Category Archives: Red Sox

I Can’t Blame Dombrowski for Trading Future for Present

Boston Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen
Boston Red Sox vice president of international scouting

 

Dave Dombrowski may wind up trading away the future at the trade deadline in a week.  That’s his M.O., after all.  Here’s the thing:  I can’t really blame Dombrowski for trying to sell out for this season.  Don’t get me wrong, this 2016 Red Sox team is incredibly frustrating and might wind up blowing the season down the stretch, deeming any trade acquisitions a complete waste of resources.    But it’s the fact that the Sox are so frustrating that makes it so understandable for Dombrowski to go full throttle for this season at some expense of the future.

This Red Sox team should be one of the best in the league.  They’ve scored 539 runs this season (as of Saturday night’s 11-9 loss to the Twins), and no other team has even 500.  They have David Price, who have every ability to be an ace.  Rick Porcello and Hanley Ramirez were two of the team’s biggest question marks heading into the season, and both of them have played like they’re actually worth $20+ million a year.  Steven Wright has come out of nowhere, and now the Sox have one of the season’s best pitchers in Drew Pomeranz.  Finally, they have a bullpen with five relievers who have a 3.55 ERA or less.

That’s what makes losses like those on Friday or Saturday night so damn frustrating.  They lose 2-1 after David Ortiz, of all people, grounds into a double play with the bases loaded and 0 outs in the 9th. The next night, they score 9 runs and lose because their ace David Price gets shelled, and then Tommy Layne and Heath Hembree decide “Oh yeah David?  Bet I can do a lot worse.”

 

The 2016 Red Sox are more than well-equipped to win the World Series.  Their rotation now consists of 4 dependable starters, assuming that Price pitches like he did in May and Pomeranz only has a slight dropoff from his San Diego numbers and not a major one.  Their bullpen, when Kimbrel returns, will have enough guys to throw to the fire, although I wouldn’t mind one more guy via trade.  And their offense is fantastic.  Problem is, the rotation has been a mess outside of Porcello and Wright, and the bullpen and offense both struggle from cases of bad timing.

I know that baseball analytics say that there’s no such thing as a clutch player or clutch team, but that’s one of the few analytical items that I’ll push back on.  This Red Sox team hasn’t been clutch, and Friday and Saturday night demonstrated that perfectly.  When they give up 2 runs and are facing the lowly Minnesota Twins, the offense somehow does nothing and disintegrates with the best clutch hitter of all time grounding into a DP.  When they score 9 runs and have their ace on the hill, the ace sucks and the bullpen sucks worse.

I’m still hopeful, and you should be, too.  The Sox have everything that it takes to win, and that’s why I find it hard to blame Dave Dombrowski for trading good prospects for Ziegler, Pomeranz, and maybe someone else in the next week. But something has to change with the 2016 Red Sox, and that something is the timeliness of the players’ production.

Boston Red Sox 2016 Season Preview

david ortiz flex

Anyone who says that spring begins on Easter Sunday or March 20th.  I don’t care if they have one of the biggest days in the world or this fancy thing called “science” on their side.  Spring officially begins on Opening Day. If you disagree, then you probably can’t see the colors of the American flag, which makes you a commie.

Baseball season is finally here.  Well, it was supposed to have already started for the Red Sox, but Mother Nature hates you and me.  The Red Sox (finally) open up their season tomorrow at 1:10 in Cleveland against Corey Kluber and the Indians, with new ace David Price on the hill.  After tomorrow’s game, there’s 161 more, and it promises to be an interesting, whether good or bad, ride.

I’m pretty high on the Red Sox this year.  People forget that the Sox finished the season on a pretty good run, all things considered.  It’s easy to write off 2015 as another last place year, and at some point, a 78-84 record speaks for itself.  But let’s take a closer look at how the Sox got there.

After starting 10-7, the Sox then went an abysmal 23-36 through June 27, earning a 33-43 record.  They climbed back to 42-47 by the All Star break… and then the wheels came off.  They won exactly TWO games out of their next 13, and they were out of it by the trade deadline.

After that, though, the Sox won 34 of their final 60 games, which translates to a .567 winning percentage that rivaled the Blue Jays’ whole season winning percentage of .574.  If you know anything about sabermetrics, or if you’ve ever heard of the phrases “moneyball,” “advanced stats,” or “common sense,” you know that 60 games is not a good sample size for an MLB team.  I’m not saying that the Sox were even in the same zip code as the Blue Jays last year, but they were better than we remember.  Also, the Sox had the run differential of an 81-81 team, demonstrating at least that the Sox were not a 78-84 team.

This offseason, Dave Dombrowski filled the team’s biggest needs by signing David Price and trading for Craig Kimbrel.  They didn’t lose anyone significant, unless you include Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting job and should be off the team within a matter of weeks.  (I was hoping he would be gone by opening day.  I guess Dave Dombrowski and Mother Nature BOTH like to screw with me.)

Let’s get to some predictions.  We’ll start with predictions for the Red Sox, some bolder than others.

