Monday, April 16, 2007

For The Fallen Hokies

"Techmen, we're Techmen, with spirit true and faithful,
Backing up our team with hopes undying;
Techmen, Oh, Techmen, we're out to win today,
Showing pep and life with which we're trying."

I mean there is really no way for me to put into words what happened today, nor can I really describe the feelings that flowed through me today, not only as a college student, but as an American. The senseless acts that occurred at Virginia Tech really just made me stop and wonder how this could still happen. I'm not going to dive too far into this, but I just want to give my deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who's lives were taken today, and I will continue to pray for those who survived, and also anyone who has anything to do with Virginia Tech right now.

It's going to be tough to continue on after that, but I'm going to give it a go, and hopefully, this will help some of you out there.

So another Patriot's Day has come and gone, and outside of what happened in Blacksburg, was one of the most memorable (in a positive way) "Marathon Mondays" in a long time. First of all, the good ol' Red Sox got off to their usual early start (actually, they were scheduled for 10:00, but the game got pushed back to 12:15) and were able to pound out the Angels for the third straight game. I think the weather definitely had a huge factor in the way the Angels played over the weekend and into today. When you are facing Nor'Easter-like conditions, and you play half your home games in sunny Anaheim, you know there are going to be problems. Orlando Cabrera continues to play well against us (3 for 9, HR, SB), which makes me think the Sox should conspire with some NL team to pull of a three-team deal to get Cabrera out of the league, because as long as they face him, he is going to continue to show he deserved the $9 million he was looking for after 2004. An interesting note is what happened to Vladimir Guerrero, as he was hit on the wrist with a Josh Beckett fastball in the first inning. The X-Rays taken after the game came up negative, which was followed by a huge sigh of relief from all Angel backers out there. Guerrero is the centerpiece of this team. If they lose him for any amount of time, I would expect the Angels to start falling apart, because if the weekend was any indictaion (and again, it could all be related to the weather, but I mean...they got absolutely smoked), then the Halos cannot depend on the starting pitching that they have out there right now (Weaver is still on the shelf, and Colon has been smoking hot in his rehab starts). If you take out that kind of bat from the order, forget it (too early to start calling for the SI jinx?)

If the Sox ever wanted to start building a lead in the division, now would certainly be a good time. With 4/5 of their starting rotation on the DL, the Yanks are looking as vulnerable as ever, especially when you consider how their series with the A's ended (Mariano Rivera giving up a walk-off homer to Marco heard me), the Bombers are in dire straits at the moment (speaking of which, one of the best music videos ever...face it, anything in the 80s involving Sting kicked an incredible amount of ass). The rumor mill is running hot right now for Roger Clemens, but don't panic too much Red Sox Nation, as it seems as though the Rocket is staying to his word about not deciding on anything until June. In the meantime, the Yankees will be hoping for some kind of Shawn Chacon/Aaron Small magic that they got two years ago from some of the guys they will be bringing up or signing. Phillip Hughes is young, but he's going to have to get in there and get his hands dirty at some point. The good news is that, from their three offseason moves (Jaret Wright, Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield), they were able to acquire some major-league ready talent (Chris Britton from Baltimore, Luis Visciano, who is mostly a set-up man, from Arizona, and Humberto Sanchez from Detroit). With the added depth, they at least have options, which would be a completely different story if something like this happened last year.

Speaking of which, I have been thinking about how the Sox would be able to deal with a similar situation (hey, I'm knocking on wood, but when you have two guys nearing 40, another guy with past blister issues, and a guy who is pitching every five days for the first time in his career, some questions may arise you know?). I wouldn't say that we would be completely in the clear, but I think we have some capable guys coming up through the ranks that could be able to fill-in for a given period of time (definitely not the whole season yet though). So, here's kind of an impromptu look at the arms who are on the farm right now who could be surfacing in the next few years:

