Bloody Sox

Red Sox Rants — and other random opinions about sports

Archive for the month “July, 2010”

Playing for the future

It is clear from today’s trade deadline transactions that the Red Sox front office has given up on this season. The deals they made were to bring a few prospects and to clear the roster for minor league callups from Pawtucket. It’s no coincidence that Ryan Kalish — one of the bright young talents in the organization — made his debut today. At first I thought this was a smoke screen, a bit of razzle dazzle so that Sox fans wouldn’t be so upset that no big trades were made. But now I think it was an honest acknowledgment from Theo Epstein that this is a lost season and it is time to once again think about the bridge to the future.

I’ll write more about this after the dust settles.

Slow start catching up with the Red Sox?

It’s the eve of the trading deadline in Major League Baseball. The Red Sox have yet to make a deal, despite the fact that they clearly have a sub-par bullpen, one so bad that it almost ensures the Sox will miss the playoffs. Everyone seems to agree on this point; everyone except, perhaps, Theo Epstein the man whose opinion matters most.

I’m not sure how I feel about the Red Sox chances to make the post season at this point. They are 7.5 games behind first place Yankees in the AL East and 5.5 games behind the wildcard-leading Rays… and don’t forget the Minnesota Twins who just improved their bullpen and are only two behind the Red Sox.

The Red Sox goal each year is to win 95 games, which they think gets them to the playoffs. The Sox will have to win 37 of the remaining 60 games to reach that win total. That means they will need to win at a .610 pace. Do-able, but difficult. And, I don’t think 95 wins actually will do it this year. Not unless the Rays (or Yankees) implode. It may take 96 or 97 wins.

There were those who said not to worry about the Red Sox slow start in April. It’s a long season, they argued, and the Sox can catch up. When they got within a game of first in June it seemed these pundits were right. But now is when we really begin to feel the effects of losing nine games in the first two weeks of the season. If the Sox had played even .500 ball in early April, they would be a lot closer to a playoff spot now, and Theo might feel the need to make a trade. As it is, he will continue to dither — not sure whether he is a buyer or a seller.

If you think I’m off-base here, read this article from the Boston Globe, and pay attention to these two paragraphs:

At 58-44, the Sox are in third place in the American League East. That is close enough to contemplate making improvements, but not at the expense of the organization’s best prospects.

Within two weeks, general manager Theo Epstein will have a much better feel for how aggressive he should be. A four-game series in New York against the Yankees Aug. 6-9 will be telling.

Think about that. Theo might wait to see the outcome of a key, four-game August series with the Yankees to decide if the team needs help. Isn’t that a little like waiting until after you drive your car into a tree to determine if you should fasten your seat belt?

Look, I don’t know what Theo should do at this point. I don’t blame him for being miserly with his prospects. Yet, there’s a part of me that fears they will be harming their own future by over-using Daniel Bard. Bringing in a reliable bullpen arm NOW, might save the Sox this year and for years to come. It might also make the rest of this season more exciting. But we’ll wait until after the trading deadline to decide if we need to fasten our seat belts for this ride.

Johnny Demon?

I enjoy the work of Peter Abraham who handles most of the blogging duty on the boston.com Red Sox blog, Extra Bases. He does a great job keeping us informed about the team and does so in an entertaining way. But I must raise an objection to this recent post, in which he encourages fans to give Johnny Damon an ovation when Damon returns to Fenway tomorrow night as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Pete’s point is that Damon played a key role in the Red Sox winning the World Series in ’04 by driving in six runs in the Sox seventh game victory over the Yankees in the ALCS. For that reason, we should cheer him and make him feel good.

Just once it would be refreshing to hear someone lecture the players about appreciating the fans. It is our dedication to our teams that makes it possible for players like Damon to get paid ungodly amounts of money to PLAY A GAME.

