Sports Outside the Beltway

JD Drew Update – Nothing To Report Again

About 43 days after it was reported that JD was going to be a Red Sox he still is not here

It was Dec. 5, at about 6:45 p.m., in the lobby of The Dolphin Hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., when Scott Boras announced that J.D. Drew had agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal with the Red Sox. Today is Jan. 17, 2007. A new month, a new year, and the deal remains in limbo.

Nonetheless, there is no angst apparent on either side, seemingly no doubt that Drew will be the team’s starting right fielder and No. 5 hitter. Word is that the sides have been having frequent dialogue to craft precise language about medical concerns in Drew’s right shoulder. The sides are progressing, according to a source involved in the talks.

The source described the talks as, “Combine medical language and legal language into one, and that’s what you’re up against. Every time there’s medical language proposed, it takes a couple of days to decipher it. And then there are discussions back and forth and revisions are made. Both sides are looking for precise language to protect their assets.”

New York Times columnist Murray Chass theorizes that perhaps the Sox and Giants will “swap” players involved in contract holdups

Six weeks after they agreed to terms on new contracts, Barry Bonds and J. D. Drew remain unsigned. Bonds hasn’t signed with the Giants; Drew hasn’t signed with the Red Sox. That prompts a thought. If both contracts were to fall through, the Red Sox could sign Bonds to play left field and move Manny Ramírez back to his original position in right.

This will never happen for a couple reasons

  1. Manny is an average fielder (and this is being kind). There is no way he would be able to patrol the huge right field at Fenway park.
  2. Bonds claimed he would never play for Boston because it is a racist city

But Bonds, whose knowledge of baseball history had him humorously mocking a visitor stumbling to draw comparisons between Williams’s feats with the Red Sox and those of the 39-year-old Giants slugger, said Boston is a place he would never call home.

“Boston is too racist for me,” he said. “I couldn’t play there.”

It is a judgment, he acknowledges, not derived of firsthand experience — he missed the 1999 All-Star Game, played in Boston, because of an injury — but on word-of-mouth.

“Only what guys have said,” he said, “but that’s been going on ever since my dad [Bobby] was playing baseball. I can’t play like that. That’s not for me, brother.”

When it was suggested the racial climate has changed in Boston, Bonds demurred.

“It ain’t changing,” he said. “It ain’t changing nowhere.”

They built a tunnel to honor Ted Williams in Boston. What did he imagine would be built for him?

“Nothing, man,” he said. “I’m black. They don’t build stuff for blacks.”

   3. The Sox got rid of Pedro partly because of the perks he demanded.

The bottom line is that Drew will probably end up with Boston and Bonds will end up in SF, but I am sure many people, I am one of “those people”, who are hoping that does not happen.


Red Sox Closer Update

It appears that Jonathan Papelbon is focusing on being a starter this year, despite his dominating performance last season

“I told [Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein] the other day, ‘I guess I’m going to have to go out and win my first five in a row just to quiet everybody and let them know I’m in the rotation,’” said Papelbon. “Right now, my whole body, mind, everything is focused on going out and starting.” 

“This is a decision that Theo and I made at the end of last year so that Theo could have a plan going into Spring Training what kind of direction he wanted to take with the team,” said Papelbon. “I think that was just a decision we made early, and that was the route he wanted to go.”

The article goes on to talk about the switch from closer to starter

Health was the primary reason for the switch. Papelbon’s right shoulder broke down on Sept. 1, and after a thorough medical study, the Red Sox determined that he’d be better off with a starter’s workload.

“For me, it not only plays into what they drafted me as, which is a starter, but it allows me to go out there and give them everything I’ve got on one day and build my body up to go do it in another five days,” said Papelbon.

The 26-year-old Papelbon got a reality check late last season, and it is one that will probably help him through the rest of his career.

“For me, my livelihood is my arm,” said Papelbon. “I treat it like a little baby now.”

