Saturday, July 26, 2014

dismantling the 2014 Red Sox, with an eye toward a stronger team in the years to come

Jake Peavy is the first to depart.

It takes courage to start dismantling any Red Sox team these days, when the team is expected to remain competitive throughout.  But GM Ben Cherington is starting to put a new plan into effect, acting decisively (as he did back with the Carl Crawford/Adrian Gonzales/Josh Beckett/Nick Punto trade at the end of August 2012).

How'd that work out?

Well, it's not like quid pro quo but we can note that the Red Sox won the World Series the very next year.

It will be interesting to see the rest of the moves that are made, before the trading deadline and throughout the rest of the year and the offseason.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good column by Nick Cafardo in today's Globe about Jon Lester

Basically, he says the Red Sox have generally adhered to a new philosophy in the Cherington era - one that John Henry outlined earlier this year in Bloomberg Business Week, which said that almost all the overpaid players in baseball (overpaid by what they produce on the field) are over 30.  So you don't give out long-term deals to players who are 30 or over.

To me, the most telling line was in answer to the question Cafardo himself posed:

"Will the Red Sox make an exception on Lester?  If they do, you have to question whether they really have a philosophy."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tibetan leader still rues Grady Little's failure to pull Pedro in 2003

Tibetan Leader, a Red Sox Fan, Knows the Value of Taking the Long View
JULY 18, 2014 New York Times

Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay has embraced the Dalai Lama’s so-called Middle Way, a policy intended to draw China into dialogue by softening Tibetan demands. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times
The Saturday Profile

