October 31, 2003

Manny Clears Waivers. After spending 48 hours on irrevocable waivers, Ramirez remains the property of the Red Sox. MLB; AP. ... The team did not release a statement, but owner John Henry posted here at 3:02 pm: "We know sometimes it's very difficult having faith in management, especially when information is limited ... Hang in there, the offseason has barely begun."
Countdown. Jeff Moorad (Manny's agent) said he and Ramirez were caught somewhat by surprise by the irrevocable waivers decision, although Moorad did say he's been "holding steady talks with the Red Sox front office for several months." There have also been reports (Gammons and Shaughnessy) that Manny asked the Red Sox to explore a trade (ideally to the Yankees) or putting him on waivers. Perhaps it was the "irrevocable" part that surprised them. Moorad: "He'll be just fine if he's back in Boston next season. He always expressed a desire to play for the Yankees, and in a strange twist of fate, the Red Sox certainly gave him an opportunity to make that happen, although it seems unlikely to me it will. You certainly can't fault the Red Sox for creating a mechanism for that opportunity to come about."

Gordon Edes runs through the few teams that would claim Manny -- Yankees, Orioles, Mets, Dodgers, Atlanta, Phillies, White Sox, Cubs, Angels -- and rules them all out. ... Three Sox players talk. Millar: "Manny is a great player, but if he doesn't want to pull on the same rope as the rest of his teammates, then, you know what, he can go somewhere where he can be happy. We continually hear he's not happy in Boston." ... Burkett: "The guy is one of the greatest hitters in the game. The only problem is, it seems the days of the $20 million contract could be gone for a while. I still find it odd they're willing to give him up for nothing." ... Ortiz: "He always came out and said, 'I want to be traded.' I never asked him what his reasons were. But one thing I'll never understand as long as I'm in Boston is why people criticize the players so much."

There is some disagreement about Manny and his feelings about Boston. Bob Hohler says Ramirez takes media and fan criticism personally (contrary to the oft-peddled image of Space Cadet Manny) and "high-ranking team sources have said he privately complains far more than they would have imagined." Yet Steve Mandl, his high school baseball coach, said: "You'd think that if he ends up back in Boston next season, a thing like this would bother him, but he's not like the rest of us. He doesn't get hurt feelings because he doesn't care that much. If he has a place to go and a game to play in, that's all that matters to Manny." Moorad agrees, and has previously dismissed reports of any unhappiness, yet Ortiz, Ramirez's closest friend on the team, says Manny "always" wanted to be traded.

The New York Post claims "Boston sources" are saying the Red Sox would like to swing a three-way trade that would bring Alex Rodriguez to Fenway and send Nomar Garciaparra to an unidentified (West Coast?) third team. The Rangers would acquire Casey Fossum and other players from the team that gets Nomar. The Post adds: "The Red Sox are fed up with both Garciaparra and Ramirez." ... The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also reports that the Rangers and Red Sox have spoken about a possible deal. One source said any talk of Texas trading Rodriguez was "very premature" and another source estimated the possibility of a trade at about "20 percent." One possible deal would be Garciaparra and prospects for Rodriguez. ... One Rangers official commented privately that he expects Rodriguez to be playing for another team next season.

New York coverage of Manny: Times, Daily News (and here), Post (and here) and Newsday (and here). ... Also, the Los Angeles Times.

Michael Gee writes in the Herald: "The Red Sox' decision to put Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers is an idea that tests the boundaries of weird. It strongly suggests the Boston franchise has cast planning to the wind and blindly is flailing about in the aftermath of a difficult defeat." ... Gee is either disingenious or he's trying to fuel resentment against the Red Sox front office, because if he bothered to read any other coverage, including his own paper, he would understand exactly what's going on. Tim Daloisio elaborates: "I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox front office does not have detailed decision trees mapped out on the walls of their offices in Fenway Park with every possible scenario and outcome mapped out. Given that the most likely scenario after having placed Manny on waivers was that he would clear them, one can only hope that this is exactly what the Red Sox wanted to happen, setting off a chain of events that they have mapped out on the ideal branch of their decision tree."

Throughout this whole discussion, the issue of "payroll flexibility" has been paramount. Henry/Lucchino/Epstein believe that not having to pay Ramirez approximately $20 million a season for the next five years would free up money to get players who would presumably add more overall production to the team. Bill Reynolds writes that Manny's contract "hurts the club's ability to go out in the free-agent market and make the team better. ... robbing management of flexibility, negatively impacting their ability to be creative." Clearly, having that money would give Boston more wiggle room, but that only makes sense if H/L/E is set on not increasing the current payroll, now at about $100 million.

With increased revenues from the park, why wouldn't the team be willing to increase its payroll to $120-125 million? If H/L/E are not comfortable paying Ramirez for the rest of his contract (2004-08), then they have to move him now before his skills decline, because when his batting production drops, he's going to be no good to anyone. And various comments in the past week or so bear this out. Lucchino told a Boston radio station "One of the biggest mistakes you can make in management is to fall in love with your veterans" and Theo has mentioned how huge contracts can hamstring a franchise.

Putting Ramirez on waivers shows that they are willing to lose the slugger if it means ridding themselves of 100% of the contract, but because that's not likely to happen, if H/L/E try to trade Ramirez, they'll have to eat a decent portion of his salary. There may be teams that would like Ramirez at $12 million and they are waiting until the deadline passes and then they can approach Boston about a deal. The Red Sox won't know how much they'll have to absorb until the upper-tier free agents have been signed this winter, though the waiver move has established that free-agent salaries will not approach $20 million. Of course, if Boston waits until January and if (for example) they signed Guerrero, they'd likely be at a bigger disadvantage than they are now.

Other stuff: David Heuschkel on Byung-Hyun Kim: "Given that Epstein had his eyes on Kim for a long time, it's doubtful the Red Sox would give up on him ... A team official described the results of a recent MRI on Kim's shoulder as clean. His ego healed the day Grady Little was fired. Kim, who wasn't happy in the bullpen and was in the manager's doghouse, might be the only player on the team who wasn't disappointed to see Little go." I fully expect Kim (who is still only 24) in the starting rotation next season. ... Jim Baker of ESPN notes that Davey Johnson would be "a good candidate for the Red Sox [because] he is one of the first managers to embrace statistical analysis as a helpful tool in running a ballclub. (One of the more amusing things in baseball in the mid-'80s was reading old school writers expressing their outrage at the presence of computers and computer printouts in the dugout. Of course, Earl Weaver had been carrying his famous three-by-five cards with player stats and tendencies on them for years and the only difference between them and a computer printout was the means by which they were generated.)

October 30, 2003

Pack Rats. Homer and Langley Collyer lived in a four-story brownstone on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 128th Street in Harlem for much of the 1930's and 40's. According to Franz Lidz: "The elderly Collyers were well-to-do sons of a prominent Manhattan gynecologist and an opera singer. Homer had been Phi Beta Kappa at Columbia, where he earned his degree in admiralty law. Langley was a pianist who had performed at Carnegie Hall. The brothers had moved to Harlem in 1909 when they were in their 20's and the neighborhood was a fashionable, and white, suburb of Manhattan. They became more and more reclusive as the neighborhood went shabby on them, booby-trapping their home with midnight street pickings and turning it into a sealed fortress of ephemera, 180 tons of it by the end." ... Last year, I did some preliminary research centering on March 1947, when city authorities began emptying out the house following reports of the death of one of the brothers, with the idea of possibly writing a book. But Lidz has already done that; "Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders" has just been published.
Yankees Not Interested. An industry source told Gordon Edes of the Globe that the Yankees have "absolutely no interest whatsoever'' in picking up Ramirez off waivers. Teams have until 2 p.m. Friday to make a claim; other teams said to have an interest include the Dodgers, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the Mets. ... Buster Olney reports the same thing. But why is Manny listed as the Diamondbacks 3B?
Mannyball. What I think the Red Sox are thinking is similar to what Billy Beane tried to do when Jason Giambi left Oakland as a free agent after 2001. Moneyball gets into it on page 141:

"The A's front office realized right away, of course, that they couldn't replace Jason Giambi with another first baseman just like him. There wasn't another first baseman just like him and if there were they couldn't have afforded him and in any case that's not how they thought about the holes they had to fill. 'The important thing is not to recreate the individual,' Billy Beane would later say. 'The important thing is to recreate the aggregate.' He coudn't and wouldn't find another Jason Giambi; but he could find the pieces of Giambi he could least afford to be without, and buy them for a tiny fraction of the cost of Giambi himself."

