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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bobby V

Bobby Valentine replaced Terry Francona as the Red Sox manager this off season, and many of the coaches that we fans have been accustomed to seeing year after year are also gone. It’s a strange feeling as we look at the “man who invented the sandwich wrap” as the leader of our beloved Red Sox. Before I get into my feelings on Bobby Valentine, I think it’s appropriate to discuss Terry Francona, quite possibly the best Red Sox manager there has ever been.

Terry Francona took over for the Red Sox after the heartbreaking 2003 season and ultimately, lead the Red Sox to two World Series Championships. He was a player’s manager, someone the players could come to for various reasons. Everyone knew the stories of the daily cribbage games between Francona and Pedroia and the proud look on Francona’s face when Lester threw his no-hitter after battling cancer. Over the years, we watched the familiar scene of Francona’s mouth filled with chew, then bubble gum, then chew, and finally bubble gum again (I’d hate to be the person who had to clean the dugouts after a Sox game).

But the September collapse happened. Chicken and beer- gate happened. As Sox fans, we were helpless as we watched our beloved team lose game after game. They seemed to play without any heart, and the sizeable play-off lead dwindled until the Sox missed the playoffs during the last game of the season. I don’t want to say it was Francona’s fault because he wasn’t one of the people playing, eating chicken, or drinking beer (sorry, had to have one last reference), but everyone knew there needed to be a change.

Whether Francona was forced out or decided to leave on his own, we may never know. But Francona left, Epstein jumped ship to the Cubs and left his replacement, Cherington, to clean up the mess that he created, no one wanted to talk to the media that was involved in the collapse (players like Pedroia, Scutaro, and Ellsbury, who still played well in September talked the media). After what seemed like endless searching, the Red Sox signed Bobby Valentine to a two-year deal to manager the Sox.

I am still not sure how I feel about this choice in manager. I don’t remember when he managed the Rangers, but a Rangers fan I work with said he was a great choice. All I know about Valentine was that he coached the Mets, had some antics, coached well in Japan, and was a commentator for ESPN.

I won’t get into my feelings on Valentine’s commentating on ESPN too much. To say the least, I wasn’t a fan. In general, I’m not a fan of ESPN’s coverage of MLB anyway (MLB Network is by far the best). I often found Valentine a bit annoying while watching games (I will put this bias behind me though since I don’t really pay attention to baseball commentary now that I watch a lot more games thanks to my MLB package on my computer).

In terms as a manager, Valentine has a decent record, an overall .510 W/L percentage, most of the wins coming from the Mets from 1996-2002. He managed the Mets to an NL pennant in 2000 as well, so he has experience. With the candidates the Red Sox were looking at, I think Bobby Valentine was the clear choice to manage this Red Sox team.

However, I also think Valentine is just a place-holder. The Red Sox original choice for replacing Francona was Blue Jays manager John Farrell, the Red Sox’s former pitching coach. But Farrell signed a three-year contract with the Jays last off-season, and the Jays wouldn’t let Farrell go. So, the Sox knew they needed someone for only two years, which is why Valentine’s contract is for the two-years.

This off-season, I think Valentine’s done a great job at taming the media; Boston media is tough. He’s said all the right things like “I just want to beat the Yankees,” he’s reached out to most if not all the players, he has made his appearances at charities; he’s slipped into the managerial role seamlessly. Valentine clearly likes being in front of the camera, but the question remains, what kind of manager will Valentine be?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Who Starts?

The Red Sox starting rotation consists of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz… and no one after that. Matsuzaka is out until at least the All-Star break after Tommy John surgery (is it strange that I could actually be looking forward to Dice-K returning?) and John Lackey is out all season after Tommy John surgery (sigh of relief from me). After that, there is no one definite for the 4th and 5th starters.

Bard and Aceves have been given the green-light to come to Spring Training as starters. While I’d be perfectly fine with one of these two being a starter (leaning more towards Aceves than Bard, since Bard’s minor league stats as a starter are horrendous compared to his outstanding resume as a reliever), I don’t think you go into Spring Training thinking that both of these pitchers will be starters. Aceves earned the chance to be tried out as a starter; he was great in whatever role Francona put him in as- long-relief, short-relief, spot-starter, mop-up, etc. So, if Aceves becomes the number 4 or 5 starter, than Bard will essentially take over Aceves’ role from last year. However, if Spring Training comes and Bard does better than Aceves, than Bard is the starter and Aceves resumes his role from last year.

Free agent starters are hard to come by this off-season. There was no way the Red Sox could have gone after someone like C.J. Wilson (they still need to pay Lackey and Matsuzaka after all), and I really don’t see Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson signing with the Red Sox as well. Oswalt and Jackson would easily be #3 starters (possibly even #2 starters depending on the organization), and the Sox shouldn’t pay the extra money for these pitchers.

Wakefield is a free-agent, and I personally can’t see him returning. I like Wake; he’s had a great career with the Sox. I would have loved to see him break Roger Clemens’ record for most wins with the Red Sox; but after last year, I think it’s time to say goodbye to Wake. I think Wakefield (and as much as it pangs me, Varitek) will retire, and there will be a goodbye/thank you ceremony during one of the first weeks of the season for him.

