If this blog had musical accompaniment, Paul Schaffer would be singing right now: Reader mail.

December 16th, 2006 → 12:57 pm @

It takes much more time to drive around suburban Boston to sign book stock than you might think. Which is why I ended up spending about nine hours in the car yesterday. (Having not been to Watertown’s Arsenal Mall since around 7th grade, I was saddened to see that I can no longer buy my checked shirts and skinny ties at Chess Kind. I can’t buy elaborate fark jokes at Spencer Gifts, either. Other than that, though, it felt very much the same.)

On the plus side, that gave me all day to listen to ‘EEI. (More on that later.) On the downside, that gave me all day to listen to ‘EEI. (More on that later too.)

Anyway, before I head out to Braintree, I wanted to answer some questions that have come up in your all’s comments. Without further ado…

“Seth: When you have a free moment after your whirwind tour of area bookstores, maybe you could weigh in on what Shaughnessy hinted at in his column today (maybe others have hinted at this, too); namely, that the JD Drew deal went down partly as a result of the Sox wanting to sweeten Boras up for the Dice-K deal. If so, does a spoonful of Dice-K make Drew more palatable, even to the doubters?”

Certainly there’s been lots of speculation about this. As I’ve said before, I think the Drew signing was a good one (as do lots of other people, including SI‘s Tom Verducci, although I can’t find that item online). What’s more, signing one of Boras’s free agents with the expectation that that will help grease the way to signing another isn’t part of the Red Sox’s MO — making decisions regarding a player’s value and sticking to that* — and Boras certainly is not the type of agent who would give a team a break because of a deal he’d made with another one of his clients.

With that answer, I’ll anticipate a follow-up question: why the big contract when the Sox appeared to be bidding against themselves? The answer is I think that’s a simplistic way of looking at things: when you look at the type of free-agent contracts that have been handed out, take into consideration that there are basically no more impact bats available, and realize that there’s still more than three months until position players report for spring training, it seems like a team that makes a trade or two and begins to feel like they have a shot but also have some offensive holes will very likely want whomever they can get their hands on. (Who’s to say the Cubs won’t find another $100 million to throw around?) And, as I pointed out in a Dice-K post, that $14 mil contract actually ages pretty well…assuming Drew does, too.

* Two caveats: obviously there are incidents where part of the Red Sox’s thinking takes into consideration a player’s overall worth (and not just his on-field worth), resulting in a contract that might exceed what they think he’s worth in pure baseball terms. See: Varitek, Jason. Also, while I don’t think for a moment the Sox are overpaying some Boras clients to have a better shot at landing others, the Sox, despite it all, have been able to craft an ongoing working relationship with Boras.


Speaking of Boras and his relationship with the Sox’s front office…

“but i guess i’m a little confused as to why. why wouldn’t boras take the yanks offer [to Damon] back to the sox to see if they’d beat it? was it the time pressure? were the yanks johnny’s real first choice?”

There are a couple of theories I get into in varying levels of detail in the book. (And if you anticipated this, you guessed right: Signed copies available at a store near you! Personalized, inscribed bookplates too! Have I mentioned it makes a great holiday gift?) So briefly: there’s a chance Johnny, for whatever reason — the slammin’ nightlife, Michelle thinking she could be a celebrity on a bigger stage, whatever — actually wanted to go to New York. (It’s true: sometimes players want to leave Boston.) There’s also a chance — and I personally think this is more likely — that Boras wanted to prove he could take one of the most popular players on the most popular team in Red Sox history and have him jump ship to the Yankees; if he can get the two richest teams in baseball to bid against each other’s free agents, that’s only going to raise salaries.


shawn.orourke wants to know if there’s any chance Wily Mo will be used as trade bait. Sure, there’s a definite chance. The Sox need a closer, they have (a bit) of a surplus in the outfield, and WMP would, you’d imagine, get decent value in return. With the obvious exceptions of this year’s new signings, the only people who are really untouchable are Schilling, Papi, Papelbon, and Tek, so it’s possible that anyone could get traded. One of the reasons this front office has been so determined to be frugal about trading away their prospects/young players is so they have those players available if and when they have a hole that needs to be filled. It’s the same thing with the pitchers – MDC, Hansen, et al. — is so they have a surplus of young arms when there’s a need for that last puzzle piece. From a personal standpoint, I hope they don’t trade Wily Mo; he’s one of those players that’s simply fun to watch, and as Bill James once told me, that’s sometimes as good a reason to keep a player around as any. But I’d bet his name has come up in discussions. (Speaking of pitchers, yesterday’s bullpen pickups — Donnelley and Romero — mean it’s even more likely there’s more action on the way with the team’s pitching staff.)


