Keeping the Faith
With apologies for being horribly remiss in not mentioning this last Sunday when it came out, I'd like to point out that Our Boy Wonder, GM Theo Epstein, was selected by the Boston Globe Magazine as "Bostonian of the Year". It's recognition that seems self-evident here in the heart of Red Sox Nation, but apparently isn't quite so in the world of Major League Baseball:
[T]here is evidence that the fraternity of baseball executives still doesn't quite know what to make of Young Theo. Sure, he is no longer discounted as the untested, stats-obsessed kid with a laptop that he was two years ago, when, at 28, he became the youngest GM in the history of the game. But he has yet to be fully embraced by an establishment still dominated by men who have logged decades sitting on wooden benches in crappy ballparks. He is not like them, not only because of his youth but also because he enjoys a public following and first-name recognition that rival his star players'. Maybe this helps explain why, when the award for Executive of the Year is announced an honor the GMs bestow on one of their own Epstein doesn't even garner enough votes to crack the top three.
Now that's just wrong. But it isn't hard to understand why other baseball execs can't quite relate to him. He's young, bold, and more successful than most of them have ever been or will ever be. And remarkably, he still knows how to have fun:
Just after 6 p.m., Epstein calls through his office window, "Is Jean still here?"
An aide, Brian O'Halloran, looks toward the other end of the baseball operations office, where administrative assistant Jean MacDougall usually sits. "No, she's gone," he says.
"OK, it's time for tape ball," Epstein says. He walks into the outer office, holds his palm out, and a softball-shaped mass of scrap paper and Scotch tape comes gliding to him. He winds up and hurls it clear across the office. Whoooosh! It sails. Thwaapp! It smacks the wall. Someone grabs a Wiffle ball bat and begins hitting his pitches.
Epstein hands the ball to Josh Byrnes, his assistant GM, who, at 34, is the oldest of the 10 or so staffers in the office at this moment. Byrnes launches a pitch that goes high and smacks into a framed Fenway print on the back wall. Glass shatters. The consensus: Jean is not going to be happy. The veteran employee, whose desk is near "home plate," may not go for these mild frat-house antics, but Epstein believes releasing steam is essential to sustaining the front office's insane hours. "It's fun because it has to be." The staff, composed largely of young guys with degrees from elite colleges, seems to agree.
It's hard to imagine Brian Cashman or Billy Beane blowing off steam by playing tape ball with his staff. But you can bet that either one of them would do it habitually if he thought it would help him help his team win.
Just as Theo can have a little fun break from a high-stress job, he seems to have put the rest of life in remarkable perspective. There are important things in the world, and as much as Red Sox fans the world over would disagree, baseball is low on the list:
So what does Epstein see himself doing down the road? He admits he doesn't want to be a GM forever. Eventually, he'd like to settle down and have a family, which is hard to picture right now. "There is no way a human being can physically maintain the work schedule and pace that Theo sets for himself," says John Henry. And, as much as baseball is at his core, he hopes someday to have an impact outside the game, something he sees his brother doing by improving the lives of the students he works with. "There are a lot of people suffering," he says. "My brother does something about it every day, and I don't. But I certainly will at some point."
Now that's a well-balanced human being.
It seems almost unnecessary to recap this momentous year in our beloved Red Sox' history. Who among us does not say good-bye to 2004 knowing that it was a year we will never forget? Yet as I think back on this past twelve monthsand look back on my blog entries over that same span of timeI realize that the result that now seems so obviously destined to occur wasn't seen that way by the Nation (or at least by me) before it actually happened. So just what was I thinking as the year unfolded?
I didn't blog at all in January. But I remember quite vividly what I was thinking.
And that pretty much sums up January.
OK, so I was obsessed with the start of spring training and getting my frozen self to warmer climes. I did make a couple off-the-cuff predictions that didn't quite pan out, including:
Our solid 1-2-3 starters (Pedro, D-Lowe, Wakefield) are now a more solid 1-2-3-4 with the insertion of Curt Schilling, and we have two strong possibilities (Arroyo, Kim) for number 5.
Arroyo turned out to be more consistently reliable than Lowe, who (along with Nomar) didn't have the contract year many had expected. I'm pretty sure most of us have long since forgotten about B.H. Kim.
I also went on my annual rant about the late spring training arrival of A Certain Former Red Sox Pitcher Who Shall Not Be Named. Thank goodness we won't have to deal with that in 2005.
My annual trip to Fort Myers was greatbaseball and fun in the sun. It was almost as much fun as watching the BALCO steroid scandal break.
