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Want to know what a player thinks about trades like this?

December 4, 2007

As fans you have your perspective. There are large contingents of fans in both markets, NY and Boston, that lean towards the Bill James approach to players and their teams, and probably an equal amount of ‘old schoolers’ that believe their eyes tell them all they need to know, even when not backed up by stats or facts.

As players we have the advantage, and disadvantage of a very unique and different perspective. There is a human element at work for us that not even the most ardent fan can understand. On one hand there is “My God, we might add the most talented pitcher in the world to an already established World Champion roster”. On the other hand, the hand you either can’t understand or don’t care about is the fact that these deals usually involve one or more people that have literally become family members.

There is a change in perspective, and I am speaking about my perspective only, that happens when you play 22 years in the game. When I was younger and asked about things like this I’d answer usually saying something like “Hell ya, that would be awesome, he’d make us unbeatable.” That’s happened more than once. Being quick to respond to questions, (aka engaging mouth before brain) it seemed like the right answer, I felt that way.

Then at some point you realize that while anyone and everyone might agree that a trade makes your team better, or worse, or status quo, people outside the loop take responses and comments made by players at times like these as disrespectful and uncaring about our teammates. In their eyes what you have really said is “I don’t care about the fact we have to trade one or more of my teammates”. Remember the Millar/Arod/Nomar scandal in ’03?

In many cases nothing could be farther from the truth. A few things are at work here, inside the trade and out.

The first and I think most important part is that guys like Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and anyone else being named in this deal are learning that this is truly a business when it comes to the team you are playing for. Jon’s been through this before, so has Coco, but it’s a shock to the system that first time. I was caught totally unaware and blown away when it first happened to me because I first heard about the trade to the Orioles as I was walking to the bullpen to pitch a game in AA and happened to pass by a TV and saw my name scrolling across the ticker, “The Orioles have traded Mike Boddicker to the Boston Red Sox for OF Brady Anderson and RHP Curt Schilling”, BOOM!  That’s how I found out baseball wasn’t about personal loyalties when it comes down to the business aspect. It’s not a bad thing, you certainly wish it were different as a player but the sooner you get it the easier this life becomes to live, especially over the winter and around the trade deadline.

Nowhere is that more apparent than it has become in Boston. I don’t mean that to sound callous, because it’s not, but if nothing else the winter of 2004 told every person in this organization that personal bonds and relationships would never come before trying to field a winning team. Pedro? Hey you had arguably the greatest 3 year run in the history of the game, you helped us win our first World Series in 86 years, and while it’s much appreciated, your contract demands we believe to be too much for too long, thanks, good luck. Same thing in Derek’s case. A few months earlier they shipped off the guy some people belived to be the franchises iconic player in Nomar. As players you find yourself getting caught between a rock and a hard place. There is an immense difference here though, and in New York. Both of the franchises are built to win, now. If the personel to win isn’t in place, now, today, immediately, you go trade for it, or buy it. There is no true rebuilding phase. In places like this a rebuilding phase lasts a year tops. Every contract for current players is put in place with an eye not only to that players future, but also to that players potential trade value, the next seasons free agent crop and many other factors.

All of these things serve to chill the personal aspects of the player club relationship. For years when I was growing up a fan there was never a shortage of crying from fan bases about player loyalty. Players were almost exclusively railed for leaving one place to get more money somewhere else, as if we were supposed to take into account the fans desire for us to stay, even if the club didn’t want that to happen at any price above their willingness to spend. We were supposed to remain with our team because fans wanted us to be as loyal to them as they were to us. The fan cuts out the middleman (the team) in thinking it through sometimes, we cannot.

Back to the current scenario. What I have heard is pretty much the same thing everyone else has. The Sox have tabled Jon Lester, Coco, and two young kids, and also a package of Jacoby and 2 other kids, to Minnesota in exchange for the games best left handed pitcher. The Yanks, as I understand it, have tabled Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and I believe one other player.

The Sox have drawn the line at NOT including both Ellsbury and Lester in the deal together, the Yanks have drawn the line at Ian Kennedy and/or some combination of their upper tier prospects.

