Change of Ideas

I’m the biggest Sox fan I know. The Red Sox can do no wrong in my eyes, and the Yankees are the most evil team in the universe.

Who doesn’t prefer the quaintness of Fenway Park over the sterility of the new Yankee Stadium? Who doesn’t prefer hanging Sox over pinstripes? Or Pedroia over A-Rod?

That’s what makes writing this post so difficult. The Yankees are without a doubt better than Boston, and are arguably the best baseball team I’ve seen in the past several years.

I used to argue that New York bought championships, that they couldn’t develop any of their talent and relied on throwing buckets of money at any and all high-profile free agents. Take Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, just to name the 2009 off-season. They committed over $200 million to three guys? I thought that this was a bad thing, and horrible for baseball.

But the more I think about it, I can’t help but think that they’ve got the right idea, and maybe Boston should get off their pocketbook and throw some cash around. Can you imagine if Theo Epstein had given in to Teixeira’s demands and given him an additional ten million? They would be running away with the division. Instead, they get to face him 19 times each of the next eight years, and we’ve already seen how that’s worked out.

Epstein thought it would be better to sign low-cost, potentially high-reward players in John Smoltz, Brad Penny and Takashi Saito, all of whom have equated to bust, bust, bust. To make matters even worse, Boston is now trying to add 38-year-old Billy Wagner. Wagner is fresh off Tommy John surgery and is due to be paid $8 million this year. That’s a lot of money to pay four aging ex-all-stars, all past their prime. What’s next, is Theo Epstein going to make a run at Sandy Koufax?

The last high-profile free agents that Boston signed have been Edgar Renteria, J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Dice-K Matsuzaka. I just threw up in my mouth.

If Boston’s free agent scouting was half as good as their farm development, they could avoid these money-pit signings and land some real talent. Is it time to start looking at a new General Manager in Bean town?

I hate that the Yankees are better than Boston. I hate that this may be the norm for the next several years, unless the Red Sox change their off-season approach. I hate that the Yankees are arrogant douche bags that are far too clean shaven for my liking.

But what I hate most, is that New York is primed to win their 27th World Series title this year.

Start Me Up

Baseball season is finally back, and although the offseason for the Boston Red Sox didn’t go the way I’d hope it would, I’m still optimistic for a successful 2009 campaign.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Theo Epstein and Terry Francona don’t read thefoulline.com. If they had, we’d be watching Mark Texiera and Derek Lowe gearing up for the season in Fort Myers, while watching the enigmatic Julio Lugo and overrated Jason Varitek packing their bags to destination Anywhere But Boston.

But after my initial disappointment with the lack of big name signings, I’m starting to really like the additions of Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and especially future Hall of Famer John Smoltz. These guys are low cost, with potential huge rewards for Boston. Even though Smoltz won’t be ready until June, he could be the big addition to the lineup that usually takes place at the trade deadline. If Boston makes the postseason, a lineup with Josh Beckett and John Smoltz would be scary.

Before we can talk about the playoffs, there are a lot of questions about this team that could severely affect their post season chances. Will Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell rebound from their 2008 injury-plagued season? With Coco Crisp shipped off to Kansas City, is Jacoby Ellsbury ready to be the everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter? Can a full season of Jason Bay make up for the loss of Manny? Who will be the Red Sox catcher of the future?

To make matters worse, rivals Tampa Bay and New York revamped their already dangerous lineups. The Yankees decided to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on big-game choker CC Sabathia, the oft-injured A.J. Burnett, and current thefoulline.com public enemy #2 Mark Texiera. Will this high priced talent lead to a return to the postseason for the Bronx Bombers? Or will these guys wilt under the pressure of playing in the Big Apple like Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano? Let’s hope for the latter.

As for the Rays, I really like the additions of Pat Burrell and Matt Joyce to fill the right field and designated hitter spots. This is a big upgrade of the Gabe Gross/Cliff Floyd combo. I’m interested in seeing whether Evan Longoria can duplicate his rookie season, and if the Rays can repeat their success with their closer-by-committee bullpen.

