December 30, 2005

File It Away

Bob Elliott, Toronto Sun, December 29, 2005:
The Jays are better than the Red Sox and will win more games in 2006.
Yes, I'm keeping a list.

Update -- from today's ESPN's Page 2:

The Return Of Manny/Tejada

The Manny Ramirez/Miguel Tejada trade rumours have returned in the last two days -- with a bizarre twist. Boston has tossed Matt Clement into the deal, too. It sounds loopy -- there's been no official confirmation -- but that's what the Baltimore Sun and Boston Globe are reporting.

And after saying he wanted to be traded, then saying he didn't say he wanted to be traded, Tejada is once again saying he wants to be traded. "Now, I am more upset than when I requested the trade because it's been a month and they haven't done anything," Tejada said yesterday. "[L]ook at Toronto, they have strengthened themselves and we haven't done anything. ... If the Orioles don't do anything, I want them to trade me because I am tired of losing. ... Next year, I want to be somewhere where they want to win."

Chris Snow (Globe) highlights three stumbling blocks with that 2-for-1 deal:
1. Baltimore's ownership and management is largely opposed to dealing Tejada within the AL East; 2. Ramirez and Clement are owed approximately $22 million more in guaranteed money than Tejada. (Ramirez is due $57 million over three seasons, Clement $19.25 million over two seasons, and Tejada $48 million over four seasons plus $6 million owed on a prorated signing bonus); 3. Ramirez, who can veto any deal, would have to approve a move to Baltimore.
And Reason #4, courtesy of me, is: It's too much talent and a desperation deal for the Red Sox, who are not desperate.

Also, the Gotham Baseball website, quoting "multiple independent baseball sources," reported that a megadeal between the Red Sox, Orioles, Devil Rays and Mets was in the works that would, as far as Boston was concerned, mean a straight Ramirez-for-Tejada swap.

Peter Gammons says that the Cubs, Phillies, White Sox and Astros are also interested in Tejada. ... However, according to an Orioles official: "There is absolutely no deal we find acceptable to trade this very special player to another team."

Out west, the Seattle Times reports the Mariners have offered pitcher Gil Meche and center fielder Jeremy Reed for either Jonathan Papelbon or Jon Lester. An NL Scout: "Every team who has talked to the Sox about a deal has asked for one of them."

J.T. Snow hopes to sign with one of four teams, including Boston, before the new year.

December 26, 2005

Millwood Signs With Texas

For 5/60.

Good Lord.

You'd think Texas would have learned its lesson with Chan Ho Park. Millwood's career ERA+ is 114 -- his last six seasons have been: 100, 102, 127, 103, 90, 143. (Expect him to have a fabulous 2008.)

He would have been a nice pickup for Boston for 3/25, tops. I assume the Sox were not even close to matching the Rangers' generous offer.

Theo's Philosophy Still Guiding Red Sox

Things are not in disarray. The ship is not rudderless. The Boston Red Sox organization has a plan -- and it is a good one.

Gordon Edes gets it: the Damon negotiations unfolded without Theo Epstein pretty much how they would have unfolded with Theo.
You make your best judgment of a player's value to you, you set a price, and you don't allow anything -- sentiment, nostalgia, public pressure -- to cause you to stray from it. ...

It was the same last winter with Pedro Martinez; the Sox determined they would not go beyond a certain price for Pedro and they didn't. Plenty of other teams would have caved before allowing Martinez to leave, but the Epstein Sox always have been about planning three or four years ahead, not just in the short term. ...

Epstein dropped plenty of hints during the summer when he said he wasn't married to the idea of making the Sox the best run-producing machine possible at the expense of pitching and defense. That was the best approach with what he had to work with, Epstein said, but under different circumstances, he might take a different tack. That may be what we're seeing at play now, the team switching to building a deep bullpen, investing heavily in starting pitching to complement the wave of young arms coming up through the system, and upgrading defensively even if it means sacrificing some offense.
Edes also thinks that "sometime in the next month Epstein's 'adviser' role will be made official".

The CHB predicts that Damon will score 100 runs by August, which is almost one per game. ... Nonsense. I should probably start compiling a list of all these idiotic Yankee pronouncements (anyone recall who it was that said with Randy Johnson, last year's Yankees would win at least 130 games?)

Feel free to email me with anything outlandish you see or hear -- that includes negative Red Sox predictions, too (with a link, if possible).

December 24, 2005

Millwood Visits Boston

Kevin Millwood was in Boston yesterday, meeting with Terry Francona and other Sox officals. An industry soucre says the Red Sox have already made an offer of four years, but Millwood is looking for six years at more than $11 million per (which is what AJ Burnett got from the overpaying Blue Jays).

In his New York interviews, Johnny Damon mentioned several times that there was some other team that had offered him a six-year deal and John Henry said Scott Boras mentioned a firm 5/65 offer, but no hints have been offered as to the identify of the mystery team(s). ... Johnny Damon says that Manny Ramirez urged him to sign with the Yankees. Yawn.

The CF rumors continue: Coco Crisp, Corey Patterson, Joey Gathright, etc.

It looks like Troy Glaus will end up in Toronto (whew!). The Sox inked catcher John Flaherty and are one of three teams still pursuing 37-year-old JT Snow.

December 23, 2005

An Aging Johnny Damon Is Not Equal To An In-His-Prime Babe Ruth

There's a scoop, eh?

Jimmy Damon, Johnny's dad:
Mark it down: It's going to be another Babe Ruth. They sent Johnny off just like they sent off Babe Ruth. It's going to be another big, big mistake. They made the biggest mistake of their lives.
Wow. What do you say to such astounding ignorance? If you're me, you laugh until your sides ache.

So Damon is going to perform like Ruth (who was sold, and was not a free agent, by the way) did in 1920 and 1921? ... I promise to live out the rest of my days as Mr. Damon's slave if that happens.

New York Post columnist Joel Sherman states:
The Yanks very well may become a 1,000-run team in 2006.
The Yankees scored 886 runs in 2005. Their various center fielders scored 68 runs. 886 minus 68 = 818.

Sherman would have us believe (assuming all Yankees perform at their 2005 levels) that Damon will score 182 runs next year. That would shatter Babe Ruth's modern record of 177, set in 1921. ... Highly unlikely.

Finally, Bob Ryan wrote this in yesterday's Globe:
Johnny Damon is a frustrating, annoying hitter who runs up pitch counts. If he's not No. 1 in the league in most pitches per at-bat, he's very high in the pecking order.
Since his column is so full of other stats, I'm surprised Ryan didn't take the thirty seconds necessary to verify this claim. Perhaps he did -- and went ahead with it anyway.

In the AL last year, Damon ranked 45th in pitches per at-bat. That is not #1 -- and it is not high in the pecking order. (P.S.: Varitek, Manny and Ortiz were all in the Top 13.)

December 22, 2005

D. Boon

Twenty years ago today, Dennes Dale Boon, guitarist and singer for the Minutemen, was killed in an auto accident in Arizona. He was 27.

December 21, 2005

Hard To Argue With The Logic

In the comments to Andrew's short Damon-related post at 12eight:
I Win!

Johnny Damon is a Yankee.

Thank God.
There is discussion pro and con about the signing. However, Earl puts the matter to rest:
Well, you guys could argue about this forever, and there’s plenty I could add also, but it really comes down to one thing: the Steve-Phillips-O-Meter.

Steve Phillips thinks the Yanks made a great move.

Therefore, Andrew wins.
Also, check out Andrew's five least-favourite Red Sox. I don't know where I'd rank him, but his #4 is probably on my list, too. ... I don't dislike Damon, but to be honest, I'll miss watching Bill Mueller more.

Also, someone commented today in the Mariners trade rumour thread about Bronson Arroyo, writing "Bronson is a great pitcher and has improved imensley over the past seasons he has been with the Red Sox. He will also keep improving."

I like Arroyo, too, but let's look at his two full seasons in Boston:
       IP     H   BB   K   WHIP   ERA  ERA+
2004  178.2  171  47  142  1.22  4.03  121
2005  205.1  213  50  100  1.30  4.51   98
While Arroyo made more starts and pitched more innings in 2005, his H/9 rate has gone up, his K/9 has dropped (as has his K/BB ratio), and he's allowing more baseruners and runs. He is not improving.

Fact is, Arroyo wasn't even a league-average pitcher last year. I'd rather deal him than Clement (whose 2005 ERA+ was only 96, by the way).

Go Ahead, Bite The Big Apple

Updated below!

