With the Red Sox enjoying their first off-day in over a week, expect the phone lines at WEEI and 985 The Sports Hub to be lighting up with calls about the situation at hand this upcoming weekend.
The most talked about situation heading into the weekend series against Pittsburgh, of course, is what to do with David Ortiz. Do you bench him? Do you put him at first and Adrian Gonzalez at first? Do you put Ortiz at third? Do you put Terry Francona at first, and Ortiz in center? I've heard it all, while listening to callers phone in with attempts to keep Ortiz's bat in the lineup in National League ballparks.
After splitting their homestand 3-3, Boston now heads off on a nine-game road trip with all nine contests being played in NL ballparks. It would be asinine to bench Ortiz for all nine games. Although Gonzalez's bat is more valuable to the club when in the lineup, it would be counterproductive to let Ortiz's hot bat fizzle out on the bench for nine consecutive games over a ten-day span. It's just not logical.
If JD Drew were having anything remotely close to a productive season, it would make Francona's decision a little more difficult, but the fact is that .228/.330/.336 isn't good no matter how you spin it. Drew ranks in the bottom 20 percent among major league outfielders in nearly every offensive category, thus making it fairly easy to remove his bat from the lineup in order to keep Ortiz and Gonzalez in the middle part.
Over the past two years, you didn't hear much about the fight to keep certain bats in the lineup during Interleague play. We already knew that Ortiz was having a major bounce back season, but as BaseballAnalytics.org points out, Ortiz "punched out in just 11.1 percent of his plate appearances this season, compared to 23.9 percent in 2010. If you click the aforementioned link, you'll see that Ortiz is absolutely murdering fastballs this season when in recent years, many have speculated that his bat speed was gone, and was not coming back.
It goes without saying that when putting an All Star player in a position that he's not familiar with, there's a certain risk involved. It's also added pressure on the manager when that particular All Star player just so happens to be the best player in baseball.
In his weekly appearance on WEEI's Mut and Merloni show, Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons said, "I just think it's dangerous. If Gonzalez runs into a wall or something, you lose him for three weeks. That’s a lot worse than losing two out of three in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh."
That might be true, but baseball is a strange game. Gonzalez very well could get hurt while playing in the outfield, but this is a game where guys have spent time on the disabled list for sleeping wrong, sneezing, arguing with an umpire, and walking down stairs. The point is, injuries happen. If they're going to stick Gonzalez in left, and someone like Josh Reddick, Mike Cameron or Darnell McDonald in right, one thing's for certain; if the Red Sox can win two World Series with Manny Ramirez in left field, then they can get by three National League series with Gonzalez in left field.
Never a fan of having separate rules between to two leagues in the MLB, Gammons expanded on his opinion, saying, "I think [Terry Francona] might use Gonzalez for a couple of games, one in left field in Philadelphia and one in left field in Houston, which are both short,” Gammons said. "Otherwise, I don't think they will get too fancy. I think they will rely on their pitching to get by. It’s tough, they are both in the top five offensive players in the American League, but as long as baseball plays by two different rules, this is one of the things you have to live with."
Although I don't entirely agree with the idea of having Gonzalez play the outfield for only two games, the decision of which corner to put him in also seems to be an issue, as the Providence Journal reports that if Gonzalez is to play in the outfield, it'll be in right field, not left as Gammons said on the radio.
I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks about this. Do you play Gonzalez in the outfield? If so, for how many games? Does Gonzalez ever sit during the nine-game road trip? How many games does Ortiz sit for?
If you're a real baseball fan, then baseball season never truly ends.
Even when my team isn't in the big dance, I still enjoy watching (and attending) postseason baseball. Once the season draws to a close, the hot stove keeps me more than entertained. From the GM meetings, to the Winter Meetings, to the arbitration process, trades and free agent signings, I love it all.
With that being said, this time of the year is for the Baseball Hall of Fame. It used to be a time of the year that I enjoyed, but now it just gives me a headache. I went to Cooperstown, New York to see Ozzie Smith get inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Around that same time, a close friend of mine, and diehard baseball fan, said that as a graduation present to ourselves, we would return to Cooperstown in 2007 to see Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire be inducted into the Hall of Fame together as first-ballot inductees.
As a kid, obviously, I had no idea what steroids were. I hit roof-balls because I drank my milk and got double lunch at school. Once the wild world of steroids came full circle within the baseball world, I realized that there would be a very slim chance that I would see McGwire enter the Hall with two of my idols growing up.
For me, the voting process was almost as exciting as induction weekend itself. I loved going over the numbers and making my own picks in computer class, when I should have been working on projects for that particular class. What once was a fun activity, has now become a headache.
