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Monthly Archives: November 2003

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SHAPE OF THINGS

It’s windy and cold here in Vermont this morning, but there are many happy Red Sox fans in these parts regardless. The Red Sox have pitching! This is a moment that should legitimately make Yankee fans nervous. For the better part of 85 years, Boston is a team that has been defined by its offense. If only they had pitching, if only…Well, adding Curt Schilling sure is a good place to start. Buster Olney sure thinks so:

Throughout the Yankees’ dynasty of 1996-2001, they viewed the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles as sleeping giants, dangerous franchises that were operated incompetently. But now the Red Sox are being run effectively, efficiently, and they are starting to win some of the battles the Yankees always won in past years. They’ll have their next chance on the field in the 2004 season.

Dan Shaughnessy, a writer who has a lot invested in the Red Sox being good but not champs, says this move makes Boston the favorites in the American League East. He also raises an eyebrow over how the Yankees were squeezed by Arizona:

Truly there is something about this deal that does not make sense. In their talks with the Yankees, the Diamondbacks wanted Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson in exchange for the 37-year-old Schilling. Dealing with Boston, Arizona settled for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge de la Rosa, and a minor leaguer to be named, likely Michael Goss — four players who do not equal one Nick Johnson.

Conspiracy theorists believe the Diamondbacks stuck it to the Yankees in retaliation for New York snatching David Wells last winter after Wells made a handshake agreement with Arizona. Look for the Yankees to go after Bartolo Colon now that the Red Sox have Schilling. And brace yourself for New York’s eventual signing of Gary Sheffield.

“I guess I hate the Yankees now,” said Schilling last night after the deal was announced.

Fortunately for Yankee fans, there are some silver linings here. Let’s talk Turkey. We hope that Schilling starts to break down. We hope that he gets in trouble with the press, and that the antiquated Fenway Clubhouse isn’t big enough for both Pedro and Schilling. (Fat chance.) OK, I’m bitter. These might be flimsy hopes, but you got to start somewhere. Meanwhile, Schilling admits that he hasn’t always been kind to Prince P:

“The one thing I know about being a visiting player is that I hated the fans,” he said. “And I think there’s a lot of disliking players until they’re on your side. A guy like Pedro, I think I was quoted in the middle of the playoffs when that situation occurred [involving Karim Garcia and Don Zimmer] as calling him a `punk.’ I can’t take it back. I felt that way at the time, and I’ve played with guys that have done the same thing and I thought it was pretty sweet as a teammate. It’s going to be different from anything I’ve ever done on a consistent basis and it’s going to be a challenge.”

As Gordon Edes notes, the Red Sox should not pop open the champagne just yet:

Of course, it’s a great deal for the Red Sox. But adding Curt Schilling, as good as he is, guarantees nothing, except an over-the-top response from the Yankees, who are virtually certain to add either Bartolo Colon or Javier Vazquez while returning Andy Pettitte to a rotation that will be missing Roger Clemens and possibly David Wells in 2004. In the euphoria that followed his successful pursuit of Schilling last night, Sox GM Theo Epstein acknowledged as much.

…Before planning on that parade down Boylston Street that Schilling was imagining in his musings during last night’s press conference, remember this: The A’s, with their fabulous threesome of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder, have yet to play in a World Series. The Yankees, despite their rotation of impeccable pedigree, have not won a World Series since 2000.

The Sox led the AL in starters’ ERA by a wide margin over the Bombers in 2002 and didn’t even make the playoffs. Same thing in 2000.

I think it is fitting to end today’s entry with the Red Sox Don, Peter Gammons, who gives the lowdown on the deal, and aptly praises Boston’s GM, Theo Epstein.

DONE AND DONE

Curt Schilling has agreed to waive his no-trade clause, and accepted a trade to the Boston Red Sox. According to ESPN, after making $12 million in 2004, Schilling will earn $12.5 million in 2005 and $13 million in 2006. Boston has a $13 million option for 2007 that could become guarenteed if Schilling meets certain performance levels.

So there you have it. The Red Sox bagged their babe. What? You didn’t actually think Theo and Company were going to come back empty-handed now did you?

