Results tagged ‘ Jim Rice ’

Musings before the big series in Boston

DAMASO MARTE ACTIVATED — TELL TCHAIKOVSKY THE NEWS
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.

I DON’T NEED TO FIGHT TO PROVE I’M RIGHT AND I DON’T NEED TO BE FORGIVEN
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.
 
20-GAME WATCH: YANKEES VS. RED SOX
                   

W-L
RS/G
RA/G
AVG
OBP
SLG AB/HR
SB
CS
HR/9
BB/9
K/9
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.

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

Rice not worthy, Rickey the greatest

rice250_011209.jpgTHAT OL’ HALL OF FAME ANNOUNCEMENT
I’ve stayed away from commenting on the Rise of Jim Rice as a Hall-of-Fame candidate because the whole thing seemed inevitable, a group of self-appointed reactionaries making a comment on the steroids era. The problem is that the logic of it escaped me. “Look! Jim Rice was mediocre without the help of drugs! We’ll show Mark McGwire and the rest of those overinflated bodybuilders what we think of them by putting in this guy! Sure, he didn’t run, didn’t play defense, didn’t hit outside of Fenway Park, was done as a useful player at 33, and was completely uncommunicative, but he was clean!” The vote sure wasn’t about Rice the ballplayer, who peaked from 1977-1979 and had a bunch of seasons around those years that were just decent, and wouldn’t even rate that if he hadn’t been so good at taking advantage of Fenway. Yes, that’s a skill, but given Rice’s other shortcomings, it shouldn’t have been enough.

It’s done, though, and there’s not much to do about it but shrug. History is always a tug of war, and different perspectives gain ascendance at different times, leaving their detritus behind even as they vanish from the scene. Every Hall of Fame is like that, in whatever guise it exists. Fifty statues stand under the U.S. Capitol dome. Each state gets to send likenesses of two native greats, state hall of famers if you will. The resultant collection is a fascinating congeries of legitimate heroes and scumbags who have no business being there (as well as many complete obscurities), but I guarantee you that if we started debating exactly who belonged in each group, no two of us would come up with identical lists. In fact, I can think of reasons to disqualify some of the guys I personally favor.

Really look that list over. There are some “great” Americans represented who you would think twice about leaving alone in a room with your wallet. The Hall of Fame is a lot like that, except that the inductees should in theory be less open to debate, given that we have a statistical record of their accomplishments. The life of a president or general is not so easily reduced to wins and losses, hits and outs, and so there is more room for interpretation. With the Hall, the best you can do is make an argument that the numbers aren’t representative, that there are other factors at work, and that’s usually where Hall voters get themselves into trouble. That’s what we have here, Rice going in because 76 percent of the voters decided to put their faith in unprovable ambiguities like Rice’s fearsomeness, or even just parked their political position on PEDs over his body.  

Thus, Rice is merely one more scorched-out battleground. Grass will grown on him, cattle will graze, some people will visit sometimes, perhaps. In the long run, though, just saying someone was great because you have an agenda for them doesn’t make them so. Time renders its own verdict. When some of those statues were erected under the Capitol dome, many more than 100 years ago, there wasn’t sufficient perspective for objections, for a large enough body of people to say, “Hey, wait — this guy was a drunk!” or “This guy was a slaver — why are we putting him here so school children can come through and think he’s some kind of all-time great?” When it comes to the Hall of Fame, there’s a more educated electorate on the rise, but it’s time isn’t yet here. Rice gets his plaque, and it is hoped he enjoys the honor. He certainly wasn’t a bad ballplayer. But in the final analysis, his election is a rearguard action, a reaction, and it’s not about him, it’s about honoring a time when the old men who voted for him could still claim to understand the game.

AND JUST TO KICK THIS HORSE EVEN HARDER
We’ve talked about Rock Raines and his Hall-of-Fame qualifications before; on the YES Hot Stove show, I said that if Rickey Henderson was the No. 1 leadoff hitter of all time, Raines was 1-A. I don’t want to rehearse all the arguments again, but when Andre Dawson gets 361 votes and Tim Raines gets 122, something is amiss.

RICKEY IS THE GREATEST …
… But you knew that. No disrespect to Don Mattingly, but Rickey should have had the 1985 MVP award as well.