The Aftermath Of Chaos—The Red Sox/Braves Collapses

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Let’s sift through the carnage.

Job security.

It’s fair to examine the whys concerning two teams that seemingly had playoff spots locked up and both fell apart. It’s reasonable to assess everyone’s job performance and come to an unemotional conclusion as to whether minor or major changes should be made.

With the Red Sox, I would expect something blockbuster in player personnel to be done. I’m talking about a massive trade of a name player or players.

With the Braves, don’t be surprised to see them go for an offensive force like Jose Reyes.

As for the managers, the idea that Terry Francona and Fredi Gonzalez should automatically be fired is idiotic; but so is the ironclad assertion that both should return without question.

It has to be analyzed.

Having watched Gonzalez with the Marlins and Braves, I was wrong about him in thinking he’d be fine as Braves manager. He makes too many strategic mistakes that a team fighting for a playoff spot can’t afford to have happen and I’d fire him.

I doubt the Braves will do that. If anything, they’ll make changes on the coaching staff, namely hitting coach Larry Parrish.

With the Red Sox, there’s a possibility that they will fire Francona.

I wouldn’t do that, but it’s their right if they feel it’s necessary to get a new voice in the clubhouse.

The Red Sox have to ask themselves whether they think another manager would’ve done a better job with the starting pitching in disarray; with unlocking Carl Crawford‘s talent; with patching together an injury-riddled bullpen along with handling the stifling, worldwide media attention the Red Sox attract and cultivate.

I don’t see who could’ve or would’ve done any better than Francona, but it’s their call.

If they do decide to make a change, one thing they absolutely cannot do is say something to the tune of, “we decided not to exercise Terry’s contract options; it’s not a firing; it’s moving in a new direction”.

That’s what they did to Grady Little and were hammered for it after the fact.

Fire him if you’re going to fire him. Be done with it and move on.

Michael Kay’s creepy world of “analysis” in the form of sycophancy and self-involved attacks.

In the midst of his rant about the Mets and Reyes’s individual decision to pull himself out of what was possibly his last game as a Met and try (successfully) to win the batting title, Michael Kay also defended the Yankees for their decision to play their regulars sparingly and use 4th tier pitchers in the series against the Rays.

The Yankees owed nothing to the Red Sox nor to the Rays. They didn’t “dump” the games like some latter day group of 1919 Black Sox, but they didn’t go all-out to win.

There’s a difference.

Saying the Yankees were trying as hard as they could needs to be placed in its proper context. By the metric of playing their starters and using their top players as the Phillies did against the Braves, the Yankees didn’t do that. Saying the players they used—Scott Proctor, Ramiro Pena, Greg Golson—tried as hard as they could is akin to saying that the Washington Generals try as hard as they can against the Harlem Globetrotters. Trying is great; winning is unlikely.

In a similar sense, the idea that the Red Sox spiral started with a series loss to the Yankees is a nice, neat, “we started this” story to get in on the action. The problem is there’s no factual evidence to support it. The Red Sox came undone because they were giving up 6+ runs every night after that Yankees series; not because of anything the Yankees mythic “aura” created.

Credit to the pursuers.

Much like the Phillies in 2007 against the Mets, the Rays played the Red Sox and beat the Red Sox. By doing that, they made their lives much easier in the chase.

The Braves haven’t hit well all year. Fingers will be pointed at Gonzalez and Parrish for that, but they were playing most of the season without a legitimate center fielder who could hit; with Jason Heyward needing to have the lowest grade dropped after his putrid (and injury-racked) sophomore season; Chipper Jones is more of a “threat emeritus” than someone for a team other than the Mets to be terrified of; and they had black holes in the lineup all year long.

Once they lost Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, the offense couldn’t pick up the slack and the bullpen was tired from Gonzalez’s overuse.

The Cardinals and Rays played well over the final month to stage their comebacks, but neither had a ridiculous 2007 Rockies-style run of never losing a game.

What will happen.

I believe there is a very good chance that Francona will not be back as Red Sox manager.

Jonathan Papelbon will be allowed to leave. J.D. Drew, Marco Scutaro, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek will be gone. They will listen to some drastic suggestions like trading Kevin Youkilis. And they’ll desperately look for a taker on John Lackey.

Fredi Gonzalez will not be fired; Larry Parrish will be. The Braves will make a move for a bat—they certainly have the organizational depth to trade for someone big like Andre Ethier, Carlos Quentin or see if the Marlins will move Hanley Ramirez (doubtful). Or they could go after Reyes. A trade is far more probable.

