The Red Sox Defections Continue

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The pitching coach is probably the last thing on the Red Sox front office’s mind at the moment, so when Curt Young wanted to return to the Athletics, it appears as if the Red Sox gave a “yeah, whatever” approval.

They’ll get someone else to be the pitching coach. It’s not a tremendous loss and the new manager has a right to at least have his voice heard as to whom the pitching coach is.

But the departure of Young leaves the Red Sox braintrust completely changed from top to bottom along with important lieutenants.

There’s going to be a new GM; a new manager; presumably a new leadership in the clubhouse if, as would be smart, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield are shown the door; and now a new pitching coach.

It’s an open secret that assistant GM Ben Cherington is going to take over as the new GM; it remains to be seen how much influence Larry Lucchino will exert now that his erstwhile protege/nemesis Theo Epstein is going to the Cubs; the choice of manager will provide a window into who’s running things.

If it’s a prototypical “middle-manager” who’ll do what he’s told, Cherington’s the dominant voice; if they hire an established name manager who’s going to make his presence felt, it’s Lucchino.

When the Red Sox were conducting interviews to replace Grady Little, Lucchino had a conversation with Bobby Valentine. Valentine seemed to think was more of pre-interview interview and Lucchino considered it a chat; Valentine felt Lucchino was feeling him out to see if he was onboard with the across-the-board criticisms that were doled on Little for failing to remove Pedro Martinez from game 7 of the ALCS.

The move sealed Little’s fate; Valentine’s refusal to criticize Little or even say that he disagreed with Little probably ruined Valentine’s chance at the job.

Would Lucchino want to go the “name” manager route that he clearly weighed in 2003? Cherington would want no part of Valentine; the Red Sox clubhouse presumably would not be thrilled about Valentine either; but perhaps that’s what they need—rather than having someone that would be an agreeable choice to the players (as Terry Francona was to Curt Schilling whom they were trying to convince to agree to a trade from the Diamondbacks), maybe they need someone who’s going to be a conservative, old-school hard-liner.

Valentine’s old-school in his treatment of players, but he’s also a longtime advocate of the work of Bill James and would be a good choice to take over the Red Sox and restore order on and off the field.

It would be an interesting dynamic if they go that route and perhaps bring in a pitching coach with “guru” status like Rick Peterson or Valentine’s highly-qualified ESPN partner Orel Hershiser.

Peterson’s shelf-life as a pitching coach is short; the pitchers tire of his constant haranguing, reminders, preparation, hand on the shoulder and in-your-face style, but there’s no questioning his dedication and history of success.

Hershiser is not only a candidate as a pitching coach, but as a manager as well; the cerebral former pitcher is one of the most intense competitors to ever suit up and has the hardware to prove his knowledge and intelligence to express and to teach.

If they’re not going to make any drastic changes to team construction by dumping a Josh Beckett, they must do something other than what caused the dysfunction in the first place. If Francona was too soft and they’re not going to get rid of some big names from the roster who are still imperative to the team’s success, they have to have some discipline. Valentine would be one big move to drop a bomb into that clubhouse. They have to ponder it to prevent a possible downward spiral that will continue into the next several years.

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Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 First Week Playoff Preview

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It’s been an epic struggle and tumultuous piece of history, but the end is upon us.

It’s time for the first week playoffs.

Thankfully.

We’ve waited so long.

With the panic and celebration still going strong, the red, white and blue bunting decorating ballparks (from opening day, still usable); the Yankees and Red Sox organizations reeling from their absence in the post-season and committing predictable organizational atrocities as retribution; Rafael Soriano having climbed a tree in Central Park and refusing to come down until the media and TV cameras leave (he’s still up there as of this writing); Mike Francesa on a relentless tangent, “Dis will not be acceptable in dis oah-ganization!!”,  I present your one-stop shop for the MLB FIRST….WEEK…..PLAYOFFS!!!!

ALDS

Texas Rangers (5-0) vs Toronto Blue Jays (3-1)

The Blue Jays shocked the world with their first week Wild Card. Rookie manager John Farrell acquitted himself beautifully in taking command through spring training.

“In a first week playoff scenario, it was imperative that we get off to a good start,” Farrell said. “If you get off to a bad start in the first week, well, I think it’s obvious what happens.”

The Rangers have bashed their way through the first week of the season, dominating the Red Sox (for whom pitching coach Curt Young is still missing) and blasting their way into the first week post-season undefeated.

Given the still shaky starting pitching and the way in which first week playoff games are structured, I’ll go against the conventional wisdom and pick the Blue Jays in an upset.

Prediction: Blue Jays in 3.2 innings.

ALDS

Kansas City Royals vs Baltimore Orioles

Buck Showalter has turned the Orioles around in a rapid timeframe worthy of the greatest managers in history. Never before has a team been so consistently terrible and spun their fortunes to the degree of going undefeated in a season.

But the Royals have an equally compelling story.

During the champagne soaked celebration, consensus first week MVP Jeff Francoeur said, “My style and approach have both been validated. Finally. I was lucky to find an organization like the Royals that values and understands what it is I do.”

Royals starter Bruce Chen was unconcerned with a butterfly landing on one of his side-session pitches in mid-flight.

“That happens all the time,” Chen said.

Prediction: Orioles in five pitches.

One Game Playoff—Philadelphia Phillies vs New York Mets

Given the convoluted nature of a playoff cobbled together after such a limited sample, the Mets and Phillies play for the NL East title with the loser having to engage in a series of round-robin contests with the other clubs who will also be saddled with a 3-2 record—the Braves, Cubs and Pirates.

Predictions for the NLDS won’t be available until the conclusion of: Mets-Phillies: We Don’t Like Each Other (Co-promoted by Don King and Michael Vick.)

The Mets hitchhiked back to New York for the playoff game at Citi Filed while still refusing to acknowledge any alterations in club operations due to the Bernie Madoff–Ponzi scheme lawsuit against the Wilpons.

“This builds character and brings the club closer to the people,” GM Sandy Alderson said.

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was displeased with the one-game playoff format: “A fight to the death between Francisco Rodriguez and Brett Myers? Myers doesn’t even play for us anymore!!!”

The home run hitting contest between Mike Pelfrey and Ryan Howard seemed to provide the Phillies with an unfair advantage as well.

Bud Selig had no comment as he rushed to his tailor, “Rumpled Bob’s House of Creased Suits”.

The league fined Rollins for speaking out of turn.

Prediction: Phillies in 17 seconds.

An upcoming post will detail the projections and reactions to teams that suffered the ignominy of a poor first week after volcanic expectations of success—the actions taken by said organizations will be swift and brutal.

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My podcast appearance with SportsFanBuzz previewing the season is posted. You can listen here The SportsFan Buzz: March 30, 2011 or on iTunes.

I was on with Mike at NYBaseballDigest and his preview as well. You can listen here.

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Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available and will be useful for your fantasy leagues all season long.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll hash out the details.



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