OK, Bobby V is coming. The Red Sox are Valentine's team now. And the idea that it will be a calm player friendly environment is as likely as the Red Sox retiring Grady Little's number.
I think there is only one way Bobby Valentine's authority can work in Boston: Give him TOTAL authority. Make it clear that it is indeed his way or the highway. Take away as many obstacles as possible of people to challenge him.
Normally I think it is positive to challenge authority. But bringing in Valentine means a change in the culture, and that can't be done in a half assed manner.
It HAS to be Bobby V's ship. No "That's not the way we did it before." Otherwise they just should have kept Francona or promoted one of his lieutenants.
The Red Sox captain is a free agent right now and the reasons to bring him back are hard to find.
He brings a tiny bit of power to the plate and he hasn't as awful as he was in 2009 when his .209 average and .703 OPS led to the Victor Martinez trade. But he has become subpar offensively.
The traditional arguments to retain The Lobster are his ability to call a great game and his leadership skills.
Well his game calling and handling the pitching staff didn't help the Red Sox in their historic nosedive. The pitchers all had ERAs with area codes and game plans seemed to change from pitch to pitch.
And his leadership skills didn't get Beckett, Lester or Lackey's act together when the team needed them more than ever. If it was indeed Francona's team and Varitek's clubhouse, then that needs to totally change with the arrival of Bobby V.
In a way, Varitek would be a relic of the Francona years and one that could possibly act as a tension point to the new manager.
Varitek could represent the classic "It's the way we do things around here" barrier. And of course Bobby V is the "If that way was so great, then why was I hired?" counterpoint.
If the Lobster returns, and it isn't for his bat or pitch calling, then what else could he offer except a place for the veterans to turn to when Bobby V gets under their skin (which he will)?
So yeah, I am advocating that the Red Sox 14 inning win in the Bronx on September 25th be Varitek's last game as a player in a Boston uniform.
Now the Red Sox are not exactly a sentimental organization. Just witness how quickly Nomar, Pedro, Lowe, Foulke, Damon, Bellhorn, Embree, Manny and Papelbon were shown the door when they were considered to be done. Ask Theo and Tito how cute and cuddly the Sox are.
So Varitek just might not come back and turn up being a backup catcher for the Yankees for all we know.
I think they should keep him in the organization, but away from Bobby V. How can they do that?
Drive 45 minutes south of Fenway and make Varitek the manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Seriously, his playing days are done and putting The Lobster on Bobby V's coaching staff could be a recipe for disaster.
Manage the top farm club. Help the pipeline of young players up to the big club, be part of the organization and let Bobby V put his own stamp on the team.
And if (when?) Bobby V implodes and the situation becomes intolerable, he can be let go and Varitek can take over the club with managerial experience and familiarity with the young players he managed and the veterans who he played with.
All that is good, but where does that leave Arnie Beyeler, the current PawSox manager?
Make him the one provision for Bobby V. "You can pick your entire coaching staff except you need to bring Arnie Beyeler in."
Beyeler has been in pro baseball as a player, scout, minor league coach and minor league manager since 1986 but has never made it to the majors. He's not about to make waves.
Stick him as the first base coach and Bobby V can have his own bench coach, third base coach, hitting coach, pitching coach and bullpen coach. And that way the young players who played in Pawtucket last year will have a familiar face.
So let's review what this does...
Bobby V would have real control of the team (and why hire him if you don't give him control?) The remnants of 2011 leadership would be gone.
The Lobster Varitek would remain in the organization and build up his credentials to come in and bring back some 2004 and 2007 magic if Valentine doesn't fit. But we also would avoid seeing him clash with Valentine and continue to erode at the plate as he approaches 40.
And Beyeler gets to contribute at the major league level after more than a quarter century of dues paid.
Makes perfect sense to me. Which is why it probably won't happen.
Well, Bobby V is coming to Boston. I wrote earlier that I was fine with either Valentine or Sandy Alomar Jr. at the helm of the Red Sox.
So I can't complain. It's a short term solution, but maybe the whole "He was gone but now he's back to prove he can still do it" mentality could work its magic the way that Jack McKeon had in 2003 with the Marlins or Jim Leyland gave the Tigers in 2006.
