Posted on: October 14, 2008 5:26 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2008 5:34 pm

Are the Red Sox still great? Maybe we'll find out

BOSTON -- Interesting to see how Manny Ramirez reacted when people suggested that Boston's two ALCS comebacks (in 2004 and 2007) should give hope to the Dodgers, who are now down three games to one to the Phillies.

"That's in Boston," Ramirez told reporters at Dodger Stadium. "That was a great team."

The Red Sox famously rallied from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in '04, and came back from 3-1 down against the Indians last year. But as Manny said, those were great teams.

Now the Sox down two games to one to the Rays, with the chance that they could fall behind 3-1 tonight.

Of course they could come back from that. But is this still a great team?

One thing's for sure. It's not the same team. There are only four players left from the '04 team (Tim Wakefield, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Mike Timlin). There are 17 players back from last year.

But Manny is gone, of course. Mike Lowell is missing due to injury, and the Red Sox said today that Lowell will have surgery on his hip next week. Josh Beckett seems to be hurting (although the Red Sox continue to deny it), and Ortiz may be hurting, too.

Are they great? Maybe we'll find out.


With Jacoby Ellsbury hitless in his last 20 at-bats, Red Sox manager Terry Francona went to Coco Crisp in center field tonight, and went to J.D. Drew as his leadoff hitter.

Drew has led off 59 times in his career, including 17 times for the Red Sox in 2007 and eight times this year.

"Last year we hit him leadoff to get him going," Francona said. "This year, it was more out of necessity."

The reason today, Francona said, is that Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine holds runners on so well that it's almost pointless to have a base-stealing threat in the leadoff spot. There were only four steals attempted while Sonnanstine was on the mound this year, and just one was successful.


Posted on: October 2, 2008 8:34 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2008 9:20 pm

Nervous times at Wrigley

it's OK for us to say that the Cubs have to win tonight to have a chance in the National League Division Series against the Dodgers.

It's a little shocking to hear one of the Cubs say it.

"I think it's pretty do-or-die," Mark DeRosa said this afternoon. "You don't want to get on a 4 1/2-hour plane ride down 0-2."

Let's think about this for a moment. The Cubs would seem to have an edge with Rich Harden against Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3. They wouldn't feel bad with Ted Lilly against Derek Lowe on short rest in Game 4. And if they won two in LA, wouldn't they feel pretty good about having Game 5 back at Wrigley?

Maybe so, but not if the Cubs really believe that Game 2 is do-or-die.

"I think it would be a huge advantage for the Dodgers, but do-or-die?" manager Lou Piniella said. "If we lose tonight, well, might as well just stay home and forfeit the game in Los Angeles. I don't see us doing that."

Incidentally, in Game 1 Wednesday and before the game tonight, there's been none of the buzz that there was at Wrigley in the 2003 playoffs or even in the regular season this year (and nothing like the buzz there was at U.S. Cellular Field for White Sox-Twins on Tuesday). Hard to say why, but you wonder if some of the Cubs fans have just assumed this team was headed for the World Series, and looked at this series as nothing but the prelims.

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 30, 2008 1:36 pm

Scott's wrong -- but not on everything

The great thing about awards is that you can argue about who deserves them. And the great thing about the 2008 awards for me is that for the first time in almost 20 years, I don't have an actual vote on any of them.

That means I'm completely free to tell you what I think, and you're completely free to totally ignore it.

And as much as I respect Scott Miller, I'm also completely prepared to tell him where he's wrong.

You can read Scott's picks for the postseason awards here, if you haven't already.

To save time and avoid repetition, I'll just say I agree completely with Scott on the AL Cy Young award (Cliff Lee), and on both managers of the year (Joe Maddon, Lou Piniella). I agree with him on both rookies of the year (Evan Longoria, Geovany Soto), although the AL decision is a tough one, with Longoria getting just a small edge over Alexei Ramirez.

No argument on executives of the year, either (Andrew Friedman and Doug Melvin).

Of course, those were the easy picks.

The MVPs were the tough ones. Too many candidates in the National League, not nearly enough in the AL.

But think about who had the most effect on this season. What will you remember about 2008?

In the NL, you'll remember how Manny Ramirez changed the Dodgers into winners, and how CC Sabathia did the same for the Brewers. You'll remember all those Ryan Howard home runs that put the Phillies over the top in the East. I'd put all three of them of them ahead of Albert Pujols, who had a very nice season but only turned the Cardinals into fringe wild-card contenders. The MVP: Manny.

In the AL, Dustin Pedroia is a nice pick. But it's the wrong pick, because Francisco Rodriguez's 62 saves made the difference this year. Sure the Angels won by about 50 games, but if you don't think a closer can be valuable, ask all those teams that are sitting home in October primarily because they didn't have one. The MVP: K-Rod.

