Anybody but Ellsbury

The Boston Red Sox have seized the momentum in the great Yankees/Red Sox feud with another World Series victory. Let’s hope that they don’t let up. They have a great opportunity to upgrade their already potent pitching staff and drive a stake into the heart of the Evil Empire by finally beating out the Yankees for the best player available. I don’t care if they knock New York off the top of the high-salary mountain; everyone knows that Boston is loaded with cash after their second World Series victory in four years. If I were Theo Epstein, I’d have the Minnesota Twins on speed dial and start giving up players until they agree to give up Johan Santana.

With the exception of course of Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury has already proven that he belongs in the Majors. He plays the game like a seasoned veteran and should be a lock for the American League Rookie of the Year in 2008. We had the opportunity to see all aspects of Jacoby Ellsbury’s game last season: his speed, great defense, surprisingly potent bat, and most importantly his heart.

In professional baseball, it’s obvious when someone can play. This evaluation is a lot easier with a position player than it is with a pitching prospect, which is more like playing the stock market, where no one is guaranteed to perform. There have been countless “can’t miss” pitchers picked in the first round of the draft that have flamed out faster than you can say “Todd Van Poppel.” Does anyone know which Baskin Robbins former #1 pick Brien Taylor is working at these days? With young pitchers it is never a sure thing.

With that being said, I would give up Lester, Buchholz, Lowrie, Crisp and whichever Minor League pitcher they want. I would make them an offer they can’t refuse. With Josh Beckett, Johan Santana, and Dice K locked into the starting rotation for the next several years, Boston has the opportunity to become a legitimate dynasty and have time to restock their farm system.

The funny thing is, I would prefer it if the Red Sox made a deal for the Oakland A’s Dan Haren instead. I think he is just a notch below Santana in talent but would still fit in well in the Boston rotation. Haren wouldn’t cost as much in terms of salary and prospects as Johan but would still be considered another legitimate staff ace.

But knowing how bad the Yankees want and need Santana makes me want the Sox to push even harder for him, because no matter how many times I see the Yankees lose, it never gets old. Even if it’s just a player they’re playing for.

Reunited and it feels so good

The more things change in Major League Baseball, the more they stay the same. I know that it is still early in the offseason, but I can’t help but to be a little amused that the Yankees and the Red Sox haven’t made any new acquisitions. Both teams have elected to re-sign their own free agents and have resorted to pretty much put the same teams on the field as last season. Are both teams that content with last year’s lineups? Or is the free agent market that inflated with overpriced and overrated talent? Either way, I was expecting both teams to make some upgrades by now.

Looking at both teams, it’s obvious that the Yankees have more holes than the Sox. They have a lousy bullpen that features an overpriced and rapidly declining Mariano Rivera. They have a starting rotation that may be losing Andy Pettitte. Mix in big-game choker Chien-ming Wang and three unproven youngsters in Phillip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, and this may be the area of the biggest need for the Evil Empire. I have been impressed the last couple of seasons that the Yankees have given their farm system a chance to develop and have avoided trading these guys. Let’s see if this patience pays off for them. It could be long year (I hope) for the Yankees.

The Red Sox have some holes of their own. Although not as glaring as the Yankees, there are some needs to be addressed. First and foremost, the Red Sox infield appears to be locked in for the next three years. Youk, Pedroia, Lugo, and Lowell have proven that they play great defense and they make each other look better. The outfield of Drew, Ellsbury, and Manny looks good for next year, but this will be without a doubt Manny’s last year in Boston. The Sox are going to have to keep an eye open for someone to replace his offense. I have no idea who this could be, but I’m sure it will be addressed.

The biggest concerns for the Red Sox in 2008 are their bench and backup catcher. There is going to be some major overhaul here. I would keep Alex Cora since he can play several positions, even though he is an offensive liability. I would try to keep Bobby Kielty, since he hit the game winning home run in game four of the World Series, not to mention he is a switch hitter. I would use Coco Crisp to land a quality backup catcher that can learn from Jason Varitek and be his eventual replacement. Gerald Laird of the Rangers is a name that has been mentioned in possible trade for Coco, which I think makes sense for both teams.

