All-Star Break: First Half Reflections, Second Half Predictions

Well its the All-Star break. The time of year when questions are supposed to be answered, trades are supposed to be made, and each competing team is scrambling to fill in the missing or injured pieces of the World Series 2009 puzzle. So far, this has been one of the most exciting years in my short lived (24 year) baseball history. Jacoby Ellsbury pulling of an electrifying steal of home that has not been seen quite in that fashion since Ricky Henderson. This is not to mention his 48 major league leading stolen bases. He’s keeping the average right around .300 this year, which is where we wanted him, and he’s not so slowly becoming the best leadoff hitter in baseball, right up there with Jimmy Rollins and company. He’s been staying healthy and says we should not expect the slowdown that happened last year due to injuries. Jacoby is feeling 100% and though he could be called worthy of a CF All-Star weekend start,  perhaps it is better for us that he takes this time to rest those legs.

After David Ortiz’s slumping start he’s tied for the league lead in home runs since early June with 11, and driving in 100-110 runs would not be a surprise anymore.

Jason Bay talks have started up again as the Sox look to lock up the AL RBI leader who has 20 home runs already, although his average has plummeted to .260. However, anyone whos watched Bay knows that he doesn’t always hit well for average. Also Bay is a fastball mistake hitter. He is no Manny Ramirez with the bat. Bay can’t hit a good curveball or changeup. However, he has great patience and sits back and waits for the pitcher to make a mistake, whereas a guy like Dustin Pedroia is swinging at balls at head level and mysteriously driving them off the Green Monster for doubles.

Speaking of Pedroia, I exect some of his problems with his average dropping could have alot to do with nerves surrounding his first child whom he missed the All-Star game to watch be born. I’d like to start by congratulating Dustin and Kelli and give my blessings in the hopes that their child and Kelli are safe. For any who don’t know, she went into labor very early and things were looking skeptical for awhile, although it seems now like everything will be ok. Once this business with his family is over, Dustin will return to form. You can see that he has not been his normal chipper and hyperactive self. He’s preconsumed very understandably.

Youkilis saw his average plummet before the All-Star break, but come on. There’s a reason that Ichiro and Mauer haven’t hit .400 yet, and are the only ones who get close year after year. They are two of the best hitters to play this game we call baseball. Youkilis is a stone that just happened to wind up a gem. I remember watching him hit and thinking that he will find his power stroke because of his abnormal batting stance which keeps him under the ball. However, I also remember thinking that he would never hit more than .280. Well, I was wrong. Kevin has been the team leader this year hands down and happily took the backseat while Pedroia stole MVP honors that were probably rightfully his last year. However, he takes it all with a smile somehow and is so happy to be playing ball in Boston that the MVP was an afterthought like, “Hmmmm maybe I should have won that?” I love his class, I love his style and with no Mark Teixiera, everyone can get used to hearing the chants of YOUUUUUUUKKKKKKKK for many years to come. This is not to mention his readiness to switch from one side of the diamond to the other defensively, and play them both better than most.

There are many more honorable mentions including Nick Green who has made Jed Lowrie’s absense and Lugo’s subpar defense almost negligable factors. The Yanks never gave him his shot, so he came to Boston and what a pleseant surprise.

Clay Buchholz was also a nice surprise to see redeeming himself as he will get the nod for the start vs the Blue Jays after the All-Star break. Now start my predictions. This is a precursor to Halladay possibly becoming a Red Sox member. The Jays watched Buchholz last start before the break. It is known that Riccardi has pursued the Sox about Buchholz in the past (who hasn’t?). However, its a longshot. The Sox would basically be telling Beckett that he will no longer be our ace, and that his dreams of landing a big contract in Boston after this contract are almost gone whereas they were almost definite previously. Not to say they’d move him or let him go afterward. But that evasive $16-17MM deal that ace pitchers want would escape him if he wanted to stay in Boston.

So the predictions:

Roy Halladay will wind up a Philly based upon the concept of supply and demand. The Phillies definitely have the biggest demand.

Red Sox will run away with 1st place. There is no one in the AL who I can see keeping up this year. The backup options are too substantial. The Sox still have yet to even call up Lars Anderson (who’s struggling for the first time this year), Michael Bowden, or Clay Buchholz. They also have the best bullpen in baseball and probably the best rotation. Definitely the deepest.

Justin Masterson will be the odd man out, and the Sox will wind up trading him for less than he’s worth. Let’s face facts. Masterson is great in Boston, but his arm is going to waste here. I think a move involving Justin Masterson and Brad Penny could bring in a big haul in terms of prospects and an MLB ready player or two. I wonder if a package of Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, and Jed Lowrie would be enough to add Hanley Ramirez or another great player of his caliber. I don’t know I want to lose Bard though.

Bard will emerge as the new setup man in Boston. They didn’t want to bring him up to setup so he would have minimal pressure. Just pitching in situations where Sox had a 9 run differential and things like that. But he’s quickly proving he’s up for the challenge. Daniel Bard will stay in Boston due to the fact that it gives the Sox leverage on a Papelbon deal.

Papelbon got the idea, hence his comments restoring his leverage about how he is open to leaving Boston if they underappreciate him. However, as I said I don’t think either side is mad at the other. They are simply both doing all they can to work a deal that is best for their side. Might Pap be a Yankee? Sure. Would he be a great replacement for Mo? Best you could ever hope for. Does it make sense? Yes. Will the front office in Beantown allow it after Johnny Damon? I doubt it. So don’t get your hopes up Yankees fans. Keep in mind. Jonathan Papelbon is on pace to break every record ever set by a closer except single season saves. However, if he stays healthy, K-Rod may well shatter anything Pap does.

Finally a side comment: The Yankees organization to me has lost much class in the past few years, especially since the departure of Joe Torre. Nick Swisher is a loose cannon. Joba’s fistpumping is most certainly not “classy”. Bruney’s media war he started with K-Rod. Alex Rodriguez’s issues with lying and steroids. Joba’s DUI. I can go on if you give me a weeks worth of newspapers and 15 minutes. The Yankees organization’s denial of any knowledge of the enormous amount of Yankees that have used performance enhancing drugs (list includes Chuck Knoblauch, Roger Clemens (don’t deny it, it started in Toronto and continued to NY), Alex Rodriguez (most likely but not proven in Yankees uniform), Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco (half season in 2000, likely right around the time Giambi got “introduced” to roids), ect. Not to say that these players never played in Boston. Many did. However, it doesn’t seem these players were able to do it in a Red Sox uniform and even Manny admitted that the Boston Red Sox were very careful with what their players do.

To me, for the magic of the New York Yankees to be restored, they need to restore that element of class and fun. Right now they are all business and confusion, two things which definitely prevent players from playing to their potential. They look nothing like the team in the late 90’s that went out, played their hearts out ever night, dove into seats recklessly, and most importantly the no-names that became famous in Yankees Stadium. Scott Brosius, Aaron Boone,  and others are names that no one would know if it were not for clutch late inning heroics. Bring back the farm. Bring back the fun. Don’t fill your team with egos and idiots. And you will eventually bring back the magic.

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