That leaves the NL Cy Young. I admire what Tim Lincecum did. I love Sabathia. But Johan Santana didn't lose after June, and he nearly pulled a flawed Mets team into the playoffs. Yes, I know that Sabathia DID pull his team into the playoffs, but I'll give the edge to the guy who was there all year. The Cy Young: Johan.


Posted on: September 25, 2008 5:43 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2008 5:57 pm

Dempster in Game 1, and more from the Cubs

Lou Piniella strongly suggested Wednesday night that Ryan Dempster would be his Game 1 starter. Today, he made it official.

Dempster, 14-3 this season at Wrigley Field, will be on the mound for the Cubs Wednesday at Wrigley, against either the Mets or the Dodgers.

"He deserves it," Piniella said. "He's been extremely consistent and reliable all season long. Plus, Games 1 and 5 are at home, so it makes all the sense in the world."

Piniella didn't name the rest of his playoff rotation.

In other Cubs news, Piniella left Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Aramis Ramirez out of his lineup for tonight's game against the Mets. Mark DeRosa is also out, but he's unavailable because of a calf strain.

Piniella said that the Brewers, battling the Mets in the NL wild-card race, have no reason to be upset, because the Cubs have already won two of the first three games against the Mets.

"I'm resting my team," Piniella said. "That was a long, long game (Wednesday night)."

Piniella hinted that he'll also rest many regulars Friday night in Milwaukee, but that he plans to play most of them Saturday and Sunday.

"We have two days off Monday and Tuesday," Piniella explained. "I've got to play the regulars, because I don't want to see them sit for three or four days."

That all assumes, of course, that the Cubs don't ahve to play a makeup game Monday.

There are two scenarios in which they would. Rain is coming to New York, although as of now (almost 6 p.m.) the rain still hasn't arrived. If tonight's game can't be played, it would be made up on Monday if necessary.

And then there's the third game of the Hurricane series, the one in which the Cubs and Astros played two games in Milwaukee last week. The only way that game would be played Monday in Houston is if the Astros make up three games on both the Mets and Brewers between now and Sunday.

What makes that strange, of course, is that one part of the Astros making up all those games on the Brewers is that the Cubs would have to beat the Brewers all weekend in Milwaukee. Imagine a scenario Sunday in which the Cubs could get Monday off by losing, but could force themselves into a meaningless (for them) Monday trip to Houston should they win.

What kind of lineup do you think Piniella would play that day?

Posted on: September 17, 2008 2:10 pm

Would Marlins have won with Manny?

It looks now like Manny Ramirez is going to get the Dodgers to the postseason. So here's what I'm wondering:

Would he have done the same for the Marlins?

As of today, Florida is 5 1/2 games back in the National League East, and five out in the wild-card race. It's too much ground to make up in 12 games, but it's close enough to think that two months of Ramirez could have put them over the top.

Especially if Manny had been the same Manny in South Florida that he's been in Southern California.

According to sources, the deal that fell through would have cost the Marlins just Jeremy Hermida and Taylor Tankersley. The Pirates were apparently willing to accept that deal (and also get the two other players from the Red Sox). The Red Sox were willing to pay Ramirez's salary, just as they eventually did in the trade that sent him to the Dodgers. But the Marlins wanted even more money than that, supposedly to pay the draft picks they would have gotten when Ramirez left as a free agent.

When the commissioner's office hesitated on approval, the Marlins believe that the Pirates got understandably antsy, looked elsewhere, and found the Dodgers.

The Marlins were left with nothing. They were left looking greedy.

And today, you wonder if they missed a good chance at a playoff spot.

Here are Manny's numbers in 43 games as a Dodger: .401, 14 home runs, 44 RBIs, 1.226 OPS.

Here are Hermida's numbers in that same span: .184, 1, 9, .497

Could Manny have made a difference of five or six wins?

We'll never know, and neither will the Marlins.

Posted on: July 29, 2008 1:20 pm

Are Dodgers interested in Paul Byrd?

The Indians haven't been optimistic that they'll find someone to take Paul Byrd off their hands, but perhaps the Dodgers will bite.

A Dodger scout who had been in Cleveland watching Casey Blake was told to stay in town through Monday night's game, and he was watching as Byrd threw seven shutout innings against the Tigers.

Byrd is 4-10 with a 5.28 ERA, but he has won two straight games. The start before he beat the Tigers, he allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings against the Angels.

Besides, said another scout who watched Byrd Monday, he'd be an even better fit for a National League team.

"I would take Byrd, especially if I was a National League team, because the (other) NL teams haven't seen him," the scout said. "He pitched well (Monday). He would have beaten anybody."

The Denver Post has reported that the Rockies have talked to Cleveland about Byrd, but the Rockies did not have a scout watching him Monday night.


