Wednesday, December 20, 2006

AROUND THE WEB

Here is the headline that REALLY scared me: Yankees discussing deals involving Cabrera. After a torrent of profanities, I read the article at SI.com and found out the Yankees were looking to move their young outfielder, Melky Cabrera. Now, I was not happy to see that it would involve lefty reliever and former Sox farmhand, Mike Gonzalez, but my initial reaction was that it involved Marlins wonder-kid and all-around superstar-in-the-making, Miguel Cabrera. The reason I am not too concerned about the deal actually taking place is that it is a three-way deal with the Pirates, Braves and Yankees and the Braves are expected to give up future star Adam LaRoche for Melky Cabrera? Sorry, I do not see that happening.

* * *

New York know-it-all Mike Lupica checks in to offer some New York perspective in the Daily News and claim that Theo Epstein is jealous of power that Brian Cashman now has in his piece Theo's solo gig ends. Lupica contends that all Theo has done is idiotically sign J.D. Drew, screw-up the Matsuzaka deal, and that Larry Lucchino was the hero who rode in on his white horse to save the day for the Red Sox. First off, I think Brian Cashman is about five seconds from losing control of his power in charge of the Yankees: a sub-.500 record anytime after April 30 and he will be calling Tampa for permission to use the bathroom at Yankee Stadium. Finally, somehow I think that Theo has done a good job of rebuilding the Red Sox. Despite the statement by Lupica that

A lot has changed since the Red Sox came back from 0-3 down on the Yankees two
years ago. Most of the change has occurred in Boston, where they have spent a
lot of time trying to ruin a good thing.
Ahh, yes. The Red Sox should have re-signed Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez (because that looks like such a good idea), not traded Bronson Arroyo, kept Orlando Cabrera at shortstop (despite the rumors he was a problem in the clubhouse), not let the now-retired Bill Mueller at third-base, keep the original dirt-dog (Mark Bellhorn), and kept that killer combo of Doug Mientkiewicz and Kevin Millar at first base. Keep Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon in the outfield at all costs, and erect a statue for Alan Embree while we are at it. Look, the 2004 Red Sox were the right team at the right time, in the right place. This was no team to keep together for all-time.

* * *

Buster Olney checks in on a subject that has me (and Theo and Tito) up at night mulling multiple possibilities: the closer situation in Boston. He responds to a question from a reader:
What is the best solution to the Red Sox closer issue? The starting rotation
looks strong, but the lack of a reliable closer could be haunting.
-- Mike,
East Bethel Road, Vt.
Mike: I think they should go into spring training with
Mike Timlin penciled in as the closer and assume that something more palatable
will come along, through competition, through injury, through trade. I think
Timlin could be OK -- not great, but decent enough -- so long as Terry Francona
uses him the way Bruce Bochy used Trevor Hoffman in San Diego, limiting only to
save situations, and for only one inning at a time. Put it this way: I'd bet
that whoever is the Red Sox closer on April 1 will not be the closer on Sept.
30. It will be a developing situation.

Someone will come along and jump into the role. Closer is the most over-rated position in baseball. Teams change these guys like we change our socks. There is no magic formula. You need a good pitcher who throws strikes, has a little success, gains a little confidence, and VOILA!

* * *

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art - Charles McCabe

The (formerly Boston) Sports Guy, Hollywood Bill Simmons over at ESPN.com busted out with his turn-back-the-clock piece. His pre-2004 Red Sox whining about J.D. Drew based on e-mails from sour grapes Los Angeles Dodgers fans seems comical if it were not so sad. Here is a lovely sample of his response:


I haven't been this horrified by a big move from a Boston team since the Celtics
traded for Vin Baker four summers ago. The Sox just signed someone who, by all
accounts, plays without any semblance of passion or intensity. He's the exact
type of player that Boston fans have always hated. We have a century-long track
record of proving this point. That's the part I don't get. It's not like Theo is
from France -- he's from freaking Brookline. He should have known. Arrrrrrrrrgh.
Of course, compare J.D. Drew to an overweight alcoholic who used to help carry the kegs to Chez Chazer Dorm at U-Hartford. Neither humorous nor relevant. Apparently, Simmons believes Red Sox fans prefer players with intangibles: hustle, grit, dirty uniforms. Oh, you mean like Old Trot-Trot Nixon. Nixon got dirty diving for balls he could not catch, made Manny look like Captain Intangibles of the Pinstripers on the basepaths (seriously, how many times did Trot Nixon screw up in the field, on the bases, at the plate and yet ALWAYS walked around with a get-out-of-jail free card? He was a poor fielder, a horrible clutch hitter, always hit into a double-play at the worst possible time, or else struck out, had no power, had no speed, had numerous metal gaffes on the basepaths, and yet he is treated like he was some mythical Red Sox hero like Dwight Evans. I saw Dwight Evans play right field for the Red Sox, and Trot Nixon, you are no Dwight Evans!)

