Friday, December 19, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2000 UD Black Diamond Diamond Gallery


This must have been a game of some sort. How can we make the most distracting card around?

After all, I can’t imagine why else a card company would subject collectors to this.

What was the focus here? The tiny picture of Pedro that is obscured by the diamond designs? They’re probably going for a “baseball diamond” idea, but they didn’t really get there. They have the speckles. They have the unreadable gold foil. It’s just a mess.

The one decent aspect is that the name of the insert set isn’t the most dominant part of the card. But, that’s probably because there’s so much going on that there is no dominant feature. I suppose another good feature is that Pedro’s name, team, and position are right in the middle, and facing the correct direction. But, when you distract from that with all the mess on the rest of the card, I’m not sure how many points I can give them for that.

This is just nauseating. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How Much do Players Worry about Legacies?

It crosses my mind every time I see Carlton Fisk throw a first pitch to Luis Tiant. It happened again as i wanted Jon Lester sit there in his Cubs uniform doing his best to prove that he didn't lie to the fans.

How much do players care about the legacies they leave in a town when their playing days are over?

I thought of it with Johnny Damon. Sure, he went to the highest bidder. I can't really fault him for that. But, he was really looking for his last contract. He ended up hanging on for a few more years after that, but it was basically his last chance to be a contributor. He could have stayed in Boston, as a curse-busting idiot. He would be adored. He would be a legend. For the rest of his life he could make personal appearances. He could be given ovations when he showed up at Celtics games. He would have a life of adoration. Instead, he chose to go to NY and be yet another Yankee who never quite "earned his pinstripes." He became a hired gun playing second (or third, or fourth) fiddle to Derek Jeter. Now, he may go back to the stadium for a round of applause. And, he;s been at Fenway once or twice since then. But, his legacy would be twice what it is now in Boston compared to what it is combined in all the other cities he's played in combined.

Did he think about that?

It looked like Lester did. After all, he mentioned the prospect of finally winning a Cubs championship. He knows that if he does that, he can have free drinks in Chicago for the rest of his life (provided, I suppose, he doesn't go all Curt Schilling on them). But, what if he doesn't win? He'd just be another guy that came to the Cubs and left without a ring. Does that get you called back to Wrigley? Does that get you a free beer? Probably not. A six or seven year stint on mediocrity does nothing.

So, he needs to leave the door open just a bit in Boston. Like Fisk somehow did, and Roger Clemens wished he did, and is trying to do. After all, if he plays his cards right, Boston could be a nice little fallback legacy for him. A place to go sit in the "Legends Box" and wave to the adoring crowd. He could do that forever as a two-time champion, who just happened to have played somewhere else as well. After all, I think Fred Lynn is in that box at least once a homestand.

I wonder how much Lester thinks of that whenever someone asks him about Boston. Does he think to himself, "I may still need these guys."? "I may want a chicken stand out on Yawkey Way some day, if I can't get one on Addison."

Does the fallback plan bring comfort?

Monday, December 15, 2014

What’s the Point of a Twitter Scoop?

And, no I don’t mean “because they’re all mindless dribble.” I mean, what does it do for the person getting the scoop? What’s the advantage to all their hard work?

I remember a while ago Peter Abraham saying he didn’t know why news agencies were having their reporters report using Twitter. After all, why would they be paying someone to drive traffic to someone else’s website? So, when Ken Rosenthal tweets out a new contract, he’s encouraging me to go to twitter as often as I can. He’s not making me visit the Fox Sports website. His employer is getting no additional traffic because he’s tweeting out his scoops. So, why does he do it?

Remember the old days? When you got your news from newspapers? (Oh…so that’s why they’re called that!) They came out once, maybe twice a day. So, if you had a good reporter who out-scooped everyone else, people would buy your paper to read about it. The people you paid would directly influence your circulation. If they had the scoop, everyone would be forced to buy your paper, and only your paper, all day in order to read it. There was a clear advantage. If your reporters were known to give the best news, and have scoops most often, people might just gravitate to your paper by default. So, if people just assume that Gammons  is going to have all the scoops, just buy his paper. It’s easier that way. But, it’s not working like that anymore. Now, instead of going to FOX, or ESPN, or NESN, people go to twitter. All the details are right there. How does this help FOX? Can you imagine a headline reading: “Go read this other magazine to find out all the news!”? That would be suicide.

So, what’s the benefit?

Are they hoping that these scoops will mean more followers, and more followers mean that more people might click when they tweet out links to their articles? That might be their angle. Most of my tweets are links to different things on the blog. If I had more followers, it might mean more clicks, and more readers. But, I don’t follow Ken Rosenthal. I don’t follow Joel Sherman. Why not? Because if I followed them, I would get their scoops about 2 seconds earlier than I do now. With all the retweets and other forms of re-reporting, it would be even more cluttered if I actually bothered to follow the guy giving the scoop. So, it seems like these “inside” guys are going through a lot of effort to be the guy who first reports something two seconds before everyone else. Even if I did follow them, and got their direct scoop…it’d be about an hour before everyone else would be tweeting “I confirm Rosenthal’s report that…”That doesn’t encourage me to follow anyone. It certainly doesn’t make me more likely to go read anyone’s articles.

