Memorial day reading: pitching prospects, offensive scuffles, Gold Glover Julio Lugo (and FTM)

May 25th, 2007 → 12:15 pm @

It’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s 90 degrees…and I’m moving. Perfect timing! But I haven’t forgotten my blogalicious duties, so without furtherado, this wrapup/compendium:

* Some good news on the Sox’s home-grown pitching talent front and some thoughts about why it’s best to remember the all of the implications of every action. Jon Lester has been ripping it up at Pawtucket to the tune of around .8 Ks per inning and a 1.62 ERA. We all saw lefty Lester’s potential last year, and we all hope he’s back in the bigs soon. One thing we might all not know: if the infamous A-Rod for Manny trade had gone down in the winter of ’04, Lester wouldn’t be here…because he was slated to go to Texas as part of the deal. In other minor-league news, Clay Buchholz is getting raves at AA (to the point of folks saying he out-dueled Clemens earlier this week). The Sox were able to draft CB because of the compensatory pick they got when Pedro signed with the Mets. Every rational person would admit that, thus far, Petey hasn’t been worth his annual salary in New York. If Clay develops into a reliable fourth starter — and people are talking about him as much more than that — he’ll definitely be worth his. (One last interesting Buchholz note is that he dropped as low as he did in the draft because of a laptop theft in high school. I got arrested in high school (and did lots of stuff I should have been arrested for but wasn’t) so I’m fully in favor of second chances…

* Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Rob Bradford’s work. He has a recent couple of pieces worth checking out. His most recent post in his always-worth reading Herald blog, The Bradford Files has several interesting tidbits, including details of Sox players’ off-season workouts (I’m not going to be trying those anytime soon) and part of a Q/A with Eric Hinske. These are the types of things blogs should have: interesting notes that wouldn’t make it into the paper and standard-fare Q/As that aren’t jaw-droppingly revelatory but are interesting nonetheless. (One especially interesting note is Hinske’s thoughts about Theo’s relationship with the players.) And a Herald article from a couple of days ago is another example of why I’m a fan of Rob’s: a evergreen feature on Sox advance scouts Dana Levangie and Todd Claus actually teaches you something about the team you might not know even if you were an obsessive reader of all things Red Sox related…

* Speaking of evergreens, Gordo has a nice piece in the Globe about the job of official scorers. This is an perfect example of a story that oftentimes wouldn’t make it into the paper for all the wrong reasons: because it seems obvious to everyone on the inside. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that’s not the case for your average reader.

* Two interesting perspectives on the Sox’s recent successes…and reasons why they might not be the winningest team in baseball when all is said and done. The ProJo’s Sean McAdam weighs in on the J.D. Drew’s struggles and the bullpen’s successes. McAdam finds Drew’s offensive suckitude troubling (you’ll get no argument from me there) and the bullpen’s lights-outedness unlikely to continue (ditto). But — and this is a big but — it seems like there’s a logical inconsistency behind thinking a consistently good player won’t return to his level and a group that’s collectively over achieving will fall back to earth. The Telegram-Gazette‘s Bill Ballou looks at all of the Sox’s underachievers (Crisp, Drew, Hinske, Pineiro, and Manny) and sees an illustration of Francona’s skills as a manager: one of the ways he keeps the clubhouse functioning smoothly in a tough-to-play-in town is by showing faith in guys when they’re scuffling. As Ballou notes, sometimes in pays off (Damon and Bellhorn in the ’04 playoffs) and sometimes it doesn’t (Bellhorn and Millar in the ’05 season). One point I’d add: it’s not always just that Francona is showing patience; sometimes it’s that the players are acting like whiny little punks (Millar in the ’05 season).

* Speaking of Manny, if the Sox weren’t tearing it up, we’d be hearing a lot more about his general suckiness, a topic Edes covered earlier this week (and one that’s been receiving some attention over at SoSH). Edes talks to the scout that signed Manny about his seeming hesitation at the plate. It’s hard not to get a tinge of panic when watching him walk back to the bench after being called out on strikes one more time; on the other hand, I was with the Sox in 2005, the Gammons “he just doesn’t care out there” year, the “I’m worried about my mom and her blood transfusions” year, the black-hole until late May year. History says there’s no reason to expect this to be any different. Emotions worry otherwise.

* And finally, for everyone out there who thinks the Lugo signing was, based on the evidence thus far, an unmitigated disaster, here’s an interesting factoid: John Dewan, author of The Fielding Bible, says Lugo’s been the fourth best defensive shortstop in all of baseball.


