Monday, November 19, 2007


Theo resigned Mike Lowell to a three year $37.5M contract (because we're supposed to care about these things). Lowell will once again man the hot corner in Boston, keeping Gold Glover Kevin Youkilis at first base.

I'm surprised at this. I can honestly say I didn't expect it to get done on either end.

First of all, I thought that Lowell would get four years from someone. Maybe he did get a four year offer but elected to come back to Boston, but I kinda doubt it. The Yankees have A-Hole, and Phillies have their heads up their collective arse and so Lowell probably realized Boston's offer was as good as it was going to get for him.

Not that he didn't want to come back (I'm sure he did), but a year guaranteed at $13-14M is serious money. You don't think Johnny Damon loved Boston too? He got $12M to forget about that, and forget he did. I'm sure Mike Lowell would have forgotten too. Thats not a knock on Lowell, its just the nature of the business.

I'm surprised about this from the Red Sox perspective too. If Lowell hits like he did this past season then he'll be worth the money the Sox just spent on him. However, Lowell has never hit like he did last season in his career until last season. If there is anywhere that Lowell can keep this type of production up its in Boston. Fenway Park is made for the swing of Mike Lowell.

But even hitting in his dream park, Lowell is getting on in years. Will he be as productive, or productive enough in three years at age 36? Maybe. The Red Sox certainly didn't think he would be productive enough at age 37 though. Of course, you never know what the market will do, so even if Lowell steadily declines (as anyone without blinders on expects him to do) this deal could end up looking good in the end.

And with that, the Red Sox off season comes to an end. Well, not really, but sort of. You might see a Coco Crisp trade (OK, you probably will see a Coco Crisp trade), but other than that the 2008 Red Sox are pretty much set. We've got six starters, a closer, a setup guy, and one starter at every position. That doesn't mean the Sox won't explore other options. Thats their job. But, I don't expect anything else substantial will happen.

So, welcome back Mike Lowell! We're glad you never left.

Monday, November 12, 2007


This is the second in a three or four part retrospective about the 2007 World Series Champion Red Sox. In case you missed it, part one is here.


The End of Spring

Before the starting gun sounded, we had a bit of controversy. Or, maybe not controversy, but… intrigue? Or maybe debate…?… Whatever. Jonathan Papelbon, who the Red Sox were planning on using as a starting pitcher following a season of successful relief pitching (that is, until he hurt his arm in early September), started having nightmares. Hows that for controversy/intrigue/aw whatever? These nightmares culminated in Pap switching back to the bullpen. But more on the nightmares in a minute.

Of course, the switch wasn’t made simply because Paps couldn’t sleep at night. The Red Sox had brought in a number of different candidates to close, but the problem was that none of them could pitch effectively. And this was still in Spring Training. Of the pretenders to the throne, the chief culprit was Joel Piniero who, despite being a good guy, couldn’t pitch very well. He proved this over and over until he was banished to the National League (where he later signed a pretty healthy contract, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

The other issue in play was Pap’s shoulder. After throwing a good number of innings as closer, in September of ‘06 Paps shoulder popped out of joint (a “subluxation”). This lead to a number of medical diagnosis wherein the Red Sox were told that Papelbon would be healthier if he was in the starting rotation. So, the Red Sox obliged, and moved Papelbon into the starting rotation.

Though he said differently at the time, Paps didn’t like it one bit. He wanted to be a closer. Now we get back to the nightmares, which Paps was apparently having because he was doing something (starting) that he didn’t want to do (or so the story goes). One day Paps walked into Francona’s office after some prompting from a teammate and told the manager that he wanted to close. Francona took it to Theo Epstein, and all of a sudden Paps was healthy enough to pitch out of the pen. To read the papers, one would have thought that a tsunami had hit the city of Boston. But, no. It was only the return of Papelbon to the bullpen.

Moving Paps out of the rotation closed up the only major hole on the roster, but it also opened up a new hole in the rotation. This necessitated finding another starting pitcher. The Sox had had some success (minor though it was) in having His Craziness, Julian Tavarez start some games as the 2006 season was spinning in smaller and smaller circles down the commode. As there weren’t many other options and Tavarez had been at least somewhat effective, the Sox moved him into the fifth starter spot in the rotation. The move was widely thought to be a placeholder until Jon Lester proved himself recovered and ready to return to the rotation.

