Monday, December 31, 2007

Do Sox Have Managerial Lead Over Yankees?

Dayne Perry wrote an article today about how the Red Sox appear to be the better team going into the 2008 season. He gave the Yankees the advantage offensively, which I'm sure most people would agree with. The Yankees ranked first in runs scored last year, while the Red Sox ranked fourth. Perry also gave the Yankees the edge in their bench. That's a no-brainer, given that the Red Sox currently don't have a bench, and will be looking to make one over the next few months.

Perry, however, gave the Red Sox the advantage in the rotation, the bullpen, their defense, and their manager. I think it's clear why he claimed the Red Sox have the better rotation. Nothing against the Yankees great young pitching prospects, but they will go through some growing pains. Even the best of pitching prospects do. And they haven't been stretched out to a full season's work load either, so the will likely have to be supplemented with other Yankees starters such as Mike Mussina or Kei Igawa.

The Red Sox would appear to have a better bullpen as well. Mariano Rivera may be the best closer of all time, but Jonathan Papelbon is clearly the much better closer right now. And the Yankees lack set up men as strong as Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen.

Perry also explains why he chose the Red Sox defense over that of the Yankees. According to Perry, "by whatever measure you choose to employ — fielding percentage or more advanced and more useful metrics like Defensive Efficiency and the Plus-Minus System — the Red Sox come out on top. The Yankees have sub-optimal defenders at the outfield corners, shortstop (no, Derek Jeter is not a good fielder), and second base."

Perry then goes on to give the Red Sox the managerial advantage. He justifies his choice by saying Francona has two World Series rings. That's not really fair though, Girardi only managed one year and he managed the Marlins. He did very well with what he had, winning the Manager of the Year award.

How Girardi will handle the Yankees is a very interesting topic to ponder. He didn't do so well with the management or media in Florida, something he'll have to improve immediately in New York. But other than that, Girardi's ability to manage the Yankees is a big question mark. Another question mark, just like the Yankees rotation and bullpen. 2008 will certainly be an interesting year in the Bronx. They'll go into the season with more unknowns than I can remember them having in at least a decade.

Any of you have some thoughts on how Girardi will do? If so, feel free to share. Just make sure you give an explanation.

Ryan Howard Mastered the Strikeout in 2007

When Ryan Howard stepped to the plate last year, there was a 4.9% chance he'd hit a double, an 8.9% chance he'd hit a home run, a 13% chance he'd hit a single, a 20.2% chance he'd draw a walk, and a 37.8% chance that he'd strike out. Ryan Howard struck out so much last year, that his strikeout percentage was nearly as high as his on base percentage. In fact, Ryan Howard struck out so much in 2007, that he set the all time record for most strikeouts in a season, at 199.

Now Adam Dunn is notorious for striking out. Dunn's lead the majors in strikeouts each year from 2004, up until last year. And previously to 2007, Dunn had the highest and second highest single season strikeout totals of all time. But in 2007, Howard outdid even Dunn.

In fact, Howard had 57 more strikeouts than he did hits. Much was made of Ichiro when he achieved the single season hits record in 2004, getting a hit in 37.2% of his at bats. Even more was made of Bonds, when he set the single season home run record in 2006, getting a home run in 21% of his at bats. So where's the celebration for Howard?

Howard struck out in 37.8% of his 2007 at bats. And after all, which one deserves more celebration? Would the fans of the other 29 teams rather watch players get hits and home runs against their favorite team, or watch a player strike out?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Red Sox Still Have Holes to Fill

Since the Red Sox became involved in talks regarding Johan Santana, more than a month ago, they haven't made a single move. Not only do Santana talks require quite a bit of the team's attention, but it prevents the Red Sox from discussing trades involving many players such as Coco Crisp, Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson.

When the new year comes in a couple days, and the Twins return to the negotiating table, the Red Sox will have some decisions to make. The best possible outcome of the new year, would be a quick resolution of the Santana talks, in which Santana is dealt to either the Red Sox or the Mets. That way the Red Sox could focus on filling up the remaining holes in their roster.

If, however, Santana talks continue to be drawn out for weeks to come, the Red Sox options for their remaining needs of a backup catcher, backup corner infielder and backup outfielder may be somewhat limited. And the Red Sox may have to settle with the bullpen they have, rather than adding some additional insurance and depth to their relief staff.

Backup Catcher - If the season began today, the Red Sox would most likely go with minor leaguer Dusty Brown (career stats) as their backup catcher. Brown hit .268/.344/.453 last year at the Double-A level, and is an excellent defensive catcher with a good arm. But he's yet to play more than eight games at the Triple-A level, and the Red Sox may prefer a more proven option.

If the Red Sox retain Coco Crisp, they could deal him for Rangers backup catcher Gerald Laird. Both teams expressed interest in such a trade before the Santana talk began. Laird is another stellar defensive catcher with a great arm. But unlike Brown, he projects to eventually become an everyday catcher, which would make him more appealing to the Red Sox.

Laird hit .310/.380/.562 at the Triple-A level in 2005, but he's yet to come into his own as a major league offensive threat. In 2006, Laird had a solid line of .296/.332/.473 but last year he had a bizarre off year. Not only did he not hit, but he didn't field either, having the lowest fielding percentage of all catchers in 2007.

If the Red Sox trade Crisp in a Santana deal. They could either fall back on a free agent such as Doug Mirabelli or the more expensive Johnny Estrada. Or the Red Sox could attempt a trade for someone like Michael Barrett, who's stock has taken a dip.

Backup Corner Infielder - The only player I know of that the Red Sox have made a formal offer to is Ryan Klesko. Klesko would be a good hitting backup and would provide a left-handed bat off the bench to oppose the right-handed bats of Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell. Defensively, however, Klesko is challenged.

If the Red Sox prefer a more defensive minded option, they could go with free agent Jeff Cirillo. Cirillo is a lefty killer who plays both corner infield spots well. He also hit .340/.375/.500 with runners in scoring position last year, something which could make him a valuable option off the bench for both defense and offense.

Backup Outfielder - Whether or not the Red Sox acquire Santana, they're going to deal Crisp somewhere else. Ellsbury is their center fielder of the present and future and Crisp has said that he won't take a backup role. If Crisp is dealt, Bobby Kielty has said that he'd return to the Red Sox as a free agent. Kielty could provide an alternative to Drew when the Red Sox face lefties, but Kielty didn't hit lefties very well last year.

The Red Sox may prefer the cheaper option of promoting from within. Brandon Moss could be a valuable backup outfielder. He has above average speed for a corner outfielder and has the arm to play even right field. And offensively, Moss has a steady, effective approach at the plate. He hit .282/.363/.471 at Triple-A last year, and .280/.379/.440 in 15 games with the Red Sox.

I like Moss a lot. Even if he never reaches his full potential as a power hitting corner outfielder, I still like his steady, solid approach to the game. He can field, he can throw, he's a patient hitter, and he can hit both lefties and righties. He strikes out a bit too much, but he is only 24 and once he manages his strike out totals, his offensive output could increase quite a bit. I'd like to see what he could do in more time at the major league level.

That covers the major needs of the Red Sox going into 2008. As stated earlier, they may also look to add another reliever. That's more of a luxury than a necessity, however, with Okajima and Delcarmen already on the roster. It's easy to get excited about the Red Sox with all their pitching depth, offense, and good young prospects.

But before getting too excited, you have to remember that there are important spots on the roster which the Red Sox have yet to fill. Once they have found a backup catcher, infielder and outfielder, I'll be able to rest more easily. Although, with the Red Sox great farm system, I have a feeling many of these positions will be won in Spring Training, with Red Sox minor leaguers providing firm competition to any free agents who may be brought in.

Derek Jeter Is God

I thought this was pretty funny. Peter Abraham runs a rather popular Yankees site but he just happens to be a Patriots fan. He made the mistake of comparing Tom Brady and Derek Jeter to each other in one of his posts tonight. And in response he got a lot of flack from his readers asking how you could begin to compare the two when Jeter is so much better.

I'm not really much of a Pats fan, but come on.

I'm not even going to talk about the value of a quarterback compared to that of a shortstop. Let's just take a quick look at the facts here. Derek Jeter's been playing since 1995. He has four titles, no MVP awards, one World Series MVP award, and no records of any significance. On the other hand, Tom Brady's been playing since 2001. He has three titles, and is favored to win a fourth, he's a lock for the MVP award, he has two Super Bowl MVP awards, and holds the record for highest ever QB rating and the most touchdown passes in a season.

