Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The New Weirdo at Short

Insert your favorite chicken-love joke here

Anyway. A 1 year contract, $3 million dollars and one pending physical and a serviceable short stop will be in Fenway again. Alex “Gonzo” Gonzalez has the “gold-glove” quality (heard that before) and has a little more pop in his bat than that Joey or Alex Cora guy that would have been between bags if we didn’t go sifting through the Marlins leftovers. That’s right, ANOTHER ex-Marlin who is coming off a bad year. Oh well.

For the money, I like the deal. It’s an 8 or 9 spot hitter with the ability to be pinch hit for thanks to Cora and Graff being on the bench. Is this the sign Dustin Pedroia will see some AB’s this year? Who knows… but the fact is that now there is a major league player in ever position in Boston. I am a fan of that.

Speaking of new acquisitions, there is an interesting dichotomy concerning Coco Crisp and a Sox off-season addition from the mid nineties. As if everyone couldn’t tell just by looking, Theo has been heard to repeat the fact that “Crisp is NOT Damon
”. The party line is that Crisp is his own player and can’t replace what Damon brought to the team but he will provide plenty on his own.

When I heard that it was like fire in my brain. I KNEW I had heard another man say that before with HORRIBLE results. Then I remembered in 1998 Dan Duquette saying almost the SAME EXACT THING when Mo Vaughn
packed up for California and Jose Offerman was the new Sox savior. Even though Duke warned us Offerman wasn’t going to hit 40 homeruns (or even 10 as it turned out) or bat .400 (or even .300) and he wasn’t the life of the party like Mo was… he was going to bring his own vibe to the table. I guess vibe means 3 years of garbage.
Yikes! Did that turn out poorly. Here is fingers toes and eyes crossed that history won’t repeat itself with Damon and Coco. Although it really can’t. Damon would have had to be Ortiz and Coco would have had to be… I dunno… Mike Lowell? Oh wait, we already have Mike Lowell. Crap.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

All Gets That Much More Right With The World

I’m not sure what makes me happier: that the Red Sox officially acquired Coco Crisp last night; that they made up for the Mota shoulder weakness in the trade without losing Manny Delcarmen; or that with a dog and pony show for the press last night, Lucchino and Theo made their reconciliation as real and as public as possible.

The trade details turned out to be basically the same as they’ve been for at least the past week: Crisp, Riske and Bard for Renteria (I mean Marte), Mota and Shoppach. Despite dealing from a position of weakness (you may recall that the Sox need a centerfielder – and everyone and their mother knows it), Theo & Co. avoided the desperation move, rumored since Mota “failed” his physical, of including top (already proven) relief prospect Manny Delcarmen to get the deal done. I would have settled for throwing in Matt Clement – Boston took it one step further and bought the Tribe off with cash and more cash or a player to be named later if they’re still unsatisfied. So, final score: the Sox trade one top third base prospect (giving this trade potential Jeff Bagwell/Larry Andersen status), one high but unproven catching prospect (a position they have locked up for the next few years at least) and a good reliever with a shoulder problem for a young, proven centerfielder, a mediocre but unproven catching prospect and a young, proven reliever. I think the Sox did all right.

The media circus: since the press about Theo’s unexpected return to GM refuses to die down, the Sox Front Office gets an idea: let’s invite the sports writers over to Larry’s house! Theo and Larry will talk about the new philosophy governing the club, explain how the organization’s been reorganized (to wit: Baseball Operations is moving up from the basement to be with everyone else in the company. The mental picture of the people who make all of the decisions about the makeup of the ball club emerging from the basement like the Neanderthals in 2001: A Space Odyssey clamoring around that space monolith is hilarious, by the way) and let the press know that in the future, the Boston Red Sox press policies will mirror those of the New England Patriots and Communist Russia – the only information that will get out is the stuff that the front office wants to get out. Oh and we’ll cap the whole thing off with a Theo and Larry hug. My favorite part of the whole deal (besides the clear decision to put the past in the past) is the statement of how Epstein and Lucchino intend to run player development and acquisition in the future:
“Epstein indicated that the team is now operating with a clear basis of beliefs centered upon balancing immediate and long-term goals, with an emphasis on player development, pitching, defense, and avoiding cumbersome contracts. Epstein said he wanted this balance clearly established, ''rather than reach that conclusion with every specific transaction.”
- The Boston Globe

In other words, let the Yankees and Mets have their arms race, their high priced contracts and their high potentials for both overwhelming success and complete meltdown. Boston really is going for VORP. Is it March yet?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Honestly Don't Understand

