Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ted Williams: An Immortal Man

Ted Williams is the subject of the latest ESPN 30 for 30 Short. The title of the piece is called An Immortal Man and it focuses on what happened to the body of Ted Williams after he died. This is not the most fun topic as the details are pretty gruesome. You also get the feeling that this is not what Ted Williams would have wanted. That fact alone, makes the story pretty sad and disturbing. You can check it out here.

A little over three years ago I did an interview with Bruce Spitzer who wrote a book called Extra Innings. It was a fantasy novel about Ted Williams coming back to life and playing baseball in the future. It is a great book because not only does it deal with Ted Williams the baseball player but Ted Williams the person. As great as Teddy was on the field, he struggled off of it with relationships.

Here is the podcast I did with Bruce Spitzer. You can also buy the book at a discount price if you click on the link below:
Extra Innings: He was the greatest hitter of all time. Cryonics brought him back to life in 2092. Would he use this second chance to win his first World Series or to become a better man?

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Could Papelbon Return to the Red Sox?

Francisco Rodriguez signed with the Brewers today giving the Phillies one less trading partner for the services of Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies have been trying to trade Papelbon for nearly two years and it looked like a deal with the Brewers was close to happening.

The Blue Jays now appear to be the leading candidate. What about the Red Sox? The deal would make no sense now for the Red Sox, but if the Phillies do hold on to him and Koji Uehara struggles, wouldn't Papelbon fit nicely?

There is a ton of angst about the Red Sox rotation but I am more worried about the bullpen uncertainty. As rumors swirl about the Sox trying to trade for Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, their best option might be the familiar face of Jonathan Papelbon.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Drew Smyly Not Happy with Yoan Moncada's Money

Drew Smyly of the Tampa Bay Rays was not happy about Yoan Moncada and the signing bonus he received from the Red Sox yesterday. Because Moncada is from Cuba, different rules apply to his draft status. If Moncada were an American, he would have to enter the draft and negotiate a capped bonus with the team that drafted him. . 

Moncada, instead, was a free agent amateur and signed yesterday with the highest bidder, the Red Sox, for just over $31 million dollars.

Smyly has a point, why should Moncada get to circumvent the system because he is not from the United States?

There has been a push for one worldwide draft which would solve this problem. Keith Law, for one, is not in favor of that. As Law explains on Twitter, he is opposed to anything that artificially caps signing bonuses and transfers wealth from players to owners.

What is the solution? Before there ever was a draft, all amateurs were free agents and could sign with any team they liked, usually the highest bidder. This is how the Yankees became so dominant. The Yankees would become dominant again if we went back to this system. That might not be so bad for baseball but it would be awful for the competitive balance of the league. 

Is the solution to have no cap on signing bonuses with drafted players? While this is great for the player this leads to lower budget teams passing on the guys they really want to draft because they would not be able to sign them. This once again would alter the competitive balance of the league. There is a reason the Yankee farm system is a mess. Their resource advantage doesn't help them get the best players in their system. 

It is not an easy problem to solve. Here are the tweets from Smyly and some of Keith Law's twitter interactions.

Drew Smyly did respond to one person who felt Smyly was complaining too much and Smyly does drive home a great point. You really have to prove yourself in baseball before you get paid. There are no "Ryan Leafs" or "Jamarcus Russells" in MLB.

There are plenty of top picks that didn't pan out, There are plenty of top picks who received a nice bonus who didn't pan out. However, nothing like you see in the NFL with the $20 and $30 million bonuses.

You are under club control for three years until you reach arbitration. You don't become a free agent until after your sixth season. You can't fake it in baseball. This often leads to guys getting overpaid when they are washed up but that makes sense since many of them were underpaid when they were reaching their prime. I like the baseball system as a fan for that reason. The guys who get the big pay day really had to earn it. Yoan Moncada just took home $30 million and has yet to prove a thing. I can see Drew Smyly's point.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Yoan Moncada Signing and How it Affects the Red Sox Roster

The Red Sox appear to have won the bidding war on Yoan Moncada. Nine teams were after Moncada, including the Yankees. The Red Sox reportedly offered $31.5 million, the Yankees reportedly went as high as $25 million.

The tax on Moncada is at 100% so the official cost to the Red Sox will be around $63 million, if the reports are correct.

Moncada can play second base, shortstop and third base. He is just 19 years old and is thought to be two years away from being ready for MLB. He is highly regarded among scouts. If he were eligible to enter the draft this year, the general consensus is that he would be in the mix to be the #1 overall selection.

