona. The Boston manager laughed. “He’s still so young. If something happened to him, it could be crushing. But you’ll see him by summer.” 
Tonight here at Yankee Stadium, something finally happened to Bard. 
Brought in to protect Boston’s lead after 31 innings without a run and 36 without an extra base hit, having logged a save, five holds and 42 strikeouts in his first 30 appearances, the rookie instead surrendered a blast to Johnny Damon, who seemingly began to swing as the ball left Bard’s hand. With all false modesty aside, I then turned to one of my oldest friends, ESPN Radio Network Senior Director/Executive Producer John Martin and said “if Damon can time him, Teixeira can time him.” Teixeira promptly timed him into the upper deck. 
And now Francona has more to worry about than being swept four games here and falling six-and-a-half out. He has to deal with Daniel Bard’s first “something” – his first big league loss – a pivotal moment in the kid’s career and his team’s season.

Recommended Prospects, Recommended Reading (Updated)

Funny that with all the big names moving before the deadline, the number of primo prospects was actually pretty low. I was particularly unimpressed with what the Indians got for Cliff Lee (and Ben Francisco) although I am only about ten percent insufficiently skeptical to address the Lee deal as I did the McLouth one – that the trading team was selling a guy, if not at peak value, then at the last moment he would be seriously overvalued, and were doing well to get anything hopeful back.

Having said that, if you still consider Justin Masterson a prospect and not a full-fledged major leaguer, he was clearly the most gifted of all the players given up for “the names.” A year from now, when Brad Penny and John Smoltz and who knows who else are Red Sox memories, Boston would not have parted with him, and not just because of his pitching gifts. The Sox are astounded by his quiet leadership, an almost unheard-of quality for a pitcher. He doesn’t rant, he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t slap his glove against his thigh, and nothing bleeds from his sock. He just inspires his teammates to feel more secure about their talents and accomplishments, and their prospects for winning the game. Terry Francona will miss him, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of his life.
And ironically, given how they are howling in Pittsburgh over the exiling of McLouth, then Jack Wilson, then Freddie Sanchez, the head-and-shoulders pick for the top pure-prospect traded against the deadline was the guy the Bucs got for Sanchez, pitcher Tim Alderson. Harkening back to the Johan Santana/Yankees post here, the rule of thumb is that half of all pitching prospects fail. That would ordinarily discourage the ever-discouraged Pirate faithful. However, Alderson and Charlie Morton are both front-of-rotation, ace-of-staff prospects. If one makes it and the other turns merely into a righty Jarrod Washburn, they’ve done awfully well – and this assumes that very little else from the McLouth or Wilson trades bears great fruit, which is not necessarily a correct assumption.
One more deadline note. The amazement at the Adam LaRoche/Casey Kotchman trade itself amazes me. The Red Sox made a similar acquisition in 2004, a glove-first, low-power starting first baseman, about whom everyone said “where they gonna play him?” His name was Doug Mientkiewicz and the point was, his window as a starting player was pretty much over, as is Kotchman’s. He will never hit enough. So you keep the defensive whiz as your back-up and pay for it by spending the middling slugger with the middling glove. The only complication this time is that the Boston backup on those days when Victor Martinez is playing first, is a fellow named Youkilis, and he’s no slouch.
BRIEF UPDATE NOT WORTHY OF ITS OWN POST

The Rangers sent Frank Francisco out on rehab to AAA. To Frisco of the Texas League. Making him Frank Francisco of Frisco.
Nearly as good as Johnny Podres of the Padres, Jim York of New York, or Ted Cox of the Red Sox.
READ – IN FACT, YOU’RE DOING IT NOW!

Three books to endorse with high praise and the caveat that I’m mentioned in one, and two of them are written by friends. I write as a guy who was once the country’s only nationally-published reviewer of baseball books (who once gave the second edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia a panning for some awful typos) so finding three I like at one time is quite a feat.
First there’s Marty Appel’s Munson: The Life And Death Of A Yankee Captain. When a book reveals details of a man’s life to his own family, it’s a pretty good book. I am duly impressed both with the research effort and the clarity of Marty’s work, and the attempt to recreate that sad day 30 years ago tomorrow when Munson’s death shocked baseball. It is not happy reading, but it is worthwhile reading.
I think Ron Darling may have written (let’s broaden it out to all of them who didn’t go to Yale; even co-written) the best book by a pitcher since Kirby Higbe’s HIgh And Inside. Ron’s is called The Complete Game and it takes a novel approach: a pitch-by-pitch, thought-by-thought recitation of key innings of key games, nearly all of them his own, throughout his long span in college and major league ball. Apart from taking you inside an entire team’s thinking as the pitches succeed each other, Ronnie also underscores what is to me the most underrated skill among elite athletes: Memory. Nearly all of the microscopic detail (what he was thinking between the third and fourth pitches, to the third hitter, in the fifth inning, of his thirteenth start, etc) was pulled from his recall and simply verified in the record books. He rolls the details out the way Gordie Howe once rolled out each shot he took in a Detroit Red Wings-New York Rangers game, 27 years after he played it. A great read, and very well written.
Almost not at all written is the third suggestion: Chris Epting’s The Early Polo Grounds. This is 181 pre-1925 photos taken at the legendary home of The New York Giants and it borders on time travel, even if the captions aren’t always complete (a date of an October, 1910, photo is disputed by the author because the Giants didn’t play in that year’s World Series; he seems not to have known that in those days the Giants and Yankees regularly played post-season series for the “Championship of New York”). Having just spent hours in the photo vaults of Cooperstown looking at all the photos of the fabled ballpark, I can say that this collection rivals that part of the Hall’s from the 20th Century – plus, they won’t arrest you if you try to take it home.


