January 31, 2007

Helton Talks Dead; Matsuzaka Speaks

When Colorado asked for one or two of Jon Lester, Craig Hansen, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Manny Delcarmen, and Clay Buchholz, Theo said No -- and the Todd Helton talks died.

The Globe reports that Daisuke Matsuzaka is in California and will speakto the media at 5:30 PM EST. Let's hope he has an actual translator this time.

In news north of the border, Tala has arrived!

January 29, 2007

Schilling Says He'll Pitch In 2008

Curt Schilling told WEEI today that he will not retire after this season and is currently talking with the front office about a contract extension. (Here's a link to a ton of quotes and an mp3 file of the interview.)
I will play in 2008. ... I hope it's Boston ... It wouldn't be in New York. No. I could not make that move.
Hmmmm, I remember a certain CF saying the same thing.

Anyway, despite Curt's wish to get this settled before Opening Day, I'd like Theo to hold off and see how Schilling pitches for a couple of months before extending him to another season or two.

January 28, 2007

Red Sox/Rockies Discussing Helton

The Red Sox are talking with the Colorado Rockies about first baseman Todd Helton.

Colorado is anxious to dump the 33-year-old Helton, who is still owed $90.1 million over the next six years -- $16.6 in 2007-08-09-10, $19.1 in 2011 and either $23 (yoinks!) or a $4.6 buyout in 2012 -- and is willing to pay as much as half of the remaining dough.

Some of the names mentioned: Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Mike Lowell, Julian Tavarez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Clement. The Red Sox have been perfectly willing to chat, but have not heard any proposal worthy of serious consideration.

Nick Cafardo (who is "utterly fascinated" by Helton), Globe:
Major league sources told me yesterday that the Red Sox aren't jumping through hoops to make this deal ... they won't do anything that stretches their boundaries financially or means giving up prominent young players.

According to a Rockies official, they would have to get one or two young players who would make an impact in the near future.
Helton can hit, though back problems have caused his production to drop in each of the last four seasons.
       AVG   OBP   SLG  OPS+/NL Rank RC/27
2003 .358 .458 .630 168 3rd 11.29
2004 .347 .469 .620 159 7th 11.45
2005 .320 .445 .534 144 9th 8.88
2006 .302 .404 .476 119 x 7.04
OPS+ is park-adjusted.

Helton's 119 OPS+ in 2006 was still higher than any Sock regular not named Ortiz or Ramirez; both his OBP and SLG would have been third best on the team and only Manny would have topped his batting average. According to Baseball Reference, the most comparable player to Helton is Hank Greenberg.

A healthy Helton is certainly worth $9 million per. Reports on SportsCenter this morning mentioned Tavarez, Lowell and prospects for Helton, with Colorado paying almost half of his remaining salary.

The Red Sox hold every single one of the cards here -- especially since Helton has already said he'd agree to come to Boston. I'd do the SportsCenter deal, as long as the prospects are guys like Pauley or Gabbard. Or get tough and say no prospects.

(Also: Why are the Yankees settling for Doug Mientkiewicz and Andy Phillips at first? Does Helton not want to play in New York?)

Something Doesn't Add Up

Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News wants us to look at MLB's pending deal with DirecTV solely as a business proposition. Yet when you do, it makes absolutely no sense.
Spies say the cable industry, bidding on the package as a consortium represented by a company called InDemand, has offered to pay $70 million per and is not demanding exclusivity.

This means that in addition to the cable operators, MLB could sell "Extra Innings" to DirecTV, Dish Network as well as AT&T and Verizon's TV services.

The combined value of a non-exclusive deal, which would make "Extra Innings" available to the widest possible audience, would likely exceed MLB's proposed exclusive deal with DirecTV by at least $40 million per year, according to industry sources.
Raismann offers a possible reason why MLB wants to go it alone with DirecTV:
[I]n its negotiation with the cable consortium, MLB suits tried linking an "Extra Innings" deal to the cable operators agreeing to eventually put "TBC" [The Baseball Channel, which will not exist until at least 2009] on a "basic" tier. Being placed on a "basic" tier means MLB would be paid per subscriber based on an entire cable system's universe of subscribers.

