Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pine-Aid-A

So, apparently, Derek Jeter’s leadership only goes so far.

It doesn’t reach all the way to stupidity. Michael Pineda decided he didn’t care about TV cameras. He didn’t care about baseball rules. He didn’t care about subtlety. He was going to cheat, and he didn’t care who knew about it.

And he got caught. He left no other option.

Moron.

What’s almost as bad is the reaction by people.

The ones that really get me are the ones that suggest this is ok because it helps him get a grip on the ball. It’s not like doctoring the ball to affect its flight. This is just about getting a grip.

Doesn’t getting a better grip affect the flight of the ball? Pineda seemed to think so. After all, his reasoning was that he couldn’t get a feel for the ball in the first inning, so he added pine tar in the second so he wouldn’t hit anybody. So, using the pine tar allowed him to have the ball go where he wanted it to go. Without the illegal substance, he couldn’t do it. Sounds like the flight of the ball was affected. If he couldn’t feel the ball, shouldn’t he have adjusted somehow? Perhaps he needed to throw it slower to be able to control it? Instead, he chose to enhance his performance by using a substance. How is this not cut and dry?

This reminds me of the PED sympathizers who say, “PEDs don’t help you hit a curveball.” Ignoring the fact that, while that’s true, they help you hit it a lot further when you do hit it. Or, that Andy Pettitte’s PEDs weren’t really “performance enhancing” since he only used them to get back on the field after an injury. Ignoring the fact that if you’re not on the field, it certainly affects your performance.

This is the same thing. Pineda was able to pitch better with the pine tar than he was without it. End of story.

The other group is the one saying that now the Red Sox pitchers better watch out. The Yankees announces were using that one before Pineda even made it to the dugout. Girardi’s going to be checking them every inning the rest of the way. I’ll ignore the pettiness in that argument. “You caught me cheating, so I’m going to catch you!” The problem I have is that, as memory serves, none of the Red Sox pitchers have been accused of using illegal substances. I remember Buchholz saying something about water, sunscreen, and rosin. Unlike Pineda’s “dirt” excuse from last time, I don’t recall anyone refuting that. Rosin is certainly a legal substance. They provide a bag of it right on the mound. Water is legal, as long as it’s not applied to the ball. Every pitcher has plenty of water waiting for him in the dugout. Pretty sure it’s been spilled many times as they splash cups of it into their face. And, I imagine, sunscreen is probably encouraged by MLB. So, if using a legal substance allows you to get a better grip on the ball, it’s a whole other non-issue.

Now, if you want to say Clay shouldn’t be wearing sunscreen during a night game in a dome, there’s an argument to be made. But, I don’t think the rule is a varying one. It’s not like blowing on your hands where the umpire decides at the beginning of the game whether it’s allowed or not. It certainly could be. They could say, “Today sunscreen will be allowed” before the first pitch. They don’t.

Is it a fine line? Absolutely. Is there a fine line between being able to surgically replace a tendon in your elbow with a stronger one, and not being able to take a pill to make a muscle stronger? Absolutely. But, in each case there’s a line.


And Pineda jumped right over it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Collecting the Sox: K Cards

I was lucky enough to go to Fenway yesterday. If you have any sort of social media presence, you already know that they handed out posters as you walked into the park declaring that “Today We Run as One.” As usual, I happily took the card, and made sure to keep it in good shape during the game. It was a great addition to my “K Cards” collection.

Even though it didn’t have a “K” on it.

I’m sure you know what I’m referring to, though. The K Cards that people hand out before a game are as common as Fenway Franks. You can even see them littering the floor inside the park after the game. I’m not sure why anyone would get rid of them. After all, I’m the one who takes the extras from on top of the recycling bins so that I have even more.

They are a great Red Sox collectable.

One of the best parts about them? They’re free. That’s a pretty good start.

They’re also, apparently, disposable. That makes a collection of them a bit unique. Lots of people have a collection of ticket stubs, although fewer than I’d think. But, not many have a stack of K Cards.

There’s also variety. Sure, a vast majority of them have a giant K on them. But, even that’s usually only on one side. The other side often has some clever slogan. Or, at least a slogan. I’m not sure “Trash the Tribe” qualifies as “clever.”

But that variety also adds to one of my favorite parts of any collection. Being able to walk though time. Since each slogan tends to be “in the moment” looking at them can bring you back. “Trash the Tribe” for instance, is from the Red Sox – Indians matchup in the late nineties. I have one that declares “Nomar’s Back!” from when he returned from injury in 2001. Several of them shout “Pedro Power!” Naturally, some say the Sox should “Cowboy Up!” in 2003 or “Dump the Umps” in 1999. One of my favorites has “Welcome Back Carl” on one side, and “#2 We Need You” on the other. Can you imagine that someone actually printed up cards celebrating the return of Carl Everett?

