At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Monday, October 31, 2005

Red Sox Fans Breathe Deeply: Theo is Still in the House

Woke up this morning and was treated to the news that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein has agreed to a new contract that will keep him in the role for another three years. After reading for days about a supposed Fenway Feud, it’s nice to know that the two sides have come together, and that the architect of the First World Championship in 86 Years (“all right already!”) will be with us for a while longer.

Oh, and by the way? Don’t believe for a minute that Johnny Damon’s contract negotiations have been waiting for Theo’s situation to be settled. Damon’s agent is the one, the only Scott Boras, and I don’t believe for a minute he’d allow our Number One Idiot to re-sign with the Sox before he talked to any and every other major league club that has either (a) money or (b) motivation.

Yankees, Mets, Angels, Dodgers … these are the usual suspects, even though the LAD have neither manager nor GM at the moment. But how about the Cardinals, who must be getting tired of the ‘close-but-no-cigar’ outcomes of the past two years, who are losing right fielder Larry Walker to retirement, and who are moving into a new ballpark? Or the Orioles, who made a run this past season, who weren’t afraid to sign Miguel Tejada, another marquee player, two years ago, and who won’t have Rafael Palmeiro to kick around (or pay) anymore? Or the Blue Jays, who aren’t that far away from competing effectively and who may have the money, though the market may be too small for the media-sharp Damon?

I still think Damon will end up staying in Boston, but he seems to enjoy the limelight much more than fellow Boras-ite Jason Varitek does (’Tek, it may be remembered, re-signed without much of a public fuss), and I’d expect a noisy and interesting ride before Damon’s deal is all said and done.

Speaking of deals, does it mean anything that the Boston Globe today reports that were Manny Ramirez indeed to be traded, a likely destination would be Los Angeles/Anaheim? According to the article, the Angels are seeking to jettison salary and therefore might entertain offers for either Steve Finley or Darin Erstad. Me, I’d pass on Finley, but Erstad is intriguing, for he’s a professional hitter, a solid first baseman, and a one-time center fielder who theoretically could replace Manny in Fenway’s relatively gentle left field (Erstad’s history of injuries may make a return to center too dicey to consider). I’d have to ask for something more than just Erstad before pulling the trigger on such a deal, but it’s an interesting possibility nonetheless. Don’t you think?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Red Sox Neighborhood Deals: Clear Skies, Sure, But Not Really For Us

In Washington, DC, no building can rise higher than the top of the Capitol dome. For years in Philadelphia, no building could stand taller than Billy Penn’s hat on the statue atop City Hall. And now in Boston, the Red Sox are committing considerable sums to ensure no building looms over Fenway Park.

Published reports today say that the Sox will be part of a development group that plans to replace the nearby Howard Johnson’s motor lodge with condominiums and a hotel that is twice as big. The tallest part of the new building, however, is said to be on the side facing away from the ballpark, keeping the sightlines from within as relatively unencumbered as they are today.

This announcement follows hard on the news that the Red Sox apparently will support the construction of – and perhaps even join the partnership to develop – two towers of condominiums in Kenmore Square as long as those towers are moved slightly more west of the park than originally planned. Clearly, the team is serious about maintaining what it calls “the Fenway experience,” and that’s a good thing. But let us be serious as well: is this really why it is committing hundreds of millions of dollars to the neighborhood? Or is it merely capitalizing on the juicy real estate opportunities as they come along?

My vote is the latter, and I can’t argue with the logic and savvy of doing so. The Sox ownership already holds property in the area (starting with the park itself, but now also a taxi garage, a McDonald’s restaurant, and a radio station studio), so why shouldn’t it seek to increase its neighborhood stake? Plus, the income it will earn from such investments won’t count against the luxury tax baseball levies for high-revenue teams, so the moves should benefit the Sox’s on-field competitive standing as well. Shouldn’t it?