DHARAMSALA, India — FROM his office in the hill station of Dharamsala, where Tibetan exiles have spent the past half-century waiting for the seismic changes that could restore Tibet’s independence, Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay was reminiscing, a bit wistfully, about a world he had left behind.
Specifically, he was reminiscing about the Boston Red Sox. These were not the vague remarks of someone faking expertise for diplomatic purposes. Rather, he was recalling the seventh game of the 2003 American League Championship Series, when the Red Sox manager took a disastrous gamble by allowing the team’s star pitcher, Pedro Martinez, to remain on the mound late in a deciding game against the New York Yankees.
Behind his desk, a magnificent life-size, silk-draped photograph of the Dalai Lama hangs from the wall, and outside his window, the Himalayas rise like a great wall into the mist.
Mr. Sangay, 46, recalled the agitation as he watched Boston’s lead slip away, perhaps the most calamitous in a history of heartbreaks for those who persisted in believing in the Red Sox. The suffering would all be washed away by the next season, but in 2003 no one knew that. “Normally, I am quite a patient guy,” Mr. Sangay said. “But he brought him back after 118 pitches.”
Mr. Sangay likes sports. He can explain why: You win, or you lose. Then you close the book on that episode and start over. This could not be more different from the mission that he took on in 2011, when he left a comfortable life at Harvard to begin a five-year term as sikyong, the leader of the Tibetans’ exile administration. This coincided with a momentous decision by the Dalai Lama, the exiles’ head of state since 1959, to devolve his political power to the new prime minister.
Since Mr. Sangay took over, it has been difficult to close the book on anything. China, which once gave lip service to negotiations on Tibet’s status, has refused to meet with him or his representatives. Western countries are increasingly squeamish about getting involved. With the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday a year away and no clear plan for succession, anxiety has settled like a pall over Dharamsala. Some activists criticize Mr. Sangay for being too rigid with China, others for watering down Tibetan demands in an attempt to bring Beijing to the table. Meanwhile, it is his job to inspire confidence when there is little sign of progress.
Considering all this, Mr. Sangay is surprisingly even-keeled. Asked why, he says he falls back on the Buddhist notion of impermanence. He also uses what he learned as a fan of the Red Sox, during the long years before the team’s luck turned.
“There is this unfulfilled desire, unfulfilled aspiration,” he said. “That keeps you going.”
TALL and imposing like many men from eastern Tibet, Mr. Sangay grew up in a refugee camp near Darjeeling, in eastern India, poor enough to wear sandals through the bitter winter.
He comes from a long line of fighters. His father was in charge of arms and ammunition for the Chushi Gangdruk militia, formed in the late 1950s to defend Tibet. One particular story accompanied Mr. Sangay’s birth: His mother suspected he was the reincarnation of her brother, who had been trained by the Central Intelligence Agency and airdropped at the Tibetan border, in one of the most secret programs of the Cold War. He never returned.
“When I was born in 1968, my mother, because of her closeness to her brother, she said, ‘Hey, maybe he is my brother, the freedom fighter,’ ” Mr. Sangay said. A sense of expectation developed, he added. “You parents say that, your relatives say that, your teacher says that: ‘Hey, Lobsang, you’re going to be someone special, you are going to be a great freedom fighter.’ ”
By the time he ran for the highest office in the exile government, known as the Central Tibetan Administration, Mr. Sangay had a smoother image, one that developed over 16 years at Harvard, first as a Fulbright scholar and later as a research fellow at Harvard Law School, his salary provided in large part by a private foundation. In a suit and tie, he could easily be mistaken for an investment banker, and he has an American politician’s knack for campaigning that, coupled with the reverence accorded to Harvard, has helped him leapfrog older and more established Dharamsala-based candidates.
The biggest change was that he dropped his insistence that Tibet gain independence, instead embracing the Dalai Lama’s so-called Middle Way. Introduced in 1987, the policy is intended to draw China into dialogue by softening Tibetan demands, calling for self-governance and “genuine autonomy” within China. Last year, Mr. Sangay told the Council on Foreign Relations that the goal was to see ethnic Tibetans installed as party secretary and in other important posts in the Tibetan autonomous region.
“We don’t question or challenge the present structure of the ruling party,” he said.
Some activists denounce Mr. Sangay for scaling back the movement’s demands. Jamyang Norbu, a prominent writer who recalled Mr. Sangay as a natural politician and a “good wheeler-dealer” when they became friends in the 1990s, dismissed the current policy as “a fruitless exercise.” He blamed the influence of Harvard, saying young Tibetans who spend time in the United States often develop an unrealistic reliance on “the old, old European tradition of diplomacy and negotiation.”
“The problem is that they see China through the eyes of the West,” said Mr. Norbu, who now lives in Tennessee. “The sheep doesn’t see things from the point of view of the wolf that is gobbling her.” With his bodyguards in dark suits and sunglasses, he said, Mr. Sangay is focused on burnishing his image at a moment when Tibetans are desperate for a way forward.
“We just can’t afford it; we are getting to the end of our tether,” he said. “The whole Tibetan world is falling apart so fast.”
IN Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama’s word remains sacrosanct, and Mr. Sangay seems untroubled by the criticism. In a recent interview, he was cheerful for another reason: His wife and 7-year-old daughter, who remained behind in Medford, Mass., when he began his term, were finally preparing to move to Dharamsala. He was buying his daughter a puppy.
As the leader of an unrecognized government, he earns 26,000 rupees a month, or about $430. He makes exhausting whistle-stop tours of exile communities, listening to petitions and complaints. Last week he paid a condolence visit to a Tibetan family that had lost a brother to a stampeding elephant. During trips outside India, he holds secretive meetings with government officials, often in hotel rooms or cafeterias to avoid attracting the attention of the Chinese.
In the presence of the Dalai Lama, his status seems to melt away. Addressing a crowd last year, the Dalai Lama affectionately mocked Mr. Sangay’s spoken Tibetan, saying it is “like a schoolboy talking,” and then laughed heartily. The prime minister, in the background, bowed his head. Asked about it, he smiled a little ruefully.
“It was a privilege,” he said. “It means he really knows me well. For him to say such a thing is obviously a bit embarrassing, but mainly, what a privilege, because he was saying, ‘I know this guy well.’ ” He added, “I worked very hard on my Tibetan.”
But the subtext is that it will not always be this way. The Dalai Lama has been evasive about how his spiritual successor, the 15th Dalai Lama, will be chosen, saying only that he will reveal his intentions in 2025, when he turns 90. The political transition, however, is in place. Asked what would happen if the Dalai Lama died unexpectedly, Mr. Sangay said, “The plan is the devolution of political authority.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Sangay offers evidence that Tibetans are opening their hearts to him. In his office hangs a thangka — a traditional painting that usually features Buddhist deities — that has been custom-made by an admirer in China to include his face. He sends out links to worshipful songs that have been written in his honor and posted on YouTube. Asked where he falls in the hierarchy of leaders, he described himself as “a secondary voice,” but added a postscript.
“I am a secondary voice,” he said, “who will someday be a primary voice.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

There is precedent for the Red Sox winning the World Series this year

There is precedent for the Red Sox winning the World Series this year.  The precedent dates back precisely 100 years.

