08 June 2005

Pedro ON, The Draft, Is Torre Blameless?...

So instead of going to see Cinderella Man last night, my Dad suggested we head over to Shea, with Erin, and see the Mets, as Pedro was pitching (against an almost historicall anemic Houston offense) and as I would find out, being opposed by Roy Oswalt. That decision is a flat out 'duh.' No doubt. No doubt in my mind.

So Erin and I went over around 5, and after a lightning quick ride on the Express 7 train (I don't remember it being that quick- in fact, I remember Bill and I going over there to see Maddux and Braves in town and being squished up against the wall with 500 of my closest Met fan friends for like 45 minutes), we ambled over to Gate C to meet with Dad, who was getting tickets somehow. That's a great thing about Shea- you can absolutely walk up on game day and get some seriously decent seats, no problem, especially the Upper Deck.

Maybe it's because I went there a lot growing up, but I always had a soft spot for Shea. I guess it isn't a visual spectacle or anything, but there are a ton of good seats, it's nice looking enough, and the place is clean and accessible. I like it a lot actually.

Erin and I stood waiting in the shade, trying to beat the heat and stay cool- though the temperature wasn't much different from our apartment, which is sans air conditioner for the time being and stiflingly hot/ reeking of ballsweat. As we stood there, I saw Mike Lupica walk by in a suit and purple shirt, and I yelled out "Hey, Mr. Lupica!" He smiled and waved. I laughed, I felt like a kid in the neighborhood saying hi to a local father figure.

We ended up getting pretty solid field level seats on the first base side, and even though we were right behind the requisite "I'm a meathead that has come to the baseball game to have a little performance where I stand up every five seconds and yell barely chuckle-worthy insults in towards a completely unaware baseball field while consuming beers to the tune of three an inning, often causing me to miss significant portions of the action" guy. When Pedro walked out to do his long toss, everyone freaked out, and it really reminded me of Fenway, the way we would freak out on him. It started to bug me actually.

The whole night, he was handling the Houston hitters, staying ahead, moving his 90 MPH fastball around, and finding a real feel for the curve around the 4th inning. He didn't go to the change too often, but when he did, he really got some fooled swings on it. If I recall, he got Mike Lamb to strike out on three changeups at one point, mixed among fastballs and cutters.

Eventually, that possibility you mull through your brain before first pitch started to look possible. As soon as a guy makes it out of the 3rd without giving up a hit, you notice. No question. People groaned at a 4th inning walk that broke up the perfect game.

I wasn't sure if he had the stuff that night to do it. He was relying on location, and as Pedro tires, that's the first thing to go. I wasn't expecting him to get worse or anything, just to maybe miss by an inch or so and have a Texas Leaguer or something.

Turns out I was both wrong AND right. Pedro didn't get the no-no- big prospect Chris Burke hit a curveball- the third one he saw in a row- for a HR to break it up, but it wasn't missed location, and Pedro never tired. After a hit earlier in the game (to THUNDEROUS applause), Pedro came in in the 8th to hit for himself, sealing the fact that he'd be back with 97 pitches in the 9th to complete his game and avoid having the bullpen lose his 3-1 lead... again.

And he struck out the fucking side. In the 9th. Complete game. Then he did the Boston two-handed point to the stands, like he did for us, and I looked up at the out-of-town scoreboard, where we were losing 7-1 to St. Louis, and I thought, "Oh gee, I'm so glad Theo saved that extra few million on Pedro and gave it to someone like David Wells! And Edgar Renteria!"

Seriously, the definition of "bittersweet." But he was awesome, and is still, without a doubt, The Man.

His final line:

9 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 12 K- CG (GS-90)

According to game score stat, it was the best pitched game in the NL this year, and the second best in the ML this season.

Also, my Dad got me business cards for this blog which, while I greatly appreciate, I'm going to have to really brainstorm on how/ where to use...

Speaking of Mike Lupica, he had this to say about the Yankee losing ways, an article written BEFORE they dropped the rubber game to Minnesota then went to Milwaukee and lost two straight on starts from their two big pitching acquisitions.

Basically, when does Torre get some of the blame? I don't know specifically how much he deserves, but relative to how much his counterparts take, and considering how much he's making to be near-perfect... that almost doesn't matter. It's like this team is conducting a social experiment to see how much good will this city will extend a guy like Joe Torre.

