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Posts Tagged ‘Theo Epstein’


When you say the name “Pedro” many people think of Napoleon Dynamite and “Vote for Pedro”. For me there is really only one Pedro: Pedro Martinez.

Pedro Martinez tells his story, along with Boston Herald writer Michael Silverman, in the simply titled Pedro. This is a generally interesting book. As the Boston Globe noted on the cover, “Pedro the book is as smart, funny, and diva-esque as Pedro the pitcher.” This captures Pedro’s personality well.

A few years ago I read Mariano Rivera’s autobiography. That also captured his personality well. These two men, from similar backgrounds and similar dominance at their position at the same time had very different personalities.

Pedro contains more of his views and fewer of the details of his career. Mariano was a bit more factual in regard to the game, and didn’t focus as much on his views. Perhaps Pedro figured most of us had seen his career and wanted to know a bit more about what drove him. Pedro found ways to motivate himself. Every slight, real or imagined, was the catalyst to drive him harder and farther. He speaks much of how the Dodgers didn’t believe in him. Lesser accomplished pitchers with less talent were called up ahead of him. This was added to the chip that was growing on his shoulder. Contract negotiations would water that chip and help if grow. He’d imagine someone had kidnapped and threatened his mother to pitch better (this is a reality many Hispanic players have had to deal with).

This book is more earthy than Mariano’s. There are more cuss words (I don’t recall any in Mariano’s book), and colorful language as well as his greeting for new managers. Liking to be naked in the club house, he’s jump on a bench and “wiggle (his) johnson”. Yes, don’t believe what you heard, locker rooms are sometimes places with behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable elsewhere.

Pedro speaks a little about his faith but it is very vague. Mariano is more specific about his faith. I’m not exactly sure what to make of that, and I’m just making an observation. Mariano comes across more like you’d expect a professing Christian to sound. Pedro less so. Yet, as I preached this past Sunday, Christianity is about the heart and not man-made rules or traditions. I’d put the language in the file under man-made rules. But not knowing what he believes makes it harder to know. You know?

Pedro focuses on his family of origin, particularly his parents and his older brother Ramon. Pedro loved playing baseball but never thought of making a profession of it until Ramon got his signing bonus and bought the family their first refrigerator. Think about that. Pedro, like the big brother he idolized, wanted to provide for his family. We see glimpses of his providing for others, particularly under-privileged kids in the Dominican Republic and the US. This, I imagine, is part of how his faith influenced his life. We read very little about his romantic life aside from his first romance as a minor league player in Montana until he mentions his relationship with Carolina until they won the 2004 World Series. She and his kids figure far more prominently in the epilogue and afterward.

Riveria also talks about his life in poverty and his family of origin. His wife and child factor in his book more frequently, however. They factored, it seemed, into more of his decisions.

They are very different men. But what made them famous was their ability to throw a baseball. Pedro mentions the people along the way that helped him to pitch better. He didn’t learn to toe the rubber until spring training. During his first All-Star appearance while with the Expos he sat and talked with Maddox and Glavine and learned how to pitch, which helped when he lost his velocity. Unlike Schilling, who wrote it all down, Martinez kept hitters strengths & weakness, tendencies all in his head.

There are some unflattering stories about others. Most of them have to do with the racism he experienced. Or at least cultural insensitivity. Anglo coaches often didn’t realize what life had been like for many of these  young Hispanic men from other countries. In one case, while in the minors his first year, the players were told to hurry up and get on the bus. He and another player went straight to the bus, not wanting to disappoint the coach. They didn’t realize they were expected to shower first (the coach didn’t say that). The coach lit into them and called them dirty as in lacking good hygiene.

Pedro really didn’t like Joe Kerrigan. He was Martinez’ pitching coach in Montreal, then Boston and eventually his manager in Boston. From a distance Kerrigan seemed like a good pitching coach. When he took over for Jimy Williams it all went south from the outside. But Pedro’s relationship with him was burned in Montreal when Kerrigan tried to fit Pedro into his box instead of figuring out what worked well for Martinez. He wanted no stars, and his own way. From Pedro’s perspective Kerrigan tried to take credit for other people’s success. If you are the start pitcher and you watch the coach who really had nothing to do with your greatness get accolades, you understand. There were also rumors of how Kerrigan stabbed Williams in the back. Needless to say, Martinez was not disappointed with the new ownership group fired Joe and hired Grady Little which earned a wiggle of the johnson that Grady probably could have done without.

Pedro mentions a number of players, but very little about what happened behind the scenes. He criticized Mike Piazza at times for his play, but he avoids naming names when it came to steroids. He is no Jason Giambi.

I wish there was more about the 2003 & 2004 Red Sox. Every Sox fan wants to know more about the Idiots who broke the curse.