Johnny Damon is not someone you overpay for -- and I wasn't all that comfortable with the Red Sox offer of 4/40. So it'll be weird to see him clean-shaven and in pinstripes next summer, but I'm glad it's Steinbrenner and not Henry handing him an average of $13 million a season (!) until the end of 2009.

New York is paying for what Damon was, not what he will be. There can be no doubt that his four years in Boston will turn out to be far more productive than his four in the Bronx.

Damon's the original Idiot, the hirsute anti-Yankee who drilled the grand slam to ice Game 7. Yankee fans hate this guy. Now they have to pretend to like him, just like they're doing with Randy Johnson.

Anyone wanna guess how many times we'll see Jeter bunting Damon to second in the first inning? ... As far as outfield skills, if Torre's smart, he'll put Damon in left and Shemp in center.

What it perhaps most surprising -- though it really shouldn't be -- is the profound ignorance displayed by the national media. Read Olney, Rosenthal and the CHB to see how horrible confused and doomed the (newly) cursed the Red Sox are.

Their collective stupidity and inability to offer even a hint of actual analysis shouldn't surprise me, yet it does. It's like they are all 10 years old, thinking one team is better than another because it has more recognizable names on it. How do these guys have jobs?

Meanwhile, here in reality: Thanks for the memories, Johnny.

Now ... Jeremy Reed, come on down!


Damon is offering the usual bullshit:
My message to Red Sox fans is I tried. I tried everything in my power to try and come back, but unfortunately I know they're going to be upset, but I'm always going to have a strong feeling about them. I'm always going to remember the great times, the World Series, the three out of the four years we made the playoffs.
Upset? Well, not really. In 2009, seeing Damon in the Yankee outfield and not Boston's will be a pleasant sight, not an infuriating one. (I only wish we still had Doug Mirabelli on the team, so we could cackle when he went from first to third on Damon's noodle.) And replacing his production will not be that hard.

Good leadoff men are tough to find and I think the Yankees found the best leadoff hitter in the game.
As Art Martone points out, Mark Loretta has a higher career on-base percentage (.365) than Damon (.353).

Damon, May 2005:
There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they're going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need.
Boston:   4 years -- $40,000,000
New York: 4 years -- $52,000,000
Damon, December 20, 2005:
Without a doubt [I'll cut my hair and shave my moustache]. Mr. Steinbrenner has a policy and I'm going to stick to it. Our policy with the Yankees is to go out there and win ...
Bostonian of the Year: David Ortiz. ... The Red Sox inked 37-year-old Rudy Seanez to a one-year deal with a club option for 2007. ... Tony Graffanino accepted salary arbitration. ... After nearly three months of rest and the use of a protective shoe, Pedro Martinez's right toe still hurts. "This worries me a little because generally by this time of the year I'm already throwing."

Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe:
No way around this one. Johnny Damon is a Yankee and it looks like the Red Sox don't know what they are doing. ... While New England slept last night, Damon got into bed with the enemy. Sox officials smugly believed there was no market for their marquee center fielder and the Yankees took advantage of Boston's big sleep. ...

So now your Boston Red Sox have no center fielder, no shortstop, and no first baseman to go along with no Theo Epstein and no clue. It's fair to say this is becoming a winter of discontent in Red Sox Nation. ... The Josh Beckett trade bought some goodwill and glad tidings, but losing Damon to the Yankees is a devastating blow to the foundation of the Nation.

The Sox won't recover from this one easily. In an already dismal offseason, they've now lost their center fielder and their leadoff hitter. They've also lost a local icon, a rare favorite of teenage girls and fanboy bloggers. ... [Damon's] production in pinstripes will be a personal affront to Red Sox fans around the world. ...

Bottom line: The Yankees just got better and more interesting, and the Red Sox just got worse and more boring.
While a columnist has more leeway than a repoter, it's amazing how factually wrong so much of CHB's work is. They assumed there was no market for Damon? They have no 1B? What???

Mike Lupica, New York Daily News:
The story here, in bold type, is that despite all the talk about saving money and getting younger, it was business as usual last night for the Yankees ...

I like Damon as a ballplayer, always have ... but over the second half of [last] season he faded the way the Red Sox faded and couldn't throw the ball to second base. There were, in fact, days when he made Bernie Williams' arm look like some kind of rocket launcher in comparison. ...

The idea that this is some part of prudent financial plan because they wouldn't go to seven years for Damon is pretty funny. ...

I have felt for years that the Yankees missed a great chance with Damon four years ago when he was leaving Oakland as a free agent. ... He was 28 and available and would have moved Derek Jeter to No. 2 in the order right there.

The Yankees passed. Damon went to Boston instead. And when it came down to Game 7 in the American League Championship Series, it was Damon who hit one of the most famous postseason home runs ever hit against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, that grand slam off Javier Vazquez that really was the end of the biggest comeback in sports history. ...

In the winter when the Yankees overpaid for Hideki Matsui they now overpay for Johnny Damon. Only here is $52 million supposed to be viewed as some kind of bargain ...
Joel Sherman, New York Post:
The Yanks signed Damon for the same amount as Hideki Matsui. Which makes sense. ...

In the past 48 hours, the Yanks let Boras know that if Damon did not sign immediately, they were going to jump on a lower-level center fielder such as Corey Patterson or Luis Matos. It probably was a bluff, but not one Boras could risk. ... A key Idiot has jumped from the Red Sox to the Yankees, who suddenly look like winter winners. ...

For a few weeks, the Yanks have been calibrating how much greater their chances to win it all in 2006 and '07 are with Damon, and whether that was enough to motivate having Damon in 2008 and 2009, when he will be 34 and 35, and his already atrophying defense will have worsened further. ...

Damon instantly makes the Yanks the AL East favorites again, with all that the Blue Jays have done and all that the Red Sox might do.
George King, New York Post:
Damon is leaving Fenway Park for Yankee Stadium to carry on the legacy of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams. ... Damon's decision caught the dysfunctional Red Sox brass by surprise. CEO Larry Lucchino said negotiations with Damon were ongoing almost an hour after the deal was sealed with the Yankees. ...

As for Yankee fans carrying a grudge against Damon for helping the Red Sox climb out of a 3-0 ditch in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, that will vanish shortly.

Why did Damon leave Boston for the blood rival Yankees? Damon was concerned about the upheaval in the Red Sox front office ... Also, Damon's wife has voiced a displeasure over the way she has been treated by the Boston media. ...
Tyler Kepner, New York Times:
[T]he Red Sox have fallen squarely into turmoil. ... The Yankees, meanwhile, have no major holes. Their off-season work is all but complete, and they have done it at the expense of their rivals.
The back pages of the rags are all pretty much the same:


Daily News:


December 17, 2005

December 11-17 Wrap-Up

Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington were named co-general managers. Hoyer will handle the major league club's affairs, transactions and contracts, while Cherington will focus on minor league player development and scouting.

Terry Francona is happy: "I know them both [Hoyer and Cherington] really well. I have worked with Jed more in the past, but as far as comfort level goes, I’m thrilled with the way things are now."

The Times reported that Epstein "is expected to return to the organization", but Larry Lucchino said: "It's premature to discuss exactly what role, if any, Theo would have. All we're saying is, we'll keep a light on in the window, the door ajar, and if there's a fit, we'd like to see it happen."

Gordon Edes of the Globe notes that it
defies credulity to believe [Epstein] will come back with any less authority than he had when he left Oct. 31. In some ways, Epstein never has left: Both Cherington and Hoyer freely admitted yesterday they have been in regular contact with Epstein, who hasn't been afraid to weigh in on the personnel moves the club has made. One team source said that Epstein had lobbied the previous Gang of Four to explore a trade with Seattle that would send Matt Clement to the Mariners for center fielder Jeremy Reed, a possible fallback plan in case Johnny Damon doesn't re-sign.
More on a possible Seattle-Boston deal. (The Yankees are also looking at Reed.)

The Red Sox are also discussing a trade with Cleveland -- outfielder Coco Crisp for either Arroyo (who Cleveland would prefer) or Clement (who Boston would rather shop). ... Seattle also likes Arroyo more than Clement.

Re Johnny Damon: An "East Coast baseball official" told the Seattle Times that "last year, Boras and Boston were far apart on Varitek and they got that done. But right now it doesn't look real good. And don't forget the Yankees haven't been heard from yet. ... It's tough to see the Yanks planning to sit tight in center. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and now Bubba Crosby?"

The Newark Star-Ledger, citing "a person who has spoken to [Damon] recently", stated that Damon is wary of returning to Boston because of the turnover in the front office.

