Thursday, December 29, 2005
1. Manny and Clement and money and prospects for Tejada - are you that desperate to rid yourself of a future Hall-of-Famer? Maybe.
2. Wells for various Dodger prospects. Who can know?
3. Gil Meche and Jeremy Reed for Papelbon or Lester. Are you crazy? Talk about jumping the shark for stupidity. You cannot trade your low-salaried high value prospects for dreck. Yeah, we're talking schmootz.
Theo, get the S.W.A.T. team, the battering ram, and take control of the offices. Reverse the Dumping the Theo bag-job in the harbor. Don't tax the Nation without representation.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Christmas break is here, so much for the hard work, extracurricular activities, and schoolboy pranks. It's time for mid-term grades in the Hot Stove League, and nobody promised you easy marks.
Of course, I'm realistic enough to know that decisions made today only receive judgement through the unforgiving retrospectoscope of history. "Larry Anderson for that Bagwell kid? Hallelujah."
We're running a tight ship here, so we'll use some modified Navy courses for the kids.
Leadership and Management - At times, the right hand appears not to have a clue concerning the left. Trading your best shortstop prospect and two weeks later trading your shortstop can't be viewed as profiles in courage, rather pro files in discouragement. Signing on two competent assistants as co-GMs, followed by the fireside chat press conference seemed amateurish at best. John Henry's bemusement at Theo Epstein's disappearing act argued for lack of communication between the CEO and the owner. Grade - D
Seepower. The Sox added yet more seats to America's Most Beloved Ballpark, more to love. Could Rubik fit more cubes into his cube as adroitly as Lucky Lucchino squeezes fannies into those seats? Gotta give the fattest cats serious kudos for those Monstah seats, the novelty probably won't ever wear off. Grade - A
Damage Control. Call me Ishmael. There will always be ups and downs to any voyage, faced with the vicissitudes of Major League Baseball. You can fortify your vessel to confront the most hostile environment on earth - the Hated Yankees. A healthy Beckett reinforces the bow, and acquiring Mota and resigning Timlin strengthens your stern. As for the port side, the Sox have never listed to port, and losing Wells remains consistent. Millwood's not coming, nor Glaus. Bad Santa. No points for effort on this test.
The White Wail. Johnny Damon departs for more scratch and less hair. The doubloons will simply go elsewhere. You don't lose Damon, you gain dollars for dealing. As for the Renteria trade, is Marte the best Braves' prospect on merit or on residue, as they promoted what seems like scores of players last year? Loretta and Lowell should more than replace Graffanino and Mueller, especially when Graffanino appears to be staying. If they go with Cora, they could 'redeploy' the cash for other purposes, focusing their best deal to get a centerfielder.
Studying hard? If they feel compelled to get Julio Lugo and Joey Gathright, then presume that Tampa will try to savage the best of the organization. Dumping Manny for Milledge and Met dreck won't get it done from a public relations standpoint, although the Sox haven't put PR ahead of action. Trading Jon Lester for anything less than star potential would smack of desperation not perspiration.
Amidst the non-tendered free agents, Eric Byrnes could be bonafide depth at outfield. Travis Lee has arbitration options, but let's face it, he's not that great. Preston Wilson strikes out a lot (a lot) but has pop in center. Grade - Incomplete.
So once again, we're left to reflect on the dichotomy between who the Red Sox say they are, and what they have done. From a business operations side, they are a smoothly running cash machine. From a baseball operations standpoint, their vision stands disputable, amidst a solid core of Varitek and Ortiz, previously productive players with injury history (Nixon, Lowell, Loretta), the Mystery Middle, and the Limbo League of Ramirez, Wells, Arroyo, Clement and who knows how many more. The top line deserves high praise, the bottom line, winning baseball games, remains with as many suspects as prospects.
Red Sox fans ask the same question as Butch and Sundance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, "who are those guys?," both in the front office and on the field.
Aerial photograph of crowd protesting Anti-Lucchino journalism (click photo to enlarge)
Okay, I'm sorry. Mr. Lucchino, please forgive me, and for gawd's sake, call off the dogs. It's tough enough to get into my driveway between the ice and snow, without 50,000 Larryphiles obstructing my 1995 Nissan. Okay, I'll never question your judgement about tossing that pipsqueak ingrate out, or consolidating your rule by installing underlings, and yes, I accept the fact that even with the inherent fairness of a virtual waiting room, that I'll never live long enough to sit in the Green Monster seats.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. Yessiree, I've done you wrong. After all, I have nothing but admiration for your boss, Mr. Henry, trader extraordinaire. If he had a book on trading, I'd own it. Your intellectual purity, demanding that Mr. Epstein defend his every action before you, guaranteed that the Boy Wonder could do no wrong. After all, with your oversight, imprimatur, and decision analysis skills, what better situation could exist?
I mean, President and CEO, golly gee, wow, that really IS impressive, conjuring up the image of Mr. Spock playing three-dimensional chess. Of course, Spock only had to worry about pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, queens, and kings, six positions. And, the Red Sox worry about pitchers, catchers, DH, second and third base, and right field. Of course, I'm omitting shortstop, centerfield, and first base. And maybe left field. Is Manny out in left field? I mean, we know that the Sox aren't out in left field. Absolutely not, they've got it handled, it's just they've applied their 'cloaking device' to cleverly disguise their intent from their competitors. Brilliant! Kudos!
Running a baseball team is pretty tough. After all, you have stringent payroll constraints, limited revenues, problems generating ancillary cash flow (like Red Sox gear, DVD sales, broadcasting rights), and the restrictive covenants imposed by major league baseball such as drug enforcement.
And maintaining fan loyalty? Nearly impossible. Day-to-day almost nothing reminds me about the Sox. In the family room, there's only Wally and All-Star Wally, Wally's chair, the Fever Pitch DVD, Bill James' Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame, Neyer-James Guide to Pitchers, The New Bill James, My Turn At Bat, and Total Baseball. Turn the corner and there's my Dirt Dogs hat, Red Sox winter hat, Red Sox caps, Nomar 5 hat, and move upstairs for a collection of Red Sox t-shirts and sweatshirts. Oh, and I forgot, just behind me is James' Win Shares, and that autographed Roger Clemens baseball.
Plus you have all the headaches inherent in an industry with a lot of competition. During the early baseball season, you have to go up against the NBA, famous for its fantastic team play, and the National Hockey League, which leaves everyone practically speechless.
Let's face it, when the Red Sox win, everyone in the area has a little more spring in their step, their food tastes better, and people are just happier. You said it yourself, “Clearly, this study demonstrates that the Red Sox winning is good for the health of western civilization.” I couldn't agree more. As Warren Buffett would say, "may you live until Berkshire Hathaway splits." Keep up the good work, and please pass the Kool-Aid.
First, he said that he played with a player who was terrific at stealing signs, especially from second base. He said that the player would kick the bag if he had the signals, and then look to the right for a fastball and to the left for a breaking pitch.
Second, he said that it was his opinion that the Sox would go hard after Millwood. He also thought that Glaus would look pretty good in the Sox lineup, although he had no idea whether that was feasible.
Finally, he noted that although Canseco took a lot of grief about his steroid allegations, that it looked like he might have been a lot closer to the truth than was widely accepted.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Now that's off my chest, so we can move on.
Who's actually in charge? Oh yeah, that would be the Overlord - TheoSlayer, with Ben and Jed mixing the drinks, running some spreadsheet projections, and reading Sox fans suggestions that they trade Matt Clement for Johan Santana and throw in some cash. Thus far, with roughly seven weeks to go before Spring Training, the Sox remind me of the old joke, "what's the difference between the Boy Scouts and the Navy?" Adult leadership.
Obviously, there is no established (read overpaid) shortstop (I'm really okay with Alex Cora), no centerfielder (please do not suggest Trot Nixon), and no first baseman. J.T. Snow? Why don't we get Willie McCovey? A .709 OPS in a declining 37 year-old glove man smacks of one theme only, "economy."
A few points are in order. The presumptive rotation is Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Wakefield, and Arroyo, pending any other acquisitions and/or departures. Trading Lester is a no-no, but Leisure Suit Larry seems bent on screwing up the entire team, so it could still happen. As for Wells ('leave' or 'retire') or Clement (persona non grata after getting hit in the head), the market doesn't seem that keen. On Wall Street, the smartest guys buy cheap and sell dear, and John Henry knows that. Maybe he's more focused on platinum and soybeans than baseball.
The Sox are now well-stocked at reserve catcher, with Flaherty, Huckaby, and Shoppach. Aren't you comforted by that? If anyone gets their fingers broken by Tim Wakefield, we'll easily fill the position with a good-field no-hit guy. Of course, the sense is that the Sox have 'plenty of offense' so now they can have defensive players at first, shortstop, and centerfield. Last time I checked, Trot Nixon wasn't playing like Stan Musial, and Mike Lowell barely hit Ortiz' weight. So the offense comes from Ortiz, Manny (oh, they're trying to trade him), the Time Machine versions of Loretta and Lowell, and maybe first half of the season Varitek.
