The NFL post-season officially began this evening, and the Patriots started off with a lil’ bit of gusto.
A surgically precise nuclear strike may be the effective description.
After a week of Tebowing in Tebowmania the clock struck midnight on Denver’s Cinderella story as their wunderkind anti-quarterback fall down go boom. Not that Tim Tebow played a completely inept game and certainly not that he was completely to blame, but Tom Brady came out looking like a first ballot Hall of Famer with something to prove.
Looking to win their first playoff game since the ‘magical’ run of 2007 versus San Diego, Brady threw for a touchdown to Wes Welker on the opening drive, setting up an NFL record five passing TD’s in the first half for the Pats who would score six passing TD’s over-all in a 45 to 10 rout.
As CBS’ Dan Marino said during the game’s halftime show, “The only way the Denver Broncos have a chance of coming back is if Brady goes and plays for the Broncos.”
The 6 passing touchdowns ties an NFL playoff record (The last quarterback to throw six touchdowns in a postseason game was San Francisco’s Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers) while Rob Gronkowski’s 3 TD receptions ties a record for the same playoff feat. Brady, with Gronkowski, Hernandez, Welker and Branch set team highs for playoff performances. The Defense played easily their most outstanding game of the entire season. It was a loud and very obvious statement not only to Denver but to the rest of the remaining playoff teams.
In other news:
In my first effort to mention new Sox manager Bobby V., here are some slightly interesting tidbits courtesy of ESPNBoston.com.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn’t sound overly impressed Saturday when assessing the Yankees’ quick-strike addition of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to their rotation. “They’re probably an upgrade from (Bartolo) Colon and (Freddy) Garcia. Probably. I don’t know. It seems it.” Valentine told the Providence Journal at a Jimmy Fund event in Boston. “Pineda, when I saw him the first half, he looked unhittable. Second half, he looked OK, (The Mariners) saw a lot of him and they traded him. Kuroda is a good pitcher — a year older than he was last year, pitching in the American League and not the National League, pitching in not a great pitcher’s ballpark (Yankee Stadium) from a great pitcher’s ballpark (Dodger Stadium).”
Valentine did make a couple of valid points there: Pineda had a 3.03 ERA and eight wins before the All-Star break and a 5.12 ERA and just one win after it; and Kiroda has a career 3-8 record and 4.33 ERA against American League opponents. One thing Valentine couldn’t argue was the Yankees’ rotation certainly got a lot deeper.
Also, Valentine did not confirm reports that the Red Sox had extended a spring training invite to catcher Jason Varitek, but he did mention Saturday he didn’t forsee a situation where either Varitek or veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield returned to the team without a role defined for them. “I couldn’t imagine having Wake come in and compete for a job, I can’t imagine that. Even ’Tek, for that matter. It’s not something I can imagine.” He called Varitek’s long-tenured situation with the club “unique” and said it “should be handled in a unique way.”
Varitek has not yet officially signalled his intention to retire.
Pedro Martinez had a message for the Red Sox on Friday night: They should not cut ties with Jason Varitek. Not now. Not ever. You have to keep him in Boston. He was our head, our captain. He should retire as a member of the Red Sox, and never leave.” Martinez said at a charity dinner in his honor at the Liberty Hotel. With former Sox general manager Dan Duquette in the audience, Martinez joked about resuming pitching in the big leagues for the Baltimore Orioles, where Duquette has landed as GM. Relating a story he said he’d never shared before, Duquette described how he and Martinez’s agent, Bob Gilhooly, came to terms on a new contract for Martinez at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. They made the deal, Duquette said, under pressure from members of the Secret Service, who with their search dogs were impatiently waiting for them to exit their suite so they could prepare it for a soon-to-be arriving guest — President Clinton. They got the deal done, Duquette said, thanks to a Secret Service agent who said he was from Maine. “I don’t know who this guy is,” the agent said to his superior, gesturing at Duquette, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, “but he’s trying to sign Pedro Martinez. The President of the United States can wait.”
Martinez expressed his unending affection for Boston and called winning the 2004 World Series and the parade that followed the highlight of his career.
Justin Verlander wins the American League Cy Young Award. Yep.
Joe Maddon takes Manager of the Year in the American League while former MVP Kirk Gibson takes it in the National League. I don’t think either of these was unexpected. Yes, many will whine and complain that Ron Washington and Tony LaRussa were more deserving, but this a regular season award and both Maddon and Gibson worked with teams that weren’t on anyone’s radar, especially the Rays who rebuilt nearly their entire bullpen.
The Miami Vice Marlins (having debuted their rather lame new uniforms and ‘Miami Vice’ logo) have made official and substantial offers to both Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols. Ozzie stands by the team’s offers saying that they aren’t just public relations moves, but serious offers. Word has it the Pujols offer could be just as substantial as the one presented by the Cardinals last off-season. with 8 to 9 years in the $220 million range.
So far, no surprises in the Hot Stove season.
The Red Sox are expected to meet with FA pitcher C.J. Wilson’s agent this evening or tomorrow, however given Wilson’s thoughts on a proposed contract in the $120 million plus range (for openers), I’m guessing the meeting will be more on Roy Oswalt, whom the agent also represents. They have also met with the agent for FA closer Fransisco Cordero (who’d prefer to return to the Reds) and are talking with the reps for Heath Bell. Brad Lidge (who has stated he’d accept a set-up/spot closer role) is also on the radar but for a more limited reclamation project contract. At this point, the Scarlett Hose need to get serious with their bullpen… Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves are both awaiting word (as both would prefer to start or close) and Bobby Jenks is still under contract. Aceves is incredibly valuable in his role as relief/spot starter which makes it harder, but settling the 7th/8th/Closer roles are obviously important. Now take into account the fact that the Sox don’t have a skipper yet and it just gets more screwed up.
