Be Careful What You Wish For

A colonic? An exorcism? A purge? All of the above?

After months of uninspired play and over the top drama, the Red Sox have basically hit the reset button with their roster. Dan Roche is reporting that a deal sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Doegers for a basket full of players, is done. Both Crawford and and Beckett agreed to waive their non-trade rights. The Red Sox are shedding $260mm in payroll meaning they have somehow gotten themselves out from under their 3 largest contracts in one trade.

So those of us who wanted a major shake-up, we’ve got it. My take:

Beckett – Hooray (or as he’d say Hooray beer…and chicken). Beckett is not a good pitcher anymore and his open disdain for anyone trying to hold him accountable was infuriating. He was sucking the Red Sox and their fans of life. His contract was going to haunt the Red Sox for two more years and having to replace a 5.00 era shouldn’t be tough. This is the best part of the deal.

Carl Crawford – He seems to be a likable enough fellow but his 1.5 years in Boston have been marked by mediocre play and injuries. At the time of his signing we all knew this was a terrible deal and the only way he could live up to it would be by hitting .315 with decent power, speed and fielding. A $20mm a year player needs to be elite and Crawford isn’t elite.

Adrian Gonzalez – This is the toughest part of the trade. Gonzalez is an elite defender and when on, an elite offensive force. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been an elite offensive force over the past 365 days. Add to it various assertions and rumors that he was behind efforts to undermine his manager, He had to go.

All of this salary relief doesn’t mean the Red Sox will be good next year. In fact, the free agent pool looks to be thin and the main purpose behind this deal is to get back to player development which can be a slow, imperfect science.

Red Sox fans should be ready for what comes next. Plenty of rookies and growing pains. But if that is what it takes to be a better run team which has a handle on its ego, then I’m all for it.

Only thing to do now is to get a new manager and coaching staff in the offseason.

The Buffoonery Starts at the Top

The Red Sox this season aren’t just bad, they are pathetic, unlikable and do not have their finger on the pulse of the fan base.

Let’s start from the top:

John Henry – Say what you will about his various distractions like Liverpool FC, Roush Fenway Racing, his family and his investment business, but I really do think Henry is trying to win. Some critics say he only cares about filling seats and making money and while I know he likes to make money, he wouldn’t have a payroll as big as the Red Sox do if he was only about the money.

Henry’s failure is that he has extended too much control to Larry Lucchino (more on him and others in a moment), whether that was intentional or otherwise is irrelevant. Lucchino has managed to meddle in the manager hiring process and in the baseball operations business. He effectively took out the legs of both Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine. Cherington didn’t get to pick the manager so why should the manager listen to Cherington when he knows he has Lucky in his back pocket? Valentine wasn’t Cherington’s pick, so why should Cherington go out of his way to help Valentine when he probably doesn’t trust him in the first place. Oh and by not letting Valentine hire his own pitching coach and bullpen coach, we’ve seen a grade school playground act materialize. Pitching coach and bullpen don’t like manager, so they don’t talk with him and vice-versa. I mean, what is this? Romper Room?

Lucchino – Things went well when the GM had more power and Lucchino was put in his place. I think Lucchino is a capable person but he is the President of the team not the GM. Leave Ben Cherington alone to do what he is paid to do. We’ve seen this before back when Theo Epstein quit the team, the first time. John Henry had to step in and make make sure Lucchino left Epstein alone to do his job. This needs to happen again. Henry has to step up to the plate and get tough with Lucchino.

Cherington – Not sure how much of this falls on him as he hasn’t accomplished anything as a GM and if he were to try the same thing Esptein did a few years ago, the Red Sox would let him walk and given his lack of tenure (unlike Epstein who had won a World Series), I’m not sure Cherington would ever get another chance to be a GM again and GM jobs don’t come up everyday. The courageous things to do would be to give Lucchino an ultimatum to bud out, but without a clear idea of whether or not it would cost him his job, I don’t blame him for not doing this.

Valentine – From day one we all knew he’d talk to much and he’s done that and more. He is passive aggressive and that has a way of rubbing players the wrong way. I’m really not too worried about what the players think in this instance, but Valentine’s style isn’t necessary what is needed in this clubhouse. That said, we knew from day one that he lacked support from some coaches, probably his GM and the players. The reason he hasn’t been fired is because he is buds with Lucchino.

