Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Andy Pettitte acknowledged using HGH in 2002 today. His confession makes former Sox' star Roger Clemens denials seem more hollow than ever. Pettitte took one for the team? Did Clemens take one for Roger Clemens?
How does the song go? "Don't go away mad, just go away."
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Years ago someone surveyed Olympic athletes as to whether they would take a substance that guaranteed them a gold medal and had a fifty percent chance of killing them. Most said, "of course." Athletes at one level doing anything to win. "If you're not cheating, you're not trying," goes the refrain.
Under the legal stewardship of Donald Fehr and Gene Orza, with billions of dollars at stake, could you expect something different?
So the report 'confirms' many of the usual suspects and even some of the upper pantheon of baseball greatness, like Roger Clemens, come out tarnished. Do we have a positive drug test? No. But what is the motivation for clubhouse figures to lie, especially when they might have to go into court some day? They hate everyone, they're jealous of multimillionaire athletes raking in the dough?
Supposedly Scott Boras commented that the report means nothing because it wasn't collectively bargained. Evidently bank robbers and crack dealers need a much better lobby.
Did the Red Sox come out unscathed? Doubtful. Every team gets touched by scandals like these, and nobody can be surprised that Wheaties-Box heroes have clay feet or 'shoplifted the pootie'.
What's going to change? Nothing. Players will always try to cut corners to enhance their payschecks, and the stigma of being named in a report will melt with the advent of spring training. Bud Selig's 'legacy' of being in the pocket of the owners doesn't change, and maybe the biggest winner is Barry Bonds. The Giants leftfielder simply goes from pariah to bandleader. Bonds was a user, setting records, but competing against many other users, both at the plate and on the mound. The other winner? Jose CanSaySo Canseco, who gets vindicated with his argument that many of his contemporaries were also users.
And congrats to Theo Epstein on fatherhood. That's a development that changes you forever.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
For gawd's sake Eric, rush up there, grab the first pen that writes, and sign. Get your physical, drug test, Rorschach test, Wonderlic test, or whatever.
Gagne, once one of the most feared relievers in MLB, came to the Red Sox from the Rangers, and was nothing short of abysmal. In 18 2/3 innings he allowed 26 hits, 9 walks, and an ERA of 6.75. He had no command, but pretty good velocity. He was the ants at the Red Sox 2007 picnic.
Why so much money? That's easy to explain.
- The falling value of the US dollar (Thanks, Dr. Bernanke)
- The high price of mediocrity
- Milwaukee executives losing their minds
- Mr. Gagne has incriminating photos of Brewer management?
To his credit, Gagne made no excuses, never publicly complained, and was pretty much a stand up guy through his ordeal into the lowest level of Dante's baseball hell.
What a country!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Not always right, but never in doubt, I argued that Ellsbury's performance, sample size admittedly small, came during a pennant race and World Series. Also in a mere 33 games, Ellsbury had 6 win shares while the redoubtable Melk-Man has had two fairly full seasons with 13 apiece.
Obviously, we're both biased, although I see Ellsbury as a .300 plus hitter, .375 OBP guy, with 15 homer potential and forty steal potential, plus a solid glove in center. I see Melky as the guy who played Trot Nixon's line drive into an inside the park home run. Obviously, the pinstripes devalue him in my eyes and raise him to the apotheosis of centerfielderhood among Yankee fans.
Of course, as we are wont to say, the World Championship race from 2001-2007 stands at Boston 2, Gotham 0.
So people, is Jacoby (if he's still here) or Melky the Real Thing?
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
MLB should concern itself with more relevant issues that affect the game, including:
- Performance enhancing drugs (e.g. HGH)
- Competitive balance (apparently no concern in an era of prosperity for the industry overall)
The uniform issue is particularly galling when you consider 'uniform' largely irrelevant from the days of Jose Cardenal (?) and tailored pants, Manny Ramirez wearing the pajama pants look, and the helmets of Trot Nixon and Manny, and scraggly cap look of Nixon, Timlin, and others.
Now I'm not saying that MLB should be addressing the NFL type chinstrap and towel width concerns, rather exactly the opposite. A little individuality never hurt a game filled with narcissistic millionaires.
Does whether Francona or anyone else in the league (coaches and players) wearing a pullover, game jersey, or official jacket affect the game in ANY way? Obviously, it doesn't. MLB simply chose to exert its moronic authority over Francona.
Here's my suggestion. Fans BOYCOTT MLB gear for ONE WEEK, with the intent of showing the abject clowns running this show that fans have a say. I don't think MLB wants to leave a nickel on the table, and even the hint of fan dissatisfaction with Mickey Mouse dress codes would get them to back off.
BOYCOTT MLB 'official' gear for one week. Harrumph!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
I'd argue that Ellsbury MIGHT be a perennial all-star and everyday player, who has more value than a pitcher even of Santana's stature. Ellsbury's six win shares in just 33 games whetted the appetite of Sox fans, as well as the momentum shift that he provided in the post season after replacing Coco Crisp.
I've already shown what the economic cost is likely to be for the Yankees should they sign Santana. They've already overspent this winter (Posada 15M/yr, A-Rod ~30M/yr, Rivera 15M/yr) and likely will have another 16M for Pettitte as well as the Jeter 17M, Abreu 16M, Damon 13M, and so on. In other words, they're spending like drunken sailors in the global Arms Race with the Red Sox. Not even counting a possible Santana acquisition that alone was 122 Million not counting the money they squandered on Roger Clemens.
I've also shown that the premier pitchers of our age averaged 13-17 wins per year during the age 29-34. Is that something for which the Sox should trade away talent in bulk, with a smile?
Sure, there are other possibilities...that Santana will come more cheaply, that the Sox are playing high stakes poker, or that Theo and the Trio (Henry, Werner, Lucchino) have simply lost their minds. The Yankees, not the Sox must deal from desperation, and I see only two obvious winners in this deal, the Twins and Santana himself.
Let's presume, for the sake of argument, that the Yankees have the right mix of players and dollars to acquire Johan Santana. What's the economic impact, the win impact, and the relative differential over a six year period?
I'm no economist, but I'll try.
Every economist has to make projections, and these have plenty of room for error, on both sides. They don't account for injury, for the increased cost to insure contracts (let's say the Yankees might have to pay an additional twenty percent to insure the contract...I have no idea if this is right), and projecting performance is tough. As Yogi might say, "making predictions is hard, especially about the future."
Bob Gibson averaged 20 wins a season, in four man rotations, from age 29-34.
Roger Clemens averaged 13 wins a season from age 29-34.
Pedro Martinez averaged 13.5 wins a season from age 29-34.
Greg Maddux averaged 17 wins a season from age 29-34.
Curt Schilling averaged 15 wins a season from age 29-34.
So, I've presumed that Santana will win more games than any of some of the best pitchers of his era, and as many as one of the best of all-time in a different era using four man rotations.
I also haven't adjusted the revenue difference for the New Yankee Stadium, and I have projected Philip Hughes to be a very successful pitcher over his next six years, just as I have projected Santana to have success.
What is one possibility is that the Yankees spend an additional 154,700,000 for the next six years, and get an additional 30 wins, 24 of those coming in the next three years. The extra thirty wins amount to about five million dollars per win, not including post season play. That also doesn't account for replacement cost differential or production by any other players in the proposed deal (e.g. Melky Cabrera).
How this would be resolved in dollars per win share, dollars per win share differential, and differential revenue (luxury box costs, replica merchandising, and so on) goes far beyond my capability. But I do think it extends the analysis of the Winner's Curse, and shows how far out on the limb teams can go for the illusory pursuit of greatness.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
I know this crowd moved far past range factor and zone ratings to evaluate shortstops, but let's look at a couple of integrated models.
First, David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range. You've gotta love the title, because it sounds like you need a P.H.D. to understand it, but second it breaks down performance to a couple of decimal points, which reminds me of how we insanely pay homage to statistics beyond validity. But I digress.
At the top of Pinto's points come the Colorado Rockies and Troy Tulowitzki. Our sample size of Tulowitzki was small, because we'd have to rate him the most overrated player since Mike Greenwell, although to be fair, we only saw FOUR games. Maybe if he had done anything, we might have seen more. Julio Lugo appears in the top third, and first ballot Hall of Famer (yes, going to happen) Derek Jeter was 38 of 39. Jeter gets remembered for his World Series flip, quarterback jump pass on the backhand, and dive into the stands at Yankee Stadium (all memorable). But his defensive body of work gets dwarfed by his offense, his branding as a winner, and his ability to carry himself with class amidst the circus that is New York.
