Monday, December 26, 2005

Mid-Term Grades


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.

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