Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the tag “John Lackey”

Sticking with Clay

Photo coutesy of nesn.com

The Red Sox won the 2013 World Series without an ace. Jon Lester? John Lackey? Good pitchers. But not aces. Not anymore. Boston did, however, boast a deep, talented staff that, by and large, stayed relatively healthy last season. Lester’s regular season was far from elite (109 ERA+), but he did elevate in game in the second half. Beginning on August 8, the big lefty started ten games. He threw 70 innings and produced a 2.19 ERA during that stretch. Lester went on to pitch brilliantly in October. In the fall, he was the ace of spades.

No one will remember Lester’s inconsistent regular season. Instead, they’ll back on 2013 and point to the magnificent final month of the season he put together. It takes a special type of pitcher to do what Lester did in the postseason–4-1, 1.56 ERA, 29 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. Clay Buchholz is a player who possesses that same ability to go through stretches of unadulterated dominance. His upside, talent, and contract render him a commodity that is virtually untradeable.

Beat writers, radio talk show hosts, and bloggers are not demanding that Ben Cherington sell Buchholz to the highest bidder. No one is saying that. But there has been chatter that Buchholz represents a solid trade candidate given the Red Sox’ surplus of pitching combined with frustration over the slender righty’s lack of durability. Many of these points are correct in and of themselves, but bundling them together in order to reach the conclusion that Buchholz should be shipped out of Boston is borderline ludicrous.

Buchholz is really, really good at baseball. Even Buchholz’ harshest critic will quickly concede that the Texas native is extremely talented. There’s no debating it, and it’s been that way for awhile around here. Too often, however, the discussion around Buchholz focuses on his inability to stay on the mound. The value he brings when he is pitching actually ends up getting lost in the fray. Get ready for this — Baseball Reference has Lester’s WAR at 3.0 in 2013. Buchholz, who threw 105 less innings than Lester, earned 4.3 WAR. It’s actually sort of unreal. Basically, when Buchholz was on the mound last season, he was better than just about everyone else. And that is absent of any exaggeration. There is no doubt that he raised his level of performance from April to June in 2013. He went 11-1 in 12 starts, punching out 81 batters in 84.1 innings. He posted a 1.71 ERA during that span while his opponents couldn’t get above the Mendoza Line. The way he manipulated the baseball for those two months was truly something special.  But pitching at an extremely high level is old hat for Buchholz. Since 2010, the right handed starter has compiled a 46-19 record to go along with a 3.15 ERA. Over those four years, he averaged 138 innings with a 135 ERA+. He has put together 12.7 bWAR since 2010.  To put that into perspective, Zack Greinke, during that same four-year stretch, had 111 ERA+ and 12.3 bWAR. Greinke will make $128M over the course of the next five seasons. Buchholz’ contractual situation is quite a bit different.

If the Red Sox choose to exercise their team options, the highest annual salary that Buchholz will earn over the next four years is $13.5M. That will be during the 2017 season. As television money continues to surge into the game and the cost of pitching remains extremely high, Buchholz is primed to be an absolute bargain for a team that is flush with young pitching prospects in their organization. In 2014, the wiry righty will make $7.7M. If he’s healthy — and all reports indicate that he will enter Spring Training that way — it won’t take Buchholz very long to earn his salary in terms of WAR. He jumps to $12M in 2015, his age 30 season, and remains relatively cheap still. The Red Sox hold team options in 2016 and 2017 that are worth $13M and $13.5M, respectively. Should Buchholz’ health woes begin to outweigh the value he brings when he takes the mound, the Red Sox can simply cut ties after the 2015 season ($250K buyout). The way his contract is structured, even if he suffers a catastrophic injury, it is virtually impossible that Buchholz ever becomes an albatross on the Red Sox’ payroll. Conversely, if things break right for Buchholz, the Red Sox will have a player who has the ability to be the best pitcher in baseball for the next four seasons at a price that will make GM’s around the game drool. No matter what, until he puts together a season that resembles more 2010 and less 2012, health will always be a question that looms over Buchholz.

Durability, or lack thereof, is something that may very well plague Buchholz his entire career. His frame is not conducive to bearing the load required to shoulder a 34-start season. He is injury-prone. There’s really no way around it. Throughout the course of the second half of the season last year, Buchholz received a tremendous criticism for his lack of toughness. He dispelled that notion during the World Series. Buchholz wasn’t close to being 100 percent in Game 4, but he yielded one run — which wasn’t earned — over four innings. And it’s likely that no one will remember his effort. If those four very solid innings came in relief, it’s likely that his performance would have much more memorable. Nevertheless, Buchholz’ level of “grit” may not match his ability, but it’s significantly closer than most fans would like to believe.

