Posts Tagged ‘Boston Red Sox’

To the Would-Be Victors Come the Would-Be Spoilers

The Seattle Mariners may have been on a bit of a tear of late, but they’re not exactly looking for a postseason shot that they’re just not going to get. However, read carefully: the Mariners have the single most tough schedule in the American League to come down the stretch of the stretch.

The New York Yankees and their minions love to say, no matter how the Yankees might be struggling lately, that the road to the Serious still goes through the south Bronx. But for the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Athletics, and the Texas Rangers, the road to the postseason is going through Seattle: 21 out of the Mariners’ coming final 24 games will be played against those clubs. The lone set with no postseason prospect involving the Mariners is a three-set against the Toronto Blue Jays.

And the Mariners won’t necessarily be pushovers, either. They might be dead last in the American League West (67-71, with only a vague hope of reaching .500 if at all) but since the All-Star break they’re tied for the second-best jacket in the circuit with 32-20, even if they did kind of fatten it at the expense of Kansas City, Cleveland, and Minnesota.

And it gets even more delicious when you factor in that it won’t only be the Blue Jays who have to deal with Felix Hernandez, who’s already thrown four shutouts in his last ten starts including his perfect game. Including the regular season’s final day, when—if he works on his regular rest—the Angels would have the pleasure of figuring him out, possibly with a wild card spot on the line for Mike Scioscia’s troops.

So who else really gets to play spoiler down this stretch? First, the American League:

Los Angeles Angels—One more slump, however, and the Angels go from possible wild-card sneak-ins to spoilers alone. They face the third-toughest AL schedule behind Seattle and Oakland. Six games to come against the Rangers, four against the A’s, and three each against the Central-fighting Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. On the other hand, they also face six games with the Mariners . . . over their last nine games on the season. If the Angels are going to be fated as spoilers after all, their time is sooner than you or they might think.

Boston Red Sox—On scheduling paper the Red Sox have the fourth toughest AL schedule to come. Six games each against Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and the Empire Emeritus. That’s on paper only. In reality—don’t exactly bank on this year’s Red Sox becoming last year’s Orioles. Since The Big Deal they’ve gotten worse instead of better and it doesn’t look like anything can help them now. Which is another good reason to dump Bobby Valentine post-haste. He can’t even get them to muster up for playing for pride anymore.

Toronto Blue Jays—They have four against the Orioles, seven against the Yankees, and three versus Tampa Bay. Sorry, Yankee fans—the road to this postseason just might be going through Toronto or Boston, though right now Toronto looks like the heavier stretch to pave.

The National League’s prospective poisoners aren’t looking at quite the kind of roads the AL spoilers-in-waiting face. The league’s toughest schedule to come belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are fighting for a postseason berth still. But the second-toughest belongs to the Miami Marlins—who look at this writing and probably for the rest of they way as though the only thing they could spoil would be their fans’ lunches or dinners. The road to the National League postseason isn’t going through southern Florida this time.

As for the rest of the league?

New York Mets—They’ve been looking a little better since busting out of their last free fall with an 8-3 record over their previous eleven games. They still face six games with the Atlanta Braves, three with the Washington Nationals, and a four-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are still clinging to postseason hopes and just might get a chance to have the Mets throw them over the stern. Unlike the Red Sox, the Mets are playing for pride now and have the right manager under whom to do it. Terry Collins is what the Red Sox only thought Bobby Valentine would be, the difference being Collins learned from the past and hasn’t been swatting flies with atomic bombs or betraying his players no matter how no-nonsense he is with them.

Milwaukee Brewers—They’re facing four with the Nats and three each against the Braves, the Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Cincinnati Reds.

San Diego Padres—Don’t laugh; the Friars just took two out of three from the Dodgers and have three more to play against them. That’s in addition to three games each with the Cardinals and six with the San Francisco Giants.

Further spoiler alert: At least a few of the aforesaid contenders (we’ve already mentioned the Angels in this context, alas) could be reduced to spoilers themselves by the time at least one of the current candidates gets to them.

Enough, Already—Bobby Valentine Needs to Go; Yesterday, if Possible

It’s come to this. The other team who collapsed almost as monumentally as the Red Sox did a year ago gets credit for not doing what the Red Sox did, letting an incumbent and decent manager fall on his sword and hiring Bobby Valentine in his place.

The Red Sox collapse spared the Atlanta Braves the ignominy attached to the Red Sox, never mind that nobody accused the Atlanta rotation of spending more time with chicken and brewskis than with pitching charts and sliders on the black down the stretch. And the Braves should probably be grateful not to have had imposed upon them what was imposed upon the Red Sox.

Cover boy . . . (Sports Illustrated image)

“Even as the Braves tease/torment us with the possibility (remote though it would seem) of another epic collapse,” writes Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “we can take solace in this: As frustrating as they can be, they’re not the Red Sox. Because the Red Sox took their own E.C. of last September and proceeded to destroy themselves.

“They changed general managers. More to the point, they changed managers and hired the absolute worst man for the job, and not a day passes that Red Sox Nation isn’t given a new reason to realize that any organization that employs Bobby Valentine is doomed.”

That, too, was prompted by Valentine’s ghastly appearance on this week’s Sports Illustrated cover. Not to mention Valentine’s unconscionable radio rant a day or so earlier, when he threatened to punch out one of two radio interviewers who dared to question whether Valentine, who hasn’t exactly kept secret his own disenchantment with this season, had “checked out” on it at last.

It would have been hilarious if it hadn’t been so disgusting. And no amount of backpedaling that he was only kidding around has cauterised the impact yet, if ever it will.