Let’s face it: you and I would do exactly what the Red Sox are doing if only we had the scratch to do so. But it bugs me that such transactions are being couched in terms of improving the fans’ enjoyment. Yes, I thought it was great when the back wall of the ballpark was taken down, and we suddenly could see the surrounding buildings and feel like part of the community. But I’d really prefer not to be blamed for the enormous expenditures soon to come and for the creeping Soxification of the neighborhood – no matter how clear the skies overhead remain.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

This Series One to Dye For

The 101st World Series is now history, and, yes, the Chicago White Sox did indeed capture the crown for the first time since 1917. But while those in the Windy City – well, half of them, anyway – rejoice in the result, baseball aficionados everywhere are deriving tremendous satisfaction from the fact that the game they love – not the juiced up, homer-crazed aberration of the past 15 years – proved out in the end, and the whole world was there to see it.

There was pitching.
There was defense.
There was bunting.
There was base-stealing.

And in the end, the outcome turned on who got the timely hits, and who didn’t.

The White Sox did, and it was entirely appropriate that Jermaine Dye was named MVP, for he certainly hit when it counted. Dye went 7-for-16 (.438) for the Series, and had hits in four of his last five times up. He homered off Roger Clemens in the first inning of the first game. He singled in a run in the fifth inning of the Game 3 marathon, and opened the 14th and final inning of that contest with another single. And last night he hit a ground ball up the middle to plate Willie Harris with the game’s only, and championship-winning, run.

The Astros did not. They went 0 for their last 20 with runners in scoring position, and considering they were outscored in the Series by a total of only six runs, one could easily and justifiably point to this fact as the reason they were swept and did not do the sweeping. Even White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf acknowledged that the Series was just that close. “This could have ended the other way,” he was quoted as saying. “One swing of the bat, and we lose. The whole series was like that.”

Instead, it is the South Side of Chicago and not South Texas that is celebrating this morning. But there is neither shame nor blame to be assigned, as both teams played as God and Chadwick intended, and all of Baseball Nation is rejoicing in the return of their game.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Prophesy of Red Sox Demolition: Tell Me This Isn't Happening!

Tell me this isn’t happening. Tell me that the people running the Boston Red Sox – who in prior baseball lives separately engineered the dismantling of the Florida Marlins and the San Diego Padres – aren’t about to fulfill the prophesy of micro-meddling and team demolition I floated when they bought entry into the Fenway Park executive suite four years ago.

I freely admit that John Henry and company have done a great many things right, starting with the reinstatement of Johnny Pesky as a member of the uniformed staff, moving through the reconstruction of the minor league system, and culminating in the signing of Curt Schilling. But as soon as they won the franchise’s first championship in – all together now – 86 years, they abruptly terminated team doctor Bill Morgan despite the magic he famously wrought on Schilling’s ankle. And in the back of my mind, old doubts stirred anew.

So tell me now that they didn’t just up and fire physical therapist Chris Correnti, who’s been with the team for 11 years and who apparently is treasured by the players. And tell me now they didn’t first lowball general manager Theo Epstein, whose contract expires in five days, and aren’t now apparently stuck on control/authority issues that may yet chase the young genius from his home-town team. Tell me instead that history will not repeat itself, and that this ownership group will not sacrifice games in the standings for enforced control of the clubhouse or misguided approaches to economy. Then perhaps I – and we all – can put our fears to rest.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Minute Maid Roof Decision Should be Open-and-Shut

Am I the only one who has a problem with MLB’s involvement in the decision to open or close the roof in Houston for tonight’s World Series game? Never mind that it changes the rules under which the Astros have operated all season long; it also diminishes the psychological gamesmanship that has been part of the game for quite a long time, and this, to me, would be a shame.

I love that the only thing that is standard about baseball stadiums is the infield dimension, and I love how teams tailor themselves – or at least should if they don’t – to the configuration of their ballpark. Was it an accident that the Cardinals of the 1980s placed such a premium on speed? Of course not; Busch Stadium at the time was liberally carpeted with turf, and being fleet afoot was hugely advantageous both in the field and on the bases. No one suggest then that the field be overlaid with grass just because a post-season game was to be played there. So why is it fair now for a third party to decide whether Minute Maid Park is to be open to the skies, or not? Are the Astros suddenly unable to make that determination despite having done so all season long?

Centralizing such decisions also diminishes the behind-the-scenes ‘fun’ that teams long have had at one another’s expense. Are we really so far removed from the days when the degree to which an infield was crowned reflected the home team’s bunting ability? Or when the length of the infield grass was determined by its infielders’ range? Bill Veeck once famously – and legally, at the time – arranged to have a screen atop the outfield fence reeled in and out according to whether his Milwaukee Brewers or the opposition was at bat.

