Friday, August 29, 2008

Does Obama really want to be criticizing Palin's inexperience?

Apparently, the Obama campaign is concerned that "John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency." That would be a much better argument if the Democrats were not attempting to put a former community activist with zero foreign policy experience into the presidency....

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A Major Milestone

With word that John McCain has selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-Presidential running mate, we now have the first candidate on a major party ticket for the Presidency or Vice Presidency who was born after I was.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Well done.

I've said it before, I'll say it again - whoever is running McCain's ad campaign is doing a great job...

Well done.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 8/25/2008

2 of 3 and 2 of 3 makes 4 of 6, and they were all on the road. So why does it feel like another week of treading water?

  • Partly because there was no ground made up. Through the All Star break, the Rays were only half a game behind Boston, despite having played about 4-5 games worse in terms of runs scored and allowed. But since then, Tampa's continued to overperform, while playing better baseball. The result is that Boston's gone 18-15 over the past 6 weeks, while Tampa's gone 24-11.

  • Partly because the injuries keep accumulating. No one's too concerned with Lugo, because Lowrie's been so good, but Beckett is a big concern, and at a time when Buccholz has gone back to the minors due to inflamed ineffectiveness. Drew joins Lowell on the shelf, Aardsma goes back to the DL, and suddenly, the depth is being tested. Seriously tested.

  • It's not over yet. After playing three in New York, the Red Sox head home with only two road trips, nine games total, left on the schedule. And 20 left at home. They've got three left in Tampa, and three left at home with Tampa. The Rays start a 9 game homestand tomorrow, but finish with 17 out of 24 on the road. If the lead is still 4 1/2, or smaller, when I'm writing this post next week, the race is still very much up for grabs.

  • I'm not ready to write of the Yankees. Yet. I'm confident that they aren't going to win the division, but the Wild Card is not totally out of the question. Yet. Tune in next week, and this is very likely to have changed.

  • The entire gap between Tampa and Boston, 4 1/2 games, is in their performances vs. Toronto. The Rays are 9-3 against the Blue Jays, the Sox are 4-7. Boston has allowed the Blue Jays six runs per game - against the rest of baseball, Toronto's scoring fewer than four runs per game.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/25/2008




Tampa Bay4.63(10)3.99(2)0.567(3)735679506



Los Angeles4.65(9)4.24(4)0.542(6)705979509

New York4.86(7)4.5(7)0.535(7)706070600







Kansas City4.09(13)5.05(11)0.405(14)537756743

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9963

Los Angeles9963




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay9864

Los Angeles9765




Standings for the week






Tampa Bay5.5(5)4(3)0.642(5)42420


New York5.17(8)5.17(9)0.5(7)33421




Los Angeles3.43(12)4.71(6)0.358(11)34340


Kansas City3.67(11)6.33(11)0.269(13)2415-1


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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Obama, born-alive infants - his own words?

In 2001, a nurse named Jill Stanek came forward and described the way that "babies were being aborted alive and shelved to die in the soiled utility room." This prompted a national debate, and led to the passing and signing into law of a bill aimed at preventing the practice.

For more background, the National Right to Life Committee (obviously a partisan organization, but one apparently dealing in facts on this issue) has a discussion of Obama's actions here.
In 2001, in Illinois, a bill was introduced in the state Senate that was closely patterned on the federal BAIPA, to govern constructions of state law. It contained an additional sentence, which read, "A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law."...Obama voted against this bill in committee. On the floor he gave a speech attacking it and a couple of other related bills (the only such speech by any senator). Although the speech was technically made during consideration of another bill, SB 1093, Obama said that his reasons applied to SB 1095 (the BAIPA) as well. He then voted "present." Voting "present" was a tactic recommended by the local Planned Parenthood lobbyist; under an Illinois constitutional provision a bill is deemed passed only if it receives an absolute majority of the sworn members of the House or Senate, so the operative effect of a "present" vote is the same as a "no" vote.

