Bloody Sox

Red Sox Rants — and other random opinions about sports

Archive for the month “May, 2009”

Big Papi or Stan Papi?

Prior to the 1979 season, the Red Sox traded the colorful — and effective — Bill Lee to the Montreal Expos for a utility infielder named Stan Papi. The next season Papi batted .188, with 1 home run and 6 RBI.* Compare that with David Ortiz’s current .194 average. I’m sad to say, the Sox might be better off with Stan Papi than Big Papi, because Stan, at least, could come off the bench to play the field.

It has gotten so bad for Ortiz that is now writing glowing articles about his outs.

If the Sox don’t mind having a black hole in their lineup — that spot which virtually never produces a hit — I’ll be glad to stand at the plate, and I’ll do it for just $1 million a season, not $12 million.

*As an aside, Bill Lee won 16 games for a crummy Montreal team AND batted .216, in one of the worst Red Sox trades this side of Eric Gagne.


A privilege or a right?

I was listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio this morning as I drove to work. They got on the topic of whether or not Michael Vick would be reinstated to play in the NFL now that he is out of prison. The topic then swung to the question of whether playing professional sports is a right or a privilege. I had some strong feelings about this, so sent them an e-mail, which I’m reproducing here:

Dear Mike and Mike,

I wanted to comment on this issue of whether or not playing professional sports is a privilege or a right. Basically, it is both. Making an NFL team does take a lot of hard work, but if you are not born with the requisite physical attributes you will not be playing in the NFL, no matter how hard you work. Period.

I played five years of organized football in junior high school and high school. My father was a well-regarded football coach, who at one point was asked to join the staff of Lou Saban. I loved the game and I played hard. I lifted weights beginning in sixth grade. My father would put me through drills during the summer to prepare me for the fall. When I was a senior in high school, I was one of the starting middle linebackers in our three-four defense… I was 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 140 lbs. (That winter, I would be captain of the high school wrestling team in the 132 lb weight class.)

There was no way my career in football would continue after high school. No matter how much I worked, I wasn’t fast enough or big enough to play college ball, let alone pro ball.

Golic, you worked hard, but you were born with the physique that made your hard work able to pay off. And, no matter how hard you were going to work, you would never be the quarterback or a safety or a wide receiver. The physical attributes with which we are born — something we do NOT earn — makes all the difference.

As to whether or not Mike Vick should have the right to play in the NFL again. Of course he has the right. However, owners also have the right to say, “Michael, we do not want our team associated with a sociopath.” But don’t kid yourself into thinking that the only reason Michael Vick has the right to play pro football is because of his hard work. This is a man blessed with amazing natural talent. Yes, he had to nurture that talent with hard work… I’m not saying he coasted to his career. But there was a lot of good fortune in the mix.

And there is, indeed, a further element of “privilege” involved in playing pro sports. That privilege does not involve the owner of the team, but the fans. Professional athletes do not build homes, heal wounds, teach children, protect our neighborhoods. They play games. That their efforts at this are highly rewarded is only because of the fans… the doctors, teachers, police officers, carpenters who buy the tickets and watch the games.

Golic, do you really think there was that much value in what you did in the NFL? Really? You were one of 22 entertainers on the field at any one time. I’m not saying your job was not grueling and hard. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been. But that there was value in it is only due to the perception of the fans that what you did had value. In that way, there is a privilege bestowed upon you by the fans. That privilege is that your job existed at all.

A modest proposal!

There’s lots of talk about the Sox acquiring a big bat. Among the suggestions is trading Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard for Victor Martinez. This is a stupid idea, and will never happen anyway. Martinez would be a nice addition to the Sox for a year or two, but he’s 30 years old. This isn’t the era of the steroid. Not so many players are going to be productive through their mid and later 30s. Trading two or more young pitchers for him would be a bad deal. If the Sox can land Martinez with one pitching prospect, I’d say consider it. Otherwise it isn’t worth it.

But I do think the Sox need to shake things up. In a big way. Rather than trade a young prospect, I suggest making a blockbuster deal. Trade Josh Beckett. He’s still in his prime, still has good stuff, so he should bring a nice return. The Sox have good young pitchers waiting to join the rotation and they need spots for them. Beckett will be a free agent after 2010, so I doubt he’ll still be a Red Sox in 2011. Now is the right time to trade him.

But who do they get in return and how do they plug him into the lineup. If they bring in a DH-type, they would basically be throwing in the towell on David Ortiz… and the $20-plus million they still owe him through next year. (Perhaps they can tie him into the deal with Beckett, no doubt eating most of his salary.) They could surely use a shortstop, but who is available, and who will have that much of an impact? Perhaps the Sox can pry Michael Young from the Rangers. But Young isn’t… young that is. Josh Beckett is worth more than he is. So throw in one of the Rangers young catchers. Beckett and Ortiz for Michael Young and Taylor Teagarten. I’ve got to believe the Rangers would strongly consider that deal now that they are in the pennant race.

Now you have a deal. You’ve got an immediate impact player like Young and a catcher for the future. And you’ve got room on the roster for Buchholz or Bowden.

“Papi stinks!”

I didn’t say that. David Ortiz did. According to

“I’m sorry, guys,” Oritz said. “I don’t feel like talking right now. Just put down, ‘Papi stinks.’ “

This is one of the saddest comments I’ve seen written about Boston sports. David Ortiz has been so huge since he came to Boston in 2003. In the six plus seasons he has been the Red Sox designated hitter, Ortiz has been a superman, the hero of countless late inning rallies. He was always the anti-Manny.

