Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hot Stove from chilly Florida

The temps have finally dropped from our normal high of 75-85 to a crisp 65, dipping as low as...wait for it...52 degrees as I type right now, with a brisk wind. (quit laughing)

So I'm going to fire up the hot stove, mainly because the stories going on in baseball now are more interesting than anything else; I mean if I hear the words "Michigan" & "Ohio State" again I'm going to pull a new Bond on somebody(it won't be pretty.)

There are all kinds of crazy goings on in the M-L-B, from post-Awards fallout to ludicrous free agent signings. Oh, plus Shaughnessy's column in the Globe today declaring Manny quit on the team & the fans and should be run out of The Hub on a rail, pronto.

-Matsuzaka wined & dined by Sox brass in Malibu
Like an episode of a cheesy game show, call it The Bachelor: Asian Edition, (not so) free agent Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was given the royal treatment by Red Sox ownership over the weekend. He was flown to Boston chairman Tom Werner's (as in Carsey-Warner, married television moguls) Malibu mansion where he had dinner with Warner, owner John Henry, CEO Larry The Liar Lucchino, GM Theo the Wonder Boy and manager Tito Francona. And of course Matsuzaka's pimp, errr agent, Scott Boras was present, just to make sure nobody tried to slip his client the tongue during all the heavy courting.

After the dinner Friday Boras took the wunderkid to a Lakers game Sunday night, where they had courtside seats. For some reason I don't think these two would have made the cut for an Entourage episode.

The pitcher was reportedly impressed that all the principals in the organization took the time to fly in from around the country for the sit-down. Little does he know that the fate of all of their jobs as well as the direction of the organization for the next decade was driving their appearances. The Sox have 23 days left to close a deal with Matsuzaka or he will return to his Japanese team. Word now is that Boras might play hardball (surprise, surprise) and demand a 4yr, $40 mil deal, which would put the imports total price tag at $91.1 freakin' million.

Blow this deal and heads will roll. Worse yet, don't get the kid signed now and risk losing the faith of the Nation for a long time.

How the f- are these guys getting this kind of money?
That should be the title of a major expose on because the free agent deals being inked this winter resemble the organization-crushing mega contracts owners vowed were ruining the game less than 10 years ago. Take a gander at some of these outrageous deals and you'll see what I mean

- Alfonso Soriano, IF/OF, Chicago Cubs: 8years, $136 million dollars ($17mil/yr)
You read that right. The Cubs (well, the Tribune Company, which is supposed to be selling the team) dished out that kind of cache to a 31-year-old head case who is an offensive whiz but is not the type of player who will win you a championship. Right now the guy is making almost as much as Manny Ramirez, whose supposed ungodly contract is the reason why he couldn't be traded these past few years. No excuses now, because if someone whose career numbers pale in comparison to Man Ram's (HRs: 470-208; RBI: 1516- 961; SLG %: .600-.510; OBP: .411- .325) can make just about a mil less a year, then there is no such thing as too big of a contract now. Not counting E-Rod of course.
The Cubbies were really flashing the dough because earlier last week they signed slugging 3B Aramis Ramirez to a 5-year, 75 million deal. That equals out to $211 million given to 2 players for the next 5-8 years. Yikes. No collusion here.

-Gary Matthews, Jr. OF LA of A Angels: 5 years, $50 million
Okay this kid is talented. He hit .313 for the Rangers last year with 19 homers & 79 RBI, but his on base percentage was a lowly .371 for a leadoff hitter. He did smack 44 doubles and hit for the cycle in September. A nice player. Defensively he is a whiz. He roams the outfield like a cheetah chasing his prey. And it was one defensive play he made last year that got him his humongous deal. In a game against Houston in Arlington on July 1st, the Astros' Mike Lamb hit a blast to deep left center that Matthews tracked all the way. When he caught up to the flight path of the ball at the wall, he leaped, his glove went about 5 feet over the top of the wall, and he pulled the ball back from beyond the fence. It was a catch for the ages. Highlight shows had a field day. Polls and pundits were calling it the greatest catch they'd ever seen (hello, a July game with the Rangers & Astros? What about Mays or Dewey Evans' basket catches in playoff games? jeez.) Well it may or may not have been the greatest catch ever, but it certainly did land Gary, a career .249 hitter entering the 2006 season, an $8 million per year raise (he made a little over $2mil last year) and a whopping $10 mil/year for the next 5. Nice catch, indeed.

- Juan Pierre, LA Dodgers: 5 years, $44 million ($8.8mil/yr)
The Dodgers must have fallen off the money tree and struck every branch as well. They just gave Nomah almost $10 mil/year for the next 2 years and Pierre, a leadoff man, will displace last winters' high-priced free agent signee, Raphael Furcal. They now have two $8+ mil leadoff men and a $9+ mil injury prone first basemen. And they don't want to pay JD Drew?

All these huge deals for guys that aren't even the biggest names on the market -Zito, Bonds, Suppan, Maddux, Carlos Lee, Drew and Jason Schmidt. 27 free agents have signed deals worth $402.86 million with an average of $6.6 million per year.
Free agency has never been more costly.

Globe columnist blasts ManRam
In today's Boston Globe long time columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote a scathing piece calling for Manny Ramirez to be traded from the team once and for all. He cites team sources in saying that everyone associated with the organization, from GM Theo Epstein, who has tried to unload the mercurial slugger for years, to Tito knows he quit on the team when he basically shut it down for the final month of thew season, citing a balky knee.
It has long been known that ManRam plays when he wants to play, and vice versa. But for Shaughnessy to just call him out like that and throw the names of Sox management in there says to me that the team called the shot in an effort to push Ramirez out the door. How else do you explain it? Would those guys allow a piece like that to be published, stating that they know for a fact that Manny quit on his team if A. it weren't true and B. they didn't want it known? No this was an intentional device used to hammer home the point that everyone wants Manny to go now. He has past his usefulness to a team when his own personal idiosyncrasies take over his will to want to play the game every day. Nobody may be able to replace his Hall of Fame numbers, but no one will have his baggage, either.
Unless they sign Bonds.

Side notes: Boston let one-year defensive wonder SS Alex Gonzalez leave to sign a 3-year deal with the Reds. Boston is reportedly interested in former Devil Ray Julio Lugo. Second baseman Mark Loretta also appears to be headed out of Beantown."They haven't made an offer," Loretta, who hit .285 in his only season in Boston, said. "Everything we've heard is that they're going with [Dustin Pedroia], that they don't want to retard his development." Okay then.
And last but not least the rumour mill is cranking out the 'Rocket back to Boston' tidbit again. This time there's a twist: could he return to where it all started as a reliever? Probably just a fantasy, but how 'bout a staff consisting of Schilling, Beckett, Matasuzaka, Paps, Wake and the Rocket as the closer? Frightening.

Hey, the Hot Stove is the place for dreams.

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