ALCS Game 3 Downer

The Red Sox bent over and gave this one away.  I’m not sure why they couldn’t muster the intensity needed, but they looked slow, dim-witted and just plain bad against the Indians in game 3.

This game was not essential (obviously), but it would have brought the advantage back to the Red Sox.  I can’t put my finger on it, but again, I think they lacked intensity.  Also, J.D. Drew displayed weak body language after grounding out early in the game.  I understand "body language" is not scientific and probably an overused concept, but Drew basically hung his head after grounding out.  Lame.  How about running fast to first?

I am very bummed with the performance of the Red Sox.  It is starting to appear that their second half mediocrity is haunting them.  They are the better squad but they just aren’t showing it. right?

Rants:  Jason Varitek deserves some blame for the Kenny Lofton home run.  He called for the fastball which Daisuke had thrown extensively, Fox broadcasters specifically mentioned his use of fastball successfully, as a first pitch to Lofton.  The Red Sox had gone to the "well" too many times with the cheese.  Almost any major leaguer can hit a home run when he is expecting gas.  The book on the Indians is that they struggle with off-speed stuff and stuff that moves.  Why lay in the fastball on a first pitch, especially to a veteran like Lofton?  Daisuke didn’t wave off the call either fyi.

Fox also highlighted Royce Clayton giving Lofton the business about how long he took to get into the batters box when his turn was up prior to hitting a home run.  Enough sassing Royce, it didn’t work.  In fact, it looked really bad after the fact.

Dustin Pedroia has struggled mightily in the playoffs.  He is swinging at garbage and showing that his swagger and confidence got a bit diluted in the face of playoff baseball.  Time to shake off the nerves Dustin and start playing like you can play.

Was it written into Daisuke’s contract that he has to go to a full count on each batter he faces?  The guy is maddeningly inconsistent with his ability to throw K’s.  For a dude that has 7 pitches he can throw for strikes, he drives me crazy.  Perhaps they should refer to him as the pitcher that has 7 pitches he can occasionally throw for strikes.  I have to assume he either can’t handle the transition to a larger ball and different usage strategies, or he is just isn’t what we all hoped he would be.

David Ortiz, what were you thinking?  You had 110 feet to negotiate the liner by Manny that ultimately hit you in the inner thigh.  I hope it stings a bit tonight.

Jason Varitek, you redeemed youself, generating the only offense of the night.  Against Jake Westbrook.  Right, him, yup, the guy no one else could get to.

Game 4 Tuesday night at 8pm or so.  Wakefield (or Beckett on 3 days rest perhaps) against Byrd.

Wasted Opportunity

The Red Sox were able to get to Fausto Carmona last night essentially neutralizing the Cleveland Indians 2nd best weapon (behind C.C. Sabathia).  But the Red Sox wasted the opportunity by pitching poorly themselves, early and late.

Curt Schilling fell hard to Earth as far as his post-season reputation is concerned and Eric Gagne proved once and for all he should not be on the playoff roster.  He has not had a stretch since being acquired where one could say he has been effective.  If the Red Sox are lucky enough to advance, I think Eric Gagne will get an early vacation.  Good luck in free agency Eric.

Javier Lopez looked scared and Jon Lester ineffective.  I just don’t know how the Red Sox could allow 7 runs in the 11th (I only saw 4 of them cross the plate).  A very big letdown.  Demoralizing in fact.

In Cleveland Monday night for a 7:07pm start (or whenever Fox gets around to allowing the first pitch).  The Red Sox better hope their veteran leadership core will help the team forget this loss and back to their winning ways.  Daisuke Matsuzaka v. Jake Westbrook.  If you can’t tell, I think this loss was a bad one.

Bonus

The Red Sox got some serious bonus pay last night with C.C. Sabathia being so, so bad.  No one expected Sabathia to lay an egg, but he did just that.  This was great news b/c the game 1 match-up was supposed to be so tough.  It also forced the Indians deep into their bullpen (3.2 IP).

Tonight Fausto Carmona, a very different pitcher, will try to even the score and don’t expect another egg.

