March 2004 Red Sox

March 30, 2004

 

Oh So Close

 

The Red Sox open the regular season this coming Sunday night. A primetime match-up against the Baltimore Orioles. I’m fairly happy to get this thing going.

 

As it turns out, the injuries I mentioned in my last post actually have lingered and now stand to impact the start of the 2004 season.

 

Nomar Garciaparra is just now trying to get back into game shape. Even if he is able to resume playing in the next day or so, it remains to be seen if he will be ready for opening day.

 

The good news is that it doesn’t appear he’ll need to go on the DL.

 

Trot Nixon’s injury on the other hand is the most serious of the bunch. He has a slightly bulging disc in his lower back that will keep him out until May.

 

Nixon’s injury means the Red Sox will rotate Manny Ramirez, Gabe Kapler, Kevin Millar, Brian Daubach and Ellis Burks in and out of rightfield. Fortunately, Theo Epstein has put together a deep bench, one capable of filling in for Nixon during his injury.

 

Lastly, Byung-Hyun Kim is battling through shoulder inflamation. His injury should hopefully keep him on the DL no longer than mid-April. Bronson Arroyo stands to get the 5th spot in the rotation during Kim’s injury which means the Red Sox have a little more bullpen capacity.

 

The following are assured to have a spot on the 2004 pitching staff:

 

Pedro Martinez
Curt Schilling
Derek Lowe
Tim Wakefield
Bronson Arroyo

 

Keith Foulke
Scott Williamson
Mike Timlin
Alan Embree

 

But who will round out the staff? Assuming 14 bats, that leaves 11 pitchers. I’ve listed 9 above. The candidates appear to be from the following:

 

Frank Brooks
Tim Haulack
Mark Malaska
Ramiro Mendoza
Reynaldo Garcia
Bobby M. Jones
Anastacio Martinez

 

Of interest, of all the guys listed above, only one has an ERA higher than 3.00 this spring. That’d be Mark Malaska with a 4.50. So Terry Francona and Theo Epstein have a tough decision ahead.

 

Brooks was claimed off waivers from Oakland on March 18th. He has had a good spring and has a pretty good track record in the minors. All of the guys above though have pretty good to great performances this spring. Let’s hope Kim gets healthy soon.

 

Oh yeah, I didn’t mention Mendoza’s chances. Unfortunately, he makes too much money to be waived unless he completely falls apart. So far, in just 2.2 innings, he hasn’t been scored upon this spring, so I’m assuming he’ll be one of the 11 arms making the 25 man roster.

 

So, are you all happy with the following line-up?

 

cf – Johnny Damon
3b – Bill Mueller
lf – Manny Ramirez
ss – Nomar Garciaparra
dh – David Ortiz
1b – Kevin Millar
c – Jason Varitek
rf – Gabe Kapler
2b – Pokey Reese

 

Nomar, of course, might not be in the line-up come opening day and would presumably be replaced by Reese. 2b would be manned by Mark Bellhorn. If that happens, just move everyone up a spot and move Bellhorn to the 8 spot.

 

For arguments sake, let’s assume Nomar is in the opening day line-up. This 9 is pretty solid. I’m happy with things.

 

The rotation looks solid too as does the bullpen. So while things look good on paper, it is time for the Red Sox to go out and play some winnning baseball.

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

 

Zzzzzzzz

 

To date, spring training has been fairly boring. That’s a good thing no doubt. Byung-Hyun Kim is trying to overcome some arm troubles, Trot Nixon’s back is bad, Nomar Garciaparra has been battling a strained Achilles and David McCarty got too tired trying to balance a position player’s workload and a pitcher’s workload.

 

That about sums things up.

 

Kim’s injury means the Red Sox will probably use Bronson Arroyo in the 5 spot to start the season. That also means they’ll have to keep an extra reliever around. Not sure who that’ll be especially since we don’t know who they would have kept had Kim stayed healthy.

 

Nixon’s back problem means the Red Sox may use Manny Ramirez in right and Kevin Millar in left as reported by the Boston Globe in Wednesday’s sports section.

 

An outfield of Millar in left (limited range), Damon in center (no arm) and Ramirez in right (hmmm, I was going to criticize him, but he isn’t that bad), isn’t too appealing, but it’ll have to do. My point about Ramirez is that he really hasn’t been that bad in left. In fact, he turned into a pretty good outfielder last season. He has spoken about his desire to improve his defense and apparently the hard work is paying off.

 

Let me know if I’m way off base with my assessment of Ramirez with the glove.

 

Nomar played in Wednesday’s game going 0-2. Glad he is back in the line-up because as it stands now, there is a good chance the Red Sox will start the season with Nixon and Kim on the DL. That would not be a good start to the season, especially when compared to the overall health the Red Sox had in 2003.

 

Yikes, I’m reaching into the well and have nothing. Sorry, it’s just been a slow spring training.