But my most passionate post of the month was in response to some public radio guy hell-bent on finding the dark cloud in front of the silver lining. Among my complaints about his inane ramblings:
But wait, ladies and gentlemen, there's more, specifically the old cliche so often employed by unimaginative sportswriter wanna-bes, that Red Sox fans don't really want to win. We SAY we do, but we really don't. Trust Bill [Littlefield, said public radio guy]. He knows. After all, "doesn't it seem more likely that fans (as well as those who weren't aware that they were paying attention) would tremble in the scary novelty of this... this... winning, and that they'd wonder how they were supposed to make sense of the next day that would dawn that day upon which they would have no new pain to embrace, nobody to blame?"
Hee hee. We showed him.
With the regular season finally underway, I opined about such burning topics as MLB's insistence on portraying us Sox fans as a pathetic lot who believe in curses and hexes, the beginning of what would become David Ortiz' habit of hitting walk-off homers, and watching tee-ball. I was also feeling pretty good about the team's season-to-date performance:
Four weeks into the season, the Sox are in first place, 1.5 games ahead of their nearest competition, and promising to get better when the wounded heal and the bats come alive. What a far cry from a year ago, when we sat on pins and needles during the late innings of every game. Sure, we could come from behind for a big win, but on the flip side the pen was just as capable of blowing a big lead.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I now consider that particular part of the season to be among the least interesting.
I began the month with the first of what I fully intended to be monthly recaps. Alas, I ended up falling woefully short of my goal, but at least I tried.
This was also the month in which I posted probably the greatest variety of random entries of any month of this year. I griped yet another injury to a key starter, yet another verbal eruption from A Certain Former Red Sox Pitcher Who Shall Not Be Named, and yet another sign of the collapsing relationship between Nomar and the front office.
And for no particular reason except that it's my blog and I could, I quoted my favorite (almost) monologue from my all-time favorite baseball movie:
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers; it has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
Call me a sap, but it sends chills up my spine every time I hear it.
Considering it was a .440 month for our boys, I should be forgiven for posting only once, that being basically a b*tchfest.
A bittersweet month, it was. I began to doubt my team, I'm ashamed to say. Then I dealt with the loss of someone who all of us thought would be a life-long Red Sox. Still, I held out hope, which at that time was still the lifeline of Red Sox fans everywhere:
Quite simply, if the fans stay positive, don't boo at the park, and don't whine on sports radio (which players listen to even if they don't admit it), it helps keep the players pumped up. The support of the fans is a big reason why so many sports teams have a home field or home court advantage.
Turned out to be right on that count, too. Not that I'm gloating.
Memory fails me as to why I posted only one entry in each of these months. Granted, I was out of work on disability for two months, but there certainly was enough going on baseball-wise to keep my interest. We processed Nomar's departure. And the team was doing great, even threatening to catch that other AL East team. Guess I just spent my time watching instead of writing.
Yes, they were serving Fenway Franks in October. Lots of them, to very happy fans. I was also a very happyand activeblogger.
I live-blogged ALCS game one, not our finest hour but a prelude of what was to come over the next couple games. Then I embarked on a series of positive affirmations, which at first were a sort of therapy for despondent co-workers and then continued as a celebration of the Great Comeback. I prayed, shared my enthusiasm with our neighbors across the pond, and ultimately celebrated with the teeming masses. I also picked up a championship shirt or four:
The design I really like, on the other hand, perfectly expresses the sentiments of many: "Now I can die in peace." I bought one of these and am wearing it even as I type this. I also picked up a clever Nike shirt that said, "The drought is over...the reign begins."
Yeah, this championship is everything I thought it would be, and more.
In possibly my most prolific month ever as a blogger, I posted an astounding 33 times, which makes me wonder how I got anything done at work.
Q: What do you call 25 guys watching the World Series on TV?
A: The New York Yankees
I commented on the various awards and the free agent situation. I visited the Hall of Fame. I saw the World Series trophy. I learned that when our brave troops overseas wanted a little pick-me-up, they thought about Fenway Park.
[Orlando] Cabrera [ . . . ] was crucial in stabilizing the middle infield after the Garciaparra trade and contributed in the post-season with 11 RBI in 14 games. He was also damned fun to watch in the field, playing like the "dirt dogs" for which the Red Sox have become famous.
[ . . . ] Despite limited playing time with the Sox, [Dave Roberts] made his permanent mark by kick-starting the team's unprecedented comeback in the ALCS. Be sure of this: if Roberts doesn't steal second against Mariano Rivera in game 4, Bill Mueller's RBI single only scores one runnot enough to force extra innings and allow David Ortiz to avert the sweep.
But as is often the case in the off-season, there was ample good news to neutralize the bad.
And finally, what year would be complete without a full-fledged crusade? I hate to end the year with the bad taste of a horrible 2005 ticketing system in my mouth, but I look forward to more tickets going on sale in January and February. As we said in 2004, "Keep the Faith."
I wonder what our 2005 motto will be. If I may make a suggestion, there's a nice ring to, "It Was So Much Fun, Let's Do It Again."
Happy New Year, everyone.