1.  Xander Boegarts’ batting average will drop, but his OBP will rise (thankfully).

Bogaerts won the Silver Slugger last year at just 22 years old with a batting average of .320, which should make you ecstatic about his future with the Red Sox.  Here’s the thing, though.  I have to throw a little cold water on that batting average, because X had an absurd .372 BABIP, or batting average on balls in play.  I hate it when people overvalue BABIP or any other advanced stat, because I have no doubt that Bogaerts makes better contact with the ball than most MLB players.  But .372 is insane.  As far as Red Sox shortstops go, even Nomar Garciaparra only had a single year in which his BABIP was over the .360 mark, and that’s when he hit .372 in 2000.

However, Bogaerts’ OBP of .355 will rise.  He only walked 4.9% of the time in 2015, down from 6.6% in 2014.  I expect him to improve past the 6.6% mark, if for no other reason than he’ll have another big league season under his belt and he’ll be smarter at the plate.  Pencil him in for a .307 batting average and a .360 OBP.  I’ll take those numbers from a 23 year old shortstop any day.

2. At 1st base, Hanley Ramirez will be bad… but passable.

The Red Sox are not paying Hanley Ramirez to be a good fielder, nor are they putting him at 1st to be Doug Mienkiewicz.  They’re simply sticking him there for a lone season before he moves to David Ortiz’ DH spot.  Hanley has shown the willingness to dive for balls so far this spring, whereas last year he wouldn’t have dove for a ball if it meant that he got to be DH for 5 games.  His shoulder surgery has helped matters there, and while I’m sure that his defense will be considerably below average and cost the Red Sox a few runs, I also think that he’ll perform well enough to not be a humongous liability like he was last year in left field.

3. Either Joe Kelly or Rick Porcello will become a significant asset to the pitching staff, but not both. 

Just playing the law of averages here.  My money is on Rick Porcello to rebound, as he’s still just 27.  Porcello’s FIP was 4.13 last year and his xFIP was 3.72 while his ERA was 4.92, and it’s a good sign when there’s that big of a discrepancy with a pitcher.  He won’t be worth $20.5125 million per year, but he’ll be fine as a #3 starter, and he might just be a quality #2 behind Price.  Kelly is in a similar boat with his ERA compared to his FIP and xFIP, but I have less faith in him to become anything more than a #4 starter.  He still hasn’t pitched more than 134.1 innings in a season and has never had a FIP below 4.00.  My guess is Kelly will be a fine starter, and it’ll be a debate heading into October of whether or not he’s the 4th postseason starter or the 5th starter/long reliever.

4. Brock Holt will make it hard for John Farrell to play someone else over him, as hard as Farrell may try.

Brock Holt must be wondering what he has to do to get into an MLB lineup.  He can play 7 positions, and I’m pretty sure he would make an awesome 3rd catcher or 15th inning relief pitcher.  He plays good (not great, but good) defense at every position, and his BA and OBP have both been impressive the past 2 seasons.  Yet, the Red Sox always want to find a way to get him on the bench, whether it’s by signing Chris Young or keeping Rusney Castillo on the roster when he needs more full time work in Pawtucket.  Holt should not have a designated position, because a huge aspect of his value is that he can play anywhere on a moment’s notice.  But he should have a spot in the lineup every day until he proves that he doesn’t deserve it.  I don’t think that day will come in 2016.

5. David Ortiz will still hit 30 homers because he’s David #$%^ing Ortiz.

It’s been awhile since I bet against Big Papi (since he was on the Twins, actually), and I won’t start now.  The dude is motivated to go out on top.  Ortiz wants you to know that he’s not going out like Derek Jeter.

If you think that I’m resorting to old school, antiquated, non-statistical ways of analyzing David Ortiz, you’re right.  Nothing about this guy’s later years has screamed “logic” or “statistics.”  He keeps hitting home runs like he was put on this earth to do… because he was.

John Farrell Chooses Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval

pablo sandoval fat

Well, the Pablo Sandoval signing from last winter officially blew up in the faces of the Red Sox.  This morning, John Farrell told reporters that Travis Shaw will start at third base on opening day, moving Kung Fu Panda to the bench.  Ian Browne tweeted that defense was the deciding factor.

And with that, the Red Sox are still on the hook for $76 million of the $95 million albatross that Sandoval signed before the 2015 season that many, including myself, thought was a good deal for the Sox.  I could not have been more wrong.  In fairness, I didn’t know what we do now, which is that the Giants offered Sandoval basically the same contract but required a weight clause in the contract, whereas the Red Sox didn’t.  If I, or anyone else, had known that the weight clause was likely the deciding factor, we would have felt differently.  But when judging the contract, I brushed off the argument that the Red Sox were paying for the post-prime years of a guy whose body shape was not going to improve.  Regardless of what facts we knew, that was a huge mistake.

Sandoval needs to go.  The situation may not be unsalvageable, but the Red Sox have no reason to try and find out.  What benefit is there to keeping Sandoval at this point?  Do you really think that he’s gonna be the perfect cheerleader in the clubhouse?  He’s not going to handle this as well as Drew Bledsoe on the 2001 Patriots, and I’m not banking on Sandoval playing himself into the lineup when he gets his occasional innings.  The only reason to keep him around would be injury, which is a definite possibility because Hanley Ramirez is at risk of killing himself anytime he tries completing anything other than a routine play.  If Hanley goes down and Shaw has to move to first, it’d be nice to give Sandoval a shot at taking back his spot in the lineup.  But we can’t expect an injury, even if it is Hanley.  Kung Fu Panda has to go.

