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Holley Cow!

Warning:  Parody!  I love Michael Holley :-) (no not like that, but in a Great Columnist kind of way... except for today)

9.20.02:  Just got back from town and was reading the hard copy of this 'effort' over coffee. I'm steamed. This mail-it-in-Michael got top head just under the 'Sports' banner. Amazing. Amazing that Holley thinks this worth 50-cents, done in a half-hour-or-less drivel is going to be the definitive summation of Grady's year here in Boston. I like Holley, and he's been kind enough to reply directly to a couple of emails earlier in the year, but I just cannot let this go without a line by line rebuttal. Not sure if these empty sentences fly in Chicago (apparently not) but this is not worthy of Red Sox Nation (my rebuttal in parens).

Sacrifice would be wrong call for Sox
(No intern headline writer, a few more sacrifices may have saved Gravy's job)

By Michael Holley, Globe Columnist, 9/20/2002 (The venerable Holley Llama, as is his nickname)

Unless the boss has a surprise for me (like a one-way ticket back to the Windy City), I won't write about the Red Sox again in the last days of summer (what do you mean "again"?). I'm done. Finished. (Be careful what you wish for). Ready to hear from Tom Brady, Antoine Walker, and Joe Thornton (Yes, can't wait for some red-hot Bruins columns. What ex-Harvard pond hockey stars are going to lead us to the promised eighth-playoff spot in the East this time around?). The end of my Sox season is about two dozen paragraphs away (which are 12 too many). As Carl Everett would say, ''Bye, bye, bye.'' (Are you auditioning for the Star-Telegram beat job? -- hey SoSH'ers can we get the usual 'why do they always have to bring up Carl Everett!!!' whine. Should be fun this time around eh?)

But it wouldn't be right to leave the discussion without saying a few words about the manager (that's why I'm here pal).

Grady Little's first season in Boston may have begun peacefully (or with a rousing seven minute standing ovation), but now he is witnessing the Summer of Slam. Manny Ramirez has been the subject of verbal jabs all season (By who? I haven't seen anything negative. We all love that hustlin' slick fieldin' clutch hittin' kid). Nomar Garciaparra absorbed the first media haymaker of his career earlier this week (was quite the blow wasn't it?). And the manager himself has been pelted with suggestions that he may have one of the shortest managerial timelines in team history. (um, 'suggestions' would be a Little understated if you've been reading the boards, listening to the calls, and talkin' to the fans at Fenway)

There is nothing new about athletes and coaches/managers being criticized in New England (But there is something old about where this is going... nowhere). When it comes to Red Sox Septembers (the three you've seen anyway), the only question is if fans and media will turn before the leaves (only when they read this House Organ Puff Piece my friend). Little's case, though, is unusual (yes, in the fact that Lucchino is letting him ride out the remainder of the season where Grady's mandate was 'to finish the last three weeks of the season strong'... how's that goin'??). I'm still surprised that the Replace Grady idea has been able to float for so long. I keep waiting for Larry Lucchino and his management team to knock it down, saying that it is wild and irresponsible speculation (if the phone don't ring, that's Lucky on the other end calling you to knock down this 'preposterous' and 'insane' -- or whatever other 'ridiculous' adjectives you carelessly want to toss in. Not bad enough he doesn't get it, but he doesn't even give the idea merit. Hey Michael, your well-respected colleague, Jackie MacMullan, is already on record as saying that Grady is gone "mark my words"... is Jackie 'wild and irresponsible'?... hardly)

The wait has been going on for a few weeks (you're gonna wait in vain my man).

