for March 2003
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March 28, 2003
Yesterday, I hoped the Red Sox were discussing a contract extension with Pedro in private and Sean McAdam reports there have been talks. One source told McAdam that the Sox would pick up Martinez's 2004 option, but would want a multi-year extension to be at a slightly reduced salary ... Pedro will not travel with the team to Atlanta. He will stay in Fort Myers for a side session on Friday, then head to Tampa Sunday night. ... Grady Little feels the Sox are so talented that it will be next to impossible to have a set lineup every day. But before I break into a Weebles rant, it appears Little will use platoons at several positions, so there may be 3 or 4 regular lineups used against various types of pitchers. Little can mix and match Hillenbrand (3B/1B), Mueller (3B/2B), (1B/OF/3B), Ortiz (1B/DH) and Giambi (OF/1B); Shea will probably move to first in the late innings and Mueller to third. I'm surprised to admit it, but I feel alright about having the man I referred to last season as "Cooter" managing the Hub nine. A large part of that can be attributed to Theo Epstein and Bill James -- or maybe it's just the happiness and anticipation of a new season a mere two days away ... Monday's Lineup: Damon cf, Walker 2b, Nomar ss, Manny lf, Millar 1b, Hillenbrand 3b, Giambi dh, Nixon rf, Varitek c ... The Globe has a HUGE baseball section today, as does Projo ...
"Baseball people -- and that includes myself -- are slow to change and accept new ideas. I remember that it took years to persuade them to put numbers on the uniforms . . . It is the hardest thing in the world to get big-league baseball to change anything -- even spikes on a pair of shoes. But they will accept this new interpretation of baseball statistics eventually. They are bound to." -- Branch Rickey, 1954
Art Martone uses that quote to discuss the New Age Red Sox and explains that it is not stats that drive Epstein et al., but what those statistics tell them. Local and national sportswriters will need that pointed out to them about once every 3 days, I suspect. ... "Can statistical analysis be a primary tool in evaluating players?" Martone says Yes, Steven Krasner says No. I side with Art on this one, but I did appreciate Krasner's dismissal of silly insights like "Player X is hitting .400 against Pitcher Y" when that means 2-5 over the course of 4 years. (Naturally, I'm curious now if Krasner will use similar stats to explain Player Z's 5-game slump in May or June.) ... Elsewhere, Martone writes: "They won 93 games last year with a weak bullpen, no bench and an offense that stopped once you got past the middle of the order. All those problems, theoretically, have been solved. If the starting pitchers hold their serve, the sky's the limit." Krasner says a wild card spot is the best Boston can wish for. Sean McAdam is more hopeful. ... Mariano Rivera may be out an entire month -- Steinbrenner's new closer? Juan Acevedo.
March 27, 2003
One wonders how Randy Johnson's two-year, $33 million contract extension will affect discussions of picking up Pedro's option and/or extending his contract. The Red Sox hold a $17.5 million option for 2004 and have until November to exercise it. Pedro's wondering about it, too, calling Johnson "the best pitcher in baseball. I'm right behind him, or maybe right there with him." Martinez repeated his stance that regardless of any offer, he's "not going to negotiate into the season." He also hinted that if the Sox don't do something before Monday afternoon, he will take his arm elsewhere, maybe even the Bronx. ''I'm sure Monday you'll have one clear determination from either side." ... Johnson's situation is slightly different -- he was going to be a free agent at the end of this season, while the earliest Pedro could walk would be after 2004. ... In an interview with Gordon Edes, Theo Epstein called Pedro's contract a "nonstory" at this point. ... If Pedro would take 5 years at 15 per, I say do it. I'd also like to think the team and Pedro will come to some sort of private understanding that if his arm does not literally fall off this summer, he'll get his extension. ... I was a little surprised that Frank Castillo was released.
March 26, 2003
A good day -- cable hooked up to second TV, Extra Innings ordered, and I see the first Red Sox game is Mr. Martinez @ Tampa Bay next Monday at 5:00 pm ... I'm confident he'll do better than 2002's opener ... Grady Little announced his Opening Day lineup:
... but also noted (beep! beep! -- Weebles-alert!) that he expects to use four different starting lineups in the four-game Tampa Bay series. ... Adrian Brown, who I thought would make the roster, was offered back to the Devil Rays and Boston will start with a 12-pitcher staff. ... Also, the Reds are looking for a Pete Rose look-alikes for their Opening Day parade.
