Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Should the Sox Try For Santana?

I opened up this morning to see what was going on in hot stove land, and came across this piece by Eric Wilbur on the relative value of putting Johan Santana or Dan Haren in red stirrups for 2008, who it would cost the Sox to make such a mega deal happen, and whether or not the overall deal would make sense for both our 2008 championship aspirations and the future of the club. Wilbur made an interesting point: he said that if the A's are looking to shop Haren - something that's still only in rumor mode at this date - he'd be a much better choice than Santana, and I agree. Here's why:
  • Santana's numbers at Fenway are pretty ugly: 29 base runners and 12 earned runs in about 16 innings. Haren's Fenway numbers in the same number of innings are better (26 base runners and 8 earned runs), and he's two years younger. If we're going to lose a year having a pitcher adapt to winning at Fenway, I'd prefer it'd be from the guy who's got a head start and the younger age. On a related note, if the Yankees grab Santana, his history in Fenway means he won't be an automatic Sox killer.

  • After his monster year in 2004, Santana's ERA+ fell about 25 points in 2005, then took another 30 point drop in 2007, leading to (among other things) a failure to anchor the pitching staff on my fantasy team. More importantly, although he's had his famous second-half resurgence every year since 2004, the quality of those resurgences is slipping: OBP against, for example, was nearly equal in both halves of 2006, and higher in the second of 2007, where it had been much lower in the second halves of 2004 and 2005. Might this be part of a trend?

  • Santana will cost a whole lot of money to keep - he's coming into the end of his contract, and Wilbur has his rumored asking price at $25 million a year. A contract year performance would support that kind of money, but if Santana's entering a period of decline, he won't be worth $25 million in 2009. Haren, meanwhile, is a paltry (by comparison) $5.4 million for the next three years; plenty of time for him to prove he can be another dominating starter at Fenway without nearly as much monetary risk.

  • Haren's numbers have been trending up since he became a full-time starter in 2005, and garnered an ERA+ of 137 (his highest yet) in 2007. He hasn't reached Santana's godly levels, but he's definitely getting much better as he gets older.
Now, assuming such a deal might actually take place (and the great news for us fans is that it doesn't have to happen for us to feel secure about next year's start), who would be the logical trade bait? I say Coco and Lester. Coco's the obvious choice - he's never lived up to his promise in Boston, and Ellsbury has "rising star" written all over him in permanent black marker - while Boston's surfeit of pitching makes Lester the more attractive option (over Buchholz) to deal away; his peripherals are trending in the right direction (lower WHIP, higher strikeouts per inning), and he's had more time to prove himself at the major league level.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lowell and Behold

Oh thank you merciful baseball Gods, thank you front office planers, schemers and geniuses, and most of all… thank you Mike Lowell you magnificent WS MVP bastard. Your George Clooney looks and Puerto Rican/Cuban heritage is back where it belongs… third base in the City of Champions.

I have to admit, I’ve been in a baseball bunker ever since the season ended (notice the lack of posts) and the Lowell situation had a lot to do with it. I was so freaking worried this guy would end up on the Yankees and I just couldn’t come to terms with it. Losing so many key members after the 2004 victory (speaking of Orlando Cabrera) was a hard pill to swallow… I knew I didn’t want to go through it again.

But Lowell made it all easy. He took a potential pay cut (Sox gave him 3 years $37.5 mil while the Phillies reportedly offered 4 years $50 mil) to stay with the team he’s grown to love… and that loves him right back. I know he will probably decline with the years (who doesn’t?) but anything close to this season’s numbers will be amazing. Remember when this was the THROW IN with the Josh Beckett deal? This just makes me giddy.

Even when you discount the fanboy aspect of this contract, it still looks like a good deal. There was NOTHING in the way of corner infielders on the market and when you look at the other veteran contracts (Posada??) it’s a freaking bargain.

So we have the WS MVP at third, a gold glover at first (congrats Youk), the ROY at second (Pedroia), and a silver slugger at DH (props to Papi). That is an exciting collection of hardware.

My prayers have been answered. All is right with the world and the Sox look primed to repeat. Now all we need is to round out the bullpen and things could be pretty rough for the rest of the league…

Wait a minute… Kerry Wood???

Ummm… time to go back to the bunker.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This Crow Tastes Awesome!

A little over a year ago, I was in Yankees Stadium to see the second game of a Sox/Yankees doubleheader, becoming witness to one of the more improbable and exciting comebacks of the 2006 season, in what turned out to be the last gasp for a Boston team that was past due for the fork in the back. The second game was Dustin Pedroia's 21st game after his call up in late August, and he was mired in the struggle that would haunt him through the beginning of 2007, with an OPS of .489 that was remarkable only because it had doubled in 11 days. There were two Boston fans in the stands nearby who kept calling him DP (as memory serves, he did hit into a lot of double plays), and who led the ironic cheer when he jumped the pass ball that scored the tying run. That was Boston's second baseman of the future, pride of the farm system: a short guy with a big swing who couldn't seem to buy a hit.

Two months later, the Sox announced Pedroia would be starting at second or shortstop in 2007, sight poorly seen. Robin was outraged, I was surprised, and our friend DC...well, DC was outraged, so we let him write about it, and give Pedroia a new nickname (Wonderboy) in the process. Wonderboy indeed; it seemed like most of us couldn't figure out why Theo was so high on his potential for success in his first full season.