Maybe the master plan exists, the vision remains, and 2006 and beyond will reveal the Yellow Brick Road. But don't you wonder if the man with the vision has left and the pretenders remain?
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Turned her back on her best friends, yeah
And let her family slip away
Just like a lost soul
Caught up in the hollywood scene
All the parties and the limousines
Such a good actress hiding all her pain
Trading her memories for fortune and fame
Just a step away from the edge of a fall
Caught between heaven and hell
Where’s the girl I knew a year ago
--Fallen Angel, from Poison
I don't have a problem with Damon taking the most money, whether it's from the hated Yankees, the Red Sox, the Orioles, or the Hanshin Tigers. What irritates me, and probably much of Red Sox Nation is Damon dissembling the love of money under the cloak of lack of respect or commitment from the Red Sox.
Johnny Damon becomes one of the highest paid baseball players on the planet. Perhaps he grew up dirt poor, or had to drive a cab in the summer as a teenager, or sweat under the hot sun doing construction. In other words, he had to work for a living like the rest of us. So he took a better job for more dough. Where's the beef?
As usual, players lack either the dignity or the candor to disclose the bald-faced truth, nothing substitutes for a fat paycheck. Like Pedro Martinez, Damon departs for more cash with less dignity.
Trashing the organization on the way out the door becomes the standard, not the exception. Damon revealed himself to be something less than a paragon of virtue, and while we celebrate him as a ballplayer, we can hardly recommend him as a sportsman. If the organization needs to be vilified, leave that to us.
Professional athletes don't have to be role models. They don't have to take the hometown discount, but maybe occasionally, rarely, they could reveal the unfettered truth, "I took the highest offer," or "the money mattered most" rather than the drivel we always hear about respect, communication, or the dog ate my homework excuses.
Sure Sox fans can contrive excuses "marry a high maintenance woman and you'll end up selling your soul to the devil," "management fell asleep at the switch," or "being a Red Sox fan has always resembled Greek tragedy." Even free agency has its costs, as sports reveals not only characters but character. We can debate Johnny Damon's worth to either the pecuniary pinstripers or the Red Sox ad nauseam, but we hold certain truths to be self-evident, it was all about the money.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Johnny B Gone
Johnny Angel - Not!
Johnny Legend (in his own mind)
Chances Are (Johnny Matthis)
The real Johnny Cash
Long John Gold?
Johnny Divide-us meet Johnny Unitas
Good Johnny-Bad Johnny?
And the winner: Johnny Paycheck...
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The structure of Major League Baseball not only permits but encourages free agency, allowing all players an opportunity to strike it rich, but incentivizing agents to 'pave the road' for their own enrichment. Johnny Damon, like the Red Sox and the Yankees made a business decision, one that was best for him. As I wrote earlier, while taking a 'hometown discount' is attractive to us, it wasn't to him. It's all about the Benjamins.
There was an article recently in the Boston Globe about long waits for doctors' appointments. Why is that? Simply, the compensation structure for Massachusetts physicians, added to new physicians' debt (educational), practice costs, and area housing costs make attracting physicians from outside Massachusetts difficult. Massachusetts cannot compete with the south and parts of the midwest. I know physicians and surgeons unable to attract qualified applicants for years. Over a third of Massachusetts physicians are over 55 years old, long in the tooth by medical standards. Do the math.
The Red Sox weighed the potential productivity from Damon both offensively and defensively, factoring in age and likely statistical trends, and decided that they weren't going to 'call' the Yankees. Although Sox management isn't sending me any cards, I share their analysis going forward about the length and terms of the contract. Regardless of whether the Overlord or his Co-conspirators were aware of the Yankees, bid, the price was simply too high.
In the aftermath of Damon's departure, why plan to trade your historically most productive offensive player, Manny Ramirez? Reportedly, TheoSlayer announced the Sox intention to do just that.
Of course, Damon is barely at the fringes of paycheck frenzy in Metropolis, earning more than Posada, Williams, and Cano, but far less than A-Rod, Jeter, the Juice Guys-Giambi and Sheffield, and about the same as Matsui.
So, we can hope for biblical fulfillment with a Samson and Delilah story, or the inevitable public dismay at Johnny's Achilles' heel, his anemic throwing, or just have to content ourselves with the analogy to Will Rogers' noting that when the Okies moved to California they raised the IQ in two states. So, let's accept that New York has one more idiot and hope that the front office has better plans than trading Manny Ramirez. Just a reminder, not one word like in The Graduate, "strength up the middle". Oh yeah, and an organization, like a fish, rots from the head.
Characterizing Damon's choice as purely that of a gold digger or miscreant trivializes the process. According to reports, Damon got an extra 12 million bucks, not bad for a player at an age where skills traditionally atrophy, plagued by minor injuries, and who throws 'like a girl' (no insult meant to my daughters).
If we could magically get 'bubble quotes' those little quotes over the head in a bubble, what would the principals say?
George Steinbrenner: "Bleep you, Larry."
Larry Lucchino: "Excedrin with my coffee, Jed and Ben."
John Henry: "We made decisions through careful financial evaluation and trend analysis, same as we would do in any of our businesses. We wish Mr. Damon well in his future endeavors."
Manny Ramirez: "Johnny who?"
Terry Francona: "We have to worry about the guys who are here, not the guys who aren't. We'll all miss JD."
Kevin Millar: "Drinks on the house."
Damon's mother: "If he didn't take the money, I'd slap that boy upside the head. I didn't raise a fool for a son."
Curt Schilling: "If they don't like it, hit them with your wallet, Johnny."
Scott Boras: "A lot easier than working for a living. Writing best sellers for thirty something ballplayers never paid so well."
Johnny Damon: "Yahoo, yippee. Shave my beard? What? Cut my hair? What? Scott, you said that you had that clause in the contract."
If anybody wants to pay me an extra 12 million bucks for the next four years, you know where to find me. Scott, Scott, Scott...help!
Sunday, December 18, 2005
As the Stooges might say, "if at first you don't succeed, then keep on sucking until you do suck seed." Let's review where we are concerning the question marks.
The Sox needn't be desperate at shortstop, with at least the possibility of an Alex Cora/Dustin Pedroia platoon. Pedroia can't be any worse at shortstop than David Eckstein, and half the world is ga-ga over the diminutive ex-Sox prospect. I'm not in that half. Cora was decent defensively and played heads-up baseball, which isn't necessarily a Sox staple. Pedroia injured his hand and became persona non grata.
At first base, Kevin Youkilis is rumored to be asking, "what do I have to do?" Is Bill Lajoie part of the group that's overly concerned about Youkilis not looking like Gabe Kapler? Kapler, a good guy, is a career .330/.421/.751 guy in 2544 plate appearances. Youk is .376/.411/.787 in 343 plate appearances. Admittedly, not a large sample size or great power numbers for a corner infielder, but he hasn't gotten a chance to fail. Contrast Jeremy Reed of Seattle who is .338/.364/.702 with 15 stolen bases and 12 caught stealings in two years and 610 plate appearances. Finding a backup defensive first baseman shouldn't be a tenth as hard as, let's say, finding a competent general manager.
Nomar Garciaparra won't be walking back in that door either, joining Red Sox exiles Grady Little, Derek (THE derrick) Lowe, and Bill Mueller in Dodgerland. If Nomar got six EXTRA LARGE plus incentives, then his agent did well for a guy who has spent most of his roster time on the DL in the past few seasons. Is Nomar a Hall-of-Famer? On the www.baseball-reference.com site, Nomar has black ink stats of 15 (compare average Hall-of-Famer 27) and grey ink stats of 78 (HOF average 144), but HOF batting stats of 43.7 (average HOF 50) and HOF monitor of 115 (average HOF 100) so he's on the cusp of greatness. Let's hope that Nomar doesn't do the toe-tapping tic at first base.
The Manny Ramirez watch simply shouldn't be happening. Yes, Manny may be a rock in the shoe for certain Red Sox executives, but if one frames the Ramirez-Ortiz numbers as dependent not independent variables, then you don't vote Manny off the island.
Finally, there's the WWJDD matter (what will Johnny Damon do?). Damon is what he is, a run-scoring machine (910 in eight years) who works pitch counts, with net below average defensive skills. He has better-than average range, but his arm makes Jose Tartabull look like Jesse Barfield. I think Damon will come back, because his market isn't as big as his wallet is.