Jon Lester: Ok, I know what you're thinking. This guy has already been up to the majors and has pitched nearly a full season. However, after battling lymphoma, Lester has made a miraculous comeback, and is doing some great things in Single A Greenville. With former Sox favorite Gabe Kapler looking on as his skipper, Lester has put together two strong outings, and is now begging Tito (Sox manager Terry Francona) for more innings. It looks like Lester could rejoin the big league team as early as mid-to-late May, which is incredible considering he was diagnosed just eight months ago. Lester is a solid #5 because a.) he's a lefty in a division where a majority of the good hitters are lefty as well, and b.) he has a great array of pitches, from a high 80s fastball to a 11-5 curve. If his rehab stints continue to go well, he will replace Julian Tavarez, as he will return to his more "natural" role as the long relief man (I say natural because he pitches two to three innings out of the bullpen with a lot more confidence and better stuff than he does when he starts games).

Devern Hansack: This guy has been on absolute fire since starting the year in triple A Pawtucket. Hansack has started two games so far, going 10 and 2/3 innings in two starts, with a 1-0 record, 0.83 ERA, 3 BBs, and 20 Ks!...20 strikeouts in two starts! The reason Hansack did not make the big club out of Spring Training (where he was also outstanding) because the Sox felt like if Hansack started the year in Pawtucket, he would get valuable game experience that would serve him in the future. If he were starting for the Sox right now, who knows? He could be a phenom, or he could get lit up. I think the Sox made the right move here, because even though AAA ball is very competitive, it's still AAA. If he gets beat up down there, it's not going to be as big of a deal as it would be with Boston, where he would have thirty different press guys slam you in all these different publications. However, I think Hansack will not have to worry about that, because this guy looks like he's the real deal.

Manny Delcarmen: Of course, there's the hometown hero, and my favorite prospect going right now. Delcarmen, in limited time last year, showed he could be one of the better set-up men to come along in the Sox organization in quite some time. After Tommy John surgery in 2003, scouts have said that he has actually gained some velocity on his fastball, which is now topping out at around 97 MPH, and uses a change and a real nice curve in his arsenal. Delcarmen will be called up at some point this me (people, people...Joel Piniero...Joel freggin' Piniero...I mean what would an offseason be without overpaying for a reliever?).

Craig Hansen: My have the tides turned on Hansen. In what seemed to be the lock to replace Jonathan Papelbon in the closer role, Hansen was horrendous in Spring Training, forcing the Sox to re-evaluate their entire bullpen situation. In three games this season in AAA, Hansen is sporting a 1.80 ERA, but also an inflated WHIP of 2.20, so Hansen still has a long way to go in terms of contributing in the bigs. He has great stuff, but again...Scott Boras...yikes!

Kason Gabbard: The guy who can say he recorded the final win of the 2006 season for the Sox, Gabbard has been up and down in the minors, especially last year, where after being solid at double A Portland (9-2, 2.57 ERA), he really struggled at AAA Pawtucket (1-7, 5.23 ERA). Injuries have factored into his development, but Gabbard has shown good mound presence, combining a low 80s fastball with an above average change-up. I think he is still about two years away from making any kind of impact in the big leagues (where he will likely be used in long relief situations).

Clay Buchholz: Ths guy seems to be the #1 guy in terms of pitchers right now, and with very good reason. His minor league record last year, while splitting time between Greenville and Wilmington, was an impressive 11-4 with a 2.42 ERA in 24 starts, including a gaudy 140 Ks and an even more impressive .208 average against. Buchholz starts the year in Portland, but look for a quick call-up to the PawSox, and then, inevitably, his time will come to take over one of the spots that Schilling or Wakefield will leave open. What makes Buchholz such a great prospect is that he can throw five pitches for strikes, including a two-seam and four-seam fastball that he can pipe in at around 94 MPH, a sweeping curve, slider, and change-up, which he generally keeps in the high 70s. He was named the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, and I would not be surprised if he repeats that honor this season.

Bryce Cox: In just his second year of pro ball, Cox is already being rumored as to being an addition to the Sox once the rosters move from 25 to 40 players in September. Cox was an intricate member Rice Owls to the 2005 College Baseball World Series title, and immediately put in three appearances in 2006 after being drafted in the same year in the 3rd round. Scouts have been raving about his stuff (mid 90s fastball, sharp breaking slider, and a change), but control has been an issue in the past. With the talented coaching staffs that will be working with him in Portland, Pawtucket, and eventually Boston, Cox will flourish. The only question is where does he fit into the Sox plans in the grand scheme of things?

