Monday, November 29, 2004

No, No, Pee-dro

All of the feelings I had for Sammy Sosa hold true for Pedro Martinez as well. I think he's due for a significant downward turn, he's not much fun for fans, many teammates, and especially management, and he's going to cost a pretty penny. Why would he be even worse than Sosa? He'll command a multi-year obligation, and Cliff Floyd won't go in the transaction. Of course, at the end of the day, much like Sammy, Pedro will improve this very bad team. You just have to wonder if there are people out there who can improve the team without bringing so much baggage.

In other words, pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease don't sign him. I never liked him when he was a Red Soxer, despite admiring his talent (most obvious at least a few years ago). It will be piling on for Rob's Red Sox to leave misery in the dust, then dump high-dollar, waning-talent players on the Mets. "Bad to worse" has been the anti-Millar mantra of the Mets for quite some time now.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Whither Pedro?

Various media outlets are reporting that the Mets and Pedro met this week to discuss the right-hander's interest in coming back to the National League. Certainly could make for some interesting exchanges on this blog next season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Giving Thanks

Even as our sporting landscape is scarred by all manner of misguided machismo, misplaced emphasis on looking tough instead of playing hard and fair, and a vastly imbalanced sense of importance, I view it all with sanded edges and softened hues, wearing as I am the rose-colored glasses of complete Sox-addled bliss. The joy of October 27, 2004 remains fresh and new, and continues to influence my worldview on a daily basis.

And so, on this Thanksgiving Eve, I offer thanks to the 2004 Boston Red Sox. The list of legends is long, and I'll certainly miss somebody who matters - the fact is, nobody associated with this team will ever have to buy their own meal in Boston again - but here goes:

Derek Lowe - Derek Freaking Lowe - got the win in each of the clinching games this postseason, and he gave up 4 hits in his final 13 innings of playoff work, against the Yankees and Cardinals. He was nails in the 2003 playoffs, and he was galvanized steel this year. He may never pitch in Boston again, but I'll root for him wherever he goes.

Curt Schilling came to Boston for 1 reason, and he delivered. Enough has already been written by better men and women than I about his guts on the mound. He has risen to deity status in Boston, and he deserves it.

Pedro Martinez made his first World Series start memorable, and he capped one of the most magnificent eras by any pitcher in history. Like Lowe, he may be gone next season, but the echoes of his brilliance will linger until long after I've passed.

Dave Roberts - yeah, that's right, Dave Roberts - made this all possible. If he doesn't steal 2nd base in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the ALCS, the Sox get swept by the Yankees. He's as valuable as any other player on this team.

David Ortiz might be my favorite Red Sox player at this moment, a perfect combination of jaw-dropping power, timely performance, and joie de vivre.

Manny Ramirez was the World Series MVP, but more importantly shook off the indignity of being placed on waivers in the winter and worked his ass off to ingratiate himself with the fans of Boston. From his flag-waving entrance after he gained his U.S. citizenship, to his sublime hitting and mostly valiant (if sometimes comically misguided) efforts in the field and on the bases, Manny made massive strides in 2004.

Solid, stoic, Billy Mueller was 1 of a handful of glue guys that came to the park every day and did their jobs. His season-long mastery of Mariano Rivera first gave the Sox hope that they could beat the Yankee relief ace when he took him deep in July, then made that hope real in Game 4 of the ALCS. Mueller had 2 of the most important hits of the entire season.

Keith Foulke performed to expectations in the regular season, and then simply lifted the team on his back in the ALCS and World Series. History will regard his 2004 postseason as legendary.
Mike Timlin and Alan Embree sort of work as a pair - tough-as-rawhide hired guns who never backed down from any challenge, fastballs blazing and chaw packed firmly between their cheeks and gums.

Tim Wakefield had to spend all of last winter replaying the memory of Aaron Boone's homerun in his mind. One of my favorite moments of the 2004 post-season was Wake's cathartic moments on the Yankee Stadium mound after the Sox completed their comeback.

Mark Bellhorn made me and a million other Sox fans idiots in the last 2 games of the ALCS and the first game of the World Series, hitting important homeruns in each contest. His swing may have holes bigger than Ortiz' backside, but his patience symbolized the whole team's highly successful approach, and he quietly produced some of the biggest hits of the post-season.