Now the following audio has surfaced. I found it here, and cannot vouch for its provenance. It is, on its face, the voice of Senator Obama, speaking against passage of an Illinois version of the Born-Alive Infants Protection act as a member of the Illinois legislature.

"...and that essentially adding an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion..."

If this is what it purports to be, and if it were to actually get traction in the press, I cannot see Barack Obama winning the election. Think about the effect of Michael Dukakis' response to Bernard Shaw's question in the 1988 debate. Dukakis was a weak candidate, and wasn't going to win anyway, but the air really went out of his candidacy when he failed to react at all to the thought of his wife being raped and murdered. Enough people viscerally saw a hole in him that they couldn't abide in a US President that he had no chance of winning. Well, if this audio were to get any significant play in the press, there would be the same reaction.

There is a belief in some quarters that America is a pro-choice nation. That may be close to true, but only for some very specific and limited uses of the term "pro-choice." I do not believe that there is majority support for a national ban on most first tri-mester procedures, but there is a significant majority support for bans on partial-birth abortion. And there is overwhelming support for the proposition that babies born alive should be treated as babies. Most Americans are not going to want a President who looks at protection for infants who are born alive as a "burden" that cannot be borne.

And that, if this clip is real, is what Barack Obama did. The abortion absolutists on the left will not be bothered by that, but a majority, a significant majority, of Americans will.

If they ever hear about it, that is...

UPDATE: The evidence mounts that those are, in fact, his own words. See page 33 here...

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Bear

Here's an ad that the McCain camp should consider running.

Yes, it's 24 years old. Yes, it was a Reagan ad. But, as recent events in Georgia have shown, it is still relevant. Does anyone think that Barack Obama is ready for the bear?

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 8/18/2008

Good start, bad finish...

  • The Red Sox had two separate games in which they allowed 15 or more runs during the week. This is very unusual and extremely bad. They went .500 in those two games. This is close to miraculous.

  • When Charlie Zink gave up 8 runs in 4 1/3 innings in his Major League debut against the Rangers, Red Sox fans could be forgiven for expecting that they'd seen the Sox' worst starting pitching performance of the week. They were wrong. Their ace, Josh Beckett, allowed the same number of runs in two fewer innings to a vastly inferior offensive team. That performance yesterday was ugly.

  • Three games against Texas - 37 runs scored.

  • Three games against Chicago and Toronto - 11 runs scored.

  • And yet somehow Texas, having allowed nearly 100 runs more than anyone else in baseball, is only one game under .500.

  • A team can have long periods of mediocre play and still end up with a successful season. But you don't know until afterwards whether that's the case - during the mediocre stretch, the team just looks mediocre. Or worse. Boston's now 27-25 since the middle of June, and they haven't done anything to look like they're going to put together the big run. Which does now, of course, mean that they won't - the big run almost invariably follows a stretch in which the big run looks unlikely. But watching them right now is a frustrating experience.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/18/2008




Tampa Bay4.59(10)3.99(2)0.563(3)695475486

Los Angeles4.72(8)4.21(4)0.552(4)675576469



New York4.85(7)4.47(7)0.537(7)67576658-1







Kansas City4.11(13)4.99(12)0.412(14)517355694

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles10161

Tampa Bay9963




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles9864

Tampa Bay9765




Standings for the week



Los Angeles5.46(5)4.29(5)0.609(2)322034182

Tampa Bay4.65(11)3.76(1)0.596(3)322235193


New York5.07(8)4.43(6)0.562(5)30242925-1








Kansas City4.39(13)5.33(12)0.412(13)223227275


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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thirteen down...

two to go...

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The cumulative score of the Red Sox' previous four games was 19-14. Last night, the final score was 19-17.

  • 37 hits. 36 runs. 13 walks. 11 pitchers, combining to throw 401 pitches. Not what is typically referred to as a pitchers duel. Those pitchers might have been safer if they'd actually been dueling, flintlocks at 20 paces or something...

