Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MLB First Half Roundup (by Steve)

Here we are, nearing the end of June and nearing the end of the first half of the 2009 baseball season. The Boston Red Sox are 43-27 and in first place in the American League East with a five game lead on the New York Yankees. All around the league, there are storylines that affect each team alone and the entire league together. Less than a year removed from Boston, Manny Ramirez failed a drug test for a banned substance with all evidence pointing towards serious steroid use as he failed for a well known masking agent. There’s the Chicago Cubs, who were picked by many to reach the World Series (including myself) because of their stacked roster, who have been failing miserably. They are losing left and right, and there is no hope on the horizon for sports greatest losers. The flashy and dangerous Tampa Bay Rays, a division rival, who were unstoppable last season until the World Series, have been facing a lot of troubles in the injury department, and mixed in with a couple of their better players slumping, are looking more like the Rays of old than the Rays of new. They still have a chance but it will be an uphill battle for the rest of the year for them. Then there’s always those New York Yankees. A-Rod, after off season surgery and the release of his own failed steroid test, has been slumping hard, if it could even be called a slump. He started out okay, hitting the first pitch he saw this season for a home run, then pretty much fell of the map after a week and a half. As for their $250 million investment on 3 players this off season, there have been mixed results, but so far they have definitely not been worth the money. Then there’s the fact that it was found that the walls in the outfield are 9 feet closer than they are listed, essentially having the Yankees hit to dimensions seen in Little League stadiums, explaining why they are hitting home runs at a record pace.
What’s really on everyone’s mind though, at least up this way, is the Boston Red Sox. The lineup is ridiculously solid. David Ortiz, Big Papi himself, struggled mightily for the first two months of the season, but it didn’t keep the Sox from winning (in fact they kept winning in spite of his pitiful numbers) but it seems that he has broken out of that, and has been hitting more like his old self. Jason Bay, who we got in return for Manny, has been playing out of his mind hitting the ball so well that Giant Glass has had their phones ringing off the hook for windshield repairs from Red Sox fans who have parked in the lots behind the Green Monster. And yet none of that is the main storyline in Boston these days. It’s the pitching staff. Namely Daisuke Matsuzaka. More accurately, it’s what to do with him. The Sox are in a unique position in that they have 6 legit starters with one in waiting in Pawtucket and really only 5 places to put them. If it was at all possible to have too much pitching, the Red Sox have it. And it is a great problem to have. Other teams are concerned about getting more pitching and can barely field 3 pitchers in their 5 man rotation. Unfortunately, the biggest issue we have here is our man Dice-K. After going 18-3 with a 2.87 ERA last year, he is a miserable 1-5 with a 8.31 this season. He has been placed on the DL with a “tired shoulder,” but that is only a temporary fix. Really he just needs time to sort himself out because he didn’t get to have spring training like everyone else, but he wants to pitch so bad that there are minor waves through the organization wondering what to do. Ultimately I’m positive that the most confident pitcher in baseball will get his head on his shoulders and be a great asset come September and October, but until then we will just need to ride it out and let him sort his shit out. In the end, he will be fine, and the Sox are still the pick to win the Series this year.

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