Monday, October 12, 2015

I Always Knew I Was a Winner!

But it sure is nice to have proof.

About a month ago, the Red Sox held a little Twitter contest. The tweeted out a pic of David Ortiz, and stated that for every 34 retweets that post got, they’d give away a prize. They didn’t say what the prize was, but hey. It’s not like retweeting something takes a lot of effort, right? I’ve seen these types of contests all over Twitter. “Followers who retweet” is a popular entry method. Frankly, I don’t know if any of these follower bribes ever give away their prizes. 

But, I know they gave away this one.

A couple days later, I got a DM from the Red Sox saying that if I DMed them my address, they’d send me my mini replica Fenway Park.

A replica Fenway. Not bad for a surprise prize. Then I remembered that earlier this year, the Sox gave away mini replica Fenways at a game. I wondered if that’s what they might be sending. 

Then, crickets. One week went by, Then two. Then three. I started to wonder. I mean, the Sox aren’t the type of account to run a scam contest just to add followers, right? But, was there a mix-up in my address? Something go wrong on my end? I was starting to give up hope. Then, this arrived in the mailbox over the weekend. Is there a better return address to get a package from? 

As I looked into the package, it was cleared up. It was, in fact, the SGA replica Fenway. Wonderful! I wasn’t able to make it to that game, so that was something the Red Sox room was missing.

Here’s what it looks like out of the box.

I was pleasantly surprised by the weight of it. This is a solid piece of resin, or whatever it is. It’s not some cheap piece of plastic. Even better, you can clearly see Section 36 out in centerfield!

So, a big thank you to the Red Sox for holding this contest. I know it’s probably just a way for them to get rid of some leftover inventory, and get a PR boost in the process. But, they didn’t have to do it. It’s just another way to make fans happy.

And, it proves that I’m a winner.

Friday, October 9, 2015

When Boston Won the World Series by Bob Ryan

The Year was 1903. The upstart American league, just two years old at the time, was starting to make a real name for itself. The elder National League was beginning to take notice. As the season reached a conclusion, an idea was proposed. A post season series between the winners of the two leagues, to determine the champions of the known baseball world. Fans took to the new idea immediately. Crowds were immense right from the start. It was then that the World Series was born.

The first thing I noticed when I started reading this book was the dedication. (Yes, I read them first.) This book came out in 2003. The dedication reads "To Connor, Jack, and Amelia: Let's hope they win one in your lifetime." The emphasis on "your" was his. Clearly he had given up hope on them ever winning one in his lifetime. Bet he never would have guessed that they'd win at least three.

From there, the book went off to tell the wonderful story of that first World Series. There's a natural tendency to compare this book to Mike Vaccaro's fine book The First Fall Classic about the 1912 World Series. This book felt slightly different. Where as Vaccaro invented some conversations to make you feel immersed in the story, Ryan stuck to the research. Ryan's writing style was very casual, as it always is. He would make comments to the reader about events that happened in 1903, and how they might have happened differently in 2003. That back and forth added to the feeling that this book was a retelling as opposed to Vaccaro's recreation.

But, different can be good. This book did a great job of presenting the details both of the series itself, and the events leading up to it. I was able to understand what went into creating the championship, and how the people of the time must have felt about it. I was able to see how the different era created a different game. It was a wonderful trip back in time, where I learned several things I did t know before. Not to mention that any book that ends *spoiler alert* with a Red Sox World Championship is a great read in my book.

Rating: 3 bases

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Wild Card Sham

It happens all the time. It happened again last night. Someone makes a comment about how they love the new Wild Card Game because it makes winning the division more meaningful.

They got you.

MLB used that line when they introduced yet another round of playoffs. This would make winning the division more important, they said, since you really want to avoid having to play in the Wild Card game. Too many teams realized that, under the old system, the difference between winning the Wild Card and winning the division wasn’t enough to make you go for it at the end of the season. Why start your ace in game 162 if the most you could gain is an extra home game? Better to have him ready and lined up to start game 1 on the road. So, MLB instituted this coin flip Wild Card game. That would make winning the division more important than finishing second.

You know what else would do that?

