December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!


Best wishes to all of you for 2007!

December 30, 2006

First Photo of Matsuzaka in Sox Uniform

Here.

(Taken December 26, during the shooting of a beer commercial in Tokyo.)

December 26, 2006

Slow Week

Not a lot of news this week -- and we are finishing up our packing for our January 2 moving date -- so things should be light around here.

In the DR, David Ortiz gives us more reasons to love him.

Also: I am changing servers for my 1918 Red Sox site, so it might be down for a short time in the next week.

December 24, 2006

The Night Before Christmas or A Visit From Saint Manny

Courtesy of Jack Marshall (frequent commenter and JoS poet laureate):
'Twas the night before Christmas, and at Fenway Park
Theo Epstein was plotting alone in the dark.
The bullpen was painted and furnished with care
In hopes that a closer would soon settle there.

Poor Tito had wakened, upset from a dream,
In which Manny was traded for cash and Sid Bream.
While John Henry, in secret (you can probably guess),
Was printing more millions on his personal press.

When suddenly outside arose such a squall
That they ran to the field and looked up at the wall.
Why, was it a vision? A joke? Or a stunt?
No, a vintage year Porsche, with eight Red Sox in front!
And driving the sports car, costumed to appear as
St. Nicholas, there he was: Manny Ramirez!

And he shouted, "I've flown from the Gulf, past Atlanta,
Just to give you a gift, so let Manny be Santa!"
Then down from the Monster the flying Porsche came
Pulled by all of the line-up as he called them by name:

"Now, Youkilis! Coco! Now, J.D. and Papi!
Let's deliver our present and make the brass happy!
On Varitek, Lowell, Pedroia and Lugo!
Make sure you pull straight, 'cause I’m going where you go!"

As a Wily Mo homer blasts into the sky,
That Porsche went soaring a Coke bottle high!
Then it swooped to the infield and stopped on the mound
And out of the car Manny came with a bound.

A mysterious bag he had flung on his back,
And its contents were squirming, 'til he gave it a whack.
"I've read all your letters," Manny said, "and it's clear
"That a superstar closer's what you all want this year.

"So the guys pooled their pocket change, hired a lab,
"Got Bill James to advise us and picked up the tab
"For some scientists, cloners and grave-robbers too
"To whip up a closer both classic and new!

"He's got Eckersley's fastball and Gossage's nerve;
"He can throw Wilhelm's knuckler, and Flash Gordon's curve;
"With Bruce Sutter's splitter, and Bob Stanley's sinker
"(We would have used D-Lowe's, if he wasn't a drinker...)

"Plus Stu Miller's slow-ball, with Jeff Reardon's head,
"On Dick Radatz's body, even though he's still dead."
Then out of the sack, all covered with stitches,
Crawled a composite closer who had six perfect pitches!

"DADDY!" he cried, as he hugged and kissed Tito,
While Epstein's mouth gaped, and John Henry said, "Neat-o!"
"And the best part," said Manny, as he slammed the car's door,
"Is he'll play just for fun, and wants nothing more!"

He revved up his car, gave the line-up a holler
"But the rest of us promise to earn every dollar!"
As the car flew away, Manny's voice rang out clear:
"Happy Christmas! Let's win the World Series next year!"
Jose "Keys to the Game" Melendez has a Christmas offering also: 'Twas The Night.

Catching Up

Ex-Yankee pitcher Alex Graman, Daisuke Matsuzaka's teammate on the Seibu Lions last season, on the adjustment from Japan's six-man rotation and 136-game schedule:
That probably will be the biggest adjustment, going with four days' rest, but it probably won't be that big a deal. I'd heard a lot about him before going over there, but I was pretty impressed. He throws such a wide variety of pitches and throws them for strikes. He has a lot better control than I thought. I think he tried to overpower people when he first started, but he's learned how to pitch. He can throw in the mid-to-upper 90s, but in the lower 90s he locates so well, he'll just dial it up when he needs to blow one by you. His changeup when he got it going was unhittable.
Boston has invited eight players to spring training: "Super Joe" McEwing, outfielder Kerry Robinson, catcher Alberto Castillo, pitcher Travis Hughes, and infielders Jeff Bailey, Luis Jimenez, Ed Rogers and Bobby Scales. ... The Sox also signed former Royals RHP Runelvys Hernandez and well-travelled RHP Adam Bernero.

This year's Patriots Day game will start at 10:05 -- that's 7:05 AM (!) for fans of the visiting Angels.

Darryl Strawberry offers some advice:
I hope Jeter would embrace him [Slappy] this year, in spring training, and bring him into the full circle as a part of the Yankee family. If Jeter does it, I think everybody else will respond. ... I remember them when they were young and they went to dinner together and they did everything together. ...

I think the Yankees' problem is that they just don't support each other enough. I mean, back when I played in those years we were winning, we all supported each other, we all cared for each other. I think they need to get back to that, because the talent is there, but everybody seems like they're going their separate ways.

December 22, 2006

Upgraded

I finally upgraded to the new version of Blogger.

I changed the font from Verdana to Trebuchet and put the post titles in the same red font as the blog title. The very cool thing for readers is the Archives, which are way down on the right hand side. You can use the arrows to expand the years and months -- and go directly to any post.

The only bad thing I can find so far is the re-emergence of the search bar at the top of the page. I really liked not having that.

December 18, 2006

Mark Your Calendars

Pitchers and catchers report on February 16, 2007.

Nick Cafardo of the Globe says that what BP's Will Carroll wrote about J.D. Drew "is consistent with information the Globe has received". ... All Theo Epstein will say is: We're working with the language on the deal with Boras and we're expecting to get it done early in the week."

Daisuke Matsuzaka is back in Japan. He intends to return to Boston with his wife in January to look for a place to live and then begin training in southern California. Dice said the contract process
was mentally draining. It was tough. I'm not used to having an agent, and leaving everything up to him was something that was new to me. ... I know the expectations will be high. The fans in Boston gave me a great reception and I look forward to being able to please them.
Here's a shocker: Murray Chass of the New York Times -- at one time a respected baseball reporter -- simply makes shit up. In this case, it's in no small part because of his white-hot hatred of the Red Sox. (After his mind became seriously unglued after October 2004, Chass is little more than a bitter old man banging haphazardly on a typewriter.)

December 17, 2006

Drew Getting Second Opinion On Shoulder

Nick Cafardo, Globe:
J.D. Drew was scheduled to receive a second opinion Monday on a shoulder issue the Red Sox have concerns about, according to a major league source familiar with Drew's condition.
No comments from either the Sox or Drew.

Don't Miss It

Don't miss Gordon Edes's excellent story on the Red Sox's years-long pursuit of Daisuke Matsuzaka.
When Henry decided to send his plane to southern California last Monday, the Red Sox logo on the plane's tail was covered. ... The flight plan showed the plane was going not to California but to Houston -- all the better to make snooping eyes believe they were headed for a meeting with the agents for Roger Clemens. ...

It was no accident the Sox waited until the last moment to submit their $51.1 million bid. Call it paranoia, call it well-placed fear, but the Sox were taking no chances the posting process might be rigged. ... They decided they would have to bid high because of their fears there might be an artificially high bid by a team that had an under-the-table agreement with Seibu. ...

About two weeks ago, the Sox made their first offer to Matsuzaka, a six-year, $36 million deal. Boras did not respond. ...

Last Sunday in a conference call, the decision was made to fly to California the next day on Henry's plane. ... Should they call and let Boras know they were coming? Lucchino and Epstein both said no. Call from the plane. Forget it, they decided. Let's just show up. ...

The next day, the Sox presented an improved offer -- six years for $48 million. It was rejected. ...

After dinner, the Sox returned to their hotel. Boras called Epstein. Could the two of them meet alone, he asked. He wanted to make a counteroffer. If it was for more money, don't bother, Epstein said. Boras came, and the counteroffer was indeed for more cash: $66 million for six years. ...

They had checked out of the hotel and Shipley and Epstein were in the car when they called Boras and asked them again to be at the airport. Boras said no. Lucchino got into the car, and they decided to call one more time, but this time delivering the message with more urgency. Be there, or no deal.

BP: Drew Deal in Trouble?

Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus:
Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald got the story first, but I have more details on the specifics of the J.D. Drew physical. Drew took the physical shortly after the announcement of the deal in Orlando, but sources have told me that Drew showed problems in his shoulder that "could shut down his power." Drew had minor surgery on his shoulder after the 2005 season, so it's possible that there's more damage in there.

It's important to note that in free agent acquisitions, a team often does not have the benefit of requesting medical records from his previous team prior to signing. Speculation centers on the damage to Drew's shoulder being more like Scott Rolen circa 2005. As Massarotti reports, it is more likely that the Red Sox get protection in the form of a very limited escape clause rather than scuttling the deal altogether.
Hmmmm. Stay tuned.

December 16, 2006

One Nickname That Must Go

D-Mat.

I hate it. It must be retired. Eliminated. Wiped from our vernacular. Now. ... Please?

Theo calls Brendan Donnelly "a very interesting piece of the [bullpen] puzzle". And "We see [J.C. Romero] as a buy-low guy, someone who's a couple of adjustments away from being a very valuable addition to our bullpen."

Donnelly, to the LA Times:
It stinks that I'm leaving the Angels, because they were the only team that gave me a chance ... The flip side is, I'm going to Boston, and the fans there embrace baseball like no other. I'm excited about getting a fresh start, being with a team that's going to win. I'm leaving a good rivalry with the Angels and Oakland and going to the biggest rivalry of all, Boston-New York.
Curt Schilling says he is "ecstatic about the [Matsuzaka] move ... The potential for this rotation is pretty impressive." ... Are there problems with the results of J.D. Drew's physical?

Johnny Damon, on the Sox spending money:
That's water under the bridge. I got a great offer and a great contract from the Yankees and I'm happy. ... Maybe [Boston] learned a lot from what happened last year. They finished in third place ... [We] brought back Andy Pettitte - a guy who knows how to play in New York, knows how to deal with pressure and how to work big games, especially in the postseason.
(Not always, Noodle-Arm.)

BDD is already hinting at the special treatment Matsuzaka will get:
Special-K's Not Going to Be One of the Guys ... Reports Persist That Roger Clemens May Have to Carry His Luggage ... Wait Until Pedro Hears About This
Sigh. I guess it's never too early to annoint a new "diva".

