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Monday, October 31, 2005

  (Pssssst... There Is Some Good News...)

All this upheaval won't keep me from acknowledging some award-winning Red Sox, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Who Now?

Compounding the Red Sox' unenviable position is that Theo's right hand man, Josh Byrnes, just last week left the organization himself to become the GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks. That means that the usual "Plan B" isn't available the way it was when Mike Port took over for the fired Dan Duquette.

The Red Sox have some "Special Assistant to the GM" types who currently hold key positions in the organization, namely Bill Lajoie (scouting) and Craig Shipley (player development and international scouting). Higher up the food chain are Director of Baseball Operations Peter Woodfork and Director of Player Development Ben Cherington. But none of those men has come up in discussions of executives-in-waiting in the vein of Byrnes.

The Boston Globe mentions Jed Hoyer, Assistant to the GM, as a possible successor to Byrnes but makes no guess as to whether he might be considered for the top job. The Herald's Michael Silverman is among those pointing out that experienced GMs from other clubs are available:

Veteran general managers Pat Gillick and Gerry Hunsicker have been interviewing for some of the current openings and will likely be at least considered for this one. Current San Diego general manager Kevin Towers recently interviewed for the vacant Arizona Diamondbacks GM vacancy, which has since been filled by Epstein’s former assistant, Josh Byrnes, late last week. Towers worked for Lucchino and with Epstein in San Diego before Lucchino became part of the ownership group of the Red Sox.

San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean, a graduate of Concord (N.H.) High School, has also been mentioned as a possibility.

Now isn't this more interesting than handicapping Supreme Court nominees?

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  What Next?

The Herald says Theo's immediate future is uncertain—but among the options he is reportedly considering is leaving baseball.

A next step for Epstein, 31, remains unknown, although he has told associates that he may leave baseball and look for another line of work. The Dodgers, Phillies and Devil Rays currently have GM vacancies but it is believed that Epstein is likely to take a year off from baseball before considering a return.

Don't forget that this man has been in baseball all his working life. It is quite literally all he's ever done. And he could continue doing it, for lots of money and with great success, elsewhere. To just walk away—not necessarily to something else, but just away—belies a deep wound that won't easily heal with the next contract, wherever it may be.

The Red Sox, obviously, don't have the option of just taking a year off. They need a new General Manager. Ordinarily in circumstances like this, an Assistant GM would step in, at least on an interim basis, as Mike Port did after the firing of Dan Duquette.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Why It Happened

Given that a major Boston newspaper this morning reported with some degree of specificity that Theo and the Sox had reached a contract agreement, we can be forgiven for taking further news reports with a grain of salt. So here, for what it's worth, is what the Boston Herald says about why the relationship has been severed:

Epstein had come close to agreeing to a deal Saturday evening but had not officially conveyed acceptance of it. On Sunday, he began having serious misgivings about staying on. A leading contributing factor, according to sources close to the situation, was a column in Sunday’s Boston Globe in which too much inside information about the relationship between Epstein and his mentor, team president and CEO Larry Lucchino, was revealed -- in a manner slanted too much in Lucchino’s favor. Epstein, according to these sources, had several reasons to believe Lucchino was a primary source behind the column and came to the realization that if this information were leaked hours before Epstein was going to agree to a new long-term deal, it signaled excessive bad faith between him and Lucchino.

Unless Theo is something no one thought, he isn't the type to agree, even in principle, to contract terms and then back out. Clearly he did so for what he must have considered the most serious of reasons.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  In Theo We Trusted

The honeymoon is barely over, but the divorce is imminent. General Manager Theo Epstein has decided to leave the Red Sox and will not sign an extension of his contract due to expire at midnight tonight.

Epstein and Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino had several negotiating sessions over the last week or so, trying to get a new deal done.

The Boston Globe reported Monday that Epstein and the Red Sox had agreed to a new three-year deal that just needed to be formally announced. Apparently, that was not the case, as Monday's stunning news was revealed by late afternoon.

Expect days, if not weeks, of analysis about whose fault this was. In my view, it's a collosal failure on the part of the team. With reports as recently as this morning indicating a deal was imminent, it isn't likely that the team was unwilling to put forth a reasonable offer. Theo's decision more probably reflects a deteriorated relationship between him and his boss(es).

Questions have persisted almost since the beginning of his tenure that Theo wasn't necessarily given the free reign that many think a GM should have. Unlike his micro-managed counterpart in the Bronx, he apparently has had enough.

And so the Epstein Era comes to an end. Expect the issue of autonomy and control to be foremost in any discussion of possible successors.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Saturday, October 29, 2005

  Manny Wants to be Traded

Actually, Manny demands to be traded.

Gene Mato, one of Manny Ramirez's representatives, communicated to Red Sox owner John W. Henry yesterday that Ramirez wants to be traded, and will not report to spring training if his wish to be dealt is not met, according to a team source.

Ramirez is a 10-5 player, meaning he has 10 years of major league service, five consecutive with the same team. That seniority entitles Ramirez to block a trade to any team he doesn't wish to join. With that in mind, Mato told Henry that Ramirez might decide during the process of being shopped that he wishes to remain with the Sox.

I'm stunned.

I no longer care how good his numbers are, or how much better he makes David Ortiz. I say they either refuse to trade him and then dock his pay when he doesn't show up to spring training, or trade him somewhere he doesn't want to go just to spite him. If he complains or refuses a trade, goto every available media outlet and trash him.

Spoiled brat. I wash my hands of him forever. He can join his countryman what's-his-name on my list of the unspeakable.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Stunned? I'm immune to Manny's antics at this point. He crossed the line 2 or 3 times this year with his jogging and "play when I want" attitude. He can go F himself. I do hope we can find a bat via trade to replace, or come close, to his and not leave Papi with the league leading total of walks in the coming year. That would hurt!

Friday, October 28, 2005

  First Free Agents of the Off-Season

To the surprise of no one, first baseman Kevin Millar and third baseman Bill Mueller filed for free agency on the first day they could.

Also filing was White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, whom many Red Sox fans would love to have in Millar's place, although Konerko is reportedly unwilling to come to the east coast.

Center fielder Johnny Damon, whom many believe will be one of the upper-echelon free agents of 2005-06, is expected to file today.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Billy Mueller, our MVP of the infield for the past 2 years.