Pete says the Red Sox would not have won the World Series in ’04 without Damon. Fair enough, but you know who is even more responsible for the Sox victory? The fans who supported this team through 86 years of heartarche. Without us Damon would likely be the assistant night manager at the Piggly Wiggly.

Sure, Johnny Damon was a good player for the Red Sox, and was one of the most beloved members of those teams. Why, though, should we appreciate that he took more money to go play for someone else, especially our arch rivals? Of course it is Damon’s right to take the money and run, a strictly business decision, as Pete says. But why this double standard? The players can disregard the fans to go play for a few million dollars more than they’d be making to stay in Boston, but the fans can’t allow their emotions to enter into who they cheer for?

Emotion is all there is to being a fan. It certainly isn’t rational. Who would rationally pay hundreds of dollars (adding in tickets, transportation, parking, food and souvenirs) for the right to take their kids to spend three hours watching millionaires play a game? Seriously. We do it because we have an emotional connection to the team. Johnny Damon couldn’t care less about that, so why should we care about him?

Mike Lowell took less money to stay in Boston, where management has treated him pretty shabbily. He was the MVP of the ’07 World Series — arguably as significant in a Sox championship as Damon, yet the pundits at the Globe are continually trying to run him out of town on a rail. The fans, however, love Lowell. We love him because he showed that being in Boston and playing at Fenway was important to him.

I, like most Boston fans I believe, would take Mike Lowell over Johnny Damon any day.

Sox continue their west coast slide into irrelevance

The Red Sox are now eight games out of first place in the AL East and five games out of a playoff spot after losing two very winable games to the Mariners in Seattle over the weekend. On Saturday, Jon Lester was pitching great until Eric Patterson — Eric Patterson?!? — dropped a fly ball in center field. It’s only speculation, but it seems probable that Lester would have kept going smoothly had Patterson been able to make that play. But after the botched fielding, the Mariners scored five runs to beat the Sox 5-1. Yesterday, Dice-K pitched well-enough for the Sox, holding the Mariners to one run over six innings. Then a bad fielding play by Hideki Okajima allowed the winning runs to score.

This was a team built around defense, but bad fielding continues to be its bane. It doesn’t help that the offense, other than Kevin Youkilis, has been AWOL. This isn’t particularly surprising given the bats which remain sidelined for the Sox (Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez and Jacoby Ellsbury). Which is all the more reason the defense needs to be its sharpest.

The Sox open a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels of Biloxi or whatever they’re called, in whatever city in which the Angels play their games. The Angels just got themselves another arm in Dan Harren. It will be interesting to see if the Angels feel a boost from that acquisition, or if the imminent return of Victor Martinez to the Sox batting order (possibly as early as tonight) gives the Sox a jolt. But even if it does, it may be too little too late. This is where the dithering of Theo Epstein has cost his team. They needed an outfielder with a bat but didn’t get one, thus Eric Patterson playing center field. They needed to bolster the bullpen, but they’ve shied away from any deals to do so, thus Okajima keeps blowing games. By the time the trading deadline arrives on Friday, the writing may already be on the Green Monster — which may make the Red Sox sellers instead of buyers for the first time in many seasons. Perhaps this is for the best, but we’ll never know how good this team might have been with a little help from the front office.

Trade deadline? Or dead air?

Is it me or does this year’s approaching trade deadline seem like a real dud? Major League teams have until sometime on July 31 to make trades without the players involved having to pass through waivers. I’m not really sure exactly what this means, except that it gets harder to trade players after that date. So good players from bad teams are often acquired by playoff contenders around this time of the year. The bad teams benefit by dumping salary and acquiring some (hopefully) good young talent in return. Good teams benefit by getting someone who can (hopefully) help them make the playoffs.

Last year the Red Sox acquired Victor Martinez from the Indians. The year before they dumped Manny WhatsHisName and brought Jason Bay on board. Some trades work out. Others don’t (eh hem, Greg Gagne anyone?).