This diagram shows the process that got Theo the GM job again

So let me get this straight. After 3 months of limbo, 3 months of questions like “who’s running this place?” and “who let Damon get away?” and “why can’t these jokers find a home for Manny and Wells (and why can’t that home be Boston)”, 3 months of wondering why Boston’s favorite son has deserted his home… Theo’s back. And not just back. Back as the GM! BACK AS IF NOTHING HAPPENED!?!?! Is it just me? Am I dumb? I am the only person who really doesn’t understand what the deal was with this whole mess? I don’t get it, but I do have some theories:

  1. Theo realized he made a mistake and begged his way back in.
    He just left a dream job, with nearly unlimited decision making power and total fan support. He left because that power was fading under Lucchino and he wanted to find his own way. Big mistake. He came crawling back to his old title, only now he knows that his power will be decreased even MORE and Lucchino will have the real say over what happens in the front office. You know what? This isn’t right. This is the guy who brought us the Freaking World Series! He wouldn’t come crawling back like a bird on its belly
    ! No way…
  2. The front office realized they just lost the best man for this job and begged him to come back. That’s more like it. John Henry and Tom Werner probably promised to chain Lucchino to a desk somewhere underneath the Green Monster. Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington are losers! Those two sound like they should be staring in Brokeback Mountain, not running a ball club. It’s all yours again Theo. Do what you will. Ain’t no one stopping you now. Trade Nomar again! We’ll love you for it.
  3. The party line.
    ...There is, according to sources both on and off the ballclub, a less complicated rationale for Epstein’s return. He has now become convinced that the work environment has improved to the point where there is more listening, more cooperation and more of an ability to compromise when there are differences.
    – The Boston Herald
    Maybe… but then again what big changes were there? It looks like the same old crew to me.
  4. It isn’t really Theo Epstein. This new GM is just an android or some alien facsimile genetically engineered by Lucchino to look like the Theo we know and love. Never leaving the office, this creature will gather nutrients from the remains of media room buffet tables. Its true nature will become evident after the trading deadline we discover that its only moves were to up ticket prices, make Red Sox Nation cards mandatory and sign the frozen head of Ted Williams to a 4 year contract.
  5. Theo, the management and the ownership have all gone Coo-Coo. Damn you Coco Crisp.

The Oracle Speaks

Let’s have a little more of that Curt Schilling love, specifically for a phone conversation he had with Dennis and Callahan on WEEI this morning. Yes, Schilling is a man to run his mouth off and occasionally he says absolutely retarded things (“Mr. Schilling, you just helped the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years, how do you feel?” “I feel great! I feel so great I’m going to inject some political commentary as a buzz kill!”), but if you need someone to talk something up, Curt Schilling is your man. I think it might have something to do with the fact that he doesn’t go for the generic answers athletes use when they know they can’t say anything controversial or they’ll get reamed out by the front office, so they end up saying nothing at all. Curt just shoots from the hip, no matter what he’s saying and he throws in enough positive things so that he doesn’t sound like a whiner or a malcontent.

So, since Schilling says whatever is on his mind, when he says that his foot feels normal, that somehow Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon are both the second coming of the Rocket, that the Sox did good picking up Lowell and Loretta and that Keith Foulke used the winter to pull out of last year’s problems, I’m inclined to believe him. It’s a bit like having Sam Waterston as the spokesman for TD Waterhouse – I’m more likely to want to invest with them because there’s no way that EADA Jack McCoy could lie to me. Indeed, such is the power of the man’s blarney that if Curt Schilling says that 4 members of the Sox pitching staff are going to have strong years and that the newest members of the infield are going to do well in Boston because he believes in them, then by God it’ll happen.

I’m more and more excited for this season to start every day.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

From 0 to 60

Whoa whoa whoa… slow down so I can catch up.

After weeks of inactivity, where the biggest news was “Arroyo for 3 more years!” or “Theo is back, but he never really left” or “David Ortiz is also called Papi!” a lot of action is coming from the front office.

According to the Boston Herald, ESPN and the crazy guy on the F Train who’s always talking to himself, the Red Sox are on the verge of trading Andy Marte and Mota for Co-Co Crisp. Also, free agent Alex Gonzalez is being courted to solve the lack of shortstop. These acquisitions are designed to fill the biggest gaps in the Red Sox line-up and would ensure that any ground ball hit up the middle won’t roll all the way to the wall.