The Mariners have yet to make a trade, but  you'd think they should be able to make several before Thursday's 4 p.m. deadline.

One name to keep in mind: Arthur Rhodes.

The veteran left-hander hasn't allowed a run in 11 2/3 innings since the end of May, and he was impressive in an inning Monday night in Texas. The Brewers, who definitely need bullpen help, were among the teams in attendance (so were the Tigers).

"He had a very good slider, he was throwing 92 and his arm angle was good," said a scout from another team. "He was outstanding."


The Mets have reason to be concerned about John Maine, who is to have an MRI on his right shoulder today in New York. While Maine didn't want to leave Monday night's game against the Marlins, Mets officials got worried when he had trouble getting loose in 85-degree heat.

The Mets do get one break if it turns out that Maine's injury isn't severe. With off days Thursday and Monday, and with Pedro Martinez returning to pitch this weekend, they could conceivably go nearly two more turns through the rotation before they would need to pitch Maine or find a replacement for him.

In any case, the Mets continue to chase both relief help and a corner outfielder. It's not clear which one should be a bigger priority. In fact, one Mets person said that seems to shift from day to day.


The Marlins keep looking for catching, but they keep running into roadblocks. They felt that Texas's price for Gerald Laird was too high, and when they asked the Giants about Bengie Molina, they were supposedly asked for three top prospects who they wouldn't give up.

Maybe they can revisit Pudge Rodriguez, especially if the Tigers have a couple more nights like Monday.
Posted on: July 28, 2008 6:44 pm

Schedule favors Red Sox, Rockies

For all the focus on this week's non-waiver trade deadline, the remaining schedule could have as big an impact on who wins as any trades that actually occur this week (and today seems to have been a particularly slow day for trade talk).

So who does the schedule favor?

The Red Sox. Big time.

While both Tampa Bay and New York will play more than 55 percent of their remaining games on the road, the Sox will play 55 percent of their remaining games at Fenway Park, where they're a major-league best 37-13. The Sox have no games left on the West Coast; the Yankees still have to go there twice. And the Yankees will play 10 of their remaining 58 games against the Angels, maybe the team they would least like to face.

The Rockies' remaining schedule is also favorable, which helps justify Colorado's decision (so far) to refrain from selling off at the deadline. The Rockies will play an incredible 45 percent of their remaining games (25 of 56) against the National League's three worst teams: Washington, San Diego and San Francisco. The Dodgers have almost as many games against those three teams, but the Rockies also have series remaining against Houston and Pittsburgh. Also, the Dodgers still have two three-city trips, while the Rockies are on their final three-city jaunt this season. The Diamondbacks have 16 games against the Padres and Giants, but none against Washington.

In the American League Central, the Tigers have the easiest path, although with a 6 1/2-game deficit, an easy schedule might not be enough to save them. But look at what's ahead for the two teams the Tigers are chasing:

The White Sox play 14 of their remaining 59 games (24 percent) against the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. The Twins still have a three-city trip and a monster four-city trip remaining. And the Tigers are done with all their trips to the West Coast.

A trade could still change the balance of power in any of these divisions. But maybe the schedule will decide it.
Posted on: July 26, 2008 12:38 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2008 2:03 pm

Dodgers to get Blake from Tribe

The Dodgers have agreed to a trade with Cleveland for third baseman Casey Blake, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

The Indians will pay part of Blake's $6.1 million contract.

The trade, announced early Saturday afternoon, sends catcher Carlos Santana and right-hander Jon Meloan to the Indians. Santana is the key to the deal for the Indians. In 99 games this season at Class A Inland Empire, he's hitting .323 with 14 home runs, 96 RBIs and more walks than strikeouts.

Blake has been hot over the last month, with a .347 average, four home runs and 12 RBIs in his last 21 games. The Dodgers had been looking for a shortstop, but with the market thin at that position, they shifted their focus and obtained Blake to play third base and give them an offensive boost.

Dodger third basemen have batted .245 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs. All three totals are among the lowest in the majors this year.

Blake has been coveted by several teams, in part because of his ability to play multiple positions. He's played third and first for the Indians this year, and as recently as 2006 he played 93 games in the outfield.

The trade is more bad news for the Mets, who had pursued Blake as an outfielder and had also tried to trade for Xavier Nady, who was instead dealt from Pittsburgh to the New York Yankees Friday night. The Mets could turn to Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez, who they've already discussed, even though they would prefer to acquire a right-handed hitter.

The Mets have been hindered in trade talks by their lack of depth in position-player prospects.

"There's only one position player in the system," said one scout who knows the Mets organization.

The player he referred to is outfielder Fernando Martinez, who is at Double-A Binghamton but has been out of the lineup with a right hamstring strain.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com