Champions on Display MLB

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Not As Strange As It Seemed For Sox and Yankees

So in reading Aviv's piece about all the problems the Yankees have going into 2014, it was cool to see him work the old Strat-o-Matic game into the piece. I had a copy as well when I was younger. It's collecting dust in my parents' attic, next to my old Commodore 64.

Yes, I am old.

Anyway, it got me to thinking. One of the things that news organizations and/or websites like to do on the verge of a new season or major sporting event is to simulate the possible outcome. The NFL did this back in September (and refused to tell who won). For the World Cup next June, the Daily Mirror in the UK has predicted yet another win for Brazil. And you can find it for just about any event.

But what about simulating something that already happened? To see if the reality of a season matches up to what the computer program thought would happen.


Basically, I wanted to see if Boston's triumph and the Yankees descent to mediocrity would also play out on my computer screen. So, to that end I went online and purchased Out of the Park Baseball '14, which is about the best baseball simulator you can get on a PC. If you love stats and getting into the weeds when it comes to baseball, it's right up your alley.

I have seen predictions based on doing over 100 simulations of a season's possible outcome. I, sadly, do not have that kind of time. And if I did, I'd likely be doing something else with said time (tasting whisky in Scotland would be a much better endeavor). But I felt like doing only one simulation allowed for wild inaccuracies. So I compromised and simulated the 2013 season 10 times.

Emails Don't Clear A-Rod, But Put Levine In Hot Seat

None of it exonerates Alex Rodriguez. None of it takes the Yankees' embattled slugger off the hook. None of it makes A-Rod look any better.

The only thing it does is raise serious questions about Yankees president Randy Levine.

Over the weekend, New York magazine published a series of email exchanges between Rodriguez and Levine. It is fascinating reading, but lacking in anything close to clearing A-Rod.

During the climax of the arbitration hearing in front of arbitrator Fredric Horowitz in November, Rodriguez stormed out the hearing and his legal and public relations team then threatened show everything it had to the public. Among the things they said they were going to show was a series of email exchanges with Levine.

While we don't know for sure that these emails were leaked by Team A-Rod, if these are the messages Rodriguez wanted to make public, then he needs better representation.

Simply put, there is nothing there to show that A-Rod was not using performance enhancing drugs. There is nothing there to show A-Rod is the victim of a witch hunt. There is nothing there to show that A-Rod is a victim of anyone besides himself.

If anything, these emails would have been better served as leverage to gain some sort of plea bargain with MLB for a reduced suspension.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Yankees Still 'Asking All The Wrong Questions'

I wish I could say Grantland's Rany Jazaleri and Dave are wrong.*

But I can't

I wish I could show the combination of Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian Roberts give the Yankees a better lineup than the combination of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Chris Stewart, and likely Vernon Wells, who somehow played 130 games last season.

But they don't.

In 2009, I was able to show Dave how the signings of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett would reverse a trend of declining innings out of the Yankees' starting pitchers and end what had become an over-reliance on their bullpen. The Yankees won the World Series that year.

But this is not 2009. We're heading into the 2014 season and the Yankees have not come close to addressing their needs.

And sadly, as I was introducing my son to Strat-O-Matic Baseball while we were snowed in last weekend, it occurred to me why the Yankees are in such trouble.

To borrow a quote from "Moneyball," the Yankees' "thinking is medieval." They still "are asking all the wrong questions."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why the Yankees Won't be Competitive Going Forward...Why Boston Will

There is an excellent, excellent piece at Grantland by Rany Jazaleri that covers why the most successful franchise in the history of Major League Baseball will be distinctly mediocre in the future.

Rany goes into deep detail about why this is. How the Yankees over-performed last season. How paying hundreds of millions of dollars for Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury almost makes up for losing Robinson Cano. How this Yankee team is amazingly, amazingly old. In fact, they were the only team in MLB last season with a roster than had an average age of 31 or higher. Signing a 30-year-old Ellsbury actually makes the Yankees younger.

Members of the Yankees' 2014 lineup

But the biggest reasons lie in two areas. First, the well-known Yankee penchant for signing or trading for big-name players. When they sign them as free agents, they lose draft picks. When they trade for them, the Yankees give up whomever happens to be the best players in their farm system at that time. The result is a barren farm system that cannot supplement an aging team with any comparable level of talent. As Rany points out:

There also isn't enough talent on the way. You'll notice that, in this entire article, I've yet to mention a single prospect or rookie who's ready to step in for the Yankees, giving them upside and youth in a nice, payroll-cleansing package. That's because they don't have any. While the Red Sox have Bogaerts and Bradley ready, the Rays have a full season of Wil Myers in store, the Blue Jays have Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, and the Orioles have the electric Manny Machado along with pitchers Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, the Yankees have … bubkes. No rookies, no second-year players who might take a step forward. Their farm system is terribly weak; Jason Parks, the chief prospect guru for Baseball Prospectus, recently described it as "[Double-A catcher] Gary Sanchez and a list of interchangeable prospects with reliever profiles or bench futures." By comparison, the Red Sox's farm system is so deep that, according to Baseball America's Ben Badler, they may have as many as 10 of the top 100 prospects in baseball.