Where will he play? The Sox have Dustin Pedroia signed for seven more years, Xander Bogaerts is the supposed shortstop of the future and Pablo Sandoval was just signed for five years to play third base. 2017 appears to be the year that Moncada will be ready for a spot in the lineup. At that point, David Ortiz will likely be gone and Pablo Sandoval might be ready to move into the full time DH role clearing a spot for Moncada at third base.

It is a lot of money for a 19 year old who is at least two years away from being MLB ready. However, the Sox envision him and Rusney Castillo as a dynamic 1-2 punch for years to come. It is a risk that will cost the Sox $63 million. Proper perspective reminds us though that the Yankees still owe a guy named Alex Rodriguez $61 million. What team would you rather be?

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Hanley Ramirez Flying Under the Radar

The Red Sox had a busy offseason but perhaps their biggest move has been talked about the least. Hanley Ramirez just entered his thirties and is a career .300 hitter who has played the majority of his career in pitcher friendly ballparks. He is a right handed hitter with power, coming to play ball in Fenway Park, yet nobody is talking about him. The focus instead has been on Pablo Sandoval, the blooming stardom of Mookie Betts, the new ace who is trying to prove he is an ace in Rick Porcello. What about Hanley?

While I worry about some free agents making the transition to Boston, I don't think Hanley will have these issues. If anything, I think he will thrive this year. True, he has to learn a new position and there are questions about staying healthy, but is it so unreasonable to think that the Red Sox may have acquired a guy with the ability to carry the offense? The great Peter Gammons tweeted out this interesting stat today:

Hanley Ramirez's career numbers are .300/.373/.500 and these numbers have been done with 56.9% of plate appearances in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami. San Diego, Shea Stadium and Citi Field. 0.19% of his plate appearances have been Fenway Park , Baltimore, Toronto and Yankee Stadium.

Get excited Red Sox fans.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Will Pablo Sandoval Be a Big Fat Flop in Boston?

Pablo Sandoval reported to camp yesterday looking a bit out of shape. Red Sox fans are officially in panic mode. Does his weight really matter? This is an issue the Giants have dealt with over the years and one Giant coach explained that Sandoval's weight will always be an issue. Is this why the Red Sox should be concerned?

I am more concerned with his bloated contract. Pablo Sandoval is a very good player getting paid a salary that a superstar gets. Sandoval is not a superstar. Pablo grew up in the Giants organization and for the first time in his career he is changing teams. Not only is he changing teams but he is doing so with a big salary. The natural tendency is to press and try to show your new team and fans that you are worth the money. The contract also has a way of making you try to be something you are not. Carl Crawford found that out the hard way. The big contract the Sox gave Carl made him think that he needed to hit home-runs and drive in runs. This isn't why he was brought to Boston. He was brought to Boston to be what he was in Tampa.  He stopped being who he was and crumbled mentally and physically.

By all accounts, Sandoval is a great clubhouse guy who is also a fan favorite. His personality may save him as he transitions. He may truly be comfortable in his own skin which will allow him to go out and play like he did for the Giants. If that is the case, the Red Sox will be very good. If Sandoval struggles early it could spiral out of control.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Fascination with Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez is in the news again and it is tough not to watch, read and listen to the stories about him. Say what you will about him, he is fascinating. A day after his handwritten apology, comes this very long feature piece on AROD, titled The Education of Alex Rodriguez. It is a great read, regardless of what you feel about him.

The article goes into his life during his year away from baseball. How sincere is it? Well, as we all know Alex has given up the right to get the benefit of the doubt treatment. However, it is very telling. Pete Rose has gone on record saying Alex is one of the most insecure athletes he has ever met. That comes across in the article. He is ashamed he never attended college, he is always trying to make himself smarter, trying to learn new things. He doesn't address the reasons for his PED use in the article but it isn't a huge leap to see how someone as insecure as Rodriguez would turn to PED use and not be able to give them up.

I want to like AROD, I really do. I think he has a lot of great qualities. I also feel he got a raw deal from Derek Jeter. I wrote about that back in 2011 when a book on Jeter came out. I often wonder how his career would have been different if he ended up on the Red Sox. Obviously it worked out well for the Red Sox that the trade fell through. It hasn't worked out well for Alex. People forget that he was willing to give back money from his mega contract to play for the Red Sox. This 30 for 30 short on that winter in December 2003 is great to watch, especially now.

I was so intrigued about how life may have been different for AROD as a member of the Red Sox that I tried to re-create history with the help of  Out of the Park Baseball. In this alternate universe, things do work out better for AROD. The Red Sox? Not so much. You can read about that here.