Mr Steinbrenners son has stated that their offer is far and away the best. I think that’s patently false, but let’s go another direction one second. Regardless of what anyone wants to think or believe about the packages being presented the only opinion that matters is the inherent value of these players to the Minnesota Twins. A team that has made it known that there are factors outside of talent that figure in here.

Understand before I make the following comments that I think highly of every player being named in this deal. I have more knowledge of the major league players other than Phil Hughes than I do the prospects. There is a recurring theme out there that Melky Cabrera is a far superior piece of the pie here than Coco Crisp. A claim I would argue adamantly against. First off Melky is a career .275 hitter to Coco being a career .280 hitter. Now we all know that batting average is one of the last statistics newer front offices will table during a players evaluation. There is OBP, SLG, OPS, K/BB and more.

From a purely talent standpoint there are many paths to go down. The first and hardest to define talent is defense. I have no idea how good/bad of an OF Melky is. From what I saw he is a good OF. Decent arm and covers ground. Coco on the other hand I would argue should have won the Gold Glove this year, hands down. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm but I have never seen an OF impact games and save runs to the degree he did this year. Next to Andruw Jones, Tori Hunter and maybe 1-2 others Coco is as good at playing CF as anyone I’ve ever seen or player with.

Offensively you are talking about one guy who homers about every 91 abs. Coco homers about twice as much. Melky gets on base a bit more (.11%), while Coco outslugs him by more than 20 points. Given that he’s got about 1400 more career ab’s that’s no small thing. So for someone to say that there is a wide disparity in talent I think is seriously reaching here.

The off the field pieces to this could be far more impacting in this deal. Coco is due to make, I think, around 5m next year, whereas Melky will be making something slightly above the minimum. Coco is 4 years older. I wonder how much that really matters here? I don’t imagine you would trade players and have 5-7 year projections being a significant factor. Wouldn’t it be far more realistic to use 3-4 year projections in the current environment?

So much can happen and especially in these markets that thinking through how much impact a player is going to have 5-6 years out doesn’t seem realistic.

So if you look at the next 3-4 years I would think you might project Melky to possibly get better? Coco is in those ‘prime’ years according to BP and Bill James. He’ll get older but the years he’s under contract are years that position players usually peak at. He adds a speed dimension as well. That matters more to a team playing on turf than it might mean to a team on grass. People would claim that the Coco didn’t live up to the potential he was supposed to coming from Cleveland. Coming out of Cleveland he was a 300 30 double 15 hr 15-20 steal guy who played ridiculous CF. In my opinion he’s more apt to be closer to that guy over the next few years than the guy who was hurt in 06 and just never got on track this year. That being said he was still an impact player for us. His CF defense won games this year.

Now move onto the pitching parts of this trade, not the prospects in the deal. I can’t speak to pitchers in this deal beyond Hughes and Lester.

The hype around Phil Hughes is big. Projected as a future #1 I didn’t see anything to make me think he didn’t have the ability to get there.

On the surface you have a 21 year old kid who had the peripheral numbers you hope would continue to trend up. He strikes out a good number of hitters and gives up fewer hits than IP. How that projects is anyone’s guess but I’ll trust that the people that project him are good. Bottom line is that being a #1 for Boston or NY is different than being a #1 anywhere else. In addition to the home market aspects of pitching for these teams the fact of the matter is your a #1 in the most offensive oriented division in the game. Finesse and contact guys have a real hard time being consistently good in the AL East. Can he do it? Sure he can. Will he? No idea. The facts are that he didn’t get buried in his first trip around the league but he also didn’t pull a Brandon Webb. The near no-no was probably an indication of his potential on nights he’s on.

For me that was always the way I tried to project young pitchers. Looking at a young guy I always ask “If this guy has all his pitches and is commanding his fastball, what’s his best night line score?”

Some guys best nights is 7ip 4h and 2 runs, that’s their peak. For pitchers like Clay Bucholz you already saw what his best night can be. Josh, on his best night, with his stuff all working and commanding his FB I see his best nights as dominating near no hit shutouts. You could say that Phil Hughes is that guy as well. The other nice thing is that this kid is obviously a late bloomer. Going from undrafted (I’ve since been made aware that he was a #1 pick, I used ESPN to get my information and their player page shows him as undrafted, teach me to trust the media!) to an elite #1 prospect at his age means he either got velocity that pushed his stuff to ++ or he ‘turned a corner’ and mentally understands the game better than most young kids. He’s poised, plus stuff, and has great physical attributes. Does that make him much more, if any more, valuable than a Jon Lester?

