Monday, October 31, 2011

Defining Moments

I'm well underway, not on the homework I should be working on, but on compiling some notes to formulate some "best of" posts.  For example, I know exactly how long (three years minus a week) that we were graced with the presence of a gentleman from the Bronx, found one of the two contrarian comments posted by my girlfriend from the comfort of her work-study job, and many other classics that we are all going to enjoy.

What I have also been able to enjoy over the past five baseball seasons is not really being able to miss too much Red Sox baseball due to my responsibility to How Youz Doin Baseball, which is really our creating and something we should probably have pride in for the rest of our lives.  In these five seasons, I have isolated one (maybe a few more for the '07 season) defining moment, each of which I will post below, say something about, and link to a How Youz Doin Baseball classic post.

2007:  Game 1, World Series, Dustin Pedroia leads off with home run against Jeff Francis.  After coming from behind against Cleveland in the ALCS, Pedroia hits the home run, sets a tone of "screw you guys" for the entire series, and blows out a team that had a hand that was arguably hotter than the Cardinals' hand this year.  Pedroia is simultaneously running the bases and running his mouth, screaming at Francis.  He apparently got stopped by a security guard at Coors Field before Game 3 and told the security guard to "ask Jeff f***ing Francis who I am."  The team, even JD Drew and Julio Lugo, fed off of Pedroia's energy after Francona had the balls to keep him in the lineup while slumping early.

Pedroia also inspired this classic from my co-author after he was talking in the papers about how terrible Daniel Cabrera was at pitching.  This was after getting drilled by Cabrera.

2008:  Game 5, ALCS, Coco Crisp singlehandedly salvages Red Sox season.  As someone who fought tooth and nail defending Coco Crisp between December 31, 2006 and the present, Crisp's ballsy game in Game 5, most notably his 10-pitch at-bat that really defines how different the current Red Sox are from even the 2008 team where he fouled pitches off and got an RBI single, was the most inspirational moment of my time as one of HYD's co-authors.  Better than the 2007 World Series.  Perhaps the third-best Red Sox moment of my life behind the 2004 World Series win and the Dave Roberts steal.  Pat's post regarding this moment literally brought tears to my eyes, both at the time and today while I tracked it down. 

Please give it a re-read:  "You Can Thank Coco."

2009:  Game 3, ALDS, Papelbon blows save, loses game.  This was defining in many ways:  Papelbon had a season that was bad but insanely lucky.  He was walking guys, putting guys on, surrendering hits, surrendering doubles, surrending home runs, almost constantly, but people who just looked at the numbers said "NUH UH HE IS INTSNSE ON TEH MOUND!!1"  Speaking of misleading stats, this was also the year JD Drew had the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders.  Luck caught up to Papelbon in this game, and it was a relief for everyone.  The Red Sox, who spent the entire season whining about one thing or another, no longer had to play baseball and could have either hunting time or tee time all winter.  But once the season was over, we didn't have to see any more tears.

It was foreshadowing of this year, to be honest.  And it was also the least-likable Red Sox team ever until Adrian Gonzalez iced it with his Ken Rosenthal shenanigans.

2010:  August 28, Boston at Tampa.  Boston's up 1-0 behind Clay Buchholz, who was about two months removed from pinch running in a game because the Red Sox were so shorthanded (but JD Drew still asked out of this game).  It's the bottom of the seventh and Matt Garza's pitching for Tampa - a guy Boston for some reason could never hit.  After Buchholz threw a one-out pickoff attempt into the dugout, sending Carlos Pena to third, Matt Joyce hit a foul fly ball to right field.  The logical move would be for the right fielder to let the ball drop, especially as Joyce was hitting .230 and Buchholz was having a career year and a great game (surrendering three hits). 

JD Drew, for the first time in several months and actually for the last time in his lackluster career, made an effort at a baseball move and made a circus catch in right field.  Pena tagged up and scored.  Dan Johnson later hit a home run, similar to a 2008 incident and, of course, a 2011 incident.  According to Drew "instinct took over" after he was thinking "let it drop, let it drop."  A dumb, dumb baseball play, and really the de facto end of the team's contention that year.

2011:  September 27, Tampa at Boston.  In the bottom of the fifth, the Red Sox are down 4-2, and 46, who may be the fastest guy in the American League, had just stolen second base.  There are two outs and Pedroia is at the plate against Jeff Niemann.  Stealing third base provides absolutely zero value, but 46 went for it anyway so he could pad his fantasy stats and write another page in his free agent binder.  The MVP candidate was undoubtedly one of the players Francona cited when saying some players failed to focus on team goals, instead prioritizing individual goals, and this play was inexplicable any other way.  Of course, the team ended up collapsing, inspiring one of the most explosive runs of commentary on this site.

What are your defining moments of the HYD era?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This Was a Good World Series

Like many of the other great World Series in history, Game 7 was a bit anticlimactic, but it was quite a series.  Obviously it captivated the fans in the growing Texas market and the historically-strong St. Louis market, but I think by the end of it, it won over the casual fans and the fans of other teams with a fleeting interest in the rest of the league (sadly, this includes both Pat and I nowadays).

It had pretty much everything you could ask for:  Two games with excellent pitching performances on both sides, a game where a transcendent hitter took the game over, a game where a reasonably-unknown (but as we found out later, very quirky) pitcher took the game over, a tactical bullpen battle (that happened to feature an Adrian Beltre one-knee home run), and then the absolute classic that was Game 6.  There were the two Pujolses, the downfall of past bullpen ace Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, meh-performances by CJ Wilson when he had a chance to go Cliff Lee on the field, David Freese, Nelson Cruz's offense, Nelson Cruz's defense, and friggin Mike Napoli.  Sac flies won a game; a caught-stealing at third base lost a game.  Amazing.

Throughout September, St. Louis was the team that just would not die.  True, Atlanta basically gave them the NL Wild Card much like Boston gave Tampa the AL Wild Card.  But then they beat the overwhelming favorite in five games in the NLDS and beat the favored Brewers (who went all-in this year, admirably) in the NLCS.  Many of the games in these series were captivating as well.  But the way St. Louis lost Game 5 (with Napoli striking again), I thought it was going to be all over.  But once again, they didn't die.

Within Game 6, there were several additional instances when it was time for the Cardinals to die.  But they came back each time.  In this game, they were down 7-4 after seven, still 7-5 after eight, and 9-7 in the tenth.  Think about this:

In Game 6, the Texas Rangers came back from a deficit after the seventh inning as many times as the Boston Red Sox (2-61 when trailing after 7) did all season.  This may be misleading and not exactly true, but you know what I mean, especially if you had followed the Dead Sox all season.  You have to give a huge "good for them" to St. Louis, winning in such a fashion.  There were a few big moments, including a couple of defensive mishaps (is Texas killing Cruz right now?  I can't imagine they would be, as he took them as far as he did).  And there was the walkoff. 

It had everything.  While it was somewhat unfortunate to see the Red Sox gone so quickly (not completely, because that team was so detestable), it was a nice way to wrap up the last season of How Youz Doin Baseball's tenure.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Go Rangers

I'll be rooting for the Rangers in Game 7, and not just because I picked them to win in 7.

It's always great to see an organization that has never won it win it. They also seem to be a group which plays with energy and aggressively, and I like that. They also happen to be extremely talented, getting to the World Series two years in a row now. And they did it this year despite most predicting they'd take a step back after losing Cliff Lee. This is something they definitely earned.

Putting this in the bigger picture, you also have to wonder if Texas is on the cutting edge of a new era in baseball operations. Most importantly, they have completely flown in the face of the notion that you should develop young pitching in a certain cautious way. They are not reckless, but they are pushing them. And they are having success with it.

Further, I don't know enough to say definitively one way or another, but at the very least it seems like they are not over-reliant on statistical evaluation. Both this and the approach to pitching just discussed are fairly stark departures from recent popular theory, and it will be interesting to see, with their recent success, if the Texas way of doing things catches on the way Oakland's did about 10 years ago.

These are all things that I like a lot about this Rangers club. I also typically root American League once the Yankees are out. Not that I have anything against the Cardinals, because I certainly don't. The comeback they made to make the postseason as the Wild Card, and now to march all the way to the World Series, is very impressive. I'm also a big Lance Berkman fan. And more than anything, I'm rooting for a great Game 7 to cap off what has been a really entertaining World Series. I'd just like to see the Rangers win it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thoughts on Cherington Moving In

First things first: Good thing the Red Sox aren't in the World Series:  If tonight and tomorrow night were both rained out in Boston, stupid stuff like major league baseball would get in the way of Spooky World at Fenway!  My GPA in college was a gillion.

Although I'm the chief negativity-monger here on How Youz Doin Baseball and I have been for nearly five years, there is little negative I can take out of the arrival of Ben Cherington.  This guy is gonna be good.  Despite the fact that he went to Amherst College (one strike) and, like me, was an English major (two strikes), he seems to be a guy who realize that baseball games happen on a field and not on a computer screen - something that, especially in later years, seemed to elude the grasp of John, Tom, Larry, and even Theo. 

This is something that you could actually glean from listening to this guy speak to the media both Tuesday and Wednesday.  He seemed to think that the Red Sox were on the wrong tracks in the last couple of years and were listening to numbers and "objective" analysis (otherwise known as Carmine the Computer) instead of actually looking at what happens on the baseball field.  Given the fact that everyone has already recognized the last real inefficiency in baseball (OBP and OPS) upon the popularity of moneyball, and given the overwhelming fact that Moneyball II (fielding metrics) were a loud, 2011-level, failure, doing all of your baseball operations in Microsoft Excel is not the best way to go.  As Bandi said years ago and as Pat noticed more recently, numbers should be only a guide.

And Cherington is the right guy to take us away from the Strat-O-Matic machine and back in between the lines.  He's been doing scouting with his eyes since 1999 and might actually realize that an RBI very well might be valuable in a situation (such as a Bill Mueller RBI single in 2004, a Coco Crisp RBI single in 2008, or a pair of sacrifice flies in the World Series in 2011), even if racking up RBIs on the aggregate might not be a great way to evaluate a player.  He might realize that 9 guys who are dogging it constantly might need to be shaken up a little bit.  This is stuff that Theo at least paid a little attention to in the early years before seemingly abandoning it for 100% Carmine analysis in the later years (not surprisingly, I draw December 6, 2006 as the turning point).

