Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One Thing That Bugs Me About the Big Red Sox Trade

From a baseball standpoint, the Red Sox freeing up salary and roster space makes sense. Fixing the problems with this team required more than just a few tweaks and some small additions. And to build a new foundation, the old rotting foundation needed to be completely removed.

From a business standpoint, the move made sense. The fans were sick of this team losing, and utterly disgusted with their attitude. So much so that a Facebook group with over 11,000 likes has been spawned, urging fans to boycott the team after only 4 current players attended Johnny Pesky's funeral. The fans were fed up, and the Sox were in danger of losing customers.

It's the business standpoint that bugs me. Lucchino and the Sox made this drastic move in order to keep people interested in the team, not to win. So while I wholeheartedly support and celebrate the decision, the motivation behind the decision irks me.

The goals of winning and selling aren't mutually exclusive. But when the primary goal of a team is to sell a brand, then things can go wrong. You wind up signing Carl Crawford for too much money. You go nuts and bid $51.1 million on a Japanese pitcher. You make bogus lowball offers to popular free agents, then leak stories to the press after they sign elsewhere. You fire a manager and do nothing else, and declare the team's problems solved with a new disciplinarian skipper.

Look at the Patriots. They're not afraid to make unpopular moves. They'll let Wes Welker sit out, they'll say goodbye to Richard Seymour, trade Randy Moss in the middle of the season, and give absolutely nothing to the media in a press conference.

And when they make these unpopular moves, they don't trash their former players. They don't wage PR wars. They don't try to present themselves as wanting to keep those players.

It's all about winning in Foxborough. Personnel decisions are made with winning as the only goal. Not the case at Fenway. Fenway includes selling and spinning in the equation, making decisions in an effort to build a winning ballclub AND market the brand. And that's a problem. That should be handled by marketing and promotions staff. Not baseball operations.

Could you imagine Bill Belichick or Cam Neely, or Danny Ainge trying to balance winning games/titles with building a brand? Why do Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox attempt this unprecedented and unsound balancing act?

As the Red Sox rebuild themselves, they need to do so with winning as the only goal. Sign players to win. Make trades to win. The goal of winning should be handled by the baseball side of the organization, and should be the only goal. And the goal of selling should be handled by a completely separate wing. There should be no overlap, no meeting point, no Larry Lucchino.

The Red Sox have pushed the reset button, but if they continue to play the same way it'll once again be "Game Over."

Why I Think the Patriots Cut Stallworth and Gaffney

When the Patriots piled their plate high and deep with WRs, I thought Donte Stallworth was a long shot to make the team but figured Jabar Gaffney would likely be on the roster. Gaffney has worked well with Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels in the past, and he did well in 2011, finishing with 947 receiving yards for the Redskins.

I figured the WR depth chart would be Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, and Donte Stallworth. I wasn't shocked when Stallworth got cut, but parting ways with Gaffney surprised me.

Until I thought of the offensive line.

If there were a Moneyball 2 about football, I think the statistician Jonah Hill played would be obsessed with one number: Throwing Time. The amount of time a QB has to throw the football.

And judging from the preseason games, Tom Brady won't have that much time to throw. It won't be like 2007 with Stallworth, Gaffney, and of course Randy Moss. When Brady had an eternity to find a receiver, and those receivers had an eternity to go downfield.

Tom Brady simply won't have the time necessary for vertical receivers like Gaffney and Stallworth to go downfield. He'll need shifty mid-range and underneath receivers like Welker, Branch, and the tight-ends. Guys who can get open quickly, and whose diversity present matchup problems for defenses. Brady can spot those problems pre-snap and get rid of the ball before the pressure envelops him.

Carrying WRs who primarily go deep is a waste of roster spots. There won't be enough Throwing Time to consistently go deep. Plus with the tight-ends, how often will more than three WRs be on the field for the Pats? Stallworth and Gaffney were unnecessary parts of the Patriots' offensive machine.

NHL Owners Make Counter-Proposal

If the NHL endures another season-killing lockout, I'm not sure if it will recover. Since the previous work stoppage, the Winter Classic, Olympic hockey, and the success of big market teams (LA Kings, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks winning Cups; New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers contending for them), have all helped the league rebuild. A salary cap has led to parity, and rule changes have allowed the game to open up.

Then what will bring the fans back if the 2012-13 season is lost?

The NHL owners reduced their ransom demands in a counter-proposal yesterday. Instead of immediately reducing the players' cut of hockey revenues to 43%, the NHL proposed a gradual year-by-year reduction from the current rate of 57% to 50%.

The deal would also decrease the salary cap to $58 million in 2012-13, instead of the projected $70.2 million. The cap would remain fixed, increasing to $60 million in 2013-14, and $62 million in 2014-15.

As a Bruins fan, I hate this. As a hockey fan, I hate this.

I don't mind a salary cap, but it seems like the League is catering to its struggling teams. Instead of promoting and rewarding success, they're trying to support teams that aren't succeeding. It's communism. What would the 1980 US Olympic team or the Canadian team from the 1972 Summit Series team say about such an arrangement?

The big market teams, like the Bruins, get screwed. They can't retain talent, can't acquire new talent, because nobody in Arizona cares about the Coyotes. That doesn't make sense.

The players get screwed too. They're asked to take less money even though it's more dangerous to play hockey in 2012 than it's ever been. The NHL's latest 50/50 proposal is much more reasonable than its previous demand that the players only get 43% of hockey revenue. Nevertheless, I think the players should get similar compensation to what they get now (57%). Not less. Why should they get less when the League has been more successful because of their play?

The players aren't demanding more, they just want the same. They also want there to be NHL hockey in 2012-13. The NHL owners, on the other hand, are suffering from short-term greed. They want what's good for their wallets today, not what's good for the game for the next 10 years. They don't seem to care if hockey is played this year.

Although I have a feeling that they're bluffing. And that this will be resolved at the zero hour on September 14th, with the players accepting minimal cuts.

Aceves No Save Us

Since they cleaned house, I actually enjoy watching Red Sox games again. The overall talent on the team has decreased, but the effort level has increased. I'd rather watch a Cody Ross or Ryan Lavarnway try and fail than watch a Josh Beckett or Adrian Gonzalez cruise and succeed.

One thing still irritates me about this team. And that's the Manager. Bobby Valentine's in-game decisions seem to be influenced more by psychology than by scouting reports and pitcher/batter matchups.

And Dr. Valentine's psychological prescriptions don't always make sense. He suspends Aceves because Aceves gets pissed that he's not the Closer. Then he gives Aceves a chance to close? So punish with one hand, then reward with another?

I know Andrew Bailey pitched a lot over the weekend, so I understand Aceves getting the chance to close.

But Aceves didn't have it in the 9th. And Valentine allowed him to face Torii Hunter with runners on the corners and 1 out. Hunter was 3 for 7 lifetime off Aceves before last night. 1 for 7 against Bailey. The game was on the line and Valentine went with the worst matchup. Was Bobby even aware those were the numbers? This is a guy who didn't realize an opposing starter was right-handed.

Hunter hit a sac-fly to center, the Angels won, and Aceves earned his 9th loss of the season.

Aybar wasn't actually hit by that pitch, so the ump failed at his job. But Aceves did plenty to fail on his own.

One area the Sox need to address in the off-season is their bullpen. Along with their Manager and how/why he uses it the way he does.

Zach Stewart makes his Red Sox debut tonight. He faces CJ Wilson. So God only knows what will happen in this game.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo