In the words of Mark McGwuire: “I’m not here to talk about the past.”
Let’s, for a moment, forget that ALDS with the Angels ever happened. Instead, let’s bring hope back to Red Sox Nation and talk about the future . . . unless the Sox fail to bring back Jason Bay. Then forget about hope and save yourselves, cuz this ship is sinking. So, let’s take a look at issues the Sox face this winter.
JASON BAY – The Red Sox absolutely, positively NEED to bring back Jason Bay. Rarely will I say the Sox “need” anybody. But the fact is the team’s weakest link this year was its offense. If the Sox lose their best offensive player (Bay), they likely won’t be able to make the offensive upgrades they need next season. The free agent market for bats this season is especially thin (forget Matt Holliday, the most overrated bat out there). And if the Sox land a good bat in a trade – like Adrian Gonzalez – but lose Bay, they’ll be swapping bats rather than making a significant offensive improvement next year (which would be keeping Bay and getting a Gonzalez). What scares me to death is there is no reason the Yankees won’t let Johnny Damon walk and instead throw a ton of money at Bay – which improves the Yankees offense AND hurts the Red Sox. This scares me.
JONATHON PAPELBON – I’ve been shocked at the number of people clammering to trade Paps since his blown save the other day. Sox Nation needs to get a grip. As I’ve said before, every great closer has blown big games (Rivera, Eck, Hoffman, Gossage). What makes them great is their ability to brush it off and come back. Papelbon has shown he can do it. Why would you mess with that? Did we learn nothing from the Closer By Committee fiasco that started the Theo administration in early 2003? It takes a certain type of mentality (or craziness) to be a closer, and Paps has that. Bard has great stuff, but we don’t know if he has the mental toughness to be a closer. He could instead be the next Billy Koch. That being said, the promise of Bard does give the Sox flexibility should it take dealing a Papelbon to bring a bigtime bat like Adrian Gonzalez in return.
ADRIAN GONZALEZ – In case you haven’t yet noticed, I want the Sox to back the truck up to land San Diego firstbaseman Adrian Gonzalez. He is a young, dynamic bat that could help this offense. And San Diego will be hiring a new GM (Jed Hoyer?) soon who will likely be looking to stock up on young talent. Slot A-Gonz into first, move Youk to third and . . .
MIKE LOWELL – He’s been a great player for the Sox for these past few seasons, but his best years are well-behind him. Injuries make him unreliable and limit his mobility in the field. If the Sox can find a better bat, they need to move on. The only way I see Lowell staying in that situation is if he was a platoon DH with . . .
DAVID ORTIZ – Undoubtedly my favorite baseball player of all-time. So it pains me to say this. I know he came back big in the second-half, and had impressive numbers as a result. Still, how many meaningful times did Papi come through this year against good pitching. Not many. He wasn’t a factor in the playoffs, and didn’t look like there was any hope he could be. Papi will never again be the great hitter he once was, and I’d say it was time for the Sox to move on, EXCEPT . . . tell me where the Sox are going to get another DH to replace him given how weak the free-agent market is. Assuming they keep Bay, the Sox are going to need to find a home for a new bat, and that will be in either Lowell’s or Ortiz’s slot. Given Lowell’s health issues, I wouldn’t be surprised if they dump Lowell, keep Ortiz at DH this year, and then try to replace him after next season.
JASON VARITEK – It’s hard to watch cornerstones of the 2004 championship team like Papi and Tek age and have their skills diminish. At this point, everyone has to accept that Tek is done. Even, probably, Tek. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him retire this offseason (but in some way that keeps that $3 mill option). At this point, I’m not sure the Sox offense can afford to have him as the backup catcher.
Maybe you’re feeling really good right now. Heck, the Sox beat Chicago last night. They still lead the wild card. They just picked up Billy Wagner. You think there’s a lot to feel good about. If this is you, and you don’t want to be brought down by a tsunami of negativity, you should click away right about now.
I have a lot of anger and frustration built up by the way the Sox have played these last few weeks. And it’s high time I let it out. Consider yourself warned.
