Wednesday, December 20, 2006

He's the Rocker, We're the Bloggers

Bronson Arroyo update: remember Covering the Bases (remember Bronson Arroyo?), the album that young Brandon released in 2005, covering a variety of 90’s alt-rock classics like “Plush” and “Everlong?” Apparently it sold pretty well or something, because Arroyo’s embarked on a tour of sorts, playing the Roxy in Boston and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut this January. I’m not sure whether to be happy for him or highly amused, so I think I’ll be a bit of both. Good job, Bronson; you rock on with your bad self. Also, it’s good to hear you’re not still bitter about the Sox trading you away from the hot co-eds of Boston or anything.

Monday, December 18, 2006

There's a drive! Deep to left! WAY BACK! WAAAY BACK! HOME RUN!

Another familiar face departs: Jerry Trupiano will not be back in the radio broadcast booth next year, as the Red Sox have opted not to renew his contract and continue his 14-year broadcast booth partnership with Joe Castiglione.

I’m more than a little sad to hear that Trup and his exciting but not always accurate homerun call won’t be back next year; growing up I didn’t have cable TV (and thus no NESN) so the majority of my Red Sox memories are tied in with radio. While I remember a bit of the far off days of Ken Coleman, Trupiano and Castiglione were the team calling the games for most of the games I grew up listening to and Trupiano’s call of “Way back! Way back!” figured prominently in both the oh-so-important 2003 and 2004 seasons. It won’t quite be the same when it’s no longer Joe and Jerry.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Came Early… was I naughty?

I asked for so very little from Santa this year: A mighty Sox bullpen, Scarlet Johansen in nothing but a pink bow and a million dollars.

So far, I got Brendan Donnelly and JC Romero. Whoops!

Donnelly is pretty good and can even be great if he can rekindle some of that 2003-2004 fire. But he’s 36, his numbers are in a steady decline and he certainly can’t be a closer. Another solid righty for the staff. Whatever.

JC is another “maybe” guy (great, more questions). Everyone needs another lefty in the pen, but this guy has been less than stellar lately. At least he’s cheap.

So we are looking at Delcarman, Hansen, Tavarez, that Japanese guy (not even trying), Donnelly, JC and Lester?

Even if the two guys we just picked up are mooks, that’s not bad. It’s very hard to get a quality bullpen without a little luck. The Tigers got some amazing stuff from their young guys last year and the Angels (who we just berry picked from) have always had a decent crew, but most of them were farm guys. If you look around the league… this isn’t half bad.

One problem: No closer… yet.

Bah Humbug.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Moment Historical

Alan just called me with something he heard on EEI that fills me with silly glee, as does everything about the newest member of the Red Sox and the sick, sick rotation he’s going to be a part of: the first series of the 2007 season is at home, against Seattle. Assuming Dice Clay (official nickname now; the dude’s a Red Sox) pitches in one of the first three games of the season, the first batter he’ll face will be none other than Japan’s first star export, Ichiro Suzuki, who’s one of those happy few who’s so famous that he’s known by one name. I think it’ll be a great way to open an era. Meanwhile, I’m going to go back to dreaming about a rotation of Schilling, Dice Clay, Beckett, Wake and Paps and giggling.

PS. What is this award, a sop to those who realize the travesty of not giving a single member of the 2006 Red Sox infield a gold glove? That’s right, sports writers: the fans know who the best of the best is. Mike Lowell is The Man.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Scott Boras wants to be INSIDE you

By all accounts, the deal with D-Mat (yeah, he needs a better nickname) is going to be done very, very soon. The latest figures are between $50 and $60 million dollars over 6 years. Keep in mind that the Red Sox REALLY want him, the Seibu Lions were happy to give him up (the $51 million dollar palm greaser helped) and it seems that Matsuzaka is excited to play in the USA this year.

So why the hell did this go down to the wire? Why did Theo and Co. have to jaunt to LA (uninvited) and demand an impromptu meeting to get this deal done? Why did they need to stage a crazy plane ride across America and a rush into Mass General the day before the deadline? Why all the madness and craziness when it looked like all parties wanted to do this as clean and a quick as possible?

You want to know why?

Because Scott Boras eats babies.

Scott Boras beats up hobos for loose change.

Scott Boras only uses condoms made from rolled up $100 dollar bills.

If it wasn’t for baseball, Scott Boras would be breaking into your house right now.

Scott Boras told President Bush to “Stay the course” in Iraq.

Scott Boras doesn’t flush OR wash his hands when he uses public restrooms.

When Scott Boras has sex, he makes the 14 year old Filipino boy pay HIM afterwards.

“King Midas” is embroidered on all of the speedos Scott Boras owns.

Scott Boras made Brian Cashman shave his pubes before he could sign Johnny Damon.

Hell is too cold for Scott Boras.

This man… this evil, evil man is all that is BAD and wrong with baseball. He wipes his ass with the pages from Moneyball and could care less about things he finds petty like “fan bases” and “team loyalty.” Boras bows only to money…six figures or more. Lord help the poor GM writing the blank check for Zito this year. Boras will laugh and spit fire in his face as he takes it.

And yet we submit. He holds all the cards, he has all the control and all the best players are in his pocket. You must deal with Boras if you want to win and the bottom line is… teams, fans, and GM’s ALL want to win.

Now can we look at ourselves in a mirror after? Can we sleep with this snake and arise unbitten? Does winning absolve sins both morally and monetarily? Ask me in October. If the millionaires in blue hats with red “B’s” are playing late in October, you can ask me then.

As for now, I know Scott Boras is a kind and reasonable man who takes no notice of these petty jokes posted on some silly fan blog.

(Please Mr. Boras, don’t sue/kill/rape me. I was only kidding! I’m begging you!)

Brokeback 'Belli

Guess what? We don’t need to worry about a backup catcher for another year! Tony Massarotti is reporting on the Herald’s Clubhouse Insider blog that the Stud Who Hits Bombs, Doug Mirabelli, will be coming back to Boston on a one year deal, killing rumors that his spot as backup backstop would be taken by George Kottaras and his strikeout to walk ratio of doom in 2007. Details on the deal weren’t available, but those in the know say Dougie was happy to sign for $75 and an especially large ham sandwich, saying afterwards, “You guys know and I know it. I just can’t quit you.” Welcome back, Mirabelli! Here’s hoping you won’t have to take over the starting catcher bat any time next year.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And I-I-I-I-I-I-I Will Always Love Jew!!!

Spring, 2006. It was the golden times for Jewish athletes on the Boston Red Sox; Adam Stern was schooling Team USA by hitting bombs for the Canadians, Kevin Youkilis was about to launch into a, “holy crap, where did he come from?” start to the season and Gabe Kapler…well, the Hebrew Hammer was back on the Red Sox, healthy and ready to smack bombs. For Jewish Red Sox fans like me and Robin, it was like Sandy Koufax was back and playing in Boston. And playing the field instead of pitching.

Who knew then that these happy times wouldn’t last? Stern will be an Oriole next year, used as post-season trade bait to fulfill the obligations to Baltimore for the entirely useless Javy Lopez signing. Youkilis will be back at first, of course, but Kapler…well, 31 years old or not, the Hebrew Hammer will no longer be playing baseball; he’s retiring to take over as manager of the Red Sox Class A Greenville team. Even though I’m sure he’ll do really well as manager (he certainly sounds excited about the new job), it makes me sad – he’s a member of 2004 team; he’s a personality, another Kevin Millar or Lou Merloni or Doug Mirabelli that won’t be back next year. We’ll miss you, Gabe.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Just Because They're D1-AA Doesn't Mean They're Not Special

A little off topic, but still within the realms of Massachusetts sports: congratulations to the University of Massachusetts football team, who won the right to go to the NCAA Division National Championship next Friday in an upset, beating Montana 19 to 17 on a field goal last Friday. The championship takes place in Chattanooga, Tennessee against Appalachian State, broadcast on ESPN 2.

