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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Boras’

Tek officially retired on Thursday; we all knew this was coming, so I’ve already written the tribute, although there are a few things I’d like to add.  First, after initially doing so, he has since come to regret autographing photos of the A-Rod fight because he doesn’t want to condone that kind of behavior, which speaks volumes about his sportsmanship, professionalism, and awareness of his status as a role model.  Second, Scott Boras reportedly did not allow other teams to make formal offers to Tek due to his knowledge of Tek’s allegiance to us; I’d expect that, for Boras, this must be some kind of first.  Third, here’s a neat article containing the comments of some of New England’s who’s-who of sports journalism when we first picked up Tek; boy, does it take you back.  Fourth, Tek was very thankful in his retirement announcement; he thanked everyone.  He thanked his coaches, teammates, and fans as well as the brass and his family.  Here’s a quote:

As I walk away from this game, I can look at the man in the mirror and be proud I gave everything I could to this game, this organization, my teammates.  Once again, I just want to say thank you.

But he won’t be leaving the game completely; he’ll be taking up a position within the organization, which I think is an excellent move.  To be a good catcher, one must inherently possess the ability to maintain a working knowledge of all aspects of the game, not just his own position.  This plus the fact that he was a captain for seven of the fifteen seasons he played here make him an obvious choice for hire.

What’s funny is that a fan took a video during a clubhouse tour on Truck Day and saw that Tek’s nameplate had already been taken down.  Lucchino’s explanation for this was weak, and so the fan already knew what would happen.  What I liked best about this story is that the fan specifically didn’t post the video until after Tek made his decision.

Bobby V. has banned alcohol in the clubhouse and on charter flights returning to Boston.  Tito then claimed that this was a PR move, which it isn’t since Bobby V. is known for having similarly banned beer in his previous managerial stints.  First of all, it’s very unlike Tito to get involved in drama.  Secondly, why are we still talking about this? Last season is last season; it’s done and over.  Can’t we just move on already?

Maybe that’s what Bobby V. was trying to do when he put down Derek Jeter and praised Tek for the A-Rod fight this week.  It certainly did draw attention.  Obviously I agree with what he said; it’s just a little unusual to hear it coming from a manager.  There’s a reason why there are fans and managers and why fans are usually not managers and managers are usually not fans.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of the biggest Yankee-haters out there, but I still want a manager who focuses less on the TV cameras and more on the baseball.

In the interest of not discussing drama anymore, let’s move to the Spring Training schedule, which officially started yesterday when we played Northeastern and Boston College in a doubleheader.  Today, the Major League action begins with the start of a two-game series against the Twins.  We’ve got the O’s on Tuesday, the Jays on Wednesday, and the Cards on Thursday.  Then the Pirates and Rays, and we’re done for the week.

Here are some highlights from the results.  We swept the college doubleheader as well as the two games against the Twins with scores of 8-3 and 10-2.  Lester pitched two shutout innings against Northeastern.  Beckett pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two, struck out none, and was caught by Salty, yet another indicator of the end of an era.  In the 10-2 win, Buccholz pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two and hit one but struck out two and extricated himself from two sticky situations.  Of his thirty-six pitches, twenty were strikes.  He looks healthy and says he feels healthy.  Ryan Sweeney picked up and RBI, and Papi hit his first homer of Spring Training, a solo shot.

Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have agreed to expand the playoffs, effective this season.  Each league will not send not one but two Wild Card teams to the playoffs; the two teams will have to go at it in a single elimination game.  This is the first playoff expansion since 1994, and it creates the largest playoffs in the history of the Majors.  It’ll certainly boost ratings and nail-biting, that’s for sure.  It presents a double-edged sword.  If this system had been in place earlier, we would have made the playoffs in the last two years.  On the other hand, I don’t want to make the playoffs because the bar is continually set lower by a policy of increased inclusivity, and there’s always the chance that that other team is going to beat you before you get anywhere.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Sens, Isles, and Rangers but beat the Devils and signed Marty Turco.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photo/Chris Lee
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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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The A’s completely rescinded their offer to Beltre.  Now, he’s got nothing.  I can understand where they’re coming from; this is the second year in the row they’ve chased him, and they’ve had this offer on the table for weeks now.  And just last week Beltre stated publicly that he wants to stay in Boston.  He turned down the A’s, who offered him more money and more years, last year to come here.  During the Winter Meetings, Theo will be in the hunt for a reliever and another big bat.  Beltre certainly fits the latter description, but I just don’t see how we’d ensure regular playing time for him.  We certainly don’t have room for him as a starter with the other Adrian coming in.  (And putting Theo aside, make no mistake; Youk was the real basis for the deal.  If Youk didn’t have the ability to just switch from first to third like that, Gonzalez would still be in San Diego.) It’s just a shame because Beltre is a beast.  By the way, Cameron is giving Gonzalez jersey number twenty-three.