Last season, I posted a lot of media predictions -- which this non-courier-type-using bastard stole completely, even to the point of having the same two pages). Looking through the spring magazines, everyone picks Boston second, which is no surprise. But as I noted yesterday, Boston's RS/RA projected to a 101-60 record and if the Sox can improve their record in one-run games, the AL East should be a tough fight.
2nd place (no wild card); Pedro 3rd in Cy Young; A's top Cards in WS
The Sporting News: 2nd place (wild card); Twins top Phillies in WS
Bill Mazeroski: 2nd place (no wild card); Pedro ERA leader; Yankees win WS
Lindy's: 2nd place (wild card); Pedro Cy Young; Grady Manager of Year; Yankees top Astros in WS
Spring Training: 2nd place (unknown wild card)
Sports Illustrated ranks the Red Sox 2nd in the East (wild card) and 6th in MLB
Bob Hohler in 3/24's Globe: "... Brown could be the odd man out because he plays only the outfield while Jackson and Merloni play both infield and outfield." Hohler again on 3/25: "As for Merloni, he has played every infield position ... and both outfield corners." Hmmmm ... let's see:
16, 1999 -- Walked, scored in 8th inning; played LF in top of 9th
May 3, 2002 -- Ran for Ramirez, scored; played LF in bottom of 9th
July 21, 2002 -- Played RF in bottom of 9th
Three innings in five years. Hardly an outfielder's resume.
March 25, 2003
Boston solved one of its bench questions today when the Padres claimed Lou Merloni on waivers. ... Casey Fossum is the Sox #4 starter ... John Burkett is cool with following Pedro, Wakefield, Lowe and Fossum; with Pedro and Lowe getting an extra day of rest here and there, he'll probably never get passed over ... Nice article on Alan Embree from his hometown paper ... ESPN's Insider service wonders if a strong finish one year is a good omen for the next. (Boston was -- along with the Cubs -- the "unluckiest" team of 2002, finishing eight games below (93-69) what should have been expected from their Run Production/Prevention (101-61, one game better than the Yankees).) Here are the best records in both leagues after August 2002:
NL W L Pct Cardinals 21 6 .778 Giants 18 8 .692 Expos 17 10 .630 Braves 16 10 .615 D'backs 14 13 .519
AL W L Pct Yankees 19 8 .704 Blue Jays 19 8 .704 Athletics 18 8 .692 Angels 18 9 .667 Red Sox 18 11 .621
Sayeth Jose Rijo: "I'm making a prediction: Pedro will have the greatest year ever. He's healthy and better than ever. Wait 'til you see what he does. He'll be the best.''
And from Yankeeland: David Wells won't shut up and Mariano Rivera strained his groin.
March 24, 2003
As far as Pedro is concerned, spring training is over. Facing the Tigers, he threw 52 strikes (out of 72 pitches), and retired 13 of his last 14 batters. He has not walked a batter in 13 innings and his fastball has been hitting 95 with regularity. Martinez will face Cincinnati on Wednesday, but will not travel with the team to Atlanta. He'll have a side session in Fort Myers and join the team in Tampa Saturday night ... Pedro comments on the invasion of Iraq. ... Asked about Opening Day, Little admitted he had settled on a lineup, but said nothing more than ''Pedro is pitching.'' ... Despite being hit at a .397 clip this spring, Casey Fossum will begin the season in the rotation. ... After asking for 7 and 24, Jeremy Giambi received number 25. Art Martone picks up the pace of his player profiles (Lowe, Varitek, Ortiz, Castillo, Embree, Fox, Pedro, Howry, Wakefield, Timlin, White, Zuleta). His Pedro comments: "He's back and he is healthy. Proof? In the second half of 2002, he had a 1.61 E.R.A. and held opponents to a .189 batting average. His velocity, stuck in the low-90s through most of last year, has inched back up into the mid-90s this spring. Barring an unforeseeable catastrophe, his march to Cooperstown should continue in '03."