And he isn't wrong about the Boston system. Living outside of Portland, ME I get to see these guys. And there is some major talent that will be hitting Boston in the next couple of years.

And that leads the the second reason why the Yankees are going to slide and slide hard. And it's almost easy to miss. Rany mentions it towards the end of his piece but it is important and I think is the over-arching reason why this is happening. Again, from Rany:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Year Ago

A year ago I was sitting at my desk at work when the first alert came across for an active shooter situation in Newtown, Conn.

Wait! What? Newtown? My colleagues and I were just at a restaurant there the night before for a surprise birthday party for our boss.

A short time later, the bulletin flashed. Shots had been fired at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Could this really be happening less than 15 miles from where I work? From where I grew up? It didn't seem possible. Still doesn't. Stuff like that doesn't happen in towns like Newtown. The news reports had to be wrong. It must have been the work of the overzealous media, all too eager to break the story first, facts be damned.

It just couldn't be real.

Except it was.

Slowly the details filtered out ... and the e-mails, texts, Facebook messages came in. Multiple dead. Teachers. Children.

By the time it was time to go home, the timeline of events of that dark, awful morning had been put together. Six brave educators and 20 innocent children slain at the hand of a mentally ill man who had gotten his hands on a small arsenal of guns.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Top Five Trades for the Red Sox

As the Winter Meetings come to an end with the Red Sox standing pat (which is a good thing), why not look back on what I think are the top five trades the Red Sox have made. This is, of course, a subjective list and your opinions may differ.

I tried to weigh impact and individual performance, which is why Joe Cronin and Lefty Grove aren't on the list. As good as they were, Grove's best years were already behind him and Cronin made more of an impact as a manager than as a player. And yes, this list is very top heavy with moves within the last 20 years or so. That is a reflection of just how piss-poor this team was at trading for players over most of it's existence. Hell, the entire 1920s is an apocalypse.

Honorable Mention. Red Sox trade Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ivan De Jesus, James Loney, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands (August 25, 2012): Who the Sox got back in this deal wasn't the big win (although Webster and De La Rosa have some upside). It was dumping over $270M worth of contracts on the Dodgers to get into a position to improve the team. Without this trade, the Sox never sign Victorino, Napoli and Gomes, let alone win the World Series. They don't get to where they are today. They would be, and it may hurt someone else who writes here to hear it, the Yankees. Weighed down with players past their prime getting too much money.

5. Red Sox trade Gordon Rhodes, George Savino and $150,00 to the Philadelphia A's for Jimmy Foxx and Johnny Marcum(December 10, 1935): Rhodes would go 9-20 for the A's in 1936 and then drop out of the league while Savino never made it to the best of my knowledge. Marcum went 26-30 over three years for the Sox, but obviously this trade was all about Double-X. Foxx was a six-time All-Star in his tenure with the Sox, and won the MVP award in 1938. If it wasn't for the ridiculous talent level of the Yankees, Foxx and Williams likely would've gotten the Sox into the World Series in 1939. He was a phenomenal ballplayer and the Sox got him for nothing.

4. Red Sox trade Reggie Smith and Ken Tatum to the St. Louis Cardinals for Rick Wise and Bernie Carbo (October 26, 1973): Without this trade, who knows if 1975 holds as much meaning for Sox fans as it does today. Both Wise and Carbo would play a huge role in Boston's fortunes that year; Wise went 19-12 and Carbo knocked in 50 RBIs with an .891 OPS. And both played critical roles in Game Six of the World Series; Wise got the win that night and Carbo hit the three-run shot in the 8th that set the stage for Fisk's iconic blast in the 12th. What about Smith and Tatum, you ask? Reggie Smith went on to a pretty successful career. He went to five more All-Star games and won a title with the Dodgers in 1981. Ken Tatum? He was out of the game after the '74 season.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hey Grandy! I Got Your 'True New Yorker' Right Here!

I was going to opine about Joe Torre's election to the Hall of Fame, but then a certain former New York Yankee outfielder had to open his mouth and talk some smack.

Torre certainly is a worthy selection for the Hall, and the decision by the Veterans' Committee to elect Torre along with Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa was a stroke of genius. The induction of the that trio of the greatest managers in the history of the game is going to make for a special day in Cooperstown next summer.

But then Curtis Granderson decided to a shot across the bow of Yankee Universe during his introductory news conference with the crosstown New York Mets.

Associated Press
Addressing the media at baseball's Winter Meetings on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Granderson said:

"A lot of people I've met in New York have always said that true New Yorkers are Mets fans. So I'm excited to get a chance to see them all out there."

