Dipping my toe back in the pool: on Johan and Schill

February 10th, 2008 → 10:52 am @

Some loyal readers have pointed out that there’s been an usually long period of silence coming from this corner; in fact, January was the first month FTM was quiet since we started (virtual) publication. There are some good reasons for this: I’ve been obsessing over my rapidly shrinking bank account; wondering why I felt compelled to buy real estate last spring; wondering why I felt compelled to buy tech stocks in the spring of 2000; wondering if I can make a career out of forecasting when bubbles are about to burst…well, you get the idea.

I’ve also been waiting for news–real news, news that’s worth talking about–to come out of Yawkey Way. There have been some minor developments, but call me crazy, I didn’t think Eric Hinske signing with the Jays was of true, earth-shattering importance.

I know what you’re thinking: what happened today? Did Curt’s shoulder actually fall off? Did Coco jump Jacoby in a back alley somewhere? Is Pedro coming back to the Sox as a bullpen coach? No, no, and no — and in fact, the news that brought me out of my winter hibernation was as commonplace as can be.

It was the staggering stupidity of our favorite punching bag: Murray Chass.

Chass has been, for as long as I can remember, a uniquely horrid sportswriter, one of those buffoons that make you wonder how folks like him manage to be gainfully employed. It’s not just that he’s lazy. It’s not just that he uses a column in a national newspaper to browbeat subjects who dare not talk to him. It’s also that he understands next to nothing about baseball.

Take today’s column, which, by the way, is buried, as always, deep within the Times‘s sports section. In a section titled “Giving Up Early,” Chass writes that the Sox “may yet regret that they were not more serious in their effort to win this winter’s Santana sweepstakes.” Chass implies that the Sox interest in Santana was because “their primary interest preventing the Yankees from getting Santana,” but that now, with Schilling’s shoulder trouble, the Sox need a starter. (He then floats one of those conspiracy theories that make no sense to anyone save for the little monkey living in Murray’s brain: “Players these days are supposed to have physicals before signing contracts. If the Red Sox found no shoulder problem in November before Schilling signed an $8 million contract, why does he have a shoulder problem now?” Does he think Curt’s faking — you know, because he doesn’t care about playing? Or that the Sox secretly sabotaged their own efforts and blew $8 mil in the process? Anyone who can figure this out gets a free prize.*)

Now, since neither Schill nor Wake is going anywhere, the Sox are guaranteed of having two 40+ starters on their team. They also have Dice-K, Beckett, Lester, and Buccholz. You could reasonably assume that the team’s brass figured that one of their older starters were likely going to be in the shop for repairs at any given point…but that their stable of young arms protected them.

The Sox might also have decided that, at the end of the day, paying Santana $140 mil through age 35 might not make sense – the team does, after all, know a little something about the durability of hard throwing aces that weight in at under two bills once they hit, say, age 32.

But it’s ridiculous to say that Ye Olde Towne team was never interested. Any package that includes either Jon or Jacoby is clearly a serious one. (For the record: I was never in favor of a Santana deal.

So there you have it. Happy new year, folks. I’ll be seeing you again real soon.

* Note: There is no prize.

Post Categories: 2007 Hot Stove Season & Curt Schilling & Johan Santana & Murray Chass

In which I weigh in way too late on the whole Santana brouhaha

December 4th, 2007 → 11:17 am @

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been strangely quiet as of late – and that silence has continued even after my return from a glorious, two-and-a-half-week trip to Southeast Asia. (I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: nothing says romance like reading a bio of Pol Pot on your honeymoon.) I’ve avoid my usual laundry list of excuses.

I will, however, say this: I’ve always been reticent about jawing off when I have no real idea what I’m talking about…and such is the case with all of the sundry Santana trade permutations. I don’t mean the specifics of a possible trade — no one knows those except for Theo, Bill Smith, and Brian Cashman. I mean that I don’t know enough (and what’s more, haven’t done the work) to be able to make any kind of responsible or intelligent observations about whether this or that scenario makes sense. I don’t have the drilled-down numbers on Jacoby; I haven’t run the projections on Santana; I sure as hell don’t have any sense of what the pool of pitching talent is like in next few amateur drafts; I don’t know where else the Sox (or the Yankees) would spend that $130 mil or so it’ll likely take to lock up Santana…well, you get the idea. And even if I did have all of this info and even if I had done all of this work, I still would be so many light years behind where the Sox front office is in terms of brainpower, man hours spent hunched over spreadsheets, cumulative knowledge, and on and on, that it would be silly for me to start soapboxing about why this or that scenario makes sense.

