Friday, May 29, 2009

Current State of Politics

I've had some opportunity to do some reading about President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor and I'm unimpressed with her. The main controversy about her is her willingness to make decisions based upon "empathy", as opposed to what is right and wrong. A case out of New Haven, CT in which she ruled to dismiss a case by a firefighter who sued because he qualified for a promotion, but wasn't given one is at the core of the Sotomayor controversy. Judge Sotomayor's decision was based upon race and empathy as opposed to who achieved the highest test scores and who was most qualified.

As the great columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote today, "Figuratively and literally, justice wears a blindfold. It cannot be a respecter of persons. Everyone must stand equally before the law, black or white, rich or poor, advantaged or not."

I couldn't agree more with Krauthammer's comment. Also, Judge Sotomayor is not above playing the race card, describing her experiences as, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Now what would've happened if Justice Samuel Alito had said the reverse of that when he was nominated? He'd have been massacred by the liberal media and his life would've been ruined.

I don't care what race, origin, or creed a politican or judicial nominee is. I really don't. I DO care that they agree with my philosophy of upholding the tenets of the Constitution and that they do not practice judicial activism. I want them interpreting the law, not making law and deciding cases based upon empathy. Making laws is for the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government. Judicial decision making based upon empathy for the accused because they had a bad upbringing is what lets child molesters, rapists, and murderers out of jail too soon and allows them to come back to general society to ruin more lives. Putting a person like Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court is dangerous for the future of justice in this great country.

Regarding the Sotomayor nomination, what is up with the Republican Party? They already came out and said that they wouldn't try to filibuster the nomination. Why are they tipping their hand? Would the Democrats not be above playing dirty and turning over every rock of evidence on a Republican President's judicial nominee? I want the Republican Party to start acting like the conservative, loyal opposition they are supposed to be. Right now, they are acting like the party of impotence and it disgusts me.

The current state of the Republican Party is they are a rudderless, fiscally irresponsible party that caters to social conservative causes. That doesn't go far enough for me. They are too much like Democrats. The Republican Party needs to be fiscally conservative, have an alternative vision to fix the problems of this country, and to not let liberals walk all over them.

I can understand the philosophy of, "If your enemy is shooting himself, stay out of the way". Particularly in the case of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lame denials about not being aware of waterboarding, despite being given a briefing to the contrary by the CIA in 2002. The GOP should continue to call for her resignation, all the while allowing her to keep putting her foot in her mouth. However, the GOP needs to be more of an opposition party and provide that alternative vision.

Three to four years ago, when U.S. citizens were captured by terrorists in Iraq, they were beheaded. Being beheaded is a particularly gruesome way to die. Beheading of captured enemies certainly isn't part of the principles of the Geneva Convention. If this is the case, WHY is there outrage over the waterboarding of terror suspects and the Guantanamo Bay prison compound here in the U.S. ? It makes absolutely no sense. Don't we have other, more important things (i.e. a recession and high unemployment rate) to be focusing on as opposed to second guessing the CIA about how they do their job and how they keep America secure? Spycraft is a dangerous, nasty, and NECESSARY job. Let's not lose focus on the role it plays in keeping the U.S. safe.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Observations From Around MLB

So much for Mannywood. The LA Dodgers are 7-3 in their last 10 games, all of which have been without their allegedly juicing slugger and are sporting the best record in MLB at 30-15. As baffling as some of his bullpen management moves are, Joe Torre is a master at managing people.

Which team has the best record in the AL? The Texas Rangers. Who would've guessed that? Yesterday, Brandon McCarthy went the distance in a 5-0 shutout over the Astros. I've liked McCarthy since he was with the White Sox. He has great stuff, he's just taking some time to harness it and be consistent.

Speaking of Rangers pitchers, how is Kris Benson still in baseball? He's made a career out of being an underachieving stiff since he was the first pick in the draft back in 1996. One thing he does have going: his wife ain't too shabby to look at.

I'm hoping the Red Sox aren't in a big hurry to trade Brad Penny. He's improved as the season has progressed and considering the state of MLB pitching, the Sox could get a ransom for him come the July 31st trade deadline. While I love the idea of John Smoltz in the Red Sox rotation, a little extra time for him to get that 42 year old arm in shape isn't the worst thing in the world. Also, despite their success at Pawtucket, both Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden, will benefit from not being rushed too quickly.

