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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Notes - BC Basketball, Mike Lowell and the Pats

About a foot of snow has fallen in the Boston area but that has not stopped the intrepid Sports Chutney reporting staff from making it to Chestnut Hill to cover the Boston College v. Bryant University basketball game this afternoon. BC needs a bounce back game after tough losses to Harvard and Rhode Island and the 0-10 Bryant Bulldogs may just be the thing needed for the Eagles to regain some mojo.

A couple thoughts on the Mike Lowell for Max Ramirez trade falling through. Lowell is going to need thumb surgery which he will have later this week and keep him from doing baseball related activities for the next 6-8 weeks. This is bad news all around. The injury will keep Lowell (and his $12 million dollar salary) on the Sox payroll for the foreseeable future which will make it all the more difficult to acquire a third baseman as a defensive upgrade at the position. As it stands right now it looks like Boston will move Kevin Youkilis over to third and have Casey Kotchman play first base with Lowell as the first man off the bench for the most part. Thumb and wrist injuries are not good for batters (especially infielders) and if it saps Lowell of power at the plate he will become basically useless to the Sox until he proves that he can drive the ball. 

In turn the Sox miss out on catching prospect Max Ramirez. Of the stable of Texas catchers, Ramirez has been buried behind Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamachia and as such he remains viable trade bait if the Rangers want to go get a power bat, as they attempted to with Lowell. The Sox were concerned about his wrists, a common injury for young hitters (see Dustin Pedroia and Jed Lowrie) and if the injury causes Ramirez to lose his power stroke than he is also completely worthless to the Sox as his defense behind the plate is average at best. The trade would have been a decent way for the Sox to get Lowell out of town and add potential and depth at the backstop position. Alas, it is not to be. For now at least. Do not be surprised if there is a move concerning Lowell during Spring Training though.

As of this moment the Patriots are leading the Buffalo Bills 17-10 with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter. I like to see the Patriots forget the fact that they are supposed to have a high and mighty offense and go back to winning games of the 17-10 variety. Before Tom Brady became Tom Freaking Brady the way the Pats won was with decent defense and the ability of the offense to score just enough points. As far as I am concerned, that is Patriots football. This incarnation of the team does not have the same defense that the teams earlier in the decade had, but it has been good enough against the mediocre teams of the last two weeks and it looks like the Pats will be inline for a division championship in the next couple of weeks. Once the playoffs start, who knows what will happen?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sports Week - A Cold Day In Boston

While a fair portion of my media brethren are having fun on the ice at Fenway Park, I figured I would give a link list to some of the stories percolating this week in my initial Friday Sports Thoughts column. It is freezing here in Boston, by the way. The weather app on my Blackberry Bold 9000 this morning said it was 10 degrees, yet felt like -8. Probably will not be doing much outside today. I am going to go a little Rob Neyer/Buster Olney on you for this. . . .

From Speier -
In 2010, the CBT threshold increases from $162 million to $170 million. As a result of that substantial number, many anticipated the Sox might go berserk in dispensing cash this offseason.

This perception was based in part on a misunderstanding: the Sox have been portrayed as having carried a $122 million payroll in 2009, and so the idea that the team would near the CBT threshold seemed outlandish. But that $122 million figure had nothing to do with the Sox’ payroll as calculated for CBT purposes.

It always seemed funny to me last year when people said that the Sox were scaling back on spending. The Sox may have had a $122 million major league payroll, behind the Yankees, Mets and Tigers, but they also ancillary costs that did not show up on the major league roster such as $3.3 million for Junichi Tazawa and $8.25 million for Jose Iglesias. Then take into account that, better than any team in baseball, the Sox are able to spread money over their mistakes to minimize them.

