Thursday, February 26, 2009

Autographs Through the Mail

I have decided to try once again to obtain autographs of Red Sox players through the mail. I know my last two attempts haven’t panned out so far. Neither Jon Lester nor Wily Mo Pena has responded to my request. (Really, how many requests can Wily Mo have to sift through?) But, if you don’t try, you’ll never succeed, right? Once again, I’m trying the Red Sox Spring Training address. My fastest responses in the past have come from Spring Training sites. The reasons? I don’t know for sure, but it would make sense that there is less for players to do during Spring Training downtime. It’s not like any of them are home. They don’t have chores to do, or family functions to attend. The wife and kids are at home. So, a player's nights must provide more time to sit in front of the TV and open fan mail, right? Who’d I try this time? Four members of the 2007 World Championship team:

Jacoby Ellsbury. As I’ve said before, I love watching this guy play. He has game changing speed like nothing the Sox have ever seen. It’s much like having Randy Moss on your team. With Moss, the “red zone” might as well be at the 50-yard line. With Ellsbury, scoring position is really at first base. I’ve always been a fan, and it would be fun to get a sig.

Clay Buchholz. A future star in the making. While his role on the 2009 team is questionable (another reason to send it to Fort Myers), there appears little doubt that Clay will be a mainstay in the rotation for years to come. How could I not want his autograph?

Manny Delcarmen. Middle relievers don’t get a lot of love on the team. But, a quick look at the 2007 Playoffs shows that he deserves some. Where would the Sox be without his 1.1 scoreless innings against the Angels? Would the other Manny have been able to smash his walk-off in game 2 without Delcarmen? He’d be a great addition to my collection.

Jonathan Papelbon. This one’s easy. How could you not want the autograph of an elite closer? I just love seeing him trot out from the bullpen. He’d be an amazing autograph to have.

Hopefully, at least one of these three guys answers. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

And, this won’t be the end of this year’s requests.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reversing The Curse By: Dan Shaughnessy

As you may have heard, the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series,
ending an 86-year drought. What is constantly amazing to me in the number of authors who apparently just happened to be writing books about that season. This is yet another. The book implies that it was in the works the entire season, and by lucky chance it was the year. Dan Shaughnessy, as a long-standing Boston Globe reporter, has a unique view of the season that he relayed through this book. Through research and first hand knowledge, Shaughnessy is able to recreate the story of the magical 2004 season.

This book is brought to you by the creator of the curse nonsense himself. While Shaughnessy wasn’t the first person to think the Sox were cursed or the first person to trace it back to Babe Ruth, he was the first person to publish a book using a catchy name: “The Curse of the Bambino.” He certainly didn’t mind telling you that throughout this book. You could sense the annoyance that his personal curse gold mine had dried up. But, I will never tire of reading about the 2004 Red Sox. One of the more interesting points of the book was to see how Shaughnessy relayed stories I had heard many times before. Tid-bits that I have heard for years as fact, he presented as rumors. Quotes I’ve heard 100 times were different, or longer, when included in this book. It just goes to show how authors, including Shaughnessy I presume, can alter history to their liking. Since I don’t expect to learn anything new anymore from a book about the 2004 Sox, this was an enjoyable read…especially if you ignored the constant self-promoting. I’m not normally a fan of Shaughnessy’s writing…he may be the only thing that Curt Schilling is right about. But, this book may be the exception that makes the rule. It even makes me want to track down a copy of the original “The Curse of the Bambino.”

Rating: 3 bases

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Liars and Cheaters

When Mariano Rivera was an up and coming pitcher, he had surgery on his right arm. A tendon from another place in his body was inserted into his elbow to replace an inferior tendon. After this artificial enhancement, Rivera added around 5 mph to his fastball, and went on to become one of the greatest closers in the game. Nobody blinked an eye because any number of pitchers have had Tommy John surgery, and went on to have productive careers. When Wade Boggs was entering the latter half of his career, he had a laser shot into his eye. This laser was able to improve his vision so that it was better than 20/20. After this artificial enhancement, he went on to collect his 3000th hit and finish a Hall-of-Fame career. Curt Schilling once had an ankle tendon that was giving him trouble. He had a doctor insert stitches into his ankle to create a tendon sheath that wasn’t there. After this artificial enhancement he went on to win two playoff games and was hailed a gutsy hero.

