May 2013 S M T W T F S « Feb 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
No doubt Red Sox fans are pleased to not see their team mired in drama as the team prepares for the 2013 season. Aaaahh the sweet silence of nobody complaining about this or that. The 2012 season was more about broken relationships then playing baseball. The fans were still furious about the 2011 nose dive. The players both hated the egotistical defensive Bobby V and had to learn to live with the fury of the fans. Everyone was ticked off at the front office for one reason or another. The players probably saw coming to the ballpark as comparable to going to the dentist to have multiple teeth pulled. This atmosphere is not going to bring out the best in a pro athlete. In my humble opinion the key to the Red Sox having a successful season is the fans and players getting back to a good old fashioned Boston love fest at Fenway. Looking at the probable roster for the Carmines they can be competitive for a playoff spot. However, they probably will need a heavy dose of home field advantage. The bullpen is deep so they need to consistently get a lead going into the 5th and 6th innings then turn the dogs loose from the pen. The lineup is not scary like it was when Manny and Ortiz were in their prime. However if Ellsbury and or Victorino and or Ortiz and or Pedroia come close to their previous best seasons then the lineup could get formidable. Middlebrooks Salty and Napoli are the next tier of guys that could kick the offense into high gear. Assuming most of them have good but not great years means the offense will score its share of runs but not be the dominant factor in a successful season. The good news for the Sox is that they have traditionally always had a good offense. They also have the advantage of knowing how to take advantage of the quirks of good old Fenway Park. That plus the fans going back to being crazy in love with the team is a get to the playoff recipe of piling up wins at home and hanging around .500 on the road.
Presumably if the team is also in the hunt Cherington can maybe pull the trigger on a trade to fill an obvious gap. Without messing with their blue chip prospects the Sox have some depth to trade from. If Bard comes back strong as I suspect he will, they almost have to trade someone from the pen and virtually every team that is serious about the playoffs needs bullpen help at one time or another. I also believe a Red Sox team with too many lefties is not a good thing. The Sox are bucking the odds big time if they rely too heavily on lefties to pitch in the shadows of the Green Monster. They need to have just the right amount of lefties on the staff. Too many is not good, not enough is just as bad. Two lefties in the rotation is the right amount. However, Franklin Morales with his mid 90‘s heater and gritty ways is more than capable of being a major league starter for any team. Both Aceves and Morales have the versatility to start or relieve. That is value in my book. One of the bullpen lefties among Miller, Breslow and Morales wont make the team. In the pen from the right side outside of the closer Hanrahan, there is Bailey Uehara, Aceves and hopefully Bard and Tazawa. As they say, that’s deep depth. You never know who another team will really want but the Sox could easily make a mid season trade if it seems like a good idea.
What I like about the 2013 Red Sox is the players are obviously hungry to put the past behind them and play some winning baseball. The fans are hungry to like their team again. If Bard comes back the pen has the potential to be quite dominant. Cherington has shrewdly filled in the needed gaps without spending too much. Their biggest need is a true number one starter. However, their starters remind me of the 2005 White Sox who won a World Series without a true number one but had plenty of number 2‘s that got the job done. The lineup at this point looks C+ to B- with the potential for B+ or A- and that along with a good starting staff and top notch bullpen will get a team into the playoffs. In recent years in just about all major sports the hot team going into the playoffs is often the one that goes the distance. So let the spring training games begin.
No doubt Ben Cherington has given a lot of thought the past few months to who will replace Bobby Valentine. He must have a short list. Before we get to who might be on his short list let’s look at the reasons someone should be on his list. My criteria for selecting the best possible manager from a generic point of view starts with experience. Anyone who has never had the whole weight of decision making on their shoulders makes rookie mistakes early in their tenure. The only question is how big and how often. It’s the difference between being a captain versus the top trusted lieutenant. It’s easier to make clear headed assessments that are your suggestions when your name isn’t attached to the final results. All the great leaders of men on the field of play made glaring mistakes before they were great. Bill Belichick is good example of this. His first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns ended in utter failure. However, he obviously, learned from his mistakes and that is more important than making them in the first place. Robin Ventura stands out as a possible exception. He no doubt made mistakes this year his first year as a manager of the White Sox but they didn’t really come back to haunt him. However, exceptions don’t negate the core logic that makes a rule a rule. If there is someone available who has managed a team to a championship, he should be on Cherington’s short list.
