Monday, September 1, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2001 Fleer Focus

I like it.

Even after my scanner decided to have a mind of its own, I like it. It’s clean. It’s crisp. It doesn’t yell at you, it calls to you.

Sure, there are some things I don’t like. That god-forsaken gold foil shown up again. Seriously, who though this was a good idea? For every set?

The Fleer Focus logo is a bit more obvious that I’d like, but it’s not nearly as bad as many sets.

What do I like? I like how all the information I need is there. Name, team, position. And, it’s tucked away at the bottom so it doesn’t interfere too much with the picture. And, you know I’m a sucker for the player’s picture coming out into the border. I have no idea why, but I get a giddy when I see that. The only way Fleer could have improved that is if Pedro’s back foot was trimmed to the border. Then it would have looked like Pedro was stepping through the border as he pitched. But, I’ll take that I can get.

The picture itself is pretty standard Pedro fare. Mid-windup, ready to make another hitter wish he never stepped to the plate. On Pedro’s face, you can read his determination.

And, of course, his focus.

Friday, August 29, 2014

I Scored!

April 8, 2013

It’s amazing how time changes, isn’t it?

There I was at the home opener last year. I was excited to be there, as you can see from the exclamation point in the “game notes” box. But really, why would I have been that excited? The Sox were coming off an absolutely terrible season. Sure, they made some changes in the off-season. But, I probably had no business stating that I was at the “Home opener!” Of course, since then the Sox finished with the best record in the league, won the World Series, and have had another sub-.500 season where they’ll miss the playoffs.


Even the results of the game seem so foreign. Check out Clay Buchholz. 7 IP of shutout ball. Only 7 base runners in those seven innings, with eight strikeouts. Remember when Buchholz could do that? How about the two guys that followed him? Andrew Bailey threw a dominant inning. Andrew Bailey? Joel Hanrahan came in to close out the game. Hanrahan the closer? Just last year? He struggled a bit…showing that the closer job wasn’t exactly a secure thing. 

David Ortiz was still out of the line-up. He wouldn’t return for another week. Jose Iglesias was manning shortstop. So strange to see.

Just last year.

How about the game? The Red Sox bats didn’t exactly show up. But, it looks like they did exactly what they needed to do. They scored all the runs a dominant Buchholz would need. (Yeah, go back and read that sentence again.) In fact, they only had hits in three innings. Thankfully they bunched them together in the seventh.

The hero of the game? That one’s easy. Daniel Nava had a perfect day at the plate, and his homer drove in all the runs the Sox would score.

The goat? That one’s a little tougher. Six guys went hitless, including Will Middlebrooks who struck out twice. But, nobody went hitless with as many chances as Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order. (Just last year!) He has to wear the horns on this day.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The hitters did all they needed to do with the great effort from the pitching staff. Great pitching and timely hitting were all it took to win the game.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Do Networks Keep Implying Baseball Isn’t Interesting?

Why else would they fill their broadcasts with anything but baseball?

I understand the concept. I really do. They know that the country, and/or broadcast region, is made up of three types of people. Baseball diehards, anti-baseball people, and people in the middle. They make a decision that the die-hards will watch no matter what. They probably assume that they could spit on them once a game, and they’d still watch. Just look at the number of people who complained about the moronic things Joe Morgan or Tim McCarver would say. People would say they had to mute the games, or deal with the constant frustration. But, they were all watching the games. All of them. Every inning. So, why would a network worry about them?

They might not even worry about the anti-baseball section. Why waste time trying to get people to watch if they’ve already decided they aren’t going to?

So, I understand that in order to try and draw in the casual fan, they might try some different things. But, why are they always trying the wrong things? Guests in the booth. Dugout interviews. They all take away from game action. Why show a full screen shot of Justin Verlander in the dugout doing an interview while putting the actual game in a small box in the corner? Doesn’t that imply that the interview is more important than the game? Or, at least, more interesting? Why would they want their viewers to think that? Or, guests to the booth? The regular announcers will talk to some movie star or corporate CEO. All the while, the game is going on unnoticed. Just a passing, so-and-so just grounded out. Back to the new TV show. The network produces will probably say that those types of interruptions draw in the casual fan. But, I have the same question I had when I saw the pierogi races.

Isn’t the best plan to turn the casual fan into a die-hard fan?

