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Archive for the ‘Red Sox’ Category

Yu Darvish may not becoming to America after all. Instead, Canada may be his destination.

Several sources have identified the Toronto Blue Jays as the team that cast the winning bid in the Yu Darvish posting process. If true, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because the Blue Jays have gradually increased their focus on international signings, including the much heralded acquisition of short stop Adeiny Hechavaria in 2010.

For much of the last decade, the Blue Jays have been mired in mediocrity, hovering around the .500 mark in the rough and tumble A.L. East. Although the team hasn’t made much of a dent in the standings during this period, the organization has gradually taken steps that could soon allow it to stand up against the big boys. In addition to being aggressive in the international free agent market, the team has also been adept at cultivating draft picks and making astute acquisitions of both talented cast offs (Yunel Escobar, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista come to mind) and prospects with high potential. However, some of the most important moves made by the Blue Jays have been subtractions, not additions.

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For the last nine seasons, David Ortiz has been one of the most prolific hitters in baseball and the rock of the Boston Red Sox’ lineup. However, there hasn’t been much love for Big Papi on the free agent market. According to recent reports, the DH’s options seem limited to accepting arbitration or signing a discounted two-year deal with the Red Sox. If that really is the case, the Yankees should make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Brian Cashman has correctly identified pitching as the Yankees’ top priority. However, in the absence of attractive starting pitching on the market (at least not at a reasonable price), maybe that isn’t the best approach? After all, an alternative to preventing runs is scoring them, and adding Ortiz would certainly help the Yankees do just that.

With the exception of Don Baylor from 1983 to 1986, the Yankees have rarely had a full-time DH. Jorge Posada’s 90 games as a DH last year is surpassed by only seven other Yankees and ranks as the third highest total since 1991. So, if the team signed Ortiz, it would represent a philosophical reversal, especially for Joe Girardi, who has grown fond of using the DH as a “half day off” for his aging veterans.

Ironically, the man most likely to fill the DH slot for the Yankees in 2012 is 22-year old Jesus Montero. The most sensible objection to signing Ortiz is the negative impact it would have Montero’s playing time, but even that could be spun into a positive. Instead of settling on the rookie as a DH, the presence of Ortiz could force the Yankees to develop him more as a catcher, which, in the long run, would pay greater dividends.

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Bobby Valentine is the new manager of the Boston Red Sox. For a franchise trying to overcome the perception of dysfunction, that might not have been the best decision. Valentine is alternately one of the most revered and hated managers in all of baseball, so his presence in the volatile powder keg of Red Sox Nation is sure to provide a spark. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is matter of wildly varying degrees of perspective.

Is Boston ready for the song and dance that usually accompanies Bobby Valentine? (Photo: AP)

During his long managerial career, Bobby Valentine has probably made as many enemies as he has won games. And, it hasn’t taken long for some of them to rear their heads. One former adversary, blogger-extraordinaire Murray Chass, recently suggested (with stats to back it up) the Red Sox hired themselves a bona fide loser. Of course, Chass’ post is dripping with personal dislike for Valentine, not to mention disdain for his former employer the New York Times, so his sentiments can be taken with a grain of salt. However, one element of Chass’ hit piece is based on truth: Valentine is a very unpopular figure because of his outspoken, often arrogant manner.

Even though a figure like Valentine in a media market like Boston could become a distraction, likability probably wasn’t item number one on the Red Sox’ wish list. Otherwise, there would have been no need to part company with Terry Francona. However, there is a strong indication of discord within the Red Sox’ organization. If GM Ben Cherington really did prefer Gene Lamont, but was overruled by Larry Lucchino, then the reports of dysfunction within the Red Sox hierarchy might actually be understated. With all the rumors swirling around the Nation, Valentine could turn out to be one of the least controversial figures in Boston over the next few months.

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Joe Maddon and Kirk Gibson were named the AL and NL managers of the year, and, all things considered, they were probably the most deserving candidates for the award. Both managers overcame diminished pre-season expectations and led their relatively young teams to the playoffs, so it’s hard to argue with either selection, especially when you consider how intimately each team’s style of play has become entwined with the personality of their manager.

