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BASEBALL NOTES


BASEBALL NOTES
Hopefully, Manny Ramirez will be the tipping point.

Hopefully, any major leaguer about to cycle up, down or sideways from steroids, HGH - or whatever the latest form of performance-enhancing drug - will take a second to realize that his chances of escaping detection are slim enough not to warrant the risk.

Hopefully, Ramirez' suspension for using a banned drug also will signal the beginning of the end to the days of shock and awe over the disclosure of another superstar, or average Joe, succumbing to the lure of PEDs. Players have been cheating to gain an edge since the 19th century, and while that doesn't make their actions right, it makes the constant state of scolding and hands-on-hips outrage about what this sport is coming to as tiresome as Ramirez' space cowboy act.

Sports mirror society, and last I checked, the law enforcement business has not been a casualty of our economic crisis.

If anything surprises me, it is how the Red Sox have managed to not take a direct hit in the steroids scandal. Dating back to at least 1996, when Roger Clemens left the club and allegedly found a new way to prolong his life in Toronto after being goaded by then-Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette about being in the ``twilight of his career,'' the Red Sox have dodged bullets.

Jose Canseco played for the Sox in 1995 and 1996 - a couple of those twilight years for Clemens - but since it is assumed Canseco was juicing everywhere and always, his Red Sox stint gets lumped in with every other team.

Six of the Red Sox' eight highest single-season home run totals occurred between 1996 and 2004, and while that statistic alone is not evidence of a crime, let's just say that it would not be hard to convene a grand jury on it.

Ramirez left the Red Sox last July 31, irked after 7 1/2 hellish years of having to play for the Red Sox , having forced his trade to Los Angeles, where he did nothing but post monstrous numbers for the Dodgers - up until being caught for violating Major League Baseball's drug policies last week. Ramirez was 36 when he left the Red Sox , Clemens was 34. Maybe they each succumbed to the temptation of PEDs only after they left Boston, when they thought it would be impossible to play to their Fenway-forged standards. Maybe. The Red Sox have avoided a steroids scandal out of sheer luck, not because of some ingenious inner fortress of safeguards that they alone have been able to maintain.

Ramirez' transgression appears to be both a bad and a sad one. He made a poor choice and, if I had to guess, he was making those choices when he played for the Red Sox as well.

He got caught, and he got caught after he left the Red Sox . So it has gone in this damnable steroid era, which we can only hope is drawing to a close.

The Red Sox probably will not stay above the fray forever. What matters more than luck is skill. And Baseball has implemented, skillfully, an effective drug-testing program. It works. Hopefully it continues to weed out the cheaters so that we can all move on, without the taint, and keep watching and playing Baseball.

And, as Baseball Prospectus noted, we should shortly begin to get a good gauge on how the average fan feels about Ramirez' situation. It's called the All-Star ballot, and Ramirez' name is on it. He has bowed out of more than his share of All-Star Games in his past, but he has been voted in nine of the last 10 years. That's star power. The power of steroids? We will find out shortly.

Tub thumping

When the Red Sox had their out-of-body, 12-run sixth inning Thursday night against the Indians, it was their biggest single-inning outburst since they scored 14 runs in the first against the Marlins at Fenway on June 27, 2003. That game was No. 81 of the season for the Marlins, whose record dropped to 40-41 with the loss. The Marlins later cited the thumping as a turning point for their season, which culminated with a World Series championship.

After the big loss, the Marlins offense did not appreciably change, but the pitching tightened, the club's second-half ERA going down to 3.83 after a 4.24 first half.

That said, nobody in their right mind is saying that the Indians are going to turn it around in the second quarter, never mind the second half. The 2003 Marlins had Josh Beckett and Brad Penny on their staff, while the Indians have Cliff Lee and . . . some other guys. The Tribe's ERA after Thursday's game was 6.09.

