Saturday, January 28, 2006

Crispy Critter

You knew it was going to happen. I knew it was going to happen. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, it was never about the type of GM we had, it was about the price. Andy Marte goes from super-prospect to suspect, and Coco Crisp is a younger, faster, healthier version of Johnny Damon. Could we spin it any other way?

Meanwhile, on the shortstop front, I am not sold on A-Gone. We already have a good field, limited hit guy in A-Core, and since we couldn't get A-Rod, why settle for A-Gone at Lloyds of London prices? We're not going to get a ton of offense (at least as of now), so why overpay?

I am more intrigued about the availability of a Kevin Mench, who would be a healthier, younger version of Trot Nixon (really). Nixon always fascinated me, because he is a 'tease' kind of player, always threatening to breakout, but limited by injury and limited production against LHP. I always wondered if he could move to first base.

So, the lineup looks pretty set:

Shortstop (Cora for now)

OF Stern
OF Mohr
IF Snow
IF Graffanino
C Bard

P Beckett
P Schilling
P Papelbon
P Wakefield
P Arroyo
? Clement/Wells

P Timlin
P Foulke
P Seanez
P Tavarez
P Riske
P Hansen or Delcarmen

out there: Lester, Van Buren, DiNardo, Pedroia, Machado, Vermilyea

Monday, January 23, 2006

Cuckoo for Coco Puffs

If the trade is coming off as advertised, it gives the Sox a young, less expensive centerfielder as a Damon replacement, who should be coming into the peak years of his career. Of course, we have to hope that he doesn't use steroids, frequent crack houses, abuse women, children or animals, and has the patience of Job with the media. Not much to ask, huh?

As for the overall 'complexion' of the team, if the goal is to improve pitching and defense, go for it. We all saw how the White Sox demolished the Red Sox last October. As for Marte, we barely knew ya', kid. Let's hope that he isn't Mike Schmidt reincarnate, or gawd forbid, Harmon Killebrew.

Also, with the ten million projected savings from Damon for Crisp, then we can assume that the Sox can do some other shopping.

We don't have to assign blame or credit for everything that happens in the house, although it makes for better discussion. The Co-GMs have given and gotten respect, so keep at it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Say the Secret Word, Win 100,000 dollars

Terms of Theo Epstein's agreement to return to the Boston Red Sox as a fulltime employee are not available. However, our crack staff has infiltrated the Red Sox hierarchy and has some clues.

1. Theo will no longer have to fetch coffee for unnamed superiors.
2. Every time Larry Lucchino says the secret word (rhymes with toy), the Groucho Marx duck will drop down and Theo gets 100 grand.
3. Larry Lucchino now comes into the office heavily duct taped.
4. The farm system can no longer be indiscriminately raided (Bagwell for Andersen)
5. The co-GMs will no longer be required to call the CEO, Mr. Lucchino
6. Mr. Henry will install a Bloomberg terminal in Theo's office as a token of his appreciation
7. Mr. Lucchino will find his Bloomberg terminal missing
8. Mr. Lucchino's telephone is no longer working
9. The co-GMs agree to stop calling Mr. Lucchino 'Rainman'
10.Manny agrees to stay in return for Theo putting a down payment on Manny's penthouse

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chump Change

"I'll be back."
- The Terminator

Theo Epstein returns to the Red Sox in a yet unnamed, but full-time capacity. After leaving the appearance of chaos, from the unending saga of Manny Ramirez, to the co-GM fiasco, and the 'strength up the middle' debacle, the organization turned homeward.

Epstein, the Brookline native, New Englander baseball icon, was displaced by the intransigence of Larry Lucchino, who required messianic control over the totality of baseball operations. However, the combination of John Henry's desire to bring his lost sheep back into the fold, and undoubtedly the adverse p.r. spin brought the Sox to punch the escape key and make it right.

What exactly is Epstein's new job? To whom does he report? Where is Larry Lucchino in the chain of command? What becomes of the Janus-like co-general managers? Does Theo have a plan to implement concerning Manny, Wells, shortstop, centerfield, and protection of the farm system?

The Hot Stove finally gets some wood in it. Theo gets some dough, and we're not going to be talking 'Chump Change' in the organization.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cora, Cora, Cora

Cora, Cora, Cora

Alex Cora isn’t going to confuse anybody with Alex Rodriguez. He has never hit more than ten homers in a season, or scored or driven in more than 47 runs. He has 25 career stolen bases, and the only way he’s going to Cooperstown is by privately owned vehicle.

That doesn’t make him chopped liver, though. Last year he flashed some leather, showed flashes of power, and solid fundamental play (bunts, hit and run, etc.) that earned him some respect from local fans.