Oh, really? True New Yorkers are Mets fans? And, what? Yankees fans are imported from Hop Bottom, Pa.? C'mon!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Winter Wonderland For Cherington and the Sox

Going into the winter meetings last year, Boston had numerous holes to fill. Having gotten out from paying over a quarter of a billion dollars worth of contracts (thanks to the Dodgers' largess), they had the flexibility to look around and target key players.

Over the next few weeks, they would sign a few guys named Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino. They picked up a reliever by the name of Uehara.

I think they did pretty well last year for Boston.

This year Boston is in a much better position. Not only are they coming off a World Series championship, but they won that title in what many considered a "bridge" year. Their player contracts are well-structured, keeping them from having another Carl Crawford-esque albatross around their neck. Young players came up and contributed, making a case to be regulars going into 2014.

So Boston enters these winter meetings looking to tweak the roster rather than rework it. That allows them to deal from a position of strength; if they don't want to give away the farm to get one player, they don't have to. And they don't have to sign a pricey free agent to fill a position if the financials don't work.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Yankees Have Become MLB's Version Of Florida

Jerry Seinfeld once said that "Florida is where old people go to die." (No, Mom, I'm not saying you're old. Dad, maybe, but not you.)

But if that's the case, does that mean the Yankees are where old baseball players go to squeeze out the last days of their playing careers?

Have the New York Yankees become the Florida of Major League baseball?

With Friday's signing Carlos Beltran, who will turn 37 in April, and the re-signing of 38-year-old Hiroki Kuroda, it sure is starting to look that way.

Friday, December 6, 2013

For Cashman, Yanks, an #EPICFAIL

If there was one thing that was an absolutely must for Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees this offseason, it was to re-sign Robinson Cano.

Not only was Cano the Yankees' best player, he is one of the best players in the game ... and he also happened to be the best player on the free agent market this offseason.

And on a gray, rainy Friday in the Northeast that turned very black, Cano agreed to a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.

Whenever your team loses it's best player, it hurts. It especially hurts coming off a year in which your offense struggled to score runs and your minor league system failed to produce anyone capable of helping Cano.

And that's not the biggest problem. Last season, the Yankees' infield was decimated by injuries, leaving Cano as the only infielder capable of producing at a high level. Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter should be back and healthy next season, but no one can be sure that they will return to pre-injury production. And there there's Alex Rodriguez, who may not even see the field this season if his 211-game suspension is upheld.

But we'll deal with what it will take to replace to Cano on another day. Today is about how the Yankees failed to keep their best player. How they utterly botched this negotiation.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fare Thee Well, Ellsbury

So it's official. Jacoby Ellsbury will be wearing pinstripes. The Yankees have signed him to a seven-year, $153M deal with an eighth-year option.

It's not surprising that Ellsbury has left. The vibe that Ellsbury would be looking for the best deal has been around the past couple of years. Boras as his agent only reinforced that. And for various reasons I laid out last November, I never really expected the Sox to pay out over $20M a year to keep him in Boston.

I should also point out here that I don't blame Ellsbury at all for taking this deal. He's a free agent and he wants to get the most money that he can. And if a team is crazy enough to give him over $20M a year, he should grab that deal with both hands.

What I didn't expect was for the Yankees to be the team that signed him. If only because center field isn't a particular hole they need to fill. And that signing a 30-year-old position player to that long a deal is the kind of mistake they've already made.

To make this point, here are two players and their 2013 stats:
Player A: 134 Games Played | 172 H | 53 RBI | .781 OPS | 246 TB | 5.8 WAR | .992 Fielding Percentage | 347 Putouts

Player B: 145 Games Played | 147 H | 52 RBI | .759 OPS | 224 TB | 4.2 WAR | .991 Fielding Percentage | 327 Putouts

A is, of course, Jacoby Ellsbury. B is Yankees center-fielder Brett Gardner. Ellsbury is a better player...but not by much. And he isn't $17M+ better, which is the gap between the paycheck each man gets. Essentially, the Yankees just paid out over $150M for a player they already have.

And What About Cano?

So let's the this straight.

Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees have no problems giving a soon-to-be 30-year-old, injury-prone catcher whose offensive production has been in decline and has an average WAR of 1.9 over the last three years a five-year, $85 million contract with a vesting option for a sixth year. But it's Brian McCann, so it's OK to give him a bad contract.

Then on Monday the Yankees had no problems giving a 30-year-old, injury-prone outfielder whose game is based on speed and who has failed to play in even 75 games in two of the last four years a seven-year, $153 million contract, surpassing the disastrous seven-year, $142 million deal that the Red Sox gave Carl Crawford. But it's Jacoby Ellsbury, and even though he's had only one season in which he's even cracked double digit homers, it's perfectly fine to give him a contract that has nuclear meltdown written all over it.

