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Florida Marlins Ownership at The Center of a Financial Scandal

The Florida Marlins are generally viewed as one of professional sports’ most interesting teams. They’ve had an outstanding amount of talent throughout the years including Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Beckett, AJ Burnett, Dontrelle Willis, Edgar Renteria, among others. Those players usually never get “the big deal” they deserve and are either traded or leave via free agency. Well, now everybody knows where that money is going. Right into the owners’ pockets.

A deadspin leak of the Marlins’ finances shows that the Marlins have not only been pocketing profits for everything they’ve accomplished to date, but the estimated $2.4 billion taxpayers will spend for the team to build a new $515 million stadium.

In 2008, the Marlins traded superstar Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers and had a $28.2 million payroll. The documents reveal that they made a $37.8 million profit. Then, in 2009, their payroll was $35 million and they made an $11.1 million profit. That’s almost $50 million in profit over a two-year period. Where is all this money going?

Marlins’ owners not only lied to the fans, they lied to the city. The Marlins will only be paying $155 million for the $634 million stadium. With such a little payroll and such a large annual profit, the Marlins really couldn’t pay for most of this stadium? Taxpayers shouldn’t be very happy about this.

It isn’t just the Marlins’ fault though; the city was extremely irresponsible as well. Miami-Dade County agreed to take out $409 million in loans with balloon payments and long grace periods to help fund the stadium without the consent of taxpayers.

Nobody should blame owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson for taking advantages of loopholes that allowed them to be fiscally successful. Somebody needs to take action though and that should be Major League Baseball. It’s too late to take back the swindling act the Marlins did on the city of Miami, but similar situations in the future can be prevented if somebody steps in. It’s time to take a stand against small market owners pocketing money and then spending minimally on the team’s payroll.

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Five Major Changes the Boston Red Sox Must Make in 2011

Throughout the 2010 season, the Boston Red Sox have been on the cusp of making  the playoffs. With Dustin Pedroia hitting the disabled list for the second time this season, it appears that it’s finally time to throw in the towel. This team could still make the playoffs and Dustin Pedroia could be back by the end of September, but realistically, this is likely the end of the road.

It’s just been a horrible year full of growing pains for the Red Sox. They lack an identity and they’re not the team that we thought they were.

Besides Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and to an extent Daisuke Matsuzaka, the starting pitchers have been a disappointment.

Josh Beckett has been the poster boy for disappointment. Granted, he has spent a significant amount of time on the DL but really? 19 earned runs in his past three starts.

Has John Lackey really been even remotely close to good? Terry Francona will tell you he has but that’s just because he has to.

The offense exceeded expectations but they flamed out when everybody realized the season doesn’t end in July. Oh, and missing Kevin Youkilis has been a big reason for the flame out as well. Guys like Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz have quite frankly been the only impact bats on the team who haven’t been injured.

Injuries have definitely been a problem but they shouldn’t excuse the poor structure of the team. The only players on the team who have hit well have been Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz. Where is the big bat in the outfield though? Combined, Sox outfielders (Drew, Ellsbury, Hermida, Hall, Cameron, Nava, Kalish, Reddick, Van Every, Patterson, McDonald) have hit 55 home runs.

To put that into perspective, Red Sox outfielders rank dead last in the AL East in long balls. That’s right, they’re worse than the Baltimore Orioles at something.

The bullpen struggles go without mentioning.

It’s time for Theo Epstein and company to get on the phone and make some changes!

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Why the Red Sox Should Let Adrian Beltre Walk This Winter

Adrian Beltre has been absolutely sensational for the Boston Red Sox this year. That’s the thing though; it’s been one sensational year. Beltre’s track record says he will never have a batting average over .300 or an OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) over .900 ever again.

With an on base percentage of .366, Beltre hasn’t been on base this much since 2004 when he had an OBP of .388. His 162 game average is .328. As recently as 2009, Beltre was on base at a clip of .304. He has also had an OPS lower than .800 nine times in his thirteen year career.

Can the Red Sox really count on Beltre to produce this much next year? Quite frankly, the reason he signed here in the first place for such a low salary was to set himself up for a long-term deal at age 31. By rewarding him with an extension, the Sox would be giving him the chance to stop working hard.

The last time Adrian Beltre signed a long-term deal was in 2005. He signed a five-year, $64 million deal with the Seattle Mariners after a career year in which he hit 48 home runs with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004. Looks like the Dodgers made the right decision to let him walk.

That’s exactly the approach the Red Sox need to take. Beltre’s track record speaks for itself. Have a monstrous season, get paid, stop working hard. After 2004, he was supposed to be in the prime of his career at age 26. Instead, he hit .255 with an OPS of .716 and had just 19 home runs in 156 games.