There has been some interesting conjecture that Valentine was hired for one purpose, to make the players miserable so that starting in 2013, they’d do anything for Valentine’s ultimate replacement. There is even the notion that Valentine is in on it too. Lucchino is so smooth that he hired his buddy Bobby to make the players so furious and unhappy, that the next manager would be welcomed with open arms. Kind of like when they sacked Grady Little after 2003 and brought in Terry Francona. Although this argument falls apart a bit as Grady was a likable figure whose only crime was leaving in Pedro too long. And, aren’t we really giving Lucchino and Valentine too much credit for this kind of scheme?

The Players – They have become so unlikable that they somehow, some way have made Valentine a sympathetic figure at times…at times. Really, how is that possible? Dustin Pedroia got off on the wrong foot with his defense of Kevin Youkilis telling all who would listen that the way Valentine talked about Youkilis was “Not the way we do things around here.” Who the hell is Pedroia to tell the manager how things are done? How about shut up and play baseball and let the manager do things the way he wants them done?

Adrian Gonzalez has also come out of this looking pretty bad. Not only has he totally lacked any power this year, he is looking like a whiner. Whether the reports of him calling a players meeting with ownership to get Valentine fired are true or not, he hasn’t been a major disappointment this year and certainly doesn’t have the leadership skills to lead his fellow teammates to better on-field play. I’m not sure what is wrong with his game, but he is off about 150 OPS points from last year and drew zero walks from May 16 to June 10. He has let himself get distracted by this nonsense and to that degree I can’t blame him, but there are always going to be distractions and winners figure out a way around them. If he can just focus on being one of the best offensive and defense players no the field, he should be alright. Is that too much to ask?

Josh Beckett and Jon Lester – What can you say about these two? They have been terrible. The team is 16-28 when they pitch. Yes, 16-28 when the Red Sox 1-2 starters pitch. 42-33 when someone else starts. Wow, imagine if they were just average this year and this team would be considered a good team. Lord knows why they have been so terrible, but from a on field standpoint, they have been the number one reason this team stinks. It is a tired story, but Beckett’s attitude and commitment are definitely issues but his large contract makes them issues that are likely to stay.

At this point, CoolStandings.com has the Red Sox with a 0.4% change of winning the division and just a 6.2% chance at a wild card spot. I’m not being dramatic when I say this but the Red Sox season is over and now is the time to find out who has what for 2013. Who is a player? What rookies might come in handy next year and what players need to be jettisoned in the off-season (or during the waiver trade deadline period that ends this month).

It’s also time for John Henry to act like an owner and grab Lucchino by the lapels and tell him to stick to what he is good at and let Ben Cherington do his job. Once the line of command is reestablished, then and only then can the Red Sox operate like a well oiled machine. People like to know their role. They might not like their role but knowing what is expected and and who gives the orders helps things run smoothly. If Henry can’t do this, perhaps it is time for him to sell the Red Sox and let someone else have a turn. It starts at the top.

Johnny Pesky

Just a quick note about the passing of Johnny Pesky. If ever there was a Mr. Red Sox, it would be Johnny Pesky. Employed by the team for 70 years and working for the Red Sox in just about every thinkable manner, Pesky was engaging, humorous and helped bridge the generation gap for old Red Sox and modern day players.

What struck me about Pesky was just 10 or so years ago, I remember watching him talk in a private function room prior to a Red Sox game. He was energetic and full of enthusiasm for baseball. He never spoke an unkind word and was a fantastic ambassador for the Red Sox and for all of baseball.

As it happens, I’m fortunate to be taking in Bruce Springsteen tonight at Fenway Park. Do you know where my seats are? Right next to Pesky Pole. Farewell Johnny.

CC To The DL Again

CC Sabathia is going on the DL, David Phelps is back in the rotation and Derek Lowe is a Yankee. Just another day in Yankeeland I guess.

Let’s go with CC. Reading between the lines, this seems like a move more about October than right now. The Yankees have a somewhat-comfortable lead in the division and they know they have to have CC right for October. So, they shut him down now for two weeks instead of just skipping his next turn in the rotation.

That puts Phelps into the rotation, but once again the Yankees have let his arm fall out of starting shape. He threw 81 pitches in a start on July 4th, went down to the minors and made a couple of starts and got up to 103 pitches. Then he came back to the Yankees and has thrown no more than 36 pitches since then. No point in crying about it now, but the Yankees should have gotten him more work.

