Mailing it in, Dec. 22 2006 edition

December 22nd, 2006 → 12:33 pm @

And the prize for lazy story of the day goes to…ESPN’s Jim Caple’s “Empirically Speaking,” the latest in an onslaught of stories about how the Red Sox’s profligate ways have, in essence, made them the newest member of the Evil Empire Club.

If you want to throw stones at the Sox for the manner in which they’ve opened their wallets this offseason, you have plenty of good-sized rocks to choose from. The most obvious, of course, is the way Theo cried poverty at the trade deadline, only to offer J.D. Drew a 5-year, $70-million deal at the season’s end. (At the very least, that seems to have been a misreading of the market.)

That, of course, would involve some analysis. Instead, Caple makes fun of the Red Sox’s $51,111,111.11 posting bid for Matsuzaka (“when you have the luxury of slapping $1,111,111.11 on a bid for the pure look of it, you definitely are not living in the same neighborhood as the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates (or even the Chicago White Sox, for that matter)”) and compares John Henry to the Boss (“It’s to the point that if John Henry gained 40 pounds and started acting like an ass, you would think George Steinbrenner owned the Red Sox”).

Huh? The Sox’s bid of $51 million was arrived at because they thought it possible another team would bid $50 million; that’s a common tactic in blind bids (just ask Bob Barker+). Adding on $100,000 more was done for the same reason. The extra .002 percent represented by the final $11,111.11 was done because of the number 11’s significance to Henry (which I explain in Feeding the Monster). That relatively puny amount is something the White Sox (or even the Royals) could afford.

As for comparing JWH to Steinbrenner, I’m not sure where to start. Those people that consider big, blustering George offensive think so, at least in part, because of the way he blindly throws around money, overruling Brian Cashman, his beleaguered GM, in the process. Signing the 41-year-old Randy Johnson to a multi-year deal when Cashman was advocating picking up Carlos Beltran is a case in point: there was no rationale for throwing away that kind of dough on an arthritic giant except for the fact that the Sox had Schilling and George wanted a “warrior” of his own. Regardless of what you think about the Red Sox’s posting fee, there is a clear rationale for spending resources on a pitcher like Matsuzaka, a phenomenal talent whose best years are in front of him, not behind him.

Caple sets up plenty of other equally silly straw men:

* “No team has ever paid more money for a world championship than did the 2004 Red Sox.” And no National League team has paid more money to lose a world championship than did the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals. And no team’s payroll has topped $100 million in three of the past four years without even making it to the World Series expect the New York Mets. And no team has spent over $100 million in payroll and put up a losing record except the 2002 Rangers. Since they don’t win, I guess they’re not Evil Empires but just…stupid? What’s more, because of the unbalanced schedule, comparing the payrolls of teams in different divisions doesn’t really make sense. The Yankees’ 2006 payroll was 60 percent higher than the Red Sox’s, a greater percentage than that between any division winner and either of the two teams that finished behind it.

* “Further, when those Red Sox recorded the final out of that World Series, not a single player on the field was homegrown.” True, but that has absolutely nothing to do with what the Red Sox under the new ownership group has/had done, because it hadn’t been in place long enough to have a significant impact on minor league players who’d worked their way through the system to the point where they’d be in the bigs. (What’s more, Trot Nixon and Kevin Youkilis were both on the WS roster; Tim Wakefield, Derek Lowe, and Jason Varitek had been acquired early in their careers (Tek’s never played a major league game for another team) and David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, and Bill Mueller were all on-the-cheap pick ups and not Evil Empire-like acquisitions).

* “When the Sox open the 2007 season, they may have just two homegrown players in the lineup, first baseman Kevin Youkilis and second baseman Dustin Pedroia.” And if you add pitchers, you have Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Hansen, and Manny Delcarmen. I guess they don’t count. Because who needs pitching?

I know, I know: no sooner will I post this than the homer accusations will start to fly. Fine; I’m used to it. It’s not that I’m blindly defending the Red Sox, or even that I’m really defending them at all. Take a shot at the disorganized way they went about things last offseason. Unpack all the reasons the Arroyo-Wily Mo trade was a bad idea. Ridicule the panic move of reacquiring Mirabelli for Cla Meredith and Josh Bard. But whatever you do, put some thought into it.

