ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: WBC Qualifiers, Suspending Aceves, Blowing Up the Red Sox and More

Sunday August 26th, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets!

It’s 4:00a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning. While most of the baseball world sleeps- the Reports doesn’t sleep. Or at least this particular insomniac. Maybe it’s the excitement over the qualifiers of the 2013 World Baseball Classic coming in 24 days. Perhaps I can’t stop thinking about the Dodgers/Red Sox swap and analyzing in my mind who won/lost that trade. Whatever be the case, I’m about to jump into your weekly baseball questions. Some really good ones folks. Keep them coming every week! Tweet, e-mail, post on Facebook or comment on our site. Whatever you have to do, get your baseball voice heard on MLB reports 🙂

For the Batting Stance Guy video of the week, we present “Batting Stance Guy Impresses Manny Ramirez“. With all the insanity around Boston this season coming full steam ahead to this weekend’s monster trade, we thought it would be fun to go back in time and remember a kinder and gentler Manny Ramirez. Enjoy! 

Now let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  As your article on the upcoming qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic points out, Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter FL is the shared home of the minor league Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads.  But the Dean is also used each year by the parent clubs (Cards and Marlins) for Spring training.  The field is nicely maintained.

I am a season ticket holder for the minor league teams and go to several Spring training games every March.  From what I was told by stadium management Roger Dean is busy during the year for tournaments and clinics.  A look at the website shows they are heavily booked during October and November.  There was time available in September, thus the early scheduling for the World Baseball Classic. Dan

 

JH: Hello Dan. Thank you for writing in on one of my favorite baseball topics. The World Baseball Classic. I’m going to address your two points. Firstly, it is good to know for interest that Roger Dean is the Spring Training home for two ball clubs. I guess in my mind it is a given that most of the Florida/Arizona facilities are utilized in the spring for the big clubs. But it is still a point that should be addressed, so thank you for raising it. While the use of the facility in the spring is essentially irrelevant for the qualifiers given the timeframe, noting that it is used by two clubs for Spring Training adds to the impact and importance of the facility. Clearly it is highly considered and thus a great choice for part of the 2013 WBC qualifying tournament.

On the other hand, the schedule for the facility itself should not make a difference as to when the games are played. My issue with the start of the qualifiers (Sept. 19-23 for Group 1 and Sept. 20-24 for Group 2) means that 8 countries will have to play without eligible MLB players. That completely makes me shake my head in disgust. The team that will most get screwed is Canada, who would have enjoyed a boatload of MLB talent had the tournament been played after the World Series. Now, the team will have to play with college-level and minor league talent. While I can appreciate the Dean being booked in later months, there are plenty of other facilities that could have been potentially utilized for the qualifiers in October/November. Milwaukee. Oakland. San Diego. Atlanta. And so forth….even Toronto. The WBC organizers could have chosen a dome stadium or area with a warm climate for the locations. There are 28 countries competing in the tournament. Relying on Roger Dean when there were other hundreds of other potential locations confuses me. The WBC organizers also have to be considerate to include in many diverse locations for each tournament as possible, to make the other countries feel included and get the fans “into it”. So the bottom line? I think the WBC messed up big time.

Plus with all the pennant races heating up and the playoffs around the corner, the WBC will have a hard to impossible time getting the casual baseball fan to care about the qualifiers. While after the playoffs, the demand for more baseball would have been much larger. I certainly hope that the WBC learns from this error and fixes it for the 2017 edition.

 

Q:  I just read your article on the upcoming September Jupiter WBC trails…do you have the provisional roster for South Africa?  Many thanks, Adam

JH: Congrats Adam. You have successfully stumped the Reports. With only 24 days to go, you would think we would have the provisional rosters in hand for the upcoming qualifiers. But alas- we got nada. The deadlines for setting the provisional rosters has passed (early August), yet I cannot get even a shred as to which players are tentatively in place for each country. The fact that this is the case again makes me scratch my head in disbelief. The WBC should be a wonderful tournament that puts baseball on the global map. Yet it seems the organizers put each tournament in a cloak and dagger method. Unless one was to really dig (or bookmark the MLB reports dedicated WBC page), they would have no clue that this tournament even existed. There is so much potential to make the WBC grow and thrive, especially with baseball being excluded from the Olympics (don’t get me started on that one). It makes no sense why there isn’t more information out there on the tournament itself, the representative countries, rosters etc. We have dates. We have locations. We have countries. But we need rosters. MLB reports will continue to dig on this one for you and the baseball community. Keep checking back on the site, we hope to have something up soon!

Q:  HAHAHAH So ya a team in the AL East is set with 2 guys with ERA’s over 5 and the best at 4.47. Then they only need 2 aces and they have a DECENT rotation. Then the bullpen is set as long as you’re good to go with 3 guys leading the charge who basically were worthless at the MLB level this year. That’s an atrocious pitching staff. Then you’re counting on Cody Ross to have another career year and Ellsbury to stay healthy. You’re hoping AGonz starts hitting for power or taking ball 4 and Pedroia can stay healthy. Then you’re hoping the league doesn’t figure out that Middlebrooks is a complete hacker and Iglesias can keep the top pitchers from the Rays and CC from knocking the bat out of his hands…oooo that’s a great team right there. Looks like a team that’s about 7 games out of .500. You can expect a few people to bounce back but the ENTIRE team? cmon…   Really?!?!?

