Red Sox July 2004

July 31, 2004

 

So Long Nomar

 

So long Nomar.

 

It finally happened. Even though the 4:00pm trade deadline, for non-waiver trades, came and went this past Saturday and no news of any significant Red Sox trades were hitting the wire, one almost felt as though something must have happened, but someone just forgot to tell us.

 

In fact, I was looking at the MLB.com website up until 4:10pm and then listed to the radio beyond that and heard nothing. It wasn’t until the co-author (Peter) on this site called me to tell me the news:

 

Nomar to the Chicago Cubs, from the Red Sox
Cash and Matt Murton to the Chicago Cubs, from the Red Sox
Doug Mientkiewicz to the Red Sox, from the Minnesota Twins
Orlando Cabrera to the Red Sox, from the Montreal Expos

 

It was actually a 4 team trade, but those are the only moves that involved the Red Sox.

 

Nomar is a great shortstop. He is as talented as any shortstop that has ever played the game (yes, even Honus Wagner and ARod). I am thrilled to have been able to see him play in Boston for the past 10 seasons. I enjoyed watching his patented throw from deep in the hole and I was amazed seeing his 3 home run game in person. There are obviously many more things, but I haven’t got all day.

 

I wish him nothing but the best from here on out. Good luck Nomar.

 

Ok, now that that is out of my system, it’s time to break this deal down.

 

Orlando Cabrera: Cabrera is in his 8th major league season. He is eligible for free agency after earning $6mm this season. Cabrera has been primarily been used as a shortstop during his career.

 

He is an above average fielder:

 

Fld % Range
Career* .976 4.45
League Avg* .969 4.36
* through 2003

 

Not that you are interested, but Nomar posted a .969 fielding % and a 4.41 range through 2003 compared to league averages of .973 and 4.38 respectively.

 

So Cabrera is better than Nomar with the glove. Offensively, they aren’t even close, although Cabrera isn’t that bad.

 

AB R HR RBI SB BB .Avg .Obp .Slg Ops
Cabrera 3288 407 66 381 93 233 .267 .315 .405 .720
Nomar 3968 709 178 690 84 279 .323 .370 .553 .923

 

Ok, Nomar is in another world offensively. It wasn’t until I did up this table that I realized how much better Nomar is as a batter.

 

But, take a look at the past 3 years (2001-2003) for each hitter:

 

AB R HR RBI SB BB .Avg .Obp .Slg Ops
Cabrera 1815 223 38 232 68 143 .279 .331 .424 .755
Nomar 1376 234 56 233 24 87 .305 .349 .523 .872

 

That closes that gap a little bit. But still, Nomar’s loss will be felt most at the plate.

 

Overall, I have to assume Theo Epstein felt losing Nomar this off season without getting anything in return was too great a risk. Yes, if the Red Sox had offered him arbitration and he signed elsewhere, they would have gotten that other team’s top pick and a sandwich pick, but there also remained the possibility Nomar would accept arbitration and be rewarded a salary far higher than the Red Sox were willing to pay.

 

By trading Nomar now, they get something in return and lose a player in Nomar that just didn’t appear to be having any fun playing in Boston.

 

Doug Mientkiewicz – Mientkiewicz is a slick fielding first baseman earning $2.8mm this year. He is under contract through 2005 ($3.75mm) with an option for 2006 ($3.75mm, I’m not sure if it is a player, team or a mutual option). Mientkiewicz is in his 7th season.

 

Mientkiewicz won the gold glove at first in 2001. That is 1 more gold glove than Kevin Millar, David Ortiz and David McCarty combined (no offense to the good gloved McCarty). He is a good at getting on base, but lacks the power you usually see in first basemen.

 

I expect he’ll play against righties and be the designated defensive glove at first in late innings. This might mean the end for David McCarty’s tenure here in Boston.

 

Because I did it for Nomar and Cabrera, here are Mientkiewicz’s career stats:

 

AB R HR RBI SB BB .Avg .Obp .Slg Ops
M’kiewicz 1863 239 38 241 9 262 .279 .371 .415 .786

 

I suppose Epstein had Mientkiewicz included in the deal because he just isn’t convinced Kevin Millar is back to his old self, despite his recent turnaround (.380/.437/.658 in July). Without the ability to hit, Kevin Millar is just another borderline first baseman.

 

The thing that bothers me most about this trade is the fact the Red Sox had to give up Matt Murton and cash (presumably to even out the deal financially). I would think Nomar alone would have been enough to get Cabrera and Mientkienwicz. But that is just me. I guess this means I’m not overly thrilled with this trade overall. I’m not saying I am mad that the Red Sox traded Nomar, I’m just not happy with the value they got back versus what they gave up.

 

I know many will knock Epstein for not getting another starting pitcher, but one would have to assume that he tried, but the Cubs just didn’t want to part with Matt Clement or any one of their other talented pitchers.