No player is untradeable. But the value that Buchholz brings to the Red Sox makes him a player that is worth guarding, unless a deal comes along that Cherington cannot refuse. Given his fragility, it’s hard to see a team blowing the Red Sox out of the water with an offer. In the end, it’s probably best to stick with Buchholz and hope that he is healthy for an October run, whether it is in 2014 or 2017. If that happens, the rest of the league, heck, the rest of baseball, will be in for quite a show.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: The imperfect, obvious choice

Photo via boston.com

Brian McCann is Bronx-bound. Carlos Ruiz was gifted a three-year deal that includes a $4.5M club option to remain in Philadelphia. The best backstop left on the free agent market is unquestionably Jarrod Saltalamacchia. And it’s time that the Red Sox realize that Salty is now clearly the best fit for the team.

I can’t argue that cases could not be made for both McCann and Ruiz. I’ve ardently opposed the idea of paying the former Braves catcher big money over the course of five years (never mind a vesting option for a sixth year), but it would be silly to contend that McCann would not have been an immediate upgrade behind the plate. Ruiz, on the other hand, is a guy that would have made a ton of sense. GM Ben Cherington shrewdly presented a two-year offer that would have paid Ruiz more money on an annual basis than what he ultimately received. He didn’t budge from that stance, and the Phillies won out. The goals of the team that motivated Cherington to pursue Ruiz can still be achieved by re-signing Saltalamacchia, however.

By now, you are familiar with Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, two quality young catching prospects who will begin 2014 in Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland, respectively. Based on how Cherington has approached the catcher position thus far in free agency, it is safe to say that building a bridge to one or both of these players is imperative. A five-year deal for McCann was too long. A three-year pact for a soon-to-be 35-year old Ruiz was one year too many. Saltalamacchia for three years, however, is a smart compromise that gets both the team and the player what they want.

Ideally, the Red Sox would re-up with Salty on a two-year deal. It’s impossible to know for sure, but I’m going to make the assumption that Saltalamacchia is holding out for a three or four-year contract. I would approach him similarly to Ruiz–offering two years with an elevated annual salary. Maybe you can entice him. Maybe not. Because Saltalamacchia is essentially six years younger than Ruiz, I would be comfortable with a three-year deal at a lower average annual value. This would provide the player with some security while giving the team a little bit of insurance should Vazquez and/or Swihart hit a bump in the road, something that is pretty common among young catchers.

Saltalamacchia, however, is more than just a placeholder.  In 2013, he slashed .273/.338/.446/.804. Since 2010, McCann — who, to be fair, dealt with injuries off and on during that time — hit .257/.342/.444/.786. McCann just received a deal that could pay him upwards $100M. I’m certainly not advocating that McCann and Saltalamacchia belong in the same tier, but, despite his .372 BABIP, there is reason to believe that Salty, who will play the majority of the 2014 season at age 29, is showing legitimate improvement. I would expect his slash line to look worse after 2014 than it did at the end of 2013 due to the fact that his batting average on balls in play simply isn’t sustainable, but he is walking more, and that is definitely encouraging. Saltalamacchia has improved both at the plate and behind it.

Salty will likely never be regarded as a superior defensive catcher, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a serviceable. Sure, the majority of his value derives from his offensive production. That will likely never change. However, Saltalamacchia is an everyday catcher who has learned how to successfully handle a staff. Pitchers Jake Peavy and especially John Lackey have gone out of their way to praise the work that Saltalamacchia has done.

Overall, Salty can accurately be described as a league average defensive catcher. For the first time, he didn’t fade in the second half, and when David Ross missed a substantial amount of time with a concussion, Saltalamacchia stepped up. During the middle of June, with Ross sidelined, Salty caught both halves of a doubleheader. The next night, the big, burly switch-hitter was back in the Red Sox lineup. Saltalamacchia is not a defensive wiz, but he is a hardworking player who can be counted on to handle a veteran staff night in and night out.

