Nation STATion: Theo-cracy

308367.jpg

Nation STATion: Theo-cracy

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

As hard as I find it to believe that the Sox did not make postseason, I remain in a deeper state of shock and disappointment that Terry Francona was thrown under the bus by management. The one thing I can tell you without question is that the more you think you know what is going on with a ballclub, the less you actually know.

So lets discuss what we do know: from Day 1, this team had too many left-handed hitters and too few starting pitchers. The roster had little depth, minimal chemistry, few leaders. All that means, Nation, is that we have to turn our lonely eyes to GM Theo Epstein. This is not Los Angeles, where manager Mike Scioscia is the unofficial assistant GM (say goodbye to Tony Reagins) or Baltimore, where manager Buck Showalter has more and more front office control. In Boston, it became the opposite as apparently Terry ceded more influence to Theo, Lucchino, and John Henry.

When you look at the Sox homegrown players like Pedey, Jacoby, Youk, Buchholz, and Papelbon, you can see that Theo has a real gift when it comes to drafting and player development. But (Julio Lugo) signing free agents (Edgar Renteria) has not been his forte.

Theo seems to have a very specific formula for determining the free agents that he is interested in signing. Call it what you want, Moneyball or anything else, the veterans that Theo goes after have certain statistics (OPS) and a certain personality, usually quiet and unemotional (not unlike Theo himself), and rarely a leader (Dice-K, J.D. Drew, and Carl Crawford, come to mind).

Take a look at these nine notable free agent signing periods since the Red Sox' last postseason success, the 2007 World Championship (the Sox have won one postseason series since):

1. February 2008 - Signed Bartolo Colon as a free agent. Now in the Yankee rotation.
2. December 2008 - Signed Brad Penny as a free agent. Found success with St. Louis and Detroit.
3. January 2009 - Signed Mark Kotsay (now in the postseason with Milwaukee) and John Smoltz (retired) as free agents.
4. August 2009 - Signed Paul Byrd (retired) as a free agent.
5. December 2009 - Signed Darnell McDonald (November has hit .258 as a fourth outfielder), Marco Scutaro (has hit .284 for the Sox), Mike Cameron (released) and John Lackey (5.36 ERA in two seasons with Boston) as free agents.
6. January March 2010 - Signed Adrian Beltre (now in the postseason with Texas), Scott Atchison (4.08 ERA in mop-up role for Boston), Alan Embree (retired), Scott Schoeneweis (retired) as free agents.
7. December 2010 - Signed Carl Crawford (.255, 18 steals), Matt Albers (4.73 ERA), Rich Hill (injured), Randy Williams (only seven Boston appearances, 6.48 ERA), Andrew Miller (5.54 ERA 1.815 WHIP), Lenny DiNardo (now in the Oakland organization), Dan Wheeler (4.38 ERA), Bobby Jenks (6.32 ERA injured and ill) as free agents.
8. February 2011 - Signed Hideki Okajima (January quickly designated for assignment), Dennys Reyes (quickly released) and Alfredo Aceves (thank you for a great season; 2.61 ERA in 55 games) as free agents.
9. May 19, 2011 - Signed Kevin Millwood (pitched for the Rockies) as a free agent.

When you look at the group above, the only signing that can perceived as a Grade A success was the one-year rental of Adrian Beltre. I like Marco Scutaro, but he was signed with the intent that he would serve as a place-filler until Jed Lowrie or Jose Iglesias could grow into the job. I hope that Marco returns, as it doesnt look as if Lowrie will ever be healthy or ready and Iglesias, who is a defensive whiz, only hit .235 for Pawtucket this season and could use more seasoning. In addition, Iglesias wont be 22 until January and it may not be the wisest thing to bring him into the turmoil of 2012.

Boston has a 6M option on Scutaro. If the Red Sox don't exercise Scutaro's option, Marco can opt to remain in Boston for 3M or become a free agent and take a 1.5M buyout. Among shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances, Scutaro, who hit .299, had the majors fourth highest OBP at .358, exceeded only by Yunel Escobar (.369), Troy Tulowitzki (.372), and Jose Reyes (.384). Among that group of shortstops, only Reyes is a free agent and who knows what Theo has in mind as he re-evaluates the team's free agent policy.

