Friday, December 24, 2004

Hot Stove 6: All Hail the Cap'n

It's official - as of 11:00 this morning, Jason Varitek is returning to the Red Sox for four years and 40 million dollars. He is now also the first official captain of the Red Sox since 1989 (Jim Rice) and the second since 1966 (Carl Yastrzemski). The solution to the no-trade clause issue was announced too; as part of a new club rule, "players who already have a certain amount of no-trade protection in their contracts can not be traded by the Red Sox without permission if they have at least eight years of uninterrupted service with the team." Varitek will qualify for this new rule at the end of this season; Trott Nixon will qualify at the end of 2006. Presumably, since the article didn't mention him, Tim Wakefield, who is the senior member of the team by two years (started 1995) does NOT have these protections. Since Nixon is a player the team would want to hang on to anyway and the agreement got the deal done, I'm happy about the whole thing - Varitek is now officially what he's been unofficially for years, the team is one step closer to completion and (hopefully) another run for the World Series Rings and as a Boston fan, I'm gratified about Varitek played the situation out. Even though the Sox had to negotiate with Scott Boras, Varitek and his wife apparently made it clear they didn't want to hear any offers from any other teams until the deadline...two weeks from now. In other words, he put the team and the fans first, unlike some other former Sox I could mention...*

I leave you this day of Christmas Eve with a poem that was posted today on that does a pretty good job of capturing why part of me wishes it was April right now. GO SOX!!!

'Twas the Day Before Christmas

'Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the Nation,

We were happy for ‘Tek, but worried about the rotation;

Randy in pinstripes? That deal fell through,

But Pedro went walking to the orange and blue

Schill was nestled online, reading a thread,
While thoughts of ripping Petey a new one danced in his head;

But then he looked at his “2004 World Series Champions” cap,

And forgot about the Met and his mouth that yap-yaps

When out on the ‘net there arose such a clatter,

Who was getting away? Now what’s the matter?

Typing on boards fingers flew like a flash

Like when Tony Soprano slips his girlfriends the cash

And on some dot com I got such a blow,
They were reporting “RJ to NY” is finally a go;
He’s #1 for the Yanks, or so I feared,
But wait – it was on ESPN, and the report was unclear

Johnny Damon was on his honeymoon, the new newlywed,
Now will he pull a Ricky Williams? Will he ever leave his bed?

We'll miss Roberts, and Kapler, OC, D-Lowe and Pete

And Mientkiewicz or Millar, 'cause one of them is hittin' the street

Now Curt’s on the shelf, no more blood in his socks,
And D-Lowe is home playing with his mental blocks;
Our starters are gone! Who is to blame?
Who are these new guys? What are their names?

“Now, Boomer! now, Miller! now, Clement and Halama!
On, Mantei! plus Payton! and Vazquez and Edgar!
A whole new clubhouse! GM made the call!
Free agents dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

But Theo went to the Wells and a Cub named Clement;
Have faith in our genius, it’s money well spent;
And now we’ve got Miller, the second best Wade,
in the history of Boston (so his labrum’s a little frayed)

And then, in a twinkling, he was back on the mound,

The prancing and pawing of the new top throwing hound,

Laying his finger aside of the seam,

He gave ‘Tek the nod, an almost impossible dream;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

He went into his windup; then turned with a jerk,

As he threw out his hand, and was coming around,

Down towards home plate, the ball took off with a bound;

He threw like the old days, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment, Schill was no longer sick;
His heater’s mid-nineties, the splitter has bite,
Let’s mark him down for eight innings a night!

More rapid than eagles came the Opening Day game,

Up went The Flag, the Yanks looked ashamed;
Johnny's speed back in center, Manny’s long drives lit the sky,

Papi had the old stroke back, when he hit ‘em, they fly

I sprang to my feet, to the team gave a whistle,

They circled the bases, Schilling threw another missile;

The good times were back for our championship ballclub,


* - It's true, I did say no Pedro bitterness, but he DID bash the Sox and make it sound like they were the unreasonable ones after his new signing. I'm done, I promise.