The next trait to look for is based on baseball 101. When I was a youngster I heard time and time again that 80% of baseball is pitching. So if at all possible get a manager who personally is strong with pitchers and pitching decisions or get a manager like La Russa that has a great pitching coach like Dave Duncan attached at the hip. The Red Sox really have no choice to get this aspect of the hire right.
The first two traits are as obvious as they are essential. However, the next trait is the one that really separates the men from the boys. You want your new manager to lead your team to a championship so hire someone who has experienced a world championship. First you want someone who has already managed a team to the top, secondly you want someone who has played on a championship team then you look for someone who has coached on a championship team. This is the most valuable type of training for someone to lead a team to the promised land. It is not the only way to identify someone who can lead a team to a championship but having someone with this experience takes a lot of risk out of the selection.
There is only one potential candidate that has managed a team to a World Series triumph and that is Ozzie Guillen. There is a very good chance Ozzie will be fired by the Marlins. John Farrell was the pitching coach for the Red Sox in 2007 when they won the World Series. DeMarlo Hale was the third base coach for that same Red Sox team. Jose Oquendo was third base coach for the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011 when they won the World Series. Joey Cora was the third base coach for Ozzie Guillen’s the 2005 White Sox.
There are gems out there who can lead a team to a winning the World Series without every being on a team that won it. Terry Francona is a prime example of this. With the next group look for someone who brings something unique and special. The next group all have impressive credentials excluding a World Series championship. Ryne Sandberg HOF second basemen who this year won Minor League Manager of the Year. Sandy Alomar Jr. six time All-Star catcher, was interim manager this year for the Indians. Mike Maddox pitching coach for the Rangers. The Rangers have historically been a good hitting poor pitching team. Mike’s pitching staff has for the only time in Rangers history been to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. Jose Oquendo has been the third base coach of the Cardinals on two championship teams.
It appears to be a real long shot that Blue Jays let Farrell go the Red Sox without some unnecessary pain to the Red Sox as part of the package. Mike Maddox apparently doesn’t want to uproot his family from Texas. I would have included these two on the list if not for these situations. The latest rumor is that the Marlins might keep Ozzie but its about a 50/50 proposition. With all that here is my short list for the Red Sox manager’s job: Ozzie Guillen, Ryne Sandberg, and Sandy Alomar Jr. If the Marlins keep Ozzie then put Jose Oquendo on the list.
For those fans that still want to keep Bobby Valentine in his job, there is a very compelling reason why Bobby V should be fired and sent bye bye. Yes, give Bobby V his walking papers in spite of the fact that reins were put on his confrontational managerial style, in spite of the obvious hole in the starting staff made by Josh Beckett and Jon Lester and in spite of the multitude of injuries to his team.
Before we get into key reason let’s address why I believe many Red Sox fans want to keep him. Red Sox fans are rightfully angry for many reasons. Most of this anger is directed at the players. The focal point of their anger toward the players is that some perhaps many of them abused the respect and subsequent leeway Tito Francona gave them back in 2011. In their anger fans still want the players to pay for this sin. These Bobby V backers see his firing as a win for players who don’t deserve to get what they want. They like the idea of a guy like Valentine making them uncomfortable and even punished under his leadership. A wise person understands decisions made from anger are bad decisions that could lead to disaster.