Joe Torre has spoken to both Damon and Nomar. ... Yankees reliever Mike Myers would love to see Damon in New York: "I've talked to him, and he does have strong interest in playing there. ... I think he'd fit in real well in the clubhouse, even though I don't know what the clubhouse is like ..."

Baltimore is also interested in Damon.

The Yankees are thinking Garciaparra could play first base. ... The Times says the Yankees "have held off on signing another utility player, Miguel Cairo, because they want to see if Garciaparra ... chooses them." Which is a painfully sad indication of how far Nomar's stock has fallen.

Although Miguel Tejada said he wanted "a change of scenery," now he claims: "I never said I wanted to be traded. I said I want to see a better team." The Herald reported on Friday that Baltimore wants "at least another pitcher in addition to [Manny] Ramirez, and the Baltimore Sun reported that the Red Sox balked at giving up a hurler as well as a pitching prospect."

Ken Huckaby agreed to a minor league deal. His agent said the Sox told him that if Huckaby makes the club, he'll "have to catch [Wakefield] every fifth day."

Boston made a one-year offer to right-handed reliever Rudy Seanez; Atlanta, Tampa and Texas have also made offers.

The main reason Edgar Renteria "wanted out of Boston"? The infield. ER:
The ball bounces too much in the field of the shortstop, where I play. The field is not good like other stadiums. One day it's bad, the next day, it's worse ... I was uncomfortable the whole year. ... [But] the city fascinated me. I really liked it.
The next day, Renteria said:
This was my first time. I didn't know how to handle it. Nobody likes to get booed. You see me play, I always start slow. Maybe the fans didn't know anything about me. ... It's a little tough there. ... I'm not making excuses. I always say I make errors. The field doesn't make errors.
Boston has dropped its suit against Doug Mientkiewicz (who has signed with the Royals) and the World Series ball dispute will go to arbitration.

December 10, 2005

JoS Search Strings

"stud who hits bombs"
"jim thome nude"

Sox Offer Manny For Miggy

Both the Herald and Globe report that the Red Sox called the Orioles Friday and offered Manny Ramirez for Miguel Tejada.

Michael Silverman (Herald):
The source indicated the Orioles would need the Sox to throw in a starter or reliever before the deal could be considered more seriously. ...

The source indicated the Orioles are attempting to determine just how unhappy Tejada is ... The Orioles were aware Tejada ended the season in a sour mood ... but they are also of the belief that had Renteria not been traded, Tejada wouldn't have spoken up.
Chris Snow and Gordon Edes (Globe):
As of late last night, the Orioles had been contacted about Tejada by five to eight teams, including Boston, but weren't ready to take the Sox' offer to owner Peter Angelos, according to an Orioles source. It's uncertain whether Angelos would want Ramirez.
The Orioles need pitching, so doing a 1-for-1 deal probably makes little sense for Baltimore. And I feel great knowing the Boston front office is smart enough not to throw in Jon Lester just to get rid of Manny and make a splash at short.

The Washington Post reports that Tejada first demanded a trade last Monday in private conversations with the team. Baltimore owner Peter Angelos: "I'd find it difficult to justify a $20 million salary per year for anybody. The economics of the game don't support that type of salary for any player."

After Melvin Mora said Tejada "saw the Toronto Blue Jays getting big names and saw all the teams spending money and we don't do anything", Angelos said: "We're not spending $50 million on a closer who's been a closer for only one year [BJ Ryan] and $55 million for a guy who hasn't won more than 12 games in a year [AJ Burnett]. If that's what his criticism is based on, it just shows he wouldn't be a great general manager."

Other headlines from Baltimore:

Orioles' Tejada Seeks Trade, Wants 'Change of Scenery'
Tejada Wants Out Of O's; Shortstop Weary Of Losing
A Tejada-for-Ramirez Trade Might Not Be Far-Fetched
Tejada Trade A Possibility; Flanagan, Perlozzo Unable To Reach Star
Here's Hoping Tejada's Jolt Awakens Sleepwalking O's
Senior Adviser Bill Lajoie estimated the Sox are "probably 2-3 weeks" away from finalizing its 2006 roster. The team has discussed bringing back Nomar Garciaparra, but not to play shortstop. Mike Lowell could play some first base and Andy Marte may be moved to first base or the outfield to get his bat into the lineup.

Scott Boras says "I think you’re going to be surprised" where Johnny Damon ends up. Boras claims he has received "multiple offers" for Damon, including Boston's 4/40. Sources say Damon will settle for a guaranteed five-year (not seven) deal.

The Red Sox are eyeing Ken Huckaby as their backup catcher. ... An Astros insider re Julio Lugo as a Red Sock: "That's a bad deal. Wait until you see him try to play shortstop under the pressure in Boston. He couldn't do it in Houston in the playoffs, and it's like that every day in Boston."

Art Martone (ProJo):
The party line was that he had a bad back. The undercurrent was that he was uneasy under the bright lights of Boston. Unspoken was the worry was that his birth certificate was Renteria's 31st error of 2005, and that he was actually older than the 30 it claimed him to be. ... The Sox feared he was on the wrong side of the age mountain, a mountain on which you can only travel in one direction.
New York Daily News columnist John Harper says his pick for the East (as of today) is Boston. ... Mike Myers signed a two-year, $2.4-million deal with the Yankees. ... Gordon Edes presents a good recap of the discussions last week.

At the Herald, Tony Massarotti thinks the club is "aimless ... running in a million different directions at once. With their hair on fire." I don't think trying to stir up fan discontent is going to work this time. Beckett's a plus, Loretta was a steal, Marte's talent is common knowledge, and there can't be too many fans sad to see Edgar go.

While the Herald reports that the team will soon announce that Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer will be co-general managers, the Globe maintains that ownership continues to work on bringing back Theo Epstein in a consulting/advisory position.

December 9, 2005

Andy Marte

Baseball Prospectus 2003:
Marte, a Dominican third baseman, led the Sally league in RBI [in 2002] and was second in home runs. If his age is to be believed, he did this at the age of 18, which would make him a tremendous prospect. We have no reason to be skeptical of Marte in particular. Just a reminder that the usual caveat to Dominican ages applies. If he unexpectedly stagnates, as many of the later-exposed birthday frauds have done, that's a tip-off.
Baseball Prospectus 2004:
There's a school of thought that the science of prospecting isn't so much about identifying strengths as it is about recognizing limitations. Reggie Abercrombie, for all the five-tool talent he has, is never going to develop the batting eye to becomes a good major league player; Bobby Jenks may never have the brain for it.

With Marte, there is no much limitations, and that's why he's regarded as among the best prospects in baseball. Marte has a short swing that projects to generate a lot of power as he fills out, a precocious idea of the strike zone, and an organization that should mentor him well. Perhaps more importantly, he's able to make adjustments midstream. This season [2003], Marte got off to a subpar start at the plate, flirting with the Mendoza line, before learning the adaptations necessary to allow him to master the level; he hit well above .300 from May 1 on. The Braves are high on him, and while an April 2005 timetable sounds aggressive, Marte has met every challenge thus far.
BP 2004's Top Prospects -- Marte #3:
A player with Marte's diversity of skills, and at such a young age, has so many ways to develop into a true superstar player. As a bonus, he plays for an organization [Atlanta] whose can't-miss prospects almost never, in fact, miss. Marte is as safe a bet as a prospect can be without ever playing a game in the high minors.

Baseball Prospectus 2005:
The best prospect in baseball and a future superstar. As a 20-year-old toiling in the mostly hitter-unfriendly Southern League, Marte hit .269/.364/.525. In only 387 at-bats, he smacked 52 extra-base hits. He's got monstrous power and a broad base of hitting skills. In his prime, expect a few seasons of Adrian Beltre, circa 2004.
BP 2005's Top Prospects -- Marte #1:
No doubt the general consensus within the scouting community is that Marte is an excellent prospect, but I suspect that our selection of Marte as the best prospect in baseball will raise more than a few eyebrows. ...

Marte's promise can't be summed up in a single number -- his potential stems from his across-the-board skills. Maybe he doesn't do anything exceptionally well, but he does just about everything well.

His .274 lifetime average isn't bad at all when you consider that he has spent almost his entire career in pitchers' parks, and his .479 slugging average is outstanding for a player who has always been among the youngest players in his league. More than any other skill, isolated power augurs very well for the player who displays it at a very young age. Marte shows unusual command of the strike zone for a young player, with 127 walks in fewer than 900 at-bats the last two seasons.

