If it’s December 10th…

December 10th, 2006 → 9:53 am @

“Amazing team, these Red Sox. We’re busy digging out from yesterday’s snow, the Patriots will probably clinch the division title tomorrow, and our winter sports teams are struggling below .500, but everywhere you go folks are talking about the local baseball team. Never out of season, the Sox have produced a staggering amount of news and speculation, and fans are scratching their heads trying to figure out who’s coming and who’s going. … The hot stove has never been hotter.”
“This Team is Never Out of Season”
By Dan Shaughnessy
December 10, 2005

“Hot stove? It’s a scalding griddle for young Theo Epstein. He could get burned. … It is Dec. 10 and the local football team is possibly bound for its fourth Super Bowl in six years. The Bruins are on the rise, the Boston College football coach bolted with a bowl game still on the calendar (Chuck Fairbanks-like), UMass is playing for a national championship in football . . . and we’re still wall-to-wall Red Sox. 24/7. … [The Red Sox are] never, ever, out of season.”
Hits of Errors for G.M.
By Dan Shaughnessy
December 10, 2006

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Boston Globe & Dan Shaughnessy

The impossible becomes real: Murray Chass reaches new lows

December 8th, 2006 → 11:18 am @

More than two years ago, The New York Times established a written code for the use of anonymous sources. Murray Chass seems determined to blow those guidelines right out of the water. Especially when it comes to the Red Sox.

Today’s column, “Talk of Misconduct Is Swirling Around Red Sox,” is a case in point. “People in baseball,” Chass writes, “seem to view the Red Sox as a team that feels it can operate outside the rules.” Proof of this is the fact that “executives at several clubs” said the Sox were “a hot topic of private conversation at the general managers’ meeting” and the winter meetings. “Several” MLB officials agreed with this assessment. “Others,” Chass writes, “described Colletti as angry about the Drew development and said that relations between Colletti and Theo Epstein, Boston’s general manager, had become strained to the point where Colletti wasn’t returning Epstein’s telephone calls.” Now that, I buy. I mean, except for the fact that Colletti and Theo were actively discussing a Manny trade as recently as a couple of days ago.

What’s Murray’s proof for all this? The fact that J.D. Drew opted out of his three-year, $33 million deal with the Dodgers and went on to sign a five-year, $70 million deal with the Sox. An “executive of one club” — not the Dodgers, obviously — said “the Dodgers’ owner, Frank McCourt, was certain tampering had occured.” (McCourt, Chass said, couldn’t be reached for comment because he was “traveling” — apparently in an alternate universe in which cell phones don’t exist.) What’s more, “at various times last season, Drew displayed what appeared to be positive feelings about playing in Los Angeles.”

Now let’s check out those Times guidelines:

“The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy. When we use such sources, we accept an obligation not only to convince a reader of their reliability but also to convey what we can learn of their motivation — as much as we can supply to let a reader know whether the sources have a clear point of view on the issue under discussion.”

* In the period between November 1 and today, exactly one writer has raised specific speculation concerning the possibility of Red Sox tampering in relation to Drew (according to a Nexis search of “Red Sox” and “tampering” for all U.S. news sources): Murray Chass.

* Frank McCourt lost out on his bid to buy the Red Sox.

* He’s also a bit of, shall we say, a nut.

* As far as reliability goes, we have a) Scott Boras, an agent who’s known to squeeze every last dollar out of every player’s contract…to the point where he convinces players (such as, say, J.D. Drew) to sit out and miss a year of MLB service rather than sign a deal he doesn’t like; and b) a market in which Juan Pierre is worth $9 million a year. Of course, you wouldn’t learn this from Chass’s piece.

“Confidential sources must have direct knowledge of the information they are giving us — or they must be the authorized representatives of an authority, known to us, who has such knowledge.”

We do not grant anonymity to people who are engaged in speculation, unless the very act of speculating is newsworthy and can be clearly labeled for what it is.”

* The fact that some GMs are club executives are griping about other GMs and club executives is about as speculative and newsworthy as the John McCain’s campaign advisor speculating that Rudy Giuliani isn’t as nice as everyone thinks he is.

“Anonymity should not be invoked for a trivial comment, or to make an unremarkable comment appear portentous.”

That one pretty much speaks for itself.

