November 2011

HOW WILL THEY MANAGE??

     Why is it that the Red Sox are still the only team without a manager?  Should they have pulled the trigger on Dale Sveum, or was Sveum just the favorite of Theo Epstein, who eventually brought him to the Cubs.  Sveum, Pete Mackinin, Sandy Alomar Jr. and the rest of the candidates all seem like guys who could and would blend into the woodwork. Gene Lamont is another perfect example.  The 64 year old Lamont has managed in the Bigs before, without distinction.  Heck, I’d rather see the Sox skippered by Lamont from “Sanford and Son”.  He could put Grady and Bubba  on his coaching staff.  That would be fun.  Aunt Esther could sit right behind the plate, next to Jeremy Kapstein.

     It looks like Bobby Valentine is the leading candidate at the moment.  I don’t get that choice and honestly, unless someone has a compelling argument in favor of Bobby V, I don’t like it.  Ever since he came out of the clubhouse after an ejection, wearing a false mustache, I’v regarded him as a clown.  That’s not what the Red Sox need.  Players who’ve played for him have told me that it’s “always about Bobby”, meaning he craves the spotlight and will try to get his share.  I wouldn’t exactly call him a winner, either.  In 15 Major league seasons, he is just 45 games over the .500 plateau  (1117-1072) although he did win a Japanese World Series in 2005.

     Let this be a lesson to all you holiday shoppers.  If you wait too long, you only get the picked-over stuff.  In this case, I think the Sox were shopping at Wal-Mart, rather than Nordstrom.

WHAT I’M THANKFUL FOR

     I’m thankful that Jacoby Ellsbury finished second in the A.L. MVP voting.  Well deserved.  Nobody’s yapping anymore about him and where he rehabs.  He shut everyone up.  I’ve always liked him and now he takes his rightful place among the elite players in baseball.  If you are to believe the balloting and in this case I do, Ells was the best position player in the American League in 2011.  I’m thankful he finished second, but I would’ve much preferred a first place finish.  I am not among those who believe that pitchers should be eligible for the award.

     I’m thankful that it is still 3 months before pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers for Spring Training.  Not ready.  Not yet.

     I’m thankful that the fiasco that was the September of 2011 is fading into the sunset.  Sure the guys will have to answer questions throughout the Spring and into the season.  Serves them right.  Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.  When you look at what’s going on at places like Penn State, a little chicken and beer doesn’t seem so bad.

     I am thankful for the Theo Epstein/Terry Francona years.  Yeah, it’s been 4 years since the Sox won the World Series, but it beats the heck out of 86 years.  Both guys left town on down notes, but they could go down as the best GM/Manager combo in Boston history.

     I’m thankful for the Jonathan Papelbon era in Boston.  It wasn’t always a sure thing, but it usually was.  It also was pretty exciting.  I will miss Pap staring down a batter and watching him blow it by him.  I will also miss the fist pump that invariably follows.  I hope all the people who said “let him go” are prepared for life after him.  Other than Mariano Rivera (gulp), Pap was the closest thing to a sure thing there is.

     I am thankful for the New England Patriots.  They make the winter much more tolerable.  They ease the sting of the Celtics not being around.  The NBA is making the mistake of a lifetime.  Fans are going to realize they can get along quite nicely without the millionaires in the baggy shorts.  Throw in the Bruins and College Basketball and you’re all set.

     I am thankful that there are three NFL games on Turkey Day.  Three is better than two.  It’s three more hours you don’t have to make idle chatter with relatives.

     I am thankful for the 2011 season we enjoyed with the PawSox.  20 games over .500 is pretty good.  I’ll take that every time.  Woulda been a little more thankful if the big boys hadn’t raided the cupboard as the postseason began.  I’m also grateful to the PawSox fans who come out to McCoy every night, or listen on the radio and internet.  I’m thankful for the relationships I have with our players, staff and their families.  The feedback via e-mail or snail mail is always appreciated.