But it wasnt just free agents that led to Red Sox 2011 mess. Here is a chronology of the Sox transactions since the completion of the 2010 season:

November 2010
Mike Lowell granted Free Agency the Sox never replaced this veteran.
Victor Martinez granted Free Agency Not signing Martinez was Bostons biggest mistake of the offseason. V-Mart not only is a switch-hitter who provides a terrific bat as a DH, first baseman, and catcher, but is renowned for being a great clubhouse presence.
Jason Varitek granted Free Agency.
Adrian Beltre granted Free Agency Beltre wanted to return to the Sox, but was ultimately blocked when Theo fulfilled his long-felt desire to acquire Adrian Gonzalez and Youk was moved to third. Beltre ultimately signed a five-year deal with Texas and is now in the postseason.
Bill Hall granted Free Agency.
Felipe Lopez granted Free Agency.
Chad Paronto granted Free Agency.
Ramon Ramirez granted Free Agency.
Dusty Brown granted Free Agency.
Carlos Delgado granted Free Agency.
Gil Velazquez granted Free Agency.
Rich Hill granted Free Agency.
Tommy Hottovy granted Free Agency.

Traded Pedro Perez (minors) to the Detroit Tigers. Received infielder Brent Dlugach. Did not play.
Traded Dustin Richardson to the Florida Marlins. Received Andrew Miller. See below.

Selected Taylor Buchholz off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. See below.

December 2010
Hideki Okajima granted Free Agency.
Taylor Buchholz granted Free Agency.
Andrew Miller granted Free Agency.

Signed Utilityman Drew Sutton as a free agent. Hit .315 in 31 Sox games playing six different positions. No homers and seven RBI in 60 plate appearances.
Signed pitcher Brandon Duckworth as a free agent. Went 8-6 in 22 games (21 starts) for Pawtucket. Had a 3.97 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP.
Signed pitcher Jason Bergmann as a free agent. Did not play.
Signed catcher Jason Varitek as a free agent. In 68 games, Tek hit .221 with 11 homers and 36 RBI. He hit lefties at a .200 pace. He hit .176 after the All-Star break.
Signed outfielder Carl Crawford as a free agent. Crawford suffered through the worst season of his major league career hitting .255 with 11 homers and 18 steals.
Signed Matt Albers as a free agent. After all was said and done it was a typical season for Albers, who came in with a 5.11 career ERA and ended with a 5.04 after going 4-4 with a 4.73 ERA this season. He had a 1.438 WHIP.
Signed Rich Hill as a free agent. Hills season ended June 1. Hes now thrown 12 innings over the last two seasons.
Signed Randy Williams as a free agent. Williams threw 8.1 innings and gave up six runs.
Signed Andrew Miller as a free agent. Miller was 6-3 but had a 5.54 ERA and a 1.815 WHIP. He now has a career WHIP of 5.79.
Signed Lenny DiNardo as a free agent. Did not pitch for Boston.
Signed Dan Wheeler as a free agent. Wheeler was 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA but had a very respectable 1.115 WHIP.
Signed Bobby Jenks as a free agent. For the fourth straight season Jenks ERA rose, this year to 6.32. He had a horrible 2.234 WHIP and was repeatedly on the DL.

Traded Eric Patterson and top prospects Casey Kelly (minors), Reymond Fuentes (minors) and Anthony Rizzo to the San Diego Padres. Received Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzo hit .338 with 27 homers and 119 RBI. His 27 homers were his lowest total since 2004 and he only hit 10 homers at Fenway. He hit .183 against the Yankees and .131 against the Rays. He apparently does not like Sunday night baseball.

January 2011
Signed Utilityman Hector Luna as a free agent. Did not play.
Signed pitcher Tony Pena as a free agent. Did not play.
Signed pitcher Hideki Okajima as a free agent. Went 1-0 in seven Sox games with a 4.32 ERA and 1.440 WHIP before he was designated for assignment.
Signed and released pitcher Matt Fox as a free agent. Pitched in 28 games (21 starts) for Pawtucket going 10-4 with a 3.96 ERA.

Selected Max Ramirez off waivers from the Texas Rangers.
Max Ramirez selected by the Chicago Cubs off waivers.

