Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Winter ball

When I grabbed the PowerBook and plunked down on the couch tonight, I intended to peck out a First and 10 column on state of the Patriots after their grinder of a victory over the wretched Lions Sunday. But with the news that the Sox have finally signed both J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo - I think both of these deals were first rumored during the Lou Gorman administration - baseball again grabbed the headlines in the sports pages of my mind. (You have no idea how much I wish I could cover these winter meetings. Man, it looks like such a blast. Maybe someday.) Anyway, we'll get to the Pats in the next day or so, providing they aren't again trumped by some relevant Red Sox developments. As for today's news, some thoughts we've been meaning to share . . .

• NESN jostled Jerry Remy from hibernation to appear in-studio on its nightly Hot Stove program, and we're glad to report he's as on top of his game now as he would be during a tense July showdown with the Yankees. He brought particular insight regarding Terry Francona's proclamation today that he expects Manny Ramirez to be with the Sox on opening day. Said RemDawg: "Terry Francona wants Manny Ramirez off this team. He wanted him off the team the last six week of the season, and he was adamant about that. Listening to the comments he makes, he's trying to do one of two things: Build up Manny to the rest of baseball so they can trade him, or smooth things out because he knows he's coming back." I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've heard anyone with credibility step up and say definitively that Francona feels Manny is more trouble than he's worth. Remy himself was clearly disgusted with Manny's absence late last season, yet unlike the Gerry Callahans of the media world who can barely suppress an irrational hatred for the goofball left fielder, Remy conceded that he's all but irreplaceable and sounded as if he wasn't dead-set on seeing him leave Boston. "I don't know who you could bring in except for Albert Pujols to make up for the loss of Manny," he said. All in all, it was compelling and rewarding television. Sure, Remy might be a huckster, but there's no one better at cutting to the chase and analyzing the sport. Even in December.

• I'm probably overdoing the Remy stuff here, but I also feel obligated to note how refreshingly blunt he was regarding the acquisition of J.D. Drew: "I haven't heard many good things about him," Remy admitted, before becoming the second prominent media person to compare Drew to Fred Lynn this week, following Peter Gammons's lead. Remy offered an interesting take on his laid-back former teammate: "I believe, and I think [Fred] believes, that if he stayed here his whole career, he'd be a Hall of Fame ballplayer . . . Because Boston pushed him, and sometimes, that works both ways . . . There's extra pressure to perform here, but sometimes you find out that certain guys you don't expect are at their best under pressure." I'd call that a lukewarm endorsement of Drew's chances here, but if the Sox are getting the second coming of Fragile Freddy, I think we'd all be satisfied with that, flaws and all.

• So what's my take on tonight's news? Well, I'm swallowing hard at the length and money of the Drew contract and reluctantly approving of the signing, with the caveat that he's coming here as the No. 5 hitter the Sox desperately need behind Manny and not as Manny's replacement in the four-slot behind Papi. As for his alleged laissez-faire attitude toward the game, my official position is that I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, in part because I hate the idea of running a player out of town before he actually arrives, and in part because I've vacillated so much with my opinion on Drew that three people I respect this week accused me of pulling a Glenn Ordway and trying to have it both ways. And to be honest, I probably did go overboard with the hyperbole in my criticism, particularly by calling him a Cowardly Lion. That does a disservice to his talent, and here's hoping Drew makes me to look like a fool, even if it's apparent that I'm perfectly capable of doing so myself. As for the Julio Lugo deal, I think I can be a little less wishy-washy with this one: The Sox will regret this, they will regret this soon, and they will regret this dearly. I've never understood Theo's fascination with this average, erratic ballplayer, and I'm pretty sure I never will.

• Tom Verducci, a fantastic writer who nonetheless sometimes strikes me as the national beat writer/apologist for the Yankees, was the first to report today that Andy Pettitte could be rejoining Satan's Traveling All-Stars by the end of the week. Man, I hope this doesn't happen. While he's 34 and seems to battle elbow problems with increasing frequency in recent years, there's still a lot to like: He was outstanding in the second half for the Astros last season, he's a better bargain (hell, perhaps a better pitcher) than Barry Zito, he'd offer a huge boost to a Yankees rotation that is pocked by question marks and injuries, and his presence would likely make the Yankees the front-runners for his buddy Roger Clemens once the transparent dope ends his faux-retirement for the 21st consecutive season. Here's hoping the man they call Donkey hangs 'em up or remains in Houston. We don't need the Yankees pulling off a free-agent steal here.

• No matter what happens the rest of the offseason, this is the most encouraging news the Boston Red Sox could possibly receive. And how much do you admire young Jon Lester for the public grace and poise with which he faced his illness? Pretty remarkable person. Given his talent and character, the Sox are blessed to have him.

• As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Here's hoping he's the next beneficiary of John Henry's wallet.

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