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.
December 12th, 2006 → 3:08 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Insider of my trying to comment on/summarize this, you really should just read Buster Olney’s column on ESPN.com; it’s great. Here are some pertinent sections:
“‘If I represent you,’ [Boras] has told some players in so many words, ‘only I do the negotiating.’ Their impression is that he wants 100 percent control. ‘Why would I do that?’ one player mused, looking back on the day that Boras tried to sign him as a high school senior. ‘It’s my life.’ When Boras negotiates, club executives sometimes wonder whether all the facts — whether every piece of every offer — gets through to the player. They never know, and it scares the hell out of them; Boras is the funnel through which all the information is channeled. This is why Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino flew to California late, why they rode on John Henry’s private plane, why they’ve become so open and outspoken about their negotiations.” …
“And you’d have to wonder: For Scott Boras, when does this stop becoming a chase of dollars and start being about his clients’ doing what they love in their work and playing baseball?” …
“Matsuzaka has never pitched a day in the major leagues, and it could be that when Boras is finished haggling, the pitcher could make $10 million in his first year in the majors, and more after that. Much more.
But with every passing day, with every delay, with every insistence upon more dollars, Boras is effectively placing more pressure on the shoulders of his client, who already is facing an enormous adjustment if he signs to play in Boston. And if Boras/Matsuzaka don’t sign, if the agent’s filibuster continues and they try to make the pitcher the Curt Flood of the Japanese posting system, you have to wonder whether it really will be worth it, in the end, for Matsuzaka.”
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.)
August 17th, 2006 → 10:26 am @ Seth Mnookin
The Red Sox have lost 12 out of 20 games. David Wells — who not long ago said he wanted to blow up Fenway — has become the team’s ace. The combined salaries of Keith Foulke and Matt Clement are higher than the Florida Marlins’ payroll. Mike Timlin discovered there are not one, but two i’s in his last name. And it’s beginning to feel like any time David Ortiz doesn’t hit a ball out of the park, the Sox lose. (For anyone wondering, that’s not technically true.) It’s been a grim stretch, and one that would depress any team — the Royals, the Devil Rays, even the Cardinals. Last night’s win over the Tigers didn’t alter the fact that the Sox have the feel of a team with the wheels coming off. Remember interleague play, when it seemed as if the Sox were incapable of beating themselves? For the last month, it’s been the opposite: time and time and time again, the Sox have handed away wins because of mental lapses or stupid moves or plain old bad execution. It hasn’t been fun, and it hasn’t been pretty.
I understand that people get testy when their team loses. I also understand that reality is starting to settle in; for the first time in four years, the Red Sox don’t particularly feel like they’re a team that deserves to make the playoffs. Could it happen? Sure: if Beckett morphs into the pitcher he’s shown glimpses of being; if the middle relief stops coughing up runs as if they were party favors; if Manny and Ortiz once again carry the team on their backs for the last month of the season. But last year, and especially the two years before that, not making the playoffs would have been a slap in the face: those were teams that were too good not to be playing ball in October. The 2006 Red Sox feel like a good team with some flaws and a lot of bad luck. Unless you’re in the National League, that’s usually not good enough.
What I don’t get is people insisting the Sox would be running away with the division if they’d only kept Pedro/Damon/OCab/Dave Roberts/Nelson de la Rosa. By this point, I know all too well that there’s no sense arguing facts when emotion is involved. (See: the Red Sox really are like world politics!) But there are a few things I want to remind people of:
1. This year Pedro was 0-2 with a 4.76 ERA versus AL teams; the Mets were 1-3 in his three AL starts. (Last year he was 1-1 (the Mets were 1-3) with a 3.21 ERA.*) He started the season with a toe injury. He was out for all of July with a strained hip. He’s back on the DL with a strained calf. Pedro Martinez would not be an all-purpose savior. If the Red Sox had Pedro Martinez circa 1999, they’d be running away with the division. They’d also be running away with the division if they had Nomar circa 1999, Yaz circa 1967, or Williams circa 1941. Those players are gone. (Not to beat a dead horse, but Pedro did not have a four-year offer from any team in baseball until the night he signed with the Mets. Fernando Cuza told the Sox what Pedro needed to return to Boston; the Sox gave it to him. Pedro used the Sox’s offer as leverage with Omar Minaya. If you want to read more about this, it’s in pps. 318 – 325 of my book. If you want to go to your grave thinking this was a Carlton Fisk-like screw up, there’s nothing I can say that’ll make you feel any differently.)
