January 9th, 2007 → 9:35 am @ Seth Mnookin
It’s a good question. On the one hand, you have my obsession with Murray Chass; on the other hand, there’s Murray’s infant-like fascination with the Red Sox. Whatever the answer to that question is, it’s fairly clear (to me, anyway), that my obsession doesn’t result in my putting bad info in a national newspaper week after week, while Murray’s does.
Like, for instance, today, when apropos of absolutely nothing, Murray revisits the J.D. Drew non-controversy. There’s no new info here — heck, there’s really not even any new reporting here, unless you count a phone call to Drew’s mom as reporting — but there is another chance for Chass to trot out his contention/implication that there was tampering going on between the Red Sox and Drew’s agent, Scott Boras. Murray’s had a hard-on for this issue for more than a month, and the fact that multiple outlets (like The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, the hometown papers of the two teams most intimately involved in this issue) have pretty much shown that Chass’s story had tenuously little connection to reality doesn’t seem to sway him one bit.
In a weird way, that’s understandable — after all, he recently told a reader that “my reporting is always correct.” But what’s up with the Times‘s editors — you know, the gatekeepers? At least one national sportswriter has written in to them, asking why Chass is allowed to print information that’s demonstrably false (like the claim that Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was refusing to talk to Theo when, Colletti readily confirmed that the two were speaking almost daily), or, for that matter, why Chass’s stories seem completely exempt from corrections.
Somehow, I doubt we’ll ever get an answer to that question. Sigh.
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 21st, 2006 → 2:47 pm @ Seth Mnookin
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.
December 19th, 2006 → 10:43 am @ Seth Mnookin
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.
December 16th, 2006 → 12:57 pm @ Seth Mnookin
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 iâ€šÃ„Ã´m a little confused as to why. why wouldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t boras take the yanks offer [to Damon] back to the sox to see if theyâ€šÃ„Ã´d beat it? was it the time pressure? were the yanks johnnyâ€šÃ„Ã´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…
December 6th, 2006 → 10:12 am @ Seth Mnookin
Last night brought a couple of much-anticipated Red Sox moves: the signings of J.D. Drew (5 years, $70 million) and Julio Lugo (4 years, $36 million). From a pure economic standpoint, these signings are either crazy expensive (you’re not going to hear the end of “but they could have signed Johnny for $52 million” for a good while) or pretty damn cheap (is J.D. worth $4 million more a year than Gary Matthews? Hell yeah).
J.D. will come to Boston with a lot of expectations…a lot of low expectations, that is. There were petitions urging the Sox front office not to sign the guy. He’s been repeatedly labeled a lily-livered pansy, a guy who’s soft, who can’t play hurt, who lacks fire.
Here are some thoughts — and observations — on that.
* We’d all do well to check out exactly how good a player Drew is. He has the 25th highest slugging percentage of all active players, and the 15th highest among active players under 35. He’s posted a career line of .286, .393, .512. His OPS is .905, compared to .924 for David Ortiz (and an otherworldly 1.011 for Manny). And he’s a better fielder (and baserunner) than either of the Sox’s Big Two.
* I have a hard time believing that a player gets to be a major leaguer while being truly “soft,” just as I think it’s usually a load of crap when we all debate about whether this or that player can or can’t handle being booed. By the time you reach the majors, you’ve pushed through enough so that you damn well better be able handle some catcalls. And it’s incredibly difficult to make the physical commitment to being a professional athlete while being a big-time wuss. Drew makes me nervous, but not because I think he’s a crybaby; he makes me nervous because I worry he might have one of those bodies that’s just not that durable. If that’s the case, we just committed to five years of Drew renting space on the trainer’s table.
So why the rep? It could be because, unlike, say, Trot Nixon, Drew comes off as a more passive player — there’s not the helmut slamming or frequent cursing. (Drew and Trot have averaged pretty much the exact same number of games played per year in their careers. Go figure.) Drew’s also never particularly endeared himself to fans, so when Manny sits out for last month of the season despite a clean MRI and medical clearance from the team, it’s because he knows his body better than anyone, yada yada yada. But we’re all too ready to label Drew, who’s not only never played in Boston but has never played in the American League, as a bust from the get-go. Maybe he will be. But let’s give him a chance.
Tony Massarotti has a little item showing what the Red Sox’s lineup would look like if the season started tomorrow. I’ll throw in career BAs, OBPs, and SLGs:
Julio Lugo, .277, .340, .402
Coco Crisp, .282, .329, .416
David Ortiz, .283, .374, .550
Manny Ramirez, .314, .411, .600
J.D. Drew, .286, .393, .512
Mike Lowell, .273, .339, .463
Jason Varitek, .269, .348, .450
Kevin Youkilis, .275, .379, .423
Dustin Pedroia, NA
Papi, Manny, and J.D. wouldn’t exactly be a modern-day Murderer’s Row — Ruth and Gehrig both had slugging percentages of over .750! in 1927 — but they’d be pretty damn good.
Meanwhile, the assumption is that any effort to trade Manny is losing steam. I can only assume that means there’ll be a news conference announcing his new destination within the next couple of hours…
November 28th, 2006 → 10:17 am @ Seth Mnookin
Unless Manny is traded before the winter meetings, we can expect several more days of feverish speculation on whether or not the best right-handed hitter of his generation will be playing in Boston next year. Right now, both the local and national media are saying Manny won’t be patrolling left field at Fenway come April; the Globe‘s Gordon Edes reports that while talks with AL teams have cooled off, the Sox are deep in discussion with the Padres, Giants, and Dodgers, while the Herald‘s Michael Silverman says the Angels and the Rangers are still the frontrunners in the Manny sweepstakes.
Regardless of where he ends up, if Manny isn’t batting behind Papi next year, there’s sure to be outcry among the natives. And without knowing anything more than your average schmuck on the street (or at least your average schmuck on the street who spent a year living with the team), color me confused. Back in June, I explained why I thought this year’s anemic free agent market meant it was more likely that Manny would stay in Boston, a sentiment which was later echoed to me by Red Sox execs. And even if Manny is threatening, as he has many times over the past five years, to shut it down, history would seem to indicate the likelihood of that happening being close to nil. Whatever happened last year could make this offseason different, but until I hear otherwise, it’s hard for me to see why you’d jettison a player who now seems like a relative bargain…especially if the offensive replacement has a healthy history of not being healthy. (If some variation of these deals do go down, it’ll be a gutsy move by the Sox: if Manny came back to Boston in ’07 and performed below expectations, the outcry wouldn’t be nearly as severe as if Manny left and smacked the shit out of the ball…especially if nominal replacement J.D. Drew had a tough acclimation period in Boston.)