Friday, December 30, 2011

What’s Missing from My Collection?

Not too long ago, I mentioned that I was on the hunt for a Ted Williams card. It occurred to me that as a Red Sox fan, and baseball card collector it was an outrage that my collection didn’t have one already. You were all very helpful in steering me in the right direction. Well, now I need your help again.

What else is my collection missing? I seem to have spent so much time amassing the recent releases; I’ve ignored the quality of previous years. I have the whole team set from 2010 Bowman platinum, but don’t have a Wade Boggs rookie card. I have pages and pages of 2011 cards, but only a handful of cards from before 1975. Shouldn’t I remedy that? Where should I begin?

What’s your one card? What card makes you say, “You claim that you collect Red Sox cards, but don’t have that one?” Is it a Roger Clemens rookie? Dustin Pedroia? Bobby Doerr? Harry Hooper? Dick Radatz? Is there one card you’ve been waiting to add to your collection as well? Or is there a card you already have that you just know is the crown jewel? Is there more than one?

What card should every serious Red Sox card collector own?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Closer Makes Sox Closer

So, we were all waiting. We wondered what the Sox would do this off-season. Why were all the other teams making deals? Why were the other teams signing free agents? Were the Sox even trying? Well, yesterday they apparently made their biggest move of the off-season.

They acquired all-star closer Andrew Bailey from the A’s. Perfect. The best part about getting a closer? It makes the rest of the pen better. Suddenly your marginal closer becomes a very good set-up guy. Your barely there set-up guy moves into the bridge role. The whole bullpen takes a better shape just by adding the one guy. It’s very handy, and a great move.

As with any trade, it’s not exactly cut and dry. The Sox had to give up talent to get talent. In this case it meant saying goodbye to Josh Reddick. He was one of the players slotted to compete for right field in Fenway next season. He’s young, and has a bright future. But, thankfully, the Sox have young right fielders to spare. So, that made Reddick expendable. Will Kalish actually end up being the better player? Who knows? But, you have to make your best choice at the time. I’d say that’s exactly what the Red Sox did. They even managed to get another guy from the A’s who could help out in right. Not a bad idea.

Bailey has also had some arm trouble in the past. Which pitcher hasn’t? Is it cause for concern? You certainly have to wonder. Of course, the Sox former closer also had some arm trouble earlier in his career. And, again, it’s not like the Sox just signed Bailey to a 5-year $55 million deal or anything. They gave up an expendable youngster. Worst case? Bailey is awful and one of the a-ballers they gave up ends up being Jeff Bagwell. If that happens, you wipe the egg off your face and move on. If that doesn’t happen, it’s a great move by the Sox.

The other thing that happened with a Red Sox reliever is that Hideki Okajima signed a minor league contract with the Yankees. It was nice that I was able to view that transaction with indifference. Back in the day, Red Sox players would go to the Yankees so they could finally get their ring. Boggs and Clemens top that list. These days? The Sox players go to the Yankees with rings. I don’t have to cringe at the sight of any of them riding the back of a police horse. They got their ring here. They’re free to move on.

Thank goodness for 2004.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Do the Marlins Need a First Baseman?

Because the Red Sox could use a shortstop. And, as luck would have it, the fact that Adrian Gonzalez is manning first base for the foreseeable future, it means the Sox have some first base prospects to spare.

The marlins are apparently trying to assume that Hanley Ramirez will be happy playing third base. There’s a varying opinions as to if this will actually work out. But, what if they traded Hanley for a third baseman that is also a multiple time all-star? Suddenly losing HanRam and his short period of team control stings a bit less. The Sox could also peddle Lars Anderson in the deal. He is the aforementioned prospect with his path to the bigs hopelessly blocked. Would that be enough? Would the Sox need to add another prospect? Let the Marlins pick one. (Other than Middlebrooks, of course. He’s filling Youk’s vacant spot this year or next) I like the idea of that.

Can Juan Pierre still run? Wouldn’t he be a fun option in right? Assuming, of course, he could throw better than my grandmother. Has there ever been more speed in an outfield than that would create? Maybe the Sox could put him in center, but play him Tris Speaker shallow. Like a short fielder in softball. Let Ells and Crawford cover for him. And, if he were batting ninth, wouldn’t that be fun if Ells and Crawford were 1-2? I know, it would never happen because it’s just silly. But, these are things my mind wanders to during the off-season.

Especially this off-season.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy 36th Hideki Ojajima!

Today we wish a very happy 36th Birthday to former Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima!

I’ve already talked about Okajima here. Most of it is still true. I’m still absolutely baffled by his delivery. Not so much that it works, but that nobody over the last 36 years has told him to stop doing it. How did a high school coach not bench him for not looking at the target? I’m also still in love with his entrance song. It is on a regular rotation in my ipod. It always wakes me up a little bit whenever it comes on.

Unfortunately, age eventually caught up with Okajima. He became less and less effective until he was finally cast off. But he was a favorite of many in a way few relievers ever were. That and his ring in 2007 have earned him a permanent place in Red Sox lore.

