Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What's Up With Wily Mo?

Last year, he was the Golden Boy slugger the Sox snatched from the Reds in exchange for the Red Sox player well-known for chasing college-aged...well, snatch. Now Wily Mo Pena can't even get a contract and might become the first arbitration case of the Epstein years? Answer me this, Theo: is it because you got married?

Let's examine the situation a little bit. Pena is 25, a mountain of a man who can absolutely rock the ball when he catches it properly and is surprisingly quick for a man his size. Last year he had his highest average and second highest OPS in his four year career, albeit with his second fewest ABs. He legged out 15 doubles and 2 triples, a testament to his speed. All good things so far, I would think. 162 game averages aren't nearly as impressive, with a group of average and below-average numbers, but Pena started out as even more of a free-swinger (unless I'm misinterpreting seasonal average) than he is now. On a related note, his strikeout total and strikeouts per at bat, while much higher (90 total, .32 per AB) than it should be for a full-time player, declined for the first time last year, even taking into account his reduced playing time last year. So what's the deal?

DC put me onto this train of thought earlier today, but I wonder if maybe the Sox don't want to take the time to train Wily Mo to be a more patient hitter, even though it seems like his experience as a Red Sox has already started him on that road. With the sudden appearance of J.D. Drew on the market this winter, his subsequent signing by the Sox and the acquisition of the more patient (if slower footed) Eric Hinske (and his two-year contract) last summer, it's possible Pena's value in Boston has dropped to the point where the Sox are happy to low-ball him or send him somewhere else without feeling like they're on the short end of a stick.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Helton You Say!

This happens almost every year. A trade rumor comes around that is SO juicy yet SO foul tasting… I want to distance myself from it completely. Maybe it’s because the guy we might be getting is overrated or maybe the other team is asking too much, but no matter how good it looks… something is fishy and I want no part of it. Before it was guys like A-Rod and Tejada. Looked good on paper and the deals were almost done, but nobody was really happy, too much was about to be given up and they never got the trigger pulled.

This year it looks like Todd Helton is the target. And just like before, talks are serious, high level and continuing. The current mumblings are that Mike Lowell and Julian Tavarez are going to Colorado for the hard hitting Helton. I guess that will put Youk back at 3rd base. That’s really something… woo… Todd Helton. Wow.

So yeah… it will never happen.

Now, I am not 100% sure it won’t happen, but I would put my certainty in the high 90% range. First off, this guy is owed A LOT of money and the Sox are going to want the Rockies to foot some of that bill. Big sticking point. Second, the Rockies also have mentioned interest in getting Manny Delcarman or Craig Hansen to sweeten the deal. Our psycho pitcher, defensive double hitting machine and our young reliever core? That’s asking quite a bit. Lastly, it’s freaking Todd Helton?!?! This guy is a big shot! The Red Sox only get big shots when:

a) Nobody had a clue it was going to happen.
b) He’s washed up and we get played for suckers.

So since I am talking about this right now… it isn’t option “a”.

So wow… it would be great if we got Todd Helton. A normal priced, 100% healthy, not old as the hills Todd Helton. But I don’t see that happening.

Schilling Vows 2008 Return

Three days ago, the news was Schilling for senator; kick John Kerry out and replace him with the Warrior of the Bloody Sock. Schilling said at the time he wasn't thinking political office (yeah, right), but even if the idea had tickled his fancy at the time, it takes a backseat to his current ambition: to return for the 2008 campaign. Schilling feels healthy, has his family's support, hopes he can return to the Sox, swears he won't go to New York, John Henry is thrilled, punch and pie for everyone.

I think more Schilling is a great concept (Schilling's still-strong abilities aside, him coming back to Boston in '08 keeps the pressure off of Beckett this year), but I'm not surprised he's thinking more time in the majors in the slightest, for two reasons:
  1. We've come to a point in sports medicine where being a 39/40/41+-year-old pitcher ain't no thang. Clemens, Maddux, Smoltz, Johnson (once he goes back to the kinder climes of Arizona), Hoffman and Wakefield have all proven that if you can learn to pitch effectively as your body gets older, you can stay in the game much longer than you used to. Pitching in the NL doesn't hurt, but the principle is the same: learn to pitch smart and you'll pitch as long as you want to. Schilling is a competitor who loves to play. He'll keep playing as long as he's healthy and (because he's not Ricky Henderson, who just loves to play, period) there's a spotlight to shine on him.