Just like the Pirates are fools for marketing and selling pierogies without a Pirates logo anywhere to be seen, the networks are fools for not using this opportunity to draw in more fans.

So, I understand that getting a celebrity into the booth might draw in the casual fan. But, aren’t there celebrities out there who are actual baseball fans? Can’t they bring in someone else to talk about “Arrojo-ness” or a player “making a mockery of his career”? Then, the casual fan might tune in to see the celebrity, but also might be drawn into the game itself. Otherwise, why not just show a Justin Bieber concert full screen, and have the game showing in the corner? Because if fans are just tuning in to hear a half-inning interview with a TV personality, they’re probably not tuning in the next game, when he’s not there. But, if they tune in to hear the celebrity, and that celebrity helps them get hooked on the product, they’ll tune in the next time…and every game after that. Then the networks wouldn’t have to work so hard for the ratings.

Isn’t that what they want?

Monday, August 25, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

Once again, I look at a card and think to myself, "People are actually complaining about the Topps monopoly?"

I'm trying to think of something I like about this card. I guess the picture of Pedro isn't terrible. But then they went any doubled and pixilated it. Why, exactly? They also put Pedro's name, position, and team on the card. But they wrote them sideways to make them as hard to read as possible. Then, just to mess with me, they wrote the team in a different direction. So, to read them both, I need to bop my head from side to side like I'm a Hanson brother. Just in case that was too easy, they wrote Pedro's name in foil. Again, just to make it even harder to read. Eventually card companies are going to realize that foil is illegible, right?

They did add a second (third?) picture of Pedro, apparently while he was serving time. Or behind a screen? Was there a point to that? Does it have anything to do with "gametime?" Yeah, I didn't think so either. Then there's the TV fuzz in the upper left. What is it adding to the card? Other than confusion.

So, I guess I didn't really find anything I liked about this card. That doesn't surprise me. Figured it would be tough. Sort of annoyed that I have to have it in the binder.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Visiting the Vet

When Jim posted his report of the Phillies Room visit toFenway, I realized that I had never returned the favor. Sure, I posted a wonderful write-up of my visit to PNC Park, but not my visit to Veterans Stadium. What a disgrace! The closest I have come is talking about the scorecard I kept at the game. But, that’s not really the same…is it? So, what was it like? Glad you asked.

I’ve visited four Major League parks in my life. Fenway once or twice, PNC, Veterans, and Olympic. (Hmm…not sure I’ve talked about the Olympic Stadium visit yet either. Guess I’ll have to take care of that at some point as well!) Two beautiful parks, and two not quite so beautiful. Just to mix it up a bit.

When I first arrived at the stadium, my first impression was just how easy it was to do. Right off the highway, and you practically ran into the stadium. As someone who would never just drive right up to Fenway, this was amazing to me. But, when I got out of the car, I saw the downside to that ease. I was surrounded by parking lot. No stores. No shops. No stands. Just cars to walk through on the way to the stadium. It seemed so sterile. I think I’ll take the chaos.

The inside was a bit of a culture shock as well. The concourse was wider, and less crowded. I remember being dumbfounded by the sight of an escalator. I’ve mentioned it before, but my strongest memory of that area was the t-shirt they had for sale promoting the “Battle of the Rookies of the Year.” This was in 2000, and they were promoting that Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Rolen had won the ROY in 1997. It wasn’t even the reigning ROYs. It was people who won the award three years ago, apparently battling it out for the title. Rolen didn’t even play in the game. I really wish I bought one, though. I did buy a pin commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1980 World Champions.

Then it was time to go check out the field! My first impression was that it reminded me of a high school gymnasium. This was my first experience with artificial turf, and it made the whole ground look a lot more fake than I expected. Not only that, but the height of the stands combined with the overhang over my seats meant that I couldn’t see the sky. It felt small, and enclosed. Like a gymnasium.

To top it off, Pedro was scheduled to pitch that game, but didn’t. He was a surprise scratch, and I ended up watching Tim Wakefield. Even worse, Curt Schilling pitched the night before for the Phillies. So, I was this close to a Pedro-Schilling match-up, but just missed out on both accounts.

Other than ending up a Red Sox loss, the game itself wasn’t terrible. I got to see Nomar’s 100th career home run. (Which shows you just how out of date those ROY match-up t-shirts really were) I also got to see the pitcher bat, with was different…if not exactly entertaining. All-in-all, a good experience.

I should really check out CBP just for comparison.

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.