If Yankees fans can't even handle that bit of truth, I can't imagine what it will be like for them to watch Jeter the Immortal age. He's only 33-years-old and he's already one of the lesser fielding shortstops in baseball. And what would happen if he went to a different team?

In a few years the Yankees will likely have to move Jeter somewhere else. Second and third seem filled up for some time into the future. Are they going to stick with Jeter at an offensive position like first base when he's struggling to put up an OPS of .800 year in and year out? Well I guess I can only hope they do as a Red Sox fan.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ellsbury Brings the Art of Leadoff Hitting Back to Boston

From 2003 through 2005, the Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored (they scored the second most in 2002). Then in 2006, the Red Sox fell to 9th in that same category, and last year finished fourth in the league. Many aspects of the Red Sox offense have changed in between 2005 and now.

There have been smaller contributing factors such as the decline of Varitek's offense and there have been some larger factors, such as Manny Ramirez's poor health the past two years. But in my opinion, the largest difference between the Red Sox offense of 2005 and the Red Sox offense the past two years has been their lack of a true leadoff hitter.

The past two years, the Red Sox have had a tough choice to make. They could go with someone like Coco Crisp, who has plenty of speed, but only gets on base at a rate of around .325. Or they could go with someone like Youkilis, who gets on base at a rate of around .385 but has virtually no speed. Finally, in 2007, the Red Sox will likely have a player with both.

Jacoby Ellsbury will give the Red Sox the offensive catalyst that they've lacked since Johnny Damon. Ellsbury can definitely get on base. He did so at a rate of .394 during the regular season last year with the Red Sox. Over his minor league career he got on base at a rate of .389.

And speed? Does he ever have speed. In just his third major league game against the Texas Rangers, Ellsbury stole second and then later scored from second on a passed ball. He went a perfect 11-0 on the base paths last year with the Red Sox. Ellsbury's Jose Reyes-like speed is something he's demonstrated throughout his baseball career.

In high school, Ellsbury didn't have to slide once while stealing a base. In college, Ellsbury was 60-16 on the base paths. Over his minor league career, he was 105-27 in stolen base attempts, with 12 of those caught stealings coming at the Single-A level. Ellsbury was named the Red Sox minor league base runner of the year in 2006. That's not the only award Ellsbury won in 2006.

That same year, Ellsbury was also named the Red Sox defensive player of the year. And while great defensive play won't help the Red Sox offense, it will help the Red Sox win games. Ellsbury's a complete player. His power isn't anything special, but it's not bad for his age. And with his speed and base running abilities, he really doesn't need any power to score runs. His arm in center will significantly better than what the Red Sox have had at that position in almost a decade.

Ellsbury is a catalyst not only because of his incredible skills, but also because of when he uses those skills best. He has a flair for the dramatic, and propensity for the big hit. Ellsbury had 10 home runs over his minor league career. But in only 33 games with the Red Sox, he hit three, two of them providing the difference in the game. Ellsbury also managed to hit .455/.500/.545 with runners in scoring position, and .471/.550/.647 with runners in scoring position and two out.

And in October, when it mattered most? Ellsbury lead the Red Sox in hits, doubles, stolen bases, average, and on base percentage. He was second to only Mike Lowell in both runs scored and slugging percentage. Ellsbury was so good, that the Red Sox didn't lose a single playoff game in which he had an at bat.

What else could you ask for?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Yankees Offense Due for Recession In 2008

Going into the 2007 season, there was speculation that the Yankees offense was primed to score north of 1,000 runs on the year. Yet, even with career years from Posada (+.103 OPS from 2006) and Rodriguez (+.153 OPS from 2006) the Yankees still fell short of the mark. So what happened?

Well, to put it most simply, aging. The Yankees went into 2007 with two members of their regular lineup younger than their age 33 season. And while you'd be hard pressed to see declining trends in the production of many of the aging Yankees vets going into last season, the age of 33 or 34 is typically when players begin to hit a wall.

And hitting a wall is exactly what much of the Yankees offense did in 2007. Bobby Abreu posted the worst OPS of his career. Both Matsui and Giambi posted the second worst OPS's of their career in 2007, and Damon posted the third worst OPS of his career in the same year. But those numbers don't tell the entire story.

Of all the members of the Yankees offense, Giambi's declining production is probably most concerning. Giambi figures to start the season as the Yankees starting first baseman. And even if he doesn't play the entire season in that role, he'll likely receive quite a bit of playing time there as the Yankees would prefer to DH Matsui and don't have a solid option as a backup first baseman.

Jason Giambi will be 37-years-old in 2008 and is riddled by health issues, likely related to his previous PED use. Last year, Giambi had an OPS of .790 which is well below average for a first baseman. He also struck out every 3.84 at bats, striking out more often than he got a hit. Most concerning about Giambi, however, is the way he breaks down under the wear of the season. Last year, he hit .200/.323/.429 in the second half of the season, even though he only played in 83 games, with the vast majority of his playing time coming as a DH.

Giambi's offensive decline is rather radical, but he's only one member of the offense. The decline in Abreu and Matsui's offense is also concerning. Both players are key members of the Yankees offense who both scored and drove in 100 runs last year. His OBP fell right off the table from a lofty .424 to .369. As for Matsui, his AVG and SLG fell for the second straight season in 2007.

But a continued aging process isn't the only reason the Yankees offense will take a hit in 2008. As previously stated, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada both had monster career years last year. The likeliness of either one of those players putting up back to back career years are remote. They are especially remote for Posada, a catcher in his age 35 season.

And one factor which will especially hurt the Yankees offense is their decision to DH Hideki Matsui. Defensively, it may be a necessity as Matsui's defensive abilities have really fallen off. But offensively, it forces the Yankees to play Melky Cabrera in center. And Melky, more than any other Yankee, kills New York's offense.

Any outfielder who puts up an OPS of .718 should not have a starting job on a serious contender like the Yankees. Cabrera's offensive production as a regular player ranked near dead last among the league, even when compared to the weak hitting position of centerfield.

More Non-Updates On Santana

Now that teams have taken some time off, Santana updates have become a daily occurrence. It must be that it's just an easy subject to write about. Although, given how much the subject has been milked to death, I'd be surprised if people didn't just skip over stories involving his name.

Today's Santana non-update comes from Joel Sherman of New York City. Come on down! Joel's update can be summed up by the following. "According to multiple executives spoken to yesterday, the Red Sox remain the strong favorite to obtain the star lefty if - and probably more likely, when - he is traded in the new year."

Very nice Joel, throw the word strong in front of favorites and it's almost as if this was news. When was the last time the Red Sox weren't favorites to land Santana? And just to make his article seem extra full of news, Sherman says that Santana's most likely going to be traded.

This shouldn't come as a surprise either. Unless you allowed yourself to be fooled by the article yesterday that is. Funny, if the Twins really did have the resources to resign Santana, you'd think they would attempted it before spending the last month of their time trying to trade him. Not to mention, the Twins have been on vacation for almost a week, and are waiting for the new year to discuss Santana again.

I'm not going to put another picture up of Santana. I'm tired of this story. Wake me up on January 1st.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Quote of the Day

"No one really has any new info on the Santana talks, but that's not going to stop them from posting stories."


Yesterday the Twins lowered their demands (but only to the Yankees), today they're going to hold onto Santana. Incredible! Writers are coming up with more updates now that the Twins front office is on holiday, than they were before the Twins went on holiday. The wonders of the press.

The Michaels Report


In the wake of the Mitchell Report, many New York fans and writers have been left with a bitter taste in their mouth. The report named a total of 17 current and former Yankees who used PEDs. And even though former Red Sox fan favorites like Roger Clemens and Mo Vaugn were named, in addition to members of the 2007 championship team like Brendan Donnelly and Eric Gagne, it still wasn't enough.

Mitchell made the critical mistake of not naming enough Red Sox players. Some New York fans have even claimed that the Mitchell Report should be dubbed "the Red Sox Report". New York Sports writer Bill Madden made Mitchell's bias obvious when he pointed out that "not one prominent recent Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewer or Texas Ranger wound up in that report?"

Now I thought George W. Bush left his job with the Rangers. I remember something about him becoming president, and a Republican at that. But you know what, good of George Mitchell, a Democrat, to be bipartisan and keep Bush's 1994 interests in mind. If Mitchell wasn't so biased in other areas, he'd be a great example for our young politicians.

So for all of you who were unsatisfied with the Mitchell Report, I've undergone my own investigation. Now I know I'm not a respected former politician, and I never helped broker peace in Northern Ireland. In fact, most people have probably never heard of me.

