Category Archives: Contracts

Deal or No Deal?

Last time I checked in with you, the Sox had just been hit with a wave of injuries. It was series of random events seemingly in the outer six-sigma realm that decimated the team.

Well, nothing has changed.

Still fighting the injury bug that seems determined to slaughter everyone, this team is reaching a depressing level. That sinking realization has set in that the playoffs are a long shot. Even if the Red Sox pull off a Colorado Rockies-esque run (circa 2007), there is little to no chance to make a real deep October run.

The news here, however, is not the disappointing flameout of a potential World Series caliber roster, but more so the trade of Manny Delcarmen.  Delcarmen was traded for 21 year old pitching prospect Chris Balcom-Miller (CBM from here on out), and I like the move. Now, I have never seen CBM pitch, but I still like it. While Delcarmen had his good times here, he was not improving. If CBM can contribute anything in the next few years, the Sox have won in this deal.

This move also gives us an insight into the mind of GM Theo Epstein. Theo has made several big deadline/waiver moves in the last few years, all with the intent of a playoff push. This isn’t that move. This is different. This is a calculated assessment of exactly what I said above, that the injured 2010 Red Sox can’t accomplish the major goal of the season, a World Series ring. We all knew that this year was referred to as a “bridge year” with the short term contracts of a few players bridging the gap to some younger talent and the end of a few big money contracts. Between David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Jeremy Hermida, Jason Varitek, and Julio Lugo (the Sox paid Lugo $10 mil of his contract in 2010) the Red Sox have a whopping $60 million coming off of contracts. Now, there are obviously priorities to some of that money (like a catcher, more on the importance of signing Martinez later), but this move signals that Epstein knows what is going to happen in the next two years. He knows this team is set to revamp, reset, and make a new run.

CBM may be a part of this new era. Probably not in 2011 due to his age and level, but it’s not out of the question for 2012/2013. Epstein has gotten value in the trading market, recognizing that there is a lost value in this season. By taking a realistic view of the situation, the Red Sox have made a move that has the potential to help down the road at a relatively low cost or risk, and that’s why I like it. Tryouts for the 2011 bullpen begin now.

1 Comment

Filed under Adrian Beltre, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Colorado, Contracts, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, General Baseball, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Lester, Mike Lowell, Papelbon, Playoffs, Red Sox, Rockies, Sox, Sports, Trades, Uncategorized, Victor Martinez, World Series

What a Choke!

What a weekend for sports! The Boston Celtics knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers, in LeBron’s last chance before his upcoming free agency to show what he is made of. The Boston Bruins just died in a game 7 that was eerily similar to the series, as they went up 3-0 only to blow it and lose 4-3. The Celtics then went on to win game 1 in Orlando, at times dominating the Magic. Oh yeah, there was some baseball played too, but it wasn’t that exciting in comparison. With some rather big collapses happening, I decided to reflect on some of the biggest (as well as some of my personal favorite) collapses and chokes in history. With a lot of discussion about chokes in sports, I will start with what I used as a definition.

Choke [chohk] (verb,choked, chok·ing, noun) -A choke is a team failing to execute in a situation where they should be more than just a favorite to win. This often occurs in a situation where any par performance would have resulted in a sound victory. Some sort of failure on the team to execute is required. A choke may be viewed in the context of a single game, a series, or a season.

And with that, my top 13.

#13) 2010 NCAA Tournament: Kansas University loses to Northern Iowa in 2nd round

Kansas was not only the favorite to win this game but one of two favorites to win the tournament. Over 80% of ESPN Tournament Bracket players had either Kansas or Kentucky winning. Neither made the final four, but Kentucky wasn’t eliminated in the second round by a 9-seed. Brackets were decimated.

#12) 2007 ALCS: Cleveland Indians

Cleveland loves their collapses, as they were unable to hold a 3-1 series lead against the Boston Red Sox. For a team with 19 game winners C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, as well as future Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, this team was completely unable to close, allowing the Red Sox to steamroll themselves to their 2nd world series in four years.

#11) 1964 Phillies Phold

After a magical season including Jim Bunning’s perfect game (first in the NL since 1880), the Phightin’ Phils had a 6.5 game lead with 12 to play. After losing 10 games in a row, with the first seven at home, the Phillies had sunk to 3rd place, and would not be a part of any postseason activity. Phail.

#10) 2007/2008 Regular Season: New York Mets

The Mets have recently become the poster child for late season failures. In 2007, the Mets had a 7 game lead on September 12th, with 17 games left to play. The Mets only won 5 of those 17. They lost 5 of 6 to the 4th place Nationals. This one went down to the last game of the season, only to have Tom Glavine let up seven runs in the first culminating in a great collapse.