Yankee fans, brace yourself for another loud-mouth ace up in Beantown who is sure to agitate us plenty. Yup, he’ll be tough against the Yankee hitters, but he’s likely to be even more irritating when he flaps his yap in the newspapers. All the same, I’m glad the Yanks didn’t overpay to get him. Jay Jaffe thinks it is OK that New York passed on him as well:

…There are still other reasons to like Schilling in a Red Sox uniform from the Yankee point of view. One is that it would appear to limit Boston’s long-term spending options. They already made a desperate move to free themselves from Manny Ramirez’s contract, and they’re in the final year of Nomar Garciaparra’s and Pedro Martinez’s deals. Handing out $25-40 million in extensions to the new kid in town isn’t likely to be a hit with those two, and it’s also unclear whether Boston would assume responsiblity for the deferred money. Additionally, signing him would likely eliminate the Sox as one of Andy Pettitte’s suitors.

Steinbrenner’s admiration to the contrary, Curt Schilling is not Roger Clemens. He’s a pitcher who’s had two excellent seasons and several good ones over the course of his career, but he’s never won a Cy Young award, let alone six, and he’s got a ways to go to win 200 games. He’s a flyball pitcher, not particularly well suited to Fenway Park, where he hasn’t done too well historically (career 6.04 ERA in 25.1 innings). On the other hand, he’s still a fine pitcher who strikes out more than 10 men per nine innings and has pinpoint control, allowing less than two walks per nine in each of the past four seasons. Though he spent a bit of time on the DL last season, that time was due to an appendectomy and a broken hand, not shoulder or elbow trouble. But as the Yanks found out in the World Series, old pitchers have a nasty habit of breaking down at inopportune times. Let Schilling break down on somebody else’s watch.

Still, he’s a great fit for the Sox, and it was a great move on their part. What will the Yankees cook-up in response? Brace yourself: they’ve got a Sheff eager to jump into the kitchen.

THANKS A LOT

Checking in from the heart of Red Sox Country…I’m up in Vermont with Emily visiting her folks for the long weekend. Curt Schilling is still not a member of the Home Nine, but he should be by the end of the day. Schilling has until 5 p.m. on the west coast to make a decision. I thought he might want to give Red Sox fans something to cheer about this morning, but he’s going to make ‘em sweat it out just a bit. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Schilling has always had a self-important sense of drama.

I’m going to be scrounging around the used bookshops here in the Middlebury/Burlington area hoping to find some bargains and perhaps even a hidden treasure or two. I’ll be back later once something official comes out regarding Schilling.

Hope everyone had a great Turkey Day.

A-ROD HEADED TO BOSTON?

How about this for an eye-grabber:

It sounds like voodoo economics, but it’s possible that the only way the Red Sox can afford both ace Curt Schilling and closer Keith Foulke and still stay under the luxury-tax threshold of $120.5 million for 2004 is by making another deal — one that nets them Alex Rodriguez and the biggest contract in sports.

Gordon Edes sure knows how to get the reader’s attention. I will continue to play the paranoid patsy until Rodriguez is not a Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Curt Schilling will talk turkey today. Schilling is in the driver’s seat here. At this point, the Sox will look bad if they can’t reel him in. Look for Schilling to ask for the anything he wants, and look for “Theo and the Trio” to give it to him. Boston hopes to satiate Red Sox Nation will dreamy headlines for the holiday tomorrow.

REMEMBERING SPAHNIE

First we’ll use Spahn, then we’ll use Sain.
Then an off day, followed by rain.
Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain,
And followed, we hope, by two days of rain.

—Gerry Hern, sports editor of The Boston Post, 1948.

There are several fitting appreciations of Warren Spahn today: Tom Boswell, Ira Berkow, and Rob Neyer all pay their respects.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

The mainstream media has been nothing less than shrill in their coverage of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, especially baseball. Lisa Olson adds her two-cents today with a piece on Barry Bonds’ personal trainer and Jere Longman has a cautionary tale about steroids and a Texas teenager in the New York Times. For a more measured and clear-headed take, check out Rob Neyer’s latest, as well as a lengthy, and exceedingly well-researched piece by Dayn Perry (thanks to Mike Emeigh at Baseball Primer’s Clutch Hits for the link). Perry’s article is almost a year old, but it still holds up and should be required reading for anyone interested in the steroid issue.

