Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Never Ending Outfield Part 1

Theo Epstein is losing his mind. That’s right, I said it. I never thought it could happen but I am beginning to lose faith in the Boy Wonder.

The reason: the cast of thousands that would appear to be the Red Sox outfield this year.

As far as I can tell (and this includes players not signed but not claimed by other teams) the Sox have the following players at or around the Major League level:

Jacoby Ellsbury
Mike Cameron
Jeremy Hermida
J.D Drew
Rocco Baldelli
Joey Gathright
Brian Anderson
Josh Reddick

This is before we get to the looming spectre of Jason Bay which has, well prior to the admittedly GREAT signing of John Lackey, dominated coverage of the Sox at the Winter Meetings.

Jason Bay needs to wake up and smell what he and his agent are shovelling. All this talk of mammoth contracts elsewhere is simply wishful thinking for one simple reason: Jason Bay is not THAT good.

Sure the guy raked last year and has put up extremely respectable power and RBI totals throughout his career, but Bay is asking for the sort of money elite players get, the sort of player who could fit into any lineup anywhere money. Bay is not that player. He had the luxury of being the star player in Pittsburgh and was able to cut his teeth and develop as a big leaguer without any of the pressure that comes from playing for a team that actually expects to win. In Boston Bay’s mediocre average, pull-happy swing is flattered HUGELY by the Green Monster. Essentially Bay (who I’d never thought was a big money-grabbing type of player) wants Matt Holliday money, and if that’s the case then why on earth are the Sox not just biting the financial bullet and spending that sort of money on getting Matt Holliday, the superior player.

I also cannot for the life of me work out why the Sox have signed Mike Cameron. Why on earth would we want to pick up another mediocre bat/good defence CF and then platoon him in LF with Hermida (assuming of course, that Bay doesn’t re-sign)? Added to that is the fact that Cameron is known to have violated MLB's substance policy. That’s not innuendo or hearsay, that guy was suspended for it. After the fiasco with David Ortiz last year and the fall-out from Manny’s very high-profile suspension, you would have thought that last thing the Red Sox would want to do is associate themselves with another guy tainted with the steroid, or in Cameron's case, stimulant brush. I certainly hope that getting this guy is part of some higher Epstein plan to lure Adrian Gonzalez to Fenway as I cannot see myself ever rooting for Cameron in a Red Sox jersey. He is a journeyman outfielder at best and the disruption finding somewhere to put him in the OF in 2010 is more trouble that he is worth.

J.D Drew is like the weather, there is simply no point in either praising or complaining about it, it will just do what its going to do regardless. Drew will play 150 or so games, hit .270 16-20HR 65-75RBI, get paid extremely well for doing so, blah blah blah.

Not much to say about Reddick and Anderson either. If Anderson resigns he is a AAAA type guy and won’t be missed much. Reddick has potential but stunk up Fenway Park as a surprise call up last year and belongs back in AA/AAA for another year.

The only remaining point of contention concerns our 4th outfielder. Certainly at this point it would seem that Hermida is going to take this role, presumably alongside Cameron if Bay returns. I’ve no problem with Hermida, always liked the guy when he was coming up with the Marlins and if he can show some of the promise he once had he can’t help to make the team better and could be productive at DH occasionally.

Unfortunately this appears to leave my favourite Red Sox player, Rocco Baldelli, without a job come April. While I know that it doesn’t make any baseball sense to keep a guy on the big league roster who is incapable of playing back to back games, I will be sorry to see Rocco leave and certainly hope that he gets a shot at staying in the big leagues somewhere else. After all this is a guy who, I believe, we would be talking about as the equivalent of Jason Bay and Matt Holliday had he not fallen ill. What’s more Baldelli is a New England guy and everyone I talked to in Boston this October loves the guy.

Still, dollars and cents abide.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Best of the Rest

I hate to say it but maybe Albert Pujols isn’t the most valuable player in the National League after all.