On that note, Cherington hasn’t ruled anyone out yet and with our list matching the Cub’s list (minus Mike Maddux) that leaves us in limbo. With the ongoing questions of the bullpen, starting rotation and a few of the positions players (Youk.. trade for prospects and pitching or keep?), I’d have to believe the Sox need a manager in place fairly soon before the market gets heated up and top targets are still out there.
Tim Wakefield’s agent has noted that he has had some discussions with the Sox brass and would deem it a ‘shame’ if the veteran doesn’t return to Boston (also stating Wake wants another parade in Beantown). He also noted some unnamed National League interest in his client. Meanwhile, sources report an offer has been made to Big Papi however terms were not released.
The real intrigue of the off-season will be next week’s AL MVP announcement and the Justin Verlander argument.
As many of us in The Nation know, even if you did listen to all that Theo hype as he accepted the move to Chicago, Dan Duquette was the man who (seemingly under the cone silence) built the foundation for the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. Sure, Theo took her to the prom and Tito Francona helped deliver two of her children but Dan Duquette was the first to get into her pants and knock her up.
In a span of two days… a millisecond on the Hot Stove clock, Dan interviewed, re-interviewed, was offered and accepted the offer from the Baltimore Orioles to take over as chief of Baseball Operations / General Manager (full details not yet announced). Now, I think Double D is a smart baseball guy, sure he’s not too keen with the media (doesn’t have to be) but does his job and backs it up. Maybe that’s why I don’t quite get it.
First, let’s take a brief look at his credentials.
The Montreal Expositions: In 1987 he became Montreal’s director of player development and drafted players such as Marquis Grissom, Cliff Floyd and Rondell White while also signing Vladimir Guerrero, Javier Vazquez and Orlando Cabrera to name a few. Duquette replaced Dave Dombrowski as Expos’ GM in September of 1991, going on to acquire elite pitchers Ken Hill, John Wetteland, Jeff Shaw and traded for Pedro Martínez from the Dodgers for second baseman Delino DeShields. Duquette also built the infamous ’94 Expos team which had the best record in baseball at the time of the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike.
The Boston Red Stockings: Duquette became the GM of his hometown Red Sox and built a baseball operations department which was upgraded at every level during his tenure with favorites such as Nomar Garciaparra and Kevin Youkilis being drafted into the system. Other notable draftees included future MLB shortstops David Eckstein, Adam Everett and Hanley Ramirez as well as second baseman Freddy Sanchez. The Sox traded over 35 players in Duquette’s farm system to staff the team including LHP Jorge De la Rosa who was traded for Curt Schilling and the afore-mentioned Hanley Ramirez who was later traded to the Marlins for Josh Beckett. Duquette is also noted for several major acquisitions that would ultimately play a part in the Red Sox 2004 World Championship, including knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in 1995, Pedro Martínez acquired from Montreal in 1997 as well as the 1997 trade with Seattle for both pitcher Derek Lowe and All-Star catcher Jason Varitek, the free agent signings of Manny Ramírez in 2000 and Johnny Damon in December 2001…
… In 1996 Duquette signed Jaime Moyer to a free agent contract and then traded him to Seattle for outfielder Darren Bragg when manager Kevin Kennedy didn’t pitch him much and Moyer expressed he didn’t like playing in Boston. Moyer went on to win 139 games in just over 9 seasons with the Mariners and achieved over 250 wins in his career…
… Duquette is also famously known for his quote about Roger Clemens in which he said that “we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career” in 1996 after Clemens left as a free agent following a 39-40 record over his last four seasons pitching in Boston (Clemens remains under indictment for lying to Congress that he used performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) beginning in the period immediately following his departure from Boston to Toronto) …
… The free agency losses of Clemens and first baseman Mo Vaughn were major points of discontent amongst some Red Sox fans, while he also did not resign Jose Canseco or Mike Greenwell (all of which proved to be wise moves).
So, you take the good and take the bad and there you have Dan Duquette.
Now, Dan has been removed from MLB since he was relieved of his duties by the Red Sox in 2002 following the sale to John Henry & Co. from the JRY Trust… so one might wonder, why now? Was it all this ‘Theo’ talk which made the sports talk rounds and saw miles of footage on ESPN, MLB Network and so on? Is it envy to the fact that when the experts say “Theo inherited a great team…” that the same experts usually omit the ‘from Dan Duquette’ part? I only ask because it is a very well-known fact that the Baltimore Orioles are, in todays vernacular, a Hot Mess.
Peter Angelos has, on many occasions, been regarded as a baseball owner you don’t want to work for and backed up by the fact that supposedly one or two candidates just recently declined the team’s offer for the GM position. Since he took over the team and put ‘his stamp on it’ way back in 1993 the O’s have, for the most part, sucked. Aside from the consecutive playoff years of ’96 & ’97, the Orioles have done little more than show up and trade marketable talent to bigger market teams who can pay the younger rising stars. Sure they sign older, declining stars with a possible upside who might put a few a$$es in the seats, but have done little to surround them with talent.