REPEAT AFTER ME: I’M STAYIN’

After weeks of silly headlines, Mike Piazza attempts to set the record straight: He does not want to be traded and is willing to play some games at first base:

“I don’t want to be traded,” Piazza told The [Newark] Star-Ledger in a casual, matter-of-fact tone by phone yesterday from his L.A. home. “I signed on for seven years. I made a seven-year commitment and I plan to stick to it. I don’t know where all this came from, but it didn’t come from me. What hurts me is that the fans are confused, and they shouldn’t be. It’s kind of embarrassing. It shouldn’t be about me. It should be about making the team better.”

…”I’m just trying to be accommodating, to help the team. I think we should have open lines of communication and we should be adults about it. They shouldn’t be afraid to come talk to me about anything. I’ll do whatever they want me to do. My agent was quoted saying I’m willing to play first base. I’ve said it over and over again. What do I have to do, go to the top of a mountain at high noon and sign it in blood?”

That would be funny. Not necessary, but funny. I’ll settle for watching Mike play the air drums in the outfield during pre-game warm ups.

MVP BREAKDOWN

Travis Nelson has a winning (and funny) critique of the M.V.P. voting process. Travis offers some constructive criticism to Jayson Stark and makes his case for what “value” really means. This piece comes in two-parts (Part I and Part II) and I highly recommend that you stop by The Boy of Summer and give it a look.

JUST A MATTER OF TIME

The Red Sox high command will be in Arizona today to meet with Curt Schilling. From what I can gather, it is just a matter of time before Arizona’s right-handed ace joins Boston. Here is this morning’s coverage in The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, New York Times, Daily News and the New York Post. Jayson Stark, who has been close with Schilling since the pitchers’ days with the Phillies, has the scoop at ESPN:

“I’m dealing with this situation exactly how I would if I were a free agent and Boston was a city I was interested in,” Schilling told ESPN.com Monday night. “And I’m going to assess things just the way a free agent would who was thinking about going somewhere.

“I’m concerned about a lot of things — and many of them are not just in the clubhouse and on the field. They’re personal, family issues. And they’re things I have to think about in a very condensed time frame, because by Friday at 5 o’clock, somebody has to have a decision.”

…”In a sense, I’m still standing on the mound with the ball in my hand,” he said, “because nothing has been determined. And nothing will be determined without my wife and I saying yes. That’s just like I’m on the mound. I’m in full control of the situation until the ball leaves my hand. So now, the most important thing to me, in this situation, is to make the right pitch.”

One major selling point for Schilling is the impending hiring of Terry Francona as the next Boston skipper. Schilling played for Francona in Philly.

Before flying out to meet with Schilling today, Boston GM Theo Epstein attended the Celtics-Knicks game last night in Boston with free agent reliever Keith Foulke. Looks like Red Sox Nation is going to have much to be thankful for come Thursday.

WARREN SPAHN DEAD

Hall of Fame southpaw, Warren Spahn passed away yesterday. He was 82. Spahn was famous for a fluid pitching motion and high leg kick. Oh yeah, he also holds the all-time mark for career wins by a lefty, with 363. He pitched for 21 seasons and won 20 or more games 13 times. He will be missed.

WAITING FOR CURT

Forget the three-team swap. According to ESPN:

Boston would send left-handed pitcher Casey Fossum, lefty Jorge De La Rosa, righty Brandon Lyon and outfielder Michael Goss to Arizona for Schilling.

Schilling will meet with Theo Epstein and John Henry tomorrow in Arizona to work out the details for a contract extension:

“Money is not going to be the key factor. I already have more money then I am ever going to spend. It will have to be right for me, my wife and family. The Red Sox have some positives, the Yankees have some positives, but we will see after I talk to them.”

…”I’d rather stay here in Arizona, I have said that all along. I am adamant about that,” Schilling said at the news conference. “I realize that it is a payroll decision. They have to move payroll and change payroll. Twelve million dollars is a big chunk of that. You can’t always get what you want.”

