December 2009

IT IS ABOUT THE MONEY

Don’t be fooled when a guy says “It’s not about the money.”  It is.  It always is.  Jason Bay took the money and scampered off to Queens where he will languish with the Mets.  Bay was well-liked in Boston.  By his teammates and the fans.  The teammates get it.  At some point, they’ll all be in a similar situation.  Almost always, they’ll opt for the most money.  Nomar did it.  He spit in the Red Sox eye when they offered him a treasure chest of cash.  He never came close to making that kind of dough anywhere else.  It’s tough to figure.  Bronson Arroyo and Mike Lowell took “hometown discounts” to stay with Boston.  Arroyo was dispatched to Cincinnati for Wily Mo Pena and if not for a bad thumb, Lowell would be a Texas Ranger.  Loyalty, money  he said, she said.  This easy for me to say. I’ll never make the kind of money in 10 lifetimes that Bay will earn over the next 4 years with the Mets.  I’m OK with that.  In fact, I won’t come close to making what Bay will make in just the difference of the deal.  Boston offered 60 million over 4 years.  The Mets got him for 4 years at 66 million.  6  million is a lot to you and me.  It’s a drop in the bucket to Bay.  Back in the ’70s, they built Steve Austin, Lee Majors for 6 million.  He could run faster, jump higher…all those bionic parts.  Bay is 31, and his skills will decline markedly over the life of his contract.  Boston made the right decision.  Bay served as the conduit between the Manny Ramirez era and the future.  His swing seemed perfectly suited for Fenway.  He will have to swing a lot harder at Citi Field.  The deeper fence will also play into his defensive liabilities, leaving him much more ground to cover.  He’s back in the National League, where he played in front of empty houses for the Pirates for years.  He’ll see tons of empty seats at Citi, never saw one, ever at Fenway.  It’s tough to feel sorry for him, or the Sox for that matter.  The Sox will be fine without Jason Bay.  Bay will probably be fine without the Sox.  I do think they both would have been better off together, for at least a couple of years.   

RHODE ISLAND NATIVE TOPS RED SOX CHARTS

The internet is here to stay.  That is, until something replaces it.  Based on my experience, it’s inevitable.  Eight tracks, gave way to to cassettes, which were replaced by cds.  Movies are now on dvd. DVR replaced the VCR.  It just goes on and on.  I guess that’s a good thing.  I’m not sure.  Anyway, It was exciting to see Ryan Westmoreland get some love from Baseball America.  The “Bible” tabbed the Portsmouth R.I. native as the number one prospect in the entire organization.  Ahead of Lars Andeson, Josh Reddick, Casey Kelly, Jose Iglesias and everyone else that wears a minor league uniform in the organization.  The 19 year old outfielder was described to me by a member of the Boston front offfice as a “Jacoby Ellsbury with power.”  Pretty high praise.  I play cards every Thursday night with the guys at the Knights of Columbus in Middletown, RI.  Westmorelands’ grandfather, Mick Hussey and his uncle, Kevin Hussey are there on a regular basis.  Very often, between hands of “pitch” the discussion turns to baseball.  I know those two are extremely excited about Ryans’ progress as he recovers from the broken collarbone that sidelined him for the end of the 2009 season.  It has to be an amazing feeling to have a loved one considered a “savior” for the home team.  By all accounts, Westmoreland is a great kid.  I’ve only met him once and interviewed him over the phone twice.  He is said to be respectful and appreciative.  I suspect I will find out first hand when he makes his McCoy Stadium debut some time down the road.  As the voice of the PawSox, I’m afforded a front row seat to the future.  In many ways, it’s like the saying “What happens in Vegas…”  You see the true colors.  Guys can be nice for the 4 and a half minutes they’re on the pre-game show or the two minute post-game interview.  It’s always interesting to see how they hold up on a nine hour bus ride, or how they endure the inevitable 0-15 slump.  We use the “Baseball America Prospect Handbook” on a regular basis as we prepare for our broadcasts.  It is a really useful reference tool for broadcasters and fans.  I did get a kick out the publications’ projected 2012 opening day lineup for the Boston Red Sox.

