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Posts Tagged ‘Billy Beane’

Spring Training is boring.  There, I said it.  I mean look, half the team is playing in the World Baseball Classic, there are no more transactions to be made, and the Spring Training games are, you know, Spring Training games: the starters come in, do their thing for an inning or two, and then leave to make way for the prospects.  So as long as we see that everyone on the team is getting some playing time, and everyone’s healthy, and the prospects are developing nicely, there’s really not much else going on this time of year.  Except getting stoked for the season of course, but that’s still a few weeks away.  After a long winter, the wait is agonizing.

Some injuries, as usual.  Brad Penny had to halt his last bullpen session but Masterson’s got it covered.  Drew flew back to Boston to get an injection around his spine to relieve some back discomfort.  That’s a little more concerning, but nothing we can’t handle.  When we signed him we knew he was going to spend his fair share of time on the DL, so we’re equipped to take that into account and handle it.  And after his stint he’ll be fine.  We know that because in the days leading up to the injection he lit up batting practice.  So is it possible that there’s something wrong with him? Absolutely.  Will it really affect us that badly? Absolutely not.  Mikey Lowell’s recovery is progressing very nicely; he’s scheduled to DH on Tuesday against the Orioles.  It’ll be his first game since Game 3 of the ALDS.  Speaking of Mikey Lowell, some notes on the future: I see Youk moving to third to make room for Lars Anderson at first.  (Lars Anderson, by the way, is slated to be the first home-grown power hitter we’ve had in a while.)

The A’s will be finalizing a one-year deal with Nomar soon, which will come right after the team signed Orlando Cabrera.  I’m telling you, Nomar and O-Cabs can’t seem to get away from each other when it comes to trades.  And guess who finally found employment? Manny Ramirez.  The Dodgers signed him to a two-year, $45 million contract with a no-trade clause and the right of Ramirez to void the contract after the first year if he thinks he can make more with another team.  Finally.  After four months of Scott Boras not understanding that he has absolutely no leverage in trying to unload this man, the man finally finds a deal with the Dodgers after apparently “suffering” in Boston.  You know what? Manny Ramirez and Los Angeles deserve each other.  And that, my friends, is the end of it.

More on the A-Rod front.  Why am I not surprised.  He wishes Jose Reyes were leading off for the Yankees.  Apparently he forgot that the Yankees already have a shortstop and that this shortstop is supposedly his best friend.  Classic A-Rod.  Oh yeah, and he’s having hip surgery tomorrow and should miss six to nine weeks of the season with more serious surgery to follow after the season is over.  In the interest of being a good sport, I’ll say it’s always unfortunate when a ballplayer gets injured.  Other than that, no comment.

Finally, some words of praise from the A’s and also said Skankees.  We’ve all read Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and if you haven’t I strongly and highly recommend it; it’s really an outstanding book.  Anyway, here’s what A’s GM Billy Beane has to say about our front office:

One of the reasons the Red Sox have gained on the Yankees is because the foundation of their organization is run like a very successful small market, yet they have the ability to retain their premium players in their prime.  When a club does that, it knocks the wind out of not just their rivals, but also small-market competitors.

See? It’s not just Red Sox Nation; everyone else around baseball is also aware of the fact that Theo Epstein is a genius.  Even Brian Cashman:

The Red Sox are incredibly bright.  They have the best of both worlds…When you look at Boston, there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to win.  The fact of the matter is you arguably have the brightest front office with lots of resources and an ownership group that supports it.

Welcome to my world.

In other news, the Bruins traded Petteri Nokelainen to the Ducks for Steve Montador.  Two losses and a win since last weekend, one of those losses unfortunately coming at the hands of the Flyers.  Great.  Just great.  The playoffs are right around the corner, and now is not the time to fall apart.  On the upside we’re on top of the League again, one point ahead of the Sharks, who are now tied for first in the Western Conference with the Red Wings.  I’m not worried.  We’ll get it done in the end.

AP Photo

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Well, things just keep getting better and better. Turns out the A’s sweep put us on track for the longest road losing streak in seven years. So far, we’ve lost seven games in a row away from home, the longest we’ve gone without an away win since a ten-game losing streak from August 25 to September 29, 2001. According to Tek, a big part of winning on the road is having your starting pitcher give you a good “quality start” for the first game. That makes sense. We’ll see if that helps us out.