 

The Red Sox line-up certainly isn’t what it was prior to this trade. But close watching fans know that the Red Sox weren’t lacking runs, they were lacking defense. This trade certainly helps them defensively, especially at first base.

 

Additionally, I would suggest not dwelling on the loss of Nomar. He is gone and there’s nothing we can do about it. Focus on the team as it is now constituted.

 

There was one more move for the Red Sox. They traded early season acquisition Henri Stanley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dave Roberts. Roberts is fast and can play all 3 outfield positions (although CF and LF are his specialties based on his recent experience).

 

I mentioned Roberts’ speed. This year he has 33 steals and only 1 caught stealing. He’ll make an excellent pinch runner and utility outfielder. I’m not sure his arrival will mean he has taken over for the recently done-for-the-year Trot Nixon, but he’ll compliment the other options from which Terry Francona has to choose.

 

It remains to be seen how this trade will help/hurt the Red Sox. At the very worst, they are a better defensive team with less run production. At the best, Cabrera, Mientkiewicz and Roberts will click and send this team into an August and September hot streak.

 

Some quick reviews of various Red Sox fans sites and I have the feeling most people thing the primary trade stinks. I must say I was surprised Matt Clement wasn’t involved, but that’s the way things go. I’m not sure this trade stinks, but I do think the Red Sox could/should have gotten more.

 

My faith in this team and management isn’t shaken however. For those that turn on Epstein for this one forever are too quick to react. After all, how many other bad moves does he have under his belt?

 

Posted by Andy at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2004

 

What is Going On Here?

 

To me, this season feels like the 2001 season. The Red Sox were in the thick of it back in 2001 until the 2nd half when things absolutely fell apart. Jimy Williams got canned and Joe Kerrigan took over. I remember learning about the Williams firing while driving up to Maine. I thought “boy, this could be the kick in the seat the team needs!”

 

Boy was I (and Dan Duquette) wrong.

 

So what is wrong with this squad? Is it Terry Francona? Management/ownership? The players?

 

During spring training this year, a gentleman, whose hobby is baseball prognostication, emailed me. His publication was called the Baseball Bulletin. His focus was specifically forecasting how the AL East would wind up in 2004.

 

His pre-season write-up had the following outcome in the AL East:

 

New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Devil Rays

 

The first one wasn’t a big surprise, but picks 2-4 were. His reasoning for having Toronto and Baltimore in the 2-3 spots were more a result of the failings of Boston, not because Toronto and Baltimore were anything special.

 

His feeling for Boston was that the choice of Terry “Franconia” to manage the Red Sox was the beginning of the end. His Red Sox brief was devoid of any explanation as to why “Franconia” was the wrong choice. So, I won’t talk about this guy any further except to say could he might be right (even without explanation).

 

I don’t know.

 

Here is a hunch. Name a few managers that run a tight ship:

 

Joe Torre
Buck Showalter
Tony LaRussa
Lou Pinella

 

What I mean by a tight ship is one where players are NOT free to come and go as they please. The are expected to do things a certain way. No exceptions.

 

Well with the Red Sox players seem to do whatever they feel like doing. Some examples are Pedro Martinez leaving early for the All-Star break, Manny not properly communication his hamstring problems and David Ortiz pulling a nutty the other day.

 

Beyond that, it is just a sense that there isn’t enough unity in achieving the ultimate goal. I’m not saying that not all Red Sox players want to win a World Series, but I don’t think they can collectively get there if they aren’t working in unison.

 

Not to say a collection of independently minded players can’t win the World Series, I just don’t think they can contend year after year.

 

So, there’s my totally unsubstantiated theory of the week.

 

By the way, if I had to put the current 40-man roster into 2 groups, group A being players that play the game the right way and respect the concept of team focus and group B being players that are either more in it for themselves or just aren’t good at being focused on team success, I’d be here a long time. So instead of that, I’ll give some prime examples of guys how belong in either group A or B:

 

Group A Group B
Kapler Manny
Varitek Kim
Wakefield

 


I probably have no business conducting this exercise, but so what.

 

Notes:

 

The Red Sox pulled off a major trade in acquiring Ricky Gutiérrez today. This move says to me: “With Pokey Reese going down, we figured trading outside the organization was a far better move than recalling Cesar Crespo.”

 

Ok, so it isn’t major, but it does give the Red Sox some depth in the infield. They need it considering with Nomar getting a night off, Bellhorn is playing shortstop and Mueller second.

 

In Wednesday night’s game, Manny Ramirez pulled one of the biggest bonehead plays I’ve seen before. On a deep ball to center, Johnny Damon failed to make the catch. Manny thought it a good idea to act as a cutoff man thus turning what should have been a throw from Damon to the cutoff man to the catcher into a play of Damon-Manny-Bellhorn-Varitek.

