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September 20, 2007
Jim Donaldson: Team is making a monkey out of Theo
By Jim Donaldson
Hope Theo Epstein still has that gorilla suit in his closet.
Because, if the Red Sox somehow manage to lose the A.L. East to the Yankees - again, for the 10th consecutive year, after having led them by 141/2 games - or, even worse, are quickly eliminated from the playoffs, he's going to need it to slink out of Fenway Park next month.
Let's check out the Boy Genius's off-base percentage this season.
As all devoted Sox fans know, Theo and his stat-geek, baseball-fraternity-boy buddies, put great stock in players' on-base percentage. Off-base percentage, in the case of general managers - especially those with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend - measures how often they make a move that is way off-base.
So, what's your favorite Epstein deal this season?
How's that Eric Gagne trade working out?
You think J.D. Drew is worth $14 million a year?
Julio Lugo, Boston's fifth shortstop in four years, was signed to a 4-year, $36 million contract, but couldn't be bothered running hard to first base with the game - and, arguably, the division title - on the line Wednesday night in Toronto.
And, while we're talking money, it should be pointed out that Daisuke Matsuzaka, who cost the Sox $103 million, was 7-10 since May 30 going into last night's start in Tampa Bay against the last-place Devil Rays, against whom he was 1-3 this season.
Is it any wonder, then, that it seems the Red Sox have been winning in spite of the moves Epstein has made this season - not because of them?
We don't even want to talk about last year, when Theo let Johnny Damon go to the Yankees and replaced him with Coco Crisp; traded Bronson Arroyo to Cincinnati for Wily Mo Pena; and gave up Cla Meredith in order to get back Doug Mirabelli.
(But we will, a little later on, as soon as we run through this year's list of general-managerial miscalculations.)
Gagne was supposed to be the guy who put the Red Sox over the top - who not only would lock up Boston's first division title since 1995, but also, along with Hideki Okajima and Jonathon Papelbon, would make the bullpen virtually unhittable in the playoffs.
Instead, he is at rock-bottom in what has been a very good career.
After blowing yet another game Tuesday night in Toronto - 3 runs, 3 walks, 2 hits, 1 inning - Gagne now has an horrendous, 9.00 earned-run average with Boston, has given up 23 hits and 14 runs in 14 innings, and has blown all three save opportunities he has had.
To get him, Epstein sent left-handed starter Kason Gabbard and once highly regarded outfield prospect David Murphy to the Rangers. Gabbard, who was 4-0 for the Sox at the time of the trade, is 2-1 in Texas. Murphy is hitting .370 in 34 games with the Rangers.
Drew clearly is overpaid and underachieving, batting just .261, with only 9 homers and 53 RBI. As the trading deadline neared at the end of August, the Red Sox reportedly were trying to obtain Jermaine Dye from the White Sox to platoon with Drew in right field.
You pay a guy $14 million a season, and then go looking for somebody who can play in his place whenever a lefty's on the mound? How many teams can afford to do that?
Drew's nine homers have come in 441 at-bats. Journeyman Eric Hinske has 6 in 167 at-bats. Even light-hitting (.219) Mirabelli has 5 homer, in 105 at-bats.
Epstein felt Lugo finally would be the answer at shortstop, where he's gone through Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Cabrera, the highly touted Edgar Renteria, and Alex Gonzales since the summer of '04.
But Lugo is hitting .240 and isn't exactly a Gold Glover defensively. On top of which, he didn't hustle down the first-base line against the Jays the other night, costing the Sox what would have been the tying run when Toronto shortstop Ray Olmedo bobbled his two-out, strangely spinning bouncer.
Matsuzaka shows promise, but a 7-10 record since Memorial Day isn't much return on an investment of $103 million. Again, it's a case of the Red Sox being able to throw around the kind of money that many clubs can only dream about spending.
The Pena trade last year was a bust. He's now with the Washington Nationals, after hitting .218 this season for Boston, with 5 homers and 58 strikeouts in 73 games. Arroyo, on the other hand, was 14-11 last year for Cincinnati, with an ERA of 3.29 in 240 innings. After getting off to a slow start this season, Arroyo has won four his last five decisions, improving his record to 9-14, with an ERA of 4.37 in 197 innings.
Cla Meredith, who was shipped to San Diego last year in order to get Mirabelli back to catch Tim Wakefield's unpredictable knuckleball, was 5-1 for the Padres in '06, with a microscopic ERA of 1.07. In 74 appearances this year, he's 5-6, with a 3.47 ERA.
But the fact that Mirabelli's bat is a liability has resulted, for the second year in a row, in Jason Varitek having to be behind the plate in too many games, causing him to tire late in the season. Varitek, who looks like a walking ice-pack in the clubhouse after games, has just 30 extra-base hits this season. Kelly Shoppach, traded to Cleveland in the Crisp deal, is hitting .262 for the Indians in a backup role, while Josh Bard, who struggled behind the plate when Wakefield was pitching, is batting .275 in 107 games for the Padres this season.
