Archive for November, 2007

Santana update – too good to be true?

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

I was recently taking a look at the The Boston Globe’s The Buzz, and there was an update about Johan Santana, siting Charlie Walter’s posting on The Pioneer Press.

According to Walter’s source, in return for Santana, the Red Sox would be sending CF Coco Crisp, SS Jed Lowrie, LHP Jon Lester, and RHP Justin Masterson. Outside of Crisp (28), everyone else is either 22 or 23.

Crisp is your proven center fielder, to replace Torii Hunter. With two abbreviated seasons under his belt, Lester looks to be a really good lefty started with tons of potential. Don’t forget, he did win the final game of the 2007 World Series.

Prospects Lowrie and Masterson are considered some of the few players in the farm system who are on the short list of those top players. Lowrie is considered to be that shortstop of the future for the Red Sox. And Masterson is supposed to be another stud pitcher that is supposed to have a lot of upside.

Out of the people on this list, I was hoping that Lowrie was going to be an untouchable. I really thought that he was going to be great in the bigs for Boston.

But if this could be the actual trade (contingent on the fact that Santana will sign a contract for years afterwards, Theo, DO IT!

Are you kidding me. You get Johan Santana AND you keep Ellsbury. And Clay Buckholz too.

And, maybe just for a bit of irony: two top shortstop prospects for two ace pitchers. Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett. Now, maybe, Jed Lowrie for Johan Santana.

The newly beatable Patriots

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Even though the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New England Patriots, they played them close. Even had the lead in the fourth quarter. Looked to even tie or regain that lead with a few minutes left in the game.

So it is now said that the Eagles have created the “blueprint” for stopping the Patriots in the copy-cat league.

I’m not too sure about that.

Sure, the Eagles, along with the Colts, have played the Patriots the closest – on both sides of the ball. They also may have been the few teams that the Patriots play that can match them on both sides of the ball. So it would seem that a team with comparable abilities would match up with them well.

The Steelers and Giants look good on both offense and defense. The Ravens probably can’t keep up offensively, and the Jets’ defense might have issues keeping the score close for that offense. And the Dolphins are the Dolphins.

But here’s the another team that also will be able to see these “blueprints:” The New England Patriots.

If there any team that can break down game film, they seem to be one of the best in the business. They will see what the weaknesses were; both offensively (weaker protection of the quarterback) and defensively.

Here’s my favorite thing that I’ve gathered so far: There is a way to slow down the Patriot offense. They seemed to contain Randy Moss, Tom Brady was rushed and roughed-up a bit more, and they contained their run. Clearly the Eagles did a great job of slowing down the Patriot offense.

They gave up 24 points!

If a good job on defense is giving up 24 points is a good thing, then either the standards have changed in the NFL, or the rest of the league is still in trouble.  Or maybe you just have to assume that 24 points by the New England Patriots is low enough to give your offense a chance.

Brady was sacked three times, but didn’t throw a single interception. There were no fumbles, so the Eagles didn’t create any turnovers.  And Wes Welker seemed to be the go-to guy when Moss couldn’t be.

The real reason why the Eagles played so well against the Patriots, and nearly won (or at least you can point to a few different plays that could’ve changed the game for them), was that the the Eagles offense was on the field for so long thus keeping Brady and company off the field. I mean, they had possession for 27:49, just less than half the game, but they drove the ball down the field well.

And most importantly, they figured out how to exploit the zone defenses that the Patriots were throwing at them. Watching the game, you didn’t see many wide open receivers, and there weren’t many, if any, bombs down the field (outside of that 29 yard Samuel interception that virtually decided the game). But A.J. Feeley, who must have had one of the best games in his career, was able to pick apart the New England defense with precision and accuracy that has become synonymous with the QB on the other sideline.

And that is the secret.

But the New England Patriots know this secret too.

Johan Santana and Black Magic to get him

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

For some reason, Johan Santana of the Twins is a desirable pitcher for many teams. Probably every team.