If management is even considering firing Little after this season, it has already made its first mistake for 2003 (consider the 'mistake' made... can you tell us anything else about how 2003 is going to play out?) We're talking about a man who has spent nearly a third of his life managing (that's the sad part). He hasn't just paid his minor league dues, he has overpaid them (so the F-in Boston Red Sox are responsible for rewarding this rube for his Atlanta Braves minor league Stint of the Decade?!?). He has seen a lot of baseball (games lost this season due to being outmanaged in every situation where it counted... the guy is 'seeing' all this baseball because he's just happy to be here), been on a lot of bad bus rides (again Michael, NOT OUR FAULT), and had plenty of time to listen to the country music he loves (may I suggest Break It To Me Gently - Angela Bofill, Whoever's In New England - Reba McEntire, Angry All The Time - Tim McGraw, Endless Summer Nights - Richard Marx, Things I Should Have Said - Clay Walker, www.memory - Alan Jackson (I can't believe that's a real song, country music is fascinating), Here In The Real World - Alan Jackson, If I Had Only Known - Reba McEntire, It's Just a Matter of Time - Randy Travis, She Used to be Mine - Brooks & Dunn, and Little Goodbyes - SheDaisy).

He also didn't have a perfect start to his rookie year (no actually, he almost did). He took the job after spring training began (NS Sherlock). His coaching staff, as talented as it may be, is not his ("that was one issue that irked Jimy Williams when he was here" -- hey that's Holley's parentheses, not mine, don't get me going on Jimy). Little was able to pick Tony Cloninger to be his pitching coach (insert gratuitous 'drinking buddy' joke here), but he inherited everyone else (Soooo Dewey, Tommy, Stano, and Cubbage are the real problems? This is going from the ridiculous to the sublime). He also took over a clubhouse that, six months earlier, was one glance away from mutiny ('sigh' no Michael, a lot of the malcontent deadwood Bitchette, Lanslide, The Truth, D-Lew, O'Lousy, etc. were long gone, it was a brand new clubhouse remember 'New Team, Now Attitude'?)

You know what Little was during the early part of the season? Lucky (Yes, lucky that Lucky was asleep at the wheel during his interview and there weren't many other candidates available). He was lucky that a team he didn't have time to train (what exactly is he going to 'train' these guys in? You train to run a marathon, not manage a MLB baseball team. Grady's still got the training wheels on his Schwinn, that's the problem here Michael, but you clearly don't get it) got off to such a good start (yeah the All-Stars vs. Torontampa, he should be very proud... oh wait, he was). He was lucky that he was able to win early with a bullpen that would eventually prove to be untrustworthy (especially when he constantly mismanaged it in critical situations, didn't have the right relievers ready, left burnt starters in two batters too long). He was lucky that there were no problems with his third base coach, Mike Cubbage. Cubbage is a good man. He also happened to be a candidate for the job that Little now has (Someone please explain to me what Mike Cubbage being a good man has to do with Grady's performance as manager of the Red Sox in 2002... this thing is mind boggling... was the night editor on strike?).

Looking back on it now, the 40-17 start was the worst thing that could have happened to a lot of people (I don't know what to say anymore, this is unbelievable). Fans. Columnists. And first-year managers (soon to be 'last year's manager'). The start got in the way of honest analysis (honest "analysis"... like this drivel?!?). It took place two months after the Super Bowl, so it was natural to feel that the Sox were tailgating the Patriots' destiny cloud (Huh? The Patriots have nothing to do with Grady's Little's performance as the Manager of the Boston Red Sox... throw out all the red herrings you want Michael, you're not in Chicago anymore (or are you?).

They weren't. Not with that 'pen (with the 40 save closer?). Not with that rotation (the one with the two 20-game winners?) . If the Sox had begun 35-22 (Grady may have been fired on the spot), part of this conversation wouldn't be necessary (this isn't a conversation, it's you trying to pass this off as a legitimate column). Everyone (so we're all grouped together now... just like the 'media') would have said then what they're saying now: The Sox are a good team, but they're not balanced enough to win a championship. Or even a wild card (Who's saying that? Most people say the main problem was that team took on the laid-back attitude ot its manager and didn't play with any urgency. 'Balanced' yeah, too top heavy with All-Stars, what a terrible situation to shove Grady into)

There was a recent scene at Fenway that perfectly summarized Little's pitching dilemma. Derek Lowe was on the mound, trying to earn his 20th win of the season (so you're using an example from a game after the season was over?). He was exhausted in the sixth and wanted to come out. Little told him, ''I can get you six more outs, but I'm not sure I can get you nine.'' So Lowe had a choice of fighting through the seventh, or gambling that his lead would be secured by a 'pen that hasn't provided much security all year (you're making this little scenario sound like it's the seventh game of the World Series, who cares?!?)

