Monday, June 14, 2004
I have always loved Sundays for various reasons. Now I like the day because, in some circles, it is socially acceptable to wake up late and sit around all day watching sports on T.V. Finally, something I do is okay with the majority of my peers. As you probably guessed by now, that was my day in a nut shell yesterday, even on a rare fair weather day in Vermont (hey, I got outside - the windows were open).
For some reason, WPIX (me thinks) out of NYC is part of my cable package which carries some weekend Mets games. Usually, I care very little about the Mets but they were playing the Royals on Sunday. Yes, the Royals. I have grown fond the club over the past year or so although I am not really sure why. It could be the underdog run they made last season, the Tony Pena and Cumbie Sox connection, the work of Neyer/James/RanyJ, or the great coverage of the club by Bob Dutton and the rest of the journalists from the K.C. Star. It is probably D) all of the above. And yesterday’s game was extremely interesting because the phenomenon and savior of my fantasy team, Zach Greinke, was on the mound.
It is my first time seeing Greinke. The 20 year-old was cash $ the first time through the Mets starting nine. He changed speeds, location, varying his fastball from 84 to 94 mph and throwing everything for strikes. Greinke was as good as advertised. After the third inning, Greinke lost command of his fastball. He had difficulty getting first pitch strikes and it hurt him. Grienke was not hit hard, beside Piazza's homer, but he was not effective giving up five earned. Since he does not consistently have an overpowering fastball, right now, Greinke will have trouble getting hitters out when he falls behind in the count like most pitchers. But the Kid appears to be the real deal though; he just needs time and his health.
News and Notes about Baseball and my NYC to Boston Holiday
• I need to get restaurant recommendations before my next trip to the City although the Times Square Grill is pretty darn good or I was really freaking hungry.
• The Daily Show is taped in a residential 'hood in a very plain window-less brick building. None of the glitz of Letterman. When Stewart jokes about his show being low budget on basic cable, it really is not a joke; it is true.
• How cool is it that the studio audience was given free Stewarts root beer while waiting in line.
• Jon Stewart does not use the teleprompter during his guest Q&A. He is brilliant.
• Jennifer Love Hewitt is gorgeous. She could beat out Anna for the most beautiful woman I have seen in person.
• Jon Stewart is a Mets fan. His father was from Brooklyn so he was raised to hate the MFY as well. I knew he was a good man.
• I saw Sandy Koufax on Saturday at Fenway.
• Comcast is offering free MLB.TV for high speed internet customers. Of course, Adelphia is not.
• The Long Beach State DirtBags. I could not make this stuff up.
• Joe Morgan made some good points last night (Gagne’s usage, reason for the variance between Sox starters’ unearned runs, Manny’s OBP "is most impressive"). Have aliens taken over the body of the HOFer?
• It is premature to say that Petey is back, but we are getting closer. He needs velocity on his fastball for his change up to be effective. A 10 to 12 mph difference (90 to 78) between the heater and change is necessary for him to dominate on most nights. When he consistently throws the heater in the 90’s for strikes, the man is back.
• After Tek’s near base running error last night and evidence provided by Hench’s Hardball, I am not confident with the coaches at first and third.
• Yesterday the manager said he might consider preparing Youkilis and Mark Bellhorn to play first. "If they can play third, they can play first," Francona said. – Millar needs to get out of this funk. He has to adjust and not always try to pull everything. Bellhorn should be taking flyballs as well. Trot needs a better platoon partner than Kapler.
• It is nearly certain that Nixon will be activated on Wednesday but who gets sent down is in question. The Providence Journal gets it right: If tomorrow's starter -- Bronson Arroyo -- can't take the Sox reasonably deep into the game, however, the Sox may have no choice but to stay with 12 pitchers for the rest of the series and return a position player to Triple A. It is time to say farewell to Chicken Cesar.
ROCKIE MOUNTAIN HIGH
Denver and San Fran are two cities I want to spend some quality time in. Regrettably, I was unable to secure near face-value tickets for the Giants game (I can’t take any more time to jet off to Denver) so I will be tuning into NESN like most of RSN.
The cities’ MLB parks were a major reason for my desire to try to head west with the Sox. They are both so extreme.
The Rockies and Giants both play in parks that dramatically factor into the play of the game. The park in Denver is the best hitter’s domain of all-time and the place on the Bay is built for pitchers. The other major issue facing the Sox this week is Barry Bonds or the Greatest Baseball Player Ever.
The Rockies suck but they are average at home. They knock the cover off the ball in Denver to a tune of 306/384/543 and so do their opponents at a rate of 316/390/525. Get ready for some late nights.
I have not watched any games played in Denver, but what I have been told is that breaking balls don’t move and flyballs just continue to carry and carry. If this is true, pitchers with good command of their heat and change up that are thrown down in the zone could go five. Of course, strikeout pitchers can do well too. Unfortunately, Arroyo doesn’t fit into either category. The first game could be a tough one that may end Chicken Cesars face time on my television. Schilling and Lowe can be okay a Mile High. More importantly, Schilling’s ankle and Lowe’s head need to make it out of Denver in good shape.
The Giants play in a park that only one southpaw, Bonds, hits them out to right-center and the pitchers play the opposition that way. The Sox LHB should be advised to go the other way to left if possible. The Sox are also in line to face the Giants top two starters – Jason Schmidt and Jerome Williams. Schmidt is the real deal. A strikeout pitcher (9.71 K/9) with good control (25 BB over 76 innings) pitching in a stingy home run park is not good news for Sox hitters. Williams is less dominating; his main asset is his control. He features a low 90’s fastball and a slider. The pen is not impressive. If the Sox can make Schmidt and Williams work up high pitch counts early, necessitating Alou to go to the pen, it could prove to be huge in the series.
The other issue is what to do with the Mr. Bonds. It is simple. Tito put up four fingers in almost any situation. Only two other players are having and have a recent track record of above average ability at the plate. The two hitters are Marquis Grissom and Mike Tucker (don’t laugh) and Alou isn’t using them as his bread for a Bonds sandwich (stop laughing). Edgardo Alfonzo is hitting behind Bonds. Fonzie is hitting 266/333/353 this season and 259/334/391 last year. At 30, the Fonzie from NYC did not make to the Bay. Basically, the Sox should not fear a hitter who is SLGing less than 400. WALK BONDS AT VERY OPPORTUNITY.