|01.13.10 at 12:02 pm ET|
For those trying to make sense of the murky universe that is defensive statistics, John Dewan represents one of the oracles of the field. Dewan is the owner of Baseball Informational Solutions and co-publisher of ACTA Sports. This week, his typically fascinating Stat of the Week attempts to measure the Red Sox‘ defensive improvement this offseason.
Dewan, who pioneered the plus/minus rating system (which measures how a player stacks up defensively in terms of numbers of plays made and runs allowed compared to an average player at his position), takes a detailed look at the Sox’ 2009 performance at third base, shortstop and in center field, and compares it to the performances of newcomers Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron at those positions. Those changes, coupled with the move of Jacoby Ellsbury from center (where he rated as below average) to left field (where he has been above average, and replaces Jason Bay, who rated as below average at the position), will have a significant effect on the Sox.
To wit, Dewan claims that the Sox will be roughly 80-90 runs better defensively in 2010 than they were in 2009. Defensively, the team was about 52 runs worse than the average team in 2009; in 2010, the team now projects to be well above average.
Certainly, that was part of the thinking for the overhaul by the Sox, who now feature former Gold Glove winners at three of the four infield positions, another Gold Glove outfielder in Mike Cameron, and two above-average corner outfielders in J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury.
“If you look at our runs allowed the last three, four years, the outlier year was 2007, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence we won the World Series that year,” GM Theo Epstein said at the press conference introducing Adrian Beltre last week. “I think we’ve been able to change the nature of our defense fundamentally, by having several moving parts. We should have a very solid infield defense, I hope, and a very solid outfield defense, and I hope that you look up this time next year and there are pitchers who are having career years, and maybe that’s a reason why.”
For a more detailed explanation of Dewan’s forecasted improvement for the Sox defense, click here.
|01.12.10 at 11:35 am ET|
Hall of Famer Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN joined the Dennis & Callahan Show on Tuesday morning to discuss Mark McGwire’s admission that he used steroids for most of his career. Gammons looked at how the issue of performance-enhancing drugs will affect the legacies of McGwire, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and others. He also concluded by offering his assessment of the shape of the 2010 Red Sox, whom he believes will be better than the 2009 team.
A transcript is below. To listen to the interview, click here.
How many steps forward versus backwards did Mark McGwire take?
They eliminated doubt, which is I guess a good thing. I found it ‘ I don’t know how you found it ‘ but I found it sad in a lot of ways. I watch some of these guys, and I think about Clemens and some of these other people, there’s a delusion there. I couldn’t believe that McGwire kept saying that he has the God-given ability to hit home runs. Now, when he was at USC, I can remember the late, great Red Sox scout Joe Stevenson calling me up and saying, ‘Mark McGwire is going to be one of the greatest home run hitters of all time.’ Yes, he hit 49 home runs as a rookie. Yes, he had all those injuries with the plantar fasciitis and all that. But to say it’s only health reasons ‘ the fact is, a lot of people took steroids so that they could work out eight hours a day and get bigger. I think it really hurt him in the eyes, not of people who vote for the Hall of Fame, but in public opionion. For him to say that his home run numbers, the fact that he has the greatest home runs per at-bat ratio of anyone in baseball history, had nothing to do with steroids, I think it hurt him terribly. I think a lot of us were just going, ‘Please, don’t say that.’
It was like he was trying to accomplish forgiveness and legitimacy for his career. Those two things seem mutually exclusive.
I agree. I know from talking to guys like Mike Holliday, the Duncan brothers, Skip Schumaker, McGwire would take them into the house in the winter and work with them and coach. He loves that. I really believe that first and foremost he wants to come back and teach and share. He was a very intelligent hitter by the end of his career. I know he wants to share that. Matt Holliday,the stories that he tells about McGwire are tremendous. I think he kind of realizes in the deeper recesses of his mind that his chances of making the Hall of Fame are probably slight. He probably felt, ‘Well, if I confess, maybe.’ But I think he dug himself a bigger whole with this ‘ the whole denial thing. I remember, was it two years ago that Clemens was in front of Congress? I said to Mark Shapiro, I was watching a game in Winter Haven, we were talking about Clemens. I said, ‘Actually, watching him, I think he believes that he never did anything, that he’s completely innocent.’ Mark said, ‘Well, Psychology 7 will tell you: people who are self-absorbed often become self-delusional.’ I think that’s happened to a lot of these baseball players, because steroids seem to be so important.
He said he did it for his health, but when he started doing steroids, he started getting hurt every year, and he had no answer for that contradiction.