Does he deserve first crack at the everyday shortstop position? Cora’s .659 OPS isn’t terrific, but neither is another Alex’s, Alex Gonzalez at .692. Cora’s not going to break the bank, and he has a head start on the roster- he knows at least half the team already.

Boston Dirt Dogs doesn’t have any earth-shattering free agent news on the radar, although suggests that Theo Epstein may be working in Dark Ops for Mr. Henry. Theo probably didn’t have to remove the Red Sox logo from his cellphone, and surely has every key player in Major League Baseball (his Lucchinholiness aside) on his phone dialer.

The centerfield pickings remain pretty slim, and I’m arguing for giving the organizational leftovers, Justin Sherrod the first crack. Sherrod is solid defensively and could provide occasional power. He’ll come cheap, and the Sox will need every dollar to devote to what ultimately wins championships, pitching.

Jeremy Reed doesn’t have any special qualities on his resume’, and the Sox shouldn’t be held hostage by Seattle. Heck, they’re the ones desperate for good news after 26 consecutive days of rain. Trading Manny for some underwhelming package that doesn’t bring value just creates a hole in left-field, and we saw David Ortiz become a walk machine absent Manny’s protection. By the way, did you know that Ortiz led the league in extra base hits the last two years? It must be his deceptive speed.  

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stealth Bummer

Sportswriters everywhere remain in seclusion as the Red Sox front office has gone into 'Deep Cover' mode, before bringing out their Stealth Bummer version of Red Sox 2006.

Management huddles daily with merchandisers and pitchmen trying out new slogans for 2006. "THIS is your team." Or maybe, "You'll love 'em, once you get to know 'em." Butch Cassidy already used, "Who are those guys?" Or perhaps the best, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

The Sox have gone vanilla, absent Damon, and Miller, although maybe Julian Tavarez can scare up some headlines. There was always the 'quote guy' be it Gator Greenwell, Luis Tiant, Mo Vaughn, or Millar. Now who's the leader on the quote board?

Maybe there's hope for some simulation baseball, via Tom Tippett's Diamond Mind Baseball, the APBA Games, or

Can't write about local football anymore with the Threepeat turned into a Rocky Mountain low. About the best you can say for the Celtics is at least they're not the Bruins.

So now we wait for one story, "Equipment Truck Leaves for Spring Training." Sad indeed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Desperate HotStoves

Not to be critical, but the Hot Stove League has largely cooled to the Ice Box League. Fortunately.

Sometimes you are better off if your baseball team, like your health becomes the paragon of boredom. Lately the Front Office, (read Larry Lucchino), hasn't done anything ridiculous (literally to be ridiculed), although the centerfield market has gotten pretty slim. The Boston Globe mentioned a scenario where Gary Payton (the cancer) returns via a Wells trade. Heck, I bet Justin Sherrod could play good defense, hit .250 with 10 homers, and not be a total embarrassment. Yes, and he'll come cheap.

The big discussion (if you define big as backup first basemen) is the relative merit of Doug Mientkiewicz versus J.T. Snow). Yawn.

About all we can hope for at this point, is Larry not feeling so despondent that he trades more young pitching for mediocre talent in the need to 'do something.' Larry, just remember, you felt it necessary to hold Master Theo's feet to the fire for his every action. You're responsible. You're accountable. Defend your actions or inactions, just in the manner you were in Epstein's face. The NATION IS IN YOUR FACE. If you trade either of the young studs (Papelbon or Lester), then you've betrayed every Red Sox fan born and unborn, and you will likely be remembered even below Harry Frazee.

We can live with Alex Cora at shortstop, maybe even in some kind of platoon with Pedroia. Chances are that some of the geezers you've brought in will find the DL anyway.

Oh yes, we've read Gammons' column how you've agonized over how you've been portrayed. We are sorry that you've suffered and hope that you don't do anything rash, because although most of MLB thinks you are not a decent human being, Peter obviously believes that you are. Perhaps our problem lies in your betrayal of Theo Epstein, whom we consider one of us. So, in effect, you've slighted us. A bitter pill to swallow. SO DON'T DO IT AGAIN.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Front Office 101

So, at least we can't accuse the Red Sox of trying to be 'hasty' in their pursuit of 1) dumping Manny Ramirez, 2) acquiring a new left fielder, 3) installing a centerfielder, 4) choosing our designated shortstop, or 5) rehabilitating their public relations image.

"Stupid is as stupid does." They haven't given away David Wells, and I haven't heard of any mass runs on tar and feather outlets (preceding any Papelbon or Lester movement). If they trade away a young pitcher who becomes even John Tudorish, then a pox upon them.