So the lineup I project will look something like this:
SP Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, Papelbon, Arroyo/Clement
RP Fouke, Timlin, Hansen, Delcarmen, Bradford, LOOGY to be determined (probably not Lester)
The Sox 'turmoil' has more to do with the need to stay in the news than the need to do something newsworthy. It's just that simple.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Who's pulling the strings at Fenway? First and foremost, John Henry, one of the four hundred richest men on the planet, is a businessman. That's not criticism, or meant solely as fact, but as a compliment. Of course, Henry can't be micromanaging every business decision, any more than he can make every trade for his investment empire. Success at the top means setting goals, with not only a vision and a plan, and hiring the right people to execute your plan.
All of which brings us to the state of management. We have every reason to believe that the Hoyers and Cheringtons of the organization will continue to point the Sox in the right direction. The question is, who establishes the philosophy, the direction, the priorities, the budget, and surveys the constantly changing landscape that is baseball?
As a fan, I have great confidence in the CEO's ability to create an improving (albeit antiquated and expensive) physical plant, to establish business operations priorities, to expand Red Sox revenues, and run the business side of the operation adroitly. His baseball playing resume' aside, I lack the same confidence in his legerdemain concerning baseball operations. Dirty Larry has shown us his dark side in the execution of critical negotiations for GM. I don't necessarily agree with the Herald's article today about the search process. What independent, confident, and ahem, employed legitimate GM candidate will cede authority and control to the extent that we believe the CEO demands over baseball operations?
If you have the experience, the vision, the talent, and the eye of the GM, are you going to accept training wheels for decision-making? I'm not talking about budgetary review, fiduciary responsibility (the two most abused words in America), medical evaluations, and so on. What all of us desire is a capable GM who makes independent baseball judgements without the need for the imprimatur of the Prince.
Maybe the Sox have it all under control. But it sure doesn't look like it from here.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Emperor for Life 'Theoslayer' served as ringmaster for the circus that defines Red Sox management. The Overlord didn't have any specific announcements pertaining to his plan to raise Master Theo from the Baseball Dead.
Is it time to let up on the Sox management for their inept negotiations with their former GM? I don't know. If we don't do it, who will? Surely, the everyday crowd feeding at the Red Sox trough can't be expected to provide the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So should we?
The Sox point to their accomplishments, the unvarnished beauty of the (less than unanimous) Beckett deal, not so young Loretta, Marte departing from Atlanta, and surely a catcher named Huckleberry Hound. On the other hand, skeptics say, what about Manny, what about the defense with no shortstop and no centerfielder?
Darth Leader has accomplished wonders rebuilding "America's Most Beloved Ballpark, the Cash Star, boldly adding seats where no man (or woman) has gone before. And according to his boss, he is 'the best CEO in baseball'. Of course, it has been said about baseball that it is such a great game that it can survive the people who run it. Pass me some Kool-Aid.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
If Larry LucchiNero sees his shadow, do we have six more weeks of baseball ‘winter’ of discontent? The Sox President, CEO, and Personnel uber-czar emerged from the Yawkey Way bunker to announce the Red Sox would restructure, that they are working hard, and yes, he did take a hit for the team.
Nobody can say the Red Sox haven’t acted this offseason, with the ‘disrespect’ of former GM, Brookline homeboy Theo Epstein, renovation of the 406 Club (people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?), relocation of Edgar Renteria, and shopping spree in Florida.
So, let’s ask the key questions for 2006. The answers are more obvious than you think.
Will Red Sox Nation forgive the ‘Overlord’ for dispatching neo-icon Theo? He Who Must No Longer Be Named quickly pointed out that ticket sales already exceeded those following that Championship Season. Money talks.
Who’s in charge? With Alexander Haig nowhere in sight, there’s no doubt that ‘Dirty Larry’ has consolidated his power, dispensing consulting tasks to the serfs occupying the basement. Jim Beattie? Who’s zooming whom?
Is Manny coming or going? The inevitable breakdown of baseball’s total control evolved to free agency and now ‘hide and go seek’ your own deal. The Sox have 57 million reasons to make Manny stay, and Manny’s alternatives largely include ‘pounding sand’, holding his breath, and stamping his feet. Is the Ramirez household going to forfeit 57 million bucks? Manny might be Manny, but he’s not crazy. Will Manny be back? I doubt it. Will the Sox get equal value for a first ballot Hall of Famer in his prime? Almost certainly not.
What would Johnny Damon do? Damon has the leverage of being ‘free’, but as they say in Detroit, “if you want economy, you’ll have to pay for it.” You might be the best looking car on the block, but if the shoppers aren’t buying, then you have to lower your sights. JD won’t go hungry, he won’t get Jody Reeded, and I doubt that Gold-in-Locks will be shaving for Gotham next year.
Who’s catching Wakefield? You’d think Wakefield’s knuckler was bird flu, the way people talk about it. This is a problem, just smaller than the Federal deficit, or the Overlord’s ego.
Who plays shortstop? Tejada, si? I don’t think the Orioles are in a hurry to make the Sox’ headache their headache. There must be a law saying the Red Sox must overpay for players at every position. That would explain why Kevin Youkilis rides the pine, why Alex Cora isn’t even considered a viable replacement, and Dustin Pedroia’s injured hand moved him from prospect to suspect. Maybe if Scott Boras can assemble some more reading material for the Sox, they’ll be able to find a suitable and expensive replacement.Sure it’s easier to ask questions than to deliver answers. But ‘who do you trust, baby?’, Theo or The Man Who Would Be King?
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Speaking of pain, is the Emperor LucchiNero about to break his silence? The Sox appear likely to unleash the two headed Janus CEO or Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington, as after all, if it doesn't work out, someone needs to be responsible. The Diamond Jims, Beattie and Bowden are at least as popular as the proverbial "peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a banquet" (was that a Larry Johnson original?).
I'm fond of the saying that 'anything can happen in the stock market', which has a corollary, 'anything can happen in baseball'. Grady Little comes back from the 7th level (or eighth inning) of baseball hell, resurfacing as Dodgers' skipper. Little is supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread as an infield coach, but has a special place in Red Sox ignominy for his managerial deferral to star players (see Pedro Martinez).
Will Miguel Tejada wind up in Boston, and Manny Ramirez exit via a third or fourth destination, with something else winding up in Baltimore?
Maybe the home uniforms WILL have names on the back next season.
Friday, December 09, 2005
It would be premature to judge the Red Sox Winter Meeting moves, as trades take time to play out. Sometimes inaction reigns as the best choice, but one thing remains sure: "failure is an orphan but success has many fathers." Should the Sox roster shuffling work, who will take credit, and should it fail, who's the fall guy?
The Red Sox Beckett dilemma reminds me of the wisdom of a greybeard, "is the patient well and worried, or sick and worried?"
My boss is unfair and not that bright. That's always been the problem with being self-employed.
The Celtics haven't beaten San Antonio since January 1997. That streak looks to be continuing.
At least trading Joe Thornton to San Jose made the Sharks better.
Edgar Renteria was the Sox shortstop of the future, but he was blocking the path of Hanley Ramirez, the Sox shortstop of the future. Who is the Red Sox shortstop of the future?
Strength up the middle, rules in checkers, chess, basketball, football, hockey, and baseball. Jason Varitek, no-name shortstop, and no-name centerfielder. Larry must have been out of GM school that day. But he is the "best CEO in baseball." Nothing exceeds having the confidence of your owner.
Have you ever been to a Chinese restaurant, paid cash, and seen them ring it up? I almost always pay cash in Chinese restaurants, because I know that if I live long enough, I'll see somebody ring it up. Maybe. As Richard Russell would say, "have you ever seen a Chinese restaurant run by Chinese go bankrupt?"
It's impossible to appreciate the impact of Rodney Harrison until we experience his absence. He got less respect than Dangerfield.
Have you noticed anybody move better without the ball than Richard Hamilton? He's the basketball reincarnation of John Havlicek.
They say Secretariat had a heart fifty percent larger than other horses'. In other words, he had more horsepower.
Will Roger Clemens really hang 'em up this year? So the Sox blew it by not resigning him, but Mo Vaughn didn't earn his money in free agency, did he?
Do the Red Sox lead the league in paramours, or is the news media just digging harder here? Do the Red Sox have any 'secrets' that are actually secrets.
Nancy Kerrigan's agent wasn't content with 10%; he married her and got 100%.
Did Dustin Pedroia do something to tick someone off? The only person not mentioned to play second for the Sox next year was Nellie Fox. Maybe Pedroia will play shortstop.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Not to be outdone by Abbott and Costello, the Sox are taking the 'Who's on First?' routine to the next level. Trade rumors fly like Icarus to the sun, and as Sox fans, we don't even know whom to ask, because no one's really in charge (except his LuccHoliness, of course).
Ok, Jason Varitek's going to be the catcher, and maybe Mirabelli's the backup, unless he's going to San Diego for Loretta or Dave Roberts or unnamed relief. In which case, Kelly (no-hit) Shoppach becomes the backup, unless he's gone in the Renteria to the Braves for Lugo via Tampa Bay and other fungible moving parts.