The good news is baseball is back.
The competition  for the AL East crown promises to be fierce.
Let the games begin!

Changes

Well, it’s been almost a month since the Red Sox lost game 7 of the ALCS to the damn Tampa Bay Rays. I think it’s finally time to come out from the dark recesses of thefoulline.com headquarters, dust myself off, and talk about what I think Boston needs to do to improve their team.

This is a pivotal offseason for the Red Sox. There are some glaring holes in the Sox lineup that need to be filled. If this team remains unchanged, they’ll be watching the playoffs on television in 2009.

There’s going to be a lot of Hot Stove activity going on in the next couple of weeks. The damn Yankees have $90 million coming off their books and are eager spend to improve their poor pitching, and like it or not, the Rays are going to be here for a while. If Tampa acquires a legitimate closer and a quality right fielder they’re going to be dangerous. The American League East is no longer a two-horse race.

So if I were Theo Epstein, this is what I would do, in order of importance.

1. Sign Mark Texiera.

Tex would tear up Fenway Park offensively and play Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. This MUST be done! A switch-hitting. perennial All-Star first baseman does not become available very often. As an added bonus, Tex is a free agent, so it wouldn’t cost Boston any of its young talent to acquire him.

Of course, this means Kevin Youkilis is moved to third base, and Mike Lowell is odd man out. I would try to convince a healthy Lowell to learn how to play first base and become Boston’s super-sub. With Lowell playing a mix of first, third and DH, he could prove to the rest of the league that he is healthy, and improve his stock for a trade. (Minnesota and the White Sox need a third baseman). It wouldn’t be the most popular move in Boston, since Lowell is such a class act, but we are here to win ball games. Get out your checkbook, Theo, and make it happen.

2. Derek Lowe makes his triumphant return to Boston.

Lowe is the type of sinker-ball-throwing, ground-ball-inducing pitcher that is tailor-made for Fenway Park. He’s proven to come up huge in big games, as in the 2004 playoffs, when he won the deciding game in all three playoff series. Not to mention, he wants to pitch in Boston again. He may even give Theo a discount.

I look forward to a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Dice K, Lowe, and Wakefield. This would keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen to help solidify the 7th and 8th innings before turning it over to Papelbon.

3. Deal a solid pitching prospect, namely Michael Bowden or Clay Buchholz, for either of Texas’s catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden.

They each have different strengths: Salty is still a raw talent that hits pretty well but needs to improve defensively. Teagarden is a solid defensive catcher with a laser-rocket arm, and he has the potential to put up some big power numbers. What they have in common is that they both are ready to be a starting catcher in the majors.

I’m starting to lean towards a  Buchholz for Teagarden deal, but either way it’s an upgrade of the aging Varitek. Thanks for all of your hard work, ‘Tek. We’ll see you at Jason Varitek Appreciation day.

4. Trade Julio Lugo for a bucket of used baseballs.

Jed Lowrie is ready to be the everyday shortstop. Lugo sucks. Find some sucker GM to take him off our hands.

…..
It almost seems too easy to improve this team. If Boston makes these moves, you can go and get the champagne on ice. If not, it may be a long season.

Makes Me Wonder

The three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins was exactly what the Boston Red Sox needed. The Sox have been going through the motions lately, getting little to no production from Manny, Lugo, Ellsbury, and Varitek. Even Jonathan Papelbon has been getting hit. These guys had looked like a shell of their former selves.

During this series with Minnesota, Boston won the first game 1-0. They rallied back from a three-run deficit to win the second game, and they had the blowout in the third game to cap the sweep. I know that one good series doesn’t make a season, but this could be a turning point for the Sox. They beat a very good team three times, in three very different ways. Boston is finally getting healthy, and this could be when we see the real Red Sox show up.

