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Monthly Archives: December 2004

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Stop Making Sense

With the Randy Johnson-to-the-Yankees deal still in the works–I didn’t know that Kaz Ishii was part of this now–the Boston Red Sox acted swiftly yesterday, agreeing to a deal with Matt Clement (three years, about $25 million). After over-paying for Edgar Renteria, I think the Clement contract is very sensible. I’m frustrated that Clement didn’t choose another destination; it’s too bad the Yankees didn’t go after him instead of Jaret Wright (or even Carl Pavano, you could argue). But, he’ll pitch for Boston instead. He isn’t a control pitcher but he’s got nasty stuff. This deal keeps the Yankees and Sox extremely close in talent, don’t you think?

In other Red Sox news, all you yentas out there check out the Pedro Martinez-Curt Schilling melodrama.

Incredibly Beautiful People (Part Four)

Book Excerpt

From Red Sox Century

By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson

(Part 1, 2, and 3)

His remarkable streak began in Detroit. After Boston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, the Tigers came back to tie the game 4-4, then went ahead. But with one out in the ninth, Yaz turned on a Fred Lasher fastball and drove it into the upper deck to tie the game again, and then a Dalton Jones home run won it in the tenth. The win tied Boston with Detroit for the lead.

The next night, Detroit was leading 2-1 when Adair singled and Yaz walked. Scott tied the game with a hit and Yaz scored the game-winner when he raced home on a wild pitch. The next night in Cleveland, with the game tied 4-4 and two out in the ninth, Yaz singled, Scott walked, and Reggie Smith singled Yastrzemski in with the game winner again. They stretched their winning streak to four games with a 6-5 win, then got blown out 10-0 in the first game of a doubleheader in Baltimore.

But Yastrzemski wouldnít allow the Sox to stay down. With Boston trailing, Yaz led a comeback and Boston rolled to a 10-3 win. The following day, his 42nd home run of the season put Boston ahead, but the bullpen failed and the Orioles won 7-5.

Next to Yaz, Jim Lonborg was the most important player on the team. In the last game of the road trip, he proved it, holding Baltimore scoreless through six innings as the Sox built a 7-0 lead. Then Dick Williams, daring to think ahead for the first time all year, gambled and pulled his ace to save his arm in case he was needed in the next few days. The Sox held on to win 11-7 and returned to Boston for two games against Cleveland and two against Minnesota to end the regular season. With only four games remaining, the Red Sox were in a dead heat with the Twins for first place, while Chicago trailed by

Coming to Town?

The day after Pedro Martinez was introduced to the media as the newest member of the Mets, the Yankees still managed to kick their cross town rivals off the back pages. According to reports, the Yankees are close to trading Javey Vazquez and their two best prospects (Dioner Navarro and Eric Duncan) to the Dodgers in a three-team trade that would bring Randy Johnson to the Bronx. John Heyman broke the story late yesterday for Newsday. The Times, News and Post all have slightly different spins on the story. The complicated trade could involve a fourth team before all is said and done.

Who knows if it’ll actually happen. So much can go wrong. I’ll believe it when I see it. My initial reaction when I heard the news last night was one of happiness. The Yanks got their man. It was quickly followed with concern that they were losing two valuable chips in Navarro and Duncan. The concern didn’t last long. What are prospects for, after all? (Just ask the Braves who shipped three of em to Oakland in exchange for my man Tim Hudson yesterday afternoon.) Duncan wasn’t going to get any burn with Alex Rodriguez playing third in the Bronx, and Navarro? Is he worth holding up a deal like this? Hardly. Then, I felt sad about the possibility of Javier Vazquez moving on so quickly. I am a big fan of his, and thoroughly enjoyed rooting for him last year, inspite of his poor second half. But sentiment aside, I think two years of Randy Johnson over three years of Vazquez is a risk that is well worth taking.

Anyhow, I’m getting ahead of myself. The deal ain’t done yet.

Incredibly Beautiful People (Part Three)

Book Excerpt

From Red Sox Century

By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson

(Part 1 and 2)

For the first time in over a decade fortune smiled on the Red Sox. On August 21, after power-hitting outfielder Ken Harrelson was quoted referring to Aís owner Charlie O. Finley as “a menace to baseball,” Finley released him. The Red Sox were drawn into the first free agent bidding war in modern baseball history.
The ability to add a player of Harrelsonís ability so late in the season without giving up a player was a unique opportunity. Knowing he could prove the difference in the pennant race teams in both leagues scrambled after the slugger.

