Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bye Bye, Bay

So my last post looks rather silly now, eh?

According to the Boston Globe, Jason Bay is going to the Mets for 4 years and $66 million (pending a physical). I for one will miss the Palest of Them All patrolling left field at Fenway, despite his less than impressive defense. I suspect that come July, if the status quo remains intact, we'll all be wailing for him back (some of you, doubtless, will go further into the past and demand a return to the Manny era).

However, if Theo is truly done making moves for this offseason, and we go into Opening Day with a platoon of Jeremy Hermida and Mike Cameron, so be it: if the offense works out, that's great, and if not? Well, some of those prospects might like the nice sunny skies of San Diego. Or maybe he's saving for a push for another big bat - I don't see Joe Mauer leaving Minnesota (I actually hope he doesn't - he'll end up in pinstripes if he's simply looking for the biggest payday), something must be in the works. Theo never stops working, and he'll figure something out.

But back to Bay: he was a class act from the moment he stepped off the plane from Pittsburgh, and somehow made us forget about Manny (or at least somewhat forgive Theo for trading him). He blinded fans across Fenway Park with the pallor of his skin, and made those of us who are particularly SPF-needy feel positively bronzed, all while providing the power that Boston so desperately craved.

He was never a nuisance with the press, or the fans, and, from all accounts, was as classy in the clubhouse as he was on the field. Lest we forget, he scored the winning run of the 2008 ALDS against the Angels, getting spiked in the process:

"It's just a tiny little nick, but it hurts when I get champagne in there."

If the Mets can stay healthy (What? Mets and health in the same sentence?), Bay might have a shot in hell to play in October again. And if not? Well, he performed admirably for us, and that's all I can ask for. I wish you all the best, Mr. Bay. Mets fans are lucky to have you.

Friday, December 25, 2009

All I want for Christmas is you...

After initially snubbing the four-year, $60 million deal offered by the Red Sox, outfielder Jason Bay (via agent Joe Urbon) is reportedly making return inquiries. Though Bay has a four-year, $65 million deal from the New York Mets on the table, I'm sure he realizes that A) Citi Field is not friendly to hitters and B) playing in Queens isn't like playing in Boston.

Of course, Jason Bay came to the Sox in mid-2008, and performed admirably down the stretch and for the entirety of 2009, quickly putting to rest doubts that he could maintain his performance level in a big-market place like Boston.

Obviously, the Red Sox are in dire need of a bat for 2010, and Bay had more home runs than anyone else on the team last year, with 36 (Ortiz came in second, at 28). That said, a lot of things would need to fall into place for a deal to get worked out with Bay. First of all, the Sox gave money initially allotted for Bay to John Lackey, and with Mike Lowell's trade falling through, they would need to either shed some payroll, or suck it up and pay the luxury tax (not something John Henry is keen on doing). Secondly, the outfield is currently full: between Mike Cameron, JD Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jeremy Hermida, it's hard to see where Bay fits in. If, oh, I don't know, Ellsbury were to be traded for, say... Adrian Gonzalez, then there would be a spot for him...

I for one hope to see Bay back in a Red Sox uniform come Spring Training. He's been consistent and classy in his time in Boston, and though the Sox seem to be rolling in pitchers lately, they hardly possess a glut of power. Four years is reasonable (I'm just as uninterested as Theo to see what Bay plays like beyond the age of thirty-five), and I'd like to see something worked out that makes sense for both sides.

I want a Canadian left-fielder for Christmas, Theo. Please?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sayonara, Fangirls?

There's been a lot of talk lately about what it would take to pry Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego, and because new GM Jed Hoyer's knowledge of the Red Sox farm system rivals that of Theo himself, it's going to be a lot. There will be no Heathcliff Slocumb for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek type of deal this time around: we will have to give up some truly valuable pieces to get one in return.

What type of valuable pieces, you ask? That's exactly the point of this post: we've all gotten used to hearing Clay Buchholz's name thrown out there, and though he's had some success on the major league level, the Sox are pitching rich (for now), so most fans are willing to part with him for the right piece. Now we're hearing whispers that a player we've been seeing daily for over a year might be part of the package... and not just any player, but the downright dreamiest man to don a Red Sox uniform since... well, at least since his devoted screaming fangirls (and fanguys - we don't discriminate here at Off the Monster) jumped on the bandwagon in 2004.

Personally, I wouldn't be all that torn up if Ellsbury got shipped off to San Diego. This might be unfair of me, but I just cannot stand a large percentage of fans who name him as their favorite player. Sure, there are those who rattle off his SB% (MUCH more important than the number of stolen bases, if you ask me), rising OPS, and improved plate discipline (he took eight more walks this year than in 2008!), and are legitimately excited about him as an athlete. I despise the term "Pink-Hatter," because I find it derogatory to female fans (maybe they just like the color!), but Ellsbury fangirls generally display the type of behavior expected of a stereotypical "Pink-Hatter," namely, a lack of knowledge about the game in general or the Red Sox in particular.

Are these women at a Beatles concert or a baseball game? CALM DOWN.

Do I think Adrian Gonzalez is worth a package including Buchholz, Ellsbury, Kelly, and Lars Anderson? Yes. In an instant. Prospects are exactly what their title implies: chances, opportunities, potential. You never know if a minor-league stud will pan out, and Gonzalez is as close to a sure thing as you can get in the current market.

I'll admit to having a personal agenda for supporting Golden Boy's inclusion in a deal: if it allows me to interact with just one less drunken fangirl per Fenway visit, I'll support it, but I also truly believe Gonzalez is worth the trade. The dynamic is very interesting, because we all know that Theo likes to trade high on his prospects, getting more in return than he is giving up, but in this case, the other side knows exactly everything he does.

Honesty's uncomfortable, eh Theo?