The latter stratagem, of course, really pushes the boundaries of sportsmanship, and was officially prohibited long ago. But the other two practices continue today, as do others like mislabeling the distance to the outfield fence, or sculpting the bullpen mound differently than the one at the center of the field. So why wouldn’t a modern-day decision to open or close the stadium roof be similarly left to the home team's discretion? Given that the two teams playing tonight are so closely matched, the psychological impact of a closed roof – and the monumental crowd noise that would be trapped as a result – could well have an influence the outcome, and I for one see no reason for this kind of home-field advantage to be legislated out of existence.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Forging Historical Series Ties By Counting 'Degrees of Separation'

All the fixation on nonsensical historical contexts (see prior post) got me to thinking: what connections can be drawn between today’s World Series participants and their counterparts of long ago? Here are a few, presented in the mode of the hoary game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” and as calculated by The Baseball Oracle at Enjoy!


Ozzie Guillen, 2005 Chicago White Sox
Pants Rowland, 1917 Chicago White Sox (the ChiSox last Series winner)

Pants Rowland ... managed ... Ray Schalk on the 1917 Chicago White Sox
Ray Schalk ... played with ... Ted Lyons for the 1926 Chicago White Sox
Ted Lyons ... played with ... Mike Tresh for the 1942 Chicago White Sox
Mike Tresh ... played with ... Minnie Minoso for the 1949 Cleveland Indians
Minnie Minoso ... played with ... Jerry Hairston for the 1976 Chicago White Sox
Jerry Hairston ... played with ... Ozzie Guillen for the 1986 Chicago White Sox

Phil Garner, 2005 Houston Astros
Harry Craft, 1962 Houston Astros (as the Colt 45s, the franchise’s first year of play)

Harry Craft ... played with ... Hank Sauer for the 1942 Cincinnati Reds
Hank Sauer ... played with ... Willie McCovey for the 1959 San Francisco Giants
Willie McCovey ... played with ... Phil Garner for the 1976 Oakland Athletics


Paul Konerko, 1B, 2005 Chicago White Sox
Joe Jackson, OF, 1917 Chicago White Sox

Joe Jackson ... played with ... Jack Fournier for the 1915 Chicago White Sox
Jack Fournier ... played with ... Johnny Cooney for the 1927 Boston Braves
Johnny Cooney ... played with ... Hank Majeski for the 1939 Boston Bees
Hank Majeski ... played with ... Brooks Robinson for the 1955 Baltimore Orioles
Brooks Robinson ... played with ... Eddie Murray for the 1977 Baltimore Orioles
Eddie Murray ... played with ... Paul Konerko for the 1997 Los Angeles Dodgers

Morgan Ensberg, 3B, 2005 Houston Astros
Roman Mejias, OF, 1962 Houston Astros

Roman Mejias ... played with ... Bob Skinner for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates
Bob Skinner ... played with ... Steve Carlton for the 1965 St. Louis Cardinals
Steve Carlton ... played with ... Mike Maddux for the 1986 Philadelphia Phillies
Mike Maddux ... played with ... Morgan Ensberg for the 2000 Houston Astros


Mark Buehrle, P, 2005 Chicago White Sox
Eddie Cicotte, P, 1917 Chicago White Sox

Eddie Cicotte ... played with ... Shano Collins for the 1915 Chicago White Sox
Shano Collins ... played with ... Red Ruffing for the 1924 Boston Red Sox
Red Ruffing ... played with ... Joe Gordon for the 1939 New York Yankees
Joe Gordon ... played with ... Minnie Minoso for the 1949 Cleveland Indians
Minnie Minoso ... played with ... Harold Baines for the 1980 Chicago White Sox
Harold Baines ... played with ... Mark Buehrle for the 2001 Chicago White Sox

Roger Clemens, P, 2005 Houston Astros
Turk Farrell, P, 1962 Houston Astros

Turk Farrell ... played with ... Don Drysdale for the 1961 Los Angeles Dodgers
Don Drysdale ... played with ... Bill Buckner for the 1969 Los Angeles Dodgers
Bill Buckner ... played with ... Roger Clemens for the 1984 Boston Red Sox

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Astros Win; Series vs. ChiSox 'Baseball as it Oughtta Be'

Well, it’s official: the Houston Astros are going to the first World Series in franchise history – the first one, as the Fox broadcasters repeatedly reminded us, ever to be played in the State of Texas. By defeating the St. Louis Cardinals four games to two, they move on to face a Chicago White Sox team that hasn’t been to the Series for three years longer than the Houston franchise has even existed. And baseball historians everywhere are thrilled with this outcome and are poring over their timelines, searching for significance.

