Meet the new ace…same as the old ace: The big Schill pulls a Pedro

February 1st, 2007 → 10:06 am @

Let’s see: in the months since the ’06 season ended, the Sox were seconds away from trading Manny, until they weren’t. They were about to lose the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka, until they didn’t. They signed J.D. Drew to a five-year deal, until they didn’t, and then they did. And in just the last week, the Red Sox were thisclose to a deal to bring Todd Helton to Boston, and then they weren’t. In the midst of all this, the New York Times has been waging a bizarre jihad against Theo Epstein, who, oh, by the way, happened to get married. (Don’t worry: he nuptials did not really feature Coney Island’s Nathan’s hot dogs.)

It’s been a hectic offseason. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for a calm couple of weeks until spring training starts.

It shouldn’t be too much to ask, but it is. With Curt Schilling in danger of being supplanted as the team’s top pitcher by Dice-K, Schill pulled a Pedro and picked up the gun #45 had pointed at the Sox’s front office before the ’04 season. Less than a year after saying ’07 would be his last season in the bigs, Schilling announced — on WEEI, naturally — that he would pitch in 2008. Oh, and he sure as shit better get a deal before April 1. “There won’t be any distractions in questioning because if I don’t have a contract before the season starts, then I’ll get a contract after the 2007 season, as a free agent,” Schilling said last night. What if the Red Sox want to, you know, see how a 40-year old whose last two years could generously be described as up and down was doing once the rigors of the season started? “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “I think I’ve earned the right to do one or the other. If they don’t think the risk is worth the reward, or vice versa, I get that.”

That language might sound familiar to readings of Feeding the Monster. Here’s how I described the situation as it stood in spring training 2004…a couple of months after the Sox signed Schilling:

“Pedro Martinez, meanwhile, who was paid $14 million in 2002 and was signed for $15.5 million in 2003, said he felt disrespected by the fact that the club hadn’t picked up his $17.5 million club option for 2004. If the Red Sox didn’t act by the time the 2003 season started, Martinez said, he’d assume his career with the club was over. ‘It’s bye-bye once the year starts,’ he told reporters. ‘I’m gone. I’m just going to pitch. I won’t wait until the All-Star break to talk to them.’ …

With Schilling on board, Martinez wondered if the Red Sox were planning on keeping him around beyond the 2004 season, and without a contract, he was both hesitant to risk further injury and worried about giving the impression he was less than totally healthy. Martinez’s anxiety about pitching during one season before he knew if he’d get paid for the next had been apparent since 2003, when, during spring training, he began agitating for the Red Sox to pick up his 2004 option. Now, when he spoke of Grady Little’s decision to leave him in Game 7 of the previous fall’s American League Championship Series against the Yankees, he talked not of the fact that the game was on the line but of the risk to his arm. “I was actually shocked I stayed out there that long,” he told Sports Illustrated. ‘But I’m paid to do that. I belong to Boston. If they want me to blow my arm out, it’s their responsibility.’ …

The same fragility that made Martinez anxious about securing a long-term deal made the Red Sox concerned about giving him one. ‘The arm angle Pedro had in spring training was very worrisome,’ says John Henry. When Henry asked one of the team’s top baseball operations executives what kind of season Martinez would likely produce, the answer stunned him: ‘I was told, ‘He’ll win 12 or 15 games, have a 4.00 ERA or a 3.50 ERA.’ And I was like, ‘Fuck.’’ Despite this prediction, the team wanted to re-sign its star. ‘I thought he should finish his career in Boston,’ says Henry. …

On April 30th, as the Red Sox sat in the visiting clubhouse in Arlington, Texas, waiting for a thunderstorm to pass, Martinez decided to chat with the Herald’s Michael Silverman, his favorite reporter on the beat. Martinez told Silverman he was cutting off all negotiations with the Red Sox until season’s end. ‘I’m just really sad for the fans in New England who had high hopes that…I was going to stay in Boston,’ Martinez said. ‘[The fans] don’t understand what’s going on, but I really mean it from my heart—I gave them every opportunity, every discount I could give them to actually stay in Boston and they never took advantage of it. Didn’t even give me an offer.’ His contract status, he said, wouldn’t be a distraction for him or the team ‘because I’m not going to allow it.'”

