February 29, 2004

Pedro Precise In Mound Session. "For the first time in 135 days, Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez stepped on a pitcher's mound and threw a baseball. Rust? Invisible. Quality of the stuff after that considerable layoff? In the opinion of [Dave Wallace], "ridiculous." Martinez threw 49 pitches from the bullpen late Sunday morning and the results were typically sparkling. ... 'It felt great, actually. For so long without actually touching the mound, I thought it was great. Nice and loose, smooth. I thought I was going to be more divorced from the mound than I was. I got a little bit excited today and I actually threw all three pitches and all three seemed to be pretty comfortable. It's the first time ever that I threw breaking balls on the first time out on the mound. I normally just throw fastballs. This time I felt like I could do that, I had the luxury to do that."

Schilling's throwing BBs, Pedro's got 3 pitches working already, Nomar's spraying the ball to right field, Manny looks fierce, and we got Jesus Christ playing centerfield. It Is On.
Springtime For Bronson. Mr. Arroyo's first thought when told he'd be facing the Yankees next Sunday? "All right, Terry wants to see what I've got right off the bat.'" ... Pitching coachs Dave Wallace and Mike Griffin (Pawtucket) have nothing but praise for Arroyo.

Bombo Productions, a New York City sports and entertainment company, was given special access to the Red Sox last year and its as-yet-untitled film about the 2003 season may be in theaters by Opening Day. Team VP Charles Steinberg: "It is the story of the season through the eyes of about six fans ... from the time tickets went on sale, through Opening Day, watching games at home or listening on the radio. It's the emotional ride fans went through from the start to finish, with humor and pathos."

Curt Schilling is working on his relationship with Jason Varitek as much as his pitching arsenal, which now includes a cut fastball. ... Pokey Reese talks about growing up poor in Columbia, South Carolina. ... If it weren't for bad luck, Bryce Florie would have no luck at all. Damn. ... Chat with Jerry Remy tonight 7:30 pm.

BlogWatch: Alex Belth of Bronx Banter presents a two-part roundtable on the 2004 Yankees with Larry Mahnken (Replacement Level Yankees Weblog), Tim Marchman (New York Sun), Buster Olney (ESPN), Alan Schwarz (Baseball America, ESPN), Joe Sheehan (Baseball Prospectus), Joel Sherman (New York Post) and Glenn Stout (Author of Red Sox Century and Yankees Century). ... Dirt Dogs has an excerpt from Rob Bradford's book "Chasing Steinbrenner: Pursuing the Pennant in Boston and Toronto." ... Articles We Never Finished Reading: "If you're a Boston Red Sox fan, you worry. What if all those guys who had 'career years' in 2003 fall short in 2004?"

A few weeks ago, Rob Neyer reported that the performance of baseball's 10 greatest hitting catchers dropped a cumulative 31% from age 28-31 to 32-35. El Guapo's Ghost wonders what that means for Jason Varitek. ... Jeff at The House That Dewey Built looks at the AL East's catchers. ... Colby Cosh created a 2-D projection of the K/Inn, BB/Inn and HR/Inn of each ERA qualifying pitcher from 2003. Thanks to PSF for the link.

Theo Epstein on Byung-Hyun Kim: "He definitely is an X-factor for us because his ceiling is so high. He hasn't gone out and done it in that role [starting]. Until he does, we'll all be very anxious to see what he does. ... I remember when he gave up those bombs to the Yankees in the World Series. I was watching the game with a couple friends and said, 'Maybe this could be an opportunity. Maybe they'll be down on him if they go on and lose the World Series and maybe we [San Diego] can trade for him.'" ... Epstein said he pretty much spent the entire 2002-03 off-season pursuing Kim before acquiring him in late May for Shea Hillenbrand.

From e.e gammings: "For those Red Sox fans that marvel at what may be the best pitching staff in the game, but fear that pitchers like Tim Wakefield, Derek Lowe -- who is so focused on his job that he can never remember to sell his used frog on EBay -- and Scott Williamson might get overused so much their arms turn into rhinos, Boston had only nine games in the last four weeks in which they didn't use at least three pitchers. Simply yipes."
Green Light Means Go. Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projection for the AL East:
Team        Record   RS    RA     Diff  Deficit

Yankees 105-57 920 654 +266 0
Red Sox 105-57 922 661 +261 - 5
Blue Jays 84-78 856 826 + 30 -236
Orioles 82-80 789 773 + 16 -250
Devil Rays 64-98 712 900 -188 -454
Will Carroll has BP's Red Sox Team Health Report: "Pedro gets a yellow light based on injury history, but honestly, he's much less likely than last year to come up lame. ... Four years removed from his shoulder surgery, Schilling may surprise people by being a green light player ... Kim's yellow light is cautionary, but again, like last year, there is a greater chance of him breaking out than breaking down. ... [T]he only red light on the team is prodigal DH Ellis Burks [but] as a platooned DH, he's also very unlikely to play so much that he injures himself. ... For Varitek, position and age are enough to push him slightly into the yellow. ... When I sat down to go through all the factors, I fully expected the Sox to look as colorful as the Yankees THR. Instead, there's enough green in that lineup to cover the Monster--and perhaps enough to get past the 'Evil Empire' once and for all."

Dan LeBatard, Miami Herald, on the "caveman culture of sports": "You will find more homophobia per square foot in a professional sports locker room than you will find just about anywhere else in America outside of a Klan meeting ... So while homosexuality makes that arduous walk toward America's altars ... you still won't find it anywhere near here, in the locker room where being a felon, rapist or cheat remains preferable to being gay."
The Hair Is A Hit. Some search strings that led people to this blog yesterday:

johnny damon hair
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johnny damon's spring training haircut
johnny damon long hair
johnny damon beard
johnny damon long hair and beard
johnny damon with long hair
johnny damon reports with beard
johnny damon 2004 beard
johnny damon caveman
damon, johnny jesus
johnny damon jesus
journal charles manson 2004

February 28, 2004

Manny Speaks Out, Curt Throws BP. Ramirez shared his thoughts about the Red Sox off-season with Deron Synder. "I can't be mad at anybody. I'm happy to be back with the guys. What happened in the winter happened, and it's in the past. ... I have five years left, and I'd like to stay here and finish my career in Boston. ... There are probably some people who think I'm difficult because I don't talk that much in the press. But I get along with everybody. I'm not mad at the press. They have a job to do. ... I'm not mad just because sometimes they write some stuff." Even so, he made it clear he was not doing any other interviews.

Pedro on Manny: "We wish he had more awareness and knowledge and understanding for certain stuff. ... But we can't ask him to have it all. We'd all like to be good at all things. But we're not. He's not a bad guy. He doesn't harm anybody or offend anybody. He's a pleasure to be around."

Spring Starters:
March 4* v Twins : Derek Lowe
March 5 v Boston College: Tim Wakefield
March 5 v Northeastern: Curt Schilling
March 6 v Twins: Byung-Hyun Kim
March 7 v Yankees: Bronson Arroyo

* - That's next Thursday!!!

Curt Schilling threw 45 pitches in live batting practice Saturday morning. MLB's Ian Browne says he looked in complete control, fired a barrage of nasty offerings to Jason Varitek and didn't take it easy on Brian Daubach, Adam Hyzdu or Cesar Crespo. Daubach: "He looked like he was game-ready. He meant business out there for sure. He didn't want anyone to hit him and he threw great. ... I think he was just trying to get used to throwing to Jason a little bit too. That's probably why he was taking it a little bit more seriously." ... Schilling began studying video of Boston's four AL East opponents about six weeks ago: "Anywhere from a half-hour to two, three, four hours a day depending on the schedule."

Pedro Martinez may throw his first side session on Sunday. ... Keith Foulke appears to be completely over the strained calf he suffered earlier in the week.

In the latest posting of "Baseball Prospectus Basics" -- Stolen Bases and How to Use Them -- Joe Sheehan makes a point that argues for placing Johnny Damon in the #8 spot. "Much of the frustration 'statheads' have with base-stealing isn't that it's happening, but with how teams misuse the tactic. You want to steal bases when: ... The batter at the plate is much more likely to score the runner from second than he is from first. Teams will often use their best base stealers at the top of the lineup, even players with low on-base percentages, in front of their most powerful batters. In fact, they should be using those players lower in the lineup, in front of their least powerful hitters. Risking an out to advance from first base to second base is much more important when the guy at the plate can't get the runner home from first base."