Say what you want about peripherals. He walks too many guys right now, but he gets his K’s as well. More hits than IP. Fact of the matter is the kid is 11-2 in regular season games, has beaten cancer, and dominated in Colorado, in a world series clinching game. How do those fit or even bear mentioning in the same sentence? In my opinion those things go together because they speak to character and makeup. He finds ways to win, even when he’s not on, he’s overcome life adversity on a national stage few of us could have done with the grace and dignity he did, and he was as sharp as I have ever seen him, and consistent, in the biggest most important game he ever pitched in. Don’t discount that.

I’m biased, I know him. His character is off the charts. He has a HUGE amount of drive and competes his ass off. His goal is to become a #1, not just pitch here. Why is that important? It’s important because it means you will never ever have to worry about this kid pushing himself or doing what he’s supposed to. He soaks up advice and lives and breathes pitching and getting better.

The other piece to this puzzle is Jacoby Ellsbury. I am not sure there is anything negative you can say about him other than he just hasn’t played much. His ‘sample size’ is small but not irrelevant. The fact of the matter is the kid plays the game at another level. His small sample size was in the midst of the AL East pennant race, and post season. He was huge for us earlier in the year, setting himself up to come back and have a let down given how good his numbers were, and did the exact opposite. Again, he played the most important games he’ll ever play in, and not only was he at his best, but he was better than just about every other player that played in these same games.

He hits 353 in over 100 at bats, covers basically all three OF positions from CF, and pumps some energy into the top of an already powerful offense adding the first legitimate base stealing threat this club has had in years. You can’t tell me anyone in this deal has shown the ability to have a higher ceiling than someone who’s already put some framing around their ceiling. His peak is WAY up there. Will he match those numbers over a career? Probably not unless he is a hall of fame player. But that’s a pretty damn good start and an indicator of the ability when you put up those kinds of numbers in the middle of a pennant race during your 1st taste of the big leagues. Then you basically put those numbers to shame over the course of 6 of the most important games you’ll ever play in.

Fact of the matter is the names being mentioned as possibly getting traded from Boston are all my teammates. Great kids with immense talent. I don’t want any of them to leave. I also understand that there is a good chance NONE of the players being talked about will be wearing the uniforms they currently wear their entire careers. Players get traded, we get that, we also get that there is a side to this that makes us view it as a business when it comes to the team, but personal when it’s our teammates. They go hand in hand.

So ya, I would LOVE to see Johan Santana in a Red Sox uniform next year. If it could happen and we didn’t have to trade anyone I know that would be perfect. That ain’t happening. I look at this as the opportunity of a lifetime for everyone involved on both sides. Johan has a chance to become part of Red Sox Nation, and there’s nothing like that anywhere in sports. Not only that but he would just add to the legacy that’s being built across the major sports leagues and Boston franchises. Garnett, Allen, Brady, Beckett, Dice K, Manny, Papi, Papelbon. Who out there can run across their big 3 with that kind of star power?

The guys that might head to Minnesota are all at VERY early stages of their careers with a chance to become impact players/pitchers for a franchise that has an incredibly devoted fan base. It will be a huge opportunity for them. It’s a great thing.

If it doesn’t happen then we go about trying to win another World Championship with a roster that’s already proven it can do it. That isn’t a bad ‘fall back’ position.

Either way 4-6 players lives will most likely change forever in the next 24-48 hours, and it’ll be good for baseball and good for the teams involved. So I hope it’s us, but I’m more than ok if it’s not.

121 Comments leave one →
  1. dadio61 permalink
    December 7, 2007 4:24 pm

    I respect Curt’s opinion on the matter. He certainly knows the principal players more than us fans but the only opinion that truly counts is that of the Minnesota Twins. Their scouting, player development people and management know the facts and stats on every prospect out there. If they like the Red Sox offer better…….the Boston offer is better……..period.