I'll leave the accuracy of the report for you to ponder, although I doubt it will be debated on ESPN. I will do the one thing which will make this report legitimate in the eyes of millions of New York fans; I will name Red Sox.

I will not keep you waiting any longer. Without further ado, I present to you The Michaels Report.

Information Obtained Regarding Players' Possession or Use of Steroids and Human Growth Hormone

Jonathan Papelbon: Papelbon was heartbroken when in 2005, the Red Sox made him pitch at the Triple-A level before being called up. He couldn't understand why he wasn't called up after he posted a 2.48 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP at the Double-A level. He decided it wasn't his numbers, but rather his simply wasn't making enough of an impression.

And so, in 2005, Papelbon turned to fellow Baton Rouge native, and hGH user Andy Pettitte for help. Pettitte testified as the the secondary uses of hGH. He himself didn't use them to cheat, but rather to help out his team. Like Pettitte, Papelbon tried out hGH, but after finding that his illegal drug use didn't make him seem like "more of a team player", he turned to steroids.

Steroids Papelbon found an immediate use for. While he didn't need them to bulk up, they gave him a mental edge. And with the help of roid rage, he was able to make his famous "Papelstare". Red Sox scouts immediately noticed Papelbon's stare of pure rage and promoted him to the major leagues.

David Ortiz: Ortiz was released by the Minnesota Twins after his age 26 season, in which he slugged only .500. Ortiz showed promise in the minor leagues, but the Twins didn't feel they could afford him. So in order to make sure he caught on somewhere else, Ortiz invested his fortune of an arbitration contract into thousands of dollars worth of hGH and steroids.

We know Ortiz has used PEDs for a variety of reasons. First of all, he puts up good power numbers and plays for the Red Sox. Second of all, not only does he get walk-off hits, but he does so against Mariano Rivera. Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. In fact, he's so good that the only people capable of getting walk-off hits against him are Bill Mueller and cheaters.

Issues arose when certain "shrinking" side effects of steroids began to take their toll on the body and ego of Ortiz. In order to battle the damaging mental affects, Ortiz undertook the nickname "Big Papi" The nickname helps compensate for parts of Ortiz which are no longer that big.

Ortiz has previously said the only things he puts in his body to be big are "rice and beans". In the Dominican Republic those are known slang terms for hGH and steroids.

Hideki Okajima: Okajima experienced severe stress on his neck in Spring Training with the Red Sox in 2007. Trainers were worried that if Okajima continued his violent head jerks, his head was in danger of falling right off. So in order prevent that from happening, he began using hGH to strengthen his neck muscles. While hGH use without a prescription is illegal, Okajima swears that his illegal drug use is only for his own safety.

In April Okajima actually admitted to his steroids use, saying he was inspired by Bonds' use in the book Game of Shadows. But his interpreter tried to protect Okajima, mistranslating the statement to say "I'm willing to be a hero in the dark". ran a story on the quote entitled "Okajima emerging out of the shadows".

Dustin Pedroia: Not only is he a good player on the Red Sox, but he has a receding hairline as well, a clear indication of steroids use. Besides, no one who is 5'8'' could be good unless they cheated.


It has become clear that the Red Sox have a significant and prolonged culture of PED use. The Mitchell Report demonstrated that various former Red Sox players used PEDs. When Paxton Crawford dropped a bag on the floor of the Red Sox clubhouse, and needles came out, members of the Red Sox laughed.

This is because the Red Sox are cheaters. It wasn't enough to know that Red Sox have used PEDs, peopled needed to know names of current Red Sox players. It was unfair that more Yankees than Red Sox players were named.

And in conclusion, use of PEDs by Red Sox players helps to explain why they've been better than the Yankees lately. No wonder they've won two World Series in the last four years. An asterisk should be placed next to them, and the Red Sox AL East championship last year. Just like the "real" home run king is Hank Aaron, the real AL East Champions are the New York Yankees.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Luxury Tax Figures, Is Revenue Sharing Working?

Luxury tax figures were released the other day. The Red Sox owe $6.06 million this year. The only other team that owes any money, is the New York Yankees, who owe $23.88 million.

Since luxury tax was instated in 2003, only one other team, the Los Angeles Angels, has ever paid the tax. Over the years, the Angels have paid a total of $927,059, the Red Sox have paid a total of $13,860,000 and the Yankees have paid a total of $121,600,000 million.

It would appear that revenue sharing is working. There have there be seven different World Series winners in the last eight years. In addition, Major League Baseball hasn't seen a 100-game-winning team in two years, and it's seen only one 20-game-winning pitcher over that same time span.

Still, revenue sharing is clearly a flawed system. There need to be regulations as to how lower salary teams spend the money. Teams like the Florida Marlins get $30 million in revenue sharing, and an additional $30 million in shared profits from That's $60 million before you even factor in the money they make off of ticket sales and merchandising. Yet, the Marlins are expected to have a payroll which could be as low as $15 million next year.

Need Links!

I have begun a link section but as of now, it looks pretty sorry. The only links I currently have are:

The newly added Baseball Time In Arlington
Boston Dirt Dogs
Boston Red Thoughts
Mets Prospectus
MN Twins Talk
Peter's Red Sox Forever
Pinstriped Scranton
Sox and Dawgs
Surviving Grady
The Bottom Line
The Mighty Quinn Media Machine
We Should Be GM's
Young Sports

I would like to have at least one link for every major league team, and would love to have links for minor league teams as well. I currently have links representing the Red Sox, Rangers, Mets, Twins, Phillies, Dodgers, and Scranton/Wilkes-Bare Yankees. If anyone wants me to add their link, just drop me a comment or e-mail. I'm always up for exchanging links.

Or if anyone has some good minor league team links, please let me know! Thank you.

Holiday Wrap Up

Not too much new news making the rounds. This is likely due to the fact that most teams are taking time off for the holidays. Legitimate free agent and trade talk probably won't start again until after the New Year.

A few days ago, it was reported that David Ortiz didn't think the Red Sox would trade for Johan Santana. What was lost on most readers, however, is that the comment was supposed to be a joke. He followed up his statement by saying, "[Minnesota] already gave Boston too many good things already. Me, and now Santana? No way." And Rotoworld added, "don't forget Kevin Garnett and Randy Moss."

Then today, Murray Chass had an "update" on the Santana talks. According to Chass, the Twins have realized that they aren't going to get Ian Kennedy, so they've inquired on Jeff Marquez. But this is more recycling of old news than it is an update. It was reported three weeks ago that Marquez had been substituted for Kennedy in trade talks with Santana. It was also reported that the Yankees still weren't willing to make a deal, even after the substitution.

If this is new news, then I must be psychic. I've already discussed the merits of a Yankees package including Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Marquez.

Be sure to vote on the poll to the right, concerning Jon Lester's win total next year. The poll will be closed in four days and I'll be moving on to bigger and better things.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

No, You Should Be A Yankees Fan

In order to explain this story, I'll have to first provide a small bit of background information. I come from a very large family which is about 90% Red Sox fans. My grandfather raised his five children to be Red Sox fans, and in turn those children have raised almost all of their thirty or so children to be Red Sox fans. There is one exception.

One of my uncles has never been a large baseball fan so he didn't really instill Red Sox allegiance in any of his kids. And so only one of his sons has grown up to become a Red Sox fan while the other son roots for the Yankees. Most of us live in New York so that's nothing out of the ordinary.

The two sons, on opposite sides of the rivalry are around the ages of sixteen and seven. The older is a Red Sox fan while the younger prefers the Yankees. At our Christmas gathering earlier today, the elder son was picking on his younger brother. He was telling him how the Yankees are slowly falling apart year by year, and how if he wants to enjoy a team he should switch over to the Red Sox.

So what did I do? I told the younger kid, "no, you should be a Yankees fan." I explained how the Yankees have an incredible history and no one should be ashamed to root for them. Then I said how the team you grow up rooting for is sacred. Once you pick a team, you should stick with them because one of the greatest things in baseball is the loyalty their fans typically display towards their teams.

And I truly believe that. I'm not sure how much my younger cousin understood of what I said, given his age. But I've never been one to try to "convert" people to being Red Sox fans. Have I influenced a few former girlfriends to root for the "good guys"? Sure, but I let them choose on their own whether or not to follow baseball and most of them have chosen to support my love of the Red Sox, often becoming involved in the team themselves.