Sheehan also posted the run-expectation table from 2003:
     Bases               Outs

0 1 2

empty 0.5219 0.2783 0.1083
1st 0.9116 0.5348 0.2349
2nd 1.1811 0.7125 0.3407
1st 2nd 1.5384 0.9092 0.4430
3rd 1.3734 1.0303 0.3848
1st 3rd 1.8807 1.2043 0.5223
2nd 3rd 2.0356 1.4105 0.5515
1st 2nd 3rd 2.4366 1.5250 0.7932
A similar mindset exists about sacrifice bunts. With a runner on 1st and 0 outs, a team could expect to score .91 runs. However, bunting the runner to 2nd (and using up an out) lowers that expectation to .71 runs. Sacrificing a man from 1st to 2nd with one out already on the board lowers the team's run expectation from .53 to .34.

A New York sportswriter plays "What If?" and imagines Nomar signing with the Yankees and playing 2B. Another writer, also out of ideas, quotes Jason Giambi saying such a scenario "would be nice." Viola -- instant non-story.
Two Quotes.

Rick Santorum, on the 700 Club: "[T]he consequence is very clear. Marriage loses its significance. People will stop getting married. Homosexuals will not get married; heterosexuals will stop getting married. And that to me is the real threat to the American family and to the culture generally."

Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry of Georgia, on introducing an anti-miscegenation amendment to the Constitution in 1911: "Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant. It is subversive to social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery to black beasts will bring this nation to a fatal conflict."

Thanks to Atrios.
One Hour. It's another Friday afternoon news dump. Preznit Bush will answer questions from 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean and Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton -- in private and for only one hour. One hour! Sixty fucking minutes. ... Bush spent more than 2 hours at this year's Daytona 500.

Bush, like any other person offering testimony, cannot dictate the terms of his interview. Besides insisting that it will decide who Bush meets, where he meets them, and for how long he will sit there, perhaps the White House could script the Commission's questions too. ... Bush, Cheney, Clinton and Gore should appear before the entire 10-member Commission and they should stay until all members have asked all their questions. Also, broadcasting each session live would be an excellent affirmation of our open, democratic society.

Allowing Bush to meet behind closed doors with a man who was doing business with Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law (Kean) and a man who actively helped derail the Iran-Contra investigation (Hamilton) does not inspire much confidence. Call the Commission at 202-331-4060 if you're as disgusted as I am.

Other Bush news from Friday: He "plans a week of heavy fund raising ... Bush starts with a reception Monday for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington. ... On Wednesday, Bush flies to Los Angeles for a pair of fund-raisers ... Bush has a third California fund-raiser scheduled for Thursday in Santa Clara. ... Bush opens the following week with a pair of fund-raisers, including events in Dallas and Houston. Those two fund-raisers bookend an appearance by Bush at a Houston livestock and rodeo event." ... Well, it's no wonder Bush can't spare more than an hour; that's one busy schedule. Check out Uggabugga's cool pie chart.

I read that Kean appeared on C-SPAN yesterday and said fighter planes were not scrambled on 9/11 because the US military was not expecting attacks from inside the US. It's highly disturbing that Kean continues to trot out this long-discredited myth. Here are a few points (if you want dozens and dozens more, go here):

Time, June 20, 2001: "For sheer diabolical genius (of the Hollywood variety), nothing came close to the reports that European security services are preparing to counter a Bin Laden attempt to assassinate President Bush at next month's G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. According to German intelligence sources, the plot involved Bin Laden paying German neo-Nazis to fly remote controlled-model aircraft packed with Semtex into the conference hall and blow the leaders of the industrialized world to smithereens." (Also here, here and here.)

Condoleeza Rice received an intelligence summary on June 28, 2001, which stated "it is highly likely that a significant al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks." ... On July 5, 2001, Richard Clarke, the government's top counterterrorism official, warned that "something spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon."

A widely-distributed FAA document from July 2001: "A domestic hijacking would likely result in a greater number of American hostages but would be operationally more difficult to accomplish. We don't rule it out. If, however, the intent of the hijackers is not to exchange hostages for prisoners but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."

The President's Daily Briefing given to Bush on August 6, 2001 warned that bin Laden may hijack airplanes for a terrorist attack within the United States. At the time, Bush is on vacation in Texas (for the entire month); the New York Times reports he "broke off from work early and spent most of the day fishing."

On the morning of September 11, John Fulton, a 25-year veteran of the intelligence community and the CIA's Chief of the Strategic War Gaming Division, and his team were "running a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building." ... Yet Rice stated on May 16, 2002: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." Months later, she changed her tune slightly.

Also: The 9/11 Commission now has until July 26 to complete its work. Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert reversed himself yesterday and announced that he would support the 60-day extension.
Operation October Surprise? Asheq Hossein, the director of Iran radio's Pashtun service: "Osama bin Laden has been arrested a long time ago, but Bush is intending to use it for propaganda maneuvering in the presidential election."

One of the sources for the report was Shamim Shahed, the Peshawar bureau chief of the English-language Pakistani newspaper The Nation. Shahed claims he was misquoted, but he did add: "[OBL] is within their (the Americans') reach, and they can declare him arrested any time." ... The Pakistani military and the Pentagon both deny the report. ... For what it's worth, it was the Iranian press that first announced Saddam Hussein's capture, scooping the US by several hours.

Rumsfeld's visit to the region this week was allegedly in connection with the arrest, but on Thursday, he discounted reports that US forces may be close to locating bin Laden. ... Cartoon.

The US "is scaling up its military presence in Africa as concern mounts over terrorist threats — both immediate and future — on the continent ... Africa is a growing strategic interest to the United States because of its terror links and its oil ... [Air Force Gen. Charles] Wald's trip includes stops in regional military powers Nigeria and South Africa; oil-rich Angola, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe ... [Wald:] 'Waiting for a crisis to occur just isn’t the way to do business any more.' ... Further south, the United States wants to protect oil supplies in the Gulf of Guinea." [Emphasis not in original, of course.]

Apparently, Antonin Scalia has a habit of hanging out with parties with cases pending before the Supreme Court and then ruling in their favor.

February 27, 2004

The Professional. Bill Mueller gets all the ink today: Fort Myers, Courant, Projo, Herald, Globe and MLB.

Spring Rotation:
Thursday night v. Twins: Derek Lowe
Friday afternoon v. Boston College: Tim Wakefield
Friday night v. Northeastern: Curt Schilling

Pedro Martinez will oppose Sidney Ponson in Baltimore on Opening Night, April 4. ... Martinez also shared some secrets with Anaheim's Bartolo Colon this past winter. ... Boom! So, can we blow up Gump?

February 26, 2004

Extension for 9/11 Commission Denied. House Speaker Dennis Hastert will not extend the May 27 deadline for the 9/11 Commission to finish its work. From Hastert's spokesman: "He thinks the report is overdue and we need to get the recommendations as soon as possible. He is also concerned it will become a political football if this thing is extended and it is released in the middle of the presidential campaign." Calpundit asks: "Aren't you supposed to at least pretend that you're motivated solely by what's best for the country? But here we have Hastert's spokesman blithely admitting in public that he doesn't want to let the commission do its job properly because it might be politically inconvenient for the president. They don't even have the good grace to lie about this stuff anymore."

George Bush and Dick Cheney "have placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the [Commission], saying that they will meet only with the panel's top two officials and that Mr. Bush will submit to only a single hour of questioning ... Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, [has] rejected [the Commission's] request that she testify in public about the intelligence reports that reached her desk before the Sept. 11 attacks." ... Commission member Bob Kerrey (who joined the Commission only recently, replacing Max Cleland) is considering resigning because of the ongoing obstruction from the Bush administration. "I am no longer ... feeling comfortable that I'm going to be able to read and process what I need in order to participate in writing a report about how it was that 19 men defeated every single defensive system the US put up to kill 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11."

"British spies were bugging UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's office in the run up to the Iraq war, former UK cabinet minister Clare Short has claimed. ... From March 2003: "The existence of the surveillance operation, understood to have been requested by President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is deeply embarrassing to the Americans..." (More) ... "Pentagon officials have confirmed that Guantanamo detainees may still be kept in detention, even if they are found not guilty by a military tribunal."