Certainly all the boxes are ticked when it comes to Pujols being MVP-worthy. The guy rakes, his OBP is consistently high, his glove is amongst the best in the league at 1B and you know that year in, year out Albert is going to hit around .330. But is this enough to make the NL award the foregone conclusion it seems to have been for a while now?

I’m not going to make any case whatsoever for Prince Fielder, the guy is just Pujols-lite in my opinion. If you stack up Fielder’s 46HR, 141 RBI .299/.412/.602 offensive line from 2009 against Pujol’s 47HR, 135RBI .327/.443/.658 you find that RBI totals aside Albert is by far the superior offensive player (even with his turgid September hitting slump). What’s more Albert is a gold glove calibre defensive first baseman. While I’ve slated the gold glove voting in previous posts and still maintain that a player’s ‘star-quality’ unduly impacts the likelihood of them taking home the trophy, it should be clear to anyone watching the Cardinals or the Brewers on a regular basis that Albert is vastly superior to Fielder defensively. Fielder will be lucky to last more than a few more seasons playing defensively every day whereas Albert is the calibre of player who one could easily see playing out the rest of his likely-to-be hall of fame career at the position.

OK, that’s Fielder dispensed with.

Now comes Hanley Ramirez, who, as far as I’m concerned IS the 2009 NL MVP.

Just thinking of how good Ramirez is fills me with chagrin regarding the fact that this guy was never given the opportunity to suit up at Fenway Park. Yes, I know, we got Lowell and Beckett out of that deal, and likely would not have won in 2007 had it not been for the trade. But nevertheless, with Mike Lowell becoming the 10 million dollar white elephant in the room for all of the Sox’ off-season plans and Josh Beckett never quite being the perennial Cy Young candidate he should be, one can’t help but wonder ‘what if’ when it comes to the Ramirez deal.

Ramirez has had a phenomenal season. 24 HR, 106 RBI .342/.410/.543. Those are elite numbers. As the Marlin’s website tellingly states, Ramirez was “second to one” in the MVP voting this year.

The trouble is, the MVP award is not about crowning the best player in the division. If that were the case Dustin Pedroia would not have had a prayer in 2008. It is about choosing that player which was most valuable to his team. That the Cardinals still limped into the playoffs despite Albert not going deep once in September must surely tell us something about his value to that team. While Pujols is the face of the organisation and a vital, invaluable part of that team, it is not like the Cardinals were devoid of talent without him. Holliday, Carpenter, Wainwright, even guys like Skip Schmacher and Ryan Ludwick all made up the pieces of the puzzle for the Cards in ’09. It was not simply the Albert Pujols show.

Not so the Marlins. While the team benefitted from the emergence of Chris Coghlan and got another year of all-or-nothing production from the soon-to-depart Dan Uggla they were a very different team from the Marlin’s sides of 2006 and 2007. Gone is Miggy Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez is now, to once again pilfer the infamous Reggie Jackson quote: the straw that stirs the drink. Simply put, (Josh Johnson’s pitching aside) Hanley is everything to the Fish.

The Marlins were a contender for much of 2009. Without Ramirez the story would have been far different and would have seen them rival Pittsburgh and DC for the most hopeless franchise in baseball.

All that and what’s more is that Hanley is a short stop. A short stop! The very heart of the infield. In the thick of everything, all year long. Surely one could make a convincing argument that having an elite offensive player at a position generally reversed for mediocre hitting, fleet-footed players is inherently more valuable that having a slightly more productive player at first base, a position renowned (along with LF) for housing hulking, defensively sub-standard players of the Adam Dunn/Ryan Howard variety.

I for one expect Hanley to win this award comfortably in 2010. Hopefully then this guy will finally get what he deserves; the opportunity to play for a team that cares one iota about winning, can actually draw an attendance that isn’t a league-wide joke and give him the treatment an MVP calibre player deserves.

