December 2003 Red Sox

December 23, 2003

 

The Team is Taking Shape

 

Pokey Reese at second? Hmmm, it reminds me a bit of the Rey Sanchez experiment at first glance.

 

While it isn’t official yet, rumor has it the Red Sox are going to sign Pokey Reese to be their second baseman in 2004. From all accounts, he has a fantastic glove, but very little bat.

 

His acquisition surprises me in some aspects as A.) He isn’t good with the bat and B.) He is a defensive wiz.

 

Before the start of the 2003 season Theo Epstein said he felt second base in the American League was an offensive position. That statement basically told me that offense is most important and defense is secondary. Hence the acquisition of Todd Walker. Walker had and still has a reputation of a decent fielding percentage, but lousy range to compliment his above average bat (for a second baseman).

 

Reese on the other hand, has great range.. Does this mean Epstein changed his mind or that he thinks Reese will hit better this year than he has in the past? I don’t know.

 

Take a look at Walker’s and Reese’s range factor’s the past 4 seasons at 2b:

Walker Reese
2000 4.51 5.44
2001 5.09 5.36
2002 5.14 5.87
2003 4.75 6.43
Total 4.93 5.67

 

Range Factor is essentially the total putouts and assists a player has in a 9 inning game.

 

As you can see, Reese has far better range. Of course, range isn’t a perfect judgment of glovesmanship. For instance, a fly ball pitcher is less likely to allow a grounder to second than a ground ball pitcher. Additionally, perhaps the shortstop is lousy at turning the double play, resulting in fewer assists for the 2b.

 

But, Reese has been consistently better over the past 4 seasons in which he played for 2 different teams and Walker 4 different teams. As for fielding percentage, let’s look:

 

Walker Reese
2000 .968 .980
2001 .984 .980
2002 .989 .988
2003 .975 .969
Total .981 .982

 


Fielding % is the number of assist and putouts safely converted.

 

Reese has a slight edge here too. Some would say the fact Reese has a similar fielding % as Walker goes to show how good he is. Why? Because Reese probably gets to balls Walker can only look at. Therefore, there is a chance if Reese flubs one of those difficult long ranging plays and gets and error, it is ok because Walker wouldn’t have touched it.

 

I’m convinced Pokey is a far better defender than Walker. Now, how about hitting?

 

Reese isn’t good. In his career he is a .251 hitter with a .310 OBP and a .357 Slg. He is fast though. He has stolen 138 bases over his 7 major league seasons and only been caught 24 times. That’s a fairly impressive 85% success rate. Keep in mind the all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson has a 81% success rate…although his does involve a few more attempts.

 

But if Reese can’t get on base, speed won’t help him much.

 

I have to assume Epstein feels, with his new pitching acquisitions, that he needs to make sure he has a solid 2b glove man even if it means sacrificing offense. But again, Curt Schilling is a fly ball pitcher. Oh well, Epstein doesn’t have too much money left over to spend on 2b, so Reese, with Mark Bellhorn back-up him up, will have to do.

 

In other Red Sox news, Gabe Kapler re-signed for 1 year at $750,000. In addition, Doug Mirabelli re-signed at $825,000 for 1 year. There had been some speculation that Andy Dominique might get the call as back-up catcher in case Mirabelli had refused to sign for a non-arbitration contract.

 

The Red Sox cut ties with Damian Jackson, Lou “The Governor” Merloni and Scott Sauerbeck.

 

Oh yeah, Texas Ranger owner Tom Hicks set his 3rd deadline on the ARod/Manny deal. Yikes, Hicks is a joker. Either waive the money requirement or look somewhere else for a trade. Quite extending your non-extendable deadlines.

 

Tom Warner is now negotiating the deal as Larry Lucchino managed to alienate ARod, the Texas Rangers, the Players Association and the Red Sox. Way to go Larry. If I were John Henry, I’d cut Lucchino loose. Lucchino’s track record isn’t really good and he apparently can’t handle stressful negotiations. Let Henry and Tom Werner worry about ownership stuff and Epstein handle the baseball stuff. Although keeping Lucchino around makes Henry look more intelligent when compared to Lucchino.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2003

 

The ARod stayeth

 

Well that stunk. I was just about to pencil in Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez into the 3-4 spots in the Red Sox line-up. Now I guess we’ll have to settle for Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez….oh, and save $8.5m while doing so.

 

I have to admit, I like the idea of having ARod in the line-up. He is ultra-consistent and a better glove man than Nomar. More importantly, his arrival would mean the loss of Manny. While there is no question Manny can hit, there are question about virtually every other part of his game and his being.