Anyway, now that I can smile and think about if I would perversely enjoy it more if Trot Nixon ended up in Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay this off-season, the HSG (Hollywood Sports Guy: all Clippers, all the time) postulates that Theo, being from Brookline, must be a moron because he goes out to get players who contribute to victories like J.D. Drew instead of another Lou Merloni who is loved by the locals for some inexplicable reason. Memo to HSG: NICE GUYS FINISH LAST! I will side with Theo and go with VORP over dirty uniforms.

My editor (aka Sexy Wife) is always on me not to bad-mouth the HSG, but I cannot help it. Having been addicted to his early work in the pre-Internet-monolith era, I KNOW what he is capable of doing, and it kills me to see him shoveling crud out at ESPN.com that he himself would have been first in line to mock.

So, I will end it on a high note for my fallen hero, the HSG, because he came up with two Patriots-related gems buried in his column:

The Patriots are going to end up with the best win-loss record of any team
undergoing a rebuilding season in NFL history.

and

Joey Harrington drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty by tripping over Vince
Wilfork's body may have been the most ridiculous moment of a ridiculous season.
I grew up with guys like Kenny Stabler, Roger Staubach and Steve Grogan taking
superhuman cheap shots from fearsome, 275-pound linemen and bouncing up every
time … now guys named "Joey" can accidentally trip over a prone nose tackle and
draw a 15-yard whistle. We're about 10 years away from QBs diving like soccer
players to draw penalties. Fantastic. Thanks for ruining my favorite sport, NFL
Rules Committee.

CLOSER-BY-COMMITTEE

Yes! The Closer-By-Committee is back in Boston. Long ridiculed by the casual fan and WEEIdiot, long argued for by the Legion of Bill James Fanatics, is this the year the Red Sox turn the league on its ear with its Five Closers bullpen? I certainly hope so.

The last time that I checked, the American League champion Detroit Tigers made it to the World Series with a variation of the idea. To be fair, Jim Leyland was bringing his closer in the game in the seventh and eighth inning. Jones was the mop-up guy. Joel Zumaya was the closer. He closed them down when it was needed the most and Jones just vultured a bunch of saves, further diluting an already useless statistic.

The Sox took another step in that direction by scooping up set-up man extraordinaire Brendan Donnelly from the Angels for a 27 year-old prospect. Phil Seibel? Here is what the AP release said about Seibel:
Seibel went 6-3 with a 1.24 ERA for three Boston farm clubs last season. He didn't pitch in 2005 after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow following the 2004 season.
Wow, they must be partying down in Anaheim now. Of course, there was one negative to dealing Seibel:

Before turning professional, Seibel pitched three seasons for the University of
Texas.
HOOK ‘EM HORNS! YEE-HAW!

* * *

Friday, December 15, 2006

SIXTEEN CANDLES

Do I have 16 cogent thoughts in my head? Will four posts be dedicated to my favorite Family Guy quotes that most inappropriately came out of the mouth of my three or five year old? Do they still play hockey in Boston? Read on, gentle reader, for all the answers in this thrilling segment of Sixteen Candles:

1. Daisuke Deadline:
My gut tells me that Daisuke is a misguided and unwilling pawn in the Scott Boras Empire bent on world baseball domination. Boras is exactly the type of agent, heck, he is the ONLY one, who would sit a 26 year international star on the sidelines, showered in disgrace in his home country, for his own selfish purposes. Boras wants the posting agreement with the Japanese Leagues null and void. Well, duh, of course it is ludicrous. But, can he do this without damaging the Red Sox World Series chances in 2007? I firmly believe that ALL players, US or International (Japan, Korea, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Antarctica, etc) should be subject to the amateur draft. Back to the point, however, I can see in my mind so clearly Epstein the Triumvirate facing the press back in Boston, empty-handed, while Daisuke stares in shock as his translator tells him how Scott Boras just screwed over his chance to pitch in the US in 2007 (and probably 2008). I can hear the WEEIdiots screaming and shouting for the head of Theo already. Sigh.