Love that dirty water, Boston, you’re my home.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Gold Glove Conspiracy

So the gold glove winners have been announced and I can’t say there are too many surprises in this year’s winners. Nevertheless, and perhaps because of, this I find myself just as annoyed by these awards as I am every year.

And no, it’s not because no Red Sox players won. We were a defensive shambles from the jump in 2009, a defensive shambles that ultimately lost us the division. Youkilis and (in a prime example of ‘its better late than never’) Alex Gonzalez (the now without a contract for some Theo-only-knows reason Alex Gonzalez) were the only bright spots defensively for the ‘09 Sox. Apparently Jason Bay was perfect in LF for us this year, but the guy has a Johnny Damon-esqe arm, so he doesn’t count.

The trouble I have with the gold glove awards is the seeming ease previous winners are able to retain their glove. Take Torii Hunter for example. Now nobody disputes his brilliance in the field, nor his offensive prowess, nor, for that matter, that he seems like a really nice guy. But the fact of the matter is that Torii will likely take home the AL CF gold glove until the day he hangs up that glove, is this really fair?

No, it makes a mockery of what is supposed to be an award given out on merit. Torii wasn’t the best CF in the AL this year. Carlos Gomez of the Twins was. Gomez played more games at CF, has more assists and compiled the exact same .997 fielding percentage as Hunter did. Torii Hunter has won the award based on reputation and superior offensive value, two factors that should play no part in selecting the best defensive players at each position.

That being said, I used to love Eric Chavez and never had a problem when he’d win the third base gold glove year after year despite being more fragile than glass.

One also has to feel sorry for poor Kevin Kouzmanoff of the lowly Padres who has been pipped to the post by Ryan Zimmerman of the even more lowly Nats. Going back to what I said about Hunter, by rights Kouzmanoff should have won this award as he was the best defensive 3b in the NL in 2009. However, there wasn’t much in it, both players are first time winners playing for awful teams, and Zimmerman made ‘gold glove plays’ all year.

What frustrates me about Kouz losing is that the Padre’s have essentially done this to themselves. According to the Pods GM sent a highlight reel of Kouzmanoff’s plays and defensive stats to all the other NL GMs instructing them to vote for his man. If I were Kouzmanoff I would not like this one little bit. I was always taught that praise (and by extension, reward) is something given, not asked for. Certainly were I in a position to award gold gloves, and found my vote was split between a player who did no electioneering and let his record speak for itself, and one who’s GM had been cheerleading for him since season’s end, I’d go with Zimmerman every time.

As for Ryan Zimmerman, I can’t help but think he’d look very good manning the third base at Fenway.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

All Hail King Petey

You know what? The Phillies might just pull this one off.

I’d thought this series was a done deal when the Yankees elected to go with CC on short rest in Game 4 (which I might add shows an alarming lack of faith in the rest of the staff). Yet somehow Jimmy “the False Prophet” Rollins are the rest of the Philly squad have managed to bounce back.

I must admit that I am loving this World Series. Game 2 in particular was awesome, the atmosphere at Yankee Stadium during the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys performance was incredible. I must also admit that once the Yankees made it 3-1 my attention began to wander and the all too familiar, and slightly hypocritical given the Red Sox expenditure of last, “well, they just bought themselves another championship’ barbs began to enter my vocabulary. But Philadelphia are at least making a series of it.

Ultimately I’m enjoying this 2009 World Series for what it is; a battle between two hugely talented yet hugely flawed teams both in possession of some of the best fans in baseball.

One thing stands out especially, and no its not Chase Utley’s Ruthian stats or Cliff Lee out-classing CC Sabathia at every turn. No, 2009’s Fall Classic should forever be remember for signalling Pedro Martinez’s return to the big stage, in what may well be his final hurrah.
Petey has been incredible. Even if his 7k performance in Game 2 wasn’t enough to convince the world that this is beyond all doubt the greatest pitcher since Koufax, we have witnessed the return of the “greater interview in Sports”.