 

During this hectic past week, I found myself reading various message boards sifting through the garbage in hopes of some helpful info. I have to say, I read some very funny things. One poster, I believe it was on the Providence Journal message board, said about Manny that he doubted he had any idea these negotiations were going on. Instead, he was at home playing with his toys and waiting for Santy to come.

 

For some reason, that cracked me up. It is probably fairly accurate too.

 

Ok, so it appears, at least for now, that we are “stuck” with Nomar and Manny. Is this a bad thing? No. In fact, this whole scenario was a win-win situation. If the Red Sox had successfully traded for ARod and Ordonez, one could argue you have better defense, and at worst, the same offense. I’d say you’d have had better offense in fact. Additionally, you’d have had a more positive vibe from those two.

 

Seeing as the deal didn’t work out, you still have a great hitter at SS and a great hitter in LF. Your defense probably isn’t as good, but you aren’t spending as much money and you have much greater financial flexibility down the road.

 

Can the relationships be fixed with Nomar and Manny? I think so. Nomar definitely, he is too much a professional and is in a contract year. Manny? Probably. As I mentioned before, Manny probably didn’t even consider this trade that much. He could hit playing in exile. He’ll be fine.

 

Of course, this deal isn’t dead in the water. Texas Ranger officials still insist talks are ongoing. I still think this trade will happen. It seems all parties want it to happen. But John Henry is a smart business man and he is obviously ready to walk away from the deal if it doesn’t make sense for the Red Sox.

 

Apparently Texas asked for Manny, minor league prospect John Lester and $5m a year over 5 years ($25m total). Texas backed off that offer a bit late in the negotiations saying they still wanted the same personnel, but just wanted $5m a year for 3 years ($15m total). That $10m savings to the Red Sox supposedly is going to help them close the gap in savings they had hoped to realize through the renegotiated ARod contract. Their original proposal to the Players Union would have resulted in a $28m savings, but the union countered with a deal that would save $13m, or $15m short of the Red Sox goal.

 

With Texas’ concession, they are only $5m apart. For these 2 teams, $5m is nothing. It’s squat!

 

Then again, the highly emotional Larry Lucchino released a statement that the deal was dead in the water because of the Players Union. Lucchino cracks me up. He is just the opposite of the thoughtful John Henry. Henry is well spoken and careful not to lash out or insult anyone or any organization. Lucchino will throw around accusations and call people silly things. It is just plain fun to see a man dressed in a jacket and tie say the things he says. He is the bad cop to Henry’s good cop.

 

I wonder if Lucchino is really like that or he and Henry have an understanding that Lucchino should act like that to allow Henry to always take the high road. It is entertaining whatever the reality.

 

So, get ready for this line-up:

 

Damon – cf
Mueller – 3b
Garciaparra – ss
Ramirez – lf
Ortiz – dh
Millar (I like ARod better) – 1b
Nixon – RF(platoon him please!)
Varitek – c
Bellhorn/Reese – 2b

 

Hey, that’s not bad. Bellhorn was acquired earlier this week and rumor has it Reese might be in the mix too. Bellhorn is the superior bat while Reese is the defensive wiz. Bellhorn isn’t bad with the glove, it’s just that Reese is excellent.

 

I see them platooning at 2b with Bellhorn getting the majority of the starts and Reese coming as a defensive replacement. That is unless one of them really outperforms the other from the start of spring training.

 

Oh, by the way, the line-up might look like this by next week:

 

Damon – cf
Mueller – 3b
Ordonez – lf
Rodriguez – ss
Ortiz – dh
Millar (I’m happy now) – 1b
Nixon – rf
Varitek – c
Bellhorn/Reese – 2b

 

Seriously, I don’t think you can loose with either one of these. The key to this off season will wind up being the fact the Red Sox traded for Curt Schilling and signed Keith Foulke. Getting or not getting ARod will mean more from a hype standpoint than a baseball performance standpoint.

 

I just hope this drama that is the Big Trade will conclude soon. I thought the 5pm deadline on Thursday was going to be it, but no, it lives on. Just figure it out already. Cripes!

 

Posted by Andy at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2003

 

Front to Back

 

It’s been a good off-season for the Red Sox. As it stands right now, they have lost only John Burkett and Todd Walker as far as starters/everyday players go. They’ve added Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, arguably the top 5 in baseball at their respective jobs. From front to back, the Red Sox pitching staff is much improved.

