Friday, December 30, 2005

Carry the Flag

As the big game seems to have gone somewhere else (and probably for too much money) and nothing’s on the news horizon besides more Miggy deals and the Hunt for J.T. Snow, the mind turns to musings of a more general baseball sort. And while Joy of Sox’s thoughts on the guiding hand of Theo do provide some modicum of comfort for those of us wondering what the heck kind of team Boston’s going to have next year, I’m talking deep spiritual musings. Musings on Curt Schilling.

My future brother-in-law Steven is not only a New York sports fan; he’s a lover of sports in general and a man with an opinion. A ball does not get hit, thrown, passed, shot or otherwise propelled through space that he doesn’t know about it and has an opinion of some sort on what happened and why. So, of course, we talk about Curt Schilling and his legacy in Boston. Steven thinks that Schilling thinks too much of himself, that he’s too much of a self-promoter and that fans in general don’t think he’s as important as he thinks he is. I tend to agree on some levels; Schilling is a huge self-promoter and he knows how to endear himself to Boston fans – look at all of the SOSH postings, calls in to WEEI, charity work, the bloody sock…the man not only has a flair for the dramatic, but he’s used the typical Boston sports fan’s insanity to his advantage. On top of all that, however, I think he’s the victim of happy circumstance that’s sealed his place as a local legend forever.

I refer, of course, to the 2004 season and Schilling’s role in ending the 86 year championship drought. 21regular season wins, the ankle injury against Anaheim, the startling fall from grace in Game 1 of the ALCS, the triumphant return with stitches twice to get it all done…these things are important not just because Curt did them, but because of the circumstances in the background.

Imagine if you will two armies on a battlefield. We’re talking old-school armies here: guys with colorful uniforms, muzzle-loading guns, cannon, the whole nine yards. And most importantly, each army has a guy carrying the flag. The flag is the symbol of each army’s hopes, its point of patriotic pride. To lose that flag to the enemy is the ultimate in disgrace and although the men who survive such a loss can fight again, they will do so with the psychic wound of that loss until the flag is recovered. In fact, if the man holding up the flag is killed, someone else will jump in to take his place and keep the flag high. Now imagine those two armies are the Red Sox and the Yankees during the 2004 ALCS.

In three games, the Yankees pushed Boston to the brink of elimination. The Sox pulled out everything they could find just to stop the onslaught before starting to turn the tide in Game 4 – and Games 4 and 5 were drawn out, desperate affairs, with both sides struggling to gain the upper hand, the balance of the battle swinging either way. By Game 6, that soldier holding the Red Sox flag was dead and that flag was falling to the earth, despite everyone’s best efforts. We all wanted a rally, we wanted to win it all despite the impossible odds…and then Curt Schilling walked out with bloody sock and sown-up ankle, grabbed the flag, rallied the troops and saved the season. It wasn’t the only thing needed to win, but it was a necessary thing and it secured Schilling’s Boston legacy.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Sox Strike Back

In a move that garnered maybe a column combined in both the Herald and the Globe, the Red Sox struck back at the Yankees post-Damon signing by grabbing Jorge Posada’s former backup, John Flaherty. Flaherty, a former Red Sox minor leaguer, maintained a healthy .165 average last season, but is credited with settling Randy Johnson down last year, post-All-Star Break, taking the Big Unit from a 5 and 6 with a 4.55 ERA to a 12 and 2 with a 3.30 ERA and prompting some to conclude that Johnson threw better because he was throwing to a white guy. In any case, Flaherty better have some experience catching the knuckleball, because he’s taking Mirabelli’s place and catching Wakefield in 2006…assuming he beats out Kelly Shoppach and Ken “I Heart” Huckaby for the spot in Spring Training. Wow, J & B really showed those Yankees, huh?

Speaking of Damon, the Yankees introduced their newest acquisition to the media yesterday, giving Johnny and Boras the opportunity to set the record straight/issue one last parting shot at the Red Sox, as you prefer. Talking about the details behind the re-signing talks for the first time, Damon revealed that Boston’s initial offer was a 3 year, $27 million offer, equaling out to a $1.27 million a year raise over his previous contract. Clearly, we only get one side of the story from this conference, but it looks like the Sox blew the Damon deal several times over the past two months. I’d be disgusted, but I think we’ve seen several times over the past few days how unsteady the good ship Red Sox seems to be right now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Breaking News

It will hurt more to have him on the Yankees

It's being reported on SEVERAL locations that Johnny Damon is almost assuredly going to be a New York Yankee next season. 4 years, $52 million, .320 batting average, 10 ft throws from center. I have NEVER been so mad at losing a guy to the pinstriped phalanx that infests this city that I currently reside in. Damon, who has been BEGGING to come back, was an ICON in Boston. He was a great leadoff hitter, a great fielder (not a great long toss partner) and looked funny enough to be recognized in a crowd of ten-thousand people. You can't put a price on celebrity. It wasn't until June of 2004 that I realized Bill Mueller wasn't a bat boy.