Really the only downfall to the cards is the displaying of them. Sure, you can just stack them in a pile and flip through them every once in a while. But, they are really meant to be seen. I hang them on the ceiling, since it’s where I have the most open space. That does present a problem with the double-sided ones like the one for Carl. Naturally, that means I need to have two of them. For the ones with a K on one side and a slogan on the other, I usually try to get two as well. But I don’t mind hiding the K side if need be. It makes a great display to look at and remember the games I’ve been to. Which is, of course, the point of any collection.

Anyone else have a K Card collection?



Thursday, April 17, 2014

From the Pedro Binder



2004 Playoff Prestige

I don’t hate this card, and I’m not really sure why.

It actually has many elements that on the surface would be ones that I can’t stand. It’s incredibly busy. There are squares and colors sprouting up all over the place. Pedro’s name is written on the side, so I have to twist my wrist to see it. It’s also in a goofy font for no reason in particular.  Everything is scattered about.

But, somehow, I don’t mind it.

Maybe because it still has a lot going for it. The picture of Pedro certainly stands out. The company logo is by far the least obtrusive part of the card. It has Pedro’s name, position, team, and team logo right there on the front. It checked off all the boxes on my card wishlist.

I certainly wouldn’t want this design used all the time. I’m usually fonder of the types of designs companies use on their flagship sets. But, as something that adds a little variety to a collection, I can handle this set.


Not that that’s a glowing endorsement..

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One Year Ago

Usually I make it a point to not talk about non-Red Sox things here. With only a few exceptions, I try not to make it look like I’m fishing for hits by mentioning other events.

This is one of those few exceptions.

I actually had another standard-type post ready to go for today, until I saw what day it would fall on. It didn’t seem right to just plug along like normal. So, I decided to talk about last April 15 a bit.

I was at the Red Sox game that day. I love the Patriots Day game. I can get up in the morning, and head out to the park. I can catch the game, and be back home before dinner. Everyone in the stands, especially lately, is talking about people they know in the race. They all have the race tracked on their phones, or are getting calls with updates from people along the route. The crowd starts thinning as people leave the game to watch their friends cross the finish line. It’s an atmosphere that’s completely unique at Fenway. To top it off, last year the game finished with a walk-off victory. What a day.

As usual, I headed off to the Orange line to get back to the car and head home. When I got on the highway heading north, I noticed a police car with lights a flashing taking the same exit heading south. Then, a minute later, two more cop cars came flashing down the southbound lanes. Then two more. And two more. And more and more. And more. I called home to say that I had no idea what was going on behind me, it was apparently. something big enough that it might make the news, but that I was north of it so don’t worry. It wasn’t until I got home that I found out what happened.

And that was the extent of my experience. Which made me feel terribly guilty. Obviously people knew I was at the game that day. The natural questions in the days to follow were about where I was at the time. I figured out that I was actually probably on the orange line. Sometimes I would catch myself when reporting that. I’d start to say, ‘So if I was a few minutes later…” But I knew there was no good finish to that sentence. If I was a few minutes later…I would have been stuck in traffic? Was I really going to pretend that was a “close call”? Traffic? Delays? Annoyances? I was never in danger. I was never in chaos. I went happily on my way until I got home.

So I hated answering the questions. Don’t ask me. Ask the people whose lives were shattered. Ask the people who were still running around trying to figure out what to do. They’re the ones whose stories you needed to hear.


I was north of it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Building a Champion

So, lately I’ve been staring at a picture on my computer. It’s from Opening Day, of all the Boston sports champions lined up on the pitcher’s mound displaying the collection of trophies. It’s mesmerizing as a stare at it, remembering all the good times associated with those championships.

I’m reminded, as I’m sure we’re all aware, that the Patriots titles came much earlier than the others. They had three of the first four in the group, but none of the last four. That has led some people to think that they don’t care about winning anymore. That Kraft has his three rings, so now he’s happy to just compete. He just wants to make AFC Championship games, but doesn’t want to go the extra mile to push them over the top. My reaction to that has usually been that, especially in a salary cap league, you can’t build an automatic champion. You can’t get the most talented player at every position. You can’t just go get a team that steamrolls the league on their way to a title. The best you can hope for is to get one of the top two or three teams in the league, and hope you can win the last game. Not only that, but the one time they really came the closest to the dominant team, they went 18-1 and didn’t win a thing.