If the Red Sox are willing to eat a ton of salary, then I love the James Shields rumors because it’s much harder to have too many starting pitchers than it is third baseman.  I’m not gonna hold my breath on that one, though.

Realistically, the Red Sox need to get Sandoval off the team by Monday in whatever way possible.  Can’t start the season with Sandoval in the lineup.  To be fair to Sandoval, he may have gotten a worse rap about being a bad teammate than he deserved, and there’s no guaranteeing that he’ll be a clubhouse cancer.  But there’s a much, much greater chance of him being a negative influence than a positive one.  If for no other reason, the Red Sox need to release him if they can’t trade him simply to prove to the young guys on the team that it’s important to avoid resembling a bowling ball when you’re a professional athlete.

Ranking Hatred of Victims of 21st Century Boston Sports

Nine championships in a decade bring a lot to a city.  They bring jubilation and an irrational sense of happiness and self-worth that inevitably makes you realize that sports mean a little too much to you, and they also bring millions of annoying bandwagon fans, unfortunately.  But they also bring a sense of hatred for whichever team that our guys face in their sport’s championship game or series.  There have been eight different franchises that have lost to Boston sports teams in the 21st century (I’m combining the 2004 and 2013 Cardinals, because I’m referring to franchises and not specific teams here), and for some, that hatred is temporary.  it lasts only as long as the lead up and the duration of the championship itself.  For others, that hatred will last until the day we die.

Before ranking the ones that we hate the most, we need to analyze what makes such hatred permanent.  There’s no clear objective formula with regards to measuring either your own personal feelings or the city’s general feelings, but some characteristics consistently stick out like Tharold Simon stuck out in Tom Brady’s mind in the Super Bowl.  In no particular order, they are: How whiny the team is, how much the team’s fans are sanctimonious about them, how hateable specific players are for the other team, how much of a worthy opponent the team actually was, and how much the championship meant to us Bostonians.  Ok, now let’s get on with it.  And here we go.

8.  Carolina Panthers

You know how I know that the Panthers are last on the list?  Because when people in Boston talk about the Panthers this season, they actually talk about Cam Newton, The Dab, Josh Norman, how awesome of a kick returner Ted Ginn is, how horrendous of a receiver Ted Ginn is, and finally, the one time every conversation when the Boston College alum knocks over 17 people to enter the conversation to ask, “Did you know Luke Kuechly went to BC?????!!!!!!”  We don’t bring up the Super Bowl against the Panthers unless we’re talking about the Pats’ dynasty as a whole, which Super Bowl performance of Brady’s was the best, or Janet Jackson’s nipple.

Why are they ranked 8th?  First of all, the Panthers weren’t in the same class as the Patriots, and we all knew it.  They knew how to play well against contenders that year, which is how they manhandled the Eagles on defense in the NFC Championship game, but it just felt like the Pats were supposed to beat them.  Hard to breed real contempt there.

7. Colorado Rockies

I recently went to Colorado for the Pats-Broncos game where I also saw the Winnipeg Jets play the Avalanche the night before, and I have to say that I’m glad that Boston sports fans and Colorado sports fans didn’t develop any real hatred from the 2007 World Series.  Denver’s fans were very gracious to outside fans like me, if not soft in many respects.  It’s a city that’s low on diversity, which is an underrated attribute of a city, but at least Denver is full of chill white people who mind their business and don’t bother anyone but are still very polite.  That’s probably just the weed, but still, Denver sports fans don’t deserve our full hatred.  That could change if the Pats face the Broncos in the playoffs this year for the final Brady-Manning matchup ever, but not after 2007.  Add in zero abjectly hatable players on the Rockies and a team who was clearly inferior to the Red Sox, and they clock in just ahead of the Panthers.

6. St. Louis Rams

These rankings just took a step up.  The Panthers and Rockies comprise of the 1st tier of hatred, and now we’ve entered the 2nd.  The Rams probably wouldn’t be a level up if I did these rankings a year ago, but Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk got awfully holier-than-thou about Deflategate.  Seemed kinda like sore losers, and neither they nor the NFL eager to kill the (COMPLETELY FALSE) report that the Pats taped the Rams’ walkthrough before the Super Bowl.  Makes me happy that they’re gonna have to remember that they lost to a 14-point underdog with a backup Quarterback for the rest of their lives.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

There was nothing really hateable about that Eagles team other than Terrell Owens, but he balled out in Super Bowl 39 in a losing effort, and you have to respect that.  The reason that they’re in the same tier as the Rams is simple: It’s Philly.  The city of dirty, scummy fans.  Yes, that’s a stereotype and definitely an unfair one, but I really don’t care.  I feel about Philly sports fans the same way I think that most people do: Realize that it’s a huge generalization of a fan base, but stick with it because it’s at least close enough to true.