Which leaves me with…emotion. Emotionally, I don’t want to lose Jacoby, and this is even after the wife grew besotted with him after a recent lunch they shared together. Emotionally, I’m in love with homegrown teams. Emotionally, I want to go into battle with a roster that includes four homegrown players (Youk, DP, Jed Lowrie, and Ellsbury), two guys that the Sox should rightly get credit for growing (Tek and Papi), and a couple of hired guns (JDD and Manny). Emotionally, I want Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz and Papelbon and Manny DC and yes, even Craig Hansen to round out a rotation that’ll be anchored by Beckett and Dice-K for the next half-decade or so. Emotionally, I’m nervous about paying a premium for a pitcher’s post-30 years. And, dare I say it, emotionally I find something a little, well, gross, about the prospect of the Sox going out and buying the best left-handed pitcher in the game to augment what’s arguably already the best rotation in baseball.
But the Sox front office doesn’t get paid to traffic in emotion – and thank goodness for that. Emotion would have ended up with Nomar and Pedro still collecting paychecks from Yawkey Way and, in all likelihood, with a 90-year championship drought.
At the moment — at 10:02 am on December 4 — it sounds as if the Sox are actually close to a deal, one that would keep Ellsbury in Boston and send Lester, Lowrie, and Coco to Minnesota. (Sigh. Coco. I still love the guy.) If it happens, it could be a great deal. And if it happens, it’ll be worth paying attention to what happens to Lowrie down the line. Plenty of times, those third names that no one has ever heard of end up turning into pretty good players. It was Lester, after all, who was headed to Texas four years ago as part of the aborted Manny for A-Rod deal…

Anyway, if that deal does go down, the Sox will have to be the pre-season favorites…through, say, 2010. As an NL exec told Jayson Stark, a rotation that consisted of Beckett, Dice-K, and Santana, to say nothing of Schilling and Clay “Oh No-No You Don’t” Buchholz, “might just be the best team in the history of the frigging universe.” It would also complicate Tito’s job. Seriously: which of these guys do you sit down to tell he’s going to be a fifth starter?

Post Categories: 2007 Hot Stove Season & Coco Crisp & Jacoby Ellsbury & Johan Santana & Jon Lester

Guess who’s back…back again

November 27th, 2007 → 11:54 am @

I’ve returned from Southeast Asia, where I explored the ruins of Angkor Wat, read of genocidal madmen, spent a day washing elephants, and watched four year olds shoot bottle rockets at each other. The region has a lot to rmend it…save, of course, for the lack of baseball and drinkable water.

As I slowly recover from jet lag I’ll wade back in here and get some thoughts and observations down about the departure of the Dentist, the return of Mike “Lunchpail” Lowell, and the A-Rod chronicles, part 814. For now, here’s my most recent piece, a profile of Doug Morris, the head of Universal Records. It focused on DRM – for those of you non-geeks out there, that’s digital rights management, otherwise known as the way record companies et al protect digital files. I have some more thoughts about the piece, and some thoughts on how it has been interpreted, but as they say, all in good time…

Post Categories: 2007 Hot Stove Season & Doug Morris & Oblique References to Eminem Lyrics & Wired

Schilling back for ’08

November 6th, 2007 → 3:46 pm @

This has already broken over the wires, but Schilling re-signed with the Sox. It’s a one-year deal, which, I’m assuming, means he really will retire after next year; otherwise, he would have/should have been able to find a longer deal from some other team prettily easily. I don’t know the terms, but I’d assume they’re close to the $13 mil or so he got this year.

Post Categories: 2007 Hot Stove Season & Curt Schilling