Like replacing Giambi, replacing Manny would have little to do with foot speed and fielding ability. What Boston would have to replace is the OBP and SLG. Or, I suppose, improve the pitching staff to such a degree that the amount of offense needed to be replaced would be less. That could be done by getting 2-3 players with less-than-household names for less than $20 million. ... I still don't like this idea -- it's a huge gamble (signing any free agents is aways off; teams are forbidden to talk to anyone until mid-November) and I want Manny to stay in Boston -- but it does make a certain amount of sense from a financial standpoint.

And, from the main SoSH discussion:

12:43 pm: "Supposedly word out of [New York sports radio station] WFAN is that George has given the orders to claim Manny, stay tuned."
Manny. Reports in the New York Times, Herald, Globe, Projo, Courant and MLB. ... Peter Gammons: "Ramirez talked to the club at the end of the season and expressed that while he likes the Red Sox and Boston, he wouldn't mind seeing what there was in a trade, with his home (New York) an enticing option." ... Rob Neyer lays out his reasons why the Yankees would not (and probably will not) grab Ramirez.

While there is not much to do but wait until the waiver deadline of midnight Friday, there is plenty of discussion here and here and here and here and here. ... Earlier this morning, Art Martone posted this: "It's patently obvious -- and I'm saying this in the absolute knowledge that this is true -- that the view held of Manny Ramirez in the executive suite (and the clubhouse) is very different than the view held of Manny Ramirez by most of the fans. When "throatgate" occured in late August/early September, many media outlets -- including ours -- reported that this incident was merely the tip of a very large Ramirez iceburg. [And we don't pretend to know all, or even most, of what went on ... we heard, and were told, enough to believe that it was true.]"

Ramirez has five years and $104 million remaining on his contract. He is scheduled to earn $20.5 million in 2004, $20 million in 2005, $19 million in 2006, $18 million in 2007 and $20 million in 2008. His club options for 2009 and 2010 are each worth $20 million.

I was in shock last night, but now I realize I have to take a deep breath and wait and see. No one from the Red Sox (or Manny himself) have offered any comment at all, and what the Red Sox roster looks like on April 1 is more important than what it looks like on November 1. I would hate to lose Ramirez as a hitter, but I also understand what the Red Sox are trying to do (or hope to do). None of their moves to date have given me reason to doubt their desire to win a championship. They have not done anything impulsive or without thinking through the implications within the American League; the possible fallout with the fans is a distant concern. So while it wasn't the best timing (on the same day tickets prices are raised and Elias named Ramirez as the second best player in baseball in 2003), I'll reserve comment until the deadline has passed. One thing is for sure -- this got Gump off the sports pages in a hurry! ... The Red Sox also announced a tentative schedule for 2004.

October 29, 2003

Manny Update. From Art Martone (at 12:10 am): "According to Curry, the Yankees are having internal discussions as to whether or not they should claim Ramirez. Curry also quotes several unnamed major league executives who are puzzled by the move, other than to say the Sox must be extremely anxious to get out from under Ramirez' contract. Sean McAdam's story should be posted on projo.com in about an hour. We've only spoken briefly and I'm not sure how much of what he told me is on the record. (Which is to say, I'm unsure about how much of what he was told is on the record.) But it *is* true, and the Sox are willing to let Ramirez go if someone claims him. (And, just to make it absolutely clear, if no one claims him then Ramirez stays with the Sox. They could, theoretically, release him, but dumping the contract is one of the reasons behind all this then releasing him makes zero sense.)" ... Right now at projo, there is a photo caption (under a photo that is not Manny) that reads: "Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez has worn out his welcome with Boston management, who are eager to dump his salary to use for other free-agent talent."
Red Sox Place Manny Ramirez On Irrevocable Waivers. At 10:35 this evening, Art Martone, the sports editor of the Providence Journal, posted this to Sons of Sam Horn: "The New York Times just moved a story, by Jack Curry, that says the Red Sox have placed Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers. ... What it means -- if the story's true -- is that if another team claims him before Friday, they own him, contract and all. If no one claims him, the Sox still retain him. But irrevocable means that the Sox can't pull him back if someone claims him. They're not doing this to gauge trade interest, in other words; they're doing it, apparently, to get out from under the contract." Fifteen minutes later, Art posted that the story was accurate. ... I'm in shock. There are few teams which have the $$ to claim Manny and one of them lost the World Series to Florida.
Gordon Edes Chat Notes. The Boston Globe writer held a live chat Wednesday at Sons of Sam Horn after answering questions submitted beforehand (transcript). Some of his comments:

"Grady insists that there was a consensus in the dugout prior to his [Pedro's] going to the mound in the eighth. ... I am told on very good authority that Dave Wallace's input was to remind Grady to have Embree ready for Matsui if the eighth inning got that far. And Jason Varitek insisted that he expected Pedro to take the hill in the eighth. ... I spoke with one person who was [in the clubhouse] immediately after the game who said it was the most devastated clubhouse he had ever seen. Grady cleared the clubhouse of all but his players and coaches and talked to them for a few minutes ... When we got in there, the place was still dead silent, with Tim Wakefield crying in one corner and Pedro slumped at his seat, dead eyes staring blankly ahead of him. It was tough. ...

"You got to figure they'll look at Millwood and Ponson ... explore trade possibilities for Javier Vazquez, and maybe take another run at Freddy Garcia. But I think they also have great interest in some of the Dodgers' young pitching, especially Edwin Jackson. ... I'd be shocked if Walker is retained. ... [Luis] Castillo would seem to be a likely object of their affections, though one Sox player with NL experience told me he thought Castillo was too soft for this market. ... If the Sox can't get the second baseman they want, they'd move Mueller to second and go after a third baseman. John Henry loves Mike Lowell ...

"They're prepared to let Pedro walk after next season. They'll make him an offer, but it will be short in years and dough, and he'll move on. They will make every effort to sign Garciaparra ... Varitek to me is the heart of this club; they'll keep him through next season ... They'll make an offer to Lowe, but for short years, and risk losing him at the end of next season. Nixon is the puzzle, for me. He had a great year, his trade value may never be higher, and they may think it's easier to replace a corner OF. ... From what I've heard about Dierker, he was even more casual about pregame preparation than Grady. ... Joe Madden intrigues me [as possible manager], Scioscia's bench coach, minor league manager, stats savvy, personable. Personally, I'd get a kick out of bringing in Whitey [Herzog] for a year, with Hoffman as a bench coach, groomed to be his successor. My No. 1 choice, probably would be Leyland, but i think he's too happy coaching his kid."
If You Read Only One Grady Article ... John Tomase has written what is by far the best summation of Grady's management style, his perceived faults and why he is currently unemployed (and probably will remain unemployed if this article gets any circulation at all).

Both David Heuschkel and Michael Silverman mention Glenn Hoffman (Sox attempted to interview him before hiring Little in 2002), Bud Black (Angels pitching coach), Terry Francona (A's bench coach and former Phillies manager) as three strong candidates. Rico Brogna on Francona: "He's a very personable guy. I think at the beginning, he might even tell you he was a little too player friendly to win over the players. ... He will do statistical analysis. But I think he has such a good feel for the game because of his playing days. He can do a little of everything. He's a tireless worker. His work ethic is phenomenal." Joe Maddon, the Angels' computer-savvy bench coach, is "absolutely" interested in the Red Sox vacancy. "If computers were available when Branch Rickey was alive, he'd have made them popular 50 years ago. ... We take advantage of technology in every other facet of life and we're going to disdain it in sports? I don't get that." ... Silverman notes that "Little remains a possibility for the Yankees' bench coach job, replacing Don Zimmer as manager Joe Torre's right-hand man." I can't tell if he's serious. Can't Gump replace Torre instead? Please?

Hot Stove Logs: Alfonso Soriano for Carlos Beltran? The White Sox say goodbye to Bartolo Colon. ... BlogWatch: Lucchino's comments to WEEI. ... Bronx Banter has several good links and Aaron Gleeman is always worth reading. ... Does God really help Andy Pettitte win baseball games? ... Patriotism at the Ballpark.

