Tag Archives: David Ortiz

This Week in Boston Baseballing, June 13 – 19

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Boston’s long slog back to .500 continues. The Red Sox split a four-game set with the Indians last weekend and then earned a three-game sweep in a ridiculously well-pitched three-game series against the Twins that saw a total of seven runs scored between the two teams.

The finale on Wednesday was the type of win every good team needs once in a while. John Lackey went nine scoreless, but the Sox entered the bottom of the 10th inning down a run after Koji Uehara uncharacteristically surrendered a homer (Chris Parmalee, no less). Enter David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, who went back-to-back to end the ballgame and clinch the sweep.

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Boston began a West Coast road swing last night in Oakland against the Athletics, who came into the series boasting a differential of nearly 100 runs better than any other team in the American League. They added to that with a 4-2 win behind Scott Kazmir, who kept the Sox in check for seven innings aside from allowing a two-run homer to Dustin Pedroia.

The Red Sox Starting Rotation Could Get Crowded
On WEEI.com earlier this week, Alex Speier noted the importance of the club’s rotational depth, which has been a chief reason that the team’s hopes of making a run at a playoff spot this fall are still alive. In the absence of Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront, Rubby de la Rosa and Brandon Workman have made the most of their opportunities.

Though both Workman and De La Rosa are relatively young in age (both are 25) and baseball years, both offered the Sox players with some big league track records of success. Yet even while those track records suggested that they might not be overwhelmed, the fact that they have yet to encounter a major hiccup is noteworthy.

In five starts by Workman and four by De La Rosa, both have thrown five or more innings every time they’ve taken the mound; Workman has yet to allow more than three runs, while De La Rosa has given up four in two starts and none in two starts, including Monday’s one-hit, three-walk, three-strikeout effort in which he elicited 12 outs via ground ball.

De la Rosa’s fastball velocity in his four starts has been particularly impressive. He’s the only pitcher on the team who is capable of going out and throwing 94-95-mph consistently for six-plus innings. And yet, he’s blooming at a time when Clay Buchholz is just about ready to rejoin the rotation.

Meanwhile, Workman’s six-game suspension offers Felix Doubront an opportunity to start tonight against Oakland. Coming back from a bruised shoulder, Doubront will pitch for the first time since May 20. He has thus far underwhelmed with a K/BB rate of 31/19 in 45 innings this season. The guess here is that if Doubront shows some life on his fastball, he may be moved to the bullpen as potentially a better lefty option than Chris Capuano, who has been used sparingly over the last two weeks.

Brock Holt!
When a utility infielder who looks like Matt Damon circa Good Will Hunting makes his first start in center field and does things like this, he’s going to win a lot of fans in Boston.

Brock Holt

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The Grady Sizemore Experiment Comes to an End
Boston designated the struggling outfielder for assignment on Tuesday and called up Garin Cecchini for what could be more than just a one-day stint (as the team did earlier this month). Ben Cherington left the door open for Sizemore to potentially return to the system on a minor league contract after the 10-day waiver period. Sizemore is reportedly still healthy, so its likely some team looking for outfield depth will take a flyer on him.

Looking back at Sizemore’s Boston tenure, Shane Victorino’s prolonged absence forced the team to cross its fingers and entrust the veteran outfielder to be a key contributor in the offense. From Baseball Reference’s Lineup summary page for the team: Sizemore was the No. 5 hitter in the most common batting order used by John Farrell this season. Granted, Farrell has only used that order four times in 73 games, but Sizemore led off 10 times, slotted in at No. 5 for 15 of his starts and as the No. 6 hitter in another eight games. Sizemore simply did not hit for enough power to justify being an everyday starter in a corner outfield position, let alone a middle-of-the-order presence.


This Week in Boston Baseballing, April 11 – April 17

The Red Sox lost three of four in New York over the weekend as the offense continues to sputter. In Chicago, Boston dropped the opener before coming back for two last at-bat wins against the White Sox, including a 14-inning affair on Wednesday night. The team has now managed just 56 runs in 16 games but still sports a 7-9 record and a fairly neutral run differential (-4) thanks to strong efforts like Jon Lester’s one-run, eight-inning performance Thursday night.

The Replay Debate
On Sunday night, the deciding run for the Yankees scored as the end result of a review that overturned a potential inning-ending double play. The galling part of the reversal was that a play that was equally – if not more conclusive on replay – was not overturned the day before because reviewers seemed to be looking at different camera feeds. A frustrated John Farrell cast his vote on the matter.

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In the immediate aftermath of Boston’s loss, Red Sox Nation, with thought-leaders like Boston.com’s Eric Wilbur showing the way, hasn’t come around on the whole replay thing.

Replay survey

If baseball weren’t mired in the dark ages in most things technology as they pertain to on-field play, flaws in the system could have been ironed out sometime less embarrassingly late like, say, during the flip-phone era. At some point this year, replay will aid in wininng a game for the Sox and the colors on the map above will look a little different.