We don’t know who the everyday catcher is going to be for the Red Sox next season. What we do know is that Saltalamacchia is an above average offensive player who can hit from both sides of the plate. Ross, a right handed hitter and plus defender, is complimented almost perfectly by Salty who is dramatically stronger when hitting from the left side of the dish. Saltalamacchia will go through frustrating patches that make you think he’ll never make contact with another pitch all season. Defensive lapses are bound to happen (see: 2013 World Series), but they can certainly be limited by simply making better decisions with the baseball. Ultimately, Saltalamacchia is a flawed player among a handful of free agents who all have their warts, but he is the best fit here, for what this team is trying to accomplish now and in the not-so-distant future.

Happy Lackey Day

Photo coutesy of bostonherald.com

Every single day you spend on this earth is a gift. But some gifts are simply better than others.

John Lackey will toe the rubber for the first place Red Sox today at 4:05 PM, and things just couldn’t be better.

Kind of crazy, right?

Clay Buchholz, far and away the most talented pitcher on the staff, has pitched 18.2 innings in the past two months. Your Opening Day starter, Jon Lester, has been worse than a league average hurler. Lester’s ERA has ballooned since his hot start to this season and now sits at a bulbous 4.58.

And yet, the Red Sox are 59-39. In first place. Playing north of .600 baseball.

Huh?

It really is quite remarkable how the team has been able to sustain such a high level of success without Buchholz pitching and with Lester being relatively bad at baseball.

Last night’s starter, Felix Doubront, deserves a great deal of credit (I could write a separate piece on how fun it has been to watch the young lefty right the ship after a dreadful start to the season. Check out his numbers since May 16. Go ahead. I’ll wait). But it is Lackey who has assumed the role of Team Ace. He is the horse. He is the stopper.

Since May 19, Lackey has made 11 starts, roughly a third of a starting pitcher’s season. In those games, Big John Stud compiled a 2.32 ERA while punching out 66 batters in 73.2 innings. During the stretch, Lackey has held opposing hitters to a stingy .219 average.

He passes the eye test too. The burly right hander looks in command on the mound, dotting his fastball and going to his secondary stuff when necessary. Lackey’s delivery is free and easy. To put it simply, he is pitching with a healthy arm that he trusts. An argument can be made that this is the first time Lackey’s pitched pain-free since arriving in Boston in 2010.

When Big John takes the mound today at Fenway against the New York Yankees, he will bring with him a 2.78 ERA, a mark that is good for fourth among American League starting pitchers. He trails only the great Felix Hernandez, the portly Bartolo Colon, and the superb Hiroki Kuroda.

In years past, Sunday night’s C.C. Sabathia, Lester matchup would be tabbed as the best duel of the series. But not this summer. Not this series.

Instead, it is Lackey taking on Kuroda today at a steamy Fenway Park, and it should be a lot of fun.

Update: Lester will not pitch Sunday night. Dempster will go in his place in order to get the lefty a bit more rest.

A Defense of John Lackey

Photo via examiner.com

Ok. I didn’t tell the truth. This is less of a defense of John Lackey and more of an indictment of the fans who blindly criticize the 34-year old right hander. Things have gotten a bit silly.

——

John Lackey is the best active starting pitcher on the Boston Red Sox.

And it’s not particularly close.

Despite his performance on the mound, it is not uncommon to hear fans railing against Lackey, still infuriated by what they saw on the diamond from him in 2010 and especially in 2011. This isn’t a rational sort of argument like “man, Jon Lester needs to stop nibbling and just attack the strike zone.” Nope. Not at all. It’s personal. There are more than a few Red Sox fans who legitimately want Lackey to fail.

These arguments are almost always presented in similar fashions. Basically, Lackey is a bum who is a terrible at baseball. Lackey shows up his teammates on the field. Lackey is a bad human being.

I can’t pretend like Lackey has pitched well for this team. He signed a five-year deal with the Red Sox after the 2009 season and has been both a disappointment and a disaster. The disappointment came in 2010 when he was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. Glossing over his stats that season, it’s reasonable to say that Lackey was a bit unlucky, but he still tossed 215 innings. When it was all said and done, Lackey was essentially a league-average pitcher in 2010 (99 ERA+). The disaster came a year later when Lackey — who was pitching with a badly injured elbow — was downright awful. He posted a 6.41 ERA, walked 3.2 batters per nine innings, and was a grossly below league-average pitcher (67 ERA+). Tommy John surgery and a year away from competing has made a world of difference. In 2013, he’s started 14 games and sports a stingy 2.81 ERA–good for sixth in the American League. His fastball reaches 95 MPH and sits at 93. His walks per nine is at 1.9. Lackey is healthy and good at baseball.