Boston ate money to ship Julio Lugo and Mark Kotsay last year and that just scratches the surface of what the Red Sox tend to do in terms of painting their mistakes. Through the Theo Epstein era he has coated over the Sox arrivals and departures with dollars, such as when they paid the rest of Manny Ramirez's 2008 salary or when they made the Byung-Hyun Kim for Charles Johnson trade that was essentially a $10 million for $10 million dollar contract swap. Johnson was cut (and paid) minutes after being acquired. The same thing happened when the Sox shipped Edgar Renteria out. Yes, the Sox went bargain basement last year with the singing of John Smoltz, Brad Penny and Rocco Baldelli, but that was after Mark Teixeira decided that $170 million was not enough to play in Boston. Boston has the capability to put together a $205 million dollar roster like the Yankees but doing so would significantly weaken its ability to be flexible when it is time to cut-bait and move on. The Yankees have this ability as well and the difference in markets is that the denizens of the Bronx can have a $205 million payroll AND pay over their mistakes as Boston does.

From Harlan --
The Nats this afternoon made official the signing of lefty Scott Olsen to a one-year deal. It's a pretty shrewd move by GM Mike Rizzo, if you ask me. Basically, by non-tendering Olsen on Saturday and re-signing him Sunday, the Nats reduced his 2010 salary from $2.8 million (that's a rough estimate; it would have fallen somewhere between $2.24 and $3 million, probably) to $1 million. If Olsen turns out to be healthy -- and what a bonus that would be for Washington -- then his salary will swell to just shy of $4 million because of incentives. And even $4 million for a 25-year-old lefty who makes 30+ starts sounds reasonable. Bottom line: Either the Nats save $1.8 million, or they pay the fair going rate for a healthy pitcher. This is one of those rare cases where both parties should feel comfortable.

Here I go about the Nationals again, but I do I kind of like watching the side show as this team maneuvers about at the bottom of the National League East. I agree with Chico here and I am starting to like general manager Mike Rizzo a little more as he progresses in rebuilding the Nats. He is still digging out of the absolute mess that Jim Bowden left him, but so far it has not all been bad. Not that it has been great, but not entirely bad. On a side note, I was an early advocate of Bowden taking over the GM duties in Boston during that brief period when Epstein took a hiatus from the job after the 2005 season. Good thing that never happened.

What Rizzo was able to do here is save the Nats some money and retain a pitcher who still is young and has upside that will provide some valuable innings in D.C. next year. Even if Olsen only pitchers 160 innings next year, you would have to think that would be a more productive 160 innings than anything that known innings-eater Livan Hernandez would give them. The flip side to this is that the Nats also non-tendered Mike MacDougal, an effective reliever who was pretty good for them last year. MacDougal is coming off of hip surgery and what the price that Washington would have paid to keep him would not make a lot of sense for the team. Middle to late inning relievers are, as the saying goes, best to be picked up in minor trades or off the waiver line. A team like the Nats does not really need a great bullpen at this point because they do not have a high prospect of actually winning many games. Hence, why pay for a mildly expensive reliever when someone (who may be healthier) will probably be available when the time comes for the Nats to seriously rebuild the bullpen stock. The bottom line here is that the Nats should be focused on putting together a rotation that can get the team through 162 games. Olsen will help with that while a guy like MacDougal was unnecessary. That, and Rizzo saved a couple of million that he could use to go get Jason Marquis.

From King --

So, going forward, I think the players really want to go for it. I talked to Dallas Clark on Sunday and he was saying all the politically correct things. But, there is no doubt in my mind that the players want to go for it. It is the same way in New Orleans. Talking with Jonathan Vilma this week, he said that their goal is to win the Super Bowl and not to go 16-0 but you know if they are in a room with the coaches and Sean Payton asks them what they want to do, you think Drew Brees is going to say that starting next week I only want to play one series? It is poppycock. He wants to play and go 16-0.

I have been meaning to find a way to discuss this hole two teams undefeated schpiel for a while now. So, since I have the honor of transcribing Sports Illustrated's luminous NFL scribe weekly interview on WEEI's Dale and Holley Show, I figured this would be a good opportunity to talk about it.