Welp, Yankee fans, it looks to me as if Curt Schilling will be wearing a Boston uniform next year. (Do you feel angry or relieved?) That makes for an imposing front three, no? But as scary as it may seem

WHOPPER

OF COURSE YOU KNOW, THIS MEANS WAR

This just in. According to Lee Sinins, a major trade is in the works:

The Diamondbacks have traded P Curt Schilling to the Redsox for P Casey
Fossum and a couple of prospects.

However, Schilling has a no trade clause and still has to approve the deal.
So, the deal is being sent to bud’s office in order to officially start the 72 hour window to allow the Redsox to talk to him about a contract extension.

…According to Peter Gammons, the Diamondbacks would send Fossum to the
Brewers for Richie Sexson.

Just a note here–I’m hearing about Gammons’s report through WFAN’s Mike Francesa and I was also distracted by something else while listening to him. So, there may or may not be a detail or two that should also be in the
report.

Wow. Think George will take this one well? If this goes through, Steinbrenner is going to hit the roof. Heads will roll; money will be spent, and maybe A Rod finds his way to the Bronx after all.

Schilling said a few weeks ago that he wasn’t interested in playing in Boston. A right-handed fly-ball pitcher isn’t the ideal fit for the Fens. Still, from my perspective as a Yankee fan, Schilling is the perfect Red Sox. He looks like a Red Sox and is easy to root against. And talk about quotable. Between Schilling and Pedro, it certainly won’t be dull in Boston. They’ll be bashing the Yanks from February through October.

If this trade goes through, it will be the biggest killing of Theo Epstein’s young career. And another memorable chapter in the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. The Hot Stove just got hotter.

RETURN OF THE M&M BOYS?

The Yankees could sport an updated version of the M & M boys if they manage to lure Japanese infielder Kaz Matsui (no relation to Godzilla Matsui) to New York this winter. According to the Daily News, moving Alfonso Soriano to the outfield and convincing Matsui to move from his natural position of short to second base if part of Boss George’s master plan.

Another Matsui sure would make for some clever headlines.

SHOULD JETER CHANGE POSITIONS?

For many, the answer is simple: “yes.” The statisitics prove that Jeter is a below-average defensive shortstop. If he moved to third, he would still be a good offensive player. Plus, the Yankees could find a slick-fielding shortstop which would help address one of the team’s most glaring problems: the up-the-middle defense. Then again, for many fans, the answer is equally as simple: “no.” Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop in Yankee history and there is no need to move him at this point in his career.

I am for Jeter changing positions and have been since the 2002 season. He is considered a “true team player” who puts winning above individual achievements. While I don’t doubt that he is a “team-guy”, I’d like to see him put to the test. Great players have changed positions before. However, I seriously doubt that Jeter will be moved anytime soon. At least not as long as Joe Torre is around. Maybe the Yankees will consider moving him for 2005 or 2006; that all depends on how rapidly Jeter’s already suspect fielding continues to decline.

Steve Goldman addressed the $64,000 Derek Jeter question with clarity and poise last week in his Pinstriped Bible column:

Is it asking too much of a player with the ego necessary to be a star in professional sports (for that indomitable will to always appear at one’s best is as much generated by self-adulation as by a sense of honor) to swallow his pride and admit that another man is his better? This winter Jeter and the Yankees have an excellent chance to demonstrate that pride of winning comes before pride of self.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I’ve heard people say that if Alex Rodriguez was ever traded to the Bronx, A Rod should move to third, not Jeter. Jeter has to stay at short out of respect. For what? Jeter’s feelings? Puleeze. When did this become a diva cat fight? I thought all Derek Jeter wanted to do was win championships. Last I checked Alex Rodriguez has won two consecutive Gold Gloves and is one of the 10-15 greatest players in the history of the game. Now, let’s talk about respect.

Of course, it is highly unlikely that Alex Rodriguez will ever play for the Yankees, just as it is unlikely that Derek Jeter will be asked to move his position in the near future. Still, I think it has become increasingly clear that moving Jeter out of short would be the best thing for the Yankees.

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BAD DAYS FOR BUD

I don’t know if I’ve ever written a post concerning the commisioner of baseball, Bud Selig. There are some things I just don’t have the stomach for. But Selig has made the news on several fronts recently, most notably in America’s Heartland. Doug Pappas has been all over the disaster area that the Brewers have become, and Jay Jaffe wrote several good posts explaining the current situation too.