2. Gonzo:
I really like the idea of the Sox swinging a trade with Pittsburgh and re-obtaining Mike Gonzalez from the Pirates. A hard-throwing lefty in the back of the bullpen sounds good to me. I refuse to over-value the closer role, as I think most relief pitchers are eminently capable of rotating the closer duties: i.e. three back of the game pitchers who can pitch the eighth and ninth innings in save situations (yes, the dreaded-in-Boston closer-by-committee). Closers are over-valued. A team with three set-up men pitching two or three innings at the end of the game every few days would be the strongest. I believe the Sox had the right idea in 2003, just the wrong manager and wrong relief pitchers to make it work. Back to the point yet again, Gonzalez, if obtained cheap enough (as in: no pitching prospects sent to Pittsburgh) would be a great pick-up and hold things over until the Craig Hansen/Edgar Martinez/Manny Delcarmen closer-by-committee kicks-in in 2008.

3. Green Green:
Great win by the Celtics the other night. Of course, all luster is lost when you realize they beat the Knicks. For a while, it looked like the Celtics would get an all too rare laugher and be allowed to showcase Leon Powe. Unfortunately, the Knicks stormed back and the Celtics had to show some backbone and hang-on for the win. Here is what stood out for me:
a. WHERE WAS GERALD GREEN???
b. WHERE THE $#^@)! WAS GERALD GREEN???
c. SERIOUSLY, DOC, WHERE THE $#^@)! WAS GERALD GREEN???

4. Celtics Conspiracy Theory:
Besides the fact that Danny Ainge is desperate to get into the lottery and get at least the chance of a snowball in hell in the Greg Oden sweepstakes, the Celtics must be showcasing their spare parts. What other reason is there that Gerald Green, fresh off his best games as a pro, sits for over 40 minutes and watches Tony Allen stand around with his finger in his ear? Allen must be on the Celtics Showcase, along with Delonte West (seriously, who in their right mind would sit Rajon Rondo for a 2-guard playing out of position at the point who cannot stick a jumper to save his hide?) Hopefully, West and Allen are on their way out (packaged with Scalabrini, Wally and a couple of number one picks?) for an impact power forward (Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett, etc). THAT would be the deal to put the Celtics over the top.

5. Projected Celtics Starting Five/Eight Man Rotation:
PG: Rondo/Bassy Telfair platoon
SG: Gerald Green
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Mystery Acquisition
C: Big Al/Big Perk platoon
Sixth Man: Ryan Gomes
Banner #17 in 2007-08!

6. If he is the Answer, what was the Question?
Please let the Allen Iverson rumors be just that. The thought of giving up Al Jefferson along with the kitchen sink to a division rival for the right to watch Iverson fight with Pierce on the court is hardly a pleasant one. Big Al should be an untouchable, along with Gerald Green and Rondo. Allen Iverson is not going to bring a banner to Boston, only a 20-10 (OK, maybe 17-8 or 15-7) big man can do that.

7. Free Willy will have his Revenge on Us All:
Once again, the Patriots continue to befuddle and confound. Not to give too much credit to the Dolphins defense, but the Patriots offense was horrible. Maybe the Dolphins picked-up the Patriots blocking scheme, and maybe they varied their blitz packages, but Brady pulled out another stinker against a very good defense. In his defense, the Patriots are the big game on EVERY team schedule. Forget that the Steelers won the Super Bowl last year and San Diego looks so good that one can hardly consider them to do anything but waltz into the Super Bowl, the Colts and Patriots are the teams in the NFL who all other teams use as their measuring stick.

8. Spending Spree:
Since John Henry has decided that the Red Sox are going to go all out and screw financial conservatively (why not, since the team is making money hand-over-fist), I was thinking about Big Brigs all-time favorite fantasy baseball player, Marcus Giles. The question regarding the 28 year-old second-baseman is simply: was his 2003 season an aberration? If so, is he worth signing since his numbers have steadily declined since 2003? I went to the geek gurus at baseballprospectus.com where it was pretty obvious that what you see is what you get in regards to Giles. He is, in essence, Mark Loretta with a bit more pop in Fenway. 15 home runs, 40+ doubles, decent defense, and a solid individual. Of course, if the Mets, as expected, turn this into a bidding war, what is wrong with Boston bringing back Mark Loretta? I would rather bring David Eckstein Junior, I mean Dustin Pedroia, up a year later than a year too soon. If the brass determines another year of seasoning is needed, then by all means, Get Back Loretta!