My initial thoughts on either the Saints or the Colts going 16-0 are selfish. I grew up in New England (during the dog years when they would play the Bengals in "The Toilet Bowl") and I thought that the 2007 year would be one for the ages. It is, regardless of what happens, but for not one, but two teams to come out two years later and match that would really break my heart. When covering sports I really try to stay objective as possible when but, really, I do not cover the Patriots on a day-to-day basis and probably never will. I have to admit, when the Giants won the Super Bowl that year, I threw a fit and promptly drank half a fifth of my mother's Grey Goose vodka and passed out on her couch.

King said that he foresees the Colts resting their players in the final two weeks, which they did not do last night when they came back in a shootout against Jacksonville. The Colts have been in this territory before (under Tony Dungy though, not Jim Caldwell) and I would lay good money down that Bill Polian has Peyton Manning and company rest in significant portions of the next two games. The Colts really have nothing to prove anymore. Peyton Manning is a god on the football field, they have won more regular games this decade than anybody and the playoffs can be a crap shoot. On the other hand, the Saints should go for 16-0 as hard as they possibly can. New Orleans has just about always had a dismal football team and given the recent history of this decade (ie, Hurricane Katrina) it would be a feel good story for the perennial also-rans to come out of nowhere and go undefeated. Drew Brees is probably the second best quarterback in the league right now (behind Manning but ahead of Tom Brady) and the team is fun to watch. As much as I want the Patriots 16-0 to live, untarnished by outside forces, forever if there was a team that I would not mind doing it the Saints would be it.

A couple more odds and ends -
  • Rest in peace Chris Henry -- With all the stuff he put himself through, it is easy to forget that he was just two years younger than me.
  • Lee to Mariners, Halladay to Phils -- I am not sure this makes sense to me regarding the Phillies getting Halladay over Lee, but I really like what the Mariners are doing right now.
  • Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox? -- I would say that a deal with Clay Buccholz and Michael Bowden and maybe Lars Anderson would be good for both teams. If the Sox have to give up Casey Kelly and/or Ryan Westmoreland in addition to Buccholz then do not pull the trigger. This is really a discussion for a whole other post.
That is it for the Sports Chutney Sports Week wrap. What do you think? What topics interested you this week? Feel free to join the discussion in the the comments section.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Payroll Disparity - The Nationals Pitching Deficit

I have the Washington Nationals on the brain. Why am I obsessing over the worst team in Major League Baseball? I prefer not to go into specifics, but let's just say they make for an interesting case study and provide an opportunity for me to exercise the baseball obsessed side of my brain, something that I have not been able to do for a while.

The problem with the Nats is simple -- they have no pitching. The fact is so painfully obvious that it hardly is worth mentioning. Name an important pitching stat and the Nationals were either last in the league or near the bottom.

ERA: 5.00 - 28th
Walks Allowed: 629 - 30th
Strikeouts: 911 - 30th
K/BB: 1.45 - 30th
Fielding Independent Pitching: 4.82 - 28th
*Note - In ERA and FIP only the Brewers and Orioles ranked worse.

What do these stats tell you? Well, it means that Nationals pitchers do not miss bats and give up far too many walks. That is a cardinal sin in baseball. The personification of the pitching woes is nominal "ace" John Lanaan. The young lefty's FIP is not far off that of the team as a whole at 4.70. Yet, that is not reflected in his ERA which was a respectable 3.88 in 2009. Lanaan's K/9 was a very low 3.88. It is usually not very good if you strikeout rate equals your ERA, though it is an interesting coincidence. Lanaan's BB/9 was 2.97 which is mediocre to bad which brought his WHIP to 1.35, also mediocre to bad.

And this is the best pitcher on the team.

Now, that may not be true in the very near future as phenom Stephen Strasburg and fellow first round draft pick from June Drew Storen come of age, but it comes down to the young leading the younger in an attempt to climb out of the cellar towards the light of respectability.

OK, so the Nats pitching woes are a given. Yet, when I did a little more searching I found an interesting factoid. In 2009 the Nats payroll was $61,455,049, good for 26th in the league. It is what it is. The interesting part is the allocation of that $61.45M -- 80.22 percent was spent on position players. That is $49,299,240.30 (or so) spent on men playing the field.

