By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Wait till next year

The shocking truth was that I didn’t see today’s game. Weeks ago, I’d volunteered to lead a church hike through the Lynn Woods. I updated myself on the score several times on my BlackBerry, and made it back to the car just in time to hear the top of the ninth. Ugh.

Tonight, I punched up WEEI just in time to hear some bozo caller ranting that Jonathan Papelbon should be “run out of town.” Can you imagine? Fortunately, the hosts were having none of it. If the Red Sox had been able to hit during those first two games, Papelbon’s rare failure today wouldn’t have mattered so much. Pap’s performance looks a lot worse because others didn’t do their jobs.

Still, despite the holes on this team, if Papelbon had done what he almost always does, and if the Sox had won Game Four, all the pressure would have shifted to the Angels. Who knows what would have happened?

Not that they were going all the way. I agree with something the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn wrote on Twitter: “Bottom line: It’s a crushing way for the season to end, but once Beckett stopped dominating, had to figure a title wasn’t in the cards.”

Maybe the Red Sox need new fans: Just saw this, from Rob Bradford at I had not realized that some fans were booing Papelbon. What a disgrace. Maybe the Sox need new fans even more than a mobile third baseman and a DH who can hit good pitching.

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  1. Gus

    Baseball is such a slow game you can tune in at the end of the decade and catch upon what happened.

  2. O-FISH-L

    Booing should be mostly reserved for ownership and “boy blunder” Theo Epstein. A boo / hiss for Papelbon isn’t misplaced though, with all of his boastful rhetoric he had many “heart attack” saves this season and of course, today’s disaster.

    As for ownership and Epstein, they bet that the sheep would come and spend, regardless of whether the big bucks were laid out for Mark Teixeira, Bobby Abreu or anyone else. They bet right. John Henry and the child bride are laughing all the way to the bank.

    The Sox won in ’04 and ’07 in large part because of Ramirez and Ortiz. Both are gone now, one literally and one figuratively. Let us watch now to see if Henry and Co. redouble their efforts to bring us an all new championship team next year, or if they once again are contented by 81+ sellouts and tens of million dollars in beer and merchandise sales while pretending to seek the title.

    That said, good luck to the Angels and manager Mike Scioscia. He’s a class act and I’d love to see him and his club go the distance. Kudos to Angels management for stealing Abreu for only $5m too. At least one front office in this series had integrity.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Fish: You can’t rip management for being unwilling to spend “big bucks” on Abreu and then praise the Angels for picking him up for a pittance. It’s one or the other.

    • Dan Kennedy

      I think the one thing Red Sox management has to answer for is this: If Teixeira were truly gettable for another $1m or so, then the Sox should have bent their rule of “he’s worth X and not a penny more.” Not landing Teixeira, and letting him sign with the Yankees, is going to kill the Sox for years to come. Then again, it’s possible Teixeira was jerking the Sox around and never had any intention of signing here.

      Theo and company deserve huge props for landing Victor Martinez in mid-season. He’s the team’s most complete hitter. I hope they can bring a monster catcher to Boston, move Martinez to first, Youk to third and have Lowell DH against left-hander pitchers. Ortiz should never hit against another lefty again. And I don’t think Martinez is the answer at catcher defensively, though he was certainly useful this year.

      And leave Gonzales at shortstop, for crying out loud. Enough of the revolving door of stiffs, wanna-bes and never-wases.

  3. mike_b1

    It seems clear from the way things turned out that Teixeira wanted to go to NY all along, and Boras felt the same way. The Sox management correctly surmised it was being used to drive up the cost for another team, and bailed out.

    Gonzalez’s problem today is the same problem he’s always had: he can’t hit. In the AL, it’s extraordinarily difficult to cede so many outs. He’s a stop-gap, not a solution. Also, Martinez had better be the answer at catcher, because as a 1B he’s just a league average hitter. (Btw Dan, not sure what you mean by Martinez as the team’s “most complete hitter,” but Youk is hands-down the team’s best hitter.)

    Those who rail against Epstein and Henry are just showing their provincial and/or anti-Semite stripes. Two World Series victories, two other seasons in which they came a game away from going to the WS, plus 95 wins and an almost guaranteed spot in the playoffs. That’s called doing your job. If we could get those kind of results from some of our so-called crime fighters out there, we would be living in the safest place on Earth. Learn some math, people!