This is probably a deal that will happen (if it does) once the Padres inevitably start to falter. It would take major, um, guts, for a new GM such as Hoyer to trade a franchise player in his first months on the job. Hoyer is in the uncommon position of knowing Theo's thoughts and motives while negotiating, which is intriguing, to say the least. Get it done, Theo.... please?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Welcoming Another #23

Mike Cameron got up on the podium with Theo today and tried on his Red Sox jersey for the very first time. The number on the back? Good old #23.

Yes, 23... the number worn by three Red Sox players last season alone. Of course, Julio Lugo had worn the number since he joined the team in 2007 (Alex Cora generously switched to 13 so Lugo could have his preferred number), and when he was shipped to St. Louis, Adam LaRoche donned the uniform. (What? You don't remember LaRoche? He was with Boston for exactly six games, and by a weird stroke of chance, I was at Fenway for his one and only home run with the team, against Baltimore on July 25th.) LaRoche got flipped to Atlanta shortly thereafter, and speedster Joey Gathwright ended the season in jersey #23.

Let's hope that Cameron has more sucess and/or staying power than the last three guys to wear the number. According to Boston.com, Cameron has not played a corner outfield position since "his collision with Carlos Beltran in 2005," but has indicated his willingness to play in front of the Green Monster.

As we all know, Jacoby Ellsbury is able to play all three outfield positions without issues, which we saw in 2008 when he was platooning with Coco Crisp, but it makes sense that coaches would want to sit down with the two of them to discuss how best to work things out. This also begs the question: what about Jeremy Hermida? Perhaps given Cameron's age (37 next month), and JD Drew's injury history, Hermida will be a bench guy, though he seems to need more everyday seasoning to realize his potential, so he could also be used as trade bait.

All in all, I like the Cameron signing, even though it's looking more and more like Jason Bay will be playing in Queens, or, at the very least, not in Boston. Somehow, we need to get some of that power back, and Theo has apparently (again, according to Boston.com) been dropping hints that it's "easier to obtain a bat than a pitcher during the season, so that could be an indication that he's willing to wait to make another significant move."

Here's hoping that "significant move" comes in the way of Adrian Gonzalez, and that it happens well before the trade deadline. Perhaps Theo wants to wait and see how the John Lackey signing pans out before dealing Clay Buchholz, or Jed Hoyer wants reassurance that Clay can continue his run of success at the major league level (7-4, 4.21 ERA in the latter half of 2009) before trading a franchise player away for him?

Either way, all of this Hot Stove Action has not been conducive to my studying (it's finals week), but I'm still a fan of it. Check back later today or tomorrow for an entry on John Lackey, while I don't study enough for my American Presidency exam (sorry, Professor).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Trails, Mikey

Sean Casey, Tim Wakefield, Mike Lowell, Jon Lester, and David Ortiz. So much class at the annual David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic.

Part of the thing that drew me in about baseball was the personalities: I loved when the Globe did player profiles, and I still devour biographies and memoirs as soon as I can get my hands on them.

In recent years, the Red Sox have seen a parade of characters, but very few of them have had the class of Mikey Lowell. Lowell, as I'm sure you remember, was a throw-in in the Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett deal - sort of a salary dump for the Marlins. He was coming off a bad year, and no one would have been shocked if he continued his downward spiral.

Mike wasn't having any of that. He fixed his swing, continued with his work at third base, which had always been good, and threw himself into the Boston philanthropy scene. By the end of 2007, he was the World Series MVP, and Boston loved him. Jason Varitek crossed over from Captain to fan at the World Series Parade, holding up a sign imploring management to "Re-sign Lowell."

Theo complied, and Mike was his usual consistent self for the first half of 2008, but then his hip injury took him out of commission. I don't know about any of you, but watching Mike give his all during the 2008 playoffs was one of the most gutsy things I've seen. It was clear that he was in excruciating pain, but when he was asked, he was going to give his all - for his teammates, for his fans, and for all of New England.

On a more personal note, Mikey's book helped me through a very tough time earlier this year. I expect you've all tired of hearing this by now, but if you have not read his book, go out and buy it right now. Deep Drive is the perfect gift for any baseball fan, anyone affected by cancer, or anyone who enjoys a good read.

Now we're getting word that Mikey is being traded to Texas for Max Ramirez (pending a physical, which, considering Mike's history, is becoming problematic). If/when the trade gets done, Mikey will be a first base/DH type, coming off the bench as needed, which might be the best thing for him considering his age and injury history. However, when he comes back to Fenway Park, I fully expect to see Red Sox fans stand and cheer. Mike Lowell is truly a class act, holding no grudges when management unabashedly went after Mark Teixeira last winter, though he was clearly the odd man out.

Happy trails, Mike. I'm so glad you spent some time in Boston, and I'll miss you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Meetings

The MLB Winter Meetings are underway, and though the Sox have already added Marco Scutaro at the blackhole also known as shortstop, there's still a lot that could be done.

  • While it's likely that Roy Halladay won't be pitching for Toronto next year, it's equally likely that he won't be pitching for Boston - if he's smart, he'll accept a trade to the National League (a 20-game winner in the AL East could do some serious damage in the NL West).
  • Another name we've been hearing a lot is Adrian Gonzalez, which adds a measure of drama, as San Diego's new GM, Jed Hoyer, knows that Red Sox farm system better than anyone but Theo himself.
  • The Sox still need a power bat. Most likely, either Matt Holliday or Jason Bay will end up in pinstripes, as the Evil Empire will be looking for an upgrade over Johnny Damon. I'd like to see Bay back, but letting him go, and then signing Holliday actually improvs their standing in the draft.
  • Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito have both jumped ship for other teams, and the bullpen needs some depth.

I don't really expect much to get done during these meetings, but I do know that Theo is doing his best to give us a competitive team for 2010 and beyond. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Support RED [Sox]

This is Yassin. He was four years old when I took this picture in 2007; he lives in an orphanage in Chigamba Village, Malawi, and is HIV Positive. Today is World AIDS Day: do something to help the millions of people suffering all over the world. Just think, your contribution could help a potential Red Sox fan!