Now let’s get back to Bobby Valentine. He is the very definition of the metaphor loose canons sink ships. He catalyzed the sinking of the 2012 Boston Red Sox season and that is why he should be fired. As his team was poised to string together the big win streak needed to make them real contenders in the playoff race, his big mouth sabotaged the run. This, now infamous bit of Red Sox Shakespearian opera, occurred after the Sox won four games in a row against the Yankees and Rangers. The pitching poor Twins rolled into town for a four game series that could easily have led to an eight game win streak. However, in the afternoon before the first game between the Red Sox and Twins, Bobby’s bruised ego needed to vent. He pulled back the curtain and revealed live on radio that he was reprimanded by management for making the comment to Will Middlebrooks, “Nice inning kid.” This happened earlier in the season just after Middlebrooks made two errors. The story then was a veteran player complained to management about this incident who in turn backed the players in this matter. The Red Sox played that game flatter than a pancake presumably because they were embarrassed that their dirty laundry was one of the main topics that everyone in baseball was talking about. The team never recovered from this bubble being burst. We later learned that the Middlebrooks incident was just the tip of the iceberg of what really went on behind closed doors. The Will Middlebrooks incident was just part of a litany of complaints presented to the owners privately, in person, in a hotel room in New York. Seventeen players showed up to get Bobby V fired. The players were complicit in undermining the team’s chance to use their four game win streak as a springboard to getting into the playoffs. However, Valentine is the one who lit the fire and flamed out their momentum. This shows he cannot be trusted to guide any team through the difficult maze that leads to a championship season.
Valentine’s main flaw as a manager and a person is that if there are problems, it aint his fault. Its the fault of the umpires, players, coaches, media, fate, the weather, the wind, the stitches on the baseball etc. etc. He never will get the best out of his players because professional players need a leader who has their back. Its not his nature to have anyone else’s back but his own. He belongs on ESPN taking cheap shots at other people like the New York punk that he is.
The big news in Red Sox Nation comes from the the Red Sox Owners to be or not to be, financial desk. John Henry and his boys are discussing just maybe selling NESN and the Red Sox. Charlie Gasparino of the Fox Business Network reports that the owners have inquired about potential buyers. Gasparino’s sources believe Henry is apparently feeling two ginormous payroll hogs in the Red Sox and his Liverpool soccer team are too much to bankroll. Ironically, both teams paid big money for under achieving players. Perhaps John Henry is willing to handle only one team of overpaid underachievers. However, he now wants to avoid in the future the possibility of owning two teams like this. He has vehemently denied that he might sell the Red Sox but if most of us were in his situation we would be denying this as well.
My take is that Henry is considering selling the Sox but is more in the planning stages than actually ready to pull the trigger. It doesn’t make sense to bail on the Red Sox when the team’s value is down because of their recent on field failures and off field soap operas. It makes much more sense for him to add a quality pitcher or two to the starting rotation. Bring back the face of the franchise, David Ortiz, possibly throw in a right handed hitter into the mix and oh yeah, fire the guy many in the clubhouse hate. This should drastically reduce the Shakespearean atmosphere on Yawkey Way. After realizing some on field success and the organization shifts from dysfunctional mode to functional then sell the team. The history of sports shows owners make by far the most money on a franchise when it is sold. Waiting for the Red Sox organization to right their ship before selling is the most likely course of action by Henry and his fellow owners. The great news for Red Sox fans is when the team is sold the trifecta that is the primarily responsible for bringing the team failure and embarrassment Larry Lucchino, Josh Beckett, and Bobby Valentine won’t be calling Fenway home anymore.
The mega mega mega blockbuster deal between the Red Sox and the Dodgers is two things for Boston. They are now the proud participants of the biggest salary dump in the history of sports and the Sox drew a get out of jail card. It was really like getting out of the maximum security prison of sports contracts. Before this trade the Red Sox organization was stopped cold from getting the best possible players to fill their needs. Their clubhouse was also freed from the imprisonment of having a clubhouse cancer as their teammate. Now impressionable players like Clay Buchholz, Andrew Miller, and Jon Lester won’t be forced daily to experience the example of soul sucking selfishness that is Josh Beckett.