Wanna know how to say "Yankees Suck" in Japanese?

What He Said

Globe:
One member of Red Sox Nation who's fluent in Japanese translated Matsuzaka's comments directly, and some weren't exactly as his translator relayed. Thanks to former Newton resident and Columbia University grad student Taka Tanaka for passing along this information, which includes some translated questions as well as Matsuzaka's newly translated answers.
Enjoy.

Snip:
Q: Congratulations on finalizing the contract. During the month-long negotiating period, media in both Japan and the US covered you very closely. This month-long period, did it feel long? Did it feel short? What was going through your mind during this time?

DM: It felt extremely long. Maybe over here, it's the norm to keep negotiating all the way to the deadline. But I have an impatient personality, so I wanted things to be decided either way much sooner. I would have liked to decide sooner. ...

Q: Matsuzaka-san, which matchup are you most looking forward to? Any player in particular you'd like to face? ...

DM: As I said before, the person I want to face most is Ichiro-san. We faced each other for two years in the Pacific League, and we haven't since.
That matchup could come at the very beginning of the Fenway home opener, April 10.

Theo on Papelbon's Role

There has been some question as to whether Jonathan Papelbon could return to the bullpen if the Red Sox don't find a tried and true closer.

Not that they need a household name in that role. Theo Epstein: "It's too early to start assigning exact roles other than to say that the guys who are pitching the best will have the most important roles."

Epstein on WEEI yesterday:
The determination we made in September when he had the subluxation was a medical determination based on the way his shoulder looked at the time that certainly he had a much better chance of returning to health and maintaining good health through a starter's routine -- building up strength in the shoulder, only having to pitch once every five or six days, getting on a shoulder strengthening program between starts and being able to have a very regimented maintenance routine.

That certainly is the best way to attack this specific condition. He's already started that. He's had a fantastic winter so far with the shoulder and it's really strong.

The single most important thing is his long-term health and as long as that determination is still valid -- as long as the medical people think that condition would be best-served with a once-every-five-days routine -- then he's going to be a starting pitcher.

I guess it's fair to say, "Never say never." We want to take a look at Jonathan again and will examine him again soon and examine the condition of his shoulder. But I think we really can't go wrong. As a starter, which is what we groomed him to be, I think he has a really high upside. And obviously everyone saw what he could do as a closer last year -- one of the best in baseball.

We can't go wrong. We just can't get greedy. We have to let what's best for his long-term picture determine the decision.
In addition to his shoulder, I believe the Red Sox believe that Papelbon is a greater asset to the team as a starter.

December 15, 2006

Henry Explains Posting Bid

John Henry explains how he arrived at the $51,111,111.11 bid for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Also: he and Dice share a September 13 birthday.

Brendan Donnelly Joins Bullpen

The Red Sox have traded LHP Phil Seibel to the Angels for RHP Brendan Donnelly. Nice.

We also signed JC Romero for 2007.
01 Schilling
02 Matsuzaka
03 Beckett
04 Wakefield
05 Papelbon

06 Timlin
07 Delcarmen
08 Tavarez
09 Okajima
10 Donnelly
11 Romero
12 ? Lester/Hansen/Snyder/Breslow/
Hansack/DiNardo/Gabbard/Corey

Lost In Translation

For those of you who watched the Matsuzaka press conference yesterday evening, Matsuzaka's "translator" is a Boras employee named Tak Sato. With any luck, he's out of a job this morning.

He was horrible -- guaranteeing the Q&A would be worthless. Daisuke would speak for a minute -- laughing, gesturing -- and Sato would offer one short, inaudible sentence in fractured English. Or, as he said a couple of times, "Engrish".

Theo could have wandered out on Landsdowne Street and dragged in the first Asian-looking guy he saw and things probably would have gone smoother. ... Sato "struggled to communicate Matsuzaka's answers" and "his command of the English language was shaky".

The Herald was blunt:
Matsuzaka's translator was universally panned by the English-speaking media, which discovered afterward that many of the pitcher's responses were shortened, changed or butchered. Members of the Japanese media helped provide the accurate comments.
The Globe has a transcript. It is far from complete -- and some things I remember are missing -- but this exchange gives you a flavour of the proceedings:
Q. Welcome and I wonder if you could tell us at what point in these negotiations that you realized that you would be coming to the Red Sox, and did you have your doubts that this day would come to pass?

Matsuzaka: My nickname is Japan is Monster.
If anyone can find Dice's actual answers to the media's questions, that would be great.

P.S. Both the Herald and Globe have stories about how the deal almost fell through at the last minute. ... Some great quotes about Dice from Craig Shipley, Boston's vice president of professional and international scotuing.

December 14, 2006

"Diamonds In The Snow Sparkle"

Excellent work from The Boston Blogger.



Great choice of music also, with the twin themes of Xmas and travel.

The Deal

Example

The deal:
2007  $ 6 + $2 signing bonus
2008 $ 8
2009 $ 8
2010 $ 8
2011 $10
2012 $10

Both the 2009 and 2010 base salaries would
increase to $10 if Matsuzaka:
a) wins the Cy Young in 2007 or 2008;
b) finishes in the top 3 in Cy Young voting
in 2007 and 2008;
c) wins the AL MVP in 2007 or 2008; or
d) finishes in the top 5 in AL MVP voting
in 2007 and 2008.

Both the 2011 and 2012 base salaries would
increase to $12 if Matsuzaka:
a) wins the Cy Young in 2009 or 2010;
b) finishes in the top 3 in Cy Young voting
in 2009 and 2010;
c) wins the AL MVP in 2009 or 2010; or
d) finishes in the top 5 in AL MVP voting
in 2009 and 2010.
The agreement also includes travel from Japan for Matsuzaka and his family, plus provisions for a trainer, a masseuse, an interpreter, an assistant and housing.

Example

The Red Sox have a press conference scheduled for 5:00 PM.

Tony Massarotti, Herald:
[T]he Red Sox appear to have won this one by knockout. There is really no other way to look at it. ... Matsuzaka's average annual salary [stands] at $8.67 million, only a shade more than the Sox are paying Matt Clement.
An interesting rumour from the Herald:
Matsuzaka may have had additional incentive. According to rumors that appear to have originated in Japan, word may have reached him that the Lions, who are counting on the enormous cash infusion from the Sox, were considering sending him to the minor leagues if he returned. That would have set back his free agency by another year.
Nick Cafardo, Globe:
The Sox also got a thumbs-up from former major league third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, who for years has run a sophisticated scouting service for international players, with emphasis on the Pacific Rim. ...

When asked what he would have recommended as a posting figure for Matsuzaka, Pagliarulo said, "Fifty million. That's what I had written down long before the figures came out. That was based on the talent level of the player, the market for the player, and the value of the player to a team."
You can still order downloads of two of Daisuke Matsuzaka's three WBC starts for Japan at MLB.com, which will give you a better idea of his pitching style than the short clips on YouTube.

The games are:
3/14 v Mexico: 5-1-0-2-2, 73; Japan  6-1
3/20 v Cuba: 4-4-1-0-5, 62; Japan 10-6
The Cuba game was the WBC final, after which Dice was named the MVP of the tournament. His first start -- 3/14 v. Chinese Taipei (4-3-1-1-3, 68), which Japan won 14-3 -- is not among the for-sale games.

Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal has a revelation:
Baseball is all about money.
And he doesn't like it one bit, dag nabit.

December 13, 2006

Only Two Months To Truck Day!

Example

The Plane landed at about 5:30 PM and Daisuke Matsuzaka was driven to Massachusetts General Hospital for his physical. (Empy was there.)

Ian Browne, RedSox.com:
It was quite a scene at the Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, where Matsuzaka touched down in Massachusetts for the first time. There were roughly 50 Red Sox fans on hand to greet Matsuzaka as he disembarked. The pitcher went straight for the back seat of an SUV, which was escorted by a state police car.

With a smile that seemingly lit up the window of the car he was sitting in, Matsuzaka waved to the fans who hope to be cheering his every pitch at Fenway in 2007 and beyond.
Epstein, on submitting of a second offer without receiving any response to the first:
It's highly unusual, but it's showing that Matsuzaka is extremely important to the Boston Red Sox. It's normally not a good ploy, but we want to demonstrate to Matsuzaka, and the fans of Japanese baseball, just how important he is to us.
Most of SoSHer jayhoz's notes on John Henry's WEEI interview late this afternoon:
Got sleep last night while the others did not.

Did not realize you could track a private plane.

No agreement in place. Close enough that all are on the plane together. Negotiations were ongoing when they took off from Cali. May be more negotiations need after the plane lands.

Knew prices were going to be high in general this year based on "simulations".

Branding: not a lot of thought on branding in Japan. MLB owns the license to the brand so it does not mean a lot of $ to the team. Sox get <1/30 of the revenue. ... Prime driver of branding is winning.

Why so confident in Matsuzaka's performance? Many clubs very confident he is a front of the rotation guy. Henry had to be convinced by the scouts [Shipley] in Japan for every game.

Everyone has overblown the alternative revenue streams due to the high posting fee. Sox wanted to ensure the rights to negotiate for potentially 6 years of control.

Fear Boras could challenge the posting process? Thought it would be difficult to do, so no.

Bullpen has holes. Concerned? No, every team has plusses and minuses. Sox will have a strong bullpen. Due for better luck. Hopefully not done yet. Closer? We'll have a closer. May or may not be a current player, ask Theo.

Surprised Manny is still with Sox? No. Set in stone that Manny is on the team? Would have made a deal if it makes sense, but how can you replace Manny in the 4 spot.

Other Sox

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of Julio Lugo this afternoon.

Lugo:
Every time I came here, the fans were different. They love the game. When you're on the other side, they drive you crazy. I just want to feel how it is to be on the good side, to be on their side. It's great. Every time you get a hit, they cheer for you. They care for you. Not only in the stadium but outside the stadium. That always came through my mind.
Tito:
Starting in '04, David Ortiz used to bug me every time we played down in Tampa. He said, 'We've got to get this guy, we've got to get this guy.' I used to make a point of, after BP, kind of running into him by accident just because I wanted to get a feel for [him] myself. I used to tease him, I said, 'You'll play for us one day.' I think he thought I was teasing. We've thought a lot of him for a long time.
Ortiz:
He's going to being a lot of energy. This guy, the best part about his game is that he's very aggressive. He's the kind of guy that prepares himself to come out every day and do his thing. I love watching him play. He's a great player. We need guys like this to come around this ballclub.
The Red Sox agreed to a one-year deal with Doug Mirabelli. Tony Massarotti calls Mirabelli "a perfect complement" to Jason Varitek. Umm, no. The man cannot hit anymore (.193/.261/.342 in 176 PA last year) and I do not want to see him in the lineup next year. Not. At. All. Is there no other man on Earth who can catch Wakefield? Maybe George Kottaras will have a great spring.