Asked if he would be surprised to end up back in the pen

“It wouldn’t surprise me a whole lot, but at the same time, we’ve got some good competition at that spot,” said Papelbon. “There’s no doubt it. The guys we have right now — as far as [Craig] Hansen, [Manny] Delcarmen and [Joel] Pineiro — the competition in the bullpen is going to be stiff. That’s only going to make us better.”

And, as far as Papelbon is concerned, both he and the Red Sox will be better with him taking the ball for 200 innings a season instead of 70.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. A little note, many of the recent champs (Cardinals-Wainright, White Sox-Jenks, Marlins-Urbina) did not have their opening day closers on the mound when they won it all. I guess this can be considered an optimistic perspective for a pessimistic situation.


Red Sox Rookie Camp

Nick Cafardo reports about his experience at the Red Sox Rookie Camp

As Sox farm director Mike Hazen explained the camp is for players within 18 months of the big leagues. So you really got to see the best of the best.

There were guys there like center-fielder Dave Murphy, Craig Hansen, Dave Pauley and Kason Gabbard, who have major league experience. But you also caught a glimpse of top pitching prospect Clay Buchholz, catcher George Kottaras, who looks likes a young Gregg Zaun, center field prospect Jacoby Ellsbury and big, thick reliever Edgar Martinez to name a few.

Some of the guys are top prospects (Hansen, Bucholz, Ellsbury, and Martinez) who hopefully will be here within the scheduled 18 months. It seems like many MLB teams love the power arms in the late stages of the game, and Hansen, Bucholz, and Martinez fit the description perfectly.

Hopefully one of these guys is ready a bit sooner than 18 months (like NOW) to assume the closer role since we do not have one. And no I do not consider Joel Pineiro a realistic option, but I can hope.


HOF Election Analysis

Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but McGwire, Goose Gossage, Lee Smith, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, Jack Morris, and Bert Blyleven missed out.

Cal and Tony are no question about it candidates. Anyone that has a problem with their elections might need to reconsider talking. The rest of the bunch evolves into one of those epic HOF debates that never end.
Here is my take going by most votes

  • Goose – Should be in, no doubt about it. He was the Mo Rivera of his day. While his stats to do reflect the same domination the results were similar, i.e. when he entered the game, usually in the 7th or 8th inning not the 9th, the game was over! Not sure why the voters did not elect him but it seems he is being penalized for pitching before the bullpen became as specialized as they are now
  • Jim Rice – This is one that is tough for me to understand. This was a guy who was the most dominating offensive force of this era. It seems like the HOF is rewarding players who were good for a long period (15-20+ years) as opposed to players like Jim Ed who were dominating for a short time (5 years) and good for the rest of his career (10 years). I was hoping that he would get his due this year because of all the roid talk, but I guess not. Hopefully he will be next years Tony Perez and get elected in his last year of eligibility. Might I add that Rice’s career totals are better in every category but RBI, but Tony needed 7 more seasons to get the additional 200 RBIs. This is a no brainer to me!
  • Andre Dawson – Another candidate that should be in. I saw him at the end end of his career with the Sox when his knees were hamburger he was a force while playing with the Cubs and the Expos. While being a 5-tool talent does not get you into the HOF, he was able to turn that potential into performance. Five years ago he was mentioned in the same breathe as Barry Bonds and Willie Mays during the push for 400 HR and 300 SB, but now that Bonds has become a 700 HR (steroid) and 400 steal guy, he seems to be old news.
  • Bert Blyleven – I do not think he should be in because he would be a life time award candidate. While he was a good pitcher he made only 2 all-star teams in his 22 years, never won an ERA title, never had the most wins in the league, led the league in Ks once (1985). To me this proves  he was a good player for a long time but was never the dominating HOF pitcher.
  • Lee Smith – Another case of closers getting no love from the voters. Pretty soon his saves mark is going to be small compared to the totals that Hoffman, Rivera that will end up with, so I guess that means he will never get in, but like Goose he was the best closer of his era and should be in.
  • Jack Morris – While he was one of the best big game pitchers of his day, that is not enough to get into the HOF. He did achieve some of the things that Blyleven did not (5 time AS in 18 years, Led the AL in Ws twice, Ks once) he still was not that dominating force that should be in the HOF.
  • Big Mac – This is the one that will be debated for as long as the HOF exists. As I said before, he should be in. He should not be penalized for alleged roid use (and I think he did use them) while other players who may have used them that we do not know about or can not confirm are considere. No one was crying foul (specifically from the MLB offices) in the summer of 98, but now he the one that needs to be punished for the failures of MLB’s inactions. To those that say he was a 1-dimensional player, I can not refute that, but he was the most fearsome 1-dimensional player of his day.