  4. O-FISH-L

    Wrong Dan. Perhaps Abreu would have come here for $10m or even $5.5m. Would have been well worth it, but then Henry had a wedding to pay for. Every man needs a muse, and all that nonsense released to the media back in the spring.

    Also, fans being asked to sacrifice their first born for a ticket, parking and a beer have EVERY right to express themselves, be it a boo or a cheer.

    Amazing, the same professor that would protect a reporter’s use of specious, anonymous sources now rails against paying sports fans expressing themselves in a public forum. The folks booing Papelpon weren’t wearing brown bags over their heads, ala the New Orleans “Aints” fans circa 1980. These were folks showing their faces and their displeasure and rightfully so. Good for them. Perhaps it will snap Henry & Co. into action. That’s why the Greeks invented booing in ancient times.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Fish: I’ve already corrected you on Instead of watching and learning, you continue to spread misinformation. I oppose an absolute shield law for reporters. I oppose any kind of shield law if it protects only professional journalists.

      I could support a limited shield law for anyone engaging in journalistic activities, but I’m hardly waving the flag. Watch this:

      I think an absolute shield law that advocates call for would be unconstitutional. What I support are guidelines under which a judge could not order a reporter to give up his sources unless he determines that the information is absolutely crucial and that the prosecution has exhausted all other attempts to get it by other means.

      Where do you get this stuff, Fish? I have to say, in this case it looks like you just made an assumption about what I probably think — based, of course, on your superior mind-reading abilities — and then started typing. Very bad form.

  5. mike_b1

    Um, Fish, where, exactly, would Abreu have played? Catcher?


  6. O-FISH-L

    Mr. B1: No anti-semitism here, it’s you who seems to have extrapolated that the team’s failure to spend might have something to do with the rotten, tired stereotype of Jews as misers. Is Henry even Jewish? I had no idea.

    As for your glee at merely making the playoffs, may I remind you that “second best is first worst.” In this case, the Sox aren’t even second best. They stunk in the playoffs and at the end of the regular season, too.

  7. Steve Stein

    The main issue certainly wasn’t Beckett’s not dominating. Today’s failure was pitching, but putting up 1 run in 18 innings on the West Coast was the most visible problem.

    I was a Yankee fan in ’63. This reminded me a lot of that.

  8. O-FISH-L

    Dan, I’ve never used the word absolute or limited with regard to the shield law, in fact I’ve NEVER, EVER used either word in discussing the topic. You did.

    You admit your support for a “limited” shield law. Such a law protects anonymity. Yet people who boo in public and ask for no special protection are a “disgrace” in your eyes. That’s what amazes me, ’tis all.

    BTW, I get this stuff from BTP on Friday nights, where you endorsed a shield law, however limited. You can’t have it both ways.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Fish: The link I posted was from BTP, in which I explained my stance on shield laws. I’ll stand by what I said. Not a single one of us took the advocate’s position.

  9. Bob Gardner

    Epstein? Henry? No way. The real villian is Prof. Henry Gates. He distracted Fish right at the trading deadline. Instead of using his special powers to bring Bobby Abreu here Fish was arguing with us.
    The Red Sox returned the favor, of course. The big crowds at fenway were such a drain on police resources that Professors all over the Boston area were able to return from overseas trips and unpack their luggage with impunity.
    It all fits together if you think about it the right way.

  10. ShadowFox

    Sox are not the only ones who need new fans. Right after the Patriots loss, ESPN flashed some “fan” messages, one of which was, “Brady doesn’t have it anymore, he’s done.” Really? Is Boston turning into New York?

  11. O'Rion

    This may be a transitional year, in more ways than you think. Some lessons should be learned by management. If that’s not the case, then ’09 will go down as a very poor season indeed.
    First order of business is to make a significant attempt to sign young Cuban LHP A.Chapman. A very tough get, but that move would open up other possibilities.

  12. Mike F

    Theo has been one of the best GM’s in baseball when it comes to trades, but he does a fairly miserable job when it comes to signing free agents.

    There’s a difference between spending poorly and being cheap. It seems silly to me to suggest that the Red Sox, with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, aren’t willing to spend money.

    Regarding Teixeira, no doubt he is a great player, but he’s still owed 160 million after his $20 mil for this season. Also, CC Sabathia is sold separately.

