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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Theme for '04 Season: No Whining, Just Win

I don't know about you, but I have had enough of both Red Sox players (Whiney Nomah and Pedro to start) and Red Sox fans whining about who is going to leave, how much to pay who, A-Rod, hurt feelings, "dis-respect," and Sox management.
The last two World Series have been won by teams with middle-of-the-road or low-level payrolls (Angels and Marlins), not the $180M+ Yankee Empire. So it is clear that we don't need A-Rod to win it all, you don't need a $150M payroll to win it all, you don't need players with their own suites on road trips to win it all.
The Sox have the second highest payroll in baseball, now pegged at over $125M. This team can win it. This team should win it.
"Lesser" teams have won it, with half or less the payroll.
I have absolutely NO tolerance for any whining (millionaire) Red Sox players, or any Red Sox fans who whine about missing some piece of the puzzle or worrying about who will be gone in '05.
Screw '05. The future is now. The team we have can and should win it.
No Excuses. No Whining. Just Win.
Got It?
Good.....Then let's go and do it.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Lowe - Straight and True

Derek Lowe has come out openly and said the obvious: This Is The Year, Or Else,....Reload. Lowe, in a widely circulated interview, said that with so many heavy payroll hitters up for renewal this year (Lowe, Pedro, Nomar, Varitek), he presumes that not everybody will be back next year. Fair enough. He also said that he presumes he is the more expendable of the Lowe, Pedro, Nomar group. Possibly, but I hope not.
If an old baseball axiom about being strong up the middle holds, and I think it does, for my money we should sign Lowe, Varitek, and Nomar. Why not Pedro?
- Lowe, because he is still young, has been healthy, can start and relieve, will come cheap compared to Pedro, and has a good sinkerball style for Fenway.
- Nomar because he's the best available shortstop on the market, your No. 3 hitter, and plays hard.
- Varitek because he has proven he can handle the pitching staff, is a decent hitter, a switch hitter, plays very hard, and a good catcher is always worth the money.
No Pedro? We love Pedro of course.....But:
- is brittle (How's that shoulder, Petey?)
- getting older, and possibly more brittle...
- is a tremendously big risk in a sport with guaranteed contracts
- will have a tough time getting the kind of money he really wants from anyone else because he is a tremendously big risk in a sport with guaranteed contracts
- did we mention he is brittle?
The title, Theo, is General Manager. In school, they teach you that the reason the world needs managers is because there are no situations with infinite resources. With infinite resources (see: NY Yankees), we could sign them all of course. Management is the practice of minimizing risks while maximizing returns from the resources available.
Question 1: Think Ahead (like a GM) - Three years from now (assuming a three-year deal all around), who do you think will be the player most likely to still be contributing to the Red Sox at a very high level: Lowe, Varitek, Nomar, or, Pedro?
Question 2: If you said Pedro to Question 1, are you sure enough about your choice - because the team is going to lose another an All-Star player in order to keep Pedro.
No, I don't relish seeing Pedro come back to Fenway in another uniform, but given the options.......

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

No Whining Sox Fans, or, John Henry

This is, without doubt, the best Sox team - on paper - that ever started Spring Training (in my time anyway, and that's a while). The team's GM did a good job in the off-season, securing a stud No. 2 starter, a stud Closer, a nice situational bat (Burks), some defense (Reese), and signed Nixon. I agree with Tim; Let's Play - and see how it goes. This team has enough horsepower; what is the value of Faith except to believe when there is no hard evidence.
And John Henry - no whining from you either about the Boss or the System. Yes, you are right - of course; nobody in their right mind could say you are wrong. Here's the BUT: you bought the team knowing the imbalanced revenue situation with the Yankees, knowing the MLBPA rules, knowing how the Boss really is (relentless, ego-driven, and manic), and knowing that in the event of a war of dollars and attrition, George could out-muscle you and outlast you. You knew and decided to play in this tricked-up game anyway. You can't whine now, not publicly anyway.
What you can do is work behind-the-scenes with the other owners and the MLBPA to fix a problem everybody really wants fixed. Accomplishing that would be a lasting contribution to the game worthy of notice in Cooperstown.

Let's Play!

That is the only way to find out whether NY is better or the Sox is better (sic)!
What we know: George bought a great player, probably the greatest now playing. But, even he has some weaknesses (check out Jayson Stark's column comparing away-game production for A-Rod and Soriano).
What we don't know: Did he buy a great third baseman? Did he buy a guy who really will stay in the same hotel as his teammates, forgo the special jet, and become a team player just to get a chance to win (as he puts it)? Will George go ballistic when Jeter makes a couple bad plays and start demanding that the Gold Glove shortstop and Jeter switch places in midseason (or perhaps even in May)? Will Kevin Brown's arm and shoulder and leg, etc., survive the season? Will Giambi be okay with DH-ing? Will Bernie Williams be okay with DH-ing? Will anyone play second AND produce runs as well as Soriano (both are the conditions for this question)? Will Contreras be great? Will Lieber be good? And so on and so on and so on.
The point is, there are lots of questions about the Yankees even with the killer on-paper lineup, just as there about the Red Sox.
And please, let's not forget who actually won the last two World Series, and that Oakland's starting pitching may still be better than just about everyone else's, and that it only takes 3 or 4 wins -- just one more than losses -- to actually win a playoff series or the WS. Pitching still rules and that has not changed.
Save our energy for following the 162 games and the 19 between the Yanks and Sox and don't draw any conclusions from a paper team -- either way.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

You knew Texas was stuck: A-Rod had to go, or the financial house of cards which is the Texas Rangers might have come tumbling down. Essentially, Boston could not afford A-Rod and at the same time look into '05 with several other key parts (Pedro, Lowe, Varitek, and Nomar) all up for contract renewal.
Who else had the money? George did, always does.
George's payroll last season was in the neighborhood of $165M; this year, with A-Rod it goes to about $190M. If the Yankees win 100 games in 2004 (unlikely in our opinion), each win will cost George almost $2M.
A-Rod's salary, at $25M annually, is nearing the projected salary for the 2004 Milwaukee Brewers - $30M.
The Luxury Tax does actually "punish" George by assessing a financial penalty for exceeding a specific team salary limit; it was expected to act as a deterrent to out of control spending. Earlier this winter Yanks GM Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that the team had no interest in adding to its already imposing payroll.
The Bottom Line, pun intended, is that for a team with the resources of the Yankees, and with an owner hell-bent on winning like George, the Luxury Tax is merely an irritating Speed Bump or Toll Booth. On the contrary, the Luxury Tax does act as a successful deterrent to any of the other teams (say the Red Sox) that might be thinking of trying to match George in the payroll department; not only do they have to try to match base resources with George, they also have to pay the Tax.
So George wins anyway, because no other organization out there can match his resources, period.
It must have burned his ass last year when the modestly-equipped Marlins whipped his star-laden team.
Good Luck A-Rod; you got what you wanted.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

A Tough Act for Theo to Follow? Wake-Up Call on Yawkey Way

The Patriots second world championship in three years, and the style in which it was won, are setting the bar pretty high for Theo and the boys of summer this coming season. Mr. Bellicheck has managed to win the Big One twice (with class also) with the following parameters in place:
- Without Prima Donnas, not a single one; they are Verboten!
- without Stars, per se
- under the salary cap!
- with players that are taking pay cuts to stay with this team
- with players who show up and fill-in after injuries
- in sub-zero temperatures and play with a broken arm
- and without even the slightest hint of club Dissension at any level;
- even after the assistant coaches got screwed out of head coaching opportunities by the NFL's rules
It is clear that New England fans are embracing this hard-working, successful, and yes - humble - group of dedicated athletes.
We think these same fans will have a lot less tolerance for the kind of child-like whining, press blaming, squabbling, and occasional mailed-in performance we get from some, frankly, overpaid (in comparison to the Patriots) Boston baseball figures. The Red Sox have dominated the Boston sports scene for perhaps 80 years or more; that reign could be coming to an end if the current crew doesn't show some backbone in this year's journey.