Absolutely. And he didn’t tie, from 1993-94 to 1998, he didn’t tie that. He left strings unattached there that lead a lot of us to say, ‘Ah.’ I’ve spent a lot of time with him over his career. I must say, I really like him. In ‘98, I was with him for about five days in St. Louis. They had just lost five games in a row. Todd Stottlemyre went out, knocked down the first two hitters and threw a shutout. McGwire hit a home run in the eighth inning to make it 6-0 from 5-0. Afterwards, everyone wanted to talk to McGwire and he said, ‘My home run is meaningless. Todd Stottlemyre just saved the team.’ There were other things like that. For instance, when he broke Maris’ record, he was up there, they had that stage after the game at Busch Stadium. Up there, it was McGwire, his son, his ex-wife, and his ex-wife’s husband up on the podium with him. I remember saying to Dan Patrick, we were doing something in the studio at ESPN, I said, ‘The great thing about that is that Mark McGwire sent a message to everybody in this country who’s divorced that, in the end, it’s all about the kids.’ He still had that very good relationship with the ex-wife’s husband, just because he wanted his son to have the sense of normalcy. There were a lot of things like that. I remember one time in ‘96, doing a long interview with him, all of a sudden he started trashing himself for the way his first marriage ended. He was on camera just ripping himself. I was thinking, ‘You know, this guy is really a decent human being.’ But now, when he gets up on this stage, ‘Okay, I want to be forgiven,’ he lost that humanity that he showed so many times in his life. It made me very sad. It really did.
We know what we think we know ‘ there’s the statistical evidence of the frequency of his home runs, and the anecdotal evidence of the distance of those home runs. Was there anecdotal evidence that he was hitting the ball further than anyone else in history?
I don’t always trust those trackers of where home runs go, but yes, there was enough evidence to say he hit the ball further than anybody, with the possible exception of Canseco around ‘89 or ‘92. ‘¦ It really does bother me that a Bonds or a Clemens, who were clearly Hall of Fame players, that we’re so insecure and so frail we have to go somewhere else. That’ss human nature. Trying to sit through and spend an hour trying to interview Alex Rodriguez last February taught me something for the rest of my life, that the bigger they are, the frailer they are. I actually like him much more because of that. I’ve talked to him a lot about how he basically addressed himself, was hyperventilating and everything else. It’s odd to me that so many athletes are so insecure. I remember guys on the Orioles telling me that the most insecure guy they ever met was Cal Ripken. Maybe that is all part of greatness. As we sit down and read Game Change in the next week, maybe we’ll find the same thing about Bill Clinton.
TJ Quinn listed all the steroids that McGwire used. He talked to players who said that McGwire was one of the big proponents of steroids, how to use them and how to stack them. Did you ever hear anything along those lines?
No, but I wouldn’t be surprised. We do know that when he got to the major leagues, that Jason Giambi hooked onto Mark McGwire as his mentor, as his best friend and all the rest. TJ had done the work for the Daily News, where they linked the drug dealer in Michigan down to Southern California. We were talking about this on MLB the other night. ‘¦ He was never suspended. He was never in the Mitchell Report. There was the Daily News link, but McGwire had kind of stayed away from it. All we had was what our eyes told us, and that can be deceiving. There are examples of people who either got smaller, like Jeff Bagwell because he had the arthritic shoulder and couldn’t lift a weight in five years, or some other guys who maybe just naturally got bigger. But the whole McGwire thing has seemed so much larger than life. That one piece that TJ did, I thought, pretty much convinced us that he was guilty. Now, of course he’s admitted it. I believe his timeframe. That’s probably true. I think some of the testimony he gave about how much he did in ‘89, ‘90, I’m not sure how accurate that is.
The whole Hall of Fame question is an interesting one. I know that some of my sabermetric friends believe that this is all irrelevant, that it doesn’t matter who took steroids and who didn’t. I don’t agree with that. I do very strongly believe that once baseball finally had drug testing in 2004, that anyone who violates the drug policy and is caught is automatically disqualified from the Hall of Fame. ‘¦
The Hall of Fame is not a right. It’s an honor. Should we honor people that essentially cheated? Somebody said to me, ‘It wasn’t illegal.’ Yeah, but it was in federal law.
So to your mind, Manny is out for the Hall of Fame?
I think Manny and Palmeiro. A-Rod was before testing, before 2004. That was the 2003 random testing that was supposed to be anonymous. But I think that Palmeiro and Manny, I don’t think they have a chance of ever making the Hall of Fame.
Does your viewpoint change if they haven’t tested positive in Major League Baseball? We know what we think about Bonds and Clemens. Will our views soften over the decades based on who they are and what they meant to the game?
I think they may. We do have those issues. Last spring, Mike Piazza walked up to me and said, ‘Can you believe that because of the acne on my back, that I did steroids?’ There are so many players that we think may have done [steroids] but we don’t know, whether it’s Pudge Rodriguez or whoever. It’s a hard thing to live down. I think it would be nice if we had more tests, proof, if we had more ways to judge players. I go back to Bagwell. If you take Bagwell’s home runs, RBIs, runs, extra-base hits, OPS, OPS+, slugging, Gold Gloves, Jim Rice is close to Jeff Bagwell in one statistical category. Yet that question will be raised for him when he goes up in front of the Hall of Fame next year. I’ve talked a lot to his best friend, Brad Ausmus, about it. Brad has sworn up and down, there’s no way that Bagwell did it. But just the notion of it. If Jeff Bagwell is completely innocent but he’s punished because other people flew under the radar, that’s kind of a sad story.
Could Clemens ever do what McGwire did in offering a confession?