The 2007 Red Sox went into the year with the rotation as follows:

1. Josh Beckett
2. Curt Schilling
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka
4. Tim Wakefield
5. His Craziness, Julian Tavarez

The Beginning

The Red Sox got off to a great start. By the end of April they were 16-8, and had a 4.0 game lead in the AL East. Conversely, the Yankees were 9-14 and obituaries were being written up and down the east coast. The Red Sox were getting good pitching and good enough hitting, which would become a reoccurring theme during the ’07 season. Mike Lowell got off to his typical blistering start, hitting .314/.371/.547 in April. .297/.402/.615 with seven homers.

Part of the reason the Sox fast start was so impressive was that they did it without many contributions from a good portion of their lineup. Dustin Pedroia was horrible, hitting .182/.308/.236, leading many fans to call for his benching in favor of future Hall of Famer Alex Cora. Manny Ramirez wasn’t much better, hitting .202/.314/.315. Bleah.

Still, the Red Sox kept winning. May saw them go 20-8, improving to 36-16. This brought their AL East lead to an unfathomable 11.5 games. The Sox were cruising. Meanwhile the Yankees were struggling. They followed up their losing April with a losing May, bringing their record to an unsightly 22-29, 13.5 games behind the Red Sox.

It looked like an easy, stress-free summer was on the horizon. Uh, right.


Part 3 soon to come...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Heres the thing: if the Red Sox can get Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins without stripping their farm system, they absolutely have to do it. But, if they can only get him by stripping their farm system, then they should think long and hard about it, and then do it.

Why? Because Cabrera is Manny Ramirez, only 24 years old. In the last three years, Cabrera's OPS+ has been over 150 (100 is average, 101 is 1% above average, etc.). Thats incredible. Plainly, this guy can crush the ball.

But, for those of you who don't go to bed with arcane baseball stats dancing in your heads, let me make this easier. Cabrera, playing his home games in a football stadium that plays like a football stadium, has hit over .320/.400/.560 each of the past two years. And he's only 24, or did I mention that? This guy is one of the top ten hitters in the game, maybe in the top five, and he's younger than everyone else on the list. Would you trade for Pujols? Well, this is almost the same thing, except six years younger.

The Red Sox don't have a player like this in their minor league system right now, and thats saying something because the Red Sox have quite an impressive stable of minor league talent. In fact, I can't think of when the Red Sox had a comparable hitter in their system. Maybe you'd count Nomar? Yaz?

There are of course some possible downsides to this, but this is a chance the Red Sox need to take for two reasons. First, this player can anchor the Red Sox lineup for the next 14 years, long after Manny and Papi have passed into retirement. Second, every game Cabrera plays for the Red Sox is a game he doesn't play against the Red Sox. Cabrera is the best hitter on the market. Yes, better than A-Rod. Trading for him would prevent the Yankees from doing the same.

I'm not going to get into who the Sox should give up for Cabrera. I can't negotiate with the Marlins here, and I don't know how they value the Red Sox young players, nor do I really know how the Red Sox value their own young players. The only thing I'd say is be very wary of trading Clay Buchholz. Anyone else, any other combination of players, any sum of money, and it'll be time to fit Cabrera for a pretty new uniform with "Red Sox" across the front.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


In news unrelated to the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox, the Yankees are experiencing a jailbreak of sorts. First A-Rod heads for the exits, then Posada says he wants to listen to offers from other teams (read: Mets), and now Annndddyy Pettitte declined his $16M option to stay with the Yankees.

I hope you won't think me rude for chuckling softly to myself.

But seriously, this is just too funny. If there is any actual news I'll surely post some analysis, but for now, some library-volume cackling is all I can offer.


The Red Sox completed something in two days that I thought they'd never be able to accomplish: they resigned Curt Schilling. Ol' Schil wanted to come back to Boston so badly that he took a lower base salary with some incentives.

Now the salary wasn't that low at $8 Million, and with incentives it sounds like he can earn more next season than he did in 2007, but if Curt wanted the full $13 Million like last season then the chances of this happening were very slim. Plain and simple, Curt Schilling took less money to play in Boston next season. He could have got more money and more years elsewhere, but he wanted to stay in Boston and he took less of each to do so.

This is great news for the 2008 Red Sox. Schilling isn't a great pitcher anymore, but he is still a very good one. The '08 Red Sox rotation is starting to take shape. If you slot Schilling into the number three spot, things look like this:

1. Josh Beckett
2. Daisuke Matsuzaka
3. Curt Schilling
4. Clay Buchholz
5. Jon Lester
5b. Tim Wakefield

Exactly how Francona slots the starters will have to wait for a few months, but having six viable starters for five slots is huge. Especially since two of those starters are over 40, and two of them are under 25. This is a very smart move by Theo Epstein and the Red Sox.

