January 26th, 2007 → 12:08 pm @ Seth Mnookin
By the end of the day, the Red Sox and J.D. Drew will have signed a contract. (I know at least one person who’s gonna be pretty disappointed by this.) The conspiracy theorists who speculated that the Sox had “come to terms” with Drew merely as a way of greasing the skids with Scott Boras in advance of the Dice-K contract have been proven wrong.
The two sides came to some specific agreements concerning Drew’s surgically repaired shoulder; the deal is similar to the ones the Tigers worked out with Magglio and Pudge. The details are pretty straightforward. Now we can all focus on pitchers and catchers…
January 10th, 2007 → 12:00 pm @ Seth Mnookin
But there’s a decidingly unexciting non-event taking place today – the Boston Baseball Writers Association’s annual dinner — and this event has, as Cafardo points on online, been used to make announcements in the past…
January 10th, 2007 → 11:59 am @ Seth Mnookin
Okay, fine: that was a cheap and easy transition. But at least I’m trying…
Anyway. Lost in all the HoF commentary/hand wringing/debates is the opening today of the Red Sox’s annual “Rookie Program,” in which — and I’m quoting the press release here — “twelve of Bostonâ€šÃ„Ã´s top upper level prospects” will be exposed “to the expectations of being major leaguers for the Red Sox.” (This year’s participants: pitchers Kason Gabbard, Craig Hansen, David Pauley, Nick Debarr, Clay Buchholz, Kyle Jackson, and Edgar Martinez; outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Brandon Moss, and David Murphy; catcher George Kottaras; and third baseman Chad Spann.) Besides your normal workouts, the program includes (and I’m quoting again) “seminars that will focus on the assimilation into major league life off the field. A number of individuals from both in and outside the Red Sox organization will speak to the group, including President/CEO Larry Lucchino, General Manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona, major league coaches John Farrell and Dave Magadan, catcher Jason Varitek, and longtime baseball writer and ESPN reporter Peter Gammons.”
I’ve written before about the ways in which the team tries to prepare rookies for the weird and wooly nature of playing in Boston (Cla Meredith could probably have used some more of this), and I don’t have a whole lot to add to that. It is worth re-recounting a conversation I had with Papelbon in ’05, in which he talked about his participation in the Rookie Program: â€šÃ„ÃºIn January, I did the media development program. A lot of the subjects we went over in that time period are coming up now, and Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m able to go back to that and rely on it and say, â€šÃ„Ã²Hey, what did I learn and how can it help me?â€šÃ„Ã´ So in terms of dealing with the press and everything else that comes with playing major league baseball, yeah, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s helped.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Not to get down on my knees — which is something I’m accused of vis a vis the Sox baseball ops folks with some regularity — this really is exactly the kind of stuff the public rarely hears much about, but really is important.
January 5th, 2007 → 4:33 pm @ Seth Mnookin
More activity from New York: as everyone now knows, the only man ever to slaughter an innocent dove in the middle of a major league baseball game is counting down the days, waiting for the time when he can get to Arizona. The details of the deal worried me at first: since I’m almost willfully ignorant about minor league prospects (especially in the NL), for all I knew Ross Ohlendorf was gonna win Princeton its first MVP award and Steven Jackson was on his way to being the second coming of Mariano Rivera. (Luis Vizcaino, while occasionally nasty, is also more than occasionally wild, so he wasn’t a huge concern. To me, anyway.)
Thankfully, Keith Law calmed me down a bit: he does know minor league talent and doesn’t think any of these guys are difference makers. Law, along with Bob Klapisch, also points out that RJ’s departure leaves a definite hole in the Yankees rotation…although I can’t imagine Cashman is anywhere near done for the offseason.
Still, as I said way back in December, a Johnson trade is nervewracking regardless of whom they get in return, both because it means New York is getting rid of another onerous contract and because it offers one more illustration that the charmingly insane George Steinbrenner is no longer running the show. (Said I: “Suddenly, the Yankees are shedding payroll like theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re the Marlins, and Brian Cashman looks determined to pick up young prospects and jettison the senior citizens collecting outrageous paychecks…”) Sure, it’s challenging when your competition raises its level of play, but I was just fine when Boston’s front office was executing a plan and the Yankees were indulging Cuddly George’s every whim.
Postscript: I’ve never been a Randy fan, but I do hope he does well in Phoenix, if only because that gives the Diamondbacks — currently run by former Red Sox asst GM Josh Byrnes, one of my favorite people in all of baseball — a chance to win a pretty weak division.
December 30th, 2006 → 12:17 pm @ Seth Mnookin
And it’s been a while. There are lots of reasons for this: Boras has been focusing on fleecing the Giants, it’s the holiday season, etc etc. But man, it’s been a while. Saddam Hussein lost his appeal and his life in the period since the Sox have been debating J.D.’s medical records…and the Olde Towne Team does need someone besides the corpse of Trot Nixon patrolling right…
December 29th, 2006 → 1:10 pm @ Seth Mnookin
It’s not all that surprising: when Gil Meche and Ted Lilly are getting enough money to ensure their grandchildren’s grandchildren will be set for life, it was a no-brainer that Zito was going to get enough money to paper his yoga room in $100,000 bills. (If only there were such things as $100,000 bills. Sigh.) What is surprising is that Zito’s contract is, arguably, as dumb (from a management standpoint) as either Meche’s or Lilly’s.