  13. Dunque

    Papelbon’s rare failure? You missed a lot more games this year than just yesterday’s, Dan. That is the way the guy has pitched all year. I expect when he signs somewhere else we will begin to hear stories about his Derek Lowe type behavior. This guy has completely fallen off the map.

    MikeB1 – If you see anti-semitism in any criticism of the Red Sox, I honestly feel very sorry for you. That is beyond specious, passing paranoia and rapidly approaching insanity.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Dunque: 38 saves; three blown saves. Better than ’08. Better than ’06. Same as ’07. Some heart-stopping moments, especially early the season, but he got better as the year went on. Where were you.

  14. mike_b1

    Dunque, there is no other possible explanation for going after Epstein. On his watch, the Red Sox have been the best team in baseball. No one wins the WS every year. So what other reason could there be for the senseless criticism?

    And Fish, Henry is not Jewish. Hence the “and/or.”
    And as I noted in a previous thread, the Red Sox over the past eight typically have had mediocre records down the stretch, including in the WS winning years. Reason: Once they make the playofs, they rest their starters. Is it that so hard to understand that there is no correlation between a team’s W/L record at the end of the regular season and its performance in the playoffs?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Mike_b1: As Theo tells your favorite columnist today, “I don’t think anything that happened in this series was completely out of the blue. We saw things that were reflected early in the season.”

      And, I would suggest, we saw things down the stretch, even adjusting for the fact that Francona was resting his starters.

      The 2009 Sox may have been a team built to get into the post-season, given the way they pounded on bad teams. But it wasn’t a team built to go all the way. Trouble is, it’s going to take a lot of money, spent on the right players, to change that. They may not be able to do it in one off-season.

      Although two things would make a huge difference without spending a nickel: if Buchholz proves to be for real, and if Matsuzaka finally understands the value of showing up in shape.

  15. mike_b1

    “But it wasn’t a team built to go all the way.”

    Really? Why not? What makes this team appreciably different than, say, the 2006 Cardinals or the 2008 Phillies?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Mike_b1: Look, we all know teams can get hot and lucky in the post-season. But the ’09 Sox were more inept than the league average at hitting good pitching, had an immobile third baseman, had a starting-rotation ace who was inconsistent, didn’t have anywhere near the starting depth they thought they had, and burned out the bullpen. I can’t compare them to the ’06 Cardinals or the ’08 Phillies, but I can certainly compare them to the ’04 and ’07 Sox. No comparison.

  16. mike_b1

    You’re making too much of three games against a great opponent. Truth is, each game of the Angels series hinged on a single play that, had it gone a different way, could have meant a sweep for Boston and none of this discussion. Papelbon gets that third strike on Abreu, for instance, and this thread doesn’t exist.

    Lowell is immobile, true. But Boston’s middle of the diamond defense is actually the bigger problem. Ellsbury is tremendously overrated (yes, you read that right) as a defensive player. In fact, no defensive metric system that I know of has him as even an average CF. Gonzalez fields everything he gets to. But he doesn’t get to much anymore. Catcher is an abomination. Bay is a below average LF and by some measurements the worst defensive LF in the game (Manny included).

    Beckett, I’m certain, is hurt. There’s a reason a guy of his caliber suddenly can’t turn over his curve.

    The positives:
    -No team has four starters of the quality of Beckett, Lester, Buchholz and Dice-K (though the Phillies’ front four are very good).
    -The Red Sox bullpen was outstanding this year. On several teams, Manny Delcarmen would be the closer — and he didn’t even make the playoff roster. (See Aardsma, David.)
    -The core position players — Youkilis, Ellsbury, Pedroia, Martinez — remain in their prime. And most of the pitchers are just coming into theirs.

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. This isn’t 1990.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Mike_b1: Seemed to me that Gonzales’ range was better than advertised. Supposedly he’d become a statue, but he looked a lot better than that to me. Ellsbury’s not a good ballhawk? I don’t think that’s right. Agreed he’s got a lousy arm. And catcher is an abomination, which is why I’d rather Martinez move to first. I’d have started Varitek, except his defense isn’t much good anymore, either.

      You overlook the extent to which Delcarmen fell apart in the second half. And you’re probably right about Beckett, which leads me to wonder if 2007 might be his only great, healthy year.

      As for next year, I’m excited about Buchholz and even Dice-K, who knows he’s got something to prove.

      Finally, as for making too much out of three games, see Theo’s comments, above.

