You Know You're From Boston When

Surely, you think, he’s not reduced to inflicting upon us the type of content typically reserved for email forwards. And with that, if your next thought wasn’t “and don’t call me Shirley,” I’ve lost all respect for you and will punch you.

To address the point, yes, this is a forward, and yes I hate them at least as much as you do. More. But this one is funny. For serious. It’s a total pissah.

Because I’m often accused of being from Boston – a claim I’ve never made, please note – I thought it would be useful to turn this into an ad hoc test.

Let’s see how I did.

  1. You think of Philadelphia as the Midwest.
    Dude, I live in Denver.
  2. You think it’s your God-given right to cut someone off in traffic.
    Especially people from Connecticut.
  3. You think there are only 25 letters in the alphabet (no R’s).
    This one depends on who you believe; my friends or me. Also, how drunk I am at the time.
  4. You think three straight days of 90+ temperatures is a heatwave.
    I flee Denver in the summer for a reason, people.
  5. All your pets are named after Celtics or Bruins.
    Celtics or Bruins? Seriously? Where’s the guy making these questions up from? LA? Montreal?
  6. You refer to 6 inches of snow as a “dusting.”
    When you split your time between Colorado and Maine, anything under 2 feet is a dusting.
  7. Just hearing the words “New York” puts you in an angry mood.
    You and me are going to tangle. Like right now.
  8. You don’t think you have an attitude.
    I don’t think it, I know it
  9. You always ‘bang a left’ as soon as the light turns green, and oncoming traffic always expects it.
    Denver folken expect this less.
  10. Everything in town is “a five minute walk.”
    Well, it is.
  11. When out of town, you think the natives of the area are all whacked.
    Look, when “how’re you doing?” is anything but a rhetorical question, you are whacked.
  12. You still can’t bear to watch highlights from game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
    Now we know where this guy’s from: New York. Let’s get him.
  13. You have no idea what the word compromise means.
    Wrong. I’ve got a dictionary.
  14. You believe using your turn signal is a sign of weakness.
    The lessons the Pats and Sox learned from the NSA have made an impression on me, what can I say?
  15. You don’t realize that you walk and talk twice as fast as everyone else.
    Until I met a girlfriend from Texas’ grandmother and she couldn’t understand a thing I said, I didn’t.
  16. You’re anal, neurotic, pessimistic and stubborn.
    Just because I took the same route to the office, wore the same clothes, and ate the same meals for the duration of the ’04 playoffs doesn’t mean I’m neurotic. Or didn’t you see how that turned out, you New York loving bastard?
  17. You think if someone is nice to you, they must want something or are from out of town.
    I hated my best friend from college when we first met and kicked him out of a party my roommates and I were throwing for precisely this reason.
  18. Your favorite adjective is “wicked.”
    Uh. No comment.
  19. You think 63 degree ocean water is warm.
    Beats 50 something, don’t it?
  20. You think the Kennedy’s are misunderstood.
    Not after Teddy butchered Mick McGwire and Sammy Sooser’s names, I don’t.

Based on the above, I think I check out as born and raised in Jersey, don’t you?

Anyway, read the rest. It’s funny. And if you don’t think so, it’s not my fault you’re retahded.

In Case You Haven't Been Keeping Up With Current Events

Or, the inaugural edition of a recurring series.

The Beckett Update

Meant to mention this last week but, well, you know how it goes. If you haven’t seen it yet, Peter Gammons spoke with one member of the Red Sox front office who’s of the opinion that after Beckett’s current deal expires in 2010, we’ll be unable to sign the righthander.

“We’d better enjoy [Josh] Beckett the next three years,” one Boston Red Sox official said, “Because we won’t be able to sign him after his deal is up after 2010.”

Which is a grim prospect, not only because the Yankees will presumably have interest, but also because that’s just about the time that Tampa will be getting good (but more on that later).

Now even I can acknowledge that a problem three years away is a problem for another day, and I won’t get in a twist about it. At least, no more than usual.

But I think it’s worth noting that the $30M deal Beckett signed – much lamented by the Sports Guy during Beckett’s rough introduction to the AL – was in retrospect a masterstroke. Even if Beckett is hurt for a significant portion of it.

The Catching Update

In celebration of Truck Day, I treated myself to a copy of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook for 2008. It’s mildly alarming just how excited I was to get home and crack it, but that’s a subject for another day. Of greater interest was the catching depth chart, which BA lists as follows:

  1. Mark Wagner
  2. George Kottaras
  3. Dusty Brown
  4. Tyler Weeden
  5. Jon Egan

The good news is that – as previously discussed – Wagner owns the #20 spot on Boston’s Top 30 prospects list. The bad news is that Kottaras was last year’s #12, and Egan was last year’s #24, and both failed to make this year’s list. It would be inaccurate to say that it’s entirely a reflection on their respective seasons, as the overall depth of our system took a step forward last year, but neither did they progress as anticipated.

