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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Re-Assembling Another Winner?

In Theo We Trust: One important lesson all of RSN should have learned last season is that a well-assembled "team," where the parts fit and have a functional purpose, is a much better strategy for winning a championship than an rotisserrie-like "assembly of stars," - no matter how many or how bright the luminaries. The newest pieces in a new and possible winning machine:
- David Wells: No, I wouldn't want to sit next to him on a coast-to-coast flight, but he can take the ball, especially in the post season, as the second or third starter for my team anytime. Old, Yes, a sometimes pain-in-the-ass, Yes (so was Pedro), but a gamer and a tough guy. A good signing.
- Renteria: a Premiere shortstop with some pop in his bat, who steals an average of 25+ bases per year. Wow. $10M a year is a lot to pay (remember they offered Nomah $15M for 4 years, he said No), but he's probably worth it - especially in the inflated shortstop market we saw this post-season. I guess this means that Hanley Ramirez is either (a) going to play second in '06, (b) be traded, or (c) is judged to be not ready or not as advertised. Bottom Line is that with Renteria, the Sox can't go wrong for the next four years at shortstop - in the field or with the bat.
- Matt Mantei and John Halama: a wonderful piece of relatively cheap, support work by Theo, essentially acknowledging that between Schilling, Wells, and Wakefield, all 35 years old plus, an extended trip to the DL is possible anytime (though Wake has been relatively injury free - he has had rough stretches where he is simply throwing BP).
Pitching, defense, and strong up the middle. Again, Theo, ya done good.

This is going to be another fun team to watch.

Note to Jason Varitek and Scott B.: This team's going to be a winner - time to jump aboard and drop the silly posturing. No one else is going to pay you anywhere near the money Theo will, Theo knows it, and will (I think) take the drastic step of starting the season with Mirabelli as his starting catcher if you try too hard to stick it to him.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Remembering the Wonder of the Arm, Not the Mouth

Yes I have read the awful, bitter quotes, the snipes, the cheap shots, and the apparent half-truths and possible outright lies. Pedro never seems to do anything in small proportions (except frolic with very small people). Fisk had some tough things to say about Sox management when he left; other players have as well. Most return someday, to that old ballpark, usually with a note of contrition and fond memories.

That's how I am going to remember Pedro - recalling the wonder of his aggressiveness, the ferocity of his competitiveness, his relentless pursuit of ever batter on every pitch. How he would claim the inside part of the plate, or your elbow. The Scowl. The seemingly countless Ks. The Glare. The emotion. He was magnificent, and we were so, so fortunate to have had him for seven years. His antics on off days, on-again-off-again personality, his charming smile.

When couples breakup, they often say a lot of things that they regret, that they don't really mean, that should have been left unsaid. I can hear, and I can read, but I am going to ignore the current Pedro firestorm and remember what he did on the mound and how he did it. The rest, well, we will wait for the note of contrition for a while; Pedro is a very proud man you know.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This Bud's Unglued; The Commissioner for Commissioner

In the independent leagues, they often have the embarrassment of a "travel" team, a team owned and supported by the league but one that operates without a home city and stadium. These teams play all road games are often run to maintain a critical mass of teams in a league or division (such as the Atlantic League's Pennsylvania Road Warriors; BTW - if they are homeless, why are they from PA?)
Bud Selig has had such a team, the Montreal Expos, for several years now, though they admittedly did at least have a stadium to play in. Now, it appears that Bud's Nationals deal with the City of DC has about as much real political support as the Expos have had from the citizens of Montreal.

Can you name anything of importance that Bud Selig has done right the last few years? Remember the "tied" All-Star Game? How's the image of the game these days - the national pastime has given new and derogatory meaning to the term "juiced up," while Bud fumbles to find a way to beg the MLBPA to accept stronger testing.

The only saving graces for baseball have been its fundamental elegance and beauty, it still has many great "un-juiced," players, and the loyalty of its often exploited and "dis-respected" fans. Peter Gammons was elected into the HOF this week - a great honor. He is often called "The Commissioner," as an affectionate homage to his reach and influence in the game. I have no doubt that, given the opportunity, Peter could be a wonderful actual Commissioner - but then we would lose him as a journalist. Hobson's Choice?

Omar's Buying but Nobody Else Is

Met's GM Omar Minaya wanted Pedro Martinez so much he was willing to risk upwards of $50 million dollars for a six inning starting pitcher who has a shoulder held together by chewing gum and wooden pegs.
Many everyday baseball observers are not buying into this deal:
- this Web site has been running a poll since November asking visitors to pick which Sox free agents they wanted most to sign. When we took that poll down the other day, a mere one vote had been cast for Pedro, out of the 30-40 tallied.
- today, the ESPN.com site has been asking folks to vote on whether the Pedro signing makes the Mets a contender. With over 200,000 votes cast, 85%+ say "No."
What does Omar see (or perhaps not see) that the rest of us do?
We'll all see in '05, and I am afraid for Pedro it won't be pretty.

