The return of the original Dirt Dog and more speculation that will likely be made irrelevant by tomorrow’s speculation

November 30th, 2006 → 12:12 pm @

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.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Manny Ramirez & Peter Gammons & Steve Phillips & Trot Nixon

Remember, this is Peter Gammons talking

October 13th, 2006 → 7:09 am @

“What did anyone expect to see when the Yankees were losing Saturday night? With the Yankees, and a growing extent the Red Sox, childish joy is not a part of the equation.”

— Peter Gammons, “Torre is not part of Yanks’ problem,” Insider column, October 11, 2006. (You’ll need an ESPN Insider account to read the whole piece, which was posted yesterday.)

It’s not that surprising that the image of Jim Leyland kissing a fan through a screen — an image of childish joy if there ever was one — is one of the most enduring images of the Tigers’ annihilation of the Yankees in the ALDS.

This’ll likely be the last post of the day: I’m about to head out to take a train to Boston and will be in a (non baseball-related conference) the rest of the day. So I’ll leave you with one last thought: it’s a good thing George Steinbrenner vetoed his baseball operations staff and decided to spend his money on an aging and gimpy Randy Johnson instead of a fleet-footed and still very elite Carlos Beltran in the ’04 offseason…althought right now, I’m sure the Cardinals disagree.

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Carlos Beltran & George Steinbrenner & Peter Gammons

Gammons back at Fenway, with mic in hand

September 20th, 2006 → 9:09 am @

Yesterday, Peter Gammons posted his first ESPN column since suffering a brain aneurysm earlier this summer (or, as Gammons would surely say, earlier this season). (Article available to ESPN Insider subscribers only.)

Peter was without question the nicest, smartest, most knowledgeable reporter I met while working on FTM. There were folks who wanted to know what some punk was doing wandering around Fenway and getting unfettered access to everyone in the organization, folks who felt any new reporter should spend a year or two proving his mettle, and folks who just ignored me. (There were also many more folks who were lovely and nice and generous with their time.) Peter was the polar opposite (of the first group, not the second). From the night I had dinner with him in spring training, he constantly shared his time and insights, and watching games with him from his seats behind home plate was one of the joys of the last year.

Gammons’s return will certainly give Sox fans plenty to talk about. In his first column, he gives an obligatory tip of the cap to the Yankees’ acquisition of Abreu; he also writes that “no races turned in July or August on the transaction page”…which should provoke some debate among those members of RSN convinced that this or that trade would have catapulted the Sox into the playoffs. (Gammons also addresses a topic I think will become an increasing source of discussion among fans: the extent to which the new economics of baseball effect the free-agent market: “‘The story of the trading deadline and the last couple of free-agent classes should be titled, Revenue-sharing is working,’ says one baseball executive,” Gammons writes. More on this in a future post.)

Tonight, Gammons will be broadcasting live from Fenway for both the 6 pm edition of Sports Center and the 7 pm edition of Baseball Tonight. That’s great news for everyone. Welcome back, commissioner.

Post Categories: Peter Gammons

Trade Deadline Edition 2006: It cost a lot to win, and even more to lose

July 30th, 2006 → 2:26 pm @

A year ago at this time, Boston was embroiled in what seemed to be an annual trade-deadline soap opera. In 2004, it was Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe who were rumored to be on their way out of town; Nomar, of course, was actually traded to the Cubs. Last year, Manny Ramirez was either demanding a trade, or asking not to be traded, or refusing to play, or telling the world nothing was wrong.

This year, things are much quieter…at least on the media front. One big reason for that is the fact that for the first time in decades, Peter Gammons isn’t burning up the phone lines. (Last year, even as he was being inducted into the writers wing of the Hall of Fame, Gammons was perhaps the best source of information about all the various discussions going on around the league.) Another big reason is that, in the wake of last winter’s off-field turmoil, the Red Sox have kept a much tighter lid on their public relations operation. (Think about the fact that the first anyone heard about the Red Sox signing David Ortiz, Coco Crisp, and Josh Beckett to contract extensions was when the team held press conferences to announce the deals.)

