Saturday, October 01, 2005

Taking my mind off of Game 160

Sorry you need to be a ESPN Insider subscriber to get the full benefit of this over long rant – I have quoted where possible, but I think the “fair use” rules prevent me from quoting too much more!

Bill Simmons is a bit of a legend in Red Sox nation, and his ability to capture, and verbalize, what Red Sox fans are thinking is excellent – that mixed with his generational ability to cross reference to ‘zeitgeist’ pop culture icons from the late 1970’s and 1980’s that (youngish) middle aged guys who think they are still young (i.e. me…) means he gets a lot of airtime for his work..

But despite being the author of the ‘5 Year Grace Period Rule’* his work this season has displayed a lot of the tensions that have afflicted this Sox fan throughout the year – the knowledge that so much was achieved last year and the sense that a great opportunity has been missed this year.

In this piece today, he draws out that missed opportunity through the eyes of Bill Belichick – legendary head coach of the Patriots… and I am going to take issue! I understand what he is trying to do but…

Taking the points in my preferred order (if Bill wants to do the same back, he should feel free to mix up my points to the most damning effect possible ;-))

8. “I hate saying this, but Manny would be long gone.” … “baseball is a much different sport than football; you can win with a loose cannon like Manny”

I agree with Bill here, baseball is a much different sport, with very different challenges, so why try to suggest that Bill would manage his team as if it were a football team?

2. “Belichick would have understood Pedro's significance on and off the field”… “he would have signed him to a fair extension last year”

So Manny would be long gone, but Pedro’s prima-donna act would have been tolerated and rewarded with a fair contract… and Pedro’s contract demands were “fair”

3. “Belichick wouldn't have wasted the team's time, money or energy on an iffy reclamation project like Wade Miller”

Then again, if Belichick had to play 162 games, and could only start Tom Brady every fifth day, you don’t think he would have taken a chance on an iffy #2 type QB for the #5 slot – that sounds exactly like the type of measured chance that Belichick would have taken, only he would have had a strong #6 option available as well. Plus if only Miller had paid off…

7. “the Yanks ended up getting lucky with Small and Chacon? Well, I'm guessing the baseball version of Belichick would have gotten lucky with someone”

Bill gives Theo credit for Olerud and Graffanino but criticizes him for not getting lucky with the pitching staff – so now we are criticizing people for getting lucky in the wrong areas? Tough read. If Theo had traded away Papelbon or Sanchez or Ramirez or Lester for bullpen help there would have been a bullet stating that Belichick would never have traded away prime prospects for quick fix solutions… cake… eat it.

5. “Belichick would have done the David Wells signing but avoided Matt Clement”

Because? Presumably Belichick would have known that Clement would fade in the second half? Or that he would have known that Clement would have gotten hit in the head with a line drive. If anything I think Belichick would have gone the other way – taking the younger, more serious option over the loud mouth, out of shape (good luck for tonight by the way David – I still think the Wells signing was a good pick and am reasonably happy with how it has worked out!), ex-Colts QB, who might have serious issues with the regimented team role that Belichick envisaged.

1. “Belichick never would have gone near Renteria. Ever. Not in a million years.”

Again, because, he would have known that Renteria would have under performed even the most conservative metric assumptions? And nice jibe on the age issue at the end, completely unsubstantiated, but hey, let’s call a player a fraud and hope he doesn’t take it personally!

4. “Belichick would have brought Roberts back.” “I would wager my life on this.”

Bill makes this point in his book as well and he just couldn’t be more wrong – his premise is that Belichick would have over-valued 15 seconds of play by Roberts and stuck with him (while nicely ignoring the fact that Roberts has missed a lot of playing time this year because of his inability to stay healthy). This is exactly the kind of move that Belichick wouldn’t have made as supported by…

6. “Belichick never would have stuck with Bellhorn, Millar, Foulke and Embree for that long out of "loyalty" -- they weren't doing the job”

You are absolutely right Bill, and for the same reason he would have traded Roberts for value in exactly the same way that Theo did – the Sox are not a strong base running team – one key steal in a certain game last year didn’t change the organizational philosophy, and having one player on the team with good base stealing skills would not make us a base stealing team.

Finally, in the biggest piece of revisionism in the article Bill states that

“Belichick has a plan. He sticks to it. He knows what he's doing. He doesn't waste money, doesn't waste time, doesn't waste chances to win a title, doesn't let anyone get in the way.”

The thing that gives so many Sox fans hope is that Theo has a plan, that he has stuck to it, and in his three years has delivered in an unprecedented way – play-off contenders… check… World Series contenders… check… $100 million player development machine… check (well it seems that way – last September Sox call up that made an impact…?)

“the future seems even more nebulous because they have to overhaul more than half the roster, only they have nearly $100 million in potential commitments to 10 players next season … ... and Damon isn't even signed yet”

That is one way of looking at it, or you can look at the prospects that are beginning to arrive and be glad that our roster has the flexibility to accommodate them, and that we still have the payroll potential to bring in a few more faces this year that will make them continue to meet Theo’s plan. Sorry Bill, you need to revisit that 5 Year Grace Period Rule and rethink that piece in its entirety.

* If your team wins a championship you are not allowed to complain about any aspect of that team’s performance for five years.

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