C-Victor Martinez

1B- Lars Anderson

2B- Dustin Pedroia

3B- KevinYoukilis

SS- Jose Iglesias

LF- Jacoby Ellsbury

CF- Reymond Fuentes

RF- Ryan Westmoreland

DH- Josh Reddick

SP #1- Jon Lester

SP #2- Josh Beckett

SP #3- Clay Buchholz

SP #4- Casey Kelly

SP #5- John Lackey

Closer- Jonathan Paplebon

Somewhat optimistic, seeing that Anderson, Iglesias, Fuentes, Westmoreland and Kelly have yet to come within  miles of McCoy.  All of them could be on the fast track.  I’m just glad I’ve got a front row seat. 

CHRISTMAS DREAMS

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through McCoy,

Not a creature was stirring, not a girl or a boy.

The tarp was rolled out, the field covered with snow,

It felt like it had to be 20 below.

I sat in my seat, bundled up ‘gainst the cold,

All alone in the stands, my story unfolds.

I closed my eyes tight and thought pleasant things

Suddenly it was summer, The PawSox taking their swings.

The stadium packed with ten thousand fans,

Screaming and cheering and clapping their hands.

I looked down to Bens’ box and saw him holding court,

An amazing guy, that mixed business with sports.

Back in the stands there was Mike and there’s Lou,

McCoy runs like a top, with baseballs’ best crew.

Down on the diamond, things weren’t going well

The PawSox were trailing, they just didn’t gel.

It got to the ninth, good guys down 4-1,

No matter how hard they played, just one single run.

Down to the last out, the bases were clear,

The fans going  home sad, ’twas my biggest fear.

Down in the count no balls and two strikes, 

Bell hit a slow roller, he flew in his spikes.

He beat out the throw, legs churning real fast,

Way to go Bubba, making the game last.

Then came Aaron Bates, 4 pitches, a walk,

He jogged up the line, kicking up chalk.

Jeff Natale was next, he doesn’t care who he faces,

A liner up the middle, The PawSox loaded the bases.

Still down by three, two outs and the bases juiced,

Mark Wagner came up, could he produce?

The count was full, the runners were going,

Out to left field, a stiff wind was blowing.

The pitch came in and Wagner swung hard,

The ball started flying, was it in the cards?

As I sat at the mike, it disappeared in the crowd,

The fans went crazy, McCoy got real loud.

I screamed from my seat, ” Way to go Wags”

Touch ‘em all, touch ‘em all, touch all the bags.

It was just like Christmas, a great final score,

The PawSox won it, they won 5-4.

Just as quickly, it was over, I opened my eyes,

I have to admit, it was a surprise.

It was cold again, with plenty of snow,

All by my self, in the seventeenth row.

I smiled and I thought, “Four months ’til opening day”

A packed house for real, the PawSox will play.

I walked down to my car, it must have been quite a sight,

A PawSox Christmas to all, and to all a good night. 

 

AWKWARD !!

This will be a little uncomfortable for the Red Sox and Mike Lowell.  The trade between Boston and Texas was nullified after doctors discovered thumb problems with the 35 year old third baseman that will require surgery some time after Christmas.  Lowell would take 6-8 weeks to recover and should be ready for Spring Training.  No doubt, his teammates will be happy.  They love Mike Lowell.  It does set up a weird dynamic in the clubhouse.  You know you were gone, Your team no longer values your services.  You still make 12 million bucks to play ball, but you’re going to be giving Theo and his gang the “fish eye”.  Lowell is known to be the consumate professional, but in the end, this could actually help.  “You think I’m done?  I’ll show you who’s washed up.”  That could be the mindset for Mike Lowell.  I just hope Max Ramirez doesn’t blossom into a Johnny Bench with another team.  This is nothing new for Boston.  Last year they dealt with the Jason Varitek situation. His reduced role in 2010 could also be a factor, although it’s not likely.  In the old days, trades were much less complex.  But with the money these guys make, you can leave no stone unturned.  For Lowell, it has to be like getting a last second reprieve from the governor.  He, for now, does not have to head to Texas, he can stay in a town that has embraced him with a team he has helped greatly since his arrival.  If he does come through the operation healthy, how far off could another deal be?  Such is the life of a pro athlete.  I am very interested to see how this impacts any further moves this winter.  Never a dull moment in Red Sox Nation.