Clearly, it’s not “natural” ability that makes players popular. Clearly, artificially enhancing your natural ability isn’t cause for alarm. How does that apply to steroids? Aren’t they just another way to artificially enhance performance? Where do the differences lie? Steroids are bad for you. That’s one issue. But, just being a professional athlete is “bad” for you. Jerry Remy played baseball, and now can barely walk or sit due to his bad knees and back. So, steroids aren’t banned because they’re bad for you. They’re illegal. That’s a big one. Although, athletes do lots of illegal activities, and it doesn’t throw away their reputations. If a player is caught with a DWI, or assaulting his wife, fans may call him a butthead. But his career plugs along. I think the big issue is that steroids combine all the things that, on their own, would be barely ok. They’re illegal artificial performance enhancers that are bad for you. That’s a pretty big triple whammy. Similarly, if a player is found to have smoked pot, fans may call him a pothead, but not call his career into question. But, if CC Sabathia is so nervous about the expectations of pitching in NY that he smokes a little before each start to calm down? That’s crossing the line. Getting a massage to relax is OK, doing an illegal drug to relax is not. Having surgery to enhance performance is OK, doing an illegal drug to enhance performance is not. As far as “cheating” it’s about opportunity. Anyone dedicated enough can have a massage, or surgically repair damage. Anyone can work out, and use batting gloves or pine tar. But, not everyone “can” do an illegal activity. That’s when it becomes cheating.

So, what to do with the people who have been found to (or admitted to) use steroids? Obviously, they need to be punished somehow, no matter when the drugs were taken. Please don’t give me the load of crud that “steroids weren’t banned by baseball.” They’re illegal. From where I sit, that makes them banned in baseball. I’m pretty sure there’s no specific rule on the books prohibiting a player from murdering the catcher to avoid being tagged. I’m hoping though, that if that happened, the run wouldn’t be allowed to count…and the player would be promptly sent to jail. You can say that there was no punishment spelled out prior to a few years ago. And, that would be true. So, either Bud Selig can use that “best interests” clause and make up a punishment, or there has to be a different kind of penalty. I always like the way the NCAA treated an ineligible player by erasing him from the record books. While I have a hard time punishing a team, I don’t mind STATS Inc. erasing a player. So, if ARod admitted to cheating from 2001 to 2003, those years are erased from his career. Gone are his 156 homers, 395 RBI, and 569 hits. (In a perfect world, we could go back and change the ERAs of pitchers he faced, or runs for players he drove in…but that gets a little too iffy and complicated.) He’d be stripped of his MVP from that ERA. From there, his career would go on as it would…with a cloud of uncertainty over it. If you want to question the rest of his numbers because, obviously he didn’t stop using when he went to NY, you’re free to do so. If you think his 400 “clean” homers still makes him one of the all-time greats, you’re free to do so. If you want to add in those years when you consider him, you can do that too. It would be like including Ichiro’s Japan numbers or Satchel Paige’s Negro League numbers when considering his place in history. His official numbers, however, would not include the ineligible stats. Plus, he’d always be a liar and a cheater.

Now, is that perfect? No. Is it fair that he is punished because he was dumb enough to get caught, while others get away with it? No. Just like it’s not fair that everyone drives faster than the speed limit, but only some people get a ticket. It’s the best you can do. Frankly, if you cheat, you deserve to be punished, whether it’s fair or not. That’s just the way it is.