 

The Rotation:

 

Pedro Martinez
Curt Schilling
Derek Lowe
Tim Wakefield
Byung-Hyun Kim

 

The Bullpen:

 

Bronson Arroyo
Ramiro Mendoza
Alan Embree
Mark Malaska
Mike Timlin
Scott Williamson
Keith Foulke

 

Word has it Scott Sauerbeck is heading to the Chicago Cubs, so he is out of the picture. Additionally, there is talk of moving Williamson or Kim to free up enough payroll to sign a second baseman and to staff the bench.

 

Theo Epstein, by making the Schilling and Foulke moves, has basically resigned himself to the idea of a cheap solution at second, this at his own admission. We’ve been over the 2b thing before, so until the non-tender list is known, let’s not think about it except to say Tony Graffanino accepted a 2 year deal with the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. Not that he is a big loss, but it had been mentioned that he was offered a 1 year deal from the Red Sox.

 

Back to the bullpen. I personally would like it if Theo could manage to keep Williamson on board as a set-up guy. That or put him in the rotation (which he apparently wants) and use Kim as the set-up guy. You can never have enough good arms. NEVER!!!

 

That being said, it just might not be financially feasible. While I’m still trying to nail it down, I haven’t confirmed the salary cap before the luxury tax is triggered. The most common number I’ve seen batted around is $120.5m. So, to keep the Red Sox under that, he might have to unload an arm or two.

 

Or, he could trade Manny Ramirez and a prospect to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez and then turn around and move Nomar Garciaparra for prospects or a second baseman or a left fielder, or all 3 of the above. Even though this Manny/ARod trade has been mentioned for weeks now, I still won’t believe it when/if it happens. ARod is the best all-around player in baseball. What possible interest could he have in Boston?

 

Well, I don’t know what interest he’d have, but after Sunday, I’m think this trade has to happen. Here’s why. It was announced that Miguel Tejada signed with the Baltimore Orioles for 6 years, $72m!!!! Holy lord, that knocked me off my feet. $12m a year for Tejada? In this market? I didn’t expect to him to get another more than $10m a year tops. In fact, it was rumored that the Seattle Mariners only offered him 3 years at $8m per.

 

The key here is that if you assume Nomar is better than Tejada (not saying you do, but I think that is public perception), then there is no chance the Red Sox are going to be able to resign Nomar. If you believe the numbers floating around, the Red Sox offered Nomar a 4 year, $60m extension in early 2003. He turned it down indicating he wanted something in the Derek Jeter range of $17m per season or $68m over 4 years. The Red Sox sensed a correction in the market, as did many of us, and removed that offer and now are offering 4 years, $48m to Nomar. He rejected that too.

 

The Red Sox were probably figured Tejada would get $8-9m per season and that would justify their latest offer to Nomar. Now, $12m won’t get it done with Nomar anymore. My bet is that they’d prefer paying ARod $25 million per season than Nomar and Manny $37m per season. The thinking being they can get a more than solid Manny replacement for the $12m difference.

 

Additionally, if ARod were willing to somehow adjust/alter his existing contract to be more team friendly, then it might be an even better. Keep in mind, I glossed over the fact that the Rangers might not accept an ARod for Manny and a prospect deal. From all indications, Tom Hicks, the Rangers owner, wants a big chunk of cash to go along with Manny. If he fails change his tune this might be a moot discussion.

 

Things with Nomar might be so badly damaged that this move is the only way to get out from under the problems. I suppose giving him $17m a season would help too, but that to me is too much to pay him. I expected to know the outcome of the Manny/ARod talks by now, but there is still plenty of talk about it.

 

By the way, I really like how the media is painting a picture of a New York Yankee’s team that is in total disarray and in turmoil. Please. Sure, they might have lost Andy Pettitte, but they filled that hole with Kevin Brown. Ok, Roger Clemens retired (we think) but they traded for Javier Vazuez, one of the best young pithers in the game. And don’t forget, they broke up the Karim Garcia and Juan Rivera rightfield platoon, but they apparently signed Gary Sheffield to fill the void.

 

Face it, there is nothing wrong with the Yankees that can’t be fixed with a $12m contract. Doesn’t this sort of thing happen every season with the Yankees? Clubhouse turmoil, Joe Torre and Don Zimmer feeling disrespected from the man above. The Yankees winning 100 games.

 

Come on Red Sox fans. Don’t fall into the trap! The Yankees will be back next year stronger than ever. They have 3 top flight starters, they have 30 home run potential at catcher, firstbase, secondbase, left field, center field and right field. They’re a powerhouse and any management bungling will be quickly overcome with the help of cash.

