for April 1-15, 2003
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April 15, 2003
Rob Wood: "[W]in values suggests that Tim Hudson, a pitcher who did not appear on a single  Cy Young ballot, contributed the most among AL starting pitchers. As always, Cy Young voters and the general public place too much emphasis on a pitcher’s won-loss record." ... Doug Pappas's blog has some excellent commentary about the HoF-Bull Durham flap, as well as the complete text of letters to the Hall from Roger Kahn and Jules Tygiel.
So Pedro got booed by a portion of the home town fans after his horrific outing against Baltimore, a start in which Martinez said he never felt in a groove. Was the booing justified? No. It may have been the worst start of his career and it came at a time when Red Sox fans could be forgiven some (or maybe a lot) of frustration. But Martinez has also given those same fans what could be seriously argued as the two best pitching seasons in the history of the game (1999 and 2000). His selflessness and commitment to his team was cemented for all time in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS. As this discussion at Baseball Primer acknowledges, Red Sox fans are usually harder on their own players than the opposing team -- and it's clear from his comments that Pedro understands this. The other question raised in the discussion, and in the media, is whether Martinez was too thin-skinned in his comments afterwards. Again, I don't think so. Pedro offered his honest thoughts on how he felt walking off the field, not the usual cliched crap we always hear. Martinez has always been upfront about his feelings and this often sounds jarring in the context of the non-answers we are used to hearing. It must be doubly frustrating for Pedro to attempt some degree of honesty and still have your words and motives twisted by the Boston media.
April 15, 1994: Beloit Brewers P Kelly Wunsch strikes out five batters in the 3rd inning of Beloit's Class A Midwest League game against the Springfield Sultans. Two of the five reach base after striking out on pitches that get away from the catcher.
April 15, 1972: Reggie Jackson sports a mustache as the A's top the Twins 43 in 11 innings. Jackson is reported as the first ML player with facial hair since Wally Schang in 1914.
April 14, 2003
Embree, Mendoza, Howry, Timlin and Fox were booed during Opening Day introductions. Pedro said: "If you don't do your job, I guess they are going to boo you. That was a pure example of that. There were times I didn't do my job my first year [in Boston], and they booed. The times I did my job they always clapped. I respect that, I can live with that. If I don't do my job, you can boo that." And indeed, after his poor performance on Saturday, Pedro heard some boos. "I heard that in 1998. The first time I struggled, I heard about every cent I earned at the time I signed. I heard that for almost a week." ... On July 18, 1999, Pedro allowed nine earned runs in 3.2 innings to the Marlins (and went on the disabled list 6 days later) (Dan Shaughnessy erroneously says it was the Devil Rays). The seven runs he allowed in the fifth inning topped the six runs he surrendered pitching for the Expos on July 1, 1994. ... Pedro hadn't allowed more than four earned runs in a start since Opening Day in 2002!
Before Saturday's game was washed out, Steve Woodard was set to start and, if the skies had cleared, Pedro would have relieved in the second or third inning. ... Lowe goes to the videotape (see also April 4 below) ... Art Martone notes (correctly) that "It's not the concept of a committee that's failed the Red Sox so far. It's the pitchers in the committee." ... Pedro gets his hair cut at Juan Fernandez's Barber Shop in Jamaica Plain ("he likes it short over the ears'') and according to Franklin Cabral of Franklin's CDs, Martinez is a huge fan of pachata artist Antoni Santa. ... Tony Massarotti suggests putting Robert Person in the starting rotation and making Casey Fossum the closer. ... This is pretty funny: Ken Rosenthal says a Hillenbrand-for-Benitez deal "might make sense once the Mets fall out of contention" ... Finally -- Have You Seen This Man?
April 13, 2003
Wow. Pedro Martinez allowed a career-high 10 runs against the Orioles Saturday night (his ERA shot from 0.60 to 5.12). Alan Embree was placed on the DL. Some good news: third base coach Mike Cubbage, who a diabetic seizure and collapsed on the field in the sixth inning, will be fine.