YO ADRIAN !!

The more I think about it, the more I like what the Sox are doing this offseason.  I guess I’m “drinking the Kool-Aid”. Looking at John Lackeys’ numbers, they are remarkably similar to Josh Becketts’.  While spending the last 8 seasons with the Angels, Lackey has made 233 starts, going 102-71 with an ERA of 3.81 while Beckett has gone 106-68 with a 3.79 earned run average.  We love Beckett, right? We could learn to love Lackey, as well.  Apparently, Lackeys’ agent told Theo the righty was interested in Boston.  His wife Krista attended the University of New Hampshire.  That didn’t hurt.  Also, Lackey was familiar with John Farrell, who recruited him when he was coaching the Cowboys of Oklahoma State University.  Assuming Clay Buchholz is still a member of the Red Sox staff,  Beckett, Jon Lester, Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Buch, with Tim Wakefield waiting in the wings.  Formidable.  Buchholz has to be tired of hearing his name mentioned every time there is a potential deal to be made.  The latest features 27 year old Adrian Gonzalez.  The Padres’ first baseman is already a two time All Star and a two time Gold Glover.  He bashed 40 home runs a year ago in San Diego.  Petco Park is considered a pitchers’ yard, so that makes it more impressive.  He drew 119 walks, as well.  We know how much the Sox covet men who get on base.  The asking price of Buch and Jacoby Ellsbury is a little steep for my taste.  Padres GM Jed Hoyer and his assistant, Jason McLeod are both former Theo Epstein assistants with intimate knowledge of the Sox’ players and the system.  It creates an intetresting dynamic.  Gonzalez, of Mexican descent, is immensely popular in Southern California, so does Hoyer want his first major move to be trading away the teams’ biggest star?   Ellsbury is an All Star in waiting and Buchholz has Cy Young potential, no doubt.  Slide Mike Cameron over to center field and he can keep the seat warm until Ryan Westmoreland is ready.  Kevin Youkilis is the key guy to me.  His flexibility allows the Sox to pursue any number of players.  As he has proven, Youk is equally adept at first or third.  The Gold Glove winner has truly established himself as one of the best (and most under-rated) players in baseball.  “Hot Stove” really is the perfect name for this time of the year.  It keeps us warm and excited while Opening Day is still four months away.  

NO LONGER A BAY STATE

The way I look at it, Jason Bay was a nice little diversion, a fill-in, a substitute.  He bridged the gap from that dog, Manny Ramirez to the long anticipated Mike Cameron era.  In a heartbeat, Theo Epstein turned on a dime, signed Jon Lackey and Cameron and made the Red Sox a team richer in pitching and  defense.  Cameron and Jeremy Hermida will platoon in left and Lackey adds further depth to an already rock-solid rotation.  Mike Lowell is still twisting in limbo, but I can’t imagine him coming back after this deal with Texas.  The thing that scares me is that the offensive lineup has about as much pop as a day-old bowl of Rice Krispies.  That may sound greedy, but we’re not trying to keep pace with the Orioles, or anyone else really, except New York.  It leads me to believe that Theo may put Clay Buchholz up on the block for a third or first baseman.  Kevin Youkilis will play the other corner, with Marco Scutaro at short, Dustin Pedroia at second and Victor Martinez catching.  If Max Ramirez “bears fruit”  you keep Youk at third and put V-Mart at first.  Jacoby Ellsbury will patrol center and when he’s healthy enough to play, J.D. Drew will be in right.  Hopefully, in the final year of his contract, David Ortiz will return to some semblance of his glory days.  A rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Lackey, with Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and even old Tim Wakefield, would be unmatched in the Majors.  The pen is solid.  You need some pop off the bench.  That is easily remedied.  I was extremely pleased with the Lackey deal.  Cameron somewhat surprises me, though.  He is said to be a good influence in the clubhouse, and he gets on base.  Obviously, the Sox covet that.  I can’t say I’m really excited about this stuff, but I am a little intrigued and optimistic.  Lackey is 31 and should have several good years ahead of him.  Cameron is 36 and is near the tail end of his career.  If Boston is any good this year, and I do thjnk they are MUCH better today than they were yesterday,  Theo will deserve credit for going to Plan B and making it work.