So why didn't we get him back? Was it the money? As crazy Boras contracts go... this one isn't even that crazy!! It's not like he demanded 10 years with a clause that the Yankees need to pay for the wheelchair in years 3 through 7. Was it the allure of the Yankees? Won't he have to cut his hair and beard and go back to looking like the illegitimate son of Erik Estrada? Was it the drama in the Red Sox front office? I think this one has wheels. I think they had a check list of “Important Off-season Moves” and everything got so confused with the influx of new staff that they just never got around to it:

Jed Hoyer: Ok what’s on that list Theo left?
Ben Cherington: Well we got the new GM… or should I say GMS!!!
JH: hahaha! Yeah totally dude! Check!
BC: We got rid of that awful shortstop.
JH: Check.
BC: We got a new awesome pitcher.
JH: Yeah! And didn’t even give up much. Check.
BC: Tried to trade Manny and Wells…
JH: That was like WICKED hard. We get a mulligan on that one. What’s next?
BC: Umm something about signing Johnny Da… HEY!! Is that a XBOX 360?
JH: Yeah man! You wanna rock some Halo 2?
BC: Awesome bro! You are so going down.

Or something like that. Anyway, I am royally pissed. Now I have to WALK to work tomorrow and the whole way there I am going to have to listen to: “Johnny Damon to The New York Yankees!” or “Damon in New York!” or “JD hits NYC!” or “Johnny takes Manhattan!” or “Gimme that wallet punk… or I cut you!”

I am getting upset just thinking about it...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Wine From Napa Valley

This Californian Pinot Noir comes from Boston grapes

California looks closer and closer to Boston lately. The Dodgers are now sporting a bunch of ex-Red Sox, like of former 20 game winner Derek Lowe, 2003 AL batting champ Bill Mueller, 1997 AL ROY Nomar Graciparra and the 2003 recipient of “most death threats in a week” Manager Grady Little.
Frankly, I am tired of all the “West Coast Red Sox” chatter. 3 of these guys weren’t even on the team last year… and getting rid of two of them (Nomar, Grady) was instrumental to winning it all in 2004 (thanks beautiful). The bottom line is that I’m just happy Lowe can be a sub-par pitcher in the NL, someone gave Muller a multi year deal (suckers) and Nomar didn’t end up on the Yankees. Man that would have been awkward. I would have to turn all my Jeter/A-Rod gay jokes into three-ways. All in all, I think the Dodgers have a great core team. In fact, I think they have what it takes to win the 2002 World Series.
Ok, enough former Boston player hating and on to some NEW Boston player hating. The Red Sox have a tentative agreement with former Indian, Dodger, Brave, Royal, Marlin, Padre and Red Sox relief pitcher Rudy Seanez who was probably just as surprised as I was that the Sox were interested again. This was my good buddy DC’s take on the impending transaction:

“You're yanking me right? I could hit off him when I’m hammered and batting lefty. He's 37?!?! He was terrible when he was 27! Washed up relief pitchers aren't fine wine. They don't get better with age!”

Come on DC. Tell us how you REALLY feel about the signing:

“Seriously how much older can our bullpen get? Now they need to leave Papelbon down there just to keep the AARP away.”

Yikes. Well, I don’t think it’s gonna be that bad. He DID get 7 wins with the Padres last season. Of course they won their division with a .500 record… but I digress. Welcome back Rudy. I hope your new training regiment of Brazilian jujitsu can keep Ortiz away from your box lunches.
Another strange transaction had to do with the second mishap the front office made offering arbitration this year. Mike Myers not getting an offer when the Yankees were clearly gunning for him was goof #1. This time Tony Graffanino DID get arbitration when it was obvious there wasn’t going to be any room for him on the roster. Now the Sox are stuck with 4 second basemen (Lorreta, Graff, Cora and Pedroia) and nobody at shortstop. At least there aren’t any other glaring holes (unless you count center, leftfield, first base and the bullpen). 2006 is gearing up to be a long season with a roster full of guys I haven’t really become attached to. Maybe they will grow on me. Maybe they WILL age like wine. What do you think Marsellus Wallace?