2. Ten million dollars a year for a 32-year old center fielder with a lifetime .290 average (.784 OPS) and a throwing arm that requires a daisy chain of cutoff men is not an insulting offer. Regardless, Scott Boras told the Red Sox not to bother making Damon any other offer if they couldn’t match his imaginary six-year, $72 million contract. Instead, the Sox ended up with a player with very similar career numbers who happens to be six years younger and $10 million cheaper. (If you want to read more about this, it’s in pps. 389 – 392 of my book.)
3. Over the past half-decade, the Sox have had a half-dozen superstar-type players, (and Johnny Damon makes this list more because of his cult status than anything else). If they’d held on to all of these players, this is how between half and three-quarters of the team’s 2008 payroll would be spent (players’ ages are in parentheses):
Pedro Martinez, $13 million (37)
Johnny Damon, $13 million (35) (also owed $13 mil for 2009)
Manny Ramirez, $20 million (36)
Nomar Garciaparra, $17 million (35)
Jason Varitek: $10 million, (36)
David Ortiz: $13 million, (32)
Curt Schilling (not under contract for 2008)
That’s six players with an average age of 35 and an average salary of $14 million, for a total of $86 million. The only one of those players who has a chance to be worth that kind of money that far down the line is Papi. I’d say it’s even money as to whether Nomar and Pedro will still be in the game. (And for those who want to exclude Nomar from this list, you can’t pick and choose which one-time greats you want to keep in town after you see how it all works out.)
Yesterday, Bill Simmons took an odd, passive-aggressive swipe at me in his ESPN column. To wit: “I could spend the next 3,000 words ranting and raving about the unacceptable performance of the Henry/Theo regime since they won the World Series…but I don’t want to ruin my chances of getting a key to the office next season. So let’s just say that everyone did a swell job and I fully support every moronic decision that was made. Now where’s my key?” I say odd and passive-aggressive because instead of just calling me out he threw in a coded reference that’d make sense only to people who not only knew about my book but knew a lot of the details about its writing. I have no idea what my access in 2005 has to do with what I write on a blog in 2006. I hadn’t written a word about the Sox when the team and I agreed that I’d write a book. And nothing I do (or don’t) write now is going to get me a key (or any access) in the future; that ship has sailed. (Another side note: Apparently, people only like complaining about the so-called negative Boston media until they get upset…and then they want to complain about the lack of negativity.) For the record, there’s plenty about the last few years I disagreed with, at the time and in retrospect. I didn’t like the Renteria signing when it happened, and when members of the front office told me last year that their scouting on Renteria indicated that he was a better defensive player than he ended up being, I felt like asking them what their eyes had told them: in 2004, Renteria looked like a good defensive shortstop the way Derek Jeter looks like a good defensive shortstop. A lot of the front office, and Theo in particular, thought a more mild-mannered team would make it easier for the players to deal with the media frenzy and fan adulation that comes with playing in Boston. I thought differently, although to be fair I’m not totally sure if that’s because it’s fun to cover — and watch — a bunch of Johnny Damons than a bunch of Mark Lorettas. And I’m at a loss to explain how a front office that is so smart and so hard-working have a seeming inability to put together a reliable bullpen.