Practically anyone who heard the exchange on the air has written that Valentine in that moment sounded anything like a man going for a laugh. Here is the transcript from WEEI, to whose host Glenn Ordway he directed his fumes, after Ordway asked him directly, if not maliciously, “Have you checked out?”:

What an embarrassing thing to say. If I were there, I’d punch you right in the mouth. Ha, ha. How’s that sound? Is that like I checked out? What an embarrassing thing. Why would somebody even, that’s stuff that a comic strip person would write. If someone’s here, watching me go out at 2 o’clock in the afternoon working with the young players, watching me put in the right relief pitchers to get a win, putting on a hit-and-run when it was necessary, talking to the guys after the game in the food room — how could someone in real life say that?

Apparently, it’s just fine for Valentine to ask whether a Kevin Youkilis has checked out, metaphorically speaking. Valentine in April threw the first match into the natural gas leak that already was the Red Sox clubhouse when he was foolish enough to question since-departed Youkilis’s heart in hand with the first baseman’s physical health. Valentine may have lost just enough of his clubhouse right then and there. Now, knowing Valentine hasn’t exactly been demure about his own frustrations lately, someone had the temerity to question Valentine’s heart. And Valentine went Hiroshima.

Imagine if Youkilis in mid-April had been asked in a radio interview about his manager’s original comment and told the questioner, “What an embarrassing thing to say. If I were there, I’d punch you right in the mouth.” What would you consider the odds of Youkilis surviving without taking a beating from the rest of the press or from his own bosses? Who’s to say he wouldn’t have been run out of town sooner than he finally was?

Just when you thought, as I did just a day or so ago, that it was safe to bear even a modicum of sympathy for the man, Valentine drops Little Boy and makes yet another big stink. Compared to him, Ozzie Guillen is beginning to resemble a diplomat.

It got even better when Valentine, parrying an inquiry into his late arrival at the ballpark, dragged Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon into it, saying Maddon sometimes gets to the park even later than Valentine “once” did. To his credit, Maddon refused to let Valentine make a beard out of him. “Apologies to the writers for being late to today’s pregame session,” he tweeted post haste. “My pedicure appointment ran a little late.”

It’ll take more than a pedicure to settle Valentine’s and the Red Sox’s hash. Bradley isolates the point rather well.

No wonder this man’s smiling . . .

Some Braves fans who were so disenchanted with the user-friendly Fredi Gonzalez last September that they took to AJC.com message boards to lobby for a hard nose with a flair for tactics—a man, in sum, like Bobby Valentine. Trouble is, nobody who plays for this “tactician” can ever be troubled to do as he asks: They’re all too busy hating their manager’s guts.

The Red Sox serve as both case study and object lesson: They failed spectacularly last season and overreacted, and today they’re one game out of last place in a five-team division and have taken to selling off assets in the hope they might get a little better somewhere down the road. The Braves stayed the course and are again positioned to make the playoffs. Sometimes we around here criticize the Braves for being too passive, but whenever we look toward Boston we should be reminded that motion for motion’s sake is never a good idea.

The Red Sox thought it’d be a good idea to throw the smarmy Bobby Valentine into a combustible clubhouse, and today the flagship team of New England is in ashes. And we learn yet again that actions do have consequences.

So does partial action. So does inaction. The Red Sox are learning about both the hard way, too. It’s no longer possible to hang most or even some of it on the players, with maybe one or two exceptions. Sure, they’ve still had a season in hell on the field. But those who were considered Valentine enemies, actual or alleged, are gone now. The season in hell continues apace, and Valentine keeps putting torches to the fires and his foot in his mouth. All the way to his ankle.

The longer the Red Sox leave him where he is, the deeper runs the perception that this is a management that either wouldn’t know a clue or couldn’t care less. All things considered, it probably should have happened immediately after The Big Deal. But Valentine needs to go. Yesterday, if possible. For the sake of the Red Sox, and just maybe for his own sake, too.

A Slip of the Hip Sinking the Yankee Ship?

Make that a slippage to the point where the Baltimore Orioles—yes, those Baltimore Orioles—are one game behind the Empire Emeritus. In the American League East standings. The Orioles helped themselves there Monday by shutting out Toronto, but the Yankees held the door for them falling to Tampa Bay, 4-3, when Robinson Cano faltered in the bottom of the eighth on maybe the key play of the game.

And it’s no ordinary faltering if Cano wasn’t kidding about a barking hip as he went for the play and he, too, goes down on sick leave.

Roberts—Scoring on the turn of Cano’s hip?

Chris Gimenez, the batter in question with a man on second and the game tied at three, didn’t exactly shoot the grounder like a torpedo along the top of the Tropicana Field rug. The journeyman Gimenez came back up from the minors Saturday and carried a .203 major league average this year into Monday’s game. Not exactly a stick to strike fear into a Yankee heart even if he did swat home a run with a single off CC Sabathia in the Tampa Bay second.

Now, Cano shaded toward the pad with Gimenez batting righthanded, and the Rays’ rook cued it toward the hole. It’s a ball to which Cano normally gets, by trot or dive. Not this time. The ball danced under Cano’s downstretched glove and into the outfield. It rolled slow enough for Ryan Roberts, the man on second, to cross the plate like a commuter barreling his way to catch the downtown express the minute the doors begin closing. Except that now the doors may be closing on the Yankees’ postseason possibilities.

“I had it there,” Cano told reporters after it was over. “It was just my left foot just came up, and I just felt my left hip a little bit. Right when I tried to bend, my left foot just came straight up and I felt my hip. It will be hopefully just nothing bad. It’s just tight right now. Hopefully nothing bad or anything. Let’s see how it feels tomorrow.”

If Cano’s split more than his infinitives, the Yankees are the next best thing to dead ducks.

He looked suspect enough in the top of the same inning, when he couldn’t break out of the box in customary fashion when he hit a liner Tampa Bay third baseman Kelly Johnson couldn’t handle. He dropped and fumbled the ball like a tight end surrounded tighter by barreling defencive backs, then threw way off line toward first base. And he still beat Cano thanks to the Yankee second baseman’s rickety start out of the box.

