Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Confidence Man

Craig Hansen. Will the real Craig Hansen please stand up? The Colorado Rockies sought Hansen, the highly touted St. John's standout to be included in the proposed trade for Todd Helton. Hansen's supporters point to a ninety-five mile an hour fastball and 'sharp' slider that project him for success as a closer.

And to be fair, he's shown flashes of brilliance amidst stretches of mediocrity. Maybe he's been the victim of seeing eye grounders a la Bob Stanley, but with infield porosity increasing with the Lugo for Gonzalez swap, more strikeouts and fewer groundouts might help.

Or maybe it's just a psychological boost from the freshly married Theo Epstein, something to say, "YOU HAVE VALUE". I wouldn't bet that's it, but it wouldn't be the worst thing. Will Hansen and Delcarmen be able to beat out the competition (Tavarez, Timlin, Donnelly, Romero et al.) for innings or will it be the Pawtucket shuttle?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

If A Tree Falls in the Woods

Not enough face time? Why do athletes believe that anybody wants to hear their opinions on issues of the day? It's really pretty simple, because seldom does it impact their bottom line.

Yes, those defenders of the Constitution want free speech, unless it interferes with their interpretation of their rights. And yes, athletes, the clergy, and even doctors can speak out about global warming, saving the whales, religion, politics, sex, and occasionally even baseball.

Once in a while you see a bumper sticker adorned with an American flag saying God Bless America. I've always wondered whether they have similar ones saying 'Yahweh Bless Israel', 'Allah Bless Saudi Arabia', and so on...and of course what 'bless' means to each of the above.

I also find it ironic that the two biggest athletic icons of their time, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, practically never comment on social issues...which gets me back to my first point, 'the bottom line'.

If I sold widgets, I want to make the best widgets possible, and sell them at the best price to buyers of every race, creed, sex, age, and political persuasion. The same would hold if I sold Titlest golf balls, Buicks, or Nike products.

Red Sox fans must come in every color, political persuasion, religion, sex, and so on. They buy orange juice, Sox gear, wide screen televisions, drink beer (sometimes too much), and vote Democratic, Independent, and Republican. They like the Kennedys and detest them, and worship the Bush clan and detest them. About the only thing most agree on is that they can't stand the Yankees. So I can only wish that the players and management spend more time talking baseball and less time talking trash.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Babe Ruth is Dead"

Rockies owner Charlie Monfort comes off sounding like a third world dictator saying, "we won't deal Helton 'for nothing'. Let's look at the facts, in a trending world. Let's also realize that historically players have tended to peak at about age 27, and sometimes when they go downhill, they go downhill rapidly (e.g. Jim Rice).

Player A has 22 win shares in 2006, and actually plays for the Red Sox. Only 2.9 of the win shares came from fielding.

Player B (Helton) has a steadily declining number of win shares, 23 last year and a megamillion dollar contract. Who the $%&#%& do you think you're talking about here, Babe Ruth?_____________________________________________
Helton has been an on-base machine, formerly with a lot of power, but something seems to have affected him, be it age or otherwise, as his production has fallen off dramatically. Helton scored 94 runs, had 15 homers, and 81 RBI last year in thin-aired Colorado, playing in 145 games. Helton is 33 years old and made 16.6 million dollars last year.

Player A scored 100 runs, with 13 homers and 72 RBI for the Red Sox, and at age 27 made $354,000. Player A is Kevin Youkilis.

Mr. Monfort, I'm sure that you're an intelligent, sophisticated baseball fan, who made a good faith deal to pay Todd Helton 'market value'. Well, Mr. Colorado Rockies owner, it looks like you got taken, and the Red Sox aren't going to bail you out.

Maybe you should run out an buy "The Winners Curse" by Richard Thal, but we Red Sox fans aren't desperate residents of Loserville, or oxygen-starved high-altitude owners looking for redemption. Todd Helton was a great player, but it sure doesn't look like he's the same guy. John Henry made hundreds of millions doing trend analysis, and this doesn't look like a 'Turtle Trade' breakout from here.