Using Bill James' Win Shares, the proprietary model of the Sox consultant, we see both the compendium of offensive and defensive inputs. Here Lugo doesn't fare so well, while Tulowitzki and Jeter look much better (which of course they should). Tulowitzki comes out at the top here, Lugo in the middle, and Jeter not so bad, but still not great. A defensive whiz like Adam Everett barely shows up because he didn't play that much. Jacoby Ellsbury had six win shares in 33 games, and we're not talking 33 starts either. That pro-rates to almost 30 over a full season, which is in MVP consideration territory. Do you think the Sox are trading away that kind of production POTENTIAL? I don't.
Numbers certainly don't comprise the sole measure of players' worth or relative performance. But they do allow trending, projection, and comparison with players in different situations and different eras.
Money means something else entirely. Maybe Andruw Jones will get fifteen million bucks annually with some Borassian cookbook showing how Andruw really was still great and that last season was an aberration. But if he does get megabucks, that reflects the state of the industry, ownerships' ability to get snookered by Boras, and the desperation of teams to overpay for under achievement.
*Inspiration provided by Rob Neyer's column on ESPN.com.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The most valued commodity in baseball is low-salaried talent under your control, an approach that allows you to overspend for other areas of weakness. The Red Sox, the most successful of the Moneyball teams, clearly understand this. Spending money to make a splash guarantees nothing, and you may just lock yourself into both bad contracts and bad chemistry.
Among the Red Sox high value, low cost contracts include:
- Kevin Youkilis
- Jonathan Papelbon
- Dustin Pedroia
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Jon Lester
- Clay Buchholz
Established players carry higher price tags for past production, and expected production at similar levels to the past. For example, with Mike Lowell, is he more likely to hit .320 with 25 homers and 120 RBI, or hit .290 with 20 homers and 90 RBI? I'd argue the latter, although quite content with the Lowell signing.
Most competitors underestimate the importance of The Winner's Curse. You can go the following website and experiment with a variety of applications.
Johan Santana, winner of a pair of Cy Young Awards, has a career on a trajectory to become a Hall of Famer. Rumor is that he has already turned down over 18 million dollars a year to pitch for the Twins. Rumor also has it that the Twins seek as much as possible for Santana (three to four upper echelon prospects including a couple of major league ready players), for ONE YEAR guaranteed of Santana. Only the richest clubs can afford to bid with both prospects and dollars, and the accompanying luxury tax considerations for some teams. Negotiating an extension would clearly be a precursor for any team willing to part with so many prospects.
We already know that no team has won the World Series with one player's salary dominating their payroll beyond a certain amount. Even with Santana's positive health history, no guarantees exist, expressed or implied that this will continue. His proven track record in the AL means a lot.
The Red Sox projected starting rotation for 2008 includes:
- Josh Beckett (arguably the post-season MVP)
- Daisuke Matsuzaka (seeking to meet higher standards)
- Curt Schilling (twilight season)
- Jon Lester (seeking breakout season)
- Clay Buchholz (projected as a possible number one starter)
- Tim Wakefield (possibly part of a rotation designed to allow more rest for the entire staff)
To an extent, what transpires represents philosophy. I'd be inclined to continue the developmental pitching track, and try to avoid suffering the Winners Curse. Last year the Yankees suffered the Winners Curse with their abysmal Clemens bargain. Whether A-Rod and Mariano Rivera will continue that faux pas remains to be seen.
Whatever the Sox choose to do, I hope they educate themselves in the Winners Curse.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
David Eckstein, free agent, seeks a contract in the Julio Lugo (four years, thirty-six million dollars) range. Eckstein was Dustin Pedroia before Dustin Pedroia. He's small, not especially fast, but has been a productive player. From a Win Shares perpective, it is what it is.
Eckstein's best OPS in the past four years was .758, and he averaged less than four home runs and forty RBI for the past four seasons. His big year had 8 homers, 61 RBI, and 90 runs scored. In 2005, his outlier year, he had 28 Win Shares, simply astonishing. The other three years, you're looking at 9, 12, and 11. Admittedly, he's a feisty 'overachiever', especially if you have a "Boras Book" focusing entirely on 2005. But anybody paying him nine million a year deserves the title, "former GM".
Carlos Silva is supposed to be the hot property starter this offseason? Yes, you may remember him on the Twins. He's not overpowering, has exceptional control, and gives up A LOT of hits. Obviously, the only way to survive giving up a lot of hits is not walking many guys. His win share total are 14, 14, 3, and 11 (total 42). Tim Wakefield's last four are 8, 16, 7, 10 (total 41). That shows you where we are in free agency.
You win with pitching and you cannot have too much. Signing Schilling made a lot of sense, especially if he comes back in shape (contract incentives) and has an impact mentoring the younger staff. In addition to Lester and Buchholz, Kyle Snyder still has potential to be a valuable pitcher.
Longer-term, the Sox seem set (via contract or player) at first, second, and short. I expect that Mike Lowell will have decided his future this week. Ellsbury and Drew will presumably be here for years, unless Theo loses his mind and trades all the young pitching for established, ridiculously priced pitching.
The Sox could obviously use reliable right-handed power. Some feel Matt Murton might be available from the Cubs. He hits at night, and better against left handers than right handers. He shouldn't require a king's ransom. Manny Ramirez has simply done what he was acquired to do, produce runs, and became the protector for David Ortiz.
Longer-term, the Sox will need to groom a replacement for Jason Varitek. As much as defense will always be the priority (managing the pitching staff), with the Sox correctly recognizing the head-to-head battle with the Bombers, offense will count.
The other 'matter' for management is recognizing the Francona Factor, his ability to deal with knuckleheads (professional baseball players, writers, and assorted media). A four year winning percentage of .579 and a pair of Championship Trophies deserve some respect and more dinero for the Sox skipper. I'd love to take him to lunch some day, and I'll buy.
A lot of factors account for a team's success, many beyond either manager or management's control. Guys get hurt, have statistical reversion to the mean (expect Mike Lowell to be more of a .290 than a .330 hitter), and breakdowns occur (bullpen efficiency is critical in one-run games). The Sox have won twice not by predominantly offensive achievement, but by balancing solid offense with superior pitching.
Sox fans can only hope they can continue the trend.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Players, managers, and ownership have limited loyalty to each other, so our loyalty to branding (some say laundry) may be misplaced.If the Lowells (see Greenwells, Clemens, Pedros of bygone days) want to take the biggest buck, just do it. Do we need the reiteration of unrequited love for the Hub and its fans?
Maybe Dustin Pedroia should just say, "I deserved the award, I busted my hump and gave up my body, and nobody did it better." At least that's honest.
We like Mike. If he 'needs' the recognition and the considerable difference in money available from FA, then that's his right. But it would be refreshing to hear, "I simply took the most money." That's acceptable, but we'll probable not hear it...
Monday, November 12, 2007
Yes, I got to see those dinosaurs play, Hunter dishing out those comfortable 0 for 4s when baseball games lasted two and a half hours on a long day.
As for A-Rod, Mike Lupica has a really compelling article about A-Rod's zero for twenty-seven in the postseason in the past few seasons with men on base. Signing A-Rod turns your team into a circus after your GM has become the puppet in Scott Boras' puppet show. Now I'm not saying Boras isn't the best at what he does. Look what he did for Barry Zito, today's contemporary Bill Lee, who won seventeen games thrice for Ye Olde Towne Team, when 'drug testing' meant something quite different to players.
I don't begrudge major league rookies more money than I can make as a doctor in a couple of years, because that's the market. If I wanted to move somewhere else and practice, I could probably make more money, but would that make me happier? And why should you care?
That is the point. Sports makes us care, fantasizing that we can go yard or get the two quick strikes busting the heat up and in, and then throw the disappearing slider on the outside corner. But we can't, so we watch Big Papi and Lowell deliver in the clutch, Josh Beckett become OUR Bob Gibson, and Jacoby Ellsbury conjure up images of Lou Brock torching the Sox on the bases in 1967.