Happy 36th Birthday Hideki Okajima!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

List of 36: Things I Want Under My Tree Christmas Morning

1. 1909 T206 Tris Speaker RC
2. Johnny Damon autographed 2004 WS ball
3. Adrian Gonzalez jersey
4. Fenway Park brick
5. Fenway 100 years patch
6. Alan Embree autographed 2004 WS ball
7. Dave Roberts “The Steal” 8x10
8. 1972 Topps Carlton Fisk RC
9. Terry Francona autographed 2004 WS ball
10. Pedro Martinez signed 1999 AS ball
11. Fenway 100 years coffee table book
12. Dustin Pedroia t-shirt
13. Pokey Reese autographed 2004 WS ball
14. 1941 Playball Dom DiMaggio RC
15. Kevin Youkilis t-shirt
16. JD Drew autographed 2007 WS baseball
17. Kevin Millar autographed 2004 WS ball
18. Jon Lester t-shirt
19. 1973 Topps Dwight Evans RC
20. Kelly Clarkson autographed 2004 WS ball
21. Jarrod Saltalamacchia t-shirt
22. Fenway 100 years baseball
23. Keith Foulke autographed 2004 WS ball
24. Jacoby Ellsbury t-shirt
25. Theo Epstein autographed 2004 WS ball
26. 1940 Playball Jimmie Foxx
27. Gabe Kapler autographed 2004 WS ball
28. 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski RC
29. Trot Nixon autographed 2004 WS ball
30. Ted Williams t-shirt
31. 1983 Topps Wade Boggs RC
32. Stephen Tyler autographed 2004 WS ball
33. 2004 World Series press pin
34. Doug Meintkiewicz autographed 2004 WS ball
35. 1939 Playball Bobby Doerr RC
36. Johnny Pesky autographed 2004 WS ball

Friday, December 23, 2011

Where is Wake?

The Sox have been quiet this off-season. Quiet to the point of being dull. I get that. They didn’t have a lot to do. They had six members of the line-up already under contract. They resigned Scutaro and Ortiz with very little fanfare. They seem perfectly content to go young in rightfield. Why not? They have a couple promising options. The pitching staff has holes, but options. I get that. I’m just wondering where Tim Wakefield is.

Isn’t he the perfect guy for the Sox? Currently the rotation has three solid dependable guys. After that, it’s a collection of maybes. The bullpen? It has lots of pitchers, some who have roles. It’s also losing some key members to the rotation, in theory. Isn’t Time Wakefield the perfect guy to have on hand to fill whatever role become available?

Bard, Miller, and Aceves figure to fill out the final two spots in the rotation. Personally, I see Bard back in the pen. But, he could find his way into the rotation after all is said and done. But, many people have mentioned that the Sox could use a nice solid veteran to take some of the pressure off. I’ve heard Roy Oswalt’s name tossed out as a nice example. But, Oswalt would only be a starter. Couldn’t Wake really do either?

What if the Sox tossed Wake a few million to fill a yet to be determined role. He’ll come to spring training along with the rest of them. Of Bard, Aceves, Wake, Miller, Doubront, Tazawa, and whoever else is on the list, two of them make the rotation and the others are set for the pen or minors. What’s the worst thing that happens? He takes the long relief role? He’s stuck as a set-up guy?

Do they think his attitude is that bad? Is the whole “the fans deserve to see me break the record” thing an actual issue? I know that I’ve said that one of the factors to last season’s poor showing was Wake’s chase for 200. The Sox changed the way they played in order to get him that win. Are they afraid of doing that again? I’d like to think they’ve learned from that. I like to think the contract proposal would include telling him flat out that any wins he gets would be accidental. He has to be prepared to end up one win short if that’s what the team’s flow dictates. I don’t know why he wouldn’t agree to that. He needs 7 wins? He got that many last year. Aceves got 10, mostly out of the pen. He has to jump at that chance, right? Doesn’t it make too much sense for both sides for this not to have happened already?

Or am I missing something?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Red Sox May Have Interest in Prince Fielder

See what I just did there? I just learned from the professionals how to drag people in with junk headlines. You see things like that all over the place these days as rumor mills keep churning. When people are desperate for the latest hot tips, things like that can really draw attention.

The best part? It’s true enough that I can defend it if things get really sticky and someone calls me on it. First of all, I threw in the word “may” just as a catchall. I don’t need it to make the headline true, but it’s a nice safety valve. After all, of course the rest of it is true. The Red Sox have interest in Prince Fielder. Why wouldn’t they? They guy can hit a ton. What team wouldn’t want a guy with 50 home run power? Are they interested in paying him the amount of money he’ll be looking for? Of course not. Although, I guess I don’t that for sure. They “may.” But, if Fielder came to them tomorrow and said, “I love Boston. I’ve always wanted to play here. I’ll sign for a three-year contract at $3 million a year. I don’t care if I’m just the back-up DH.” The Sox have interest.

It’s also nice because I don’t need to do any real research to write a story about how the Red Sox may have interest in Prince Fielder. That’s a real time-saver when it comes to cranking out a post. It’s just opinion, written to look like new information. I bet Ben Cherington has said something in the past about Fielder that I could quote now, pretending it was a recent quote. Something like, “We’re exploring many options at this point.” If I put that into an article about the Sox wanting Fielder, it’s practically confirmation. The jackpot would, of course, be if Ben ever used Fielder’s name. Maybe he mentioned something during the home-run derby last year. Something like, “Ortiz’s team looks strong but a team with Fielder on it would be tough to beat.” Just truncate that, and it practically confirms that Ben made an offer. That was easy. Plus, if by some freak of the cosmos the Sox sign Fielder, I look like a genius. It’s a compete win for me and my scoop.

