Out With The Crowd: "Happily surprised, obviously"
Bill Simmons's Dad is not actually Bill Simmons's actual dad. He's my friend Mike, and he's a Red Sox fan…still, even after last year. Heh.
I spoke to him a couple weeks ago about the Farrell regime, Napoli's resurgence, and the lines between the leagues.
I actually meant to go back and read last year's, because that was the first [Out With The Crowd] I ever did, first of all, of this series, and second of all I think that things looked a lot different, for fans, than how they ended up. I wouldn't say you were positive –
I did go back, and it was so bad.
"I'm just glad all this Francona stuff is behind us!" And then it just devolved from there.
So … we'll start with additions to the ball club; who is your favorite new Red Sock?
God, there are so many this year.
You are allowed to use John Lackey as your answer.
He is kind of a new addition.
He's half the man he used to be.
Yeah, but they — unlike last year, all the free-agent signings this year were so great; I think my favorite obviously would have to be the [manager], John Farrell. You know, not even thinking about the players at this point, just the culture change that he's brought in, and they've kind of gone back to, they're kind of like Idiots Lite now, kind of like 2004 with Millar and such. And then they brought in all these characters and good clubhouse guys, and all of a sudden, everyone seems to be having fun. And that's gotta go straight up to bringing in Farrell, who the leftover Sox were just so happy to see walk into the, be in the dugout versus what they went through last year with Valentine.
Right. What was his provenance? Where did they find him?
Well, he was originally the Red Sox pitching coach.
Oh, okay, that's what I thought.
Then he left to become the Blue Jays manager.
So, and they actually made a deal with Toronto to allow Farrell to get out of his contract so they could make him the manager in Boston. Which is kind of weird, especially in the same division. Toronto's like, "All right, we'll just let him go."
I think there was some editorial about how they hadn't traded a manager since like the forties or something like that; it was like Durocher for someone straight-up. Might have been longer ago than that, actually. ["Not that it's pertinent here, really, as this isn't a trade strictly speaking, but I was wrong; the last time a trade deal involved a skipper was pretty recent." -- SDB]
I think there might have been some financial compensation that allowed them to make the move, but yeah, it's extremely rare that you see that happen, and then, again, especially within the same division. But what he's just brought to the team, and not even just in regards to the clubhouse enjoying each other again, but the fact that pitchers like Lester and Buchholz had their best years when Farrell was the pitching coach? And we're 21 games into the season and they're a combined 9-0, the two of them? I mean, obviously they missed Farrell, as much as everyone else did. It's just…compared to last year, it's just night-and-day difference.
Yeah. Well, and you had to wonder, once a new manager was brought on, if some of the malcontents weren't like, "Okay; we had a good run, blaming this on the manager, but now we've gotta buckle down."
I don't think it's a coincidence that this is when Lackey loses all that weight? Maybe I'm wrong? …So who's your least favorite addition to the club this year?
Unfortunately it's Joel Hanrahan. He has been hurt, but his outings have been pretty underwhelming, even prior to his injury; I mean, his ERA is pretty high. The fastball is up, pretty high; he still throws like 97, 98 but it just seems like he leaves everything right over the middle of the plate, and he's been getting bashed. I know that he had a hamstring injury and was on the DL for a little while, and he is coming back now ["and as of this writing is back on the DL, for 60 days this time" -- SDB], but he's probably been the most disappointing of the new guys that they've brought in. He's basically been the only weak point in the bullpen, right now.
Everyone else has been fantastic, like even the guy that replaced him, Andrew Bailey, who they got last year in a trade from Oakland, has been fantastic.
I think you actually mentioned him last year. I'll have to go back and check that.
I did, and it was in regards to a trade that I hated, because Bailey got hurt, like, in spring training and missed almost the entire season.
Right. Well, that's a good segue to the next question: anyone you were glad to see go? And you can count the monster "Dodgers be suckers" trade. PS, shut up, Carl Crawford. Baby.
Yeah, the Boston media was tough — you're in L.A. It's not gonna be much lighter. I mean, it's not the greatest sports town, but you're still in one of the biggest cities in the country.