THE GRINCH REARS HIS UGLY HEAD

Maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, but…First off, the Winter Meetings have come and gone and they proved to be a great cure for my insomnia.  Looks like the only ones who made out OK were the waiters at St. Elmo’s Steak House in Indy, the sight of this years’ gathering.  You’re telling me that trading Mike Lowell to Texas for Max Ramirez is the best thing you could do?  Clearly, addition by subtraction.  The fact that they’d be willing to assume 8 or so million dollars of the contract blows my mind.  We have all held Theo Epstein in such high esteem because of the two World Series wins.  He’s deserved it, but how many guys can go to their boss and say, “Oops, ya know I think I made another nine million dollar error.”  Lugo, Drew, now Lowell.  A couple of rings buy a ton of good will these days.  Jason Bay can pack his bags as far as I’m concerned.  If he turned down a 4 year deal worth a reported 60 million dollars, too bad.  See you at CitiField or where ever you land.  Apparently Bay forgot what it was like playing for the dregs like the Pirates for all those years.  At some point, you have to make a stand.  Who is worth this kind of money?  ABSOLUTELY no one.  Not the brightest doctor, researcher or teacher in the world.  And cetainly not a leftfielder with some power who is limited defensively.  So what if the Red Sox finish behind New York, Tampa, Toronto and Baltimore?  As Dan Shaughnessey recently intimated in the Boston Globe,  the Sox might be content to rest on their laurels for a while, as long as dilapidated old Fenway keeps selling out.  From what we’ve seen the last couple of offseasons, this may be a trend.  Live off the reputation you’ve built as a franchise that develops its’ own guys.  Honestly, the Sox have blown a load of dough and maybe the bosses have finally put the brakes on Theo and his spending.  Who knows?  My pre-holiday rancor is not strictly directed towards the Sox and baseball.  Not by any means.  Tiger Woods.  Shame on you.  Now I’m a guy and I love “guy stuff” but this guy really had some nerve.  Arguably one of the most recognizable people in the world and he had the affrontery to think he’d be able to pull this off?  Talk about being buried in a sand trap.  I laugh as I read reports saying the media is tearing down the hero they built.  Honestly, Woods has never been a likeable figure.  My fascination with him lies strictly with what he accomplishes on the golf course.  The sheer domination.  The hunt for Jack Nicklaus’ records.  Those are the draws.  Let’s face it.  If all his sponsors left him today and he had to give all  his billion dollar plus empire to wife Elin, he’d be just fine, thank you.  At age 33, he still has some good golf lerft in him.  He’d get that bank roll back up again in no time.  There should be some penalty for his behavior.  Please, don’t let me hear anyone say- “Poor Tiger.”  Pardon the pun, but he made his own bed and now he has to lie in it.  One last target for today.  If the Patriots were flying high, would the genius Belichick have made a big deal of Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas and company being late for a meeting, due to the snow the other day?  Thomas did elicit a smile from me when he made a comment about being stuck in traffic, saying that this wasn’t “The Jetsons” where you could just fly over things.  Years ago, ESPN’s Tom Jackson made a comment that drew national attention, saying that Belichick had “lost” his team.  As the sputtering Patriots prepare for Carolina, it appears that Jacksons’ comments were correct, juts 6 or 7 years too early.  You know your team is going bad when the mascot gets arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Pat Patriot, you should have known better.  Now that I’ve spread my holiday cheer, I’m heading to Who-ville.  See ya there.    