But when it comes to Robinson Cano, the Yankees' own player who just happens to be by far the best player on the free agent market, Cashman claims to have found religion, and is holding a firm line at seven year at $25 million per year. Despite the fact that Cano has had no injury issues and has maintained his production at age 31, the Yankees have decided that it's not OK to overspend on arguably the best second baseman of this generation. It's not OK give him a contract that will turn bad in the end.

Seriously? If there is one free agent on the market who is worthy of a mega-deal, it's Cano, but all the Yankees can do is play a dangerous game with him.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

So Long, Salty. Say Hi to A.J.

The news is that the Red Sox have signed A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year/$8.25M deal.

This, as opposed to the Yankees signing Brian McCann to a 6-year/$waytoomany contract, is a good deal.

Here is the blunt truth about Saltalamacchia: he is a serviceable catcher. His average WAR over the last three years is 1.8: that is on the cusp of the substitute/starter divide. Last year he was paid $4.5M. He wants a minimum three year deal, which the Sox don't want to do (more on why in a second). And thanks to the McCann deal, he'd likely want double what he got last year over those years. The latest rumor has Miami looking to ink Salty to a four-year deal. Now, do you think he is worth four years and $36M? Me neither.

Pierzynski has averaged a 1.7 WAR over the last three years. And while Salty's bat has been better, A.J. has the better glove behind the plate. So you get essentially the same player for fewer years and less money. Not bad. But the other question is why? Why move Salty along and bring in Pierzynski for just a year.

The answer: to not block the position for up-and-coming youngsters.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Schilling for the HOF?

This year's ballot for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame is going to be crowded. There are three first-timers that are all but guaranteed admittance to the Hall:
  • Greg Maddux
  • Frank Thomas
  • Tom Glavine
If any of those three men don't make it in the first ballot, it would make a mockery of the voting process. Two 300+ win pitchers and one of the greatest hitters in recent memory.

Then there are the guys who didn't make it in last year who should make it. Craig Biggio almost made it (68.2% of the vote last year). Jeff Bagwell has to be in there; even though suspicions of PED use exist he was never caught up in any scandal and never tested positive. Other players like Mike Piazza and Tim Raines will likely make it in at some point, if not this year.

And you have the guys coming to the end of their rope. The debate about whether Jack Morris is HOF-worthy has raged for years. Well, this is it unless the veterans put him on a future ballot. Mattingly is on his 14th ballot. My guess is neither of these guys make it in.

And let's not get started on the PED Brigade of Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and McGwire.

All this noise will likely keep two more deserving players out of the Hall for at least this year. Aviv rightly noted that Mike Mussina's numbers are good enough to make it. And I think it is worth noting that Curt Schilling should also be there at some point.

Last year Schilling received 38.8% on the ballot - a solid first year performance. And while that kind of base is no guarantee of entry (Lee Smith is still waiting on his 12th ballot), he should see that number go up.

Schilling does have a couple of things going against him. He never won a Cy Young award, despite finishing twice in the voting three times. He never had a sustained period of dominance over a number of years like Pedro did from 1997-2000, or Maddux's four straight (!) Cy Young wins from 1992-95. His 216 wins place him only 82nd on the all-time win list. And his .597 career win-loss percentage ranks him 128th all-time.

But that can be deceiving. His win percentage is still above Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan, amongst others. Those 216 wins still put him ahead of HOFers like Bob Lemon, Sandy Koufax and Dizzy Dean.

Eventually Hall Will Make Moose Call

Of all the players who are on the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot, which was unveiled last week, there is no one more intriguing than Mike Mussina.

Among the players not tainted by the stain of PEDs on this ballot, there is perhaps no player who sits more firmly of the bubble between the Hall of Very Good and the Hall of Fame than Mussina.

Joining Mussina as first-timers on the ballot are Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who both should be locks to be elected this year, as well as Jeff Kent and Frank Thomas. Other candidates who received a high percent of votes last year are Craig Biggio (68.2 percent), Jack Morris (67.7 percent), Jeff Bagwell (59.6 percent) and Mike Piazza (57.8 percent). Also on the ballot are PED lepers Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

A player needs 75 percent of the vote cast by voting members of BBWAA to receive enshrinement.

Now Mussina is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Mussina getting on the first ballot is about as likely to happen as Fox News coming to understand that it's not really all that "Fair and Balanced."

In other words, it's not going to happen.

Monday, November 25, 2013

McCann deal should remind Sox to keep clear of Kemp

I would have had this up earlier, but I was too busy laughing about the 5-year, $85M deal the Yankees gave Brian McCann. This would be the same Brian McCann who has an average WAR of 1.9 over the last three years. To compare, Saltalamacchia's average WAR over the last three years is 1.8. Would you pay Salty $17M a year? Me neither.

But this deal is instructive for Boston. Because it points out the danger in paying for past performance. From 2006-2010, McCann was one of the better catchers in baseball. Averaged a 3.5 WAR, had an OPS of .856 and was decent on defense.

From 2011-13, McCann has the aforementioned average of 1.9 WAR, an OPS of .770 and is still just decent on defense. The Yankees are paying for 2006-10 McCann, a player that no longer exists.