From two Boston Herald pay columns:

Howard Bryant: "[T]he biggest reason the fun of 2003 has dissipated is that Sox principal owner John Henry clearly did not enjoy this 95-win journey, and the postscript to the season now contains a revisionist element of the summer. Henry wanted Little out, unhappy with his methods and his lack of reliance on data, and became convinced the team was winning despite the on-field decisions of the manager. When Pedro Martinez was lauded for his gutsy 128-pitch win against Tampa in late September, Henry was furious that his manager would gas his pitcher to beat a 99-loss team. Henry said Martinez would be spent for his next start in Cleveland, and that was Grady's fault. Even when Martinez pitched well against the Indians, Henry could not be mollified, for this was another example of a season's worth of Little costing his team a chance to win today, and more importantly with Martinez, tomorrow. Sources say Henry is now convinced that the high, late-season pitch counts may have weakened Martinez in the postseason. ... the braintrust is still fuming over the June, Jim Thome game in Philadelphia ..."Memo to Braintrust: Me too.

Steve Buckley quotes Rick Burleson (who has managed for 8 years in the Reds minor league system): "[T]hey want a guy who has old-school values, who wants to take advantage of the new technology. I would love to be able to walk into my office and see all that information on my desk every day. Anybody would want to take advantage of all the information that's available now. I have always been very comfortable with the baseball climate in Boston. In a funny way, I was almost glad the Red Sox lost in the playoffs. Because for a long time now I've had this dream that I'm going to be the manager who helps lead the Red Sox to the World Series championship Boston has been looking for for a long time. How great it would be to be that guy."

What Century is this? Nick Cafardo of the Globe asked Cleveland coach Joel Skinner about managing in Boston; after noting the Sox are looking for a "new-breed" type of skipper, Cafardo writes: "Asked if he uses tools such as scouting reports and statistics in his decision-making, Skinner said, 'Sure. It's very important, but there are many tools you use as a manager depending on the situation.'" ... Are scouting reports now thought of as a tool used by new-breed stat geeks? This reminds me of Tony Cloninger proudly telling the media he had no idea how to turn a computer on or off.

Six months ago, George W. Bush spoke on an aircraft carrier deck under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished"; now he claims the White House had nothing to do with the sign. "The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious, by the way." (WH) A few hours later, the White House admitted there was a link.

I can't blame Bush for wanting to distance himself from such a stupid stunt (and his flyboy outfit was as silly as Dukakis poking his head out of that tank). This lie has the feel of a child's refusal to take responsibility for anything, however trivial it might be. The best summary of the White House's theatrics was in the New York Times. The entire article is worth reading -- how White House aides spent days on the carrier blocking out camera angles, how they timed the speech so Bush would be cast in a golden evening glow, how crew members wore coordinated shirt colors behind Bush and how the carrier was positioned so the San Diego coastline would not be visible on camera -- but I'll snip one sentence: "White House officials say that a variety of people, including the president, came up with the idea ..." The Washington Post agreed: "Aides say the slogan was chosen in part to mark a presidential turn toward domestic affairs as his campaign for reelection approaches."

The Air Force Times: "The White House communications office, well known for the care it takes with the backdrops at Bush speeches, created the 'Mission Accomplished' banner in the same style as banners the president uses in other appearances, including one just a week before the carrier appearance in Canton, Ohio. That banner, with the same soft, brush-stroked American flag in the background and the identical typeface, read: 'Jobs and Growth.' The AFT also provided two pictures:

October 28, 2003

Newspeak. George W. Bush says the surge in attacks on American soliders in Iraq (up to 25-30 each day) is evidence that progress is being made. ... So the more soliders that die, the better things are going? Does that mean that if no Americans were being killed, the US would be failing? If Bush bothered to attend a serviceperson's funeral (maybe between fundraising jaunts), I'd like to see him explain his remarks to that dead soldier's parents. But "Bring 'Em On" Bush has not attended even one funeral. Finally, if more attacks and more death is progress, shouldn't the US stop trying to deter the attacks?

In last Sunday's New York Times, Philip Shenon reported that Thomas Kean, the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, is prepared to subpoena highly-classified documents that the White House refuses to turn over to the Commission. However, the Times violates Journalism Rule #1: never bury the lead. You've got to read Shenon's entire 1,340-word article to get to this quote from Kean: "As each day goes by, we learn that this government knew a whole lot more about these terrorists before Sept. 11 than it has ever admitted." ... The requested documents include the Presidential Daily Briefings — the summary prepared each morning by the CIA — that Bush received in the weeks before the attacks. The White House refused to provide those reports to House and Senate investigators last year for their investigation of the attacks. Bush has still refused to say if the White House will comply.

One of those CIA briefings, presented to Bush in July 2001 warned that Osama bin Laden was about to launch a terrorist strike "in the coming weeks ... The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning." ... So with that warning fresh in his mind, Bush left Washington for a month-long vacation -- August 4 through September 3, which would have broken a modern record for a presidential vacation. Cheney was also on vacation for all of August. And John Ashcroft began traveling exclusively by leased jet instead of commercial airlines beginning in late July, citing a threat assessment that has still not been explained. ... In defending the Patriot Act, Republicans say: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." So what's the big deal?

At some point between April and October 2003, the White House added virtually all of the directories with "Iraq" in them to its robots.txt file, meaning that search engines would no longer list those pages in results or archive them. Among the excluded files (a list) are these:
Disallow: /president/fallatwhitehouse/iraq
Disallow: /president/fallatwhitehouse/text
Are these pretzel-related files? ... Howard Dean's blog adds: "Earlier this year, the White House revised pages on its website claiming that 'combat' was over in Iraq, changing them to say 'major combat'."
Man Versus Machine? There was much more objectivity in the papers today than I expected. A sampling:

Michael Silverman: "According to club sources, some of the problems the Red Sox had with Little were that he did not call upon his coaches for enough input, there was not enough attention paid to offensive and defensive matchups, that game plans were cast aside when the game began, and in the Division Series with the A's, he did not have a meeting with his hitters to go over the A's pitchers. "

Gordon Edes: "The Sox no longer want to discover, to their dismay, that the manager, according to a team source, failed to hold a hitters' meeting before the Oakland playoff series, wasting countless hours of traditional scouting work and sophisticated video and statistical analysis that was done ostensibly to give the Sox an edge. ... It was not Little's managerial style to meticulously anticipate every game situation that might arise, and, armed with the best possible information -- some statistics-oriented, some not -- react to those situations in a manner that would satisfy an owner as mathematical in his world view as a John W. Henry. That is why the Sox are not being dishonest in their insistence that Little was not being cashiered because of what happened in Game 7 of the ALCS. They had reservations that extended back to his first season on the job, which is why they did not exercise his contract option this spring..."

Edes is also the first Boston writer to float the name of Whitey Herzog in print. In the spring of 2002, Herzog was offered the job as Joe Kerrigan's bench coach. "I turned that down because I knew it wasn't going to work. Hell, maybe I should have taken it, I'd have been manager by the end of spring training [instead of Grady]. ... You got a good club there. I thought you had a better team there than the Yankees." Herzog says he'll listen if the Red Sox call. Pick up the phone, Theo.

Michael Holley writes of "irreconcilable differences ... It was never personal. The gap occurred when the manager was gently asked -- and sometimes forcefully told -- how to prepare for games. ... They wanted a curious thinker, a man who never would stop prodding and poking. ... Little listened to his bosses during these sessions, but he is not that kind of manager. If there is a legitimate criticism of him, it is that he should have tried harder to do what they wanted. If there is a legitimate criticism of them, it is that they should have quickly known what he was when they interviewed him."

Bob Hohler: "Principal owner John W. Henry, who believed Little too often made tactical decisions without adequately applying the vast statistical resources the team provided him, 'took the position well before the post-season that the club may need to question a long-term commitment to its manager,' ... The decision cleared the way for a wide-ranging search for a manager who possesses Little's deft touch in handling the players and media in one of baseball's most demanding markets but who also gives greater weight to the volumes of quantitative analysis developed by senior adviser Bill James and his statistical specialists. ... Despite the front office's unhappiness with Little's use of statistics, Lucchino said the Sox are not seeking a slave to computer analysis. 'This is not going to be a stat geeks organization, nor is it going to be an organization run by old salty dog baseball traditionalists,' Lucchino said. 'It's going to be an organization that mixes and matches and has balance and employs all the tools that might be available.'

Gerry Callahan: "The Sox expect to be in the playoffs again next year and the year after that. Grady says he'll be there to haunt them, but the Sox' owners can live with that. They saw him manage in a big game in October. Nothing can be as frightening as that."