D.C. Baseball? D(on't) C(ount) on it

from Tom Boswell in today's Washington Post.
Seems like sale of the Expos to a D.C. group has fallen victim to politics.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A350-2004Dec14.html?referrer%3Demail&sub=AR

Who's the asshole here?

Okay, loaded question for all you Shaughnessy-Ryan-Ordway-Dennis-Callahan rump swabs (as they would say). It is Pedro, right?
Wrong.
He is making a very dumb move -- one I predicted he would not make. Ah, hell, I used the dime store crystal ball, not the one from the Waterford factory! Got what I deserved.
The Mets and New York fans are the Hydra and Pedro is going into hell. No question in my mind about it. This is a move for the money that he is almost certain to regret.
But, the asshole(s) are all of the above and every other loser who thinks they actually have a right to talk about Pedro's CHARACTER as they roast him out of town.
Folks, you can say whatever you want about his pitching, his record, his prima-donna behavior in the clubhouse and elsewhere, but, for me, that is where it stops. Jayson Stark's claims about what Pedro and his agent did and said are not even substantiated by anyone else, yet they have become gospel and fodder for the people who simply cannot emotionally separate themselves from the team or separate the player from the business.
IT IS A BUSINESS. The same behavior they decry in Pedro -- asking for everything and then some from the Sox and then turning their back on them to ask for more from the other suitor -- they would accept as BUSINESS anywhere else. And I assume that Stark is accurate when I say this.
I don't care why Pedro is gone. I just have a hard time looking at the Sox without him. For the last seven years, he was synonymous with the Red Sox for me, and I loved watching him, hearing about, reading about him pitching, perhaps more when he was vulnerable than when he was dominant. That's over. So be it.
The Mets fans won't ever get to appreciate Pedro the way the Sox fans did because we got him in his absolute prime and they will only see vulnerable Pedro for 1, 2, 3, or (really, do you believe it?) 4 more years. They bought him as a symbol and as a drawing card, kind of like Buffalo Bill dragging Sitting Bull out to his Wild West Show -- Sitting Bull was not the leader he was with the Lakota Sioux but people were still willing to pay to see him. In Pedro's case, their willingness to pay may well stop if he has a May 2005 like September 2004 and we all know how well Pedro will respond to the New York Roast's back page.
So, long winded rambling ends here. I will always think about the Red Sox as Pedro's team, even if he does not. Bye, Petey. Grow another layer of skin before Opening Day 2005, you are going to need it. Perhaps the money will help, but I doubt it.
Tim

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Big Splash = Big Cash = Big Target

OK, so you are the new (woeful) Met's GM in a town dominated by the Yankees, looking to generate some excitement and interest in a franchise that has come close to becoming irrelevant in the country's No. 1 media market - and also support the launch of your new cable network.
What do you do?
Simple: humble yourself before a legendary - but past-his-prime - Prima Donna Free Agent (future HOF) Pitcher and submit to his outrageous demands by horrendously overpaying him and agreeing to all his petty and self-centered whims.

Enjoy N.Y. and the $54M Pedro - your gonna earn it.

For $54M, the Mets can have you, your torn "could-collapse-at-any-moment" shoulder.
You were great, you really were. Well, not last year; you were just good.
As we have said on these pages several times previously: a good No. 2 starter. Not worth $54M - but we were wrong about that.
My money says the Mets are out of it by The Break, and Petulant Petey will get a dose of almost everything from a frustrated and disappointed Mets Nation. The problem, of course with taking the money is that you are the easy-to-find lightning rod for every criticism that is sure to come, in a very tough, high profile media market.
Pedro never liked criticism much. Is the $54M is enough to make him a little more open-minded or thick skinned?
Nah! The $75M+ he got from the Red Sox wasn't.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Baseball Is Nuts, Actually

See this quick story from Modesto, CA:
http://www.theindychannel.com/sports/3988454/detail.html
and find out why a baseball team can have "Peanuts the elephant" as a mascot, and a pistachio as well.
Ya gotta love the minors, folks.

Good Luck to Sean

The Red Sox management group - which includes the wholly-owned NESN unit, distracted by free agent signings and the all-impotrant launch of the "Official Red Sox Nation" membership card program (only $10! - what a deal!) has not renewed the contract of best-in-class baseball announcer Sean McDonough, a Boston fixture for years.
This is a regrettable move by the Sox/NESN and belies their publicly stated goal of bringing back and keeping members of the Red Sox family associated with the organization. Further, they waited until December 3 to notify Sean, making it difficult for him to line up a position for next season. Lastly, according to a report in the MetroWest Daily, Sean says the NESN GM won't even return his telephone calls. No class, NESN.

