Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All-Star Break report card: Part II (Position players)

The story of the year so far.
So I've already established that I believe the onus for the Red Sox sub-par season so far belongs solely to the starting pitchers, particularly the three donkeys. And it's already been acknowledged that the position players have been stung by injuries this season. Even so, the guys who have replaced the divas have put together the second best offense in the American League, scoring more runs than any AL team other than Texas (Sox are sixth in the MLB). And Texas, by the way, seems poised to go to their third World Series in a row, and I'd expect them to make a move on a big-time starter---Hamels, Dempster, possibly Beckett or Lester if the Sox are willing to go that route---before the deadline.

It's also worth noting that The Sox are fourth in the American League in fielding (sixth, again, in the MLB), so it's not sloppy defense that's led to the ignominious space at the cellar of the AL East.

Therefore, the position are not only off my Shit List, but I've enjoyed watching their gritty performances so far. While the big-money players have either gotten hurt (that's you, Pedey, Ellsbury, and Crawford), under-performed and been traded (that's you, Youk), or simply haven't earned their paychecks (that's you, Gonzalez), the kids have been a good, if not better, alternative to watching the so-called superstars.

The Outfield: B+

Menstrual cramps are a killer.
I really wish people would stop whining about Ellsbury and Crawford being hurt. First of all, Ellsbury seems to be made out of glass. In the past three years, he's played the equivalent of one season, and it'll be interesting to see how Scott Boris, aka Satan, tries to market him in the off-season. Or there's a good chance, seeing that the Sox are not likely to resign him, he could be moved on the market or packaged in the trading deadline deal. Who wants to buy a broken toy? I don't know. But Ellsbury is great...when he actually plays, that is.

And Carl Crawford. Remember the game in elementary school where you'd call someone's name, and when they asked "What?" you'd respond with: "You're with it." And they'd ask: "What?" And you'd laugh and repeat, "You're stuck with it." Carl Crawford is the Red Sox equivalent of being "stuck with it." No one in their right mind is going to touch that bloated contract, so, yeah, they're "stuck with it."

That said. The young guys who have come up and over-performed in the outfield and kept these guys in games deserve kudos. In fact, I'd like to see some of these guys play through the year, although it will be impossible to fit them all on the roster once Glass Boy and Stuck with It come back next week. But I've loved watching Nava and Kalish plays their sacks off. Sure, they've struggled some defensively, particularly Kalish, but still it's been fun. Thinking he'd be watching baseball this season, The Sox call Scott Posednik and he comes in and makes a difference. Although he's been hurt a lot, Ryan Sweeney swings a decent bat and plays hard. The other night against the Yankees he threw himself against the wall trying to make a catch in centerfield. If that were Ellsbury, he would have incinerated and turned to dust. And Cody Ross has brought some pop with him from San Francisco.

The Infield: B

Ciriaco was a much-needed jolt.
I think I can sort out the infield in two succinct statements.

The first one: The kids and Aviles have been great, given their respective roles and expectations. Will Middlebrooks, up to his recent injury, has been the story of the first half of the season, and now it seems that Pedro Ciriaco is out to the steal the narrative. Saltalamacchia finally starting to play to his potential, and Mike Aviles, so far, gets my vote for the 10th Player Award. Sure, if the Sox decide to throw in their cards on July 31, you might be looking at a Gonzo, Ciriaco, Iglesias, Middlebrooks in-field in a few weeks (I have a hunch Pedey is more hurt that he's letting on), but Aviles has been a nice surprise.

The second statement: The veterans have been a disappointment. It's really hard to get on Dustin Pedroia for anything. I mean, the guy could take a shit on my dinner table, and I'd probably clap and say, "Nice dump, Dustin." But, let's face it, he's been playing hurt and the stats aren't there. Before he was traded, Youk looked atrocious at the plate, and Adrian Gonzalez, for $22 million a year, should have more than six home runs at the All-Star break. They're not paying him the big bucks to hit singles.

The Designated Hitter: A

If the Red Sox brass give David Ortiz anything but a one-year contract next year, they will officially make the donkey-list with Beckett, Lester, Buchholz and Lackey. Obviously, Papi plays better when he feels slighted and he's pissed off about it. Let him pop off to the press and whine and moan about his contract, as long as he puts up the numbers he put up this first half, he's all aces with me.

Overall assessment: D

The Red Sox, with their payroll and the talent on their roster, should NOT be a last place team. I realize that other than Kansas City, Seattle, and Minnesota, every other team in the AL is contention for the second Wild Card spot going into the second half, so I'm not willing to completely write off The Red Sox. Yet. If they go into The Trop this weekend and get swept by the Rays then it's time to start dealing. In fact, I hope Cherington is already looking for potential homes for some of the big name donkeys. I would have no problem with watching this line-up for the second half of the season and seeing these kids grow: 1B Gonzalez; 2B Cirieco/Pedey; SS Iglesias; 3B Middlebrooks; LF Crawford; CF Kalish; RF Ross/Sweeney; C Salty/Lavarney.

For the Red Sox, in the next two weeks, we'll see if they're going to shit or finally get off the pot. Sorry, Pink Hats, the good times may no longer seem "so good, so good, so good." You might have to actually love and understand baseball to follow a team that's no longer contending.

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