Conversely, I’ve had the exact same complaint about the Red Sox. Theo always said that he wanted to model the Sox after the Braves and their player development machine. He always ignored that the Braves only won one title in their decade plus of dominance. Contrast that to the Marlins, who won twice in that time frame by going all in. It was also, really, how the Sox won in 2004. They had four players in the last year of their contracts, and went out and grabbed two studs to make a run. It wasn’t about being good enough to compete. It was about building a team to win.

Then what about 2013?

Was last year’s team exactly what Theo and the Pats were talking about?

They certainly weren’t built to dominate. They were built to be darn good. They just had to hope a little luck would take them the rest of the way. Which, thankfully, it did.

It might be that the Braves plan only really works if you have a ring. Otherwise using the argument that, “If we keep getting close, one of those time it will fall our way” leaves open the possibility that it might not. It might never. Can Theo stay in Chicago and build a team to be good tomorrow, as opposed to one that’s great today? Can you build the division winner, and hope that one of your pitchers spins some gems come playoff time? Probably not. Once you’ve got the first one, it’s easier to say you’re building a team that could get a bunch of them.


Until then, you need that first one.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I Scored!



April 11, 2000

So, what happened in the game played 14 years ago today?

A whole bunch!

Let’s start off with the fact that this was the Red Sox home opener. That right there means it’s a great day. A quick look at the pitcher area shows us that Martinez was starting! After the great season Pedro had in 1999, having him start off the season is a great treat. Unfortunately, a longer look at the pitcher area reveals the “R” for Ramon Martinez. Still, Ramon was a big part of the Sox playoff run the year before, so that wasn’t a bad draw at all.

How about the offense? It appeared to be in all its year 2000 glory. Which is to say, there wasn’t much there in the way of names. This game marked the home debut of Carl Everett, so we were all very excited to see that. What would another bat do to help Nomar? Couldn’t wait to find out. He didn’t take long to show us.

The Sox pushed across two runs in the bottom of the first for a quick lead. Everett started his Manny-esque home debut by homering to lead off the second inning. Way to make a first impression. That homer opened the floodgates. Seven of the next eight batters reached base, and all seven ended up scoring. Everett ended up batting again in the inning, striking out for the second out. But, he made up for that when he homered again in the sixth. Not bad at all.

That second inning shows one of the flaws is my earlier scoring attempts. I tried to have each column represent one inning. When the second inning needed a second column, they all had to be shifted by an inning. That’s not a big deal when the Red Sox do it, since they didn’t need the ninth inning. That left that spot available. But, what if the Sox had batted around, but still needed a bottom of the ninth? I’d need to claim one of the “stats” columns for the ninth inning. Some would apply if the visiting team batted around. I eventually realized that teams don’t often have multiple big innings. Maybe I could do a better job of using the available space. In this game, look at what used to be the fourth inning, but became the third. The Sox went 1-2-3. I could have very easily slid those batter into the column to the left where they should have been, and made that the 2/3 column. Then none of the other innings would be affected. That’s the way I do it now.

How do you handle big innings?

Who was the hero of the game? Certainly most players had a good day. When you score 13 runs, lots of people are going to get lots of hit. But, Carl’s two homers and three RBI give him the clear edge.

The goat? Have to give it to Brian Daubach, as the only starter without a hit. (Maybe I should give it to the whole second spot in the order, since Gaetti didn’t get one either.) Although, Dauber still scored a run, and drove in a run. If that’s what you get from the worst guy in the line-up, that’s a good sign.

Which means the Sox were easily able to overcome his limited production. The Sox scored eight in the second, and never looked back.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

From the Pedro Binder



2003 Upper Deck

What a fantastic card.

What’s so great about it? Only everything.

Let’s start with the picture. Look how much of the card it takes up. Upper Deck clearly makes Pedro the most important thing of the card. He’s front and center, and cropped to perfection. And, where is the UD logo? Tucked as far in the corner as it can get so that it’s out of the way. Right where it should be.

The name, team, and position are all right there on the front. They even added Pedro’s number to the section. My one complaint? The name and Red Sox logo are in foil, so they’re hard to see. The name is also written over the position and number, making it even harder. But, they are all set apart from the picture onto their own section. And that section is overlaid upon an image of…wait for it…Fenway!

That’s right. It’s not just some random baseball scene with no thought behind it. Nope. Upper deck selected an image of Pedro’s home park.


Perfection.