March 5th, 2009 → 1:06 pm @ Seth Mnookin
It’s been an eventful off-season: there’s the whole A-Rod ‘roid thing, the just-completed Manny negotiations, and the Yankees $800 trillion signing of Mark Texeria. In honor of all this, let’s–as Phil Lesh used to say–take a step back…and relive some moments from years gone by.
In honor of Scott Boras’s always-entertaining deal-making: an FTM excerpt about Johnny Damon’s dishonest decamping to the Yankees.
In honor of the ever-growing PED scandal: Bill James’s stance on steroids, the possibility of Jose Canseco being a great prophet, and the sheer lunacy of the MLB Players Association stance on drug testing.
And finally, in honor of the most entertaining third-basement playing today: the oft-overlooked connection between A-Rod and Jon Lester and the union’s stupidity vis-a-vis the 2003 A-Rod contract circus.
October 24th, 2007 → 10:59 am @ Seth Mnookin
The comments section has been heating upâ€šÃ„Ã®and lots of smart people have been making lots of good points. There’s a lot I want to comment on (like Manny’s freakishly similar Indians/Red Sox splitsâ€šÃ„Ã®I’m willing to bet no player has ever had two seven-year stretches that were so remarkably alike), and hopefully I will do that in these next few days. (I doubt I’ll revisit the always shocking uninformed inanity displayed by Murray Chass…but only because I’m exercising remarkable self control.) That doesn’t mean this here blog is gonna remain dark: In advance of my heading up to Boston to catch Game 1, here’s one of my all-time favorite Feeding the Monster excerpts; this one details an at-bat Theo labeled “the greatest at-bat to end the greatest game ever played.” (It really shouldn’t need saying, but here goes: if you don’t have your copy of FTM, you’re only hurting yourself. You can buy a copy from Amazon for $10.20 – cheap! – and request a personalized, signed bookplate all in matter of mere seconds.) Without further ado…
In the bottom of the 14th, Yankees pitcher Esteban Loaiza came out for his fourth inning of work. A bust during the regular season, Loaiza had been unhittable in this game, with a devastating sinker falling off one side of the plate and a wicked cut fastball collapsing on the other. His last three innings of work may have been the best pitched innings of the series thus far. Since entering the game in the 11th with runners on first and second and one out, heâ€šÃ„Ã´d allowed just one walk. Now, Loaiza struck out Mark Bellhorn to begin the inning, and a pair of walks sandwiched around another strikeout put Johnny Damon on second base and Manny Ramirez on first with two outs. David Ortiz was due up at the plate. A base hit would likely win the game.
As Ortiz walked to the plate, he spit into his batting gloves and then smashed his hands together. As he dug into the batterâ€šÃ„Ã´s box, he tried to drown out the serenading cries of â€šÃ„ÃºPAPI, PAPI,â€šÃ„Ã¹ to ignore the adulatory signs that freckled the Fenway stands. â€šÃ„ÃºYou want to shut everything down,â€šÃ„Ã¹ he later told Globeâ€šÃ„Ã´s Chris Snow. â€šÃ„ÃºAfter you shut down all the noise and everything around you, thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s when your concentration comes. Thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s when you focus on what you want to do.â€šÃ„Ã¹
Ortiz is often described as a hitting genius, as if his talent is purely God given. Heâ€šÃ„Ã´s more comfortable than many Latin players talking with and teasing reporters, but English is not his first language, and he often plays the part of the friendly jokester. But Ortiz works on his hitting as much as anyone in baseball. While his teammates are in the field, Ortiz often retreats to the Red Soxâ€šÃ„Ã´s clubhouse to study his previous at-bats against that nightâ€šÃ„Ã´s pitcher. Ortiz had been preparing for Loaiza ever since heâ€šÃ„Ã´d taken the mound. â€šÃ„ÃºI wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t trying to go too crazy with him,â€šÃ„Ã¹ Ortiz said later. Because of Loaizaâ€šÃ„Ã´s pitchesâ€šÃ„Ã´ late movement, Ortiz said, he â€šÃ„Ãºjust wanted to stay on the ball longer.â€šÃ„Ã¹
Loaizaâ€šÃ„Ã´s first pitch looked hittable, and Ortiz took a monstrous cut, but at the last moment the ball dove down and away, and Ortiz missed. Strike one. A ball and a foul made it 1-2. The Yankees were one strike away from sending the game, which had already taken longer than any postseason game in baseball history, into the 15th inning. The fourth pitch was outside but not by enough for Ortiz to take, and he punched it foul. He hit the next pitch deep enough to be a home run, but it hooked foul into the right field stands. Loaiza followed with another ball, bringing the count even, to 2-2. Ortiz stepped out of the batterâ€šÃ„Ã´s box.
