Monday, December 29, 2008

Catching Problems? Bring in Josh Bard, Of Course!

Imagine you're the Red Sox (fun, right?). You have, as Robin pointed out in strongly-worded commentary bordering on hysteria, no catchers on your 25 man roster: your captain is on the market awaiting a multi-year offer that may never come and your backup - who, I should note, is one of the few catchers out there with the ability to catch the knuckleball pitcher who you still have on staff - hit the bricks for the shelter of your rivals because you made the odd decision to non-tender after his best (if admittedly not superb) season yet. What do you do?

Try and sign Josh Bard, apparently. You know, the guy the Sox sent to San Diego two seasons ago to get back Mirabelli because they realized not everyone can catch Wakefield. Um, duh? To Theo's credit, he's since admited that trade was a mistake, and given how that season turned out - and the lingering questions about the team's construction - who can blame him, but I'm starting to wonder where the strategy is in all of this mess. First, the Sox fail to come to an agreement with Varitek, which wasn't much of a surprise: things are very different in the personal and professional lives of Jason Varitek, and he wasn't going to give the Sox the same satisfaction of an easy deal like he did four years ago. Then, the aforementioned non-tender for Cash, the resultant lack of catchers...and Boston's decision to try and sign Bard, who has bad ankles and a checkered past in Boston that automatically rules out his playing one every five with Wakefield, all while insisting that they're still going after Varitek. Anyone else confused?

I could see Boston's using a Bard signing as an opportunity for both catchers to compete for the starting position - trading away the loser at the earliest opportunity - but that would only make sense if Varitek had agreed to play in a Red Sox uniform next year. Even then, unless Bard has some sort of resurgence, it's not like either catcher is particularly attractive trade bait, and if Bard performs well, why would Boston want to get rid of him except to fill a hole they should have already plugged by the start of the season? I feel like the Sox are trying to buy insurance for a car they may or may not own in the next four months, but maybe I'm missing something?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Don't Look Now...

...but I think the Sox just got played. Hard. In fact, if Sean McAdam's article in the Herald is to be believed, Boras shopped Boston's final offer to New York just to see if he could get a little more value, playing for time by fudging details about Teixeira's need to think a little more before he made a decision. In the end, Boras' powers of persuasion and Cashman's recent desire to be a one-man economic prop made the difference, and now the Sox end up looking like the desparate dude at the bar running up a skyhigh tab buying the hottest woman in the bar drinks all night, only to find out she's been using him to keep her friends in booze before she leaves with the guy with the better lines.

So the front office ends up looking a little stupid, but frankly, I'm relieved (well, partially relieved. I would have preferred to see Teixeira go to the Nationals and play hell with the NL East next year, but that was probably just a Boras-manufactured pipe dream anyway). As I said before, having Teixeira's bat in the lineup would have been great, but seeing either Lowell or Youkilis replaced by the merc-of-the-month would kill just a little more of this team's soul. The 2009 Red Sox might not hit as hard without Teixeira, and they'll certainly face more of a challenge from New York, but I feel like they'll have just a little more soul.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Will He or Won't He: I Don't Really Care

I have been observing the Texeira dealings with what I can only call abstract interest, as if I were a scientist watching the battles of ants in a jar to confirm or deny a hypothesis. Maybe I'm under the same spell as Allan Wood, but the maneuverings of the Red Sox negotiation machine in their latest battle with Scott Boras no longer hold the drama that they did in the past. The fallout is a little more interesting though; it seems like once again, we're being used to score points.

Despite their necessity - business does seem to win baseball games and baseball championships, and Lord knows we do love the ends if not the means - I've grown a bit weary of the churn process of bringing stars to Boston. Mike Lowell has somehow gone from toast of the town to spare part in one year, rendered obselete because of a hip problem that may very well be old news come the spring? I like winning, but I like Mike Lowell, too - and in many ways, I'd rather have the cast of characters I've come to identify as my team come back next year than the possible latest and greatest.

