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

Hello, I must be going…

November 9th, 2007 → 9:54 am @

I know…this is my second reference to the same Phil Collins album in a year and a half! Incredible. (Somehow, I didn’t make it to the Genesis reunion tour. I did see the Police last week at MSG. Not so good. But I digress.)

Anyway – I’m heading to Hong Kong. And Cambodia. And Vietnam. Not for an investigation into the state of semi-pro baseball in Asia; I’m actually heading out on my delayed honeymoon, which will keep me offline until after Thanksgiving… which means I won’t be able to opine on the Sox’s re-signing (or non-re-signing of Mike “Lunchpail” Lowell (nickname courtesy of reader Scott Laton), or on the anti-A Rod sweepstakes, or on Murray Chass’s ongoing effort to write the stupidest column in the history of the world. (Seriously – I have no idea where to even think about beginning with today’s effort. Every time I think he can’t get any dumber he writes something that impresses me anew.)

In the frenzy of planning, I also haven’t had a chance to congratulate the Gold Glove voters on getting at least one position right this year (Youk at first) or castigated them on ridiculously blowing what should have been a no-brainer (Coco in center). (Another aside: if, indeed, Coco ends up patrolling center for some other team next year, which wouldn’t surprise me, I will, as most of you likely know, be disappointed. I really love watching that little dude patrol the outfield…and I still think he made a huge difference this year. And I’m not just saying that because the wife had lunch with Jacoby yesterday and came away cooing about how “nice” and “smart” he is.) I also haven’t had a chance to voice my respect for the deal Curt took to stay in Boston. I know – anyone making $8 mil a year isn’t exactly roughing it – but Schill clearly could have made more on the open market. It’s rare these days that an athlete says “it’s not about the money” and means it; here was a situation in which one actually did. And despite my efforts to be clear-eyed about this whole business of baseball thing, I’m glad #38 will be retiring in Boston uni…and I hope when he gets elected into the Hall (and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no longer any real question as to whether he should make it) he’ll be wearing a Sox cap.

One last bit of housekeeping – any new commenters won’t be able to post until I get back. But by all means sign up and send those comments in; I’ll wade through them as soon as I pay my bills and get over my jetlag.


Post Categories: 2007 Offseason & Coco Crisp & Curt Schilling & Honeymoon & Jacoby Ellsbury & Kevin Youkilis & Mike Lowell & Phil Collins

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

Schilling Mojo: ‘This is about winning the World Series,’ redux

October 20th, 2007 → 6:57 pm @

I’ve been criticized as of late for not posting with the frequency that you’d imagine the post-season would necessitate…and understandably so. Believe me, it hurts me more than it hurts you. Presently, I’m in San Francisco for a two-part wedding: this morning was the Sikh ceremony; the Hindu part of today’s festivities begins in about an hour. (The fact that I’m here and not in Boston should give some sense of how much I care about said couple.)

To make up for it, here’s a look back at one of the Sneak Peeks I ran back before Feeding the Monster was published. (You know – the bestselling book about the Red Sox. You can buy a copy from Amazon for $10.20 – cheap! – and request a personalized, signed bookplate all in a couple of seconds.) This one details the day after Thanksgiving 2003, when Theo et al were negotiating with Schilling in an effort to convince one of the best postseason pitchers in the history of the game to sign in Boston. The two sides were discussing sundry bonuses…when Curt reminded everyone what this whole thing is all about.

You can read the rest for yourself. I don’t want to spoil the ending. Now, on to Game 6…

Post Categories: 2007 Playoffs & Cleveland Indians & Curt Schilling & Feeding the Monster Sneak Peeks

Who needs Clemens? We’ve got Wake…

May 7th, 2007 → 2:55 pm @

The Clemens news will — as it should — dominate the local headlines for a while. For the most part, I feel a sense of relief. As I’ve said before, I think there’s been a quasi-irresponsible lack of coverage concerning the various ‘roid rumors (and circumstantial evidence) that’ve been swirling around the Rocket for years. And my interest in the steroid issue has less to do with the sanctity of baseball or any of that crap than with the effect all of this idolatry has on kids, a subject I wrote about at some length in yesterday’s Globe Magazine. (The Times‘s Selena Roberts does focus on the issue in her column on the front of today’s Sports section: “The threat to the Yankees has nothing to do with Clemens’s age, but how he hasn’t aged at all on the approach to 45 when he once seemed kaput at age 35. Maybe Clemens has developed a natural youth potion, an organic Botox for his old bones. Certainly, Clemens deserves credit for his greatness — with a talent that is an understandable siren’s song for the Yankees — but he has also witnessed his aura undermined by a steroid whisper campaign.” Whatever risk that poses to the Yankees, it would have been magnified a lot in Boston…)

I also kind of think Roger’s a self-satisfied prick, and it sure looks from what’s come out thus far like Clemens and agent Randy Hendricks played the Sox in order to get a couple million more per New York. (Interesting fact: assuming his pitch count averages around 100 pitches per game, he’ll be making $8,000 bucks per pitch. Apparently the $120 million or so he’s made thus far in salary alone isn’t quite enough…) I also think his demands — to have the freedom to take off when he’s not on the mound (no emergency relief appearances for him) — wouldn’t have worked out all that well on the Sox.

