The 2011 World Series is evolving into one of the classic matchups in history. We’ve seen a 1-0 game through eight innings won in the ninth with two sac flies. We’ve seen a monumental blowout with Albert Pujols making history with three home runs. We’ve witnessed a young pitcher coming of age with a gem in Game 4 as Derek Holland shut down the Cardinals for 8+ innings. Baseball fans must be thrilled with this fall display.
Well, most fans. But there are some fans who are not enjoying the 2011 postseason.
$126 Million in committed salary, but no leadership
by Charlie Miller
The Boston Red Sox have no general manager, no manager and $126 million committed in players’ salaries for 2012. Maybe the 126 number would frighten most GMs, but Boston has grown accustomed to payrolls north of $160 million, so it’s not that far out of line. And with ticket sales continuing at a record pace and revenues from NESN soaring, the team isn’t close to financial trouble.
However, they may be racing toward trouble of another kind. The $126 million does not include a DH, a rightfielder or, most importantly, a closer. It also doesn’t include the handful of players who are arbitration eligible and due some big raises, the most notable Jacoby Ellsbury, arguably the team’s best player in 2011.
What the number does include is nearly $60 million committed to a starting rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. And that can’t be too comforting for a new braintrust.
Lackey posted the worst ERA (6.41) in team history over a full season. Buchholz made just 14 starts. Dice-K was ineffective in seven starts before being injured. Beckett and Lester combined to go 28-16, numbers indicative of horses a team can count on in the clutch. But where were those guys when the team — leaking oil at an astounding rate — needed them most?
All indications are that they were enjoying beer and buckets of thighs and breasts. Beckett was 1-2 with a 5.48 ERA in four September starts raising his season ERA from 2.54 to 2.89. The Sox lost four of Lester’s five starts as the lefthander suffered through a 1-3 month with a 5.40 ERA.
Boston needs a fresh start of monumental proportions. Does that mean sacrificing a season and several million to get back on the winning track sooner? That’s not a bad plan. This is a mess not easily cleaned.
It’s all too easy to manage this team from afar, but I suspect bringing in a no-frills, old-school manager and identifying about five guys you want to go to war with would be the place to start. Immediately and swiftly change the culture and clean house as much as can be tolerated financially.
That means cutting ties with players such as Lackey, Beckett, Dice-K, and maybe Kevin Youkilis and — dare we say — Carl Crawford. Realistically, there’s no way a team can afford to walk away from the kind of money guaranteed these players, especially with Crawford. But can the Red Sox afford not to? Can they afford to build their team around these expensive players in 2012 and beyond?
The Red Sox need leadership from within the clubhouse. Who will step up to be that guy?
Dustin Pedroia is the first name that comes to mind. Ellsbury is their best player and can most likely be salvageable from a clubhouse perspective, but he’s not a leader. Adrian Gonzalez is a tremendous player who will put up huge numbers and play Gold Glove defense at first base. But is he the player who can confront slacking players eating fried chicken and playing video games?
That is not a bad trio to build around, but who else should be kept? Obviously they can’t release the entire roster. Is Crawford a keeper? Could the Red Sox admit that Crawford is as big a mistake as Dice-K? Was 2011 a fluke for Crawford, or is that the real Crawford now? That itself is a $120 million question. Dare they re-sign Youkilis or David Ortiz?
Most teams not in the playoffs this fall would love to have a roster dotted with names like Gonzalez, Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, Ellsbury, Crawford, Beckett, Lester and Jonathan Papelbon. But as Joe Maddon proved in Tampa Bay, it can be more rewarding both on and off the field with names like Longoria, Price, Shields, Zobrist, Kotchman and Farnsworth.
The next management team in Boston needs to ask for a long-term deal and a little patience from the fans. They’re going to need it.
The Tigers and Rangers bested AL East clubs on the way to the championship series.
The AL East, with three 90-win teams, looked like the power division in baseball for most of the season. The Boston Red Sox had a ton of expectations after the free agent signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Gonzalez performed as expected, leading the BoSox in batting average, hits and RBIs. Crawford’s first season at Fenway was a disappointment, hitting a career-low .255. Boston fell apart in September, going 7-20 over the final month and missing the postseason.
A couple of nights ago, I enjoyed the greatest night of my baseball life. Four teams fighting for a playoff berth in four different games, and three of them went into extra innings. Can it get it better than that? Well, if you listen to MLB, it can. But I disagree.
It appears that MLB is determined — for whatever reason — to add a couple of playoff teams, create perpetual interleague play and in so doing, make the DH rule universal.
I understand that the additional playoff teams generate more revenue. But if that is all we’re about here, let’s just have a 30-team postseason tournament in September and October to determine the champion. The team with the best record in each league gets a bye in the first round, and let’s play five rounds of seven-game series.
Of course, that sounds absurd — at least I hope it does to everyone — but where do we draw the compromise between increasing postseason revenue and maintaining the integrity of a true champion?
I submit that we have that compromise now. If anything, we’re too far on the lost integrity side, but maybe that’s just me. I just happen to believe that the truest measure of the best baseball team in any given year is over 162 games, not over 19 postseason games with days off in between.
Am I suggesting that we go back to the days of no divisions and have the two league champions meet in the World Series? No I’m not. While I do believe that is the truest measure of a champion, I understand the drama and suspense of elimination games.
But think about what opening up 2011 to an extra playoff team in each league would have taken from the game? There would not have been the incredible drama Wednesday night. The Yankees and Phillies had already clinched home field advantage. The Rangers, Diamondbacks, Tigers and Rangers had all clinched division titles. And the Red Sox, Rays, Braves and Cardinals would have clinched wild card berths.
