Looking ahead, looking behind: the outfield’s noodle bats and the gold-dust sprinkled Sox

May 18th, 2007 → 9:39 am @

These next six days will be interesting ones for the Sox. Tonight — god and the weather providing — will mark the beginning of this year’s interleague play; last year, you’ll remember, the collective National League pretenders gave RSN the false impression that the team was one of baseball’s elites. It’s unrealistic to expect the Sox to duplicate 2006’s 16-2 performance…but I’m not sure anyone would be surprised if they did. Especially with the roll the team’s on right now. In the last five days, the Sox took full advantage of Sam “Brain Fart” Perlozzo’s missteps for a Mother’s Day Massacre that is not likely ever to be repeated, and swept the first-place Tigers — er, make that formerly first-place Tigers — in a doubleheader despite the fact that in the night game, J.D. Drew was out of commission, Papi was on the bench, and Schilling looked as if he was serving up batting practice. The Sox are 12-4 in May. Seven of those victories have been by a margin of one or two runs. There haven’t been any giveaways. Life is good.

But there’s no reason to focus on May alone: the Sox, at 28-12, have two fewer losses than any other team in baseball and four more wins that any other AL team. This, despite the fact that the team’s starting outfielders are collectively batting .244 with 11 home runs (seven players have hit 11 or more) and 48 RBIs…and that Manny, JDD, and Coco all trail Dustin “Rudy” Pedroia in batting average (.253) and OBP (.356). Oh, and despite the fact that, a quarter of the way into the season, Manny projects to finish the year with the lowest home run total (24), the second lowest RBI total (100), and the lowest hit total (148) of his career.

But back to these next six days. The Yankees (who’ll throw out their 11th starter of the year) are facing a pair of the Mets’ lefties this weekend. The Bronx Bumblers are 3-7 versus southpaws thus far in 2007, and the Mets are on the tail end of a week that was as blessed as Boston’s, with two wholly improbable walk-offs versus the Cubs in the past three days. (Yesterday’s was the result of a five-run ninth in a game most of New York’s biggest bats started on the bench.) It’s not a stretch to think the Sox could pick up another two games on the Yankees by the middle of next week…which would put 11.5 games up.

Indeed, why not? The Sox do seem to be sprinkled with gold dust these days…but baseball is an unfair game good luck can turn bad right quick, especially because the Yankees, as epically sucky as they’ve been, aren’t likely to keep on getting this many bad breaks day after day. With Beckett headed to the DL, Schilling coming off of two sub-par starts, and Tavarez being relied on to turn in a solid start every five days, a bad couple of weeks isn’t out of the question. It’ll happen at some point.The team will weather it just fine. And the fans and the media should, too. Everyone agree? Good.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Interleague play & Manny Ramirez & Offense & Red Sox & Winning streaks & Yankees

Mathematical proof of what we’ve always known: the Sox really are the nicer team

May 17th, 2007 → 9:48 am @

A recent SI survey asked almost 500 major leaguers who were the most and least friendly players in baseball. Four of the top seven friendliest players were on the 2004 Red Sox: Papi, Dave Roberts, Damon, and Millar. The least friendy list included one current Yankee (A-Rod, who came in in fourth place) and one Yankee of recent vintage (RJ). The only mar on the survey: Johnson tied for least friendly with his old Diamondback teammate…Curt Schilling. Still, no matter how you slice it, the Sox are a friendlier team: if you only consider players on the current roster, the Sox come out at 0 (Papi’s +4 and Schill’s -4 cancel each other out), while the Yankees come out at -10, with Damon’s +2 barely mitigating A-Rod’s -12. If you consider all players that’ve played for one of the teams in the past four years, the Sox come out at +8 (+4 for Papi and DR, +2 for JD and Kentucky Fried Kevin, -4 for Curt) while the Yankees weigh in at -14 (+2 for JD, -12 for A-Rod, -4 for Randy). My only question: Schilling tied with Johnson? I know he’s not always the most popular guy, but c’mon…

Post Categories: Red Sox & Sports Illustrated & Yankees

No atheists in a foxhole…

April 23rd, 2007 → 12:12 am @

I don’t believe in superstitions…although I do hit my dashboard when I go through yellow lights. And I don’t let myself to be separated by an inanimate object (street sign, tree, etc.) from someone I’m walking with. (Don’t ask — it’s apparently an old Mnookin family tradition that I don’t pretend to understand.) Oh, and during the ’04 playoffs I didn’t take off the t-shirt I was wearing during Game 4, which only became really problematic when I went to the gym.*

So…when I didn’t post after Friday’s game, well, that was it until the series was over (or until the Sox lost). (Also, I’m supposed to be moving — or at least completing the purchase of some New York City real estate — which is fairly hectic.) (Another aside in an already parenthesis-happy post: how is it people decide what they’re going to be superstitious about? I had no problem changing my underwear in ’04. And even though I saw Volver on Friday, I didn’t feel compelled to watch an Almodovar movie every day.)

