Friday, November 21, 2008

Burning Burnett

Beckett, Lowell, possibly D-Train and now Burnett? Is Boston's strategy for 2009 to recreate the 2003 Marlins? Actually, I should be grateful I can make that joke; were we still living under the Yawkee Trust, reassembling another club's championship team six years later might have been an operating strategy. This Thanksgiving, as every Thanksgiving since 2003, I'm grateful for the ownership of New England Sports Ventures.

But really: what's with the interest in Burnett? His post-2003 payday netted him over $13 million in 2005, but the return on that princely sum hasn't been anything spectacular: ERA+ of no more than 119 (or 19% better than the average pitcher), a pedestrian set of career graphs, only two seasons with more than 30 starts, and years worth of troubles in his pitching shoulder and arm. 2008 was his most durable year, but he's 31 years old: what the Blue Jays got this year was probably the most anyone will see in the future. I really hope the Sox are only in this contest to drive the price of acquisition up for Toronto or New York.

Meanwhile, fun Mark Teixeira metaphor for you to chew on while you watch the rumors swirl: replacing Manny with Teixeira would be like if Brady got with Gisele first...and she turned out to be crazy. In other words: I'll get excited about Teixeira if he ends up in Boston, but thinking he'll replace Manny is the kind of self-delusion we all engage in so we can sleep at night.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

“MVP”edroia, “KC”oco and a Requiem for My Dream

Let’s do things in order of importance here. First things first… Dustin Pedroia has finally finished his “I told all you doubting Mother#&%#s” tour around the MLB. The 2007 AL rookie of the year now has a gold glove, silver slugger and the 2008 AL MVP to place in his already crowded trophy case. No longer the Wonderboy… Dusty P is the prime time, Alpha dog that combines that amazing talent with a powerful will and a heaping pile of grit. He must have all these qualities… because why else would a 5 foot nothing bald guy be the MVP of ANYTHING?

Thinking back on his season, there are so many moments when I thought “what the hell is he going to do next?” His cockiness is hilarious, his energy is infectious and his hair was ridiculous. There were also hundreds of moments when I though he was going to have to carry this team himself. My favorite was that series with Chicago at the end of August when Dustin forgot how to make an out. Seriously, for 2 games the Sox second baseman was a wrecking crew. 8 for 8 with 2 walks!!!! They needed to douse him in ice water for fear he would light the rest of Fenway on fire.

So even though it was a weird year for MVP choices, I think Pedroia was just a valid as the others. The twin Twins had a good season and Youk was just as much as a banner carrier, but that scrappy (a hot button word I know) bastard deserved the award. Now I am excited to see what he is going to do to prove he’s even better than this.

Second order of business: wishing Coco Crisp a fond farewell. This needed to happen and the returns were nearly exactly what the Sox needed. Ramon Ramirez is a solid set up pitcher and fills a pretty big hole in the bullpen. As for Coco, her really went above and beyond this year and really helped along the Jacoby rebuilding process. He is a defensive wiz, a speed demon and really a hell of a guy… and will continue to be so in exile on the island of Kansas City. Thanks a lot Coco! Have fun on that perennial last place team. Really… hell of a guy.

Finally, the lame news. I am taking a step back from this blogging thing. Yeah big shocker if you looked at my last few weeks… but anyway this isn’t me giving up on the team or anything… I just don’t have the same need to freak out anymore. Let me explain…

When I was living in Brooklyn, if I talked about the Red Sox to a guy in line at a deli, first he would beat me senseless, then he would scream “GO YANKS”… not exactly the way to get things off my chest. But now that I’m back in Boston, I regularly accost hapless misanthropes about hot stove deals and they are happy to receive my insane ramblings… hell… they have some of their own! It is a relief that I cannot describe. Unfortunately, this leaves me at a loss for my venting in this forum or I feel like I am repeating myself. Now combine that with an added work load from my real job (and other normal excuses) and there isn’t much time or energy left for the blog.

So no more regular posts for me. I’m sure I’ll be back in some crazy form or another eventually (sooner if the Sox get Teixeira), but until then let me leave you with GO SOX and KEEP YOUR SOX ON. You know the deal.

Coco No More

The Sox confirmed that they traded Coco Crisp to the Royals for reliever Ramon Ramirez. Unless you're far more familiar with the ins and outs of the Royals bullpen than I, I'm sure you had a similar first reaction: who? Fear not: once you take a look at the numbers, dealing Coco straight up for a no-name reliever makes sense. At 27, the right-handed Ramirez has three calendar years' experience in the majors - two in Colorado, one in Kansas City - with phenomenal numbers (ERA+ above 140, K:BB ratio of about 2:1, WHIP and ERA that have both fallen over time) over sixty-plus appearances in both 2006 and 2008. The catch is 2007, when Ramirez hurt himself twice: a sprained right elbow in April and a right elbow inflammation in September, and spent of the rest of the time sucking wind. Clearly he healed well enough to continue his march forward this past year, but a guy with a damaged wing who relies on low-90s hard stuff to make his living is a potential liability as he gets older. The Herald believes there's a possibility of Ramirez figuring as a set piece in a larger trade later on.