Orlando Cabrera, we hardly knew ya, but we did enjoy your grace in the shortstop hole, and that post-season hitting streak was pretty cool, too.

The 2004 Sox have lots of important parts, but Jason Varitek was the heart and soul, even before he slapped Alex Rodriguez around in the season-turning game in July.

Pokey Reese made one of the season's remarkable plays, robbing teammate-to-be Dave Roberts of a double on a rising line drive during interleague play. He also fielded the game-ending grounder to kick off the celebration after Game 7 of the ALCS.

Trot Nixon is part of this team's foundation, even though he didn't contribute as much in 2004 as I'm sure he would have liked.

If it's not Ortiz, Johnny Damon is my favorite Sox player. He's definitely my daughter's favorite; her Christmas list includes a "pink Johnny Damon hat". He may be the freest of the free spirits on this team - an attitude that allowed this group the latitude to play loose and easy even backed up against a wall of historic proportions.

Kevin Millar is a cheesy, rah-rah, team guy - and the world should have more people just like him. From Cowboy Up to Hell's Coming with Me, Millar's legacy is secure in Boston - he'll be the guy serving as Grand Marshal of parades in the Greater Boston area for the next 50 years.

Doug Mientkiewicz will always be the guy who caught the final out of the 2004 World Series. And he'll always be a guy who put aside his ego to be part of this magnificent team.

Bronson Arroyo had the worst haircut on the team with the worst hair in history. He also had "balls the size of Saturn" according to teammate Curt Schilling, taking the ball every 5th day on a supremely talented team, and ending the season with the 9th-best ERA in the American League.

Theo Epstein has the rest of his life to bask in this accomplishment - it's all downhill from here. And, to be sure, I don't think he's gonna rest on these laurels even for a moment.

Nomar Garciaparra - boy, do I wish you could have been on the field when these guys won it all. I understand why you weren't, and honestly don't think they would have won it all if you'd stayed in Boston, but it would have been cool to see you in the middle of that pigpile.

To all the rest of the 2004 Red Sox - Kevin Youkilis, Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Myers, Curtis Leskanic, Doug Mirabelli, Gabe Kapler, et al: thank you, a thousand times, thank you.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Just For the Record

Last week, when Wally Backman's woes were exposed and Arizona dumped him in favor of Bob Melvin (last seen going down with the Mariner ship, losing 30 more games than the year prior), I felt bad for Backman. The more I see and read about it, the worse I feel for the guy. He's had some problems, but he's also had some bum luck -- none worse than during his untimely 5-day stint as D-back skipper. I can't help feel that his past, which isn't any worse than, say, Bobby Cox's, shouldn't be affecting his managerial status. It'd be great if the Mets could cut him a break and get his career back on track, but their AAA and AA posts are filled with solid managers: John Stearns and Ken Oberkfell, respectively. Maybe a bench coach in New York? Anything?

I have a funny (funny meaning bad) feeling that sometime in 2005, when Cool Willie will be calmly overseeing the Mets' slow demise in much the same way Grandpa Art, did, I'll be wishing we had a fiery, scrappy skipper to light a fire under the underachievers' asses. Someone like Wally Backman.

It just seems wrong, that's all.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Olney an Idiot Could Write Such Things

I just don't get this fellow. Buster Olney, last blasting the bad Mets trades of 2004 for all of the wrong reasons, is back at missing the point more often than Mets hitters miss the ball. Buster naysays the Sosa dealings -- and again, people, I am a Sosa-basher -- for all of the wrong reasons. This guy could make an present-day argument that the world is round and use a rationale that'd make me contest his stance.

His headline-pun reason that this deal is bad news is that Sammy Sosa, in his current strikeout-prone, defensively-challenged slugger state, is reminiscent of Dave Kingman circa 1982. That'd be Dave "Kong" Kingman, last referenced in this space as a favorite Met for ridiculous feats both good and bad. He was a prodigious slugger who knocked in 37 homers whilst whiffing 156 times in '82 as the lowly Mets finished 27 games out, good for last place in the NL East. Olney notes the similarities and finishes his thought: "you don't win with Dave Kingmans."

