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.

The Winner Takes It All, Week 1

Well boys and girl, we have the first week of the inaugural thefoulline.com fantasy baseball league in the books. The competition is fierce so far with several teams putting up some solid numbers. Since this is an off day for the Red Sox, here is a brief synopsis of what I saw from each of the fantasy teams this week. In no particular order:

  • My Best Efforts: This is a pretty well-rounded team from top to bottom. They had the best individual performance from any pitcher so far with Jake Peavy and his whopping 63.5 points. If they add a catcher that is actually in the major leagues, they could be a force this year.
  • Lessthanzero: An up-and-down week from our neighbor to the north. He had a big week from Derek Lee, Alex Gordon, and Corey “I wear my sunglasses at night” Hart. LTZ is going to need first-round fantasy pick Erik Bedard to rebound from his minor hip injury, and for Jose Reyes to play to his potential for this team to make a serious run.
  • SarasotaRedRays: Featuring Prince Fielder, David Ortiz, and Kenji Johjima, team SRR has probably the most out of shape team in the league. He was able to get good fantasy numbers from Carlos Zambrano and Bobby Jenks. Even with J.J. Putz missing time this week and a bench in need of some work, SarasotaRedRays still performed well enough to earn 316.83 points and a third place finish.
  • Bostonbad boys: This team may have the best pitching staff in the league featuring Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, and Dice K. Unfortunately, this team may stay unchanged all season because my dad forgot how to log in to the site. It’s tough getting old.
  • Boston Braves: This team had a mediocre week from its big three, Ryan Howard, Russell Martin, and Aramis Ramirez. This team’s saving grace was a good week from its closers. I expect a big week for these guys next week after a blockbuster trade with the YankeeHaters (pending league approval).
  • The Showstoppers: Theo Epstein’s prodigy Matt McLaughlin’s team is the league leader in points for the first week, with good numbers from every position. If he can upgrade his catcher, I don’t see anyone beating him any time soon.
  • Rogers Syringe: This team is in trouble. Although it may look good on paper to have seven shortstops, pitching is also important. Dylan threw caution to the wind this week, fielding only 13 out of a possible 16 positions. He’s either the most confidant G.M., or the craziest. This team needs to be blown up and reassembled. Does anyone need a shortstop?
  • Chickenheads: This team had the second most points this week and will be a serious contender if he keeps his team intact. With A-Rod and Pujols in the lineup, and an above-average pitching staff, this team won’t be laying any eggs anytime soon.
  • Yankeehaters: I like the look of my team. After a blockbuster trade with the Chickenheads, the additions of Fausto Carmona and Josh Hamilton paid immediate dividends. My impatience with my players and the desire to make at least one mega-deal a week may be my downfall. I may regret dealing Manny Ramirez.
  • Love Boat Captains: After a strong draft from our only woman in the league, Team LBC had an up-and-down week. Placido Polanco was a huge disappointment, going from 2007 All-Star to a two-point benchwarmer for week 2. It took a few games for stars Matt Holliday, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter to regain their stroke from last year. A solid 35.5 points from Pirate Ian Snell (who??) made this a respectable week for LBC. This is a good team that will play better in weeks to come.

What do you think of the season so far?

A blessing in disguise

Yesterday when I read that Curt Schilling had an injured shoulder and was going to miss the first half of the season, I was pretty worried. I was hoping that Schill was going to have a solid final season in the major leagues and make a push for making the Hall of Fame someday. I was concerned that the Red Sox would miss his leadership. I wondered how the Red Sox rotation would fare with two young guns assuming a very important role. I was wondering if Theo Epstein blew it by not making a serious run at Johan Santana.

But then I came to my senses.

The Red Sox had the best rotation in baseball last year in spite of the elementary performance of Schilling. Schill came into spring training looking like a poor man’s Joba Chamberlain, and it showed with his injury. The once dominant fast-baller had morphed into a finesse pitcher with a weight problem. Hitters were no longer intimidated by him, which was evident by his 9-8 record. He couldn’t blow the pitches past the hitters and resorted to nibbling the corners. I was on the edge of my seat every time Schilling pitched last year, because he was always one pitch away from serving up a three run home-run. I had big hopes for Schilling this year. He seemed motivated to come to camp this year in better shape and erase the memories of his disappointing 2007 season.

With Schilling missing at least the first half of the season, this is the opportunity Clay Buchholz needs to prove why he is Boston’s top pitching prospect. Buchholz was dominant during his short stint with the Sox last year, but being that he is only 24 years old and still developing, the Sox will want to limit his innings this season. So maybe he can assume the #5 spot in the rotation until Schilling comes back, then go to a six-man rotation for the playoff run. This will give everyone a little rest and get them ready for the playoffs.

I still really like Boston’s rotation this year. Beckett will be Beckett and should chalk up another 20 wins. Dice K, with a season of experience under his belt, should take his game up a notch. Wakefield is always good for at least 12 wins. Then we have the always improving Jon Lester, and the wild card Clay Buchholz. If any of these guys falter, Boston will have some options. Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavarez are always available to start. There some kids in the minors worthy of a call-up. And if all else fails, Theo will make the deal to shore up the rotation.

We all know pitching wins games. We’ll soon see if the Sox have enough to defend their title.

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.