Friday, May 29, 2009

List of 36: Facts about #36 (Brad Penny)

1. Was the Dodgers 2008 Opening Day starter
2. Struck out 14 Marlins on May 7, 2007
3. Went 2-0 in 2003 World Series vs. Yankees
4. Finished 3rd in 2007 NL Cy Young voting
5. Started 2006 NL All-Star game
6. Beat Pedro Martinez 2-1 with complete game on August 14, 2005
7. Hit home run May 29, 2003
8. Won major league debut over Colorado April 7, 2000
9. Has 3 career complete games
10. Did not pitch in a game on artificial turf in 2008
11. Won 38 total games from 2006-08
12. Allowed 10 runs May 7, 2008
13. Struck out 1000th career batter April 26, 2008
14. Had 16 hits in 2007
15. Allowed 14 hits August 3, 2001
16. Allowed Home Run to Jason Bay, June 3, 2007 ending 70 inning homerless streak
17. Named California League MVP by Baseball America in 1998
18. Hit home run April 11, 2003
19. Has 1-10 career record in Shea Stadium
20. Won 8 straight games May 23-July 26, 2007
21. Led NL with .711 winning percentage (2006-07)
22. Had high school number retired in 2005
23. Walked 6 batters May 6, 2006
24. Combined with Takashi Saito on shutout June 9, 2006
25. Struck out David Ortiz during 2006 All-Star Game
26. Was the first pitcher to win 5 games against the Rockies in a season (2006)
27. Hit for a .246 average in 2007
28. Pitched first career shutout April 21, 2001
29. 2007 NL All-Star
30. Teamed with Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett on 2003 World Champion Marlins
31. Was 2nd in NL with 26 quality starts in 2007
32. Selected to the 1999 Futures game at Fenway Park
33. Has 1-0 career record in old Yankee Stadium
34. Allowed 4 home runs vs. Red Sox June 29, 2003
35. Has 3 career All-Star game strikeouts
36. Graduated from Broken Arrow (OK) High School

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May I Change My Order?

Terry Francona finally listened to the rantings of Red Sox Nation. (I hate it when he does that). He moved David Ortiz out of the #3 spot, and batted him sixth for the first time in years. Red Sox fans were overjoyed. It was about time. Frankly, I don’t get all the fuss.

There was the impression out there that Ortiz was killing the Sox by staying in the 3-hole. Even if we ignore the fact that the Sox are in first place, I don’t see it. Ortiz wasn’t hitting. I’ll give you that. His batting average was hovering around .200. He was replaced in last night’s line-up by JD Drew (keeping the lefty-righty thing going). Was that a big improvement? Batting .200 means that Ortiz was getting 2 hits every ten at-bats, or so. If a player bats 4 times a game, Ortiz would get a hit every two and a half games, or so. If Drew hits at a .300 clip, he’d get three his every ten at-bats. So, over the course of 2.5 games, Drew would be expected to get one more hit than Ortiz would. In a 6 game week, Ortiz would expect to get 5 hits. In 6 games, Drew would expect to get 7. So, Ortiz would get, about, two fewer hits per week than Drew. This was killing the Sox? I doubt it. Moving Ortiz from third to sixth wouldn’t seem to be needed to help the offense.

Other people pointed to the mental pressure that Ortiz was putting on himself by batting in the 3-hole. Moving him down in the order would take that pressure off. That’s crazy. Ortiz isn’t putting pressure on himself to be a great #3 hitter. He’s putting pressure on himself to be David Ortiz. Do we really think that he looked at his name in the six-slot and thought, “Phew! I don’t need to hit as many home runs from this slot. The pressure’s off boys.” Doesn’t he still know that he’s struggling, compared to Ortiz of old? Wouldn’t moving Ortiz be even worse? Now, not only is he questioning himself, but he knows Francona’s questioning him too. Now there’s even more pressure to prove to everyone he can hit well enough to move back up. And, when exactly can you move him back up? If he hits 7 home runs in his next six games, does he move to number three? Would that put the pressure back on him, and cripple him again? If he goes 0 for 10, does he move down more?

Moving him around isn’t the answer. What’s my suggestion? Same as always. Bunting. He’s got to start dropping bunts down that third base line. I’ve always said he should do it every time he’s leading off an inning. He should just get on base for everyone behind him. Eventually, they’ll stop shifting him in those cases, and he can go back to hitting. But, in this slump, he needs the bunts to get some hits. Get that average up to the point where it doesn’t start with a 1. Not only is it a mental helper looking out at the scoreboard, but also pesky reporters could call off the dogs a bit. He may still not have the power numbers, but they can stop asking everyone about his lack of hitting. And, maybe teams will lay off the shift a bit, allowing him to get some real hits again. It’s the real solution. Bunting needs to become a real weapon for Ortiz, now and in the future. There are other bats in the line-up. Just getting on base helps.