The first Gallup poll conducted on the issue of interracial marriage showed that 94% of whites opposed such unions. That was in 1958, nine years before the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. Someday this country will view same-sex marriage in the same light most of us now view interracial marriage.
Evil Empire Update. Bernie Williams had an emergency appendectomy today and will be out of action for at least three weeks. ... Aaron Boone was released. ... Darryl Strawberry resigned as a player development instructor to spend more time with church-related activities. ... The Yankees and Red Sox are 1-2 in ESPN's Power Rankings.
Hair's Johnny. Jesus Christ, Charles Manson, Grizzly Adams -- Johnny Damon is hearing them all this spring, thanks to a full beard and shoulder-length hair. Damon clearly favors the Christ comparision -- he entered the Red Sox complex yesterday saying, "Bless you. Bless you all." -- but Manson looks like a better match. Charlie has a stronger throwing arm, but he's a bit of a clubhouse cancer.

Meanwhile, Pedro's thinking about a Royale with Cheese and a somewhat-frizzy Manny Ramirez looks like he's in fantastic shape.

Damon is also 15 pounds heavier, though he says the weight is "solid muscle" and not merely hair. "In my off-season workout, I live on a street where there's 25 mph signs and the cops get you if you go anything over. I'll wait on the side of the street ... late at night. A car starts coming, I'll race it to my house. So I know I can go at least 25. I scare the cars to speed up a little more, seeing a caveman-looking guy, long-haired, running after the car at 10 or 11 at night. ... But you know, I'm gaining weight the right way. I'm drinking beer."

David Heuschkel of the Hartford Courant relates this story about Damon and Ramirez: "Ramirez was standing in a hotel lobby in Texas last season when he was approached by a teammate. 'I had my cowboy hat on,' Johnny Damon said. 'I walked up to Manny and was talking to him. He didn't know it was me.' Damon said Ramirez walked away in the middle of the conversation. Damon learned the next day that he was a total stranger to Ramirez. 'I was like, "Manny, we're talking and then you just blow me off. I was the one wearing the cowboy hat!" He's like, "No, no, no, Poppy [sic]. That wasn't you."'"

Damon also mentioned "devastating" migraines that began every day after the playoffs, usually around 2pm and lasting for more than an hour. He did not say whether they were the result of his collision with Damian Jackson during the ALDS or from Gump's gift-wrapping the pennant for the Yankees. Now clear-headed, Damon added: "We have the best chemistry, the best team, the best pitching. We have the best team out there, hands down."

February 25, 2004

Pedro Admits He Was Shocked By Gump's Idiocy. Pedro Martinez did some stretching, long tossing and fielding drills and will not throw off a mound for a week. He was asked about Game 7: "It really wasn't wanting to stay. I was asked a question whether I wanted to pitch to Matsui or not. ... I was actually shocked that I was staying for the last two or three hitters. ... I was not insisting on staying in the game. I was a little scared to leave the game, but it really wasn't my decision." ... Lawrence Rocca of the Newark Star-Ledger: "All these months later, none of us can understand why Little blew that choice between his red-hot bullpen and his worn-out starter. We might find out how those giant statues got on Easter Island before we ever get a logical explanation."

Pedro on on the media: "I wish I never had to talk. I don't like you guys. I don't like talking but I have to. I do it especially to get along. I don't want to be a bad apple. Tomorrow I won't be talking. Whenever there's a need or if you guys feel I really need to talk, I will to help your jobs. ... I dislike the cameras and I dislike the media." More in the Courant, Herald and Globe.

Nomar Garciaparra spoke about the possible trade and his future in Boston: "[E]veryone's intelligent around here. I feel like anyone else would feel in that situation. Was I hurt? Absolutely. ... [B]asically I was gone (this winter). I've dealt with that already. As far as I was concerned, I was traded and it was a done deal. ... We were so close last year. We had a phenomenal team. I think we have an even better team this year. I'm looking forward to going out there and playing next to those guys." ... And: "Am I still mad? Well, I don't know about all those things. I was definitely hurt by a lot of it. ... But the good thing, the great thing, is I'm right here in front of all of you guys." [Also: here and here.]

Everything Nomar said sounded pretty normal -- a guy being honest about how he felt and how he's dealt with it. Now, I did not hear any of the interviews, but what's been reported in the papers seems somewhat differently than how it reads on the screen. Tony Massarotti, in the Herald: "The bitterness is still there, in his eyes and in his voice...." In two Herald pay columns, Steve Buckley said Nomar had a "Volkswagen-sized chip" on his shoulder and Gerry Callahan claimed "Garciaparra sounded yesterday like a man who just caught his wife with the pool boy." In the Globe, Bob Hohler wrote that Nomar "unleash[ed] his most emotional rebuke of the Red Sox in his 10-year run with the organization [and] raised serious questions about his long-term compatibility with the team." while Gordon Edes described "anger, hurt, and resentment." To Edes's credit he also pointed out that "the Sox felt they had no choice but to explore the A-Rod avenue because they had serious doubts about their ability to keep Garciaparra in a Sox uniform -- at least, for the price they were willing to pay."

Outside of Boston, the perception was a little different. The headlines in the Newark Star-Ledger ["Nomar Arrives At Ease With Past"] and New York Post ["Red Sox Fit Nomar Just Fine"] seemed rather benign. Shaun Powell of Newsday sees no gloom or doom in the Sox camp. ... As Garciaparra said, "I'm excited that my socks are still red."

Interesting quotes from Theo in Callahan's column: "It's not ideal to have so many guys (in their last year), but I'm not afraid of it at all. You know what I'm afraid of? Being stuck with a bunch of big contracts three or four years from now, and you can't move them, and you can't do what you have to do to make your team better. ... I remember when this team let Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn walk. Some people thought that was some kind of huge mistake. But they let Mo become someone else's $66 million mistake, and they replaced Roger with Pedro Martinez. Does that sound like a disaster? Hey, it's always a risk when you let someone walk away, but that's part of the job. We're in the business of team-building, not individual-building."

The Red Sox will hold their first full-squad workout today. ... Some good stories on the return of Ellis Burks. ... The Red Sox are considering starting Byung Hyun Kim in the 4th game of the season and having Tim Wakefield pitch the home opener on April 9. ... Johnny Damon has a beard "and looks like he went the entire winter without a haircut." ... Bronson Arroyo turned 27. ... Fenway groundskeeper Paul K. Williams Jr. is suing former Yankees Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia for more than $33,000 for medical bills, lost wages and his sense of smell. ... Mediot Watch: Steven Krasner, Providence Journal: "In Game 3, an ineffective [Pedro] Martinez precipitated a brawl by drilling Karim Garcia with a pitch ..." Actually, if Garcia was indeed hit by the pitch (video was inconclusive), it only grazed him near his shoulder blades.

E.E. Update: The Yankees signed 1B Travis Lee to a 1 year, $2.25 million contract, with an option for 2005, and released infielder Tyler Houston. Pitcher Jon Lieber is expected to miss about a week of spring training because of a groin injury, and the team is taking a look at both Orlando Hernandez and Pedro Astacio. ... Steinbrenner says the Red Sox are the favorites in the AL East and referred to Theo Epstein as "Esposito" (he has also called him "Oppenheimer" in the past).

"I'm not interested in talking about my contract right now. My situation is not a big deal right now. I think we have a good enough team to win this year if we stay healthy. I would just like to concentrate on that and leave the contracts and stuff behind me. ... I've always said, that I would like to retire with a Boston hat. ...

"I feel great physically. I actually feel like in those young days when it was easy to pick up a ball and just gas it somewhere. I hope I can maintain that. ... I feel all the work I've done the last two years is paying off. Everything is just fluent. Right now my body is reacting extremely well. I don't feel like 190. Before I felt a little heavy. I felt uncomfortable a little bit. Now I feel I got used to it. I feel equally as loose and actually throwing the ball a little harder."

February 24, 2004

No Guarantees. Re: Kevin Millar's comment to the New York Post: "I honestly believe that we're going to win the World Series this year." Several Yankees, speaking to two other Post reporters, acted like Millar had guaranteed a World Series title. Joe Torre seemed to understand where Millar was coming from. "That's the way to go to spring training. That's the way to do it." Nothing wrong with Millar's statement. Shouldn't every Yankee feel the same way about his team's chances? ... There will be plenty of fodder for the rivalry this year; there is no need to make anything up.