If you're looking for a good cause, I highly recommend giving to Friends of Little Field Home, which is a nonprofit organization based in Hebron, Maine. Little Field Home is the orphanage where Yassin lives, and it was started by my high school softball coach when she was in the Peace Corps in Malawi. All of the money goes directly to the 80+ orphans who live there, many of whom are HIV Positive.

I know there are a ton of generous and caring Red Sox fans out there, and every little bit counts!

Monday, November 30, 2009

And the VMA for Worst Range Goes to... Derek Jeter!

Seriously, Sports Illustrated? Obviously, the world is conspiring for me to have to write a series of posts in which I first qualify that I respect Jeter's obvious talent and drive, and then go on to describe the ways in which he is under qualified for the myriad of honors bestowed upon him. Here's another one for you, universe:

The only good thing about this is the potential for the SI Cover Jinx to rear its ugly head. Derek Jeter was not even the MVP of his own team, and yet he got a Gold Glove, serious AL MVP consideration, and now the SI Sportsman of the Year Award. I realize it would probably be easiest if I just accepted that Jeter is destined to win awards he isn't qualified for... but I can only hope this is in his future:

"Yo Derek, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish... but A*Rod and the 2005 MVP was the most undeserved award of all time - OF ALL TIME!"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Golden Boy: Take Two

It's official: Jacoby Ellsbury has dropped number 46 in favor of the much lower (and more aesthetically pleasing) number 2. When Brad Mills jumped ship for Houston, Jacoby wasted no time in snapping up his number. Normally this wouldn't be huge news (in early 2007, Dustin Pedroia swapped #64 for #15), but I take vindictive pleasure in the fact that all the Golden Boy worshipers will have to buy new T-shirts.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let's Hear it for the Boy!

Congratulations to the American League's 2009 Most Valuable Player, Joseph Patrick Mauer!

Obviously he's immune to the SI cover jinx.

While I think it's a travesty that Jeter managed to place third (the man was EIGHTH in slugging percentage on his OWN TEAM), the right man definitely won.

As much as I'd love to see Mauer don a Red Sox uniform, I think it would be best for the game if he stayed in Minnesota: everyone knows that if he hits free agency looking for the most money he'll land in the Bronx, and it would be a devestating blow for small market teams everywhere. Mauer to the Yankees could be the straw that breaks the camels back, resulting in a salary cap in baseball (hopefully it comes with some sort of floor).

For now, however, I'm going to bask in the glow of the BBWAA getting things right thus far: after all, it's a rarity.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Most [Terrible] Time of the Year

It's that time of year again. The time when radio stations start playing Christmas music between their weekly NFL predictions, when a forecast for snow is still exciting rather than daunting, and when baseball is rarely in the news. Sure, SportsCenter might spend thirty seconds on trade possibilities and minor pickups, but until a major free agent is signed, people are more worried about touchdowns, power plays, and free throws than home runs and strikeouts.

That being said, I would like to apologize in advance: there won't be lengthy posts every day for a while. I'll try to put something up for you guys daily, but I can't promise anything - especially since the end of semester rush is here, and I think my professors are literally trying to bury me in work.

Needless to say, this is not my favorite time of year, but it brightened up a bit yesterday when I got a package in the mail:

The Teammates by David Halberstam is about Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr, and the special relationship they shared as teammates and friends. It was recommended to me by several of my readers, and though I'm just thirty-six pages in, I would like to thank you all, as I can tell it's going to be a mainstay of my baseball library for years to come.

It was Never About the Babe is by Jerry M. Gutlon, and promises to be an interesting read, as it discusses the racism that was inherent in the management of the Sox for many years. There was no "Curse of the Bambino" (though Dan Shaughnessy thanks you for believing in it and buying his books), and this book will explain exactly why and how the Red Sox failed for so long.

As far as curses go, I'd like to take this opportunity to express my belief that there's something to that Billy Goat thing in Chicago... 101 years? Really?

And last but certainly not least is The 2010 Bill James Handbook. You've heard me say this before, and you're sure to hear it again, but I love Bill James. I pulled out the Handbook at lunch on Friday to show my friends (I could barely contain my excitement), and they just stared. I opened it up to show the pages of player stats and equations for fielding prowess, and they remained silent. Finally, one of them asked the ultimate question: "Explain to me again how you hate math?" Oh, if only there was a course on baseball statistics! Even once I explained the genius that is Bill James, they judged me. Sure, they nodded politely at all the right times, but none of them really got it, and that's fine.

Hopefully I'll be getting some more baseball books for Christmas, so I'll make it to Spring Training alive and (reasonably) sane. Until then, I'll carry on my illicit love affair with Bill James and Co., and my friends can judge me all they want.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Congratulations, Zack!

Earlier today I posted the following statement on Twitter:

"If Zack Greinke doesn't win the AL Cy Young, I'm going to punch Joba Chamberlain in the face.

I wouldn't really punch Joba in the face (mostly due to logistical difficulties), but I would have been pretty upset. The fact that Greinke was recognized with this award means that the BBWAA is finally recognizing that W-L% is not the be-all end-all of pitching greatness.

Greinke's 2009 stat line looked like this:

16-8 record, 26 quality starts, 229.1 IP, 2.16 ERA

For what it's worth, I think Greinke's story is MUCH more inspiring than Josh Hamilton's. Sure, Hamilton overcame his drug addiction to become a feared hitter in the big leagues and put on a show at the 2008 HR Derby, but who decided to take drugs in the first place? I don't mean to belittle Hamilton's struggles, I only want to shed some light on what Greinke went through to get where he is today.