  First Signing of the Off-Season

The Providence Journal's Sean McAdam is reporting that the Red Sox have reached an agreement (free registration required) to bring relief pitcher Mike Timlin back in 2006. Timlin, who recently fired his agent and negotiated on his own behalf, brings strength and stability to the bullpen.

He's been remarkable durable in his career, having appeared in 60 games or more in each of the last nine seasons. His 893 career appearances rank him second among active pitchers.

Only four American League reliever compiled more innings than Timlin (80 1/3).

If Timlin's arm didn't fall off last season, in which he appeared in 81 games, it's not going to.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Thursday, October 27, 2005

  Red White Sox Sweep Cardinals Astros, Wild Card Team Loses

For the second consecutive year, an American League team named the Sox swept a National League team to win its first World Series championship in (chose one) 86/88 years. The Chicago White Sox are the new World Series champions, having defeated the Houston Astros in a down-to-the-wire pitchers' duel to capture their first title since 1917.

World Series sweeps are rare. In the 103-year history of the fall classic (during which there were 101 World Series played) only 16 teams have swept. (Twice, the victorious team lost no games but tied one.) Five times there were sweeps in consecutive years:

Also notable is the fact that for the first time since 2001, a Wild Card team did not win the World Series. The 2005 NL Wild Card Astros had hoped to continue the trend of the 2004 Red Sox, the 2003 Marlins, and the 2002 Anaheim Angels, but they were simply outplayed.

Maybe it's my imagination, but the White Sox didn't seem as exuberant as World Championship winners should be. Psycho Ozzie barely cracked a smile. It isn't as if the game was a foregone conclusion; it went down to literally the last pitch, the potential tying run stranded in scoring position. I believe that if you look at video of last year's Game 4 and compare it to this year's, you will see much greater elation by the Red Sox than the White Sox mustered last night. One can only hope that about a thousand miles to the north, their fans were doing it up right.

One of my co-workers, a Houstonian named Bart, is understandably glum this morning. He send me the following eulogy, which I present here (with apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer):

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Houston, the Astros have crapped out.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Note to the White Sox: Your team won the World Series 11 hours ago, and your web site still has the AL Championship logo on it. Get on the phone with whomever at MLB update the web sites, and tell them to get the World Championship graphic up there immediately. After 88 years, you shouldn't have to wait any longer.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Incidentally, I must declare MLB's order that the retractable roof of Minute Maid Park must be open during Game 3 (and presumably during subsequent games as well) to be ridiculous.

The Astros wanted the roof closed because the facility is much louder when enclosed, and they feel that gives them an edge. Though some pitchers feel the closed roof gives them an edge and that the ball doesn't carry as well, the evidence to support that claim is sketchy.

"I know it's unpopular here, and I'm sorry about that," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "But we have to be guided by what we think is a sense of fairness both by a sense of history and their own club's history. And this is the postseason, so while we don't let clubs doctor up their outfields or do other things to give them a competitive edge, weather should be the sole criteria, and has been for them here."

But opening or closing the roof doesn't affect the field of play. Indeed, the roof at Minute Maid Park is so high that barring precipitation or sudden temperature changes, you have to look up to know whether the roof is open or closed. The sole reason for this decision is obviously the noise factor: closing the roof helps amplify the cheers of the fans, who at Minute Maid Park, are mostly Astros fans.

If the artificial creation of more fan noise is an unfair advantage for the home team, though, then MLB would ban those annoying thunder sticks that some teams give out. They would ban ridiculous public address sound effects and music and those annoying "Noise Time" messages some teams flash on their video boards to get the fans riled up. For that matter, they'd ban domed stadiums entirely, whether they be retractable or not. But they don't.

Nor should they. Selig and his cronies ought to stay the [expletive deleted] out of decisions that don't affect the play on the field, and let fans use every advantage they can muster to support their team.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Meanwhile, in news about Our Sox, rumors persist that a major factor in the Theo Epstein contract is the philosophical differences between Epstein and his boss, CEO Larry Lucchino.

While money is a major factor in the negotiations, it is growing increasingly apparent that there are other issues, namely a personality clash in management styles between Lucchino and Epstein that transcends chain-of-command questions.

Ah, the old "management styles" conflict. You just knew this was coming after three years of hushed speculation about just how much Larry was involved in the front office decisions that should be the domain of the General Manager. How much of that speculation was accurate is unknown, but one could have concluded from Lucchino's weekly appearances on WEEI radio that he was part of a decision-making group that included, but was not always led by, the GM.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


After making a conscious decision to root for the White Sox in this year's World Series, I should be elated that Chicago now leads the series 3-0 over Houston. I'm not.

For some reason, I have found myself emotionally pulling for the Astros. Maybe it's because it would be really nice for native New Englander and one-time Red Sox farmhand Jeff Bagwell to win it all before he retires. Maybe it's because I once attended a game at Minute Maid Park and found the fans to be very friendly, whereas my only exposure to White Sox fans was at a couple games at Fenway, when they expressed shock and amazement that Red Sox fans stick around during rain delays, seldom leave the game before it's over, and wear more team apparel than you'd find at U.S. Cellular Field in an entire season. Maybe it's because as personable as bullpen catcher Man-Soo Lee is with the opposing fans and as much fun as it is to watch Ozzie Guillen's head spin around when he's angry, a White Sox championship would put a ring on the finger of Carl Everett, one of the most contrary men ever to play the game.

Whatever. I stand, however reluctantly, by my previous statement that I want yet another team to end its long streak without a championship. It's looking more and more like that will happen tonight.

Even though I hit the pad early last night (i.e. when the Astros led 3-0), I did study the box score this morning and point out the following Really Strange Things about Game 3:

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Monday, October 24, 2005

  Give 'Til... the Globe Says It's Enough

One topic of discussion on WEEI's "Dale & Holley Show" earlier today was a Boston Globe article that ran over the weekend questioning the charitable contributions made—or not made—by some of the Boston area's biggest sports stars.

... Manny Ramirez announced at his introductory news conference with the Red Sox in 2001 that he would donate $1 million to area programs for Latino youth. But five years into his eight-year, $160 million relationship with the Sox, Ramirez has failed to deliver. He also has yet to fulfull [sic] the pledge he made 19 months ago to launch a charitable foundation to carry out his mission.

In addition, the head of a program for severely abused and neglected children in Florida indicated that Ramirez has embellished his charitable relationship with the organization.