      • Dan Kennedy

        Charlie: Agreed. With the Times and the Post both reporting “tens of thousands,” it seems reasonable that Sunday’s march hit the 60,000-to-70,000 range, same as the teabaggers. Give the organizers credit for claiming 150,000 instead of 2 million.

  17. Aaron Read

    I don’t think it was terribly inappropriate to boo Papelbon. Why not? ALL YEAR he hasn’t been the dominant force we saw in 2007 and 2008. And yet he’s consistently been an arrogant little bastard; whining about being underpaid, and making hints that he’ll jump ship to the Yankees. It’s the old Knight Rule: when you win, we will tolerate your failings…but all bets are off when you lose.

    That said, the lack of a true replacement for Manny…coupled with Big Papi looking more like Little Wimpi…has left the Sox as a team that can’t hit good pitching. The Globe’s Extra Bases ran the numbers and when you take the woeful Orioles (Sox went 16-2) out of the equation, the Sox were hitting (IIRC) south of .230, which is unacceptably low for a playoff team. In fact, that speaks volumes to the concept that the Sox are built to make the playoffs but not to survive there. For a team with their payroll, that’s inexcusable.

  18. Dunque

    Dan – You’re making my point. Quoting – “Mike_b1: As Theo tells your favorite columnist today, “I don’t think anything that happened in this series was completely out of the blue. We saw things that were reflected early in the season.””

    Do you really think he wasn’t referring to Papelbon, among others? Walks to strikeouts ratio – way down. Two more pitches per inning pitched. Huge for a guy who only needs to get 3 outs. Slugging and OPS way up last two years vs. this guy. Walks and hits per inning pitched – 2007 .78. 2008 .96. 2009 1.15.

    Mikeb1 – you are indeed a sorry case. There is no other explanation for questioning Epstein. I am stunned by the vacuity, inanity and insanity of that statement.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Dunque: Other than WHIP, Papelbon’s stats in 2009 were remarkably similar to 2007, and better than ’08. ERA: 1.85. Saves: 37 of 40 in ’07, 38 of 41 in ’09. He pitched 10 more innings in ’09 than in ’07. And though I can’t put my hands on the number, I believe his WHIP went down as the season wore on.

      As we’ve all heard, Papelbon was experimenting with a slightly different delivery this year to reduce the wear and tear on his shoulder. By August, he seemed to have it nailed, and was lights out down the stretch. I don’t think you can link yesterday’s disaster to his struggles earlier in the season.

      Let’s not forget that Papelbon suffers from migraines. He may have had one yesterday. He certainly gave us one.

      As for what Theo was referring to, maybe he had Papelbon in mind, but he had to have been talking about Lowell and Ortiz as well.

  19. mike_b1

    Dunque: So says you. The data all say otherwise. Insofar as GMs go, there is simply no one better at his job than Epstein. The record is unquestionable. Ergo, your complaint must be personal, not professional.

  20. mike_b1

    Per BP, Ellsbury was
    * -10 runs on defense relative the the average CF according to UZR (Ellsbury -15.6 UZR);
    * -10 runs according to FRS; * -19 runs according to FRAA.

    Those are the three major fielding measurement systems. His flashy play overshadows the fact that he has trouble going back on balls and often takes circuitous routes.

    As I noted in an earlier post, Martinez as a 1B is offensively nothing special — about league average. As a catcher, he is far more valuable as so few catchers these days add anything to team offense. And, as you’ve probably noticed, Varitek is done.

    Gonzalez’ range factor (measured as putouts + assists/9 innings) was 3.94 with Boston this year, below the league average of 4.36. Lowell’s was .11 below LA, Pedroia was .38 below LA, and Youkilis was .55 below LA as a 1B (he was 0.07 above as a 3B). Lugo was a full point below average in 32 games at SS, Green was .14 below in 81 games, and Lowrie was .29 below in 26 games at SS. Simply put, the Sox did not have a single position player who was above average on defense in 2009. The team DER was .704 in 2007 and .698 in 2008. It was .677 this year. That’s a lot of outs they missed.

    It carried over. In the playoffs, Ramirez botched a ball a would-be DP ball in Game 1, the team committed 3 errors and botched a play at third that could have saved a run.

    Now remember, this team hit more than 200 homers this year and yet it took them 76 ABs before getting one in the playoffs. You can call that poor offense, or poor offense against good pitching. I call that sample size.