He's scouted.  He's directed farms.  He's been on a baseball field, and has been in front of a baseball field for more than he's been in front of a spreadsheet.  He also seems receptive to keep looking for insight from the stat geeks - a pleasant balance that is really what baseball should be heading back toward.

Plus, he seems to be a fan of accountability instead of accounting.  A fan of "multifactorial" instead of factorials.  I'm looking forward to the Ben Cherington era.  Maybe, just maybe, we're on our way back to selling jeans.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts On Theo Moving On

Let me just start by saying that by no means am I trying to say that Theo Epstein's job with the Boston Red Sox was easy. It wasn't. Like Brian Cashman, his job is very difficult. The notion that they have it easy because they have a lot of money to spend is ridiculous. While it makes things easier for them than for other GM's, there are resultant ways it is more difficult. Namely expectations. Yes, they have more money with which to achieve success. But the definition of what is success is greatly heightened over what it is for almost every other GM in the game. Further, you sometimes hear the criticism that it would be interesting to see a GM that has had success building a team more cheaply from within be given an opportunity to operate with more money. Well, it might be interesting, but I'm not sure it would be a whole lot more beyond that. And that's because once you have more money, it's more difficult to build from within because you have less First Round draft picks and less time to be patient because you're expected to win now. Being the GM of the Yankees or Red Sox is not as basic or simplistic as some want to make it seem. There are always tradeoffs.

With that all said, we also shouldn't act like there aren't a lot of other GMs that, if given more resources, couldn't do a really good job. Let's get one thing straight: Theo Epstein is a good GM. He's just finished overseeing the best collective decade the Red Sox have had as an organization in nearly a century. Not a high bar to clear, but he's done a good job. But is he really any better than 10-15 or more other executives in the game?

I'm not sure that he is. As good a job as he did from 2003-2007, his teams won the AL East zero times the last four years and missed the playoffs altogether the last two. The playoffs are a crapshoot so it's difficult to criticize 2008-2009 too much (though the 2009 team was flawed), but there is very little getting around the last two seasons. We can talk about injuries and underperformances all we want, and there was no doubt some of that at play. But two years in a row? With that payroll? I don't think so. There's a greater systematic issue at play.

And a big thing to note is that those teams were talented (2011 more than 2010). He assembled talent. But, clearly, they were lacking in other areas. Talent isn't everything, and Epstein did not do a good job of assembling a complete roster that had all of the elements of a winner. Oddly enough, this is exactly what he did early in his tenure with the Sox, and a big part of what made them so successful.

It's also worth noting that, after the Pedro/Schilling 2004 team, Epstein really didn't do a great job of putting together a starting pitching staff. He had some good years (2007), but on the whole the Red Sox have not had great starting pitching relative to their resources. Lester has been fantastic, and even better was developed from withing. Beyond him, have there been any decided victories since 2007? I could be missing someone, but I don't think that their have been.

I couldn't agree with Epstein more when he says he thinks it's best for both him and the organization for him to move on. He's very good at what he does, and he'll probably do a great job in Chicago with a change of scenery and removing himself from all of the drama in Boston. Even though he helped create that drama and this mess. (That's a separate conversation, whether or not he's running away from what he created. While I do think there's some merit to that, I also think Epstein is sincere in that now is a better time for a clean break - for both parties - than next year. They just had a very disappointing season, are hiring a new manager, and need to make some changes. I'm sure DV will tackle this at some point.)

But I also think Boston will do well with a new face and some new ideas in the General Manager's position. I don't think Theo's irreplaceable. Not at all. I'm sure Ben Cherington is very good at what he does, and he'll probably do a great job in Boston. Just like a lot of the other talented baseball minds in the game would. Theo did a great job early with his Moneyball approach, and I don't think every GM would have had the success that he did those first few years. At that time he really might have been unique in his ability. But ever since Moneyball has become mainstream, he's become more very good than elite. One of the Top 15 instead of one of the Top 5, just to throw numbers out there. Something like that.

Theo did a great job in Boston overall. And Red Sox fans should be thankful to him for that. But they also shouldn't be overly upset about his leaving. It's best for Theo, and it will be just fine for the organization.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Five Years, Five Years, Five Years

Additionally, it's a five letter word:  S-T-R-I-K-E.

Time for the obligatory MLB on Fox post for this season.  This is a somewhat-unique situation:  This is the second straight year we have not had either the Red Sox or Yankees in the World Series, and this is allowing me (and probably Pat) to watch these games a little differently.  I've been able to take the Red Sox bias out of evaluating this Fox coverage and zoom out a little bit.  I have a few quick things to say about it as this series continues to be a really entertaining one.  I'm also so happy that Beltre just crushed one from one knee.

1.  Buck and McCarver are inherently in a really difficult position.  Unlike regular season games on Fox (when they give a half-assed effort toward it) and unlike local coverage of games (where it's not necessary to do at all), these guys in the playoffs have to appeal to the masses:  Casual fans and baseball people alike.  It's not an easy thing to do.  McCarver basically has to break down what a bunt or what a hit-and-run is into the most simplistic terms.  I've tried to notice this especially in the last two games, and I think it's been pretty darn good.  Buck and McCarver still stink to high heavens in general, but with this task, they're doing reasonably well.

2.  Fox listens to negative commentary - at least to an extent.  I famously sent a nasty email to a general Fox Sports email address in April 2004, and ever since the minute I sent it, that email address has been constantly spammed.  Thanks, Rupert.  However, the ultra-hokey stuff that used to plague Fox broadcasts (such as the RIGHT NOW!!1 graphic and Scooter the Talking Baseball) and appeal to the idiot to the extent that it alienates the person just trying to watch the baseball game, are either reduced or gone completely.  They have not over-used the strike zone graphic, and TBS as well has eliminated the nine-foot base-stealing crap.  People aren't adding cartoon thing after cartoon thing after cartoon thing.  Buck and McCarver themselves crap this thing up well enough themselves, and good for these guys for not adding more garbage to the broadcast.

3.  These guys suck a lot more when they're doing Red Sox and Yankees games.  This is intuitive, as they both know a lot more about the high-exposure baseball teams.  To the best of my knowledge, neither Buck nor McCarver were calling non-Fox Cardinals games, so they don't seem to know that much about the Cardinals this year.  That's refreshing.  The teams these guys know more about (in the early 2000s it was New York, in the later 2000s it was Boston) are the teams they favor.  They told way too many Derek Jeter, Arod, and Tim Wakefield stories while completely ignoring the other team.  In this series, they are unable to do such a thing.

4.  McCarver was too old to think about ten years ago, and whenever Buck gets excited (rarely), he just sounds like the jerk who dropped the infamous Randy Moss "disgusting act" line.  Joe Posnanski wrote his version of this post either last night or this morning, and he suggested that his readers (not to be confused with "Neither Will Your Readers") give their ideal play-by-play and color team for a World Series.  Vin Scully's solo act was the overwhelming consensus.  Via the SoreGloveHand Twitter account, I actually said something serious:  I would have gone with Scully and Steve Lyons.  They were an unbelievable fictional team in the movie For Love of the Game, and their combination actually added quite a bit to the movie in my wacky opinion.  I'd love to see them together, as they'd make the World Series as classy and dramatic as the movie was.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Pujols Contract Post

First of all, I spent way too long coming up for a title for this post, and they were all a little bit too racy for our standards.  However, I think it's been a testament to Albert Pujols's body of work that it's rare (if ever) that people make PG-13-rated jokes about his last name.  Okay, on the real substance.  This kind of stuff is what I live for.

Obviously, Saturday it looked like Pujols was interested in doing in one night what Carlos Beltran did in three weeks by blowing up big time on the very eve of free agency.  That's why this post is necessary.  I want to start a discussion on one, of not three, of these topics, because this guy is really going to make this offseason interesting.  I want to talk about the potential suitors, I want to talk about whether he's going to actually get top-dollar, and I want to explore whether it is possible for the Pujols contract to not be a "bad" contract.

First, let's talk about the serious suitors for this guy.  The teams with the deepest pockets are presumably out of the running, although I would never completely take the Yankees out.  You gotta think Posada's gone, Montero will catch, and Arod, Jeter, and Teixeira can all still play better than replacement-level defense.  But the serious ones will most likely be the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Nats (who have been pretty willing to throw some cash around to show they mean business), and Angels. 

I don't buy the Angels because they have some front-office turmoil going on - is Scioscia running everything? - and because getting this guy would really just be appeasement after striking out on Teixeira and Crawford in the last few years.  I consider the Giants and Nats to be similar to each other:  Money to spend, money has been spent previously on what looks like bad-to-awful contracts, and some young guys who could use a little less spotlight as they develop.  Depends on who has the balls to assume what might inevitably be a bad contract.  The Cubs are interesting because they have Pena's contract expiring (good move by Hendry on the one-year deal) and a new GM who is so smart that he can find a diamond in the rough by looking at the top of all the leaderboards.  In all seriousness, if he isn't in the running, both Theo and Tom Ricketts lose credibility immediately, which is potentially dangerous. 

I pick him to stay with the Cardinals, because instead of spending $17-27 million more annually than they're already spending at the position, they're only giving the first-base position an $11 million raise if they're paying Pujols $27 million.  They're also somewhat desperate because since the unfortunate departure of JD Drew (sarcasm), he's been the main reason they've been so successful.  Just my thoughts.

Besides, I'm not entirely positive that Pujols is going to get a contract between $27 million and $30 million or beyond.  The only teams that have a heck of a lot to lose (i.e. urgency/desperation) would be Chicago and St. Louis.  And I'm not really convinced that either of them will be willing to jack up the price that high.  They'll jack it up high enough to most likely knock the other teams out, but are we really talking about Arod money without the Yankees in the bidding for a guy who's 31 years old (in Dominican years, whatever that means) and already has over a decade of service in the major leagues?  We might be talking about a tired body sooner rather than later.  And if we're talking about Prince Fielder as a consolation prize for whoever loses on Pujols, are we really in the business of guaranteeing that six or seven years from now, Pujols will be a better player than Fielder?  We're talking about only two desperate teams, neither of which have Jacques Cousteau pockets, an older player, and a not-too-distant alternative.  My point: the big guy might not get THAT much money.