I won’t speculate on what either will say to explain themselves and mute the pain and embarrassment.

That, like suggesting the 2011 Red Sox will compete with the 1927 Yankees, is something that will only be judged in hindsight.

Both have long, long, loooooong off-seasons ahead of them and they’re undoubtedly looking for reasonable, believable answers at this very moment.

I wouldn’t expect much in terms of reason and believability. But I’m a cynic. And thankfully don’t live in the fantasy world of Michael Kay.


The Red Sox Beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 7-4

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I wish I could take credit for the title, but it’s an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter.

Were the Yankees subtly saying to the Red Sox, “here, take the game” by not playing Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter when the situations called for them?

Are they letting the Red Sox have a slight advantage going into the final three games?


It’s subtle, but it’s possible.

With the Yankees playing 3 games against the Rays in Tampa and the Red Sox playing 3 against the Orioles in Baltimore; as the Red Sox are holding a 1 game lead in the Wild Card, common sense says that the Yankees would prefer to have the Red Sox—in their current hapless configuration—in the playoffs ahead of the younger, stronger, fresher, faster and pitching-rich Rays.

So did they shun using Jeter and A-Rod to that end? Did they put Scott Proctor into the game to pitch knowing what was likely to happen?

Any everyday player will tell you that it’s far more emotionally exhausting to sit on the bench for a game—especially a 14-inning game—rather than play in it; Jeter and A-Rod didn’t exactly get to “rest” even though they didn’t play.

The Red Sox are a horrible team right now; it took them 14 innings to beat what was essentially a Triple A lineup.

But now they’re heading to Baltimore with that 1 game lead; the Yankees are going to play the Rays who they beat in 3 of 4 games last week.

If the Yankees go all out tonight to beat the Rays, hoping that the Red Sox take care of business against the Orioles, it will be clear what was happening last night. They’ll deny it, but obviously they would prefer the wounded Red Sox in the playoffs to the Rays.

In retrospect, it could be a mistake if the Red Sox get themselves together in time for the playoffs, but you can’t deny the appearance of competitive impropriety.

The Yankees don’t owe the Rays or Red Sox anything, but don’t tell that to the Rays who were watching and presumably screaming at the TV while it was occurring.

Tonight will give a clearer indication of whether that was a “full rest” night for the Yankees star players or if they were manipulating the situation to their perceived advantage.

The answer’s clear from my end.


Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong

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Given the current events, it’s ironic that the title of this posting and its creation emanates from spin doctoring. A hit song from a mediocre band, The Spin Doctors, around 20 years ago was called “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”.

And it fits for Yankees GM Brian Cashman as he twists himself into a pretzel that’s worthy of an Olympic gymnast or triple-jointed circus freak.

Pedro Feliciano is out for the year with a shoulder injury and probable surgery; in fact, he may never pitch for the Yankees at all after signing a 2-year, $8 million contract.

First Cashman blamed the Mets and their “abuse” of Feliciano; then, yesterday when discussing the injury, he began his verbal gymnastics that are so ludicrous and self-serving that they’re bordering on embarrassing.

The Yankees and Mets had a brief spitting contest that made the Yankees look foolish and self-indulgent as they engaged in a bit of buyer’s remorse after Feliciano went on the disabled list.

In the rarest of rarities, the Mets looked smarter than the Yankees; in a nod to the new organizational hierarchy led by Sandy Alderson, the Mets are no longer taking these attacks without retort. They stood up for themselves as pitching coach Dan Warthen said straight out that part of the reason the Mets didn’t re-sign Feliciano was due to workload issues.

Does Cashman, in all his cautious phrasings and clever corporate machinations, not realize that the statement “no evidence of a capsular tear whatsoever,” is as much a direct indictment of his own club’s operations as the silly and specious retrospective blame he placed on the Mets?

Does Cashman not see the logical trap he stepped in yesterday? If Feliciano was healthy when he signed with the Yankees, the Mets can justifiably say, “Hey, he was fine with us; what’d you do to him?”

Cashman looked foolish.

Of course the workload may have been a factor in Feliciano’s injury, but we don’t know. He was fine when he signed; now he’s not.

Cashman, sensitive to the allegations of hypocrisy due to the overuse former manager Joe Torre inflicted on the likes of Scott Proctor among others, went into a backtracking exercise of inanity—ESPN Story.