The cable industry balked, saying when "TBC" becomes a reality, it belongs on a "sports tier," which means MLB would be paid based only on how many subscribers purchased that individual tier. Apparently, that's when MLB took its "Extra Innings" deal over to DirecTV, which guaranteed it would make "TBC" available to about 85% of its subscriber base.

If the NFL Network, which actually exists, could not convince companies such as Time Warner and Cablevision to place it on a "basic" tier, what makes MLB suits think the industry would roll over and put "TBC" on "basic?"
So ... while MLB would pocket more money by offering Extra Innings to both cable and satellite providers, they are ready and willing to accept less money and have The Baseball Channel be available to fewer total customers.

Something doesn't add up.

Sunday Notes

No player has been unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame. Knowing that some voters apparently have personal policies not to vote for anyone in his first year of eligibility, Bob Ryan writes: "I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of such idiocy."

Ryan shakes his head in disbelief at the number of voters who ignored Ty Cobb (4), Babe Ruth (11), Ted Williams (20), Willie Mays (23), and Hank Aaron (9) in their first years on the ballot. Ryan then names five dozen players he believes should have been elected without dissent.

Pitching coach John Farrell: "I don’t think we're at the point of just anointing a closer. But I think there are candidates that will emerge as we get to the middle of spring training. From that group of four right-handed relievers, we feel they're going to be pitching the bulk of the innings late in the game." He adds: "We have to plan to get eight starters stretched out."

Gordon Edes looks at the bullpen choices. ... The Red Sox avoided arbitration and signed Brendan Donnelly to a $1.4 million deal for 2007. ... The Globe's Amalie Benjamin has a feature on Julio Lugo.

January 27, 2007

Around The Horn: The MLB/DirecTV Deal

A few media reports on MLB's proposed deal to give DirecTV excusive rights to its Extra Innings package:

Dan Wetzel, Yahoo!:
So here comes Major League Baseball in a quick, shortsighted money grab (again), selling out its core fans (again) and telling everyone (again) how the sport ought to be consumed.

Here comes MLB, as arrogant and detached as ever, ready to limit its popular "MLB Extra Innings" package by giving it exclusively to DirecTV [for] an average of a million bucks per year, per team ... That's how much baseball owners value their best costumers? A bad middle reliever? ...

How MLB, which isn't talking about the proposed deal, could consider severely limiting the availability of its product a good idea at that pathetic price is stunning. ...

While some fans will undoubtedly make the change, it probably never dawned on baseball owners who live in gated mansions that not everyone can get DirecTV. Many apartment complexes and condominium developments prohibit satellite installation. Some lack the required clear view of the southern sky. ...

The reasons hardly matter. The question is: Why make it more difficult for customers to buy the product?
Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus:
MLB is going to tick off a subset of ... EI subscribers who either have Dish Network or cable. However, they're not going to lose that group of people as fans of MLB as a whole. Some of those people will switch to DirecTV, others will make do with MLB.tv, still others will not purchase a package and live without the extra games. The number of fans that MLB will lose because of this decision, however, could fit in my living room. You simply don't go from being such a big fan of baseball that you would purchase 1200 games a year on satellite to a non-fan based on one decision. ...

I don't mean to dismiss the concerns of the disenfranchised. [This is a fairly fan-hostile decision.] Remember, the frustration that's being expressed is largely among those people who will not even have the opportunity to purchase the package at any price. ...

When you break it down, this decision is clearly the right one for MLB. They make more money up front. The people it affects negatively have a series of options, albeit aggravating or inferior ones, and their pursuit of those options is likely to create additional revenue. The far-left-end users who will be hurt by DirecTV's exclusivity are going to be the most vocal about their unhappiness, but at the same time, they are the ones least likely to be completely turned off of baseball.
Tim Lemke, Washington Times:
Not exactly the most "pro-fan" move by Major League Baseball. In fact, it's kind of evil. But when you analyze it, the deal is pure genius, and here's why:

There is another way to see out-of-market baseball games. It's called MLB.TV Internet service, which the league owns and operates.