First of all, quit knocking Sky King Kingman. The man rocketed 442 home runs in his time, many of them of the tape-measure variety; of his peers, only Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, and Dave Winfield hit more. In his first full season in the bigs, at age 23 with the Giants, he had the .225/29/83 beginnings of the pattern. In his final year, 1986 across the Bay in Oakland, he registered .210/35/94 numbers, which wasn't exactly petering out, I might add. He played fewer than five full seasons with the Mets and is still entrenched at 4th on their all-time HR list -- and nobody's likely to pass him by any time soon, even in this rabbit-ball era. His mammoth swings missed more often than hit, but this guy was as entertaining as they come, giving the fans a little something for their money to boot. And if Buster is trying to blame the 1982 debacle on Dave Kingman, dear lord, he needs to re-think it.

Your 1982 New York Mets (65-97)

Take a quick look -- this is a franchise four years from winning the World Series, but you'd never, ever, ever know it. Only Wally, Mookie, and Messy Jesse were there four years later. (Frank Cashen, Baseball Einstein.) Kong had 37 taters, the team had 97. (The World Series Brewers of Thomas, Oglivie, Cooper, et al had 216.) The rotation was Charlie Puleo, Pete Falcone, Craig Swan, Pat Zachry, and a pre-splitter Mike Scott. Neil Allen, famous only as the trade bait in the Keith Hernandez deal, was the closer. They had several future managers/execs on the club in the likes of Ron Gardenhire, Bruce Bochy, John Stearns, Ed Lynch, Mike Jorgensen, and of course, Wally Backman, just not many people who could hit, throw, or catch a ball all that well. So don't say, "You don't win with Dave Kingmans," say "You don't win with Dave Kingman and a roster full of ineptitude." Just lay off.

But yeah, Kong struck out a lot and was a defensive liability. And the Mets' lineup really needs no more free-swingers. And the Shea outfield is harder to patrol than Wrigley's. And yes, Sosa's offensive numbers are eroding while his glove skills are lacking, but he's hardly in Kingman-land yet. His average hasn't dipped below .250 since 1991, while Kingman rarely topped that mark. Just as importantly, what Olney fails to pick up on is that the Mets are trading Cliff Floyd for Sosa. (Floyd is mentioned in the first paragraph and then ignored completely.) Clifford Floyd is a solid ballplayer and is considered a good teammate, but when the mere mention of the word "hobbled" brings his name to mind at least as much as Kathy Bates', that's not good. He's toughed out a number of injuries and still spent a ton of time on the Disabled List. And when he's played? He's been no Sammy Sosa. His 22 at-bats per homer last year didn't approach Sosa's 13.7, his 0.46 BB/K ratio was nearly the same as Sammy's 0.42, and his .814 OPS falls short of Sammy's .849. Meanwhile, his LF play was just as ugly as the RF play Olney describes from Sosa, except that Sosa's fielding numbers were better.

Cliff Floyd's upside is far from Sosa territory, too. He's hit 31 home runs once, and driven in 100 once. He's a .280 lifetime hitter, while Sammy's a .277 guy. Sammy's fallen off, but Clifford Floyd has never neared what displayed pre-Mets. Floyd makes a third of what Sosa makes, but (a) he's under contract for an extra year, (b) he's talked openly about retiring because of his injuries, and (c) the Cubs are reportedly going to throw some cash into the deal. And those factors, added to the comparison of these two players, makes this an appealing trade. Perhaps both of these guys jusy need a new home, and it's worth a shot to find out. Again: Sammy Sosa would only be under contract for one season. How much damage could he do in a worst-case scenario? "Disaster" is used far too often in the aforementioned article without clearly labeling the last two seasons as such.

The personality issue is worth discussing. The evolution of Sammy Sosa's image currently has him out of "co-savior of baseball, the Dominican Republic's greatest product, and Cubbies legend" territory and in the area of "total prick." He's come across as selfish, arrogant, money-hungry, cheating, misguided, and aloof in the last year or two. With Jose Guillen also being discussed as a winter acquisition, Willie Randolph might have his hands full. But if Randolph is worth his salt, he's learned from his mentor that you can take otherwise abrasive personalities like Roger Clemens, Ruben Sierra, David Wells, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Nelson, Kenny Lofton, and Darryl Strawberry and find a way to maximize their output while minimizing their outbursts en route to 100 wins. (While simply avoiding guys like Jose Canseco, of course.) Sure, as Olney points out, Sosa "could be an utter disaster of Ed Whitson-like proportions playing in New York." But who couldn't??? If Rey "F-ing" Ordonez (moniker applied by Rob Russell last year) can fit that description, can't anyone? If Johnny Franco and Al Leiter can go from beloved to besmirched in a short period of time, who's immune to the wrath of New York? Sammy may enter with two strikes against and a target on his back, but he only needs to shut his mouth and open the season well to gain favor in this town. It gets back to my last post. If you're going to play scared and take no chances this winter, we'll have the most harmonious, loveable spring training ever. And by August, when the Mets are 23 games out again, we'll have more formerly esteemed New York Mets sniping in the press and having potshots administered by the Buster Olneys of the sportswriting world.