"See this business is filled to the brim with unrealistic mother*****. Mother***** who thought their ass would age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does. If you mean it gets better with age, it don't."


Monday, December 12, 2005

Who Run Bartertown?

John Henry Lays Down the Law

So remember a few weeks ago, when Theo Epstein up and quit from the Red Sox, citing the baseball equivalent of “artistic differences?” Remember how the rumor was that Theo’s departure was a part of a deep-seated dissatisfaction with the way Larry Lucchino handled the running of the Red Sox and his relationship with his former protégé? Remember how John Henry cried like a little girl at the press conference and questioned his ability to own the team? Well, what if Henry actually did something besides lament the departure of the boy wonder – something like blocking the hiring of an outside GM, keeping Theo around behind the scenes for the past six weeks to help “move the transition along,” or forcing the restructuring of the Sox front office that Lucchino keeps talking about? What if 2006 will start with the same players in the front office as 2005…only with different titles?

Why the what-ifs, 6 weeks after the fact? Well, as of 3:30 this afternoon, Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington are the co-GMs of the Red Sox…and while Lucchino won’t come out and say it, Theo may be coming back in an advisory role (or as some might call it, President of Baseball Operations), in basically the same capacity that he had when he was GM, while Hoyer and Cherington will be the equivalent of assistant GMs. As Eric Wilbur points out, it sound a lot like John Henry forced the changes behind the scenes as a way to keep Epstein but keep Lucchino from losing face – rearranging the furniture, as the Herald put it, to make sure everyone is happy, however dysfunctional the result. The new setup sounds so complicated that I’d probably shoot myself in the face if it happened to me. I wonder what Theo thinks of the departure of most of his acquisitions over the past two weeks?

But in a piece of pure speculative fantasy by Wilbur, it gets even better. What if all of this post-season tomfoolery was really a public relations stunt by everyone’s favorite Boston baseball bad guy, Dr. Charles Steinberg, to keep the Sox on the front of everyone’s mind until February? Screw the usual hot stove fun…let’s make all of RSN think their favorite team has more issues than FEMA post-Katrina. It’s like baseball reality TV.

In other news, Boston’s most recent shortstop is a big wuss. Speaking for the first time since the trade, Edgar Renteria says he actually wanted out of Boston. Not because of the fans, or because of the pressure…but because of the infield in Fenway. “The ball bounces too much in the field of the shortstop, where I play,” he said. “The field is not good like other stadiums. One day it’s bad, the next day, it’s worse...I was uncomfortable the whole year.” As Robin pointed out, half of those errors were made in other parks…and somehow it’s the former Gold Glover who’s making the mistakes, when other Red Sox shortstops of recent memory haven’t had nearly as many problems. Nice try, Edgah. Anyone else now wishing we still had Cabrera out there?

Friday, December 09, 2005

No Room For Rent(eria)

Mistakes were made... 30 of them as a matter of fact

A wanted ad in this weeks Globe:

Local Baseball team seeks replacement player for short-stop position. Talented fielders a MUST!! Good hitting skills recommended. Taking all qualified applicants NOW!*

*Nomar need not apply

I have no idea what’s going on in the minds of the hydra that now runs the Red Sox front office. It seems that constant motion is a goal of theirs. Exit Edgar Renteria. Rent, we hardly knew ye (and never liked ye). Best known for making the last out of the Red Sox 2004 World Series victory over the Cardinals, Rent was a total bust as a pickup. Theo was riding HIGH with the victory and made a few too many changes before the 2005 season and Rent was the poster boy for this problem. Fellow Columbian Orlando Cabrera was well liked, cheaper, younger and juuuuust a bit shorter in the talent department. At least that’s what the common wisdom said at the time. Now we are a year removed and Renteria and his 30 errors looks like the biggest blown signing since Jose Offerman. I loved Theo as a GM and would even love to have him back now, but this whole short-stop fiasco was a mistake. In fact, it was a 4 year and $40 million mistake that is now being covered with $11 million in whiteout. At least the Sox are getting a GREAT third base prospect in return. Mike Lowell and Kevin Youklis were sleeping too soundly anyway. As for the hole in SS? Well it matches the one in center(thanks Boras), left field(maybe), first base and in the bullpen. WOO HOO!

