- Concepts vs Reality:
While last winter was dedicated to rebuilding via concept, this winter has been exemplified by an adherence to reality.
The Red Sox and Phillies both had "ideas" in the winter of 2009. Ideas that stemmed from overthinking. Both resulted in disappointment.
The Red Sox were determined to use pitching and defense rather than acquire a much-needed bat; they signed Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro to team-friendly, short-term deals; they signed John Lackey to bolster their rotation.
Beltre was an MVP candidate; Scutaro played as expected; Cameron got hurt; and Lackey was inconsistent at best. It wasn't this concept that undid the Red Sox in 2010, but injuries; that doesn't diminish the fact that they needed a bat in the middle of the lineup and were short in the bullpen.
The Phillies wanted to ensure that they wouldn't gut their farm system if they traded for Roy Halladay; to do that, they made the lateral move of trading Cliff Lee to the Mariners for the prospects that would ostensibly replace those that were going to the Phillies in exchange for Halladay. As 2010 wore on, they teetered on the brink of irrelevance and addressed the shortness in the starting rotation by trading for Roy Oswalt.
This winter, both clubs have learned from their mistakes and addressed needs rather than be all things to all people at all times.
The Red Sox needed a bat and acquired two----Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. In addition to that, they made the wise decision to augment their bullpen with proven veterans and post-season performers (both former closers) Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler.
Seizing on their burgeoning opportunity in the American League, the Red Sox have placed themselves head and shoulders above their competitors----even the Yankees. They have a deep starting rotation; a powerful lineup that can catch the ball in the field; and a power-packed bullpen.
Don't discount that the two pitchers who are going to be handling matters in the eighth and ninth innings, Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon, have closed for championship teams; they've gotten it done in the big spots. This is something very few relievers can say and it's not meaningless. Trevor Hoffman, for all his accumulated saves, doesn't have that. Jenks and Papelbon do.
As for the Phillies, their bold strike to sign Cliff Lee out from under the Yankees and Rangers was a glaring yet tacit admission on the part of GM Ruben Amaro Jr. that you cannot walk the tightrope with a veteran team and restock on the fly. The Phillies are older; they're expensive and built to win now. With the addition of Lee, they're assured of a playoff spot and are a great bet for a deep playoff run.
Both clubs have smart people in their front office----they wouldn't be in their current positions with continuing success if they didn't----but they out-thought themselves in 2009; what's admirable is that they took the steps to fix their problems rather than cling to an ideal. Because of that, they're the early and overwhelming favorites to face each other in the 2011 World Series.
- Moderate blasts:
Cubs sign Kerry Wood
The idea of Wood being an "icon" returning to the his first home is a bit over-the-top, but Wood clearly wanted to go back to the Cubs as evidenced by his acceptance of a 1-year, $1.5 million contract. Even if they weren't going to go crazy in an effort to keep him, the Yankees would absolutely have given him something closer to $5 million and possibly more than one year on the deal to be Mariano Rivera's set-up man.
Will Wood be any better this time as a set-up man for Carlos Marmol than he was as a closer before he left? Wood was shaky at times and his injury issues are a concern, but for $1.5 million? It's a great deal for the Cubs.
Yankees sign Pedro Feliciano
Feliciano has been worked, worked, worked and worked some more by the Mets paranoid and overactive managers Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel. Both wore out a path to the mound and wore out Feliciano in the process.
Since 2006, Feliciano has appeared in 64, 78, 86, 88 and 92 games, hence the nickname Perpetual Pedro. The deal with the Yankees is said to be for 2-years at $8 million. Feliciano is a lefty-specialist and he's been durable; this will give provide the Yankees with something that was lacking in the past year as they overused Damaso Marte and relied on Boone Logan after Marte got hurt.
Will the abuse catch up to Feliciano? He's been remarkably resilient, so I would expect him to be as useful to the Yankees as he was to the Mets when they were in their contending years.
This is a good move for the Yankees.
I was on last Wednesday with Sal at Sportsfanbuzz talking about the winter thus far. Click here to go to his site and get it from I-Tunes and here—-The SportsFan Buzz: December 15, 2010—to get it directly.