Injuries Healing, Offense Back
No surprise that with the return of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Red Sox have found their offense again. After seeing signs of life against the Royals, the Sox exploded on the Rangers in their last two games, putting up 30 hits and 24 runs on Texas. It took them seven games to score as many runs before the Royals series. For their part, Ortiz and Ellsbury have gone 6-for-14 with a home run and a double since returning, with Ellsbury making some great plays in center field. After a month of mediocrity, it seems like everything might be finally getting back to where it should be.
Carl Crawford Warming Up, Changing Stance?
Believe it or not, Carl Crawford has a .820 OPS in August, thanks largely to his current seven-game hit streak which includes a pair of doubles, homers, and walks to just three strikeouts. Recent weeks have seen Carl's stance become more reasonable, and in his impressive performance last night, he changed his approach all-together. While his timing step used to trend towards right field, often leaving Crawford off-balance especially on outside pitches, he now seems to draw more even with his back foot, and on Wednesday even featured a toe tap, essentially separating his timing step from the closing of his stance. Hopefully the changes continue to pay such dividends.
Matt Albers Falling Apart
Boston's seventh-inning man has been infinitely hittable so far this August-a far cry from the lockdown performances he'd been offering up for much of the year. At the moment, it seems like Albers is just running on fumes, losing control except for when he tosses it straight down the middle. The results have been 18 baserunners and 11 runs in just nine innings, and seemingly the loss of Terry Francona's confidence in close games.
So far, his position has been filled by some combination of Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves. While Aceves has been reliable all year long, Francona is going to have to adjust his usage of him in mop-up situations when he has more important innings to throw.
Morales, on the other hand, does not really inspire much confidence even with his impressive results of late. It's going to take a big week to reassure the organization that he's the answer for them in the playoffs.
Theo And Chicago
Rumors have been stirring that Theo Epstein might be interested in joining the Chicago Cubs should they try to recruit him as their general manager. Count me as a skeptic.
Consider the situation he has in Boston: owners with open pocket books, apparently complete control over the running of baseball operations after his 2005 gambit, and a ship so secure that he's able to pull off big-name signings like John Lackey and Carl Crawford without having news break until the contract is signed.
The reason he might be interested would be for the challenge. If Theo is a Bill Parcells type of guy who likes to fix things up, then maybe he'd be inspired to end another long championship drought. Given his re-signing with the Sox after the 2004 World Series, however, it's not clear that this is the case at all. The only reports connecting Theo to Chicago haven't cited any sources, either, suggesting that it's more a matter of conjecture than anything else.
If anyone big-name GM would be interested in taking the job, Brian Cashman is the one that comes to mind. He's been openly critical of the Steinbrenners and the organization over the past year, and was vocally opposed to the signing of Rafael Soriano (score one for him there). With his contract ending this year unlike Theo, whose deal expires after 2012, it's possible the position will already be filled.