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September 7, 2001

6-4-3

The Red Sox over Pizza and Beer

by Gary Huckabay

(Editor's Note: The promised "Heaven on Earth" feature has not been completed yet, but will run next week. Really.

For now, this is a conversation that took place on Thursday, September 6 between Gary Huckabay and two long suffering citizens of Red Sox Nation. The three of us watched the 1978 one-game playoff together at Ralston Intermediate School in Belmont, California, after the two moved to the Bay Area from Massachusetts. BC & GH both attended college at UC Davis, before BC returned to Framingham.

The text medium prevents proper communication of the ridiculously thick Boston accents on both Sox fans. The word "wicked" has been redacted from this transcript.)

BC: It's pretty simple. We're dead. We're nine games behind Oakland, we're not as good a team as Oakland, and we're not going to catch them. Duquette should put Pedro [Martinez] on the sidelines now, and play out the string.

PC: Duquette's a 'tard. We're not paying good money to see Pedro pitch. We're paying good money to see good baseball, and hopefully a winning team. If that idiot thinks he's going to get heat for one set of fans every five days bitching about not seeing Pedro, imagine the flack he'll get if Pedro misses next season because of a visit to Dr. James Andrews, and the Red Sox are out of it by Memorial Day.

GH: I don't think Dan would catch any flak over that. After all, he'll be unemployed about 15 minutes after the ownership transfer takes place.

BC: It won't take that long, G. The new owners are buying into a big compost heap of problems, and Duquette's the least of them. They're going to have [adjective deleted] capital requirements and headaches to face, from buying out the minority owners, to rebuilding the farm system, to finding financing or putting up the cash for a new ballpark.

PC: No group that gets it is going to get value. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sox dump a whole bunch of salary, down to, say, $50 million in the form of Manny Ramirez, Pedro, Nomar Garciaparra, and possibly Trot Nixon, and then go after a bunch of youth, and one impact free agent. They'll pull the same stupid moves other clubs like Pittsburgh did, and try to make sure the new park opens with a great team in it. Dumb.

GH: I think they can get value. The winning bidders get just over half of the team, and they'll probably buy the minority owners out over the next few years. The Red Sox have a tremendously loyal fan base, the numbers to have a very attractive local broadcast package, and some of the most marketable names in sports, much less baseball. Yes, they'll have to build a new stadium, but I'd be surprised if that comes out of their capital budget directly.

BC: I'm just glad Victor Kiam's gone. That'd be like adding a fourth ring to the circus.

PC: I miss Victor. He was [adjective deleted] clueless, didn't give a crap what anyone thought of him, and he wasn't all media polished.

GH: But everyone's getting all over Dan because he's not media polished.

PC: No, everyone's getting on Dan because he's been an a**hole. Other GMs have been mediocre. Other GMs have had to cut popular players. Other GMs have had disagreements with their players and medical staffs. Dan's handled each of those situations like he's never even talked to a human being.

BC: He may have had to cut Mike Stanley, but to do it by leaving a message on his voice mail is just a coward's move. He may have wanted Pedro to pitch the rest of the season, but he obviously never sat down and talked with the guy about how his arm felt. If he would have taken five minutes to call Pedro, he wouldn't have told a guy from the media that "Pedro's fine, and he'll be pitching." That's just stupid, and it may not be important for having the right guys on the team, but it does show you that this is someone who either doesn't think things through completely, or doesn't care about his relationship with the players. You can attribute it to malice or stupidity, but either way, it's [adjective deleted] horrible for a GM to behave that way.

PC: Fortunately, we'll be stealing your GM from you soon.

GH: How's that?

PC: Dollars to donuts the new GM's going to be Billy Beane or one of his proteges.

BC: Ricciardi, probably. [J.P Ricciardi, from the Oakland front office.]

PC: He'll have to come in and figure out the coaching and management situation, too. Joe Kerrigan smells an awful lot like Ray Miller. The Sox would be better off with him coaching the pitching staff, and someone like Davey Johnson or Chris Chambliss as manager.

BC: Probably take a year to clean it up. Signing Kerrigan to a deal longer than one year wasn't exactly a brilliant move by Danny, either. Once Danny's gone, Kerrigan's going to be a lame duck, and the entire clubhouse'll figure it out pretty quick, especially with chumps like [Carl] Everett around.

GH: So what's actually going to happen, on and off the field?

