Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’

Of Rocco and Smoltz .. and a Penny for my thoughts

Finally, the 2009 Red Sox have begun to take shape with the only real ambiguity now whether Jason Varitek or someone else splits catching duties with Josh Bard.

Let’s start with the feel-good story of the day, the official news that the Red Sox have signed Rocco Baldelli, the pride of Cumberland, R.I. Well, let’s see, the Red Sox were looking for a fourth outfielder with pop in his bat and the ability to play all three OF positions. Enter Rocco, who does all those things. The difference is that Baldelli, when right, is a starting-caliber player. And given that J.D. Drew will probably miss three weeks to a month at some point during the year — no knock, J.D., that’s just who you are! — it is very valuable depth.

Obviously Baldelli’s health is an issue, but it sounds like progress has been made in determining why he was experiencing such excessive fatigue and how to combat it. If he stays on the field, this is a terrific signing. Baldelli and Theo Epstein will talk about the signing later today, prior to the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner.

Now, to John Smoltz. The veteran righty has long been one of my favorite pitchers to watch because, much like guys like Curt Schilling and David Wells, no stage is too big for him. Smoltz craves the big moment. Though the Red Sox obviously came through with a far better financial offer than the Braves, I wouldn’t be surprised if the allure of winning for a big market team had just as much to do with this highly-competitive athlete finishing his career somewhere other than Atlanta.

As for Mr. Brad Penny, if I had said a year ago or even two years ago, who would you rather have as your No. 4 starter, Penny or Burnett, I think a lot of you would have said Penny. He has always had tremendous stuff, but last year he obviously had arm problems and might have even clashed with management a little. If that was just his one down year — kind of like the one Mike Lowell had for the Marlins in 2005 — this could be one of the best signings of the winter, considering the price.

Now, Theo figures to spend his remaining weeks before Spring Training trying to find a catcher, or just keeping the old one. Personally, I hope they can keep Varitek. I think he means a lot to that team, both from a stability standpoint and with game preparation. But I do think Jason would need to come to grips with the fact that Josh Bard is going to pinch-hit for him quite a bit, and that he figures to get closer to 90 or 100 starts than the 120 he’s been accustomed to.

All for now. Talk to you in a bit. I’ll be live from the Writers Dinner tonight.

Ian.

Rivalry back to 2003-2004 intensity

That’s right. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry got a little tepid by its lofty standards from 2006-2008. Not anymore. We are back to peak intensity after the Yankees got Mark Teixeira yesterday for a cool $180 million over eight years. You know what? That’s fine.

All along, I couldn’t get into the whole Teixeira move mainly because I thought it was a terrible thing to do to Mike Lowell, one of the classiest and most professional Red Sox players I’ve ever come across.

So fine, the Red Sox made Teixeira a very fair offer — eight years at $168 million — and then walked away when the player said it wasn’t enough.

If Teixeira didn’t want to play for the Red Sox at fair market value, the Red Sox were right not to keep jacking up their offer until it was good enough.

Remember how done everyone felt when the Yankees swopped in and got A-Rod on Valentine’s Day in 2004? If memory serves me correctly, the Red Sox and not the Yankees won the World Series that year. Remember how worried everyone was when Brian Cashman stealthly swooped in and got Johnny Damon just like he got Teixeira on Tuesday? If memory serves me correctly, the Yankees haven’t won a playoff series in their three years with Johnny in the leadoff spot. Meanwhile, the Sox won it all in 2007 and came within a three-run homer of getting back to the World Series in ’08.

The Boston Red Sox have worked long and hard to put together a machine of an organization. Much like the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s, the Red Sox are stacked and don’t need to go out and make lavish offseason spendings to compete for championships.

So you have a nucleus that a lot of teams would love — Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Lowell, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Dice-K, Jonathan Papelbon and others. You have Lars Anderson ticketed for 2012, once Lowell’s contract is up, and other young pitchers on the way, such as Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden.

Last year didn’t feel as fun with the big competition coming from Tampa Bay instead of the Yankees. Now the Yankees truly are the evil empire again and it’s going to make the Red Sox that much more determined.

Why is everyone so surprised that the Yankees swooped in here? Since Theo has been GM, he’s the first to admit that the Yankees have won every bidding war. Yes, they won Contreras; Yes, they won A-Rod; Yes, they won Damon; And now they’ve won Teixeira. The Red Sox won Dice-K, but only because it was a highly unique situation in which they were able to win blind date rights and then beat Boras when he had no leverage.

Yet throughout all these bidding losses, the Red Sox have been the better team than the Yankees over the complete body of work since 2003.

Theo Epstein recently said from his hotel suite at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas that the goal is not to “win the offseason”. The goal is to win April-September, and then hopefully October.

It can still happen. The fun will be watching it unfold. The only way the rivalry could have been any more fierce in ’09 is if the Yankees had gotten Manny. But his will more than suffice. I can’t wait to see that first Teixeira at-bat at Fenway. It will be the loudest jeers you’ve heard since Johnny Damon stepped up to the box at Fenway on May 1, 2006. Then, Mr. Teixeira will truly be welcomed to East Coast Baseball.

Happy Holidays to all readers.

Ian.

Most Valuable Pedroia

A great day for the Red Sox, without a doubt. Two guys in the top three in the MVP voting? Two homegrown products of the organization?

Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis duplicated what Roger Clemens and Jim Rice did way back in ’86, placing first and third in the MVP ballot. Hard to believe no Sox player had won an MVP since Mo Vaughn in 1995.

Not only did Pedroia win, but he won big. Even without Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News so much as listing Pedroia on his MVP ballot, meaning Grant didn’t deem him won of the 10 most valuable players in the AL.

I think Grant was classy with his apology. Nobody is perfect and Evan admitted he probably made a mistake.

Now that awards season is over, it’s time to get back on that burner known as the Hot Stove.

Time to see if the Sox will retain ‘Tek, or make a run at D-Lowe or A.J. Burnett or Ben Sheets.

Everything is so quiet around the Red Sox these days that you have to surmise Theo Epstein must be up to something. It is usual when the crazy rumors aren’t floating around that Epstein is in his bunker contemplating a big move. What will it be?

Stability At the Top

On the same day the Red Sox could move into sole possession of the top spot in the American League East for the first time since the All-Star break, it is refreshing to know that there is also great stability at the top of the organization.

Theo Epstein will not need a gorilla suit to exit Fenway Park on Halloween this year. Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe has reported that the GM — who has gone in less than six years from a 28-year-old wonderboy to one of the most respected executives in the game — is on the verge of signing a new contract.

Though owner John W. Henry basically told Shaughnessy the deal was done earlier on Tuesday, Henry backed off slightly on those comments to the rest of the media later in the day while conceding an announcement is imminent.

“I got a little ahead of where we are today in commenting
on what have been refreshingly private negotiations,” wrote Henry. “We are
not done, but we expect to have an announcement in the near future. I have
asked all involved not to comment until this is finalized.”

I wonder what this organization would like right now if Epstein, had, in fact, bolted in ’05. Would they have won it again in ’07?

At any rate, the Red Sox are lucky that upper management (Epstein and his staff) and field management (Terry Francona and his staff) is a big strength of this team. It is one less thing to worry about. Imagine having a Ned Yost-like situation in Milwaukee?

As for tonight’s game, I think it is important both in the short and long term. Obviously Beckett puts them back into first with a win. And if Beckett does that and is dominant in doing so, perhaps it is fair to forecast the ace to go on one of those runs he had late last season.

Though Lester has been a rock, there is something comforting about being able to rely on Beckett as the front man for the staff.

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