However…. Double D is taking over a young and fairly potent Orioles team which has shown streaks of brilliance in the last two seasons. With Buck Showalter already in place he has a manager who has mentoring and seasoning the kids as needed and has them ready for a real push in 2012. Can he find the veteran peices to compliment them? Well, since the budget in O-Town doesn’t look to be expanding, Dan will have to use his documented prowess to trade (or in some cases steal) or sign a few of those possible Wakefields and Pedro’s.
Baseball in general, nevermind in front-office dynamics, has changed in his decade away. He’ll have a limited pocketbook and a meddling owner to deal with as he tries to turn one of baseball’s oldest teams around and feed a starved fan base who’s turned, ironically, to the former Montreal Expos franchise residing in Washington D.C. in the guise of the Nationals. I’d wish him luck, but he’s back in the AL East and that’s just too bad.
With nearly 200 Free Agents on the market this winter, there’s oodles of Hot Stove speculation, especially since The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs and both the Phillies and Yankees dropped out in the first round.
Looking at the list, here are a few FA’s that I feel the Sox should give consideration and in the order most of the experts have them ranked.
C.J. Wilson, SP: Wilson is the top pitcher in the market and deservedly so. He’s won 15 games the last two seasons as part of the Texas Rangers machine but fell apart in this years playoff run. The talent pool for starters is thin and Wilson will probably command a greater price tag than the $82 million or so both John Lackey and A.J. Burnett received, and that would be a lot for a guy who’d project as the 3rd or 4th starter. Inquire but move on. (Signed by LA Angels @ Winter Meetings)
Roy Oswalt, SP: Oswalt, as he did in Philadelphia, could fill the #4 hole in the Sox rotation, but as the Phillies already established by declining his option, it won’t be for silly money. Chances are he could return to Philly, but the Rangers (he’s established in the Lone Star State) and probably Yankees will inquire with some real interest.
David Ortiz, DH/1B: Big Papi would be foolish to leave his folk-hero status in Beantown but this is a business and easily his last chance at the big paycheck. Aside from the Scarlet Hose, I feel the Angels and Rangers could be real contenders for his services while Toronto, Seattle, Minnesota and Cleveland test the waters. The ‘Bombers could send out a phone call or two just to p!ss of Sox fans. (Accepted arbitration from Boston)
Mark Buehrle, SP: Many ‘in the know’ have mentioned St. Louis as a possibility while others believe he’ll stay put in Chicago. He’s a good talent and calming presence worth a look. Since Texas, Miami, possibly the Angels and probably Yankees will be looking, we should too. (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: Cherington has said he’d love to bring back both Ortiz and Papelbon for deals that make sense to everyone… however Pap’ is the best closer on the market and will be of interest to Philadelphia, possibly Miami (a showboat presence for a showboat manager) and any other team who can both spend big and be a contender. If he’s not in Boston, look in the Phillies bullpen. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/13)
Ryan Madson, RP: Philly could be looking to keep him as he might be an alternative to Papelbon or a Heath Bell. Madson has progressed nicely over the past few seasons and depending on what Boston plans to do with Daniel Bard or Aceves (convert them or make one closer in waiting), with or without Pap’, Ryan should be on the radar. (Signed by Cincinnati 1/11/12)
Grady Sizemore, OF: Sizemore is not the Indians slugger from just a few scant years ago, but he is still only 29 and worth a look. A year removed from microfracture surgery most believe Grady should be eased back in to a starring role, getting 70 to 80 starts as a OF/DH platoon. Rushing back to be the Cleveland slugger and star outfielder may have been what caused his several setbacks. He could be worth a one or two-year deal to a big market team with room for him in such a situation. Both he and Josh Willingham present better alternatives to Carlos Beltran (whom I omitted from this list). (Signed by Cleveland 11/29)
Heath Bell, RP: All signs point to Bell staying put in San Diego but he’s definitely worth the effort of a phone call or two should the Papelbon contract drag out or just not materialize. (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)
Josh Willingham, OF: Willingham played in Oakland whose stadium, the O.co, is massive and still put out 15 homers and a respectable slugging percentage. Now, put that right-handed bat in Fenway and watch his numbers flourish. He could platoon well in RF and present a viable option to Carlos Beltran. (Signed by Minnesota 12/14)
Paul Maholm, SP: A left-hander on the market is going to get attention no matter what (see Darren Oliver and soon to be returning Jamie Moyer), so at 29 Maholm could be worth a look. He finished the season with a shoulder problem sending him to the DL, but his consistency to cause grounders could be a great lefty complement to Lester in the rotation. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/10/12)
Jonathan Broxton, RP: He’s a reclamation project coming back from non-reconstructive elbow surgery, but then again the Sox love those low-risk high-reward incentive laden contract players. With the way the bullpen collapsed in September, call him. (Signed by KC Royals 11/29)
Kerry Wood, RP: Wood has salvaged his career as a late-inning specialist (if only Brad Penny would follow his lead) and put the gloom of lost potential in the past. The Sox considered him at the trade deadline the last two seasons, so there’s no reason not to consider him now. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/13/2012)
Jim Thome, DH: Thome could present a poor man’s solution to David Ortiz should Big Papi take his talents elsewhere. Thome is a legendary clubhouse presence and could still hit a few of those HOF home runs at Fenway’s friendly confines. I expect he’ll return to Cleveland (if the Indians ‘do the right thing’) but anyone in the AL who can’t land Ortiz or Beltran may come calling. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/5)
Hideki Matsui, DH/OF: Like Thome, Godzilla could find a late career flourish in Fenway as Big Papi’s replacement. He’s still a threat in the middle of the line-up and my gut tells me he’ll continue the pilgrimage north (LA to Oakland) to Seattle and play alongside Ichiro for the Japanese owned Mariners.
