No Regard

June 6, 2008

Swept

Filed under: Uncategorized — hoyler @ 5:55 am

I’ll be the first to say that James Shields is, by far, my favorite Major League Baseball player.

But while most Rays fans are not going to call out Shields for his decision to throw at Coco Crisp in retaliation for a supposed attempt to injure second baseman Akinori Iwamura with a chippy slide on a stolen base attempt Wednesday, I’m going to.

The move was short-sighted and one you would expect from a pitcher with maybe 10-15 starts of ML experience. Not from a guy like Shields, who had to know how important this game was to the Rays, who were again stomped out in Fenway as the Red Sox completed a 3-game sweep with a 7-1 win.
Fight(Courtesy Michael Dwyer/AP)

Now, the Rays are 1.5 games back leaving Boston and while they still hold the lead in the AL Wild Card position, they find themselves in sort of a “must-win” situation for the rest of their road trip, which will now take them to Texas and then Anaheim.

I don’t want to hear how Boston’s anger over all of this shows that they now consider the Rays a threat; that’s not a positive in a game that was imminently winnable. Shields’ short-sighted actions will probably cost him another start next week in Anaheim.

I guess that’s the only positive; Shields gets suspended, misses a start, either Jeff Niemann or Jacob McGee come up and dominate the Angels, and then one of those two can replace Edwin Jackson. Jackson needs to be moved to the bullpen as a long man, because as last night showed, that’s one piece clearly missing from Tampa’s bullpen. Grant Balfour, while improving and showing good stuff as a middle reliever, is nothing more than a 4 or 5 out guy on his best day.

Don’t Look Now, But Here Comes Milwaukee

Their projected ace is out for the season.

Their $10 million closer is the ultimate bust.

Their slugging first baseman turned into a vegetarian.

But with a 9-1 record in their last 10 and riding a 6-game winning streak, the Milwaukee Brewers are right back in the thick of things in the National League race, sitting just 3.5 games back of the Wild Card leading Cardinals. Their sweep of the Diamondbacks was especially impressive and a good sign that they have righted the ship.

This isn’t a sure thing, of course. Their starting rotation still has Seth McClung in it along with an over-reliance on 5th starter-types like Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan. Manager Ned Yost is also doing his best to piece together a bullpen, with Carlos Villanueva’s move from the rotation the latest attempt at bringing some stability to the back end of the pitching staff. That move is working to this point and if Carlos continues to pitch well in the late-inning role, he may end up the closer before long. He has the ability to miss bats, which is key for a closer.

We’ll know the Brewers fate by August 1. Their next 25 games are crucial; only 3 are against a divisional opponent and 15 of them are on the road. They need to stay afloat, because from July 5-31 they play 17 of their 24 games at home, with 4 of the road games coming against the Cardinals. If they can be 4 games out of the Wild Card and say, 6.5 games out of the division on July 5, we’ll see a team with a great chance at emerging at the end of July in the playoffs.

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