4. Seattle Seahawks

Now onto the 3rd tier. There’s just something about the Seahawks.  Rationally, I don’t think we should hate the Seahawks and their fans, but I can’t avoid it, either.  You know how a teacher deals with a troublesome kid or a referee deal with a rat in hockey who isn’t quite breaking the rules, but absolutely deserves a penalty just for being a punk?  The little rat keeps pushing boundaries and doing stuff that the authority figure shouldn’t hate rationally, but after enough time of being a prick in tons of minor ways, the teacher or ref finally decides, “Ok, you’re gone.”  That’s how I feel about the Seahawks.  Pete Carroll is a legitimate hatred because he tried to bury the Patriots so far that Belichick couldn’t rescue them from down under. (Just kidding, Bill Belichick could have rescued the Patriots from the earth’s core.)  But i respect Richard Sherman and find him to be a really valuable asset to the NFL and the sports community.  But there’s something about Sherman and his gesture about Darrelle Revis that makes this gif a never-ending source of happiness for me:

richard sherman gif

Also, Seattle finished tied for 17th in Nielsen Ratings for the Super Bowl for major U.S. markets, while Boston came in 1st.  Seattle was tied with Atlanta, which is a sorry sports town if there ever was one.  I was also lucky enough to attend Super Bowl 49, and I noticed that the game wasn’t a borderline religious experience for Seahawks fans like it was for Pats fans.  I think that Seattle fans are more in love with being part of the “12th Man” than they love the team itself, and you could say that I sorta kinda don’t like those types of fanbases.  Throw in the importance of Super Bowl 49 to Pats fans and the arrogance of the Seahawks, and you have yourself the #4 team on this list.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

The Cards are another tier up from the Seahawks.  I’m not a big fan of Tony La Russa, but other than him, there is no on-field reason to hate the Cardinals.  Why are they number 3, then?  Well, my friend, that’s a very simple answer.  Follow this Twitter account mocking the sanctimonious nature of “Baseball’s Best Fans” in St. Louis, and be sure to check in with the account’s tweets during the MLB playoffs and whenever the Cardinals sign someone in free agency, miss out narrowly on someone like David Price, or have one of their players leave for another team.  Every city’s fans are too sanctimonious to some level, and Boston’s fans might be near the top of the list right now, but there’s a special level of that patheticness (Yep, I made that word up, deal with it.) that is reserved for St. Louis Cardinals fans and few other people on this planet.

2. Vancouver Canucks

Alex Burrows biting the one dude on the Bruins that you objectively have less than zero reason to hate.  Maxim Lapierre mocking Bergy for that bite.  Roberto Luongo being a bitch in so many ways that I can’t give you just one link for it.  The Sedin twins for being such big pussies that every time you hear the debate in the Boston area over whether or not “pussy” is an acceptable or slightly sexist word to use for someone, the first reference will be to the Sedins and the accompanying mantra of “The Sedin Sisters.”  Ryan Kesler for making everyone in America immediately forget how much we loved him in the 2010 Olympics where he was spectacular while playing on his NHL team’s home ice.   Their fans for rioting.

That series got personal between both the players and fan bases by the end of Game 1, and it won’t stop feeling personal until one of the franchises is disbanded.  After the Canadiens, the Canucks are my most hated hockey team by far, and it’s all because of 7 games.  i hope that we remember to look back years later on how impressive that lone series was to cause that much hatred between the cities and teams.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

So here’s the thing.  I’m already over 1500 words, and soon I’m going to publish a column about why I hate the Lakers and Kobe more than I hate the Yankees, which is rare around here. That Finals win in 2008 was a huge deal for the Celtics, and even if 2010 never happened, it would have still been the perfect continuation for the hatred that Celtics fans had fostered for the Lakers and their fans back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. For the full details of why I hate the Lakers so much and why you should feel the same, you’ll have to wait for that column.  But they’re in their own 5th and final tier, and there’s no one whom a Boston sports team has beaten to earn a championship since 2001 that you should hate more than the Lakers.  Not even a question about it.

What do you think of the list?  Please let me know your feelings either on Twitter or in the comments of the post itself.

Price Tags for Greinke and Fernandez prove Red Sox Made Right Choice

 

 

david price red sox

Have you been following the pitching market since the Red Sox signed David Price?  It’s insane.  Zack Greinke signed for an average of $34.33 million per season for 6 years at 33 years old.  The Diamondbacks then turned around and traded way too much of their farm system for Shelby Miller.  And finally, Peter Gammons reported today that the Miami Marlins asked the Red Sox for Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez, Yoan Moncada, Eduardo Rodriguez, and another pitcher in the farm system.

That price for Fernendez is so insulting that I’m not gonna dignify with it a response, but the costs of these pitchers on the market has to make you realize that the Red Sox made the right move by signing David Price.  Zack Greinke cost the Diamondbacks more money per year AND a draft pick that the Sox didn’t have to pay for their new lefty ace.  Also, the Sox would have had to choose paying awesome prospects for a guy like Shelby Miller or giving up a historically good cast of prospects for a palyer like Fernandez.  Would you rather have David Price for the next 7 years at his contract or Jose Fernandez for the next 3 for pennies?  I think I’d slightly take Fernandez, but the fact that it’s even a close call proves that Price is the right choice when you throw in 4 or 5 of the best prospects on the Red Sox farm that Fernandez would cost.

