Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bay State and fishing for a contract...

The first pitch Manny Ramirez saw in a Red Sox uniform was knocked out of the park. The first at bat with the Dodgers resulted in a ground out.

The line for Manny in his first game for the Dodgers 2 for 4 (two singles), no RBI's, no runs scored, one man left in scoring position, and he grounded into a double play that killed the Dodgers chances for a come from behind win in the ninth inning. Bay, on the other hand, went 1 for 3, walked twice and scored both of the Sox' runs in their win to go along with a highlight reel catch in left.

Sure, that's one game, and ten games, twenty games, fifty games from now, the end result might be very different, but I still don't think so. I think the pundits that believe the Red Sox lost out in this trade haven't paid close attention to Manny over the last couple of seasons - I'm not talking about this season - but this, the last, and the one before that. This is, as I noted in a previous post, how the two stack up against each other...

Ramirez has hit 75 home runs and driven in 258, while Bay has 78 homers and driven in 257 in the Pirates line-up. Bay has not had hitters like David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis around him.
Based on those numbers, Ramirez sabotaged his remaining days with the Red Sox, engineering the trade in an effort to avoid the team held $20 million per year options and, according to his agent, land a new four year deal worth $100 mil. $25 mil per year. For the same guy nobody would claim on waivers. In his prime. For less money than that.

Now he's older, his stats aren't as good, and the Red Sox had to pay the Dodgers to take him.

And somehow, he believes that he's going to get better than $20 million per year on the market for the next four.

I guess that's just another case of Manny being Manny. Although I suppose, depending on how it all plays out, it could be a case of Manny being Nomar - the man who was insulted by the Sox' 4-year $60 million contract extension, became disgruntled in the club house, and, as a result, was traded to the Cubs. Nomar, who began to show signs of being...fragile...had an undistinguished second half and, as a result, has made approximately half the money he would have made had he signed the extension.

Manny will be better than Nomar was, but he's not going to put up the numbers in cavernous Dodger Stadium that he did in the friendly confines of Fenway, batting in the 21st ranked offense, as opposed to the fourth. Just like that will negatively affect his offensive production, Bay's move from the Pirates to the Red Sox should positively influence his.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny being Manny

Often Manny Ramirez plays baseball with a child-like joy. Unfortunately, like clockwork, he also uses his position and the perception of himself as one of the games premier hitters to throw petulant tantrums.

Almost every year that he's been in Boston, he's done this - and the Fenway faithful have generally forgiven him, given him a pass, and cheered him. The same fan-base that booed Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice, has given Manny a pass.

Now Manny says the following -

“The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me,” Ramirez said. “During my years here, I’ve seen how they (the Red Sox) have mistreated other great players when they didn’t want them to try to turn the fans against them.

“The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy.

“I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don’t deserve me. I’m not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don’t have peace here.”

I agree, the Sox don't deserve him. They made Manny one of the highest paid players in the history of the game when they signed him - and they got a player that whined about not wanting to be in Boston from year one, a player that would fake injuries and illness to get out of the line-up, take plays off, and fail to run out ground balls, and in so doing, screw his teammates. Why? Because he doesn't like his contract. Because he doesn't have enough privacy in Boston (then don't invite the Globe into your house to do an article on where you live). Because he has friends on another team.

And let's face a few realities here - realities that Manny is not acknowledging...

Manny shoved a senior citizen to the ground, no one made him do that. Manny complained about pain in the knee - not for the first time while he's been with the team - and this time the Sox called him on it by getting an MRI on both knees. He's complained about his deal with regularity - the one he signed - upset about the team-held options. It's not like these were hidden in fine print when he signed the contract - everyone knew the deal before the ink was drying, but now he's unhappy with it. No one held a gun to his head.

Manny's doing a really, really good job of painting himself as the bad guy.

And let's face it, when someone's hitting 45 home-runs and knocking in 130 to 144 RBI's per season, and leading the league in many of the offensive categories, it's easy to write off the whining and other issues that come with Manny.

But he's not leading the league anymore. This is what he's doing...

Tied for 26th in the majors in home runs.

Tied for 25th in RBI's.

Tied for 25th in Runs.

Is 35th in batting average.

Is 18th in OPS.

Is 26th in slugging percentage.

Of all of those stats, the only one in which Manny leads the Red Sox is homers - he has 20 to JD Drew's 19, and Kevin Youkilis' 18. Otherwise, he trails teammates in every other category.

If the trade the Sox are looking at works out, Boston will bring in the 29-year old Jason Bay who leads Ramirez in home runs, has only four fewer RBI's, has scored six more runs while batting in the 12th ranked line-up in the majors. Ramirez is in the fifth, and for much of the season the Sox line-up was top two.

Over the last three seasons (including this one), Ramirez has hit 75 home runs and driven in 258, while Bay has 78 homers and driven in 257 in the Pirates line-up. Bay has not had hitters like David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis around him.

For the season, given their current line-ups, Ramirez projects for 30 home runs and 102 RBI's, Bay for 33 homers and 96 RBI's. What might Bay do in a better line-up?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Every now and then my paying gigs remind me to how small, in the grand scheme of things, most of the stuff associated with sports really is. Don't get me wrong - I love athletics, and I think participation is important for our children for many reasons - health, learn how to both win and lose gracefully, and social interaction/learning how to work as part of a team are all part of it.

