Musings before the big series in Boston

Funny how those extra lefties start showing up right before a team faces David Ortiz in Fenway Park. Ortiz hasn’t hit much this year, but if you’ve seen him do well it was most likely at Fenway, where the Pesky Pole forgives sins of age and PED abuse. The .234/.322/.487 he’s hit at home, including 13 home runs in 278 at-bats, is just dangerous enough that dragging in that extra southpaw is justified, especially when your primary LOOGY is Phil Coke, who has problems with the home run.

One comment on Jim Rice’s Little League rant, and it’s the same one that everyone else is going to have. Rice said:

jeter250_082109.jpg“You see a Manny Ramirez, you see an A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez), you see (Derek) Jeter … Guys that I played against and with, these guys you’re talking about cannot compare … We didn’t have the baggy uniforms. We didn’t have the dreadlocks,” Rice said. “It was a clean game, and now they’re setting a bad example for the young guys”

Rice is a misanthrope, we knew that. Still: A-Rod, Manny … and Jeter? The worst thing Jeter has ever done is shill for cars with low MPG ratings. He does not deserve to be associated with two PED users, nor dreadlocks or baggy pants, though dreads and baggy pants don’t really reflect anything significant except an era in which baseball and all sports have relaxed uniform codes to allow for individual expression.

As for the game of Rice’s era that was so clean, one word: cocaine. I’m not saying Rice used, but so many ballplayers did, prominent ballplayers. Some like Willie Wilson, LaMarr Hoyt and Vida Blue, went to jail. At least a few, like Alan Wiggins, Steve Howe, Rod Scurry and Eric Show, eventually died as a result of their drug habits. More than 20 ballplayers were cited for substance abuse during the 1980s, and that was just the tip of the iceberg — it was speculated by some, among them Keith Hernandez, that close to half of ballplayers were using cocaine at that time. It would also be interesting to ask Hall of Famer Rice if he ever took or had knowledge of players taking amphetamines in his clean game.

In any case, barring some amazing revelation of malfeasance, Jeter is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, whereas Rice is someone that the Baseball Writers are going to spend decades apologizing for passing. There are 50 players who should be in ahead of Rice; when Jeter becomes eligible it will be 51. Years from now, Rice will be as much of a Hall of Famer as is Chick Hafey and Rick Ferrell and Jesse Haines — he’ll have a plaque on the wall, but no one will take it seriously, passing it by on the way to view those of Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, and many more … including Jeter.

Yankees 14-6 5.3 4.1 .282 .342 .473 23 7 1 0.9 3.6 8.7
Red Sox 11-9 5.4 5.8 .265 .356 .471 19 11 4 1.5 4 7.7

Since last we left the Red Sox, they’ve gone 7-3 against Detroit, Texas, and Toronto. The principal change the Red Sox have undergone since leaving New York is the addition of shortstop Alex Gonzalez, imported from the Reds. The veteran can’t hit much (career .246/.293/.393) — every few years he has come close to posting a league-average OPS — and this year, having lost all of 2008 to knee surgery, he’s not even halfway there, hitting .214/.258/.298. However, he remains a good glove, certainly better than Nick Green, and Boston hadn’t gotten an ounce of offense from their shortstops anyway, just .220/.291/.327. If the Red Sox slip out of the wild card by a few games, the margin of loss will be exactly the size and shape of the missing shortstop production… 

The pitching matchups seem to favor the Yankees this series. Since being abused by the Blue Jays and Angels in consecutive starts at the beginning of July, Andy Pettitte has been very solid, allowing just 10 runs in 39.2 innings, walking 10, and striking out 43. Pettitte has an ERA of 3.63 in 34 career appearances at Fenway Park. In the same period that Pettitte has been pitching well, Friday’s starter Brad Penny has been roughed up, allowing 26 runs in 34 innings and giving up seven home runs. Opponents are hitting .299/.353/.537 against him over that span.

Saturday’s conflict has the occasionally enigmatic A.J. Burnett facing rookie Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa’s Minor League numbers were good, and he pitched well against Detroit in his first start, but the Tigers don’t have a lineup half as deep as that of the Yankees. If the Yankees can lay off of Tazawa’s splitter, or he’s a bit twitchy in locating it, he’ll be out of the game quickly. Finally, Sunday’s 8 p.m. game has CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett dueling, and with Sabathia’s recent run of good starts and Beckett’s great stuff, that should be a game worth tolerating Joe Morgan for. Keep in mind that whatever happens with the starters, the two best bullpens in baseball this year are contained in Fenway Park during this series. The Yankees are No. 1 in wins added, the Red Sox No. 2.   