This week, the Winter Meetings came and went.  And anyone thought we’d ride that deal and go in and out quietly was so incredibly wrong, it’s not even funny.  Theo Epstein was the king of the Winter Meetings.

The Werth saga continues.  Apparently, we sat down with him and Scott Boras but never made him a formal offer.  And we certainly would not have been prepared to even come close to what the Nationals gave him.  It’s a shame for us and for Werth.  A real shame.

But not anymore.  Not today.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have our elite outfielder and our second big bat.  And no, it’s not Magglio Ordonez.  Ordonez can chase a two-year deal elsewhere with all the teams that were formerly chasing Werth and Crawford, because both are now officially taken.  The hottest position player on the market is now off.  Carl Crawford, welcome to Boston! Seven years and 142 million dollars and a pending physical later, he’s walking that speed of his right into Fenway Park.

Wow.  Just, wow.  I mean, what? It happened so fast.  First we were reportedly in talks, and then you turn around and there’s already a deal on the books.  I’ve never been one to feel comfortable with contracts as large as this one; he’s the first player in franchise history to get seven years and an average of twenty million dollars per year, and he’s the first position player in baseball history to land 100 million dollars without hitting twenty home runs a year.  It’s the tenth-largest contract in baseball history, less than deals for players that include Manny Ramirez, Joe Mauer, and obviously a sizeable host of Yankees.  But, as always, in Theo we trust.  Everybody in Red Sox Nation is hungry.  Crawford is young and more than capable.  He can succeed here; in seventy-eight games at Fenway, he’s batted .275 with twenty-four doubles, thirty-five runs, and twenty-six stolen bases.  He’s yet another lefty bat, but he makes our lineup unbelievably potent, and he and Ellsbury comprise the most formidable speed duo in the game right now.  He’s not a slugger, but he’ll hit a decent amount out and he finds gaps like no other.  His speed also makes him great in the field, and it’s perfect because he’s a left fielder by trade.

So that’s Theo for you.  He’s asked whether a deal is being considered, and he refuses to rule anything in or out.  I’m convinced that the Werth deal upped the ante here though; if that deal hadn’t gone through, Crawford would never have been in a position to demand or merit a deal of this magnitude.  So that’s that.  We can take comfort in the fact that Theo would never offer a deal like this if he didn’t think the player was worth it.  Crawford is young enough and good enough to deliver in all seven of his contract years, which is why Theo offered it, and his playing ability is elite enough to merit his salary.  It’s not like we mete out contracts like this in every offseason.  This is the first contract of this magnitude that we’ve finalized during Theo’s and this ownership group’s tenure.  Given our current position and resources, this deal makes sense for us.  Crawford will obviously need to work on patience at the plate.  He needs to increase his walk total to up his on-base percentage.  We can’t say anything beyond that; we’ll just have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, there is a ton of celebrating to be done.  Adrian Gonzaelz and Carl Crawford.  Hello, October 2011!

As far as relievers are concerned, something must be done.  Bard said almost the exact same thing.  We’re looking at Matt Guerrier as well as Brian Fuentes and Arthur Rhodes, who was an All-Star for the first time this year at age forty.  Supposedly we’ve made a formal offer to Kevin Gregg.  Supposedly we’re going to sign Scott Downs.

We’re also keeping an eye on Russell Martin, who was indeed non-tendered by the Dodgers.

And that’s the story of how Theo put all other general managers to shame, made not one but two splashes, and came to rule the 2010 offseason.  If you ask me, it’s a pretty great story.  And technically it’s not even finished.

In other news, the Bruins bested the Sabres by one and the Islanders by three, but we lost to the Flyers in sudden death yesterday.  The Patriots, in one of the most anticipated games on the calendar this year, completely crushed and humiliated the Jets in every way.  The final score was 45-3.  It was a total crush.  So incredibly awesome.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Wow.  Just, wow.  Hugeness this week.  Trust me, there is epicness to discuss.

Beltre and Felipe Lopez both declined arbitration, but there is still hope for the former.  We all know that the A’s are offering Beltre a sweet deal, but he’s taking his equally sweet time in signing it.  He stated publicly that he wants to return to Boston, so he’s waiting to see what Theo’s got.