It's a love of the game that matters most, before allegiances to any team. At least that's what I've always believed.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Open Letter From Red Sox Nation

Well, at least for one member of it. Just like any fan, I have no power or control over other fans of my team, so I can only speak for myself. Recently, this "holiday greeting card" was brought to my attention. Take a quick look at it, it only takes a moment.

For most sports fans, the greeting card is probably humorous. And for some reason, the old guy in the chair reminds me of Freddy "Sez" Shuman, the guy who walks around Yankees games with a pot and a spoon. I don't know, maybe cause they're both old?

Anyways, for one friend of mine, who's a Yankees fan, it wasn't all that humorous. And no, I didn't send it to him, I'm a very polite Red Sox fan. He took it as an opportunity to point out what he thought was wrong with Red Sox fans.

According to my friend, it's not that they're cocky, it was because Red Sox fans have a kick-em-while-they're-down mentality. Now I give my friend credit for not claiming he dislikes Red Sox fans because they're cocky. Because that would have been a pretty lame excuse. Yankees fans are notorious for their "confident" and "bold" attitudes themselves. And when a fan base's favorite team does well, I feel as if they kind of have a right to to be a little cocky.

But this "kick-them-while-they're-down-mentality" I found to be especially interesting. Now the Red Sox haven't been all that successful until this decade. And growing up as a Red Sox fan in the early and mid-90's I seem to remember a certain fan base that kicked me while I was down quite a bit.

After all, from 1918 until 2004, there weren't many sports teams as down as the Boston Red Sox. They didn't just lose, they're lost in grandiose fashion. The Red Sox lost back-to-back-to-back-to-back World Series Game Sevens. In fact, every World Series they went to from 1918-2004, they lost in a Game 7, and often in heartbreaking fashion. An example of which would be Enos Slaughter's "Mad Dash" pictured below.

I doubt there are many Yankees fans out there who have never uttered the year "1918". When Aaron Boone came to the plate in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, there were grown men dressed in ghost costumes in Yankee Stadium. And when Red Sox fans left the stadium that night, I doubt Yankees fans were all that concerned about kicking them while they were down.

Yankees fans kicked Red Sox fans while they were in the midst of one of the most painful 86 years in any baseball team's history. So it doesn't make sense for them to complain about it now, when they've only been on the other end of it for a few years. In fact, given the manner in which Yankees fans have beat down Red Sox fans for the better part of a century, it shouldn't come as any surprise how much Red Sox fans enjoy turning the tables.

The best piece of advice I can think of for Yankees fans who feel as if they're being kicked while they're down, would be develop a sense of humor. A quirky sense of humor has certainly helped Red Sox fans through quite a bit of heartbreak. You can't let insults towards your team get under your skin. Red Sox fans have been the butt of jokes for a long, long time, so I doubt they're going to let up any time soon.

Can Red Sox fans be dicks? Sure they can, and many Red Sox fans can take things too far. But let's be honest, that behavior is not at all exclusive to Red Sox fans. On behalf of Red Sox fans everywhere, I apologize for any over-the-top rude behavior which they've displayed lately. And in the spirit of the holidays, I extend to fans all over baseball the proverbial olive branch.


Ethan Michaels

For Red Sox Fans, Real New Year's Countdown Will Begin In January

Nick Cafardo provided a Santana update today. According to Cafardo, once New Year's celebrations are over, the Twins will "get down to the nitty-gritty". They'll ask for final offers from the Red Sox, and other other team that will listen, and then it's expected that they will select an offer and deal Santana.

And by all appearances, that team is likely to be the Red Sox. Now, whether the talk of the Twins taking final offers is reality, or simply a negotiation ploy is yet to be seen. But given how drawn out the Santana talks have become, I'd like to think it's a reality.

I'm not sure which would be more exciting, celebrating a new year, or celebrating the acquisition of the best pitcher in baseball. It would be a shame for the Red Sox to be the favorite for Santana for so many weeks, only to see another team step up their offer at the last second.

Santana - Why the Red Sox Package Makes Sense

When news of a possible Santana deal first broke, Peter Gammons speculated that it would take a package including Chien-Ming Wang or Robinson Cano, plus a premium prospect. Months later, the Twins are struggling just to get a premium prospect. I think it's fair to say that the demand for Santana isn't as high as many expected it to be.

This is likely due to a few factors. First of all, the salary that Santana would command really limits to the teams he could be dealt to. And the list of teams that the Twins could match up with in a trade is even further limited by Santana's no-trade clause. It's unclear which teams Santana would accept being dealt to, but most likely due to financial restrictions, only a few teams showed serious interest in Santana: the Mets, Red Sox, and Yankees.

As for a Mets, they simply didn't have the prospects to be a good match. And so any Santana deal would require them to give up a major piece of their major league team such as Jose Reyes. To no one's surprise, the Mets didn't bite.

As for the Yankees, Brian Cashman has become very conservative about trading young prospects. The Twins had to fight so hard to get Phil Hughes included in a deal, that once the did, the Yankees were unwilling to budge on any more talent. The best package that the Yankees seem willing to provide is a rather weak package of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Marquez. And if Cashman had his way, Hughes wouldn't even be on the table.

So that leaves the Twins with the Red Sox. Like other teams, the Red Sox aren't willing to offer a star major league player in return for Santana. But the Red Sox do offer one thing that other teams don't, multiple quality prospects in Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson. In addition to offering multiple quality prospects, the players the Red Sox are offering, would also fill the most holes for the Twins.

The Twins need a center fielder, a middle infielder, and since they've already dealt Matt Garza, they could use multiple pitching prospects. Ideally, those pitching prospects would be able to help out the major league team either in 2008, or fairly soon after.

The quantity available in the Red Sox package makes sense for the Twins for multiple reasons. First of all, the more cost controlled players the Twins receive in a deal, the more money they'll be saving on the free agent market. This has to be an utmost concern for a cost conscious team such as the Twins.

By dealing Santana for multiple quality prospects, it also diversifies the Twins investment. You could consider Johan Santana capital, and the Twins would be trading in that capital for stocks, which the they hope develop into good investments. Well, if the Twins were to trade Santana for Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Marquez, what would happen if Hughes didn't work out as well as he's projected to? They'd lose almost all of the value that they received in the deal.

On the other hand, if the Twins were to acquire Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson, they could still get a good deal of value out of the deal if one of those prospects didn't work out. Would the Twins be getting equal value for Santana? No. But the Twins are in a rather odd position in that regard.

If the Twins do not trade Johan Santana, they would not be able to afford him when he hits the free agent market next year. And if Santana leaves via free agency, which he almost certainly would, the Twins would receive only two sandwich draft picks for compensation. That chances of those draft picks being as valuable as Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson are very remote.

The Twins could go into the season with Santana, hoping to trade him at the deadline, but Santana has said that the wouldn't allow a trade mid-season. So the Twins will likely have to take whatever the best offer is on the table going into next season. Currently, that offer appears to be that of the Red Sox, and there are no indications that other teams are willing to offer a better deal.

I expect the Twins to play poker a little longer, hoping the Red Sox will up their offer with the inclusion of Jacoby Ellsbury. In the end, however, the Twins will likely have to give up their bluff, as they aren't the ones holding the cards. They simply don't have the money to afford Santana, so they'll have to get the best value possible for him. And in order to do that, they'll have to trade him soon, even though it's not the best market for him.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Yankees Not In On Santana? Why Their Package Isn't Enough

Earlier today, Newsday cited a source "with knowledge of the situation", who on behalf of the Yankees said, "I don't see it happening with us. We pulled out in Nashville, and we haven't put an offer back on the table." Now I don't know about you, but I find it highly unlikely that the Yankees are completely out.

My personal opinion, is that the Yankees at this point aren't willing to give up Hughes and another quality prospect. They've demonstrated a strong unwillingness to include a player such as Chamberlain or Kennedy. And such unwillingness seems rather intelligent. They've also been unwilling, however, to include less valuable prospects such as Alan Horne, Jose Tabatha, or even Austin Jackson.

Whether that thinking will be best for the organization has yet to be seen, but what's clear now is that it's likely not the type of thinking that could land them Santana. I don't think any reasonable fan doubts the value of Phil Hughes. He projects as an ace, and is likely to be better than anyone offered in a Red Sox package. But the Yankees best offered package of Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Marquez offers very little talent in addition to Hughes.

Melky Cabrera's greatest asset is his price. He will be cost controlled for years to come. But his abilities as a baseball player aren't very impressive to anyone outside of New York. Melky's power is very limited, he's slugged only .391 the past two seasons and his patience at the plate is inconsistent. Last year, among center fielders who qualified, Cabrera ranked 10th out of 13th in OPS. And even if he does eventually live up to his minor league line, an OPS of .769, his offensive output would be average for the weak hitting position of a center fielder.

