Off Day, and Some Awards, Too
Alex Cora: "We're playing good baseball and we're making a statement..."
Julian Tavarez: "They're (the Yankees are) going to get better, so you've got to take advantage now."
It gives me a feeling of shiawase to read that at least two guys on the team, one seemingly reserved and quiet, the other bombastic, outspoken and hot-tempered, get what I'm trying to say: some games do mean a little more than others. That's exactly what I was trying to say in my post yesterday morning, and it's nice to know that, maybe, I actually know what I'm talking about, if only a little bit. Great bounce back yesterday from Saturday's uninspired performance.
Despite the fact that I have been ripping on Dustin Pedroia for some time now, I do feel kind of bad for him. He really seems to be stressing and forcing himself to get a big hit every time he comes up. If he could just have 120-130 slappy singles and 20-30 doubles, hit around .260, we'd all love him because he has great energy and seems fairly slick in the field. But for now, I think Cora needs to be in the lineup more. He's been an everyday player most of his career, and he has provided such a spark the last week and a half.
Institutional arrogance- that's what's to blame in this situation, I think. Pedroia has been the hot prospect, touted by Theo and Tito for so long now, protected by them from trades, that they feel like they have to make this work or risk looking stupid. We've seen it with Delcarmen, Hansen and now Pedroia. When you won't trade certain guys at the deadline in a pennant race for a Roy Oswalt-type player, then the guys you're holding on to better produce. In my opinion, we keep rushing guys to the Majors to show the fans, who might have been clamoring for them to be traded for proven commodities, that they are ready for the big show. It does a disservice to the prospect, it hamstrings the big club and it frustrates the fans.
But, as we sit here on an off day, with our Sox at 16-8, the best record in baseball, and four games up on second-place Toronto and six and a half up on the Yankees, I feel pretty good about the team. Not great yet, but pretty good. So, on that note, some April awards...
Biggest Pleasant Surprise
Hideki Okajima- this was sort of like finding out last year that Mike Lowell could still hit 20 homers and drive 40-some doubles. Darkman (wink-wink, Peter) sort of felt like the "throw in" for our Japanese deal, but man, he's been absolutely awesome. After that first-pitch homer in KC, he's been the bee's knees.
Biggest Not Pleasant Surprise
Daisuke Matsusaka- I'm probably in the minority here, but I'm just not that impressed yet. I really thought he'd be nearly unhittable the first time through the league and that it wouldn't be until everyone had seen him once that he might run into trouble. I'm not sure any of us knew he had such glaring control issues out of the stretch. He's had moments of looking awesome, but I think most of us already anticipate the "Dice Inning," as I call it.
Biggest "I'll Prove Matty's an Idiot" Performance
Josh Beckett, obviously- I'll be the first to admit that he's been terrific this year. He's 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA and a WHIP of just over one. He just seems different, too, like he's matured a lot in just one offseason. I'm almost sold...
(Honorable mention to JD Drew, for not making me hate him. Yet.)
Biggest "Matty's Probably Right About Me" Performance
Wily Mo Pena- despite the granny against the Orioles, Wily has been Pedro Cerrano come to life. Why in the world anyone ever throws this guy a fastball is beyond me. At this point, it's not even about the Arroyo trade, because for once, our pitching staff is almost living up to the hype. At this point, it's about the fact that if the ball moves one millimeter off it's straight path to the plate, you better believe a flailing, off-balance, ridiculous swing is sure to follow.
Best Game of the Season
Friday, April 20 vs. New York Yankees- I said it then, and I'll say it again- one of the biggest regular season wins in years. To halt the Yanks' winning streak at Fenway, and to do it by coming from 6-2 down in the eighth against Rivera, well, that was a statement game. By coming back from deficits in the next two games, we showed that it was no fluke. This game laid the foundation for the season to come. Plus, they wore those sweet green jerseys.
Worst Game of the Season
Opening Day vs. Kansas City Royals- I know some might say the 10-3 loss to Toronto, but the Opener was the worst because Schilling looked bad, the bats were quiet and there was a day off the next day. So we all sat around and thought to ourselves, "Man, if Schill can't beat Gil Meche and the Royals in seventy-degree weather on Opening Day, maybe this is gonna be a lonnnnggg season..."
Best Chance to Replace Trot as Matty's Favorite Red Sock
Jonathan Papelbon, I guess- only because I have his player t-shirt now. But it's sort of crappy having a pitcher as your favorite player, although a closer is better than a starter because he can appear in more games. As for the position players, nobody has grabbed me yet. I like the really scrappy, get dirty guys, so I love Cora, but he's not playing enough. If Pedroia ever starts hitting, I could warm to him, believe it or not. Lowell's great, but probably gone after this year.
Worst Chance to Replace Trot as Matty's Favorite Red Sock
Doug Mirabelli- it's irrational; I understand that. But I just can't stand him. I don't know why. He catches Tim-may well, hits the occasional homer, starts the occasional controversy. I should like him but I just can't. I just can't is all, ok?