Friday, August 1, 2008

Welcome To Boston, Mr. Bay!

Yesterday I mentioned that the media spotlight that comes with playing in Boston will be one of the factors that will determine how good or bad the Jason Bay/Manny trade is for the Red Sox. When I say media spotlight, however, I don't just mean the greater number of beat reporters hanging around his locker after a game. In addition to that, there's the talk radio, and the fact that people on the street in Boston are way more likely to say something to a player than people in Pittsburgh, and a whole host of other things that, while no big deal in and of themselves, add up to create a different playing environment for a guy.

Here's an example: As Jason Bay rides in a cab to Fenway this afternoon, he can read the "(More than) 30 things" to know about the newest Sox slugger." Obviously it's not a list of obscure hyper-personal facts -- writer Matt Porter had to put it together pretty quickly -- but ask yourself: wouldn't you be at least the slightest bit weirded out by the knowledge that some guy you've never met stayed up all night to put that together? Wouldn't you get a little distracted reading an article like that about you -- an article much bigger, mind you than anything that ever appeared in Pittsburgh -- before you even donned a Boston uniform?

The thing is, there's going to be something like that every day. I know Bay is a pro and has been around a while, but (and I just learned this in a wicked profile of the guy in da Globe!) he's from Trail, B.C., Canada (population 7,237), and this all has to be different for him. Will it affect his hitting? Will that in turn intensify the scrutiny? Those, to me, are the key questions about this trade.

13 comments:

tadthebad said...

Seems the central question is, will Boston's atmosphere affect Bay's performance. However, the Sox were already going to deal with a similiar question about Manny...will we be hamstrung by a player who isn't trying to win? Boston was screwed either way, so I'm glad they had the stones to part with Manny and plow forward. Plenty to debate with regard to how much the Sox gave up, but if they were really interested in contending this year, Manny had to go. Nothing worse than being handicapped by a player with outrageous talent and skill...so maddening. He couldn't just go out and play hard??? Would that have been SO difficult? This is only a small glimpse into the frustration that was/is Manny Ramirez.

Craig Calcaterra said...

But haven't we seen Manny go through this crap on a yearly basis? He sulks, there's an incident, he gets over it, he mashes. I don't think it was at all inevitable that Manny was on some kind of operation shutdown or that he was going to mail it in the rest of the season, and that's what most people defending the idea of trading him rely upon.

Maybe it was time to deal Manny. Maybe even a temporary stretch of bad attitude was too much to bear having come after so many incidents. I don't think, however, that it was reasonable to expect that he was simply going to go on auto-pilot for the rest of the season, simply because he has never done that before.

tadthebad said...

Craig,

With all due respect, I think you're wrong. 2006, Sox got swept by the Yanks, in Fenway, in middle-to-late August. Manny had a monster series, but shut it down after that series with a mysterious ailment. Reportedly, Ortiz had pleaded with him to continue to play down the stretch, but he did not. He shut it down against Seattle (Felix Hernandez) and NYY (Joba, Rivera a few weeks ago) this year already. The Sox had to threaten to suspend him to get him to play in the recent Yankee series. Plus, his contract status dictated that he had to get out of Boston to secure another lucrative deal; if he stayed and played great, the Sox simply would've picked up one/both of his options, thereby delaying free agency. Given his age, that would have made his next deal worth much less.

As talented a hitter as he is, is he worth it if the rest of the team is questioning his effort? If he selectively applies that talent? Manny shutting it down WAS inevitable, because he's already done it this year. 5.75 seconds from home to first, while your team is being no-hit, is, in my book, shutting it down. Why should the Sox even have to entertain that possibility, especially when that possibility had begun to affect his teammates? The Sox got the best of Manny, they were tired of getting the worst as well.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Tad -- I'll admit that I don't follow the Sox as closely as many do, so I'll defer to your thoughts on the subject.

I just kind of like Jason Bay and I hope that, in the event he doesn't play wonderfully and/or the Sox miss the playoffs, he doesn't bear the brunt of the inevitable recriminations.

William said...

All stats in this post are post-All Star Break.

Manny - .351/.467/.622

Red Sox as a team - .241/.330/.360

I think its pretty clear HE's been the problem lately...

How could it possibly be Manny's fault that the entire team except for Ortiz (.391/.423/.609) and Youk (.277/.358/.489) stopped hitting when this crap really started to flare up in the media.