Beltre’s defensive prowess has also been grossly exaggerated. He leads all American League third basemen with 16 errors and it isn’t the first time he’s led the league in errors. Beltre did the same thing in 2007. Somehow he won one of his two gold gloves that year.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Adrian Beltre for everything he’s done this year for the Red Sox. He’s a very good hitter but his motivation has to be a question moving forward. It appears that he only plays well when there’s money on the line. An extension would also leave the Sox with little flexibility in the offseason when Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder will likely hit the trade market. Kevin Youkilis could just slide over to third base if the Sox are able to find a power hitting first baseman.

It’s simple: Pay Adrian Beltre and you will pay. Just ask Seattle.

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The Great Debate: Daniel Bard or Jonathan Papelbon as Red Sox Closer?

The Boston Red Sox are at a crossroads right now. In the thick of a pennant race, their star closer is melting down before their very eyes.

Jonathan Papelbon is putting up the worst numbers of his career and is no longer one of the most intimidating closers in baseball.

Sure, his credentials make him one of the all-time great Red Sox. Enough is enough though. It’s time for Daniel Bard to get the call from the bullpen in each and every save situation for the rest of the season.

Maybe this would have been a reactionary move in July, when half the team was on the DL. The injuries are no longer the story line though, as the only player the team is awaiting is second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Granted, Pedroia is a key part of the team, but in the end he’s just one player.

Now that the injury excuse is a thing of the past, the microscope is finally where it should be: the bullpen.

Despite all the injuries, this team has competed and stayed within striking distance of the Rays and Yankees. The offense has at the very least exceeded expectations. The starting rotation has been very good most of the time. The failures of the bullpen are the elephant in the room.

Now, Jonathan Papelbon certainly isn’t the only one to blame. Hideki Okajima, among others, has vastly underperformed. Papelbon is the closer though. He’s supposed to be the anchor of the bullpen.

Baseball is and has always been a game of numbers. The numbers don’t lie. Jonathan Papelbon has only saved 78 percent of his saves. In baseball, normally succeeding 78 percent of the time would be considered a wonderful thing. Not for closers though.

When you’re a closer, you’re probably not going to pitch more than 70 times in a year. When a closer fails, everybody knows so because it usually is the difference between winning and losing. Don’t even look at ERA when analyzing a closer’s stats. It’s a faulty stat because it doesn’t account for inherited runners.

Papelbon’s 83 percent save percentage is the worst in the American League among closers with at least 20 saves.

Andrew Bailey (87 percent): 20 saves
Jon Rauch (84 percent): 21 saves
David Aardsma (85 percent): 22 saves
Jose Valverde (96 percent): 22 saves
Bobby Jenks (88 percent): 23 saves
Brian Fuentes (85 percent): 23 saves
Mariano Rivera (92 percent): 24 saves
Kevin Gregg (86 percent): 25 saves
Pedro Feliz (91 percent): 29 saves
Jonathan Papelbon (83 percent): 29 saves
Joakim Soria (93 percent): 31 saves
Rafael Soriano (94 percent): 32 saves

Daniel Bard isn’t a proven Major League closer, but when you watch the two pitchers, who do you want on the mound with the game on the line? The guy with a 100 MPH fastball, an 85 MPH changeup, a low 90s slider, and a mid 80s curveball who has more strikeouts than innings pitched—that’s who you want.

Bard has been masterful this season. With a WHIP of 0.860, a WAR* of 2.5, and a RAR** of 17 (compared to Papelbon’s 1.148, 1.0, and 6 respectively), Bard has without question outperformed Jonathan Papelbon.

It’s a myth that Jonathan Papelbon is a player that only throws fastballs. He’s been throwing off-speed pitches more than he ever has in his career. It was an adjustment he had to make after he semi-struggled last season.

The problem this year isn’t a lack of a repertoire, but an inability to hit spots. When he throws a 96 MPH fastball down the middle when it was intended to be low and inside, what would any capable Major League hitter do? Crush the ball. Papelbon isn’t getting absolutely hammered this year, but he’s having bad days at all the wrong times.

If you were Terry Francona, would you make the change now or continue to roll the dice with Jonathan Papelbon?

* – Wins above replacement = the number of wins a player adds compared to his potential replacement player. 0-2 qualifies as a reserve. 2+ qualifies as a starter.

** – Runs above replacement = the number of runs a player is better than a replacement player.

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Boston Red Sox: Is It 2006 All Over Again?

The last time the Boston Red Sox missed the playoffs was in 2006. Much like this season, 2006 was an injury-riddled year that most fans considered a write-off. The organization would never admit it, but it felt the same way as this year.