Sean McAdam: "Said a club source: 'Grady wasn't fired for one wrong move. He was fired for the wrong way he went about making decisions.' ... Little was often reluctant to incorporate statistical data in making personnel decisions, lineup choices or in-game strategic moves. Additionally, communication with the coaching staff was often lacking, and management expressed dismay that input and scouting reports on players weren't disseminated to coaches."

Steven Krasner mentioned the June 21 nightmare in Philadelphia: "Very often, a game comes down to late-inning strategy. Specifically, how a manager runs his pitching staff is a major factor in the perception of how well he is doing his job. ... all along the way there were many moves made by Little that were of the head-scratching variety. ... One thing Little did often was stick with his starters longer than other managers. ... Little was slow in having relievers get up in the bullpen, generally waiting a batter too long before being able to get a favorable matchup. ... Every manager gets second-guessed. It goes with the territory. Other managers may look better from afar because you don't see each one of the thousands of decisions a manager has to make over the course of a season. But rest assured, if you spent a week with any manager, there would be some head-scratching. In the Sox' view, Little's strategic decisions during a game weren't made by using all of the tools at his beck and call."

Paul Doyle: "Henry and Epstein are unabashed fans of James, known for his unconventional ideas. James does not believe in the traditional use of a closer and values on-base percentage above most other statistics. James also opposes the use of the sacrifice bunt because he does not believing in giving up outs." ... I get the strong sense Doyle hasn't read James. James is fine with sacrificing in specific situations, but not as a knee-jerk reflex. Statistically, the odds of scoring a run with a man on first and none out and a man on second and one out are nearly identical, but after the bunt, you have one less out. And who knew getting on base as much as possible was "unconventional"?

Howard Bryant: "The bottom line in Boston is that men lost out to machines yesterday. The job Little did in massaging the disparate personalities of Ramirez, Timlin, Garciaparra, Martinez, et. al., was to Henry secondary to his refusal to write out his lineup based on the numbers."

Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can't it be both? Red Sox management clearly believes it's possible. Why employ someone who steadfastly continues to rely on only 50% of available resources? Every writer who posits this as man versus machine is doing nothing more than commenting on a battle that isn't being fought.

Naturally, there was some crap (here and here). And all Dan Shaughnessy needed to do was drop in a few quotes from the press conference and then tell everyone that of course -- wink wink nudge nudge -- we all know the Sox are lying. ... Several other writers, including this one, have mentioned McKeon likewise going with his gut in sticking with Beckett in Game 6 of the World Series. There is a big difference. One, Beckett is much younger than Pedro. Two, there is no way McKeon sits on his ass with a Gump-grin on his face as Beckett allows 3 or 4 line drive hits and the Yankees tied the game (or take the lead). No way.

BlogWatch: Bambino's Curse moves back to its original home for the off-season. ... Ben Jacobs takes Adrian Wojnarowski's latest ESPN column apart. ... Dwight's House: "Those evil statheads, run by Grand Poobah stathead Bill James have dispatched another Good Baseball Man. Little will get a job soon enough. ... happily staring into space as his starting pitcher dies on the mound ... That will always be Grady Little's baseball legacy in Boston. Grinning like an idiot, while the world collapses." ... Portland Sox Fan has a question for the writers who are incredulous that if Grady had taken the Red Sox to the World Series, he might still have been replaced: "What happened to Dusty Baker last year?"

The Yankees' off-season will likely be even busier than Boston's. I'd love to stay on top of the New York papers for tidbits, but I doubt I'll have the time. So far, we know Giambi loves porn and Zimmer won't return to the Yankees "even if they wanted to have a day for me." Don Zimmer Day at Yankee Stadium? Yeah, that'll happen. Maybe that tumble on the Fenway turf did screw him up after all. And one Yankee player blasted Giambi for not starting Game 5. Because this player apparently was with the Yankees in 1996 and 2003, it has to be Jeter, Williams, Pettitte, Nelson or Rivera.

October 27, 2003

It's Official. Grady Little is no longer employed by the Boston Red Sox. Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein answered questions for more than 30 minutes at a press conference Monday afternoon. I watched the NESN broadcast via the Web and the Red Sox said all the right things, emphasizing Grady's strengths numerous times and saying they understood the players' admiration and respect for him, but noting that in the end, there was not 100% support for giving Grady the multi-year deal he was looking for. Hopefully, MLB will post a transcript tomorrow.

Lucchino hinted that Grady was told as early as spring training that management had issues with certain aspects of his managerial style and hoped he could integrate the front office's philosophy into what he was already doing. Grady clearly didn't do that; whether he didn't or couldn't is debatable. I believe he never understood some of the progressive ideas the club believed in, starting with bullpen usage. Epstein said he wouldn't discuss the search for a new manager, but noted it would take a while, adding "Maybe we'll have a new manager when my hair grows back from the postseason debacle ... [pause] of my hair."

Lucchino and Epstein said numerous times the decision was not made solely because of Grady's Game 7 goof -- and anyone who watched more than a handful of Red Sox games should know Grady was chronically overmatched in game situations all season. But that won't stop most writers from looking at the number of Red Sox wins in 2002 and 2003 and wondering how Boston could dump such a nice successful skipper over one bad decision. ... But the Red Sox should have won many more games this summer than they did and if a lot of Grady's brain farts hadn't occurred, many of the comebacks that showed the team's resiliency wouldn't have been necessary.

The Herald should be ashamed of two articles it published today, blaming both the front office or the fans for Little's departure. Ed Cossette offers some pointed comments. Also, Bob Hohler of the Globe notes that "though some of Little's lineup decisions were questioned...." By who? Certainly not by Hohler -- or any of the other Boston beat writers/columnists. They gave Grady a free ride all season and would have given him a free ride in the ALCS too, but Grady ended up making a decision so mind-bogglingly wrong, so bone-headedly stupid, so historically inept that even his apologists couldn't look the other way.

Not once was Grady ever asked why he brought in the team's worst relievers into the highest-leverage situations or why he'd send up one pinch-hitter when there were obviously better options on the bench. When Grady's decisions resulted in a blown lead or a stalled comeback, the game stories focused on the players not doing their jobs or the fact that Grady was simply burdened with poor pitchers, etc. Never once did Gump have to deal directly with the results of his own stupidity. [By the way, I have every single article written by the Boston press corps in 2003 on a CD-R, so if anyone can cite chapter and verse of Gump being called on his moronitude, let me know.] ... The media has to keep defending Grady, because if they suddenly start writing about Grady's poor moves costing the Red Sox games all season long, one might reasonably ask: "Why didn't you write about this stuff as it was happening?" The press turned a blind eye to Grady's incompetence in April, May, June, July, August, September and October 1-15, so how could they do otherwise now?

Hohler also points out that while batters hit .221 against Pedro's first 105 pitches this season and .364 on all pitches thereafter, the three-year split is not as drastic and thus perhaps Grady shouldn't be hung out to dry for staying with him. Hohler says the sample size is too small. It is small, but it's small for two reasons: (1) when Pedro is tired and getting lit up, he gets pulled and (2) the Red Sox have made efforts to not overwork Pedro during the season, to both avoid injury and have him rested for possible October play. Here are Pedro's last four seasons:
Pitches      1-105                105+
2000      111- 698 .159       15- 70 .214
2001       77- 396 .194        7- 27 .259
2002      138- 699 .197        6- 27 .222
2003      135- 612 .221       12- 33 .364
4 years   461-2405 .192       40-157 .255
There is a bigger difference in 2003, but rather than letting Little off the hook by noting the splits haven't been as bad in previous seasons, Gump actually deserves more blame for ignoring very clear evidence that THIS SEASON, Pedro's ability declined greatly after 105 pitches. Batters hit him like a collective Ty Cobb. And the Pedro we are talking about re October 16 is the 2003 Pedro -- not the Pedro of 2000 or 2001 or 2002.

"One Red Sox player suggested to his agent recently that statman Bill James come down to the dugout, make an IBM manager his bench coach, and install modems in the offices of John W. Henry and Larry Lucchino so they instantly could convey their wishes, instead of having to wait until after the game to question the manager's strategy." ... It must be tough knowing you are a dinosaur and knowing that the old, conventional ways of doing things are changing for good and that you either don't understand the new ways or are afraid of being left behind.
A Little Shove. Peter Gammons reports the Red Sox have announced a press conference for 3:00 this afternoon. It will likely be carried live on MLB.