Or it can be a disaster like Davey Johnson with the Dodgers or Dallas Green with the Mets or Jim Leyland with the Rockies.
The Fried Chicken Crew didn't respond to super classy, totally lovable, two time champion Terry Francona? Well try Bobby V... a man who has been wrong exactly zero times in his life.
Just ask him.
A veteran team with a know it all outsider coming in as manager could be either a brilliant move or it could be a biggest bomb than the last decade of Nicolas Cage films combined.
So the Red Sox are either going back to the World Series or about to crash and burn in a way that will make us nostalgic for September 2o11.
I was back in my parents place for Thanksgiving and gave me a chance to rummage through my old cards.
I came across this 1990 Topps Card of Angels infielder and outfielder Johnny Ray. He is a relatively obscure player and that is a shame. With a little bit of luck, he'd be beloved by at least one fan base.
A native of Oklahoma, Ray went to University of Arkansas before being drafted by the Astros in the 12th round of the 1979 draft. He never played in Houston as he was dealt to the Pirates in the fading months of the 1981 strike season for Phil Garner.
When he made his big league debut on September 2, 1981, Ray was on a club just 2 years removed from the "We Are Family" championship. 1979 champs Omar Moreno, Bill Madlock, Dave Parker, Mike Easler and Willie Stargell all played that day. So did Tim Foli, who Ray pinch hit for in the 7th. The Pirates lost that day to the eventual World Champion Dodgers.
Steve Sax played that day as well. Ray's path would cross with Sax again later.
Taking over for Garner full time in his rookie year of 1982, Ray flourished. He played all 162 games. He got 182 hits, good for 4th in the National League. At the time second base was not a power position. But he was a solid doubles hitter, collecting 30 over the year. He stole 16 bases and struck out only 34 times in 702 plate appearances.
The Sporting News chose him to be their Rookie of the Year. However nobody cares about THEIR pick.
The Baseball Writers of America bestowed the honor on Steve Sax. Ray played in more games, got more hits, homers, RBI and had a higher slugging percentage than Sax. Rays' average was one point lower than Sax.
Yet Sax was the winner.
The Pirates had a winning season in 1982 and in 1983, when Ray won the Silver Slugger for second basemen. He led the National League in doubles in 1983 and 1984. And twice he hit over .300.
But by 1984, the Pirates winning ways were over. Pittsburgh had been above .500 fifteen out of nineteen seasons. But they wouldn't put a winning squad on the field until Ray was gone. (In fact since the end of the 1984 season, the Pirates would put a losing team on the field 24 out of the next 28 seasons.)
When Syd Thrift rebuilt the Pirates, he did so with some solid drafts and shrewd trades. Dealing All Star Tony Pena brought Andy Van Slyke and Mike LaVailliere to Pittsburgh. Rick Rhoden was sent packing to the Yankees bringing back eventual Cy Young winner Doug Drabek.
With Jose Lind ready to take over second base, Thrift tried to swing another franchise building move with the Angels. Johnny Ray was sent packing to Anaheim at the end of August 1987..
25 year old power hitting third baseman Billie Merrifeld came over to Pittsburgh in the deal. But injuries derailed his career and he never made it to the majors. Miguel Garcia also came over to the Pirates, but the reliever only appeared in 13 games over three different seasons and was not a factor.
Ray meanwhile arrived in Anaheim. The defending AL West champs were trying to make a run at another Division Title and Ray got his first and best shot to make the post season. The Angels played sub .500 ball the rest of the way and the Twins would go on to win it all.
In 1988, Ray's defensive short comings at second base led him to playing more and more games in the outfield. His bat was strong, batting .306 and finally making it to the All Star team. In the 1988 All Star Game in Cincinnati, Ray came up as a pinch hitter in the 4th against Bob Knepper and lined out to left fielder Vince Coleman.
Two years later he played his final game on September 30, 1990. The Angels were hopelessly out of it when they played the Royals at home.
With the game tied at 1 in the 8th and a runner on second with 2 outs, Ray pinch hit for Gary Disarcina. Ray struck out to Kevin Appier, who 12 years later would win a World Series title as a member if the Angels.
It was Ray's last at bat. He never did play in the post season. He played in Japan for a few years before returning home to Oklahoma.