Which is what drives me nuts about reading about the Sox this time of year. Almost all of the “articles” are this nonsense. The Red Sox have contacted the agent for Francisco Cordero. No kidding. A team in need of a closer called the agent for an available closer? Color me surprised. The Red Sox have Roy Oswalt in their radar. Really? A team in need of a couple starters is aware of a free agent starter? You must be joking.

It means very little. But, it fills column inches.

Just like it did for me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One Pitch From Glory, By Lou Gorman

Lou Gorman was the general manager of the Red Sox for a decade. During his watch, the Sox came closer to winning the World Series than they had in decades. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite able to get it done. He presided over several playoff teams, and several truly awful teams. This book discusses both with equal candor, and looks to give a behind the scenes look at those seasons.

My one regret when reading this book is that I didn’t remember enough about the teams Gorman was discussing. He did a great job of saying why he made the moves that he made. I just wish I knew more of the other side of the coin. When he says that he acquired Danny Darwin because he thought he would help the club, I don’t know enough to say, “But you passed on so-and-so!” Which is really an important part of it. Was Frank Viola the best pitcher available? Or, did Gorman misread the market, or gloss over another player? Even with that drawback this was a wonderful read. It sometimes has a feeling of an apology. Or, at least an explanation. Why he did the Bagwell trade. Why injuries killed the team. Things like that. It was great to see the behind the scenes inter-workings of a GM. How did the signing of Jack Clark come to be? It’s also interesting to read this now, after watching Theo and Company for so many years. Gorman was certainly from an older generation of GMs. He was much more people orientated than business. He also gave his all every season to win that championship. He didn’t talk much about building an organization. He talked an awful lot, though, about winning for Jean Yawkey. It’s an obvious difference, and makes for a great read.

Rating: 3 bases

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Red Sox 1-36: 4 is for…

Number 4, Joe Cronin.

As I mentioned when I did Bobby Doerr, this list won’t be all about uniform numbers. But, when the Sox see it fit to retire your number, who am I to argue against your importance. So, who was this Joe Cronin guy?

I’ll be honest; I don’t know all that much about Joe Cronin. I know that either he or Nomar was the best shortstop in Red Sox history. That’s a pretty good start. He also managed and won more games than anyone else in Red Sox history. Nice addition. From there he went on to be the Red Sox general manager. Quite a trifecta there. After that, he moved to the American League front offices becoming the AL President, and Chairman of the Board. Of course, all that got him elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That’s quite a career. I wonder if anyone else has done so much so well for the Red Sox, or Major League baseball. He could almost be in the Hall-of-Fame three times. (Doesn’t the NBA do that?) He could go in as a superstar player, a wonderful manager, or a long-time league executive.

Cronin’s number 4 was retired by the Red Sox in 1984, the same day as Ted Williams. They were the first two players to have their number retired by the Sox. I’ve always wondered what took so long. Obviously, teams had been retiring numbers since the 30’s. Williams and Cronin were about as good candidates as you’re ever going to get. I wonder why they waited, and what made them change their minds.

4 is for number 4, Joe Cronin.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tim Tebow, Pitching, and Defense

This week, there’s been a little bit of talk about the New England Patriots game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Much of it has been centered on Tim Tebow, and whether he’s a good quarterback or not. It’s the Derek Jeter argument of intangibles vs. talent. But, it’s also the argument of offense vs. pitching and defense.

You remember that mantra, right? The Sox were going to build a defensive team. It was suddenly all about run prevention. Most people weren’t buying it. And, it ended up not working out very well, for a number of reasons. But, what Tebow is showing is that there can be more than one way to skin a cat. As long as the end result is the same.

The point in any game is for your team to score more than the other team. How you do it is irrelevant. You can go 162-0 and only score 162 runs, as long as you keep the other teams scoreless every game. Or, you can go undefeated while giving up 1000 runs, as long as you score 1162. Or, something in the middle. The only thing that is important is that you score once more than the other guy. Which is why it always bugged me when I heard things like, “How could the Sox expect to make the playoffs last season with such a terrible team ERA?” Easy. They expected to score more than 4.2 runs a game. Which, they did. They scored the most runs in baseball. They just didn’t space them out as well as they needed to. But, there’s nothing wrong with planning on giving up 4 runs every game, if you’re planning on scoring 5. Just like there’s no reason you can’t win scoring 2 runs a game, if you only give up 1. Which is how the Phillies ended up with the best record in baseball, despite scoring 150 fewer runs than the Sox.

It also makes it hard during an offseason like this to figure out what you need. The answer really is, whatever you can get. If there are pitchers to be had, go for it. If there are only bats out there, get those. Either one will help you win. You can’t get too caught up in filling traditional roles. You mold the roles once you have the parts, no matter what Bill Parcells thinks. Look at the QB’s in Sunday’s game. Imagine the Pats traded Brady for Tebow tonight. Could Tebow win trying to run the Pat’s pass-happy offense? Absolutely not. Could Tom Brady win running the option like Tebow? Doubt it. But, both teams would eventually adjust their game plans to suit their strengths. Just like the Red Sox will do. They have two lead-off hitters. Ok, use that speed as a strength. They don’t have a fifth starter. Get the bats they need to cover that up. Be flexible. You can have a strong starting staff that goes 8 innings every game to eliminate the need for a middle relief. Or, you can stock up on middle relievers, and only get a starting staff that goes 6 innings. Whatever you can find out there.

There are any number of ways to win.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Who Cares Who?