What Olney really wanted to write was "I hate Sammy Sosa and Dave Kingman sucked." Which is fine, just don't obscure it with 1,200 words of garbage surrounding it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A Recipe for Met Success: Sammy Sosa, and More Than a Few Grains of Salt

On the table: the Mets acquiring Sammy Sosa from the Cubs for Cliff Floyd and/or Mike Piazza, plus a bag of cash. All of Mets Township is up in arms about Omar Minaya's interest in getting Sosa, as well as Mike Lupica's suggestion that the Mets might not be so crazy to try. It'd be easy to bash Sosa and the potential trade in this space and fall in line with the legions of sane fans doing just that. I'll try to take the road less traveled by and see if it makes any difference.

Lupica's suggestion of "What could it hurt?" has been rejected, mocked, and scorned by knowledgeable people who point out Sammy Sosa's deterioration in hitting (an OPS free-fall, as Kaley points out), fielding (a flashback of the 2003 Mets Lupus-like OF), health (a huge concern for the Mets these days for obvious reasons), standing in MLB (the cork-popping to celebrate his acquisition would be rife with irony), and general appeal to the community. Most have balked at his huge price tag, his slipping offensive numbers, and the fact that he seems to have gone from beloved hero to beleaguered zero five short seasons. I'll contest each of these points in brief, even if I have to grit my teeth to do it.

What the respective GM's are talking about now would be a waiving of the extended, overpaid, automatically-kicked-in option years that make reading Sosa's contract like watching Faces of Death. As currently written, any trade would exercise 2006 and 2007 years of 18 and 19 million dollars, respectively. A cool 9 mill would buy them out, of course. Skiddit. Sosa and his agent are asking the union to let him waive this part of the contract, meaning the Mets would only get him/be stuck with him for one year, albeit at an inflated price. In addition, the Cubs supposedly want him out so much that they might send some cash -- or take on a bad Met contract -- in exchange. And this all makes it a far less bitter pill to swallow than most folks originally thought. The agony of Mo Vaughn (typing that name always results in tremble-caused typos) was so much worse because there were essentially two lost seasons at $17.1M apiece. No matter how bad Sammy's production tanks, it's but one season -- or less, if they deal him at the deadline (absorbing some/all of his salary for a key prospect, of course). So the price wouldn't be as bad as feared, and the damage wouldn't be long-term in a worst-case scenario. And in a better-than-worst-case scenario, he's slugging balls out of Shea with a frequency we haven't seen much lately, except off the bat of Pat Burrell and other visitors.

Then, of course, there's the notion that he's a prima donna crybaby who threatens the harmony of any clubhouse. Flash back (scroll down a ways) to the clubhouse that was the 2004 Mets: a manager who lost the team through emotionless bumbling, a corps of veterans whose apparent big contribution was forcing management to trade away the best prospect they had for a dinged-up wild thing, and a general malaise which settled over the team. Flash back further to the 1999-2000 Mets, a club that not only contended, but went to the World Series. These guys included the likes of Rickey Henderson, Bobby Bonilla, Armando Benitez, Dennis Cook, Derek Bell, and Rey Ordonez, guys who at one time or another were better known for their whining, griping, and self-absorption than their play. At the same time, these clubs were stabilized by Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Orel Hershiser, Robin Ventura (who'd lived off his infamy of charging and getting whipped by Nolan Ryan a decade prior), and yes, Al Leiter and John Franco.

