Friday, May 21, 2010

Opinion: Ortiz should start planning exit strategy

There are a lot of players in every sport that hang on too long.  Some guys try to squeeze every at bat, inning, goal, touchdown, and -- most of all -- dollar -- out of their big-league career.  I could not say I would not do the same if I could.  But, if David Ortiz wants to keep his legend intact with the Boston Red Sox, this should be his last year in a Red Sox uniform.

Recent failures may never tarnish his golden moments, the ones that will live and thrive in the hearts of Red Sox Nation forever.  But, his early-season struggles of the past two years have taken some of the starch out of Ortiz and how he has been received by the fans and the media.

He clearly does not want to be benched or substituted for Mike Lowell or anyone else.  He does not appreciate the media writing that he is washed up.  But, the Boston that Ortiz knows is not the Boston of earlier generations.  This media corps has seen a lot of Red Sox success.  It was not too long ago that the Boston writers would not have given this much of a leash to someone like Ortiz.  But, Ortiz is a conquering hero and someone who deserves months or even seasons to get it right.  That was last season.

This year, Ortiz had a similar frigid start to the season, and the writers are at his throat.  The fans have followed a little more cautiously.  How much longer can the Boston media coexist with Ortiz?  For all of his successes, Boston writers will state he has not been the same since Manny Ramirez was traded.  It is hard to argue that point.  Jason Bay and Victor Martinez have not provided the protection that Ramirez once provided Big Papi.

The best should leave on their own terms.  Leaving at the top of one’s game rarely occurs.  For every Barry Sanders leaving the Lions and Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls the first time, there are countless has-beens who should have been enjoying retirement or at least escaped from the city from which they are eternally attached before they had to leave. 

It is already too late for Ortiz to leave with all of his legend intact.  The second one of a dynamite duo rarely does.  Ramirez left first and he basically forced his way out of town, but the fans have to look lovingly at Ramirez from afar, wishing he was still hitting in the middle of the Red Sox lineup.  Ortiz gets what is left behind and has not been able to recapture the same magic, personally or as a team, since Ramirez left.

Before it gets too much worse, Ortiz should start planning his exit strategy.  Maybe Ortiz can have a solid three-quarters of the season and leave on a high note.  If he muddles around .200 for the rest of the year, the decision will be made for him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sports With The StatMan #59: Show Notes

00:00-25:00 – Flyers come back from 3-0 in series and in Game 7 to stun Bruins
25:00-33:00 - Montreal slays another giant in the playoffs, Flyers-Montreal preview
33:00-38:00 - Chicago owns Canucks in Vancouver
38:00-46:30 - San Jose getting tougher, San Jose-Chicago preview, Predictions
46:30-55:00 - Yankees facing the best of the AL Central
55:00-58:30 - My trip to Target Field
58:30-64:00 - Mets facing divisional foes
64:00-70:45 - Red Sox: Beckett issues, Ortiz heating up
70:45-75:00 - Phillies: Injury news, Manuel talks about sign-stealing
75:00-81:00 - Fantasy Minute
81:00-82:30 - Final Note

