Tagged: hot stove

CRAWDADDY!

The Red Sox have signed Carl Crawford, and you’d have to be a lobotomy patient or a Yankee fan not to like this deal.

Just days after trading for Adrian Gonzalez, the Sox signed the best position player on the market. And, just like that, inserted themselves as favorites heading into this season. In case you forgot, this is the team that won 89 games last year . . . without Gonzalez and Crawford, and without Youkilus, Pedroia and Ellsbury. AND, with Beckett and Lackey having sub-par years.

Forget losting Beltre and Martinez. Beltre’s entire miserable career has been a classic case of monumental underachievement. His best two seasons: Free agent years. Some poor sucker is going to sign him and condemn his team to mediocrity. Victor Martinez? A very good hitter, but a sub-par catcher whose best days are already behind him.

Forget the money. The Sox aren’t suddenly jacking up their payroll. In fact, with the money they had coming off the books, the price they’re paying for Gonzalez and Crawford is essentially a wash. And they have more money – including JD Drew’s ridiculous contract – coming off next season. This isn’t a case of the Sox suddenly spending a lot. This is a case of good fiscal management.

Forget that this team is lefty-heavy. Yeah, they have a lot of lefties. But, both Gonzalez and Crawford have good numbers against lefties. And, as mentioned earlier, the Sox have two right-handed MVP candidates coming back into their lineup in Youkilus and Pedroia.

Forget about the Yankees signing Cliff Lee. The Crawford deal appears to have made the Yankees overreact, and go up to a seven-year offer for Lee, which they stated they didn’t want to do. Seven-year deals for position players are one thing, as they are historically much more durable and consistent. Pitchers, on the other hand, are much less predictable, even when they are healthy. And they are always one-pitch away from a blown-rotator cuff. AND, while Lee has enjoyed an excellent couple of years, he’s also been plagued by injuries during his career. Seven years is too much for any pitcher. Don’t be surprised if Lee is good for the first two or three years of this contract, then is an anchor for the rest of it. And, even with a good Lee, you still have to like how the Red Sox starting rotation matches up with the Yankees, especially if Lackey and Beckett return to form.

Forget about the bullpen. Like it or not, it’s always a crapshoot. How often in recent years have we seen the Sox and other teams stock up on great relievers in the offseason, only to have them struggle in the season. Middle-relief is almost impossible to predict. You do your best, then make adjustments along the way. Throughout his tenure as Sox GM, Theo has had his issues with the bullpen, but he’s also shown a knack for being able to improve it during the season (last year not withstanding). The starting core is great, the back end with Paps and Bard is very good, and the middle WILL come together.

Considering how much better this 89-win Red Sox team looks, is it crazy to dream of a 100-win season already?

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Ramblings On The Lost Season & Other Things

Last year it finally happened. After decades of passionately waiting for The Year, we’ve now had two of them in the last six, and been almost there most of the other years. With so much winning, many of us Sox fans have finally become complacent, downright bored with winning.

It was hard to get up for the 2010 season. Going in, it seemed like the same routine. We’d be good, and still in it come September. So many of us found ourselves in wait-and-see mode, just waiting for the eventual meaningful games to come, and having a hard time getting excited the rest of the year. That was certainly the case with me — I barely blogged at all. And I know I’m not the only one. NESN’s ratings were down enough to make John Henry break a sweat. And it took some creative counting to keep that so-called consecutive sellout streak alive.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll take complacent success over years of meaningless mediocrity any day of the weak. Still, I couldn’t help but envy fans of such teams as the Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, and San Diego Padres last year who got to cheer with meaning throughout the season . . . a season that really meant something to them.

Last year should have been an exciting year for Sox fans. To say the team was plagued by injuries would be a GIGANTIC understatement. Youk, Pedroia, Ellsbury and many more missed huge portions of the season. They should have struggled to be a .500 team. Still, they won 89 games . . . in the AL East! It was an amazing season. And Terry Francona was robbed in the AL Manager of the Year voting.

Now we move on to 2011. That team that won 89 games now gets Youk, Pedrioa and Ellsbury back. If that isn’t enough to put them in the playoff hunt, you have to believe that Lackey and Beckett will almost certainly perform better this season. On top of that, the Sox FINALLY land Adrian Gonzalez. If that’s not enough to get you excited for the 2011 season, consider they’ll be playing 18 games against a Tampa Bay team that is still strong, but won’t be the powerhouse it has been in recent years. AND, there is still plenty more offseason remaining for the Sox to land another bat.