Now, MLB officials know people want their baseball. A Red Sox fan in Cleveland who's been catching their team's games on Extra Innings will NOT give up watching Sox games altogether just because baseball officials are greedy jerks.

MLB officials know that if fans don't currently get DirecTV, they'll switch to it. Or, if those fans can't get DirecTV, they'll sign up for MLB.TV. So baseball wins no matter what. ...

Some people have argued they don't want the MLB.TV service because they don't want to watch baseball on their computer screens. This is a valid point, but if they were hardcore enough fans to spend close to $200 for the Extra Innings Package, they'll embrace the Internet if it's the only option.

And besides, I'm willing to bet that by the time this deal with DirecTV ends, the quality of Internet broadcasting will be close to the quality of high-definition TV, making these satellite packages no longer necessary.
If you have not called MLB to complain:

(212) 931-7800

Off-Topic: Exile On Main Street ÷ 2

About a year ago, I had the great idea to start a time-wasting blog about the Rolling Stones' 1972 American tour. Thanks to the wonders of bit torrents, I have nearly every existing recording from that tour. The blog never got off the ground (more was not to come), though I did have a couple of draft posts ready to go. I've reworked them below.

Exile on Main Street -- released in May 1972 -- is as close to a perfect rock album as there is. There are a couple of songs that one might regard as filler, but within the context and atmosphere of the album, they fit quite well.

One thing about Exile that I wish I didn't know is that less than half of it was written at Keith Richard's villa in the south of France. Many songs were written and initially recorded as much as three years earlier (the band played Loving Cup at Hyde Park in July 1969 two days after Brian Jones's death). Wikipedia states that all lead and backing vocals (and much more) were recorded in Los Angeles in early 1972. Sigh -- so much for the romantic notion of the band banging out the album in Villefranche-sur-Mer during the summer of 1971.

Still, it's an amazing album. But what would it have looked like if it had been merely a single record? Exile's 18 songs are divided up 5-4-5-4 on the four sides of vinyl. My choice for a single LP is also 5-4, although one could cheat and include 5 songs per side.
A
Rocks Off
Torn and Frayed
Happy
Shine A Light
Tumbling Dice

B
All Down The Line
Loving Cup
Let It Loose
Soul Survivor
The time of that album is a mere 37:22, so let's slot Ventilator Blues after Let It Loose.

Back in June 1992 -- for Exile's 20th anniversary -- I published the following article in Request magazine (this summer, Exile turns 35!?!):
In the summer of 1971, the Rolling Stones squeezed into the cramped, humid cellar of Keith Richards' villa in the south of France. Legend has it they hot-wired electricity from the French railway system. When they emerged, the Stones had recorded the 18 songs that make up one of rock 'n' roll's greatest albums: Exile on Main Street. Released on May 12, 1972, Exile on Main Street celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

The Stones were at the peak of their genius in the early '70s. Their last four albums -- Beggar's Banquet, Let It Bleed, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, and Sticky Fingers -- and their well-publicized hedonism had made them the reigning bad boys of rock. Fleeing England as tax exiles, the Stones were the ultimate outlaws celebrities, and they had the coke spoons and press clippings to prove it.

Recording in a basement may have given producer Jimmy Miller fits, but it gave Exile on Main Street its unique sound, a chaotic mix of rough rhythms and defiance. The Stones' other albums, no matter how great, are mere collections of songs. Exile on Main Street charges forward as a whole: raw, decadent, violent. Mick Jagger, his vocals barely afloat within the murky wash of sound, explores themes of impotence, boredom, frustration, and death. In these often indecipherable lyrics, satisfaction isn't an issue.

This cornerstone of rock 'n' roll was widely panned when it was released; some writers bemoaned "the end of the Stones." Iconoclastic critic Lester Bangs referred to Exile on Main Street as "meaningless" and "emotionally sterile"; six months later, he apologized in print, apparently having seen the light.