As Ortiz and Loaiza battled, Fenway was in a complete frenzy. A group of young men just behind home plate had been pounding on the dividing wall that separated the field from the stands since the eighth inning. Down the third base line, ESPNâ€šÃ„Ã´s Peter Gammons stood, poised by the entrance to the field, as he waited for the game to end so he could run out and collect a few quick on-camera quotes. Heâ€šÃ„Ã´d been standing there for a couple of hours already, ever since the bottom of the eighth, when the Yankees looked as if they were about to put away the game, and the series. Gammons, whoâ€šÃ„Ã´d seen the Red Sox beat the Cincinnati Reds in extra innings in the Sixth Game of the 1975 World Series, couldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t seem to erase the grin from his face. â€šÃ„ÃºUnbelievable,â€šÃ„Ã¹ he occasionally murmured, shaking his head.
Ortiz knew a walk would load the bases, and with Doug Mientkiewicz on deck, he also knew the Yankees would much prefer to pitch to the light-hitting defensive specialist than to the man whose postseason highlight reel seemed to grow with each passing day. At this point, the difference between men on first and second and men on every base was negligible: with two outs, the lead runner would be off on contact in either case, and a base hit would likely win the game regardless of whether Damon was on second or third. Even with two strikes, Ortiz knew Loaiza wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t going to give him anything on the fat part of the plate, and the way Loaiza was pitching, he could keep on painting the corners forever. Ortiz dug in, determined to foul off as many pitches as it took until there was one he could handle.
And so Ortiz fouled off the seventh pitch of the at bat, and then the eighth and the ninth. As he stepped out of the batterâ€šÃ„Ã´s box again, he examined his bat before seizing it by the barrel and smacking it, handle first, into the ground to make sure one of Loaizaâ€šÃ„Ã´s cutters hadnâ€šÃ„Ã´t splintered it. Satisfied, he tucked it under his arm, spat into his gloves once more, smacked his hands together again, and settled back in to hit. And on the tenth pitch of David Ortizâ€šÃ„Ã´s seventh plate appearance of the night, Loaiza threw a cut fastball in on his hands. Ortiz, no longer swinging for the fences, fisted the ball over Derek Jeterâ€šÃ„Ã´s head, where it fell in front of center fielder Bernie Williams. On national television, commentator Joe Buck exclaimed, â€šÃ„ÃºDamon coming to the plate, he can keep on running to New York. Game 6, tomorrow night!â€šÃ„Ã¹ As Loaiza walked dejectedly off the mound he spit out his gum and took a swat at it with his glove. This had been the best heâ€šÃ„Ã´d pitched all year, and still Ortiz had beaten him.