So you probably don't remember those days, hearing of Jose Santiago's homerun in the series, Yaz drilling two, or Lonborg tossing a one-hitter against the mighty Cards. But you'll tell your grandchildren about how J.D. Drew hit the grandest slam of his life when it mattered, and when Jon Lester came back from cancer to clinch the World Series in Game four. And no one, not A-Rod, or Scott Boras, or Sam Levinson can take those memories from you.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
You have ownership which has revitalized the team and the ballpark, bringing revenues to challenge the Yankees, introducing Nascar to New Englanders, and raising water prices to something only the MWRA can dream about.
We have local guy Theo Epstein, freed from the gorilla suit, now a 600 pound gorilla as Sox GM. And Terry Francona, who never has to buy a drink again, and can freely pass throughout the six-state region without echoes of "you suck, Francona", ever.
But buried somewhere in the bunker at Fenway lives a tall stat geek. Management embraced the lanky Kansas loner, who pores through baseball statistics looking for nuggets, advantages that can give the Sox the smallest edge. Where steroid and growth hormone laden behemoths seek to bash our collective brains in, he is our Minister of Defense. He surely can tell you the WHIP ratio per dollar, strikeout to walk ratio, runs created, isolated power, and zone ratings of Sox players, prospects, and opposition. He not only knows which statistics matter, but which don't, and how to help get the most bang for your buck. Which is more important, E.R.A. or strikeout to walk ratio in predicting future pitching performance? Ask Bill. Who has the most win shares per dollar salary? Ask Bill.
Does the player have a buyable trend? Is he about to fall off the radar into baseball obscurity, betrayed by failing eyesight, declining fast twitch reflexes, or some unforeseen toxicity from personal tragedy, alcohol, or something else? Ask Bill.
So while the Cavaliers have Lebron, the Red Sox have Bill James, and has a less-celebrated in this town nerd ever gotten less credit for whispering sweet baseball nothings in the ears of the powers that be?
Friday, November 09, 2007
Here's the 2007 Salary picture.
Let's just use some approximations to guesstimate 2008.
C - Varitek 11,000,000
C2 TBA 2,000,000
1B Youkilis 1,000,000 (presumes big raise, no long-term deal yet)
DH Ortiz 13,000,000
2B Pedroia 450,000
SS Lugo 8,250,000
3B Lowell 14,000,000 (a very big assumption, may not be true)
LF Ramirez 18,000,000
CF Ellsbury 400,000
RF Drew 14,400,000
Ut Cora 2,000,000
UO Kielty 2,000,000
UO Moss 400,000
13 Positions 86,900,000
Papelbon 1000000 (presumes raise, no long-term deal)
14 pitchers 46,225,000
Including Lowell, this brings the Sox to 133,125,000, leaving another 18 million or so in discretionary money. You can use some to lock up Youkilis/Papelbon to intermediate term deals (4 years), realizing that next year (2009) you have the option to take down money for Schilling, Ramirez (maybe), Tavarez, and Wakefield, let's say another 35 million.
What keeps the deal working is the salary of young, productive, or potentially-productive players such as Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Moss, Papelbon, Lester, and Buchholz. Talk about trading young pitching for established pitching changes your salary flexibility dramatically. Trade a Lester, Crisp, and Masterson for Santana and you get a star, and an additional 17-20 million dollar a year in payroll. If you find out that Lester COULD win you 15 games, then you get a maximum of five more wins for 20 million dollars.
The Red Sox like to look at both Win Shares and trends. You can see the value of not only the bigger stars, but especially Youkilis, Pedroia, a pro-rated Ellsbury, and Crisp, especially when adjusted for salary. I'm sure the Sox have win shares/million data on every player in baseball, as well as projected data.
Here are the 3B win shares.
Here are the Lowell four year win shares. It's probably easier to argue that 2005 was an aberration, but that perhaps 2006 is the 'expected' outcome, or at best a blend between 2006-2007.
I'm not making an argument for Lowell or against A-Rod, only the importance of having a core of low-salaried productive players, which allows you to spend or even overspend on other areas.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Will the Sox pony up the big dollars for Schilling and Mike Lowell? I'd guess that lowell has a better chance of returning than Schilling, but the latter gets a debt of gratitude for helping orchestrate a pair of championships.
Terry Francona can't get an MRI? Must be the horseshoe somewhere in his anatomy. Seriously, the Sox skipper kept the team going in one direction, deals with a myriad of complex personalities and kept the issues in house. Can't imagine that Coco Crisp was wild about being replaced by Jacoby Ellsbury in the ALCS and Series, but he didn't publicly complain.
The "starting bid" on A-Rod comes in at 350 million? Obviously, the American Peso has taken a hit under the weight of the Federal Reserve but are you kidding? That's why they call these bidding wars "The Winner's Curse."
The Sports Illustrated Commemorative issue had both great pictures and some quality journalism.
Elsewhere in Boston sports, one has to note the similarity between Bobby Bowden tonight and the emperor in Star Wars. The Living Legend didn't spend any extra time in makeup pregame.
Matt Ryan may have a great arm, but he does have a certain Bledsonian habit of throwing into coverage. That worries me. Last time I heard, it's five large per season for tailgating rights at BC. Whale pants not included.
The Celtics' home opener resembled March Madness, with PGA (Pierce-Garnett-Allen) getting heroes' welcome. Rajon Rondo knocked down a couple of open jumpers, which certainly wasn't the case too often last year. Nice touch with the pregame appearance of the World Series trophy, along with Wakefield, Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz (not John Lester), and local guy Manny Delcarmen on the Red Auerbach parquet.
People think that Bill Belichick is a sore loser? Belichick ranks as the paragon of grace compared with Auerbach, whose competitiveness would be hard to match. Red would do anything to win, short of poisoning the opposition.
Ex-Patriot coach Charlie Weis got a nasty dose of Midshipmen Pride today as Navy snapped an extended losing streak, beating Notre Dame in overtime. Weis did great work here, but has a 1-8 team in a town that ran Ty Willingham out of town.
And speaking of the Patriots, there's that game in Indianapolis tomorrow. I'll argue that the Patriots' fate rests with the defense. Will Corey Dillon be making a comeback with Sammy Morris going on IR?
Best new local sportswriter? We've got a pair, with Christopher Gasper (Patriots) and Amalie Benjamin (Red Sox) both carrying more than their weight this season. Haven't seen Amalie on Globe 10.0 but Gasper was outstanding.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
147 21 41 9 0 7 17 17 38 .279 .361 .483 .844 A. RODRIGUEZ
495 85 153 22 3 17 49 51 96 .309 .377 .469 .846 JETER
322 41 76 19 0 9 31 57 77 .236 .352 .379 .731 POSADA
97 16 27 8 0 4 20 11 12 .278 .348 .485 .833 LOWELL
353 55 95 14 0 24 64 59 81 .269 .376 .513 .889 RAMIREZ
189 35 60 16 1 11 42 32 47 .317 .418 .587 1.005 ORTIZ
65 15 24 3 0 4 11 9 3 .369 .447 .600 1.047 YASTRZEMSKI
113 11 27 7 1 4 19 15 20 .239 .333 .425 .758 DWIGHT EVANS
105 16 33 7 1 7 23 11 16 .314 .378 .600 .978 GARCIAPARRA
60 12 17 6 0 2 10 6 7 .283 .348 .483 .821 PEDROIA
51 16 19 4 1 4 10 9 9 .373 .459 .725 1.183 YOUKILIS
First, statistics don't tell the whole story, about great individual defense,
or even great individual plays. Sample size counts, too. Kevin Youkilis' 1.183 OPS
with 51 at bats doesn't mean as much as Ortiz 189 at bats. Same goes for even great
performances by Yaz and Garciaparra, with a fraction of the at bats of a Derek
Jeter. But we can see that A-Rod's 7 homers and 17 RBI in 147 at bats pro-rates to
mediocre numbers over a whole season. Most players won't perform up to normal
against superior competition, but some, like David Ortiz have. A-Rod gives you Hall
of Fame regular season numbers, but has mostly been a no-show in the playoffs...
and I'm guessing that will be hard to find, even in the footnotes of Scott Boras'
Monday, October 29, 2007
- Can Terry Francona get enough credit for what he has done?
- Will people get off of Theo's back?