In other bad news, in his article “Red Sox are the new ‘Evil Empire’ in the East,” Paul Gutierrez writes:

The Red Sox have become everything they swore never to be in going to the “dark side” – that is, an Evil Empire of New York Yankees vintage. Everything Yankee haters in New England clung to in their loathing of the Bronx Bombers can now easily be applied to their own team.

I’m sure that there have been times in my life when I’ve been more insulted, but not many. Paul Gutierrez’s reasons for this claim are that the Red Sox have a large payroll, that certain players get “the rockstar treatment,” and that Red Sox Nation has become “insufferable” and ridden with bandwagon fans.

Basically, Gutierrez is penalizing Red Sox Nation for Boston’s success. What I can gather from his article is that the Red Sox have supposedly lost their charm by ceasing to lose painfully and that this has resulted in destroying the virtue upon which Red Sox Nation and diehard fanaticism have been based. This in turn, according to Gutierrez, has turned Red Sox Nation into a virtual “Yankee Universe” (a weak attempt by the organization at establishing a sort of Yankee Nation, which, as I will prove, does not and can not exist).

Therefore, I also gather that Paul Gutierrez is not a Red Sox fan. If he were, he wouldn’t even think of attempting such a fallacious argument. To tear down his argument, I’ll assess each of his reasons individually. First up: the Red Sox’s large payroll. Accumulating a large payroll in Boston is no easy task, mainly because Fenway Park is so small that, despite being sold out every day of every season, attendance can not generate as much revenue as it does for other teams. The front office has done an excellent job of generating revenue in other ways. Where does the money come from? From the fans, who give their hearts and souls to the team and who wouldn’t give the team any money if they didn’t care. And how does the money accumulate? Through the front office, which relies heavily on sabermetrics, a system brought to the Major Leagues by Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s, who was forced to rely on it because the A’s organization has been comparatively broke. So it follows that, if the Red Sox can generate revenue and save it, the organization will end up with a sizable payroll. And the front office sustains that payroll through encouraging the cultivation of a system of development for prospects so that the Red Sox can bring up rookies accustomed to Boston’s style of play and for less.

This is completely different from how the Yankees develop their payroll. There is nothing special about Yankee Stadium. It seats the usual 55,000 and has a ridiculous fence in the outfield. The Yankees do not sell out every game. And a lot of the tickets that the Yankees do sell go to corporates who want to entertain clients. Only after the 2007 World Series have the Yankees figured out that to keep bringing in big-name players and doling out paychecks to solve their problems isn’t going to work anymore. Brian Cashman has actually advocated a Theo Epstein-esque approach to player development from within. It’s not helping because the Yankees have spent years trading away their top prospect to acquire said big-name players. So, two completely different strategies.

Gutierrez’s second reason: certain Sox players get “the rockstar treatment.” Newsflash: this was true even before our World Series victory in 2004. In fact, it was a big part of why Nomar wanted to be traded. He was an icon and therefore very lonely, and he couldn’t take it anymore. And how about Pedro? Getting “the rockstar treatment” is nothing new in Boston. One of the tributes to Terry Francona’s success is that he’s able to manage such big personalities in the clubhouse. Terry keeps it light and low-key for the guys, and that helps the team mesh well together.

I don’t see Joe Girardi doing anything like that. The only thing I see Joe Girardi doing is spending time on television on “The Joe Girardi Show.” And don’t even get me started on A-Rod and Jeter. Point is, every team has a couple of “rockstars” on it. It’s how you manage that that counts. The Red Sox do it. The Yankees don’t.

Finally, Red Sox Nation becoming insufferable and bandwagon-ridden. Give me a break. We’ve always been insufferable. It’s part of why we’re so fanatical about the team. We can be very obsessive and very closed-minded at times. This isn’t anything new, either. As for the bandwagon issue, every team has bandwagon fans. It’s a compliment to our success. Fortunately, bandwagon fans are usually pretty easy to spot. Often, they shout the Boston gospel at the top of their lungs and attempt to distinguish themselves as diehards by putting down “fans today” and pining for the days when the Red Sox practiced the art of losing. Sound familiar?