But like I said, the personal swipe isn’t what really bothers me. (It’s hard not to take some perverse pride in being the only writer in America who’s disliked by both Bill Simmons and Dan Shaughnessy.) What does bother me is complaining about today while ignoring both yesterday and tomorrow. It’s that attitude that results in shortsighted moves. The Red Sox are not the Yankees. (Thank god for that — if the Yankees had made good decisions, like, say, signing Carlos Beltran instead of Randy Johnson, it’d be a hell of a lot harder to compete with a $200 million payroll. And maybe it’s just me, but I have more fun rooting for a team when it’s not so painfully apparent its m.o. is to just go out and try to buy championships; I’m into the smarts and nerve stuff, too. I love baseball because of the way it mirrors life, and sometimes life is unfair. Sometimes Matt Clement gets hit flush in the side of the head with a line drive after being named an All-Star; sometimes David Wells takes a ball off his balky knee the day he comes off a trip to the DL necessitated by his balky knee. And sometimes you break a leg just before you’re supposed to go skiing in the Alps. When that happens, you need to deal with it; you don’t get to go buy a new leg.) I wish August 2006 were more like August 2004, too. But I’m glad the Sox have made some unpopular decisions over the past few years — letting Cliff Floyd walk, signing David Ortiz, trading Nomar. I’m also glad that, come 2008, I won’t be watching a team hamstrung by a bunch of bloated contracts. Could the Sox have made a trade deadline move? Sure. Do I wish they had? Yup. When I think of Timlin, Delcarmen, and Hansen do I say to myself, as Simmons does, “ALL OF THEM SUCK!” Nope. Do I think the plan is to “go to war with a one-man bullpen for the next 10 weeks?” Nope.
Then again, when Hansen and Delcarmen are helping to nail down the playoffs in a year or two, I’ll be watching the games instead of ordering my second venti latte of the day. (How’s that for passive aggresive?)
* Edited after correction by aro13 in comment #42.
July 25th, 2006 → 10:05 am @ Seth Mnookin
When I do readings, the two questions I get more than any others are:
* Was Nomar on steroids?
* What’s Manny really like?
I have no idea what the answer is to the first one. And I always struggle with how to answer the second one: Manny practically embodies the meaning of the word enigma. In an article in today’s Boston Globe, Gordon Edes does a wonderful, and wonderfully funny, job of describing what it means for Manny to be Manny:
“One must always allow for the prospect, even after last night’s 7-3 Red Sox win over the Oakland Athletics, that Manny Ramâˆšâ‰ rez may awaken today to an entirely new world of possibilities. Perhaps he has dreams of relocating to his wife’s native Brazil to become a gaucho, riding tall in the saddle. Maybe he’d like to return to his old neighborhood on the far side of Manhattan, strutting through the streets with a boom box on his shoulder the same way he did in the Sox clubhouse the other day, saying, ‘This is how we do it in Washington Heights.’ …
“But happily for the Red Sox and their aspirations for October, Ramâˆšâ‰ rez seems no more inclined to want any of these scenarios to materialize this week as he is to ask to be traded. By most any measure, that represents spectacular progress from this time a year ago, when a change of address was foremost on Manny’s wish list.”
As yes, a year ago. Manny had one of his little spells down in Tampa, didn’t start the first two games of a homestand, and then came out about a half-hour after the tradeline had passed to hit a game-winning single against the Twins. (All together now: double-finger point!)
Come to think of it, late July has been a weird, wild time for the Red Sox these last few years. Remember 2004? Sure you do. On the morning of July 24, the Red sox were 9 1/2 games out of first. The start of that afternoon’s game against the Yankees was delayed because Fenway’s field was soggy. Terry Francona got ejected in the 2nd inning. Jason Varitek tried to feed Alex Rodriguez his catcher’s mitt.* And the Red Sox capped a three-run, ninth-inning comeback with Bill Mueller’s walkoff two-run shot of Mariano Riviera. (True story: I “watched” that game from a computer in a hotel lobby in Dubrovnik, Croatia, waiting as a slow internet connection fed me the MLB Gameday info.) The match, which Theo Epstein called “catalytic,” came on the tail-end of a 75-game stretch in which the Sox went 38-37. A week later, Nomar was gone. A month later, the Sox began their epic winning streak. And three months later, they were world champions.
So far, July 2006 has been quiet. Too quiet…
*It’s been rumored that, after A-Rod took offense at being plunked by Bronson Arroyo, Varitek told the Yankees third baseman, “We don’t throw at .260 hitters.” That, alas, is an urban legend. But as far as urban legends go, it’s a pretty good one.
July 12th, 2006 → 1:08 pm @ Seth Mnookin
ESPN has an excerpt about the period leading up to Nomar’s trade from the Sox. Judging from previous response, I’m sure no one will have anything at all to say about this. (There’s another chat tomorrow on ESPN.com as well.)