No. I thought McGwire was stilted. It wasn’t the personality that I knew on the field or in the clubhouse. But I think Roger is too programmed and too stubborn. I think it would be very difficult. I think he’ll have to do it at some point in his life, but I shudder to think what would happen. I think it could turn into a disaster.
Last time he attempted to tell his side of the story, it was laughable.
It was. That whole question, I actually had a friend who was finishing her PhD in psychology at Boston College, and we used to talk about it in the gym all the time. She used to say, that business of going from self-absorbed to self-delusional is really the essence of most psychology courses. Maybe a lot of these guys will never come out of it. It may be, if ‘ I was going to say Pudge Rodriguez, but he might pull the Sammy Sosa stance and say, ‘I don’t speak English any more; I only speak English when I sign my contracts’ ‘ we’re still a long way. We were looking at the list of guys coming up in the next few years. Juan Gonzalez is on the list next year. Sooner or later, Pudge is going to come up. Sosa is going to come up. This debate is not going away. I think it’s great that McGwire tipped his hat to Bud Selig and the testing policy, that he laid down behind it. That’s a good thing. But still, the question remains, if indeed the Hall of Fame is the highest honor a player can get, and since it’s not a right but an honor, should these guys be put in the Hall of Fame. I think it’s an issue, it’s not a statistical right. Ken Rosenthal the other night pulled out the ballot and read the lines about character. It is something we have to think about.
If he hadn’t done steroids, would McGwire be anything close to a Hall of Fame player? Without steroids, he had no chance. What would vote for Bonds and Clemens?
Right now, given the evidence, probably no in both cases. And I believe very strongly that Bonds was a Hall of Famer before 1999. What it does to the game ‘ and I think Jayson Stark wrote about it very well, what McGwire ignores is what the disillusionment about 1998 means to the sport. I think that’s important. I know the other day, when Tom [Verducci] and Kenny [Rosenthal] and I were talking about the question, Bonds and A-Rod and Clemens all would have been Hall of Famers without steroids. McGwire would go to the Hall of Fame based on power numbers. But I’m not sure it’s that simple.
Why would you want to reward players for greed?
The insecurities of these guys, the frailties. I joke about it all the time, I wish that William Shakespeare were around right now to cover this era. That’s what he was writing about. The insecurity that these guys have is just remarkable to me, that need to somehow be perfect. And I really found that in Alex [Rodriguez] ‘ his need to make people believe that he was perfect on the field and off. Now, people knowing he wasn’t, he was a totally different guy this [past] year. He seemed so much more relaxed, so much happier [after admitting steroid use in an interview with Gammons before the season]. He understood, you know what? It’s about team.
What was interesting last night, when we were doing MLB, Costas was asked, what was McGwire like after the interview? Bob said nothing basically changed. He wasn’t any different. But after I finished the Rodriguez interview last spring, he came back before I left, and chatted. He said, ‘I hope this frees me. I hope that now I can just go on and be a human being and stop pretending.’ I think he got it. He got what he went through. You understood that he was wrong, and I think he understood and I know he understands now, there’s no need to be perfect. Just be a baseball player. Derek Jeter‘s not perfect, but people love Derek Jeter. I think Alex learned something from that. I’m not sure these other guys have learned anything from it.
Yes, playing in Fenway Park with that lineup, as opposed to Jason Bay in the Mets lineup, yeah, I did.
What do you think for Beltre? Forty homers?
Bay won’t hit 30?
Not in that ballpark.
What about Cameron?
.270, 25 homers, and the best thing about him is the way he absolutely killed ‘ what was it, a .954 OPS against left-handers the last five years? He does absolutely kill left-handed pitchers. In this league right now, in the division where you’re going to see Pettitte, Sabathia, Price, and Matusz probably three, four times apiece, that lineup against left-handed pitching is going to be really important.
Are the Red Sox the second best team in the American League?
Probably the second-best team in baseball.
Are the Red Sox we’ll see in Fort Myers better than in October?
I think they’re better this year. I’ll tell you why. The whole run-scoring thing, I’m not that worried about. I think that the depth of the lineup will be very good. I think the depth of the roster is much better. It’s amazing to me they finished second, they had the second-best record, the second-best run differential, and they had 55 games started by [Brad] Penny, [John] Smoltz, [Paul] Bird, a bad [Daisuke] Matsuzaka, [Michael] Bowden and [Junichi] Tazawa. In 55 games, more than one-third of their games, their starting pitchers had a 6.28 earned run average, and they still had the second-best run differential and record in the league. They could change that a lot.”
By the way, in talking to our old friend Mike Roberts, who used to be a college coach but he runs the baseball program at Athletes Performance in Scottsdale, he said that Matsuzaka is in unbelievable shape. He’s been there for about five weeks so far. He said the transformation from last year is astounding.
|01.11.10 at 6:10 pm ET|
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who managed Mark McGwire for most of the slugger’s career and remained adamant over the years that the former single-season record holder for homers had not used steroids, spoke with ESPN’s Baseball Tonight on Monday about his former player’s admission that he had used steroids throughout his career. Courtesy of ESPN, here are some excerpts of the interview.
LaRussa, on his reaction to today’s news:
‘I didn’t know anything except that I knew we ran a legit program and that Mark was a good example of working his butt off and getting his strength gains as a product of hard work. I did, and still speak to his character and integrity.’