Boston Herald: "[R]eports also have begun to trickle in about the scene in the stands at Yankee Stadium in Game 7, when the Red Sox lost their lead in the eighth inning. As the lead evaporated, several eyewitnesses reported seeing and hearing team president Larry Lucchino saying, to paraphrase, 'What is (Little) doing, what is he doing?' And general manager Theo Epstein was spotted shaking his head repeatedly as the inning dragged on with the Yankees continuing to score runs."

October 26, 2003

White Rat In Red Socks? Newsday's Jon Heyman: "Because the best move of the year was 72-year-old Jack McKeon replacing Jeff Torborg, Whitey Herzog is having thoughts about attempting a return to managing. 'He would be outstanding. I know he wants to do it,' said a person close to Herzog, who will be 72 next month." I would love Herzog in Boston!

In an email to the Boston media, John Henry rejected the idea that Gump would be let go because of his Game 7 debacle. "It is absolutely ridiculous to assert that we would make any managerial, coaching or player decision based on one game -- no matter how important that game is or was. Give us a little more credit than that. Maybe a fan can do that, but a serious enterprise cannot and does not."

Gammons: "There is a lot of Alfonso Soriano trade talk around the Yankees. What has bothered them most is that he's become enveloped in a fog so thick that when Willie Randolph tries to position him from the dugout, he hears nothing. So, the staff has to have Jason Giambi or Nick Johnson get his attention from first base and direct him to the right place."

Joe Sheehan: "You can trace the Yankees' position in this series to the decision to have David Dellucci bunt in the 11th inning of Game Four. ... That bunt is the dividing line in this series. The Yankees had a 2-1 lead in games, a situation in which they could expect to score one run and had a shot at two, and the Cyborg Reliever ready to get three outs. After the Dellucci bunt, they had two lousy hitters trying to get a run home against a guy who eats righties. Then they had Jeff Weaver in the game. Then they were tied in the series. ... After the Dellucci bunt, the Yankees went completely into the tank offensively: 17-for-71 with five walks, one of them intentional. They scored just four more runs, three after falling behind 6-1 in Game Five. For a team that oozes postseason experience and veteran leadership, those two traits didn't do them a lot of good when it came to the most important games of the year. Isn't it fair to ask what good those qualities are, given the amateurish way in which the Yankees approached their at-bats in the last two games?

"This isn't hyperbole: the core of the Yankee offensive problems was a disintegration of their plate discipline. ... Before the game, I expected that the Yankees would treat Josh Beckett the way they'd treated Pedro Martinez over the years: make him work, get him tired ... Beckett opened the game with a 12-pitch inning in which the Yankees let just four balls go by. It got worse. The Yankees went down on seven pitches in the fourth, 10 pitches in the fifth, and nine pitches in the sixth. Beckett did his part by throwing strikes and keeping his mechanics in tune, but if you'd told me going into last night that Beckett would throw 26 pitches over any three consecutive innings, I would never have believed it. It was basically the dream scenario for McKeon and the Marlins, and it was a big reason why the decision to start Beckett worked."

Buster Olney: "New York faces an uncertain future with many changes imminent: volatile owner George Steinbrenner is bound to make extensive alterations to a franchise that is just starting to list, because of advancing age and increasingly impulsive personnel decisions."

After the ALCS, Derek Jeter said that eventually the ghosts of Yankee Stadium come out and help the home team. Not Saturday. As Rough Carrigan put it: "Grady's managing the ghosts now. He forgot to send 'em in in the 8th." ... If you listen to most Yankee fans and New York's media sycophants, Jeter delivers the goods approximately 101% of the time. Not last night. With the tying run on second in the bottom of the 5th, Jeter struck out to end the inning. A couple of minutes later, he bobbled Jeff Conine's grounder to start the 6th; Conine scored Florida's second run. In the bottom of the 8th, with Soriano on first and no one out, Beckett put the brakes on Mr. Clutch. Jeter (representing the tying run) flied out harmlessly to center, unable to even advance the runner.

During the middle innings, Yankees radio man John Sterling noted Andy Pettitte's great pitching performances this month. New York lost the first game of the ALDS, ALCS and the World Series and Pettitte won Game 2 every time. That's very impressive, and a huge reason why the Yankees advanced as far as they did, but Sterling cherry-picked his data. What about the fact that Pettitte was unable to put away the Red Sox (5 IP, 4 R, 8 H) in Game 6 of the ALCS (Pettitte also could not seal the deal in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona)?

October 25, 2003

Go Fish! Soriano and Giambi are back in the Yankees lineup tonight, though both have been dropped in the order, Soriano to 9th. ... Aaron Gleeman is providing fantastic running WS commentary. ... Jim Caple imagines a Red Sox/Cubs World Series (Games 1-2, 3-4-5, 6-7) ... Knuckles versus kisses.

In New York, the pressure builds, for tonight and beyond:

Also: The Bush administration is enforcing a standing policy that forbids news coverage of killed American soldiers as their remains are returned to US military bases. ... In response to the leaking of an internal Pentagon memo (text) (in which Rumsfeld says the US "is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan" in Iraq, predicts "a long, hard slog" and wonders if "the harder we work, the behinder we get"), one Senate Republican aide says Rumsfeld has "laid a giant turd on the front doorstep of all the happy talk."
Bowlshit From Burkett? John Burkett believes if Grady is not retained as manager, "there's going to be a lot of pissed-off players in that clubhouse next year. This is going to fire up a lot of guys in the wrong way and this would not be a good start for them. They are making a mistake." Teams change managers all the time. Was Grady Little so unique, so special, so gol'dang dreamy that seasoned major league players will revolt? I don't think so. These are the strongest comments to date about Grady's clubhouse support and because Burkett has likely thrown his last major league pitch, he isn't trying to curry favor with anyone with his comments. Then again, Burkett got the benefit of the doubt on the mound from Grady more than any other starter, so I can understand why he's in Gump's corner. Once the announcement comes (Monday?), I imagine we'll be hearing from other players.

Michael Silverman also reported (same link) that "a source close to Little said the manager and Epstein spoke at length ... the conversation was termed 'awkward' by the source." It appears this source listened in on the conversation between Grady and Theo, since the source also relayed some of the conversation (Little getting in a pointed jab at Epstein's authority) to Silverman. It sounds like Grady is the source.

Gump is still scheduled to sail on the annual Red Sox Cruise on January 18. Organizer Ken Nigro said: "One guy called about dumping Grady overboard." ... Tim Daloisio begins his "2003 Organizational Report Card" ... Eric Enders looks at pitching performances in elimination games... Baseball Primer's 2003 NL and AL RoY ... Dirt Dogs reports that Bud Black signed a contract extension as Anaheim's pitching coach, thus taking himself out of the manager search. ... Rob Neyer, in his Friday ESPN chat, said he knows first-hand that Larry Dierker would like the Red Sox manager's job. Also: "Tim McCarver would have Jeter's babies if he could."

October 24, 2003

Internet Baseball Awards. Coverage and full results.

National League Most Valuable Player
   Name            1    2   3   4   5   Pts

1 B. Bonds 1271 176 36 15 10 19872
2 A. Pujols 195 1151 92 28 11 14158
3 G. Sheffield 9 35 489 355 181 8581
4 J. Lopez 12 42 394 265 151 7156
5 J. Thome 6 14 94 181 198 4664
American League Most Valuable Player
   Name             1    2   3   4   5  Pts

1 A. Rodriguez 1109 188 85 31 37 18535
2 C. Delgado 134 363 299 221 141 10470
3 M. Ramirez 66 214 233 197 134 7904
4 B. Boone 21 232 189 153 132 6498
5 J. Posada 76 193 170 143 125 6488
National League Cy Young
   Name           1    2    3    4   5     Pts

1 M. Prior 559 534 262 58 14 10826
2 E. Gagne 535 278 324 122 54 9336
3 J. Schmidt 352 479 336 57 17 8741
American League Cy Young
   Name           1    2    3    4   5     Pts

1 R. Halladay 746 316 218 158 24 11260
2 P. Martinez 392 414 330 173 66 9053
3 E. Loaiza 207 385 424 270 60 7755
I haven't looked at the stats as closely as I'd like (I suppose I should), but I was leaning towards Delgado as AL MVP and Pedro and Schmidt as Cy Youngs (though my choice of Pedro may be based more in sentiment than statistics).
Will He Post In The Game Threads? Maalox started a SoSH thread discussing "buying a newspaper ad thanking the Red Sox for giving us a Hell of a run this year." The idea took off, evolved a bit and actually got Red Sox owner John Henry to post several times! Do you think Steinbrenner would ever post to a Yankees Message Board?