Two years ago, the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner was planning to quit baseball and never look back. He was suffering from crippling depression and anxiety, and had put together a pretty bad season. He had electric stuff, but his makeup was literally crushing him. Luckily, he decided to stay in the game, allowing thousands of fans to watch him dominate this year, and most likely for the foreseeable future.

Luckily for the Red Sox, they only faced Greinke once this year, and it was a brutal night in Kansas City for the visitors. The game lasted just over two and a half hours, because Greinke was brilliant: he allowed just two hits in six innings (to Pedey and VMart), while keeping the game scoreless. For once, he got both the run support and bullben support he needed, as the Royals scored five runs off of Paul Byrd, and the bullpen game up just one.

I was torn before that game. I wanted the Red Sox to win, as I always do, but I was hoping it could come due to some unearned runs, or perhaps at the expense of the bullpen. After all, it was September 22, Sabathia had a chance to get to twenty wins, and I wanted to make sure that Greinke would get that Cy Young plaque.

These guys lost more than a few games for Zack... of course, the bats didn't help out much, either.

We lost the game, but it gave Zack another win (and we went to the playoffs anyway, albeit briefly) in his quest for the award. Royals fans haven't had much to celebrate lately (though the new stadium looks great), so I hope they're enjoying this victory as much as I am: the best pitcher won, and that's how it should be.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Budget: Four Letter Word?

I got this week's Sports Illustrated in the mail today, and it predictably had a feature on the Yankees. Normally I would skip it, but I know from experience that for the next few months there will be very little baseball in the news, and I'd best read it while I can.

I'm guessing mine was the only mailbox at school with this particular combination in it today...

It was pretty typical: extolling the virtues of each and every Yankees player and proclaiming them to be the best team. Is it true that the Bronx had the best team in MLB this year? Yes. But What the article glossed over was that this wasn't the team of destiny, it was simply the best team money could buy:

CC Sabathia: drafted by the Indians in 1998, and bought by New York (who, lest we forget, actually had to bid against themselves to convince him to sign) in December of 2008 for seven years and $161 million.

AJ Burnett: drafted by the Mets in 1995, and bought by the Yankees in 2008 for five years and $82.5 million.

Mark Teixeira: drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2001, and bought by New York in 2008 for eight years and $180 million.

Alex Rodriguez: drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1993, and bought by New York for 10+ years and $275 million.

Johnny Damon: drafted by Kansas City in 1992, and purchased by New York in 2006 for four years and $52 million.

Hideki Matsui: drafted by the Yomiuri Giants in 1993, and bought by the Yankees in 2002 for eight years and $73 million.

Many of their other players were signed as "amateur free agents" (Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, and Mariano Rivera, to name a few), meaning that the players often go to the highest bidder. In any type of free agency, the Yankees will get exactly what they want, because they'll go on spending sprees like last winter's, which brings me to the point of this post.

Tom Verducci's World Domination piece in this week's SI includes this infuriating snippet:

"There was one hitch. The Yankees, after doling out $423.5 million in free-agent contracts for Sabathia, Burnett, and first baseman Mark Teixeira, were not sure if they had any room left in the budget for Pettitte. 'It wasn't about Andy Pettitte,' the team's managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner says. 'We had a payroll in mind. I'm a financial guy, what can I say?'"

Uhm. WHAT? Correct me if I'm wrong, but Pettitte was asking for $10 million (he ended up with $5.5 million), which is less than 5% of the payroll... $10 million dollars is way out of the budget for many teams (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Baltimore...), but it is in no way too rich for New York's blood.

Honestly, I'm shocked that Steinbrenner even knew what a budget was, seeing as he was raised by the "See it, want it, buy it" George Steinbrenner, and is the most perfect example of a spoiled brat since Angelica Pickles. The fact that he wanted to cop out on Andy Pettitte - ANDY PETTITTE! - by pleading poverty is absolutely disgusting. Get a clue, Hal: if you don't want him, don't sign him, but don't insult every other franchise in baseball on the way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hot Stove Review: Hideki Matsui

Thanks to the suggestions of Twitter followers Schlik1, heybarto, and DaddySir4, Off the Monster is introducing a new offseason segment: the Hot Stove Review. Today, the Review will focus on the reigning World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui.

According to this article from the New York Times, Matsui will be able to play some outfield next year, if the surgery he underwent last winter is repeated successfully. However, this outfield time would be limited to "2 to 3 games a week," and that's where it gets interesting. Matsui is not a good defensive outfielder, mostly due to poor range, but Fenway doesn't exactly have an expansive left field to cover: if he could learn to play the wall, Matsui might very well be an acceptable fourth outfielder should Jason Bay opt to follow the money elsewhere.

The other thing that makes this intriguing is the recent deal for one Jeremy Hermida. Thus far, Hermida has been a disappointment, after all, he was projected to do great things. It's possible that a change of scene is just what the twenty-five-year-old Hermida needs, and a platoon with Matsui might bring out the best in him, all while providing an emergency backup for the DH position should Papi go through a 2009-esque slump (heaven forbid).

This is all speculation for now, but it wouldn't shock me if Theo went this route should Jason Bay sign elsewhere (I absolutely DON'T see him paying the kind of money Matt Holliday is asking). Obviously, Bay will be a priority until he signs a contract somewhere, but the negotiations have been strange, to say the least.

So, could Godzilla come to Boston? Maybe. Brian Cashman has already said that he would only sign Matsui as a DH exclusively, while Hideki himself has expressed a desire to play outfield, at least a little. Most likely, 2010 will see Matsui back in pinstripes, but anything's possible on the Hot Stove.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thank you, Jason Varitek

The above is a picture of my dorm room wall. Above my bed hangs a Jason Varitek poster, a Jason Varitek jersey, and three Red Sox hats. Of course, I have plenty of other Sox paraphernalia in the room (a locker, newspaper clippings, and wall hangings, to name a few), but it just seemed fitting that the Captain have a place of honor.

