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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Nathan’

2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the Goodbye, I guess.  It’s just a lot to take in and deal with at once.  I have confidence in Ben, but it just seems like he keeps adding to his workload rather than making some definitive decisions.  I’m sure we’ll see those soon, but it would be nice to halt the farewell train.  I think we’ve had enough.

The Phillies called Paps but then seemed to agree to terms with Ryan Madson.  The good news was that we could have still sign him; the bad news was that Paps was now salivating over Madson’s brand-new four-year, forty-plus-million-dollar theoretical contract.  The bright side in was that he’s represented by Seth and Sam Levinson.  Can you imagine if Paps of all people were represented by Scott Boras? That would be absolutely hellish.  Ben made contact with Paps’s camp, but he didn’t expect them to give him any time to match an offer from another club if the offer was to Paps’s liking.

And it was.  Congratulations, Paps.  You have just set the record for closer compensation.  He has accepted an offer from the Phillies for a four-year, fifty-million-dollar deal including a fifth-year vesting option.  Ben wasn’t going to match that, and the Levinsons knew it.  They knew Ben’s dislike of deals for closers longer than three years, and they certainly knew Ben’s dislike for dishing out that kind of money.  We may all rest assured that the only reason why Ben felt comfortable letting Paps go is that there are other options out there, and good ones.  This is not me trying to justify our new leadership and make myself feel better.  This is fact.  Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Joe Nathan (a risky move, but it’s been about a year since his Tommy John surgery, so this should be the time when his command returns), and, oh, yeah, Daniel Bard all make the list.  Not too shabby.  Not too shabby at all.  Ben and I can agree on the fact that Daniel Bard probably shouldn’t be closing just yet.  He was very clearly built to be one of the best closers in the game, but I personally would give it another year or two and bring in a veteran closer first.  Ideally, during that year or two, Bard would see significant pitching time in the ninth inning throughout the season to groom him for that role.  While the one-two punch of Bard in the eighth and a lights-out closer in the ninth would be impossible to resist, when the time comes we’ll face the choice of having to find a reliable set-up man, which arguably may be more difficult, or having to let Bard walk away.  One could make the case that we’re seeing something like Bard walking away now with Paps.  Quite frankly, I don’t like it, and I don’t want to do it more than once.  Regarding Bard specifically, you don’t let a one-hundred-mile-per-hour fastball walk out that door.  You just don’t.

What will infuriate me is if Ben feels compelled to offer more than three years to one of these other closers because Paps basically just revolutionized the closer market overnight.  If other teams will be ready to provide that fourth year, Ben will be out of luck.  All the reports of drama and all the rebuilding to be done this year aren’t exactly helping our cause; Paps is eager to go to the Phillies for several reasons, not the least of which I imagine is that, if you thought he wreaked havoc on AL hitters, he’s going to be the prophet of pitching in the NL, and it looks like the Phillies are a team that could potentially win, despite the fact that everyone said that about them, just as they were saying it about us, earlier this year only to watch them flame out in the playoffs.

And now, the tribute.

Paps started his career here.  He came up through our system and even won a cow-milking contest when he was with the Lowell Spinners.  He played our game both on and off the field because his personality was one-of-a-kind.  He was always a dependable notable quotable, but it was much more than that.  He was a leader and a force in the clubhouse.  He was crazy and insane, but only in the best of ways.  He was a Boston baseball guy.  He lived the baseball experience here, embraced it wholly, and took it to the absolute extreme.  He did the jig en route to the championship and redefined “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by The Dropkick Murphys.  I don’t think he’ll have as much fun anywhere else as he did here.  Seriously, all you had to do was hear those two drumbeats that start the song in the eighth or ninth inning and you know that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the winning that will obviously ensue with Paps on the mound. Granted, it technically wasn’t always like that.  He did blow his share of saves.  He didn’t blow many, but it seemed like most of the ones he blew were doozies indeed.  He was immediately responsible for our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs; he blew his save in Game Three of the ALDS, and that was the last playoff game we were in.  And he struggled in 2010 with eight blown saves.  But looking at the big picture, he more than made up for it.  He attacked the closing job with remarkable intensity; that stare of his could strike fear into the heart of any hitter.  In his career, he has an ERA of 2.33 and a WHIP of 1.02.  He’s amassed 219 saves and posted 509 strikeouts in 429.1 innings.  He’s blown a grand total of only twenty-nine saves, and only three of those came during this past season, compared to thirty-one converted opportunities.  And I don’t think any one of us will ever forget Tek jumping into his arms after he closed out Game Four of the 2007 World Series in Denver.  Not once in our long and illustrious history had we ever had a mainstay closer as long as we had Paps.  He was the best we’d ever seen, and he’s still in his prime.  So here’s to you.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us through the years, both the much-needed saves and the much-needed smiles.  Here’s to you as a player and as a person, a goofy closer who still showed remarkable leadership in the clubhouse.  Here’s an enormous understatement: we’re going to miss you, Paps, and it’s been ridiculously fun.