Not only did Red Sox fans get another four years of catcher Jason Varitek for Christmas, but we got Captain Varitek. At the Christmas Eve press conference. in which Theo Epstein announced Tek's new four-year, $40 million contract, he also announced that the team has decided to designate the catcher team captainonly the third the franchise has had since 1923.
When I was a kid, we had "Captain Carl", soon-to-be Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo writes that after Yaz, the honor belonged to Jim Rice. I don't recall that; Rice was never the captain sort. But Tek, now there's a leader. The fans have long recognized it, the other players often comment on it, and now we know the team's management has seen it too.
Merry Christmas, Nation. The heart of our team is back.
One departure from the Red Sox family that hasn't been widely covered is that of Sean McDonough, long-time television play-by-play announcer. New England Sports Network and the Red Sox have decided not to renew his contract for 2005, a travesty worth blogging about, even belatedly.
McDonough wasn't happy, as he told the Boston Herald a couple weeks ago. Not that the Herald asked for MY opinion, but I'm not happy either. McDonough has been by far my favorite play-by-play guy, with Don Orsillo being a somewhat distant second. I never liked the other NESN announcers, and there have been no other announcers for the non-NESN (free TV) games besides Sean. (The only excpetion is Jerry Remy, the color commentator for both NESN and non-NESN telecasts. I love the Rem Dawg.)
In my personal opinion, McDonough has been treated very shabbily over these last few years by NESN and their owners, the Red Sox. When the Red Sox began televising selected games on the new NESN cable channel as opposed to broadcast TV, a NESN play-by-play man covered those games. That still left McDonough with the majority of games. Over several years, the number of games available via antenna dwindled, and McDonough's schedule with it, to the current sorry once-a-week arrangement. Out of loyalty to and love of the Red Sox, McDonough stayed on even though his multi-sport skill and national broadcast experience easily could have gotten him a regular gig somewhere else.
The right thing to do, and it should have been done years ago, would have been to keep Sean for all local gamecasts, much as they have done with Remy. The two are a proven team, arguably among the best in baseball. And McDonough is what none of NESN's long line of Red Sox announcers has been: a nationally known and respected talent with the stature befitting a "voice of the Red Sox". Soon he will be gone, and it will be the viewers' loss.
CNN has included the Red Sox' World Series victory among its top 10 stories of 2004. It was the only real "good news" story that made the list (unless you count the death of Yasser Arafat, but that's a topic for another blog).
Two late but vital additions to the 2004 Boston Red Sox have left for greener pastures. ALCS hero Dave Roberts is now a San Diego Padre, and Nomar replacement Orlando Cabrera is with the Anaheim Angels.
Cabrera was a free-agent who declined the Red Sox' offer of salary arbitration. He was crucial in stabilizing the middle infield after the Garciaparra trade and contributed in the post-season with 11 RBI in 14 games. He was also damned fun to watch in the field, playing like the "dirt dogs" for which the Red Sox have become famous.
Roberts was traded to the Padres for outfielder Jay Payton, infielder Randy Vazquez, a minor league pitcher, and cash. Despite limited playing time with the Sox, he made his permanent mark by kick-starting the team's unprecedented comeback in the ALCS. Be sure of this: if Roberts doesn't steal second against Mariano Rivera in game 4, Bill Mueller's RBI single only scores one runnot enough to force extra innings and allow David Ortiz to avert the sweep.
Good luck and success (though not when they play the Sox) to both of these fine men.
Jay Payton, V-Tek, & Nomar Garciaparra, were all teammates on The Georgia State U, Baseball Team.
With Payton not liking a PT Role, he seems to be acting like Nomar, in June, '04, being restless.
(The following post was written on December 13. I will bump it to the top every day until I am no longer furious.)
On Saturday, I waited online for 135 minutesthat's 2 hours and 15 minutes for those keeping score at hometrying to buy 2005 tickets via the RedSox.com so-called "Virtual Waiting Room", which would more appropriate be called the Virtual Black Hole. This is easily the worst online ticketing system I have ever had the misfortune to use. Not only that, but the manner in which 2005 tickets are being sold is unnecessarily confusing and unfair to average fans. If you share my frustrations, join me in a LETTER, E-MAIL, AND TELEPHONE CAMPAIGN to flood the Red Sox with complaints.
Demand for Season Tickets is higher than ever, and increasing year by yearparticularly since the ownership change and now the World Series championship. Season tickets, of course, are utterly unaffordable for most middle-class fans, families, and individuals. That's finepeople who can't afford season tickets can still buy individual game tickets, right?
Well, not exactly. It appears that the Red Sox aren't very discriminating about the number of season tickets sold, which leads to a breathtaking lack of tickets for the rest of us. Rather than setting aside a reasonable number of season tickets and having a long waiting list (hey, those people can still by tickets game by game like everybody else), an inordinate number of seats are reserved by a very few wealthy people or companies who can afford to pay to see 81 games a year.
