“Fuck this place.”
That was what Anaheim pitcher John Lackey said this afternoon, in the first of two games today in Fenway, as the game started to slip away from him in just the first inning. Boston’s No. 8 hitter, Doug Mirabelli (usually knuckeballer Tim Wakefield’s specialty catcher, but getting the start so that Varitek could catch Beckett in tonight’s game) lofted a towering fly ball to left field. It was only the first inning, and Dougie’s fly ball scored the inning’s fifth run (the Sox would have six when all was said and done). In any other ballpark, that fly ball would have been out number three. In Fenway, it was a wall-ball double. As the camera cut to Lackey for his reaction, his lips were clearly readable.
The Red Sox might end up wishing Mirabelli had flied out—as he rounded the third base bag (when No. 9 hitter, bench warmer Alex Cora lined another double), he injured his calf and ended up limping across home plate and promptly into the clubhouse. Varitek was squatting behind the dish when the second inning opened. This could end up being a day of even crazier roster moves than originally anticipated—Wily Mo Pena was dealt this morning to the Washington Nationals for cash and a player to be named. (Ouch. That’s what 450-foot homers will get you when you can’t play defense and have no plate discipline.) That made room on the roster for this afternoon’s starter, Clay Buchholz, who was then going to be sent back to Pawtucket after the game to make room for centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who would play tonight. Ellsbury, it was rumored, would then be sent down to make room for Bobby Kielty, who would play tomorrow’s game. But if Mirabelli is seriously injured, what do the Red Sox do? In the short term, it could be a very long day for Jason Varitek.
What will the Sox do if they need a catcher ASAP? Even if they asked for a catcher from Washington, players-to-be-named aren’t usually known for their caliber. Their catcher in Pawtucket is George Kottaras, hitting .233 with 6 homers this season. Last season he did well enough in single A to earn a mid-season promotion to the double A club. He’s not renowned for his defense but he does have experience catching knuckleballs—which, in Boston’s point of view, is the single most important quality in any backup catcher. Anyways, for now I’m keeping my fingers crossed the Dougie just tweaked his calf and can play in tonight’s game, or possibly tomorrow’s.
But the story of the first half of today’s doubleheader was supposed to be Clay Buccholz, a 23-year old righty among the gems in Boston’s farm system making his major league debut today. He has a good fastball (which he still needs to remember to keep down from time to time) that tops out at about 96 or 97, but which he usually throws at about 92 or 94. But don’t be fooled. His real strength is with his breaking stuff. His curveball has generated some heavy drool in the greater Boston area—its 12-to-6 motion is so big that it sometimes ends up outside the strikezone. But it’s his changeup that helped him out today. It’s about 15 mph slower than his heat, but he throws it with the same intensity and arm-action. Nasty.
In the spirit of hot prospects, the text of last week’s Metro GameDay column on the subject is after the jump. (For the “Futures at Fenway” game, where the double-A Portland SeaDogs play the single-A Lowell Spinners at Fenway Park; GameDay is Metro’s free baseball program distributed at Fenway before every home game.)
And for those of you who hate Julio Lugo (which seems to be most folks here at UmpBump) here’s today’s GameDay piece.
This column appeared in Metro’s GameDay program of August 11, 2007. The copyright is held by Metro.
Excited at the Prospect of Prospects
by Sarah Green
The attention of a baseball fan has certain circadian rhythms. The offseason is always devoted to free-agent mega-signings. Spring training is a season of speculation about the qualities of newly acquired players and the potential of the coming year. Then, from April through June, we learn just how wrong we were. July brings the tumult of the trade deadline, and fans quibble over which player will move where. And this frenzy in turn causes a sudden upsurge of interest in prospects in August.
Trading season always starts with fans and pundits talking about the big names, the established players—the Teixeiras and the Gagnes. But it always ends with everyone talking about the prospects without which those deals would never get made. The waiver moves start happening in early August, and by the first of September, the rosters expand and many prospects will join the ballclub for the final stretch of the season. Thus the last couple of weeks in August are spent happily discussing just which prospects each team will call upon to lend a hand.
Why do people get so excited about prospects? I think it has something to do with purity, hope, and yes, the boundless promise of the American Dream (bear with me here). Think about it: every great player, even the towering giants of the sport, started out as a prospect. He used to be just some kid playing ball in a sandlot in the Dominican or a schoolyard in the
All that possibility leaves us just a little giddy. It can be hard to keep your head when talking about the very top prospects. We predict great things for them—Cy Youngs, MVPs, All-Star ballots. This young lefty is Koufaxian and that fledgling basestealer is the next Willie Mays. This guy has the best wrists since Hank Aaron and that one has the defensive instincts of Ozzie Smith. We forget that there was only one Koufax, one Mays, one Aaron, and one Wizard of Oz.
But that’s perhaps the most exciting thing about prospects: a tiny handful are going to end up eclipsing today’s superstars. They won’t be “the next” anyone—they’ll be remembered for being themselves, and bringing something new to
Because the wheel of the season keeps rolling on, and the stretch run is here; the playoffs, just around the corner. And today, the future has come to Fenway. It’s time to let ourselves dream.