Ben has also been in contact with the camps of Papi, Wake, and Tek.  I don’t think that I’d be able to watch any of those guys playing for another team.  It would be too surreal.  Like I said, one is quite enough, thank you.

Supposedly we’re interested in a two-year deal with Carlos Beltran.  He’s made it clear that he only wants to play in the National League and that he refuses to DH, but we’ve been attached to Beltran in the media for a long time.  But wait; the plot thickens.  We haven’t even called Beltran yet; instead, we’ve called Grady Sizemore and Michael Cuddyer.

There are also rumors that we’re interested in Mark Buehrle.  This is the first time in his career that he’s a free agent, and competition for him is stiff.  Supposedly we were also on hand to observe the workout of Yoenis Cespedes, who defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic.  Supposedly he’s amazing, and he’s going to set off a major cash fight.  Think Aroldis Chapman.

Mike Maddux has withdrawn his candidacy due to “personal reasons.” That’s in quotes because he’s still on the Cubs’ list.  Obviously.  This should not surprise anybody.  We added Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo and Detroit third base coach Gene Lamont.  If the names sound familiar, that’s because they are.  Lovullo manage the PawSox before going to Toronto, and Lamont was our third base coach in 2001.  And that, supposedly, is going to be it for candidates.  Our list and the Cubs’ list share three candidates: Alomar, Mackanin, and Sveum.  I think it’s fairly obvious that Maddux is going to Chicago.  Incidentally, throughout this process, I’ve been having this thought: Theo’s relationship with Larry was shaky but ultimately productive.  It was shaky because Theo basically wanted his own job plus Larry’s job.  He wanted more control over baseball operations; he didn’t want to be just the general manager, which is why he’s not the Cubs’ general manager.  Theo brought in Jed Hoyer to be the Cubs’ general manager, and it will be interesting to see if Theo actually restricts himself to his higher role and doesn’t conduct himself with Hoyer the same way that Larry conducted himself with Theo.  If he doesn’t, Hoyer may take issue.  Oh, the potential irony.

Gonzalez will appear on the cover of this “MLB 12 The Show.” Pedroia did it in 2009.  Heady company.

On Wednesday, MLB Network aired a two-hour special on the Buckner game.  John McNamara insists that, after the seventh inning, Roger Clemens told him that he was done because of a cut on his finger; Clemens maintains that McNamara pinch-hit for him and the cut on his finger was not an obstruction to continuing to perform.  Whatever it was that really happened destroyed their relationship.  McNamara also stated that he went with Buckner, who was obviously not fit to field, because he was the best first baseman on the roster; he didn’t go with Dave Stapleton because he supposedly had earned the nickname “Shaky.” But Bruce Hurst said that he never heard anyone call Stapleton shaky.  Honestly, the whole thing was just the epitome of devastation, drama or no drama, and what I would personally like to avoid is similar devastation in the future and similar subsequent drama.

Tito is interviewing with the Cards.  Jerry Remy was surprised; he, and I think most of us, naturally assumed that Tito would take some time off before jumping right back into it.