Hot Stove 5: Moneyball

I think this happened before my last post, but I would be remiss if I didn't put it up here: Dave Roberts has been traded to the Padres for outfielder Jay Payton, infielder Ramon Vasquez and pitching prospect David Pauley. Presumably this was a smart deal inof itself (I'm in a Theo-can-do-no-wrong mood right now), but it was also a classy move on the part of the Sox - Roberts will get to play every day now. Of course, since this was the guy who, with a steal, saved the ALCS from being a sweep (and then the next day, got so much into Tom Gordon's head that he was able to score the tying run AGAIN), he departs from Boston with god-like status forever and I wish him all kinds of well.

The other reason I'm posting, though, is because of the Sox signing of pitcher Wade Miller out from under the Astros with a 1 year, 1.5 million dollar deal. Miller was hurt this past season with a frayed rotator cuff that closed him out after June 29, but instead of getting surgery, he elected to go through rehabilitation. The doctors have given him a clean bill of health and he plans to be at Spring training. Now, since this was a guy who won 45 games from '01 - '03, if he's healthy, he's an incredible deal. And if it turns out he's not, with the number of pitchers the Sox have picked up and his cheap signing price, he's no big loss. This is classic Moneyball - even more since, as Peter Gammons pointed out, the signings of Mantei, Wells, Miller, Clement and Halama have cost the Sox less than the $17.5 million Pedro earned last year. And now there'll be some interesting competition for the five starting spots come March.

According to rumors on and news slightly more substantiated on, Jason Varitek is back for another four years! At the cost of $40 million to the Red Sox (but no no-trade clause), the team leader is coming back for more. The deal is expected to be announced tomorrow. I love this team so much...and I'm really psyched for another year of baseball now. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Hot Stove 4: More signing fun

Ok, so I'm bit a behind. I blame going to the frozen wastes of northwestern New Hampshire and spending time with the family, Hannukah-style. Besides, this gives me the chance to digest and come up with my snappy commentary you all know and love.

Since the 14th, the Sox have signed John Halama to a one year, one million dollar deal. Halama, best known for having a last name that Jerry Troupiano made fun of (John Halamalamalama). John comes with a 4.70 ERA and a 6 and 7 record with Tampa Bay last year and the distinction of having played for four teams in four years. Not really a stellar pickup.

On the heels of the Halama signing, however, the Sox picked up Edgar Renteria (or, as he will be known in Boston starting this season, "Owah wicked good shoahtstop, Edgah Renterier"*) for four years and forty million. O-Cabs, he of the gold glove defense, has been signed by the Angels, in the place of David Eckstein. I wish him the best. Renteria is a slightly better hitter than Cabrera...or at least he is in the NL, where Cabrera was unhappy anyway. That one's kinda relative. Renteria's definately a better fielder than Cabrera and he's got a gold glove too, so the Sox aren't losing that department. I was psyched overall by the results. My question after finding out was what the Sox plan to do with Hanley Ramirez, who's supposed to be ready to play in 2006. Supposedly the reason the Sox didn't re-sign Cabrera was because he didn't want to take a short contract to make room for Ramirez - it seems now it's (also) because the Front Office was also after Renteria. Originally, I was thinking maybe Ramirez would be involved in a deal to get Hudson, but he signed with Atlanta, ending that possibility.

Then over the weekend, Matt Clement announced he'll be signing with the Red Sox for three years, rounding out the rotation: Schilling, Wells, Clement, Wakefield and Arroyo (who just signed a new contract of his own, along with Mark Bellhorn). Clement, who is apparently one of those fine wine pitchers (i.e., he takes a while to develop) was picked up because the Front Office feels he's entering his prime, tell us. He's 30, apparently healthier than Pedro and hasn't really hit his stride yet. Still, he's one of those pitchers I seem to recall getting excited about at some point over the past year or two, so I applaud the move.