If that’s not enough for you, Jayson Stark has a column over at ESPN about how Bud and MLB have continued to make a laughing stock of themselves with regards to the Montreal-San Juan Expos:

“It’s like a whirlpool,” says one baseball man who once worked for the Expos, “that has turned into a cesspool.”

It is a shame that they will not make a competitive offer to keep Vlad Guerrero, who is possibly the greatest player in franchise history (taking nothing away from Rock Raines or Andre Dawson

PITCHING FOR ALEX

Peter Gammons’ latest details the Yankees’ off-season plans. The priority in the Bronx? Pitching, pitching, pitching. But Gammons suspects the Yankees will also sign Gary Sheffield, and then move Alfonso Soriano to the outfield, making Bernie Williams a DH, and creating an opening for a good fielding second baseman.

Is A-Rod likely to end up in Boston? According to a report coming out of the Dominican Republic, the Sox and the Yanks are the only two teams Rodriguez would consider playing for. Gammons adds:

There seems to be some feeling that the ice is beginning to melt on their Manny Ramirez-Alex Rodriguez offer, which would save the Rangers $96 million in present-day value. Ramirez, Rodriguez and the Red Sox want the deal, and the way the A-Rod-Buck Showalter-John Hart freeze is going, if they don’t do the deal, they might not be there at this time next year.

I don’t think I’m being overly paranoid in thinking that the Sox could actually pull off a blockbuster deal that would bring Rodriguez to Beantown. Do you?

PINTONOMICS

Rich Lederer has the third installment of his blogger-interview series up at Rich’s Weekend Baseball BEAT. David Pinto is featured this week. Pinto writes possibly the most popular baseball blog going, Baseball Musings. I like how David is honest about wanting a job with a major league club as a statistical analyst. He’d be great at it, don’t you think? I also like how David would accept a job as a professional blogger. (Mmmm, profesional blogging.) Check it out. Also, don’t miss Rich’s article on “The Worst M.V.P Seasons Ever” too. As usual, quality is job one over at RWBB.

LOCK AND LOAD

Yankee GM Brian Cashman has been the busiest of worker bees over the past several weeks, gathering information concerning trade possibilities and the free agent market. The Yankees have yet to make a move, but the front office will meet Monday to devise their plan. A few things seem certain. According to The New York Times:

Cashman said that besides Pettitte, the Yankees wanted to retain two of their other free agents, catcher John Flaherty and reliever Felix Heredia. They would also like to re-sign David Wells “as a nonroster invite,” Cashman said.

… Cashman said he was confident that first baseman Jason Giambi could play a full season in the field next year after having surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. That would seem to make the Yankees more comfortable trading Nick Johnson, who played first base throughout the American League playoffs.

“Nick’s a valuable commodity, whether we hold on to him or as a trading chip,” Cashman said. “If he’s going to be here, he’s going to help us. If not, he could help us in trade scenarios.”

And finally:

“We’ll definitely have discussions with whoever Kazuo Matsui’s agent happens to be.”

The prevailing thought in Yankee land is that Boss George will sign Tampa-native Gary Sheffield to play right field in New York. It also feels as if Nick Johnson will be traded before Alfonso Soriano gets moved. (Drag.) Perhaps George will get something done special for Turkey Day.

Speaking of Tampa, the Cardinals dumped former Yankee first baseman Tino Martinez on the Devil Rays for two minor leaguers

THE HIGH PRICE OF BIDDING

The Houston Astros spoke with Andy Pettitte’s agents yesterday and of course, are very serious about bringing the southpaw home to Texas. The Red Sox have joined in on the fun too, and are interested in bringing Pettitte to Boston. What a coup that would be. Except it’s unlikely to happen. Boston’s main goal in showing an interest in Pettitte is to jack his price up and make George pay through the nose. It’s been my contention all along that Steinbrenner will overpay to keep Andy in the Bronx regardless of what Boston does, so we are right on course.

Jason Giambi had surgery on his left knee yesterday. He will undergo rehabilitation this winter and should be ready for spring training.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver