Thursday, July 31, 2008

Zen Dayley: It's the big one, or not

The smart money seems to be saying that Manny Ramirez-to-the-Marlins speculation is the real deal (so much for the rule of the thumb that you never hear anything in advance when a big trade goes down).

Canada's own Jason Bay could be going from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Red Sox in one three-team scenario. Or not. Boston has nothing to lose trading Ramirez. They were good enough to get past an injury to David Ortiz early in the season and keep pace with the Tampa Bay Rays, so who's to say that it couldn't happen again? Theo Epstein can trade the crazy clubhouse distraction and be the toast of New England if it works, or spin it to his advantage if the Sox reprise their final-third collapse of 2006.

Besides, it's Boston. It'll be just like the effort in Ottawa to make Ray Emery the scapegoat for the Senators falling apart. It's always easier to blame the guy who marches to the beat of his own drummer, especially when he truly has worn out his welcome.

Ramirez isn't the extent of Boston's problems -- about half their lineup has stopped hitting (distraction? normal fluctuation). That change because or despite a new left fielder. They're best off to pull the trigger; with their front office and revenues, writing off this season won't mean the end of their hopes of winning another World Series title in the next five years.

Meantime, Bay playing in Fenway Park? Didn't jamiecampbell tell us not so long ago that the pride of Trail, B.C., wanted to be a Blue Jay? The Rays do have a lot to offer in their farm system, and they're desperate for a lefty-masher in their lineup, so they might have more incentive.

(Jeff Passan, who seems to be fast becoming this generation's Thomas Boswell, hit one out of the park with his column from Beantown.)

  • Bless You Boys' take on the Tigers trading Iván Rodríguez, their only catcher, to the Yankees: "The Tigers better rub (Brandon) Inge with chicken bones after each game and make sure he sleeps on a cushion of dove feathers, however, because if he gets hurt again, their catching position is — how do you say — screwed."

    (It's somewhat astounding the Tigers trade a starter when they're 5 1/2 games out, while 250 miles to the east, another .500 team is acting like they still have a shot, in a better division.)
  • It's unclear what's at the root of the story about Heisman Trophy candidate Pat White saying he chose not to play baseball at college in part because the team at West Virginia doesn't have any black players. It seems like it's about a particular coach at his school, but man, is it ever sympotomatic of how baseball has turned away from African-American athletes. In another era, White would be someone's centrefielder of the future instead of leaving would-be tacklers with tube-sock tendrils trailing from their fingernails.
  • Phillippe Aumont pitched in a simulated game yesterday. Rattler Radio should have an update on the pitching prospect from Gatineau.
Damn, the Jays (but more about the Rays)

  • Here's the challenge: Watch Batting Stance Guy's imitation of various Blue Jays hitters from the past 25 years with the sound turned off and try to guess which hitters he's imitating. At the very least, it will take your mind off the fact losing 2-of-3 of the Rays removes all doubt about where the Jays are headed.

    It's incredible how well this evil genius can evoke ballplayers who played 20 years ago (although, if you're doing a cycle of Jays hitters, how do you not do Garth Iorg, who not only had the strangest name in baseball in the '80s, but probably had the strangest, wouldn't-let-a-Little-Leaguer-do-it-in-a-million-years stance?
  • Drunk Jays Fans has the takedown on Gregg Zaun for going into his little pout.
  • There's no interest in starting a vendetta with Torontoist. Mom always said, dilettantes bruise the easiest. Seriously, though, is it not irritating to see the dismissive attitude toward sports? "Still unexplained: why Tampa Bay is leading the AL East."

    God forbid the cool kids would ever little a sports nerd into their little circle if he wasn't up on whatever's current. But since you asked: The Rays' have cut their bullpen ERA from a beyond-sucktacular 6.16 last season to a downright decent 3.48, thanks to the choice to put lefty J.P. Howell and pick up righty Dan Wheeler. Their fielding has gone from porous -- they were 71 Fielding Runs Above Average in '07, meaning they basically gave the other team the equivalent of an extra run every game to among the league's best (Evan Longoria at third, Jason Bartlett at second and Akinori Iwamura at third, short and second is a vast improvement over whoever they were running out last season).

    The Rays are 8-5 since the all-star break. This is no fluke.

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