It turns out George Steinbrenner will not file a grievance with the Commissioner's office over John Henry's quasi-comparision of the senile Yankee owner to Don Rickles. Steinbrenner did, however, fire back with a quip of his own: "As far as Henry is concerned, he reminds me of Ray Bolger, the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz."

Alan Embree wants to stay in Boston. If he pitches in 50 games this season, his $3 million option kicks in for 2005. "I'd love to just tear it up and get something else done. ... My mentality is much better suited to this brand of baseball. ... I like it when it's on the line and every day it's on the line (in Boston)." ... Terry Francona on Curt Schilling: "I thought he put on a clinic. ... (Schilling's) command today was much better than the other day. He was crisp with everything. That's the way he pitches." ... Francona said that he's not planning to have any intra-squad games prior to the Grapefruit League opener against Minnesota on March 4. ... Keith Foulke, who suffered a minor left calf strain Sunday, did some long-distance throwing and indoor conditioning. ... Jason Giambi says he lost, at most, 4 pounds this winter. Some say it was as much as 25. You be the judge.

A couple of new websites I found yesterday: yankeesredsox.com and Fenwaynation.com.

February 23, 2004

Best Projected Rotations 2004. BP's Dayn Perry takes the VORP for each projected rotation member and uses the team totals to determine the rankings.
Rank    Team                    Total Rotation VORP

1. Red Sox 217.4
2. Cubs 191.9
3. Yankees 188.2
4. A's 151.8
5. Astros 148.9
6. Mariners 122.4
7. Phillies 120.2
8. Angels 118.2
9. Twins 114.0
10. Blue Jays 112.6
11. Diamondbacks 106.1
12. White Sox 102.6
13. Dodgers 98.7
14. Marlins 94.1
15. Cardinals 93.3
16. Padres 90.1
17. Royals 89.5
18. Giants 87.3
19. Expos 70.7
20. Orioles 70.0
21. Pirates 65.9
22. Braves 64.3
22. Mets 64.3
24. Indians 59.7
25. Rangers 57.7
26. Rockies 48.8
27. Brewers 43.3
28. Reds 42.3
29. Devil Rays 41.8
30. Tigers 37.3
Perry notes: "The staggering VORP projection of Boston's Pedro Martinez (70.0) is better than that of the entire rotation of 10 other teams. ... PECOTA projects only a 7.0 VORP for Jon Lieber, which sounds a bit low. He seems like a good bet to heartily outperform the projection, and the Yanks could wind up with a better corps than the Cubs. ... PECOTA says the second-best starter on the Angels isn't Jarrod Washburn, Kelvim Escobar or Ramon Ortiz; rather, it's John Lackey. ... [I]t may come as a surprise that PECOTA tabs [Toronto] as having the seventh-best rotation in the AL. It's possible the best three teams in baseball may all be in the AL East."

Michael Wolverton on Support-Neutral Stats: "The idea behind the pitcher's W/L record is flawed on its face. ... If the offense fails to put runs on the board, or if the bullpen melts down in the late innings, the starter won't get the win no matter how well he pitches. Conversely, if the offense is having a great night ... the starter doesn't have to do anything more than last five innings to get the W. ... [T]here's been a gradual (very gradual) movement among baseball fans over the past 20 years to pay less attention to W/L record and more to ERA in pitching evaluation. And that's a good thing, since ERA is a good statistic. ... [But] it's not without its limitations."

Who am I kidding? I'll never stop linking to discussions of the Yankees' 3B/SS debate. Will Carroll thinks moving Rodriguez to 3B "could cost [the Yankees] three wins" and in the 2004 AL East, "that's a lot." ... Icy Jeter Seems to Have Left A-Rod in the Cold : "A friend of Jeter said the shortstop never relents once he holds a grudge, cutting out anyone from his small inner circle he feels has betrayed him. 'What is amazing," the friend said, "is how easily he does it. He doesn't have vendettas. He doesn't have fights; I don't think I've even ever seen him raise his voice. He doesn't do confrontation. He just puts an ice wall up and you're done.' ... Rodriguez is voracious and wants to swallow New York whole. ... Now, at best, Jeter has been downgraded to co-prince of the city."
2003 Koufax Awards. For the best lefty blogs. ... Who nabbed the top two spots in this week's Top Ten Conservative Idiots? ... Salon: "Several people confess that they've never done more with a computer than check their e-mail. Others admit they haven't even gotten that far. An impromptu contest develops to see exactly who knows the least. ... Our clueless bunch is now part of the technical-support staff for one of the world's top three computer manufacturers, and in seven days we're going to be taking your calls."
Storylines. Keith Foulke is the man getting the most attention in today's papers. "I like to be under the radar as much as possible, [but] it's probably not going to work this year." Foulke sustained a mild strain in his left calf on Sunday during a fielding drill and cut his workout short. ... Mike F reports on Sunday's workout.

Kevin Millar in the New York Post: "I honestly believe that we're going to win the World Series this year. ... I think we still have the better lineup. I can't wait to get after them. I really can't. ... When you're outside it, if you're a baseball fan, you understand that this is a pretty hot rivalry. But once you're on the inside ... it's just something else. Something incredible. And it's going to get even bigger this year." Millar also is not ready to surrender his oft-quoted slogan from last year. "[I]f I want to cowboy up, I'm going to cowboy up. Mirabelli is not going to tell me what to do."

2004 will be a pivotal year for Byung-Hyun Kim and he could play an important part in the Battle with the Yankees. He wants to start and now he will get that chance -- for a manager who will not jerk him in and out of vastly different roles. Boston showed its commitment to the 25-year-old right-hander and signed him to a two-year contract. Gordon Edes says the Red Sox believe they erred in allowing Kim to become isolated from the rest of the team last season, but Kim doesn't really agree. "I feel comfortable being by myself. ... When I'm by myself, I can focus more, and concentrate on baseball alone. ... I have a desire to be the best pitcher in baseball. I want the chance to be considered the best. And in the history of baseball, the starting pitcher has always been the best ... Also, being a closer for one or two years is OK, but it's very stressful." I don't know how Kim's relationship was with Schilling in Arizona, but since Curt has mentioned how talented he believes Kim is, perhaps he'll play a mentoring-type of role.

On Sunday, Edes wrote that during negotiations with Boston, Alex Rodriguez apparently spent "a considerable amount of time" saying how much he hated the Yankees. Rodriguez is quoted elsewhere as saying at that time "about three-fourths of my body [was] wearing a Red Sox uniform." ... New York Daily News: "Further annoyed at John Henry for the Red Sox owner's public comments Saturday comparing him to Don Rickles, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner is planning to file a grievance with the commissioner's office against Henry." Maybe he can go after Padres owner John Moores next: "George is one of the most profoundly selfish people I've ever known. I don't know if Steinbrenner is losing his mind as he gets older."

Random Stuff: Outfielder Gabe Kapler took grounders at third base and will also work out at first. ... Rule 5 lefty Lenny DiNardo cut short his workout because of shoulder stiffness. ... Pedro Martinez is expected in Florida today and will work out Tuesday. ... Sidney Ponson will oppose Martinez on Opening Night April 4 in Baltimore. ... Yankee pitcher Kevin Brown sustained a right ankle bruise after being hit by a ball on Saturday. ... New York's 3-4-5 batters will likely be Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield. ... Pirates infielder Freddy Sanchez might not be ready to start the season because of a right ankle injury. ...

Jackie MacMullan of the Globe was in the Cubs' camp Mesa, Arizona, where she spoke with the Grinning Jackass. ... Ian Browne of mlb.com posts five important questions for the Sox this spring: How is Pokey Reese's health? Will Tony Womack make the team? Can Ellis Burks play the outfield? How quickly will manager Terry Francona get on the same page with his new players? Who will emerge as the No. 2 hitter? ... Could Joe Nuxhall, baseball's youngest major leaguer (15 years, 10 months and 11 days), also become its oldest -- at age 76?

Oy. "[T]he true value of what [Tino] Martinez brings to the Rays extends beyond his bat and glove. It can't be measured statistically, not unless the sabermetricians have developed a program to quantify heart, experience, leadership, determination and intensity."