Gabe Kapler has retired and will manage the Greenville Drive, Boston's South Atlantic League (A) farm club, next year.

Questions About Dice-K -- At US State Dept Press Conference

Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Head of US Delegation to the Six-Party Talks
Washington, DC, December 13, 2006, 2:05 PM EST
Hill: How's the Matsuzaka afternoon going today? Do we know?

Q: Not very well.

Q: Are you going to --

Hill: It's going well today?

Q: I heard they're flying to Boston.

Hill: Matsuzaka is coming to Boston?

Q: Apparently.

Q: He says there's a lot of --

Q: No, no, no, no.

Q: No, I thought it fell through with the Red Sox.

Q: No, no. He's holding out for a six-party agreement. (Laughter.)

Q: Really?

Hill: I'm really sorry about doing this, but it's very important. He's going to Boston?

Q: Apparently.

Q: He's only got a wire report.

Q: Which is important. ...

[Later on]

Q: Chris, on the Matsuzaka issue, not confirmed but it does appear that a deal has been struck; Matsuzaka stepped in and made the deal happen.

Hill: He stepped in.

Q: It appears.

Hill: And was John Henry there as well?

Q: Larry Luchino and Epstein and Boras and Matsuzaka.

Hill: This is a terrific Christmas present. Thank you very much. (Laughter.)
!!!!

Matsuzaka Is On The Plane To Boston!

2D UPDATE: If you are totally insane, you can follow the plane -- live! ... (Thanks Jere)



UPDATE From SI:
Daisuke Matsuzaka has reached a deal with the Boston Red Sox for 6 years, $52 million, SI.com's Jon Heyman has learned. The deal contains escalator clauses that could bring it up to $60 million.
Holy shit, what a steal (if accurate)!


Edes, Globe:
The Red Sox contingent in Southern California is currently flying back to Boston with pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and his agent, Scott Boras, on board.

"You can assume that a deal is done or close," said one source with direct knowledge of the talks.

Team owner John W. Henry confirmed that Boras and Matsuzaka were flying back with the team, writing in an e-mail to the Associated Press: "They all took off together." ...

In prior days, agent Scott Boras had said he would not allow Matsuzaka to travel to Boston for a physical unless the sides had reached a preliminary agreement.
Silverman at the Herald also has the news.

Herald: 6/48 v. 6/66

Michael Silverman, Herald, 4:03 AM:
The Red Sox' latest offer to Matsuzaka is six years for $8 million. Matsuzaka has counter-offered with six years for $11 million and that is the deal the Red Sox are weighing heading into the early hours of Wednesday morning. ...

[B]oth sides are becoming more adamant about how they are willing to walk away from this deal, and this is after the Red Sox got their face to face meeting, however brief, with Matsuzaka Tuesday night.
If Silverman's "plugged-in" sources are correct, we finally have some concrete numbers from both sides. (And we see that Boras has (or has been told to) backed off of two demands: a short 3-year deal and close to $20 per.)

December 12, 2006

Tick, Tick, Tick

Gordon Edes's source says: "No Progress".

AP:
Lucchino and Epstein left the building where the offices are located shortly before 7 p.m. EST and it was unclear when or if they would return.

"It's here [Henry's plane] in Southern California and it will leave on Wednesday morning," Epstein said. "We hope Matsuzaka-san will be on it so that we can complete the physical in Boston in time to get a contract done."
Edes:
Daisuke Matsuzaka was not present, according to a source with first-hand knowledge of the negotiations. ... If I had to guess I'd say the total guaranteed money in the Sox proposal is in the $40 million range, with performance bonuses that could make it worth considerably more. ... How long will the sides talk? My source said that it's possible they'll talk right up until John Henry's plane leaves for Boston tomorrow morning.
SoSHer 941827:
This is a fascinating study of negotiation techniques. Let's assume that DM has told Boras that he will not, under any circumstances, return to Japan. How far can Boras push the envelope? ...

Will Boras tell DM that the Sox FO "getting on the plane" in the morning is a ruse similar to the guy who walks off the used car lot only to return a few minutes later with his "final final" proposal? Will he be right? ...

These are master manipulators at work. Assume nothing until midnight tomorrow night.

Red Sox Cross Country, Up Offer

Gordon Edes, Globe:
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein in a post-midnight conference call [said] he and CEO Larry Lucchino flew to southern California, unsolicited, for a meeting with agent Scott Boras in the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations.

Epstein said the team plans to make another offer tomorrow, one that will be the largest ever given to a player who has never played in the big leagues, and the largest given to a Japanese player. But it remains to be seen if that will satisfy Boras ...

A feisty John W. Henry, frustration evident in his voice, said: "I think it's also fair to say we're on Scott Boras's doorstep because he hasn't negotiated with us so far. We're taking the fight directly to him to try to have a negotiation here."
First: the offer doesn't have to satisfy Boras. It has to satisfy Matsuzaka.

Second: Damn nice work from Boras, ignoring the Sox by using the only leverage he has: the clock.

Third: What are the numbers of "the largest [contract] ever given to a player who has never played in the big leagues, and the largest given to a Japanese player"?

Probably Hideki Matsui's 4/52. ... I'm guessing DM signs for 5/55, which while a few dollars less per season, is a larger total package.

December 11, 2006

Matsuzaka Meeting With Media Tonight

It's been 10 days since the Red Sox made their initial offer to Scott Boras regarding Daisuke Matsuzaka, and they have yet to receive a response.

"[F]rustrated Sox officials were privately wondering whether the player was aware that Boras so far had not made a counter-offer." ... 10 days is 1/3 of the total negotiating window. Weekend talks between the Sox and Boras were "limited and unproductive". I'll bet.

Edes held an online chat today. Two points of interest: Boras told Japanese reporters that Matsuzaka would meet with the media tonight. And DM will take part in the negotiations on Tuesday and Wednesday.

One GM: "From the looks of it, [Boston's] only chance may be if [Matsuzaka] stands up to Boras."

That implies that Boras is going against the wishes of his client. I don't believe that is happening. Boras and DM likely worked out a strategy and they know nothing will happen until the final day or so. Matsuzaka wants to pitch in the US in 2007 and he has the final say on accepting a contract. On Thursday morning, he'll be holding up a #18 Red Sox jersey.

SoSHer Doug Beerabelli: "This is one of those situations where it'd be best as a fan to go for a three or four day hike in the mountains with no access to electronic media, and find out the news when you come off the mountain four days later."

That is probably the sane approach, though not many of us (any?) will do it.

J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo are in Boston today for their physicals.

December 10, 2006

Boras Tries To Scare Sox FO, Fans

Michael Silverman, in today's Herald (back page headline: "No Dice?"):
Negotiations between the Red Sox and Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka have essentially broken down, a source familiar with the talks said late last night, adding that unless there is an abrupt change of course, Matsuzaka will not be signing with the Red Sox before Thursday's midnight deadline. ...

Long accustomed to negotiating with "multiple teams" in order to garnish rich contracts for his extensive client list, Boras has chafed from the beginning about the inequities of this system and has hinted repeatedly that the process will end either in Matsuzaka signing with the Red Sox or with Matsuzaka declining and having to go back to Japan.
(Well, those are the only two options, aren't they?)

From the standpoint of both the Red Sox and Masuzaka (on whose behalf Boras is working), there is absoutely no reason to think a deal will not get done.

Boras's only leverage is time. He wants the Red Sox to think he can convince Matsuzaka to go back to Japan. I don't see that happening. It would mean DM defers his dream of pitching in the big leagues for two years (thus risking an injury and no mega-payday down the line). The decision would anger Seibu, the team to which he would return (they lose out on $51.1 million), and would not look good to their fans (to whom DM gave a farewell speech).

At some point on Wednesday evening, Masuska will tell Boras: "Alright, that's enough, now get this deal done." The Red Sox will likely increase their offer to $10/year or so (shouldn't DM get Gil Meche money?) and everyone will be smiling during the press conference on Thursday.

With Hideki Okajima in the Sox bullpen and Matsuzaka likely to join the rotation, Curt Schilling is learning some Japanese.

December 9, 2006

Ortiz in the DR

Redsox.com has a lengthy feature on David Ortiz and the charitable work he does in his home country. Ortiz and the Red Sox Foundation recently donated $200,000 to two hospitals in Santo Domingo. The money will be used to perform heart procedures on children.

Ortiz:
There are a lot of people who need help from people like us. Hopefully, the athlete who has the capacity to collect money to help people will do it. Sometimes, we have no idea how many people we help around this planet.
For the first time I can remember, the Herald is running a black and white photo (of Manny) on its main Red Sox page. Bizarre. It looks a little like a mug shot.

December 8, 2006

More Lineup Fun

David Pinto at Baseball Musings has a very cool toy called "Lineup Analysis". You plug in the OBP and SLG for nine players and generate the 30 best and worst run-scoring lineups.

I put in the nine starters for the 2006 Red Sox.
Best (5.728 R/G)   Worst (5.289 R/G)
Youkilis Gonzalez
Ramirez Crisp
Varitek Nixon
Ortiz Varitek
Lowell Loretta
Crisp Ramirez
Nixon Lowell
Gonzalez Youkilis
Loretta Ortiz
In 25 of the 30 best lineups, Manny was batting #2; Ortiz was #2 in the other 5. Youkilis or Nixon was the leadoff guy in all 30 best lineups. ... In every one of the 30 worst lineups, Gonzo was #1 and Ortiz was #9.

I input the 2006 numbers for the probable 2007 lineup:
Probable    Best        Worst
5.674 R/G 5.856 R/G 5.210 R/G

Lugo Youkilis Pedroia
Youkilis Ramirez Crisp
Ortiz Lugo Lowell
Ramirez Ortiz Lugo
Drew Drew Varitek
Lowell Lowell Youkilis
Varitek Varitek Drew
Crisp Pedroia Ramirez
Pedroia Crisp Ortiz
I have to admit I'm pretty amazed that Tito's probable lineup is so similar to the most productive lineup (based on the players' 2006 performance).