What about those who can't afford a full season ticket but still want to attend multiple games? Last year, blocks of tickets were made available via something called the "Tenth Man Plan". It was a mini-season ticket option by which a fan could purchase the same seat for ten games. But the plan didn't necessarily get you prime seats; one friend of mine bought a single seat under the plan, and her seat was in the bleachers. I too went to about ten games but bought tickets game by game and got better seats for all of them. But I digress. I believe, but can't be sure, that the games were pre-determined, so it wasn't possible to put together a customized selection of ten games.
This year's ticket pack plan is the "Sox Pax" program by which a fan can guy tickets to one of nine pre-selected groups of four games. Each pack either is anchored by a marquee game such as Opening Day, Patriots Day, or an interleague game, or comprises a theme such as Friday, Saturday, or Sunday games. Each pack also includes a game versus the Yankees.
These packs, while being marketed as fan-friendly plans, merely serve to further diminish the number of tickets available for average fans by restricting attendance at the most desirable games to those who are willing and able to buy tickets to other games they may not want or can't get to. If you are a working adult who wants to take a vacation day to attend Opening Day, you must buy a pack that includes a Wednesday afternoon game ticket in the middle of May which your work schedule might not accommodate. If you are a parent who wants to take your child to the Patriots Day game, you must buy a pack that includes both a Wednesday afternoon game at the end of April and a Monday evening (school night) game in early May. To make matters worse, there is no discount for buying the pack.
And what if you can only afford to go to one game a year, and you'd like to see the Sox play the Yankees? Too badall nine home games versus New York are part of Sox Pax.
Besides buying season tickets or Sox Pax, you can still buy tickets to individual games one at a time. But so many tickets are spoken for by the season ticket and Sox Pax buyers that the number of individual tickets left over is negligible.
Then there's the issue of how and when tickets can be purchased. Internet users can attempt to buy tickets from the comfort and convenience of their homes or offices; those without computers can call the Red Sox automated ticket system for single-game tickets. But if you are internet-free and want Sox Pax, you have to go to Fenway Park in personessentially baring out-of-towners from those packages.
Release of Tickets and Poor Communication
If you are left hoping to get tickets to individual games, you are severely restricted in the selection of available games. Saturday's individual ticket sale included the 22 home games in April and Mayexcept the three Yankees game, the Toronto game on Patriots Day, and the interleague series against Atlantaplus one Baltimore game on June 1. Sorry, you can't buy tickets for any games after June 1 until a date in February yet to be announced. It's as if they're just trying to confuse us.
(On a related topic, they did the same pick-and-choose release of tickets for Spring Training games, a few of which went on sale last week with the others to be released on a date in January yet to be announced. To add insult to injury, the team announced that tickets would go on sale in person at City of Palms Park a day earlier than the internet and phone sales, to allow the loyal fans of Fort Myers first crack at seeing the team they have long supported. But at the last minute, they moved the internet sale up one day. Patient Fort Myers residents who waited in line for hours awaiting the opening of the ticket office were told the games were sold out because of internet buyers.)
Virtual Waiting Room
As if all this weren't bad enough, internet customers are subjected to the torture of Tickets.com's mysterious and unreliable "Virtual Waiting Room" system which, by most accounts, doesn't work. For starters, the system is set up to allow you into the queue for only one Sox Pax or one individual game at a time. If you're lucky enough to get through and the game or pack is sold out, you cannot select another game or pack without starting the process from scratch and waiting another [insert indeterminate number here] minutes or hours after which that option may be unavailable too. And once you do get through and purchase tickets for one game, you can't add another game to your purchase.
And that's the best case scenario. You might get through to the ticket purchase screen for your chosen pack or game, select the number and location of tickets, and enter the numeric code designed to deter automated purchase by scalpersonly to be told that your transaction cannot be completed because of high volume and sent back into Virtual Waiting Room hell. Yes, this happened to metwice.
The waiting room system itself seems completely random; someone who enters the system at 10:00am, when tickets went on sale, may go two full hours without ever being able to purchase tickets, while someone else who enters at 11:00 get through just fine. Or one person may end up with tickets to multiple games while another customer, waiting online at the same time, never gets even a single purchase opportunity. Yes, this happened to me too; I was the only one of my group of Red Sox friends who didn't get even a single ticket for my patient efforts.
It is obvious that using the waiting room system is not like lining up in a queue but rather like shooting fish swimming around in a barrel. Apparently when the Virtual Waiting Room screen refreshes itself every 30 seconds, you have the lottery-style chance to be selected from among all users online at that moment. There is no distinctions between the person who has waited for an hour and the one who has just gone online.
If you're as ripped as I am about this madness, let's band together and do something about it. Let's make sure there is no question in the minds of the Red Sox Powers-That-Be that we don't appreciate being rewarded for our years of patient loyalty with a Mickey Mouse system (apologies to The Rodent) that leaves us angry and unsatisfied.