The Crisp trade has some harsh critics. I know that Marte is a #1 prospect and has that “hitters touch” but a major league leadoff hitter and center fielder he is NOT. The party line is that we would just be trading Renteria (yikes) for Crisp (ok) and just ignore that we had Marte (potentially great) at all. I’ll buy that. Rent for Crisp is awesome and I would do that every day of the week. I think we get a guy who will be a cult hero, hits for average and can learn all the hand shakes. I am a fan.

As for the Alex Gonzalez thing… well I was happier when I found out it WASN’T the Alex Gonzalez that got busted for steroids. This is the Alex Gonzalez that played his way out of a starting roll on the Marlins. Wow. Will the ENTIRE infield be made up of players who had bad seasons last year? And if this is the case why didn’t we keep Millar? He hits slightly better than Cora (the other Alex) and is top notch defensively. All that for less than 5 million? Ok I’ll bite.

These are both still on the table till further notice (the Indians are trying to replace Crisp before they trade him and Gonzalez hasn’t reached terms yet) but I hope they both go through. Keep it going Red Sox. Help me get through the dregs of winter.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Business as Usual

So…comparisons to chick flicks aside, Theo’s back.  The Red Sox won’t tell us in what capacity he’s going to be working for the front office (or they won’t until next week, anyway), but the behind the scenes business that’s been going on since October is over for now.  Tony Massaroti and Dan Shaughnessy, who love these sort of twists and turns in the soap opera that is the Boston Red Sox, both point out that basically nothing’s changed for the better – Lucchino’s still in power as CEO, Epstein will still report to him and not directly to John Henry and not only has the organization moved on by hiring two new GMs, but by announcing that Theo is coming back but not saying where he’ll fit in at the office, Henry is just making things more treacherous.  All of these points may be correct – although it’s just as possible that Henry made the announcement internally and swore the staff to secrecy about Theo’s new role just to create more press – but honestly, could it get any more confusing on Yawkey Way?  The team has two GMs, for chrissake; throwing in the former GM in some advisory capacity isn’t going to make any more problems, even if he and the CEO don’t get along.  It’s not like the Sox haven’t made some major upgrades this off-season – with Theo behind the scenes all along, mind you – so why should things be any different now that Epstein is back in an official capacity?  If they can fit him up with a mitt to play shortstop, so much the better.

Speaking of those holes in the field, Bronson “Don’t Call Me Brandon, McCarver” Arroyo agreed to sacrifice his remaining three years before he’s eligible for free agency for about $4 million a year, plus an additional $4 million in incentives.  Arroyo, who went against the advice of his agent to sign the deal, cited his love of Boston and his desire to play for the Red Sox for the rest of his career as his reasoning for taking the extended deal; admirable sentiments, especially with two of his teammates trying to leave Boston and the likely possibility that on a staff of six (or possibly seven, depending on what happens to Boomer) starters, Arroyo might be the odd man out and off the team in exchange for Julio Lugo.  As the Herald points out though, if J & B turn around and deal Arroyo and his lightweight contract to another team, they risk losing the trust of players when negotiating contract extensions in the future.  In the end then, the Sox have the loyalties of a young, reliable and popular pitcher who they can depend on to pick up 10 to 14 wins a year, pitch from the bullpen if necessary and not get hurt…but they can’t deal him to fill holes without a backlash.  Everyone wins…I think.

Theo Maguire

THEO: "Hello. I'm looking for my team.

Can we leave Lucchino's office? No? Alright. If this is where it has to happen, then this is where it has to happen.

I'm not letting me get rid of you. How about that? This used to be my specialty. I was good with the tough Boston crowd. Send me in there, I'll talk about stats, VORP, win shares... you name it. And now I just... I don't know... but with what was supposed to be the freest years of my business life, it wasn't complete, wasn't nearly close to being in the same vicinity as complete, because I couldn't share it with my team. I couldn't hear Manny demanding to be traded and then taking it back, or laugh about it with you. I missed my Red Sox. We live in a cynical world, and we work in a divison of tough competitors, so try not to laugh --

I love you. You complete me."

RED SOX: "Aww, shut-up. You had me at VORP."

MANNY: "Did you know a human head weighs 8 pounds?"

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Shadow Knows

What evil lurks in the hearts of baseballs? Big Papi knows...

