11-3-2011: On the search for a manager…

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but do you really want your next Boston Red Sox manager to look like THIS?

image courtesy NESN

image courtesy the Boston Globe

The guy might know his baseball, but he looks like a total dork (anyone remember Gary Cole as the boss from Office Space?). He also came off to me as really proud of himself for having a statistical system in place to evaluate players. Dude, it’s not new anymore. Everyone does it; the question is how good are you?

Not that I’m terribly excited by the prospect of Dale Sveum taking over, either; I remember not really liking him as a third base coach.. I’m really glad that they are continuing to interview candidates.

Why did they fire Terry Francona again?

Link 10-12-2011: How it all went down in September

Finally, the sordid details of the problems in the Red Sox clubhouse have come out. The Globe’s Bob Hohler lays it all out for us. The lowlights include a dysfunctional and fractured clubhouse, a “me-first” attitude among most of the players, and a general spoiled brat, complaining attitude.

Looking at this, I have to place a big part of the blame on Josh Beckett. He’s the guy who should have stepped up and talked to these guys who were getting out of line. John Lackey was the new guy, and would have been ostracized if he had pulled this stuff on his own, and Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are followers (though they didn’t have to be); they couldn’t have been like this without Beckett leading the chicken-and-beer-fueled charge. Instead we hear that Beckett was grousing that he fell out of contention for the Cy Young, and veterans like David Ortiz yakking about an RBI which should have been added to his stat line. Just disgraceful and disgusting. No wonder Terry Francona and Theo Epstein want to leave.

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10-03-2011: Thank you, Terry

The news broke last week: Terry Francona will not be back as manager of our Boston Red Sox. Thank you for eight amazing years, Terry. In the aftermath of the annoucement, it seems like the top management wanted him gone, and Tito graciously bowed out over Theo Epstein’s protests.

Looking back over the past eight years, you have to tip your cap for the job he’s done. When he was hired, no one expected the run of success the Sox have enjoyed until now. When the Sox ended their 86-year drought by coming back against the Yankees, Francona was at the helm. Francona’s got some awesome people skills – he had the trust of the players for almost the whole time, and I’m not sure that many managers could have lived with Manny Ramirez that long. Maybe more importantly, Francona handled the Boston media like a pro, never getting flustered, never letting things get out of proportion, never throwing his guys under the bus. Even with this year’s September debacle, Francona never named names or lost it publicly.

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9-29-2011: RIP to the Red Sox

Last night was such a fitting end to the Red Sox’ 2011 season. With the Sox up 3-2 and the Rays trailing New York 7-0, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that, at worst, we’d be playing that one-game playoff today. But one rain delay, a Dan Johnson pinch-hit home run and a Jonathan Papelbon collapse later, it was suddenly gone. I just have no words. How do you explain a season where we were roundly picked as the best team in baseball, and we collapse like this? How do you explain THIS (image taken from FanGraphs.com):

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4-20-2011: Saltalamacchia struggling to earn the trust of the staff

Terry Francona hinted that Jarrod Saltalamacchia may not have the full confidence of the pitching staff:

I think sometimes a catcher can put down the same signs, but depending on who it is, the pitcher throws with a little more commitment. I think Tek has earned that. It’s always going to be hard for the next guy to come in to compare themselves, the way the game’s being run, with Tek.

I’ve said all season that I think this is a problem, as can be seen by Salty’s catcher ERA this year (7.14) versus that of Jason Varitek (2.40). I can see how it would be hard for anyone as the new guy to follow a guy who’s caught four no-hitters. However, Victor Martinez wasn’t the best defensive catcher, and they had no problem throwing to him last year. Salty may just not have the ability to win over his staff, and that’s a problem. If things don’t change soon, I’d like them to give Mike McKenry a look when they have an opportunity (perhaps when Varitek goes on the DL in June or whenever).