His OPS has increased every year since he turned pro, even as he has faced stiffer competition each year. He was rated the best defensive third baseman in the Southern League last year. ... It helps that the most comparable player to Marte in our database is Miguel Cabrera.

Maybe he doesn't have the highest upside of any player on this list, although an above-average defensive third baseman who hits .300 with 30 homers and 80 walks every year sounds like a superstar to me. But upside alone doesn't make a top prospect. There's also the little matter of how likely he is to reach his upside. ... Marte has that rare combination of high upside and low risk. No one else on this list has that. Which is why no one else is our #1 prospect.

December 8, 2005

Tejada Wants Out, Maybe To Boston

Well, isn't this interesting.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada said Thursday he's unhappy with the team's direction and wants to be traded.
SoSHer jacklamabe65 posted this paragraph:
A source close to Tejada, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Tejada would like to be traded to a team on the East Coast, and specifically mentioned the Boston Red Sox as his choice destination.
which has been removed from the AP story here.

So, Manny for Miggy, anyone? I'm torn.

Who The Hell Needs A GM?

We give:
Edgar Renteria, Hanley Ramirez, Anibel Sanchez, Henri Garcia, Doug Mirabelli, Jesus Delgado, $ and a PTBNL
We get:
Josh Beckett, Andy Marte, Guillermo Mota, Mike Lowell, Mark Loretta, and Jermaine Van Buren
Damn! The "$" is not insignificant; it's about $11 million, which is what Boston will be paying Atlanta on ER's contract. I'm surprised someone took Rent's contract. I won't be surprised if 2005 is his worst year during the term, but if the team had any doubts about it, it's better to deal him now than after the second year.

Reading the papers, it sounds like the Sox will not flip Marte -- choosing instead to sign a free agent shortstop. Hey, Pokey and Nomar are both available.

As far as having three third basemen (Marte likely will be in Boston sometime in '06), I'm thinking Lowell or Youkilis will be elsewhere when pitchers and catchers report. ... Put Yook at first and get some sucker team to take Lowell. If anyone can do it, it's Boston's four-headed GM.

Damon Changes Tune

It sounds like Johnny Damon is talking up the Yankees in the hopes that the Sox might increase their offer. He told Newsday that the Red Sox have been dragging their feet and:
I have [thought about signing with the Yankees]. That's a lineup people dream about. It would be one of the best lineups we've seen in a long time. ... I would cut the hair and I would stay clean-shaven. George Steinbrenner has the policy for a reason, and you have to respect that. I've never been one to challenge authority.
BDD reminds us that back in May, Damon said:
There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they are going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need.
I can't imagine Boston raising its four-year offer.

Renteria, Mirabelli Traded

Edgar Renteria has been traded to Atlanta for third-base prospect Andy Marte.

Clearly (if you read the comments to my last post), Sean O will be happy. My question: why wouldn't Atlanta hang onto such a good prospect?

The deal previously discussed included Tampa Bay, with Marte going to the Rays and Julio Lugo coming to Boston. The Sox have also discussed Aubrey Huff and/or Danys Baez with Tampa.

And last night, Doug Mirabelli was traded to San Diego for 34-year-old second baseman Mark Loretta. Loretta says his former teammate Dave Roberts told him: "You have no idea what you're in for in terms of excitement."

I assume another deal for a backup catcher will be forthcoming. I can't see Kelly Shoppach getting the job. ... Bill Mueller may be close to signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. ... One possible first baseman -- Lyle Overbay -- is out of circulation, having been traded to the busy Blue Jays.

Damn, we're seeing some serious changeover. The starting infield will be completely different next season. With Ramirez and Nixon being mentioned in possible deals, the outfield could be brand-new also (although not likely, in my view). Texas sent Alfonso Soriano to Washington -- so that probably kills a Manny-to-Rangers scenario -- although Seattle is still asking about Nixon.

What the heck is our team going to look like next year? ... Why are they dismantling the whole team? The whole starting infield is gone. Manny will be gone. If they don't sign Johnny, he'll be gone. If they trade Trot, holy cow, the only guys left will be Varitek and I and Ortiz.
Check this out from the LA Times' Bill Plaschke:
In resurrecting Grady Little as the new Dodger manager, he hit a late-inning, backdoor slider out of the park.

The baseball folks in Boston may be wincing, but baseball folks everywhere else are smiling, waxing in the rebirth of a good man wronged. ...

Little took a diverse group and turned them into winners who, months after he was fired, became nationally known as "the Idiots." Then, of course, they finally won the World Series.
Ahhhhh, it was all thanks to Gump that we won in 2004. I see.

The great Fire Joe Morgan blog has it covered.

December 7, 2005

Reports And Rumours From Dallas

Red Sox special adviser Bill Lajoie on trading Manny Ramirez:
First of all, you’re not going to get fair value in any way, shape or form. This is an A-1 player, and you’re not going to get an A-1 player in return. You’re not going to get one person to make up for the (production). You might not get three or four.
Jed Hoyer, assistant to the team's non-existent GM, agrees:
We're not going to replace a 1.000 OPS middle-of-the-order hitter. ... Whether it's through a lot of young players or different pieces, we believe there's a chance we could put together a deal that could set the Red Sox up for the present and the future.
But now -- although Larry Lucchino has said the team has not made no effort to convince Manny to stay in Boston -- it looks unlikely that Ramirez will be elsewhere next spring. The Mets have backed off and the Angels refuse to deal Ervin Santana. There was some talk of Arizona getting involved and Troy Glaus coming to Boston -- ugh. ... One sticking point is that Ramirez would demand that his option years for 2009 and 2010 be picked up as a condition for accepting a trade.

Boston is ready to offer Johnny Damon something similar to what Jason Varitek accepted last winter: 4/40. Although Scott Boras would love the Red Sox and Yankees to get into a bidding war over his client, it isn't going to happen. New York won't even bid if Damon won't consider three or four years. Boras isn't helping himself any when he says that Rafael Furcal's 3/39 deal with the Dodgers sets the bar for leadoff hitters.

Are the Sox also actively shopping Edgar Renteria? The main rumor is that ER would go to Atlanta and Tampa's Julio Lugo would come to Boston. According to the Globe, Atlanta wants Boston to eat a portion of the $30 million remaining on Renteria's salary. With Lugo at second or short, Boston asked the Angels about Orlando Cabrera and have pitched a Doug Mirabelli-for-Mark Loretta deal to the Padres.

Boston is talking with Oakland about David Wells; the A's are offering former Sox propsect Justin Duchscherer. ... Seattle has asked about Trot Nixon. The team has also discussed sending Nixon to Pittsburgh for either Kip Wells or Mark Redman.

The Courant reports that Peter Gammons says the Red Sox nearly canceled the Josh Beckett after viewing the MRI on the pitcher's right shoulder. ... Boston spoke with Detroit about outfielder Curtis Granderson. Other possibiliies for center field are Juan Pierre, Torii Hunter, and Juan Encarnacion. The Sox also have spoken to Octavio Dotel's agent.

Several MLB soucres claim that the Yankees lost as much as $85 million last year. ... And the Dodgers new manager? Grady Little.

December 3, 2005

The Ball Belongs In Boston.

So the Red Sox have filed suit seeking permanent possession of the 2004 World Series final out ball.

An agreement reached between the team and Doug Mientkiewicz last January stated that the former first baseman would loan the ball to the Sox, but get it back at the end of 2005 "unless the ultimate issue of ownership has been otherwise resolved." Thus, the lawsuit.

I'm in the clear minority (see SoSH and Surviving Grady, for starters), but I believe (strongly) that the ball belongs to the Red Sox. Lucinda Treat, the club's chief legal officer, put it simply:
From our perspective, it is very important that an artifact with this much history -- it was 86 years in the making -- be part of the club archive and be available for fans to experience.
Someone at SoSH claimed that the team wouldn't push this hard if it was someone like Varitek or Schilling who had gloved the ball. Perhaps. But my gut tells me either of those two guys would have given it back, if asked.

I know previous World Series balls have been taken home by players (doesn't Mike Timlin have one of the Blue Jays' final outs from the early 90s?). The Red Sox World Series victory is different. More different -- and more historic -- than almost any other World Series championship in history. The ball belongs in Boston.

The Post says there are five teams hoping to trade for Manny Ramirez, the most prominent being the Mets and Angels. Texas has also been mentioned, with Alfonso Soriano as the main Ranger in the proposed deal. No thank you. Listen -- I'm yelling loud and clear from my rooftop: Keep Manny!