And that brings us to Boston and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp. With Jacoby Ellsbury still likely to go, the Sox have to fill in a gap in the outfield. I think the best plan is to bring Jackie Bradley, Jr. into center field. He has a better glove than Ellsbury but a weaker bat. Slot him in at the 9-spot in the batting order and see if he can make the position his own.

But Ben Cherington is going to do his due diligence and that means looking at potential people to bring in. And Kemp is one of those guys. He is owed $126M over the next six years. And with a surfeit of outfielders (and a bloated payroll), the Dodgers would likely be willing to move him.

The problem here is two-fold. First is that the Sox would have to likely give up at least one top talent in their farm system. Which would be ridiculous. So let's take that out of the equation and pretend this is a straight free-agent signing with the existing money as the deal. So the second problem is this: Is Matt Kemp really worth six years and $126M at this point in his career?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Fleecing In The Bronx

P.T. Barnum once said "There's a sucker born every minute."

On Saturday, Brian McCann found his sucker in the Bronx.

The New York Yankees signed McCann, the former Atlanta Braves catcher who will be 30 by Opening Day, to a five-year, $85 million contract with a vesting option that would push the deal to $100 million, a full no-trade clause, and the keys to the corporate jet.

This is a bad contract for the Yankees and during Year 3 of the deal they will come to realize exactly why.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Enough Already, A-Rod!

I am no fan of Alex Rodriguez. I never have been and I never will be. He's arrogant, self-centered, oblivious and phony.

That said, I've tried to be fair with him. Afterall, most things and people are rarely all good or all bad. Truth is rarely black or white. So when A-Rod deserved praise, I didn't hesitate.

A-Rod, however, was way out of line on Wednesday when he stormed out of an arbitration hearing after arbitrator Frederic Horowitz ruled that commissioner Bud Selig did not have to testify. Rodriguez described the process as disgusting. He behaved like a spoiled, petulant brat and did nothing to help his cause. And I find it highly unlikely that releasing the hearing's evidence, as A-Rod's attorneys said on Thursday they would do, will help help the third baseman's cause.

Simply put, it's time for Rodriguez to put an end to this circus. Enough already.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Getting ready for the Rule V Draft

If there is one thing that has always baffled me in baseball (besides the complete inability of the Tampa Bay area to properly support their baseball team), it's the Rule V draft. So I did something radical this year - I actually took the time to read up on it.

To go over it quickly, the Rule V draft is in place to keep teams from hoarding young talent that may be able to play elsewhere in the majors. So each November every team assembles a 40-man roster. This roster serves two purposes. Anyone on the roster can be called up to the major-league squad at any time during the season. It also allows the team to protect as many Rule V-eligible players as there are slots on the 40-man roster.

So what makes a player eligible in the Rule V draft, which will be held in December? It's actually pretty simple:
  • The player is not currently on their team's 40-man roster
  • They were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or
  • they were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.
If Team A takes a Rule V player from Team B, A pays B $50,000. Team A must also keep the player on their 25-man roster for the full season. If they do not, they must offer to sell back the player to Team B for $25,000. There are similar processes in place for players going from AA to AAA and from A to AA.

That's about it. And while you don't see All-Stars usually develop from Rule V selections, it can happen. The most famous player is the legendary Roberto Clemente, who was taken from the Dodgers by the Pirates in 1954. The next biggest names would be Johan Santana (from the Astros to the Twins in 1999) and current Sox outfielder Shane Victorino (from the Dodgers to the Phillies in 2004)*.

So where does Boston stand as the 2013 Rule V draft approaches? According to ESPN Boston, here are the Sox prospects eligible to go into the draft:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

'What The Hell Did You Trade Jay Buhner For?'

After watching the Red Sox capture a well-earned World Series championship, I knew it was going to be long, tough winter. While I congratulate Red Sox Nation on winning their third title in 10 years, there isn't much worse than having to listen to the likes of Dave crow about it.

Seriously, I'd rather shovel out from under another 36-inch snowfall like we had in February. It took a couple of days of shoveling and three more days of heating pads to loosen up my back, but that's still better than listening to Red Sox fans.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Okay Sox fans...let's take a step back

Two things usually happen once a team wins a championship.

First, there is celebration. This is to be expected. Especially when a team over-performs the way the Red Sox did to win the World Series in 2013.

Secondly, there is expectation. The looking forward to the new season. Expectation of the successes and new faces that may be seen in Fenway in 2014.

The first one is harmless and enjoyable. The second is perilous and even deadly to a franchise.

One thing needs to be remembered. Needs to be acknowledged. Needs to said over and over again:

Teams normally do not win titles year after year after year. Especially when they over-performed to do it in the first place.