LaRussa, on his current perspective regarding McGwire as a hitting instructor and his integrity:
‘I think, as the entire circumstances come out of his usage ‘ why, when, where ‘ I think he’ll come off and regain a lot of stature that he had with fans and with his peers about being a solid pro’¦he admits he made mistakes and he’s sorry for it. We all make mistakes and at least he owns up to it.
‘He got so much criticism about his performance in (front of) Congress. One thing he did not do is lie, and I don’t think he ever would.’
|01.11.10 at 5:06 pm ET|
Retired pitcher Curt Schilling checked in with The Big Show to discuss Mark McGwire’s admission that he used steroids starting in 1989, including during the 1998 season in which he set the home run record. To listen to the complete interview, click here. A transcript is below.
What’s your take on McGwire and how he handled this?
I think he’s the first guy to come real clean ‘ legitimately clean. No more, ‘Well, I did it once and I never did it again.’ I think everyone knew to some degree. But until you had your word, like everything else, it was speculation. I’m glad. I’m glad he did it.
Do you think this plays well with fans? He went into detail.
It seems like everybody else lies about it, then they lie about the lies. I always feel like any time you hear guys talk about stuff like this, there’s 10 times the stuff that you don’t know. He said he used it on and off throughout the ‘90s. I’m probably pretty sure, based on playing against him, looking at him, the way he was the entire decade, he probably used the entire decade. Why wouldn’t you if you got the results he did from them?
Players probably chuckled when he said he wasn’t using steroids.
The ones that weren’t doing it with him, I’m sure.
Jose Canseco was another player who came completely clean.
Yeah, but he’s disgusting.
At the Congressional hearing, McGwire said that because lawyers told him to say that he should say what he did about not addressing the past. You said it’s a lot different under oath. Were you advised by attorneys?
The quotes that got me subpoenaed were locker-room chatter, grab-ass stuff that you do on a daily basis. In front of Congress, you’re under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you’re going to put a name out there, you’re going to end someone’s career and ruin someone’s life. Having not seen anyone inject themselves, anything I would have done, anyone I would have named would have been speculation. I certainly wasn’t going to get myself in trouble or get anyone else in trouble without a 100 percent guarantee of the fact that it’s true.
You’re guarded in the way you say things if you’re trying to hide or cover up. I didn’t know. I never knew. Everyone railed on me about clamming up. There was nothing for me to say. The comments that I’d been quoted on were the comments you made on a daily basis in the clubhouse when you were shooting the bull.
Half of it is crap. You speculate. You talk. Over the course of a nine-month season, a lot of people say a lot of things that are hyperbole and blown out of proportion. It was a common topic for a long period of time. I spent 10 years defending Roger Clemens ‘ the only guy in the clubhouse defending Roger Clemens.
Does this put pressure on other guys to come forward (aside from Clemens and Bonds, given their perjury cases)?
He told the story we’re expecting to hear from everyone else who got caught. That’s the story. That really is the only defense, unless you were a guy who went to a legitimate doctor and got a legitimate prescription for extreme cases where steroids are prescribed. If you don’t’ come out and do what he did, then everybody is going, ‘Well, what else don’t we know?’
How do you think it plays out in the public and with Hall of Fame voters?
Knowing what I know about Mark McGwire, I don’t think he cares about either one. I think he wants to come back and coach and be on the baseball field, be in the clubhouse, be in the environment again. I don’t think he gives two wits about what guys say and write. I really don’t. He never was a guy who was motivated by that stuff.
I always looked at him kind of like I looked at Barry. You were one of the best ever, and you had to cheat to be better? I don’t get that.
Will this change the minds of voters? Will there be forgiveness in the public eye?
I love Mark and I think the world of Mark. I’ve known him for quite a long time. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I’m not sure he’s a Hall of Famer anyway. He hit a lot of homers for a lot of years and that’s all he did. I’m not belittling that, but the Hall of Fame is for the best of the best. He was never a guy, I don’t know. I think it will change, and he will end up getting a pass.
But there’s a line that, once it’s crossed, you can never go back. When that first player ‘ that Palmeiro or Bonds goes in ‘ then no one can ever use the steroid defense again, I don’t think.
Now that he’s admitted to use from the late-‘80s on, his greatness was based on his power. We now know he got the power from PEDs.
I think he was a naturally huge guy anyway. I think he always had a lot of power. But I’ve always argued, and football players can probably give me a better response than other people, I’ve never looked at steroids as the motivation for guys to use them to get huge biceps.
In baseball, I always looked at steroids, the motivation being to recover faster and to be fresher. Everyone that talks about them talks about the downtime being smaller and less, and you feel fresh for the entire season. I would argue that gives you an enormous advantage over me on Sept. 1, when I’m pitching against you and I’m dragging ass and it’s six months into the season, and you’re showing up like it’s the first day of spring training.
To me, it wasn’t the biceps and triceps. It was the bat speed. To me, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds were game-fresh, April-fresh on Sept. 1, that gave them a huge advantage in my mind.