    With all due respect to Johan Santana, I would prefer we keep our young players, return in 2008 with our championship roster and build for future championships around Jon Lester, Clay Bucholtz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and the other young players already on the roster, Pedroia, Youkilis, Papelbon, Beckett and Dice-K.

    We have an excellent mixture of youth and veteran talent that can produce now and in the moderate future.

    The only scenario I would be happy with Johan in a Sox uniform is to keep him out of New York or if we could get him as a free agent in 2008. We should not overpay for ONE player. In cases like that and injury can turn that trade into a disaster.

    Theo has handled this negotiaton with professionalism and class. He represents the franchise well. He made an offer, set the team limit and left the decision in the hands of Minnesota. There’s been no posturing, setting of deadlines and no games on the part of Boston.

    However, as I said in the opening……..our opinions mean little. IN THEO WE TRUST.

  2. silverlocke permalink
    December 8, 2007 8:53 pm

    Curt,

    Wow!That may well be the best sports article I’ve read all year. I was completely engaged. I really appreciate the combination of insight and insider perspective.

    Despite having managed a software doc team, I did not notice any grammar problems: Ironically I did notice one in your post about grammar (pronoun before a gerund (a verb in the (ing form) should be in the possessive case. How’s that for obscure? :-).

  3. patrice37 permalink
    December 8, 2007 9:31 pm

    As I commented on after the Santana blog entry, Ellsbury must be declared untouchable -no matter who he may bring in trade. With respect to Curt and his long career, a pitcher’s effectiveness is much more at risk every time he throws the ball, than a position player like Ellsbury. Santana also cannot win as many games for the Sox during the season as Ellsbury. Heck, Jacoby has already won post season games with the bat, his speed on the bases, and perhaps saved game 4 of the World Series with his glove! All this BEFORE he was even eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award.
    Unless Theo can somehow use a time machine and trade for the young Ted Williams, he needs to leave Jacoby Ellsbury where he is, a member of the Red Sox, and let his potential play out for all of us to see. Besides, if he is traded, we will be haunted by his success for the next 15-20 years. Keep him here Theo!

  4. chesario permalink
    December 12, 2007 4:15 am

    Good to see that with your “insider” status, you see it the same as any homer red sox fan would. No value added here, but, then, you’ve managed expectations rather consistently

  5. theirish11 permalink
    December 12, 2007 10:49 am

    Curt – real quick. I think the confusing part of the ESPN page where you got the information on Hughes is thus: the “Undrafted” label applies to his Fantasy Sports status among leagues on ESPN.com, not real life. Apologies for the confusion.

  6. mcstoldt permalink
    December 12, 2007 12:19 pm

    Curt, I read the ESPN.com update about Phil Hughes draft position. The player bio you probably looked at lists his average draft position in fantasy leagues, and of course nobody would draft a guy who was not going to pitch in the majors right away last season, especially a yankee.

  7. sullynyc permalink
    December 12, 2007 11:30 pm

    Dear Curt,

    I may not be the first to suggest this but, among other things — like a possible political career in your future — you might consider sportswriting someday. Honest! You make that much sense to the everyday reader. And, for sure, your knowledge of the game and clubhouse relationships with players and management throughout baseball pretty much blow away the dreck we have to sift through now on a daily basis (hello Globe sports pages!).

    Anyway, as ever, I enjoyed your insights here.

    Best,

    SullyNYC

    p.s. my boy Murph got engaged to his girl over the weekend. Murph, don’t plan your wedding for Series-time October ’08. Sox are going to do it again baby! Go Papi! Go Paps! Ells yeah!

  8. twinsfan34 permalink
    December 13, 2007 9:20 am

    Coming from a twins fan i dont believe any of the redsox fans realize just how special a guy like santana is. In a offensive depleted lineup like we have here in minnesota he still manages 15-17 wins per season.. put that into the powerful lineup of boston and hes a 20 win pitcher almost every season. I understand completely with how you guys do not want to part with ellsbury, and however how u can not compare him to the recently departed Torii Hunter i think giving up a possibly 2nd or 3rd rotation spot pitcher and a electrifying(yet considerbly unproven) center fielder is well worth it for the best pitcher in the game. I cannot begin to explain the extreme saddness i would feel to see Johan Santana is any jersey but the minnesota twins.. every start you watched of his you felt that you were watching someone and something special. And from wha ti know of how boston fans are extrememly dedicated i know you all will get the exact same feeling when watching johan start at fenway park.. all i wish is we (twins fans) could have just one more start to say our final farewells to Johan Santana.