To e-mail a complaint to the Red Sox, go to the help site, select the subject of your comments, and submit your comments via the online feedback form.
To communicate by snail-mail, send your letter to:
You can download a sample letter or write your own. Address your letter to a particular person; to write to more than one person, write more than one letter. The following people should be targeted:
To express your sentiments by telephone, call the Red Sox offices at 617-267-9440 and ask to speak to someone in public affairs or customer relations. If you want to target a specific person listed above, ask for one of the following:
The December 19 midnight deadline for free agents to accept or reject arbitration offers came and went without a single Red Sox player accepting. It appears that the Red Sox are unique in having as many as seven such players, while many other teams have none. With some (example), it is impossible to determine the arbitration status of their unsigned players because they are designated simply as "Opted for free agency".
The Red Sox how have until January 8 to sign these players or lose them. The top priority is Jason Varitek who, according to WBZ radio's sports report this morning, has dropped his demand for a guaranteed fifth year and lowered his asking price slightly but still seeks a no-trade provision.
It was no surprise that Orlando Cabrera declined arbitration now that Edgar Renteria has been brought in to play shortstop. Cabrera is a good player who will get a starting job somewhere else, and while it bothers me on an emotional/personality level to lose him, Renteria is a step up baseball-wise. What does bother me is the prospect of losing Pokey Reese, whom I would rather have at second base than Mark Bellhorn. Bellhorn is a much more productive hitter, but Reese is superior defensively, which is needed in double play situations to maximize Renteria's effectiveness. (Similar thinking is what leads me to prefer Doug Mientkiewicz over Kevin Millar at first base, as I argued last week.)
But back to the big priority. With just 19 days left until the signing deadline, let's hope that Theo ends up spending Christmas with the Variteks.
Theo, the Boy Wonder, has indeed been busy this week. As he was introducing Edgar Renteria as the newest member of the Boston Red Sox, he apparently was about to put the finishing touches on a deal for 30-year-old free agent pitcher Matt Clement. The signing will become official after the required physical.
Those who were paying attention may recall that Clement was rumored to be part of last summer's blockbuster Nomar trade. That didn't quite happen, but Theo obviously kept his eye on Clement from that time right through the winter meetings.
The stats are a little deceiving. Last season with the Cubs, Clement had a mediocre record at 9-13, but his ERA was 3.68 with an average of 9.45 strikeouts per 9 innings and an opponents batting average against of only .229. If he can repeat those numbers with the Red Sox offense on his side, he'll have no trouble winning 15+ games.
That's the name of Edgar Renteria's charity endeavor in his native Colombia. I learned that listening to Theo Epstein at yesterday's press conference introducing Renteria as a member of the Red Sox. Theo praised Edgar's commitment to the community where he grew up, announced that the team had made a donation to the charity, and encouraged fans to check out the web site.
The only problem is that the site, with the sole exception of the registration page to sign up as a site member, is in Spanish, and there's no apparent link to an English mirror site. Either Theo didn't visit the web site or he is secretly bilingual.
The language barrier didn't scare me away; rather, I accepted the challenge to use my erstwhile Spanish knowledge for the first time since I was a senior in high school. I won't go into the gory details, but it wasn't pretty.
I realize that headline is a bit like announcing that the sun rose in the east this morning. Our Kevin has never been known to hold back his opinions. This time, though, his comments do not reflect the team comraderie for which the 2003 and 2004 Red Sox became famous. To put it bluntly, he has thrown new teammate and fellow first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz under the bus.
"I'm not going to platoon behind Doug Mientkiewicz, to be honest with you. I've proven myself here. Two years ago we were five outs away and last year we won. It's not a platoon spot. I'm not gonna platoon with Doug, and I'm sure he doesn't want to, either."
It is true that Mientkiewicz wants to be a full-time player, and he has said so, though without the subtle personal barb used by Millar.
"No, I can't do this again," Mientkiewicz said during the ALCS. "[...] I've been an everyday player for the last five years. The teams I've been on have been pretty darned good. I went from a three-hole hitter on a playoff team that was three games away from the World Series a couple of years ago, to, if I do play, I hit ninth. It's been tough to watch."
You certainly can't blame Mientkiewicz for his frustration; everything he says is true. He is also three years younger than Millar, has far more experience at first base in terms of total chances, and is a fomer Gold Glove winner. Offensively he isn't as strong as Millar in terms of average or power, but their career on-base percentages are almost identical. And he made several hundred thousand dollars less than Millar in 2004, a gap that will be widen in 2005 as Millar's salary jumps by an additional $200,000.