The statements are ridiculous on so many levels. First he’s running from having laid the label on the Mets and fundamentally blamed them for Feliciano’s injury; then he’s saying he covered his bases with the relievers telling them to speak up if they couldn’t pitch; he holds Torre responsible for the perception of disinterest in the health of the pitchers’ arms; then he implies that such a problem is no longer a factor with the Yankees because Joe Girardi is the manager.

Read between the lines.

With Feliciano, he needed someone to hold accountable for possibly tossing $8 million into a shredder. Who better than the reeling Mets?

Concerning Torre, Cashman claims that he was involved by telling the pitchers to be honest with their old-school manager; a manager who had the personality and history of success to stand up to his GM and wasn’t afraid to do so.

And with Girardi, he’s saying he now has a manager who’s going to do what he’s told.

Cashman needs to stop.

Just walk away.

It’s enough.

The bottom line is this: If he thought Feliciano was abused, he shouldn’t have signed him. Period.

Cashman needs to find a mirror that wasn’t salvaged from a funhouse.

The Yankees bought it. The Yankees own it. The Yankees are paying for it. Accept it and move on.


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And You Signed Him Why?

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Yankees GM Brian Cashman might want to consider going back to saying lots of stuff while saying nothing at all. By that I mean speaking in circles, using corporate terminology to answer questions without really answering them in a way that might come back to haunt him.

This past off-season, Cashman alienated Derek Jeter during their contract negotiations; made the bizarre decision to pursue Carl Pavano for a return engagement that would’ve been something similar to Chevy Chase getting an opportunity to give The Chevy Chase Show another go; and was overruled by ownership in the signing of Rafael Soriano after he’d said he didn’t want the reliever.

One pitcher he did want was Pedro Feliciano.

Feliciano was a longtime Mets reliever who was their lefty specialist and acquired the nickname “Perpetual Pedro” because he was used so often. Beginning in 2006, Feliciano appeared in 64, 78, 86, 88 and 92 games. He didn’t throw that many innings—never more than 64 in one season—but factoring in all the appearances and warming up in games where he didn’t pitch and there’s a basis for Cashman’s lament that Feliciano was “abused”.

In this ESPN Story, Cashman makes his statement; Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen retorts; and Feliciano speaks out regarding the rotator cuff strain that has placed him on the disabled list.

There’s no one who’s obviously “wrong” here, but Cashman appears to be using selective information when discussing the Feliciano injury.

As Warthen said, “[The Yankees] didn’t know that when they signed him? … He volunteered for the baseball every day. He was asked whether he was able to pitch. He said ‘yes’ every day — every day — and wanted to pitch more than we even pitched him.”

Cashman was unaware of the “abuse” that Feliciano had been subjected to? And the excuse for ignoring the “abuse” was that there was a thin market for left-handed specialists and the Yankees needed him? This was why they signed him for 2-years and $8 million?

The suggestion that Feliciano was abused implies that he’s damaged goods and is on borrowed time. Wouldn’t common sense dictate that this is a pitcher who should’ve been offered a 1-year deal or avoided entirely? That maybe the Yankees should’ve looked elsewhere for a lefty specialist?

Cashman’s timing is a bit out-of-whack for this sudden misplaced blame and buyer’s remorse especially since a week ago, this article about Feliciano was published in the NY Times relating his desire to pitch, pitch and pitch some more and that Feliciano himself said that the current injury has nothing to do with workload.

You can craft a bit of a family tree concerning Feliciano and trace it all the way back to the Yankees if you’re looking to assign blame for the situation.

The Mets manager from 2006 to mid-2008 was Willie Randolph who, prior to taking the job as Mets manager, was on Joe Torre‘s staff with the Yankees; Randolph ran his bullpen similarly to the way Torre did. Is Cashman conveniently ignoring the wasteland of overused relief pitchers from Torre’s days as his manager?

Does the name Scott Proctor ring a bell?

Proctor never complained, always took the ball and was blown out by Torre.

Other Yankees relievers like Tanyon Sturtze, Steve Karsay and Tom Gordon were battered by Torre as well.

Where was Cashman with his protectiveness? To shield them from the horrific “abuse”?

How about the fact that the Yankees felt compelled to install the Joba Rules in part to protect Joba Chamberlain from being overused by the reliever-happy Torre; that part of the reason Chamberlain has degenerated into a glorified middle-reliever and failed prospect is due to the dictates, regulations and paranoia for which the Yankees’ GM was the catalyst.

Given Cashman’s up-and-down history with pitchers (and I’m being generous), what position is he in to be blaming others for Feliciano’s injury? And if he was so concerned about it, why did he sign him in the first place?

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.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

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

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