It’s the best way for the Sox to stay in first place.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Upon further review...

Fenway finally had its first instant replay review on Saturday, and then it went ahead and got another one on Sunday. Funny the way that works sometime. I like the idea of the replay. Nothing wrong with getting the call right. I was lucky enough to be at Saturday's game, so it was interesting to be able to see the whole thing work itself out.

First, the home run on Saturday was, unfortunately, obvious. The thing cleared the wall, and caromed back. When they umps called it a double at first, I assumed that I didn't know the ground rules. Nobody could miss that call, so clearly it wasn't a home run. One part that bothered me was the process. After the call, all the umpires huddled around and discussed it. Obviously, without replay, this would be the way to go. Get together and ask if anyone had a good view. But, there was replay. Shouldn't it have been a 2 second conversation to send someone to look at the video? What were they discussing?

The question I had about the play was Francona's argument. Apparently, he was arguing that the Mets third base coach physically held Sheffield to keep him at third...when everyone (in blue) thought it was just a double. Francona argued that Sheffield should be out, since the coach isn't allowed to touch the runner like that. Apparently, the answer he was given was that after the home run was called, Sheffield was awarded home, so it didn't matter. Was this just because of the replay? On a regular home run, you still have to run the bases properly to count. Even if the home run had been awarded after the ball clears the fence, you still have to touch all the bases, you can't pass another runner...that sort of thing. I could understand if Sheff was tagged out at home, they would reverse the out and let him score (although a similar type thing hosed Manny once) But, to not be called out for illegal baserunning? Home run, or no home run, the base coach can't direct a runner by touching him. I wonder what the distinction is.

One of these days, I gotta get myself a rulebook.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: B is for…

Beckett, as in Josh

Josh Beckett is the current ace of the Red Sox. He’s a star pitcher in the prime of his career. Perhaps most important, he seems to thrive under pressure. His playoff performances are legendary including MVP performances in the World Series in 2003, and the ALCS in 2007. If I have a game seven, I can’t think of another pitcher in the game today I’d rather have on the mound.

Beckett is another player that baseball card collectors probably knew about before anyone else. Beckett was drafted second overall in the 1999 draft, right after a kid named Josh Hamilton. Josh’s first baseball cards came out in the 1999 sets, about two years before his debut with the Marlins. It also happens that the leading baseball card magazine is named “Beckett” so, I always wondered if he was getting all the attention because he was good, or because he shared a name with the magazine. It was about four years after his first baseball cards came out that he had his 2003 World Series heroics. By that time, I had been hearing about him for so long I was beginning to think he was already washed up. But, clearly, he was just beginning.

His trade to the Red Sox is an example I call upon a lot when discussing other potential trades. I will always trade potential for proven, and his deal shows that pretty well. In order to get Beckett, the Sox had to get rid of some quality players. It ended up being a 7-player deal, with Beckett (and Mike Lowell) coming to the Sox and Hanley Ramirez going to Florida. Hanley was a stud prospect. He was the top prospect the Sox had. But, Beckett had shown what he could already do in the big leagues. It was an easy swap. Even now, Ramirez has lived up to every ounce of potential. He may be the best player in the Major Leagues. He’s an elite young player, and perennial MVP candidate. But, even with all that, not many members of Red Sox nation would reverse the trade. Beckett led the Sox to a World Series title in 2007, so the deal looks just fine. So, even with the most extreme example, when the player lived up to every ounce of his potential and more…the trade was still a good one. Why not trade potential for proven every chance you get?

Beckett’s trade also gives and example of the true advantage large market teams have. When the Yankees were throwing money all over the place, and actually winning, many people claimed it was unfair since they could outspend everybody. Most Yankee fans protested, talking about how many players were “homegrown”, and they usually included players they got in trades. What the never mentioned were the trades, like the Beckett deal, that could only be done because of money. Mike Lowell had a huge contract, and he hadn’t been performing up to it. The low-budget Marlins needed to get out from under that contract. So, any deal for Beckett needed to include Lowell’s anchor. The Sox were one of a couple teams with the finances to take that kind of hit. They could afford to take a flyer, and see what they could get out of Lowell. As it turns out, Lowell ended up being a steal. But the Royals couldn’t have taken that chance. Even if they had the prospects to give to Florida. Even if they could tell that Lowell probably would turn it around. Some teams just couldn’t take the chance. The Beckett deal shows as much as any why baseball needs a salary cap-type system. (I’ve talked about my ideas to fix the salaries before.) Obviously, something needs to be done.

