Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout Bill Fails

Today, the House Republicans torpedoed a financial sector bailout that would've cost the American people $700 billion. I have mixed feelings on this. While I detest seeing the value of my 401K and other investments hurtling down in value, I don't like the idea of a government bailout bill of this magnitude.

Considering the cost of the War on Terrorism and if Barack Obama becomes President, the potential cost of a universal healthcare bill, a $700 billion bailout seems unaffordable, without new revenue streams (i.e. income tax hikes) being proposed by the Democrats. At some point, there needs to be some fiscal responsibility coming from the Legislative and Executive branches of our federal government. It was the House Republicans who fired the first shot across the bow that they would not betray their conservative roots.

While confidence in the markets is shaky at best, a bailout would've meant another step toward socialism. If we are truly a capitalist nation, we need to allow poor performing companies to fail.
Although the Dow Jones, the NASDAQ, and S&P look ugly right now, I believe in the next 6-8 months, these losses will all be regained and beyond. Despite the confidence crisis in the markets, now may be a great time to buy low on stocks and beef up your portfolio with some bargains.

The U.S. market and economy overcame the unprecedented 2001 terrorist attacks that crippled our nation with fear for six months. We can certainly overcome bank failures. The United States of America is a strong, resilient nation and we shall overcome adversity once again.

Red Sox Regular Season Report Card

In a season of ups and downs, the Red Sox managed to secure an easy Wild Card playoff spot, besting the competition by 6 games in the standings. That being said, I found this regular season to be a bit of a disappointment. While the numbers look successful, they never went off on one of those long 9 or 10 game winning streaks. They got hot for a bit in September, but that was it. In the first half of the season, they were brutal on the road.

Expectations are very high for a team coming back to defend their title. I felt with the level of talent on this team, they underachieved. Some players started to show their age. Others took their game to a whole new level. Considering the seasons Youk and Pedroia had after spending the offseason at that Arizona conditioning camp, John Henry should make it mandatory that every member of the 40 man roster spends their offseason with Youk and Pedroia there.

Here is the end of the regular season report card.

The hitters:
Jason Varitek – F He was ATROCIOUS with the bat this season. Other than batting .264 in August, here are his batting averages from June onward: June - .122, July - .197, Sept. - .186. He also only threw out 23% of the runners attempting to steal. The Sox thrive on their Belichickian coldness when it comes to letting established players go to free agency. I hope the team makes the right decision here and moves on.

Kevin Cash – C The good news – Kevin Cash hit for his career high, .225. The bad news – Kevin Cash’s career high BA is .225. He did manage to throw out 31% of the runners attempting to steal, which considering he mostly catches knuckeballer Tim Wakefield, is pretty damn good.

Kevin Youkilis – A+ He’s a Gold Glove caliber defender at two positions, and he established career highs in HRs, RBI, and BA. He’s one of the two MVP candidates on the team. He was nothing short of AWESOME this season.

Sean Casey – B- I was thrilled with his acquisition, but I was a little disappointed in him only getting 199 AB’s due to nagging injuries that plagued him all season. I’m curious if his obvious lack of commitment to physical conditioning is the root cause of his injuries. When he does play, he is a hit machine. He could’ve easily had 300 AB’s if he had stayed healthy. When it comes to baserunning, he also may be slower than the Molina brothers.

Dustin Pedroia – A+ It’s a close call, but he should be the AL MVP. Who doesn’t love this guy? He is a true IMPACT player, with his swashbuckling style of leaving it all out on the field every night.

Jed Lowrie – B- He’s cooled off in September, but to be fair he hasn’t ever played a season this long. He’s a steady ballplayer and makes the plays at SS. He will only get better. I’d like to see him gain about 10 lbs. of muscle in the offseason in AZ.

Mike Lowell – C+ Injuries marred his first season with a new contract. Everyone loves the guy and when he’s healthy he’s an excellent player. However both, his BA and RBI total were each 50 points lower than last season.

Alex Cora – C Another season of Alex being Alex. Filling in quietly where needed. Unspectacular, but he never seems to hurt the team. His power is now Remy-esque. How much Winstrol was he taking in 2004, when he hit 10 HR?

Julio Lugo – F He’s this year’s winner of the Matt Clement Award given to the injured Red Sox player that everyone rooted for to stay injured so we’d never have to see him cross the lines of battle in a Red Sox uniform ever again.

Manny Ramirez – F He quit on the team. Period.

Jason Bay – A- Solid player, came right in and did the job. Wasn’t intimidated by playing in a new league in an environment where the games matter. Over the course of 600 AB’s, his Red Sox numbers project to 30 HR and 100 RBI, which is a standard Jason Bay season.

Jacoby Ellsbury – C+ Plays a great CF, stole 50 bases, but his bat was inconsistent and his .336 OBP was a disappointment. He was so cold at one point, he got moved out of the leadoff position to bat ninth. He had a strong September, so hopefully this will carry into the playoffs like last year.