(more…)

It’s Done

Pedro Martinez passed his physical yesterday. The Mets have scheduled a press conference for 11:00 a.m. to introduce Prince P to New York. The Yankees will officially announce the signings of Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright early next week.

Let’s Get Physical

Pedro Martinez is not officially a member of the Metropolitans yet, but that hasn’t prevented folks from weighing in with their take on his situation. Tom Verducci and Peter Gammons do not think it is an especially wonderful deal for the Mets. I asked Edward Cossette, author of the now deceased Bambino’s Curse website, for his reaction:

I’ll always have great memories of Pedro, from his incredible sick from flu relief appearance against Cleveland in the ’99 ALDS to all the goofy antics he pulled in the dugout — But it’s been a couple of years now since I felt secure as a fan watching him pitch. In that sense, I’m actually relieved that he’s gone. No more wondering if every pitch will be his last. And this frees up a lot of cash for other signings, like Edgar Renteria, which is breaking news that he signed with the Sox as I type. Theo doesn’t waste time.

Apparently not. Another Sox fan, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, writes:

I can’t emphasize this point strongly enough: Pedro’s shocking departure was the worst possible thing that could have happened. Losing the most exciting pitcher in the history of the franchise was bad enough. Losing him because he leveraged the good will of the championship season into a far-too-generous offer from the Red Sox, then leveraged that offer into a suicidal contract from the Mets — four years and $54 million for a six-inning pitcher with a history of shoulder problems — I mean, how are we supposed to feel about this guy now?

Did he care about those seven years in Boston at all? Was he another hired gun like Clemens? Were all the stories about him true, that he was a prima donna who only looked out for himself? And most importantly, would this change the way we remembered his contribution to the first World Series title in 86 years? We spent the past three months basking in the glow of October, reveling in everything good about sports. Then Pedro did his best to ruin the moment. I don’t know if I can forgive him.

In the Times, Harvey Araton has little sympathy for the Red Sox organization:

In the mythologized sports world we wish could still exist, if it ever did, Mart”nez would remain in Boston with all the others who undid 86 years’ worth of October disillusionment, and we would find out next season what these Yankees – still without the southpaw pitching to neutralize the murderous left-handers in the Red Sox lineup – can do without their stolen front-runners’ swagger.

It just does not work that way, in any sport, on any team, least of all the Boston Red Sox under the calculating leadership of Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein. Loyalty? Where is it for Derek Lowe, who has averaged 17 victories for them over the last three years, who saved Game 5 of the division series against Oakland in 2003, who won Game 7 against the Yankees last October and closed out the Cardinals in the World Series?

To this point, the Red Sox have offered Lowe arbitration or an escort to the Rhode Island border, cast him as an unwanted party boy, and turned around to hand a fat contract to the bloated and the injury prone bar-hopper David Wells, age 41. Loyalty? This time last year, the Red Sox put Mart”nez’s good friend Manny Ramirez on waivers, and plotted to unload Nomar Garciaparra, finally dealing him last summer to the Cubs.

Loyalty? The other day, the word out of Boston was that the Red Sox were firing Bill Morgan, their 2004 postseason most valuable physician, whose improvisational suturing of Curt Schilling’s right ankle kept the World Series dream from rupturing altogether.

Meanwhile, what about the Yankees in all of this? Well, in the latest edition of Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman, ‘splains the awful truth about the Yankees new second baseman, Tony Womack:

This is the worst move by the Yankees of the last decade. Womack is a player without redeeming features. He canít hit. He is a poor fielder. His main skill, stealing bases, has little relevance to a power-hitting offense. A career .274/.319/.362 hitter, he reached a late peak last year, hitting .307/.349/.385. Not only are these numbers unexceptional by the standards of the league, but it is highly unlikely that Womack will reach them again.

Reaching for Womack when there were better, albeit more expensive options on the market again suggests the Yankees are trying to reign in their spending. Itís wasted effort because at the All-Star break, Alfonso Soriano will be back on the organizational radar screen. It would be in the organizationís best interest to give Robinson Cano a legitimate shot to win the job at spring training, and failing that to promote him at the soonest opportunity and reduce Womack to reserve status.

What gets me going is the thought of Womack leading off. But you know what? Even if Torre starts the season in that manner, it won’t be long before Womack will be batting ninth, don’t you think?