Pedro has turned in some great quotes, from his proclaimations of his own ‘specialness’ to his announcement that he is the Yankee’s most feared adversary, everything out of the man’s mouth has been pure gold.

This is what we’ve all been missing since Martinez was at his dominant pinnacle in Boston. The arrogance, the confidence, the real Pedro!

Given Pedro’s performances down the stretch with Philly I see no reason why he won’t stick around in MLB for at least another couple of years, and I welcome it whole-heartedly. This man is one of the reasons I fell in love with this game, a loud, exciting character that truly captivates an audience. What’s more I’d love to see the guy get to 250 wins.

Give me an over the hill Petey over CC and Cliff any day of the week.

Right, that’s it, love-fest over. I’ll be back to slagging off the Yankees again soon.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Rethinking Pavano

I used to despise Carl Pavano. Even though I would normally take great delight in the pitching-related mishaps of the Yankees (just thinking about Kei Igawa or Ian Kennedy still makes me chuckle) Pavano's case just seemed too extreme for me to make fun of somehow.

The stories of Pavano neglecting his team-mates, spending too much time living the New York high-life, and just generally proving an Eric Chavez-esqe financial albatross (admittedly on a team much more capable of shouldering that burden) around the Yankee's already pitching weak necks are well known. Also, while we're at it, it is pretty much Pavano's fault 'the Boss' had to spent $28,000,000 on bringing back Clemens.

However Pavano's performance this year has me rethinking my judgements of him.

While its certaintly not the case that Pav's 14-12 5.10 ERA stat line from 2009 is going to get him any Cy Young votes it should certainly be food for thought for the voters of the Comeback Award. Comeback is actually very apt, that's what Carl has done, he has returned to the level (and actually a higher level) that he previously played at.

Pavano's 2004 was an aborition - his 18-8 3.00 ERA record was the only time he'd been a winning pitcher (excluding an 8-4 record over just 97 innings in 2000). Pavano's 2004 was like Maris' 1961 - a freak occurance that will happen just the once and certainly no indication that the guy was on the fast-train to Cooperstown.

Signing Pavano to that enormous multi-year deal is the Yankee's own stupid fault. You simply do not overpay that much for someone who has only ever had one good season and not expect to get burnt. While Pavano's attitude and hustle may indeed be shaky he is certainly not solely to blame in that fiasco.

In 2009 Pavano has achieved his 3rd ever winning season, pitched nearly 200 innings and proved to everyone in baseball that he is a competant number 3 or 4 starter - which frankly was all he ever was to begin with.

Comeback complete.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Why the Sox will get swept

The Red Sox are going to get unceremoniously dumped out of the playoffs tomorrow night and they only have Terry Francona and John Farrell to blame...well that and a complete lack of offense and shoddy D.

The Sox intend to send Clay Buchholz to the mound in Game 3 at Fenway. Why? This should be Dice-K's spot in the rotation.

While the Japanese Megastar has had a less than outstanding year bouncing back from injury he has been extremely solid in his last few starts, including a beauty last week against the Indians that it was my pleasure to actually be in attendance to witness.

Buchholz however got whalloped by the Indians and has proven a model of inconsistancy and poor pitch selection throughout his Red Sox tenure.

Daisuke may not even pitch in Game 4 if there is one (highly unlikely). The plan seems to be to start Jon Lester again on short rest for that game.

This makes absolutely no sense. Just about the only chance the Sox have in Game 3 is that the Angels will be sending LHP Scott Kazmir to the mound in lefties-graveyard Fenway Park. Buchholz, as a righty, might, and its a big might, be able to squeak out a W if the likes of Jason Bay, Youk and V-Mart can get the right-handed offence motoring at home. The likelihood then after in Game 4 is that the Halos will be forced to put another lefty on the mount in Joe Saunders. Why then would Francona want to offset the obvious advantage of starting another RHP like Dice-K against Saunders by using a LHP on short-rest in Lester. The same Jon Lester who got hit hard by, and walked a ton of Angels hitters in Game 1.