Twitter: Giving Media Undeserved Fodder Since 2007
Poor Xander Bogaerts. He’s deleted his Twitter account because a woman sent a sexy photo of herself to him and he accidentally posted the private message to his feed. Dude’s a 21-year-old budding baseballing star and, as is won’t to happen, ladies respond to that kind of thing.

The photo, courtesy of Awful Announcing. (Indeed.)


The photo isn’t even particularly racy unless you’ve been in a coma since 1985. If so, welcome back. Also, 1984 first-round pick John Marzano never really panned out as hoped. Sorry you had to find out this way.

Red Sox Exercise Caution With Koji
Koji Uehara’s shoulder discomfort led to some extra caution for the team in New York. Uehara went back to Boston and was given a decent bill of health and rejoined the team in Chicago, picking up the save last night and reassuming his closer role. Good seeing him draped over David Ortiz’s shoulder in the duo’s signature celebratory pose.

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Ortiz Coming Out of His Funk?
A lot of Boston’s offensive struggles in the early going of 2014 can be explained by David Ortiz’s sub .700 OPS. Papi is the lynchpin of the offense and two homers in 16 games is concerning. Chicago’s Adam Eaton took away a solid bid for a third last night. It may just be a matter of time…

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Local Man’s Game Recap (Red Sox 4, Rangers 2)

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CARVER, Mass. – David Ortiz, you old seadog, you. Papi’s still got it. All these years later. Just amazing.

I knocked off work on the bog in time to catch most of this one. As a little reward to myself, I drank about half of my week’s pay for these recaps, chased it with a bit of whiskey, told the old lady to stay off the landline for a minute and cranked up the modem so I could write this website.

Being directly frank and truthful, I can’t say whether that ball Ortiz hit today was fair or foul. But it doesn’t really matter. The umpires had no idea. Neither did Jerry Remy, he wouldn’t even say. But damn, that thing was high and deep and there’s gotta be some sort of benefit of the doubt given for hitting a baseball into the first stratosphere of space or piercing the o-zone layer or whatever part of heaven it was that David touched with that dinger.

I got to thinking and maybe it was the double-digit beers going through, but I started wondering, what if Mo Vaughn woulda done what Papi’s doing? If he’d been smart enough not to chase the money out in California’s LA land. Take Boston’s money instead. I can’t think of many guys who’ve thrived (except fa Ruth…) after they left town.

Here in Beantown, loyalty is rewarded. And that goes both ways. Ortiz is living proof when he hits these late-game bombs…just a gargantuan shot last night. Too bad guys like Mo leave town instead of staying here and basking in the glory that my man David’s getting now.

Oh well, no reason to think about old shit though. Why even bring it up, ya know?

The Sox got their first series win of the season. Now it’s time for New York. Ellsbury – you coulda been here for this…just like Mo.

Ed. Note: Carver man and friend of the site Francis Flynn is an avid Red Sox fan, Boston-born and bred. Flynn’s day job is maintaining a 10-acre cranberry bog and tract of farmland that has been in his family for three generations. But his passion is following his region’s most beloved baseball team. Flynn recently agreed to provide Fenway Pastoral readers with his own recaps throughout the 2014 regular season. All we had to do in return was promise to publish his pieces unedited and to send him a case of Miller High Life (bar bottles were specified) every week.

This Week in Boston Baseballing, March 21 – 27

The Red Sox will head north this weekend in preparation for Opening Day in Baltimore on Monday. President Obama will meet with the team the next day to honor the 2013 World Champs. Things are about to get serious.

David Ortiz Might Play Until He’s 57 Years Old…
With the announcement of the latest iteration of a contract extension, the Red Sox and Big Papi have all but guaranteed that he will never wear another team’s uniform as a major league player ever again. The extension, um, extends in theory until 2017 if Ortiz hits certain playing-time escalators. A few years ago, Ortiz wasn’t all that difficult an out for left-handed pitchers. It would have seemed unlikely that Ortiz’s at-bat total had a chance to remain anywhere above 500 as he looked to be evolving into a platoon DH.

However, none other than Adrian Gonzalez has been credited with counseling Ortiz in his approach against southpaws, which is proving to be an important development considering how well Papi has done against lefties the last two seasons. Gonzalez was reported to be a malcontent while he was on the Red Sox and this latest news proves all the conjecture. Knowing the Sox are basically obligated to pay Ortiz as long as he wishes to keep playing, A-Gonz was clearly helping Ortiz out in order to continue to cost the team millions of dollars years even after he went back to the West Coast. Demonic!