It's players like Ray that make me reflect what makes a player beloved. Had Ray played for the Astros of the early 1980s, the Angels of the early to mid 1980s or the Pirates of the 1990s, would he had become a beloved member of those teams?
So much with being considered to be a champion or a fan favorite has to do with elements beyond a player's control. Players like Mariano Duncan, Danny Jackson or Craig Counsell keep popping up on playoff teams. But are any one of them bigger winners than Ray?
Had Johnny Ray been given the chance to play in October, would HE have collected some big post season hits like Luis Sojo or Scott Spezio or Matt Stairs?
We'll never know. Ray was caught in that neutral zone between successful years in Pittsburgh and with the Angels, thus making his career a makeshift barometer of fan loyalty.
"I was a Pirate fan back when Johnny Ray was at second base" means you are no front runner. The same can be said with Ray in California.
Of course Ray could have done a few things that would turn a doubles hitter into a home run hitter. He could have enhanced himself in the manner that a later generation would have tacked on a few years to a 33 year old second baseman.
Instead he did his job, getting hits and not striking out.
The glory of October and the love of being a "Fan Favorite" may have eluded Johnny Ray in his 9 plus big league seasons. But he was a hard working solid player who, with a slightly different hand dealt to him, might have been a beloved player who happened to share a name with the singer who sang the song Cry.
When Sully Baseball was in its infancy, I got into an internet argument with several Red Sox fans.
They all wanted J. D. Drew. I didn't want the Sox to touch him with a cattle prod.
The J. D. Drew crew were all stat heads who were screaming about his OPS, his power, his ability to get on base and thought I was some stuck up fool for not seeing it.
I kept saying "He plays well when he has a contract on the line and is hurt all the other years." I pointed out that he wore out his welcome in St. Louis, jumped ship in both Atlanta and Los Angeles following his only 2 seasons of note.
I was practically holding candlelight vigils to keep Drew from signing with the Sox. And when he did, I wrote an early post explaining how the Sox should compensate a player who I thought was going to be a flop.
I felt that signing Drew for 5 years was going to be a disaster and there is no way he will live up to it and he will be on the DL for long stretches and not put up the numbers.
The contract is over. Let's review. So let's review...
He gave the Red Sox 140 games once, his first year. That was also the only year he made 550 plate appearances. He never hit 25 homers. He never got more than 126 hits. He never drove in 70 runs. He never walked 85 times. He struck out 100 or more times three times. His average peaked at .280. He cracked the top 10 of OPS once.
He was mediocre and injury plagued. And his $14 million a year salary is coming off the books.
That's a good thing. And I turned out to be right about J. D. Drew.
Except I am saluting him and I believe all Red Sox fans should do the same.
Lest we forget some of the great memories that J. D. Drew gave Sox fans.
In Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS, after Beckett and company forced the series back to Fenway, Cleveland still had the advantage.
And when the Sox loaded the bases with nobody out in the first, it looked like they were going to squander the opportunity to draw first blood. Drew came up with 2 outs and the bases still juiced and still no score. Fausto Carmona was going to get out of it when he went 3-1 on Drew. Every Sox fan (including one that Fox cut to) thought "Just walk J. D. Get a run on the board."
He drove one deep to center... maybe an out. Sizemore went back... maybe a double. And it cleared the wall. NOBODY was thinking grand slam. Even Carmona's reaction was "Are you F---ing Kidding Me?"
Bill Simmons called it the $70 million homer. The Red Sox took control and Game 7 was inevitable. Drew drove in another run for good measure.
In Game 7, he drove in a key insurance run in the 8th as the Red Sox won the pennant.
In the World Series against Colorado, he drove in 2 runs in the opener and got 2 hits in Game 2 as the Red Sox rolled.
But his greatest moments came in 2008, his lone All Star year for the Sox. His home run in Yankee Stadium earned him All Star MVP honors.
Then in the Division Series he clubbed a go ahead homer off of Francisco Rodriguez to win Game 2 on the road.
In the ALCS against the Rays, he hit a home run to pull the Sox to within in and clubbed the walk off 9th inning hit giving the Red Sox the mindboggling 7 run deficit erasing victory in Game 5.
The Sox lost that series, but that Game 5 victory is still one of the great moments in recent Red Sox history.
