Bloody Sox

Red Sox Rants — and other random opinions about sports

Archive for the month “December, 2009”

In defense of the fan

The usually reliable Chad Finn has a sorry post on his Touching All the Bases blog. It is sad for a number of reasons, beginning with the lack of any heart on the part of the author. Finn wants us to forget passion for the game and just look at is the metrics, as if just raw numbers are the measure of a player or a team. He wants to strip away loyalty to a player — in this case Mike Lowell — and replace it with the reference book.

 But there is nothing rational about being a fan of a team or a player. Think about it. Is it rational to pay $50 (plus probably another $75 or more for parking, food etc…)  to attend a game played by adult millionaire men? Who would do such a thing? But we do, because we are fans.

So, of course, you can make a case for trading Mike Lowell. You can make a case for trading anyone, but if you do not have an attachment to these players, why are you a fan? I was an ardent Red Sox fan for 35 years before they won a World Series title. If I were only concerned with the numbers — i.e. the number of World Series championships — I would have been a Yankee fan. And I don’t feel more strongly about the Red Sox now that they have won two World Series. In fact, I would trade those crowns for the chance to watch Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, and Carl Yastrzemski in their primes play the game again.

Mike Lowell has always been a pawn in the Red Sox plans… even, in fact, before he was a member of the team, when he was included as the salary-dump in the trade that brought Josh Beckett to Boston. He was the odd man out last winter when the Sox were chasing Mark Teixeira, and again this summer when they landed Victor Martinez. And this off season he was actually traded to the Rangers, in a deal that fell through when Texas learned he needed thumb surgery.

Through it all, Mike Lowell has played hard with class and dignity, which is more than can be said for the Boston media or even Theo Epstein for that matter (trading a guy who needs surgery is not very classy).  And, despite Finn’s commentary about how often Mike Lowell has been injured the past two seasons, Lowell has played in comparably as many games in that span (232) as Finn favorite J.D. Drew (246). Lowell has more RBI (148 to 132). And Lowell plays hurt, unlike Drew who takes himself out of games with a hangnail.

Look, I’m not suggesting Lowell is a better — or even as good a — player as Drew. I’m just saying you can’t say that Drew and his $14 million salary are THAT much more valuable than Lowell. And I can tell you that I’d rather watch Mike Lowell play baseball than J.D. Drew. Lowell plays with passion, while Drew approaches the game the way an accountant approaches an audit. And, come to think of it, that appears to be the way Chad Finn approaches being a fan of the Red Sox.

Theo Epstein may very well trade Mike Lowell before the start of the season. If he does, a lot of fans will be sad, but we’ll get over it. Until then, however, Mike Lowell deserves better than to have the likes of Chad Finn beating the drum in favor of casting him to the garbage heap.

Welcome back… Mike?

Well, the Red Sox front office really botched this one!

They have been trying to unload Mike Lowell almost from the day they re-signed him following the 2007 championship season. It was like they low-balled him an offer back then in order to appease the fan-base, then were surprised when he shook off a better offer from the Phillies to come back to Bean Town. Last winter he was headed to the scrap heap when the Sox were trying to sign Mark Teixeira. Over the summer he was the odd man out after the Sox traded for Victor Martinez. This off season, they actually did trade Lowell, only to have him returned as damaged goods, when the Texas Rangers medical people discovered what the Red Sox medical people failed to. That is, that Mike Lowell needs surgery to repair a ligament in his thumb! This is the kind of inconceivable error (if it was an error) that really tarnishes the “efficient machine” image Theo Epstein likes to cultivate.

Speaking of which, the Yankees have now countered the Red Sox signing of John Lackey to a long-term deal by trading for Javier Vazquez, and there are some who think this is a much better move than the Lackey signing. Tim Marchman writing on SI.com thinks so:

Pitching and defensive enough for 2010?

I’ve been mulling the acquisitions of pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Mike Cameron, as the Red Sox gear up for 2010. I guess the thought is this: If you can’t match them bat for bat, then beat them with solid pitching and defense. You can’t argue with that. The pundits are saying the Sox have the deepest rotation in the division. Maybe, but didn’t they say the same thing at the start of the 2009 season?