Peter asked for a prediction from me for this round.  Well, I’m not usually into predictions, that’s his category.  Also, there is now 1 game done, so a prediction from me is likely to be greeted with scorn and ridicule, much like the other aspects of my life…sniffles.  Anyway, Red Sox in 6 (I know, I know, they are already up 1-0).

8:07 pm start:  Schilling vs Carmona

The Way To Deal With A-Rod

"This will mark the beginning of a national prominence for a franchise."- Scott Boras on the Texas Rangers right after A-Rod signed the richest contract in sports.

And yet, three years later, Texas traded A-Rod to New York and I am pretty sure they are still looking for national prominence or maybe just their own fans to care about them after Dallas Cowboys training camp opens. 

So, what do the Yankees do now with A-Rod?  First the facts.  Right now, they are scheduled to pay him $16-million in ’08, $17-million in ’09 and $18-million in ’10.  He will receive in addition from Texas $8-million in ’08, $7-million in ’09 and $6-million in ’10.  So, he is scheduled to make a combined $24-million in each of the next three years.  (There is also deferred money which Texas is responsible for)  In addition, there is a clause in the deal that essentially will give A-Rod a raise of $5-million per year in ’09 and ’10, you can sort through the actual details of that here.  Add it all up and New York will have to pay A-Rod $61-million over the next three seasons if he doesn’t opt out and A-Rod would receive $82-million total for those three years. 

Now, before we begin discussing his value, let’s look at another quote: 

”Obviously my age had a lot to do with it.  If I were 32, it wouldn’t have been 250. It probably would’ve been more like 120 and that wouldn’t have made such a big splash. It’s a unique contract because of my age. Being a free agent now is so different. I feel good about it, though.”- Alex Rodriguez at age 25, right after he signed his record deal.

I bet Scott Boras doesn’t want anyone to read that quote because his client just happens to be 32 and that is significant.  Yes, Boras will talk about playing until he is 45, but that is a stupid bet for a baseball team to make.  The fact is, and the Yankees have seen this a lot in the past few years, few players do anything once they hit 40, the clock is against him.  Wilile Mays had his last truly great season at 34 and his last season in 1973 at the age of 42 was awful.  Hank Aaron’s last two years at the ages of 41 and 42 were also sad reminders of his past glory.  So, I think anything over eight years for A-Rod is the equivalent of baseball suicide.

So, I say the Yankees should offer to add five more years to his current deal. That will keep him in New York through the 2015 season at which point he will be 40. Offer him something along the lines of $32-million a year which is overly generous and remind him that by accepting the terms he will be mentioned in history as one of the greatest players ever to play for the greatest franchise in baseball.  Tell him he can be the last name announced on Old Timer’ s Day and when he goes into the Hall of Fame, he will go in as a Yankee, having played 12 seasons here.  Give him some sort of option for 2016 based on playing time and then add one more detail…..

Tell him and Scott Boras that all of this goes away if he opts out and that all of this becomes public too.  Boras is a master at creating leverage and one way he does it is by using the Yankees as a threat. He will tell clubs that New York is interested even if they are not and that drives up prices for his clients.  It’s smart, but not something you can let him do. If A-Rod truly loves New York he will jump at that deal, if not, he can go out and seek his 12-year/$30-million deal somewhere else and cement his reputation as a baseball nomad.

Finally, Some Baseball

Wow, 4 full days off felt like an off-season.  It’ll be nice to see ALCS game one tonight, 7:07pm start @ Fenway, Beckett vs. Sabathia.

The Red Sox announced that Bobby Kielty will start over J.D. Drew.  Why?

Kielty vs. Sabathia in 29 at bats:  .310/.375/.655 with 2 HR’s, 7 RBI.

Drew vs. Sabathia in 3 at bats:  .000/.000/.000 with 3 K’s.  Small sample size, but 3 K’s in 3 at bats is ugly.