Lackey can be demonstrative on the mound. He will occasionally throw up his hands after a ball is misplayed or a call goes against him. But guess what? His teammates love him. He’s known for taking young pitchers under his wing and is a positive influence in the clubhouse, no matter what detractors may think.

I’m not going to delve deep into why critics of Lackey consider him to be an intrinsically bad dude. It’s not my business. But I would challenge you to think about difficult times in your life. Now imagine those trying times being played out in the public eye. It can’t be fun.

If you’re someone who simply doesn’t like Lackey, I offer a second challenge: Judge him not by what has occurred during his first two years in Boston but rather what he is doing on the field right now.

I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised

News on Baseball, the Red Sox

Photo via boston.com

Ahhh. That’s better.

After an absolutely brutal Sunday evening, it is important to remember that life goes on. You’ve got to be able to go out there and get ‘em the next day. So today, that’s what we’re going to do.

Mike Napoli and the Red Sox made their deal official last week. It consists of $5MM guaranteed for one year. The powerful right handed hitter will have the ability to make up to $13MM as long as he does not spend any time on the disabled list due to a hip injury. Expect the Red Sox to add some insurance at first base in case Napoli breaks down. A bit more on Napoli later.

Craig Breslow successfully avoided arbitration (and then some) as he and the Sox came to terms on a two-year pact worth $6.25MM on Saturday. The Red Sox possess a team option worth nearing $4MM for the 2015 season. Breslow was acquired by the Sox at the trade deadline last season from the Diamondbacks. The lefty specialist is a Yale graduate and a Connecticut native.

— Courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham, here is the list of players that the Red Sox reached agreements with, avoiding arbitration:

OF Jacoby Ellsbury: $9 million
RHP Joel Hanrahan $7.04 million
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia: $4.5 million
RHP Andrew Bailey: $4.1 million
RHP Alfredo Aceves: $2.65 million
RHP Daniel Bard: $1.8625 million
LHP Franklin Morales: $1.487 million
LHP Andrew Miller: $1.475 million

— A couple quick notes on the arbitration process: Headlines are often misleading, especially for those who are not familiar with the the process. (As an aside, if you’re not well-versed in the stimulating world of salary arbitration, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Seriously.) For example, “Ellsbury signs one-year deal with the Red Sox worth $9MM.” That is true. He did. But it makes it seems as though he could have signed elsewhere. I saw a few people on Twitter who are fans of other teams saying things like “we easily could have gotten Ellsbury if the Red Sox only gave him a one-year contract!” Players who are eligible for arbitration are also under team control–they’re not free agents–it’s just a matter of negotiating salary for a one-year deal, like Ellsbury, or a multi-year agreement, like Breslow.

— Despite the fact that it took well over a month for the Red Sox and Napoli to finalize the deal that they first agreed to, in principle, on December 3, I never thought the two parties would go in different directions. The Red Sox needed Napoli to fill a gaping hole at both first base and in the middle of their lineup. As it turned out, Napoli needed the Red Sox to serve as a landing spot to rebuild value as a free agent. The Rangers approached Napoli about returning to Arlington but were ultimately turned away–not because he didn’t want to return to Texas but because he will have more of an opportunity to play day in and day out in Boston. Nolan Ryan and Co. do not have an obvious need at first base or catcher. It is easy to see Napoli spending 2013 here, experiencing success, and subsequently leaving in free agency, but I wouldn’t make that assumption. Napoli isn’t represented by Scott Boras, and 2013 could easily be the first year of a nice little marriage between the former Ranger and the Red Sox.

Francona: The Red Sox Years hits shelves on Tuesday. From everything I have heard/read, I think this book is going to be real good stuff. I wouldn’t expect Tito to expose John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Josh Beckett for drinking beer and acting completely unprofessional in the clubhouse during the 2011 season, but I would anticipate some great stories from the eight years he managed in Boston — some of which will be funny and entertaining while others make John Henry and Larry Lucchino look quite bad. No matter what, it will reaffirm what we already know–managing in Boston is not easy. The two book covers below illustrate that point. Long live Tito.

Where the Hell is Mike Napoli?