Now, let’s go out and get real testing so we can put this subject to rest.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Big Trade

A few years ago, when I got my internet access through America Online, I got in the habit of trading baseball cards online. AOL had a message board set aside for the purpose of discussing and making trades through the mail. I had good luck with this. It was an easy way to find people from around the country who wanted things I considered junk and had things I wanted. For an example, I found someone who actually wanted a Hideo Nomo card, and was willing to send me a whole pile of Nomar Garciaparra cards for it. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, when I decided that AOL was too expensive and slow for my liking, I lost this little ability. Since then I had been looking for a new place to make trades, with no luck. Until, that is, a couple weeks ago.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the internet is full of people blogging about baseball cards. If you look around enough, you’ll find all sorts of people talking about the hobby, or their collections, or both. From what I’ve found, the best one out there is called “A Cardboard Problem.” It’s the best for a couple reasons. It’s updated regularly. It’s usually at least once a day that I find a new post. It helps that it’s actually a couple girls that contribute to it, so it increases the frequency a bit. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously. A lot of baseball card bloggers think they’re the only “real” collectors because they appreciate the “little” things. They’re not bandwagon fans, they’re real fans. (Sort of like the annoying members of SOSH) Instead, they get excited about their collections. They just enjoy talking about cards. It’s usually the first website I go to every day.

As it turns out, even the one glaring flaw with the site is actually good thing. As it happens, both girls are Yankees fans. (It’s OK, they’re the good kind) Ordinarily, this might be a problem. But, not when it comes to making a baseball card trade. As you may guess, I have little to no use for baseball cards featuring the Evil Empire. Oddly, they have little to no use for cards of Red Sox players. It’s a match made in heaven. One man’s trash is another’s treasure. I was able to purge a bunch of Yankees cards like from my collection. In return, I got a shipment full of Pedroia, Papelbon, Ortiz, Ramirez, and Youkilis. I certainly plan on taking advantage of this arrangement as often as I can.

So, if you’re a baseball card collector, or even if you’re not, I strongly suggest you check out the girls at “A Cardboard Problem.” It’s a must read, and will be at the top of my “favorite links” list once I get around to writing it down.

Just don’t let the interlocking “NY” scare you off.

Monday, February 16, 2009

List of 36: Red Sox Players with Names I Like to Say

1. Benny Agbayani
2. Orlando Cabrera
3. Doug Mientkiewicz
4. Dick Drago
5. Dwayne Hosey
6. Roberto Petagine
7. Jose Melendez
8. Daisuke Matsuzaka
9. Nomar Garciaparra
10. Orlando Cepeda
11. Adam Hyzdu
12. Rudy Pemberton
13. Sun-Woo Kim
14. Lenny DiNardo
15. Curtis Leskanic
16. Carlos Baerga
17. Jacoby Ellsbury
18. Ugueth Urbina
19. Arquimedez Pozo
20. Hector Carrasco
21. Rolando Arrojo
22. Wilfredo Cordero
23. Manny Delcarmen
24. Stan Belinda
25. Tim Harikkala
26. Creighton Gubanich
27. Vaughn Elshelman
28. Eusebio Gonzales
29. Gar Finnvold
30. Pumpsie Green
31. Paxton Crawford
32. Luis Alicea
33. Rheal Cormier
34. Fabian Gaffke
35. Midre Cummings
36. Tony Graffanino

Who’s on your list?

Friday, February 13, 2009

And the Winner is….

First off…congratulations to everyone who took the time to find any of the items in the hunt. There are no losers here. Well, actually, everyone’s a loser here except for:

Adam from Candia, NH!

Congratulations Adam on being the first annual Section 36 Scavenger Hunt Champion! While you didn’t find all the items on the list, you found more than anyone else. We greatly appreciate your dedication to the activity. You have earned the grand prize of worldwide fame and adoration. People across the globe are looking at your achievement with all due admiration.