Now that this insanely huge deal has been consummated, Red Sox Nation has turned its attention to who will replace the departed players. The obvious number one with a bullet need for Boston is an ace of the staff to lead the starting rotation. Now that the organization has been given a mulligan on buying players at 20MM per year, their next move will presumably be done with more discrimination than they have in the past. My favorite candidate for future Red Sox ace is still Jake Peavy. Jake has an ERA of 3.09 and a WHIP of 1.08 in a hitter friendly park. He is also a bulldog and a leader. The White Sox have a $22MM option on him for 2013. This is unlikely to be taken by them as they have attendance problems. However, once Jake becomes a free agent he may prefer to go back to playing for a team with a pitcher friendly park. He may also want to hitch his fate to Nolan Ryan’s Rangers.
My other top choice of a pitcher for them to pursue is Tim Lincecum. Tim is having an off year and the starting pitcher rich Giants have a poor history of developing position players. They also have attendance issues. Losing a big salaried player that is under achieving has to be something they will consider. He will make 18MM per year thru 2014 which is less risky for the Sox than signing a free agent to 3-5 year deal. The Giants also need a SS in a big way. The Red Sox can offer Ciriaco or Jose Iglesias along with Jacoby Ellsbury and a pitcher to sweeten the deal. Aceves with his four pitches is best suited as a starter. The Sox have depth in starters with Lester, Buchholz, Aceves, Doubront, Morales, Lackey, and the two prospects from the Dodgers, Webster and De La Rosa. They need a stopper more than they need two shortstops, six starters and prospects. If Lincecum can get back to his old dominating ways, he is the type of talent and character Red Sox fans will love. Yes there is risk here but any move they make will have risk involved. You can’t win a game of pinochle let alone a World Series without taking risk.
In my opinion Lincecum at 18MM for two years gotten in a trade is a better risk than 3-5 year contracts at sky-is-the-limit free agent money for Jacoby Ellsbury or Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke. One thing is for certain its slightly easier to add or replace quality players than it is to find takers for 20MM ballplayers that don’t work out in Boston. The Red Sox have plenty of money and a enough talented players in their organization to reshuffle the deck for another World Series run. Time will tell if they choose wisely or not.
It’s time to get serious about identifying a replacement for Bobby Valentine. This chemical experiment has blown up in the lab known as the Boston Red Sox. A lot of Sox fans would like to get someone with a little Red Sox history. A Johnny Pesky type who played for the team and then lead the team, would be ideal but it doesn’t look like there are any serious candidates with those credentials.
Speaking of Pesky, he was as classy as they come and nobody loved his Red Sox more than him. He was like an uncle to many of the Sox players who finally brought World Championships home to Boston. He will be missed by the players, fans and members of the Red Sox organization.
There is a contingent of Red Sox Nation that is willing to waste next year in order to hire John Farrell after his contract expires with Toronto. Farrell, was the pitching coach in Boston from 2006-2010 and had a good relationship with bad boy Josh Beckett. To my mind, it is foolishness to waste another year on a team with so much talent and payroll.
There is someone, that in my opinion, would be a quality Major League Baseball manager and someone whom the players should immediately respect. That guy is Ryne Sandberg. Ryno has stated in Chicago, that he wants to become a Major League manager. He took the hard path to becoming a great manager by hauling his Hall of Fame butt to the minor leagues, with their long bus rides and hard life style. That’s how much he loves and respects baseball. Ryne Sandberg is someone Red Sox Nation could easily learn to love.Terry Francona didn’t have any Red Sox connection before becoming their most successful manager.
Sandberg is arguably, one of the best second baseman of all time, and recorded more than his share of clutch hits. One of his career highlights was hitting two late inning home runs against the Cardinals Bruce Sutter. That is the Bruce Sutter whose split fingered fastball was so unhittable that the great Johnny Bench once bunted against the guy because he was getting nowhere trying to swing at it. The Cubs made a mistake taking a pass on him as their manager. It is very, very rare that Hall of Fame players do the dirty work needed to become a manager. This guy is a diamond in the rough and the management creatures at Yawkey Way would be wise to hire him ASAP.
The great Earl Weaver is a perfect example of someone who paid his dues in the minors to become one of the best managers of all time. Earl won 3 championships in 11 years managing in the minors. Phil Jackson won his first championship as a head coach in the Continental Basketball Association. These all time greats showed evidence of their greatness by consistently succeeding in their respective minor leagues. In the majors, talent wins out the vast majority of the time. However, the minors is where a shrewd smart manager can win many games using his leadership acumen.