This gets us into my next point:  Whatever contract Pujols might get, what are the chances it expires and the team signing it says, "wow, that was awesome!"  Unlikely.  Look at the Arod and Teixeira contracts:  People are already looking at those as bad contracts.  Carl Crawford is likely a bad contract.  The vast majority of long-term contracts (one of which Pujols will undoubtedly get from someone) end up as bad contracts, because it's a lot of money for a guy who might not even hold a starting lineup position if he didn't have the dollars attached to his name.  Obviously the market will dictate whether he'll end up with a "bad" contract, and a lot of that will fall upon the factors in the previous paragraph.  But at the same time, I think it's probably inevitable that he'll end up with a "bad" contract because for the most desperate teams, namely the Cubs and Cardinals, are desperate enough to basically pay Pujols $25, $25, $25, $25, $25 $25 million while he provides value of $40, $40, $40, $10, $10, $10.  I suppose if that's the case, maybe 6/$150 isn't bad after all.  I'm just glad I'm not of those GMs who will have to draw the line between good and bad.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Organized Crapshoot

You want some evidence that the MLB Playoffs are something of a crapshoot, that getting hot at the right time is just as important as talent? Here it is.

2008 Phillies: Cole Hamels (won World Series)

2009 Phillies: Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee (lost in World Series)

2010 Phillies: Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt (lost in NLCS)

2011 Phillies: Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee (lost in NLDS)

Each year they progressively added one more top-flight starter (arguably the most important piece in playoff baseball) and each year they progressively lost one round earlier in the Playoffs. Maybe they sign CC this winter and miss the playoffs in 2012?

Obviously it doesn't work that way as the baseball regular season typically reflects how good a team is. But that exaggeration goes to the point. It's incredible that this team hasn't done more with that rotation. There are certainly other factors at play - there offense the last two years is not what it was in '08 and '09 - but a lot of it has to do not with the offense, the rotation, or the bullpen but the crapshoot nature of the playoffs.

After all, we can say whatever we want about their offense declining, but they've won the most games in baseball the last two years. They've actually won more games (a lot more) as their American League offense has gone back to being a very good National League offense but their starting pitching has gotten substantially better. And as they've won more regular season games than the previous year for each of the last four years, they've done decreasingly worse in the playoffs. That's just how baseball is.

Even look at Texas this year. They lose arguably the best postseason pitcher in the game right now in Cliff Lee and they are right back where they were last year.

Anyway, just thought the Phillies stuff was pretty interesting. I'm amazed by it, that rotation just seems built to make things happen in October. When you look at it on paper at the beginning of the year you wonder how that team is going to lose in the playoffs. I don't want to attribute it all to, or just call it, a crapshoot. So we'll call in an organized crapshoot. Talent and the character of both the players on the team and the team as a whole matter, but there is definitely a randomness of getting hot at the right time at play in the baseball playoffs.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The GM: Excited about the World Series

I think I've ripped the entire Red Sox organization apart, top to bottom, to the extent that was warranted by September, 2011.  I feel better about the whole thing and I'm ready to move on to my best-of topics, my last-word topics, and moving on to the next chapter of my life.  However, unlike Alex Rodriguez (who did it) and 46 (who endorsed doing it), I'm not going to disrespect the World Series.  In fact, I am looking forward to baseball being on my television for at least another week - as it should be.  In fact, here are ten quick hits I'm looking forward to seeing develop.

1.  CJ Wilson:  He's not Cliff Lee.  But he's going to have a Cliff Lee-style free agent job audition.  Chances are the Yankees will end up with this guy, but if his audition ends up as awesome as Lee's was, we'll all be lucky to watch it on the biggest stage.

2.  Referendum on Don'tbeapussyball.  Led by a downtrodden AL West team and an up-and-coming young GM in the AL East, philosophies in baseball are changing.  Not Moneyball.  But the practice of not babying starting pitchers.  We should call it Don'tbeapussyball, because it encourages (with good results so far!) pitchers to not be pussies. 

3.  Texas as a Dynasty:  It may have been Sports Illustrated, but it may not have.  But some people are thinking Texas is not some two-year fluke; that it's a team that will be around the top of the American League for a while.  Letting Cliff Lee go last year (though his less-money offer acceptance may not prove to be the best example) may indicate that they're not willing to secure their better players in the long run, and though they aren't the Brewers (their core will be around for a while), it will be difficult for this team to be a permanent fixture in the postseason.  Even moreso if Don'tbeapussyball is unsuccessful, which we might have to wait years to determine.

4.  La Russa and Dave Duncan:  Genius?  I can't believe this team has made it this far.  Without Wainwright.  Then again, the "Chris Carpenter Is Not That Good" theme has reached the "recurring joke" level between me and Pat.  Duncan obviously did something right, and La Russa did something right with the rest of these guys.  Nick Punto?  Rafael Furcal?  These guys would be bench players on Boston or New York.  I hope Jason can provide more insight than I'm qualified to provide, but good for them.

5.  JD Drew 2.0.  Colby Rasmus must have really sucked.  More than one article from that city called him the second coming of JD Drew, a guy whose legacy in St. Louis was as a selfish, aloof dog.  Don't think he had any third-party hitting instructors like Rasmus, who was called out by his manager and by Pujols during his time there.  The Cardinals went 45-33 after trading Rasmus after going 44-39 before the trade.  They must have HATED him there.

6.  Is St. Louis the "hot hand?"  They snuck into the closing door of the NL Wild Card after the Braves pretty much gave it to them.  Then they beat the odds-on favorite and the team in now-mode.  Maybe Billy Beane is right about the postseason:  Maybe it is about the team that gets hot at the right time.

7.  Pujols.  Cardinals fans are getting their money's worth.  But is Pujols going to stay there (I think so).  Or will Theo Epstein make his first order of business in Chicago outbidding the field by 20% for the player (after all, the Yankees and Sox are out of the running for a 1B)?  I mean, he is a genius and a boy wonder for looking up at the top of the leaderboard and signing someone.  Perhaps the most intriguing question is:  Is there a way to prevent the upcoming Pujols contract from being a "bad contract?"

8.  Good for Baseball?  No East Coast teams, no West Coast teams.  I guess the numbers will eventually tell us whether people actually like to see the Red Sox and Yankees.  But is having this matchup here good for baseball?  I'd say it is.

9.  Chemistry versus spending.  These are the teams ranked 11th (Cardinals) and 13th (Rangers) in payroll spending this year.  This is further evidence that putting together a fantasy team, while it certainly helps you win 83 games from April through August, is not the only way to win big.  Both teams (and you can say the same about the other two of the Final Four) have a fair share of stars surrounded by a lot of role players.  I mean, David Murphy is in the World Series and JD Drew isn't.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Another Comparison

DV asked me if I was my post tonight was going to be about the fact that there happens to be a World Series about to get started. Not happening. I'm certainly going to follow the Series, but I'm not all that interested in it. I will give a prediction though: Rangers in 7. If anyone wants to discuss the World Series in the comments at any point by all means.

DV's comparison yesterday of 2004 and 2011 Yankees got me thinking of a comparison of my own: The Yankees progression from 1996-2001 to 2002-2008 and the Red Sox progression from 2003-2008 and 2009-2011 (and counting).

Prior to their "winning" periods, both teams had gone through what could be described as funk periods. Obviously that is a relative term, as the Yankees' was a more acute two decade thing, and the Sox was a longer more generalized thing. They snapped out of it with teams that had a near idealistic balance of veteran star-power and blue-collar diamonds in the rough. Winning made those teams famous. The personalities those teams took on made them among the most well-liked teams in their organizations histories.

After winning initially, the teams continued to operate the same way. And they continued to win. But these teams were winning in a new era of financial opportunity in baseball. That lead to increased revenue on an incredible scale for these two organizations in particular, and that lead to increased spending on players. Which, it is worth pointing out, is a great thing. Both teams have had their hits and misses, and both teams' fan bases want to complain a lot about the misses. But it is important to remember that every team in baseball would rather have ownership and management swinging and hitting sometimes and missing others than not swinging at all, and would switch places with the Yankees and Red Sox in that regard.

Spend these teams did, and that brings us to the "decline" periods. Again, these teams' thought processes were in the right place. Win, make more money as a result, reinvest it in the team, win even more, and make even more money. Rinse, wash, repeat. But what these decline periods might be showing us is that it's not purely about bringing in the most talent possible. The Yankees had a lot of talent from 2002-2008, as do the Sox from 2009-present. But maybe with all of the wealth there are too many guys who have "made it" and not enough guys who are "hungry to make it". Maybe the dreaded word complacency gets brought into the equation, especially considering the ruts a long baseball season can send a player or team into.

Now, in no way am I suggesting that talent isn't the most important thing. It is. But maybe it's just not the only thing. Maybe you do need that human-element balance. Maybe you need scrappers and clubhouse guys who are going to keep things lively and help bring the most out of the stars on an everyday basis. Maybe you need the stars showing the scrappers how they prepare and approach the game and raise their level of play. We could go on forever with examples like this. These are how championship teams interact with each other and have always interacted with each other. And maybe it's particularly magnified and increasingly important with teams that have a high payroll and a lot of highly priced players. Just like you don't want a team of all scrappers (because there isn't enough talent), maybe you also don't want a team of all high-price free agents because (despite their immense talent) there might be just a little bit too much of a tendency to get complacent.

We don't really have many other teams to look at in this analysis besides the Yankees and Red Sox. The Phillies have accomplished the winning, but they haven't taken free agent spending to the extent the Yankees and Red Sox have. The Mets would actually be a better example. They don't have the winning, but a part of that is because of the way they've spent and the way they've failed to build a complete team dedicated to winning.

The Yankees were able to survive their decline period better than the Red Sox because they had a unique leadership and talent core of Jeter, Rivera, Williams, Pettitte, and Posada. The Yankees didn't hit the low the Sox are in missing the playoffs two years in a row. But they hit their own rut, and when they did - after 2008 - they really changed the model that got them into trouble. They replaced some of their high-priced free-agency with still-talented spunk and personality. That has played a big role in their return to the form they've been in from 2009-present. I know an immediate response to that will be that they also brought in Sabathia, Teixeira, and Burnett, and that had something to do with it. But the Yankees have always brought it big free agents, and nobody is suggesting they stop doing that. What we are talking about here is the quality of player brought in (both in terms of talent and character) and the team that is built around them to create balance. We've seen the Yankees go through that process. We will see how the Sox proceed from here and if they are able to continue to mirror the Yankees the way they have throughout the other parts of this comparison.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Man Needs a Flashback

Note:  Among controversy that the Red Sox' pitchers were drinking beer during games, I think it's necessary to remember that seven years ago tonight, the team filled a Gatorade cup of Jack Daniels while down 3 games to nothing to the Yankees.  I need a flashback, and while Pat and the Tank might not, many of you might.  "Don't Let Us Win Tonight."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011: In a game between the Red Sox and a hapless San Diego team, it was rainy and there were more than just a few rain delays.