Sox Sign Renteria

According to the Boston Globe, the Red Sox have signed the stellar shortstop Edgar Renteria to a four-year, $40 million deal. Renteria is a player that I’ve always appreciated and admired. The “Our shortstop is better than yours” debates live on.

Incredibly Beautiful People (Part Two)

Book Excerpt

From Red Sox Century

By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson

(For Part One, click here)

Stanky got the message. The Red Sox were for real. Before leaving Fenway Park he meekly admitted Yastrzemski should be the starting All-Star left fielder for the American league. Then, as soon as he was out of town he made an empty threat to sue the Red Sox for not protecting him from their fans. The pennant race was becoming contentious. Boston had the attention of the other teams. Dick Williams loved it.

Even Boston fans were starting to wake up. Last minute wins were exciting and the Sox had a knack for coming from behind. Attendance started creeping up as older fans decided to check the team out, and young fans came for the first time.
The Sox were tough, too. How tough? When they went to New York in late June, third baseman Joe Foy visited his parents in the Bronx, found their home on fire and pulled them to safety. The next day, in a scene from a B-movie, he hit a grand slam to beat the Yankees 7-1.

(more…)

What More Can I Say? Top Billin

Will Carroll, who writes about injuries for Baseball Prospectus, and has a blog on this site, has made the big time. He’s got a piece on the op-ed page of the New York Times this morning about performance-enhancing drugs. Mazeltov, dude.

King of Queens?

Pedro Martinez is not officially a member of the Mets…yet. However, the Red Sox brass are reacting as if he’s played his last game for the Home Nine. According to the Boston Globe:

“We wish Pedro nothing but the best going forward both on the field and off the field,” Sox principal owner John W. Henry said. “He has earned everything he has accomplished, including his World Series ring and his reputation as one of the greatest who ever lived.”

…”I’m disappointed that Pedro is leaving for the National League and the Mets,” Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino said. “He was a larger-than-life figure and made a gigantic contribution to the Red Sox. I will miss him both personally and professionally.”

…”We’re obviously disappointed he took the Mets’ deal, but we met his requests: We guaranteed the third year,” Sox chairman Tom Werner said. “This will not deter us from finding a solution to reach our championship goals.”

While signing Pedro to such an expensive deal is a calculated risk, you would think that Shea Stadium will do wonders for Martinez’s numbers. As a Yankee fan, I’m happy to see him on any team but the Red Sox. Now, if the Yanks face him twice a year, it will seem like fun. After all, the so-called rivalry with the Mets doesn’t hold a candle to the very real one the Yankees have with the Red Sox. (I wonder how Sox fans feel about losing Martinez.) Also, I would simply like to see Pedro pitch well for the Mets. I just think it would be cool. Met blogger, Jeremy Heit, initially “floored” by the news, writes:

I’m so happy. I love Pedro… he’s probably my second favorite pitcher in the league, right behind, who would have guessed it, the “Next Pedro”, Johan Santana. I have something for changeup pitchers I guess…

Changeup pitchers who throw cheese. Martinez would be the best pitcher the Mets have had since David Cone was with the team in the early 90s. While the Yanks work on finalizing deals with Pavano and Wright, and continue to haggle with Arizona over Randy Johnson, the Mets swipe the headlines for now and apparently are set to give their fans a terrific holiday treat. Martinez still has to pass a physical and given his mercurial personality, anything could still happen, but it’s increasingly difficult to picture him pitching for the Red Sox again.

Big Splash?

The Boston Herald is reporting that Pedro Martinez has accepted a four-year contract to pitch for the New York Mets:

According to sources, Red Sox officials were awaiting official word this afternoon that Martinez had accepted the offer to New York.
The three-time Cy Young winner reportedly agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Mets worth $56 million, or $14 million a year. That deal is a year longer and approximately $500,000 more a year than the Red Sox were willing to spend in order to retain Martinez, according to a baseball source.

Dag. If this is in fact true, props to the Mets for stepping up and bagging their man.