For those of who you don’t pay too much attention to college football and are wondering how UMass could be going for a championship when you were pretty sure Ohio State was involved in some sort of BCS game, this article on Wikipedia about the difference between D1-A (Ohio State) and D1-AA (UMass) schools might help. I honestly had no idea there was an NCAA college football championship at one level and none on the next one up until five minutes ago. Go Mass!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Play Nice with the Stats

A slew of reactions about the Drew and Lugo signings around the Interwebs, as to be expected and as Robin commented yesterday, the tone is fairly positive, because everyone seems stuck on the idea of a 3-4-5 of Papi, Manny and Drew and the offensive capabilities of Lugo over Gonzo. All meritorious points, even if the Sox do seem like they’re jumping from ship to shore and back again every winter on the general winning strategy for the team. There have also been the requisite and all too appropriate Johnny Damon comparisons – I think if the sports media was George Bush, they’d accuse the Sox of being wishy-washy (and possibly engaging in some cutting and runningNSFW) – but what got me going today was an article from that DC sent me.

Now, of the two main writers on this site, I’m generally more of the straight-laced stat head: I believe that baseball is a game of statistics as much as anything else and that statistics help you prove empirically what your subjective memory can’t tell you about a player’s performance. Also I can’t write the funny like Robin can. But using PECOTA scores to tell me that Renteria would have been a better choice at shortstop over Lugo is ridiculous. Yes, Renteria, when he’s playing well is the better player. But if we’re going to play that game, then I give you some right back: in 94 at-bats in Fenway Park since 2004, Julio Lugo has a .914 OPS, 9 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 6 RBI – all while playing for the wildly inconsistent Devil Rays. Edgar Renteria, over the same period at the same park, has a .707 OPS, 22 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs and 32 RBI over 304 at-bats. Renteria may be the better player according to his overall projections, but Lugo is a much better offensive fit at Fenway.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Crazy! But NOT for these guys

I don’t even know what to say about signing J.D. Drew for $70 Million over 5 years. Everyone I’ve talked to has had a different reaction. Well not exactly DIFFERENT, just verbalized in several diverse ways:

“Is he even going to play 2 years over that time?”

“He better hit a homerun every at bat.”

“I can’t talk about this now!”


Yeah, that about sums it up. This blows that little “Money for Sluggers” piece I wrote right out of the water. Drew is a guy who quits on his teams. He has quit on every team he’s ever played on and he will do it here too. And he gets hurt. He gets all these little mysterious injuries that prevent him from playing full seasons. But my bad feelings and random homicidal fantasies about his health and work ethic are neither here nor there… so let’s use STATS!!!

His highest RBI total? Last year he hit 100. Gosh!

Home runs? He hit 31 in 2004. Woo!

Oh, and he has NEVER played 150 games a season in 8 years in the league. Cut him a huge freaking check!

Ok, he has an upside too. He’s only 31, he’s a hard hitting lefty that could pepper the wall… and ummm… he can’t complain about his pay? Yeah, that’s all I got.

Drew needs to go the extra mile to be welcome in Boston. He needs to say all the right things, do all the crap commercials and YES hit a homerun as often as he can. Bang into walls and play every game unless he is missing body parts. Otherwise, Wily Mo is right there to take his place (yikes), and the name of Trot Nixon will forever ring in his ears.

Now I KNOW what to say about signing Julio Lugo for $36 Million for 4 years: entirely unimpressive.

Everyone knew this was going to happen. The Red Sox go through shortstops like I go through underpants. They change them every year whether they need it or not (wait…ewww). Cabrera, Renteria, Gonzo and now Lugo. These are ALL lateral moves. Each guy has his strengths and weaknesses. Rent was the best offensively, but couldn’t field or handle Boston. Gonzo had the glove, but not much in the way of a bat. Cabrera could field, hit pretty well and was a clubhouse and fan favorite, but wait… why didn’t we keep him?

Mostly they all balance out when weighed against each other. So why pay the guy who doesn’t stand out in ANY category and is just a little bit worse than the average of the last few guys? Is it because he’s slightly cheaper? I really can’t get behind that too much… especially when they just broke the bank for a hump like Drew.

I don’t know what these guys in the front office are doing anymore. Are they even saving money for the Japanese guy? Why were they shopping Manny? Do they know they still don’t have a closer? Did they strike oil when doing the renovations on Fenway?

Luckily, I am completely confident all these questions will be answered when the team takes the field in April. Now if you want me, I’ll be pulling my hair out and petting my many cats… so many cats.

When it comes down to it... this lineup doesn't make me SO mad/crazy/upset. It looks good on paper.










Is it it worth it?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Holding on to the Man-Ram

There’s been a bit of ill will circulating the quarters I will hereby refer to as “Keep Your Sox On Central” (even though those quarters are not, in fact, a physical space) about the intentions of one Theo Epstein. Some of that ill will has made it onto the blog recently, because as much as we hate to admit it, we’re crazy fans who think we know what’s going on in the offices on Lansdowne Street – and that we know how to avoid those obviously stupid mistakes.

Well, mistake or not, it now not only sounds like this year’s offering of Manny Ramirez’s contract up on the altar of commerce wasn’t really an offering at all, but that Theo wasn’t going to trade Manny for anything less than top dollar the whole time – and that the time limit for any serious shopping expires tomorrow. According to this article, Theo gives until the end of the business portion of the Winter Meetings – ostensibly tomorrow – for any of the parties of rumored interest to make a good deal. After the meetings, the Sox will listen to offers, but they won’t be actively looking for a trading partner. Even better, those teams who had expressed interest – the Padres, the Dodgers, the Giants, the Mariners (yeah, that one was news to me, too) don’t seem interested in buying at the Sox selling price…so Manny in Boston should be safe.

My favorite part about all of this Manny-related news is Theo saying to the media, “did you guys really think we were going to trade Manny for crap? He’s one of the biggest run producers ever; we’d be nuts to trade him for anything less than equal value. I can’t believe you guys thought we were stupid enough not to see that. Screw you guys. I mean that.” Is it still possible Boston will sign JD Drew to a large contract, or that Julio Lugo is our last, best hope for a stable infield next year? Yes, yes it is. But somehow I can face all of that potential for bad things knowing that Manny will still be batting fourth in 2007.

P.S.: Best wishes to Jon Lester!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Red Sox Sign a Japanese Pitcher! Just Not the One You'd Expect

Japan: where even the LOOGY relievers have four pitches. The Sox yesterday added another potentially blockbuster arm to their pen by signing 30-year-old Hideki Okajima, a lefty reliever with an eleven-year, 494-game career in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan to a two year contract with a 2009 club option. There are three things of interest about Boston’s newest acquisition:
  1. Like Matsuzaka (whose nickname on this site, I have determined, will be Dice Clay, just as soon as his agent stops being an ass and lets him sign. Think of it like a signing bonus), Okajima has never pitched in the US. However, this signing doesn’t seem to be a case of, as DC put it, the Sox inviting Enrique Wilson to Spring Training to keep Manny happy, as Okajima seems to have something to offer on his own, Daisuke-bait or not; something like…

  2. Four pitches. Yes, four. A wicked curve, a fastball to set things up and two splitters – a strike pitch and kill pitch. Forget LOOGY, Okajima could be one of the most versatile lefty relievers we’ve seen in a while. I’m just waiting for Timlin to invite him to go bear hunting.

  3. After a ten-year career with the Yomiuri Giants, Okajima spent 2006 with the team with the best name ever invented: the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. True fact: the Ham Fighters are also the name of a group of vigilantes patrolling Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn for a band of insurgents known only as the Un-Kosher Kommandos (this may not actually be true).
Meanwhile, rumor has the Sox offering more money and time to JD Drew than they were willing to pay Johnny Damon, while simultaneously offering Manny Ramirez up for either a.) Jake Peavy and Scott Linebrink or b.) a plugged nickel and a chewed piece of gum.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Has Everyone Lost Their Minds (or is it just me)?

