New Boss... Same as the Old Boss?

Date: Saturday, August 18, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  New Boss... Same as the Old Boss?

I watched it, but I still don't believe it.

Rod Beck pitched a scoreless seventh.  Good.  New manager Joe Kerrigan had
moved Beck up to the less critical sixth and seventh inning portion of our
nightly four innings of relief work.  This would open the door for new set-up
man Derek Lowe to pitch the eighth and, if we rallied from a one-run deficit,
new closer Ugueth Urbina would be brought on for the ninth.  Perfect.

Wait.  Why is Rod Beck coming back out to pitch the eighth in a one-run game?
What the... no, no... say it ain't so, Joe.  Rope for a base hit. Liner for
a base hit. Double off the wall.  Ball game.  Hey, at least this time he kept
Tony Batista in the yard, which was better than he did either of the times he
faced him in Baltimore.  Good managing, Joe.  It had a real familiar feel to
it.

Now let's talk about Rod Beck.

If Rod Beck were a 25-year-old Triple A pitcher with his 85-87 mph fastball,
you can bet he wouldn't get called up with his weak stuff by any team, much
less a contender that has overtly pushed the panic button and declared it is
going for broke.  Which begs the question: What exactly would Rod Beck have
to do to warrant his unconditional release?  If he gave up multiple runs in
his next five appearances?  His next seven?  Nine?  If his fastball got down
to 84?  Down to 82? 79?  The reason you go longer with a veteran in a pennant
race than a kid is that the old man has savvy, right?  Well, this crafty vet
has gone homer, homer, double in three duels with Tony Batista, a .221 hitter
with a .262 on-base percentage.  Gee, Mr. Cagey Vet, did ya ever consider you
might not have to throw this guy a strike?  Or how 'bout that sage 0-2
fastball he threw to Edgar Martinez Wednesday night?  There's been some
discrepancy as to what this pitch was - it was what serves as Beck's fastball
-- and when baseball cognoscenti have trouble discerning your fastball from
your breaking pitches, it might just be time to hang 'em up.  Before you hang
anymore on the inside half of the plate.  This pitch to Edgar really does
merit some dissecting.  Think about it:  Edgar hits to all fields to begin
with and he was down two strikes.  He's looking to protect the plate, got the
splitter in his mind, planning to whack the curve to right center.  It is
almost inconceivable that that particular hitter hits a fastball to dead
left.  Unless, of course, the pitch is 85 mph, which is slider speed.  I
would have thought Joe Kerrigan had seen enough to keep Rod Beck away from
his eighth-inning Waterloos for the rest of the season.  I certainly have.

Dante Bichette gave the "fixed lineup theory" partial credit for his
game-winning three-run home run Thursday.  To what does he attribute last
night's hugely embarrassing 0-for-4 that featured the usual asssortment of
ugly swings at balls at his chin and in the dirt and resulted in a pop-up to
first, a pop-up to second, a pop-up to shallow right and a rally-snuffing
4-6-3 roller to second.  Maybe he was stressed out at the prospect of being
in the five-hole every day.  He is now 23-for-117, a sweet .197 clip as we've
fallen by the wayside.  I'll let you in on a little secret that Dante
Bichette doesn't want you to know:  He's average. And to think I spent months
lobbying hard for this guy, hugely duped by the Coors effect (the field, not
the beer).  Are you ready?  Away from Coors Field, Dante Bichette has a
career slugging percentage of .429. At Coors, it is .642.  One man's
sea-level is another man's Kryptonite.  Let's compare Dante Bichette's .429
slugging percentage in 4,212 career at-bats away from Coors to some of his
teammates.  In 3,488 career at-bats away from Coors (he's never had the
privilege), Troy O'Leary has a .458 slugging percentage.  In 1,212 non-Coors
ABs, Brian Daubach has slugged .498.  In 1,327 non-Coors ABs, Jason Varitek
has a .439 slugging percentage. In 45 Major League at-bats away from Coors,
Izzy Alcantara has a .578 slugging percentage.

Don't be embarrassed.  I, too, was suckered in by Dante's solid September
last year and his hot start this year.  Those big blasts, pulling the arms
back, although more than once he did the dance on balls that were caught on
the track.  They always left the yard at Coors.  Then I started watching more
closely and breaking down his strikeouts frame-by-frame on the VCR.  You can
often tell two things just a few feet after the ball has left the pitcher's
hand: the pitch is going to land in the left-handed batter's box and Dante is
going to swing at it.  He commits to swinging so early that you know he is
guessing and that he doesn't trust his bat speed.  Have you ever been
overmatched?  You start your swing when the pitcher looks in for the sign.  I
couldn't believe this overmatched stiff was the same guy that led the Majors
in hits from 1995-2000.  That's when I went to Total Baseball and crunched
the Coors-elsewhere numbers.  A .429 slugging percentage is really
pedestrian.  John Valentin has a career .460 SP.  Jose Offerman slugged .435
his first year with the Sox.  Alfonso Soriano is slugging .451 in his rookie
season.

Dante is walking once every 21 plate appearances this season. You know what a
.429 career slugging percentage for a guy with no speed and no patience says
to me?  This is a platoon DH on an also-ran team.  I hereby apologize to Jimy
Williams, just for this, not for all the other stuff.

Pretty soon now - I won't wait for the actual end of the season now that the
de facto end is upon us - I'm going to be giving out Dirt Dog Biscuits to the
good soldiers and pacifiers to the cry babies.  Here is the type of stuff
I'll be using for criteria:  Chris Stynes just went through an 0-for-22
streak and never once blamed it on batting second one day, eighth the next,
leadoff the next and sixth the day after that.  Conversely, Derek Lowe
imploded Tuesday, leads the league in relief losses and had no problem
dropping an expletive on the new manager when he didn't get the call to close
Thursday.  You'd think some of these guys were Medusas the way they refuse to
look in the mirror.
 

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Boston Globe:

Red Sox agree to deal with Pierzynski > Sox non-tender Bailey, Kalish > Sox face arbitration decisions

Boston Herald:

Sox set Bailey, Kalish free > Doug Fister dealt to Nats > White Sox agree to 1-year contract with C Flowers

ProJo:

Pierzynski reaches deal with Red Sox > Kalish, Bailey non-tendered > Mike Napoli still ideal at first base > Middlebrooks, Red Sox both looking for improvement

NY Post:

Cashman pessimistic on Yankees re-signing Cano > Report: A-Rod called PEDs 'Food'

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