Once again, a single player gets wrapped up into several heavy baseball debates. Not bad for a player who may very well have his best years ahead of him.

B is for Beckett, Josh

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Collecting the Sox: Museum Rooms

Call them what you want. Museum rooms, Red Sox rooms, man caves, sports dens, game rooms, whatever words you like. They all refer to the same thing…a room dedicated to showing off your Red Sox fandom. This is more than a display on the top of your bureau. It’s more than a shelf on a bookcase. These are complete rooms dedicated to displaying Red Sox collectables. It’s the answer to every collectable’s storage problem. It’s also a bold statement that you can amass the most Red Sox junk.

These rooms have become quite common in recent years. It seems that with Americans going for larger and larger houses, they’ve run out of things to do with all the extra space. Houses have gone beyond bedroom-living room-kitchen-bathroom. They’ve added family rooms, dens, and offices. They’ve finished off basements to create even more living space. Instead of the 30’ parlors of days gone by, newer houses squeeze 4 rooms into that space, and they run out of good reasons to do it. Enter the Red Sox room. If there’s an extra room, simply put up some shelving for collectables and hang some pictures on the wall. Bingo, it’s a room to treasure.

Companies have tapped into this new market with gusto. At the box stores, you can get paint in the official color of just about any team. Simply walk up to the counter and ask for Red Sox red. Bring it home, and your themed room is the perfect color for Red Sox displays. The computers can also match just about any color. So, if you have a chip of Fenway Green paint (or even a good picture), just match it to make your room the spitting image of Fenway Park. Furniture companies have come out with Red Sox rocking chairs, pub tables, and bar stools. You can get Red Sox beanbag chairs, or inflatable glove-shaped ones. Just about any decorating feature you can think of comes with a Red Sox logo on it.

Some people also like to combine the Red Sox room with a TV or game room. Image a pool table in the middle of the room, with Red Sox pool balls. A flat screen TV could be hanging on the walls to watch the Red Sox games in high-def. This gives a purpose to the room, beyond just looking at stuff.

Other than that, it’s just a matter of filling the room with whatever Red Sox stuff you have. Get bookcases for the baseballs,
bobbleheads, and coffee mugs. Frame up pictures, posters, and newspapers to cover the walls. Hang a bat rack in the corner. A nice curio cabinet can house the expensive figurines and autographs. Throw a Red Sox themed rug on the floor, and you’re ready to invite friends over to admire your collection.

And, really, that’s what it’s all about. A place for people to come and gawk at all the stuff you have that they wish they had. It’s a place to hang out and watch a game, live or on DVD. It’s a place to play Red Sox Monopoly, or Red Sox checkers, or even Red Sox Jenga. It’s a place for everyone to escape from the world, and surround themselves with their favorite team for a while. (And, it’s a place to finally find a spot for that life-size cardboard cutout of Nomar Garciaparra.)

Anyone have pictures of their Museum Room they’d like to share? E-mail them along.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A was for Anderson…

…and now it’s for Addendum.

My Lars Anderson post generated several reader e-mails with opinions and corrections. I’d like to thank all the e-mailers, and remind you that this is more fun if everyone’s involved.

First, I made a careless mistake. Lars is not 22. He won’t turn 22 until September. I was a bit ahead of myself there.

Second, some of the post questioned how an organization can misjudge a prospect to the point that he’s an 18th round pick one year, and a top prospect the next. It’s amazing to me that the scouts are that far off. In Lars’s case, it appears to be more of a money issue than talent. MLB has a slotting system in place for their draft picks. The higher pick you are, the more money you can sign for. Lars was coming out of high school with a college scholarship in his pocket. So, he told teams it would take first round (or supplemental) money to get him to skip school. Not a bad move on his part. Unless he can get the money to be financially set, it makes sense to go to college. It looks like teams were afraid to take him in the middle rounds, for fear of not being able to sign their second round pick. But, for some odd reason, once you get to the much later rounds, the slot system’s effect wears off. So, when the Red Sox drafted Lars with their 22nd pick, they were able to offer him above-slot money. They were able to pay him to pass up college. So, while the Sox, or another team, might have wanted to draft him in the 3rd round, they were afraid to lose him. By waiting, they could try to overpay him. If it didn’t work, all they’d lose is an 18th round pick. That was a fair gamble to take. The “over-slot” method is used by several teams to get better players in the draft. It’s an odd procedure, and yet another reason why MLB needs a better salary structure in place.