Jason Varitek has been with the Red Sox for thirteen seasons, and has accomplished many things along the way. Clearly, his skill set has eroded, so much so that Theo has publicly announced that he'll have to take a backup role for the first time since 1998, when he platooned with Scott Hatteburg (remember him?).

With all of Jason's struggles the last two years (exhaustively cataloged over at WEEI), I think certain Sox fans have lost sight of all the things he's done for us over the years. Do I want to see Varitek hitting in a crucial situation? Not unless the Tito, Heidi Watney, and the bat boy are all unavailable. But there's no one I respect more (except Tim Wakefield) for his service to the Boston Red Sox than Varitek.

People underestimate how hard being a catcher is on the body: it takes a tough toll on your knees and back especially, not to mention all of the inevitable bumps and bruises from misfired pitches and collisions at the plate.

Varitek has been a roster mainstay through "Cowboy Up!", the Idiots Era, and two World Series parades. He's seen countless pitchers come and go. He does his homework for each and every team, game, and player, and has game-calling skills lauded by the likes of Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling.

Then there are the intangibles: the effect he has on the clubhouse. Teammates rarely have a negative word to say about him:

Then, there's this:If you type "varitek" into the Google image search bar, its suggestions are "varitek arod fight," "varitek punches arod,"and "varitek and arod." As one of the least sympathetic characters in baseball history, A*Rod probably deserved the glove in his face, and there was no better course of action in the eyes of Red Sox Nation. Tek has been described as quiet, stoic, and even-keeled, but he's loyal when it matters, and fans should give him the same respect he's given us.

I don't see the Captain being a distraction on the bench; hopefully he takes responsibility for mentoring VMart. After this year, it's likely Tek will ride off into the metaphorical sunset, and though it might have been better if he saw the light and hung up his spikes early, it's time to show him our appreciation for his years of dedication.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Et tu, Scott?

When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I have two words for them:

Scott Boras.

Now, most people who would pose the above question have no idea who Boras is, so I have to explain it to them, and those who know him, loathe him. I understand the ire towards Boras, but you have to admit that he's damn good at his job.

Players hire Boras to get them the most lucrative contract possible, and he has a nearly foolproof strategy: shop the player around to as many teams as he can, drive the price sky-high, and then call Brian Cashman. As a fan of a team outside of the Bronx, watching this process year in and year out can be downright sickening, but it's undeniably effective.

The de facto owners of the Yankees, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner have raised greed and entitlement to an art form, and while dear old George was at least somewhat intimidating, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum just come off as whiny. Boras understands the dynamic in New York, and he exploits it for the financial benefit of his clients and himself. You have to respect his cold efficiency.

I would love to be a baseball agent as successful as Mr. Boras: he's good at his job, and he apologizes to no one. However, there's one thing about Boras I simply cannot stand, and it's his propensity for creating needless drama with the things he says to the media. For instance, this gem from yesterday:

"Well, after this season, I would say that the Boston Red Sox had a chance to sign Mark Teixeira before the New York Yankees did. Because we gave them an offer. That's the best I can do for owners, when you give them a chance to sign a player. The player was earnest in coming here at the time and he presented them with an offer and they could have accepted it."

Mr. Boras, I'd like to call shenanigans on that statement. Is there anyone else who thinks that the "offer" he's referring to probably was about sixteen figures and included John Henry's kidney and Theo Epstein's firstborn child?


Seriously. The Yankees were always going to get the last call, because that's Boras' game: if New York can use his client in any conceivable way, he looks to them last. There's nothing wrong with that from a business standpoint - it works. But don't go around patronizing Sox ownership and fans, Scott. We know how you do things; we've seen it a million times. And you know what? It's just as nauseating as it is effective.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And the Oscar Goes to... Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter is a good baseball player. He's a consistant bat, and he plays below average defense (just ask Bill James). He's also talented at getting consideration for completely undeserved awards. I DO have a grudging respect for the Yankees captain....

But this afternoon, Derek Jeter was awarded his fourth AL Gold Glove Award, which is absolutely ridiculous. Jeter's range is tiny, and he makes so many unnecessary pirouettes that the NYC Ballet gets dizzy just watching him.

So, without further ado, here's a list of things with a better range than Derek Jeter:

Zac Efron.

Jar Jar Binks.

This guy.

My Grandmother (okay, this isn't MY grandmother... but she is pretty badass).

Mickey Mouse.A Red Sox Mr. Potato Head

A banana.

10-year-old Jason Varitek.

And Elmo.

Oh, well. Congrats on the (hollow) Gold Glove, Jetes.

Stay Classy, New York

I would like to preface this post with a disclaimer: I know that not all New Yorkers are like this. Many Yankees fans are genuinely nice, normal human beings. It's unfortunate that they are associated with people like the idiots below.

I've generally avoided most literature about the Yankees parade, but I stumbled onto a piece about it this morning, and came upon the following quote:

"Also liked the coffin painted Phillies red, which also featured a baby Pedro."

WHAT?!? Now, the presence of an object like that should be mentioned, but to say that you liked it? I don't care what team you root for, or who you're rooting against, putting anyone's likeness in a coffin is disgusting... and the fact that it was a baby? On what planet is that okay? Now, you might say I'm biased because of my deep and unapologetic love for Pedro. I thought the same thing, so I asked my roommate, who is a Yankees fan from Manhattan, and she had the same reaction I did. I may hate Joba Chamberlain with a passion, but I would never wish him dead (I only wish for his career to implode and that he ends up as a mop-up guy with the Nationals - but all in good health).

This comes just a week or so after Pedro publicly admonished a Yankees fan father for yelling obscenities in the presence of his young daughter.

And now the crown jewel of Yankees fan ignorance. Proof that with entitlement and arrogance comes intolerance and homophobia. Are you ready for this?

