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.

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