Bet you didn't know this: My favorite Yankee, Johnny Damon, is on pace for 3,000 hits. Damon won't be 35 until November. He's off to a terrific start this season and currently has 2,321 hits. All he needs to do is average 155-160 hits for this year and the next four seasons and he'll have 3,000. If he gets there, he's a shoo in for the Hall of Fame. For his career, Johnny's averaged 185 hits a season. I never begrudged Johnny for taking the Yankee money. NY offered him $13 million more than the Red Sox. Who wouldn't have taken that?

Other than Craig Breslow, Dan Giese, and Russ Springer, I do not recognize any other name on the 16-25 Oakland A's pitching staff.

The San Diego Padres have a team batting average of .232. Inexplicably, they have a .500 record and are in second place in the NL West. They've also won nine games in a row.

My favorite NL team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, are having a tough season. Their pitching has been serviceable (4.45 ERA), but offensively, they have a few key contributors off to very slow starts. Stephen Drew, who had 21 HR and batted .291 last season, is currently hitting .195. Usually sweet swinging 1B Conor Jackson is batting a woeful .182, and the solid when healthy Eric Byrnes is hitting .211. They've also been without star pitcher Brandon Webb since early April with a bad shoulder.

The reason the Diamondbacks are my favorite NL team is because of the heartbreaking way they beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series on a Luis Gonzalez bleeder over a drawn in infield. They also occupy a warm place in my heart due to them trading Curt Schilling to the Red Sox for Brandon Lyon and three stiffs.

I'm not ready to throw a parade for him (it's still early), but I've been very pleased with Jason Varitek's production at the plate this season. His hits have been timely and he's been a productive part of the offense. My concern is Sox manager Terry Francona is still playing Varitek too much; Tek's played in 33 of 44 games. The Captain has a history of wearing down as the season progresses. I'd like to see more of George Kottaras in the lineup now in order to keep the 37 year old Varitek fresh for August and September. In fact, after Kottaras had three hits yesterday, Tito should play him again today to see if he stays hot.

Coco Crisp for Ramon Ramirez looks like a steal so far, huh? In 22.2 innings, Ramirez has an ERA of 0.79. Ramirez isn't the only member of the Red Sox bullpen to be posting a miniscule ERA. Manny Delcarmen is also having an excellent season and his ERA is 0.86. This is easily the best Red Sox bullpen they've ever had. Long gone are the days when the likes of Rudy Seanez, Kyle Snyder, and Julian Tavarez were occupying spots in the pen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Morning Baseball

The traditionalists generally don't like Interleague Play. They believe that AL and NL teams should only face each other in the All Star Game and the World Series. I disagree. Interleague Play has been great for the game. Fans get to see teams they normally don't and so do the players. I'd rather see the Red Sox play the Mets or America's Team (Braves), than watch a game vs. an AL East team. Considering the Red Sox feast on NL teams, I'm all for Interleague Play and would like to see more of it.

My only gripe about Interleague Play (and the World Series) is the silly insistence of the NL to not use the DH when they are the home team. Pitchers who normally don't hit or run bases puts the AL teams at a competitive disadvantage. The Yankees lost Chien Ming Wang to a foot injury for the season last year when Wang was running the bases in Interleague Play.

If any MLB scheduling tweak should be done, it is the unbalanced schedule. I do not care for the unbalanced schedule of Major League Baseball at all. Games vs. the Yankees lose their luster when the Sox have to play them 19 times a year. Same with the rest of the AL East teams.

Wow, I hadn't seen Johan Santana pitch in a while, and I forgot how good he is! That changeup of his, mixed with a moving, exploding fastball makes for some difficult hitting. He mostly had it going on last night vs. the Red Sox.

That's the second game this year where Julio Lugo's defense cost the Red Sox a game. He needed to turn that double play in the 4th inning. Instead of moving his feet and getting a good throw off, Julio left his foot on the second base bag and got nothing on the throw that would've gotten the Sox out of the inning. The Mets proceeded to get two hits, and took a 4-1 lead.

Julio's not alone. Nick Green's defense at SS has been shaky, too. Green's error late in a game last week was the main factor in a Sox loss. The defense at SS is killing this team. It's such a crucial defensive position. Isn't Omar Vizquel available? I don't care if he's 42, he'll make the plays.