On July 17 and 18, 1914 - and for almost every day of the 1914 season to that point, the Boston Braves were in last place.  Eighth place, since there were no divisions and all the teams had to battle for the pennant without any hopes of winning via a wild card.

The Braves were 11 1/2 games out of first place on the morning of July 18, 1914.

The Red Sox will be 9 1/2 games out of first place on the morning of July 18, 2014.

The 1914 team was called the "Miracle Braves" for good reason.  They went from worst to first in 38 days, largely thanks to a stretch in which they won 22 games against three losses, beginning on the 18th.  They took first place on August 25.  They took it for good on September 5.

Could it happen again in Boston, exactly 100 years later?  Of course, it could.

You can read the full story of the 1914 Braves in a book written by SABR members and published by SABR. It is THE MIRACLE BRAVES OF 1914: BOSTON’S ORIGINAL WORST-TO-FIRST WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS edited by Bill Nowlin (SABR, 2014).  It's available on Amazon, among other places.  (It's free to all SABR members as an e-book, as are all SABR publications.  For non-members, it's reasonably priced.)

There is always hope (until there can't be.) 

Here is a good part of Bob Brady's foreword to the book:

Once a dominating franchise during baseball’s early days, the Braves had been in a serious state of decline for many years prior to 1914.  Some of that deterioration could be attributed to the birth of the American League in 1901 and the introduction of the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) as a neighboring competitor.  Weakened by the junior circuit’s player raids, frequent changes in ownership, and an obsolete ballpark, the Braves struggled both on the field and at the gate.  Even their band of loyal followers, the Royal Rooters, had shifted their allegiance to the Red Sox.  The Braves’ new owner, James E. Gaffney, a New Yorker with ties to Tammany Hall, sought to reverse the team’s fortunes.  After residing in the National League’s basement for four consecutive seasons, Gaffney’s Braves surprisingly ascended to fifth place in 1913, led by the irascible George Stallings in his first year at the Tribe’s helm.  Gaffney also laid out plans to construct a state-of-the-art concrete and steel ballpark at the site of a former golf club a little over a mile away from Fenway Park to replace the Braves’ antiquated South End Grounds.  Still, expectations for the following season were modest: a return to the senior circuit’s first division – a feat not accomplished since 1902.

Mired in the National League cellar in mid-July, the ragtag ’14 Braves not only rose from eighth to first place in a little over two months, this legendary team played .781 baseball (50 wins, only 14 losses) from July 1 to season’s end and finished atop the National League standings an amazing 10½ games ahead of its nearest rival, John McGraw’s New York Giants.  Much of the credit belonged to the tough and often profane Stallings, who once described his team as comprising “one .300 hitter, the worst outfield that ever flirted with sudden death, three pitchers, and a good working combination around second base.”[i] To capture the pennant in the face of his roster’s limitations, Stallings deftly refined the art of platooning to capitalize upon strengths and mitigate weaknesses.  The eminent baseball writer, historian, and statistician Bill James regards Stallings’ skillful maneuvering in 1914 as having an “almost revolutionary impact” on baseball managers.[ii]  However, despite such adept leadership and a half-season of heroics, the Braves were given little chance of besting the mighty Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series.  Their fall classic sweep of the highly favored Mackmen was the final piece needed to forever brand this team the Miracle Braves.

The Tribe’s extraordinary achievement 100 years ago perennially gets dusted off by the media during the dog days of summer whenever a bottom-dwelling ballclub exhibits some signs of life.  An unexpected winning streak that ignites a spark of hope among a franchise’s heretofore frustrated followers often leads them to ask themselves: If the Miracle Braves could do it, why not us?  The front offices are challenged not to throw in the towel and begin rebuilding efforts while the team still retains the glimmer of a chance of replicating the Braves’ legendary 1914 climb to the top of the standings. 

[i] John C. Skipper, A Biographical Dictionary of Major League Baseball Managers (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2003), 298.
[ii] Bill James, The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers from 1870 to Today (New York: Scribner, 1997), 46.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

not the best offseason for signing veteran players

Not the best offseason.  Sizemore - gone.  Capuano - gone.  Pierzynski - gone.

Mujica remains (with his 5.51 ERA in what's looking like another "year of the pitcher" in MLB.)