Eliminating the Wild Card in the first place.

If the only people who made the playoffs were division winners, that would make winning the division pretty darn important. Right? After all, the only thing that the Wild Card does is water down the championship. The more teams that have the opportunity to win a title that don’t deserve it, the less impressive winning becomes. (Yes. I know where the Red Sox finished in 2004)

But, what about the Cubs and Pirates? Don’t they deserve to be in the playoffs? They won more games than most of the division winners. It’s not fair to include those other teams, and not the Cubs and Pirates. And, that would be right…but wrong. The problem isn’t that the Cubs and Pirates would be excluded. The problem is that the Mets and Dodgers were included. The teams in the National League just finished a 162 game season. After months of competition, the Cardinals won the most games in the league. Which measure of fairness, exactly, would suggest that the Cubs and Pirates deserve another shot at them? Why is it fair to ignore 162 games of completion, and replace it with seven games worth? What was the point of the season?

No, I’m not stupid. I know these extra rounds are about money. I know that the more teams that can get into the playoffs, the more “postseason” hats MLB can sell, and the more ads television stations can sell. Just be honest about it. If you want to have a money making tournament, go ahead. (I’ve already come up with the almost perfect format) Just don’t continue with the sham of adding rounds to make things better. That’s like turning off all the lights in someone’s house, then convincing them that the flashlight is the greatest thing ever because it’s better than a candle. The problem was turning off the lights in the first place, not only having a candle. In this case, the problem was having playoffs at all…not the format of them.

And, no, this isn’t solely a baseball problem. (Heck, baseball lets the fewest teams into the playoffs of the major sports.) It’s everywhere. It’s the reason Draft Kings has become more popular than full season fantasy games. People like getting rewarded for flukes instead of long periods of excellence. That’s much easier. So, if that’s what society wants, fine. Have an MLB finals. Or use my dual-championship format. Make your money, and reward your flukes.

Just don’t tell me you’re rewarding excellence.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Well, That's Over

That means the off-season has begun.

The Sox limped to the finish line this weekend. Once again, they finished last in the American League East. Personally, the last place finish doesn’t bother me. The difference between third place and last place doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the season. If the Sox had swept Cleveland and finished third, I’m not a happier fan today. Frankly, once you get to the final weekend out of contention, might as well lose the last three and secure a slightly better draft position. I would never enjoy tanking a season to get a pick, but a weekend? I can live with that.

But. Now that’s over. Where do the Sox go from here? It’ll be interesting to see. If you’ve listened to Torey Lovullo the last month or so, he’s been talking about a team that finally found its place. There were a lot of new and moving parts at the beginning of the season. For whatever reason, it took them all a couple months to get everything settled in. Now that they've done that, 2016 should be able to start just like we all assumed this season would start.

Assuming he means that, and he's not just covering for John Farrell, that mans this could be a quiet off-season. Obviously, some moves will need to be made. I've mentioned before, I doubt the team starts with 8 outfielders come next April. The super-stud catchers are too manes well. So, there are a few positions of excess the Sox have to fill positions of need. Another starter, perhaps, or some bullpen help. So, I look forward to seeing how that all comes together in the months ahead.

As for Section 36? I hope to get back into more regular posting. I admit, it was getting tiring fighting everyone all the time. (Seriously, it WASN'T Hanley's fault) So, I should be re-energized now that I don't need to do that so often. I still have the scavenger hunt  to post. So, keep your eyes open for that. I also have a few books I haven't gotten around to reviewing. Add in some new pictures to post (If you have any, send them over!) and this should be a full couple of months. It'll be Spring Training before you know it.

We're on to 2016!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2003 Donruss

Sometimes things are just wasted. A Monet decorating a master bathroom. Or, a good book in a Yankees fan's house. 

This is one of those times.

This card is a fantastic design. I can't think of away to make it better. It has full bleed picture on all four sides. The important information is in a floating banner that is about as small as it could possibly be. The floating banner allows the picture to perfectly extend below it. Even the Donruss logo is hidden in the corner. Everything is done to allow the picture to stand out. To be the most important part of the card.

Then they pick this picture.

Pedro on the mound, stretching his shoulders a bit.