  9. lamprejm permalink
    December 13, 2007 10:35 am

    Curt, as a Sox fan and growing up in Minnesota, this trade has been on my mind this fall and winter almost exclusively. The strange parts I never heard out of your front office or the twins was that they needed to score a third baseman out of the deal. I still don’t see how the Sox can just lump Coco, Lowrie, and one more prospect to the twins and somehow make them forget about their needs at 3B. The Sox didn’t even talk to St Louis and try to get the same deal to spring Scott Rolen to the Twins.

    If buisness is business then why wouldn’t you try, from a business perspective, to give the team you were dealing with exactly what they think they wanted in turn for their ace. That being a young arm (Lester) and a proven infielder and solid hitter (Rolen).

    They would have been able to field Coco, Could have used some more upside in their infield, and they already have 3 3Bs in addition to Rolen on the roster. If the Sox were throwing in another young arm from the minors I would have thought them to be crazy not to take that deal, and in my opinion the twins would have done a deal for Rolen and Lester. They already picked up Delmon Young in an early trade and Cuddyer/Kubel were far from terrible last year. In fact Cuddyer plays his position in the Metrodome like he’s been there 10 years.

    Anyways, I really wanted to see Santana in a Sox uniform without giving up too much of a young nucleus. Obviously you put it best when writing that “those kids arent a bad fall-back plan” which is a hell of an understatement. Having those kids in an already amazing roster is the icing on my Red Sox cake.

  10. louislipps permalink
    December 14, 2007 1:57 pm

    Curt — Melky’s young…give him three seasons and his overall offensive numbers will be superior to Coco Crappy — and let’s not forget that Coco Crappy has led off the majority of his ABs….which changes things a bit because you see a lot better pitches than the 8 and 9 hitter does.

  11. paulsamuel permalink
    December 14, 2007 2:21 pm

    Thanks for the blog. I’ve always been frustrated at the revolving door aspect of professional sports. Just when you get to know a team and have some affection for the players, they’re gone.

    I wonder how it would be to have what one could call ‘a players team.’ A team where players come to play because they WANT to. Either they like the city, or the management and coaches, or the fans, or they have friends on the team, or they think there’s a good chance of a world series win. Whatever. But once they’re there, they’re home. They won’t be discarded, or traded, or uprooted from family, friends, and home. I still feel bad about how Dewey Evans and Fisk were treated by the Red Sox. I still miss Dave Roberts, Orlando Cabrera, Millar and Lowe, Pedro and funky young Bronson Arroyo (what a cool name).

    It might not be a winning team every year, but it would be OUR team, win or lose.

  12. dekstr08 permalink
    December 16, 2007 5:33 pm

    Dear Curt,

    I think that the players should make a statement when they receive their rings on opening day. The players should wear their therma base sweat shirts that Terry is famous for wearing in the dugout.
    thanks for speaking your mind and for the blog.

    dekstr08

  13. tlil248 permalink
    December 20, 2007 1:25 am

    Curt, you have stated, I believe, that you didn’t want to play for the Yankees. Why?

  14. osuf permalink
    December 20, 2007 1:45 pm

    Curt you arrogant b________! What happen to innocent until proven guilty? It is not like he lied to a Grand Jury!

  15. riverdaleray61 permalink
    December 20, 2007 2:53 pm

    I’m 46 years old, and the day after the Mitchell Report hit the streets, I downloaded it and read it. I felt like a kid who discovered that Santa Claus wasn’t real. And yet, the rush to judgment by sports writers has been astonishing. Simple things like writers keeping track of how many times Roger Clemens’ name was mentioned create a weird impact, as if the fact it was written 81 times is significant. The first time was enough, the rest was just Mr. Mitchell’s refusal to use pronouns in the report.
    I was glad that Andy Pettitte went public. I wish Roger would, but he doesn’t have that burden. Let’s see how this plays out before next season starts.

