Monday, August 18, 2014

In the Neighborhood

You may have noticed that the Red Sox were victimized by an overturned call this weekend. I suppose “victimized” might be the wrong term, since the call was changed from being wrong to being right. So, they were victimized by being forced to actually live with the mistake they made. But, we’re getting a bit off topic here.

They were hurt by the fact that they reviewed the play when some thought it was a “neighborhood” play, and therefore couldn’t be reviewed. We could argue for the rest of the day as to whether that was, in fact, a neighborhood. But, what I would like to know is, why can’t you review the neighborhood play in the first place?

I imagine we all know what the neighborhood play is. Generally, it’s when an infielder flips the ball to the guy covering second to start a double play, but the guy at second doesn’t quite touch the base before releasing the ball to first. Sometimes, they’re not even close to touching the base. I’ve seen them flat out straddling the base, and still get the call. Why do they allow that to happen?

I can see it before replay was around. That’s a tough call for an umpire to be watching two things. Is the ball in the glove, and is the foot on the bag? That’s hard to see in one view, so I understand if he needed to cheat a bit on one of the calls. But with replay? The reason I heard yesterday was that it was a safety issue. That’s a good place for an infielder to get his ankle broken, so they don’t mind letting it slide a bit. My problem is, isn’t it being a safety issue kind of the point? I understand if the play’s not close. It happens a lot at first base. The fielder will take his foot off the base so it doesn’t get stepped on. Sometimes he takes it off a split second before the ball is actually in the glove. But, if the runner is out by a couple steps, it’s not a big deal. If it gets really obvious, the umpire might tell the fielder to hold it a little longer next time. But, that’s not what’s happening at the double play. The fielder is trying to beat a runner to the base, and quickly make the throw to beat the guy running to first. Taking the time to actually touch the base is a pretty important part of the equation. Why should he be allowed to skip out if he’s nervous? Do we call a complete pass in football when the receiver going over the middle doesn’t extend his arms out because he’s afraid of getting hit? That’s a safety thing too. Or, if an outfielder pulls up a bit to avoid crashing into the wall and doesn’t make a catch. He was just cheating a bit to avoid a safety issue. Should he be given the catch?

Or a pitcher using pine tar. People seem to be OK with it if it’s just to improve the grip. That’s a safety issue. After all, we don’t want people throwing a 90 MPH pitch they can’t control. Instead, shouldn’t we make the pitcher adjust to the rules? If he can’t control his pitch without pine tar, shouldn’t he have to choose a pitch he can control? If he can’t control it at 90, throw it at 85. It’s not our fault if that’s easier to hit. Just like the guy at second. If you don’t have time to get the ball, touch the base, and make a throw, I guess you can’t turn two in that situation. Why do we keep allowing rules to be bent in order to comply with what players are doing?

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Friday, August 15, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2002 Donruss Diamond Kings

This card is probably what the Topps Gallery card should have been.

Not only does this card have the canvas look to it, but the picture is actually a painting. What a novel idea.

Of course, even getting the whole concept right doesn’t ensure a great card. What on earth is up with that logo? The fact that it’s foil makes it twice as bad, since it places a big silver blob in the middle of the card. It completely detracts from what was otherwise a very nice portrait of Pedro. If the logo was half its size, or tucked away like they did with Pedro’s name, team, and position, it would make the card much cleaner. Why do companies continue to insist that their logo is the most important part of the card? Is it because Donruss knew that they were flooding the market with 36 million different sets, and wanted to avoid confusion from set to set? Did they not think we’d recognize the Diamond King set when we saw it? What did the production meeting for this card design sound like? Was there an argument between people who wanted the logo bigger, and those who wanted it smaller?

The “smaller” argument should have won.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Figured Out Why I Like the DH

I always knew that I preferred the DH. But, I always assumed it was simply wanting to see the best talent I could at all times. I have no desire to watch someone strike out three times a game.

Then, during the Sox game today, it hit me.

I don’t like the fluke nature of it.

It’s the same complaint I have with the NHL and soccer. I don’t like games being able to be decided by luck. I hate that in hockey a designed play is “fire the puck towards the net and it might bounce off somebody and go in. So, make sure lots of people are in front of the net when you shoot.” That a team can win a playoff game 1-0 because one of their pucks bounces off a defenders leg drives me nuts. Same with soccer. You can tell me that a corner kick is a finely tuned play set up and practiced. You’ll never convince me that they’re not just lofting it towards a group of people, hoping it bounces off their guy’s head instead of the other team. Come to think of it, it’s the same reason I don’t like Eli Manning or Joe Flacco. If your main play is toss a pass into double coverage and hope my guy comes down with it, or draws a flag, I can’t stomach watching it.