So it’s that time of the “hot-stove” season where the checks are signed, the wallets are emptied and if you listen to most of the GM’s out there, it’s when teams “prove” to the fans that they are serious about contending next year. Also, this is when Scott Boras rubs his hands together and licks his lips as he gets his spiked hooks into another bankroll. In fact, this time has pretty much come and gone when looking at the free agent bats. So let’s take a closer glimpse at what teams have picked up for big hitters and what they paid (and what they will regret later).

Alfonso Soriano, Cubs: 8 years, $136 mil.

If this was where the bar was set… well it’s a pretty goddamn high bar. I mean, you need oxygen tanks and a sherpa just to get to the top of this thing. I have a hard time deciding what’s worse: the tons of years or the tons of money? For a guy who basically can’t play the field, this is a crazy deal for an NL team. Oh, and the only thing worse than his glove is his OPB and OPS. But maybe I’m wrong! Maybe by the time he’s 38 (when this contract expires) he will learn some plate discipline… or like every OTHER expensive Cub, he could get hurt and end up getting millions for going into traction. Whichever way it goes, Soriano is going to be buying steaks from the same stores as Beltran and A-rod. This is such a crazy deal it’s even hard to make fun of. Well done sir.

Jim Edmonds, Cardinals: 2 years, $19 mil.

I bet he’s glad he’s staying it St. Louis cause he already knows all the doctors there. I know the Cards just won the World Series and Edmonds was a big part of that, but isn’t 2 years kind of a stretch? What’s the over/under on games he’ll play next year? 120? 100? I just hope he didn’t throw out his back when he jumped for joy after signing the contract. I kid, I kid. It’s not an awful deal, he plays really tough and hasn’t missed TOO too many games in the past… unlike…

Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers: 2 years, $18.5 mil.

Another of the walking wounded. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE NOMAH… but I would never give this guy 2 years without him proving his organs won’t spill out on the ground first. Wrist, ankle, groin, leg, back, and now he’s a pain in the wallet. Ouch… but still a better bet than…

Frank Thomas, Blue Jays: 2 years, $18.2 mil.

The Big Hurt was one of the most exciting players to watch… 8 years ago. I was happy to see his reemergence on that scrappy A’s team, but he runs like me after 12 beers. Slow, unsteady and everyone is just praying he doesn’t get severely injured doing something simple. For me the simple task is peeing in the woods, for Thomas it’s legging out a double… both usually end in hilarity or calamity. If Edmonds has an over/under on games played at 120, then Thomas is nearer to 90 over 2 years. Haven’t any of these teams heard of an option for the second year? It’s MADNESS!!

Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: 5 years, $75 mil.

Yeah, I don’t know. On paper this seems like a HALFWAY sensible deal, 28 year old that hits for power and can field a position that doesn’t have too many stars (beside the 2 in New York). Yet, $15 mil used to be superstar money. It seems so weird that this is market value now. So just being semi-competent at your position and a questionable all-star hitter now guarantees $10 mil+ a year. This is how the winds have shifted.

Juan Pierre, Dodgers: 5 years, $44 mil.

A couple of clubs have multiple listings on this dubious list. Maybe you shouldn’t read too much into it, but the guys signing the checks might be making more than one mistake. Go figure. Anyway, you think that Pierre figured the Dodgers had a wrong number when they gave him this deal? This is MAJOR BANK to pay for stolen bases and fielding. Small ball and big bucks usually don’t mix and this is way. And 5 years? What’s gonna happen when the miles start to pack on during year 3? Suddenly Juan isn’t so speedy and $9 mil a year looks a little bit bigger.

Gary Matthews Jr., Angels: 5 years, $50 mil.

Nobody has ever paid more for one catch. It was a GREAT catch, but I thought you only get $50 million straight up if you do it on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Why would anyone give a contract like this to a guy who waited till he was 32 to have his breakout season? Is he the latest bloomer EVER? He still hasn’t hit 20 HR or had a 100 RBI season, so WHY is he getting $10 mil a year? Must be that catch.

Carlos Lee, Astros: 6 years, $100 mil.

This one has me slack-jawed. Maybe you could argue that it’s what the market will stand, and maybe offensively challenged Houston is a good match for him and maybe they even have the cash to burn… but $100 mil is just… well it’s a freaking PILE of money. He never has come close to a major yearly award, doesn’t hit for an amazing average, isn’t the greatest fielder and isn’t really a threat to hit 40 homeruns. There is no doubt he really helps this offence, but is it worth it? Apparently yes! This is exactly what scares me about unchecked GM’s throwing wads of cash at players. After awhile it seems normal.

Gary Sheffield, Tigers: Traded.

The Yankees unloaded the cantankerous Sheff for 3 pitchers nobody’s every heard of (that have since been spun by the NY media into 3 mini Pedros) and a bucket of balls. This could be a solid pickup for the Tigers who need a good DH because Dimitri Young might not be able to stay out of jail. There is definitely some pop left in this jerk’s bat and he seems to want to prove he still can bite the heads off babies and sucker punch nuns. God I hate this guy.

J.D. Drew, Red Sox?: 4 years, $45 mil.

Well this could be a good investment if “J.D.” stood for “Johnny Damon” and it was for less money. Every time I see an article saying that this deal is close I want to curl up into a ball. This makes no sense. Has he ever played over 120 games a season? Does he hit 30 homers every season? Does he get along with tough crowds and handle criticism well? No, no and no. So what the hell is he gonna do in Boston?!?! This is going to make Rent-a-wreck and Clement look like amazing deals. Just wait till they start comparing him to Trot. Ugh… I just threw-up a bit.

Manny Ramirez, Giants? Dodgers? Padres?: Traded.

This is the big one. Looking at all this other craziness, the last 2 years of Manny’s contract looks pretty damn sweet. He is a perennial all-star (but always sits out), he always hits (even when asking to be traded) and is the best protection Ortiz could ever get in a lineup. I wouldn’t trade Manny for all the “questionable ace” pitchers in Japan, but I know he is going to finish his career on another team. In two years, someone is going to throw a bunch of money at him and give him a great speech about how well he’ll be treated and how nobody will bother him and how great the new city is… and Manny will leave. I have no doubts about this. The only question is should the Sox try and get some value right now while his value is near peak. Honestly? I think it depends on what you get. A few AA pitchers? No way in the hottest hell. A proven closer, a bunch of A+ quality rookies and a solid bat? Let’s talk. Other than that… I can’t even think about this.

So could someone tell me why the Red Sox can’t seem to think of anything else?

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Latest in Thoughts, Conspiratorial and Otherwise

Oh the news, it’s a comin’ fast:
  • Billy Mueller called it quits today. The man we called The Pro decided over the weekend that the bad knees were getting a little too tough to play on and opted to leave the baseball diamond with one year and $4.5 million left on his contract. Mueller is taking a position as special assistant to Dodgers' GM Ned Colletti. I don’t do the whole sentimentality thing very well, but if nothing else, I'll say this: Billy Mueller made a big impression in Boston because he played hard and didn’t complain. Along with our other neuroses, Red Sox fans have the old New England “puritan work ethic” thing ingrained pretty well – which isn’t to say that we necessarily practice the idea, but we certainly expect it of those around us, especially (as Red Sox fans) from our players. Bill Mueller came to Boston, beat out Manny Ramirez for the batting title in 2003 in what many saw in the pre-Manny Being Manny days as a triumph of the hard working dirt dog over the whining superstar and established himself as The Pro, epitome of that work ethic, for the rest of his time as a Red Sox. Robin and I both wish him the best in his post-baseball career.
  • Alfonso Soriano signed a contract with the Cubs. For 8 years and $136 million, the fifth largest contract in baseball history. Yes, that’s a heck of a lot of money and time (mostly time), but what’s more important is that it makes Manny’s contract look pretty cheap in comparison…cheap enough to deal. The Globe has a rumor that the Sox are looking to send Manny to Texas for Michael Young, which doesn’t sound too terrible (says the guy who knows his team is going to spend too much money on Lugo – see below) except that no one expects it to happen. My current conspiracy theory is that the Sox are looking to get rid of Manny for something infield (like Young), then sign Drew and play him and Wily Mo Pena in the outfield. DC insists this idea isn’t feasible because the front office knows better than to trust Drew’s body not to get hurt (or is it "hurt?") but then why are they supposedly chasing Drew in the first place? Do they expect him to get hurt so they can replace him with Wily Mo Pena mid-season? Does this make sense to anyone? DC also pointed out Manny’s 10-5 status, which would probably kill any deal the Sox put together.
  • Alex Gonzalez is now a Red…not a Red Sox. The door on that potential deal closed yesterday when Gonzo signed for 3 years and $14 million in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Sox were pursuing Alberto Castillo as a possible backup catcher...if he makes it out of the minors in Spring Training. See also: John Flaherty, Spring 2006. As noted above, this means that the Red Sox will now overpay for Julio Lugo, unless they go and trade Manny for a shortstop. Start looking forward to the DP combination of Lugo and Wonderboy now...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Let's just say it's not a collect call


Theo: Ummm, hello?