So, if Ken Rosenthal (or whichever 14-year old you trust the most) is the best shouldn’t he just rely on that? If I’m supposed to follow him because he always has the best most accurate information first, shouldn’t he be making me go to FOX Sports? Shouldn’t I have to constantly be checking their webpage in order to get the “real information” as soon as possible? If I knew I could only trust him, and he was always first, I shouldn’t need to go to twitter to find everything out. I should just be able to go to his website. Twitter should at best bring me to FOX’s website. That’s what I do. Hopefully twitter is a means to bring you right here. Once you’re here, hopefully I’ll convince you this should have been the place you went in the first place. At the moment, for everyone else it seems to be the other way around.

I’m not sure I see the point.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ben’s Move(s)

Apparently Ben Cherington reads this blog.

At the end of yesterday’s post, I challenged Ben by saying it was “your move.”

He took the challenge. And then some.

Where there was none, now there are many. At the beginning of the day on Wednesday, the Sox rotation had two members. Now there are five. Not bad at all.

Are they the five that everyone would have wanted? I doubt it. But, they’re now a rotation.

Individually, they’re nothing to jump up and down about. But as a group, it starts to get interesting. There have been some twitter complaints that the Sox just filled their rotation with #3 starters. Maybe, maybe not. Porcello is probably closer to a #2, but that’s up for conversation. Assuming the Sox are done, the question comes as to whether that’s enough.

First, the Sox aren’t done. They have too many repetitive parts. Too many prospects are blocked behind immovable vets. The almost need to make a move just to clear some space. So, it’d probably be for a pitcher.

But, assuming for this post that they’re done…it might just be enough.

We remember Ben’s previous comments about the need for a staff ace. I’ve even covered the topic before. The basic theory? You don’t necessarily need an “ace.” After all, the Sox have had an ace before. They tried winning with an ace so good he makes that Kershaw guy look like an A-ball bust. When Pedro was having the best pitching stretch in…well…ever the Sox made the playoffs once, and only reached the ALCS. Clearly going with an ace and four scrubs is not the way to go. Maybe the balance makes the rotation. As I discussed previously, maybe being able to beat up on everyone else’s #5 starters is a good way to go. If Buchholz is the Sox “ace” he’ll probably lose a lot of his starts. But, Porcello matches up pretty well with other #2’s. Kelly can hold his own against other #3’s. Miley against other #4’s? I like those odds. And, I’ll take Masterson against other #5’s. It’s sort of the reverse rotation. Instead of winning games because Pedro can beat any other ace, but the #5 guy gets mopped about, the Sox could win the games started by Masterson as their “ace” struggles. And, that’s even assuming Buchholz and Masterson don’t return to all-star form after some injury trouble. If you get a quality start every outing from every member of the rotation, that’s a great way to have a rotation.

Isn’t that sort of what the Orioles and Royals did last year? Sure, the Royals had James Shields. But, the rest of them were pretty bleh. Just solid enough to get the game to the bullpen. Is this current rotation good enough to do that? Can they keep it to four runs in six innings, and let the bullpen and the offense take it from there?

They just might be able to.

Now, if the Sox do go out and get an ace, I certainly wouldn’t say “no.” A great pitcher at the top would only make everything better.

It just might not actually be necessary.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lots on Losing Lester

I have to admit, I’m a little surprised.

Not so much that Lester went to the Cubs. It was all sort of up in the air there for a while. But, that the Sox didn’t spend the extra money.

I know. They’ve said all along that they have this thing with signing older pitchers to long deals. I get that. But, I also remember that John Henry hated the Josh Beckett trade. His theory was, when they traded for Beckett, they had to give up prospects, and then sign him to a long-term deal. He would have rather kept the prospects and just spent money on AJ Burnett. (I know the Sox won the World Series thanks to the trade, but you have to wonder what kind of trade-off Beckett/Lowell was vs Burnett/Hanley.) This was the same situation. So, I was a little surprised they didn’t just throw a ton of money at Lester rather than have to give Philly (say) prospects in order to pay Hamels almost as much. Now, if that’s what they end up doing, I’d probably agree with the move. I’m just surprised that they made it.