Francona:   It looked kind of thick and the field got sloppy, so they stopped it, started it and stopped it. I don't know what else they can do. They kept trying to put that Turface [quick dry] on there, but finally it got to a point where it was getting out of control.

Ortiz:  There was a lot of water on the field. I'm not out there fielding, but walking to the on-deck circle, it felt like I was swimming.

Varitek:  "It definitely was wet, and it was obvious that [he lost] some feel."

Youkilis:  "Not a big interleague fan."

Saturday, July 24, 2004:  It rained all night on Friday, and the Red Sox were 9.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East.

MSNBC:  "The game, which started after a 54-minute delay, almost was postponed. The grounds crew wanted to call it off but Boston players argued for it to go on despite wet grounds."

Millar:  "The Red Sox wanted to play today."

2011:  Red Sox 2-61 after training after 7.

July 24, 2004:  Down 3-0, 9-4, and 10-8 heading into the 9th, the Red Sox won against Rivera that game, with Bill Mueller hitting a walkoff against Rivera. 

2011:  Jason Varitek (wearing the C), probably a sourpuss about playing time, removes himself from all leadership responsibility, according to the Bob Hohler and subsequent Mike Giardi articles last week.

July 24, 2004:  Jason Varitek (not wearing any extra letters) stands up for his teammate Bronson Arroyo by punching Arod.  Granted, he had his mask on like a total coward, but not nearly as much of a coward and fake leader as he is now.

Winter 2010-2011:  Despite his season-long pouting about his contract, franchise legend David Ortiz (who sat out games with a sore neck suffered on a plane ride) remained on the team.  In fact, in the winter, Theo Epstein had such lack of balls to pick up his generous $12m option year.

July 31, 2004:  Due partially to his season-long pouting about his contract and unwillingness to play with dubious injuries, Theo Epstein trades franchise legend Nomar Garciaparra for two .246 hitters, showing that he had huge balls.

2011:  Tim Wakefield believes the fans deserve to see him get 192 wins as a Red Sox.

2004:  Tim Wakefield was okay with coming out of the bullpen.

2011:  In a pivotal moment for the entire season, a Red Sox fast centerfielder gets caught stealing to end the inning and a rally against Jeff Niemann in a situation that would put him from scoring position (second base) to still scoring position (third base), providing very little value to the team's chances of scoring that run.

2004:  In a pivotal moment for the entire season, a Red Sox fast centerfielder steals a base in a situation that puts him from not-scoring position (first base) to scoring position (second base), so he could be scored with a single, thereby providing immense value to the team's chances of scoring that run.

2011:  Fat starting pitcher injures ankle with season on the line putting on warmup jersey.  Pitcher sits out a week and a half, gets even fatter, while the team continues to tank.

2004:  Fat starting pitcher injures ankle with season on the line fielding bunt.  Pitcher sits out a few days, has experimental surgery done on his ankle so he could pitch in the next series.

2011:  Sweet Caroline in the eighth inning regardless of the score.

2003 (close enough):  Rally Karaoke Guy late in close games.

2011:  Beer and chicken in fractured groups instead of watching or giving a crap about teammates.

2004:  Jack Daniels and winning as a team.

A Man Needs a Muse

Obviously there's a lot to say about John Henry and the Sox this Monday morning, especially after he gave an impromptu 70-minute radio interview on Friday afternoon.  The title of the post is a jab from this Boston Magazine article about when he married a girl 30 years his junior (after all, personal lives aren't off-limits anymore).  There's a lot I can say about Red Sox ownership and how they are a huge problem.  However, I'm going to try to stay on topic and point to where they came in to partially cause the September collapse.  I'd love to talk Lebron again, but it's only marginally relevant.

The problem with these guys is their priorities.  It's actually similar to big-time corporate America.  I know I have two loyal readers who work for an American division of a European company.  Huge company, and due to the size of the company and the lack of central, somewhat local management, their operations at my readers' facility is rife with inefficiency and incompetence.  And my friends (they'll say it themselves), JD out A LOT.  They're not alone.  But upper-level management at their company is clearly not committed to a well-run machine, because their interests are overseas.  If ownership can't commit to a well-run, efficient machine fueled by hard work, it's hard for the regular old employees (even if they have doctorates) to commit to that cause.

For another example, if an ownership group buys a team and turns the entire stadium into their own frat house, committing not to improving the stadium, not to winning, and not to running the organization efficiently - BUT instead naming trust-fund friends to managerial positions and getting wasted in the luxury boxes - you cannot expect to have a healthy workplace.  I've worked for a team like that, and I've also worked for a team that had ownership committed to healthy, efficient operations and had proper management in place.  It was like night and day.

The ownership group's commitment to winning was dubious at best.  Lucchino, Henry, and Werner can say "nuh-uh" all they want, but if that questionable commitment and emphasis on ONLY the bottom line is going all the way down to the players - after all, the players complained about the Hurricane Irene doubleheader because they thought ownership was valuing the gate instead of winning - there's a problem.  Even if these guys do care about winning (They don't, because if they did, they would have stayed away from Lebron. Another example of lack of focus.), they need to make sure that every employee knows that.  If not, you're creating a toxic workplace that fosters the attitude of "if they don't care, we don't care."  Same goes for the corporate America example and the red-wine-in-luxury-suite example.

Larry Lucchino is also a problem.  Even if John Henry stays (he won a lot of points with me on Friday, by the way), Lucchino should probably be fired.  Having a guy represent one of your business interests when he's interested in settling beefs with people six years later (the Theo/Cubs negotiations are hung up because Lucchino wants to get back at Theo) - or interested in retaliating at Francona from deviating from the script - or really doing of the slimy things he's done the past decade or beyond - makes you look like a dick, as well.  Of course, so does the "neither will your readers" article.

When the Red Sox went down in flames, Carl Crawford most likely didn't feel bad for too many people.  Probably didn't care about how Varitek's career of fake leadership ended this way, and he probably also didn't feel sorry for John Henry as his team had an early series of tee times.  Because other than the fact that he had to interrupt Yacht Week, the Red Sox losing has no immediate effects of JWH being "up 20 percent," which was clearly what Henry's interest was.  When Henry's baseball team finished in third place last year, he had a word-for-word interview in the Globe where he bitched about baseball's luxury tax and boasted that in the rough economy, he was up 20% thanks to mathematical equations.  This interview was conducted in his private jet.

Meddling only when he feels like it is also just plain dumb.  There was absolutely no reason for him to say he didn't want Carl Crawford, other than disproving the "Red Sox are a TV Show" theory.  This disprovement is negated by the fact that later on, revealing his true colors, he said he wanted an "entertaining, winning" baseball team - in that semantic order.  How about this - he should stick to his MacBook and make sure Lucchino doesn't hack anyone up on their way out the door.

Finally, buying the team $300 headphones and taking them on a yacht vacation on a Sunday night to make good for the doubleheader is also wrong on many levels.  It's appeasement and pandering to a bunch of whining children instead of telling them to get their stuff together and start winning again.  It's like feedling dog human food from the table:  They'll stay at the table and whine for the next ten years because they see that it works.  It's not because they're "loyal," it's because they're hungry.  He's empowering them to continue to bitch.  It's perpetuating the country club culture.  Even if the new manager rattles the cages of these animals, if they're getting gifts and boat rides every time they have to do their jobs, it's not going to get any better.

If there is another "Second Base Cup" competition next year, fueled by Tom Werner's interest in creating an entertaining TV show, I am absolutely going to flip.  Werner's the one who said that a World Series was as good as a really successful TV show like Roseanne or the Cosby Show.  Obviously, profits are a byproduct of having an "entertaining, winning" team. 

"Winning, entertaining" probably would have been a better way to put it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Messing with Lucchino

CSN Chicago, via Pete Abraham (emphasis mine):  "Larry Lucchino is one of the most unreasonable people I have ever dealt with and because of his frayed relationship with Theo Epstein he is looking to make a point at the expense of Theo's happiness and his desire to go to Chicago. I didn't believe that ownership group for one second when they said that they wouldn't stand in Theo's way if he wanted out of Boston. They are furious that he wants out and they are trying to make a point."


"When they found Epstein the meat truck he was frozen so stiff it took them two days to thaw him out for the autopsy."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Terry Francona Exit

Watching the Francona exit unfold last week, I couldn't help but draw some parrallels to the end of Joe Torre's tenure with the Yankees.

I felt sorry to see Francona go the same way I was sorry to see Torre go in 2007. Two tremendous baseball men who carried themselves with a lot of class and dignity - and most importantly did a lot of winning - in media markets where they are under the microscope 24/7. They both deserved better send-offs. That aside, I think the Francona move, like the Torre move four years ago, is the right move for the Red Sox. Both Francona and Torre were/are good, not great, tactical managers on the field. But where their real genius existed was an ability to always put their players before themselves, protect them from the media limelight, and navigate through all the drama that managing in New York/Boston brings over the course of a long season successfully.

The only issue with that kind of manager, for better or worse, is that it runs its course. It doesn't mean they aren't good managers anymore. It just means they aren't as effective with a particular group. Francona himself admitted he didn't feel he was reaching the players the way he used to, and I imagine Torre might have said a similar thing back in 2007. I guess players get tired of hearing the same thing from the same guy 162 times a year, no matter how good that guy is or how right what he's saying is.

All that said, I was happy to see Francona go out somewhat on his own terms, at least publicly. And at the end of the day, getting compared to Torre, arguably one of the greatest managers of all-time and a first-ballot Hall of Famer, isn't so bad. When the dust settles and emotions dry up from this year's collapse Francona will always be able to fall back on the fact that he brought two World Series to Boston. I suspect he too will be getting Hall of Fame consideration when it's all said and done, if for no other reason than those World Series.

