Bloody Sox

Red Sox Rants — and other random opinions about sports

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The Big Dombrowski

Dave Dombrowski has changed the way the Red Sox do business. In a big way. I’m not sure I approve entirely, but I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Dombrowski broke the bank: In prospects to bring Craig Kimbrel to the back end of the bullpen. In dollars to lure David Price to the front end of the rotation. In both cases he demonstrated a lack of worry about hard negotiations. He wanted the players. He paid a big price. Will we regret this? We might if Kimbrel doesn’t pitch as he has so far in his career and Manuel Margot becomes a perennial All-Star. We might if Price starts showing genuine wear and tear, dipping in performance like Justin Verlander and then chooses not to opt-out of his contract and the Sox are still paying him $31 million a year to pitch like a number four starter in 2020.

But that’s the negative view. The positive view is that the Sox ride Price and Kimbrel to another World Series title or two.

The sorrowful Boston Red Sox of 2015

The poor showing by the Boston Red Sox in the three game series at Fenway against the Yankees just before the all-star break was enough to convince me this team didn’t have the game in them to make a real playoff push. They lost two out of three and simply looked underwhelming in a series that was crucial to their fate.

But even I didn’t expect them to be as bad as they have been coming out of the break, losing four to the Los Angeles Angels, and looking completely over-matched, like Northeastern University looks when they play the Sox in the opening exhibition game in spring training. No, I take that back. Northeastern looks excited to be playing that game. These Sox look apathetic and tired.

The players take a lot of the blame for this, of course. But ultimately, it is the front office, led by GM Ben Cherington that put this collection of over-fed, under-performing fat cats together.

I saw no evidence of a plan when he built this team over the winter. It appeared haphazard, with the only goal being not to sign anyone to more than a five-year contract. So, while they let Boston legend and World Series hero Jon Lester leave town, they paid a combined $150 million for Rusney Castillo and Rick Porcello. And though they committed to Castillo, they paid another $90 million for Hanley Ramirez, who would occupy an outfield spot and pretty much assure that Castillo or Mookie Betts would spend the year in the minors. Are you going young, or are you stuffing worn out veterans into the lineup? Cherington could not make up his mind, apparently.

And speaking of worn-out veterans, there’s Pablo Sandoval, who already looks like one might have expected him to look toward the last years of the contract, not the front end. Where are they going to hide this guy next year and the year after and the year after that? He can’t keep playing third base.

It is so easy to find complaints about how this team has been handled. Why didn’t the club insist Dustin Pedroia take a rehab stint? He has yet to have a hit since coming off the DL on Friday. Where has Brock Holt been? It’s like the team is trying to keep the lid on their loan All-Star.

Well it really doesn’t matter at this point, because this team has no chance to make the playoffs. They will, however, come alive for the last few weeks of the season, when it no longer matters, because that’s just the way they do it.

The real problem at this point is that the team barely has anyone of value that they can trade for future pieces. Really, who would give any player of value for anyone from the Red Sox? And even that doesn’t matter too much, because I don’t think Ben Cherington has the skill to swing a trade that results in good return. (Think John Lackey for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.)

So we’re really left watching the youngsters on the team, and keeping our fingers crossed that they begin to fulfill the promise we’ve been told about.

Tonight an exciting rookie makes his major league debut. But Brian Johnson hasn’t pitched in 15 days. I will not be surprised if he looks rusty against the hard-hitting line-up of the Houston Astros. In short, this feels like a mis-management of the youngster. But that’s another story.

Quick playoff predictions

Bold playoff predictions!

The first pitch of the baseball playoffs will be thrown shortly, so I want to get my predictions in now:

National League

  • Reds beat the Phillies in four games (yes, I’m predicting a major upset!)
  • Braves sweep the Giants
  • Reds beat the Braves in six games

American Leauge

  • Twins beat the Yankees in four games
  • Rangers beat the Rays in four games
  • Rangers beat the Twins in seven

World Series

  • Rangers beat the Reds in six games

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?

Instant Replay in Baseball? Please, God, NOOO!

Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio were pushing for instant replay in baseball after the bad call by umpire Jim Joyce cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game last night. I think instant replay is a terrible idea, so I had to respond to Mike and Mike and sent them the following e-mail:

Dear Mike and Mike,

I just have to offer my contrary opinion about instant replay in baseball. So Jim Joyce made a mistake. Big deal. It happens. What if the pitcher had lost a no hitter/perfect game on an error by his short stop? Or, imagine this scenario: Instead of on a ball in play, the perfect game was lost on a third strike that was called a ball? Next pitch, home run. Or the grounds crew didn’t adequately work the infield and the perfect game was lost on a bad hop?

Umpires are part of the game. The whole game. Maybe the pitcher didn’t even really deserve to be in position for a perfect game. Maybe in the third inning that third strike call was six inches off the plate and the batter should have taken first on a walk (I’m making that up, since I didn’t see the game, but I hope you get my point).