Which means that the ENTIRE Nats pitching staff last year was paid $12,155,808. To put that in perspective, last year Brad Lidge made $12.5 million.

Um, is it just me or does this seem like a case of misplaced priorities?

Now, Washington's offense was not as bad as the pitching. At the same time, it was not head over heals better as it was 21st in the league last year in runs scored. Ryan Zimmerman is a stud and Adam Dunn is the prototype player for a sabermetric based lineup. Add some decent on-base percentage guys and another slugger and Washington has the potential for an above average offense. Not stellar, but above average. A team can win with an above-average offense if the run-prevention side of the equation makes up the difference (see Seattle Mariners), yet the Nationals pitching is atrocious and was not greatly helped by a defense that is pretty much in the exact middle of the league.

Let's look at the broader perspective. The Nationals options are to wait for Storen and Strasburg to become full time studs and fill in the roster around them, which probably means another year or two of absolute misery in D.C. or they can make a vie for a slightly below average team next year by going out and getting a couple innings-eaters who can help make up for the payroll disparity. Or, they can do both, which is what I would suggest. Go out and sign Jason Marquis to a three year deal and see if Jon Garland will sign a stop-gap two year deal. Wait for next offseason and go after one of the top end starters that will be in the free agent pool. Going into 2011 the Nats could have a rotation that looks something like 1) Strasburg 2) free agents from next year, like Brandon Webb 3) Jason Marquis 4) John Lanaan and 5) Garland or Storen (who might end up more valuable in the bullpen) or the next best piece from the minor league desert that is the National's farm system. That would be a respectable rotation and would help the payroll disparity and probably win a significant amount more games than the 59 they mustered last year.

The bottom line is that the Nationals need to spend more of their bottom line on the mound. Even mediocre pitchers like Marquis and Garland would be an improvement from what they have been running out there. A youth movement is a good thing if you have the talent like the Rays or the Rockies. In terms of financial resources, which the Rays and Rockies do not have, the Nationals should be able to add another $20-25 million to the payroll and add some arms and at least make a climb towards respectability.

If not, there will be a paucity of curly W's in our nation's capital for years to come.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baseball Winter Meetings Trade Show Photos

So, every year the Baseball Winter Meetings has a trade show where vendors hawk their baseball wares to minor and major league baseball buyers. It operates like any trade show, lots of booths, some games, free samples. It was good stuff. I spent most of my time stalking the Baseball America booth but here is a slide show of some of the other things we saw while we were in the Indiana Convention Center. Check it out.

Podcast: Nick Gagalis - Job Seeker

Here is more from the PBEO Job Fair at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. This is an audio piece where Sports Chutney followed around Nick Gagalis, a Boston University graduate who is seeking a job in broadcast in minor league baseball. Nick was very cooperative and turned out to be a great interview. To download the podcast, click on the link below.

Nick Gagalis - Job Seeker

Young & Looking For a Job in Baseball? Good Luck.

I am going to have a couple of posts today wrapping up my thoughts and times at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. The first post is on the subject that so many young job seekers want to know -- How do I get a job in baseball?

Well, to be honest, there is really no sure fire way to break down the door. But at the PBEO job fair this week the skills and job seeking techniques that will come in handy if you are to try. Some of these are standard techniques and some are more baseball specific.

Before going for that first application:
  • Make sure you know what you want --
The answer to "why do you want to work for team X" should not be A) I love baseball and I am a big fan. B) I thought it would be cool to work for a baseball team. C) I am just trying to get my foot in the door.

- They do not care if you are a fan. They want you to WORK.
- It is cool to work for a baseball team. They know that, they work for baseball teams.
- Of course you are trying to get your foot in the door. This response tells them nothing about you.

