Break out the confetti

So today’s a date in Red Sox history that for as important as it was, I bet there are few fans (including myself) who could’ve picked this date out of a lineup.

Duquette.jpg2002: Dan Duquette is fired as Red Sox GM.

We all know he wouldn’t give Roger Clemens enough money to come back and had issues with pretty much every manager that came into town in his decade (or so) of running the Sox.

Before we all stand up and applaud, let’s give the man some credit. If you look at his record, he actually did a pretty good job for the Sox.

TRIVIA QUESTION

Who were three of Dan Duquette’s first free agent signings for the Sox following the strike in 1994? Hint, none of them ever played for the Sox.

In 1995, he pulled the trigger to bring Rick Aguilera to Boston. Even if it was for just a half season, Ags recorded 20 saves and all it cost the Sox was a minor leaguer, J.J. Johnson, and Frank Rodriguez, who went a combined 29-39 for his career with an ERA of 5.53.

1996: Parted ways with Ken Ryan, Lee Tinsley and Glenn Murray to get Heathcliff Slocumb and two other guys I never heard of. At the offset the trade didn’t look that great, but we know what happened next. (Of course at the time, I looked at this trade and was outraged that he gave up Ken Ryan. I thought he was gonna be awesome.)

1997: Slocumb becomes a Mariner. And Red Sox history is changed forever by the additions of Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek.

Following the 1997 season, another champion piece comes to Boston, as Duquette reels in NL Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr.

Then in 1999, Duquette brought Carl Everett to Boston, shipping off Adam Everett and minor leaguer Greg Miller. While Carl Everett would end up showing us he’s a head-case, it was fun to watch other teams complain about how close he was to the plate when he stood in the box.

Then there were Duquette’s big signings: Tim Wakefield, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Dennis Eckersly have to be at the top of that list.

Really, if you look back at what Duquette managed to do, it’s rather amazing how many of the 2004 pieces came into place because of the Duke.

So on this day, March 1, 2009, let’s reflect & thank the Duke for his role (including being fired) in helping the Sox win two World Series in four years. Good day Duke wherever you are (last I knew he was GM in the Israel Baseball League, no joke!)

TRIVIA ANSWER

New Rules for free agency went into place (and were subsequently removed) during the strike of 1994 meaning the Red Sox signing of Sammy Sosa, John Wetteland and Kevin Appier were voided.

Photo courtesy Sonsofsamhorn.com

Advertisements

Dodgers 2009: Train keeps a rollin

Polishing off our first division will be the 2009 Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

Every baseball fan knows how last season went. The Dodgers were average until July 31.

 

Manny Ramirez Pictures, Images and Photos

 

Over the last two months of the season, the team was still just 30-24, but it was plainly obvious that the addition of Manny Ramirez made the team much more of a threat.

 

Trivia Question

 

Manny finished fourth in the National League MVP race after playing for the team for just two months. Can you name the last player to win the award (NL or AL) after being traded during the season?

 

The Good

 

Orlando Hudson #1 - 2nd Base Pictures, Images and Photos

 

The Dodgers vastly improved their defense with the addition of Orlando Hudson. Plus the team’s overall makeup is full of players most other teams would die for (Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton). The mixture of very talented youngsters with strong veteran presence is something you can’t look past.

 

The Bad

 

As of this instant, Manny is not a Dodger for 2009. If there’s no Manny, Juan Pierre becomes the likely full-time third outfielder for better or for worse. Behind the teams’ best three pitchers, is a logjam of pitchers recovering from injuries (Jason Schmidt, Shawn Estes) and other unknown variables.

 

Trivia Answer

 

It’s never happened. The next player to do it will be the first! There were several MVPs who won in their first season with a team, but none has been traded during the season and won the award.

 

Bottom Line

 

Even without Manny, this team is the class of the NL West. The top of their rotation is the real deal and the “gamer” attitude seen throughout much of the position players is enough to carry the Dodgers to another divisional title with or without Manny.

 

Prediction

 

I believe Manny Ramirez will be a Dodger again in 2009. But since he’s not on the roster….yet, I’m rating the team without him.

 

1st Place, NL West, 88-74.

Manny Say What?

So apparently Manny Ramirez has decided the terms of the Dodgers latest contract offer isn’t good enough.

MANNY RAMIREZ Pictures, Images and Photos

If I’m Ned Coletti or any other GM/Owner in baseball or even a casual fan, I have to read that statement this way.

“I, Manny Ramirez, do not want to play baseball!”

I was a Manny defender for a long time, right up until he pushed the Sox travelling secretary. But this decision on Manny’s part is ridiculous.If earning $20MM when he’s 39 (in 2010) isn’t enough change for this chump, then the Dodgers aren’t going to be able to meet his demands. It’s as simple as that.