Peter Gammons: "The Red Sox are a dangerous, deep offensive team. ... could conceivably lead the league in runs. ... Hillenbrand's bat speed has been noticeably quicker. ... But where last year the starting pitching carried them, this year the pitching is a concern. ... Casey Fossum -- who has struggled mightily this spring -- and John Burkett are at the end of the rotation. ... Their mix-and-match bullpen is OK ... One more problem: Almost every one of their relievers is a one-inning pitcher ... Boston is going to start the season projected into the next level after the Twins, Yankees and A's, grouped in with Anaheim and, in all probability, Chicago." ... Also, Grady Little on Ramirez: "Manny has been the hardest worker in this camp. He beats the coaches to the park to hit at 6:30." Don't forget e.e. gammings.
Jon Heyman at Newsday reported that there is talk of Boston and Oakland trading shortstops -- Nomar for Miguel Tejada. Theo Epstein said it was bogus. Heyman also noted that Nomar "wants to play in his native California." He does? I've never heard that. This deal makes no sense. Tejada's contract expires a year earlier, he'll ask for more money than Nomar's making in 03-04, he's not as good and Red Sox fans would go insane. Sounds like garbage to me ...
Finally, the New York Daily News quotes Pedro on Mike Piazza's behavior following a beaning by Guillermo Mota: "Maybe he felt like he had to show off his testosterone. But this may be more embarrassing than the one before. Why do you go after skinny Guillermo Mota in spring training and do nothing to Roger Clemens in the World Series?" Piazza responds here.
Some spring stats:
AB R H RBI AVG SLG
Manny 38 9
21 13 .553 1.105
Shea 44 9 22 9 .500 .795
March 20, 2003
Nomar Garciaparra on Manny Ramirez's media boycott: "I was taking a shower and thinking about that question, about whether not talking makes Manny hit more and you know, I think it does. ... It's sad in a way. I'm supposed to be judged on what I do on the field, but when I say something or it gets reported in a certain way or I don't say something, that's what people are going to remember. With Manny and not talking, it puts it all in perspective with players and the media.'' ... Check out a new Red Sox blog at www.obeypedro.com.
March 17, 2003
Pedro pitched against Tampa Bay on Saturday and allowed three unearned runs. Shea Hillenbrand's error came after Toby Hall grounded to third base. "The ball hit off of my glove and then opened my shirt. It blew the button open. I thought it went off my glove and went onto the ground but it fell in my shirt. That's the story." The rule book says the ball can't be lodged inside of any equipment besides a glove. Hall was awarded second base. ... Manny Ramirez is now hitting .581 (18-31) and also gave his first interview of the spring, to the second runner-up in the Miss Dominican Republic competition.... Art Martone looks at Ryan Rupe and Robert Person. ... Pedro recently bought a huge boombox for the minor league camp. ... Despite his struggles, Fossum will begin the season in the starting rotation. ... Though he said he had a "good reason," Toronto pitcher Pasqual Coco was released after he stole money from teammate Diegomar Markwell's locker. ... Hey, it turns out getting on base is a good thing. How about that!
March 13, 2003
Tony Cloninger's bladder cancer is the camp's top story. ... Willie Banks and Benny Agbayani were given their unconditional releases. ... Lou Merloni is bitching again, about the growing likelihood of not making the 25-man roster. "It's been four years now where every offseason they've picked up two or three guys who do what I do,'' Merloni said, failing to understand exactly what he's saying. If Boston can pick up three guys every winter with Merloni-like talent, maybe Merloni ain't so talented. I find it hard to believe any contending team besides Boston would have kept Merloni around this long. ... Jimy Williams remains the same (and thankfully, he's far away) ... In Bruce Markusen's latest Cooperstown Confidential, he explores Dock Ellis's 1970 no-hitter-on-acid.
"I can only remember bits and pieces of the game," Ellis told the Pittsburgh Press in 1984 ... "I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the glove [of catcher Jerry May], but I didn’t hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters and [that] the bases were loaded two or three times."
