We are doing our best to shake the bye week blues here at the mailbag.
The bye week is rough, of course, because it’s really two weeks. Fourteen days between games. And it’s been nearly a month since the Patriots have played in a game that felt like it meant something. That’ll change on Sunday when the Dolphins roll into Gillette, a game that I suspect will be the main focus of the mailbag next week.
But this week’s edition has something for everyone. We break down the for the Red Sox, bring back the old “Did Manny quit in 2006?” debate (with special guest star Alex Speier), ponder the Hall of Fame chances of Jorge Posada, drive cross-country with Dick Enberg, learn the lessons of life from Serena Williams, blast Rajon Rondo and test the “60-and-under” rule.
To the 'bag we go (and, as always, feel free to e-mail away to email@example.com)
Trot [Nixon] was a great overall player with average hitting and good defense, but J.D. [Drew] should be on there. If you're going to pencil in a fresh lineup, nobody is hurt, etc., you have to put J.D. in before Trot just for the offensive numbers he can produce over him.
A: Lot of similarities between the two guys, Jim. High OBP, pretty good power, have had trouble staying on the field. It’s true that Drew’s numbers with the Sox (.276 batting average, .390 OBP, .485 slugging) are better than Nixon’s (.278/.366/.478). I just don’t think the edge is substantial enough to make up for the 457 extra games played by Nixon. If Drew had played five or six seasons for the Sox and put up the same numbers he’d be on there. But I just don’t think three years is enough.
Good column. About the all-decade team, I’d put J.D. Drew in there over Trot Nixon. And I agree with you about Bill Mueller. I think people have already forgotten about him, which is too bad because I don’t think they win in 2004 without him.
A: Where has this J.D. Drew cult been the last three years? Maybe Alex Speier’s TREEmendous piece from a few weeks back about the value of Drew opened some eyes (no kidding — I think that column was the best work done by anyone in the 15-month history of WEEI.com. Well, that and my fantasy opus ranking the tight ends in 2008, perhaps better known by its title: “Shockey Amadeus.”) I guess Theo’s “J.D. Drew is Better Than You Think” tour didn’t hurt, either. But again, I’ll take 90 percent of Drew’s value in 457 more games. That’s Nixon.
You don’t have to sell me on Mueller. I think he was an easy pick over Mike Lowell at third on the all-decade team. Maybe I’d think differently if Lowell had an extra 457 games, but one extra season doesn’t make up for the 28-point edge in OBP and 24-point lead in slugging for Mueller.
Let me be the first to offer a puzzled e-mail ... Manny in '06 as the No. 2 season by a Sox this decade? That’s a tough one given that he quit on the team and was labeled by guys in the Sox clubhouse as “the biggest disappointment” of the season.
It’s funny — a couple weeks before he quit in that Yankees series, I was saying that he was having the better season than [David] Ortiz and was having perhaps the best year of his Sox career (considering that he was playing every day until he quit). But by the end, not a chance.
Also worth mentioning: Since you are into fangraphs (I think), his $14.4 million value that year (for a team that finished out of the playoffs) was the second-lowest of his Sox career. It’s one thing to cite the '02 season as the best by a Sox hitter of the decade, since a broken finger is a legitimate injury ... The '06 season is a tough one to view as exceptional, at least to my mind.
A: Yup, this would be the same Alex Speier that I lavished praise on a couple of hundred words ago. And now he smacks me around a little. I just might have to move that Drew piece below the tight end masterwork.
You think Manny quit on the Sox in 2006? So do I. So, it seems, do a number of his teammates. But we don’t know that he did. Here’s what I do know for sure about Manny in 2006:
He led the American League in OBP (.439).
He walked a career-high 100 times in just 130 games.
His OPS for the season (1.058) was higher than David Ortiz’ (1.049).
I’m sure he was “a disappoinment” to a lot of the players, but I think I’d take the 130 games from Manny in 2006 over the 114 from Trot Nixon (.394 slugging percentage), who I’m sure no one ripped in the clubhouse. Or even the 153 games from Mike Lowell, who had a nice season with 20 homers and 80 RBI, or 15 fewer homers and 22 fewer RBI than Manny in 124 more at-bats. And while there is no doubt that the Captain buried Manny in both grit and intangibles (and sprinting to the dugout after being overmatched by anyone who could throw a fastball more than 92 mph) I’m still not sure that makes up for a 219-point difference in slugging percentage.
Guess what? Manny was better than the MVP winner in 2006.
Justin Morneau: .321 batting average, .375 OBP, .559 slugging
The OBP and slugging are huge edges. Enough to make up for 27 games? Not sure, but I can’t see how Morneau can win the MVP that season and Manny finishes 18th. Oh, wait, I forgot that dopey writers are obsessed with RBI and Morneau finished second in the league with 130. If you wiped RBI and wins away from the stat books, most MVP and Cy Young voters would be as lost as Dick Enberg and Junior Soprano in Day 4 of a cross-country drive.