My biggest question is that what if this is the start of a massive rollback of all the work Theo did in his tenure as GM? Rent is gone, Wells is on his way out and Clement is being verbally added to every deal the “GM by committee” team makes. They might leave him as a tip when they pay the hotel bill for the winter meetings. I know the idea of erasing the work Theo did in 2005 sounds a little farfetched, but if Lowe, Nomar and Dave Roberts are sitting with the team in Florida this spring… well you heard it here first.

It looks like Bill (the Pro) Mueller is going to be back with Grady Little in LA. The Dodgers offered him and his dead man knees a 2 year deal. Good for him. I wish him the best (oh and thanks for the draft picks).

Also on the bus out of town is everyone’s favorite lefty specialist and Wayne’s World front man, Mike Myers. He signed with the Yankees for 2 years and will join the ranks of Embree and Bellhorn as “guys who won in Boston and decided to sell their souls”. I just hope he didn’t pay much attention while David Ortiz was at the plate. I think he’s going to face him about 10,000 times next year.

One final note: Eric and I went to Union Square to see Bill Simmons sign his book Now I Can Die in Peace : How ESPN's Sports Guy Found Salvation, with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank, and the 2004 Red Sox. It’s a great collection of his Sox columns over the years with some added comments they wouldn’t let him make on Meeting Simmons was neat. He did about a 25 minute Q&A (he was 20 minutes late) and then went into signing the books and chatting with fans. Apparently, he was really against the breaking up of the World Series team and feels like too much tinkering was done with the chemistry. He is a great writer and funny guy, but was MUCH more of a nerd than I thought he would be. Not that it's a bad thing. Some of my best friends… well you know.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

See You, Space Cowboy

I know this blog has said some terrible things about Kevin Millar over the past year, but this article about the former Boston first baseman and cheerleader’s reaction to the inevitability of his free agent status still tugs on the heart strings. It’s times like this, with the future exciting but uncertain and the past a glorious memory, that I really miss the 2004 team and the departure of Millar just underscores what’s gone. I hope I can fall in love with the Red Sox teams of the future as much as I did those 25 guys from a year ago, but for now, hats off to you, cowboy. Good luck in the future.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

One Down...A Few To Go

When I checked the papers this morning, I counted something like 6 rumors involving Red Sox coming out of the Winter Meetings in Dallas.  This evening, one of those rumors is official truth: Doug Mirabelli will be competing with Miguel Olivo for the starting catcher position in San Diego, going to the Padres in exchange for second baseman extraordinaire, Mark Loretta.  The 2004 NL All-Star has a year and $3 million left on his contract, providing a cheap and convenient placeholder at second base for 2006 and allowing for the further development of prospect Dustin Pedroia for 2007.  So far, so good.  Loretta’s a solid hitter, a good defender and he’s in a contract year and looking to impress other teams, so he should play things up.  I’m not entirely sure what benefit the Padres get from this deal – maybe Mirabelli will play a Bull Durham-like role in Olivo’s development.  The Sox win out on this deal no matter what, though unless Loretta hurts his thumb again.  I’m pleased, even if means saying good-bye to another member of the 2004 team.

Meanwhile, today’s the day for making offers for salary arbitration.  The 2005 winners: Johnny Damon, Bill Mueller, Tony Graffanino and losers: John Olerud (he’s retiring – “outlaw man, we salute you”), Kevin Millar (no kidding, he’d actually re-sign), Matt Mantei (one of the failed experiments) and most interestingly, Mike Myers, who’s going to get instant interest from the Yankees, among others.  Since the rules guarantee the Sox draft picks for any players to whom they offer arbitration but sign elsewhere, Damon sounds like a hedge bet, Graffanino sounds like a sure bet (after the Loretta trade, why would he stay?) and Mueller is the wild card – do they try and re-sign him, move Lowell to first and ship Youkilis somewhere else?  Or is he as sure a bet as Graffanino?  Time will tell.  

Myers is the interesting case because a.) he was a useful acquisition two years in a row and b.) the Sox need bullpen help.  Right now, the only left-hander the Sox have is Lenny DiNardo…and now Boston can’t re-sign Myers until May 1.  Presumably something else is in the works to make a lefty specialist less valuable.