Manny Being Manny*

* With PEDs.

“U have no idea!” a Red Sox friend texted at the end of last July. “U haven’t heard half the stories. Ones u have r only half the truth.” The trade of texts ended with guesstimates of just how much the trade of Manny Ramirez had extended the lives of everybody in Boston from the team executives to the clubhouse attendants.
These stories constituted as wide a range of accused crimes and misdemeanors as any modern player has ever collected. But none I ever heard included a specific charge about performance enhancing drugs. That there is surprise at the 50-game suspension, at the perfect dagger through the heart of the Dodgers’ perfect start, is about the means, not ends. “Looks like a great team,” a Dodger told me not two months ago in Arizona. “Watch Manny screw it up. He got his money.”
The stories, dating back to Cleveland, ranged from unbelievable/nonsense to just unbelievable. He supposedly shirked, showed up late or not at all, forced the trade, tried to get it undone. Guys in the dugout said they saw him once picking at his nails, his glove under his arm, as a righty made contact and pulled the ball right to him (he made the catch). His personal hygiene was supposed to be indescribable. Teammates wondered if he was “all there.” As late as this spring a Dodger individual predicted a phony injury. His extraordinary natural gifts, they thought, gave him the ability to wallpaper it all. The near-.400 stretch with the Dodgers last year was an indication of what he could do if he was trying – and if he was scared.
There were some specifics. Last July 6th – maybe the first public indicator something was desperately wrong – the infamous Sunday Night game in New York when Ramirez didn’t start, and only appeared as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter against Mariano Rivera with two out and the winning run at second. Manny never took the bat off his shoulder. Not, he got called out on three Rivera cutters. He never moved. Went silently to the plate, left Boston’s last runner of the loss to fade away at second, left without comment for the clubhouse.
Last July 31st, the Red Sox and Pirates and Dodgers beat the deadline and Manny is gone. And the phone supposedly rings in Boston. It’s Manny, shocked into reality. He wasn’t happy, sure, but he was only doing what the agent suggested to get them to pick up his 2009 option (not that the agent suggested all this) and he was really sorry and he would play his heart out and he’d be there extra-early for BP and he was glad the trade hadn’t happened. And the person at the other end of the line needed several tries before he managed to get the idea through to Manny that the trade could not be undone, that he had to move to L.A., that time would not roll backwards just because Manny wanted it to.
That’s the thing that makes it surprising that we are all surprised today. All the stories about Ramirez could be total slanders. The claims about intelligence and hygiene and focus and selfishness could be utter nonsense spread to make those who survived him look better, gentler, more long-suffering. The Cookie Cutter Excuse No. 3 – my-doctor-prescribed-it-it-was-an-accident – could even be true. But the one continuous thread through every tale, true or false, is exactly the explanation for the PED user who gets caught – a presumption of invincibility and an inability to discern cause and effect.
Forgive the anonymity of the quotes – again – but this was in Glendale in March and a Dodger person (sorry) traded a greeting with Manny and then we watched as Manny joined a group stretching in the outfield. “Look at him wincing,” he said. “I’d be concerned but he told me, now that he had signed, and now that he had gotten his timing in the batting cage, since he hated spring training so much, he figured he’d pull a hamstring so he could get a few days off.” The Dodger person looked only at Manny. “He actually told me that. Look at him. He’s practicing looking hurt.”
I offered that he saw the new contract not as payment for services to be rendered, not as a lifeline to encourage a repeat of last year’s intensity, but as just desserts for what he did last year, that there when you were Manny Ramirez there were no incentives, no forward-thinking. The Dodger person squinted out towards number 99, and finally answered. “Yes. I think that may be it. But who (expletives deleted) knows. When they said that this was ‘Manny being Manny’ in Boston, we had no idea just how much that meant.”
Apparently none of us did.
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