JH: We don’t know his name, but this reader goes by “Really?!?!?” I can tell you this much by reading the comment. Firstly, Really read last week’s special edition of ATR focused on fixing the Red Sox. Next, Really is not a Red Sox fan. Call me crazy, but I just don’t think he believes that the players are very good. Is Really a Yankees fan? Rays? Or just a Red Sox hater? That mystery will likely go unsolved. Or maybe…just maybe…we will get back an even nicer comment back next week. Whatever be the case, I think you are being a little hard on the team and players there Really. If you read the article a little closer, you will see that I gave some clear points on how to bring up the franchise. While the team has since blown up the squad, I thought that there could be some gentler repairs in order…if done right. Firstly, fix the top of the pyramid. Get your management house in order. No more meddling owners and get a GM in place who has the grapefruits to stand up to the owners and make his own decisions. Once you have your leaders all set with their roles understood, everything falls into place from there. 

Just for kicks, I will touch upon your key points. Firstly, the team’s pitchers did have an awful year. But it was fixable. If you have a motivated and happy Josh Beckett in the rotation with a healthy and productive Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, that is still a formidable rotation. As far as the pen, yes Daniel Bard, Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey have suffered through tremendous issues this year. But that does not mean their careers are done. Bailey should be healthy next year, Bard is young and can still figure it out and Melancon goes into his next year of adjustment in Boston. Question marks indeed. But talented and young enough that they can still put it together. There are very few MLB bullpens that didn’t implode to some degree this year, so we could chalk it up to one bad year and room to improve tremendously in Boston. Jacoby Ellsbury will be playing for a contract and had close to a year to heal. No reason why he can’t. Cody Ross has really put it together in Boston. While I wouldn’t trust him as a main power source, he is still one of the better 4th outfielders in the game (as long as he is not used every day). From there, to knock Gonzalez and Pedroia just for the sake of it doesn’t make sense to me.

Look, no question Boston had it rough this year. When I prepared last week’s peace, I was hoping that management could take accountability for letting things get out of hand, fix the structure and allow the team to function in a better manner. Instead, the players turned out to be scapegoats and the team cleaned house. It was the right move in the sense that if you believe you can’t win with this group, blow it up and try again. But unless the system is fixed, these types of issues I believe will continue to rear its ugly head, over and over again. At some point you can’t blame so many players, as well as managers for all the team’s woes. If you want to lay blame, look higher. When Gonzalez and Beckett produce in L.A. for the rest of the year and playoffs, they will prove that the talent is still there. They are just in a happier place.

Q:  Field of Dreams Part 2. Me, McGwire, Palmeiro, Manny, Bonds come out of corn field for one last shot. Blackballed  Jose Canseco

JH: Check out @JoseCanseco, working the twitter magic. It’s funny how many people rag on him and “hate him”. Yet, the truth is that Jose is quite humorous to follow and he brings out some magic lines every so often. This particular golden nugget was too good to pass up. Would I watch Blackballed? Heck yeah. In a heartbeat. Imagine those character players emerging from the field to play baseball together again. Too rich. I think on some levels Jose is serious and not making fun of the situation. And it would be great baseball. You couldn’t dream of a better script. Five superstars. Surefire hall of famers once upon a time. Now disgraced from the game, almost like the Black Sox. Who would manage this team, Pete Rose? While Jose’s dream is unlikely to become a reality, it does bring to mind another key point. Remember once upon a time what each of these players meant to the game. When the world cheered for Mark McGwire like he was the next Babe Ruth. When L.A. fans fell in love with Mannywood. When Jose Canseco was a bash brother, first 40-40 man and one of the most prolific home run hitters of all time. How the mighty have fallen. From the greatest stars to the punchlines on countless ‘roid and juice jokes. Each of these guys deserved a better baseball fate. But unfortunately, the reality is that they did this to themselves. Hopefully one day the baseball world will forgive. It may not forget, but we can at least appreciate each of their respective accomplishments for what they were. Let’s hope Blackballed does become a reality one day soon.

Q:  Red Sox suspended Aceves for “detrimental conduct?” What’d he do, help himself to the leftover chicken?  Andy

JH: LOL. I don’t think the fried chicken and beer jokes will ever get old for me. Josh Beckett and Popeyes, Derek Jeter and gift baskets. Two things that I will laugh about in 20 years from now. Alfredo was on the team last year, so you can throw him into the fire I guess. But I have never seen him included in the mix. That’s more Josh Beckett and John Lackey territory. But even still, any sign of trouble and the jokes still fly. With the nonsense that has flown around that team since last season, quite frankly the team and all attached have to expect to receive this type of backlash. Until the team straightens out the ship and moves forward in a professional manner, they will continue to be the laughingstock of baseball.