+ I know that’s not how “The Price is Right” works. But you know what I mean. So lay off.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Jim Caple & Sports Reporters

As the world turns…

December 21st, 2006 → 2:47 pm @

It looks like it’ll be a slow week or so in the world of Boston baseball. (Of course, that prediction is all it’ll take for the Sox to orchestrate a trade that brings Barry Bonds to Fenway while simultaneously coaxing Roger Clemens out of his 9th retirement. Speaking of Clemens, in the new SI, Tom Verducci predicts he’ll be pitching for the Sox come July…) Both the Globe and the Herald have the mandatory non-update updates on the J.D. Drew situation (the Globe‘s is actually just an AP report); the news of the day is that Scott Boras says — surprise! — that Drew is as healthy as Cal Ripken Jr. was in the prime of his career. To give you a sense of just how sluggish things are, both papers essentially reprinted a Sox press release announcing the team had signed eight minor league free agents and invited them to camp as non-roster players, with the Globe running the piece on its site and the Herald burying it at the bottom of its Drew story. What else? Oh yeah: don’t forget about the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner.

So: gird yourself for a family weekend, remember to smile politely at the in-laws,* and don’t get so drunk you puke. Nobody likes vomit under the tree.

* Speaking of in-laws — and everyone else — I’d bet they’d love a signed, personalized copy of Feeding the Monster. Or have I already mentioned that?

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & J.D. Drew

Can you imagine the attention this would be getting if Daisuke was back with the Lions?

December 19th, 2006 → 10:43 am @

For the first time in a good long time, there’s a simmering issue involving the Red Sox that isn’t receiving the kind of national attention usually reserved for missile treaties: J.D. Drew’s still unsigned contract. The Red Sox, according to reports that still haven’t been confirmed (at least on the record), by the Sox, Drew, or Scott Boras, are worried about the results of a physical. (Specifically, they’re worried about Drew’s gimpy shoulder.) (Drew’s public comments on the issue — that the shoulder has, as recently as last year, hurt his power production — don’t seem to help any kind of union claim he might make should the deal actually fall apart.)

The road bumps here are receiving the kind of temperate discussion you might expect in, say, St. Louis. After all the speculation that the Sox gave Drew that supposedly above-market contract in order to smooth their way to signing Matsuzaka, there haven’t been any (or at least very few) conspiracy theorists claiming the Sox are convientently backing out of the deal now that they have Daisuke in the fold. There also hasn’t been any growing chorus of concern; after all, if Drew somehow doesn’t end up in Boston, the options in right involve either everyday use of the far-from polished Wily Mo or making an effort to sign the power-deficient Trot Nixon to a one-year deal.

Anyway. This’ll all probably be worked out in the next few days. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Gordon Edes’s piece on the Matsuzaka negotiations (which I alluded to in a throwaway line in yesterday’s Chass rant), check it out. Also worth perusing is the always excellent Rob Bradford’s piece in the (still criminally inept) Eagle Tribune.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Gordon Edes & J.D. Drew & Rob Bradford

Yeah, that’s right: Theo did

December 15th, 2006 → 1:04 am @

You wanted to know who won that game of chicken? Anyone who saw Theo’s post-press conference live shot with Tina Cervasio knows damn well who won it: the Red Sox. Theo, et al., were driving to the tarmac and getting ready to fly back to Boston sans Matsuzakasan (you know: calling Boras’s bluff) when Boras rang and said, ‘Well, yeah, all right, I guess we will be on that plane after all.’

(Apparently, Buster Olney agrees.)

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras & Theo Epstein

One in ESPN’s ongoing series in stating the really, really obvious

December 15th, 2006 → 12:29 am @

Headline of the day:

D-Mat strengthens Sox rotation.