At first base, it won't be John Olerud who's retiring. It could be Troy Glaus, if he moves to first if Manny's not traded, or we don't get Aubrey Huff (are we trying to get an entirely left-handed hitting lineup?). J.T. Snow is rumored to be coming to Boston (Snow in Boston, haha, big laughs). And what about Lyle Overbay, he of the Milwaukees? He's got a Fenway swing and the Brewers want our extra pitching.
At second, we either have Dustin Pedroia, or Alex Cora (or is it Joey), or Graffanino resigns, or Loretta, or maybe Grudzielanek, and Orlando Hudson can be had for the right price, too.
Edgar Renteria's our man at shortstop, unless it's Lugo, or maybe Pedroia as a fallback position. Or maybe O-Cab is catching a ride back east in the Manny deal, which leaves us without a left fielder.
Mike Lowell has the default option at third base, and as far as we know it's not Bill Mueller's time any more. Will it ever be Kevin Youkilis' time? Maybe, as Lowell could be 'flipped', as in 'trading cards'.
Manny's still the left fielder, unless he gets dealt, particularly to the Angels, who give us Erstad, while Arizona sends Troy Glaus here. Of course, if Manny goes to Texas, then we get Soriano and his strikeouts and subpar defense, but speed and power, and growing salary.
In center, we have...nobody. If Furcal gets 39 million, then WWJDD (what would Johnny Damon Demand). Scott Boras won't even talk about a hometown discount, because Scott is Mr. Bottom Line. Good for you, Scott, you greedy buzzard. Of course, we could still get Dave Roberts back.
In right, we have, maybe Nixon, unless he's moving parts for Mark Redman. Isn't Redman like, a Twin castoff, who probably got guys out in the NL who he wouldn't face in the AL? Of course, if Nixon and Clement could bring Bobby Abreu, well, then 'pigs fly, too'.
For 'sure', we have Schilling (injury), Wakefield, Beckett (is he really healthy?), and Papelbon. Make new friends but keep the old. We don't know if Clement, Arroyo, Wells, or Miller are moving parts either. The Sox have Foulke, Mota, Timlin, Hansen, DelCarmen, and Bradford, among others to work out of the pen.
About all we know is that Roger Clemens won't be walking back in that door again, or Theo Epstein. Or will they? Who's in charge here, anyway?
Saturday, December 03, 2005
What's in a name? Apparently, the Red Sox have devised a new strategy to rebuild their troubled franchise. The Sox have gone 'Presidential' acquiring Jermaine Van Buren, to supplement their other Presidential resident, Trot Nixon.
What are the possibilities here? Neither Terry Adams (Philadelphia) or Russ Adams (Toronto) merit consideration. Milwaukee's Mike Adams (ERA 2.70) definitely deserves some effort. Homer Bush didn't see action in 2004 and David Bush looked 'Bush league' against the Sox in 2005.
Of the Carters, unfortunately the best, Gary (Hall of Fame) and Joe (memorable World Series home run) are long gone, and Lance Carter (was he the D-Ray headhunter?) leaves much to be desired. The Sox have gone the Cleveland (Reggie) and Clinton (Lou) routes in the past in their once fruitless quests for the brass ring. Joe Kennedy had his moments with Oakland, once they rescued him from Colorado. With just 7 homers in 2005, former Sox farmhand Lew Ford could be out there. Of course, we hear the Sox have far more interested in a Torii (Hunter) than Democrats or Republicans.
Among the Jackson clan, forget about Edwin (Dodgers) or Damian, especially if we're trying to reduce Johnny Damon's headaches. Conor Jackson is another story, a power-hitting prospect first baseman from the Diamondbacks. Plus, we have lots of connections in Arizona, as the quislings defect from the defunct Bosox bargain basement baseball barracks. There's always a Johnson out there, and the best of the Johnsons out there is Nats first basemen Nick. As for the rest of the Johnsons, the most interesting might be Florida's Josh Johnson, but we've got our limit on Joshes already. We could certainly do worse than acquiring Sox nemesis Ted Roosevelt Lilly, but never mention John Truman Wasdin.
We might need outfielders if the Sox fulfill Manny's wishes, and Craig Monroe slammed 20 homers, 89 RBI and had a .446 slugging percentage in spacious Comerica Park. Don't even think about Reggie Taylor. Craig and Jack Wilson may have peaked with the Pirates, although nobody's going to make us forget about Earl Wilson who had a no-hitter for the Sox and won 20 games for the Tigers. Preston Wilson has pop in his bat but lots of holes in his strike zone, and for gawd's sake, let's try not to remember Mookie Wilson.
Well, the Sox don't have time to ponder all the presidential aspirants, especially when they're trying to find the right caliber general manager. Of course, they wouldn't have this problem if they hadn't found the right caliber to finish off former GM Theo Epstein.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
So what do you want, attitude or performance? I'll take Manny, who is, yes underrated, in left, and produces at the plate. So he doesn't run out a ground ball once in awhile. A patient came in the other day and said, 'you can't replace performance. You may like your job, but aren't there days when your office door looks like Mount Everest, and you don't want to climb it? Nobody loves their job every day.' Well, nobody on the Red Sox anyway.
The Celtics' pregame show asks, "if the Colts can't win the Super Bowl, who's your next pick?' Tanguay liked the Bengals, with Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson. Holley liked the Carolina Panthers and their defense. I guess I'm pulling for the Vikings. I mean, can anybody else celebrate with the Vikes?
What's the difference between this year's Bruins and last year's team. This team wins a game occasionally.
The word seems to be that Tony Graffanino will resign with the Sox, and possibly Mark Grudzielanek. AND the Sox have been talking about Alfanso Soriano. Who's next Robbie Alomar, or Nellie Fox? Whatever became of Dustin Pedroia? Must be a Bill Lajoie thing about Pedroia. NO JOY, NO JOY for landing the 'young rookie' in the Sox lineup.
Kelly Shoppach needs to get off the schneid, too. Is he the new AAAA catcher, with no hits in 2005 in MLB?
Billy Wagner gets 43 extra large, Konerko 60 mill, and they're talking 55 mill for 5 years for Brian Giles. http://www.baseball-reference.com/g/gilesbr02.shtml Giles numbers are not too shabby compared with Johnny Damon. Scott Boras, the new Hans Christian Andersen of baseball literature, has his spiral binder with the 'Legend That Is Johnny Damon'. Damon will get 3000 hits, and no doubt eclipse the stolen base records of Lou Brock.
Damon's an excellent player. http://www.baseball-reference.com/d/damonjo01.shtml He could get 3000 hits. He plays hard and he plays hurt. But it's an economic decision. You can't pay top dollar for everybody, in both terms of annual salary and years. Maybe Nomar could come back and play center for a year. That's what I love about the Mother Tongue...because slim chance, fat chance, and no chance all mean the same.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
So, Peter Woodfork leaves to join Josh Byrnes in Arizona. Say hi to Tom DeMark for me. Guess that you could have stuck a fork in Woodfork's chances at the GM spot. Anybody else on the junior GM circuit in need of some sunshine/vitamin D.
We can group the candidates into three categories. First, the "Chorus Line" cast of characters, "I need this job." Right. That would be the Slim Jims, Jim Bowden, Jim Beattie, and probably Jim Bunning, Jim Bouton, and Jim Lonborg. Second, you have the "anonymous" category, which could include just about anybody, critics of the administration excepted. Third, you have the residents in training, like Jed Hoyer. Of course, the biggest group is the "Don't call me, I'll call you group from the Sabeans, Towers, Moores, LaCavas, and so on." They're are in the George Carlin group of "can you work with Larry LuQueeno" as in "are you out of your bleeping mind?"
Steve Silva has the Red Sox 'Apprentice' countdown going, and The Commissioner, Peter Gammons is still alive. Gotta DQ (disqualify) Peter, because he knows too many secrets.
There are an awful lot of rumors going about Mike Lowell and steroids. Lowell had cancer a few years ago, if I recall correctly, and anabolic steroids have medicinal uses in post-surgical patients (rarely). The problem historically has been that physiologic doses don't produce performance-enhancing effects, as do pharmacologic doses. I'm not accusing Lowell of anything, just wondering if smoke begets fire.
Does Bronson Arroyo have a future in the Red Sox rotation? Maybe it's just me, but I'd really appreciate him more with a less 'casual' approach, supplemented by a third pitch. The rotation with Beckett and Papelbon would sure look a lot younger and less anemic than last year's crowd. Sure, I'd really like Jon Lester to have a breakout spring training, and have both Delcarmen and Hansen in the pen as power arms. Hard stuff and just wild enough to keep the opposition a bit on their heels.