Also interestingly enough Jose Canseco got only 6 votes (1.1%)

Let the debate begin

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  • Soccer Dad linked with Cal Ripken - a diamond in rough times...

2 Former Red Sox Players Moving On

After being speculated and reported for weeks now, Keith Foulke has signed with the Cleveland Indians

The free agent reliever finalized a $5 million, one-year contract with the club Thursday, a deal both sides hope turns into a longer partnership. Foulke’s deal includes about $2 million in performance bonuses and a mutual option for 2008.

Back in 2004 I loved the toughness that Foulke brought to the mound. He obviously does not have overpowering stuff, but he just found a way to get people out, and sometimes in a dominating fashion.

Since that magical run in October of 2004, his performance has been just awful and his attitude has been worse. I will agree that Boston is a tough place to play, but his action and comments did not make it easier to accept his poor performance.

The Indians (Borowskie, Hernandez, Foulke) like the Red Sox (Donnelly, Romero, Hernadez, Pineiro) are signing a lot of cast off pichers and hoping enough are able to regain their past form or become a hidden gem.

In other news Mark Loretta will reportedly sign with the Houston Astros

Loretta, who played briefly with Houston in 2002, signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, but the contract could be worth as much as $3.5 million if incentives are met.

According to Loretta’s agent, Bob Garber, Loretta had an offer from the Rangers worth $1 million more. The Reds also made an offer, but Loretta picked Houston, partly because of an aggressive recruiting job by Roy Oswalt and Brad Ausmus. Oswalt put the bug in club owner Drayton McLane’s ear, and Ausmus gave his best pitch while working out with Loretta in San Diego, where both reside during the offseason.

I had only seen Loretta play here and there prior to last season since he played in a time zone that is does coorperate with my east-coast bed time. From my limited exposure he seemed like the prototypical #2 hitter and a consummate professional. After watching him for a full season my feels were confirmed. I think the Astros are getting a true “baseball player”. His efforts and contributions will be missed by me, but I do think it is time for Dustin Pedroia to get a chance.


Will Venezuela Become the New Cuba

In an article written by Chris Kilne of Baseball America (subscription needed) there is some concern expressed over how the relations between the US government and Venezuela will impact MLB.

But imagine what would happen if Venezuela becomes the next Cuba–which is seemingly the direction many front-office officials across Major League Baseball see the country taking after electing president Hugo Chavez to another six-year term in December.

Chavez sees Fidel Castro’s Cuba as a model for countering American influence in his country, and cutting off Venezuela’s talent completely from MLB organizations, in Castro-like fashion, would be the worst-case scenario. It is not completely out of the realm of possibility according to many international scouting directors, especially based on the recent experience many clubs have had while doing business in the country.

“Just 10 years ago we had over 10 academies set up and running there–a lot of time and money invested,” said one scouting director from a National League club. “Four years ago we had three, and as of last year we pulled out completely.

“We still scout the country heavily, but even that is riskier than it’s ever been. And the cost to run academies there just isn’t worth it for small to mid-market teams.”

While MLB says it is not a problem yet they seem to be a little worried

MLB disputes many of the claims about Venezuela but is obviously concerned about doing business in the country, especially with the political climate being what it is.