Not only that, its great to have the old man come back. Glad to have you back, Curt. Its like you never left.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just thought it was awesome. That is all.

Some notes on a few Red Sox-related off-season happenings:

1. The Red Sox picked up the player options on two pitchers, one expected and the other, well... not so much. Predictably, the Sox picked up the $4M player option on Tim Wakefield. At that price it almost doesn't matter what Wakefield's role will be in the '08 team. He can relieve, start, or both, but the Sox don't have to make any decisions now. They can sort it out later depending on how the rest of the off-season plays out.

More unexpectedly, the Sox picked up His Craziness, Julian Tavarez's '08 option, which cost them $3.85M. I'm not sure where Tavarez fits in on the '08 squad, possibly as an innings-eater out of the pen. I imagine that the Sox feel that they can easily move him either during the off season or spring training if it turns out that there is no place for him.

2. Pitching coach John Farrell has turned down the opportunity to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates (or at least to interview for the job, which he likely would have gotten). What a surprise. Still, this should be great news for any Red Sox fan. Farrell did a very impressive job this season with Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, and Daisuke Matsuzaka and I'm very much looking forward to seeing him work with Clay Buchholz next season.


In the coming weeks the Sox will have to make offers to free agents Mike Lowell, Curt Schilling, Doug Mirabelli, Brendan Donnelly, Eric Hinske, and Mike Timlin. I wouldn't be surprised if the Sox brought back half that group or more. Here's a quick run-down on each:

Doug Mirabelli: With the re-upping of Tim Wakefield, Dougie's return becomes more likely. The fact that there really aren't any other great options out there (the list of free-agent back-up catchers reads like a who's-who of players you don't want on your team) makes this an even easier decision. Unless the Sox can convince some decent catcher to come to a World Series winner to play backup, the devil you know beats the devil you don't.

Eric Hinske: Despite playing on a World Series winner this season, Hinske's career has been on a downward trajectory ever since winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. To put it bluntly, Hinkse was awful this season, hitting a is-this-guy-done-? .204/.317/.398. If the Sox think that Hinske can better approximate his career .255/.336/.434 line he might be worth having on the bench again. If not, better to move on. There are other guys who can play multiple positions and won't hit like Mario Mendoza.

Mike Timlin: Timlin was surprisingly effective in 55 innings this season. He wasn't great, but for a 41 year old he was pretty decent. Of course, hitters don't grade on a curve, and theres a good chance that the Sox just wrung the last bit of effectiveness out of this stone. Whether or not the Sox bring him back will have a lot to do with who they see in their bullpen next season. If Craig Hansen is legitimately prepared to pitch in the big leagues and the Sox are actually intent on Julian Tavarez taking up some innings out of the pen, Timlin may have to take his fatigues elsewhere.

Brenden Donnelly: It depends on what the market is for Donnelly... which is a stupid thing to write, because its true of every free agent in the game. Anyway, if Donnelly will be happy with an invite to spring training then I'm all for it. Otherwise, it might be best to cut bait while the cut'n is cheap.

Curt Schilling: As much as I'd like this to happen, I think its unlikely. $13M is a lot to pay an old injury-prone fastball pitcher who's lost his fastball. Conversely, Schilling has shown that he can still get major league hitters out, and what is $13M to the Red Sox? If there has ever been a pitcher that the Sox have owed, even after his time with the team was up, Curt is it. Not that an '08 contract will be charity. With the Sox depending on so much young pitching going into '08 its not a bad idea to have Ol' Schil around for one more season.

Mike Lowell: This gets complicated real fast. With Kevin Youkilis able to play either first or third, the Red Sox have some maneuverability, at least in theory. They can go after a first baseman or a third baseman and simply move Youk to which ever position remains unoccupied. But, after Lowell (and A-Rod) there really aren't any good corner infielders to be had on the market. This means that either the Sox sign one of those two guys (and be stuck with them for the long term, or in A-Rod's case the next millennium) or they wait a year and try break the bank on Mark Teixeira like every other team in baseball.

Their other (Third? Fourth? Seventh?) option is to make some sort of trade. Rumor says Miguel Cabrera is available, but you can expect the bidding to start at Clay Buchholz and escalate from there. Is that a good deal to make? Maybe, but its definitely something the Sox should look into. More on this possibility later.