Finally, michaelmc and dbvader are having a debate over whether J.D. Drew’s history shows he’s a chronic injury risk or a player who has gotten over the bulk of his physical problems. The answer, I think, is a little of both. If you go to the link for the graphic titled “Drew’s been hurtin’ for certain” in this Nick Cafardo piece, you’ll see a somewhat frightening run-down of Drew’s medical history. However, if you take a look at the last three years, pretty much every “injury” has been more along the times of a couple of days off for some normal wear and tear: with the exception of a broken wrist bone that resulted from getting nailed with a pitch, Drew’s time off since the start of the ’04 season has been limited to three games (stiff neck), five games (hamstring), three games (quad), and five games (knee). That doesn’t worry me too much; unlike, say, Nomar or Trot, those three years look pretty normal to me…

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Dan Shaughnessy & J.D. Drew & Johnny Damon & Q&A time & Scott Boras & Wily Mo Pena

What a bargain!

December 14th, 2006 → 9:05 am @

Well…that was fun. We had Daisuke sneaking into back doors at 3 am to get past the throngs of reporters, we had cross-country flights on private planes, we had madcap dash to the hospital…and now we have a starting rotation of:

Curt Schilling
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Josh Beckett
Jonathan Papelbon
Tim Wakefield

Man…it feels good not to need to write Matt Clement’s name in there. Sure, the pitching staff still has holes — I think it’s insane to assume Mike Timlin is going to be worth a roster spot, but then I also think it’s insane to assume Doug Mirabelli is going to be worth a roster spot. There’s no closer, or at least no obvious closer, and Craig Hansen ain’t gonna be one in the majors unless he learns that he’ll be a lot better off if he stops trying to blow his fastball by big league hitters and uses that nasty-ass slider more often.

Anyway, to go along with that pitching staff, if the season started tomorrow — and who doesn’t wish that it would? — there’d be this starting nine:

Coco, CF
Julio, SS
Papi, DH
Manuel, LF
Drew, RF
Lowell – 3B
Tek – C
Youkilis – 1B
Pedroia – 2B*

That might not be the record-setting ’03-’04 offense, but it’s pretty damn good.

Now, a lot will (and has) been made of the vast amounts of money the Sox have thrown around in the great free-agent spending spree of 2006. So let’s take a look at the $103 (or so) million Matsuzaka will cost the Sox. First off, despite the AAV of $10 million per year, the contract will end up costing the Sox approximately $14 mil/per, because of the 40 percent luxury tax (which, again, I’m assuming the Sox will need to pay). (Also, from what I can tell, the escalators in the deal will amount to a max of $8 mil over the life of the deal, so let’s leave those out for simlicity’s sake.) Let’s also assume that, as Rob Neyer points out, salaries will continue to rise at approximately 10 percent a year. That would make the $14 mil paid out to Daisuke in 2012 worth about $7 million in today’s dollars.** (I think — Neyer has the 10 percent annual depreciation on Drew’s $14 million deal worth $10 million in 2011; I have it worth $8.4. One of us is wrong, and it certainly might be me.) If you look at the pure AAV sans luxury tax, that 2012 salary would be worth $5 mil in today’s dollars.*** If Daisuke ends up being anywhere near as good as rumored, that’ll be one helluva bargain. (Another way to look at this: Manny’s contract was pretty outrageous in 2001; today it’s a relative — and I do mean relative — bargain.) Of course, he could also end up being the next Jose Contreras, circa his Yankees years. That’d make him far from the worst $100 million signing…but it still wouldn’t be good.

So, what does this all mean? Well, for one thing that the Sox didn’t get fleeced by Scott Boras — as recently as a 24 hours ago, he was arguing that Matsuzaka should be getting somewhere in the $20 million per range, which would increase the cost of this deal by $60 million bucks.
And..with that, my flight is boarding. So more later.

* As a couple of people have noted in the comments section, this batting order is likely incorrect. Unless the starting nine changes, it’s more likely to see something like:

Lugo, The Jewish God of OBP, Papi, Manuel, J.D., Lowell, Tek, Coco, Pedroia

** In my computations throughout, I used a $10 million/yr base for Matsuzaka; it’s actually (roughly) $9 mil. The full contingent of escalators would bring the AAV up to $10. Anyway, this’ll alter all of those slightly.