- The most exciting aspect for those of us old enough to remember is player development...the exciting young players, from Ellsbury, to Youkilis and Pedroia
- I'm happy for Lugo, who looked like he needed suicide watch earlier in the year, and turns out celebrating hitting over .300 in the Series, and playing pretty good defense overall
- A weight came off J.D. Drew's shoulders
- Papelbon...nerves of steel, or just none at all
- Great moment for Jon Lester
- Will Lowell 'settle' for something like three and 36?
- Okajima needs the rest
- How excited is Japan?
- Would adding another Japanese pitcher help the whole comfort thing?
- Kudos to Varitek. The dirtiest dirt dog.
- DeMarlo Hale went unnoticed.
- I'm not jealous of the hair, Manny, but can you fix the running thing?
- Does Matsuzaka's translator get a full share, a half share, or caddy fees?
- Does the whole Boras attempt to upstage the Red Sox/Rockies series merit a fine from MLB?
Enjoy the parade.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
For years the Red Sox organization, players and coaching staff, and fans played the role of the guy at the beach who gets sand kicked in his face. He doesn't get the girl, gets seagull droppings deposited on him, a sunburn, and every imaginable form of insult that Mother Nature and human nature can deliver. That was then, this is now.
I'm not expecting a piano to fall out of the sky and hit me. I'm not concerned about sunspot activity, bad weather, black cats, or triskaidekaphobia. Okay, so I haven't abandoned some pet superstitions, but I have a limit, you know?
From baseball to 'taco stand and deliver" the Red Sox have simply gotten it done, so far. No superhero has emerged to carry the locals back to baseball's promised land, rather an assortment of character guys, from Jason Varitek, the bruised warrior, to foreign imports Lowell, Ortiz, Matsuzaka, Lugo, and Okajima, to the "Blew Bayou" guy in Jonathan Papelbon, and the rookies.
We haven't heard any disparaging words from guys disappointed on not getting enough face time, or contract talks (smart guys know they'll get paid), or put downs on the opposition. The Celtics motto is UBUNTU, from the Bantu, emphasizing the importance of collectivism over individualism. Daisuke Matsuzaka spoke of doryoku (unflagging effort) earlier in the season, and the team seems to get it, combining talent, effort, and character for the greater good.
The underachievers from the regular season have come through in the playoffs in the big moments, and the baseball operations/scouting organization has translated theory into practice. Studying tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses doesn't get much attention, but when athletes match up so closely, sweating the small stuff counts. Terry Francona, John Farrell, Jason Varitek et al have sweated the small stuff.
Tonight the Red Sox send cancer survivor Jon Lester to the mound for the second biggest challenge of his young life. Tim Wakefield discussed his injury in terms of possible destiny for Lester, as unselfish an outlook as one might get in one of sports' most individual pursuits. And Red Sox nation turns its lonely eyes to him.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Boston fans awake to a World Series berth, a 7-0 professional football team, the number two ranked team in the BCS (Boston College) and at least hope with the Celtics with the second generation of the Green Trio. Pinch me?
Sports provide a vicarious means for ordinary Joes to feel important, as though we have become part of something bigger. Our issues like job security, paying the mortgage, filling the tank with three dollar gas become tolerable. Our heroes performance lends gentle amnesia to our pained consciousness.
I couldn't have been more wrong about Dustin Pedroia, the raging mite with the oversized swing. Manager Terry Francona agreed that it was the microcosm of the regular season, with adjustments creating success.
"And a child shall lead them." Rookies Pedroia and Ellsbury came up big, and MLB rookies but Japanese League vets Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima carried their weight as well.
The much-maligned Theo Epstein got a chance to get champagne soaked, and Terry Francona, the permanent butt of Red Sox doubters' wrath, got the last laugh, excepting a 20,000 lost bet to Larry Lucchino over chewing tobacco cessation.
Downers? Well, you hope that John Madden's warning about not doing anything great if you can't handle the celebration counts, and scuba goggles after the game evoked that warning. Sox fans' calls for a sweep after Game One might infuse a little humility...Jonathan's Papelbon's Riverdancing scares me just a little bit. And most of all, are the Sox ready for the Rocktober surprise, Destiny's Child, the biggest momentum in the sports universe excepting errant asteroids?
Yes, Boston might like her heroes bald and sweaty (Kevin Youkilis) but the chief architects last night were a 'despondent' emigre' who had met the big stage before and an undersized infielder swinging from his heels.
Baseball's ultimate contests will almost certainly see snow at some point, with a possible November conclusion, global warming notwithstanding. Yes, Manny was right, it wasn't the end of the world, but it might feel like it with at least some baseball headed for subfreezing temperatures.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
With Daisuke (DICE-K) Matsuzaka pitching Game 7 after the Sox win tonight, have the Sox received an omen with a 12-2 win?
The only dice combination that give a unique 12-2 score are a pair of sixes and a pair of ones. So there you have it.
Much of the Nation flipped out when Manny Ramirez suggested that life could go on if the Sox lost. The old saying goes "baseball isn't a matter of life or death, it's more important than that."
Although I passed by Home Depot today, I didn't load up on tar and feathers to prepare to vilify Terry Francona or Theo Epstein. As unrealistic as I can be, baseball remains a game played by people, who struggle with stress, biorhythms and cyclicality, injury and illness, performance anxiety, and the same problems we all face. Players' Herculean pay doesn't logically allow me to criticize 'an off day' or a slump.
As a veteran (read: old) observer of the baseball condition, I wonder whether the Old Man (Schilling) can summon the wherewithal to win another big game, or whether the Young Buck (Carmona) will have youth and power on his side. Will a household name carry the day, or a relative unknown (e.g. Ellsbury) emerge from obscurity to play the leading man? Will weather play a role? Will a close call or an umpiring mistake prove crucial?
That's why we watch...Passion Saturday.
Friday, October 19, 2007
- If you have a typewriter without A, E, and I, you can't write much. That would be Big Papi, Manny, and Mike Lowell. If you don't have Q, X, and Z (Julio Lugo, Coco Crisp, and JD Drew) then you still can write something. But you can also use some different letters.
- My, but doesn't Terry Francona have the horseshoe in the right place.
- Hanley Ramirez is a great player. But you can't get top of the rotation pitching for nothing.
- Josh Beckett again simply magnificent. Six hits, eleven strikeouts.
- Kevin Youkilis has certainly stepped up in the post-season.
- Where's Jeff Maier when you need him, Manny?
- A great day for Yankee fans, as the team they love to hate, lives to be hated longer.
- Do you think Kenny Lofton really wants a piece of Josh Beckett? That's an early TKO.
- Is Chief Knock-A-Homa still around?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Intellectually, I wanted Terry Francona to shake up the lineup, because a number of players aren't doing anything, not for lack of effort, just baseball. Inserting Ellsbury and Cora for Drew and Lugo might have been harsh on management ego, but you've also got Mirabelli's diminished offense in the lineup with Wakefield pitching.
They've just shown some fairly unorthodox grips from Byrd, but what would surprise you now?
A keen sense of the obvious says this is what Sox fans feared most, offensive doldrums in the postseason. Nobody would confuse Westbrook and Byrd with top of the rotation pitching, but timing counts. Even bottom of the rotation pitchers have quality starts, occasionally...been there and done that at lower levels.
Does Fox care who goes to the World Series? Somehow, a Cleveland-Colorado Classic doesn't contain anyone to root AGAINST. At least New Yorkers could watch to hope to see the Sox fold on the big stage.
I wrote to the object of 'The Curse' today, the postseason malady imposed upon the Yankees in 2001 by a fired employee that has resulted in a 7 year 'pitch' for the Bombers. No reply yet.
Casey Blake (why did I think he reminded me of Aaron Boone) just deposited a Wakefield offering over the leftfield wall. Tant pis! Now add a hit and a hit batsman, and it's time for bullpen action, and some stall ball.
Pitching or not, the Sox have to generate some offense...or it won't matter.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Last night's announcers mentioned that Javier Lopez has a higher success rate against right-handed batters than left-handed ones. I wouldn't have guessed that...of course, Casey Blake then promptly deposited his second two-bagger into the left field corner.
I saw some fans who showed up wearing windbreakers. Maybe they had neoprene wet suits underneath, but it looked pretty cold out there last night.
Does Jason Varitek get enough credit for what he does? Last year Josh Beckett tried to overpower people, now he's trusting Varitek, willing to trick them, too. Props to him.