9. Spending Spree 2:
Speaking of spending money on ex-Red Sox, why not bring in a couple more? How about Dan Duquette era Sox farmhands Tony Armas Jr. and Chris Reitsma? Reitsma, who was injured most of last year (I know, I was counting on 30 saves from him last year in one fantasy baseball league), has closing experience and would be a great option for late in the game. Armas Jr., who is only 28, has had injury problems, but with his sinker the Sox could bring him in and turn him into some kind of ersatz Derek Lowe coming in and getting ground-outs in the late innings. The Sox need to get creative in the bullpen. Armas Jr. could be the answer. Oh yeah, speaking of relief pitchers, how about a great lefty set-up man still sitting around in free-agency? Ron Villone, come on down!

10. Buh-bye Biceps:
A sad day for my sister-in-law Shannon as Gabe Kapler and his bulging biceps have left Fenway Park. Kapler, only 31, is taking over as manager of the Greensboro Class A affiliate. It is great to see the enthusiasm that Kapler has for the game being funneled productively. Kapler is well liked in Boston, seems intelligent and articulate, and rather than sit on the bench or bounce-around, he has taken the next step. Kudos for Kapler.

11. Back-up Outfielder-Corner Infielder/Bat on the Bench:
I thought the Sox front-office was obsessed with Aubrey Huff? There he is! Go get him! Huff has good power, good ability to get on-base, and is not yet 30. Why is he sitting around waiting for the phone to ring? His salary demands are not excessive, and I am sure there are plenty of at-bats available for him. His versatility is only yet another plus for him.

12. Prayers:
Phil Kessel? Jon Lester? Both having cancer-related issues? Let us hope this only further heightens the need for more and more ongoing research into how and why the human body creates ways to destroy itself. I do not think there is a person I know who is not affected in some way, shape, or form by this disease, and I know my prayers are going towards all people affected, not just the person fighting cancer, but all those around them giving them strength and suffering from the fear, anxiety, and helplessness they no doubt feel.

13. Yankee-ing My Chain:
Checking in on the Evil Empire in the Bronx, and as much as I hate to say it, kudos to General Manager Brian Cashman. He got Mike Mussina to take a paycut and stay in New York when unproven starting pitchers like Gil Meche and Ted Lilly get in excess of $10 million per season; Andy Pettite re-joined the staff to give the Yankers the lefty starter who shows up once in a while (yeah, that is to mean that the Big Eunich is still around and continuing to be bailed out by the line-up). Trading Gary Sheffield could turn around and bite them, since I doubt Melky Cabrera is really a prime-time player (and Sheffield was easily the MOST FEARED hitter in that dream line-up by far), but the Yanks desperately needed an infusion of young pitching. Much as I hate to admit it, it was a great off-season by Brian Cashman.

14. Making My Wife Happy:
Sorry, guys, this is no FHM/Lad Mag special words of wisdom section, but just a note that a favorite of my beautiful wife Kathy, Doug Mirabelli, is back in the fold as back-up catcher and all-around most popular bench-warmer. Considering how good Cla Meredith would look in the bullpen right now (and to say nothing of the performance of Josh Bard last season in San Diego), the Sox had best get their moneys worth out of Dougie.

15. More Reasons to Like the Idea of J.D. Drew in Boston:
With thanks to Dan Agonistes (check him out at http://danagonistes.blogspot.com or at the Baseball Prospectus website) and his BIPChart, I found yet another reason to see why J.D Drew is such a good fit in Fenway Park: 2003: 43.6%; 2004: 39.1%; 2005: 43.8%; and 2006: 47.8%. Those numbers represent the percentage of fly balls hit to left field by J.D. Drew. I have long contended that David Ortiz benefits by hitting fly balls to left field in Fenway Park (in 2006 Ortiz his 40% of his fly balls to left field, an amazing number considering 75% of the ground balls he hit were to center/left side of the infield. Drew, one could say, has a stroke built for Fenway. Get excited, people!