Now, the guy in the foreground is scary enough, but the thing I want to focus on is in the background. Painting your face, while uncomfortable, is a staple of some fans' routines, and that's fine. However, when you paint homophobic phrases on your forehead to go along with your team's logo, that's absolutely crossing the line. The kid doesn't look like he's more than fourteen or fifteen, and his parents let him out of the house like that? I have to wonder, do they always allow him to use gay as a synonym for stupid, or is it only allowed for baseball teams? Do his mother and father have matching tattoos proclaiming the homosexuality of the Mets and the Red Sox?

Again, I know most Yankees fans aren't like this... but really? Show some class, New York.

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Ode to Tim Wakefield

I watched 50 First Dates for the first time this weekend, and was liking it a lot... Until I saw this:

Somehow, Adam Sandler grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, and is a huge Yankees fan, as evidenced by the dig at the Sox in the video above.

When I saw the video, I almost cried. Not because the Red Sox lost, because I know what happened the very next year (good thing I didn't see it in theaters!). No, I got choked up because of the look on Tim Wakefield's face. Somehow, I've managed to avoid seeing that look since it happened six years ago (though the clowns at Fox/ESPN try to show it every time the Sox play New York), and I was blindsided.

Tim Wakefield came to the Red Sox in 1995, just after the baseball strike, and right around the time I was learning that "S-O-X" spelled the baseball team and "S-O-C-K-S" spelled the article of clothing I was always losing. I do not remember a Red Sox team without Tim Wakefield, and I'm vaguely terrified that I'll one day have to face one.

Thankfully, that day won't be in the next two years, as the Red Sox have reportedly signed him to a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $5 million, with additional incentives. Of course, Wake had a $4 million recurring option, but this deal seems like a good fit for both sides. Tim has never really cared about the money; he's one of those really rare players that understands that $4 million is a hell of a lot of money, and doesn't see the need to bicker about it. His philosophy is refreshing, and so is his unapologetic loyalty to one team, especially in an era where greed is a virtue and spending an entire career with one organization is blasphemy (I'm ignoring the two years with Pittsburgh... they don't count).

Wakefield has given his heart and soul to the Boston Red Sox, getting out on the mound and sacrificing his body in the bleakest of situations (see above). Over the last fifteen seasons, Wake has racked up 388 starts (franchise record), 25 complete games, 175 wins (17 from the team record), 22 saves (yes, he was a closer - mostly in 1999), and 2711.1 innings, with an average of 203 innings per year. Tim Wakefield has done whatever the Sox have asked of him, starting, closing, middle relief, and emergency mop-up duty. He is the consummate professional whose only conceit - having a personal catcher - was due to Jason Varitek's inability to catch a knuckleball, not his own selfishness *cough*AJBurnettneedstogrowup*cough*.

Think of the last time you heard a bad word about Tim Wakefield's character or work ethic. Oh, you can't? That's because Wake is the ultimate clubhouse guy, and even if young pitchers can't emulate his mechanics, they can admire his hard work, drive, and stamina. The man is forty-three years old for god's sake, and still an important part of the Boston Red Sox. Sure, you can depend on some sort of late-season meltdown, but don't forget he won eleven games for the Sox last season, and he makes a quality start 53% of the time (MLB average is 48%).

I hope that Wake will be able to win 18 games in the next two years, and take the franchise record. I think he can do it, and I know he thinks so too, because he wouldn't be on the team if he didn't think he had something left to give. When the time comes, John Henry and company had better do the right thing by Wakefield: I want to see #49 up on that right field wall. Tim Wakefield will probably not be a Hall of Famer, but he should never have to buy himself a drink in New England again.

Wake may not have made it into the 2009 All Star Game (thanks, Mr. Maddon)... but he'll always be an All Star in my eyes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Marijuana: PED?

Yesterday, Giants pitching phenom Tim Lincecum was pulled over for speeding on a highway in Washington State, and arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

Let's be honest here: is anyone really surprised? More importantly, is anyone all that upset?

As Twitter user Kdawg1313 said "I'd be shocked if Lincecum was busted for steroids! Weed, not so much." I would be MUCH more upset if Lincecum was cheating with some sort of performance enhancer... As it is, I just wonder what sort of penalty he'll face from baseball.

Now, if it were up to me, he would have to answer to his state laws, and MLB would have to leave him be: he wasn't cheating, so in my opinion, this falls outside of their jurisdiction. If Joba Chamberlain can endanger his own life and the lives of others with DUI without sanction from MLB, Tim Lincecum deserves the same luxury.

Personally, I don't smoke (marijuana or otherwise). However, many people do... It's naive to believe with any sort of certainty that baseball doesn't have players who enjoy smoking recreationally; many of them enjoy tobacco in one or more of its forms, and I don't think marijuana is that different.

Now, I understand this is a legal issue, because regardless of public opinion about marijuana, the fact is that it is illegal in the United States (with certain exceptions in certain states)... But as a baseball fan, I take the same stance on this as I took with the Michael Phelps debacle: if he can smoke pot and still dominate all of his competition, more power to him.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wishes Are For Fairy Tales

To the Yankees winning the World Series, I have one thing to say: so what? They should have won... it took them disgraceful amounts of money, but they've finally bought #27.

Do I wish they had choked? Absolutely. But I also wish that I could marry Dustin Pedroia, among other things. The point is, wishes are for fairy tales, and in real life the "bad guy" wins a lot. Don't get me wrong, until I'm confronted with evidence to the contrary, I don't think the Yankees are villains on any real-world level: they're not raping and pillaging, as far as I know (though the centaur thing sure freaks me out).

It's just frustrating to me (and to many of you, I'm sure), to know that whatever the Yankees want, the Yankees will get. For instance, if you still think there was any way Boston could have signed Teixeira last season, you're crazy. Cashman was always getting the last call, and he always will from Boras (hate him if you must, but it's a great arrangement for him). As for players with any other agent (hello, CC Sabathia)? The Yankees can afford to pay anything, even bidding against themselves, to land the talent they want.