The really unfortunate part about this has been the shots taken at Francona on his way out. We are talking about the most successful Boston manager in nearly a century. Even if issues did develop towards the end of his time at the helm - and Francona wasn't perfect, he certainly played a role in the decline of this team the last 3 seasons - that doesn't erase the totality of his accomplishments in Boston. He deserves a lot better than the things that have been said about him - things that are only coming out now after he's left - the last few days.

One last point on a related but somewhat different note. It's pretty clear at this point the Red Sox have some issues. These things happen in pro sports and teams fix them. One thing that relates here though is that the Sox lack effective player leadership. Guys that were presumed to have some clout - namely Pedroia - obviously do not. And it's not necessarily that a guy like him doesn't want to lead. I'm sure he does. You have to have guys who want to be lead. But the flip side of that is that you want to have a leader that can bring people together, including those who don't are easy to lead. You might not be able to connect with the other 24 guys, but you have to have most of the clubhouse. This does not appear to be the case in Boston, seemed like there were a lot of different groups doing their own thing.

And if you look at it, it makes some sense why leadership is an issue. The Captain is really not a Major League player anymore. He doesn't seem to be a key piece of the clubhouse any longer.

Pedroia is the obvious candidate as the team's best combination of talent and personality. It's not fair to compare him to Jeter, one of the better leaders of this generation, but I'm going to anyway. Pedroia has a lot of those qualities, but he's just not Jeter. Jeter is more Big Man On Campus swagger, Pedroia is more scrapper. It's almost elementary to say but the former is going to have an easier time getting people's attention when he speaks, while the latter might have a tough time being taken seriously. Related, it probably doesn't help that a guy like that is playing Cribbage with the manager every single day. There's nothing wrong with it, but eventually someone who doesn't have the same relationship/appreciation with/for Tito that Pedroia does is going to resent Pedroia for it. Teams don't like perceived favorites.

Youkilis should play the Posada role of enforcer, but it appears he takes it too far. Like Pedroia, if you're too intense all the time you are going to get tuned out. Posada was able to toe that line as an intense guy between the lines who wasn't flipping out at umpires, other players on the other team, other players on his team, and the media all the time.

Finally, and not remotely least importantly, the Sox do not have a Rivera. A guy that when The Big Man On Campus or enforcer are struggling is simultaneously so ridiculously good and such a class act that he commands everybody's respect. This really isn't a fair comparison because these types of guys don't come around very often, but it's worth pointing out nonetheless.

This leadership situation didn't do Francona any favors.

Anyway, congrats to Francona on a truly great run with the Boston Red Sox.

Truly Disgusting

Table of contents: 1) Francona’s personal life, 2) Irene and Yacht Week, 3) The Media Blowup, 4) Carl Crawford off the hook.

Look, I worked in baseball for three years, and I’ll be honest with you: I have a lot of secrets about baseball players’ personal lives. This includes details from past and present members of the Boston Red Sox. I also have the business cell phone number of a member of the Red Sox’ front office, someone who has been discussed on this blog before. I also have a blog, and when I started this blog, I had none of the information I am currently referring to. Like Eric Ortiz, I also had access to my blog in the wee hours of the morning on January 1, 2011. Nevermind, that’s irrelevant. I never spilled any of these beans.

Whoever in the Red Sox’ upper management, most likely John Henry, Larry Lucchino, or Tom Werner, decided to do his best to smear Terry Francona through this morning’s Bob Hohler Boston Globe article. The revelations that he was having marital problems, living in a Brookline hotel, and popped a couple of pills were a low blow. The fact that the implication of the article was that he had a substance abuse problem (something that was dismissed in March by a team medical specialist, not that those guys have much credibility in the first place) is especially bad.

It marks the latest in a string of smear campaigns against any popular figure who left Boston, and this one really crossed a lot of lines that it shouldn’t have crossed. It also seems that one of the three mentioned above dictated this one to the Boston Globe, similar to the way Lucchino and Dr. Charles Steinberg dictated the infamous “dirty laundry” article to Shaughnessy in 2005. The Globe, who employs Hohler and Shaughnessy, is owned by the NY Times Company, who still owns a portion of the Red Sox team.

The Hohler article talked about a lot of things, which you can get by reading it or getting any slew of recaps from any Boston media outlet (WEEI.com did the best, in my opinion). But the one that got everyone talking was the stuff about Francona’s marriage and pills. It says more about the “anonymous sources” than it does about Terry Francona, and my sentiment is aligned with most of the sentiment on talk radio today.

It sounds like retaliation for the off-script comment from Francona about ownership not having his back, and if it is from Lucchino, Henry, and friends it’s not surprising. It’s becoming more and more obvious these people are vengeful, proud, and generally bad-spirited people who care about nobody else. In other words, they’re a lot like the players they hired. They’re children who are determined to get the last laugh and determined to escape blame no matter what. We can only hope that the public backlash against the clear puppetmasters behind this article can come across worse than Francona does, because this part of the article says a lot more about them than it does about Francona. People get divorced, and the pills were not a problem. Nevermind Lebron James, this might be the end of me with this organization until it’s sold. More on this later.

Regarding Hurricane Irene and Yacht Week, this part’s easier to write. It’s a one-day personification of what the 2011 Red Sox were on the field and off. Crying about rain, crying about scheduling, crying about Sunday Night Baseball, crying about interleague play. This time they were crying about the idea of playing baseball twice on a Saturday because Hurricane Irene was coming on a Sunday. Many players visibly protested, as they allegedly accused ownership of caring more about the gate than winning. A fair gripe. Turns out, the doubleheader was played in the rain on Saturday. To appease this group of children, John Henry bought them all headphones and then took them on a players-only party on the yacht. And they still cried about it for the rest of the season! Pat described this as dealing with a group of teenage girls. Check!

Another thing that melted down on Wednesday was the Boston media. Much of it was killing ownership for a lot of this stuff. They tried to enumerate who looked bad in the wake of this, and it’s pretty much everyone. You’ve got a clique of pitchers eating some fried chicken and drinking beer during games. The “Captain” showed his leadership by continuing to do the personal catching stuff. But then around 3:00 PM, they started cannibalizing each other. Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti, who share the best radio show in Boston, said if in ownership’s eyes it’s okay to start talking about personal stuff, it might be time to talk about John Henry’s two divorces or Jason Varitek’s divorce and the role of a certain NESN reporter in there. They even dropped Heidi Watney’s name, and she was apparently listening and standing by the Twitter machine. She started chirping about Felger’s lack of professionalism. In response, Joe Haggerty of Comcast SportsNet New England said that Heidi wrote the book on journalistic integrity. If she has all this journalistic integrity (nevermind sleeping with Varitek, which she never denied), what was she reporting on when the clubhouse was going down in flames. They’re starting to kill each other, which I’ve never seen before. Considering there are some intertwined alliances between the two competing TV networks and the two competing radio stations, it’s going to be rowdy.

The whole Varitek/Watney/leadership stuff all came from a rumor (confirmed by Watney) that Carl Crawford’s “Talk to the Captain” remarks were said not to Gordon Edes, but to her. If that was a reference to their fling in 2008-2009, which it sounds like, Carl Crawford is off of my “fired” list. How are you supposed to exist in a place where you used to be a leader (he once pinned Pat Burrell against a wall when he was acting like a prick; Burrell was traded the next week), but now you’re surrounded by fake leaders like Varitek, ineffective leaders like Pedroia sitting in the manager’s office playing cribbage with his boy, and guys who don’t care at all. He called a team meeting to call them out in September; it was not effective.  It's nice to know that someone was panicking.  I very well may buy a Crawford t-shirt and then be done buying Red Sox stuff, including tickets, for a long time:  The players suck, the manager and GM are gone, and ownership is a group of scumbags that have no lines of decency.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

They Freakin Whacked Him

A "Red Sox source" goes into Terry Francona's personal life with a Boston Globe reporter.

It was revenge for saying ownership's support...and a lot of other things.

First a fun fact:  HYD has been getting a lot of search engine traffic lately, not for the quality of my unprecedented depth of rants, but because HYD's post "Terry Francona, Fat Little Girlfriend" is third on Google when you search for "Terry Francona Girlfriend."  Welcome to all of you coming for the first time, but I'm sorry, you will not find what you think you're going to find here.  No pics unless they're created poorly in Microsoft Paint.

Guys, here are some FNOs.  I know many personal details about Red Sox players, past and present, that I have heard from sources.  I strike them from the record, because there used to be an unwritten rule in baseball where you don't go into that kind of stuff.  Despite my blog, where I have the power to post a lot of these things if I wanted to, I have more respect for the human beings who happen to play baseball than to do that. 

John Schuerholz did this with I think Tom Glavine back around six years ago, and I KILLED him for it in a previous writing incarnation.  It's becoming harder and harder to actually write my post on how much the ownership triumvirate sucks because I have so much ammunition.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Like Justice

As part of the infamous "I thought you were gonna ask me about JD Drew having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders" interview, Theo Epstein said he wasn't necessarily tired of defending Drew, but said "I like justice."  (Follow along to roughly 6:05 of the interview.)  I also like justice.  Therefore, Theo needs to move on.

As much as I like to postulate, and as much as I read and have read over the HYD Baseball era and before, I cannot pretend to know the infrastructure of the Boston Red Sox' front office.  But I am under the impression that stuff like Spooky World at Fenway (scheduled for the day after the World Series conclusion, God forbid there's a rainy day), Schooled (my GPA was a gillion!), the Bridal Festival (September 25th, last weekend of baseball season), and the overaggressive sales of personalized concourse bricks (what is this, a high school athletic department?) are not Theo's fault and are not Theo's business.  Those things are heinous, but due to space constraints, they might not even make it to Friday's full-blown assault on Henry, Werner, and Lucchino. 

I am, however, under the impression that anything that has anything to do with baseball is Theo's responsibility.  This includes the medical staff (which should have been canned after the 2010 season), the strength and conditioning coaches (the twelve-ounce PBR curl does not count as exercise), the training staff, major league scouting (including Carl Crawford's private investigators), minor league scouting, amateur scouting, and coaching.  I do know for a fact that the organization occasionally emphasizes certain aspects of the game (when I worked in there in 2008, baserunning was emphasized), so I can also attribute overall organizational attitude to Theo, and this includes the attitude of "never get too up, never get too down," "build a team that will work in October," "RBIs don't matter," and anything to do with Carmine the Computer.