On 18 July, the Empire Emeritus had a ten-game AL East lead. Eleven days later, the lead remained 7.5. Coming into Tampa Bay after dropping two of three to the Orioles in New York, the Yankee lead was down to a pair. Now it’s a game. And their coming schedule has about a 50-50 chance of allowing them breathing room. Following this week-opening set with the Rays, they get to play the Orioles again in Baltimore. And this year’s Orioles don’t know the meaning of the word “quit.”

Saunders—Shutting out the Jays while the Yanks fed the Rays . . .

By the time they leave Baltimore for a three-set with what’s left of the Red Sox in Fenway Park, the Yankees might discover that even slapping the Red Sox silly in three straight won’t help them much. On paper the Orioles have the tougher immediate schedule—two more with the Blue Jays, that four-set hosting the Yankees, then a showdown with the Rays, and a weekend in Oakland against an equally surprising collection of Athletics, who just might be the hottest team in baseball at this moment and could keep that status by that weekend. (Their upcoming schedule is no siesta, but they don’t exactly seem worried, either.)

But these Orioles are made of hardier stuff. The Yankees have been done in by injuries and too many lineups filled with scrubs and utilities, not to mention a pitching staff that’s beginning to show age and vulnerabilities up and down. The Orioles took two of three from the Yankees as July turned to August. Since then, they’re 20-9, and the Yankees are 15-15. They rode a castoff named Joe Saunders (cast off by the Arizona Diamondbacks a couple of weeks ago; once cast off by the Los Angeles Angels in a deal for Dan Haren) and three bullpen bulls to a three-hit shutout Monday, and they’re closer to the Yankees in the East than anyone’s been since June.

What if if the beginning of the end for these Yankees truly might come off a journeyman .203 hitter, toward the turn of a hip on a ground ball slip?

The Yankees aren’t used to losing pennants or being denied chances for them thanks to surrealities beyond their control. It’ll take just as long for Yankee-watchers and Yankee-haters alike to think of anything like that striking them down. Imagine that. The Yankees and their minions experiencing life according to the pre-2004 Red Sox.

Sobering Up with the Red Pox

Remember when Idiots weren’t bad things?

In the wake of the 2004 World Series, I wrote, for a since-defunct publication, “[S]omething seems not quite right about the literature of the Boston Red Sox turning toward triumph and away from tragedy.” Specifically, I was reviewing Faithful, Stewart O’Nan’s and (yes, that) Stephen King’s collaborative, end-to-end chronicle of viewing that year’s extraterrestrial Red Sox. And I was trying to say this: A near-century’s literature of transcendental disaster, usually upon the brink of the Promised Land but not necessarily exclusive to it, could only become a literature of transcendental triteness, now that the Red Sox had won a World Series, in my lifetime and every other Red Sox Nation citizen’s.

What I should have added, but couldn’t have had the foresight to see, was that it would all depend upon the attitude, if you will, within the Red Sox following that conquest. None would have faulted them for resting on a laurel too hard earned and too long coming. But—even knowing the Red Sox’s yin-and-yang history—few including myself dared to ask whether such an engaging gang as had stood history (and the New York Yankees, while we’re at it) squarely on its head could go, from there, to become anything, at any time, equal to the worst of the Red Sox’s yin.

Valentine’s day may yet arrive . . .

The question became only somewhat more delayed when, defying the gods yet again, the Red Sox picked up from the near-misses of 2005 (a division-series sweepout by the eventual World Series winners, the Chicago White Sox) and 2006 (a third-place American League East finish, underwritten by a small but profound rash of injuries and a 9-21 August), to win a second Series, again in a four-sweep. But then came another pair of early postseason exits, and the collapse of September 2011, with all the subsequent revelations in fact, in fancy, or in fustian, followed by the 2012 disaster from which the team only begins to recuperate at this writing.

The season now starts chugging to a finish that can’t come too soon for either the Red Sox or their Nation. While the Gonzalez-Crawford-Beckett swap to the Los Angeles Dodgers has eradicated what once seemed a terminal illness, even if the Red Sox in their hearts of hearts may not really have wanted to surrender Gonzalez, if they could have helped it, it seems apparent now that the days are numbered for manager Bobby Valentine. It is fair to write that Valentine may not really have had a prayer coming in. But it is fair concurrently to write that he certainly did see his clubhouse afire and, when asked for water, gave it gasoline, too soon to afford himself any reasonable chance at clearing the toxins that remained to poison it deeper.

Some think the Weekend Wipeout between the Red Sox and the Dodgers means Valentine actually has a chance of surviving the season and managing for the second and final year of his contract. Try not to bet too heavily upon it. Unfortunately, Valentine’s reputation does precede him. And when the Red Sox enter the offseason, eyeing further trades or possible free agency signings, be not surprised if some of the targets decide it would be less taxing upon their sanities to play boccie with a shot put.

Valentine questioned Kevin Youkilis’s heart when the sole question was his body, and probably lost the clubhouse then and there. But it would be Youkilis who’d be shipped onward, to the Chicago White Sox. He betrayed to the press a confidence from reserve catcher Kelly Shoppach, who had not intended his question over playing time to go public. In due course Shoppach would be shipped onward, to the New York Mets, with the followup going-away present being implications that he had written the infamous message that led to a (some) players’ sit-down with upper brass sometimes known as Textgate. He may have praised Gonzalez publicly as a solid player and citizen after Weekend Wipeout. But it was Gonzalez’s cell phone through which the original Textgate message was sent. And it would be Gonzalez dealt to the Dodgers in due course, perhaps only partially because it was the only way to convince the Dodgers to take Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford.

And what was Textgate, really, if not a camel’s broken back after Valentine, almost inexplicably, left Jon Lester in to take an eleven-run beating from the Toronto Blue Jays in latter July before finally finding relief for Lester, who clearly didn’t have his best going into the game?