One more thing, sort of related- remember a few weeks ago when Steinbrenner intimated that maybe a change needed to be made, and that maybe it was a change with Mel Stottlemyre that was necessary? Now, understanding it's a case of "blind squirrel finding a nut," at what point do Yankee fans, whom people classify as "knowledgeable" (eh- I wouldn't put them on the Boston/ Chicago/ St. Louis level, personally), wake the fuck up and realize Mel Stottlemyre is like a Bizarro Leo Mazzone? Yes, some of it is the Yankee defense- like in Roger's struggles case. But there is a LOOOOONG list of pitchers that were good before coming to New York, worse when they were here, and improved when they left.

Maybe it can all be explained away- injuries, better pitching parks before AND after, Yankee defense, etc- but after a while, maybe it's time for a new set of eyes. He's never really been someone that stood out for his success anyway- recall 1985, after Dwight Gooden's Heaven-sent 1984 season, Stottlemyre trying to shoehorn a changeup into his repertoire. Messed up mechanics, plunge in success. I mean, the whole, "well, he couldn't handle New York" horseshit can only go on for SO long, right? Don't New Yorkers "want results"?

I could spit endless amounts of links at you for yesterday's draft, which I followed along with online at MLB.com, but instead, I'll point you in the direction of SoSH's wonderfully comprehensive draft thread, which is replete with articles, references and anecdotes galore. A real interesting read. Check it out here.

Here are Boston's First Day Picks (and a very resourceful summary from RedSox.com):

23- Jacoby Ellsbury | L/L | CF | Oregon State U
26- Craig Hansen | R/R | RHP | St. John's U
42- Clay Buchholz | L/R | RHP/ OF | Angelina Coll.
45-Jed Lowrie | S/R | 2B | Stanford
47-Michael Bowden | R/R | RHP | Waubonsie Valley HS
57-Jonathan Egan | R/R | C | Cross Creek HS
138-William "Scott" Blue | R/R | RHP | Morro Blay HS
168-Reid Engel | L/R | CF | Lewis-Palmer HS
198-Jeffrey Corsaletti | L/R | CF | U of Florida
228-Yahmed Yema | L/L | RF | Florida Int'l

red- college player
blue- high school player

Couple of quick observations- first, a lot more high schoolers than I would have guessed, although for all the years Beane and the ilk trashed the value of high schoolers, their value likely dropped, and maybe they were slipping relative to their value, and Beane/ Epstein were capitalizing. Anyway, the first two picks I really, really liked. Ellsbury is a strong, defensive minded CF with a good bat, gap power and decent plate discipline. The second pick- Hansen- is the best of the day.

With a hard 94-96 MPH fastball and a nasty, biting slider, Hansen has not only drawn comparisons to Brad Lidge (stuff-wise), he's also being touted as the player most likely to make it to the big show earliest. This is based on a lot of factors, but chief among them are his three plus pitches (a changeup as well), his being a reliever out of college, and Boston's rabid need of a good relief arm. That seems really optimistic, but we shall see. Either way, if we can sign him, it will be interesting to see if they keep him as a reliever or Papelbon him into a starting pitcher.

Just glancing at the draft list, it looks clear that Theo was looking to stock up on pitchers and players on the left handed side of the defensive spectrum- up the middle guys with good plate discipline, great defense and ability to move steadily through the system.

If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that Boston realizes that with it's spending ability, the better allocation of picks is with impact, defensive positions- figuring that they can go out and pay for power corner fielding types. Add to that the tenable and expensive nature of FA pitching acquisition, and the feeling must be that a farm system stocked with arms gets you cheap and quality talent and a deep pool with which to trade when a great one at the MLB level becomes available.

Anyway, the draft continues today, so tune in on MLB.com Draftcaster (their draft version of GameDay) and check out the late round Piazzas and Pujols'.

Oh yes, and I just watched a link of Ellsbury and Hansen scouting videos- Hansen's slider is jaw dropping, and Ellsbury can fucking fly. Fly.

Wow. Jeff, I'd expect this from- but Eddie? In all seriousness, this kind of crosses the line into "seriously dickheaded behavior."

Rookie hazing is alive and well in Seattle, where veteran relievers Eddie Guardado and Jeff Nelson have been getting laughs at the expense of Mariners rookies. The partners in practical jokes claimed rookie pitcher J.J. Putz as a victim, emptying his suitcase of clothes and hanging the items on doorknobs in a hallway of the team hotel. Last weekend in Florida, Nelson and Guardado confiscated the new $700 guitar of rookie infielder Gregg Dobbs and used it for batting practice, the instrument winding up in splinters. If the Sox had done that to Bronson Arroyo last year, they'd have never gotten to the World Series.

No really, roookie or not, I'd be kicking some hick Nelson ass after that. I'd still love Eddie on the Sox, though.

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