Right about this time of winter is when I really get excited for the coming baseball season. I start thinking about the warm sun, the smell of grass, the cheering crowds, Rem Dawg and D.O. reminiscing about strange hotel rooms across the baseball cities of the U.S. and Canada during a blowout and I get hungry for the return of the boys of summer. But there’s always something that gets me started on the winding trail of memory and anticipation that accompanies the coming season. Last year, it was the Varitek re-signing. This year, it’s the interview David Ortiz did with IGN while filming his character for the upcoming release of the MLB 06: The Show videogame. Not only is Big Papi absolutely hilarious (definitely the guy you’d want to hang out with in a bar), but it’s pretty clear he’s psyched for the coming season and that gets me pumped, too. I can’t wait.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Phone Hittin' Man

Tavarez with protective phone hitting glove

My reactions to learning about the Julian Tavarez signing, in order:
  1. Oh God, not Julian Tavarez!
  2. [Checking out his player card on ESPN.com] Well, he’s not terrible…kinda middle of the road, actually. $3.3 million a year for two years seems like a lot for those career stats, though. Why did I have a problem with him again?
  3. Oh, right…he’s emotional. And by emotional, I mean he punched a phone during the playoffs and broke his hand. Also, he gave up a home run to Mark Bellhorn in Game 1 of the 2004 World Series – doesn’t speak well to his ability to keep it together in big games. Maybe he took meditation lessons from Kevin Brown.
  4. The Globe used a picture of Tavarez looking distressed after giving up a run to the Astros in the post-season last year to announce the signing. Clearly they’re big fans of the signing, too. Nothing like passive-aggressive journalism for providing high comedy.
  5. [After talking to Robin later in the afternoon] Wait...Tavarez and Manny are buddy-buddy? So this is $3 million to keep Manny happy? I'm strangely ok with this idea. I can imagine a front office meeting with Francona where J & B and Lucchino are tell Francona, "look, Tito: we picked up this guy to keep Manny from flipping out mid-season again. He also gives up a lot of ground balls, so he works well with the new defense, but for God's sake do not use him in a big situation - it's not worth the new phone equipment OR the medical bills." And then Francona will have a brain fart and put in Tavarez in a one run game with two men on and we'll all pray for a ground ball. I'm looking forward to this already.
Meanwhile, Tony G. avoided arbitration entirely by signing for $2 million for next year in the role of utility man and extra outfielder. Not a bad guy to have on your bench, I think – he certainly proved he can hit last year and it looks like he really wants to stay in Boston. As Robin pointed out to me earlier today, Loretta being injury-prone doesn’t hurt Graff’s cause either.

So ignoring the bullpen, which seems like it’s going to start Spring Training held together by tape and glue (get the feeling that the front office picked up a bunch of guys who might work on the cheap and they’re going to toss them at a wall in the Spring and see what sticks? Do you also get the feeling that I can mix metaphors like a fiend?), things are starting to shape up for 2006 Red Sox. With any luck, we might have a shortstop who can hit, a center fielder and a lead-off hitter by Opening Day. If we’re lucky.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

No Call From the Hall

I was going to write a whole long piece about how "Rice should have been inducted!" and "Look at the stats!" and "Compare it to all the coke heads of the era! He was great!" A little song and dance but then I realized... I wasn't there. I can only watch old games and look at stats. I was too young. So I am gonna go to the bullpen and lay it in the hands of the crafty vet. My dad has the final word on Jim Rice:

"1975 . . . It was the season that Sox fans had been waiting for since, well you know, we continued to wait until 2004. But, in the beginning of ‘75 everyone was tuned in to the two new kids on the block; Fred Lynn and Jim Rice... the 'Gold Dust Twins'. They got called up late ‘74 and tore up Fenway. The next season it had to be the Sox year: Yaz, Fisk, El Tiante, Spaceman Lee, Rico, Lynn and Jim Ed Rice. They lost the series by a whisker, and everyone knew if Rice didn’t break his wrist in September and misses it, the World Championship would’ve been in Boston 29 years earlier.

After that, the Sox had some pretty lousy teams, but always you could count on some excitement from Rice. 40 yrs of the 'Green Monster' and only three guys played out there: Williams, Yaz, and Rice. In ‘78 he hit 46 HR w/139 RBI and batted .315, but the Sox couldn’t 'get r-done' in the playoffs against the dreaded Yankees.

My favorite Jim Rice moment: in Yankee Stadium, Rice makes a long run line from deep left, chasing what ended up being a foul about a row deep behind 3rd base. Half into the stands, he comes up empty and loses his cap. Some Yankee fan picks it up and takes off up the aisle. A very large, muscular, and pissed off Jim Rice, vaults the wall and goes after the guy. The crowd freezes and there is nowhere for this guy to hide. He stops at the top of the section, turns, and realizes he’s going to die. No one wants to get in the way of Rice churning up those stairs to help this guy. Luckily for him Security steps in and returns Rice’s hat and removes the idiot for his own good... I really disliked Yankee fans after that."