Being a Red Sox fan/Yankee hater, I am content with the Red Sox keeping their World Series team together for a chance to defend their title. I am also really happy that the Yankees decided to re-sign perennial loser/team cancer/MVP Alex Rodriquez and keep the rest of the team as it was. This guy has shown that he can lose at every level of baseball. Mix in a lousy bullpen, tax evading shortstop, the league’s highest payroll, and two crazy owners for the price of one, and next year should be no different for New York, as they sit at home watching Boston win another title.

Let’s make a deal

Am I the only one getting tired of the New York Yankees dominating another offseason of headlines? Every day it’s something new. If it’s not A-Rod opting out of his contract, only to go back and beg for his old job back, it’s Jorge Posada signing a ridiculous 5 year/$50 million contract. (For the record, Posada will be 53 when the contract expires.)

Now I hear that the Yankees have an offer on the table to bring in Mike Lowell as their new first baseman. You read that right, the Red Sox MVP and World Series hero may be joining the Evil Empire. I just vomited a little in my mouth.

It’s common knowledge that Boston is willing to give Lowell a three year deal. It’s also common knowledge that Lowell is insisting on a minimum of four years. I don’t see either side budging. Now, I don’t begrudge Mike Lowell for trying to get as much money as he can. This is the first time that he has been a free agent and he should explore every opportunity. He’ll be 34 when the season starts and has already won two World Series titles, so this will probably be his last contract in the Major Leagues. But Lowell is a career .280 hitter who had a monster season at the most opportune time. His swing is tailor-made for Fenway, and if he goes elsewhere, he won’t match the offensive output he had in 2007 – no matter where he goes. Lowell is a class act, but I agree with Boston on not going to four years on the contract.

Mike Lowell has earned the right to try and maximize a deal. But dear lord, sign with a team like the Phillies. Not the damn Yankees.

This brings me to the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. It’s time for the Sox to make a big splash. These guys are the world champs, let’s start acting like it instead of sitting back watching the Yankees dictate the market. The Sox need to be proactive and land the biggest player out there. I’m talking about Johan Santana.

If I’m Theo Epstein, I would call the Minnesota Twins and offer a deal of Coco Crisp, Jon Lester and Craig Hansen. Heck, I would even throw in Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year Jed Lowrie in the deal. I would do any deal possible to land Santana. This would give the Sox two #1 pitchers on the staff. A double-headed monster of Beckett and Santana would dominate the American League for several years. Boston needs to do whatever it takes to make a Santana deal happen.

With the big name settled, it’s time to look at Mike Lowell’s replacement at third. My buddy and loyal thefoulline.com reader Fergie proposed making a deal for Scott Rolen of the St. Louis Cardinals. My initial thought was that this guy is too injury prone and struggled offensively last year. But as I have thought more about it, the idea is starting to grow on me. Rolen is great defensively, and with hitting coach Dave Magadan’s influence, he could regain his offensive prowess. At only $12 million a season, the Sox would have the chance to buy low, and it might only cost a decent minor leaguer or draft pick.

This is not the time for Boston to bask in the glory of their World Series Championship. This team is going to need to make improvements if they hope to challenge for the title again next season.

On to more important matters
Here’s this week’s softball update from Dylan.

“Get your sunglasses on and buy your tickets to the Gatorz Laser Show”

In a game that was a lot closer then the 24-0 score implies, the young lads from Gatorz Bar and Grill improved to 14-2 on the year to close out the regular season in first place, with the claim that they beat every team in the league at least once by over 20 runs. More impressive was that the Gatorz team for the first time in four weeks didn’t get into a fight during the game with the opposing team.

Thefoullline.com’s own Dylan Hamilton had an off night at the plate, going 3-6 with three singles and four RBIs. “The crew at 84 decided to shred my abs to pieces in a workout on Tuesday night,” Hamilton said. “I had no bat speed without a crushing pain. No pain, no gain, I guess.”

Hamilton led the team in average this year, batting .725 for the season, and on paper was tied for home runs, although Dylan feels the team stat keeper may have missed a dinger or two. “I hit a monster shot against D/M Construction, but I think Allison was talking to her husband when the ball was hit. She may be on the trading block this offseason if that keeps up.” But the offseason speculations will have to wait, as Gatorz Bar and Grill starts the postseason this coming week in a grueling two-losses-and-you’re-out tournament. The Gatorz Boys should be the overwhelming favorite to win the title.

~Dylan “I wonder if my softball team can open next season in Japan too” Hamilton