They’ve purged Beckett (a malcontented pitcher, whose injuries and inconsistences probably didn’t help his disposition, a far fall from his triumphant 2007) and Crawford (whom we know now to have been obstructed by injuries from the moment he turned up in Red Sox fatigues). They dumped a pitching coach (Bob McClure) who did not see eye to eye with Valentine. But while they rushed to fill the void in the interim with a Valentine preference (Randy Niemann), they still hold coaches (Tim Bogar, Dave Magadan, Gary Tuck) who are not necessarily Valentine allies.

Valentine’s style was the absolute last thing needed in a Red Sox dugout and clubhouse rent by a pennant race collapse, tales of actual or alleged malfeasance in the thick of it, and physical fissures in the bargain that didn’t end with those of Youklis that provoked merely his first verbal pratfall. Perhaps the Red Sox administration now comprehends it wasn’t the brightest idea to supplant a becalmed people’s manager (Terry Francona, who jumped before he could be pushed) with a man who confuses division and conquest for reasonable discipline.

Valentine may be looking respectable enough today, with a few young Sox playing well, an apparently repaired relationship with Dustin Pedroia (who called him out over Youkilis), and a fine relationship with David Ortiz. That’s today. His history suggests too many chances for another misstep. Another verbal pratfall. Another wrongly-alienated player. Another betrayed confidence. Another tactical mishap.

The rumours suggest a deal in the works to bring Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell, a former Red Sox pitching coach, home to take the Boston bridge. Other speculation has reached out to touch such different bridge prospects as longtime team captain Jason Varitek (who retired before spring training); or, recently-purged Houston Astros manager Brad Mills, formerly the Red Sox bench lieutenant as they broke the actual or alleged Curse at last.

Dr. Strangeglove; or, how he to learned to stop worrying, love the bomb, and torpedo his manager . . .

Meanwhile, a question nags: Considering the bristling writings about this year’s model, is the 2012 edition the absolute most distasteful Red Sox aggregation of any wearing the fatigues of the Olde Towne Team? Each to his or her own. Here might be previous considerations that might—might—make this year’s Red Sox seem none too terrible in comparison:

1963-64—Johnny Pesky is undermined by complacent veterans and a general manager who seems bent on making certain his greatest strength (as a teacher and mentor) doesn’t stand a prayer, no matter how many good-looking young players he has to work with. Perhaps the main example: power-hitting first baseman Dick Stuart, who might get some laughs in the clubhouse but who actually causes a few teammates to seethe, with both his chronic undermining of Pesky’s authority and his refusal to concentrate on any facet of his game other than hitting the ball over the fence. Pesky would be executed before 1964’s end; Stuart would be dealt away after the season. It won’t help all that much.

1968-69—Losing his best pitcher to a knee injury in a skiing accident after the 1967 Cinderella season, convinced his players came to spring training 1968 with less obvious desire, Dick Williams graduates from mere drill sergeant to none-too-benevolent dictator. He rides his players like a steamroller over fixable mistakes; he pits player against player based on their relationships with the team’s stars, particularly with Carl Yastrzemski; he refuses to think of himself as fallible; and, he overmanages himself out of the job, barely two years after he skippered a miracle pennant and got to within a game of winning a World Series.

The Can’s Film Festival was the least of Johnny Mac’s post-1986 troubles . . .

1987-88—First, the Red Sox enter spring training under weight of revelations that most of the team tried to stiff the clubhouse and stadium workers when it came time to divide the World Series gold. Then, Oil Can Boyd gets bagged when he forgets to return a small pile of videocassettes to a rental store, and many turn out to be of, shall we say, an “adult” nature. Wade Boggs’ chicken comes home to roost, when his long-enough-time mistress reveals some less than savoury details, actual or alleged, about the future Hall of Famer. Then, Margo Adams helps blow up that portion of the clubhouse manager John McNamara’s dubious strategies don’t. McNamara really earns his stripes when he insists on a none-too-ready Pawtucket callup, the kid gets shelled, McNamara tells reporters, “My people in Pawtucket told me he’s ready,” and his people in Pawtucket swear the next such comment will get them to call their own press conferences. Boggs’ marriage will survive a lot longer. (And, still does.)

1989—Manager Joe Morgan (no relation to the Hall of Fame second baseman), who ended 1988 with a dazzling winning attitude, tussles with too many players who have their own agendae. When Red Sox pitcher Mike Smithson brushes back Rafael Palmeiro after too many Texas Rangers dug in deep on him, only one Red Sox player—pitcher Joe Price—comes out of the dugout to stand with him as Palmeiro and the Rangers pour onto the field. Late in the season Devon White steals three bases in one inning on Price, who tells Morgan, who asked what happened, “Go [fornicate] yourself!”

Kerrigan, saving Everett in, shall we say, less contentious hours . . .

2001—Ugueth Urbina and Trot Nixon brawl on a flight out of Tampa Bay. Bench coach Gene Lamont (thought to be on the Red Sox’s post-Francona managerial radar, at first) shrugs a suggestion that they just be left to kill each other. Enough of the team tunes manager Jimy Williams out over his incessant lineup tinkering, until Williams gets dumped in August over a small slump for pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. With the Red Sox barely far behind in the division race. Outfielder Carl Everett, whose customary targets usually seemed to be umpires, almost assaults Kerrigan post-9/11—to which post-attack relief efforts the Red Sox couldn’t even agree on how much to donate as a team. Both Kerrigan and Duquette won’t be around for 2002 . . . and neither will the Red Sox ownership, selling after foolish sales process delays to John Henry and company.

Say what you will about this year’s Red Pox. But Josh Beckett never told either of his two Red Sox managers to perform anatomical impossibilities upon themselves after anyone stole even one base on him. No Red Sox player this year ever just sat on his hands while his pitcher’s brushback triggered a rhubarb. Neither the departed Adrian Gonzalez nor Carl Crawford got anywhere near trying to hand Bobby Valentine his hat (or choicer portions of his anatomy) before they departed. I haven’t heard of any in-flight brawling among 2012 players. (Yet.) Nor have I heard of any 2012 Red Sox mistress preparing to sue her incumbent or ex-man for palimony, never mind telling tales to, ahem, adult magazines. (Yet.)