On the defensive side, Cabrera has a rocket for an arm. But I don't think it quite makes up for his limited range and poor instincts. I play softball with some Yankees fans, and when someone takes a poor route to a fly ball, they dub that "pulling a Melky". When someone misjudges a ball at the wall that used to be a "Milledge" but after Delmon Young misjudged a David Ortiz walkoff home run last year, it's now more popularly known as a "Delmon".

As far as Jeff Marquez, it's not as if he doesn't have potential. Marquez is a 23-year-old sinkerball pitcher in the Yankees farm system. He typically throws in the low 90's and has a plus change but he needs much more development. Marquez doesn't have the ability to strike many batters out, and throughout his minor league career he's allowed more hits than innings pitched, which is concerning considering he's only in Double-A. He also has an injury history, which sidelined him for much of his 2006 season.

If the Yankees were serious about Santana, they'd definitely have to add more value to their package. It takes more than one high quality prospect to acquire any ace in a trade, let alone one considered the best pitcher in baseball. But as of now, it looks like they'll be content to go with the players they have, even if that means the Red Sox may acquire the Twins ace.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Prospect Profile - Justin Masterson

Masterson was drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft. He got off to a fast start as a reliever at the Single-A level that same year, posting an ERA of 0.85 and a WHIP of 0.65, while striking out more than a batter an inning. He put those numbers up over 14 relief appearances (31.2 innings) in Lowell.

To begin the 2007 season, Masterson was switched back to a starter in notoriously hitter friendly Single-A Lancaster. To give you an idea of just how hitter friendly Lancaster is, the majority of the Lancaster lineup hit .330 or better last year. Two regulars had a slugging percentage better than .650 and of all the members of the team with at least 150 at bats, all but four had a SLG above .490.

Still, Masterson managed to keep a cool head and hold his own. Over 95.2 innings of work, Masterson posted an ERA of 4.33 and a WHIP of 1.31. Considering the atmosphere in which he was pitching, those numbers are pretty impressive. Masterson managed to limit the damage by walking only 2.07 batters for every nine innings of work and getting two ground ball outs for every out made in the air.

After surviving the gauntlet that is Lancaster, Masterson was promoted to Double-A Portland in July. At Portland, Masterson was quick to impress. In his first appearance, he pitched 6.2 innings of no-hit baseball. The only baserunner he allowed was Lyle Overbay, who walked twice while rehabbing. Overbay then broke up the no-hitter in the 9th inning.

Masterson went on to recorded six quality starts in his first six Dobule-A appearances. His ERA was 1.04, while he struck out 32 batters over his first 26 innings of work. In his seventh and eighth minor league starts, however, Masterson struggled giving up 15 runs over 10 innings of work. Those runs inflated his overall ERA to 4.34.

Still, even with the inflated ERA, Masterson's numbers were incredibly solid. Masterson allowed only 7.60 hits for every nine innings of work, helping him to earn an WHIP of 1.16 while he struck out more than a batter an inning. What was truly impressive however was Masterson's ability to induce ground balls.

In his 58 innings of work at Double-A Portland, Masterson posted an absolutely absurd ground out to fly out ratio of 3.52. That's a better ground out to fly out ratio than any major league pitcher managed last year. In fact, since 1999, only one major league pitcher has ever posted a ground out to fly out ratio better than 3.50, and that was Brandon Webb.

So how does Masterson fit in to the organization's future plans? Well, at the moment it seems rather likely that his largest contribution may be to help acquire Johan Santana in a trade. Just like Jacoby Ellsbury, the Twins are very high on Masterson, who is still only 22 years old. Masterson is likely to be included in any deal for Santana, as his inclusion in a deal is one of the many reasons the Twins appear to prefer trade packages offered by the Red Sox.

But, should the Red Sox miss out on Santana, Masterson projects to be promoted to the major leagues some time around the second half of 2008. He could fill in for an injured starter if the need arises, or he could get rather regular time out of the Boston bullpen. Given how quickly Masterson took to the role of a reliever last year, Masterson could be rather valuable in that role.

I wouldn't be surprised to see him take to the majors rather quickly and he could do so fairly soon should he be dealt to the Twins. He's faced higher levels of competition with quite a bit of focus and intensity. When promoted to Single-A and then Double-A he immediately put up some head turning numbers.

Buchholz Ranked As Top Pitching Prospect In Baseball

Scouting Book ranked Buchholz as the number one pitching prospect in baseball, and the number three prospect overall. He was ranked behind only Reds outfield prospect Jay Bruce and St. Louis prospect Colby Rasmus. I'm eager to see rankings from other sites such as Baseball Prospectus.

Scouting Book also ranked other Red Sox prospects. Other member of the Red Sox who were on the list include Jacboy Ellsbury (22nd), Lars Anderson (45th), Justin Masterson (47th), Michael Bowden (50th), Jed Lowrie (70th), Oscar Tejeda (90th), Daniel Bard (110th), and Craig Hansen (119th). Wait, Craig who?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Buchholz vs. Hughes

Sorry if that title's misleading. I don't mean for this post to be a pissing match between Red Sox and Yankees fans, each claiming that their pitcher is superior. I would encourage discussion regarding the two pitchers, but this post isn't truly meant as grounds for comparing the two pitchers So, in case you were wondering what inspired the title, here it is.

Keith Law had an open chat today
. One of the participants was a Yankees fan from New Jersey, who wrote in with the following question.

"Merry X-mas Keith… Anyone who thinks bucholz is equal to hughes has never looked at anything but a box score… Their pure stuff is comparable, but before the injury, Hughes had a slight edge all around, but hughes is also three years younger and still developing physically. Bucholz is where he’s going to be physically, especially in terms of power (which translates to break on his secondary pitches). Scouts having followed them consider Hughes to be a more intelligent, polished pitcher, despite being younger. Hughes has no personality issues, and showed in the playoffs that he can step into a big spot and come up even bigger. Bucholz has already been arrested and is a spoiled rich kid who thinks he can get away with anything. Hughes mechanics are considered fairly sound, none of his pitches thought to be serious injury risks. Bucholz mechanics on his breaking balls are ‘whippy’ and put a lot of torque on his arm. there is a lot of question how, especially as thin as he is, if his arm will hold up. so… even if there stuff is comparable, age, polish, mechanics, body… all go in favor of hughes… it’s why he was the highest rated pitching prospect in baseball coming into 07."

Keith Law then responded with the following:

Merry Christmas to you too. I have zero idea where you get any of this from. Buchholz’ raw stuff > Hughes’. When Hughes has two secondary pitches as good as Buchholz’ curve and change, you give me a call, OK?"

Now I've heard many Yankees fans tell me that scouts value Hughes more than Buchholz. But who are these scouts? To be honest, I don't care what scouts have supposedly said. When you read scouting reports it's often unclear when the scouts have done the reports or what organizations these scouts may be affiliated with. Anyone can go out and find a scout who thinks their guy is the real thing. I prefer to rely on my one eyes, not the eyes of some other, semi-anonymous person.

Keith Law seems to be equally confused by who these "scouts" are, and how their opinions are relevant, or accurate. He makes the point that Buchholz does have some incredible secondary pitches. Anyone who saw Buchholz pitch in the majors last year can attest to how filthy his changeup and curve looked.

And I found it humorous how quick the fan was to attack Buchholz' "character issues." Funny how a one time incident when the pitcher was in high school is indicative of character issues. If a one time incident by a high school student is indicative of character issues, then what does that say of Andy Pettitte? Did he not show a one time lack of good judgment ate age 30, when he was an adult major league pitcher who took hGH?

Furthermore, Yankees prospects have been infamously overrated for years. Remember when pitchers like Brien Taylor, Mark Hutton and Sterling Hitchcock were supposed to be the next big things in the early 90's? Not one of them turned out to be the top of the rotation starters they were billed as.

The Yankees play in New York City, their prospects will always have more hype surrounding them, especially in times when the major league team hasn't brought home in a championship in a while. But the reality of the situation is, regardless of how great a name Melky Cabrera has, he still barely outhit Coco Crisp last year, by .006 points in OPS and he's an average defensive player. Maybe it's just me, but I find it hard to be excited about anyone who hits like Coco Crisp.