So no, Drew wasn't worth the 5 years. He was never an elite player. I was right that he would spend a lot of time hurt and not living up to the potential.
But my goodness... he contributed big time to winning a World Series title and the next year gave us all thrills and the wonderful image of a Red Sox player being honored in Yankee Stadium.
That's got to be worth something. So salute him, Red Sox fans and NOT with the middle finger.
He's got a World Series ring on his finger and he earned it. That's got to be worth SOME love still.
I've never been a Bud Selig fan. I didn't like him when he was a colluding owner. I didn't like how he led the cabal to push Fay Vincent out of office. I didn't like his role in the 1994 strike and 1995 lockout. I didn't like his role in the contraction talk. I thought he looked like a buffoon in the 2002 All Star Game. I thought he looked like a liar during the steroid controversy. I thought he looked like a jackass during the 2008 World Series rain delays.
I know nit picking.
So when I actually praise him, that's time to perk up and listen.
As the NBA is taking the scorched earth approach in its strike, something the NFL narrowly avoided and 7 years after the NHL cancelled an entire season and is desperately trying to crawl back to relevancy, baseball signed a new CBA.
That's it. Boom.
It had such little controversy that it took the back seat to discussing whether or not a starting pitcher should win the MVP.
And that EXACTLY what people should be discussing.
So we know that the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons will be played without hearing talks about strikes, lockouts or interrupted play.
Baseball had work stoppages in 1972 (the year I was born), 1981, 1985 (for one day) and the disaster of 1994 and the madhouse of replacement players in 1995.
I was 23 years old when the players went back to work. I am 39 now. And baseball hasn't stopped playing.
16 straight seasons.
Now keep in mind my formula that you don't follow a team day in and day out until you are 8 years old, that means any baseball fan 24 years or younger have no memory of haggling players, lawyers, Don Fehr or Selig talking about revenue or anything like that.
The NBA will soon learn that fans aren't really sympathetic to any side during a recession haggling over distribution of millions of dollars.
So there will be at least 21 seasons of labor peace.
And the new CBA will include an expanded playoff (which I think could be a good idea.) Possibility of expanded instant replay is included (which I've been SCREAMING about.)
And there will be HGH testing. (I am randomly putting a picture of Albert Pujols here. Not sure why.)
So if Selig could preside over nearly a quarter of a century of Labor Peace after such a disastrous first few seasons of acrimony and deception as commissioner, then I have to give him credit.
If those seasons would mean lots of different champions (2/3 of all teams have won at least one playoff series since 2001 and there have been 9 different champions in the past 11 seasons) then I have to give him credit.
If the A's and Giants can work out the San Jose deal (which looks like it will happen) and the Dodgers and Mets ownerships can be sorted out, that would leave only the Rays in a bad place in terms of their stadium and survival.
So it doesn't happen often, Mr. Selig. I'm giving thanks for what you've done.
I've not been thrilled with the method... but maybe in the end the result will outweigh the other stuff.
And whoever is in charge of baseball in 2016... please keep the peace. The only strikes being called should be by the umpires.
I got a text message when Justin Verlander won the MVP from my Red Sox fan buddy Kenny Mack (a brilliant writer in his own right.)
It just said "Pedro is upset."
He wasn't the only Red Sox fan who expressed anger about Verlander winning the MVP as a starting pitcher when Pedro Martinez was snubbed in 1999.
Yes I know Pedro's season was superior to Verlander's and Pudge Rodriguez should not have that trophy on his mantle.
But instead of grumbling that Pedro getting hosed should mean EVERY starting pitcher should be disqualified, why not say "Pedro opened their eyes."
The mentality that only an all time great season (in the middle of the Steroid Era no less) is the bar for a starting pitcher to win the MVP is no different than the insanity of not putting in a Hall of Famer unanimously because "If Ruth didn't get 100% of the vote than nobody should."
Seriously, Pedro deserved it. We all know that. And not the VOTERS know that. It's kind of like when Morgan Freeman didn't win the Oscar for The Shawshank Redemption but later won for Million Dollar Baby. Obviously that was a makeup call.
Well this is a make up call as well. As if the voters are saying "Sometimes the most valuable plater IS a starting pitcher."