Thefoulline.com Quick Hits:

  • Boston is 34-10 playing at Fenway and 21-29 on the road. Home field is going to be more important than ever this postseason.
  • Some guy named Clay Buchholz is starting for Boston Friday night. I hope that he can do as well as some of the other young pitchers the Red Sox have used this year.
  • Congrats to Evan Longoria for making the All Star team. It’s well deserved and is sure to be the first of many during his career.
  • Speaking of the All Star game… Imagine, if you will, the 9th inning, the AL up by one run. Francona goes to the bullpen, the last All Star game in Yankee Stadium… and out comes Jonathan Papelbon. It won’t happen. But it would be awesome to stick it to the entire state of New York.
  • Dustin Pedroia needs to be in the running for the MVP of the league.
  • Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays is injured again and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. It’s time for Toronto to concede the season and look towards next year.
  • After dropping three in a row, and losing 13-2 to Cleveland as I write this, you know that the Rays are counting the minutes to the All Star break so they can regroup. This is just a bump in the road. They’ll be competitive all year long.
  • Is A-Rod dating Madonna really newsworthy? Would this even be in the paper if the Yankees were relevant?

Here Comes the Sun

The sun did rise today.

The birds are singing, and things seem to be OK.

After watching the Red Sox get out-hit, out-pitched, outplayed and out-cheered the last three nights, I wasn’t so sure that was going to happen. But here we are – it’s a new day and we have the damn Yankees to focus on.

There’s a lot of baseball left to played. Let’s turn this thing around.

Thefoulline.com quick hits

  • After receiving threats in the mail a few days ago, Sox players avoided fans in the stands like they had the ebola virus (with David Aardsma being the exception, but I think he may have a few screws loose anyway).
  • Walking into the game last night and seeing ex-Sox player Bill Lee in attendance signing autographs I thought was going to be a good omen. It wasn’t.
  • Evan Longoria is a great ballplayer, but after watching him interact with the young fans in the crowd, I think he is an even better person. Within two years, this guy is going to be the most popular player in baseball.
  • With Terry Francona picking the reserves for the All-Star Game, I think Longoria just secured a spot on the roster.
  • Funny observation of the night: The Red Sox coaches warm up as if they are playing that night. I watched as Brad Mills and Luis Alicea played some long toss before the game. After watching the Sox bullpen implode last night, they could have used them.
  • Three games, three dumb moves by Francona. Game 1: Not pinch hitting Sean Casey for Lugo in the 9th inning. Game 2: Having the ice-cold Jason Varitek pinch hit. Game 3: Keeping Craig Hansen in the game too long and having him walk half the Rays lineup.
  • Bonus dumb move from Game 3: Having the above mentioned Varitek do a hit and run with the slowest guy on the team standing on first base. It was a recipe for failure.
  • Manny sucks.
  • What a relief, Boston has four games against the Yankees.
  • 3 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay Rays feels like 100 right now.
  • Thanks to the Rays fan who jump started my truck in the parking lot after the game. I take back some of the bad stuff I’ve said about their kind in the past.

