Feels like a decade since the Red Sox last suited up for duty, though I'm sure they wouldn't agree with that sentiment. Still, seems like we just went through the All Star break again this time blessedly without any All Star game. That the Sox are back at it today is good news for those of us -- maybe like yourself, certainly like me -- who can't quite get enough of the ol' baseball game. This is the home stretch you keep hearing about, folks. Boston will be playing 29 games in 30 days to conclude the season. The Sox are up by a game and a half on New York with six of those thirty left against them. Let the (ultimately academic) race (to see who will not win the division but still make the playoffs anyway) begin!
WEEI.com's Alex Speier notes how Jonathan Papelbon could have been posting Ks for the A's all these years. The reason: Oakland picked him in the 40th round of their overly celebrated 2002 draft, though with apparently little desire to actually sign him. This happens all the time. Often players are selected despite the fact that their performance doesn't dictate the type of salary which would in their eyes get them to sign. In Paps case, at least according to Mr. Speier, the A's had as much interest in signing the player as he did in signing with the team: zippo. In the end it sounds implausible that Papelbon would have wound up in Oakland, but it's hard to completely discount the idea. College and high school kids have certain ideas of when they want to turn pro and often those ideas are smashed as soon as the offer is written on a napkin and slid across the table. I'm assuming that's how they do it. Players and team reps meet at a diner and hash the particulars out over lots of bad coffee and pie.
This season hasn't exactly been a hothouse of pennant races. The Sox and Yankees are battling it out for AL East supremacy, but both teams know the "loser" of that battle will end up as the Wild Card and make the playoffs anyway. Beyond that, the only two close races are in the AL West where Texas has a three game lead on the Angels and the NL West where Arizona is up four games over San Francisco. Oh yippee. Matthew Carruth of Fan Graphs is about as excited about the prospects for an exciting end of the season race as I am. In fact, he actually does research into the matter and determines that actually yes, this year is particularly light in the drama department. That's one of the many differences between Matthew Carruth and I. He does research. Also he's twelve feet tall and made of goat cheese. It's true because I read it on the internet.
Beyond the Boxscore has their weekly power rankings posted. Buzzkill: the Red Sox rank third behind New York and Philadelphia. Yes, sure, it's disappointing, but still, I encourage you to put down that butter knife, put the poison back in the bottle (or tape deck), and, I don't know, have a muffin or something. Sheesh. On a different tact, it is interesting to note three teams who would not make the playoffs if the season ended today, the Rays, Cardinals, and Angels, rank sixth, eighth, and ninth in the rankings. Message: the playoff system is broken, folks. And adding one more "wild card*" isn't gong to fix it. If you buy that the Rays are the sixth best team in baseball, or heck, even the eighth best, they should be in, right?
*Can we please rename that? How about we call it the Chaotic Witty Person Who Doesn't Feel Like Making Jokes? OK, we can work on it.
This happened over the past weekend, but as you know it's not actually good news unless I say so. You can now rejoice: new signees Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts made their professional debuts for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. Swihart went hitless in two at-bats and though Betts had a couple hits, he also made three errors. The guys are very young and this is their first chance to get their feet wet at a pro level. But still, that kind of performance will not stand. Get it going guys or we'll cut you loose!
Finally, I'm a bit late to this harvest, but Allan at Joy of Sox has some suggestions for how to spend your downtime between Sox games. Hint: it involves noted baseball enthusiast and voice of all generations William Shatner.