Chris Carlson/AP

The last team to win back-to-back World Series titles? The Yankees did a three-peat from 1998-2000, a run tainted by the steroid scandal. Before that? Toronto in 1992-93. And they haven't been the same since. In the modern era, where a name player commands an excessive amount of money (in free agency) or too much young talent (in trade), pursuing even middle-tier names in a quest to win year after year after year will only put your team in a deep, deep hole. Which is why Anaheim will pay Albert Pujols $23M next year and will still be paying him six years later at the age of 40 while winning nothing. Which is why the Yankees finished in fourth place and have a fading farm system and expensive aging veterans. Which is why the Dodgers are on the hook for $197.8M in 2014 with a team that was lucky to win the NLDS.

The goal of any team, in my opinion, shouldn't be to win the title every year. That isn't rational. It should be to be competitive every year so that you are in position to win a title if players catch fire and/or you get a few breaks along the way. And that means building a team that is flexible in players and in spending. It means building your farm system and not trading away the best youngsters to pursue a "name" player that may not even pay off.

And that brings us to the off-season and Boston.

I wrote already about the possibility of Tim Hudson coming to Boston and the dangers with that idea. There is buzz about the Sox passing on trying to re-sign Salty and instead shelling out $10M per year for Carlos Ruiz. Because who doesn't want to spend $10M a year on a 35-year-old catcher who served a suspension for amphetamine use?

But the latest one that really bugs me is the rumor highlighted by Chad Finn at about Angels OF/1B/3B Mark Trumbo.

As you can probably tell, it drives me nuts when someone on my radio or in my inbox suggests the Sox should pursue Giancarlo Stanton or Trumbo, which is like saying you'll pay the same amount for a classic Corvette or your weird aunt's '82 Chevette.

I mean, I heard one radio host say this week that the Red Sox should offer the Angels Middlebrooks and lefthander Felix Doubront for Trumbo. Said it seriously, too, completely unaware that Middlebrooks straight up for Trumbo would essentially be a wash without including the cost-effective 26-year-old lefthander who strikes out a batter per inning and just played an enormous if unheralded role in helping win the World Series.

Read the whole thing. Finn points out that Trumbo's numbers are not that much better than Will Middlebrooks, and that he is three years older and costs a hell of a lot more. Which are very important things to keep in mind.

But it is the last part of that blockqoute that really irks me. The idea that Doubront should be added in.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Five Best First Basemen In Red Sox History

There shouldn't be too many surprises here, except for the fact that George Scott didn't make the list (his salad years were with the Brewers, not Boston). The years listed are the years they played the position, not their total time in Boston.

5. Pete Runnels (1961-62): Runnels played five years in all with the Sox (1958-62) but spent the first three years at second base. When he moved to first, he continued his high level of play. In 1961 he batted .317 with an .810 OPS. In 1962 he made the All-Star team and was top 20 in the MVP voting. He batted .326 (leading the AL) with an .864 OPS and scored 80 runs while knocking in 60. After that season, Runnels was traded to the Houston Colt .45s*, spent a season-plus there and was released in early 1964. He passed away in 1991 at the age of 63 and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004.

4. Kevin Youkilis (2006-2010): Of all the Sox players I have watched, Youk is the only one I saw at every level of his development in the Boston organization (Lowell, Portland, The Bucket, Boston). And while you always knew he'd make the majors, I had no idea he would have been as good as he was, for as long as he was.

From 2006-10, Youk committed just 13 errors at first base. He held the all-time MLB record for most consecutive games at first without an error until Casey Kotchman broke it in 2010**. He won the Gold Glove for 1B in 2007 and went to the All-Star game twice at the position. His bat caught up to his glove in 2008 with a breakout year; 29 homers, 115 RBI, a .312 batting average and a .959 OPS, making him a contender for AL MVP*** and was in the top 10 for MVP voting in 2009. Over his seven years as the primary first baseman for Boston his average WAR (wins above replacement) was 4.25. For a three year period (2008-10) it was 6.1. At his peak he was one of the all-time best.

3. Mo Vaughan (1991-98): If you came of age in the 90s and were a Sox fan, the one constant on the team was Mo Vaughan. Between his debut in 1991 and his last year in Boston in 1998, the entire roster changed over except for Vaughan. The reason for that was simple; the guy could play.

Vaughan won the AL MVP award in 1995 and was Top 25 in voting six consecutive years (1993-98). Vaughan was a three time All-Star (1995-96, 98) and won the Silver Slugger award for 1B in 1995. From 1993-98 Vaughan never hit below .300, hit 26+ homers each year, averaged 110.5 RBI per season and always had an OPS of .915 or higher. He didn't have the best glove at first but was solid. Most importantly, he was beloved by Sox fans and still is to this day. Partially because of his running feud with Dan Shaughnessy but mostly because of the time he took to interact with fans and perform charity work on a level rarely seen in professional sports.

We all know it didn't go well for Mo after left Boston, but today he is continuing to do good work for the community. He owns OMNI New York LLC, a company that buys and rehabs housing in and around NYC, then turns it into low-cost housing. As great a player as Mo was, he is an even better man****.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tim Hudson in Boston? It makes no sense.