Maybe the Red Sox did sit Scott Boras down and tell him that if Drew opted out of his Dodgers contract they’d guarantee a better deals; maybe Boras simply realized the Sox needed an outfielder, they had some money to spend, and had expressed interest in Drew in the past. I have no idea (although I do have some speculations). But there’s nothing in Chass’s article that offers up a shred of evidence in support of what he’s claiming…and there’s a lot of pertinent information he left out.


In the two years, one month, and several weeks since the Red Sox won the World Series, Chass (again, according to a Nexis search), has written 195 columns that refer to the Red Sox by name; that’s compared to 271 columns that deal with the Yankees and 231 that refer to the Mets. Thirty of Chass’s columns have ID’d Theo Epstein by name; 36 have dealt with Brian Cashman, the general manager of the Yankees. Which means the baseball columnist for the largest paper in New York City has dealt with the Red Sox just 16 percent less than he’s dealt with one New York team and 28 percent less than he’s written about the other. The GM of the Sox has appeared in Chass’s columns a mere 17 less than the GM of the Yankees.

Those kind of figures make it worthwhile quoting the Times‘s ethics policy:

“Conflicts of interest, real or apparent, may arise in many areas. They may involve tensions between journalists’ professional obligations to our audience and their relationships with news sources, advocacy groups, advertisers, or competitors; with one another; or with the company or one of its units. And at a time when two-career families are the norm, the civic and professional activities of spouses, household members and other relatives can create conflicts or the appearance of them.”

Sow what’s going on? Those guidelines — combined with Murray Chass’s frequent disregard for reality and common sense, his clear obsession with the Red Sox, and the many e-mails I get from Times employees complaining about Chass’s reporting have resulted in a new theory: the Times is continuing to print Chass’s columns so that they can be used in a future workshop designed to show reporters what they should not do in their own work. Honestly, it’s the only explanation that makes any sense.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Media ethics & Murray Chass & New York Times

Moneyball isn’t dead…it just has frosted tips and a porn-star goatee

December 7th, 2006 → 3:16 pm @

For my money, the most interesting, insightful, and incisive baseball writer to emerge over the last several years is ESPN’s Keith Law. Law’s acuity shouldn’t be all that surprising; he spent four years in baseball ops with the Blue Jays…and not every former front office type that ends up at ESPN can be a total dolt.

At the bottom of Law’s piece today analyzing the Freddy Garcia trade, Law makes a quick point about the A’s pickup of Mike Piazza, who’s by far the most metrosexual member of the 400-home run club, as well as an 11-time All-Star and two-time MVP runner up. Piazza — who threw up respectable offensive numbers in San Diego to the tune of .283/.342/.501 with 22 home runs — won’t equal the production of Frank Thomas, Oakland’s last scrap-heap DH (Thomas’s ’06 numbers: .270/.381/.545, 39 HRs, 114 RBIs.) … or will he? As Law points out, Piazza was playing in “Death to All Flying Balls Park in San Diego”; he was also catching. It’s true that Piazza’s one-year, $8.5 million deal is only $4.5 less than the Jays paid Thomas for the next three years, but that was practically in a different era (the pre-batshit insane Pierre/Matthews era). I recently asked why Moneyball execs like Billy B. were able to keep on working the smart angles in a post Moneyball world (the answer: because there are a lot of stupid people out there). Whatever the reason, it’s hard not to root for Beane when he keeps pulling rabbits like this out of his baseball cap.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Billy Beane & Keith Law & Mike Piazza & Moneyball

Today in Dice land: Scott Boras, less than completely honest? Get out.

December 7th, 2006 → 9:58 am @

Today’s Globe has an unabashedly pessimistic story about the Red Sox’s chances of landing Matsuzaka. Here’s the money graf:

“According to sources with direct access to the Sox’ view, there is an increasing feeling that Boras is setting the stage, both privately and publicly, that there is not going to be a deal. ‘Unless he’s being less than honest,’ one source said, ‘there isn’t going to be a deal.'”

Well, that settles it: the Dice man ain’t gonna cometh. Because we all know there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Boras would ever utter the smallest of untruths.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Oblique references to Eugene O'Neill & Scott Boras

Other people report (on Andy Pettitte); you decide

December 7th, 2006 → 9:50 am @

Apparently, Andy Pettitte is close to signing a one-year deal with the Yankees for somewhere around $14 or $15 million. Speculation is that if Pettitte ends up in New York, Roger will too; indeed, the Times pretty much says that if Andy jumped off a bridge, Roger would too. (They do look awfully cute together.)