Working is sports is just that. WORK. Whether you are the media or the intern working your way up, do not expect a pleasant summer rolling in the left field grass. When I say "know what you want" it means you should know what kind of job in baseball you want and custom yourself accordingly. The first internship is the hardest to get and most minor league teams want you to be able to sell the product coming out of the stadium. Sales is easy to learn, tough to master but it helps if you have had a job in some type of retail, sales, phone calling center type of thing before. If you want to get into public or media relations, make sure you know what PR and MR people actually do and then find a way to produce some work (like daily stat packages) that shows them that. In the MR case, a love of journalists would also help (no, I am not asking for any love, I am just saying.)

  • Tailor Yourself For The Position --
Are you still in college and decide you want to work in baseball? Make sure you do your research and find out exactly what you want to be doing in terms of credits and course loads that will make you an attractive candidate. The cross-pollination method of undergraduate education should also help. Are you in marketing or management? Go take a journalism or writing and rhetoric class. English major? Get your head out of Flaubert and go take a marketing class. My particular problem is that I never really got to know the full procedures of business and business terms. Yes, my time as a chef taught me how to market myself and my restaurant but ask me exactly what an integrated market strategy is and I would not have an answer. Chances are I know what that actually entails but the verbiage is lost on me and as such if that question were to come up in an interview I would be at a loss. The de facto host of the PBEO job fair this year, Seamus Gallivan, had some interesting things to say about the type of mindset you need to have to get a job, any job really, but specifically one in baseball. The Three P's
- Passion - Drives you.
- Persistence - Pays offf
- Poise - Gets you where you want to go.

  • Get Experience --
Yes, I know, this is easier said than done. If you are a writer or a wanna-be media person the best advice is to just start writing. Write for multiple platforms. That means: start a blog, go engage on Twitter and find a general sports blog that is looking for writers and show them you are passionate about a team and create some examples of writing for them. Look at sites like They want insightful and knowledgeable fans to produce as much content as humanely possible and sites like that are out there, everywhere. Go check CraigList and I bet, if you are persistent (there is that word again) you will be able to get somebody to give you a chance to write. It won't be much and you won't get paid, but it is a start. None of this will fall in your lap.

Life experience also helps. Go get a job. Go on a road trip and get horribly lost to the point where you are actually frightened and then find your way back. Go to an event that you did not think you could get to or afford and just find a way in and see how you handle it. You never know how resourceful you can be until you are in a little over your head and have to figure your way out by yourself.

  • Be Aggressive, Be, Be Aggressive
Ready to start selling yourself? Good, because this is the first lesson in sales -- sell yourself first and the rest follows. Persistence and passion are the first things you should think of here. Your passion will get you to the spot you need to be (like the PBEO job fair) but once you get there you need to be the everywhere, everything person. That is persistence. It will get you noticed and help keep you on the radar. This goes with any job -- If you have put in an application and you have not heard, go back to the folks and mention that you are still intersted and would love to hear from them. Give them a call, a visit, an email, a tweet and a business card. Do not be overbearing, but polite and persistent. Know how to conduct yourself in a professional manner without seeming like a pissant, ie poise.

  • You Are Not Alone
Everybody and their dog wants to work in sports. Sometime, the dog is the one that gets the job.

  • The life may not be for you.
I hate to burst the bubble, but a life in baseball may not be your bag, baby. Especially in the minor leagues. It is low paying with lots of work and a steep uphill progression for certain types of jobs. On the major league level you have to be damn good to even be considered, let alone hired. On the media side, it depends what you want to do. If you are a tech, make sure you have content gathering, editing and production skills. If you are a writer make sure you just write and then try to make connections to people in the industry. They won't be able to offer you a job, but they can help point to where you might need to be to get one. At the same time, reporters are not all that highly paid either. You have to love sport and love to write and ask questions and be aggressive. Gain the experience then take the next step.