Around the horn

The Red Sox had the fourth-worst batting average in the majors hitting changeups and sliders, while ranking No. 3 at hitting curveballs and No. 5 at hitting fastballs, through the middle of last week, according to ESPN research. . . .

With the Diamondbacks' disappointing start leading to a managerial change, about the only bright spot in Arizona is that outfielder Justin Upton is beginning to blossom into the very special player many have predicted. After his slow start, Upton woke up at the plate at the beginning of this month. He had four home runs and seven RBI in the first seven games of May and although he still strikes out a lot, he is getting better in that department. What is so special about those numbers? Upton is 21 years old. . . .

Cheers to Bobby Scales, who at age 31 and after spending 11 years in the minor leagues, finally made it to the big leagues on Tuesday, starting at second base for the Cubs. ``I kind of wondered if today was going to come but there was no doubt in my mind I could play,'' Scales said. ``No matter what happens the rest of the way, they can't take it from me. I got it. I earned it. And I'm just fortunate to have it.'' . . . Indians right-hander Fausto Carmona has decided that he will no longer speak with the media. Carmona's pride was apparently wounded when the media did not seek comment from him after last start. ``I'm not mad at anybody,'' Carmona told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. ``I'm just not talking to the media for the rest of the year. I'm serious.

``If I throw good, bad or a no-hitter, I'm not talking.'' . . .

Our best wishes for a speedy return to health and the broadcast booth to NESN's Jerry Remy. Our thoughts are also with Sean Berry, the Astros hitting coach, who had surgery Friday to remove a cancerous tumor on his right kidney. Berry appeared in exactly one game for the Red Sox , on July 24, 2000. He went 0-for-4. . . .

Five weeks into the season, and there are three, maybe four, early leaders for AL Rookie of the Year. Barring a late surge from someone else, bet the bank that one of these guys will win: Toronto outfielder Travis Snider (atop both the home run and RBI leader list); Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus (runs and hits leader); Chicago second baseman Chris Getz; or Minnesota catcher Jose Morales. Among rookie pitchers, Toronto's Scott Richmond is leading with four wins and was averaging more than six strikeouts per start. . . .

Through Thursday, the Phillies pitching staff had allowed a staggering 46 home runs in their first 25 games, their staff ERA of 5.30 was the worst in the National League and their closer, Brad Lidge, had a 6.75 ERA. And they were in first place in the National League East.

- msilverman@bostonherald.com

GRAPHIC: THE START OF SOMETHING BIG:

By going 6-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA in his first six starts, the Royals' Zach Greinke joined a select group of pitchers who have gotten off to such a sizzling start. Such fast starts are never a fluke (none of the 6-0, sub-1.00 ERA club have ever finished the season with an ERA above 3.00), and is not a bad predictor for Cy Young Award winners.

TOTALS THROUGH SIX WINS SEASON TOTALS

Pitcher Year W-L ERA BB K IP BAA W-L ERA Cy Young

Zach Greinke 2009 6-0 0.40 8 54 45 .189 ?? ??

F. Valenzuela 1981 6-0 0.33 11 50 54 .176 13-7, 2.48 Yes

Roger Clemens 1991 6-0 0.73 8 51 49 .157 18-10 2.62 Yes

Pedro Martinez 1997 6-0 0.79 10 49 45.1 175 17-8 1.90 Yes

Cliff Lee 2008 6-0 0.81 2 39 44-2 .163 22-3 2.54 Yes

Whitey Ford 1956 6-0 0.83 17 35 54 .234 14-7 2.01 No

Bob Turley 1958 6-0 0.83 26 38 54 .137 21-7 2.97 Yes

Juan Marichal 1966 6-0 0.90 5 34 50 .164 25-6 2.23 No

Randy Johnson 2000 6-0 0.91 10 64 49-1 .156 19-7 2.64 Yes

SOURCE: Baseball-REFERENCE.COM

STAFF GRAPHIC


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 12, 2009

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