So there is a persistent rumor that the Red Sox are interested in Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson to bolster the pitching rotation.

On it's face, it sounds intriguing. After all, Hudson has won over 200 games in his 15-year career. He has never had a losing season as a pitcher (the closest he ever got was going 13-12 in 2006). He has averaged 188 innings per season. His career ERA+ is 124 and he has averaged 3.7 WAR per season. Those are impressive numbers.

But go back to those last three words in the second sentence: "15-year career".

Tim Hudson is 37 years old. And the pitcher he is now isn't the same pitcher he used to be.

Here are three stat lines from last year:

Pitcher A: 8-7 | 3.97 ERA | 21 GS | 131.1 IP | ERA+ 97 | 1.188 WHIP | 95 K | 36 W | 1.0 WAR

Pitcher B: 11-6 | 4.32 ERA | 27 GS | 162.1 IP | ERA+ 94 | 1.429 WHIP | 139 K | 71 W | 0.9 WAR

Pitcher C: 8-9 | 4.57 ERA | 29 GS | 171.1 IP | ERA+ 89 | 1.453 WHIP | 157 K | 79 W | -0.2 WAR

A is Tim Hudson. B is Felix Doubront. C is Ryan Dempster. I included those two pitchers for a reason. That simply being that if Hudson were to come to Boston, he'd replace one of these two guys. Because the Lester/Lackey/Buchholz triumvirate is going nowhere and Peavy was good enough to keep under contract for another year.

Signing Hudson to replace Doubront makes absolutely no sense. While Hudson does have a better ERA and WHIP, they are roughly the same pitcher at this point in their respective careers. Except Doubront is trending up and Hudson is moving down. Doubront is also under Boston's control until 2018. And that matters. A lot.

What also matters is money. Doubront isn't arbitration-eligible until 2015. He made a little over $500K last year. Tim Hudson is a free-agent who made $9M last year. He'd likely command a similar number in 2014. That money could be used by the Sox to extend other players or bring in a mid-tier free agent to solidify another position.

Replacing Doubront (25 years old) with Hudson (37) would be a huge mistake. It would be signing a player because of his name, a Carl Crawford kind of signing. His performance last year and the money he would want relative to Doubront should make that obvious.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Five Best Designated Hitters in Red Sox History

In honor of David Ortiz's Silver Slugger award and the all-around awesomeness of the 2013 season, let's take a look at the five best DHs ever for the Sox.

5. Reggie Jefferson (1997-99): Reggie wasn't a great DH, but he was solid. He hit over .300 in 1997-98 and averaged a .827 OPS over the three-year span. He also hit 26 homers and drove in 115 runs during that time.

4. Cecil Cooper (1974-76): It still chafes me that we traded away Cooper right before he became a perennial All-Star for the Brewers. You don't think his bat would've come in handy in 1978? In his three years as DH, he improved each year in home runs and RBIs. His three-year OPS is lower than Jefferson's (.794) but Cooper played a lot more games. All told, Cooper had 37 homers and 165 RBIs over that period. Then he was traded to the Brewers.

3. Mike Easler (1984-85) and Don Baylor (1986-87): I honestly couldn't pick one over the other. Their numbers are very similar. Easler had a combined 43 homers and 165 RBIs in his two-year stint; Baylor had 47 homers and 151 RBIs. Don Baylor averaged a .771 OPS over his two-year period; Easler's was .814. But Baylor's numbers were steady across the two years while Easler had a great year in 1984 but dropped off severely in 1985. If you absolutely had to pick one for the spot, you may have to go with Easler. But they're close enough I thought both deserved a mention.

2. Carl Yastrzemski (1979-83): If you go position by position, Yaz could be named in Top 5 at three of them; first base, left field and DH. The DH was where Yaz finished his career and it's the one I associate most with him (I saw my first Sox game in '78 at the age of six). Even though he continue to play first and left to some extent during the first couple of years, he finished it as a pure DH.

During those five years Yaz went to the All-Star game three times. He totaled a combined 69 home runs and 318 RBIs. That means he averaged almost 14 homers and 64 RBIs a year, all between the ages of 39 and 43. Without any drugs, mind you. His average OPS over that span was .766, not the greatest...but he was in his forties! There are kids in their 20s playing now that couldn't do what Yaz did at 41. And there's the whole Hall of Fame recognition that adds to the luster.

1. David Ortiz (2003-Whenever He Wants): But Big Papi is still the best DH this team has ever had. This past year, at age 37, he totaled 30 homers, 103 RBI and an OPS of .959. During his 11-year (and counting) stint, Papi has amassed (to date) 373 homers and 1191 RBI. His average OPS is .962 and his average OPS+ is 148. He's won four Silver Slugger awards in a row (2004-07) and six overall. He is a nine-time All-Star. He was in the top 5 for MVP voting five straight years (2003-07) and just won the World Series MVP award. Just a dominant force at the plate when he bats. A home-run threat no matter the situation. Without a doubt one of the most "clutch"* hitters the Sox have ever had.