But I digress. The real reason the Sox don’t need Clemens is because of the ace of their staff…Timothy Wakefield. Wakefield, who’s set to make $4 million a year in perpetuity (or approximately what Clemens will pull down per game), is going through another one of his brilliant, unhittable stretches: his 3-3 record is the result of nothing so much as the criminally low run support he gets, as evidenced by his 2.11 ERA and his .197 BAA(!). To put that in some context, Schill’s ERA is 3.28 and his BAA is .298; Beckett weighs in at 2.72 and .219. Wakefield is, in fact, at the top or near the top of virtually every metric that looks at opponents’ offensive averages.

It’s true that Wakefield goes through one or two lights-out stretches each year. It’s also true that, since 2004, he’s been the teams best starter. Don’t believe me? Look it up. In the last three years, Wake’s ERA is almost a half-run better than Schilling’s (4.13 vs. 4.55) and he’s thrown 55 more innings (403 vs. 348). The only reason his record isn’t better (26-26 over that time, compared to Curt’s 27-16) is because of aforementioned lousy run support.

I’m not, of course, saying that Wake is a better pitcher than Curt. To me, the real question is why Wake doesn’t get more consistent respect. My theory: the knuckleball. The knuckleball — and the knuckleballer — is seen as kind of a flakey, flukey pitch. When it’s on, who can say why? And when it’s not working, well, who can explain that one?*

But how is this really different from any pitcher (or any pitch)? Sometimes pitchers never get a good feel for the ball, or they never get in a good rhythm, or their mechanics are off. And sometimes the same thing happens to Wake. But if he’s not complaining, I shouldn’t be either; it’s the reason the Sox get away with paying him so little…

* Preemptive apologia: I may have read/heard something along these lines before; it’s also possible that I’ve simply thought this same thing to myself sometime in the past. I just can’t tell, but I’m not trying to steal anyone else’s thunder…

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & Knuckleball & Roger Clemens & Steroids & Tim Wakefield

I sympathize with his frustration…but come on

May 2nd, 2007 → 11:26 am @

Yes, I’m getting to this a bit late — I’m about to get to a lot of things a bit late — but I want to make one last comment about the whole Schilling/bloody sock imbroglio. In his always entertaining, usually insightful blog, Schilling couldn’t help but use his brush to paint reporters with some broad strokes. “If you haven’t figured it out by now, working in the media is a pretty nice gig,’’ he wrote. “Barring outright plagiarism or committing a crime, you don’t have to be accountable if you don’t want to. You can say what you want when you want and you don’t really have to answer to anyone.”

This shows, more than anything that a) Curt would do well to do what I try to do when I get really upset: write down the first thing that pops into my head and then throw it away (I’m not always as successful as I might like) and b) he has very little understanding of the media.

There definitely are reporters that seem to have a questionable relationship with reality, just as there are those reporters who appear to use their columns to grind their assorted axes — I’ve been railing on Murray Chass for both of these sins for some time now. There are also those situations, and they seem to occur more frequently in the sports pages, where accountability is lacking. (Anyone remember when Jayson Stark said the Kenny Rodgers-Dirtgate controversy would rival steroids?)

But for the most part, there’s an enormous amount of accountability in the media — more so, I might add, then in the world of professional athletes, whose whims are catered by any number of people. (The whole media accountability thing is a subject I know something about.) And working in the media is, more often than not, not a pretty nice gig. Take baseball beat writers. Their hours suck: 3pm to midnight. Their people they cover (and are surrounded by) view them as annoyances…or worse. They’re fed an endless diet of stunningly unappetizing food and spend countless days crammed into coach and countless nights in crappy hotels. They make a couple of trips to Cincinnati (or Arlington, or Kansas City, or Detroit) every year. And their audience either thinks they’re supercilious pricks or pathetic suck ups.

All this for the privilege of working in an industry that looks to be in a death spiral. Oh, and earning about 140 times less per year than people like Curt Schilling. If they’re lucky.

Can reporters screw up? Of course. Can they be unscrupulous? Absolutely. Are they ever careless with the facts? Well, duh. But Curt’s blanket statement is about as accurate as saying my saying that working as a professional baseball player is a pretty nice gig because you get paid tens of millions of dollars to shoot up with ‘roids.

Post Categories: 2004 Playoffs & Broadcasting & Curt Schilling

Why do I hate the Orioles? Let me count the ways.

April 26th, 2007 → 10:49 pm @

The Orioles are home to two of the biggest punks to wear a Red Sox uniform in the past half-decade: Jay Payton, whose agent actually warned the Red Sox that Payton was planning the throw a fit to ensure his release in 2005 (this because he was upset about his playing time), and Kevin Millar, who did his best to seize the whiny little bitch crown Payton left behind by using former Herald reporter Howard Bryant to anonymously “call out” Schilling. (Think about this: there’s so much crap about Millar I don’t even need to remind people that last year he actually left a bag full of dog shit for Terry when the Sox visited Baltimore.)

So I wasn’t surprised when the tired, pathetic, bloody-sock-or-not debate reared its tired, pathetic head courtesy of a tired, pathetic Orioles broadcaster. (I actually don’t know if that last part is true.) And even though the whole thing has apparently been taken care of — one big misunderstanding, blah blah blah — I’m also not surprised that Doug “Devil Dog” Mirabelli was somehow in the middle of all this. There were some Red Sox I liked, some I felt indifferent to, and some I both admired and was annoyed by. Mirabelli was the only guy I just felt was a flat-out jerk. Except that’s not the language I  normally use to describe him.

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & Doug Mirabelli & Jay Payton & Kevin Millar