It turns out that what Theo’s got is a seriously awesome replacement.  Adrian Gonzalez, welcome to Boston! Finally! He went to Boston yesterday for a physical to make sure his right shoulder is on track after his surgery, and he passed.  We’ll be sending Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, outfielder Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later to the Padres, which fortunately shouldn’t hurt our farm system too much because last year’s draft was so successful.  Although it’ll be rough to see them all go.  The important thing to keep in mind about prospects is that you never know.  They could be awesome like Hanley Ramirez.  Or they could be terrible like Craig Hansen.  We already know what Adrian Gonzalez is capable of at the Major League level.

There’s room for a contract extension; Gonzalez is entering the last year of his current deal and we already acquired permission from Major League Baseball to hammer out a new one by this afternoon.  That didn’t happen, so Theo might wait to watch his shoulder in the spring, and of course there are the luxury tax implications.  But he won’t be giving up all those top prospects if he weren’t assured that an extension could be worked out, which would give us stability at all three bags.  Given Gonzalez’s age, anything from five to eight years can be considered feasible.  We offered six, but he wanted eight.  So there you go.

But one thing’s for sure: celebration is indeed in order.  Gonzalez will succeed in Boston.  His lefty swing was practically built exclusively for Fenway Park, and he was able to excel in a quintessential pitcher’s park.  Seriously.  Most of his fly balls in Petco would’ve been out in Fenway.  That’s why I’m convinced that he’ll get over his National League-ness in a hurry.  By the way, he’s got two Gold Gloves at first.  And he started almost every single game for about the last five years.  Without DHing once.  So here’s to you, Theo.  Two years later, you finally closed the deal.  And the fact that the Padres’ general manager and assistant general manager of scouting and player development both used to work with Theo is the icing on the cake that didn’t necessarily work to our advantage since they basically knew our farm system inside-out.  Gonzalez will play first and replace V-Mart’s bat, we’ll move Youk to third, and Beltre, who’s older anyway, will now probably sign with the A’s.  The deal is done on principle.  All they need to do is announce it on Monday at Fenway and that’s it.  The Adrian Gonzalez Era in Boston has begun!

One more thing.  Fundamentally this deal was not about New York; it’s about us, our team, our organization, and our hunger.  But while we’re on the subject, I would just like to point out that, not only is Adrian Gonzalez the answer to Mark Teixeira, but we now have a young infield that’s locked and entering its prime while the Yanks have guys on the downward slope of their careers.  I’m just saying.  I would advise New York to be afraid.  Very afraid.

Tek signed a one-year deal with two million dollars plus incentives; those rumors about him going to the Dodgers couldn’t have been more wrong.  They started circulating because the Dodgers had to decide whether to tender Russell Martin, who’s awesome except for injuries.  We didn’t tender Okajima, given his poor performance last season, but we already tendered Paps and will be making offers to Ellsbury and Taylor Buchholz.  Rumor has it that we made an offer to Mariano Rivera before he signed a two-year deal with the Yanks.  The Yanks seem to be avenging this action by showing interest in Carl Crawford to drive up his price.  I honestly don’t think the offer to Rivera was serious.  And I honestly don’t think New York’s interest in Crawford is serious.  Unless they don’t get Cliff Lee.  If Lee stays in Texas, New York might seriously start looking at Crawford because they could always deal Brett Gardner for a starter.

Pedroia’s foot is almost at one hundred percent.  He’s been cleared to jog and will be ready for Spring Training.  We have officially met with both Crawford and Werth, who, according to Dwight Evans, is the best right fielder in baseball and similar to himself.  This is Dwight Evans, people.  That’s seriously high praise.

Not that that’s going to help anyone.  Not even Werth himself.  Werth is now officially out of the picture and off the deep end.  He signed a deal for seven years and 126 million dollars.  With the Washington Nationals.  I’m not kidding.  That tells me two things: one, he’s not hungry, and two, he’s essentially a fool.  He’s not going to win a ring with the Nats, and seven years from now, when his contract is up, he won’t be starter material, which is obviously something that the Nationals don’t care about.  So his ring with the Phillies will be the last of his career as a starter.  If he wanted security, he sure got it.  He knows where he’ll be for the majority of the next decade, and he’s getting a whole heap of money for it.  To be honest with you, he would have been great in a Boston uniform, but I wouldn’t want someone only interested in money and years to play for us.  Especially not someone who would ever seriously consider both money and years with the Nationals.  I mean, they’re the Nationals.  Not only are they National League, they’re the worst in the National League; in fact, they’re the worst in the Major Leagues.