Everything in Its Right Place

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • For the record, I wrote a few months ago that the Red Sox should make every attempt to trade for Johan Santana. This included dealing Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, pretty much anyone. Obviously the Sox front office is smarter than I am.
  • In case you missed it, Jon Lester threw a no-hitter against the K.C. Royals the other night. I’ve always figured that Lester would be a solid contributor for the Sox. He’s a guy that I thought could go out and win 12-15 games a year and be a solid #3 guy in the rotation. After Monday’s performance, I think I’ve underestimated his ability.
  • Watching the Sox as a kid, they were always a slow, prodding team that relied on the long ball. They rarely manufactured runs, and stolen bases were nonexistent. The 2008 team with Ellsbury, Coco, Pedroia, Youk and Lugo stealing bases and playing small ball is a lot more fun to watch.
  • Speaking of Lugo, his tenure in Boston may be coming to an end. What kind of message is Terry Francona sending when Lugo gets a defensive replacement four games in a row? Paging Jed Lowrie…
  • Jacoby Ellsbury stole 25 bases in a row to start his career, two short of the record set by Tim Raines. Ellsbury was thrown out on a pitch-out and a perfect strike from the catcher to second base, and he still was barely out. This kid is scary fast.
  • Manny Ramirez stated that he has stopped hitting home-runs on purpose. He said that fans aren’t excited enough about it, and he is going to wait to hit them on the upcoming west coast trip. The reason fans aren’t excited, Man-Ram, is that you’re hitting .178 with 11 strikeouts over the last 12 games. And you’re an idiot.
  • The Sox have had solid contributions this year from their young players: Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and Brandon Moss.
  • The Yankees “top” young players have done the following: Phillip Hughes 0-4, 9.00 ERA; Ian Kennedy 0-3, 8.48 ERA; Jeff Karstens 1-4, 11.05 ERA; Melky Cabrera, .252 batting average; Joba Chamberlain, 10 holds, 2.66 ERA, 700 cheeseburgers eaten. Advantage: Boston.
  • Bartolo Colon is wicked fat, but he pitched pretty well last night. He may make his Fantasy debut for the Yankeehaters next week.
  • Joba Chamberlain is joining the New York Yankees starting rotation. This is going to be just the boost the Yanks need to leapfrog the Blue Jays and seize fourth place in the division.
  • Ex-Sox and current freak show Eric Gagne is being sidelined with a shoulder “injury.” Have you seen this guy lately? Not only is he stinking it up in Milwaukee, but he may be the ugliest human on the planet. 7.45 ERA, multiple blown saves, $10 million… money well spent.

Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard

With the fantasy league going so well, I’ve forgotten that I started this blog to actually write about real baseball. So I’m going to knock off the rust, spew some opinions, and hopefully start some discussion.

Last year I wrote a post titled 5 Reasons I Hate the J.D. Drew Signing. This was one of the first things I wrote, and the interesting thing about it is that it was actually referenced on TheSportingNews.com.

So in an attempt to get thefoulline.com back out in the world of baseball opinions, here is an update on the same theme.

6 Reasons I Hate Julio Lugo:

1. He’s a career .271 hitter that’s being paid $9 million a year. The Sox could have kept Orlando Cabrera for the same amount of cash.

2. He looks like a velociraptor when he’s getting ready to hit.

3. A major league leading 11 errors so far in only 35 games played.

4. He runs like a bowlegged donkey.

5. He complains about the Boston media… to the Boston media… when they write negative things about him. Memo to Julio: You’re not in Tampa Bay anymore.

6. Julio wears #23. This number should be reserved for great athletes. Guys like Michael Jordan, Don Mattingly, Lebron James, Pete Maravich and Ryne Sandberg have all worn this number with a certain distinction. Lugo should wear #67 until he proves worthy.

This list could be endless. What would you add?

Hey Man Nice Shot

Good teams find ways to win.

Sometimes it’s a pitcher throwing a complete game to give a tired bullpen the night off, or a great defensive play to keep your team in the lead. In the case of the Red Sox, it’s been back-to-back games with a game-winning home run in the 9th inning.

