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Home » Monthly Archive » November 2006

November 30, 2006

Hither and Yon

Allan Wood’s The Joy of Sox is up for the 2006 Canadian Blog Awards. Please take a moment to support the Red Sox and baseball in that benighted country where they are so enamored of hockey and vote for him in category 13. Without Allan, there would be no EE. But please don’t hold that against him and vote anyway.

Have you checked out Baseball Reference Play Index yet? Sean Forman of BR has teamed with Retrosheet to create a tool for rooting out the obscure. So when Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy speak of an impending threat to the second baseman’s Red Sox record of six hits in a game, you can check and see that Remy does indeed hold this record along with Nomar Garciaparra and Pete Runnels.

Japanese Pitcher Signed

Not the one you think. Not just yet. The bullpen does need help, however, and the front office made a step towards fixing it.

Today the Red Sox signed left-handed pitcher Hideki Okajima to a $2.5M two-year deal with a $1.75M option for a third year. The soon-to-be 31-year old (his birthday is on December 25) comes from the Nippon Ham Fighters where he most recently pitched 54 and two-thirds innings with a 2.14 ERA. He was drafted in the third round by the Yomiuri Giants in 1994.

As I did with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s name, below are the kanji for Okajima’s name. Underneath each kanji are the hiragana, called furigana or yomigana, which sometimes accompanies lesser-known kanji so that readers know how to pronounce a word. In brackets are the romanization of the characters and finally there is the English translation. Following the tradition of his country, his family name precedes his given name. Although Hideki Matsui’s given name seems similar, the last syllable of Matsui’s is written , which means rejoice or take pleasure in.

おか [o ka]
mount, hill, knoll

じま [ji ma]

ひで [hi de]
excel, excellence, beauty, surpass

き [ki]
timber, trees, wood

November 20, 2006

Auld Lang Syne

Gone, Baby, Gone
When rumors of his signing were first leaked, there was confusion as to which “Alex Gonzalez” was in negotiations with the Red Sox. It turned out it wasn’t the Alex S. Gonzalez drafted by the Blue Jays in 1991 but rather it was the undrafted All-Star from the Florida Marlins.

Gonzalez’s defensive play was a revelation to Boston fans. If we weren’t familiar with him before the season, Hub fans certainly were made aware of him during it. Never had we seen someone so at ease in the hole. He committed just seven errors during 2006 and yet has not garnered his first Gold Glove award. This year the honor went to Derek Jeter for the third year in a row, proving all that glitters is not gold.

The shortstop reportedly signed a three-year, $14M contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Tea for the Mueller Man
My affection for Bill Mueller is well-documented: I made a sign for him for the last home game of the 2004 season and composed this insufficient paean. He was never the best-paid player at the hot corner, but perhaps that is what made him play harder. The former Cub, Giant, Red Sox, and Dodger third baseman has turned in his spikes for a desk job with his last team.

Farewell, old friend.

November 19, 2006

I Lost a Bet

... and my dignity for a day. I had bet a Yankee fan that the Red Sox would win the season series in 2006. Said fan giggled uncontrollably as he took this picture. Note that the baseball ornament on the belt buckle spins. Had I not been traveling on Halloween, I could have worn this as my costume. To more accurately simulate a female Yankee fan, I would have teased my hair up, wore copious amounts of cosmetics, and cracked my gum loudly.

He was so overcome with glee he forgot to take a picture of the back of the t-shirt. It had 26 World Series trophies compared to six for the Red Sox with a caption that said something to the effect that it would take three centuries for Boston to catch up.

Since 2001, we’re 1-0 while the Yankees are 0-2.


November 15, 2006

Confessions of a Fangirl

I took the ESPN poll on Daisuke Matsuzaka just now. Here are the results as of 7:35 AM with 40,875 respondents. My fangirl-tainted responses are in bolded text. Note that I’m not completely alone; Clay Davenport and Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus are believers and Jim Callis of Baseball America has stated that Matsuzaka would be his choice for the number one prospect in all of baseball.

1) Is it worth $51.1 million just to negotiate with Matsuzaka?

72.1% No
27.9% Yes

2) Will Matsuzaka sign with the Red Sox?

83.3% Yes
16.7% No

3) If you were Theo Epstein, how much would you offer Matsuzaka per year?