And you're free of Dan Shaughnessy; that's a net gain.
That's true. But, I mean, that trade — the departures of Crawford, and Beckett, and…I mean, Adrian Gonzalez wasn't that big of a problem, but he's just not, he's not built for Boston, you know? I really think they should do examinations on players, in regards to the perfect cities that they can actually play in. Like, New York and Boston, and Philadelphia, you have to be a special type of character to be able to make it in those cities. I think they've done a good job of bringing in people this year that are built for that.
As far as getting rid of those three — and then obviously Valentine being gone, I mean…I don't know what more you can say in regards to the fact that they cut off all this payroll; they cut off all the headaches from the team; you've got this united front. It's great.
I'm a little surprised they let that go on as long as they did, but what are you gonna do. So, anyone you were sorry to see go since last season?
Um…that's a good question. They really didn't let anyone go that, like, I miss at this point. I did feel bad about Carl Crawford, because he was just one of these guys that just squeezed the bad way too hard. This was a guy that tried his hardest, the two years that he was in Boston, but just nothing was working out for him.
I forgot it was even two years.
Yeah, it was two years. So I don't want to say that I feel "bad" that he's gone, but I do feel bad that it didn't work out for him, because I think he is one of these guys, kind of like Jason Bay with the Mets, just someone who tried hard every at-bat, was the first guy at the ballpark every day, the last one to leave, always working in batting practice, working under the stands and everything, and it just didn't work out for him. So just from I would say a personal perspective, I was kind of bummed that it didn't work out for Crawford.
It really is the same thing as Bay; from a personal standpoint he seemed like a good guy, it's definitely not a lack of effort, but this was never gonna work out, and by the time they finally leave — I guess it's like when a divorce is finalized, you're like, "Glad that's done with."
So, no feelings about Youkilis particularly?
Not really; I mean, they traded him midseason, and it was kind of like the Clemens factor, when Clemens left Boston, it's like, you saw his game slipping and such, and if Youkilis didn't get traded, who knows, we may not have seen the big changes that took place with getting rid of Valentine and making that big trade, you know. I think Youkilis's problems with Valentine is kind of what highlighted what all the problems in that clubhouse were. So seeing him get traded was kind of like I think a trigger point to look at the entire club and say to yourselves, or for Ben Cherington to say, "Guys, things are not working, all right — when I've gotta trade Kevin Youkilis and he's unhappy in the clubhouse? This is just something that needs to change, and we need to do something drastically different."
Well, was there a sense — I don't really remember this from last year, because after a while, those of us who weren't fans of the team began to politely avert our eyes from the Red Sox, because it was uncomfortable…sorry.
That's all right.
I mean, for a while there was some gloating; I'm gossipy. But after a while it was just like, oh my God, how much worse can it go. Was there a sense among fans or the press that Youkilis had to go because he had challenged the authority of the management to the point that it was like, you can't have that going on — kind of like a Hanley Ramirez situation in Florida. Like, when your star says, "It's him or me," it has to be the star, otherwise you're going to have a chain-of-command problem?
The challenging didn't start with Youkilis; the challenging started in spring training, with Valentine, saying that Youkilis doesn't look like he's trying as hard as he used to. And you've never heard that about Youkilis before, from anybody, regardless of what you think of the guy, and you just look at him and you know that this guy works hard.
Well, and also, read about your sport sometime? The guy has back problems, do you want him to overswing and be out for three weeks?
Right. … He did get a good response when he returned to Fenway for that opening series against the Yankees — and everyone says it was "Yooooouk"s, not boos, that they were doing at Fenway, so, glad to hear that. He is still kind of a fan favorite, again, because he is an all-hustle kind of guy.
But it wasn't a sense in the front office that it was like, "This guy's gotta go because he thinks he's bigger than the team"?
I don't think it was that he thought he was bigger than the team; I think it was, management just brought in this new manager, with Valentine, and now it looks like the team is uniting against Valentine, like, Pedroia was the first one to step up right away, and say Valentine was wrong for questioning Youkilis's work ethic and such.