     Last but not least, I am thankful for my family and friends.  They may be a crazy bunch, but you couldn’t ask for a more supportive group.  I am thankful that my mother thinks that I am better than Bob Costas.  (She’s been saying it for so many years, I think she really believes it)  I bow to the great Costas, one of my broadcasting heroes, by the way.  I’ll be really thankful if she decides not to make carrots and turnips on Thursday.

     Happy Thanksgiving, and save me a leg!

TIME FOR CHANGE

     I am certain I have spoken out before about my feelings about the knuckleball in general and Tim Wakefield, in particular.  I hate the knuckleball.  I don’t hate Wakefield, but it’s time to call it quits.  Wakefield is 45 and well beyond his best days.  In 2011, he went 7-8 with an ERA of 5.12.  I guess it didn’t look that bad in comparison to Jon Lackey.  Anyway,  we all kept vigil as he arduously stumbled and bumbled to his 200th win.  He finally got it and I figured maybe he’d ride off into the sunset.  No chance.  His agent says he wants to return to Boston for 2012.

     Barry Meister is his agent and he is lobbying for Wakefields’ return.  “It would be a shame if he didn’t pitch for Boston.”  I, and thousands, maybe millions of Sox fans disagree.  Maybe he wasn’t chugging beer and chowing down on fried chicken, but he wan’t much help either.  We’ve seen what he can do.  Been there, done that.  As it turns out, it would have been better to watch Kyle Weiland, Alex Wilson or Felix Doubront cut their Major League teeth.  Gracefully bow out.  Meister claims, he can find a home in the National League and win “15 games.”  Highly unlikely, considering he has won that many games only 4 times in 19 years.

     Although his 2 million dollar salary may seem paltry by todays’ standards, where else will he make that kind of dough?  Everything about his desire to stay is selfish.  He is 6 wins short of tying Cy Young and Roger Clemens all time Red Sox record for victories.  Really, does he belong on the same line as Young and the now-disgraced Clemens?  Not even close.  Yeah, 200 wins is special.  How about the 180 losses.  Play golf, go fishing.  Just go.  His agent says “He wants to win.”  Wow, really?  And how does that set him apart from anyone else?  I love to win, but the Sox aren’t going to let me go out there and pitch.  I could have lost nearly 200 games for them over the last couple of decades if they let me.    

     The Sox let Papelbon go.  Why not cut ties with Tim Wakefield.  Does he have pictures?  I respect the tradition of the Red Sox.  Hey,  it would be fun to have Carl Yastrzemski back.  A 72 year old leftfielder would be perfect with the ancient knuckler.  Nonetheless, it is up to management.  Do the right thing.  A gold watch, a car, whatever it takes to make Wake go away.  A baseball funeral for Wake.   If Ben Cherington  re-signs him, he may deserve a rap on the knuckles.

TOREY GETS MY VOTE

     I mentioned in my last post that Torey Lovullo was pleased to at least be mentioned as a managerial candidate for the Red Sox.  Well, it’s gone a couple of steps further.  Lovullo, who managed the PawSox in 2010 is supposed to be in Boston on Friday to interview for the spot vacated by Terry Francona.

     I am a little biased.  I spent an entire season with the man and I honestly respect and like him very much.  I have admitted to being nervous when he replaced Ron Johnson as the manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox.  RJ had been there for 5 years and it was comfortable.  We had a system, a routine and there was  no way Torey could fill his shoes.  I was dead wrong.  Torey Lovullo not only had my respect, but you could tell that every man in that clubhouse respected him, as well.  Torey has a no-nonsense approach.  He completely understands the game and more importantly, the players.  I believe he distinguishes himself in that regard.

     Lovullo might be the perfect man for the job.  A former player, still young and in touch at age 46, yet brought up in an Italian household, where his father Sam, the legendary executive producer of “HeeHaw” reigned with the right measure of discipline and compassion.

     A couple of “nuggets” that long-time readers and listeners may remember that I’m certain my colleagues will start writing about after they read this.  