Boston Lands Third on Forbes’ MLB Valuation List
Forbes pegs the Red Sox franchise with a current value of $1.5 billion. The Yankees place first at $2.5 billion and the Dodgers are second at $2.0 billion (which also, interestingly enough, matches LA’s projected payroll for the 2017 season at its current rate of growth…). Regional television deals in larger markets are significant factors in many of these numbers, not only for the country’s top TV markets in New York and LA but also in Boston. The Red Sox own an 80% stake in NESN, which significantly aids the team’s value. While ticket demand is on a relative downturn now that the team’s sellout streak has ended, Forbes notes that the Red Sox saw a 14% increase in ratings during the 2013 championship run.

Every Little Thing No Longer Alright in Victorinoland
Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” was a Fenway favorite last year as Shane Victorino’s walk-up at-bat music. However, MLB has now capped hitters’ walk-up music playtimes at a completely un-alright 15 seconds.

On the Sons of Sam Horn message board, “mikey lowell of the sandbox” does seem to offer a feasible answer to the problem:

I see a solution — just leave out the introductory verse and go straight to the sing-along chorus:

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, (“This is my message to you-ou-ou:”)

Singin’: “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singin’: “Don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!”

Yes, the team could cut out the first 10 seconds or so of the song, but isn’t the build-up all part of the fun? It seems that no matter what happens, if Shane’s going good, Fenway fans are likely to serenade him during the at-bat even if the song isn’t playing.

The 2014 Red Sox Pocket Schedule
Last year, Fenway Pastoral provided a detailed history of various promotional pocket schedules released throughout the years during spring training. Ever the vehicles of optimism, pocket schedules provide a nice snapshot of how the team plans to advertise its product to the fan base. For example, team-designed pocket skeds distributed last year centered on bringing pride back to the city after the 2012 Bobby Valentine-Helmed Abortion. The whole 162 Chances to Restore the Faith thing worked out pretty well.

David Ortiz pocket sked 2014

Coming off a World Series victory, the team probably won’t need to get all that creative this year to drum up interest on a macro level. But moving tickets during afternoon games in early spring could be more challenging. The 2014 pocket schedule rallying cry speaks to that: “Any Game Can Be The Game.”

Indeed. Opening Day is less than 72 hours away.

David Ortiz’s Latest Extension and What it Might Mean for Jon Lester

News of David Ortiz’s contract extension is drawing a variety of viewpoints from People With Opinions regarding whether the proverbial “hometown discount” has played a role in Papi’s compensation. It’s a pretty amusing argument given that Ortiz has never been paid more than $14 million in a given season. On the other hand, he’s been paid about $125 million up to this point, counting 2014. The basis for any kind of discount debate basically comes down to the intellectual dishonesty of either ignoring how little Ortiz was paid as he was proving himself to be a superstar or ignoring the cumulative amount of money he’s earned because he has been successful in Boston.

Looking at his annual WAR and corresponding salaries, Big Papi was basically grossly underpaid during his peak seasons and then essentially paid aptly during his declining years. On an extracurricular level, Ortiz has also obviously cashed in on his local hero status (as he should).

Since Ortiz first became a Red Sox in 2003, the price per one WAR has gone from around $3.0 million, based on FanGraphs.com estimates, to close to $6.0 million per WAR this year (based on expected production versus the money doled out for free agents who signed during the 2013-2014 winter).

One of these years, given his age, Ortiz is likely to fall apart, whether it’s gradually – due to decreased bat speed – or more abruptly as a result of an injury. Or, Ortiz could still be on the team in 2016 and 2017, based on the extension announced today. There are vesting club/incentive options for 2016 and another club option for 2017. Both of which are based on plate appearances and could very well lead to some discomfort if Ortiz enters into a prolonged funk at the plate and begins losing ABs as a DH.

There are therefore a number of possibilities for scaling up Ortiz’s salaries based on his performance. We can assume the team has at least in theory allocated $16 million for each of the next three seasons, 2015-2017, in the event he continues to defy the odds. It’s hard to imagine Ortiz hitting all escalators, but since the deal has been done in part to appeal to his pride, you have to figure there is at least a non-zero chance that he earns $16 million in 2017 if he, say, hits 30 home runs at age 40 during the 2016 season. If all that were to happen, here would be the breakdown of his time with the team.

David Ortiz salary projection

As shown in the chart above, if we look forward to the next three seasons for Ortiz, using his projected 2014 WAR of 2.5 as a baseline and assuming he loses about 0.5 WAR of productivity each season, Big Papi can be expected to ultimately net around $173 million in salary over the course of his Red Sox career while producing about 46 WAR overall in a Boston uniform. That works out to a payout of around $3.8 million per WAR.

Based on that production, the Red Sox will have gotten $20 million in surplus value thanks to his output in peak years.

Meanwhile, all of this could be instructive when trying to figure out what Jon Lester’s “hometown discount” extension, which seems to be an inevitability, may look like. With Ortiz more or less guaranteed to end his career with the Red Sox, it looks as though the team has established something of a baseline for what it will pay to keep a fan favorite around longer than it perhaps would normally stomach.

