Sunday, December 19, 2010


With the newer acquisitions of Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks, the team is really shaping up.  I have to see what transactions the Sox have made on their 40-man to include these two...and I should probably do that now before I say anything else...okay, brb...

Well, the Sox have signed a ton of lefties to minor league deals and have invited some to Spring Training.  Of the bunch, Albers is maybe the most promising, if he can just hit his spots all the time, and Miller needs to keep his pitches down all the time.  When these two guys don't do that, they get hit.  Hard.  DiNardo is another one who has to keep hitting his spots and keep the ball down.  These guys have met with limited success in the majors--and you can throw Hill in with that, too, and he actually shows the most consistent potential out of the whole bunch.  These guys don't have me jumping with joy; I suspect that Theo will keep the 95 corridor well-traversed with these guys.  I think he'll play the hand that's hot, send 'em down when they're not, and do that all year unless one of them catches fire and sticks around.  And Tazawa needs to be mentioned, too.  I feel this guy will be the sleeper that Atchison was last year. 

Eric Patterson, we hardly knew ya.  Fast guy who couldn't hit--except for that one game last year when he clouted three of 'em in one game, just to show you what he could do, maybe, possibly.  This guy should've been laying down bunts and spraying line drives.  Lou Brown would've made him give 'em 20 whenever he hit one in the air.  He took circuitious routes in the outfield, too.  Drove ya crazy.  Would've made a great pinch-runner, but didn't exactly have the acumen on the bases like Dave Roberts had, though Patterson is probably faster.  Didn't walk much, either, to try to steal.  Not my kind of player.  Head-scratcher of Theo's to begin with.

But Wheeler and Jenks are a different story.  I work with a guy who knows Wheeler well, and I've got Wheeler's autograph on a glove around here somewhere...He was big around here when Kenny Giard was (and I have his autograph on a missing glove, too).  Always seemed to do well against the Sox when with the Rays.  I'm surprised he never amounted to more because he shut 'em down every time I saw him.  But he's bounced around a bit now, and his arm is suspect--but if he's healthy, he's another 7th inning guy, maybe pushed down to the 6th inning with the glut of 7th, 8th and 9th inning guys the Sox have now.  He'll pitch a lot when Dice-K does, mark my words.  An exciting grab if he can stay healthy and remain focused.  He'd better, because he's getting $3M this year (I think) with a club option for 2012.  The club option part means the Sox are a little leary about something with him.  It's a year to impress for him.  I feel that he will. 

Also needing to impress, though not as much, is Jenks, signed for 2 years at $6 million per year.  This signing tells me that the Sox have soured on Papelbon's attitude--and also maybe his blown saves last year.  I think they're taking him seriously on his talk about testing the free agent market after this year.  I think the Sox will let him.  He'll have a great year--barring injury--because he is in a contract year, and they'll tender him an offer that he probably could and would refuse.  If that happens, the Sox have Bard and Jenks as potential closers, plus whoever else is available as a free agent next year, or someone who lights their fire in the minors.  Papelbon must be seething about the Sox approaching Rivera--though that may have been nothing more than the Sox making the Yanks spend more money on him.  I don't see Rivera ever leaving the Yanks.  He either pitches for them, or he retires.  I know the Sox have told Bard and Jenks that they're pitching this year for the potential closer's role next year (Which can't make Papelbon happy, either, but what did he expect with all of that free agency and making millions talk?), and if so, Papelbon, Jenks and Bard should all have great years.  With Wheeler in the mix, plus a mishmash of the other guys I mentioned, each Sox game this year has the capability of becoming just 6 or 7 inning games.  And with their offense, and the potential of their starters...

It's hard not to envision a Series ring this year.  I know it's (VERY) early, but on paper this is the team to beat.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Cliff Lee to the Phillies.  That gives them an embarrassment of riches on pitching and offense.  I was surprised when Philly didn't go deeper in the playoffs last year, and I'll be shocked if they don't make the Series this year.

I'll go on a limb and pick a Sox/Phils World Series.  Sox in six.

Having said that, it seems to me now that the teams to beat in the majors now are the Red Sox, Yanks, Angels, Rangers (replacing the Rays as a potential division-leading team without deep pockets) and Twins (perennial leaders also without the cash of the first three teams) in the American League and, in the National League, the Dodgers, Phillies (which has more money now than ever before), Mets (constant disappointments despite deep pockets), Braves (which doesn't spend as much as the others, without reason), with the Giants contending for now, but with little money to keep up after The Freak leaves.  The Padres are an example of this now.

I say this because I suppose that there is better balance in MLB, yet the same teams--with the sporadic surprises every year--keep making the playoffs, don't they?  Anyone expect the Nationals or Royals to make the postseason?  I'm glad I'm a fan of a team constantly in contention, that's all I'm sayin'.

