“Come along with me, misery loves company. You’re welcome… at the home of the blues.” – Johnny Cash “Home of the Blues
That song probably best describes the emotions of the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, and their respective nations.
The Atlanta Braves dejected after losing to the Philadelphia Phillies and the Wild Card to the St. Louis Cardinaks
The Atlanta Braves are getting a reprieve for the most part, at least outside of the Atlanta area. On the other hand, the Red Sox are getting slammed all over, especially in Boston and the greater New England area, deservedly so.
We all know how dreadful the Sox started the season, 0-6 to start the season and 2-10 after the first 12 games of the season. For the four months following the dreadful start, the Sox were considered one of – if not the – best teams in the American league or perhaps all of baseball.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona
“September happened”. said GM Theo Epstein.
Star left handed ace Jon Lester was asked what he would remember most about the 2011 season.
That’s a 7-20 final-month implosion, a blown nine-game lead and the worst September collapse to squander a postseason spot in baseball history.
Do the ’04 and ’07 Red Sox teams have to give back their World Series rings now, too? No, no, it wasn’t quite that bad. But it was close.
On this night of a 4-3 after-midnight walk-off loss to the Orioles, the dishonors belong to exhausted Jonathan Papelbon (blown save, defeat), Carl Crawford, whose trapped liner on Robert Andino’s game-winning two-out single is his trademark defensive mistake, and all the brain-dead base runners from David Ortiz to Marco Scutaro who killed innings with their crazy feet.
Now, lets turn to the Tampa Bay Rays who, minutes after the Red Sox had blown a 3-2 lead and lost, won this AL wild-card race for the ages with a walk-off homer by Evan Longoria in the 12th inning against the Yankees. We have a few words for you guys, too. First, gentlemen, please return the thousand-mile magic carpet, the perpetual pixie-dust machine and the vat of voodoo juice. The rest of mankind needs all of ’em back. Now.
Don’t get greedy. You just burned several lifetimes of joy. Those computers claimed your chances of catching the Red Sox were down to nine-tenths of one percent when the month started. Now, go get ready for October.
What’s next for the Red Sox and Braves?
By now, we’ve seen all the heads pointed toward the ground or shaking slowly from side to side. Those images are almost routine, even as epic as this month’s collapses of the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves are.
But don’t some of those heads have to roll? Isn’t that what’s expected by fans still seething with anger and-or speechless with frustration? They want blame. They want accountability. And sometimes those sentiments extend to teams’ front offices or even ownership.
So, realistically, what’s in store after two of the most monumental meltdowns in baseball history?
The Red Sox and Braves are quite different stories, Boston expensively and aggressively built to win — to win now and win big — and Atlanta still grasping at a return to previous glory.
That said, still…collapses of this magnitude are unheard of and carry some blame. Question is, who do you blame it on? In Boston’s case, buzz around Boston amped up last week when general manager Theo Epstein felt compelled to refute speculation of “a disconnect” between him and manager Terry Francona.
Disconnect or discontent, the blame game became a preemptive strike in Atlanta, where fans were asked to select scapegoats — BEFORE Wednesday’s galling 13-inning loss.
It’s all real now — the results and the inevitable search for solutions.
After Wednesday’s season-ending shock in Baltimore, GM Theo Epstein couldn’t deny his team collapsing.
“We can’t deny this month happened. just because it was preceded by four months of being the best team in baseball. We have to take a very close look at everything that’s not right. We have to fix things and that includes the whole organization.”
Epstein and Francona have been together eight seasons and are the only men in their positions to have delivered World Series championships to Boston in nearly a century. They’ve also helped create the expectations that are difficult to meet.
But the guaranteed portion of Francona’s contract is over, though the Red Sox have two option years that have not been addressed. And Francona’s name surfaced this week as a possible candidate for the Chicago White Sox vacancy. Francona began his managing career in the White Sox minor league system.
Adrian Gonzalez,one of the marquee acquisitions that made this Red Sox team appear invincible spoke to defend his manager.