But wait; it gets better.  He says he’s been considering signing with the Nats since hiring Scott Boras as his agent last season.  Let me get this straight: he hired Scott Boras to get him a deal with the Washington Nationals.  That’s ridiculous.  Why would you hire Scott Boras to cut a deal with the Nationals? Jayson Werth doesn’t need an agent to negotiate a deal with the Washington Nationals; Jayson Werth can walk up to the Washington Nationals, write down a year amount and a dollar amount on a piece of paper, hand it to whoever is spearheading the process, and receive a “yes” to everything in five seconds flat.  He says he’s impressed with the Nats’ acquisition of young talent? Give me a break.  Nobody expects all that young talent to stay there; as soon as they’re able, they’re writing one-way tickets into free agency and out of town.  And then he went on this tangent in which he basically implied that he only signed with the Nationals because they assured him that they’d continue to acquire the talent necessary to compete and win, because that is very important to him.  Oh, sure.  If it’s that important to him, he would not have signed with the Nationals.  So they present their future plans to him and he asks questions about the team.  Great.  Now let’s see the Nationals follow that plan, the young talent stay put, and Werth stay in shape long enough to merit his salary at the end of his contract.  I don’t think so.

We signed starter Brandon Duckworth to a minor league deal.  He was part of the Billy Wagner trade.  We are supposedly interested in reliever Matt Guerrier.

Oh, and I fully expect Mike Cameron to morph into some sort of hitting specialist against lefties, being that many of the AL East’s elite pitchers are lefties and some of our middle bats struggled against lefties last season.  The only potential hindrance to that expectation is playing time.  Cameron has the potential to get rolling, but he can’t get rolling if he never gets going.

The Spring Training schedule is out.  We’re opening with an exhibition doubleheader with Boston College followed by Northeastern.  March features competition with Minnesota, Atlanta, Philly, both New York teams, Florida, Baltimore, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toronto, and Houston.

On Saturday, Sox Pax and tickets for twenty-one games in April and May will go on sale.

Get psyched.  The Winter Meetings are starting on Monday, and they’re going to be very interesting.  And by interesting I also mean hectic, since most of the important offseason deadlines have moved up.  Theo has his work cut out for him; we have a bat to replace V-Mart, but we’ll need another, preferably a righty, to replace Beltre since he’ll sign elsewhere, and relievers.  Good ones.  We’ve already made a splash; the key is to fill the club’s needs without removing all of our flexibility for next year.

In other news, the Bruins dropped Sunday’s game to the Thrashers, 1-4.  But then we shut out the Flyers, three-zip, and completely decimated the Lightning, 8-1.  Krejci and Ryder each racked up three points.  It was awesome.  If this were baseball, that would be considered a slugfest.  Then we lost in a shootout to the Leafs, but at least we get a point.  The Pats take on the Jets tomorrow.

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And lo and behold, Theo completes the streak.  Hermida signed for one year and a little over $3.3 million.  So that’s eight years without arbitration.  A happy organization with happy players produces a good team, so you can chalk a lot of the guys’ satisfaction with the front office up to the fact that they haven’t been in a position where they have to defend themselves against their own team.

Tickets went on sale yesterday! Which means that by now everything is probably sold out.  But on the bright side, that means that pitchers and catchers is right around the corner! It’s been a long winter, but hang in there; not too much longer.

There is, however, a dark shroud of depression hanging over Opening Day.  Literally, that dark shroud is ESPN.  Figuratively, it’s the actual darkness of night.  Because guess what: since this year’s Opening Day at Fenway Park means the Yankees are coming to town, ESPN decided to make it Opening Night instead.  That’s right.  There will be no Opening Day in New England this year.  No day-long holiday in Boston.  No young kids running around taking it all in.  No sunshine to illuminate the field or warm you up.  No Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy.  Instead, we’ve got a whole day before the game starts.  We’ve got kids who have to stay home because it’s a school night.  We’ve got lights.  And we’ve got Joe Morgan.  It’s incredible; the first game of the season hasn’t even started, and the Yankees have already ruined it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love night games, but for Opening Day it just isn’t the same.

