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Friday, February 17, 2006

WEEI to buy Western Mass. Station 

Jesse Noyes of the Boston Herald is reporting today that Entercom Communications Corp. has announced a definitive agreement to buy WBEC-FM (105.5) from Vox Radio Group for $5.75 million and said it would use the station to broadcast content from Boston’s WEEI-AM (850) pending final approval from the Federal Communications Commission.

WBEC, which is located in Pittsfield, is moving its
signal to the Springfield area and plans to be on the air by April. As a UMass Amherst student, this deal significantly impacts me. The only way to get WEEI content was by listening online. On rides to and from school, the signal from WEEI-FM generally cut out just beyond Worcester.

Although Red Sox games are are currently broadcast on WHYN-AM (560) in Springfield, I'm unable to pick up the signal in Amherst. However, if the Sox and Entercom reach a deal to continue broadcasting Sox games on WEEI, the company would then broadcast the games throu
gh WBEC. Since WBEC is an FM station, the signal would be crisp in Amherst, and throughout the rest of western Massachusetts.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Truck Arrives! 

The Truck left on Monday and arrived this afternoon at City of Palms Park. Only two more days until the rest of the pitchers and catchers descend upon Fort Myers. Besides Keith Foulke, Jonathan Papelbon, Lenny Dinardo and Josh Pressley have already reportedly arrived. Thanks to BoSoxLady of SoSH for providing the picture of The Truck pulling into City of Palms Park.



Unfortunately, I'm going to be gone for the long weekend. I should have a complete wrap-up of the first two days of camp by Monday evening. Go Sox.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Early Spring Training Questions 


Can Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling bounce back?

One of the earliest stories out of Fort Myers is that Keith Foulke has already arrived and that he
played catch for 13 minutes yesterday.

That's "a great sign," Francona said. "I think, in his own mind, he feels like he has some work to do and something to prove."

Well, Francona is right. Foulke has plenty to prove and it's refreshing to see that he is taking the bull by the horns and getting to work before he is contractually obligated. Hopefully Foulke will impress this spring, and get his 2006 season started on the right foot. However, if he doesn't, don't panic. In Spring Training of 2004, he posted a line of 9.0 IP, 17 H, 15 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, and we all know how his regular season went.

Along with Foulke, Nixon and Youkilis have already arrived at City of Palms Park.

Schilling himself has reported that his ankle back to full strength. I personally don't see him being the same pitcher he was pre-2004. Not because of the ankle, but because he is 39 years old. If he can make 30+ starts with an ERA in the low 4's, that's a success.

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How will Kevin Youkilis fare at first base?

Over at the Daughters of Kevin Youkilis message board, Kevin himself, using the handle "kyouk," gave his fans an update just before leaving for Florida:

"[I] felt the need to let everyone know that I am doing good. Excited to start it up again and ready to have a good season in Boston. Workouts have gone good and met all my expectations and goals for the off-season. I know people are either really nervous or excited for this year. My advice is to stay excited because on paper the White Sox last year did not have all the superstar names but put together a great team. Have the faith and cheer us on like you guys always do. The group of guys the Red Sox have brought together are going to be solid players and good guys so I think everyone will be excited come April. Keep the faith and it will be here before you know it. Hope everyone has had a great off-season and not had too many anxiety attacks with all the crazy stuff going on. Will see you in Spring or in Boston."

Good stuff from Youkilis, as always. He seems like one of those guys that just loves being a Major Leaguer. There's really no ego with him. He loves playing ball and is humble enough to sign onto a message board of probably 100 fans and let them know how his off-season is going. That's flat out cool in my book. In an interview with the AP's Howard Ulman, Kevin took a look at his past and his future with the Boston Red Sox.

"It's a great dream that I've dreamed of the past couple years. I can't wait to get out there to show that, hopefully, I'm deserving of the role that they're going to give me."

There's another storyline that bears watching. Will Youkilis perform well enough to become the full-time 1B, relegating J.T. Snow to a true backup role? I think it's safe to say that Youk will unquestionably be on base more often than Snow, but how will he do defensively? Youk is now moving across the diamond to where no one is entirely sure how his defense will rate. Hopefully his off-season workouts have added some flexibility and footspeed, decreasing that the gap between him and Snow defensively.

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Who wins the battle at shortstop?

Can Dustin Pedroia beat out Alex Gonzalez for the shortstop job? It seems like it's a longshot, but bear in mind that the Sox inserted two separate out clauses in Gonzalez's contract for a reason. Should the Sox decide to cut Gonzalez before March 15, they will only be on the hook for $500,000 of his $3M salary. If they cut him between March 15 and Opening Day, they will only owe him $750,000.

Pedroia struggled offensively in Pawtucket mainly due to being hit by a pitch on his right wrist on June 27. The MRI came back negative, but he was never the same. Had the injury not occurred, there was a very good chance Pedroia would have been the Sox' second baseman down the stretch.