And with Phelps in the rotation they needed a long guy, so enter Derek Lowe. I don’t predict a happy ending to this marriage as Lowe looks like a pitcher who is done as he has more walks than strikeouts. But, I am sure the cost is next to nothing, so why not try it for a week or two? If he gets shelled, they can just release him. In the unlikely event that he doesn’t, the Yankees will be thrilled. The sad part is, turning to Lowe tells you just how decimated the upper ranks of the Yankees’ farm system are. A AAA rotation of Banuelos, Betances, Phelps, Mitchell and Warren at the start of 2012 hasn’t gelled the way they hoped.

Thanks, I Needed That

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling a lot better about the Yankees tonight. Escaping Detroit with a split thanks to back-to-back homers is a huge boost for a club that needed one.

Let’s start with the controversy that got Girardi tossed. Here’s my problem with the entire play. The Yankees argued that Ibanez pulled up because he thought the umpire called it foul. Watching the video, he doesn’t look like he did. But, more to the point, why would he pull up? Even if the ball is foul, he can catch it and record an out.

Next let’s move to an interesting move, putting David Phelps in to face the teeth of the Tigers’ order in the 8th inning. That’s a big vote of confidence and an appropriate one in my opinion.

And finally, let’s talk about Eric Chavez. I wasn’t a big fan of bringing him back, but I was wrong. I didn’t think he could hit, but he has been outstanding putting up a line of .284/.344/.511. Those numbers have been compiled against righties against whom he has hit .304/.368/.556. The most encouraging thing about it has been his line drive rate jumping to 24% from 17% last year and the fact that his BABIP is only .291, meaning luck has very little to do with his numbers. Raul Ibanez has been better than anyone could have expected, but when A-Rod returns, he should be put on the bench and Chavez should be the regular DH against righties.

Farm System Failures

With the news that Manny Banuelos has been shut down for the rest of the season after throwing only 24 innings, I thought this would be a good time to look at a terrible year for the Yankees’ farm system.

Coming into 2012, Baseball America had this ranking of the top-10 prospects in the Yankees system:

Jesus Montero
Manny Banuelos
Dellin Betances
Gary Sanchez
Mason Williams
Dante Bichette, Jr.
Ravel Santana
Austin Romine
J.R. Murphy
Slade Heathcott

Obviously, Montero was traded so he doesn’t count, but you could argue that the prospect they received in that trade, Jose Campos, would be in the top-10. The only problem is, Campos has been shutdown for the year as well after only throwing 24 innings.

Betances has been demoted to AA after losing command of his pitches at AAA. He has done better at AA, but his walk rate is still 4.1 per 9. Either way, it is very hard to see him playing any role in the Bronx anytime soon.

Gary Sanchez dominated low A ball (.297/.353/.517) and got promoted to Tampa. He has struggled there .239/.300/.380, but he is only 19. He still could be in the Bronx in 2014.

Mason Williams did very well at low A and got promoted to Tampa where he hit .277/.302/.422. But, he got hurt and he has been shutdown for the rest of the year.

Dante Bichette, Jr. has had a real struggle in low A ball hitting .241/.312/.321. He is only 19, so he has time to grow, but it is a disappointment.

Ravel Santana hasn’t done much in Staten Island (.248/.338/.312).

Austin Romine missed the first half of the season with a back injury. He finally started getting into games in July and has been playing with Tampa.

J.R. Murphy didn’t do a lot in Tampa, but he got promoted to AA and has hit .224/.309/.448.

Slade Heathcott is back on the field and hitting well in Tampa, but it is his 4th year in the system and he hasn’t advanced past Tampa.

This doesn’t mean there haven’t been good stories in the minors, but it’s hard to be excited about the current state of the Yankees’ farm system.

Dates

There is something about certain dates that always evoke certain things for people. Obviously, birthdays of family members and anniversaries come first, followed by dates of infamy like December 7th or September 11th. But there are also some dates beyond those that qualify. For my Dad, May 6th, was always a big date because that was the date that Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile. For me, today, August 2nd, is always a big one because it’s the day Thurman Munson died.

That was 33-years ago. And at the time, Thurman was only 32-years old, so he has been gone now for longer than he was here. Yet, I can still recall that mustache, the orange catching gear that seemed to be the perfect match for his personality and that swing. Those are all preserved in my memory along with plenty of other memories of people who have left us far too soon.