Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

The Red Sox Take You Into the Weekend

It’s Friday. That’s a good thing. Celebrate by reading a few must-know points on the Red Sox. I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Torey Lovullo was officially hired as the Red Sox bench coach today. The former major leaguer was John Farrell‘s first base coach last season in Toronto. Lovullo is a known commodity in these parts. He managed the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2010. He also interviewed for the Red Sox’ manager job last offseason. Lovullo is a manager-in-waiting, but the take away here is that Farrell is going to surround himself with guys he trusts, knows, and respects. It is a stark difference from what the Red Sox did last year with Bobby Valentine.

— I’m eager to see who is hired as pitching coach. Farrell has a strong pitching background, but it’s important to realize that the pitching coach is the individual who will be managing the staff on a day to day basis. The Red Sox and Farrell must choose a guy who is given full autonomy over the pitchers. Rick Peterson would be a blessing.

— I have a feeling that the 2013 Red Sox are going to be very fun to watch. David Ortiz, Cody Ross, Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Napoli would be a fun core to root for.

— The Red Sox would be smart to stay away from B.J. Upton and Justin Upton. The former is a free agent who doesn’t get on-base. The latter is a good player who is under contract for reasonable dollars, but it would require quality young talent to get him here. Spend your minor leagues commodities on pitching. Or don’t spend them at all.

My Thoughts on John Farrell

John Farrell was officially hired as the 46th manager in Red Sox history on Sunday. Ben Cherington and Co. got their man. And Sox fans should be happy about that. Here’s why.

This time last year Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos wanted Clay Buchholz in exchange for John Farrell. It was just one year ago that the Jays’ front office thought that Farrell was worth a pitcher who is good and has the potential to be a legitimate front of the rotation starter. The Red Sox obviously rebuffed the Blue Jays’ request and hired Bobby Valentine. One year later, the asking price dropped considerably as the Jays accepted infielder Mike Aviles in exchange for their manager who still had one-year remaining on his three-year deal. Detractors have pointed to Farrell’s questionable in-game management (overly aggressive on the base paths) and the disruptions within Toronto’s clubhouse. It is accurate to say that there are fragments of truth buried in each of those two criticisms. However, the fact remains that just 12 months ago the Jays thought very highly of their former skipper–enough to demand Buchholz in return.

Farrell knows the demands that come with managing a baseball team that plays in Boston. There are no surprises here. Farrell served as the pitching coach from 2007-2010. He oversaw a staff that won a World Series, and one that went all the way to Game Seven of the ALCS. He knows the landscape, the demands, and many of the players. Familarity, coupled with two years of separation from the tumult in Boston, makes Farrell a nice fit.

The hiring process was completed relatively quickly. This could have carried on for awhile. Figuring out compensation for a manager or front office executive is never easy as we saw with the Theo Epstein to the Cubs saga last year. The Red Sox, however, were able to acquire Farrell in a reasonable amount of time. This will allow them to begin the process of assembling their 2013 squad immediately. And that, of course, is the most important part of the offseason.

Farrell was the unanimous choice by everyone involved in the selection process. That means John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and, most importantly, Ben Cherington agreed that Farrell was the best choice. Remember that that was simply not the case last time around. Cherington did not want Valentine. Lucchino did. Lucchino won. There was dysfunction from the beginning. Things go smoother when everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Is Farrell perfect? No. Does he have his warts? Yes. Most importantly, is he the right man, at the right time for the job? Time will tell. In the meantime, there is no doubt that his hiring has restored a sense of order, a feeling of confidence about the future of this team–something that players, brass, and fans alike can appreciate.

It’s the Mold, Not the Man

On Monday, the Red Sox interviewed Tony Pena, the Yankees’ bench coach. A few days before, the folks on Yawkey Way met with Tim Wallach. Brad Ausmus and Demarlo Hale are due in to town later this week.

But isn’t John Farrell their guy?

Yeah, probably. But in reality, it is what Farrell represents that truly attracts the eye of Red Sox brass. He is a respected figure within the clubhouse and works well with baseball operations. Farrell’s lack of success in his first two years as a big league manager is neutralized by his strong pitching pedigree.

Just as important, Farrell seems to be a candidate that GM Ben Cherington fully endorses–he was a wanted man by the Red Sox this time last year as well. We all saw the dysfunction that results from hiring a manager that the person in charge of hiring the manager doesn’t sign off on.

It does not matter if the next Red Sox manager is Pena, Farrell, Gene Lamont, Joe Torre, or Kenny Powers.

As long as he commands the respect of the men in the clubhouse, is open to engaging in active dialogue with Cherington and his crew in baseball operations (stay out, Larry), and is the choice of the GM, then he will be a good selection.

Let’s see if the Sox learn from their mistakes.

Handing Out Hardware

With the playoffs well underway, it is a good time to look back on the season that was and pick a few winners. I’m going to select the manager of the year, top reliever, rookie of the year, Cy Young, and MVP. Expect a short blurb explaining my choice following each selection. Both leagues. Boom.

Manager of the Year

American League — Buck Showalter. This is really a no-brainer for me. Showalter took a team that I typically like to make fun of, given their usual display of inept pitching, to the playoffs. The Fighting Showalters topped 90 wins and possess a brilliant bullpen — both of which are direct reflections on the manager.

National League — Davey Johnson. The Washington Nationals had the best regular season regular in the bigs. Read that again.

Top Reliever

American League — Fernando Rodney. He didn’t lead AL circuit in saves. Jim Johnson took that. Rodney, however, was spectacular. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run off of the Tampa Bay closer in May in way in what was supposed to be one of 12 different jumping off points for the Red Sox. It was a blip on the radar for Rodney was downright dominant. His .60 ERA was the best by any reliever who tossed more than 50 frames. Cy Young votes are in order.

National League — Craig Kimbrel. You could make a good case for Aroldis Chapman, but Kimbrel is my guy here. He allowed seven earned runs all season, led the NL in saves, and is about as reliable as it gets.

Rookie of the Year

American League — Mike Trout. And I refuse to get into why.

National League — Bryce Harper. It might seem like I’m copping out, but I’m not. It was a tough choice. Todd Frazier is a guy I like a lot–kid’s a good player. And he looks like a true big leaguer. But Harper is the real deal, the total package. He was two bags away from a 20-20 season and scored 98 runs. His promotion was not a sure thing, but his arrival has been. Get your proverbial popcorn ready.

Cy Young

American League — David Price. If you lead the league in wins (20) and ERA (2.56), you’re probably going to get my vote. If you’re putting up those numbers while conducting business in the AL East, you’re definitely getting my vote.

National League — R.A. Dickey. I will be perfectly honest here — my gut reaction is to look for a guy who isn’t Dickey, who isn’t throwing a knuckleball consistently. It’s probably that same train of thought that led Tony La Russa to start Matt Cain in the All-Star game. Let’s not make the same poor decision. Dickey was the best pitcher in the Senior Circuit in 2012. A sub-3 ERA, 230 punch-outs, and 20 wins does the trick for me. Long live the knuck.

MVP

American League — Mike Trout. If Ted Williams can win the Triple Crown and not win the MVP, then so can Miguel Cabrera. There is no clear-cut choice here. There are no wrong answers. No one is an idiot for choosing Cabrera over Trout. If you believe Trout is the Most Valuable Player, that does not mean you’ve turned your back on traditional baseball statistics. It’s funny how a MVP race can turn into a New School vs. Old School statistical holy war. Let’s please not make it that–it takes away from what these two super special players have done in 2012.

I love Cabrera. I really do. He is like Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting. Hunting finds organic chemistry to be easy, second nature. He doesn’t have to try to learn advanced mathematics–he just gets it. Cabrera is a pure, natural hitter. Some people were just put on this planet to hit. It is power and precision at its finest. All of that said, Trout is still my choice.