  2. And here I get cynical: he's got an eye on the Hall of Fame. He won't hit 300 wins in the time he's got left, but he'll be looking to add some additional relevant stats to his 3,000+ K collection to impress the voters in 2013 or so. Additional time on the mound will help him make his case.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Drew: Can't Live With Him, Can't Replace His Shoulder With A Servo

Woo, J.D. Drew's shoulder-hanging-by-a-thread throwing arm and his "patient bat" really will be playing in Boston next year. That's right: the deal that was done back on December 5 really is done, like, for reals, after working out some "minor issues." You know, like his shoulder falling off mid-swing on Opening Day. According to the Globe, the resolution to those minor issues is that Drew gets the first two years scot-free, but problems in the third year plus means cancellation of the contract after three years. Not bad, but that could very well mean three years of pain for RSN and Mr. Drew sitting in the sun doing his best Carl Pavano impression. Or it could be five years of hitting super awesomeness and fielding fairly decent awesomeness like the front office is promising.

Frankly, I don't think there's much of a choice here - Nixon's gone, the free agent pool is empty, Wily Mo doesn't seem to be the big time material quite yet and trading for someone means trading one of the young guns (which Robin will discuss in a future post). We're stuck with J.D. because someone needs to man the far reaches of right field and backup Coco Crisp when he misses a dive and the ball heads into the triangle and to spot for the Captain in the five hole in the lineup. I take a very realistic philosophy about baseball, because I know the best I can do is rail about it with my friends or in this blog and know that no one of consequence to the decision making is listening, because they've made up their minds. I'm willing to give Drew a shot, because I have no choice - and I'll give him his fair chance, too - but my jaw won't drop if Wily Mo is starting in right field starting in June.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Closer Debate: SETTLED

Huh? No no no… not the pitcher. I have no idea who is going to end up in that role as the season progresses. Papelbon has the experience and the skill, but he should be starting. Donnelly isn’t gonna be able to shoulder the load alone, Tavarez scares me more than his Freddy Kruger counterpart and Joel Pineiro was busy sucking wind in Seattle last year. But this is all inconsequential. I have discovered something FAR more provocative.

If you remember last season (and I know many are trying to forget) you may recall the Golden Boy Papelbon was having trouble finding a song to come out of the bullpen to. His Closer Song. The most important thing a closer can have (besides… ya know… pitching skill). Paps was lost… took some suggestions… and never had anything that really popped (Ultimate Warrior music notwithstanding).

This turn of events created a tidal wave of opinions, lists and out right musical crusades from writers on this site and many others. Everyone claimed to have the best (or best 5) and KNEW that someone should use their ideas. Well, I know that this is kind of beating a dead horse, but today I get to tell you… you were all wrong.

The best song for a Closer was under my nose the whole time. Hiding in plain view in my classic rock collection. A song not written (there are no words) but EXPOLDED into creation.

I speak of Van Halen: Eruption.

Think about it… just for a moment. It’s short enough, it has a little pause and it rocks so hard that faces melt. Can you imagine a stoic figure walking in from the pen while the powerful guitar of Eddie V wails into the night? Can you imagine what Fenway would sound like after? I can… and it sounds like WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Now cut it right before the Kinks cover kicks in and it’s a masterpiece. I don’t care who you are… you are running 10,000 miles an hour when you hear this song. I got 10 speeding tickets sitting in my chair just THINKING about this. If this doesn’t get used (hell even a AAA Team could use it) I may have to march up to Boston and demand that this be played.

So argue all you want. Fight, kick and plead that there are better choices out there. That someone is already using something better. Make your lists and comments. You’re wrong, I’m right. It’s Eruption. Everything else is of secondary quality.

Now that that’s settled, the only question is… who’ll be coming out of the Sox pen when it plays?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

One Dirt Dog…To Go.

Another one of the mystical elite 2004 Red Sox squadron has left the fold. Christopher Trotman Nixon will be a Cleveland Indian next year to make way for J.D. Drew (if that deal ever happens and it doesn’t look closer than it did yesterday). So, no longer will we see a dirty, scruffy, hustle machine patrol the area closest to the Pesky Pole. Losing him was inevitable and even with Drew in limbo (how LOW will his contract GO), Trot is too hurt, is too inconsistent and is just a little too easy to replace. Everyone knew this was going to happen.

Trot was one of the most underrated and overrated Sox players of this era. When you think about his play, his gung-ho, gutsy determination is always the first thing comes to mind. This is because it was the best thing he had going for him. Trot was a VERY average player. He never hit 30 homeruns, never got 100 RBI and his career average is below .280. This is a guy who HAD to give his all, because anything less would have been awful.