It was Ortizâ€šÃ„Ã´s second walk-off hit of the series and his third of the postseason; no other player in history had hit more than two in his entire career. Afterwards, Theo Epstein said, â€šÃ„ÃºIt might be the greatest game ever played. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´d like to hear other nominationsâ€šÃ„Â¶. That might have been one of the greatest at-bats to end the greatest game ever played.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Pedro Martinez, whoâ€šÃ„Ã´d made headlines in September after referring to the Yankees as â€šÃ„Ãºmy daddyâ€šÃ„Ã¹ after a tough loss to New York, said simply, â€šÃ„ÃºThe Yankees need to think about whoâ€šÃ„Ã´s their Big Papi.â€šÃ„Ã¹
July 14th, 2007 → 2:09 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Ah, yes, the wonders of 20-20 hindsight. Back in 2000, when A-Rod signed a 10-year, $250 million deal, Rangers owner Tom Hicks was widely derided as a total buffoon for offering that kind of money. He most certainly way; Hicks’ offer was about $100 million more than the next highest one. But with three years remaining on the deal, it looks like $25 million/year is going to be, in the through-the-looking glass world of MLB, a relative bargain. So much of a bargain, in fact, that A-Rod said yesterday that he was refusing the offer to negotiate a contract extension during the season, preferring to take an out-clause in his deal and become a free agent when this season ends.
Those with extra good memories — and close readers of Feeding the Monster, the NYT and Boston Globe bestseller (available now in paperback for only ten bucks — cheap!) will remember that it was exactly this type of out clause that Union Prez Gene Orza ridiculed as being worthless…and it was Orza’s stance (combined with Larry Lucchino’s volatility) that squashed the A-Rod to Boston deal.
I wrote about this same thing back before the season began; that post contained an excerpt from FTM that quoted from “The A-Rod Chronicles,” the book’s relevant chapter. I’ll reprint a paragragh of that here:
“The Red Sox and Rodriguez ended up working out a deal in which Rodriguez would cut approximately $4 million a year off the last seven years of his deal in return for some licensing rights and the ability to declare free agency at different points during the remaining years of his contract. When the two sides presented the deal to Orza, he was dumbfounded. No one had signed a contract for as much as $20 million in years, Orza said. The made the offer of free agency essentially worthless â€šÃ„Ã® there was no way Rodriguez would ever sign a more lucrative contract again. (emphasis added) Orza made a counter-proposal he said the union would be able to accept, in which the Red Sox would save a total of about $12 million instead of $28 million. The Red Sox initially rejected Orzaâ€šÃ„Ã´s figure…”
I’m on the record as calling the Players Association “full of crap,” “moronic,” and “power-hungry,” so I don’t think my feelings about Gene Orza and crew are all that opaque. But here is another instance where Orza et al were egregiously wrong; unfortunately, many of the players are so convinced everyone else is out to screw them it’s unlikely anything will ever change…at least for another couple of decades, when retired players start growing tumors out of their eyeballs and guys on the field wonder if the fight against effective drug testing was really worth it.
It’s also interesting that note that had Orza been a bit more prescient about the vagaries of the marketplace, the Sox would, in all likelihood, currently have A-Rod at short and Magglio Ordonez in left. Or, to put it another way, we’d have a guy with 14 HRs, 54 RBIs, and a .992 OPS batting third, a guy with 31 HRs, 87 RBIs, and a 1.083 OPS batting cleanup, and a guy with 13 HRs, 72 RBIs, and a 1.028 OPS hitting fifth. This is, of course, based on a whole mess of assumptions, including the re-signing of Magglio; lots else would have been different as well (Jon Lester, for example, wouldn’t be a member of the Red Sox organization; he was heading to Texas with Manny). But as much as I despise A-Rod — and I do despise A-Rod — that is an absolutely terrifying trio. (Suffice to say that, at least thus far this year, Papi would be the weak link.)
I haven’t been posted as much as usual…which means I haven’t been reminded everyone out there about my offer of free signed and personalized bookplates. Theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re really nice, and will be the icing on the cake for all of those copies of FTM you buy as gifts for the loved ones and beachgoers in your life. Don’t delay! Act today!
March 27th, 2007 → 5:22 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Last Friday, I posted some quick thoughts about the Pap to the pen move; I also promised to post a historical lesson that would provide some insight as to why installing the Baby Faced Killer as the closer was a good idea simply because of the distraction it would cause if the Sox blew so much as a single game in the first weeks of the season because Tavarez (or the corpse of Mike Timlin) was closing.