These days, every rock band with an earthy, ramshackle sound owes a debt to Exile on Main Street. For years, lazy critics have leaned on the album as a reference point, comparing almost any band that retains a little grit in the mix -- U2, Tom Petty, the Replacements, Green on Red -- to Exile on Main Street. Of course, its unkempt raunch has also spawned one-trick ponies like the Georgia Satellites and the Black Crowes; Aerosmith and Guns N' Roses wouldn't exist without it. Back in 1986, New York's Pussy Galore, after hearing a rumor that Sonic Youth was covering the Beatles' "white album," banged out a cover version of Exile on Main Street in three days. The resulting incoherent, screeching mess can only be termed affectionate.

"When I was a junkie," Richards once said, "I learned to ski and I made Exile on Main Street." It's tough to imagine Richards on the slopes, especially when he was skeleton-thin and had black teeth. But his assorted addictions during the Stones' glory years is proof that drugs don't always hinder the creative process.

Three years ago, critics made a big fuss about the 20th anniversary of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Exile on Main Street most likely won't be getting the same treatment, which is a damn shame. It's a better album and a lot more fun to listen to. Twenty years down the road, Exile on Main Street has yet to be equaled.

January 26, 2007

Drew Deal Final; Announcement Today

Update: Done Deal.

Fifty-two days after the initial announcement of a deal, the Red Sox will finalize their 5/70 contract with right fielder J.D. Drew this afternoon.

Edes, Globe:
[S]ources with direct knowledge of the negotiations said all parties have signed off on an agreement ... giving the team the right to void either of the last two years of the deal, or both, should Drew's right shoulder render him unable to play. ...

[I]f Drew goes on the disabled list in his third year for issues related to the shoulder for a proscribed length of time, the Sox have the option to void the final two years. If he winds up on the disabled list in his fourth year, the Sox have the option of voiding the final year.

January 21, 2007

Selig Is Spitting On You

After reading posts at SoSH about MLB's nearly-completed deal to give exclusive broadcast rights of its Extra Innings package to DirecTV -- and knowing that DirecTV isn't available in Canada -- I am livid.

Once again, MLB looks only at its own bottom line while knowingly and gladly fucking over hundreds of thousands of fans (most of whom are die-hard/obsessive followers of the sport).

As my Red Sox-watching partner puts it:
And people call the players greedy!

Major League Baseball is a business and exists to make money ... I don't have a problem with [that]. But a move like this demonstrates MLB's utter contempt for their fans. Instead of negotiating contracts that bring baseball to the greatest number of people possible, they assign exclusive rights, putting the interests of a television provider ahead of the interests of millions of fans.
My question: Will this take effect for the 2007 season? There is no mention of that in the Times article I linked to below.

In 2005, Extra Innings had an estimated 280,000 subscribers (according to this; the Times puts the number at 750,000), while MLB.tv had about 1.3 million subscribers. Selig et al. must be confident that former EI subscribers who have no access to DirecTV will simply switch to MLB's inferior product because they gotta see the games. Or they don't give a shit. ... I wonder if we'll see a corresponding increase in the price of MLB.tv ($80 last year)?

SoSHer geoduck no quahog:
It's not about service. It's about bait-and-switch. ...

When a monopoly subsequently decides to limit the availability of its service, that leaves subscribers with redundant services, or forces them to switch providers (how many times...). It's identical to the baseball monopoly arbitrarily deciding to switch to Sirius - making all XM receivers superfluous to the intense baseball fan. It's not free enterprise. There is no competetive option available to the consumer. Baseball broadcasting rights cannot be competed against by others who may try to provide a better service. Baseball has the authority to blackout (blockout) competitors.
gnq also points out that MLB.tv can only be watched live (or the next day after the games are archived). So fans working 9-5 on the west coast will be out of luck -- even with MLB.tv -- since east coast games will begin when they are still at work. They will not be able to TiVo the games and begin watching when they get home.

So after I make my phone calls tomorrow morning, then what?

A SoSHer mentioned hooking your computer to your TV and getting the MLB.tv feed on the TV. Even if that was possible, I don't know how feasible that would be for us (or other people whose computer may not be anywhere near their TV). And it is still the computer feed on the bigger screen.

