This photo is made of 98% concentrated grittitude. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The Boston Red Sox are alive. Like, actually alive, with the hitting and the pitching and the winning of baseball games. Sustainable? Who knows, although the talent is certainly there. But this is the best week of baseball we've seen out of the Sox in quite a while. With Boston about to run through a gauntlet of Texas, New York, and Detroit, it's good to see them playing this well. If they can keep it up and at least split those nine games, we should have an interesting August ahead of us.
It's easy to forget just how different things felt when the week began. All eyes were on Kevin Youkilis, and because of that we started to see a return of the "Bobby Valentine has lost his clubhouse" speculation. Had the Chicago series gone differently, it might have gotten ugly around here. But then the Red Sox decided to prove, once again, the basic point that chemistry somehow doesn't matter so much to the press when you're winning. Three impressive wins against the White Sox later, and the lamenting of the Bobby V/Youk feud seems to have gone away.
There were certainly other storylines flying about, with trade speculation heating up, injured players coming back to the team, and Cody Ross showing the world how to properly flip a bat. Recap on the way right after the jump.
Returns, and imminent returns, dominated the week's news. Former Boston favorite Kevin Youkilis made his first appearance at Fenway since his abrupt trade in June. I gave my thoughts on what it's like to see an old friend in a new uniform. Matt Sullivan discussed the bad feeling surrounding Youk's departure, and what it might say about the Red Sox. Carl Crawford made his long-awaited season debut, and as Marc pointed out, it couldn't come at a better time. Theoretical Boston closer Andrew Bailey is also nearing a debut, giving the Sox something to hope on in the bullpen. Finally, the Lizard has grown a new thumb, and his return gave Boston the best kind of problem: too many good hitters and not enough prime lineup spots.
It wasn't all good news, because it's still the Red Sox. Rounding second following an Adrian Gonzalez home run, David Ortiz injured his heel. An MRI showed no serious damage to the Achilles tendon, but the Sox still placed Ortiz on the DL, not wanting to take any chances with the guy who's been their most productive hitter all season long.
Ten days to go until the trading deadline, and so far there's been a lot of meh, with Jeremy Guthrie going to the Royals in exchange for Jonathan Sanchez, and the Blue Jays and Astros pulling off the least interesting ten-player swap in baseball history. Trying to spice things up, we continued our Armchair GM series, with Marc, Matt Collins, and lone1c each taking a turn at the wheel.
There was also real (well, as real as this stuff gets) trade speculation flying around the interwebs. Boston fans' hopes for a Justin Upton trade were dashed by the revelation that the Red Sox are one of the teams on Upton's no-trade list. While no-trade clauses can certainly be bought out (a major reason why big-market teams tend to wind up named in no-trades), the need to do so makes Upton substantially less attractive as a trade target. One Diamondback who might be of more interest to the Sox is shortstop (and brother of JD) Stephen Drew. Speculation swirled around potential trade talks involving Carl Crawford, while Buster Olney wondered if the Sox would consider trading Jon Lester. While neither of those is likely to happen, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said that Boston could do something bold at the deadline. And then they did, sending Justin Germano to the Cubs for cash. No, wait, that's not bold, that's the other thing.
In deeper analysis, Marc went over Aaron Cook's season, in particular his bizarrely low strikeout and walk rates. Matt Kory broke down the critical at-bat between Jon Lester and Kevin Youkilis (man, that's weird to type) in Tuesday night's game. Finally, Marc gave us a peek at the perfect bat-flip mechanics of Cody Ross.
Fun week, fun weekend to come. Aaron Cook tries to keep his sinker rolling tonight against the Jays. Happy Saturday, all.