He must be busy lining up new NESN-related benefits for all the new and exclusive (only $10, did we mention?) "Official Red Sox Nation," members.
As I wrote yesterday, I am beginning to like old Red Sox management's attitude towards the fans and other groups from some of the recent moves from this new group.
They did Win It though, didn't they?
Spending that fan capital I suppose.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Bonfire of the (Lucchino) Vanities

OK folks - here it is: the only way to strike back at the arrogance of the Red Sox and MLB management for ultimately deciding that "Official Red Sox Nation" Membership cards were not only a good idea, but should cost double ($10 vs. $5) the initial trial ballon price. See: http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/bos/fan_forum/redsox_nation.jsp

My suggestion: create another, competing group and card - a "Fenway Faithful" Official Membership Club as a registered non-profit organization. When you plunk down your $5 to be a member of the Official Fenway Faithful, the group will send $4 of the $5 to the Jimmy Fund in your name, they will send you an email newsletter like the Red Sox offer, negotiate discounts on Sox merchandise at as many not-vastly-overpriced merchants as possible, and whatever else can be done for $1. What a new group can't do is promise, as the Red Sox do, that "Official Red Sox Nation" Members will get "2005 Ticketing Preference for the coolest seats at Fenway." [What do you think that is really worth RSN citizens?] Of course, if you become an Official Member of The Fenway Faithful they also won't give you what the Red Sox offer: "2005 MLB.com Gameday Audio," you'll just have to be satisfied listening to Joe and Jerry for free on 'EEI.

Fan exploitation like this can make you stop for a moment and wonder if winning the Series was such a good thing after all - if the management of the sport only uses such a wonderful event to further squeeze and bleed its already loyal customer base for more bucks.
Hey Bud Selig,
John Henry and Larry Lucchino: why don't you spend your time fixing the steroid issue instead of finding ways to screw your best customers?
Assholes.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

On a Lighter (read: Less Bulked-Up and Raging) Note

Leave it to someone outside sports to put this steroids rumble into perspective:

FEARING ATTACKS BY ATHLETES, FANS TAKE STEROIDS
Random Drug-testing for Fans Urged

Increasingly fearful of being attacked by athletes climbing into the stands, sports fans in record numbers have taken to using steroids to bulk up such violent encounters.

Read the rest at today's Borowitz Report: http://www.borowitzreport.com/
Tim

Monday, December 06, 2004

Dave Roberts and the Video On-Demand System: Tech Makes a Difference?

Interesting story for baseball fans and computer geeks at http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1733090,00.asp.

This article describes how Dave Roberts of the Red Sox, with access to the Sox's video on-demand archive available in the clubhouse, asked Billy Broadbent, who handles video systems for the Red Sox, to queue up footage of New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera pitching from the stretch with a man on first base. Roberts studied Mariano Rivera's first base move on video two innings before he was to be inserted as a pinch runner. Most of the piece is about the technology, but it is an interesting insight into the most important stolen base in Red Sox history.

The article's title is: IT: Red Sox's Tenth Player.

Save the Northern Hall, and Relics Auction

Did you know that there is a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame? Well there is, and it is in financial trouble. See this link: http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Baseball/Canada/2004/12/06/768277.html. The site is located in St. Mary's, Ont. and has support from the local residents, but needs cash to keep its doors open. For great players like Fergie Jenkins, and a Canadian Olympic baseball team that finished fourth in Athens, it is in Bud Selig's interest to keep the Canadian Hall open, don't you think?
Got a few loose thousands sitting around before Christmas? Check out the WNBC video link for
"The Babe Comes Home" auction sale taking place next week at Sotheby's. Bat, balls, cards, and a WS Trophy can be yours by raiding your 401K. http://wnbc.feedroom.com/iframeset.jsp?ord=643405

One More Sad Point

ESPN TV last week had a poll question asking whether, if they were professional athletes, people would take steroids to gain an advantage.
Well, here is where American sports fans are, folks: 50% said yes, 49.9% said no.
Looks like the steroid divide among Americans mirrors the last presidential election - not that that means anything, of course, unless you consider that half the respondents to the ESPN poll say they would do something illegal to get ahead. I wonder how many of the ESPN respondents are from the Red States.
Tim

