So I realize it's been nearly a month since I posted here, but it has been a busy summer for me, so I had to put my original Sox blog on the back burner.
I hope you guys have been following my posts on Bugs & Cranks, and if not then I'm really sorry I haven't posted here in a while.
Anyway, with a hurricane bearing down on us here in South Florida, which has already forced the cancellation of the kids' first day of school tomorrow, I thought I'd get back up to speed on what has been going on with the club since I last posted.
Some of these stories are old, but just bear with me as I get caught up.
Manny traded to LaLa land, Bay comes to the Bay state
In a move that surprised absolutely no one, Boston dumped Manny Ramirez and his 49 million headaches for Pirates outfielder Jason Bay at the trading deadline.
I was in Cincy visiting the in-laws when the deal went down, and while I wasn't shocked to see that Manny had been dealt to the Dodgers, I was a little surprised at the price Boston had to pay for ridding themselves of the Manny Being Manny freak show.
Not only is Boston paying the remainder of his 2008 salary, which equates to some 9 million bucks, but they also sent promising outfielder Brandon Moss and "potential" closer Craig Hansen to Pittsburgh in exchange for Bay.
Sure it was a high price to pay, but sometimes you can't put a price tag on the peace of mind a deal like this provides.
I'm already on record with my thoughts about the deal, but to make a long (and old) story short, the team had reached the end of the line with Manny's "me first" antics, and when you combine violence against teammates and club personnel with flopping around in the outfield, failing to hustle, refusing to board the team bus and coming up with phantom injuries during a pennant race, it's time to move on.
Look we all loved him while he was here, and everyone (especially Big Papi) will miss his sweet swing and clutch hits, but when his circus sideshow outweighs the on field performance, then it's time to cut the ties.
It was fun while it lasted, but now ManRam is someone else's headache. Until he dons the pinstripes next season and starts killing his former team.
Injuries barking during the dog days
While the team struggles to keep pace with the pesky first place Rays (they are currently 4 1/2 games out in second place), a number of injuries have cropped up in the last couple of weeks that could greatly affect their chance to win the East for the second year in a row.
Workhorse starter Tim Wakefield, who was leading the majors in quality starts despite his sub-.500 (7-8) record, had to go on the DL on August 12th due to a sore shoulder. So much for the "knuckleballers can pitch till their arms fall off" theory.
With Wake shelved and Clay Buchholz (2-8, loser of 6 straight starts since early May) sucking up the joint, Boston picked up aging right hander Paul Byrd from the Indians last week. Byrd proceed to lose his first Boston start, 4-1 to Toronto Saturday, and he allowed his league-leading 24th and 25th homers in the contest. Gulp.
Another major blow was the loss of Mike Lowell. Already nursing an achy hip, Lowell pulled the oblique during a swing in a game against the Rangers last week, and in doing so had to be placed on the DL for the second time this season.
Mired in a 4-28 slump caused by the hip, Lowell was not providing the protection for Papi the team had been hoping for in the Manny's absence, but luckily for Boston the red hot Kevin Youkilis (11-27, 3HR, 8BI in last 7 games) has proven to be more than capable of filling the void.
Wake is already throwing and should return soon, but it is the same injury that caused him to miss most of the playoffs last year, so it will be a concern heading into the stretch. As for Lowell, with Youk shifting to third and hitting the cover off the ball the loss is softened, but they will need the 2007 WS MVP back and healthy if they hope to make another championship run.
Runs, runs and more runs
With Manny pounding the ball out West (miraculously, his knee injury has seemed to fade away), many wondered whether Boston would be able to continue to put up league-leading offensive numbers.
After a recent stretch in which they scored 37 runs in three games, it looks like the answer is a solid "yes".
In the 15 games since Ramirez' departure the Sox have scored 99 runs, an average of 6.6RPG, and those totals include a 19-run output against the Rangers as well as a 2-run and 1-run effort against Oakland and Toronto, respectively.
Granted the 37 runs came against the awful Texas pitching staff, and Toronto just outscored Boston 19-5 in a rain shortened two game set, but still the numbers are up even with their Hall of Fame left fielder hitting on the Left Coast.