BA shares my concern about our catching depth, saying:

“the only unsettled long-term position on the Red Sox is catcher, where there’s no clear heir apparent to Jason Varitek. Wagner is the leading candidate to fill that role, as he has the most well-rounded game among a group of catching prospects that also includes Dusty Brown, Jon Egan, George Kottaras, Jon Still, and Tyler Weeden.”

Their prediction is that Wagner will be up in Portland this year, so I’ll try and get down to see him.

While it’s nice that BA shares my concern, the Red Sox front office is a bit more important in the overall equation. Since they’re in a position to do something about it, and so on. Anyhow it appears that they are applying the same shotgun approach to catching that it does to the bullpen: the more candidates you have, the better the chance that one proves viable. Back in October, we signed 24 year old Dennis Blackmon out of the independent leagues, and three days ago there was word we were close to bringing in Hayato Doue (see above video), a 25 year old Japanese catcher from the independent leagues over there.

Personally, I like these deals. True, the odds of Blackmon or Doue contributing in the long term are thin. But catching is in short supply, and I’d prefer to at least make the effort at finding a diamond in the rough. If we end up discovering nothing, and are forced to trade a Gold Glove caliber CF for a mediocre backstop like Gerald Laird (lifetime OBP of .297) so be it. But let’s at least look around first.

The Schilling Update

Generally, when someone medically trained characterizes a tendon in your shoulder as “irreversibly diseased” and “separate[d] into these bands of spaghetti” it’s not good news, but bad news. Which is what the news on Schilling is, quite obviously. It’s worth noting, as Buster Olney writes, that given the fact that Morgan is legally prevented from speaking without Schilling’s go ahead the aforementioned interview is essentially PR by proxy. Schilling apparently wants Red Sox fans to know that he does not agree with the diagnosis, but is unwilling to do more than hint at said disagreement on his blog, preferring to leave the direct messaging to an authorized mouthpiece. Ok.

Given everything Schilling has pitched through in his career, no one can ever question his ability to pitch with pain: the procedure that resulted in the bloody sock, after all, was first practiced on a cadaver. Seriously. So I have to believe that the big righthander honestly trusts Morgan that surgery offers him a legitimate chance at pitching this year.

Irrespective of what Morgan – and presumably Schilling – would prefer to do to address the current condition, however, the club and the player are apparently going ahead with a cortisone powered rehab.

When asked when Schilling would be able to pitch again using this approach, Morgan’s optimistic answer was: “never.” A real sunbeam, that guy. The guess here is that the two surgeons recommending this course of action are only slightly more hopeful than Morgan when it comes to rehab, but it’s obvious that they are spectacularly less positive about the prospects of a return this season if surgey is pursued. Ergo, the last ditch attempt at rehab.

Don’t know about you guys, but it sounds like it’s time for Plan B here.

The Yankee Update

Leave it to Peter Gammons to explain why it is my fondest wish that Brian Cashman and the Yankees part company, the sooner the better:

As he has done his entire tenure as general manager of the Yankees, Brian Cashman has spent the offseason doing what he believed was in the best long-term interests of the Yankees. Because he eschewed the Santana trade, Cashman’s job now is likely tied to Phil Hughes, Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, et al. But Cashman wants to build a long-term pitching staff, then take money and fill where he needs to build as the Yankees see a number of big contracts go away in the next two offseasons. With close to a half-dozen pitchers making less than $500,000 in 2009, Cashman next winter will be able to go get Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and even Joe Nathan, if he so chooses.

I much preferred a Yankee club that spent and spent in a vain effort to solve more fundamental underlying problems. You know, just like our country does.

Merry Truck Day, and To All a Goodnight

Truck Day (courtesy of the Boston Globe)There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s the headlights of an 18 wheeler. But a good 18 wheeler, not like that one with the goblin head from the crime against film that was Maximum Overdrive.

I don’t care what that frigging groundhog said: truck day means spring is at hand. My people, baseball is but four days away. Let there be much rejoicing, but no eating of minstrels.

Schilling's Shoulder

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that Curt Schilling is injured. Seriously enough to jeopardize this season, if not his remaining career. If you haven’t heard, let the lovely and talented and hopefully single Amalie Benjamin bring you up to speed.

Following the predictable media frenzy of speculation, the pitcher himself spoke directly on the subject late today.

In his missive, Schilling denies that he has been diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff, and that rotator cuff surgery had been recommended. He acknowledges, however, that there were differences of opinion regarding potential solutions. Which is, as Curt himself wrote, far from atypical. But the assumption is that Morgan – the surgeon in whom Schilling has the most confidence – recommended surgery.