Conversely, alas, none of those other toxic Red Sox clubs could boast (if that’s the right word for it) that, among them, only four incumbent players deemed worthy of their presence the funeral of a franchise icon. Who probably loved the Red Sox over his entire life far more than these Red Sox love themselves.

L.A. Times: It's a Done Blockbuster

The Big One is a done deal, says the Los Angeles Times‘ Dylan Hernandez and Steve Dilbeck. Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto are expected to arrive in Los Angeles later today (Carl Crawford, of course, is recuperating from Tommy John surgery earlier this week), in a deal sending James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Ivan DeJesus, Jr., and Jerry Sands to the Boston Red Sox. The two Times writers posted the story at approximately 10:30 PDT this morning.

This is the first deal in major league history in which two players (Gonzalez and Crawford) making $100 million or more to come are going from one team to another. The previous such deal was the deal sending Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees after the 2003 season. Various outlets now say the formal announcement will come after commissioner Bud Selig approves the deal, which he’s likely to do.

De La Rosa—pencil him into the Sox rotation . . .

The Dodgers picked up salaries totaling more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the deal. Gonzalez is owed $127 million the next six seasons; Beckett $31.5 million; Punto $1.5 million; and Crawford, who had reconstructive elbow surgery on Thursday, $102.5 million the next five seasons.

A Dodgers team that had the best record in baseball early this season but has fallen three games back of the Giants in the National League West, has now undergone a major makeover with the mid-season additions of Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Gonzalez..

Gonzalez is the unexpected coup, however, because he was acquired after the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline when major trades are normally scarce.

A Dodgers team that had been trying to capture the division with only Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier as significant bats in the middle of the order should now, with the addition of Ramirez and Gonzalez, have one of the most impressive lineups in baseball.

The Dodgers apparently weren’t shy about taking on more salary in an all-in philosophy their new owners have taken up since buying the team from Frank McCourt. Chairman Mark Walter said as late as Wednesday they could “still take on significant money,” Hernandez and Dilbeck write, and that was even before anyone thought the money would mean Gonzalez, Crawford, and Beckett.

Loney—a fresh field?

Loney once looked like a Dodger fixture at first base for a long time to come but his slippage in the past two seasons finally wore down the front office and manager Don Mattingly, though Mattingly has made a point of speaking strictly in terms of Loney’s on-field performance and not his effort. De La Rosa and Webster have been considered pitching prospects with enough upside that the Dodgers had actually deemed them untouchable at the non-waiver trade deadline.

The Red Sox, for their part, aren’t ready to call the deal a sign that they’re going to blow up and/or re-build the Red Sox just yet. The most common word about the deal, according to ESPN’s Gordon Edes, is “reset,” as in button. “If it happens,” Edes quoted a “high-ranking Red Sox official” as saying late Friday night, when the deal seemed only to be awaiting Crawford and Beckett waiving their no-trade clauses, “it will give us enormous flexibility to build a new winning team. This is certainly not a timid decision. But we needed to push the reset button.”

It’s also beginning to sound more as though the Red Sox put Gonzalez into the package as insurance that they’d find takers for Crawford and Beckett, the latter in particular. Even Bobby Valentine—the target of the long-enough infamous text mutiny that began with a message sent from Gonzalez’s cell phone, a message Gonzalez merely facilitated but didn’t write, from all indications since—speaks warmly of Gonzalez.

I haven’t been around more of a professional, good guy, terrific player as him in a long time — if ever.

If only the Red Sox didn’t have such a pronounced—and, considering the purgings earlier this year of Kevin Youkilis and Kelly Shoppach, immediate—history of ridding themselves of whistleblowers . . .

Edes seems to agree, though, that making a sacrificial lamb of Gonzalez, who was leading the majors in batting with men in scoring position before he was pulled from Friday night’s lineup as the deal looked done, was the part falling under the heading of “if we must, we must” when most was said and done:

Gonzalez—sacrificial lamb?

Sacrificing Gonzalez, whom they still regarded more as part of the solution than the problem, was the price they had to pay for getting out from under the $135 million or so still owed to Beckett and Crawford. It was almost inconceivable they would find a team willing to take on both salaries, especially given the injury history of both players and their subpar performances. The Dodgers were that team.

In one trade, the Red Sox eliminated nearly $60 million in guaranteed money from their 2013 payroll, a number that shrank from roughly $107 million to $47 million, according to numbers provided by Baseball Prospectus. What they do with that flexibility, of course, will ultimately determine how history will judge this deal. Rebuild? That word still does not exist in [team president Larry] Lucchino’s vocabulary. “Reset” is the operative principle here.

It sounds a little like the scenarios offered up before the non-waiver trade deadline, when the Texas Rangers were thought to have strong interest in Beckett but wanted, possibly, Jacoby Ellsbury in the package.

But rebuild the starting rotation is at least a big part of what the Red Sox have in mind here. De La Rosa, a Tommy John surgery comeback, tops in the high 90s. Webster is touted as a sharp sinkerballer whose tendencies toward inducing grounders make him a Fenway fit and then some. However, unloading the salary burden they’ve just unloaded lines the Red Sox up for a possible play at Tampa Bay’s James Shields, who becomes a free agent at season’s end. And if John Lackey returns successfully from Tommy John surgery, they could—if Lackey performs well enough early in 2013—flip him for prospects at next year’s non-waiver deadline.

The rotation rebuilding also begins with unloading Beckett, the tenacious righthander who’d been a big factor in their 2007 World Series run and subsequent playoff drives, but who’d graduated from a solid to a toxic influence off the mound. The rebuild elsewhere probably begins with unloading Gonzalez, whom they may not really have wanted to lose, and Crawford, whom we now know has been playing hurt from the day he put on a Red Sox uniform and foolishly kept it up, until he finally needed Tommy John surgery, because he feared being tagged as a quitter.

