We have here stray thoughts and random wisecracks looking for a place to land while the sporting world awaits the cleats to drop on baseball’s trade deadline, a giddy spot on the calendar lately rising to rival Halloween and Ground Hog Day among America’s favorite pagan festivals. Coverage of Deadline Day will be live and constant up to a stretch of 24 hours.
And while there is no under-estimating the number of knuckleheads currently in charge of MLB teams, how much can you really expect in return for the battered and 33-year-old Mike Napoli at the height of his season-long hassle with the Mendoza line. The Red Sox are also believed to be dangling the likes of Koji Uehara. But don’t expect any stampede for his services either, given that when he turns 41 next season he’ll also bring with him a $9 million contract.
The point is that your team hopes again to dump coal from their stocking and it’s unlikely to work this time. There’ll be no quick cures to whatever ails these wayward also-rans at this July’s trade table as was near miraculously the case three years ago when the Dodgers, wallowing in cash, played angel of mercy. Nor do the Red Sox have anything remotely comparable to an Adrian Gonzalez to dangle unless, that is, you still consider Jackie Bradley Jr. a lock-down, first-ballot Hall of Famer down the road a generation or so.
It’s going to be fascinating watching the Red Sox wriggle their way out of this mess.
In the many tough critiques written of the Bruins off-season machinations, I keep reading rave notices for the performance of the departed Dougie Hamilton amidst last-season’s shambles. Such tributes have been more than effusive; adoring is more like it. And I’m wondering if I was watching the same player on the same team or did I miss something.
Mind you, Hamilton is indisputably a significant young talent with a skill set suggesting potential stardom and plenty of time to realize it. But there’s a gap between potency and act, potential and its full realization, and young Hamilton has only just begun to bridge it. In my opinion, he has come to the task too slowly and with less fervor than one should expect from a prospective all-star. There’s cause, therefore, to worry if he’ll be one of those wondrous prospects who somehow never quite measures up, at least not to the fullness of his potential. It happens, you know. Actually, it happens more often than not.
In his three seasons, the kid has displayed enthusiasm but not fire in the belly. He has great size but doesn’t much use it. He’s aggressive on offense, much less so on defense. He seems to most enjoy the power play. From a distance he does not strike one as terribly coachable. He did not step up last season when things began to go awry, signs of which you look for in one’s third season. For a solid two-month stretch last mid-season when things were getting dicey, he was essentially AWOL.
Are these fatal flaws in a kid barely out of his teens still adjusting to advancing maturity and a demanding life style? No! But it’s equally clear the rave notices are premature. Dougie is a work in progress. Period! Check back in two, maybe three years.
It was something of a minor footnote and easily missed, but the Cleveland Indians did something rather nice the other day when they unveiled a life-size statue of the estimable Larry Doby on their ballpark grounds.
Quietly, but with an appropriate determination, the Indians continue to strive to make the case that Doby deserves at least near as much credit for his courage and class as is unceasingly showered on Jackie Robinson, who effectively de-segregated the National League just 81 days before Doby performed the very same noble service in the American League. The precious small difference is a fact too little appreciated.
Doby was even more stoic about dealing with the hardships of the ordeal than the more dramatic, cerebral, and heavily promoted Robinson. But there’s ample evidence the abuse each received was about equal. Late as it may be, with both long gone, the Indians to their credit would still like the historical acclaim to be a bit more comparable. Good for them! It’s never too late for that.
Seems to me incongruous that the Bruins should have gotten savaged for the odd twists and turns their rebuilding plan has taken while the Celtics, whose design seems decidedly more obtuse, get a free pass. There’s little difference in their plight, but the Celtics have been trying to fix it for three years; the Bruins, for three months. Does anyone really know what Danny Ainge is up to? Does Danny? Who knows, yet who complains?
Much as he may deserve it, summoning praise for Alex Rodriguez remains a painful chore; it’s as if a season’s denial of encomiums ought to be a reasonable premise of his penance. But his torrid slugging of late, culminating in that smashing three-homer performance against the Twins, makes maintaining such an edge amazingly difficult.
He would, of course, still be universally regarded a bum if he were hitting .238 with about nine homers and squawking about his lot and being otherwise oafish, which is what most expected before the season. His performance, augmented by his demeanor, has disarmed us, at least temporarily. Beyond the veneer, though, A-Rod may not be much changed, and given his history, one is prepared to assume that. But he sure is smarter than he used to be.
Here’s a line I wish I’d written. Comes to us from Christopher Gasper of the Globe in an admirable struggle to express the ineffable mysteries of how Hanley Ramirez approaches the task of patrolling left field for your Town Team. Professor Gaspar writes:
“Hanley Ramirez is still playing left field like an American tourist in London traffic not sure which way to look to avoid becoming road kill.”
That’s it. Perfect! You may have to go all the way back to the honorable Smead Jolley to come up with a lumbering Red Sox picket who has made more of a fool of himself in a shorter time merely trying to catch a baseball. And to think, the Red Sox had to pay roughly $100 million for the pleasure of the Ramirez tour de force. The price for Jolley’s act, which ran the glorious seasons of ‘32 and ’33, was rather less onerous.
At the start of the all-star game Fox TV’s Joe Buck – for better or worse contemporary baseball’s official voice – summoned what passes for him as gravitas and solemnly declared that he dearly hoped the upcoming game would be as good as the Home Run Derby the night before.
It is a measure of how low this event has sunk to have the gig’s alleged master of ceremonies wonder if it could be near as entertaining as glorified batting practice.
Lastly, for this gem I’m indebted to old pals Terry Byron and Larry DeMarco, both old pros at the art of spotting the odd hypocrisy roaming the halls of government. It’s a knee-slapper currently being passed around on the internet and here’s how it reads:
“The Federal Government, which has ‘Tomahawk’ cruise missiles, ‘Apache’, ‘Blackhawk’, ‘Kiowa’ and ‘Lakota’ military helicopters, and used the code name ‘Geronimo’ for the attack that killed Osama Bin Laden objects to the naming of Washington’s football team as the ‘Redskins’. Really?“
One chooses to interpret this as not so much an objection to the feverish campaign to force the DC’s NFL franchise to find a new bloody label, which is entirely worthy and correct, but as an illustration of how alleged reformers can often speak with, shall we say, ‘a forked tongue.’
And on that interesting note, one adds, ‘Bye, Bye’!