It was worth it though, because the very next season the Red Sox would be crowned World Series champions. However, the rings wouldn’t come without a little pain and suffering.

The Sox won just 86 games in 2006 and allowed more runs (825) than they scored (820). Outside of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, who combined to hit 89 home runs, the offense was absolutely atrocious. Curt Schilling held the pitching staff’s lowest ERA at 3.97. Could this team do anything right?

2006 wasn’t a completely horrible year though. Sox fans got a glimpse of the future.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia would make his debut on August 22nd. After winning the Rookie of the Year Award (2007) and the MVP Award (2008), Pedroia became a fan favorite in Boston. He is without question the team leader and spokesman. Perhaps Ryan Kalish can be the 2010 version of Dustin Pedroia?

2006 would also be the breakout year for the future career saves leader, Jonathan Papelbon. As a 25-year-old rookie, Papelbon posted a 0.92 ERA and saved 35 games. Since then, he has saved 178 games.

While there were certainly bright spots such as Papelbon and Pedroia, 2006 was an extremely depressing season. Papelbon, Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez, and Keith Foulke were each out for an extended period due to injury. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Jon Lester was diagnosed with cancer in August.

This was the worst news of all. Lester was a promising young pitcher who pitched solidly up until a few weeks before the diagnosis. Oh, and it was cancer. Nobody ever would wish that upon another human being.

The injuries to the 2006 team don’t compare to the 2010 team in the sense of number of games missed. It was more the timing of the injuries; most of them happened in August or September. The team won nine games in August and that was pretty much the end of that.

On this date in 2006, the Red Sox had a 65-45 record and were only two games behind the New York Yankees. All of a sudden, once August came and went, the season was gone.

The problem for this year’s team is that the injuries all came at once and the Red Sox were left with a AAA lineup for most of the season. The list of players who have been on the DL is so extensive, it’s laughable.

Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis (out for the rest of the season), Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Jason Varitek, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Lowell, Jeremy Hermida, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. This year’s team still has a fighting chance despite all the injuries and bullpen struggles in the first four-plus months.

Six players have practically carried the team on their backs through this injury-riddled season: Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Daniel Bard. Unfortunately, Kevin Youkilis is out for the rest of the season. Somebody is going to have to step up.

Terry Francona has to be given an enormous amount of credit. He has been forced to make adjustments to the lineup every day and, for the most part, it appears that he’s pressed all the right buttons.

The Red Sox are currently just five games out of first place in the American League East, with 12 games against the Rays and Yankees to wrap up the season. The Rays and Yankees are practically neck and neck atop the East, only a half game apart. Any win over either of them is a step in the right direction.

The biggest contrast regarding the complexion of the AL East now and four years ago is that the Rays were still mediocre back then. It was pretty much just the Red Sox and the Yankees. The Blue Jays finished ahead of the Sox in the final standings, but they were no better than they are now. The Sox were just that bad and had that much bad luck as far as injuries were concerned.

The Sox have actually had a lot more injury problems this year. Another key difference has been the strength of this year’s pitching staff compared to the mediocrity four years ago.

In 2006, the rotation was Josh Beckett (5.01 ERA), Curt Schilling (3.97 ERA), Tim Wakefield (4.63 ERA), Jon Lester (4.76 ERA), and Matt Clement (6.61 ERA). Julian Tavarez was also slotted as the “spot starter” who filled in because of injuries. He wasn’t very impressive either, carrying a 4.47 ERA.

This year’s regular starters have been much better. I would take a staff consisting of Jon Lester (3.07 ERA), Clay Buchholz (2.66 ERA), John Lackey (4.48 ERA), Daisuke Matsuzaka (3.96 ERA), and Tim Wakefield (5.54 ERA) over the 2006 staff any day of the week.

This year’s team has done considerably well if you take into account all the injuries. Only five games out of first place and 4.5 games out of the wild-card spot, the Red Sox have a chance to surprise everybody. If they win the division, Adrian Beltre has to be considered a favorite to win the MVP Award.

All in all, after closely analyzing both seasons, it doesn’t look like this is anything like 2006. While 2006 had a lot of key injuries, their mediocrity was more because of the players they put onto the field not performing.

The injuries the 2010 team has faced have no comparison. There have just been so many more key injuries to key players all throughout the season. There hasn’t been a day since the first week of the season that the Opening Day lineup has all been on the field.

It would seem logical to give up on this team now, but with a strong August, it’s in the playoffs. I’m not going to give up on this team but I’m not going to hold my breath. All fans have been saying is “Once this team is healthy…”

The thing is, it never will be. Maybe it’s a problem with the medical staff. The Red Sox just can’t stay healthy.

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