Flash further back to 1986, when the team employed S.O.B.'s like pompous Ray Knight, drug trialed Keith Hernandez, surly George Foster, moody Darryl Strawberry, and other seemingly cancerous personalities. The franchise seems to function better when the roster isn't filled with humanitarian award candidates. Meanwhile, over the last couple of years there have been plenty of likeable personalities but few likeable results. Going after bad seeds isn't a recipe for success, but (a) nor is hiring only choirboys, and (b) maybe it'll shake things up. After the Orioles were destroyed by the Albert Belle Disaster (O's fans scoff at Mo Vaughn tales of woe), Peter Angelos and his revolving door of execs played scared for several years, shying away from big contracts, players with injury histories, and abrasive personalities. That approach has provided them a series of 60- and 70-win seasons with a slew of low-to-mid-grade talents like Pat Hentgen, Marty Cordova and David Segui that, ironically, have spent most of their time on the DL. When they finally started taking chances again last winter, they saw improvement. Look for more of the same from them this winter.

Getting over Mo Vaughn, like recovering from any bad relationship, takes time. But I sense from Omar Minaya that the hesitation about big contracts and long-term deals is fading away with the bad memories of Big Mo. The Mets have the money -- this new cable deal, while it doesn't put them in Steinbrenner territory, is more evidence that the Mets are one of the elite, and they can start competing with the big boys whenever they want. All it takes is some shrewd decision-makers (it's not yet been proven any wear the royal blue and orange) and any of the anatomical entities that represent courage (spine, guts, sack, what have you). Sammy Sosa in a Mets' uni has an upside -- a big one. Sure, the Dominicans in the 5 boroughs (the same ones who were overlooked whilst pseudo-courting Vlad Guerrero, which is Exhibit A of the trigger-shy past) will come out in droves, but so will the rest of the fans. Read the tomes of blogwork out there. Fans are just begging to come out to the park with a reason to believe. And Sosa, despite the baggage he's created for himself in recent years, is one good reason.

Reason #2 -- the signing of Al Leiter. Sure, a 39-year-old pitcher who threw 5 2/3 innings per appearance last year and tired down the stretch like a miler in a marathon is not worth $7 million guaranteed. No way, no how. Unless he's a heart and soul of the team kind of guy who, despite some rumor mill miscues, provides veteran leadership and good PR to an organization lacking it entirely. You know how the Red Sox are so thick in positive image they can afford the hit of letting clubhouse guys go? Then there are the Mets. They have to sever ties with Johnny Franco, and whether or not he lugs that shell of his former self onto the mound elsewhere this season, you still have to hope he'll come back and coach the 'pen someday. Meanwhile, Al Leiter can remain as the icon, the local guy who finishes his career out with the Mets, and then slides right into the booth with Fran Healy and Keith Hernandez. We all heard him blow away Tim McCarver and Joe Buck in the ALCS; if he's not running for NJ state Senate, he should be behind the mic at the new station. You hate to make moves merely because of the crosstown rivals, for sure, but the alternative of having Leiter defect to the Yankees, give them a morale boost and a lefty arm, then roll into a job with the crappy YES team would be horrible. And since it's only a difference of a few million bucks, and you're the New York Friggin' Mets, you sign him.

Bringing back Leiter will mean more when another veteran presence, Mike Piazza, is absent. Piazza should be on his way to the AL straightaway; the impact of losing one of baseball's good guys, and a player who's done nothing but give his all to this franchise since he's been here, is lessened by the fact that he's been MIA for so much of the past two years. Plus, when he's been there, it's been painful to watch his defensive discomfort no matter where he plays. For his sake, trade him somewhere that he can DH and thrive, and wish him well.

And finally, since I'm offering all of the solutions here, go after two more big names. Wait out the Boras BS, and be there when serious deals get inked. Don't be the A-Rod Rangers, but be the Vlad Angels or the Tejada O's. Pay a little more than market value without embarrassing yourself. Pursue Delgado and Pavano, or Beltran and Clement, or, if you have to (please no), Pedro and Magglio. Don't pursue Cabrera; consider your assets assets and not trade bait. Keep young, cheap talents in house. Trade at the deadline if you're in contention, but right now be a free agent grabber. Mostly, learn from the mistakes of the past, and that past includes the gun-shy, timid approach of the last two seasons, not just the overspending, underscouting mistakes of the years prior. Keep in mind that an awful lot of bad luck has accompanied the idiocy of the Mets of 2002-2004, so roll some dice and be a player. Boy, am I tired of the fact that every criticism of the economics of baseball needs to be asterisked with the acknowledgement that the New York Mets are the exception to the rule that money buys championship teams. The Mets are among the privileged; let's take some benefits along with the stigma.