As for the Dodgers, the best thing they can do right now is to give Manny an ultimatum, similar to the Packers and Brett Favre after the 2007 season. The Dodgers should keep that offer on the table but put a final “drop-dead” date for Manny before they move on without him.

And that date can’t be too far out. March begins on Sunday and this team as do all the others in baseball, need to focus on the 162 games that begin in a little more than a month. We all know Manny isn’t focused on those 162 games yet. And while we know he could get himself ready, it’s obvious he doesn’t want to.

img_characterGoob.jpgManny knows nobody else is going to offer $45MM over two seasons and likely won’t get a four year deal from anyone else either, which leads to the only possible explanation, he doesn’t want to play baseball. It’s evident in the way he performs, he’s like the kid in 3rd grade who’s tested out at 8th grade math, but still has to learn basic arithmetic. He’s so talented that he gets bored with the game itself, much like the third grader. So to make things more interesting, Manny demands too much money, enough to make it interesting for himself, but leaving himself room to say it’s not enough so I’m not going to play.

As for the Dodgers, would it really be that bad if Manny doesn’t sign? Probably not. They’ve already improved their team, especially up the middle with a healthy Rafael Furcal and the addition of Orlando Hudson. Sure they missed out on all the other outfielders on the market, but really did they need one with Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre, they have enough to compete, especially in this division.

It’s time for the Dodgers to excuse themselves from the table. If Manny really doesn’t want to play, the Dodgers need to call him on it, see if he’s bluffing. If not, they get one of the all-time greats, if he is ready to quit, then the Dodgers can return to being a normal Major League Baseball Club.

——–

And if you got through all that and you’re interested in some good new music, check out Ume.

 

My interview with the band for Sonic Dissonance, my music blog

Diamondbacks 2009: Capitalizing on youth?

I’ve finally reached the midway point tonight with the 82-80 Arizona Diamondbacks.

In what’s considered a pretty wide-open division (at least for the next few minutes right up until Manny signs), the Diamondbacks are considered the trendy and maybe safe pick for the NL West.

brandon webb.jpgThe Good

Any good points about the Diamondbacks have to start with Brandon Webb. He is one of the best pitchers in baseball and so long as he’s healthy, he’ll be in that conversation for several more seasons to come. Then you throw in the rest of the young talent including Danny Haren, Justin Upton, Stephen Drew and Chris Young and it’s clear why people favor the Diamondbacks to be a solid team again in 2009.

Trivia Question

Mark Reynolds accomplished a rare feat last year, leading the league in strikeouts and errors. Can you name the last player to lead the league in both categories in the same season?

The Bad

3B Mark Reynolds is a strikeout machine. If I’m not mistaken, the Brewers (Rob Deer) and Indians (Cory Snyder) of the 1980s found out that a good power hitter who strikes out every other time he struts up tot the plate isn’t a recipe for success.  I’m also not too high on Chad Qualls at the closer position. He’s done well for his career out of the pen and had some success last year for the Dbacks, but I’m not convinced Qualls can hang onto the lead 40 times a season for a contender.

Bottom Line

For a team with so much talent last year, 82-80 wasn’t really a good record. Now the Diamondbacks are faced with a new season sans Orlando Hudson, Randy Johnson, Brandon Lyon, Adam Dunn and (presumably) Juan Cruz. On the other hand, Arizona brought Jon Garland, 41 year old Tom Gordon and the always moving (teams) Felipe Lopez in. Sure there’s enough talent here to be competitive in this division again, but if you want to know what’s wrong with Arizona for 2009, all you have to do is look at the Giants, Dodgers and Rockies, all of which made major moves (for better or worse) as an effort to win.

versailles.jpgTrivia Answer

Zoilo Versailles had one of the strangest seasons on record in 1965 for the Twins. Versailles led the league with 122 strikeouts and 39 errors. He also managed to win the MVP and Gold Glove that year.

Prediction

Based on the teams as they sit currently (I.e., Dodgers without Manny Ramirez), I think the Diamondbacks are the third best team in the division. On any given day (especially when Webb starts) they could be the best team in the division, but Webb and Haren can’t start 162 games, this isn’t 1909.

3rd Place, NL West, 80-82

Photo credits:
Webb: http://suttonplace.mlblogs.com/
Zoilo Versailles: http://www.facebook.com/people/Zoilo-Versailles/577849633

Indians 2009: Return to Form

Two of the last three years I picked the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series. The only year I didn’t, they fell just short when the Red Sox came back from down 3 games to 1 in 2007. Last year, the Indians were a popular pick, although not as “hot” as the Tigers. This year, that chatter seems to have fallen off yet again and I’m not sure why.

Trivia Question

Last year, the Indians figured their season was over early and parted ways with reigning Cy Young winner CC Sabathia before midseason. Who was the last reigning Cy Young winner to be traded while holding the Cy Young crown? (Hint: I’ve already used this pitcher in a previous trivia question) (Double Bonus Hint: the traded pitcher was dealt for someone on this Indians team in the trade following being named Cy Young winner.)

The Good

kerry wood.jpgAnytime a team adds a dependable (when healthy) pitcher like Kerry Wood and trades for an under-rated everyday guy who’s exceptional in a utility role like Mark DeRosa to a team that went 44-28 down the stretch, don’t you have to be considered armed and dangerous? Travis Hafner is expected to be healthy, Victor Martinez is expected to be healthy, Fausto Carmona is expected to be healthy and Grady Sizemore may be the best player in baseball that nobody talks about.

The Bad

There aren’t many people that expect a repeat performance out of Cliff Lee in 2009 (count me among those). However, Lee is and always has been a good pitcher. The biggest question, is can he lead the team from Game 1 through Game 162 and beyond? Continuing with pitching questions, is what effect Carl Pavano can have on this staff. If he’s even mediocre, he becomes one of the best free agent moves of this offseason. If not, the Indians have plenty of youngsters to fill in, I’m just not sure the end outcome will be as bright.

Trivia Answer

pedro.jpg1997 marked the first Cy Young of Pedro Martinez career and it was for the Montreal Expos (the only one in franchise history). Of course, 23 days after the Marlins doused the Indians in Game 7 of the World Series, Martinez was shipped to Boston for Carl Pavano (and Tony Armas, Jr. as the player to be named later). We all know how well that deal worked for Boston and Montreal.

Bottom Line

Outside of the top three teams in the AL East, the Indians should be considered the best team in the American League. Of course all of this is tied directly to the pitching staff. CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon are no longer the aces for this staff. So long as Lee or Carmona can fill those shoes the Indians will be playing deep into October.

Prediction

I have no doubts about the talent on this team. I think they stay healthy and Eric Wedge does another great job for the Indians getting another playoff berth. (you’ll have to wait for my post-season preview after I’m done with all the teams to find out how far they go)

94-78; 1st Place AL Central.

Photo credits:
Martinez: http://bballsml.wordpress.com/2008/02/15/
Wood: http://tribechick.mlblogs.com/archives/2008/12/kerry_wood_is_officially_welco.html

19 years ago today

19 years ago today, one of baseball’s finest, Tony Conigliaro, passed away, he would have been 64 if alive today.

conigliaro.jpgConigliaro, who’s career was cut short by a tragic result from a pitch to the face, was considered by many to be one of baseball’s brightest young talents in the mid 1960s.

While Canigliaro’s career ended before I emerged from the womb, I understand what he meant to Boston and baseball.

To read more about young Tony C., check out this story from Rico Petrocelli.

Rangers 2009: Run Run Run

hamilton.jpgThe 2008 Texas Rangers were the best and worst when it came to runs scored. The Rangers led the majors with 901 runs scored last year behind a breakout season by Josh Hamilton and several other solid starters. Unfortunately, the Rangers still can’t figure out how to pitch, as the staff allowed 83 more runs than Pittsburgh (29th in the league), and yet, the Rangers still finished just 4 games under .500.

The goal for the 2009 Rangers is obviously to improve the pitching without allowing the offense to lose ground.

Trivia Question

The Rangers were one of two teams since 1990 to lead the majors in runs scored and runs allowed. Name the other. Bonus points for the other team’s top home run hitter and wins leader.

The Good

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden, and others are bringing a new wave of young talent to the Rangers lineup. Add in the return of Hamilton, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler, and the Rangers offense should still be very dangerous to opposing staffs.

The Bad

Beyond allowing youngsters to get playing time this season, the Rangers made no moves at improving the team. Sure, management flirted with Ben Sheets and Milton Bradley, but for all the starting pitching available this offseason, the Rangers stood pat and will allow Kevin Millwood to be the king of the Rangers’ hill come opening day.

Trivia Answer

Gonzalez.jpgThe 1991 Rangers (85-77) scored 829 (+30 over Milwaukee) and allowed 814 (+18 over Baltimore). Juan Gonzalez (27) was one of three players to hit 25 or more homers for the team, Rafael Palmeiro and Ruben Sierra were the others. If you guessed Nolan Ryan as the team’s leader in wins, you were incorrect. Ryan finished with 12 wins, as did Kenny Rogers. Jose Guzman topped the Rangers with 13.

Bottom Line

I just don’t see how not helping the worst pitching staff in the majors will make this team better. Nobody’s suggesting they should have dropped $140MM on CC Sabathia, but being in the hunt for Oliver Perez or Derek Lowe could have helped bring in someone to anchor this staff.

Prediction

The Rangers are treading water again. Their offense is one of the most dangerous in the league, but I do think they’ll return to earth some with the influx of rookies and the potential slight dip from Hamilton.

3rd Place, AL West, 77-85.

Photo credits
Josh Hamilton – http://withmalice.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/tb-rays/
Juan Gonzalez – http://trsullivan.mlblogs.com/archives/2008/09/