So, perhaps, Lars Anderson isn’t the best example of why a player is drafted lower than his skill would suggest. It still happens all the time, but in this case there’s a good answer. Could I suggest that the Red Sox “goofed” by not taking him in the first round? Maybe. But, taking a high schooler in the first round is always pretty risky, and not something Theo likes to do. It looks like a pretty good move all around. Who knows? Maybe every time a draft position looks out of whack, there’s a great explanation such as this one.

I guess that why I was asking the questions.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

36 Questions: Pitchers

Do Teams Baby Their Pitchers Too Much?

Right off the bat, a disclaimer. In this post, I’m assuming that pitchers aren’t people. Pretend with me that they are robots that can be treated as we see fit. If that’s the case, do we baby the pitchers too much with all the five-man rotations and pitch counts? Let’s compare, say, Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, and Pedro Martinez. Three pitchers from three completely different eras. Pitchers were handled differently in each generation. Starting with Cy Young…

Cy Young pitched from 1890 to 1911. Starting in 1890, when he was 23, Young threw at least 400 innings for 4 of the next 5 years. In those years, he won 9, 27, 36, 34, and 26 games. At this point, he entered the “prime of his career” which I will assume to be ages 28-32. In those 5 years he pitched 370, 414, 335, 377, and 369 innings, winning 35, 28, 21, 25, and 26 games. For the next five years, he has another pretty good stretch. Ages 33-37 he pitches 321, 371, 384, 341, and 380 innings winning 19, 33, 32, 28, and 26 games. So, there we have three distinct time periods. Pre-prime (23-27), he threw 1853 innings, winning 132 games. Prime (28-32) numbers were 1865 innings and 135 wins. Post-Prime (33-37) he posted 1797 innings and 138 wins. Not a bad career. He pitched a TON of innings, even when he was a youngster. He was able to give his team just over 400 wins pitching during that time.

Koufax had a much different career. He was 23 in 1959. In his pre-prime years, he pitched a total of 1078 innings, with 73 wins. Compared to Young, he was just getting his feet wet during these years. In his prime, he pitched 881 innings and won 72 games before blowing out his arm, and leaving the game at age 30. So, Koufax had a good beginning. He pitched his arm off during his prime years, and it cost him.

Pedro is another story. He was 23 in 1994. So, his pre-prime period had him pitching 1028 innings with 74 wins. The prime period consisted of 932 innings with 82 wins. Compared to Koufax, he pitched only 51 extra innings, with two extra years. Post prime, Pedro amassed 703 innings and collected 48 wins. You can see a definite drop off in the later years of his career.
So, what exactly does all this mean? I have no idea. But, you have three pitchers handled differently, and reacting differently. You can look at Young’s incredible number of innings, and say he was the exception. Not all pitchers, even in his era, could handle that kind of abuse to the arm. Which would be true. But, obviously, some could. With Koufax, you can see the opposite. He was pitched and pitched until it ended his career. One could look at him and say, if he had more rest, or was handled differently, he could have pitched longer. And, that may have been true. Just like with Pedro. They had him pitch a little less often, and his career did go longer than Koufax. But, are the years that Pedro got at the end worth saving?

Look at the Red Sox. They had Pedro in his prime…1999-2003. It’s a toss up between Pedro and Koufax as to who had the best 5-year stretch in history. But, the Red Sox babied Pedro a bit. They spaced out his starts. And, it worked. Unlike Koufax, Pedro was able to pitch 5 years of “post-prime” baseball. The thing is…four of those years were with the Mets. That didn’t help the Sox. Four of those years weren’t very good because, lets face it, older pitchers aren’t as good as younger ones. So, really, what did the Red Sox save by holding Pedro back? What if they treated him more like Koufax? When Pedro was having the greatest three-year span in history from 1998-2000, what if the Sox had pitched him to death. What if they used up all his bullets when he was the best pitcher in baseball? Sure, he may have lost a few years of his career. But, those years didn’t help the Sox anyway. Do you think the Dodgers would prefer that Koufax had pitched a few hundred fewer innings earlier on so he could pitch a few more years for the Mets? I doubt it.

