February 22nd, 2007 → 11:09 am @ Seth Mnookin
Here’s a lesson I should heed: when trying to cut back on interblogging, jumping into the maelstrom du jour isn’t the best way to go about it. And yet, and yet…I can’t resist one quick comment on February’s annual Mannypalooza.
I’m not going to get into the whole does-Manny-get-a-fair-rap-in-the-media debate, just as I’m not going to get into a Manny-being-Manny or a Manny-as-spoiled-manchild debate. But Keith Foulke’s recent retirement — a retirement scheduled in a way that would assure he wouldn’t collect any of the $5 million he was set to receive from the Indians — reminded me of two other Boston icons: Bobby Orr and Ted Williams. After leaving Boston, Orr played a total of only 26 games over three season for the Chicago Blackhawks. Because he was being paid to play hockey, and because he wasn’t playing, he refused to cash his paychecks.
Williams, who was rightly accused more than once of being a bit of a prima donna, also turned down money he was owed when, after a 1959 season in which he hit .254, he insisted on a pay cut from $125,000 to $90,000.
Manny Ramirez makes $20 million a year. One of the things he is paid to do is come to spring training, and February 27 is the mandatory reporting date; his spokesman, Julian Tavarez, said Manny would be a late arrival due to his mother’s illness, although it has since come out that he’s also scheduled to appear at an antique car show this weekend. Manny, as we all know, is not big fan of rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi, but by going to said show, he can expect a higher auction price for his ’67 custom Lincoln convertible, a car valued at around $200,000.
Will Manny come back and have his usual .320, 35, 120 season? I’d bet on it. I’ll let you draw conclusions about everything else on your own.
* Edit: Jason Brannon points out that there’s a basketball icon who refused money at the end of his career as well: Larry Bird. Or at least that’s how Brannon remembers it. The story — Bird was a couple of days away from a bonus clause kicking in when he announced his retirement — rings a bell but I can’t find any reference to it online. Anyone?
November 30th, 2006 → 12:12 pm @ Seth Mnookin
It’s three weeks into the free agency season…and when all’s said and done, here’s what we know about the 2007 roster:
Curt Schilling will be a starting pitcher
Jason Varitek will be the catcher
David Ortiz will be the DH
Jonathan Papelbon will be on the roster
And that’s it. No joke: there are no other untouchables. Youk? Pedroia? Hansen? For the right deal, they could all go. Wily Mo and Coco? Make an offer. Mike Lowell? His $9 mil price tag might seem cheap in comparison to Juan Pierre’s deal, but he could be packing his bags, too.
There are some intriguing possibilities out there, though, at least one of which hasn’t been much discussed, and that’s the possibility that Trot Nixon ends up back in Boston on a one-year deal. Said possibility was raised by Peter Gammons — an unabashed Nixon fan and someone with more than his share of confidantes in the Red Sox front office — when Gammo said Nixon could still accept arbitration from the Sox and end up back in Boston on something akin to a one-year, $7 million deal. In a frenzied free agent market, it’s somewhat shocking how little interest there’s been in the original Dirt Dog: this is, after all, a guy who’s only 33 and had a .974 OPS in 2003. Of course, since then his power has pretty much gone out the window, and he seems more fragile than J.D. Drew…but shit, he still looks like he’d be a decent option for some team out there.
If Trot does end up back in Boston and if Manny does end up somewhere else and if the Sox do end up signing Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew and Matsuzaka — a whole mess of ifs, I know — we could be looking at something like this:
Tek – C
Youk – 1st
Pedroia – 2nd
Lowell – 3rd
Lugo – SS
WMP – left
J.D. Drew – right/center
Coco – right/center
Ortiz – DH
Trot – right/left supersub
Schilling — SP
Matsuzaka — SP
Beckett — SP
Papelbon — SP
Wakefield — SP
Of course, that’s not taking into account who’d come to Boston in return for #24. And that’s sure to be something spicy.