We all talked about this ‘ all the freak injuries. It wasn’t a pulled hammy or a strained quad. It’s that everybody talks about the fact that steroids overstretch your body. You break joints. You tear ligaments in unusual or odd places. You look at all the guys over the last 10 years who we said, ‘Hmmm, that’s kind of weird.’ You do freakish things to yourself from an injury standpoint. And people go, ‘Wow ‘ that’s odd. That’s weird. How do you do something like that?’
How’d you get your body without steroids?
I always tell people this is not a real athletic body ‘ it’s a cruel family joke.
If McGwire’s motivation is to be back on the field, he was only going to be able to do this with a confession. We were trying to figure out how he’d do this. Now, he’s answered all the questions.
He did it perfectly. Other than admitting it five years ago, he did it perfectly. If I’m him, I sit there in spring training on that first day, and I say, ‘You’ve got 60 minutes. I’ll answer every non-baseball question you want to ask me, and I won’t answer another one the entire season.’ He’s already answered everything you could want to ask him anyway. What else are you going to ask him? Who else do you know? He’s not going to answer that. He’s not going to throw other people under the bus.
It just reeks of honesty. He came clean, because I think he realized, I’m going to be in that environment, 24/7, for nine months of the year. I’m not going to give anyone an angle. I think he made the admission that we all wish everybody had made when they got caught, instead of the, ‘Well, you know, I was trying to come back from injury and I only did it one time and it was my dad’s.’
If he gets positive treatment ‘ after being a pariah ‘ might more guys decide to confess?
The guys that don’t stand to get prison time, yes.
Giambi was accepted even though he never went into detail.
Another piece to this ‘ don’t discount this ‘ a lot of it has to deal with the people you’re dealing with. Everything I knew and have heard since about Barry, he was someone who was absolutely just a bad person.
To me, I always judge teammates on how they acted and interacted with non-uniform personnel, clubhouse kids, trainers and stuff. I’ve heard in the last couple years that Bonds was the worst ever at it and Clemens was not really cool about it. To me, that says more about you than anything else ‘ how you treat the quote-unquote little guy.
Jason Giambi is the world’s nicest guy. McGwire, really nice guy, those guys are going to get, I think, different treatment because they’re different people. They’re kind people.
I’ve heard things that [Bonds] has said and done. I knew Barry. I was friends with Barry. We had the same agent coming up, when I was coming up. I saw him say things and do things to people that I sat back and said, ‘Wow.’
A lot of people cited race in how Bonds was treated by the media, yet Clemens got the same treatment.
[Bonds] treated people like crap, and half the time the race card was the card he played.
Clemens is in this until the end. What’s he thinking? If he’s clean, he’s a Hall of Famer.
I don’t think anybody on this planet thinks he’s clean. I don’t. And he was a guy who was instrumental in turning my career around. The lecture and speech I got from him was about hard work and dedication, passion, integrity, ethics, and all this other stuff. Then I come to find that it’s a lot of crap.
You can take steroids and still have a good work ethic.
Absolutely. That’s the thing about those guys. A-Rod and Bonds, those guys had unbelievable workout regimens that took it to another level. At the end of the day, it’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.
In a sense, I’m kind of like Pedro. I look back on what I did and the era I did it in, and I’m probably a little bit prouder of the fact that I did it the way I did it when all was said and done, and to think that I was competing against guys who were cheating, and probably a lot more than I knew.
At the end of the day, I got three rings. I don’t think steroids changed the amount of rings I got in my career, which is all I really care about.
|01.11.10 at 12:43 pm ET|
The Red Sox‘ Rookie Development Program, which helps to prepare players who could be in line for promotions to the major leagues within a 12- to 18-month timeframe, began today. The two-week program offers top Red Sox minor leaguers the opportunity to work with members of the major-league coaching staff, to work on strength and conditioning as well as fundamentals, and a chance to become familiar with such details as the layout of the clubhouse at Fenway Park.
The release — which also includes details of an autograph session with the prospects — is below. For a closer look at the program participants, click here. Josh Reddick — who also took part in the program last year — was added to the initial roster of 11 program participants. For a closer look at the right-fielder’s path to the majors, click here.
BOSTON, MA– The Red Sox 2010 Rookie Program began today in Boston. Twelve of Boston’s top prospects are taking part in the two-week program, which is designed to expose the players to the expectations of being Major Leaguers for the Red Sox.
Eleven of the participants in the Rookie Program spent all of 2009 in the Red Sox organization: pitchers Randor Bierd, Felix Doubront, Casey Kelly, Ryne Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Kyle Weiland; catcher Luis Exposito; infielder Yamaico Navarro; and outfielders Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin and Josh Reddick. Also taking part will be infielder Jose Iglesias, who was signed as a free agent in September 2009 and played in the Arizona Fall League.
The program includes two workouts daily that emphasize conditioning and strength training as well as concentration on fundamentals. In addition, the players are attending a number of seminars that will focus on the assimilation into Major League life off the field.
A number of individuals will speak to the group, including President/CEO Larry Lucchino, General Manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona, Major League coaches John Farrell and Dave Magadan, sports psychology coach Bob Tewksbury, right-handed pitcher John Lackey, infielder Kevin Youkilis, Hall of Fame baseball writer and NESN reporter/analyst Peter Gammons, and Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.
