What is it with the ‘Stros Colt .45s and how they owned the Yankees just after losing a series to Oakland? I currently blame Yordan Lex Álvarez but also Craig Luthor Biggio, retired evil baseball wizard genius.
According to Stephen A. Smith, the Yankees have somehow done wrong by Jorge Posada. Terribly wrong. True to form, Smith expounds with great conviction about something, although in this case, perhaps because this is not professional basketball, he has no clue what he is talking about. Smith's foray into baseball analysis may simply be an indication that he is prepping himself for the prospect of an entire year without professional basketball to holler about. If so, he needs a lot more prepping.
Ok, so the Red Sox have beaten the Yankees in eight of nine games this year, including a second series sweep in the Bronx for the first time since the Boston ace was Smoky Joe Wood, but we're not here to gloat.
Well, maybe just a little bit:
Ok, got that out of the way. Now let's discuss the strange lede to New York Times beat writer Ben Shpigel's game story this morning. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour or the unthinkable sweep he had just witnessed, but Shpigel breaks out some strange interpretation of history here:
Babe Ruth was a 17-year-old pitching prodigy at the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. The Red Sox had yet to win a World Series, and the Yankees did not exist. They were still called the Highlanders, playing not in the Bronx but in Manhattan, at Hilltop Park and the Polo Grounds.
Derek Jeter greeted Curtis Granderson after Granderson's homer in the Yankees' rain-delayed game.
The Red Sox won all 10 games in New York during that 1912 season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. But over the last 99 years of their rivalry, they had yet to win as many as six in a row.
This is certainly strange because, as most baseball fans and writers should know, the Red Sox won the World Series in 1903. And the Yankees did, in fact, exist, even if they were known by a different name. Shpigel seems to be laboring under the mistaken belief that a franchise does not exist until it is known by its present name. Not only is that glaringly incorrect, it's ludicrous. It would mean the Cincinnati Reds, generally recognized as baseball's oldest continuously operated franchise, did not exist from 1954-59 when the team joined the ranks of those bending before the insanity of anti-communist paranoia by changing its name to the Redlegs.
Apparently, early morning historical inaccuracy is contagious: Peter Abraham in his game story said this was the first time the Sox had swept two three-game series from the Yankees in New York since 1913, but this isn't correct either, as the Sox went 2-0, 1-0-1, 2-0 and 2-2 in four separate series, the first three presumably truncated by rain.
All the historical head-to-head matchups are available at Baseball-Reference. I know it was late, but it doesn't take long to double-check this kind of stuff.
Call me bitter if you want (you'd probably be right), but the horrendous Twitter-fueled reporculation of Jon Heyman about the Boston Red Sox' negotiations with Adrian Gonzalez can officially be debunked. Not only was the Sox' trade for Gonzalez never deceased, as Heyman "reported," but Gonzalez will now be in a Red Sox uniform for quite a while, as he has signed a seven-year, $154 million deal that would lock him up through 2018 at $22 million per season.
It's the Red Sox' second-largest contract ever awarded and the largest since John Henry et al. took over ownership of the club in 2002. The average annual value is the eighth-largest in baseball history. Congratulations to him. Now go out there and celebrate by clubbing a few homers tonight.
We haven't commented all that much here about the sudden, perplexing retirement of Manny Ramirez, which is pretty remarkable given how much time we've spent discussing the enigmatic slugger over the years. Starting in 2005, Manny has been the source of near-constant conversation. We've defended him, and we've criticized him. And we grew tired of doing both.
Manny Ramirez in a Boston Red Sox uniform entailed incredible highs and stupefying lows. Aside from the two World Championships, one of those highs was the play described in the beautiful chart above from Beyond the Box Score's Justin Bopp, his catch-and-high-five-and-throw double play just two months before the Sox severed their relationship with him. It was the exclamation point near the end of a Boston career that ultimately ended with ellipses.
In the end, however, the relationship with Manny was too strained, too broken to survive, as I described three days before the deadline-day trade that sent him to Los Angeles and brought aboard Jason Bay:
Yes, I'm tired of defending Manny Ramirez, but I'd be more than willing to do it — if it were worth doing. Now, I'm not sure. Now, I feel not so much fatigue at the idea of defending Manny. I feel fatigue at the idea of Manny himself, and all that entails.
It entails more rounds of bizarre and maddening comments — allegations that the Sox' front office lies to its players, expressions that he's "tired" of Boston, failing to communicate about injuries right before a key series with the Yankees. It entails more rounds of self-righteous columns from sports writers inexplicably angry about various slights, real and imagined, Ramirez has perpetrated against the game of baseball. And, worst of all, it entails inexcusable actions — as relatively unimportant as staring at a home run that winds up hitting the wall and being held to a single or failing to run out a ground ball that gets booted, or as serious as shoving a team employee or hitting a teammate.