  • Normally a 10-run lead should make a team comfortable. With a rookie pitcher making his debut, in Fenway Park, against the top run-scoring team in the Majors, Red Sox fans could be forgiven for not relaxing after the 10 run first. And they ended up losing a 10-run lead, as they led 10-0 and 12-2 before falling behind in the 6th.

  • Of course, a team overcoming a 10 run lead to take a lead can generally expect to win. The Red Sox didn't stop hitting, overcoming a two-run deficit themselves.

  • Charlie Zink made his Major League debut last night and didn't make it out of the fifth. He gave up 8 runs in 4 1/3 innings for an ERA of 16.6. While that's obviously a poor performance, his wasn't the worst pitching performance in the game. In fact, he was the better of the two starters (Scott Feldman gave up 12 runs [only six earned]) without getting out of the third. And he was better than the three relievers who followed him into the game.

  • Terry Francona was definitely spelling relief "R-O-L-A-I-D-S..." Lopez, Aardsma and Delcarmen combined to face 16 batters. They recorded six outs, while allowing eight hits, one walk and seven earned runs. Lopez allowed one of two inherited runners to score, Aardsma allowed two of two inherited runners to score and Delcarmen allowed two of two inherited runners to score.

  • According to NESN, Feldman was the first pitcher since 1918 to give up 12 runs and not take a loss. I'm curious as to how many starters have ever given up 12 runs in a start, period. Over the 7593 game history of the Rangers, Feldman was the third. No starter has ever given up 13 runs in a game, and the other two to give up 12 (Charlie Hough and John Burkett) lasted longer (5 1/3 and 4 innings respectively.)

  • From May 27 through August 10, in 75 at-bats over 19 games, David Ortiz hit two HR. He hit two HR in the first inning. And had a third taken away on fan interference in the fifth.

  • Kevin Youkilis started the evening by striking out twice in the same inning. He finished 2-5 with a walk and 2 HR.

  • Ordinarily, a five-hit game is noteworthy. Pedroia went 5-6 and it's not only not the lead, it's just an afterthought.


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Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 8/11/2008

And the water-treading continues...

  • Can a player who hits a three-run HR in the first inning ever end up as the goat in a loss? Mike Lowell made an attempt at that yesterday, following his three-run HR with two errors that directly led to two Chicago runs, and hitting into a one-out bases loaded double play with his team down by one in the seventh.

  • The Red Sox have the best run differential in the AL and the best Pythagorean winning percentage. But they're three games under their projection while Tampa is 6 games ahead of theirs (and the Angels are 9 ahead.)

  • It used to be conventional wisdom that "good teams win the close games." Sabrmetricians have "discovered," though, that teams' records in one-run games is actually a poor measure of quality. The closer any given game is, the more "luck" plays a part, bad bounces, close ball/strike calls, balls that fall just inside or just outside the foul line. What actually seems to be the case is that one-run games are essentially random, and good teams show dominant winning percentages in games decided by more runs. Well, Tampa is 21-12 in one-run games, Boston is 15-19. In games decided by three runs or more, Boston is 41-24 (.631) while they are only 25-27 (.481) in games decided by less than three. In games decided by three runs or more, Tampa is only 33-29 (.532) while they are 37-17 (.685) in games decided by fewer than three.

  • Again, this week, the Red Sox lost by one, two and one, and won by six, six and four. Their timing for scoring and allowing runs has been...poor.

  • What I'm saying here is that Boston is the best team in the AL East. I thought so before the season started, I still think so. But they've underperformed enough, and Tampa's overperformed enough, that the Rays are probably now the favorite to win the division. Everything other than raw won-loss record says that Boston's the better team - despite that, the lead is now 4 1/2 games, and the Red Sox are facing injuries that make a spectacular sprint to the finish look less likely than it once did. I'm certainly not saying the race is over, and I would not be surprised - at all - if the Red Sox come back to win the division. But I'm now saying I'll be less surprised if Tampa wins it than I would have been at any time before this.

