Friday, January 29, 2010

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Wow. What a Headline. I’m sure that if you saw that linked from another blog, you rushed right over to see what I was sleeping through. It’s really this time of year when you follow a quality team like the Red Sox.

Everything is quiet. It has been quiet for quite some time. At this point, I’ve decided that the Sox will hang on to both Mike Lowell and David Ortiz into Spring Training. At this point, might as well let them play a little to show everyone else what they can do. As much as I wanted to get excited about Jeremy Hermida avoiding arbitration, I just couldn’t. So, we enter the waiting game until the start of Spring Training. (Thank goodness for the Scavenger Hunt to keep us all busy)

The problem is, even the start of Spring Training is anticlimactic. Sure, the sights of pitchers and catchers reporting signal that summer is almost here. The problem, with the Sox, is that’s it’s still only “almost.” There are no positional battles in the works. The Sox are set. I don’t think even Beltre could play poorly enough to lose his job.

Three weeks out, and we’re reduced to following other teams as they get ready for Spring Training. Will Johnny Damon sign anywhere? Is the Ben Sheets signing good for Oakland? Why did the Yankees sign Randy Winn?

Obviously, it’s probably a good thing that things are slow for the Sox right now. It’s better than the reports from the Mets. There are no surgery related screamings. We’re not getting reports of an ace pitcher finally throwing off a mound. It’s just a waiting game until the season starts, and it’s a killer.

We could debate the line-up. But, it would just be debate. Until Tito tells us what his will be, we can’t talk about all the mistakes he’s made. (For the record, I’d go with Ells- Pedroia - Martinez -Youkilis- Drew - Beltre - Ortiz - Cameron -Scutaro)

So, let’s get going. Let’s start playing. Please?

Is it April yet?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happy 36th!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to former Red Sox Bryant Nelson! Nelson was a utility type player for the 2002 Red Sox team. He could play both the infield, and outfield, which made him a valuable member of the club.

According to my 2002 scorebook, I made it to 18 Red Sox games that season. (At the very least, I scored 18 games I went to.) Bryant Nelson appeared in three of those.

On June 8 Curt Schilling faced Pedro Martinez in one of the all-time great pitching match-ups. In the eighth inning of that game, Tony Clark drove in a run with a fielder’s choice. Bryant Nelson was inserted as the pinch runner at first base. With Johnny Damon at third, Nelson represented the go-ahead run. Unfortunately, that was where he remained as the inning ended. Nelson went in to play left-field, taking the place of Brian Daubach. He played the ninth inning in left, without making a play. The Sox ended up losing 3-2.

Nelson was in the starting line-up when the Braves came to town on June 30. He was at second base, batting ninth. He managed a ground out and a walk, before being lifted for a pinch-hitter, coincidentally enough Tony Clark, in the seventh inning. In the field, Nelson managed four putouts, and two assists. The Sox ended up losing 7-3 when the Braves scored four runs in the top of the tenth.

The final time I saw Nelson at Fenway was on July 6, against the Tigers. The Sox had an 8-0 lead in the eighth when he was inserted as a defensive replacement at second, taking Nomar Garciaparra’s spot in the order. (Lou Merloni slid over from second to short to complete the switch.) While in the field, he made two more assists. The Sox ended up winning the game 8-0.

If you’re keeping track, and why wouldn’t you be, in the three games I saw Bryant Nelson play live, he went 0-1 with a walk. He had four putouts, and four assists. The bad news is that he had a .000 batting average. The better news is his .500 OBP. The good news is that he had a 1.000 fielding percentage at two positions.

For those games, and all the other games in which he helped the Sox…

Happy 36th Birthday Bryant Nelson!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Phun Little Card

I received this card recently in a surprise package from the wonderful host of The Phillies Room. It’s both a great card, and an interesting one at the same time.

