Friday, February 7, 2020

Mitt Romney's Letter to Terry Francona's Son





In case you missed it, Mitt Romney has been in the news a bit lately. It seems everyone has an opinion on Mitt and they aren't afraid to share it. There is one story that has a Red Sox connection that not many people knew about until today. The story comes from Nick Francona. Nick is the son of Terry Francona.

Red Sox fans might remember that Nick was deployed overseas with the military during a portion of Tito's time with the Red Sox. Nick went on to work in baseball for a bit and is now in law school. He is a great person to follow on twitter and is not shy when it comes to calling out baseball on a myriad of topics.

I have messaged back and forth with Nick a couple of times and he is a really interesting guy with a lot to say and some great stories. I hope to be able to sit down with him in the near future for an extensive interview about his life and to hear more stories. Speaking of interesting stories, here is the story he posted today on twitter:

In the summer of 2011, I was deployed to Afghanistan. We received mail every few weeks, mostly care packages from family & friends. One day, the pile of mail included a letter that stood out, from the campaign HQ of Mitt Romney in Boston

 
 
The mail was almost always standard USPS care package boxes, so this envelope caught the attention of the Marine passing it out, leading him to ask, “Sir, do you know Mitt Romney?” I said I may have met him in passing at a Sox game, but if I didn’t remember he surely wouldn’t.

We assumed it was just campaign marketing material soliciting a donation. The idea of being hit up for political donations at our austere patrol base didn’t sit too well with some of the Marines, and there were a handful of barbs about Romney being an out of touch rich guy.

A young Lance Corporal from Arkansas with a heavy southern accent, exclaimed, “The balls on this guy!”

I couldn’t really argue, and said that it did come off as rather patrician.
*note: Using words like patrician around Marine grunts makes you sound like, well, a patrician.

A couple Marines said they’d remember his name so they would make sure to not vote for that guy. With a few of the Marines standing over my shoulder, I opened the envelope to find a short hand-written note from Mitt Romney

.
The note, dated 6/21/11, read:

Nick,

I admire your dad for all he’s done to bring baseball championships to Boston, but your service in Afghanistan as a Marine makes you the hero in the Francona  family. Thank you for your service.
Best wishes,
Mitt Romney


The tone quickly changed. One of the Marines quietly said, “That’s pretty cool.” I agreed.

Mitt Romney won a few admirers that day who had been cursing his name just seconds before. It was a thoughtful gesture that meant a lot to me at the time and one I’ll always remember.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Overrating of Derek Jeter Continues




Derek Jeter continues to be overrated. One Hall of Fame voter has decided to include ONLY Derek Jeter on his Hall of Fame ballot this year. He even says that Jeter should be on the Mount Rushmore of sports. I am not saying Derek Jeter isn't great. He is without a doubt a first ballot Hall of Famer. The problem is that Derek has been overrated from day one. It is not his fault but his greatness has been a product of timing and luck. Craig Biggio is who he is most similar to according to Baseball Reference. Nobody is putting Craig Biggio on their Mount Rushmore of sports.

We have now entered a new era of Hall of Fame voting where writers' ballots are no longer hidden. This transparency has made writers use common sense now when they vote. This is a good thing and it should have always been like this. The fact that guys like Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron did not get 100% of the Hall of Fame vote is a joke.

The timing once again is perfect for Jeter who will probably get 100% of the vote making him the first position player ever to get the unanimous vote. This will only further push the narrative that he is one of all the all time greats when in reality he is Craig Biggio.

The overrated notion is best exemplified by his defense. If you ask the normal baseball fan he will tell you that Jeter was a great defensive shortstop. They will tell you about the jump throws, how he dove into the stands and who could forget "the flip"? However, the advanced metrics will tell you that Derek Jeter has always been a below average fielder and in some years, an absolutely horrible defensive shortstop and a liability to his team. Despite this he was awarded five gold gloves. In his average season he had defensive runs saved rating of  -13.  In 2005 he won a Gold Glove with a defensive WAR of -1.8. For his career he had a defensive WAR -8.3.

The Jeter apologist will tell you they go by the eye test. Jeter apologists hate the analytics. You know who else thought he was an awful defensive SS? Brian Cashman, the GM of the Yankees during Jeter's career and Larry Bowa who was Jeter's infield coach. Here is an excerpt from the book by Bob Klapisch called Inside the Empire. This took place in 2006 and 2007. Jeter would play SS every single day through the 2014 season hurting them defensively game after game after game. What a captain!