Game plan:  The Red Sox have their work cut out.  Sabathia has learned to pound the strike zone with unhittable pitches and has cut his walk rate down dramatically.  Sabathia walked 95 in 180.1 IP in 2001 and just 37 in 241.1 IP this season.  So Sabathia has learned to pitch.  His hit rate has gone up in the same period of time it should be noted, but not as significantly.

So Boston hitters need to find their pitch and put a good swing on it.  They certainly should be encouraged to work the count, but they shouldn’t expect a boat load of walks (another reason JD Drew is on the bench).  If Boston is fortunate enough to get Sabathia out of the game mid-way, they still have work to do against a very good bullpen.  Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez, Jenson Lewis and Aaron Fultz all have sub 3 ERAs (Betancourt and Perez are sub 2).  These 4 are strikeout pitchers and don’t give up many hits.  So getting to the bullpen doesn’t help that much.

Lastly you have closer Joe Borowski.  He saved 45 games this year, but did it in entertaining fashion.  His 5.07 ERA is enormous for a closer and it suggest that Borowski can be very good, but when he is bad…

The Indians pose a huge challenge with their pitching.  Their offense is good too.   The core to be most concern with is Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, but they have some other guys that can hurt you too in Ryan Garko, Jhonny Peralta, Casey Blake and even Kenny Lofton.  Cleveland plated 811 regular season runs (Boston 867), so they aren’t the Yankees, but they aren’t the Nationals either.

Enough of my attempts at game planning and analysis.  Let’s enjoy this thing.  Let me know your thoughts on what the major story lines will be within this game.

No Meetings Until Monday- Maybe Tuesday

According to several outlets, the Yankees have decided to postpone their meetings in Tampa until Monday night or Tuesday. Joe Torre will not be invited- at least to the start of the meetings.

Well this is an interesting development, but I am not sure what it means. Could they be sounding out the Cubs about letting Lou Pinella go? Could they be seriously considering keeping Joe? I guess we just have to wait.

Let The Fun Begin!

I have to admit, the title of this post is pure hyperbole.  There is nothing fun about this right now.  Nothing fun about not having baseball I care about to watch and nothing fun about seeing a very good man twist in the wind while a bombastic tyrant makes up his mind. 

I don’t think that the lack of news from Yankeeland is a sign they are bringing Joe back.  On many levels, I would like to think so, but I think it is more a function of trying to figure out what they are doing on a number of levels and that simply takes time. 

If you are Yankees’ management right now you have to ask yourself two questions before you fire (techincally, not rehire since his contract is up) Joe Torre.  1- Is there someone as qualified to handle this job right now? 2- Will letting Torre go affect our ability to exercise our offseason plan?

I would say the answer to #1 is no right now.  Don Mattingly is many things, but he is a total unknown as a manager and it certainly doesn’t sound like he wants the job.  (Comparing taking over the Yankees right now to coaching UCLA when Wooden left is a good hint)  Joe Girardi did some great things in Florida, but he also overused a young pitching staff.  Is that the guy you want in charge right now?  Tony LaRussa would last about five minutes in New York before he attacked a reporter with a bat.  Who else is out there who can come into New York and manage this team as well as Joe did?  The only guy I can think of is Bobby Valentine, he has handled New York before, but I don’t see that happening.  The time to replace Joe was after last season when you could have turned to Lou Pinella, now you don’t have that option.

As for question 2, it appears that Joe’s departure would affect some players’ decisions.  Mo, Pettitte and Posada have stated that they want him back.  So have many of the players who are not free agents.  Now, the question is will the players really feel that way if the money the Yankees throw at them is more than anyone else?  I don’t know, but it has to enter the calculations.  

And, that is probably the conversation the Yankees are having right now.  I imagine Cashman is trying to convince George and whoever else wants to ditch Torre that a decision like that will guarantee that Posada and Rivera hit the free agent market instead of signing deals in the next few weeks.   

The one player it won’t affect is A-Rod.  Sadly, Alex seems destined to head down the path of ruin again.  He has finally become accepted in this town and he has a chance to be mentioned in the same breath as the Yankee immortals.  But, Boras is prattling on about his value being worth a billion to a regional sports network, etc..  I will outline my approach with A-Rod tomorrow, but this seems to be heading to Alex ending up in a baseball backwater, richer than Midas and stuck in last place (again).