Even Wakefield would be an improvement on Buchholz in Game 3 or Lester in Game 4 and watching Tim pitch makes me as comfortable as going to the dentist.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Big Papi is dead, all hail Big Papi

David Ortiz is not done….yet.

I spent 5 days in Boston last week and had the distinct pleasure of getting to go to Fenway to watch all 4 games of the Indians series.

Of all the amazing things that stand out about that trip and my trips to the ballpark instead, one eclipses all the others: David Ortiz is still the man in Boston.

I’d have thought that given the as yet still unanswered (at least to anyone’s satisfaction) steroid allegation and the woeful start to 2009 Big Papi endured, that his popularity would have waned in Boston.

No chance! As I watched Sunday’s day game I saw crowds of people in the seats next to me (Left Field Section) cheering as Big Papi went deep, willing him to hit the final 2 bombs that would have propelled the affable Dominican to 30HR and 100RBI for the year.

Still Ortiz finished with 28HR and 99RBI. This is a disastrous year?

Part of the problem with Ortiz is the misconception that, given his high profile status and visibility, he is amongst baseball’s top earners, commanding a Jeter/A-Rod-esqe salary. He does not.

Ortiz earns around $12,000,000 a year from the Sox. Granted this is not chump change, but he is certainly not the best payed player on the team (that distinction goes to J.D. Drew and the less said there the better). Frankly, given A-Rod’s less than stellar performance in 2009 which would you rather have; $30M for 30HR and 100RBI or $12M for 28HR and 99RBI. Whilst A-Rod has added value owing to the fact that he can play in field everyday and hits for a higher average, is it really worth an extra $18M to buy .50 points on a BA and league average 3B defence?

Before this turns into a fluff piece on Ortiz let me stress the purpose of this post. Yes, David Ortiz is still an offensive threat and worthwhile player but David Ortiz should no longer be these things for the Red Sox.

I’ve been arguing most of the year that the only place the Sox could ship Ortiz was Oakland. This was whilst Ortiz was 0-too many to count and the As still had an underperforming Matt Holliday on their roster.

Ortiz to Oakland still works. While the Sox would have to retain a significant portion of Ortiz’s salary the big man would be a good fit on a team that has been crying out for a big power bat since the cruel demise of Eric Chavez and the disappearance of Frank Thomas.

Ortiz is still a big OBP guy (this is Billy Beane’s team we’re talking about), his .332 OBP is nearly 100 points up on his admittedly woeful .238BA. That is a higher OBP that the As 2009 average (.328). At that plus the fact that Ortiz has proven he can still (consistently) produce in the clutch, unlike Oakland’s last ageing slugger acquisition: Jason Giambi.

Ultimately, with the possibility of the Red Sox acquiring Matt Holliday as a free agent appearing once again a possibility it is vital that Theo gets rid of Ortiz, after all the Sox gain very little in replacing Jason Bay with Holliday. The prospect of platooning Bay and a Holliday free from the Coors-Field-Effect murmuring that dogged his achievements in the past at LF and DH is one likely to make all of Red Sox Nation salivate.

So, Ortiz should be an A.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Contemplating a Yankees vs Dodgers World Series

On paper it all sounds ideal doesn't it?

Joe Torre brings his triumphant Dodgers back to New York to reek revenge on the team that let him go.

Joe Girardi has his apprentice-becomes-the-master moment and hammers the final nail in the coffin of the Torre-era in the Bronx (or, looking at it another way, conclusively proves that any stiff can, if given enough payroll, manage a Yankee team to championship).
Manny and A-Rod square off in a battle for vindication after seasons marred by steroid revelations.

Frankly, the prospect of this match-up is a journalistic wet-dream.

...and I for one, would hate every minute of it.

I detest the Dodgers, I detest the Yankees, I would detest every moment of Tim McCarver reminding me of every seminal moment that the likes of Manny, Torre, A-Rod etc have had in relation to their opponents/the situation.

Worst of all, one of these teams would end up having to win it all.

