I’ve been wanting to write about the playoffs, but I’m a little overstimulated by the prospect of a Phillies-Rays World Series. So I’m just going to throw some thoughts against the virtual wall and see what sticks.

  • Last night, after the Rays emphatic victory over the Sox, Peter Gammons asked Tampa left fielder Carl Crawford how he felt about the win. And Crawford went through the usual scripted response, ending with something like, “and hopefully we can win one more and play in the World Series.” The look on his face when he said the words “World Series” was priceless — like he never said it out loud before. He was giggling.
  • Inquirer columnist Bob Ford was wrong, and he’s not afraid to admit it. He says he shouldn’t have bashed Pat Gillick for signing Joe Blanton, Scott Eyre and Matt Stairs. Who’s going to be the next columnist to apologize? How about you, Jim Salisbury?
  • Before this season started, whenever I would talk about the Rays’ loaded farm system, someone would remind me about Boston’s glut of young talent, most notably Jed Lowrie, Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury, and about New York’s young guns Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, as well as Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. But all of a sudden Buchholz is unable to pitch with men on base and Ellsbury’s a shadow of his 2007 playoff self, while Hughes and Kennedy are constantly hurt or getting shelled. Cano, for his part, got off to a terrible start in 2008 and didn’t improve defensively, while Cabrera got demoted. I’m not saying that Boston or New York should give up on any of these guys. But if you’re a Yankees or Red Sox fan, and you’re watching the Rays kick ass this week, it’s probably hard to feel excited about your team’s youth movement.
  • Bad sign for the Dodgers: Scott Boras is already talking about Manny Ramirez’s free agent negotiations.

22 Responses to “Random thoughts on playoff baseball”

  1. I wonder if Yankees fans are still glad that they didn’t give up Hughes or Kennedy for Johan Santana? For that matter, I wonder if Red Sox nation was wishing Theo had gotten him when Wakefield and Lester were getting shelled the past 2 games? They certainly didn’t want to give up Ellsbury or Buchholz to get him. The Yanks and Sox still have the advantage of being able to buy players to compete with Tampa’s young stars.

  2. a “shell of his 2007 self”? that’s kind of an exaggeration, don’t you think? try small sample size. this was his rookie adjustment year. a ‘shell of his former self’ makes him sound like a 40 year old on his way out.

  3. Lyndsay, I agree that it’s a small sample size — and I’ll concede that Ellsbury actually had a very good 2008 ALDS. I’m just saying that, for Red Sox fans, the future must seem a little dimmer today than it did a year ago. Not just because Ellsbury is struggling in the ALCS, and not just because he had a tough year. But also because Papi’s future is up in the air, J.D. Drew had shown signs of reverting to the oft-injured player he was in St. Louis and L.A., and Buchholz has hit a few bumps in the road. The Red Sox future still looks bright, but not compared to the Supernova that is the Tampa Bay Rays.

  4. Jim Madden says:

    Matt Stairs reminds me of my Hero George Forman. He made it popular to be over 40, overweight, and Bald…When you think of Matt you automatically think of John Kruk. When he was chastised by an elderly female fan for ‘being too fat and out of shape to be an athlete’ Kruk replied, “I ain’t no athlete, lady, I’m a ballplayer.” Save us from the old ladies and ‘athletes’ that have to be in shape to play ball.

  5. A far larger apology should be given to Gillick for letting Rowand walk. (Though it was easily defendable from a business POV.) Victorino has exceeded all expectations and performed like a mad man during the playoffs.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    Hoooold up there! First, only laymen would dispute Tampa’s great young talent. But the Red Sox definitely still have a stacked farm system, though maybe not as stacked as a system that has been getting the No. 1 pick now for years.

    Yes, Lester did get shelled last time, but what a year he’s had! The no-hitter? The ERA? The K/BB! Can you say “breakout”? And yes, the Buck has had an extremely tough year (spending a lot of it in the minors, alas) but he also threw a no-no last year, and that’s two no-hitters better than any of the Yankees pitching prospects by my count. Plus you brought up Lowrie and then just sort of forgot about him. And you didn’t mention MVPedroia.

    I think Sox fans do have some concern about the future of the ballclub, notably, as you mention, the health of Papi and Drew (and Lowell). And we’re concerned about where we’re going to find a replacement for Varitek. But we’re pretty stoked about Pedroia, Lowrie (buh bye Lugo!), Lester, Masterson, and yes, Ellsbury (definitely the consensus is that this is a tough sophomore slump). And our other key players are still pretty close to prime—Youk will be 30 next year, Beckett will be 29, and Bay just turned 30.

    Where I do sense some concern is Buchholz (though hopes are, of course, still high). Plus, we’ve got plenty more talent at every level of the minors. I’ll let some Yankee fan defend their farm system if they want to—from what I understand, they have some good pieces at the lower levels but they still have a ways to go.

    I think the battle for the East (and the AL) for the next few years is going to depend more and more on which team suffers more injuries and, hence, which team has a better bench. The Red Sox suffered so many injuries this year, that if they didn’t have the best bench in baseball I don’t think they would have gotten close to this far. Given the year the Rays have had and the year Boston’s had, losing to Tampa in the ALCS is nothing to cry about.

  7. Sarah Green says:

    PS, not that we’ve lost. Yet.