It’s no secret that Pedro and Schilling were not the best of friends, and it’s no secret that Pedro was wounded that Schilling overtook him as the Sox’s best pitcher. It turns out the two pitchers might not be that different after all. Negotiating in the media? Check. Playing on fans’ emotions and Boston’s tendency towards soap operas? Check. Needing the attention focused on himself? Check.

On the upside, 2004 — another season with its fair share of drama — ended up okay when all was said and done.

(Obligatory FTM plug: The reviewers love it, it was a New York Times bestseller, and it’s available for only $17.16 on Amazon. Oh, and, of course, signed, personalized bookplates are still available free of cost. And How can you resist?)

Post Categories: 2004 Playoffs & Curt Schilling & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Pedro Martinez & Red Sox front office & Theo Epstein

My mind is so messed up, goin’ round and round

January 29th, 2007 → 11:08 am @

So yeah, apparently the Sox and the Rockies are discussing a trade that would bring Todd Helton to Boston. On the one hand, it’s hard to argue with adding a guy with these career numbers: .333 average, .430 OBP, .593 (!) slugging (good for fourth among active players…behind Pujols, Bonds, and Manny ), 286 HRs, 996 RBIs. And a 2-6 of J.D. Drew, Papi, Manny, Helton, and Youks is pretty damn intense. (I know, I know: the Jewish god of Denis Leary routines doesn’t belong in that rarified company, but his pitches-per-at bat would help tire some arms.) On the other hand, the average age of the 2-5 hitters would be over 32, and the Sox would owe those four players a total of 13 years…and the two best players (#24 and #34) going off the books first. Without debating the effect of Coors Field on Helton’s career numbers (and his road splits aren’t nearly as extreme as you’d suspect), he sure as shit ain’t a player on the upside of his career, and even if the Rockies eat about half of the $90 mil he’s owed over the next five years, that’s a lot of cash to be laying out.

What’s so confusing about this is a Helton acquisition would seem to be precisely what the Red Sox have tried so hard not to do: pay lots of money for past-their-prime superstars. That’s Yankee behavior. Meanwhile, the Yankees are trading guys like Sheffield — a formerly prototypical New York pick up that suddenly seems as if he’d fit in perfectly with the Sox mid-to-late 30’s contingent — in favor of prospects. What’s going on here? Is it opposite day (or off-season)? I hope not. I always thought that episode kind of sucked.

Post Categories: oblique references to hendrix songs & oblique references to seinfeld episodes & Red Sox front office & todd helton

Tomorrow’s Hall of Famers, today

January 10th, 2007 → 11:59 am @

Okay, fine: that was a cheap and easy transition. But at least I’m trying…

Anyway. Lost in all the HoF commentary/hand wringing/debates is the opening today of the Red Sox’s annual “Rookie Program,” in which — and I’m quoting the press release here — “twelve of Boston’s top upper level prospects” will be exposed “to the expectations of being major leaguers for the Red Sox.” (This year’s participants: pitchers Kason Gabbard, Craig Hansen, David Pauley, Nick Debarr, Clay Buchholz, Kyle Jackson, and Edgar Martinez; outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Brandon Moss, and David Murphy; catcher George Kottaras; and third baseman Chad Spann.) Besides your normal workouts, the program includes (and I’m quoting again) “seminars that will focus on the assimilation into major league life off the field. A number of individuals from both in and outside the Red Sox organization will speak to the group, including President/CEO Larry Lucchino, General Manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona, major league coaches John Farrell and Dave Magadan, catcher Jason Varitek, and longtime baseball writer and ESPN reporter Peter Gammons.”