He stayed through the seventh, the Sox got the six outs that Little guaranteed, and Lowe pocketed his 20th win (So therefore, you're crazy to even suggest replacing Grady. Tell me if it's just me, but I cannot believe this made it to print and he's gonna get paid for writing it).

If Little doesn't manage here next season, he'll do well somewhere else (like Portland managing the Sea Dogs like I said, he'll love it up there). He's already a good manager ('good' is not good enough around here Michael, but you really haven't been around here that long have you?), a big-league rookie who will improve in Years 2 and 3 (How? Why? All rookie managers? Anything to back this up now that this brilliant analysis is winding down?). His time in the minors taught him how to handle different personality types, so he could tell that Tim Wakefield needed to hear a few compliments (Tim Wakefield needed to get back in shape, stop whining, and he did... nothing to do with Grady). He knew that Pedro Martinez needed to be handled a certain way (Yeah, it's called Pedro's way or the highway). After Brian Daubach struck out against Eric Gagne in Los Angeles, he knew what to say to him after the game (*see Hench's paragraph on this as the difference between real analysis and this kid-glove-treatment-is-key crap). As crazy as it sounds, he knew to ask Ramirez about his new purchases from FAO Schwarz - remote-controlled cars - in Baltimore (WTF! Is this guy for real? And how has Grady's Manny handling skills worked out so far? Manny's not husting for him? Manny does his own thing as Manny always has, always will... Grady's presence did not change Manny Ramirez's approach to Boston baseball one bit).

What bothers people, understandably (is that this passes for a column in 2002 in The Boston Globe), is Little's response to Ramirez in Tampa (it was a lack of response, get it right). Some people wanted to see him remove Manny from the game, which he should have done. Some people wanted to see dugout rage, which he'll never do (No, just simply speak to Manny on the spot and remove him from the game... not wait to talk to Manny in the tunnel, tell him to apologize, then do nothing about it and give Freddy Sanchez the worst of impressions of major league baseball or maybe it's just Boston Red Sox baseball under Grady Little).

He works in private, which is what everyone pined for last season (Wait... what?!? No, we pined for a manager to lead his team and outmanage the competition); a team and an organization that wasn't so publicly dysfunctional (the Red Sox will always be open to the public in Boston pal). Often, you can find Little at his desk, reading mail from people who ask him why his players wear baggy uniforms (THAT'S THE PROBLEM!!! Why isn't he figuring out how to win baseball games and why his All-Star team is going home in 9 days!!!), why they chew tobacco (who cares!!), and why they don't shave more often (that's not what he needs to be doing!!!). They also ask about his lineups (can you blame them? We question them all the time!).

Little looks comfortable at the manager's desk (so that makes him qualified? Because he's just happy to be here? Is entertained by the 9-8 losses in New York?!?). He should be permitted to stay long enough to warm the seat (for the next guy the new GM hires).

* Hench: "Sending up Dauby to face Eric Gagne on 6/21:

Grady has done some brilliant maneuvering in this avalanche of one-run losses, moves that have resulted in such undesirable situations as Doug Mirabelli batting not once but twice with the bases loaded in an extra-inning loss to the Yanks, but his master stroke had to be sending up Brian Daubach to pinch hit against Eric Gagne with the tying run on third and one out in a one-run game. What the Sox needed desperately - the absolute imperative in that situation - was someone to put the ball in play, so Grady calls for a guy who has fanned in 10 of his 11 previous plate appearances. Did anyone in New England, anyone in the L.A. pressbox, anyone in the dugout - besides the moron in charge - think Dauber would put the ball in play there? Predictably (to the rest of us), Dauby flails at ball four and the Sox lose."