In other news, the Pats dropped a very close one to the Giants, 24-20.  Oh, and we released Albert Haynesworth.  It’s not like we all didn’t see that coming when the signing was made.  The B’s played the Islanders, Oilers, and Sabres this week and beat all of them by almost the exact same score: the Isles and Sabres by 6-2 and the Oilers by 6-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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One week and three signings later, Theo Epstein is still arbitration-free! Do you know how hard a streak that is to maintain in this day and age? I’m telling you, that’s truly impressive.  On Tuesday, we agreed to terms with Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and none other than the notable quotable himself: Jonathan Papelbon.

Paps got his raise, alright.  For the second straight season, we signed him to a one-year deal.  Except this one is worth $9.35 million.  You read right.  $9.35 million.  That’s a $3.1 million raise.  I don’t even want to imagine what his raise would’ve been had he not completely bombed Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS.  With this raise, he’s a relief pitcher being paid the salary of a position player.  The question is, does he deserve it?

Last season, K-Rod made about $9.2 million and posted an ERA of 3.71.  Joe Nathan made about $11.3 million and posted an ERA of 2.10.  Jonathan Papelbon made $6.25 million and posted an ERA of 1.85.  That’s lower than K-Rod’s and lower than Nathan’s who both made more than he did.  So what if Paps is younger? He’s better.  So, at least on paper, that’s a point in favor of the raise.

Now, it was painfully obvious to us that, even with that low ERA, Paps had an off-year last year.  Why? He walked more batters than usual.  More walks means more pitches means fatigue means less sharp means more blown saves.  But this is not a situation where we have a closer who has a meltdown for no apparent reason.  We know exactly what the problem was, which means we can fix it, which means that Paps’s inferior performance last year wasn’t permanent.  That’s another point in favor of the raise.

Short-term deals are better for the team and worse for the player, so it’s interesting that Paps hasn’t wanted a big contract.  I suspect that’s because he wants to keep Theo on his toes.  If every year is a contract year and Paps continually proves himself, he puts the onus on Theo to make the next movie.  Presumably, Theo would have no choice but to give him a raise every year, thus allowing him to earn more than he might have if he just agreed to one static figure.  From Theo’s perspective, this isn’t going to last long; he can only appease Paps for so many years until he’s eligible for free agency, and then all bets are off.  Meanwhile, Theo very neatly avoided arbitration; in Paps’s case, that was more crucial than ever, and no doubt the fat raise had something to do with it.  I would rather have given Paps a substantial raise and avoided arbitration than have gone through that ordeal with him.  Here’s why.

We also know that Paps is, as I said, a notable quotable.  The man isn’t quiet.  When there’s an opportunity to voice an opinion, you can bet he’ll be first in line, and you can bet that whatever he says will turn heads.  Putting him in a situation where he has to prove he’s worthy of the raise while Theo tries to prove that he isn’t is a horrible, horrible idea.  Given who Paps is, it would severely damage his relationship with the organization and the club.  As someone who relies so much on excited energy and jolts of adrenaline to get his job done, that could significantly impact his performance on the field, not to mention the performance of the whole club.  Case in point: Manny Ramirez.  That’s yet another point in favor of the raise.

But like I said, this won’t last forever, another point in favor.  Word on the street is that, when Paps hits free agency, he’ll take the first train out of Boston to wherever he finds the most green.  But there are some things that would provide serious and humbling deterrents to that course of action.  First of all, because he’s a notable quotable, he’s not a closer who can fit in anywhere.  Here, he came up through the system and the fans love the guy.  Elsewhere, with the possible exception of L.A., his antics might alienate him from his teammates and fan base.  Troubles off the field yield troubles on the field; again, I refer you to Manny Ramirez.  Point being, he might not be as successful elsewhere.