1-24-2011: Papelbon and Ellsbury sign, looking at the recent AL East moves, SS controversy?, the farm system

Warning: long post ahead! If you get bored, check out the countdown to the pitchers and catchers report date here.

Sox avoid arbitration with Papelbon and Ellsbury

Never fear arbitration, Red Sox Nation – Theo Epstein is here. Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury both agreed to new one-year contracts last week, avoiding arbitration despite what were seen to be complex cases. Epstein did the right thing by both players, finalizing the payroll and letting us move on to the more important questions.

For Papelbon, he’s accumulated elite closer stats at a young age, but there are indications that he’s losing his dominance in recent years, and reports that the Sox considered trading him this offseason; that didn’t prevent him from getting a $12M deal for his last year under team control. Should Papelbon leave via free agency after this season, he will almost undoubtedly be a Type A free agent. But those two compensation picks are not guaranteed, since Paps is someone who might actually accept arbitration should the Sox offer it. One look at this year’s reliever deals (apart from Rafael Soriano’s deal), and you’ll see why making $13-15M with the Sox for one season might look better than signing elsewhere, especially if the Yankees (currently with two closers under contract for 2012) are out of the running. Not to mention that several other big-name relievers could hit the market for 2012, including the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton and the Padres’ Heath Bell. This has led to speculation by some that the Sox will try to trade Papelbon during this season, so as to get something for him rather than let him walk for nothing. I think that if the Sox do as well as we all think they will, they will keep him on the squad, and he can walk. It’s worth it if he pitches well.

Then there’s Ellsbury, who looked to be on the up and up until the “unstoppable” Adrian Beltre derailed him for basically all of 2010. With a possible rift between him and the team, questions about his toughness and ability to play regularly, some were arguing that the Sox should try to lowball Ells. That would have been a bad move, and will not work with Scott Boras. As it is, he’s satisfied for now and will try to reestablish his value for next year’s arbitration negotiations.

Manny, Damon and Vernon Wells…

The Rays, Jays and Yankees all made some moves recently in what looks like a bid to catch up with the Red Sox. In what seems like a bad joke, Andrew Friedman reeled in both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez this week. Damon gives them someone who can play left and give Desmond Jennings a chance to take his time, and he can even spell Dan Johnson at first. Manny will probably be the first legitimate DH they’ve ever had.

Name Pos PA AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI BB SO SB Avg OBP SLG OPS wOBA
Damon LF 622 559 151 30 7 13 87 60 61 90 20 0.271 0.344 0.422 0.766 0.351
Ramirez LF 459 397 114 23 3 18 61 65 56 87 3 0.288 0.384 0.491 0.875 0.391

Damon is still a very solid hitter (though the defense is a problem), and with Manny, they may not even feel the loss of Carlos Pena. Both former idiots are aging players and Manny has got his team chemistry issues, but winning solves all ills, so it could work out well for them at a very low cost.

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Links 12-15-2010: Guerrier to LAD, Albers, ticket$, WAR expectations, more

Now that Scott Downs has signed with the Halos and Matt Guerrier with the Dodgers, the Red Sox are hesitant to go three years with any of the remaining relievers, hence the lull. They are supposedly adding hard-throwing righty Matt Albers, who has never done well in the ERA department, but has a good sinker and pitched very well towards the end of last season. Hey, at least it’s a start.

The two big signings last week accomplished what ownership set out to do, as the Red Sox sold 238,818 tickets last weekend. That’s almost back up to post-2007 World Series level. Wow.

The Phillies are pretty darn good now that Cliff Lee is in the fold. Dave Cameron does the WAR analysis, and says that he expects the Red Sox to be right up there as a team that’s expected to win 98 games. “Expected” is the key word here.