Once again, Manny is at #2 in 25 of the best 30 lineups. In the other 5, he's leading off. (There are obvious many flaws in this exercise -- no accounting for speed or a player's comfort level or jeering from the media -- but it's fun.)

My campaign to get Manny into the 2-hole begins now!

Drew Explains Himself

JD Drew addressed how he is perceived:
I'm just quiet. ... I'm not a rah-rah guy and never have been. That's not who I am. I've never been [a] show boat, or thrown my helmet or my bat ... Maybe sometimes those types of players get the attention and I don't. I'm not going to try to be something I'm not.
Good.
Definitely there are characters in the game of baseball that people relate to because they show their emotional side. From my standpoint, that is something that could be worked on - outwardly expressing myself ... I'm going to try to improve that side of me in Boston.
Not so good. Now the media can chortle when Drew yells at an ump or kicks some dirt and tell us it's manufactured (like they do with Slappy) and we're idiots for thinking it's genuine. (Anyone wanna take a shot at writing Mazz's or Callahan's or CHB's future column?)

Daisuke Matsuzaka will visit Boston for the first time early next week. ... Back up catcher? The Sox are looking at Doug Mirabelli, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Alberto Castillo. ... The Orioles have an interest in Trot Nixon for one year.

Tony Massarotti on the Dice-K talks: "At this stage, there remains every probability that the Red Sox and Boras will get a deal done by Thursday. After all, we live in a deadline-driven world where people do things only when they have to." ... Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!!!

It sounds like Eric Gagne will decide today where he will pitch in 2007. Boston, Cleveland and Texas have all made offers.

Jim Donaldson sees The Big Picture: He writes that the Red Sox have spent a lot of money this winter, and if the team doesn't do well in 2007, the front office is going to look foolish. ... Interesting take.

Thank You, Keith Foulke

With Keith Foulke declining arbitration, his Red Sox career is likely over.

His shitty treatment by the Boston media is a darker stain than most on those writers' dubious resumes. And the lemming fans who followed suit and booed him throughout 2005 should have all but the first three games of the 2004 ALCS wiped from their memories.

Without his amazing bullpen work, that glorious October would have been yet another Yankee nightmare. In the process of bringing us what we wished for all our lives, he ruined his career:
                IP  H  R  BB  K  PIT
ALDS 1 10/05
ALDS 2 10/06 - 1.1  0  0   0  2   14
10/07
ALDS 3 10/08 - 1.2  2  0   1  3   37
10/09
10/10
10/11
ALCS 1 10/12 -  .1  0  0   0  0    5
ALCS 2 10/13 -  .2  0  0   1  1   17
10/14
10/15
ALCS 3 10/16
ALCS 4 10/17 - 2.2  0  0   2  3   50
ALCS 5 10/18 - 1.1  1  0   1  0   22
ALCS 6 10/19 - 1.0  0  0   2  2   28
ALCS 7 10/20
10/21
10/22
WS 1   10/23 - 1.2  2  0   1  3   36
WS 2   10/24 - 1.1  0  0   0  2   19
10/25
WS 3   10/26 - 1.0  1  1   0  2   14
WS 4   10/27 - 1.0  1  0   0  1   14
  
11 of 14 gms  14.0  7  1   8 19  256    0.64)
The moment I remember best (not counting the WS-ending underhand toss to Malphabet): the bottom of the 9th of ALCS 6 in Yankee Stadium. The Bloody Sock Game.

Boston had led 4-0, but New York scored once in the 7th (Bernie HR off Schilling), once in the 8th (Jeter single off Arroyo, followed by the Slappy slap), and had the tying runs on (two Foulke walks) in the bottom of the ninth.

The inning: Matsui walks. Williams strikes out. Posada pops to third. Sierra walks. Thermos (bbcfb) struck out swinging.

It capped a stretch of 5 innings and 100 pitches in the amazingly short time span of 48 hours. In the celebration on the mound, Foulke is absolutely beaming, and after hugging Arroyo, he says, in a very hoarse voice: "Gotta make it interesting".

December 7, 2006

Dotel Chooses Royals Over Red Sox

Tony Massarotti:
According to sources, right-hander Octavio Dotel has turned down an offer from the Red Sox to accept a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $5 million from the Kansas City Royals.

Dotel's deal also is believed to include as much as $2 million in incentives that could bring the deal to $7 million.

Red Sox officials made an offer to Dotel earlier today before leaving the winter meetings. The club had refrained from making an offer until seeing Dotel pitch in a winter league game in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night, at which point Sox officials came away impressed.
Yesterday, the Royals also shelled out $11 million per season for five years to Gil Meche. His ERA+ for the last four seasons: 97, 86, 85, 97 -- all below league average. The market's gone effing nuts this winter!

Did Gagne's price just go up?

Rolling The Dice

Not crazy about the sound of this. From Gordon Edes:
With a week to go before the clock strikes midnight on the Red Sox' quest to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka ... there is increasing anxiety on Yawkey Way that Matsuzaka's agent, Scott Boras, is posing an unreasonable, and immovable, obstacle to their bid to add Matsuzaka to their pitching staff.

According to sources with direct access to the Sox' view, there is an increasing feeling that Boras is setting the stage, both privately and publicly, that there is not going to be a deal. ...

The Sox' fear? That Boras persuades Matsuzaka it's in his best interests in the long term to return to Japan for two more years, become an unrestricted free agent, then command perhaps an unprecedented payday without having to share a cent with Seibu. ...

One major league power broker with firsthand knowledge of the negotiations said he does not share the Sox' pessimism that a deal might not be struck. "In the end, they'll get it done," he predicted. "There are too many reasons for this deal not to get done."
Seven days is a very long time, so I'll wait until Tuesday night or so before I get concerned. The rumours of Jason Schmidt getting 3/47 from the Dodgers and Rangers reportedly offering Barry Zito 6/102 aren't helping the Sox. ... And Ted Lilly (he of the career 99 ERA+) squeezed 4/40 from the Cubs. Damn!

Sources say talks between the Red Sox and Boras about Eric Gagne have heated up. Gagne is supposedly asking for $5 million guaranteed, which is quite a gamble for a guy who has pitched only 15.1 innings in two seasons because of elbow and back surgeries. The price is likely to come down.

Terry Francona says that Lugo will leadoff, Youkilis will bat second, followed by Ortiz, Ramirez and Drew. The bottom four? Probably Lowell, Varitek, Crisp and Pedroia.

December 6, 2006

2007 Lineup

2007 lineup? Maybe ...
Youkilis, 1B
Lugo, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Drew, RF
Crisp, CF
Lowell, 3B
Varitek, C
Pedroia, 2B
Nick Cafardo calls the initial media reaction to J.D. Drew
strange and unfair, to say the least. ... His critics will say they can't remember anything extraordinary he did last season, anything they felt singlehandedly won a game. They say he can't be the centerpiece of a lineup because sometimes he's too content to take a walk instead of trying to win the game on his own.
FJM touched on one aspect of this silliness about a month ago. In a post entitled "New Stat Alert" about Bill Plaschke's explanation of why the Dodgers should be glad to be rid of Drew:
Plaschke: "Sure, he led the team with 100 runs batted in last season, but do you remember more than a handful of them?"

FJM: "We'll call it RBIR, for RBIs Remembered. Drew only had 5 (!) last year. What a lousy player. Jeff Francoeur led the league with 249 RBIR. (People remembered a lot of his RBIs two or three times.)"
In case Plaschke, who covers the Dodgers, is confused, Drew led the team in OBP, OPS, OPS+, doubles, extra-base hits, RBI, walks, tied for the lead in HR, and was 2nd in slugging, 2nd in runs scored, and 4th in hits. He also grounded into only 4 double plays, lowest among all regulars.

Theo:
He really has a great swing for Fenway Park. When he pulls the ball and elevates the ball, it will certainly reach the bullpen. He's got plus raw power. The big dimensions in right field and even center field won't be a problem for him. If you look at his hit chart, those balls get out.
Dave Jauss, Drew's outfield coach in LA:
He's an excellent outfielder. He's got very good speed. He can score from first on a double and definitely score from second on a single. The fact he doesn't pull the ball is going to make him an effective hitter at Fenway. Not so much for the wall but for the fact on those cold days there, he's going to be able to go the other way and contribute as a hitter.
Tito Talks:
[Matsuzaka's] got a lot of pitches that he commands. He's got velocity on the fastball, he's got two breaking balls, he can elevate the fastball, but I think the thing that I've noticed that I like the best is the ability to throw a changeup any time it counts. It is kind of an old-fashioned screwball which you don't see too much anymore.
Francona also talks about Manny, who will catch Wakefield, Timlin, Varitek and Pedroia. ... Pitching coach John Farrell is brushing up on his Japanese.

Four or five teams, including the Red Sox, are asking about Eric Gagne, who has pitched only 15 innings in the last two seasons.

Lester Says He's Cancer-Free

Great news:
Jon Lester threw a baseball Monday afternoon. For the first time in months, the Red Sox lefthander threw cancer-free.

Lester said Tuesday that a CT scan last week revealed he is cancer-free, less than four months after being diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer. Lester, 22, said he expects to report to spring training with the rest of the Red Sox pitchers and catchers Feb. 16 in Fort Myers, Fla.

"Everything's gone well," Lester said on a conference call from Seattle. "I just had my fifth [chemotherapy] treatment on Thursday and they did the CT scan and all the scans they needed to do and they found that I was cancer-free. I've got one more treatment Dec. 21 and I'll be done."
Also: Globe, MLB, ProJo and Herald.)

December 5, 2006

Sox Reach Agreements with Drew, Lugo

Scott Boras says JD Drew has agreed to a 5/70 contract with the Red Sox.

Boston has also reached a preliminary agreement with Julio Lugo for 4/36.

Manny Hates Me

The Herald's Gerry Callahan says so.
Any day now, the Red Sox will grant Manny Ramirez his wish and trade away the future Hall of Famer, and millions of distraught Sox fans will moan and wail and wonder why it had to come to this.

Why couldn't Manny just stay here and play here and be happy? Why was he so determined to flee our lyrical little baseball town and play somewhere else?