AROD will turn 40 this year, hard to believe. He still has three years left on his contract, even harder to believe. How will it all end? It will be fascinating but also a little sad. I want to like AROD, but his most recent acts make it tough. He went Lance Armstrong on all of us. He was lying, knew he was lying and in an effort to keep the lie going he attacked good people who he knew were telling the truth. It doesn't get much worse than that. 21 years ago I sat in Fenway Park and watched him make his debut. I wrote about that experience last year on the 20th anniversary. It is still surreal to me what has transpired in the last two plus decades. Maybe this is why I still want to like him even though I know I shouldn't.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Legalizing Sports Gambling Shouldn't Help Pete Rose's Case

Each day I am more impressed with Rob Manfred. The latest is his willingness to join Adam Silver in support for legalizing sports gambling. This news has sparked fans to suggest that the ban on Pete Rose should now be lifted. Not so fast. Legalizing sports betting should only make the rules more strict when it comes to participants gambling on games,  Legalizing sports betting is to gain control of an underground activity and regulating it. What Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson did can destroy the integrity of the game. It is not a hypocrisy issue either. It is an integrity issue. MLB does not have a problem with gambling, they have a problem with the integrity of the game being compromised by a participant gambling on the outcome. If sports gambling is legalized, all professional leagues need to be strict and enforce that anyone caught gambling on their own games is banned for life. It is the only way it will work.

Manfred has acknowledged that Rose's attorney has contacted him and Manfred has said publicly he is open to discussing the issue with Rose. What is the solution? I wrote about this recently, the best solution is to keep the ban on Pete Rose while easing up on some of the restrictions. I think it is ridiculous that he is not allowed to attend games and be an ambassador for the sport. I have no issue if he is allowed to be employed by a team as a roving instructor. The ban should be about making sure he is not eligible to manage or coach in professional baseball.  Rose is now 73 years old, I think his managing days are over. That issue isn't as relevant now as it was 25 years ago.

The other part of the issue is the Hall of Fame. Manfred needs to use his position on the Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame to ensure that all players, banned or not, get to have their name on the HOF ballot. This is the real travesty. It was a rule created for Pete Rose. Shoeless Joe Jackson appeared on the first HOF ballot in 1936, 16 years after he was banned. Let Rose on the ballot for 2015. 75% of the vote gets him elected, 5%-74% gets him on the ballot for another year. It is the right thing to do and Manfred is the guy who can do it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Blake Swihart Named Top Catching Prospect in Baseball

Keith Law released his top prospects by position and Blake Swihart was at the top of the list for catchers in all of professional baseball. Law has Swihart rated as the 10th best prospect overall.

Here is Law's breakdown of Swihart:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why the Anthony Ranaudo Trade Makes Sense

The Red Sox traded away Anthony Ranaudo last week and it left me a bit puzzled. I thought Ranaudo had a chance to be a significant piece in the Red Sox rotation for years to come. I also knew he could end up being a nice trade piece this July to acquire an ace. Neither of those things will happen.

The Red Sox ended up trading him for a 25 year old spot starter/reliever by the name of Robbie Ross of the Texas Rangers. On the surface it felt like the Sox had been taken. While Ross's numbers were awful last year, his numbers when he was in the bullpen were very good. He is left handed and could be the Sox replacement for Andrew Miller.

Still, a potential quality arm in the rotation for a left handed middle reliever? Not good, but that depends on how you view Ranaudo. Keith Law is not necessarily sold on Ranaudo. Law was asked in his chat this week about Ranaudo's chances of sticking as a starter and he answered "little to no shot". If this is true, the Sox traded a right handed reliever for a left handed reliever who had a 2.62 ERA out of the pen in 123 games during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Ranaudo is expected to compete the for a spot in the rotation for the Rangers this year. He is ranked the 9th best prospect in the Rangers organization by Keith Law which is rated as the 11th best minor league system.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Blake Swihart vs Christian Vazquez: What will the Red Sox Do?

Blake Swihart was named the top prospect in the Red Sox organization by Keith Law and the 10th overall in MLB. Christian Vazquez came up last year for the Red Sox and is slated to be the everyday catcher for the 2015 season. What will the Red Sox do?

Blake Swihart appears to be a September call up this season with next year being the target date for being an every day major league player, The question then is what to do with Christian Vazquez? Vazquez is the superior defensive catcher while Swihart is the superior offensive catcher. Swihart has made great gains in his defense though and the gap is no longer that wide. Offensively Swihart has the opportunity to be a superstar. Keith Law was asked on his weekly chat of Swihart might be moved to first base. Law feels that would be a mistake. He is too good of a defensive catcher and while he might not be quite as good as Vazquez the combination of offense and defense tilts toward Swihart. It will be interesting to see what the Sox do next year. It is nice problem to have.