Also, we can expect that before Paps hits the market, he and Theo will have a talk, man to man.  During that talk Theo will say something like, “You and I both know you’re an elite closer.  You’ve had your fun throwing your weight around and making us jack up your paychecks by living on a year-to-year basis.  But now we’re not going to pay you more than you’re worth.  If you want to pull a Jason Bay and make a demand, chase it at all costs, and end up in a situation that’s not as sweet as you thought, go ahead.  But good luck winning a ring and being tolerated elsewhere.” And during this conversation, a very promising closer of the future named Daniel Bard will undoubtedly be on hand, just so that Papelbon knows that Theo isn’t playing games.  Because Papelbon needs to acknowledge, once and for all, that we’ve got another closer waiting in the wings, if necessary.  Papelbon may be good, and he may be great, but he’s not the only great.

I guess what I’m saying is that the raise was a sort of necessary annoyance.  It was exorbitant, to be sure, but there was no getting around it, given the circumstances.  In the future, the circumstances will change and permit us to avoid it.  All we have to do is hold out until then and see if Papelbon has learned anything along the way.  And if he hasn’t, no one would be able to say we didn’t try our hardest to keep him on board.  I for one am not too thrilled about the raise; he’s going to have to do a lot to earn it.  But the fact that I think he will earn it with flying colors makes it easier to bear.

Jeremy Hermida has yet to reach agreement; he wants $3.85 million, but we’re offering 2.95.  I have to say, I’m a big fan of the 2.95.  It would be just sad if Theo avoided arbitration with the likes of Paps only to have to enter into it with Hermida.

Jose Offerman, manager of the Dominican Winter League Licey Tigers, was banned from the league for life after punching umpire Daniel Rayburn.  He came onto the field to argue about an ejection made by Jayson Bradley, the plate umpire, and things got out of hand pretty quickly.  Now, I understand that sometimes the game can get dicey; you see something you don’t like, your temper flares up, and whatnot.  Fine.  But you do not, and when I say “ do not” I mean “do not,” punch an umpire.  I just reread that and it sounds so ridiculous, but it’s true.  You just don’t.  Rayburn, Bradley, and fellow crew members Justin Vogel and Barry Larson all resigned from the league and left the country within hours of reporting the incident.  Offerman could see battery charges if Rayburn pursues this further.

We’ve all heard Mark McGwire’s long-overdue confession.  And we’ve all heard reactions from pretty much everybody.  But I like Carlton Fisk’s the best, and not just because he’s Carlton Fisk.  This is what said to the Chicago Tribune in response to McGwire’s claim that steroids didn’t help him hit those seventy homers in ’98:

“That’s a crock.  There’s a reason they call it performance-enhancing drugs. That’s what it does – performance enhancement. You can be good, but it’s going to make you better…Some guys who went that route got their five-year, $35 million contracts and now are off into the sunset somewhere. Because once they can’t use [steroids] anymore, they can’t play anymore.  And steroids, during that time, probably did as much to escalate players’ salaries as did free agency, as did arbitration, and all of that stuff. It did more than just put home runs up on the board or money in the guys’ pocket.”

Not only is the man well-spoken and to-the-point, but he’s also one hundred percent correct.  Ultimately, McGwire’s claim can be shattered by sheer science, by the physics of the impact that steroids have on home runs.

Roger Tobin, a professor of physics and the chairman of the physics department at Tufts University, wrote a paper called, “On the potential of a chemical Bonds: Possible effects of steroids on home run production in baseball.” The long and short of this paper is the following.  Anabolic androgenic steroids increase lean muscle mass, which increases the hitter’s force on the bat, which increases the work that the bat performs on the ball, which results in a three percent increase in bat speed.  That doesn’t seem like much, but consider the fact that home runs are infrequent and determined by a defined either/or threshold: it’s a home run if it goes over the fence; if it doesn’t, it isn’t.  Requiring a ten percent home run rate, that is, a rate of one out of every ten balls hit going over the fence (derived as a baseline from the pre-steroid era), using the bound that less than five percent of home runs are longer than 460 feet, and combining those two things with physical analysis, Tobin proves that, for an elite slugger like Mark McGwire, that small increase in bat speed would in fact lead to a thirty to seventy percent increase in home run rate.  Bang.

Point being that, no matter what he claims, Mark McGwire’s performance was enhanced significantly.  And I personally would never, under any circumstances, offer a user a standing ovation for a confession more than ten years late.  But that’s just me.  If St. Louis wants to give their new coach a standing ovation and maybe even get him to suit up and play, that’s their business.