In fact, things look so good for the Sox, us fans can probably take the season off and wait for those meaningful games late in the season and October that are certainly headed our way.

By the way, Jason Werth’s contract is more proof that some major league general manager’s aren’t any smarter than your middle-of-the-road fantasy baseballer.

Damon’s New York Break-Up

Dan:

It’s a beautiful morning.

According to reports, the Yankees have signed free-agent outfielder Randy Winn. And, say those reports, this almost certainly means Johnny Damon is out of New York.

I’ve been following Damon’s off-season closely, and this news has me jumping for joy. But, perhaps not for the reasons you are thinking of.

When Damon left Boston for New York after the 2005 season, he was widely villified in Red Sox Nation. The bearded idiot who embodied the historic 2004 Sox team and became a hero among Sox fans not only ditched us for the money, but he went to the friggin’ Yankees. He might as well have egged Fenway Park and kicked the Ted Williams statue in the stones as he left.

Personally, I was conflicted about it. I hated seeing Damon go, especially to the Yankees. But, on the other hand, baseball is a business. I can’t blame a player for going for the most money . . . especially when it essentially does mean that that team values you more than others. And these players are from all over the country (and world); regional rivalries have little hold on them. I pledged to always be thankful for Damon’s contributions to the Sox, and bid him farewell. No hard feelings . . .

But trouble was brewing in my home. My 2-year-old daughter was a Johnny Damon fan. She had a Johnny Damon T-shirt. And my foolish sister had given her a Red Sox Teddy Bear, which was called “Johnny Bear.” When we told her the news, she said she was going to cheer for the Yankees. Gulp.

Not a problem, I thought. She’s little. She was little more than 3 by the time Damon played Boston as a Yankee the next season. I admit, it caused me much anguish when my own daughter was cheering for the Yankees. But, I said to myself, she’s young. It’s a phase. She’ll forget.

My daughter turns 7 next month. When the Sox and Yanks play, she still openly cheers for the Yankees and taunts me. When she learned the Yankees had won the World Series last year, she let out a “YESSS!!!!” Just the other day, she mocked me by drawing a picture of me with me saying “I love the Yankees.” It needs to come to an end . . . one way or another.

So I’ve been looking forward to the day when I can tell her — with a big smile on my face — that Johhny Damon is no longer on the Yankees. That Damon is now on some other team, like the Oakland A’s or Atlanta Braves. That day is closer than ever.

The Good, The Bad, And The Beltre

Dan:

I just don’t know how to feel about this.

The Sox have signed a new third baseman, Adrian Beltre. This is a player who I stated I hoped the Sox stayed far away from in a blog entry a few weeks ago. Beltre is a player who has been a colossal underachiever his entire career. (If you think his fluke 2004 season wasn’t PED-fueled, I have a bridge I want to sell you.) On top of that – and most disturbing – signing him signals that the Red Sox truly are out of the running for Adrian Gonzalez.

This is the latest blow in an offseason that has left me feeling sick about the Red Sox 2010 chances — following the signing of Fluko Scutaro, losing Bay and replacing him with Mike “The K” Cameron.

However, maybe not all is lost . . .

The saving grace in the Beltre signing is the contract. I am shocked at how reasonable it is. A mere $9 million, followed by a player option of $5 million in 2011 and a $1 million buyout.

Wow.

I thought signing Beltre would take much more money and a commitment of several years. I’m not a fan of Beltre, but for $9 million for what essentially is a one-year deal, I can live with it. In fact, I almost like it.

Beltre must have had almost no suitors for him to accept this deal, which is nowhere near what Scott Boras was seeking for him. He must be hoping to play well this year, in a high-profile market, and cash in next off-season. Make no mistake: There is NO WAY Beltre accepts just $5 million to come back next year. Only way he does is if he has a terrible year, and, with that money, the Sox will likely be looking to eat his contract and replace him anyway should that happen.

Buried deep in the order, and playing in Fenway Park, Beltre may even end up being a huge steal, as he has all the motivation in the world to produce for a contract, has little offensive expectations, and moves from large Safeco Field to Fenway, where he can use the wall to pad his stats.