And there is always a lot of buzz as the trade deadline approaches. Heck, boston.com even has a feature called “The Buzz” to report news and rumors of trades. But this year the chatter seems very subdued. In fact, I dare you to actually find “The Buzz” on boston.com. It’s such an after thought this year they don’t even have a link to it from their main sports or Red Sox menu.

Here it is, by the way. Just looking at some of the “big” names on the list will give you one clue about why there’s not a lot of building excitement this year. I mean, are we supposed to get hot and sweaty over Chris Iannetta?

But I think something else is going on, as well. I think the lack of real buzz this trade deadline reflects a maturity among the fans of Red Sox Nation. We all recognize that the Red Sox are going to get much better without any trades, when their many injured players begin to return to the lineup. Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett will be back on the mound again within the next few days. Jeremy Hermida is back soon. And it won’t be too much longer after that before Victor Martinez is swinging a bat, and Dustin Pedroia is ranging second base. None of the players available through trade match most of this returning cast.

On top of that, I also think we accepted Theo Epstein’s premise that this is a “bridge” year. We can see that the next few seasons ought to be good ones as the Sox minor leaguers get the call up to Fenway. We understand that there isn’t anyone among available trade options who is enough of a difference maker to make it worth sending away some of our most valuable prospects.

Of course, now that I’ve written this, watch Theo empty the farm to bring in Roy Oswalt or someone like that!

J.D. Drew overrated? Yep.

Sports Illustrated recently polled major league baseball players to learn who among their ranks is the most overrated. Past years it has been Derek Jeter. This year it’s Joba Chamberlain.

Also making this year’s list, at number five, is J.D. Drew, right fielder for the Red Sox. The blogger here takes exception to that ranking, but I tend to agree that Drew is overrated. Look, overrated does not mean bad. It just means that either you do not play up to your pay, your reputation or both. Drew is a good right fielder, a solid hitter, but he is the highest paid position player on the Red Sox and I’d argue that he’s maybe the fourth best non-pitcher on the team.

  • Drew is paid nearly 50% more than Kevin Youkilis. Who would you pick if you were starting a team?
  • Drew makes over 2.5 times as much as Dustin Pedroia. Choose one or the other.
  • Drew makes nearly twice the salary as Victor Martinez. Which player makes your team?

Or look at it this way: You could add three Dustin Pedroia’s to your team for the cost of J.D. Drew, AND you’d have some money left over.

I’m a bit biased, though, as my opinion of Drew was secured during his first season with the Sox. It was a weekend series with the Yankees, the Sox had lost the first game and Drew didn’t play the second game. The next day I read that Francona had given Drew the option to play or not and Drew had chosen to rest! Can you imagine Dwight Evans volunteering to sit out a game against the Yankees?! (By the way, Drew makes nearly $6 million more in one season than Evans made in his entire career. Yea, yea… it’s a different era, but still!)

Is Drew one of the best right fielders in the game? Perhaps, but that’s hardly saying much with the state of outfielders. Certainly J.D. Drew is no Dwight Evans.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily agreeing that J.D. Drew is the fifth most overrated playing in the Major Leagues. I suspect there are many more unworthy candidates. It is interesting, though, that this poll represents the opinion of other players.

Darth Vader is dead

The Evil Empire has lost its leader. George Steinbrenner has died. How much do I care? Not very much really, and I stand by my prescient prediction from January. Steinbrenner was a master at shifting coin from baseball fans’pockets into his own. What a great man!

Hey, I’m not happy he has died. But I’m not shedding any tears, either.

What is LeBron thinking?

As long as the Celtics are in the thick of things, I have some mild interest in what goes on in the NBA. After that, not so much.