 

Hey, if I were Gene Michael and Brian Cashman, I couldn’t wait to leave New York. Let the Boss hire a figure head General Manager and then make all the moves himself. Cashman and Michael can’t be getting any excitement or satisfaction out of their jobs. Sure they are making good money, but after a while, each will figure out they are likely to make 60 cents on the dollar with another major league team and be given actual authority to make or break that team.

 

Have some guts boys. Leave that power monger to run his team the way he wants. You are both quite employable after all.

 

Before I let you go, am I the only one that would like to see a platoon in rightfield with Trot Nixon hitting against righties and someone else hitting against lefties? That might mean only 400-450 at bats for Trot, but I think it is a crime to let him hit against lefties. Check out his past 3 seasons versus lefties:

 

Nixon .AVG .OBP .SLG .OPS
2001 .210 .309 .295 .604
2002 .233 .303 .353 .656
2003 .219 .296 .375 .671

 

Ok, he’s getting better, but he still isn’t good. I’m all for allowing a player to learn to do something, but man, he won’t be good at hitting lefties until 2012. Hopefully new skipper Terry Francono will agree.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2003

 

Keep the Hot Stove burning

 

Impact free agents are dropping like flies. The Red Sox have reportedly submitted a few bids, but to date have come up empty.

 

Who’s off the market?

 

Eddie Guardado – Seattle – 1 yr deal with 2 mutual options. $13m-16m over the 3 years.
Bartolo Colon Anaheim – 4 yr, $48m. Wow, that’s like Mo’s contract. They are both large…contracts that is.
Shigatoshi Hasagawa Seattle – 2 yrs, $6.3m.
Shannon Stewart – Minnesota– 3 yrs, reportedly $18m over the deal.
Kaz Matsui – New York Mets – 3 yr, $20.1m.
La Troy Hawkins – Chicago Cubs – 3 years, $11m.
Luis Castillo – Florida – 3 yr, $16m.

 

That leaves only a few leftover impact FAs and most of those are not in the Red Sox price range(Vlad, Sheff, Millwood, etc).

 

Boston seemed intent on signing Keith Foulke, but to date, he has yet to say “I do.” He told the SF Gate that Boston would definitely be the higher offer, but that if Oakland could come up a bit, he’d likely go with them.

 

Hmmm, not sure I want a guy who doesn’t want to be in Boston as a priority. That’s why I liked the Johnny Damon signing 2 years ago. Damon told his agent to work with Boston, first and foremost. It’s nice when a player wants to play for your favorite team.

 

Back to Foulke, should he sign with Oakland, there isn’t too much left in the closer bin. Ugueth Urbina is one option, although, it’d be for a lot less than the $7m per season he was asking for last year. It better be, otherwise he won’t be in Boston.

 

Looking through the listing FA closers, there’s nothing else. So if Foulke goes to Oakland and Urbina goes elsewhere, I guess Scott Williamson is the closer for the Red Sox in 2004.

 

I said it my 11/13/03 column that Williamson would be ok, but Foulke much better. Williamson walks too many guys. You don’t want your closer walking the lead-off guy…it brings back too many bad nightmares of Red Sox closers past.

 

To fill the void at 2b, the Red Sox are eyeing Tony Graffanino. Apparently they’ve offered him a 1 yr, $800k deal. He isn’t too exciting, unless he was part of a platoon. Graffanino is a righty with what would appear to be a slightly below average glove.

 

Graffanino .Avg .Obp .Slg
Career .258 .330 .398
vs. righties (career) .256 .316 .369
vs. lefties (career) .263 .348 .438

 

Based on these numbers Graffanino would be better as part of a platoon. I can’t think of a reasonable lefty 2b bat to make up the other half, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

 

Graffanino hits markedly better against lefties. He’s hit them especially well the past few years:

 

Graffanino .Avg .Obp .Slg
2003 .303 .356 .533
2002 .261 .361 .446
2001 .319 .418 .468

 

He still isn’t a particularly good fielder, but that’s ok to Theo Epstein who is on record as saying that second base in the American League is an offensive position. Who will round out this platoon? Surely Epstein won’t let Graffanino’s Rey Sanchezesque bat against righties hit full time.

 

The only one I can think of is Fernando Vina, but he’ll probably be too expensive, especially if the Red Sox land Foulke. It’s too bad. Todd Walker would have been the ideal platoon candidate. Walker has historically hit righties very well, but might as well have been blind against lefties. It doesn’t matter now though as the Red Sox can’t negotiate with him until May 1, 2004 being that they didn’t offer him arbitration.

 

This weekend’s “winter meetings” are usually the best time of the year for player movement. The status on FAs is known (offered or not offered arbitration). The GMs are all in the same facility and deals seem to happen faster than they can be reported.