So, what if we just treated pitchers like expendable machines? Just pitch them like the old days. Pitch them until their arm falls off. When it falls off, get another pitcher and try again. You may luck out and get a Young (or apparently Sabathia), who can pitch forever under those circumstances. You may get a guy like Koufax, who is brilliant, but for a short time. But, in either case, it’s better than trading Pedro’s best innings for innings that won’t help you later. That doesn’t make much sense.

Would the Sox trade eight more starts of 1999 vintage Pedro for 20 starts of 2008 Pedro?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ted Williams By: Leigh Montville

This book follows the life of Red Sox legend Ted Williams. It starts with Williams as a kid in San Diego, and follows him even after his death. Along the wary, it gives an intimate, behind the scenes look at his life. It discusses his relationships with his family, the media, his friends, and the Boston fans. It follows him as a minor leaguer, a fighter pilot, a superstar, a manager, and as a living icon. It adds fresh interviews to the mountains of information already out there on the Splendid Splinter. Along the way, the reader can see how all these experiences wove into the person many people thought they knew.

I am too young to have been a Ted Williams “fan.” By the time I came around, he had even finished his managerial career. I was certainly aware of Ted Williams the legend, but never had the connection to him that those of previous generations would. So, I enjoyed this book a great deal do to all the information it provided. It was fascinating to see how everything built. I had always heard he hated the media, and now I knew why. I had heard he was booed at Fenway, and now I know the reasons. It struck me, reading the book as Manny Ramirez was playing his first spring in LA, how similar the stories appeared to be. Ted was an immense talent who was seen as selfish by the fans, not a real team player. He detested the media intruding into his life. But, he sure could hit. As with any biography, you’ll probably like Ted a little less after reading the book than you did before. (Apparently, even baseball idols have flaws) That shouldn’t stop anybody from picking up this wonderful book. I had a hard time putting it down.

Rating: 4 bases

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: A is for…

Anderson, as in Lars.

Lars Anderson wraps a whole bunch of interesting topics into one player. For those who don’t know, Anderson is a 22-year old first base prospect in the Sox organization. According to Baseball America, he’s the top prospect the Sox have. And that’s just where it all begins.
As a baseball card collector, I know Anderson as the Red Sox player with the really expensive cards. Going into this season, he had yet to play a game above AA ball, and his rookie cards were already selling for over $100. It’s incredible. For comparison, the best rookie card of Manny Ramirez will cost you about $20. Where is the disconnect? Why do people fall in love with potential over performance? I have no doubt that Baseball America is right, and Lars will become a fine player. But, he has to have a ceiling somewhere, right? Wouldn’t being Manny Ramirez, or Carl Yastrzemski pretty much top out his potential? Their rookie cards aren’t $100 and we know they were good. Heck, if you cross sports, you can get a Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rookie card on eBay for less than $50. Does Anderson have more potential than that? Does a Lars Anderson rookie card at $100 have a lot of room to go up? Isn’t it just begging for failure? It’s not just Anderson whose cards have those crazy values. I’m pretty sure an Albert Pujols rookie card will cost more than Ted Williams. A few years ago, Vince Carter’s card brought more than Charles Barkley. It’s a constant battle between potential and performance, and I don’t get it. It seems to me that I can wait until a player becomes a superstar, and then get his cards cheaper than I can now. And, I won’t have to pay $20 for a Phil Plantier rookie…again.

Anderson also illustrates how wrong organizations can be…if wrong is the correct word. Anderson was the Red Sox 22nd pick in the 2006 draft. The Red Sox thought that 21 players were better than him in 2006. In 2007, he was named the Red Sox #3 prospect. So, in one year he went from the 22nd best player in the draft to the 3rd best player they had on the farm? How did they goof like that? Why wasn’t he a third round pick? If you look at the whole league, Anderson was the 553rd selection in that draft. In 2008, he was named the 4th best prospect in the Eastern League. How did the rest of the teams miss that? If he went from 553 to 250, it would look like a huge gaffe. 553 to 4? Who missed the ball on that one? How does one season make a player go from mediocre draftee to stud prospect? What are the draft scouts not looking at that the minor league scouts are? What’s the difference?

It’s also interesting that Anderson plays first base. Kevin Youkilis plays first base. After the 2008 season, the Red Sox went heavy into the free agent market for Mark Teixeira who plays first base. Did Theo not read Baseball America? Does he not believe the scouting reports to the point that he’d rather pay Teix $150 mil than trust them on Anderson? He did a similar thing when he traded for Coco Crisp (trading baseball’s #1 prospect) while he had Jacoby Ellsbury waiting in the wings. Did he not trust the scouts who had Ellsbury rated so high? (To be fair, this isn’t an exclusively Red Sox oddity. The Phillies spent huge money on Jim Thome…blocking the way for Ryan Howard) Don’t get me wrong. I will always take proven talent over potential. If the Yankees offered to trade Teixeira even up for Anderson I’d jump at it. But, if you were trying to sign a huge free agent, or make a trade to better your team, wouldn’t it make sense to focus on areas that don’t have stud prospects almost ready? Instead of chasing Teixeira, shouldn’t they have focused the money on Pedroia or Youkilis…like they ended up doing?