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • It already sucks to be a Cleveland Indians fan. It must suck even more when the Red Sox come to town and you know that your team is going to find a way to lose. The Indians have a ton of talent and should be running away with the division, but with a 5-9 record they are one game out of the Central Division cellar. Maybe they need some Lake Erie Midges swarming around their heads to get them back in the groove.
  • Did you see the lineup Terry Francona put out last night? Coco, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Lugo, and Cash. I thought they were mailing it in before another Yankees series. I guess even the Sox reserves can beat most teams.
  • It was great to see yet another Red Sox prospect live up to the hype. Two years ago it was Jonathan Papelbon. Last year it was Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Manny Delcarmen. After last night’s 3 RBI performance in his first Major League game, it may be time to add Jed Lowrie to the list of legitimate prospects.
  • Which reminds me, how are the over-hyped Yankees Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy working out for New York? Last time I checked, Hughes was was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, and Kennedy was 0-1 with an impressive 8.74 ERA. Do you think the Yankees are regretting not dealing these guys for Johan Santana?
  • Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano will make a combined $22,071,029 this season.
  • Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon will make a combined $4,775,000 this season.
  • To further reinforce how crazy the Steinbrenners are, these idiots actually dug up the “cursed” Ortiz jersey buried in Yankee stadium. News Flash, Hank! The shirt is not the reason your team stinks. It’s the lousy pitching pitching staff, over-hyped prospects, and $28 million cancer playing third base.
  • The Red Sox are in first place. Woo-hoo!

Bittersweet Symphony

Twice this week, I’ve had two of my fantasy pitchers face off against my favorite baseball team. Although I would never wish for a Sox loss, I couldn’t help but to think, If Roy Halladay or Rich Harden could hold Boston to one hit and the Red Sox could win the game 1-0, then it would be a win-win situation. I could get a bunch of fantasy points, and the Sox could get some wins. Is there anything wrong with that?

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • After being on the road for 17 days and flying 16,000 miles, I really hope Terry Francona lets this team sleep in tomorrow.
  • Didn’t Boston have one of the better defensive teams last year? The last two games, they looked more like the Bad News Bears, not the World Series Champions.
  • I still think Toronto gets into the playoffs this year. They play solid baseball and have the best rotation in the AL East. If B.J. Ryan can come back from his injury and resemble his old self, they will be a force.
  • A juice-free Andy Pettitte looked lousy the other night against the Rays, with 5 innings, 8 hits, and 5 runs. Maybe a call from Roger Clemens will boost his spirits.
  • Julio Lugo: That image in your rearview mirror is Jed Lowrie. Objects may be closer then they appear.
  • Am I the only one that is ready to see Jacoby Ellsbury lead off? This guy provided a big spark for Boston in the playoffs last year. Why mess with what’s been proven to work?

I’ll post the standings for the first week sometime tomorrow. It looks like a pretty tight race so far.

Land of Competition

I’m sorry to make this such a short post, but with thefoulline.com war room up and running for tonight’s draft, resources are running low. So here are a few quick hits.

  • The Sox split their Japan series with the A’s. Considering that they traveled across the world for this goodwill tour and still walked away with a win, it’s not too shabby. Plus, there are now a million Japanese fans who are part of Red Sox Nation.
  • Maybe it’s time for John Henry to create Red Sox World.
  • Jon Lester consistently pitches well for the Sox, but he always seems to give up a 3-run home run. Hopefully this will change with experience.
  • J.D. drew loves to toy with fans’ expectations of him. He teased us with 7 RBIs in the first two games, then pulled a typical Drew move and removed himself from the opener with “back stiffness.” It’s a long season, he’s going to need to play with a few aches and pains eventually. But why would this season be any different?
  • I wouldn’t take J.D. Drew in the 20th round of the fantasy draft. Dylan can have him.
  • What type of bizarro world are we in when Julio Lugo and Brandon Moss are looking great, and Big Papi and Jason Varitek look like it’s their first day of spring training?
  • Did Manny’s early success at the plate leap frog him into a first-round draft pick?
  • There is still an outside chance the Sox will go 161-1.
  • Did you hear about Jose Canseco’s new book? He claims that A-Rod was constantly hitting on Canseco’s wife. I hope no one tells this to Derek Jeter. I wouldn’t want him to get jealous.
  • Brandon Moss was optioned to Triple A Pawtucket today. Something tells me he’ll be back.
  • I guarantee that I will not pick any Yankees under any circumstances in tonight’s draft.

Just to echo “The Commissioner” Matt McLaughlin, let’s all have fun this season. Good Luck.