Most places experience four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Each season is distinctly associated with different weather patterns and different activities. When people ask me what my favorite season is, I say, “Baseball season.” I think that I need to be more specific, though. A lot of people think that there is just baseball season and the off season, but like the weather, baseball has four seasons as well: the preseason, the regular season, the postseason, and the hot stove season. Just because there is no baseball, that does not mean that there is an “off” season.
If you asked me which of the baseball seasons were my favorite, I would have a hard time responding. If you asked me my least favorite, though, I would not have to think twice about answering, “The hot stove season.” For a baseball fan, there is nothing worse than having your favorite player be a free agent. You hope that deep down, money and years are subordinate to the loyalty he has for his team. But in the end, we all have to face the harsh reality that for players, love for a team is quantified.
The off season can be even harder if, like me, you are a huge fan of minor league baseball. The top rated prospects are always the ones who are most vulnerable to blockbuster trades. This brings me to, you guessed it, Adrian Gonzalez.
As I write this, it has essentially been made official that the Red Sox and the Padres have completed a blockbuster trade. The Red Sox have been interested in Adrian Gonzalez for over a year now, and Theo Epstein has finally made it happen. The Red Sox lose perhaps the three best prospects in the organization in Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes.
I wonder how it is to hear your name in trade talks as these three so often did. In this case, though, I think this trade is a compliment to their abilities. The Red Sox are not trading to get rid of them. Adrian Gonzalez is one of the most talented players in baseball, and the San Diego Padres see enough talent in these three prospects to trade away their face of the franchise. That is a huge compliment.
This trade has some personal repercussions for me. Anyone who has read this blog once or twice knows how much faith and respect I had for these guys. I expected to see Casey Kelly in the Red Sox’s starting rotation in 2013. I expected Anthony Rizzo to be the Red Sox’s starting first baseman in either 2012 or 2013. I expected Reymond Fuentes to be the Red Sox’s starting center fielder in 2014.
It’s not just that I closely followed their minor league development. I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing each of them. I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to get to know them a bit. Obviously, all three of them are fantastic players, but when it comes down to it, they’re good guys too.
I remember the first time I talked to Casey Kelly. He, Kris Johnson, Kyle Weiland, and Ryan Kalish were sitting at a table signing at an event in Fort Myers. I gave them all my card, and we had an interesting conversation about the spelling of analysis. I saw Kelly about 20 minutes later, and I talked to him a bit more about the spelling of analysis, and also about his transition from shortstop to pitcher. When I saw him in Portland, he was happy to re-establish the fact that I, apparently, am a poor speller.
I met Anthony Rizzo on the last day of Spring Training. I told him and his mother, Lori, that he was one of my projects. When I saw him in Portland over the summer, I talked to him a lot, and I even had the chance to formally interview him, the transcript of which you can read here.
I formally interviewed Reymond Fuentes at the Fall Instructional League in Fort Myers. You can read the transcript of that here.. (It’s actually more of a summary of what I remembered, because I accidentally deleted it). I don’t have a picture with him, but I am thankful that I had the chance to talk to him before he was traded.
Although I’m truly going to miss these guys, this was a fantastic trade. I think both sides will benefit equally. Gonzalez’s impact will obviously be more immediate, but like I said, I fully expect Kelly, Rizzo, and Fuentes to be starting in the near future after they finish their development. The Red Sox are currently working out a long term deal with Gonzalez because he is in the last year of his contract. Every baseball team learned from the Atlanta Braves’ mistake a couple of years ago when they traded top prospects (Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, to name a few) to the Texas Rangers for Mark Teixeira, and failed to sign him long term.
Adrian Gonzalez will obviously play first base, and Kevin Youkilis will move to third: a position that he is very comfortable at considering he was developed as a third baseman. Adrian Beltre will not be in a Red Sox uniform next season. He is a fantastic player, and his bat will have a huge impact on whichever team he signs with.
I want to briefly analyze the other moves that the Red Sox have made this season, and then address the remaining needs.
1. They signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek to one year
deals. Varitek is always a good guy to have around considering he knows
how to handle the pitching staff, and he can help Saltalamacchia learn.
Saltalamacchia was formerly a huge catching prospect in the Rangers
organization, but he never really panned out as expected. He even
struggled with getting the ball back to the pitcher. However, I would not be surprised if he turned out to be a valuable asset. At the same time, though, neither his or Varitek’s bat will fill Victor Martinez’s (who signed a four year contract worth $50 million with the Tigers) hole. The Red Sox obviously value Salty and Varitek for their defense, not their bats. The rest of the Red Sox lineup will compensate.
2. They traded Dustin Richardson for former first round pick (sixth overall), Andrew Miller, whom they have just non-tendered. They also non-tendered Hideki Okajima. As many of you know–or even just judging from my picture–this trade also had personal repercussions for me. Richardson was perhaps my favorite pitcher in the minor league system. He did not have a full year to develop in Triple-A, which explains why he struggled a bit with walks at the major league level. As a left handed pitcher, I think he could have been a valuable asset to the Red Sox’s bullpen, but I have no doubt that he will do well in Florida. I look forward to following his career down here.
I remember the first time I talked to Richardson. It was at a spring training workout, and I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed watching him last September, and that I thought really highly of him. It surprised me that he remembered me nearly a month later, and that he had taken the time to read my site. When I talked to him more extensively, what really impressed me about him was that he was really honest with himself. Instead of saying, “Yeah, I should be in Boston,” he wanted to work stuff out in Pawtucket. I was even more surprised that he recognized me immediately in San Francisco, and I was so glad that I had the chance to congratulate him on his first major league strikeout. He gave me two baseballs.