Lastly, let’s get this whole Bay thing over with once and for all.  Here’s the deal.  Remember that offer we made after the All-Star break, a four-year deal worth sixty million? Bay initially rejected it but then changed his mind.  But during the physical, the Red Sox didn’t like the look of Bay’s knees and shoulder, so they revised the deal: the third and fourth years would now depend on health and productivity, and Bay would have to have minor knee surgery in the offseason.  Bay acquired a second opinion that stated that surgery wasn’t necessary.  He and the Red Sox requested a third opinion, which yielded the same observation.  The insurance company’s doctor also vouched for Bay’s durability.  At the Winter Meetings, the Red Sox revised the deal again: they guaranteed the first three years but requested injury protection for the fourth year such that if Bay became injured because of pre-existing conditions identified by the club, they could void the fourth year.  The Red Sox also asked Bay to pay a large part of his insurance policy.  Bay refused, and we all know what happened after that.

This sounds a lot more sinister than it actually is.  First of all, the fact that Bay passed the Mets’ physical with flying colors doesn’t say much.  This is the same team that signed Pedro Martinez to a long-term contract after Thomas Gill, team doctor for both the Red Sox and Patriots, specifically told the Red Sox front office not to do that because his breakdown was imminent.  And lo and behold.  Secondly, what’s wrong with the Red Sox seeking protection for their investment? People are seizing on the fact that the Red Sox wanted Bay to have surgery on something that wasn’t bothering him, but after other opinions were produced, they revised that and simply asked for protection.  That’s it.  Gill insisted that such a protection be built into JD Drew’s contract, and Scott Boras agreed to it.  Scott Boras agreed to it.  If Scott Boras agreed to it, it must have been the world’s most just demand, because any team would be hard-pressed to get Scott Boras to agree to anything.  Lackey also agreed to an injury protection clause.  (His is a little different; if he ever has elbow surgery while under contract, the Sox can bring him back for a sixth year at Major League minimum wage.) And the Sox will probably build something like that into Beckett’s and Papelbon’s future contracts.  Look, if we’re looking to pay Bay millions of dollars, I think we have a right to ensure that those millions of dollars won’t be a complete and total waste as soon as Bay steps or slides or falls the wrong way.  The wear and tear alone is a cause for concern, and that’s yet another reason not to trust the Mets’ medical opinion.  Bay passed their physical with flying colors on his way to play left at Citi Field? That’s like stepping into a time warp; playing left at Citi Field will break you down twice as fast.  Besides, if Bay is so sure of his health, why didn’t he just take this most recent version of the deal and sign a new one when the time came? If he’d remained a specimen of health, the fourth year wouldn’t have been voided, and all would’ve been as per usual.  So that seems kind of fishy to me.  All we can do is wait to see if the Red Sox were right, but if in the future Bay does prove the Red Sox correct, rest assured that Red Sox Nation will most definitely be there to say, “We told you so.” Okay, maybe we won’t say it, but we will think it, and we will think it loudly.

The Bruins are something I don’t even want to discuss.  We are in dire straits right now.  Dire straits.  The Canes absolutely crushed us last weekend, and we lost to the Sabres on Friday and the Kings yesterday in overtime.  We have fifty-five points, good for ninth in the Eastern Conference.  The Thrashers and Habs both have fifty-six.  If we don’t firmly cement ourselves into a playoff berth soon, the playoffs will quickly cease to be an option at all.

Panoramio

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Making sense of the Beltre deal.  Which is not at all as easy as it sounds.

Let’s review, shall we?

Stage One: Theo Epstein looks to trade Mike Lowell to the Rangers for catching prospect Max Ramirez.  This makes sense.  Mike Lowell had a tough year last year, and it’s only going to get tougher.  It’s true that he showed flashes brilliance in the field, but that was in Anaheim, where the weather is nice and warm.  Not so in Boston.  In Boston, it’s either freezing cold or scorching hot.  Lowell would’ve flourished in Texas, with its mild climate and considerably less pressure-cooker-like atmosphere, and the Rangers’ catching prospect would’ve been put to good use in our system, where he would’ve been groomed to give Tek some days off.

Stage Two: The deal is called on account of Mike Lowell’s right thumb.  To emphasize, it was the thumb, not the hip.  Let me repeat: thumb, problem; hip, not so much.  This makes sense.  From Lowell’s performance toward the end of last season, it was clear that his hip was no longer a big issue.  (That is to say, it’s still an issue but not a focus.) Given the right atmosphere, environment, and amount of days off, all signs pointed to a fairly productive year, both at the plate and in the field.  This, however, was with the understanding that Lowell’s thumb was sprained, not injured.  After he failed the physical, what Texas basically had on their hands was a choice between keeping tMax Ramirez or trading him for a third baseman who, in addition to a well-established health concern, would need surgery.  And that wasn’t a gamble Texas was willing to make.  From their perspective, they didn’t want to chance having to start someone at the hot corner who was slated to make multiple trips to the DL, not to mention the fact that the hip affects Lowell’s defense more than his offense.  The thumb would affect Lowell’s defense as well as his offense.  Simply put, no thumb, no swing, no runs, no deal.

