I'm late. Whatever. Usual excuses. And I'm doing another quick notes post, too. Oh well. It's Friday.
-- I agree with Kristen that it's too early to be hypercritical, but I will say I'm a bit concerned about the state of our pitching rotation at the moment. I don't say that solely because of the two games played in Japan, either--it seems both Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz have been getting roughed up some this spring, and Jon Lester didn't acquit himself much better in his first start.
That second game was dominated by Oakland pitching, which racked up 13 strikeouts. Rich Harden was absolutely dominant. And it was only the second game of the season for them, too.
-- So much for being the 'Washington Generals', eh? I understand that there is payroll disparity between the Red Sox and Oakland. I understand we are lumped in with the Yankees now. But please. What kind of loser attitude is that for the team's own traveling secretary to take? It's one thing to point out competitive disadvantages for small-market teams in general and quite another to just whine about an outcome that's not even certain yet, because the Red Sox taking the trip is getting more publicity. That's got nothing to do with the team's chances, as we saw in how the actual games played out, and I think it's about time for the Big Unfair Red Sox Steamroller handwringing to tone itself down out there in Greater Baseball-land. Just a little bit.
-- Again with the preamble about it being early, etc., but hot damn, Manny Ramirez, huh? He was the only one to get a bat on Harden Wednesday, and lost it in the seats. So far his stroke looks to be in monstrous mid-season form already. I just hope he doesn't bash himself into an earlier hamstring issue than usual.
-- Foulkie pitched another perfect inning for Oakland. He struck out Manny for a second time. Just sayin'.
-- Now it's back to Spring Training, I guess. How wack would it be if we don't get to use the DH in a freakin' exhibition series three days before the games start to count again? Especially with the way Papi's been swinging the bat (or not) so far?
-- I hate to give Dan Shaughnessy any traffic, but he did pick up on a pretty funny incident that occurred during the Japan trip in one of his columns this week:
Highlight of the trip, hands down, was EMC CEO Joe Tucci having a catch with Hideki Okajima at a fancy reception at the Sox' New Otani Hotel headquarters Monday. While 2007 World Series clips were shown on a Green Monster-sized LED screen, assorted clients and dignitaries - most of them Japanese - feasted on sushi and fine wines. After a few speeches and interviews with Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Terry Francona, a couple of fielding mitts were produced and Tucci lined up to play catch with the Sox' second-most-famous Japanese hurler. Standing in front of the giant screen, Okajima softly tossed to Tucci, who was about 20 feet away. Tucci made the catch, and before you could say, "Nuke LaLoosh," gunned a wild heater that sailed far high and wide of a sprawling Okajima and punctured the precious LED screen. I will never look at the EMC logo (which was on the Sox uniforms for the Japan games) without thinking of this.
Surely some kind of moral vindication, at least, for Sox purists who hated to see the uniform ads.
-- More from around the horn: The collection of baseball babies gracing the cover of this week's SI contains two Red Sox prospects, Clay Buccholz and Jacoby Ellsbury. There's also a fascinating-as-always piece from Tom Verducci about the way the Red Sox and Yankees have gone about building up their farm systems since 2004, and the new dimension it could add to the rivalry (According to some, we're supposed to be over the rivalry by now, but apparently Verducci hasn't gotten that memo either).
I've noticed this too, in passing--sometimes it feels like for every homegrown Red Sox wunderkind there's been a Yankees evil twin that surfaces. Like Joba Chamberlain for Jonathan Papelbon. And maybe even Shelley Duncan for Dustin Pedroia.
However, heartwarmingly for Red Sox fans, Verducci's article also highlights some of the places the teams' farm systems have not matched up--with the Yankees at a disadvantage. To wit:
The Yankees had only one first-round pick in the 2005 draft--the 17th overall--and when it rolled around, several future big leaguers were still available: outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Travis Buck, relievers Craig Hansen and Joey Devine, and starting pitchers Matt Garza and Clay Buccholz. But [Yankees scouting director Damon] Oppenheimer's ideal was a player who could hit in the middle of the lineup and play in the middle of the field or be a front-of-the-rotation starter. So he took C.J. Henry, a 6' 3", 205-pound high school shortstop from Oklahoma City. 'He fit exactly what we were looking for,' Oppenheimer says. 'Obviously, it hasn't worked out the way we wanted'.
Henry has yet to make it out of A ball, hitting .222 with 15 home runs over three seasons.
Nice scouting, guys.