That’s the thing with pitching. You can’t have too much of it, because pitchers can be so erratic from season to season, so subject to injury. John Lackey has had arm issues the past two seasons, and he’s no spring chicken, so it seems to me a big gamble to give him a five year contract worth $82.5 million. I can see being shy about giving Jason Bay that kind of contract, but is Lackey any less of a risk? I hope he doesn’t turn out to be the next Matt Clement. And spending $15 million on soon-to-be 37-year-old Mike Cameron also seems a little excessive.

And it is fine having five or six quality starters, but we all know innings seven to nine belong to the bullpen, and I don’t think the Red Sox have done enough (adding Boof Bonser) to shore up the relief corps. We all know Jonathan Papelbon struggled all season, high- (or low-) lighted by the meltdown in game three against the Angels. Manny Delcarman regressed. Okijima was okay, but not lights out. Daniel Bard has the raw talent, but is still somewhat untested. And Ramon Ramirez tapered off as the season went along.

Am I wrong to worry the Sox might take 4 to 2 leads into the seventh inning of a lot of games only to lose 6 to 5?

Well, the season is still a long way off, so who knows what Theo Epstein might have up his sleeve next. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Goodbye, Mike Lowell

Looks like the Sox are intent on trading Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers. I’ll be sad if this transaction goes through — Lowell must still pass medical exams and that’s no gimme. Lowell has proven to be one of the classiest members of the Red Sox organization over the past four seasons. And a performer. Yes, the past two seasons his hip has caused a reduction in playing time and defense, but look at the way he has gutted it out. J.D. Drew takes himself out of games if his dandruff is acting up. Even recovering from off-season hip surgery, Lowell had a higher batting average than Drew (.290 vs. .279), and more RBIs in fewer games (75 vs. 68). I’m not saying that at this stage of his career that Mike is a better player, just that he’s nearly as productive offensively. And, I appreciate his approach to the game far more. That is, give me a team of Mike Lowells and I’ll win a World Series… give me a team of J.D. Drews and I’ll be watching the playoffs from home.

(An aside: It is interesting that the Sox are getting a young catcher in return. I guess you can bet that Varitek won’t be back in 2011.)

Of course, no one from the outside knows what goes on behind closed doors at Fenway, but I find it interesting the Sox would rather trade Mike Lowell than David Ortiz. Yes, Ortiz’s bat may still be a bit more potent — although his production in clutch situations last year was abismal. But I’d rather keep a guy like Lowell, who could play third, first and DH (as he is expected to do for Texas) than Ortiz, who would be a weak first base sub at best.

Anyway, I hope this move works out for Mike. I expect him to have a good year for Texas, one that will have Red Sox nation envious. It might even end up being poetically just that Texas eeks out the wild card playoff spot ahead of Boston based on the production of Mike Lowell.

But whatever happens, I’ll always think of Mike Lowell as one of the great Red Sox, both for his on-field exploits, and his character off the field. Thank you for giving us what you had, Mike.

Scutaro era has begun!

I get the feeling the signing of Marco Scutaro is just house-cleaning for Theo Epstein as he prepares for his big party, the Winter Meetings, which begin this week in Indianapolis. With the chore of filling the shortstop position for 2010 and probably 2011, he can concentrate on the bigger issues facing his club. Namely, finding a left fielder, first baseman (or third basemen, if you leave Kevin Youkilis at first), a number three or four starting pitcher, and restocking the bullpen with one or two more arms.

Trouble is, that’s a lot to do. Which is why it was good to get Scutaro signed now. I’m not thrilled by that signing, but I’m not troubled by it either. Some people have compared it to the signing of Julio Lugo, but that’s ridiculous. Lugo’s contract was longer and bigger, meaning the Sox had more to lose if Lugo turned into a pumpkin at midnight. When Theo signed Lugo, it was to be the Sox long-term shortstop. It’s clear that that is not the intention with Scutaro. He’s here as a decent shortstop-gap. Lugo was expected to be the leadoff hitter, and Scutaro will probably be batting from the ninth spot… much less pressure.

So I am okay with this signing, but certainly not excited, so I’ll be looking forward to the events of the coming week!

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