The more I think about it, the more I kind of like this deal. This offseason certainly hasn’t gone how I wanted it to go. In fact, it has pretty much gone the opposite direction. But who knows? This team might still be pretty decent next year.

Of course, if they aren’t, I’ll say I told you so.

Nick CafarDOH!

Dan:

In case you missed it this weekend, the Globe’s Nick Cafardo continued his assault on intelligent sports journalism, with a piece proclaiming Boston’s current starting rotation as a dream rotation, and how foolish it would be to break it up and trade Clay Buchholz for Adrian Gonzalez.

Yes, foolish.

The article comes on the heels of Cafardo’s recent piece in which he makes Jacoby Ellsbury sound like the second-coming of Willie Mays and Adrian Gonzalez the second-coming of Steve Balboni.

The Ellsbury article was bad enough, as I’ve already blogged about. But the Buchholz piece takes it to another level. Buchholz pitched well last year, and he has a ton of potential. And having him as your Number Five starter certainly gives you a deep rotation — not a dream rotation, but a deep rotation.

You see, Buchholz is a good, young pitcher. But although he has pitched well early in his career, he is still relatively unproven. Casey Fossum also pitched some good games early in his career. Paxton Crawford, anyone? I certainly think Buchholz is better than those two, but the logic behind not trading Buchholz for Gonzalez doesn’t make sense. It remind me of when some Celtics fans didn’t want to deal Al Jefferson for Kevin Garnett. Thankfully, the C’s made the deal, and how did that turn out?

Hindsight is 20-20, but baseball deals are made given what he know in the here and now. And, right now, we know Buchholz is very good, but still unproven. And we know that the sum total of what Adrian Gonzalez brings to a team is worth a lot more than what Buchholz brings to a team.

Sure, pitching is important, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. But, even without Buchholz, the Sox still have a deep and formidable rotation when compared with the rest of baseball. Their offense? Not nearly as intimidating.

I know the saying of how pitching wins championships. Pitching certainly does help. But remember those pitching-rich Atlanta Braves teams that won 14-straight division titles? How many World Series rings did they win?

Preliminary Off-Season Thoughts

Dan:

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.

Thoughts On An Early January Day

Dan:

For fans of baseball, this is a great offseason. I mean, sure, as a Sox fan it is disappointing the Sox didn’t land Teixeira . . . and even more disappointing that the Yanks did. But as a fan of the game, offseason’s don’t get much better than this. Usually, most big free agents sign in a flurry between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And by New Year’s, we’re left to a long, eventless winter of waiting for pitchers and catchers.

But not this year. Here we are in early January, and we still have a number of big-name free agents out there — Manny, Abreu, Burrell, Griffey, Dunn, Sheets, Lowe — and it looks like a lot of these guys are still weeks away from signing. There’s every reason to expect important baseball moves to stretch out through this month, leaving us just two weeks shy of pitchers and catchers reporting.

And if that wasn’t good enough, we have the World Baseball Classic in March, meaning we’ll be able to watch meaningful baseball a month early. And, in the meantime, there’s always plenty of fantasy baseball prep to fill in the gaps.

Greatest . . . . offseason . . . . ever.

OTHER THOUGHTS: Beware of reports from baseball writers this time of year. For instance, Jon Heyman reports that “teams are lining up to sign Griffey.” But his source? Griffey’s agent. Heyman tends to do this a lot, and as a result he is often called a shill for Scott Boras. I never thought much of that until this offseason. But it seems Heyman (and he’s not the only reporter who does this) is too willing to just take what an agent says (a highly suspect source) and report it. And probably more often than not, that info turns out to be wrong. To me, Heyman loses a lot of credibility by letting himself be played by agents instead of doing some real digging and verifying. . . . . . . I’m excited by the launch of the MLB Network, and fully plan to waste much of my life watching it now. But I’m not too excited by the fact it is starting off by replaying the game’s of the 2008 World Series (YAWN!) over and over and over again. I’d like to see it broken up a bit, with more highlight shows, hot stove reports, old games, etc. I’m optimistic. . . . . . . Was that my brother who was blogging last week? I didn’t recognize his work because some of what he said made sense. I imagine we’ll next hear from him come prediction time in the spring, when he’ll be back to his more nonsensical form.