Daisuke Matsuzaka looked okay vs. the Mets. His velocity was there and he was mostly throwing strikes. He'll be fine.

Count me as loving the addition of Dennis Eckersley to the Sox broadcast booth in place of Jerry Remy. Eck is FAR better than Remy. It's not even close. Eck's analysis, particularly about pitching, is very informative and I'm constantly learning new things when he speaks. Remy rarely tells me anything I don't already know. Also, Eck is hilarious. I love the slang he uses (cheese = fastball, boards = The Wall). His description of his batting skills during last night's game had me cracking up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Papi's Struggles

I'm officially pushing the panic button. It kills me to watch David Ortiz right now. It reminds me of 20 years ago, watching Jim Rice struggle and fail so badly. After Papi's 0-7 performance yesterday with 3 K's, and an astounding 12 (TWELVE!) LOB, it is time for the Red Sox to start exploring options.

It pains me to write that. David Ortiz is my favorite all time Red Sox player. For all he's done, there's no way I can ever boo him. I won't. I may shake my head, and groan, "Come on Papi!", but I will never boo him. For five seasons (2003-2007), he was one of the Red Sox greatest all time power hitters. However, it is as if light hitting former Sox backup catcher Marc Sullivan or former SS Luis Rivera have inhabited Ortiz's body.

In looking at potential trade partners, there is one particular player I want: Prince Fielder. Big Prince is 25 years old and is making $9 million a year. For a small market team like the Milwaukee Brewers, who are always looking to cut costs, dumping Fielder's salary in this economy gives them flexibility. The Brewers bullpen has been pretty good, but their starting rotating is very suspect. Yovani Gallardo and Dave Bush are off to good starts, but the journeymen trio of Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra, and Braden Looper doesn't blow anyone away.

The Red Sox have a surplus of starting pitching. While Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard are untouchable, I'd be fine with the Sox using Michael Bowden as trade bait. Bowden has thrown 34 innings thus far in 2009 at Pawtucket and is 2-1 with a 1.06 ERA. He has some brief major league experience and has done well in his two Red Sox appearances. He's exhibited poise and a willingness to go after hitters.

If the Brewers don't think a straight up swap of Bowden for Fielder is enough, I'd even be willing to throw in Manny Delcarmen, who'd immediately step in and be a quality experienced reliever for the Brewers.

Regardless, something has to be done here. Maybe a call up of Chris Carter would help. Jeff Bailey isn't the answer. Filling in for Kevin Youkilis, Bailey is batting a dismal .159. Could the Sox come up with some phantom injury for Papi, and find a way to send him to Pawtucket on a rehab assignment for a week or two to get himself straightened out? All I know, is when I see Ortiz late on 92 mph belly button high fastballs down the heart of the plate (like yesterday) where he's fouling them back, he's not right.

This team's pitching is so deep, that the Red Sox are already pretty much a shoo in to be in the playoffs. If Ortiz gets back on track or a trade for Prince Fielder is made, if the team remains injury free, there will definitely be another parade in this town in early November.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fundamentals of Pitching

I know that times have changed in Major League Baseball. Just about everybody is buddy buddy with everyone from the other teams. There's the World Baseball Classic that draws players together where friendships are developed such as Yankee Derek Jeter and Red Sox Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. Or, players share the same agent and have developed relationships through their agent.

In the old days, if a batter was feasting on a pitching staff, you could bet your life savings that that batter would be knocked down in the batter's box. Either a pitch would drill him in the back or ribs or some of the more hot headed pitchers would put one on under the batter's chin. The idea being for the pitching staff to not let the batter get too comfortable in the batter's box. You don't want that batter thinking he can lean over and and "own" the outside corner.

Some Red Sox were offended that Jason Bay got drilled in the back by the Yankees Joba Chamberlain after Bay hit the game winning HR the night before and homered the next day vs. Joba. I wasn't offended. It's good baseball and part of the game.

Which brings me to my main point here: When will a Red Sox pitcher drill Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Who will be the Sox pitcher who make him uncomfortable in the batter's box?

Entering today's game vs. the Red Sox, Longoria has played in 8 games, has 4 HR 16 RBI and is batting .394. So far, in today's game, he's 2-3 with a 2 run double.