 

Actually, the Providence Journal’s Art Martone had an interesting piece in Sunday’s Projo. Basically, it revolves around the steady change in how baseball teams conduct their baseball operations.

 

Michael Lewis’ Moneyball best described the new way as being more statistically oriented with less input from traditional scouts. As it is today, close to the start of the 2004 season, there seems to be more statistically oriented teams than old school teams. Martone has a good look at the change and those still doing things the old way.

 

I still like the Red Sox approach. Theo Epstein has surrounded himself with a great sampling of all styles. Bill James and Voros McCracken representing those using numbers and Bill Lajoie and Lee Thomas are more the scouting types. Epstein makes his decisions based on input from all of the above.

 

Like most of you didn’t already know that.

 

One last thing. I’m quite concerned that one of my favorite sites hasn’t been update since November 2003. MLB Contracts/Red Sox Contracts hasn’t been updated in months and even has some code issues with its counter. It has been my salary bible for the past few years. While I don’t know who publishes the site (it is a uk site I believe), I just hope the owner finds the time to keep it going.

 

As a fallback, USA Today has a great salary database. The only problem is that it only covers contracts of years past, it doesn’t show existing contracts and their terms. So sad.

 

Wow, while I was feeling sorry for myself, I decided to visit Doug Pappas’ site. Pappas is an expert on baseball finance, but I have never found his info easy to use. BUT, and that’s a big BUTT, I reviewed his links page and found a new site, dugoutdollars. It is a different format than I’m accustom to, but I’ll take it.

 

Funny, the person that runs dugoutdollars credits MLB Contracts/Red Sox Contracts as his starting point.

 

I hope you all enjoyed the running drama of the past 4 paragraphs.

 

As you can tell, real baseball needs to start soon.

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2004

 

The swap

 

Well howdy-doody. I think the Boston Herald’s Jeff Horrigan reads this site. Why? This is why. Then again, perhaps that means Terry Francona reads this site, not Horrigan.

 

For those too lazy to read the link above, Horrigan reported in today’s Red Sox Notebook that Francona has swapped Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez in the line-up. Nomar will now hit clean-up while Manny will hit 3rd.

 

The reason I think Francona reads this site is because I mentioned in my 02/05/2004 post that the swapping of Nomar and Manny in the line-up was an idea worth testing. I continued to say I didn’t think Francona would have the guts to try it. Not because he is worthless and weak, but rather because Nomar hitting 3rd and Manny 4th seems to work just fine.

 

Well, I stand corrected and conceed that Francona does indeed have the guts to try it. He has already made the change and plans on sticking with it this season. Good for you Terry.

 

Now, let’s test my theory one step further and see if Red Sox management is reading the site.

 

Many experts think the Red Sox should hire Andy (this author) to a 10 year, $500,000 per year contract to act as a professional fan. Duties would include watching every game and drinking beer in the stands at Fenway.

 

However, those same experts think the Red Sox don’t have the guts to hire Andy.

 

If my theory is correct, I soon will be hired!!!

 

By the way, I completely and totally forgot to include the Oakland A’s rotation in my 2/23/2004 rotation debate. My mistake. They are good, I just forgot about them. Perhaps the training I am undertaking to get the "professional fan job" is taking its toll. Drinking beer and watching baseball will do that.

 

Andy can be reached at Andy@yankeesredsox.com.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

 

They’ll be back. Or will they?

 

Things are a bit slow in Red Sox training camp so far. That is a good thing. With that in mind, I figured I’d take a look at some of the players who could walk next year unless they get something done with Red Sox management this year.

 

Who are they?

 

Pedro Martinez
Derek Lowe
Nomar Garciaparra
Jason Varitek
David Ortiz
Scott Williamson
Doug Mirabelli

 

Well, some of those names aren’t quite as big as the others, but these guys are all important members of the team…and they are listed in no particular order.

 

Let’s first look at what they are going to make in 2004:

 

$17.5m – Pedro Martinez
$4.5m – Derek Lowe
$11.5m – Nomar Garciaparra
$6.7m – Jason Varitek
$4.6m – David Ortiz
$3.2m – Scott Williamson
$825k – Doug Mirabelli

 

Let’s pick these guys apart.

 

Pedro – He seems to realize that he’ll be lucky to get anything close to the $17.5 he is making this season. Then again, if the New York Yankees (you are all familiar with them) go after him, the sky’s the limit. Seriously.

 

If, however, he realizes he is so hated in New York and Pedro eliminates them from his list of suitors (or they eliminate him), then I have to figure he’ll get a $14m per year contract assuming he has a good year.