CIRCLE OF LIFE

Things are cyclical.  There’s really no scientific basis for it, that’s just the way it is.  Sports is no different.  We have been on a decade long high in New England as we’ve savored two World Series titles, three Super Bowl wins and an NBA crown.  Pretty heady stuff.  My kids can’t fathom the years of agony and frustration that we went through with our teams.  I like Terry Francona, Bill Belichick and Doc Rivers to a degree, but I wonder if other men could have lead these teams to glory.  The three “wisemen” all failed, or at least didn’t enjoy the success they’ve had here, in previous stops.  Belichick was cursed with the Cleveland Browns.  Francona skippered the Philadelphia Phillies and Doc toiled in Orlando.  Tito managed the Phils  from 1997-2000, never finishing better than third place and never coming close to a .500 record. (77-85 in 1999).  Did he suddenly get smarter?  Did he become a better tactician?  He is known as a “players’ manager” and for the most part, his men swear by him.  He is said to have “what it takes” to handle the diverse personalities of the coddled millionaires that play for the Red Sox.  I will always like him for what he symbolizes, and the fact my friend Ron Johnson says he is a good man.  Rivers was canned as the Magic head coach 11 games into his fifth season.  He resurfaced in Boston and was nothing but mediocre until Danny Ainge pulled the trigger on deals for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.  I’d guess Rivers would be long gone by now, if not for Ainge.  Belichick was the head man in Cleveland for 5 seasons (36-44, 1 playoff appearance).  That hardly inspired awe as Robert Kraft hired him as head coach prior to the 2000 season.  Since his 5-11 first year, they’ve been great (until lately, that is).  My point is, with the horses, any guy could succeed.  Others have failed, but the world is littered with the likes of Phil Jackson, who has ridden Jordan, Pippen, Kobe and Shaq to 10 titles.  Imagine, a ring for EVERY finger.  Who knows why some guys succeed and others don’t?  As I said earlier, we may be a little spoiled.  It’s been a pretty good decade.  It’s almost over.  A new one begins in about three weeks.  Let’s hope for another bunch of banners and rings and parades.  They’re fun. 

SOME THINGS I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT

The offseason is long and mercifully, we’re about halfway through it.  I can’t wait to step off the plane in Fort Myers in March and feel the sun wash over me.  Get in the rental car and head toward the 2010 season.  It’s a great time of year.  A time when every team has a chance to do something special. (By every team, I mean the Red Sox, Yankees and the other “haves”- sorry “have nots”).  While the foundations have been laid for the storied franchises, this is the time of the year when you do your fine tuning or overhauling, whatever the case may require.  I know we are all eager for news from Indianapolis, where they are having the Winter Meetings.  Who will become the next savior of Red Sox Nation?  Who is going to be the next prospect we’re bludgeoned over the head with as we become familiar with him, months or even years before we actually meet him?  We talk about Jose Iglesias as if he’s our next door neighbor.  Ryan Westmoreland might already be more familiar to us than some of our own relatives (you know, the ones we dread seeing over the holidays).  Casey Kelly and Ryan Kalish are faceless names to us, but when a co-worker mentions one of them around the water cooler, we animatedly nod and say- “Oh yeah, he’s gonna be good, real good!!!”  The point is we all have the fever.  More contagious than H1N1, and almost as dangerous.  There used to be an offseason.  Not anymore.  Players work out 12 months a year.  The media sniffs out stories all winter long. Fans scour the internet for any little tidbit of data that might make them a tad smarter than the next guy.  Is there such a thing as a “healthy obsession?”  That’s what we’ve become as a society.  We want it all, then we want more, and we want it yesterday.  Whether it’s baseball, money, being famous, rich or thin, we are obsessed.  Obsessed with news about the Tiger Woods scandal.  “Hey did you hear?  It’s up to ten women!”  Obsessed with Jon and Kate and their eight- “I can’t believe they’re splitting up.”  The Heisman, Who’ll be the new coach at Notre Dame, should LeBron be dancing?  On and on it goes.  I can’t wait for March.  The PawSox will have an exhibition game at their minor league complex, undoubtedly against Rochester.  I will sit there, taking notes, joking with friends and watching baseball.  My kind of baseball.  All will be right with the world.