33.9% $10 million-$11 million
28.7% $12 million-$13 million
22.9% Less than $10 million
9.2% $14 million-$15 million
5.3% More than $15 million

4) Matsuzaka has a career 2.95 ERA in eight years with the Seibu Lions. How will he fare against MLB hitters?

50.5% Worse than his career average
43.0% About equivalent to his career average
6.5% Better than his career average

5) Should the Red Sox try to trade Matsuzaka to fill their pressing needs at shortstop, right field, second base, and in the bullpen?

74.8% No
25.2% Yes

6) Will Matsuzaka have trouble adjusting to cultural differences between Japan and the U.S.?

56.8% Yes, but it won't affect his pitching
24.4% No
18.8% Yes, and it will affect his pitching

7) If the Red Sox are able to sign Matsuzaka, how will they fare in 2007?

36.8% AL wild-card winner
22.0% Reach World Series
18.6% Miss playoffs
15.7% AL East champion
6.9% AL champion

8) Who will be Boston's best starting pitcher in 2007?

30.2% Jonathan Papelbon
25.6% Curt Schilling
22.9% Daisuke Matsuzaka
21.3% Josh Beckett

9) Asian players such as Ichiro Suzuki, Tadahito Iguchi, and Chien-Ming Wang have made a huge impact on major league rosters. Is Asia the next untapped resource of All-Star talent?

79.6% Yes
20.4% No

Total Votes: 40,875

November 14, 2006

Keep You Posted

At 8 PM tonight it became official: the Boston Red Sox did indeed post the highest bid for the exclusive negotiation rights with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Buster Olney had reported the bid was between $38M and $45M. In actuality the winning bid was $51.11M.

This high bid amount most definitely indicates that Boston will not sign-and-trade the 26-year old pitcher. Also, the team probably wants to lock up Matsuzaka for longer than the three years Scott Boras was telegraphing.

I’ve changed the Countdown here to the deadline for Matsuzaka and the Red Sox to reach a deal. I’m trying to temper my excitement over this development until ink or a stamp from Matsuzaka’s hanko is on the contract, but I haven’t felt like this since Pedro Martinez was traded to Boston.

Seibu, Say Me

Global Awareness
An abundance of confirming reports as well as a link on Major League Baseball’s official site all point to the miraculous: Buster Olney actually broke a major story.

A simultaneous announcement at 8 PM EST tonight by the commissioners’ offices of both the NPB and the MLB will likely confirm that the bidding for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka was won by the Boston Red Sox.

And there is much rejoicing.

Will Nancy Drew be a Hardy Boy?
The Red Sox are in pursuit of former Dodgers outfielder J.D. Drew. He’s not hard to find; just visit your local hospital ward or nab him after he runs through his third base coach’s stop sign. He’ll be the one blocked from all those other phantom teams’ offers by Scott Boras.

That’s All, Foulkes!
Days after the Red Sox declined their team option, closer Keith Foulke declined his option and became a free agent on November 10.

He was wooed to Boston with a phone call from Bobby Orr. The hockey immortal told Foulke that if a player won a title in this town, he would be forever idolized.

And despite the futility of the past two seasons, there is no way this pitcher, whom some believed should have been World Series MVP, will ever be forgotten in the Hub.

Swing and a ground ball stabbed by Foulke. He has it -- he underhands to first. And the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions! For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball’s World Championship! Can you believe it?

November 12, 2006

What’s in a Name?

Don’t be intimidated by Daisuke Matsuzaka’s name. It’s quite simple when you break it down into its constituent parts. Each character is linked to an animation of its stroke order. Writing these characters in this sequence is important to properly written Japanese.

まつ [ma tsu]
This kanji (Chinese ideogram used in the Japanese language) means pine tree, a symbol of longevity. Hideki Matsui’s family name also includes this kanji.

ざか [za ka]
This character, pronounced “saka” or “zaka” depending on which character precedes it, means hill.

だい [da i]
Many masculine names include this character for great or large.

すけ [su ke]
From the verb たすける [tasukeru], which means to help, to save, to rescue, to give relief to, to spare (life), to reinforce, to promote, or to abet. Hopefully he will be doing all of these things for the Red Sox, except the fifth. It would be fine if he were merciless against the boys in pinstripes.

Nicked Up

How many times was Nick Carfardo wrong in this article on Daisuke Matsuzaka?

There’s some confusion on whether the Sox could trade Matsuzaka’s rights, but there is precedent. In 1997, the Padres purchased the contract of Hideki Irabu from the Chiba Lotte Marines, but the pitcher refused to sign and said he would only play for the Yankees.