“I don’t think it’s as much the political climate as much as it is the costliness of the venture and how much more involved it is than, say, opening up an academy in the Dominican,” MLB’s vice president of international baseball operations and administration Lou Melendez said. “There are three main points clubs want to address when considering investing in Venezuela: the basic laws of the country and what kind of burden that really can be; the safety issue, because the security situation there is tenuous at best; and then there’s Chavez . . . and there isn’t anything you can do about that.”

According to the article Chavez was elected because he offered hope to the country’s “poor majority.” What works in the benifit of MLB is that if he cuts of access to the country’s talent it might be the worst mistake he can make

Chavez,though, is a huge baseball fan. He references the sport in many of his speeches, and the game is also his country’s national pastime–rare in soccer-dominated South America.

“You just don’t know what this guy is capable of or what he might do,” said another MLB official. “The more you listen to what he’s saying, the more the concern grows about what the future holds. I don’t see him shutting the country down though. There’s too much to lose. Baseball is king in Venezuela and the game might be the one thing bigger and more popular than him.”

Lets hope the conflict between our government and the Venezuela government is limited to words and no more.


Israeli Baseball – Dan Duquette

In his days since being the GM for Boston Red Sox the Duke has found something to do:

Duquette has spent the past few months scouting players in Israel and Massachusetts and plans to hold additional tryouts before the six-team league opens its season on June 24. The teams will be the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Netanya Tigers, Petach Tikva Pioneers, Jerusalem/Gezer Lions, Haifa/Nahariya Stingrays and Tel Aviv Lightning.

Wonder who is going to play in this league?

The league has attracted castoffs from major league teams, former college and high school players who never got a shot at the pros, and ordinary fans with a dream.

Sounds a lot like the players who represented Italy in last springs WBC. The Duke’s plan is noble, and hopefully it will succeed for the good people of Israel but I do not think this is what he had in mind for his job after MLB.

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Red Sox Offseason Progress – Starting Pitching

As mentioned in a previous post there were four areas that I felt the Red Sox needed to address prior to the 2007 season.

  1. Bullpen
  2. Starting Pitching
  3. Manny
  4. Aging Talent

After the miserable second half of last season it was evident that the Sox SP was not up to snuff but if you need more evidence take a look at some of these stats.


Pre 53 33 4.54 265 3.08 598 0.263 0.330 0.436 0.765 780 1.36 2.26 7.00
Post 33 43 5.16 244 3.21 472 0.296 0.358 0.459 0.816 790 1.54 1.93 6.32

While stats are for the entire staff, it still shows what we all saw. The Sox sucked in the 2nd half of the season.

Going into last season the SP looked to be in good shape

  1. Schill
  2. Beckett
  3. Wells
  4. Wakefield
  5. Clement

Unfortunately the rotation by the end of the season looked more like this

  1. Schill (sort of)
  2. Beckett
  3. Wakefield (sort of)
  4. Tavarez
  5. Snyder/Gabbard/Hansack et. al

As you can see the season did not end with the same excitement that the season started with. Going into the off season the Sox needed to get younger and obviously get better.

The banner move of the off Red Sox off season was definitely the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka. While the signing of Matsuzaka does not equate to automatic sucess, it has some real upside. Daisuke is only 26 years old, has between 4-6 plus pitches (depending on who you read), and has remarkable make up. While I can not refute the concerns some people have (can he bring his success to MLB, has he been worked into the ground, can he play in the intense atmosphere that is Boston, what effects will a 5 man rotations have on him) I think the price was right (figuring Meche, Marquis, and Zito went for) for the Sox and his presence in Boston means he does not help the aging Yankee staff.

As mentioned in the RP post the 2nd addition is also an addition by subtraction. A debate that will last for as long as the game of baseball is played is, are you better off having a lights out closer that can save 45 games a year, or a starter who can give you 220 innings and win around 20 games. While the squad needs a closer much more than another SP, the medical team has deemed Jonathan Papelbon is better served as being an SP. As I said previously, if he can not stay healthy for a season as a RP he is no use to the team on DL, so I support the thinking behind this move, I just hope my faith is rewarded.