Takashi Saito, RP: He’s older but still a workable component to a bullpen. Plus, we’ve had him before. Worth the look. (Signed by Arizona 12/12)
Jason Varitek, C: ‘Tek appeared to adapt well to his new role of mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season. As a tag team, their numbers were comparable to many others at catcher in the league, especially during the mid-months when the Sox were the best team in all of baseball. Ryan Lavarnway is still at least a half-season from a steady role on the big club, and while some have called for any old veteran to back-up ‘Salty, I say stick with what works. Let him continue to groom Jarrod, then work more with Lavarnway and transition from mentor to his next life as an MLB coach and future manager. His silence during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ and ‘Pitcher-gate’ (after all, he is The Captain) is the only reason I could see him not being offered a return. As many Yankees fans have noted in regards to FA Jorge Posada, I can’t see ‘Tek in another uniform.
Tim Wakefield, SP/RP: Like Varitek, The Time Lord is a proven veteran commodity for the Sox. He can pitch from wherever he is asked to and can flash that knuckleball on many an occasion. He’s 6 wins away from tying both Clemens and Young for all time on the Red Sox wins list, and could easily get there with a solid rebound year. While he too was silent during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ as well as ‘Pitcher-gate’, he’s an established veteran that could assist the new manager in the rotation, bullpen and clubhouse. Though, like in the case of ‘Tek, it may just be sentimentality.
Isn’t it crazy that the Hot Stove season can be just as exciting as the real deal?
Due to the ongoing CBA negotiations and other technical stuff which isn’t expected to be resolved till the Thanksgiving time-frame, the real heat of the Hot Stove could be closer to December.
Teams that could definitely make a splash:
The Los Angeles Angels. Several members of the Halo’s front office were let go following the rather inept offseason of 2010-2011. The ‘Napoli’ fiasco (turning Texas down and then trading him to Toronto knowing Texas would obtain him from the Jays) and taking a pass on Adrian Beltre (who lives 30 minutes from the Stadium) who both went on to solidify their only division rival (well, with money, anyway) and have great postseason stats will do that. Even with the division facing expansion (The Houston Astros joining the AL West) the Rangers are their biggest foe (in town rival Dodgers should be fairly quiet facing their sale to new ownership) and the Angels need to make up ground to keep pace.
The Miami Marlins: New stadium, new branding and a good deal of dollars to invest. The Fish are looking to become ‘Latin America’s Team’ and have already taken a few steps to push that. Signing Ozzie, Latin baseball’s poster boy went a long way as did the geographical name change but look for a few changes in the playing personnel too, especially with a number of Latin free agents available and the owner’s decision to increase payroll.
The Washington Nationals: They’ve rebuilt and now it’s time to contend. The Nat’s have shown some signs of brilliance and an ability to contend in the NL East (the Braves and Phils aren’t going anywhere) with the talent assembled. Like Miami, they have money to spend and a hungry fan base. Plus being friends with Scott Boras helps.
The Chicago Cubs: Theo has arrived and brought a number of his former Red Sox employees with him to build a new Dynasty in baseball’s only other historic Cathedral. He may not have as much payroll as he did in Boston but he has enough to make a splash and be taken seriously in the market. No, the Cubs won’t be serious playoff contenders next year, but building for two and three years down the road starts right now.
The Los Angeles Dodgers: No, I don’t see them being serious contenders for Prince Fielder (though they should have been under better circumstances) or the top five to ten in the market, but with a pending sale both Frank McCourt and MLB may believe a few prize pieces to complement the established core could go a long way to frost the cake.
The New York Mets: Again, I don’t see a lot of big name consideration but the brain trust finally came to the overdue decision to bring in the fences at CitiField and by cutting loose Jose Reyes and possibly David Wright they’ll have money to spend on some flashy re-treads who could show some power. The owner’s financial situation may be too shaky for a Pujols or Fielder to settle on. Plus they need to contend with the Yankees on the back page.
Now, I’m not expecting the Sox to be big players in the market, they have a set team and may be playing ‘gun-shy’ because of their recent past signings (Crawford, Lackey, multiple members of the bullpen), but they will dabble and pick some fruit from the lower B & C tier. After all, anyone in their right mind knows Carl Crawford will rebound and so for that matter could John Lackey. If I had a bum arm, a wife with cancer who decided to divorce me and was in a generally p!ss poor mood for the entire season… yeah, I’d be a rather poor teammate, drinking and fast food pickin’ in the clubhouse who had one of the worst starting pitching seasons in Sox history (and we had Matt Young in early 90’s too.. Yeesh!). Just remember, now he has something to prove (or at least should) and will be easier to off load if he turns it around.
Anywhoo! Here is a list of the Scarlett Hose free agent players: Erik Bedard, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. Obviously, of these eight, Big Papi and Pap’ are the one’s to watch while Wake and ‘Tek are the sentimental faves.
