Tuesday, January 13, 2009

You Know What I Haven't Had in a While...Big League Chew

Where I opine about Jim Rice finally getting in to the Hall of Fame…

It’s been a long time coming but Jim Rice will finally be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame along with Rickey Henderson.

ESPN had a roundtable debating whether or not Jim Rice should be in the Hall of Fame and SportsCenter made mention or possibility of Rice being overrated. I’m not sure how you can be overrated if you are one of the most feared hitters of your era. To me, that doesn’t make any sense.

When it comes to halls of fame, especially the Baseball Hall of Fame there is a premium placed on numbers. If I say Cooperstown and 300, 3000, 1500 or 500 any baseball fan worth his or her weight in cracker jacks and beer knows exactly what I’m talking about. But those milestone numbers don’t necessarily define what makes a hall of famer.

Obviously it helps but being a dominant player during the time you play in certainly makes you eligible for Hall of Fame induction.

Some say that Rice lacked longevity but I’d take one of the most feared hitters for 12 seasons over a good player for 15 or 20. Rice played 16 seasons, all with the Sox and finished with 2,452 hits, 382 home runs, 1451 RBI and a .298 lifetime batting average.

Those numbers (courtesy of baseball-reference.com) are a little bit shy of some of the sure fire Hall of Fame numbers but when you figure in the fact that he finished in the top five in MVP voting six times and was an eight time all star I think he’s definitely a Hall of Famer.

Alright, he’s in now. I don’t need to try and convince anyone that he belongs there, but it’s interesting how people have this view that adding players to the hall of fame somehow cheapens the honor. If you add the wrong players then yes I can see that but I don’t see anything wrong with adding players who were the best of their time period.

The baseball hall of fame as more than just a mausoleum paying tribute to legends of a bygone age but it’s also a chronicling of baseballs journey through the ages. It’s like that giant ball at Epcot Center, Spaceship Earth, baseball is living, growing thing so how can you leave out the best players of any given era or decade?

It was long overdue for Jim Rice to get the call from Cooperstown, hopefully it won’t be a similar experience for guys like Bert Blyleven.

Okay one more quick thing about Hall of Fame voting.

The Hall of Fame voting and all voting done by media members should be immune to people with personal vendettas or gripes about players. The Hall of Fame has nothing to do with whether or not a player was nice. It’s about whether or not that player was one of the greatest to play the game.

Was it the college football AP Poll voter that said they didn’t want to be the ones to make the final determination on who is named the national champion? Is that right? I’m going to be honest that could be totally inaccurate the BCS has kind of clouded my mind but I thought I remembered hearing that.

The voting for awards and hall of fame induction shouldn’t be a popularity contest and it shouldn’t be hastily thrown together. For example, I present you with the Curious Case of Edinison Volquez of the Cincinnati Reds.

Volquez got three second place votes for NL Rookie of the Year in 2008. Funny thing is Voloquez wasn’t a rookie. Granted if you asked me during the season I probably would have thought he was a rookie too but when you are voting for Rookie of the Year you have to know who is and isn’t eligible…don’t you?

I’m not saying the human element should be taken out of the voting (we’ve seen how well that can workout) or the voters are bad people but you shouldn’t be allowed to neglect someone because you have a grudge and you should have to pay attention to what you are voting for, that’s all I’m saying.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Making Moves

where the Sox will not stand idly by and allow ESPN to crown the Yankees the 2009 AL East Champions before a pitch is thrown on Theo Epstein’s watch.

The Yankees offseason acquisitions have apparently made them the best team in baseball despite the fact that the season hasn’t started yet, the Red Sox and Rays finished ahead of them and there are still 162 games to be played.

Granted their offseason moves have them poised to regain the pole position in the division but it’s not like the Sox and Rays are the Orioles…no offense.

The Sox are making moves to try and stay in competition with the Rays and Yankees and as of yesterday they’ve signed John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli and are close to resigning Mark Kotsay.