All pure speculation. But a lot better than some of the speculation out there. Like that of Steve Phillips, whose entire career on ESPN has been devoted to showing the world why he no longer has a job as a major league GM. He said — in public! — that Barry Bonds might end up patroling left field.
This makes perfect sense. Except that:
* Bonds has said the whole city of Boston is full of racist jerks and he’d never play here
* The Sox would be getting someone who’s arguably the only person in baseball who could be more of a distraction that Manny
* His barcalounger wouldn’t fit in the Sox’s clubhouse
* He’s a near-cripple
* He’d bring a circus at a time when Theo Epstein has shown a consistent interest in reducing the circus-like atmosphere at Fenway.
Tune in tomorrow, when Phillips explains why Nomar might be included in the Dodgers’ proposed deal for Manny.
There’s more smoke and mirrors in this Globe piece from Gordo, although it’s not Edes’s fault: he’s just reporting the disinformation coming from various MLB execs. But the explanations offered up for why Manny wouldn’t want to go to San Diego — he’s not familiar with NL pitchers, the big dimensions of Petco would be bad for his power numbers, the Padres wouldn’t want a $20 mil a year guy — seem pretty silly. It’s hard to conceive of Manny being afraid of any pitcher, anywhere. And anyone who’s seen him plant a ball on the pike knows he’s not too concerned with the dimensions of whatever field he ends up playing on.
November 29th, 2006 → 1:46 pm @ Seth Mnookin
One of the many mistakes I made in high school was taking French — which has come in handy exactly never — instead of Spanish. So I can’t be sure that I’m reading this right, but I’m pretty sure that “eso no es problema” can be translated as, “It won’t be a problem.” That is, David Ortiz told El Diario that it wouldn’t be a problem is Manny Ramirez weren’t on the Red Sox next year.
(I’m actually more confident in my translation than in Babelfish‘s. Here are some selections from their attempt at deciphering the piece:
“‘Manny is a key card in the equipment, but… I have been developed all my single life and single it is necessary to battle, which is is that to throw pâˆšÂ°lante’, it indicated.
Ortiz and the Ramirez form one of the more frightful offensive pairs of the baseball of the Great Leagues and the year last with the Red Averages they added towed quadrangular 89 and 239. …
‘that is Already problems between Manny and the equipment of Boston, but we will see in what it finishes. They finish almost always with Manny in the equipment, we hoped that she happens thus ‘, added.”
Indeed. Who doesn’t hope it finish with Manny in the equipment? But I digress…)
Ortiz’s statements seem to offer even more evidence that Manny is likely on his way out; I can’t imagine Papi hasn’t been in touch with both the team and with his partner in the most frightful offensive pair of the Great Leagues. Lots of press reports seem to indicate this as well: ESPN’s Buster Olney reports the chances of the Sox dealing Ramirez are a 9 out of 10 (it was Olney who tipped me off to the El Diario piece); the Globe‘s Gordon Edes has some specifics, mentioning San Diego’s Scott Linebrick, Jack Peavy, and Adrian Gonzalez and the Mariners’ Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson as possible bounty; while the Herald’s Michael Silverman raises the possibility that the Sox are responding to Manny’s latest trade requests by doing some reverse-psychology jujitsu, fermenting all this “activity on the Ramirez trade front” as a “good-faith gesture to keep Manny happy.” (Believe me, it’s not the craziest notion in the world.)
I’ve had some more thoughts since yesterday, when I said I was stumped as to why the Sox would consider trading Ramirez and signing J.D. Drew (with whom the Sox are apparently on the verge of finalizing a 4- to 5-year deal for $14 million per), and, in my usual flip-floppy way, I think I’ve come around to why some sort of trade does make sense, or at least is, at this point, unavoidable. (My inability to take a position and stick to it is one reason I’ll never be a successful politician, although arguably not as a big of one as my sordid past). But that’ll have to wait for later…
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.)