  • There's one more thing to consider (beyond the home-road thing that still favors the Red Sox). As the Rays have built this lead over the past month, they have played zero (0) games against teams in the top half of the league standings. The last time they played a team that currently has a better than .500 record (Toronto is currently at .500) was before the All Star break - just over a month ago, when they lost two to the Yankees. That stretch will eventually end, though not yet - they're moving from Seattle to Oakland.

  • The good Jacoby Ellsbury came back for the week. Drew didn't do much with the bat, but did walk 10 times, putting up an OBP of .500 for the week. Unfortunately, the three-four hitters, Ortiz and Lowell, combined to hit .167/.216/.250/.466. Jason Bay had some impact during his first few games in a Boston uniform, but for most of the week he was basically putting together the classic Shea Hillenbrand hitting streak - one meaningless single per game. The .321 batting average looks pretty, but the .321 OBP and .393 SLG reveal it to be quite superficial.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/11/2008



Tampa Bay4.61(10)4.05(3)0.559(2)655271466

Los Angeles4.73(8)4.2(5)0.554(3)655274439


New York4.82(7)4.47(7)0.534(5)635563550








Kansas City4.2(12)4.88(12)0.432(13)516754643


Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles10260

Tampa Bay9864




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles9963

Tampa Bay9666




Standings for the week


Los Angeles6.67(1)4(3)0.718(1)42511


Tampa Bay6.43(2)4.43(6)0.664(3)52520









New York3.88(11)5.63(11)0.336(12)3525-1

Kansas City2.83(13)5.67(12)0.22(13)15241


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Friday, August 08, 2008

Is this deconstruction absurd?

Over in the Corner, Mark Hemingway links to a report from a "Democratic consulting group" on McCain's advertising. After finding subtle racism in the "Celebrity" ad, the next thing that they accuse McCain of is calling Obama the anti-Christ.
The makers of the ad chose all of Obama's quotes very carefully and the ad is rife with image after image equating Senator Obama to the anti-Christ, and especially to Nicolae Carpathia, the anti-Christ in the popular Left Behind series...From the title of the ad (that immediately reminds anyone familiar with the Left Behind series of the name of the false church set up by the anti-Christ) to the quotes (with no respect to context) and images that the McCain camp chose to use, which basically allude to every symbol of the anti-Christ possible short of flashing 666 on the screen, this ad is an attempt to stir up already circulating falsehoods about Obama and add more fuel to the fire.

Hemingway finds that analysis preposterous.
Obama's defenders are now accusing McCain of using his campaign ads to call Obama the anti-Christ. Marvel for a second at the absurdity of that.

I loved the ad, and said so when I first saw it. And I don't think that there is anything inappropriate in the ad, anything out of bounds or unfair. I think that it is a perfect response to the campaign that Senator Anointed Obama is running. I have no problem with it. None whatsoever.

But I showed it to my wife, who has read the "Left Behind" series, and her very first response was that everything about it made Obama look like the anti-Christ from the books.

I don't know the books, and I cannot say whether that is intentional or not. I do not know the levels of iconography in play. It would not surprise me, not even a little bit, to find that the parallels are intentional. And if they are, that does, in fact, make it an ad that works on two levels - the text, which legitimately mocks Senator Obama for the campaign he's running and the pomposity of his various proclamations, and the subtext, which is visible only to those who know the "Left Behind" series, and equates Obama to the anti-Christ.

Again, I have no problem with the ad. I think that every second of it is absolutely legitimate, and the Obama campaign has been run in such a way as to make such an ad inevitable for a competitor who wants to win. But I think that the Obama campaign can legitimately complain about the subtext. I think that it is silly to do so, of course, because it comes across as whining, and actually strengthens the ad by increasing the number of people who thing "anti-Christ" when they see it. But based on my experience, the charge is not nearly as absurd as one would like it to be...

For those who haven't seen them, here are the ads in question. (I think that they are both fantastic ads, and none of this changes my opinion of them at all.)


