My readers have been writing in, looking for ways to cope with what has transpired in the 2008 ALCS. The Rays are looking more and more like eventual World Series Champs. The once potent lineup of the defending champs, the Boston Red Sox, is looking VERY, VERY, average. Were through the Red Sox playoff rotation, and only one starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, has gone more than 6 innings. Josh Beckett, the once playoff ace, looked bad. Jon Lester, had that one off game we didn't want to see happen. As for Tim Wakefield, that was Wake, being Wake. With the Rays up 3-1, and on the cusp of the World Series, I'm answering all questions:
Forget the Rays, HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS?!?!?!
Joe, Worcester, MA
Sure, have your fun now. Two defensive backs, Roy Williams and Terrance Newman, are out with injuries, and one defensive back, Adam Jones, has been suspended by the league for at least four games. After being embarrassed by Arizona Cardinals, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, what else is in store for this secondary? Their punter, Mat McBriar (yes, it has one T), broke his foot in 1,000 places while getting a punt blocked on Sunday, he's out for the season. Pro Bowl quarterback, Tony Romo, is out until at least their Redskins rematch in 4 weeks. Immobile quaterback, Brad Johnson, will take over under center, a week after Romo was knocked down 100 times. To add insult to injury, bright light rookie, Felix Jones, will be out 3-4 weeks with a partially torn hamstring. At this rate, the next thing your going to tell me is they've traded and signed another malcontent "get me the damn ball" receiver. Excuse me while I open this bottle of Jamesons.
Do you think David Ortiz misses his friend Manny?
Rachel, Los Angeles, California
Reason 1: Why women analyzing sports is rarely a good thing.
What has happened to Ortiz at the plate? ZERO hits before game 4 in the seventh inning?
Steve, Boston, MA
It's clear that his wrist injury from earlier in the season has affected his timing at the plate. The Sox and Ortiz opted to sit him down, rather than having season ending wrist surgery, back in June. The question you have to ask yourself is, will Ortiz be ready by next Spring? How long of a recovery are we looking at, and once Ortiz is back in the lineup, how long before we start seeing the old David Ortiz? With the untimely departure of Ramirez and Ortiz unable to produce, the Red Sox lineup finally has some holes. I don't see how the Red Sox recover from a 3-1 deficit with the current state of David Ortiz' lumber.
Josh Beckett has no health issues, just like O.J. was not guilty!
Mike, New Hampshire
I sense sarcasm. Josh Beckett is a man avoiding Tommy John surgery like the plague. He's got no giddy-up on his fastball, has experienced numbness in his fingertips, and now is suffering from an oblique injury. Couple of thoughts on this one. The Red Sox are just as concerned, they place Beckett against Kazmir in game 2, a pitcher who the Red Sox have owned recently. They are sticking with him longer in games, trying to prove to him that he doesn't have it. They may have stayed with Beckett too long in Game 2, but no one likes a Monday morning quarterback. Beckett would be out an entire season if he went through Tommy John, but at this point, he should seriously consider it.
Rays 3B. Evan Longoria or Mets 3B, David Wright?
Sean, Queens, New York
Longoria, no doubt about it. Apparently the Rays know what they are doing. On April 18, before the eventual Rookie of the Year came into his own, the Rays locked him up for the next 6 years at just $17.5 million dollars. A contract which doesn't make Longoria a million dollar player until 2011. After tattooing the ball for 5 home runs in the ALCS, it's official Longoria is filthy. Not only that, but the guy is doing this on the biggest stage of his career. No disrespect to David Wright, but this is more about what Longoria can do, than what David Wright has done. In his rookie year, Longoria smashed 27 home runs and drove in 85 runners. The 23-year old, former Cape Cod Leaguer, and California native has a bright career ahead of him, and as for his days in Tampa, he's locked up.
Sure Ortiz isn't hitting the ball, but how much of the offense struggling can you attest to the injury of Mike Lowell?