I also am thrilled, but for very different reasons.
  1. I love how fundamentally sound these two teams are. I love the fact that the Astros and White Sox both play ‘small ball’ so well, and place such a premium on pitching and defense. If anyone has an over/under on the number of bunts or double plays we’ll see over the next week, I’d like to know.

  2. I love that this year’s Fall Classic will take place entirely in the center of the country, and not at all at its edges. For a game known as ‘the National Pastime,’ it’s nice that the entire nation will be able to watch the games and still go to bed before midnight. It’s also nice to see a couple of ‘mid-market’ teams occupy the spotlight: according to the Associated Press (see story on, the Astros ranked 11th in the majors in payroll at around $77.5 million, while the White Sox came in 13th at about $74.3 million. By contrast, the Angels were fifth at $96.1 million, and the Cardinals 10th (first in the National League) at $83.5 million. (The Yankees, of course, were first at nearly $203 million; the Red Sox ranked second at $126.8 million.)

  3. And I love the fact that had either LCS come out differently, the opponent from the other league almost certainly would have been considered a long shot. Consider Angels/Astros or Cardinals/White Sox: on which teams do you think the money would have been placed? My guess is on LAA or STL. Which raises an interesting question: can you have a series in which both teams are the underdog?
However it plays out, this World Series promises to be something very special. Though both teams can hit, the winner is unlikely to merely bash its way to the trophy. Instead, victory will go to the club that plays a complete game, and plays it consistently. Truly, this will be ‘baseball as it oughtta be,’ and students of the game should be as thrilled by what they see as the casual fans.

White Sox in seven ... you heard it here first!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Looking for Relevance (In All the Wrong Places): Past Performance No Guide to Present Outcome

The Houston Astros square off against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight in the hope of clinching their first-ever World Series berth, but history suggests their quest will be in vain. Consider this:

  • Houston has not won an NLCS deciding game in the team’s 44-year history.
  • St. Louis has lost only one of seven post-season series in which the club trailed three games to two entering Game 6.
To hear the media tell it, what’s past is prologue, and the fix is in. But what relevance does this past performance have to today’s game? In the first place, there was no NLCS for the first seven years of the Astros’ existence, for the leagues didn’t split into divisions until 1969. And second, their record of futility dates to 1980, while the Cardinals’ history of dominance reaches all the way back to 1926. So just how much of an impact on today’s contest could this possibly have?

In a word, zero, and the players will be the first to tell you so. Oh sure, they’re aware of their place in history – don’t you think the White Sox would like to bring a championship home to Chicago for the first time since 1917, and erase the stain of the 1919 Black Sox in the process? – but they’ve got their own destinies to fulfill. The rosters, the equipment, even the game itself are wholly different from what they once were, and tonight’s outcome depends a whole lot more on, say, the Cards’ ability to solve Roy Oswalt than it does on what Pepper Martin did in 1934.

So please, resist the temptation to view this year’s playoffs as an extension of all those to have come before. And pay no attention to the people behind the curtain, or in the booth, or in the press box. The truth is that championships are won by the team that wins today’s game most often, and this is clearly a function of the present, not the past.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Class Tells as Cards Beat 'Stros

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before the team with baseball’s best record finally put in an appearance. Not that the St. Louis Cardinals have been playing poorly against the Houston Astros in the playoffs to this point – far from it! But the timely hit … the critical play … the ‘magic’ I wrote about yesterday have all been missing, and you could just see the frustration on the players’ faces.

But the pendulum swung dramatically last night, as the top of the St. Louis order finally did what it has done all season long, and simply made things happen. With two outs in the top of the ninth, trailing by two runs, and knowing that a loss meant the end of their quest for World Series redemption, David Eckstein singled and Jim Edmonds walked, and Astro closer Brad Lidge – he of the 97mph fastball – stared in as slugger Albert Pujols strode to the plate.