July 6th, 2006 → 8:18 am @ Seth Mnookin
This is the sixth in a series of outtakes from interviews done for Feeding the Monster, to be published on July 11 by Simon & Schuster. It is the last of three outtakes from this interview with Nomar Garciaparra, which was conducted in Austin, Texas on October 28, 2005.
On the rumors about his Achilles injury: When I heard how I got hurt playing soccer, it was insulting to me because it attacked my integrity. And some of the other stuff I have heard was insulting to my integrity. The stories that I heard that I was like, ‘What?’ When I heard that one, ‘You got hurt playing soccer,’ I actually heard that one after I was traded and the funny thing was that was the year, that year and the year before I didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t kick the soccer ball around. I was like, ‘Why would you bring up soccer, because of my wife? Now is it getting personal? Why that?’ Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s just so far from the truth. I played the first two/three games of spring training, and what really happened with my Achilles and everything, when I got hurtâ€šÃ„Ã®I assume a lot of responsibility for this because I was vague, and Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not going to deny thatâ€šÃ„Ã®but I got hit there, and no one saw it, I was taking a ground ball. It didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t bother me till three or four days later. I could have been other stuff. All I know is it flared up. This is how it happened. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not going to lie. Did that really cause it, maybe it did and maybe it didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t. So I asked the doctor, ‘Can this happen?’ Because it didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t flare up or bother me until later. And the doctor was like, ‘It can.’ When youâ€šÃ„Ã´ve got a thousand people asking you what happened to you, ‘Well it could be this. Maybe it is, maybe it isnâ€šÃ„Ã´t.’ I donâ€šÃ„Ã´t know what to tell them.
Like I said, [the confusion surrounding the injury] is my fault as well. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not saying that I didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t make mistakes along the way. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not here to tell you I didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t. But either way, it flared up and it flared up really bad. It was so painful, so swollen, it was so bad, I couldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t walk. I was in a boot. I was stubborn. I didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t want crutches. And that is what I dealt with that year. It sucked. What I did learn about the injury, if you know anything about tendonitis at all, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s inflammation of the tendon and the tendon is throbbing. It’s hurting. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s painful, and it can gets so swollen it can eventually pop. You really have to calm that down for a few reasons: one for reduced pain, two to strengthen the area. If it gets weak, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s just going to give. And the thing about the Achilles is, there is not much blood flow in that area of the body and the only way to get the inflammation out is with blood. Not much I could do in that area so it took me a while to come back and for it to calm down, to deal with that so it wouldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t snap because if it snaps youâ€šÃ„Ã´re done. And Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m also thinking about my free agent year, you know, ‘It doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t look like theyâ€šÃ„Ã´ll want me back.’ What was I going to do?
On the 2004 season: Throughout the year, that is another thing that hurt me was hearing that I was faking it, faking the injury. Those are the things that I donâ€šÃ„Ã´t understand exactly. And in my free agent yearâ€šÃ„Â¶.Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not sticking it to the Red Sox, Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not sticking it to anybody, my teammates, my fans, myself, those are the people I care about the most, Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not sticking it to them. I mean the stuff you hear. I wouldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t do this in the free agent year. If I could play, I could play. So when I was finally able to comeback, I played.
On the Red Sox’s World Series win: I was happy, elated, excited. It was a little bit hard, sure. Absolutely. I wanted to be there with them. But they made me feel like I was with them. Guys on the team called me throughout it. Trot, Tek, JD, ‘Hey guys, you’re winning, keep going.’ They’d call and say, ‘Nommie, did you see that?’ I didn’t watch the World Series but I heardâ€šÃ„Â¶I didn’t sit there and watch it. But I followed it and I followed them, Trot, all the boys.
I was happy for the city, I was happy for those people. The whole time I was there, I said I wanted them to win a World Series. I was part of that championship season. For forty of them, I was a part about that. And my teammates knew that. It was great. Getting the call from them, and then me calling them back, it meant the world to me. I hope I just gave you the facts. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not here to bash anyone. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not one to say this guy’s this way. This is the first time I have said how it really happened. You can see through the media the half-truths. Thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s why I’m here now. Because you hear it, Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not one to point the finger. I donâ€šÃ„Ã´t know how someone interprets it. They said they do respect me and thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s all I ask. And all I have ever given the media is that respect in return. And it may not have been easy maybe difficult, but at the very least I hope I was respectful at all times.