Austin, Pensacola, FL
Much more than has been stated. Lowell is a flat out gamer, especially at Fenway Park in the postseason. The 2007 World Series MVP gutted it out as long as he could but as hips go, Lowell's was shot. Now with Lowell out, it isn't the defense that struggles, we know how good Kevin Youkilis is, it's the offense that has something missing. For a pitcher to face, Lowell, Bay, and Drew at 100% health, sure makes for a monster 5, 6, and 7 batters. Even with a struggling Ellsbury at the top and Ortiz in the middle, Pedroia and Youkilis can carry that portion of the lineup. The truth is, you lose something with Kotsay batting. With Varitek and any combination of Alex Cora or Jed Lowrie, the power really drops off after you face whoever is batting 6th. Remember, Lowell is the first older veteran non-pitcher we saw the Sox commit large money to. Before you talk Mark Texiera, the Red Sox knew before they re-signed Lowell that Texiera was becoming a free agent, and they were okay with that.
You tore down Manny for weeks, shouldn't you at least recognize that the Sox would be greatly helped by his bat right now?
Scott, Anaheim, California
Of course I recognized that, so did the Red Sox, so did Manny Ramirez and so did Scott Boras. That is why he no longer wears a Red Sox jersey. Had Manny kept quiet and played like an adult, the Sox would have been virtually forced to pick up his 2009 club option. That's why they didn't make a decision on him in March and wanted to wait. What would they get out of pitchers Buchholtz and Lester? If your staff is that dominate, maybe Manny's bat becomes expendable. If Ortiz' injury will affect the team in the postseason and 2009, Manny's option becomes all that more important. You think Manny and uber-agent Scott Boras, didn't see Ortiz get injured and become increasingly concerned that Epstein and Henry would pick up his option, thus delaying yet his final pay day? Of course they did. Yea I would love his bat this post season, and lets get it straight, I love Jason Bay, but he doesn't bring what Ramirez brought STRICTLY AT THE PLATE. Im getting bothered, no more Manny questions.
The fat lady isn't singing yet, BUT SHE'S HUMMING BABY!!!!!
Dicky V, St. Petersburg, FL
Oh, there is the only true Tampa fan I know. She may be humming but let me throw a little curve ball at you. Of the last 15 teams to be down 3-1 heading into game 5, only 4 have came back and won the series. THREE OF THOSE TEAMS ARE THE BOSTON RED SOX.
You picked the Dodgers to beat the Phils, the Sox to beat the Rays, right? So when neither of them get to the series, who will you be rooting for?
Jon, Philadelphia, PA
IN THE EVENT THAT WE DO SEE PHILLY v. TAMPA. I don't root for franchises from the City of Philadelphia, it's principal. Then again, the Tampa fans are completely fair weather and being a proud member of fandom, Philly does deserve to be rewarded for their loyalty. However, I want Mr. Magoo (Joe Maddon) to win a World Series. The guy has become one of the games top managers, in just a couple years with the Rays. He's done what Sweet Lou couldn't do in Tampa, win. A World Series championship is only further validation that he has joined the majors elite group of managers, names like Francona, Torre, Cox, and Scosia. And of course, I do like to punish the National League as often as possible.
What is in the stands at Fenway? THOSE AREN'T RED SOX FANS RIGHT?
Bill, Boston, MA
It puzzles me a bit; then again this is the first time in history we've been able to cheer for a baseball franchise that raises real banners. Sure, there is a ton of fans out there who are only on the wagon, that's what happens when you W-I-N. The fans that are on the wagon are usually the fans who can actually afford playoff tickets, they only stand up when there are two outs and two strikes, and a homer on to the turnpike shuts them up for 5 innings. Listen, it hasn't changed much, they are like Super Bowl fans with a bias. I wouldn't want my fans waving white towels like they do in Philly (last time I checked, waving a white flag = not a good thing) , clapping thunder sticks like they do in Anaheim, or wearing Manny hair like they do in Chavez Ravine. Give Sox fans something to cheer about, and they'll be hooked. You really thought Sully and Murph would be able to afford screaming obscenities at Carl Crawford while sucking down some Budweiser's at a playoff game?
Give me some faith, tell me Daisuke will be able to get the Red Sox back to Tampa?
Terry, Boston, MA
I have faith, not blind faith.