David Ortiz: A Type-A free agent who has ranked in most experts Top 10 or close to it. Yes, he had a great year, almost a ‘comeback’ year but in the end it was a ‘contract’ year. Papi has the cache to demand his price for a what will probably be his last big payday but the market for a professional DH has dwindled greatly. Sure, the power is there and he can still be a middle of the order threat in the right line-up (taking home his 5th Silver Slugger), but the stars still need to align both contract wise and probably (with most veteran players) championship caliber talent wise as well. No, he won’t be as beloved elsewhere. He’s a big personality and a great media darling but he’s a part of Red Sox lore and you can’t just transplant that, even if he did shoot himself in the face with the ‘Yankees are great’ comments in the Francona/Theo fallout, plus the fact Youk may require more DH time to avoid these late season breakdowns, especially with Will Middlebrooks seasoning in Pawtucket. I don’t forsee much NL interest due to his limited mobility at first.
Teams who might show interest:
1. Boston: Obvious.
2. Los Angeles Angels: A big-ticket draw who can re-shape that line-up in a hurry and appeal to LA’s latin fan base. They are contenders in the West and would sign him to keep Texas from thinking about it.
3. Toronto Blue Jays: A power hitter who does well at the Rogers Center but they Jays could climb as high as 3rd in the AL East.
4. The Texas Rangers: A world champion and veteran presence who could change the face of an already great line-up. If they can’t sign Prince Fielder, he may be a power hitting 2nd chance prize.
5. New York Yankees: He’s a part of Boston’s folk-lore, so he’s worth a look just as the Sox looked at both Jeter and Mo Rivera last off-season. They’re the ‘Bombers so they can afford him and will obviously be in contention, but they don’t need him and don’t really have the roster space. With A-Rod declining in the field, he’ll need more DH time to avoid injury as will a grooming Montero, aging Posada (should they re-sign him) and possibly Jeter as well.
I see him staying put, but if the Angels or Rangers offer 3 years and silly money…
Jonathan Papelbon: Type-A free agent who had a good rebound year but more importantly progressed as a leader with maturity. Pap’ has said for years he’s been drooling to hit the market and I don’t see him jumping without due diligence. There are several other closers on the market, however, Papelbon is obviously the best pick, ranking in the mid to late teens on most experts FA lists.
1. Boston: Obvious
2. Philadelphia: The closer’s role has been somewhat by committee the last few seasons and after the downfall against the Cards in the NLDS, they may be the serious contenders for a proven closer.
3. Los Angeles Angels: He’d go great with the Rally-Monkey.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Would be another jewel to package with the young core to entice a new owner.
5.1 Washington Nationals: If they’re making an honest push, they’ll make contact but K-Rod or maybe even a Joe Nathan could be a cheaper alternative if Prince or Reyes are on the radar.
5.2 Chicago Cubs: The Cubs can offer a ‘reasonable’ contract, and Theo’s experience will definately dictate that as the former Sox GM praised Pap’s progress as a mature leader who found the next level in his game.
If he doesn’t go to Philly, the Sox may be the next best landing spot for a big payday and shot at another title. If he can accept a leadership in rebuilding role, Theo’s Cubs could be a very distinct Darkhorse candidate.
Tim Wakefield: Sure, he’s closing in on tying both Clemens and Young for all time Sox wins and is old enough to say he played in Scarlett Hose with the Rocket, but he fits in where ever he is asked and he’s still the Time Lord who can flash some brilliance in the flutterball. His silence in the ‘Pitcher-gate’ fall out may go against him as a veteran leader in a clubhouse looking for change.
Jason Varitek: He rebounded a bit with a lighter work load in his role as mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season. With Lavarnway still needing some seasoning in Pawtucket for both his defensive and offensive prowess (probably a mid-season call up with some back-up catcher/DH duty), I can see ‘Tek coming back for one more year as back-up before transitioning to his life as a coach and manager in the major leagues. Like Wakefield, he may suffer from the silence regarding ‘Pitcher-gate’ and the fall-out may go against him.
Now, a few of the other groceries available in the winter market…
1. St. Louis Cardinals: He’s a an established legend in a rabid baseball town and two-time WS Champion with the ‘Cards. However, LaRussa was his mentor and King Albert may not be giving a hometown discount.
2. Miami Marlins: The Marlins should be hip deep in the biggest Latin player this side of Ozzie Guillen, who just happens to be the new manager for the Fish. While increasing payroll, it still might be too steep to relocate the King.
3. Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays are looking to compete in the AL East and obviously Pujols would be the trigger to get them on the right track. He’d put a$$es in the seats but probably limit them beyond that.
4. Los Angeles Angels: Since the Dodgers can’t do it, it’s up to the Halos to try to bring one of baseball’s biggest marquee names to LA. Arte Morneo would love to put this Latin juggernaut in the line-up, but may need to pick up more pitching and line-up depth for the money.
5. New York Mets: Nothing serious, but it would trump the Yankees Hot Stove season on the back pages.
This will probably drag out but will make a great Christmas present to either Miami or front-runner St. Louis.
Prince Fielder, 1B: He’s only 27 and been one of the best hitters in either league for the past six years. Probably not A-Rod money (Rodriguez was younger in his initial free agency), but easily Mark Texiera dollars.
1. Washington Nationals: He’s the cornerstone to build on and become the new ‘it’ team in the NL East. They have the money to spend and have taken years to rebuild to this point. Baltimore is an afterthought in this mid-Atlantic market and the Nats can finally put the Montreal stigma in the rear-view mirror.
2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers, for all their power and prowess, went to the WS without a bona-fide 1st baseman. Adding Prince shores up the corner position, adds incredible power to an already potent line-up and ensures Texas a ticket to the dance for years to come.
3. Chicago Cubs: Theo will call in for King Albert but could give serious consideration for the Prince instead. Fielder is younger and will most likely be cheaper, but could easily carry the hopes and dreams of Cubs fans while kicking Brewers fans in the gut. Plus, one would think the smaller confines of Wrigley may increase those already gaudy numbers. It may be the first big step in Theo’s plan for the future.