If I were the GM, all else being equal with the rest of the team, I'd keep Millar and use the money saved on Mientkiewicz toward another pitcher. As I was just saying to a friend, it's a balancing act. I'm in favor of leaning more heavily toward pitching and defense. But if Manny were to be traded, for example, that would really change the balance in Millar's favor because of his hitting stats.
The point is that both men think that one of them has to go, and neither will be satisfied unless he is the everyday first baseman come opening day. They are both good enough to be full-time players, so it isn't really fair to platoon them or use one off the bench. If Dave McCarty re-signs (they offered him arbitration, please accept, please accept, please accept) then he's a perfect backup at first, plus we also have Ortiz if we really get desperate.
The Triumphant Red Sox Fan hereby announces that she will blog no longer about Pedro Martinez. No comments about his press conference in New York or his charges concerning the Red Sox front office, nothing about who will replace him (there is merely an opening in the rotation, that's all), and not a peep about his performance on the field from this day forward. Previous posts mentioning said former Red Sox pitcher will remain here, but don't expect anything new, unless the Sox play the Mets and he happens to be pitching, in which case he will be referred to as "a certain former Red Sox pitcher who shall not be named".
It is so declared, effective immediately. The Triumphant Red Sox Fan has moved on.
The 15th of the month seems like a good date to review what has been simmering, boiling, and/or burning on the hot stove. Besides, a few noteworthy things have happened since my last update. Most of the action involves free agents, but there is certainly more.
Free Agents Signed
Backup catcher Doug Mirabelli signed a two-year deal worth about $3 million back on November 29. 'Belli could probably have been a starter somewhere else, but in the absence of that opportunity, Boston is probably the only place where he could be a "backup" guaranteed to work every fifth day.
The Sox closed a one-year deal on December 8 with right-handed pitcher Matt Mantei, a 31-year-old career reliever from the Diamondbacks. His numbers were pretty good until 2004, when he struggled early before having eventual shoulder surgery. Mantei is also a veteran of Tommy John surgery in 2001.
The pace of signings has picked up this week, with contracts being sealed with leftie starters David Wells (affectionately referred to by yours truly as Tub O' Lard because of his, um, physique) from the Padres and John Halama from the Devil Rays. Wells is a horse whose arm, if not the rest of him, is in great shape, but I'm not sure about the two-year deal for $8 million guaranteed. Halama, signed for one year with an option year, has been a reliever and spot starter since 2001 and could supplement the rotation in the early-season absence of Curt Schilling.
And did I mention today's big signing, shortstop Edgar Renteria? That no doubt means buh-bye to Orlando Cabrera, who is too good to warm the bench. The deal isn't done until Renteria passes a physical, but it sounds like he's excited to come here and has gotten over that whole last-out-of-the-World-Series thing.
Free Agents Lost
The team essentially cut loose a number of free agents to whom they declined to offer salary arbitration. Under MLB rules, those players can't be signed by the Sox until May 1, 2005, by which time most if not all of them will have made other arrangements. Say good-bye to pitchers Terry Adams, Curtis Leskanic, Ramiro Mendoza, and Scott Williamson; middle infielder Ricky Gutierrez; and hobbled DH Ellis Burks, who plans to retire.
Burks, by the way, should get an award for greatest contribution to a team's success by someone who was kept off the field by injuries for all but 11 games this season. He couldn't play, but by all accounts that didn't prevent him from being a loyal member of the team, maintaining a strong and supportive presence in the clubhouse, and accompanying the team on the road. The Triumphant Red Sox Fan wishes him well in his post-baseball life.
Free Agents Remaining
Seven other Red Sox free agents have been offered salary arbitration by the team, including the now apparently dispensable Cabrera, second baseman Pokey Reese, and the most important remaining unsigned free agent, Jason Varitek. Any player who accepts the arbitration offer is considered signed, his salary to be determined by the arbitrator. Players have until December 19 to accept or decline arbitration, but even if they decline, the team can continue, resume, or begin to negotiate with them until January 8.
Arbitration was also offered to D-Lowe, whose agent says the pitcher has no intention of accepting (sorry, I can't remember where I read it so I can't provide a link). Since the Red Sox aren't interested in paying him what he wants, he's effectively if not officially gone.
There have been rumors of a Manny trade gone bad, in large part because at the last minute, Omar Minaya wanted several million dollars in cash and Theo told him to go pound sand (source: WEEI's Dennis & Callahan this morning, though the Sox are denying it).
It appears almost certain that some kind of trade will have to take place to get another #2 starter to take Pedro's place, as well as a supplemental outfielder to replace Gabe Kapler. Among the rumored trade bait are mid-season acquisitions Doug Mientkiewicz and Dave Roberts, as well as top prospect shortstop Hanley Ramirez, whose future with the organization is in question with the signing of Renteria.
