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.
December 13th, 2007 → 6:46 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Lots and lots and lots and lots of actual and virtual ink will be spilled on the Mitchell Report, which is going to make life hell for a whole mess of people. I’ll resist added too much of my drivel and will instead limit myself to some few quick points on issues such as…
Roger Clemens. Why, you might ask, would a sure-fire Hall of Famer risk his reputation and legacy over these last five or so years by taking PEDs? People asked me that question again and again during the pre-season frenzies of last season and 2006. I have no way of knowing; for some reason, Clemens won’t talk to me. But I do have an idea: because he has never, in his entire life, had to deal with the consequences of his actions. He can act like a teenage mutant ninja freak and throw broken bats across the field and it’s chalked up to competitive fire. He can demand ludicrous contract clauses like Hummers and private transportation and he’s indulged. Why, after years and years of this, would he suddenly think that the rules applied to him? (Clemens is far from alone in this regard; this is something that crops up again and again in ballplayers, who are constantly reminded that the normal rules of society–stay faithful to your spouse, clean up after yourself, don’t eat McDonald’s for breakfast–don’t apply to them.
I Love (the fact that I’m not playing in) New York. Plenty of teams’ fans are going to be crowing/letting out a huge sigh of relief…so long as those fans aren’t rooting for the Mets and the Yankees. A quick scan of what is destined to become known as the list shows current and former New Yorkers including Kevin Brown, Paul Lo Duca, Mo Vaughn, Todd Pratt, Ron Villone, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Lenny Dykstra. Does that mean that other teams–like, say, the Sox–are (or were) any cleaner? Hell no. It just means no-one else had a clubhouse attended that got popped.
The non-inclusion of any of the Idiots: Earlier today, what turned out to be a fake list was leaked; that one included names like Nomar, Johnny Damon, and Trot Nixon, along with other usual suspects like Pudge, Pujols, and Milton Bradley. (Later in the day, well-circulated rumor had Varitek also on the list.) Back in 2005, a member of the Sox’s front office physically shuddered at the thought of what would happen in Boston if news ever broke about someone on the ’04 team roiding up. It looks like that won’t happen…for now, anyway. That brings us to…
Eric Gagne. Gagne, as everyone now knows, was on the list, which can’t be a surprise to anyone. (Also included in the report is news that the Sox inquired about Gagne’s supposed doping before acquiring him at the deadline.) It turns out that the biggest favor Gagne may have done Boston is sucking ass for the second half of the season–now, at least, no one can point to him as one of the reason’s for the team’s success.
That’s all for now. I’ve written plenty about steroids in the past, including last August, when I wondered why no one was wondering about Roger, and way back in October ’06, when I mocked the press’s surprise that Clemens had been fingered in he Grimsley affidavit. I also tagged Jason Giambi a gutless punk, ripped into the Players Union for defending the players’ right to destroy their livers, lamented the fact that Jose Canseco seemed to be the only honest guy around, and talked about how Bill James compared steroids to going through a divorce. (Sort of, anyway.)
More later, I’m sure.
February 7th, 2007 → 10:43 am @ Seth Mnookin
Q. It seems like youâ€šÃ„Ã´ve been very high profile with the Red Sox the last couple of years. Does it seem to you like you do a lot of business with Boston or is it just cyclical?
A. I would say we do and we donâ€šÃ„Ã´t. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m still very surprised the Red Sox did not sign Johnny Damon. That was the one thing I thought for sure that would happen, because I felt it was something that was good for Johnny at the time and good for the team. I reflect back on that negotiation and wonder if there was just more I could do but we really made our best efforts about sharing information. We had four or five face-to-face personal meetings, the calls to ownership, I did the best I could to do that. But with Varitek being there, representing Derek Lowe, and Johnny and now the additions of J.D. and Dice-K, we have some solid communication. Players that we didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t sign there end up doing well and players that we did sign there end up doing well. So, for me, what I cared about was, I kept saying to them, we felt that these players would continue to have very good years in their careers. Boston agreed with us on a couple of fronts, and disagreed with us on others.
(Emphasis added to point out what a total snake Boras is.)