The Yankees are playing with the house’s money here. If they lose the series, even if they get swept, they would retain a significant lead. If they win or sweep, they can probably put the champagne on ice. The Red Sox are tough at Fenway (38-18, .679) but all the pressure is on them. Unlike the last time these two teams met, the only way this series will be historic is if the Yankees execute another sweep for a New Millennium version of 1978’s Boston Massacre. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but with a 9.5-game lead, it would be pretty darned close.

As always with Yankees-Red Sox series, I’ll be filing updates throughout the weekend. See you then.


  1. scribegt

    Morgan hates the Yankees — has ever since the teams of the late ’90s were favorably compared to his precious Big Red Machine. He took great offense at the idea that anyone could be mentioned in the same breath as the Reds. So he runs the Yankees down all the time.

    Frankly, I can tolerate Morgan more than McCarver. Tim has one run-in with Steinbrenner years ago and spends the rest of his life bashing the Yankees.

    The great thing about watching Fox/ESPN is to watch the broadcasters switch sides mid-game. They really know nothing about the teams, so they just talk up whoever is winning that day. In a seesaw game, it’s hilarious to watch them becoming “fans” of each team as the lead changes hands.


    Mr. Goldman,
    Great article on Jim Rice. And it was a nice surprise to see you defend Jeter. I also feel the same about Joe Morgan. The comment by reader ‘scribegt’ was right on the money.


    Hi Steve,

    Your readers here are obviously very different than at BP, where Morgan’s ineptitude is taken as a given.

    Hilarious line about Jeter shilling for Ford. Those commercials are pretty darn awful and quite obnoxious.


  4. paulo720

    Joe Morgan is hard to tolerate, but for reasons other than bashing the Yankees. I rarely hear this alleged bashing of the Yankees. More often, I hear praise. I would say the same about Tim McCarver.


    To me Joe Morgan is one of the most knowledgeable announcers anywhere.If he has prejudice I havent noticed it.He handles the game like a chess match,unfortunately most spectators including yourself,have no awareness of the subtle nuances and strategies of the game.I am a die hard Yankee fan!

  6. iamanycguy

    I am an unappologetic Yankee, Morgan and McCarver Fan. If there is a bias in either commentator, I haven’t noticed it. I’m sure they have their biases about teammates, but fans do also about their favorite players. McCarver can’t stop raving about Bob Gibson, but that’s ok because we are slowly losing old timers that can give first hand accounts of some of the immortals. Morgan is justifiably proud of the Big Red Machine teams that he was a major cog in. I prefer to hear former players broadcast games for that reason. I miss Jim Kaat on the air, because he played with some of those immortals. Some not in the hall of fame should not be forgotten. Tony OLIVA, Camilo PASCUAL, Earl BATTEY, not to mention opposing players like Roger MARIS, and Elston HOWARD. If the biases are there, they keep them well hidden. I think watching great baseball and great players of today are more important to them, than we think. The games legacy is important to them.

  7. aerod500

    What disturbs me most about all of the Rice comments are Yankee fans, and other of course, who once again fell into the trap of feeling that in order to promote Jeter, one has to put down A-Rod. As a Yankee fan, I don’t like what Rice said about either player. As an A-Rod fan, I get tired of people defending Jeter and leaving A-Rod out to fend for himself. I expect this of others, but Yankee fans? Even Michael Kay spent time talking about how Jeter should not be part of the three names because he is so saintly. I feel sad that Yankee fans just don’t say that what Rice said was inappropriate and we stand by all of our players. It all gets old sometimes. However, I do like that A-Rod responded the way he has to his critics all season: no response.


    Thank you so much for your comments on Jim Rice’s recent tirade. While I can understand his aggravation with various current players for their use of PEDs/steroids, to claim Jeter is among those “setting a bad example” is more than a bit ridiculous. If these comments were actually made TO the Little League players, then Jim Rice is equally responsible for setting a bad example for these young kids. What we say defines our character every bit as much as the actions we take. Rice can hardly consider himself above reproach if he is bad-mouthing today’s players as a means of defending players from his own era. There’s something to be said for having the integrity to give even those people you dislike, or with whom you disagree, the same amount of respect you would wish to be shown. And if you find that to be something you simply cannot manage, then perhaps not saying anything at all is, in fact, the best course of action.


    I know this isn’t exactly the *big* issue in what Jim rice has said, but it definetly sounds like he hates the yankees, especially when he thinks Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are bad role models. A-rod, I’m not sure about, but Derek Jeter shows that he wants kids to pursue their dreams.

  10. iamanycguy

    AEROD500, is absolutely correct. I know that I’m guilty of that. A-Rod does not need defending, but when the rest of us defend Jeter, we forget about A-Rod. The only person who needs defending is Rice. He’s the only one who’s wrong in all of this. I doubt however that you could find someone to defend him.

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