Friday, October 31, 2003

Manny on Waivers: Trick or Treat?

OK. Going to have to cut this short today. I've had some recent problems with my computer at work* that have put me a couple hours behind in my tasks and I need to catch up.

I can't resist noting, though, that it's so appropriate that on Halloween the grim rites have begun in the media. It's time to vilify Theo Epstein et al.

The Red Sox' decision to put Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers is an idea that tests the boundaries of weird. It strongly suggests the Boston franchise has cast planning to the wind and blindly is flailing about in the aftermath of a difficult defeat (Gee, Herald).

As Dieter used to say on the SNL skit Sprockets, "Your story has become tiresome, and this is the time that we dance."

I'm still of the thinking that Theo Epstein is smarter than I am and smarter than the Boston media and that he's working the baseball chess board like a Garry Kasparov, thinking 5 to 10 moves ahead.

Surprisingly, none other than Dan Shaughnessy mirrors something I've been thinking as well:

The Sox have made a bold statement to their 31-going-on-12-year-old slugger. Next time Manny and his greedy agent, Jeffrey Moorad, start talking about Manny not being comfortable in Boston and wanting to be traded, the Sox have an answer. We couldn't give you away, Manny. Not with that contract. Not with your childish history of Manny being Manny. … To prove their point, the Boston ball club is demonstrating the Yankees won't pick up Manny's deal even if there's no trade involved (Shaughnessy, Globe).


.*(Regarding work, I like to keep my blog persona and my work persona separate, but if you've ever wondered what I do to put food on the table, take a peek.)

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Theo Shows Big Balls!

Ohmigod …

In a bold and shocking move designed to restructure their top-heavy payroll, the Red Sox placed Ramirez and his hefty contract on irrevocable waivers (Silverman, Herald).

Did you see that coming?! Holy cow. If we needed any further reminding that this is not the same old Red Sox we grew up with this is certainly it.

Talk about a risky roll of the dice:

Unlike regular waivers, the Red Sox can not pull Ramirez back if he is claimed. If he is not claimed, Boston will retain him and then can attempt to trade him at that point.

If there are still no takers, then the move will have completely backfired, as the Red Sox will be stuck with a Ramirez who knows he is not wanted by the club. That could create some interesting scenarios, based upon what we've seen from Ramirez in the past (Wilbur, Globe).

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that the Yankees are the only team one would envision plucking the braided basher off waivers.

Rob Neyer thinks there is little chance of that happening:

Would Brian Cashman ask Steinbrenner for $100 million to sign a player like Manny Ramirez? Not on your life. Cashman would look at his roster and say, quite reasonably, "Gee, we've got enough high-priced hitters who can't play a key defensive position (or can, but not particularly well)" (Neyer, ESPN).

This is so damn exciting. Like Silverman sees it, "the Yankees', decision on whether or not to pick up Ramirez will be fascinating."

Fascinating times two!

A roll of the dice so friggin' shrewd and gutsy on Epstein's part. You know that else is so sublime about this waiver move? It completely kills any more media or fan discussion about Grady Little. That story is so old news now. This kind of control over the news cycle is straight out of James Carville's or Karl Rove's "Politics 101."

Put another log into the stove. Let's get this bitch heated up!

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Blame Game

In a comment yesterday, a reader brought to my attention this Trash Talk column at MSNBC focused on the Grady Little firing.

Now it's generally my policy to avoid getting sucked into responding to the off-the-cuff remarks in sports columns, especially ones with tag lines like "Sports Commentary with ATTITUDE" (whoa, dude, that's heavy!), as you know the whole purpose is to create controversy by writing hyperbolic statements like this:

Yet the larger issue is one of blame. Red Sox Nation feels most comfortable wrapped in a blanket of negativity. Its inhabitants are tense, bitter, angry. Fans and the media perpetuate this mindset, because it's safe and it's all they know.

…Until the Red Sox stop looking for people to blame, they'll always be losers. Then again, maybe they like it that way

But sense it's a rather slow news day and I don't have anything better to do here goes a response.

Are we playing the blame game with Grady Little? Yep. Is it deserved? I'm not sure this question even matters. Casey Stengel said it best regarding a manager's job security: "Just remember one thing: Unless you die on the job or own the team, you're going to get fired."

But are Red Sox fans somehow different or out of the ordinary for feeling tense, bitter, and angry when the team they root for loses as Michael Ventre insists in his column? Not even.

Have you read what they are saying in New York?

First there's the piling on Giambi: "When the heat is on, Giambi melts. This October, he rarely hit when it mattered, and never with anyone on base." And the general all around blame: "The talk in New York will quickly shift from the Yankees' suffocating defeat to who gets the blame for losing a World Series." Then there are the sabermetric centered bloggers revealing for all the world to see that Derek Jeter really isn't "Mr. Clutch." (All links courtesy of BronxBanter.)

And before I'm accused of another popular myth about Red Sox fans, i.e., we are always comparing ourselves to the Yankees, let's just say you don't have to go far in the baseball blogosphere to find fans of other teams wanting to assign blame. This headline from the Elephants in Oakland blog says it all: JUST BECAUSE IT IS A BUNTING SITUATION DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO BUNT!

Wanting to assign blame isn't something particular to Red Sox fans. No, wanting to implicate and rebuke is endemic to the world of a baseball fan. Unless, of course, your team wins the World Series. Then it's hugs and kisses all around.

