Manny Ramirez broke his public silence over the weekend, and it wasn’t to explain why he nearly went mental on a pitch he clearly swung on and missed in yesterday’s 5-1 loss to the Diamondbacks.
It wasn’t in an attempt to attract a $139,000 bid for the custom 1967 Lincoln Continental he’s put up for auction.
It was, indeed, in order to promote his personal hair stylist, Lmonstro, whom he introduced to NESN’s Tina Cervasio on Saturday in Arizona. No, really.
“When you look good, you play good,” Ramirez boasts in the piece.
Is that it? Well, get Julio Lugo in that barber’s chair then. Stat, already.
Is it too much to ask of the Red Sox front office that this team find a shortstop that might last more than a season in Boston? They’re already paying $3 million a season for Edgar Renteria to play elsewhere after his disastrous one year here. But after two-plus months of watching Lugo, it’s a safe bet Red Sox fans are reminiscing with a general fondness for the player Kevin Millar once begged fans not to boo.
It was somewhat of an atypical day for Lugo yesterday in Arizona, in that the Red Sox' leadoff hitter actually got on base. It was just Lugo’s third hit of the 3-4 road trip, despite playing in every game. His average actually dropped from .224 to .213 over the last week, the worst batting average among leadoff men in the major leagues. His on-base percentage is a pathetic .274, an atrocious number from any spot in the batting order, simply unacceptable from your leadoff man (only Craig Biggio is worse - .271).
His .592 OPS – worst among leadoff men.
His .318 slugging percentage – worst among leadoff men.
And yet, of his 239 at-bats thus far this season, exactly two – two – have come out of the top slot in the batting order. Uh, Terry...
The Red Sox may still possess the best record in baseball, but they also can tout the worst leadoff hitter in the game. Lugo’s debut season with the Red Sox has been nothing short of a mess, the latest in an apparent conveyor belt of shortstops Theo Epstein and company try to sell as the solution. No, really, this time.
It’s like what Bill Devane told Jack Bauer, “Everything you touch ends up dead.” Maybe Epstein should take heed.
Of course, there is always the ensuing resurrection once these guys get out of Boston too.
Forever fan favorite Orlando Cabrera is hitting .335 for the Angels, and is in the top three, along with teammate Vladimir Guererro and Grady Sizemore with his 15 win shares this season. (Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis lead Boston with 11 each.)
Renteria’s .903 OPS is tied with Carlos Guillen of the Tigers for best among major league shortstops.
Good grief, weak-hitting Alex Gonzalez has 11 home runs for the Reds, as many as David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, and two more than he had all of last year with the Red Sox (although his nine errors are also a pair more than he had last season in Boston).
And then, there’s the incumbent Bostonian shortstop, continuing the trend of underachievers at the position.
For as unremarkable as Lugo has been in the field, he’s been just dreadful at the plate. It’s quite remarkable that the Red Sox are in the position that they are, up by 9 ½ games over the Yankees, who according to the reactive New York press junket, after winning six games in a row should re-sign Alex Rodriguez and wave goodbye to Jason Giambi. Lugo’s 34 RBIs are second among leadoff men, and he’s a perfect 17-for-17 in steals, but he is meandering close to the Mendoza Line. One can only imaging what Lugo and Coco Crisp could do to opposing pitchers if they ever got on base with their speed and distractive measures. One will have to keep imagining for the time being.
When Epstein went out and bid against himself for both J.D.Drew and Lugo, most Red Sox fans didn’t get it. They still don’t. And the confusion only gets more muddled with every passing game, in which J.D. Drew and Lugo continue to astound the masses with their relatively subpar approach to the game. The reality is that anything less than this historic run the Sox have gotten off to out of the gate, it would all be enough to make the folks paying for the ducats have some serious concerns about the folks in charge of the on-field product.
Oh, sure, the Red Sox farm system is proving itself to be an abundance of resources, with guys like Dustin Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon some of the recent success stories. But when it comes to high-priced free agents, the Red Sox haven’t exactly has much glowing success recently Lugo, Drew, Renteria, and Matt Clement just a few of the ill-advised moves the team has made.
Lugo, at this very moment is the poster child, if only because Drew’s Friday evening proved how devastating this team can be with a No. 5 hitter that can produce. If Lugo wasn’t enemy No. 1, he was Thursday when his error provided the end of Curt Schilling’s possible perfect game. And think, if he makes that play then Shannon Stewart is in the on-deck circle with two outs in the ninth inning, not slapping a single to right field.
For what Lugo lacks defensively, it is said that he gets to balls that “most shortstops don’t.” Which is a concerning phrase if I ever heard one, seeing as that’s the excuse most gave for Nomar Garciaparra’s defensive issues at the position. Right after the team traded him in 2004, one unnamed Red Sox executive memorably called him “the worst shortstop in baseball.” In fact his overall zone rating for that season was .753, worst among major league shortstops and his .957 fielding percentage in his final months in Boston would have bested only Kansas City’s Angel Berroa in the American League.
Lugo has certainly been better than that. His .842 zone rating isn’t exactly as good as Cabrera’s .874, but he’s in the middle of the AL pack (Derek Jeter is last, .756).
But Boston understood it wouldn’t be getting a Gold Glover out there, just someone who played the infield satisfactorily was good enough for the offensive capabilities he was going to bring. We’ll repeat it in case you didn’t get the point: Worst leadoff hitter in baseball.
It was back in March when I ran into a Dodgers fan, tending bar in a Rocky Mountain saloon. When the conversation turned to baseball as its wont to do in any bar, any time of year, he professed his admiration for Lugo, a player who had had no more than a cup of coffee with his team the second half of last season. Sorry, I told him. I don’t understand what you could have possibly seen in that time frame, especially since Lugo hit just .219 and played in just 49 games with the Dodgers.
“You just wait,” he said. “Boston is lucky to have him.”
He didn’t mention exactly how long we were supposed to wait. Some time, I gather. But don't you just feel lucky?