For the non-card collectors out there, those cut-outs under the pictures are pieces of game-worn jerseys. Not too long ago, card companies realized collectors were a little bored with just pictures of players. So, they started having players autograph cards before the sent them out. Then they started with the jersey pieces in the cards. These days, if it relates to a baseball player, chances are that it’s in a card somewhere. Lately, they’ve decided that if one player jersey piece is good, three must be even better, and eight must be better than that.
What I really like about the card is the player selection. Naturally, I’ll be averting my eyes from the right side of the card whenever I look at it. I always wonder how they decide who gets to be grouped on a card. You’ll sometimes see cards depicting “Speed Demons” or “Power Pitchers.” That leads to a clear selection of players to group together. It always made more sense to me when the players were all on the same team. I found it odd that people would collect ever both Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux. Smoltz and Maddux I could understand. It happened a lot with the three AL shortstops in the 90’s. They’d have things with Nomar, ARod, and Jeter smiling away. That was especially odd since generally, if you liked one you hated the other two. Especially Jeter and Nomar.
So, what did they decide to go with here? Ortiz-Hafner-that other guy. They went with the “Great DH’s” theme, I guess. I’m sure there are all kinds of collectors out there filling up on DH’s. (Of course, they ruined it by listing that other guy as a first baseman.)
Whatever the rest of the card is, I love the Ortiz third of it. Anytime you can get a piece of his jersey, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s also a nice design to it. The fact that the jerseys spell out the initials of the card brand “O-Pee-Chee” is self-serving, but not a bad as I’ve seen it before.
I couldn’t be happier to add it to my collection.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

List of 36: Best Red Sox Third Basemen of the Past 36 years

1. Wade Boggs
2. Kevin Youkilis
3. Rico Petrocelli
4. Mike Lowell
5. Carney Lansford

6. Bill Mueller
7. Scott Cooper
8. Butch Hobson
9. Glenn Hoffman
10. Tim Naehring
11. John Valentin
12. Shea Hillenbrand
13. Freddy Sanchez
14. Ed Jurak
15. Jed Lowrie
16. Wilton Veras
17. Juan Bell
18. Carlos Baerga
19. Luis Ortiz
20. Mike Benjamin
21. Lou Merloni
22. Ed Romero
23. Bill Selby
24. Jack Brohamer
25. Ernest Riles
26. Chris Donnels
27. Dick McAuliffe
28. Bob Heise
29. John Kennedy
30. Buddy Hunter
31. Esteban Beltre
32. Terry Hughes
33. Frank Duffy
34. Jim Tatum
35. Sean Berry
36. Gary Gaetti

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: M is for…

Martinez, as in Pedro

Scalpers had it easy. It didn’t matter who the opposing team was. It didn’t matter who the other stars in the game were. It didn’t matter who the opposing pitcher was. If Pedro Martinez was on the mound, that’s all that mattered. Pedro made it a must-see game. If Pedro was pitching, you scheduled your day around the game. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I’ve mentioned before that the Red Sox have been blessed with quite a few talented pitchers in recent years. Roger Clemens, Josh Beckett, and Curt Schilling have all toed the Fenway rubber. Pedro was just different. I’ve always wondered how unique the feeling was to Pedro. Did any other pitchers invoke the same feelings? How much better than everyone else was he?

Take Josh Beckett. He’s a great pitcher. He’s the ace of the staff, and would be the ace of most staffs. When I look at the schedule, and see he’s supposed to pitch I feel good about the game. I know that the Sox should have a shot to win. I check the opposing team. If it’s the Yankees, I know it will be closer. If it’s the Royals, I feel even better. I check the opposing pitcher. If it’s Pettitte, I feel better about his chances. If it’s Grienkie, I feel much worse. But with Pedro, I didn’t do any of that.

If I looked at the schedule and saw Pedro listed, I knew the Sox would win. Not have a shot at winning. Will win. If I saw it was the Yankees, I assumed it would be a closer victory. If I saw it was the Royals, I wondered if Pedro would finally get his no-hitter. I felt bad for the opposing pitcher. If it was a poor pitcher, he was about to get thumped. If it was another ace, he was about to lose a close game where it probably wasn’t his fault. He just ran into Pedro. The only time I’ve felt even close to that was Josh Beckett during the 2007 playoffs. He was dominant. When the Sox trailed in the ALCS, I knew that they would at least win Beckett’s start. It wasn’t a should. It was a will. Beckett gave me that feeling for a couple weeks. Pedro’s lasted a few years.

When Pedro was on the mound, you started counting for records in the first inning. If the first guy made an out, it was only 26 more for the perfect game. If he struck out one guy in the first inning, he was a bit off pace to get to 21. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t even know Derek Lowe had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning. With Pedro I would have known. I would have been tracking it for six innings by then.

Pedro has ruined other pitchers for me. How can Beckett be an ace? He had like 16 wins. How can Lester be having a great game? He’s given up two runs already. Pedro has set the bar so high, nobody can ever reach it.