November 17th, 2006 → 7:40 am @ Seth Mnookin
It’s November, which means — like February, March, June, and July — there are the obligatory “Manny wants out of town” rumors, coupled with the “the Red Sox want to get rid of Manny” and the “why do the Red Sox always trade their best players, like Roger and Pedro?” queries.
Yesterday, Buster Olney wrote about the possibility of Manny’s being traded in his ESPN column. The crux of Olney’s argument — that Manny’s two remaining years at $19 mil per looks pretty damn good in this market — is exactly why it makes sense for the Sox to hold onto that lovable lug. It’s been five months since I made almost that exact same argument; I say almost because I wrote that Manny’s now not-so-unreasonable deal made it much less likely the Red Sox would look to jettison #24. Indeed, at the time, Sox execs were saying exactly the same thing.
Of course, at the time, Manny hadn’t yet decided to take the month of September off, and there are plenty of people in the team’s front office that aren’t in love — and by that I mean are actively bothered by — Manny’s frequently maddening approach to the game. So sure, Manny could be traded. But I think it’s less likely as opposed to more; I also think this is yet another example of sportswriters grabbing ahold of the tastiest rumor and using it as fodder when there’s not a lot of information and not a lot to report on coming out of Naples…
In the midst of Nick Cafardo’s piece on Manny, Cafardo writes that there’s a growing consensus that “J.D. Drew will be in right field and Julio Lugo will be at shortstop.” I’m never sure where these “growing consensi” (consensuses? it’s 6:30 and I’m rushing to catch a train…) come from; in ’05, when I was with the team, I was amazed by the insane trade “rumors” that were floated as being “all but agreed on” according to this or that reporter but hadn’t even been discussed by the team itself. (I wasn’t the only one amazed; some of the more outlandish stories were occasionally read aloud.) Drew’s name has certainly come up a lot, and I know the Sox have had discussions. And maybe I’m hoping his patrolling right at Fenway is less of a growing certainty and more of a growing rumor because Drew he worries me. In his eight-year career, he’s played 145 games exactly twice, with 146 last year and 145 in ’04. If we’re looking for someone to replace Trot, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go for someone who seems to be even gimpier; if we’re looking for someone to split time with Wily Mo, J.D. at big money for four years ain’t the right guy.
And with that, I’m off to South Station…
September 29th, 2006 → 11:23 am @ Seth Mnookin
Way back in June, I said Manny Ramirez was likely to finish out his contract with the Red Sox. I based that conclusion on a couple of factors: Manny’s $160 million contract, signed in that crazy free-agent winter of 2000, no longer looked so onerous. (This is due to a bunch of reasons which could make up a post of their own, but the gist of them are: Manny hasn’t seen the decline in skills many people feared and revenue sharing has given small-revenue clubs enough money to sign their young superstars before they hit the open market, making it unclear where the Sox could better spend that $20 million a year.) What’s more, Manny seemed to be making good on a promise he made to John Henry when Ramirez visited the Red Sox owner at his Florida house during spring training. For the first four-and-a-half months of the season, he was putting up his usual prodigious numbers and was playing hard, wasn’t complaining, and, for the first time in memory, seemed genuinely happy to be in Boston.
Well, as that gender-neutral named author S.E. Hinton first said back before Manny was born, that was then, this is now. Manny hasn’t been a regular in the Red Sox’s lineup since the mid-August, Yankees-induced Boston massacre; in 35 games since then, he’s put together only 22 at-bats (and 27 plate appearances). That’s about 3/4 of a plate appearance per game…or a full trip to the plate less than the ferocious offensive powerhouse known as Gabe Kapler has gotten over that same stretch.
Manny’s lingering absence — officially ascribed to tendonitis in his knee– has prompted rumors of malingering since the days after that Yankees series, when the Providence Journal‘s Sean McAdam wrote an article in which he described Manny’s being infuriated by an official scorer’s call and said at least one player was worried about an impending “episode.” The Sox — from Manny’s teammates to his manager to the front office — have officially stood behind Ramirez (even after he backed out of a game earlier this week), and, as the New York Mets learned yesterday, there can be harsh consequences to trying to come back early from an injury. But behind the scenes, Manny’s absence has ruffled more than a few feathers, and Manny, once again, has summoned his agent to Boston to request a trade…with the list of teams Manny’s willing to play for apparently growing by the day.