The Dodgers get a first baseman who still has upside to burn in Gonzalez. Crawford could be back on the field early in the 2013 season and he may find playing Dodger Stadium’s outfield a little more to his liking than playing Fenway’s. Beckett, who began his career in the National League with the Florida Marlins, could find himself rejvenated in a pitcher-friendly home park. Punto, a utility infielder, is considered a so-so bat but a jack-of-all-trades defender who gives the Dodgers options to burn around the horn.

The Red Sox don’t get mere salary relief out of it, even if the Dodgers are taking on over 90 percent of the incoming salaries. The Olde Towne Team now has the flexibility to chase a bat like Josh Hamilton, re-sign Ellsbury for the long term, and possibly secure David Ortiz for more than the single-year deals that have rankled the veteran DH, though it’s not likely the Red Sox would offer more than two years considering Ortiz’s age and injury history.

They get a good-looking utility infielder in DeJesus, who didn’t get much opportunity to strut with the parent Dodgers, though he played well at AAA while moving around five positions including corner outfielding. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen—he’s the son of the one-time major leaguer who went to the Phillies in the deal that made a Cub out of a Phillie newborn and future Hall of Famer . . . a newborn named Ryne Sandberg.) Sands could be an outfielder of the future for the Red Sox unless they need him as trade bait: he has a modest jacket in his few major league at-bats but he was hitting for a .911 OPS with 24 home runs and 101 runs batted in at AAA when the deal was made.

Are the Red Sox finished playing with the reset button? That remains to be seen. (From the Boston Herald: “This is a master stroke for rookie general manager Ben Cherington, who in one waiver trade will create enough financial flexibility to remake the roster almost any way he sees fit.”) Knowing their season is lost, they’ve removed an eighteen-ton salary truck parked on their heads. They may yet decide to remove another element or three responsible for the continuing toxicity in the clubhouse. One of which might be the manager they shouldn’t have hired in the first place.

L.A. Times: It’s a Done Blockbuster

The Big One is a done deal, says the Los Angeles Times‘ Dylan Hernandez and Steve Dilbeck. Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto are expected to arrive in Los Angeles later today (Carl Crawford, of course, is recuperating from Tommy John surgery earlier this week), in a deal sending James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Ivan DeJesus, Jr., and Jerry Sands to the Boston Red Sox. The two Times writers posted the story at approximately 10:30 PDT this morning.

This is the first deal in major league history in which two players (Gonzalez and Crawford) making $100 million or more to come are going from one team to another. The previous such deal was the deal sending Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees after the 2003 season. Various outlets now say the formal announcement will come after commissioner Bud Selig approves the deal, which he’s likely to do.

De La Rosa—pencil him into the Sox rotation . . .

The Dodgers picked up salaries totaling more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the deal. Gonzalez is owed $127 million the next six seasons; Beckett $31.5 million; Punto $1.5 million; and Crawford, who had reconstructive elbow surgery on Thursday, $102.5 million the next five seasons.

A Dodgers team that had the best record in baseball early this season but has fallen three games back of the Giants in the National League West, has now undergone a major makeover with the mid-season additions of Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Gonzalez..

Gonzalez is the unexpected coup, however, because he was acquired after the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline when major trades are normally scarce.

A Dodgers team that had been trying to capture the division with only Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier as significant bats in the middle of the order should now, with the addition of Ramirez and Gonzalez, have one of the most impressive lineups in baseball.

The Dodgers apparently weren’t shy about taking on more salary in an all-in philosophy their new owners have taken up since buying the team from Frank McCourt. Chairman Mark Walter said as late as Wednesday they could “still take on significant money,” Hernandez and Dilbeck write, and that was even before anyone thought the money would mean Gonzalez, Crawford, and Beckett.

Loney—a fresh field?

Loney once looked like a Dodger fixture at first base for a long time to come but his slippage in the past two seasons finally wore down the front office and manager Don Mattingly, though Mattingly has made a point of speaking strictly in terms of Loney’s on-field performance and not his effort. De La Rosa and Webster have been considered pitching prospects with enough upside that the Dodgers had actually deemed them untouchable at the non-waiver trade deadline.

The Red Sox, for their part, aren’t ready to call the deal a sign that they’re going to blow up and/or re-build the Red Sox just yet. The most common word about the deal, according to ESPN’s Gordon Edes, is “reset,” as in button. “If it happens,” Edes quoted a “high-ranking Red Sox official” as saying late Friday night, when the deal seemed only to be awaiting Crawford and Beckett waiving their no-trade clauses, “it will give us enormous flexibility to build a new winning team. This is certainly not a timid decision. But we needed to push the reset button.”

It’s also beginning to sound more as though the Red Sox put Gonzalez into the package as insurance that they’d find takers for Crawford and Beckett, the latter in particular. Even Bobby Valentine—the target of the long-enough infamous text mutiny that began with a message sent from Gonzalez’s cell phone, a message Gonzalez merely facilitated but didn’t write, from all indications since—speaks warmly of Gonzalez.

I haven’t been around more of a professional, good guy, terrific player as him in a long time — if ever.

If only the Red Sox didn’t have such a pronounced—and, considering the purgings earlier this year of Kevin Youkilis and Kelly Shoppach, immediate—history of ridding themselves of whistleblowers . . .

Edes seems to agree, though, that making a sacrificial lamb of Gonzalez, who was leading the majors in batting with men in scoring position before he was pulled from Friday night’s lineup as the deal looked done, was the part falling under the heading of “if we must, we must” when most was said and done:

Gonzalez—sacrificial lamb?

Sacrificing Gonzalez, whom they still regarded more as part of the solution than the problem, was the price they had to pay for getting out from under the $135 million or so still owed to Beckett and Crawford. It was almost inconceivable they would find a team willing to take on both salaries, especially given the injury history of both players and their subpar performances. The Dodgers were that team.