But, as a sports fan in general, I have been relentlessly subjected to the circus that is the LeBron James free agency. And, frankly, I feel like the guy who has to deal with what comes out the south end of the elephants. On one level, I blame this on the celebrity sports media, also known as today’s sports journalism. Listening to ESPN Radio over the past month has been almost nauseating. They push this story, because it produces ratings, I guess. LeBron has been most willing to take part in this devil’s handshake from the start. I don’t know if he enjoys all the attention or is just happy to benefit from it. Tonight comes the full fruit of this soul-bargaining deal (though which side is the devil and which is trading its soul is a little unclear). Tonight ESPN features a full-hour, prime-time special devoted to James’ announcement about what jersey he’ll be wearing the next five seasons.

If LeBron James announces he’s staying in Cleveland, the whole thing will have just been great theater. But the speculation is that he will be signing with the Miami Heat. If that’s what James goes on TV to announce tonight, it will be one of the most classless acts performed by a sports star since Michael Vick electrocuted his last dog. Cleveland fans will rightly ask why he had to do this on national television? Is it for the money? If so, how much more does he need from this deal? If not the money, does LeBron truly need more publicity, more attention? This would make him one of the world’s truly great narcissists, especially after all the attention he already gets.

James is entitled to choose to play wherever he wants and for whatever amount of money he can get. I think the people of Cleveland would understand this, even under the cloud of their great disappointment. But if he rubs their noses in this decision on national television for no other reason than a few dollars and an hour’s worth of prime time attention, he will rightly be reviled by all of Ohio, and certainly by me.

This is why I would be surprised if tonight’s announcement is anything but James telling the world he is staying home. Anything else would be so utterly self-centered he’d even be risking lucrative endorsement deals. I mean, who would want to be associated with such a human being?

Paging Dr. Pierce… paging Dr. Pierce…

With the latest news that Jason Varitek is now going to be on the disabled list for six weeks or more, the Red Sox injury problems have gone from dire to almost comical. I expect any minute now to see Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers show up in the M*A*S*H Unit that the Red Sox locker has become.

Here are the current Red Sox casualties (in order of magnitude of loss):

  • Dustin Pedroia, on the disabled list. Probably the team’s biggest loss, out until around the first week of August.
  • Victor Martinez, on the disabled list. Out until at least the return from the All-Star break.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, on the disabled list. Out until who know when?
  • Josh Beckett, on the disabled list. Mending, and soon to be back in the lineup (we hope at something like his old effectiveness).
  • Clay Buchholz, not on the disabled list, but missing one start. Hopefully pitching at his top form soon.
  • Jason Varitek, on the disabled list. Probably won’t be back in the lineup until mid August.
  • Mike Cameron, active but hurting and needs rest regularly.
  • Jeremy Hermida, on the disabled list. Making progress.
  • Mike Lowell, on the disabled list. Probably will never be in a Red Sox uniform again.
  • Jed Lowrie, on the disabled list or something like it. Perhaps in Never-Never Land.
  • Manny Delcarmen, on the disabled list. Thank god.
  • J.D. Drew, active, but needs to sit out a game whenever a fan from any of the first three rows sneezes behind him. Fans have taken to referring to him as Nancy, though this is a scurrilous insult to the actual Nancy Drew, a plucky and resourceful teenage detective.

So the Red Sox need to keep pace with the powerful Yankees and the talented Rays with a daily lineup including names like Kevin Cash, Gustavo Molina, Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Eric Patterson, and Bill Hall (and probably a guy or two who ain’t here yet). And their bullpen is Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Sleepy, Grumpy, Pamela Sue Martin, Gary Burghoff, and the dog from Family Guy.

The trading deadline is fast approaching. I wonder how much the Sox injury status will effect what Theo does. Will he make deals to fill gaps? Will he assume the walking wounded will return, and instead concentrate on the team’s overall weaknesses (i.e. the bullpen)? Will he decide this just isn’t the Sox year and not waste the prospects?

I suppose it will depend upon how the team hangs in there over the next four weeks. I just hope the M*A*S*H OR doesn’t fill up with even more casualties in the meantime.

Post Navigation