April 11, 2003
Damn! Opening Day at Fenway is rained out. Pedro, free of shoulder worries, will pitch the first game of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday. (And now that the ink on Pedro's 2004 option is dry, let the ba$hing begin.) Boston is the only AL team not to have played a home game. I saw brief shots of the Monster Seats before the game was called; they look great. Also, down by the on-deck circles, there are seats 53 feet, 11 inches from the plate -- which puts you more than six feet closer to the batter than the pitcher.
Grady Little continues to astound me with his ineptitude. Last night in Toronto, he sent Mike Timlin out for the 9th inning with an 8-4 lead. Timlin had already pitched 1.2 innings (19 pitches) and the first two Toronto batters singled. Not a peep from the bullpen. A force play scored a run and Delgado pounded a 2-run homer, cutting the lead to 8-7. Grady finally woke up and told Chad Fox to get warm -- in a hurry. (Did Grady suddenly realize what the score was?) Timlin got the last two outs on four pitches, though, and Boston won a game that felt more like a loss. ... I like using a flexible bullpen, but Grady is clearly overmatched by the idea for it to work (he also has no clue about platoon splits). Whatever this team does will be done in spite of its manager, but how bad will things get before Little is in danger of losing his job? ...
Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey is a jingoistic idiot. On Tuesday, he canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of the film "Bull Durham" (set for April 26-27) because of the anti-war stance of two of the film's co-stars, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Petroskey is a former White House assistant press secretary under Ronald Reagan and was assistant secretary of public affairs at the US Department of Transportation, serving as Secretary Elizabeth Dole's senior spokesperson. Petroskey stated that Robbins's and Sarandon's comments "could put our troops in even more danger." Sadly, he did not explain how this could happen. ... I've always believed that clamping down on dissent and demanding blind obedience was what totalitarian regimes and dictators insist upon. Kevin Costner, another star of the movie and a Republican, agrees: "Tim and Susan's courage is the type of courage that makes our democracy work. Pulling back this 'invite' is against the whole principle about what we fight for and profess to be about."
I agree with what Teddy Roosevelt, in a column published in the Kansas City Star during World War I (May 7, 1918), wrote: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
Jeff Jacobs (Hartford Courant), Ira Berkow (New York Times), Jeff Blair (Toronto Globe and Mail) and Steve Kelley (Seattle Times) all blast the move. Jim Baker of ESPN's Insider tried to find a columnist who supported the cancellation, but came up empty. Jim Caple manages to wring some humor from this latest example of baseball's foot-in-mouth disease.
Roger Kahn cancelled his August appearance at the Hall promoting his book about the 1978 Yankees "October Men":
By canceling the Hall of Fame anniversary celebration of 'Bull Durham' for political reasons, you are, far from supporting our troops, defying the noblest of the American spirit. You are choking freedom of dissent. How ironic. In theory, at least, we have been fighting this war to give Iraqis freedom of dissent. But here you, through the great institution you head, have moved to rob Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Ron Shelton of that very freedom. In support of the American right to dissent, I have no choice but to cancel my August speaking appearance at the Hall.
Today, Petroskey defended the cancellation. "What we were trying to do was take politics out of this." Psst, Dale, there was no politics in this to begin with. The only person mentioning politics is you. It's just a get-together for a (not very good) baseball movie.
April 10, 2003
Having to listen to last night's loss on the net because of the ESPN Wednesday night blackout was probably a blessing in disguise. Casey Fossum imploded in the fifth inning, throwing 41 pitches before being relieved by Ramiro Mendoza, who allowed a grand slam to the first batter he faced. Grady Little then left Mendoza in for 9 batters (4 hits and 1 walk), by which point, the game was out of reach. Why leave a clearly ineffective pitcher in the game? Grady did the same damn thing with Mendoza in Baltimore. Couldn't the pen have two guys up in case the first reliever bombs? Judging from his in-game demeanor and post-game comments, Grady doesn't seem to give a shit what happens on the field, but I wish the players had a little more fire. If they fall behind by 3 or more runs, they give up, stop working the count and get lazy. ...
April 9, 2003
Neither side is talking about the possible contract extension numbers, but Pedro, in saying he wanted to finish his career with the Red Sox, offered a small hint: "What I wanted from Boston was way below Manny's [contract value]." And:
''They could have gotten me for less money at this point. I sacrificed a lot of money by not being a free agent the next two years, but at 33, being a free agent, if I'm healthy I can get whatever. That's going to be off the table. They know. They agreed to that. ... I [was willing to] sacrifice a lot to remain in Boston. If I bring out the numbers, if I ever did, you'd be shocked if I ever give you the sheet of negotiations. But we decided to keep it private and we are going to do that and stick to our word. They already picked up my option, which tells me they're trying. I'm just going to let it go, but it's not going to be there in November, not the same offer. God willing, if I stay healthy, I'm not planning on leaving that on the table.'' [Also here]
ESPN's Power Alley ranks Red Sox 4th (behind the Giants, A's and Yankees). ... Bringing up the rear is the Detroit Tigers who through six games are hitting .133/.179/.183. That's an .362 team OPS (!). On April 2, the Tigers became the first team to have four pitchers make their major league debuts in the same game. Jeremy Bonderman, Wilfredo Ledezma, Chris Spurling and Matt Roney pitched in an 8-1 loss to the Twins.
There is so much talk about how poorly the Red Sox bullpen is performing - and it's true, it's been frustrating as hell. But Boston's doing much better than this AL East-leading team (about whose pen you have heard very little):
G IP H
ER BB K ERA
Boston 8 29.2 38 20 16 19 6.07 1.82
Team X 6 12.1 24 13 6 16 9.49 2.43
April 8, 2003
The Associated Press reported at 7:40 Monday night that the Red Sox exercised Pedro Martinez's $17.5 million option for 2004. ''We're pleased that it's done and behind us,'' Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. ''We've got a satisfied and focused Pedro Martinez.'' ... ''I am thankful and glad that they picked up the option,'' Martinez said in a statement. ''I'm also thankful that we both left the door open for negotiations in November after the season. Hopefully, then we can get something done. I am glad that it's over. Now I want to focus on baseball.'' ... According to the Globe, Pedro's agent, Fernando Cuza, called it a "great first step" but added that the two sides had discussed an extension, but "couldn't come to terms on a dollar amount." [News at mlb, Globe, Herald, Projo, Hartford Courant, MassLive]
Dan Shaughnessy hints that it was a sign of weakness to exercise the option so early, while Tony Massarotti comes out and says it. I agree with Howard Bryant, who begins his Herald column - headlined "Red Sox know a Happy Pedro is Priceless" - this way:
This may reveal the depths of one's naivete, but perhaps there is no smoking gun in the Red Sox' decision to pick up the $17.5 million 2004 option on Pedro Martinez. Maybe, for once, ego and machismo were pushed to the side and the result was a business decision that benefits both sides equally.
Martinez got his wish. He will be the richest pitcher in the game's history next year, but with it, the Red Sox have lost nothing. In a more cynical world, an argument could be made that Martinez made the Red Sox blink. The big-money pitcher drew a line in the sand, scared his employers, and made the bigger-money Red Sox wilt with the prospect of losing him. The inmates are running the asylum again.
Another argument could be made that the Red Sox and Martinez had a sitdown here amid the ice and snow and Martinez agreed to certain humbling concessions that allowed the Red Sox to trigger the option and save face at the same time.
Both scenarios are possible, but it says here that neither is the case. It says here that Martinez should know to be mature enough to have received what he wanted without gloating and the Red Sox brass savvy and smart enough collectively to not feel defeated.
Kevin Millar is contributing a diary to mlb.com. The first installment begins:
The first time it really hit me that I was part of the Red Sox was the first day I put on the uniform. When you're wearing the red and you've got the Boston Red Sox uniform on, I think that's when it hits you. There's so much tradition that comes with wearing this uniform. ... I can't wait to get to Fenway Park on Friday. ... It's going to be a dream being in the home white Red Sox uniform on Opening Day. ... [T]here is nothing I'm looking forward to more. Just thinking about getting out on that field and smelling the hot dogs and looking at the fans and all the red that is going to be in the seats. It's going to be awesome."
A fascinating column from Rob Neyer: "A man named Bill Ford pitched in the major leagues for a brief time in 1936. But until recently, there was no mention of him in the history books." ... John "Way Back" Wasdin pitched a perfect game for Nashville (Pirates AAA in the PCL) last night, striking out 15 in a 4-0 win over Albuquerque. [Box score] ... Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News: "In a 5-1 first week in which the Yankees hit everything but the lottery, there was one blemish that may eventually make Yankee executives jittery - the bullpen. Yankee relievers allowed 22 hits and 13 runs in 12-1/3 innings, compiling an ERA of 9.49 ..."
April 7, 2003
If rain is expected around the beginning of one of Pedro's starts, or if it is raining close to the first pitch, Grady Little says he may start one of the relievers and bring Pedro into the game (weather permitting) in the second or third inning. Derek Lowe likes the idea. "I agree with it because you want him to have the opportunity to pitch a full game. You don't want him to pitch three innings and then get rained out. That would basically waste an outing of Pedro's."
Is Pedro Back? John Tomase reports that Saturday was Pedro's 16th straight start allowing three runs or fewer (in 11 of those 16 starts, he's allowed one or none); he's 11-2 with a 1.29 ERA in that span. ... Sean McAdam notes that in 2001, Pedro did not finish among the Top 40 AL starters in run support. In 2000, Martinez did not allow more than 3 runs in any of his 6 losses. Last year, Martinez had the 8th-highest support (6.23 runs per nine innings). And this year (so far):
Five games not started by Pedro: 50 runs,
10 runs per game
Two games started by Pedro: 5 runs, 2½ runs per game
Little says he is confident in his team, but the less said about his managing this weekend the better. Little let Mendoza face eight batters and surrender hit after hit after hit on Friday night, nearly blowing an 8-3 lead in the ninth inning. Little's call for a bunt in the top of the 9th on Saturday was right out of Jimy Williams's Book of Moron and after a bases-loaded walk allowed Boston to tie the game at 1-1, Chad Fox (who couldn't throw strikes) was kept in the game long enough to walk home the game-losing run in the bottom half of the inning.
Last Friday, Knoxville Smokies (AA) pitcher Rick Ankiel pitched a scoreless inning of relief (with 2 strikeouts) in a 9-7 victory over Mobile. On Sunday, Ankiel threw six straight balls and made a throwing error that led to two runs. He rebounded to strike out the final two batters. Ankiel is a good hitting pitcher and I wonder how seriously the Cardinals have thought about converting him into an every-day player (he hit .250 in 2000).
April 4, 2003
With Tony Cloninger back in Massachusetts, Pedro Martinez stepped into the role of pitching coach on Wednesday night. He studied video of Derek Lowe's first inning and alerted him to a flaw in his footwork. Lowe told the Herald: "I had no idea where the ball was going or why it was going where it was going. ... I was in somewhat of a panic mode." Martinez told Lowe to move his front foot over a few inches. "If Tony was here, he probably would've said the same thing but the coaching staff we have hasn't seen me that much. Pedro's seen me pitch for five years." ... Pedro says he understands the attentions of the team are elsewhere right now (Cloninger's cancer and an illness in Larry Lucchino's family) and has backed off his negotiating deadline (which had been today) ... Kevin Millar is fitting right in ... It wasn't all that pretty, but Casey Fossum threw five good innings, striking out eight; consistency still seems to be a problem. ... Speaking of Casey, is Bartolo Colon's declining strikeouts rates a bad omen? ... Revised Fielding System: Ultimate Zoning Rating, Parts 1 and 2 ...
Another quote to clip and save: Mark Farinella of the Sun Chronicle (Attleboro, Mass.):
"Seriously, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? ... Isn't this the Red Sox team that was supposed to win 96, 97 or more games? The one that had the power hitting and the starting pitching to finally overcome the "Evil Empire'' ... I'm not trying to predict doom and gloom after just two games of a 162-game schedule, but I think it's fair to suggest that a lot of the pundits grossly overestimated exactly what the Red Sox have ... put me down as pessimistic ... 78-80 wins, even with the likes of Tampa Bay and Baltimore in the division ..."
I haven't been watching ESPN or Baseball Tonight, but apparently the Red Sox's bullpen has been a running joke -- all based on one bad inning of work last Monday, which to my mind (see April 1 below), actually ran counter to the "committee" approach being ridiculed. Here's some ignorant bird droppings from one "Tristan H. Cockcroft" headlined "Closer-by-catastrophe":
The Curse of the Bambino lives on. In yet the latest debacle involving baseball's lovable losers, the Boston Red Sox, a disastrous relief outing on opening day has already cast doubt on the team's plan to use a closer-by-committee approach.
Here is another piece of crap I can't bring myself to quote even a little bit of. The Sons of Sam Horn mock the rampant idiocy in the baseball media:
redsox brain: Seattle's Bullpen With Closer Idea Fails -- The Mariners, with one of the more consistent "closers" in the game, blew three save chances in yesterday's game.
Cy Jung: The performances by Glavine, Maddux and R. Johnson, among others, have thoroughly discredited the concept of the "established starting pitcher." Blown saves have discredited both the "established closer" and "closer by committee." It would probably be better if no one pitched at all from now on.
In another thread, "jacklamabe65" posted something that rang true to me:
One of the side issues of "The Committee" has been the press's reference to the notion that the Red Sox have gone back to the old way - pre LaRussa - in terms of running a bullpen. ... [In] 1978, Yankee reliever Goose Gossage was brought in at the top of the seventh inning to close out the infamous playoff game against the Red Sox. No manager in baseball today would have their closer brought in to get the last nine outs of a game.
In my mind, today's "Closer by Committee" approach combines the notion of the effective pitcher of the old days along with the specialist situation of the present time period. I view it as a compromise between the two perspectives. Is it revolutionary? Certainly not. Is it a fascinating compromise? Yes. It is intriguing to me that many baseball people are "rooting" for the Red Sox "experiment" to work even as a skeptical and somewhat ignorant press is not.
The view from the Monster Seats:
April 3, 2003
Ian Browne of MLB.com says there should be some sort of resolution to the Pedro talks "in the next couple of days ... whether it is an extension, a renewed 2004 option or a decision to wait until after the season to resume talks." ... Is Lou Pinella is a genius? Kevin Millar won Tuesday's game with a 16th inning home run off Jorge Sosa. In Thursday's game, Pinella brought Sosa in to start the 5th inning. His first pitch was belted for a home run by ... Kevin Millar -- almost to the exact same spot. In the next inning, Pinella walked Manny Ramirez intentionally to load the bases for Millar -- who doubled off the right field wall for 2 runs. Thanks, Lou. ... Rob Neyer thinks the Red Sox will win the 2003 World Series; Brandon Funston and Tom Tippett also picked the Sox.
Bill Simmons, formerly known as the Boston Sports Guy:
No sentence makes me cringe more than, "This puts sports in perspective." ... Wait, just so I have this straight: When people die, when things blow up -- that's more important than my NCAA pool? Thanks for clearing that up. ... [W]hen was the last time you heard someone say, "I was watching a bartender in a Hawaiian shirt mix daiquiris last night. He looked so ridiculous. I'm just glad the war has put bartending in perspective for me." Never, that's when.
April 2, 2003
The Red Sox should have lost last night's game several times. But some fine pitching from Steve Woodard and Brandon Lyon and a fantastic throw from LF Damian Jackson in the 12th inning (Doug Mirabelli sprained his ankle in the collision with Travis Lee) kept the lid on until the last man off the bench, Kevin Millar, hit a 16th-inning home run. (Maybe carrying 12 pitchers wasn't so crazy.) I'm confident Boston will win at least as many games as they did last year (93), but these two games against the division's perennial doormat have been exhausting.
Art Martone's Notebook has returned, though he says it will be "a shell of its former life ... posted once a week, on Wednesday mornings (usually by noon), and will probably take the form of a mailbag." Art quotes himself from back on March 16th:
It won't take many blown saves -- not even as many as Urbina blew all by himself last year, I'd reckon -- for people to start deciding Little is two bricks shy of a load. Especially since there's plenty of folks out there who already think he's one brick shy, based mainly on the team's pathetic record in one-run games last year.