A Tainted Legacy

Barry, you have really done it this time.
Now, voters for the HOF may feel they have to keep you from being first-ballot shoe-in just to register their disgust over your apparently tainted records, and that is a shame.
Everywhere you go next year, you'll see and hear clever and not-so-clever jeers and jibes, probably as many about your apparently disingenuous testimony ("implausible deniability," as one wag has put it) to a grand jury as about your 73 home runs, many of which might well have been less prodigious or even long flyouts without the cream and the clear, and that's they way it is for fallen stars in the 2004 US of A.
You may well have "legitimized" (at least from a performance standpoint) the use of steroids by athletes much younger (read: high schoolers) and more vulnerable to their side-effects, who will be out to replicate your status at their level, and your stonewalling in the face of circumstantial evidence also serves as a very bad example to them, and that is irresponsible.
The entire affair, and it is clearly not over, reinforces the belief in many quarters that athletes are not accountable to the same laws and responsible for their behavior as ordinary people, and that impression is not easily reversed (and to some extent anyway accurate).
And, to be miserably parochial about this, this entire affair comes at a time when the Red Sox may have restored faith in the game by ending an historically long absence from the role as champions of the World Series, and that mostly just pisses me off.
In lots of ways, this coincidence of high and low around baseball mirrors what's happening everywhere else. The cynicism grows around even the best stories and events and best human behavior to the point where fewer and fewer people have confidence that what they see is real, is true. The hero has a dark side, a mistake-ridden past, in almost every instance, as we all do, and, while this is the reality, we need, more and more, for it not to be, for the good man to be good through and through, for the athlete who seems humble not to beat his wife, for the politician who acts nobly not to be an inveterate gambler, for the winners not to be venal about their victory.
In the bigger picture, your actions and your behavior are reinforcing the view that everything people might care about is fraudulent, and that is your legacy, too.
What is most stupid is that you were, as John has said, a great player, one who did not need any artificial help, and the fact that this was not good enough for you says much about you, and that is just a shame.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Was a Great Player

The sad truth is Barry was a great player, even though I never warmed to him; he just seemed too full of himself to warm up to. Now, with great respect for his achievements but without much of any reservoir of goodwill to draw upon in baseball fandom, Barry will be crucified, or worse, ignored as he protests his innocence while breaking first Ruth's and the Aaron's HR records.

I don't believe him when he says he didn't know they were steroids, nobody in baseball believes him, and neither do the fans. It seems to me that all Barry ever really wanted was to be respected and looked up to, earning a place on that same pedestal where we have placed Mays, Aaron, Ruth, and Williams. His achievements, before steroids, had already earned him that place - and that is the irony. The problem with steroids is that is allows likely mediocre talents such as Jason Giambi to achieve top-level performance, non-steroids Bonds-level performance. From that perspective, Barry's outstanding, non-steroid supported achievements were diminished by the inflated stats of the juiced mediocre pool of the likes of Canseco and Giambi.

Now, he will likely get neither, and join that netherworld of tarnished achievers inhabited by those such as Pete Rose and Jose Canseco. Selig needs to do something dramatic to put this scandal behind the game as soon as possible.
Right now, Bud.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Lukewarm Stove

Okay, I don't know anything.
Now that I got the inevitable criticism of what I am going to say out of the way, here goes:
  • I heard Doug Mirabelli for a bit on the radio yesterday and he made elegant sense. Yes, he wanted to be a starting catcher for several years when he was younger and worked on his offense to get into the lineup. Now, however, he has a different perspective, wants to be on a team with the kind of players the Sox have, has deep roots into the community (his wife is close friends with some of the other Sox wives), and he puts value on those things, not necessarily on the money. He understands his value and his role and is content with it . . .
  • So, my argument is that Pedro will be, too. He is not going to the Mets because they are not a good team and may not be for a couple of years (Leiter is gone, right?). Pedro is not going to spend any of the last few years with a struggling ball club -- he wants to be a first-ballot entry and going 14-10 with the Mets (or worse) won't help -- the critics will resurrect that ole chestnut, "if he is so good, then why wasn't he good with a bad team?"
  • Pedro is not going to the Yankees because a) he has pissed off a few people there beyond their ability to overlook it; b) he is not going to replace Clemens or Pettitte, he is a 6-7 inning pitcher and that's great (aren't most starters now?) but not great enough for George. George wants Pavano, maybe someone from Oakland, maybe Radke. Pedro is too much persona non grata in NY -- and he must have figured out by now that the Yankees fans will crucify him if he is not great all the time. Too much risk there.
  • Pedro stays with the Sox, who also get Pavano because they want him and because he will be appreciated here and paid well -- and WIN.
  • Jason Varitek will stay as well. He is too smart to do a Ted Washington or a Damien Woody -- wrong sport, okay, but look what happened when they took the money and gave up working for a winner!
  • Cabrera is gone. Young guy, first big payoff opportunity. He'll take it.

So, fire away at my unrealistic assessment. I perhaps give these guys more credit for intelligence and wanting to win than I should, but there needs to be some balance to the cynicism around these days, and that is my mission in life.

Tim