While the media reactions have been preoccupied with the disconnects between the pitcher and the club, I frankly find that subject spectacularly uninteresting. Consider me not shocked that the player and the club might have different motivations, goals, concerns and responsibilities in this situation. Nor do I think speculation as to the actual nature of the injury is a productive line of discussion, since I’m unqualified to render any meaningful opinion on the subject.

Instead, let’s discuss a few potential outcomes and the resulting impact of those outcomes.

Rehabilitation is Successful, Schilling Misses Portion of the Season

The only outcome more unlikely than this is that Schilling misses no time whatsoever, but as Papi, Schilling and others demonstrated last year the wonders of cortisone coupled with a tolerance for pain make some surprising things possible. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Schilling misses the first two months: this, to me, is the best possible scenario for three reasons:

  1. It would provide Buchholz with a rotation opening
  2. It would not require Buchholz to spend the entire season in the rotation
  3. It would mean that Schilling could provide us with 120+ innings of league average better innings in return for the $8M investment

But ultimately I think this scenario unlikely.

Rehabilitation is Successful, Schilling Misses Half the Season

This is the Boston Globe’s prediction:

Even without surgery, the 41-year-old Schilling is not expected to be ready to pitch until at least the All-Star break, according to several sources familiar with his condition.

Note particularly the “at least” qualifier in the above.

Half a season or more of downtime would raise more serious rotation questions for the Sox, the biggest of which is this: where are we going to find 150+ ~4 ERA (Schilling was at 3.87 last year) ERA innings? Is Buchholz capable of that? Indeed. But if he gives us 100 innings in the first half plus, he’d have to be used sparingly down the stretch to ensure his availability for any potential playoff appearance. Lest we forget, the Sox are rigid in their innings restrictions for young pitchers, and Buchholz was shut down last year at 146.6 innings for precautionary health reasons.

Rehabilitation is Unsuccessful, Schilling Misses the Season

Depending on the nature of the diagnosis, this scenario may be the most likely. Morgan seems to have felt so, anyway. This, unlike some of the folks who wrote in to ask me about it, is highly problematic for the Red Sox. We didn’t need Schilling to be a 200+ inning workhorse this year, as we do have depth in the rotation with the aforementioned Buchholz and even the forgotten Tavarez, but I think the current roster construction did assume something akin to last year’s injury shortened output.

As Rob Neyer notes, we’re far from sunk if the big righthander misses the ’08 season, but it will require some definite juggling. He speculates that Justin Masterson, a sinkerballer I saw throw in Portland last year, would be in the mix to make up the innings, but most observers – Keith Law among them – are convinced Masterson is likely to be limited to a bullpen role in the context of the major leagues.

Nor can, in my view, Buchholz be expected to shoulder a Schilling-like role at his age and experience level. The guess here is that Buchholz will be capped in ’08 to ~165 IP, meaning that a year long starter role in the rotation would be problematic, even without the complication of potential playoff innings. If I had a gun to my head, I’d predict the Sox would begin the season with a rotation of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Lester, and Tavarez, and integrate Buchholz down the stretch after some seasoning in Pawtucket or the Sox bullpen. And I don’t know about you, but that prospect doesn’t do much for me.

The Net?

It’s not terribly surprising given the pitcher’s age and recent injury history, and we’ll be able to deal. And it’s not like we have a choice either way.

As usual, the folks at Surviving Grady have the best take:

we have some options here. One is to run around and scream that the season’s over and we’re toast and we’re never going to find out just why Penny’s dad hates Desmond so much on Lost. Another is to somehow go back in time to just before the Mets landed Santana, and “intercept” them with the help of a few killer robots and some Mafiosa. Yet another is to get Schilling on Roger’s innovative, career-saving vitamin B-12 program, which, as we know, did wonders for the Rocket. The last and most plausible is to explore the free agent market, or promote the newly-bulked Buchholz to the starting rotation.

I don’t watch Lost, so that option’s not available to me, and I’m not a sky-is-falling type anyhow, but I can’t say that I feel good that Theo may be on the phone with Josh Fogg’s agent as we speak.

So Crisp is Gone?

This is a precursor to the trade of one Covelli Crisp, correct?

Given that Kielty (pronounced “KELL-ty”, I think) said earlier: “I really need to play in the best situation. With Coco not there, it is a very good situation for me in terms of playing time. But with Coco there, it’s not an ideal situation for me.”

And as Rotoworld notes: “The Red Sox appear set with a bench of Coco Crisp, Sean Casey, Alex Cora and Doug Mirabelli, so unless Crisp is dealt, there won’t be room for Kielty on the roster.”

Assuming he’s traded, the question then is: what did we get? Billy Beane is reportedly enamoured of Crisp’s defense, but those that have speculated that Huston Street would be a potential return are – to me – wildly optimistic.