If you thought that the Red Sox overpaid for David Price, the pitching market’s activity since the signing should tell you otherwise.  Price cost the Sox a boatload of dollars, but he didn’t cost them a draft pick or any prospects.  With the money the Sox have and the current pitching market inflation — especially given that good hitting is at more of a premium in MLB now — the Sox got off easy by “only” paying $31 million a year for David Price and nothing more.

Red Sox Sign David Price

david price smiling

Fun fact: According to Wikipedia (absolute power move to begin a blog post with “according to Wikipedia”), there are 3 countries in the world with GDPs lower than $217 million.  David Price will soon become the 4th poorest country in the world.

Dave Dombrowski ain’t messin around.  The Red Sox new President of Baseball Operations landed the biggest piece on the free agent market by inking David Price to a contract that is $2 million more than Clayton Kershaw, undeniably the best pitcher in the league (other than Rick Porcello).  The Red Sox finally have the ace that they haven’t had since July 31, 2014 when they traded Jon Lester.

Let’s get this out of the way: The Red Sox massively overpaid, and anyone who denies that may as well tell you that the earth is flat.  Price will turn 37 a few months prior to the contract’s end, and paying $31 million per year is clearly an overpay for a guy like that.  Kershaw is a superior pitcher and signed for roughly the same amount when he was entering his age 26 season.  So yeah, this is an overpay.

That being said, it’s a tremendous move for the Red Sox.  Price has pitched in the American League East, has won an AL Cy Young, and didn’t cost the Red Sox a draft pick like Greinke, Zimmerman, or others would have.  If you’re worried about the beef between David Ortiz and Price, then the fact that the Sox signed Price should signal to you that the Red Sox feel confident that they can co-exist.  You don’t pay $31 million a year for a significant risk of clubhouse issues.  Ortiz and Price can work together from February through October, and then they’ll never have to interact again.

Fangraph’s prediction of contract value for the next 7 years paints a very favorable pitching for the signing, as well.  When judging a contract like this, you have to remember just how much each WAR costs on the free agent market nowadays.


The downside to the contract is opportunity cost.  The Sox appear to have a payroll that’s already about $190 million, and that’s before the contracts to Mookie, Xander, Swihart, and others.  (I’m taking those numbers from Spotrac, who only has 12 contracts listed so far.)  If my memory is correct, 2016 will easily be the highest the Sox payroll has ever been. John Henry and Co. have never been open to the idea of spending as much as the Dodgers, indicating that Price will be the only significant addition in free agency.  You can only dish out so many dollars when Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are on the roster.  I guess there’s no chance for a signing of a solid 3rd started like I wanted.

But the cost and the opportunity cost are both well worth it.  The Red Sox just landed one of the best players, pitchers or hitters, in baseball, and it was the biggest hole that they had to fill.  The Sox were 4th in the Majors last year in runs scored and had a starting pitching ERA of 4.39.  The Royals’s starters clocked in at 4.34.  The difference between the pair of teams was the bullpen… but 4.39 needs a lot of improvement as well.  If the Red Sox can be in the top 20% of the league in runs again, improve to a roughly league average ERA of 4.00 or even 4.10 or 4.15, and lower their bullpen ERA from 4.24 to a roughly league average 3.75 or 3.80 with Craig Kimbrel and hopefully one other small signing, that’s a recipe for a World Series winner in 2016.

Sounds like a good time to say it… Get the Duckboats Ready!

duckboats red sox

 

Red Sox Offseason Preview

Earlier today, David Ortiz announced his retirement, which puts an interesting spin on the Red Sox offseason plans.  You can read my reaction here. 

Last week, the Red Sox traded for Craig Kimbrel of the San Diego Padres. They surrendered their #4 prospects and #6 prospects according to soxprospects.com, OF Manuel Margot and IF Javier Bardem, as well as lefty pitcher Logan Allen and IF Carlos Asuaje.  Margot and Bardem are no doubt significant losses, but they don’t change the validity of the trade.

Margot and Bardem are currently blocked at the big league level with Mookie, JBJ, Castillo, X, and Laser Show in the way.  Yoan Moncada is also gonna push for time at one of those positions in the near future, and the Red Sox could afford to trade these two guys away given the team control they have over the other as their positions.  Logan Allen may turn out to be a great pitcher, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be a stud, and Asuaje was a throw in and a lottery ticket for the Padres.  in return, the Sox got one of the best closers in the game at 27 years old and with 3 years remaining on his contract, including a team option that seems like a no-brainer 2 winters in advance.  The Sox paid a relatively steep price for a reliever, but here’s something you might care to know.  They scored the 4th most runs in the majors last year and had a 4.39 ERA from their starters.  The Royals, who you might recall won the Fall Classic, scored the 7th most runs in the league and had a 4.34 ERA from their starters.  What’s the difference between those teams, besides a pair of fat free agents who have displayed the same major league fielding ability in 2015 that I would have had at their positions?  Bullpen.  Given that the Sox needed bullpen arms like they needed oxygen and that they have one of the deepest farm systems in the league, the Kimbrel trade was not only defensible but absolutely the right move.