After he left, Ramirez drifted from Los Angeles to Chicago to Tampa. His name was reported to have appeared on a list of players who failed at least one drug test in 2003, though the exact nature and relevance of the list remain sketchy at best. He then was suspended for 50 games after he failed a drug test, and now he's retired rather than be suspended for 100 more.
It's a sad end to a great career, yet it makes perfect sense: Manny going out on his own rules, flouting the conventions, making head-scratching decisions. Manny doing whatever it takes to compete, to succeed, to be the best at his job. As it's usually been with Manny Ramirez, those two formulations are uneasily married, different sides of the same coin.
Now come the debates about his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. The sportswriters obviously will keep him out. If their sanctimony can extend to the likes of Jeff Bagwell, whose only known tie to PEDs is hitting home runs before (and after) the implementation of testing, it will certainly cover the twice-failed Ramirez, despite the ratings, single-copy sales and Web hits he provided with his antics on and off the field.
Sanctimony, however, has yet to cover the huge numbers of amphetamine users, sign stealers, bat corkers and ball scuffers from the 1900s-1970s, many of whom hold (or held) some of baseball's most cherished records and were inducted with nary a peep into the Hall. As with many other facets of the sportswriters' conflicted relationship with Ramirez, this one also will be drenched in hypocrisy.
I don't know what's worse:
Is it the fact that the song and video overall just suck worse than anyone could imagine were it not melting the eyes and ears out of/off of our skulls?
Is it the fact that the rap spends more time talking about the 2004 ALCS than about the 2004 World Series, the 2007 World Series or the upcoming season, which I think is supposed to be the point of the video?
Is it the stupid, pointless, poorly done digital enhancement of the scoreboard to give the Sox 102 wins and put the Yankees 28 games out of first?
Or is it the fact that all of the above are true, and it was done by NESN, which means it was done by the Red Sox? John Henry needs to step in and cancel this abomination.
On the other hand, watching Carl Crawford try to hold it together while the guy raps next to him is fairly entertaining. Welcome aboard, Carl. Hope you like doing crap like this for the next seven years!
(h/t Red Sox Beacon)
Sorry for the slowness around these parts of late, but how many stories about spring training stats, players looking and feeling great or Adrian Gonzalez's shoulder do you really need to read? Besides that, a nasty stomach bug took me out early last week, and I've been catching up ever since, so we'll get back to our Century Mark series shortly. In the meantime, I present you with these videos.
Dustin Pedroia continues to prove he may be the funniest person in sports, particularly when Terry Francona makes a guest appearance: "I can't wait to knee him."
This becomes even clearer in this video with ESPN's Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk, as Pedroia and Francona go after each other. Pedroia describes his new haircut as "the convertible look — top's always down." Francona said Pedroia "looks like a moron, and I thought he looked bad before."
Of course, no one looked like a bigger moron than Kruk, who inexplicably started ranting about advanced stats like OPS (really?) to the manager of a team who's been immensely successful in no small part because its GM and owner rely heavily on … advanced stats. Watch Francona manage the awkward effort to turn the conversation away from the subject:
Must-see TV. Or something like that.
Head over to Marketwatch, as an old YFSF supporter, Sam Mamudi, has taken over the task of sports business reporting for that site. Sam's first piece looks at WAR, actual wins, and payroll expenditures.
We're really happy for Sam, even if he does root for a certain team from the Bronx (and also Manchester). Congrats!
Really, who wants to talk about statistics, our great second basemen, or anything about this coming season? We'd rather discuss the insanity of a certain franchise's third baseman, a guy who apparently lives in a world where sitting in the Owner's box in full public view while at the most-watched sporting event of the year in the US means you are off-limits to the cameras.
We have a word for this type of guy here in Brooklyn. Hint: it rhymes with "Masshole".
The increasingly acrimonious debate over the Hall of Fame seems to have grown in intensity yet again this year, with Jack Morris once again taking center stage. A good forum for addressing the tenor and scope of the debate this year is Tyler Kepner's recent New York Times column, which attempts to at least be fair to both sides while reaching completely the wrong conclusion.
Gordon Edes wrote a nice three-part series on the Red Sox' newest slugger over the holidays. Much of it is the usual feature fluff you do when you're assigned these kinds of things — talk to the family, dutifully report the childhood foibles, add some color and a fancy lede — but, as I predicted, it also includes the most in-depth look at the turbulent day in which the trade was confirmed, then reported to have "fallen thru," then given the George Romero treatment.