I'm a big time American History buff, and when it comes to all the unexplained events of the JFK assassination, 9/11, Pearl Harbor, etc. (not that I'm comparing the magnitude of these tragedies to steroid use, but rather the frustration that comes from their unknown elements) I get that same frustration when trying to piece together what players are clean, and who are undeserving of Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Keep in mind, I don't even have a Hall of Fame vote, so I can't even imagine how frustrating it might be for the guys who actually do.
As far as who gets in for the 2011 class, try number fourteen for Bert Blyleven just may be the charm. Needing 75% for election, Blyleven tallied 74.2% of the Hall of Fame vote last year. However, his 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts, which rank fifth all-time, 4,970 innings (14th all-time), and 60 career shutouts (9th all-time) should have had him inducted a long time ago.
Roberto Alomar racked up 73.7% in his first year of eligibility, but his infamous spitting incident likely kept him from attaining "first-ballot Hall of Famer" status. 2011 will be the year that the twelve-time All Star, and ten-time Gold Glove Award-winner joins the baseball immortals in Cooperstown.
Jack Morris is the next highest in terms of highest voting percentage from the previous ballot, but the extra 22.7% that he'd need to get into the Hall seems like too significant of a jump to make in just one year, especially after already being on the ballot for what will be his thirteenth year.
Barry Larkin picked up 51.6% of the vote in his first year of eligibility last year. He may not get the call in 2011, but his MVP, twelve All Star selections, and three Gold Gloves (all while losing out to may to Ozzie Smith) have me feeling pretty confident that he will end up in Cooperstown before he reaches fifteen years on the ballot.
Lee Smith is an interesting name. This will be his ninth year on the ballot, raking in 47.3% of the vote last year. This is a guy who would annually get a check mark from me. His 478 career saves may be 123 saves shy of the all-time record as of today, but when you retire as the all-time leader of anything in baseball history, I'd say that's Hall of Fame-worthy. Today, Smith is still third all-time behind Mariano Rivera, and Trevor Hoffman, who have saved 559 and 601 games respectively.
The same can be said for Edgar Martinez, who debuted with 36.2% of the vote in 2010. Martinez, who is highly regarded as the greatest designated hitter of all-time, and even has the award for the best DH annually handed out in his name, is the benchmark for future Hall of Fame hopefuls who made their mark as designated hitters. Martinez was a seven-time All Star, won two batting titles, and hit over .320 seven times. Most impressively, in a career that spanned 18 seasons, Martinez had a career on-base percentage of .418. He would get my vote.
Tim Raines is a guy who could gain steam and eventually sneak in during his latter years of eligibility. His 808 stolen bases rank fifth all-time, and a seven-time All Star. Though his career numbers are impressive, I'm not quite sure they are Hall of Fame-worthy. Sorry, Rock.
Mark McGwire is a guy who quite possibly may never get into the Hall of Fame, but will keep his head above water, and above the 5% needed to stay on the ballot. Other guys that fall into this same category, although not for the same reason as McGwire, are Alan Trammell, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, and Harold Baines. Fred McGriff is on the fence with me. A really good player, but I'm not quite sure he belongs with the greats.
For the first-time eligibles, some interesting names have entered the fray. And by "interesting," I mean "linked to performance enhancing drugs." Based on numbers alone, Rafael Palmeiro belongs in the Hall of Fame. Mix in some PED allegations, and it should make for an interesting first year on the HOF ballot. Same goes for Jeff Bagwell, who some believe isn't a Hall of Famer even without the speculation of PED use.
Interestingly enough, Bagwell has the second highest career WAR among all Hall of Fame eligibles on the 2011 ballot. Outside of Bagwell and Palmeiro, Larry Walker has the best shot at earning some votes as a first-ballot eligible. Will he get in? Not in his first year, but he does have an MVP, seven Gold Gloves and three batting titles on his resume.
I'm interested to see who, if anyone, gets elected this year aside from the obvious choices of Blyleven and Alomar. That being said, I'll go ahead and say what everyone else has been saying: It's going to be really interesting in two years when both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds see their names appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.
There's an induction weekend that I'd want to stay away from. I'd rather not see Doubleday Field get burned to the ground.
As if the Red Sox’ offseason couldn’t get any better, it just did.
With the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis moving over to third base, there was no chance that the Red Sox could retain the services of Adrian Beltre. A Type A free agent, the Red Sox offered the third baseman arbitration, in which the slugger declined.