The Mets then went out and signed two time Cy Young Award Winner Johan Santana, figuring that this would compensate for any weaknesses associated with their collapse. They went into 2008 as surefire favorites to win the NL East, only to be once again eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of season. This was just the beginning of the issues for the Mets as they would plunge to 4th place and a 70 win season in 2009, a team that was once again predicted to contend for a playoff run.

#9) 2007-2008 Pursuit of Perfection: 18-1 New England Patriots

You may note that in my definition above I said that a choke may be defined as a season and I would like to make that distinction here. This was a choked season which is not to be confused with a choked game. The only reason that they make this list was the potential implications of being the greatest NFL team of all time by obtaining a perfect 19-0 record. The Super Bowl itself does not quite qualify to me as a choke. Sure, the Patriots were up 14-3 going into the 4th quarter, but the Giants’ 14 point run bordered on the miraculous. “The Helmet Catch” was a freak play, something one could probably not reproduce in many attempts.  It turned out to be a game where the clock operators were under as much scrutiny as any coach’s decision. There didn’t seem to be a failure on the part of the Patriots to win the game, but more like a spectacular drive by the Giants to put them over the top. The NFL, probably more any other sport, is one where any team can win on any given day. For this reason, I categorize failure to capitalize on the pursuit of perfection as a choke and not the game itself.

#8) 1942 Red Wings / 1975 Penguins

Any team that has ever been up 3-0 in a series and doesn’t win certainly falls into the choke categories. Both of these teams lost to the higher seeded team in the end, after failing to complete their respective underdog runs. For this reason, they get only slightly more credit than #7.

#7) 2010 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals (Hockey): Boston Bruins

They had four chances to beat out the somewhat injured and defeated Flyers, who became only the third hockey team to accomplish such a feat. I thought about ranking this higher, but let us not forget that the Bruins were not a very good team to begin with this season. Two months ago, there were questions as to them even making the playoffs. The Flyers were a lower seed than the Bruins, making this slightly worse than #8. Give it five years for all to settle in, and this will be grouped in the same category as the Wings and Penguins.

#6) 2010 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals (Basketball): Cleveland Cavaliers

In a collapse that left LeBron James without a title in Cleveland, the Celtics may have not only made headlines for themselves, but they may have just cost LeBron a huge part of his legacy.  Cleveland was his city and his team. After numerous opportunities to make a championship run and numerous failures, one can accuse coaching, front office management, and the players themselves.

The fact is that LeBron will take the brunt of this, and Cleveland will suffer if he leaves. For a team that was the best home team in Basketball for several years, they squandered their last two home games. Boston may have earned this win with spectacular defense and a tremendously elevated level of play, but the fact remains that LeBron choked in his abilities to bring a championship to the Cavs.

#5) 1978 Red Sox

Boston held a 14 game lead over the New York Yankees, a lead that would dwindle only to be eventually erased after being swept in a four game set by New York, now referred to as The Boston Massacre. The Yankees forced a one game playoff tie breaker where Bucky Dent, who had hit an average of three HR’s per season in his career; hit a 3 run homer to lead the Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Sox. The Yankees went on to win the World Series. Bucky ******* Dent.

#4) 1990-1994 Buffalo Bills

The only thing worse than being 0-4 in Super Bowl appearances (Vikings, Bills) is doing it in four straight years. The Bills made their first appearance in the Super Bowl in 1991, only to lose by one point to the New York Giants. They would repeat their Super Bowl run in the next three years losing to the Redskins, and then in back to back years to the Cowboys.

#3) 2003 NLCS: Chicago Cubs

Similar to #11, the Cubs squandered a 3-1 series lead. What makes this much worse than the Indians, was that in game 6, the Cubs had a 3-0 lead behind Matt Clement’s three hitter with just five outs to go. Lifetime Cubs fan Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball off the bat of Louis Castillo, preventing Moises Alou from making the catch. The thread had been pulled, and the unraveling began. Bartman was escorted out of the stadium for his own safety, and has been ridiculed ever since. The Curse of the Billy Goat lives on.