The most important thing to note: At no point in Edes' paragraphs on the matter, does he say the trade was dead, or that it had fallen through. Those phrases do not appear. (In fact, he explicitly said this shortly after Gonzalez was introduced: "At no point was the deal dead.") I think this is important because for much of the day, discussion of the Red Sox and the way they do business was driven by a completely inaccurate tweet by Jon Heyman, one he has never, to my knowledge, retracted or even addressed.
How long does it take to check assertions like this?
If Pettitte retires, it could be devastating to the Yankees. He is not only a very good pitcher, but a tremendous postseason pitcher.
How tremendous is Andy Pettitte in the postseason?
- Andy Pettitte career ERA: 3.88.
- Andy Pettitte career postseason ERA: 3.83.
Andy Pettitte postseason ERA compared to contemporaries:
- John Smoltz: 2.67
- Tom Glavine: 3.30
- Roger Clemens: 3.75
- Greg Maddux: 3.16
- Curt Schilling: 2.23
- David Wells: 3.17
- Orlando Hernandez: 2.55
- Pedro Martinez: 3.46
The man's a good pitcher, and he's had some great postseasons series (as well as some crappy ones) and certainly his retirement could well be "devastating" to New York. There's certainly no shame in looking at Pettitte's career and saying he's had a very good one and overall pitched the same in the playoffs, which is really all you can ask. But a "tremendous postseason pitcher"? Compared to what? And to whom?
I know it's asking a lot for Nick Cafardo to do basic research to back up his unfounded assertions, but he does work for a newspaper and gets paid for the privilege.
Semi-retraction: Doing more in depth game-by-game research, I discovered that Pettitte actually has been "tremendous," at least by my definition of the word, since 2003, with an ERA in the postseason under 3.00 and a differential from his regular-season ERA by more than 1.5 runs. Though I doubt Cafardo was thinking in such nuanced terms, it appears that in this case he was more correct on this than I was. Carry on.
See if you can find a source somewhere in this porridge of weasel words today from Michael Silverman:
By all accounts, the Red Sox are working hard behind the scenes to sign one of the two elite free agent outfielders, Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth.
If they are successful, the new contract stands a good chance of becoming, both in years and dollars, the largest free agent deal this ownership group has made.
Indications are that Crawford is asking clubs to sign him to at least an eight-year deal, while Werth is seeking at least six years. The competition among teams like the Red Sox, Angels, Tigers and Rangers for one of the outfielders is expected to be intense. Each player will likely wind up commanding a deal with an average annual value worth somewhere between $16 million and $19 million. If the player winds up “settling’’ for a year less than he wants, then the per-year salary will climb.
A five-year deal for Werth would likely wind up costing at least $17 million a year, and a seven-year deal for Crawford would top that number. Either way, the total value of a Werth or Crawford deal should top the five-year, $82.5 million deal (worth $16.5 million per season) the Sox signed starter John Lackey to last offseason.
The terms of the Lackey deal are believed to be identical to the Sox’ offer made to free agent outfielder Matt Holliday last winter.
For the record, I prefer Crawford.
Who put quaaludes in Don Orsillo's water? His home run calls on Big Papi's shots the last two nights have been positively disinterested. We aren't calling for John Sterling-type idiocy, but come on, Don, a little energy!
I make it a point to ignore everything Dan Shaughnessy writes because that is truly the path to sanity. If I could do the same for Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, I'd be a much better person. But I had to read his piece in this morning's Globe about the Nomar Garciaparra retirement, and Dan did not disappoint.
After all, who else would have the audacity to open a column about yesterday's emotional, widely loved and approved press conference like this?
Welcome home, Nomie.
I hate to be the fly in the punch bowl here, but yesterday’s lovefest involving Nomar Garciaparra and the Red Sox was truly nauseating.
Of course, we all know Dan looooves to be the fly in the punch bowl; it's apparently what he considers his life's mission. Shortly after this energetic opening, Dan throws the obvious rejoinder — dude, that was six years ago — a bone:
Life is long and people change. There is certainly every possibility that Nomar has matured and will henceforth pledge allegiance to Boston and spread the Gospel of the Red Sox. But it’s downright fraudulent to deny or ignore how bad this relationship was at the end.
Of course, no one has denied it. Terry Francona, who was manager at the time of the messy split-up, explicitly acknowledged it yesterday. But here's the thing. That was six years ago. Life is long, and people change. Wait, who said that?
In fact, Nomar and Theo Epstein aren't the only people who have changed in six years. Let's make some comparisons. Here's what a columnist wrote for the Globe in 2004, before the shocking trade, in a column arguing that the Sox should indeed trade Garciaparra:
This is no attempt to bash a guy when he's hurt and struggling defensively and at the plate. Garciaparra battled back from an Achilles' injury and always gives 100 percent on the field.
