Friday, January 30, 2009

RE: Jason Varitek

Robin and I on the phone, discussing the imminent return of the Captain:

Robin: "This really should have happened months ago."
Me: "Yes, it should. I blame Scott Boras."
Robin: "Yes, blame Scott Boras. He's Satan's minion on Earth."
Me: "It's true. Every time a player signs with Scott Boras, God brutally murders a kitten."

Welcome back to the fold, Varitek. We're glad you got over your four-month hissy fit and returned to where you belonged.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thoughts on John Updike

RIP John Updike. While most may think of your collected prose and poetry, the volumes that make you a cornerstone of 20th century American fiction, I remember you more for "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," that masterful 1960 recounting of the Splendid Splinter's final Fenway game that mythologized a moment - a heroic home run, a departure of an icon, a momentary light in a decades-long night of baseball incompetence - by encapsulating the end of an era for the Red Sox. Before 2004, Red Sox fans were, in theory if not in reality, the hopeless masses in Fenway that dreary September day: scornful and cynical, yet all too ready, whether in the hunt for a trophy or down in the lowest depths of baseball mediocrity, to throw all to the winds and seize on a possibility of greatness. That, like Williams after his home run, our heroes never returned our adoration in the measure we felt we deserved became part of our collective fan conscience, and you, Mr. Updike, captured that conscience in a way that any fan can read, understand, and adopt as his or her own.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ha. He Said "A-Fraud"

I guess The Dugout was right after all:
"The Yankee Years" reveals that Rodriguez was called "A-Fraud" by his teammates and the star slugger developed an obsession with shortstop Derek Jeter, the New York Post and the Daily News reported Sunday.

Any guess on the over/under of the "A-Fraud" chants lighting up Fenway when the Yankees next come to town?

Catching Up With Catchers

I bet Varitek is feeling pretty foolish about that big market talk from late last year right now. I also wonder whether or not Boras finally over-playing his hand - what with there being no other public suitors for Varitek's services besides the Red Sox - on such a high-profile player might bring some equalization to the oh-so-ugly Boras factor.

You know: it occurs to me I could probably write pages on why we - who, as fans of a team where prices are driven by demand, have no stake in player salaries - hate on Boras for being so good at his job. Rationalizations by fans of smaller-market teams seem appropriate, as Boras's ability to pull the highest prices for his stars guarantees that many teams won't be able to compete, but the Sox do not fall into this category, and my (and I have no doubt, yours as well) dislike of Boras and his reputation is probably nothing more than irrational musings on abstract measures of "fairness." Point of fact, there is no fairness, only relative ability to play the game and the jealousy of those left in the dust.

Like I said: pages. However, I prefer to contemplate the relative merits of Saltalamacchia, Montero and Teagarden. Assuming a reasonable trade, who would you rather see behind the plate at Fenway? The Herald calls Taylor Teagarden the most well-rounded of the three, but if Miguel Montero is as much of a pitch calling wiz as the article says, I suspect I'd rather have him instead. The 2005 Red Sox and 2008 Yankees both proved how useless a killer offense can be without a strong pitching staff, and we've heard time and time again about how important a strong backstop can be when it comes to managing that staff to victory. With a stable full of young arms, wouldn't a defensive catcher be more of an asset?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bring Back Manny?

So Charles P. Pierce has an idea: bring back Manny. He's not kidding, either: let bygones be bygones and get a bargain price for a fantastic hitter who's demonstrated he's got plenty of gas left in the tank, filling a potential lineup hole in the process. While the Sox are at it, they can use a Manny signing to offload Jason Bay while he still has value and acquire...well, I don't really know at this point, since Boston is swimming in replacement-level pitching arms, but something.

Madness, you say. Pure idiocy, you say. Turn in your writing license, says irate commenter GEO, who - ironically enough - spends most of his post violating what I do not doubt would be the terms of a "writing license" with his all-caps assault and atrocious grammar. I was all aboard for Mr. Pierce's head, too, until I realized that his statements have a larger context: his post is a poster child (you like what I did there?) for the war between stats types and trad types.

To review, the modus operandi of a pure stat-head is that anything that cannot measured - things like chemistry, drive, fortitude, and all of the other stuff that Fire Joe Morgan lovingly lumped under the term "intangibles" - is irrelevant to the argument of relative value. Pure trad types, on the other hand, pooh-pooh the idea of using what they see as increasingly obscure measurements that cloud the spontaneous aspects of the game, preferring to give equal credence to a player's leadership abilities as they do to his ability to get hits. Pierce's prose suggests that he sides with the former camp in his views:
Cruising the sports pages the other day, I noticed that there is a free agent out there who’s hitting .314 lifetime with 527 home runs and who, last year, almost singlehandedly lifted a mediocre bunch of Los Angeles Dodgers into the playoffs. He hit 17 home runs down the stretch and knocked in 53 runs in as many games. And, almost unbelievably, he’s on the market. Right now.
In other words: screw the circumstances of Manny's departure; he can do the one thing that teams pay baseball players to do, and he can still do it far better than the average player. Indeed, it sounds like we can take things one step further: to focus on Manny's attitude and his performance off the field (or maybe just away from the plate?) is to blind one's self to the truth that baseball players are all replaceable parts of greater or lesser quality. The Sox can use Manny to construct a winning team...and so they should.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Penny versus Burnett

While the Red Sox continue their bargain basement shopping for damaged spare parts, the Herald poses an interesting question: would you rather have Brad Penny or A. J. Burnett? They cite some numbers that favor Penny (of course), but I was curious, so I took a look at each pitcher's historical numbers on FanGraphs.