The recent mega-deal signed by Albert Pujols has, naturally, generated a lot of discussion. Red Sox fans have been spared to some degree. The move didn’t affect the Sox directly. They weren’t getting Pujols, since they already have a first baseman. The Yankees didn’t get him either. So, the signing was a marginal issue at best. But, it doesn’t mean the national shows weren’t all over it.

I heard one show the other day discussing how it affected the Cubs. Sure, it was great to have Pujols leave the division. But, should the Cubs have gotten him themselves? The general feeling was a “Trust in Theo” mentality. They were willing to believe that Theo has a plan, and that even if it didn’t make sense to them, it would produce results. That seemed reasonable. When Theo was the Boston GM that certainly was often the case. Fans may not have completely agreed with his moves, but often gave him some slack. He has two rings as a GM. He must know something. Then it hit me. Theo’s not the GM in Chicago. He’s the team president. Not once in these discussions did Jed Hoyer’s name come up. His plan was never mentioned. The GM seemed irrelevant. It was all about Theo. I found it interesting.

The Red Sox team president is, of course, Larry Lucchino. I see story after story about how he needs to butt out of things. How Ben Cherington needs to assert his control. How awful it was that he might have been overruled in the manager hunt. Was it a blow to his credibility? Is he the GM, or not? I saw a story mention that Lucchino may have stayed away from the winter meetings, just as a symbol that Ben’s in charge. So, Theo’s GM is completely ignored in any discussion of the Cubs but Larry’s GM needs to be the only person in the room? Why the difference?

And, really, if anyone’s GM should be ignored, shouldn’t it be Larry’s? He’s the one with the longer track record of success. He’s been the president of eight playoff teams. Theo hasn’t been the president of any. Theo was the GM of only six. Larry is the owner of three World Series Championship rings. Theo, two. Still, the Cubs fans are willing to follow Theo blindly into battle, and we want Larry to stay away.

Why don’t we want Lucchino even more involved than he is?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Card of the Week: 2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom Daisuke Matsuzaka #124

I’ve said it before. There’s only so much you can do with a rectangular piece of cardboard with a picture on it. A border, no border. A color? A stripe? That’s pretty much it. So, I like it when a company goes out on a limb a bit.

No, this isn’t a huge design stretch. A white border, a foil stripe. But, I like the idea of the “ticket” theme. It’s something a little different. So, there’s a little barcode on the top. (Has anyone tried to scan it?) The important information is set up like a ticket stub. Design-wise it has the feel of a Red Sox ticket. That’s pretty cool. Not earth shattering, but cool. In this case, it may not have chosen the most flattering picture of Matsuzaka to portray. But, it is a nice view of him about to deliver a pitch.

Can’t find much to complain about with this card.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Soccer, and Albert Pujols

I was listening to a presentation the other day from someone from England. He mentioned preparations for a soccer tournament somewhere. He kidded that we probably all cared about football, but he really liked soccer. I couldn’t help but wonder why.

No, not that I wondered why on earth he liked soccer. People like things I don’t, and that’s fine. But, soccer is weird to me. It is SO popular EVERYWHERE else, but yawned at in the United States. How can that be? It clearly has universal appeal. People from big cities love it as much as rural farmers. Developed countries get as crazy as the developing ones. Each hemisphere of the globe just lives and breathes soccer. But, not the USA. We’re people too, right? Things that appeal to other people should appeal to us, right? How can a sport that is found thrilling and wonderful by billions of people be so ignored by this country? Is a sport interesting, or not? Is it fun to watch, or not? Is it exciting, or not? What is it?

That leads me to think; maybe it’s not soccer. Maybe it’s just the upbringing. Maybe people in Europe are excited about soccer because their parents like soccer. Because their newspapers report on soccer. Because nobody thinks they look weird with their face painted red.

Which leads me to Albert Pujols.

He’s now a member of the LA Angels of A. My first thought when I heard about that is that he’s going to see a pretty drastic change in environment. St Louis is pretty well knows as a rabid fan base. LA is pretty well known as a place where it’s sunny. So, similar to the soccer question, why is that? Is someone the talent of Albert Pujols enough to change that? Is it all about the quality of the product, or is it just a general feeling in the area? If Pujols has enough talent to draw fans in other towns, will he draw them in LA? Is Pujols fun to watch, or will baseball fans just watch anything put in front of them? Are baseball fans in Boston, NY, or St Louis just like European soccer fans? Wildly fanatic just because they always have been?

Are the Boston, NY, and Philly fans so into sports because their talent is better? Is the talent better because the fans are really into sports? Can more talent bring more fans? Can Albert Pujols make baseball matter in LA?

David Beckham couldn’t do it with soccer.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Revised List of 36: Best Players I’ve Seen Play In Person

I realized today that Ryan Braun won the NL MVP this year. Well, I realized it the day they announced it. Today, I realized that it might have also given him a far greater honor. Since he previously won a Rookie of the Year award, that combination might have pushed him into the list of top 36 players I’ve seen live in a non-all-star game. And, it looks like that’s exactly what it did. Unfortunately, that means someone had to be dropped from the list to make room. For this list, I consider major awards to be very important. I figure that’s the sort of honor that people will care about years from now. My grandkids will ask me if I saw a certain MVP winner play live before they ask me if I saw a 200-game winner live. I looked to see if anyone on my list was without a major award, and eliminated Todd Helton and his measly batting title. I also realized a major omission. I made this list by looking through past scorecards. It was raining during game 1 of the 2004 World Series, so I didn’t keep score. That made me foolishly forget about Albert Pujols. I added him to the list, but had to sacrifice Josh Beckett. So, here is my updated list of top 36 players I’ve seen live. How does it stack up to your list?