February 22, 2004

Official 1st Day, P&C. Mike F reports from Fort Myers ("Met up with a handful of familiar season ticket holders and we all compared the scar tissue on each other's wrists."). ... The practice was watched by approximately 1,000 fans, which surprised Terry Francona (who was up at 4:40 am) when he first saw them.

Ramiro Mendoza has an abdominal strain that will set him back at least a week. Pitcher Reynaldo Garcia missed the first workout because of a visa problem. ... Derek Lowe: From Cowboy Up to the Last Roundup. "We've made Doug Mirabelli in charge of the 'Cowboy Up' police," Lowe said. "We've got to get it all out of here." ... Byung-Hyun Kim prepared for the opening of camp by working out for nearly three weeks at Boston College. ... Tony Cloninger was in uniform as the team's senior pitching advisor.

Schilling left wearing a replica 1919 Babe Ruth Red Sox jersey (with the number 3). However, the Red Sox did not have numbers in 1919; no team wore them for another 10 years. Ruth was given #3 in 1929, when he was 34 years old, which is why he is always big-bellied when you see him wearing #3.

Dan Shaughnessy, Saturday's Boston Globe: "Schilling's cars have made a big splash in Fort Myers. The white BMW (760) with the spinning hubcaps is nifty, and then there's the vintage Hummer that changes colors depending on where you stand (blue to purple to green to teal)." ... Schilling, later that day, at SoSH: "Just for clarities sake, and for the sake of good honest reporting, I don't own a "Beemer", nor do I have hubcaps that spin, though my son does on his John Deere Tractor I think." ... SoSHer Chico Walker and the Man envisions tomorrow's headline: "Primadonna Schilling questions the integrity of the Boston Media: insists on luxuries such as 'accuracy in reporting.'"

Tony Massarotti believes the Red Sox should offer Nomar six years at $75-$78 million (more than Baltimore gave Miguel Tejada and slightly more than the 4/48 offer from last season). "If Garciaparra takes it, he wants to stay. If he doesn't, he doesn't." Six years seems a big steep for this ownership group. I don't see Nomar getting more than five, and from what is known of previous discussions, four years is more likely. ... Speaking of Garciaparra, Art Martone continues his look at the 2004 team and who is likely to improve, stay the same or decline.

Miami Herald: "Psst! The Red Sox are a better team in 2004. ... [T]he Red Sox remain superior on the mound, especially at 1-2-3-4 in the starting rotation. ... The Sox scored almost 100 more runs than the Yanks and will be an offensive powerhouse again. All New York has done is draw even, or (benefit of doubt) gain a slight edge." Another Herald writer disagrees.

Not that he's ever known what he's talking about, but -- David Wells: "On paper, [New York] looks good, but they've got a few holes. It's not in their lineup, but it's their pitching. ... If their pitching stays solid, they will win that division. But, right now as you look at it, Boston has the edge because they've got the pitching, and you cannot win without the pitching." ... T.R. Sullivan of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram is on the pipe: "The Yankees? Their lineup is so loaded that Rodriguez could conceivably break the single-season record of 177 runs held by Babe Ruth. Seriously. Rodriguez averaged 127 runs per season with the last-place Rangers."

John Henry is taking the flap caused by his Steinbrenner-related email in stride, offering a few comments: "I don't want to give the commissioner a headache, so I shouldn't really go down that road. ... I was a [limited] partner [of the Yankees]. I've seen bellowing, and this isn't out of character. ... [Steinbrenner] was on the phone with the commissioner the same time I was on the phone. I called in and I was hoping the three of us could get together. It would have been funny." ... Henry also called Steinbrenner baseball's version of Don Rickles. ... Gordon Edes prints some of the more outlandish criticisms and notes: "In the barrage of criticism aimed at Henry, no one bothered to mention that the Sox owner has been consistent in his calls for some restoration of economic balance in the game ... There was a time, in the '90s, when even the Yankees expressed support for a salary cap."

Esquire writer Scott Raab once quoted Alex Rodriguez: "Jeter's been blessed with great talent around him. He's never had to lead. He can just go and play and have fun. And he hits second — that's totally different from third and fourth in a lineup. You go into New York, you wanna stop Bernie and O'Neill. You never say, 'Don't let Derek beat you. He's never your concern.'" Now Raab admits, "[A]s a die-hard Cleveland Indians fan and lifelong Yankees hater, if I had dreamed that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez would ever play side by side in the Yankee infield one dark day, I would have done a more thorough job of ruining their friendship."

Alan Schwarz, New York Times: Joe Torre "cited no hard evidence to support his claim that Jeter is the superior defender. ... Instead, he burrowed into the impregnable haven of opinion, where baseball arguments go to die. 'There's something special about Derek Jeter. It's something that you can't put down on paper.' And that was that." ... Schwarz notes that "fielding statistics remain a fossilized snapshot of the game's younger days, when folklore reigned over figures," but that is slowly changing.

Frank Jobe loves White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen: "I want these guys ready to throw nine innings right from the get go. ... We have a young pitching staff, and I'm going to give the opportunity to let them go as far as they can. We have one month to go, and if they can't get ready in one month, they better get another job."
Who's In Camp? Theo Epstein last week that Boston would have only 52 players in camp. I haven't seen an actual list yet, but the 40-man roster and 12 Non-Roster Invitees (with an *) equals 52.
 Pitchers              B/T  Ht   Wt   DOB

56 Edwin Almonte R/R 6-3 220 12/17/76
61 Bronson Arroyo R/R 6-5 190 02/24/77
68 Colter Bean R/R 6-6 255 01/16/77
37 Nick Bierbrodt L/L 6-5 215 05/16/78
40 Jamie Brown R/R 6-2 200 03/31/77
63 Lenny Dinardo L/L 6-4 195 09/19/79
43 Alan Embree L/L 6-2 190 01/23/70
29 Keith Foulke R/R 6-0 210 10/19/72
62 Jerome Gamble R/R 6-2 200 04/05/80
53 Reynaldo Garcia R/R 6-3 170 04/15/74
70 Tim Hamulack L/L 6-4 210 11/14/76
59 Bryan Hebson R/R 6-5 210 03/12/76
36 Bobby M. Jones R/L 6-0 170 04/11/72*
51 Byung-Hyun Kim R/R 5-9 180 01/19/79
32 Derek Lowe R/R 6-6 215 06/01/73
46 Mark Malaska L/L 6-3 190 01/17/78
67 Anastacio Martinez R/R 6-2 180 11/03/78
45 Pedro Martinez R/R 5-11 180 10/25/71
26 Ramiro Mendoza R/R 6-2 195 06/15/72
39 Paul Rigdon R/R 6-5 240 11/02/75*
38 Curt Schilling R/R 6-5 235 11/14/66
73 Phil Seibel L/L 6-1 195 01/28/79
57 Jason Shiell R/R 6-0 180 10/19/76
50 Mike Timlin R/R 6-4 210 03/10/66
49 Tim Wakefield R/R 6-2 215 08/02/66
48 Scott Williamson R/R 6-0 185 02/17/76
66 Ed Yarnall L/L 6-3 235 12/04/75*

74 Jeff Bailey R/R 6-2 200 11/19/78*
64 Andy Dominique R/R 6-0 220 10/30/75
58 Michel Hernandez R/R 6-0 210 08/12/78
28 Doug Mirabelli R/R 6-1 225 10/18/70
72 Kelly Shoppach R/R 5-11 210 04/29/80*
33 Jason Varitek S/R 6-2 235 04/11/72

12 Mark Bellhorn S/R 6-1 205 08/23/74
31 Cesar Crespo S/R 5-11 170 05/23/79*
23 Brian Daubach L/R 6-1 230 02/11/72*
5 Nomar Garciaparra R/R 6-0 190 07/23/73
71 Jesus Medrano R/R 6-0 180 09/11/78*
15 Kevin Millar R/R 6-0 210 09/24/71
11 Bill Mueller S/R 5-10 180 03/17/71
34 David Ortiz L/L 6-4 230 11/18/75
3 Pokey Reese R/R 5-11 190 06/10/73
20 Terry Shumpert R/R 6-0 200 08/16/66*
16 Tony Womack L/R 5-9 170 09/25/69*
55 Kevin Youkilis R/R 6-1 220 03/15/79

25 Ellis Burks R/R 6-2 205 09/11/64
18 Johnny Damon L/L 6-2 190 11/05/73
30 Adam Hyzdu R/R 6-2 220 12/06/71*
19 Gabe Kapler R/R 6-2 210 07/31/75
10 David McCarty R/L 6-5 215 11/23/69*
7 Trot Nixon L/L 6-2 210 04/11/74
24 Manny Ramirez R/R 6-0 215 05/30/72
October Surprise in February? A British Sunday newspaper claims Osama bin Laden is currently "boxed in" by US special forces in a mountainous area to the north of the Pakistani city of Quetta. His movements are being monitored by an NSA satellite and special forces are "absolutely confident" there is no chance of escape. ... The White House denied the report. ... A second report says bin Laden's location was pinpointed after the CIA studied the background in a recent OBL video and found it matched rocks in the Toba Kakar ranges. "CIA agents, working with Pakistani guides, went from Afghanistan to the region to take photographs and bring out rock and soil samples. These were flown to Washington where the CIA analysts electronically matched them to the video background." Oh, you have got to be kidding me!