It was a moment that evoked memories of Kirk Gibson in Game One of the ’88 World Series. I know, Pujols wasn’t injured, so it wasn’t exactly the same thing. But he was 0 for 4 coming into the at bat and already had left four men on base, and the magic clearly had been working in Houston’s favor all series long. Yet, at that moment, anyone with any baseball sense at all just knew that this game was over, and not in the way the 43,470 people in attendance were anticipating. The Cardinals simply had capitalized too often on such opportunities during the season – last season, too, for that matter – for anybody wearing Astros gear to relax.

And sure enough: Pujols sent Lidge’s second pitch over the train tracks in left, and the lead suddenly and irreversibly changed hands. But in the end, even those pulling for Houston somehow were not overly disappointed, for these are the guys who are supposed to beat you. (For counterexamples, please see Rodriguez, A. or Guerrero, V.) Whether or not the magic again changes sides in St. Louis tomorrow or Thursday, for one night it was nice to see players who had carried their team all year do so again when it counts.

Monday, October 17, 2005

White Sox Enjoy Black Magic

In the early 1980s, in the wake of an ownership change that ultimately resulted in a World Series title, the New York Mets draped a banner across Shea Stadium announcing “The Magic if Back!” Well, events this past week in Chicago and Anaheim suggest the magic still exists, only this time it has surfaced in the nation’s center and not at its Eastern edge.

In a turn of events no less stunning than the Red Sox last year reversing their 86-year “curse,” the White Sox today seem poised to break an 88-year championship drought of their own, and it does appear they are getting some kind of otherworldly help. How else do you explain the fact that A.J. Pierzynski was safe twice on plays that easily could have been called the other way?

Sure, the club can pitch (four straight complete game victories against the Angels), and field (perfect positioning absorbing hot shot after hot shot against Boston), and hit (viz. ALCS MVP Paul Konerko and “Mr. Timely” Joe Crede), and run (“Go – Go – Go!”). But is all that really enough to assure a Series win?

It’s clear to this observer that there’s more to winning championships than just raw talent – otherwise, there would have been celebrations in Baltimore in 1969, in Oakland in 1988, and, yes, in St. Louis in 2004. Call it “chemistry” or just black magic, it’s alive and well on Chicago’s South Side, and it’ll be fun to see if it can conjure up four more Sox wins before it moves on.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Baseball Week in the Life: We Live for This!

notes from the week ending Labor Day 2005


Took my three oldest sons to Brockton to see the independent Rox play the visiting Grays, the former Bangor Lumberjacks who had lost their home and spent the summer as a latter-day barnstorming team. The night was cold and damp, but it was better than the evening before, when the game had been suspended. So we were treated to a game and a half, as the previous contest was completed before the scheduled one began.

Between games, we were treated to the sight and sounds of former BoSox and current Rox hurler Oil Can Boyd kitkaddooing in the dugout and on the field with his friends and teammates. We also overindulged on hot dogs, which were on sale for the bargain price of two for 86 cents. I hate to tell you how many we consumed!

As it happens, my pals and fellow pundits at WATD radio were broadcasting the games that night, so I took Joshua (age 10) – and two hot dogs – up to the booth for a visit. Later on, one of the guys came down into the stands to do a “fan in the seats” interview with me, and the delight on my son’s face was a real joy to see.


One of Josh’s buddies was celebrating his birthday in a field-level luxury box in Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium, which is home to the Boston Red Sox triple-A affiliate of the same name. Since nothing separated us from the left-field foul line except for a three-foot wall and 15 feet of grass, the kids (and some of the grown-ups) obtained quite a few autographs, the most prized of which may have been from infield prospect Dustin Pedroia and pitcher Cla Meredith, who had had a cup of coffee in Boston earlier in the season. More hot dogs were eaten, and a good time was had by all.


Very next day, we piled our two youngest boys into the car and headed for Cooperstown NY – home, of course, to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. We arrived around suppertime, I was able to take Josh to the Hall for the last two hours it was open that night. I knew he’d love being there, but he did me proud when he said, “I know we only have limited time here tonight, but can we please be sure to see the plaques before we go?” I don’t know of any other 10-year-old – or too many adults, for that matter – who would be so excited to see a roomful of bronze wall-hangings. But he was, and so was I.