The tale of the two superstars reflects the challenge many nonprofit organizations face in coaxing Boston's wealthy athletes to open their wallets for the community's sick and needy. While no other Boston athletes have let such a grand promise of charitable work go undone -- and several have established themselves as superstars of philanthropy -- the city's millionaire sports figures, including team leaders Tom Brady of the Patriots and Joe Thornton of the Bruins, collectively have returned little of their riches to community charities, according to a Globe review of tax records as well as interviews with players, team executives, and officials at nearly 25 of the city's leading nonprofit institutions.

On the radio program, Dale Arnold commented on how unfair he thought it was to "call out" athletes who don't give as much as some others do. For the record, I certainly don't think it's fair to arbitrarily critique athletes' charitable donations. As Dale said, why didn't the Globe publish an accounting of charitable giving by columnists and reporters of the local newspapers, or members of any number of other professions for that matter? Better yet, how about an exposé about charitable giving by Massachusetts politicians or the city's more successful physicians or all those personal injury lawyers who advertise on television? There is no logical reason to exempt them from the same degree of criticism leveled at Brady and Thornton. But more to the point, there is no reason to subject anyone, no matter what they do or how much they make, to scrutiny about spending his or her money.

But Manny is a different story. He announced at a press conference what he would do for local charities, so it is eminently reasonable to evaluate the extent to which he has done what he said he would do. Most athletes who commit in so public a manner to philanthropic endeavors know they have to follow through or face the music. According to the report, Manny hasn't even begun to live up to his pledge. That makes him a legitimate target for criticism.

That said, I will also take to task those in the article who deem themselves worthy of determining who should give and how much.

"There are some great examples out there," said Marc Pollick, president of the Wellesley-based Giving Back Fund. "But they are still too few and far between."

Mr. Pollick probably isn't getting rich working in the non-profit field. But even he must know that rich people pay a much higher percentage of their earnings in taxes than lower earners, and so they end up funding government-supported charities and state services for the poor to a much greater degree than the rest of us.

Another reason that such scrutiny may not be valid is because there is simply no way to verify charitable giving unless the donor releases his or her tax returns or makes a public disclosure of such donations—which many who support good causes find distastefully egotistical. Besides, just because certain athletes aren't supporting local charitable institutions doesn't mean they aren't doing charitable work somewhere else, such as in their home communities or native countries.

Some players give back privately to the community, avoiding recognition either because they believe it would be vain or would attract a crush of additional requests, among other reasons. Others focus on their hometowns. Sox shortstop Edgar Renteria, for example, is planning to follow [a certan former Red Sox pitcher who shall not be named]'s model by building a school and a health clinic in his native Colombia.

Renteria is a great example of someone who, through his Team Renteria organization, actively supports Colombian children through sports training and academic education. I'm hard pressed to criticize him, since the children he helps live in a level of poverty that make the poor of Boston look fortunate by comparison.

But back to those who, at least as far as we know, do nothing. Could they afford to do something to help? Of course. Can they do more? Probably. So could most of us. Let's not make the mistake of placing on them a burden we don't place on others of means—or on ourselves.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

I think this is the Boston Red Sox media machine getting started to trash Manny as I wrote on El Guapo's Ghost:

Singling out Manny would have made for a much better headline. It also would have raised flags that the Globe was bad mouthing the popular hitting machine for their subsidiary (the Red Sox) to decrease the fan backlash when Manny is dealt in the coming weeks. By coupling him with Pedro, who took more money from the Mets and has publicly lobbied for his former teammate to join him in New York, it is a nice subtle way of accomplishing the same objective - getting the public to view them both as selfish multi-millionaires playing a kid’s game and they can be teammates in greedy New York.

Publishing Richard Chacón, the Ombudsman, piece on the relationship between the Globe and the Sox on same Sunday furthers the notion that the Globe “fair and balanced.” They are internally investigating their media consolidation issues and we should not be too concerned. The Globe needs to end any speculation of bias or run the risk of not being a credible outlet like the YES Network (this has been an error on the MFY business plan). Unlike YES and NESN, the Globe doesn’t have a monopoly. It has to “fair and balanced” to keep readership and advertising rates up as well as be a productive member of Larry Lucchino and Executive Vice President/Public Affairs, Dr. Charles Steinberg’s news media spinning machine.

Friday, October 21, 2005

  2006 Schedule

The Red Sox have released a tentative schedule for the 2006 season. Among the notable dates:

There are a few general observations worth mentioning as well.

There is no word yet on when tickets will go on sale.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

In one of those series, The NY Mets, 20 Seasons Removed from a World Championship, will be in town, June 27th to 29th.

It may be the return of a certain RH Pitcher, who You prefer not to be mentioned.

  Construction Accident at Fenway

WEEI's "Big Show" is reporting that some scaffolding erected for the reconfiguration work to Fenway's .406 Club collapsed today in an accident that reportedly caused no structural damage or, more importantly, injuries. Sounds like something that happens from time to time at construction sites everywhere and should pose no impediment to the progress of the project.

P.S. I just had a thought: the Red Cross has used the .406 Club for their September 11 memorial blood drives the last three years. I wonder what replacement area, if any, the team will be able to use to accommodate that event in the future.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Not Only That, but Wells Wants Out

Conventional wisdom holds that some people can play in the pressure cooker environment that is the Boston sports scene, and some can't. While that may be true, it is also true that some who can simply don't want to.

Case in point is lefty starter David Wells, who came here before the 2004 season as a free agent. Wells is known to have thrived in markets large and small, and the presumption when he signed with the Red Sox was that he did so with full understanding of what he was getting into. Evidently, the reality was a bit more than he bargained for. He has asked for a trade to the west coast.

... Wells, who turns 43 May 20 and plans to have knee surgery this winter, has conveyed to the Red Sox a desire to finish his career on the West Coast -- he has a home near San Diego -- and the Sox have indicated they will try to honor his request.

Laying aside the question of why he signed a two-year deal to leave the west coast, we might also ask if this trend wherein a player asks the Sox to trade him and the team tries to oblige (Wells, Manny, Jay Payton) is a good thing. It seems that the Payton situation illustrated what havoc a player can wreak if he thinks doing so will get him what he wants. Why would any team want to encourage such childish behavior by giving in to it?