It’s a lot of issues centered on one player. None of them are Anderson’s fault. He just looks to be the poster boy for a few things that don’t make sense to me. Personally, I can’t wait to see Lars in Boston. Or, to see what we can trade him for.

A is for Anderson, Lars

Friday, May 8, 2009

Manny is…

what, exactly? A cheat? An idiot? A victim?

Well, for starters, Manny Ramirez may be my all-time favorite player. I was a fan when he was in Cleveland, cheered when he came to Boston, and pouted the day he went to LA. So, I’m trying to be objective about all this.. I’ve written on my PED views before, and I like to think I’m sliding Manny into the same set of rules. Feel free to check and call me on it if I’m not

First of all, it’s hard to decide what really happened. One reason I didn’t write about this yesterday was that I wanted to give at least a little time to have some facts come out. Here’s what I think I know so far…and I’m sure it’s all changed by the time anyone sees this. Manny failed a test for a banned substance. It was not a PED, and he has still not failed a test for a PED. The rumors I’ve heard as to what the substance was range from a female fertility drug to an ED drug. Manny was suspended for 50 games following the test, according to MLB’s policy for dealing with such matters. The rule says something like, even though he didn’t fail a test, there’s something not quite right, so they can suspend you. Manny was planning on appealing, but after talking it over, didn’t go through with it. I’m not sure exactly who he talked it over with…the Dodgers, MLBPA, or Scott Boras. Manny issued a statement saying that the drug the test picked up was prescribed to him by a doctor, who didn’t know it was on a list of banned substances. The rules say it’s still his fault, so he’s serving the suspension. And, as far as I know, that’s where we sit. Have I got it so far?

So, where does this leave us? I’m not sure. Do I believe Manny? Maybe. Would I prefer it if he came out waving a prescription from an American doctor for a drug that he could actually need? That would be great. Why hasn’t he yet? I don’t know. So, I’m left to compare this excuse against other excuses.

We have the Roger Clemens flat denial. In Roger’s case, he was accused of using PED’s. Manny’s not exactly there yet…so denial wouldn’t be necessary. That excuse would be a good one though, if it were true. It would appear that Roger was lying through his teeth though. But, still a truthful denial is the best way to go. An untruthful one will kill a career, or in Roger’s case, a legacy.

There’s the Gary Sheffield (and Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi allegedly) excuse of, I took an illegal PED, but didn’t know it. It’s say that’s worse than Manny’s excuse. That one admits to cheating, just to not doing it willingly. So, the numbers are bogus, but his character may still be in tact. (Assuming Bonds and Sheffield had characters worth keeping in tact) Sheffield and Giambi have apparently come through fairly well. They’re not in the news much anymore, and both are still signing contracts without taking a hit. I’d say Manny’s case is better than theirs.

There’s the Andy Pettitte version. Yes I took it. Yes I knew I took it. Yes, I knew it was illegal. But, I only did it to enhance my performance, which would help my team. He has been heralded as a stand up guy for admitting it, and appears to be plugging along as normal. I’d say, so far, Manny’s better than that.

There’s Paul Byrd, who admitted taking HGH, but also used the prescription reasoning. Byrd, again, has apparently had the issue dropped without hurting his career. The difference with Byrd is that HGH isn’t a drug that could have been legally prescribed to Byrd. So, he at least had to find a shady doctor to do it. Manny would appear better than that excuse.

There’s Alex Rodriguez, who admitted using PEDs in a jumbled mess. He said he took it for a while, might have had a prescription from the Dominican for it, and might have stopped using it. Like Clemens, his real problem appears to be that he keeps lying about it. If he came out in the beginning with the Pettitte version, who knows what would have happened. Manny’s definitely better off than that.