1. Roberto Alomar (Hall of Famer)
2. Wade Boggs (HOF)
3. Barry Bonds (MVP)
4. Ryan Braun (MVP)
5. Jose Canseco (MVP)
6. Roger Clemens (Cy Young)
7. Bartolo Colon (Cy Young)
8. Dennis Eckersley (HOF)
9. Eric Gagne (Cy Young)
10. Nomar Garciaparra (ROY)
11. Jason Giambi (MVP)
12. Tom Glavine (Cy Young)
13. Juan Gonzalez (MVP)
14. Ken Griffey Jr (All-Century Team)
15. Vladimir Guerrero (MVP)
16. Roy Halladay (Cy Young)
17. Josh Hamilton (MVP)
18. Rickey Henderson (HOF)
19. Randy Johnson (Cy Young)
20. Chipper Jones (MVP)
21. Cliff Lee (Cy Young)
22. Greg Maddux (Cy Young)
23. Pedro Martinez (Cy Young)
24. Dustin Pedroia (MVP)
25. Mike Piazza (ROY)
26. Albert Pujols (MVP)
27. Cal Ripken (HOF)
28. Alex Rodriguez (MVP)
29. Ivan Rodriguez (MVP)
30. CC Sabathia (Cy Young)
31. Bret Saberhagen (Cy Young)
32. John Smoltz (Cy Young)
33. Ichiro Suzuki (MVP)
34. Miguel Tejada (MVP)
35. Frank Thomas (MVP)
36. Mo Vaughn (MVP)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Big Moves, and Bard

What did the Red Sox really need to do this off-season? On the surface, not a whole lot. I’ve said it here before. But, a couple tweaks here and there, find a suitable replacement here and there, and they’re good to go. So, a slow week at the winter meetings is certainly to be expected. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few minor moves to be made.

The Sox resigned Andrew Miller. Perfect idea. He comes cheap, and has the same high upside he had when they acquired him last year. Better really, since he certainly showed signs of putting it together. So, why not give him another shot? The rotation doesn’t need a big name. It needs some back end help. Beckett was great last year, and should have a lot to prove this season. Same goes for Lester. Everyone will be watching him to bounce back and become the Cy Young winner everyone knows he can be. Clay Buchholz should be ready to go for another fantastic season. Beyond that, they just need bodies to fill out the rest. Having Andrew Miller sitting there and looking to prove himself is a great option. 26-year old former number one draft picks are nice to have. They don’t often lose it completely. There’s talent there. Three teams have thought so. It’s about time for it to come out in bunches. At worst, he’s a spot starter for doubleheaders and injuries.

Same theory applies to Daniel Bard. Why not make him a starter? He obviously has talent. He’s shown signs of learning how to pitch, instead of throw. He’s ready to break out. Give him a shot. He should be able to give out some quality innings.

We’re talking about the back end of the rotation here. It’s the back end for a reason. You have two spots to squeeze bodies in, and see if any make it. So, throw Miller, Bard, Wake, and Aceves into a room, and see if two of them come out on top. The other two are there when needed. Add the return of Dice, and that’s a lot of options. It’s a good way to go.

The bullpen will work itself out. It always does. Every year there’s a scrapheap reliever who returns to form. Or a rookie who can excel for a season. That will happen again. It’s another case of loading up in spring training, and seeing who pitches well enough to come north.

It’s not sexy, but it the way to win.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Find Your Dirt Yet?

This is your monthly reminder that the 2011 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt is currently underway!

I want to thank everyone who has already submitted entries. It’s most certainly allowed to submit entries, and then add to them as you can until time runs out on February 5. That way, you know you have something to enter and don’t forget at the last minute.

To help things along I’ve decided to sweeten the pot a bit. Just like last year, I’ll give the winner a Section 36 scorebook. It will be a book of my custom scorecards, bound to give you the ability to score 20 games! That’s in addition to the 400 different Red Sox baseball cards mentioned in the original post! What a prize package.

So, get out there and collect those pictures, and keep sending them in!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why do Teams Sell Stadium Naming Rights?

Another one of those things that I just don’t get. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the idea of selling a naming rights. I don’t really care what a stadium is named, as long as it rolls off the tongue well. Frankly, I think Petco Park or Safeco Field are nicer names than Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And, if the Sox ever play at Leonard P Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Park, I’ll choke on my Fenway Frank. So, that’s not the problem. To be honest, I have a little trouble figuring out when a stadium has sold the naming rights or not. Is Wrigley Field named after a swell owner, or a chewing gum company? Is Fenway Park named after a neighborhood, or a realty company? Is Yankee Stadium named after the team, or a baseball company? So, I’m not bothered that they do it, I just don’t know why.

I know that the short answer is probably because they don’t pay for the stadiums. They make the cities provide them with the place to play. So, the cities take the chance to sell the naming rights. Even if that’s the case, why doesn’t the team just buy the rights?

I’m thinking back to my trip to Pittsburgh. I’ve mentioned before that while I was there I bought a pierogi magnet. I also bought a baseball. It has painting of PNC Park on it. It has the name of PNC Park on it. It has a slogan for PNC Park. What doesn’t it have? Any mention of the Pirates. So, I went to see the Pirates play. They won in exciting fashion. I bought two things while I was there to remember the game. Neither one of them mentions the Pirates on them. What gives?