Daniel Bard: The Sox infatuation with Bard is the reason Todd Helton is not manning first base at Fenway right now. Bard, who is just 21 years old, was a first-round pick in last year's Draft. Standing at 6'4, Bard is known for his velocity, as he hit the high 90s in regulation while playing his college ball at UNC. Bard is a raw talent, and as of right now, he is being used out of the 'pen, but has not had a good time of it so far playing in single A Lancaster (two appearances , 4 1/3 innings, 7 ER, 7BB, just 2 K's). I'm not sure if the Sox are going to continue to groom him as a reliever, as he was a starter in his three years with the Tar Heels. Look out for this guy in the future though, as he has big-league stuff already.

So, God forbid the Sox need to tap any of these guys throughout the year, but still, it's good to know there is a bit of a net underneath them should things start to get dicey this year.

It's funny how today's Boston Marathon, in the men's division, was oddly comparable to a Nextel Cup race. To start the race, you had two guys (Josephat Ongeri and Jared Nyambok, who are both Kenyan, but were representing the U.S. as they hailed from Huntsville, AL) who got out to a huge lead, and I mean huge. At one point, they were ahead of the lead pack by almost three minutes. However, just like in NASCAR, when you are left out all by yourself, and you are facing a pack that are drafting off of each other, and have a monster aerodynamic edge, the pack will catch up inevitably, and this was no exception. Fellow Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot eventually crossed the finish line in first, picking up his third Boston Marathon overall, and his second in a row. Because Cheruiyot had also won the Chicago Marathon, he collected a cool $500,000 in addition to the $100,000 he got for winning the race (that's-a nice!). The top American finisher was Peter Gilmore, who finished in 8th. On the women's side, one of the favorites to win the title was actually an American (Deena Kastor). Ultimately though, Kastor would finish 5th (which is still an amazing accomplishment), and Lidiya Grigoryeva from Russia ultimately took home the crown. This was one of the worst weather conditions to ever hit the Marathon since its inception 111 years ago, and yet, it has never been canceled. So if you took part in the race, or know someone who did, I pass on my congratulations, especially this year, because that's a hell of an accomplishment to run that far in any kind of conditions, let alone the ones that faced the runners today.

Am I the only one who loves the La Quinta commercials? I don't know, it's just so incredibly catchy to me. Anyway, if you haven't seen them, or have, but am not sure what I'm talking about, today's your lucky day (maybe): 1, 2, 3

Well, that's going to do it for now. Actually, I have just one more bit of housekeeping to take care of. I know I have been telling a lot of people about my trip in May up and down the East coast checking out different parks. Here is the initial itinerary of my whirlwind bus tour:

May 14: Columbia, SC: Capital City Stadium
May 15: Greenville, SC: West End Field (Greenville Drive vs. Augusta Green Jackets)
May 16: Charletson, SC: Joseph P. Riley Field (Charleston Riverdogs vs. Rome Braves)
May 17: Richmond, VA: The Diamond (Richmond Braves vs. Rochester Red Wings)
May 18: Philadelphia, PA: Citizen's Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies vs. Toronto Blue Jays)
May 19: Flushing, NY: Shea Stadium (New York Mets vs. New York Yankees...that's right)
May 20: Washington, DC: RFK Stadium (Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles)
May 21: Bowie, MD: Prince George's Stadium (Bowie BaySox vs. New Britain Rock Cats)
May 22: Baltimore, MD: Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles vs. Toronto Blue Jays)
May 23: N. Myrtle Beach, SC: Coastal Federal Field (Myrtle Beach Pelicans vs. Winston-Salem Warthogs)
May 24: St. Petersburg, FL: Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Seattle Mariners)
May 25: Bradenton, FL: McKechnie Field (Minor League Baseball Offices)
May 26: Atlanta, GA: Turner Field (Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies)

Again, this should be an incredible time, and I will be keeping a running diary of all the events along the way. So, until next time, thanks for reading. Peace.


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