That’s it for now. It’s gonna be a hot one this weekend, and you don’t need to be back at work until Monday. That means, of course, that it’s an absolutely perfect time to read Feeding the Monster, which is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!). And, of course, free signed and personalized bookplates are here for the asking. They’re really nice. Seriously: ask anyone you know who has one. Or just write in. But whatever you do, act today.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Clay Buchholz & J.D. Drew & Jon Lester & Julio Lugo & Manny Ramirez & Rob Bradford & Sports Reporters

Free-agent signing of the year

April 19th, 2007 → 9:11 am @

It’s true: Rob Bradford, who’d been toiling in the purgatory of the Eagle-Tribune, has been hired by the Herald. I’ve long been a fan of Rob’s — he’s one of the best guys on the beat, and goes out and reports out new stories with new angles, an especially difficult task in Boston. (This isn’t a slam on anyone else covering the Sox: I’m a big proponent of newspapers dedicating staffers to reporting on sports as opposed to asking the same guy/gal who’s writing up game summaries and doing a Notes column to also come up with enterprise stories. It’s no accident that the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Balco reporting came from the work of two investigative reporters and not the paper’s Giants beat writers.)

This is the second Herald poach of an Eagle-Tribune staffer in the past year: John Tomase, who preceded Bradford as the E-T‘s Sox writer, was hired by the Herald last year to cover the Pats (and pinch hit when needed on baseball). That’s two good guys coming out of the E-T and two great hires by the Herald. For all the talk over the last several years about the Herald‘s tenuous business situation (and it’s purported $2 million a year in operating losses), they’ve an impressive investment in what’s long been the most profitable beat in Boston. (For the papers, that is…not the reporters.)

In other Red Sox-media news, it’s nice to see that Schilling not only agrees with me about Bradford, he also shares my opinion of my favorite punching bag, the ineffable Murray Chass. From a Q&A Schilling posted on his blog yesterday:

“Boston, like any other city, is what the player makes it, period. Every city has it’s CHB* to some degree. That miserable curmudgeon who will be the ‘anti-opinion’ guy because that’s the only niche he can fill. You come to realize that most times that person, or those people, are just bitter unhappy people and it has nothing to do with you in the end. If you allow people like that to skew your perspective on guys like McCadam (sic), Bradford, Browne, Buckley, Maz, then you can miss the boat. … [When] you read weekly sludge from the Murray Chas’ (sic) of the world it gets easy to let it roll off your back. There are going to be bad people with rotten agendas in any workplace, you just laugh and move on.”

I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from reading Chass; I was, frankly, worried about my blood pressure. I’m sure that’ll end soon…

* CHB=Curly Haired Bastard/Curly Haired Boyfriend=a Carl Everett-coined nickname given to Shaughnessy, although Simmons gets credit for the acronym.

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & Murray Chass & Rob Bradford

Pet peeve #831

February 24th, 2007 → 12:30 pm @

On, Jayson Stark has a column about how the Red Sox wish Jonathan Papelbon would remain as closer. “Under ordinary circumstances,” Stark writes, “no team moves men who are that good at a job that important to some other job. You sure won’t see the Red Sox trying Manny Ramirez at shortstop this spring. And David Ortiz won’t be hitting leadoff.” More to the point, regardless of how effective Ortiz is at moving runners from first to third, you won’t see him punching the ball to the opposite field instead of swinging for the fences, which is exactly what the Red Sox wanted him to do when they signed him.

And, as Papelbon himself knows (“the Red Sox drafted me as a starter,” Paps told Stark, “and that’s what I’m going to be”), he’ll be most valuable in a spot in which he can pitch the most innings. It’s common sense that 200 innings is worth more than 70. That’s why mid-level starters get $12 million a year and, in ’06, Mo made $10.5 mil. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t a lot of sportswriters’ strengths.

There are plenty of exceptions out there, and regular readers of this blog are well aware that of I think Rob Bradford is one of them. It’s obviously good news that Bradford has a new blog, Bradford on Baseball. If you haven’t already, check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Post Categories: Jayson Stark & Jonathan Papelbon & Rob Bradford

OK, fine, so I’m not adding anything here…but read the damn articles anyway

February 6th, 2007 → 8:54 pm @

There are a lot of great sports reporters out there. With that caveat out of the way, the reason Eagle-Tribune Sox beat writer Rob Bradford‘s stuff stands out so much is that he’s always coming up with new angles and new ways to approach stories and then reporting the crap out of them. He had a pair of doozies in the paper over the weekend, both about J.D. Drew. If anyone missed his piece on Drew’s, um, unusual regimen for staying healthy, do yourself a favor and check it out. And in this story, Bradford explains — or helps explain, anyway — why Drew’s contract got held up. (If only Murray “call me Woodward and Bernstein” Chass had half the initiative and a third of the reporting chops of Bradford, Times readers might have known this a while back…and been spared a whole slew of insane jeremiads. Oh well.)

Post Categories: J.D. Drew & Murray Chass & New York Times & Rob Bradford

Matsuzaka money

January 18th, 2007 → 8:42 am @

I’ve always been a fan of Rob Bradford’s writing, and I think it’s a crying shame that, for some unknown reason, he’s suffering in the purgatory of the Eagle-Tribune. He has another good article today, this one explaining that the Matsuzaka signing won’t mean nearly as much increased revenue for the Red Sox as most people think.