Projection systems have Lester pegged around 3.5 to 4.0 WAR this season. We’ve taken the higher end forecast for the purposes here and stepped it forward five years. Lester’s decline isn’t likely to be very linear. But assuming on average the same 0.5 decline annually, he’s a decent bet to generate 12.5 WAR in total over five years. This seems reasonable given his age and that he’s a lefty. (Maybe he starts being a “crafty” southpaw and stuff.)

If the Sox and Lester agreed to a five-year, $125 million extension, he would wind up with the exact same cumulative WAR as Ortiz over essentially the same amount of time (14-15 years) and right around the same total compensation ($169 million for Lester versus $173 million for Ortiz).

Jon Lester salary projection

Five years and $125 million seems like way more than the Red Sox would be willing to give any pitcher given their past track record. John Lackey hasn’t been quite the disaster many want to believe after all, but the team hasn’t come close to revisiting a five-year deal approaching nine figures since. Then again, if Lester doesn’t sign now and pitches well during 2014, he may be a goner given that Max Scherzer supposedly turned down six years and $144 million (as ESPN’s Gordon Edes noted in the article linked above).

To bring this back full circle, one can argue pretty easily that something like a five-year, $100 million deal would indeed represent a substantial “hometown discount” on Lester’s part. After all, he has – albeit more quietly and often with a scowl – done nearly as much for the Red Sox as Ortiz.

Meanwhile, since Lester began his career with Boston and was paid minimum salaries while under the club’s exclusive control, it’s conceivable that he could end up generating about $50-60 million in surplus value, even if he does get that $125 million deal as modeled above. Lester has never even come close to being paid more than the WAR value he’s generated. The team has benefited more from Lester than Ortiz on a cost-of-production basis because he was developed internally and was extended at a team-friendly deal near the end of his rookie contract.

It’s just business as usual for a front office that is proving to be adept at valuing its assets and making shrewd business decisions. The Red Sox aren’t going to be getting any hometown discounts from Ortiz or Lester because they’ve already gotten them. And it’s unlikely either player feels obligated to extend a discount, regardless of what they may tell the media when the question inevitably comes up, in one form or another. Unfortunately, that’s not the type of narrative that warms the heart or generates a whole hell of a lot of page hits and drive-time callers.


This Week in Boston Baseballing, February 1 – 6

The baseball season is rapidly approaching. Pitchers and catchers will begin to show up in Fort Myers in about a week and position players won’t be too far behind. Some guys, like Daniel Nava, Jon Lester, Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr., have already been down in Florida for a few days.

Unless you have a strong opinion about who should bat leadoff or the relative merits of re-signing Stephen Drew, buzz around the team continues to be fairly minimal considering the Red Sox won the World Series last year. That figures to change in the next couple of weeks.

The Leadoff Hitter Debate
On FanGraphs, Paul Swydan comes to the conclusion that Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia are the most logical candidates to take over for Jacoby Ellsbury vacated leadoff spot in the batting order. Ellsbury’s replacement in center is Jackie Bradley Jr. and, at first glance, may seem like he fits the bill since his on-base rate in the minors was strong. However, Bradley does not have a lot of raw speed, nor is he a notably better baserunner than Victorino or Pedroia. That’s leaving out the difficulties JBJ had getting on base at the major league level during his brief stint with the team at the start of the 2013 season.

As Swydan notes, the youngster who could enter the leadoff discussion isn’t JBJ but rather Xander Bogaerts, who showed an almost shocking amount of poise and discipline during his postseason at-bats.

Bogaerts has a keen batting eye, which make him an ideal candidate to hit at the top of the order. He struck out a fair amount in his very brief major league debut, but a) The Book reminds us to not consider strikeouts when constructing a lineup, and b) Bogaerts’ strikeout numbers in the minors were not egregious, and he should adjust as he gets more plate appearances. If he hits right from the jump, he would probably make for a better candidate at the top of the order than would Victorino, simply from the standpoint of being able to see more pitches. Victorino was right around league average, at 3.83 pitches per plate appearance (the American League average was 3.86), but Bogaerts was up at 4.10.

Victorino would figure to get the first crack at leadoff once the season begins. John Farrell seems to be the kind of guy who appreciates continuity so even if Shane struggles at the start of the year, this argument could be a non-starter if the team is scoring runs. Lineup construction is of limited value to begin with and there is no sense putting undue pressure on Bogaerts if it can be avoided.

David Ortiz Lost Some Weight Maybe
Moronic talk radio fodder: What if he’s gotten TOO SKINNY?

The Stephen Drew Saga Continues
In the Tuesday Boston Herald Clubhouse Insider, infield coach Brian Butterfield fanned the flames of uncertainty:

“Shortstop is so demanding, and they get so many groundballs and there’s so many times they’re handling the ball, consistency becomes so important, especially if you’re talking about a championship-caliber club,” Butterfield said. “If you do have a young shortstop and he’s going to be the guy — and we still don’t have a definitive answer on that — he needs to mature quickly and become a consistent defender in order for us to be successful. The groundball that he can get to on time and on balance, you want to get to a point where you know that runner is out. That’s a consistent shortstop.”