Stage Three: Mike Lowell’s surgery is a success.  Red Sox players, staff, fans, and writers welcome Mike Lowell back into the fold.  Red Sox Nation is urged to table our wishes for infielders named Adrian.  Lou Merloni writes a column urging us to separate Mike Lowell from the Edgar Renterias of the baseball world.  As in, when did Mike Lowell reach that point where he was dragging us down to the point where exploring other options became a necessity at all costs? (I mean that literally.  Moving Lowell would necessitate us eating a big chunk of his salary.) I mean, teams routinely field much worse than Mike Lowell.  Presumably, with additional days off in the form of Youk-Lowell shifting to Kotchman-Youk, Lowell would be able to minimize the effects of his hip on his range and maximize his plate appearances.  Recovery from his surgery is fairly brief, and only one or two weeks of Spring Training would be missed.  So not the end of the world.

Stage Four: In complete defiance of Scott Boras’s obsession with long-term contracts, Theo Epstein signs Adrian Beltre to a one-year deal.  Let’s walk through it. The deal is worth nine million dollars with a player option worth six million that will increase to ten million if he makes 640 plate appearances.  The deal was contingent on a physical, which Beltre passed, despite last season’s left shoulder issues.  The deal was a product of interest that’s been expressed since November.  And the deal is very consistent with Theo’s commitment to a major defensive upgrade.  He is expected to bat in the bottom third of the lineup.  (Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Papi, Drew, Cameron, Beltre, Scutaro.  Bang.)

Stage Five: Theo Epstein trades Casey Kotchman to the Mariners for utility man Bill Hall, a prospect to be named later, and cash.  Kotchman is happy to reunite with good friend Chone Figgins.  Lou Merloni writes a column in which he changes his mind, citing the flexibility and ability that a one-year deal with Beltre gives us.

Before we get to the confusing part, let’s take a moment to celebrate what we’re getting.  Beltre put up barely decent numbers at Safeco and Dodger Stadium, so coming to a park that’s friendly to right-handed power hitters promises a nice statistical boost.  Home numbers: .253 average, .311 on-base percentage, .416 slugging percentage.  Road numbers: .287, .338, .488, respectively.  Now, check out the similarity between that latter series and Lowell’s career stats: .280, .343, .468, respectively.  And just to leave no stone unturned, in 162 games Lowell hits on average forty doubles, twenty-three home runs, and ninety-eight RBIs.  Compare that to Beltre’s average thirty-nine doubles, twenty-six homers and ninety-nine RBIs in 162 road games.  Coincidence? I think not.  Also, the deal, coupled with the Kotchman transaction, will have minimal impact on our finances.  And it kept Boras off our backs because, after said statistical boost, Beltre’s marketing value will increase substantially.  The brevity of the contract keeps the Major League option open for our top prospects.  So our defense goes through the roof, our pitching is way too solid for words, our offense will in all likelihood defy expectations, our top prospects stay in our organization, and we maintain flexibility, both financially and baseball-wise.

But in light of Lowell’s remainder with us, the fourth and fifth stages of this saga aren’t easy to explain.  After Lowell-to-Texas failed, everyone more or less accepted the fact that Lowell would be the face of Fenway’s third base in 2010.  That thought process was fueled by the fact that we’ve had our foot in Beltre’s door since November; we wanted to trade Lowell to make room for Beltre, so as soon as Lowell wasn’t going anywhere, it seemed pretty obvious that neither was Beltre.  Then we suddenly signed Beltre and made room for him by shipping Kotchman across the country.  What’s unclear to me is the effect this will have on Lowell’s role.  Will playing time be split fifty-fifty, sixty-forty, or eighty-twenty? It’s a Crisp-y situation; once it became apparent that Ellsbury was about to start in center field, Coco Crisp was allowed to walk, and rightly so.  Coco Crisp is a starter, not a benchwarmer.  Same with Lowell, but also with Beltre.  What do you do when you have two starters, one of whom was explicitly acquired to replace the other before the other left the picture, a state of affairs that received extra emphasis when Kotchman was shipped off? With all eyes on Beltre, what is Lowell’s fate in 2010?