The only other trading news of note is that the Dodgers pulled a fast one on the D-backs AND the Yankees by pulling out of the Randy Johnson trade. I continue to hope that this deal will go through, because I want New York to be foolish enough to trade away Javier Vasquez for a pitcher who's 41. Of course, the Yankees may pull this, get a pitcher who's good for a year or two, then just spend the money to get more talent and I'll just look foolish...or maybe they'll end up with another edition of the 2004 Yankees. There's time yet for the trade to happen.

I have more Red Sox schwag. Not only that, but it was schwag that other people gave me, which makes it that much better...nothing like free cool stuff. Over the weekend, during the aforementioned Hannukah festivities, my parents gave me a copy of the NESN season DVD (which I'm told is much better than the MLB version) and one of the blue championship hats** - it's got the logo, the 2004 champions, adjustable by strap (remember when these things had those annoying plastic clips? Didn't those suck?) and made of this cool fabric that's suprising warm. I dig it. Then, last night, Nikki and I exchanged gifts and she bought me a game ball from the April 16th game between the Sox and Yankees, where Wakefield beat Vasquez 6 - 2. She also made sure it was from a series the Sox won, because she's such a sweetheart. The ball comes with a plastic base and a certificate of authenticity with an odd little squirrel on it and I'm entertaining ideas of finding Tim Wakefield, breaking the ball out of the case temporarily and having him sign it. A fun little mission, if I do say so myself. Or maybe crazy. Either way, definately another cool gift. GO SOX!!!

* - Part of being a Massachusetts native living somewhere else, especially somewhere like New York, which has its own collection of accents, is being able to do a good Boston accent...and enjoy doing it. I could probably start up a show here in NYC, just doing my accent imitation: "Come see the freak who pronounces his Rs like As and his As like Rs!" It would make a fortune. And I could bring Robin in as a co-performer and have him do a Worcester accent. Maybe do a blind-test to see if people can tell the difference. Then I'll bring the wonderful John Greene back from LA for a special guest performance and put all of us to shame.
** - I just spent five minutes trying to find a picture of said hat, but it is nowhere to be found on you'll have to live with my description.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Hot Stove 3: Petey in New York, Boomer in Boston. And Manny...?

As my friend K80 put it to me last night, at least he didn't go to the Yankees. As I said back on the 1st of the month, I infinately prefer a Pedro on the Mets than I do on the Yankees and I will try to take the opportunity to see Pedro pitch in Queens.

Still, it hurts a bit. Part of me wanted Pedro to be reasonable about his arm and his future and take a two year deal and stay in Boston, because Boston was where he became famous. That's the part of me that's the fan of course - the part of me that kept faith in the team after times like Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. But of course Pedro is going to follow the money - he's a practical guy who wants to milk the owners for as much as he can get before he retires. I just hope the competitive side of him isn't disappointed pitching for the Mets

Meanwhile, the starting pitcher scramble continues. Hudson hasn't settled for anyone, but the Yankees snagged Pavano. Even before Pedro announced he was signing with the Mets, the Sox picked up David Wells for two years and eight million dollars. For those of you not on the up and up, that means the Sox just signed a pitcher who's 42 and 280 pounds and plan on keeping him until he's 44. Now, to be fair, he had a fairly good year last year, because the Padres apparently made him take better care of himself, but I half wonder if Boomer is going to drop dead of a heart attack in the middle of his second year. With Pedro gone, this guy could be our number two starter. And, since Schilling told WEEI radio that because his surgery/recovery was so off schedule, he may be as much as a month behind on getting his 2005 season started. So Boomer may be going up against the Yankees to start the season. The irony is killing me.

