Saturday, November 01, 2003

As predicted, Manny Ramirez did not inspire any MLB general managers to spend twenty million a year to grab him. There is no doubt in the Fan's mind that the Red Sox will feature Manny in their opening day lineup.

Unfortunately for Chicago White Sox fans, Frank Thomas decided to exercise his option and stay with them. In better news, the team also announced that Esteban Loiza is staying too.

Thomas did hit more than forty homers this past year for the first time since 2000 but for a man with a lifetime batting average of .310, he has hit .252 and .267 the past two years. His runs scored and walk totals were below his lifetime season average while he has posted his career high in strikeouts the past two years as well.

Thomas is hard to totally dismiss. From 1991 to 1997, the man was amazing, scoring over 100 runs, knocking in over a hundred with total numbers never seen before in the majors. Perhaps, after looking at the numbers, even I have not given him his due. After all, he has driven in 1390 runs in his thirteen year career while walking 1386 times to go with his 2018 hits and 418 homers.

There is just this feeling in baseball and in baseball fans that he has been the number one reason the White Sox have never been to where it always appears they should go. It's hard to say why and it's certainly a mystery.

Loiza came out of nowhere and won twenty-one games. That kind of year just can't be a fluke and I saw him pitch a couple of times and he just seems to know how to do it. His season reminds me of Dave Stewart who pitched for nine years with a total of 39 wins before he exploded for four straight twenty win seasons. Loiza can be that kind of pitcher.

Across town, Sammy Sosa also decided to ignore the clause in his contract that would have allowed him to walk away after this year to become a free agent. The decision means that he will be a Cub for at least two more years. The news is great news for Cub fans and for the game of baseball.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

There were lots of emotional reactions today in Red Sox Nation with the news that the team put Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers. The move means that the Red Sox are pulling a Henny Youngman: "Take my Manny...please."

But the move doesn't mean that the Red Sox will lose Ramirez. Any team can claim Ramirez but then they would have to pay his $20 million price tag and who besides the Yankees (who don't want him) have the money to pay him?

The move was a plea from the Red Sox for anyone in baseball to make them a offer...anything or anyway for the Boston team to unload Manny's salary and his one-dimensional play.

Isn't it sad that someone as talented as Manny Ramirez will never really be wanted for very long by anyone. Can he change that? Does he want to?

In any case, the odds are good that the Red Sox lineup on opening day will feature Manny Ramirez...the best hitter in baseball nobody wants.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The MLB off season has already started to be fun to watch. Several key Braves have filed for free agency including Greg Maddux, Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez. Most sources do not believe that Maddux will sign with the Braves as the Braves will want him for much less than the $14 plus million he made this year. Sheffield and Lopez will be interesting to watch as their big bats led the Braves to their most potent lineup in recent history.

The year Javy Lopez had would be considered a career year. It is hard to imagine that he could put together another one like it. But even if he hits thirty plus homers and drives in ninety to a hundred runs, that's better production than any catcher out there with the exception of Posada and Ivan Rodriguez.

Recent Brave history also indicates that they are downsizing their budget and it wouldn't be surprising if all three big stars move on. Will this be the year the Braves incredible run of division titles ends? It seems really hard to imagine that they wouldn't want to have Maddux go for his 300 victories as a Brave. But that just goes to show how little warmth there is in that franchise from and for its stars.

An even more intriguing deal rumored is the New York's Soriano for Kansas City's Carlos Beltran. Beltran will cost too much for the Royals and Soriano has a few more years before eligibility for free agency. I like this deal as Beltran can play center for the Yankees, moving Williams to a corner position. Beltran brings as much excitement and strength to the Yankees as Soriano does.

Beltran has hit 25 plus homers three years in a row which is great in a big park like Kansas City. He has driven in over a hundred three years in a row and scored more than a hundred in those three years as well. He has also hit over .300 in two of those years and most dramatically lowered his strikeout total from 135 in 2002 to 85 in 2003. That shows more maturity in his plate presence. And best of all, he stole over forty bases this year too.

Yes, I like this deal. Soriano seems impossible to teach and prone to prolonged stretches of ineptitude. He has a lot of upsides, but I would take Beltran over him any day. And Beltran is only twenty-six years old.

Oh yes, this is fun and there will be a lot to talk about this long, cold winter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The Fan has had a ball this season writing this post every day. I have always wished that I had been a journalist and this outlet at least lets me act like one.

I have been writing every day since March 3, and I think I missed a total of six days during the season. I really appreciate some of you who have become loyal readers. That meant a lot to me. I would like to continue. Any baseball fan knows that the off season can be as much fun as the season. Speculating on what teams do what and reacting to moves that are made are part of the tradition and fun. I want to share that with you.

