Friday, August 6, 2010

A Lost Cause

Theo Epstein, John Henry and the entire Red Sox front office and presumably the manager, coaching staff and players knew that this wasn't going to be their year a month ago. The confluence of events with injuries and the play of the Yankees and Rays had made it an uphill climb from the start of the season that became completely untenable with the loss of Kevin Youkilis to season-ending thumb surgery. But even if Youkilis were healthy, they weren't going to make the playoffs barring an unexpected hot streak or collapse by one of the teams in front of them.

Admirable though they've been in staying in contention at all given the spate of injuries that have befallen them, eventually the foundation----regardless of how strong and financially well-supported----will break when enough pressure is placed upon it and this is now happening to the Red Sox. They're looking for hitting options to keep up appearances (Carlos Delgado?), but they know that it's pretty much it this year.

Prior to the season, I felt that the switch from power to pitching and defense was going to be the cause of a Red Sox downfall, but apart from a slow start, they've been able to score as well as they have in the past----and this is with another terrible start by David Ortiz and rampant injuries to Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury. Adrian Beltre has had a great year and they've gotten contributions from unheralded bargain-basement pickups like Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald.

That said, the template hasn't exactly worked as planned; the defense has been predominately mediocre; the pitching injury plagued, patched together in the starting rotation and shaky in the bullpen.

It's amazing that they're in the position they're in and not at or under .500. Their solid play is a testament to the intelligence of the organization as is the fact that they've been able to hang around this long especially in that division.

That said, there are hidden advantages in the way the season's gone for them. The pitching and defense strategy was done: A) in a stat zombie bit of experimentation----like the bullpen by committee in 2003----to see if it worked; and B) because the players they were importing were inexpensive and short-term hole-fillers.

Now, with the injury excuse saving them from the relentless attacks that caused them to fling money at each and every one of their problems in the winter of 2006-2007, they can avoid any drastic changes in the coaching staff or with players and take steps to try and win next year. Adrian Gonzalez has long been a target of the Red Sox and is going to get traded this winter; they have a decision to make with David Ortiz's contract option; Beltre's having a huge year and is a sure bet to decline his player option with the club. Martinez is a free agent, but retaining him isn't as much of a necessity with the acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the Rangers.

They appear to be setting the table to trade for and sign Gonzalez and retool the bullpen. I also think this is the last year for Jonathan Papelbon in Boston. John Lackey has been, at best, mediocre; and like Jason Bay with the Mets, I don't believe Lackey's necessary mental transition to a large, demanding and vicious media market was adequately accounted for when he signed. A guy from Texas who'd spent his big league career in laid back Anaheim couldn't have been prepared for Boston and all inherent with the team and the city. Lackey, if healthy, will be far better in 2011 than he was in 2010.

The 2011 Red Sox will be primed for another title run with Gonzalez at first base and Youkilis at third; possibly Carl Crawford in left field and Daniel Bard closing. The "out-for-blood" reactionary nature of fans who've become accustomed and spoiled by success will be muted because of the injuries that are seen to have sabotaged a season that probably would've had a similar result of a missed post-season, albeit with a better record.

The front office knows this and should be quietly satisfied that they can do what they want without similar pressures or verbal gymnastics from Epstein as in 2006-2007.

  • He's gracing us with his presence:

I only listened to Mike'd Up with Mike Francesa yesterday long enough for him to diagnose every ill with the Mets (it took about ten minutes); then I tuned out. I don't know if he uttered his now famous magic words regarding what to do with them---"ya hafta break up da core"----but I did hear him basically say the same thing using a different terminology.

Again suggesting the Mets either trade Jose Reyes or David Wright, it's repetition in a different package, but this time no one's listening or reacting with the anger or agreement as they did in 2008 when he first began his self-serving campaign to get Reyes or especially Wright off the club.

Francesa denies any underlying animosity toward Wright, but it's a perfunctory response to an obvious assertion----he hates David Wright.

Why? Only Francesa knows, but it's clear and open and known to anyone who hears him attack the Mets third baseman.

The Mets are not trading Wright; nor are they likely to move Reyes. Both have played well this season and are still in their 20s; dealing them while they're under contract would be a knee-jerk and self-immolating response to the failures of a club that isn't far away from returning to realistic contention.

The main point of all this is that Francesa's vacation-filled summer only yields a surprise when he's actually working. Gone are the days when he was relevant; and as much as I disliked Chris Russo, when he was there Francesa had a check on his rapidly expanding ego and self-importance. Now there's no one. He's alone and becoming increasingly out-of-touch and disinterested.

There was a time when the opinions of the duo did influence the way the clubs in New York were run. Of course most of it was based on rabble-rousing of fans who couldn't think or formulate a judgment for themselves, but their most famous meddling was done when the Mets weren't players in the Mike Piazza sweepstakes in 1998 and outrage over then-Mets GM Steve Phillips's spinning of why the Mets shouldn't go after Piazza spurred the club to pursue and get the Hall of Fame catcher. It was the right decision and Francesa and Russo did have a lot to do with making it happen.

Those days are over. The number of people who are still listening and taking him seriously is dwindling rapidly and his bloviating pomposity has gotten so out-of-control, his laziness and "mailing it in" attitude so tiresome that he's dismissed out-of-hand.

It was somehow apropos that on the day he suggests that the Mets will pull a "Yankees" move and re-assign GM Omar Minaya to a different position in the organization so they don't have to pay him off for sitting at home is batted down immediately as owner Fred Wilpon says that Minaya will be back in 2011 as GM.

Like the differing philosophies of republicans and democrats when choosing their presidential candidates, both organizations had a way of doing things. The republicans choose the heir apparent in the persons who came in second the prior election; the democrats find a new person unaffiliated with their last candidate.