That's "After Pedro", in case you were wondering. And if you're wondering what I think of the apparent deal, as yet unsigned, between Martinez and the Mets, see my understated comments from yesterday. Today I'll just tell you what others are saying:
Jayson Stark ESPN.com
[Agent Fernando Cuza] said [to the Red Sox that] Pedro was hurt and angry. Why would one team be willing to give him four years but the Red Sox wouldn't? Why wouldn't the Red Sox show him the respect he had earned after all these years?
The Red Sox delegation didn't need to listen long. They had heard enough. They had done enough. They had done all they were going to do. So if Pedro could get all that from the Mets, he should probably go get it before the Mets changed their mind.
Mike Lupica New York Daily News
Martinez? He goes for the money if he goes for the Mets. If he does, he makes the same mistake for himself that Jason Giambi made when he left Oakland. Giambi did it for the money. He didn't do it because he loved Mickey Mantle, he didn't do it to win the World Series, he did it for the money, the way A-Rod did it for the money in Texas, then tried to get us to believe it was a more exciting business venture than Google.
Martinez is better off in Boston as a World Series champ, even for less money, less of a guarantee on the back end. If he stays with the Red Sox, he returns to a team with a great chance to do it again. He goes out a winner. The way Tom Glavine could have done in Atlanta.
Dan Shaughnessy Boston Globe
It's going to be fascinating to watch him in New York. He gets to pitch in a pitcher's ballpark and he gets to strike out the opposing pitcher once every three innings. But he's not going to have Manny and David Ortiz hitting monstrous homers and watching his back. He's not going to have fans who'll ignore his diva routines. He might even encounter management that wants him to follow the rules like the rest of his teammates. Oh, and he'll have to walk to the plate after buzzing the other team's No. 3 batter in the top of the first. No more diplomatic immunity supplied by the designated hitter.
Bill Simmons ESPN.com
Losing the most exciting pitcher in the history of the franchise was bad enough. Losing him because he leveraged the good will of the championship season into a far-too-generous offer from the Red Sox, then leveraged that offer into a suicidal contract from the Metsfour years and $54 million for a six-inning pitcher with a history of shoulder problemsI mean, how are we supposed to feel about this guy now?
Shaun Powell New York Newsday
[The Red Sox and Yankees] are willing to spend whatever is necessary to stay ahead of the other, except when it comes to Pedro and any deal beyond three years. Whenever the Yankees and Red Sox show any restraint whatsoever, especially when it involves a pitcher, something's up.
Tom Verducci Sports Illustrated
Can Martinez do that at ages 33, 34, 35 and 36? No one else in baseball but [Mets' GM Omar] Minaya wanted to take that risk. I don't rule out Martinez doing it because he's supremely talented with a tremendous pitching intellect, which means he can make late-career adjustments with his body and stuff that many others can't. (Kevin Brown comes to mind.) But you'd be kidding yourself, based on the rest of baseball sitting this one out, to think the odds are with him.
Tony Massarotti Boston Herald
Thanks for the memories, Pedro. We wish you nothing but the best.
But please close the door behind you on the way out.
I don't know about you, but I'm not really feeling the love in any of those articles. Meanwhile, a Sporting News online poll currently shows the following results:
With Pedro Martinez about to sign a four-year, $56 million deal with the Mets, who should be happiest about this deal?
Pedro Martinez: 51%
Red Sox: 20%
All this suggests that if the Mets' upcoming Pedro Era turns out well, the Mets themselves will be the only ones who aren't surprised. In any event, it sure will be interesting to watch the whole thing unfold.
... to bring you a brief recap of my slumber party Saturday night with the Sistahs. They held the
Yankee Red Sox swap over lunch and drinks in the afternoon, and since I couldn't attend that part of the festivities due to a prior commitment but did have the foresight to mail in my swap gift, they were kind enough to call me at the appointed hour so I could participate via cell phone. Ah, the wonders of modern technology. It was the first time in my life that I drew #1 in a Yankee Red Sox swap, so I had my pick of the gifts after everyone had selected. There was lots of great stuff from which to choose, and I ultimately opted for the World Championship mug stuffed with Red Sox red socks and a World Series window decal. RedKB got my gift, a Red Sox night light (I paid a dollar less at Newbury Comics, and no shipping charge) and Red Sox baseball diamond light switch cover.
After my early evening arrival, we talked baseball, perused each others Sox books and magazines (Big Papi is on the cover of the new issue of ESPN!), made pizza, and watched Faith Rewarded, NESN's 2004 retrospective. A good time was had by all. Unfortunately, RedKB had to leave before I arrived, but Booklady, RainbowGirl, and MrsBeasley were all able to stay for the overnight. Thanks to BL for the delicious apple pie, RBG for the breakfast croissants and cranberry chutney, MrsB for the Red Sox christmas ornament, and of course SoxCruiser for hosting us. A special note of gratitude goes out to MrSC (also known as 941827 a prize for the first person who figures out the meaning of that nickname) for putting up with all us Sox-crazed ladies.