Michael Holley is impressed with Grady Little's gumpton (pun intended?), but he loses a lot of credibility when he writes: "He [Little] was delivered Ramiro Mendoza, Byung Hyun Kim, Scott Sauerbeck, Jeff Suppan, and Scott Williamson as pitching reinforcements; they and everyone else saw only one of them -- Williamson -- be effective in the postseason." Using Mendoza as an example shows Holley is not talking about mid-season pickups only, so why did he leave out Mike "Lights Out" Timlin?

Michael Silverman in the Herald: "A club official said yesterday he would be 'real surprised' if Little survived the incendiary response [after Game 7] ... 'There is no obvious, imminent replacement' for Little, said the team source, but the 'ideal person' would be a hybrid, someone who not only has Little's unquestioned deft touch with handling players' egos and temperaments, but also someone more inclined than Little is in relying on statistical data to make game-related decisions." Silverman tosses out Bobby Valentine, Bud Black, Bruce Bochy, Frank Robinson, Willie Randolph and Glenn Hoffman as possibilities. But longtime Grady booster Sean McAdam writes that Valentine will not be interviewed, adding: "It's the position of many in the Red Sox organization that Little's decision to stay with Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of Game 7 was symptomatic of a larger problem -- namely, his habit of ignoring statistical data in favor of 'hunch' moves."

WTF? "In the days since the game, an anecdote has been revealed to at least two sources that illustrates the lack of faith Little had in turning the game over to his bullpen. A canker sore on the lip of reliever Scott Williamson demonstrated to Little the degree to which the stress of the playoff game had affected the mindset and confidence of his relievers."

October 23, 2003

Long World Series Games. Alex Gonzalez's solo home run off Jeff Weaver ended the 13th 12-inning game in World Series history. In 99 years, only one game has had more innings.

14 Innings
October 9, 1914, Game 2, Boston Red Sox 2, Brooklyn Dodgers 1

13 Innings

12 Innings
October 8, 1907, Game 1, Detroit Tigers 3, Chicago Cubs 3
October 12, 1914, Game 3, Boston Braves 5, Philadelphia A's 4
October 4, 1924, Game 1, New York Giants 4, Washington Senators 3
October 10, 1924, Game 7, Washington Senators 4, New York Giants 3
October 4, 1934, Game 2, Detroit Tigers 3, St. Louis Cardinals 2
October 8, 1945, Game 6, Chicago Cubs 8, Detroit Tigers 7
October 14, 1973, Game 2, New York Mets 10, Oakland A's 7
October 21, 1975, Game 6, Boston Red Sox 7, Cincinnati Reds 6
October 11, 1977, Game 1, New York Yankees 4, Los Angeles Dodgers 3
October 22, 1991, Game 3, Atlanta Braves 5, Minnesota Twins 4
October 21, 2000, Game 1, New York Yankees 4, New York Mets 3
November 1, 2001, Game 5, New York Yankees 3, Arizona Diamondbacks 3
October 22, 2003, Game 4, Florida Marlins 4, New York Yankees 3

11 Innings (11 games) and 10 Innings (27 games)
Worst. Manager. Ever.

It Sure Helped Sell A Lot Of Papers. What's the use of saying I'm not writing about Gump Little any more when the wound remains raw and any news about the Idiot gets me riled up? But at least this is good news. Grady is now saying he may not want to come back to Boston: "I'm not sure that I want to manage that team. That's how I felt when I drove out of town. If they don't want me, fine, they don't want me. If they want me to come back, then we'll talk and see if I want to come back up there."

Red Sox brass have not spoken to Gump since he returned home to North Carolina. That is also a good sign. As soon as the World Series is over, John Henry should announce that because Grady Little has expressed reservations about returning to the Red Sox in 2004, the club has elected to not pick up his option and has begun searching for a new manager. That would be the best solution.

In a pre-game chat back on October 9, Gordon Edes said that "if [Grady] doesn't get what he wants, he'll walk away. It will take more than the Sox exercising his option to keep him." Little was apparently hoping for a 2-year extention and an increase in salary. There is 0% chance of that happening now. If Grady is brought back, it will be for 2004 only and I don't think he'll want to be a lame-duck manager for the entire season, dealing with hostile fans and a media waiting for his to screw up.

Gump remains clueless. He made what might be the worst managerial decision in the history of the Boston Red Sox and he refuses to take responsiblity for it. He refuses to say "I made a mistake." He continues to say it was the right thing to do and he'd do it again (so you know that if given the chance next April, he'd leave Pedro in for 150 pitches just to prove he was right). He also blathered on about ghosts and curses as if he's auditioning to be Dan Shaughnessy's writing partner.

1. "Right now I'm disappointed that evidently some people are judging me on the results of one decision I made -- not the decision, but the results of the decision. Less than 24 hours before, those same people were hugging and kissing me. If that's the way they operate, I'm not sure I want to be part of it."

Philly Sox Fan, a poster at Sons of Sam Horn, wrote: "No obsessive fan can ever be satisfied by his team's manager." It is next to impossible to judge a manager's performance without watching him closely every single day. So while I'm sure there are people out there thinking that Little is being hung for one move that didn't pan out, fans who have followed the Red Sox intensely have been frustrated and furious at Gump for two entire seasons. The failure to pull an exhausted and ineffective pitcher was a mistake Gump made time and time and time again during his tenure, up to and including John Burkett in Game 4 of the ALDS. Tim Daloisio looks at a similarly gruesome Pedro inning, also against the Yankees.

And through it all, Gump showed absolutely NO ability to learn from any of his mistakes. In fact, he rarely, if ever, admitted that they were mistakes. I don't think Grady ever said "It was my fault" after a loss. His comments were always "We trust Player X" or "Player X was the best guy to have out there," making the failure not the initial decision, but the player's ability to come through, even though the player probably shouldn't have been put in that situation to begin with. This was a huge problem with the bullpen all season. Grady had no clue how to use the pen in April and after July, with a nearly new cast of pitchers, he still couldn't make it work. As one fan put it: "Ultimately, his worst quality appears to be a total inability to recognize and understand his own mistakes. That's a very common characteristic of mediocre people. People who truly excel in their chosen fields know when they've screwed up and know that they must constantly work on correcting their faults."

2. "I know that wherever I go, I'll do the best I can. I know what we did there. I'm sorry the results of one decision caused so much pain, and it sure helped sell a lot of papers. I feel bad for it. But gol'dang, I can't turn back the clock and make another decision, not knowing whether the results of that decision are good or not."

Did he really say gol'dang? Wow. ... Sorry Red Sox fans, them's the breaks, but did you see the way the Globe and Herald flew off them thar newsstands? What an idiot. Gump still thinks he's being second-guessed. He's dead wrong. Millions of Red Sox fans were screaming at him at the very beginning of the 8th inning and their screaming only got louder as the Lump on the bench watched the game (and pennant) slip away. The Red Sox (like every single team) lost games in which reasonable decisions went awry, and fans (like Portland Sox Fan) accept those losses: "Had the Sox lost with the pen used as it had been all playoffs, I could have lived with that." It's the avoidable losses that come from obvious (and repetitive) blunders that are hard to take.

3. "Just add one more ghost to the list if I'm not there, because there are ghosts. That's certainly evident when you're a player in that uniform. ... If Grady Little is not back with the Red Sox, he'll be somewhere. I'll be another ghost, fully capable of haunting."

If Gump believes in ghosts and curses, that's enough reason to dump him right there. He also said after Game 7 that his players had thoughts of Bill Buckner in their minds. Why is he saying this bullshit? And Grady thinks he'll haunt the Red Sox in future seasons? What can you say to something like that?

4. "You've got to win the World Series in Boston before it's considered winning."

There's some partial truth here, especially this year, when the current Red Sox team is capable of winning the World Series. But this quote also reinforces Grady's Little League mentality that playing a good, hard game should be enough. It's not. It's not enough in the Bronx and it's not enough in Boston. I want my team to have a manager who relishes the pressure and will fight for as many wins as possible, who will put his players in the best position to win, and make decisions based on the good of the team and not any individuals.

5. "[T]his ain't bothering me like it's bothering a lot of other people. I'll tell you right now, I did the best I could do, and I still think [his handling of Martinez] was right. Baseball people think that -- maybe not Red Sox fans -- but baseball people tell me over and over. But in Boston, it's not just this one decision, or just one game. It's like this in May. People are talking about devastating losses, and it's the end of April or first of May. That's serious stuff. You don't play 162 games. You play 162 seasons a year. Every game is a season. That's why this doesn't affect me like it does a lot of people."