-In Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS, I said if J.D. Drew did something big, I’d never bad-mouth him again. Of course, he hit that grand slam. And since then I’ve tried. I’ve REALLY tried. But how much can one Red Sox fan take?!?! The highest paid player on the team is our $15 million a year NUMBER EIGHT HITTER!!!! A gutless, pathetic underachiever his entire career, Drew is proving right all the people who said he’d be a terrible signing for the Sox . . . and that includes his old teammates and managers with the Cardinals and Dodgers who said he was gutless. If his recent .235 average and slot as the Number 8 hitter isn’t enough to enrage you, how about the fact he asked out of a game against the Texas Rangers — the same Rangers in a dogfight with the Sox for the wildcard — in the ninth inning of a game in which CLAY BUCHHOLZ WAS USED AS A FRIGGIN’ PINCH RUNNER!!!! And we have TWO MORE YEARS on his horrible contract!!! AARRRGGHHH!!!
–Jonathon Papelbon is a whiny, high-maintenance diva. Recently asked about the possibility of Billy Wagner coming to Boston, Paps said he is the closer and doesn’t see any reason for another closer. That the bullpen is fine and doesn’t need fixing. Maybe it has to do with speculation the Sox would bring back Wagner as a set up man to Daniel Bard next year, and deal Paps in this offseason. Don’t like that, Paps? Well, you’re the one who has been saying you are going to free agency to cash in with the highest bidder, even if it is the Yankees. So suite yourself. And, in case you haven’t noticed lately, you’ve been doing a great Calvin Shiraldi impression. I hope we do deal you.
-In June, were you among the chorus of fans saying how we just couldn’t possibly deal Brad Penny. How you feel about that now? His recent appearances have even made us long for the days of John Smoltz. And how about Smoltzie’s debut with the Cards. What a nice little kick in the stones for Sox fans.
-So much for the theory that Josh Beckett just needed to be caught by Jason Varitek. If this is a sign of things to come, we’re screwed.
-Hey look: The offense finally woke up. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. These team has problems, and we actually might be best served in the long run by not making the playoffs this season. You see, if we do get there and have a decent run, the feeling that the team needs serious changes might be dulled. That would be bad. Let’s face it, Mike Lowell and Big Papi are breaking down right before our eyes. They aren’t going to get better. If Theo is going to rejuvenate this team, he needs to replace them this offseason. And while he’s at it, how much longer til it’s time to admit J.D. Drew was a mistake and find ourselves a new rightfielder?
-I friggin’ hate the Yankees.
-I need a drink.
Count me as one of the ones who thought Big Papi was done. Given not just how he looked the first two months of this season, but also most of last season, Papi just looked like a guy whose career had fallen off the table. Like Jim Rice after his near-MVP season of 1986 suddenly losing his skills, it was as if someone had slipped kryptonite into Superman’s tights.
It wasn’t an easy conclusion to reach. Like much (if not most) of Red Sox Nation, Papi is my favorite player. Not just because of all the clutch hits, including Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, which I was at (and you can see me and my low-life brother in the stands as the homer sails over the wall). But also because of his memorable team speeches prior to legendary Red Sox comebacks, like when he told his teammates before that Game 4 that as he’d driven to Fenway he’d seen all the signs and billboards from Sox fans who had suffered for so long, and he just wanted to do something to put smiles on their faces. Or how about his “you’re a bad m#therf#cker” speech to teammates when they were down 3-1 to the Indians in 2007? Papi is just an easy guy to like.
So it was painful to watch him struggle. And while we all looked for signs of life, they just weren’t there. It was obvious Papi was done, and those who didn’t want to admit it were just in denial.
And then came June. Papi is suddenly Papi again. He’s hitting bombs, and if he really is back to his old self (or even 85 percent of his old self), you can plan the parade now.
Still, I’m unconvinced. I’m cautiously optimistic, but he’s just been down for so long it’s hard to imagine he can return to Papi form for an extended period of time. It happens with all batters at some point. The decline is inevitable. It WILL happen eventually.
I just hope it’s not yet.
Anyone looking for proof that you can do something to curse your team look no further than this blog last night.
At 10:27 p.m., I posted an entry on how the Red Sox had a done deal with Mark Teixeira, and talked about how to move forward. Not 20 minutes later, John Henry sent out an e-mail stating the Sox were out of the Teixeira sweepstakes.