“You can’t blame the manager who kept us on an even keel the whole time, He did his job. Us, the players, just didn’t get it done.”
The Red Sox will look long and hard at their pitching, which was as the center of their collapse. That could be trouble for Curt Young, in his first year as pitching coach after John Farrell left to become Toronto manager.
But the only key pitcher not under contract for next year is closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had his strongest season in five years. Erik Bedard and Tim Wakefield, who both failed as stopgap starters after injuries to the rotation, especially Clay Buchholz, also are free agents.
The bigger contract decisions will come on offense, where DH David Ortiz, right fielder J.D. Drew and catcher Jason Varitek can leave. But the Red Sox already are locked into more than $125 million in contract obligations for next year. That makes shakeups more difficult.
And then there’s Epstein himself, whose name has surfaced in talk about the vacant Chicago Cubs GM job. Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman also has been mentioned for that job. Who knows how last night’s events might have tilted that situation.
The Braves didn’t have nearly the expectations, especially in a division with the other pre-season “sure thing.” Atlanta probably belonged in the wild-card race. That’s the race usually reserved for good teams but just-flawed-enough teams that they can’t quite keep up with the elite — in this case the runaway Phillies who spent the last three nights reminding the Braves of their qualitative differences.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was in the unenviable position of following legendary Bobby Cox. Gonzalez will take plenty of fan heat but, then, so did Cox for the pereceived underachieving of teams that won 14 division titles but just one World Series.
Speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chipper Jones thought the criticism was unwarranted.
It’s cruel, because probably nobody in Atlanta sports is probably under as much scrutiny as he is filling in for Bobby Cox.”
Both the Red Sox and Braves are well-positioned to be very good next year. But there’s no guarantee everything will look the same.
Derek Jeter became the 28th player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits on Saturday, with a home run in the third inning at Yankee Stadium off the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price. In doing so, Jeter became the first player in the Yankees’ storied history to reach the hallowed number.
Typically when sports stars retire, there’s a wave of sadness from fans and a nostalgic look back at their amazing athletic feats and careers. In the case of Manny Ramirez and news of his retirement yesterday, there’s mostly just a collective refrain of relief and a look back at all his bad behavior over the years that blemished any greatness.
The news came yesterday afternoon when Major League Baseball issued a statement announcing his retirement due to “an issue with Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.” According to the Associated Press, the Tampa Bay Rays player tested positive once again for a performance-enhancing drug, and rather than face a 100-game suspension, he chose to retire. It’s about time.
While he’s considered one of the game’s best all-time hitters with a 555-home run record, he also hasn’t earned those home runs honestly. In 2009 he tested positive for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (the female fertility drug), and reports later showed he also tested positive in 2003. So all those home runs are tainted and perhaps brought home wins that never should have been won.
What gets me is how stupid and how arrogant this guy is to try it again, after he’s already been caught and as the MLB struggles to clean up its image.
It hasn’t just been the drugs that have soiled Ramirez’s image. From pushing a team secretary over his ticket allotment, to slapping his teammate Kevin Youkilis, Ramirez’s career has been filled with everything that’s wrong with sports. But because he’s brought in the runs, the sports world has largely turned a blind eye to him and his prima donna ways. It’s just “Manny being Manny,” but that attitude has done irreparable damage not only to Ramirez, but to the game overall. He’s the epitome of a spoiled sports star who has marred the sport and tainted the dreams of little boys around the world. The best we can say now is: Good riddance!
… for some baseball news.
It’s been a rough off-season for some veteran players and a slower market in general for the usual Hot Stove season. However, the last few days have been exactly what some veteran players have been waiting for. A flurry of activity has resulted in some veteran players finding new homes for the 2011 season.
The Yankees, fortifying their bench with a five-time All-Star, reached agreement with free-agent outfielder Andruw Jones on a one- year, $2 millio
n contract, according to a major-league source. Jones, who turns 34 on April 23, will serve as a right-handed reserve, filling the role previously held by Marcus Thames, who earlier this week signed with the Dodgers.