In one trade, the Red Sox eliminated nearly $60 million in guaranteed money from their 2013 payroll, a number that shrank from roughly $107 million to $47 million, according to numbers provided by Baseball Prospectus. What they do with that flexibility, of course, will ultimately determine how history will judge this deal. Rebuild? That word still does not exist in [team president Larry] Lucchino’s vocabulary. “Reset” is the operative principle here.

It sounds a little like the scenarios offered up before the non-waiver trade deadline, when the Texas Rangers were thought to have strong interest in Beckett but wanted, possibly, Jacoby Ellsbury in the package.

But rebuild the starting rotation is at least a big part of what the Red Sox have in mind here. De La Rosa, a Tommy John surgery comeback, tops in the high 90s. Webster is touted as a sharp sinkerballer whose tendencies toward inducing grounders make him a Fenway fit and then some. However, unloading the salary burden they’ve just unloaded lines the Red Sox up for a possible play at Tampa Bay’s James Shields, who becomes a free agent at season’s end. And if John Lackey returns successfully from Tommy John surgery, they could—if Lackey performs well enough early in 2013—flip him for prospects at next year’s non-waiver deadline.

The rotation rebuilding also begins with unloading Beckett, the tenacious righthander who’d been a big factor in their 2007 World Series run and subsequent playoff drives, but who’d graduated from a solid to a toxic influence off the mound. The rebuild elsewhere probably begins with unloading Gonzalez, whom they may not really have wanted to lose, and Crawford, whom we now know has been playing hurt from the day he put on a Red Sox uniform and foolishly kept it up, until he finally needed Tommy John surgery, because he feared being tagged as a quitter.

The Dodgers get a first baseman who still has upside to burn in Gonzalez. Crawford could be back on the field early in the 2013 season and he may find playing Dodger Stadium’s outfield a little more to his liking than playing Fenway’s. Beckett, who began his career in the National League with the Florida Marlins, could find himself rejvenated in a pitcher-friendly home park. Punto, a utility infielder, is considered a so-so bat but a jack-of-all-trades defender who gives the Dodgers options to burn around the horn.

The Red Sox don’t get mere salary relief out of it, even if the Dodgers are taking on over 90 percent of the incoming salaries. The Olde Towne Team now has the flexibility to chase a bat like Josh Hamilton, re-sign Ellsbury for the long term, and possibly secure David Ortiz for more than the single-year deals that have rankled the veteran DH, though it’s not likely the Red Sox would offer more than two years considering Ortiz’s age and injury history.

They get a good-looking utility infielder in DeJesus, who didn’t get much opportunity to strut with the parent Dodgers, though he played well at AAA while moving around five positions including corner outfielding. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen—he’s the son of the one-time major leaguer who went to the Phillies in the deal that made a Cub out of a Phillie newborn and future Hall of Famer . . . a newborn named Ryne Sandberg.) Sands could be an outfielder of the future for the Red Sox unless they need him as trade bait: he has a modest jacket in his few major league at-bats but he was hitting for a .911 OPS with 24 home runs and 101 runs batted in at AAA when the deal was made.

Are the Red Sox finished playing with the reset button? That remains to be seen. (From the Boston Herald: “This is a master stroke for rookie general manager Ben Cherington, who in one waiver trade will create enough financial flexibility to remake the roster almost any way he sees fit.”) Knowing their season is lost, they’ve removed an eighteen-ton salary truck parked on their heads. They may yet decide to remove another element or three responsible for the continuing toxicity in the clubhouse. One of which might be the manager they shouldn’t have hired in the first place.

The Blockbuster, Continued: A No-Trade Waiver Needed, a Big Salary Dump in the Making, and a Big Opening for a New Red Sox Beginning

The absolute latest regarding the Boston-Los Angeles blockbuster-in-waiting: the key seems now to hinge on the Red Sox getting beleaguered pitcher Josh Beckett to waive his no-trade clause, and to choose not to exercise his 10-5 rights to block the deal.

Crawford—playing hurt out of pride can earn you an unwanted (unwarranted?) bust tag . . .

If Beckett gives the green light, however, this trade will be—as only too many are saying with the trigger waiting to be pulled—the single largest waiver-deadline blockbuster in, perhaps, baseball history: Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, and utility infielder Nick Punto the the Dodgers, for first baseman James Loney, second baseman Ivan DeJesus, Jr., outfielder Jerry Sands, and pitching prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa.

Gonzalez and Loney were scratched from their incumbent teams’ Friday night lineups a few hours before each would have suited up. De La Rosa, who just made his first Show appearance since having Tommy John surgery, was sent back to AAA Albuquerque, at the time under the possibility that he might be a player to be named later in the deal. Webster had been deemed untouchable when the Dodgers wheeled and dealed up to and including the non-waiver trade deadline, but there seems to have been a suggestion that that would change if the right (read: offer-you-can’t-refuse blockbuster) deal happened along.

Hit and Run‘s Jay Jaffe breaks it down thus:

Simply by replacing the unproductive Loney with Gonzalez, the move would significantly bolster the Dodgers’ chances of securing a playoff spot this season, but it also adds over $270 million in contract commitments to the team’s payroll over the next six years for players whose past two seasons have largely fallen short of expectations. According to the Boston Herald, roughly 96 percent of that, over $260 million, will be picked up by the Dodgers . . . 

On the other end, the proposed trade not only frees the Red Sox (60-66, 7-15 this month) of several burdensome contracts, it blows up the foundation of a team headed for its third straight year without a playoff berth, one where the daily drama surrounding manager Bobby Valentine’s reception in the clubhouse has come to overshadow the play on the field. . . .

Who gets what out of it, if it goes through?