Drew was great for the team last year. But it’s worth asking why the Red Sox continue to be interested. Is it because they’re simply not convinced Bogaerts can handle the shortstop position at the big league level? Or is it that Drew could be had for a salary so far below what his production merits that Ben Cherington just can’t pull himself away? Or are they doing Drew the favor of keeping in touch to aid his market? After all, it’s looking like Drew probably did the Sox a courtesy by declining arbitration and a 1 year, $14m contract.

The Team Announces a Stacked 2014 Red Sox Hall of Fame Class
The primary news of the week coming from official team releases was the announcement of the team’s 2014 Hall of Fame Class: Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra and radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione.

Standards for induction are relatively lax:

To be eligible for nomination, players must have played at least three years with the Red Sox and must also have been out of uniform as an active player at least three years.

But let it be known that the team hasn’t had any inductions since 2010, a year that included inductees such as John Valentin, Jimmy Piersall and Don Zimmer. Pedro, Clemens and Nomar all go in together.

Curt Schilling Announces Cancer Diagnosis
Here’s hoping Schilling is able to kick this as quickly as possible and that he gets a fair chance to show what he has as a color man in the ESPN Sunday Night baseball booth.

This Winter in Boston Baseballing, 2013 – 2014

Boston enters the final weeks of the Hot Stove stretch having done relatively little tinkering with its roster this offseason aside from resigning Mike Napoli and coming to terms with free agents A.J. Pierzynski and Edward Mujica.

The Red Sox have a number of Top 100 prospects in its minor league ranks who are expected to contribute this season. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are forecast to see full-time duty while the club also has a few pitchers (Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo) who could be pitching meaningful innings by the summer if the back end of the rotation doesn’t pan out.

Former Superstar Grady Sizemore Signs With Boston
The Red Sox were evidently the only team willing to give Sizemore a significant major league contract. He will earn at least $750,000 and if he somehow supplants Jackie Bradley, Jr. as the starting center fielder and performs well, he could make up to $6 million.

Edward Sutelan writes on FanGraph’s Community page:

The signing of Grady Sizemore is an indication that they are ready to give Jacoby Ellsbury’s former job over to Jackie Bradley Jr., but it also shows that they are prepared with a backup plan in case that doesn’t pan out.  Some would say that Sizemore is hardly a backup plan as he could very well end up injured, which is absolutely true, and that an outfield of Gomes LF, Victorino CF, and Nava RF would happen in the event of Bradley turning out to be a dud.  But with Sizemore comes a tremendous amount of upside.  Five years ago he was a 30-30 player and a gold glover in the outfield.

Boston Rounds Out the Roster
In addition to the Sizemore signing, which generated the most fanfare, the Red Sox also made a series of minor moves to round out the roster, trading Franklin Morales for Jonathan Herrera and making pitcher depth signings in Jose Mijares and Jose Valdez.

Jerry Remy Announces He Will Return to NESN in 2014
In an interview on Monday at the station’s headquarters, the NESN color analyst said that as recently as December, he thought he was finished. However, he has had a change of heart since the New Year as family and friends implored him to come back.

Ortiz Gives Bizarre Interview With A Dog on his Lap
Boston may as well accept that Ortiz’s heroics and prolonged popularity allot him a unique amount of leverage. He is unlikely to ever be OK with entering a given spring with his current contract due to expire six months later. His public ploy for another extension is absolutely an opportunistic money-grab. But, really, what is it worth pride-wise for the organization to take a hard line?

One of these years, Ortiz is going to lose enough bat speed and become a lousy hitter. At that point, he will become a sunk cost, dead money on the Sox payroll. But it’s at least worth noting, as Pete Abraham noted on Boston.com earlier this week, for all his contributions to the club’s success, Papi’s salary has averaged only about $10 million per year over the past decade. The amount of cash it will take to forego this annual conversation until, probably, next spring amounts to a rounding error for the team. And it’s hard to argue that it sets a dangerous precedent because nobody else is David Ortiz. He is the only guy who can get away with this kind of yearly posturing. As the team has come to find out, he damn well knows it.

And of course, Papi looked especially villainous during this latest round of posturing thanks to giving his interview with WBZ while holding a small dog in his lap a la Dr. Evil.

Ortiz with dog on lap

The Red Sox Sit Out the Masahiro Tanaka Madness
Los Angeles, New York and Chicago were reportedly the three most active bidders in the Tanaka sweepstakes. The Yankees’ 7-year, $155m deal with Tanaka screams desperation. New York probably would have been smarter to sign a few shorter-term stopgap deals to insure themselves against injury and age (i.e. bring in Stephen Drew to spell the inevitable absence of Derek Jeter). But the tactic of signing Tanaka underscores that New York can’t afford to just be pretty good with marginal names. It needs cache and name recognition.