I think it's rather mundane to try to claim either pitcher is better than the other. They're in their low 20's and neither one has pitched even half a season at the major league level. Both are works in progress and fans of either pitcher will only see what they want to. The issue of which pitcher is better is one that we will all have to wait to observe.

Kapler To the Brewers

Red Sox fan favorite Gabe Kapler just signed a one year deal with the Brewers. As of yet, there's no word on his salary for the 2008 season. This comes as a bit of a surprise as many expected Kapler to be invited to Spring Training with the Red Sox. Kapler played the last three years of his career with the Red Sox, and managed the Red Sox Single-A team the Greenville Drive.

Kapler won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2004. He was a backup outfielder on the team until he ruptured his Achilles tendon running out a home run in late 2005. It is ironic that Kapler's hustle would be his Achilles heal so to speak. It was what made him such a hero with the Fenway Faithful, even though is offensive output was rather mediocre.

His players seemed to like him as a Single-A manager last year, but it will be good to see Kapler back in the majors. I'd have to think the Brewers signed him as much for his leadership abilities than they did his playing abilities. Many will be sad to see Kapler leave the Red Sox organization, but hey, at least he didn't go to the Yankees, right?

Many may remember Kapler's role in the July 2004 bench clearing brawl between the Red Sox. Kapler was grabbed from behind by Yankees reliever Tanyone Strurtze but the choke hold wasn't very affective. Sturtze left the fight with some red stains on his uniform.

Following the fight, going into the bottom of the sixth inning of the game down 9-4, the Red Sox then went on to win the game with Bill Mueller's walkoff home run against Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning. Many fans later pointed to the bench clearing brawl as the turning point to the Red Sox championship season in 2004.

2007 World Series Ball Not Headed to the Hall

So why won't the 2007 World Series ball see Cooperstown you my be wondering? Well, in Papelbon's words "my dog ate it!" That's right, according to Papelbon, his dog ate parts of the World Series ball. Here's what Papelbon had to say about his dog and the incident.

"[The dog] plays with baseballs like they are his toys. His name is Boss. He jumped up one day on the counter and snatched it. He likes rawhide. He tore that thing to pieces." He then went on to say, "I'll keep what's left of it."

Hmmm, his dog ate it? Well, I'm sure something happened to the ball. But after Papelbon's World Series celebration, I'm not so sure that Papelbon remembers it.

And that was before he made a helmet out of a beer box.

Cashman Wants To Take Hughes Off the Table

Brian Cashman is advocating for removing Hughes from any potential deal for Johan Santana. The move would effectively remove the Yankees from the running, and could quickly lead to an agreement between the Red Sox and Twins. Outside of the Johan Santana, this news could have larger implications for the Yankees front office.

It's likely a sign of a larger rift between Brian Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner. While Cashman would like to remove Hughes from trade talks, Hank Steinbrenner would much prefer to make a deal for Santana including Hughes. And Hank doesn't seem like the most agreeable guy in the world.

Before returning to the Yankees prior to the 2006 season, Cashman had to be assured that he'd have almost full control of Yankees personnel decisions. Now, two years later, the Yankees are under new ownership and Cashman seems to have lost the power in the organization that he worked so hard to secure.

Stay tuned, this could be the beginning of some very interesting developments. The Yankees have seen changes in ownership and managing in the past few months, could the General Manager be next?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Santana Talks Plodding Along, Sox Still Favorites

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting that the Red Sox remain the favorites the land Johan Santana. As has been previously reported, the Twins would instantly accept a deal including both Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Red Sox, however, are apposed to including Jacoby Ellsbury in a deal for Santana.

The only real new news in the article, is that a deal may be imminent in the next few days. It's hard to tell whether that bit is based on fact, or was simply thrown in to get people to read the article, filled with mostly recycled news.

If the Red Sox could find a way to trade for Santana, without including Ellsbury, it would be a huge steal. It looks like the Twins are going to go with the same strategy that Billy Beane attempted in the Dan Haren trade. Rather than acquiring one Type A prospect, the Twins would prefer quantity to quality. Not that Jon Lester isn't a quality prospect, he was billed as the Red Sox top prospect only years ago.

Both sides will likely feel each other out for a little longer. Still, the Twins have waited things out for many weeks now and the Red Sox still have the best offer on the table. The Yankees, it appears, would not be willing to give up Joba Chamberlain and would be very hesitant to give up Phil Hughes or any high rated prospects in the lower minors. And the Twins appear to prefer Lester over Kennedy, because Lester is left-handed and has more major league experience.

Eventually, the Twins will tire of waiting things out, and likely accept the Red Sox offer. It appears more likely than not that the Red Sox will acquire the Twins ace. But anything could happen at the last minute. Perhaps the Yankees will change their mind if the Twins come to them saying they're about to deal Santana to the Red Sox.

Red Sox Make Offer to Ryan Klesko

KNBR in San Francisco is reporting that the Red Sox have made a one-year offer to Ryan Klesko. The radio report describes the deal as "financially acceptable". Klekso is one of the many defensively challenged power hitters available on the free agent market. He may, however, be the best hitter left on the market.

Last year, Klesko hit .260 and slugged .401. He wore down in the second half, in part due to injury. Still, overall he got on base at a rate of .344. His OBP is no doubt what interests Epstein. Klesko has a lifetime OBP of .370. Over his career, he's also hit righties to the tune of .290/.383/.537.

Klesko can play first base, left field, and has played a little right field in the past. He is an ideal bench player for the Red Sox, as he can spell either corner infielder and Manny Ramirez on a routine basis. He's also left-handed. He's approaching the age of 40, but a one-year deal is rather low risk.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Truth About Pettitte's HGH Use

Pettitte "came clean" today about his HGH use. Well, he admitted that he used HGH twice while rehabbing before deeming it immoral and stopping. Other than the convenience of the story, and the fact that Pettitte apparently didn't think HGH use was immoral when he spent the thousands of dollars to buy it on the black market without a prescription, I find his admission a little hard to swallow.

First of all, Pettitte only made such a statement after consulting with his attorney. When the Mitchell Report was first released, there was no such admission from Pettitte. Rather, his agent issued a statement saying, “I have advised Andy that as an active player, he should refrain from commenting until we have had an opportunity to speak with his union and other advisors. At the appropriate time, he will have something to say.”

To commend Petittte for his "honesty" is rather naive. Before being caught red handed, Pettitte denied any use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED's). In fact, when first implicated by Jason Grimsley in 2006, Pettitte stated, "I guess reports are saying I've used performance enhancing drugs. I've never used any drugs to enhance my performance in baseball. I don't know what else to say except to say it's embarrassing my name would be out there."

And even now, Pettitte doesn't admit to any wrongdoing. Pettitte incorrectly states that what he did was "not against baseball rules." As the Mitchell Report clearly states, "Many have asserted that steroids and other performance enhancing substances were not banned in Major League Baseball before the 2002 Basic Agreement. This is not accurate. Beginning in 1971 and continuing today, Major League Baseball’s drug policy has prohibited the use of any prescription medication without a valid prescription."

Pettitte continues by saying, "if what I did was an error in judgment, I apologize." If? Did he not break the rules of Major League Baseball? Did he not attempt to exploit an unfair advantage to recover more quickly from injury than other major leaguers could?

Now, I've always considered Pettitte to be a classy, respectable guy. But his conduct, and his "admission" are embarrassing. And given the level of dishonesty, and lack of good judgment he's displayed in the past, I would not be at all surprised if he used PED's more than he's admitting to.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mitchell Report Damning of Yankees

One important issue to remember, is that this report only sheds light on the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED's) in baseball over the last 20 years. Even so, the report is still rather damning towards the Yankees. Over 15 former and current Yankees were named, including Kevin Brown, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Jason Grimsley, Glenallen Hill, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, Josias Manzanillo, Hal Morris, Denny Neagle, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Mike Stanton, Ron Villone, Rondell White, and Todd Williams.

Many of those players played key roles in the Yankees dynasty years of last decade. Roger Clemens pitched well with the Yankees during the 1999 and 2000 playoffs, winning two World Series games and a game against the Red Sox in the 1999 ALCS. Clemens is the only Yankees player listed, who is accused of using steroids throughout his entire tenure with the Yankees.

David Justice was traded to the Yankees in June of 2000. He then hit .305/.391/.585 with 20 home runs and 60 RBI in 78 games with the Yankees, to help them win the division over the Red Sox by 2.5 games. Later, Justice would go on to be the 2000 ALCS MVP with the Yankees.