I wish Gump would tell us the names of these "baseball people" who believe he didn't make a mistake. I haven't seen anyone defend him (Torre and McKeon made bland statements), so I think they are as real as the ghosts in Gump's head.

Gump's biggest fault in my eyes is that he managed Game 7 like it was April 16 and not October 16. "Oh well, we'll get 'em tomorrow." No, there is no tomorrow, it's Game 7, you have to go all out to win THIS game. But he didn't try to win every game, that was clear numerous times this season when he seemed to concede defeat if the team was down by 3-4 runs after 6-7 innings. Which would be maddening under any circumstance, but with the strong Red Sox offense this year, it is unforgivable. ... And now Gump's saying "it's not just this one decision" after saying the exact opposite for days? Which is it, you pennant-flushing moron?

Sean McAdam reports that a "high-ranking official in baseball, one familiar with the thinking of the Red Sox' ownership group, has been telling people that Grady Little will not return as manager of the club." McAdam says it's common knowledge that John Henry did not want Little managing in 2003, but was persuaded by Larry Lucchino to stick with him, adding "In the last two seasons ... Henry is said to take issue with Little's game management and decision-making. Henry favors a more analytical approach in the dugout ... [whereas Little] often rel[ies] on instinct." ... Ed Kubosiak writes that the Game 7 call is "a call the manager has to make. In the same way Sox brass can't leave this decision up to the players in the clubhouse, no matter how much they admire and respect Little. The call has to come from the top, and there is little doubt which way it's going to go." ... Stan Grossfield visits Bill Buckner in Boise, Idaho. ... The Red Sox hired Jason McLeod from the Padres as the director of scouting administration. McLeod worked with Theo Epstein in San Diego. ... Both Boston and the Yankees may pursue free agent 2B Luis Castillo this winter.

October 22, 2003

Random Notes. Jack McKeon, the man who made Grady Little apologize after the Red Sox beat his Marlins 25-8 back on June 27, says that Gump's decision to stick with Pedro may have been correct and it shouldn't determine his fate. "Grady's done a hell of a job there the last two years and it's tough to think that because they lost one game to the Yankees they want to lynch him. Everyone has been asking me if Grady should have taken him out, but I'll tell you one thing, if I've got a star pitcher like Pedro, with the credentials he has, and he tells me he's OK, I've got to believe him."

Are 7-game World Series more common than expected? ... Dave Barry describes Don Zimmer as "the result of an ill-conceived genetic experiment involving W.C. Fields and a manatee." ... The Sporting News named Cleveland outfielder Jody Gerut as its AL Rookie of the Year. ... How often does a team blow a three-run lead with 7.1 innings in the books? BP looked at all regular season games from 1972-2003 (teams in the same situation the Red Sox faced still managed to blow the game about one time in 15):

Visitors have three-run lead with one out in the 8th inning: 6281-445 (.934)
Visitors have three-run lead with one out in the 8th inning, starter still in game: 1849-114 (.942)
Visitors lead 5-2 with 1 out in 8th inning: 1380-99 (.933)
Visitors lead 5-2 with 1 out in 8th inning, starter still in game: 411-29 (.934)

Time magazine reported last week that the FBI has long believed that Zacarias Moussaoui "played no part in the 9/11 scheme and was only a minor player in al-Qaeda." "Long believed? How much time is that, exactly? So, more than two years after 9/11, despite allegedly having 40 supporters of the hijackers in custody on 9/13, the US is still batting .000 in charging anyone in connection with the attacks. ... Sixteen American soldiers on leave have failed to show up for return flights to duty in Iraq. Are these troops failing to support the troops? Or are they following the shining example of their Commander-in-Chief? ... Must Read: "The Stovepipe" by Seymour Hersh in the current issue of The New Yorker ("How conflicts between the Bush Administration and the intelligence community marred the reporting on Iraq's weapons.")

October 21, 2003

The Blank Page Is My Couch. Bill Simmons shares some of the 2,200+ emails he received following Game 7.
Torre Defends Little. That's what the Globe and Herald headlines imply, but his quotes are really just an acknowledgement that a manager's decisons are often difficult. "To have a manager be questioned about leaving the best pitcher in baseball in a ballgame when he's thrown 115, 120 pitches -- it's tough. But, again, that is what our game is all about. Our game is about winning. A lot of people don't necessarily care what the reasons are; it's just the bottom line that makes things happen like that. ... But it's a shame. Leaving Pedro Martinez in the game -- if that's the wrong decision, then that's a tough way to go."

There is NO WAY Torre leaves his starter for that 8th inning pounding with Timlin/Embree/Williamson throwing like a 3-headed Rivera. For anyone to suggest otherwise is an insult to our intelligence. This is simply one manager refusing to badmouth another manager. There is no news here. Torre's actions in pulling Clemens in the 4th speak much louder than this pro forma statement. I'm sure Torre would love it if the Red Sox retained Little, since Grady's gumping of so many games made Torre's job easier.

Boston police will seek a complaint this morning in Roxbury District Court charging Yankees Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia with misdemeanor assault and battery charges for allegedly attacking a Red Sox grounds crew worker during Game 3 of the ALCS. The players will be summoned for a hearing next month, at which time a clerk magistrate will hear evidence and decide whether to issue charges. [police report]

October 20, 2003

Henry and Lucchino Speak. The Red Sox should make a decision about their 2004 manager shortly after the World Series. So we'll have an answer in about a week.

John Henry: "Initially, I thought New Englanders would just finally throw up their hands. But their level of commitment and resolve is astonishing and deserves our full attention to moving this franchise forward without a break. It shows you how little I know about the toughness of this region. And it shows me how tough I need to be in making sure that we accomplish our goals. ... How amazing is it, that even the angriest/saddest/most broken-hearted fans offer thanks and remain determined to see this team prevail? It's astonishing. ... There isn't anything I wouldn't do for these people. You know, there isn't anything these people wouldn't do for the Red Sox. We owe them." [Also here.]

Larry Lucchino answered a few questions and then nailed the disappointment so many of us feel: "After that loss I vowed not to watch the World Series or eat solid food until the World Series was over. I have broken both vows. ... I've started to take food orally again. I'm on the road to recovery. Before Game 7, I braced myself for triumph or disaster. But it's become a little more painful as I get a better sense of how unbelievably close we came. I've lived with other disappointments in my life and I'll live with this, too. With a little heartache. The weather outside now feels like the depths of fall, a metaphor for the baseball season -- cold and over for us. ... I admire those who have a little more perspective on the year we had. But if one more person in my family tries to console me, I'm going to strangle them."

Good discussion of Lucky's comments here. ... Kim is having an MRI on right shoulder. ... Baseball card company Donruss is cutting a Babe Ruth game-worn Yankees 1925 home jersey into 2,100 pieces and will insert 1-by-1 inch swatches into card sets through 2006. ... Hey, Chad Fox, you're a loser.

BlogWatch: Go read "Ground Hog Day, 2003" by Paul Hunt of Topsham, Maine ... Gregg Rosenthal is moving on. ... Dewey's House thinks he's recovered too. ... Ed Cossette fears we may not be that close again for awhile. ... Bill Simmons offers a lengthy postscript ["have you ever seen a manager turn an Enrique Wilson at-bat into an advantage for the other team?"], but he's not bitter. Gordon Edes notes that "some fans outside of Yankee Stadium this weekend were devoting their energy to collecting signatures on a giant thank-you card to Red Sox manager Grady Little." It would be a huge sign of disrespect if the Yankees failed to vote Gump a full World Series share. And no, I'm not bitter either.

October 19, 2003

Gump Talks. Grady spoke to the media Saturday and what he said was both shocking and sad. He did not take direct responsibility for what happened nor did he offer an apology to Red Sox fans for how his plan blew up in the Nation's face. In fact, he said he'd make the same decision if faced with a similar situation in the future. He did acknowledge, in a colossal understatement, that it just didn't work out. It's obvious that Grady has no real idea of the impact of his decision. On Friday afternoon, when told by a sports radio interviewer that Red Sox fans wanted his head on a stick, Little's response was: "For what?"

Grady claimed that four managers called him and supported his decision. If that's true, I'll bet two of them were Dusty Baker and Bob Brenly. Theo Epstein had better find out who these men are, so he doesn't interview them for the 2004 manager's spot. Grady: "Pedro Martinez and Grady Little operate on one basis, we're totally honest with one another all the time." Sorry, Gump, not according to Pedro, who admitted after Game 7 that he would never surrender the ball if given the option of continuing to pitch.