Travis Hafner scares me.
Tim McCarver and Joe Buck scare me, too. First, they mention that Beckett has thrown six consecutive curveballs to Gutierrez, the pitch immediately following an inside fastball. Then they mention that Tribe skipper Eric Wedge has visited 'Strike One' a batting cage a mile away from Fenway. Last time I checked, the Danvers 40,000 square foot multipurpose facility was a heckuva long walk from Fenway. The Truth Squad cries foul bawl on the Fox jock and sidekick.
Despite the criticism of the Fox broadcasters, I acknowledge that they are much easier to take without having the Yankees the opposition, with McCarver the Yankee shill that he is. I still always want to call Joe Buck, Jack, thinking back to his father, which really defines my age.
Mike Lowell looked pretty indispensable last night, with his key hit to the opposite field. And the baseball gods blessed Bobby Kielty and Terry Francona as Kielty's single knocked out C.C. Sabathia. What am I grateful for? That C.C. isn't playing defensive end for the Cowboys this Sunday. Wow, he's one large dude. Thank goodness the Indians' lefty got his glove up to snatch Dustin Pedroia's liner up the middle...
Next the announcing duo was hyping the A-Rod relocation possibilities to Fenway (cut to owner John Henry). I agree with them that only a few suitors can compete for 'The Winner's Curse' and here's rooting for A-Rod to wind up in Chicago, in the National League.
J.D. Drew made a pretty good play on a Grady Sizemore drive down by the Pesky Pole. Let's hope that he doesn't have a sore back for the next two weeks from hitting the wall.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Baseball players have a thousand different kinds of shoes, wear socks of an infinite number of lengths, and some guys like Manny Ramirez wear their unis like pajamas. Others want the tailored look, as though chasing Baseball Annies was their primary job. Not to mention differing gloves, wristbands, body armor, and so on. Some players just look 'professional' like Mike Lowell every day, and others have caps (Timlin/Nixon) that look as though they've been trampled daily in the Ponderosa.
But that omits my own personal issues. As a loyal Red Sox fan, can you picture yourself wearing a Yankee cap or a Yankee jacket? Nausea? How about projectile vomiting? Yes, I do have a picture of Joe DiMaggio in my office, but a picture represents respect, not unvarnished loss of my mental faculties. I wouldn't even take a wager that might involve me wearing a Yankee cap, or even a Yankee wristwatch. Not happening. Cripes, I practically respond like Wally in the ESPN commercial with Papi wearing the Yankee cap.
I respect the Yankees, and Joe Torre, and even have empathy for The Boss and his family for the suffering that his health entails. Been there and done that. But I'm not clamoring for the Sox to sign any of the New York family to repopulate Fenway. Puh-lease.
No the Yankees, from the Bronx Zoo, to Sparky Lyle sitting on birthday cakes, to Elston Howard breaking up Billy Rohr's no-hitter, and Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth's record, get my attention and my respect, but wearing their gear? Nyet. Not happening. Never.
Enough. It's all about waxing the Tribe, starting now.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
As for the present, I rejoice in playing Cleveland, because of so many issues.
- I'm worn out by the four and a half hour marathons that every Sox-Yankee games has become. How many times can we hear 'pitch count', 'full count', 'working the count', and 'quality at bat' during a game? I can go out and get gas and a coffee in the time a Kevin Youkilis at bat takes.
- I don't have to listen to Yankee fans complain about insects.
- I won't have to listen to Yankee fans complain about umpires.
- We can focus on our young guys like Pedroia and Papelbon.
- We can talk about some quality opposition pitching, Sabathia and Carmona.
- We can reminisce about Eric Wedge, Trot Nixon, and Kelly Shoppach.
- Manny can try to eclipse Bernie Williams' post-season home run record.
- Did one of Roger Clemens' delayed season openings ever represent a steroid suspension?
- How good is Dustin Pedroia at ping pong? I'm guessing that he's really good.
- Does he use the Western or the Eastern grip?
- Will Sox fans think the Drew and Lugo acquisitions were good ones if they have more success in the playoffs?
- What year will Grady Sizemore win the AL MVP?
- Was Roger Clemens' pay this season the baseball equivalent of the Jon Koncak contract?
- Did Papelbon drink any of that champagne, or just spill it?
- How many current Red Sox players could end up becoming major league managers? Jason Varitek, Alex Cora, or Dustin Pedroia?
- Will anyone give Terry Francona some credit for coping with the knucklehead players, media, front office, baseball operations computer statistics, and showing class since he's been here?
Sunday, October 07, 2007
The Red Sox eliminated the Angels (gawd, please change the LAA designation) as the Old Lion showed himself to be anything but toothless, with Curt Schilling proving his resilience once again. Schilling ran his post-season record to 9-2, lowering his post season ERA to under two, propelling the Sox to the the ALCS and further enhancing his chance of enshrinement at Cooperstown.
Great players elevate their game in the big moments, and the Sox witnessed back-to-back homers by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and tacked on a seven run eighth inning to send the Angels heavenward.
So the Red Sox move to the ALCS for the third time in the past five seasons. They boast the top AL pitching staff, the second ranked defense, and one of the most productive offenses in the American League. They seem to genuinely like each other, and have some serious baseball junkies on the team, from Captain Jason Varitek, to Alex Cora, and Dustin Pedroia.
What was the best moment of the game for me? In the bottom of the seventh, Schilling fanned Mike Napoli with a splitter down, and the camera showed Kevin Youkilis' excitement in the background. Grown men play a child's game with passion and excitement, creating infectious enthusiasm. That's what makes for a special experience.
As for the post season questions, here are a few that fans might think about.
Would you rather play the Yankees or the Indians?
From a baseball standpoint, does it make a difference? Both have talent, quality pitching, depth, and a winning attitude. From a quality of life standpoint, you know that every Red Sox-Yankee game is at least a four hour ordeal, with soaring pitch counts, and endless agonizing shots of celebrity fans.
Has Roger Clemens pitched his last game?
Can any of us believe that Roger will depart until he's collected the last nickel he can? The best pitcher of this generation can't say no, and frankly, if somebody would pay me eighteen extra, extra large to win six games, I'd haul this sorry specimen out to the rubber.
Will Joe Torre Be Fired?
For his sake, Joe can only hope that he doesn't have to put up with the Bronx Zoo any longer. In the dugout, he looks like somebody has bamboo shoots under his fingernails and that he slept on a bed of nails.
What's the Best Line of the post season?
George Steinbrenner just signed the Orkin Man to a fourteen day contract for five million dollars.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
He gave a clinic for other Red Sox pitchers and fans. How did he do it?
- First pitch strikes
- Overpowering heat (fastball regularly touching 96-98) with outstanding fastball command
- Use of secondary pitches to complement the fastball
The single most dominating game I've seen this year at Fenway was Buchholz's no-hitter, but Beckett reminded us of Jim Palmer with his ability to use both sides of the plate.
We can only hope that Daisuke Matsuzaka was taking notes.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
For example, as a younger player, struggling to make a major league roster, Youkilis is fairly clean shaven
As an established player, somehow it looks as though Youkilis' face has acquired some furry mammal.
Almost every major leaguer wears batting gloves...but not everyone. I guess the argument must be for more comfort in cold weather, better grip in warm humid weather, and more endorsement opportunities in all weather. Coco Crisp doesn't usually wear batting gloves though, although he's looking a lot like Wally Pipp these days.
Today the radio conversation centered about the role for Mike Lowell next year...In the newspaper, it sounded like John Henry has a warm, fuzzy spot in his heart for Lowell. Does the same pertain for his wallet?
Would you really want A-Rod here? Or wouldn't A-Rod be better suited in the NL?
Is Carlos Pena a possible returnee?
And if you sign another veteran to an extended deal, does that freeze out Jed Lowrie for the foreseeable future? Is Lowrie good enough defensively to play on the left side of the infield in the majors?
I hate talking about the future while we're so enamored about the present, but isn't that what we all do? Did Curt Schilling put his home on the market because he's looking to downsize or know that next year has a different role for him. He can still pitch and win (using the Rick Reuschel/Frank Tanana conversion model) and there are plenty of franchises (Arizona an obvious destination) where his veteran influence would be great.