Instant replay is the worst thing to happen to the NFL (not counting Jerry Jones) in the last 30 years. The officials have gotten worse since IR was instituted. And how often have you seen this happen: The TV announcers see the instant replay, and say, “I don’t see any incontrovertible evidence here. They can’t overturn the call.” After five more excruciating minutes, the referee does, in fact, over turn the call. (Or it can happen the other way around, of course.)

All sports is about people performing… or not performing. Even the officials.

I’m sure Mike and Mike will never see this message, but it makes me feel better to write it.

Steroids and the Hall of Fame

Isn’t yesterday’s admission by Mark McGwire that he used performance-enhancing drugs a little like Liberace coming out of the closet?

So let the reactions begin!

By all accounts, McGwire is a decent guy, so I’m sorry he is going through this. But at least he’s finally getting it out there and perhaps can put it behind him as he begins a new career as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The question remains, however, what about the Hall of Fame? Should McGwire or any PED user be inducted into the Hall? My answer is, No.

The Hall of Fame should not just be about objective numbers. And it is not. If it were, there would be no need to keep players on the ballot more than one year. They would either make it on one vote or they wouldn’t. That the thinking about players — see Jim Ed Rice — changes over time shows that this is a very subjective process. And I like that. The Hall of Fame is the place we immortalize the baseball players who we want future generations to know, players whose exploits on the field deserve to be remembered 100 years from now. Cheaters do not deserve this honor. Period.

If you put Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, or Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame you are allowing them to cheat the clean players twice; first on the field and then in immortality.

There are those who will argue that because we don’t know who did what that we can’t just single out those players who got caught. I hope these people are never prosecuting attorneys… Can you see their closing arguments?  “Yes, the evidence of guilt in this murder trial is overwhelming, but you can’t convict the defendant because other murderers in other cases have yet to be caught.”

The other argument you hear is that players who cheated in other ways are in the Hall, players like the notorious spit-baller, Gaylord Perry, and George Brett who got caught with a corked bat. I admit there is some validity to this argument, but it is also different. There are people on the field, umpires and opposing managers, who can — and do — catch these cheaters. And when they are caught, there are consequences. But there is no way to catch a PED cheater during the game. There is no way the umpire can detect a steroid user. No, taking drugs is a different and more insidious form of cheating. Since the players involved already cashed their paychecks, already “set records,” what other way can they be punished? If you elect them to the Hall, then you validate their cheating, and create absolutely no consequences for the deed. It is not fair to the clean players and it is not fair to the game.

Keep McGwire out.

Some salve for the wound

Red Sox fans can take solace in the fact that the Yankees’ unfair advantage has not gone unnoticed by one of baseball’s top writers, here. Truly, you have to wonder what Derek Jeter feels about this championship deep down in his heart. What do all the Yankees feel? Relief, probably. But it is hard to see how they can be proud when they have such an unfair advantage over every other team in the sport.

Youkilis on the loose!

Youk on the loose!

Youk on the loose!

How would you like to be 20-year-old Tigers’ pitcher Rick Porcello and see an angry Kevin Youkilis bearing down on you?! Well, maybe a dose of madness is what the Red Sox have needed, a way to expend the frustration of recent weeks.

The man everyone keeps trying to write-off, Mike Lowell, came into the last night’s game after Youk was ejected and only hit two home runs. There is only one reason (okay, maybe two) Mike Lowell isn’t the full-time DH on this team: Because there’s no way Theo wants to be paying Big Papi $13 million or so to be polishing the dugout bench with his ass. (And the second might just be Terry Francona feels more loyalty to Ortiz — though Lowell won him his second World Series championship.) But check out the batting statistics of the two:

  • In 349 plate appearances this year, Mike Lowell has 13 home runs, 57 RBI, and is batting .297.
  • In 434 plate appearances, David Ortiz has 15 home runs, 62 RBI, and is hitting a measly .220.
  • Both men have 23 doubles.
  • Lowell’s OPS is .836, Ortiz’s is .711.

There is just no rational reason Ortiz should be in the lineup on a regular basis and there’s every reason to keep Lowell’s bat active — THE SOX NEED OFFENSE.

Even against right-handed pitchers it makes sense to play Lowell as DH. Ortiz is batting .219, with an OPS of .707 against right-handers, while Lowell has a .301 average and and OPS of .807.

Theo Epstein needs to make this easy for Terry: Put Ortiz on the DL or designate him for assignment. Right now he is nothing but an anchor sinking this team — his bat is woeful, and he provides no position depth. His presence on the roster is why Kevin Youkili had to play left field in two games against the Yankees. It’s no wonder Youk is frustrated — just look at that face!!!

It’s time to write off David Ortiz’s remaining contract as payment for past performance.

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.

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