Main Points
00:00-25:00 – Flyers come back from 3-0 in series and in Game 7 to stun Bruins
  • How big of a loss was this in Boston sports history?
  • Players returning from injury in Simon Gagne and Michael Leighton made the difference in the series
  • Gagne gave the Flyers the fuel to push them over the top
  • Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is playing everything just right, evidenced by the timeout called down 3-0 in Game 7, maneuvering around goaltending injuries
  • The only way the Flyers could get home ice is this very matchup (#7 Flyers vs. #8 Montreal)
  • What will change for the Bruins before next season?
  • What happens now to the psyche of the team, especially young goaltender Tuukka Rask? If you remember, Brian Boucher was an up-and-coming goaltender for the Flyers with some playoff success before blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Devils in 2000 stunted his growth.
25:00-33:00 - Montreal slays another giant in the playoffs, Flyers-Montreal preview
  • Jaroslav Halak carried the Habs against Washington in the first round, but it was a team effort in Game 7 at Pittsburgh (W, 5-2)
  • Hal Gill and Josh Gorges are the defensive tandem getting the attention for Montreal in the playoffs. Gill was with Pittsburgh last year and has been called on to shut down the likes of Ovechkin and the big guns on Pittsburgh.
  • Philadelphia loves to score goals on chaotic goal-mouth scrambles. It will be up to Gill and Gorges, along with the rest of the Montreal defense, to clear the crease and make sure Halak can see Flyer shots.
  • Cinderella teams that ride a hot goaltender have the tendency to turn into a pumpkin in the Conference Final
33:00-38:00 - Chicago owns Canucks in Vancouver
  • Chicago was the only home team to win in this series as they won Game 2
  • Chicago scored 12 goals in Games 3 and 4 and won both games in Vancouver
  • Roberto Luongo has failed against Chicago as he has tried to build a reputation of a good playoff goaltender
  • Chicago is in the Western/Campbell Conference Final in consecutive years for the first time since 1989-90
38:00-46:30 - San Jose getting tougher, San Jose-Chicago preview, Predictions
  • Marleau and Thornton have played well in these playoffs
  • San Jose shed their playoff failure label after handling defending Western Conference champs (Detroit) in five games
  • The kids are still alright in Chicago
  • Through the Second Round: 7-5 in Playoffs, 2 exact hits (winner and games)
46:30-55:00 - Yankees facing the best of the AL Central
  • Phil Hughes is pitching like he belongs in the Big Three of the Yankee starting rotation
  • Hughes’ inning count is rising quickly, but he is a lot more economical than Joba Chamberlain was as a starter
  • Alex Rodriguez hit a grand slam to pass Frank Robinson for 7th all-time in HR (587); the grand slam tied him with Eddie Murray for 3rd in GSHR with 19 (Lou Gehrig 23, Manny Ramirez 21)
  • Will the next generation of kids remember and be able to recite the home run career leaders? Will kids remember 762 like they remembered 755 and 714? Will it take a chase of Bonds for the top spot to ingrain 762 in our heads or have steroids taken the bloom off the rose forever?
55:00-58:30 - My trip to Target Field
  • Early returns on how the ballpark is playing: ball is carrying down the lines, not in the alleys or straight away center
  • Champions Club has all of the amenities, but only one bathroom
58:30-64:00 - Mets facing divisional foes
  • The great comeback game against Washington, in which the Mets scored 6 runs in the 8th, was the only win of the week for the Mets.
  • Ike Davis must have patented his foul pop catch and subsequent dugout flip. He has done this three times now and, New York, those things get candy bars named after you.
  • The time has come to take Oliver Perez out of the rotation. In his last two starts, he has allowed 21 baserunners and recorded only 20 outs.
64:00-70:45 - Red Sox: Beckett issues, Ortiz heating up
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka looked like the Dice-K of old using his fastball in his last start, striking out 8 of 9 Blue Jays on fastball
  • Josh Beckett has a back issue and will skip his turn this week. He is scheduled to go Tuesday against the Yankees. Is his back an issue or did they give him some time off to figure things out?
  • Even though the Red Sox have Jon Lester and John Lackey, they need a healthy and effective Beckett to win
  • David Ortiz is starting to hit for power, hitting two against Detroit on Friday night. Since hitting .143 in April, he has four multi-hit games since then to raise his average to .213. Ortiz had his 34th multi-HR game on Friday, which is third in Sox history (Ted Williams 37, Jim Rice 35). Ortiz is a Red Sox all-timer because of his playoff performance, but he is starting to get those longevity statistics as well, even though he is hanging on.
  • Manager Terry Francona will not commit to returning Ortiz as the everyday DH. Mike Lowell (.269-1-9) has gotten very little playing time. Adrian Beltre is still entrenched at 3B. Beltre is hitting .311, but he is not hitting for power.
70:45-75:00 - Phillies: Injury news, Manuel talks about sign-stealing
  • Brad Lidge may have some elbow issues, which could be a big problem because with Ryan Madson on the DL and J.C. Romero best in a setup role, who would close games?
  • Jimmy Rollins started his rehab today and could return for next week’s (May 17-23) homestand
  • Manager Charlie Manuel responded to the Rockies accusing the Phillies of stealing signs at home. Manuel asked how the Mets play so well at home and said the Mets should be checked for stealing signs. The only thing missing from the Mets-Phillies rivalry is a full-out bench-clearing brawl. Eventually, the off-the-field stuff will probably escalate to on-the-field actions.
  • tells you what they really think of Charlie Manuel
75:00-81:00 - Fantasy Minute
  • Last 7 Days (week ending Friday, May 14th)
    • Hitters: 1. Ichiro Suzuki SEA 42 FPTS*, 2. Mark Teixeira NYY 36, 3. Hunter Pence HOU 34, 4. Casey McGehee MIL 33, 5. Alex Rodriguez NYY 32
    • Pitchers: 1. Dallas Braden OAK 54 FPTS* (perfect game), T-2. Johnny Cueto CIN 47 (1-hitter), T-2. Joe Saunders LAA 47, T-4. Jeremy Guthrie BAL 46, T-4. Mat Latos SDG 46 (1-hitter)
  • Season-To-Date (through Friday, May 14th)
    • Hitters: 1. Andre Ethier LAD 154 FPTS* (overtakes Braun for the season lead), 2. Ryan Braun MIL 150, 3. Miguel Cabrera DET 138, 4. Vernon Wells TOR 134, T-5. Evan Longoria TBY 130, T-5. Justin Morneau MIN 130
    • Pitchers: 1. Roy Halladay PHL 201 FPTS* (1 more start than rest of starters in Top 5), 2. Ubaldo Jimenez COL 182, 3. Tim Lincecum SFO 176, 4. Adam Wainwright STL 159, 5. Matt Capps WSH 158 (only reliever in Top 5)
81:00-82:30 - Final Note
  • Dallas Braden is still talking about Alex Rodriguez. Braden’s 15 minutes of fame just got extended with a perfect game last week.
  • Mark your calendars: the Athletics have two more series with the Yankees this season. The next time they meet is a three-game set in Oakland (July 5-7) and they also have a four-game series at Yankee Stadium (August 30-September 2). There may be some fireworks.
Next Week
We will return to our regular spot on Wednesday night at 9pm Eastern time. On the show (#60), the Flyers continue their charge toward the Stanley Cup. We’ll talk Conference Finals in the NHL. We will talk baseball, with the mini two-game series between the Yankees and Red Sox over with and it is Oliver Perez’s night to start, so we will see if Perez is still in the rotation. We will also preview Interleague play 2010 and see if the American League will dominate yet again. All of this and more on Sports With The StatMan.

