ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Infielder Marco Scutaro #10 of the Boston Red Sox acknowledges the crowd after his home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on September 11, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
I went to see the Vaux Swifts last night. They're not a hardcore band from Cincinnati, but a collection of small birds that migrate from the Pacific Northwest to South America. As they pass through Portland every September thousands of swifts bed down for the night in this huge chimney (seen here). They fly in waves, massive circles of more birds than most of us see in a month all in the sky simultaneously. Oh crap... there's a metaphor for something in there. Thousands of small birds randomly but coordinately circling what resembles a giant drain... Oh, man. I'm, I'm just blanking here. Darn!
Tuesday is Power Rankings day here at Daily Links, so put down that cake and that gun and get your power on. Fan Graphs, whose rankings use a nuclear powered solar calculator, has the Sox in second place in all of baseball behind the Yankees. Based on their ranking system which I've heard involves math, Beyond the Boxscore puts the Phillies in second and drops the Sox to third. The esteemed Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk uses a complex system of ropes, pulleys and snot to determine the the best teams in baseball, but one of the ropes broke so he just wrote team names on napkins and threw them all down the stairs at once. The Red Sox landed on the fifth stair with the Braves, behind the Phillies, Yankees, Tigers and Brewers.
The Red Sox have been playing, to use a technical term, craptastically this month. There are a million reasons for this, apparently. I touched on one, the starting pitching, yesterday here at OTM. Marc also reminded us that, despite what we've seen over the last eleven days, the Sox are still positioned much more strongly than the Rays. If that wasn't enough for you, well shame on you, but even so, the unstoppable Alex Speier of WEEI.com has a thesis on the topic for you. Lest that appear to be an insulting lead in, I should say Mr. Speier's piece is the kind of thing that is sadly not found in most mainstream sports sections anymore. It's an excellent piece and you should read it. He goes through all the problems in great detail (lousy base running, garbage relief pitching, injuries, etc.) but concludes that, despite it all and despite the usually sage words of Big Papi, panicking is premature at this juncture. I'm on the fence. My heart says 'panic like it's 1978' but my brain says, 'hold off a bit there, heart, there's lots of time to right the ship.'
One reason we are certain is contributing to the Red Sox swoon is injuries. The loss of starting pitching is what speaks most loudly to me, but losing Kevin Youkilis hasn't helped either. The sad part is Youk may not be much more than some part of 100% for the rest of the season as he's dealing with an especially painful injury in the dreaded sports hernia. That's according to Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh from Baseball Prospectus. The news isn't better or worse just different on Erik Bedard. Bedard is suffering from a a few maladies, the second of which was likely caused by his attempt to plow through the first. It's called a cascade injury and it's nowhere near as fresh or charming as it sounds.
Could Theo Epstein really join the Cubs as their new GM? SI.com's Tom Verducci thinks it's a possibility if for no other reason than the job is an enticing one. The upshot is pretty much everything you'd think: the Cubs are a sleeping giant with as much potential for renewal as the Red Sox possessed when John Henry took over the franchise back in 2002. If Epstein could engineer that turn around it would combine with his two World Series victories in Boston to create one of the greatest resumes a GM could fathom. What I keep coming back to though is, yes, of course the Cubs job is, as Verducci puts it, an excellent fixer-upper, but what is the upside of the job? I'd argue the upside is what Epstein has right now with the Red Sox. Of course I don't know the inner specifics (is Larry Lucchino talking particularly loudly on his cell phone in the next cubicle this week? Did John Henry fail to clean out the coffee filter again last night?) but it would seem unless there's a vast difference in salary, the Cubs would offer an opportunity to start over and create the Red Sox. But Theo already has that job.
Finally, this is pretty sad.