If my memory serves me well, how in the hell did [Julio] Lugo bat .385 in the '07 World Series? All I remember from that postseason was cringing every time the bottom of the order came up and we had to sit through the lethal combo of Coco [Crisp] and Lugo striking out and/or grounding out. Did he only have 3-4 at-bats? I thought that Tito started benching him in the WS.
A: Nope, Lugo played in all four games of the 2007 series, Stefano. He was 5-for-13. Hard to believe, right?
(But I guess “Anything Can Happen” in October. What kind of odds would you have given me two years ago that Chan Ho Park would, A) pitch in big spots in the World Series and, B) would do so while looking remarkably like James Brolin’s “PW Herman” from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”? Instantly a top three all-time sports beard, joining Bruce Sutter’s Amish job from 1983 and Billie Jean King’s ex-husband's.)
First off let me say that this was a great, great article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. However, I would say that you can't leave Keith Foulke off of the Red Sox all-decade team. Simply put, the Red Sox DO NOT get past the Yankees without Foulke pitching his ass off and keeping them in the game. Its easy to forget now -- especially with the stupid "Johnny working at Burger King" remark -- that Keith was lights-out in that postseason. Plus, that Game 6 was a lot closer than people remember, because it was 4-2 and Foulke had to come in with the bases loaded and Tony Clark was up to the plate, and I remember thinking he was the perfect guy to add on to "The Curse." Think about it. Middle-of-the-pack-type of player a la [Aaron] Boone or [Bucky] Dent, who had the chance to deliver a crushing blow to the Sox, and Foulke had him at a full count and threw an 89 mph fastball by him. For that '04 season alone, I believe Foulke deserves a spot on your team.
Moving along to Pedro [Martinez], he was just ridonkulous for that seven-year stretch he was with the team. I remember listening to him pitch on the radio or watching on TV and just being shocked --- SHOCKED!!! -- when he would give up even a single run. Speaking of him being ridonkulous, perhaps you could help me out with this. For some reason I am the only one that seems to remember this. Was there a game, against the Orioles during the day, I remember this much, where the O's sent a rookie in to bat against Pedro, and Pedro got two strikes against him. For the next pitch, he threw that so-ridiculous-it-should-be-illegal changeup and it started inside and tailed back in and it actually hit the batter as he swung through it and struck out with the ball hitting him in the chest. I'm not crazy, this actually happened, right? Do you remember it, and who the batter was that he hit? Thanks, and keep up the great work, Kirk!
A: Glad you enjoyed the column, Ernest. Nice to get a little positive feedback, folks. One “great, great article” makes up for about 50 “halfwits.”
That being said, Foulke can’t sniff Jonathan Papelbon when you look at the decade as a whole. Foukle is Jim Rice to Papelbon’s Derek Jeter. Unable to carry de jock.
Foulke: 159 games, 3.79 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.5 hits per nine innings, 7.5 Ks per nine innings, 127 ERA+
Papelbon: 268 games, 1.84 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 6.5 hits per nine innings, 10.4 Ks per nine innings, 254 ERA+
Not even close. And yes, Foulke was great in 2004. Papelbon has been at least as good in all five seasons as a closer. I agree that the Sox may not have won in 2004 without Foulke’s work in the postseason (I’m even on board with Foulke as the World Series MVP — Manny always seemed a random choice to me) but Papelbon was every bit his equal with his 2007 performance (zero runs allowed in the playoffs, three saves in the World Series.)
I don’t remember that particular moment with Pedro and that Orioles hitter, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. You want to know something that did surprise me? How is it possible that Joe Buck or Tim McCarver never mentioned Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS during Pedro’s Game 2 start last week? Yankee Stadium, elevating pitch count, guys ready in the bullpen. And I understand that Charlie Manuel actually pulled an anti-Grady Little and took Pedro out too soon, but was there anyone watching that game who wasn’t thinking about Little, Williamson/Timlin/Embree and that blown lead? Come on, Tim and Joe.
Hey, I was listening to Mike Francesa on New York's WFAN the other day (Uh, The Big Show had a commercial break. Really. I swear it) and he took about an hour worth of calls (it was a long commercial break) from New York fans that were all over Tim McCarver for HATING THE YANKEES. Surreal. I felt like calling in and mentioning that in one 15-minute stretch during the 2000 playoffs Tim compared Joe Torre to Winston Churchill and asked Derek Jeter to the Fox semi-formal dance.