Zito’s contract — $126 million for a seven-year deal* — is the richest ever given to a pitcher. (Zito is tied for the sixth-biggest contract in the history of the game…and three of those have been signed in the last two months.) He’s the third pitcher to get a $100 million deal. And he’s likely to work out about as well as the two that came before him: Mike Hampton ($121 million/8 years in ’01) and Kevin Brown ($105 million/7 years in ’99). I’m pretty sure those three guys are the only pitchers in the history of the game to get contracts for seven or more years, which should tell you something about throwing around that much money for hurlers. (The fourth and fifth richest pitcher contracts belong to Mike Mussina ($88.5 mil/6 years, ’01) and Pedro ($75 mil/6 years, ’99) — arguably the only two six-year pitcher deals that have ever worked out.) You know a deal is a shitty one for the club when it makes the Rangers (who maked out at 6 yrs/$84 mil) and the Mets (5 yrs, $75 mil) look economical in comparison.
A cursory glance at Zito’s CV does give the impression that he’s one of the game’s elite pitchers: a Cy Young award (2002), a .618 career winning percentage, (102-63), and a career 3.55 ERA. But that Cy Young award was a stone-cold theft from Pedro, who was so much better than Zito that year it was a joke, and Zito might very well have the softest .618 winning percentage in the game. As the always on-the-mark Keith Law points out, Zito has been “the beneficiary of a favorable ballpark with lots of foul territory, a favorable schedule, great bullpen support and outstanding outfield defense — and he’s not going to receive either the defense or the relief help in San Francisco. … committing long-term to a guy who at best is a No. 3 starter on a contender is madness.”
Anyway, hats off to Scott Boras, who got San Francisco to pay somewhere north of $25 million more than any other bidders.
Obligatory Boston-New York content: I’m with Law in considering Zito nothing more than a 3rd starter on a playoff team, but the Yankees had to be at least considering Zito as a potential left-handed replacement for Randy Johnson should the previously dominating Unit head west in a trade. I thought all the Zito to the AL East talk was a bit overblown, and I couldn’t see Cashman and Co. getting into a bidding war for a pitcher they must know isn’t all that. But it does alter the playing field a bit…
(Addendum: Maybe I’m hopelessly naive, but it seems to me at least some of these guys must end up feeling a little guilty when it turns out they’ve fleeced the crap out of a club. Back at the end of Teddy Ballgame’s career, he insisted on returning some salary when he had a crappy year. Granted, he was dealing with tens of thousands and not tens of millions of dollars…but don’t you think some of the Mike Hamptons of the world wake up in cold sweats?
Just kidding! Of course they don’t! One can never have enough manicured Arizona lawns, can one?)
* The deal is being reported as being worth six-years and $126 million, but from my reading of the press reports, it’s actually worth a minimum of $133 million: Zito has an $18-million team option for 2014 that can be bought out for $7 million. The option becomes guaranteed if Zito reaches some innings milestones, which would make this worth $144 million.
December 26th, 2006 → 7:10 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Yup: three full days without a post. I’m pretty sure that’s a record. For that, I’m sorry. I know people need to get a break from their families. (Believe me, I know.) And there’s been precious little baseball news out there to serve as a distraction. (No matter how you try to spin it — the impact on the Zito sweepstakes, the NLCS MVP leaving the Cards, whatever — Jeff Suppan signing with the Brewers does not count as news.)
There is, however, one development that shook me out of my holiday stupor, and, I’m sorry to say, it was a distressing one: the confirmation that the Yankees and the Diamondbacks are discussing a deal that would send Randy Johnson back to Arizona. New York’s signing of Johnson was exactly the sort of boneheaded, reactionary move that has defined the Yankees of the modern era (read: since 2000). The Johnson acquisition came about immediately after Schilling had helped lift the Sox to their Series win, a fact which reputedly caused the Boss tell his minions he wanted a “warrior” of his own. He got one — an over-the-hill, overpaid warrior with a crappy attitude and a bad back — when he could have had someone like, say, Carlos Beltran…and that would have made the Yankees frightening.
Those days appear to be over. Suddenly, the Yankees are shedding payroll like they’re the Marlins, and Brian Cashman looks determined to pick up young prospects and jettison the senior citizens collecting outrageous paychecks.
This doesn’t mean the Red Sox and the Yankees will have anywhere near equal payrolls, but it does seem to indicate that Steinbrenner (and his Tampa-based suckups) are no longer making baseball-related decisions. If that’s true, it’s bad news for Boston (and everyone else). A senior member of the team’s baseball ops staff told me last year that the only reason the Sox had a fighting chance against a team with $80 million more in payroll was because New York made such stupefyingly idiotic moves. If that’s not going to be the case anymore, it means the Yankees and the Sox are going to be operating more and more on the same plane…not because, as some would have you believe, the Red Sox have become the Evil Empire II but because the Yankees are starting to act (and yes, it hurts to say this) intelligently.
Gulp. Two thousand and seven, here we come…