So that's it. From a man who remembers. Rice almost killed a Yankee fan? The Baseball Hall of Fame isn't good enough for you sir. Not good enough by a long shot.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Backing Up the Greek God of Walks

It may be one month and 6 days until pitchers and catchers report for the 2006 season, but damn it’s been a slow news week.  Jim Ed missed on his 12th try to get into the Hall earlier today.  It’s disappointing because I feel, as a Boston fan, that he should get in, but I don’t really have any scientific basis for my feelings and I’m not about to do an analysis now.  Suffice it to say that Rice has 3 more years before he’s past the point of no return.

On Saturday, the Sox filled the hole at first base by signing J.T. Snow to a 1 year, $2 million deal.  I like this deal for two reasons:

  1. It gives the Red Sox depth at first – depth in the form of a 6 time Gold Glove winner, no less.  He’s no Magic Helmet at the plate and his official picture makes him look like he’s 12 (come on, there’s no way that guy is 37), but he’ll make a good defensive replacement, be able to take over at first if Lowell gets hurt, etc.  The Sox continue to migrate towards a pitching and defense dominated team.

  2. It’s $2 million for a year.  Not only is that a tiny financial burden for the Red Sox, but they don’t have to re-sign him for 2007 if things don’t work out this year.  More importantly, he can teach Youkilis a thing or two about playing first base which could pay the Sox dividends for years to come.  I see it a bit like the transfer of responsibilities from John Wetteland to Mariano Rivera in 1995 – this season will give Youkilis more experience without putting all of the pressure on him to perform and, assuming he does well, make him the starting first baseman next year.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Manny Staying Manny?

Oh thank you Sweet Merciful Gods! The best hitter the Red Sox have ever fielded since Ted Williams says he wants to stay. The “Bi-Polar Blaster” said he has friends here (Ortiz) and won’t want to learn another system (crazy NL rules). I have only one thing to say about this:


Thank you for keeping the best hitting combo since Ruth and DiMaggio on my team. Thank you for not ensuring a 250 walk season for Ortiz. Thank you for saving me from talking myself into thinking that getting Tejada is a good deal (even if it WAS the closest thing to equal value). Thank you for the temper tantrums, camera shyness and trade requests that will happen this season and every season as long as you play pro baseball. And most of all, thank you for the Manny Point. You know how I like it…

…wait… what do you mean that’s not what you meant? Tell that agent of yours to shut up!! Great. Now more speculation to come I guess. This probably won’t be resolved until you do or don’t show up to spring training. This must be even MORE Manny being Manny.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Few Quick Thoughts

Robin and our mutual friend Dave were having a discussion about the current round of Miggy for Manny rumors and Dave, who’s a huge Manny fan, called it “trading a dollar for 90 cents.”  Robin mentioned that throwing in Clement is like trading $1.01 for 90 cents.  I think that’s underestimating Clement’s value a bit – it’s more like $1.25 for 90 cents, especially since it sounds at this point that the O’s only have an outfield prospect to offer in return.  Can he play center, because this chart scares the crap out of me.  In any case, the whole thing sounds ridiculous; unless Arroyo has suddenly acquired super starter powers and the bullpen is much fuller than I remember, we need Clement in the rotation, not going to Baltimore along with Manny in an already mismatched deal.

Speaking of center fielders, if the Marte for Lugo deal goes through, let’s ignore the fact that the Sox essentially just traded Edgar Renteria and $8 million for the next two years for Julio Lugo and move on.  Holes need to be filled, the options are few and please God don’t let Adam Stern be our starting CF next year.

You remember the end of “Get in the Ring” by Guns N’ Roses, how an arena full of people are chanting “Get in the ring!” over and over again?  Remember at the end of Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, how there were so many Red Sox fans in Yankee Stadium that you could hear people chanting “Let’s go Red Sox!” very, very clearly by the end of the game, like Fenway had suddenly teleported to the Bronx?  Anyone else see the parallels here?

Finally, in the spirit of those retarded “Red Sox West” articles after the Nomar and Mueller signings earlier this winter and because the Yankees now have a few ex-Sox of their own, I’ll be referring to the Yankees as Red Sox South from now on.  Remember folks: we strive to entertain.