Something tells me you think Andre Agassi's revelation about taking crystal meth for more than a year and lying to the ATP about it is completely a non-story. (But come on, can we at least laugh at the irony in the "Image is Everything" motto for a guy wearing a mohawk toupee?) I know he wasn't even ranked within the top 100 players at the time, and he wasn't using a performance-enhancing drug. But still, he did record wins, therefore taking wins away from other players, when he should have been suspended. And the ATP will be left with no credibility if it punished others for similar violations but accepted his pathetic explanation so easily. So, while it might not be a huge story in sports today, don't you think he's damaged tennis by making this revelation, arguably in the effort to sell more books?
A: I could write a novel answering this question and come nowhere near the insight provided by Serena Williams when she was asked about the book.
“I don't even know what crystal meth is, so, you know, that's what my reaction to it is. ... I haven't read anything about Andre Agassi's book. All I know is I have a book coming out. It's called “On The Line.”
Perfect. I know David Gregory was the safe choice, but if NBC had to do it again I bet it would go with its first instinct and give Serena the “Meet the Press” job.
You are correct, Lauren, in guessing that I really can’t get next to this Agassi story. I’m thinking that while the ATP might be left with “no credibility” for letting him skate, there might be bigger problems for tennis. If I asked 100 sports fans to name me five active professional male tennis players, 99 wouldn’t be able to do it. And if I asked the same question to the same 100 fans and spotted them Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick I think you’d have the same exact result. Tennis and boxing are in a thrilling sprint to the finish in the “Which sport has become the most irrelevant” mile.
And I’ve never cared about Agassi. Always seemed like a fraud to me — a figure skater with a forehand.
(And by that I don’t mean that figure skaters aren’t athletes -- they are -- or that Agassi wasn’t mentally tough -- he was – especially in the Second Act of his career.) Just that I think Agassi was just as concerned with the presentation as he was with the actual tennis. And for some reason that always bothered me and placed me firmly in Camp Sampras.)
Jorge Posada a Hall of Famer? No way. To me, you have to be an MVP-type of player to get into Cooperstown. Forget the best catcher in baseball, has Posada ever been one of the two or three best players on his own team?
A: Depends on what you think the Hall of Fame is, Todd. If it’s a place for the immortals and no one else, then Posada is a definite “no.” But that would mean that about 90 percent of the guys in Cooperstown would have to go as well. Billy Williams? Tony Perez? Ray Schalk? Jim Rice? Bobby Wallace?
If you want the Hall of Fame to be a place for the Ruths, Aarons, Gehrigs, Mathewsons and Schmidts of the world, I’m OK with that. Perfectly legitimate argument. You might get a guy inducted every 10 years or so, but that’s fine. But if you are looking at all the players currently in the Hall and claiming that Jorge Posada is “no way” a candidate then I have to disagree. Do I think he’s a lock? Not even close. But he has a case.
Five Silver Sluggers
Five World Series (incuding 2009's)
Five All-Star Games
Two top-six MVP finishes (hurts Todd’s argument a little. He finished third in the MVP voting in 2003. Pretty sure he was one of the two or three best players on his team that season.)
A .379 career OBP, really a terrific number for a career catcher. How good? Look at the totals for some recent HOF catchers:
Carlton Fisk — .341
Gary Carter — .335
Johnny Bench — .342
Even Mike Piazza (a lock for the HOF), who I think is the best hitting catcher in history, can’t match Posada in career OBP (.377). How about Pudge Rodriguez? .336 OBP.
Time to bring back those same 100 sports fans for another question. Name me the greatest catcher in baseball history? Maybe Bench wins, maybe even Piazza, but
Yogi Berra finishes somewhere in the top three or four, right?
Yogi: .285 batting average, .348 OBP, .482 slugging, 125 OPS-plus
Posada: .277/.379/.480/ 124 OPS-plus
Look, I’m not saying that Jorge is Yogi. But the point is that if you put him next to a three-time MVP and it isn’t far from a push (at least offensively) that should mean something.
He’s a borderline candidate was my point all along. When his time comes he should be looked at, not just quickly dismissed because he wasn’t “feared” or didn’t “dominate.” There are not 10 better hitting catchers in baseball history. He’s probably somewhere around sixth or seventh on the list. Is there any other position where the seventh-best hitter in history isn’t in the Hall of Fame? Throw in the five (and it could turn out to be more) World Series wins and I think he’s a got a decent argument.
With the start of the 2009-10 Celtics season I was curious about your opinion on this team's chances for bringing home banner No. 18. Most of the criticism I hear against the Celtics winning it all is the age factor of the Big Three. However, I think it's safe to say that [Paul] Pierce, [Kevin] Garnett and [Ray] Allen each have at least three solid years left before age truly starts to slow them down a notch or two. Provided the Big Three stay healthy, and having Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels as your six and seven guys (two players who would most likely be starters on the majority of NBA teams), I see no reason why the Celtics should not be considered a No. 1 contender for the championship, right up there with the Lakers.