We still don’t know what happened yet. Maybe the Angels’ desperation got the better of them and they went to 10 years. They certainly were looking at a dark place if they missed out on Tex, and needed him more than the Sox. Maybe the foolish Nationals made a desperate insane offer. It wouldn’t be the first time a franchise that couldn’t afford a superstar bid out of their league (Texas/ARod). If that’s the case, expect them to look to deal him within three years . . . and expect Tex’s complaining about the franchise not winning to begin in two.
Still, all hope is not lost . . . yet. This is Scott Boras and the Red Sox . . . two entities who have said deals were dead in the past, only to have them be revived later on. So, until a deal is announced and a physical has taken place, this thing isn’t over. But it doesn’t look good.
If the Sox don’t get Tex, you have to start to wonder about next year. They have a good team in place, and, if everyone is healthy, they should be fine. But, given the age of Lowell and Tek, and given the fragility of JD Drew, and the uncertainty of Papi’s wrist, there will still be a lot to worry about heading into the season.
As we look toward 2009 with visions of Mark Teixeira at first base, fans might be forgetting about another star who’ll be playing his first full season swinging at the Green Monster next year: Jason Bay.
Ever since he arrived in Boston at the trade deadline, Bay has kind of slid under the radar. Maybe it’s because he wasn’t hitting clean-up; maybe it’s because he wasn’t a nationally-known figure, having played for the Pirates and all. But for the last few years Bay has been one of the very best position players in the game. He consistently put up great numbers in Pittsburgh, even though most of the time he was the lone bat in the lineup. When he first came to Boston, I predicted that he’ll put up better numbers overall than Manny will during the next two seasons (the would-be option years in Manny’s contract). We got a glimpse of how good he is during the second half last year and the playoffs. And we saw how good he is defensively. Now, with half a season in Fenway under his belt, there’s every reason to expect he’ll be even better in 2009. Especially if he’s slides under the radar in this line-up.
If we do sign Teixeira (which looks like a real possibility right now), consider our Opening Day lineup for 2009 compared with last year. Considering Manny’s decline and Bay being in the prime of his career, I expected a net offensive gain having Bay in our lineup rather than Manny. (Not to mention the huge defensive upgrade.) Now consider having Teixeira versus Lowell. While Lowell’s been good, given his age and injury risk — not to mention previous levels of production — the net gain with Teixeira is huge. While everyone has been comparing Teixeira’s production with Manny, it’s important not to forget how good Bay is.
Now let’s imagine Youkilus and Pedroia have years similar to last year . . . and that J.D. Drew plays 150 games . . . and that Papi’s wrist feels better . . . . . Ooh, this is fun.
Let’s face it: The Sox were banged up, and the Devil Rays were the better team. They’re probably going to win the World Series. Just freakin’ wonderful. I’m not in a good place right now. Let’s stop talking about it.
Anyway . . . . . on a positive note, once we get past this bothersome World Series, we get to embark on one of the most exciting times of the year — the Hot Stove Season. It’s the kind of thing blogging was invented for. So, let’s just get beyond this thing we’re not talking about and move forward. Let’s see what Boston’s current weaknesses are and what we can hope to expect from this Hot Stove Season.
Papi’s Wrist — There’s no offseason solution to this. All we can do is hope and pray that Papi’s wrist is better by next season and he becomes the hitting terror he once was. But the cold hard truth here is wrist injuries are scary things for hitters. There was once a future-Hall-of-Famer named Nomar Garciaparra who won a batting title with the highest average for a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio. Then Nomar was hit by a pitch and messed up his wrist. Goodbye Hall of Fame title; Hello title of Mr. Mia Hamm.
Jacoby Ellsbury — This is another one of those wait-and-see situations. Luckily, Ellsbury’s offensive struggles this year stemmed from his youth instead of any injury. We know he can play. And we know young players do struggle at times. Eventually, Ellsbury will be fine.
Jason Varitek — Whether the Sox resign him or he leaves in free agency, the team needs to find his replacement now (actually, I believe I said last year at this time the time was last offseason). Even if he stays, his best days are far behind him. And his performance is only going to get worse in the coming years. He is a great catcher, but the he-calls-a-great-game thing only works if he’s hitting +.240 . . . not .220.
