Friday, January 30, 2009

The Tek Watch is finally over.

Captain Jason Varitek finally ended the suspense and signed a one year contract with the Red Sox. He'll get $5 million in 2009, with a mutual option for 2010. Tek gets $5 million if the Sox exercise the option, $3 million if he exercises it. He also has an incentive clause that lets him earn another $2 million based on games played if he exercises the option.

I think this is a good deal all around. Tek really had no other options. No one was going to pay big bucks for a 37 year old catcher with a lot of mileage on his body who hit .220 last year AND give up a first round draft pick. I think the Sox made a very reasonable offer (some might say generous) and I'm glad Tek took it.

So what's next? I think the Sox still have to consider acquiring the catcher of the future. A trade with Texas for Taylor Teagarden or Jarrod Saltalamacchia or the Diamondbacks for Miguel Montero is likely still in the works. It would be great if Varitek could tutor his successor for a couple of years before he retires.

It's been quite an off season. Other than the Yankes big 3 of Sabathia, Teixeira and Burnett, a number of free agents had to take big discounts from their 2007 salaries and lots of others aren't signed. Other than Tek, Pat Burrell signed with the Rays for about $8 million, half of what he made last year and Andy Pettitte took a $10.5 million cut to $5.5 million to resign with the Empire.

And, of course, the players who remain unsigned include guys like Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Ben Sheets and Adam Dunn. The recession is really having an impact on players salaries, like it is everything else.

In honor of Tek's signing, I'll end with the picture which is basically the reason photography was invented.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A few thoughts on a cold, cold Monday. I'm ready for winter to be over, already!
  • Looks like the Joe Torre's new book, written with Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, is going to be a must read. Apparently, Yankee teammates called A-Rod "A-Fraud" (something Sox fans have been calling him since the Bronson Arroyo slap). It appears there's lots of dishing on Cashman, Steinbrenner and others. Few things are more fun that wallowing in some Bronx disfunction!
  • There's a new Mac Trojan Horse out there. It seems the only way to get it is to download pirated copies of popular Mac programs like Photoshop and iWork '09. Sorry, but if you are grabbing pirated copies of software from unknown sources and installing them on your system, you get what you deserve.
  • Word is (from that the Sox have offered Jason Varitek a $5 million contract for 2009, with a $5 million team option or $3 million player option for 2010. Sounds like a very reasonable deal to me. It guarantees Tek at least $8 million, with the opportunity to make more if he plays well. Given that Tek doesn't appear to have many other options (and certainly none that are going to pay him that kind of money), I hope he signs the deal. Even with his poor year at the plate in '08, I don't really want to see our Captain in someone else's uniform.
  • I got to the train station this morning, only to be greeted by the electronic message board saying that my 6:25 train was canceled. Since it was only about 5 degrees outside and I really didn't feel like waiting around for 25 minutes for the next train, I decided to drive in. Turned out to be a good call, since a T-Alert email told me that the next train was delayed for 15-20 minutes. How can the T cancel an order for new locomotives when the ones they have don't seem to work consistently in cold weather?
  • Sean Casey has retired and is taking a job with the MLB Network. Talk about the perfect match. A gregarious guy like Casey should be a great addition to MLBN's coverage.
  • It seems wrong that the highest paid player on the Red Sox roster going into next season is J.D. Drew.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We have been a bit light on the baseball related content lately, so here are six thoughts:
  • Mama, let your babies grow up to be lefties: Javier Lopez signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox for $1.35 million. This once again proves that as long as you can throw left-handed and have a pulse you can make a lot of money as a major league pitcher.
  • Who's getting better value for the money? The Red Sox signing Youkilis, Pedroia and Papelbon for a combined 11 years for $87.75 million or the Yankees signing Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett for a combined 20 years for $423.5 million? Assuming that you don't have money to burn, I'd say the Red Sox are being a bit more pennywise.
  • Of course, the Red Sox spent a combined $106 million for 9 years of J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo, so I guess you can't be winners all the time.
  • The MLB Network should be classified by the FDA as an addictive substance.
  • Have I mentioned that I'm going to Cooperstown for the Jim Rice induction with The Hey and Bismo? It should be a fun weekend. I haven't been to an induction since 1990 (Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer), so I'm really looking forward to it.
  • Truck Day is February 6! That's just over 2 weeks away!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Two quick thoughts on this historic day in the United States:
  • I thought President Obama struck the right tone in his inauguration speech. He was tough when he needed to be (basically telling the terrorists "don't frak with me because I'm the new guy"), pragmatic and optimistic at the same time. People needed to hear the message that America can come back from it's current state, but it's not going to be easy. Very presidential and very inspiring.
  • Best words I heard all day: "Former President George W. Bush".

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Here's a little different topic than you may be used to here (i.e., it's not about baseball).

I grew up in Pawtucket, RI. Pawtucket is pretty much your typical Northeastern mill town. Many of the mills and factories that drove the economy closed after World War II as they moved South, then overseas in search of cheaper labor. Pawtucket, and many towns like it, have been trying to recover ever since.

In recent years, Pawtucket, especially the downtown, has become home to artists and theater companies, starting to revitalize the economy. I found this video on YouTube, produced by The Pawtucket Foundation, which talks about this and ongoing efforts to make the city a better place to live and work. It runs about eight minutes and is pretty interesting, especially to a native like me.