 

The Hot Stove is still burning hot. Hear me touch the stove!!! Ok, that was James Brown, not me.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2003

 

Additions and Subtractions

 

Hot and heavy rumors are flying right now regarding the possible trade of Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez. If all things were equal (salary for instance), this is a no-brainer. ARod is Manny’s offensive equal at worst and is defensively superior all the while playing a more important position.

 

I can’t imagine too many people would disagree. But things aren’t equal. ARod makes roughly $5m more per season than Manny and his contract runs 2 years longer than Manny’s.

 

The Texas Rangers must be eager to unload ARod’s salary. No matter what position they are taking publicly, they now realize signing ARod to his current contract was a monumental mistake. The Red Sox feel the same way about Manny’s deal. They proved as much by putting him on unconditional waivers in late October.

 

The biggest fallout if this deal happens is that the Red Sox would most likely have to unload Nomar. What is unclear right now is what they’d get in return for him. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels appear to be the 2 most likely destinations.

 

What would this mean for the Red Sox line-up?

 

Add:
.OBP .SLG R HR RBI SB
ARod .396 .600 124 47 118 17

 

Subtract:
.OBP .SLG R HR RBI SB
Nomar .345 .524 120 28 115 19
Manny .427 .587 117 37 104 3

 

.OBP .SLG R HR RBI SB
Difference n/a n/a 113 18 101 4

 

That is a bunch of offensive off the Red Sox books, even if ARod had a better season than either one of them. By making these trades (Manny for ARod and Nomar for whoever), the Red Sox would be saving money, but would be losing offensive production.

 

Can Theo Epstein turn around and find a suitable left field replacement for Manny? There in lies the key. Epstein has proved effective at finding non-tender players and free agents who are under the radar of most other teams. Can he do it again? Getting a affordable left field who can replace the missing offense will be tough though, even if that player only replaces 85% of the missing offense. My guess is yes, Epstein can do it again.

 

Here is the salary breakdown:

 

2004 salary commitments:

 

Nomar Garciaparra: $11.5m
Manny Ramirez: $20.5 / $19.7m *

 

Alex Rodriguez: $21m / $20m #

 

* – Manny’s deal calls for $20.5m in 2004, but $4m of that is deferred. In addition, his original signing bonus calls for payouts of $3.2m per year from 2001-2005 all of which makes his 2004 actual compensation at $19.7m.

 

# – ARod’s deal calls for $21m in 2004, but $3m of that is deferred. In addition, his original signing bonus calls for $2m per year from 2001-2005 all of which makes his 2004 actual compensation at $20m.

 

figures courtesy of: http://www.bluemanc.demon.co.uk/baseball/mlbcontracts.htm.

 

Using the $11.5m, $20.5m and the $21m figures respectively for Nomar, Manny and ARod, the Red Sox would save $11m in 2004. But, presumably, the Red Sox would get some major league talent in return for Nomar, so after paying that talent, the savings could drop. Let’s say they end up netting a $5m savings, that might be enough for them to get a left fielder and a second baseman while still staying under the luxury tax.

 

Man, we are talking about some serious cash and talent flying around. Enough in fact to make Texas want to do this deal. Apparently Texas wants the Red Sox to assume a portion of Manny’s contract in order for this deal to happen. That doesn’t make much sense from the Red Sox standpoint. They would already be assuming the biggest contract in MLB history, why make it even worse? If Texas doesn’t change its stance, I say walk away.

 

The total saving Texas will get out of this is $96m in present day value according to Peter Gammons. How can Ranger owner Tom Hicks walk away from that? He can’t. Who could? Well, I can think of one owner who could walk away from saving money. What’s his name again? He splits time between New York and Florida. I can’t come up with it right now. Oh well. Anyway, the $96m will afford Hicks flexibility to spread the money around in a more judicious manner.

 

It sounds like a conclusion to all of this will be had by the end of the Winter Meetings in New Orleans which start on December 12th and end a few days later, I don’t know the exact date.

 

Additionally, Keith Foulke and Eddie Guardado might reach a decision on where they want to pitch. Having them both in the bullpen is unlikely, but fun to think about. Imagine have Guardado and Williamson hand the ball off to Foulke in the 9th?

 

In case you missed it, the New York Yankees traded Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate to the Montreal/San Juan Expos for Javier Vazquez. That was a major move. It now gives the Yankees a rotation of: Mike Mussina, Vazquez, Jose Contreras, Jeff Weaver and Jon Lieber. Expect the 4 and 5 spots to change as there are rumors the Yanks will get one of the following: Kevin Brown, Andy Pettitte, Bartolo Colon or even Odalis Perez.