The One

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Another datapoint in the "protection" discussion

One of the pieces of baseball conventional wisdom that sabermetricians have questioned is the idea of "protection." Protection says that a hitter gets a lot better pitches to hit, and will produce better numbers, with a great hitter behind him. We've got another situation to look at, now, for more evidence on the subject.

The speculation started quickly as people once again ponder whether David Ortiz can hit without Manny "protecting" him. The conventional wisdom says that Ortiz' numbers will drop, and there are already articles tying Ortiz' weak performance the past few days with the loss of that "protection."

From Nick Cafardo in yesterday's Globe:
There's David Ortiz indicating - and he acknowledges it's very early - that he's already feeling the effect of Manny Ramírez not being in the lineup to protect him.

This morning on, from Rick Sutcliffe, we read that:
Ortiz benefited from having Ramirez behind him in the lineup; however, he also changed as a hitter when he came to Boston in 2003 and stopped swinging at the fastball off the inside half of the plate. And with Ramirez hitting behind him, he saw a lot more strikes. Ortiz isn't close to 100 percent right now, but once he's completely healthy, teams aren't going to let Ortiz beat them. He's 2-for-20 with two RBIs in the five games since Ramirez was dealt.

Here's the thing - sometimes, we can actually objectively evaluate situations. These last four days are not the first four days that Ortiz has been in the Red Sox lineup without Manny. We actually have a track record, a history that we can examine. And thanks to David Pinto's invaluable Day by Day database, it's fairly easy to do.

So, here are the records for David Ortiz in a Boston uniform (including the five since the trade.) One set of numbers shows Ortiz' stats for games in which Manny started. The other set shows Ortiz' stats for games in which Manny did not start. (This is not a perfect set - there was a time early in their careers together when Ortiz hit behind Manny, but most of the games without Manny are from '06 and '07, when Manny was the cleanup hitter. There are some Ortiz at-bats in the "with Manny" category where Manny had left the game due to injury or score, and there are probably a couple of Ortiz at-bats in the "without Manny" where Manny was in the on-deck circle as a pinch hitter. But it should be representative.) And this is what the data shows:

David Ortiz in Boston

With Manny677.296.390.598.98813.54412.44%6.441

Without Manny101.306.453.6111.06512.96315.96%3.723

As expected, Manny's absence has led to more walks for Ortiz, some increase in intentional walks, and probably a fairly large increase in "unintentional intentional" walks. But his batting average and isolated slugging are higher without Manny, too. On the whole, he's put up a much better statistical performance without Manny in the lineup. Some of that is obviously a result of the additional walks, and some, if not most, of the additional walks are almost certainly a result of not having a Hall-of-Fame slugger in the on deck circle. But even without the walks, his performance on at-bats when not walking is better - higher average, more power, HR more frequently - without Manny in the lineup. The evidence is pretty overwhelming that, despite the early concerns in the press, David Ortiz' performance is not dependent upon having Manny Ramirez hitting behind him.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Note to Michael Felger

When a Major League team loses a game 4-3, a starting pitcher who gave up four runs in six innings is not the biggest problem.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Vote for [fill-in-the-blank] in '08!


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Monday Pythagorean 8/4/2008

Well, for one weekend at least, the trade didn't hurt...

  • Not only did they go 3-0 with Jason Bay replacing Manny in the lineup, they did it with Bay being a key component of the wins. Friday night, he reached base four times (2 BB, HBP, 3B) and scored both runs in the Red Sox 12 inning 2-1 win. Saturday night, his first inning 3-run homer broke a 2-2 tie and set the tone for the game. (I told my 10-year old, when he hit it, that the Sox would win because Oakland wasn't going to get to five.) And he had two more hits and scored two more runs in Sunday's 5-2 win.

  • It's important to note that it was just Oakland.

  • The beginning of the week was gruesome. But that was apparently a different team. Where dark clouds and wailing and gnashing of teeth previously reigned, all is now sweetness and light. It was all Manny's fault - I know that now.