For the most part, I love getting paid to write.

Yesterday wasn't one of those days.

Yesterday a fire broke out two blocks from my home. It displaced a family of nine, and while nobody was killed, two children and an elderly woman were taken to the hospital. One of the children, a 12-year old boy, was taken to the local hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. The elderly woman (65), and a little girl (11) were airlifted to a burn center in Washington, DC. The girl, Ashley Beachley, was listed in critical condition with third-degree burns covering half her body. Once stabilized, the girl was airlifted again to the Shriner's Burn Center in Boston.

It really puts into perspective the useless and insulting whining that currently is Brett Favre, Ryan Grant, and Manny Ramirez, and any number of other athletes.

Sure, I generally think these guys get pretty full of themselves in contract talks, but let's face it - we're not talking life and death issues. Well, okay, sometimes they are. Sometimes the story is about a potentially fatal illness - Jon Lester, Joe Andruzzi - but quite often it's about some athlete, some fan or fan base, or some team executive whining and pointing fingers, denying some wrong.

This is something that happens for me every now and then - one of those hard stories (and please don't misunderstand, I'm not trying to come off with a woe-is-me sort of piece here) that reminds you of the triviality of the posturing in which these entertainers engage.

A life cut short in a plane crash.

A student athlete cut down in the streets, his only crime that he was trying to break up a fight.

A man, once on borrowed time, adjusting to life with a new heart.

A slum lord slowing redevelopment of a city neighborhood, while taking advantage of young tenants.

A little girl, burned.

Over the years, these are just some of the stories that have reminded me to keep sports in perspective. I wish a speedy recovery for Ashley, who rode the bus to school with my daughter this year, and I sincerely wish that your first trip to Boston had been under much better circumstances.

Monday, July 28, 2008


So, as I sit in Western Maryland recovering from a physical game against the North Carolina Tigers (we won 106 - 46 to extend our streak to somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 - 1 against USAFL opposition since late in the 2006 season), I am pondering a handful of sports questions, thoughts, and observations...

Starting with the near and dear to my heart...

Manny Ramirez needs to shut-up and play. Like Brett Favre, he's not the general manager, he doesn't make the decisions regarding the team options on the contract. And let's face it, as much of an offensive force Manny has been, his age has begun to show - Sure, he's on pace for 100 RBI's, and that's up from last season's 88, and will probably just about match the 102 he had from two seasons ago, but will be down from his back to back 130 and 144 seasons before that. It's below his career average of 107, though not significantly, although it would be roughly 14 RBI's below his average in a Boston uniform (not including this season).

He's doing that in a line-up that includes Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury who have combined for 199 runs scored. He's doing that in a line-up where he's protected by the likes of Pedroia, Youk, and David Ortiz hitting ahead of him and Mike Lowell (63 RBI's, 13 HR's) and JD Drew (58 RBI's, 19 HR's) hitting behind him. In his career, he's never had to be the guy to carry a team, he's always had protection around him.

How many other places will he go that the line-up forces teams to pitch to him? The Rangers? The Cubs? How many places are already taking themselves out of the running, like the Mets, that just don't want to deal with Manny being Manny?

His agent thinks he can get him four years, $100 million at the end of the year. I think the agent is dreaming if he thinks that he's going to get that much for a slugger that will be 37 at the beginning of May, who has been complaining about his knees for the last couple of years. Sixty to $85 million, I could see, but only the foolish will be investing $25 million in a 41-year old slugger.

Speaking of Favre - boy have I gotten tired of him.

Someone needs to explain the following - he's not the coach. He's not the GM, and the GM's job isn't to try to make sure he gets one last big hurrah at the expense of the future of the team. Ted Thompson's job is to secure the future of the team. Thompson's job is to put the tools around his quarterback to give him the best chance to win.

I seem to remember that in a playoff game in Lambeau last year he had trouble getting the ball to his receivers - even when he had time. He overthrew balls, under threw receivers, and looked uncomfortable - like he didn't want to be there.

Now the Legend wants me to believe that his GM isn't trustworthy because the man failed to out-offer the Patriots for Randy Moss, because he let aging linemen go to put younger, more athletic linemen in front of his aging star, because, while his moves resulted in the team coming within a game of the Super Bowl, that they weren't right because Favre didn't like them.

He needs to stop trying to play this in the court of public opinion. He's losing, and losing bad. Especially coming from a guy that expects everyone to believe that he was just calling the Vikings coaching staff to shoot the breeze. Yeah. Right. And I'm the current owner of the Major League Baseball record for home runs in a single season.

Finally, a few quick thoughts on marketing language - I love marketing language. In an effort to make used cars more marketable, they're no longer "used," they're "certified pre-owned." It's no longer an "impotence" drug, no, now they're for "male enhancement." My personal favorite - you go high end with a "pawn shop," and you have an "antique store."

I bring this up because professional sports leagues are masters at this. They're absolutely brilliant. Consider - the NFL gets television coverage and people paying money for scrimmages. Yeah, they call them pre-season games, but they're scrimmages. But, for my money, the best one out there belongs to baseball.

Baseball, while lagging behind the NFL in ratings, is still the master at repackaging. Consider this - they have managed to convince their fans to shell out hundreds of dollars for even the cheap seats during batting practice the night before the All-Star Game simply by calling it "The Home Run Derby."

That's just admirably brilliant.