As far as the hitters go, the only potential moves involve Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, which is a mess that I honestly don’t feel like dealing with right now.  I’ll devote my time and patience to those fat bums some other time.  Or maybe I won’t.  Whatever.

That leaves starting pitching, and every Red Sox fan and their mother knows that the Red Sox need a starter in free agency.  Dave Dombrowski even admitted it.  Since the Red Sox season ended mercifully in early October, you’ve been hearing the same few names for potential targets.  David Price, Zack Greinke (not really), Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman.

David Price is the first free agent domino to fall throughout Major League Baseball, and he should be the primary target for the Red Sox as well, barring a price tag that is incomprehensible.  Assuming that Price gets somewhere between the Jon Lester and Max Scherzer contracts (6/$155M and 7/$210M), there’s no reason that the Sox shouldn’t get him.  To be fair, I’d like to keep the length of the contract at 6 years, and if necessary thrown in a vesting option for the 7th.  Price just turned 30 years old a few months ago, meaning that 7 years would take the Red Sox into his late 30s with a salary of over $25 million, which is generally a recipe for disaster.  But for the first several years of the deal, Price is more than worth roughly 25 big ones.

Every single season since 2010, he’s had at least 4.2 WAR by Fangraphs’ metrics.  His Baseball Reference WAR calculations have been a bit lower because of the way they measure ERA vs. FIP in their WAR metrics, but let’s say that Price is an average of 4 or 4.5 WAR per year, which is feasible given that Fangraphs has pegged his last 2 seasons at a total of 12.5 WAR.  The average number of dollars given to free agents now is about $7 or $7.5 million per WAR, and it’ll be higher than that by the time that Price’s contract is up.  If you give a 5ish WAR pitcher $30 million a year, you’re actually winning the free agency game.  And when you’re the Red Sox, you don’t even need to win the free agency game.  You just need to win real game.

Admittedly, I don’t like David Price because David Ortiz doesn’t like him.  But moves can’t be made based off of who likes who, and I know that Ortiz and Price can learn to get along for a single season before Ortiz retires.  Remember, Jonny Gomes was no fun to root for when he was on the Rays, especially when he was throwing cheap shots at Coco Crisp in 2008, but somehow everyone got over that.  In free agency in any sport, you want to pay for the premium guys, the cream of the crop.  It’s not often that a guy like Price can be bought without draft pick compensation, but that’s the opportunity the Red Sox have.  Let me conclude my argument for Price by saying this:  If Pablo Sandoval is worth $18 million per year and Hanley Ramirez is worth $22 million per year, why isn’t a perennial Cy Young candidate worth $28 to a team whose only dire need is an ace?

After price, there’s Zack Greinke.  Actually, for the Red Sox, there’s not.  He shouldn’t play in Boston due to his past anxiety issues, and I thik I recall him or his agent admitting awhile back that a place like New York or Boston would be risky for him.  Let him stay in Los Angeles where the “diehards” don’t pay attention to their team until Game 5 of the NLDS when Donny Baseball is blowing it yet again.

If the Sox don’t get Price (or even if they do), they should try to get a 2nd quality starter on the market instead of just a single hurler.  Johnny Cueto would be fine by me, but Jordan Zimmerman would be more preferable.  They’re both 29, but Cueto was a different guy in the American League than the National, and his 5-11 frame (with what seems like a generous measurement) worries me a little bit for a pitcher heading into his 30s.  I’d love to have Cueto, but I’d prefer Zimmerman if the price is lower, which it likely will be.  Zimmerman has had at least 3 WAR each of the past 5 seasons and has thrown at least 195 innings each of the past 4.  That’s a great #2 starter for the Sox to have, and they could squeak by with him as their ace if they either get great 2nd and 3rd starters or they trade for a real ace at the deadline.  Having said that, Cueto won’t cost the team the 12th overall pick like Zimmerman would, so Cueto has to be the primary target.

But there are 2 more guys who fly under the radar way too much, and I don’t know why I haven’t heard their names in discussion of Red Sox free agency targets: Yovani Gallardo and Cliff Lee.  Gallardo has has at least 2 WAR since 2009 and he’s just 29.  Even if he’s only average at exactly 2 WAR for 5 years, then a 5 year, $80 million contract would be fair for him.  I expect him to be a little better than that, although I have a feeling he’ll sign for a lot more.  Call it a gut feeling, which are usually stupid, but Gallardo seems like the kind of guy who won’t get as much as he wants and will have to settle for less money on the market.  James Shields was that guy last year, and he signed for 4/$75M with a more impressive resume.  Hopefully Gallardo is this year’s version of Shields.

Finally, there’s Cliff Lee, who obviously is not close to an ace anymore.  Having said that, Lee was hurling at a more than 5 WAR pace right up until he got injured in 2014, and he didn’t pitch in 2015.  That’s risky, of course, but isn’t it worth it for a big market team who needs pitching?  If you can sign lee to a contract with 1 year fully guaranteed at $10 million and bonuses that can go up to $15M, and then maybe throw a vesting option year at $15-18M, how much risk is there in that contract?  At worst, you get 50 innings of a subpar performance from a guy who, at the very least, won’t corrode the clubhouse.  For the Sox, that’s not a huge risk.  The hopeful but realistic outcome is that you get a solid 2 or a great 3 starter at a fraction of the market price.  And Lee is absolutely filthy in the postseason, which should matter to any team with October aspirations.

My hopeful offseason outcomes:

Option 1: David Price and either Gallardo once his market hopefully crashes or Cliff Lee.  Roll with Sandoval at 3rd and Hanley at 1st (or other way around) and hope that one of them has a bounce back year, and then send the other to Siberia.

Option 2: Jordan Zimmerman and Johnny Cueto.  Probably a pipe dream, I know.  Then do the same thing with Sandoval and Ramirez.

Option 3: Johnny Cueto and Cliff Lee, do the same thing with Sandoval and Ramirez, and be ready to pounce with the deepest farm system in baseball on whichever top end starter becomes available for trade.

David Ortiz to Retire After 2016 Season

Ever since 2003, David Ortiz has been one of my favorite athletes.  Since April 20, 2013, he and Tom Brady have been my favorite athlete of all time.  I’m starting the post with this video rather than anything about baseball because Ortiz showed in that moment that he meant so much more to Boston than just being a player for the Red Sox.

To this day, David Ortiz doesn’t get enough credit for being a real part of the city, for being one of us.  Ortiz has made Boston his home, has shown genuine love for the fans, and has always understood the tone and the attitude of the city.  Hell, he even hates the majority of the Boston sports media, and what’s more Bostonian than that?!

I’ve heard a story from two different UPS/Fedex delivery guys who had to drop something off at Ortiz’s house.  they said that, when they dropped it off, Ortiz couldn’t have been more kind and gregarious.  He even offered them a little bit of the lunch he was having at the time — which of course consisted of rice and beans.  The dude loves being nice to the people of Boston.

On the field, I’d argue that the best praise we can give Ortiz is that his 2004 Postseason might not be the first on field accomplishment you think about when you think of Ortiz’s career.  His stats were 16 games, .353/.500/.706, an astronomical 1.206 OPS, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 23.5 BB%, multiple timely hits right when the Sox were down, and 1 Grand Slam that will be remembered forever.  Because 2013 was more recent and fewer other Red Sox were performing, we might think of that year before his October performance nine seasons earlier.

But we shouldn’t.  In October 2004, David Ortiz was consistently the best player on the field and put the Red Sox on his (humongous) back en route to ending the curse.   His stats were even better than 2013: 14 games, .400/.515.764, an even more astronomical 1.279 OPS, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 19.1 BB%, and 3 (THREE!!!) walk off hits.  Ain’t nobody on the Yankees could handle Ortiz, much less shut him down.

You should remember David Ortiz primarily through two videos.  The first is posted above, and you’re not human if you haven’t watched it yet.  The second is MLB.com’s collection of Ortiz’s greatest postseason hits, and this video was done before his increible streak of reaching base safely in nine straight plate appearances in the World Series and all 14 of his career World Series games:

Yeah, I’m biased towards the guy who takes up a quarter of the backdrop for this website.  But as my mother always says, just because I’m biased doesn’t mean I’m wrong.  And my bias towards Ortiz doesn’t change the fact that he’s the best clutch hitter of all time.  Find me any other player in the storied history of the game that you’d most want with your season on the line.  I’ll take Big Papi every time.

You may be focusing on the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins, but take some time today to reflect on David Ortiz’s 13-going-on-14 years with the Red Sox.  You’ll remind yourself how amazing it’s been.  And now you have all the reason to maniacally and neurotically want the Red Sox to splurge in free agency, because what better way is there to end Ortiz’s career with another amazing World Series performance.  Let’s have the Red Sox get him there, and I’ll bet you anything that he’ll shine as bright as the sunset he is riding towards.

NESN Shoots Themselves in the Foot by not Airing Don Orsillo Tribute Video

Even thought there was a fan petition to keep Don Orsillo with over 62,000 signatures because people loved him that much, NESN decided to be themselves and not air the Don Orsillo tribute video that the Red Sox played yesterday.  John Henry’s management has always been about the smear campaigns, and they ran videos for Larry Lucchino  and Orsillo yesterday.  When even the Red Sox are way, way more in favor of honoring those who are leaving Boston, you know you’re in the wrong.

NESN has been absolutely pathetic in the way that they’ve handled this.  Orsillo has no reason to go given that he’s one of the best local play by play guys in the league, maybe the best, according to my own viewing of other teams’ broadcasts and what I’ve heard from many media members.  He never should have been let go, but nobody deserves to be let go AND be spit on when they walk out the door.

What NESN doesn’t realize is that they’re shooting themselves in the foot.  Many young baseball fans today, which is almost an oxymoron in and of itself, follow baseball without actually watching the games.  Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and tons of websites can give fans a great rundown of who’s doing well in baseball, the ultimate statistical sport.