The addition of Paplebon, Matsuzaka, along with Beckett give the Sox 3 top shelf arms that are 26 years old. While I agree that Beckett did not excel with the Sox, he stuff can not be denied, and for the first time in his 5 year career he pitched over 30 games, and maybe most inpressive he did not have to spend any time on the DL. I know those are not the best accomplishments but it is something to build off of. Hopefully these 3 along with the old men of the staff, Schilling and Wake, can be the SPs that will carry us to a more successful season. If they fail there is the potential for another disappoint season in Red Sox Nation. 


Arrest Warrant Out for Jeff Allison

The story just keeps getting worse for the Marlins prospect (if he is still considered that anymore)

Back in May 2003 Jackie MacMullan of the Boston Globe wrote an article about this top talent

“You look at him five years down the line, and you like his chances,” said the scout. “He throws hard, he has a decent curveball, and he’s got good baseball smarts. He looks like a kid you can teach.”

“He is,” said a second scout, “the best prospect from this area in 15 years.”

In the article Theo Epstein seemed to have some concern over talents like Allison

“The history of the draft demonstrates taking a righthanded pitcher out of high school in the first round is a risky venture,” said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. “It’s an extremely long road from high school to the minor leagues to the big leagues. There’s a lot of attrition, mostly because of injuries.

“It’s hard to keep pitchers healthy for a long period of time. These young guys have so many adjustments to make, from mechanics, to facing better hitters, to dealing with bigger crowds. Some make it, and some don’t. And, even those that do tend to make it with a team other than the one that drafted them.

And if you read the December 2004 Sports Illustrated Article you will know that Allison’s coach seemed to blinders on about the situation

“I know what they say about high school pitchers getting drafted, but I’ve been around 34 years, and this kid is the exception to the rule,” said Nizwantowski. “He has his wits about him. None of this stuff has gone to his head. He acts like any other kid we’ve got, but when he gets behind the stripes, you can’t believe how focused he is.”

This is a story that I have followed from the time Allison was in high school. While this is a very tragic story, based on what I read this was a kid who seemed to think he was invincible.

His chance and MLB stardom might have passed, but I hope it is not too late for him to turn his life around. I would think there are thousands of high school athletes who fail because of the pressures to succeed at the next level. If Allison can overcome his problems he might have the opportunity to teach young people (not just athletes) how to make the best of their opportunities. IMO that accomplishments would be more rewarding than anything he could have accomplished on the field.

Best of luck Jeff


Feds will get 2003 steroid results

It appears the Feds are doing everything possible to prove what we all feel, Barry Bonds used performance enhancing drugs.

The names and urine samples of about 100 Major League Baseball players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs three years ago can be used by federal investigators, a court ruled Wednesday — a decision that could have implications for Barry Bonds.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could bolster the government’s perjury case against Bonds if investigators are able to link his name to a positive test from baseball’s anonymous testing in 2003. The San Francisco Giants slugger has been the target of a perjury investigation since he testified before a 2004 grand jury that he didn’t knowingly use illegal drugs.

As the article mentions

Baseball players and owners agreed in their 2002 labor contract that the results would be confidential, and each player was assigned a code number to be matched with his name.

Unfortunately this is an issue that will never die. While I do believe Mark McGwire used performance enhancing drugs (PED), I think it is wrong how he is being made the poster child for all that was wrong. He was obvioulsy one of at least a hundred players who used PED, and unfortunatley the most high profile, and the first to come up for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But the bottom line is that he should not have to pay the price of Major League Baseball knowingly or unknowingly looking the other way. If I heard whispers about PED while I was senior at UMASS-Amherst, I am sure the powers that be did as well.

Barry Bonds is a jerk, and may have been a HOF before he starting sticking needles in his butt, BUT he should not get a pass while other players are being penalized for doing similar things.

This is a lose-lose situation for everyone in baseball but I guess this is the price the MLB and the players must pay for their action/inaction.


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