Lesson plans

Here’s how to prepare for the upcoming baseball winter meetings:

1. Rent David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.”
2. Allow a good old confounding mind-numbing.
3. Pop in Season 1 of “She’s the Sheriff” to decompress.

Now you’re more prepared to face the questions of co-workers and friends when they ask, “Hey, just what in the world are the Red Sox doing?” Heck if you know, but at least it might be easier to explain than what was going on with Club Silencio.

In an offseason in which the Red Sox have fans scratching their heads with a frequency only Rogaine can love, Boston continues to confound more every passing day, the latest development being the likelihood that the team will offer Trot Nixon salary arbitration by today’s deadline.

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That would, in essence, make Nixon about an $8 million fourth outfielder.
Mix in the ludicrous $56 million-$70 million they’re prepared to invest in Nixon-clone J.D. Drew, the persistent rumors that Manny Ramirez is a goner, and allowing Alex Gonzalez to walk with no suitable replacement outside of Julio Lugo, and it’s been the kind of winter where you start to wonder just what the plan is over on Yawkey Way.
That is, if there is indeed a plan to begin with.
We understand there’s a long-term plan to be concerned with most here, but even that has strayed from the path, with deals that sent NL Rookie of the Year Hanley Ramirez and Cla Meredith packing. Frankly, it’s still difficult to believe that Meredith AND Josh Bard were sent to San Diego for Doug Mirabelli, a blunder that might be considered of Bagwellian proportions one day soon.
But these Red Sox offseasons are getting maddening.
I’ve seen 5-year-olds at Baskin Robbins change their minds less than these guys. “We’re going bullpen by committee … Whoa, we need a closer … Let’s get a killer defense together … And now, let’s add Wily Mo Pena … We don’t need Doug Mirabelli … Doh, we need Doug Mirabelli … Keith Foulke is just like having a lefty in the bullpen. … Uh, maybe we ought to have signed Mike Myers … Edgar Renteria just wasn’t fit for this town … Hey, let’s get J.D. Drew.”
Good grief. There are times when it’s hard not to think that the Red Sox make on-field personnel decisions based on how many new T-shirts they can push on the fan base. I’m going to guess the “Drew” isn’t going to be a hot seller at the outset.
Coming off their most disappointing campaign since 2001, the Red Sox are looking to re-invent themselves heading into 2007, which may or may not be the year Theo Epstein deems it OK to compete again. But after opening the offseason with a splash in bidding $51.1 million to talk with Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox have done little but ink Alex Cora to a two-year deal, and for the second straight year, risk heading toward Christmas with him as the de facto shortstop.
Oh, by the way, Christmas at Fenway tomorrow, your first chance to buy tickets and sing tunes of yuletide cheer with Dr. Charles. You know you want to.
Whether the Red Sox think announcing Drew’s signing to coincide with its annual ticket-selling event is an inevitability, they apparently haven’t done too much research on the matter. With fans in unison, probably 9-1 against signing the oft-injured Drew to an annual $14 million a season, there’s no better way to ensure a dramatic decrease in ticket sales, no matter what Drew stats Curt Schilling tries to sell them as they wait in line. I’d love to see it though, as Dr. Charles makes the announcement out on Yawkey Way.
“Great news, everybody. We just signed J.D. Drew.”
This of course would result in PR guru Peter Chase trying to explain to Steinberg that the few thousand fans on hand were saying, “Moo-vers.”
While Nixon may be a fan favorite, he hardly makes sense for Boston with the impending addition of Drew. That’s a $23 million investment next season for two guys who are annually on the disabled list. Are they going to try and catch lightning in a bottle and predict a period when they’re not both healthy at the same time? Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, fans are wringing their hands over the possible departure of Manny Ramirez, who they plead the Red Sox not to trade, even though Ramirez has made repeated attempts to get himself shipped out of town. Are the Sox a better team without Ramirez? Popular consensus is pretty much 100-0 in the negative. But if we’re taking the long-term approach, the one fans no longer want to hear about after one whole year without postseason baseball, the answer is they probably are.
Ramirez’s deal is up in two years anyway, and the Red Sox face a prime opportunity to acquire a younger commodity instead of nothing when that time comes. Jake Peavy, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, or Andruw Jones each might not provide equal value on Dec. 1, 2006, but what about on July 1, 2007 or April 11, 2009 when Ramirez is either retired or beginning the first year of a new deal somewhere else?
I know. With the most expensive ticket prices in the game, as well as having to deal with the pink hats and the tired “Sweet Caroline” on a nightly basis, Sox fans should demand a contending team every season. And trading Manny, frankly, won’t appease them in the least. They’ll still need someone to hit behind David Ortiz or else risk seeing Big Papi walked 200 times next season. Drew isn’t that guy. Jones might be.
There are few fan bases more fickle than Boston. For every 100 fans that loved the Josh Beckett deal a year ago, there are 350 more today bemoaning the loss of Hanley Ramirez and trying to figure out how Boston can ship Beckett out of town with his affordable deal. A few months ago, they gasped at the thought of trading Mike Lowell for one of the game’s best young pitchers. Now, Peavy might represent “equal value” for Ramirez, maybe. They gave Doug Mirabelli a standing ovation upon his return. (OK, that wasn’t fickle, just weird.)
But if the fan base can be considered up-and-down, then the front office is a constant conundrum, changing philosophies at a whim, apparently bowing to whatever theory Bill James has come up for this year. “In 2007, we will buck trends and wear party hats into the field…”
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the James obsession was a passage I read in Seth Mnookin’s “Feeding the Monster,” in which James tries to explain why he was most satisfied with what the Red Sox accomplished in 2005, calling it in many ways a better year than 2004. That is of course, from a maniacal statistical standpoint. I think it’s safe to say the rest of us, with apologies to James, might utilize the following formula to equate any comparison:
Winning World Series=Better.
So after the mistakes made with guys not cut out for Boston, a trait the team has said it would look at in bringing players in for the future, the Sox are ready to sign a man, who by all accounts does not have that tenacity. So, here we go again. But his on-base percentage is high, so that should trump everything else. Worked for Renteria.
You’d think they might be able to figure all this out by now. Instead, the Red Sox roster for the past two years has been akin to shuffling through a deck of Topps. “And next we have…Cesar Izturis. Hey, get Cesar’s agent on the line.”
So, don’t fret it when you’re confounded by some of the moves they’re talking about and making next week. Because odds are, based on what we’ve seen, they have just as little clue as to what’s going on as you do. We’ve seen agendas from Dr. Evil that were more elaborately thought out.
Still, can’t wait for the J.D. Drew press conference. That’ll be an interesting welcome.

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