Friday, December 08, 2006

Can't Buy Me Love

Hot Stove, Cold Beer, Cool Cash Money

My head is spinning a bit, but I can’t tell whether it’s related to the obscene amount of money being tossed at professional baseball players or last weekend’s liver-pickling extravaganza at Whitney’s house. While J.D. Drew was pocketing $70 million dollars over 5 years and Julio Lugo bringing down $36 million for 4 years’ work in Boston, Whit and I conducted a tasting of notable seasonal brews from Harpoon, Anchor Steam, Abita, and Troegs with a little Dogfish Head thrown in for, well, killing a few more brain cells.

Of note, we concluded that it’s far easier to taste beer with an eye towards the critical if you’re not working toward the concurrent goal of getting sloshed. Abita’s 20th Anniversary brew was by far the most appropriate for the latter goal, owing to its smooth palate and clean finish. Unfortunately, we figured that out fairly late in the game, after chewing through most of the other offerings first. Harpoon Winter Warmer has a distinctive nutmeg and cinnamon flavor, and would be perfect for sitting around a fire and sipping. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Anchor Steam’s Christmas Ale is a bit darker, nearly a porter in style, with some of the same wintry spice that livens up the Harpoon – again, good for enjoying with a meal, a bit filling if you aim to howl at the moon. The Troegs Mad Elf was simply a strange concoction, lively at 11% ABV, but aggressively unusual from a flavor perspective. If I could remember any details about that flavor, I’d surely share them – I’ve got 6 more in my fridge, so perhaps I’ll get into them this weekend in the interest of enlightening you. The Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA lived up to its reputation as one of America’s best beers, hoppy and fruity with a sit-up-and-take-notice 9% ABV.

As for the Sox offseason exploits, there are certain amongst you who’ll not likely take my fiscal sanity harangues seriously anymore, and I suppose I’ve got that coming. I will say this – after seeing Ted Lilly get $10 million a year and Gil Meche (Gil Freaking Meche!) sign for $55 million guaranteed smackeroos, the Drew and Lugo contracts are market value at worst, and damn near steals. Drew’s a top-25 offensive talent with elite defensive skills. His career OPS is over .900, and he projects to be a plus-power on-base machine at Fenway if he stays healthy. Ahhh, but that’s a big if, no? Drew’s a risk, no question, but if healthy, he combines with Ortiz and Ramirez to create an imposing middle of the order.

Lugo slots immediately into the leadoff spot, dropping Kevin Youkilis into the 2-slot and creating a tantalizing combination of speed and patience in front of the big 3. Lugo’s presence allows Coco Crisp to drop down to the bottom of the order where he can get his stroke back under a lot less pressure than he faced in 2006. Lugo’s not gonna pick it as well as Alex Gonzalez did last year, but he’s also not likely to post a sub-.700 OPS.

The Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations should be the subject of a Harvard Business School case study in game theory. Though Scott Boras is undeniably evil, he's also a brilliant motherfucker, having manufactured pressure on the Sox in a closed negotiation where it theoretically shouldn’t exist. On the other hand, Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, and John Henry weren’t born yesterday, and the Sox still do hold the best cards, so I expect a deal to get done before next week’s deadline.

After Matsusaka joins the fold, the Sox only hole will be at the back of the bullpen, empty because of Keith Foulke’s departure and Jonathan Papelbon’s transition to the rotation. I’ve heard everything from Eric Gagne to Chad Cordero to Derrick Turnbow (um, yeah, not so much), and I can’t say that I’m terribly thrilled by any of the options. Since I’m running short on time (it is 5:00 on a Friday, after all) and on original thought (as if that’s ever stopped us), we’ll leave the closer situation for another day. Lord knows we’re struggling for offseason content. Ahem.

Leaving on a bright note, Jon Lester appears to be cancer free, and even if he doesn’t make it back to Fenway in 2007, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t resume his ostensibly bright career.

And go listen to Neko Case’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Jenny Lewis’ Rabbit Fur Coat, and the new Wreckers album if you want to hear some seriously killer chick-rock.

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