  16. carbono21 permalink
    December 20, 2007 5:18 pm

    Curt, we all take our path in life. It would be great to always be among the righteous and true, but life doesn’t work that way. You compete and become driven, some people are driven to more traditional ways to improve and some want more than what traditional ways have been able to provide . We live in a society that is always looking for a quick fix. You, I am sure have several things in your life that make life easier for you, a car, a microwave or even a cigarette. While these things seem harmless we all know cigarettes are toxic and probably have more of an impact on world issues than MLB players using steriods ever will, yet, we keep smokin em! Cars distribute pollution and contribute significantly to gloabl warming but I will be damned if l will bike to work or the store. Since these substances had not actually been banned by MLB, had these players actually got a doctor’s prescription to take these substances does it change the circumstances? Is it cheating if everyone is doing it? I refuse to hold anyone accountable during this lax period of steriod or HGH enforcement. The burden is on baseball, fix it and move on! We gain nothing by destroying the reputation of many fine competitors. I’m sure Clemens was a great pitcher well before steriods or HGH, should those years be tarnished as well? I think you need to redirect your attack to the bodies that govern the game and the players association instead of being critical of Roger or asking for him to atone for possible past (in reallity harmless) indescretions.

    P.S. Ironically, IMHO, you would have fit in perfectly with the Yankee champion teams of the mid 90’s. I find you outspoken yet honarable but feel you are misguided on this topic. As a player rep you should approach the issue for the betterment(?) and preservation of the game

  17. res65 permalink
    December 22, 2007 8:36 pm

    Curt,

    There is no money trail with most of the names on the Mitchell Report so unless a third party can corrorborate one way or the other, it will be a he said—he said. Unless of course Clemens and his former trainer are willing to take a polygraph exam. And since HGH is a step ahead of any test, make polygraph test mandatory for everyone in baseball and all sports. Of course any dummy knows it is not admissable evidence , but at a 95 percent accuracy rate it would give pause to look closer at some. What do you think about that. 95 percent is more accurate than the testing for HGH. Only thge guilty would be afraid.

  18. gtblubbery1930 permalink
    December 23, 2007 12:35 pm

    Curt: Great Series victory but anything to get that kook Lester off the roster is well worth the effort. A piggyback ride and who cares? There may be something else wrong… What the hell was going on from ’82 on.. Santana is in a class by himself and what is requested is good but not the Hall of Fame calibre Santana is & will be… It will only enhance… I also uncovered something you will find seriously bizarre. St. Louis had 5 pitchers [Isringhausen, Springer, Percival, Flores, & Jiminez] on their roster in 2007 that combined for a 21-1 record. Sound familiar? One went in 2006 and surprisingly grossly collapsed in ’07 and you played against the other, the 21-1 Rockies, that out of nowhere blasted there this year. It’s smaller scale than the Bambino but it’s there to see… You made a smart move staying put and you’ll do better next year if you stay healthy, which you probably will. You’re still good and can dominate on any given day. Houston looks like they rebuilt their engine & bulpen. Some trade activity.

  19. 24hits permalink
    December 26, 2007 6:19 pm

    hi curlt can you send me a message to my email please.

    by the way can you send me a t-shrit your b-bal t please

  20. snowman1 permalink
    December 28, 2007 9:52 am

    Hi Curt,
    Just wanted to share something with you from the benefit dinner the other evening. I’m a health care provider working at a local veteran’s facility. One of my patients and his family attended the benefit, and I can not express to you the joy it gave them. My patient is one of the most seriously injured veterans from the current conflict. His family has been under unimaginable duress of late, and you and the other participants the other night truly made a difference in their lives. I just wanted to thank you (and your wife) for all of the good you do in our community. I had to opportunity to see you pitch in an away game this season and saw your wife and son sitting near us. I wanted to thank her in person for all that you guys do, but I did not want to disrupt her anonymity. Please pass along all of our thanks (well most anyway :) ) for your work is much appreciated. Take care and happy new year to you and yours.

  21. tlil248 permalink
    January 15, 2008 2:54 am

    Everyone talks about HGH and steroids–what about the spitball, which no one in the past claims to have used. Wasn’t that equally “cheaty”? Umpires and opposing players seemed to have let that one alone.

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