Coco Crisp – B This space has been very critical of Coco during his tenure with the Red Sox, but you know what? Coco Crisp had a good season and is a perfect 4th OF. He made the best catch of the of the MLB season in Anaheim back in July. And despite the Coco vs. Jacoby battle to be the everyday CF, Coco lost the battle, but still wound up with 363 AB’s.

J.D. Drew – B He was the AL player of the month in June, and he seemed well on his way to a 30 HR 100 RBI season, until his back started flaring up. I think this town is too hard on him. It is frustrating that he gets hurt, but he does play hard, keeps his mouth shut, puts up the numbers when healthy, and is an excellent defensive RF. He is quite similar to Jason Bay.

Mark Kotsay – C- Versatile backup OF and 1B, who went into a slump the last 3 weeks of the season.

Jeff Bailey – B- His numbers look ok, he works pitchers well, but he has a huge hole in his swing when it comes to breaking pitches in the dirt. He’s a big guy with a slow bat, who can hit mistakes. Not much defensively, he’s a homeless man’s Kevin Millar, except no one can throw a fastball by Millar.

Brandon Moss – B He didn’t do much in extended playing time in Pittsburgh, but I liked what I saw of this kid in a Boston uniform and was disappointed that he wound up being part of the Manny trade.

David Ortiz – C Despite the clicking wrist, the clock is ticking on Big Papi. He wasn’t having a great season even before the wrist injury. I think he’s lost it a little. Time for him to start sipping on more of those Dominican protein shakes. (When asked about whether he used PEDs, Papi didn’t acknowledge use, but said who knows what was in those Dominican protein shakes trainers were giving him).

The pitchers:
Josh Beckett – C He was mediocre and inconsistent. He also just strained an oblique muscle and considering this picture from spring training, I didn’t realize he had any oblique muscles. He looks like he spent last offseason on the Sean Casey Diet.

Jon Lester – A Terrific year. He’s been their best pitcher this season. A lefty who touches 96 on the radar gun. He may be even better than those Andy Pettitte projections.

Daisuke Matsuzaka – B+ He’s pretty much unhittable, but still falls into the habit of nibbling and can be painful to watch pitch. His stuff is tremendous and sometimes moves too much. He is the key to the Sox playoff hopes. If he resorts to the 5 inning, 100 pitch hurler we’ve seen a lot of this year, the Sox are in trouble.

Tim Wakefield – C+ The usual Wakefield season. He still has value, ate up 181 innings. He’s a .500 pitcher with a 4.xx ERA.

Paul Byrd – C Good 5th starter. Generally gives 6 innings and allows 4 runs, all the while you sit there watching him and asking yourself, how the hell does he get anyone out with that junk he’s throwing? Ever see the movie Major League? He’s Harris from Major League.

Bartolo Colon – C + The Sox got 6 outings out of him, before he injured an oblique, took forever to come back from it, pitched one more game, then decided to go to the D.R. and not come back. The Sox could really use him right now.

Clay Buchholz- F Seems like he’s got some growing up to do. He had NO confidence by the end of his tenure with the big league club. A lost season.

Hideki Okajima – B- His numbers all look good, except his Rudy Seanez-esque season of allowing seemingly every inherited baserunner to score.

Javier Lopez – A- He had a very good season. Just don’t ask too much out of him. Lefty specialist who held left handed batters to a .187 BA.

Jon Papelbon – A- Seems the league, particularly the AL East, has caught up to him a little. Major league hitters can catch up to 97 mph fastballs if they know It’s coming. He needs to mix speeds more and work that splitter and slider in to keep hitters off balance.

Justin Masterson – A His late season transition to a relief role was the major factor in stabilizing the bullpen.

Manny Delcarmen – B- Terrible first half, very good second half. Needs to trust his stuff and pitch with more confidence.

David Arardsma – C- He’s just another guy, who throw a hard, but straight fastball and is an 11th guy on your pitching staff.

Mike Timlin – D I think this October is likely the last round up for Timmy.

Craig Hansen – F When a team is giving up a guy with stuff like his, he’s obviously a hopeless cause.

The Braintrust:
Terry Francona – A- Yeah, he is stubborn in his refusal to pinch hit for Varitek and for letting starters go too long and allowing games get out of hand (i.e. Wakefield in Texas), but he masterfully handled the Ellsbury/Crisp CF situation and somehow managed to put up with Manny for 4.5 years without being arrested for attempted murder. He’s outstanding when it comes to dealing with the media. Good media relations are now part of a baseball manager’s job and Tito handles it well and never sells his players out. Conversely, Joe Girardi is getting killed in NY by the media because of his Nomar Garciaparra hostage video style of media relations. Tito also seemingly has interminable patience when it comes to Heidi Watney’s insipid interview questions.

Theo Epstein - A+ Need a 5th starter? He bought Byrd from the Indians. Need some OF depth? He acquired Kotsay from Atlanta. Both deals were done after the trading deadline. He got rid of Manny, and while he was held over a barrel and had to give up Moss and Hansen, too, he got Jason Bay, who’s been everything the Sox needed. What more can Theo Epstein do? Despite being a liberal/Socialist/John Kerry supporting puke, he’s the best GM in baseball.