Another poster -- in nearby Guelph, Ontario -- said that even though the NFL package is a DirecTV exclusive, it is part of Rogers cable's sports package. I have no idea of the history of that arrangement, but it offers a glimmer of hope.

Call Bud:

(212) 931-7800

"All-Ego Team" (Updated!)

You know those free Metro newspapers that people read on their way to work on subways and trains? Small tabloids with wire-service articles so short they make USAToday look like the New York Times? This weekend, in the Toronto edition, sportswriter Marty York writes:
BoSox Could Be All-Ego Team

The Boston Red Sox may soon need to enlarge their clubhouse. It might be the only way to squeeze the colossal egos of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez into one room.

Don't laugh. The Sox seriously would like to sign both Bonds and Clemens ASAP.
Huh. Who knew Manny had a colossal ego?

York repeats what he heard from "a BoSox source" -- the club thinks it would be "quite appealing" about having Bonds and Clemens together in Fenway. "Money isn't a concern for us," said the source. "We'll pay the luxury tax if need be. ... These guys are volatile and moody, but they'd give us an edge, even at their age."

Supposedly, Bonds would alternate between DH and left field and Ramirez would switch over to right on some days.

I can't find a link to the online version of this column and none of the Boston papers have anything. ... John Henry has said he'd like to sign Clemens, but I don't put much stock in York's report. I'm passing it along.

Update: I have found another writer who is trying to sell the Bonds/Sox angle: our old friend Murray Chass. A few days ago, Chass wrote:
Six weeks after they agreed to terms on new contracts, Barry Bonds and J. D. Drew remain unsigned. Bonds hasn’t signed with the Giants; Drew hasn’t signed with the Red Sox. That prompts a thought. If both contracts were to fall through, the Red Sox could sign Bonds to play left field and move Manny Ramírez back to his original position in right.
Thanks to Seth Mnookin, who rightly calls this "perhaps the all-time most idiotic idea ever". Seth has also solicited, and has put up on his blog, some of Chass's email to his readers. Good for a laugh.

January 20, 2007

EI Package Now DirecTV-Only

This is bullshit:
Major League Baseball is close to announcing a deal that will place its Extra Innings package of out-of-market games exclusively on DirecTV, which will also become the only carrier of a long-planned 24-hour baseball channel.

Extra Innings has been available to 75 million cable households and the two satellite services, DirecTV and the Dish Network. But the new agreement will take it off cable and Dish because DirecTV has agreed to pay $700 million over seven years, according to three executives briefed on the details of the contract but not authorized to speak about them publicly.

InDemand, which has distributed Extra Innings to the cable television industry since 2002, made an estimated $70 million bid to renew its rights, more than triple what it has been paying. Part of its offer included the right to carry the new baseball channel, but not exclusively. ...

The only other way that fans without DirecTV will be able to see Extra Innings will be on MLB.com's mlb.tv service, but they must have high-speed broadband service. About 28 million homes have high-speed service, less than half the number of cable homes in the country. The picture quality of streamed games is not as good as what is available on cable or satellite.
Instead of giving as many people as possible the chance to watch baseball, MLB has decided to make it exclusive to satellite TV. Another smart PR move from Milwaukee's Used Car Salesman.

Complain:
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167
Phone: (212) 931-7800

and

Boston Red Sox
4 Yawkey Way
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: (617) 226-6791

and your cable company.

January 19, 2007

Nixon Signs With Cleveland

One year, $3 million. He'll wear #33.

January 14, 2007

Pedro Has A 19-Year-Old Son?!

Raise your hand if you knew this.

Pedro Esmeli Martinez is a relief pitcher in the Mets organization (stats).

Martinez is quiet about his private life, but I believe he has four children, including two younger kids with his fiance.

Someone at SoSH said that the talk on WEEI was that Pedro had adopted this son (though the two men have very similar builds). If not, he was conceived right around Pedro's 15th birthday.