Let’s start with Smoltz. This is a great signing for the Sox and it is going to seriously help the rotation and bullpen. It’s been rumored that Smoltz won’t be able to pitch until the end of May or beginning of June. This actually works out well for the Red Sox as Smoltz will be able to fill the role they were hoping Curt Schilling would have played last season.

The Red Sox have one of the best programs in all of baseball when it comes to rehabilitating pitchers shoulders so it’s certainly reasonable to think that Smoltz will be able to come back and be effective. His late availability works well with what Tito likes to do. He’s shown a pattern of shutting guys down for short periods of time during the season and now they’ll have John Smoltz and Tim Wakefield to move around as starters and relievers.

That gives Tito the flexibility to give Josh Beckett and Jon Lester some time during the season to heal up, it also adds an arm to the bullpen to allow Okie and co. to rest midseason.

I’d guess the Sox will likely start with Penny and Wake as the 4-5 starters with Justin Masterson in the pen. After last year Masterson proved he's a stud and the perfect 8th inning guy for the time being. Then they have Clay Buchholz to play with. If he doesn't get traded, he’ll likely start out in the minors. He needs to work out his delivery issues they tweaked it last year and that hurt as him he couldn't quite get it down.

Either way Buchholz can be used in a potential deal, for someone like Taylor Teagarden or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or he’s another guy you can bring up and join the rotation later in the year. The same thing goes for Michael Bowden, but that’s another story for another day.

The Sox also signed the pride of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Rocco Baldelli. Baldelli has missed a lot of time in the past three years playing in 92, 35, and 28 games due to injury and what has been diagnosed as channelopathy not a mitochondrial disorder as was previously thought.

According to the Rays blog The Heater Channelopathy involvies dysfunction of ion channels that can involve potassium, sodium, chloride and calcium. If the Baldelli and Sox medical staff can find a way to get him healthy he’ll be a terrific fourth outfielder.

Over his career Baldelli has show that he has good pop in his bat and has excellent speed. He also has the ability to play any of the three outfield positions. Because he’s from RI, Baldelli is going to be an instant fan favorite in Boston and if he can get healthy he’ll certainly be an adequate replacement for the departed Coco Crisp.

Of course just to prove that they are as smart as we hope they are the Sox are also close to re-signing Mark Kotsay to a one year deal. Again this is another good move by the Red Sox. Kotsay is certainly a good enough player to start on another team but with the way the offseason has gone it doesn’t look like there is a large market for a guy like him.

In 22 regular season games last season Kotsay hit .226 with 12 RBI (Boston Globe) but he also broke Brian Daubach’s record for most times hitting the ball wicked hahd right at people. Kotsay also became the Sox starting first basemen when Mike Lowell got hurt in the postseason, so he is definitely a valuable guy to have on the bench. The Sox can use him in the outfield as the fourth outfielder (depending on how Baldelli works out) as well as at first if Youk needs a break or incase Mike Lowell has any trouble returning from his offseason surgery. The Globe also made note that because Kotsay can can play both outfield and infield it allows Tito to carry four bench players and keep 12 pitchers, as he generally likes to.

There’s been a lot of panicking since the Sox lost the bidding war for Teixeira but I'll take Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli as alternatives. The team wanted Teixeira and I’m not going to pretend that they wouldn’t be improved with him in their lineup. But as always the Sox are making smart moves.

The battle between the Red Sox and Yankees rages on both on and off the field. Theo Epstein had a great quote in today’s Globe about the Yankees offseason moves.

“I don’t pay an awful lot of attention to them,” Epstein said. “My approach is they’re always going to win 95 to 100 games.”

And really that’s how you have to think of the Yankees. We love to see them struggle but realistically they are going to win 95 to 100 games more often than not. The Red Sox try to build their team with that in mind, knowing that in order to compete in their division they’ll need to win at least 95-100 games. Therefore you have to believe that all the moves Theo is making are designed to help the Sox field a 100 win team.