February 2011
Signed catcher Paul Hoover as a free agent. Did not play.
Signed pitcher Tommy Hottovy as a free agent. Appeared in eight games for Boston with a 6.75 ERA in four innings pitched.
Signed Dennys Reyes as a free agent. Appeared in four games for Boston with a 16.20 ERA in 1.2 innings pitched before he was released.
Signed Alfredo Aceves as a free agent. The MVP of the pitching staff. Finished 10-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP. Appeared in 55 games, including four starts, and pitched 114 innings.

Traded Robert Coello to the Chicago Cubs. Received Utilityman Tony Thomas (played for Pawtucket).

March 2011
Released Aaron Bates.
Released Lenny DiNardo.

Free agent signing of Jason Bergmann voided.

Traded pitcher Daniel Turpen (minors) to the Colorado Rockies. Received catcher Michael McKenry who was traded to Pittsburgh in June.

May 2011
Signed Kevin Millwood as a free agent.

Traded player to be named or cash to the Colorado Rockies. Received Franklin Morales. Morales was 1-1 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.268 WHIP in 36 relief appearances as the lefty from the pen.

June 2011
Traded Michael McKenry to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received player to be named or cash.

July 2011
Signed pitcher Royce Ring as a free agent. Did not appear.
Signed pitcher Charlie Haeger as a free agent. Did not appear.

Traded Mike Cameron and cash to the Florida Marlins. Received player to be named or cash.
Traded Kendal Volz (minors) and Yamaico Navarro to the Kansas City Royals. Received infielder Mike Aviles. Aviles hit .317 in 38 games and played five positions.
As part of a 3-team trade, traded pitcher Juan Rodriguez (minors), pitcher Stephen Fife (minors) and catcher Tim Federowicz to the Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang (minors) to the Seattle Mariners. In addition, the Los Angeles Dodgers sent Trayvon Robinson to the Seattle Mariners. Received pitcher Josh Fields (minors Went 3-0 for Portland) and pitcher Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners. Bedard went 1-2 in just eight starts. He had a 4.03 in only 38 innings.

August 2011
Signed outfielder Brett Carroll as a free agent. Did not appear.
Signed pitcher Trever Miller as a free agent. Pitched two scoreless innings in three appearances.
Signed pinch runner Joey Gathright as a free agent. He scored one run in seven appearances.

Released Kevin Millwood. Millwood signed with Colorado and made nine starts, going 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA.

Traded Jason Rice (minors) to the Oakland Athletics. Received Utilityman Conor Jackson and cash. Jackson went 3-for-19 with one homer.

I find it astounding that this was the extent of help that Theo provided this ball club, particularly in light of the fact that Dice-K was lost for the season on May 16 and that Clay Buchholz was lost for the season on June 16.

I am not denying that hindsight is 20-20, but there were many of us who questioned the John Lackey signing (he still has won over 14 games in a season just once) and also questioned the Carl Crawford signing (it felt as if the Sox were compensating for signing the over-the-hill Mike Cameron and for letting Jason Bay get away. The Sox needed then, as now, a right-hand power bat. Bostons 71 homers by right-hand batters were good for 10th in the AL and it looks even uglier when you subtract the seven hit by the switch-hitting Salty-Tek combo. Dustin Pedroia led the teams righties with seven homers off of lefties. He also led the righties with 14 homers off of righties).

While I didnt question the Adrian Gonzalez deal, it did come with a caveat that this would only be a good deal if the Sox made the postseason because, if the team was not making the postseason, why give up top prospects for a player who, along with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, would be an available free agent this offseason.

The declaration that this was the greatest team ever was predicated upon the arrival of Gonzalez and Crawford. That was fantasy. This is reality:
In 2010, the third-place Red Sox pitching staff had a 4.20 ERA (9th in the AL) and the rotation had 89 Quality Starts (55). No significant additions or subtractions were made to that staff.
In 2011, in this year of the pitcher, the third-place Red Sox pitching staff once again had a 4.20 ERA (9th in the AL) and the rotation had just 71 Quality Starts (44).

And:
In 2011, combined, Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez hit .313 with 44 homers and 208 RBI.
In 2011, combined, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford hit .300 with 38 homers and 173 RBI.

Finally:
The 2010 Red Sox were 89-73, finishing third, 7.0 games back.
The 2011 Red Sox were 90-72, finishing third, 7.0 games back.

If the Chicago Cubs want Theo as their General Manager, I say let them have him under the condition that they provide compensation. And that compensation is simple: I dont want players in return; if they want Theo, they take Lackey with him.

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.