Okay, that's enough. I can't go on for much longer pretending I don't abhor Sammy Sosa and the faux-cuddly image that belies an increasingly obvious total bastard. [Wow, that manifested itself pretty nastily once I let it out.] I don't believe in Omar Minaya making a blockbuster deal just "to make a big splash," but I believe in making wholesale changes to a 71-91 team, dumping the chaff in one fell swoop, and taking calculated risks that might irritate now and gratify later, rather than something that's a slow seep from mildly appeasing to mildly displeasing. I'm still not sure if I can truly get behind this Sosa deal, but doesn't it sound like I can talk myself into yet another Met decision once it happens? I'm such a sad sucker.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Being Theo Epstein

For the record, let me state that I'm glad I'm not Theo Epstein, as is Red Sox Nation. I'm still flying high about the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox (and, no, that phrase has not lost its luster, but thanks for asking), while Theo's got to get down to the serious business of reassembling a roster that can compete for the 2005 title - and do so while balancing ownership's financial considerations and the Nation's emotional attachment to everyone on the 40 man roster.

Luckily for Theo, he's got a great model just across town in the Scott Pioli-run New England Patriots, winners of 2 of the last 3 Super Bowls. If ever there was a Moneyball NFL franchise, it's the Patriots, who've built dominant teams on a foundation of motivated, fairly-but-not-overpaid, cohesive, team-oriented parts. New England sports fans saw the Patriots dispassionately but rationally jettison players like Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Malloy, and thrive because of it. The ground has been laid for Theo to do the same.

That said, I know the Patriots, and they, sir, are no Boston Red Sox in terms of emotional attachment to the community. Jason Varitek, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mirabelli and nearly a dozen other free agents will never pay for a meal in New England again. It will be hard to watch any of them play for another team next year, but the cold, hard facts of professional sports in 2004 dictate that many - if not most - of them will don other laundry.

For me, Varitek's the top priority, followed closely by Pedro - and the reasons are more emotional than anything else. Varitek is the unquestioned leader of this team, which is worth a premium, even if he's a catcher on the wrong side of the age/production curve. That said, his agent, the evil Scott Boras, has publicly declared that 'Tek wants 5 years/$50 million to sign - laughable numbers when compared to Ivan Rodriguez' 4/40 deal with Detroit. I love 'Tek, and would be willing to give him 3 years at $8-9m per with a club option for the 4th, but he ain't I-Rod.

Pedro's been offered 2/25.5 with a club option for a 3rd year - all pretty close to Schilling's deal. That's a fair offer, and I expect Pedro to eventually take it. The wild card will be the rest of the league - if 1 owner goes to 3/40 or higher, with the final year guaranteed, Pedro's got a decision to make. Can't really blame him if he takes guaranteed money. Can't blame him, but would still be bummed.

The other slots offer so many possibilities that it makes my head spin, so I'm going to shift into talk radio mode now. Here's one man's perfect world scenario for the makeup of the 2005 Sox on opening day:

C - Varitek
1b - Mientkiewicz/Glaus
2b - Bellhorn
SS - Cabrera (not likely, unfortunately)
3b - Mueller/Glaus
lf - Ramirez
cf- Damon
rf - Nixon
dh - Ortiz

Reserves - Mirabelli (c), Roberts (of), Millar (of, 1b, dh), Reese (if - also unlikely)

SP - Schilling
SP - Martinez
SP - Pavano
SP - Arroyo
SP - Wakefield

RP - Foulke
RP - Timlin
RP - Embree (L)
RP - Traber (L)
RP - Leskanic
RP - one more random quality long arm

That rosy scenario sees the Sox getting Troy Glaus and Carl Pavano in free agency, and losing only Derek Lowe among front-line free agents. Probably wishful thinking. In the real world, Cabrera's probably gone, replaced by a stopgap like Omar Vizquel or Edgar Renteria (not the worst thing in the world) while the Sox wait for Hanley Ramirez to grow up in their farm system. Glaus is a SoCal guy, may not want to play in the superheated Boston atmosphere. I feel pretty good about Pavano, though - New England kid, has said he wants to pitch with a mentor, blah, blah, blah.

The free agent period started yesterday. I'll check in here as things happen. Gimme Tek and Pedro and I'd probably call the offseason a success.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Check this out. Pictures of Schilling's ankle during the post-season. Just when I thought that guy was as big a stud as I'd ever witnessed on a baseball field,'s gotta go and show us that...and completely prove it.