You may argue that the drama we witnessed on Wednesday would have remained, but moved to a later night featuring wild card games. Perhaps, but playing to get into the playoffs offers a little more drama than merely playing to advance. And what about the Orioles and Astros? Those teams and their fans were able to witness relevant games for those teams for the first time in months. And while the Houston fans weren’t treated to much drama, Camden Yards was as vibrant as ever Wednesday night. Please don’t take those opportunities away.
No matter how hard executives and networks and websites try, sports just can’t be scripted. You can’t manufacture drama. Whether it’s just two postseason teams or 16, the drama will happen on the field as played out by individuals. Some seasons play out with three or four fantastic divisional races going down to the wire. Some years don’t. This season was one of those where the dramatic line was drawn between the fourth- and fifth-best teams in each league. Next year will be different. But it is never predictable where that line will be drawn.
So please, MLB, don’t mess with the existing playoff structure.
I think the Red Sox are done. It’s over, Red Sox Nation. On Sept. 1 there seemed to be no doubt that both the Red Sox and Yankees were in the playoffs. The only question was which team would finish first and which would be the wild card. Then the Red Sox woke up and thought it was 1978.
As with Boston teams prior to the curse being reversed in 2004, this team keeps looking over its shoulder waiting for something bad to happen. And bad things keep happening.
Will the Tampa Bay Rays or St. Louis Cardinals make the postseason?
--By Josh Kipnis
With October right around the corner, who are the most feared teams in the MLB? Surprising to most, the Yankees and the Phillies aren’t at the top of my list. In fact, the two hottest teams might not even make the playoffs.
Red Sox Nation has many choices and arguments aplenty
MLB Mt. Rushmores
by Charlie Miller
The question was posed earlier this season whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore. That certainly piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. Let the arguments begin.
Boston Red Sox Mt. Rushmore
The overplayed drought of championships from 1918 to 2004 and the Curse of the Bambino have overshadowed what has been a very successful franchise. By 1918 the team had won five World Series and another AL pennant in 1904, a year there was no Series. Dark days followed from 1922-33 when they finished in last place in nine of 12 seasons and next-to-last in another two. But Sox fans have had much to cheer for recently. Even going back to 1966, there have been just six losing seasons. They have finished worse than second place just twice since 1997. With a postseason berth almost assured in 2011, that would be the 13th postseason appearance in 26 seasons. However, the team has won 100 games in a season only three times, the last all the way back in 1946. The famous 1978 playoff game with the Yankees would have been the Sox 100th win had Bucky Dent not shattered Boston’s championship plans. The Red Sox pose the toughest test to date in selecting just four individuals. Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski are easy choices. The list of candidates for the last two spots is long, and filled with strong arguments.
There is absolutely no doubt that Teddy Ballgame belongs here. The Splendid Splinter is also in the discussion for the MLB Hitters Mt. Rushmore. There may not have been a better hitter ever. His entire career was spent in Boston and was interrupted twice by stints in the U.S. Marine Corps — first in World War II then again during the Korean War. The 10 best on-base percentages in Boston history, ranging from .479-.553, all belong to Williams.
It isn’t easy to step into a legend’s shoes, especially at the age of 21 and a legend the size of Williams. But that’s what was asked of Yastrzemski in 1961. But 3,308 games later, Yaz had cemented his place alongside Williams as the two greatest players in Red Sox history. Yastrzemski won three batting titles, a triple crown, made 18 All-Star teams and earned seven Gold Gloves. At ages 22 and 38 he finished 18th in MVP voting. In between, he had nine finishes that high or better, including winning the award in his triple crown season of 1967. Sadly, Yaz never won a World Series, but he batted .400 and hit three home runs in the 1967 Classic and hit .310 in the 1975 Series. Overall, he batted .369 in the postseason with 11 RBIs and 15 runs in 17 games.
Ortiz doesn’t rank in the top 5 in any of the main offensive categories except slugging percentage. But Big Papi embodied the spirit of the Red Sox in the 2000s. Over his first five seasons with the team, he averaged .302 with 42 home runs, 128 RBIs, 105 runs and 41 doubles, and finished in the top 5 in MVP votes each year. And most importantly, the Sox won two World Series in that time. He has 12 postseason home runs and hit .321 with eight RBIs and seven runs in their two World Series sweeps.
Rice is third on the Red Sox list in hits, total bases and RBIs. He and Hank Aaron (in 1959) are the only two hitters with as many as 400 total bases in a season between 1948 and 1997. From the mid-1970s to the mid-’80s, Rice was the most feared hitter in the American League.
You would think any player with a foul pole named for him would deserve a Mt. Rushmore honor. And Johnny Pesky remains a beloved player to fans of several generations.
The Game 6 home run in 1975 by Carlton Fisk certainly is on Boston’s Mt. Rushmore of moments, but the catcher had a tough breakup and spent too much time in white socks.
Third in career runs, fourth in hits and total bases, Dwight Evans was as good a rightfielder as we’ve seen since the 1970s.
Cy Young has an award named for him, but fewer than 200 wins in Boston.
Bobby Doerr made nine All-Star teams and drove in 100 runs six times. He missed a full season due to military service at age 27. He played only second base in his career and wore no other uniform.
From 1935 to 1947, Joe Cronin managed Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, among others, to a pennant, four second-place finishes and 10 .500 seasons or better in 13 years.
Tris Speaker won the 1912 MVP in a Boston uniform. In seven full-time seasons from 1909-15, he averaged .342-6-76 with 99 runs, 34 doubles and 15 triples and a .909 OPS.
Jimmie Foxx made six All-Star teams and won an MVP with the Sox.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com