16. Final Rip:
Could have been a great advice column by Dan Shaughnessy in the Globe on Thursday 12/14/06. The supposed purpose of the column is to give advice to Daisuke Matsusaka about what to do and not to do playing in Boston. Of course, Shaughnessy leaps at the opportunity to bad-mouth all those who oppose the great and wonderful Shank. I would link to it, but I do not want to give anyone the idea that it bears reading. It is altogether a good idea with not a very good editing job, I guess. Unlike some in the blogosphere, I do not hate or belittle Shaughnessy. He is actually an excellent writer. I just feel that sometimes he should be writing about the Red Sox and not about how Dan Shaughnessy feels about the Red Sox. His belittling of his known enemies, Curt Schilling and Bill Belichick, should have been cut out of the column. Petty and personal grievances have no place in august publication such as the Boston Globe.

On Schilling he wrote: Be wary of a large teammate with a blond mullet wearing No. 38. He will explain that he is a spokesman for all of the other players and instruct you on everything from tipping the clubhouse kids to throwing the splitter. He will show you his copious notes on all major league umpires. He will tell you which media members to trust and which ones are snakes. He will also urge you to vote Republican.

On Belichick: If you don't want to learn English, we understand. In fact, it might not be a bad strategy. All you really need is one stock answer. Try "It is what it is." You will be amazed how well that works.

Otherwise, there was only one thing that made absolutely no sense: Tell J.D. Drew he's got to buy you dinner at least once every road trip. There's a chance he's only here because the Sox wanted to soften up your agent for your negotiations.

The Fred Smerlas line was great, as was the Lugo and Youkilis bits. Shaughnessy has done some great writing in the past, and I hope he can get around to forgetting about who dissed who and get back to doing what he does best.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

OPTIONS AND OPINIONS

Well, at least someone other than me likes the Red Sox signing of J.D. Drew. Going by the numbers (which convinced me, see my blog posted yesterday for details), this deal looks good to Joe Sheehan, the big brain over at Baseball Prospectus. Ripped and second-guessed by every talking-head and writer in the greater Boston area before the deal even went down (we coulda had Johnny Damon for less last year!), Sheehan offers a breath of fresh air and detachment desperately needed to be seen. Sorry, the page is subscription only, so I will not waste time with a link, but here is the gist of it:

December 6, 2006 - Prospectus Today: Dominoes Start to Fall. by Joe Sheehan
A very quiet trip to Orlando got loud Tuesday, as the Red Sox landed the last remaining impact hitter, and did so for a price that makes him perhaps the best signing of the offseason.


Hal B: Repeat after me: BEST SIGNING OF THE OFFSEASON!!!
J.D. Drew agreed to a five-year, $70-million contract with the Sox, effectively making his decision to opt out of his Dodger contract worth an additional $37 million to him.

HB: Drew, rather than spend the next couple of years watching Nomar
tongue-wrestle another man, I mean Mia Hamm, in the Los Angeles clubhouse while Grady Little waxes poetic about frog rear-ends, decided to test the waters of the greatest free-agent off-season feeding frenzy in the history of Major League Baseball.
Despite Drew’s package of OBP, power and defense, he didn’t inspire the feverish bidding that players such as Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano did this offseason.
HB: Let me say, first, that Soriano and Lee are flawed players who fell
into a right-place/right-time scenario. Lee will eat himself out of
Houston and Soriano strikes out way too much, does not walk enough resulting in a low OBP and has enough defensive liabilities that I expect ESPN will be looping non-stop by August Soriano tangled in the vine at Wrigley. Other than that, feel free to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at these two.
Drew carries a number of labels, the most damning two being "apathetic" and "fragile." The data supports the latter to an extent; Drew's 146 games last year were a personal single-season career high, and he’s alternated seasons of fewer than 110 and and greater than 130 games played since 1999. There's no one reason; he was platooned some early in his career (notably in 1999), and he's suffered two traumatic injuries, one in 2001, the other in 2005, each the result of being hit by a pitch. Focus on that last part for a second.
HB: Seriously, focus on that last part: the result of being hit by a pitch. What, is it his fault bones break when a 90+ MPH force impacts them?
Drew's raw games played totals are unimpressive, but in only one of the last six seasons can he be said to have been injury-prone in the sense of plagued by multiple problems. On July 3, 2005, Drew was plunked on the left wrist by Brad Halsey, suffering a break that cost him most of the second half. The injury was an eerie reminder of what happened in 2001, when a pitch by David Wells broke Drew's right hand. That fracture cost him six weeks of playing time, and also shelved an MVP-caliber performance.
HB: So when you listen to Glenn Ordway or some other buffoon mouth-off about J.D. Drew and his injury history without knowing what they are yelling about, remember that the Sox also have the option to let Drew take a day off and DH. Barring bad luck, he should play close to 150 games.
This is not to say that Drew is Miguel Tejada less a break or two.