Voice: …who is this!? It’s 3 in the morning!

Theo: OH sorry. It’s just… well… this is Theo Epstein …General Manager of the Red Sox? And we uhhhh… just won the bid to talk to Mr. Matsuzaka and… umm well, I couldn’t wait… sorry about the time. Is… is he there?

Voice: This is highly unusual.

Theo: Sorry! I’m so sorry! I… just got really excited is all… I didn’t mean…

Voice: Yes…well I am his interpreter. And we were expecting a call for SOMEONE tonight.

Theo: Oh great, great. Again really sorry about the time… I just wondered if… you know… he wanted to talk and… stuff.

Interpreter: One moment please. I shall see if my employer is available. Just a moment if you will.

Theo: Yeah, no, yeah no problem.





Interpreter: Hello? Mr. Epstein?

Theo: … OH sorry sorry, hey you’re back. What’s up?

Interpreter: I have turned on the speaker phone. Matsuzaka-san can hear you and I will translate. Are you ready sir?

Theo: (giggles) Ok, yeah… ummm… hey… Daisuke dude. How ya doin?

Interpreter: He says he is well. And your phone call honors him.

Theo: What? Oh that’s so cool! He’s so cool. So uhhh… ask him what he likes… like what kinda stuff does he like? Does he like music? Has he heard my band?

Interpreter: Really, Mr. Epstein! I must question your intentions… talking to my employer in such a manner.

Theo: Huh? Oh sorry sorry dude, just tell him I think he’s awesome and I can’t wait to… like negotiate with him… and like hang out… cause he sounds like a really cool guy…

Interpreter: Mr. Epstein, please it is very late…

Theo: … and tell him we can get him all kinds of awesome American stuff… and if he likes fish… that like Boston has like awesome seafood…. and I can like get him into places… cause I know some guys…

Interpreter: I am sorry Mr. Epstein but we must continue this conversation at a later date. Preferably during the day.

Theo: Oh no… really? Ok… ummm… ok. Just, could you tell him… uhhh tell him…

Interpreter: …yes?

Theo: In your eyes, the light the heat, in your eyes, I am complete, in your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches, in your eyes...

Interpreter: Good night sir!

Theo:I see the light and the heat in your eyes, OH! I want to be that complete, I want to touch the light, the heat I see in your eyes….in your eyes in your eyeeeeeeeeeeeeees…

Inerpreter: Fruitcake...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Juggling Horses Mid-Stream

I was reading recently that the first rule of drafting a fantasy sports team is to ignore all of the snide comments other owners make in your direction as you draft your team. You put in all of the hard work trying to pick a winner, so what do you care what other people think? Since fantasy apes real life, the same rule probably applies to running a baseball team, although the “other owners” are armchair generals like you and me who think that $42 million is a lot of money to spend on a pitcher who may or may not be such hot stuff when he gets over here.

Here’s the problem with our line of thinking, though: we’re assuming that spending $42 million means that the Sox now have $42 million less to spend on other things the team needs (infielders, bullpen, backup catchers, etc.). Maybe it’s a psychological scar left over from the days of the Yawkee Trust, maybe it’s a function of the traditional New England thriftiness that makes many of us believe that there’s no way that the Red Sox would spend a minimum of $42 million to get a player without some sort of foolish sacrifice in an area that really needs help. We’re forgetting that the current ownership put money into upgrading Fenway and constructing a championship team because they knew the investments made good business sense – make people want to come to the ballpark and they’ll give you back all of the money you spent and more.

Think about it for a moment: it’s quite likely that the $42 million rumored to be the winning bid won’t take away from the rest of the payroll at all, that John Henry and Co. earmarked this money and the money that actually goes towards signing Matsuzaka as seed money to capture the attention and advertising dollars of the Japanese market, putting the Sox on comparable financial footing in Japan with the Yankees and Hideki Matsui. If that’s the case, the Red Sox didn’t just spend $42 million to cock block the Yankees, they spent $42 million to be the college roommate who comes back to your room to cock block you, starts talking to your girlfriend and then convinces her that she really should ditch a loser like you and start going out with him. Even if Matsuzaka turns out to be an okay pitcher and not the second coming of baseball Jesus, the Red Sox still win because they make the money back in advertising and we all win because the front office still spends the money to put together a quality team.

Of course, these rumors about Matsuzaka wanting to be a Yankee could be true, in which case that $42 million turns out to be a cock blocking without any added benefits. It’s also possible that Matsuzaka will be a terrible pitcher once he comes to America and he’ll end his short reign of Japanese celebrity, killing ad contracts in the process. But think about it: in the 4 years Theo has been GM, he’s avoided three bad deals (Contreras, Rodriguez and Pavano) through sheer luck. Why wouldn’t the luck carry through to Matsuzaka, too (please please please let it carry through)?

This has been Eric, completely reversing his prior position and hoping he’s right.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Turning Japanese: I really hope not

I have nothing against the country of Japan (hell, I was even an East Asian Studies Major in college… no really).

I have nothing against the culture of greed (why shouldn’t we keep up with the Yankees spending?).

I have a problem with being a moron (a goddamn fiscal idiot).

Why in the world would the Sox blow “between 38 and 45 million dollars” just to TALK TO SOMEBODY??? Please tell me Buster Olney is huffing wasabi.

I read all the comments everyone posted about this Matsuzaka guy and what it would take to get him. I stayed away from the whole thing…Eric said he would “cry” (and he most likely will) but I am gonna go bananaphone crazy. You are going to take an UNPROVEN pitcher, from a league with bad hitting and oversized ballparks and spend a BOZILLION dollars on him ($45 mill to talk, $40 mill+ to sign) and not address the HUGE holes in the end of the rotation, shortstop, right field, bullpen, closer, 2nd base (sorry Dustin) and back up catcher (they may need 3 this year). Why are they PAYING him anyway? Can’t Commodore Perry just send the US fleet over and threaten to blast the hell out of the Tokyo Dome if they don’t hand over Matsuzaka-san for free? Or did Boras already do that?

So break out the kimonos and nori, start throwing out your JD and load up on the saki… cause Daisuke Matsuzaka could be on his way to Boston. Oh, and I think this means we lose the right to bitch about the Yankees spending. Not a big deal though…just like they lost the “1918 chant”, we’ll find something else to use to get on their nerves. Maybe something with Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano and stem cell research…I’ll work on it and let you know.

And for everyone who saw Matt Clement as the biggest mistake by this front office, well how do you say “you ain’t seen nothing yet!” in Japanese?

No Drew. Just No.

A buddy of mine, after writing about waste-of-talent J.D. Drew and his decision to opt out of his current contract with the Dodgers and file for free agency gave me the heads up that Buster Olney has the Red Sox as an interested party (ESPN Insider) in a deal with Drew and his agent, Scott “Lucifer” Boras. My reaction: dear sweet God, no.