Peter Gammons has been standing by his men, including the co-GMs (bad idea) under Uber-Power L-squared. Meanwhile, Theo Epstein's whereabouts and role remains unknown. We hear (a good thing) from Gammons that Theo isn't afraid to cut losses short, and ergo supported the Renteria relocation.

Now the question is, does Marte get moved for Lugo (a one year deal in place, and a guy who isn't going to be confused with Ozzie Smith with the leather? Or who blinks first, John (Midas) Henry or Tobacco Lawyer rich guy Pecuniary Peter Angelos? Who's the bigger man, the John or Peter?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dropkick Murphy or Dropkick Flutie?

The Hot Stove League has gone eerily quiet as the Sox try to extinguish the Manny Ramirez legacy from their current edition. Meanwhile, in the shadows of the Dropkick Murphys, Dropkick Doug Flutie scores an extra point on a dropkick, a feat not accomplished in the NFL since 1941.

Just wondering what the equivalents are in other sports? My son and I have a hard time even thinking of one event, something de facto disappeared and returning for even a nanosecond in professional sports.

Football. Well, you have helmets without facemasks, but I can't remember even a single bar since Sonny Jurgensen. The goal posts aren't coming back to the goal line or kickoffs to the forty, and short of John Madden resuming flying, I don't think there's much of an equivalent.

Baseball. A few players used to wear helmets without earflaps, but again, that's equipment not game play. The spitter's not coming back, nor tiny leather gloves. The Eephus pitch didn't serve Rip Sewell too well against Teddy Ballgame in the All-Star game, and the Leephus got taken onto Lansdowne by Tony Perez in the 1975 series. Wasn't it Bert Campaneris who played all nine positions in a game. Short of somebody trying to run out a homer backwards, a la Jimmy Piersall, I can't conjure up anything similar.

Hockey? Dropping the red line/two line pass over center helps a little, but it isn't like bringing back Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, the Rocket Richard or Jean Beliveau. I guess seeing goalies playing without masks would be shocking, but I'm not waiting for Jacques Plante, Gump Worsley, or Terry Sawchuk to make comebacks.

Basketball. The game was clearly better in the sixties and the seventies, but maybe that's just because of Celtic dominance. Maybe not. Trash talk existed back then, and the three point line and the no-charge zone didn't. Somehow even bringing back George Mikan wouldn't measure up. Hell, the NBA didn't even exist in 1941.

Bottom line is that Flutie's 'show' resurrected something from our very distant sports past. It reminds us that some of the stars from the past could still play today, maybe with a little less power and speed, but more savvy and heart.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Name Dropper

A former Red Sox player (I call him Hank) stopped by to visit a relative, whom I asked, "Do you know how many home runs Hank hit in his career?" His family member looked puzzled and said, "one, maybe two?" Hank quipped, "Thanks." Actually, it was more than twenty in a career spanning more than a decade, but it shows how even with many of our love of baseball and statistics, not everybody gives a hoot.

My son Conor went in to visit classmate Chris Snow, Sox beat writer for some friendly chat and some Texas Hold 'em. Conor reports that Chris works as many as eighty hours a week during the season, and that Chris gets phonecalls very regularly with new information, even during the card game. There were a couple of not too startling developments, which I won't pass on as 'hearsay', or maybe heresy.

Where do I stand on the Manny trade? Very simply, there must be something approaching fair value. Booting Manny's rear end out of town in an act of unquiet desperation doesn't work for me. Pete Rose was "Charlie Hustle" for his 4256 hits and 3 World Series titles, three batting titles, and NL MVP, not because he ran hard to first. The minors are loaded with 'all-effort' guys who can't play. If you wan't 25 of them on the Red Sox, then good luck to you, but chemisty and hustle take a backseat to talent.

I heard a radio commentator (and former NFL player) talking one day, mentioning that every roster has four or five really good guys, four or five thugs, and everyone else in the middle. He said, "take away the thugs and you won't win anything." I don't think that he meant out and out personality disorder/criminals, but then again, judging from the excellent book Pros and Cons, he may have.

Manny isn't a criminal, he isn't a saint, he may not be the greatest guy in the clubhouse, and parts of his game could stand improvement, but the guy can hit. Unlike Jim Rice, sweating out a limited chance of getting to Cooperstown, Manny won't worry about it. Heck, he may not even know when it's happening.

Several years ago, a colleague's son worked for the Red Sox, and he felt there were only two 'difficult' (fill in your favorite adjective for difficult) players on the roster, a certain departed shortstop and a pitching diva. The former was entirely self-absorbed via his routine and the latter just the paragon of narcissism. As Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.