Well, if you really want to know why, I'll tell you:

Because he hates you, that's why.

He doesn't hate the ballpark ... [or] his teammates or his manager or the owners or the clubhouse attendants or the guy inside The Wall ... [or] the weather or the racial climate or the politics [or] the media ...

He just hates you, the paying customer and unwavering supporter of the Sox. He hates that you're always there, always yelling and cheering and fawning all over him. He hates your very nature - your devotion, your intensity, your insatiable appetite for all things Red Sox. Hell, you could say he hates you for loving him so much.

And you know what's really kind of pathetic? You just keep loving him anyway.
Yep. "Lyrical" is the adjective that always springs to my mind when I think of the Boston sports media experience from an athlete's point of view.

Callahan closes:
They won't get a player with Manny's talent in return, but look at the bright side: They will get someone with more heart and more character, guaranteed.
That's the bright side?? ... I have yet to see a metric that translates "heart" and "character" into wins. Callahan must have some secret equation, though he's never seemed like a stathead to me. ... And I thought Manny was a character.

Here's what is pathetic. The fact that Callahan and his cohorts write this shit without presenting any actual evidence.

During the last two seasons, I have corresponded via email with two writers who cover the Red Sox on a daily basis. They have been more a bit more forthcoming in those emails about Manny's transgressions that they have been in their newspaper stories. So I don't doubt that Manny is not an ideal employee -- the talk is clearly not all fiction -- but I imagine every player presents some type of headache to management, whether in temperment, his media relationship or actual on-field performance.

Today's typical example of how Manny is described comes from Michael Silverman, fellow Herald scribe, who mentions Ramirez's "sometimes whimsical and ambivalent approach to playing the game".

This constant insinuation -- and nothing more -- is no longer good enough. You guys have to start presenting us with chapter and verse of all the evil things that Ramirez has done in his years in Boston. (Though if you poke around online, you'll find long-standing rumours that the Manny Out Of Boston thing has very little to do with baseball.)

If Manny is dealt, I do expect to read some stuff, since it will need to be pushed to placate angry fans. See how bad he was, be glad he's gone.

But for now, if you can't do anything more than present to us what are nothing more unsubstaniated claims, please do us all a favour and STFU.

Epstein Sets Manny Deal Deadline

Nick Cafardo says the Red Sox "appear to be the center of the baseball universe":
"Red Sox trade Manny yet?" asked Detroit manager Jim Leyland. "What a hitter. Great hitter."

"Red Sox trade Manny yet?" asked Washington president/CEO Stan Kasten.
According to Theo Epstein, we'll have an answer very soon.

The GM has imposed a deadline of midnight tomorrow to trade Ramirez.
[I]f we realistically get past Wednesday, we're not going to take up more of the team's time and energy. We'll certainly be listeners. At some point, you can't let it get in the way of other things you're trying to do. There's also the free agent market and pitching to deal with. You can't spend all your time on position players. ... [W]e're not trading an elite position player unless we get fair value.
Terry Francona (who has not chewed tobacco for 65 consecutive days) doesn't think Manny will be traded. ... Gordon Edes of the Globe writes that "the probabilities have shifted toward Manny staying".

The Globe also reports:
A source with direct knowledge of Jon Lester's medical condition said yesterday that Lester's latest CT scan was clean and his cancer seems to be in remission, so the 22-year-old lefthander expects to be in spring training with the Red Sox in 2007.
Lester's father did not confirm or deny that rumour and Jon did not return the Globe's calls.

While ideally a second baseman, the Red Sox would consider playing Dustin Pedroia at his first position: shortstop. Pedroia did not play move to second until AA ball in 2005.

The Providence Journal has changed its website -- for the worse. There is no print-friendly view for stories and it's next to impossible to select and copy parts of text.

December 4, 2006

That Drew Guy

Heaping unjustified criticism on a player before he actually is a member of the Red Sox is not exactly a new hobby of the Boston media.

Early January 2003. WBZ's Sports Final:
Shaughnessy said they had better not sign that "Ortiz guy", as "he is a sack of you know what".

Early Bits From Winter Meetings

Nick Cafardo reports that a Brewers official said
the Red Sox have made an inquiry on embattled former closer Derrick Turnbow, who after making the National League All-Star team came unglued in July, when he was 1 for 5 in save chances and had a 21.32 ERA and lost his closer job.
Turnbow ended last year with a 6.87 ERA and an ERA+ of 65 (quite a drop from 1.74, 243 in 2005). He turns 29 in January.

Gordon Edes on Julio Lugo:
The Mets like him as a second baseman, the Cubs considered him as a center fielder, and the Dodgers offered him salary arbitration, but indications are Lugo would prefer to play short and bat leadoff for the Sox.
Michael Silverman says that Keith Foulke's agent, Dan Horwitz, says that Foulke has had "very positive" conversations with teammates, front-office personnel and medical staff about returning to the Sox. The team is also keeping tabs on Octavio Dotel, another Horwitz client.

The Daisuke Matsuzaka signing deadline is midnight on December 15, a week from this Thursday. Matsuzaka is expected back in the US this weekend, which can't be a bad thing.

P.S. The weekend came and went and Manny Ramirez is still a Red Sock. So much for those rumours.

December 3, 2006

Best Damn Sports Blog In Canada Period

It's official!
                      
Votes %
The Joy of Sox 685 36%
The Battle of Alberta 673 35%
James Mirtle 213 11%
RaptorBlog 193 10%
Nascar Ranting and
Raving Blog 146 8%
Thank you to Jere, Red, Sam, Empy, and Laura (we move to canada) for getting out the vote -- especially Jere, who seemed as obsessed with this thing as I was. Scary.

Thanks to everyone who voted, especially those who went back every day, and a very special thanks to the 19 readers who cast their critical votes in the last 30 minutes.

I like numbers, so here are the running totals at various points, as posted by either myself or Jere here.
                 JoS  BoA    Adv
11/25 11:47 pm 52 47 + 5

11/26 8:00 am 82 53 + 29
11/26 4:13 pm 129 56 + 73

11/27 10:44 am 181 80 +101
11/27 3:04 pm 201 116 + 85

11/28 4:50 pm 280 180 +100

11/29 12:55 pm 327 221 +106
11/29 5:00 pm 348 271 + 77

11/30 8:44 am 386 327 + 59
11/30 1:36 pm 401 361 + 40

12/01 8:58 am 534 459 + 75
12/01 10:14 am 537 461 + 76
12/01 1:41 pm 580 480 +100
12/01 3:24 pm 600 494 +106
12/01 5:26 pm 614 529 + 85
12/01 6:52 pm 624 573 + 51
12/01 9:00 pm 644 621 + 23
12/01 9:39 pm 650 635 + 15
12/01 11:01 pm 663 654 + 9
12/01 11:18 pm 665 659 + 6
12/01 11:25 pm 665 663 + 2
12/01 11:30 pm 666 665 + 1
12/01 11:32 pm 668 665 + 3
12/01 11:34 pm 671 666 + 5
12/01 11:36 pm 674 667 + 7
12/01 11:37 pm 676 667 + 9
12/01 11:41 pm 678 667 + 11
12/01 11:46 pm 681 667 + 14
12/01 11:50 pm 682 669 + 13
12/01 11:51 pm 682 671 + 11
12/01 11:53 pm 684 672 + 12
12/01 11:55 pm 684 672 + 12
12/01 11:56 pm 685 673 + 12
12/01 11:57 pm 685 673 + 12
12/01 11:58 pm 685 673 + 12
12/01 11:59 pm 685 673 + 12
12/02 12:00 am 685 673 + 12
Raptor Blog won the first round, but then did not post for 7 days (11/23 to 12/1), which hurt his chances (I'm assuming that Battle of Alberta was always in 2nd place). The first big run was due to a mention at SoSH. Surviving Grady posted voting info on the morning of the final day. In the evening, Alberta started getting huge amounts of votes. The lead shrank from 106 to 15 in only six hours. It got down to one vote before I posted a plea here. Amazingly, it worked immediately. Within 10 minutes, the lead was back up to 11. (After all that drama, there were no votes for either blog in the last four minutes.)

What's Wrong With This Sidebar?

Mark Zwolinski wrote about the friendship of AL East GMs J.P. Ricciardi, Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein in Saturday's Toronto Star. The sidebar had some tidbits on each GM. Here's a snip:
THEO EPSTEIN: Red Sox

BOLDEST WINTER MOVE: Edgar Renteria, 2004

BIGGEST FLOP: Doesn't have one
Huh?

Winter Meetings Start Tomorrow

The four-day winter meetings begin Monday in Orlando, Florida, with the expected signing of free agent JD Drew and the possibile resolution of Manny Ramirez's whereabouts next spring being two big topics.

Has Theo Epstein asked for Padres ace Jake Peavy or 1B Adrian Gonzalez in his Ramirez chats? The Globe quotes Padres GM Kevin Towers as telling the San Diego Union Tribune:
[Expletive] no. God, I don't have enough time in the day to keep knocking this [manure] down. It's talk radio. It's crazy. Lunacy. Neither player has been offered in a trade, I can assure you that. I can honestly tell you, in my discussions with the Red Sox, they haven't brought them up, nor have we offered them.
I looked around the UT's Padres page, but couldn't find the quote. Last summer, Towers said he told Peavy that the pitcher would be in San Diego as long as Towers was the GM. The Herald's Michael Silverman reports: "By all accounts, the Red Sox' most fruitful talks have been with the Dodgers."

Earlier this week, Curt Schilling said he wants Ramirez to stay with the Red Sox, but
I think it's gotten to the point now where there's some thought that even though Manny might stay, he might not be here [mentally] if he does. And I think the belief is that trading Manny and bringing somebody in would be more valuable than having a Manny here that didn't play. I don't know that to be a fact. That is pure speculation on my part. ... I do know that I've spoken with Manny. Manny does want to be traded. Manny wants to play somewhere else.
Schilling also defended JD Drew against what Art Martone described as "a growing legion of fan and media critics who feel Drew is too injury-prone and/or passionless to succeed" in Boston.

All I know about this crap is that assorted mediots/radio windbags have picked up on the nickname Drew acquired while with the Dodgers: "Nancy". ... Get it? Nancy ... Drew! Like the young fictional mystery solver. JD has the same exact last name as she does, see, and he's hurt all the time and wimpy, just like a girl. So that's where the Nancy comes in ... Nancy Drew! Man, that's good. Haa haa haa chortle haa.