Photo via nashuatelegraph.com

On December 3, the Red Sox agreed to a three-year deal with free agent Mike Napoli. That’s right.

The third.

Seventeen days later, Napoli has yet to sit in front of the fake brick Red Sox/Dunkin’ Donuts overlay, donning the home white while GM Ben Cherington and Company introduce him to the media. No one is saying much of anything. Mum is most definetely the word.

“There’s really nothing to comment on. As with any free agent, until it’s done, it’s not done. We continue to work on different ways to improve the team. I’ll comment on it as soon as I can, but I can’t right now. We’ve had some more dialogue. I wouldn’t classify it as one way or the other,” Cherington said at Ryan Dempster‘s introductory presser on Tuesday.

Well, that was very Belichickian of Cherington. But really, what do we expect? It’s a sensitive situation that affects both the Red Sox as a team in 2013 as well as Napoli’s value as a free agent. It benefits no one to discuss the snag.  Nevertheless, it certainly doesn’t stop us from dissecting what is approaching a post-agreement disaster.

What this means for the Red Sox

In the end? Probably nothing. Napoli will likely still sign with the Sox for either two years or three years with a well-defined injury clause similar to John Lackey‘s. Will Carroll of SI.com recently reported that Cherington and the Red Sox are in fact looking to have Napoli and his agent agree to reduce the pact to a two-year agreement. I’m sure that there is some validity to that. We know one thing for sure: If Napoli is a member of the Red Sox in 2013, the Red Sox will be well-protected against any sort of injury.

I’ve heard the theory that this is just another case of Red Sox doctors fouling up a situation involving a player. The next quasi-logical thought is that this process, especially if it ends with an unhappy Napoli, will deter future free agents from looking Boston’s way in the future. I will never buy the argument that free agents are going to go to other teams because the media in Boston is tough, the clubhouse can be a rough place to be, or the medical staff has a bad rep. Just follow the money. In the end, nothing else really matters.

For now, Cherington has to keep his options open. I don’t believe the agreement will end up falling through, but as a GM, one must be ready for any situation he is thrust in to. That means not losing touch with guys like Nick Swisher or Adam LaRoche. Lesser first base options like Mark Reynolds and Kevin Youkilis have signed with Indians and Yankees, respectively. Trade targets, like Kendrys Morales, will not hang around, waiting for Napoli’s three week long doctors appointment to come to an end. It benefits the Red Sox to get this wrapped up as soon as possible.

The same can be said for Napoli.

What this means for him

The bulky right handed hitter set out to do two things this offseason: Establish himself as a free agent catcher, not a first baseman, and come to terms on a four-year deal. He missed on both. The Red Sox, like other teams, evaluated Napoli as a full-time first baseman who possesses the ability to catch here and there when needed. As soon as it was reported that the former Texas Ranger was looking to land a four-year deal, the Sox immediately let their foot off of the gas pedal. They seemingly drew the line in the sand at three-years. Their decision proved fruitful as they netted Napoli for three-years and $39MM, plenty lucrative for a player who is looking to rebound after a below average, injury plagued 2012 campaign. Napoli’s goal of a guaranteed four years could easily be cut in half should the negotiations following his physical lead to his camp and the Red Sox agreeing on a two year guaranteed contract with an option, for example.

There is, of course, a chance that Napoli finds himself on the open market yet again. His value would naturally be much lower than it was before he agreed to the three-year deal with the Red Sox. I cannot see a team offering anything more than a two years, and even that may be a stretch.

Ultimately, the Red Sox need Napoli as much as Napoli needs the Red Sox. I would expect this to be resolved on either Wednesday or Thursday of this upcoming week, just before the beginning of 2013.

—–

Update: According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the snag is concerning an issue with one of Napoli’s hips. Local reports are indicating that the deal could easily fall through. Based on Rosenthal’s report, I believe that is a bit overstated. You can decide for yourself. Here is the link. I still believe this deal gets done.

Quick Hits – Red Sox

Before we delve into all things Red Sox, I’m going to be upfront by saying that I’m not going to directly deal with the latest off the field soap opera. If I touch on it in passing, that’s all it is–a passing thought. It’s not that I don’t believe it is important (it is), but I loathe the drama that seems to follow this team. Hearing about it day after day makes me want to do this. I care about baseball. I care about what occurs between the lines. I hope you do too.

Let’s one-stop shop.