So I need to ask fans from other teams and generations. Did other pitchers give such a feeling of confidence? When Clemens was on the mound, did you mark down the win before the game started? Does it matter to Phillies fans who Cole Hamels is facing? When Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia pitched for Cleveland, did you need to check the other line-up? If Tim Lincecum gives up a run in the first inning, is it cause for concern or par for the course? The Red Sox have had three other 20-game winners in the last ten years. None of them gave me the Pedro feeling of confidence. If they didn’t do it, does anyone?

M is for Martinez, Pedro.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Arbitration Annoyances

The whole arbitration process in baseball baffles me. I understand the basic concepts. After a player has reached a certain amount of service time, he’s not quite at the mercy of the team when it comes to contract figures. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, they bring their case to an arbitrator. The team and the player submit salary numbers they think is fair, they argue their case, and the arbitrator picks one. That about right? Naturally, neither side really wants to get to that point. It can be ugly. After all, the whole point is to make the other side look like a worthless liar. That’s not always easy to do.

Take the case of the Giants and Tim Lincecum. He’s been in the league for two full seasons. In those two seasons, he’s won two Cy Young awards. What exactly is the Giants argument? “Um…yeah. He’s been voted the best pitcher in the league every year he’s been with us. But, um…he’s still pretty young.” That’s it. The whole argument is that he’s not old enough to make that much money. When you compare him to other pitchers with two years of experience, he should make less. So, even though CC Sabathia makes over $20 million a year without winning a Cy Young, Lincecum loses out because he’s young? He’s not worth half that? Weird. Otherwise the Giants need to find every fault they can to tear him down. He’s small. He may get hurt. He doesn’t shower. Whatever they can find. It’s mudslinging at its worst.

Of course, the Red Sox counterpart to Lincecum is Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon has decided that he needs to make as much money as he can. He assumes that the best way to do that is by signing a series of one-year deals. No long-term discounts for him. He’s assuming that he won’t get hurt, and won’t fall back in his performance. He’s certainly entitled to make as much money as he can, even if I think he’s going about it the wrong way. The Red Sox avoided the actual arbitration hearing, as Theo always does, by signing him to a deal beforehand. It was a record for a reliever with his experience, and about $9.5 million. This is remarkable for a couple reasons. Again, that whole experience thing comes in. Sure, he’s an all-star closer, but he doesn’t get to make what other all-star closers make. He gets to make what other young closers make. Just odd.

The other amazing thing is that Theo Epstein and the Red Sox gave a closer $9.5 million for a year. Isn’t this the group who said you didn’t need a closer? Isn’t this the group that tried a closer by committee? And they just gave a closer almost $10 million? Wow! I think this might be a case where the process actually hurt the team. I’m guessing that the Sox didn’t want to pay him anywhere near that kind of money. But, if they go to arbitration, it’s out of their hands. They can submit the $5 million they’d like to spend, but if the arbitrator picks Pap’s number, that’s it. If they want him on the team, they need to cower to his demands.

Imagine if they used that money for Jason Bay instead.

Monday, January 18, 2010

2009 Scavenger Hunt Reminder

Let this serve as your FINAL monthly reminder to find the items for this year’s Scavenger Hunt! Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 18th. The Scavenger Hunt will end, therefore, at NOON Eastern Time on Feb 18th. That means you have exactly one month left to get your pictures in! I’ve had several people e-mail me to let me know they were scoping out items. I can’t wait to see all the pictures. If you can’t remember the items you needed to find, or any of the rules click here or on the link to the right to find them.

So, keep taking those pictures, and feel free to send them in as early as you’d like. Don’t miss out! Even if you don’t think you’ll find enough items to win, it doesn’t mean you can’t play. I’m sure we’d all love to see any items that you do find!

Happy Picture Taking!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Collecting the Sox: Focus

As a collector, I have absolutely no focus. I guess “Red Sox” would technically be a focus. But, that’s a pretty wide-angle lens I’m using. Beyond that, there’s no one thing that drives me. I don’t like that. I see other people with great focus. My brother once tried to collect the 1969 Topps All-Star Rookie set. That was a very specific goal. I was always jealous when we went to stores or shows and he has a purpose. I just wandered around to see what struck my fancy. I went green with envy reading the wonderful accounts of the collection over at Wrigley Wax. He’s been clearly defining collection goals, and he knows just what he wants. It’s amazing to me. My real problem? I want it all.

