Monday, July 28, 2008

Jon Lester Rights the Ship

Amid all the new found Manny Ramirez controversy, there was an actual game played yesterday. Not just any game, but a pivotal game against an historic rival who had just taken two straight games in Fenway Park. A loss would have allowed the Yankees to move into a tie with the Red Sox for second place in the AL East.

David Ortiz HomersBoston went on the attack early and often, scoring runs in 5 out of the first 6 innings. Big Papi got his groove back and led the offensive charge with a 2 for 4 night, driving in 3 runs, 2 of them coming off of a home run with Dustin Pedroia on base and two outs in the 4th inning. Manny Ramirez, who even now is being escorted out of town by radio talk show callers, paired up with Papi, just the way it is supposed to work, going 3 for 5, driving in 2, and scoring 2 runs. In fact, every Sox starter had at least one hit, except for JD Drew who went 0 for 2, but did walk twice. Even Jacoby Ellsbury, relegated to the bottom of the order to work on getting his swing back, went a cool 3 for 4.

Jon LesterBut, what would all that offense be without some good pitching to go along with it? It would be like lobster without butter, Laurel without Hardy, Charlie's Angels without Cameron Diaz. Playing the part of butter, Oliver Hardy, and Cameron Diaz yesterday was Jon Lester. Lester has truly become the cornerstone of the starting rotation. This season he has been more steady than even Josh Beckett. Nothing seems to rattle Lester anymore. His steely gaze shines across the plate when he looks in for the sign. Most times he looks like a cat toying with a helpless mouse. Yesterday, he went 7 innings (again), allowing 9 hits and a walk, but struck out 8 batters, holding the Yankees to just 2 runs. He would bend, but he would not break.

Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless inning each to secure Lester's 9th win of the season. Meanwhile, the newest Yankeee starter, Sidney Ponson, got knocked around like a judge on an Aruban beach. Ponson only lasted four innings, and left the game trailing an impossible 7-0. But, the games must go 9 innings, so the Fenway faithful were treated to 4 1/2 more innings of watching the Red Sox chase the Yankees around the boxing ring before the inevitable TKO in the 9th, and a 9-2 victory.
Sidney Ponson
What about Manny? What about him? Am I surprised Manny has, yet again, turned into a petulant child? No, quite the contrary. After 4 seasons of Manny loving the Red Sox, wanting to be traded, being so happy in Boston, demanding to be traded, so thrilled to be part of baseball in Boston, etc., etc., I have simply been waiting for the next shoe to fall. Manny is on a part of this team right now, and a critical part of the team at that. As long as he is here, under contract, he will play hard, and do his best to win ball games. When he does not, I will shout down to him how he is letting us down. Will he be here next year, does he want to be here next year? We'll see.

As far as everyone was concerned, Manny was gone years ago. He asked (through his agents) to be traded before. The Red Sox even put him on waivers, and offered him in a possible deal for Alex Rodriguez. Yet, he is still here. So, will he be here next year? Who knows. I do not think Manny has planted deep roots in Boston (ala Johnny Damon). He is pretty happy here, has good friends on the team, and has had a supportive fan following to go with all of his success (including being named the MVP of the 2004 World Series). So, you would think Manny would be happy here.

But, I think Manny was actually much happier in Cleveland, and look where that got him. Manny has the evil Scott Boras as his agent. The Red Sox will not be stupid. They want Manny here, playing hard, batting 4th, and anchoring the offensive lineup. But, they will not keep him here at all costs. They'll wait until the end of the season to decide what to do next in terms of exercising Manny's option for next year.

Will they trade Manny before the deadline? Not likely, but maybe. Same as every other player on the team. If, and only if, there is a deal that Theo feels will improve the team, give them a better shot at another championship, without costing the team too much, then he will swing that deal. I am doubtful that deal will present itself with regards to Manny, but you never know. For a trade to take place, you need both side to like the deal. Many teams would love Manny's bat, but he's expensive and the Red Sox will want significant compensation in return. They would be foolish to do anything else. My guess is that no other team will be able to come up with the right offer, nor will they want to take on the risk that Manny walks once free agency hits. I think they'll all wait until the end of the season and make a run for him in free agency if the Sox do not lock him up.

Manny RamirezMeanwhile, what happens the rest of the year? Same old thing. Manny will go on a hot streak, he'll forget about the contract stuff for a while, and he'll contribute. The fans will steam and yell, then they'll cool down and watch the games. We'll enjoy a fun playoff run, and then we'll rejoin the debate after the season. Manny's performance, overall, will be no different. If he stays, let's enjoy watching the guy hit, and hope he minimizes the childishness.

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)

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