Remaining free agent starters are scarce, and after Oswalt and Jackson, kind of scary to ponder about. I’d stay far away from Rich Harden, Brandon Webb, and Scott Kazmir, as injuries have plagued them over the years. Brad Penny’s out there, but after his stint with the Sox a couple years ago, I don’t see him returning. I would love to see the Sox sign Jon Garland and see how he does in Spring Training. I’ve been a fan of his since he was on the White Sox, and I think with the right organization and conditioning (not really sure
if that’s the case with the Sox since they have a new pitching coach), he could be a great #4 or #5 starter.

The Red Sox have already signed “rehab” guys, basically starters who need to prove themselves before landing a spot in the rotation. These non-roster invitees include some interesting names: John Maine, Carlos Silva, Tony Pena. John Maine has a career 4.35 ERA, and the last time he pitched in the Majors in 2010 had a 6.13 ERA. Carlos Silva has a career 4.68 ERA, and the last time he pitched in the Majors in 2010 had a 4.22 ERA. Tony Pena has only pitched 1 inning in the Majors back in 2008. He’s mentioned because 1) he’s the son of former Red Sox catcher, Tony Pena, and 2) he’s a converted shortstop. Who knows, maybe among the “rehab” guys the Sox have signed to minor-league contracts, they’ll find some luck (like the Yankees did last year).

The wild card would be that the Sox land Garza. This seemed highly unlikely a few weeks ago when the Cubs kept going back and forth with their “we’re not opposed to trading anyone” and “we’re going to offer Garza an extension.” The Sox originally asked the Cubs for Garza as compensation for Epstein, but they declined. But, Commissioner Selig is stepping in to handle the negotiations after months (and months) of nothing happening. Supposedly, Selig doesn’t like when personnel break contracts to go to other organizations, and the Sox are said to get someone that would prevent this type of move from happening again. I don’t think a straight-up Garza for Epstein is doable, but throwing in a couple prospects (nothing to substantial), I can see this happening.

Yes, the rotation scares me, but I think Cherington’s doing an okay job with what he had to work with. By the All-Star break, Matsuzaka may be able to return, and going on an optimistic branch here, he might do phenomenal, making every Sox fan forget about the agony he has caused us over the years. The Sox might also be able to mold one of their Triple-A, Spring Training invitees into an adequate pitcher as well, and Bard and Aceves might just surprise a few people (including myself). And if all else fails, there’s always a trade to be made (a name floating around is Gavin Floyd from the White Sox). We’ll just have to wait and see what Cherington decides to do.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Marco... Marco... Marco... Marco?

Last week, Ben Cherington (rookie Red Sox GM) traded away the Red Sox the Red Sox's starting shortstop, Marco Scutaro.  Why?  To great financial wiggle room.  The Sox will now platoon Mike Aviles and Nick Punto in the shortstop position unless they attain another shortstop via trade or free agency.  Aviles has a career .288 BA and a .973 fielding percentage at SS; Punto has a career .249 BA and a .974 fielding percentage at SS.  This is how Cherington wants to use our roster space?

The Sox essentially don't want to sign a shortstop long-term because they feel prospect Jose Iglesias is the solution to the revolving door at the position.  I don't see it.  Yes, Iglesias is seen as great defensively, but offensively, he has a long way to go.  In the minors (2010-11), he has a .261 BA, but only hit .235 in Triple-A Pawtucket last year (101 games).  His fielding percentage was good (.973%), but he will not be ready for the Majors in 2012.

So, what should the Sox do?  I've heard rumors the Sox are looking for a SS via trade (Hanley Ramirez's name has floated around a few times, but I don't see that happening.  He would cost too much in our already depleted farm system).  Free agency?  There's not a whole lot left out there.  Alex Cora (though there are reports of him retiring), Miguel Tejada and Omar Vizquel (don't see it happening with either one), and Edgar Renteria (shutter...).  In terms of free agency, the Sox are stuck. 

If I was GM, I wouldn't have traded Scutaro, period.  Sure, he's had injuries that prevented him in only playing in 113 games last year, but he was the best option the Sox have for the start of the season.  Scutaro's .299 BA was great for any positional player, especially at shortstop (I don't even want to go back to shortstop BA over the past 8 years), and his .972 fielding percentage is pretty much the same as his replacements this year.  Freeing up the $6 million or so from Scutaro's contract was supposed to be used to get Oswalt or Jackson.  Personally, I don't see either one signing with the Sox.

Getting Started...

After much debating (mostly internally), I have decided to start another blog.  However, this blog isn't about my life, recipes, my dog, my job, craft projects, or any of the other things so many people seem to be writing about these days and posting on various media outlets (i.e. facebook).  Instead, I decided to start a blog about the Red Sox.

Why did I decide this?  There are a few reasons:

1) Because I haven't seen any blogs written about the Red Sox, by a woman living in Iowa.  Plain and simple.  I get very frustrated when people just assume that I don't know anything about sports because I'm a woman.  NEWSFLASH: women can/do know things about sports.  I've been going to Red Sox games most of my life.  I was born into it; my entire family are Red Sox fans. 

2) Because let's face it, being a Red Sox fan living in Iowa (or the Midwest, or any other place besides New England) isn't always that great.  We get the typical "front-runner" response when asked who our favorite baseball team is.  We'll get the question "Why aren't you a Cubs/White Sox/Cardinals/Twins/Royals/Brewers fan?" (Seriously?).  Personally, if I wasn't a Red Sox fan, I don't know if I would be fans of any of those teams. 

3) Because I enjoy both writing and the Red Sox.  Sometimes, I just need to get things out, so this is going to be my outlet.

I hope everyone enoys the blog and feel free to participate in discussions.