Wait, Paul Konerko has 10 homers already?

Seriously… he’s in double digits already.

I didn’t know that.

Granted he just reached double digits a few hours ago. But still, I didn’t know he was so close to 10 that a pair of homers this afternoon in Arlington would do the trick.

Maybe I didn’t know because the White Sox haven’t exactly been hitting the cover off the ball… they have the lowest team batting average in all of baseball and have the second lowest team on base percentage in the American League.

Maybe their 8-13 start (they are 9-13 now) didn’t capture my imagination.

But here we are… the first home run hitter to double digits is Paul Konerko.

When you think of it, Konerko has had a pretty cool career. Not a Hall of Fame one, but certainly one that would earn him a spot on the U.S. Cellular Field outfield wall of retired numbers.

He may have been kicked around early in his career (he played for 3 big league teams in his first 4 seasons) but he has been an underrated fixture in Chicago. In a free agent era when people skip town constantly, he has spent 12 straight years in the South Side of Chicago. He was supposedly off to the Angels after the 2005 World Series… but decided to stick around with the Sox.

He’s been an All Star three times and finished 6th in the 2005 AL MVP vote. He has hit 20 or more homers in 10 of the past 11 seasons (and is halfway there already for 2010.) Four times he has driven in 100 runs.

Plus he has been a horse in the post season. He played for the 2000 and 2008 Division Champions… and of course was a big part of the 2005 World Champs run.

He crushed a key homer off of Tim Wakefield in Game 3 of the Division Series.
He hit first inning homers in Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS on his way to the Series MVP award.
And his grand slam off of Chad Qualls in Game 2 of the World Series turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead.

Now here he is, leading the league in homers so far.
He’s had a cool and underrated career.

Like everyone on that White Sox team (including his currently unemployed former teammate Jermaine Dye) , there were no superstars (especially with Frank Thomas hurt). Just a bunch of guys who did their jobs well.

So I didn’t know Konerko had 10 homers already… and if nobody else in cyber space is going to salute him, I WILL!

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The All Time Saves Leader Will Soon Be A Hall of Famer Again

Is Mariano Rivera the greatest reliever of all time?

Maybe.

Even though I am a Red Sox fan, I have given Rivera plenty of love on this blog.

I practically wrote a love letter to him last June.

Last November I said he should have been the World Series MVP over Hideki Matsui.

I also said he should have won the Babe Ruth Award over A-Rod.

I said he was what made the Yankees better than all the other playoff teams.

Now his place among relievers in history can be debatable. Certainly Rollie Fingers and Rich Gossage deserve a lot of praise (how many more saves would they have if they were one inning specialists instead of going 2 or 3 innings a save?)

But one thing is for certain… Rivera will soon be the All Time Save king.

Pirate Catcher Ryan Doumit is making sure of it.

Doumit has been a one man wrecking crew of Trevor Hoffman… the current All Time Saves leader.

He hit a 9th inning grand slam on Tuesday and a game tying homer yesterday to give Hoffman back to back blown saves.

Hoffman has already blown 4 saves this year… and his ERA is 13.00.

It’s early but it isn’t THAT early. He’s 42 years old. And despite a solid year last year, it isn’t a stretch to say 42 year olds off to bad starts might not be in a slump. They might be out of gas.

And a team like the Brewers, who have a shot to win and a small window of opportunity to do it, can’t afford a closer who lets up nearly a run and a half an inning.

Even Ken Macha, who no doubts respects the hell out of Hoffman, hinted that a change might be coming.

Which means his save total might finally stop piling up.

Hoffman has 594 saves now.
Rivera is second on the all time list at 532.

Up until this point, Rivera has been chasing a moving target. Now it will probably stay still with 62 saves between them.

He’s not getting it this year… but he also has shown no signs of slowing down. Rivera already has 6 saves and an ERA of 0.00.

That’s slightly lower than Hoffman’s.

If Hoffman’s closing days are over, Rivera should pass Hoffman sometime in 2011.

And the biggest case for Hoffman’s Hall of Fame candidacy, being the All Time Saves leader, would be gone before he was even eligible for the vote.

I have nothing against Hoffman personally. He seems like a good charitable guy and his teammates don’t have a bad word to say about him. But as I wrote before I think he is a smidge overrated.

A specialist like a closer needs to consistently come up big in the big game. Rivera certainly has. Hoffman has not.

Having the biggest save total of all time isn’t like the Home Run crown, or getting 300 wins or 3,000 hits. It’s not an automatic punched ticket to Cooperstown.

Jeff Reardon passed Rollie Fingers to be the All TIme Saves leader as a member of the 1992 Red Sox. Reardon is not a Hall of Famer.

Lee Smith passed Reardon. He’s not in the Hall either.

When the two were teammates briefly with the 1990 Red Sox, it wasn’t considered to be a meeting of All Time greats.

The fourth most saves in history belong to John Franco.

I don’t think even the biggest Met fans I know consider him to be a Hall of Famer.

This isn’t a slam on Franco, Reardon nor Smith. I was a fan of both. And Reardon actually DID have the great post season highlight of clinching a World Series (with the 1987 Twins.)

But neither were considered to be All Time Great difference making closers… like Gossage… or Fingers… or Eckersley… or Sutter… or even Hoyt Wilhelm.

They got a lot of saves for a lot of years and did so around the time that the closer became a one inning specialist. They stayed healthy for a long time and had solid careers… but did they change the dynamic of the game? Did managers manage differently knowing they were coming out of the pen like they do with Rivera?

I put Hoffman in the same category with Smith, Reardon and Franco… terrific career but as I wrote before, falls short of Cooperstown.

Saves are nice but not always a great barometer of greatness. Don’t believe me?

Jose Mesa has more career saves than Goose Gossage. Who would you rather have in a big game? Hell, who would you rather have in a SMALL game?

But if saves are the short hand standard of a reliever’s worth, it would be nice to see the All Time Saves leader be a Hall of Famer.

And when Mariano Rivera passes Trevor Hoffman some time next season, it will be so.

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Are the Red Sox REALLY going to make us sweat out EVERY WIN?

I guess so.

My kingdom for a blow out win!

Seriously… can we have ONE WIN this year where I can be relaxed and maybe give the regulars half a day off?

I mean don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that the Red Sox have gone 7-2 since they hit bottom after the 4 game sweep by the Rays.

I love that their bats picked up Beckett, that Buchholz and Lester picked up the bullpen and that Darnell McDonald picked up the entire team, including going 2-3 with an RBI tonight.

I love that despite all the turmoil, injuries and lousy starts, the Red Sox can still finish April with a winning record if they can beat Baltimore on Friday night.

But MAN, I could use a relaxing win and not a game that has me fidgeting and checking the score like a crazed addict!

Oh well… time to update the board.

DODGED A BULLET GAMES – 10

April 4 – 9-7 win against Yankees (On Opening Night, the Red Sox overcome a 5-1 Yankee lead with a game tying HR by Pedroia and a go ahead passed ball.)
April 10 – 8-3 win against Kansas City (Beckett out pitches Zack Greinke and nearly gets decapitated by a line drive.)
April 14 – 6-3 win in Minnesota. (Okajima gets Morneau to pop up with the bases loaded in the 7th and Papelbon wiggled out of a 9th inning jam.)
April 20 – 7-6 win against Texas. (Darnell McDonald introduces himself to Boston with an 8th inning game tying homer and a walk off hit in the 9th.)
April 21 – 8-7 win against Texas. (The Red Sox were down 4-0 early only to win it on Youk’s 2 out 11th inning double.)
April 23 – 4-3 win against Baltimore. (The Sox blow a 3-0 lead but win it on Adrian Beltre’s bases loaded walk.)
April 24 – 7-6 win against Baltimore. (The Red Sox score 6 in the 7th and hold off a late Baltimore comeback attempt.)
April 26 – 13-12 win at Toronto. (The Sox blow an early 5-0 lead but hang on for dear life in a slugfest.)
April 27 – 2-1 win at Toronto. (Buchholz holds the Jays down for 8 but it takes a bases loaded walk in the 8th to go ahead.)
April 28 – 2-0 win at Toronto. (Daniel Bard wiggles out of trouble in the 8th to help Lester shut down the Blue Jays and finish the sweep.)
TEETH GRINDER GAMES – 6

April 6 – 6-4 loss against the Yankees. (Scutaro’s error leads to the winning run.)
April 7 – 3-1 loss against the Yankees. (Sox leave the winning run on in the 9th only to lose on Granderson’s 10th inning homer)
April 9 – 4-3 loss in Kansas City. (Bard coughs up the lead, denying Wakefield a win.)
April 17 – 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay. (The Sox can’t score with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 11th… lost it in the 12th.)
April 17 – 6-5 loss to Tampa Bay. (The Red Sox comeback falls a run short, leaving two on in the 8th)
April 25 – 7-6 loss to Baltimore. (The Sox blow a 4-1 lead, leave the winning run on second in the 9th, let up 3 in the 10th and could only score 2 in the bottom of the 10th)

+4 with a .500 record.

Now on to Baltimore, which is always good for the ole win/loss record

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