Obviously, there is a big difference between throwing a temper tantrum to force a trade and simply asking to be moved, so I am certainly not comparing Wells' request to Payton's bad behavior. What I am doing is questioning the wisdom of the front office's accommodation of any type of request unless such a deal was already on their radar as being good for the club.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Manny-for-Beltran More than a Rumor

I had dismissed recent sports radio banter about a possible trade involving Manny Ramirez and Carlos Beltran as so much baseless speculation, but it almost happened, according to a Boston Herald report.

[Ramirez' agent Greg] Genske shot down a popular theory that Ramirez would be traded to the Mets. Ramirez was offered straight up to the Mets for Carlos Beltran before the July 31 trading deadline, Genske said, a deal declined by the Mets, who tried to work out a different deal with the Devil Rays also involved.

Even if the Red Sox and Mets could come to terms on the same deal now, it apparently wouldn't happen now that Manny is a 10-5 player with the right to veto a trade. ESPN's Peter Gammons is reporting that the colorful right fielder would accept trades to Cleveland, Arizona, or the Los Angeles Angels, but explicitly not the Mets.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

  Sveum to Send 'Em in Milwaukee

Embattled and oft-maligned Red Sox third base coach Dale Sveum has jumped ship for Milwaukee, according to ESPN.com and the Boston Globe. No doubt there are fans out there who can recall each and every bad baserunning call Sveum ever made and are at this moment wishing him "good riddance and don't let the door hit you on the way out."

The third base coach is the member of the coaching staff perhaps most prone to be second-guessed, especially in a town like Boston. Only the decision to pull a pitcher or leave him in is more critiqued than the decision of whether to hold or send a baserunner. Sveum took the heat much as former Sox coach Wendell Kim had done. Indeed, there were times when I yelled at him through the TV.

Pause to remember, though, that such decisions are made on average several times in a game. Most of the time, the decisions result in routine results. But when the game is close and a fast runner is held at third, or worse yet when a runner is sent and subsequently called out at the plate, there's hell to pay. Even if the decision was sound.

For example, you're down by a run in the bottom of the ninth against, say, the Los Angeles Angels or whatever they're called this month. There are two outs, an average baserunner is on second representing the tying run, and the batter hits a bloop single to right field. Even though the runner got a good jump, he is held at third because Vladimir Guerrero can throw. Now there are two outs, runners at the corners. The next batter hits a weak grounder and the game is over. It doesn't much matter to some people that the odds were against an average runner against Vlad's arm, they'll argue that Sveum should have sent him because it may have been the team's last chance to score, and Vlad doesn't throw a strike every time, and even if he did there was no guarantee the catcher would have handled it cleanly or applied the tag in time. If, on the other hand, he does send the runner and a play at the plate ends the game, those same people would criticize Sveum for running on Vlad, whom everyone knew was going to get the ball to the catcher in plenty of time and it was obviously folly to hope otherwise.

That's not to make excuses or contend that bad decisions on Sveum's part never cost the Sox a game. But those situations are magnified here in a way they just aren't in most other baseball cities.

I doubt that Brewers fans will be critiquing his every move the way Bostonians did, which is probably why Sveum decided to go there.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Monday, October 17, 2005

  Let's Go, Other Sox! (And More World Series Musings)

Once my own team is out of the postseason, I don't typically root for another team. I may root against a particular team <coughyankeescough> but I don't actively cheer for someone else. This year, though, is different.

We Red Sox fans had such a good time after winning our first World Series in 86 years that I think it would be fun to see a different group of fans watch their team win their first World Series in 88 years. The last time the Chicago White Sox won a World Championship, it was sandwiched between Boston's 1916 and 1918 titles. The ChiSox had another chance in 1919, but members of that team took money to throw the series in what became known as the "Black Sox" scandal. They didn't get there again for another 40 years, when they lost in 6 games to the Dodgers in the latter's second season on the west coast.

But as we know, the White Sox aren't Chicago's only exercise in baseball futility; the Cubs are well known to have gone since 1908 without a championship, though at least they won seven National League pennants before beginning their pennant dry spell in 1946. If Boston fans think we've had it hard, consider that our team has played in five World Series since the Cubs were last in it, and four since the White Sox were last in it (prior to this year, of course). I don't know if it's worse to get there and lose or not get there at all.

I acknowledge wanting the White Sox to win even though I was, like many fans, disappointed by some of the unfair umpiring calls that benefited them in the series against the Angels. Halo partisans will point to A.J. Pierzynski's failure to admit that he obstructed Steve Finley's swing in Game 3 as an example of why the Sox don't deserve to win, but when has any player argued a call that went in his team's favor? As unfortunate as the officiating gaffes were, there was no cheating on the part of any of the White Sox players, so they shouldn't be penalized after the fact for their silence. Those plays aside, they simply outplayed Los Angeles, especially in the pitching department, and that's what I want to see in the World Series. Besides, Ozzie Guillen is much more interesting to watch than Mike Scioscia.

Meanwhile, on the National League side of the equation, the Houston Astros are poised to play in their first-ever World Series, barring a near-Yankeesque collapse in games 5, 6, and 7. They are one win away from sending home the St. Louis Cardinals, them of the 100 wins in 2005 and the humiliating World Series sweep of 2004. An Astros vs. White Sox series would be something for the history books, given that no fan of either team knows how to behave under such circumstances. As tremendous as Chicago's pitching has been, Houston has some pretty good pitchers of their own, including a certain old man whose arm doesn't know it isn't supposed to work better than it did 20 years ago.

If the White Sox manage to win it all, the Cubs (97 years without a World Series championship) will stand alone as The Team That Couldn't. The next longest World Series drought is owned by the Cleveland Indians (57 years), who last won after defeating the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the 1948 American League pennant. The New York/San Francisco Giants haven't won in 51 years. No other team has gone longer than 26 years since its last championship.

Then there are the teams who have never won, expansion clubs all. The Washington Senators/Texas Rangers are the oldest such franchise, at 44 years and counting. Houston is a close second, having existed for 43 years as the Colt .45s/Astros without a championship.

And did you know that if the Astros advance and ultimately win the World Series, they will be the fifth consecutive Wild Card team to have done so?

One final thought: In the last 25 years going back to 1980, an amazing 17 different teams have won the World Championship. By the end of this month, it will be 18.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Friday, October 14, 2005

  Theo Should Stay, but at What Cost?