It’s not really an issue specific collecting. I have trouble with favorites. If you ask me what my favorite movie is, I’ll usually rattle off a list. Each selection has something about it I really liked. A Field of Dreams gave me chills. A Few Good Men has great courtroom scenes. Cars made me cry. How could I pick just one? My favorite flavor of ice cream? Rocky Road gives a great variety in every bite. Vanilla gives the perfect base to start everything with. Peanut Butter Nation offers a surprise every few spoonfuls. They all need to be part of my diet. The same thing happens with my collecting. The ball has great graphics on it. That card has a great picture. That life size cardboard cutout has Nomar in a great pose. How could I limit my collection to just one area?

I don’t like to feel forced into a collection. That’s probably why I keep changing focus. If I decide to collect pins, what happens when they’re expensive, and I like something else? If I collect autographed baseballs, can I get an autographed shirt if I like it more? If I decide to collect Roger Clemens, and then he signs with the Yankees and uses more drugs than a rock concert, can I switch players?

After it’s all said and done, I end up with a little of everything. I suppose that’s really not a bad thing. Every time I highlight one area of Red Sox collectables, I emphasize that you have to collect what you like. Maybe it’s ok that what I like is a little of this, and a little of that. Every time I try to limit my focus, I blow it back up again. It’s like a constant New Years resolution. Two weeks in, and I’m off in another direction.

Maybe that’s not so bad.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Team Sets: 1990 Score

Players Included: Marty Barrett, Greg Blosser, Mike Boddicker, Wade Boggs, Dennis Boyd, Ellis Burks, Rick Cerone, Roger Clemens, Scott Cooper, John Dopson, Nick Esasky, Dwight Evans, Wes Gardner, Rich Gedman, Mike Greenwell, Danny Heep, Eric Hetzel, Randy Kutcher, Dennis Lamp, Rob Murphy, Carlos Quintana, Jody Reed, Kevin Romine, Lee Smith, Mike Smithson, Maurice Vaughn

Best Picture: Rich Gedman. A pure catcher’s shot. Gedman is in full gear, chasing down a ball. His hair is matted from the heat of being under that mask all the time. Since Gedman’s focus appears to be down, I’m assuming he’s not going after a foul pop up. This is obviously a ball that got by him. The look of despair on his face screams that this is the last thing he wants to be doing at this moment.

Hall of Famers: Wade Boggs,

Future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens

Reason to Buy the Set: Years ago, the Mo Vaughn rookie card would have been the big draw. Nowadays, it rests with the stars, Boggs and Clemens

Overall Reaction: The bridge borders are a slight distraction. For a newer company, the score set was already becoming a little stale. There’s plenty of minor star power in this set, adding the likes of Mike Greenwell, Lee Smith and Dwight Evans to Clemens and Boggs. The set also featured many of the young stars that were supposed to carry the Sox to multiple titles. The homegrown talent was supposed to create a dynasty. Looking back, poor talent selection and poor design make this a rather forgettable set.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

’78-The Boston Red Sox, a Historic Game, and a Divided City By: Bill Reynolds

In 1978 Boston was witness to two struggles. The Red Sox were
struggling to prevent an epic collapse that would see them lose the American League pennant. The City of Boston was struggling with a school bussing conflict that was tearing at the heart of the city. In the fall of ’78, the two struggles overlapped. With the bussing crisis around them, the Red Sox met the Yankees in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to decide the division. This book explores both struggles, and their impact on each other.

This book is really two books in one. It’s a baseball book, and a social studies book. The author tries his best to tie the two together. The fact that he falls short in this quest doesn’t detract much from the book itself. The sports book chronicles the 163rd game of the 1978 season, between the Yankees and the Red Sox. I doubt I need to remind anyone reading this how that game turned out. The style follows a common format for a book exploring a single game. As the game progresses, the players are discussed as they contribute to the play. Background on the players is seamlessly inserted to make the flow of the game seem like a running biography. The social studies book covers the bussing crisis facing Boston schools in the late seventies, and the politics behind it. I am a bit too young to remember these events, so that part of the book was quite interesting to me. The author tries to say that the game was a salvation for the battered city. The implication was that all the protesters put down their signs so that the entire city could watch the game in harmony. It doesn’t actually get to that point, but it’s ok. The book is a great read, and a wonderful way to tell a story. There are only so many ways to talk about a baseball game, so this fresh approach is much appreciated.

Rating: 3 bases

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sale! Everything Must Go!


