Thursday, September 22, 2005

Kevin Millar Rant, Part II

This post can also be seen on Firebrand of the AL:

Evan recently wrote a great article on the drop in production from Edgar Renteria, an idea I decided to steal and use on Kevin Millar. Always the outgoing, friendly and laughable mainstay of this Cowboy Up era, Millar’s performance on the field hasn’t been very questioned in previous years. He’s the everyday first baseman, getting on base with huge walks like Game 4 of the ALCS and getting the job done with his power off and sometimes over the Green Monster. He seemed like the guy who would blast country music and start playing the air guitar after a loss, just to loosen the fellas up a bit. Boston liked him, and he liked Boston.

This year is a different story. Millar has been platooning his position with veteran John Olerud, a guy whose liked in Boston for hitting over .300 and providing stints of home run capabilities and constant professionalism on and off the field. He can flash the leather much better than Millar too, who’s always been considered one of the poorest defensive first baseman in the game. But it was Millar, the karma captain of 2003 and the premiere idiot of 2004, who is still portrayed as the Red Sox first baseman. Sorry Roberto Petagine fans.

Sometimes Millar’s humor and foolishness gets him into trouble. Millar admitted last winter that the team took shots of Jack Daniels before Game 6 and 7 of the 2004 ALCS to “loosen up the spirits.” Theo and crew didn’t find this stunt so amusing, and basically told Millar to keep his trap shut. Then, there was the denied rumor earlier this season that Millar, frustrated from the signing of Olerud, demanded a trade. I never really believed this, but he was mentioned in trade talks with Minnesota and other clubs near the deadline. You could see the stars beginning to align for Millar’s exit from Boston.

The antics from Millar would have been more accepted by the front office and fans if he was producing on the field. His statistics show a pretty solid decline from 2003 to 2004 and this year, where most of his important numbers have gone downhill.

At Bats: 544 in ’03, 508 in ’04, 437 in ‘05
Batting Average: .276 in ’03, .297 in ’04, .275 in ’05
Home Runs: 25 in ’03, 18 in ’04, 9 in ’05
Runs Batted In: 96 in ’03, 74 in ’04, 50 in ’05
Runs: 83, 74, 57
Hits: 150, 151, 120
OBP: .348, .383, .354
SLG: .472, .474, .403

I know about the limited at-bats this year, but those numbers are too much of a steady decline to even consider re-signing him this offseason. Assuming he gets around 28 at-bats for the last 10 games, that would leave him with 465, only 43 less than 2004, where he hit nine more home runs and drove in 24 more runs. He also scored more runs, got on base with more frequency and hit with more power. Plus, the only reason Millar isn’t getting 500 at-bats this season is because of his unimpressive start in the first two and a half months. Overall, he’s been a major disappointment to this team.

Millar’s rankings vs. other first baseman in MLB: 29th in rbi, 37th in hr, 16th in hits, 19th in runs, 13th in avg, 12th in obp, 18th in slg, 16th in ops. That’s plain awful. We’ve got a starting first baseman with no glove whatsoever, a guy who’s hit one home run on the road this season and ranks 37th in that category, and who is making 3.5 million this season and will want more next year. I don’t see any reasonable explanation for why this guy will be in a Red Sox uniform next season. Except one thing…

There’s that swagger. The way he relates to the fans and always seems to be in a good mood during happy and sad times. The way he stirs that team chemistry so perfectly. When you need a laugh, Kevin Millar is always there. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Millar. The only problem is that offensive and defensive performance on the baseball field overshadows clubhouse cheerfulness and the fun factor. Seriously, it’s going to be sad to see him go.

But there’s another catch. The free agent list for first baseman this offseason is so completely barren that if Millar asks for a reasonable sum of money, he may just get it. The best players available are J.T. Snow, who has unfavorable numbers this season, and former Sox player Scott Hatteberg, who is a Beane favorite and will most likely stay in Oakland. John Olerud is a free agent, so he’s most likely either going to retire or join another team. It may be up to Theo to make a deal.

I really like the comparison that Andrew gave with the old powerhouse Cleveland Indians to this version of the Red Sox. Those teams are strikingly similar in many ways. A team with a 120 million dollar payroll should never have to “rebuild” like the Indians did for three years, but a youth movement is definitely on the way. I still believe Johnny Damon is on the rise, and if we can sign him, bring up Hanley, Craig, Pedroia and keep the core of that 2004 team together for next year, this team could be rebuilding and winning at the same time. If that’s possible.

The first move? Get rid of Millar. Trot and Timlin may be packing their bags in the near future. Sign Damon and Mueller, keep Ortiz for as long as possible, of course Varitek and the youth movement, and if the right deal is on the table, trade Manny Ramirez. We can dump his contract and continue adding and developing young players when guys like Schill and Wells retire. Maybe grabbing an All-Star caliber first baseman will be on the horizon. By trading Manny and some of those veterans, you’re pretty much asking for 85 wins and a chance at not making the playoffs for a couple of years.

That may just be the case.


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