In actuality, Ellis hit only one batter (Padres center fielder Ivan Murrell), but he was wild—exceptionally wild. Ellis walked eight Padres that night, an unusual occurrence for a pitcher who usually featured above-average control. "My breaking pitches were breaking way out," Ellis told Pittsburgh writer Charley Feeney immediately after the June 12th game. Although it’s impossible to say with any certainty, Ellis’ lack of control may have been caused by the effects of LSD. ... Interestingly, none of Ellis’ post-game comments indicated that he had been toiling under the effects of a mind-altering substance. On paper, his remarks seemed logical and cohesive, and he said nothing that came close to hinting of his use of LSD."
Joe Torre on Ramiro Mendoza: "It's going to be a little strange to pull against him. But obviously, where he is sitting in that dirty, rotten uniform he is wearing we are going to have to pull against him."
March 12, 2003
Casey Fossum, relying more on his fastball, felt like his old self in his third outing ... Pitching coach Tony Cloninger may have bladder cancer ... A short Q&A with Dom DiMaggio; plus his thoughts on a book by his brother Joe's longtime lawyer Morris Engelberg ... According to a December 11, 2000 memorandum written by two MLB lawyers, Anaheim, Arizona, Florida, Kansas City, Minnesota, Montreal, Oakland, San Diego and Tampa Bay were all possible contraction targets. ... Jose Mesa wants to kill Omar Vizquel. He's serious ... Was the worst major-league baseball player of all time really named Tony Suck?
March 11, 2003
There was no audio for Pedro's start against Cincinnati (though mlb.com did carry the split-squad game with the Pirates) and very little in the news stories. Martinez threw 54 pitches (37 strikes, 17 balls). With the help of Mike F in Ft. Myers, I have most of Pedro's play-by-play. Wonderland? Pedro says, "That's gone." [Also, Gerry Callahan on Pedro's contract demands.]
How did I miss this? Shea Hillenbrand compared himself to Jeff Bagwell, saying the Sox don't know what they would be losing if they traded him. Hillenbrand is mediocre at best -- his on-base averages have been .291 and .330 (anyone with a sub-.300 OBP should spend no time in the majors, but try telling that to Mr. Weebles). He also made 23 errors last season. ... But he does seem willing to learn, and Tony Massarotti points out that he finished 2002 with a higher batting average (.293 to .257), higher on-base percentage (.330 to .324) and higher slugging percentage (.459 to .424) than the average AL third baseman.
Features: Profiles of Jobu Zuleta, Ramiro Mendoza's sinker, Nomar's batting stance and John Burkett's 40 bowling balls. ... In his continuing player profiles, Art Martone looks at Giambi, Merloni, Mirabelli and Hillenbrand. ... After the first cuts of camp, Sean McAdam takes a long look at the what the final roster may be. Grady hints that RF, 3B, 2B and 1B are not settled. ... Finally, Manny Ramirez, who some will always see as a lazy malcontent, is hitting .476 and slugging .952 and still showing up for 8:00 am BP (he also made what sounds like the defensive play of the spring).
Jose Contreras got throttled by the mighty Devil Rays this weekend, so...
IP H R ER BB K
0227 Reds 2 3 5 5 2 3 (HR, WP)
0304 Red Sox 3 4 3 3 1 2
0309 Tampa Bay 3 7 7 7 2 0 (2 HR, Loss)
Totals 8 14 15 15 5 5 0-1, 16.88
March 10, 2003
Lots of stuff to get caught up on ... First of all, Pedro will make his second start today in a split-squad game against Cincinnati. Also, Theo Epstein does not expect to make any more deals this spring. Ian Browne of MLB had a lot of Pedro quotes after Martinez made his spring debut Thursday:
"I knew [the second] was going to be a good inning once I threw the first pitch. ... I was a lot more familiar with the mound than I was last year and I was able to use all of my pitches without any fear or anything to wonder about. I'm more secure. I know that I went through the whole season last year and I didn't get hurt and my arm felt great. Especially at the end, I kept feeling better and better and better. It seems like it's carried over to this Spring Training. ...
"I wasn't really all that excited this time because I knew I was fine. I knew what to expect this time. I knew it was just getting used to being in the game and preparing myself for the season. This time it was not like, 'How am I going to feel, how am I going to be, how am I going to feel the next day?'"