Talk about a missed opportunity. Another time where a conversation could be about the team, but ends up being about a bank. Imagine if it were Pirates Park instead? Or even something cleverer. Then, every baseball would have the Pirates name on it. Every magazine article about the team would say “Pirates” over and over. It would get the name out there. What about other events that happen to take place at or around the park? Shouldn’t local restaurants advertise that they’re close to Pirates Park, instead of a bank? Or other events that are held in the Park. Shouldn’t those tickets all advertise the team? Shouldn’t these teams that aren’t drawing well be doing whatever they can to get their name and logo out to the masses? Why would they want to share that exposure with a bank, or a pet store? There’s a reason that companies are willing to spend money on naming rights.

Why aren’t the teams?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Card of the Week: 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter’s #300 David Ortiz

When the Allen & Ginter’s line was introduced by Topps a few years ago, it was very well received. There had been a move for quite a while towards classic designs on cards. The flash and flair of the 90’s was giving way to the more refined looks. The trick is to copy a design style over and over without getting stale. Topps has done a good job with that with this set.

The paintings give the cards a nice look. They’re well done realistic depictions of the players. In this case, it’s a great shot of Ortiz giving a Papi grin. The posed shots work with the style. The blue clouds behind him make Ortiz stand out, without detracting from the main focus. The playful pointing of the bad just adds to the appeal.

As I said, these cards were well received, and still are. I wonder what the shelf-life for this particular brand is. At some point, pretty pictures on colored backgrounds will run their course.

Not yet, though.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Should We Send Flowers?

So, the reports seem to be pretty certain that Bobby Valentine will be the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. How do I feel? Eh. Why not?

I don’t know what would get me crazy or fired up about a manager selection. I think Terry Francona really showed that past history isn’t that important. Before coming to Boston, Francona never won more than 77 games. In eight years in Boston, he never won less than 86. Do I think he suddenly learned everything he needed to know between gigs? Nope. I think it’s all about the situation. As long as you get a guy with a good baseball mind, and give him the horses, he should do just fine. For goodness sakes, even Grady Little and Jimy Williams took the Red Sox to the ALCS. You have to think Valentine is a leap and bound over those two. So, I say let’s see what happens.

One thought I found interesting was the idea that this may help the Sox with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Valentine has spent a lot of time in Japan. He understands the players over there, and they seem to respect him If Dice comes back this season, can Valentine get more out of him than others could? Does that make offering Dice a new contract seem reasonable? He’s still young, and if Valentine could get him back to form…could be a nice option as a fifth starter. Does this make the Sox more attractive for potential players coming over from Japan? Is this an attempt by management to hold on to Japanese fans lingering around from Dice-K’s tenure? Who knows?

Frankly, the worst thing I’ve ever heard about hiring Valentine is that he has a big ego. He might clash with Larry Lucchino. Maybe. Although, that happened with the former GM, but not before there was a title or two. Is Valentine going to manage for the next 15 years? No. Even if everything were perfect, I’d only see him as a one-contract type guy. And, that’s fine.

It’ll be a fun contract.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What’s Taking So Long?

Why haven’t the Sox done anything yet?

Mind you, this isn’t a complaint, exactly. As long as they have everybody they need ready to go on Opening Day, I’m a happy camper. I’m actually just curious as to what is taking so long to get things done.

Take the manager hunt, for instance. From what we’re told, the field has been narrowed to Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont. OK. Now what? I understand that the process takes a while. You need to interview several candidates. You need to research. There are schedules to work around. Things get in the way. I understand. But, now? Now that you just need to pick one, what’s going on behind closed doors? The story I heard somewhere is that the ownership group wants Valentine, but Benny Boy wants Lamont. If that’s the case, though, why doesn’t ownership simply tell Ben to hire Valentine? Are they giving him a certain amount of time to change their mind? How does he do that, exactly? Do they both not have the same information? I find it hard to believe that the four of them are sitting in a boardroom somewhere discussing this 8 hours a day. I’m not picturing the big three sitting at a table while Cherington makes a passionate PowerPoint presentation showing the wonders of Lamont. So, what is it? Is it the old, “let’s sleep on it” while you wait for the other guy to give up? Is there something else gong on? Are they waiting for the new Astros owner to fire Brad Mills? Are they working on a trade for a starter so they can send Buchholz to the Jays? Are they trying to work a three-team compensation swap with the Jays and Cubs? Are they waiting for Francona to suddenly decide he wants to manage again? What’s going on?

Again, I’m not concerned or upset. I have no doubt that whichever manager they pick, even random guy off the street, will be able to write Ellsbury-Crawford-Pedroia-Gonzalez-Youkilis-Ortiz into the line-us as well as anyone else. I also don’t buy the concern that the manager hunt is taking their time away from making other movies. Like I said, I’m pretty sure nobody is giving or watching 8-hour PowerPoints. I’m sure they’re just waiting a bit for Ortiz to realize how poor the market really is for a 36-year old DH before they resign him. I’m guessing Tim Wakefield’s not going anywhere if they decide they want him back. I’d hope that trying to juggle a couple trades with a manager hunt is well within Cherington’s range of abilities. Otherwise, July 31 is going to be an eye opener. So, I’m perfectly happy to sit back and await their final decisions.