4. St. Louis Cardinals: Pujols is obviously the priority but should talks stall, turn ugly or just not meet on paper, another star of the NL Central certainly couldn’t hurt.
5. Darkhorse: It’s hard to imagine an off-season like this, with a player like Prince Fielder, where both the Dodgers and Mets are basically tied up in a corner and forced to watch. This could give teams like Miami, Seattle or Toronto a chance to get into a better negotiating position.
Too close to call for me. The Cubs offer history and a massive media market to a shy kid who could be the darling of a hungry fan base while Texas may be the best chance at a quick fix WS title. I’d avoid St. Louis and the endless comparisons to Albert and settle for Washington, whose money is still green, if I had to.
1. Miami Marlins: Jose is friends with Hanley Ramirez (who already supposedly stated he’d move to third or another bag for his buddy) and could flourish under Ozzie Guillen. If Pujols is off the radar, signing Reyes and maybe an Aramis Ramirez could go a long way remaking and re-branding ‘Latin America’s Team’.
2. Washington Nationals: Again, they have the money and he could fit nicely with what the Nats hope to do this offseason.
3. San Fransisco Giants: Jimmy Rollins may be a better investment for the G-Men but I look for them to make a fairly serious inquiry on a still moderately young big name.
4. New York Mets: It’s a longshot at best but he’s been there, has a fan base and is still marketable as a Met.
5. Darkhorse: The Red Sox may only be a bit off the radar if they feel Jose Iglesias is going off track, especially since Scutaro isn’t a long-term fix. St. Louis is in the market as well and don’t count out interest from the Yanks (Jeter and A-Rod are aging…).
I can easily see him amending his asking price / years to be part of something special in Miami. Anywhere else, he’s cashing in.
C.J. Wilson, SP: He’s had a couple of above average regular seasons now, but fell apart in the playoffs. However mediocrity is always rewarded (John Lackey & A.J. Burnett) when starting pitching is thin.
1. Texas Rangers: Texas is certainly a good place to be these days, so I’d be surprised if he wanted to leave. But if the Rangers are going for Prince Fielder then it may tie things up.
2. Los Angeles Angels: Hometown OC kid who the Halos can afford to add to an already impressive front half of the rotation (and lure away from rival Texas).
3. New York Yankees: He’s a big-ticket AL pitcher. Nuff’ said.
4. Boston Red Sox: I think the Sox will take a fairly serious look at a young guy who can win 15 games. I think the Bombers will take it more seriously as Cherington may want to avoid a big-ticket pitcher for a rehab/low-cost alternative for the #4 and #5 starter.
5. Darkhorse: Obviously each of the bigger market teams will have a look with Chicago (both), St. Louis, Washington and maybe even Seattle on the bubble but he has WS experience now and again the market is thin.
The Angels should be able to pry him free, especially if he’s perceived by Texas as a choke artist in the playoffs.
Carlos Beltran, OF: 2011 was supposed to be the contract year but once he got to San Fransisco the remainder of the year stalled out on him. There’s still a market for his bat, even if his outfield mobility is waning. The Red Sox and Yankees are expected to make calls on him as are several other clubs. I’d imagine he’ll land in the AL for a platoon OF/DH role but probably won’t be worth the years/money expected. Grady Sizemore may be a better alternative for someone wanting to take a chance.
Roy Oswalt, SP: He’s older and obviously a bit more hittable, but he’s still Roy Oswalt. He’s not necessarily out of Philadelphia, but he’s going to be cheaper if he’s in. Most teams will call in on this one, especially from the NL, but The White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees love older innings eaters who cost money. The Rangers will probably give some serious consideration for mid-range money for the guy who carried the Astros for years.
Jimmy Rollins, SS: He’s not the same player he was four or five years ago but his skills, passion and leadership could easily make him a valuable alternative to Jose Reyes. He’s looking for four years, but an incentive laden three years plus an option for a contender may work. Both the Cardinals and Giants could go deep for his services, but San Fransisco might win out as the Cards wait on Pujols. Washington and Seattle (and don’t count out the Mets) could call on him for some veteran stability as well.
Grady Sizemore, OF: He’s not going to rate very high on anyone’s FA list due to his injury plagued past, but he’s only 29 and will be a year removed from micofracture surgery. For a big market team in need of a platoon OF/DH type, he could definitely be worth a try. Boston should be on the phone with serious consideration (after all, they used to have J.D. Drew) as could a team like the Rays. If he gets the right situation and is held to under a hundred games, it could supply enough rest to build towards his old self. He could fall somewhere between Carlos Beltran and a Josh Willingham.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B: He opted out of Chicago which may have saved Theo the buyout fee. One of the better hitting 3rd basemen in the NL, there aren’t a lot of options on the market this off-season. Definitely not Adrian Beltre but may translate as a 3B/1B/DH for an AL club. Look for the Miami Marlins to give a serious look as a Pujols fall back plan to team with Reyes and Hanley.
David Ortiz, DH/1B: see above.
Ryan Madson, RP: Like Oswalt, he’s not necessarily out of Philly, but with the steps he’s taken in the past few seasons he’s definitely sought after. The Phillies and Red Sox (depending on what they plan to do with Bard) could be at the top of the list (especially if both end up scrambling for Papelbon) but so could any big market team in need of late-inning help.
