Sunday, July 17, 2005

Reviews from everywhere

I gots movie reviews, book reviews and the review of an up and down first half for the 2004 World Series Boston Red Sox.

Let's start with the Sox first, because I'm almost a week late with it. The Sox finished the first half with a 49-38 record, which was one game better than last year. The did this without Curt Schilling (he pitched three games, and did so poorly because of an injury), one of the worst bullpen in the majors and not a lot of production from their second baseman.

The fact that they are in first place by a game is a minor miracle, which leads to the question: are the Red Sox overachieving or is the rest of the division underachieving? The rest of the American League East all have questions, the Orioles have no starters (unless they play the Sox), the Yanks have a crappy outfield defense and no pitching, the Blue Jays are the Hartford Whalers of the AL (forever mediocre) and the Devil Rays are the Devil Rays.

Are the Sox merely the cream of the crap or do they have a legit shot at winning the Series again? Since it's only July 17, it's hard to tell, but they need one thing in order to make me feel better about their chances: a bullpen. With Foulke out until mid-August after getting surgery on his knee (which supposedly has bothered him since he was a White Sox), the rest of the pen has to step it up a bit. Just about everyone has spit the bit. Embree has been horrible, Halama pitches well once a week and Mantei was a disaster (and is out for the year). The only two guys that manager Terry Francona has any confidence in is the two Mikes: Myers and Timlin.

Myers is a situational lefty who can't go more than an inning and while the numbers suggest that Timlin is having a solid year, it may be a mirage as he is allowing a lot of inherited runners to score. From the evidence, it seems that he is a guy that can not come into innings any more, as his ERA is microscopic when he starts one.

If the bullpen is that bad, than the offense is the good. Actually strike that last sentence, the offense is great. Forget Foxx and Williams; Yaz and Harrelson; Rice and Lynn and Cooper and Plantier (the last one is much easier to forget), Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz could be the greatest one-two punch that the Red Sox have ever had.

Manny started off the year slow and the media mavens were saying that he didn't care anymore and that he was "obviously distracted". I wish I could be so distracted at my job. He posted .275/.365/.557 with 23 dingers and 83 runs batted in. Ortiz has slumped for about a week, if you could call it that, and has .308/.388/.584 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs. These are incredible numbers that most people would be pumped to have for the season. There is still about 75 games left to play, it's astounding to think of what they can do.

And as good as the 3-4 punch has been, Johnny Damon has been just as tremendous. He's in the midst of a 28-game hitting streak and an argument can be made that he is the MVP of the American League, especially when you factor his defense into the equation. Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon and Bill Mueller have proven that they're worth their contracts with numbers that are close (if not better) than their career averages.

Nixon, in particular, has started to show Francona that he has shaken the boondoggle of lefties, as he's hitting .270 against them. Not bad numbers for a guy who couldn't touch southpaws in his previous ten years.

All of these offensive fireworks have been more impressive considering that their big offseason signing, Edgar Renteria, has looked as if he has not been comfortable since day one. I know nothing about the guy, so I won't speculate on the reasons for his struggles both at the plate and, most surprisingly, in the field, but I have to think it takes a while to get used to coming from over from the National League. I expect him to heat up in the second half the more acclimated he becomes to his surroundings.

The less said about Kevin Millar the better.

Led by Matt Clement, the starters have been ok. David Wells has been inconsistent, Tim Wakefield has been Tim Wakefield, there are some days when Bronson Arroyo looks like a world beater and other days where it seems he'd rather be at the Paradise rock club strumming his guitar. As an owner of Wade Miller in a fantasy league, he's been driving me crazy, but as a fifth starter, he's been ok.

The main thing that the Sox have to do is get Curt Schilling back to his workhorse form and leading this rotation. Even over finding bullpen arms, this is the most important issue facing the team in the upcoming months. If they can do this and get Keith Foulke back into the groove, the Sox will be the team to beat in the American League.

If not, then it looks like a long summer.

I finished this book, or at least a major part of it, earlier this week:

This collection had most of his writings and the one that I chose was his seminal "Thus Spoke Zarathusra".

First a little background on why I chose this: I've already told you about the dude I used to work with who turned me on to the ideas of Nietszche, when I finally got into college I wanted to learn all that I could about the German philosopher, so I took an 19th Century German Philosophy class with my buddy Archie. I was way over my head in this class, I was the only person who wasn't a philosophy major and I wasn't used to the writing.

Needless to say Hegel, Kierkegaard and Schopenhaur read like they were written in Chinese. The one thing that kept me in the class is the syllabus said that we were going over Nietzsche, but we never did. Because of his countrymen, it spooked me from reading "TSZ" because I thought that I'd never understand it.

Turns out I had completely psyched myself out, for while it wasn't "Nails" by Lenny Dykstra, it wasn't as incomprehensible as I originally thought. Sure, there were some rough spots and some contexts that I probably glazed over, but for the most part the message came through loud and clear.

While I am glad that I read it, I don't think that you can give this book a grade per se, I am more glad that I conquered this mountain myself.

I'm going to the movies in about 20 minutes, so I am going to wait until later in the week to review "The Fantastic Four" (which I saw yesterday) and the new "Star Wars" (which I am going to finally see soon).

Don't forget Wednesday, a new strip ... and if I may be so bold, it's the best one (art wise) that I've done so far.

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