Nine Up, Nine Down: November Drags On

I hate November. It’s a terribly boring month. There is zero baseball, and the news all consist of rumors, nothing big going down. Football is not at the critical stage yet, and basketball is only just coming around. Since all my energy is poured into baseball, I only have passing interest in football and basketball until the playoffs. I’ve had to content myself with Mike Timlin getting signed, Mike Cameron getting traded, and Scott Eyre signing a lucrative contract. Is it April yet? It’s been a crazy month in my personal life too, so I haven’t said much recently. Let’s change that, there’s quite a bit to talk about.
Dayton Moore is not going to be the next general manager of the Red Sox. I’ve been trying not to, but I’m extremely upset. Contrary to some wild conspiracy theories out there, Moore did not turn this job down because of Lucchino. He already interviewed once and had nothing but positive things to stay about Lucchino. Moore turned the job down because he’s had a lot invested in Atlanta. He’s been overseeing the minor league operation for years now and it’s bearing fruit now. In addition, Moore has been promised the GM job when incumbent GM John Schuerholz, 65, steps down. Put yourself in Moore’s position. You’re overseeing a club who has had a lot of success, and you’re overseeing the section that made national news in 2005. You’ve been promised the GM job. Why would you leave? It hurts to lose Moore. But Moore made the right decision.
I’m actually a little – just a little – happy that Theo’s gone now. Theo is one of, and probably the best, GM out there, but there’s something to be said for new faces. Lucchino is planning to hire someone who is heavy into scouting and player development, which I think is the way to go. Statistics are great and they’re here to stay and the Red Sox are so ingrained into statistics they won’t go away, but statistics while showing trends and whatnot are not the end-all be-all. What if someone hits for a three-year average at .250/.320/.375 and entering into his first year of arbitration? Under statistics, you’d drop him. But what if that offseason he found a new trainer, shed 20 pounds, added muscle, and matured to the point that he stopped partying? Maybe he’d hit .275/.350/.450 the next season. There are many examples out there of busts and surprises, all of which seemingly come out of nowhere. And you can’t convince me that statistics always show that busts or surprises come, because you can find (or if not – create it – that’s the point we’re at) any statistic to back up your opinion. The scouting department has to analyze players, their attitudes, their life-changing events. Yes, statistics are important, but at this juncture with the Red Sox, it’s also important to have an eye towards player development. Theo combined the two very effectively, but still tilted a bit towards statistics. Not a bad thing, but I was excited to get Moore who would have brought the same but tilted to development. But that’s not happening now.
Jim Beattie and Jim Bowden are being brought back for second interviews. I really hope Bowden is just for PR sake because if he becomes the GM, we’re going to enter into a Dark Age. If it’s Beattie … honestly, I don’t know what to think of Beattie. He’s not great, but I don’t think he’s terrible. I just don’t think he’s the right fit, but the Red Sox seem determined to bring in new blood. ”We haven’t commented on any internal candidates. We’re focusing initially on external candidates,” said Larry Lucchino. This statement wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact Lucchino promised to have a GM by December 5th in time for the winter meetings. Since the winter meetings are so important, you’ve got to have the new GM get a week (which is still much too little time) to get situated. That’s 10 days, people. Ten days until a new general manager, 17 days until the winter meetings.
Bill Lajoie is the acting GM right now but has no interest in making it a fulltime job, which means we can’t name him interim GM for a year. Just name Jed Hoyer interim GM for a year and try again next year. Don’t sign a GM just for the sake of getting one – get the right one. It’s not happening this year, so just go with an interim GM. It worked out well when Mike Port was interim GM for 2002, for we found the right one the next year.
Speaking of Larry Lucchino, I think too many people are skewering him. Dayton Moore declined the GM position – so did other candidates, such as Antonetti, who cited family. Look, Lucchino’s been around a long time, he’s qualified, and he’s found two excellent GMs in Kevin Towers and Theo Epstein. He is not hated in baseball. Boston’s going through a tough time right now, but I feel confident with the club with Lucchino as president that we’re better off. People are fustrated that Theo’s gone, but open your eyes. It’s not Lucchino. We took a hit because Theo left, not because Lucchino is still around. We need to stop hating so much and start dealing with things and realizing the value everyone has. Lucchino has tremendous value, and a lot more than most of you realize, but I realize it because of some things I’ve been able to see. Eventually, maybe you all can see it, but for now just realize that Lucchino is qualified, and one event does not undo four excellent years. There’s always going to be problems, the issue is if we can move on and turn the problem into a non-issue. That’s what the Red Sox are trying to do.