Friday, November 22, 2019

How Larry Walker is Being Unfairly Punished for Playing in Coors Field




Will this be the year Larry Walker gets enough votes to be enshrined in Cooperstown for eternity? His stats say yes. His stats are most similar to a guy named Duke Snider according to Baseball Reference, Joe DiMaggio is 5th on that list of most similar batters. What hurts Larry Walker's Hall of Fame case the most is The Coors Field bias. Walker had 2,501 plate appearances at Coors Field and compiled an OPS of 1.172. That is dominant. However, how do those numbers compare to other Hall of Famers at Coors Field?

Adam Darowski (@baseballtwit) posted some interesting numbers on twitter. Current members of the Hall of Fame had a combined 1,764 plate appearances and registered an OPS of .974 He broke it down by each individual Hall of Famer using OPS:


Larry Walker 1.172
Ken Griffey Jr. 1.147
Vladimir Guerrero 1.134
Mike Piazza 1.115
Craig Biggio 1.091
Chipper Jones 1.035
Rickey Henderson .910
Ivan Rodriguez .882
Tony Gwynn .882
Barry Larkin .861
Jeff Bagwell .847 

Why a Return to the Red Sox Makes Sense for Ellsbury and the Red Sox




The Yankees released Jacoby Ellsbury yesterday while still owing him $26 million. In all, the Yankees paid Ellsbury $153 million and they didn't exactly get their money's worth. Kudos to Ben Cherington who was the Red Sox GM when the Sox chose not to match the Yankees offer for Ellsbury.

Chaim Bloom is now in charge of the Red Sox and he is under the directive to cut payroll. More than likely Mookie Betts will be traded and the Sox are also looking to trade Jackie Bradley Jr.. If the Red Sox were to trade both of those guys just for prospects the Red Sox would cut approximately $30 million off their payroll. They would also need outfielders. Guess who plays outfield and is cheap? That's right, Jacoby Ellsbury.

According to reports Ellsbury is in Arizona rehabbing his myriad of injuries with the goal of playing baseball in 2020. He will more than likely get a minor league contract from a team and then make the MLB league minimum salary if he makes the big league club. Of course the Yankees will continue to pay him. Can you imagine Ellsbury resurrecting his career with the Red Sox as the Yankees pay him? How sweet would that be?

Of course the issue is whether not Ellsbury can get healthy enough to be productive. Ellsbury last played in 2017. In his last month of action he hit .337 with 6 stolen bases and an OPS of .912. It might make sense for the Red Sox to take a flyer on him.

As one AL Executive said on Ellsbury playing in 2020 "It is a very low risk and high reward type of deal for a team to make"

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Mookie Betts to the Dodgers?




As we head to the end of November, the Mookie Watch is starting to intensify. It seems inevitable that Mookie Betts will be traded at some point this offseason. Many of the trade scenarios don't make a lot of sense. The Braves for example have been rumored to be interested. I just don't see the Braves pulling the trigger. The Braves have built up a great farm system but don't have the money to sign Mookie to a long term deal when his contract expires. I can't imagine the Braves wanting to put a huge dent in their farm system to acquire a one year rental. The Dodgers though? That makes perfect sense.

Mark Feinsand of the MLB,com floated this possible scenario: Mookie Betts to the Dodgers for Joc Pederson, Dustin May and Keibert Ruiz. The Dodgers, like the Braves, have a loaded farm system and they will have a year of trying to sell Mookie on Los Angeles and the money next offseason to lock him up on a long term deal. Getting rid of Mookie doesn't make the Red Sox better but if the powers that be have decided there is no way they can keep him going forward this package of players makes a lot of sense.

 Pederson is slated to make $5 million next year and like Betts will be free agent after the 2020 season. The Red Sox would save $15 million next year. Pederson is an average defensive outfielder with some pop at the plate. Nobody will confuse him for Mookie but it allows the Sox to remain competitive next season as they begin to gain more financial flexibility.

 Dustin May is the Dodgers top prospect who is sure to be a fan favorite at Fenway. In over 34 innings of work he struck out 32 and walked just 5.

 Ruiz is a catcher who has yet to make his MLB debut but was ranked the #20 overall prospect by Baseball America. He should be MLB ready for the 2020 season.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Could Jason Varitek be the Next Red Sox Manager? One Person Close to Varitek Would Love to See it




David Ross is the latest former player without managing experience to get a manager's job. When Jason Varitek was playing he was viewed as a guy who would be a great manager one day. Varitek retired in 2011 though and has not been mentioned as candidate for any of the managerial openings the last seven years.

Speculation was that Varitek didn't want to manage. That would make sense to a certain degree. He doesn't need the money, Varitek made over $67 million in his career. Managing also isn't for everyone. Many former players miss the game but not the everyday grind. Could that describe Varitek? Maybe but there is one person who wants Jason to manage one day and that is his wife Catherine. She tweeted this out earlier today.