#2) 1986 World Series: Boston Red Sox

It was game 6 and the Red Sox had a 3-2 series lead. After scoring two in the top of the 10th, the Red Sox had a 5-3 lead with two out. They were one out from their first championship since 1918, and one out from defeating the curse of the Bambino. A few hits later it was 5-4. Enter Mookie Wilson. Mookie Wilson was at the plate and fought out a ten pitch at bat. On the 7th pitch of the at bat, Bob Stanley’s wild pitch tied the game at five. Pitch number ten to Wilson was the infamous grounder through the legs of Bill Buckner, scoring Ray Knight to win the ball game. There is no guarantee that had Buckner fielded the ball that they would have won, however their inability to close out this game, as well as game 7, lands them in the #2 spot all time. I refuse to lower this on the list on the basis that the “curse” has been broken, or that Boston has more or less forgiven Buckner. At the time this was an epic collapse, and it should remain so when talking about it.

#1) 2004 ALCS: New York Yankees

The biggest collapse in sports history, as well as my personal favorite, was the New York Yankees failing to close out the Boston Red Sox after a 3-0 series lead with home field advantage. With a lead going into the 9th inning of game 4, Kevin Millar led off with a walk, off of arguably the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Pinch runner Dave Roberts was Boston’s personal savior that night. The entire world knew that Roberts was stealing second, and after several pickoff attempts he went on the first pitch Rivera sent home. Safe.

This was the single turning point, as Bill Mueller would single him in for the tie. David Ortiz would then hit a two run shot in the 12th, giving the Sox their first win in the series. This was just a taste of what was coming. Rivera would blow the save again in game 5, this time with some help from Tom Gordon. Boston went on to win this game in the 14th where David Ortiz was the walk-off star again singling in Damon. Curt Shilling would pitch the “Bloody Sock” game in game 6 in Yankee Stadium, and the Boston bats beat up the Yankees in game 7 to cap the greatest comeback ever. Everything made this series epic. It was Sox/Yanks, it was Rivera, it was David Ortiz, it was long games ending well after midnight, it was the lovable idiots taking down the evil empire, and it was certainly the biggest choke ever.

2 Comments

Filed under Angels, Baseball, Blogroll, Boston Red Sox, Bruins, Cardinals, Celtics, Colorado, Contracts, Cubs, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, General Baseball, Indians, Kevin Youkilis, Mets, Mike Lowell, MLB, MVP, Padres, Papelbon, Philadelphia, Phillies, Playoffs, Red Sox, Rockies, San Diego, Save, Sox, Sports, Tigers, Trades, Uncategorized, World Series, Yankees

There’s a Bull in the Pen

Sunday was a difficult day for me as a fan. I watched a 1-0 deficit as the offense seemed stagnant. I saw a 4-1 lead slip away after a great effort from Wakefield. I died a little inside as the same bullpen loaded the bases in the 10th inning with nobody out, and then went on to let up singles to the next two batters, allowing all 3 runners to score without recording an out. I was given a ray of hope as the Orioles trotted out their closer for his 3rd straight inning, and the rally materialized only to be stomped on right before it was finished.

In all that, I saw something that makes me truly happy, Daniel Bard. I’ve been a Bard fan for a while, and am certainly happy that he is being trusted with our most important non-closer outs. I’m not quite on the “replace Papelbon with Bard” bandwagon yet, but I can absolutely see how down the road this may be a solution. I mainly say this because in what many view as an “off year” for Papelbon last year, he was 38/41 in save opportunities, only three blown, with a 1.85 ERA. I’ll also note that this is tied for the second lowest ERA of his career, the first being his Rookie season as closer, posting a 0.92 ERA. I’m of the mindset to keep Papelbon until he can no longer do the job, because having BOTH Bard and Papelbon only hurts the other team.

Back to Bard though. In the top of the 9th inning, Bard faced 3 batters, and struck them all out. This is always impressive, especially with the 100 MPH fastball lighting up the radar gun. That isn’t what impressed me on this particular day though. With 1 out, Bard faced Adam Jones. With a 1-1 count, Bard threw back to back nasty curveballs for the strike out. (MLB gameday called them sliders, but they sure looked like curves to me.) I was quite happy with this. Bard can throw heat past anyone, and still has strikeout pitches! This will take him a long way in terms of being unpredictable, as hitters can’t simply go to the plate and assume fastball 90% of the time as it seems they do with Papelbon.

He is another Red Sox farm system product that I expect to be part of this regime for many years to come.  With Papelbon not eligible for free agency until 2011, the back end of the bullpen is sure to be solid for the next two years.