And yes, at the time I promised that second post would come “in a few hours.” So here I am, sticking to my word…so long as you’re willing to consider 100 or so “a few.” Anyway, without further ado, here’s an excerpt from Feeding the Monster^ that takes us all the way back to Opening Day, 2003…a quaint and innocent time that feels like it was several lifetimes ago. Theo was the newly appointed GM, Jeremy Giambi was ahead of Ortiz on the depth chart, and the Sox’s “closer by committee” experiment was being derided even before the season started. It only took one game — one blown Opening Day game against the Devil Rays, to be precise — to fire up the populace’s bloodlust. But did that game actually say anything about the possibilities of a closer by committee? Nope. It did show a lot about the stupidity of Grady Little. Read and learn…
^I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to point out that FTM is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!) and that free signed and personalized bookplates are here for the asking. It’s a perfect gift for Opening Day. For yourself, even.
The Red Sox began the 2003 season hundreds of miles away from their Fenway home, in Tampaâ€šÃ„Ã´s Tropicana Field, a domed stadium that housed the moribund Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The first inning of Opening Day seemed like it could serve as a microcosm for the two teams. In the top of the first, the Sox scored three runs off of two Tampa Bay errors, a pair of singles by Nomar Garciaparra and Kevin Millar, and a two-run double by Shea Hillenbrand. In the bottom of the inning, Pedro Martinez retired the Devil Rays in order, with a strikeout sandwiched between a pair of groundouts. For most of the game, that was as exciting as it got. The Red Sox scored again in the fifth, and Tampa scratched out an unearned run off of Martinez in the seventh. After finishing that inning, Martinezâ€šÃ„Ã´s night was complete, and he seemed to be in prime form. Heâ€šÃ„Ã´d thrown 91 pitches, striking out six while allowing only three hits. Ramiro Mendoza came in on relief to retire the Devil Rays in order in the eighth, and Boston was three outs away from its first victory of the season. With a three-run lead against a team that had finished in last place every year of its existence, it was the perfect opportunity to test out the Red Soxâ€šÃ„Ã´s closer-by-committee approach in a low-stress situation.
With three left-handed batters coming up to the plate, lefty Alan Embree was the first pitcher summoned out of the Boston bullpen in the ninth. Embree, a former member of the Padres, had been picked up by the Red Sox on June 26, 2002, four days after he struck out seven of ten Yankeesâ€šÃ„Ã®including the last six in a rowâ€šÃ„Ã®in a game in San Diego. For the remainder of the 2002 season, he had thrown well, pitching in 32 games for Boston with a 2.97 ERA. Epstein was hoping that, in 2003, heâ€šÃ„Ã´d become one of the linchpins of the Red Soxâ€šÃ„Ã´s bullpen.
Embree gave up a single to Travis Lee, the first batter he faced, prompting Tampa manager Lou Pinella to send up the right-handed Terry Shumpert to pinch-hit for the Devil Rayâ€šÃ„Ã´s lefty designated hitter, Al Martin. Shumpert, in his 13-year Major League career, had only 47 home runs and had batted only .235 in 2002. Before the game, the Red Sox advance scouting team had prepared a report on Tampa Bay and left it for Grady Little. With regards to Shumpert, the instructions were clear: Shumpert was all but useless at the plate so long as you donâ€šÃ„Ã´t, under any circumstances, throw him an inside fastball. Embree soon demonstrated that Little had either never read the report, or never shared the information with his pitching staff, and Shumpert hit one of Embreeâ€šÃ„Ã´s inside fastballs for his 48th home run (and the second to last of his career).* After Embree gave up another single, this one to right-fielder Ben Grieve, Little summoned Chad Fox to the mound.
Fox struck out the first batter he faced, and then, with one out and a man on first base, induced a bouncer up the middle that looked like it would result in a routine, game-ending double play. But after stepping on second base for the force out, Nomar Garciaparra fumbled the ball as he prepared to throw to first, leaving a man on with two out and the Red Sox clinging to a 4-3 lead. After a seemingly rattled Fox walked pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson, Carl Crawford, the Devil Raysâ€šÃ„Ã´ leadoff batter, came to the plate.
