At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Monday, May 01, 2006

Observations Entering the Merry, Merry Month of May

Don’t blame Josh Bard for Tim Wakefield’s 1-4 April record, and do wish him well when he takes the field before tonight’s game against the Yankees … while it’s true the young backstop is having a tough time catching Wakefield’s knuckleball, the Sox scored only 10 runs in the five games in question, and just two runs in the last three. It’s tough to win ballgames with that kind of support, no matter who’s behind the plate – or on the mound, for that matter. (See Clemens, Roger, April 2005.)

And speaking of tonight’s game against the Yankees, I hope against hope that the good fans of Red Sox Nation exhibit enough class to stand and applaud Johnny Damon when he first steps to the plate. All the guy did in his four years here was play his heart out, without complaint of any kind, and he did have a major hand in delivering that elusive “first championship in 86 years.” So, please, let’s do the right thing and thank him for his service.

It’s difficult to overstate the impact Coco Crisp’s absence has had on the fortunes of the Red Sox. Not only does it leave the defensive hole we all feared we’d be stuck with when Damon first left for the Bronx, but it exposes certain offensive weaknesses by forcing Kevin Youkilis, an on-base machine, to the top of the order and stripping the bottom of a consistent threat to get on. Trot Nixon has to bat fifth to afford Manny Ramirez any kind of protection at all, and after that, well, it’s anybody’s guess. No wonder the club is having such trouble getting timely hits! The lineup’s strategic integrity was fractured when Crisp broke his finger, and it won’t be repaired until Crisp returns to action. The trick in the meantime is for the club to play at least .500 ball until then; otherwise, we may find ourselves looking up at both the Yankees and the Blue Jays come July.

Will the real Rudy Seanez please stand up? The right-handed reliever had a terrific year with San Diego last season, when he went 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.177 WHIP, but his latest stint in a Boston uniform has been disappointing, to say the most. So far he has posted no record but an 8.68 ERA and 1.929 WHIP, numbers more akin to those he put up in 2003, the last time he pitched for the Sox (0-1, 6.23, 1.962). A quick review of his career stats reveals this sort of up-and-down performance is not unusual, so perhaps we oughtn’t be surprised. But it sure doesn’t make his appearances any easier to watch, and if they don’t improve soon, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were replaced by one of the young guns in Pawtucket by the time the All Star break rolls around.

Lenny DiNardo, where are you now that we need you? DiNardo, at least, is left handed, and thus theoretically that much more valuable. Plus, he’s a starter, and he has the added ability of being able to absorb the innings that otherwise would have gone to the sidelined David Wells. But at 0-1, 7.36, 1.964, one has to wonder whether he’ll soon again be climbing back aboard the Lou Merloni shuttle to Rhode Island – or will the lack of a ready substitute assure his big-league meal money for a while longer?

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