So don't think of yourself as especially depraved for feeling pissy from time to time this winter when you consider what might have been if only …

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

For Everything A Season

Do you read the comic strip Get Fuzzy? It was already my favorite, but yesterday's Red Sox theme strip put it over the top and into another realm entirely. Check it out if you haven't seen it already.

So now it's official, eh? Grady Little won't be back.

I've grown weary of the debate about whether that's ultimately a good or bad decision. It's done. Let's move on to something more relevant like looking at the possible candidates to replace Little at the helm. Whitey Herzog is ready. The BigDog Silva doesn't like that idea much, but Dave Pinto does. I must admit I'm intrigued with the possibility.

Turn, Turn, Turn …

Today is the last day of the 2003 season that my blog/column will appear in this space at Fox Sports New England. It's time to step aside for the Celtics blog and a basketball blogger. (I won't say who it is, but you may already read his blog. Heh heh )

Of couse, I'll still be doing whatever it is you call this ("Look, up on the web! It's a blog? No, it's a column? No, it's A Diary of a Red Sox Fan!") over at the Bambino's Curse site just like before this wonderful opportunity at FSNE came along.

Thanks to FSNE and to the Coudal Partners and to all of you readers who followed me over here and to all of you who maybe first heard of me over here for a really great baseball blogging season.

There's going to be plenty to keep us busy in the hot stove season, though. New manager, winter meetings, trades, free agents. Besides it's only 114 days until pitchers and catchers report to Florida. See you tomorrow at Bambino's?

Monday, October 27, 2003

"I Would Have Won the World Series If It Wasn't For You Meddling Sabermetricians!"

Looks like today could be Grady Little's last day as manager of the Boston Red Sox.

And, of course, many members of the Boston sports media are doing their usual bit of finger pointing and short term memory loss. Why bother doing any serious investigative journalism when it's so easy to make assumptions and cast aspersions at the stats nerds? For instance today, writing a so-called job description for the next Red Sox skipper, Tony Massarotti concludes,

You are not allowed to make any judgments, particularly without the support of statistical data. You just get to paint by numbers, like some little pre-schooler or kindergartner. And whatever you do, you have to stay within the lines.

The great irony here for me is not once does Massarotti mention the huge and often negative role the media plays in making playing or managing in Boston one of the toughest jobs in all of sport.

No, reading Mazz it's as if the media are the nicest, most gracious, most honorable and fair lot you'll ever come across. No, it's only clinical stats guys like Epstein or rich guys like Warner who are mean just for the sake of it, beating up on poor, poor Grady Little.

Massarotti sarcastically writes," It's funny, isn't it, the way people treat each other?"

Yeah, it's funny alright. It's funny the way one media member referred to a Red Sox player as a "piece of filth." It's funny, too, how one of Massarotti colleagues, Steve Buckley, tried to run Nomar out of town last year. Yeah, that was funny. Nice guys in the media. Great bunch. And it was really "funny" the way two of Massarotti's colleagues compared a gorilla to African-American kids. That is, as Howard Bryant laments, "a living reminder of the attitudes that have made Boston such a difficult, divisive place to live."

Surely the stuff written in the papers or said on talk radio doesn't make a Boston manager's job more difficult. Oh, no. Not even.

And, of course, as the blame game goes, if you can't blame the front office then by all means blame the fans.

Little's gone because his bosses caved into the most despicable section of their fan base, the ones who think the Sox are all about them, the ones who've hated every manager, Dick Williams included, because he wasn't them (Gee).

Yep, that's it. The fans. Oh, the earth shaking power we fans have. If we want Grady Little fired, then he's fired. We fans are like Ramses the Great: "So it shall be written; so it shall be done."

Again, why bother digging into the rumors that the Red Sox were going to let Grady Little go even before the Sophie's Choice moment in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS?

Why bother when it's obvious the Grady Little imbroglio is all due to the fans and those bastards with the statistics.

Gee continues,

Your new skipper will manage the Sox according to a 150-page order written by Epstein and Bill James. He'll be a cipher. If he's a passive cipher, guys like Pedro and Manny will run roughshod over him.

I'm reminded here of a twist on what the villains always say at the end of a Scobby-Doo episode: "I would have won the World Series if it wasn't for you meddling sabermetricians!"

Though this animosity of the sports writers toward sabermetrics shouldn't come as any surprise. It's the old way vs. the new way and no group is more latched to the old ways than so many of those writing for the brick and mortar newspapers. They are not much different than the old school scouts as portrayed in Moneyball. Gee pretty much says as much, "I think in terms of the game's timeless cliches."

Whatever. You keep your cliches, and I'll go with the Bill James way:

Think about it. One absolutely cannot tell, by watching, the difference between a .300 hitter and a .275 hitter. The difference is one hit every two weeks. It might be that a reporter, seeing every game that the team plays, could sense that difference over the course of a year if no records were kept, but I doubt it … The difference between a good hitter and an average hitter is simply not visible — it is a matter of record (Bill James quoted in Monyeball, p. 68).

The same it true of pitchers, especially with a 5-2 lead in Game 7 of the ALCS and 5 outs away from the World Series. You can go with your gut, with your tired old cliches, or you can go with the numbers. I'm glad the team I root for it fully committed to the latter.