I’m also surprised that so many people are upset about the Spring Training Offer. Buster Olney even got in on the action by pointing out that the Sox offer was well below the $100+ million deals signed by pitchers Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, and Homer Bailey. Oddly, Olney makes the Red Sox’s argument better than they ever could. The other three pitchers he mentioned? All signed six year deals when they were 28. The Red Sox were offering Lester a four year deal when he was 30. The Cain contract? Well I don’t remember him being a hero in the World Series this season. Or, you know, in the rotation at all. Maybe that’s because the last two seasons he’s been a combined 10-17 , 4.09 ERA, 84 ERA+. Hamels? Better. A combined 17-25, 3.00, 125 or so. Bailey? The pitcher Olney refers to as a much less accomplished pitcher? He was coming off an 11-12, 3.49, 108 season when he signed his deal for a 17.5 AAV to carry him until he’s 34. So, the Sox offered Lester coming off a 15-8 3.75 110 season a contract with…wait for it…an AAV of 17.5 to carry him until he’s 34. It’s not their fault that Lester was older as he entered free agency. (Well, it is, but you get the idea.) I would certainly argue that Cain and Hamels were better pitchers that Lester when they signed their deals, not to mention younger, while he was the same pitcher as Bailey. It looks like the 4/70 was perfectly in line, especially considering he said he would be willing to take a discount. Lester turned it down. It could have bit him. After all, his 2012 ERA+ was a career low 87. If he did that again, he’d be begging the Sox for their 4/70. But, he didn’t. He went out, and his 155 ERA+ was a career high. As such, he got higher offers…including a higher offer from the Sox to reflect his new stature. The Sox didn’t blow it. They offered a fair deal, and got burned when Lester had a career walk year. Good for him.

I’m especially surprised that a self-proclaimed “grown-ass man” would voluntarily go to a team where he’d have to dress up like a nerd, or a Frozen character, or whatever other ridiculously demeaning outfit Maddon chooses that month.

Now the Sox just need a next move. I’ve always said that the problem with not overpaying for players is that you don’t get the players. Everyone will agree that the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury a terrible contract last offseason. They’ll regret it tenfold in a few years. The Sox were right to not overpay for him. But…he sure would have been handy last year. He might even be useful next year. So, it’s great that the Sox didn’t overpay for him. But, they needed to replace him. They face the same thing with Lester. No, he’s not worth the contract the Cubs gave him. In six years, they’ll be paying the equivalent of Jake Peavy $25 million. But, next year they have their ace. The Sox don’t.

Your move, Ben.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2003 Fleer Platinum

Someone at the Fleer design offices had a brainstorm. They remembered that in the late 80s, Fleer has produced a lot of small box sets of cards. Everyone thought they were pretty corny, and they didn’t sell very well. So, it made logical sense to this person for Fleer to design a set based on those boxed sets. After all, if something doesn’t sell well the first time, it makes perfect sense to revive it. Like “A Christmas Story” I guess.

Maybe the theory was that the bold design of the box set would be something that stood out from the other sets that year. They were right.

To be fair, I don’t think the design is terrible, on its own. The stripes actually almost work for me. If Topps had done it, I don’t think I’d mind it nearly as much, because they wouldn’t be trying to copy the feelings of a previous failure.

It does have all the makings of a good card. Name, position, and team right there on the front and east to read. Nothing is written sideways or in foil. They even stop the stripe design to make Pedro’s name easier to read. It would have been easier to read if Fleer had swapped the team name and the player name. That’s a big empty yellow oval with a very short team name in it. While the brand logo is wild, it is at least tucked into a corner out of the way of the picture. And, at least the picture is a full picture, as cropped as it is to fit in the small window.

Like I said, though, it almost works. But, it just doesn’t quite do it for me.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Problem with Lester

Oh, no, there’s nothing wrong with Lester himself. It’s this pursuit of him. It’s such a minute by minute stresser that I sometime forget that he won’t actually improve the team.

He’ll just get it back to where it was.

Oh, sure. It’ll be a better team than the one that played game 162 in 2014. But, that team didn’t count. The Sox gave away a couple months there to help prepare for the future. No, I’m talking about the one that finished 2013. Or, even the one that was supposed to start 2014. Those teams had Lester as a main piece of the puzzle. So, signing him would just keep that piece where it always was. All that work and angst, just to get back to where we were. It’s a little depressing sometimes.

Now, of course I know that signing Lester won’t be their last move. Remember, Ben Cherington’s not stupid. It’s just a little bit tricky to mentally prepare to keep the status quo after so much work.

It helps to know that the Sox are already improved in several areas. I think Hanley Ramirez has to be better than the Gomes/Nava combo in left. And, while I’m sure many of us hoped for more out of Middlebrooks than what Sandoval will actually give, I think it’s safe to say that’s an improvement.

So, take a look at the team that started (or was supposed to start) 2014. Ramirez-Castillo-Victorino vs Gomes-Sizemore-Victorino. I think that’s better. Sandoval-Bogaerts-Pedroia-Napoli vs Middlebrooks-Bogaerts-Pedroia-Napoli. I’m good with that switch too. At catcher? I’ll take Vazquez over either of the last two catchers…if for no other reason than it’s easier to spell his name.

Which means that while saying put in the rotation is a little disheartening, it’s really the way to go. Replace Lester, Lackey, and Peavy with similar pitchers (or, the exact same pitcher) should be just enough.

It just starts with Lester.