Jeff Horrigan writes that there "is support within the organization to deploy the combo of Alex Cora and rookie Dustin Pedroia at second base".

November 20, 2005


I'll be back in the States for most of this week for Thanksgiving, so I'm taking a break from posting. I'll return around December 1.

The Globe's Buzz is a good place to track what's going on.

November 19, 2005

Sox Will Walk On The Wilder Side

GM Search: Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner will interview David Wilder, the White Sox's director of player development. [Chicago Tribune]

Lucchino mentioned Wilder's diverse baseball experiences and an encouraging track record in player development. Since his minor league playing career ended in 1989, Wilder has worked for the A's, Atlanta, Cubs, Brewers, and White Sox. Michael Hill, the Marlins' assistant GM, is also expected to be interviewed.

Bob Klapisch quotes a friend of Johnny Damon's: "Six months ago, there's no way Johnny would've even considered the Yankees. He's thinking about it now."

[Re title: I'm sure everyone is making the same lame pun.]

November 18, 2005

Red Sox Continue GM Search, Make Offer To Damon

Atlanta's assistant GM Dayton Moore will not be coming to Boston:
This was the most difficult thing I've had to face. It really and truly came down to family considerations more than anything else. ... I felt extremely comfortable [at the Sox interview] and felt a lot of chemistry between Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner and myself. They were terrific to me and this could have been a great atmosphere for me, but the timing of this is such that I'm better off staying in Atlanta.
The Red Sox will soon conduct second interviews with both Jim Beattie and Jim Bowden. ... Tony Massarotti says this whole situation is a mess.

Johnny Damon:
I definitely owe Boston a lot. People know who I am now. Despite putting up good numbers over the years before Boston, people now know about it. ... It's just a matter of us starting to talk about numbers.
Damon is looking for something like 7/84 -- which is laughable, but, hey, I wish him well if he gets it. Boston apparently made an offer around 3/27, with (maybe) a fourth-year option or vesting option. They shouldn't go any higher or longer than that.

The Yankees might be interested in Damon at about 4/44. (New York has also expressed an interest in Mike Myers.)

In his story about the inclusion of amphetamines in baseball's new drug-testing policy, Chris Snow quotes a veteran player:
I'd say 75 percent of the league uses amphetamines in some way, shape, or form. I'd say 40-45 percent use them regularly. Regularly means on a daily basis. There are guys who can't play without amphetamines. I can't wait to see what happens. If you have guys using amphetamines for their entire minor league career, major league career, and relied on this for 12 years, boy, are you going to see some statistical changes.
Bill Madden of the New York Daily News notes that the Red Sox face "daunting challenges" this winter. However:
The Yankees should be drooling with envy at all the quality young talent on the way to Fenway. Unfortunately for them, the Tampa player-development department has reaped zilch out of the last 12 drafts since Derek Jeter in 1992. That's something like 800 players not to have any impact with the major league club ... [It's an] incredible run of impotence ...
The Herald ran a lot of quotes from various MVP voters, explaining why they voted the way they did:

Ken Davidoff, Newsday:
I really did vote on the basis that the Yankees won the division.
Mark Saxon, Orange County Register:
I spoke to a number of pitchers and a lot of them told me that Ortiz was the one guy in the American League they wouldn't like to see up, over A-Rod, in a close and late situation.
Gordon Wittenmyer, St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Over the course of the year, when the game was on the line in clutch situations, [Ortiz'] numbers were off the charts. As far as the DH rule goes, that's not his fault. If he was in the National League, he'd be playing first base and nobody would say anything.
Boston added righthanded pitchers Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia, and David Pauley, lefthanded pitcher Jon Lester, and outfielders Brandon Moss and David Murphy to its 40-man roster.

November 16, 2005

A Dark Day

We will say goodbye to our Buster later this morning.

Laura found him in mid-December 1999, abandoned in a pouring winter rain, very sick and likely only a day or two away from a lonely and horrible death on the street.

We took him in -- nursed him back to health, and gave him almost six years of love and life. ... And he repaid us at least ten-fold. (Plus he got to see the Red Sox win it all!)

It was a very tough decision, but we know it's the best thing we can do, for him, under the circumstances.

So long, B ... Say hi to Gypsy and Clyde.

November 14, 2005

AL MVP: Rodriguez Edges Ortiz

         1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Rodriguez 16 11 1 331
Ortiz 11 17 307
Guerrero 1 9 8 7 1 1 1 196
Ramirez 9 1 6 2 6 2 1 156
Hafner 5 6 4 4 3 3 2 151
Konerko 2 4 6 5 1 3 5 128
Teixeira 1 5 3 7 4 2 4 106
Sheffield 3 2 6 2 2 3 1 84
Rivera 1 1 1 3 3 1 3 2 59
Jeter 1 3 1 1 23
Young 2 2 1 2 20
Podsednik 1 1 1 1 15
Damon 1 1 2 1 12
Matsui 2 1 8
Sexson 2 1 7
Tejada 2 3 7
Figgins 1 4 6
VMartinez 1 5
Giambi 1 1 5
Roberts 1 2 5
Varitek 1 4
Chavez 1 2 4
Street 1 3
Colon 1 1 3
Sizemore 1 1 3
Wickman 1 2
Cantu 1 1
Contreras 1 1
One voter left Manny off his ballot completely.

November 13, 2005

AL: Most Valuable Player

Go brew some coffee, this is a long one!

The American League MVP -- David Ortiz or Alex Rodriguez -- will be announced on Monday. Either player would be a worthy selection, but who do I think should win?

I should say right off that these awards are pretty much worthless since they have so often gone to the wrong player. The members of the BBWAA have next-to-zero credibility.

Second, the actual definition of the award is highly subjective; it seems that everyone had his or her own definition. The letter each voter receives states that they should consider:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
My definition: "If I was putting together a team, what player would I choose first, based on his performance for the season in question?"

Everybody's been talking to me about the MVP situation. As soon as they bring my name up, they always talk about, 'Oh, he's a DH. I don't think he deserves it because he's a DH.' You win the MVP because you help your ballclub, you win games whenever the team needs it and because you put up some numbers.
Tony Massarotti (Herald) calls it "discrimination ... Since the creation of the position in 1973, the closest any DH has come to copping the MVP was in 1979, when California Angels slugger Don Baylor won the honor. Baylor played 97 games in the outfield and 65 as the DH ..."

I agree with Mazz. Should a DH be considered? Yes. I don't like the DH and wish baseball would get rid of it, but it is a valid position, just like shortstop, catcher, relief pitcher. And players at all of those positions have won MVP awards. ... Reliever Dennis Eckersley won the 1992 AL MVP when he pitched 80 innings. Rollie Fingers pitched only 78 innings when he won the AL MVP in 1981.

Okay, some numbers:

The Hardball Times has the final Win Share totals. The AL's top 5 (with batting and fielding splits):
          TOT   BAT  FLD
A-Rod 37 33.3 3.3
Manny 34 30.9 2.9
Sheffield 33 30.5 2.2
Teixeira 32 29.1 3.3
Ortiz 31 31.4 0.2
Ortiz comes in fifth because he gains only .2 Win Shares from his fielding. However, the idea that he should be automatically removed from MVP consideration because he doesn't play defense is wrong.

There must be a point at which his hitting compensates for his lack of defense. (Though some might say that not playing first benefits the Red Sox, allowing them to put a better-fielding player at the position.) The question is: Where it that point?

Here are some other stats:
        AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS    RC   RC/27
A-Rod .321 .421 .610 1.031 151.1 9.53
Ortiz .300 .397 .604 1.001 139.6 8.51
        EQA  BABIP  ISO  SecA  VORP
A-Rod .350 .347 .288 .474 99.7
Ortiz .336 .303 .303 .476 85.8
Explanation of some stats:
RC (Runs Created): The number of runs a hitter contributes to his team (not adjusted for ballpark).

RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs; also the amount of runs that nine Ortizes (for example) would score against league-average pitching.

ISO (Isolated Power): (2B + 3B + HR*3) / AB

BABIP: Batting Average on Balls put Into Play.

EQA (Equivalent Average): A measure of total offensive value per out, adjusted for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching. EQA considers batting and baserunning, but not defense.

SecA (Secondary Average): A ratio of bases gained from other sources than total number of hits (extra base hits, walks and net bases gained through stolen bases). (TB − H + BB + SB − CS) / AB

VORP (Value Over Replacement Player): 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. VORP does not consider the quality of a player's defense.
Rodriguez is the clear winner here. ... And at that point, Yankees blogger Larry Mahnken writes that if Rodriguez is the superior offensive player, then the defense question is moot.