Sure, Drew has a very nice upside with his nearly .400 OPS, ability to hit for power and his decent abilities in right field, but if we wanted someone with injury problems, Trot Nixon would, I’m sure, be happy to come back to Boston…and unlike Drew, Nixon doesn’t have a reputation for being a pussy. The dude may hurt himself a lot, but at least he plays with hurt knees and furthermore, actually plays like he cares all of the time. Besides, as Olney points out, Drew would require a contract that makes the one the Sox gave Johnny Damon look small and that definitely doesn’t jive with the new, less spendthrift Sox. Hopefully the rumor of J.D. Drew as a Red Sox is going to remain just that: a rumor.

Also, please tell me this Matsuzaka bid is just a rumor. Please tell me we didn't just blow the farm on a Japanese player just to get more attention in Japan or block the Yankees.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's All Strategy, Baby

Three big pieces of news today:
  1. Alex Cora has a brand spankin’ new 2-year deal, courtesy of the Boston Red Sox. Scuttlebutt is that the Sox re-signed Cora so they have some security as they decide whether to pursue Julio Lugo, Alex Gonzalez, Mark Loretta and figure out what to do with Wonderboy. When reporters asked Theo about the current Wonderboy plans, his response sounded like they’re just as happy to send him back to AAA as make him the starting second baseman next year – it all depends on how much work he does over the off-season. What would be really interesting is if Wonderboy really did work his ass off over the off-season only to find that the Sox picked up another option for second base and dealt the newly improved Pedroia in a sweet, sweet trade.

  2. The Sox declined the one year option on Keith Foulke, with Epstein saying that Boston is going to look for another closer by “trade or free agency.” This move could be a face-value dumping of yet another member of the class of 2004, or it could be a tactical gamble to see what Foulke’s reaction will be; the pitcher has an option of his own that he can exercise. If he does, Boston saves about 2.25 million, money they can use on…

  3. …the bidding on Daisuke Matsuzaka, which ends today. With numerous teams (including, supposedly, the Sox) clamoring at the meat market like so many hungry dogs, overspending is practically a guarantee. Sure, the guy is 26 and he’s a sick, sick pitcher, but A-Rod was a good deal at one point, too. If a team blows their entire budget on this one pitcher I’m going to laugh and laugh and laugh. Unless it’s Boston and then I’ll just cry.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Building the Rotation: A Hypothetical Situation

DC and I were chewing the fat online and he came up with an interesting trade idea: trading Wonderboy, Hee-Sop Choi and George Kottaras to the Tigers for Jeremy Bonderman. The logic is pretty simple: the Tigers are (according to DC) looking for infield help (check), power at first base (a stretch there, but Chris Shelton’s minor league numbers weren’t really much better than Choi’s) and “someone for Pudge to groom (check).” In return, we get Bonderman, whose number in Fenway over the past three years include an ERA of 3.20, an OPA of .180 and a WHIP of 1.00 and who, at age 24, is going to start really hitting his stride soon.

Now, taking into account the fact that the sample size for these stats in only 14 innings pitched at Fenway, I can’t help but be intrigued by the idea of this trade. After all, win it all or not in 2007, next year is the last year we have Curt Schilling. Baseball wisdom acknowledges the need to have two strong pitchers in the first two spots on the rotation, so assuming Beckett steps up into his future role of ace, the Sox will need a second pitcher to fill the hole left by Schilling’s departure…and it won’t hurt if they fill that hole with a pitcher who’s young, strong and relatively cheap. Plus there are already rumors that the Tigers are trying to shop Bonderman around.

There’s one problem though: Papelbon. Terrible problem to have, I know, but unless something strange and terrible happens, Paps will be in the rotation next year. Not counting on the return of Matt Clement (and I’m certainly not doing so), that means the only starting spot left to be filled is a fifth starter and those are a dime a dozen…and certainly not something you trade prospects for, especially when you need Bullpen Help. Remember that bullpen problem? It still needs fixing, both in middle relief and in the closer role and those pickups need to take precedence over picking up Bonderman, especially if (and the “if” is the biggest assumption of this conversation) Boston wants to deal prospects.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Please excuse me as I go F-ing crazy

God knows I don’t need another reason to hate the Yankees… but this is ridiculous. Derek Jeter won the Gold Glove award this week and the Earth is just a little more tilted on it’s axis as a result. It must be, because only a planetary misalignment could cause the HIGHLY overrated Jeter to get fielding’s top honor. A shift towards the abyss of space MUST have clouded the minds of the managers and coaches (can’t even blame the stupid media) who vote on this award. Either that or it’s even more arbitrary than I figured.

Derek Jeter? This must be a sick joke. If you JUST watched highlight reels then you might have a case… but if you watch one… ONLY ONE Yankee game then you would see all the easy plays he is misaligned for and all the simple put-outs he makes tough because of his low range.


In the AL, Jeter was 5th in range factor, 4th in fielding percentage, and had more than DOUBLE the errors of a NAMELESS starting short-stop that happened to play for the Boston Red Sox (hint: Lex-aye Onzalez-gay).

If stats and figures and well…. FACTS won’t dissuade the voters from picking the only name that they recognize (Uribe? Gonzolez? Young? Peralta?) then I don’t even know why they give that hunk of gilt metal away.

This was the best fielding Sox team of my life… not one Gold Glove. Makes no sense. The MLB should stick to labor disputes and steroid testing, the aren’t too good at this award thing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Some Thoughts on Prospects

Ben Lipson at sent me an email to let me know that they just posted their list of the Sox top 10 prospects for 2007. Three things about the list that struck me as particularly interesting:
  1. Eight out of ten of the guys on this list are in AA ball or lower (although Kottaras spent part of the year with San Diego’s AAA club), so it’ll probably be another year at least before they hit the majors (if they ever do). The revolution is coming, but it’s coming VERY slowly.

  2. Of those 10 guys, two are in the majors right now (Pedroia and Hansen) and one is rumored to be Mirabelli’s replacement (Kottaras) and of those three, only Hansen spent any time (36 innings/14 games) in Pawtucket. Based off of Hansen’s mixed performance in the majors in ’06 he really needs more time in AAA, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he got the invitation to come to Spring Training and started the year in Pawtucket. I agree with DC's thoughts on how Pedroia should spent next year.

  3. Kottaras strikes out a lot more than he walks (181 strikeouts to 131 walks in about 945 plate appearances over two years) and his performance declined after he went up to AAA in the middle of the season: in AA, he was getting a hit or a walk about 37 percent of the time and striking out 21 percent of the time. After his promotion, the strikeout percentage stayed the same, but the hits/walks percentage dropped to 26 percent. I don’t think he’s ready for the big leagues yet.


The possibility of Dustin Pedroia as the possible starting second baseman and shortstop for next year hit our friend DC particularly hard, so I suggested he turn his growing outrage into a special feature. Without further ado, we present DC: Mad as Hell but Still Rational. Enjoy.

Those of you not up the latest Red Sox news may have missed an article on (since replaced with the announcement about Alex Cora’s free agency declaration that mentions both Loretta and Gonzo) reporting that both Mark “The Pro” Loretta and Gonzo filed for free agency a few days ago. This isn’t that big of a surprise; everyone knew that they only had one-year contracts and there hasn’t been a lot of news about contract extensions for position players coming out of Theo’s office. So if everyone knew this was coming, then why is this noteworthy? Simple: the same article ended by all but guaranteeing Dustin “Wonderboy” Pedroia a starting role (with the author leaning toward waving goodbye to Gonzo). Now this begs a very simple and obvious question: WHY? What has Wonderboy done to earn anything more than an invitation to Spring Training and a package of Fenway Franks?

I know, Pedroia’s put in his time in the minors and that ranks right up there on the warm and fuzzy scale right along with fluffy bunnies and when my girlfriend does that thing I like. I understand that Wonderboy was a 2nd round pick and it seems like he’s been the next big thing since Johnny Pesky was wrinkle free. But the reality of it is he was drafted in 2004. Yup, that means he has less than 3 years in the minors and less then 2 full seasons in AAA.