 

The Curt Schilling trade was the first of many moves to be made by the Yankees and Red Sox this off-season. I imagine the 25 man rosters will change significantly by spring training. Ahhh, sunny spring training in Fort Myers, Florida. Seems like a world away from a snowy northeast in December.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2003

 

Park Debate

 

Originally published as a debate between Peter and Andy over which park is better, Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park.

 

Which is better: Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park? I’m annoyed I even have to do this. Is there really any debate?

 

Fenway Park is better. Much better.

 

Where else can you enjoy a Major League baseball game in such an intimate setting? Each seat has a closeness that upper deck seats and even lower deck seats at Yankee Stadium can only hope for. Yankee Stadium is gigantic with its upper deck extending, at a ridiculously dangerous angel, toward the heavens. Watching the game from that altitude requires a telescope.

 

At Fenway the furthest seats, in my estimation the bleacher seats under the centerfield scoreboard, are a reasonable distance considering the $10 price. The Stadium, as it is sometimes pretentiously called, is a large, cold pit with no distinguishing features. Worst of all, its main color is blue. Blue! That’s no baseball color. Fenway’s green grass, green fences and green walls, now that’s baseball.

 

I’ll be the first to admit, being slightly goonish in size, that Fenway Park is a bit tough on the legs. The seating layout is basically the same as it was in the first half of the 20th century. People were significantly shorter and apparently thinner back then, as my love handles rest nicely on the arms rests, but seat size is the only second class citizen in this debate.

 

The Green Monster, the triangle and Pesky’s Pole combine to create a dynamic playing field that keeps players on their toes and fans on the edge of their seats. Yankee Stadium’s only interesting part is a shortened right field porch.

 

I’m sure this debate is moot amongst Red Sox and Yankee fans. The real key is asking the average baseball fan who doesn’t root for the Yankees or Red Sox. ESPN compiled a ranking system of all 30 ballparks in their Page 2 section. Fenway finished ahead of Yankee Stadium using their admittedly arbitrary measuring system.

 

In his write-up of Yankee Stadium, ESPN’s Jeff Merron wrote about the ushers: “They screen for ignorant and hostile applicants. Then they hire them.” Ouch. I just included that because it’s funny.

 

Additionally, Rob Neyer, a typically by the numbers kind of writer, also took Fenway over Yankee Stadium in a landslide.

 

That argument that Fenway is better than Yankee Stadiums has many well used components; it’s a warmer environment, it is like stepping back in time, it is as close-up to a ball game you can get, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

 

The Yankees may have the historically better team, but the Red Sox have the better park.

 

 

Posted by Andy at 09:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2003

 

The Return Salvo

 

The New York Yankees didn’t waste too much time after the Curt Schilling trade assembling a good portion of their missing pieces.

 

Signed:

 

Aaron Boone – 1 year, $5.75m
Tom Gordon – 2 years, $7.25m
Enrique Wilson – $700k

 

Almost signed:

 

Gary Sheffield – 3 years, $36-38m

 

Rumored signings:

 

Paul Quantrill – 2 years – $6m
Felix Heredia – 2 years, $3.5m
Gabe White – 1 or 2 years, $2.5-$5m(unsure of details)

 

If all of these moves happen, they’ll have addressed their vacancies at 3B and RF and will have substantially bolstered their bullpen. Gordon was considered by some to be someone’s next closer, but must have felt his best chance at a World Series was by signing with the Yankees.

 

Quantrill has been reliable to outstanding the past 3 seasons. He seems to bounce around quite a bit, but usually puts together a good season. Heredia and White were on the Yankees last year, so they’ll bring some familiarity.

 

The biggest move remains, however, the signing of Sheffield. I remember his breakthrough season in 1992. His 33 home runs were kind of impressive back then. Now they are the stuff of David Ortiz. In fact, the lowest home run total to lead either the AL or NL the past 10 years has been Dante Bichette’s 40 in 1995 (note: Sheffield’s 33 in 1992 didn’t lead the NL. Fred McGriff had 35).

 

Yikes, got off track for a moment. I’m back. His 33 in 1992 were great, but he disappeared for a while until he had another great season hitting 42 HRs in 1996. Since then he has been solid. Sheffield will add yet another powerful weapon in the Yankees line-up. He is a tough out as he walks a bunch, hits for average (both contributing to his .401 career Obp) and doesn’t strikeout much for a power hitter (most k’s in a season for Sheffield – 79 in 1997).