And a few second opinions from people who take their time and get it right at SoSH:

From SoSH Poster Cuzitt - Michael Holley (via Big Dog) says:
If you look at the one-run streak, it "coincided" with the Sox' interleague
schedule. Of course, it wasn't a coincidence at all. The team's weaknesses
started to be exposed against Atlanta, Los Angeles and Arizona, three of the
best teams in baseball. We should have seen it then: When facing the best
teams in the league, the Sox were inadequate.

While it is true that the one run streak started in earnest in June (8 one
run games in 26 games, going 1-7), it wasn't as if the one run games all
came against the iron of the NL. The Sox lost one run games to Detroit and
San Diego as well as to Arizona, Atlanta and LA. But... it isn't as if the
one run streak did not continue.

In July they had TEN one run games, going 3-7. They lost one run games to
Detroit, Toronto and Tampa Bay. They had 6 more in August (going 1-5),
including losses to Texas and Cleveland.

And this doesn't even get into the fact that this team lost 5 consecutive
extra inning games.

But, this is somewhat irrelevant. The argument being made is that somehow
the stretch in June against the iron of the NL (Atlanta, LA and Arizona,
with the Sox going 1-11) somehow exposed the flaws in this team. Yet, the
only flaws you mention in the article are the bullpen and the Starting
rotation. And, neither were really exposed in June.

The problem in June was the OFFENSE. Plain and simple. The Red Sox offense
put up a historically awful month, with a combined offensive line of
.250/.310/.389/.700. To put this in context, the worst offensive performance
in any other fully completed month for the Sox this year was in May, where
the combined Red Sox offense was .284/.352/.447/.800.

More importantly, the best offensive player (in regular playing time) was
Nomar Garciapparra's .300/.348/.480/.828. To put this into perspective,
Nomar's .828 OPS for the month would have been no HIGHER than 4th in any
other month completed this season. Worse yet, Only two players in any
playing time was able to have an OPS higher than Nomar's .828 (Derek Lowe's
.833 in 5 Plate Appearance, Juan Diaz's 1.232 OPS in 8 Plate Appearance).

Did the bullpen show flaws? I suppose. Rich Garces was bad in 4 appearances,
and Sunny Kim was weak in 1 appearance (Kim's bad outing was in a game where
Garces also had a bad outing). Otherwise, Every single pitcher appearing out
of the pen had an ERA under 4, and 5 pitchers (Darren Oliver, Ugueth Urbina,
Willie Banks, Chris Haney and Alan Embree) had ERA's which were 3.00 or
lower. The Total Bullpen had an ERA of 3.48, blew only one save opportunity,
but ended up with 5 losses. 4 of the losses came in games where the Sox
scored 3 runs or fewer.

(The bullpen was also decent at not allowing inherited runners to score,
allowing only 9 of 24 (37.5%), which is better than the number for the year
(40% scoring).

What of the starters? By ERA, it was the rotations worse month, the only
month were the ERA was over 4.00. (Which, would tend to negate the rotation
as the real problem through the year). Pedro had a [relatively] poor month
(2-2, 3.34 ERA). Lowe had a relatively poor month (3-2, 2.73 ERA). Arrojo
had an OK month replacing Darren Oliver (1-1, 4.28 ERA). Burkett had a poor
month (1-3, 4.70 ERA), and Castillo had a bad month... a month which
resulted in his demotion to the pen (2-3, 5.91 ERA). But, again, let's look
at the actual impact. 9 of the 11 losses came in games where the Sox offense
scored 4 runs of less.

The real problem in June wasn't the pitching. In 17 of the 26 games, Red Sox
pitching allowed 4 runs or fewer to score. The Red Sox were 8-9 in those
games. The Red Sox lost 7 one run games, 6 times the offense scored 4 or
fewer runs... twice losing 2-1 and thrice losing 3-2. The Red Sox offense
FAILED to score as many as 4 runs 12 times, including scoring only 2 seven
times. In the 12 games against the 3 big NL teams, the Red Sox scored 4 runs
or fewer 9 times. Losing every game.