We all know what happened next: a miserable April, a whole month of Sox fans calling for Pedroia's head, for Francona's head, for Theo's head, for Alex Cora to start...the typical paranoia and venom of the passionate fan. No finger pointing here: our archives from April are full of it. Then Magic May, steady improvement, and all of the sudden the Kid Who Couldn't is making all of us naysayers look very, very foolish; OPS always above .800, strong fielding with more than a few web gems, a string of post-season hits that were usually likely to touch off a rally, playing with a cracked bone in his hand...any Boston fan who wasn't chanting Rookie of the Year by August wasn't right in the head. The Baseball Writers Association of America agreed, awarding Pedroia the AL Rookie of the Year award for the 2007 season yesterday, making him the first Red Sox to win the award in ten years, and the first qualifying rookie second baseman to hit .317 for the season.

Congratulations, Dustin. We'll all go eat this delicious plate of crow, never so happy to be wrong about something in our lives.

Friday, November 09, 2007

An Open Letter to Mike Lowell

The Red Sox have reportedly offered you a 3 year deal.
It is worth between $12 and $15 million a year.

Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.

You know WHY I want you to take it? Cause my buddies in Sox Nation (read: readership) and I will blow a frigging gasket if you follow the 4 to 5 year deal you are almost guaranteed to get elsewhere. We all know in our heart of hearts… you won’t last that long. WS MVP or not, you know that the front office is right not to give you a longer contract. They were right with Pedro, they were right with Damon and they are sure as hell right with you (honestly I think 3 years might even be a stretch).

So take the deal Mike. We just made something wonderful…why ruin a good thing?

I know it’s a lot to ask and I know it might not happen. For some reason ($$$) if you don’t end up back in Boston, I’ll be ok with it. I would hurt… but I’d live. Just don’t go to the Yankees. Right now I am so full of joy and jubilation and love for the world… you in New York would teach me how to hate again.

Take the deal Mike.
Take it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What the Schilling Deal Means to Sox Fans

Looks like safe money means $8 million plus incentives, because Curt Schilling is officially a member of the Olde Towne Team for what he figures to be his final year as a professional baseball player. Schilling goes into the full details of the contract, including the $2 million weigh-in-based incentive he made the team add, in his blog, but what really makes this deal (which I didn't think was possible a few days ago) really interesting is that it slides another successful piece into place. (Speaking of which: congrats to Youk!)

As I talked about in my last post, the biggest difference between 2004 and 2008 is the lack of dismantlement. To be sure, the end of the 2004 season saw the expiration of more big contracts, but the spirit this time around seems to be different, and Schilling's resigning underscores that feeling: Red Sox management isn't going to be satisfied with another two years of near misses, or another set of experiments; they want to repeat in 2008. Giving Curt Schilling, Big Game Pitcher, another year in a Sox uniform means this team has taken the Yankees comparison to heart: they're going for dynasty numbers, establishing a championship pedigree before Schilling gets too old, or Manny's contract expires, or they lose any major components to the market.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Party's Over

The party's over, and people have started to leave. As the overhead fluorescents flicker back on, the mood lighting disappears in a blast of blue-white glare and you're left holding what you hope is the jacket you wore on the way in. The World Series is over, the rolling rally has rolled on into history, and it's time to figure out who's coming back in 2008 and who's hitting the dusty trail to another city and another team. As the announcements start to pour in, however, let's hope the powers who manage our favorite team learned one thing from the aftermath of 2004: trying to duplicate success with cheaper replacement parts dances with disaster at every turn. So far, they haven't figured out that means bringing back Mike Lowell, but there have been a few other moves of note:

Exploring New Opportunities
  • Curt Schilling - No surprise here; Curt's been talking his next move since the Sox declined to extend his contract by a year back in the Spring. The master of media relations has been keeping the media and fans abreast of select negotiations matters through his blog, including an announcement intended to dispel rumors that he's ceased discussions with Boston management. Should Curt stay in Boston: behind the fate of Mike Lowell, that's the biggest question about this championship team. I've been inclined to say no, to give both Lester and Buchholz space to shine in next year's rotation, but that means Matsuzaka would need to have a much more consistent year in 2008. Safe money would have Schilling back for one more year.

  • Doug Mirabelli - Dougie filed before the Sox announced they'd be exercising Wakefield's option and before Kevin Cash chose free agency over assignment to Pawtucket, so it's likely he'll be back in Boston for another year, come hell, high water or the promotion of catcher Dusty Brown. When it comes to the knuckleball, I can't see the Sox making the same mistake twice.

  • Bobby Kielty - I wonder how much that pinch-hit, game-difference, helped-win-the-World-Series-with-one-swing home run added to his contract value as a utility player. I'd wish this guy luck, but with Eric Hinske testing the waters I wonder whether or not Kielty might end up making a good bench option for 2008.

  • Matt Clement - I think that marks the end of the "We Don't Need Pedro...We Can Sign Two Starters for Double the Effectiveness at Half the Cost!" experiment Theo launched in 2004. I'd say it all worked out poorly for Boston (I still have nightmares about David Wells taking the mound), but the Sox were right: Pedro's arm is now seeking to finalize the divorce from his shoulder, and the Mets are still paying him to rehab. I guess the winners are the teams that got the compensatory draft picks.

  • Eric Gagne - So, um...don't let the door hit you on the way out, ok?
Demonstrating Their Commitment to the Team
Entering a Mutually-Chosen Period of Readjustment
  • Royce Clayton - Clayton was the acquisition most people (including myself) don't remember Boston making in August; the guy who played six games and sat on the bench in the post-season, and now he's gone, just like that. Royce, we hardly knew ye, and at age 37, it seems a little unlikely any other team will, either. We'll always have Taco Bell, though.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Late Night With Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon on Letterman: “…and this is to quote-unquote David Ortiz: ‘Hey, guys, I've got to tell you some-sing, if you wear a Red Sox uniform jersey, you're a bad mother@#$%!’”

“…but David Ortiz happens to be a huge Bedazzler.”

And I've got nothing to add...