I'm calling awkward turtle on this whole picture.

Annoying? Yes. But that's the way the cookie crumbles. Life isn't fair, and neither is baseball - just ask CB Bucknor.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Remember When...

Remember when...
...Pedro was traded to Boston from Montreal in 1997? I'll be honest here: I don't (give me a break, I was seven). Did anyone guess then what an impact the diminutive pitcher would have on this franchise? This was one of the best deals of the Duquette era (along with DLowe and Tek for Heathcliff Slocumb; Manny Ramirez; and Timmy Wakefield), as Pedro enjoyed amazing success in Boston. (Nice tie, Duke.)

...the 1999 All Star Game was at Fenway. So much awesome, including Teddy Ballgame throwing out the first pitch, and Derek Jeter serving as Nomar's backup... Pedro started the night off in style, striking out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Sammy Sosa in the first, and mowing down Mark McGuire and Jeff Bagwell (on a strikeout/throwout DP) in the second. Martinez was awarded the AS-MVP Award for his efforts.

...later that year, Pedro took home his second Cy Young Award (first with Montreal in 1997), as well as the AL's Triple Crown. Martinez was also named The Sporting News AL Pitcher of the year. According to MLBNetwork, Pedro Martinez had the most dominating single-season pitching performance in MLB history that year, recording a 23-4 record, with a 2.07 ERA, and a league leading 313 strikeouts.

...#45 helped the 2004 Red Sox break an 86 year drought for the fans of New England. Pedro remembers, according to the Boston Globe:
"I'm pretty sure that every Boston fan out there can feel proud that I'm going to try and beat the Yankees and I'm going to give just the same effort I always did for them. They're special fans and they will always have my respect."
He really gets it:
"I know they don't like the Yankees to win, not even in Nintendo games."

Even though he doesn't fit the criteria for having his number retired (10+ years with the Sox, Hall of Famer, end career here), I expect to see 45 up on that right field wall when Pedro finally hangs up his spikes. He spent the most dominating years of his career here, and they were a joy to watch. He provided us with endless entertainment on and off the diamond ("Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him... Maybe I'll drill him in the ass.").

So here's to you, Pedro: once again, New England will hang on your every pitch... and you know what? It feels damned good.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Looking Ahead...

I've spent a lot of time lately looking back on previous seasons, and while nostalgia has its place, I think it's time to look ahead... I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to pitchers and catchers already (even as I root for the Phils in the Fall [Almost Winter?] Classic).

People are already talking about next year as a "rebuilding year," seeing as we have some aging pieces and a limited free agent market to work with. This fits with what we know of Theo: he would happily sacrifice a year now for a sustained run of success later. However, this is where Theo and his former mentor, Larry Lucchino, disagree... Lucchino wants the sellout streak to continue: he doesn't want to wait, but to have success NOW (sounds familiar, doesn't it *cough*Steinbrenner*cough).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, because the free agent class this year is positively anemic, and if Jason Bay wants the highest payday, he won't be playing in front of the Green Monster next season. If the aging players on the team (Lowell, Papi) can't produce, we're in big trouble. However, we do have the chips to land something big on the trade market, if Theo wants to pull the trigger... If you ask me, it won't happen, unless old friend (and new Padres GM) Jed Hoyer wants to talk Adrian Gonzalez.

That particular scenario is interesting, as Hoyer has extensive knowledge, not only of the Red Sox farm system, but what Theo thinks each prospect is worth. This could be detrimental to a possible trade, as the Sox try to sell high, but it could become one of those rare deals that works out well for both sides (Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, anyone?).

Anyway... Here's my guess (wish) at what the lineup might look like on Opening Day next year:

Ellsbury (CF) - A no-brainer... even if there's another unforeseen leadoff option, Ellsbury will be manning the outfield at Fenway next season. Hopefully he continues to build off a successful sophomore season (and works on his plate discipline).

Pedroia (2B) - If I was ever comfortable making a promise on the presence of a player, it's here. Pedroia is a great player and clubhouse presnece, and he's signed on short money for the foreseeable future. As an established star and fan-favorite, Theo would be a fool to trade him for anything short of Albert Pujols.

V-Mart (C) - Though it hasn't happened yet, the Sox will pick up Victor's 2010 option. Hopefully he works on throwing out baserunners, and makes the majority of starts behind the dish (please Varitek, swallow your prode and retire).

Youk (3B) - Youkilis is another player I feel will definitely be with the team next year: between his flexibility, consistently sparkling defense, and offensive numbers (he has a reasonable contract as well), Youk isn't going anywhere.

Adrian Gonzalez (1B) - This one is wishful thinking... But just what would it take to pry him out of San Diego? Casey Kelley? Daniel Bard? Clay Buchholz? Luis Exposito? Some combination, I'm sure...

Lowell/Ortiz (DH) - The Sox cannot trade David Ortiz unless he wants to go, as he is a 10/5 player... They would also have to eat a LOT of Lowell's contract to ship him somewhere, and he had the better numbers of the two. Hopefully, at least one of them will be able to produce.

[Bay/Reddick/Damon?] (LF) - Here's the mystery. The inimitable Chad Finn suspects that Bay will sign elsewhere, and he's usually pretty shrewd in his assumptions (he was the only major writer that predicted Teixeira to New York). People are throwing around Damon as a possibility, as his contract in New York is up, and if all else fails, I wouldn't be shocked to see Theo toss Reddick out there, though in my humble opinion he needs a little more seasoning in the minors.

Drew (RF) - For all the abuse JD gets, he's relatively consistent (and he was even mostly healthy this year!). Drew can carry a lineup when he gets hot, and has pitch recognition second to none (he's just quieter than about it than Youk). It IS strange that he's our team's highest paid player, though, at $14 million.