 As speculation continues about Alex Cora and his role in the Astros cheating scandal, the Red Sox appearing to change course with their spending and their new hire of Chaim Bloom, could Varitek be a candidate for the Red Sox manager's job the next time there is an opening? We know Mrs. Varitek would love to see it.

Tweet at me @thepeskypole and let me know if you would love to see Jason Varitek as the Red Sox manager one day.

Don't forget to check out our 1967 Red Sox baseball simulation.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What if Alex Rodriguez Had Been Traded to the Boston Red Sox



General Manager meetings have begun and 16 years ago the Boston Red Sox were close to pulling off a blockbuster trade that would have sent Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Manny Ramirez. Technically, they did make the trade but it did not go through because of the financial aspect of the deal. The Player’s Union would not allow Alex to take a slight pay cut.
What if this trade did go through? Would the Red Sox still have broken the curse? Would AROD’s career have turned out differently?
A few years back I decided to find out by using Out of the Park Baseball to simulate this alternative history. I was using Out of the Park Baseball 14 and 15. As I write this, Out of the Park Baseball is on version 20 and it is better than ever. It is a must buy if you are a baseball fan.
So let’s begin this alternative history:
Alex Rodriguez goes to the Red Sox and play shortstop. Remember, AROD was coming off a monster 2003 season at the plate and in the field. He was the best defensive shortstop in the game. I have always had an issue with Derek Jeter for not being the one to volunteer to change positions. I blogged about it in a post called The Captain?





With Rodriguez on board, the contingency trade also went through as Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Magglio Ordonez.





Alfonso Soriano who was dealt to the Rangers in the real life trade that brought AROD to the Yankees is now returned back to the Yankees in this simulation.





The real deal fell apart because of the contracts, for this simulation I have kept the contracts exactly the way they were. The Red Sox will not get an AROD contract discount. Here is how the contracts of the traded players look:
Alex Rodriguez
2004: $22 million
2005: $26 million
2006: $21 million
2007: $22 million
2008: $28 million
2009: $33 million
2010: $33 million
Nomar Garciaparra
2004: $11 million
Manny Ramirez
2004: $22 million
2005: $22 million
2006: $18 million
2007: $17 million
2008: $19 million
Alfonso Soriano
2004: $5 million
2005: $8 million
2006: $10 million
Magglio Ordonez
2004: $15 million
The preseason predictions are very kind to the Red Sox predicting them to win 98 games and run away with the AL East. The 2003 team was pretty good but now they are adding Keith FoulkeCurt Schilling and Alex Rodriguez. Of course, the 2004 Red Sox will be without Manny Ramirez.





The 2004 Season
Is the trade a bust already? Alex Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox were not able to win it all in 2004. It is hard to blame Alex though as he had a great season.





David Ortiz had a monster season as well. It was enough for the Red Sox to win the division and tally 100 wins but not win a title.





Moneyball finally paid off as the Oakland Athletics finally won it all. The Cardinals, just like in real life in 2004, would fall in the World Series.





Barry Bonds and Travis Hafner would take home MVP for the NL and AL while Curt Schilling would win the AL Cy Young Award.





The surreal moment of the season was a trade between the Red Sox and Yankees. The Red Sox shipped prospect Kevin Youkilis to the Yankees for second baseman Miguel Cairo and pitcher Brad Halsey. The Yankees were obviously in need of a third baseman and the Red Sox lost confidence in Mark Bellhorn. Remember when every Red Sox fan in the world lost confidence in Bellhorn during the 2004 postseason. Thankfully Terry Francona did not.
Manny Ramirez had a good year but nothing spectacular and his team was never in contention





Nomar Garciaparra had a below average season for him and could this be the rapid decline that we saw in real life?





Offseason News
Magglio Ordonez signed with the defending World Champion A’s but the Sox signed prized free agent Carlos Beltran while they let Johnny Damon walk.
Nomar Garciaparra has yet to sign with a team as we get ready for the 2005 Opening Day.
The Red Sox are picked to win 96 games but finish behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. The Yankees signed Jeff Bagwell in the offseason but did not upgrade their pitching.
Randy Johnson signed a free agent deal with the Mariners
Hanley Ramirez is slated to play third base and DH for the Red Sox in 2005. Will the Red Sox use him as trade bait? Stay tuned.
2005 Season
The 2004 season brought a Red Sox division title but a first round exit in the playoffs.
The 2005 regular season was impressive for the Red Sox as they won 106 games and won the AL East by 18 games.