That being said… who else does that now? Who else puts it all out on the field and leaves nothing in the tank? It’s hard to find many millionaires who are willing to push that hard. Can you imagine if Manny tried as hard as Trot did every single day? He would be batting .400 with 70 homeruns a season. Now I’m not saying other guys don’t work hard… It’s just that Trot was going at 110% all the time.

This leads to another problem. When you burn the candle at both ends like that, it is going to get you hurt and Trot was a walking pile of injuries. He has missed some big chunks of time in almost every season. For a guy who so tough and wants it so bad, it must have killed him to be out with his bad back, hurt knees, busted leg and arm troubles. He defined the wounded warrior, but over all, it probably ended up hurting his numbers.

So is it even a loss statistically to see Trot move on? No. Nope. Not even a little. Drew can put up those numbers no problem. Is it a nostalgic and emotional loss? Yes sir. A HUGE one. Every major league game Trot has played in, he was going full blast, going non stop and wearing a Red Sox uniform. Every single game. That I will miss.

Good luck Mr. Trotski. See you May 28th when you are going to get the biggest round of applause of your life. You earned it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dice Clay and the Money Pit

I just came across a fascinating article from The Eagle-Tribune Online via Yanksfan vs Soxfan, which reveals that the Red Sox won't be making nearly as much money in merchandising or advertising from the Dice Clay deal as many of us (and I'm certainly a guilty party here) originally thought. The problem, it seems, is that the Sox only get exclusive rights to advertising and merchandising revenue when it's sold within the six New England states (with the exception of Fairfield County in Connecticut. If you were ever wondering about the official boundaries of Red Sox home turf versus Red Sox Nation, there you go). Everything else goes directly to MLB and gets split up according to the revenue sharing agreement.

Ok, so shame on the Sox for not thinking about this problem beforehand and spending $110 million on a pitcher...except I can't buy the idea of the Red Sox organization, a group of savvy business people, not taking that issue into account in the first place and finding a way around it. It could be a goodwill thing, as the Sox claim, except that's not the sort of thing you'd hear from a senior vice president of sales and marketing - it's his job to find economic opportunities available in a big name like Dice Clay and exploit them for the benefit of the club, not give up because of an existing restriction. Where's the creativity in not finding a way around the problem? Personally, I think the first commenter on the page might be on point: the Red Sox are owned by several companies, including a media group that (full disclosure) I work for. Finding a way to hide revenue (in a legal way, of course) generated by Matsuzaka certainly doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.

However, let's say that it's not possible to convert Dice Clay's presence in a Red Sox uniform into much more cold, hard cash than the Sox are generating now. We still got a pitcher who's got the potential to be much, much, much better than either king of this year's free agent pool and did so at - posting fee aside - a much cheaper price. Call me an apologist, but would you want to give up Dice Clay even if you knew the Sox wouldn't earn the posting fee back for a number of years? At this point, me either.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Are You Frickin' Kidding Me?

I spotted a disturbing Murray Chass/NY Times piece in Google News today, after someone told me they had heard a rumor about the Giants trying to trade for Manny. No truth there from what I found, but "Unsigned Bonds Awaits Further Review" floats another unpleasant idea: with both Barry Bonds and J.D. Drew floating in contract limbo for the past few weeks (thank God) and the Giants looking like they're seriously considering the idea of killing Bonds's contract after the amphetamine news of last week reared its ugly head, Chass thinks the Red Sox should go after Bonds if he suddenly finds himself unemployed, giving the Sox to move Manny back to his original position in right field and (presumably) adding another explosive bat to the lineup.

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I think that's a less-than-stellar idea. It comes down to two reasons:
  1. On a purely technical level, the last time Manny played right field was five years ago, for a grand total of seven games. The last time he did so on a regular basis was in 2000, in Cleveland. Ignoring the difficulties of playing right field in Boston - remember the scary Wily Mo experiments last year? - it requires a lot of running and that's not really the Man-Ram's style. Bad idea right off.
  2. Then we get to the real heart of the problem: it's Barry Bonds. Sure, he's put up some of the most impressive offensive statistics ever, but guess whose name shows up next to the definition when you look up "clubhouse cancer"? This is a guy who just threw his teammate under the bus as a defense for drug use. Can you imagine what it would be like in Boston, with the home run record chase, Bonds's reputation of hating everyone and everything AND the dreaded Boston sports media all working in the same sphere? The universe would probably fold in on itself.
Hopefully I'm just overreacting to write a post and this passing thought at the head of an article will remain nothing more than a passing thought. RSN has dodged too many bullets over the past few years to have the biggest bomb of them all come to town.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Charge This!