Ok, no more bitterness. Actually, truth be told, my bitterness isn't over the Wells deal, as weird as it is, or Pedro, but because of the rumors circulating on about Manny possibly going to the Mets as well. Apparently the talks were serious, as in, "yes, please, take half of our hitting powerhouse so we have more money available." Stuff like that mixes with all I've heard about Larry Lucchino - how he builds up a championship-caliber team, then breaks the entire team apart and sells it a few years later at profit - and makes me wonder if ole Larry is going to pull the same stunt again, thereby earning him the entirely useless emnity of all of Red Sox Nation, card-carrying* or no. Robin tells me the rumor has been debunked - he thinks it's because the Sox realize they don't want to give their entire team to the Mets, I think it's because the Mets have run out of money to buy.** In any case, probably the only thing that could piss me off more Red Sox-wise than a deal sending Manny somewhere else would be failing to resign Varitek. No news on that, by the way. I'll be back when/if any other rumors (Clement, Renteria, Hudson etc.) are stabilized into deals. GO SOX!!!

* - Can we talk about how stupid this idea is? This is the sort of thing that belongs in Arizona or Anaheim, where they don't know how to be baseball fans. It's insulting.
** - To quote ESPN Rumor Central: "Talks with the Mets progressed at the winter meetings to the point where the clubs were discussing a deal that would send Ramirez, first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz and cash to the Mets in exchange for outfielder Cliff Floyd and more than one of the Mets' prospects.

The deal hit a snag when the Mets asked for more cash. Reportedly, this led to a harsh exchange between Sox GM Theo Epstein and Mets GM Omar Minaya and the trade went from quite possible to unlikely. The Red Sox would have to chip in a substantial amount of cash to make this deal economically palatable for the Mets."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Hot Stove 2

Doug Mirabelli has become the first of the free agents to resign, agreeing to a two year deal for an unconfirmed $3 million on the 29th. Gabe "The Great Jewish Hope" Kapler became the first of the free agents to leave the team, opting on the 22nd to go to Japan for a year so he can be a full time player. Pedro Martinez has been offered $37 milllion over three years by the Mets, upping the supposed offer of $25 million over two years with an option for a third year by the Red Sox. Rumor also has it that the Sox have since made that third year a guarantee, upping the total to $40 million.

Obviously, in the scheme of things, the Pedro deal is the most important, but it's important to give Mirabelli, especially, his due. Kapler I wish all the best to - it was fun to watch him play and I'm glad he's decided to try and take his career to the next level. Mirabelli, however, is an important signing because of the role he plays on this team. First, he's Wakefield's catcher. As Varitek proved so succinctly during the ALCS, he can't catch more than half of Wakefield's pitches.* Although I hope to God he resigns, we need Mirabelli to catch every fifth day and now that's secure. Second, Mirabelli's offensive numbers have been steadily increasing in almost category and he certainly hit better for the Sox in every category this year than he did in 2002. He's also consistent trouble for the Yankees, which always go over pretty well in Boston. And, should the worst happen and Varitek signs with another team, Mirabelli has been the fulltime catcher before. Not the best option out there, maybe and certainly not the way this ownership or our Golden Boy GM would run things, but still doable. All in all, good pickup.

Now, Petie. If any of the rumors about the Sox offers are true, it sounds like the Boston Front Office has more than a little interest in keeping him, especially if they're trying to counter the Mets offer by guarenteeing that third year. As much I'd like Martinez to stay around, I'd definately prefer him going to the Mets than to the Yankees, for two reasons: first, if there's any possibility of facing him in the future, I'd rather do it possibly once in interleague play than definately three or four times in normal AL encounters with NYY. Second, the ghosts of 1986 are dead. I can want the Mets to have a good team and not be the weak younger brother in New York now without feeling guilty. Heck, it would be a good inducement to go to Shea if I could see Pedro pitches there. See, making the best of a (potentially) bad situation already. That's all for the moment; I'll be back when more signings, etc. are announced. GO SOX!!!

* - How did we win that game? How did we win the ALCS at all? I was looking at pictures on the other day and I got all giddy about the whole thing AGAIN because I still can't believe it happened. Anyway, enough of my jibbering, back to the analysis.