There are a few sportswriters in Boston whom I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw them. Gordon Edes is not one of them. So when Edes writes in today's Globe about the vast chasm between General Manager Theo Epstein and CEO Larry Lucchino over a new contract for Epstein, I consider it credible.

According to Edes' anonymous source(s), the Red Sox and Epstein aren't even close in their negotiations to bring back the World Series-winning GM. Epstein is reportedly seeking $2.5 million, with the Sox offering slightly more than $750,000. Which figure is more unreasonable?

The answer is: both of them. Edes reports that the highest paid GMs in baseball this year were Texas' John Hart ($2 million), Atlanta's John Schuerholz ($1.5 million), and New York's Brian Cashman ($1.1 million). Epstein is looking for more than all of them, and his target number appears to be tied to the salary that the Sox were ready to pay Billy Beane three years ago. Of course, Beane backed out of the deal to stay in Oakland, so that salary never materialized.

But even if you throw out the Beane contract-that-wasn't, does the market support Epstein's view that he's worth being higher paid than all his peers? While we here in New England tend to view Theo as a god because he did what none of his predecessors had been able to in 85 years, the fact remains that he did in 2004 what some GM does every year: put together a championship team. Yes, Epstein sandwiched that championship between two other playoff teams, giving the Red Sox three consecutive postseason appearances for the first time in club history. But Cashman has done it in all eight of his years with the Yankees, and Schuerholz has done it for Atlanta 11 seasons in a row and 14 of the last 15. Hart has never done it for Texas, but he had previously taken the Cleveland Indians to six division titles in seven seasons with the Cleveland Indians. Even Beane had a string of four consecutive postseason appearances, including a World Series victory, in his eight years with Oakland.

All the above, excepting Cashman, did it with quite a bit less money than Theo has been given to work with.

That said, Lucchino has to realize that $750,000 is an insult to Epstein, whose less talked-about accomplishments include restocking the Duquette-depleted farm system. For the first time in a generation or more, we have a bumper crop of talent less than two years from hitting the major leagues. To have done in such a short time that while fielding a viable big league team is something that none of the the other big money GMs did.

A reasonable compromise in my eyes would be to take into account the magnitude of Theo's success as well as the fact that he did it in a demanding town with demanding fans, and temper that with the reality that he's only done it for three years. When he has four or eight or 11 successful years, he will have earned the right to be one of the richest, if not the richest, among his colleagues. For now, $1.1-1.2 million seems generous enough, especially if speculation is true that Boston's GM is somewhat hamstrung by meddling from above and is therefore a less than desirable position for many veterans.

I hope they get it done. I can't imagine the new and improved Red Sox without Theo. But perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

  Free Agent Musings

No discussion of the 2005 Red Sox seems complete without a mention of those players who may or may not be back when the club reports to spring training next year. Sports writers, radio and TV hosts, and countless web sites offer their opinions about who should and will return. Far be it from me to withhold my $.02 worth about the following potential Free Agents (edited because I originally left out Gabe Kapler):

Keeping in mind who we have coming through the minor-league pipeline at various positions, here is my take on whom the Sox should attempt to re-sign:

All of the above minus a raise for Johnny can be covered by the absence of Kevin Millar, who made $3.5 million this year and would be replaced by the platoon of existing players Youkilis and Olerud. A Manny trade and consequent replacement frees up even more money, but it also creates a void in the cleanup spot behind David Ortiz. The potential loss of Johnny is even more problematic because, although it saves the team significant money, he has more tools and may take more than one player to replace.

I also realize that decisions about any of these players won't be made in a vacuum. The question isn't simply to keep or not to keep, but rather to keep, to replace with player A, to replace with player B, etc. Though my tendency is to keep the best of what we have and build around them, I could change my tune on any given player depending on what alternatives become available via trades or acquisitions.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Please No!
Millar is afraid of a ball, being hit to him;
If only he could hit, the way he drinks Jack.

Ahhhh, a good candidate for the NY Mets!

Monday, October 10, 2005

  Contract Talk

If we know Theo Epstein, he started working on putting together the 2006 Boston Red Sox on Saturday. All the talk is about how many veterans are eligible for free agency, and that's not even taking into account younger guys who may be arbitration eligible. So, I asked myself today, who among the current Red Sox team is certain to be with the team (barring, of course, trade or retirement)? According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the following personnel are under contract beyond 2005:

The two longest contracts are people whose futures in Boston are questionable. Expect Manny to be gone in a trade if they can finally pull one off. I'd bet on Renteria sticking around, but if he doesn't show a turnaround in performance by the All-Star break, he too could be traded. With the exception of Hansen, every pitcher under contract is either aging, hurt, or both. The rest of the players are reliable but hardly enough to comprise a starting lineup.

Uncovered are the positions of first base, third base, and center field, not to mention lots of pitching spots. We can count on seeing pitcher Jon Papelbon in a starting role with the big club in 2006. Also likely to be on the major league roster in April is third baseman (and first baseman in a pinch) Kevin Youkilis, who is major league ready with some experience already under his belt. There is as yet no one in the farm system who is ready to take on first base or center field. Nor will the farm system will not quickly provide any depth.

I have no analysis to offer, just laying out the cards for those who were wondering.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

As unimpressive as he was, I think this is as good as Eggar gets. I mean, he had some very good plays at shortstop, and he stole bases and dropped the occasional bunt. And there's not much of a chance of the sox getting anyone better for the position. I think he's going to be especially important next year if the sox don't bring Johnny Damon back.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

  In Red Sox Nation, Winter Begins

It happens at the end of every baseball season. This game that we love so passionately that it almost doesn't make sense, the one that captures our attention and engages our imagination from mid-February until the begining of October (longer if we're lucky), is suddenly gone. For the better teams, it doesn't simply fade out. Instead, the end comes after a tremendous crescendo of activity and intensity and hope, the mad scramble to play the best when that's what's needed to be the best. Players pitch and hit and run in spite of whatever injuries hobble them, fans endure late night telecasts and sleep deprivation and precious little accomplished at work. And after all the build-up, there comes a day, for each team in turn, when it is over. Even for the winning team, after the wild cheering is silenced and the celebratory high-fives are exchanged and the last spectator is gone from the ballpark, after the champagne is drunk and the cameras are turned off and the beat writers have long since left to file their stories, there is a moment when the lights in the clubhouse and on the field are turned off for the winter.

There is a void afterward. It doesn't matter that Major League Baseball, Inc. choreographs the awards announcements so as to extend the news coverage into November, or that free agent filings and trades and winter meetings replace box scores in the sports section. The game that we could count on for almost every day of the long season—more frequent than hockey or basketball or especially football—isn't there.

For one team, the onset of the void is delayed by celebration. For the 2004 Red Sox, the celebration carried us through the entire off-season. Despite so-called behavioral experts who predicted that the excitement would be diminished by Christmas like it is in every other World Championship city, it never abated. Not for Red Sox fans. Spring training was a celebration of the World Champs. The season started with a banner raising and ring presentations. Even as another season progressed on, we still celebrated the victory. And the celebration lasted until, well, until last night.

Now there's the void. It's a feeling I haven't had since October 22, 2003, the day I left for a weekend with family in Washington, DC because I knew I wouldn't be using my tickets for Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday. It's a feeling I should have had at some point after the 2004 victory parties and the media interviews, the trip to the Hall of Fame, the stops on the trophy tour (how many times did I see that trophy, anyway?), the viewing of the World Series film and the NESN retrospective. There was supposed to come a time when the excitement died down and I felt as if, for all the anticipation and the revelry that came before, winning wasn't all I thought it would be. But that never happened.

Now, the void is more acute than ever. I had almost forgotten what it felt like, being 20 months since pitchers and catchers reported for 2004 Spring Training and the wild ride began. The hand was writing on the wall for most of the '05 season, warning us that this year probably wouldn't be like the last one. There were injuries, surgeries, players demanding trades. Other teams in the Central and West competed, quite successfully, for the attention of baseball watchers. At Fenway Park, everything felt unsettled. There were so many unmet expectations, and we kept waiting for that moment—that July 24 A-rod vs. Varitek moment—that would finally get things on track. It never happened.

I'm not upset. Disappointed, yes, but not upset. This wasn't a season thrown away by stupidity or a cheap front office or guys who didn't care or try hard enough. The end wasn't a stunning blow like in 2003, nor an uncontrollable collapse like those we dealt to our opponents last postseason. Only one team can be the best, and this year, it wasn't us. I ought to be satisfied to watch another team, a different colored Sox suffering a dry spell worse than ours was, try to make their own magic. I'll be watching them and cheering them on, but that won't fill the void. Only my team can do that.

Last night, at a loss for what to do with myself, I knew I wasn't ready for the baseball season to end just yet. I couldn't look forward, so instead I looked back. I picked up a book I bought several months ago—Tom Adelman's The Long Ball about the tremendous 1975 season—and started to read. The names were familiar, the places recognizable.

I felt better. I knew it would be alright.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

A Winter; a time of thought & meditation, about life & what's important.

I'm one of those "Distance Fans", who lives in an area of "Posers"(NYC), who root without thought, & want pleasure without pain. I feel some sense of loss(No DO & The RemDawg, to comfort me), but, Red Sox Nation-NYC, will get together, & root for ANYBODY but The Damn Yankees, The Untested Roid Boys, who found a few dozen loopholes(No Blood Tests by MLB).

Will "The Dim Bulb", Tim McCarver, get rid of the Hair Colouring? We know that he'll be 64 Years Old, in November, & he's REALLY starting to show his age.

Friday, October 07, 2005

  It Was Fun, but Now It's Done

I said it before and it turns out I was right—I didn't expect this team to go deep into the playoffs, but nothing would have surprised me. I really expected a ninth-inning comeback, the kind we're so accustomed to seeing.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox weren't playing the 2003 A's or the 2004 Angels or the 2004 Yankees. This year's White Sox were so much different from those teams. They didn't seem to feel the pressure the way last year's postseason opponents did. They hit well, they ran well, they fielded well, and the pitching—that was the key. I don't remember a playoff opponent that pitched so well against us. The adage is proven again: good pitching beats good hitting. And don't you feel that maybe the White Sox will be the ones to break a championship drought this time?

Oddly enough, I'm not upset. The 2005 Red Sox did better than they probably should have, given the losses of key people from the World Series team, injuries to so many major players, and a general lack of a sense that the puzzle pieces were falling into place. In the end, they did the best they could with what they had to work with, and it wasn't enough. There is no shame in losing to a superior team.

So the Red Sox begin the off-season early, and the first order of business for the owners is to re-sign Theo, whose contract is up on October 31. Then the player signings begin. More on that later.

Good night, Nation. Sleep well. And be proud of our boys.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Rain, Rain, Go Away

Down 2-0 in the fourth inning, I'm still thinking optimistically.

The Boston weather forecast for the next, oh, eight days calls for rain. It may be rain, heavy rain, or showers, a chance of precipitation anywhere between 20% and 90%, with warmer or cooler temperatures, but of course the heaviest rain and the highest probability of rain are both forecast for tomorrow. Sunday's forecast is almost as bad.

What that means, if I may jump ahead and presume that the Red Sox win tonight's game, is that Game 4 almost certainly won't take place tomorrow and may not take place Sunday either. That would mean Monday, with a Game 5 if necessary back in Chicago on Tuesday. But the American League Championship Series is supposed to start on Tuesday. If we're lucky, MLB could have a scheduling nightmare on their hands. If we're not lucky, Games 4 and/or 5 won't matter.

Speaking of scheduling, have you checked out the schedule on MLB's site for the ALCS and NLCS? They have two games scheduled for October 16, both at 4:00, and both on Fox. Hasn't anyone at MLB or Fox figured that out yet?

And now, back to the game.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Game 3 Lineup

Tonight's Red Sox batting lineup, as announced just moments ago on WEEI, with their postseason averages so far:

  1. Johnny Damon, CF — .222
  2. Edgar Renteria, SS — .333
  3. David Ortiz, DH — .375
  4. Manny Ramirez, LF — .143
  5. Trot Nixon, RF — .286
  6. Bill Mueller, 3B — .000
  7. John Olerud, 1B — .200
  8. Doug Mirabelli, C — N/A
  9. Tony Graffanino, 2B — .250

Mueller has been bumped up in the batting order to accommodate Mirabelli who, of course, is catching Wake. Mirabelli has performed some much-needed heroics before, and we may need him to do it tonight. Olerud is once again starting at first, a very good thing. If the above three and Manny can do a little hitting, we just might have a chance to stave off elimination for the fifth consecutive time.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  A Second Look at Clement

I ran into a co-worker this morning, a Red Sox fan with whom I have frequent discussions over the course of the season. We hadn't spoken this week, and the topic of this discussion was Terry Francona's decision to start Matt Clement in Game 1. Because our disagreements about the Sox generally come down to his thinking that Francona is an idiot and my not necessarily thinking that's the case, he naturally expressed his strong conviction that the Game 1 starter should have been not Clement but Jon Papelbon or, less preferably, Bronson Arroyo. Clement was terrible in September, he argued, so there was no reason to think he would be able to get it done in a playoff game. I couldn't really argue; I was much more hopeful than confident about the pitching going into that game. But I got thinking, just how bad was Clement at the end of the regular season?