Next year's swap weekend is already planned, and PinkyToo will be here for it. Yippee!
If reports are to be believed, Pedro Martinez does. This stumps me. Sure, they reportedly offered him an extra year, but the Sox are giving him more money per year. Besides, for crying out loud, they're the Mets. Talk about a step down.
As I said to a co-worker this afternoon, what kills me about the Mets is that they've spent money like drunken sailors in the last couple years and they still suck wind. So don't ask me why Pedro or any player of his caliber would want to leave a winner for a team that can't come close to .500 even with the third or fourth highest payroll in the game. Who's their GM anyway, Dan Duquette? (Actually, don't laugh. Danny-Boy's cousin Jim is the Mets' Senior VP of Baseball Operations. Maybe it's genetic, though I don't recall one of Dan's teams ever ending up in last place. They did, however, come dangerously close in 1997...)
Jim Duquette, did trade a certain young talented pitcher, Scott Kasmir, for the wild-throwing Victor Zambrano. Something of a Dan maneuver, if ever I've seen one!
Pedro, in his signing conference, wanted V-Tek to sign, as well as having Mike Piazza, moved to 1st Base.
Pedro was playing a bit of DIVA, with that one.
As I said to a group of Red Sox friends over the weekend, World Series championship notwithstanding, John W. Henry and Company's honeymoon period is now over. This is why.
I know the current ownership group are out-of-towners, but really, I thought they had a better understanding of how things are here. The Red Sox have the kind of following enjoyed by no other team in sports history. Anyone over the age of 30 who has followed this club for any length of time knows what special fans we are. We're more loyal than other fans. We're more dedicated. We love our team like a mama loves her babies, as opposed to other teams <coughyankeescough> whose fans love them like Jennifer Lopez loves her boyfriends/fiancés/husbands. The difference is commitment.
And we're bound to one another because of it, like survivors of a disaster-at-sea who found themselves traumatized for life. No one but each other knows in the soul what we've been through together. Our trauma has ended, fortunately, but just as we suffered a common angst before, we now share the sublime knowledge of happiness after a lifetime of woe.
That frame of mind, that state of being, is Red Sox Nation. When we say the Nation knows no geographic boundaries, we don't mean merely that Red Sox fans are flung to the four corners of the globe. It means that even though we are so scattered, We Share Something.
Now Red Sox, Inc. wants to create a fan club. Great idea. Go for it. It worked great for the kids, who have their very own "Kid Nation" to stir interest in the team among youngsters. I might even sign up for a grown-up club. Call it the "Official Boston Red Sox Fan Club" or the "BoSox Boosters" or "Red Sox Fans 'R' Us". But "Red Sox Nation"? That name is already taken, and if they insist on putting it on the market, well, it's obviously a cheap knock-off and I'm not buying.
Don't get me wrong, sometimes it is useful to have a membership card, like my Friends of the Hall of Fame card (free admission and no shipping on web orders) or my AAA card (jump starts in the dead of winter and rescue from the occasional key locked in the car). But I would no sooner pay $9.95 to call myself a citizen of Red Sox Nation than I would to call myself an American. It's a pretty safe bet that anyone who would was never really a part of the Nation to begin with and likely never will be.
And he got them from Barry Bonds' personal trainer.
I am shocked, I tell you. Shocked.
New York Yankees first baseman and designated hitter Jason Giambi reportedly told a grand jury last year that he had used performance-enhancing drugs for at least three seasons, an Associated Press article reports:
Giambi described how he injected human growth hormone in his stomach, testosterone into his buttocks, rubbed an undetectable steroid knows as "the cream""on his body and placed drops of another, called "the clear," under his tongue, the [San Francisco] Chronicle reported Thursday.
Giambi testified that he obtained several different steroids from Barry Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who is one of four men indicted by the grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. He said he got the human growth hormone from a gym in Las Vegas.
Injected human grown hormone into his stomach??? Ick. I doubt this brought on the nasty parasite that befell him earlier in the season (read hilarious satirical interview with said parasite here), but it likely worsened a benign tumor he had developed, according to the AP article:
Giambi batted .208 and played in only 80 games last season, missing time because of a tumor, which the New York Daily News reported was in his pituitary gland. Medical experts told the Chronicle that Clomid, a drug Giambi said he thought Anderson had given him, can exacerbate a tumor of the pituitary gland.
Fascinating stuff. The most detailed article I have yet found on this story is here.
Incidentally, there is also a Red Sox angle to the story, sort of:
Giambi's younger brother, Jeremy, who last played in the majors with Boston in 2003, also testified that he used performance-enhancing drugs given to him by Anderson, according to the Chronicle.
Perhaps steroid use contributed to the chronic injuries that dogged Jeremy throughout 2003. Risk of such injuries is thought to be a potential side-effect of such drugs.