I know what you’re thinking: “That doesn’t mean anything; a lot of guys don’t spend time in AAA.” Well, let’s look at Wonderboy’s major league readiness compared to Gonzo and The Pro. This season, Gonzalez had 7 errors in 475 chances, for a .985 fielding percentage. Loretta had 4 errors in 639 chances for a .994 fielding percentage. Wonderboy came up and posted a .972 fielding percentage with 4 errors in 33 games. I’ve also been unable to find anyone who doesn’t think he’s terrified of the runner while turning a double play. In fact, Robin once called me to specifically tell me that Pedroia may wet himself the next time someone slides into second. How’s that sound for our middle infielder of the future? Oh and by the way, he can’t hit either. Seriously, if we needed a .191 batting average we would have bought Belli a middle infielder’s glove.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying its time to send this kid the way of Luis Rivera (how’s that for a blast from the past). I realize Pedroia’s only 23 and has the upside of blind date with Jenna Jameson. I’m just saying let him come to spring training and earn a spot. Then, now that Cora’s filed for free agency, maybe Pedroia spends a year as the utility guy and the Sox bring Gonzo and The Pro back for another year or two. That way there’s no controversy and everybody is happy. We all get to watch more of the smoothest defense around, our pitchers can keep throwing ground balls confidently, and Wonderboy finally gets to spend a year in The Fens learning for the vets and hitting on BU chicks.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

So, Timmy’s back for another year of fun. Not that I’m surprised at all: although I had heard rumors to the contrary, there’s no reason why the Sox wouldn’t want Wakefield for another year; having someone so routinely solid anchoring the middle of the rotation is too good to pass up. Like Timlin, Wakefield is feeling much better now than he did a few months ago, but as much as I love Wake, there are two problems:
  1. No one knows why Wakefield’s ribs separated in July and more importantly, we don’t have something like the World Baseball Classic to blame it on, either. Timlin gets a free pass for another shot because the circumstances will be different next year; Wakefield will be in the exact same role and unfortunately, that means the rib separation could happen again. Hopefully the medical staff and Wakefield know something we don’t and they’ll be able to nip any potential problems in the bud.

  2. Doug Mirabelli just filed for free agency after posting some of the worst offensive numbers among starting catchers. We all know what happened when the Sox tried to go without Mirabelli last year and for all his experiments, Theo isn’t dumb enough to try the same risk twice – but what to do? We can blame Varitek’s woes on the WBC, too, but as Gordon Edes points out, it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup catcher who can hit…and that may mean bringing ‘Tek back to catch Wakefield after a 6-year hiatus. I’m honestly not sure which is worse: the idea of going out to look for a knuckleball-able catcher when there are some many other areas that need to be filled or reliving Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS every fifth day. Maybe The Stud Who Hits Bombs will come back and go back to his old, bomb-hitting ways. And maybe I’m crazy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

May a Team Win. Doesn't Have to be the Best One, Just a Team

So, um…congratulations, Cardinals. Not only did you make Robin and I look like fools, you managed to suck less than all of your division for the whole year and turn things on when it really counted. Tony Massarotti might be pissed about the mediocre caliber of the 2006 World Series Champions, but I think this season should serve as a wakeup call to the NL Central: stop half-assing things, guys. Any of you had the chance to take the Cardinals and their 83 and 78 record down a notch when it mattered…now you’ve got a little more motivation to do so. Clearly all any of you need to do is outlast your competition (dominating is so 20th century) and a playoff berth is yours.

Also: is Massarotti suggesting the Sox try to steal Jones away from the Tigers? Because that has “Rudy Seanez” written all over it. Is he saying that Boston should go after an older closer, or just that the front office should look for a closer with a lower walks per nine innings ratio? Because it’s not readily apparent from the end of that article where you were going, Tony.

I have to say, if it was the last option (walks per 9 innings) even if Jim Leyland feels better about losing to a double or a home run than he does to a walk (and yes, he really said that), I wouldn’t and I’m pretty sure most other people wouldn’t, either. There are better stats out there, like WHIP and K/9, to measure a potential closer and I’m willing to bet that the stat heads in the front office will be looking at more than just one stat to figure out who they’re going to go after to close next year.

Finally, I present to you the slogan for the 2007 version of the Team from Queens: “The Mets: As Arrogant as Ever.” Bring it on, guys. We’ll finish what we started this past June and avenge 1986 all at the same time. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Meet the New 'Pen, Same as the Old 'Pen?

I think it’s clear Robin and I should stay as far away from gambling as possible. Not only have we been completely wrong about the World Series (eh tu, Tigers?), but we are already 0 for 1 on signing predictions: Mike Timlin is coming back for another year in the trenches. DC loves this news because it means another year of “Black Betty,” but I’m going to go for cautiously optimistic: if a normal Spring Training, a completely healed shoulder injury (you forgot about that one didn’t you? Yeah, me too) and a more balanced bullpen that doesn’t rely on Timlin as the every day go-to guy mean one last good year, I’m all for it. Also, when you need pitching help (and oh, does Boston need pitching help), you don’t look a gift horse (1 year, $2.8 million, with the player willing to do his own negotiation and take a pay cut to play) in the mouth. If it works, it works; if it doesn’t, at least Timlin will never be Rudy Seanez.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tigers Knot the Series

Kenny Rogers is channeling Derek Lowe. Or he’s channeling whatever Derek Lowe was channeling two years ago. In any case, who would have guessed that a guy could go from black sheep to post-season hero in so short a time?

Also: Robin’s an ass. Tigers in four, indeed. Clearly he meant Tigers in five. Dumbass.

And now… a moment of silence

It is with a heavy heart that I must report the passing of a Red Sox legend. Nelson de la Rosa was a king among men (think chess piece) and a near mythical figure in the annals of the 2004 World Series. Who can forget Nelson on the shoulder of Pedro after the victory over the Angels? Or Millar getting him wasted on a thimble of PBR? Or when he served as de-facto master of ceremonies during the rolling rally? It’s impossible. To forget him is to forget ourselves.

Let the flags fly at half mast, let all players wear black armbands, and let the schools out early. We have lost 2 feet and 4 inches of good luck charm, hero and brother.

Adios Nelson de la Rosa, you Lilliputian champion, you tiny titan, you bite sized behemoth.

Goodnight sweet prince.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Golf Clap

Congrats Cardinals! You made it to the big show again with a nail biting victory over the Mets in a stunning Game 7. Good job.

Now prepare to get your ass kicked. Get ready to bend over and grab your ankles just like in 2004. I swear this is gonna to be ugly.

Tigers in 4.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


"Is this your stop?"

I know it’s taken me forever to write my personal end chapter for the 2006 season. I’ve been making excuses and avoiding this for over 2 weeks. After the awful end to the Red Sox season I wanted to avoid writing about baseball all together. Yet, now that a truly horrible tragedy has prevented me from enjoying the Yankees bounce from the playoffs (they always manage to take my fun), I need to find some closure. If I don’t get it now then I won’t be able to enjoy the playoffs like Tommy Lasorda wants me to or dive into the “hot-stove” season like Scott Boras wants me to. I must dissect and examine before I can focus and move on. Also, I must make fun of and ridicule before I can accept and love. I just work like that.

I wouldn’t say they mailed it in, but the Sox didn’t look on the top of their game in the final month. Papelbon got hurt and shut down. Manny’s knee got his own daily column in the Boston Globe and Schilling even felt the effects of time. It was the perfect cap on a perfectly awful season. Forget 100 wins, they didn’t win 90. Toronto surged past the slumping Sox to give us the bronze medal for the first time in as long as I care to think about. Far be it from me to try and find the silver lining in the cloud of crap, but this does let me vent a little bit about the Red Sox Nation.

It’s not what you think. I know everyone is putting Theo and Co. on a spit for the lack of moves (rightly so), and everyone is taking shots at the coaches (sending 2 of them up the river in fact), and EVERYONE is bemoaning the injuries that the whole team endured (yeah yeah yeah)… but those aren’t the fleas biting my behind.

I have an axe to grind with the fans.