The Red Sox needed a fourth outfielder, another starter and some bullpen help. They are definitely addressing need with Penny, Smoltz, Kotsay, Baldelli and Ramon Ramierz, who a lot of people seem to be forgetting about....now we just need a catcher.

A couple of quick thoughts on other stuff going on in the wide world of sports.

Last night’s BCS National Title game lived up to the hype. The Florida Gators, Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow won a second National title and Oklahoma’s offense struggled in yet another BCS bowl game.

It was a good game and since I don’t really have any preference when it comes to college sports I have to say I was happy to see Florida win, they are an exciting team to watch both offensively and defensively. As for the Sooners, Sam Bradford is the real deal but that SEC speed is just too much to handle sometimes.
Even though this year’s BCS National Title game was pretty indicative of two teams that should have played for a championship I think it goes to show exactly why there needs to be a playoff in college football.

Really Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and USC all could have potentially taken home a national title this year. Again that is a different story for a different day.

One more thing…I just watched a Weezer video for the first time since 1998 and if I could offer a small piece of advice to River Cuomo it would be not to grow a mustache, because…yikes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Don't Push the Panic Button Yet

Where I try to talk you off the ledge and into Gregg Zaun…

The Red Sox are still going to be in good position to challenge for the AL East title and/or the wild card. It’s just going to be a rougher road. Seriously, they’re not going to go from one of the top teams in baseball to battling in the basement with the Blue Jays because they missed out on one free agent. And a free agent that plays the same position as a guy that is coming off an MVP caliber year.

While it might not seem like the Sox are doing much this offseason because they didn’t get Mark “I let my wife pick the team I’m going to play for” Teixeira (your move Kris Benson) they have focused on addressing their needs. Teixeira was a want for the Sox, they still need a catcher but they also needed another bullpen arm, a 4-5 starter and a fourth outfielder.

The Sox got the bullpen arm they need in the Coco Crisp trade picking up 26 year old righty Ramon Ramirez. Ramirez went 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA, 70 Ks and 31 BBs in 71 2/3 innings, for the Royals, so those are pretty solid numbers especially when you consider the run support he got in KC.

The Sox also added Brad Penny, who I talked about in my last post, to be their second attempt at the Bartolo Colon experiment. Personally I think Penny for 5 million is a great deal for a guy like Penny, who should be able to bounce back well enough to fit the role the Sox have him pegged for. Honestly did you really want them to shell out big bucks for D-Lowe to come back and be the 4th starter? It’s pretty clear that Beckett, Lester and Dice-K are your 1-3, so it makes more sense for the Sox to save some money and go with Penny then try to resign Tek for two years and make a play for a guy like Taylor Teagarden.

They also got a break glass in case of emergency catcher in Josh Bard. I highly doubt he’s going to be a starter, like I said before he’s the 2009 version of Kevin Cash. I just hope he learns how to catch the knuckleball. I’m not sure another police escort Doug Mirabelli entrance will do.

Clearly the team’s most glaring need is a catcher. Ideally you’d love to see them resign Tek so they can have him groom his eventual replacement and his ideal replacement would be someone like Teagarden, unless they really think they can make a push for Joe Mauer when he becomes a free agent.

Another option the Red Sox have been reportedly exploring is bringing in Gregg Zaun. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Gregg Zaun is as good a signing as CC, Burnett, Teixeira or even Pat Burrell but he is certainly a capable starter.

Zaun’s old but he’s played in the AL East for the last five seasons and his numbers really aren’t all that dissimilar from Varitek’s.