There are many statistics by which to measure the quality of a pitcher's performance—runs, hits, strikeouts, walks, wild pitches, velocity, and others—but for the sake of simplicity, I decided to look at runs allowed. The following graph shows runs (both earned and unearned) in each game, expressed as a 9-inning average.

What I see in those lines is that excepting one lousy outing in September (vs. Oakland on Sept. 18, 1.1 IP, 7 ER), August and September were certainly no worse than the other months besides May. While we all knew that Clement was capable of being Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, the numbers show that there was more reason than not to believe he'd have a relatively good performance based on the end of the season.

Of course, Game 1 is over, and the stats from that game are the only ones that count. But I thought it was interesting and worth noting to take a look at the hard numbers from the rest of the year to correct our skewed perceptions.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Thursday, October 06, 2005

  Against the Wall

Having done the positivity thing for the day, let's analyze Game 2. It was certainly a lost opportunity, as opposed to Game 1 which was simply a lost cause early on. That makes Game 3 a must-win for Boston.

Those who think they're experts point to Tony Graffanino's 5th inning error as the reason the Red Sox lost. It's a simplistic view of the situation. While the error gave the White Sox one more out to play with (and they did, the homer coming with two out), it wasn't Graffanino who gave up the 3-run homer to Tadahito Iguchi, or failed to score in the 6th, 7th, or 8th innings, or went hitless the entire game, or couldn't drive himself home from second base with one out in the 9th inning. David Wells was the first person to acknowledge after the game that he missed a chance to render Graffanino's error meaningless. And you have to hand part of the "blame" to Chicago's pitching in not allowing Boston to pull out a come-from-behind win like they did so many times in the regular season.

As for Manny Ramirez' typical lack of hustle on the base paths, his failure to run out of the box in the first inning had absolutely no effect on the game. It's true that he might have been able to stretch the single into a double, but no subsequent play would have allowed him to score. Rather than being a contributing factor in the loss, it is just another indication of why Manny isn't a well-rounded player.

Meanwhile, what did hurt is that Trot Nixon, Bill Mueller, and John Olerud went hitless in the game. Trot did have an RBI on a fielder's choice, but Mueller is 0-for-the series and Olerud is batting only .200. Manny is only at .143 for the series. The offensive production so far has come from David Ortiz (as usual), Edgar Renteria, and Jason Varitek. Last night, the Red Sox collectively left 7 runners on base, any one of which represented the tying run.

All of which is water under the bridge at this point. The Red Sox are again in the familiar position of playing a do-or-die game, three times. Looking forward to Game 3, starter Tim Wakefield has a history of difficulties against the White Sox, including a 6.57 ERA in 2005, though his last start against them on August 13 was quite solid (7.2 IP, 7H, 2R, 5K, 0BB). More importantly, he was consistently good in the month of September, lowering his ERA in each start. Let's hope his final start of the season, a catastrophe against the Yankees, was an aberration and that the previous trend continues.

Wakefield and his teammates certainly have the advantage of the home crowd to help them out. Every fan at Fenway tomorrow night will be fully aware of this team's recent comeback history and will be expecting such heroics once again. They will know the Red Sox' excellent home record. And they'll be willing the team to get to the next game.

I won't go into what, if anything, comes after Game 3. Now is the time to focus on the next game. It's the approach that brought this team from the maws of defeat a year ago, and it's the only thing that will work this time, if indeed another comeback is in the cards. While this is a team with far more problems than the one that won it all in 2005, success in this round will not surprise me.

It's another 4:00 start tomorrow, so make your plans now to leave work early. See you in front of the television.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 2

It's true that [Manny] might have been able to stretch the single into a double, but no subsequent play would have allowed him to score.

You don't know that.

If Manny had been on 2nd instead of 1st, the approach to the following hitters (and those hitters' own performance) can't be assumed to be identical to what happened with him on 1st.

In fact, it's almost certain that things would have been different... Maybe not on the scoreboard, necessarily, but each pitch would have been different, each swing different.

History is the result of an infinite number of possible outcomes narrowing down to one (somewhat random) occurrance.

Of course it isn't certain that if one factor had been different, all others would have stayed the same. But we can presume a likelihood that would be the case. Such presumptions are even built into baseball's rules, as in the case with scoring runs as unearned. While it is true that one change might change the course of an inning or even a game, we don't know what all those possible changes are. So, for the sake of discussion, we go with the one possibility we know.

  Positive Affirmations for Red Sox Fans (Vol. 2, Part 2)

Stop with the violins and repeat after me:

Happy thoughts...happy thoughts...happy thoughts...

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Red bra?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

  Prepping for Game 2

I'm supposed to feel much more confident going into this game than I was yesterday. David Wells, they say, is a proven and effective postseason pitcher, and the statistics certainly bear that out. Every game is different, though, and Tubby has never faced the White Sox in the postseason. I'm not saying that I'm pessimistic; on the contrary, I believe in Wells' ability to keep the game within reach even if he doesn't have his best stuff. It's just that I remember how the unexpected happened last fall, when the Red Sox proved for all the world that in October, anything can happen.

Francona's lineup for tonight was just announced on WEEI:

  1. Johnny Damon, CF
  2. Edgar Renteria, SS
  3. David Ortiz, DH
  4. Manny Ramirez, LF
  5. Jason Varitek, C
  6. Trot Nixon, RF
  7. Bill Mueller, 3B
  8. John Olerud, 1B
  9. Tony Graffanino, 2B

The only thing I really care about at this moment is is that Olerud is starting. Alleluia! I realize he's only 1-for-11 or something like that against Mark Buehrle, but it's better than Millar's 1-for-19 or something like that, and Olerud is defensively better—which as it turns out is Francona's reason for the move.