There will also be a public autograph signing with the Rookie Program participants at the Best Buy in the Landmark Center, located at 401 Park Drive in Boston on Monday, January 18 from 3:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Fans making a $20.00 donation to the Red Sox Foundation will be able to take part in the signing on a first come, first served basis.
|01.11.10 at 11:32 am ET|
In the aftermath of Saturday’s story about Ryan Westmoreland, the Lowell Spinners were kind enough to send along this picture of the top Red Sox prospect posing – somewhat uncomfortably – next to the wall in LeLacheur Park that put an end to his season:
Thanks to the Lowell Spinners for sending the photo via Twitter (@LowellSpinners).
|01.10.10 at 9:34 pm ET|
The Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes concluded on Sunday, as multiple reports have established that the Reds will sign the Cuban left-hander to a five-year, $25 million deal that will include a club option for a sixth season. The Cuban was widely scouted as having electric stuff — an easy conclusion to draw given that his fastball registered in excess of 100 mph when he pitched at the World Baseball Classic — and as a result, the interest in the 22-year-old was widespread.
The Sox, according to a major-league source, made a concerted effort to acquire Chapman earlier this winter. The team made an offer to him in November (first reported by ESPN.com at $15.5 million — more than the record-breaking sum that No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg received when he signed with the Nationals).
But shortly after the Sox made that offer, Chapman changed agents, from Edwin Mejia to Hendricks Sports Management. The Sox pulled their offer when Chapman changed agents, and though the club sent an evaluator to watch the pitcher at a workout in Houston in mid-December, it never made another formal offer, according to the source.
While Boston recognized Chapman’s significant potential, the team also viewed him as a very high-risk investment. As such, given that the team had some questions about the pitcher’s makeup, arm action and aptitude — a relevant concern, since multiple major-league talent evaluators suggested that Chapman may be best suited to make his professional debut in the U.S. in High-A ball, and would require significant development in order to reach the majors — the Sox did not re-engage significantly in the bidding for the Cuban defector once it became clear that other clubs were going to offer far more than what Boston believed to be the pitcher’s value point.
For a scouting report on Chapman, click here.
|01.10.10 at 10:24 am ET|
According to a translation from the Boston Globe, Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka told the Japanese magazine Friday that his struggles in 2009 stemmed from a thigh injury incurred while training for the World Baseball Classic last January. The right-hander said that he was able to pitch through the condition by taking anti-inflammatories, but that the pain was such that it was difficult for him to jog.
As a result of the injury, Matsuzaka said, he relied more on the strength of his shoulder than his legs to generate power. He did not alert trainers to the condition, he said, because he did not want to create concern about his health.
“I didn’t tell the trainers. Fortunately, I was in charge of my own training, so if it started to hurt, I could adjust to not hurt myself,” said Matsuzaka, according to the Globe’s translation. “But pitching while hiding the injury was very difficult. Even when I didn’t feel the pain, my body was holding back because it sensed the danger. So, my pitching motion was more of standing straight up and throwing with my upper body, relying on my shoulder strength more than usual.”
Matsuzaka said that when he returned to the Red Sox after the WBC, his shoulder allowed him respectable fastball velocity, but the pitch continued to lack power without the benefit of his lower body.
“After my first stint on the DL in May, I was very hard on myself. Because I got plenty of rest, my shoulder was much stronger, so I could still get up there in velocity. But I couldn’t use my lower body well, and I could not use my full body to generate the power. My fastball was not effective, therefore I lost effectiveness of my other pitches,” he was quoted as saying. “In hindsight, it was impossible to continue faking the whole season, it was too much mental stress. But the Red Sox struggled a little bit in the beginning of the season so I wanted to help the team as much as I could.”
Matsuzaka went on to say that his improvement upon his return to the rotation in September was the byproduct of his thigh injury having healed, rather than the loss of weight. He also noted his gratitude that the team has now said that he can resume extended bullpen sessions between starts so long as shoulder strength tests indicate that he is fit for such an undertaking.
The pitcher concluded that he will try to make amends for his lost 2009 major-league season with a return to effectiveness in the coming year.
“I assure you that the (2010) season will be a great season. I am going to redeem what I lost in 2009,” the Globe quotes Matsuzaka as saying. “With my health back, I am confident and determined to produce this year. I will (try my best to) become world champion once again.”
Matsuzaka and the Red Sox clashed over the pitcher’s training methods during the past season, especially in the aftermath of the pitcher’s pronounced displeasure with the team’s program. But in the aftermath of that incident, the two sides had candid conversations that led to what was viewed as a mutual understanding about how to proceed going forward.
Matsuzaka has been working at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona to ensure that he is in top shape for the coming year. Agent Scott Boras acknowledged on Friday that the transition to Major League Baseball has not been without its challenges, but that, in the aftermath of the conversations that the pitcher had with the Sox last year, he is trying to adopt routines that will permit him to reproduce his success in the U.S.
