Monday, April 09, 2007

I really don't like posting twice in one day, but I just couldn't get the post I wanted to finish last night done until the middle of the day today. These things happen. I thought about waiting until tomorrow to post again, but I decided I ought to go ahead and write this while the subject was still fresh in my mind.

After watching ESPN baseball coverage last night and tonight, with apologies to Charles Dickens, it was the best of quality starts and the worst of quality starts. The best - Curt Schilling overpowering the mighty Texas Rangers. The worst - Carl Pavano squeaking past the lowly Twins. The Yankees are in bad trouble this year.

When you look at the stat line alone, Schilling would seem to have an edge because he allowed only one run over his seven innings of work. Pavano also went seven against the Twins tonight, allowing two runs in the process. Pavano only struck out two batters, but he didn't walk anybody. Schilling struck out six, walked only one and allowed only four hits. It was indeed one for the ages and much, much, much better than Pavano's effort.

After all, it's not like Curt Schilling allowed a home run to an overrated bum like Frank Catalanato. Oh, wait... Minnesota had to manufacture one run against Carl Pavano with a single and stolen base by Tori Hunter and then a base hit to drive him in. Then Morneau doubled and two batters later, Hunter drove him in with another double. Both balls were well hit, very well hit. But Pavano recovered, got out of the inning and got a big win.

Before any Red Sox fan decides to remind me that the Rangers play in a notorious hitters park, think for a second and see if you can't remember the nickname for the MetroDome. Before you sprain something from the unaccustomed mental effort, it's the Homer Dome. I am aware that the Twins aren't built to hit home runs the way the Yankees can, but can you really make the claim that the Rangers can hit with the Sox?

To this point in the season, I think Pavano has been more impressive than Schilling. It is true that the Devil Rays produced several runs against Pavano on Opening Day in the Bronx. But the Devil Rays offense is considerably better than the Royals who put a man-sized beating on Curt Schilling in Kaufmann Stadium. I will have more to say on the Devil Rays later this week, because they're going to be a team to watch this season.

While Texas has some big names like Michael Young, Hank "Yes, my production declined at a strangely suspicious time" Blaylock, Mark Teixeira and The Man Who Once Was Sammy Sosa, they have fallen into a rut as a team. They put up decent offensive numbers, but as the guy I go to for my Red Sox fan's perspective said to me today, the Rangers look great on paper without ever bringing that to the field when it matters.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has a very good team. They're a small market team, and they can't throw money around the way the Sox and the Yanks do. But they compete year in and year out. Santana is probably the best pitcher in the AL, but they also have the reigning MVP in Morneau and the reigning batting champ in Mauer. Holding them to two runs after a shaky start on Opening Day is an important confidence builder for Pavano.

Carl Pavano now stands 17 wins away from the 18 I predicted for him before the season started. I realize that it's only two starts in, he's only won four games in pinstripes in a little over two seasons, he has bad karma hanging over his head from lying to the team about his injury last year and he has a hell of a long way to go to earn his teammates' trust once more. He took a step in the right direction today, and he better take 17 more steps like that because I really want to be right for the first time in a while.

As for other baseball matters, or at least matters peripherally connected to baseball, I have yet another problem with Bill Simmons. In his running diary on Daisuke Matsuzaka's first start, there was a very disturbing subplot. He reacted to the excessive grundle grabbing exhibited by Julio Lugo with an enthusiasm that was slightly less than decent. I leave you to make of that what you will.

But if I were the kind of writer given to bestowing movie quotes as awards, like the Sports Guy, I'd have to go to the cinematic tour de force Planes, Trains and Automobiles to the scene where Del Griffith (John Candy, in what might be his best role) takes Neil Page (Steve Martin) to task for his grundle grabbing. The purveyor of shower curtain rings hits him with this epithet: "Larry Bird doesn't do as much ball handling in an entire night as you do in an hour."

If I were the kind of person who tampers with perfection, I might be inclined to update that quote now that Bird has been retired for well over a decade. But I'll let it stand, because it has a Boston connection and there's no one on the Celtics that's worth elevating by connecting him to that film. That quote will also serve as my memorial to the golden age of John Hughes movies, since he lost his fastball after Uncle Buck.

On a completely unrelated note, at the risk of bringing my unique brand of insensitivity to an issue that should be handled with the utmost sensitivity, I have to laugh at MSNBC and CBS for handling the Don Imus situation with neither courage nor balls. If they don't have the courage to kill the golden goose (the coveted demographic that makes up his audience has considerable buying power, after all) and fire him for his incredibly stupid insensitive remarks on the Rutgers women's basketball team, they at least could have had the balls not to weasel out of the situation with a slap on the wrist.

I don't know what is the right way to handle this situation, I only know it's not a slap on the wrist suspension. Without going to the lengths that the South Park episode that dealt with Kramer's career suicide went to make the same point, there is no way that I could, as a white guy, understand how comments like Imus and his guest made resonate in the black community. I do know that CBS and MSNBC can't be all things to all people in this situation. They should have either fired him or stood by him. I think this suspension insults us all by trying to offend no one.

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