Pedroia could outhit Gonzalez lefthanded, so that's not the issue. The real issue is how Pedroia looks defensively at SS. He played the position for three years at Arizona State, but it's a mystery to me how he actually looks at the position. If he can show good range, a strong throwing arm, and a solid pivot, the Sox would be silly not to let him enter the season at the starting SS. There's no doubt that Pedroia knows the job is his to win.

"I've killed myself this offseason," said Pedroia. "There have been no setbacks and I've made myself as strong as possible, and I'm ready for a long year. I'm going to try to win a job in Boston."

With the World Baseball Classic, Pedroia will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself. The out clause could also have been put into the contract, so that Theo can still pursue a trade for Julio Lugo or another shortstop. Definitely keep an eye on this one.

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Can Mike Lowell rebound?

Is Lowell capable of returning to his pre-2005 levels? The soon-to-be-32-year-old insists this past season was an aberration. There were reports that as soon as the season ended, he drove out to see his old hitting coach to figure out what was plaguing him all season.

If Lowell can bounce back, the Sox will have a legitimate #5 hitter to protect Manny. His defensive, while somewhat overrated due to his Gold Glove, is still very solid, and definitely an upgrade from Bill Mueller.

If Lowell proves that he is indeed finished, don't be surprised if the Sox elect to slide Youkilis back to 3B and play Snow at 1B. Another option would be to look for external candidates at either 3B or 1B.

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Has the bullpen improved?

How will this year's version of the bullpen fare? The Sox have added Rudy Seanez, Julian Tavarez, and David Riske, to go along with Foulke, Timlin, and a combination of Arroyo, Papelbon, DiNardo, and others.

On paper, it looks like an improvement from the 2005 bullpen, which included such gems as John Halama, Matt Mantei, Blaine Neal, Mike Remlinger, Alan Embree, and Chad Harville.

Hopefully most of the relievers stay healthy, but if they don't, the Sox do have insurance in Pawtucket. Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, and Jermaine Van Buren, who was acquired via trade this off-season, could see time in Boston as the season wears on.

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Will David Wells be traded?

I personally think it's a lock that he's traded, and I think he will end up pitching for the Dodgers, not San Diego. Wells would be an immediate upgrade from Brett Tomko and would probably pitch very well in the Chavez Ravine. It's also possible that a starter for another team could go down in Spring Training, and will be looking to add a capable starter. This may have been the front office's hope when they decided to hold off on Wells' trade talks until the spring.

No matter what, a starter is going to be traded, and smart money is definitely on Wells.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What to make of Wells, Papelbon? 

Just a couple newsworthy notes from the Sox today.

Firstly, as it stands, the Red Sox have seven very capable starting pitchers (possibly 8 if Clemens decides to come aboard), so the loss of Wells wouldn't be too crushing. I've got assume that Wells will eventually be traded, and the starting rotation will be Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, Clement, and Arroyo. Jonathan Papelbon, in my estimation, will start the season in the bullpen, but with a strong spring, could see himself replacing Arroyo in the rotation.

As for Papelbon, even Terry Francona isn't sure if he'll begin the year as a starter or a reliever. "I don’t know what’s going to happen," Francona said. "What he’s going to do for sure is pitch with a lot of responsibility. Whether that’s in the pen or as a starter, I just don’t know." In my opinion, Papelbon should be in the rotation to start the season (although I don't think he will).

Last season, as a 25-year-old, he threw 148.2 innings between Portland, Pawtucket, and Boston and relegating him back to 90 innings or so as a reliever would be counterproductive. He's entirely capable of tossing 200 innings with a sub-4 ERA. In my opinion, he's a safer bet to do that than Arroyo, so why not have the better pitcher throwing 200 innings rather than 90?

Below is a look at how Arroyo and Papelbon stack up according to Ron Shandler's 2006 projections:



Basically, Papelbon is going to walk slightly more guys, but he's also going to strikeout considerably more. In 2005, Arroyo saw his K/BB ration completely fall off the table. If that trend continues, he may not be a guy you want in your starting rotation. As right-handed batters learned to lay off his breaking ball on the outside corner, he saw his K/9 go from 7.2 in 2004 to 4.4 in 2005. Hopefully he'll make the proper adjustments in 2006 and see an improvement in those numbers.

Secondly, David Wells is still confident that he'll be traded to the West Coast by Opening Day. In a conversation with Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, Wells' agent, Gregg Clifton said, "Theo (Epstein) has assured him he’s going to continue to attempt to satisfy his desire to be on a West Coast team and that probably is going to happen in the next month or so. David has a great relationship with Theo and a great belief and trust in him." Fair enough. Although Wells was a 15-game winner last season, the Sox would be well-served if they could fetch a relief or outfield prospect in a trade.

Clifton went on to say, "David has been and will always be the ultimate pro, and he intends to do everything necessary to be the best he can from Opening Day on." In my opinion, an "ultimate pro" doesn't sign a 2-year contract and then ask to be traded a year later; however, to David's credit, he hasn't turned his trade demand into a distraction.