Don and Jerry are one of the most entertaining tandems in baseball, and they bring fans to their TV sets to watch even when the team is out of the race by July, as has been the case each of the past 2 years.

If NESN is gonna keep pulling this crap and have an overall negative conotation around Boston, which is already does, then they’re gonna lose viewers.  In fact, I’ll bet you they already have by the way they’ve treated Don Orsillo, but their head is too far in the sand to notice it.

Which Boston Sports Team Do You Most Want to Next Win A Title?

Here in Boston, we’ve been spoiled this century.  We’ve gotten to watch our teams win championships 9 times in 14 years across all 4 of our sports teams, an unprecedented run.  And no one believes that the run is over.

Now, if you ask me which of the 4 biggest Boston pro teams is my favorite, I’ll respond with the same answer every time: I can’t choose, because asking me which of these teams I love the most would be like asking a father of 4 which of his children he loves the most.  And unless you’re Don Corleone and you clearly love Michael the most, no father should ever choose.

But that doesn’t mean that I have the same amount of desire for each of my teams to win a title presently.  The team’s title window, whether or not they’ve won before, and the attachment I have to certain players are all factors that play into how much I want each team to win.

As of the Fall of 2015, here is the order that I most want each of the 4 main Boston sports pro teams to win.  Let me know if your list is different, either by commenting on the blog itself or on Twitter.

1. PATRIOTS

Yeah, so this goes against one of my main criterion, which was “How long it’s been since the team last won.”  But here’s the thing: The Patriots of recent memory are unlike any other team that’s existed, with some rare, rare exceptions like the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich.  Given that the NFL is the league of parity, the fact that the Pats have 4 Super Bowls, 6 Super Bowl appearances, 9 (!!!) first round byes, and 12 AFC East titles in the past 14 years is just astounding.

And we don’t want that run to end.  When this run is finally over, even if that’s gonna be awhile, we’re gonna miss this unprecedented streak of success.  Last year, it felt so important for Brady and Belichick to get the 4th ring.  Now, even with the 4th ring that solidified and bookended the best run ever, we want the Pats to make this run the greatest it can possibly be.  And that desire shoots the Patriots to the top of this list.

2. Celtics

There is a huge dropoff after the Pats, as I want them to win definitively more than the Celtics now.  But the C’s come in at number 2 because they haven’t won since 2008, which is somehow the longest it’s been since one of these teams won.  That I ranked the Celtics is somewhat surprising, even to me, because it’s clear that they can’t win next year and maybe not the year after — so why are they ranked number 2?  I think it’s because we all want Danny Ainge’s masterful on-the-fly rebuild to be worth something in the end, and that’s because it damn well better be.  When a team’s rebuilding effort comes up short to the point that they’re only a playoff team and not a contender, it’s crippling to the franchise’s title hopes for years to come, because being in no-man’s land in the NBA is the worst situation there is.

All of this means that we need to root for the Mavericks’ pick next year to fall at number 8 (it’s protected 1-7) and we NEED the Nets to suck the next 3 years, when the Celtics are drafting in their spot.  Next summer’s draft could be the big one, because the Nets have lost Deron Williams and Billy King recently admitted that this year was a gap year because of the past moves they’ve made.  If Brook Lopez gets injured as per usual and Thaddeus Young comes down from his contract year level of play, the Nets could very easily give the Celtics a top 5 pick next June, which would be a humongous asset to the team.  And Marcus Smart’s development is the most important story for Celtics fans to watch going forward.

3. BRUINS

The Bruins would have been 2nd on the list if you had asked me before the Dougie Hamilton trade when the Bruins could have been contenders this year, but now my hopes for them winning in 2016 are shot.  Unless they have a historically good trade deadline, Chara is 2011 Chara, and Tuukka stands on his head, this team’s defensive corp is going to be the death of it.

When your team loses it’s chances of contending the next year, it cuts into your need for them to win it that year, ya know?  And with Zdeno Chara turning 39 in March and Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson at 30 years old now, i don’t see the team competing without a major revamp that I’m not sure they can realistically pull off.  Don Sweeney may be faced with the decision to sell off his expensive, aging parts and regroup with the David Pastrnak and Malcolm Subban generation, with Dougie Hamilton anchoring the blue line — damn it all.  At least they won in 2011, and that will always be a happy thought for us Bruins fans.

4. RED SOX

Again, I love all these teams equally, so please don’t pretend that me ranking them 4th here means that I don’t love the team that historically has owned Boston more than any of the others.  This ranking revolves around the fact that a “rebuilding process” isn’t a “process” in Major League Baseball.  You can win 69 games in 2012 and then win the World Series in 2013 without having to play a Game 7 in the playoffs.  Teams are constantly building their farm systems in the MLB rather than taking years to focus specifically on their young guys and not their veterans like in the NBA or NHL.  That difference creates a little bit less urgency in my eyes for Boston’s professional baseball team to win it over our basketball and hockey teams, because there’s no “championship window” that the Red Sox have to hit perfectly to win the World Series. And compared to the Patriots, well, the Red Sox don’t have the best coach and player ever together for only a handful of years after this one.

Again, let me know your thoughts either by commenting on the blog or on Twitter.