Crisp has been better this year than last, when he was bothered by injuries. He hit .264 in '06, with 8 homers and 22 stolen bases in 105 games, while Damon was hitting 24 homers and batting .285, with 25 stolen bases, in 149 games for the Yankees. This year, Damon's hitting .258, with 11 homers and 24 stolen bases, while Crisp is batting .270, with 6 homers and 26 stolen bases.
The Sox may yet regroup and win the A.L. East, then go on to play well in the postseason.
But, if they don't, Theo might want to keep that gorilla suit handy.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 3:20 PM | Permalink
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No news on Manny, but he's up for best-dressed
We haven't had one of these Mannybeingmanny entries for a while, largely because the subject of the column has been on the shelf since late August. But with today an off-day, I thought it would be good to update fans on what people are saying about Boston's injured slugger.
Jayson Stark of ESPN is ready to revive the Manny trade watch, now that Ramirez has just one season left on his Red Sox contract. Stark quotes an unnamed official from an unnamed team as saying that the Red Sox have "had some nibbles already," and that although their posture is that they are not looking to move Ramirez, they might in fact be able to do something.
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are both candidates for best-dressed MLB player in an SI.com fan poll. Their opponents include Derek Jeter and A-Rod, but you're going to have to track down the links for those guys yourselves if you want to vote for them.
Tony Massarotti of the Herald examines the touchy question that has been tossed out there: Is Manny repeating his disappearing act of 2006? Teammates tell Tony, no.
Did you know that Manny, Rod Carew, Henry Kissinger and Alan Greenspan all attended the same high school?
Posted by Mike McDermott at 2:35 PM to Projo Mannybeingmanny
Projo SoxTalk with McAdam: More gloom and doom
Click here to listen to today's edition of projo SoxTalk with Sean McAdam. The topics: letting the division slip away; keeping Clay Buchholz on a pitch count; the eighth inning is the worst inning; that clutch-hitting machine, Russ Adams; good news on the injury front; and what's really going on with Manny.
Here are some excerpts from Sean's comments.
On Jonathan Papelbon: "This is two bad outings in a row for him: last Friday against the Yankees, of course, coming in the eighth inning; and then last night giving up the grand slam. He'd gone all year without allowing any inherited runners to score; his last two outings, five inherited runners have scored. So that shows you how quickly it has turned around, and not in a good way, for Jonathan Papelbon."
The good news: "It could be that things could turn around pretty quickly, I think, for both Kevin Youkilis and Coco Crisp. I wouldn't be surprised to see certainly Youkilis back in the lineup as soon as tomorrow night, when they resume play against Tampa. Crisp may need another day or so, but then again a day off with some additional treatment could really help."
How worried should we be about Manny? "To the point where most of us thought he would be back by now and he isn't, and he probably won't be back any sooner than Tuesday, at which point there's only six regular-season games left, I think you have to start questioning what's going on here. But being that there is a week and a half -- really given the playoff schedule they can't play a playoff game until two weeks from yesterday, so there's still enough time -- but from a Red Sox standpoint they would certainly like to have him back in the lineup to get his timing down at the plate, find his rhythm against live pitching and have some real at-bats before he has to ramp it up for real on October 3."
Posted by Mike McDermott at 9:08 AM to McAdam
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Giambi has bruised foot
Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- New York Yankees designated hitter Jason Giambi was found to have only a bone bruise after an MRI exam on his right foot was negative.
The 36-year-old Giambi had the exam yesterday at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, the team said in a news release. Giambi's prognosis is listed as day-to-day.
Giambi was hit by a pitch on the top of the foot while batting against Baltimore on Sept. 17. He remained in the game, but was unable to play the next night due to pain in the foot.
Giambi is batting .243 with 14 home runs and 35 runs batted in during 74 Major League Baseball games this season. He was out for all of June and July after tearing tissue in his left foot.
The Yankees (88-64) trail the Boston Red Sox (90-63) by 1 1/2 games in the American League East Division and lead Detroit by 5 1/2 games for the AL wild card, which goes to the second- place team with the best record.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 8:41 AM | Permalink
Baseball Today: Thursday, September 20
HARD TO SWALLOW: Last night on this very blog -- and this morning in the newspaper -- I noted it was the obvious the Red Sox had decided on a course of action that was probably 180 degrees contrary to the wishes of their fan base: That they weren't going to jeopardize their long-term playoff chances for the sake of holding off the Yankees and winning the division. Their use of Eric Gagne on Tuesday night was the tipoff; rather than hustle him out of there when the inning began to disintegrate, as you'd expect in a must-win game, the Sox left him in because it was a situation in which they need him to succeed in the postseason. The fact that the game went sailing out the window was secondary to the lesson they said they needed to learn.
And so it was last night that, on Daisuke Matsuzaka's night to pitch, Clay Buchholz was on the mound because the Sox were a) trying to get Matsuzaka some rest and b) trying to set up their rotation for the postseason. That Coco Crisp, who probably could have played if he absolutely had to, didn't. That Kevin Youkilis, who might have been able to play if the season was on the line, didn't. That Manny Ramirez . . . . well, let's not go there. (projo.com) That Hideki Okajima is shut down because of fatigue. (projo.com) It's not quite Fort Myers, last week of March, but it's not what you'd expect from a team determined to finish first.