As a Red Sox fan (who, unfortunately, finds himself gravitating closer to Baltimore with every steroid story, Baltimore you see, is a good clean team - *cough* Palmeiro, Sosa *cough*) i've happily watched numerous World Series in which Tito and the boys have not participated (and given the Sox's crawl to the Post-Season this year, I'm likely to have another one of those years). I enjoyed last year's match-up, part rooting for Tampa Bay and part wishing for their failure. 2006 was a landmark series for me; our constant references to the LaRussa-Rolen relationship and mockery of Placido Polanco's Glen Quagmire-esqe chin provided hours of entertainment. I even managed to enjoy watching the White Sox best the Astros in 2005.

This abomination of a World Series cannot be allowed to pass. Please Albert, send Torre's mob running back to the West Coast with another of your super-human feats. Please CC and A-Rod, remember that this is the Post-Season and choke your over-paid hearts out.

As much as i'll look forward to a 'proper' ALCS (that is, Yankees-Red Sox), I'm praying for a repeat of the 2004 WS. Hell, i'd take Detroit-Colorado....just.

What's the only thing worse that Yankees-Dodgers?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

How Jacoby became the 2nd best leadoff man in baseball

All Jeters aside, Jacoby Ellsbury has slowly, quietly emerged as the best leadoff hitter in the AL East - and frankly, if you can make it in the AL East you can make it anywhere (n.b. the opposite is also true; success outside the AL East does not mean success in the AL East - for every Teixeira there is a Burrell).

The rub against Ellsbury has often been that he is vastly over-rated defensively, and yes, there is a great deal of truth to that. For every web-gem there are at least as many instances where, in an attempt to achieve the spectacular, singles become doubles, doubles become triples and so-on and so-forth.

Ellsbury is also considered a weak throwing CF. Again true, but while no-one is confusing him with the likes of BJ Upton or Michael Cuddyer, he is an infinite improvement on Johnny Damon, a man who's inability to throw like one is the stuff of legend (and legendary t-shirts).

The final downside frequently pointed to when it comes to Ellsbury's worth is his impatience at the plate. While its true that having (as of 22/09/09) at .354 OBP to a .303 BA is not exactly stellar it is exactly the same OBP that the more celebrated Brian Roberts is producing and is within .010 of the likes of Carl Crawford.

Right, enough downside.

Ellsbury has 63 SB on the year! That is 4 clear of Crawford, and more that twice as many as Jeter, Hanley Ramirez and Ichiro.

Ellsbury has only struck out 65 times in 580 AB in 2009. That is less than Jeter (84 in 603), way less than Ramirez (95 in 540) and Roberts (99 in 588). Ellsbury has struck out exactly the same amount of times as Ichiro yet has walked 12 times more.

If this wasn't impressive enough Ellsbury is only 26. While his power numbers are currently negliable they may still develop, a la Chase Utley. The idea of Ellsbury as a .300+/.375 guy capable of 20HR 75RBI a year is not beyond the realm of immediate possibility. Add that to the 70+ SB the guy will continue to produce barring injury then you have the most exciting, and perhaps the most valuable leadoff man in baseball today.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Pictures of Success

I'm assuming we all watched last night's Yankees - Blue Jays game, right?

I've been having a change of heart about the evil empire throughout this season. I accepted the success of Joe Giradi's crew, I even had a sense of pride in seeing Brian Cashman finally able to run the team the way he wants to without 'the Boss' interfering.

But no more, i've reverted. I'm back to the bad old days of unreserved Yankee-bashing with a vengeance.

Jorge Posada's actions last night are symptomatic of what's been wrong with the Yankees since 1998 - a complete lack of class.

This week should have been a time to enjoy the success of Derek Jeter and his breaking of Gehrig's record. Derek Jeter is the anti-Yankee: a genuinely likeable, admirable character in a team (and indeed, league) of steroid cheats and other unsavoury characters.

But no, Jorge Posada had to spoilt all that....