Not many people pay attention to who wins the Manager of the Year award, much less who finishes further down the ballot. However, the relatively poor showing of Joe Girardi is a little hard to figure. For the third straight year, the Yankees finished with one of the top-3 records in all of baseball, and yet their manager has finished third, sixth, and fifth in the balloting. Although all three of the managers selected since 2009 have been worthy choices, at what point will Girardi get more recognition?

Most MoY Winners, by Franchise (click to enlarge)
Source: mlb.com

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Since Jonathan Papelbon first became eligible for arbitration, the boisterous closer wasn’t shy about telling everyone he wanted to get paid. Not surprisingly, the Red Sox, who have the gained the reputation as one of the more saber-friendly organizations, weren’t as keen to hand out a long-term deal. So, it really shouldn’t come as surprise that Papelbon is now packing his bags for Philly.

I feel like with me being at the top of my position, I feel like that [salary] standard needs to be set and I’m the one to set that standard and I don’t think that the Red Sox are really necessarily seeing eye to eye with me on that subject right now.” – Jonathan Papelbon, quoted by AP, March 4, 2008

There was simply no way the Red Sox were going to match the 4-year, $50 million offer (with a vesting option) that the Phillies extended to Papelbon. In response to the news that his closer was headed south, new GM Ben Cherington admitted as much. According to Cherington, Papelbon is replaceable, either internally with Daniel Bard or via a shorter, less lucrative deal with one of the many free agent closers who will be looking for a job this offseason.

Within the hardcore sabermetric community, and among those who dabble on its periphery, Cherington’s position has a lot of support. After all, not only are most closers notorious for their inconsistency, but often times the most unlikely relievers have great success for a year or two. Because a closer usually throws 60-70 innings per year, and is often used in low leverage situations (i.e., three run leads in the ninth), the conventional sabermetric wisdom suggests they can’t possibly be worth the kind of money Papelbon will be making over the next four years.

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The new ballot for the Hall of Fame’s era-based veteran’s committee selection process has been announced, and several compelling candidates are included on the list.

Will Ron Santo's supporters be clicking their heels after the Hall of Fame's Golden Era committee convenes in December?

Among the 10 names selected to appear on the “Golden Era” ballot, Ron Santo is by far the most deserving. The case for Santo has been made countless times, and most agree his body of work warrants election. Unfortunately, those presiding over the Hall of Fame’s selection process haven’t cooperated. As a result, if the third baseman does finally take his rightful place in Cooperstown, it will be posthumously. Regardless of the circumstances, Santo’s enshrinement would still be a cause for celebration, not only for his family, but all of baseball. As one of the best third baseman to play the game, excluding Santo dings the Hall’s credibility a bit, so the time has come to right that wrong.

Whether or not he receives the necessary 3/4 support from the 16-man panel, Santo’s inclusion on the ballot doesn’t bode well for Ken Boyer, a contemporary third baseman who always seemed to be one step behind his counterpart from the Cubs (Boyer’s last gold glove was 1963, the year before Santo reeled off five in a row). Considering the shadow cast by Santo, both during their playing days and now in the voting process, Boyer’s chances of election are pretty slim.

Another cause célèbre on this year’s veterans’ ballot is Gil Hodges, who, like Santo, has garnered considerable sentimental support over the years. However, as a first baseman, Hodges’ resume is not as substantial, even if you include his managerial success with the Mets. Of course, Hodges was always more of a likeable figure than Santo, which perhaps helps to explain why he garnered significantly more support from the BBWAA (a peak of 63.4% vs. Santo’s 43.1%). Playing in seven World Series probably didn’t hurt either.

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Allen Craig, who spent most of the season being a utility-type bench player, has become a central figure in the 2011 World Series. In game 1, with David Freese on third and Nick Punto on first, he came off the bench to face Alexi Ogando and drove home the go-ahead run with a single to right field. Then, in game 2, he again faced Ogando as a pinch hitter, with Freese and Punto in the same position on the bases, and recorded another base hit to right. Somewhere, Yogi Berra must have been smiling.