Crawford fouled off four straight pitches, putting him in an 0-2 hole. Foxâ€šÃ„Ã´s fifth pitch was high, bringing the count to 1-2. His next pitch was low and inside, exactly where he wanted it, but Crawford got his bat around on the ball, golfing it in to the right-field stands for a game-winning, three-run homer.
It was a tough loss, but it didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t predict anything one way or another about the Soxâ€šÃ„Ã´s bullpen plan. Save for Garciaparraâ€šÃ„Ã´s bobble, Chad Fox would have been out of the inning, and the pitch Crawford hit to end the game was an excellent one. Still, the reaction in Boston was swift and harsh. After a grand total of one game, the Heraldâ€šÃ„Ã´s Jeff Horrigan dubbed the Red Soxâ€šÃ„Ã´s bullpen experiment â€šÃ„Ãºloser[s] by committee.â€šÃ„Ã¹ The Globe said the opening night loss had given â€šÃ„Ãºrise to the darkest fears of the schemeâ€šÃ„Ã´s architectsâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and reported that a 73-year-old woman had been prompted to call the paper for the first time in her life. She relayed this message: â€šÃ„ÃºIâ€šÃ„Ã´m so disgusted. Whatâ€šÃ„Ã´s with this closer by committee?â€šÃ„Ã¹ Dan Shaughnessy wanted to â€šÃ„Ãºstart with a memo to Bill James: Perhaps the seventh inning is not the most important inning to hold a lead.â€šÃ„Ã¹ After an offseason â€šÃ„Ãºspent reinventing baseball,â€šÃ„Ã¹ Shaughnessy wrote, â€šÃ„Ãºyoung Theo saw it all implode in the hideous confines of Tropicana Field.â€šÃ„Ã¹
The bullpen brouhaha was just one of the distractions that would occupy the team during the first half of the season. In April, soon after his $17.5 million contract extension for the 2004 season was picked, Martinez seemed to falter, sparking a round of hand wringing and second-guessing. When the teamâ€šÃ„Ã´s relievers continued to struggle, the closer-by-committee experiment was more or less discarded, as Grady Little announced that Brandon Lyon and Chad Fox would, until further notice, both serve as the Red Soxâ€šÃ„Ã´s closers. And in late May, after Martinez landed on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his back, Epstein succeeded in swapping an increasingly bitter Hillenbrand for some pitching help, trading him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for their 24-year-old Korean pitcher, Byung-Hyun Kim.
* One member of the teamâ€šÃ„Ã´s baseball operations staff said of that night, â€šÃ„ÃºThatâ€šÃ„Ã´s when I had a feeling Grady wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t going to work out.â€šÃ„Ã¹
March 15th, 2007 → 11:50 am @ Seth Mnookin
As previously noted, this is not the first time that an opt-out clause in A-Rod’s contract has garnered attention: it was that very clause that ended up being, in a roundabout way, the sticking point in the Sox-Rangers deal that would have moved A-Rod to Boston and Manny to Texas. Obviously, it’s way too late to be running sneak peeks from Feeding the Monster (although if you missed them, there are lots of interesting ones, as well as other excerpts from the book, over here. And don’t forget, FTM is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!) and, as always, free, signed, personalized bookplates are still available. (Virtual) operates are standing by!). So what should we call this. A post-peak? Whatever it is, here’s a section of the book detailing the breakdown of those ’03-’04 talks.