What confused me, though, is that the Red Sox non-tendered Andrew Miller. If the Red Sox were not planning on keeping him, then they essentially gave up Richardson for free. It was suggested to me on Twitter, by @justjohnsonya, that perhaps the Red Sox were clearing a roster spot for the Rule 5 Draft, and hoping to sign Miller after that.
The Red Sox have proven arms in Scott Atchison, Daniel Bard, Tim Wakefiled, and Jonathan Papelbon, and I expect to see great things from Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden. However, the bullpen is another asset that the Red Sox need to improve upon.
The rest of the Red Sox’s Hot Stove moves have been relatively anticlimactic, picking up a guy off waivers here and there. There are two big names on the market that the Red Sox will pursue: Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. The Red Sox already have a right-fielder in Drew (who is in the last year of his contract), and a left fielder in Ellsbury, but Ellsbury can easily move to center field. I could see the Red Sox signing Crawford, moving Ellsbury to center, keeping Drew in right, and having Mike Cameron as the fourth outfielder (he is still under contract). If this happens, I would think that the Red Sox would want to develop Kalish as a right fielder, because I fully expect him to be in the starting lineup in 2012. Between Crawford and Werth, Crawford is the most logical move.
The mouse lingered over the “submit” button; my thumb hovered over the mouse, waiting to click it. I had spent the last two months filling out tedious applications and agonizing over essays. I had spent this entire year looking at my statistics and comparing them with others. I SAT’d once and ACT’d three times. I was ready. Tim Lincecum was ready too. He walked out of the Giants dugout ready to throw the first pitch of the 2010 World Series. I was nervous. He was probably nervous. Tim Lincecum went into his windup. Submit. Strike.
And now we wait.
Applications may have prevented me from blogging, but they certainly did not prevent me from watching at least part of every single postseason game. I wrote nearly all of my essays on my passion for baseball, so to stop watching baseball would have been counter-intuitive.
Despite the Red Sox falling short, I still had a lot of fun watching baseball during the regular season. Little did I know that the postseason was going to be even better. Considering that the Red Sox were not in the playoffs, I decided to temporarily adopt both an American League team and a National League team. Little did I know that the teams I picked would end up facing each other in the World Series.
I want to start at the beginning, though. The first day of the playoffs happened to coincide with the first day of my whirlwind college tour. I was in the air when Roy Halladay threw his no-hitter. I remember I actually got on the plane around the fourth inning, and a small part of me hoped that he would wait until his next start to throw one so that I could actually watch. I’m a very selfish baseball fan. A much bigger part of me was happy when I checked the score during my layover flight in Charlotte, NC: Roy Halladay had thrown a no-hitter in his postseason debut.
Nobody could have written it better. Halladay was not fazed by the pressures that come with the postseason, nor was he fazed by the daunting Cincinnati Reds lineup, considered by many to be the best in baseball. Halladay threw the first no-hitter in baseball since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series in 1956. It amazes me that there was that long of a drought between postseason no-hitters, but it makes the feat all the more remarkable.
I would certainly watch the games in the hotel room at night, after the tours. And let me tell you, nothing complements a good baseball game like an authentic Chicago pizza. However, I think I actually had more fun watching the games while lingering outside a bar in various airports. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: baseball’s most unique quality is its ability to unite.
This may have been a completely empty threat, but I would not have watched the World Series had it been a Phillies vs Yankees matchup again. So you can imagine how happy I was when both Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard struck out looking to send the Rangers and the Giants to face each other in the World Series.
That matchup caused me some agony because I had had fun rooting for my adopted teams. I just didn’t plan far enough ahead to decide whom I would be rooting for in the World Series. I had adopted the claws and antlers: I clawed with every extra base hit, and I would do antlers with every bag the Rangers swiped. While rooting for the Giants, I did my best to come up with creative hashtags or at least make them trend on Twitter. When they faced each other in the World Series, it was very difficult for me to decide who to root for.
Who expected a Rangers vs Giants World Series at the beginning of the season? Although helped by the long ball, these teams did not rely exclusively on it. The Giants won because of their pitching. Tim Lincecum is a once-in-a-lifetime pitcher. Both his postseason debut and his performance in game five of the World Series will go down as some of the most remarkable pitching performances in baseball’s history. Matt Cain did not allow a run for the entire postseason. Madison Bumgarner is a 22 year old rookie pitching like a postseason veteran. Even though Jonathan Sanchez underperformed, I could not help noticing how perfect his eyebrows are.
What I really liked about the Rangers was their defense. They have perhaps the best, yet previously underrated infield in baseball: Mitch Moreland (1B), Ian Kinsler (2B), Elvis Andrus (SS), and Michael Young (3B). I am fairly certain that Ian Kinsler defied the laws of physics with some of the plays he made. Michael Young has a gun for an arm. Even when a guy like Cliff Lee is pitching, I enjoy watching the defense make plays as much as I enjoy watching 76 mph curveballs fool batters.
W.P. Kinsella said, “Baseball games are like snowflakes and fingerprints. No two are ever alike.” I think the prime examples of this came in games one and two. Many expected game one to be the pitcher’s duel of the century because of the matchup: Cliff Lee vs Tim Lincecum. However, it ended up being more about the offense. The next game between Matt Cain and CJ Wilson provided the pitcher’s duel that everyone was waiting for. This is what made this World Series so great. It was so different from World Series’ of the past. I think that the fact that the World Series was between the Rangers and the Giants indicates that baseball is shifting from its focus on offense to a focus on pitching and defense. I am hoping for the era of the pitcher. As the San Francisco Giants announcers might say, these games were “torture.” But who knew torture could be so fun?