Not the diehards who knew Williams and Pesky personally, or the kids that grew up watching Boggs and Greenwell, or even the people who had to put up with Vaughn and Everett…

I am talking about all of those folks who show up in the 3rd inning. The girls who still list Johnny Damon as their favorite player (“Cause he’s so HAWT”). Morons who said “who’s that?” when Buckey Dent threw out the first pitch in game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. Folks you never saw in Fenway before 2003. You know… those chicks in

Now I am not trying to be sexist (as Brian Fantana said “Don't get me wrong, I love the ladies. I mean they rev my engine…”) cause there are absolutely some guys who are just as guilty and I’m not trying to be elitist either, but you have to admit that the fan base has gotten a little bloated. This is when a losing season is a good thing. It cuts the wheat from the chaff. I HARDLY think this will affect ticket sales, but it may just chase away those idiots who only ever watched the “Idiots”. People who were starting to jump ship in 2005 and were pretty much done watching by August of this season. This is exactly what we needed. A chance to be underdogs again (second highest salaried underdogs…but still).

Get off the bandwagon. We never wanted you and now maybe I can buy a ticket without slicing off an arm. Give the team a chance to rebuild. Theo HAS to make some moves now… and the young guys are only going to be better. Let us have an off-season and a summer of peace and quiet and then we can brace for the “jump back on” next September when the Sox are 4.5 games up in the standings. As for right now, don’t let the door hit you in the seat of those awful Rhode Island clam chowder colored warm-up pants that say “Red Sox” on the side. You walking eye sores.

Ahhhhh! The fan lounge has emptied out a bit… the ceiling is a little lower again… and the air smells that much cleaner.

So now it’s time to go into a slow down mode here at Keep Your Sox On (like I haven’t already) but we will be around with updates and commentary on big headlines, playoff news, trade rumor crap, and maybe even a book review or two. I like the smaller fan room… more intimate. GO SOX.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Moment In Time

Do you watch Lost? If not, you might just be better for it – it’s pretty damn addicting and gets very frustrating when you can’t watch more than one episode at once (i.e., during regular seasonal broadcasts). In any case, whether you watch Lost or not, something happened on tonight’s episode that’s Red Sox related, so by God I’m going to blog about it.

Some background: imagine you’re stuck on a tropical island after your plane broke apart. It’s been 69 days since you crashed and you’ve tried everything you can think of to get away – especially since things have gotten very weird on this island and people who weren’t on the plane with you have started kidnapping people who were on the plane. All of a sudden, you find yourself captured by these people and locked in a tank that used to house dolphins and sharks and they start trying to get you to do things for them. Not bad things, mind you (or so we, the audience, think), but things must be done. And then they’ll send you home.

But the thing is you’re not entirely sure that these people really can send you home. They claim they’ve lived there all their lives, after all – how do you know they can reach the outside world. So they give you proof: news events. You crashed in September, 2004. It’s now November. President Bush has won the election. Christopher Reeve has passed away. And the Red Sox won the World Series. And to prove it, they show the final seconds of Game 4, as Foulke tosses the ball to Mientkiewicz…and that’s what proves to you they’re not lying. How incredibly powerful is that? It’s a ridiculously important moment in the life of any Red Sox fan, but all of the sudden it becomes a moment of validation for someone thousands of miles away who didn't have any hope of ever seeing home again. And that’s pretty cool.

R.I.P. Cory Lidle

Not exactly a Red Sox topic, but certainly worthy of the exception: Cory Lidle, currently of the Yankees but a free agent this off-season, died today when his small plane crashed into an apartment building in Manhattan. Lidle was 34, became a pilot during the 2005 off-season and clashed with Yankees management over his desire to fly – Thurman Munson, anyone? – insisting that even in the case of engine problems, his plane would be safe to land because of a parachute. Unfortunately, something seems to have gone wrong today, with terrible results. Rest in peace, Cory.

2006: The Soft Underbelly

As we all know, it’s time (past time, really) for the season-ending, soul-searching, celebrating-the-Yankees-elimination post that ends every annual volume of Keep Your Sox On (2005, 2004). Robin has a rant planed on the end of the Pink Hat Faction that should scorch the paint and offend a few readers in the process, but he’s a slacker who can’t cut his post down to less than 4 pages. Or he’s crazy passionate about the topic and can’t cut his post down to less than 4 pages. In any case, he’s promised to have his season-ender up by Friday or I get to hit him with something heavy.

In the meantime, you have me. I spent this past weekend up in Salem, Massachusetts with my in-laws, who, besides being Yankees fans are also big Halloween fans. Needless to say, my wife, father- and brothers-in-law were less than pleased about how the ALDS turned out for their team, but couldn’t understand why I insisted on gloating about their misfortune. After all, they pointed out, my team wasn’t even in the playoffs. One brother-in-law, who was in a bar in Boston for Game 4, said that he asked the bartender the same thing and heard that Red Sox fans would rather see the Yankees lose in the playoffs than the Red Sox win. I’m going to assume this bartender was either plastered out of his mind or on crack, but it got me thinking (some more) about how this year turned out.

At the midway point of the season, we were all riding pretty high on how things were throwing down in Beantown. Sure, the 13 game sweep of the NL was over and we’d had some struggles (ending the mid-year with that tough game against Chicago wasn’t that fun), but as Robin wrote in his All-Star Break wrap up, “Can they get 100 wins and will that get them into the playoffs? Yeah, I think so.” Hell, we were 53 and 33 with three games up on the AL East and things were looking pretty bright. And then the second half happened. A tough string of games on the West Coast at the end of July, Varitek’s departure for the DL on August 1 (otherwise known as the Raven Game) then the full-on collapse against Tampa Bay and the Royals had Robin posting about injury woes. And then that stupid five game set against the Yankees, followed by the final nails in coffin pounded in by Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim basically pushed the playoffs out of reach, even though I wasn’t prepared to admit it at the time. All of the sudden, it’s the end of the year, Jon Lester has cancer, the starting rotation has become Schilling, Beckett, Tim Wakefield and whatever warm body can throw a ball, the Sox don’t come anywhere close to winning 100 games and have their worse standings finish in about a decade. What the hell happened?

Obviously, a complete collapse happened, but how? Was it really the injuries that sent the Sox from the top of the world to the bottom of the heap in the matter of a month and a half? The Yankees had injuries too, but they had the depth to make up for the problems – or were their injuries much more superficial because they involved their 35 outfielders, while Boston lost half of the starting rotation? My feeling is that injuries were the prime suspect because they were to so many key players. Much has been made of Theo’s decision not to go for a big trade at the trading deadline that would have kept Boston in the running with another starter or some bullpen help, but I think in retrospect the move played out well in the long run – who would we have given up and who, truth be told, would we have acquired in exchange? The Javy Lopez acquisition looks pretty crappy looking back and Boston only gave up Adam Stern and his base stealing potential. Imagine if we had traded away one of the young guns instead? We could have another Cla Meredith situation staring us in the face.

2006 exposed the soft underbelly of the Red Sox, pure and simple. Injuries ripped the team apart, made it vulnerable to easy exploitation by any team across the AL (no matter how terrible a record) and spoiled any chance for a playoff berth. All we had to make up for the loss of the veteran core was a legion of promising but untried youngsters who could not hold up the burden on their own and Julian Tavarez, who is certainly the biggest enigma of the year and possibly of the whole decade. Now we move forward, we look forward to the off-season acquisitions that will fill a number of big holes and we await 2007. GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Heads Start To Roll

What do companies do when something starts to go badly? They downsize. They bring in new talent. They refresh the pool of available resources. They decide to go in a new direction. Whatever you call it, people lose their jobs. The Red Sox, of course, can’t downsize, unless they had a fire sale, but they can start firing people – and they did yesterday, giving hitting coach Ron Jackson and pitching coach Dave Wallace their walking papers. Check the Globe article I just linked to for details, but it sounds like Tito was behind releasing Papa Jack – fundamental disagreements over player development over the past few years, coupled with the lower offensive output this season – and Epstein the motivation for releasing Wallace, possibly for concerns about the slow development of the younger pitchers.