As of now, Santana is the best pitcher on the market (well, sort of), and he very well may be for the next few years too. This guy is the type of guy that can make a decent team a good team, and a good team a great team.

I might say that this is very similar to what Josh Beckett was two years ago: a proven stud that has many years to go. The Red Sox, at the time, gave up their #1 prospect, and possibly one of the best prospects at the time, in Hanley Ramírez, pitching prospect Anibal Sánchez and two more minor leaguers. Heck, they even had to take the over-the-hill Mike Lowell and eat his ridiculously priced contract.

But at the time, me, like I’m sure many Sox fans were screaming that they couldn’t give up Ramírez because this guy was going to be the future offensive guy once that other Ramírez was chased out of town. And while he has been doing very well in Florida, you have to make that trade every time. Sure it’s easy to say it after the fact that they win it all this year, but your top “maybe” for a top “definite;” every time.

Which brings us back to Santana. This guy is pretty much Josh Beckett from the other side of the mound, which makes it even more attractive. You’ve got to get him. You can’t trade away all your prospects, but you can definitely package a bunch together to do it. And Minnesota knows this.

The Twins have two options (well, three really, but if the make a trade in the middle of the season, they’re going to get less for him because the trading team will get less service time).

Option one: Keep him for the entire season, and from hear until the end-of-season 2008, keep working on a contract. If Minnesota is serious about keeping Santana for more than this year then this is really the best option. Being serious means that they will have to be willing to pony up about $22MM for 6 years, which the Twins haven’t really shown in the past. Obviously they’ll get to have one of today’s best pitchers, and looking to make a name for himself as one the games best lefties. They’ll also have a face of the franchise as they move into the new ballpark in 2009.

Option two: Trade him now. If they take option one, and then don’t end up resigning him, they will have nothing to show for it. And not retaining Hunter and Santana in back-to-back seasons isn’t going to bode well with the fans, or for the roster either.

But if they trade him now, they will get a bevy of prospects, as well as (somewhat) proven players. But which team has those pieces.

The two hot names, surprisingly, are the Yankees and the Red Sox. If it were to come down to just these two teams, then it will also come down to keeping him away from the other as well as getting him. Remember the move the Yankees made a few years ago that ended up sending Bartolo Colón to the White Sox, just so the Red Sox wouldn’t get him.

So now it comes down to, What you got.

The logical pieces for New York are CF Melky Cabrera, 2B Robinson Cano, and pitchers Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. Obviously it won’t be all five of these, and it might be only two, but this is pretty much the pool with which the Yankees are probably going to work.

Boston, probably can put something together with CF Coco Crisp, SS Julio Lugo (and eat a bunch of that contract), and pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buckholz. I feel that the Sox are in a better position in the sense that they don’t have to make a crazy deal to get him, seeing how the team that they have for 2008 looks very similar to 2007 (with concerns of the ages of Wakefield and Schilling). But Boston knows that if Santana ends up on the Yankees that will immediately change.

Both teams pitchers are at this point a crapshoot, with maybe Lester looking the strongest in the sense that he’s just had more experience in the majors and has looked decent with a lot of upside to it.

It hard to say how the position players look to Minnesota. Cabrera v Crisp might go Crisp’s way, since, again longer time in the bigs and has looked decent at it, while Melky is a lot of “potential ” (their batting averages for this season and their careers are within 5-points, so virtually the same). Plus Crisp is much better defensively. Cano v Lugo would definitely go Cano’s way (I mean, a .314 career batting average to a .271).

So it just becomes interesting in how the teams make the package for the trade.

I read somewhere that the Yankees might do one position player and one pitcher. If that’s the case, I would think that the Red Sox would easily counter with both position players and one pitcher (since the rumor is that Minnesota is looking for position players more than pitchers).