One of the best things about the new year is “After the Holidays Sales.” This is when stores finally admit that they can’t convince anyone to buy their garbage as gifts, so they have to get rid of it. This can provide a boon for Red Sox fans, and collectors, as stores move items less desirable to the common fan.
I went to my local sporting goods store last weekend, and noticed that they were getting rid of some Red Sox t-shirts. I think these are what stores call “Player T’s” where they have the Red Sox on the front, and the name/number on the back. The store had decided to clear out the stock of some players who weren’t on the team anymore, as well as some of the less popular shirts. In some cases, it was humorous to think that they ever ordered the shirts to begin with, as they still had whole racks devoted to some of the players. In order to get the shirts out of the store, they were on clearance, with an additional 40% taken off. I love additional percentages taken off clearance prices. (I know it shouldn’t matter if it’s 90% off, or a percentage off another sale. But, it makes me feel good.) At those prices, I couldn’t help but stock up. After all, who cares if they’re no longer on the team? I still wear my Mo Vaughn “Player T” for goodness sake.
So, who was there for the taking? I jumped at the chance to add John Smoltz to my wardrobe. After all, he’s a future Hall-of-Famer, and a pretty cool story of destruction and resurrection. I also grabbed Justin Masterson, red version. He’s a great kid, who could become quite a player in Cleveland. I couldn’t turn down Hideki Okajima. I admit I was a little confused by that one. I thought he was still on the team. Is he? Finally, even though it wasn’t really my size, I scoffed up Brad Penny. How could I not have a t-shirt with a “36” on the back? How much did I have to shell out for this collection? All four shirts were mine for a grand total of $12. How could I go wrong at $3 per? I would spend more than that to buy dust rags at Home Depot. I’ll gladly add those shirts at that price.
This weekend, I went back to see if the store finally realized that Jacoby changed his number, or that Bay signed with the Mets. They did, and had them both added to the rack. But, they were still not quite the bargains the others were. Bay’s shirt would have cost a whopping $7.50, and Jacoby’s #46 an incredible $10. While I’d love to have them both, I decided to wait a week and see if they went lower. I couldn’t bring myself to spend as much on one shirt as I had spent on three the week before. Hopefully I can wait them out. If not, I’m pleased with the four I was able to snag. So, if you see someone walking around in a brand spanking new John Smoltz t-shirt, say hello. It might just be me.
I might be the only one.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I Scored! April 13, 2002

OK. Let’s see what the scorecard tells us this time. Right at the top, I see the visiting team is the New York Yankees. Obviously, this was a big game. Even with the early April date, it’s always big when the Yankees are in town. A quick scan to the right shows that the Sox won the game late. Must have been a classic. Let’s see who played in the game.

The Red Sox line-up starts with Rickey Henderson. A first ballot Hall-of-Famer in his legendary leadoff position. That’s a great start. He’s followed by Johnny Damon, Nomar Garciaparra, and Manny Ramirez. So, the first four batters include a future Hall-of-Famer, a two-time batting champ, and a future 500-HR Hall-of-Famer. Can you ask for anything more? How about the starting pitcher? Pedro Martinez. Maybe the best there ever was. So, in ten years or so, we can look back at this card and talk about the Red Sox having three Hall-of-Famers in the starting line-up. It doesn’t show, but the Yankees started Derek Jeter and had Mariano Rivera pitch relief. So, even though neither of them should get in, they both will too. That will bring the total to five members of the Hall appearing in this game. Amazing!

What about the game itself? The Red Sox had two big innings, the fourth and eighth. Look at Henderson’s square leading off the fourth. He drew a walk, stole a base, and scored a run. If I’m not mistaken, he’s the all-time major league leader in all three of those stats. (Bonds may have passed him…but he at least led at one point) That’s pretty cool to see one of each of those from Rickey. The other big inning was the eighth. That’s when the Sox took the lead for good. Damon doubled to knock out the starter (David Wells). The new pitcher (Ramiro Mendoza) plunked the first guy he saw. I always love it when that happens. I can just see the manager seething in the dugout. “I bring this guy in, and he hits him? Are you freaking kidding me?” Mendoza doesn’t get Manny either and gets a quick hook. At this point they call for Rivera. I remember this part specifically. It was at this point that several Yankees fans around me made it a point to leave. They loudly declared that the game was now officially over, the Yankees had won, so they might as well go to a bar. But, as you can see, the game wasn’t over. Clark drives in a run with a grounder. Shea Hillenbrand amazingly follows with a go-ahead home run. The great Rivera blows yet another save. As it turns out, those Yankees fans made the right call. They got out while they were ahead, and could still be cocky about it. (As a side note, Rivera faced Hillenbrand again the following day. The youngster took a fastball high and tight from Rivera.)