Red Sox fans should be thrilled that a rival AL East team signed Tanaka as he is a good bet to be one of the most exciting pitchers to watch during the upcoming half decade or so. And all the while, the move isn’t likely to garner New York any competitive advantage over Boston.

Larry Lucchino Renews His Favorite Narrative
In the wake of New York’s deal with Tanaka, Lucky Larry just couldn’t resist belly-aching over the Yankees’ seemingly endless budget. Lucchino makes these comments just about every time Boston’s AL East rival announces a splashy free agent signing.

As David Schoenfield mused Tuesday on ESPN, life is “tough for small-market Red Sox”:

Even in 2013, when the Red Sox trimmed their Opening Day payroll from $175 million to $155 million, they had the fourth-largest Opening Day payroll behind only the Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies. They’re not exactly the Pirates or A’s here.

For all the accolades given to the Red Sox for their 2012-2013 offseason when they went after second-tier free agents like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes, let’s be honest here: They still bought those players. You don’t think the Pirates are smart enough to know they could have improved their club this winter with a couple of strategic free-agent signings? You don’t think the Rays would just once want to sign a free agent that costs more than the Red Sox pay for a part-time left fielder?

It’s difficult not to take Lucky’s comments as the kinds of pointed opinions PR-minded dudes like Lucchino employ to rile up its bottom line – the ticket-buying, apparel-purchasing section of the fanbase. We have a difficult time thinking he even truly believes it. The Yankees more or less bought a World Series in 2009 but have otherwise seen very little correlation between success and bloated contracts, payrolls or luxury tax payments.

Lucchino only further exposes himself as a phony – if that’s even possible at this point – when he comes out with such a disingenuous assessment of other teams’ fiscal behavior – especially in matters relating to the rival Yankees. The Red Sox boast a top 5 farm system right now – maybe even vying for one of the best depending who you ask. It has a lot of young talent that will be price-controlled and will likely mitigate any need to make the kinds of nine-figure signings the Yankees and other big market clubs like Anaheim have been inking lately.

Based on this enviable position, the team will almost certainly use the savings to supplement that talent by overpaying some higher-visibility, recognizable free agents and to looking toward various contract extensions with marketable superstars (Lester, Ortiz, etc.) already on the roster.

The money has been there ever since the John Henry regime took over in 2002. There is no reason why this ballclub, with three World Series championships in 10 years next to just one for New York, needs to falsely pump itself up as some kind of model for relative fiscal restraint.

As shown in the chart below, the payrolls for the Yankees and the Red Sox are indeed in a different stratosphere. However, averaging Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore’s yearly payroll (the black line), Boston is clearly trending closer and closer toward the ceiling set by New York and distancing itself from the other three teams in the division.

AL East Payroll 2002 to Present

This Week in Boston Baseballing, October 25 – 31

Boston’s weekend in St. Louis started off pretty rudely Saturday night thanks to a baserunner obstruction call against Will Middlebrooks that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the 2013 World Series. However, that loss would prove to be the team’s last defeat of the season. Boston would come back to win a tight game the next night thanks to a gutsy effort from Clay Buchholz on Sunday. The Red Sox managed to beat Adam Wainwright for a second time on Monday before heading home and clinching its third World Series championship in the last 10 years on Wednesday night. It was the first time the team had clinched a world title at Fenway Park since 1918. There will be a parade in Boston on Saturday.

Game 6 itself wasn’t much of a game in the HOLY SHIT GAME 6! way that some other Game 6’s in the team’s history have played out. Shane Victorino hit a double off the wall with the bases loaded in the 3rd inning off Michael Wacha. John Lackey made the lead stick from there. The Red Sox had a 99% win probability by the 7th inning and Carlos Beltran’s RBI single only moved the needle down to 97%.

Game 6 win probability
Source: FanGraphs

Koji The Man On Front Pages
Boston Sports Media Watch had an exhaustive rundown of all the daily newspapers’ headlines on Thursday morning. Eleven out of the 15 papers featured on BSMW opted for variations of photos of Koji Uehara celebrating in the arms of catcher David Ross and other teammates. The Red Sox closer went from one of the least appreciated, recognizable guys on the team in his middle relief days to one of the most popular players on the team. But surprisingly, it was The Boston Herald coming through with maybe the best and most unique front page.

Herald Front Page 10/31/2013

The timely shot was taken after Jonny Gomes slid in safely at home to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead on Victorino’s wall ball. Our favorite part is on-deck hitter Xander Bogaerts joining Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz to help synchronize the safe call on Gomes along with the umpire. It is perfect and – as good as Uehara has been this year – this is the more appropriate lasting image of the 2013 team and its incredible season.

