Thursday, March 29, 2012

No, You Ahhh!!!: Spring Edition

"No, You Ahhh!!!" is going to be my new gimmick this season where I work through some common bar room arguments about the Red Sox. For those of you who have been in such an argument you know that it usually devolves into name calling and ends in one or both participants screaming, "no, you ahhh!!!" Also, to keep the bar room feel, I will keep deep statistical analysis to a minimum. Most of the time.

To start strong I am going to lay to rest 3 common debates from Spring Training this year. Enjoy, ya bastaahds.

Who's gonna be ahh friggin showt stawp kid?

Mike Aviles. This debate was basically settled this week when Jose Iglesias was optioned to AAA to start the season. There were some reports that Bobby Valentine (more on him later) and my boy Ben Cherington were already butting heads and Aviles v. Iglesias was allegedly at the center of it. Bobby V, who most of us know was the manager of the last all-glove-no-bat phenom Rey Ordonez, wanted Iglesias turning two with Pedroia, while Cherington felt he wasn't ready.

I agree with Ben on this one. This team is good enough this year that it doesn't have to hope for a phenom to reach his upside to take them to the playoffs. Aviles plays good enough defense at short, has some power in his bat, and may be able to post a good average at Fenway. Iglesias can probably blow him away with the glove, but almost definitely won't hit as well as Aviles and possibly not even as well as Josh Beckett.

The point is that this team does not need to rush Iglesias like the Mets did with Ordonez over a decade ago. The Sox have their first potential long term fix at short stop since Julio Lugo (kidding, just seeing if you were still paying attention) and need to do everything they can to make sure he succeeds in the long run. I have my doubts over whether or not Iglesias will ever be able to hit in the majors, but I know for a fact he can't right now. Let him learn his craft in the minors for another season or two and see what you've really got. Confidence is a big part of being a big leaguer. If the kid can't even hit .200 he may be lost forever. But, if he can learn how to hit a little in the minors before coming to the bigs, he should be able to hit enough so that his otherworldly defense makes him an above average player.
What ahh we gonna do with Bahhhd guy?

Let him start. Pretty much every move made this off season has been made for two reasons: a new hard line budget and turning Daniel Bard into a starter. The team traded infield and outfield depth for bullpen help. They used up almost half of the remaining budget to replenish that outfield depth with Cody Ross. They made half-assed plays for Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt. All this with the eye towards Bard starting.

So why the sudden change of heart with just a week left to go in the longest spring training of all time? Because he has walked a whole lotta guys this spring.

Before I continue, I have to admit that I thought this was a really bad idea when it became clear they were going to convert Bard back to the rotation. The last time he started in Single-A, he walked 75 in 78 innings. I am not at all shocked that he is running into the same problems again.

Even with that, I think the team needs to go ahead with its original plan on a trial basis. If this was just an isolated decision I would say there is no problem with abandoning the plan. But since all the other moves resulted from this one move, the team owes it to itself to give it a real shot. Spring training is a time for players to work on their craft and get back into shape. There is the slightest chance Bard was just working on his expanded repertoire and pacing himself through a longer outing. I doubt it, but there is a chance. Let's give him a shot and see if he can use that blazing fastball for good.

The other reason I would rather Bard than Alfredo Aceves start the season in the rotation is because it would be easier to send Bard back to the pen if he fails and easier to stretch Aceves out because he has done it before. I also don't think Aceves, with his low strikeout rate and high fligh ball rate, is going to be some rotation savior like some people seem to think. Go with Bard for now and adjust accordingly.

Ahh you as sick of Bawbby V as I am dude?

My. Good. God. I am 100% out on Bobby V and the season hasn't even started yet. Shut up dude! You are a baseball manager. Your job is about as important as a kindergarten teacher or the U.S. Vice President. You are there to babysit and make an occasional decision like "should I go with red finger paint or blue finger paint today?" (which applies to both kindergarten and the U.S. government. Political satire!)

This team has a ridiculous amount of talent. They collapsed last year mostly under the weight of a mountain of injuries and poorly timed shitty pitching. There is nothing that your leathery orange face can do to change that, unless you brought back some ancient Japanese secret for keeping players healthy. If he does anything  other than roll the balls out and let the guys play I am going to be a very angry boy. 

Valentine was fired in 2002 and went 10 full seasons without getting hired again. There were numerous other managerial openings in that time including 2 with the Red Sox. Now the team brings him back after he spent an entire year on national television bad mouthing half the guys he now has to make feel good about themselves. 

Imagine if there was a TV show where kindergarten teachers talked about the performance of pre-school students before they become kindergarteners. Then imagine if one of the commentators on that show was scheduled to become your sons teacher the next year. We'll call him Carl. The teacher was on record as saying that Carl has lost his skills as a block builder, doesn't play well with others and didn't deserve his lofty status as "Best See-Sawer." Now that teacher, we'll call him Mr. V., has to see little Carl every day, look him in the eye and tell him he is special and happy to have him in class. Carl may be just a child, but he's no fool. Now, as Carl's parent, would you be happy that this man is in charge of your kid? I didn't think so.

I want my manager to be like a Milford Man: neither seen nor heard (another Arrested Development reference. I'm gonna keep making them until every one of my readers watches the show. The whole series is on Netflix, hop to it!). As long as Bobby V wants to make himself the center of attention, I will continue to dislike him as a manager. I'm also not sure I'm alone in this feeling. His contract is for two years. I would be shocked if he goes any further than that and I actually don't think he will even last that long.

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