As is often the case, (and as I’ve written about before), any reporting of unrest in Manny world inevitably results in a round of proverbial rotten eggs being thrown at the media doing the reporting. The Globe‘s Gordon Edes learned that in a particularly painful fashion this weekend, when a critical column of his prompted more than just the usual round of hate mail; this time, Edes actually had a disgruntled reader call him at home. (Edes didn’t point out the irony of a member of a fanbase that often complains about the ways in which the Boston media violates the Sox’s privacy violating his privacy in a much more frightening manner…so I will.) But it’s not just Edes and McAdam who’re writing about the ways in which Manny is impacting the Sox.
In the two-and-a-half months since Feeding the Monster was released, the most common reader queries have shifted from questions about Theo and Nomar to questions about Manny. I usually explain him thusly: he’s someone unusually dedicated to his craft. He works incredibly hard, isn’t a clubhouse distraction, and genuinely cares; you don’t put up these numbers coasting by on raw talent. What’s so confusing — and so fascinating — is the way in which that drive is combined with periods of total apathy. There are those players who don’t work very hard and don’t do that well (*cough* Doug Mirabelli *cough*) and players that work their butts off and succeed beyond where their God-given talents would naturally bring them. But I’ve never encountered anyone — in baseball or in the rest of my life — who combines the raw talent, the will to succeed, and the frequent stretches of apparent disinterest exhibited by Ramirez. When fans detect a frustration on the part of the media (or the front office) in regards to Manny, I suspect it doesn’t stem from some sort of latent disregard; that’s why, during those periods in which Manny is absolutely crushing the ball, there are very few complaints about the ways in which he ignores the media or suffers from occasional brain farts in the field. I’d bet this frustration is roughly parallel to the frustration friends, or family, or whomever feels when someone they’re close to is occasionally squanders his or her talent and abilities. Manny will, without a doubt, be voted into the Hall of Fame. He’ll be remembered as a great, great hitter. But an equal part of his legacy will be turmoil that’s trailed him throughout his career; absent that, he could be discussed as among the best players in the history of the game.When Manny said earlier this month that he was the season’s real MVP, the joke wasn’t that he was so off-base, it was that he very well could have been the MVP before he missed the last month-and-a-half of the season.
If you put a gun to my head, I’d still say it’s more likely Manny is back in a Boston uniform next year than not. There have been plenty of times when both the Sox and Ramirez have been focused and dedicated on getting him out of town, and nothing has worked thus far. On the other hand, Manny’s contract becomes less scary with each passing year, and the very fact that there are fewer monster mashers hitting free agency makes it that much more likely someone will desperately want to pick up Manny’s last two years. (Of course, that’s also the very reason the Sox will be unlikely to trade him…but if the front office feels that this fall’s sit-down was more a result of Manny’s unhappiness than his balky knee,* they likely won’t want to risk two more years of periodic strikes. This was very much the fear at the 2005 trade deadline, when Manny came thisclose to going to the Mets.)
A Manny-less Red Sox team also raises the specter of David Ortiz getting approximately 800 walks a season; this is a concern Ortiz himself recently voiced in the Herald. And certainly Manny offers Papi some protection, but Ortiz’s numbers this month seem to indicate the effect might not be as great as we all thought. From April through August, Ortiz averaged 9.4 home runs a month; with two games remaining in September, he’s hit 8. And Ortiz’s OBP (.462 in September versus .409 on the season), slugging percentage (.657 versus .636), and OPS (1.120 versus 1.045) have all been better, while his batting average has stayed exactly the same, at .286.