“Daisuke is a major star in Japan. To come here and to take on the major leagues and the difference of it took time,” said Boras. “This year, he’s just making every effort now to make the transition to fit more than he has.”
|01.09.10 at 10:02 pm ET|
Peter Gammons, Omar Minaya, Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington were among those on hand Saturday at Fenway Park for the annual round table discussion to benefit the Epstein brothers’ Foundation to be Named Later (for more on FTBNL and Hot Stove Cool Music, click here). The discussion, which lasted just over an hour, focused on Latin American player development and also included current Major Leaguers Bronson Arroyo and Manny Delcarmen as well as outfield prospect Ryan Kalish and Red Sox Coordinator of Latin American Operations Eddie Romero.
Gammons, who moderated the discussion, opened by describing cross-culturalization in baseball and called the Mets and Red Sox the ‘two most progressive organizations in baseball.’
‘Baseball has represented American integration patterns unlike any other sport from the 1870’s on,’ the 2005 Hall of Fame honoree said. ‘People from other countries are coming in [and] assimilating into the sport the way they assimilate into [American] society.’
‘Even though Manny Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic and was raised in New York,’said Minaya, ‘being raised in Washington Heights is like being raised in the Dominican Republic in a lot of ways.’
Both the Red Sox and Mets have constructed facilities in the Dominican Republic that essentially serve as academies for the Dominican players, who sign with Major League clubs as young as age 16. The panel discussed the challenges faced by Latin American players as they attempt to learn a completely new lifestyle while also working to reach the majors.
‘[The Mets] feel that we have a responsibility to that young player that we sign, [that] we have to educate the player,’ said Minaya, a Dominican native who helped the Rangers sign Sammy Sosa while a scout in the 1980’s.
The Red Sox have made big splashes in Latin America, as they signed and groomed Hanley Ramirez from the Dominican Republic, and, more recently, landed highly touted defensive shortstop Jose Iglesias of Cuba, who Gammons said has been described as the best defensive shortstop some Major League scouts have ever seen.
Iglesias, who was given a four-year Major League deal worth $8.25 million over the summer, has put forth a significant effort to be comfortable in his new surroundings when he arrives at Spring Training.
‘We can’t expect him to step right into a level that might be justified by his natural talent and athletic ability,’ Epstein said. ‘There’s going to be a longer cultural assimilation process.’
In an effort to give Iglesias a Cuban mentor with big-league experience, the team gave Alex Ochoa, who was an assistant coach for Boston in 2009, a new ‘multi-disciplinary’ role that will help him ease Iglesias’ transition. Upon the two meeting, Epstein said it was discovered that ‘Jose had done more to prepare himself for his adjustment than [the Red Sox] had’ and that he has taken to things such as American history and being a professional baseball player.
Latin Americans aren’t the only ones who have encountered significant cultural changes since inking contracts with the Red Sox. The identification of the Latin player’s departure from their comfort zone has led American-born players to the Dominican Republic.
‘Imagine yourself moving to the Dominican and taking a job where you’re competing against other Dominicans and not knowing the language and not knowing how to get around, not knowing how to eat,’ Cherington said. ‘Imagine doing your job in that environment and having to compete on an even playing field with people who did know how to get around, did know the language. That’s what we’re asking these players to do, so you have to take their performance for a certain period of time [and] put that in context of the things that we’re asking them to do and the pressures. It really does have to be a longer-range commitment.’
Kalish himself doesn’t need his imagination to take him to an unfamiliar situation in Latin America, as he was in the first group of American players sent by the Red Sox to the Dominican instructional league in 2006.
Such efforts are to be expected from a Red Sox organization that Gammons described as being a ‘shining light’ for international development, but they, like the Dominican facility, are just some of the strides that have been made since they recognized the old approach as outdated.
‘Our expectation previously had been, ‘Alright, we’re going to take these [Latin American players] and try to get them to understand how to act like kids from the states,’ and that was really only a small piece of it,” said Cherington. “Our flaw was we didn’t understand. Our American players need to understand what these guys are going through, what these guys are all about too. That was the start of the idea of sending the guys down to the Dominican.’
Epstein identified the issue of ‘losing’ the Latin American player early in his development, which strides such as the Dominican facility have worked to prevent.
‘If you took an equally talented 18-year-old who had graduated from an American high school and had been drafted, and [a similar] Dominican Republican signee [that] had the same tools, the same ability, the same type of makeup, and then put them in Rookie ball, and then expect them to go to advanced short-season ball the year after that, then Low A ball, and then High A ball the year after that, I think we found as an organization that we were losing the Latin American player, Epstein said. ‘It wouldn’t be an obvious thing. It wouldn’t be something that was patent, it was just that by the time they got to High A ball or Double A, the American player was thriving. In the Latin American player, we would start to see things in the scouting report, like, ‘Well, we’re just not sure how committed to the game he is,’ or, ‘We’re not sure what kind of baseball instincts this player has,’ or, ‘We don’t think this player takes coaching very well.’
‘When you start to see that pattern over and over and over again, you realize it’s complete inequity,’ Epstein added. ‘It’s not fair, there’s something inherent in the process that we’re not doing to reach the Latin American player. We’re not providing him the same opportunity that we’re providing the American player. And so the problem is not with the makeup of the Latin American player; it’s the opposite. It’s that we’re not doing what we can to provide a level playing field. I think our challenge as an organization has been to level the playing field.’