Which brings me to pitchers hitting. In today’s came, the Reds pitcher came up with two out and two on in the second inning. By all probability, the Sox were out of the inning. Pitchers can’t hit. In fact, there’s a chance that the rest of the inning was planned around getting the pitcher out. It should have been. They can’t hit. Except that sometimes they do. In fact, later in the game, the Reds pitcher swung hard in case he hit it, and hit it out. Just by a fluke. If he had done that in the second inning instead of later, that would have been three runs. Because he closed his eyes and swung. Is that any way to win a ballgame? Is that any way to lose one?

Now, I know that having a DH doesn’t mean that you have competent hitters at all nine sport. Heck, I think Joe Kelly has more hits than Jackie Bradley Jr since his trade. I even know that some manner of luck goes into every hit. Line drives can be caught, and pop ups can be Jetered into doubles. But, even Bradly isn’t planned around as if he’s an automatic out. Sure, you might walk a guy in front of him because you’d rather face Bradley. But, you’re not assuming an out. It’s not a fluke if he gets a hit. If you walk a guy to get to the pitcher, and he gets a hit? That’s luck.

And I find that really annoying.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Did 2013 Change the Red Sox Plans?

I wrote recently about the Sox bias against signing older players to long term contracts, and whether that theory could work. My thought was that it kind of just did. The Sox just won the World Series with a roster almost completely empty of older players on long-term deals. They were almost exclusively short-term vets, and players on their initial contracts. So, they could be forgiven if they thought that it could work again.

But, is that what gave them the idea in the first place?

Last spring, I don’t remember any talk of limiting veteran contracts as a rule. Sure, Drew was a short term deal. But, that was supposedly so he wouldn’t block the way for Bogaerts/Iglesias this year. The same went for the Victorino and Napoli standard three-year contracts. I didn’t hear anyone suggest they were only signing them because that’s all they were signing players to. They had young outfielders in the system that couldn’t be blocked. Some of them might even end up at first base. We needed stopgaps. I heard a lot of talk last spring about “bridge” contracts. I didn’t hear anything about a new direction.

Then they went and won the World Series.

Did that change things from a bridge to a launching pad?

Did they sit back this winter and think to themselves, “Lookie here. We have nobody on the team signed long-term, other than that mistake we made with Pedroia. Why should we open ourselves up to any more mistakes?” So, they sat down and looked over contracts, and decided that youngsters and selected veterans could actually work. It could really be their new plan.

Or, was that the plan all along? Did they sign their free agents last year with all this in mind? Did they grumble about extending Pedroia? Was he the exception they were willing to make? Did everything last year go exactly as they thought it might?

If so, was winning it all last year a bad thing? (Or, as bad a thing as being the defending World Champions can be.) Did it give them false hope? Or false affirmation?

Or, was it the proof that what they wanted to do all along was the right move?

It just didn’t work so well this year.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Do The Sox Need an Ace?

The debate has been going on ever since the Sox sent Jon Lester out west. The fire was fueled more recently by comments by Cherington saying that an ace is nice to have, but wasn’t going to be the sole focus of this team. That sounds like a pretty sound strategy to me. But, it didn’t stop the questions. What are the Sox going to do next year without an ace?

My favorite part of that question is that it’s the first time that I’ve almost universally heard Lester referred to as an ace. But, that’s another matter.

Or, is it?

I guess this whole thing hinges on what you call an ace. Does every team have an ace? Personally, I say no. Sure, everyone has an ace of their staff. For instance, the Sox ace right now is probably Clay Buchholz. But, in every five man ranking, someone has to be on top. Even if only by default. That doesn’t make Clay an “ace.” In the last 20 years or so, I’d say the Sox have only had one ace. Unless you count Beckett for one season…or maybe just the postseason. To me when your ace pitches, you expect to win. When Pedro pitched, I expected the Sox to win. When Pedro got a lead, he didn’t give it up. If the Sox lost four in a row, the streak ended with Pedro. You almost didn’t have to watch the game, unless it was to see what record he might set. Contrast that with someone like Curt Schilling, or Lester himself. When they pitched, I knew the Sox had a good shot. Depending on the opposing pitcher, maybe a really good shot. Curt would keep the Sox in the game and give them a chance to win. With Pedro? I didn’t care who the opposing pitcher was. Pedro didn’t keep the Sox in the game. He kept the opposing team out of the game.