1.  Torey once played basketball with Elvis Presley in the “Kings” driveway.  The Lovullo family stopped at Presleys’ Palm Springs home, and the bored young Torey went outside to shoot hoops.  Presley joined him.

2.  Lovullo graduated from Montclair College Prep High School, in Van Nuys California.  Other notables from MCP include Michael Jackson, Cher, Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Eve Plumb (Jan from the “Brady Bunch”) 

3.  In high school, Lovullo dated the daughter of legendary singer Barry White.

4.  Torey is enshrined in the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame.

5.  When on the field, he ties his shoe laces in a double knot, an homage to the late John Wooden, who coached basketball at UCLA while he was a student on campus.

     None of those things will help him get the job, but  his other attributes should.  Lovullo goes way back with Ben Cherington and Mike Hazen.  He has an in depth knowledge of the system and the respect of the players.  He will be a Major League Manager some day.  It’s a big decision for the Sox, one that will define Cheringtons’ tenure.  I think it’s a good calculated gamble.  Even if Torey is a Los Angeles Lakers’ fan.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

     Just some random thoughts as we edge closer to Spring Training.  I say that somewhat sarcastically and here’s why.  What is up with the “goobers” who, one day after the World Series ends, proclaim that they “miss baseball already” and “can’t wait for Spring Training”.  Really??  Especially the way things ended this year?  As William Shatner one famously said in a skit spoofing Trekkies on Saturday Night Live, “Get a life, people!”

     I am on Twitter.  Both my daughter Eva, and Dan Hoard convinced me to jump on board last Spring.  I do find it interesting at times, but man, have I wasted time following the inane ramblings of some people.  We do not need to hear your every thought.

     I am relatively certain that Pete Mackinin and Dale Sveum are good people, but honestly, if I held up a picture of either one, could the average Joe name him?  I love the folks who think they know who will be a good manager and who won’t.  The in-depth profiles are great, but who cares if Sveum likes strawberry ice cream and Mackinin watches reruns of “Seinfeld.”  Seems to me that that type of “microscope” was what helped lead to the end of the Tito era in Boston.  

     Allaird Baird is a nice guy and I’ve enjoyed my encounters with him over the last several   seasons.  He is the former GM of the Royals, who was brought to Boston by Theo Epstein, as an assistant.  Allard reportedly took himself out of the running for the GM job in Baltimore.  How bad of a job must that be?  Hey, Peter Angelos, if no one else wants it, I’ll take it. Last time I saw the Orioles, they looked pretty good.

     Ecstatic for my man, Rob Leary.  Leary was hired by the Indians as their minor league field coordinator, a position he once held and handled adeptly with the Sox.  Leary was recently let go in the aftermath of Black September.  He was a staff assistant in Boston the last couple of years.  He is too good a baseball man to not have a job.

     Spoke to my dear friend Ron Johnson recently.  RJ, the former PawSox manager who had been a first base coach in Boston for a couple of years, was also let go the same day as Leary.  Simply, those two were no longer under contract, and not renewed, while the other coaches still had time left on their deals.  RJ says he has spoken to a few friends in the game and was starting to listen to offers.  Johnson, whos’ daughter Bridget endured a tragic accident accident last summer that cost her a leg, was philosophical when he talked about the job situation.  “The Red Sox were good to me for a lot of years.”  RJ continued.  “Hydes, after what we went through last year, this is nothing.”  Nonetheless, I didn’t like the way Johnson was let go.  Made it look like he and Leary were scapegoated for the epic collapse.  Believe me, it wasn’t their fault.

     Also was in touch with another former Pawtucket skipper recently.  Torey Lovullo, who managed the PawSox in 2010 said he was flattered to be at least mentioned as a potential candidate to replace his friend Terry Francona in Boston.  Torey went to Toronto to be John Farrells’ first base coach with the Jays.

     I love the holidays just as much as anyone, but isn’t Novemebr 1 a tad early for Christmas music?

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