The Dodgers: They get a clean chance of Beckett rediscovering his best side while working in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark. They get a clean chance of Gonzalez feeling right back at home (he’s native to San Diego) and trending back upward, not to mention an end to worries about his repaired shoulder since he’s been on a small tear of late. (As a matter of fact, when he was pulled out of the Red Sox lineup before game time Friday Gonzalez was leading the majors in hitting with men in scoring position: .398.) They get a clean shot at a possibly rejuvenated Crawford, whom we now know was fighting injuries big and small alike since coming to Boston and who’s just undergone Tommy John on his own throwing arm. They get a solid utility infielder (Punto) who’s likely to be plugged in for taking up the work left behind when Jerry Hairston, Jr. went down with season-ending surgery.

The Red Sox: They get rid of enough salary over the next six years to equal the complete team payrolls of maybe an entire mid-market division. They get rid of a known malcontent (Beckett) who hasn’t been the same pitcher since the 2007 World Series triumphs, as often as not. They get rid of two more bloated contracts that looked a little too dubious before the players’ injuries became widely known. They take on a first baseman (Loney) who just might be in the classic change-of-scenery category (once a potent Dodger regular, he’s been reduced to a utility man this season). They get a pair of blue-chip pitching prospects. And, most important, the salary dump (the Dodgers are said to be ready to take on 96 percent of the remaining salaries of Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford, and Punto) takes a bloated burden away from a Red Sox team that’s in dire need of a near-complete makeover.

Why, they could even go ahead and—with the Red Sox pennant race hopes gone in all but the official mathematical elimination—dump Bobby Valentine post haste, the better to remove one of the most noxious toxins in the Red Sox atmosphere, Valentine’s incessant divide-and-conquer managing style about which the Red Sox ought to be saying they’re damned lucky it didn’t incinerate Fenway Park entirely.

It wasn’t Valentine who collapsed last year’s edition, but knowing the team psyche was as fragile as it was, Valentine’s reputed in-game tactical brilliance (which took the beating of its life when he left Jon Lester out there to get nuked in July) wasn’t worth the toxicity he added. The last thing the Red Sox needed, if they were going to let Terry Francona resign his commission before forcing him to walk the proverbial plank, was Bobby Valentine.

Blanton—Could be the proverbial odd man out if Beckett does L.A. . . .

Beckett was never thrilled with Valentine, but too often he was believed potentially miserable no matter who succeeded Francona. Gonzalez may have added his own name to a long line of Red Sox whistleblowers given their walking papers for no crime worse than allowing his cell phone to be used to send the message that triggered the Great Text Mutiny, never mind that he didn’t originate the message. Crawford looked like such a big bust in part because his pride wouldn’t let him sit down no matter how much pain he was carrying. Even up to the minute the green light was flashed for his Tommy John procedure, Crawford was painted as a man who feared making the move too swiftly, when it became apparent he’d need it, simply because he feared looking like a quitter.

Of course, the Dodgers would take the bigger risk if the deal does go through, since a) Beckett, Gonzalez, and Crawford aren’t exactly all that youthful any longer; b) all three have injury histories; and, c) if Beckett is to become a Dodger rotation mainstay in an all-in stretch drive scenario and beyond, Joe Blanton—whom the Dodgers got from the Phillies days after the non-waiver deadline (the Phillies had a possible deal with the Baltimore Orioles at the deadline but that one didn’t take hold), but who’s been lit up for a 7.71 ERA since becoming a Dodger—could end up the Dodgers’ outside-looking-in man. They could also risk losing touted prospect Yasiel Puig, who impresses people as being major league ready by 2014 but who could yet be blocked by a well-established outfield or a resurgent and continuing Gonzalez.

As this goes to bed, the Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-3, following a sweep in Fenway by the Los Angeles Angels; the Dodgers are waxing the Miami Marlins, 11-4, in the middle of the eighth, this after the Dodgers got swept out of first in the NL West by the San Francisco Giants.

It could be possible that the Red Sox and the Dodgers are awaiting the end of the Dodger-Marlin contest to announce that the blockbuster’s done. Could.

ON THE OTHER HAND (OR FOOT, IF YOU’RE FARSIGHTED) . . .

This from the Boston Herald at practically the crack of Eastern midnight: “nothing will be official until today [Saturday] at the earliest,” says writer John Tomase . . .

The beer-and-chicken ringleader is gone. No more golf on precious off days following injuries. No more tone-deaf complaints suggesting we don’t understand the importance of family. No more swearing on NESN following lousy outings or conducting defiant interviews refusing to accept responsibility for any his actions.

No more of one of the most reviled Red Sox players of the last decade.

The megadeal isn’t without a fair share of risk. Red Sox fans who actually believe [Adrian] Gonzalez can’t handle the pressure of Boston based on this season are in for a rude awakening. He’s going to be an MVP candidate in Los Angeles, and you can take that one to the bank.

Replacing him won’t be remotely easy. His power/patience combo places him among the elite 15 hitters in the game.

As for [Carl] Crawford, he hasn’t delivered on his $142 million deal yet, but with a surgically repaired elbow, could easily regain his prior form. Plus, he actually cared and worked his butt off. He wasn’t part of the problem.

History may lose those facts in the shuffle, but so be it. With this one gargantuan deal, [general manager Ben] Cherington has boldly served notice that the Sox recognize the flaws in their roster, and will place a premium on financial flexibility, which should serve them well moving forward.

The sad part, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal observes: “The Red Sox gave Josh Beckett an extension in April 2010 in part because of the influence he had on the clubhouse. They’re about to trade him to the Dodgers for the same reason.”

At this writing there’s been nothing out of either Boston or Los Angeles to say the deal is. official. and. done. (At last glance, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine—who may be a lame duck even as I write—was saying he still had Josh Beckett penciled in to start Saturday against the Royals—but that may have been for time-buying public consumption.) But two coasts and about two-thirds of baseball otherwise, at minimum, are probably keeping the coffee flowing just in case.