Which big game everyday player made a bigger impact that Verlander? The Red Sox collapse prevents Jacoby Ellsbury from winning. Jose Bautista had a great year, but was it so great to wipe out a mediocre season by the Blue Jays? Miguel Cabrera? He had a great season to be sure and would probably be my #1 choice outside of Verlander.
But sometimes the most valuable player can be a starting pitcher.
Obviously there are his tremendous stats.
Obviously he saved the bullpen so many nights.
And of course the key to winning any division is to win lots of 3 game series.
And Verlander pitched twice every six games, which put the Tigers in a great position to have at least one win in each series.
And yeah, a hitter has 600-700 plate appearances while a starter only pitches in 35 games.
But Verlander FACED 969 batters. Isn't that kind of like 969 plate appearances? Except he can't take a seat after each one.
I get it, pitchers have the Cy Young Award and that should be enough.
Most years it is. Most years the player who made the biggest impact is indeed an everyday player.
Some years it is a starting pitcher.
In 1986 Clemens was the MVP. He deserved it.
I believe Hershiser had a huge argument for it in 1988.
Sorry Barry Larkin, but Greg Maddux was the NL MVP in 1995.
Pedro deserved it over Pudge Rodriguez in 1999.
And Verlander earned it this year. If he didn't win, I wouldn't have been upset. But he did and I think it was a smart vote.
It is looking more and more like Bobby Valentine will be the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. I can't say I am all for it or against it.
Obviously if Valentine comes in, I will root for him to do well. I always thought that Bobby V was a fun and entertaining manager who did a good solid job in Queens. Remember the post Davey Johnson years were a wretched dumping ground of bad free agent signings, bloated expectations and losing seasons.
In 1993, the Mets were the worst team money can buy. They had 6 straight losing seasons before Bobby V arrived.
They went from 91 losses to 88 wins in Bobby's first full season, 1997. By 1999 they were in the NLCS. By 2000 they were in the World Series.
He had one losing season and was out the door.
Which is telling. Bobby V rubbed people the wrong way. He was a know it all and didn't seem shy in telling people of his great knowledge. And lest we forget he disguised himself to sneak back into the dugout after he had been ejected. I still think that is one of the funniest moments in baseball history.
Bobby did all of that in the cauldron of New York just as the 24 hour sports news cycle and the internet became influential.
I always felt like Bobby V should have taken over a franchise that had some talent but was a small enough media market that he could become a revered figure. Basically a crazier Tony LaRussa.
And he seemed to love the respect he got in Japan during his years of managing there. Maybe a team like Kansas City with their young talent could be Bobby V's domain. Actually I thought the Marlins were an ideal fit for him, but that is Ozzie land now.
Then again, as I wrote last year, Bobby V can take his time. He has a great job on ESPN and is terrific on the air where being a Know It All is a positive thing. (And if he gets something wrong, no team lost because of his decisions.)
It would take a great job to lure him out. The Red Sox would certainly be a high profile job. And with Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury, Gonzalez and Lester still around they have a nice foundation.
I think the Red Sox are 2 years (and probably 8 pitchers) away from being a true pennant contender again.
Then again, how many people had the Tigers winning the 2006 pennant when Jim Leyland arrived?
It is an intriguing potential signing. And would be worth every penny if for no other reason than the post game press conferences will be awesome. But I find Sandy Alomar Jr. to be an interesting potential manager as well.
He caught in the big leagues for 18+ seasons, making the All Star Team 6 times and he would have been the World Series MVP in 1997 if Jose Mesa could have held onto the lead.
As a catcher for nearly 2 decades in the big leagues, he called games and was brought in to mentor young catchers with the White Sox, Rockies, Rangers, Dodgers and Mets.
He has experience as a instructor, a coach and a bench coach.
In other words for a quarter of a century he has been thinking baseball strategy on the major league level. And he has the on field success to back up his instruction.
And he also beat Mariano Rivera in a playoff series. Just saying.
SOMEONE will be the recipient of that positive baseball knowledge. Why not the Red Sox? Sandy Alomar Jr. is a man who was raised in a baseball family with a Hall of Fame brother to boot!
Who can hear "Sandy Alomar Jr." and think "What the hell does HE know?"