Still, it should be interesting to see. Assuming he’s traded, of course. In any event, I like the deal. It’s low risk, and Kielty is a serviceable fourth outfielder with center field abilities.

The Mayor Comes to Town

So we’re getting Sean Casey. While I can’t really say that I have strong feelings on the subject one way or another, it’s a Red Sox transaction and thus must be documented. In excessive detail. Here we go.

Q: What’s the nature of the transaction?
A: One year deal at $700K according to the Great Gammons. Edes says $800K. Doesn’t look like a minor league invite sort of thing, but the contract is apparently non-guaranteed.

Q: Who is Sean Casey?
A: A 1B/DH type, pretty much strictly, who’s played with Cleveland (briefly), Cincinnatti, Detroit, Pittsburgh in his career. While much beloved by fans, players and media, I’m probably faster than he is. Like, a lot faster. And I’m the slowest man alive.

Q: What’s with the much beloved bit?
A: Casey is rumored to be the most popular player in MLB. As the good folks over at Surviving Grady relate, in a survey of 464 major leaguers asked who the friendliest player was, Casey’s name was returned on 46% of the ballots. The runners up? Jim Thome and Mike Sweeney, at a whopping 7% a piece. Put more simply: you don’t pick up a moniker like “The Mayor” by being a dick.

Q: So he’s one of those rare players the ravenous Boston media won’t pick on?
A: Sure seems that way. Witness these tidbits, “a very popular and enthusiastic player,” “considered an outstanding clubhouse influence,” “excellent contact hitter,” “chosen for three NL All-Star teams,” “made a big impact with Detroit.”

Q: Ok, the Boston media is sold. How about you?
A: Meh. As I said from the outset, I’ve really got no strong feelings one way or another. He’s got some very useful skills, but lacks the versatility you’d expect from a bench player, as Allen Chace over at Over the Monster notes.

Q: Let’s parse that a little bit: what are his useful skills?
A: Dude, it’s the Red Sox front office. What do you think? Baserunning?

The guy gets on base. Lifetime OBP is .366, and last year was at .353.

Q: I’ve heard – via Nick Cafardo – that he’s a good pinch hitter as well. Is that true?
A: Well, Cafardo has him at 5-11 last year in that role. Which is good. ESPN actually has him at 6-12, which is also good. But given that his three year total of 21 ABs as a PH is the very definition of small sample size, I’m not ready to draw any firm conclusions off of that fact.

Q: Gotcha. So the OBP is good. What are the downsides?
A: Primarily, as discussed by Allen, there’s the lack of versatility. I’ve never been considered the world’s biggest Hinske fan, but at least he gives you the option in the outfield. As would have a Brad Wilkerson, before he signed with the Mariners.

Casey’s limited, but balancing that is Youk’s abilities at third. So though Casey is limited to first, given Youk’s versatility, The Mayor effectively represents relief at both first and third.

The other primarily limitation of Casey’s game is power. Put bluntly, it’s never really been a part of his game. Lifetime SLG is .450, and his last three years are .364/.408/.393. But in a bench player, that’s not really such a priority.

Q: What do the players think?
A: Given his reputation, they’re likely to be as fired up as Curt Schilling is. As an aside to Curt, who observed “I think he’s gotten the best of me more than I on him,” that’s not quite true. He’s at 6 hits in 19 ABs with 2 BBs, for a .316/.381/.474 line. Thus he’s hit you well, but not more often than you get him.

Q: What do the splits tell us?
A: One minor surprise: he’s better against lefties than righties over the last 3 years (.326/.380/.448 vs .284/.346/.387). Other than that, very little of significance: he hasn’t hit well at Camden Yard in 13 ABs (.445 OPS), hasn’t been much better at Fenway (.483 OPS in 30 ABs), and is worst at Yankee Stadium (.417 OPS in 21 ABs). He also hasn’t responded well to the DH role in a mere 26 ABs, hitting .192/.250/.308 in that role.

Q: A cursory glance suggests that Casey is like an older Youk. Is that reasonably accurate?
A: Well, they’re both first baseman with lower power profiles than you expect for the position, but Youk can handle third and gets on base at a slightly higer clip (.383 to .366 lifetime). Interestingly, though, Casey’s hit for a bit more pop over his career (.450 to Youk’s .434). I hadn’t known that.

Q: So what’s the bottom line on this deal?
A: Seems like a classic low-risk/moderate reward scenario. At worst, he’s a low cost (read: easily jettisoned) asset with the club who may make the clubhouse a better place. At best, he’s a good OBP bat off the bench that can spell both Lowell at third (by proxy) and Youk at first, which is important since the fomer is aging (33) and the latter tends to wear down (1st and 2nd half splits the last 3 years: .309/.410/.478 vs .249/.355/.384). Thus, I give the deal a thumbs up, even if I’m not dancing in the streets as a result.