So, there you have it. A game full of legends. Henderson had the trifecta in the fourth. Manny drove in two runs. Pedro struggled a bit, but still had seven strikeouts in just over 5 innings. A baseball bucket list got quite a few checkmarks in that game.

And the scorecard shows how it happened. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Beltre Era Begins


It looks like the Red Sox have now officially signed Adrian Beltre, complete with press conference holding up the new jersey. It’s funny sometimes how long this stuff really takes to happen. Most people considered it official days ago. But, now that it’s official, I can look at what exactly it means.
First off, I don’t mind Beltre on the team. I guess, I don’t mind it as long as we assume he’s back to 100% after shoulder surgery. He’s a fine player. The number he put up the rest of his career in Seattle would be great. He plays sparkling defense, and has a little bit of pop in his bat. The contract the Sox signed him too would look to be very team friendly. It’s even been reported that he turned down longer deals to play in Boston. So, the Sox have a gold glove third baseman, excited to play here, and motivated to play well to get a new contract. He’s a right-handed pull hitter, moving out of Safeco Field, and into Fenway Park. There’s really no reason not to be excited about the deal. Except one. Didn’t the Sox already have his equivalent?
Mike Lowell is currently on the Sox. When healthy, he’s every bit the defender that Beltre is. He’s every bit the hitter that Beltre seems to be. So, why make the move? I hate to use the “In Theo We Trust” defense, since I hardly ever trust him. But, in this case, it looks like he knows something that I don’t. At least he’d better.
With this move, the Red Sox jump into the “Pitching and Defense” pool with both feet. One thing I will give Theo credit for. When he decides on a plan of action, he doesn’t hold back. When he wanted to go with the “closer by committee,” he picked a great bunch of arms to try it with. Now that he’s pretending that PnD is the answer, he’s assembled a great team to try it with. Gold gloves are all over the infield. The outfield has speed and consistency. The pitching staff is loaded with aces. If the theory was ever going to work, it’s going to work with the 2010 Red Sox.
I sure hope it works.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Another Red Sox in the Hall!


Ok, so he won’t exactly be wearing a Red Sox hat on his plaque. But, Congratulations to Andre Dawson on his enshrinement!
As I mentioned earlier, and I’m sure you all already know, Andre played for two seasons in Boston at the end of his career. Unfortunately, I never got to see him play live, so I don’t get to add another Hall of Famer to my personal list (currently at seven). As I mentioned the other day, since his prime was a bit before my time, I can’t really argue or defend his election. He certainly put up some good numbers during his career. I don’t know whether he had the five dominant years I like, or not. As I said, I would have expected him to be elected by now if he had. But, the voters have spoken, and Andre deserves all the accolades he can be given.
Now, for the guys who didn’t get in? Bert Blyleven is the obvious “snub.” Getting this close almost guarantees he’ll make in next year. Nobody wants him to run out his eligibility having peaked at within a percent of making the cut. Frankly, I wouldn’t be shocked if he made it next year with a percentage in the eighties. He’ll be getting so much positive press in the next year, he’s be an easy call. Like Dawson, I don’t know that he deserves it. If he did, this would have been his year. There wasn’t a list of other people to take his votes away (a concept I don’t get). He had been getting some good press leading up, and still fell short. But, I’ll be happy to defer to people who saw him play.
Roberto Alomar was a little surprising to me. As I said the other day, he was the only guy of the ballot that would have gotten my vote. Like Blyleven, I assume he’ll get in next year. Alomar probably lost a few votes because people didn’t consider him a “first ballot” guy. Yet another concept that baffles me. If the guy’s not good enough to be a first-ballott Hall of Famer, why does he deserve to be in the Hall at all? I took a quick look at the Hall-of-Famers. Other than the Negro League guys, and some problems with the early voting, I would have no problem eliminating everyone from the Hall that didn’t get in on the first ballot. Are they baseball immortals or not? In any case, Alomar looks poised to make it in during his second try.
The rest of the ballot fell of quite a bit from the top three. Again, I probably wouldn’t have voted for any of the others myself. I was surprised that Edgar Martinez didn’t get more votes, but was fine with his results. Lee Smith was another mild surprise. If Mariano Rivera is supposed to be this mortal lock first balloter, Lee Smith can’t get 70%? Where’s the disconnect? (Not that I’d vote for either of them) I wouldn’t expect anyone else on the ballot to sneak their way in over the rest of their eligibility. We’ll have to see.
Notice how I turned the HOF announcement into two posts?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pitching and Defense