In addition to confirming the long-term decision to support the Jacoby Ellsbury Project in Boston, this move means happy trails to Covelli Crisp, the little engine who never quite could in Boston. To be sure, he had his hot streaks, particularly in the second half of this season, when he picked up the slack from Ellsbury's rookie/sophomore struggles, but the guy who came to Boston to replace Johnny Damon never really established himself after breaking his finger in early April, 2006 in Baltimore. Best of luck to you in KC, Coco; I hear they're big into OBP now. We'll always have 2007 and the time you almost broke your wrist sliding into the triangle.

Speaking of Baltimore: glad to hear the Orioles are acknowledging their home city now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hey, We Got Ourselves an MVP!

Short people everywhere, including yours truly, are walking with a bigger spring in their step today. In a decision that did not surprise this writer in the slightest, the BBWAA selected Dustin Pedroia as the 2nd second baseman to win the AL MVP in 49 years, placing him among an elite (or, low-numbered anyway) group of second basemen to win the fun-for-bragging, but ultimately meaningless award. Finally, after the years of the David Ortiz MVP controversies, one of our own gets the respect we deserve.

Not that I'm complaining about lack of respect, of course. By the way, speaking of complaining, The Gator's still pissed about 1988. He's not shy about calling out Canseco, either. Love the cheesy music in background of that video, by the way.

While you're at it, take a look at the list ESPN put up of other winners of the RoY and MVP trophies. Pretty good company for any baseball player, I would say.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Manny and the Baseball Industrial Complex

Some friends and I were watching JFK last night, getting beaten over the head with the movie's theories-as-facts presentation and its insistent theme that the military-industrial complex killed America's White Knight president because he wouldn't play their financial game. I don't have this blog to discuss politics - historical or otherwise - so I won't get into my thoughts on the subject, but I bring up this particular selection from Oliver Stone's cinematographic resume because of the headline I spotted on after we finished watching the movie: "Sox made move to suspend Manny."

In the piece, we're told that - as cited in an ESPN report - the Sox delivered a letter to Manny (with copies to MLB, the MLB PA, and Scott Boras) on Friday, July 25, telling him he would be suspended without pay for refusing to play starting the following day. Two hours later, Ramirez called the team and told officials he would play. Six days later, Boston sent Manny packing to Los Angeles.

I'm not particularly interested in analyzing the ins and outs of the circumstances leading up to the trade any further, but what really struck me about this announcement was the timing: its similarity to the Machievellian tactics used by the hidden Them in JFK to discredit the main characters. Why else would the Sox leak this information now, if not to sabotage Manny's contract negotiations in a "you hurt us so we'll hurt you" ploy of power? I'm not saying that what Ramirez did at the end of July was right, or that he should be rewarded with a fat contract, but this move seems like stooping to his level. Frankly, I'm a little disgusted.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Filling the Slugging Gap

David Ortiz misses Manny. Or Manny's bat, anyway. Sort of. He won't come right out and say it, because he's far too polite, but he's happy to hint about it obliquely. It's pretty clear that he - like Bill Lee - believes the only thing standing between Boston and another ring this year was Manny's ability to hit the long ball. They both might have a point: do a straight-up substitution of Manny for Bay in the ALCS and the difference is, quite frankly, embarrassing. We all deluded ourselves into thinking we wouldn't miss Manny because we had Bay, but those numbers give that delusion the lie: Bay, while good, is no replacement for Manny's greatness.

In an effort to lessen that gap, Ortiz wants the Sox to sign Teixeira. Pursuing the ex-Angels first baseman comes with a few logistical problems - does Boston have the desire to spend the money, what would happen to Mike Lowell - but first, is Teixeira (or any other big bat) an acquisition the Sox need to make? Teixeira has certainly been a more consistently successful hitter than Lowell, with an OPS+ that hasn't fallen below 126 since his first year. He's also much more of a power hitter, fitting Ortiz's desire for protective, Manny-style bat, while Lowell's isolated power numbers, even with all of those doubles, have never returned to their Marlins-era peak. But Teixeira isn't Manny: as an example, until this year, Teixeira never had really stellar plate discipline, and his K/BB ratio only climbed after coming to the Angels. Bringing him to Boston, particularly at the expense of another player, seems like Theo's attempt to replace Pedro with the gaggle of cheaper, less effective pitchers that plagued Boston in 2005. Besides, a order heart of Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew, Bay, and Lowell (although not necessarily in that order) sounds pretty deadly already...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bill Lee Cares Not About Your Opinions

An excellent idea for anyone looking to create an Internet sensation: put a microphone in front Bill Lee for a few minutes, give him a starting point, and let him hold forth. Kinda like what happened at the Red Sox Hall of Fame induction ceremony a few days ago. I had read Lee's Little Red (Sox) Book a few years ago, but I had forgotten about how much Lee does not give a crap about what anyone thinks about him: he's here to speak his mind and be clever, all at the same time. Does Lee blog at all? Because if not, he really should.