So, I like the Manny excuse better than all the others. (Obviously, it’s better if the drug is an ED drug, and not a female hormone.) But, Manny does not appear to have been accused of breaking any laws. (Unlike everyone else on the list above) He has not been accused of taking a PED. (Again, unlike anyone else on the list above) Do I think Manny might just be that much of a moron? I’m guessing that if he doesn’t know where his appendix is, he might not know the brand names of every drug out there. So, for the moment, I’m willing to ride it out. Maybe if there’s an actual accusation of breaking the law or PED use, that could change. I do wonder, though. If half the country weren’t determined to hate him, would this be a big deal? Would it just be JC Romero…whom I believe has a similar issue with is suspension? I didn’t see that on any front pages. Stay tuned, I guess.

I do wish he’d produce that doctor’s note though.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

36 Years of Red Sox Cards (Part IX)

Once more, with feeling…

1987 Donruss Mike Grenwell
Mike Greenwell was a fine player during his Red Sox career. He did his best to keep up the noble progression of Red Sox left fielders. Following Williams, Yaz, and Rice is no easy task. But, he gave it a go. This is one of Greenwell’s better rookie cards. It’s a nice design, but led to collecting headaches. First, the black border made defects pop right out. Any white chipping of the edges could be seen a mile away. The baseballs on the sides made it real easy to see if a card wasn’t centered properly as well. If one side had more baseballs than the other, it was a bad cut. It just made it all the better when you found a nice one.

1994 Topps Stadium Club Draft Picks Nomar Garciaparra
Once upon a time, the Red Sox drafted this kid shortstop with a big nose. He went on to become one of the most beloved players in team history, before being rudely shipped out of town during the 2004 season. This card is one of the first ones to picture Nomar as a member of the Sox. He had an earlier card in 1992, but it depicted him as a member of the US Olympic team (the same set featured another member of the Olympic team, Jason Varitek) So, for Sox fans, this was the beginning of the frenzy.

2005 Donruss Champions Doug Meintkeiwicz
I like this card for several reasons. First, it has the word “champions” on the front. I can’t be reminded enough of the Sox triumph in 2004. Plus, it’s of Doug Mientkiewicz, who played a big role in that season. He was in the trade that got rid of Nomar. He caught the last out of the World Series clincher. I spent all summer trying to learn how to properly spell his name. I also like this card since it pictures Mientkiewicz in his Boston uniform, and contains a piece of the uniform from the historic season. What more could you ask for in a card?

1988 Topps Sam Horn
Sam Horn was another hotshot call-up. In his first 46 games with the Sox in 1987, Horn slugged 14 home runs. Instantly, the projections start. That works out to almost 50 dingers in a full season! This guy’s going to be a stud! So, his 1988 rookie cards were hot commodities. Of course, things never worked out that way. Horn lasted for parts of 8 seasons in the bigs, playing 103 games over three seasons with the Sox. He may be best remembered now for lending his name to a much overrated Red Sox fan website. I especially like this card since it shows Horn at first base. His appearances at first for the Sox were certainly few and far between. But, it’s still a nice memory of a very popular player.

1980 Lou Brock/Carl Yastrzemski HL
Another highlight card. Once again, the Topps company needed only one card to picture two future Hall-of-Famers. 1979 was a big year for Yaz and Brock. Each player reached 3000 career hits during the season. Yaz also slugged his 400th career home run. What better reason to include an extra card of those players?

1998 Topps Finest Pedro Martinez
Awkward crotch shot aside, this is a great card. Pedro Martinez came over to the Red Sox in a trade following the 1997 season. He was the obvious new ace for the Sox, and everyone was excited to see him get started. While action shots are nice on cards, I think this posed shot captures the mood quite well. It’s simply Pedro, sitting there with a big grin on his face. Here I am, I’m ready to pitch, watch me go. This is going to be fun. The Finest brand is nice too. It makes for a very crisp card, with just enough flair to do Pedro justice. It’s still one of my favorite Pedro cards.

So, there we are. 36 years of Red Sox baseball cards explored. The good players, the not so good. The memories they invoke, the fears they bring up. It’s what collecting cards is all about.

That’s my list. Which cards would make yours?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Collecting the Sox: Newspapers

One aspect of Red Sox collecting that can be a lot of fun is collecting newspapers. My favorite thing about collecting newspapers is that it freezes the moment in time. There’s no diluting of a memory over the years. There’s no revisionist history. You can look right at the newspaper, and see exactly what people were thinking right at the moment. It makes a great snapshot in time of great Red Sox memories. If you save the entire paper, as opposed to just the page or section, you can also place every moment into the context of history. In fact, there are any number of reasons why this is a wonderful thing to collect.