Amphetamines in baseball are now banned. An article in the Globe made me really wonder. If amphetamine use is really that widespread and dependent upon, this may actually change the face of the game moreso than steroids. Steroid testing has depressed homeruns without a doubt – but what do amphetamines do? They ante you up for the game and for the season. Older players may fall off quicker and players in general could wear down terribly as the season goes on. This does not bode well for the Red Sox (starting rotation, that is) and the Yankees anywhere. I was musing on a division finish of New York, Toronto, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore but this amphetamine use could change the landscape of baseball.
However, it will probably be 2007 before any drastic changes because the first offense is no suspension, just mandatory retesting. I’m sure a lot of people will test positive, but they’ll continue to use it because they won’t be suspended and they’ll take the (good chance – you must be tested at least once per season but the rest is up to pure chance if you’re retested) chance that they won’t be retested. Much like 2005, it’s going to take a year for players to wake up and learn the effects. 2006 is going to be devastating in terms of steroid suspensions, but most people with the new agreement and effects of last year are going to go off. It’s going to take a year for amphetamine use to decline, so while we may see some decline of statistics this coming year, 2007 should change the face of baseball.
Even if the new GM comes in and tries to compete, I’m not optimistic about our chances for 2006 because I think 2006 is a year in transition. 2005 started that transistion, and now 2006 is going to be all about transisition, to line up for a dominant 2007, 2008 and on campaign. It’s going to be an interesting mashing of veterans and rookies, the old guard and the new guard. The Braves have shown you can succeed with that, but I’m not entirely sure the Red Sox can.
Perhaps signing a one or two year stopgap in centerfield is the way to go, but the only way we will do that is if we commit to retooling. The CF options out there that take 1 or 2 year deals do that for a reason – they’re not good enough to command a 3 or 4 year deal. They can have value, but they’re not neccessarily the best options out there. The next GM of the Red Sox is going to have to be extremely smart, because he’s going to be presiding over the watershed years of transition. These next three years are incredibly vital to the franchise.
David Ortiz did not win the MVP. While I believe he deserved it, he did not win it, and I’m okay with that. Look, the MVP is not about statistics, okay? It’s the Most Valuable Player, I don’t know how much more cut and dry it can get. We rode Ortiz’s back all year long, the Yankees did not ride A-Rod’s. Ortiz had tremendous clutch statistics, A-Rod did not. It’s the Most Valuable Player. Period. But Ortiz had a strong enough showing and finished close enough to first that I’m fine with it, but this year will go down as the year of two contentious awards – AL MVP and AL Cy Young.
I’m tired of all this Manny stuff. Either trade him or don’t. (Manny Ramirez and David Wells for Casey Kotchman, Ervin Santana, and Brandon Wood of the Angels may be a pipe dream, but it’s my pipe dream.)
Johnny Damon -wants 7 years and $84 million. Ridiculous. Damon may cry about wanting to come back to Boston, but he’s showing zero loyalty right now, so I have no problem playing hardball with him. Pedro tried to show some loyalty but in the end, he was a businessman. Jason Varitek showed loyalty by pretty much exclusively negotiating with the Red Sox. Tim Wakefield, Mike Timlin … loyalty’s not for everyone, I guess. If Damon agrees to sign with us for 4 years and $44 million, then maybe we consider it. We can get away with him in center for two more years, but he’s going to have to move to left eventually the more his arm declines. If his offense continues declining then he won’t be valuable in left field. What Damon needs to do is consider moving to left field sooner rather than later (which at this point would place him on a team not based on Boston) to stave off his impending offensive decline.
Don’t be surprised to see Damon end up on the Tigers. He’s a Boras client, and the last two years big Boras clients who command so much money that literally no one is interested have ended up on the Tigers – Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. The Tigers could create incentive laden and easily attainable incentives for Damon in a contract. This way they’d be protected against a massive decline or injury from Damon – kind of like we were with David Wells in 2005.
The winter meetings that start December 5th in Texas is going to be where most of the trades and free agency signings are done, methinks. There’s going to be a lot more trading this year because of the thin free agency market, and there’s more teams looking to fill holes via trades and teams looking to shed payroll via trades that there’s going to be a lot of matches. It’s important that the Red Sox get situated with the GM prior to the meetings. If not, the Gang of Four can get the job done, but we need that figurehead to make the final decisions. If we’re going with the Gang of Four, appoint someone the top decision maker.
Predictions (just for fun, no clue how it’ll really turn out)… Brian Giles to the Yankees, AJ Burnett to the Devil Rays, Matt Morris to the Rangers, Jarrod Washburn to the Yankees, Esteban Loaiza to the Orioles, Carlos Delgado traded to the Mets, Aaron Rowand traded to the Red Sox.