1. Red Sox fans exhaled in unison when the surprising news arrived after last night's game that Dustin Pedroia's injury wasn't nearly as serious as it appeared and he would probably miss only a game or two. It looked bad, season-altering bad, and you couldn't help think the worst. The last time I had that queasy feeling watching a Boston athlete try to pick himself up after an injury was the moment after Bernard Pollard plunged into Tom Brady's knee. Pedroia's injury is undoubtedly a bullet dodged, though I think we're all pretty close to unanimous in believing that the "stingers" and any other painful nuisances going on with his surgically-repaired foot are more responsible for his .246/.362/.316 batting line than anyone with the Red Sox is letting on. Getting healthy and continuing to play is a difficult trick to pull off, but Pedroia has a rather admirable track record of success when he's faced with a challenge.
2. Nothing more so I tweeted the other day that I look forward to Adrian Gonzalez's at-bats with the same anticipation that I did when Manny came over from Cleveland in 2001. Every one is a must-see event; you know a hitter is truly great when he can stop me in my tracks en route to the fridge. Out of curiosity, I compared Gonzalez's start through his first 47 games with the Red Sox to the first 47 games of the Manny era. Just for the fun of it -- and perhaps to daydream about the feats a lineup with prime-of-career Manny and Gonzo might accomplish -- here's how the $314 million worth of sluggers compare:
Manny 2001: 209 PAs, 72 hits, 15 homers, 56 RBIs, .400/.483/.733, 1.270 OPS.
Gonzo: 2011: 211 PAs, 66 hits, 9 homers, 41 RBIs, .342/.393/.570, .983 OPS.
Conclusion: Um . . . wow. Even taking into consideration that Manny's early Red Sox days were in the heart of the steroid ere, he annihilates the comparison like it's a hanging curve from K-Rod. So let me ask you this: Are you enjoying Gonzalez's start with the Red Sox more than you did Manny's a decade ago?
3. David Ortiz's impressive start (.298, 9 homers, 22 RBIs, .894 OPS) actually isn't that much of an improvement over where he was at this date last season (.259, 9 homers, 23 RBIs, .870 OPS) after his awful April. But one statistic in particular does stand out as exceptional even by Papi's standards: Through 45 games and 189 plate appearances this season, he has a 1/1 K/BB ratio, having walked 20 times and struck out 20 times. This wouldn't have been unusual five or so years ago. During his 2006-07 height-of-his-powers heyday, he walked more than he struck out both seasons. But in 2009? Sixty more whiffs than walks. Last year? Sixty-four more. I honestly have no idea what to make of this.
4. I was in the house with a few old friends Sunday night to watch the anticipated James Russell/Tim Wakefield duel -- and watch the pitchers I did since from section 13, row 2, seat 17 there was a lovely green pole blocking any possible view of home plate. That's what they mean when they call Fenway "quaint," right? But of course any day at the ballpark is a good day, even with the quaint obstructions, and even after I did the rudimentary calculations and figured Wakefield has probably started 80 percent of the games I've seen as a fan the last 17 years. (The rest of the breakdown is 19 percent Frank Castillo, 1 percent Pedro, I believe.) But Wakefield's remarkable longevity in this city and with this team was put into further perspective a little later, when I realized that Russell was the son of former Sox closer Jeff Russell . . . who pitched here last in 1994, meaning he missed being Wakefield's teammate by a year. The way Ol' Knucksie pitched the other night, I wouldn't be surprised if he has aspirations to pitch against Russell's grandchildren someday.
5. Though he's apparently no Asdrubal Cabrera, who has already exceeded his career high in homers by four, I'm comfortable in my April assertion that Jed Lowrie will finish among the top five most productive shortstops in baseball this season. Defensively, however, that .942 fielding percentage and minus-25.2 UZR/150 go a long way toward explaining why Terry Francona speaks highly of him as a potential third baseman.
6. Criticizing Francona's decision to use Matt Albers instead of Daniel Bard in Game 2 of the Cubs series is the ultimate in second-guessing, a transparent attempt to stir the "Francoma"-bashing banshees. You can keep your hindsight; I'd go so far as to say it was the right thing to do, even as it ended in disaster, with Albers allowed six runs (five earned) without recording an out in the eighth inning. Albers has been one of the revelations of the season and had been nothing short of outstanding up until his meltdown, entering the game with a 1.56 ERA in 12 appearances. Further, Bard, whose struggles with command lately suggest a greater level of fatigue than he admits to, is essential to this team in the long run, and giving him a maintenance day every now and then -- and anyone else who needs one -- is actually admirable attribute of Francona's. Having Bard rested and healthy in October is far more important than winning the second game of three-game series with the Cubs in May. Thank goodness at least the manager has the big picture in perspective.
7. Caution is probably the proper path when it comes to analyzing Jarrod Saltalamacchia's recent hot stretch, which includes three homers in his last four starts, an .803 OPS in May, and a 1.054 OPS in his last seven games. But it's tempting to throw caution to the wind and watch it sail over the Monster, because the maligned 26-year-old catcher is making a believer out of me. Whether he's actually comfortable at the plate and with his role with the Sox or whether it's just a temporary tease, the reality is that he has begun rewarding the Red Sox' patience and faith in him. Given the paucity of adequate catchers these days, let alone decent ones, sticking with a hardworking former top prospect was the more prudent route than signing The Best Available Molina Not Named Alfred.
8. Be sure to check out this week's Red Sox podcast, which I somehow managed to get through without making one Are-we-tracking-Dice-K's-plane-back-to-Japan? joke. Perhaps this isn't as serious as it seems, but let's just say I have a hunch Matsuzaka has pitched his last game for the Red Sox, that Tommy John surgery is in his future and it will eventually be revealed that he was pitching through elbow pain (thus the lost velocity) without informing Terry Francona or Curt Young or anyone who pays salary. It would be an appropriate for his Boston career, which has consisted of 105 starts, 49 wins, 30 losses, a 4.25 ERA and a career similarity comp to the perpetually mediocre John Maine, to end on an enigmatic note. He earned his legend in Japan, but stateside, his greatness remains as mythical as the gyroball.
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Yeah, this one's more random than most. But we do have our reasons. He pitched for Cleveland, he was a perpetual Red Sox nuisance (2.42 career ERA), he had the kind of hellacious relief season you'll never see again when he went 13-5 with 29 saves, a 1.57 ERA, and a 264 OPS+ in 143 relief innings in '79, and by the looks of it he was the Bill to the Eck's Ted when it comes to excellent adventures.
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.