Bobby Valentine is the best choice to win NOW. I personally don't think the Red Sox are going to win now... but I didn't exactly pick the Cardinals last year or the Giants the year before that!
I think Sandy Alomar Jr. is the better long term choice.
I guess I will be fine with either one.
Then again, I would have been fine with Kevin Kennedy coming back too.
A 6 year $100 some odd contract means that not only are you expecting him to TRIPLE his number of good years but do so as he gets deeper into his 30s.
When Brandon Webb was 29 he had won a Cy Young Award and had two second place Cy Young finishes between 2006 and 2008.
He looked like a great choice to lock up to a big long deal.
He's pitched one game since he turned 30 in 2009.
Johan Santana looked like he was putting together a Hall of Fame career. He had won 2 Cy Young Awards (and probably should have won a third) before his 29th birthday. He was 200 innings in the bank and an almost lock for the ERA title.
He missed all of the 2011 season at age 32 and his career is in jeopardy.
By age 26, Jake Peavy was a Cy Young Award winner with 2 strike out titles and 2 ERA titles. Since turning 28 he has thrown three injury plagued seasons.
At age 28 Barry Zito had won a Cy Young Award, was one of the most durable pitchers in the game and had experience in 5 different post seasons. By 30 he was an expensive and unreliable behemouth who was left off the playoff roster in 2010.
Every pitcher I just listed was a MUCH better bet to sign to a long term deal than C. J. Wilson.
Terry Francona has had a rough few months. In the first week of September he looked like he was going to coast to his 6th playoff berth in 8 years in Boston. He was the dignified leader of the only 2 World Series titles the Red Sox have had since selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. I thought he was going to be the manager for the next 10 years, being like Tom Kelly. He was a steady manager with multiple titles who gave the team an aura of class and professionalism.
On August 31st, the Red Sox beat the Yankees 9-5 and had a game and a half lead over the Yankees. Their 83-52 record was the best in the American League. If they weren’t World Series bound, they were simply going to be formidable.
After that day, the Red Sox lost 20 of their last 27 games. They finished in third place on the last day of the season. They never won back-to-back games the rest of the season. Francona was out as manager. It was revealed that the clubhouse was a mess on his watch and his own personal life was in disarray with a pending divorce.
He was passed over for both the Cardinals and Cubs managing job. Can you blame him that he wants to take a year off?
You’ve earned it Tito. I would argue that he never has to manage another ballgame in his life and he won’t have to answer to anyone.
Well, Mr. Francona (he has earned the respect to be called Mr. Francona), get your life back in order. Fix your family situation. Relax and spend the summer away from the press.
Then in 2012, get your butt to the Nationals!
Davey Johnson, a fine manager in his own right, is in charge in Washington. But he is not a long-term solution. He was an emergency stopgap when Jim Riggleman suddenly thought he was Earl Weaver and wanted a mid season extension.
The Nats had a nice September (17-10) and finished just under .500 (80-81). That was the team’s best season since they broke even in 2005, their first year in the capital. They haven’t had a winning season since 2003 when they were the Expos.
And oh yeah… by 2012 Stephen Strasberg would be recovered and allowed to pitch without kid gloves. Plus Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon will be in all likelihood on the big league squad. If the projections are any indications, a nice nucleus in Washington would be adding a Franchise pitcher and two franchise players.
And by then would age catch up with the Phillies? Would Ozzie’s mouth catch up with him in Miami where Jeffrey Loria can’t stop firing managers? Would the Mets still be a mess? Would the Braves not be clicking?
By 2012 the National League East might be a winnable Division for a young talented team getting an influx of top tier talent.
A winning season would be the first Washington fans had seen since 1969. And when you consider most baseball fans in DC grew up Oriole fans, they haven’t had a good team to root for since 1997.
Using my “You don’t follow a team before you are 7 years old” rule, no baseball fan 21 years old or younger in Washington or Northern Virginia who was an Oriole fan before the Nats arrival has ever rooted for a winning team.
So imagine what it would be like if the Nationals became a good team (which it looks like they are about to be!)
They will probably need a solid manager to hold the reigns.
That could be Mr. Francona. And the bar is a little lower than in Boston.
It’s a perfect fit. And it could be the perfect ending for a manager who deserves one.