This is a point I’ve made before, but for some reason, people just don’t seem to get it. (Here’s what I wrote back on November 11: “The notion that this is a worthwhile investment solely because of the prospect of increased revenues from the Far East is a load of crap: every dollar the Sox earn is only worth about 50 cents; the other 50 cents goes into the revenue sharing pot, which essentially means the Sox are paying teams like the Orioles and the Blue Jays to continue to run their clubs in a determinedly bone-headed way…the better to bleed the Sox and the Yankees. Revenue sharing — and baseball economics in general — is a weird and confusing thing. There’s a bunch about it sprinkled in between shocking behind the scenes revelations and hilarious anecdotes in the book. Which, by the way, makes a great gift, and signed copies are available here.)

Anyway, that’s all still true. And Rob Bradford’s still worth reading. As often as possible.

Post Categories: Daisuke Matsuzaka & Revenue sharing & Rob Bradford

Can you imagine the attention this would be getting if Daisuke was back with the Lions?

December 19th, 2006 → 10:43 am @

For the first time in a good long time, there’s a simmering issue involving the Red Sox that isn’t receiving the kind of national attention usually reserved for missile treaties: J.D. Drew’s still unsigned contract. The Red Sox, according to reports that still haven’t been confirmed (at least on the record), by the Sox, Drew, or Scott Boras, are worried about the results of a physical. (Specifically, they’re worried about Drew’s gimpy shoulder.) (Drew’s public comments on the issue — that the shoulder has, as recently as last year, hurt his power production — don’t seem to help any kind of union claim he might make should the deal actually fall apart.)

The road bumps here are receiving the kind of temperate discussion you might expect in, say, St. Louis. After all the speculation that the Sox gave Drew that supposedly above-market contract in order to smooth their way to signing Matsuzaka, there haven’t been any (or at least very few) conspiracy theorists claiming the Sox are convientently backing out of the deal now that they have Daisuke in the fold. There also hasn’t been any growing chorus of concern; after all, if Drew somehow doesn’t end up in Boston, the options in right involve either everyday use of the far-from polished Wily Mo or making an effort to sign the power-deficient Trot Nixon to a one-year deal.

Anyway. This’ll all probably be worked out in the next few days. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Gordon Edes’s piece on the Matsuzaka negotiations (which I alluded to in a throwaway line in yesterday’s Chass rant), check it out. Also worth perusing is the always excellent Rob Bradford’s piece in the (still criminally inept) Eagle Tribune.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Gordon Edes & J.D. Drew & Rob Bradford

Free Rob Bradford from purgatory

August 15th, 2006 → 7:50 pm @

The Eagle-Tribune is an odd paper: they have an aggressively bad website to go along with some aggresively good reporters. Last year, John Tomase did consistently great work covering the Sox; when he got hammered by readers, as he did last June after a story about Manny Ramirez, he was only getting blamed for what people in the Red Sox’s front office had been saying for weeks. (Are full disclosures required for blogs? If so, full disclosure: I like John. He likes Tenacious D and Arrested Development. And he helped out with my book.)

This year, it’s Rob Bradford who’s constantly getting screwed by the Trib. Bradford’s well sourced, both within the Sox and around the league — his book, Chasing Steinbrenner, is proof positive of that. And since taking over the Sox beat last winter when Tomase headed over to the Herald to cover the Patriots, Bradford’s been breaking more than his fair share of stories. He outlined the Coco Crisp deal back in December, about a month before it happened. He got Damon to talk about the Sox’s new center fielder, got Millar to whine on-the-record about the Red Sox’s lack of loyalty, talked to Bill Morgan after the controversy about the non-physical for Beckett, went down to Florida to talk to John Henry in the middle of Theogate, and had news of Theo returning well before it happened. Of course, there’s no reason you’d know any of this; it was often impossible to find stories on the Trib‘s site even if you knew what you were looking for.

Today, the same day Jackie MacMullen has a nice piece about pitchers tipping pitches, Bradford talks to Javy Lopez about whether hitters might be able to predict what’s coming from Josh Beckett. Don’t go to the Trib‘s site for Bradford’s piece; the biggest chunk that’s freely available is posted on Dirt Dogs. The Eagle-Tribune‘s site lets you read exactly seven words.

More than a decade after the Internet became a regular presence in our lives, there are very few newspapers that have their same-day content behind a subscriber wall. There’s the Wall Street Journal, and the Times puts its columnists behind the wall. Oh, and then there are any number of stories in the Eagle-Tribune. Apparently, it’s such a popular paper it has absolutely no need to draw in readers by showing them what it has to offer.

Post Categories: Eagle-Tribune & Rob Bradford