 

Each of the throws were of the pathetic nature by the way. Damon’s was his usual I’m really a righty throw, Manny’s was from his knees and Bellhorn’s spiked off the pitchers mound.

 

This team needs to wake up.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2004

 

Start of the 2nd Half

 

So the Red Sox went 48-38 in the 1st half. Not much point in rehashing the ugly details other than to say I believe everyone thinks they can do better. Well, not everyone, but most folks.

 

Now onto the 2nd half and the approach of the non-waiver trade deadline. As a way of capturing the spirit of the trade deadline, I’ve come up with a few titles:

 

Trade-O-Rama
Trippedy-Trade-Time
Tantamountatudenal-Trade-Triumphantness (courtesy of Don King)

 

While I haven’t settled on a favorite, I think it is safe to say Randy Johnson is the headline trade bait. If you don’t believe me, just check out the poll on our home page.

 

What does Johnson bring to the table? How about these career figures through 2003:

 

230 wins
114 loses
3.10 era
1.18 whip
3122.1 ip
2435 hits
1258 walks
3871 strikeouts(he got his 4000th recently)
57 pants pooped in while facing him.

 

Just ask John Kruk if you don’t believe that last one. Sasky city.

 

While it is true he has been a dominant pitcher since 1993, Johnson is now 40 years old (he’ll turn 41 in September). Should his age play a part in the decision making of any team interested in acquiring him? So far in 2004, Johnson has pitched 129.1 innings with a 2.99 era, 0.90 whip (WOW) and 145 k’s. Those numbers are a vast improvement over his injury filled 2003 season which produced his worst era since 1989.

 

It would appear age hasn’t slowed him down too much. To support that, one only has to look as far as Bill James in Lawrence, KS. James has written in the past that power pitchers last longer than finesse pitchers (knuckleball pitchers not included…after all, there isn’t much finesse in a knuckleball). Using Roger Clemens, Johnson and Nolan Ryan as examples, James might just be right.

 

Personally, I think Johnson would be a great addition to the Red Sox…assuming it is the right price. What I mean by that is Johnson is getting paid $16mm in 2004 and another $16mm in 2005. So the team that trades for him is on the hook for about $8mm this year and $16mm next year. $24mm is a hefty price to pay a soon-to-be 41 year old to pitched for a year and a half.

 

My detractors, and there is a never ending supply, would say “who cares about the money?” Well…I do. I can’t help but worry about next year. Sure if the Red Sox won the World Series this year I wouldn’t mind Johnson pitching from a wheelchair next year, but the fact is, there are quite a few good teams in the majors this year and it isn’t a lock the Red Sox will win the World Series (I could have said that many times the past few….decades after all. Don’t blame me for my down to earth approach).

 

All I’m saying is let’s not mortgage the future to get Johnson today.

 

The odd thing is that the Red Sox would probably have one of the better packages to offer Arizona. Kevin Youkilis did well during his call-up (he was sent down today to make room for Ramiro Mendoza) and Kelly Shoppach, despite his struggles with the bat, would be two top prospects for Arizona.

 

Let’s let this stuff play out. There seem to be a never ending supply of rumors and rumor squashing articles out there. Here is a sampling:

 

Chicago Tribune – 7/15(registration required-free)
Boston Herald – Tony Massarotti 7/15
New York Times – 7/15(registration required-free)
Providence Journal – Art Martone(all-star Art) 7/15(registration required-free)
New York “Gephardt VP” Post – George King 7/15

 

So there you have it.

 

A quick observations. How can anyone think that Pokey Reese is a better option at shortstop than Nomar Garciaparra? Now I’m not trying to pick on anyone, but I’ve heard some fairly well educated people say Pokey is better than Nomar overall.

 

To use a phrase a high school English teacher actually said to me “I think you are dumb for thinking that.”

 

Why? Here’s why!

 

Career Batting through 2003:

 

PA* Avg Obp Slg Runs HRs RBI SB
Pokey 3103 .251 .310 .357 334 41 242 138
Nomar 4291 .323 .370 .555 685 173 669 82
*Plate Appearances

 

Career Fielding through 2003:

 

SS fld % Range Errors Games
Pokey .964 3.84 32 222
Nomar .969 4.41 130 919

 

The fact is, Pokey made his fielding reputation at second base. He won his two gold gloves there, not at shortstop.

 

So far in 2004 with the glove:

 

SS fld % Range Errors Games
Pokey .977 4.86 326 62
Nomar .944 3.63 5 25

 

I will give the nod to Pokey in 2004 defensively, but given the sample size, it doesn’t convince me one bit that Pokey is the better answer at short.

 

Nomar is by far the best option at shortstop. Stop debating it. Stop! I mean it!

 

Posted by Andy at 08:47 PM | Comments (0)