  • Yes, that was sarcasm. Many people in the media are trying to make the excuse that everything that happened during the Angels series was Manny's fault. Manny's difficult, Manny's a distraction. The veterans gathered (allegedly) and told Theo that Manny must go. Let me just say this - if Mike Lowell makes an error because he's "distracted" by Manny's behavior, that's Mike Lowell's problem and Mike Lowell's fault, not Manny's. If Jason Varitek is striking out four times because of Manny, shame on Jason Varitek. Obviously, shame on Manny for his behavior, but shame on the rest of them for letting it "distract" them from doing what they need to do.

  • And if the veterans really did tell Theo that Manny needed to go, isn't that the kind of "inmates running the asylum" behavior that the Boston media has long been wont to condemn? They don't seem to be condemning it this time. I remain unconvinced that the front office handled this as well as it could have been handled.

  • All that said, I think Boston is probably still the likely winner of the AL East. I'm just a little bit less confident of that than I was a week ago.

  • Since April 25, Jonathan Lester has made 17 starts and pitched 114 2/3 innings with a 2.51 ERA (and 3 unearned runs allowed). Johan Santana has made 18 starts and pitched 119 1/3 innings with a 2.79 ERA (and 7 unearned runs allowed). Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you don't make...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/4/2008




Tampa Bay4.49(10)4.03(3)0.55(3)605066446

New York4.89(6)4.39(6)0.549(4)615061500

Los Angeles4.62(9)4.21(5)0.543(5)605169429








Kansas City4.28(12)4.84(11)0.444(13)506252602


Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles10161

Tampa Bay9765




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles9765

Tampa Bay9567



New York8973

Standings for the week


Kansas City6.33(5)3.5(2)0.747(1)42511

Tampa Bay4.5(12)2.5(1)0.746(2)42511


Los Angeles6.57(3)5.29(6)0.598(4)43521


New York8.5(1)7.83(13)0.537(6)33340









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Friday, August 01, 2008

Unexpected brilliance

The Obama campaign did not much care for this ad - "Celeb"

On suspects that this one - "The One" - won't be a big hit in Obama headquarters, either...

I, on the other hand, love them both. I was concerned that the McCain campaign would not have the, well, guts, to do what needed to be done, to treat this arrogant empty suit as he is begging to be treated. At least in their web videos, that's proving not to be the case...

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Thank God for the Democrats!

They know better, and are willing to override the will of the people, in order to protect us from ourselves. No matter how bad it gets...

"Today Sen. McConnell offered several Unanimous Consent requests to lift the ban on deep-sea exploration. Democrats objected...He asked if Democrats would allow increased deep-sea exploration if the price of gas reached a national average of $4.50. Democrats objected...He asked if Democrats would allow increased deep-sea exploration if the price of gas reached a national average of $10.00. Democrats objected."

What was it the Tennessee Republicans' bumper sticker said?

drilling sticker

Oh, yes - that was it...

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the Manny trade

"They won't trade Manny"
- Me, just three days ago

I was wrong.

In the end, the Boston Red Sox were so eager to end the Manny Ramirez era that they added prospects to the deal in order to have the privilege of paying him to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers for the remainder of the season. Manny was unhappy with his contract situation and effectively "shot his way out of town."

The Record

The Boston Red Sox, over the course of 7 1/2 season, compiled a 615-468 record with Manny Ramirez in the lineup. That's a .568 winning percentage, a 92-win season pace. Manny was a big part of that.

Manny Ramirez in a Red Sox Uniform


He has the 4th most HR in MLB over that time span. I don't like RBI as a statistic, but a lot of people do, and Manny's 868 are the 3rd highest.

When we look at the "slash stats," AVG/OBP/SLG, it's the mark of a great player to have a line that is at least .300/.400/.500. There are 8 Major League players who have managed it with at least 2000 plate appearances over the last 7 1/2 years. Manny Ramirez is one of them. His OPS+ (on-base plus slugging, adjusted for league and park) is 3rd, behind Bonds and Pujols.