Thank you Patriots for proving my point, with one of the ugliest games of post-season football I've ever seen. A stadium full of Chargers fans, making as much noise as possible when the Pats had the ball and New England still managed to win the game...with some thanks to Marty Schottenheimer, who clearly should be giving clock managing - and challenge flag throwing - classes at Football Coach University.

Despite Tom Brady's less than stellar performance - and thanks to some impressive kicking by Stephen Gostkowski - the Patriots are still in the running for another Superbowl ring. Colts? At home? Cut that meat! Cut that meat!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The San Diego Chargers are Pussies

Forgive the non-baseball post, but I found this amusing: the San Diego Chargers are trying to limit attendance at this Sunday’s playoff game to home fans only by automatically canceling any orders placed online to credit cards whose billing addresses are not located in Southern California. The Chargers join the Bears as the only teams with this policy for the playoffs.

In other words, Chargers fans are so weak and Patriots fans so intimidating that the Chargers felt the need to stack the deck in favor of their team to give them a better chance to win and they did so in the only legal way possible. Whether or not this tactic will work is a better question – Red Sox Nation has some big overlap in Patriot fan territory and I’m pretty sure there’s a big contingent of Sox fans in Southern California, plenty able to buy tickets.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Are you the Key Master???

Some of you may remember our friend DC's first post back in November, when he ranted and raved about Wonderboy becoming the starting second baseman next year. Now he's back with another episode of "DC: Mad as Hell but Still Rational (with less of an emphasis on the rational part)," with some thoughts on this year's Hall of Fame balloting. Enjoy.

Let me start off by telling you two things: First, this is one of my favorite days of the sports year. Now that the players that I grew up watching as a kid are getting on the Hall of Fame ballot, I no longer have to rely on stories about the players who are and are not getting in. Instead, I know the stories, I saw them and I remember them. Finally, my childhood heroes and villains are having their greatness judged before my very eyes and I love it.

Second, I am and always have been a Cal Ripken guy. I loved watching him, I idolized him… hell, I wanted to BE him. He was the one player who I would route for regardless. The one time I got to see him play live, I sat in beloved Fenway and openly routed for him to hit bombs off of my boy Timmy Knuckles. The time I got to shake his hand at a book signing was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever had. My little league glove, which I still use today: a Cal Ripken, Jr. model. I played short stop because of him. When I sprained my throwing wrist in little league a day before the playoffs, I taped up, moved to 2nd so I could make the throw and played on. Why? Because that’s what Cal would have done. He (along with Tony Gwynn) stood for everything that is good in professional sports and that is why today should be one of the best days in the history of Cooperstown.

Unfortunately, sports writers have decided that they are the gatekeepers of morality and grabbed all the headlines in the process. They have decided to crucify one of the larger than life figures of my childhood simply because he is the first ALLEGED steroid user to find his name on the ballot. The media has decided that Mark McGwire cheated, despite having no proof other than a bottle of Androstenetrione (a legal supplement) in his locker and some muscle growth. Imagine that! A guy who mixes supplements with legendary weight room workouts got bigger and stronger?! Alert the Nobel Prize people - we may have solved the country’s obesity epidemic!

The crazy thing is that not only have sports writers decided this guy was a cheater, they also fooled themselves into thinking he was a bad player. Let’s review for a second: 12 all star teams, 1 gold glove, 3 silver slugger awards, the rookie record for home runs, the single season home run record (Barry who?) and you stat heads out there (Eric) a .993 career fielding percentage, .394 OBP, 1414 RBI, 1317 walks and 583 home runs.