One thing that I found really interesting was the talk of revitalizing the Pawtucket-Central Falls train station. I realized that I didn't remember any train station in Pawtucket - any time we took the train or picked someone up we would go downtown Providence. A quick Google search showed that the train station closed in 1959, five years before I was born. Check out the link - you can see that it was probably a beautiful building once. Reopening the building and running the commuter rail through there would be a great thing for the city.

See, no baseball. I didn't even mention the Pawsox!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If I were an Atlanta Braves fan, I would have been about ready to throw up when I saw this picture.

Welcome to Boston, Mr. Smoltz!

Monday, January 12, 2009

On a summer evening in 1974, I was at McCoy Stadium watching the Pawsox play some unremembered International League opponent. During that game, a hot young Red Sox prospect named Jim Rice hit a home run.

That is my first real memory of being at a professional baseball game.

Nearly 35 years later, Jim Rice was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was Rice's last time on the baseball writers ballot and he made it by seven votes. Rice will join Rickey Henderson and Joe Gordon (voted in by the Veterans Committee) in Cooperstown in July.

Congratulations to Jim Ed. It's well deserved and about time!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two things as another snowy weekend ends...
  • The results of the annual baseball writers Hall of Fame election are due to be announced tomorrow. The only sure thing is the election of Rickey Henderson in his first time on the ballot. Sox fans (including me) are waiting to see if Jim Rice gets in on his 15th and final try. I have always thought Rice was deserving of induction since he meets my definition of a Hall of Famer: he was a dominating player at his position for a long period of time. If he had two more good years, he would have been in a long time ago. As it is, he has to hope he gets 15-20 more votes than he did last year to get in.
  • Theo Epstein's bargain shopping continued yesterday, as it came out that the Red Sox signed reliever Takashi Saito to a one year contract, with an option for 2010. Saito has been with the Dodgers the last three years and saved 39 games in 2007. However, he had elbow trouble last year and didn't pitch much. This signing is right in line with the rest of Theo's pickups since Teixiera signed with the Yankees - short guaranteed money for guys with high upsides but significant risk that they are going to contribute to the club. Obviously, the strategy is to stockpile a bunch of guys and hope they hit on a few of them. I hope it works out.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

It's an interesting day for the Red Sox today. Given that they failed to successfully compete with they Yankees for Teixeira, they seem to have gone the Pittsburgh Pirates route in signing cheap, but flawed, free agents.

The Sox signed the "Woonsocket Rocket", Rocco Baldelli, and Braves legend John Smotz to contracts today. Both guys have the potential to be assets to the team if they can actually play next season.

Baldelli, of course, has a mitochondrial disorder that robs him of his stamina and he hasn't been able to play consecutive days. He seems like a 5th outfielder type and the Sox are going to have to pick up someone else to play when J.D. Drew inevitibly hits the disabled list. Baldelli can still hit and play the outfield well, so he can certainly help the team. Oh, and he got number 5, the first Sox player to wear it since Nomar's departure.

Smoltz is coming off arm surgery and ends his 21 year association with the Braves. The Sox now have six veteran starters (Beckett, Daisuke, Lester, Penny, Wake and Smoltz) plus at least two promising arms in the farm system (Buchholz and Bowden), so they appear to have plenty of depth in the rotation. Since it's almost certain someone is going to go down at some point, that's not a bad thing.

Oh, and if Smoltz rehabs in Pawtucket, I'm there.

The good thing is that the Sox didn't panic and overpay to make a big splash after not signing Teixeira. The signings of Penny, Baldelli and Smoltz are classic Theo low-risk, high-potential-reward deals. The money is relatively short if these guys don't work out, and if they contribute they'll be worth what they pay them.

I think the Sox still could use a big bat in the middle of the lineup, but they can certainly be competitive with the team as currently constituted.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I have been buying my comic books at a place called Bedrock Comics in Framingham for years. When I stopped in over the weekend Jack, the owner, was clearing out a bunch of toys he had in inventory, including a lot of sports action figures.

The funny thing was that pretty much all the baseball players he had were poster boys for the Steroid Era - Giambi, Canseco, McGwire, Clemens. I asked if he had any Sammy Sosa figures and he said that he had sold one earlier.

The funniest thing was this - he had a McGwire toy that was a kind of game - you pushed a button and McGwire would swing a bat. The best part was that the button looked like it was a giant syringe coming out of his thigh!

You really just can't make stuff like that up.

Friday, January 02, 2009

A few thoughts on day 2 of 2009:
  • Admit it. When you were a kid, you thought you would have a Jetsons-like flying car by 2009, didn't you?
  • At this point, I'd just be happy if Detroit would actually build a car I wanted to buy.
  • I like the Brad Penny signing by the Sox. If he's healthy, he's a good #4/5 starter in a rotation with Beckett, Lester, Daisuke and Wake. At $5 million for one year (with the potential for another $3 million in incentives), this is a low risk, high potential reward signing for Theo.
  • Penny's career: 94-75, 4.06 ERA, 1,032 K's, 475 walks in 1,460 innings over 9 years.
  • A.J. Burnett's career: 87-76, 3.81 ERA, 1,278 K's, 568 walks in 1,378 innings over 10 years.
  • So why is one guy getting $82.5 million and one is getting $5 million?
  • I'm probably going to get really addicted to the new MLB Network. Did you see the broadcast of Don Larsen's perfect game last night, complete with original commercials? Very cool stuff.

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