The Red Sox lineup was potent. David Ortiz had another huge year, Hanley Ramirez would win Rookie of the Year, Carlos Beltran who signed as a free agent would be well worth the money and Alex Rodgriguez put up MVP type numbers. Hanley was the full time DH this season as AROD is the SS. Will be interesting to see if the Sox move him to third base in the future.





Mark Teixeira of the Texas Rangers would end up winning the AL MVP for the Texas Rangers along with the Triple Crown. A strong case could be made for AROD being the MVP. AROD had the highest WAR in baseball at 11.6 to Teixeira was at 10.2. Both really impressive seasons. Alex led the Red Sox to a division title and 106 wins while Tex led the Rangers to a last place finish and a record of 62–100.





1918 was the last Red Sox title and 2005 would not be a title year either as the Sox lost in the first round of the playoffs, this time to the Oakland A’s. Alex Rodriguez can’t be blamed though as he played well in the series. David Ortiz struggled and the Red Sox were without Curt Schilling who was injured. Pedro Martinez did not pitch in the playoffs because he was involved in a brawl during the final regular season game and was suspended for five games. Talk about some controversy! Pedro will be a free agent now. Will he come back?





The Atlanta Braves would go on to win it all behind Eric Chavez. Chavez won it all with the A’s the year before and then signed a big free agent deal with the Braves moving Chipper Jones back to left field.





Being a big Nomar Garciaparra fan I was hoping that this new history would play out differently for him. It appears that he is headed on a huge demise. The Cubs finally signed him to a 2 year deal worth $5 million just before the season began and then traded him to the Houston Astros for Wade Miller. Nomar is not in the best of moods and his numbers at the plate look pretty bad.





Manny Ramirez had another solid year but he is playing for a last place team and appears to be eclipsed in stardom by his teammate Teixeira..





2006 Season
It was another incredible season for the Red Sox and AROD as they once again won the AL East. Since the trade, the Red Sox have won the division every year, winning 100, 106 and now 96 games.





The Red Sox were led by an incredible offense once again. David Ortiz has put up three straight incredible years. Hanley Ramirez continues the great start to his career. The Red Sox signed Barry Bonds to a one year deal in the offseason but Bonds was just a shell of himself. Dustin Pedroia got off to a great start but then was injured for the rest of the season. This prompted a position switch for AROD. Hanley Ramirez would move to SS and AROD moved to play second base. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2007 with a healthy Pedroia. Could someone be traded?





The pitching staff was led by Derek LoweCurt Schilling signed a free agent deal and went back to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Pedro Martinez appears to be washed up and was injured and used sparingly when healthy.





The Red Sox would face disappointment once again in the playoffs as they would get swept by the Indians in the divisional series. Since the trade, the Red Sox have lost in the first round of the playoffs each year. The Indians would go on to win the World Series.





Looking to blame AROD? Not so fast. He has been really good in his postseason career with the Red Sox.





The Texas Rangers would miss the playoffs again but Jon Lester would make his debut. Lester was also part of the deal. Lester would struggle in 2006 and he does not appear to be real happy about his season.





Manny Ramirez would have an incredible 2006 season and would be named AL MVP. Once again, Alex Rodriguez had a shot at the award. AROD did miss eight weeks due to injury which may have cost him.





The story of Nomar Garciaparra continues to be a sad one. He was released by the Houston Astros and picked up by the Yankees where he would come off the bench. Nomar would have one memorable day getting five hits. He is sure to be on a different team in 2007.





2007 should be interesting for the Red Sox with Dustin Pedroia and newcomers Jacoby Ellsbury and Daisuke Matsuzaka. It will be interesting to see if any trades are made. The Sox will be loaded and will once again be the favorites to win it all and end the drought from 1918.
2007 Season
The 2007 Red Sox won it all in real life and while this version of the 2007 Red Sox is different, it is definitely loaded. They were picked to win the division and they did just that. The Alex Rodriguez led Boston Red Sox have won the AL East every year he has been on the team.





AROD didn’t have a great 2007 though. He was hampered by injuries making his numbers look pretty pedestrian. Hanley Ramirez picked up the slack having a monster season and was named the 2007 AL MVP. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia would have great rookie seasons and free agent Adam Dunn and Casey Blake would make the Red Sox lineup deep and loaded.





The playoffs would end in disappointment once again. The Red Sox would finally win a series but their season would end in Game 7 of the ALCS to the Oakland Athletics. The A’s would go on to win it all again. Their second title since 2004.





Once again, you cant blame Alex Rodriguez for the failures of the Red Sox in the postseason.