That’s actually a fairly easy question to answer.  We’ll either move him or we won’t.  If we don’t, he’d contribute in the field when he’s called upon and wouldn’t when he isn’t.  And he’d see a good amount of time at the plate as a pinch-hitter.  The upside of this is that it builds in much-needed rest time for Lowell and gives us a considerable upgrade in defense and age in Beltre.  And one thing that we can’t altogether rule out if we keep Lowell is the possibility that Beltre may turn out to be a chip for Adrian Gonzalez come the trading deadline.  It would be swapping one corner infielder for another, but Youk’s versatility would allow us to do that.  Besides, when you’re talking about someone like Adrian Gonzalez, you trade first and maneuver later.

Our last piece of big news is our outfield situation.  Ellsbury has officially been moved to left in order to make more room for Cameron in center.  This is way better than having Ellsbury in center than Cameron in left, even though having Ellsbury in left is a complete waste of his talents.  Whatever; when Cameron leaves Boston, Ellsbury goes back to center.  Meanwhile, it’s a wise choice.  Cameron’s only start in left was in 2000, and he hasn’t been in either corner since that nasty collision he had with Carlos Beltran back in ’05.  Meanwhile, Ellsbury is young, skilled, adaptable, and flexible.  He’s so good that he could handle any of the three outfield positions.  In fact, the relative ease of playing left as opposed to center decreases his risk of injury, and the decrease in covered territory could translate to an increased application of his abilities to the basepaths.  Basically, it comes down to the fact that Ellsbury would be infinitely better in left than Cameron but would be less better, though still better, than Cameron in center, while Cameron’s performance in left would presumably be abysmal to his performance in center.

Loose ends for the week: Josh Beckett will be gold this year because he’s up for contract, Papi will be feeling the offensive pressure (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it means a really good workout regimen), and Randy Johnson finally retired.  Also, congratulations to three New Haven County, Connecticut communities that successfully pressured Cablevision into adding NESN to its basic lineup in those markets.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Rangers, beat the Sens, got smoked by the Blackhawks, and lost to the Rangers again.  The Patriots continue to power through the loss of Wes Welker as the postseason starts tomorrow with a confrontation with the Ravens.

Fire Brand of the American League

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It’s time to say goodbye to Mike Lowell; have fun in Texas.  Let me say this: it’s been one seriously great ride.  He was the 2007 World Series MVP for a reason, but unfortunately age happens.  He was the epitome of professionalism.  Talk about classy guys.  Mikey Lowell, ladies and gentlemen, was just about the classiest guy you could find, and his presence in the clubhouse will surely be missed.  Get ready for a standing ovation.  But like I said, age happens, and Theo does have a job to do.  It’s unfortunate that we have to send him off like this, but what other option do we have? The trade would give us catching prospect Max Ramirez, who’s leading the Venezuela Winter League in home runs.  But he’s had some wrist problems, so we’ll have to wait for his medical records to clear.  Then the question becomes, who will replace him? Or conversely, who’ll play first base, being that Youk can move over to third.  And as a result, Youk could save us a lot of money; the market doubles for us because of that flexibility, so we have the freedom to pick and choose someone who’s right for us and who comes at the right price.  I’ve heard we’re talking to Adrian Beltre, but believe me, I would be infinitely more enthusiastic about us talking to Adrian Gonzalez.

Remember Manny Delcarmen’s tragedy of a second half? Turns out he had shoulder fatigue for three months and didn’t say anything about it until September 30.  That’s just infuriating.  I mean, I don’t really know what to do with that.  Theo had him receive a cortisone shot that same night, but after the car accident he was dropped from the postseason roster anyway.  But that’s not the point.  Either you want to help your team win, or you want to help your team win.  If something’s going on, your team has a right to know, no matter how badly you want to play.  As a fan, it’s hard not to play what-if in these situations; with a healthy Delcarmen down the stretch, who knows what would’ve happened.

In an attempt to cover the holes in our bullpen made by the Braves, we signed Scott Atchison to a one-year deal with two options.  He spent the last two seasons in Japan and previous pitched for the Giants.  He had an ERA above four that year.  Whatever; he’s another option, and a bullpen built around options and flexibility is a bullpen poised to win a championship.  Besides, we still have Paps, Bard, Ramirez, and a hopefully healthy Delcarmen.  I think we’ll be okay.