Sandberg’s career as a minor league manager is impressive. In his first job, he led the Class A Peoria Chiefs to the Midwest League Championship game in 2006. In 2010, he led the AAA Iowa Cubs to an 82-62 record. For this he was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year. After being passed over for Chicago Cubs manager, he went to the organization that originally drafted him, the Phillies. He led the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs to their first ever playoff appearance and the International League Championship series. This guy can manage and the Red Sox would be damn lucky to get him.
The future success of the Red Sox was given hope on Sunday, with Jon Lester’s strong pitching performance. It is uncertain whether that includes making the playoffs this year. Regardless, the clubhouse culture issues especially among the pitching staff , absolutely need to be fixed. Josh Beckett seems to be at the epicenter of what is wrong with the atmosphere among the players. However, the odds of finding a trading partner for Beckett are pretty much at slim to none. I was correct in predicting that the most likely team to acquire him this season in a trade was Texas. Both teams talked about trading Beckett, Ellsbury and Shoppach to Texas. However, they could not agree on what Boston would receive. This means there is probably not a simple solution to this must fix problem. Let’s assume Josh keeps pitching badly and wont have any off season trade value. I believe the reason he has had such an awful season this year is he feels guilty for playing such a pivotal role for the fried chicken and beer brigade of last season. He apparently doesn’t have the guts to admit to himself, let alone Boston fans that what he did and encouraged others to do was wrong and hurt his team last September. The question, that will give the management creatures on Yawkey Way migraine headaches, is what to do about Beckett? I believe there is a possible solution to this complicated matter.
Beckett is the alpha dog of the pitching staff. He holds that position because he once was the most talented and successful among them. He epitomizes the modern day selfish, indulgent, and entitled athletes that fans have come to loathe. Perhaps, some of his teammates aspire to be as selfish as he is and that’s why the younger ones look up to him. Hard to say why but the younger pitchers like him and respect him. The only way I can see to remove the negative influence of Beckett other than getting him off the team, is to acquire another pitcher who because of his personality, talent and resume becomes the dominant personality on the pitching staff.
Fortunately, there will be one of these rare types available in free agency. That guy is Jake Peavy. Jake is a bulldog who is hungry to win a championship. He has strong leadership skills and would be a shining example for any young pitcher on how to be a professional and a winner. Put him in the mix with Beckett and Peavy will become the top dog among the pitching staff. Beckett is so not hungry to win a championship it is kind of nauseating. He has admitted his priorities are his family, inferring he has lost his competitive edge. If Jake Peavy saw Josh Beckett mailing it in at any time, there could be a confrontation and it could get ugly. This is just the kind of interaction the young pitchers including Lester need to be around to right the ship that is the Red Sox. Jake is a no nonsense guy who has struggled to get healthy and wants desperately to get that championship ring on his finger. Perhaps there is another guy like him that is available to the Red Sox. If so, they should try to get him if they can’t acquire Peavy. Its hard to say if Peavy would choose the Red Sox over other teams. Free agents have the final call as to where they play. However, money does talk and the Red Sox fans deserve more than they are getting for their money these days.
Bobby Valentine has not been the main reason for the Red Sox disappointing their fans this season. However, his big mouth looks to have sabotaged their best chance to put a big win streak together. If Bobby had not revealed to the world what went on behind closed doors between him and his bosses, he is more the victim than the problem. Apparently, he couldn’t help himself from being a bigger part of the problem. This mess surrounding Bobby V who said to Will Middlebrooks, “Nice inning, Will”, after Will made two errors, has further muddied many already muddy reputations. Muddy is one thing a season collapsing in August is quite another.
It appears Bobby crossed a line neither he nor his team can recover from. They were on a four game win streak and looking to extend against the pitching-weak Twins. Enter Bobby Valentine putting foot in mouth and sabotaging the win streak. In this latest from the soap opera at Yawkey Way, it looks like one of the many players that wants Bobby Valentine fired took this story to management to get him fired.
