Monday, October 31, 2005

Passion and Compassion

Let's not be hasty or inappropriate with our condemnations of Red Sox Czar Larry Lucchino. Criticism? Absolutely. Calls for corporal punishment and worse? No.

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 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.

The Back Stabbers

(They smile in your face)
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

(BOSTON) On the eve of contract expiration, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein resigned without comment.

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


Does the Nation want wholesale restructuring? Do you really desire that the team be blown up and start over again, with young, hungry, unproven players? Do you want to win 75-80 games and say, "well, these guys are playing hard, playing the game right, respecting the game?"

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

Christmas Shopping Already

"Baseball isn't a matter of life or death; it's a lot more important than that."

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.

Back Up Plan?

I'm sure that the Red Sox have some wonderful Plan B, a.k.a. stop-loss in the event that Theo Epstein decides to head west. If they have such a great plan, why go through extended negotiations? The fun of it?

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

Rope A Dope

In my haste to post to Dirt Dogs today, I incorrectly referenced "Man's Search for Meaning" Frankl's seminal work as "The Meaning of Life." Which means it would be really hard for L squared to find it at Barnes and Nobles or even Amazon. Mea culpa. Again. My literary references are smacking of Norm Crosby, or maybe Bing Crosby, or just Norm. Sigh.

Tick Tock

The clock winds down as we move toward SD day. Does Theo Epstein walk away from the Nation, Lone Ranger style with a 'my job is done here'. Or does he limp away, battered and bruised, discontent and underappreciated?

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

Stat Patter

In psychology they call it 'ownership bias', the attachment one gets for what one possesses. In baseball, we call it the love affair for our hometown 'boys', whether they've earned it or scorned us. 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

Of Choirboys and Ballplayers

"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul." - from Billy Madison

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 on the Block?

A patient came into the office today and told me that it was a 'done deal', Manny being traded to the Mets for a package including Carlos Beltran (I can never remember Beltran's name). Obviously, it can't be true (I'm told by Steve Silva of Boston Dirt Dogs because no trades can be announced until 24 hours after the Series), but I wondered, how should I feel about it, if it were true.

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

More Than A Numbers Game.

"There's nothing easier than spending someone else's money." - anonymous

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


Schadenfreude: "the act of deriving pleasure from another's misery."

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

Red Sox 2006

Okay, we can whine and kvetch, or move on and prepare for the 2006 season.

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
SS Renteria
3B (Don't think Nomar will be coming back) Joe Randa a pretty good player (see Youkilis under 1B)
LF Manny
CF Damon (will eventually come back, but should have Hanley Ramirez working out in CF)
RF Nixon
DH Ortiz
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,

P Schilling
P Papelbon
P Wakefield
P Clement
P Wells

(move Arroyo, as he may have some value)
RP Delcarmen
RP Lester (give the kids an opportunity)
RP Hansen
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

Wait 'Til Next Year

Great to be in the playoffs for the third consecutive year, but the Sox got outpitched, outhit, and out-defensed by the superior team. Goldilocks got eaten by the three bears, Cinderella's swollen foot didn't fit, and Snow White got abused by the seven dwarfs.

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.

Ten Reasons the Red Sox Will Win Tonight

10. Home cooking.
9. Wake comes before the funeral.
8. Revenue enhancement.
7. Graffanino gets even.
6. Papi and Manny go back-to-back jacks.
5. Need for more late-night fatigue.
4. "We don't need no stinking small ball."
3. Not ready for a Johnny Damon curtain call.
2. Championship pride.
1. They never let us off this easily.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Wednesday Reversal

I'm sure that John Henry would remind us that Wednesday is the most significant 'reversal day' on the stock market (really). So it must be in Chicago also, with the Battle of the Crafty Lefties. Will it be Wells Swell or Buehrle's ' Hub Reels' (almost a clever anagram, eh)?

The Red Sox threw the playoff-starved Pale Hose a bone yesterday, massively building up their overconfidence after a five year drought. So the Chicagroan's (pun intended) have the home field advantage, better starters, and a more consistent bullpen. They don't have no stinking trophy do they?