Déjà Vu: Allen Craig has come off the bench to knock in the go-ahead run in the first two games of the 2011 World Series (Photo: Getty Images).

Since the first World Series in 1903, there have been 1,409 plate appearances by a pinch hitter, and in only 32 did the batter’s cameo end up giving his team the lead (including 22 times involving a hit). Among that select group, Craig is the only pinch hitter to do it twice, which isn’t too bad for his only two World Series at bats. Unfortunately for Ogando, he finds himself on the other end of that historical footnote, but at least he has some company. On two occasions during the 1995 World Series, the Indians’ Julian Tavarez also surrendered the go-ahead run while facing a pinch hitter.

With one more pinch hit, Craig would also tie several others, including the Yankees’ Johnny Blanchard (10 PA), Bobby Brown (7 PA), and Bob Cerv (3 PA), for the most in World Series history. In terms of Win Probability Added (WPA), however, Craig’s exploits off the bench haven’t been as impressive.

Craig’s two singles recorded a WPA of .181 and .212 in games 1 and 2, respectively, which ranks 39 and 50 on the all-time World Series pinch hit list. Although nothing to sneeze at, Craig’s combined WPA for both hits would barely crack the top-10. Listed below are the 10 most impactful pinch hits based on their WPA contribution.

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Just days after confirming that he and his rotation mates drank “rally beers” in the clubhouse during games, Red Sox ace Jon Lester has denied rumors that their alcoholic consumption extended to the dugout. The allegations, which were the latest bombshell to rock Red Sox Nation, also prompted an investigation and reply by team CEO Larry Lucchino.

Tonight our organization has heard directly from Jon, Josh, John, and former manager Terry Francona. Each has assured us that the allegation that surfaced today about drinking in the dugout during games in 2011 is false, and we accept their statements as honest and factual.” – Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, quoted by ESPNBoston.com

Despite the denials by Lester and Lucchino, the Captain’s Blog has uncovered evidence suggesting the Red Sox may have not only imbibed on the bench, but even taken a sip or two on the field. In the photo presented below, Red Sox third base coach Tim Bogar is clearly seen retrieving several beers from a Fenway Park vendor. After that incident, now former Red Sox manager Terry Francona tried to deflect attention from the incident, half-heartedly joking, “I was just glad Bogie didn’t grab one and start drinking it,” but in light of the recent allegations,  that comment no longer seems amusing. Although there is no record of what Bogar actually did with the beers, unnamed sources have revealed that at least a few were eventually used to wash down an “in-game” spread of Popeye’s chicken and biscuits.

Red Sox 3B Coach Tim Bogar retrieves beer on the field at Fenway Park (Photo: Getty Images).

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Theo Epstein is off to fight his next curse. According to WEEI, the Red Sox boy wonder has decided that the grass is greener at Wrigley Field than Fenway Park and joined Terry Francona as the latest to flee hostility in Red Sox Nation.

Can the Red Sox survive without their Boy Wonder?

The collapse of the Red Sox’ baseball hierarchy caps off a season in which the team went from being considered the best in franchise history to the worst that money could buy. With revelations about the dysfunctional atmosphere in the Boston clubhouse continuing to emerge, Epstein may be getting out at just the right time. What’s more, several players may soon be following him out the door, creating a challenging offseason for the Red Sox as the team tries to pick up the pieces from its broken season.

Before the season started, it seemed like Brian Cashman would be the general manager announcing his departure in October. At that time, Epstein was busy filling his team’s wish list with high priced free agents and acquisitions, while Cashman was forced to scour the scrapheap to fill the roles abandoned by Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee. Six months later, however, and with another division title under his belt, Cashman is close to resigning an extension to remain with the Yankees, while Epstein is headed to Chicago. Apparently, spending money isn’t so easy after all?