Incredibly Beautiful People

Book Excerpt

So how could I run a series of excerpts by Stout and Johnson without touching on their seminal work, Red Sox Century? Well, I couldn’t leave it out. The question was, “What part did I think would work best for Bronx Banter?” After giving the matter serious consideration, Glenn and I selected the chapter on the Impossible Dream team of 1967. It just so happens to be one of the longer chapters in the book, much longer than the Dodger and Yankee excerpts which appeared here last week. But it was just too good to leave alone. After all, 67 was the Summer of Love. Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate were released that year, as was Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Oh, and the American League had one of the most thrilling pennant races of all-time. There is no hidden meaning behind choosing such a long section for the Bostons, but I figured that Sox fans deserve to read about a winning year–even if the team did ultimatley lose the World Series to the Cards–after how things ended up for them in 2004. So here goes…enjoy. And if you are looking for a last-minute holiday gift, please consider Red Sox Century, Yankees Century, and The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodgers Baseball. They are all welcome additions to any baseball fan’s library.

1967

(Part 1 of 4)

by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson

Dick Williams didnít mess around. “This club has become a cruise ship overrun with captains and players thinking they are captain. The cruise is over and you don’t need a captain anymore,” he told the players. “You have a new boss now–Me. Eliminating the club captaincy is my way of letting you know that things will be done one way…My way.” This was how spring training before the 1967 season began.

Dick Williams stripped Sox captain Carl Yastrzemski of his title and assumed total command. And the Red Sox became a different team.

Although most would later view the rebirth of the Red Sox in 1967 as some kind of miracle, the renaissance of the franchise was more the product of a peculiar set of circumstances that landed the team in the hands of the right man at the right time. The end result was perhaps the most exciting Red Sox season in history, one that started slowly then built before finally exploding like a roman candle that bathed Sox fans in a lasting glow.

(more…)

Waiting Game

The Yankees haven’t officially signed anyone yet, but they are close to inking Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. In addition, according to articles in the Post and the Daily News, the Diamondbacks are prepared to re-open the Randy Johnson talks with the Bombers.

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reports that Pedro Martinez could make a desicion about his future as early as today. The Mets have yet to wow him with an offer so I don’t see why he wouldn’t return to the Hub.

Finally, here’s Jay Jaffe’s second report from Anahiem. Great stuff as always.

The Pitch (Part Two)

Book Excerpt

From Yankees Century

By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson

(For Part One, click here)

As the two teams embarked on the midnight train back to New York, their moods could not have been more different. Boston, having finally broken through on Chesbro, believed he was done for the year. They were confident they could beat whomever Griffith chose to pitch in either game on Monday. The Yankees, on the other hand, knew it would take a miracle to win both games.

Neither the Yankees nor their fans were deterred by the odds. The Giants refusal to play in a postseason series had cost them and the Yankees had picked up thousands of converts that victory could make permanent. Anticipation built during the off day. On Monday afternoon nearly thirty thousand zealots turned out at American League Park hoping to witness just such a miracle.

Jack Chesbro took the mound for the final time that season, and the fourth time in eight days. If it were true that he had nothing left, after 445 innings of pitching, it was equally true that he had nothing left to lose. He had told Griffith the previous day “I’ll trim ‘em on Monday if it costs an arm.”

(more…)

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

Carl Pavano is this close to being a member of the New York Yankees. According to Tyler Kepner in the New York Times:

On Saturday morning, from his off-season home in the woods near Montreal, Pavano told his agent to negotiate a deal with the Yankees. The sides were closing in on a four-year contract for just under $40 million, pending a physical, and Manager Joe Torre made the difference. “His conversations with Joe Torre, who spoke with him again by phone in the last couple of days, really were impactful,” Pavano’s agent, Scott Shapiro, said. “Carl told me point-blank that he would go to war for the man. You can’t say anything bad about the decision of wanting to play for Joe Torre.”

Meanwhile, there was news that Jaret Wright had failed a portion of his physical, holding up his deal with the Yankees. But he took a second one yesterday and it seems as if he’ll be wearing pinstripes after all. The Yankees are still interested in adding Eric Milton, but Milton is currently asking for too much money. Hopefully, the Bombers will persue Matt Clement or even Odalis Perez instead of Milton.

Elsewhere, the Red Sox are close to inking free agent Edgar Renteria–a personal favorite, dag–while the A’s could move Tim Hudson–another favorite–by the end of the weekend. For more first-hand reports from the field, check out the latest from All-Baseball’s crack staff: Jon Weisman, Rich Lederer, Alex Ciepley, and Peter White.

Live From Anahiem

Rich Lederer and Jay Jaffe have both filed reports from the winter meetings. Lively stuff. It’s cold and rainy in New York and man, do I ever wish I was out there. Anyhow, I ain’t. But reading Rich and Jay’s articles makes me feel as if I was smack dab in the middle of it. Go check em out.