  8. Coley Ward says:

    I agree with most of that, Sarah. Except for the last part, that “given the year the Rays have had and given the year Boston’s had, losing to Tampa in the ALCS is nothing to cry about.” That sounds like old school Boston thinking, ie., “nobody knows the trouble I’ve had (but Jesus).” Boston has had some injuries, but so has Tampa. B.J. Upton has been playing with a shoulder that needs surgery all season, and he compensated for his lack of power by stealing bases like a mad man. Evan Longoria missed the last month of the season and sat out the first couple months in the minors. Carlos Pena missed time with a broken hand (or something like that). Kazmir started and ended the year hurt. The list goes on and on. I know Boston has had a tough run, too. And Manny’s soap opera didn’t help. But let’s not overlook everything Tampa has overcome.

  9. Coley Ward says:

    Or as PGammo says:

    Are the Red Sox whole? No. Ortiz’s bad wrist severely limits his power, and his best bolts come down with topspin. Last year’s World Series MVP, Mike Lowell, is out. J.D. Drew’s back is not right. Beckett insists he is fine because he never makes an excuse for anything, but even if all the shots he took for his oblique have quelled the pain, he is in the early stages of spring training, searching for power and command, and 18 hits, 12 runs, five homers and two fastball swings-and-misses in two starts are not normal Josh Beckett numbers.

    But Crawford’s finger isn’t right. Upton needs to have an offseason operation on his left shoulder. No one says anything about Scott Kazmir, but he’s throwing 88 with no breaking ball. Troy Percival had to be held off the roster.

  10. Boston has some promising looking young position players but are any of them the same caliber as Upton and Longoria? Who would take Ellsbury, Pedroia, or Lowrie over either of those guys? Tampa has young pitchers with as much if not more promise than Boston’s. Tampa’s starters in this series have shown they are superior to what the Red Sox are currently running out there. Buchholz having thrown a no hitter really means very little in relation to future performance or his current value to this year’s team. I still think Boston would have been better off trading Buchholz and Ellsbury for Johan Santana.

  11. Sarah Green says:

    Having a Big Papi who is totally ineffective is not the same as having a Carl Crawford with a bum finger. And yes, Longoria’s injury was devastating at the time, but he’s clearly over it now, Mr. 3-homers-in-3-days. Whereas Drew and Lowell are clearly not over their injuries–at all.

    Um, make that 4 homers in 4 days. He just hit another one as I typed that.

    Besides, if you recall, the World Champion Red Sox overcame injuries last year, too—or has everyone forgotten ROY Pedroia playing through the postseason with a cracked hamate?—but they just had a different level of injuries this year. Everyone is banged up by October. But there’s different levels of banged up.

    And Melissa, if Tampa didn’t have prospects with more tools and more talent than Boston’s, they should be ashamed of themselves—as they have had better draft picks for year after year after year, because they finished dead last year after year after year! But Boston’s model is to draft and develop enough talent to have an enviable pipeline, while supplementing that core with solid free agent signings and trades. Boston wants to have a steady stream of players of all ages—so that the team is never too young, and never too old. I don’t see that changing just because of Tampa’s great year. And they’re still ahead of the Yanks.

  12. Nick Kapur says:

    It’s clear that Boston is not going to go away anytime soon, and it’s true that you can never really know what is going to happen, but the Rays are looking quite good for the foreseeable future. Let’s face it, Boston has pretty much been carried in it’s recent run (2003-2007) by two men – Manny and Big Papi. And now Manny is gone, and Big Papi is a shell of his former self (and in this case, the “shell of former self” label is really accurate). Dustin Pedroia may well win the MVP this year, but everyone knows that as good as he is he is not actually the most valuable player in the American League – there are several players I would rather have on my team – and even if you had two Pedroia’s, it would not come close to what Manny and Papi offered Boston in their primes. The Red Sox are really going to have to reinvent themselves, and it’s going to be harder in this market than it used to be.

    By the way, has anyone noticed how Manny batted like .600 for the playoffs and hit a homer every other game? Did anyone think he wouldn’t? He is really a magical, magical man. This just shows that when Manny is motivated, he is the greatest hitter who ever walked the face of the Earth. I think if he had signed a series of 1-year deals so that he would have been a free agent every year, he probably would have posted career numbers so far of .450 with 1600 homers and 20,000 RBI.

  13. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, I’m sorry, but as big of an impact as Manny and Papi had on the team (and it was always the Manny-Papi combo more than either man alone), the “run” to which you are referring was far, far more dependent on starting pitching. If Beckett is healthy during this series, we aren’t even having this conversation. And Pedro and Schilling may be gone, but they’re not forgotten.

  14. Nick Kapur says:

    It’s ridiculous to say that the run was “far” more dependent on starting pitching. Both pitching and offense are necessary, and all I am saying is that run would not have happened without Manny and Papi.

  15. Sarah Green says:

    I know what you said—it’s right up there for anyone to read!

  16. Coley Ward says:

    Here’s a more detailed look at just how deep the Rays’ system is. Check it out.

  17. Sarah Green says:

    I’m not disputing that the Rays have a deep farm system, Coley–not at all.

  18. Coley Ward says:

    Good, because it’s pretty indisputable.

  19. Sarah Green says:

    It just seemed like there was maybe some confusion there, like I couldn’t reiterate my strong belief in Tampa’s farm system quite enough. You had posited that Boston fans weren’t excited about our young players because of the way the Rays have succeeded this year. All I’m saying is, we’re still very excited. Do you think we should not be excited?

  20. Coley Ward says:

    Boston has some good young talent. But the shine is off the apple a bit, I think, especially regarding Buccholz and Ellsbury. Also, I really feel Lowrie’s future is at second base. I haven’t been impressed with his range in this series.

    I’m not saying all three of those guys won’t be capable major leaguers, but only a few months ago I thought they all projected as future all-stars, and now I don’t feel that way. Not that it matters what I think. My guts, as John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity says, have shit for brains.

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