Anyway. It felt like a damn good weekend.** Friday night was spectacular. Watching Manny punish a ball was a welcome sight. As was Drew, Lowell, and Varitek’s following rockets. As was the fact that the Yankees rotation is in shambles and that Torre’s being forced to abuse his bullpen even earlier than usual.*** As was Coco’s hot bat. As was Tek’s hot bat. As was Pedroia’s snag tonight in the eighth. As was Beckett’s performance, and his first four games (which are fundamentally different from his first starts last year; if you want to get all geeky about it, check this out). As does the emerging brilliance of Hideki “Darkman” Okijima (nickname courtesy of Peter Naboicheck via Gordo. As was…well, you get the idea.

Now everyone get some sleep. We’re going to do it all again next weekend.

* I wasn’t the only person who had some weird superstitions that October: John Henry and Larry Lucchino watched Game 6 in the living room of Lucchino’s Brookline house, and after they took a lead, no one was allowed to move.

** Still, let’s point out one tiny silver lining: the Sox had their three best pitchers and a fully rested bullpen. The Yankees had Andy Pettitte and a couple of Double-A schlubs. (And that’s only a slight exaggeration.) The series was at Fenway. And over three games, Boston outscored New York by a total of…four runs. Not much margin for error there.

*** I attribute the ‘o4 ALCS to four things: David Ortiz, Keith Foulke, Curt Schilling, and Torre’s Dusty Baker-esque abuse of Tom Gordon during the regular season.

Post Categories: Red Sox & Superstitions & Yankees

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

Questions from our loyal readers

October 16th, 2006 → 10:40 am @

Nate from Connecticut has a question for all you number freaks out there: have the Yankees spent more in player payroll this millenium to not win a World Series than the Red Sox did in 86 years? The Yankees, as has been wildly reported, have spent around a billion dollars on player salaries since 2000. The Sox, according to Nate’s computations, spent around $875,000,000 to not win a Series between 1985 and 2003, leaving them approximately $125 million for the period in between 1918 and 1984. Baseball-reference.com only has a salary database going back to ’85; anyone know where Nate can find the rest of the info he needs?

Post Categories: Red Sox & Yankees

A $500,000 marketing campaign doesn’t buy what it used to

October 16th, 2006 → 10:25 am @

Back in September, Yale professor Jeb Rubenfeld published his first book, The Interpretation of Murder. It was the most hyped and most publicized first novel in a long time; Henry Holt had a mind-boggling first printing of 185,000 to go along with a 15-city book tour and an almost unprecendented $500,000 marketing campaign.

Rubenfeld’s book has been, to put it gently, a huge, spectacular, awe-inspiring flameout. It never hit the best seller list, and to date, BookScan reports that it’s sold approximately 15,000 copies; BookScan represents somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of book sales, which would put Interpretation somewhere between 21,500 and 25,000 sales. To put that in perspective, if Holt had simply spent its $500,000 on buying the book on Amazon, it could have bought around 28,000 copies and given them out as holiday presents.

EDIT: I haven’t seen it, but apparently there’s a WSJ story in today’s paper about this very subject. And here I thought I was all ahead of the curve.

Post Categories: Red Sox & Yankees

In other news…

September 29th, 2006 → 11:41 am @

As the Sox head into the season’s final series, there’s plenty of news to consider. Will Wily Mo ever learn to play the outfield (as Terry Francona and the rest of the Sox brass desperately hope)? Related to that, will Sunday be Trot Nixon’s last game in a Red Sox uniform? Will Matt Clement ever pitch again? (And do we even want him to?) Will Gonzo win the Gold Glove he deserves? And will he be patrolling the Sox infield in 2007, or will Boston, as seems increasingly likely, go hard after Julio Lugo? Finally, will Jerry Trupiano still be calling Sox games for WEEI alongside Joe Castiglione next year or will he be replaced by Sox PR man Glenn Geffner, who may or may not have been promised the job last year when he turned down a broadcasting job with another MLB team?

These waning days of the regular season bring plenty of non-Sox excitement as well. To wit: are the Mets, a team that is suddenly forced to rely on El Duque as its #1 postseason starter, still a force to be reckoned with? Will Pedro ever pitch again, and if he does, will he ever be the dominant performer we’ve grown accustomed to? Will the Tony LaRussa’s Cardinals suffer one of the most ignominious collapses in history? (As someone who can’t stand Tony LaRussa but counts many Cardinal partisans among his friends, I’m a bit conflicted on this one.) (Also, remember when there was all that talk about how the non-Clemens trade at the deadline meant Roger had lost his last, best chance at playing in one final postseason?)

That’s a lot of questions…and we’ll get at least some answers in the next 60 or so hours.

Post Categories: Baseball & Red Sox