August 10, 2006

What's The Frequency, Bill Reynolds?

Bill Reynolds's column this morning in the Providence Journal is headlined: Hey, Sox, the future is now.

Let's read along:
The Red Sox did not want to give up the future.

Wasn't that the mantra?

Wasn't that Theo Epstein's response to why the Red Sox failed to make any significant moves at the trading deadline two weeks ago?

Wasn't that the reason the Sox did nothing, while Brian Cashman significantly upgraded the Yankees, essentially giving up nothing to do it?

Makes you wonder.

It seems to me the future is now. Manny and Ortiz in their prime. Schilling near the end, maybe Varitek, too. It seems to me that in a season where the National League looks like an overpaid International League, the Yankees have had their problems, the White Sox have a hangover after last year's World Series win, and no one seems able to name four position players on the Tigers, the future is now for the Red Sox. Not off in some hazy distance somewhere.

The Yankees improved, but Lidel and Abreu did not upgrade the team "significantly". And Cashman did give up something: a boatload of cash. Which, despite their large payroll, is a concern of the Red Sox. ... Manny is 34 and, as much as I love him, he is no longer in his prime. I'd put his best years at 1999-2002 (two years in each of Cleveland and Boston). Bill, do you truly believe that Varitek is in his prime right now?
The focus should be to be doing all you can do to win now, for the simple reason that there are no guarantees in sports. The future always is as unpredictable as a windblown popup. No one can put their hands around it. You try and win when you can for the simple reason that who really knows when you're going to get another chance.
I pretty much agree with this -- and it's one of the main reasons I get so pissed at Francona. However, many sportswriters, and I'll bet my next paycheck that Reynolds is one of them, talk about the season as a marathon, and how you cannot manage every game as if it was Game 7. In other words, sometimes you have bring in a less-effective pitcher because you cannot burn out your best arms before July. In (more) other words, Reynolds's quote -- "The focus should be to be doing all you can do to win now ... You try and win when you can ..." -- is not really accurate during the baseball season. (Even though I subscribe to it sometimes as a moody fan.)
This is a team that just a few weeks ago was being called as good as any in the American League. And now they seem to be in need of a jump start, a victim of too many injuries and a bullpen that seems as tired as a triathlete.

A team that needed help at the trading deadline and didn't get it.
Who called the Red Sox as good as any team in the league? Was it you, Bill? Name a name or two. If you like, you could start with mine, because I believe it even now. ... But first you say the Sox are as good as any AL team, then they needed help at the deadline. Every team could use some "help", certainly, but you're not making sense here, Bill. Which is it? ... And do you believe both of these statements? Only one of them (and if so, which one?) Neither of them?
Rest assured this would be different if the Sox had not won in 2004. There would be a sense of urgency, a sense that it was imperative to win now. That was the climate in 2004 when Theo traded Nomar, controversial, the sense that nothing was more important than winning now.

So what happened to that sense of urgency?
2004 changed a lot, but if you have any evidence that Theo is resting on the laurels of that wonderful season, please present it. I'd love to see it. ... And, if you recall, the Red Sox were three measly outs from being swept by the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. If that had happened, Theo would have been absolutely roasted by the Boston media for trading Nomar and having less than nothing to show for it. ... And how many local sportswriters were agreeing that trading Nomar and picking up O-Cab and Eyechart in mid-2004 was part of the "winning now" philsophy? (Hint: Zero.)
Now it seems muted, as if winning in 2004 took the pressure off, and now we hear talk about some long-range plan. It sounds great in theory, certainly, until you start looking up at the Yankees in the standings and the season starts to seem as if it's slip-sliding away.

Theo's reluctance to trade his young pitchers is understandable. In a game where pitching is key, the thought of giving up young arms is the new sin.
Oh, so now Theo's decision to keep the young arms is understandable? Bill, could you please pick an opinion and stick with it through the entire column? ... And is this really the first time you have heard of the Sox's long-term plans? Have you been in a coma since Theo was first hired? He -- and everyone else in the organization -- have pounded the idea of the "long-range plan" like a drum since Day 1. Or are you just making fun of the idea of having a long-range plan? Would you rather the Sox give barrels of money to once-good veterans on the wrong side of 35?
But what are the odds that all three of the young guns -- Craig Hansen, Jon Lester, and Manny Delcarmen -- are going to turn out to be great? Probably not too good.
So a 21- or 22-year-old rookie pitcher has to be "great" or the Sox should trade him for a two-month rental? Would you trade Lester for any pitcher out there? Do you have any standard for the kind of player you'd like to get in return? You aren't really saying anything of substance here, Bill. And any deals I read about involved at least two of those pitchers. There was no deal with just one of them involved that I heard about (though I could be wrong).
That's the other thing about doing something significant at the trading deadline. It sends a message to the clubhouse that you're serious. It sends the message that nothing is more important than right now, the best message any team can have. Rest assured that players in the clubhouse couldn't care less about the organization's future. To them the future is the next series, not some year in which the odds are they'll be somewhere else anyway.
The Red Sox should never do something for the simply sake of doing something. Also, Gabe Kapler says the team's actions at the deadline wasn't a big deal to the players.
Kapler: "I think we as a unit and as a group understand that this organization busted its [butt] to try to find the right deal. They stayed up late at night, worked as hard as we worked in an effort to help improve the club. We know the team put in countless hours and Theo put in every ounce that he could put in, that he thought he made the best decision possible at that moment. I trust that he knows enough. ... [A]ll the pieces of this puzzle are here in this room ..."