A few events stood out to me. Martinez talks about a series in NY against the Yankees in 2001. The first game was rained out and rescheduled in June. As a result, Pedro’s next 3 starts were against the Yankees. I had tickets to that rained out game with one of my best friends who lived in the area at the time, and the woman who would become CavWife. She and I ended up at the Cheesecake Factory after we’d driven all the way to the Bronx and parked in a garage before hearing the game was canceled.

My friend, Eddie, and I went into the city on Thursday for the travel day game that afternoon. We didn’t have tickets and the box office said they were sold out (lots of season ticket holders who didn’t show up). We finally found someone selling tickets on the street (remember, this is when there was not Stub Hub). We were in the nosebleeds but I think this was the only time I saw Pedro pitch live. He pitched well, but lost that day. Certainly better than when I went to Fenway (I haven’t been back since) and saw the wrong Martinez, Ramon, get rocked in another day game while I baked by the Pesky Pole.

The other memorable event was his final negotiations with the Red Sox. I read this as another Boston legend, Tom Brady, hit free agency. John Henry, Tom Warner and Larry Lucchiano all wanted to sign Pedro. Theo had his computer with all his graphs and projections that indicated that Pedro had about two good seasons left in him. Pedro wanted at least 3 years (he got 4 from the Mets which the Sox refused to match). I just thought of Bill doing the “math” in his head indicating Brady was declining and having to deal with an owner who likely would do anything to keep Tom. Like Theo, Belichick made the unpopular but hard call. Theo was right. Time will tell if Bill was. Brady may be the next Roger who really wasn’t in the twilight of his career after all.

You get a picture of a man whose greatest strength was also his weakness. This is true for most of us. The anger that drove him to get better caught the attention of the Dodgers and a reason for some of them to question his character. But it was a book that left me wanting more. You can certainly say worse things about a book. And a great player always leaves you wanting to see more. He left us memories of 3 Cy Young award reflecting incredible dominance in the steroid era, his incredible 1999 All-Star game performance, and that gutsy relief performance against Cleveland while hurt in the playoffs. Such greatness and glory is fleeting, so watch it while you can.

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Slappa my face!

It ain’t over until it is over! It is hard to evaluate a team’s offseason until it is over.

There was a lot of whining in Red Sox Nation about the fact that the Red Sox didn’t sign any high profile players. People fail to see that a few key players got significant raises (like Crawford and A-Gon) and they will probably have the 2nd or 3rd highest payroll in MLB. Even the Yankees were relatively quiet.

Things were busy, and crazy, around Yawkey Way this winter. Theo left a huge mess for Ben Cherington.  He’s a thoughtful NH guy who sounds an awful lot like Theo. But he’s acting like the Theo before the 2003 season. That is the Theo I liked. He played Money Ball, finding undervalued guys like David Ortiz and Kevin Millar that ended up being the foundation of a World Series championship.

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This was not the collapse some of the economists have been predicting.  But it felt as devastating.  The team that had the best record in May-August utterly fell apart.  They went from leading the division to not making the playoffs in the course of a month.

There are plenty of people pointing fingers. I’ve read some ridiculous statements.  I’m going to try and put all this together so it makes sense- not sensationalistic headlines.

Issues of payroll are utterly irrelevant.  I don’t care how much a guy is being paid, if he’s hurt he can’t help the team.  So the size of the Red Sox payroll is ultimately irrelevant in this discussion.  You also can’t look at the roster on paper.  You have to see the roster that can actually suit up.

I refuse to point the finger at Theo or Francona.  At the trade deadline the Sox were in an enviable position.  People were largely singing their praises.  Only hindsight is 20/20, so don’t blame them for not having the gift of prophecy.

The seeds of the collapse were sown in Spring Training with Felix Doubront showing up out of shape.  The team had high hopes for him, and he was positioned to be the spot starter like Lester and Buchholz had been before him.  His job was to be ready.  He wasn’t, and suffered a number of injuries.  The depth they had at pitching took its first hit.  And a big hit since they would be forced to rely on the inconsistent Miller and overmatched Weiland.  This would cost them critical games.

It's lonely when you lose

Ryan Kalish’s injury was also pretty big.  Reddick was the guy who ended up filling in for the injured Drew.  He’s streaky, the book says, and he proved it.  He was on fire when he came up.  But down the stretch he struggled horribly.  A healthy Kalish, the heir apparent to right field before the season, would have made a big difference.  But it was not to be (and THAT, my friends, is part of what A-Gon was trying to say).

Diva-K’s injury seemed like a boon at first.  He was horrible!  But if his arm wasn’t messed up, he would’ve been better.  Instead we got a loveable but too old Wakefield and his quest for 200 wins.  It became a source of instability in the rotation.  Combine that with John (S)lackey’s ever deteriorating performance and the 4th and 5th spots on the rotation gave the Sox next to nothing.  Not even innings since no one when deep into games.