Oh right, somehow Manny's "unprofessionalism" makes Mike Lowell (.180/.241.200) a worse player.

Manny's contract demands made Jacoby Ellsbury (.186/.205/.209) lose his patience at the plate (0 walks in 43 ABs) and confidence on the basepaths (0 SB attempts).

Manny even affects the pitchers! Poor Clay Buchholz (6.61 ERA, 4 HR, 7 BB in 16.1 IP) and Tim Wakefield (7.30 ERA, 3 HR, 4 Ks in 12.1 IP) can't even get an out anymore!

If the trade was made for baseball reasons, I could live with it. But to dump your best hitter in the middle of a pennant race with a slumping offense has to be the bat-sh*t craziest move I've seen in a while.

matt said...

William, while Bay is certainly a downgrade offensively, I think his improved defense makes the dropoff less significant than some people believe. Toss in the fact that Bay is under contract for next year and I think the BoSox made out fairly well in this deal.

I've never been in a Major League clubhouse; I can't say how overrated or underrated chemistry is (although I expect it's overrated), but when you have a player flaunting his lack of effort it seems like something has to give.

William said...

According to Baseball Prospectus, Fielding Runs Above Replacement (FRAR) for 2007-08:

Ramirez: 20
Bay: -2

Bay was an above average fielder prior to 2007 (72 FRAR over 3 years, which is equal to about 8 wins), but the knee injuries that seemed to kill his offensive production in 2007, still seem to be affecting his fielding (-8 FRAR this year, which is -1 wins).

That Bay is under contract next year is certainly a plus for the Sox, but he's effectively costing them $14.5 million ($7.5m to Bay plus the $7m remaining on Manny's deal they are picking up) for that one season. Remember, the Sox still had an option for Manny in 2009 at $20m.

Add in the valuable contributions of Moss as a 4th/5th OF and Hansen's potential in the pen (He's got great stuff and is still only 24), and that $5.5 mil savings for a downgrade in LF doesn't seem so great anymore. Especially for a team with deep pockets and annual hopes of contention.

tadthebad said...

Craig, I hope Jason Bay succeeds as well. I know I won't hold it against him if he doesn't sniff Manny's numbers...unfortunately, I can't speak for other Red Sox fans.

William, I agree that Manny is a great hitter. I agree that the Sox bats have gone quiet. However, for many of the players, their bats started to go quiet well before the worst of Manny came about. But you ignore the central issue with Manny...what good is it having such a great hitter if said hitter selectively applies his talent, especially in a pennant race? There's no way to quantify chemistry, but given a 3 error inning against the Halos, with numerous "mental mistakes" added, and the attitude demonstrated by the players, to say Manny's bitching did not affect the rest of the team is disingenuous.

I understand your point, and I agree that very often the chemistry issue is overblown. But what good is it having a great hitter if he 1)sits out big games, 2)walks to first on groundballs, 3)leaves his bat on his shoulder during crucial at-bats? How can he be counted on? If we're into projecting performance, and I think that we are, then isn't it inevitable that the Sox would have to project between 6 and 12 games that Manny just wouldn't play? How much value does a .351/.467/.622 hitter have when he's on the bench, or worse, sitting at home? How much value does the player have when he contributes as many runs to the opposition, b/c of his lackadaisical (sp?) approach to baserunning and defense, as he does to his own team with his bat?

Ellsbury has been putrid for a while, and it's really, really hard to steal bases when you never get on base. Given that your stats are post ASG, I think you may have a sample size problem.

William said...

Manny is tied for second on the team in games played this year (only Pedroia has played more). He's missed 9 of 109 games. That projects to him playing 148 games this year. In his 14 full seasons in MLB, he has averaged 141 games per year, and never played more than 154. I'd say 148 is right in line with his career norms.

Now, if you take issue with which games he's missed, or want to attribute his missing games to made up injuries or ducking pitchers, that is your prerogative (and apparently the sports media agrees with you). However, I have a general policy of not questioning someone when they say they are hurt. I don't know how that person actually feels, regardless of what MRIs might say, and so I don't feel that I'm in a position to comment on that. If he didn't think he could play in that game, I'm inclined to believe him, or anyone else for that matter.

Hopefully next time you call in sick to work, your boss doesn't call you out publicly on it and force you to see a doctor to prove how sick you really are. I'm sure you would probably bitch and complain about your boss after that happened too.