Over the last several days, word about possible Red Sox deals has heated up, with much of it coming from ESPN’s Buster Olney, who has said the Sox offered up Coco Crisp in return for White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, or that they’re looking to trade Mark Loretta and move Dustin Pedroia to the bigs. As I’ve written before, I have a huge amount of respect for Olney, but in this case, I’m not inclined to rely on him as a prime source of information. As Olney himself writes, “I wish I knew all the details of what the Red Sox are planning, all the tentacles, because the bits and pieces are fascinating.” If the Red Sox aren’t leaking–and I really doubt they are–these bits and pieces are coming from other GMs, and pretty much every team in the American League has good reason to try to stir up some trouble in Boston.

That said, I would bet that most of the team is available for the right price. Schilling isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Manny. Papelbon, Hansen, Delcarmon, and Lester are also probably untouchable, and it’s unlikely Jason Varitek or Tim Wakefield would be put on the block. Kevin Youkilis is so relatively inexpensive, and so unlikely to get comparable value in return, that it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he’d be on his way out of town. But there were trades on the table for Trot Nixon this past offseason, and his declining power numbers and impending free agency likely increase the chance that he’s seen as expendable. (Of course, those same facts also mean his value is probably lower than it has been in some time.) Everyone else is probably fair game as well…and we probably have no idea about what’s actually going on. (Last year, with my retrospective awareness of what had been discussed and what had almost occured, I was struck by two things: the fact that very few trades are for “name” players, and the fact that so little of what’s discussed by the Sox’s baseball operations department ever makes its way into print.)

In other news, there are reports that the Yankees will send their top draft pick in 2005–20-year-old shrotstop C.J. Henry–along with a reliever to the Phillies in return for Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle. From the Red Sox’s perspective, this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. The Yankees’ four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000 were won on the backs of players who came up through the Yankees’ farm system during between 1990 and 1993, the time during which George “Instant Gratification” Steinbrenner was banned from baseball. (Jorge Posada was drafted in 1990; Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte signed as an amateur free agents in 1990 and 1991, respectively; Bernie Williams’s first year in the majors was 1991; and Derek Jeter was drafted in 1992.) It seems unlikely all these players would have been in New York had Steinbrenner, who always wants to win right now and worry about tomorrow when it comes, been in control of the team. Abreu and Lidle would definitely make the Yankees better in the immediate short-term. But, Abreu–like Randy Johnson and Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon and Carl Pavano–would cost a boatload of money and decrease New York’s flexibility going forward. And the loss of cheap, young talent could very well burn the Yankees in the future.

That’s a lesson the Red Sox don’t need to learn. Theo Epstein has shown a consistent desire to hold on to Boston’s young talent. Even so, it’s worth taking a look at what’s been lost (or almost lost) these last few years. The Sox shipped Matt Murton to Chicago as part of the Nomar trade, and this year Murton’s put up a .321 batting average and a .907 OPS in 51 games for the Cubs. (With those numbers, Murton would lead the Sox in BA and be third in OPS.) And had the Manny for A-Rod deal gone through, Jon Lester would have gone to the Rangers.

Without a doubt, there’ll be a lot going down in the next 25-and-a-half hours. And we probably won’t hear about it until those deals come round.

Post Categories: Grateful Dead lyrics & Peter Gammons & Sports Reporters & trade deadline

Peter Gammons

June 28th, 2006 → 1:46 am @

On Tuesday morning, Peter Gammons suffered a brain aneurysm at his home in Cape Cod and was airlifted to a Boston hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. He’s now in intensive care.

A case can be made that no single person has been as important to Boston baseball than Gammons; certainly there’s never been a more influential baseball reporter and commentator. Gammons, who was inducted into the writers wing of the Hall of Fame last summer, began his career at the Globe and also wrote for Sports Illustrated before going to ESPN, where be became the unofficial commissioner of baseball.

One of the things that I find most impressive about Peter is his never-ending curiosity about the game. I’ve never met a reporter who works the phones harder. He seems to know every minor leaguer in the country–and their families–and reports his ass off at a time when he could coast by on his reputation. His love of baseball is infectious. Most importantly, Peter is a delightful human being: considerate, thoughtful, generous, and funny.

Despite a bar mitzvah and years of High Holiday services, I still waver on where I fall on the whole religion question, so it would be disingenuous for me say I’m praying for Peter’s speedy recovery. So I’ll just say I hope I see him back at Fenway soon. The whole game feels a little more exciting when he’s around.

Post Categories: Peter Gammons