The Orioles are closing in on a contract with Vladimir Guerrero, reports Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio. Orioles’ president Andy MacPhail shot down the report, telling Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com that it is simply “not accurate.” Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun says that a deal could still happen, but for now it does not appear imminent.
Thus far in the MLB post season we have seen more of the same things that we were used to seeing all through out the regular season, pitching. This year was deemed the year of the pitcher very early on in the season when the likes of Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay threw perfect games and a few others flirted with history. Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays threw the first no hitter in Rays history and the Tigers’ Armando Galarraga was involved in the most controversial non-perfect game ever on a blown call by umpire Jim Joyce.
The regular season is over but the dominant pitching performances surely aren’t, just ask the Cincinnati Reds. In their first post-season game since 1995 they were no hit and came within a walk from falling victim to a perfect game by Roy Halladay. One of the best headlines I’ve seen following the near perfecto, “Doctober”. Good stuff.
When the Braves and Giants got started last night I wasn’t really sure what to expect but Tim Lincecum didn’t disappoint. Some would say that Lincecum struggled this year but he certainly didn’t struggle in game 1. He dominated the Braves in a 1-0 gem while striking out 14. If they could put together enough offense, they could pose the biggest threat to the Phillies in the NL. The Braves have nothing to be ashamed of though. Derek Lowe, an accomplished post-season pitcher didn’t disappoint in the least but his guys were dominated by Lincecum. If the rest of these games in this series are anything like the first, this series has all the makings to be special.
On the AL side of things, once again, it was more of the same. Cliff Lee was… well, Cliff Lee and despite all of the concerns, Andy Pettitte was Andy Pettitte and showed why he is the best post season pitcher in baseball. Perhaps the one thing that was the same that at least some wished would be different was the Minnesota Twins. A brand new ballpark, outdoors, home field advantage, but yet the same result. They continued to struggle against the New York Yankees. Despite holding leads in the first two games they were unable to hold the Yankees down. The ace of the staff in the person of Francisco Liriano was up 3-0 in the 6th inning at home and couldn’t hold the lead. In my mind, that game alone lost the series for the Twins. It was as if all of the air and the life was sucked out of the Twins and the fans. The doubt from years past had crept in and suddenly; home field advantage was no more. All the while, they were pretty confident heading in to game 2 because for the first time ever, no one – including the Yankees – knew what Andy Pettitte was going to bring to the table. That was until 7 innings had passed and they had managed just two runs and were trailing 4-2 with a guy named Rivera looming in the bullpen. Kerry Wood, who struggled in game 1, was dominant. He needed just ten pitches (nine strikes) to get through the inning and hand the ball and the lead to Mariano Rivera. Before they could even blink, the Twins were in a 2-0 series hole heading back to New York.
Much of the same can be said for the Tampa Bay Rays who are in the same situation down 2-0 heading to Texas. Not much can be said for this series besides the Rays bats have been silenced by the Texas two step of Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson who look every bit as good as advertised. I was of the thought that Tampa’s failure to land an impact bat at the trade deadline would come back to hurt them. After all, this is the same group of guys that were no hit by Mark Bueherle and Dallas Braden in consecutive years. As for David Price, I don’t think he was nervous or overwhelmed. I think it was all about location, location, location.
I might be getting ahead of myself but I think that we should start looking forward to a Yankees/Rangers ALCS and a San Francisco/Philadelphia NLCS.
Entering Sunday, we didn’t know much about the MLB playoff picture, at least on the NL side of things. Here’s a look at what we do know about both leagues:
- Phillies win the NL East
- Reds win the NL Central
- Rangers win AL West
- Minnesota wins AL Central
On Sunday, the playoff brackets are now set in stone. It took all 162 games to settle everything but now, after five grueling months there are no more questions as to who will play who and the when and where. In the AL East, Tampa Bay was victorious against Kansas City while the Yankees dropped the finale in Boston, thus crowning the Rays AL East champions and giving them home field through out the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Yankees will head to Minnesota to take on the Twins as the AL Wild Card representative. Elsewhere, the Braves held off a late rally by the Phillies and won and clinched the NL Wild Card in the process. The San Francisco Giants defeated the San Diego Padres on Sunday and also clinched the NL West title. the Padres are now on the outside looking in of the NL playoffs.