The team has gone to the post-season four times in the Manny Ramirez era. They're 7-2 in post-season series, with two World Series championships. During those post-season games, Manny has hit .321/.422/.558/.990, with 11 HR. He was the MVP of the 2004 World Series.

In short, Manny has done exactly what the Red Sox have paid him to do. They've paid him an enormous amount of money, and he's performed like the future Hall-of-Famer that he is.

The Divorce

I'm sure that Manny has been, in many ways, a frustrating employee. He has gone through a period, in almost every season, of apparent disinterest. He's a mediocre defender at best. He has a tendency to jog to first on balls hit at infielders, and to jog out of the box on balls that end up staying in the park. Certainly, there is reason to be skeptical of his claim of knee soreness that kept him out of the lineup twice last week, and his words and actions for the past couple of weeks support the theory that this trade happened because he forced their hand. The little snippets that I've seen and heard suggest that the local sports media is going to be 100% behind the management team on this one, blaming Manny, and only Manny, for what has happened.

I'm going to politely disagree.

I'm not going to let Manny off the hook for his share of it. As I say, there doesn't appear to be any question that he really did force their hands this time. And, as noted, Manny is not a perfect player, or a perfect person. But many of the shortcomings have been, in my opinion, vastly overblown. By my estimation, Manny has missed out on somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 bases because of "failure to hustle" in the course of his Red Sox career, infield singles turned into outs, doubles turned into singles. At this point, I stop and point at the numbers above. Would everyone be happier if Manny busted it on every play, if he were a "dirt dog" like Trot Nixon or Dustin Pedroia? Of course. But what's more valuable, someone who sprints out of the box on every hit and hits .274/.364/.464, or someone who jogs on obvious outs and hits .312/.411/.588? You'd love to have someone capable of the latter who played like the former, but sometimes that's not realistic.

Here's the problem - everyone who ever played the game can watch it and say, "man, I could run out of the box! For what they're paying him, I could sprint to first on every ground ball to the short-stop!" And for many people, that's true. It apparently isn't for Manny. While you'd love to have him be the same Manny, only better, this is the only Manny you've got. You need to either live with him, or get rid of him. If you're going to live with him, then you live with him. You don't drop anonymous tips to the media every time your suspicious of his knee problems. You don't, as a front office, go out of your way to make it clear that you don't like his contract. There have been stories since this ownership first took over about how displeased they are with Manny's contract and Manny's behavior. They've tried repeatedly to trade him - they've made no secret about it.

Someone wondered the other day whether Manny and Varitek were the last two players on the team who were acquired before the current ownership group took over. They were not - Wakefield and Youkilis were Duquette acquisitions. But this is true - Manny's was the last contract that the current owners inherited with the team. Other than the approximately $7 million that they still owe Manny for this year, there are no player contract obligations for which this management team is not responsible.

And they have undermined him in the press. Constantly. Little anonymous jabs. Did they have to "beg" or "cajole" or "threaten" him to get him onto the field last Saturday? Steve Buckley says they did. How does he know? Well, he knows because someone in the front office told him that (unless you think it was Manny, but I doubt it.) How many times over the past five years have we heard about the front office being upset, displeased, offended, what have you with Manny's behavior? They've been greasing the skids since they got here, so that when they finally were able to get rid of his contract, he'd be the bad guy. Period.

And, from the looks of garbage like this, they managed.

Again, none of this excuses Manny for his misbehaviors. Walking off the field in Tampa in 2003 instead of running to first was unacceptable. Shoving Jack McCormick was unacceptable. Some of the absences (though not as many as were fulminated about) were unacceptable. He was a high maintenance superstar. But he was a superstar, and the maintenance was worth it. They did some of it well, and they did some of it poorly, and they spent the last five years spinning the inevitable departure.