Hideki Okajima will wear #40:
My name is Hideki Okajima, and I like Boston. Call me Okaji, please, thank you.
Okajima says he and Daisuke Matsuzaka are acquaintances, but not "friend friends".

The Red Sox offered salary arbitration to Keith Foulke, but not to Trot Nixon (contrary to rumours), Doug Mirabelli, Mark Loretta or Gabe Kapler.

Gammons on Papelbon, Ortiz

Two snips from ESPN Insider:
Jonathan Papelbon's recent MRI was precisely the same as the one he took when he first signed out of Mississippi State, so they are very encouraged by his progress and convinced he will be a 200-innings horse. ...

David Ortiz is working very hard this winter at a Boston gym with a personal trainer -- Chi Bang. He plans to go to the Dominican Republic from New Year's Day until the start of spring training, and he plans on being in the best shape of his career in terms of core strength and his legs. What's remarkable is how nice Ortiz is to people at the gym.
This all sounds great, though I'm not sure it's actually remarkable to hear that Ortiz is pleasant to the gym's employees.

Fun Fact: Daisuke Matsuzaka is only two months older than Papelbon and four months younger than Josh Beckett.

December 2, 2006

And Yes I Said Yes

Baseball-Reference asks (like it doesn't already know the answer):
Have You Ever Wanted To Know?

* The most earned runs allowed by Pedro Martinez...
against the Yankees...at home...when he allowed
no walks?

* The most stolen bases in the 80's...by a cleanup
hitter...in a loss?

* The batter with the most home runs off Jim Kaat...
in 1970...including details for each one
(with even the runners on base)?
B-R PI (Play Index) is coming soon.

Check out their main page for links to box scores from every regular-season game from 1957-2006, with pitch-by-pitch info, as well as batting and pitching game logs, such as Hank Aaron in 1963 and Sandy Koufax in 1964.

And the great thing about the Dodgers' pitchers' stats is that most of them have pitch counts, thanks to the methodical and forward-thinking Allan Roth. (On May 6, 1960, Koufax threw 175 pitches in a 10-inning loss to the Phillies).

This is a great time to be alive.

The Likely Winner

Voting in the Canadian Blog Awards is over -- and I believe The Joy of Sox hung on to win "Best Sports Blog" by 12 votes -- 685-673!

(The official results will not be announced until Sunday at 9 PM, but I am 99.7% sure we did it.)

That push during the last half-hour was the difference. After I posted the update, JoS went on a 19-8 run. Thanks to all the night owls and people in far away time zones. The voting was never actually tied. If it had been, I'd have had no idea who pulled ahead.

Good work, Jere!

Slight edits to reflect my lack of total certainty.

December 1, 2006

Listen Very Carefully

UPDATE: The voting is nearly tied: 666-665.
There are 32 minutes left.
Please vote!!



I have strong reasons to believe I'm leading the voting for Best Sports Blog in the Canadian Blog Awards.

However, the current 2nd place blog is mounting a comeback, with a sudden surge cutting the lead from 80 to about 50 votes with only 5 hours of voting time to go.

If you haven't yet voted today, please go and vote (from every computer you have access to).

End Of The Campaign


It's early morning in Canada and already hundreds of people are waiting in line to cast their votes in the 2006 Canadian Blog Awards.

Thanks to the wonder of the Internets, you can avoid the hot, annoying and dusty wait by clicking here.

Vote The Joy of Sox on #13. Polls are open until midnight.

November 30, 2006

The State of Boston Sports Radio

At least three SoSHers report hearing WEEI's Glenn Ordway say the following on Thursday afternoon:
If you have all these OBP guys from one to nine in your lineup, who's going to knock these guys in?
Clearly, any actual baseball knowledge is not a requirement for the job, but is the general fan base so ignorant and stupid as to give these guys any ear time? These morons should be collecting cans and panhandling on Landsdowne Street.

They don't understand that when more of your batters reach base, that's a good thing.

...

[Please vote for JoS as Canada's Best Sports Blog. (One, because it is. And two, because you want me to be happy.) (See category #13) Thank you.]

Red Sox Sign LHP Hideki Okajima

[Please take 15 seconds and vote for JoS as
Canada's Best Sports Blog. (Because it is.
And because you want me to be happy.)
(See #13) Thank you.]




Official announcement:
The Boston Red Sox have agreed to terms with free agent lefthanded pitcher Hideki Okajima on a two-year contract for 2007 and 2008 with an option for the 2009 season.

An official announcement will take place at 5:00 p.m. ...

Okajima, 30, has been one of the top setup relievers in Nippon Professional Baseball for the last several years. ... The lefthander has a career record of 34-32 with a 3.36 ERA and 41 saves in 439 games with Yomiuri (1995-2005) and Nippon (2006).
Okajima's ratios for 2006, in 54.2 innings:
 9.9 BR/9
7.6 H/9
0.8 HR/9
10.4 K/9
2.3 BB/9
4.5 K/BB
2.14 ERA
1.10 WHIP

vs. RH (130 AB) .254 BA, 6 BB, 36 K, 5 HR
vs. LH ( 70 AB) .186 BA, 8 BB, 27 K, 0 HR
The Herald reports that Okajima "is said to have a devastating curveball but is not a hard thrower." His fastball runs from the mid-80s to 90. ... In-depth stats are from this SoSH thread, which also has some video clips.

November 29, 2006

Manny And Protection

[Please vote. (See #13)]

Peter Gammons says the White Sox are also interested in Manny Ramirez, in addition to the Giants, Padres and Dodgers. Jeff Goldberg of the Hartford Courant passes this along:
The White Sox are reportedly attempting to trade for Angels starter Ervin Santana, who could then be flipped to Boston, perhaps with 23-year-old righthander Brandon McCarthy, for Ramirez.
Michael Silverman (Herald):
According to multiple sources, the Red Sox are close to a satisfactory deal for Ramirez but still have not concocted one good enough to justify trading away David Ortiz' primary source of lineup protection. Talks with the Angels, Rangers, Dodgers, Padres, Giants and possibly the White Sox have been productive but no team, or pair of teams, has yet come up with the proper mix of young and proven talent that the Red Sox could live with.
The Globe hints there are "strong indications" that the Sox would pay at least a portion of Ramirez's salary. (Well, if they trade him, they sure ain't gonna pay all of it.) ... Jonathan Papelbon wants Manny to stay.

Speaking of "protection", a SoSH lurker named "Laschelle Tarver" looked at the numbers for Ortiz since 2003 without Manny in the lineup. He found that Ortiz played in 55 games in which Manny did not have an AB. The Sox went 33-22 (.600) in those games.

In 186 AB, Tiz hit .301 and slugged .624 with 17 HR. Over a 162-game season, that projects to 50 HR with 133 RBI with 133 walks. ... In 2006, he slugged .636 with 54 HR, 137 RBI and 119 BB.

SoSHer "Crazy Puppy" adds that
Ortiz hit behind Manny for all of 2003, a good chunk of 2004 (including the playoffs), the first few months of 2005 and most of September 2006. Ortiz put up a .983 OPS hitting behind Manny in 2003, a .958 OPS during the part of 2004 that he hit behind Manny, a .960 OPS when he was behind Manny in 2005 and an OPS over 1.200 in September of '06.

I'm not suggesting the loss of Ramirez will have no effect on Ortiz, but the impact is dramatically overstated by a lot of people. Plenty of hitters put up terrific numbers without having Manny Ramirez batting behind them, and Ortiz is one of them.
Also, Gordon Edes writes that the Red Sox
are nearing the completion of a deal with J.D. Drew that would pay the free agent outfielder $14 million a year for a total package of around $70 million if he stays with Boston for a full five seasons.

Day 15

[You've voted today, right? (See #13)]

We are at the half-way point of the Red Sox's contract negotiations with Scott Boras and Daisuke Matsuzaka -- and the team has made its first official offer. Larry Lucchino, in Japan meeting with officials from the Seibu Lions, said it was a "fair and comprehensive" offer.

All reports say the team's offer was between $7-8 million, with Boras looking for $15. Let the negotiations begin. The length of the contract is also an issue, with Boras hoping for only three years and the Red Sox looking at perhaps five.

There has been talk that if the Sox and Boras can't agree on an annual salary, the Lions could kick in $10 million, for example, from the posting bid to help bridge the gap -- and still pocket $41.11. But MLB says (publicly) that is not allowed.

Also: The Yankees won the bidding for 27-year-old Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa with a $26 million offer. (Anyone asking if they bid high to block the Sox?) Igawa had a 2.97 ERA last year for the Hanshin Tigers and led the Central League with 194 strikeouts. He was the CL's MVP in 2003. ... Reliever Danys Baez is off the market, having signed a 3/19 deal with Baltimore, who has also inked old friends Chad Bradford and Scott Williamson.

November 27, 2006

Manny Gone By Saturday?

Buster Olney, who had the scoop on the Red Sox's winning bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka, writes that the Red Sox are "aggressively shopping" Manny Ramirez.

"I wouldn't be shocked if the Red Sox traded him by Saturday," says one league official -- after signing JD Drew.

Olney says the Giants, Padres, Dodgers, and Rangers are talking seriously with Boston.
Executives with other teams say that in order to move Ramirez, Boston will have to come to grips with the idea that they will not get back major league talent equal to that of Ramirez; rather, they might have to settle for a deal much like the Gary Sheffield trade the Yankees made early in November, when they got three pitching prospects from Detroit. ... [T]he recent salary explosion -- Alfonso Soriano's $136 million deal, Carlos Lee's $100 million contract -- has cast Ramirez and his [high and possibly previously untradeable] salary in a different light.
Obviously the front office on Yawkey Way knows more about the Manny situation than I do, but with Boston's trade demands dropping, and obvious need for Manny's bat, I don't see getting rid of Manny as a good move from any perspective. And if recent contracts make his salary more of a bargain, shouldn't that also work in Boston's favour to keep him?

Could the Red Sox make the playoffs in 2007 with improved pitching (some bullpen help might come in a Manny deal), Lugo and Drew replacing Manny and Gonzo, and a more normal set of player injuries? Maybe, but it's no sure thing.