Here is a look at the playoff match-ups starting on October 6.
Every baseball fan in the world knows the name of Scott Boras. For those not acquainted, Boras is not a flame-throwing lefty out of the pen or a baseball-demolishing power hitter. No, he’s simply an agent.
But unlike other agent, who normally ply their wares behind the scenes, get the best for their clients quietly and then move one, Boras actively pursues not only publicity—which he does to normally great effect—but seems to enjoy actively attracting confrontation with management and GMs. His thought process seems to be “Confrontation will bleed the bucks for my client. And therefore me.”
But does it? Do Boras’ negotiation tactics actually work? Is he good for his clients? Let’s take a look.
We always hear about Boras having several teams interested including the famous “mystery team”. The most interesting client of his this off-season is Johnny Damon. Reports are that Damon is on the verge of signing with the Detroit Tigers for 2 years at $14 million per. I’m baffled by that because that is the exact deal that Boras advised Damon to reject from the Yankees in early December.
For Damon, this is the second contract in a row that his price has had to drop dramatically. However, this time, the Yankees aren’t there to save him.
In 2006, when Damon came up for free agency, John Henry II, owner of the Red Sox flew to Damon’s home in Florida to tell him how important he was to the Red Sox and how badly they wanted him back. The Red Sox then offered a 4-year, 40 million-dollar contract. Boras dismissed it out of hand and said negotiations for the 34-year-old Damon begin at 7 years at roughly 90 million.
To the surprise of no one, the market did not bear that out.
Playing the Red Sox and Yankees against each other, Boras hoped to drive Damon’s price up. And while he was party successful—Damon did get his 13 million annual—he got it for only 4 years, not for 7. According to the Red Sox, they were shocked by Damon’s signing—Boras never offered a counteroffer to the Red Sox; he never even told them that Damon was signing with the Yankees at all. According to the Red Sox, they were negotiating with Boras and felt that a deal would be worked out at some point—that they were on the same page and that there was an understanding between Damon and them. Former co-general manager Jed Hoyer retroactively described talks the Damon talks with Boras ‘’as very productive.”
However, despite that fact that no one offered Damon anything more than 4 years, much less 7, Damon secured a nice paycheck and was content. Things did not work out so well the past time Damon reached free agency.
When Damon reached free agency in 2009, Boras decided to play hardball with the Yankees. Despite Damon’s obvious love for the Yankees and New York, Boras said to Yankee GM Brian Cashman in early December that Damon would not take a penny less than $13 million per year for two years. Don’t even make an offer if it doesn’t have that figure in it. Naturally, the Yankees GM said: “We believed him,” Cashman said.
Instead the Yankees, much to the surprise of Boras and Damon, have decided to go with Brett Gardner, Randy Winn and a host of Plan B guys, minor leaguers and journeyman in left field. Boras, who had previously constantly rebuffed the Yankees whenever they tried to negotiate with Boras for Damon, according to Buster Olney, ultimately priced himself out of his preferred choice, the Yankees, but seemingly almost the entire league. Too pricey and no longer an option for the Braves, the Tigers, the A’s and the Cubs, and seemingly forced to accept a 4 million dollar deal from the Rays. A far cry from the 13 million he demanded from the Yankees. Out of work, I’m sure there are some nights Damon wished he took the Yankees final offer of 6 million per. Oooops.
Boras has been known as the “super agent”, but that title is being put in question. Yes, Scott Boras thinks only of money. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s his job. However, this year’s salary and the best long-term interests of the athlete do always coincide. And they certainly aren’t what is best for baseball. The betterment of baseball notwithstanding, what Boras seeks just isn’t in the interest of the best interest of his clients sometimes—career-wise, or even financially long-term-wise. Sometimes it behooves players to pick what best serves their personal interests long-term rather than the bottom line.