So Clay Buchholz has a weak shoulder? I don't recall ever having a tired shoulder as a young player, but most glass was safe confronting my pitches in the Intercity League in the mid-70s.
I can't ever recall hitting a lefthanded batter in hundreds of innings from Little League, Babe Ruth, summer leagues, high school, or college. Good control or bad memory? Years ago after a guy had hit a Grand Slam the previous time (not against me), the catcher instructed me to knock him down. I was a young guy and the catcher was a real veteran, so I said okay. The batter (lefthanded) took the first pitch fastball right down the middle. I figured I didn't really have the stomach to throw at batters. Whatever. The next pitch almost took his head off. That's just bad control.
Have you ever seen a Sox team with three guys in the lineup who could run (Ellsbury, Crisp, Lugo)?
Doesn't the AL playoff feel totally wide open? Any team could win. I'd hate to be making odds on this one.
As for the NL, it's schadenfreude for the Mets, who will rank with the '64 Phillies if they blow it. The '78 Sox take a beating, but had an incredible run down the stretch to force the fateful playoff with the Bombers and Bucky $*#&ing Dent.
Billy Rohr, where are you now?
Friday, September 28, 2007
Red Sox Nation has never represented membership cards, Sox Appeal, or even the media frenzy surrounding tonight's celebration of an American League East champion ship. People drive a little more courteously, smile more easily, and food even tastes better when our boys win. We suffer the defeats less well, although the World Series of 2004 vanquished memories of Loserville.
The 'panic button' never came out this year, and as close as the competition came, I always had the same assurance for coworkers and patients, "the Yankee fans experience what we formerly owned", the anticipation of something that would not happen, the corruption of broken dreams. Mariano Rivera, Sox nemesis incarnate, failing in the clutch, and the lowly Orioles dismissing the mighty Bombers.
Tonight the Sox from grizzled veterans like Schilling and Timlin, basking in the dwindling sunshine of lengthy careers, celebrate anew with rookies Pedroia, Ellsbury, Moss, and even Matsuzaka and Okajima.
What benefit victory? A chance to rest for Ortiz and aching knees, for Youkilis and a sore hand, and for those like Lowell and Varitek who suffered the marathon to get to the postseason.
The doubting among us will say they've done nothing yet, that tonight's events only serve as a prelude to uncertainty and more sore shoulders, balky knees, and strawberries. But those who follow this team season in and season out, night and day, remind them that is simply why we watch, to find out how it ends. Tonight the Sox stepped into liquid, champagne.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I haven't put up the 'Panic Button' JPEG all season (as far as I can remember), because there hasn't been a reason to panic. In 2004 the Red Sox had a flawed team and the GM corrected the problem with defensive acquisitions in Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientiewicz. This year, the team has shown consistency concerning inconsistency, as they can be world-beaters or invisible.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Julio Lugo, and Coco Crisp have given the team some offensive dimension they have never had (at least in my 45 years of watching), real speed. When any of the three get on, you just sense that they are running. And Remy correctly points out (between cashing in scorecard money) that Ellsbury steals not only with speed, but technique. The franchise wants to manage expectations on Ellsbury, but you have to see what is out there, too. Yes, he does have some holes in his swing, but we hope that he can cut them down.
Toronto simply stuffed them with terrific pitching, and having Crisp and Youkilis out of the lineup makes a difference, as both work pitchers, especially Youkilis.
If somehow you could magically subtract Lugo's o-fer streak, then he's had a serviceable season. Drew has shown signs of life, but for the most part looks Nixonian against lefties. If you had to have Kielty or Gabe Kapler for a season, who is probably the better all-around player. I'd guess Kielty.
Are they a better overall team with Ellsbury in left, Crisp in center, and Drew in right than with Manny in the lineup? I'd love to hear what the pitchers think.
Worries? Of course, as fans we always have concerns. I try to distinguish 'better players' versus playing better.
C Posada versus Varitek (edge Posada offensively, Varitek defensively, overall Yankees)
1 Giambi versus Youk (edge Giambi offensively when healthy with performance aids, Youk defensively) neutral now
2 Cano versus Pedroia (edge Cano at the bat, Pedroia with the glove), overall Cano
SS Jeter versus Lugo (Jeter at the plate, defensively not much difference as Jeter overrated defensively) edge Jeter
3 A-Rod versus Lowell (A-Rod MVP offense, Lowell better defensively), edge A-Rod
LF Manny/Ellsbury versus Matsui (edge Manny offensively when healthy, Ellsbury defense) overall neutral
CF Cabrera versus Crisp (offensively similar, defense edge Crisp) overall slight advantage Crisp
RF Abreu versus Drew (edge Abreu offensively, Drew defensively) edge Abreu
DH Damon versus Ortiz (major edge Ortiz)
The Yankees had a better lineup in 2004, too, but it's all about the pitching. Beckett should get the Cy, and Schilling has been working with diminished stuff, and Lester has pitched better. Is Matsuzaka's problem mental or physical, as he hasn't gotten the calls all year, and does that result in fatigue. Wakefield looks hurt.
Oh yeah, the first round is Cleveland or LAA. I'd rather have LAA, as I don't want to see Sabathia and Carmona back-t0-back.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Power hitter Manny Ramirez? Nowhere to be found. Manny could have a full beard or have shaved his head like the Dali Lama for all we know. Manny may have bought the entire '24' series on tape, promising not to return until he's seen every episode. Starting Centerfielder and Gold Glove candidate Coco Crisp, has the Hellenic Flu, after crashing into the turf so much this season.
The Real J.D. Drew? Drew has played possum the whole season, only recently coming out of his self-imposed hitlessness cocoon in preparation for the second season. No more Nancy Drew to kick around.
Julio Lugo? While we speculated that Julio had compromising photos of management to earn a big contract, he's had his moments the second half. We're still waiting to see if he too is holding back, waiting for October magic.
Kevin Youkilis? Just when we need him, he's been playing pinata for the Yankee pitching staff, resting up as part of the Sox' grand plan. What does Youkilis want to hit? They'll never know before the season ends.
Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima? The Japanese imports got off to fast starts, with Matsuzaka looking like Matt Clement the first half of the season and Okajima an All-Star. They've shut it down the second half, lest the New York media be gathering information for the stretch.
Tim Wakefield? Sixteen game winner, and as we approach the second season, all of a sudden, he's got nothing? That's just not possible.
Eric Gagne, former power closer from the Dodgers and the Rangers. Gagne has revealed nothing, refusing to show AL hitters fastball strikes or any secondary stuff. He's pulled a Sergeant Schultz for the Sox, "I know nothing."
The Indians, Angels, and Yankees could erect cameras all around Fenway and stalk the Sox on the road, and they'll get nothing. The Sox have pretty much shut it down, camouflaging critical parts of their operation.
The Sox did make a tactical error, allowing Clay Buchholz to throw a no-hitter, instead of keeping him under wraps. Theo Epstein wanted to put him on a sixty pitch count, echoed by the Player Development Gnomes, but fortunately Terry Francona put the kibosh on that one.
All these other teams, playing well, showing off in September just aren't showing any tactical savvy whatsoever. We've got 'em where we want 'em...in our sights, er lenses.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Worries? Pitching consistency from the starting rotation after Josh Beckett. Curt Schilling has morphed into Rick Reuschel, as his fastball has moved into the 80s from the 90s. It's a lot harder to get people out with guile and experience than with the former and a 93 mph heater.
Does Clay Buchholz have top of the rotation stuff? I made the Jim Palmer analogy here long before it became fashionable.
Big Papi is now second in the AL in OPS at 1.033...and Kevin Youkilis seems to have a little life back in his bat, with 80 RBIs...and Ortiz has his 30+ homers and 100+ RBI. What about Jacoby Ellsbury, with 2 homers in the minors and 3 Navahomers for our Navahomeboy at Fenway.
Somewhere on ESPN Insider a commentator said Ellsbury will develop into a 20 homer guy.
Will any Red Sox garner Gold Gloves? The push is for Youkilis at first, Pedroia at second, and Crisp in the OF. Crisp might have a shot, but favoritism tends to keep 'winners' winning. Derek Jeter clearly isn't the best fielding shortstop in the AL, but has won several. Jeter's a terrific player and a winner, but not the best defensive shortstop. I'd argue that Daisuke Matsuzaka deserves consideration for a Gold Glove, but I'd rather see the Gold Arm during the stretch.