Flash forward, and that same columnist — Dan Shaughnessy, natch — has a different take on that Achilles injury.
He developed Achilles’ tendinitis, allegedly after a ball hit him in the batting cage (nobody witnessed this).
Hmm, that's not quite the same story, is it? Well, surely, Dan's take on the infamous extra-inning game in which Jeter dove into the stands and Nomar sat on the bench hasn't changed, has it?
Both Francona and Garciaparra tried to put a better face on the decision after the 13-inning epic — a game punctuated by Derek Jeter's game-saving catch and stage dive into the seats. But the damage is done. The manager and the shortstop made hollow statements about Nomie wanting to play and working to get loose when the game went into extra innings.
So it's a problem. And Dan doesn't believe Francona's and Nomar's protestations that Nomar tried to get loose when the game went into extras. Jeter's play "punctuated" the game (semicolon? interrobang?), but the Dan dismisses the ending as a "stage dive," which as I recall was a common thought around Boston immediately afterward.
Then came the nationally televised midsummer game at Yankee Stadium, when Nomar refused to play while Derek Jeter saved the game with a face-first plunge into the stands behind third base.
Woah, woah, woah. Jeter goes from punctuating the game to saving the game, and that "stage dive" is now a "face-first plunge into the stands." It's not a big difference, but it's there, isn't it? The ramifications of the game have changed a bit. So who's right? 2004 Dan or 2010 Dan?
Well, the July 1 game took place in Yankee Stadium, which would make it difficult for a defensive play by the home team to literally save the game. After Jeter's play in the top of the 12th, Miguel Cairo tripled to open the bottom half yet couldn't score, then the Sox actually took the lead on a Manny Ramirez home run in the top of the 13th, only for Leskanic to blow it by giving up three straight hits with two outs in the bottom of the inning. After Jeter's play, which increased the Yankees' chances of winning by 15 percent, six more plays took place that swung the game further in one direction or the other. I'll give this one to 2004 Dan. An important play, a symbolic play, a seemingly crucial play at that stage of the game, but if Leskanic gets that third out in the 13th, does anyone even remember the dive today?
The rest of the 2010 column is pretty typical. Dan mentions steroids in passing — why let that opportunity slide, right? — and then slips in what is known in the poker world as a tell:
In good times and bad, Garciaparra was unnecessarily difficult in all interactions with the media.
The unforgivable sin.
Charles Pierce, Party Pooper:
I am not opposed to Nice Happy Time Moments, per se. But that whole Nomar Garciaparra comedy show this morning stretches my inner Fred Rogers to the breaking point. Here's a guy, coming back for a one-day dumbshow so that he "can retire as a Red Sock," because that, apparently, has been a dream of his since shortly after he realized he couldn't get around on a major-league fastball any more. This is a guy whose presence in the Red Sox clubhouse lingered like a case of cholera for two years before they finally shipped him out of town, who openly loathed the team, but who, apparently having been visited last night by his Guardian Angel Clarence, now has decided that, glorioski, this was the bestest place he ever played.
I sincerely hope that, one day, Manny Ramirez, with whom the Red Sox won two more World Series championships than they did with Garciaparra, is struck by a similar revelation. If it happens, I'm sure the Red Sox will indulge him the same way. Yes, and I am the Tsar of all the Russias.
Hell hath no fury like a Boston sportswriter scorned. Fans, on the other hand, are easy. I'd bet a lot of money that most Sox fans would welcome a Manny retirement presser in Boston. Perhaps it's an issue of access. Beat writers and their ilk cover the team and get to know these people a lot better than we do. In many cases, that's not a good thing for the writers.
As to Pierce's point about Manny: Are their situations comparable? Maybe, but probably not. As an observer from the other side of the Rivalry, one of the lasting images I have of Garciaparra is of him sitting passively on the bench during that Jeter-Jumps-In-The-Stands-Bloodies-Face-We-All-Are-Saved! game in 2004. The rumors then were that he could play if he had wanted to. The trade that sent him to Chicago would not have happened if everything was good in the clubhouse. Manny's "antics", on the other hand, took place over a longer period and seemed a little more notable. There was even a shove or two, trade requests, accusations of fake injuries, and pissing in the Green Monster. The acrimony between player and members of the front office was and is probably more intense in the case of Manny probably because the history was longer. The Sox front office put up with Manny longer than they did with Nomar because they needed Manny a lot more, and Nomar's contract was a lot easier to move. Also, the feeling between Sox management and Nomar might be different from the feeling between front office and Manny because, well, Nomar and Manny are different people. And different people interact with other people in different ways. In other words, these things are personal.