Thoughts During the Break

So we know the Red Sox are going to be facing the Indians.  I’ll comment a bit on the series.  Also, the Yankees have a few decisions to make.  Obviously I’ll never know as much as Peter knows about this squad (and all Yankees fans that read this), but I’ll offer my thoughts on them in the 2nd half of this post.

Terry Francona announced a change in the rotation swapping Josh Beckett (edit, I meant Curt Schilling, not Beckett!) and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

So it goes:  Beckett, Schilling, Matsuzaka and ?????.  The Red Sox will need a 4th starter and that is up in the air right now.  Tim Wakefield wasn’t healthy enough for the 1st round (that was the public reason anyway), so I’m not sure he is an option meaning Jon Lester is the most likely candidate for the 4th spot.

The Red Sox face C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona in games 1 and 2 respectively.  Those 2 are legit aces, or at least they were for the 2007 season.  Sabathia has history, but Carmona’s history is limited.  In fact, he was a disaster against Boston in 2006 allowing 5 earned runs in 1.0 IP in 2 appearances.  One was a walk-off grand slam.  But he fixed all that ailed him last year and put together a stellar 2007.  Carmona went 19-8, 215 IP, 199 H, 61 BB, 137 K, with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 Whip.  Check out his splits and you’ll see he was good in the 1st half and GREAT in the 2nd half.  And don’t offer up the "yeah, but what did he do against the Red Sox?"  Well, he had 1 start against them and shut them out over 8 IP with 4 H, 2 BB and 6 Ks.  I heard a few people say they weren’t impressed with Carmona going into the post-season, but he was great in the "bug game" in Cleveland the other day.

So those 2, Sabathia and Carmona, are great and pose a huge problem for Boston.  Next will come Jake Westbrook (6-9, 4.32/1.41) and Paul Byrd (15-8, 4.59/1.39).  Easier for sure, but you can’t dismiss the 3 and 4 starters for Cleveland.

WEEI is reporting that J.D. Drew will sit in favor of Bobby Kielty in game 1 against Sabathia (lefty).

Now, onto the Yankees.  Peter Gammons had a good piece about the Yankees on Tuesday.  They are preparing for major changes starting with their manager Joe Torre.  I have to assume Joe is gone.  Whether it is his decision or the Yankees, I don’t think Joe is coming back.  Then there are the players:

c – Posada – free agent (read one site that said there might be an option, can’t confirm)

1b – Giambi – under contract

2b – Cano – under contract

3b – ARod – can opt out and expected to do so

ss – Jeter – under contract

lf – Matsui – under contract

cf – Cabrera – under contract

rf – Abreu – free agent (team option for 2008 @ $16m)

dh – Damon – under contract

I talked with Peter about this a while back and he posed a good question.  If the Yankees do not re-sign Posada, just who exactly will catch for them?  The options are limited and while Posada is old for a baseball player and really old for a catcher (36), is a 2 year deal to retain him a bad investment?  Tough call.  He hit .338 in 2007, 61 points higher than his career average of .277.  So his 2007 season had all the markings of a contract season and re-signing him carries major risk, but it might be the best option.  I’d re-sign him as long as he was reasonable.

ARod is going to do whatever he wants to do, most likely become a free agent.  Here is a very good question.  If ARod is being paid $25m a year with the Yankees paying about 2/3 ($16m a year) of that and the Rangers the other 1/3, does it make sense for the Yankees to try and re-sign him at say $30m per season and be responsible for all of the contract?  Is ARod really worth that much?  He clearly offers amazing on-field production, but does he distract too much off the field?  Does he impact team chemistry?  If I were the Yankees, I’d let him go and take my chances.  Aaron Boone is available, isn’t he (joke).  The replacement options are limited, but Brian Cashman gets a chance to earn his pay with this one.

I’m guessing the Yankees will exercise the option on Abreu.  He isn’t worth $16m, but it’s only 1 year and makes sense.  He is a good hitter.