Theo is on the hook for the following.  I'm going big to small to big:
1.  Overall Dbaggery.  Sure, not the most eloquent way to put it, but the most accurate.  I've gone over this before, but I cannot imagine the Red Sox have a very good reputation across baseball.  The botched negotiations with several free agents, including Teixeira, Damon, and going way back Kevin Millar made the organization look bad, as did the gentlemen's agreements surrounding Bronson Arroyo not being traded and Junichi Tazawa bypassing Japanese baseball.  The Crawford private I's.  The treatment of Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Damon, Jason Bay, Victor Martinez (2 years, $20 million is EMBARRASSING) and others.  His own childish departure/temper tantrum in 2005.  And, most recently, the awful handling of the Terry Francona (deserved) firing.  This guy's inability to handle anything tactfully have made the Red Sox look downright foolish.  This is beyond 2010.  And this is something that must fall on the general manager.

2.  Minor League Development:  A torpedo:  Clay Buchholz and 46 were brought up in 2007.  Since then, the Red Sox farm system has developed Daniel Bard.  You can give them modest credit for Masterson, Murphy (would have been useful in right field this year!), and the Reddick/Kalish cocktail, and I guess you can give them credit for the stocks of Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly, because they brought God's Will to Boston.  Otherwise, the Red Sox' prized prospects have been Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront, Brandon Moss, Yamaico Navarro, Tazawa, and Jed Williams.  Ew.  What happened?  Re-emphasis of high school prospects?  Maybe Moneyball was right on the less-cinematic aspects of the A's operation.

3.  Big-name major-league acquisitions:  Stuff like Renteria is under the bridge.  But Drew, Beckett, Lackey, Crawford, Matsuzaka, the FPT Bobby Jenks, and God's Will were all deciding factors in the collapse of the Best Team Ever.  I don't know what this team does with major league scouting, either guys from their own team (how about keeping Victor Martinez) or guys from around baseball with perfectly accurate, quantifiable stats?  It did not really require an astrophysics degree to realize that Bobby Jenks was on a downward trend, Drew has underperformed his entire career, and Beckett couldn't last an entire season.  It does not require a rocket scientist to throw a lot of money at Adrian Gonzalez.  It does not require cleverness and tact to BLOW OUT the field on free agents.  He's struck out spectacularly more than he's connected, and it really came back to bite him with the Best Team Ever.

4.  Sabermetric insanity:  When HYD started, I loved sabermetrics.  I have sworn off of them because they have gone in the wrong direction and have glorified minutia.  Defensive metrics, in my opinion, are crap, and the 2010 Mariners proved that.  The devaluation of the RBI like it's Brazilian currency is a disconnection from understanding the game of baseball.  JD Drew proved that.  Theo Epstein picked and chose when to use sabermetrics (Carl Crawford's not exactly a Moneyball player, nor is Julio Lugo), and to ignore other things about a baseball player's game.  Youkilis began a sabermetric player, then decided that it was his responsibility to knock players in.  So he stopped walking and started hitting.  If your philosophies are getting outsmarted by Kevin Youkilis, you're doing something wrong.  Saying that JD Drew after 2009 was worth "a tick above" $14 million a year is downright insulting.  Carmine the Computer should have a date with Peter Gibbons, Michael Bolton, and Samir Nayeenanaja in an open, grassy field.

5.  Marathon:  I fully appreciate the idea of now years versus rebuilding years.  I actually didn't even have a problem with the "retooling" 2006 year and "bridge" 2010 year.  But the entire organizational philosophy from the baseball operations standpoint is one of patience, playing for October, getting ready for October, and never getting too panicked if you lose a couple (or ten of twelve) in April, lose a couple more (against Pittsburgh and San Diego) in June, and lose a couple (or twenty of twenty-seven) in September.  If you do not have any bit of urgency, which Theo used to have (hence many ill-advised panic moves like Renteria and even my boy Coco Crisp) but no longer has, that attitude bleeds down.  Thanks to Theo's acquisition and Theo's organizational philosophy, this team turned into twenty-five JD Drews, never really caring about anything because if you aggregate everything, a walk is more valuable than a sacrifice fly.  Guess what?  If you don't have any sense of urgency in April through September, maybe there won't be an October.  Maybe the Yankees, who play hard the entire time instead of resting for October, can rest their starters and throw ten minor league pitchers on the last game of the season.  News flash:  The Red Sox could have done that if their overall philosophy wasn't one of six months of coasting.

5a.  Injuries.  It's Theo's business model ("we tell our players in the minor leagues, you need to be honest with us," around 7:00 into the interview linked above), it's okay to speak up if you're a little bit injured for the best interest of the team being in October.  It's better to sit out than aggravate your injury.  So if you have a stiff neck from sitting on the plane or getting benched against David Price, if you have an impinged shoulder from realizing you're hitting .219, if you have a sore finger and sore neck from your minor league rehab, if you have a sore ankle from taking off your warmup clothes, or if you have sore ribs as a result of not getting an MRI on your back, you can sit out as many games as possible, because it's not a sprint, it's a marathon.  Good philosophy.

6.  Second Base Cup.  This ties in very closely to the previous point.  The team's preparation was apparently not up to Theo Epstein's standards, as he admitted thirteen days ago.  Well, he saw it through the entire way.  In spring training, were they working on their fitness or were they working on their chip shot?  Were they eating correctly or were they having a Heineken after a round of eighteen after practice?  Were they working on fundamentals or were they competing in a closest-to-the-pin competition on NESN?  It's good that I have a real job:  If I didn't, I might still be on tilt enough by February that I might take a trip down to Fort Myers, sneak into the clubhouse, and snap every single five-iron I see.  The entire "season's a vacation until October" philosophy affected the way they prepared on the field.  And the guy in charge of baseball operations, who has seen this go on for years now, should have put an end to it.
7.  Accountability!  Wow, this seems to be a problem everywhere!  Remember when How Youz Doin wrote a post called "Theo Patrick Epstein?"  JD Drew sucking was not true!  Theo didn't have to take blame for it!  It's because JD Drew was a hideous embarrassment for his entire time here, it's because fans were too stupid to appreciate this stiff!  The team sucked in 2006?  Wasn't because you split and let the organization blow up the previous offseason!  It's because Jason Varitek got hurt!  The team sucked again in 2010?  Blame it on the injuries!  Unbelievable!  When the ship was sinking in September, wow, isn't this special?  Peter Gammons, Theo apologist and Theo close friend, announced on NESN that there was a "disconnect" between the GM and the manager.  In other words, "Hey, this collapse is on Tito, not on me."  What a wimp.  I appreciate fully the balls it took to trade Nomar on that Saturday afternoon, July 31, 2004.  But you lost them.  Like the players, who had the balls to convince the umpires to play on a wet field the day Arod and Varitek fought (one week before the trade) and the team came back with a Bill Mueller home run, you changed.  You had balls then, and so did your players.  Now your players blame the rain and how hard it is to grip a baseball, and you hide behind Peter Gammons to stab your manager in the back.  If that's not the 2011 Red Sox, I don't know what is.

8.  Organizational Arrogance:  True, Theo helped bring a championship to Boston by trading Nomar for two .246 hitters (Cabrera and Mientkiewicz).  He thinks he's smarter than you are (and this will be addressed further later on when I crush the ownership triumvirate).  You can be really smart, have all the sabermetrics and Heat Charts and Carmine the Computers at your disposal, and tell people in such a smug, arrogant, condescending way like saying "I thought you were gonna ask me about JD Drew having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders" how much smarter you are then they are.  But when a year like 2011 happens and you look like a complete jerk, you deserve to be under a little more scrutiny.

You like justice, Theo Epstein.  Now it's time to serve it.  The Red Sox shouldn't get compensation from the Cubs when you split (and hopefully bring Carmine with you).  You should be fired.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ian Patrick Success

DV technically started his "wind down" posts to this site two weeks ago when the Sox season ended, but really all of his posts since then and for the foreseeable future have been and will be about the end to the Red Sox season. As they should be, the biggest September collapse in baseball history is a big topic, and this particular story has a lot of moving pieces that only seems to get more complicated as more is learned. What I'm going to kick off here are actual wind down posts. Topics that have been prevalent on this site over the last nearly 5 years that deserve to be revisited one final time.

When this site started Ian Patrick Kennedy had not yet pitched a full season of professional baseball. Drafted by the Yankees in the First Round the year before in 2006, he became more widely known during this site's first year in 2007. Largely overshadowed by Phil Hughes and then Joba Chamberlain, he blew through three levels of the minor leagues in roughly 5 months before debuting for the Yankees on September 1, 2007. He made 3 starts that year, pitching 19 innings and living up to the billing early with a 1.89 ERA. Had he not injured his back, he likely would have made the 2007 playoff roster.

That injury was a little bit of foreshadowing, as injuries, ineffectiveness, and a much discussed attitude that was out of touch with reality contributed to the rest of his Yankees career being downhill from that 2007 September. He made 11 appearances (9 starts) over 40.2 innings the next two seasons - all but one of which came in 2008 as he lost most of 2009 to a serious health issue - pitching to a 7.97 ERA.

Since that lone inning in relief on September 23, 2009, it has been all positive for Kennedy. He went to the Diamondbacks as part of the Curtis Granderson trade, and followed a rock solid season (9-10, 3.80 ERA) in his first full-season as a starter with a totally bananas breakout campaign this year (21-4, 2.88 ERA) that will likely net him a Top 5 Cy Young finish. At 26 years old (which DV might tell you is younger than Ellsbury), things are certainly looking very much up for Kennedy, despite the winding road the last 5 years to get there, a winding road that most people experience.

It's just that with the Yankees, that winding road is always magnified and the leash is short. Not that the Yankees wouldn't have been patient with Kennedy the way they have been with say, Hughes, just that they were willing to deal him in the right deal. Getting the best center fielder in the American League is certainly the right deal. No doubt, Kennedy's time with the Yankees was rocky. But it seems a lot rockier than it was because of his ill-advised comments after that one bad start in Anaheim. In terms of on-field opportunity, Kennedy made 3 starts in 2007 and 9 in 2008. He didn't earn more than that with his performance or attitude, and injuries held him back as well. But that's not much of a chance.