For everyone else, there’s always next year.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scavenger Hunt Items

OK everyone. I hope you all enjoyed looking for things on this year’s list. Since the pitchers and catchers have reported, the hunt has ended. Here are the items you should have found…

1. The number of commitments in the Red Sox Mission Statement: 5
2. The first number mentioned in Chapter 1 of Mike Lupica’s book Wild Pitch: 11
3. The uniform number of the Cardinals player sliding into Mark Bellhorn on the November 1, 2004 cover of “Sports Illustrated”: 22
4. The postal zip code for Fenway Park: 02215
5. The number of games played by Jim Rice during the 1978 regular season: 163
6. The number of deleted scenes included on the “curse reversed” edition of the Fever Pitch DVD: 13
7. The number of cups of “large curd sour cream” that are needed for Darren Lewis’s Potato Romanoff recipe, featured in the 2001 Red Sox Wives Cookbook, Crowding the Plate: 2
8. In W.P. Kinsella’s book Shoeless Joe, Ray Kinsella takes J.D. Salinger to Fenway Park in order to “ease his pain.” The section in which he gets tickets: 17
9. The number of runs scored by the Red Sox in the bottom of the seventh inning of the game chronicled in Steve Kettermann’s book One Day at Fenway: 0
10. The lot number of the Mookie-Buckner baseball in Leyland’s Charlie Sheen auction of April 2000: 698
11. The lowest section number of the Fenway Park bleachers: 34
12. The number of stars on the state flag of the state in which Curt Schilling was born: 8
13. The number of fans whose stories are chronicled in the movie Still, We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Movie: 8
14. The number of Calories that were in one quart of “Curse Reversed!” flavor Brigham’s Ice Cream: 1760
15. The number the player liked by Trisha’s brother Pete, in Stephen King’s book The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, usually wore: 42
16. The number of Red Sox players pictured on the cover of the April 11-17, 2004 issue of TV Guide: 2
17. The number of runs scored by the Red Sox in the first night game at Fenway Park: 5
18. The number of pitches Manny Ramirez saw in his first at bat in Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox: 1
19. The approximate running time, in minutes, of the 2001 DVD: Boston Red Sox, 100 Years of Baseball History presented by Verizon: 210
20. The number of grams of sugar in a 2 oz box of Necco Sweet Hits Baseball Classic Candy, featuring John Valentin: 53
21. Cost, in dollars, of the raffle ticket sold in Fenway Park that gave you a chance to win an official 2004 Red Sox World Series Championship ring: 10
22. The row number in which Joseph Boucher was sitting during the June 9, 1946 Sox game against Detroit at Fenway: 37
23. Number of US Senators from the home state of Jon Lester: 2
24. The year in which the movie Fear Strikes Out was released: 1957
25. The number of ounces of Wheaties in the 2007 World Series commemorative box, featuring Josh Beckett: 15.6
26. The number of times Kevin Youkilis is pictured on the front of his 2003 Topps baseball card: 2
27. The number of Chapters in Mike Vaccaro’s book, Emperors and Idiots: 12
28. The 2008 Fenway Park seating capacity for a day game: 36984
29. The number of dogs Shea Hillenbrand is pictured with for the month of May in the 2003 “Pups in the Park” Red Sox Calendar: 4
30. The batting average of Nomar Garciapara shown on the front of card number 391 of the 2001 Upper Deck Vintage baseball card set: .372
31. The number found in the name of the Wade Boggs candy bar circa 1990: .352
32. Mike Timlin’s lifetime TPI, as listed in the sixth edition of Total Baseball: 8.7
33. The card number of Frank Viola’s 1993 Topps Stadium Club baseball card: 147
34. The property value, in dollars, of Fenway Park in the Red Sox Collectors Edition Monopoly game: 400
35. The number of players lost to Colorado in the 1992 expansion draft: 2
36. The number of people to whom Tony Massarotti dedicated his book A Tale of Two Cities (written with John Harper): 2

So, how did you do? Winner to be announced tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I Love Ya, tomorrow!

You’re only a day away…

OK. If truck day is the start of spring, the day pitchers and catchers report means summer’s almost here. It also means the start of the longest six weeks in the history of sports reporting. About the only thing interesting that occurs in Florida is an injury. Other than that, nothing really means anything. Spring Training wins and losses have no bearing on the regular season. Maybe if a position is under competition, you can see if the hotshot rookie will eek out the veteran. I guess, seeing if Jed Lowrie or Julio Lugo gets the bulk of the at-bats could be an interesting storyline. But, all in all the Red Sox just hope everyone gets to April 6th without breaking any limbs. So, while the endless reporting will get old, the fact that you can talk about baseball again is enough to keep me going. Finally you can actually discuss the Sox rotation, and compare it to the Yankee line-up, since you may actually know what they are. Let the fun begin.