We also acquired Boof Bonser from the Twins for pitching prospect Chris Province.  Bonser isn’t great.  He has a career ERA above five and missed all of last season due to labrum and rotator cuff tears.  But he adds depth to the staff; he’ll have a chance to try for a depth spot in the rotation.  But more likely, think of him as 2010’s Paul Byrd but with one conspicuous difference: the name.  The Boston Red Sox now have a pitcher named “Boof.” Add this to Red Sox Nation’s to-do list for the offseason: preparing to take Boof Bonser seriously come April.

The Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson.  Let’s remind ourselves that this was no feat of business managerial genius.  The Tigers, affected by Detroit’s suffering economy, couldn’t carry his salary anymore.  That’s the theme of this offseason for them; they lost Edwin Jackson, too.  They got four players in return who aren’t as good as either and probably never will be.  It’s a sad situation, but one the rest of the baseball world is taking note of.  Point being that if you’re in need of some talent but want it on the cheap through trade, talk to Detroit.  I’ll bet they’d be willing to listen.

And perhaps most importantly, the Jason Bay plot thickens.  Our offer of four years worth sixty million dollars was rejected because he wants a fifth year.  But we’ve publicly stated our commitment to not offering a fifth year; in fact, we’ve said that if someone else offers him a fifth year, we’re just going to assume that he’s leaving Boston and that’s it.  So far, the Mets haven’t done so; their offer was comparable to ours.  The Mariners are also unlikely to offer the fifth year; they’re more interested in keeping Beltre or signing Lackey.  The Angels have more or less dropped out in order to focus on pitching.  And the Yankees just acquired Granderson.  So more waiting seems to be in line.  Bay wanted to test the free agent market, and he’s testing it.  He’s looking for something specific and good luck to him trying to find it.  I’d rather watch him walk away than break the bank.  In fact, if he doesn’t take a more flexible approach, he could find himself in a bind, because guess who’s also a free agent: Matt Holliday.  And guess who the Red Sox are also interested in: Matt Holliday.  Holliday played pretty well for Oakland.  He struggled at the plate initially, which is to be expected from a guy coming over from not only the National League but Coors Field, with all that thin air.  (Which is something you have to keep in mind when looking at Holliday’s career stats, by the way.) In the end, I agree with Curt Schilling: I’d go with Bay because he’s been tested and proven.  All I’m saying is that the presence of Holliday, who unfortunately is represented by Boras, could soften Bay up a bit (in addition to jacking up his own paycheck because until Bay cuts teams some slack, Holliday would effectively be considered the only available elite left-fielder).  So could our reported interest in Mike Cameron, who would be more than happy to switch from center to left for us.  That’s not likely, but it’s a possibility.  But we’d only seriously consider him after both Bay and Holliday become unavailable, and something tells me that may not be an issue.

Casey Kelly has made a decision: he’s going to pitch.  No more shortstop for him.  I completely agree.  The mound will write his one-way ticket to the big leagues; if he decided to play short, we’d be talking a two-way.

Welcome to NESN, Peter Gammons! He signed a multiyear contract as a regular studio analyst and reporter.  This is fantastic.  Personally, I always thought it was funny that such a prominent representative of Red Sox Nation reported for ESPN, which doesn’t have a major presence in Boston.  Well, the world rights itself eventually, I guess.  And I’ll tell you one thing: Peter Gammons must be thrilled, because any television network is better than ESPN for baseball analysts.  I mean, have you seen “Baseball Tonight?” (If you have, let me applaud you for somehow finding out when it’s on TV.) It’s over by the time it starts, so the analysts never have time to convey any real information.  It really makes you appreciate NESN.

Congratulations to Bill James, who’ll receive the Judge Emil Fuchs Memorial Award for “long and meritorious service to the game.” He’ll be in good company; Hank Aaron and Jim Rice have also received it.  And Bill James definitely deserves it after revolutionizing baseball with his sabermetric approach.  I’m telling you: this game, let alone our team, wouldn’t be where it is today without him.

The Bruins beat the Leafs, 5-2, but lost to the Isles in sudden death.  How we can score five goals against the Leafs and lose to the Isles is beyond me.  The Leafs and Isles are comparable teams, with the Isles only two points ahead.  (Can you believe that? The New York Islanders are third in their division.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that the Flyers are at the bottom of the barrel, but I never would’ve expected the Islanders to be anywhere but under the whole conference.) We’ve dropped to second, by the way.  Two points behind the Sabres.  We should get back up within the coming days.  The Patriots lost to the Dolphins by a point.  A point! The final score was 22-21! It was just awful.  That’s our fourth loss this season and our second in a row.  It pains me to say this, but the Pats are officially on a losing streak.  That must be stopped.

ArmchairGM

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