The posting system for the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka was created because of Hideo Nomo’s 1995 “retirement” from Nippon Professional Baseball and subsequent signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers as well as Irabu’s departure from NPB. Irabu’s situation was completely different from Matsuzaka’s because that deal came before the posting system was inaugurated.

Prior to this system, NPB clubs would not receive compensation for players leaving to play in MLB. Any team signing Matsuzaka will not assume the same terms of his agreement with the Seibu Lions, which is presumably what happened when the Padres bought Irabu’s contract. Furthermore, the negotiation rights are not assignable, as paragraph 11 of the Player Contract Agreement between NPB and MLB states (downloaded from the website of the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association), although a sign and trade is possible but unlikely. If John W. Henry paid $38 to 45M, why would he forgo the advertising revenue from Japanese companies that would defray the cost of the bid?

The Sox would have to work overtime to help Matsuzaka assimilate into the new culture. Korean submariner Byung Hyun Kim never felt comfortable in Boston, nor did Korean first baseman Hee-Seop Choi, who played in Pawtucket before being given his release.

Why do the media always harp on how much more difficult for it would be for East Asians to assimilate in the clubhouse? Is it because we’re so utterly inscrutable?

There is also the typical conflation of Japanese and Korean people, who, if you hadn’t heard, don’t appreciate being confused for one another as the former invaded the latter. Also, it would be awfully hard for Choi to have felt uncomfortable in the Hub, as he did not have a plate appearance as a Red Sox player.

Cafardo was correct in his summary of Nomo’s achievements during his time with Boston, however. In my opinion, he is also right that acquiring Matsuzaka would be a coup for Boston.

Michael Pugh has not yet updated the banner to his excellent site, Matsuzaka Watch. He is no doubt awaiting official confirmation on November 14. As we all are.

November 10, 2006

Matsuzaka to Boston?

So reports the not-so-reliable Buster Olney on ESPN.

But Olney is reporting that the Red Sox may have posted the top bid with a figure between $38 million and $45 million, according to Major League Baseball officials who are monitoring the bidding.

Let’s see if the Red Sox actually do nab Daisuke Matsuzaka, the MVP of the first World Baseball Classic.

What is Coinage Before Decimalisation, Alex?

Surprise Me, Trebek!
Curt Schilling is a deeply religious man but his faith does not preclude him from understanding that stem cell research is perhaps the only way to defeat maladies like Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease that afflicted his mother. Schilling did stump for George Bush in 2004 following the Red Sox’s victory, but did try to convince the president to support funding for this unnecessarily controversial science.

Faith wasn’t enough to lead Schilling to victory over his Celebrity Jeopardy! challengers, however. In the episode broadcast on November 9, Schilling lost to Doug Savant and Jane Kaczmarek. He did raise $25,000 for Curt’s Pitch for ALS and the Shade Foundation.

Sports Science Sometimes an Oxymoron
On October 27 the Cardinals broke the string of senior circuit failures in the Fall Classic. Red Sox draftee and All-Star shortstop David Eckstein garnered the World Series MVP honor and former Red Sox pitcher via deadline deal Jeff Suppan managed not to embarrass himself.

Both Eckstein and Suppan were both opponents of Missouri’s Amendment 2, which they claimed would enable human cloning. The initiative did allow for somatic cell nuclear transfer, an essential part of stem cell production where a DNA from a non-germline cell (that is, neither sperm nor egg cells) is removed and inserted into an egg cell to produce a blastocyst, which the anti-science and anti-choice cliques believe is human life. The cells from these blastocysts ensure that the resultant stem cells are a genetic match with the donor organism. Researchers hope that by isolating and reproducing the somatic cells (another term for all cells other than sperm and egg) of people with specific diseases the nature of their illnesses could be better understood.

Despite the efforts of athletes like Eckstein and Suppan, Amendment 2 passed. If the Cardinals cloned their World Series titles, they would still trail the Yankees by six.

Return Engagements
The Red Sox picked up Tim Wakefield’s option on October 31, a far more welcome event than what happened last year on Halloween.

Utility infielder Alex Cora re-signed with Boston for two years. The monetary terms have not been disclosed, but his previous contract was for two years and $2.7 million. Another two years of listening to Jerry Remy obsess over Cora won’t be so bad.

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