David Ortiz has struggled in postseason play since 2004 but did have a great series against the A’s





The offense heavy Red Sox needed a true ace. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are not on this pitching staff. Hanley Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez are instead. Pitching wins in the playoffs and the Sox just can’t get it done. The drought has now reached 89 seasons.





2008 Season
Another season of Alex Rodriguez in Boston and another dominating regular season for the Red Sox.





Alex would put up MVP like numbers once again but would be beaten out in the MVP race by his teammate, Hanley Ramirez. I hate to be an AROD apologist but Alex was robbed again. Hanley now has 2 MVPs playing DH while Alex wins gold gloves playing shortstop.





Alex would reach a milestone in 2008 hitting his 500th homer. Manny Ramirez would also hit his 500th homer in 2008





Both Manny and Alex are behind their pace in real life. Alex hit his 500th homer in real life in 2007 while Manny hit his early in 2008 not late in 2008.
However, all the personal stats mean nothing. The regular season dominance by the Red Sox means nothing because once again they failed in the playoffs. Since AROD arrived in 2004 the Red Sox have won over 100 games in every season except 2004 when they won 99 games. Yet, they have only made it to the ALCS once and never the World Series. In 2008, they would fall again in the divisional round. AROD has been really good in the playoffs for the Red Sox but in 2008 he struggled against the A’s and definitely wore the goat horns.





Will 2009 be the year? In real life, it was the season when Alex finally got his ring.
2009 Season
Alex Rodriguez would finally get his ring in real life in 2009 while playing for the Yankees. Would he finally get his first ring in the world of Out of the Park Baseball? Let’s first take a look at the 2009 Red Sox. Below is a team picture. This is Out of the Park Baseball 15 now as I imported this dynasty from OOTP 14. The transfer went off without a hitch. The team picture concept was first introduced in OOTP 14 but it always was sized wrong and would cut off half the roster while saving the file. I figured it was my laptop and I was doing something wrong. In OOTP 15, saving the team picture is much easier and looks a lot better. Here you go. Love this feature!





As the season moved along, moves were made. The Red Sox traded for David Robertson. What I love about OOTP 15 is in the player profile screen it lists how they were acquired.





And then when you click on the link, you get this….





I love it. Something small but it is the small things that make the difference.
Moving on to the season. Alex Rodriguez led the Boston Red Sox to yet another AL East title. The Red Sox have won the division every single season since the trade. You can say the trade in many ways has been successful for the Red Sox, of course they are still searching for their first ring since 1918





It would all come down to the playoffs once again but the Red Sox have some glaring weaknesses, mainly a lack of pitching. Daisuke Matsuzaka was the staff ace but he was hurt and would miss the playoffs. Jon Lester is in Texas thanks to the trade years earlier for AROD. Hanley Ramirez is perhaps the best player on the Red Sox but because he is here, there is no Josh Beckett. The Sox have some pitching issues.





Cliff Lee was a minor league free agent pickup by the Sox. He never turned his career around like he did in real life where he want from the minor leagues trying to find it, to an ace in the big leagues.
Sadly, the playoffs for the Red Sox would end very similar to how it always ends since AROD arrived in Boston.





The Minnesota Twins would win their second straight world championship and would sweep the Red Sox in the first round on their way to the title. Was Alex Rodriguez to blame?





0–12 in the series is not good. Is the championship drought starting to get to AROD in the playoffs?
AROD’s first four seasons in the playoffs were incredible. The last two trips have been miserable. He is now 1 for his last 26 in the playoffs.





Alex Rodriguez will now enter the final year of his contract with the Red Sox. Will they extend him? Will they let him walk and have Hanley Ramirez take over at SS? What will his legacy be in Boston if he can’t get the Red Sox the ring in 2010?
2010 Season
Alex Rodriguez entered the final year of his contract with the Boston Red Sox with no contract extension in sight. The 2010 regular season was similar to the previous seasons as the Boston Red Sox dominated the AL East as AROD put up big numbers once again.





The postseason was also way too familiar for the Red Sox and AROD. Once again, the Sox would not get out of the first one and AROD would not be the dominant player that he was in the regular season.





In defense of AROD, he was hit in the face with a pitch towards the end of the season and came back just a few days before the playoffs began. He was the clear leader for MVP before the injury.





The attention next turned to AROD and his contract. He would hit the free agent market and it was quickly obvious that the Red Sox would not be serious players for his services.





The Braves would come calling on a two year deal with the second year contingent on 550 plate appearances by AROD in the 2011 season.
Alex Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox part company without a World Series. They dominated the AL in many ways but could never pull through in the playoffs.