Although Epstein’s departure makes it appear as if the general manager is washing his hands of the mess left behind in Boston, his transfer to Chicago shouldn’t come with complete absolution, at least not unless he takes John Lackey and Carl Crawford with him. Despite gaining a reputation for being a genius, Epstein’s tenure in Boston has not been without its questionable moves. From the revolving door at shortstop to the failed Daisuke Matsuzaka experiment to ill-conceived midseason acquisitions like Eric Gagne, the Red Sox’ GM has had moments when he didn’t look so smart.

Theo’s Busts: Regrettable Red Sox Free Agents, 2003-2011

Player Offseason Contract Terms
Bobby Jenks 2010 2-years/$12mn
Carl Crawford 2010 7-years/$142mn
Marco Scutaro 2009 2-years/$12.5mn
John Lackey 2009 5-years/$82.5mn
Mike Cameron 2009 2-years/$15.5mn
Daisuke Matsuzaka 2006 6-years/$103.1mn
Edgar Renteria 2004 4-years/$36mn
Matt Clement 2004 3-years/$25.8mn

Source: Cotts contracts

There’s no denying Theo Epstein’s success with the Red Sox, but it also can’t be divorced from the support system provided by the organization. That could be a lesson learned by Epstein in Chicago, once he realizes he no longer has access to the same resources . Similarly, the Red Sox will now be forced to find a new general manager who can not only handle all of the complexities of  Boston, but the varied personalities in the organization itself. Considering the relative stability enjoyed by the Yankees, the Red Sox really can’t afford a rough transition. Although this parting between Epstein and the Red Sox may not immediately elicit sweet sorrow from either side, the potential for future regret remains.

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The Brewers exult after Morgan's walk-off single (Photo: Getty).

Yesterday’s sudden death doubleheader in the baseball postseason had the feel of March Madness. While the Cardinals were rallying for what turned out to be the game’s only run in Philadelphia, the Brewers were enjoying a walk-off in Milwaukee. As remote controls worked feverishly across the country, baseball was in the midst of a 24-hour period in which three winner-take-all games would literally come down to the final at bat. Only twice before had more than one sudden death elimination game been played in one day (two on 10/15/2001 and three on 10/11/1981), but in none of those games did the tying run come to the plate in the last inning.

Nyjer Morgan’s game winning single in Milwaukee was only the 12th walk-off hit in a sudden death playoff series game (the 1972 NLCS also ended on a “walk-off” wild pitch), and the first since Aaron Boone’s 11th inning home run broke the hearts of Red Sox Nation in the 2003 ALCS. Earlier in the game, Willie Bloomquist’s RBI bunt single marked only the fourth occasion in which a road team staved off sudden death elimination with a run in the ninth inning, but that historical footnote was overshadowed by the Brewers’ eventual victory.

Sudden Death Walk-Offs in the Postseason

Date Series G# Tm Opp Batter Rslt Pitcher Inn
10/7/11 NLDS 5 MIL ARI Nyjer Morgan 1B J.J. Putz b10
10/16/03 ALCS 7 NYY BOS Aaron Boone HR Tim Wakefield b11
11/4/01 WS 7 ARI NYY Luis Gonzalez 1B Mariano Rivera b9
10/14/01 NLDS 5 ARI STL Tony Womack 1B Steve Kline b9
10/26/97 WS 7 FLA CLE Edgar Renteria 1B Charles Nagy b11
10/8/95 ALDS 5 SEA NYY Edgar Martinez 2B Jack McDowell b11
10/14/92 NLCS 7 ATL PIT F. Cabrera 1B Stan Belinda b9
10/27/91 WS 7 MIN ATL Gene Larkin 1B Alejandro Pena b10
10/14/76 ALCS 5 NYY KCR Chris Chambliss HR Mark Littell b9
10/13/60 WS 7 PIT NYY Bill Mazeroski HR Ralph Terry b9
10/10/24 WS 7 WSH NYG Earl McNeely 2B Jack Bentley b12
10/16/12 WS 8 BOS NYG Larry Gardner SF C. Mathewson b10

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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