I just wonder what’s really going on.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Emperors and Idiots, By Mike Vaccaro

The Red Sox and the Yankees. The Rivalry. 100 years of baseball animosity. This book covers it all. From the early years when the Sox clearly had the upper hand. Through the middle of the 20th century when the Yankees took the advantage. Right on through the 2004 season when the Yankees showed themselves as the biggest chokers in the history of sports. Vaccaro attempts to cover it all as impartially as possible. Many books have been written from one side or the other. This one attempts to split the line right down the middle and simply retell the stories.

Vaccaro does a very good job of that. While reading this book, it’s easy to forget that he’s a writer for a NY newspaper. That’s saying something. The only problem with the book? It’s fewer than 400 pages, and tries to cover 100 years worth of history. It can’t be done. It can’t be done in the sort of detail one might like. For instance, Vaccaro’s other book The First Fall Classic was about the same length, and talked about one World Series. So, when you need to skim over history like that, you stick to the basics. Many of the stories were familiar to me. Which, I suppose, is a credit to Vaccaro that I still enjoyed the book. He didn’t use a chronological retelling, and made it work. He shifted back and forth through history telling similar stories that happened over the years. It really showed how the rivalry was really one big story. It was a great read.

Rating: 3 bases.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In Thanksgiving…

On this day of giving thanks, I would like to thank five bloggers who have given this blog something very important. Hits. According to my stats tracker, these five non-google websites have referred the most hits my way. Without them, this little spot wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is now. If, you know, I can call it popular at all.

Night Owl Cards – Night Owl is my largest referral service by almost a factor of two. I can’t thank him enough. Night Owl is a wonderful and creative writer with a blog that I read whenever I can.

Can’t Have Too Many Cards – I couldn't agree more! Another fantastic site that gets my frequent attention. Great writing on great topics make this site a must read.

Core Contrarian – A Great stop for a quick read. It’s like a page-a-day calendar for card nerds, and should definitely be a daily read of yours.

Sports Cards Blogroll – This is a wonderful service provided to bloggers. Basically any blog that involved sports cards is listed here so anyone can keep up to date. A fantastic site.

Nachos Grande – A great blog by a Reds fan and card collector. He includes box breaks, and product reviews in his multitude of blog topics. A great read.

So a big hearty thank you to all of these sites. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Baseball Writers Should be Ashamed of Themselves

I was a huge fan of The West Wing. (If you never saw the show, you should really go find yourself the DVDs of it.) It was a great look at how the White House might have looked behind the scenes. One show in particular dealt with the confirmation of a Vice President nominee by the Senate. As the day of the vote neared, it looked like it would be 99-1 in favor. The Deputy White House Chief of Staff was going ballistic. Everyone wondered why. It was going to be a landslide victory. It couldn’t have been more emphatic. Why was this guy so concerned about not getting one vote? The answer? Because it would only be the one vote. The one would be the darling of all the newscasts. The one guy who has a contrary opinion. Not a single talk show would mention the 99 people who voted in favor. They would all lead with an exclusive interview with the one guy who voted against. That wouldn’t do. Either they had to convince him to vote in favor, or convince five other people to vote against.

I was reminded of that when I was hearing about the AL MVP. I have no idea who voted for Justin Verlander. I have no idea who voted for Jacoby Ellsbury. But, I know who left them off their ballots. I know which guy was the one vote against. He’s the one who got on the radio, and TV. He’s the one with his name in the paper. Heck, it’s been over ten years, and I still know who left Pedro off their ballot in 1999. I couldn’t tell you the name of a single person who voted in any of the awards since then…except the guy who left Pedroia off his ballot in 2008.

That’s what it’s come to. These writers want their names in the articles, not just on top of them. They want to be the story, not report on the story. Goodness, one of the guys yesterday actually released that he would discuss the fact that he voted the way he voted at a certain time. Unbelievable.

I know it’s a constant argument of mine. Whenever you ask for votes, you run the risk of this. The fans louse up All-Star voting. The writers can’t be professional enough to handle voting on awards. The coaches and players can’t seem to figure out what a gold glove really is. It’s shameful.

The BBWAA really needs to take some action. Anybody who violates rules and doesn’t consider a player because he’s a pitcher should be removed from voting. Anyone who leaves the winner or the runner up off his ballot should be suspended from voting. Clearly he lacks good judgment. Anyone who gives a vote of any kind to a hometown player who doesn’t get a similar vote from someone else should be suspended from voting. Clearly they can’t be impartial. Otherwise, these awards won’t mean anything anymore.

If they ever did.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy 36th JD Drew!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to former Red Sox rightfielder JD Drew!

JD Drew is an interesting sort, to say the least. I’m trying to remember a Red Sox signing that was met with the same reaction as his was. Most Red Sox fans were dumbfounded. They thought he was overpaid. They thought he was soft. They though he was anything other than a player the Red Sox should sign. And, it was really too bad.

JD Drew had a lot of talent. Because of that, it sometimes looked too easy. It looked like he didn’t care. And, maybe he didn’t. But he was a much better player than he is given credit for. If you watched, you saw that his effortless play actually created results. I can’t tell you how many times I was in the stands when a ball was hit to him. I’d watch him casually fling a ball into the infield, only to be amazed when it would beat a runner to a bag for an out. It looked too easy to be effective. It was true beauty.