Under George Steinbrenner, the Yankees hired and re-hired managers; the Mets don't bring back managers they've fired, so it's clear that the suggestion that they bring back Bobby Valentine (which I've made numerous times) is not going to happen.

The Yankees made GM changes and didn't specifically fire their prior GM, but moved him within the organization to an advisory or scouting role; the Mets don't do that. If Minaya is replaced by anyone, it will either be assistant GM John Ricco or former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky----at least on an interim basis----until they can bring in a former Mets executive, presumably Gerry Hunsicker. To expect the Mets to "go Yankee" and follow that blueprint is fantasy. They're not doing it.

One possibility that Francesa floated as manager for 2011 is Joe Torre and this does have a basis in reality. Torre would not be "re-hiring the fired" because it wasn't this current Mets hierarchy that fired Torre; plus it was almost 30 years ago when he was dismissed as Mets manager. Torre would want to do it; to be across town from the team that pushed him out the door; to make a lot more money; and get back into the New York arena to close out his managerial career with 2-3 final years where he started; but his wife will certainly be dead-set against it and there's always a chance of the "Vince Lombardi-effect" of wanting to come back to what he knows and realizing he made a mistake almost immediately.

Torre as Mets manager in 2011 could happen.

But it won't be because Francesa floated the idea.

The days of Mike Francesa being a strong voice in New York sports----again, for better or worse----are over and it's because he doesn't seem to care anymore; is resting on his self-promulgated persona of being a power broker; and his arrogance and ambivalence finally being his undoing.

Eventually people stop listening to tired statements and agenda-driven edicts.

Francesa thinks the Mets should "break up 'da core"? He's actually gracing us with his presence and working today?

Who cares?

  • Viewer Mail 8.6.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Fangraphs:

"Why Not Understanding Marginal Utility is a Circular Problem"

These titles they come up with are probably responsible for why they are not getting laid.

And for the record, I was asleep by the second paragraph of Mr. Andriola's article.

The titles are only partially responsible for their lack of action----partially responsible; and that's one of the lower level issues that's dwarfed by all the others preventing any form of intimate companionship. A protractor does not count as a girlfriend.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Fangraphs:

I'll throw Statso Andriola a bone and say it's fair to pick on the Mets. Having said that...I wouldn't even let him near my coloring books. Choosing the players he did was convenient but quite uninformed. That is clearly work of an outsider looking in. Matthews, Jacobs..etc were stop-gap players. But if he wasn't too busy polishing his abacus he would have known that.
I tried unsuccessfully to e-mail you yesterday; undeliverable to address. It had to do with Ozzie...and one of the players mentioned above. No biggie. Just wanted to clue you in about something not necessarily for mass consumption.

It's fair to pick on the Mets, but why choose the Mets? Why not, as I said yesterday, pick on the Mariners, who are in far worse shape with greater expectations and a GM who's considered one of them? Andriola also picks and chooses his facts to advance his argument, which I find distasteful.

My Email is PAULLEBOWITZ@YAHOO.COM. Now I'm curious as to what it could possibly be that's not for mass consumption. Is it something that should be kept from said masses for their own good like the Subway "better" breakfast? Or just a tidbit that could get someone into trouble?

AndyD writes RE Buck Showalter and the Orioles:

The Orioles will be a great test for Showalter. Its crazy to see how far they have slipped. My dad still goes on about how strong they were.

Like the Braves from 1991-2005, the Orioles only won one championship under Earl Weaver; because of that, they're not as prominent in the respect they receive as the Big Red Machine of the 70s; but they had about as much success or even more success because they were contenders just about every year under Weaver spanning the late 60s to the early 80s.

Had they managed to get just one more title or had a the Wild Card to get them into the playoffs in 1980 when they won 100 games and didn't make the playoffs, they'd be mentioned more often. They and the Dodgers of the 70s were perceived to have done it the "right" way with young players, smart trades and front office stability. Showalter will get them back to respectability and more. Fast.

Max Stevens writes RE Nolan Ryan and the Rangers:

As an Angels fan, I'm very unhappy about Nolan Ryan winning the auction for the Rangers. Just looking at the aggressive way he's going for it this year convinces me that he'll be running the baseball operations in Texas with the same ornery competitiveness he brought with him to the mound. And the fact that he's the greatest pitcher in Angels franchise history makes it all the more painful. The Rangers are gonna be good for a long time. Nolan's victory in the bidding is the Angels' loss for sure, but it's baseball's gain.

The Rangers were going to win either way I think. As much as Mark Cuban is criticized for his antics, from what I've seen (and I admittedly know very little about basketball), he's allowed his basketball people to run the Mavericks with little meddling, but still support with his money. He'd have spent to keep the Rangers competitive and left GM Jon Daniels in place even if Ryan left.

Ryan's done good work with the Rangers and they're very young, so they'll be good for awhile. That said, the Angels have a system that will allow them to remain competitive, so the teams should be fighting it out in the division for years.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Tuesday talking about the trade deadline, Ozzie Guillen and the pennant races. Click the link above or go to the site to download it on I-Tunes. Or you can get it directly here.

I was also on with Jeff and his crew at Red State Blue State last night for their podcast. I was totally sober; dunno about them. It made for some interesting stuff. That should be up in a couple of days.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available f2010BaseballGuideCover.gifor download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Yeah, it's August and I'm still pushing the book, but you can purchase it and say, "hey, he was right," or "what an idiot".

That's always funny and worth a few bucks.


She-Fan said...

I'm amazed how well the Red Sox have fared given all their injuries. Their offense has been just fine, despite the loss of Pedroia et al. But to me, the biggest issue for them is Beckett. Is he still their ace or is he past his prime?

Jeff said...

Speaking of Beckett...

I still can't believe he's your ace. Still can't believe it. Maybe you should expound here.