One scout says David Ortiz "will draw about 200 walks next year without Manny hitting behind him. I don't care who it is who bats fourth instead of Manny -- JD Drew, or Wily Mo Pena, whoever -- he won't be as dangerous as Manny was, because Manny can hit good pitching."

The cynic in me -- not having figured out if the probable replacements parts could produce an aggregate benefit -- says the team is punting for 2007 and getting set for a strong 2008 (they may get some "almost ready" prospects for Ramirez). ... Perhaps the front office strongly suspects that Manny will miss big chunks of playing time in 2007 and 2008.

Too many questions at this point.

P.S. Don't forget to VOTE.

November 25, 2006

Vote

Click here and choose Joy of Sox as the Best Sports Blog in Canada.

I'm not chummy with Diebold, so please vote once a day -- every day.

November 23, 2006

Sox Meet Dice-K in LA; CBA Round 2

Red Sox brass had what Scott Boras called a "purely social, almost quaint" meeting with Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Dice-K:
I was surprised to have a dinner with them. Meeting the Boston owner, GM, and the manager is the most impressive thing during this trip. I feel close to becoming a major league player.
Afterwards, Matsuzaka returned to Japan, leaving the negotiations to Boras.

Best Sports Blog: This blog finished 3rd in the first round of the 2006 Canadian Blog Awards (scroll way down), and thus moved on to the second and final round. Thanks to everyone who voted, and for those who didn't bother, I know who you are and where you live.
Best Sports Blog 

RaptorBlog (286) 27%
The Battle of Alberta (157) 15%
The Joy of Sox (101) 10%
Nascar Ranting and Raving Blog (77) 7%
James Mirtle (65) 6%
Round 2 voting begins on Saturday.

November 21, 2006

Morneau (!) Wins AL MVP

UPDATE: Every writer's ballot here.

That was a surprise.

Justin Morneau got 15 first-place votes and edged Derek Jeter (who had 12) 320-306. Johan Santana got the other first-place vote and finished 7th. ... All but 2 voters had Jeter either first or second.

David Ortiz finished third with 193 points: 1 2nd place vote, 11 for 3rd, 5 for 4th, 7 for 5th, 6 for 6th and 1 for 7th. ... Manny Ramirez received one vote each for 8th, 9th and 10th place.

It wasn't me: Travis Hafner received one 2nd place vote and someone voted Jeter 6th.

Get Out The Vote

Ryan Howard wins the NL MVP in a race (388-347) that was not quite as close as I anticipated. (AL MVP announced this afternoon.)

Also, today is the last day of Round 1 to vote for me for Best Sports Blog in the Canadian Blog Awards. ... Let's do it! Yeeeearrgh!

November 19, 2006

AL MVP?

The American League Most Valuable Player will be announced on Tuesday.

Derek Jeter easily topped the MVP voting at Baseball Prospectus (from both the staff and public) and he won the Aaron Award as the AL's top offensive player. This gives me a pretty good feeling that he'll also be the favourite of the BBWAA.

Back in mid-September, many scribes proclaimed Jeter as the logical choice, especially after David Ortiz missed eight games with heart palpitations. In mid-September, Bob Ryan of the Globe wrote: "It would be a mockery to anoint anyone else."

However, even with Papi's time off, Jeter played in only three more games (154 to 151), so there is no reason why Ortiz's absence should count against him. Nevertheless, The Man himself has no expectations of winning: "Apparently, a designated hitter doesn't win it ... I was very frustrated in 2004 when I didn't win the award, but I don't think about that anymore."

So, after finishing the second-best season of his career, the Yankee shortstop and captain is the favourite. For Red Sox fans, the discussion can perhaps be boiled down to this question(s): Was Jeter the most valuable player in the American League in 2006? (And if not, who was?)

The first problem -- and perhaps the biggest obstacle -- is figuring out exactly what a "Valuable Player" is. The voting standards on the official ballot are open to multiple interpretations. Ryan admitted that the concept is nebulous:
How much stock are we really supposed to put in the word "valuable"? Is "valuable" actually a synonym for "irreplaceable," and if that's the case, why should a player be penalized if his team has an adequate substitute for him, thus rendering him less "irreplaceable"? I must tell you I have a real problem when people harp on this word "valuable," as opposed to, for example, "outstanding." I'd like to introduce another word: worthy. Most Worthy Player. How does that sound?"
Not much better. "Worth" is no easier to pin down than "value".

Here's my definition of the MVP: If I was building a team for 2007, my MVP would be the guy I would choose first if I was guaranteed his 2006 performance.

I looked at ten worthy contenders -- Jeter, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, and Travis Hafner -- and looked at how they did in three categories: hitting, fielding, baserunning. (Johan Santana will get some much-deserved votes, and he's in my Top 10, but I'm looking only at non-pitchers.)

Here are some basic hitting stats and each player's ranking among AL hitters (I've listed them by OPS):
           AVG  R   OBP  R   SLG  R    OPS  R
Hafner .308 17 .439 2 .659 1 1.097 1
Ramirez .321 8 .439 1 .619 4 1.058 2
Ortiz .287 38 .413 7 .636 2 1.049 3
Thome .288 37 .416 5 .598 5 1.014 4
Dye .315 12 .385 12 .622 3 1.006 5
Giambi .253 71 .413 6 .558 7 .971 6
Mauer .347 1 .429 3 .507 20 .936 7
Morneau .321 7 .375 18 .559 6 .934 8
Rodriguez .290 32 .392 9 .523 14 .914 13
Jeter .343 2 .417 4 .483 29 .900 15
Jeter finished second in the AL in batting average and 4th in OBP, but his lack of power gives him the lowest OPS of these 10 players. His slugging percentage was a distant 29th -- 176 points behind Hafner.

Of Jeter's 214 hits, 158 of them -- 74% -- were singles. By comparison, Hafner had 47% (66 of 140), Ortiz 47% (75 of 160) and Manny 56% (81 of 144). Mark Loretta, who appeared to hit only singles this year, had 79% (143 of 181).

Baseball Reference's Top 10 in OPS+ (which is park-adjusted):
Hafner    183
Ramirez 168
Ortiz 164
Thome 156
Giambi 154
Dye 152
Mauer 144
Guerrero 144
Thomas 141
Morneau 140
Jeter came in at 138.

Runs Created as calculated by Baseball Reference, The Hardball Times and ESPN (and each player's AL ranking):
           BR  R   THT  R    ESPN  R
Jeter 123 8 138 1 128.2 3
Ortiz 146 1 127 2 141.8 1
Thome 122 9 124 4 122.8 5
Morneau 125 6 121 5 119.7 8
Hafner 130 2 121 6 124.4 4
Dye 128 3 120 8 120.4 7
Rodriguez 116 117 9 113.5 13
Ramirez 124 7 112 15 116.7 11
Giambi 100 111 16 106.5 20
Mauer 114 106 20 107.6 19
THT says its formula is "the most complicated version, which includes the impact of hitting well with runners in scoring position, and is adjusted for ballpark impact", so I ranked the hitters according to them.

Grady Sizemore was #3 at THT (124), #4 at BR (128) and #2 at ESPN (134.1). ... And even though he missed all of September, Hafner did amazingly well.

Runs Created per 27 Outs (ranked according to THT):
           BREF    THT  R   ESPN  R
Hafner 10.77 10.4 1 10.31 1
Ramirez 10.24 9.9 2 9.64 2
Thome 9.15 9.6 3 9.21 4
Jeter 7.58 9.1 4 7.90 7
Giambi 7.71 9.0 5 8.22 6
Dye 8.77 8.8 6 8.25 5
Ortiz 9.50 8.6 7 9.23 3
Mauer 8.23 8.4 8 7.76 8
Morneau 7.92 8.1 9 7.59 9
Rodriguez 7.18 7.8 11 7.03 15
Jeter had the third-most PA in the AL (715), so this rate stat bumps him down a bit. According to BR, a lineup of 9 Hafners would score nearly 3.2 more runs per nine innings than a lineup of 9 Jeters -- and Giambi was actually the top hitter in the Yankees' lineup. (What's with the differences in Jeter's and Giambi's THT numbers?)

Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average (EQA) (and Al ranking):
            EQA   AL
Hafner .355 1
Ramirez .342 2
Ortiz .334 3
Thome .328 4
Giambi .326 5
Mauer .321 6
Dye .320 7
Jeter .316 8
Rodriguez .311 10
Morneau .308 13
EQA measures "total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching." EQA also considers baserunning, but not fielding, and "is deliberately set to approximate that of batting average".

SABR member Bill Gilbert compiled the 2006 leaders in Bases Per Plate Appearance (BPA). This is the formula: (TB + BB + HB + SB - CS - GIDP) / (AB + BB + HB + SF). Here are the 14 MLB players with a BPA over .600 in 2006:
Hafner    .703
Howard .700
Pujols .694
Ortiz .681
Beltran .667
Thome .659
Berkman .658
Ramirez .654
Dye .637
Giambi .634
Soriano .632
Sizemore .605
Johnson .604
Cabrera .604
and six more with a .600+ BPA, but who did not have enough plate appearances to qualify:
Luke Scott     .667
Barry Bonds .647
Chipper Jones .629
Ryan Theriot .621
Chris Duncan .615
David Ross .613
(This was Manny's 9th straight season over .600.) I emailed Gilbert and asked for the BPA of the other AL players we are looking at. Putting them together:
Hafner    .703
Ortiz .681
Thome .659
Ramirez .654
Dye .637
Giambi .634
Sizemore .605

Morneau .573
Rodriguez .573
Jeter .562
Mauer .535
Regarding Mauer, Gilbert wrote: "Not much power and too many GIDP."

One stat in which Jeter led the AL was Win Shares, a complicated formula invented by Bill James. Here are each player's batting and fielding WS and their rounded total:
          Bat  Fld  WS    WSP
Jeter 28.0 4.6 33 .882
Mauer 21.3 9.5 31 .970
Ortiz 29.3 0.1 29 1.093
Ramirez 26.9 2.1 29 1.008
Morneau 25.5 2.0 27 .765
Ibanez 24.0 3.1 27 .737
Guillen 21.5 4.3 26 .769
Dye 23.7 2.8 26 .812
Thome 25.9 0.0 26 1.089
Young 18.5 7.7 26 .679
Hafner, Sizemore, Santana and Slappy all had 25 WS. (In the NL, Pujols (39), Beltran (38), Berkman (34) and Cabrera (34) topped every AL player.) Note: James explains that Win Shares do not discriminate against players on losing teams on pages 168-173 of his book Win Shares.