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a Yankee fan the other day about something like this: making the trade for Santana and losing the young talent in the meantime. He was making his case that he wouldn’t make that trade because he didn’t want to see Cabrera go, since there could be a lot of upside to him.

There might be. But you know what having Johan would mean. Hanley or Josh? Melky or Johan?

And I just have to throw this in there because the mere thought of it is awesome: Beckett, Santana, Matsuzaka, Schilling, Wakefield (with Julián Tavárez or if you kept one of Buckholz/Lester as a backup). Pretty freakin’ scary.

Lowell’s back?

Monday, November 19th, 2007

It seems to be that Mike Lowell might be close to resigning (or from Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo) with the Boston Red Sox.

This will be excellent news for the Sox for the next few years. They will now have a very solid third baseman for three years at just more than $12MM a year.

I feel that for the next two years his offense will be very solid, especially at home in Fenway where his home-split was much better than that on the road. And I believe that his defense will stay true (or diminish slowly), that in the third year he will still be fine. On top of all this, there doesn’t seem to be that guy in the minors that is ready to take over, even at the point of at the end of the 2008 season. So this will also buy them more time to find that kid in the minors to come the way of Ellsbury and Pedroia.

Now the 2008 Red Sox will have a very solid offensive lineup, with the heart being Ortiz, Ramirez, Lowell, and Drew (who I believe will have a .300-.310 year next year). “Role players” of Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Varitek makes for a very tough lineup. Heck, if Lugo, most likely at this point, in the nine-spot, has a half-way decent season, I think everyone would take that.

Right now, and officially, looking like a very good 2008.

Merril Hoge has a problem

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

For the past few years, Merril Hoge, of ESPN’s NFL team, does not like the New England Patriots.

No matter what the situation is, why does it seem that Hoge is always picking against that Patriots? It doesn’t seem to matter what the question is asked of him, it will never be New England. In fact, it’s anyone but New England.

Colts v Pats: Colts. Steelers v Pat in a few weeks: the Steelers are the only team that can match up against the Pats (isn’t that what he said about the Indianapolis before they played the Pats?).

ESPN.com did a short mid-season report of some aspects of the NFL, and Merril was asked to weigh in on some of the categories.

Top Coach: Jeff Fisher. Interesting choice, and I wouldn’t have expected him to pick a coach that is (at that time) 9-0, and just came off a road victory against his main nemesis. But you can definitely make the argument that Belichick does have a lot of star players under him. I don’t think I would have picked Fisher; I think there are teams that have done more with less.

MVP: Adrian Peterson. What?!? The other seven voters all picked Tom Brady since he is, oh I don’t know, having the best offensive first half ever recorded in the NFL. The Patriots would probably be above average if they had a good quarterback running the team; making him the most valuable player on the most dominate team. Peterson is having an unbelievable year (see the Rookie category) on a horrible team. I think that if the Vikings didn’t have Peterson, they would probably be the same, record-wise. I’m sure Hoge would have voted for A-Rod on that Texas team when they were horrible yet he was still the most valuable player in the AL.

Top Offensive Player: Adrian Peterson. Again, what?!? (See above) Everyone else picked either Brady or Randy Moss (I would still have stuck with Brady, but the fact that Moss is also on a record breaking pace (at mid-season) I can see why some would pick him).

Then there are other categories that aren’t Patriot-specific (Top Defensive Player: no one stands out in my mind; Rookie: definitely Peterson; Most Surprising Team: I’m pretty sure everyone knew that the Pats were going to be good). But his inability to even think that there is anyone on the Patriots that is worth considering is just making him look outright foolish.

But it is fun to hear him explain anyway.

Already looking at next year.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

An old Red Sox fan expression, Well, there’s always next year.