While many big-name players have emerged from the Dominican Republic, the highly touted athletes often are kept out of baseball games and kept in training facilities, thus explaining the tendency of Dominican prospects to be more raw than most minor-leaguers. Buscones, which are similar to agents in the Dominican Republic, take the talented children (as young as 10 years old, according to Minaya and Epstein) and have them fine-tune their stills through drills. This hinders their baseball thinking so much that Epstein recalled a player that the Red Sox had given $500,000 to that they soon realized did not understand what a force out was. The team now makes every effort to put international players through simulated game sitatuations before committing financially.
|01.09.10 at 2:06 pm ET|
It was the sort of story that takes on the life of an urban legend. Ryan Westmoreland’s season came – quite literally – to a crashing halt when he broke his left clavicle while running into the outfield wall in Lowell.
The injury, which took place in the early days of September, required season-ending surgery, from which Westmoreland is expected to make a full recovery. The outfielder hopes that the injury will soon be forgotten.
Even so, the crash that caused it is unlikely to disappear from memory anytime soon. That is inevitable, given the accounts (disputed by some) that suggested that Westmoreland ran through the fence in left-center at LeLacheur Park in Lowell while making a phenomenal grab.
“I ran into the wall. I was out cold, so I don’t remember if I ran through it,” said Westmoreland, who was in Boston on Saturday for the New Stars for Young Stars event, a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund that introduces minor-leaguers to Red Sox fans. “But the next day I went out there and there was a hole in the left-field wall, and it was right around where I hit. I kind of put it together. I left my mark, I guess you could say.”
Yes, he hears references to “The Natural” with frequency. Even so, Westmoreland has no interest in being known as the next Bump Bailey (a character in the Natural whose death while running through a wall opened the door for Roy Hobbs, or Rodney McCray, the minor leaguer who became famous for running through a wall preceding an undistinguished big-league career in which he had just 15 plate appearances.
Towards that end, Westmoreland has been very pleased with the course of his rehab, in which he’s been strengthening both shoulders (his left for this year’s broken clavicle, and his right as he is 14 months removed from surgery to repair his labrum). Next week, he will head to Fort Myers to continue his rehab and begin baseball activities. He anticipates no limitations by the start of the season.
“Everything feels really good,” Westmoreland said. “I should be 100 percent by spring training.”
There, Westmoreland hopes to build on what was a phenomenal first full professional season. He hit .296 with a .401 OBP, .484 slugging mark, .885 OPS, seven homers and 19 steals without getting caught once. Given the weather-induced limits of playing high-school ball in New England, the Rhode Island native was pleasantly surprised by how he was able to handle both an expanded schedule and a higher level of competition than what he’d experienced as an amateur.
“I never really knew how to play everyday. A 75-game schedule is a lot different than a 20-game schedule in high school. The first couple weeks were tough physically, mentally trying to keep myself there. But I think I settled in the last three-quarters of the season,” said Westmoreland. “The first week or so of the season, I was kind of nervous. I’d never really seen college pitchers. But I think I adjusted and ended up putting up pretty good numbers. It was really motivating for me knowing that I could compete at that level.”
The accolades were far reaching. Scouts and talent evaluators raved about him, suggesting that his far-reaching skill set — an advanced plate approach and knowledge of the strike zone, power, speed in both the outfield and on the bases, good routes and a strong arm — bore some resemblance to that of a superstar centerfielder like Grady Sizemore. He was named the top prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America.
“It’s a great honor,” said Westmoreland, “but it really doesn’t mean anything unless I produce.”
Naturally, such hype made it inevitable that his name would emerge in trade rumors. There is little doubt, after all, that other teams would love to acquire such a player. He has already heard his name brought up in trade rumors for players such as Roy Halladay and Adrian Gonzalez.
Westmoreland — who grew up rooting for the Red Sox — would like to remain in the organization. But he recognizes that little good can come of concerning himself with trade rumors.
“It would be great to get to Boston because I’ve been a Red Sox fan my whole life. It would definitely be a special experience. At the same time, I’m still fighting for a spot. Being from New England doesn’t help me in any way or hurt me,” said Westmoreland. “Really, I don’t deal with [rumors]. I kind of just let it happen. I get text messages and calls all the time, and I just say, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ I just tried to focus on the offseason, get stronger. If something happens, it happens. I try to block all that stuff out, because if I let it get to me, especially if it’s in the season, it’s going to affect the way I play. That’s exactly not what I want to do.”
Instead, Westmoreland is focused on the 2010 season, which will offer him his first experience with a full-season affiliate. He will play in Single-A, away from home, most likely in Greenville of the South Atlantic League. It is a challenge that the 19-year-old takes seriously.
“This is going to be my first full season. That’s going to be a big thing,” said Westmoreland. “I’m really looking for it. This season, 70 games was long for me, but I think I’m ready. I’ve been preparing all offseason because I know I’m probably going to get in a full-season situation. I’ve been trying to prepare myself physically and mentally.”
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