The Bruins lost to the Sens and Blue Jackets, and we lost our must-win against the Sens yesterday.  We don’t play the Sens anymore this season, and we drop to fourth place in the division and ninth in the conference, which means that, if it stays like that, we’re not going to the playoffs.  And to add insult to injury, guess who we’re playing this evening: the Canes.  Great.

Dinosaurs Never Existed

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We’ll start with the home run derby.  Prince Fielder won it with twenty-three long balls, averaging 439 feet.  His longest and second-longest were the longest and second-longest of the competition, measuring at 503 and 497 feet, respectively.  Nelson Cruz placed second with twenty-one long balls.  Then Ryan Howard with fifteen, and Albert Pujols with eleven.  Joe Mauer and Carlos Pena both hit five, all in the first round, and Adrian Gonzalez hit two, both in the first round.  Brandon Inge didn’t hit any.  Ouch.  If you’ve noticed, hometown heroes rarely do well in the home run derby, so Pujols would’ve been the tempting but unlikely choice for champion.  He came close, though.  Congratulations to Prince Fielder! The Prince of home runs.  Corny but it had to be done.

Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game.  As expected, the American League extended its hitting streak over the National League to thirteen All-Star Games.  This doesn’t surprise me.  We all saw this coming.  It happens every year.  But the All-Star Game is just as much about the festivities as it is about the game, so we’ll start with the first pitch thrown by President Obama wearing a White Sox jacket.  It came out of his hand as sort of a lob at Pujols, who picked it out of the dirt.  Not bad.  As far as the game is concerned, I was very pleased to see that this one only lasted nine innings.  Halladay started.  He pitched two innings and gave up three runs on four hits, only two earned.  Those were the only runs the National League would score.  The American League’s eight pitchers struck out five, walked only one, and gave up only five hits (Joe Nathan gave up the other one).  Papelbon, thank you very much, got the win.  Joe Nathan got a hold.  Mariano Rivera got a save, obviously because he wasn’t trying to close a game against us.

But that’s not the point.  Papelbon came into the game in the seventh inning, when the score was tied 3-3, and Brad Hawpe rocketed his first pitch over the outfield wall.  Luckily, Carl Crawford caught it over the wall for the first out of the frame.  For that play alone, Carl Crawford was awarded the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award.  Then, Miguel Tejada flied out to Adam Jones, and Paps struck out Jayson Werth after eight pitches to end a ten-pitch outing.  Another one-two-three inning.  So Paps, who’s been an All-Star all four seasons he’s closed for us, gets the All-Star win he deserves.  Before the break, he actually insisted that Mariano Rivera close, probably due to all of the irrelevant and completely unnecessary flak he received after last year’s perfectly normal comment that he, as any competitive closer would, wanted to close an All-Star Game.  Honestly.  Yankee fans.  Nuff ced.

Wakefield did not pitch.  Not once.  Not even a third of an inning.  Not even to one batter.  To me, that’s cold.  Joe Maddon could’ve put him in somewhere if he really wanted to.

We won, 4-3, and we out-hit the National League, 8-5.  One error each.  RBIs for Joe Mauer, Adam Jones, and Josh Hamilton.  Bay and Youk both had hits.  In the eighth inning, Curtis Granderson tripled and then scored on Jones’s sac fly to break the tie.  Hamilton made a throwing error.

So basically what this whole thing comes down to, what this whole home run derby and All-Star Game and MVP Award and four-day break mean, is that we have secured home field advantage for October.  Technically it means that the American League team has home field advantage, but let’s not kid ourselves.  We all know who that American League team is going to be.  We also really needed this break; we’ll come back after these four days rested, rejuvenated, and ready to go claim that spot as “the” American League team.  The home run derby was a mildly interesting event and the All-Star Game was entertaining, but really it determines something very important.  And something tells me we’ll be very thankful for this victory come the postseason.  Congratulations to the American League All-Stars on your thirteenth straight victory.  You earned it, and we thank you.  Seriously.

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