Why was the offense as poor as it was? Well, perhaps the fact that Manny
Ramirez appeared in only the final 5 games played a part. Perhaps the fact
that Rey Sanchez (who was coming off one of his best offensive months ever)
missed all but two games. Perhaps the fact that Rickey Henderson was unable
to play for 14 consecutive games due to injury. I am sure all of these
played a part.

Also playing a part was the fact that Rey Sanchez was not placed on the DL
for over a week after he showed he was still injured in games against
Detroit. Or the fact that Rickey Henderson was never placed on the DL. For a
week, the Sox played with a 23 player roster, and for an additional week,
they played with a 24 player roster.

As well, with Manny's injury, Grady played Brian Daubach in the outfield. In
and of itself, this was OK. Daubach did not embarass himself defensively.
However, over the years, Daubach has shown he can not play continuously
without hitting a bad streak. Yet, due to the injuries to Manny and Rickey,
and the ABSOLUTE REFUSAL of Grady to start Bryant Nelson in the outfield
(Bryant started twice in the outfield in June), Brian Daubach had to keep
playing. Unfortunately, his 82 Plate Appearances resulted in a
.149/.232/.297/.529 line for the month. (Meanwhile, in Bryant Nelson's 15
PA's, he put up a line of .286/.333/.357/.690)

So, I don't think June's woes correspond with your analysis of the problem.

However, Grady was showing his problem areas. Lack of use for the bench... 3
different players played in all the games that month (2 of them starting
every game of the month), another 2 playing in all but one game in this
month. Jason Varitek played in all but 3 games for the month. (One has to
wonder if Jason Varitek would have been such an offense black hole in August
(.183/.247/.256/.503) and September (.174/.240/.239/.479) if he had been
rested more in April-July. And, the trend of not resting players has
continued through until this very day.

He played the bullpen like a violinist playing a tuba. Playing the "hot"
hand, and keeping others on the bench for a week or more. Embree came in and
played in 3 of the 5 games he was here for in July (and continued to be the
hot hand out of the bullpen in July, appearing in 4 of the first 5 games in
July). Urbina, despite coming into the month with 14 consecutive appearances
without giving up a run, appeared in only 8 games, and twice had a week
between appearances. Casey Fossum was Alan Embree in early June, and
reprised the role on the road against the NL. Chris Haney was on both sides
of the fence... appearing in 3 of 4 games between June 8-11, then didn't
appear for a week and a half TWICE. Willie Banks had two seperate stretches
of a week between appearances. This is bullpen mismanagement... and can only
be placed on the head of the manager. And, this type of mismanagement
continued through the year... as Embree or Howry or Wayne Gomes (who has
appeared in 9 games in September) seemingly were placed out there every game
or every other game. And, unfortunately, these players ultimately failed,
perhaps due to fatigue.

To sum up... has the bullpen failed? At times. Can the failure be placed
solely on the bullpen pitchers? No. Grady Little has at least something to
do with the failure, overplaying certain hands (Embree has appeared 31 times
despite coming to the Sox in late June AND going on the DL, Howry has
appeared 17 times since his arrival in August, and Wayne Gomes has appeared
17 times, despite being on the Sox roster for less than 2 months), while
failing to use others enough (Banks has only 27 appearances despite a 3.50
ERA) or in the correct role (Casey Fossum averaged just over 1 Inning per
relief appearance (1.29 IP including his 7 Inning Relief Appearance in July,
1.10 IP absent that appearance).

I don't believe the starting rotation WAS a problem, and when a particular
starter did go wrong, a change was made relatively quickly.

The offense was generally OK, but Grady failed to recognize or act on
players slumps. Tony Clark started 17 games in April despite his 473 OPS.
Rey Sanchez started 20 games in April despite his 599 OPS. Daubach started
20 games in June despite his 529 OPS. Jose Offerman started 14 games despite
his 406 OPS. Sanchez started 17 games in July despite his 481 OPS. Varitek
started 23 games in August despite his 503 OPS.