David Ortiz Wins World Series MVP
In almost any other year, Jon Lester’s two shutdown starts to beat one of the NL’s best in Wainwright twice would have earned him the MVP. But thanks to his well-documented, otherworldly performance, Big Papi had the MVP honors wrapped up pretty early.

Going into Game 6, Dave Cameron pointed out that:

Ortiz has played in 13 World Series games. In six of them, he has either scored or driven in a run on the play with the largest win probability added in the game. In other words, he has scored a run or had an RBI on the most important play of the game in almost half of his World Series games.

St. Louis finally decided not to pitch to Papi on Wednesday. Ortiz walked four times – three intentionally – and scored two runs. So to amend Cameron’s note:

Ortiz has played in 13 14 World Series games. In six seven of them, he has either scored or driven in a run on the play with the largest win probability added in the game. In other words, he has scored a run or had an RBI on the most important play of the game in almost half of his World Series games.

The Obstruction Call and the Role of Intent
Sam Miller at Baseball Prospectus summed up the Will Middlebrooks obstruction issue pretty soundly in a piece posted Sunday morning. Many Red Sox fans have argued over intent – or more specifically the absence of clear intent to obstruct. But the rulebook, as it stands now, basically goes out of its way to exclude the need for interpretation of a fielder’s intent.

…At the end of Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment, it lays out this exact scenario: “For example: if an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.” It’s so specific. It is as though this play happened and they wrote the rule immediately after with a play exactly like this one in mind. And the rule they came up with is… ambivalent! “He very likely has obstructed the runner.” Not “he has,” but “he very likely has.” Probably. Maybe. Up to you to decide. Use your best judgment. What am I, God?

The guess here is that come next year, sufficient language will be written into the rulebook to ensure that the grounds for the call made against Middlebrooks will either be set in stone with some less ambivalent, more specific parameters. Or, if MLB really wants to keep things interesting, it could open up such plays as judgement calls that are reviewable on replay.

Jacoby Ellsbury Is Probably A Goner
ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote in the wake of the euphoria Thursday morning that the Red Sox center-fielder is probably headed elsewhere, based mainly on how far away the team and his agent were two years ago.

According to sources: After the 2011 season, for which Ellsbury finished second in the American League MVP race, the Red Sox offered him a deal that fell slightly short of $100 million. The counter-offer from agent Scott Boras, according to sources, was for a deal of about $130 million. The gap in the negotiations was too large to bridge at that time.

There is a possibility that with GM Ben Cherington now fully at the helm, the gulf may narrow. But odds are that gap is even larger now, especially with Cherington coming off the high of a World Series in which several bargain bin guys contributed. He may very well be licking his chops at the chance to find this offseason’s version of Shane Victorino.

Cardinals Play-by-Play Man’s Laughter Turns to Misery
As Marc Normandin on Over the Monster wrote, the best part about Kolten Wong being picked off first to end Game 5 was that Cardinals play-by-play guy Michael Shannon took the Red Sox to task for even holding the runner on first base. Shannon even began laughing, calling the whole thing “silly.”

(From the Washington Post)

(From the Washington Post)

John Henry Explains His Newly Purchased Newspaper Project
John Henry said all the right things in an editorial from Saturday in which he explained his purchase of The Boston Globe and Boston.com. The piece is chock-full of lofty language and platitudes regarding civic responsibility and encouraging influential thinking and being a catalyst for activism. The Red Sox principal owner even went so far as to cite his political idealism that budded in the 1960s when he joined the civil rights movement and volunteered to assist in presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy’s campaign.

John Henry globe

It’s still difficult to get a good read on Henry’s angle here. But the guy deserves some credit for outlining in such detail his intentions for acquiring an embattled business.

I soon realized that one of the key things the paper needed in order to prosper was private, local ownership, passionate about its mission. And so decisions about The Boston Globe are now being made here in Boston. The obligation is now to readers and local residents, not to distant shareholders. This, ideally, will foster even bolder and more creative thinking throughout the organization, which is critical in an industry under so much stress.

Meanwhile, Henry’s plans for Boston.com are vaguely grandiose. But, unfortunately, the continued polarization of pay-worthy content and the garbage people will only read for free likely means more moronic stories such as a local woman finding a green pepper that looks like a Red Sox “B” as she prepared a taco prior to Game 6.

Terse Predictions: 2013 World Series Game 6, St. Louis @ Boston

Opportunities like the one in front of the Red Sox going into World Series Game 6 at Fenway Park tonight happen pretty rarely. Trying to predict how things will unfold is a fool’s errand. So here are some foolhardy forecasts.

1. Multiple members of the Boston infield will work 10+ pitch at-bats against Michael Wacha.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury will record at least one stolen base.

3. John Lackey will throw first-pitch strikes to five batters the first time through the order and six batters during the second turn through the order.