That made me like Pedroia a lot, actually. That he was like, "Thaaaat's bullshit."
Yeah, I thought it was more of just management basically siding with the guy that they hired, in Valentine. And then Youkilis's frustration just grew, and he wasn't having a good year with the Sox last year — almost the same situation like when they got rid of Francona the year before, that maybe it's just best for both parties to just move on.
Fair enough. So what's your biggest worry for the team this year? Pitching? Defense? The division?
I would have said the back end of the bullpen, initially — again, because of my worries about Hanrahan — but the way that Bailey's been pitching, it's not that much of a concern anymore. I am still worried about the back end of the rotation, the three four five; I mean, I know they've won every game that Dubront has pitched, but his ERA I think is like close to four.
Sounds like an off-brand champagne. "Doubront."
Yes. "Brut by Dubront."
He'll have a second career.
But Dempster's been okay; Lackey's been hurt…
I forgot Dempster was even alive.
Yeah, he's the number-four pitcher right now. And the five spot has been either Lackey, for the four innings that he pitched so far, though he is pitching tomorrow, he's coming back from his injury tomorrow. Allen Webster, one of the guys they got from L.A. in that trade; and then –
I forgot they even got anyone. I thought they just put 'em all in a box, C.O.D. "'Enjoy'? Sorry, Don Mattingly."
But then the other guy, who actually they just optioned down to Pawtucket, and I would doubt highly is gonna see a Red Sox uniform ever again, is Aceves.
Oh God, that's right.
He's always been the spot fill-in pitcher for an injury, but I don't think he's gonna wear a Red Sox uniform ever again, and I don't think anyone is that upset about it. Especially if Lackey comes back and is healthy, and this kid Webster supposedly was like, along with Jackie Bradley Jr., the two highlights of spring training. Although, poor Jackie. He needs a year or two. Great spring training; he wasn't ready for the bigs yet.
He and Kirk Nieuwenhuis can talk about these decisions. So where do you see the team finishing this year? This is really a crapshooty division which, I think if we'd had this talk two weeks or a month ago, it would have been like, "Wellll, maybe they get a wild card behind the Blue Jays," but then the Blue Jays have already blown up on the launching pad.
Yeah, the Blue Jays bought into the curse of Jose Reyes. Seems whoever he gets traded to, just forget about it.
I really can't say that I'm upset about that. Like, I read that headline and I was like, "Well, of course; it's not a contract year, buh-bye."
I mean, Toronto looks like this great fantasy-baseball team, but four weeks in, you're like, "I'm in last place?"
It's a Civil War battlefield hospital over there, basically.
I mean, no one's producing up there. Could Toronto turn it around, sure, but it doesn't look good for them right now. I worry about the Yankees when they finally get everyone back healthy, although Jeter's not 'til after the All-Star break, A-Rod's probably done for the year.
If A-Rod's smart, he's done period. Retire, change your name, go to law school.
Marry Madonna, or whoever he's dating. And Baltimore has started weakly this year, and now all of a sudden they're in second place.
… It's funny, everyone thought it was going to be the Red Sox and the Yankees fighting it out for last place this year, and now all of a sudden both of them are looking pretty good. I'm stunned at how well the Sox are playing; I can't believe it. Happily surprised, obviously. And not to get all melodramatic…it's kind of what Boston needs right now, after what happened. It's their fuckin' city. Thank you, Big Papi.
I love that. I love that the FCC was like, "We're absolutely not gonna try to demonize that guy, of all people."
And Bud Selig even said the same thing.
He's the state bird of Massachusetts; he can say whatever he wants.
And welcome back to him! He's batting over .500 since he's come back. He's just been on fire.
I always forget that that guy — how old is he?
He's gotta be in his upper thirties at this point. I don't mean waist, either.
That's a generous assessment. If anyone needs to be selling his grill on eBay…
I have a feeling he's one of these Dominican players that's age 34, but is actually age 38. But he's been on fire. And if I can just say one other guy I didn't bring up yet — Mike Napoli's been unreal. Leads the league in doubles, and RBIs, right now, and initially started the year hurt, you didn't know what to expect from him and now all of a sudden he's just bashing the ball off the Monster.