 

One well publicized knock on Sheffield is his brittleness. Well, he isn’t an iron man, but does manage to stay in the line-up. His past 5 seasons he’s average 145 games. That works out to 90%. Not too bad (although I don’t think you’ll see him take a 10% discount).

 

What do the Yankees have now? Here’s my line-up for them (I’m sure Joe Torre will do something different, but why does he insist on leading off with Soriano?):

 

Johnson – 1b
Jeter – ss
Giambi – dh
Posada – c
Sheffield – rf
Williams – cf
Soriano – 2b
Matsui – lf
Boone – 3b

 

Are you kidding me? That is one scary line-up. I put Soriano 7th because the guys ahead of him are better.

 

Here are their career .avg/.obp/.slg and a few additional comments:

 

Johnson – .256/.376/.424 (.284/.422/.472 in 2003)
Jeter – .317/.389/.462 (after several consecutive down seasons, rebounded in 2003)
Giambi – .302/.415/.549 (down year in 2003)
Posada – .270/.375/.474 (3 straight years of improvement in all 3 categories)
Sheffield – .299/.401/.527
Williams – .305/.390/.492 (down year in 2003)
Soriano – .284/.322/.502 (what he lacks in Obp, he sort of makes up for in slg)
Matsui – .287/.353/.435 (entering his 2nd season in majors, I bet he improves these)
Boone – .270/.332/.448 (come into his own in 2002 and 2003)

 

If you look at the 1-6, there isn’t an easy out or a guy that can’t park one. The 7-9 guys aren’t creampuffs, but they aren’t quite as good as the others. Still, they’d be 3-4-5 hitters on most other teams.

 

This doesn’t make me happy. These guys are good every year, but there 2004 addition will be the best…line-up wise anyway.

 

Looking at their bullpen, cripes, they have:

 

Rivera
Karsay
Gordon
Quantill
White
Heredia
Hammond (3 lefties?!?)
Lieber

 

Hmmm, that is too big a bullpen. I’m sure one of them or more will be on the DL to start the season. Lieber is the most likely candidate. I sure hope he plays in 2004. Otherwise he’ll have received over $3m to sit on the DL in 2003 and 2004. He had TJ surgery (think I’m coining a new way to say it?) in late 2002, so he should be ready.

 

Now the only thing the Yankees have to work on is their rotation. That will fall into place shortly. Specifically after the December 7th deadline teams have to offer free agents arbitration.

 

Oh wait, I didn’t say anything about Enrique Wilson. What is there to say? He is the key to any successful World Series run. What with his specialized approach to Pedro Martinez. According to Bigleaguers.com, Wilson went 7-8 against Pedro in 2003. That is some amazing stuff. The good news is he went 0-3 against Curt Schilling in 2003. So, hero one night, goat the next, that’s what we can expect in 2004 from Enrique.

 

That Yankees have partially reloaded and will keep doing so. Expect some big news in the next 7 days from the Red Sox too.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:03 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2003

 

Schilling Secured

 

I never had any doubt.

 

I’m kidding, I had no confidence whatsoever the Red Sox could land Curt Schilling. When ESPN broke the news last Monday that the Red Sox had an agreement with the Arizona Diamondbacks, I immediately figured it was some cruel joke to get Red Sox fans hopes up only to dash them at 5pm est Friday when Curt Schilling would announce to the world that he’d vetoed the trade.

 

Instead, Theo Epstein got the job done. From all accounts, it was Epstein’s tenacity and preparedness that won Curt Schilling over. That and the $25.5m he promised him over the 2005 and 2006 seasons. I find big gobs of cash always seem to be convincing.

 

Fred: Joe, clean that toilet.

 

Joe: Screw.

 

Fred: Here’s a big gob of cash, now clean that toilet.

 

Joe: Done and done.

 

Since the announcement was made Friday evening, I, along with many other Red Sox fans, have been dreaming about marching Pedro, Schilling and Lowe into any 3 game series. If Lowe can recapture his 2002 magic, this trio stands to win 55-65 games between them, right? I know that’s a ton of games, but they are all former 20 game winners, they’ve all started an All-Star game and none has completely lost his touch.

 

Ok, 55-65 games is perhaps a stretch. To give me a better idea of what we might get from these 3 and their other two starting partner, Tim Wakefield and Byung-Hyun Kim, I took a 3 year average for each and got the following:

 

That’s a bunch of info, but basically it is their respective past 3 seasons, divided by 3. I am assuming Kim is the 5th starter for now, although it sounds like the Red Sox may be shopping him around.