Those are just some thoughts on what we learned this week in Indianapolis. Check back later in the day for some more examples of what happened at the Baseball Winter Meetings

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monday In Indy For The MLB Winter Meetings

It was quite the first day at the Winter Meetings. Taking part in the PBEO job fair is a continuous, but rewarding, grind. Had a meeting with the Tacoma Rainiers for a great job working with the game day program and hope for more meetings tomorrow. Went and worked the lobby at the Marriott Hotel, where most of the actual MLB stuff is going down. Heard a couple interesting rumors or opinions there.

-Talked to a couple old time scouts who think that the umpire system in MLB should be changed while adding an extra umpire to game day crews. Add that with a 10-percent performance clause and it would mean that, finally, umps in the MLB would be held to a higher standard than they are today. Relatively decent idea, I thought, if only there was not that pesky problem of the umpire's union.

- Possible three-way trade between the Diamondbacks, Yankees and Tigers. I bet this has been reported already but it would have Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson going to the Tigers, Edwin Jackson to the D-Backs with Ian Kennedy and the Yankees getting Curtis Granderson. Probably a couple prospects mixed in there as well. Consensus? If this trade was made then the Tigers would be cleaning up, contingent on Scherzer living up to his ability.

-Not too much cooking on the first day and deals may not come in rapid succession this week. Jason Bay in a holding pattern and that makes Matt Holliday the same. Rafael Soriano of the Braves accepted arbitration which will make him one of the most expensive setup men in baseball.

-Scott Boras has not yet shown up to "hold court." Betting he does that tomorrow in the afternoon or around lunch. Has to get the media worked up first, as always.

There is a ton more where that comes from. Saw Ozzie Guillen signing a White Sox fans hat and hoodie, graciously. Tommy LaSorda wandered by. Accidentally mistook Brian Daubach for somebody else entirely. Saw former Boston ESPN890 (now defunct) talk host Mike Salk, now with ESPNRadio Seattle, which was great. Salky is always good people.

Well, that was the day in Indianapolis. More to come when we got it at Sports Chutney.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Layout Designs From The Winter Meetings

I put together a couple quick layouts if there was ever a "Sports Chutney: The Magazine." Just a couple of things from the what is currently trending on Sports Chutney, ie the Baseball Winter Meetings and our friend Nick Gagalis. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tracking Nick Gagalis At The PBEO Job Fair in Indianapolis

So, we are here in Indianapolis for the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings (or just the BWMs) and we are tracking our friend Nick Gagalis as he runs around town and the Indiana Convention Center for the Professional Baseball Employment Opportunites (PBEO) job fair. Gagalis graduated from Boston University with a degree in broadcast journalism and has been doing some play-by-play stuff in the Cape Cod League and is now trying to grab a job with a minor league team for next season. Sports Chutney caught up with Nick in his hotel room at the Hampton Inn to ask how the first day went. Check out the Qik live stream from the Blackberry Bold 9000 to hear what Nick has to say.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kings Of Belmont Rocking Video w/ Travis Elliot

Alright, so I just found this video of some old friends of mine doing a song called "Git-r-Done." They are called the Kings of Belmont and they hail out of Charlottesville, Virginia. I believe their next show will be at the newly renovated Jefferson Theater on the Downtown mall in C-Ville on December 4th. If you happen to be in Central Virginia this Friday, check it out. If not, just watch Travis (vocals), Ross (guitar) and Aaron (keys) on this video.

Git-r-Done by The Kings of Belmont w/ Travis Elliott

The Kings of Belmont | MySpace Music Videos

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Complete Archive Of Work

Hey there Sports Chutney followers,

I have just completely updated my archive of articles on my personal website. Includes work from, Study of Sports and The New England Hockey Journal (among others). If you are curious of where I have been and what I have been doing, go check it out.

The Archive

Sports Chutney will be getting a bit of a relaunch in mid-December. Coverage of local Boston sports, lifestyle and society will be featured along with opinion and analysis on tech trends. A new section: The Starving Bachelors Guide will also be launched around that time.

For now, Sports Chutney is heading to the MLB Winter Meetings this weekend and next week. If you are going to Indianapolis, I hope to see you there.


Sports Chutney