Does Bill Belichick like to sit next to Terry Francona to get help stealing signs? It's sure lucky that Brady knew that Ricky Manning was going to drop and Deion Branch caught that deep out...and lucky that Vinatieri hit those field goals. Ellis Hobbs sniffed out the kickoff coverage didn't he?
Maybe the Jets need new defensive signals...I mean a poster of a Red Dog when they're going to blitz and an HVAC when going Pre-vent just isn't too subtle.
Do you dig the new small ball with Ellsbury, Crisp, and Lugo? Yeah, I thought so.
There's still something to be said for good old country hardball. It's not so easy for most guys to catch up with the 96 mph heat. Of course, it helps that the Rays' staff can't throw strikes.
Does anybody give Terry Francona credit?
B.J. Upton might end up being the best all-around centerfielder in the AL before long. His hitting is much improved and he has an absolute gun in center. Vernon Wells is having shoulder surgery, so that explains that.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
What of last ups? Keith Foulke stabs an Edgar Renteria groundout and the Sox end eighty-six years of frustration in 2004. That will probably always be the number one finale for the current generation of Sox fans. Clay Buchholz's strikeout of Nick Markakis probably won't achieve the same legendary status, however exciting it was.
In 1978, the great Yaz popped out to Graig Nettles to end the playoffs and the remarkable season that was. Rich Rollins popped out to Rico Petrocelli to send the Sox into waiting to determine the season's fate.
In 1962 the late Earl Wilson pitched a no-hitter. I have this recurrent memory that Frank Malzone made a great catch on a foul pop to end the game. I don't know if I'm right. Was that the right game? Was it the last out? Hey, either way, I was only seven years old. What do you remember about being a seven year old?
In the amazing 1967, Jose Tartabull, with a notoriously weak throwing arm threw out Ken Berry at home to complete a game ending double header in old Comiskey Park.
What's your last up memory?
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Buchholz fanned nine, walked three, and hit a batter. Dustin Pedroia saved the no-no with a miraculous diving backhander to rob Miguel Tejada earlier on a groundball up the middle.
As I've written before, he reminds me of a young Jim Palmer. Let's hope so.
As we turn the page on our baseball calendars, we find the Red Sox with a five game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East. And who among us would not have dreamt about this situation coming down the stretch?
Emerson reminds us that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Baseball's odyssey provides with a framework where we measure consistency over 162 games, not over a month, a road trip, or a series. We're talking about the intersection of run prevention and run scoring over baseball's marathon, not about winning a game in tennis parlance.
What Red Sox fans (and Theo Epstein) must ask is does the team have what it takes to win in October? We lament last week's action as we always do when comparing baseball's Athens and Sparta. After the Red Sox annihilated a flogged and downtrodden Pale Hose, reminiscent of the Boston Massacre of 1978, the Red Sox came up short in the Bronx, leaving with their collective tails between their legs.
The Sox do have questions remaining, mostly surrounding the depth of the starting rotation down the stretch, injuries (Manny Ramirez), and whether J.D. Drew has anything to offer the remainder of the season. It's hard for me to imagine the Red Sox winning a World Series with a corner outfielder producing so little. If it's physical, then so be it, write it off, and get somebody else in there. If it's psychological, let's get Dr. Tom Hanson or some other sports psychologist on the case, today.
Even worse was Joba Chamberlain's classless headhunting earning him an ejection and fine. Sox fans welcome new blood to the rivalry, and anticipate future showdowns among the Ellsbury, Lester, Buchholz, and Pedroia clan with Hughes, Chamberlain, Cabrera, and Cano. But throwing a hard object a hundred miles an hour at anyone's fragile humanity deserves condemnation and more than a two game suspension. Joe Torre's defense of Chamberlain casts aspersion on his record as well.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Daisuke Matsuzaka, victim of lack of run support recently, faces Red Sox nemesis Andy Pettitte. Among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched, Matsuzaka (13-10) is 22nd in run support at 5.19 runs/game. The leaders are Verlander, Wang, Beckett, and Pettitte, all with at least 6 3/4 runs per game, with Verlander at a whopping 7.6.
On-base slugging percentage .831 Dustin Pedroia. At .821, Derek Jeter.
Three year splits for Jorge Posada against the Red Sox? .303/.410/.576/.986. That would qualify him as a Sox killer in my book.
Jon Lester pitched well for the Sea Dogs, allowing one run in six innings. If only he could cut down on the bases on balls.
With the off-season acquisition of Julio Lugo, everyone worried about the Red Sox defense. The Sox check in at third in fielding percentage in the AL, with quality work in particular from Coco Crisp and Kevin Youkilis. Is it my imagination or is Crisp throwing better lately. He reached third base from CF the other day.
Win shares aren't updated since the 23rd, but here they are.
Terry Francona doesn't get much credit for the Sox success. Is that fair?
Howard Bryant has a profile on the Sox sensitive and charming slugger, David Ortiz.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The inconsistent Sox offense pounds out double digit runs three games running, and shows a very good argument why Mark Buehrle didn't belong on their radar screen. The White Sox have injuries and their pitching hasn't performed up to expectations, which is why they are a last place team.
As for the Sox, what are they, a World Series favorite, a top five team, or an enigma unfolding before us? First, despite the sense concerning offensive vulnerability, they have three guys in the top 10 hitting (Pedroia, Lowell, and Ortiz), three guys with 85 or more RBI (Lowell, Manny, Ortiz), two of the top ten in OPS (Ortiz, Lowell), three of the top 20 and five of the top twenty-seven in Runs Created (Pedroia, the revelation at 27).
As of the 23rd, the Sox have eight players with at least thirteen Win Shares, with Youkilis, despite his struggles after the break third on the team, and Pedroia fourth. Pedroia has a legitimate shot at Rookie of the Year, and Lowell may have been the Red Sox MVP so far (an arguable point).
So what's the problem? Is there a problem? It always comes down to pitching, with Beckett and Matsuzaka a legitimate one-two, and Wakefield tied for the post-All-Star break wins at seven. Beckett and Wakefield are tied for the league lead in wins at sixteen.
Among pitchers with at least forty innings pitched this season, Okajima and Papelbon are one and five in ERA, and Mike Timlin (whom I wrote off, literally) is twenty-one. Among pitchers with 100 innings pitched (ERA qualifiers as it were)...Beckett is six, Matsuzaka sixteen and Wakefield twenty-seven. An oddity, according to ESPN, of the top 30 ERA leaders, only one has not yielded an unearned run, Matsuzaka.
Worries? You have to feel better that Youkilis and Varitek seem to be coming out of their doldrums. Manny not being Manny is one issue. The other issues of course are Gagne (as in gag me with a spoon) and Curt Schilling. Schilling got great results with location and no velocity the other night. Many of his fastballs were in the mid 80s, and at least while I was flipping between the Pats and the Sox, he seldom touched 88. Maybe it was a slow gun in Chicago. And he was getting them out.
The tendency becomes to focus on the Yankees, but the issue today is one more contest in Chicago. Let's hope the team has the short-term focus lasered in.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Kevin Youkilis (first half exceeded, second half underperformed)
Julio Lugo (has met expectations recently)
Manny Ramirez (held to a high standard)
David Ortiz (held to a high standard)
If you project Win Shares of 30 as MVP type seasons and 20 as All-Star seasons, what do you see?
- Only one Red Sox player is in the top 50 (Ortiz)
- Varitek is 8th among catchers (11)
- Youkilis is 9th among first basemen (16)
- Pedroia is 7th among second basemen (15)
- Lowell is 8th among third basemen (16)
- Lugo is 20th among shortstops (10)
- Ramirez is 38th among outfielders (13)
- Crisp is 46th among outfielders (12)
- Drew is not in the top 50 among outfielders (8)
- Ortiz is first among DHs (17)
- Beckett is 10th among starters (15)
- Matsuzaka is 19th among starters (13)
- Okajima is tied for 5th among relievers (10)
- Papelbon is tied for 19th among relievers (8)
1967 and 1975, the Red Sox were heavy underdogs and lost to the better team. 1978 and the monumental collapse (but incredible rally to get to the playoff), and 1986...what were you doing during Game 6 of 1986? I was in the Intensive Care Unit of Bethesda Naval Hospital, outside of ICU Bay 3, watching it go down.