As you can see, Burnett's numbers make him look like a lot more of an average-to-better pitcher than Penny, who seems to have done a lot of climbing towards mediocrity even before he hurt himself last season. To be honest, I'm impressed: these graphs make Burnett look a lot better - and make New York's investment a lot more reasonable - than I had been previously willing to admit. However, before I tucked off into a bout of green-with-envy misery over what seems like a distant second place splash to New York's $82.5 million acquisition, I happened to read David Golebiewski's analysis of both signings. Golebiewski's take on Burnett isn't too surprising - in short, if he stays healthy, he can dominate - but in his piece on Penny, he makes one crucial point that had me flipping an emotional bitch faster than you can say "2003 Marlins Reunion in Boston": statistical projections have a healthy Penny giving up 58 runs in 127 innings, far outshining the replacement-level starter who statistics project to give up 77.6 runs in the same time period. Couple that projection with a paltry $5 million deal and the Penny acquisition starts to make a lot of sense.

Therefore, since I'm all too happy to place my faith in the numbers, I'm at ease with the Penny pickup. New York can have its big-money contracts; the Yankees need them to have a shot in 2009. The Sox may be spending far less money, but they're still in a great position to compete.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Congratulations to Jim Rice on joining the hallowed in the Hall of Fame! As points out, Rice's election means we're likely to see another retired number ceremony this year in Fenway.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Sick Man and the Old Man Come to Boston

You can keep your Mark Teixeiras and your C. C. Sabathias and your A. J. Burnetts (seriously, though: that guy will mess up your team), because we've got results where it really counts: The Rocket from Woonsocket, coming to Boston to be the fourth outfielder/minor medical case. And look! Baldelli is excited to be here:
"I would be just fine playing there," he said in an interview with the Journal last November. "I don't have strong feelings one way or another about playing there."

Ok, that was a little out of context. I was going to a clever OPS+ comparison between Boston's 2008 utility crew and Baldelli to compare their relative value, but I see that Rocco only played 28 games, lagging far behind the contributions of The Mayor and Alex Cora. He did match Kotsay's output, though...ok, so Kotsay played 22 games in Boston after the trading deadline, finishing the year with an OPS+ of 65 and proving that he really is not a very good second-half player. Baldelli played 28 games all year, but his OPS+ was a more respectable 113. I think we can call that an upgrade.

And we've got John Smoltz, too, biatches. Sure, he's 41, he's coming back from shoulder surgery and he's never pitched in the AL, but his ERA+ hasn't dropped below 127 since 1994, so he's got a long, long (long) streak of good pitching coming into 2009. Plus, it's not like the Sox can ever have too much pitching coming into a new season...

Note to Andrew Perloff: No More Haterade

I know it's pissy for Boston fans to complain about lack of respect - we've certainly worn out our welcome with the rest of the country with all of the fun we've had in the past near-decade celebrating our wins - but talk about your lack of respect:
I wouldn't be surprised if the Bruins were the only Boston team to win a title for some time. The Red Sox have been thrashed by the Yankees in the hot stove league. The Patriots missed the postseason completely and don't know when Tom Brady is coming back. And the Celtics don't look like they're going to get as lucky against the Cavaliers in this season's Eastern Conference playoffs.

Boston, you had a nice run. Now it's time to go hang out with the Detroits of the world and let another town take over as America's most successful sports city.

Wow. I mean, even without the random Detroit hating - didn't they win an NBA championship in '04, Stanley Cups in '02 and '08, and come within a series of winning the World Series in 2006? How are they a second-run sports city, exactly? - someone's clearly got their facts in a cherry-picked twist. The Red Sox were three runs, a bases loaded situation, and a boatload of key injuries away from going to the World Series this past October, and guess what? Almost all of that team is back for the spring. In other words, the Sox "lost" the Hot Stove League because unlike the Yankees, they didn't really need to play.

The Pats became the first team in 23 years to miss the post-season with an eleven win record and did pretty damn well for a team missing a few key components. "Don't know when Brady is coming back" is deceptive phrasing: the question is whether or not he'll be coming back Week 1 or Week 6. Either way, it sounds like the Pats will still have Cassel, the backup who led the team to an elimination game away from the playoffs.

Finally, as one of the commenters on Andrew Perloff's idiotic post pointed out, the Celtics' current slide dates back to the period before the Starbury rumors...and even if it didn't, what team doesn't have bad streaks over the course of a long season?

In other words, Mr. Perloff, I have two words for you and your factless spin through Boston sports bashing: Epic Fail.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Mark Teixeira's True Colors: A Continuing Saga

Mark Teixeira on becoming a Yankee this off-season:
"In the back of my mind, the Yankees were always the top"

"My wife and I decided two weeks before Christmas the Yankees are where we want to be."

"I would wear a Yankees hat. Back in the '80s and early '90s, that wasn't a safe thing to do in Baltimore."

"Once it really hit me that I was going to be a Yankee, it was just pure joy. It hit me: the excitement of being a Yankee...I can be a Yankee? There's nothing better."

I could give him the benefit of the doubt and say he's just pandering to his new fan base, but even if he is, so what? Those actions would make him a mercenary at best, and if he really did want to go to New York all along, he's set himself up to be the perfect villain for 2009. Either way, I'm glad he's not playing in Boston.