Edwin Jackson, SP: Yes, he’s a WS Champion but he’s been traded more than a few times and you really have to wonder why for such a young and seemingly capable guy. He’ll command a salary in the market (perhaps too pricey for a #4 or #5 type guy the Yankees or Red Sox need) but that could leave anyone to step-up.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: see above
Carlos Pena, 1B: His average was down but over all Pena still performed for the Cubs. Most figure he’ll land in Milwaukie to replace Prince Fielder but I could see the Rays (he has a history), Rangers (if they don’t land Fielder) and Pirates (could be cheap but established) calling as well.
Heath Bell, RP: His K’s were down but he’s still a possible alternative to Papelbon or maybe a Madson. Probably staying in San Diego, he could still command more than a few inquiries.
Francisco Rodriguez, RP: K-Rod will probably get a lot of attention as a Papelbon alternative even though he’s still a 9th inning rollercoaster. A few teams will probably call for his set-up qualities as well as closing prowess, the Reds and Red Sox among them but look for Ozzie’s Marlins to make a big push.
Josh Willingham, OF: Even though he played in the caverns of Oakland’s O.co Stadium, Willingham still posted respectable numbers. Moving to a smaller home field will probably work wonders for him. The Mets, Red Sox, Braves and Rays could come calling. Boston could be a viable option as they need a right-handed RF in Fenway to platoon.
Johnny Damon, DH/OF: Damon has transitioned well from everyday outfielder to spot starter/DH and mentor for teams with younger emerging talent just as he did in Detroit and most recently Tampa. Plus he can still hit. Arizona would appear to need someone to fill those shoes and maybe even the Cubs (Theo won a title with Johnny) but I see him staying in the AL, possibly for Toronto, Seattle or the Angels if not returning to Tampa.
Now obviously there are roughly 200 free agents on this year’s market. I’m not covering them all, just touching on some of the more notable players crossing everyone’s wish lists. There are a lot of B and C type players, veterans, rehabs and retreads who will be circulating as well. In my next post, I’ll touch upon a few more who I feel the Red Sox in particular should explore.
To borrow a phrase from a slightly popular local music group…. It is indeed the same old song and dance, just different dance partners. Or to put in easier terms, “Same sh!t, different day”.
Anyone who is a ‘real‘ fan of the Red Stockings, meaning a member of the Nation since the dark days long before 2004, already know what all of this is. Red Sox ownership in their version of Spin Control. Sure, their Doctors of Spin are the equivalent of a mentally defective monkey humping a baseball but they apparently get the job done.
Regimes change, the excuses stay the same.
Has there been a need for this nuclear warfare in the aftermath of ‘The Collapse’? Of course not. Francona fell on the sword, took the blame and left town. Ah, but he do it in the way he was told to? Apparently not. Tito alluded to the problems which arose in the clubhouse (which the owners also alluded to) and the fact he was tuned out… but then dropped that little ticking time bomb of “I wasn’t sure the owners had my back…” And the Mass Destruction of Terry Francona had begun. Sinfully Disgraceful may be the only way to put it. Unnamed sources, personal matters… all disgusting. Of course they’re unnamed sources, they’re rats running about the sinking ship on fire trying to burn whatever they can for their masters in hopes of keeping their job once the flames are put out and the ship is righted. And the press? Using this fairly unconfirmed personal information about Tito’s mental health, medication and then his unfortunately distressed marriage? Well, the Boston press has been heavy-handed and taking liberties ever since Paul Revere proclaimed that little warning about the oncoming British. Especially the Boston Sports Press, which is a blessing and a curse as they are the best at what they do from both sides of the spectrum. And whose to say that even if the Sox hadn’t collapsed, if they made a decent run or perhaps won it all that Theo wasn’t leaving? The Cubs think he’s a hot commodity following the epic September fail? Imagine what hot sh!t Theo would have been if they’d won? This has been coming (remember the off-season back in the ’05-’06 days when he quit the job, took a vacation and then came back? It was because he was tired of having his toes stepped on…), it just didn’t have to end like this.
Or if history has shown us, maybe it did.
Let’s look at Boston’s divorce history (Bill Buckner, Manny and Grady Little aside). Pedro and Derek Lowe and even Johnny Damon pale in comparison to that nutty, paranoid Nomar. Then there’s Mo Vaughn and his drunken, truck flippin’ hung-over stripper lovin’ self. Wade Boggs defection to the Bronx Zoo was fairly quiet compared to The Rocket who was a drunk, fat bastard in the twilight of his career (remind you, he hadn’t hit the juice yet… and is still a bastard) or even the ousting of Joe Morgan. Dewey had a fairly amicable split for an in-house legend, unlike Jim Rice or Yaz. The 1970’s and early ’80’s was basically a huge divorce gone bad… Bill Lee, George Scott, Fergie Jenkins, Louis Tiant, Eck and let’s not forget Pudge Fisk. Of course the Patron Saint of the Red Sox, Johnny Pesky, could tell you how complimentary everyone was when Teddy Ballgame left town. Not cause he was here but because he was Ted’s friend and had a front row seat. (I’ll omit Babe Ruth because most of his behavior was, in fact, dead on juvenile delinquent true.)
Notice a lot of these names… they’re part of the lore. All easily recognized by one name. Ted. Fisk. Yaz. Rice. Rocket. Nomar. Pedro. Theo. Tito. The Red Sox are the embodiment of that old adage, “You build your heroes up just to tear them down.” But they’re hardly alone.