I'm pleading for someone on the Red Sox pitching staff to hit Longoria. He's going to get on base anyway, might as well drill him in the back. Make him hurt to get on base. At least he'll only get one base, as opposed to hitting a HR or an extra base hit for an RBI. And once he's been drilled, pitch him low and away going forward. If he starts lunging over the plate, hit him again.

A pitching staff can't let a batter own them the way Longoria's been owning the Red Sox.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Manny Being Manny

The announcement today that Manny Ramirez tested positive for performance enhancing drugs didn't shock me. Not that I thought Manny was juicing, just that the shock value in terms of the games brightest stars testing positive for HGH or steroids has worn off.

Twenty four hours ago, Ramirez was considered one of the two best hitters (along with Albert Pujols) in all of baseball and an automatic Hall of Famer. Manny the Hitting Savant with the quirky personality. Manny The Kook who supposedly had uncashed $50,000 checks from the Cleveland Indians in his car's glove compartment for months. Manny The Clown who sat in the dugout and repeatedly petted pitcher Julian Tavarez's buzz cut as if he were petting the head of an Irish Setter and high fived a fan in Baltimore after a running catch.

Today, Manny's in Hall of Fame purgatory with Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Rafael Palmiero. The chances of these players getting in to Cooperstown is slim. No matter what Manny does, his reputation is now tarnished for good, just like these other former stars.

I don't believe Manny's story about the drugs, in which he threw his doctor under the bus, for a minute. How stupid do you have to be to continue using these substances when the microscope is on baseball players like never before? And does anyone think he read a word of his public statement, never mind came up with it?

Lastly, if Manny was doing them, how many other players, particularly members of the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox World Series championship teams have used them? I believe the number is higher than we think.

One thing is for sure; Curt Schilling is running to find the nearest microphone to publicly put in his two cents on the subject.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Musings

Just like last year, the Celtics "survived" a best of 7 opening round playoff series by finally putting the nails in the coffin of the Chicago Bulls. Unlike last year, I think this team is ultimately doomed, due to the supposed absence for the rest of the playoffs of Kevin Garnett. However, credit the Celtics players, particularly Glenn Davis for playing hard and doing their part in trying to makeup for The Big Ticket's absence. Leon Powe, who's out with a torn knee, is a big loss off the bench as well.

Danny Ainge badly misjudged the value of James Posey's contributions last year, as well as Tony Allen's ability to make up for Posey. Frankly, Tony Allen STINKS. He plays stupid and he only does well against inferior teams or blowouts. Allen hasn't improved at all since coming in to the league as a rookie in 2005.

Hey Vinny Del Negro, 1985 called and wants its haircut back.

Count me as loving the Patriots draft, with its infusion of youth in the secondary in the second round. Last year's performance by the Pats secondary was the worst since the 2000 season, when they had stiffs like Antonio Langham getting toasted by every receiver the Pats faced that season. Darius Butler is said to have great cover skills and Patrick Chung is considered a hard hitting safety. Perfect!

I also like the trade of Ellis Hobbs to the Eagles for a fifth rounder next year. Hobbs is a big talking, undersized dime cornerback masquerading as a #1 corner. Hobbs is a JAG (just another guy) to me.

David Ortiz had ZERO HR for April and his bat looks as slow as Jim Rice's circa 1989-90. Last night was a perfect example. Papi was ahead in the count 2-0, when he got an 88 mph fastball down the middle of the plate, which he was late on and fouled back. I'm officially concerned about Big Papi.

Tropicana Field has become a house of horrors for the Red Sox. They are 2-10 in their last 12 games there. The Rays represent a tough matchup for the Red Sox. They take punches from the Sox, and hit back twice as hard. Although, Genius Joe Maddon foolishly outsmarted himself last night pulling fireballer Grant Balfour and putting in lefty specialist Brian Shouse to pitch to Kevin Youkilis with runners in scoring position last night. Youk jerked one down the LF line and knocked in 2 runs, which effectively won the Sox the game.

The Bruins are back in action tonight at 7:30 vs. the Harford Whale...oops, I mean the Carolina Hurricanes in their second round playoff series. It's hard to find a sport as exciting as playoff hockey. It flows well, lots of hard hitting and up and down action. Plus, unlike the other 3 major sports, the action isn't dogged by time outs and pitching changes. What's not to like?