I’ve written before about the ways in which the team tries to prepare rookies for the weird and wooly nature of playing in Boston (Cla Meredith could probably have used some more of this), and I don’t have a whole lot to add to that. It is worth re-recounting a conversation I had with Papelbon in ’05, in which he talked about his participation in the Rookie Program: “In January, I did the media development program. A lot of the subjects we went over in that time period are coming up now, and I’m able to go back to that and rely on it and say, ‘Hey, what did I learn and how can it help me?’ So in terms of dealing with the press and everything else that comes with playing major league baseball, yeah, it’s helped.” Not to get down on my knees — which is something I’m accused of vis a vis the Sox baseball ops folks with some regularity — this really is exactly the kind of stuff the public rarely hears much about, but really is important.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Red Sox front office & Red Sox rookie development

Yeah, that’s right: Theo did

December 15th, 2006 → 1:04 am @

You wanted to know who won that game of chicken? Anyone who saw Theo’s post-press conference live shot with Tina Cervasio knows damn well who won it: the Red Sox. Theo, et al., were driving to the tarmac and getting ready to fly back to Boston sans Matsuzakasan (you know: calling Boras’s bluff) when Boras rang and said, ‘Well, yeah, all right, I guess we will be on that plane after all.’

(Apparently, Buster Olney agrees.)

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras & Theo Epstein

So who is it that won this game of chicken?

December 14th, 2006 → 12:18 pm @

(Note: I’m on a PC. I hate PC’s. For some reason, most of the links I put in aren’t working, so you’ll need to navigate around and find the articles I’m referring to on your own.)

It’s true: I made it to Boston. And waking up at 6 to get to the airport is about as physical as I’m getting today.

So…some more notes on the…now wait: what’s the big story around here? Ah, yes: D-Mat. (I will use every known nickname before the day is done.) Pretty much everyone, Jack Curry in the Times to the Herald’s Tony Mass to Nick Cafardo in the Globe to Gammo himself is saying the Sox got the best of Boras in these negotiations.

On the first hand, that’s clearly true: if the reports are correct and the Sox’s initial offer was somewhere around $6-7 mil for 4 years, $8.7 mil for 6 years is a lot closer to that than the $15-$20 mil for 6 years Boras was looking for. On the next hand, the Sox, on some level, had Boras over a barrel. Zak really couldn’t have returned to Japan (well, he could have, but not without losing so much face he would have needed a face transplant), and despite the late-in-the-game posturing from Boras about Daisuke wanting “respect,” the good folks of Seibu would not have considered $8 million a year disrespectful. (I spoke with Bobby Valentine on Tuesday about an unrelated matter, and he said that the negotiations would be tough but there was no way his players would be facing the Diceman next year.)

But on the third hand, the Sox clearly won this game of chicken, and they did it by showing the type of single-mindedness and determination that’s marked the best days of this front office. Over Thanksgiving 2003, Theo and Larry both went to Curt’s house in Arizona, which showed Schilling how serious they were and also made it clear everyone was on the same page. The same thing happened here. That can only be seen as a good sign. Whatever rifts remain between those two — and rifts do remain — they’re showing they can work together.

There’ll be plenty more to chew on as the day progresses: the $203 mil (or so) the Sox have committed to three players, blowing away every team save for the Cubs look; the reality that Fenway (and particularly the Fenway press box) is about to be overrun by Japanese tourists and reporters…and the question of how, exactly, the Sox will cash in on extra revenue. Hint: It won’t be through TV deals (which I think are worked out with MLB, meaning the Sox would only see 1/30 of that money) or through merch sales (ditto).

OK: I’m late for the Pru.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Larry Lucchino & Red Sox & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras & Theo Epstein

What a bargain!

December 14th, 2006 → 9:05 am @

Well…that was fun. We had Daisuke sneaking into back doors at 3 am to get past the throngs of reporters, we had cross-country flights on private planes, we had madcap dash to the hospital…and now we have a starting rotation of:

Curt Schilling
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Josh Beckett
Jonathan Papelbon
Tim Wakefield

Man…it feels good not to need to write Matt Clement’s name in there. Sure, the pitching staff still has holes — I think it’s insane to assume Mike Timlin is going to be worth a roster spot, but then I also think it’s insane to assume Doug Mirabelli is going to be worth a roster spot. There’s no closer, or at least no obvious closer, and Craig Hansen ain’t gonna be one in the majors unless he learns that he’ll be a lot better off if he stops trying to blow his fastball by big league hitters and uses that nasty-ass slider more often.

Anyway, to go along with that pitching staff, if the season started tomorrow — and who doesn’t wish that it would? — there’d be this starting nine:

Coco, CF
Julio, SS
Papi, DH
Manuel, LF
Drew, RF
Lowell – 3B
Tek – C
Youkilis – 1B
Pedroia – 2B*

That might not be the record-setting ’03-’04 offense, but it’s pretty damn good.