So, to David Ortiz (yeah, I’ll say it) and all you bandwagon Yankees fans (because the actual fans already know how it works) who want to remind us of the class and swagger a dynasty carries… f*@% you. Stop trying to take the ‘high road’ by ignoring the Steinbrenner Era or the legacy the Sons of Steinbrenner have already forged. Ask Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Joe Torre or most recently Mo Rivera or ‘Mister Yankee’ himself Derek Jeter. Yeah, the ‘Bombers have never had drama or been a soap opera… jacka$$.
Are the Sox still an elite team? Yes. Do they still have the talent to contend? Yes. Do they still have an ownership group committed to winning? No wins, no money.. so Yes. Is it time to change the ‘make-up’ of the team. Yes. But these are matters, some of them possibly drastic, best saved for the GM and field Manager… oh, wait.
I think at the end of the day, all the real fan can do is wish Theo all the best in Chicago (we’ll see you next season at Wrigley) and thank both he and Tito for everything they did to bring two WS titles home. Same to a number of faces from the wonderful October of 2004 which may be joining them… Papi, Wake and Tek.
Same Old Song and Dance.
Obviously I have been quiet through ‘The Collapse’ and now the ‘Aftermath’ or ‘The Fallout’ or whatever title the press and history will give it. And as disgusting as things have gotten, in the mass destruction of Terry Francona, the finger-lickin’ good pointing in the clubhouse, and mass silence from the players and supposedly the owners to a degree… I decided to wait all of it out and see who was left standing when the nuclear winter dust settled.
But this simply pissed me off. We’ve all seen it… The David Ortiz ESPN interview.
And boy did it do just what he wanted. Now Boston is officially the end of the world. Free agents, run for your life, David Ortiz has declared the Red Sox dramatic, a soap opera and therefore toxic. All eyes now fall upon one of the Scarlett Hose’ most legendary performers.. and his free agency.
There’s no need to be angry with him. Big Papi is just speaking his mind… sort of. He’s been fairly quiet on the subject of Tito Francona, mum on the clubhouse happenings but loose on his free agency. When asked if Terry’s exit would affect his decision to stay in Boston he responded absolutely not… he plays for the Red Sox and not Tito. He loves the city and blah blah woof woof. For learning of Theo’s departure live in an interview… he didn’t seem all too taken aback. But oh, wait… the drama. So of course, let the reporter give the dog and pony show question of the Yankees and watch Big Papi jump through the hoop. Really? Was your agent in the background giving you a high sign for licking the Yankees free agent nuts? Like being a Red Sox free agent and praising the ‘Bombers isn’t a rather old positioning tactic?
Yes, the end of an era has occurred in Boston. The bulk of the 2004 magic is gone. Theo and Tito (unjustly put under a personal microscope in such a disgusting display) are gone and most likely Wakefield and Varitek, a stoic veteran and the team’s rugged captain… who have been and still are extremely quiet on all this (and apparently were during the season as well) are probably going.
Yes, Mr. Ortiz, you had a great year. A contract year. You’ve earned your free agency and the last big payday of your career. Take advantage of it.
Yes, change has come to the Boston Red Sox. It came quickly and with the blunt force of 007’s Walther PPK but it is here. Chances are, you may not be and all the ‘drama’ will make it that much easier for you to leave. But please don’t give us the ‘Yankees class act Bu!!$#!t’… the ‘Bombers didn’t have the single worst collapse in MLB history (followed one half game behind by the 2011 Braves.. by the way). They got dropped in the first round… so have the Sox in several recent post-seasons. The Yankees players didn’t tune out their manager due to elite selfishness or entitlement or supposedly fried chicken and the owners (not yet anyway) didn’t hang that manager out to dry. Please don’t try to kid us that if the Yankees fell apart the same way and Joe Girardi were hung out like Tito that Cashman would still be there? There wouldn’t be a poor excuse for spin control in the form of Venom from the Sons of Steinbrenner? Hell, wasn’t King George banned from operating his own team for a while? Nevermind the soap opera of Jorge prima donna not wanting to bat ninth.
All positioning. And sadly, it was probably effective/ineffective. The Yankees are set with Russell Martin catching and Jesus Montero DH’ing. They can afford you, but don’t need you. Eh, but now you threw that “Yankees do it right” thing in the faces of Red Sox Nation. You also have Kevin Youkillis coming off an injury plagued season and a new General Manager who may have the idea of moving him to DH more often to keep his bat in the line-up. You may have simply talked yourself out of Boston… but if the clubhouse culture is changing under a new manager, maybe you’d rather leave..? Where to now? Sure, you’d love to play for New York but probably wouldn’t mind staying in Boston because they can afford you. As many have seen, the DH market has taken a huge drop in recent years with teams using it to slot younger players who need at bats and veterans who need a bit of a rest. There aren’t all too many professional DH’s anymore, teams want players who can still physically play a position as well as sit for half the game and ply their hitting prowess. I’d say that rules out the NL, and who in the AL can afford you and satisfy what will undoubtedly be a need for another title?
Mr. Ortiz, you’ve been a fantastic player in Red Sox lore. You’ve given great contributions to two WS titles and been the heart and soul of the team for near a decade. You too have made mistakes (remember the steroids media leak?) which made us cringe and shrug our shoulders and look past it just as we did the repeated slow starts (most of us, anyway). But for all your bravado, all your love of the City and ‘love’ of the team the one thing you obviously haven’t been is a leader and that is what the Boston Red Sox require at this time.
Good night and good luck.