Mike Lowell — I will likely catch some serious hate here. I love Mike Lowell as much as anybody. And, sure, everybody gets injured and he’ll probably come back at 100 percent next season and have a great year. But all the more reason to trade him. Lowell has had a great run in Boston, but he’s not a guy you can bank on year in and year out; over his whole career he has had his up’s and down’s. Fact is, he’s not getting any younger, and you can expect more common injuries and declining production the next few seasons. The good thing is Lowell has trade value. He has put up great numbers the past few years, he has two years remaining on his contract, and his salary is manageable. And Theo has long coveted the idea of a power-hitting first-baseman. Which leads us to . . .
Sign Mark Texeira — Texeira is a young, switch-hitting, power-hitting first baseman who could be a huge addition to a questionable Sox offense. Of course, in this situation you deal away Lowell. Sure it hurts, but imagine a lineup with Pedroia, Ortiz, Texeira, Youk, Bay and Drew as your 2-7 hitters. October 2009, here we come. The only question is how insane the Yankees will go this year. They have money coming off the books too, and a Wall-Streetesque situation of the rich getting richer with huge dollars coming in next season from their new ballpark, they could put up insane money to sign every free agent they want. Let’s hope they exercise some sanity.
Trade for Saltalamacchia — The Rangers have too many good, young catchers and need to deal. The Red Sox have the need for a catcher and the goods to offer. Salty has been one of the most highly-touted prospects in recent years. And although he has struggled somewhat at the big-league level, he is still extremely young, and those struggles might just have brought his value down enough to secure a deal. By the same token, thankfully Coco Crisp’s performance in the second-half and October may have upped his value where teams may be interested in grabbing him and a prospect.
Trade for Peavy — Yeah, I know. We have a boatload of starting pitching. We have Lester, Beckett, Matsuzaka . . . and then a lot of questions. Schilling won’t be back. Wakefield is too much of a wildcard to depend on at this point. And you can never . . . NEVER . . . depend on unproven youngsters to fill out your rotation (ask the Yanks how Hughes, Kennedy and Joba carried them this year). This offseason, let the Yankees throw boatloads of cash at C.C., D-Lowe and Burnett. I’ll take dealing some of our young arms to the Padres for Peavy. If you hate dealing prospects, remember you never know how they’ll turn out. Wasn’t Casey Fossum going to be the next Tom Glavine?
I went to Tuesday’s game . . . and I haven’t been able to blog, think about the game or anything to do with baseball since . . . This is a struggle . . . . . Alright . . . I can do this . . . I think . . .
First, let’s state the obvious: The Red Sox are done. The Devil Rays have been getting great pitching, while the Red Sox have not. (BTW, Madden’s decision to pitch Kazmir tonight — where he’s been great at Fenway — is brilliant.) Even if they get three great pitching performances out of Matsuzaka, Beckett and Lester — a real possibility — their bats are so bad right now there’s almost no chance they can take three straight games. This isn’t 2004 or 2007; this is a depleted, banged-up lineup. As I’ve already blogged about, Ellsbury hasn’t hit at all, Papi is hitting under a buck, and Varitek, Kotsay and Lowrie aren’t offensive juggernauts. And if Crisp is in instead of Drew, that leaves us with just three actual live bodies in the lineup — Pedroia, Youk and Bay.
This offense hasn’t hit all October — they squeaked through the Angels series — and there is no chance they suddenly snap out of it for three straight games. Too bad. A Red Sox and Phillies World Series would have been classic. Now, we’re stuck with the Rays and their 15,000 fans and the Phillies, a good – but flawed – team with a passionate local base but no national following. Maybe a panicked Bud Selig can get the umps to stop squeezing us.
Regarding Tuesday’s game, I made a classic blunder. Just hours before the game, I started searching for tickets, just to see what was out there. I searched all around out of curiousity to see if I could stumble on some reasonable prices. Not to be a kiss-up here, but I was shocked when I saw how low the prices were on our very own sponsor — Vividseats.com. I know my editorial integrity is at stake here. But it’s the truth. To be honest, the prices were so low I actually almost wondered about the site’s legitimacy. But it was real, and the price was too good to pass up. So I grabbed the tickets and went to the game. Unfortunately, as it turned out, I scrambled to get tickets to a game where it felt like I had Carlos Pena cleat-kicking me in the cojones each half-inning for nine long innings.
And now I’m thinking about that game again. And I’m feeling sick again.
I can’t do this anymore.