That, as Drezner, along with astute readers of this blog and of Feeding the Monster (available at Amazon for just $17.16. Cheap! And don’t forget, free, signed, personalized bookplates are still available!) know, is a giant load of steaming crap. Boras not only did not do everything he could to keep Damon in Boston (fun with double negatives!), he did almost everything he could to ensure that Damon left Boston. Lies and the lying liars, indeed.
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 15th, 2006 → 12:26 am @ Seth Mnookin
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:
THE RED SOX DID NOT LET JOHNNY DAMON WALK FOR $52 MILLION. SCOTT BORAS LIED, POINT BLANK, TO THE SOX ABOUT THE NEGOTIATIONS. I HAVE SEEN THE EMAILS. I HAVE TALKED TO THE MLB EXECUTIVES. I HAVE TALKED WITH PEOPLE IN BASEBALL OPS ON OTHER TEAMS.
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.
October 7th, 2006 → 10:46 am @ Seth Mnookin
From this morning’s Jerry Krasnick ESPN story on the Yankees 6-0 Friday night loss — and 2-1 deficit in the ALDS — against the Detroit Tigers:
“We negatively need to have more life,” Damon said. “Not so much rah rah, but that inner confidence that says, ‘Every time I go up to the plate, I’m going to get the job done.’ And when you don’t, the next guy needs to have that confidence.” (Emphasis added)
I assume that’s a typo on Krasnick/ESPN’s part, but there definitely is a lot of negativity:
July 10th, 2006 → 9:09 am @ Seth Mnookin
This is the fifth (and last) in an occasional series of Sneak Peeks from Feeding the Monster. The section below takes place in December 2005, after Theo Epstein had quit as general manager of the Red Sox (and before he returned to the team this past January) and the Sox were negotiating with Johnny Damon’s agent, Scott Boras. You can read the rest of the book starting tomorrow, when it’ll be available in bookstores everywhere.
The situation remained stalled through much of December. By December 20, John Henry and Boras were in direct communication. Now Boras said Damon had a six-year deal ‘on the table,’ but was willing to stay with the Red Sox if they offered him five years because he loved the city and the team so much. Then, later that evening, Boras told Henry and [Red Sox assistant GM] Jed Hoyer that there was another ‘hot’ deal on the table, this one for $13 million a year for five years, totaling $65 million. The Sox had already agreed among themselves that they’d be willing to go up to at least $11 million a year for four years, but even that figure totaled some $21 million less than what Boras told the team Damon was being offered. We can’t, Henry told Boras, go that high.
That night, word began to trickle out that Damon was signing with the Yankees. This had been a scenario the Red Sox had been prepared forâ€šÃ„Ã®back in September, Henry, Epstein, and assistant general manager Josh Byrnes had discussed how Damon could very well end up in the Bronx because of New York’s desperate need for a reliable center fielder. The Yankees, it seemed, where the mystery team who had offered the five-year, $65 million contract. But when the details of the deal finally emerged, the Red Sox were shocked to learn that Damon had signed only a four-year deal worth $13 million a year, for a total of $52 million. Damon later said he would have stayed in Boston for $11.5 million a year, just $500,000 less annually than the Red Sox had already agreed they were willing to pay him.
It turns out that Johnny Damon never had a firm six-year offer from any team, as Scott Boras had repeatedly told the Red Sox. A high-ranking official in Major League Baseball’s central office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that as far as officials who’d been in contact with every team in baseball could tell, Damon had never even received a solid five-year offer. To Boras, any effort to weaken the bonds of loyalty a player felt to his old team would mean the possibility of more lucrative contracts. Players had traditionally been hesitant to cross the Rubicon from Boston to New York; even Damon had said just months earlier that there was ‘no way’ he could play for the Yankees even thought he knew they were ‘going to come after [him] hard.’ If Boras could orchestrate it so that Johnny Damon, one of the most popular players on one of the most popular Red Sox teams in history, switched sides, what other players might be willing to do so in the future? And how much higher might player salaries go if agents could regularly get the Yankees to bid for Red Sox free agents, and vice versa?