If the Mets have traded for Delgado, is New York just an intermediary in the Delgado and Milledge for Manny Ramirez deal?
Is the relative silence on Damon a good sign or a bad sign? If Youkilis and Pedroia get legitimate shots next year, it would be the first time in a very long time that the Sox developed a position player.
Nomar's not walking in that door again, either, in centerfield or elsewhere.
There's talk about trading Manny Ramirez for Ichiro, too. We definitely need more guys who can't read the newspaper.
If I could own any franchise in MLB as an investment, which one would it be? Gotta be Kansas City. Low salaries, low expectation. Worst case scenario, status quo, best case, relocation to Las Vegas.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
First, we won't have to 'worry' about Manny having a bad influence on Hanley Ramirez, who seemed destined to wind up somewhere else in the wake of the Renteria deal. Second, the Sox didn't sacrifice either Lester or Hansen to the Floridians.
What are Yankee fans saying? Here's a smattering of comments I've heard. "It's a great deal for the Red Sox." "What's the downside for the Red Sox?" "A real commissioner would block this deal." THAT is definitely my favorite, when Yankee fans whine about exploitation of the system.
Okay, now where's Waldo, er, Larry, standing up to take credit for the deal? Like OJ, he's probably searching continuously for the next GM. Everybody's getting their second interview.
Here are some of the sample questions that you get during a second interview, to see whether you can pass LuQueeno's muster.
1. How do you spell 'loyalty'?
2. Can you sing the Red Sox fight song (trick question)?
3. Who's your Daddy?
4. What is the distance between home plate and second base?
5. Did you play baseball in college?
6. Did you have a higher batting average than I had in college?
7. Can you explain the formula for runs created?
8. Who hit John Wyatt in the head throwing to second base (Bob Tillman)?
9. Do you have a copy of 'The Impossible Dream"?
10.When would you like to trade Manny?
11. How much is too much for Johnny Damon?
12. How much do you hate Scott Boras?
13. Do you have any great marketing ideas for the Red Sox?
14. Do you have a conscience?
15. How many scoops of coffee go into the Bunn percolator in the morning?
They are pretty hard questions, but that explains why the Sox still don't have a GM, right?
Monday, November 21, 2005
The Sox get an overpaid and once productive third baseman (Lowell) and a top-of-the rotation pitcher in return for their top position prospect (Ramirez) and a highly regarded righthanded pitcher (Sanchez). The Sox show a willingness to add payroll, and they do not lose key lefthander Jon Lester.
The Sox pitching staff now features Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Wakefield, and Clement (who knows), with power arms Hansen and Delcarmen in the bullpen to develop alongside their veterans. Where Lester winds up, we don't know.
Presumably, David Wells returns to the left coast for an unspecified spare part.
Lowell, a Gold Glover steps in at third, and whether Kevin Youkilis becomes expendable or a discount first base alternative.
The bullpen isn't entirely stabilized, Johnny Damon is on the market, and who knows whether Manny Ramirez is staying, or headed back toward New York (the Mets).
The other key to the deal is who were the principals, and do they have any inside track to the keys to the GMs office?
Monday, November 14, 2005
What came out of the General Managers' meetings? Let's examine this closely. Four of baseball's version of 101 Dalmations made the trip, on their own until Cruellarry De Ville, I mean Cruel Larry De Hub showed up to supervise Jed Hoyer, Craig Shipley, Peter Woodfork, and Ben Cherington. Maybe they're the Spy Kids. Surely, upper management required each to write, "I will not seek to become a New England icon" on the chalkboard at least a 100 times. Meanwhile, Cruellary, cloaked in Darth Vader gear, mumbled, "I am your father, " and reported back to principal owner John Henry, "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids."
Actually, Sox management has an affinity for Disney. There's Never a Dull Moment. Derek Lowe's gone because he wandered far from the Snow White image the club wants. The decision-making process leading to Theogate was really Goofy. With the quotes attributable to L-squared and John Henry, we're reminded (pun intended) of the Lion King. Lucchino says there's no problem between Theo and him. Pinocchio, we say. Based on the recent Werner-Lucchino statements, I guess we should call them Tom and Huck. I know how as a Bostonian I feel about Cruellary, "Cheetah."
Are we being unfair to the Sox CEO, who reminds us a lot more of Dumbo than The Incredibles? Surely John Henry comes off as either The Absent Minded Professor or Sleeping Beauty during the key negotiations. Will Theo Epstein be Spirited Away by Frank McCourt and the Dodgers? It's our personal Nightmare Before Christmas.
Now we're hearing that the Sox are trying to trade Manny Ramirez. Does that mean Manny goes west and we have Angels in the Outfield next season?
Well, at this point we can be sure that Theo's not Homeward Bound. No matter, Mr. Henry's still The Happiest Millionaire. Ultimately, the front office can only choose between too assignations, Mickey Mouse or Flubber.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
From the top, we have King Henry with the all-powerful Queen, Larry Lucchino at his side. Think of him as Luqueeno. The next most powerful pieces on the board are the cornerstones/castles, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The bishops? Statesmen of the team Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield. The knights of the team were, of course, Theo Epstein (on his high horse apparently) and free agent jumper Johnny Damon. Of course, most of the players are pawns, but pawns are not exclusively players. Globe scribe Dan Shaughnessy got into the game as a pawn, too.
Henry's performance the other day brought tears to my eyes, Crock of Dial up streaming radio tears naturally, as we heard how the owner couldn't imagine that Theo Epstein might leave. Henry's legendary investing brilliance contrasted with his lack of imagination as el jefe of the regional treasure.
Ah, but there's the rub. As Red Sox fans, we suffer the delusion (according to colleague Dr. Edward Fischer) that we control a 'private issue in the public domain.' The Red Sox maintain a highly profitable, highly successful business that they rule. Remember the Golden Rule of business, "he who has the gold makes the rules."
We ask ourselves ponderous questions about 'our team'. What is the mission and the vision of the Boston Red Sox, the 'Prime Directive'. The Red Sox mission statement would read something like, "to provide entertainment to the baseball fans of New England, providing an exciting atmosphere and a winning team (while making money hand over fist)". Events demonstrate that management believes the position of General Manager to be fungible and secondary to business operations. Second, we can't know what constitutes management's vision. From a strictly business standpoint, if the Sox could develop the talent evaluation, development, and procurement success of (let's say) Oakland or Minnesota, then they could field playoff caliber teams with payroll perhaps 75 percent or less of current.
With whatever debt service the Sox have, good businessmen and women certainly must desire to increase their net cashflow, both through revenue growth (ticket prices, additional seating, merchandise, cable and media), debt reduction if possible, and through cost reduction (farm system success raising lower salaried talent, bargain free agents, attrition of expensive contracts, jettisoning problem contracts like Manny Ramirez'). I can't fault them for exercising good business acumen.
As fans, we have to ask when or if sound business thinking results in inreparable damage to the franchise. Certainly, the apotheosis of Theo overstates his value ("the show must go on"), but John Henry also knows that the majority of profits come from the minority of trades (home runs). The Red Sox calculated Epstein's loss as wholely acceptable. Luqeeno's statement yesterday reaffirms that judgement.
From a 'risk management' standpoint (that is how these guys think), everyone is expendable (pawns) as long as the proprietary business status remains. There's no National League franchise showing up at Nickerson Field and the reporters will soon focus (happening already) on moving on and discounting the administrative faux pas that will soon enough be a footnote in Red Sox history. Game on.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
The Sox tried the Bullpen by Committee experiment and have graduated to GM by Committee. Maybe it's the new wave, and also the dissolution of authority prevents any of the young upstarts from usurping Master Luke's 'Star Wars' prima donna status. Way to go.
On the other hand, maybe it commences a new internal power struggle among Jed Hoyer, Craig Shipley, Ben Cherington, and Peter Woodfork. Too many guys for 'stone, paper, scissors' and the Sox are definitely too out of tune to consider 'musical chairs.' A Texas Death Match wrassling tournament could work, or maybe they could do karaoke, with Derek Lowe coming in as a celebrity judge.
Or maybe, they might team up to try to recruit another team's GM, enticing him with a clandestine trip to a strip joint, plying him with a few rounds, and getting some compromising pictures. That might seem underhanded, but the Sox will emphasize both creativity and achievement going forward. Machiavelli would be proud.
Friday, November 04, 2005
As best we can tell, Larry Lucchino dug this hole, and he should have the fortitude to explain himself. Or not? Larry's in the press and on television more often than almost everything except the World Poker Tour and Paris Hilton. All of a sudden, we've seen more of Howard Hughes.
Okay, Larry's busy, making phone calls and reviewing resumes for the next GM. Let's see. Kevin Towers...previously worked with Larry...'Hello, Kevin?' "Click..." Gerry Hunsicker, signed with Tampa. Doug Melvin. He's rumored to be resigning an extension with Milwaukee. Why can't we resign executives like that? What about Tony LaCava, ostensibly young, a 'nice guy', and a personnel/development guy. He hasn't worked with Larry before (so he won't automatically refuse) and he'd probably work cheap?
Seriously, finding a GM replacement won't be that easy. Let's start making out our list:
1. Preferably young and malleable.
2. Lacks excessive self-confidence.
3. Can work with autonomy more limited than average GM.
4. Salary negotiable.
5. Doesn't hate New England weather.
6. Knows Rotisserie isn't about cooking and sabermetrics isn't about swordsmanship.
7. Hasn't worked with Larry Lucchino
8. Doesn't read the newspapers.
9. Willing to do donut commercials (Theo donated his proceeds to charity)
10.High stress tolerance.
11.Doesn't desire to become New England icon.
12.Capable of mixing smoothly with volatile personalities.
13.Can read and write (see hockey news)
14.Appreciates 'unique' position of franchise in New England culture
15.Understands franchise vision must not be his vision, however likely to succeed or logical.
So, for current GMs, it's more abuse, more money, and less autonomy. For wannabe GMs, it's the opportunity, more money, more abuse, and one hand on the wheel. Let's see. Who's not going to leap at that? Welcome, Tony!
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I know you're out there somewhere
I know I'll find you somehow
I'll return again to you
The mist is lifting slowly
I can see the way ahead
And I've left behind the empty streets
That once inspired my life
And the strength of the emotion
Is like thunder in the air'
Cos the promise that we made each other
Haunts me to the end
I know you're out there somewhere
I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I'll find you somehow
Somehow, somehowI know
I'll find you somehow
And somehow I'll return again to you
-from the Moody Blues
The Sox management is starting to emerge from their bunker after botching the Theo Epstein negotiations. At least that's the story. They'll fess up to failed negotiations, not the John McKay Question. McKay when asked about the execution of his team replied, "I'm in favor of it."
So we have to ask, "where's Larry?"
1. Anybody see him at the Celtics game last night?
2. Have we checked the rolls of the French foreign legion?
3. A wag on WEEI suggested a Silence of the Lambs scenario, with Larry telling Dan Shaughnessy "the writer puts the story in the basket." (Gawd, I wish I'd thought of that one)
4. Could Larry be working on the Big Dig? After all, he's good with a shovel.
5. Is Larry in the Counting House?
6. Is Larry the new spokesperson for Southwest Airlines? "Need to get away?"
7. Has he signed on as David Copperfield's lovely assistant in the disappearing act?
8. Maybe Larry's going to be on The Apprentice.
9. Maybe Larry's gone walkabout, like Diogenes, in search of an honest man.
10.Larry's at the movies. There's a remake just out called "The Puppetmasters."
Heck I know where Larry is, he's looking for a new GM. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
The 'other side' of the Theo Epstein trade is Larry Lucchino and the power on the throne, John Henry. As they say in Hollywood, "what's my motivation?" As I wrote on the Dirt Dogs site, Lucchino would clearly come down as the Fall Guy if Theo Epstein walked. So far, it's played out that way.
Does anyone think that Larry Lucchino gives a rat's patootie about that? Lucchino runs the business side of the house, skillfully maneuvering among the politicians, contractors, and vendors to enhance the ballpark, expand revenues, and increase club value. From an ownership perspective, you care about widget sales, top and bottom line growth, cash flow, debt service, and ultimately market capitalization. If you're John Henry, the trend is good.
If you're Henry, do you care about fan reaction to the departure of the sentimental favorite son? You don't achieve Fortune 400 status (richest people on the planet) because of sentimentality. Do you think one less fan will cross through Fenway turnstiles because Theo Epstein isn't sitting behind home plate or in the owner's box? Your investment is about dollars. Will seats suddenly become vacant and fans abandon Red Sox paraphernalia? Don't bet on it.
Dollars aside, you can already point to three playoff appearances, two ALCS rounds, and a World Series title. How dare you say ownership doesn't care about winning, or committing resources to the process?
What fans have to ask is becomes is John Henry the next James Orthwein, a sports carpetbagger, or planning to sell out in the near future. If he and Lucchino continue to increase cashflow, especially by moving Manny Ramirez, by not signing Johnny Damon, by 'going young' and allowing other contracts (e.g. Schilling) to die of attrition, then cash flow could increase dramatically and increase the real (not theoretical) value of the investment. On Wall Street they call that good business.
We fans often become trapped in concepts of loyalty and tradition. Shrewd baseball owners don't suffer the same failings, as they increase their empire through all possible means. The Sox continue to increase ticket prices, and the payoff of farm system productivity is the option of decreasing 'overhead', that is, the cost of the product on the field.
I've discussed the distinction of decision-making by ego or by money. Theo Epstein rendered a decision based on ego, walking away from Megabucks. We must presume that intolerable working conditions contributed. The motivation for the other side of the trade remains unexplained. Did ownership consider Epstein too popular, expendable at this point before his status grew uncontrollable and a threat to their longer-term goals? What are their goals?
What we as fans must accept, like players who are fungible, is that the Theo Epsteins, Chris Correntis, and others are mere pawns on the chessboard of the baseball hierarchy. They are commodities, interchangeable with minimal perceived loss in valuation. You can almost hear the boardroom chatter, "look, we'll just get another guy. The fans won't even notice the difference. The king is dead, long live the king. It's just that simple."
Sentiment doesn't drive franchise value, cash flow does. Ownership retains control of one of thirty-two proprietary businesses, monopolistic, indestructible. Or so they think.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
"Listen, Mr. Henry, I can do this job." I'll go through just a partial list of qualifications, which should surely impress you.
1. Intimately familiar with trends, both following and fading them, including the use of technical analysis parameters such as directional movement and 20 day breakouts, such as Turtle Trading. Believer in 'mean reversion', which portends well for Keith Foulke.
2. Definitely on the wrong side of fifty. No young whippersnapper here.
3. Played Division I baseball in college. Er, sat on the bench in the bullpen specifically. At least I played beyond high school.
4. Can say, "Yes, sir, no sir, right away sir, aye aye sir, and I don't know sir, but I'll find out sir" with the best of them.
5. Know the value of a dollar, and the value of a franc, French, Swiss, or Belgian.
6. Willing to fetch Mr. Lucchino coffee, anytime.
7. Local product, born and raised in Massachusetts.
8. Intimately familiar with "Moneyball" concepts, having played Rotisserie baseball since virtually its inception, with multiple league titles, including from the defunct Prodigy network. Read "Moneyball". Picture of Billy Beane on my desk (not really, but I'll try anything).
9. Outstanding relationship with Boston Dirt Dogs.
10. Son went to school with Chris Snow (wink, wink), so I can potentially manipulate the Boston Globe.
11. Ivy League education (see previous GM)
12. Regular trader, unafraid to make decisions, with appropriate risk management.
13. Creative management style (see previous Dirt Dogs seating capacity expansion plans).
14. Willing to work cheaper than retread, revolving-door GMs you'll be considering.
My number's in the book.
Is this the first time that Shaughnessy has trashed local sports figures? Hardly. Robert Parish 'enjoyed' target status for the Globe scribe while in Boston, and 'mean-spirited' sums up Shaughnessy's general approach, as in "I'm a columnist, not a reporter." That's for certain, as reporters report the news, eschewing insinuating themselves into the news.
Now I'm not suggesting that there's a special section in hell for sports writers, or worse, sports bloggers, but did Dagger Dan willfully ingratiate himself to Sox management with the hatchet job on Theo Epstein?
Theo Epstein wasn't perfect. Chad Fox, Jeremy Giambi, Wade Miller, Matt Mantei, and (so far) Edgar Renteria either didn't work out or contributed far less than expected. But the GM's job remains a bottom-line business, and Epstein had one hand on the wheel when the Sox' ship came in.
Any new candidates for the GM job have to be aware of the backstabbing atmosphere currently at Fenway, "America's Most Beloved Ballpark." Landing at Logan, the Towers, Hunsickers, Sabeans, and others won't be rolling over and fawning over the President and the CEO. Maybe they won't have to, because the Powers That Be sought only to knock Theo back down to size, not shove him out the door.
So, we won't need a GM who can schmooze Curt Schilling into Sox whites, or convince David Ortiz that Boston's the place to be. We won't need a new Red Sox media guide with Ortiz, Manny, Schilling, and Wakefield on the cover. John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner can start posing now, because it's all about them.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Maybe we could describe his action best by imprinting 'stupid' on each grain of sand in the Sahara Desert. Maybe we could hire a private plane with a banner with the words, "Honk if you disapprove of Larry Lucchino's treatment of Theo Epstein." Maybe we could email RedSox.com by the thousands to express our dissatisfaction with management. Maybe we could boycott Red Sox merchandise for the month of November to demonstrate that disrespecting the fans actually costs something.
What we shouldn't be doing is calling for the death penalty for mismanagement. We shouldn't be preparing our tar and plucking chickens, or contemplating abacination.
The last Sox game I attended, when A-Rod would come up to hit, a fan repeatedly yelled, "hit 'im in the head." That isn't either sporting or clever. Maybe we can wish that Lucchino's wallet be filled with kryptonite, because obviously the Sox President thinks he's Superman. Maybe we could threaten to pour cement into the Boston Common pond, so L-squared can show us how he can walk on water. Maybe we should remember Howard Beale from Network as in "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."
So, I'd encourage Red Sox fans everywhere to mail Howard Beale's comments to the Nation, "I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE." This one's for you, Larry. Don't forget to tell Mo and Curly.
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)
All you fellows who have someoneA
nd you really care, yeah, yeah
Then it's all of you fellows
Who better beware, yeah yeah
Somebody's out to get your lady
A few of your buddies they sure look shady
Blades are long, clenched tight in their fist
Aimin' straight at your back
And I don't think they'll miss
----The Back Stabbers, by the O'Jays
In his tenure as Red Sox GM, Theo Epstein made mistakes. However, he helped bring the Red Sox to three postseason appearances and a World Series Championship. He worked well with fellow General Managers and he was respected by players.
We read ridiculous statements that Theo Epstein didn't play college baseball and somehow that disqualifies him as being a true 'baseball man'. The fingerprints of the Black Hand of CEO Larry Lucchino are all over the departure of Theo Epstein.
Lucchino has made it his place to be the Front Man for the organization, promulgating a literal orgy of self-promotion. Why? Does Red Sox Nation worship at the altar of Lucchino, a High Priest of baseball achievement? Do we so easily confuse activity with achievement?
Yes, the Red Sox will go on. The Red Sox will hire a new GM with pomp and circumstance and dollars. Players will go, and free agents will come. Fastballs and curves will crackle across the plate at Fenway, and the evanescent complaints of overwrought fans will quickly fade when new blood arrives.
But the ugly side of self-indulgence interferes with the responsible operation of the regional franchise. Dan Shaughnessy surely relishes his opportunity not to report news but to become the news. Was Lucchino his source? We are led to believe it is so. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. The best management celebrates success and spreads the credit among those who work for them. The Red Sox have demonstrated that will not be their modus operandi, and ultimately, we fans will pay for it.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
I didn't think so. Doesn't Sean Connery say something in The Rock about winners and losers? To win in professional sports, you need effort, but most of all you need talent. Tony LaRussa, the genius, hasn't won the big one for a very long time, because he hasn't had enough talent. Terry Francona managed more effectively in 2004 than in 2005 because he had better pitching.
Every day I hear people whining about Manny Ramirez, how much money he makes, and what a terrible example he sets. Yes, I'd like a new, improved version of Manny, but I'm afraid that the spots we have are on the leopard we've got. Manny isn't turning over a new leaf, but bringing in a Gold Glove leftfielder with .320/.400/.720 (on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS) is going to set the team back about 15 wins.
Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
The Red Sox are officially no longer the World Champions. They enter the Hot Stove League with numerous question marks and around 90 million dollars or so already committed to the roster. So what can Sox fans dream about in their stockings?
The Sox have pretty much always been about hitting, but never won it until the pitching produced. The rotation presumably builds around Schilling, Papelbon, Clement, and Wakefield. Wells wants out and who knows if Arroyo has another gear. Is he committed to keeping his day job? Every Sox fan from Bangor to Block Island longs for the power lefthander, and we fantasize about the prospects of Jon Lester being that guy. It's hard to know if the Sox are desperate enough to try (foolishly) to trade Ramirez (the Ortiz protection) for more pitching.
In the pen, Timlin likely will return, and we expect more from Delcarmen and Hansen. Foulke, the deserved MVP of the 2004 series amazingly will have to prove himself as though a rookie.
In the infield, the only 'sure' thing is Edgar Renteria at shortstop. Statistically he is likely to be better offensively and defensively. The Sox will give Pedroia a shot a second, with Cora an able back up, and some combination of Youkilis and a free agent will likely patrol the corners.
Presuming Manny stays, the Sox need to make a decision in center whether Johnny Damon is on the health and productivity downswing and whether Trot Nixon has adequate health to contribute. For a team historically built around right-handed power, the supply has faultered. Apres Manny, nada.
So, at worst, there are holes or question marks at the corners, second, center and right (Nixon inheriting the Tim Naehring Whirlpool Guy Award). And people say the Sox don't have the need for a 'great' GM.
Professional sports are a very results-oriented business, not only do they have standings, they also have revenues to measure, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Ownership either approves of the trends, or they don't. If you think that a championship and two other playoff appearances in three years is underperformance, then keep throwing Theo under the bus.
Sure, the Sox probably proved parsimonious in the entry negotiations with Epstein, but nothing obligated him to re-up for below market value. However, now that serious coin is on the table, the 'obvious' obstacles become either insurmountable and revealed, or solved and suppressed.
Epstein has a right to be proud of his accomplishments. For Mr. Henry, I think that Steve Cohen's best trader has a 63 percent win rate, and you or all people know that you must RIDE YOUR WINNERS and cut your losses short. By and large, Epstein has followed that logic, jettisoning players who did not work out, and it isn't about individual trades but total return on portfolio performance. One David Ortiz or Papelbon, makes up for all the Giambis, Halamas, and Wade Millers. That is the nature of trading, the outperformance of the portfolio, not the overdependence on any individual trade.
Theo Epstein is a winning trade, acquired cheap and maturing dear, paying dividends, having become a commodity worth having. Mr. Henry, you know commodities. Who will have more value in the foreseeable future, the CEO with lost luster or the General Manager in a solid uptrend? Losing Epstein is a limit-down offseason for the Red Sox, and allowing Larry Lucchino to destroy the portfolio is folly.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
A patient came in today saying that when he was only 21 years old, he bought into a business, only to have the owner say, "I'm not paying any young punk 75 grand." My patient responded that it wasn't about his age, but about his ability and what he could do for the business.
I always say that you wouldn't pay anybody a million bucks a year to sell shoes, unless he could sell twenty million dollars worth of shoes. Enter Michael Jordan.
Hey, it's not my money, and I'm sure the Red Sox can find someone to take the job for less money and less power. It's called resume' building. Hell, I'll take the job and fetch Larry Lucchino his coffee for a lot less money. Do the right thing. Tick tock.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Www.baseball-reference.com gives us a means of quantifying how much love 'our boys' have shown us, using something called similarity scores. We can compare our guys to statistically similar players throughout baseball history, and see how much we might value some of those 'strangers'.
First let's focus on the hitters we think are staying, Jason Varitek, Edgar Renteria, Kevin Youkilis, and probably Trot Nixon. We'll then look at 'the always leaving' Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Tony Graffanino, Bill Mueller, and Kevin Millar.
Varitek's top similarity scores by age are: Darren Fletcher, Mike MacFarlane, Sandy Alomar, Mike Lieberthal, and Darren Daulton. Not bad, but nobody headed to Cooperstown.
Renteria lines up with Allen Trammell, Dick Bartel, Jim Fregosi, Roberto Alomar, Derek Jeter, and Lou Boudreau. Boudreau is going to the Hall of Fame, and (deal with it) so is Jeter.
Youkilis doesn't have enough of a track record for comparisons yet.
Nixon's comps include Dante Bichette, Carl Everett, Jeffrey Hammonds, Reggie Sanders, and Ben Ogilvie. Again, pretty good players, but no superstars.
Manny Ramirez's matches for age include Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, and Jim Thome. Lofty company indeed.Need I say more?
Damon's similars ring up Tim Raines, Cesar Cedeno, Willie Davis, Lou Brock, and Pete Rose, obviously a group of pretty gifted players. Damon's 3 year OPS numbers are .750, .857, .805, with an OBP of .366 this year. He was ninth in times on base and fourth in runs. His stolen base totals have fallen below 20 for the past two years, and his global defense is mediocre, with good range and a weak arm.
Graffanino rings up Nelson Liriano, Randy Velarde, Lee Lacy, Jim Leyritz, and Scott Hatteberg.
Bill Mueller's category by age shows us Joe Randa, Don Hoak, Jeff Cirillo, Don Buford, and Bip Roberts, all guys who had decent careers, but complementary players, not cornerstones.
Kevin Millar has surprisingly good company including Huff, Nixon, Mike Easler, Raul Ibanez, and Brad Fullmer. The problem with Millar is the OPS trend, .875, .820, .857, .754 which suggests that Millar may have just fallen off the edge of competence.