[He walked off the mound with satisfaction ... by getting Prince on a sharp hook.] "That was exactly what I meant to do. Just seeing the snap on the breaking ball was a good sign. That was a sign of how good I feel. Being able to throw all three pitches. The only pitch I didn't mess around with is the cutter, and it will come along because it's just a fastball. I believe by throwing every pitch I threw today, which was fastball-curveball-changeup, I'm pretty much showing everybody that I'm feeling better than last year."
"Compared to last year, I'm more positive," Martinez told the Orlando Sentinel. "I'm more confident that I can do the job." ... Jason Varitek almost flinched when he was asked about contending in the playoffs without Martinez: "Nobody wants to see what life is without him here. I don't even want to answer that question at this point. Not until I have to." ... Bob Hohler sees Martinez's old swagger ... Sean McAdam says Pedro is miffed at the unnecessary pressure on Casey Fossum. ... The Globe has a short Q&A.
Shea Hillenbrand wasn't impressed with Jose Contreras: "Everybody's been hyping him up to be this big thing. Today, he threw average. He kept throwing his breaking ball in the zone. I don't care how good he is, unless you're Barry Zito or Mike Mussina, if you do that, you're going to be in trouble. . . . I thought (Jeff) Weaver (who pitched the next three innings) was much better." ... Jeff Horrigan, John Tomase and David Heuschkel also write that the Sox were underwhelmed. ... Apparently, Contreras never really considered signing with Boston -- so much for those Cashman-outsmarted-Epstein stories ... Howard Bryant looks at the negotiations in detail. ... Also, links to the New York papers on Contreras's subpar outing.
One reason why the Sox signed Shea Hillenbrand to a one-year contract: Kevin Youkilis. Shea has also spoken out about his role, which the front office has not liked. ... Dan Shaughnessy continues to pick at the scab that is his Jose Offerman fixation. ... Johnny Damon says Manny "Vow of Silence" Ramirez is peaking at the plate. "We need him to go back to South Beach [and] slow down." ... Two stories on Freddy Sanchez ... The Giambi brothers match-up was also an item. Bob Klapisch says the Red Sox aren't convinced the Yankees are the Boss of the AL East. ... Michael Wolverton examines whether there is any link between spring success and regular season success.
March 8, 2003
Highlights from Florida: watching Pedro pitch on Thursday and getting Johnny Pesky's autograph. The Red Sox lost both games I saw (Yankees, Twins); also saw the Yankees lose to Atlanta and the Phillies. No new stuff until Monday morning, although the spring schedule is up to date ...
March 4, 2003
As you read this, I'm on my way from Manhattan to Ft. Myers. I hope to see Contreras duplicate his last outing against the Red Sox today (you think Steinbrenner might be shoving his Cuban "rookie" under the Sox noses?) (though seeing Matsui remains a question mark) and cheering wildly for Pedro on Thursday. Next entry should be Friday night. In the meantime: Don Malcolm of Baseball Primer looks at what we can expect (historically) from Barry Bonds in 2003 ... Derek Zumsteg writes a one-size-fits-all outlook for your team this spring ... and Alan Schwarz talks to Marvin Miller ... Final note: The box score for the Monday afternoon game with the Tigers is here -- and yet no matter where I looked, both teams' pitchers are listed alphabetically, not in the order in which they appeared. It reminded me that when mlb.com first started, it posted box scores listed the batters in alphabetical order. What's the point?
March 3, 3003
Ian Browne reports that Pedro was sharp Sunday in his second batting practice session, throwing 36 pitches in two simulated innings (15 and 21, respectively). Martinez tried to get Jim Rice to step in and hit, buzzed Andy Dominique and Freddy Sanchez inside and threw his cut-fastball for the first time. He's scheduled for a light throwing session tomorrow before pitching two innings against the Twins on Thursday. "I was very happy," Martinez said. "I'm healthy, that's all I need." ... David Heuschkel discusses Tony Cloninger's arm problems in his own short career (including a 200+ pitch game) and how that keeps Pedro's health in the front of his mind ... Bob Hohler looks at Chad Fox ... Third base is apparently Hillenbrand's job to lose (which Mueller understands), but the Sox have good options at first base. ... And Yes, Yankee News Keeps Creeping In (because my wife is a Yankees fan, and I find this story entertaining): Parts of David "The Wimp" Wells's book may be rewritten before it's released on March 14. .. I'm fascinated by Rick Ankiel's career. On Saturday, he made his spring debut, throwing 16 pitches to four passive Marlin hitters (the only swing was on the final pitch); he walked two men.