Boomer Goes to Beantown

With the Yankees reportedly set to sign Carl Pavano, the Red Sox inked David Wells to a two-year contract last night. According to the Boston Globe, the deal is:

For a guaranteed $8 million, plus an additional $10 million in performance incentives that could make the total package worth $18 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, Wells would receive a $3 million signing bonus and have a base salary of $2.5 million in 2005 and 2006. He also would have the opportunity to earn an additional $5 million in performance bonuses in each year of the contract.

As if the rivalry needed any more excitement. Wells, a fan favorite in New York, will now pitch for Boston. (Bet he plunks Rodriguez next year to ignite another brawl.) This is a good signing for the Sox. After all, who would you rather pitching for you: Boomer or Eric Milton? Yeesh. This should all but assure the Yanks of throwing their dough at Pavano and perhaps Milton too. They are talking about four-years, $42 million for Pavano. If you are going to spend that kind of loot, why not up it to $50 and nab Pedro? The question remains: Would Pavano, Milton and Wright make the Yankees a significantly better ball club?

Anyone else get the sense that it is the Yankees desperately trying to keep up with the Red Sox now?

Some Kind of Anniversary

Book Excerpt

The Yankees lost to the Red Sox in exquisite fashion in 2004. It was horribly painful for Yankee fans and amazingly wunnerful for Red Sox Nation. Although the Sox haven’t made a custom of beating the Yankees (when both teams have been good) during the past hundred years, they did send New Yorkers home unhappy in 1904, in spite of the considerable efforts of Ban Johnson and Jack Chesbro. The following excerpt–the first of two parts–from Yankees Century details that fateful season, when the Boston-New York baseball rivalry was just beginning.

CHAPTER TWO: 1904

THE PITCH

By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson

“I would have given my entire salary back could I but had the ball back.”
-Jack Chesbro

If the Yankees failure to contend in 1903 had caused some joy among some factions of Tammany Hall, elsewhere there was only frustration. Ban Johnson, Frank Farrell and William Devery were not happy. The new club had proven problematic, a failure in almost every way. All interested parties were determined not to let that happen again. They’d invested too much in the immigrants to let them flounder.

Fans were less than impressed. American League baseball in New York, while cheaper than National League ball, hadn’t been very impressive. The Yankees had failed to create their own constituency, or steal substantial numbers of fans from the Giants. Yankee rooters were foundlings who couldn’t afford to attend games at the Polo Grounds, gamblers who would bet on anything, anywhere, anyhow, or political cronies of Farrell and Devery taking a day off.

They weren’t drawing fans from downtown. Getting to the ballpark was inconvenient, and would be for several more seasons until the subway opened. By and large, the Yankees were fighting the Giants for the same group of fans – and losing badly.

(more…)

Let the Meetings Begin

The winter meetings start today in Anahiem. Looks like there will be plenty of action. Troy Glaus and Jeff Kent were snatched up yesterday. The Angels are reportedly close to signing Steve Finely while the Diamondbacks are nearing a deal with Russ Ortiz. What will the Yankees accomplish? Youse tell me. Regardless, it promises to be a busy weekend. Goody.

Strikes and Gutters: Part Seven

A Year with the Coen Brothers

Part 1-6

VII

I wasn’t prepared for how overwhelming the return to New York would be. I had gotten accustomed to the wide open spaces, and the freedom it gave my mind to wander. Immediately, New York was an assault on that sense of liberty. The greys (from the sidewalks and streets) and browns (from the brick buildings) were binding. It was still cold, and it would take my eyes some time to adjust to the beauties that can be found in the harsh angles and imposing structures of the city. It was great to be walking the streets again, especially since I wasn’t in the slightest way weighed down by the winter malaise; I floated through pedestrian traffic with a permanent smile, feeling both at home and broadened. I had a perspective now that distanced me from the eye-for-an-eye squabbles I could see festering in others; I didn’t take any of it seriously.

And though this grace period would eventually expire, I felt like the experience of being away for so long had given me a confidence, a sense of myself, that would have been impossible to achieve had I never left. I had much catching up to do with family and friends, and for the first few weeks it was like a homecoming. Inertia did set in, however, and I found myself in a position of re-evaluating relationships, and just how I planned to live my life. The lightness of living out of a bag for five months was a great training ground for the serious work I now had to attend to at home, where the gravity of old patterns soon returned. But I continued to draw and paint and that helped the transition plenty.

(more…)

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