The reason the Right Sox aren't in the World Series isn't just the need for more pitching. The offense had plenty of weaknesses down the stretch, and the GM, be it Theo or a Neo, will have plenty of work to rebuild this team.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
The quote from the school principal in Billy Madison distills much of the on air commentary from sports radio. If Trot Nixon forgets how many outs there are and tosses it into the grandstand, then it's a lapse. When Manny Ramirez fails to run out a groundball, it's a felony.
Bertrand Russell reminds us that "the most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion." Although baseball is a game where thirty percent batting success represents unusual success, team success depends more on achievement than perceived effort.
Pete Rose may end being known best for being a 'hustler' not for being 'Charlie Hustle'. He will be best remembered for his 4256 hits and 3 World Series titles, not for running out walks. 'Total effort guys' like B.J. Surhoff will win you games, but not championships. If you had twenty-five Manny Ramirez' ability players, you'd go broke, but you'd have a terrific lineup. A 'Surhoff lineup' would give you a career OPS of .745, parenthetically a point higher than Carlos Beltran's 2005 output for the Mets.
It takes two players hitting twenty homers and seventy RBI to replace Ramirez. Sure you might be able to do that for less money, but another spot in the lineup disappears.
Arguing whether Ramirez' gargantuan contract was 'worthwhile' begs another question, as in, "who is worth 20 million a year for personal services?" Warren Buffett can't turn your or my money into 20 million in a year (unless you're starting with 100 extra large) and I'm not sure that an army of personal servants could provide 20 million dollars worth of entertainment annually.
What remains certain is that if the Sox had 25 choirboys, total effort players of mediocre effort, they'd be pretty boring, not very quotable (bad for the scribes), and win a lot fewer games than 2004's self-proclaimed 'Idiots'. So do you really want choirboys or ballplayers?
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Manny Ramirez has provided a lot of entertainment, with a lot better leftfield defense than he is given credit for (wall playing, taking away singles playing left, assists), although he clearly does have some mental lapses (don't we all?). He had a tough start last year, but finished with great numbers, better than ANY replacement (Pujols ain't walking through that door), and Manny isn't a malicious guy.
Beltran had a .744 OPS last season, which isn't exactly Manny, or even Johnny Damon. His career OPS of .829 is less than Trot Nixon's .855, although at 28, Beltran should be coming into his prime.
We have ownership bias for what is 'ours'. A mug that is worth 2 bucks becomes worth 5 bucks when it's our mug. Guys like Mike Greenwell become 'solid players' instead of overpaid liabilities because they're wearing our Red Sox laundry.
I'm hoping that somehow, the numbers guys recognize that it's not that easy to replace Manny's numbers, even with another 'name' guy. If they want to get out from under Manny's contract, taking another big one, with more dollars at risk, and more years doesn't add up. Of course, maybe the GM and ownership have other issues to resolve first.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
After wallowing in the shadows of defeat for nearly a century, the Red Sox, under new ownership, won a World Series. Is once enough? It's easy enough to assign blame, but difficult to compensate credit. I believe, from a business standpoint, that better management can produce superior results for lower costs. All this makes finding, supporting, and retaining the best management vital.
We have to ask ourselves three questions, which will determine the outcome of the Red Sox General Manager's contract negotiations.
First, what does Theo Epstein want? Does he want to remain in his hometown, to get the Damoclean sword of recognition and loss of privacy. What dollar figure is a deal-breaker? Can he work with the man whose ego dominates the Red Sox media presence, Larry Lucchino? Every manager has bosses to whom he must report, but Theo must chafe under the 'supervision' of Lucchino, whose self-promoting style seems at odds with Epstein's approach and intellect.
Second, what do the Red Sox want? Do they believe that on balance Epstein's performance merits both an extension but the going rate? Do they think that someone else in the Kiddie Korps Baseball Operations group can replace Theo? Is one of the higher ups in the Front Office (Lucchino?) playing Cassius to Epstein's Caesar?
Finally, and most important, what is the public relations impact of failed negotiations. Baseball celebrates the 'Old Boy' network, with the apotheosis not of the young but recycling of the 'secure' choices. In money management circles, people discuss making safe choices to protect one's career. Nobody gets fired for buying IBM, because everyone else buys it, too. The Sox have shown a willingness to take chances, hiring Epstein based on ability and competence, not favoritism, nepotism, or experience. Losing Epstein, especially to the Team That Must Never Be Named would be a PR faux pas with repercussions, with Lucchino the likely fall guy.
Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Fenway Park offices, not to hear John Henry's thoughts on copper or coffee futures, but the willingness of the powers that be to share not dollars, but power with Broookline's Baseball Boy Wonder. It's more than a numbers game.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
I suppose that we all revel in the fall of the mighty sometimes. We mere mortals are treated to stories of indictment of high government officials and the stain of steroid abuse by 'superstars'. Some feel compelled to visit to kick sand in the Red Sox Nation's collective faces because the Sox didn't repeat. I can't recall saying (or believing) that they would, and I certainly wouldn't have bet the farm, even a Fisher-Price one on it.
However, since the Team That Must Never Be Named's fans come not to praise Caesar but to bury him, let's get down to it. The TTMNBN did manage to scrape out a division tie, with a mere 203 million dollar payroll. Coverboy Alex Rodriguez rewarded fans with a .133 post-season with no production offensively or defensively. Randy Johnson did scrape out 16 wins at about a million per victory, and Jason Giambi (now reborn with Stay-Puff Marshmallow muscles) evidently has resumed his 'vainglorious' training regimen. Twiggy Giambi is bursting at the seams again, evidently working out 365-24-7.
Brian Cashman is under hot pursuit by the Philadelphias, and if Cashman liked the Apple, then he'll love The City That Boos Santa Claus. Oh, yeah, those free agent acquisitions Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright sure look promising down the road. Oh well, it's only money, and George of the Jungle has plenty of that to fritter away.
Steinbrenner's not going to fire Joe 'Catcher' Torre, with the ingredients to this recipe going for 6 extra large per season, and Mel Stottlemyre must need psychotherapy by now.
Yes, the TTMNBN did get great work from the Serendipity Spinners, Smalls and Chacon, and what's the over-under in Vegas for them combining on 20 wins next year?
Of course, the locals have some issues, too. The Bosox have a starting pitching staff on the verge of Medicare eligibility, and it remains to be seen whose the bigger Idiot, Sox management at 40 for 4 or JD. The Sox bullpen is quite possibly going to depend on the Kiddie Korps, but as a loyal (but not card-carrying) member, I'm in favor guys like Hansen and Delcarmen who bring heat AND just a little bit of wildness to keep hitters light in their cleats.
I don't see Konerko abandoning the White Sox (who will likely pay up to keep him around), and the Sox have some issues with a certain free agent GM who brought the team three playoff seasons, minor league prosperity, and a Championship in three years. I'm in favor of paying the Architects of Success their due, not just spreading it around for the onfield product.
So, rest easy Red Sox Nation, from Toddlers on up, you've been to the mountain top. Meanwhile, preschoolers in The Empire State have never experienced a World Series Title, unless they just moved in from Anaheim or Boston.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
The team needs to rebuild the infield, improve their overall defense, and get offensive production from first base. Without a great pitching staff, they will continue to need potent offense.
C Varitek and Mirabelli (standing pat)...Shoppach on the block?
1B (I wouldn't trade youth, e.g. Hanley and Lester for Delgado, Konerko is the prize) Youkilis could be an option
2B Pedroia, Cora
3B (Don't think Nomar will be coming back) Joe Randa a pretty good player (see Youkilis under 1B)
CF Damon (will eventually come back, but should have Hanley Ramirez working out in CF)
OF Kapler (?injury recovered), Dave Roberts is out there and could replace Damon if they reallocate money to go for a Konerko, Preston Wilson strikes out a lot but has pop
U - need some other potent RH bat, B.J. Surhoff a great character guy,
(move Arroyo, as he may have some value)
RP Lester (give the kids an opportunity)
RP Kyle Farnsworth (Free agent) or Hasegawa
RP Myers (B.J. Ryan is out there)
RP Foulke (trade value not high enough now)
The Sox seem to have more pitchers close to being ready (Delcarmen, Hansen, Lester) than position players. We can only hope that to create payroll sanity, that they hang onto most of their top prospects.
Friday, October 07, 2005
As for those who want to get rid of Manny Ramirez, I would just remind you of Exhibit A, the man's hitting and protection of David Ortiz. The rest of the lineup either picked a bad time to wear out, slumped at the wrong time, or got subdued by superior pitching.
I'd expect the Sox to have new pieces at first, second, and third and once again the bullpen will have to be rebuilt (this time from within, using the kids Hansen and Delcarmen) while I'd expect the Sox to try to get a new (cheaper) centerfielder and some righthanded power. I doubt that Paul Konerko will be on their shopping list.
As for the Francona bashers, try winning your fantasy league with the Red Sox pitching staff.