Posada has to go an incite a bend-clearing brawl in retaliation for a pitch thrown WAAAAAAY behind him. That's right, this wasn't about a Beckett-Abreu type of beaning, no this was all about a wild pitch and a spoilt crybaby throwing the toys out of the pram as a result of being on the wrong end of a washout.

Posada has been coasting on an undeserved reputation as an elite catcher for years now, enough is enough. Brilliant offensive catcher? Perhaps, but he's no Mike Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez etc. Great pitcher handler? Again, perhaps, but when you consider the calibre of pitcher he works with year after year, who wouldn't be? For every Sergio Mitre there's been a Clemens, Pettitte, Sabathias, Johnson, Wells, Cone, Igawa (joke)..... Give any major league catcher that kind of staff to work with and see how they'd do.

A.J. Burnett and his enormous ERA anyone? The guy doesn't even have Jorge catch him anymore, Jose Molina, that's right, Jose Molina catches for him now.

So what was the positive with Posada?

Well apparently he's a great clubhouse guy. Pardon me, but how does instigating a brawl which leads to your own manager getting cold-clocked demonstrate any sort of leadership? Ever seen DJ do that?

Jorge is apparently embarrassed and won't be letting his kids watch last night's game.

Too little, too late.

You're a champion, act like it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Why late-season shut downs make no sense

We've all heard the arguments and we've heard all about the disasters (stand up Matt Prior, Kerry Wood), but really, how much longer is this mollycoddling of young pitchers on non-contending teams going to continue unabated?

Case in point: Brian Matusz of the O's

In case you weren't paying attention, young Brian pitched an absolute beauty of a game on Saturday against no lesser a team than the New York Yankees, thats right, the team with the best record in all of baseball.

Yet now, Matusz has been shut down for the rest of the year.

What is the sense behind this? The guy is going to pitch maybe 3 or 4 times more this season anyway!

Now the arguments for shutting him down are well-trodden, we heard the same from the Red Sox in 2007 when they shut down Buchholz - "Young pitcher, we don't have Dusty Baker managing this ball-club, we don't want him to blow out his arm and have to fork out for Tommy John surgery" etc. Blah blah blah.

Well, one only has to look at Clay Buchholz's career since 2007 as evidence of how well the Sox's plan turned out.

Matusz has been pitching brilliantly lately, he's gone 7 in his last 3 starts (including one against Cleveland when he struck out 8!). Excluding a blip against the Rangers he's had quality starts (extremely quality starts). What purpose does shutting him down now have except of harming the confidence of a 22 year old and leading the kind of disjointed "am I a big-league pitcher or aren't I" thinking that has hugely harmed Buchholz's career?

If, and it is a big if, we absolute have to be "cautious" at this point of the year then why note keep the guy in the rotation, impose a pitch or innings count and give the guy a sense of accomplishment at the end of a miraculous season in which he's dominated hitters at 3 levels of pro-ball?

Its not just the O's who are guilty of this. The Yankees have been jerking Joba Chamberlain around for years. Barely a week goes by without somebody somewhere making noises to the effect that Joba's off to the bull-pen or Joba's only allowed to pitch to one hitter and so on and so on.

Look, this guy has proven himself a major league starting pitcher. You made the choice to let him start rather than set up Mariano, now live with it!

OK, rant over. The message of this diatribe: yes, by all means protect young arms, but let's not get carried away (unless of course, you've just spent $15,000,000 on someone who's never pitched a game of pro-ball in their life, but then again, that's another story).

Batter Up!

Hello and good evening.

Welcome to the straw that stirs the drink, a brand new baseball blog dedicated to everything MLB hailing from that well known baseball mecca of Leeds, England.

Don't let the fact that us Brits know nothing of the 'national pastime' put you off, we'll be offering news and insight about the latest goings on in Bud Selig's empire on a regular basing (and besides, I'm winning my fantasy pool, so I must know something, right?)

Check us out again soon.