Heading into the winter meetings with a phantom GM in a year of transition? No problem. The resident boy genius Theo Epstein is gone, but that hasn't stopped the Sox from enjoying their best off-season in years, all done without an official replacement. Among the coups:
(1) Josh Beckett, one of the five best young pitchers in baseball 25 or under. A franchise top-of-the-rotation guy and World Series MVP. Throw in Gold Glove winner and comeback player candidate Mike Lowell and solid set-up man Mota, and this is one heckuva trade. Sox give up two very good prospects in Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, but I think they sold high on HanRam, and Sanchez projects to be a #3 starter. Even accounting for Lowell's bad contract, this is an unbelievably lopsided trade, the best bargain at the Marlin firesale.
(2) Mark Loretta, who's one year removed from being one of the ten most productive middle infielders in baseball (a staggering .886 OPS at 2b in 2004), for backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. Loretta may or may not bounce back, but even a mediocre Loretta is worth Wakefield's caddy. What were the Pads thinking? Another steal.
(3) Andy Marte, one of baseball's top prospects, for error-prone Edgar Renteria. I like Edgar, but he's pretty clearly on the decline (dude had a .721 OPS this season, 30 points below the league average and the most errors of any SS in the AL). Baseball Prospectus has Marte as the top prospect in baseball, a potential all-star at 3b. I'd pull the trigger on this trade every time. And guess what? They're already popping champagne corks over at Red Sox Nation.
Now, they've just gotta sign Captain Caveman to a decent deal (he'll be overvalued, but bite the bullet), convince Manny to stay or trade him for a disgruntled Miggy Tejada, trade David Wells for a reliever, and come up with a young, cheap first-sacker, and next year will sport the best Sox team on paper since...oh, 2004.
* Did the Blue Jays win the lottery? How are they coming up with all this cash to pay the likes of Burnett, Ryan, Overbay, et al.?
* The Dodgers sign Grady "Gump" Little to be their skipper. I'm sure Grady's a fine man. From all accounts, he's well-liked by players. But the dude can't manage to get a car out of a Wal-Mart parking lot. Grady is an utterly incompetent in-game manager, who, beyond his 2003 ALCS Game 7 brain-fart, consistently sticks with pitchers too long and never figured out how to take advantage of lineup matchups. This is another in a series of awful panic-induced moves (which includes firing Moneyballing GM DePodesta) for the Boys in Blue. When Bill Plaschke, very likely the stupidest sportswriter for a major publication, gives you the thumbs up, it's pretty clear you've just fucked up big time.
* For the first time in memory, the Yanks are not major players in the Hot Stove Season, having coughed up $50 million in losses as the profligate spending in previous winters finally caught up to 'em. Tell me this is not good for baseball.
* Anyone who's a sports fan should pick up Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons' Now I Can Die in Peace. Simmons' gut-busting collection of essays shows what true fandom is like in all its passionate absurdity, without resorting to lame Red Sox underwear jokes or whatever tripe that was served up in Fever Pitch. Simmons chronicles the ups-and-downs of the 2004 Red Sox season, which is undoubtedly more meaningful to Sox fans. But you really just have to be a sports fan with a healthy background in "guy" culture to appreciate Simmons, the funniest sportswriter in the business.
* Btw, I am crushing the $50+5 SNGs on Party Poker. Thanks for asking.