The WS stats come from The Hardball Times, which says it has "tweaked James' original formula somewhat".

Jeter topped the AL in WS, but when we look at Win Shares Percent (WSP) -- a measure of the player's contribution, given his playing time -- he drops to 5th on our list.

Jeter also led the AL in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), which measures "the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances." However, when we adjust for playing time and look at VORPr (runs per game), Jeter slips a bit:
          VORP Rank   VORPr  Rank
Jeter 80.5 1 .498 3
Hafner 79.7 2 .611 1
Ortiz 76.8 3 .494 4
Mauer 66.9 5 .470 5
Ramirez 66.1 7 .523 2
Dye 64.6 9 .458 6
Thome 62.6 11 .445 8
Morneau 52.0 13 .336 16
Rodriguez 51.6 14 .339 15
Giambi 47.4 19 .363 14
Looking back at Bob Ryan's article asserting Jeter's worthiness as MVP, he wrote:
The numbers are all in order, right down to categories such as hitting with runners in scoring position and late-inning pressure averages. ... In a season of great Yankees turmoil, he was the absolute rock, the absolute leader, the absolute irreplaceable man. He was, in short, the most worthy player in the American League.
Here is how our candidates hit with runners in scoring position (minimum 150 PA and ranked by AL OPS):
           AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  AL
Hafner .305 .472 .718 1.189 1
Thome .336 .468 .690 1.158 2
Giambi .271 .485 .662 1.147 3
Dye .351 .421 .716 1.138 4
Ramirez .323 .471 .605 1.076 5
Jeter .381 .482 .581 1.063 6
Mauer .360 .497 .544 1.041 9
Morneau .323 .401 .575 .976 13
Ortiz .288 .429 .538 .967 14
Rodriguez .302 .431 .508 .939 19
Jeter finished #2 in batting average (behind Michael Young, .412), #3 in OBP and #10 in slugging. His slugging with RISP was 43 points higher than Ortiz. (Albert Pujols led all major leaguers with a .535 OBP, .802 SLG, and 1.337 OPS with RISP -- and his .397 BA was second to Young.)

"Close and Late" are plate appearances "in the seventh or later inning with the score tied or one team leading by a run; or with the tying run on base, at the plate, or on deck." Again, here are our 10 hitters (minimum 75 PA ranked by AL OPS):
           AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  AL
Hafner .411 .522 .821 1.343
Ortiz .314 .443 .756 1.199 1
Ramirez .262 .459 .525 .983 7
Giambi .222 .421 .556 .977 8
Dye .299 .351 .582 .933
Morneau .299 .343 .540 .884 15
Thome .188 .409 .469 .878 16
Mauer .288 .419 .452 .871 17
Jeter .325 .434 .434 .868 18
Rodriguez .237 .326 .368 .694 56
Hafner (69) and Dye (73) did not have 75 PA, but I put them in the OPS ranking. This confirms Ortiz's standing as a guy who delivers when tight games are in the late innings. Thome and Giambi don't hit but they walk a lot -- and Slappy doesn't do much of anything.

A hitter's RBIs are subject to how many of his teammates are on base ahead of him. BP has a stat called OBI% -- the percentage of all runners on base batted in. Here are our MVP candidates and how they finished in the AL (with PA, ROB (runners on base for the player) and OBI (RBI-HR)):
           PA  ROB OBI   OBI%  AL
Morneau 661 469 96 20.5% 1
Hafner 564 382 75 19.6% 4
Jeter 715 444 83 18.7% 8
Mauer 608 397 71 17.9% 11
Dye 611 430 76 17.7% 13
Thome 610 389 67 17.2% 15
Ortiz 686 485 83 17.1% 18
Giambi 579 410 70 17.0% 21
Ramirez 558 406 67 16.5% 27
Rodriguez 674 534 86 16.1% 32
Is this a better definition of clutch? If so, Jeter tops Papi. Jeter and Ortiz each drove in 83 teammates, but look at their opportunities: even though Ortiz had 29 fewer trips to the plate than Jeter, he batted with 41 more runners on base. When it came to driving in runs, Jeter took better advantage of his situations than Ortiz.

More comparison of Jeter and Ortiz:
        AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS  OPS+  EQA
Jeter .343 .417 .483 .900 138 .316
Ortiz .287 .413 .636 1.049 164 .334

RS RBI BB K RC RC/27 VORP
Jeter 118 97 69 102 123 7.58 79.2
Ortiz 115 137 119 117 146 9.50 75.8
Ortiz makes up for the .056 difference in batting average (which says a single and a home run are equal) by drawing 50 more walks, thus making their OBPs roughly the same. Ortiz was obviously the better slugger, creating 23 additional runs in 29 fewer plate appearances. EQA gives Jeter credit for his stolen bases, but Ortiz still comes out comfortably ahead.

Manny and Jeter:
          AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS  OPS+  EQA
Jeter .343 .417 .483 .900 138 .316
Ramirez .321 .439 .619 1.058 168 .342

RS RBI BB K RC RC/27 VORP
Jeter 118 97 69 102 123 7.58 79.2
Ramirez 79 102 100 102 124 10.24 66.1
Re Jeter's 2006 OPS+ of 138: Manny has never had an OPS+ lower than 143 in any of his 12 full seasons. Ramirez's overall numbers are even more impressive when you learn that Boston's #5 hitters -- the guys batting behind Manny -- were far and away the worst in the AL -- putting up .231/.321/.362 line.

Fielding

Since several of our candidates -- Ortiz, Hafner, Thome -- are DHs, we should ask whether Jeter's MVP chances are helped by his performance at shortstop.

One note: Fielding percentage is just about worthless -- and has been for more than 100 years. A player will not make an error on a ball he can't get to -- he also won't record an out. I'll quickly note that of the nine qualifying AL shortstops, Jeter was 4th in fielding percentage -- middle of the pack -- before we all agree that FP should be immediately retired and never mentioned again (are you listening, Remdawg?).

Fielding statistics remain imprecise, but they are improving. Two of the best known are Range Factor (putouts and assists divided by innings) and Zone Rating (the percentage of balls fielded in the player's defensive zone):
            INN     TC   PO  A   E    RF   ZR
Peralta 1275.1 710 235 459 16 4.90 .817
Young 1356.1 747 241 492 14 4.86 .836
Uribe 1130.0 604 217 373 14 4.70 .868
Tejada 1294.2 675 238 418 19 4.56 .824
Berroa 1117.1 573 188 367 18 4.47 .791
Betancourt 1374.1 701 251 430 20 4.46 .806
Guillen 1235.0 634 178 428 28 4.42 .832
Cabrera 1321.2 645 253 376 16 4.29 .818
Jeter 1292.1 610 214 381 15 4.14 .810
Jeter finished last in RF and 7th in ZR. Among 24 qualifying MLB shortstops (playing 2 of every 3 games), Jeter was 19th. Alex Gonzalez did not play enough to meet the qualifications, but here are his fielding stats (and Alex Cora's):
           INN     TC   PO  A   E    RF   ZR
Jeter 1292.1 610 214 381 15 4.14 .810
Gonzalez 966.1 475 163 305 7 4.36 .863
Cora 434.0 239 66 167 6 4.83 .859
An infielder's RF will be affected if his team's pitching staff allows a higher percentage of ground balls or fly balls, but in Jeter's 11 full seasons, his RF has been above the league average only 4 times (1996, 1997, 2004, 2005). In the last 7 years, Jeter's RF/9 was higher than the league average only once (2005).

Finally, Jhonny Peralta played 17 fewer innings than Jeter in 2006, but he got to 100 more balls. And although Jeter played 162 more innings than Juan Uribe, he handled only six more chances. At a minimum, Jeter would have to be above average in the field to get any push towards the MVP, and I don't see any evidence that he was.

Jeter is a very smart and good baserunner. Here are the stolen base stats for our players, ranked by steals:
           SB  CS   SB%
Jeter 34 5 87.2
Rodriguez 15 4 78.9
Mauer 8 3 72.7
Dye 7 3 70.0
Morneau 3 3 50.0
Giambi 2 0 100.0
Ortiz 1 0 100.0
Hafner 0 0 0.0
Thome 0 0 0.0
Ramirez 0 1 0.0
The breakeven point for stealing second base is approximately 73% -- anything lower than that, and the player is harming his team. Jeter is clearly the best baserunner of the gang. But a player's baserunning is already factored into his EQA -- and Jeter was 8th in the AL in EQA.

Back in September, Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal wrote:
What's harder to see is the resolve, the grit, the fact that Jeter always comes to play, through the good times and the bad, the fact that it's always been Jeter that gives this team it's [sic] toughness. Maybe there is no more enduring image of his heart than the night against the Red Sox in 2004 when he chased a foul ball into the box seats, the ultimate example of hustle.
Maybe ... but that was 2.5 years ago. (And why couldn't you see that "Jeter always comes to play"? He's right there on the field!)

Reynolds notes that although Jeter has
benefited by being on a great team throughout his career ... by always being a part of the ensemble, never having to carry a team on his back, ... never been a guy who puts up the big power numbers, the kind of hits that get on highlight films. ... [But] Jeter is having one of his best seasons, in a year when this Yankee team so needed him to have one. Are there any better MVP credentials than that?
Yes, Bill, there are better credentials. Ortiz had a great season when his team really needed him to have one. Same with all of the other players. Every team needs its best players to have as great a season as possible -- that's pretty basic stuff. Jeter can be as gritty, tough and hearty as humanly possible, but if he doesn't create runs for his team, it won't make a damn bit of difference in the standings.

There was no player in the AL with significant fielding skills that also put up strong batting numbers, so I went mostly with hitting. A fewmonths ago, when I first mentioned doing a long MVP post, I had Hafner and Ramirez in mind for MVP. And even though they both missed games in September -- Hafner broke his right hand on September 1 -- they remain my top 2 choices.

Hafner has led the AL in OPS+ for each of the last three seasons, and he's gotten better each year: 158, 170, 183. And despite Ortiz's numerous game-winning hits, Manny gets the nod for simply being a more productive hitter.
1. Hafner
2. Ramirez
3. Ortiz
4. Santana
5. Jeter