Take a look at my writers/readers blog, and look at the entry for this blog.  One of those subjects will be on this blog soon.  Topics include HOF voting (Why did Ruth, Williams, etc. have a surprisingly large percentage of voters vote against their inclusion in the Hall?); Pedro's greatness as measured in different ways than maybe you've seen before; a positional analysis of the Sox (and whatever other team I feel like); and a trip around the American League, and a coast through the National.  Lots to get to.  Just tryin' to find the time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Carl Crawford, and Beyond

Photo: Me at Picnic in the Park, July 5th, 2009.  With the signings of Gonzalez and Crawford, I'm predicting right now that this picture shows the expected finish of the teams at the end of next year before the playoffs.  (I was going to show a picture of Ellsbury signing a ball for me, but I wasn't sure about the legalities of showing a player's image on my blog.  Please email me at the address above if you know the laws about this.)

Well, I have to say I'm surprised.  I like the signing, even at 7 years / $142 million.  I like Carl Crawford, and you'd have to say the Sox offense is on par now with the Yanks', or even better.  It also probably says goodbye to Jacoby Ellsbury, and I'm surprisingly okay with that.  There's been something up with him that the casual fan--or the more involved fan like me--doesn't know about.  A friend said to me today, "He says he's still sore," and I responded, "Yeah, literally and figuratively," because there's a lot of animosity there that hasn't come out to us.  Ellsbury is very upset with the Sox about how they treated his rib injury, and the Sox are very upset with him about how he's responded to it--and about how upset with them he is.  There's also something else, I believe (with admittedly little or no proof), that someone is hiding from us.  Some disability, or addiction, or problem, or something, that's being explained with, "Rib injury."  His ribs are definitely injured, but there's something else...

At any rate, though it would be wonderful to keep him, you now have a severe glut of outfielders.  This is a great problem to have, because a couple of them, at least, are going to be traded for relief help, and you'd have to be a fool if you didn't ask for Ellsbury in return for a really good reliever.  Drew's not going anywhere, so he'll be in right, with Kalish/McDonald/Nava backing him up--because you know his neck and back will bother him.  A lot.  Crawford will be in left, or in center; ditto for Cameron, who isn't going anywhere for the same reason Drew isn't: they're too expensive, and no one wants them.  I'd love to pawn them off on someone, but who'd take them?  The ideal situation is Drew/Kalish in right, Ellsbury/Kalish in center, and Crawford in left, though Crawford could play center for me any day.  That leads McDonald and Nava available, but I can't believe anyone would part with a high quality reliever for those two guys.  But I do believe that lots of teams would part for one, or both, of those guys, and Kalish.  I also believe lots of teams would part with a quality releiver, straight up, for Ellsbury (with McDonald or Nava thrown in, but you're overpaying for a high quality reliever if you give up Ellsbury and Kalish for one guy), especially considering Ellsbury's health concerns.

That's the point of this deal: Ellsbury, Kalish, McDonald and Nava are all expendable now, and you could get at least two high quality relievers for any combination of those guys.  Or you could just sign Kerry Wood, which I would (assuming the Sox haven't emptied the cookie jar already, which is a very real possibility), and then trade Ellsbury OR Kalish for another good reliever, with any combination of Nava and McDonald if someone insists.  (I think those two are part-time or three-quarters players, like Cameron, but Cameron even now is much better.  None of those three will ever be a full-time permanent major league player.)  I think the Sox think that Kalish is the prime player here, and would rather lose Ellsbury, for the reasons I explained above.

I'm surprised, though, about the Crawford signing  because, really, the Sox didn't need him.  With Kalish/Ellsbury/McDonald/Drew and Nava in the outfield, the Sox still were second in the majors in runs and offense last year.  They missed the playoffs because of their starting and relieving last year, plain and simple.  So they could have traded any combination of those guys for a couple of relievers--one great, one good--and they still would make the playoffs next year, if not go all the way.  They didn't need another outfielder.  This signing means that three or four of those guys definitely will go, and you'll definitely get those two relievers, and who knows what else they'll do by then?  With that relief help, and Beckett and Lackey returning to something that even a little bit resembles what they're supposed to be, and I'm writing about next year's Series winner now.

All of this also means that they're playoff contenders for the next 7 years, and that Ortiz, Papelbon, Cameron, Drew, etc. will definitely not be back after next year.  They just spent all the money they were saving by jettisoning those players by getting Crawford and Gonzalez now.  And who could blame them?  I'm okay with losing Papelbon after this coming year for the same exact reason I am about losing Ellsbury.  I'll be said to see Big Papi go, and maybe they'll resign him to a much cheaper, incentive-laden contract (which I think both sides would be very happy with), but nobody can deny that the big guy has been slipping, even if last year was a bit of a rebound from the year before.  But he's clearly not going to get better, and he's clearly not going to be able to stay at last year's level, either.  Now would be a good time for him to start slimming down, too.  Make that swing a little quicker, maybe.  Make the body last a little more.  But if you lose him after next year, and if you have a couple of those outfielders (minus Ellsbury and/or Kalish, who'll definitely be traded by then), then you can platoon them at DH, and move around the outfielders to DH to give them an occasional day off in the field, and you wouldn't lose much offensively when you tally the numbers at the end of the year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Background Info.