 

It is interesting to see that only Schilling has truly been a workhorse over the past few years. Martinez has missed a bunch of time due to injury, Lowe has only been starting for 2 seasons (one good, one average), Wakefield has also been back and forth from the rotation and bullpen, although seems to have settled in as a starter and lastly Kim, who had been a closer the past 3 seasons, except during the start of the 2003 season.

 

So, there are a few questions for this rotation. Health for Pedro and Schilling, bounce back years for Lowe and Wakefield (to their 2002 form) and a successful transition from bullpen to rotation for Kim.

 

I’m still fairly confident I’d put my money on these guys though. Check out the average strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). The strikeout to walk ratio is amazing too (K/BB).

 

Back to my first prediction of 55-65 wins for Pedro, Schilling and Lowe; their 3 year average as a group is 46 wins. That is still good, but let’s hope they can deliver more.

 

It is interesting to see that the five of them have managed a .653 winning % over the past 3 years. That works out to a 106 wins in a 162 game season. Of course, those 5 aren’t going to pitch each and every inning…

 

The Schilling acquisition brings into question team finances. My calculations have them at $120m already with a few roster spots still open. Apparently Schilling’s 2004 contract calls for $12m, of which, $6m is deferred. Major League Baseball uses a variation of present day value to determine team payroll. So Schilling’s hit on the payroll might be as low as $6m. I don’t know the exact formula used, so if any of you know, drop me a note.

 

I also don’t know if buyouts count toward the payroll limit (as it relates to the payroll tax which kicks in when a team meets or exceeds ~$120m in 2004). Either way, the Red Sox do have an internal budget and regardless of whether the buyouts count toward the 2004 payroll limit, the Red Sox still have to pay the buyouts and that impacts their spending ability.

 

The players in italics are arbitration eligible. I’ve made a best guess estimate at what they may get in either arbitration or a pre-arbitration hearing settlement.

 

There are so many holes on the roster right now, your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen. Will Keith Foulke sign? Will Doug Mirabelli be back or will arbitration price him out of the picture? Will Tony Graffanino accept the one year deal the Red Sox offered him. If so, what becomes of Lou Merloni and Damian Jackson?

 

Don’t worry too much about that stuff. Epstein has assembled a solid rotation and a decent bullpen, which he is sure to add to. His line-up is just fine with only 2b a question.

 

Now, in what has already been one of the biggest Red Sox off-seasons in memory, there might be even larger drama ahead. The Alex Rodriguez for Manny Ramirez deal is still being mentioned daily.

 

If that happens, Nomar will be dealt. Presumably for a second baseman and a left fielder. Or, perhaps just to offload some payroll in return for some prospects. Then Epstein can dip into the non-tender group (December 7th!) and fill the line-up openings that way.

 

Seriously, can you think of any team making the 3 moves the Red Sox might end up making in one off season?

 

Done:
Trade – Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon & 2 minor leaguers
Get – Curt Schilling

 

TBD:
Sign – Keith Foulke or Tom Gordon

 

Trade – Manny Ramirez
Get – Alex Rodriguez

 

Trade – Nomar Garciaparra
Get – ???

 

That is some serious roster movement in both quantity and quality. Expect the New York Yankees to counter early and often. Gary Sheffield is probably a soon to be Yankee. Bartolo Colon might be too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them trade for either Odalis Perez or Javier Vazquez. Oh yeah, they’ll probably resign Andy Pettitte as well.

 

So, you might see the Yankees counter the Red Sox rotation like this:

 

Red Sox Yankees
Pedro Martinez Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling Andy Pettitte
Derek Lowe Bartolo Colon
Tim Wakefield Javier Vazquez
Byung-Hyun Kim Jose Contreras

 

That’s doing a good job countering the Red Sox rotation. In other words, we can’t write the Yankees off just yet. Crap. They are still the defending AL East Champs six years running.

 

Then look at the line-ups:

 

Red Sox Yankees
Varitek – c Posada – c
Millar – 1b Johnson – 1b
Graffanino? – 2b Soriano – 2b
Mueller – 3b Boone? – 3b
Garciaparra – ss Jeter – ss
Ramirez – lf Matsui – lf
Damon – cf Williams – cf
Nixon – rf Sheffield? – rf
Ortiz – dh Giambi – dh

 

So you see, the AL East is still going to be tough to take. That Yankee line-up is frightening top to bottom. The Red Sox is good too, but can Mueller, Ortiz, Varitek, Nixon and Millar all have a 2nd consecutive career year? Not likely.

 

Keep checking back as I’m sure the names above are subject to change at a moments notice.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)