Monday, December 05, 2005

All Hail Caveman Jesus

The Sox (Lucchino, Bill LaJoie, the Gang of 4) and Damon/Boras are meeting tonight in Dallas to try and nail down a deal. The news of such things fills me with an inner happiness comparable to that of a child going to bed on Christmas Eve: jittery and full of hope for the coming dawn and the possibility of good tidings. That the Herald chose to include tidbits like, “the center fielder has repeatedly made it clear that he would like to return to Boston” and “it’s possible that a compromise could be reached that would see Damon agree to a four- or five-year deal with incentive stipulations that could trigger two or three option years” in their announcement only stokes the fires of my desire for the return of the Caveman Jesus to the green pastures of Fenway’s hallowed outfield. It’s a bit like how I felt about re-signing Varitek last winter. I guess we should all feel grateful that the Mets already have a centerfielder; the way Minaya’s spending money right now, he’d probably go for the 7 year, $84 million deal that Boras is shopping around right now.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Manny Being Manny...But Where?

The uniform of Manny Ramirez in 2006?

So it’s early December. The Winter Meetings start in 3 days. The Sox still don’t have a GM, but that seems to be less important now – the Gang of 4 (with Lucchino behind the scenes?) goes and captures good acquisitions with ease, making the panicky amongst us (yours truly included) think that maybe 2006 won’t be a loss after all. Joining the fold most recently is young Jermaine Van Buren, picked up from the Cubs for a song and joining the group of promising young hard-throwing pitchers (Papelbon, Hansen, Lester, Beckett) who make up the Red Sox pitching hopes and dreams for at least the next two years.

Johnny Damon is still a free agent, but since Scott Boras seems to think that it makes sense for a major league baseball team to sign a 32 year old centerfielder to a 7 year deal, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in the Man Who Would Be Jesus outside of Boston, to the point where hasn’t printed a rumor about Damon since Tuesday. Moving on.

The other big question mark, the one who may make the difference between a championship run and a rebuilding year for Boston is, of course, Manny Ramirez. The right-handed half of the deadly run scoring combo of Manny Ortez has made no attempt to hide that he wants out of Boston, much to the chagrin of many in RSN. But what do you try and get for one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball, especially when he has his own preferences on where to go? We re-cap our favorite rumors:

Manny, David Wells and Keith Foulke to Los Angeles for Eric Gagne, Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew
Robin’s current favorite of the supposed trades. On the plus side, the Sox pick up a good young closer, a good right fielder and avoid dealing with any problems with Keith Foulke next year, plus they move Manny out of the AL, where he’ll be much less of a danger to the Sox. They also get Jeff Kent, who wears out his welcome wherever he goes after a year, no matter how well he plays. It doesn’t make sense for a couple of reasons, of course: why would the Dodgers exchange a good closer for one who’s coming off of surgery and take a pitcher who’s within a year of retiring and why would the Sox want Kent when they can get similar value from Graffanino without the chemistry problems?

Manny to Los Angeles for Ervin Santana, Garret Anderson and a boatload of prospects
One of Manny’s favored locations. A reconstruction of the conversation between the Gang of 4 and Angels GM Bill Stoneman:

Gang of 4: So Bill, what do you think? Manny would be a much better foil to Vlad than Garrett Anderson and he’s not injury prone. Just toss in that Santana guy and a few pitchers and you’ve got yourself a deal – it’s great for you!
Bill Stoneman: [making snorting noises]
Gang of 4: …umm...? Bill? You still there?
Bill Stoneman: Sorry, I just laughed so hard milk squirted out of my nose. You guys got a serious offer? Because otherwise I’m a busy guy…
Gang of 4: But Bill, this deal is great for you guys. Just look at all of the runs Manny’s scored…
Bill Stoneman: Look, guys, a joke’s a joke, but I’ve got things to do.
Gang of 4: Bill, we don’t understand what the problem is. We’ve got a great deal here for you.
Bill Stoneman: Right. Could you guys do me a favor and not call here again? Thanks.

Manny to Seattle for ?
Another Manny preference. I think he was just laughing at us when he came with that one; who is Seattle going to give up?

Manny to New York for prospects
Except that while the Mets want Manny, they want Lastings Milledge even more.

Manny to Philadelphia for Bobby Abreu
Nice thought, although it would eliminate Big Papi’s protection in the lineup – Abreu’s left-handed. As my buddy over at’s baseball site said, though, there’s absolutely no good reason why Philly would want to do this deal – Manny’s got an additional year on his contract, is owed about $29 million more and hasn’t mentioned wanting to go to Philadelphia anyway. Also, a “high placed Phillies source” found the idea laughably ludicrous, saying the Phillies are concentrating on finding pitching. Maybe someone in the Sox Front Office heard him – the rumors have now shifted to Matt Clement and Trot Nixon for Abreu, which makes a bit more sense for Philadelphia and wouldn’t be half bad of a deal for Boston.