So I started thinking about what the 2008 Boston Red Sox lineup will look like.  And with an effort by Theo to resign Mike Lowell (at the time of publishing this post, the subtitle read: Theo optimistic; third year the key?), things are looking pretty good.   As of now, and making that assumption that Lowell will be back, I see the lineup looking something like:

Ellsbury – CF
Pedroia – 2B
Ortiz – DH
Ramirez – LF
Lowell – 3B
Drew – RF
Youkilis – 1B
Varitek – C
Lugo – SS

There can probably be some movement with Youkilis (his uncanny ability to see something like 84 pitches per at bat), Ellsbury and Pedroia.  That’s not too shabby.  And a rotation along the lines of (and not a 6-man rotation):

Beckett
Matsuzaka
Schilling
Wakefield
Lester
Buckholz (starting out in Pawtucket, and probably coming in for Schilling or Wakefield when they need a few weeks off.)

Now, with a bullpen already consisting of Papelbon, Okajima, Delcarmen, and maybe Timlin, I would imagine that Theo will take a look out there and try to aquire someone else just to shore-up that aspect of the team.

So far, so good.

Is there a major trade on the horizon (Santana, Haren of the A’s), or perhaps a free agent pickup (Rodriguez)?

Schilling back for one more year.

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Curt Schilling has reported that Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox have completed a deal that will bring him back to Boston for another year.

For a base of $8MM and incentives (including random weigh-ins) is pretty good for both sides. He definitely could’ve received more years at other places, perhaps for even more per year. But, I don’t think that he’ll pitch a complete season and then be ready and 100% for the playoffs (where I’m sure here plans on going with the team next year).

On a team that already had a sure #1 with Josh Beckett and a #2 in Daisuke Matsuzaka (who I think is going to have a better year, even though 15 wins wasn’t too shabby), Schilling will be a great compliment to Tim Wakefield, who also on the “wrong” side of 40. The fifth would probably be Jon Lester, putting Clay Buckholz in Pawtucket for the start of the season.

And while it sounds weird, don’t forget Julian Tavarez; good for a spot-start or long relief.

Unless there is some blockbuster deal this offseason (say, Johan Santana), I think that the starting rotation is in pretty good shape. I would think that the next moves would have to be looking for someone to be that #3 guy in the bullpen behind Papelbon and Okajima (hey, I like Timlin as much as the next guy, but I’m expect him to have a full season like I do from Wakefield or Schilling).

Anyway, proven starting pitching at probably will be about $11-12MM: I’ll take that.

The Tainting of the Record

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

The other day, Don Shula, the great coach of the Dolphins of long ago, said that if the Patriots were to go undefeated this regular season, then the record would be tainted. If the Patriots become the second team to not lose a game, then an asterisk should be right along “New England” in the record books.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that the footnote for that asterisk won’t read: The New England Patriots had to do it in a time of 16-game regular seasons, free agency, and forced parody by way of salary restrictions.

There’s something that I believe Mr. Shula is missing here, and that is that the tape was confiscated in the first quarter of the first game of the season. I would hardly think that any advantage would be made of that. So that means that the beatings that New England has been putting on their past nine opponents have come clean, honest, hard-working efforts.

And, by the way, I thought all the itching that went on about “spy-gate” was that the PREVIOUS seasons were tainted, not this one.

Listen, I understand who Don Shula is in the annuls of the NFL. And I get that he is sticking up for his record, and that of his players. But did he really just suddenly feel the need to say it at this point in the season? Is he conceding that since the Colts couldn’t beat the Patriots in a possibly altered-sounding RCA Dome, with questionable refereeing and faulty coaching equipment, that no team in the NFL could beat them?

The Patriots are pretty good about taking any tiny bit of negativity towards them and turning it into a great motivator. I’m sure the Buffalo Bills are pleading with Shula to quit it.

As I’m finishing this up, ESPN Sportscenter posted a TV/Internet polling question to the effect of if an asterisk should be placed on a possible undefeated season. At the time, over 60% said No. I’ll admit, I voted No, but that’s probably because I was partially voting as a homer. A state-by-state breakdown of the voting only has Indiana having the majority saying Yes. Not surprising.