HB: You know, Ol' Miggy Tejada, the only guy with any kind of extremely remote outside chance to even come close to joining Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripkin in the 2k consecutive games club.

In the years he doesn't put his hands in front of a pitched ball, he deals with enough leg injuries and shoulder owies to make him a 140-game player. But much of his reputation stems from the raw games totals, and a closer examination shows that his missed time is as much a produce of ill fortune as inherent fragility.

HB: Everyone in Red Sox Nation merely need knock-on-wood in regards to J.D. Drew this season and the roll of the dice will go in his favor this
year.
Now, PECOTA doesn't see this, and projects Drew poorly, but I think he can be expected to play in 135-145 games, perhaps more with the DH as an option.
HB: I have no desire to get into PECOTA for the next twenty minutes, so
just know that it is a way of projecting future performance based on a bazillion variables.

If he plays that often, he’ll be a seven-win player and this contract will be a very, very good one for the Sox.

HB: Being a seven win player means that his value over the MLB average
player at his position equals seven extra wins. Let me see, Trot Nixon was a bit below average last year, and how many games behind the Yankees did the Sox finish? Hmm.
Neither Lee nor Soriano are as good a bet to perform at a star level, and both players required longer commitments for a higher average annual value.

HB: Theo is still smarter. IN THEO WE TRUST!

If signing Drew is a clear win for the Sox, it's less clear what the outlay of cash for his services may mean for the other situations facing the team. With Drew, Coco Crisp, and Wily Mo Pena, does Manny Ramirez look more tradable? Keep in mind that Crisp and Pena have extensive injury histories of their own, although like Drew, the ones they've endured have been traumatic rather than chronic. Is it unrealistic to expect the Sox to keep Pena in an extra-outfielder role, even though these four players may only be available simultaneously in a quarter of the scheduled games? Can Pena play some first base to alleviate the logjam? Or does this signing herald the end of Manny Ramirez’s time in Boston? As someone who has long insisted that Ramirez would stay with the Sox, I have to admit the Drew pickup makes me consider the alternative for the first time.

HB: Nahh, the Sox will have a great outfield/DH/1B combo with Wily Mo filling in as some kind of super-sub at all three outfield spots and 1B/DH. Having the option to give guys the day off once in a while is a good thing. Remember, Terry Francona likes to play around with the line-up and keep everyone fresh all season long.

Anyway, the article goes on, but that is the really relevant stuff as long as we Red Sox fans are concerned. Like I said, considering all the negative junk written and spoken about the deal before it even went down, it is nice to see a non-biased view in support of what I believe is a good deal for the Red Sox.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

SIXTEEN CANDLES

No, there is no Molly Ringwald or Anthony Michael Hall fan club meeting going on in my living room right now (it is held in the kitchen, so there!), but I have sixteen thoughts, so I figured if the plain-looking red-head can get the (and I quote from the fabulous eighties here) bohunk, why the heck can I not steal my title from the movie that, if nothing else, brought us eternal humor from Long Duk Dong, aka the Donger.