If you had had to put money on which player would have the lower batting average by mid-May, David Ortiz or Jason Varitek, my guess is that you would have chosen Varitek. But now Ortiz has taken over the position of most empty spot in the batting order. This is a problem for a designated hitter and the man batting third in the lineup.

The big question is, what the heck is the problem? Is it a mechanical problem, a mental problem or is Big Papi just spent? In other words, can this be fixed? Big batters often fade out quickly (see Mo Vaughn). Is that the case with Big Papi? If so, how do Red Sox management react? They owe Ortiz around $25 million for the remainder of this year and next.  But they can’t leave him in the number three slot at this rate. And what’s the use of a $25 million number seven hitter? (Although they Sox are paying Julio Lugo $9 million per year to bat ninth!)

Unless Ortiz can turn it around and regain his old power, it seems to me David’s days with the Sox are numbered. The Sox would be better off with a young batter at DH, someone with the versatility to play the field and give manager Terry Francona more substitution options.  At some point GM Theo Epstein will acknowledge this. Then I hope everyone manages the transition gracefully.

Because no matter how poorly he is playing now, Ortiz will always be one of the great Red Sox players of all time. He deserves the respect of the fans and a dignified exit from this team.

Did he or didn’t he? Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

I was amused by the anger and consternation I heard on ESPN radio this morning as Mike and Mike discussed the Manny Ramirez suspension with myriad experts. Manny Ramirez has manipulated his way into and out of contracts for years. Why would anyone be surprised that he used performance enhancers to con the Dodgers into giving him $45 million? 

What is especially humorous is these same baseball pundits (Buster Olney, Jason Stark, Tim Kurchian [apologies if I have misspelled a name or two]) have all argued that we shouldn’t keep steroid users out of the Cooperstown because we don’t know who did and who did not use. This is an absurd argument. It is called the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Stats. Induction is a subjective matter, and there is nothing inherently wrong in saying, “There is strong evidence that Mr. X used steroids, so I am not going to vote for him.” Do the police decide not to arrest someone for murder because they have unsolved murders?

There is hardly a punishment for using steroids. The players lose the portion of their salaries represented by the length of the suspension. In Manny’s case, about $7.7 million. Okay, that’s a lot of money, but he’s still getting $38 million out of this latest contract, and you can bet he would not have been making this money if he hadn’t juiced last year. Overall, Manny will come out much better than he would have had he not been using PEDs. The Dodgers can’t fire him. If you don’t withhold election to the Hall of Fame, then you in effect do not punish him — or Clemens, or Bonds, or A-Rod — at all. Tim Kurchian yesterday said that living with the stigma of being a cheater is punishment, but if you sweep it under the rug by inducting them into Cooperstown, you erase that punishment as well.

Manny has been enabled in his miscreant deeds, mostly by a media willing to write it all off as Manny being Manny. PEDs will not be abolsihed from pro sports until we all generate enough outrage… and that has to start with the media.

Futility Infielder

After today’s 5 to 3 loss to Tampa Bay, the Sox have now lost four out of the last six games, three of four to division rival Rays. What do each of these losses have in common? Julio Lugo started at shortstop. What do the two wins , and the 11 straight before that have in common? Julio Lugo did NOT start at short stop.

Coincidence? Jinx?

No. Julio Lugo sucks. Brad Penny, today’s starting pitcher, had pretty good stuff. But there were at least two fielding plays Lugo failed to make, both of which extended innings and the second of which cost a run. A few nights ago in Cleveland he lost the game with a four-run error. He’s batting .214.

There is no getting past the fact that the Red Sox are a better team when Lugo is on the DL or at least on the bench. If he weren’t one of the highest paid players on the team, Terry Francona would not be forcing him into the lineup, but they have to play him so Theo Epstein doesn’t look like an idiot for signing him to a ridiculous contract three years ago. Something has to give at some point though. But the question is how many games will they lose because of this player before they make this decision?

13 to Oh!

Why is it that when the Sox are winning, I look at the team and think, “They’re unbeatable,” then they lose two out of three and I’m ready to hit the PANIC button? Last night’s 13 to 0 loss to Tampa Bay was ugly, especially the performance by Sox “ace” Josh Beckett. Even during the winning streak, the starters weren’t overly impressive (besides Tim Wakefield and Justin Masterson). Our concerns that Lester’s extra work load last season would take their toll this season seem to be founded. Beckett is not the pitcher he was in 2007 — and maybe not even the pitcher he was in 2008! The Brad Penny experiment looks as if it may cook itself out before much longer. (When Dice-K is ready to come off the DL, my bet is he replace’s Penny and not Masterson).

Thank god for the bullpen. But the Sox have been relying on them way too much. So much, in fact, that Jonathan Van Every — an outfielder from Pawtucket — had to get the last two outs after Javier Lopez threw 25 ineffective pitches. Lopez stayed in the game in right field!

And I don’t like losing to Tampa Bay this way. They’ve been playing poorly, and I don’t want them to gain any confidence or momentum.

So, all in all a bad night.

By the way, does anyone think it means anything that the only two games the Sox have lost in the past 14 are the ones where Julio Lugo started at shortstop? I’m just wondering.

Post Navigation