As a result, the Red Sox were entitled to compensation when the reigning Silver Slugger Award-winner signs elsewhere. At one time, the Angels were the frontrunners to attain Beltre’s services, as they were for Carl Crawford, but once again, they were outbid for a free agent target.
Why is this good for the Red Sox? The Angels’ first-round pick was protected, thanks to their record in 2010. With the Rangers being in the upper half of teams, record-wise, their first round pick in the 2011 amateur draft was up for grabs if they went out and signed a Type A free agent.
However, if the Rangers sign free agent closer Rafael Soriano, which isn't likely, but isn't impossible, either, then the Rangers first round pick would go to Tampa Bay, and Boston would, instead, get a second-round pick.
At this point in time, the Beltre signing by the Rangers will be official pending a physical, but it appears that the American League leader in doubles last season will be headed deep in the heart of Texas. The Red Sox, in return, will receive Texas’ first-round pick, twenty-sixth overall, along with a supplemental pick in between the first and second round of the 2011 draft.
Boston received the nineteenth pick in the draft from the Detroit Tigers as compensation for losing Victor Martinez, as well as a supplemental pick. The Red Sox had to forfeit their first-rounder, which came in at twenty-four, to the Tampa Bay Rays when they signed Type A free agent Carl Crawford.
The Rangers' acquisition of Beltre would move Michael Young into a DH/1B role in which he would share time with Mitch Moreland at first base. Also, the Beltre signing more than likely means the end of Vladimir Guerrero's tenure with the Rangers, as Young is set to make $16 million in 2011. This opens up a potential reunion for Guerrero with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have seemingly balked at every target they set out to sign this winter.
Even just for playing one year in Boston, Beltre will always be one of my favorite Red Sox. If not for his one-kneed bombs over the Monster, his Gold Glove defense, then it was for his fun-loving personality.
With the GM meetings lumped in between, this has been quite the news-filled week here in Red Sox Nation.
Before we get into the Red Sox specifically, Major League Baseball handed out some hardware over the past week. On Tuesday, the BWAA named Roy Halladay as the National League Cy Young Award-winner. Two days later, Felix Hernandez took home Cy Young honors in the American League, as predicted here on SoxSpace. Red Sox ace Jon Lester finished fourth in the AL Cy voting, with Clay Buchholz coming in at sixth after his breakout 17-7 season.
On Wednesday, the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire was named the American League Manager of the Year, with the San Diego Padres’ Bud Black winning the award in the NL, despite a late-season collapse by his club. Red Sox manager Terry Francona checked in at fourth place in the American League voting.
Monday, the Red Sox claimed right-handed reliever Taylor Buchholz off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. After missing all of 2009 and a majority of 2010 after Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox hope to get Buchholz back to his 2008 form, which saw the right-hander post a 2.17 ERA in 63 appearances setting up for the Rockies.
On Tuesday, with all of the interest in Victor Martinez on the free agent market and John Buck signing a three-year, $18 million deal with the Florida Marlins, Theo Epstein went on the record saying that he was "comfortable" with Jarrod Saltalamacchia being atop the Red Sox depth chart at the catching position.
Also on Tuesday, SI.com’s Jon Heyman tweeted that the trade market for Jonathan Papelbon is "very weak," and SoxSpace evaluates why.
Heyman also reported on Tuesday that upwards of twelve teams are interested in signing free agent third baseman, Adrian Beltre. On Wednesday, Nick Cafardo reported that the Red Sox would not exceed four years and $52 million in their offer to Beltre. Later that day, Juan Mercado of El Dia (a newspaper in the Dominican Republic) reported that the Oakland Athletics had made a five-year, $45 million offer to Beltre.
Though the years were what Beltre and his agent Scott Boras were in search of, the $45 million was very much short of the $15 million annually that the third baseman is seeking this winter. Less than two hours later, Enrique Rojas tweeted that the offer from Oakland was actually five years and $64 million, which is identical to the contract that he signed with the Seattle Mariners after his 48-homer season in 2004 with the Dodgers. If this report is true, then you can just about kiss Beltre goodbye, because the Red Sox will not come close to matching the A’s proposal.
Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com added to the Marco Scutaro trade rumors, reporting that six teams have interest in the 35-year-old infielder, who was hampered with shoulder issues towards the end of the 2010 season. Although the Red Sox are not inclined to move Scutaro, they would be willing to trade him for the right return, which most assume would be a quality bullpen arm. Teams rumored to be interested in acquiring Scutaro are all National League squads: the San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds.