Jason Varitek is not fit to manage the 2013 Boston Red Sox. He is not far enough removed from the situation. Managerial experience is not a prerequisite for me, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Maybe in the future, Captain, but right now is not the time.

— The thought of another hiring process makes me tired just thinking about it, but it is probably inevitable. John Farrell is ideal but less than likely. My early guess? Sandy Alomar Jr.

— The Orioles are better than the Red Sox, and that hurts to admit. I was dead wrong about that team. Wei-Yin Chen has been excellent, and Adam Jones is a fun player to watch.

— Reports have come out lately that because of the turbulence and clubhouse that seems to follow the Red Sox like the plague, free agents will opt to sign elsewhere during upcoming off-seasons. Not the case. The worst clubhouse in the league can suddenly be the most attractive when the dollars are counted. Players follow the dough. The rest barely matters.

— Some ardent Red Sox fans jokingly talk about rooting for another team as our Local Nine continue to fade. I’ll admit that it is fun to wish the Pirates well or hope that Josh Reddick‘s squad out west finishes strong. In reality, it provides me with absolutely no comfort. I’m a one-team kinda guy.

— Every time you hear or read a story about how awful the Red Sox clubhouse is — pretend they were winning before coming to a conclusion. Let me elaborate with the help of an example.

  • The Red Sox are 20 games above .500, and John Lackey is “double fisting” after a win in the clubhouse on the road in Cleveland. Lackey, unlike Jacoby Ellsbury in 2010, remains with his team, despite being unable to contribute on the field due to injury. A couple of beers to go with the post-spread after yet another win is anything but a big deal. Big Lack performed poorly in his first two-years with the Sox, but it is clear that he is dedicated to his teammates and the organization.

A team’s win-loss record dictates how it is perceived by the media, by the fans. Nothing else matters.

— Red Sox brass is criticized for being too concerned with public opinion. Wins and loses take a backseat to how the average fan perceives the ball club, sort of thing. A large segment of fans are busy hitting blogs and radio talk shows clamoring for the Sox to rid themselves of Josh Beckett and Lackey Eat the cash and move on. If John Henry and Co. permits GM Ben Cherington to work a trade that would ship one of the two (or both) malcontents elsewhere this off-season, wouldn’t he just be catering to popular opinion? Just sayin’.

Bard in Limbo

According to a report from CSNNE’s Sean McAdam, Daniel Bard could be heading back to the bullpen to begin the 2012 season.

Recently, it has seemed like Alfredo Aceves would be the one boxed out of the Red Sox rotation. McAdam’s report contradicts that belief entirely.

“One Red Sox staff member has told others outside the organization that, when all is said and done, Alfredo Aceves and Felix Doubront will have spots in the rotation, with Daniel Bard returning to the bullpen.”

Hmm. What happened to giving Bard a chance to show his mettle as a starter? Throughout the winter and spring, it has not seemed as if there was even a question as to whether the hard throwing righty would be in the rotation or the bullpen. Sure, there was competition for fifth spot in Boston’s rotation but certainly not the fourth–that was Bard’s. Times have changed, I guess.

Has Bard put together an exceptionally good spring? Not at all. But heck, the guy has thrown less than 13 innings. Is that enough to formulate an opinion? WEEI’s Lou Merloni certainly does not believe that is the case.

So for now, we will wait and see what happens. In a perfect world, Aceves and Bard would serve as cogs in the Red Sox bullpen (that would be one solid ‘pen) because John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be the bottom half of the rotation. However, that is simply not the case. Pragmatically speaking, one of the two will have to occupy a spot in the rotation.

If I’m choosing, it is Bard. Aceves is versatile and has an arm made of rubber. I’m pretty sure he pitched in every game from August 1 of last year until the final game of the season, or at least it seemed that way. Ultimately, I believe Bard will stick in the rotation, but we will keep you updated.

Tuesday’s Notes

109 years ago today, Tom Yawkey was born. 30 years and four days later, he bought the Red Sox.