One can defend a manager like you did, trying to cherry-pick things that
went wrong. But, it isn't a fair analysis. Did the Bullpen fail? At times.
How much did Grady contribute to this failure?

Did the starting pitching fail? At times. How much did Grady contribute?

Same question for the offense. Same question for the one run games and the
extra inning games.

The answer to any of those questions is in the eye of the beholder... but,
certainly, Grady is not 100% to blame. Just as certainly, Grady is not
completely blameless. Your article gives me the impression that Grady has no
impact on the game at all. He does. He is not blameless.

(Also Sent to Michael Holley directly)


From SoSH poster BHEC: 


I liked a lot of Holley's articles this summer that were posted here, but
Can't agree with him about Grady.

First of all, the 'Grady served his dues' thing was misused last Spring and
is now just a punchline.

After 5 years of Cotton Farming, Grady Little Managed for 16 years in the
minors. It took Grady 8.5yrs and 3 organizations to get out of A ball but he
finally made his mark with the Braves as he managed in their system from
Grady was so successful that the Braves passed him for Coaching jobs in
Atlanta every year. He actually took a stockpiled 1992 Greenville Team to a
100-43 record and STILL got NO offer to come to Atlanta.
1993, 1994, 1995 all came and went and AAA manager Grady couldn't get
Schurholtz or Bobby Cox to give him a Coaching job on the Atlanta Staff. How
completely underwhelmed with the guy were they?

He leaves the Braves with this amazing Resume we keep hearing about and the
Best job he can get is moving all the way across country to San Diego for a
Bullpen job??
This guy must show up at job interviews wearing Overalls to underwhelm so
many people.

After one year in San Diego, a friend from the Braves Organization, Jimy
Williams, brings him to Boston to Bench Coach in 1997. Five years serving on
the Bench for Boston & Cleveland and Grady STILL gets NO Offers to come
Manage a MLB Team.
We're talking about a man who has spent nearly a third of his life
managing. He hasn't just paid his minor league dues, he has overpaid them.
He has seen a lot of baseball, been on a lot of bad bus rides, and had
plenty of time to listen to the country music he loves.

There were several dozen Management Openings from 1996 through 2001 and
nobody made Grady a Manager....NOBODY was impressed enough to give him an

Six seasons went by since Grady Managed a Season in AAA ball before he got
another Manager job last Spring from the Red Sox. Suddenly, we are being
told those 16 years of minor league Management are important to acknowledge.
Nobody gave a shit about his resume in 1996 or 1997 or 1998 but now in 2002,
we have to be impressed with what he did from 1980-1995....please???

Grady must be the worst job interviewee in the world....he must strum his
banjo and pick his toenails during the Q & A session because there is no
other explanation to why he OWED so many Dues for his Career.
There are 30 Baseball Organizations and the Red Sox are the only Team who
could hold their nose and give him the job mainly because the players
"liked" Grady. The weirdest situation is that Cleveland had a sickly Manager
over the last few years and STILL didn't even give Grady an opportunity to
take over his job last Winter.
Three months later and Joel Skinner got the Job.

There are a lot of experienced former MLB Managers and a lot of recent minor
league Managers to select from. Grady was NEITHER of those things when he
got the opportunity in March. Grady has a long Career in Baseball and now he
can say he had an opportunity to Manage in the Majors....lets not give him
another opportunity. He isn't the guy to lead this team in 2003.

Put grampy Grady and his 2000 minor league bus ride stories in a minor
league administrative role and find someone whose best asset isn't how much
the players "like" him.

From SoSH Poster Al-Nip: Holley:  "We're talking about a man who has spent nearly a third of his life managing. He hasn't just paid his minor league dues, he has overpaid them."

Perhaps the Red Sox could hire No Pepper to write a script to run through all Minor League Baseball personell and automaticaly reward the one with the longest tenure a major league coaching job when one opens up. It will be the perfect queuing technology - the same that most warehouses and packets use - FIFO, first in, first out.

It sounds dumb, but that's what Holley is proposing.

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