I was gonna ask next if you'd had any surprises so far this season, pleasant or otherwise, but I guess you just answered that.
Napoli, yeah. The way Napoli's been bashing that Monster left and right. Obviously the return to form of Buchholz and Lester has been great and everything; kind of hoped it would happen, 'cause they are, everyone knows they're good pitchers, but I think Napoli's been the most pleasant surprise.
If you could tell Farrell one thing, what would you say?
Ooh, God, what would I tell him? I know what I would tell Ben Cherington. I'd tell Cherington they need one more bat in the outfield. Johnny Gomes is your regular outfielder, nice fourth guy, fifth guy, but he's not a starter.
But what would I tell Farrell? They've got so many arms in the bullpen; I would say just don't overwork them. Try to spread out the innings as much as you can. And that's the thing about their bullpen; it's mostly power arms. Uehara is a power arm, Bailey's a power arm, Hanrahan is a power arm — Tazawa is a power arm. Just make sure that you spread these guys out enough that they don't wear down by the end of the season.
And hopefully with the starting pitching being better this season, the bullpen won't be as taxed … anything else on your nerves? It can be Red-Sox-related, it can be baseball-related…
Um, Colorado. Stop, already. Really.
No, stop being good this year! And Arizona, oh my God — where did that come from?
Well, Colorado when they get to play. I think they're just so excited it's not snowing, they're killing it.
And all of a sudden their pitchers have learned how to deal with Mile-High Park, or…what's their park?
Coors Field, thank you.
Speaking of launching pads.
Seeing them in first place with Arizona nipping at their heels is just surprising the hell out of me. I mean, good for them and everything, but…they found a pitching coach who actually knows how to work their pitchers well in that field, and not give up home runs left and right.
It'll be interesting to see where they are at the All-Star break; I was a little surprised they managed to sweep the Mets, because the Mets were not looking that bad. Now they're looking that bad. Now water's finding its level.
I think the other thing that's bothering me: it's too early for interleague. I didn't want to see Houston. Really? The Astros traveling to Boston? It's still late April.
…That's not interleague anymore.
Oh, shit. Oh, Jesus. But I mean, there was still interleague going on, as early as last week or even two weeks ago. And let's schedule more one-o'clock games and two-o'clock games; I mean, snowouts, in Minnesota and Chicago and everywhere else?
The Mets had a string of them. Keith Law was talking to the head scheduler of these games and was like, "Why don't you put more of these games in Florida, to start the season," and there's always some reason — usually football-related — that they can't do that. I don't mind more interleague, because it means that they're not making that big a deal of it anymore. Like, the fact that the leagues really aren't separate anymore makes me sad, but you can't unring a bell.
And I think everyone pretty much agrees that National League will be going to the designated hitter at some point in the near future, so that pretty much just eliminates the lines altogether.
… But I would say the biggest irritant has been the snowouts. I mean, okay, Minnesota: you have a football team, a sport that's supposed to be played in all elements. They have a dome, but the Twins do not have a retractable dome at their stadium. Makes zero sense. Don't understand that.
BSD is a Sox fan for, by, and about North Jersey. And no, he could not just stop talking.
Tags: Adrian Gonzalez Alex Rodriguez Alfredo Aceves Allen Webster Andrew Bailey Ben Cherington Bobby Valentine Boston Red Sox BSD Bud Selig Carl Crawford Clay Buchholz David Ortiz Derek Jeter Don Mattingly Dustin Pedroia fantasy-league agita Felix Doubront Hanley Ramirez Jackie Bradley Jr. Jason Bay Joel Hanrahan John Farrell John Lackey Johnny Gomes Jon Lester Jose Reyes Josh "Andy" Beckett Junichi Tazawa Keith Law Kevin Millar Kevin Youkilis Kirk Nieuwenhuis Koji Uehara Leo Durocher Madonna Mike Napoli Roger Clemens Ryan Dempster shut up Dan Shaughnessy Terry Francona