That period is especially interesting in retrospect. As you’ll see below, players union head Gene Orza rejected the Sox’s offer of those opt-outs in return for shaving about $4 mil/year off of A-Rod’s salary because Orza thought that offer was essentially worthless; after all no one had signed a $20 million deal since those crazy days of 2000-2001. Well, folks, crazy days are here again, and with Gary Matthews getting $50 million deals, who out there doesn’t think A-Rod could add to his bottom line should he actually end up doing a whole new deal after this season? What’s more, it was these negotiations that started the breakdown in Theo’s and Larry’s relationship. Good times! (And: an interesting footnote to all this: Jon Lester was the pitching prospect who was going to be thrown into the deal.) Without further throat-clearing:
“By mid December, newspapers around the country were reporting that a Rangers-Red Sox deal was all but completed. Boston would send Manny Ramirez (as well as some cash to help pay out the $98 million still owed him) and minor league pitcher Jon Lester to the Rangers. The Rangers would send Rodriguez to the Sox, and Rodriguez, in return for getting the chance to play for a contender, would reduce the annual value of the years left on his deal. A corollary deal would send Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez.
And that was supposed to be that. Garciaparraâ€šÃ„Ã´s teammates readied themselves for a new shortstop, a prospect that they were frankly looking forward to. ‘When youâ€šÃ„Ã´re talking about a guy whoâ€šÃ„Ã´s going to be a leader and be the face of the organization, thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s Alex Rodriguez,’ Kevin Millar said on December 16th on ESPN. ‘Manny leads in the batterâ€šÃ„Ã´s box and Nomar prepares himself to play hard everyday but youâ€šÃ„Ã´re talking about a leader in Alex Rodriguezâ€šÃ„Â¶. I mean, A-Rodâ€šÃ„Ã´s the best in the game.’
Because of the high profiles of the players and the enormous sums of money involved, officials at Major League Baseball and the Playerâ€šÃ„Ã´s Association, the union for professional baseball players, had joined in the discussions even before a deal had been finalized. Gene Orza, a top union official, had given Rodriguez the requisite permission needed for Rodriguez to discuss a restructuring of his contract with the Red Sox. According to an article by The Boston Globeâ€šÃ„Ã´s Gordon Edes, Orza also called a top official in Major League Baseballâ€šÃ„Ã´s central office and said, ‘I want you to get word to Larry [Lucchino] that weâ€šÃ„Ã´ll do everything within our power to get this thing doneâ€šÃ„Ã®itâ€šÃ„Ã´s great for baseball and we love Alexâ€šÃ„Ã®but I hope Larry doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t abuse the process, as he is wont to do.’ Soon after, Lucchino and Orza had a conversation in which Orza reminded Lucchino that any reduction in the average annual value in a playerâ€šÃ„Ã´s contract needed to be offset by some other ‘added benefit’ which the player received.
The Red Sox and Rodriguez ended up working out a deal in which Rodriguez would cut approximately $4 million a year off the last seven years of his deal in return for some licensing rights and the ability to declare free agency at different points during the remaining years of his contract (emphasis added for the purpose of this post). When the two sides presented the deal to Orza, he was dumbfounded. No one had signed a contract for as much as $20 million in years, Orza said. The made the offer of free agency essentially worthlessâ€šÃ„Ã®there was no way Rodriguez would ever sign a more lucrative contract again. Orza made a counter-proposal he said the union would be able to accept, in which the Red Sox would save a total of about $12 million instead of $28 million. The Red Sox initially rejected Orzaâ€šÃ„Ã´s figure, but both sides assumed theyâ€šÃ„Ã´d keep working towards a compromise.
Then, on the same night in which Orza had presented his proposal, Larry Lucchino issued a statement. ‘It is a sad day when the Players Association thwarts the will of its members,’ Lucchino said. ‘The Players Association asserts that it supports individual negotiations, freedom of choice, and player mobility. However, in this high-profile instance, their action contradicts this and is contrary to the desires of the player. We appreciate the flexibility and determination Alex and Cynthia Rodriguez have shown in their effort to move to Boston and the Red Sox.’