As for why Manny would "shoot his way out of town" now, well, that's rational behavior. (Obviously, "rational" is not a synonym for "right" or "proper.") Right now, he's looking at the possibility of having the team exercise a $20 million option for next year. And possibly again the following year. But if he tears up his knee in spring training next year, if he hits a Jim Rice type cliff, that's it. If he goes out into the market this fall, he probably gets four years at $18-22 million per. The team had no motivation to either exercise the option now or guarantee not to exercise it. But Manny has significant motivation to remove that from play and go into free agency again. So he did, in that sense, instigate the break up.

The Trade

There's been some commentary that they had to make a trade, that the team needed a resolution to the Manny situation. I agree with the latter point (with some minor reservations) but disagree with the former. The situation that needed to be resolved was not, in my opinion, the presence of Manny in the lockerroom, but the presence of a Manny trying to get traded in the lockerroom. I think it likely that 4:00 yesterday would have seen a resolution to the situation whether Manny went or didn't. Indeed, we saw much the same thing three years ago, when everyone said that they needed to trade Manny to get him out of the lockerroom. They didn't, and played .621 (36-22) ball after not trading him, on the way to making the playoffs again. Manny, after that non-trade, hit .323/.417/.632/1.049 with 17 HR while starting 54 of the final 58 games.

So I don't think that they needed to make a trade yesterday. But they did. So, how did they do?

Pretty well, I think.

They traded Manny Ramirez, Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss, plus the rest of Manny's salary (~$7 million) for Jason Bay. Hansen is still young and talented, and I'd bet that he has a fantastic year for someone at some point, but it's hard to see it as a huge loss for the Red Sox. Moss is going to be a competent fourth outfielder, maybe play some as a starter for someone, but again, if not quite fungible talent, he's not a critical piece for this team. It seems odd that they had to throw in talent and money to have someone take a Hall-of-Fame hitter, but they felt like they needed to make the deal, and the big concern is how does it affect this year's team. In that regard, it's Manny for Jason Bay and it may not hurt them on the field at all.

Manny's having a better year offensively than Bay, but it isn't a big difference. Ramirez is hitting .299/.398/.529/.927, Bay is hitting .282/.375/.519/.894. Defensively, Bay clearly represents an upgrade. And this isn't Bay's first good year. By Baseball Prospectus WARP (Wins Against Replacement Player), Bay was actually better than Manny in both 2005 and 2006, and is comparable this year. He's just been playing in anonymity in Pittsburgh, so no one knows it. Bay's not on a Hall of Fame trajectory, he's not going to have Manny's career. But he's a decent bet to provide close to the same value over the next two months as Manny.

Financially, they increase their payroll for the year, as they add Bay's contract while still paying Manny. But it isn't a large increase, and they actually acquire some cost certainty for next year. Bay's signed for $7.5 million next year, while they would have had the options of Manny at $20 million or having to find someone else.

So, they probably have not hurt the team for this year, they may have helped it for next year, and they've removed a distraction. They gave up more than they got from a talent point-of-view, but for a trade they felt forced into making, they actually made a pretty good one.

One concern that I generally deprecate, but warrants mention, is this - Bay's going to be playing in an environment that is significantly different than Pittsburgh. It doesn't worry me much, but many of the people who wanted Manny run out of town are the same ones who thought that JD Drew couldn't play in Boston. For those people, I ask the following - we know that Manny can handle Boston, we know that Manny can perform in the post-season - how do we know whether Bay will? If they make it to the post-season and Bay goes 1-22 as they lose in the first round, can we expect some retroactive front-office castigation for this move?

Bottom Line

I don't think that they needed to make the trade. I was a Manny fan, and I'm sorry to see him go. On the plus side, hopefully the incessant Manny-bashing will soon cease, but I'm not at all happy with the way that the sliming continues on his way out of town. But I don't think that the trade hurts the team, certainly not badly enough to prevent them making the playoffs, and it's possible that it helps. I'm not thrilled with the front office performance that led to the situation as it stood 48 hours ago, but given that situation, I think that they did as well as could be hoped for.

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