BC: The ownership bidding will take longer than expected, and the Sox will be obstacles in labor negotiations because they'll have no incentive to hurry things along. The 2002 season is already a total loss for the Sox. They've basically got Pedro, Nomar, Manny, Nixon, and a bunch of guys who we're just waiting for the contracts to die on.

You guys at BP are pretty kind to the Sox, but Duquette's been a bad personnel guy. Yes, he may have saved money to sign great players by taking advantage of guys like [Brian] Daubach. But he doesn't spend the money wisely elsewhere. He goes out and gets expensive veterans like [Rod} Beck, [Dante] Bichette, [Mike] Lansing, [Frank] Castillo, etc.

GH: I don't think we've been nice to Duquette. We've pointed that stuff out. We have given him credit for being more data-driven than other GMs...

BC: But he's NOT! The Astros are data-driven. The A's are data-driven. Duquette went and hired a data guy, but he found a guy with even less communication skills than himself, then backed away from him faster than Gary Condit from a camera after he made an ass of himself in the press.

PC: Duquette's both dismissive of the press and terrified of it. It's just bad management all the way around. Rod Beck instead of Jeff Tam or Chad Bradford? Duquette had the right idea in hiring that consultant guy, but then, instead of sticking it out, he backed away at the first sign of criticism. So not only does he look like he's playing roto, he looks like he's letting the press run the team while he runs around like a chicken with his head cut off. That's [adjective deleted] stupid, and it's a guaranteed ticket to underachieving.

BC: The Sox couldn't be in any more turmoil. If Dan had any honor, he wouldn't even resign. He'd shut Pedro down, let Manny heal up, start playing a few kids, and just try to keep quiet until the end of the season, when he'd resign.

PC: Duquette's got honor. But he won't do that. He's got Huckabay Disease--he always thinks he's the smartest guy in the room.

GH: The bar's not set particularly high at the moment.

BC: And you're not getting over it.

PC: But seriously. He just kind of spiraled out of control when he started being questioned. He didn't have the conviction that he could be the guy to kill the curse. He started off on the right track, then started fumbling his relationship with the press, and then started acting on what the press and talk radio wanted to see, rather than what was best. He may be the smartest guy in the room, but he has to execute on great ideas in order to get results. When he started making long-term moves like the Asian scouting, he got some flak. Letting [Roger] Clemens go was the best move he could have made in the circumstances...

BC: No way.

PC: ...and now he's just gun-shy. It's not enough to be smart and pick up scraps from the waiver wire. You have to work with other people, and convince them that the direction you're going in is the right one. Billy Beane's done it in Oakland. Kevin Malone and Dan Duquette both thought they could go it alone, and no one's that smart. Kevin Malone's not even close.

BC: He should have kept Clemens.

GH: What's actually going to happen now?

BC: The story has peaked. The Sox will get closer to Oakland as the season winds down, and at least one of the ESPN talking heads will say, at least one more time this year, "Don't count Boston out." Oakland's been pounding Baltimore and Tampa Bay while Boston's been playing against actual baseball teams. Boston may pull within five before the season ends, and there'll be a couple of positives to take away, which will make things a little less white-hot.

PC: I don't think so. I think the Sox will fall another couple of games out, then shut it down completely for Pedro and Nomar, maybe even Manny. At that point, the national spotlight will go away, but the local press will be all over them for giving up. The town may end up down more on the Sox than on the Yankees.

Even beyond Duquette's people skills, this is just not a likable team. People root for Luis Sojo in New York, or Melvin Mora in Baltimore, but who's going to root for anyone on the Sox except [Rich] Garces, Nomar, Pedro, and Nixon? If Pedro sucked, I don't think people'd like him. Dante Bichette, Jose Offerman, Frank Castillo, Mike Lansing? Dull, man. [Adjective deleted] vanilla slop.

BC: The Yankees are vanilla, clod. And they're wearing jewelry.

--

Interested in joining a Baseball Prospectus pizza feed/event in the San Francisco Bay Area? Baseball Prospectus will be hosting a party for baseball fans to watch and talk baseball. Meet and talk baseball with other fans and authors from Baseball Prospectus over pizza and perhaps a frosty beverage or two. Don't just bore your immediate family with talk of your fantasy baseball team and the upcoming MLB playoffs--bore others as well.

For details on time, date, and location, contact me at huckabay@baseballprospectus.com.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Gary's other articles. You can contact Gary by clicking here

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