Nation STATion: Chemistry equation


Nation STATion: Chemistry equation

This season Nation STATion has focused on the numbers in and around the Red Sox. We have so much more information now than ever before. I heard Bill James say that while we have more stats and knowledge, what we still dont know about the game is huge, we are like a small island of information in the middle of the ocean.

One area that we cant seem to use numbers to get a handle is team chemistry. There are those who assert that team chemistry is a myth, kind of like global warming and evolution. They state that winning teams have great team chemistry, while losing teams dont and that only proves that teams get along better when they win. While that may be true, invariably that looks at the results and attributes characteristics in retrospect.

I expect more from smart businessmen. I expect guys like Reed Hastings and Theo Epstein to understand the role relationships play in the success of an organization. If you cant find what team Hastings is affiliated with, youre looking in the wrong place. Hasting is the CEO of Netflix and it was his idea to divide its movie rental service into two businesses, one offering streaming movies over the Internet, the other offering DVDs in the mail. Subscribers revolted and hundreds of thousands dropped the service and the stock plummeted. Hastings forgot about the chemistry his company had with its customers who didnt give a second thought to the Netflix monthly charge on their credit card until the relationship was disrupted.

Theo did the same thing with the Red Sox a year ago. Faced with a team that finished in third place in 2010, he and others in charge forgot that faced with daunting injuries, the Sox in 2010 were like the Little Engine that could. They battled and battled until they had nothing left to give. A far cry from the 2011 team, wouldnt you agree?

Theo, like Hastings, looked at the numbers and figured he could make it work. He could make NESN more relevant and the team more successful by bringing in BIG NAMES, even though the team he had did not need the names, they needed pitching and health.

Theo had two team leaders in the two veterans: Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez. Check through any article you want from Texas and Detroit and they will support that contention. But Theo was determined to get Adrian Gonzalez over the offseason and there is no way you can convince me that the Sox would have not been a better team in 2011 with:

Kevin Youkilis at first
Adrian Beltre at third
Victor Martinez at DH, catcher, and first

And without . . .

Acquiring Adrian Gonzalez
Re-signing David Ortiz
Signing Carl Crawford

Then . . .

The Sox would have had the prospects to trade for Doug Fister instead of him going to Detroit and Boston settling for Erik Bedard.
The Sox would be in the mix to get Gonzo, Albert Pujols, or Prince Fielder this offseason.

Before the start of the 2010 season, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times interviewed Bill James and he specifically asked James about the Sox and the issue of team chemistry. This is part of James response:

I know that we spend an immense amount of time worrying about it," James said. "I think the average person has a hard time relating to it, in part because: a) the amounts of money involved are so phenomenal that people think that with that much money you have no problems. And b) it's a game. It's fun to play baseball. That's what people think. I think most people can understand that if you have 210 work days, and 230, and you had to travel with the people that you work with, there would be a really, really low tolerance for eccentric behavior in the workplace. You may have co-workers that you don't exactly get along with, but that's what weekends are for and you only deal with them seven or eight hours a day. In baseball, there really ain't no weekends, and you have to be around those people a really great amount of time. And if they grate on your nerves, it gets to be a really long season.

James added that when he is asked in a public forum is, can the people who work with you make you less productive or more productive? He responds:

Baseball would be a quite remarkable activity if it was the one place in the world where your co-workers didn't have any impact on how productive you were. But in fact, baseball is a high-stress occupation and those sort of stress-inducing activities have a sort of, just have a huge impact on how the team functions, I think.

Despite understanding this, if there is a consistent foible in Theos player personnel decisions, its that he always opts for the less dynamic personality and he sees that as a strength. For example:

Dice-K remained a loner amongst his fellow pitchers, so much so that it went beyond the language barrier.
J.D. Drew is so disengaged that if he didnt keep hobbling off the field you wouldnt even notice him.
David Ortiz has a great personality but he seems self-centered, plus as a DH, hes not on the field.
The Captain did not play regularly and always seemed more cerebral than emotional.
Adrian Gonzalez is a deeply religious man who looks to outer sources for his strength and seemed somewhat overwhelmed with the hubbub in the Hub after playing in near anonymity in San Diego.
Carl Crawford played in the AL East, but while Tampa has a warmer climate, he seemed to have trouble with the constant heat of attention in Boston. He never seemed to have fun.
It appears as if Kevin Youkilis shows more annoying characteristics than leadership skills.
Marco Scutaro has always been viewed as a placeholder for the next shortstop whether it be Jed Lowrie or Jose Iglesias.

That left it to the kids and while I would be quite content with 25 Dustin Pedroias, he was regarded as Titos boy and could only do so much. Jacoby Ellsbury still was estranged from the team as a result of his miserable 2010 experience and carried little weight despite carrying the team with his bat.

One veteran the Sox management looked to was Josh Beckett and he proved to be more of a good ol' boy than team leader. Jonathan Papelbon, who has grown up with the Sox, was out in the bullpen only to be used when a game was in hand. Tim Wakefield seemed absorbed with his 200th win. Jon Lester was a follower not a leader, and John Lackey was falling apart physically and psychologically.

So, now Terry and Theo are gone and it will be up to Ben and Larry to put together a team and find a leader. I can tell you that it wont be found on a spreadsheet or in a mathematical formula. At least, as of today there are no numbers for leadership. There just is a need for it on this team every bit as much as they need starting pitching and a right-handed bat an without all three this team will struggle in 2012.

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.