In addition, while it's possible the tough economic climate and the looming threat of layoffs makes me a bit more sympathetic, I can't help but think of how bad I'd feel if my company were openly negotiating to replace me with someone else. I realize if the situation were reversed, Lowell wouldn't necessarily have any loyalty to the laundry, but I think that - particularly after the Manny fallout from this summer - seeing the front office do its best to once again crap all over a star player is really shortsighted.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Surviving Grady is Right...

...AJ Burnett and Bronson Arroyo really could be long-lost brothers. Maybe it's the angle - and props to them for finding one of the more unflattering pictures possible - but there's definitely something about the facial hair, chin structure, and slightly shell-shocked expression that speaks of a family resemblance to the dearly departed Brandon.

Speaking of Burnett (and thanks - again - to Surviving Grady for the tip), the NY Post reports that the righty chose New York due in part to the evangelism of Johnny Damon, who played up his view of the superiority of the Big Apple to the Hub and how he need not "fear the media unless [he] give them a reason," which I think is just precious. I have no doubt that the Post is reporting this story in an effort to give Boston fans a minor case of green envy heartburn, but I'd like to think Captain Caveman has done us Sox fans a good turn: when Burnett is turning in another mediocre season next year (and despite his high-quality career statistics in Yankee Stadium and even more impressive numbers in Fenway, I think Burnett is highly overated), we'll have ourselves a good laugh about how much he'll will have to fear from the New York media.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Forthcoming Uncontrollable Laughter

I believe the news in this article is a good demonstration of the powers of bad juju on the boomerang return. Poor Manny, getting his comeuppance for chasing the benjamins. I guess there really is a point where a team won't take a rider on a good product with a really piss-poor reputation, huh?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

On Amateurs and the Agreements of Gentlemen

The Nippon Baseball League is a little upset about Boston's decision to sign Tazawa: they feel that a gentleman's agreement regarding the cherrypicking of talent has been violated by the pursuing and capturing of one of Japan's more high-profile amateurs.

I'll admit to some bias here, but that reaction seems like sour grapes. Like other professional sports, baseball has really become a global concern, bringing with it the sink-or-swim mentality of marketplace economics to the sale of product to consumers. When it comes to producing that product - to the hiring, training, and molding of groups of athletes into competitive baseball teams - the group with the most capable production staff is going to find the best materials. The realities of this situation aren't predisposed to American domination, either: from my understanding, the NBA is starting to find itself on the losing end of this global equation in basketball: the salary cap, which (supposedly) creates a more equitable playing field within the league, is now preventing NBA teams from competiting effectively with other leagues when it comes to signing talent. In other words, the NBA has a competitive disadvantage they may need to address.

The solution for the NLB, as for the NBA, is the same: offer an environment that makes your league more attractive (through whatever methods you think would be best to entice players) to the talent pool. Crying about broken agreements just makes you look lost and out of touch.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Batting Second, Playing Second Base...For the Forseable Future...


Not that I'm surprised, mind you. Why go through the irritation and bother of arbitration or free agent negotiations when it's crystal clear that even thinking of ditching El Caballito would be tantamount to career suicide? Congrats to the short people's champion on his $6+ million a year pay day.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Surprise, Surprise: Tazawa Signs With the Sox

Welp...looks like we got ourselves another pitcher. Actually, we've got ourselves another two pitchers, but anyone excited about Wes Littleton and his rapidly declining ERA+ and climbing WHIP might need to get themselves treated for baseball withdrawal. But no, the pitcher in question is, of course, the result of Boston's far eastern fishing expedition, the man who landed in Boston so he could (supposedly) pitch with idol Daisuke Matsuzaka: Junichi Tazawa.

Frankly, I don't know what to make of Tazawa: the Globe reports that in addition to a low-90s fastball, "[Tazawa] is said to have good command of both a breaking ball and changeup, the latter reportedly having the action of a split-fingered fastball," but then they go on to use Craig Hansen as a precedent for signing an amateur to a major league contract...and we all know how that experiment turned out (whether or not you want to blame Hansen's ultimate failure in a Sox uniform on his own inabilities to adapt to major league hitting or his overexposure in 2006 is a point for debate, but the end result is the same). Tazawa will start out in the minors and his contract is a paltry $1 million a year, so I guess if he doesn't pan out it won't be a big loss.

The real Hot Stove starts when, now?