As for today’s news on all things Red Sox…

  • It only took four months, but the Red Sox finally received their compensation from the Cubs for letting former GM Theo Epstein out of the final year of his contract. It’s not Starlin Castro. I’m 100 percent sure it is not Matt Garza, and when I last checked, John Lackey was still under contract with the Red Sox. Chris Carpenter is a 26 year old right handed relief pitcher who throws hard but lacks Greg Maddux-like control to say the least. A former third round pick, Carpenter had a cup of coffee with the big club last season on the south side of Chicago. However, he pitched primarily in Double-A and Triple-A. Sounds good to me. Glad it’s done. Let’s all move on with life…unless the Cubs want Lackey. No? Alright, just checkin’.
  • Carl Crawford believes that he will like playing under new manager Bobby Valentine. The Globe’s Peter Abraham thinks that Valentine will do Crawford a ton of good. At this point, I’ll hang my hat on anything when it comes to this guy. Unless he rebounds this season, Crawford will take over as the new J.D. Drew, a player who is haunted by a massive contract that overshadows his performance on the field.  The guy desperately wants to succeed. He works hard and tries even harder. Count me as someone who will be rooting hard for CC when he gets back from his wrist injury.
  • Crawford, a soft spoken guy, didn’t really like John Henry’s comments concerning his position against inking the speedy free agent last winter. Whatever. It doesn’t really seem like it’s going to be an issue. I’m sure my boss regrets hiring me, so no sweat.
  • I hope we can all collectively move on from the clubhouse issues that allegedly plagued the 2011 Red Sox. Jon Lester owned up to whatever mistakes were made. Josh Beckett was about as contrite as you’re going to see him. I’m beyond tired of hearing people who call into the sports talk radio shows in our neck of the woods and say they want an apology because the Red Sox wasted the fans’ money. Get real and stop wasting my time. Let’s just play baseball.
  • Dice-K and Valentine played catch together today. I had a toaster strudel for breakfast. Thrilling on both counts.
  • As expected, Valentine has already begun to stress fundamentals. In past years, pitchers went through drills in Spring Training by simulating the throws to the respective bases rather than using baseballs. This was designed to preserve the arms of pitchers participating in the drills. This spring? Not so much. Hands were not empty during today’s workouts. Pitcher participating used real baseballs. Valentine’s reasoning was simple: “If we’re going to practice something, I’d like to have it as close to game-real as possible. Otherwise, why bother?” I dig it.

Theo Epstein on WEEI

On Thursday morning, Cubs’ President and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made an appearance the Dennis & Callahan Show on WEEI. I listened and watched the majority of the interview in my apartment on NESN and the latter half in my car. There were several important points that Epstein touched on. Let’s review a few of them.

  • John Henry was not blowing smoke when he said he did not want Carl Crawford. Epstein corroborated this point during his interview: “The bottom line was that’s right. I think John didn’t want to do that one.” Although it was idiotic of Henry to admit this during his impromptu interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub in October, it is kind of refreshing to know that he was in fact telling the truth. That aside, it is important that Epstein confirmed Henry’s claim because, regardless of the owner’s opinion, Crawford ended up inking a massive deal with the Red Sox. In other words, it may be a collaborative decision-making process onYawkey Waywhen it comes to personnel, but ultimately, baseball decisions are handled by the individuals in baseball operations. That is a vital separation to have as an organization.
  • Epstein knows that signing John Lackey was a big mistake. He’s not going to come out and say that he wishes he never pulled the trigger on Lackey. That’s not good for business (more of a John Henry move). But it is easy to read between the lines: “To do that one over again, we made too much of an assumption he would still pitch up to his capabilities and maybe at some point he would have Tommy John.” Essentially, Epstein signed the best available starting pitcher in what was a shallow market. He knew the guy he was getting had a trash elbow and rolled the dice.
  • We are all idiots for thinking that the Cubs would take Lackey’s dead weight or part with Matt Garza as compensation for Epstein. The Red Sox will be lucky to get a bag of rosin at this point, and Epstein knows it: “Throughout the history of baseball there’s really only been a handful of instances where there’s been any compensation whatsoever for executives.” Epstein did acknowledge that there will be compensation, however. Can’t wait…
  • More than anything, losing is what sparked the soap opera that ensued after the Red Sox September collapse. Epstein, like many, understands that if the Sox had somehow squeaked into the playoffs, gotten hot, and won the World Series or even made a deep run in October, none of the gory details concerning matters in the clubhouse would have surfaced. If fans heard that members of the starting staff for the 2011 World Series champion Boston Red Sox enjoyed some chicken and washed it down with a beer or eight before, during, or after games, it would have been thought of in the same light as the Jack Daniel’s sipping ’04 team. Instead of free and fun-loving, the staff is fat and lazy. Winning changes a lot.

Photo courtesy of chicagonow.com

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