It looks like Jason Bay has finally passed his physical, and has finally been announced as the newest member of the New York Mets. This means, he is officially not returning to the Boston Red Sox. Now, that’s probably not groundbreaking news of any sort. But, it’s interesting. Theo is once again trying to convince Red Sox Nation that pitching and defense will win championships more than offense. Should we fall for it?
Remember, Theo’s been using this line ever since he came to the Sox. When he traded a certain All-Star shortstop for a bag of magic beans, he claimed it was because the defense would cost them everything. The “fatal flaw” line was trotted out so often, he sounded like he was a Shakespeare professor. Of course, when the Sox won the Series that year, the idiotic move was covered up. Now Theo’s trying it again. The big bat isn’t necessary. All you need is to prevent runs, and you’ll win just as many games. To enforce that, Theo went out and got a gold glove third baseman, to replace the current gold glove third baseman. (Yeah, I have no idea either) The one problem with the PnD route, is that in order to win a game 1-0, you need to score 1 run. In order to win 3-2, you need to score 3. A quick look at the Red Sox rotation has ERA’s in the 3-4 range. So, even if this amazing defense saves a run a game…which isn’t exactly likely…the Sox need to score 3-4 runs every game. Is it there? I don’t know.
I’m not saying that the PnD theory can’t work. It has worked. The look of the 2010 Sox looks a lot like the offense of the LA Angels the last few years. Lots of team speed. Lots of guys who all hit pretty well. An offensive anchor in the middle of the line-up. It can work. Looking at the list of World Series winners from the decade suggests that quite a few teams have won using that theory. A quick listing puts the 2001 D-Backs, 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2005 White Sox, and the 2006 Cardinals as PnD champions. That’s actually quite a few…more than half. The 2004 and 2007 Sox, 2008 Phillies, and 2009 Yankees were more sluggers. The ’09 Yankees were really a hybrid. They slugged their way into the playoffs, but the schedule let them morph into a pitching team when it suited them. What’s the point? The only double winner was the slugging Sox. When you have power in the line-up, you can depend on that production. The PnD theory produced the occasional champion, but it was almost flukey. When everything aligned for a year, it came together. The other years, it didn’t work.
Let’s look at the different ways you can score a run during an inning. You can have a strike out, followed by a strikeout, followed by a solo home run from Manny. Or, you can get a single, advance him on a groundout, a walk, a flyball to advance, and a single. Lots of things need to happen in order to score the second way. Only one thing has to happen when you slug. It’s more dependable to have a couple superstars hitting a lot than it is to assume that everyone in the line-up hits a little. If you can’t score runs, all the pitching and defense in the world can’t help you.
After all, I once saw Pedro go 17-6 with a 1.74 ERA.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hall of Fame Time!

Did you ever get the feeling that awards are given out just so that writers can write about them? It’s like the members of the BBWAA realized that they were bored in the middle of the winter. So, they decided to announce a big award, or membership, in the dead of winter. It was brilliant. For the week leading up to the announcement, they could write stories about who might get in. Then, they can write about who did get in. Then they can talk about who should have gotten in, but didn’t. It doesn’t matter that who they think will get in is the same column as who should have gotten in. It’s practically three weeks of material, just from one little announcement. Since I’m not a member of the BBWAA, I have no guilt whatsoever in latching onto their scheme to come up with a post or two of my own.

Who’s going to get in? I have no idea. As I said, I don’t even get a vote. Who could get in? Good question. As far as Red Sox fans, this could be a slim year. It’s probably just as well, since they were two for two last year, including Jim Rice who was a career Soxer. A quick glance at the names only brings up one former Sox among the top contenders. Andre Dawson played two seasons in Boston at the tail end of his career. He even hit his four hundredth home run in a Boston uniform. I don’t really know if he should get in, but he has a good chance. His prime years were a bit before my time. Looking at the stats, he was an all-star quite a few years. He was very consistent throughout his career. I’d have to depend on people who saw him play in his prime to tell me if he was ever “dominant.” Did he have the five years I require where if you were starting a team he might be your first choice? The fact that he’s been on the ballot for quite a few years tends to make me think he didn’t. But, he got close enough last year, that he should get enough of a push this year.

A player in the same category as Dawson is Bert Blyleven. He’s been hanging around on the ballot for a few years, slowly inching towards the magical 75%. Like Dawson, he was before my time, so I have to rely on other’s opinions. Like Dawson, I assume that if they haven’t elected him by now, he probably doesn’t deserve it. (I will never understand how a player can get more votes one year than the previous one. Did his stats go up?) Like Dawson, looking at the stats the “dominant” years don’t jump at me. But, I’ll defer to others.

