Baseball BeatAugust 28, 2006
Monday Morning Musings
By Rich Lederer

I was fortunate to attend two of the Boston Red Sox @ Los Angeles Angels games last week plus yesterday's final game of the New York Yankees @ LAA series.

Observations and comments:

  • Joe Saunders pitched 5 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run on Tuesday vs. the Red Sox, then gave up eight earned runs in 2 1/3 IP on Sunday vs. the Yankees. Same pitcher. Two different results. After winning his first four starts, Saunders is now 4-2 with an ERA of 4.78. He is a capable pitcher, but there is nothing special about him (other than the fact that he throws from the left side). His fastball touches 91-92. He has a decent changeup and a mediocre breaking ball. Like a lot of young pitchers, Saunders may be running out of gas late in the season. He's thrown 173 innings this year. His previous high? 170 in 2005.

  • Saw Dustin Pedroia make his MLB debut. Also witnessed his first big league hit. The ball was removed from play and tossed into the Red Sox dugout. I wonder if his teammates played an age-old trick on the rookie by scribbling on a duplicate ball and presenting it to him after the game as if it were the real deal?

    One can't help but notice Pedroia's smallish size. Listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, the 23-year-old infielder does himself no favors in the looks department with his baggy pants. Nevertheless, the guy can play. The 2003 Pacific-10 Player of the Year started one game at shortstop and the other at second base. He played well in the field and squared up the ball several times at the plate (although you might not know it by looking at his 2-for-18 results through Sunday). To his credit, Pedroia has always had more BB than SO every stop along the way going back to his freshman year at Arizona State. We're not looking at a superstar in the making but don't be surprised if he becomes a serviceable every day player.

  • Garret Anderson can no longer play left field. He misplayed two fly balls on Tuesday. He runs routes as poorly as Randy Moss but doesn't have his speed or athleticism to make up for his indifferent approach. Put me in charge and GA wouldn't be on the Angels would be limited to the role of DH, almost exclusively vs. RHP. Anderson is Exhibit One why teams should refrain from giving 32-year-olds top-dollar, four-year extensions for the sake of loyalty (which the Angels did in 2004). Exhibit Two? Jason Varitek.

  • Josh Beckett was throwing 94-95 mph all night on Thursday. Cheese at the knees. He also has a pretty good hammer curve but was relying mostly on his fastball that evening. His control was impeccable. Get this, Beckett missed the strike zone seven times through four innings. Now I realize this was against the "go up there and hack away" Angels but, goodness gracious, that is impressive against any team. My question to you is "How can this guy have an ERA over 5.00?"

  • Jered Weaver lost his first game of the year the same night Beckett manhandled the Angels. He allowed only four hits and one run in six innings of work. One of the hits was a high pop fly that fell between Orlando Cabrera and Chone Figgins in shallow center field. The 6-foot-7 right-hander struck out the side in the fifth and the first two batters in the sixth with a mix of fastballs (that reached as high as 93 on the gun), sliders, and changeups.

    Weaver asked to go back for the seventh inning but manager Mike Scioscia pulled his prized rookie after throwing 107 pitches. In the "old" days, I'm quite certain that Weaver would have been allowed to keep pitching based on how well he was performing. Jered made one bad pitch--a 1&2 fastball in David Ortiz's wheelhouse--and he paid dearly for it as Big Papi deposited that mistake deep into the right-field seats.

  • The Angels had a chance to tie the game and take Weaver off the hook in the bottom of the seventh inning when Doug Mirabelli made the defensive play of the series. With no outs, runners on second and third, and the Sox leading 2-0, Howie Kendrick laced a single to left field, scoring Garret Anderson for the Angels' first run. Third base coach Dino Ebel waved Juan Rivera home a split-second before Wily Mo Pena unleashed a strong, accurate throw to the plate. Mirabelli stood straight up as if there was no play, deking Rivera into believing that he would score easily. Doug then caught Pena's perfect strike and applied the tag on Rivera, who flopped toward the plate in vain in an attempt to stick his outstretched hand past the veteran catcher. Nice play by Pena and Mirabelli. Bad job on the parts of Ebel and Rivera. Didn't their high school coaches team them, as mine did, not to make the first out of an inning at home?

  • Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams each hit two home runs vs. the Angels on Sunday. Saunders gave up three of the four gopher balls. Both of Jeter's long balls ended up in the stands in right-center field. Seems as if Derek goes the opposite way as often as he pulls the ball when lifting it into the air.

    Williams looked like the vintage Bernie from 1996-2002. He collected four hits and knocked in six runs. The switch-hitter is putting up better numbers from the right side this year. Williams may be a liability in the field but is producing enough offensively to warrant another year in pinstripes.

  • Alex Rodriguez struck out TEN times in the three-game series. He went 1-for-15 with no RBI while stranding nine runners on base. A-Rod's looking more and more like Troy Glaus, a three true outcomes type of hitting third baseman. His slugging average now rests below .500. Rodriguez has slugged .500 or better every year since 1997, including north of .600 in five of the past six seasons. Twenty-five million just doesn't go as far these days as it once did.

  • Comments

    RICH: Why so down on Pedroia's baggy pants of all things? They are his generational perogative.

    I just meant that Pedroia looked even shorter and squattier than his listed height and weight, that's all.

    Josh Beckett's ERA is above five because of the gopher ball.

    "Twenty-five million just doesn't go as far these days as it once did."

    Well now there's another writer I'll never have to read again.

    Rich. That was not the usual Beckett that you saw. The usual Beckett throws even fewer of those curves and doesn't have as good control of the fastball. Then his solution to the difficulties resulting from this is to try and throw even harder.

    He apparently shakes off the catchers often and almost always to go to the fastball. Not that Lopez and Mirabelli are much interested in calling other pitches anyway. One of Papelbon's blown saves (or losses, I forget which) was against KC (of all teams). Javy Lopez called ALL fastballs. He called twenty something pitches, every single one a fastball. Absolutely infuriating.

    In general, I agree with you that Varitek's was a bad contract. But sometimes I watch Lopez or Mirabelli and my certainty waivers.

    Varitek's contract may be OK as long as he returns strong next year. The BoSox can pretty much afford it too.

    I was saddeded by GA's contract the second he signed it, but stuff happens. A 4 year contract to a 32 year old can be OK as long as the player has a broad base of skills. Without walks or speed, GA would be a problem as soon as he slipped a little. I would let GA hit against lefties in odd number years. He smoked them in '03 and '05. ;)

    A-rod's slump is getting nutty... MELKY CABRERA HAS BEEN HITTING MUCH BETTER THAN HIM FOR 2 STRAIT MONTH, HELLOO!!!!! a 21 year old kid that's viewed by most as a mid grade prospect at best is hitting better than a future hall of famer in his freaken prime!?!!?!?!