"The most stunning comeback in baseball history..." how we remember those words from 2004. Eighty-six years of unrequited love and cataclysmic frustration, evaporated in eight games of magic. "It was Edgar Renteria who made the last out of the World Series. He was wearing number 3, the same number as the Babe."
How do the Red Sox affect your life? What are you wearing right now? I've got my Boston Dirt Dogs t-shirt on. On any given practice for the young Melrose girls basketball team, there will always be at least one wearing a Red Sox shirt. If you go into Dunkin' Donuts on any morning, you see Red Sox shirts and caps and jackets. My sister gave me a Red Sox jacket (the red one) for my fiftieth birthday. Can you imagine a better present?
As a child, every summer the Wakefield playgrounds would have a Red Sox day, where you boarded sweltering buses and went in to see an afternoon game in August. We probably paid a buck to sit in the bleachers, and another fifty cents for the bus. Damn it was hot, but nobody complained, we were going to see the Sox.
The game hasn't changed, just the players, more international, with better conditioning and technological improvements like computerized scouting and video monitoring. Pitch counts add 'precision' that the trained eye denies, the pitcher taking more time between pitches (Eric Gagne the other night) or fastballs left up in the zone as the follow-through departs through fatigues implied cowardice.
But it still comes down to who wins that individual battle, the solitary challenge between the craftsman on the hill and the blacksmith's son in the batter's box. That never changes.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I am sorry to see Wily Mo Pena go, as somehow, I view him to be a future productive player. Who knows, maybe he'll come this way again. After the break, his OPS is .749, not very good.
My pitching obituary for Mike Timlin obviously came prematurely.
Clay Buchholz reminds me of another tall, right-handed pitcher who threw over the top. Of course, this boyhood idol has just a little bit longer track record.
Last year Kevin Youkilis seemed to wear down from the long season and a lot of hit by pitches. This season, Youk has just tailed off after the All-Star break. The bad news is that Wily Mo had an OPS 61 points higher than the Sox first baseman since the break.
OPS after the break:
The surprise? Lugo and Lowell have almost the same OPS, as does Youk and Varitek.
Heck, it's always the pitching in the end anyway.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Let's start with the bright side, the Sox do have some potential longer-term players in Pawtucket, with Buchholz winning tonight with another nine strikeouts, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie both looking productive offensively...you can't tell from box scores how hard they are hitting the ball, only that they are finding some holes.
Curt Schilling pitched well enough today...and Beckett and Matsuzaka have remained formidable throughout this summer siesta.
'Theo's Folly', the acquisitions of Lugo and Drew haven't looked so bad lately, and I wonder how many outfields had all starters recently with four-letter names (Pena, Drew, Moss).
Dustin Pedroia remains a revelation, both offensively and defensively (an error today), and I owe a thousand 'my bads' to a player who could be a substantial upgrade from even the 'good' like Marty Barrett.
Now the bad news. Eric Gagne has the fatal, invert Steve Blass disease, wild in the strike zone, with too many mistake pitches. Hideki Okajima may not have been exposed to Kryptonite, but one wonders about his workload. The center of the order hasn't been as consistent as needed to carry the rest of the lineup, and is Kevin Youkilis getting worn down again as in last season?
I prefer to take the view that the Sox have played into some bad luck, although that may of course be wishful thinking. Maybe some home cooking will help.
Somehow, my adrenaline level just isn't too worked up about it. My daughters simply said, "can't you smell it? It's football season in the air."
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Theo Epstein has locked in some tough contracts (Drew, Lugo), has some veterans on the free agent train (Curt Schilling, Mike Lowell), and some minor league pieces to rearrange. Epstein and company have to decide (eventually) what direction to take.
The two hottest minor league pitchers are Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson. Masterson fanned another ten in six innings today, and with an E.R.A. under 1.50 in six starts, and total domination, he's due for Pawtucket...soon. North Carolina product Andrew Miller is already in the Tigers' rotation. I'm not arguing for promotion of any of the Sox minor leaguers, but historically the Sox have been very conservative with young talent. What role do Buchholz and Masterson get this fall, if any?
Kevin Youkilis is the 'wild card' positionally, as he could go back to third base, if the Sox decide Mike Lowell is too expensive for their blood. Brandon Moss gets some PT at first base, as he could become a more versatile piece with infield and outfield exposure. With two homers today for the Pawsox and a .326 average, Jed Lowrie is making believers out of some. Does Lowrie have a future with the Sox, and if so, where?
Speaking of prospects, Jacoby Ellsbury must be feeling better, as he had three hits and a stolen base today, coming off the DL. Where does Ellsbury fit in the puzzle?
In the 'can you believe it?' category, the Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka is the only right-handed pitcher among the top five in strikeouts. Erik Bedard of the O's leads the pack.
Hard to imagine, but the Sox are second in the AL in fielding percentage. With Crisp, Youkilis, and Pedroia all playing solid defense, that helps.
The Red Sox also lead the A.L. in ERA at 3.75. These aren't your father's Red Sox, and we are thankful for that.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
For those who say that Papelbon should be a starter, he'd really benefit from a third pitch if that were the case, and I doubt that he trusts his slider enough to use it regularly. Developing a cutter to righthanders or another offspeed pitch to lefthanders (e.g. Circle change) would be a must. Maybe having Gagne around will help in that regard.
Meanwhile, for AAA Pawtucket, Clay Buchholz pitched over six innings of two run ball, fanning nine and walking none. Buchholz, in three AAA starts has an E.R.A. of 3.93, with 30 strikeouts and 6 walks. When you consider the prospect of Buchholz moving into the rotation next year with his Blylevenesque deuce (or maybe Camilo Pascual), it must bring smiles to the development team's collective faces. Anybody checked out Justin Masterson's stats, he who some have compared to Kevin Brown.
Last night Carleton Fisk got kudos for his presence in the 'Legends' box at Fenway. What earns you Legends status? Obviously, Cooperstown entries get a free pass, but what about the guys who haven't got their ticket punched, and may never?
Front Row: (includes active players not on the Sox)
Yaz, Fisk, Pesky, Doerr, Eckersley, Boggs, Clemens
Gotta Be There:
Tiant, Rice, Lynn, Reggie Smith, Evans (one of the best rightfielders never to make it to Cooperstown), Lonborg, Hurst, Remy (as broadcaster), Petrocelli, Bill Lee
George (The Boomer) Scott, Bob Stanley
Looking in the Keyhole:
Red Sox killers. Who are some of the great and not so great players to torment the Red Sox through the years. Off the top of my head, the current antagonist du jour is Frank Catalanotto. Scott Kazmir is getting there. Who are your 'least' favorites? I can think of Tom Tresh (Yankees), Gates Brown (Detroit), Jim Palmer (Orioles), Boog Powell (Orioles), Harmon Killebrew (Twins), Mickey Rivers (Yankees), Dave Stieb (Blue Jays), and so on. I'm hoping that I don't have to add J.D. Drew to the list...
Journalists. The current crop of Sox writers has really gotten it done. Gordon Edes is always dialed in, and Nick Cafardo lends valuable perspective, although if he writes "if I was" (instead of if I were) another time, I may have to ship him a copy of Strunk and White. Dan Shaughnessy lends his curmudgeonly pen to the scene now and then, but the Rookie of the Year is Amalie Benjamin.
You'll find some misspellings here, and surely some split infinitives (not many I hope), but I'm an Internet hack, not a paid journalist.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Gabbard, who rose from obscurity to outwin Roger Clemens (4 to 3) during his brief Sox tenure, became expendable with the return of Jon Lester and the pending return of Curt Schilling.
Absent Kason, the Sox rotation will look like Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling, Wakefield, and Lester.
Trade talks for Jermaine Dye fell through when the White Sox and Ken Williams demanded the sun, the moon, and one of Jupiter's moons for the soon-to-be free agent slugger.
The Sox made this trade from strength, not desperation, which is a nice change. They did not give up (as far as we know) Ellsbury, Lowrie, or Moss, their top three position players. They also didn't give up Buchholz, Bowden, or Masterson, their top three minor league pitching prospects. For once, the locals didn't give up what seemed to be too much, to get something for a salary dump.
Meanwhile, being a Ranger fan (apologies to John Mauldin) has gotten a lot worse, reminiscent of the book, "Seasons from Hell."