And, for what it's worth, Whitney's sooo right about Linda Cropp. D.C. politics never ceases to amaze - it's like a Monty Python skit that took a left turn into really surreal territory, only if the quality of people's lives was at stake.

And you wondered why, when prayers and bitches and moans were answered and Major League Baseball awarded the Expos to Washington, DC, we didn't get up and boogie down here at MLC. For those not following the saga of D.C. baseball too closely, the deal is now in jeopardy thanks to Linda "Flip-Flop" Cropp, the chairwoman of the DC Executive Council. After being rah-rah when the announcement was made and praising the plan, she's decided at the 11th hour to reject the accepted Anacostia site and push for a lot right next to RFK Stadium. This would save DC businesses and taxpayers millions, which, considering how much it's costing, is equivalent to saving them $5. Oh, and the RFK site was previously investigated and rejected by MLB. So she's basically voting for no baseball.

It appears Cropp really is the jellyfish that Mayor Anthony Williams, Michael Wilbon, and others are making her out to be. Of course there was going to be a backlash to the astronomical price tag associated with acquiring the team. You knew it was coming. To cave in now simply paints you as a waffling, ineffective buffoon. Did D.C. offer too much in this deal? Of course! Could the money be better spent on schools, hospitals, cops, firemen, and roads? Of course! If not for this massive expenditure, would those millions of dollars be going to schools, hospitals, cops, firemen, and roads? Of course not! This is the District of Columbia, for God's sake! This is where Marion Barry is still the preeminent voice of the people! This is where corruption and ineptitude are written into city by-laws! This is where the health codes stipulate you don't even need a new plate to go back up to the buffet!

I believe that the loudest protests are coming from those who simply oppose each and every measure that fosters the further gentrification of the town formerly known as Chocolate City. There are those who don't necessarily see "progress" as progress, and while sometimes there is a fine line between improving the living conditions of a neughborhood and forcing out loyal citizens, this is clearly not the case here. Southeast DC, specifically Anacostia, is the current heart of what DC was all over the place 15 years ago. It has the market cornered (despite a recent push by NE DC) on murder, drug crimes, and prostitution. For a while, there were more humans being pulled out of the Anacostia River than fish. And since the baseball plan was unveiled, it's been announced that this area is also the hub of the local gay porn industry. All of this character is being bulldozed away to be replaced by food courts, parking garages, and Pottery Barns, but also riverfront restaurants, businesses, and a state of the art stadium that represents the reclamation of a presence in the national pastime for the national capital. And yes, Mayor Williams went all in with this ballsy deal. He made MLB the offer they couldn't refuse -- because if he didn't, they would have refused. Bud Selig would've hemmed and hawed and sat on the fence for another year before deciding that Washington was too valuable an asset to have as leverage for owners to threaten their cities with a "Build me a publicly-funded stadium or we're moving to DC" edict. It'd be the Las Vegas Seigfrieds in the NL East in a year or two. But he didn't let that happen.

Instead, Tony Williams grabbed the reins, and said "This is it. We're taking the team. You cannot and will not say no to this." Yes, the terms of the deal are a little tough to swallow for District residents, especially small business owners. He's rolling the dice that this will turn out to be a worthy venture civically, financially, and aesthetically. It's easy for me to be for it -- I'm not even a DC resident any more. But I was up until last year, and I would've paid my share, plus that of my Dupont Circle, Anacostia-visiting, gay porn-loving neighbor, too.

The best line from Cropp came when the mayor insisted that her about-face would likely represent a cave-in that blocks out the light at the end of this long tunnel, since MLB's agreement specifically targets the Anacostia site. She simply replied, "I would hope that baseball would be extremely reasonable." Hilarious. Uproarious, even. There has never been a better indication that she is wholly unqualified to have even the slightest bit of clout in this matter than when she suggests that the brain trust . . . the think tank . . . the Mensa with bats . . . that is Major League Baseball's executive office might be "extremely reasonable" with DC's bait-and-switch. It'd be funnier, though, if it weren't another train wreck in the long and troublesome history of the District of Columbia's bumbling, fumbling, and stumbling.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Still Grinning