It took a day or two, but the apologists are emerging: Edes, Holley and Massarotti all take Grady's side. Mazz notes that Pedro's last three pitches of the 7th inning were clocked at 94, 95 and 94 mph. Yeah. Martinez cranked it up because he knew Soriano was his last batter and any major league hitter can pound a flat 95 mph fastball. ... Raging against Grady's failure to pull Pedro is not "second-guessing." Millions and millions of Red Sox fans logically expected a reliever in the 8th inning, and their screams and curses (first-guessing?) grew louder the longer Pedro stayed in the game.

After the ALDS, Bill Simmons wrote: "[T]here are two kinds of disastrous managerial moves: The ones you second-guess, and the ones that make you scream 'Wait a second... what the hell is he doing????' right as they're happening." ... Grady leaving Pedro in for four hard hit drives against the Yankees is the quintessential "what the hell" moment. (Grady also left John Burkett in for four hard hit drives in Game 4 against Oakland.) I sense a pattern.

BCSoxFan went back and looked at a tape of the 8th inning. His conclusion? "I STILL think he should have gone to the pen, but now I'm not as sure it was a RIDICULOUSLY boneheaded move, maybe just a pretty bad decision. The thing is, Petey was pretty damn good in the eighth. ... Grady should be fired because he sucked in his strategic decision making all year. Removing Petey in the eighth wasn't the worse he's made. ... The results were just so frickin' bad, I don't think it can be evaluated until now."

EricVan's comment: "[T]his is an interesting analysis, and it reaches to the core of sabremetrcs vs. scouting as a tool to examine the game. ... Before 105 pitches he was the best pitcher in MLB. After 105, he allowed .390/.458/.512. ... What your eyes are telling you is that the opponents mysteriously start having good or great AB against Pedro once he reaches the point where he ought to be tired, even though he doesn't look tired. ... More predictable pitching patterns, as Pedro narrows his arsenal, may be the biggest culprit. A higher percentage of pitches that miss out over the plate is certainly a factor. Less movement is certainly a factor. ... [A] manager or GM has to be acutely aware of these situations, these illusions, where his scouting eye is going to feed him the wrong conclusion. Pedro's meltdown last night was completely predictable. It was Grady Little's job to know that Pedro after 105 pitches usually looks good but yields bad results."

Opponents against Pedro Martinez in 2003:
Pitches 61-75:     107   .215  .234  .355
Pitches 76-90:      93   .215  .276  .290
Pitches 91-105:     65   .231  .306  .354
Pitches 106-120:    27   .370  .419  .407
Pitches 120-135:     6   .333  .429  .500

From 2000-2002:
Pitches 61-75:     281   .199  .243  .310
Pitches 76-90:     257   .195  .247  .268
Pitches 91-105:    180   .183  .236  .300
Pitches 106-120:    74   .297  .391  .338
Pitches 120-135:    12   .250  .400  .333
More                 1   .000  .000  .000
After Pedro retired the first two Yankees in the bottom of the 7th inning, he had thrown 86 pitches and held a 4-1 lead. By the time that inning was over, he was up to 100 pitches (and the score was 4-2). In the 8th inning, Boston scored another run and Grady Little sent Martinez out to throw 23 more pitches. When Pedro was finally pulled from the game, the score was tied 5-5. The last 9 batters went 7-for-9 (including 3 doubles and 1 home run):

home run

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Two posts from SoSH:

Gene Conleys Plane Ticket: "Based on the transcript of his statements, I believe Grady feels that he did not make a mistake. He believes that he made the right move but "the decision Thursday didn't turn out well." According to Grady's statement, in fact, he has never made a wrong decision, only decisions that either "turned out well" or "didn't turn out well." ... I honestly believe that Grady does not realize the magnitude of his blunder. I am sure he is very disappointed not to be in the World Series, but I believe that in his view, this was just another game that only happened to be the last one of the season. It's a bummer to lose it, but we had a great season and there's a lot to be proud of. ... He believes that he is being made a "scapegoat," though that is a role he is "glad" to accept. He believes this was another game that he managed the same way he has managed every other game. He quite obviously, even after two years, has no clue about the depth of feeling that exists in New England and among the Red Sox nationwide fandom."

Cuzittt: "I actually saw Grady Little's "interview" on NESN's Sportsdesk this morning ... What amazes me about the whole thing is how different my reaction was when listening to Grady than reading the comments. Let me just say... I feel no sympathy for him. I want him DEAD. The thing is, there was no emotion at all in his voice. There was no emotion in his eyes. While many have mentioned that it seems like he doesn't know the magnitude of his blunder just by the written words ... it becomes so apparent that he does not get it when viewing the tape."

I considered reviewing the 7th and 8th innings with an open-mind, but my emotions are too raw right now. I'm going to try hard to not write about Grady Little after today (though I'll likely remember what he did last Thursday several times a day for the foreseeable future). I've watched or listened to almost every single Red Sox game during his two seasons and he's been in over his head since the day he was hired. Everyone says he's a great guy and I'm sure he is, though it doesn't explain why he didn't foster a similar spirit of camaraderie in 2002 before Ortiz, Millar, Mueller, Walker, et al. rode into town. Regardless, I don't want a nice guy managing the Red Sox. I want a guy who understands (and is even excited by) the progressive ideas of Theo Epstein, John Henry and Bill James and is whipsmart when it comes to in-game strategy and bullpen management. The sad thing about reading Grady's comments is that he's too dim to realize all the things he doesn't know.

Finally, here is an excellent take on the situation by Peter Gammons.

October 18, 2003

What's In A Name? Some sportswriters, in commenting on Game 7 of the ALCS, have lengthened Aaron Boone's name to "Aaron Bleeping Boone," putting the current Yankees third baseman seemingly on par in New England lore with a certain former Yankees shortstop. That is preposterous. To Red Sox Nation, Boone is a nobody and will always be a nobody. Aaron Boone will haunt Red Sox fans as much as Aaron Myette.

Grady F'in Little is the man we will hate, truly hate, many of us cursing him to our graves, as the man who single-handedly derailed a World Series-bound team due to his stupidity and cowardice. At SoSH, "Gene Conley's Plane Ticket" wrote: "Grady carries with him a defining moment, an image of a manager sitting idly, to outward appearances contentedly, in the dugout while the greatest moment in Red Sox baseball history disintegrated before our eyes. Every Red Sox fan feels robbed of his or her birthright, and we all know as sure as we know ourselves the man who robbed it. Grady Little will never, ever live that down. There's nowhere for him to run and nowhere to hide from this toxic cloud that he, himself, has cast over Fenway Park."

Grady Little is a coward because he was afraid to remove Pedro Martinez after 7 innings. Pedro has said he believed his night was over at that point (as did his teammates who came over to hug him and shake his hand), but he did not refuse when his manager told him to pitch the 8th. He should have, and he can't be too happy now about that now. ... And when the shit began hitting the fan(s), and Grady couldn't avoid a decision any longer, he went out and asked the one person in Yankee Stadium who wouldn't give him a straight answer (and someone Grady had to have known wouldn't give him a straight answer) to make the call. [And what in god's name was Dave Wallace -- you remember him, the pitching coach! -- doing all this time?]

Pedro did his job; Grady refused to do his. By contrast, when Torre yanked Clemens in the 3rd inning, he tapped his wrist the instant he came up out of the dugout. There would be no questions, no discussion, no chance for Clemens to plead his case -- even in what was looking like the final game of his career. Torre is in another World Series tonight because he wanted to win at all costs. Grady Little will burn eternally in Red Sox Hell because he was scared to lose.

The decision on Little's future with the Red Sox will not be made until after the World Series, but it's impossible for me to imagine him being retained. Owner John Henry wanted to replace Grady before the 2003 season, but Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein convinced him otherwise. There is NO way Henry gets overruled this time. Life-long Red Sox fan Epstein has looked and sounded shell-shocked in interviews. If Boston had lost Game 7 by a 6-1 score, or had dropped Game 6 the day before, or had even been eliminated by Oakland, there was a good chance Grady would have returned, if only because of the way the players feel about him. Now there is no chance. ... In one of the most important moments in Red Sox history, Grady Little had a decision to make. And he blew it. Henry, Lucchino and Epstein face a similarly obvious decision. The only question is: Are they smarter than Grady Little?