One of the great parts of newspaper collecting is the variety. There’s a newspaper account following every game. It’s also in any number of newspapers across Red Sox nation. So, the collection can be as broad, or as specific as you’d like to make it. You might want to collect every Boston Globe story of a Josh Beckett start. Or, every Boston Herald issue following a Youkilis homer. If you like great photography, you can go after newspapers with great action shots, or any coverage containing a picture of Jacoby Ellsbury. You can also focus on historic games. Maybe every newspaper possible following the 2004 world series win, or every newspaper from Vermont reporting on Jon Lester’s no-hitter. The ability to tailor a collection to exactly what you want is a great aspect of the medium.

Cost is another important factor with newspaper collections. If you’re after current papers, you’re looking at less than $1 for each issue. If you wanted to get a newspaper account from every Jon Lester win in 2009, you’re looking at less than $20 for the season. Even earlier issues aren’t very expensive until you get quite a few years back. So, it’s a great way to enter into a collectable.

If you’re collecting newspapers going forward, there’s plenty of supply. If you want just one copy of a story about a game, there are lots of papers out there. Each newspaper prints thousands of copies. If you go out the day following a game, grabbing a paper to collect shouldn’t be a problem. Getting older papers is a little bit tougher. Since most people don’t save stacks of newspapers, tracking down a specific paper from even a couple weeks ago can be a challenge. If it’s an important paper, for instance after a World Series win, you might be able to find it on eBay. Once again though, starting a collection shouldn’t be too tough.

The only real issue with a newspaper collection comes to storage. A stack of 100 newspapers is kind of big and ugly. You also don’t want the papers fading or yellowing. That presents the age-old problem with collectables…to display or protect. The best place to store a newspaper might be in a closet, out of the light. That’s not exactly a great way to enjoy a collection though. You could frame the nicest ones, but that takes some wall space, and expense. So, it’s up to the collector to find a happy medium so they can enjoy the collection, but still have it for a long time.

Any newspaper collectors out there?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Attention Please. Now Playing Right Field…

Javy Lopez?

In his time as manager, Terry Francona has done some pretty odd things with his defense. He’s brought a position player in to pitch a few times. He even had a game where for an inning, he brought and extra infielder in, sent him back, moved him over, and brought him in again. But, this was the first time he’s thrown a pitcher into the outfield. He even, actually, had a decent reason for it.

I’ve always wondered what it took for a position player to have to pitch. It’s always during a blowout. But, at what point is it worth risking an outfielder’s injury as opposed to wearing out another reliever. In last night’s game, Francona gave up on it pretty early on. Maybe a little too early, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. So, he had emptied his bench, and was just trying to get through the final innings. I can understand not wanting to use any of the primo members of the pen. You don’t want Papelbon mopping up when you may actually need him the next night. So, Francona was giving the 8th inning to Lopez. He needed to go as long as it took to get out of the inning. There would be no lefty-right match-ups. It was Lopez until he got three outs. It just didn’t work that way.

Lopez was shelled, and kept throwing pitches, pitches, and more pitches. Finally, Francona had no choice. Lopez had to come out. But, who to put in? Not wanting to waste anyone, he decided on back-up outfielder Jonathan Van Every. Van Every was a decent choice. He’s not a key member of the team. I hate to use the word expendable, but it would fit. There’s not an enormous concern of him pulling a Canseco, and losing time to an injury. He also had a little pitching experience, having pitched almost a decade ago at Itawamba JC. So, he was a logical emergency plan. It did lead to a problem. Who was going to take his place in right? Francona had already emptied the bench. The only player left was Varitek. He certainly wasn’t going to the outfield. You could try him at first, or third maybe and move a couple players around. Or, you could just send Lopez out there. That made as much sense as anything. Pitchers do shag flies in batting practice. And, Lopez had played some in the field in college. Why not? It was just for an inning.

So, that’s how it went. Van Every walked a couple guys, but his 80 mph fastballs also recorded the outs he needed. (Sort of makes you wonder about the whole pitching thing when a guy throwing nothing but 80 mph fastballs can still get outs) The only cause for concern was a run-scoring double he gave up…to right center. I bet Francona’s heart skipped more beats than usual when he saw Lopez running after the ball. Interestingly enough, the runner on base was Lopez’s. So, he had the unique chance to make a play to save one of his own inherited runners from scoring. Would have been great if he had done it with a full-out dive. Of course, he didn’t and his ERA ballooned up accordingly.

In the end, it was a wasted game for the Sox. They happen every once in a while. I’m not sure if they could have gotten two hits if Van Every was pitching for the Rays. But, the Sox are entitled to toss up a stinker every now and then.

At least they make them entertaining.

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