4. David Ortiz will swing at a total of just three pitches tonight.

5. Papi will put only one of those pitches in play.

6. The game will be decided by more than three runs.

7. Xander Bogaerts pitches seen: 22

8. Koji Uehara pitches thrown: 14

9. Carlos Martinez pitches thrown: 26

Trevor Rosenthal pitches thrown: 19

This Week in Boston Baseballing, October 4 – 10

Much to the chagrin of local media yahoos who declared the Best of 5 Division Series “over” after two games, Boston did indeed travel to Tampa Bay and it actually took the Red Sox four games to take care of the Rays to advance to the American League Championship Series. Boston will face the Detroit Tigers in ALCS Game 1 at Fenway Park on Saturday night.

Kudos to NESN’s Jenny Dell, who broke the news first on Twitter mere minutes after last night’s deciding ALDS game against Detroit and Oakland went final at the Coliseum last night.


Big Papi and Koji Uehara: Two Heterosexual Guys Celebrating A Playoff Series Win
Look, let’s all be adults about this here. For one thing, somebody sped up the footage here to make it appear more suggestive….

Click to enlarge, be horrified

(GIF courtesy of OvertheMonster.com.)

And for another, Koji could be seen earlier celebrating with catcher David Ross in a similar fashion, complete with a similar fist raise. Koji!

Koji celebrates with Ross

Ticket Prices Remain Reasonable for ALCS Games 1 and 2
The secondary market for tickets to the first two games of the ALCS Saturday and Sunday was relatively soft as of Friday morning. Strangely, upper-tier bleacher seats were listed on Stubhub for around $150.00-$200.00, right around the same going rate as unobstructed infield grandstand seats behind home plate.

Stubhub ALCS G1

The “Most Expensive World Series” In History Won’t Happen
A Forbes article from Wednesday broached the possibility that if the Pirates and Red Sox had advanced to the World Series, tickets to the games at Fenway Park and PNC Park would have reached historic peaks.

It would be the first World Series in Pittsburgh since Three Rivers, and the first world series there in a real baseball stadium since Bill Mazeroski walked off against the Yankees….If that were to happen, it could be the most expensive World Series in history, with two teams with average prices above $1,500.

It would also be the first time that an American League team from Boston played a National League team from Pittsburgh in the post-season since 1903. That was the year that the Boston Americans of the newly-formed American League beat the favored Pittsburgh Pirates in a best-of-nine series. It was the first ever World Series and neither Forbes Field or Fenway Park were even a twinkle in the eye of the baseball Gods. Forbes Field opened in 1909 and Fenway Park opened in 1912.

Xander Bogaerts Draws Two Huge Walks, Proves He Belongs
In his first postseason at-bat, 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts fell behind in the count 1-2 before working a key walk that spurred Boston’s series-clinching, two-run rally in the sixth inning in Tampa on Tuesday night. Earlier that day, Farrell had insinuated Bogey was perhaps still not quite ready for prime time when explaining why he’d not pinch hit for Stephen Drew against a lefty in Game 3 the night before. Well, a day later Farrell exercised his right to change his mind. Just in case there was any question that it was a fluke, Bogaerts worked a second full count before drawing another walk two innings later. He would score an insurance run prior to Koji Uehara’s dominant ninth inning.

Jake Peavy Comes Through
Right-handed veteran Jake Peavy gave the Red Sox 5 ⅔ key innings in the clincher in Tampa in what was by far the best postseason start of his career. While he was a more accomplished pitcher earlier in his career, Peavy could still very much be in the process of penning his ultimate legacy.

In an interview posted on Fangraphs earlier this week, the former Cy Young winner remarked about his transformation, which has included changes to his arm slot and the development of a cutter in the wake of diminished fastball velocity and a lower ground-ball rate compared to his peak.

“Everybody in the world has a way they throw a baseball. They start that from the time they’re a youngster and go from there. You can look at guys who people say have the best mechanics in the world, and their arms may not last. You have other guys who throw in an unorthodox fashion and never have an arm injury. I don’t think anybody has it down to an exact science. But I also don’t think anybody is going to watch me and say, ‘Hey, son, watch the way Jake Peavy throws. Let’s mimic that.’ Not too many people are teaching their kids to throw the way I throw.”

Craig Breslow May Be Pitching Even More Than Usual
The left-handed reliever threw 3 ⅔ scoreless innings in the Rays series and demonstrated no difficulty getting right-handed hitters out (1 for 9). Breslow was in fact better in 2013 against righties (.205 AVG) than lefties (.253) and, overall, threw the equivalent of almost 10 more innings against right-handers (34 ⅔) than lefties (25 innings).

Going into the ALCS, John Farrell’s confidence in Breslow seems to be at its peak. Detroit’s 3-4-5 hitters are Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez (righty, lefty, switch). Cabrera’s power has been sapped in recent weeks by groin and abdominal strains. It would not be a surprise to see Breslow face the likely AL MVP once or twice as his ability to get strikes on outside breaking balls could prove a key asset.