Trout’s defensive prowess in center field was second to none. When he wasn’t scaling fences, he was running down balls that were gappers off of the bat. His combination of speed and power is truly remarkable. He scored 129 runs and stole 49 bases. His OBP was .399. Trout’s impact on the Angels was tangible when he was recalled. His fingerprint was on nearly every game he played in. He was the Most Valuable Player of the American League.

National League — Ryan Braun. He’s not going to win the MVP. And it’s because of his positive drug test from this time last year. It’s 2012, not 2011, and Braun hit nine more home runs than he did yesteryear when he won the MVP. He stole 30 bases and got on base at a .391 clip. It wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument that Braun had a better year than he did in his MVP campaign in 2011. Buster Posey is absolutely excellent, but I dare you to remove the stigma of Braun’s positive test from last year and vote for someone else. I’m not sure you can.

Closing Arguments

I feel like I was sold a product that turned out to be a far cry from what the salesman presented on the showroom floor. It’s not that I feel like I was cheated. Instead, I’m just kind of confused.

Wasn’t Bobby Valentine supposed to be the smartest man in the room? I’m pretty sure he was billed as the guy who was going to hold court with the media, manipulating the media with his every word, right?

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, he seemed like he was constantly searching for the right phrase to use in press conferences. His post-game interviews with Jenny Dell were brutal. It wasn’t Valentine’s fault that “Jenn-ay” (Forrest Gump’s voice) knows as much about baseball as Snowball, my sister’s dog, but did he really have to do that weird stare into the camera? I mean Jenny freakin’ Dell is to your right. Don’t look at me. Look at her for Christ’s sake.

Valentine proved to be more awkward than charismatic. He was decidedly unfunny, often making odd remarks that could not be easily determined as either jokes or serious comments. I honestly believe that he truly didn’t know what he meant most of the time.

Whether it was in pressers or radio interviews, Valentine was often passive-aggressive. It was like he really believed he was above the people he was speaking to, like he somehow possessed some sort of superior brand of knowledge when it came to not only baseball, but life too. That sort of disposition doesn’t play well here.

Valentine’s firing has been met with more celebration than it probably deserves. He is not the devil. Removing him, in and of itself, is not going transform a team that ended its season with 93 losses, into a championship organization.

But it is a step in the right direction.

Waiting for Farrell

The Bobby Valentine era lasted less than one calendar year, but it felt like a decade. I’d love to be able to tell my readers that I saw the writing on the wall when Valentine was hired, that I knew he would about as useful as a warm fart on a hot day. But I can’t. I was very, very wrong.

But that’s okay, right? We’re all wrong at some point. Hell, I thought majoring in English was a good idea.

It’s time to get caught up on the Red Sox managerial search that I hope doesn’t last as long as the one that brought Captain Idiot to town. One thought per bullet. Let’s go.

  • John Farrell is the clear front-runner for the job.
  • I don’t put much stock in Farrell’s sub .500 record as a manager in Toronto.
  • Terry Francona’s record as a manager was terrible when he was hired by the Red Sox.
  • Francona is probably the greatest manager in Red Sox hisotry.
  • By “much stock”, I mean none.
  • The Blue Jays wanted Clay Buchholz for Farrell last season.
  • He has one-year left on his deal, rendering him a lame duck manager.
  • The asking price, if any, will be much, much less.
  • Larry Lucchino and Paul Beeston are very good friends.
  • Paul Beeston is the President of the Blue Jays.
  • I wish my last name was “Beeston”.
  • Farrell isn’t the be all end all, but I believe he brings a great deal of really good things to the table.
  • I won’t be heartbroken if Farrell isn’t managing this team in 2013.
  • No matter who the Red Sox hire, he must be able to earn the trust of the players, communicate well with brass, and manage the pressure that comes with being the skipper of a baseball team that plays in Boston.
  • I hope the Red Sox get their man.

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