Alex Gonzalez (SS) - If the Sox can't find an upgrade, I could live with another year of Alex's defense (he just makes shortstop look so PRETTY), and if he swings the bat nearly as well as he did down the stretch, it's worth it.

That's what I think... Do you agree with me? Think Theo will pull together a blockbuster? Some thing like Buchholz, Ellsbury, and Casey Kelley for Prince Fielder? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why I Hate Brett Favre

I had to drive to Newton today to accept an award on behalf of my mother, who passed away in August, and decided I would use the rare proximity to Boston to check out the (no longer new) radio station WBZ-FM 98.5 ("The Sports Hub"). Unfortunately for me, they were talking about football... and not even New England football, which I at least have a passing interest in, but Brett Freaking Favre.

The hosts didn't understand why there was such a "deep, passionate, all-consuming hatred" for Favre in New England; they rationalized why Green Bay fans might hold a grudge, but simply couldn't comprehend why those in the Boston market had such loathing for him.

Oh please, let me enlighten you:

As you all know, I'm not a football fan really: on a scale of 1 to 10, the Bruins and Celtics ranked at 6 and 7, respectively, the Patriots come in at about 2 (for reference the Sox are about a 10,272,004). Even though I really don't care about football, I hate Brett Favre.

If you want to retire, that's great: good for you, heck of a career; if you want to keep playing, go ahead: put your aging body at risk, I don't care. But whatever you do, do NOT clog up SportsCenter during baseball season with your mindless dithering. This just in, Brett, NO ONE CARES. In the summer, before work, I just want to catch up with how the west coast BASEBALL teams did the night before. I have a limited window of time in which to do this, and yet you insist on talking about yourself endlessly. July is one of my favorite times of year: hockey and basketball are over, and football hasn't started, so SportsCenter is all baseball (with the occasional mention of golf and tennis) - the Top 10 Plays, the standings analysis, and the commentary (this often results in an overdose of Derek Jeter, but at least it's baseball).

Celtics/Lakers, Indians/Red Sox, Derek Jeter, Steelers, D-Backs/Rays... What? How exactly does Jeter fit between Indians/Sox and Steelers?

But no, it has to be all about BRETT. He needs to have at least one press conference a week so that he can talk about how he might retire, but probably not, but he doesn't know who will sign him, but his old body can still play... blah, blah, blah. I just want my baseball! I can take the over-exposure of Favre during the football season; it's grating, but understandable. For the love of god, Brett, play or don't, but shut up!

Shut up, Favre, and I might like you... Probably not, but maybe.

Did that answer your question, 98.5?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vote for Pedro! (Part 2)

This morning, Boston.com ran a story titled "Martinez comes up short for Phillies in Game 2." Ummm, excuse me, but Pedro did not come up short: #45 turned in a quality start, and the bats were silenced by the enigmatic (and expensive) A.J. Burnett.

Of course, the fans were their usual classy selves, but Pedro expected nothing less, having made his share of starts in (the Old) Yankee Stadium:

"It's a new Yankee Stadium, but the fans remain the fans," Martinez said. "I remember one guy sitting right in the front row with his daughter in one arm and a cup of beer in the other hand and saying all kinds of nasty stuff. I just told him, 'Your daughter is right beside you. It's a little girl. It's a shame you're saying all these things.' I'm a father myself. How can you be so dumb to do those kind of things in front of your child? What kind of example are you setting?"

What kind of example, indeed? And speaking of examples, where was Charlie Manuel in 2003, when Grady Little showed him how NOT to manage Pedro in the playoffs? Pedro will tell you that he's fine. This is a lie. His effectiveness drops off around 100 pitches. ARE YOU LISTENING NOW, MANUEL?!?! End rant.

As I headed off to class this morning, I expected Y-FAB to have some cutting remark about Pedro, and I was not disappointed. As soon I walked into the lecture hall, it started:

(Y-FAB): Last night was sort of like when Pedro played for Boston, huh? When he said "I'll just tip my cap and call the Yankees my daddy."

(Me): And what happened after that? Oh, right: he won a World Series.

: What was that, like nine years ago?

: It was five, actually, and how many World Series has Jeter won in that time? How many has A*Rod won, in general?

: *dirty look* And you guys won how many in the last hundred years?

At this point, I sighed internally, ready to dive into battle once again.
However, it turned out that I had an unexpected ally:

(Phillies fan boy): Seriously? It's so ridiculous when you guys try to bring up the past like that. It doesn't matter if you won the Series in 1953. Who cares?

: Well, we're about to win another one... And we'll kick Pedro's ass while we're at it.

: You just keep telling yourself that. With that payroll, you should win; and if you don't? It's a failure.

It continued on in this vein for a while: PFB and I tried to reason with Y-FAB, but, like many Yankees fans, he refused to admit his defeat (though it was obvious). When it comes to the audacity of Yankees fans, Pedro said it best:

"I know they really want to root for me. It's just that I don't play for the Yankees, that's all. I've always been a good competitor, and they love that. They love the fact that I compete. I'm a New Yorker, as well. If I was on the Yankees, I'd probably be like a king over here."

Too true. Now, we've all been guilty of rooting for the laundry to an extent, but when a player like Pedro leaves town, the majority of fans want him to continue to do well, so long as it's not within the AL East, and thus to the detriment of the Sox (hello, Johnny Damon). Again, I want to apologize to those Yankees fans who aren't shaped in the mold of Y-FAB: I know some of you are normal, rational human beings, and I feel badly that Y-FAB and his ilk reflect poorly on you. However, the point still stands: Pedro would be a GOD in New York if he'd ever worn pinstripes (and thank goodness it never happened). Even if you don't like him (*cough*KarimGarcia*cough*), he's earned the respect of baseball fans the world over.

Here's hoping he's on the mound when the Phils clinch it... the man deserves some more postseason glory.

[All quotes in this post are from boston.com... I can only dream to have this sort of access someday.]