Coco Crisp: "If [Theo] was trying to do something and it didn't happen, it must not have been right. It's very simple."
Bill, why are you calling Kapler and Crisp liars?
And maybe the Sox did try at the trading deadline, and other teams backed out at the last minute. Who knows?
In other words: "I'm going to write this column and make claims regardless of whether I have any solid information on which to base them."
What matters is results. All the rest is fodder for talk shows, the woulda-shoulda-coulda banter that goes back and forth like a game of catch.
So why wouldn't you want to wait until at least the end of the regular season -- instead of nine days -- before passing judgment? That's the earliest we will see the tangible results of what the Sox did: They will either make the playoffs this year or not.

Of course, you might also want to wait and see what waiver deals are made and whether these potentially good arms that the Red Sox held onto to (for now) actually pan out, before (sort of) saying it was a mistake to keep them.
The Red Sox can spin this anyway they want, but if this team fails to make the playoffs, this season should be viewed as a major disappointment. ... This is a team that's supposed to be in the playoffs, not were positioning itself for some undetermined future.
Major? Perhaps. Read the first few pages of Seth Mnookin's "Feeding The Monster" for very clear evidence that Epstein saw 2006 as a transition year of sorts -- still quite competitive, but clearly experiencing a changing of the guard and having to address the need to get younger. And the fromt office has always talked about a huge crop of talent coming to Boston in 2007-08.

Finally, there is no reason why the Sox cannot make the playoffs this year. They are not 10 games out of the East or the wild card.

Reynolds's column is nothing more than a bunch of contradictory gibberish, silly strawmen and a profound ignorance of both recent Red Sox history and the oft-quoted opinions of the front office.


9casey said...

The only thing about the future that scares me a little is that it all banks on Lester, lefty starter, Delcarmen setup guy at best , Hansen , who knows what he has the mindset for..And of course Papelbon, the untouchable...But what what about the future in the field , Sanchez gone , Ramirez gone, . We haven't devolped an outfielder since Nixon.. How long is he(Theo) going to rely on journeymen middle infielders to really help this team. Are pedroia and Murhpy the answers , i'm not too sure. i hope like you that i'm wrong.

Kyle said...

There is far more talent at the AA and A levels. Particularly, outfield talent. Jacoby Ellsbury is going to be a stud.

Losing Freddie Sanchez hurt far more than Hanley.

We will be OK. Just don't lose hope or sight of what the FO is doing. This is not an easy task to transition to a younger team (without just dumping all old talent like the Marlins did) while remaining competitive.

The deals they've made with Big Papi, Coco and Beckett are smart because they didn't go crazy (meaning they didn't pay super high $$ for aging free agents) plus these guys are still young but have MLB success.

Don't be frightened by no deals being made. There was nothing out there that was smart. Be thankful but at the same time remember why we didn't make moves. Just because the Yanks got guys doesn't mean we had to too.

allan said...

If it is a transition year, it is unlike those years for most teams. This team can make the playoffs even as it goes through significant changes.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that I have serious problems with many of Francona's decisions, and his reasons for making them, but in no way are the Red Sox a "poorly managed franchise".

This is, without a doubt, the most intelligent and progressive Red Sox front office in my 30 years as a fan.

And while there was plenty of luck in October 2004, Tito also managed circles around Torre.

it is highly unlikely that the sox will reach the playoffs with tito at the helm

The Red Sox have always made the playoffs with Tito at the helm. 2 years and 2 playoff appearances.

laura k said...

That's the other thing about doing something significant at the trading deadline. It sends a message to the clubhouse that you're serious.

What garbage. You don't make deals to "send a message". You make deals to strengthen a team, and only for that reason. This isn't Little League. The boys don't need a message.

If you did not see the sox' recent woes coming then you lack experience in human nature and common sense.

On another note, why can't people disagree without saying things like this? Redsock lacks neither of these, and Robert M may not lack them either, and they can still disagree. Calm down.