A few life lessons from The Spaceman:
  • Winning is everything. No, really.
  • When marrying Canadians, make sure the first one is cold before moving on to the second one.
  • The Boston media gets the New York media's sloppy seconds.
  • We should all be grateful to star players for gracing us with their presence, no matter what the result.
After watching this video, my friend Fred had a good point: Lee's vitriol about Manny may be a bit unfounded, but it's a comment on the long-held Red Sox tradition of crapping on star players when they leave town. After doing a quick mental tally, I can only think of two stars who escaped the pariah treatment when they left the Sox: Williams (he got while playing, instead) and Yaz, who both left because they retired. But Fisk, Lee, Pedro, Damon, Nomar, Manny...they either suffered the Vader force choke from management or the rabid dog attack of the fan base on their way out. It's not a particularly pleasant legacy to contemplate.

Whatcha Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?

John Farrell is a no go with the Mariners coaching, announcing that he's withdrawn his name from consideration. It's a good thing, too, because we're going to need him: the Sox are thinking a Lugo for Willis trade with the Tigers (thanks to Joy of Sox for the tip). I remember a time when the mere idea of seeing Willis suit up in a Sox uniform had me declaring AL East locks; two years later, I'm thinking it'd be a good way for the Sox to drop a part that's outlived its usefulness and grab a pitcher who could be another Bartolo Colon...a younger, lighter weight Bartolo Colon who doesn't eat his way on to the DL (seriously: almost three months for back stiffness? How badly do you have to beat yourself up to do that at age 35?) or stomp off to the Dominican in a huff before the playoffs.

While it's true the D-Train struggled most of this year after hurting his knee in April, or that many of his stats - particularly against righties - have been on the decline even without his poor 2008 campaign, there's some hope: Average Against and BABIP have both fallen, K/9 is particularly good against lefties, HR/9 is really good against lefties...and the guy's only 26, with plenty of time to turn his career around. Unless there's some chance we'll be able to trade Lugo for a catcher, I say Willis is worth a rider. Your thoughts?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Man With the Golden Glove

Lest it be forgotten, Dustin Pedroia is:
I'm not sure what makes me happier: remembering Pedroia is on this team for years to come, or comparing him to the lopsided second base options that plagued this team in the first half of this decade. Now we wait for the MVP results...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Your Move, Mr. Epstein

We all know that Scott Boras is a.) Satan and b.) a very good agent (although whether or not he's better for his clients or himself may be up for debate), so we should be used to opening shots like this one:
Agent Scott Boras told reporters that New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada’s four-year, $52.4 million deal, which was agreed to last offseason, will serve as a benchmark for any team looking to land Varitek.

“It’s probably representative, age-wise,” Boras said, “and it’s also representative of what a player on a winning team (is worth). You’re not going to have many catchers who have the performance levels and a 60 percent winning percentage on a franchise and have won two world championships and caught four no-hitters. The idea of it is that there just aren’t many in the marketplace that can lead a club like Jason Varitek and that’s going to be his value.”

But still, hearing Boras make value arguments is like getting a Novocaine shot: you know it'll hurt, but you've forgotten exactly how much until it happens. Seeing Boras dance around the bad and spin the good hurts, doesn't it? Almost makes you want to see the Sox offer more than two years...until you remember that enormous risk outweighs emotional connection.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Douchebag Alert: Brett Myers

This article reminded me about the thing I regret the second most about the Sox not going to the Series: missing the opportunity for 38,000 people to give Brett Myers his vocal comeuppance. What's even better is that I have even fewer qualms about casting Myers as the bad guy than usual, because the guy is completely unrepentant:
"But you know what, I really don't care what people think about me. ... If people don't like me, they can deal with it. This is who I am."

Myers told Nightengale that on the night in question, he and his wife went out to dinner, had a lot to drink and began arguing. While Myers disputed the police report that he hit his wife and dragged her by the hair, he did say this: "When you're both heavily intoxicated, that stuff does stuff to you you're not supposed to do."

To sum up: Brett Myers has a core of wife beater wrapped in a pitcher shell; a shell occasionally stripped away by the evils of the drink.

Actually, the point of this post was not to engage in fish barrel shooting, but to raise a larger question: why is Brett Myers still a professional baseball player? A jury of his peers may not have had the opportunity to hand down a conviction, but this particular incident isn't shrouded in any sort of mystery: people saw the attack go down. I'm not saying Myers should be blocked from ever working again, but putting him on a big stage on a regular basis seems like tacitly supporting wife beaters everywhere. Especially when, you know, he doesn't seem repentant in the least.