John Kerry has released a open letter challenging George W. Bush to a face-to-face debate on the Vietnam era and the impact of their experiences on their approaches to presidential leadership. "I'd like to know what it is Republicans who didn't serve in Vietnam have against those of us who did. ... We're not going to let them make this about a war 34 years ago, when we need to talk about the war today." Kerry cannot allow the Republicans to define the terms of debate or hope any accusations simply vanish. He must be the anti-Dukakis (and anti-Gore, for that matter).

Headlines: "Disenchanted Bush Voters Consider Crossing Over" ... "Security Efforts Turning Capital Into Armed Camp" ... "CIA Admits Didn't Give Full Weapons Data To UN" ... "Why Bush Stopped Flying in Guard Unclear" ... As someone who has had to put two dogs down, I can understand the sadness the Bush family must feel about 15-year-old Spot, but I wonder why Bush still refuses to attend the funeral of even one 18- or 19-year-old American solider.

February 21, 2004

Predictions, Part II. Part I is here. This is from Athlon:
AL East     AL Central    AL West

New York Kansas City Anaheim
Boston Minnesota Oakland
Baltimore Chicago Seattle
Toronto Cleveland Texas
Tampa Bay Detroit
NL East     NL Central    NL West

Atlanta Houston San Francisco
Phillies Chicago San Diego
Florida St. Louis Arizona
New York Cincinnati Los Angeles
Montreal Milwaukee Colorado
Wild Cards: Boston & Philadelphia
AL Pennant: Anaheim over New York
NL Pennant: Houston over San Francisco
World Series: Houston over Anaheim
AL MVP: Garrett Anderson, Alex Rodriguez, Vernon Wells
NL MVP: Jim Thome, Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds
AL Cy Young: Tim Hudson, Pedro Martinez, Jose Contreras
NL Cy Young: John Smoltz, Mark Prior, Brandon Webb
AL Rookie: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
NL Rookie: Kazuo Matsui, Mets

For the AL East, here are Athlon's pithy comments:
New York Yankees -- Still rule improved AL East.
Boston Red Sox -- Grady bleeping Little.

Memo to Athlon: I understand you can't pack much analysis into 4-6 words, but Grady Little is no longer employed by the Red Sox. ... As for Pedro's predicted 2nd place finish for the Cy Young, Athlon writes: "Needs lots of bullpen help." But how will that help Martinez's Cy Young chances? The only way it helps is if award voters look solely at wins, a stat the pitcher has very little control over. When you see Hudson's comment ("Just a few blown saves from award in '03") you realize that is exactly what Athlon is saying. Is Joe Morgan writing for these guys now? ... And I love this comment for Contreras: "Is it that far-fetched?" Actually, yes, it is.
The First Domino. In Fort Myers Friday, it was all-Schilling, all the time. The right-hander has been working out at the same facility in Arizona Nomar Garciaparra has used for years. "I'm more flexible than I've ever felt. Throwing-wise, I'm feeling good enough to be nervous about how good I feel. ... I firmly believe that from top to bottom this is going to be the best team I've ever been on, with every opportunity to win a World Championship and multiple World Championships."

Schilling is also high on Byung-Hyun Kim. He "could go out and win 20 games if he's got his mind set to go out and do that. ... BK is as talented a pitcher as I've ever pitched with. ... I know he didn't end the season on the smoothest of circumstances, but that's last year. And if he's got pride and integrity, then he'll have answered a lot of questions himself this winter." ... A t-shirt hanging in Schilling's locker: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, and then used against you." It should be fun watching him handle the Boston media.

Schilling's Plan Of Action: He wants to throw 28-32 innings this spring and doesn't want to face any AL East teams. He hopes to make at least 35 starts and pitch 245 innings. And he's working on a new pitch, possibly a curveball or changeup. ... He also gets some press in the New York Post and the Daily News; the latter tabloid claims Schilling came close to calling John Henry a hypocrite for his salary cap comments a few days ago. Not quite. ... Tim Wakefield also spoke to the Post.

Dave McCarty would like to pitch his way onto the team, a la Brooks Kieschnick of the Brewers. McCarty, a lefty, threw in the bullpen several times last September, though the last time he pitched seriously was in high school. Terry Francona called the idea "different" yet "very intriguing." ... Jeff Horrigan and Bob Hohler chat with Brian Daubach. ... ALCS? Mike Timlin and Tim Wakefield have moved on. [I've added the Fort Myers News-Press to the Sox Media list to the left.] ... Gabe Kapler has changed his uniform number from 29 to 19 to accommodate Keith Foulke.

Albert Pujols signed a 7-year, $100 million deal with the Cardinals. It will pay him $7 million this year, $11 million in 2005, $14 million in 2006, $15 million on 2007 and $16 million per year from 2008-2010. So while Nomar may have more leverage in contract negotiations now that Rodriguez is in New York, the salaries being doled out this winter (to Pujols, Tejada, Guerrero, etc.) clearly show that Garciaparra will not get as much as he would like from Boston. $14 is probably as much as he could hope for.

More Schilling: "I don't know that this rivalry has ever been at the intensity level it's at now and we haven't played a game yet. We haven't even had a workout yet. ... The American League East is going to be settled on the field, as it should be, and I think the two best teams in the game are in this division. And we're going to have 19 chances to beat up on each other to prove who's better." At least 19 chances.
On The Road.
           AVG   OBP   SLG 

Player A .282 .384 .577
Player B .306 .350 .567
Dayn Perry: "Player A is A-Rod away from Arlington last season; Player B is Soriano away from Yankee Stadium last season. Closer than you'd think, no? ... The Yankees parted with one heck of a hitter despite having no apparent replacement." Perry, who writes the "Can of Corn" column for Baseball Prospectus, also weighs in on the Yankees' 3B/SS situation.

This ESPN poll, unless it was wildly distorted by hordes of Red Sox fans, lends credence to Perry's argument: "Who is the better defensive shortstop? Alex Rodriguez 72.4%, Derek Jeter 27.6%. Who should the Yankees move to third base? Alex Rodriguez 62.3%, Derek Jeter 37.7%." ... "Yanksfan vs. Soxfan" -- a blog which has serious potential this year -- has a post today entitled: "Piazza, Jeter, and New Positions."

Final thoughts on Alex Rodriguez and media perception: The Yankees did not best the Red Sox or out-smart them in any way by trading for Rodriguez. John Henry et al. decided to nix the deal from their end on their own terms. Taking a sober look at their finances, the Red Sox chose not to make the deal. Naturally, that doesn't make for the best storyline; you can't wedge any Curse Talk into that scenario. ... In New York, Joel Sherman reports today that "A major-league official who speaks regularly to the Rangers told The Post that Texas was so financially desperate to get out of the bulk of A-Rod's contract they would have done the deal without getting Alfonso Soriano in return." If true, this underscores (in really dark ink) the fact that Texas's negotiations with Boston and New York were wildly different.

February 20, 2004

Head Case. "You know better! You understand the vast conspiracy to keep Red Sox fans down. ... Now you can show your Red Sox pride while protecting yourself from the powerful mind control rays used by the Evil Empire to control their hidden army of sports journalists and major league baseball executives. ... The Tin Foil Red Sox Cap blocks all harmful mind control rays surreptitiously broadcast by the YES Network, including the ultra-powerful "WTF Rays" that caused Grady Little to leave Pedro in to start the 8th inning of game 7. Order yours today! Operators are standing by."