Pitchers and catchers report in just 4 more days, so we should know the answers to these questions and more in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 13, 2006

It's Truck Day! 

Sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m. this afternoon, the Sox’ equipment truck departed Fenway Park for Fort Myers, for the start of spring training.




Feels good, doesn't it? In the midst of the Blizzard of '06, the equipment truck leaving for Florida gives me a warm feeling inside. Many may look out their windows and see a foot-and-a-half of snow, and feel that spring is out of reach, but relax, The Truck is headin' south, and Red Sox baseball is just around the corner.

The Truck will pull into City of Palms Park a couple days before pitchers and catchers are due to report on Saturday, February 18th. The first workout will take place the next day, followed by position players reporting on Wednesday, February 22nd, with the first full-team workout on the 23rd. The Sox' first spring training game is scheduled for Thursday, March 2nd, versus the Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Are the Yankees fiscally responsible? (No, they're not) 

Just as I did with the Sox, I decided to see if the Yankees' front office constructed a physically responsible starting 9. I once again used Baseball Prospectus' MORP metric to determine how overpaid/underpaid each player was in relation to the current marketplace. Here are the results:



As I expected, the results are horrible. Seven of the nine starters, with the exception of Rodriguez and Cano, are overpaid. And if the Yankees were actually on the hook for all of A-Rod's salary (Texas agreed to pay $67M of remaining $179M in salary), he'd actually be overpaid as well.

However, when you're George Steinbrenner, money isn't really an issue. Still, the offense should not be overpaid by $40 million. Think about that for a moment. A collection of 9 guys is overpaid by 40 million dollars. In reality, no matter how much money The Boss has, he should be ashamed.

The future doesn't look much better either, as it's a virtual certainty that Posada's $12M option for 2007 will become guaranteed due to his playing 330 games at catcher from 2004 to 2006. Through 2005, he's already started 267 at the position, leaving only 63 games before the option is automatically picked up.

The Yankees also have a $13M option on Gary Sheffield for 2007. I'd be very surprised if this option wasn't picked up; however, Sheffield is going to be 37, so his skills could deteriorate at any moment.

In the coming days, I will take a look at the pitching staffs and benches of each club. If I can't find the projected WARPs for each club, I will do the study based on the 2005 WARPs and adjust accordingly based on games played. So, be on the lookout for that.

Sox Notes 

As you can see, I've messed around with the site design again. Hopefully this one sticks. I'm not really impressed with any of the pre-loaded templates that Blogspot offers, so I've done my best to find a user-made template that offers a lot of space for text. I didn't like the border on the old template. Anywho, onto some Sox news...

First off, I'd like to send my thoughts and prayers out to Dave Wallace and his family. He was recently hospitalized in Spartanburg, S.C., after suffering an infection in his hip that could keep him out of spring training and possibly part of the regular season. Wallace had a hip replacement operation about a decade ago. In Spartanburg, Wallace had a procedure to wash out the infection. Hopefully the recovery is speedy and successful.

In the interim, new bullpen coach Al Nipper will serve as the pitching coach, which dovetails into the possible signing on Roger Clemens. Nipper is regarded as one of Clemens' closest friends. While this may be more of a coincidence than a well-thought plan, it surely can't hurt. The debatable signing of John Flaherty is also suspicious, considering he caught Clemens back in 1992 and 1993.

On Friday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that John Henry and Larry Lucchino may have met with Clemens this past week in Houston to discuss his possible return to Boston. When questioned about the meeting, there were non-responses and "no comments" all around. As Cafardo phrased it, it was a "well-orchestrated silence."

Maybe this thing is more of a reality than we think? Who really knows, but if Clemens is willing to meet with the Sox brass, then this entire thing surely stands a chance. We'll definitely be hearing more about this thing as Spring Training approaches.

***

Over at the Sons of Sam Horn, minor league guru Cuzittt has set up an Adopt-A-Prospect Forum in which each member can select up to two minor leaguers to follow and update their progress throughout the season.

I decided to "adopt" centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and pitcher Clay Buchholz. I will be updating their progress weekly, so be sure to check back often. Both guys impressed in Lowell last season, and will hopefully be just as good in Wilmington.

In an interview with the Oregonian, Ellsbury has stated that his goal is to be in AA Portland by the end of the season. With Ellsbury recently being invited to major league spring training, AA seems like a sure thing. In an interview with the Portland Tribune, Ellsbury says his mission is to play every day in 2006, whether it be AA or AAA. With a good head on his shoulders, Ellsbury is sure to succeed wherever he is assigned.

My guess is that he starts in Wilmington, and with success there he will be put on the fast track. With Nixon a free agent after this season, it's possible that Coco Crisp could slide over to right field as Ellsbury takes over in center. It's a long shot for sure, but you can never doubt a player with Ellsbury's makeup.

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