The man with the most RBIs in the majors this season was out of the lineup yesterday afternoon, choosing to rest against the Tigers rather than against the AL West-leading Angels. But even the very idea of a day off clearly rankled Nick Cafardo, in an article with the puke-worthy headline, "No beating the heart of Millar":
He's a little quieter these days, but one thing his teammates can say on Kevin Millar's behalf is he wants to play. Wants to play every day. They wish they could say the same about Manny Ramirez. ...Chris Snow began his Globe notebook with similar doubts:
[D]id they lose [yesterday] because arguably the best righthanded hitter in the game decided he needed yet another day off because he felt "beat up," according to Sox manager Terry Francona?
It's not a stretch to say that having Ramirez in the middle of the lineup might have been the difference between winning and losing yesterday. ... None of us would ever doubt that a player needs a day off here and there. Playing a long season in hot weather isn't easy. And players who are 30 and older need more rest. ...
There was July 27 in Tampa Bay, the most maddening instance of them all. There was July 30 and all but two innings July 31 against Minnesota, as the trade deadline came and went. There was Aug. 4, following the collision with Edgar Renteria. And then there was yesterday, the fifth time in the last 18 games that Manny Ramirez enjoyed at least a partial day off. ...The other Boston and Hartford papers had very little to say about Ramirez's day off. If you've spent any time here, you know that I'm a huge Ramirez fan (or some might say, an apologist). I don't see the big deal here. Ramirez was ready to pinch-hit twice yesterday, but his teammates ended two separate innings before he could bat. He could have pinch-hit for those hitters to begin the following inning, but it seems that Francona wanted him to hit with men on base.
The team, it should be pointed out, has a scheduled off day Monday and has enjoyed three off days since July 27. Ramirez's requested day off followed a shaky stretch in left field, as Ramirez made three errors in four games. Two of the errors led to three unearned runs. ... "Sometimes when guys get either tired or beat up, for some guys it's concentration," Francona said. "It's not just physical, it's mental."
As far as Ramirez's fielding, I don't care about how many errors Manny is charged with. He has booted some balls -- most Red Sox players have -- but for years, we've all seen plays that should have been errors called hits and vice versa, so the actual number of errors charged to Ramirez is meaningless. And while Tito said fatigue might have affected Manny's fielding, it hasn't blunted his batting. In his last eight games, Manny is hitting .400 (12-for-30) with two homers, eight RBI and 14 runs scored.
By way of comparison, Johnny Damon recently missed two games (Saturday and Sunday) because of a tight and sore left hamstring. He returned to the lineup for the Detroit series and went 2-for-13 (with two walks). He looked positively brutal in the outfield. In the first inning of Monday's game, Chris Shelton's fly ball sailed over Damon's head for a triple. Then, as Schilling was struggling in the bottom of the ninth, Damon gave up on what became a triple for Dimitri Young. On Tuesday, Detroit scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning on a routine fly to center; Damon had no shot at throwing out Shelton, who had tagged at third.
We all agree that Damon's a great leadoff guy, and we know his fielding is sometimes questionable and he has no arm whatsoever. It's all part of the Damon package. Why aren't Manny's quirks (fielding and otherwise) similarly brushed aside? I have yet to see any Boston writer criticizing Damon's arm in the same way as Manny's fielding. ... Damon has been banged up this season -- as he has been quite vocal about telling us -- but who's to say Manny isn't playing hurt?
Also: It's amazing how Millar had escaped being called out in the Boston press (Cafardo's piece linked above is merely the most recent example.) The guy is slugging .285 away from Fenway Park this year. Slugging! ... .285! ... Dontrelle Willis's career slugging percentage is .296.
NESN's Tom Caron reports: "One member of the Red Sox front office said there are no plans to promote [Craig Hansen] to Triple-A, and that he could be thrown into the fire of an AL East division race after this weekend. Hansen will pitch twice over the weekend in Portland, and will be re-evaluated at that time. Don't be surprised if he winds up with the big club in Kansas City, barring any setbacks over the weekend." ... Is Mark Bellhorn's Red Sox career over?
Thursday: Wakefield / Colon, 10:00
Friday: Clement / Lackey, 10:00
Saturday: Arroyo / Santana, 4:00
Sunday: Papelbon / Byrd, 4:00