March 2, 2003
Pedro Martinez is scheduled to throw batting practice Sunday morning, followed by a bullpen side session on Tuesday. If all goes well, he will make his spring debut Thursday against the Minnesota Twins. ... Sean McAdam notes that Damian Jackson might have an edge on Lou Merloni for the utility infield spot. ... In his third set of player profiles, Art Martone looks at Damon, Burkett, Fossum and Manny. ... Casey Fossum should get used to having the bulky shadow of Bartolo Colon over his shoulder all summer. ... Robert Person believes he was arrested for DWB, but Tony Massarotti disagrees. ... David Heuschkel writes about 3B and on-base machine Kevin Youkilis. ... David Wells now says he's sorry for the words in his book. Like Reggie Jackson (see March 1), Wells claims he was "too honest." He's also blaming the media for noticing the advance copies sent out by the publisher. Plus, now he says he wasn't drunk on the day of his perfect game, he merely "took aspirin for a headache." Why can't this "outspoken" "rebel" admit to what he wrote/dictated instead of backpedaling as fast as he can? ... Oh, and Brian Cashman wants to remind everyone: "We don't run pitchers out there drunk." ... Somewhere Ruth and Mantle (while not pitchers) are sharing a hearty laugh ... But didn't Don Larsen stay out a bit too late the night before starting Game 5 of the 1956 World Series? (And Pittsburgh's Dock Ellis threw a no-no on acid!)
March 1, 2003
John Henry and Larry Lucchino held court on the one-year anniversary of their purchase of the Red Sox -- Henry says it has been more intense and engaging than expected. Among other things, they discussed a possible contract extension for Pedro Martinez. ... Pitcher Robert Person, arrested early Wednesday morning (or late Tuesday night, if you prefer) for having his car stereo turned up too loud and obstruction of justice, was released after spending about 13 hours in jail. What (correctly) should be a random note, was blown into an entire article in the Herald thanks to some juicy quotes from the cops. ... Brian Loyd, a late addition to the Sox camp (not on the roster or a camp invitee) only because the club wanted another catcher to work in the bullpen, whacked a three-run homer against the Reds. ... Art Martone's Notebook is still alive. Check out his player profiles too.
In the It's Never To Early To Gloat Dept.: It looks like Kamp Kaos has moved up the coast to Tampa. First, Derek Jeter bristled at having to explain that going out at night wouldn't hurt his grades. [And remember -- Jeter's batting average, on-base average and slugging percentage have declined in each of the last three years, so his talent is "hard to quantify."] Elsewhere, Nick Johnson has had 2 MRIs on his left wrist; Contreras was rocked in his debut; Soriano has a sore shoulder; Steinbrenner shut down Clemens's golf-related photo shoot; both of Bernie Williams's shoulders are hurting; Rivera was in a car accident; Henson has been a miserable failure; and snippets from Wells's forthcoming book have been making the rounds. One interesting note re Wells pitching his 1998 perfect game with a "raging skull-rattling" hangover -- in 2002, he pitched much worse in day games (7.15 ERA) than at night (2.80). That has actually been the case over the past three seasons: 5.82 to 3.25. ... And for old times sake, Reggie Jackson was bitching about his place in Steinbrenner's world. The next day, Jackson sought to undo the damage, admitting he had been "too honest." ... Bonus: Wells's 911 call after getting clocked by a "fucking Italian, little squatty-body motherfucker":
Operator: Police operator 139, what is the emergency?
Wells: Um, my emergency is I just got offended. I'm on 86th and Third. Uh, actually 86th and First. I'm on ...
Operator: Okay, but that's in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, or Manhattan?
Wells: Yes ...
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