This is mainly due to the fact that Youk and Dustin Pedroia are 1-2 in the AL in hitting, and Ortiz is tearing the cover off the ball again. Throw in a resurgent Jacoby Ellsbury and the production of Bay, who has hit in 13 of his 15 games with Boston and scored 15 runs while knocking in a dozen, and what you have is a team that is plenty capable of scoring runs at an impressive clip, even without Manny hitting cleanup.
Now if the pitching staff would just get their act together...
I think that just about brings me back up to speed. As Tropical Storm Fay approaches the West Coast of Florida, I'm off to watch the Rays play the Angels in person tonight in what could be considered an impromptu hurricane party.
Wonder if they'll appreciate having a Sox fan in the club suite?
David Ortiz has made two rehab starts with the PawSox in his recovery from a wrist tendon sheath injury, and he has walked and mashed a home run in each of his two games.
So it appears that the most important cog in the Sox championship machine is well on his way to rejoining the club in the very near future, provided Papi experiences no setbacks in the next week or so.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that after months of toeing the line, acting like a team player, and singing Kumbaya about his tenure with the Sox, Manny Ramirez has suddenly turned back into the team-altering spectacle that seems to infect the club around this time of the year the past 3-4 years.
With Ramirez in the middle of a pivotal option year, and the Boston management apparently tiring of his antics, the question now is, how long will the dynamic duo remain together after Papi's return?
At first Manny had us all fooled into thinking this year would be different. He showed up to spring training on time (a first), singing the praises of his team and expressing his desire to stay with the ball club after his contract is up at the end this year.
I took this as a not so veiled attempt to get the Boston brass to pick up his 20 million dollar option for next season, so much so that I predicted he would win the AL MVP by putting up 'contract year' numbers, as players in these situations so often do.
The first 2+ months of the season went exactly according to this theory. Manny started off crushing the ball, blasted his 500th career home run at the end of May, and had another memorable MBM moment when he high fived a fan while in the process of turning a rare 7-6-3 double play.
It was all good times and no worries on the Manny front. He wanted to be here. The team and fans wanted him to stay with Boston, and the club appeared to be headed towards another long post season run, especially with Papi's return on the horizon.
But then things stared to change. For the worse.
Two well documented run-ins, one with teammate Kevin Youkilis in a game against the Rays on June 3rd, and the other with traveling secretary Jack McCormick in Houston on June 28th, painted a far different picture of the fun loving, happy-go-lucky left fielder, one that suggests he might have hidden anger issues, or at the very least an over-inflated sense of entitlement.
Who knew those two unfortunate incidents would only be the tip of the iceberg?
Since the McCormick incident, in which Manny shoved the 60+-year-old retired former cop and berated him over a request for 16 extra tickets to the game, the relationship between Manny and management, and even the ever-forgiving fans, has spiraled out of control at a rapid rate.
Before the All Star break, Ramirez pinch hit in a game against the Yankees and watched three straight pitches from Mariano Rivera go by him for a crucial strikeout in the 9th inning of a game the Sox would eventually lose, 5-4 in the tenth.
During the break, Manny had a curious interview in the Boston Herald that rankled Sox owner John Henry, so much so that he issued a response stating how offended he was that Ramirez would insinuate the Boston management has been anything but fair and straightforward with him through all the years of Man-sanity.
And then, on the heels of all this madness, came the play in the outfield in last night's game vs. the Angels.
In the 6th inning of the 11-3 Boston loss, Anaheim's Maicer Izturis blooped a fly ball to shallow left field that looked like a harmless single.
But Ramirez, ever the clown, decided to try and dive for the ball, even though it appeared he had no chance of catching it.
Sure enough, the ball landed in front of him, but instead of responding quickly and professionally to his miscue, Manny rolled backwards, flopped around like a fish out of water, and ended up laying on the ball as Izturis raced around the bases with an RBI triple.
Ramirez got up and laughed the incident off, but Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, who was seated behind home plate, were not laughing, and to everyone watching the fiasco, you got the distinct feeling that the play could have been the straw that broke the ManRam's back in Boston.
Whether or not the Sox deal Manny in the next few weeks, decline to pick up his option at then end of the season, or do end up retaining the unstable slugger, one thing's for sure:
when the circus act known as Manny Being Manny starts to include bodily harm and total disregard for the integrity of the game, it might be time to ship that sideshow off to the next town.