    (And btw, Tampa went 15-3 vs. Baltimore last year on their way to the WS and no one held it against them.)

  21. Dunque

    I have not complained about Theo at all. I am merely making the observation that anyone who points to anti-semitism as the reason for criticizing Theo is quite plainly making it up. There is no factual basis for that argument.

    You could not make a more specious charge than that.

  22. Dunque

    Dan, I think Papelbon did yesterday what he has done all year long. If someone gets drunk night after night and then hops in their car would you call it a “rare accident” the night he finally mows down some innocent? This has been waiting to happen all year. Red Sox fans knew yesterday when he came in that this one was far, far from over.

  23. mike_b1

    Dunque: “Quite plainly?” How so? If the guy who is clearly the best in his profession is getting ripped, what other reason could there be?

  24. lafcadio mullarkey

    Red Sox, blah blah blah. More important, what did you think of Lynn Woods? We’re regulars since it’s only a minute away. The view from Steel Tower’s nice. I wish there was a trail around the north end of Walden Pond. We got around it a couple of times, but it’s no fun. We felt like we were trespassing. Maybe we were!

    I fell through the ice trying to make it around a few years ago. Only waist deep but still to my wife’s horror, (the ice is fine…crack!) and had to hike soaked through, all the way back to the car at the Great Woods entrance. Ha, chilly willy!

    All the ponds we got onto as kids around here for hockey, I never fell through. The extra 100 lbs prob didn’t help.

    You can walk around in Lynn Woods for a couple of hours and see maybe five people. When done drive to the Northshore Mall minutes away and see five thousand. The contrast can be jarring. Shopping’s the default recreational activity now, pretty sad.

    • Dan Kennedy

      I love the Lynn Woods. (Photo here.) Next time I go, though, I’m going alone. We had a great time, but barely made two or three miles. We didn’t make it to the tower, and the cave was closed. Did much more with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts some years back.

  25. Dunque

    Mikeb1 – “Quite plainly” as in “no factual” or otherwise “basis.”

    Am I going to be branded a latent Nazi if I point out that the Rays have built up a young club through their farm system that seems poised to challenge for years? That the Phillies have a devastating lineup top to bottom and, aside from their bullpen, a formidable pitching lineup?

    If you want to talk baseball, talk baseball and leave aside absurdities because all you do is make hazy real anti-semitism which is still dangerously aprowl in this world.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Dunque: Agreed that the anti-Semitism accusation is uncalled-for. But gee, how did it work out for the Rays this year? They’re looking like one-year wonders to me.

  26. mike_b1

    Dunque, that’s a non-sequitur if I’ve ever seen one. The discussion was launched with GO-Fish calling Epstein “boy blunder” and “the child bride.” I noted that given Epstein’s record to date, criticizing him must be the result of hating Jews, because crapping all over him is like crapping on Lance Armstrong for not winning the Tour de France this year.

    Whether the Rays have a good team next year has absolutely nothing to do with the conversation.

  27. Dunque

    I wouldn’t dismiss them so easily, Dan. Pretty beat up by injuries this year. BJ Upton was not right all year.

    • Dan Kennedy

      You might as well say the Red Sox would have gone all the way if Jed Lowrie had been healthy.

  28. Dunque

    I would be cautious w/Jed Lowrie vs. BJ Upton comparisons.

    • Dan Kennedy

      My point is that you can’t use injuries as an excuse.

  29. Dunque

    Really? Injuries are the great leveler in sports. Do you think the Patriots would have had a better record last year w/a healthy Tom Brady at the helm? When a key starter is hurt vs. a substitute that has a huge impact on a team.

    If you go back and look at the seasons of any successful sports team you will find over and over again that they did not lose key players to injury.

  30. mike_b1

    Uh, Dunque, how about the 1967 Cardinals and Red Sox? Bob Gibson or Tony Conigliaro ring a bell (no pun intended)?

  31. CAvard

    I’m just surprised that the WEEI hosts defended Paplebon. Knowing some of the things that EEI radio hosts (on all shows except Dale & Holley) say about our sports teams, that’s taking a good stand.

  32. mike_b1

    CAvard, it was probably the hosts’ way of being argumentative. Other than D&C possibly hating minorities, they flip-flop so often it’s near-impossible to know what they really believe.

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