The move was typical of Lucchinoâ€šÃ„Ã´s career. Despite his unprecedented record as a CEO and despite the high esteem in which his many admirers held him, Lucchino had a hair-trigger sense of being slighted and often seemed to be spoiling for a fight. Heâ€šÃ„Ã´d been a union adversary for years. If Orza was being difficult to spite him, Lucchino wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t going to back down. But by trying to create the impression of a rift between the union and Rodriguez, baseballâ€šÃ„Ã´s highest paid player, Lucchino actually made it less likely Rodriguez would make a stand about the issue. And now, not only was Orza angry, but Rodriguez, according to people close to him, was upset, both that Lucchino would give the impression he was speaking for Rodriguez and that Lucchino would draw Rodriguezâ€šÃ„Ã´s wife Cynthia into the picture. Rangersâ€šÃ„Ã´ owner Tom Hicks was annoyed as well, and within days, the Boston newspapers were reporting that Lucchino had been pulled off of the A-Rod negotiations and that Tom Werner had taken over.
Lucchino characterizes what happened differently. ‘I was frustrated,’ he says, talking both about the union negotiations and his efforts to get Hicks to reduce the amount of money he was asking for to augment Manny Ramirezâ€šÃ„Ã´s salary. ‘At one point, I was talking to Tom and John and I said, ‘One of you guys should try to talk to [Hicks], maybe youâ€šÃ„Ã´ll have better luck.’ And Tom said, â€šÃ„Ã²Iâ€šÃ„Ã´ll call him.” John Henry agrees with Lucchinoâ€šÃ„Ã´s assessment. ‘Larry went for Christmas to see his mother in Pittsburgh,’ Henry says. ‘We didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t send him out of town. Tom still tried to get the deal going, but it wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t like weâ€šÃ„Ã´d lost faith in Larry.’ In the coming weeks, there would be various attempts to resurrect a dealâ€šÃ„Ã®all to no avail. By January, the Rangers and the Red Sox had ceased discussions.”
September 15th, 2006 → 10:54 am @ Seth Mnookin
First things first: thanks to everyone who came out last night to hear me talk about Feeding the Monster at Professor Thoms’. Chris, the always delightful man behind the bar, has some more copies of the book on stock; if you want to get a signed copy, pick one up from Chris during the Yankees series this weekend and I’ll come in and (inscrutably) personalize for you. (Line of the night, coming from Chris after I signed a book for his friend: “What in the world does that say?”) PT’s is at 219 Second Ave, south of 14th Street on the west side of the street.
A couple of other things about last night: I know fewer people want to watch the Sox these days. On the one hand I understand that; on the other hand it baffles me. I’ll never tire of watching baseball, and will never tire of watching the Sox. I love how Pedroia turns the double play; I love how Youkilis is perfecting the “what the fuck!” both hands on the helmet look; I even love watching lefty Lenny. I do not, however, love watching Mike Timlin pitch the ninth. Apparently, the Globe isn’t much enamored of that, either: in today’s game write-up, there’s almost no information about the actual game itself, as most of the article is dedicated to a discussion of whether or not Manny will play again this year. (My bet: nope.) In case you’re actually wondering what happened in Baltimore, Ian Browne has the skinny on redsox.com. A quick summary: Ortiz is getting walked a lot without Manny in the lineup; Mark Loretta is following in the Todd Walker-Mark Bellhorn tradition of unlikely offensive forces coming out of 2B (even though Loretta was at first last night, with Youks in left); Timlin gave up a first-batter double in the bottom of the ninth with the Sox clinging to a one-run lead before escaping from a 1st and 3rd, one out situation.
Finally, judging from last night’s Q/A, there’s still a whole lot of interest in the shortstop formerly known as Nomah. So here are the three interview outtakes I printed back in June:
There’s lots, lots more about Nomar in the book — and lots more about the enigma known as Manny, the other hot topic last night — so if, for some odd, unknowable reason, you haven’t picked one up yet, do it now. (Providence/Boston are folks can do so next week and have me sign said book at one of my appearances.)
July 21st, 2006 → 10:22 am @ Seth Mnookin
This is the ninth in a series of outtakes done for Feeding the Monster, available in stores now. This interview with Tim Wakefield was conducted in the Red Sox clubhouse on May 10, 2005, and is being printed here to help get Wakefield fans through these next few weeks.