The easiest thing would be to see if a deal can be struck in the three year range Lowell. If not, the Sox need to start looking at other possibilities, like Cabrera, and like A-Rod. Maybe Hank Blaylock can be acquired. Maybe Adrian Beltre can be pried loose. If Lowell opts to go elsewhere, the Red Sox have many options, but many of them will involve some major maneuvering. The road of least resistance is to resign Lowell, and for a team that just won the World Series (have I referenced that enough?) that just might be the right path to go down.


Soon, part II of my 2007 Red Sox retrospective. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 02, 2007


This is the first in a three or four part retrospective about the 2007 World Series Champion Red Sox.


The free agency signing period is just around the corner, but before I jump all over that, A-Rod, Lowell, Schilling and all the potential trade targets will have to wait one post. So often we are so eager to take the next step that we over look what is happening now, or in this case what just happened yesterday. Who is the next playoff opponent? Who will the Sox sign in free agency? Where will A-Rod go? I want to lend my unnecessary voice to all these questions, but I’m going to wait a day or two. Instead, I want to spend a moment dwelling on the 2007 Red Sox.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about how I thought the team would come together, and how I felt they were the team to beat. The Red Sox were my pre-season pick to win the World Series (I had them beating Arizona) and they came together exactly as well as I’d hoped.

Not that this took any type of genius to discern. This team was stacked from the beginning. So, just to clarify my own thoughts, I’m going to take a look back, all the way back, before they were the Team That Won The World Series For The Second Time In Four Years.

You may recall the Red Sox weren’t always the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. Nope. In fact, at this time a year ago, they were just another team who had missed the playoffs. Actually, that’s not even true. The 2006 Red Sox were an injury-riddled disaster that went from a solid hold on first place in the AL East to a broken shell of a team in one month.

On July 21st, 2006 the Red Sox whipped Seattle 9-4 bringing their record to 59-36 and increasing their AL East lead to 3.5 games. One month later the Red Sox lost to the Yankees 2-1 putting their record at 69-55 and dropping them 6.5 games behind the Yankees.

It only got worse from there. On September 1st the Sox were 8 games back, and on the 13th they were 11.5 games back. Their injury list read like a who’s who of Red Sox players: Manny, Varitek, Papi, Papelbon. Lester was diagnosed with cancer, and the Sox were forced to run the hideous Jason Johnson out for 29 innings (in which he gave up 26 runs).

The Sox September slide reinforced the need for new blood in the ’07 team, and the front office went about fixing the roster. The Sox let David Wells, Trot Nixon, Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, Javy Lopez, and Carlos Pena (oops!) go. Despite that list, the front office didn’t make many changes. Instead, they brought in younger players with some targeted free agents.

Loretta was allowed to depart and rookie Dustin Pedroia was given the second base job. Julio Lugo was signed to play shortstop, filling the hole left by Gonzalaz, and J.D. Drew was handed a huge check and told to report to right field to replace fan-favorite Trot Nixon. Oddly enough, Drew was even given Nixon’s old number.

To fix the holes in the rotation, the Red Sox acquired the 26 year old gyro-ball throwing Diasuke Matsuzaka from the Japanese leagues. The Sox envisioned Matsuzaka stepping into the rotation and being the number three starter behind Schilling and Beckett. Many questioned the huge outlay of cash, but some thought that Matsuzaka might be one of the best pitchers in the majors before even throwing a pitch. They also moved talented young closer Jonathan Papelbon into the rotation. Between Beckett, Papelbon, and Matsuzaka, the Red Sox would have three young studs.

Based on these large financial outlays, people expected big things from the ’07 Red Sox. I wasn’t alone in picking them to go to the World Series. Still, many thought that the Tigers, fresh off an embarrassing World Series loss to the historically-bad-for-a-league-champion Cardinals, were the best team in baseball. Their young pitching staff had aged a year, and they had traded serious young talent to the Yankees to get the powerful bat of Gary Sheffield. Others thought the Angels or Yankees would be the team to beat in the AL.

There was no consensus, but to me it was easy to see the immense talent that assembled on the practice fields of Fort Myers in late February. In fact, I went down to see it for myself. Not that a fan who catches three Red Sox games in mid-March can glean anything significantly predictive from the experience, but it was plain to see that the Red Sox were a good team.


Part 2 soon to come...