Of course, tomorrow also means the last day to submit your entries in the Section 36 Scavenger hunt. Have those e-mails in by noon if you want to be the winner. I’ll post the answers tomorrow night so you can all see how well you did. Thanks to everyone who’s giving this a shot to make the off-season a little more entertaining.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I think I’ve said it here before. My feelings on the whole steroid thing are up in the air. But, I do have a few thoughts on the recent ARod admission.

First, a quick pro-ARod story. I was at Fenway for s Sox-Mariners game in 1996. It was raining. I mean, really raining. (If you remember 1996, there was a preseason football game in Kansas City that was rained out. This was the same storm system, having made its way across the country.) The start of the game had been delayed for quite a while. The scoreboard was telling people to get under cover to avoid lightning. Everyone was already under cover anyway to avoid the rain. That’s when I noticed ARod. He was standing next to the Mariners dugout signing autographs. By the time I made my way from my seat by Pesky’s Pole to the visitor’s dugout, he was still there. I was even able to get his autograph on my ticket, he was out there for that long. I’ve always respected him for that. To stand out there in the rain in a visiting park to sign for the fans was pretty impressive. But now…he went and did this.

It’s not shocking. We’ve known it for a while. First, Jose Canseco is apparently never wrong. Plus, ARod himself hinted at it. Remember not too long ago when he off-handedly mentioned that he’d been tested a bunch of times. Only after someone told him that the only reason he’d be tested more than once is if he failed did he “remember” that it was just the once. I guess it was another case of misremembering. That’s starting to be a real problem around MLB.

I will never buy that ARod didn’t know what he was taking, or didn’t know he failed a test. If he said, I didn’t know everything that was in what I was taking…maybe. If he said, my doctor lied to me about what I was taking…maybe. But, to suggest that he was randomly injecting chemicals into himself without knowing what they were just to try it out is ludicrous.

I hear a lot of arguments floating out there that “everyone” was doing it, or that it “wasn’t against the rules then” when people are defending ARod. Which begs two questions. If everyone was doing it, how come there were only 104 positive tests? By my count there were over 750 people on a major league roster in 2003. And, if it wasn’t against the rules, why hide it and then lie about it? When McGwie had his andro issue, he simply said it was a legal supplement he bought over the counter. That pretty much cleared things up.

The Rangers front office has no reason to be upset, or offended, or whatever Tom Hicks claimed to be. They got exactly what they paid all their money for. They wanted home runs and MVP awards, and he delivered. If anyone should be upset, it’s the Yankees. They traded for a steroid improved player, and apparently ARod went and stopped using.

I’m also amused by people who still think he’s a Hall-of-Famer, because if you take out those three years, he still has the numbers to get in. Did this argument work for Pete Rose? What he did was after he was playing, and it’s still keeping him out of the hall. Isn’t that like saying Charles Manson was a nice guy before he killed all those people, so I still think he deserves a humanitarian award? It’s really a case of self preservation. As I’ve mentioned when discussing Jeter, reporters don’t like to look foolish. They don’t want all that record of them gushing over a player to be for naught. So, they stick to their story that he’s still an elite player in an attempt to save face.

Bottom line, one again I’m glad ARod’s a Yankee. It will be fun seeing them deal with yet another distraction during the season.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

Today is the biggest day of any year. Bigger than Flag Day. Bigger than Arbor Day. Even bigger than International Talk Like A Pirate Day! It’s the day you can tell that groundhog to stuff it. Spring is here! The trucks have left Fenway Park on their way to Spring Training!

OK. So maybe it’s more of a symbolic event, than something to actually get excited about. I still think it’s funny that every news outlet feels compelled to show pictures of people loading up a moving truck. It’s like there’s a state law or something. But, it does mean that we can seriously think about Red Sox baseball again. It means the season can’t be far away. Finally rosters are almost set, and discussion can begin. All we have to do is get through the mindless chatter of Spring Training itself, and Fenway Park will be open for business.