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It was a roller coaster ride for Red Sox fans this weekend.  At one point they were staring into the abyss, thinking the 2011 was utterly sunk.

Picture This in Fenway!

Thursday night the Red Sox and San Diego Padres reached a deal to trade Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes for the long lusted after Adrian Gonzalez (A-Gon).  The Padres got top prospects in Kelly and Rizzo.  Sox fans have been hyping Kelly’s skills since he was drafted.  He still projects by many scouts to end up a #2 or 3 starter on a competitive team.  Rizzo has displayed the ability to hit at a high level, though there are still some pitches he struggles with at times.  He is a very good defensive first baseman.  I think he has more promise at this point than Lars Anderson has demonstrated.  I was really hoping they’d send Lars west, but was disappointed.  So, the Padres should see these guys in the Bigs in 2012.  Fuentes, if he makes it, will be later.

The Sox have coveted A-Gon for years for good reason.  He has lots of power and still hits for a high average.  Considering he hit well in a pitcher’s park, his power and average should only increase in Fenway.  Unlike Big Papi, he’s not a pull hitter.  He uses all of the field, and many of his hits are to left field.  Lots of his outs too.  But those outs will hit or fly over the Monster.

In previous seasons he struggled against lefties.  But in 2010, the light bulb went on and he hit better against lefties than righties.  One theory is that his shoulder injury forced him to use a lighter bat so he was able to wait abit longer before beginning his swing (hey, Papi & Drew- worth a shot).

He’s also a very good defender at first base.

Credit to Theo, who keeps a tight lid on things like this.  He like to work quietly.  Rumors were coming out about talks, but word of the actual trade didn’t come out until Saturday.  Which is part of what created the scenario.

BUT ….. the Red Sox only had until 2 pm today to work out an extension with A-Gon.  If you are going to give up 2 top tier prospects, you want more than one season of a guy regardless of how good he is.  And they started the process VERY far apart.  He reportedly wanted Texiera money.  He is THAT good, people.  But the Red Sox are reluctant to sign ANYONE to an 8 year deal.  Especially since he had shoulder surgery this off season.

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Since the winter meetings start next week, it is time to talk about some baseball (mostly Red Sox though).

Some of the best off season news is that Joe Morgan was non-tendered by ESPN.  I didn’t mind Jon Miller, but Morgan drove me crazy.  He was a Hall of Fame player, but not a good color man.  They will replaced by the team of Orel Hershiser, Bobby Valentine and Dan Shulman.  Not too wild about Bobby, but Orel provides some great insight in my opinion.

AP Michael Dwyer

I was a bit surprised by the whole Victor Martinez thing.  Not that he left, but some of the details of his departure.  While he was in Boston we occasionally read how he was a catcher- he wanted to catch.  He was willing to play a little firstbase or DH, but he viewed himself as a catcher.  Victor is an elite hitter as a catcher, but only very good as a DH or a first baseman (and a below par fielder).  When you consider the guy who won the Silver Slugger award at the position last year (on a 1 year deal) made $9 million, you see that the price for elite DH’s is not quite as high as elite catchers.  And that is the catch- the Red Sox didn’t want to pay him like an elite catcher when he had shifted to first base or DH full-time.  Position does matter.

Their experience with ‘Tek’s swift offensive decline (and Victor, his conditioning is legendary so it wasn’t that he didn’t take care of his body), left a bad taste in their mouth.  That and the Mike Lowell contract.  They don’t want old guys gone bad being paid big bucks.  They can’t print money like the Yankees can (especially with Fenway no longer being a HOT ticket and NESN ratings plummeting).

During the press conference to announce V-Mart’s good-sized contract it was announced that he was going to back up their catcher and spend most of his time at DH and 1st base.  Huh?  I felt like I got the old switcheroo.  But they are paying him like he’s a elite catcher.  He doesn’t have the thump you want from a DH or 1st baseman.  I will miss his ability to excel against lefties, but I think the Red Sox made a good move.  He was also a great club house guy, who worked well with some of the pitchers (Clay) but struggled with others (is Beckett’s decline coincidental?).  His probable replacement didn’t hit as well, but did a good job with the pitchers.  All starters went into the 7th (and with that bullpen, it was a huge deal).  So the Sox most likely got a defensive upgrade.  Victor worked hard, and showed some improvement but he’s over 30 and his defensive skills won’t drastically improve.  When you have to face the Rays 19 times, and face the possibility of facing the Rangers in the playoffs- you have to throw people out!