So, can the Sox win the World Series without an ace? Of course. They just did it last year. The Giants have done it a couple times. Is it better if you have an ace? Absolutely. But, as Cherington pointed out, you need the rest of the team too.

Remember Pedro’s glory years? The Pedro-Saberhagen led rotation? Pedro was such an ace that he almost carried those teams to the World Series himself. Almost. But, he needed a team around him. Even Pedro. In those years, I often wondered if teams were better off in the playoffs throwing their worst pitchers against Pedro. He was going to lose anyway. Why not save their best pitcher to actually get a win against someone else. Imagine if the Indians had shifted Colon off Pedro.

Which is sort of what an ace-less staff would do. Say the Sox went out this offseason and spent on a big ace. Lester, if he’s suddenly an ace. Or Scherzer. Or whatever they can get. But, then are left with Clay and three youngsters to finish it off. Sure, the guy at the top would win most of his starts. But, the Sox would lose most of the others. What if, instead, the Sox filled their staff with #2 caliber pitchers? Instead of overpaying for an ace, they filled the entire staff with really good pitchers. As you go through the season, you’d be facing another team’s 1-2-3-4-5 rotation, but countering that with a 2-2-3-3-4. So, if you go on paper…1 beats 2, 2 beats 3 and so on…In those five games, the Sox would go 3-2, assuming you split the 2-2 and 3-3 games. That’s better than 1-4.

And, that’s assuming that they go as they would on paper. But, was John Lackey the ace of the Red Sox last season? I’m thinking “no.” But, did he beat the aces of other teams? I’m thinking “yes.” He even took down a couple true aces along the way in Price and Verlander. Would the Pedro-Saberhagen rotation have been able to do that? If Pedro wasn’t facing them? Doubt it. But, because the Sox rotation had balance instead of being top-heavy they were able to beat three teams in the playoffs that had pitchers who might have been true aces.

Naturally, I’m not saying the Sox would have been worse off last year if ’99-’00 Pedro was at the top of the rotation, taking the place of Peavy’s starts. As Cherington said, an ace is certainly something every team would like. And, I would certainly endorse spending every cent of John Henry’s money to get a rotation full of aces. But, since nobody has one of those at the moment, a balanced attack might just be the way to go. It worked last year.

Why not next year?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wantlist: 2013

2013 Allen & Ginter
19 Doerr
40 Middlebrooks
83 Williams
90 Lester
133 Ortiz
181 Boggs
188 Buckner
200 Pedroia
211 Ellsbury
220 Rice
306 Fisk

2013 Bowman

2013 Bowman Platinum
5 Ellsbury
60 Middlebrooks
61 Pedroia
84 Bradley, Jr

2013 Finest
14 Pedroia
15 Webster
29 Middlebrooks
39 Bradley, Jr
78 Ellsbury

2013 Gypsy Queen
40 Buckner
51 Buchholz
54 Ellsbury
130 Fisk
158 Boggs
164 Middlebrooks
226 Lester
274 Gomes
275 Pedroia
295 Doerr
330 Williams

2013 Topps

2013 Topps Archives
202 Greenwell
209 Evans
220 Burks
241 Lynn

2013 Topps Heritage
434 Pedroia
486 Ortiz
496 Buchholz

2013 Topps Opening Day
20 Ellsbury
41 Pedroia
42 Lester
143 Ortiz
171 Saltalamacchia
210 Middlebrooks

Wantlist: 2012

2012 Allen & Ginter
316 Gonzalez
327 Lester
331 Crawford

2012 Bowman
20 Ellsbury
39 Crawford
46 Lester
102 Buchholz
114 Bonzalez
141 Pedroia
159 Ortiz
187 Youkilis

2012 Bowman Platinum

2012 Finest
24 Ellsbury
44 Lester
47 Youkilis
49 Pedroia
89 Gonzalez
94 Beckett

2012 Gypsy Queen
22B Youkilis (bat above head)
60B Ellsbury (batting)
143B Pedroia (blue jersey)
248B Boggs (catcher's knee visable)

2012 Topps

2012 Topps Archives
217 Tiant

2012 Topps Heritage
447 Iglesias
482 Ortiz

2012 Topps Opening Day