I seriously doubt the player in question was the rookie Will Middlebrooks. Beckett or Lachey are my top suspects. Presumably, Valentine was embarrassed and angry that management rebuked him for his comment to Middlebrooks, so on live radio he let the world know that this situation existed. This made everyone in the Red Sox organization look foolish and seemingly resulted in his team getting only two hits against a no name rookie. This not only ended the win streak but started a three game skid. Its one thing for a player to go to work hating their manager, its another when the players playing an important game become acutely aware that their dirty laundry just got aired in public. There is no doubt that this had a profound negative effect on their performance. Ironically, Bobby, is not the number one selfish, bumbling boob in this affair. That honor goes to the player who went to management to get Bobby fired. Next, on the order of magnitude of bumbling boobery is the person in management that sided with this player and rebuked Bobby. So the Bronze has to go to Bobby in this contest
An inkling of hope remains for the Red Sox, however it is more likely they wont make the playoffs and Bobby V gets fired. If John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox really wants to get his team back on track he also relieves Larry Lucchino of CEO and president responsibilities. Lucchino, being the reason Valentine got hired and being a major factor in spending big money on big name players. The trifecta would be to trade Josh Beckett then Red Sox fans would have some real reason to hope. Put a strong, smart,successful baseball man in charge and good things will happen. The Red Sox have a talented team of both youth and established stars. They need to be led by someone they can trust and who will lead them to the promised land.
This headline, borrowed from Earl Weaver, the amusing and insightful former manager of the Baltimore Orioles, who originally said, “Momentum is the next day’s starting Pitcher”, succinctly describes the key issue of this year’s Red Sox.
Boston seems to have gotten their mojo working, at least for now, but they sure didn’t have it going two weeks ago. That’s when Cody Ross’s exciting walk off homer against the White Sox was followed by a dreadful start by Beckett which led to a 4 game losing streak. Back then, Lester and Beckett were acting like momentum stoppers not ace pitchers who stop losing streaks.
Enter Clay Buchholz, who on July 24th stopped the losing streak with 7 strong innings and a no decision win for his team. Three games later Lester pitches a good game and helps stop a two game skid. He apparently made a critical mechanical adjustment and it worked. This was against the damn Yankees and nothing less than the entire season was at stake that night. Next night, same stakes and Doubront delivers a strong start. This led to Boston winning a 10 inning cliffhanger against the bad guys from New York. Next game, in the sometimes unfriendly Fenway Park, Buchholz goes eight very strong innings giving up 2 earned runs against the hot- hitting Tigers. If Buchholz, Doubront and Lester can continue pitching like this it could catapult them into the playoffs.
Now, miracle of miracles, Beckett takes the mound and doesn’t screw the whole thing up. He actually starts the game by retiring the first eight hitters. However, this is 2012 so weird things had to happen to Beckett. An infield hit, HBP, two walks led to a run and a back spasm which put the kibosh on Josh with the bad karma. Ironically, this injury could really benefit the Red Sox even if it puts Beckett on the shelf for a start or two. This is because on this day of the trading deadline the Carmines acquired a lefty reliever, Craig Breslow. This gives them two lefty relievers, which allows Franklin Morales to start and not leave the bullpen short of a lefty. Missing a start or two or more might be the best thing for Beckett’s fragile shoulder. Lou Merloni has, I believe, correctly pointed out on his radio show that Beckett’s shoulder is probably the big reason why Beckett has been so inconsistent on the mound. His shoulder is probably why his approach this year has been to throw a lot of curve balls mixed in with a few 90 mph fastballs. This start was unusual for Beckett because he started the game throwing more fastballs then the Tigers’ Verlander. Maybe it was throwing in the rain, but Josh had great control of his fastball and relatively poor control of his curveball. The rain gets the save for the Red Sox as the Tigers had a bases loaded rally going when the game was stopped. If anyone needed a sign that their season has finally turned around, this just might be it. Now, as long as the next day’s starting pitcher does a quality job, they should keep this momentum going.