That might be true — I honestly have no idea (although I do know that last year the Rocket was deciding between the Sox and the ‘Stros; the Yankees weren’t really in the final picture). So for argument’s sake, let’s assume that it is, and let’s assume that a season of Andy and a half-season of Roger is going to cost somewhere north of $53 million ($14.5 for Pettitte, $18 for a half-season of Clemens, a bit north of $20 million in a luxury tax hit). Good deal for New York? Last year, Pettitte’s WHIP was higher than it’s been since 2000 and Roger is, after all, 44. (At least he’s not in Orlando, pathetically trolling for a job.)

So I’ll leave it up to. Make your voices heard. I’ll tally at the end of the day.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Andy Pettitte & Roger Clemens & Yankees

I love the image…

December 6th, 2006 → 10:13 am @

…of Barry Bonds trolling the winter meetings in desperate search of a contract. It sure is hard to imagine Hammerin’ Hank or the Babe down in Orlando hoping to interest a team in his services.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Barry Bonds & Steroids

Here we go again: In defense of (or at least an argument for) J.D. Drew

December 6th, 2006 → 10:12 am @

Last night brought a couple of much-anticipated Red Sox moves: the signings of J.D. Drew (5 years, $70 million) and Julio Lugo (4 years, $36 million). From a pure economic standpoint, these signings are either crazy expensive (you’re not going to hear the end of “but they could have signed Johnny for $52 million” for a good while) or pretty damn cheap (is J.D. worth $4 million more a year than Gary Matthews? Hell yeah).

J.D. will come to Boston with a lot of expectations…a lot of low expectations, that is. There were petitions urging the Sox front office not to sign the guy. He’s been repeatedly labeled a lily-livered pansy, a guy who’s soft, who can’t play hurt, who lacks fire.

Here are some thoughts — and observations — on that.

* We’d all do well to check out exactly how good a player Drew is. He has the 25th highest slugging percentage of all active players, and the 15th highest among active players under 35. He’s posted a career line of .286, .393, .512. His OPS is .905, compared to .924 for David Ortiz (and an otherworldly 1.011 for Manny). And he’s a better fielder (and baserunner) than either of the Sox’s Big Two.

* I have a hard time believing that a player gets to be a major leaguer while being truly “soft,” just as I think it’s usually a load of crap when we all debate about whether this or that player can or can’t handle being booed. By the time you reach the majors, you’ve pushed through enough so that you damn well better be able handle some catcalls. And it’s incredibly difficult to make the physical commitment to being a professional athlete while being a big-time wuss. Drew makes me nervous, but not because I think he’s a crybaby; he makes me nervous because I worry he might have one of those bodies that’s just not that durable. If that’s the case, we just committed to five years of Drew renting space on the trainer’s table.

So why the rep? It could be because, unlike, say, Trot Nixon, Drew comes off as a more passive player — there’s not the helmut slamming or frequent cursing. (Drew and Trot have averaged pretty much the exact same number of games played per year in their careers. Go figure.) Drew’s also never particularly endeared himself to fans, so when Manny sits out for last month of the season despite a clean MRI and medical clearance from the team, it’s because he knows his body better than anyone, yada yada yada. But we’re all too ready to label Drew, who’s not only never played in Boston but has never played in the American League, as a bust from the get-go. Maybe he will be. But let’s give him a chance.

Tony Massarotti has a little item showing what the Red Sox’s lineup would look like if the season started tomorrow. I’ll throw in career BAs, OBPs, and SLGs:

Julio Lugo, .277, .340, .402
Coco Crisp, .282, .329, .416
David Ortiz, .283, .374, .550
Manny Ramirez, .314, .411, .600
J.D. Drew, .286, .393, .512
Mike Lowell, .273, .339, .463
Jason Varitek, .269, .348, .450
Kevin Youkilis, .275, .379, .423
Dustin Pedroia, NA

Papi, Manny, and J.D. wouldn’t exactly be a modern-day Murderer’s Row — Ruth and Gehrig both had slugging percentages of over .750! in 1927 — but they’d be pretty damn good.

Meanwhile, the assumption is that any effort to trade Manny is losing steam. I can only assume that means there’ll be a news conference announcing his new destination within the next couple of hours…

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & J.D. Drew & Julio Lugo