Zaun 2004-2008 w/ Toronto


2004 107 338 46 91 24 0 6 36 .269 .367 .393
2005 133 434 61 109 18 1 11 61 .251 .355 .373
2006 99 290 39 79 19 0 12 40 .272 .363 .462
2007 110 331 43 80 24 1 10 52 .242 .341 .411
2008 86 245 29 58 12 0 6 30 .237 .340 .359

Varitek 2004-2008 w/ Sox


2004 137 463 67 137 30 1 18 73 .296 .390 .482
2005 133 470 70 132 30 1 22 70 .281 .366 .489
2006 103 365 46 87 19 2 12 55 .238 .325 .400
2007 131 435 57 111 15 3 17 68 .255 .367 .421
2008 131 423 37 93 20 0 13 43 .220 .313 .359

Tek’s numbers are better, but not by as much as you would think, especially over the last two seasons. Now to be fair to Tek, who again I hope will be back, he played in way more games and had way more at bats than Zaun did. Realistically Zaun would be the perfect fit for the spot that Josh Bard is set to occupy but offensively you’d probably see similar results from Zaun and/or Varitek.

Once again though Tek’s value is more important behind the plate. The pitchers love throwing to him and it can only help the staff to have him behind the plate again. If Manny Ramirez isn’t generating much interest from teams I really can’t imagine anyone is offering all of King Midas’ silver for Varitek.

I really hope they resign Tek because I’m not sure if I can keep talking myself into Gregg Zaun.

(stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thoughts on Brad Penny and Josh Bard

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how Theo Epstein said that some teams try to win the offseason and that it’s more important to keep both the upcoming season and the future in mind when pursuing players.

Obviously the Yankees are winning the offseason, but the Sox got things moving last week by signing Josh Bard and Brad Penny. Good moves by the Sox, granted they shipped Josh Bard to the Padres for Doug Mirabelli because he couldn’t catch the knuckleball but hey right now they’re catcherless so no worries.

In all seriousness though signing Bard is a solid move, he’s not going to be their everyday catcher. As I’ve said before I fully expect the Red Sox to resign Jason Varitek. When the Rangers traded Gerald Laird to Detroit it did a number of the market that Boras created. Signing Bard makes up for losing Kevin Cash to the Yankees and Brad Penny is exactly the kind of back end of the rotation help they need. He’s like the Bartolo Colon experiment redux.

Speaking of Cash why would he jump ship and go to the Yankees, I don’t really get that move. They started signing ever free agent so he felt it was necessary to bail. Is he going to play anymore in NY then he would have here? I hope he gets drilled in his first plate appearance.

As for Penny, the Sox took advantage of the fact that he had an injury plagued 2008 and signed him for fairly cheap, five million I believe for one year. Even if he turns out to be Wade Miller and not the solid number 4-5 starter it’s not the end of the world. People seem to be pissed that the Sox are getting worked in the offseason by the Yankees but the moves they have made this offseason make sense and are based on need rather than want.

Sure they wanted Mark Teixeira but it’s not like they are completely screwed without. And I’d rather see the Sox sign Penny for one year at five million than A.J. Burnett for five years at 82 million.

Penny had a rough 2008, he only made 17 starts and went 6-9 with a 6.27ERA but in 2007 he finished third in the NL Cy Young voting. If you look at his numbers there is no reason to think that he won’t be able to back to at least average in 2009.

Over his career Penny has averaged a shade over 200 innings a season while making 33 starts. He’s also averaged 12 wins with a 4.06 ERA. For a 4-5 starter I’d certainly take 12 wins with an ERA around four and 200 innings. Plus I don’t think Theo is done yet, it’s only January, he’s got plenty of time to bring back Tek and bring in John Smoltz.

Also depending on how the Twins proceed I think Theo is trying to set up to make a serious run at Joe Mauer when he becomes a free agent. Knowing that the Posada and Tek will both probably be dwindling or done and the Yankees will be offering a shitload of money I wouldn’t be surprised if a move like that is what Theo has in mind when he’s “keeping the future in mind”.

New Years Day is a pretty sweet day for sports. Five bowl games and the NHL Winter Classic, great way to spend the day after celebrating the demise of 2008.

2008 was a good year for the seat, banner number 17 and the Sox one win away from having a shot at going back to back. Not a bad year, not a bad year at all.