Pettitte was with the Yankees in all four of their dynasty World Series years. He spent most of that time as the Yankees Game 2 starter and was a solid force in the playoffs. Although the Mitchell Report doesn't trace his use of PED's back any further than 2002, he may have been using them earlier.

Chuck Knoblauch hit .375/.500/.563 in the 1998 World Series. He also hit .333/.429/.389 against the Red Sox in the 1999 ALCS, and .313/.353/.563 in that year's World Series. His use of PED's was traced back as early as 2001, although he may have been using them earlier.

The Yankees also got considerable help from PED's when they played the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS. Both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte received wins in the series with Jason Giambi hitting two home runs in the deciding Game 7, which went to extra innings. Mitchell claims that all three players had already taken PED's prior to that year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mitchell Report To Be Released Tomorrow

Sure, it won't fix baseball's history with performance enhancing drugs. The Mitchell Report isn't going to strike Bonds' tainted record from the books or change Jason Giambi's two home runs in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. It's probably not even going to provide closure, but more likely controversy.

As a fan of the sport, however, I am eager to learn more about the "Steroids Era" of baseball, in which I grew up. I'm hoping none of my Red Sox heroes now, or childhood heroes of the past will be named in the report. At the same time, if a Red Sox player used performance enhancing drugs, I want to know.

And for all the players who kept their noses clean, perhaps it will provide some kind of justice. The players who are to be named in the report did cheat after all. No matter how much the virtues of this report are going to be debated over the next few weeks, the fact that these players cheated is black and white. It's not at all a grey issue.

When the report is released at 2 p.m. tomorrow, it's expected to release the names of about 50 players who used performance enhancing drugs. I expect many of them to be pitchers. With more and more importance on radar gun readings, there is just as much incentive to get your fastball up to 95 mph as there is to be able to hit home runs. And I expect many of baseball's recent "ageless" players to have been using steroids as a kind of fountain of youth.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Red Sox Remain In Lead For Santana

Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the Twins and Red Sox continued to talk yesterday. The Twins reportedly have the most interest in Jacoby Ellsbury, and any Ellsbury package would likely include Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and another prospect.

Meanwhile, talks with the Yankees remain unproductive. To give you an idea of just how unproductive they've been, Kei Igawa is one of the names that has come up. As for the Mets and Angels, there really isn't any new news. Christensen even speculates that the Mets be be in trade talks simply for PR reasons.

In the end, the Red Sox may win Santana by default. A package of Ellsbury, Lowrie, Masterson, and a prospect may not be worth Santana, but it fits the needs of the Twins a lot better than a package of just Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and a prospect. Other than being cost controlled, Melky Cabrera isn't all that desirable. Defensively he's average, and offensively he ranked 10th of of the 13th in OPS among centerfielders that qualified last year.

I certainly don't like the idea of trading away Jacoby Ellsbury, but his value may never be higher than it is now. And looking at some of Santana's numbers over the years, it's easy to be persuaded.

Over the past four years, Santana has averaged 228 innings per year, an ERA of 2.89, WHIP of 0.99 and 246 strikeouts a year. Not to mention, he won two Cy Young Awards unanimously in 2004 and 2006.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Craig Hansen Hurt By Sleep Disorder?

Hansen underwent a procedure today which was meant to cure the sleep apnea. The sleep disorder has reportedly caused Hansen to be exhausted for during much of his activities throughout the day. Whether this will cause his control issues has yet to be seen, however.

Hansen's still got potential. He can throw the ball 98 mph, and has a slider gets up to about 88 mph. But at age 23, it will be hard to talk about Hansen's "potential" for many more years. If Hansen can't walk less than a better every other inning at the Triple-A level, he'll never have much of a future in the majors.

Gagne Hits the Road

All is well in Red Sox Nation. Former Red Sox reliever will be donning Brewers blue and amber to begin to the 2008 season. There may not be any celebrations in the city of Boston, but at least Red Sox fans will be able to sleep a little easier.

I'd like to take a moment to thank the Milwaukee Brewers for giving Gagne a guaranteed $10 million to close next year. That's right, those are the same Milwaukee Brewers who let Francisco Cordero go, because Cordero wanted $11.5 million a year. Although, to be fair, Cordero did also want a four year deal.

In all seriousness, Gagne could be effective again in '08. Milwaukee is hardly the pressure cooker that Boston is. And before coming to Boston in 2007, Gagne converted 16 of 17 save chances, with a 2.16 ERA and a WHIP of 1.05. But it's hard to forget what he did with the Red Sox.

So, in honor of this great day, I thought I'd compile some memories of Eric Gagne's short stint with the Red Sox. I guess this could be considered a highlight of the lowlights. And I'm truly sorry to those of you who have tried to hard to forget them.

August 10th vs. Orioles - In my opinion, this was Gagne's defining moment with the Red Sox. The Red Sox had a six game lead in the AL East when Gagne waddled into the eighth inning of a 5-1 game. Gagne then gives up a double, a single and a walk before recording his first out. That would be the only out he recorded, as he gave up a double to the next batter and was removed. He lasted a third of an inning, allowing four runs and blowing the lead. At the end of the night, the Red Sox lead was down to five games.

September 18th vs. Blue Jays - Perhaps Gagne has a fear of birds? Gagne comes into another 8th inning, this time with the Red Sox division lead down to 3.5 games. Try to picture Gagne, with his scruffy face and over sized three-quarter length sleeves coming into a one run game. Gagne quickly retires the first two batters of the inning. Then he gives up a walk, a single, and another walk to load the bases. Gagne then precedes to walk in the tying run, and then give up a double. The double would have scored three runs, if not for a relay throw by Dustin Pedroia that cuts down Greg Zaun at the plate. At the end of the night, the Red Sox division lead is down to 2.5 games.

August 17th vs. the Angels - The eighth inning wasn't kind to Gagne, so why not try the ninth? This time Gagne comes into a close out a one run game. Gagne records a quick first out, then gives up a walk, followed by a single, followed by yet another game tying single. With two men on, Gagne then gives up a double to Vladimir Guerro which allows two more runs, before Gagne gets a double play. At the end of the night, the Red Sox lost yet another game in the Al East and Josh Beckett lost an extra win that could have netted him the AL Cy Young.

October 28th vs. the Rockies - This one is my absolute favorite Gagne moment - most likely because it doesn't involve him pitching. The Red Sox are in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the World Series. And who would you guess is throwing in the bullpen, right beside Jonathan Papelbon? That's right, Eric Gagne. Of course, when Hideki Okajima gives up a two run home run to Garrett Atkins, it's Papelbon, not Gagne who comes in to close it out. But could you imagine if it was Gagne celebrating on the mound when the Red Sox won it all? Now that would be ironic!

Red Sox, Twins Still Talking Santana

Per Twins Insider, "the Twins have had a lot of good dialogue lately with the Red Sox. The blog cites "a well-placed source" for that information. There has been an awful lot of misinformation surrounding Santana talks. No one can be sure whether this is the truth, or if this is meant to encourage the Yankees and Mets to up their offers.

A few things are known, however. First of all, the Red Sox are likely to be talking to the Twins. They've set no deadlines on talks surrounding Santana. Second of all, the Twins aren't likely to hold onto Santana going into next season. They may hold on to him for another month or two in hopes of getting a better offer.

However, Santana has claimed that he won't accept a trade mid-season. And the Twins WILL NOT hold on to Santana, only to be compensated with two draft picks. Why settle for two non-developed players when they could instead get three or four prospects, many of them major league ready?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Bench

The bench remains the largest need for the Red Sox going into the 2008 season. The Red Sox have every regular position filled, and barring a late innings righty reliever, they have their bullpen set as well. On the 25-man roster, that leaves three positions to be filled. They are a backup catcher, a backup infielder for the corners, and a backup outfielder.

Epstein has been quoted saying he's looking at "a half-dozen" players to fill those roles. And today, the Providence Journal helped to shed a little light on who those players might be. The Journal listed Ryan Klesko, Corey Koskie, Jeff Cirillo, Olmedo Saenz, and Russel Branyan as options. Here are some brief scouting reports on those players, many of which you're likely not that familiar with.

Russell Branyan - Branyan can play the corners in both the infield and outfield. Though, Branyan is a below average defensive player at any position. Branyan's greatest asset is his raw power. His greatest flaw is his low contact and high strikeout rates. Branyan has struggled offensively the last few years and last year hit only .197/.322/.426. He's not likely to be one of the Red Sox preferred options.

Jeff Cirillo - Cirrillo plays the corner infield spots and is a plus defensive player. He typically mashes left-handed pitchers. Last year, he only hit .271/.321/.429 against lefties but he hit at least .400 against lefties the two previous years. He can also come up with the big hit, having hit .340/.375/.500 last year with runners in scoring position.

