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?