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It's become apparent that Jason Varitek is this year's version of Kevin Millar '05, a struggling veteran who is so respected by Terry Francona that he is going to be given every chance to right himself. Even as he hopelessly flails and fails at the plate, even as the manager's blind loyalty leads to lost ballgames.
Varitek is in an inconceivably awful slump - he's 3 for his last 48 and 12 for his last 102 - and he's so slow and out of sorts at the plate that he looks like he's swinging a telephone pole; he actually looks as bad as his numbers would suggest.
Yet last night Francona let Varitek bat with the game on the line, and it's not the first time this week he has done so; predictably, Varitek again accounted himself like an oversized Craig Grebeck, striking out to end the game, and the Sox lost again.
I realize one of Francona's many strengths as a manager is his faith in his players, and more often than not that faith is rewarded down the road. But this has gone beyond the point of ridiculousness. If Sean Casey is available to hit and Kevin Cash hasn't entered the ballgame yet, he has to hit for Varitek in crucial situations. He has to.
I hate to say it, but his slump has gone on so long and has been so gruesome that it might be time to wonder if this is who Varitek is at this point in his career. I wish Francona had the same thought before the ninth inning tonight.
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The combined linescore for Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen tonight: 30 pitches, 4 hits, 2 walks, 6 earned runs, ZERO outs recorded. It was like watching a two-man tribute to Wes Gardner.
I don't know about you, but I've had about enough of the of these million-dollar-arm, filthy-stuff types* who light up the radar guns, excite the scouts, and always seem to become moonie-eyed and wild when a game hangs in the balance.
Hansen and Delcarmen ooze talent, but it remains to be seen if they have any of the other attributes required to be consistently successful major league relief pitchers.
(* - I was going to include David Aardsma in that group as well, but he was a hero tonight, recording an actual out and everything.)
How desperate is the bullpen situation becoming? I just caught myself wondering if Mike Timlin, who hasn't given up an earned run in his rehab stint at Pawtucket, might be the seventh- or eighth-inning answer.
Yup, that's how desperate.
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Now that the Rays are, more than a decade into their existence, a real major league team with real major league players, I find myself longing for the days when they had "Devil" in their nickname and a hell of a time putting a competent team on the field.
For old time's sake, let's take spin through baseballreference and reminisce about all the stiffs that dotted their hapless roster from year to year.
Ryan Rupe . . . Tanyon Sturtze . . . Jesus Colome . . .
Brent Abernathy . . . Steve Cox . . . Bobby Smith . . .
Julio Lugo . . .
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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
He's among my favorite Red Sox players of all time, and I will forever praise Manny Ramirez, in part because someone needs to counteract the venom that polutes the airwaves in the morning and at night. But even his most ardent apologist wishes he'd start hitting fastballs again and stop hitting the people who share the clubhouse with him. He does not make rooting for him easy.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.