 

If you are Theo Epstein and John Henry, do you give him that kind of money over 4-5 years. See, Martinez is one of, if not, the smartest players in baseball. Sure he can be immature and is overly sensitive, but he is still smart and knows how to use the press to ratchet up the pressure on his bosses. I have to figure Pedro, by mid-season, will be in front of the press telling the world the Red Sox brass best “sign me quickly or the price will keep going up.” Who will blink first? I’d say the Red Sox. Expect Petey back in 2005.

 

Lowe – Derek has it in his mind that he is a goner after this year. Well, I don’t know about that. If he has another 2003 type season, then his price won’t be that high. Yes he won 17 games, but his 4.47 ERA was terrible (especially when compared to his 2.58 ERA in 2002). It is true though that his second half was better than his first half. Lowe blames his first half struggles on his inability to properly prepare for the 2003 season due to the rest he need to recover from his skin cancer.

 

While that might be true, his second half wasn’t that good either. He posted a 4.02 in the second half. Not chopped liver, but not his 2002 either. Will he be back in 2005? I think that depends on his performance. If he has a great year, I think he is out, but if he manages another mediocre effort, then he probably will be back. The better he does, the more he’ll cost and vice versa (not rocket science I know, but just trying to make a point).

 

Nomar – This is a tough one. Nomar is still grumpy with the Red Sox and the Red Sox are obviously not thrilled with Nomar now as they were a year ago. Ok, so Nomar is man enough to put all the off-season trade talk behind him (he’s said so publicly…), does that mean he’ll be back in 2005?

 

If not, the Red Sox would have to bid on the likes of Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria. Both are good, but neither has put up the kind of numbers Nomar has put up. Then again, if Nomar’s best days are behind him (read the latest Gammons to seen what I mean), then dropping $60 or more over 4 years would be a foolish move.

 

I think I’m in the “Nomar will have a great year in 2004” camp. Why? I don’t know. Maybe Mia (the better of the two athletes in the marriage) will give him a few tips or perhaps the fear of getting married has passed and he’ll knock the cover off the ball again. I don’t know, but I’m betting Nomar will be back in 2005.

 

Varitek – I think one of 2 things will happen with Varitek in 2005. Either he’ll stay with the club in a reduced manner or he’ll be gone. Why? Well for one thing, Bill James is on the Red Sox payroll. James has looked at the history of catchers and concluded that they decline at an earlier age than other players.

 

Varitek is 32. That’s about the time catchers start showing their age (or the effects of their difficult job). With Kelly Shoppach waiting in the wings, I think this is Varitek’s Last Harrah, at least as a starter. If Shoppach is even just OK at Pawtucket this year, I think the Red Sox will try to re-sign Varitek with the understanding he is to be Shoppach’s mentor and will only play 40% of the time. If he is ok with that great. If not, then he’s a goner.

 

Ortiz – Another doozy. I’m not sure what to expect from Ortiz this year. On the one hand, he had a career year in 2003, he’s still fairly young at 28 and might still have a few great seasons in him. On the other hand, he has a history of injuries and has never had the pressure of putting together a repeat season.

 

I have to guess that whether he has a good season or bad, he isn’t going to be a member of the Red Sox in 2005. If he does well, Epstein will let him go (maybe tender him and get the 2 draft picks) and find another cheap alternative. If he does poorly, Epstein might cut him loose and again, find another cheap alternative. Tough call though as Ortiz is very much into the Red Sox atmosphere and might be willing to stick around at a lower cost.

 

Williamson – I’m thrilled the Red Sox kept him around for 2004. Given the performance of the 2003 bullpen, Williamson and Timlin handing the ball off to Keith Foulke is a zillion times better than Ramiro Mendoza and Alan Embree handing the ball off to Chad Fox. That’s no knock on Mendoza, Embree and Fox….ok, it is a knock. They stunk. They were horrid. Yuck.

 

Ok, so Williamson, to me anyway, is a great guy to have in the bullpen. Does that mean he is back in 2005? I doubt it. He’ll start getting antsy about his career and realize that it’s time he was either a closer or a starter and not a set-up guy. Some team will drop the cabbage and grab him for one of those 2 roles. Fine, as long as he gives the Red Sox a great 2005.

 

Mirabelli – Well he’s back if Varitek isn’t and isn’t if Varitek is. Got it? Good.

 

Ok, now on to the important stuff. Did anyone else see the Nomar interview with Joe Amorsino from Channel 7 this past Sunday night? The format was basically a staccato burst of questions from Amorsino to Nomar. Many in the true/false or yes/no vein.

 

One, however, was bigger than that. Amorsino asked Nomar the following: “Eddie Vedder or Justin Timberlake.” The answer……………Justin Timberlake.

 

Dear Lord no! What? Are you kidding? How is that possible? Amorsino was shocked. As was I. Peter Gammons must be spinning in his gra….er….Baseball Tonight analyst chair.

 

Well, perhaps we have the 2004 version of Kevin Millar’s Bruce Springsteen lip-sync.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)