Whitney asked me yesterday if I was planning to take the winter off. I told him that I'd be back, but I just had nothing interesting to say. Just stopping in today to let you know that I still don't - I can't stop smiling. Friends and family have sent me dozens of newspapers from Boston, I've read everything I can about the postseason, and I just cannot shake this euphoria. Even the election only bummed me out for a little while, because the Red Sox are World Champions. It's been more than a week, and I've - this is true - been in a great mood ever since Mientkiewicz caught Foulke's underhanded toss. Every sports fan should get to feel this good, just once.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Under New Management

Introducing Willie Larry Randolph (please don't call him William Lawrence), the new manager of the worst team money can buy. While his hiring doesn't get anyone fired up, it's not the disaster some of the other candidates discussed would've been. It's nice to finally see some ethnic diversity in New York managers, since the Mets' managerial history was looking extremely pasty. And there are even some parallels with the shrewd move that brought Joe Torre to the Yankees in 1996, albeit stretched parallels: the local product who speaks more with his actions than his words and who played for the cross-town team as a player. Hey, we'll try just about anything to reverse the vibe of the 2002-2004 Mets.

As for Willie's future here, it calls to mind a Gin Blossoms album title -- Congratulations, I'm Sorry. This will be no picnic, as Art Howe can tell you. As always, despite my initial negativity, I'll slide into that blindly optimistic state just so I can have the rug pulled out from underneath me. We're going all the way, baby. Somebody punch me in the face, please.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Reason #1,962 Why This Team Kills Me

It looks more and more like the new Mets' skipper will be Willie Randolph. Meanwhile, Wally Backman is getting the Arizona Diamondbacks job. This just feels like another misstep in the Chevy Chase trip down the stairs for Wilpon Mgt, Inc. The thing is, there isn't a whole lot bad you can say about Willie Randolph. There aren't volumes of good, either; even a past managerial record would be a nice gauge. But he's a good guy with a long track record of being around when good things happened. Maybe the good fortune will rub off on the Mets.

The biggest problem I have with Randolph is that he's a quiet, dignified, guy who gets quiet, dignified praise from his peers. He was a solid ballplayer without flash, just a workmanlike performer. He says more with less, has a quiet calm (why does "quiet" invade every profile of Willie?), and is well-respected despite drawing little attention to himself. Oh, and he's been a part of playoff teams of the recent past, even though these playoff teams were choking dogs the past three years. With the lone exception of a New York background, Willie Randolph is Art Howe two years later, except that Howe had 12 years of managerial experience to Randolph's none.

Managers are often the antithesis of their predecessor, sometimes out of necessity. Art Howe was the ideal salve for the high-tension Type A Bobby V years. The timing was right for him to step in and be the calming voice of reason. But the same trainer who was parked in the dugout to check Bobby V's blood pressure in those moments of exteme ire kept his spot on the bench to check Howe's pulse to ensure he was still alive. And frankly, as a fan, and perhaps a player, you'd rather be awful with a manager who was going down fighting, kicking and screaming. That way it's apparent he's dying the same slow death you are. And right now we need someone a little feisty with whom to go through this painful battle. Wally Backman was a scrapper on the ballfield, and you'd have to figure this mentality is what carried him through the A-ball season to the accolades he's received. Willie Randolph? If there were a how-to guide for ensuring Howe II, it's Willie Randolph.

Boy, does the negativity just flow in MetLand these days. But even an idiot like me can only generate so much wasted optimism before he catches on. I got suckered in on Art Howe. I got duped on Robby Alomar, Mike Stanton, and Tom Glavine. Boy, did I get hoodwinked on Mo Vaughn. I even came around on the Benson and Zambrano trades after pleading against such action days before the trade. (After Benson walks this offseason and Zambrano visits the DL in '05 like Andruw Jones visited the Gold Club, this particular ass-burn will be complete.) And as the commander-in-chief says, "Fool me once, uh, er, fool me twice, um, ah, you can't get fooled again." So here I sit, jaded, surly, nasty, negative, and doubting that any move the Mets make this offseason will be to the team's long-term benefit. With Omar Minaya supposedly looking at Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, and Manny Ramirez, I see no reason why it'd be any other way.

I'll say this for Willie Randolph: if the Mets hire finalist Terry Collins, I quit. With Randolph, I stay on as that continually disgruntled guy. Man, I need a new team. If only one would move into my neighborhood . . .