1. The longer that the Sox hold onto Manny, the more I feel he has a better chance to stay. Waitaminute, that was probably the stupidest thing ever written. If they trade him, I will know he has no chance to stay. Much like the Doonesbury depiction of President Clinton, I am waffling here on Manny: On one hand, he is closing in on a big decline, he is defensively-challenged, and he quit on the team; On the other hand, look at the on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, runs created, and protection he provides for Big Papi in the line-up. Manny at DH, Coco in left, Wily Mo in center, J.D. Drew (more on that later) in right, and Big Papi at 1B looks pretty good to me. There is so much conflicting information out there about Manny going or staying, I will make a quick list of my yeah or nay:
a. Dodgers: YES. They have the prospects the Sox want. I want RHP Jonathan Broxton, OF Matt Kemp, and RHP Chad Billingsley for him. All are under 23 and are top-tier prospects.
b. Giants: NO. They have no prospects, and no one on the roster who could start in Boston.
c. Padres: MAYBE. Only if Jake Peavey is part of the deal.
d. Yankees: Straight up for A-Rod. I mean, GOD NO!!!
e. Orioles: NO. For who? And also, do you want to face Manny 19 times a year for the foreseeable future?
f. Cubs: MAYBE. Hmm. Intriguing. Mark Prior, Matt Murton, and a prospect or two might work out well for both sides. Oh wait, Lou Pineilla is managing there? Forget it, he run out to left field and strangle Manny with his bare hands after yet another gentle trot in the general direction of a flyball yields yet another triple. Change that to a big, fat NO.
g. Mets: NO. That boat has sailed. Besides, Manny and Carlos Delgado in the same clubhouse? That has BAD IDEA written all over it.

2. Doug Gabriel, what in the world did you do to Bill Belichick? Sure, guys get into a doghouse, but Doug Gabriel is in some kind of Ed Whitson-Billy Martin doghouse. Of course, all Ed Whitson did is throw a punch at his manager in a bar-room brawl, what could Gabriel have done to warrant such action? Since neither he nor the Patriots powers that be are talking, it must have been something pretty significant since he had been their most consistent receiver.

3. The Patriots Running Game. Has anyone seen it lately? Suddenly, the Patriots cannot run the ball anymore. What happened to the draw out of the shotgun? Did Charlie Weis copyright that play? What happened to keeping pressure off Brady by running the ball effectively? Where have you gone, Antoine Smith?

4. Eight turnovers in their last two games. Sure, the Bears were a ball-hawking unit, blah-blah-blah. But the Lions defense kicking the Pats around for 3 quarters? I expected the Lions to score points (this was, after all, the Super Bowl for Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz), but what was wrong with Brady and the offense in quarters 1, 2, and 3? That was disconcerting.

5. Reason number 174 why David Ortiz deserved the MVP: When the rest of the team (especially you, Manny) quit on the season, Big Papi, despite NO PROTECTION in the line-up kept bopping away throughout September (and lest ye of little memory forget, for a couple of weeks we were not sure if Big Papi was even coming back from the heart palpitations scare).

6. Everyone mentions Jeremy Giambi when this subject comes up in conversation, but it was the trade of Shea Hillenbrand for Byung-Hyun Kim that opened the door to everyday play for Big Papi in Boston. Giambi was already on his way out of town, but with Hillenbrand and Kevin Millar (who incidently just re-upped with Baltimore for 2007) ahead of him, the Sox Slugger Extraordinaire of today may have received his trade request and we would been been left holding some loser AA prospect in return for the greatest left-handed hitter of the twenty-first century (sit your ass down, San Francisco. Steroid-boy Bonds spent most of this century on the disabled list!).

7. I just re-read Moneyball for about the fiftieth time (or about fifty times more than Joe Morgan of Cincinnati Reds/ESPN fame). It amazes me that there are general managers and executives (and loopy ESPN announcers) who do not look at Billy Beane and all he has done in Oakland and say: MY GOD, THAT MAKES TOO DAMN MUCH SENSE TO IGNORE! By the way, be sure to visit the greatest Joe Morgan (Not Walpole Joe of Red Sox Lore) bashing site at http://www.firejoemorgan.com/

8. The best right-fielder in the National League in 2006 (as rated by VORP: Value Over Replacement Player) is none other than the much-maligned J.D. Drew, the new right-fielder (or maybe center-fielder) for the Boston Red Sox. Now, VORP does not include defensive statistics, or his rating would be higher. Poohbah, you say. Right-field is a barren wasteland in the National League. Fine, we will include left-fielders in the equation (who are not known for their defense), and Drew ranks fifth, behind some guys named Barry Bonds, Alfonso Soriano, Jason Bay, and Matt Thank You God for Putting Me in Colorado Holliday. OK, let us look at EqA (Equivalent Average. A measure of total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching. EQA considers batting as well as baserunning, but not the value of a position player's defense. And yes, just like in Trig class, I refuse to show the math.) Number one out of NL right-fielders, the original $14 million dollar man that Red Sox fans spent the fall lamenting the fact he ended up with the Yankees: Bobby Abreau. .004 points behind him (aka negligible amount): J.D. Drew. Add in the left-fielders and you include Barry Bonds. Thank you, Baseball Prospectus, NOW I understand why the Sox value J.D. Drew.