Now, a lot will (and has) been made of the vast amounts of money the Sox have thrown around in the great free-agent spending spree of 2006. So let’s take a look at the $103 (or so) million Matsuzaka will cost the Sox. First off, despite the AAV of $10 million per year, the contract will end up costing the Sox approximately $14 mil/per, because of the 40 percent luxury tax (which, again, I’m assuming the Sox will need to pay). (Also, from what I can tell, the escalators in the deal will amount to a max of $8 mil over the life of the deal, so let’s leave those out for simlicity’s sake.) Let’s also assume that, as Rob Neyer points out, salaries will continue to rise at approximately 10 percent a year. That would make the $14 mil paid out to Daisuke in 2012 worth about $7 million in today’s dollars.** (I think — Neyer has the 10 percent annual depreciation on Drew’s $14 million deal worth $10 million in 2011; I have it worth $8.4. One of us is wrong, and it certainly might be me.) If you look at the pure AAV sans luxury tax, that 2012 salary would be worth $5 mil in today’s dollars.*** If Daisuke ends up being anywhere near as good as rumored, that’ll be one helluva bargain. (Another way to look at this: Manny’s contract was pretty outrageous in 2001; today it’s a relative — and I do mean relative — bargain.) Of course, he could also end up being the next Jose Contreras, circa his Yankees years. That’d make him far from the worst $100 million signing…but it still wouldn’t be good.

So, what does this all mean? Well, for one thing that the Sox didn’t get fleeced by Scott Boras — as recently as a 24 hours ago, he was arguing that Matsuzaka should be getting somewhere in the $20 million per range, which would increase the cost of this deal by $60 million bucks.
And..with that, my flight is boarding. So more later.

* As a couple of people have noted in the comments section, this batting order is likely incorrect. Unless the starting nine changes, it’s more likely to see something like:

Lugo, The Jewish God of OBP, Papi, Manuel, J.D., Lowell, Tek, Coco, Pedroia

** In my computations throughout, I used a $10 million/yr base for Matsuzaka; it’s actually (roughly) $9 mil. The full contingent of escalators would bring the AAV up to $10. Anyway, this’ll alter all of those slightly.

*** And if you add in the $51.1 posting fee, the contract would be worth approximately $24 mil, $22.6 mil, $21.2 mil, $19.8 mil, $18.4 mil, and $17 mil with the luxury tax or $20, $10, $18, $17, $16, and $15 million per. A couple of other quick notes on the luxury tax figures: the posting fee does not count towards the luxury tax and is paid out in one lump sum, which skews these numbers a bit, but not a huge amount. Also, the reason I’m including the luxury tax here is I’m assuming Dice’s contract will be one of the ones that puts the Sox over the luxury tax limit; in figuring out other AAV’s, you wouldn’t add on the 40 percent until the contracts starting going over that limit. Got that?

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras

It’s official! Sort of! Almost!

December 13th, 2006 → 1:51 pm @

From Gordo’s Globe blog: “A source close to the negotiations confirmed that the Red Sox contingent in Southern California is flying back to Boston with pitcher Daisuke Matsuzka and his agent, Scott Boras, on board. ‘You can assume that a deal is done or close,’ said another source with direct knowledge of the talks.” (Who is this mysterious “source with direct knowledge’? Besides, I mean, someone who’s close enough to the actual negotiating room to know what’s what and who also has enough time to put in calls to reporters whenever anything happens.) Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but the Herald‘s Michael Silverman stresses that “negotiations are ongoing” and that “the final language of a long-term deal has not yet been struck.” In fact, “[o]ne source said it is too early to say that a preliminary agreement has been reached. However, it is safe to conclude that Matsuzaka and Boras did not board Henry’s private jet if both they and the Red Sox were not, at the very least, hopeful of striking a deal.”

I was covering Bush HQ in Austin, Texas, on election night in 2000…and honestly? I don’t think there was this level of minute-by-minute coverage back then. Of course, that wasn’t nearly as important a story.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Gordon Edes & Michael Silverman & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras