Checking in with this morning’s Red Sox hyperbole

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I know a lot of Red Sox fans in that way you know people on the Internet. Twitter and message boards and stuff. Most of them are understandably bummed about the team’s start, but almost none of them are wallowing or anything. The consensus is “this is straight shite, but they’ll turn it around.”  It’s a sensible view. The “panic” people refer to at times like these is really media panic. Talk radio and columnists and stuff. And I don’t think they’re really panicking per se, as opposed to just trying to outdo themselves in characterizing how bad things are.

I don’t listen to Boston talk radio, sadly, and my guess is that’s where the best stuff will be today. Hosts trying to top one another in framing the apocalyptic nature of it all while their producers try to find the looniest loon they can find on the phone lines to put on the air.  I mean, if your wish is to get on the radio today, call in to the sports squawk station and say that you think Terry Francona should be fired. You’ll get your air time.

The columnists are doing their part too, even if they’re not quite as nutty. Here are the two best I’ve seen so far. First, Steve Buckley at the Herald, who is proposing — maybe seriously? maybe not? — that the Sox should cancel all the pregame pomp and circumstance today. No flyover, no introductions, no ceremonial first pitch. Just baseball, because we’re all too depressed to do anything else. Or something.  His best line:

The 2011 Red Sox are starting to look like the 1988 Dukakis for President campaign. As in, high hopes followed rather quickly by a disastrous tumble. (Picture Sox GM Theo Epstein riding in the little tank.)

Mr. Buckley: I followed the 1988 presidential election. I knew the 1988 presidential election. In a way, it became a friend of mine. Mr. Buckley, this team is no Michael Dukakis.

Now, over to Dan Shaughnessy, who quite frankly disappointed me with his failure to truly go after it. Most of it is sensible if a bit obvious. I liked this one though:

Any way you look at it, the Sox haven’t been the same since John Henry bought Liverpool FC

I can’t decide if that’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to something that really doesn’t matter but people chatter about anyway or if Shaughnessy is really going with the notion that John Henry’s buy-in to English soccer represents some kind of distraction that has competitive implications for the 2011 Red Sox.  If it’s the former, that’s kind of funny. If the latter: dude, they bought Liverpool in, like, October. I’m going to go out on a limb and say nothing good or bad has trickled down since then.

Ah well. Maybe the columnists will bring their really top-grade stuff on Sunday if the Sox drop the first two of the Yankees series.  Until then … Panic.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.