*** And if you add in the $51.1 posting fee, the contract would be worth approximately $24 mil, $22.6 mil, $21.2 mil, $19.8 mil, $18.4 mil, and $17 mil with the luxury tax or $20, $10, $18, $17, $16, and $15 million per. A couple of other quick notes on the luxury tax figures: the posting fee does not count towards the luxury tax and is paid out in one lump sum, which skews these numbers a bit, but not a huge amount. Also, the reason I’m including the luxury tax here is I’m assuming Dice’s contract will be one of the ones that puts the Sox over the luxury tax limit; in figuring out other AAV’s, you wouldn’t add on the 40 percent until the contracts starting going over that limit. Got that?

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras

Dicegate: T-38 hours and counting. Where’s George Mitchell when you need him?

December 13th, 2006 → 10:42 am @

George Mitchell has some impressive credentials — he served two terms in the Senate, he’s acknowledged as the prime force in getting the Belfast Peace Agreements signed in 1998, and he served as a co-chairman of the U.S. Task Force on the U.N. He’s also the director of the Red Sox. If he can negotiate peace in Northern Ireland, surely he can find a way to bring the Sox and Scott Boras together on the international crises known as Dicegate.

If he’s not holed up in Southern California yet, it might be too late. Today’s Herald reports the deal has to get done by this morning, Pacific Time, when the Trans World Henry heads back to Boston. If the Diceman ain’t on the plane with plans to take a physical, there won’t be a deal. (Of course, the parties could negotiate throughout the day and Matsuzaka could still, conceivably, be on a plane tonight. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that MLB tells the Sox and Boras that if they have a deal by tomorrow’s midnight deadline, it’s alright if it’s conditional on a physical.)

Meanwhile, the Globe‘s indefatigable Gordon Edes has a three AM update from his ubiquitous “source with direct ties to the negotiation” saying the “dialogue continues.” “That would appear to leave open the possibility that a deal could still be struck before the Sox make their scheduled departure this morning,” Edes writes. “But nothing appeared imminent.”

I figure the next updates will come around noon or 1 EST, when the business day starts out in L.A. Of course, I’ve assumed lots of things that’ve turned out to be wrong.

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Gordon Edes & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras

This morning in the Middle East, er, the Matsuzaka negotiations (And: Is Scott Boras pulling a Fonzie?)

December 12th, 2006 → 10:48 am @

It was an interesting night. There are plenty of news articles, plenty of columns, and plenty of commentary. Think of this as one-stop shopping. (I do love one-stop shopping.)

* Scott Boras is insisting that he did not say that Matsuzaka should receive $100 million; he merely said that’s what pitchers in today’s market are receiving. (Pretty much everyone who saw the press conference thought he said that’s what Matsuzaka should get.) Boras also stressed that Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman.

* After the Red Sox made their initial offer, Boras has not made a single counteroffer. Or, apparently, even spoken to the Sox. He has, of course, been speaking to the rest of the country, and will hold a series of town meetings later this week.

* John Henry provided his plane to whisk Theo and Larry out to California for a face-to-face with Boras, adding another $10,000 or so to the price of the negotiations. In the baseball world, this is also known as “a candy bar.”

* Henry is pissed. Gordon Edes details a late-night conference call Henry had with reporters: “‘We’re on Scott Boras’s doorstep because he hasn’t negotiated with us so far,’ Henry said, frustration registering in his voice during a post-midnight conference call with reporters. ‘We’re taking the fight directly to him to try to have a negotiation here.'” Later, Henry told Edes in a private call, “You make your best offer and just hope the player receives it.” And yes, Henry meant what you thought he meant there.

* Nevertheless, the Sox will make another offer “of considerable magnitude” today, according to Theo. “It’s highly unusual,” Epstein said, referring to the fact that the Sox were essentially bidding against themselves, “but it’s showing that Matsuzaka is extremely important to the Boston Red Sox. It’s normally not a good ploy, but we want to demonstrate to Matsuzaka, and the fans of Japanese baseball, just how important he is to us.”

* Boras finally seems to have stepped over the line, with the Boston media, the national media, and his great-aunt all turning against him. Matsuzaka can’t pitch for anyone else in MLB this year; he’ll make $3 or $4 million a year if he stays in Japan; both the Yankees and the Mets apparently agreed that Daisuke was worth somewhere in the $8 to $10 million range (which, as people are now increasingly pointing out, is a lot of money for someone who’s never thrown a major league pitch). The result is a drastic swing of public opinion, with more and more folks now siding with the Sox.