A: Unless you think the Celtics have a shot at 72 wins, the regular season is just six months of holding your breath and hoping Garnett stays healthy. (And I don't think the C's will win 72, for a couple of reasons. First, I don't think that's what KG, Pierce and Allen care about. They aren't going to kill themselves and keep their foot on the pedal for six months. Seventh-three wins would be great, but what does it mean if they lose in the Eastern Conference finals? And second, they just aren't that good. They are good, really good. Sixty-five wins good? I'll go along with that, even though only 15 teams in history have won 65 games. But there's a reason why only one team has won more than 70. It's really, really hard to do (duh.) And P.S., they had one of the three best players of all time just about at his peak. Don't get too focused on 72 wins. This team was 27-2 last season and barely got out of the first round.) That’s it. If Garnett is healthy (assuming the other key guys are as well) you know this team is at worst the co-favorite to win the title. The only other regular-season subplot that bears watching is to see which teammate takes a 2x4 and blindsides Rajon Rondo during practice. Speaking of Rondo …
Good call on the Rondo contract. You said you wouldn’t go over five years/$50 million, but you would have signed him at 5/55, right? He’s the only player we can count on for the future, after the Big Three are gone.
A: It’s a good deal, David. Nice job by Rondo and his agent. He’s not a max guy and they recognized that. And the Celtics did well, also. Locked up a player that could average 16/8/10 for the next five years for a price that won’t kill them.
I’m going to say (or write) a few things about Rondo here. For him to taunt Chris Paul for not having a ring is at best absurd and at worst more than a little troubling. If Chris Paul had been the point guard for the Celtics in 2007 I’m pretty sure he’d have a ring. In fact, unlike Rajon Rondo, I suspect that Paul would have actually been on the floor during the Game 4 comeback against the Lakers (Rondo played a whopping 17 minutes in that game but was so brutal on the offensive end that they went with Eddie House.) I guess Sam Vincent and David Thirdkill can get on Paul as well.
In his career, Rajon Rondo has averaged 9.6 points, 5.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Chris Paul has averaged 19.5 points, 9.9 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. I wonder if Rondo realizes that without Garnett, Pierce and Allen he’d be nothing more than a guy that has showed some promise for a team that wins 25 games a year. Could not be more protected. Chris Paul turned an 18-win team into a 56-win team within three years. Raise your hand if you think a team with Rajon Rondo (I’m talking about the Rondo you see now, not whatever you think he might become) as its best player could ever win 56 games. Of course not. Humor me and at least act humble, Rajon. You think if you were stuck with the players Paul has in New Orleans you’d be signing anything near a $55 million contract?
My point, I guess, is this: Dummy up and be thankful. Because there will be a time, and it will be soon enough, when you don’t have three Hall of Famers on the floor with you. And it sure seems that at least one of those guys (J. Shuttlesworth) has been quick to A) rip him in the papers and B) apologize to opponents that Rondo has insulted. [Editor's note: Ray Allen said the story about him apologizing to Chris Paul was incorrect.] I don’t know, between Doc Rivers and Ray and Danny Ainge there doesn’t appear to be a lot of love for Rondo right now. Yet he gets $55 mil. And let me be clear on this — I love to watch Rondo play. But I can’t shake the feeling that after the Big Three leave Rondo will average seven points and nine assists for a 30-52 team. Probably be the same season Chris Paul wins his first MVP.
This thing with you and older women has entered the weird area. Sela Ward, Mamie Van Doren and Goldie Hawn? I'm all for the MILFs, but you need to slow down a little.
A: Mamie’s a joke, Tom. Nobody over 60 in my rotation. (Wait, is that true? Let me check Wikipedia. Yup. Mary Steenburgen is only 58. The 60-and-under rule still lives, but Mary may challenge it when she turns 61 on 2/8/14. Warrants watching.)
Dave the Jets fan here. I’m smelling a repeat of last year this weekend in Foxboro. The Dolphins will run all over the Pats and won’t give up anything against the run. Then the Pats go to Indy and get smoked. After that? The Jets, coming off a win at home against the pathetic Jags. Both teams will be 5-4 and the game will be for the division.
A: Well, by that theory, Dave, the Dolphins would be right in the middle of the race as well (with a sweep of the Jets and a win over New England.) But I don’t see the Dolphins getting it done this weekend. I’m not buying Chad Henne and I think the Patriots will be able to move the ball in the air (Dolphins are 21st against the pass.)
Pats 28, Dolphins 14.