* And yes, I know there is a seemingly-eternal argument about whether "clutch" even exists and, if it does, would Ortiz even qualify. But as far as timely, big hits that change the course of the post-season go, you cannot deny that Ortiz has hit more than a couple.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is Jacoby Ellsbury worth a $140M Contract?

I ask that question somewhat facetiously because, in my opinion, no one is worth that kind of money. But GMs being who they are, that kind of money routinely gets paid out. Regardless of whether it makes any kind of sense.

No, the real question is "Should the Red Sox give Jacoby Ellsbury a $140M contract?" Because at the end of the day, some team will give Ellsbury a contract similar to what the Red Sox gave Carl Crawford not too long ago. A seven-year, $140M+ anchor disguised as a contract. And you should be able to tell from that last statement where I land on this issue.

There are two players named Jacoby Ellsbury. The first Jacoby Ellsbury is this guy:
  • Year One: 153 Games | .770 OPS | 188 Hits | 94 Runs Scored | 60 RBI | 70 SB | .994 Fielding Percentage | 357 Putouts
  • Year Two: 153 Games | .928 OPS | 212 Hits | 119 Runs Scored | 105 RBI | 39 SB | 1.000 Fielding Percentage | 388 Putouts
  • Year Three: 153 Games | .781 OPS | 172 Hits | 92 Runs Scored | 53 RBI | 52 SB | .992 Fielding Percentage | 347 Putouts
The other Jacoby Ellsbury is this guy:
  • Year One: 18 Games | .485 OPS | 15 Hits | 10 Runs Scored | 5 RBI | 7 SB | 1.000 Fielding Percentage | 44 Putouts
  • Year Two: 74 Games | .682 OPS | 82 Hits | 43 Runs Scored | 26 RBI | 14 SB | .982 Fielding Percentage | 164 Putouts
The first Jacoby Ellsbury is an All-Star caliber center fielder. A gold-glove talent. The guy who would've won the 2011 MVP if Justin Verlander didn't have an insane season.

AP Photo

The second Jacoby Ellsbury is made of glass. He is a fragile player who is out of commission for large parts of a season. You cannot rely on him to even play half a season.

The inherent problem, obviously, is that you cannot sign the first Jacoby Ellsbury on his own. They are a package deal. And that makes the idea of giving him a long-term, big-money deal very problematic.

The Sox just got out from under $270M worth of bad contracts last year. To immediately tie up over 50% of that number in another long-term deal would only make sense if the player in question was a top-level player year-in and year-out. You look at someone like Miguel Cabrera. Going back to 2010, he will earn $126M over six years. But he has also averaged 155 games played per season since 2010 and has arguably been the best position player in the major leagues. You could make a rational argument (in the world of baseball and baseball salaries) to pay a player like that $20M a year.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Boston Goes From Chicken Wings to Title Rings

Basking in the wake of an improbable championship, it is easy to admit the obvious: No Red Sox fan thought they would win another title this year. I sure as heck didn't. Sure, a fan here and there may have taken a flier on a straight bet in Vegas, but no one really believed the Sox would win their eighth championship.

Getty Images

After an epic collapse in 2011 and the disastrous one-year reign of Bobby Valentine, 2013 was viewed by many as a rebuilding year in Boston. By shipping off the over-sized contracts of Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford to L.A. and bringing in "chemistry" guys like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, the expectation was for Boston to regain some level of respectability. Finish the season better than 81-81. Maybe, if everything broke right, they could sneak a wild card spot.

But this? This amazing, epic, incredible run? A season that has echoes of both 1967 and 1986 surrounding it? This was a season for the ages, perhaps even more impossible than the vaunted 1967 season. It shouldn't have happened...and yet it did.

It happened thanks to equal parts of good decision-making and good timing. The Sox laid the groundwork for this season in the debacle that was 2012. Jettisoning Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford to LA was a miracle move by Ben Cherington. No team should have rationally decided to take on $270M worth of contracts. But the new ownership in Dodgertown wanted to make a statement. And they did. That statement also enabled the Sox to clear the decks for 2013.

They took that money and signed up character veterans like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara and Jonny Gomes. The emergence of Xander Bogaerts allowed the Sox to use Jose Igelsias as trade bait to take on the salary of Jake Peavy (14.5M in 2014, 15M player option in 2015 if benchmarks are met) in a key mid-season trade.

The Toronto Blue Jays, after two consecutive fourth-place finishes, agreed to let John Farrell return to Boston as their new head coach along with swapping Mike Aviles for David Carpenter. Farrell was known for his touch with the pitching staff in Boston when he worked with Tito. Call it coincidence or direct effect, but Farrell's return meshed with a return to form for Boston pitching.