Following a full day exploring every inch of the Hall of Fame, we went to the Farmer’s Museum, which happens to be very good and definitely worth a visit. Among the attractions listed in the program was a scheduled demonstration of town ball, which is a precursor game to modern baseball. Played in the middle 1800s, town ball was governed by two sets of rules known as the New York Game and the Massachusetts Game, respectively, the former of which eventually came to predominate and evolved into the game we know today.

The version we saw used tall stakes instead of bases, required pitchers to throw the ball in locations called for by the batters, allowed runners to be erased by being hit with thrown balls (a practice known as “soaking”), and the bases to be run in what seemed to us to be the wrong order. But the best part was when the official – a woman dressed in period garb – asked Josh if he’d like to play! It seems that some of the museum staffers who regularly participated had returned to college, and the teams were somewhat short-handed. So just like that, Josh moved from third base with the North Waltham Minor Tigers to the outfield for the Cooperstown Athletics, and for the next 90 minutes, he was a nineteenth-century athlete.

Sunday Evening

We had to leave the Museum fairly soon after the game because we were going to a New York-Penn League game 30 minutes away in Oneonta. One of the players I profiled in my book about the Cape Cod Baseball League (Beach Chairs and Baseball Bats) was playing and starring for the O-Tigers, and we were eager to reconnect with him now that he had turned pro.

The player’s name is Will Rhymes, and we met last summer when he was playing second base for the Brewster Whitecaps. A pre-med student at William and Mary, he had first made the Cape League as a temporary player. But he performed so well that the club asked him to stay all summer, and he performed so well from that point on that he earned a spot on the All Star team and the attention of the major league scouts. He’s a great kid, and his is a great story, and it was, well, great when Detroit took him in the 27th round of this year’s draft.

Will was hanging off the dugout roof when we arrived and was quite taken aback to see me standing in the first row. But he was gracious as always, and despite the fact that his team clinched a playoff spot by defeating visiting Lowell that night, he made good on his promise to visit with us after the game. Josh was agog, of course, and even the baby stopped fussing (momentarily) while we chatted about what Will’s year had been like. Perhaps his most intriguing comments had to do with the time he spent in Florida immediately following the draft. It turns out that players coming out of college are very concerned about whether they will spend their season in Florida or in Short Season A ball, as Will did. They feel they have significantly more experience than players arriving directly from high school or from Latin America or other locales. So for Will, being sent to the hinterlands of New York State was very important indeed, and he made so much of his opportunity that I’m guessing he’ll be a Whitecap again next year – this time with the West Michigan club in the Class A Midwest League.

The Line on Rhymes: Games 61 / Avg .328 / OBP .391 / Hits 82 / Doubles 11 / Triples 3 / HR 2 / RBI 27 / BB 25 / K 15

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Who Will Stay and Who Will Go?

Barely one week after the '06 season has ended, it's the biggest question on the minds of all citizens of Red Sox Nation. Some thoughts on some high-profile choices:

Epstein: Boy wonder wants big bucks? Given the successes he's wrought, who's to say he doesn't deserve them? He'll re-up for more money and more authority, but for somewhat less of each than reports are he wants. Result: he stays.

Damon: Clearly torn between wanting to stay and wanting the jackpot. Sparkplug, leader of the pack; can run but not throw. Result: he goes.

Millar: The cattle drive is over, and this cowboy will have to ride off into the sunset. Result: he goes.

Mueller: Steady presence worth trying to recruit, but only to a point ... especially with the Greek God of Walks waiting in the wings. Result: he goes, and the Youkilis Era is upon us.

Ramirez: Manny being Manny? Only until the team stops winning, and/or he stops producing. Remaining contract still large but getting movable for deep-pocket teams. Still, limited opportunities exist to receive value-for-value. Result: he stays, at least until next July.

Cora-nino: Error or no, Graffanino is my guy. But with Pedroia and Ramirez (H) on the way, do we need both him and Cora? Maybe for a year, but it'll be hard to sign either or both for less than long-term. Result: Tony goes, Alex stays.

More soon ...