And if the Sox satisfy your every wishes, or even your posturing wishes, then Theo and the Trio are a lot stupider than I think.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

More questions than answers

Spring training is just around the corner, although the weather doesn't feel like it.

Somehow, I'm getting that Gene Hackman moment in Hoosiers when he announces "this is your team". Did anyone really doubt that J.D. Drew would be on the Red Sox roster come opening day? Note that being on the roster and in the lineup aren't the same for Drew.

CF Crisp
1B Youkilis
DH Ortiz
LF Ramirez
RF Drew
3B Lowell
C Varitek
SS Lugo
2B Pedroia

That doesn't look bad at all, presuming that a healthy Crisp is a .300 hitter, that Lugo returns to AL form, and that Pedroia morphs into something unlike Pedroia 2006. Maybe Lugo has a career year, with buddy David Ortiz and 81 games at Fenway to bring more life into his stick.

If the rotation looks something like Schilling, Matsuzaka, Beckett, Papelbon, and Wakefield that's pretty good, too.

The downside to the upside? Every team has question marks, and the Sox pitching question marks revolve around age (Schilling and Wakefield), health (Lester), and the functionality of the bullpen, which has lots of depth and questionable quality.

Let's do the matchup comparison with the Evil Empire.

C Posada vs Varitek...edge Bombers
1B Giambi versus Youkilis...edge Bombers
2B Cano versus Pedroia...edge Bombers
SS Jeter versus Lugo...edge Bombers
3B A-Rod versus Lowell...edge Bombers
LF Matsui versus Manny...edge Sox
CF Damon versus Crisp...edge Bombers
RF Abreu versus Drew...edge Bombers
DH Cabrera versus Ortiz...edge Sox

Well, that wasn't so pleasant, was it?

P Wang versus Schilling...even
P Pettitte versus Beckett...even
P Mussina versus Papelbon...even
P Igawa versus Matsuzaka...edge Sox
P Pavano versus line on Pavano

Mussina was outstanding last season, but like some Sox starters, he is long in the tooth. Does age start to catch up with him?

Does Andy Pettitte's return to New York 'work' with rumors of personal issues?

Does Mariano Rivera ever age, showing the accumulated mileage?

Can the Yankees break the mysterious curse placed upon them in 2001 by a former employee's wife?

Can Jonathan Papelbon make a successful transformation to starter, bringing on a third pitch (slider) or a fourth (changeup)?

Will Kevin Youkilis have a breakout season?

If the Red Sox trade for Todd Helton, have they truly become the full mirror of the tax and spend New Yorkers? Helton's power numbers have dropped off the planet, and his salary remains an obstacle as well as the Rockies insistence on top bullpen prospects.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Roster Speculation

Hard to get overly enthusiastic about the boys of summer during AFC Championship Week, but nonetheless, what's the early line on roster speculation?

C (2) Varitek, Mirabelli
1F (5) Lowell, Lugo, Cora, Pedroia, Youkilis
DH (1) Ortiz
OF (5) Ramirez, Cora, Pena, Drew, Hinske

SP (6) Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Papelbon, Wakefield, Tavarez - (somebody always gets hurt, dead arm, or something)
RP (6) Pineiro, Timlin, Donnelly, Romero, Delcarmen, Okajima

Bubble: Hansen, Breslow, Snyder (4 inning Kyle), Hansack, Lester

Surprises? Timlin will lose it (completely) one of these years, Lester (good argument to start the season in AAA if healthy). Hard to see Okajima not sticking as sidekick.

Yes, Wily Mo could be trade bait (along with either of the corners for more power) or Coco could go...

The paper said that the Schillings plan to live here after he retires? Maybe once you get the craziness into your system, then you can't leave. Or maybe his family really enjoys it here, or the causes that they promote have epicenters in the Boston medical community. Whatever the reason, welcome aboard. And now if we can only convert him to becoming a Patriots fan...