He's gotten a chance in Arizona, and has done nothing but perform. He's made 32 and 33 starts in his last two seasons - which are also his first two full seasons - and he's gone a combined 30-14 with a 3.31 ERA in 416 innings at age 25 and 26. Now, the analysis of least resistance is "National League" pitcher. But as we know, most every pitcher gets a bump in the NL and takes a hit in the AL. We have a lot of years worth of data of pitchers changing leagues, and the average is about 1 run on the ERA in either direction. It's not like Kennedy is on the fringes here. He won 21 games, had a 2.88 ERA, and became the ace of a staff on a team that wasn't expected to do much this year and won their division. There is plenty of room for him to regress in an American League environment and be an extremely valuable pitcher based on how he pitched this year. He was lights out.

I still don't condone his attitude or his self-analysis in 2008. But I also understand that was over 3 years ago and he was a 23 year old kid that didn't say the right thing at the right time. He messed up. I'm not going to try to phsycho-analyze him at the time because I don't know enough to do so. But if I had to guess you have a kid who wasn't used to failure - College Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore at USC, First-Round Draft Pick, Minor League Pitcher of the Year his first full year in the minors were his three years prior to the 2008 comments...imagine that - all of a sudden having to deal with failure. He probably wasn't quite sure how to deal, and was trying to make it seem better than it was because he was worried about losing his spot. We often forget that this is these players careers. We're ready enough to just dismiss players who don't perform back to the minors, but they understandably aren't willing to let go so easily. He didn't get it all yet. Certainly not the first 23 year old, in all sorts of different contexts, who didn't get it.

Now all indications are he gets it. And he's certainly not experiencing failure anymore. He became the posterboy on this site for a lack of accountability, denial about performance, and being out of touch with reality. So much so that the utilization of "Ian Patrick" became a monicker for those traits on this site. But he seems to have turned all of those things around, and I couldn't be happier for him. When you make a mistake, or you're struggling, or you get off to a tough start, the only thing you can do is turn it around. Not by talking about it, not by pretending it's turned around when it's really not, but through performance. That's all Kennedy has done the last two seasons. That's what you want to see from a player. That's motivation, pride, and accountability in and for your performance. Kennedy has become what you hope all young players who come highly touted and struggle early will turn into. A success. Which is everything we thought he would be when he flashed that promise at the beginning of his career. Good for him.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Merry Christmas

Note:  I was going to go after the owners for the latest version of Best Team Ever Aftermath, but just as they are unable to formulate a straight answer about Theo, Tito, and improving the team ("Europeans have sports science!" does not count as a straight answer), I can't formulate a logical indictment of them quite yet.  I'm not sure if it will exceed the vitriol or the length of Post 1,603, but it might.  Luckily, there are other people who need to be hammered before we sign off.  And, better yet, I can lead it off with an Eric Ortiz quote.

Every day should feel like Christmas for Curt Young, the new Red Sox pitching coach. The former A’s pitching coach didn’t have anything close to the horses he has now, and Oakland’s staff posted a 3.56 ERA last season, the best in the American League and fourth-best in the majors. Imagine what he can do with a Grade A collection of arms.

Wow.  He apparently did as good of a job on Christmas as Bart Simpson did after twelve glasses of water in 1997.  Only Young ended up swindling other people out of a lot more than $15,000.  You could tell pretty early that the Curt Young experiment was not working out too well, because there were some articles out there about how Matsuzaka (a potential All-Star according to the Ortiz article) and he were trying to work out some kind of compromise.

In April, the night Matsuzaka grooved some fastballs, seemingly in a challenge to whomever said "stop nibbling and throw the ball over the plate," that's when I started to think, "shame on me for being the only person in New England who is critical of John Farrell." 

The only thing I cannot blame Curt Young for is Bobby Jenks.  That guy is toast.  He's a fat pussy toad (hereonin to be called "F.P.T.") with each year's performance being worse than the one before.  However...

John Lackey?  It's not like he's a bad pitcher or has been a bad pitcher over the course of his career.  That's on Curt Young.
Jon Lester's twenty home runs and 75 walks, many of which sunk this team in September when he decided to revert to his 2006 self?  That's on Curt Young.
Josh Beckett's weight, Tim Wakefield's weight, and John Lackey's weight:  That's at least partially on Curt Young. 

The fact that the Red Sox' starting rotation, with the pedigree it had, could only muster quality starts in 43% of their games (league average was 53%), is on Curt Young.  The stunning, historic September stats you have been hearing about are also on Young.  The fact that the pitching staff was not ready to pitch in the first inning (4.89 ERA, 100 ERA+, .344 OBP) is on Curt Young. 

The fact that this starting staff, ON AVERAGE, lasted only 5 2/3 innings where teams like Tampa, Texas, his old Oakland team, and many others could provide you more than two thirds of a baseball game without going to mediocre-by-nature middle relievers, is overwhelmingly embarrassing.  And that's on Curt Young.

Think about that:  On average, the Red Sox entrusted 3 1/3 innings a night to their bullpen.  Let's take reliable players like Papelbon and Bard out of the mix and just credit them for one inning a night.  We're talking about on average, seven critical outs being entrusted to Aceves and freaking Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, Tommy Hottovy/Bobby Jenks/Scott Atchison, Andrew Miller/Tim Wakefield, and Dan Wheeler.  That's unacceptable.

Considering that the sixth inning is where you saw the HIGHEST ERA (5.11), the MOST walks, the LOWEST K/BB ratio, and the HIGHEST opponents' OPS (the fifth inning was the second-highest) is an indication of three things:

1) The starting pitchers were ALL F.P.T.'s who lacked any kind of arm or aerobic endurance to last more than half a baseball game with 20 minutes' rest after 20 minutes of work.
2) The relievers who came in early in the game were not ready to come into the game.  I assume if you take out Alfredo Aceves, that number would be a lot worse.
3) CLA BUCCHOLS GOT HURT!!1 EVERYTHING WOOD BE FINE IF HE DIDDNT GET HURT!11 BEST TEAM EVGER!"  Did I hear that the Cardinals may have suffered a few injuries in their pitching staff this year?  Shut up, an injury is a lame excuse.

Looking at the players who performed the best under Young (Aceves, Bard, Papelbon), they were either young pitchers or pitchers who had something to prove.  If you look at his successful pitching staffs previously (Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, and even his last crop in the Moneyball era), they were also young pitchers or pitchers with something to prove.  He somehow dropped the ball with the established veterans, especially Beckett when he decided to mail it in for the rest of the season.  Hell (yeah), Gonzalez and Anderson are barely old enough to drink beer in the clubhouse like the freaking animals that took the mound every five days for Boston, nevermind Hell Yeah Liking Beer. 

Curt Young couldn't lay the law down.  Looks like he went on vacation for Christmas, put the automatic timers on his lights, and left the doors unlocked while Lackey, Lester, Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Wakefield drank some beers, plugged the drains, and let the water running. 

It's their calling card.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Quick End To A Long Season

I'm going to keep this short, because I really don't have much interest in recapping a tough elimination game loss. And frankly that won't be too difficult. You play in enough of these things - and I've been fortunate enough to see quite a few - and you come to realize that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose even though you don't play that badly. Yes, I'm a believer to a certain extent of the crapshoot nature of short playoff series. Baseball isn't the type of sport where the better team wins 80% of the time like football or basketball. But I'm not even totally talking about that here. Sometimes it's just a close series and it doesn't come out your way. That's what happened here.

Don't get me wrong. The Yankees had guys who didn't play well, and Girardi didn't manage a series that other managers will study and try to emulate for years to come. But the Yankees also had guys who played absolutely out of their minds, and Girardi managed certain elements of the series spectacularly. He also did certain things during the season (like constantly backing A.J. Burnett when there was little reason to) that came back to really help the Yankees in this series (like Burnett having some semblance of confidence left to pitch well in a big game, when other managers might have lost him mentally months ago. Girardi found a way to keep him in this season.). They just got bested by another really good team in a really close series. It happens.

It doesn't make losing fun, but at least it wasn't a frustrating performance. The Yankees played hard and played largely well. The thing that really gets me after an ALDS exit is more the investment in the long season followed by such an abrupt end. You watch for 6 months, pay close attention for 8 including Spring Training. You analyze every point. You spend 6-8 weeks talking about playing seeding and the last month looking at playoff strategy. And then it's over in a week. No other sport has anything close to this. The NFL is a shorter season, and the playoffs can be as much as 25% of a regular season. The NBA is longer than football, but much shorter than baseball. It also has a best of 7 first round, and with 9 off days in between each game, even if you lose that first round series you feel like you were around for a little while. If you make a deep run you can play, in terms of total days, for as much as 30-40% of what the regular season is. Baseball you play for 6 months, 162 games, and you can be done in a few days and a few games. It's a very bizarre feeling, like it just vanishes.

One last thing about the series itself. There will be a lot of analysis all over the place about the Yankees offense, and who, what, and where they came up short. And it won't be off base. But I'm going to stick up for the offense because what will get overlooked is the pitching. The Yankees scored 28 runs in 5 games. The two games they won in this series, their offense scored 9 and 10 runs. They got 4 off of Justin Verlander. Meanwhile the Tigers won the series never scoring more than 5 runs in a game and only scored 17 runs all series. Which means they basically won 3 pitching games. The Yankees won zero pitching games. Their offense got them two wins, free and clear. And granted, it's a bit of tough luck because those also happened to be 2 of the games where they got the best pitching (in addition to tonight). But Yankees pitching couldn't best Tigers pitching in any of those other three games, and all they needed was to win one of them. So while you are going to hear this guy hit .200 and that guy struck out in the big spot, the pitching just wasn't tough enough in this series. It's not that the offense is blameless; they certainly could have done more, and could have completely carried the team in this series as opposed to just performing very well. It's just that it's tough to blame them for everything when they win two games for you with 9 and 10 runs.

Finally, I want to end talking about Jorge Posada. If this is indeed his last game in pinstripes - something I don't see as much as a guarantee as I did 3 months ago - the way he played this game and this series epitomized his tremendous career. He hit .429 and got on-base more than half the time in this series. This after a rocky season in which he had to make a late charge with his performance to even be given the chance to contribute in the playoffs. But he just kept grinding away. All season. All series. When a proud player like him gets embarrassed publicly as his skills decline, it's easy to shut down. Especially in this day of pampered stars and entitlement. But Posada is a throwback, an old school competitor. He was angry about it (as anybody who really cares would be - that part of it seemed to be very misconstrued), and after getting past that turned anger into motivation. And then he worked his way back into the lineup not by whining about it or talking about it, but by letting his play do the talking.