Ultimately its up to the client. Whatever the athlete wants, no matter what Boras may believe is what should play out. However, considering Boras’ track record, we should consider that Boras’ goal is not always what is in the best interest of his client. It is for the most money. Which is in what is best interest for Boras.
That needs to be checked on.
To quote Jim Nantz let me start by saying “hello friends”. It’s been a busy day and internet access has been hard to come by on the road and at work. It was another typical “Way Back” Wednesday for me at the Fox 1370 studios. The phone lines were jacked all day and oddly enough it wasn’t related to the Baltimore Ravens for most of the day. The majority of topics and phone calls were about the Orioles and how they may structure the line up and other possible moves. For me personally, it was refreshing to hear some optimism and excitement from fans towards the O’s. I don’t know about anyone else but I get tired of the complaining, the bitterness, and the lack of respect towards the game itself. Granted, its been 12 plus years of losing for the O’s and if I were a fan I would be frustrated but not to the degree that I’ve seen and heard around town in the past. I’ll say this about the O’s and how they are going about the building process. For the first time in recent years, the O’s have a plan. Andy MacPhail arrived in 2007 and since that time he’s had an idea. That idea turned in to a plan, and now that plan is beginning to take shape and as a result the Orioles and their fans are starting to see the benefits. I know its difficult and may take some time but trust him folks, he knows what he’s doing.
That brings me to my next point. As I was sitting in the studio today receiving the calls, I listened to a number of the callers continually talk about how many home runs each guy can potentially hit. More specifically the potential 3-4-5 in the batting order: Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Adam Jones. I sat and listened and repeatedly seemed to hear: “Oh, Nick can hit 25 and Wieters will hit 15, but Jones is the one with 25-30 home run potential.” Folks, I realize home runs are sexy and they are the fastest way to score runs but stop and think for a second. We are in a different era now. The game has changed. You’ve got to find other ways to create runs and score. Home runs are great but they aren’t the only means to winning. Just keep that in mind. Sometimes the fascination with the long ball really gets me. Judging by the callers I heard today, Chicks aren’t the only ones who dig the long ball.
Johnny Damon/Yankees Update
I mentioned Johnny Damon’s availability yesterday and suggested the idea with each day that passes it become more likely that Damon would return to the Bronx. Well, so much for all of that. The Yankees seem to have found the outfielder that will presumably platoon with Brett Gardner in left by reaching an agreement with veteran Randy Winn as first reported by the New York Post. It is a one year pact worth approximately $2 million dollars. At first glance, it looks like a curious move at best for the Bombers. Winn is coming off of a down year hitting .262 with 2 HR and 51 RBI for the San Francisco Giants in ’09. It’s obvious here that the Yankees are hoping for a bounce back year from Winn. Furthermore, his splits aren’t great as explained explained here by Chad Jennings of the Journal News. Winn can certainly help the Yankees. He is considered an exceptional corner outfielder with the ability to play center field if needed, plus he is a high-percentage base stealer. Winn was successful in 16 out of 18 tries last year for San Francisco, and has stolen 56 bases and been caught seven times over the past three years. (As stated in the article by The Post)<em> Joel Sherman believes that the Yankees remain hopeful to reach a minor-league agreement with a righty-hitting outfielder who does well against southpaws, with Rocco Baldelli a possibility. It seems to me the Yankees are content to use several pieces in the outfield which is similar to what was during the championship run of the ’90s with the likes of Chad Curtis and Shane Spencer manning the corner outfield spots. No doubt Johnny Damon will be missed on the field as well as the clubhouse but baseball is a business and his demands were beyond the Yankees financial limits. As I stated yesterday, I’m ok with the Yankees going in this direction. It might not be the popular decision among Yankees Universe but its one we better get used to.
Speaking of Damon, Joel Sherman of The Post is also reporting that the Tampa Bay Rays have emerged as a dark horse candidate to sign him. It’s an interesting fit considering Damon lives in the Orlando area. I would think Damon would be used as a primary DH and occasional left fielder even if the Rays have to hang on to Burrell. We’ll see what happens in the coming days and weeks but hopefully he will end up somewhere and be happy. Heres to you Johnny, best of luck.