On the difference between the current ownership group and the Yawkey Trust: In my opinion, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s been a 180-degree turn since theyâ€šÃ„Ã´ve taken over, as far as the clubhouse, the field, the fans’ perspective of it. Theyâ€šÃ„Ã´ve really did a good job of bringing it all together. The ballpark is more fan friendly or being more convenient for the fans to watch the team play, and theyâ€šÃ„Ã´ve also made it more convenient for the player to work here. Considering the conditions that we used to come to work to everyday before, it’s a lot nicer since they redid the clubhouse.
On Fenway: Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s not that the clubhouse was bad before. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s just that itâ€šÃ„Ã´s such an old ballpark, it was hard to do things. Just like you, you go to your desk everyday, if it’s cluttered, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s depressing to go to work everyday. They did a good job coming in here and making the changes that they made, not only from a team standpoint, but everything that surrounds the team. That helps us perform better.
On communication between ownership and players: We have roundtables and they want the playerâ€šÃ„Ã´s opinion and perspective on things. In years past, it was never like that. [When the team fired Dr. Bill Morgan], at least they gave us a chance to voice our opinion, and ultimately they make their decision and you have to respect that.
On the concept of team chemistry: I really feel that the organization has a good sense on what chemistry is. You know, even though we had great chemistry last year, they went out and got guys who could fill those holes and keep the chemistry together. You could have 24 great guys, and it’s one bad guy who could ruin the whole team. I think theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re aware of it. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m a big believer and I think the organization is aware of that too that talent can only take you so far. There’s that little extra team concept of chemistry and character of the ballclubâ€šÃ„Ã®weâ€šÃ„Ã´re all a family in here. We spend more time with our teammates for nine months than we do with our family. All of these guys are like brothers to all of us. [If you have bad chemistry] it effects peopleâ€šÃ„Ã´s emotions on the field. If you get one guy thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s a bad apple or has a bad attitude or is always complaining about something or stuffâ€šÃ„Ã´s not right, it makes it depressing because you hear it all the time. And you just donâ€šÃ„Ã´t want to hear it. Youâ€šÃ„Ã´re happy with the way things are and then you hear somebody else whoâ€šÃ„Ã´s not happy, who badmouths the organization or stuff like that. We donâ€šÃ„Ã´t need that. We donâ€šÃ„Ã´t need that one negative person amongst 24 positive people because itâ€šÃ„Ã´s easier to pull somebody down than it is to pull somebody up.
On having a veteran clubhouse: I just think it makes it a lot easier for all of us to go out and, everybody on this team knows what their role is, and I think it comes from the manager first. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that could be everyday players somewhere else. Doug Mirabelli, for example, he could be an everyday player, but heâ€šÃ„Ã´s content with his job and understands what it is. Ramon Vazquez could play somewhere else. Jay Payton could play somewhere else, but they know their roles and theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re very important roles in the success of this team. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s not just the David Ortizes, the Mannys, the Pedros, or the Curt Schillings that win ballgames. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s the 25 of us that are here. Like Dave Roberts. When I said this last year when we went to the ALCS after we beat Anaheim, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s gonna take 25 of us to win. And we did it.
On signing a contract that will keep him in Boston through the end of his career: Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m a big fan of the tradition here. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m a big fan of the passion that the fans have for the team. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´ve been a part of it for so long that Iâ€šÃ„Ã´ve grown accustomed to it. I like it here. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m comfortable here. I canâ€šÃ„Ã´t see myself wearing another uniform. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´ve worn this one for so long that when it came time to get something done, it wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t about the money, it was to stay on a team that I want to be apart of. Thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s a lot of history here.
On the atmosphere in Boston: Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s great to play in a market thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s this big and gets this much attention because every game feels like a playoff game. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´d rather it be this way then playing in San Diego or Pittsburgh where there are two or three beat writers that are around and thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s it. I actually played in Pittsburgh when were good and it was fun and we got a lot of attention and we were winning, but now itâ€šÃ„Ã´s, you know, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s tough for those guys to win sometimes. They come to the ballpark everyday and thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s no excitement. Thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s electricity in this ballpark every night.