Playing a World Series-bound nine innings while wishing Woody Williams were starting Game 1 for the Cardinals …
1. The most amazing thing of all of the amazing things about Xander Bogaerts‘s accelerated emergence this postseason? That extraordinary patience in circumstances that would make even the most experienced hitter anxious is something he’s only recently added to his repertoire. In Double A last season, Bogaerts walked once in 97 plate appearances. Now he’s somehow reading and laying off Max Scherzer killer sliders and changeups in breathtakingly tense circumstances like it’s no big deal. If you think that’s easy to learn, consider the ongoing pitch-recognition issues of Will Middlebrooks, for one example. It’s kind of amazing: Bogaerts, in mastering the small things that are really huge things, might be on his way to exceeding the expectations of those of us who already designated him as can’t-miss.
2. Good thing Daniel Nava has had a lot of practice dealing with being underestimated and overlooked, because his current status with the Red Sox is somewhere between puzzling and inexplicable. Yes, the Sox are unbeaten this postseason with Jonny Gomes in the lineup. But it’s tough to draw any kind of direct correlation between the two — he had a .438 OPS against the Tigers and didn’t drive in a run. Meanwhile, Nava hit .322 with a .411 OPS against righthanded pitching this season, and he did finish strong overall, putting up a .333/.400/.476 line in September. He was one of the unsung offensive standouts in baseball this year — did I mention he hit .336 in the second half? Gomes is a great teammate, and he’s helped them win in some small ways. But burying Nava’s bat for the sake of a bearded good-luck charm makes little sense.
3. I still can’t believe Jose Iglesias made that error in the seventh inning. And to be honest, I still can’t believe Drew made that play. Good thing they kept the glove-man around at short, right? All facetiousness aside, Drew offered a couple of examples over the final two games of why he remained in the lineup even though it feels like he hasn’t had a hit since his junior year at Florida State. Remember, he saved Jon Lester from a potentially game-changing throwing error in Game 4. I don’t know if Bogaerts makes either of those plays, but I’m pretty sure I know what John Farrell‘s answer would be.
4. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver didn’t seem to realize that comparing Iglesias to Rey Ordonez isn’t the compliment it is intended to be. Oh, yes, the glove is marvelous; I’ve never seen a shortstop catch the ball in the Venus-flytrap manner Iglesias did on David Ortiz‘s popup in Game 5. But Ordonez had a .600 career OPS and lasted fewer than 1,000 big league games. Iglesias should strive to be more than Ordonez, an overrated flash.
5. Even taking the small, power-free sample size of this postseason out of it, don’t the Tigers already have to be having buyer’s remorse with Prince Fielder. He hit 25 home runs this year, a fine number, but half as many as he hit in 2007. And he has $168 million left on that contract. That’s a lot of dough, and I say that with the suspicion in mind that they’re actually paying him with Little Caesar’s pizza.
6. Here’s one example of how the Cardinals have maintained organizational excellence: When Albert Pujols left for the Angels, the Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran — he of the 1.173 postseason OPS in 198 plate appearances — to a two-year, $26 million deal. Beltran has a higher OPS for the Cardinals (.836) than Pujols does for the Angels (.823). Then they used the comp pick they received for Pujols on a skinny righthander from Texas A&M named Michael Wacha, who morphed into the Kershaw Slayer just 17 months after he was drafted.
7. Didn’t remember this until recently, but the Red Sox were very interested in signing Beltran before last season. Sounds like he got impatient waiting for the Sox to resolve other issues and took the Cardinals’ offer in the interim. Wonder how different this current Sox roster would be had they signed him. Shane Victorino probably wouldn’t be here for starters.
8. During one of the games in the ALDS round against Tampa Bay, I watched from the auxiliary press box above the visiting bullpen as Franklin Morales warmed up. It was alarming how few strikes he threw just getting loose, to the point that I assume John Farrell gets word his ready when his curveball is bouncing at 58 feet rather than 57. I’d probably keep him on the roster over Matt Thornton, but in any situation where the Sox need to get tough lefty out, I’d much rather see Felix Doubront come into the game.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
The Red Sox-Cardinals matchup in 2004 doesn’t seem that long ago, does it? Yet the last time these two franchises met in the World Series, the Cardinals’ current manager, Mike Matheny, was the starting catcher. And his backup was the current backstop and one of the most valuable players in baseball, Yadier Molina, who was just 21 in ’04. By the way, think Evan Rust feels a twinge of disappointment every time he sees this card?