The way he spoke in his postgame, it was so incredibly palpable how much he cares about this team and this organization. Which is really refreshing. Posada developed the saying for those late 90's teams "We grind it". No phrase could be more fitting for him as a player. A tough, no excuses, doesn't care how it looks just that it gets done, competitor, wants to win above all else and can't stand to lose. That was all on display in this series, and again, that it came after a long season for him personally is just further tribute to the kind of person and player he is. If he's played his last game for the Yankees, it's been an absolute pleasure to watch him play for and lead this team. With the 7th highest OPS in Major League history for catchers (no pun intended here), and more homers and RBI's than anybody at his position for more than 10 years, I certainly hope he ends up in the Hall of Fame. He deserves to be there.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You Want a Job, Ernie?

First things first:  John Henry speaks.  By "speaks" I mean he goes the most professional avenue possible.  First, he decides to have a 3-hour conversation with Francona, then hurry to Yacht Week in Boston Harbor, then bump his head for a convenient excuse to skip out on any public accountability regarding firing the most successful manager in the history of the team.  At least he was home in time for the soccer game.  After five days of going radio silent, JWH decides to express his feelings on Twitter, home of Justin Bieber and not one, but three fake JD Drews.  I can't imagine a more classy, accessible, direct, and accountable way of addressing the public than Twitter.  Good job, John.  I have some more commentary about that in the previous post.  If you don't understand the reference, neither will your readers.

But in the whole controversy surrounding JWH, Theo, Tito, and all that take the focus off of who is really to blame for the implosion of the Best Team Ever.  It's not like Tito managed this team into the ground, treating Daniel Bard like Jimy Williams treated Tom Gordon or like Joe Torre treated Scott Proctor.  He didn't replace Adrian Gonzalez with Lars Anderson unless the former was complaining about a calf injury that was so severe that he could only hit a ball 450 off of it.  This is on the actual group of country club members who did not prioritize winning.  Francona said as recently as today that personal goals were taking priority over team goals.  Well, in the spirit of Christian Bale, I hope the personal goals (except for coming 1 steal short of 40) were f***ing good, because they're useless now, aren't they? 

Without further ado, let's pretend I'm the GM.  I give you my proposed list of transactions for this offseason.  While I cannot dedicate this to Harold Hawkes and Ben Hecht, I can probably dedicate it to George Steinbrenner.

Josh Beckett:  I read somewhere today that this guy, who has failed to stay healthy or effective for the entire fall in 83% of his seasons with Boston, started mailing it in when he fell out of Cy Young Award contention.  Who knows how true it is, but it makes sense.  As I wrote in the spring when killing players for not being in shape in February, how do you allow yourself to become so hideously out of shape?  This guy might talk about how much he cares and how good pitches don't get hit.  Here's a new one:  Fat pitchers don't get outs.  You're fired.  Trade him to Pittsburgh.

John Lackey:  You're right, your numbers look a lot worse than your performances were.  You pitched a lot better than the worst pitcher in baseball.  It's hard to grip a ball in damp, rainy conditions...unless you're Clayton Richard and are shutting the Red Sox down in the same game.  Fired.  Trade him to Seattle, where it's rainy all the time but he has a bigger ballpark.  You still have to cover first base, though.

Jon Lester:  I saw you in the "Hell Yeah, I Like Beer" video too, buddy.  Don't like the dimensions of Fenway Park because home runs there are outs in every other ballpark?  Fine.  You're fired.  Trade him to San Diego.  Petco Park will be more conducive to his ballpark design specifications.  Maybe there he can show up for an entire season.  He showed up for April this year, but failed to show up for September.  In San Diego, baseball's only five months long.  Loser.

Clay Buchholz:  Heard you were pissed about being in the minors in '09.  If you hadn't imploded in '08 that wouldn't have happened.  Also saw you in the "Hell Yeah, I Like Beer" video.  You're fired.  Traded to Oakland.  Maybe they will indeed move to Silicon Valley, where you'll be closer to more laptops than you'll know what to do with.

Daisuke Matsuzaka:  Don't like American workouts?  Want to undermine your superiors by grooving some to Tampa Bay in April?  Fired, sent back to Japan.  Maybe you can find your gyroball there, you failure.

Tim Wakefield:  You're right.  People DESERVE to see you get a few more wins.  How about this (I'm taking words from Lou Merloni):  "I want to come back so I can win another championship?"  Maybe you could have earned your 200th a little faster if you didn't have a gut as big as Beckett's.  You're fired.  Get a few more wins with the Mets.  They allow people like Jose Reyes to put their own stats first.

Dan Wheeler:  You're from Rhode Island?  Good.  You're fired.  Report to Pawtucket until you learn how to pitch again.

Matt Albers:  The former Oriole was effective for about as long as his old team was in contention.  You're fired.  Go back to Baltimore, where games in July, August, and September don't matter unless you're spoiling it for a bunch of spoiled brats.

Franklin Morales:  Just because you're left handed doesn't mean you can miss the plate.  You're fired.  Follow Javier Lopez to San Francisco, you might be able to win a World Series there.

Andrew Miller:  Same goes for you.  You're fired, but have a nice day.  I just hope you were as nice of a guy as the guy they traded for you.

Bobby Jenks:  You're a disgrace.  Find a salad bar.  I'm actually counting my blessings because you had so few chances to pitch the Red Sox into fourth place.  You're fired.  You're traded to the Cubs, because their new GM Theo Epstein thinks your declining stats will reverse themselves.

Daniel Bard:  The "can't pitch under pressure" stuff is beyond your road stats.  Isn't that what happened in your first year in professional baseball?  You're fired, traded to the Marlins.  About 400 people show up there, so you'll have no pressure at all.

Kevin Youkilis:  The Greek God of Bitching and Moaning.  I heard you like privacy, hate being bothered by fans, don't like 46, don't like umpires, don't like Manny, don't like bus rides, and act like an entitled prick all the time.  Playing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose payroll is about 1/7 of yours, creates an unfair advantage?  Jesus, that's the most F'ed up thing I've heard since Oscar Pistorius's unfair advantage (a Catt Williams reference).  Nine days without the DH?  Totally unfair, because you don't have nine other all-stars on your team.  Totally unfair.  You like Cincinnati though?  You're fired; traded to the Reds for Bronson Arroyo, who actually like to play here.

Mike Aviles:  Learn how to run the bases, then come back.  You're fired.  The Yomiuri Giants are a good fundamental team.  Learn some fundamentals such as baserunning.

Jed Lowrie:  You hit .210 against lefties.  You're fired.  Go to Arizona.  You can either rehab your recurring injuries like your boy 46 did or Jed Williams can be cryogenically frozen next to Ted Williams at Alcor.

46:  You're worse than Jose Reyes.  You cost the team a game so you could enhance your chase toward 40 bases.  There is no other reason to steal third base with two outs and Pedroia up when it's late and close.  You're fired.  Go with your boy Lowrie to Arizona.

Adrian Gonzalez:  You're an absolute embarrassment.  Losing was "God's will?"  Too many Sunday night games had an impact on your season?  Your calf muscle hurts, but not so much that it will prevent you from hitting home runs, so you have to put in a minor leaguer who can't catch a pickoff attempt?  Your shoulder hurts but you won't tell the Boston media about it?  You don't know why people are watching you take batting practice?  You are being paid a ton of money not because you deserve it or because of God's will.  You're getting paid to produce for a fan base that cares about whether you win games.  This is what you signed up for. 

You also signed up for a fan base that wants you to care as much as they do.  And they're mostly Irish Catholics named Sully and Murph, not Calvinists, so they're not going to eat up your "I'm going to coast through life because that's God's plan" crap.  Did you forget to read the Old Testament, you piece of laissez-faire, complacent, blase garbage?  How about the part about man's free will?  See, you might get torn up when you have an 0-15 stretch, but you won't get torn up when your team wins seven games in a month?  Nice priorities.  I wonder how your fantasy owners think when they see that you led baseball with GIDPs this year.  That's okay, you already built in an excuse to never run hard in March because you're just so slow that it LOOKS like you're jogging to first and dogging it worse than Izzy Alcanatara in the outfield.  Built-in excuse there.  Built-in excuse with the shoulder.  Built in excuse of God's plan.  You're so fired.  Forget San Diego, you don't deserve to go home.  You're traded to Florida, where nobody will watch you do anything and you can continue to put up fantasy stats in meaningless games.

Jason Varitek:  Your veteran leadership did a lot of good this year.  You also handled Josh Beckett really well, teaching him how to be a man and to not have a security blanket personal catcher.  You're fired.  Go try to find a job somewhere else.

David Ortiz:  News flash:  You are NOT the media liaison, telling people who to pick on and not to pick on. You are NOT Jay-Z.  You are NOT a private investigator of why your Dominican protein shakes tested positive for steroids.  You are NOT the commissioner, so you shouldn't be talking about how much interleague play sucks.  You are NOT an umpire, so yes, it is possible that you have taken a called strike that's supposed to be a strike before.  You are NOT the general manager, so you have no say of whether your option should be picked up.  You are NOT the manager, so stop making pitching or lineup decisions.  You are NOT on the team next year, so go the F away.

JD Drew:  Your sore shoulder, sore finger, and sore neck - and your desire to play through these things instead of lengthing your DL sting - have partially made it an absolute pleasure to absolutely hammer you on this website for the last five baseball seasons.  Enjoy your retirement.  You came heralded as the next Mickey Mantle, and you had the talent for it.  It's too bad you didn't have an ounce of giveacrap factor in your entire body.  You're fired.  No thanks for your performance.  But thanks for the laughs, you freaking joke.

Darnell McDonald:  You were hitting .117 on July 4th.  That's half a season.  You're fired, because that is not Major League eligible.

Josh Reddick:  Too bad people started scouting you and saw you as a pitchtoable hitter with holes in your swing and a lazy attitude in the outfield.  I rooted for you.  Now I'm firing you.

Carl Crawford:  Did Jon "Five Months" Lester help you write your August 26 blog post about I HAD a bad season?  There's still a month worth of baseball left!  But hey, once you're benched against David Price after hitting .245 for a season, you have license to cry, right?  Oh, wait, the previous 22 people on this list probably already told you that.  You're fired.  The Captain told me you're getting dressed and going home, back to Houston where there are no more private investigators and no more $142 million contracts.  Don't come back.

Marco Scutaro, Jonathan Papelbon (surprised?), Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Dustin Pedroia:  You want a job?