Now let’s get to business. The big trade went down this weekend, where the Red Sox started to clean house. Maybe not the course of action I would have taken, but one that was needed if management felt that it could not win with its current core. Fine. Everything in that respect could still be traced in my opinion to the Kevin Youkilis trade. Having Bobby Valentine speak poorly about Youk to the media proved to be the kiss of death. Yes, the manager screwed up. But that was really his only real big mistake. While Bobby V started the incident, the team ended up “finishing it”. Rather than sit everyone down and talk it out, the team let the situation grow and brew out of control, until finally the team traded Youk, ate most of his salary and got back little in return. Not a smart business move, to take a valuable asset and drive it into the ground and sell it for cents on the dollar. But the team did not see room for Youk and chose to move forward without him. Fine.

I can see how the Youk trade signalled that the Red Sox are Bobby V’s team. Fair enough, if that was an issue the team had to make its move. With Beckett and company, clearing house meant that the owners and GM controlled the team, not the players. After word leaked out of text/e-mail exchanges between the players and owners, and then actual face-to-face meeting, it looked like something had to give. And it finally did in the form of this weekend’s trade. But that doesn’t explain, what the heck happened to Alfredo Aceves? Did he eat one too many pieces of chicken?

No. This is the case of a player out of control and a manager that was completely in the right. Plain and simple. Friday night- Andrew Bailey got his first save of the season and pitched another clean inning yesterday. Aceves? Acted like a spoiled entitled brat and got suspended as a result. That’s the long-short of it. The quick summary goes as follows: Aceves was great for the Red Sox in 2011.  2.61 ERA. 1.105 WHIP. A sparkling 10-2 record. Aceves was incredible for the Red Sox as a reliever/setup man. So Bobby V goes against the grain and names Aceves his closer this season. Melancon had imploded. Bailey got injured. And Bard went from failed started to Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn overnight. Aceves turned out to be good, but not great in the role. The numbers this year are a little diminished. 2-8 record, 4.60 ERA, and 1.245 WHIP. Things got from bad to worse for Aceves this month. On August 2nd, 2 ERs given up at home against Minnesota in 1 inning pitched. 2 days later against that same Minny club resulted in 4 ERs for Aceves in 1.2 innings. Then after 5 straight scoreless innings, Aceves imploded Thursday night against the Angels. 6 hits and 5 ERs in 1 inning pitched at home against the Angels. Reasonably, after pitching 4 games in 8 days and suffering such a beating, a little rest was in order.

Enter Andrew Bailey. Since returning from the DL, he has been almost perfect. In 6 outings totally 4.1 innings, he has given up only 1 ER. Thursday night was a rough one in general for the whole Red Sox pitching staff. A 14-13 loss is a heavy pill to swallow. Bailey pitched 2/3rds of an inning that day, giving up 3 hits and 1 ER. Not great, but not the 5 ERs of Aceves. Aside from that outing, Bailey was fairly steady. The Red Sox paid a huge price to acquire him and he was meant to be their closer all along. It’s one thing for a player to take away a job from an effective replacement. It’s quite another one when the person holding down the fort hasn’t been quite cutting it. Such was the case with Aceves. Looking at the Aceves’ numbers this year, Bobby V was well warranted in making the decision he did on Friday night. 7 blown saves and 8 losses on the season. A terrible implosion the night before. Why not use Andrew Bailey?

Two clear points I want to make. Firstly, Bobby Valentine believed in Alfredo Aceves when few others did. Aceves leads the league with 52 games finished. Despite bumps in the road, Valentine threw Aceves out to there to the fire and got rewarded with 25 saves on the year. Maybe not the cleanest saves, but still the numbers were good. Aceves pitching in that role was squarely because of the manager. The second point is: since when is the manager required to clear his managerial players with the players? I heard that if Valetine wanted to use Bailey to close out (with a 4-out save), he should have relayed that info to Aceves. Why? Maybe Valentine decided to do that the previous day. Maybe morning of. Maybe spur of the moment. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It’s his team. He’s the manager. He calls the shot. For Aceves to slam the door on Valentine and slam the door is unprofessional to say the least. If he wants to be mad at anyone, he should be upset with himself. In last night’s game, the Red Sox lost to the Royals 10-9 in 12 innings. All Andrew Bailey did was pitch a clean 9th inning with no hits, walks or runs allowed. While Andrew Miller and Mark Melancon were ineffective, Bailey was on top of his game. 

So before people start to rag on Bobby V for yet another piece of drama, verify the facts before passing judgement. We can’t have a team where the inmates are running the asylum. Valentine did his job on Friday night. If Alfredo Aceves did his job the night before. he would be playing right now as well. But rather than take the high road and accept accountability for his actions, Aceves chose to make the manager the scapegoat and blame some one else. I hope that the general public and media appreciate the severity of Aceves’ actions and not blame Bobby Valentine for his choices. The Red Sox traded Josh Reddick for Andrew Bailey with good reason in their minds. So the bottom line- to win ballgames, you have to go with the hot hand. It looks like Bailey is that hot hand right now…while Aceves is simply a hot head. The manager runs the team on the field and makes the decision. An employee needs to respect its boss and manager. That part of life has not changed.



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Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

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