I want to thank for doing what they do. It's a great service for people like me who have a need to express in ways not normally available. I'm sure there are a lot of really bad blogs out there but there are many more good ones. The baseball blogs I have read have been excellent. The sites that link other baseball blogs are super and hopefully I'll soon figure out how to return the favor.

So...the post-post season begins and the first big bombshell is not from the Yankees but from Boston. The firing of Grady Little seems incredulous at first glance and maybe the second. Here is a guy that took a team that started with no bullpen, only two or three legitimate stars and brought them within five outs of the World Series. And you know what? The Red Sox could have beaten the Marlins.

But Little left Pedro Martinez in the game in the eighth inning when hindsight says he should have removed him. Let's compare this to the Marlins sixth game of the World Series. Josh Beckett has won fourteen games in his MLB career. Until the post season, he had NEVER thrown a complete game. Here he is in Game Six on three days rest and nearly every inning from the sixth inning to the eighth, the Yankees had at least one runner on base. There was no way that his manager was going to take him out of the game. If Beckett had given up a game tying or winning homer with one of those runners on base and the Yankees came back and won the series, should he have gotten fired?

Beckett's manager went with his gut and stayed with what he thought was his best pitcher. He's a hero and just signed on for next year. Little did the same thing and is fired. He is the John McNamarra of his day. Sometimes baseball isn't fair.

Little did stir the pot a little bit to his own demise. Peter Gammons reported that Little wanted guarantees for next year but he was under contract and could have come back without the guarantees but was incensed when he did not receive them (for Gammons' column, see Bad move.

But all I can remember as a fan was watching Boston's players hugging each other before they even got to the playoffs. This was a team that came together and played together as no team I've ever watched before. You have to give some of that credit to the manager. Two years ago, during the September 11th tragedy, a much more talented Red Sox team folded quickly because they had no cohesiveness and no respect for each other or anything else. Some of that credit went to the manager and he was fired.

Grady Little deserved another season. He was a good manager who made some colorful choices. That's baseball. Do you think Mike Hargrove would have won 96 games with that team? Enough said.

Oh, and one of the candidates for Little's job is Bud Black. Have you seen a picture of him? Let me just say that he is the spitting image of Grady Little. Weird...very weird.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap. The Florida Marlins won the World Series because they made the clutch plays, pitched the clutch pitches and hit the clutch hits. They had great pitching, great defense and a good enough offense to beat some of the best starting pitchers who have played this game.

That's not all very easy for me to say. In the course of writing here every day, I've endeavored to present a fair and unbiased view of baseball. That's not always possible but I did try. The Yankees have been my team since 1965...a year after their great years ended. I grew up with a Met fan for a dad and grand dad, but the Yankees were my team.

When the final four teams shook out and it was the Yankees, Red Sox, Marlins and Cubs, I thought, "Great! I'll be happy whichever team wins." But the truth is, I am crushed that the current Yankees didn't win it all. I turned the game off in the seventh inning the last game because I knew they were going to lose and I didn't want to watch. I had a day of mourning and life goes on.

But isn't that what makes this game so good? Such loyalties are long-standing and palpably real to the true fan of baseball. I enjoyed the Red Sox season and the Cubs charge and the Marlins. The four teams I rooted for all year made it to where I wanted them to be. But deep down, despite my words, I wanted Jeter to win another one and Roger Clemens to go out a champion and all the other players I have come to root for. But it wasn't meant to be for two reason. One is that the Yankees had too many holes despite the $180 million and two because Beckett wouldn't let them win.

Let me start with the latter. Again, you have to tip your cap to what Beckett did. It reminded me of what Jared Wright did to the Yankees in 1997 when Cleveland beat my team to go to the World Series. It was that good. What made it hard to watch was that, though Beckett pitched a game for the ages, he is my least favorite Marlin and one I have no respect for.

The kid is a punk and showed himself to be with his disrespect for Sammy Sosa and Sosa's reaction to a ball thrown at his head. If Beckett was a good person, he would have understood that Sosa is a proud man and had been beaned in the head not once but twice in the same season. But Beckett had to use the occasion to put Sosa down and his disrespect for one of the greatest players in the game's history was scornful.

And of course, any semi-lip reader could understand the filth that was pouring out of Beckett's mouth whenever something went well or poorly for him. Bad people shouldn't win, but he was good enough to do so. In fact, he was masterful. So my cap is tipped, but I will be waiting for his humbling and it will come someday.

Another reason the outcome was sad for me is that I've followed Steinbrenner too long to not know that he will dismantle this team. Like I said, the team has holes, but instead of plugging the holes, some of the good things will go to. Pettitte will be gone. Don't be surprised if Bernie Williams is gone. Zimmer is already gone. Stottlemyre might be gone. And don't be surprised if Joe Torre is gone. This won't be the same team for a long time.

So it was a last hurrah for this Yankee team. The Marlins were better. It's sad, but I tip my cap.