Larry Mahnken at Replacement Level Yankees Weblog crunches some numbers (here too): "The first thing that stands out is that last year's Yankees lineup projects as being a better hitting team than last year's or this year's Red Sox lineup. As wrong as that sounds, it kind of makes sense when you figure that Bernie, Giambi, Nick and Jeter were hurt last season. I still don't necessarily agree with it, so there's an issue you can have with these numbers. But then, this projects the Red Sox to score about 950 runs this season, so maybe they're not that off. ... The Yankees' top three starters are fantastic, and much better than Pettitte and Clemens would have been, but the bottom is a bit shakier. ... PECOTA says the Red Sox rotation is better than the Yankees. Barely. What stands out here is how crucial the Curt Schilling accquistion was for the Red Sox, how important it is for Byung-Hyun Kim to succeed as a starter ... Boston's bullpen is about the same as New York's overall, but the Yankees have two pitchers [Rivera and Gordon] that rate better than anyone in Boston's pen. But then, Boston has a lefty [Embree] who's not only above-average, but considerably so." The Pythagorean Winning Percentage Formula projects 106 wins for the Yankees and 108 wins for the Red Sox.

Travis Nelson, aka Boy of Summer, on the Rodriguez Trade: "I cannot, for my life, figure out why the Rangers would do this. ... They have argued that his enormous contract (all together now: $252 million over ten years) was a millstone around the organization's collective neck, preventing them from acquiring the pitching they needed to compete. This is ridiculous."

Letters to Theo: G-e-t V-i-d-r-o!
Leading Off. Okay, first day of spring training in Fort Myers -- what should we talk about? How about who won't be suiting up for the 2005 Red Sox? ... Sigh. Not that the issue of the potential free agents -- Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Scott Williamson -- isn't a legitimate issue -- those are some pretty big names -- but I do hope the Boston media turn their collective attention to this season soon.

Speaking of Pedro, he may not arrive in Florida until next Monday because of a family medical issue. Epstein: "We'll know more about that in the next couple of days. ... It's very, very legitimate and a serious issue that requires his attention." ... In New York, Filip Bondy writes: "Now that the stardust has settled and the sour grapes are drying on the vine, it may be time to whisper the truth that no Yankee fan wants to hear: Last laugh aside, the Red Sox had by far the better offseason. It is not an easy thing to write ... [but] Epstein filled his two biggest holes and lost no stars and is in Fort Myers with the more balanced team."... The best pitching staff in the AL?

Ian Browne, mlb.com: "Pitchers and catchers began reporting to camp at the team's minor league complex Friday morning, with the first workout under new manager Terry Francona slated for Saturday. ... Right-hander Curt Schilling -- the glitzy new addition to the starting rotation -- arrived Wednesday and immediately threw off the mound. ... Fort Myers resident Derek Lowe is also well into his spring conditioning program and will go into the season at full throttle. ... Kevin Millar didn't wait until the full squad reports on Feb. 24. He arrived Thursday night and he said earlier this week he's never been so excited for a season to begin." [More]

According to Bob Hohler, "The Sox are expected to take a close look during spring training at whether to alter their regular lineup. The possibilities could range from flip-flopping Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez in the third and fourth slots to experimenting with replacements for Johnny Damon as the leadoff hitter." ... Now this I like. Damon's .345 on-base percentage was one of the worst of the regulars (Walker .333, Nomar .345) and yet Gump glued him to the top of the order while AL batting champion Bill Mueller (.398 OBP, 2nd to Manny's .427) hit 8th. Notice how Gump batted the two worst OBP guys 1-2 almost all year long? God, I hate that &*%#@ moron.

Blogger El Guapo's Ghost lists 3 rules for managers regarding batting order: (1) Communicate with your players and find out where they, honestly, are most comfortable; (2) Other than the leadoff position*, have your best hitters bat first. The more at-bats going to your best hitters - the better; and (3) If the hitters are essentially equal, flip-flop RHB and LHB for better late inning match ups. [*Hitting leadoff is the only exception because it is advantageous for the first hitter to see as many pitches as possible for his teammates to get a feel for the stuff the starter has on that particular day.]

I generally agree with EGG's points, and because I put more emphasis on batting order than most sabermetric studies say I should, I like the openness of Francona and Epstein. I wouldn't mind seeing Nixon and Mueller bat 1-2 against right-handed pitchers and then replacing Nixon with Damon against lefties. Some Damon numbers:
2003    AB   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS

#1 571 .266 .334 .392 .726
#7 7 .429 .600 .429 1.029
#8 19 .474 .565 .895 1.460
#9 11 .182 .308 .182 .490
2001-03 AB   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS

#1 1673 .265 .333 .387 .720
#2 156 .321 .384 .532 .916
#8 20 .450 .542 .850 1.392
It's a small sample, but maybe Damon really likes hitting 8th. Here are his numbers for leading off an inning:
2001-03 AB   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS

700 .276 .332 .393 .725
I don't know how many more runs the Red Sox could have been expected to score in 2003 if Damon had batted 8th and he did see a lot of pitches per PA (4.1, 4th in the AL, behind Jason Giambi (4.2) and Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez (4.3)). I guess the question Francona should ask Damon is: How comfortable does feel about batting somewhere else in the order? Judging from what little evidence we have, his performance doesn't appear to suffer. ... And I want Manny hitting third.

Finally, there are a few reports that the Red Sox and Yankees are interested in 38-year-old Orlando Hernandez. However, Hernandez recently turned down an offer to audition in Fort Myers because, according to his agent, he did "not [want] to look too eager or desperate." Uh, okay. Hernandez will have an open workout in Miami on Monday (at his last workout back on January 22, his fastball never topped 78 mph), so I guess the Red Sox will send someone for curiosity's sake. ... The Yankees have assigned Fat Billy's #22 and Andy Pettitte's #46 to Joe Girardi and Donovan Osborne, respectively.

February 19, 2004

Sour Grapes? Here is the complete text of John Henry's comments:

"It will suffice to say that we have a spending limit and the Yankees apparently don't. Baseball doesn't have an answer for the Yankees. Revenue sharing can only accomplish so much. At some point it becomes confiscation. It has not and it will not solve what is a very obvious problem.

"More often than not, $50 million, on average, will not allow a major league baseball franchise to field a highly competitive team. Every year there will be an exception, but that is really the baseline number. So what has meaning are the dollars spent above $50 million. Most clubs can perhaps afford to spend $10 million to $25 million above that figure trying to compete. A few can spend as much as $30 million to $60 million above that. But one team can and is spending $150 million incremental, and at some point 29 owners and their players say to themselves, 'We can't have one team that can spend $10 above the baseline for every incremental dollar spent by an average team.' One thing is certain the status quo will not be preserved.

"Fifty-seven percent of baseball fans polled this week by ESPN.com characterized this week's events as 'disgusting' and 'sad.' As for me, although I have never previously been an advocate of a salary cap in baseball out of respect for the players, there is really no other fair way to deal with a team that has gone so insanely far beyond the resources of all the other teams. There must be a way to cap what a team can spend without hurting player compensation in toto without taking away from the players what they have rightfully earned in the past through negotiation and in creating tremendous value. Revenue sharing alone, sufficient to address a problem of this magnitude, would require pure confiscation -- but there is a simple mechanism that could right a system woefully out of whack.

"Regarding the questions about how I feel about Alex going to New York. Personally, I am very happy for Alex. He very much wanted to play in games that have meaning. This year he will get that chance. We will be ready as well. The Yankees will have spent more than double the incremental dollars we will spend this year. It's a huge advantage, but we're not waving a white flag. We're going to continue to work just as hard to bring home a championship and are fortunate to have fans that are as uncompromising as we are when it comes to demanding excellence."

George Steinbrenner's response: "We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction. Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston. It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes."

And then Henry: "I've been asked by the commissioner to not respond to the New York Yankees' comments today. I've agreed and will abide by that request. The anticipation about the 2004 season is at an all-time high. So let's shift our sights to the field. Let the games begin."