Ryan Klesko - Klesko is another defensively challenged power hitter. Klesko can play first base and left field. Ofeensively, he's more appealing than Branyan because of his OBP. Last year, Klesko got on base at a rate of .344. He has a lifetime OBP of .370. He typically wears down in the second half, although he may not wear down as much in a bench role.

Corey Koskie - Koskie's not likely to be an option. Last year, he suffered from postconcussion syndrome and didn't play in a signle game. He may retire before the 2008 season. Koskie plays only third base but he's a decent hitter, having hit .261/.343/.490 in 2006. He's also an above average defensive player.

Olmedo Saenz - Saenz plays both of the corner infield spots, although he does so to a mediocre degree. He had an off year offensively in 2007, to the tune of a .191/.295/.435 line. His greatest asset is his ability to hit lefties. He's had an OPS over 1.000 against lefties in two of the last four years. Last year, Saenz hit lefties at a rate of .397/.457/.741.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Jon Lester's Ceiling

I have a friend, who for the life of him couldn't understand they the Minnesota Twins would be interested in a deal centered around Jon Lester. I tried to explain to him the potential of Jon Lester. There's no arguing about Lester's stuff - it's great. When Lester first came up to the Double-A level in 2005, he posted an ERA of 2.61 while striking out 163 batters over 148.1 innings of work.

Going into that season of 2005, Baseball America ranked Lester as the Red Sox fourth best prospect, one spot behind Jonathan Papelbon. After the 2005 season, Baseball America ranked Lester as the Red Sox second best prospect, behind only Andy Marte. Marte was only a member of the Red Sox for a small period of time, and was later dealt to the Indians for Coco Crisp. So for all intensive purposes, Lester was ranked as the organization's best prospect, at any position.

In 2006, Lester was promoted to Triple-A where he again was very successful. In just over 46 innings, Lester had an ERA of 2.70, while striking out 43 hitters. On the surface, Lester looked poised to make the leap to the majors. And Lester did on June 10th. Lester even went on to win his first five decisions, and five of his first seven starts. Over those starts, his ERA as low as 2.38. ESPN compared the young lefty to other young pitchers Jered Weaver and Francisco Liriano. Lester's success, however, masked a major issue in his development.

Starting with Lester's promotion to Triple-A in 2006, his control began to suffer greatly. His walk rate jumped to 4.82 walks every nine innings of work. When he stopped hitting his spots, the typically precise pitcher saw his hit rate, home run rate and WHIP rise as his strikeout rate took a slight dip.

Lester's poor control is what now sets him apart from Type A pitching prospects such as Clay Buchholz and Phil Hughes. This can be demonstrated by a quick comparison of their walk rates at the Double-A level. I chose the Double-A level because it's the only level at which any of these pitchers have thrown at least 85 innings.

In 2005, Lester walked a batter every 2.6 innings of work at the Double-A level. At the same level, in 2006, Hughes walked a batter every 3.63 innings of work. This year at the Double-A level, Clay Buchholz walked a batter every 3.95 innings of work. Over just 100 innings of work, that's a difference of 13 free passes between Lester and Buchholz, or difference in .13 in WHIP.

Exactly what caused Lester's loss of control is debatable. And it's not a matter to be taken lightly. The cause of his control issues could have a lot to do with his future level of success or failure. Some have argued that Lester's cancer may have played a role. Lester himself admits that his 2006 performance was affected by his cancer at some point in the season, although he doesn't say when. It was clear that by the time he came to the Red Sox in June of 2006, his velocity was down three or four miles per hour from where it typically was.

No one but Lester can know how much his illness affected his performance. Even if he was in perfect health, jumps in his walk rates aren't surprising for someone who had less than 50 innings of experience above the Double-A level, before going to the majors. In fact, a rise in walk rates is typical of most pitchers when they are promoted a level. These spikes in walk rates, however, are usually temporary. Some pitchers take longer than others to then get their walk rates down to normal levels. Some pitchers never reduced their elevated walk rates.

Whether Lester will be able to get his walk rate down in 2008 has yet to be seen. Lester now has a total of 118.1 innings of experience at the Triple-A level and 144.1 innings of experience at the major league level. Compared to his first major league stint, Lester now has over 200 more innings of experience above the Double-A level. Still, he wasn't completely healthy for much of that time.

One person who thinks Lester still has the potential to be a great starter is pitching coach John Farrell. Farrell has told the Red Sox management that he thinks Lester could win anywhere from 15-18 games once he's fully developed. In my opinion, Lester has the raw ability to do so. Last year, Lester kept his major league ERA down to 4.57, even while he walked nearly a better every other inning.

Without a significant improvement in control, however, Lester will never win 18 games. Throughout his minor league career, Lester averaged 3.78 walked per nine innings of work. When he keeps his walk rate below four walks every nine innings, he's been successful. His walk rate was below 4 BB/9 IP when he posted a 2.61 ERA at Double-A in 2005 and when he posted a 3.89 ERA at Triple-A last year. So a walk rate below 4 BB/ 9 IP is what I'm going to look for next year.

Who knows, perhaps he could live up to his potential next year. I think it will probably take him another half a year at least before he begins to realize his ability at the major league level. It could take him as long as two more years. Lester is only 23 years of age, and was hurt by being rushed to the majors, and enduring a year of poor health.

He's already shown he has heart, coming back from cancer to win the deciding game of the World Series. Now it's just a matter of putting the ball where he wants it to be. Not that that's an easy task. Major leaguers have long lived or died by their ability to do it. As they say, it's a game of inches.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Game One Preview - Lackey vs. Beckett

John Lackey vs. the Red Sox - This matchup particularly had Red Sox fans salivating over a Angels/Red Sox ALDS. Lackey will be facing some heavy demons when he takes the mound in Fenway Park. In 11 career starts against the Red Sox, Lackey's 1-6 with a 6.27 ERA and a WHIP of 1.92. He's struggled even more in Fenway Park where his ERA rises above 7 and his WHIP above 2.00.

Josh Beckett vs. the Angels - Josh Beckett has only four career starts against the Angels. In those starts, he has been dominant, going 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and a WHIP of 1.08. While that's not much of a sample size, the Angels unfamiliarity with Beckett could work to his advantage.

Red Sox Hitter To Watch:
J.D. Drew -
After a disappointing first half, Drew stepped it up a bit in the second half. His hottest month of the season was September in which he hit .342/.454/.618. Drew hits much better at home (.834 OPS vs. .763 OPS) and is the Red Sox hitter with the most success against Lackey. Drew's 4-5 against Lackey with a triple and an RBI.

Angels Hitter To Watch:
Garret Anderson - Anderson is another player who has had a good second half. Since the All-Star break he's hit .305/.361/.530. Anderson has former success at Fenway Park, and limited success against Josh Beckett. And other than Vlad himself, Anderson has the highest SLG on the team. His forte is driving in runs. Anderson is not the guy you want at the plate in a big game situation.

Miscellanious Game Notes - Baserunners have had a success rate of 70% against Beckett this season. That isn't quite as bad as it looks, but it's not going to shut down a running game. Baserunners have an even better success rate against Lackey this year but I don't expect the Red Sox to run a lot given their former success against him.

One thing to watch is just how aggressive the Angels are on the basepaths. Everyone in the world knows the Angels like to run, so the Red Sox may attempt some "novelty" plays on defense. I say novelty in quotation marks because nothing's a novelty if it gets you outs, especially in the playoffs.

The intracacies of Fenway Park may also work to the advantage of the Red Sox. The Angels aren't familiar with the park, as they typically only play in it for 3 games a year. There are times in Fenway Park when you have to be conservative on the bases. Grounders down the left field line that would be doubles anywhere else, often bounce off the stands and come back into the infield. Balls hit off the Green Monster are often just long singles but the Angels could get into trouble trying to stretch them into doubles.

There's a good chance the starters may not decide this game. Angels set up man Scot Shields has been horrid against the Red Sox in his career. In 21 games, Shields has an ERA of 7.71 and a WHIP of 1.75. He's also allowed 6 home runs.

If Beckett does not last 7 innings, there's a good chance the Red Sox will bring in Eric Gagne for the 7th. Gagne hasn't allowed a run in his last five appearances but he's blown up in important spots with the Red Sox. The Angels could easily turn just a walk into a double with a stolen base and I wouldn't trust Gagne to prevent that runner from scoring.