January 12, 2007

Top 100 Red Sox Of All Time

Brian at Friendly Fenway wants to compile the definitive list of the top 100 Red Sox players of all time. In his mail to me, he wrote:
I already went through baseball-reference and the historical stats from mlb.com to come up with a list of about 120 guys who made a significant impact on the Sox. I'll send the list to everyone who wants in on the project and we can go from there. We'll rank the players and then write a few paragraphs for each player. Hopefully I can get enough people involved where we'd each only write 3 or 4 bios a piece. Then the resulting rankings and bios get posted on as many Sox blogs as we can get. ...

I'd like anyone and everyone involved in it, even if they're not a blogger. As long as someone has an email address, a pulse, and wants to help with either making the list or writing the bios then they're qualified. The more Red Sox fans we can get together for this project, the better.
If you want to help, click the link for Brian's blog.

January 6, 2007

Sox Had Eye On Pineiro All Along

Assistant GM Jed Hoyer:
Joel was right at the top of the list. He's a guy that, even when he was having great success as a starter, a lot of our reports were, 'Wow, this guy would be unbelievable in the bullpen.'

Last year, our scouting reports on him when he went to the bullpen really indicated that he had dropped his arm angle a little bit, so he was getting a little bit more life on the ball, and they thought he'd make a very good transition into the bullpen. We think we signed a very good relief pitcher.
Down in the Dominican Winter League, Wily Mo Pena is 1-for-23 in six games for Aguilas.

Three former Red Sox players have signed one-year deals for 2007: Keith Foulke with Cleveland ($5 million), Doug Mientkiewicz with the Yankees ($1.5 million) and Mark Loretta with Houston ($2.5 million).

Check out Empyreal Environs for some info on baseball played by some of the 110,000 Japanese-Americans who were forced into concentration camps throughout the US during World War II.

RIP: Kathryn Gemme, At Age 112

AP:
Kathryn Gemme, a lifelong Red Sox fan who followed the team since the days of Babe Ruth, has died. She was 112. ...

Gemme attended her first game at Fenway Park at age 18 in 1912 shortly after the ballpark opened and her last game in May 2004 when she was greeted by catcher Jason Varitek and Johnny Pesky.

Team officials brought the 2004 World Series trophy to her 111th birthday party in November 2005.

Before the days of television, Gemme would listen to Red Sox games on the radio and take detailed notes that she would later read back to her husband, Ovella, when he returned home from work.
Gemme was born on November 9, 1894 (that would have made her 17 in 1912, not 18) and was the oldest person in Massachusetts at the time of her death. Sox PR man Marty Ray on bringing the trophy to her:
It was remarkable for us to visit someone who was actually a true testament to what a lifelong Red Sox fan really means, someone who stuck with us the entirety of those 86 years.

January 4, 2007

Pineiro Incentives Tied To Closing

The Joel Pineiro signing is official.

The Herald's Jeff Horrigan writes that Pineiro "will most likely replace Jonathan Papelbon as closer". The incentives in his one-year deal ($4 million) certainly paint him as a front-runner for the spot. In addition to the salary, there are
performance incentives that could increase the value by $2 million. ... If Pineiro finishes 35 games in 2007, he will trigger an undisclosed option year on the deal for 2008.
Maybe the plan is simply to have a closer whose initials are JP. ... It worked last season.

Sox Eyeing Pineiro

In a classic case of quantity over quality, the Red Sox are close to signing former Seattle starter Joel Pineiro for 2007 at about $4 million.

Pineiro would likely be used out of the bullpen and as a spot starter. His stats since 2001 show a very disturbing trend:

ERA ERA+ WHIP

2001 2.03 207 0.942
2002 3.24 130 1.250
2003 3.78 117 1.266
2004 4.67 92 1.329
2005 5.62 77 1.481
2006 6.36 68 1.648
And by disturbing trend, I mean flat-out shitty. He's been demonstrably worse every single season. Still, he's only 28 and he has done quite a bit better in relief.
           G   IP   ERA    BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Starter 148 926 4.58 .274 .331 .428 .759
Reliever 37 70 3.21 .205 .301 .309 .610
Fifteen of those 37 relief appearance came last year.

So who knows? Bring him to Florida and see what happens.