The fan base of the New York Yankees is exclusively composed of bandwagon fans, those who are only in it for the success of the team. That’s why Girardi’s number is 27, representing the 27th World Series he’ll have to bring to New York or perhaps get fired like Joe Torre. That’s why the Yankees aren’t and never will be dirt dogs and why Yankee fans always clap and never cheer. That’s why Yankee fans boo their own players.

What Paul Gutierrez has failed to point out is that the Red Sox have earned their success; the Red Sox didn’t buy their success, like the Yankees have always done. The Red Sox fans are a significant part of the team itself. We are a big reason why, year after year, the Red Sox have a remarkable record at home. We are the only reason why, road trip after road trip, the Red Sox can always find cheers and jerseys in the stands.

Paul Gutierrez, do not tell us that we’re turning into Yankee fans. Tell yourself that you were one all along. Someone with so little insight into Red Sox Nation could never have been a part of it in the first place. As much as you have insulted Red Sox Nation with this article, you have insulted yourself more because the diehard Boston fans have never doubted their devotion and the nature of it when presented with success. By your reasoning, the Royal Rooters were also like Yankee fans because the early Red Sox won six World Series titles, starting with a win in 1903, just two years after the franchise’s creation.

Because you doubt the devotion of Red Sox Nation to the Red Sox simply because the Red Sox happen to be the best baseball team in the Major Leagues, you think we have become Yankee fans. By that logic, shouldn’t Yankee fans in this day and age become Red Sox fans?

Congratulations, Paul Gutierrez. You have made an erroneous claim, and you have backed it with a fallacious and porous argument. All you’ve proven is that you aren’t a Red Sox fan, that you never were a Red Sox fan, and that you didn’t have anything else interesting to write about. My advice? Don’t write anymore about Boston baseball. You might embarrass yourself….again.

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What is up with it? I’ve never been able to figure it out. As the nation’s most populous state, California has five baseball teams: the A’s, the Giants, the Angels, the Dodgers, and the Padres. And all of them, at some point during any given season, are a force. At some point during any given season, all five teams mix quality offense with quality defense and give their division leaders a run for their money. And there’s usually a strong California presence in the playoffs; they’ve got some hardware to show for it. The Angels won it in 2002, preceded by the A’s in 1989, the Dodgers in 1988 and 1981, the A’s in ’72, ’73, and ’74, etcetera.

But when you actually sit down to watch the California teams play ball, and you really focus on their style, it’s impossible to see how they’re so good. They play baseball as if the outcome of the game didn’t matter. Their style is very loose and laid-back, something not uncommon to CA. But intuitively it’s counterproductive. You can’t win a World Series if play like you don’t care. Can you? Maybe in years past, but not anymore. This is the age of sabermetrics, and it’s led by people like Theo Epstein and Billy Beane, who, because of his lack of funds, isn’t that much of a threat anyway. My point is, the California style of lackadaisical ball will probably put you on top in the regular season, and it’ll be good for some October thrills and chills, but it won’t get you a ring. Not anymore.

To win a World Series, you need a front office that knows how to crunch numbers in all the right places and that has enough money to go out and get the right guys. And you need intensity. You’ve all seen “Fever Pitch,” right? The intensity that surrounds Boston baseball is what brought Curt Schilling here. It’s what keeps Josh Beckett on his toes. And sometimes it makes for painful losses, but it’s part of who we are and what we associate with a good season. Intensity is a big part of what drives a team to the top.

The Oakland A’s may be good, and the Oakland A’s may be in second place by only 2.5 games, but when the Oakland A’s beat us by five runs, it’s a bit of an insult to the way Red Sox Nation conducts its business. Historically, the A’s have been able to match us, so it’s not surprising that the end of our winning streak has come from them. But it’s not like we aren’t exasperated with that. The road hasn’t been our friend thus far this season. It’s early, sure, but this is the time to start good trends, not bad ones, and starting this road trip on a sour note isn’t that auspicious in my book. And Wake needs all the offense he can get. Well, I guess that’s what happens with Harden on the mound. What can you do? Play them as much as possible and learn their weaknesses just in case we have to face them in October.

Let’s gear up, then. Another late start tonight. Hopefully, Beckett will bring.

Tim Wakefield, 5/23/2008

Reuters

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