Are you kidding me? This design just calls for an intense action shot. Even a pretty common shot of Pedro throwing a pitch. Or, a clever shot of Pedro being goofy in the dugout, or signing autographs, or wearing a Yoda mask. But, no, Donruss went with a picture of Pedro standing still, doing nothing.

Sorry...he's not doing nothing. He's shrugging his shoulders. As if even the picture knows this is a "blah" card. I wouldn't mind so much if the rest of the card was a disaster. But, so often companies take a great picture, and hide it behind an obnoxious design. Here they've done the opposite. They did the hard part. They found the design that showed off a really great picture. And, they screwed it up.

What a waste.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Collecting the Sox

Schedule Cards

OK. I have no idea what these are. I’m also having a tough time deciding if they’re the strangest Red Sox collectible out there, or the greatest collectible in the history of time.

Or, maybe a little bit of both.

A friend of mine handed these to me the other day. Apparently he was fortunate enough to go to a Red Sox game during the last home stand, and have seats in one of the suites. Inside there was a basket or bowl full of these packs.

Looks like a pack of baseball cards to me. But, it calls itself a “schedule calendar.” Huh?

Here’s what is inside.

They’re schedule cards. They’re basically baseball cards, showing the 2015 Red Sox schedule. Clearly, they’re sponsored by jetBlue. Each card has one month’s schedule on the back with a clever illustration on the front commemorating an important Red Sox event that occurred during that month. The back also has a short write up on the event being depicted. As a special feature, some away games are marked with a jet icon to show that you can “fly non-stop to these games.” (I assume that means from Boston…and on jetBlue.)

How fantastic is that? Is it a baseball card? Is it a David Ortiz card? Is it a pocket schedule? It’s all in one!

But, the bigger question to me is their intended purpose. Since they depict the 2015 schedule, I can only assume they were meant to be distributed before the season. But, the guy who got the packs had been to Spring Training, in jetBlue Park, no less, and did not remember seeing these packs. I have another friend who actually flew on jetBlue to Spring Training, and she didn’t see the packs either. So, where were they distributed? When?

And, why the packs? I only have the one open pack, but I assume they’re all the same. I’m guessing that other packs didn’t contain different months, or even different card fronts. Was there a purpose to having people open a pack in order to see the schedule?

What are you supposed to do with the cards? Does each month’s card go in your wallet, to be replaced as each new month arrives? Or are they stacked on your desk, with the current month on top?

Or, am I thinking too much? Is it just a gimmick by jetBlue to do something different as a giveaway? Is it just a clever way to get the name out there that some people can have fun with? If that’s the case, I guess it worked like a charm.

After all, I’m still talking about it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Frank Thomas Live

I realized it’s been a while since I flipped though the scorecards. I decided it was time to see how another player performed in games I attended. This time I went with Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. With a long American League career, including some time in the AL East, I assumed I could get a decent sample of his games.

Here’s how Thomas did while I was in the park.

Six games. Not bad, really, for a visiting player. It’s no Derek Jeter. Or, even Paul Konerko. But, it’s a nice little sample. Unfortunatley for Frank, two of those games were against Pedro Martinez. Those games will bring down anyone’s overall numbers.

Which it must have done, because his numbers were terrible when I was in the park. A .111 average? That’s not quite Hall of Fame caliber. A .439 OPS? That’s just pathetic. He also struck out a ton. But, the Pedro games certainly skewed those numbers, since those were the two 2-strikeout games. He also walked a ton, so that aspect showed the true Frank Thomas.

(Actually, this makes me wonder. How many HOF pitchers have I seen face HOF batters? Since the Sox haven’t had many HOF hitters themselves lately, it might just be the batters I’ve seen Pedro face. But, maybe I saw Rickey Henderson or someone like him face an opposing future Hall of Famer. I should research that number at some point.)

Unfortunately, that was all that represented his great career. While I certainly don’t want to see a player dominate the Sox, it would be nice to see a great player be great. Maybe a four hit game in a 10-8 Red Sox win. But I didn’t get that with Thomas.

And that’s too bad.

How did Frank Thomas do with you in the park?