Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Morning Roundup

Colour me baffled by Sportsnet's decision not to air this morning's Bosox-A's season opener from Tokyo in Ontario while it was on the network's West and Pacific channels. If I was willing to get up at 6 a.m. for it there must've been others who'd have preferred the game to a half dozen-odd consecutive repeats of last night's Sportsnet Connected, right?

No, a tape-delayed version of the game is not on later today at a more reasonable hour. The Hockey Team That Shall Not Be Named is playing the Bruins tonight and there are as always hundreds of thousands of morons out there who constantly set themselves up to have their hopes dashed across rocks. Sportsnet does have a nice little 1-4 p.m. block this afternoon that it's filled with the following: FIS SBX World Cup Lake Placid, USA (skiing? figure skating? darts?), Drive-Thru Europe (some sort of car driving event?), and best of all, Best Damn Sports Show 2008. At least I know what the latter is: a clip show that just couldn't wait for a dead spot in the sched.

I was actually planning on being a bit angry about this until I realized that I have as yet to inform mlb.tv that I was not renewing my subscription this year. They sent me an email last week to let me know that they'd taken the liberty of assuming that I would and have billed my credit card appropriately. At the very least, I can go back to watching three games at once while only being moderately distracted from the work I'm supposed to be doing. Haha, fellas, well played; I guess I have to let it slide now.

Incidentally, tomorrow's Bosox-A's finale in Japan is on Sportsnet Ontario at 7 p.m. There you have it, a bone has been thrown to the baseball-starved masses of central Canada.

Things are looking neither grim nor rosy for recently injured third bagger, Scott Rolen. Cathal Kelly reports that he's had surgery to have a screw inserted in the banged up middle finger on this throwing hand and a second visit to the doc to have it removed is scheduled for two week's time. The bad news is that he will not be playing in any capacity until this thing comes out, but the good news is that his return thereafter will be determined by his pain tolerance level. We all know it's high, so expect him to come back raring to go.

So confident am I that this will be a short-term injury that I told my buddy Jay that I'd eat the January 2008 copy of Diplomatic History currently sitting on my desk if Rolen wasn't back playing by April 15.

With Rolen set to miss at least the first six games of the season (3 game sets against the Yankees and Bosox), Marco Scutaro will fill in as the regular 3B in his absence. It seemed to quite a few of us that he'd become redudant with the acquisition of David Eckstein, forcing J-Mac back into a backup infield role. Kelly reports that JP now seems more than a little pleased with himself with the move:

Asked if the loss of the team's biggest off-season acquisition is a major blow to the new campaign, Ricciardi answered quickly.

"No, we've got (utilityman Marco) Scutaro. Our bench is as deep as it's ever been. A major blow would be if we lost someone of that calibre for the year."

I will concede that one. A week's worth of ABs to Scutaro is definitely not the same as a week's worth of ABs to the three-headed suck monster of Howie Clark, Hector Luna, and Russ Adams.

Blair is in mid-season grumpy form today. Why?

* if Rolen could at least DH we could deny ABs to Frank Thomas and help keep him from reaching the 376 plate appearances he needs for his $10 million 2009 option to kick in
* he's skeptical that Rolen's return could come as soon as fortnight from now; the loss of Rolen means a huge hit both offensively and defensively
* he's skeptical that AJ Burnett is capable of change/showing maturity
* Casey Janssen
* BJ Ryan's forearm soreness means he will be held back until mid-April at the earliest
* The Big Hurt has looked awful at the dish this spring and is probably going to fall of a cliff this year
* there are a bunch of no-name retreads vying for the final bullpen spot or two

I certainly don't disagree that there have been a considerable number of unfortunate developments in recent weeks, but I think making the assessment, which Blair seems on the verge of doing, that our "ship has sunk" is highly premature.

Some counterpoints:

* Overbay, Wells and Zaun are all healthy and seem poised to rebound from awful years
* Shaun Marcum is mixing in a sinker, which might well prove to be a weapon that helps him cut back on the long ball, his achilles heel
* Burnett is throwing his curveball again after the fingernail incident
* we still have the solid Jeremy Accardo to close until BJ comes back
* Brandon League is back in 2006 form
* Jesse Litsch is showing growth as a starter
* for good or ill, the LF log jam has now been solved and Adam Lind's place will be adequately held warm for the next few months
* we still do have depth at pretty much every position and guys like Scutaro or Barajas won't embarass you if they're needed for any length of time

As much as I do like Blair's work (and the sense of humour that shines through in the Globe's baseball blog) I think it's fair to point out that he has a tendency to make the most pessimistic of assumptions on most occasions. I know he's not employed to be a cheerleader for the club, but still...

I can't speak for my co-writers, but I'm fully prepared for another third place finish this year. That said, I do accept that things just might break well enough for this group to sneak into the playoffs. It's a longshot, a real longshot. I know.

In a more positive development, the Star is reporting that Alex Rios is "on the verge" of signing a 6-year, $65 million extension. Yes, I will be dancing naked in the streets when that happens.


* JD "Nancy" Drew is injured already, Josh Beckett goes on the DL and Andy Pettitte is looking extremely unlikely to make his first start. Teehee.

* Is Jason Bay more excited about the 2009 World Baseball Classic that his upcoming season with the Pirates? I'm going say yes.

-- Johnny Was

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