What exactly is in that truck anyway? Is it just bats, balls, pitching machines, that sort of thing? Don’t the Red Sox have that stuff in Florida already? Isn’t the Gulf Coast League Red Sox pretty well stocked with the essentials? Is it player belongings? Does Jason Varitek fly up from Atlanta to drop off his bags before flying to Florida? Seems like a lot of effort to go through to ship uniforms and shoes down. Couldn’t they just store everything in Fort Myers? Where’s Channel 7’s investigative reporting when you need it?

In any event, spring is on its way, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Instead of wondering how players will pan out, we can start seeing them on an actual field. How heavy will David Ortiz be when he arrives? How about Josh Beckett? What will reporters talk about without Manny and Pedro showing up later than expected? What will reporters talk about ever? Get ready for it…Spring Training reporting is about to begin.

I can’t wait for the games.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Week left!

This is yet another reminder to get your answers together for the first annual Section 36 Scavenger Hunt!

Red Sox Pitchers and Catchers report next Thursday. So, you need to have until noon eastern on Feb 12th to get your entries submitted. Don’t forget to e-mail them to Section36 at gmail dot com. Nobody has gotten all of the answers yet, so there’s still a chance to finish on top.
Even if you’re not a big researcher, there are a gimmie or two on the list…so go ahead and take a shot. You never know how you’ll do.

If you’ve lost your list, check out the link on the right of this page for the “hunt items” you need to find.

As always, have fun!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sox get their C

I have no idea what it means to call a good game. I have no idea how important it is for a pitcher to feel comfortable with a catcher. I have no idea if Spring Training is long enough to become comfortable with a new catcher. All I know is that I’m glad the Sox finally were able to sign Jason Varitek.

There may not be any actual statistical evidence that proves Jason Varitek makes a pitching staff better. It’s hard to say if another catcher gets different results without actually trying it. Does it really matter who Josh Beckett throws to? I understand that when you hear pitchers praise Varitek, some of that is “love the one you’re with.” (Heck, when he was with the Yankees, Roger Clemens actually said Posada was the best catcher he’d ever thrown to) But, I like having Tek behind the plate more than Josh Bard. I like having Tek better than trading away Buchholz for some unproven youngster. I like having another year or two to look for a catcher of the future without feeling like someone is needed right away. It’s a nice stopgap. And, who knows? Maybe his struggles last year really were because of injuries or personal matters. Maybe he’s can be an adequate offense catcher. It’s not like he’s really expensive.

I guess that’s my main issue during the back and forth. People keep comparing Varitek to the wrong players. I don’t care what Brad Ausmus or Gregg Zaun signed for. They didn’t sign with the Red Sox. Who did sign with the Sox? Brad Penny did. John Smoltz did. Rocco Baldelli did. At this point, the Sox hope to get something out of Penny, although he may be a waste of money. They hope to get something out of John Smoltz, although his arm could fall off instead. They hope Rocco can fill his role as a fifth outfielder. So the question that needs to be asked is if Tek’s $5 million is riskier than Smoltz’s $5 million? After all, the Sox have shown they’re willing to throw money around to try things out. They have a stack of money they saved when Schilling agreed that he can’t pitch, and when they shipped off Manny for some reason. So, what were they planning on doing with that money? They didn’t spend it on Mrs. Teixeira. Might as well pick up a veteran catcher that your pitching staff is already comfortable with. At least you’re sure of what you’re getting. I can’t say the same for the rest of the things the Sox have thrown their money at this year. Plus, the total value of Varitek’s contract is less than the Sox will be paying Lugo this year. Heck, it’s less than the Sox paid Renteria to play for the Braves. Signing Tek looks like the smartest move Theo’s made in a while.

The roster looks full. The team is ready to go to Florida and work at getting back to the top.

And now they have their captain to steer them.

What people are reading this week