The football guys always have their 'Auto Dealer' keys to the game. Why use auto dealers, especially U.S. ones, that are finance companies that loan people money to buy cars to pay off pensions because the car sales don't make any money? Well, baseball is simpler-score more runs than they do, win game. Ugh. Cave Man get on base and Surfer Dude hit him in, Red Sox win.

Could the Red Sox come back from a two-game deficit if they struggle tonight? A Supreme Court nominee who knows the most brilliant man in the World would say 'No'. Jeff Jacoby would surely say 'No'. Nancy Reagan would clearly 'Just Say No'. Let's not have to find out.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Wild and Windy

The Red Sox hold a 7-1 lead in Game 162, but the Cleveland Indians completed their improbable collapse, being swept by the Chicago White Sox. So the Red Sox travel to the Windy City as the Wild Card, and the Team That Must Never Be Named face off against the Angels in Anaheim.

Curt Schilling performed admirably as the Sox try to setup their playoff rotation, although I'd have pulled out EVERYONE by now to prevent any freak ankle sprains or hit batsmen (Jim Rice 1975).

I hope that Francona will do the right thing here.

Plus, who doesn't want to see Hanley?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hail Francona

So, the loyalists of Red Sox Nation are already looking for a scapegoat, and the regular season hasn't even finished. Last season the Red Sox entered the post-season via the Wild Card and it's there for the taking again.

Let's examine where we realistically are, and why. First, eyes go upstairs to management. Theo Epstein acquired David Wells and Matt Clement to try to replace Pedro, who insisted on leaving and Derek Lowe, who simply had to go. Wells and Clement combined for 28 wins, Pedro and Lowe, last time I checked had 26, although does Derek landing a newscaster count extra? The fourth outfield was a self-centered jerk in his contract year, and brought Chad Bradford, who's hardly a keeper, but is still better than what they had. Wade Miller was Wade (DL) Miller. You take chances, they don't always work.

What strings can Terry Francona pull? Jason Varitek was a must and Varitek's leadership and steadiness go underappreciated. Mirabelli doesn't hit much but gets kudos for handling Wakefield. It's not Wake today and funeral tomorrow.

As for the infield, none of the infielders hit ten homers, Graffanino came at the right time, Edgar Renteria isn't el busto, and the combination of Mueller and Millar add character and a character, but far too little offense for a team dreaming of championships. A whole infield of .280 hitters with 9 homers and 70 RBI isn't terrible, provided they play great defense. The defense wasn't great.

As for the outfield, scream all you want about Manny, he hits and provides absolutely critical protection for David Ortiz. Damon was outstanding offensively, plays hurt, and yes, he's a self-proclaimed idiot. Was this his career year, or does he have his best years ahead of him? I'd be betting against that. Trot Nixon continues to be plagued by injuries and is still a hardnosed platoon player, who must be ahead in the count to hit (look it up).

Ortiz is a wonder, and we can only hope that underneath his calm exterior and passion for the game, that he's the Red Sox version of Tom Brady.

So you want to blame Francona? For not having his ace or his (should have been World Series MVP) closer, for lacking solid infield defense, and for putting in relievers who couldn't consistently deliver? For not winning every day with the Arroyos and Wade Millers of the world? For not stealing bases with a station-to-station lineup?

Okay, like all managers Francona is accountable for his staff, but even Dale Sveum has been throwing up stop signs appropriately lately.

The nitwits on talk radio are already stirring up their tar and gathering their feathers, but this is a flawed team with inconsistent starting pitching, an often contemptible bullpen, and generally mediocre defense.

Love yourself, your wife, your family, and your ballclub, but don't confuse them with Redford, Basinger, the Partridges, or the 1966 Dodgers.

The Sox are a very good offensive team, not an outstanding complete team, in a year without great teams, with competitive balance throughout both leagues, and races that are going down to the last day or beyond. Deal with it.