I'd like to know why the Angels-Yankees game last night in east coast prime time was on Fox, but the Red Sox-White Sox game tonight in east coast prime time is on ESPN. For the three people in the world who don't already know, I don't have cable, so I'll be watching the game in the comfort of Mom and Dad's family room. (Aside: I actually only know one other person who doesn't have cable, and he isn't a sports fan.)

You may be wondering why I haven't blogged my thoughts about Game 1. Unfortunately, for most of the game I was either at work or in my car, so I didn't actually see it. Thank Al Gore for inventing the internet so I could at least get updates via Sportsline.com, and of course I listened on radio in my car and at home (see above comment about my lack of cable). I'm glad I didn't see it; just knowing what was going on was painful enough.

Two hours to game time. I'm sending positive vibes to Boomer.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Save the Kittens

My sick and random sense of humor has me in a fit of side-splitting laughter over this, yet another reason why the Red Sox must prevail.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Positive Affirmations for Red Sox Fans (Vol. 2, Part 1)

After the Red Sox suffered their first loss of the 2004 postseason, I began writing daily affirmations to help keep up my spirits and those of my fellow fans. It worked so well last year that I'm starting it again in light of last night's ALDS Game 1 drubbing by the White Sox.

Quit your whining and repeat after me:

Happy thoughts...happy thoughts...happy thoughts...

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

  Looking at the Other Sox

Our next stop is the south side of Chicago, whose team has the best record in the American League at 99-63. Sounds like an intimidating opponent, but things aren't quite what they appear to be.

A staggering number of the White Sox' wins this season were against their own division, which includes the pathetic Tigers and Royals. Against other AL Central teams, they were .698 (51-22). In interleague play, they were .667 (12-6). Against everyone else, i.e. the AL East and West, they were just (36-35). The Red Sox were far better against the other American League divisions, going .629 (44-26). Head-to-head against the Red Sox, they lost the season series 4-3.

Chicago's game 1 starter, José Contreras, only faced Boston once this season, getting a win with a 4.77 ERA and 6 strikeouts. But over his career, the Red Sox have owned Contreras; from 2002-2004, he is 2-4 against Boston with an 11.67 ERA.

Boston's game 1 starter, Matt Clement, hasn't fared very well against Chicago, sporting a 6.00 ERA and a no-decision in one start this season and a 7.41 ERA in the three prior seasons. But that's still quite an edge against Contreras, against whom the Red Sox potent offense can certainly put the game away before knocking him out of it. Boston also has the advantage of Bronson Arroyo out of the bullpen for long relief, and even his past difficulties with the White Sox pale in comparison to Contreras' Red Sox woes.

Speaking of offense, for all their wins, Chicago doesn't score that many runs. With 741 runs scored during the regular season, they are only 9th in the league and trail the Red Sox by 169 runs. On the flip side, their 645 runs against is third best in the league and 160 runs better than the Boston. The net difference favors the Red Sox ever so slightly. If Boston can neutralize first baseman Paul Konerko, who had a .429 batting average against Boston in 2005 (though he was considerably less effective in prior years), and speedy baserunner Scott Podsednik, they should be able to contain the White Sox offense.

It's just three hours until game time. Then we'll begin to get a better idea of how this series will play out.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Season Summary

By now, we know that the Red Sox tied for the best record in the American League East. How did they get there? Here's my periodic opportunity to study some numbers.

Month-by-Month — The Sox had their ups and downs in 2005, but they stayed above .500 every month of the season:

Streaks — Boston's longest winning streak of the season was eight games, July 26 to August 4 (two wins vs. Tampa Bay, three vs. Minnesota, and three vs. Kansas City). Their longest losing streak was four games, May 24-27 (three losses vs. Toronto and one vs. New York Yankees).

Series — The Sox won more series than they lost. They swept 12 series and were swept only twice, plus a stand-alone make-up game.

Team-vs.-Team — The Red Sox won ten season series, lost two, and tied one. They won the interleague play series.

For an overview of team batting, pitching, baserunning, and fielding statistics for the season, go to the forum's stats page.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

That's amazing. I'd have figured they had at least one .500 month or worse.

This season sure had the feel of an up and down season. If the standings didn't say something different, I'd have through they won only 80 games....

  Magic Number Watch

As of the end of the 2005 regular season, any combination of Red Sox wins and Yankees losses totalling

makes the Boston Red Sox the 2005 American League East champions. What a magic number of one at the end of the season means is... a tie.

We came —>|<— this close.

So I was a bit off with my prediction that the Red Sox would win the division. I should have said they would finish with the best record in the division. That they did, but unfortunately they only shared the best record in the division and lost the division title on a tiebreaker rule.

For those who don't know how ties are broken in MLB and/or why they do it that way, here's as clear and concise an explanation as I can give:

The rationale for this arrangement appears to be that elimination from the postseason is too important to be left to a technicality, so an actual game is played. Where the loser of the tiebreaker would make the postseason anyway, the contention is that the division is essentially meaningless.

That's the official line. What I think is somewhat different. I believe there ought to be a tiebreaker game regardless of whether or not it would knock someone out of the playoffs. Baseball isn't like football, where it takes a week to prepare for a game, so one extra game wouldn't throw the postseason schedule into disarray.

In addition, the difference between division winner and the wild card team is a difference in opponents. The wild card team plays the team with the league's best record (unless both teams are in the same division, but that's another story), which puts them theoretically at a disadvantage. Yes, I realize that this year, we probably got the better matchup because of how hot the Los Angeles Angels have been in the last month of the season, even though the Chicago White Sox had a better season overall. But in general, the team with the better record would be the tougher opponent.

Finally, a tiebreaker game might tip the scales in terms of who gets home field advantage. Once the matchups are decided, the team with the better record gets home field advantage; if both teams have the same record, then the season series breaks the tie. That's why the Los Angeles, by virtue of having beaten New York six of ten times, won home field advantage despite having the same record as the Yankees. If the Red Sox and Yankees had played a tiebreaker game (which would be considered a 163rd regular season game), the winner would theoretically get home field advantage by virtue of a half game lead over the Angels.

Of course, is that the rules are what they are. Bud Selig didn't call to ask my opinion, so it doesn't matter. But in the event that someone from MLB is reading this, you have my recommendations.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

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