 

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Remember when instant replay was used primarily to give you a second or third look at a great play?  Now it seems to be used mostly to show you what a crummy job the game officials are doing.  I’m getting really tired of the “coaches challenges” in the NFL.  Baseball should leave it up to the umpires and let the chips fall where they may.

 

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I like football.  I watch a lot of it.  I must admit that I was fairly disinterested in the Tim Tebow era as it unfolded in Gainsville, Florida.  A Heisman and a couple of National Championships for #15 were on my radar, but I honestly didn’t care.  Saturday, Tebow and the Gators lost for the first time in 23 games, knocking them out of the Title picture.  That also was the day I became a Tebow fan.  Obviously devastated, the quarterback stood tall, gained his composure and congratulated Alabama on national TV.  He handled himself with dignity and class and has made me a fan for life.  In this day of  “Me, me, me!” Tebow is a terrific example of what I hope my kids turn out to be.  Postgame interviews with the losing side are never easy, but what grace this young man displayed.  He should be why we love sports.     

KEEPING THE FAITH

What choice do we have?  We have to believe in the keeper of the flame, Theo Epstein.  He let Alex Gonzalez get away for a second time.  The defensive whiz is now a Blue Jay where he’ll have to be content to battle for fourth place.  Gonzalez also hit the ball well at the tail end of last season, which made the move a little baffling.  The revolving door at shortstop continues to spin and this time has landed on Marco Scutaro, the 34 year old journeyman, who is supposed to keep the seat warm until 19 year old Jose Iglesias is ready to take over.  The Sox couldn’t count on Jed Lowrie, the 25 year old with the gimpy wrist, to be their every day guy come April.  Jed will be afforded  the chance to win a roster spot at Spring Training, but the Sox, although they deny it, are desparately trying to “keep up with the Joneses” (the Yankees).  Experts say that Scutaro is a better all-around player but I’m not convinced.  The Boston papers spin it like it is the “key to the holy grail”, we shall see.  Is Scutaro a better option than Nomar, Orlando, Edgar, Alex, Julio?  They made an ill-fated run at Hanley Ramirez last season.  That’d be too good to be true.  At least on paper, the shortstop problem is solved.  Ultimately, of greater concern, is the loss of Scouting Director, Jason McLeod.  McLeod, the architect of the Sox recent drafts, has been named the assistant general manager in San Diego.  He will report to general manager, Jed Hoyer, another former member of the Red Sox front office.  In my mind, Jason is a very good baseball guy and a future GM himself.  The Winter Meetings are on the horizon in Indianaoplis and should provide some interesting fodder for the grist mill.  Will Boston celebrate the holidays with Holliday and/or Halladay in the fold?  Will Massachusetts remain the Bay State?  A lot of questions need to be answered and the time is drawing near.  So, boys and girls, get out your pad and pen and write the nicest letter to Santa that you can.

 

 

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Went to a couple of movies the last couple of weeks.  An enormous Steve Hyder thumbs up to “The Blind Side.”  Sandra Bullock was awesome.  As much as I love Robert DiNero, don’t waste your time or money on “Everybody’s Fine”.  They’re not. 

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