I don’t have any issues with the hiring and firing of managers – both guys were popular, but I’m sure the motivations for releasing them made sense for the organization. What does worry me is that the Sox are once again entering the off-season without vital pieces to team management. Not as vital the GM, obviously, but who’s going to spend the off-season beating Wily Mo over the head until he realizes he doesn’t have to swing at every bad pitch? Who’s going to smack Josh Beckett until he gets it in his head to start pitching with his head every game instead of every third game? We’ve got five or six months until Spring Training and the 2007 Reincarnation; I just hope the Sox find coaches in time to make a difference to key to players this winter.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Games 160 - 162: At Last

Final Scores:

Game 160: Boston Red Sox 4, Baltimore Orioles 3
Game 161: Boston Red Sox 4, Baltimore Orioles 5
Game 162: Boston Red Sox 9, Baltimore Orioles 0

Thank God, it’s over. 86 wins, 76 losses and the season ends with a series win against Baltimore (again) on a rain-shortened day when a guy who started the year in Portland tossed five complete innings of no hit ball to get his first major league win. Oh and the first third-place placing in nine years. J.P. Ricciardi must be very proud of himself and his expanded payroll. Still, if you’re gonna give the hometown crowd something think about during the long off season, you might as well end with all cylinders firing: no errors, Hansack’s no-no, homers by Lowell, Lorreta and Hinske and a Kapler double. So, yeah, good stuff.

The big story of the weekend was the return of Manny to the lineup after a three-week absence. Ramirez came back to work like he hadn’t missed a day, going 2 for 3 with a homerun and a single and adding fuel to the “Manny wants to be traded – again” controversy. Here’s my crazy thought of the day on that one: did anyone care to notice that Manny made this year’s trade demand after the papers started calling him out for missing time for his tendonitis? I mean, look at the Herald article I just linked to – the writer hints in overtones a child could read through that she thinks Manny is faking his injury because he’s lazy and she’s not the only writer to do so. I don’t know who the Boston sports writers think they’re doing any favors for with their opinions – if they’re reacting to the end of a season of lost opportunity, or they honestly think anyone with half a brain really cares. Because, to be honest, if Manny Ramirez really is the clubhouse cancer writers like Shaughnessy and Massarotti claim he is, the front office will get rid of him. The rest of us should just enjoy the 1.058 OPS, the 35 HRs, the 102 RBI and the .321 AVG Manny put together this year – not to mention the protection he provides for Ortiz in the lineup – and shut it.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Interview with Howard Camerik

After reading and reviewing of Howard Camerik's book, The Curse of Carl Mays, I had a few questions for the author about his baseball tale. Fortunately, Howard was game to answer and for this Thursday’s off-day special, I present our dialog:

Keep Your Sox On: Especially given your background as a baseball fan (grew up a Mets fan, now rooting for the Marlins), why the Red Sox? Obviously, there's a history there, but why not the Cubs, for example?

Howard Camerik: Hmmm…the Cubs…what if Bartman’s ticket to that game is one row back, and Alou catches that foul ball…sorry about that, just thinking about something …

Why the Red Sox? Why not the Red Sox? Where else would an aspiring sports novelist turn to make his literary bones? It was shortly after Bucky Dent dropped that pitiless, black-hearted bomb when John Cheever famously said, “all literary men are Red Sox fans,” and it was just weeks prior to the infamous Game Six when Martin F. Nolan penned in the Globe, “Fenway is the ultimate protagonist of the lit’ry life, a survivor.” So if I wanted to be one of those men, be part of that life, enter the Forbidden City where the men of letters sip tea and gaze at their navels, it was only natural to look toward the sports franchise long regarded as something of an allegorical tale.

And besides that, there are a lot of publishing houses in Boston, so I thought it would make it easier to sell.

KYSO: Given the number of historic collapses over the years, why 1986 specifically? 2003, for example, seems like a viable candidate.

HC: If I can take the second part first…I first outlined the basic contours of the story, and began researching, back in 2001, before the Aaron Boone atrocity was even remotely foreseeable. Time travel only really works fictionally – I couldn’t actually do it.

But really, if you’re going to use the novel form to re-write Red Sox history, is there a better candidate than what Shaughnessy called “the denouement?” The tenth inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series probably stands out as my sharpest baseball memory, the “where were you when” story [for the record, I was a law student watching in an Ann Arbor, Michigan apartment]. I really thought a story about 1986 would evoke the most emotion, and have the most resonance … and make the best movie.

KYSO: The attention to detail in your book, especially your descriptions of life as a minor leaguer, are absolutely fascinating (and might even make a few people reconsider a pro baseball career, given how difficult the minor leagues sound). Is there some personal history there, or did you dig all this stuff up through research?

HC: Personal history? Would that it were so. [Note on usage: this seems to be a popular phrase these days, so I used it to sound hip and modern. But it is one ponderous collection of words awkwardly cobbled together, isn’t it?]. The baseball career I yearned for stalled after high school, aided and abetted by chronic elbow tendonitis. I did make a triumphant comeback, however, first, in baseball fantasy camp [see book author photo], followed by several seasons in the Men’s Senior Baseball League [which I write about] before being felled again, this time by a torn rotator cuff.

No, the description of life in the minor leagues was purely a product of my imagination, which I suppose was internalized from years of reading, thinking about baseball, and just paying attention. And re-watching Bull Durham on cable. After I had fully drafted the manuscript, I read a book called Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball written by an anthropologist (and former minor leaguer) named George Gmelch, and even I was stunned at how accurate my conjured portrayal was.

KYSO: Where did you come up with the character of Pat McCarvill?

HC: I combined the two starting guards on my junior high basketball team (Pat Badolato and Jimmy McCarvill) who I played behind. But you probably didn’t mean just the name.

I consider Curse to be more plot than character driven, and so the character was really built around the story, his history and personality traits specially designed to snap into the puzzle and facilitate the plot. In addition to baseball, I follow politics very closely, so combining the two in Pat’s character – mayor-turned-ballplayer – came particularly easy to me. At some point, I became so convinced that the role was calling out to Ben Affleck, I think I actually started writing dialogue that I could envision him delivering [Ben, if you’re out there … call me, babe].

KYSO: You've mentioned in other interviews that you got the idea for the book from an accident suffered by a teammate in a softball game, but how much did you know about Carl Mays before you were inspired to write the book? Did your idea for a plot change at all as you did more research?

HC: That’s actually a long-winded discussion that I’ll sharply edit so as not to bore your readers. Truth be told, the original manuscript, entitled A Pitch in Time, had nothing to do with a baseball curse. It was otherwise the same story, built around the Chapman incident (as inspired by my friend’s softball concussion), but with little substantive to do with Mays.
But I had this idea floating around as I was writing about the Mays angle, his Red Sox connection, etc. Ultimately, with the prodding of an editor (I hired the guy who edits the Dune series), I began to research and develop it, and without sounding too corny, I was astonished to learn how interwoven Mays was with Ruth, the 1918 Red Sox, and the Frazee purge. With that, the new “curse” element almost wrote itself. I swear, at times I felt as though I was discovering a story, not creating it, with the almost spooky way the pieces fit together.

I did take some literary license with an aspect of Mays’ career that I was surprised to learn of. It’s commonly assumed that he was denied enshrinement in the Hall of Fame because of the Chapman incident, and Curse plays it up that way. But the Chapman pitch was probably not the real reason. Many believe that Mays actually threw a game in the 1921 World Series (as a member of the Yankees). Common lore teaches that the Black Sox scandal of 1919 put an end to such things, but apparently, the break wasn’t as clean as Hollywood would have us believe. Mays was never charged, but enough sports writers believed it to be so that the taint is likely what cost him the votes he needed. I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

KYSO: Howard, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions about your book – we wish you the best of luck with its success.

HC: Thanks for inviting this kid born in Queens to spend some time over here in Brooklyn. As of now, the book is available only on the internet booksellers like Amazon, and, I submit that reading it would be an uplifting thing to do during October while that useless post-season is going on. If any of your readers have follow-up questions, they should feel free to contact me at See ya.