That's the downside of a "bullpen by committee." It's a particularly deep downside for Little and the Red Sox, since a lot of people a) disagree with the decision to go without a closer and b) don't consider Little a tactical genius to begin with.
"When you [had] a guy that saves 40 games for you, it's difficult to understand that you're going to hand the ball to a committee of relievers that you've never seen before. To me, it's the first time I've seen this happen. Maybe for Grady, it's not. For me, it's something new. I'm going to have to trust Grady on that and just shut my mouth and continue to do my work. ... Grady is the only one who has the idea how he will use the relievers. I can only hope one of them will step up and get the principal role and be the first one to close the game. I hope one of them distinguishes himself from the other and we're able to use him with the confidence we would have in a real stopper."
Gerry Callahan responds in the Herald: "No, actually Pedro, you're going to have to trust Embree and Fox and Mendoza and Timlin. Grady is going to hand them the ball, they're going to have to throw it. Maybe they'll continue to let you down, but you gave your pal Oogie more than one opportunity last year. These guys deserve the same chance."
Final 2003 Red Sox spring training stats and 25-man roster. ... Eric Wilbur of the Boston Globe is writing a Blog. ... Travis Nelson muses that the Yankees might be a better team without Derek Jeter ... And some quotes to file away:
Jon Heyman: "The Yankees don't need Derek Jeter to take this lopsided division. They don't even need a poor impersonation of Jeter."
Michael Kay: "If the Yankees don't win the American League East by at least 10 games, I would be shocked. ... Pedro and the Red Sox will have a hard time keeping up with the Yankees. All that being said, the Yankees are so much better than the Boston Red Sox that they simply should not be on the same level. And they aren't. ... In sum, there is no way they can keep up with the Yankees for a 162-game season." [Headlined Yanks a virtual lock in AL East]
April 1, 2003
Shit ........................ well, that wasn't very much fun. Good news? The first 8 innings. Pedro -- 7 innings, 3 hits, 6 strikeouts, one unearned run, 91 pitches. Boston, which stormed out of the gate with three first-inning runs, was cruising 4-1. Ramiro Mendoza threw a 9-pitch, 1-2-3 8th inning. And then ... those 9 pitches was all it took for Huckleberry Happytalk to toss the team's new closer philosophy into the trash and bring on Alan Embree, who many believe should be the principal closer. Embree coughed up a single, a pinch-hit home run (to Terry Shumpert?!?!) and another single. Chad Fox followed with a strikeout and a fielder's choice, but then gave up a walk and a three-run, game-losing home run. ... Yes, Embree and Fox blew the game (and they admitted it afterwards), but Mendoza should have started the 9th and Grady could have gone to the pen at the first (or second) sign of trouble. Little said afterwards that the lefty batters in the 9th seemed right for Embree; sure, but I'm sure Lou Pinella know about using pinch-hitters. How about you, Grady? Christ ... I'm already fuming ... 161 more games to go.
I watched the NESN broadcast on mlb.tv and was quite happy with it. First pitch of the season at 5:17 (my time) and three runs in the first had Joe Kennedy slump-shouldered on the mound. ... Pedro got Toby Hall to pop up to first base in the 3rd inning with a nasty fastball that rode up and in to around Hall's eyes. ... In the 7th, Pedro seemed tired -- Al Martin nailed a flat fastball for a single and Ben Grieve launched a long foul to right before being hit in the foot with a pitch. ... Tampa rookie Rocco Baldelli struck out in his major league debut against Petey, then whacked a double his next time up. NESN spoke to his parents in the stands shortly thereafter.
Pedro repeated his confusion about the pen and his unease about letting Urbina go. ... The Martinez contract deadline has passed, but the Red Sox said talks of a contract extension are ongoing. ... Stories over the weekend on the Red Sox/Yankees battle were in the Boston Herald and the NY Daily News. ... Dan "Baseball Crank" McLaughlin ends his look at each decade's underappreciated team: 1974 Dodgers, 1988 Mets and 1998 Astros. ... And Derek Jeter could miss four months.
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