On Wednesday, SoxSpace covered the full extent of the Justin Upton trade rumors, then we were more than happy write some more when Ken Rostenthal said that discussions between the Red Sox and Diamondbacks are now “on the backburner.” Not long after that story hit the web, Jon Heyman tweeted that an American League executive said, “What the Diamondbacks want [in return for Justin Upton] is ridiculous.” SoxSpace has a round-up blog about that, too.
In case you didn’t hear, Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale was in the running to become the newest manager of the New York Mets, but was not invited back for a second round of interviews.
David Ortiz spoke with Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com, and he said that he was “fine” with the Red Sox picking up his $12.5 million option for the 2011 season, but that he wanted "something else." That "something else" was a two-year deal. "I thought what I've done here in Boston was well-deserving of two years, but I can't do nothing about it now except come back and play."
While speaking to WEEI, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner made a few interesting comments. First, he dismissed any idea of a "bridge year" in 2011, and he justified that by saying, "I think that we are going to sign, I won’t promise, but we’re going to sign a significant free agent. We are going to make a trade to improve ourselves. I want to assure everybody that there is no bridge year here this year. [In] 2011, we’re committed to win."
What first started as just a couple of teams "kicking the tires" on Arizona Diamondbacks’ Justin Upton, has evolved into legitimate trade rumors with the 23-year-old outfielder.
The Upton movement has come a long way, as just days prior to the July trade deadline this past season, an anonymous general manager said that the Diamondbacks were open to trading any player on their roster but Upton.
As the second and final day of the GM meetings comes to a close, it is now clear that Upton has gone from "untouchable" to "desired." This is peculiar to me, due to the fact that not only is Upton a very young and talented player with a lot of upside, but he won’t reach free agency until 2016.
In this first year of his six-year, $51.25 million contract last season, Upton made $500,000 to .273/.356/.442 with 17 homers and 69 RBI in 133 games. Next season, Upton’s salary will bump up from half a million to $4.25 million, which may not seem like a lot to a Red Sox fan, but take into consideration that Adam LaRoche was the highest paid player on the Diamondbacks’ roster in 2010, and he only made $4.5 million.
Although paying Upton $4.25 million in 2011 wouldn’t be "back-breaking" to the Diamondbacks, by 2013, Upton will be making $9.75 million, before earning $14.25 million and $14.5 million in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
It’s worth noting that the $14.5 million that Upton is under contract to be paid in the final year of his deal with Arizona would make up 30% of the entire Diamondbacks team payroll in 2010, which ranked twenty-eighth out of thirty major league teams.
Just a few days ago, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that former Padres and current Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers mentioned Upton as being "under discussion" with several teams.
"I'm open to listening on anybody," Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said. "We got more hits on Upton and [Stephen] Drew. They're difficult to move, but sometimes to make your club better, you have to move good players. You never know when a deal might present itself."
Once word got out that Upton was no longer untouchable, both the Red Sox and Yankees came calling to Towers to inquire about the D-Backs’ star outfielder. Marc Carig of The Star-Ledger wrote that "it appears the Yankees are simply doing their due diligence, according to the person with knowledge, as the Diamondbacks' asking price for the 23-year-old may be too high."
Due to Upton’s youth, talent, popularity and affordability, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke with an NL scout who said this of the return that the Diamondbacks could get in return for the first overall pick in the 2005 amateur baseball draft.
"The value is in the eye of the beholder," said a scout with an NL team. "But I would guess they could get an established big leaguer, two top 10 prospects and a lower-level prospect."
However, not all are sold on Upton, including an NL executive who said, "(Upton’s value is) less than what I’ve read about. For one, he probably got overpaid. He’s got supreme talent, but his brother’s record isn’t helping him. He’s never gone to the next level. I don’t know. Maybe he needs a change of scenery."
Piecoro’s piece also suggests that the Red Sox and Yankees are best suited to take the gamble on Upton, as by the time the outfielder reaches the end of his deal where he’s making upwards of $14 million, "He might be worth $20 million then, but if he’s a bust then somebody’s going to regret it. It’s a risk the Red Sox could take, a risk the Yankees could take. I don’t see any other team giving up a host of young guys for one young guy who hasn’t figured it out yet."
In Nightengale’s latest post, he says, "while the Yankees' package has not met the Diamondbacks' demands, according to officials from New York and Arizona, the Red Sox still are engaged in talks."
"If somebody wants to overpay,'' Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said, "I'll be more than willing to listen. It's just a thing where people are kicking the tires right now. That's it.''
If I had to make an educated guess, it would be that Justin Upton Diamondbacks t-shirts are not going to become a collector's item any time soon.
To watch a video clip of Justin Upton hitting a bomb at Fenway Park, click HERE!