AP Photo Jeff Roberson

Of course, now there is talk of the Red Sox picking up Russell Martin via free agency, or swinging a trade with the Dodger for him.  He has been hampered by injury the last few years, but might make a good platoon with Salty. [Update: they have just re-signed, not resigned, Jason Varitek.]

I’ve posted before on the Crawford-Werth debate. Sox officials met with Crawford yesterday.  They plan to meet with Scott Boras (hit the Darth Vader music) about Werth and Beltre before the Winter Meetings.  My BIG concern (really big concern) is the length of contracts mentioned thus far.  Far too long.  I suspect the Red Sox will be quite resistant to commit to anyone that long, especially anyone over 30.

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Photo by Stuart Cahill

It is becoming most likely that both Jason Bay and Mike Lowell will be spending 2010 someplace other than Boston.  The left side of the field may see a complete turnover.  What gives?

Two words: offense, defense.

Defense: Lowell’s hip injury made him one of the worst 3rd basemen in baseball.  His recovery may be complete now, and he may do better next year.  But the run differential there was just too big.   The Red Sox decided they could not take the risk.  If you have great pitchers, why give the opposition some free hits?  Lowell, sadly not the defender he once was, was doing just that.

Bay’s defense was average at best.  He was better than Manny Ramirez, but that is not saying much.  One reason Texiera got so much money is that he was an elite hitter AND fielder.  Bay’s estimate of his value (greatly jaded by his agent no doubt) is overestimated, in part due to a failure to recognize his shortcomings in the field.

Offense: Both Lowell and Bay love to pull the ball.  That is a great strategy in Fenway Park.  It has that short left field.  But that strategy doesn’t always play well elsewhere.  A basehit in Fenway (thanks to that Wall) is an out in many other parks.  This was the problem Theo was talking about after the Red Sox wilted against the Angels.  Theo wants a more balanced offense to widen that run differential.  With better defense, and guys who can hit at Fenway and away from Fenway, they will get more wins and more easily.

Though these two guys are good/great teammates, and play hard each and every night, their shortcomings created problems for the Red Sox.  Those shortcomings led to their quick playoff exit.  Theo is in the process of addressing those shortcomings.  It may be painful now, but perhaps it will be a great relief later.

Update: we could include health.  Lowell’s issues are well documented.  But the Red Sox have reservations about Bay’s knee and shoulder which may have affected his game mid-season.

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The Annual Winter Meetings of MLB will be taking place this week.  The free agent signings have begun, but the biggest fish remain to be caught.  A few minor trades have taken place, but there may be some big ones to emerge as GMs and agents converge.

Going into the meetings, the Red Sox have lost 2 players from last season.  Billy Wagner and Saito have both shifted to the formerly of Boston now Atlanta Braves.  Losing Wagner, a type-A free agent, freed up the possibility of solving Theo’s perpetual SS dilemma by signing free agent Marco Scutaro.

Some people have been critical of this move.  But Theo did not pull another Lugo (or Renteria).  The deal was for only 2 years (not 4), and is affordable by baseball standards.

This allows for one of two things to happen.  Either, Jed Lowrie proves he can stay healthy and productive, or more importantly international free agent signee Iglesias proves he can hit as well as field.  The Red Sox have a solid defender who can get on base and score runs in Scutaro.  Though 2009 was his best year he may benefit from being in a better line up and seeing better pitches.  One of the main needs for the Red Sox has been addressed.

That leaves left field as the biggest problem to be addressed.  Jason Bay, in the eyes of some, is their best bet.  I beg to differ.  Yes, Holliday will cost more money.  But his average production is better than Jason Bay’s.  Even when you look at this past year, Holliday is a better hitter.  Holliday strikes out considerably less than Bay.  This means he puts the ball in play more often which means that runners can advance instead of stifling the offense.  He does hit, on average, into 2 more double plays per season than Bay.  He also hits for a bit more power.  His defense is also better than Bay’s.  Bigger bat, and so is his glove.  Theo should be willing to pay a little more to get a better player.

Much has been made about a possible trade for Padres’ first baseman Adrian Gonazalez.  The Red Sox have some chips in major league ready players that could make it possible.  They can offer Lowrie and Casey Kotchman in addition to a few prospects.  Hoyer’s past with the Red Sox can work for him in this regard.  He knows the best players the Red Sox have in their system.

If they were able to pull that off (thereby getting a 2nd big bat to make it a lethal offense) it would make Lowell expendable.  I hate saying that.  He’s, by all accounts, a great guy and has played well for the Red Sox.  But Youk could shift back to 3rd, improving our defense.

This could be an important series of meetings.  I don’t expect the Red Sox to sign a left fielder, but I do expect that a lot of the groundwork for that signing and any important trades should be laid.  It should be a busy week for Theo.

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