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Upcoming Schedule
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Final Predictions

#8 Montreal defeats #4 Pittsburgh, 4 games to 3
The defending Stanley Cup Champions did not get out of the second round, as the Penguins dropped Game Seven at home.  Montreal got through Washington on the wings of a 3-1 comeback and the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak.  But, Montreal won a second Game Seven on the road because of more than just goaltending.  A 4-0 lead early in the second period made the final game anti-climactic.

#7 Philadelphia defeats #6 Boston, 4 games to 3
It was a tale of two series.  The Bruins had a 3-0 lead and held all of the cards.  The Flyers' Simon Gagne came back from injury in Game 4 and finished the series with four goals in the last four games of the series, including two game-winners.  Brian Boucher's luck was about to run out, losing the first three games before winning Game Four and was injured in Game Five.  Michael Leighton came off the bench, back from injury, and carried the Flyers in goal the rest of the series, making history along the way.

#1 San Jose defeats #5 Detroit, 4 games to 1
San Jose has shed their labels of playoff failures after this series, making it to the Conference Finals and they got there with their stars being stars.  Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau had great series and Joe Pavelski continued his big play in the second season.  Detroit was tired after a seven-game series win over Phoenix, but San Jose was rested and ready to go.  The Sharks built a 3-0 lead and won in five.

#2 Chicago defeats #3 Vancouver, 4 games to 2
Chicago owns Roberto Luongo, especially in Vancouver.  In the Conference Semifinals, Chicago has now defeated Vancouver in two straight playoffs, making it to consecutive Conference Finals for the first time since 1989-90.  Chicago is young and Vancouver's defense could not keep up.  The beat goes on in Vancouver with yet another playoff loss, but Chicago's renaissance continues.

EASTERN CONFERENCE: #7 Philadelphia vs. #8 Montreal - PHILADELPHIA in 7 games
Flyer fans were dejected after being down 3-0 to the Bruins.  They were skeptical after wins in Game Four and Game Five.  After a Game Six win at home, the city was captivated.  Now, after doing the very, very improbable, the city is electric.  Welcome to the Conference Finals, which open Sunday in Philadelphia.  Montreal has played the maximum amount of games in both playoff series so far, so I think this will go the distance.  Montreal has won two Game Seven's on the road, but Philadelphia has the electricity of its fans and its city behind them.  Flyers in seven.

WESTERN CONFERENCE: #1 San Jose vs. #2 Chicago - CHICAGO in 7 games
Chicago has the longest drought of any team left in these playoffs.  A loss to San Jose would make it 50 years, but the Blackhawks are on their way back to prominence.  Despite their cap troubles, the time is now for Chicago.  Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook are the stars, but Antti Niemi has played better than expected in the first two rounds.  Both teams are running on all cylinders, but there is magic in Chicago.  I am picking the series to go the full seven games and for Chicago to win the deciding game on the road.  Blackhawks in seven.

Join me on Sports With The StatMan (#60) this Wednesday night at 9pm ET.  For the full wrap on the Conference Semifinal round, listen to last week's show on the show page (

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