The third player, one I think should go in, is Roberto Alomar. His career is more in my time frame. If you’re looking for a Red Sox connection, I was at the 1999 All-Star game to see him make an error in the second inning. It cost Pedro his second perfect inning. But, it did lead to a nice strikeout-throw out double play to end the inning. Alomar had a string of All-Star appearances. He was clearly an elite player. And, I would think if you were staring a team in the late nineties, he’d certainly get consideration for a first pick. His numbers are especially good as a second baseman. Normally, I don’t like position qualifiers. I’ve always said Jorge Posada shouldn’t get credit for being a great hitting catcher, because he couldn’t catch. If they put Manny Ramirez behind the plate, does he become the best catcher ever? But in Alomar’s case, he was a superior second baseman. He has a case of gold gloves. He’d be a worthy addition to the Hall.

We’ll have to see if anyone who matters agrees with me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Can I Quote you on that?

Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time – Lou Brock

I think of Joe DiMaggio every time I see this quote. I also think of Mike Scoscia. But, I think Brock makes a lot of sense. Unless you’re willing to go all out, you’re not taking enough chances.

Joe DiMaggio was well known for keeping up appearances. He was always dressed to the hilt. It’s been said that he never needed to dive for a ball. I always think that that style was exactly what Brock had in mind. If you can’t do a belly flop every once in a while after a ball, you’re letting a lot more balls get by you than you should. Even with the best positioning, there will be plays you need to take that extra step to make. Sometimes you’ll make them, and sometimes they’ll get by you. But, you have to make the effort. Manny Ramirez, on the other hand, certainly wasn’t afraid to look bad. If he needed to fall to a knee, or on his butt, to make an attempt he did that. He certainly has looked bad plenty of times. I wonder about that play in Game 1 of the 2004 World Series. You know the one. Manny went to his knees to try to make a play on a ball, dug a trench in the outfield and looked like a buffoon. Something tells me Joe D would have pulled up and played that ball on a hop. I think I’d prefer the train wreck.

Mike Scoscia also strikes me as someone who isn’t afraid to look bad. He certainly didn’t mind looking like a fool calling for a squeeze play in the ninth inning of an elimination game. In that case, it didn’t work so well for him. But, in plenty of other cases, the risk has been worth it. If you’re not willing to take some risks, you’re going to lose. What did Wayne Gretzky say? You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take? You can’t care how it will look. You have to care if it will work. There are no style points in Major League Baseball.

Thank goodness for that.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Winter Classic

Today, the NHL stages what has become its annual “Winter Classic” where a regular season game will be played outside. This year’s game will be played at Fenway Park. (Didja hear?)

I’m not a hockey fan. When I list my favorite sports, it’s at least a distant fourth. Whether it’s behind Revolution soccer or not is pretty much a moot point. I could probably name about the same number of players on each team. I’ve at least been to a Bruins game before, so that might give it an edge. In any event, as an outsider, I’m not sure what I think about this “classic.” I’m sure the NHL realizes that they need help. They can’t afford to be above using gimmicks to attract fans. And, that’s all this classic is. A gimmick. Can you imagine if the NBA decided to get back to its roots, and have a game outside on a playground using chain nets? Or, if MLB decided to play in an open field without fences, and allow the fans to just sit wherever they want? But, the NHL needed this game. It might be their best ratings of the year. They’re actually thinking of adding more games. Would they still all be classics?

I do like that Fenway Park is hosting the game though. It’s just another cool event that has occurred at the park in recent years. Actually, maybe they should talk to the NBA. If they can get the Celtics to hold an outside game there, then Fenway would have hosted a home game for all four major Boston sports teams. This needs to be done. It also helps add to the history of the park. When the old Yankee Stadium was in use, it was often listed as one of the best baseball parks, almost exclusively because of its history. But, lots of that history dealt with things other than baseball. The Pope had been there, and heavyweight fight was there, an NFL championship game was there…that sort of thing. Fenway Park is starting to add similar events to its resume. In addition to some pretty cool baseball games, there have been concerts in recent years, and now an NHL game. Not too shabby.

So, while I probably won’t watch the game, I’ll look for the highlights. It will be interesting to see. Go Bruins!

Section 36 wishes you and your families all the best in the coming year. Here’s hoping for a 2010 full of health, happiness, and a Red Sox World Series title.

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