The pitching staff will lose Roger Clemens, but will have a bunch of guys around they probably don’t want around.  Carl Pavano is on the books for 2008, Keg Igawa is on the books, Mike Mussina is on the books and Kyle Farnsworth will be around.  The biggest possible losses are Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.  If Rivera doesn’t sign, this will be the most striking change to the Yankees (on field anyway).  Not having Rivera come in the game in late innings will just be…weird.

The challenge will be finding a role for Farnsworth, Mussina, Igawa and maybe Pavano if they cannot trade them.  Those could be ugly options if the new manager has to blend those guys in.  My guess is Farnsworth can be moved (with the Yankees paying a bunch of $), but the other 3 are ugly contracts.

The good news for New York is that they do have significant young talent to fill in the gaps created by the possible departures of Clemens, Pettitte and Rivera.  Philip Hughes will be in the rotation alongside Chien-Ming Wang, Ian Kennedy and perhaps another young arm.  This will be the most interesting thing to watch.  The Yankees are at a crossroads here.  They can rebuild from within and let young pitchers like Hughes, Kennedy, Tyler Clippard and Matt DeSalvo.  If they do that, it might mean a year off from contention, but this strategy has been known to surprise.  Giving your young guys pt is sometimes the best medicine.  The problem with that idea is that George Steinbrenner might not allow it.

I think the most excitement the Yankees will offer in 2008 will be Joba Chamberlain.  He came up and dominated major league hitters.  He can step in the role of closer, or if Rivera returns, he can be the primary set-up guy, or he can start as he only relieved full time once he was called up the majors.  Only his workload will hold him back in 2008.

The Yankees have clearly shown a willingness and desire to produce home grown talent.  But they’ve also spent freely in the free agent market in recent years.  I expect NY to try to bring along more talent, but probably continue to spend big on the free agent market.  Gammons also mentioned the Yankees immediately discussed (like 2 hours after they were eliminated) what they could send along with Wang to the Twins in exchange for Johan Santana, who would immediately become the highest paid pitcher in baseball.  So things will change a bit, but with the pressure from above, don’t expect the Yankees to become cheap.

Having talked about the Yankees so much, I’m now going to shower.  Unclean, unclean.

It’s All Over

I just watched Joe Torre’s postgame press conference and hearing him refer to the Yankees future as “their future” and not “our future” made me sick. Great job by the fans chanting his name in the 8th when he came out and made the pitching change and he deserves better than this ending.

But, this is the way it will end. In the next few days, I fully expect the Yankees to let him go. After that, who knows what happens. Will Posada and Mo want to play in New York without Joe? Will Pettitte stay if he has to play under a new manager? What’s going to happen with A-Rod?

All of those quesions are going to be vital to the 2008 Yankees and while we don’t know a lot of the answers right now, I think we can all agree on the overall need. This team has to get younger and has to find a way to get players who are on the way up and not the way down joining the organization. Getting rid of Torre and all of the questions with the roster offer uncertainty but also opportunity. Heading into 2008 we know the Yankees have the biggest resources in the game and they finally have some young pitchers who should anchor the rotation going forward. This is a moment for sadness, but it can also be a moment to cement the foundations of the next dynasty. That is what I will address over the next few days, after I am done mourning.

Rocket Out, Villone Back

The Yankees have done the smart move and subtracted Roger Clemens from the roster.  Under the new rules, he now has to miss the ALCS, which he probably would have anyway.  In his place, the Yankees have added Ron Villone.  My understanding is they didn’t want to add Kennedy because he isn’t with the team and he was away getting married this weekend.  I imagine he will be in the mix if the Yankees make the ALCS.  So, the choice came down to Ramirez, Villone and Britton who were all with the team.  I think Villone is a good move because it gives them a lefty and he can probably go the most innings of anyone in this group.

As for the lineup, Giambi is back to the bench and Mientkiewicz is in.  This is the standard move when Wang is pitching, so it isn’t a surprise.  Matsui is the DH again with Damon in left. 

The Yankees have a great chance tonight with Byrd on the mound, talk to you after the game.