I’m about 94 percent sure this won’t happen, but it seems to me there’s an outside possibility (very outside, granted) that Boras will end up screwing himself not only in what will likely be a very lucrative Japanese market but could also hurt himself with MLB teams. (There is, after all, some precedence for collusion among the owners vis a vis salaries.) Obviously, we’re living in a whole different world today, but at some point you’d figure owners might get sick of negotiating with Boras, who’s establishied an impressive track record of obstinancy and lying and looks more and more like he’s preparing to waterski right over that great white. (Like I said, there’s a very small chance of this happening…but hey, I got to U-Tube Henry Winkler.)

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Arthur Fonzarelli & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras

Is yet another negotiation falling apart because Scott Boras insists on acting like an ass?

December 11th, 2006 → 9:42 am @

Buster Olney and Gordon Edes both raise the possibility that Scott Boras has no intention of letting Daisuke Matsuzaka sign with the Red Sox. Edes says sources close to the deal fear that Boras is simply “running out the clock,” while Olney wonders if Boras has told his client about the Red Sox’s offer. “The question I’d love to know the answer to — and never will know — is what is Matsuzaka’s understanding of what is taking place?” Olney writes. “[T]he Red Sox don’t know what is being said between the player and the agent, and so they don’t know if Boras is bluffing, or if he has convinced Matsuzaka to go back to Japan.” Boras has never been in a situation like this, although he’s been remarkably skilled in getting teams to up their bids even in the absence of any competing offers.

If this is what’s going on, it wouldn’t be the first time Boras seemed to be less than forthright with one of his clients. (There is always the possibility that these stories are being planted by the Red Sox’s side, but I’m not sure what that would accomplish: they’re not going to sway Boras, and they’re not going to help with public opinion if Boston doesn’t sign Matsuzaka.) After last year’s Damon fiasco, the Red Sox considered filing a formal complaint against Boras, but they were told by people in MLB’s central office that there was nothing that could be done except assume that everything Boras says is a lie.

Maybe Boras is bluffing, maybe not. What’s scary is that he’s shown he really doesn’t care…

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Scott Boras

You say yes, I say no: the ballad of Larry and Theo

December 2nd, 2006 → 1:05 pm @

If I was, say, a beat writer looking for something to write about, this might be one place to start:

“‘Media availability,’ which results in a coach or general manager saying nothing about everything, is a waste of everyone’s time. Bill Belichick is the master of the genre (except for those times when he lets his guard down and seems to enjoy teaching a little football) and Theo Epstein is the latest local practitioner. Congrats to Bob Ryan for calling Theo out on this earlier this week.”
Piecing it all together
By Dan Shaughnessy
The Boston Globe
December 2, 2006

“Back from his fact-finding/Matsuzaka-signing mission in Japan, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino sat down at Fenway Park last night and discussed three pivotal team issues in the winter of 2006-07.”
Lucchino Hits on Three Hot Topics
by Dan Shaughnessy
The Boston Globe
December 2, 2006

“There was no airing of company secrets by Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein on the conference call he held yesterday in advance of his trip Sunday to Orlando, Fla., for the winter meetings, not that there should have been any expectations Epstein would use such a forum to do so.”
Epstein Mum on Sox Deals
By Gordon Edes
The Boston Globe
December 2, 2006

So let’s review:

* A year after Theo Epstein left the Red Sox in no small part because of his sense of the team’s (and Larry Lucchino’s) inability to stay out of the media — a sense which was epitomized by a Dan Shaughnessy column deriding Epstein — Shaughnessy writes a column dering Epstein. For not talking to him.

* That same day, Shaugnessy writes another story in which Larry offers up some sound bites about Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew, and Manny — innocuous soundbites, to be sure — but soundbites all the same.

* At virtually the same time, Theo was on a conference call “refusing to comment on trade talks involving Manny Ramirez or the impending signing of free agent outfielder J.D. Drew.”

Could Shaughnessy just be stirring up trouble? Sure. Could this be an early sign of another fault line in what’s already being described by club officials and top executives as an uneasy truce? Absolutely.

Yeah, it should be an interesting offseason.

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Dan Shaughnessy & Larry Lucchino & Oblique references to Beatles songs & Theo Epstein

On the plus side, Tony La Russa’s still is under .500 in World Series games

October 28th, 2006 → 12:19 pm @

There were a number of very weird things about this year’s Fall Classic.

* For the first time ever, Tony La Russa was involved in a World Series that went more than four games (although that may have only been because of Kenny Rogers’s extra, um, assistance).

* David Eckstein passed himself off as a power threat.

* The Detroit Tigers pitching staff singlehandedly lost the Series on their errors. I guess there are some drawbacks to having such a young pitching staff.

* Jeff Weaver somehow transformed himself into a big game pitcher.

Now we can focus on the hot stove season. And honestly, I’ll get around to those post season wrapups…

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Tony La Russa