Ortiz drove in 148 runs; Rodriguez brought in 130. But RBI is a highly-misleading stat, because a player's total depends on opportunity. If he hits a ton, but has no one on base, he won't get many RBI. So Baseball Prospectus presents RBI Opportunities (the number of runs a batter has driven in per runner on base. RBIs resulting from a batter driving himself in on home runs are not counted).

In 2005, there were 223 players with at least 400 plate appearances (the last column is RBI per baserunner):
                        PA  R1  R2 R3 Tot RBI
1. Jorge Cantu 631 209 128 85 422 89 .2109
2. Mark Teixeira 730 265 138 78 481 101 .2100
3. Garret Anderson 603 190 135 65 390 79 .2026
4. Vladimir Guerrero 594 187 115 75 377 76 .2016
5. Manny Ramirez 650 248 151 94 493 99 .2008
6. David Ortiz 713 262 175 69 506 101 .1996
7. Travis Hafner 578 189 135 62 386 75 .1943
8. Mike Sweeney 514 177 90 53 320 62 .1938
9. Carlos Delgado 616 212 131 82 425 82 .1929
10. Gary Sheffield 675 234 146 85 465 89 .1914
11. Carl Everett 547 181 97 57 335 64 .1910
12. Reed Johnson 439 126 85 53 264 50 .1894
13. Richie Sexson 656 217 148 74 439 82 .1868
14. Chipper Jones 432 126 104 45 275 51 .1855
15. Frank Catalanotto 475 148 80 47 275 51 .1855
16. Garrett Atkins 573 192 137 81 410 76 .1854
17. Matt Holliday 526 186 130 52 368 68 .1848
18. David DeJesus 523 129 79 49 257 47 .1829
19. Aramis Ramirez 506 168 115 56 339 61 .1799
20. Hideki Matsui 704 269 171 79 519 93 .1792
21. Juan Uribe 540 155 103 50 308 55 .1786
22. Rich Aurilia 468 148 104 52 304 54 .1776
23. Jason Larue 422 122 91 49 262 46 .1756
24. Carl Crawford 687 192 120 65 377 66 .1751
25. Ben Molina 449 143 96 70 309 54 .1748
26. Jeff Kent 637 229 126 80 435 76 .1747
27. Mark Kotsay 629 211 116 58 385 67 .1740
28. So Taguchi 424 132 76 51 259 45 .1737
29. Grady Sizemore 706 172 117 52 341 59 .1730
30. Aubrey Huff 636 195 126 84 405 70 .1728
31. David Wright 657 223 129 82 434 75 .1728
32. Felipe Lopez 648 165 135 60 360 62 .1722
33. Craig Monroe 623 192 140 70 402 69 .1716
34. Carlos Beltran 650 161 123 80 364 62 .1703
35. Tadahito Iguchi 582 155 119 55 329 56 .1702
36. Chase Utley 628 224 152 77 453 77 .1700
37. Carlos Lee 688 231 162 90 483 82 .1698
38. Matt Stairs 466 163 93 58 314 53 .1688
39. Mike Young 732 215 115 67 397 67 .1688
40. Ken Griffey Jr. 555 178 105 56 339 57 .1681
41. Miguel Cabrera 685 254 152 88 494 83 .1680
42. David Eckstein 713 140 119 57 316 53 .1677
43. Albert Pujols 700 234 144 77 455 76 .1670
44. Emil Brown 609 207 141 66 414 69 .1667
45. Jay Gibbons 518 181 98 40 319 53 .1661
46. Pat Burrell 669 248 177 89 514 85 .1654
47. Raul Ibanez 690 206 145 67 418 69 .1651
48. Nick Johnson 547 177 124 58 359 59 .1643
49. Placido Polanco 551 141 84 61 286 47 .1643
50. Brian Roberts 640 165 107 63 335 55 .1642
51. Brad Wilkerson 661 120 107 54 281 46 .1637
52. Vernon Wells 678 216 129 77 422 69 .1635
53. Adam Laroche 502 173 112 70 355 58 .1634
54. Cliff Floyd 626 183 141 68 392 64 .1633
55. Khalil Greene 476 162 115 61 338 55 .1627
56. Chris Shelton 431 127 82 43 252 41 .1627
57. Bobby Abreu 719 237 165 78 480 78 .1625
58. Edgardo Alfonzo 402 119 91 43 253 41 .1621
59. Trot Nixon 470 175 97 62 334 54 .1617
60. Morgan Ensberg 624 197 137 69 403 65 .1613
61. Rod Barajas 450 121 78 43 242 39 .1612
62. Orlando Hudson 501 159 104 66 329 53 .1611
63. Derrek Lee 691 187 124 68 379 61 .1610
64. Russ Adams 545 165 109 68 342 55 .1608
65. Rondell White 400 127 79 49 255 41 .1608
66. Alfonso Soriano 682 219 148 57 424 68 .1604
67. Jose Reyes 733 143 105 70 318 51 .1604
68. Miguel Tejada 704 227 134 89 450 72 .1600
69. Alex Rodriguez 715 252 180 84 516 82 .1589
91. Johnny Damon 688 207 138 80 425 65 .1529
124. Jason Giambi 545 201 116 59 376 55 .1463
166. Robinson Cano 551 192 108 62 362 48 .1326
170. Edgar Renteria 692 238 147 87 472 62 .1314
171. Jorge Posada 546 205 117 74 396 52 .1313
179. Bernie Williams 546 224 115 65 404 52 .1287
182. Jason Varitek 539 198 124 56 378 48 .1270
183. Derek Jeter 752 190 134 80 404 51 .1262
189. Bill Mueller 590 209 141 64 414 52 .1256
198. Kevin Millar 519 170 117 56 343 41 .1195
200. Tony Graffanino 417 139 85 37 261 31 .1188
In bringing home the bacon when there is bacon out there to be brought, Ortiz is much better than A-Rod.

Blue Jay pitcher Josh Towers: "As good a hitter as he is, and he's one of the best, no question, I could never vote for a guy who doesn't play defense."

Many people would agree. I would have given Ortiz more time at 1B this season (and less to Kevin Millar), but that's another story. The fact is: Ortiz did not play much in the field -- and Rodriguez is thought of as one of the best fielding third baseman in baseball. But is he?

A SoSHer looked at Slappy's defense and reported:
He is well below the average 3rd basemen in the league ... He's WORST in Range Factor for qualified AL starters, SECOND WORST in Zone Rating ... That is downright horrid. He is 9 runs worse then the average 3rd baseman.
and offered a random sampling of three other third basemen:
         A-Rod  Chavez  Beltre  Inge
RF: 2.59 2.80 2.78 3.25
ZR: .730 .814 .798 .802
FRAA: -9 9 10 14
FRAR: 13 30 30 35
EqR: 265 89 74 83
Rate: 94 106 107 109
RF (Range Factor): The number of plays made per 9 innings.

ZR (Zone Rating): The percentage of balls hit into the player's area that he turns into outs.

FRAR (Fielding Runs Above Replacement): The difference between an average player and a replacement player is determined by the number of plays that position is called on to make. While the value at each position changes over time, the all-time adjustment for third base is 22.

FRAA: Fielding Runs Above Average. Same idea as FRAR, but the fielder is compared to his peers.

Rate: A way to look at the fielder's rate of production, equal to 100 plus the number of runs above or below average this fielder is per 100 games. (This is similar to ERA+ or OPS+.) A player with a rate of 110 is 10 runs above average per 100 games, a player with an 87 is 13 runs below average per 100 games, etc.
Judging by these stats, Rodriguez was not a good third baseman in 2005 (regardless of the comparisons). In September, the media talked about how few errors he had made in the second half of the season, but with a poor Range Factor, he wasn't getting to tough balls on which he might have made errors. ... But was his hitting so much more productive than Ortiz's to overcome this deficiency (assuming Ortiz's defensive value was 0)?

ESPN's Buster Olney sees things differently:
A-Rod has made play after play after play at third base down the stretch, and he's had an incredible offensive season. Ortiz has become the baseball equivalent of Joe Montana in big spots -- you know he's going to get a big hit. Ortiz is hitting about 60 points higher than his overall average with runners in scoring position, while A-Rod is hitting about 20 points lower than his overall average; he's not the most feared hitter in his own lineup. The Yankees win the division, so A-Rod gets the edge.
New York was given the East title only because of necessary seeding for the playoffs. Both teams finished with identical records, but the Yankees went 10-9 against the Red Sox this year. For this discussion, looking at who won the East is meaningless.

Say a tie-breaker had been played and the Red Sox won 1-0 on a non-Ortiz HR. Should Ortiz get the MVP because the Sox won the tie-breaker (and the East)? No.

Scott Miller (Sportsline):
Ortiz, by the way, did everything in his power this weekend to wrap up what should be his rightful AL most valuable player trophy. No disrespect intended to the masterful season constructed by Alex Rodriguez, but given Ortiz's stunning array of clutch hits and his invaluable role to the psyche of this team, this is one of those very, very rare instances in which a designated hitter should win the award.
This is an argument put forth by Ortiz's many supporters -- that he hits much better than Rodriguez when the game is on the line, when his production would be more valuable.

This goes hand-in-hand with the perception (even among Yankees fans) that Rodriguez tends to perform better when the outcome of the game is not in doubt (such as hitting a two-run homer with his team ahead 10-1).

Tom Verducci, in making his case for Rodriguez, tries to shoot that theory down, writing that A-Rod has been
good enough in the clutch. ... [T]he idea that Rodriguez doesn't come through often enough in big spots is a myth. ... Rodriguez is just as tough an out in a big spot as Ortiz -- actually, a little tougher if you read on-base percentage as the percentage of time the batter wins the war against the pitcher. The numbers do show that Ortiz is better at delivering the big blow -- the best in the game, in fact. But don't discount Rodriguez's work in key spots.
Years ago, we wouldn't have had any idea if Verducci was right or wrong. Now we do. So, what is the truth?

Thanks to SoSHer Eric Van, we have the evidence:

Boston and New York each played 65 close games (extra innings or decided in regulation by one or two runs):
        PA   AVG  OBP  SLG  HR RBI  RS
Ortiz: 288 .321 .417 .699 24 62 49
ARod: 282 .243 .340 .465 15 38 33
Each team played 20 games won by six or more runs:
        PA   AVG  OBP   SLG  HR RBI  RS
Ortiz: 100 .277 .360 .639 9 33 27
ARod: 98 .549 .622 1.171 15 46 39
If you remove the blowout-win stats from their season totals:
        PA   AVG  OBP   SLG  HR  RBI  RS
Ortiz: 613 .303 .403 .598 38 115 92
ARod: 617 .285 .389 .522 33 84 85
So Verducci, in citing Rodriguez's allegedly higher OBP in "big spots" (non-blowouts), is actually wrong. And in looking at "close and late" situations (below), we'll see that Verducci is wrong again.

The "close and late" numbers are easily found. I guess that's why Verducci merely made a claim, rather than backing it up with any evidence. Because the evidence supporting his claim does not exist. Indeed, the evidence shows the opposite of his claim.

A closer look (again, thanks to Van):

Games Won by 6+ Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 20 100 .277 9 33 27 .360 .639 .999
ARod 20 98 .549 15 46 39 .622 1.171 1.793

Games Won by 3-5 Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 36 161 .359 9 33 32 .478 .680 1.158
ARod 38 175 .382 12 32 40 .520 .721 1.241
Games Won by 2 Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 10 41 .355 2 13 9 .512 .645 1.157
ARod 8 36 .233 2 5 4 .361 .467 .828
Games Won by 1 Run
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 22 101 .356 7 17 17 .446 .690 1.135
ARod 25 107 .250 6 16 16 .374 .477 .851
Extra Inning Wins
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 6 28 .261 5 8 7 .393 .913 1.306
ARod 4 21 .400 1 2 2 .429 .600 1.029
Extra-Inning Losses
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 2 11 .111 0 0 0 .273 .222 .495
ARod 4 17 .063 0 1 0 .059 .063 .121
Games Lost by 1 Run
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 13 55 .327 7 14 11 .382 .837 1.219
ARod 13 55 .260 6 11 9 .327 .680 1.007
Games Lost by 2 Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 12 52 .298 3 10 5 .365 .596 .961
Arod 11 46 .205 0 3 2 .326 .256 .582
Games Lost by 3-5 Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 21 94 .224 1 12 5 .277 .282 .559
ARod 23 97 .298 6 12 10 .381 .560 .941
Games Lost by 6+ Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 17 70 .220 4 8 6 .343 .458 .800
ARod 16 63 .217 0 2 2 .254 .250 .504
The complete breakdown:

6+ W 20 100 .277 9 33 27 .360 .639 .999
3-5 W 36 161 .359 9 33 32 .478 .680 1.158
2 W 10 41 .355 2 13 9 .512 .645 1.157
1 W 22 101 .356 7 17 17 .446 .690 1.135
EE W 6 28 .261 5 8 7 .393 .913 1.306
EE L 2 11 .111 0 0 0 .273 .222 .495
1 L 13 55 .327 7 14 11 .382 .837 1.219
2 L 12 52 .298 3 10 5 .365 .596 .961
3-5 L 21 94 .224 1 12 5 .277 .282 .559
6+ L 17 70 .220 4 8 6 .343 .458 .800


6+ W 20 98 .549 15 46 39 .622 1.171 1.793
3-5 W 38 175 .382 12 32 40 .520 .721 1.241
2 W 8 36 .233 2 5 4 .361 .467 .828
1 W 25 107 .250 6 16 16 .374 .477 .851
EE W 4 21 .400 1 2 2 .429 .600 1.029
EE L 4 17 .063 0 1 0 .059 .063 .121
1 L 13 55 .260 6 11 9 .327 .680 1.007
2 L 11 46 .205 0 3 2 .326 .256 .582
3-5 L 23 97 .298 6 12 10 .381 .560 .941
6+ L 16 63 .217 0 2 2 .254 .250 .504
[Extra inning games are not double-counted, i.e., 2-W is 2-run wins in regulation]

Is there any question who the actual MVP is? How many of the Yankees' close losses would they have won if ARod had hit like Ortiz in them? How many of the Red Sox' close wins would they have lost if Ortiz had hit like ARod? Is the difference in defensive value that large? ... I'm amazed that people can still say "ARod had the better year at the plate" with a straight face, as if all situations were equal leverage and/or all differences in performance across leverage were random.

An analysis by Win Expectancies shows Ortiz being massively more valuable. The splits by game result are a handy proxy for that, one that requires no explanation of an abstruse methodology. You could simulate the season in Diamond Mind from now until the death of the universe and not get that split.
Still, the methodology isn't perfect. Using the final score is defining "clutch" retrospectively.

Say A-Rod hits three-run home run breaking a 5-5 tie in the 8th; then the Yankees score three more in the 9th, winning 11-5. Although his hit was crucial, the game will be listed as a "non-clutch" game. Likewise, if Ortiz does nothing much as his teammates build a big lead, only to have it nearly blown by the bullpen, then that game suddenly becomes "clutch".

Even if you calculated what the score/situation was in every single plate appearance, that still wouldn't clear things up. Because batting in a tie game is much different if it's 0-0 in the first inning or 4-4 in the eighth. A batter knows that in the first inning, he (and his team) will have plenty of time to score runs, and although it is a "tie game", there is less pressure.

What a batter does in "close and late" situations can be known at the time they are occurring. Close & Late is defined as "in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck."

Looking at the batting splits for Ortiz and Rodriguez, we see:
       PA  HR RBI  AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS
Ortiz 93 11 33 .346 .447 .846 1.293
A-Rod 91 4 12 .293 .418 .520 .938
Random stat in Ortiz's favor -- with runners at 2nd-and-3rd (at any time):
Ortiz: 7-for-12  1.476 OPS
A-Rod: 2-for 10 .729 OPS
There is also the issue of base-running. Rodriguez runs on the bases, Ortiz does not.

Rodriguez stole 21 bases in 27 attempts (77.8%). A 75% success rate is considered the break-even point; below that, in general, you should not attempt to steal (game situations will vary, of course). ... Ortiz attempted one stolen base -- against Baltimore on July 10 -- and he was safe. 100%!

If stats on taking an extra base (1st-to-3rd, 2nd-to-home) were readily available, Rodriguez would likely get an edge, but again, you would also have to know how many times he was thrown out in those attempts.

So ... after all that, who is my AL MVP? Who is better when it comes to the "actual value of a player to his team ... the strength of offense and defense [as well as] general character, disposition, loyalty and effort"? ... Whose production would I take overall?

I think it should be obvious there is no clear-cut answer (and I'm very curious how close the voting will be) (Over at the Courant, the Yankees writer picks Ortiz and the Red Sox writer tabs Rodriguez).

I compiled a lot of these stats right after the season ended, and when I thought about refining this post, I kind of expected I'd pick Rodriguez in the end. But, assuming baserunning and fielding give neither player an edge (not provable, though), can Rodriguez's slightly-better numbers with the bat offset Ortiz's better numbers when his team needed his production the most?


Manny's Offensive Decline

Manny Ramirez had another great season, but as he has gotten older, his production has dropped (although his HR totals have increased (33-37-43-45)):
       AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
2002 .349 .450 .647 1.097
2003 .325 .427 .587 1.014
2004 .308 .397 .613 1.010
2005 .292 .388 .594 .982
I still would not trade him.

A loooooooong post on AL MVP coming soon.

November 10, 2005

NL Cy Young

Player    1st 2nd 3rd Total

Carpenter 19 12 1 132
Willis 11 18 3 112
Clemens 2 2 24 40
Oswalt - - 2 2
Cordero - - 1 1
Pettitte - - 1 1
1. I hate Roger Clemens.
1a. However ...
2. He posted a 1.87 ERA this season. The NL average was 4.14. That means his ERA+ was 221 -- the second-best season of his career (he was slightly better (226) in 1997 (when he received 25 of 28 first-place votes).

3. Four BBWAA writers left him off their NL Cy Young ballots this year. Four!

4. Who the hell are these idiots? (Seriously, are these guys defending themselves out there someplace?)

Rumours Of Theo's Return Exaggerated

Although there are "persistent rumors" of Theo Epstein's return to the Red Sox, team chairman Tom Werner says the team has moved on: "We have read the rumors, and we completely discount them and are at a point where we turn the page."

To that end, Nationals GM Jim Bowden was interviewed yesterday (for what he called his "dream job") and Jim Beattie will be interviewed today. Several current GMs -- Doug Melvin (Milwaukee), Kevin Towers (San Diego), Brian Sabean (San Francisco) and Terry Ryan (Minnesota) -- have taken themselves out of the running.

Jim Duquette (Orioles VP of baseball operations) and David Forst (Athletics assistant general manager) both say they are not interested in the GM job. Two other possible candidates -- Cleveland assistant general manager Chris Antonetti and Tony LaCava, the Blue Jays' director of player personnel -- declined even to be interviewed.

About ten days after Manny Ramirez made another demand to be traded, the Ramirez-to-Mets talk is once again alive.

Ramirez's agent, Greg Genske, met on Wednesday with Werner and Larry Lucchino and both sides agreed to explore trade options. No mention was made of the alleged refusal of Manny to report to spring training if he is still a Red Sock.

Gordon Edes (Globe):
This time, however, it appears Ramirez and the Sox are working in concert to move him. ... A persuasive, and perhaps unassailable, argument could be made that it would be in the Sox' best interests to keep Rami­rez, who in his five seasons in Boston has remained one of the most prolific hitters in the game ...
One major league executive told the New York Post: "To motivate the Red Sox to trade Manny is going to take more than just salary relief."

Terry Francona will undergo surgery to replace his right knee.

November 8, 2005

AL Cy Young

2005 AL Adjusted ERA+*

Santana MIN 153
Millwood CLE 143
Buehrle CHW 143
Washburn LAA 131
Rogers TEX 130
Silva MIN 128
Blanton OAK 127
Garland CHW 127
Contreras CHW 123
Lackey LAA 122
So who does the Baseball Writers Association of America decide was the best pitcher in the American League?

Why, Bartolo Colon, of course.

Colon's ERA+ was 120. And as far as not allowing runs -- pretty much a pitcher's top job, right? -- he was the third best starter on his own team.

His 3.48 ERA was 8th best in the AL, behind Jarrod Washburn (4th, 3.20) and John Lackey (6th, 3.44).

But he got great run support and totaled 21 wins, so ...
       1st 2nd 3rd  Pts  ERA+

Colon 17 11 118 120
Rivera 8 7 7 68 323
Santana 3 8 12 51 153
Lee 2 2 8 108
Buehrle 5 5 143
Garland 1 1 127
Millwood 1 1 143
(Rivera's ERA+ is not a typo; he posted a 1.38 ERA and the AL average was 4.45.)

However, it isn't just the BBWAA who are morons. Colon was also named the top pitcher in all of MLB by The Sporting News and was chosen as the AL's outstanding pitcher in the Players Choice Awards.

*: ERA+ is the ratio of the league's ERA (adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark) to that of the pitcher (lgERA / ERA). 100 is league average.

November 4, 2005

Ortiz Named Top AL Player By Peers

The American League MVP Award will not be announced until November 14, but yesterday David Ortiz was voted the AL's Outstanding Player in the Players Choice Awards. Andruw Jones was named MLB Player of the Year.

John Henry gave a long interview to radio station WEEI yesterday afternoon; many SoSHers, including Curt Schilling (comment numbers 188 and 227) offer their opinions.

November 3, 2005

The Unanswered Question: Why?

Theo Epstein's and John Henry's comments at yesterday's press conference (transcript here and Chris Snow's excellent overview here) brought up a lot of questions -- none of them larger than: Why? Why? Why?

[I]n the end, this is a job you have to give your whole heart and soul to, you have to devote yourself to completely. You have to believe in every aspect of it. And in the end, after a long period of reflection about myself and the organization, and the time, I decided I could no longer put my whole heart and soul into it.
Why? Why couldn't you no longer "give your whole heart and soul" to your job? What aspects of the job do you no longer believe in? What was it about the Red Sox organization that made you realize you had to leave?

Art Martone (ProJo):
[Epstein] was asked [why] dozens of different ways yesterday ... He was clear -- indeed, expansive -- about all the things that weren't part of his decision to leave. But he never really articulated the things that were, other than to say, in various forms, what he said at the very beginning of the press conference.
But there were some hints (my emphasis):

The way I am, to do this job you have to believe in every aspect of the job. You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in the people you work with, you have to believe in the whole organization. ...

A lot of things happened during the end of this negotiation that caused me to think more closely about the situation, think about myself, think about the organization and whether it was the right fit. Again, in the end I decided that the right thing to do was to move on.
It's possible that Epstein did not agree with the future direction -- regarding players, size of payroll, etc. -- that ownership wanted to take the team.

Tony Massarotti (Herald):
Yesterday, the one question for which no answer was given was also the one which needed no answer: Why? Henry deferred to Epstein on the matter and Epstein danced like Fred Astaire, but deep in our hearts, we all know the truth. Epstein did not trust Lucchino. ... Why is [Lucchino] so difficult to trust? Lucchino's baseball career is spotted with fractured relationships, none more costly than this one. Epstein was his apprentice, his pupil, his understudy. In theory, no one should have trusted Lucchino more. In reality, no one seemed to trust him less.
Bill Reynolds (ProJo):
Lucchino was the one we wanted to hear, the one who might have been able to shed some light on how this ended up the way it did ... You would think he would have been there for no other reason than he's the public face of this franchise, its CEO. ... You would think he would have begun the first day of damage control, both to his image and the perception that the Red Sox are going to be fine, that the organization is strong enough to withstand the loss of anyone, Epstein included.
But Lucchino was not present, at owner John Henry's request. Henry absolved Lucchino of any blame:
I don't know how anyone can legitimately think the principal owner is not ultimately responsible for what happens with the general manager. How you can just give the principal owner of any baseball club a free pass?
Henry said that the club had been trying for the past two days to get Epstein to reconsider and he admitted that he should have been more involved:
To lose Theo is a great loss. So I feel responsible. What could I have done? There's plenty I could have done. I have to ask myself maybe I'm not fit to be the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. ... I had this romantic notion that Theo was going to be our general manager for the rest of my life. We had the best relationship imaginable. We still have the best relationship. I can't imagine having a better relationship with a human being than I have with Theo.
So again: Why did things have to deteriorate to the point that Epstein felt he had to walk away?

Snow writes that, according to a team source, "Henry's involvement extended only so far as remaining in close contact with Lucchino. Henry, according to the team source, made no real effort to involve himself in the negotiations until after Epstein's Monday afternoon resignation."

What was Lucchino telling Henry about the progress of the negotiations? Why didn't Henry approach Epstein himself and get something done quickly last spring? Why wouldn't Henry have all three men sit down and talk? And when the talks dragged on this fall, why didn't Henry become more involved? ... Despite the non-answers and denials, the reasons for Theo's departure seem pretty clear. And Henry is siding with Lucchino on this one.