Photo: Me, in the stands at Fenway on July 5, 2009 during Picnic in the Park

I chose this background, by the way, as my way of saying that sports fans can be literate, intelligent people, too.  This is not always the consensus opinion, and I have to admit that your average male sports fan at a bar acts less mature and intelligent than, say, a can of Coors Lite, but it can happen.  When I used to (badly) play and pitch, I was one of the few Shakespeare-quoting ballplayers out there.  Being a sports fan does not make you dumb, and being dumb does not make you a sports fan, despite the behavior of the drunk, shouting, stomach-hanging-to-his-knees immature blowhard next to you at the sports bar or in the ballpark.  Give us some credit.

Sox 2011--Yo, Adrian!!!

Photo: Me, in front of the Green Monster, during Picnic in the Park a couple of years ago.

Well, so here it is.  Gonzalez is a Gold Glove at first, who transplants Youkilis, who was Gold Glove at first, and moves him to third, where he may actually be a little better.  So both corner positions are Gold Glovers, which you had last year before the injuries.  Under the plan beforehand, Martinez would've been your catcher/1B, and, though a good hitter, he is defensively challenged at both positions.  Youk and Gonzalez are clearly better at 1B defensively, and are both clearly better at the plate.  So Martinez is out of the picture at first.  Now, do you pay him 4 years for $50 million to be your full-time catcher and occasional DH?  In other words, do you pay him $12.5 million for the next four years to just catch for you, knowing that you'll have to give him about 30-35 games off, minimum, per year to save the wear and tear so he can be an effective hitter?  With his questionable defense and play calling, knowing he won't be at first or DH?  No way!  If you could put him at first on his days off from catching, maybe, but even that's a stretch.  I'd want to keep him, but not for that money.  And you clearly have to get Gonzalez if he's available, because he's a better hitter and defender than Martinez.  So, once you have all this figured out, Martinez is gone.  Fine.  A shame, and you get nothing now for Justin Masterson--who I was never a fan of anyway--but that's okay with me, too.

The biggest shame out of all this is that you lose Adrian Beltre and Casey Kelly, the latter of which I think can be a future ace of a staff.  But as Brian Rose and Carl Pavano (remember those guys?  the twin sure-things who both fizzled?  Pavano's still pitching, but he clearly stuck it to the Yanks) taught you, one definite is better than one maybe, so getting Gonzalez again is a no-brainer.  The other two prospects in the deal are also potential very good players, but that's why you draft such guys--to help your team on the field (Youk; Pedroia; Papelbon) or to help you in trades (Kelly and the other two).  Remember that Pavano and Rose got you Pedro Martinez.  That worked out pretty well, right?  And if Gonzalez can be 30/100 in San Diego, in a terrible hitters park, he can be 35/120, minimum, in Fenway, and the American League in general.

So then there's Adrian Beltre, who clearly has a perfect swing--down to one knee--at Fenway, and is a Gold Glove at 3rd base, too.  And a 35/120 guy himself.  (Youk is another 120 RBI guy, with fewer home runs.)  But where do you put him?  You have to keep Youk, who's a Fenway Favorite ("YOOOOOOOKKKK") like Ortiz, Pedroia and Papelbon are.  But he had nowhere to play now in the infield, and I'm a little worried at how he only has had monster years during contract years, and his 49 homeruns one year was due to a word that we will not mention here.  That's worrisome, though in his defense I think he enjoyed Fenway and would've put up great numbers and played great defense there every year.  I will miss him, and I think Kelly (whose autograph I have somewhere) and the other two prospects will turn out to be great players, but that's the business side of the game, which is just as important as the balls and strikes.

In short, you now have great hitters and Gold Gloves at every position in the infield (except at short, but Scutaro is unspectacularly solid), and you have Gold Gloves in the outfield with Cameron (when healthy) and Gold Glove caliber with Ellsbury (when healthy) and Drew makes it all look so easy when he glides after a ball, when he feels like it, and when he graces us with his outfield presence.  I wouldn't mind seeing Ellsbury back in center, and then a platoon in right and left between Drew and Cameron, and take your pick between the guys who did a good job subbing last year.  None of those guys, including Drew and Cameron are full-time players anymore--and excluding Ellsbury--so I wouldn't mind seeing Carl Crawford out there (the Nationals overpaid sickeningly for Werth).  BUT, you have to replenish your relief corps first, and if you do that and then don't have enough money left to sign Crawford, I am totally okay with that.  They fielded practically a minor league team last year in the outfield for most of the year, and were still second in the majors in offense, so they don't need another outfielder.  Get Beckett and Lackey back on track, and get a solid middle reliever or two, and if that's all you do, you're still going deep in the playoffs next season.