But more importantly, the guy ruled the baseball world twice in his career (shouldn’t this be a stat?). The most obvious time was when 1998 when he, with the help of Cal Ripken, revived the struggling world of professional baseball, still reeling from the strike. He gave us one of those “I remember where I was when…” moments when he hit #62. The second time was 1988-1992 in Oakland, when every kid had 2 favorite teams: their team and the Oakland A’s. Who didn’t love Stewart staring people down (before we realized he has a voice like Sherrie Lewis), Ricky’s lime green batting gloves, and most of all The Bash Brothers? How many times did you hurt your wrists doing the forearm bash after hitting a whiffle ball across your backyard? 25? 50? 1,000,000? For most kids, Mark McGwire was baseball and today these sport writers climbed up on their high horses, mounted that pedestal and humped all of us into submission. I feel violated. The Hall of Fame is full of drunks (hey Mickey), racists (how you doing Ty…errr, Mr. Cobb), and cheaters (can I borrow your emery board Gaylord Perry), but the media has drawn the line at the guy who never once tested positive for anything. How sad and embarrassing for them. But the saddest thing of all is that these same writers are all set to vote in Barry Bonds once he finally makes my day and retires.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Closer By Committee Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Jeez, guys…I stop paying attention to baseball for a few days and you go and sign someone new? Not just anyone new, mind you - washed-up starter turned reliever Joel Pineiro? And now you’re thinking either he or Runelvys Hernandez could become the closer? The best thing you (the you represented by Allard Baird) can say about Hernandez is that he's not afraid of anyone? This is the guy with the steadily declining numbers and the well-documented friendship with the late, great Terrence Long we're talking about. Are things really that bad out there? My God, it's going to be 2003 all over again, with some poor sap playing the role of B. K. Kim, ending the year by flipping someone off and then claiming he had a "cultural misconception" even though he's from Missouri.

Ahem. Sorry about that; I'm calm now. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of this new situation:

  • He has a "few innings" as a closer from last year, when he spelled for regular Mariners closer JJ Putz. He has one conversion in two opportunities (not that that means much) and held opponents to a .213 batting average in 24.1 innings.
  • He's lowered his arm angle a bit, which supposedly equals more success.
  • He's enthusiastic to pitch in front of Red Sox Nation.
  • "Everyday" Eddie Guardado gives Pineiro his seal of approval, which is even more scientifically valid than Pineiro's save conversion ratio.
  • The Sox weren't dumb enough to commit to Pineiro as their only closing option for 2007.
  • He hurt his arm in 2004, effectively derailing his career for the past two years and now he's not good enough to start any more.
  • He gave up 19 hits and 13 runs in those 24.1 innings as a reliever last year.
  • He's attempting to convert from a starter to a closer, which has a very low success rate.
  • He's the result of a gut feeling by scouts, not any sort of statistical analysis.
  • There aren't any more free agent closers still on the market.
If this one-year gamble works out, it'll be great...if it works out. I have a feeling Robin and I will be bitching hardcore about the closing situation come April.


Meet Joel Pineiro. He’s a Red Sox for 2007… so he must have been great in 2006. Right?

8-13 Record

6.38 ERA

Getting $4 million with $2 million in incentives

First in line for the Closer job
(eyes fall out of head)

Sorry sorry… I don’t mean to be needlessly negative, but this guy seems a far cry from Papalbon (who deserves to start… I know). Well I guess he wasn’t bad when he was setting up some guy named PUTZ last season… and its MUCH better than Tavarez as the closer (isn’t that scary in print?).

So “HI” Joey P. If you rock I’ll personally start the PIN-AIR-OOOOOOOO chant. If you suck, I’ll keep calling you Joey P. Deal?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Drag

With the Giants picking up Zito (cue evil Boras laugh) almost all of the marquee free agents have been scooped up by one team or another. Now, as we wait for the Red Sox front office to find a doctor incompetent enough to say that wet noodle arm attached to J.D. Drew is gonna last through May (that contract isn’t signed and the check still hasn’t cleared! Run away! RUN!) my anticipation for the start of the season intensifies.

I miss the Red Sox… hell, I miss baseball in general. The “hotstove” is all well and good but it pales in comparison to a chance to catch a game after work, the brisk slap of leather as the infield turns a 6-4-3 and the screams of the fans as Manny gets caught daydreaming under the monster.

I must confess I took last season a bit for granted. By the time the Sox were slipping into 3rd place and half the team was injured, I was praying for the off-season so I could rest my weary soul. Now I take it all back. I should have enjoyed those games more while I had them (even if Javy Lopez was catching).

I’ve been watching old games to try and recapture some of that summer magic but it’s not the same. Sure I enjoy seeing the 2003 ALDS game 5 (Sox over A’s: Damon head injury, Lowe crotch grab), the Fight game of 2004 (won the fight AND the game) and anything from the World Series (the week New England stood still)… but that’s just the glory. I need the grind again. The 5 and 6 day stretches, the horrible West Coast trips and that little rivalry that gets too much coverage.

I need it back. I need April to come around again and lift my spirits. Winter seems like the longest season (even with the unseasonable warmth here in the Northeast) and I blame the lack of baseball for the grey skies and early sunsets.

Right now I have some time to kill. I still have to wait 3 more months, and I know they are just going to drag on.