As one SoSHer wrote, "drivetime talk radio can't start quoting numbers like Henry did -- it would be bad for business so they just go for the easy angle -- Boston vs. MFY over Arod, curse of the whomeever. Once again proving the laziness of the typical media member." [cough] ... While perhaps being issued at the wrong time -- though considering how the rivalry has intensified since last summer, there may have been no right time -- Henry's statement does not sound like whining to me.

And just as the topic doesn't lend itself to soundbites, it isn't easy to offer an opinion in a short blog entry. I do not support a cap on either players salaries or owners profits. And part of the issue with Boston having the #2 payroll is that they play in the same division as the Yankees. If Boston was in the AL Central, I don't think their payroll would be as high as it is now. For 2004, the #1 payroll (Yankees) is approximately twice that of the #5 team (Cubs). And while on one level, that does seem unfair, the Tribune Company, which owns the Cubs, could spend more if it chose. There are no guarantees that spending equals success, but it does allow a team to make a few mistakes (Andy Morales, anyone?) and get away with it.

Then there are issues of what makes a "large market team" in the first place? It clearly isn't tied to population. And what of the penny-pinching owners who apparently pocket any luxury tax monies they receive, refusing to put money back into their teams (which I believe was the whole point of the tax)? Why should the Yankees reward Owner X for not trying to improve his club, for discouraging competition? ... The Red Sox have a clear financial advantage over many other teams and with the construction of new seats on the right field roof, they should be bringing in even more revenue. And that is how it should be. Both the Yankees and Red Sox are supported by big, loyal fan bases and they both should be allowed to use that loyalty to improve their product. And as pointed out in the SoSH thread, when you look at team payrolls as a percentage of published revenues, the Yankees and Red Sox spend about the same.

It is a very complicated issue and I have no idea how best to solve it (although the SoSH thread does have some suggestions). Perhaps Henry's comments would have been best made in an owners' meeting or brought up around the next CBA negotiations. Either way, Henry must have known the reaction his remarks would get. ... And the rivalry just got a little more heated.

SoSHer Angel Santos in Red notes the "extreme circumstantial luck" the Yankees had re: A-Rod. "They needed (a) a superstar to want out of an organization; (b) a signed player to break his contract by playing a pick-up game of basketball and end his season with an injury; (c) said superstar – noted for his superior defensive prowess – to want to change positions as well as ... (a) have their failed financial commitment in a no-hit 3B prospect nullified by his desire to void a $12M contract and play for the NFL team that just drafted him and (b) get out from under Boone's contract to make Arod a wash financially. George and the media come off as incredibly savvy, but some need to realize and credit luck with the way some of these stars aligned." ... As Ian Browne points out, the Rodriguez deal was simply a better match, in terms of both players and money, for New York. The Yankees did not "out-smart" Boston.

Also: "The Sox were relieved to find out that there was no truth to the rumor that Pedro Martinez had been involved in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic. ... Martinez, who was in Boston yesterday, is expected to report on time with the rest of the pitchers and catchers tomorrow." ... Curt Schilling: "The way I've got it figured, I'm starting that first game vs. the Yankees (April 16 at Fenway Park) because of the way the rotation falls on that Friday. I've known that for about two months and I'm nervous about it and excited about it. Our schedule is not going to be easy. This division is going to be incredibly tough, but I look forward to stuff like that and that's one of the reasons I came here, to be a part of that. You can treat it the way you want, but I need to dwell on it and let it simmer. ... If Red Sox fans weren't passionate and angry and pissed off and bitter and didn't hate the Yankees, they wouldn't be who they are. Same thing with Yankee fans."

February 18, 2004

Thirty Seasons. In a Sox Therapy thread about the possibility of getting Soriano to play 2B in Boston, "SG" writes: "I've been running some Diamond Mind sims with Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections disk, and here are the results after 15 seasons":
                 Yankees     Red Sox

Avg Wins: 99.6 98.5
Avg Losses: 62.4 63.5
Actual Win%: .615 .608
Pythag Win%: .619 .614
High Wins: 113 111
High Losses: 71 81
Avg Runs Scored: 906.5 882.1
Avg Runs Allowed: 710.7 [blank?]
High Runs Scored: 988 939
Low Runs Scored: 822 823
High Runs Allowed: 776 798
Low Runs Allowed: 670 629
Division Titles: 8 7
Wild Cards: 6 5
Missed Playoffs: 1 3
SG's comments: "Obviously, these don't mean much, but it's kind of interesting to look at. It looks like the Yankees are projected to be a little better on offense, and a little worse on defense (pitching + fielding). About one game separates these teams, even after getting Rodriguez. As Joe C. said, the Yankees may have the higher ceiling, but the risk of implosion is also greater. ... Incidentally, Rodriguez averaged .291/.380/.550 [and] 41.7 HR, with a low of 32 and a high of 51. Best Avg. was .348, worst was .254 (think Steinbrenner would like that?). ... OK, I ran another 15 simulations, putting the total at 30 seasons. Here's the AL East data" [he includes all 5 teams in the thread]:
                  Yankees    Red Sox

Avg Wins: 99.9 99.2
Avg Losses: 62.1 62.8
Actual Win%: .617 .612
Pythag Win%: .620 .617
High Wins: 113 111
High Losses: 76 81
Avg Runs Scored: 905.4 884.1
Avg Runs Allowed: 708.7 696.2
High Runs Scored: 1022 939
Low Runs Scored: 800 823
High Runs Allowed: 780 798
Low Runs Allowed: 654 629
Division Titles: 16 14
Wild Cards: 11 13
Missed Playoffs: 3 3
99.9 to 99.2?!? That is close. ... Also, I have to read up on Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA system [I didn't pay that much attention to it last season], because it sure loves the Red Sox pitching staff.
In Fort Myers. Alan Embree and Doug Mirabelli are unfazed by the Rodriguez trade. Mirabelli to a reporter reading a newspaper at City of Palms Park: "Hey, have they got us finishing in last place yet?" Keith Foulke is also in camp. Curt Schilling is expected to arrive today. ... Scott Williamson: "There's no panic here, by any means. One guy is not going to win you a World Series ... I don't see anyone who can hold a candle to us. I still think we have the best team in baseball. ... I want to win a World Series and wear a ring for the rest of my life."

9 Questions as the Red Sox open camp. ... Bill Simmons has 33 random thoughts on the Red Sox/Yankees this season. ... According to Brian Cashman, having Rodriguez and not Jeter play shortstop is "not a consideration whatsoever." And Steinbrenner says he wants Bernie Williams in CF, not DHing.

Thomas Boswell: "The longest, fiercest, bitterest rivalry in the game has been taken far over the top, over the moon it almost seems. Never before has there been such a sense of soul-deep animosity and identity-at-stake competition between two teams that extended through every level of the organization, from ownership through batboys, with players who will be remembered for generations taking the part of human chess pieces. Electric as this confrontation is, the nature of baseball itself brings an extra dimension into play. A level of unpredictability, caprice and psychological drama confounds predictions in baseball more than any other major sport. ... [The Yankees] no longer have four-fifths of last year's pennant-winning rotation. In any confrontation where the Red Sox start Martinez and Curt Schilling, the Yankees are already on the short end of both matchups no matter whom they choose. As for their fourth and fifth starters, the Yankees have names, but little more. ... Some will moan that this monumental Yankees coup is bad for baseball. It's just the opposite. ... But the Yankees, Rodriguez or not, are no longer constructed to be an October juggernaut with special daunting abilities. A great slugging lineup, backed by a pretty good starting rotation, what's that? It sounds like so many Red Sox teams that other Yankee outfits loved to meet."

Sarah at Rally Cuff: "Jim Donaldson, by the power vested in me as the self-appointed Militant Cheerleader of Red Sox Nation, you are hereby cast out of the fold, you miserable puke. If you want to see the Sox lose so bad then why don't you become a Yanks or an A's fan. ... You are beneath my contempt." Ah yes, Donaldson, King of the One-Sentence Paragraphs. While he's sometimes amusing to read in a I-can't-believe-someone-is paying-this-guy-real-money-to-write-this-shit, I will second Sarah's comments and declare Joy of Sox a "Donaldson-Free Zone." ... Speaking of bad writers, Aaron Gleeman takes apart a column written by Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times (also see here). Gleeman also found an older column about Barry Bonds, in which Plaschke wrote (in apparent seriousness): "Last season, one study showed that Bonds reached base 1.1 times per plate appearance."