——-

Edit: Bard does it again last night in the first game of the Blue Jays series. He retires all 3 men he faced, allowing one inherited runner to score on a sac fly. I noticed the curve I spoke of did in fact look like much more of a slider. I don’t know if it looked different than the previous game, but the pitch is a slider with some drop to it. If you think about a 12-6 curve, this is a 1:30-7:30 slider. Extra nasty. Papelbon seems to be throwing both the split and slider more as well.

4 Comments

Filed under Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Contracts, Daniel Bard, General Baseball, MLB, Papelbon, Save, Sox, Sports, Uncategorized

An Ortiz-less 2011

I would like to start out by defending Ortiz for a moment. I think the scrutiny his every at bat gets due to last year’s slow start is unfair. The large majority of the fan base, media, and analysts seem to be ready to throw in the towel.  After 26 at bats, I think this is absurd. You must give Ortiz at least a month, possibly until mid May, to come around because if he does he is too valuable to let go. I think people are still bitter about a bad start last year and a playoff sweep in the first round. Calm down Red Sox nation, its April, there is plenty of baseball to be played.  26 at bats (or 26 of anything) is a pathetic sample size in the statistics world.

Now, even with the bad start last year, David Ortiz finished the season with 28 HR, and 99 RBI. I would like to think that given whatever mini-slump he is in now, he will break out of and do about the same this year. Then the question is as follows. Do you resign David Ortiz for 2011?

Regardless of what I think the answer should be, I will tell you what the answer will be. No, this is David Ortiz’s last season in a Red Sox uniform. Again, I cannot emphasize enough that my opinion on this is not due to his failure to hit well in the first 8 games of the year. There are 4 main reasons that I believe Ortiz will be departing at the end of the season.

  1. Jeremy Hermida and Mike Lowell. In 2009, the Sox could wait out the Ortiz slump, as their options for replacement were very limited. Our bench players were Nick Green, Jed Lowrie, Rocco Baldelli, Chris Carter, Jon Van Every, and Mark Kotsay. These were not exactly potent offensive forces, with several of them on the DL or in AAA to start the year. Ortiz had no practical replacement options, so they left him there. Jeremy Hermida could not be off to a better start; taking advantage of seemingly every plate appearance he has been given. If this keeps up, I see Hermida being a cornerstone of the team in years to come. I believe Hermida is on a 1-year deal, and I’m not sure the status of the contract rights, but I’m sure if he performs that there will be an effort to keep the 25-year old. Mike Lowell is Mike Lowell. We all know the situation he is in. Terry Francona will be giving both of these guys’ at bats, and he will likely have to use the DH slot to do that. If they are hitting and Ortiz is not, eventually he will lose playing time. Ortiz has two be looking at these two in his rear view mirror and can’t be thrilled about it.
  2. Contract. Ortiz’s contract is up at the end of the year. The Red Sox hold a $12.5 Million option for the 2011 season, and there is no buyout clause. Boston could let him walk without paying him a dime. With concerns surrounding the slump(s), and age, $12.5M is probably not going to happen. The Sox will pass on the option, and this would leave both sides in a position where they would have to negotiate a new deal. I see Theo Epstein aiming in the 1-year, $5 million range, if offering anything at all.
  3. The Slump(s). I said the slump(s) don’t matter right now, and they don’t.  Ortiz could break out tomorrow and have a great season. The problem is the perception, and the talk, is there.  If Ortiz hits .280/32/110 this year, a stint of 4 for 26 at the start of the season will be inconsequential; however the perception of bad starts has been cemented in everyone’s mind. There is no way around it. On opening day 2011, wherever he is, David Ortiz will be asked if he is slumping if he goes 0-4. He will likely have to face these questions in spring training as well. This puts extra pressure on him to hit home runs every game. This has the potential of upsetting the big teddy bear, and can put him in a mindset of struggling, which will actually lead to him struggling.
  4. The direction of the team, pitching and defense. Youth, speed, and some of the more “natural” talents are what are being valued more these days. I realize that Ortiz is a DH, and he has no impact on the pitching or defense, but the fact remains that this team has a different feel to it than it did from 2000-2008. I don’t want to blame it on the steroid era, but I think that is part of it. The whole game is changing, and the big boppers have less of a place if they don’t meet the other aspects of the game.

Any of these reasons on their own may not be enough to get him out, but the union of all of them presents an interesting argument for letting him walk. Given all this, if Ortiz does turn it around in the next week or so, and winds up with that .280 Avg/32 HR/110 RBI  line, I would be for signing him to a 1-year deal, but probably not at his contract option price.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Contracts, David Ortiz, ESPN, General Baseball, MLB, Playoffs, Red Sox, Sox, Steroids, Trades, Uncategorized