9. While I am geeking on stats, here is colossal failure of the Red Sox’ lineup translated into my two favorite stats: EqA and VORP:

Manny Ramirez
0.352
66.1

David Ortiz
0.344
76.8

Kevin Youkilis
0.29
19.6

Mike Lowell
0.28
20.7

Trot Nixon
0.277
8

Coco Crisp
0.255
7.5

Jason Varitek
0.255
2.8

Mark Loretta
0.255
12.3

Alex Gonzalez
0.246
3.2

Let me see: Manny & Big Papi are worth their weight in gold. Youk and Lowell are good. Trot Nixon comes in as comparable to Bernie Williams, which would have been fine in 1999, but definitely not in 2006. Coco, I hope, is healthy in 2007, as his numbers were so far down from projections of 2006. The same goes for Varitek. Loretta was about where expected, and, wow, as much as I love A-Gon as a defensive player, his offense is historically horrible. Wily Mo Pena, by the way, projects as hitting 30+ homers, driving in close to 90 RBIs, and a OPS of .950 in the near future (PECOTA projections), which explains part of the reason the Sox are so high on him.

10. Although I do notice any buzz about them, which is funny since NESN is still hyping Bruins Buzz with Hazel Mae in a tight shirt, but the Bruins are actually looking like a classic scrappy team that could finish second in the division, win a first round series, and maybe stretch a series to six or seven games against a good team. Which, considering how bad they looked in the first weeks of the season, is a whole heck of a lot better than I thought they could ever be this season.

11. What to make of the Celtics? So much youth, so much energy, so much potential. With Paul Pierce and Wally dinged up, is it so hard to throw Gerald Green out on the floor for forty minutes and see what he does?

12. In the Premiership, the Bent Boys have pulled Charlton out of last place at last. My Toffees have remained in the hunt despite injuries. That said, Manchester United is so strong this season, that even the historically mighty Chelsea is looking up to them.

13. Amazing how so much can change in the NFL in two weeks. The Jets still believe they have a chance to make the playoffs, sportswriters all over the country have forgotten that Marty Schottenheimer coaches the San Diego Chargers, and Indianapolis is no longer as invincible as they looked October. Meanwhile, Martin Gramatica, who looked so good in the Patriots training camp, has been elected into the Cowboys Ring of Honor after one game. Denver, the Lords of September, have tumbled so badly that they are tooth and nail with the J-E-T-S Jet Jets JETS for the final playoff spot. Baltimore is the most puzzling team in the AFC, as they somehow seem capable of winning a few games with their defense, but their offense is still terrible with Steve McNair at the helm. Heck, I thought they were better on offense at the end of 2005 when Kyle Too Little Too Late Boller finally starting acting like an NFL quarterback. So, of course, Brian Billick relegates him to the bench.

14. I am sorry, I am trying to stay calm about the insane amounts of money going to crappy ballplayers this winter, but I cannot hold it in anymore: GARY MATTHEWS JR??? FIVE YEARS AT FIFTY MILLION??? WHAT THE #&$&@(^# WAS ANAHEIM THINKING???

15. Sorry, I have to go on the record about these salaries one more time: If Ted Lilly gets four years at forty million, Matt Clement all of a sudden becomes affordable and tradable and therefore a decent chip to get a young arm or bat during spring training or at the trading deadline.

16. Let the final candle be the birthday cake for my Mother. An amazing, giving, loving person who spent everyday doing everything in her power for us. She gets all the credit for my son being left-handed (increasing his value to major league teams), and she is so wonderful with my little monkeys it is no wonder that whenever we give them an option to go do whatever they want on a weekend, they always immediately pass up the zoo, Chuck E. Cheese, or anywhere else to go visit Barbie and Grandpa. I think back to all the batting practice balls she tracked down (and is now tracking down for the grandkids), all the football games she had to sit through (well, still has to sit through), and her love of Yaz (sorry, no Polish superstars coming up through Boston anymore). Thank you, Mim, happy birthday, and we all love you so much.

New England Patriots: On Vacation as Free Agency Begins - Full Press Coverage

The 2019 NFL year has begun with the advent of free agency and as usual the New England Patriots are one of the quietest teams. While teams ...