This offseason is sure to be an interesting and tumultuous one — more on that later — and all we know for sure is that Manny is sure to be part of that tumult. Stay tunedâ€šÃ„Â¶
* No, I’m not saying Manny is faking his injury, and it’s well known within baseball that Manny has a relatively low pain threshhold. There does seem to be a consensus that he could play without serious risk of further injury, but that’s something that’s impossible to ever truly know.
September 23rd, 2006 → 6:00 am @ Seth Mnookin
Be honest: if, at the beginning of the year, someone held a gun to your head and asked you who the two pitchers would be to post complete games, you’d most likely have said Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. You would most definitely not have said Julian Tavarez and Tim Wakefield. (This was likely what came to mind when thinking about Tavarez on March 30.)
And yet, those are the guys who’ve thrown the only two complete games of the season: Wakefield, more than six months ago, on April 15, and Tavarez, who worked his sinker to devastating effect while throwing a complete game, 99-pitch, 1-run gem in Toronto last night. (Tavarez was so excited about the second complete game of his career he wouldn’t shut up in the post-game, on-field interview.) Tavarez is signed for next year (for around $3 million), and his end-of-season tenure as a starter (he’s now 2-0 since moving to the rotation) makes him more valuable in a world where Chris Benson commands ten of millions of dollars; it also makes him more attractive as a trading chip, yet one more reason this offseason should be interesting.
Lots of other news out of the Sox last night:
* This column by Gordon Edes is gonna cause lots of talk show chatter. The essence of it is that Manny’s a quitter and a punk and has let his teammates down by refusing the play hurt. (Things like this will get more attention than the remaining games; as of 5:30 AM, it’s leading the Red Sox page on the Globe‘s site. The game story is only alluded to in a caption.) I did another reading last night in Burlington (MA, not VT), and was asked — as I almost am — why the media hates Manny; Edes’ piece isn’t going to help my contention that they don’t. The nut graf: “Do you suppose that 20 years from now, Ramâˆšâ‰ rez will feel even the slightest bit of remorse for the way he quit on his Red Sox teammates in 2006, refusing to honor the code that is an article of faith for Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell, Curt Schilling and Coco Crisp, Trot Nixon and Alex Gonzalez, and Mark Loretta — even the now-departed fat man, David Wells — that you do all within your power to play hurt.” The answer to that rhetorical question is, of course, no. But if you look at the playing-in-pain performances of the above list, it’s unclear these warriors were doing the Sox any favors by suiting up while dinged up. Manny’s always had a low pain threshold; he’s also always been a bit flakey. But he also loves to play; you don’t rack up season after season of 155 games because you’re looking for time off. He is in some pain; other players would likely play through that pain; Manny won’t. The Sox’s baseball operations staff isn’t particularly upset by this: Manny played hard for most of the season. What’s of much more concern is the recent appearance of Manny’s agent in Boston. If you guessed that he was here to, once again, relay Manny’s late-season request for an off-season trade, you’d be right. (I think Edes is one of the best reporters, and one of the best writers, working the beat today. His column — which didn’t contain a single quote — gets to one of my pet peeves: the fact that sports writers are, uniquely given the latitude to regularly elide from the role of reporter to that of columnist. But enough of my media musings for now.)
* Speaking of dinged up, it turns out there was a good reason Coco looked like a shell of himself at the plate: on Monday, he’ll have surgery in which a pin or a screw will likely be inserted in his left index finger. This is for an injury Crisp suffered on April 8.
* Notice how devastating Keith Foulke’s split fingered fastball was on Thursday? That was as well as he’s ever thrown that pitch, and Foulke knew it, too. His change still isn’t as sharp as it was in ’04 — or any of the years before — but he has his confidence and his swagger back, and last night he was up and throwing in the eighth; if Francona hadn’t let Tavarez go for the complete game, Foulke would have appeared for the third night in a row. I think we’re seeing an audition for the role of the Red Sox’s 2007 closer… (One thing I guarantee is that Matt Clement — a guy with control issues and self-confidence issues who takes a long time to warm up — will absolutely not, under any circumstances, be closing games next year.)