And so it is that their once-robust A.L. East lead is down to a single game in the loss column after another lifeless loss to the Blue Jays, this one by a 6-1 count. (projo.com) But as Sean McAdam notes, even if ''home-field advantage and the division title don’t mean much to the Red Sox, their downward spiral should.'' They've now lost four in a row, tying their season-high losing streak, and five of their last six, but it's not so much that they're losing; it's how. Last night's biggest concern, aside from the ongoing problem of the popgun offense, was the grand slam allowed by Jonathan Papelbon (above, CP Photo) in the eighth inning, continuing a bullpen breakdown that has negated the team's biggest strength. The relievers have a 6.20 ERA over the last eight games, and Papelbon himself has allowed five inherited runners to score in his last two appearances.
The good news: They're still in first place. They have three games this weekend in Tampa. They come home for the final five games against two moribund out-of-division foes (Oakland and Minnesota). There really isn't any reason for lines to be forming at the Tobin Bridge.
And maybe they wouldn't be if, as the Globe's Gordon Edes notes, the Yankees weren't involved.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS The Sox' decision to play it the way they're playing it makes sense since, as Allan Wood points out on his Joy of Sox blog, it's almost mathematically impossible for the Red Sox to miss the playoffs.
IN AGREEMENT: And writing on the LoHud Yankees Blog, Peter Abraham lends his voice from the other side of the aisle: ''You work to enter the postseason in the best shape possible. For the Yankees, winning the division is almost totally insignificant. They will be judged on whether they get to the World Series. If they win the division and lose in the first round, it’s a disaster.''
HOWEVER . . . As Edes says, it's the Yankees charging up from the rear . . . and for Red Sox Nation, that always makes it worse. They completed their three-game sweep of the Orioles last night (New York Post), with Andy Pettitte notching his 200th career win. (New York Daily News)
NOT ALL IS WELL: Alex Rodriguez is in a 3-for-29 slump, though the Yanks obviously have found ways to win without getting much of a contribution from him. (New York Post)
A.L. RACES: Au revoir, Tigers. The Indians yesterday completed a three-game sweep of Detroit that all but assured them of the A.L. Central title (Akron Beacon Journal). Tigers manager Jim Leyland crowned the Tribe, saying, ''They're going to be the Central Division champions, obviously.'' (Detroit Free Press) The Free Press' Michael Rosenberg writes the post-mortem, trying to explain how the defending American League champions failed in their quest not only to repeat, but even to get the chance to repeat. It's good news for the Red Sox, obviously, since the Tigers' collapse is going to get them into the playoffs, but that was the only good news for Boston yesterday. The Indians' win meant the Sox fell behind Cleveland in the race for best record in the American League. They also fell behind the Angels, who completed a sweep of Tampa Bay. (Los Angeles Times)
GOOD HIT, NO FIELD: Vladimir Guerrero's bad arm may limit him to DH duties in the postseason. (Los Angeles Times)
N.L. RACES: The Cubs beat the Reds (Chicago Tribune) . . . The Mets beat the Nationals (New York Post) . . . The Phillies lost to the Cardinals in 10 innings (Philadelphia Inquirer) . . . The Brewers lost to the Astros (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) . . . The Diamondbacks beat the Giants (Arizona Republic) . . . The Padres beat the Pirates with a walkoff, three-run homer from Scott Hairston (San Diego Union-Tribune).
To see how all those games affected the races, check out the divisional standings and wild-card standings. (Projo Stats)
DON'T JUST STAND THERE, DO SOMETHING! There are those in Met Nation -- including some players -- who'd like to see more emotion from Willie Randolph in light of the team's recent struggles. But the New York Sun's Tim Marchman says ''[yelling] at grown men is stupid and counterproductive.''
MY PAL: Joe Torre, who had Randolph on his coaching staff for many years with the Yankees, feels Willie's pain. (New York Post)
TWINS: SI.com's Jon Heyman says the Mets and Red Sox have turned into each other, and that's not a good thing.
WORST NIGHTMARE: A hamstring injury may force the Brewers to head down the stretch without Ben Sheets. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
WELCOME BACK: Skip Caray has returned to the Braves' broadcast booth after missing several weeks because of congestive heart failure. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
BRAINIACS: Padres pitcher Greg Maddux and A's GM Billy Beane run 1-2 in an SI.com poll of MLB players in which they were asked to name the smartest people in baseball.
QUICKLY: Free-agent-to-be Torii Hunter says he's given a lot of thought to playing with the Rangers (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) . . . Albert Pujols' season might be over because of a strained left calf (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) . . . Vicente Padilla's days with the Rangers may be over (Dallas Morning News) . . . Troy Percival thinks he can still pitch and would like to do so for a West Coast team next year. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
-- ART MARTONE
Posted by Art Martone at 7:12 AM | Permalink