In that terrible 3 error inning, how many of them did Manny make? Again, if you can somehow attribute mistakes by Beckett, Lowrie and Youkilis to Manny's off-field behavior, then more power to you. You are a better man than I.

Re: Manny's "lackadasical baserunning and defense". My last post shows Manny's and Bay's stats for the past two seasons defensively. If Manny is half assing it out there at 35-36 years old, and is STILL better than Bay at 28-29 defensively... what does that say about Bay's defense going forward?

And "hustling" to first on grounders is really overblown. Would it be nice if guys always busted ass to first on grounders? Sure. Does it make a difference to the outcome if they do or don't in 99.8% of the time they don't hustle? No. I think if you are honest with yourself, you'll agree. Now, that .2% does exist, and occasionally, it may even change a game. But considering the Sox offensive woes lately, I'm not convinced it would have.

Speaking of their recent woes... I used the small sample size post-ASB, because that correlates with the sh*tstorm surrounding Manny lately. Want me to expand to the entire month of July? Sure thing:

Manny - .347/.473/.587/1.060 over 75 ABs (The OBP and OPS lead the team).

Red Sox as a team: .272/.350/.406/.756

The team was better for July in total than just post-ASB, but Manny was still pretty clearly carrying the offense lately.

Full disclosure: I'm a diehard, born and bred Red Sox fan. Despite my many reservations, I hope the trade works. My fear is that they caved in to media and fan pressure and made a rash move. Hopefully, I'm proven wrong.

Justin Zeth said...

william, FRAR is insane. You can't use that. You're talking about a system that thinks Miguel Cabrera was a super defensive third baseman the past couple years, Hanley Ramirez is a good shortstop, Michael Young is a better shortstop than Yunel Escobar... it's just nuts.

Fielding Bible plus/minus, which is much more consistent and reliable, has them:

Ramirez: -16 (29th)
Bay: +0 (18th)

Bay is average--all the metrics agree on this--and Ramirez is horrible--all the metrics except FRAR agree on this. Just by being average, Bay is worth a full win to a half win more than Ramirez with the glove, which mitigates most of the offensive difference between them.

tadthebad said...

William, I respectfully disagree with your assessment. I think if you're simply "inclined to believe" Manny's rash of inexplicable injuries, given his history, then you may be a Manny apologist and so be it. If you don't question his absences that, remarkably, correspond to when the Sox face really good opposing pitchers, that strikes me as naive. As for defense, you yourself made reference to Bay's injury. I think you're the only person alive who considers Manny a better defensive outfielder than Bay. Looking at the entire season, we find that Bay has been very close to Manny at the plate. I'm not sure he'll be such a big downgrade, if one at all.

I don't call in sick unless I'm sick. Unlike Manny, phantom illness is not a consideration of mine. Also unlike Manny, keeping my employer happy IS a consideration.

Obviously, I hope the move works also. But keeping Manny didn't assure future success, either. At least this way, the Sox have eliminated the possibility that Manny was/is contaminating the clubhouse and simply don't have to deal with that any longer. If the rotation can come around, we'll forget about Manny and this debate.

christopher said...

So I've been thinking about this a lot. I'm a big red sox fan, and Ramirez leaving feels a bit like the end of an (unbelievably great) era. And I don't particularly like how every star leaves boston angry, but I guess if things didn't end badly, they wouldn't end at all.
I really don't know if Manny was hurt, or dogging it, or whatever. In the past, i've tended to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don't particularly believe it when someone in the boston media decides a player is dogging it. Most have too much incentive to be sensationalist, and can easily twist something to rile up the fans.
In the end, I've come to terms with this trade because I really have a lot of faith in the red sox front office. Every move they make is intended to maximize production. They have "coddled" ramirez in the past because that was the most effective way to get kick-ass production from him. He probably wasn't going to respond well to benchings and fines, so you live with the occasional at-bat/play/game off. And in the past, his teammates haven't seemed to mind. I've got to imagine the F/O thought this out very carefully, and this time were sufficiently worried he would shut it down for the rest of the season. They must have sought the input of a number of important guys in the clubhouse, too. I doubt the F/O would have acted if the players weren't worried about Manny's commitment for the rest of the season. It seems like any other work situation. You only get rid of really talented people if their extracurriculars are so awful that it effects the production of everyone else. And obviously, they were worried enough that they got as much as they could for him. And did a good job of it too.

christopher said...

sorry about the long, rambling post