Coming tomorrow: Ortiz can hit ball hard.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka

Ah, yes: the complete absence of value added

December 15th, 2006 → 12:26 am @

There’s no way you thought you were going to get through a Daisuke day without someone, somewhere, wondering what this all means for Johnny Jesus — you know, the last (big-name) guy to wear #18. (Sorry, Jason and Dustan: you two ain’t big-name.) Thank god, the AP is on the case:

“NEW YORK — Johnny Damon has his own $52 million contract and no regrets that the Boston Red Sox didn’t give him that amount last winter. Boston announced its $52 million, six-year agreement with pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka on Thursday — nearly one year after the Red Sox allowed their center fielder to switch to the New York Yankees for the exact same amount.”

Now, I get asked with some frequency whether or not sports reporters are morons. My usual answer is yes and no: there are plenty of dolts writing about baseball, but there are plenty of dolts writing about politics and international relations and the media, too. But (as commenter vapodge points out),* sports reporting might very well be one of the very few areas in which writers (commentators, whatever) seem to have a fervant desire to remain ignorant.

I’ve tried to make this clear before, but for all the AP reporters and other aggressively clueless folk out there, I’ll try one more time:


I know this won’t seem like anything except another plug for my book, but man, come on already. I’ve been talking to owners around baseball over the last several weeks (for an unrelated project); every single one of them had already read FTM, as has every MLB exec I’ve spoken with. (In fact, some of the MLB execs have recommended it to other people in baseball.) Regardless of what you think about the damn book, if you’re covering the Red Sox or the Yankees, wouldn’t it maybe make sense to read it? If only to see if there are things you might not know about? You know, to help in your, um, reporting?

* Vapodge was objecting to a segment on Dan Patrick’s ESPN show in which he apparently asked Francona about the “$2 million more per year” the Sox would have had to spend to get Damon. Technically, that’s true…except Boras told them they’d need to spend that extra $2 million per for seven straight years! Aaargh! Just read the fucking excerpt. It’s linked above. In big, bright, red, shiny caps.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Feeding the Monster Sneak Peeks & Johnny Damon & Rampaging morons & Sports Reporters

So who is it that won this game of chicken?

December 14th, 2006 → 12:18 pm @

(Note: I’m on a PC. I hate PC’s. For some reason, most of the links I put in aren’t working, so you’ll need to navigate around and find the articles I’m referring to on your own.)

It’s true: I made it to Boston. And waking up at 6 to get to the airport is about as physical as I’m getting today.

So…some more notes on the…now wait: what’s the big story around here? Ah, yes: D-Mat. (I will use every known nickname before the day is done.) Pretty much everyone, Jack Curry in the Times to the Herald’s Tony Mass to Nick Cafardo in the Globe to Gammo himself is saying the Sox got the best of Boras in these negotiations.

On the first hand, that’s clearly true: if the reports are correct and the Sox’s initial offer was somewhere around $6-7 mil for 4 years, $8.7 mil for 6 years is a lot closer to that than the $15-$20 mil for 6 years Boras was looking for. On the next hand, the Sox, on some level, had Boras over a barrel. Zak really couldn’t have returned to Japan (well, he could have, but not without losing so much face he would have needed a face transplant), and despite the late-in-the-game posturing from Boras about Daisuke wanting “respect,” the good folks of Seibu would not have considered $8 million a year disrespectful. (I spoke with Bobby Valentine on Tuesday about an unrelated matter, and he said that the negotiations would be tough but there was no way his players would be facing the Diceman next year.)

But on the third hand, the Sox clearly won this game of chicken, and they did it by showing the type of single-mindedness and determination that’s marked the best days of this front office. Over Thanksgiving 2003, Theo and Larry both went to Curt’s house in Arizona, which showed Schilling how serious they were and also made it clear everyone was on the same page. The same thing happened here. That can only be seen as a good sign. Whatever rifts remain between those two — and rifts do remain — they’re showing they can work together.

There’ll be plenty more to chew on as the day progresses: the $203 mil (or so) the Sox have committed to three players, blowing away every team save for the Cubs look; the reality that Fenway (and particularly the Fenway press box) is about to be overrun by Japanese tourists and reporters…and the question of how, exactly, the Sox will cash in on extra revenue. Hint: It won’t be through TV deals (which I think are worked out with MLB, meaning the Sox would only see 1/30 of that money) or through merch sales (ditto).

OK: I’m late for the Pru.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Larry Lucchino & Red Sox & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras & Theo Epstein