 

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Links 12-14-2010: More about Crawford, Lee signs with the Phillies, Blanton?, Rule 5

The Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford was a pleasant surprise for the Nation. After telling reporters that he was done with his major acquisitions, Theo Epstein went and snatched Crawford, who was all but ready to sign with the Angels. Hard to remember that just a week ago, we were trying to decide between Josh Willingham and Magglio Ordonez. Here are his contract details. Maybe the happiest Red Sox is Jason Varitek, who doesn’t have to pretend to try to throw him out on the bases anymore. The Sox could do this deal because of all the money coming off of the books, and because they have the young talent and draft picks to remain sustainable for the years to come.

Red Sox Beacon thinks that the infield grass at Fenway will hurt Crawford’s ability to get infield hits. I think it will lessen the number of grounders that make it through, but I think it might actually help him on balls that roll dead in no man’s land.

Where will Crawford hit? He doesn’t really like to lead off, but he’s willing. If Jacoby Ellsbury can return to form, my guess is he’ll hit either third or fifth, since Dustin Pedroia is locked into the two hole (and Terry Francona likes going lefty-righty at the top).

I’m actually excited about Crawford playing next to Ellsbury in the outfield. That’s the fastest outfield in baseball. While people say that playing him in front of the Green Monster is a waste, it allows Jacoby to shift over towards right-center. It makes everyone better out there; not too many balls will fall in either alley as a result.

And then seemingly out of nowhere, the Philadelphia Phillies came in and swooped up one Cliff Lee yesterday, leaving the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers open-mouthed and empty-handed. Lee signed for less guaranteed money then either the Yankees or Rangers were offering, so perhaps he wasn’t psyched about playing in either place (count the option, and it’s actually better). And this is yet another piece of good news for the Red Sox. For a team that is loading up on left-handed hitting, it’s a godsend that Lee, one of the top lefties in baseball, will not be playing in our division or even our league. The Rays lost Crawford to us (plus half their bullpen), and the Yankees have few options with which to boost their rotation. This is a huge shift in the balance of power in the AL East.

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Links 11-15-2010: Free agents, offseason progress, Hot Stovespeak

It’s a tough choice this offseason: Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth? As I’ve discussed here, I think getting either one would be a very nice addition, but perhaps Werth is a better fit long-term as a right-handed power bat. Patrick Sullivan agrees, also citing the length of the expected contracts.

As far as Cliff Lee goes, we could certainly afford to sign him, but it’s not the right move this offseason unless he can play third base or catcher. It looks like it’ll be a bidding war between the Yankees and the Rangers (and Nationals???) at this point anyways.

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Links 11-2-2010: Free agent news, AFL, Farrell farewell, Fenway changes, Fielding Bible, the pitching market

Thing are moving more quickly this offseason, with new rules in play. Three Sox are free agents already, and those with options will find out by Thursday if they are still Red Sox. With Adrian Beltre sure to become a free agent, Kevin Youkilis is doing the prudent thing and preparing to play third, just in case. Peter Gammons doesn’t see the Red Sox being able to keep Victor Martinez anymore. They squandered their chance when they offered only two years and didn’t see him catching for them beyond that timeframe. If he walks, the Sox will have to acquire a veteran catcher as well as make a big splash somewhere else in order to make up for his lost bat. Gammons believes that Boston will sign Carl Crawford, who doesn’t like being the stolen base guy atop the order. With Jacoby Ellsbury already filling that role, he won’t have to be that here. Of course, don’t forget that there are several teams with big money to spend.

The official Elias free agent rankings have been released, and Victor Martinez and Beltre are Type A free agents, as expected. David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell are Type B free agents.

The other move that is percolating (probably at the next trade deadline) is the potential acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres have all but admitted they can’t re-sign him beyond 2011, so they’ll be looking for a big return before he walks. With most of the big budget teams set at first base already and not much other competition, we could finally land the big bat we’ve coveted for so long.

Don’t look for Daisuke Matsuzaka to be dealt this offseason (barring a REALLY good offer from some team). While he hasn’t lived up to the hype, he has been more than serviceable as a middle/back-end starter.

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