Did he play hurt? I don’t know. I’m not him. I know that playing hurt is hugely overrated. The idea that 90% of so-and-so is better than a back-up is usually bunk. I’m glad he took himself out of games sometimes to allow a healthy player take his spot. Joe Dimaggio did that, and it became part of his legend. Drew does it, and he’s soft.

Is Drew the best rightfielder in Red Sox history? No. The best in the last 20 years? Probably. Add that to his $15 million grand slam, and you have a pretty good signing.

Happy 36th Birthday JD Drew!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Welcome to the American League, Houston!

As usual, Bud Selig only sort of listened to me. The sale of the Houston Astros apparently triggered a wholesale change to the structure of Major League Baseball. Some of the changes I love, some I can’t stand, and some I could care less about.

The first one is the change of the Astros to the American League. It doesn’t really affect me, or the Red Sox. So, I’ll leave it up to the Astros fans to voice their opinion on that switch. I can imagine where it could be a little bit jarring to change the whole league you’re used to. But, it could be pretty exciting too. I’m not exactly sure why they didn’t just switch the Brewers back to the AL. But, they went with Houston. A quick guide for Houston fans on the American League. Now, instead of having to watch the worst hitter on the team hack at three balls or bunt, you get to watch a decent hitter actually, you know, have a chance to get a hit. Don’t worry. You won’t miss the double switch. It’s a strange move anyway, since it requires you to remove a player who is presumably better than the one you’re replacing him with.

I love the fact that this change practically requires perpetual Interleague Play. There will be an interleague series just about every night. I have long hated how they grouped all these games together, making it seem like an exhibition weekend. This way, the games are just part of the schedule. Perfect.

I like the equal leagues and divisions. It always seemed weird that the AL West champion only had to beat out three other teams, where everyone else fought four or five. This makes that aspect of it a lot more fair.

I can’t stand the extra Wild Card team, though. I don’t understand how you preserve the integrity of the regular season by adding one more team to the playoffs that didn’t have a great regular season. There’s one more chance to have a team fluke their way to a championship. And the one-game play-in option is a joke. Why not just flip a coin? Let’s just get all the GMs of every team together and draw straws. The longest straw wins the World Series. If you want to really add integrity to the regular season, get rid of playoff teams. Don’t add more. Team with the best record wins. That makes it all about the regular season. The second wild card does not. If you still want to give teams a way to luck themselves into a championship, use the tournament format I’ve proposed before. It’s the only way to preserve the regular season, and let a team on a hot streak win a title of their own. For some reason, people really want you to have to be lucky instead of good.

Maybe that’s Bud’s next move?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy 36th David Ortiz!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to David Ortiz!

If you’re not familiar with David Ortiz, and what he’s done for the Red Sox, what exactly are you doing here? The most clutch player in Red Sox history (he has the trophy to prove it), he’s been leading the Red Sox since 2003. He will forever live in Red Sox lore for what he did for the 2004 World Champions.

I’ve never personally been a huge David Ortiz fan. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a heckova player. I love watching him hit. But, he’s always been a little bit too crass and crude for my liking. I would never have listed him as a favorite player because of it. The “Big Papi” persona always seemed to be in contrast to the other stuff. But, he’s still been a lot of fun to watch over the years.

My closest personal encounter with Ortiz was at an autograph signing at a local BCS. I waited in line for an hour in order to get his signature. It was a lot of fun waiting in line, meeting and talking with the people stuck there with me. When I got to the front of the line, to speed things along (I guess) I wasn’t allowed to hand my item to Ortiz myself. I handed it to a store employee who gave it to Ortiz. Unfortunately, there was a large group in front of me. There were five or six people in line, but only one item was being signed. By the time they had gotten themselves together to be on their way, Ortiz was done signing my item, and was actually trying to hand it to someone in the group. I had to run up and grab the item. By that point, Ortiz was already on to the next item. So, I didn’t even get to say thank you. It wasn’t Ortiz’s fault, of course. But, I would imagine that if he were actually engaged in the signing, and not just throwing his name on whatever was shoved in front of him, he would have been more on the ball. He was clearly just going through the motions. Which is not a complaint. I didn’t pay for a chance to spend five minutes chatting. I paid for an autograph. That’s exactly what I got. It just wasn’t “Big Papi.”

What about the coming years? What will Ortiz’s role be with the Red Sox in 2012 and beyond? I don’t know. I know that I’d like him to be on the team. I can’t imagine the line-up next year without him. He’s clearly the best DH available, and would add value to any team. My feeling is that the Sox will give him more value than other teams. So, I see him back with the Sox for the next few seasons. Hopefully.

Happy 36th Birthday David Ortiz!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy 36th!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to former Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo!

Lugo was one member of the revolving door Theo put at shortstop after dumping Nomar. He wasn’t exactly the first acquisition Theo mentioned during his interview with the Cubs. Lugo was one of Theo’s love affairs. He longed after his on-base percentage for years. When he finally became available, Theo jumped at him. He signed him to a big deal, that he ended up having to eat in order to move Lugo. Julio was with the Sox from 2007-2009 before being cast aside.

Lugo was brought in to be the lead-off hitter, and ignite the offense. It didn’t exactly work out that way. Although, I think that like some of the other signings Theo made, expectations were probably too high. People assumed he was going to come in and be Johnny Damon. In reality, there was no reason to have thought that. He was a decent player. He led the team with 33 steals in 2007, back when that was an amazing number for a Red Sox player. He did a lot of good for the Red Sox. Plus, he was a member of a World Championship team in Boston. That has to count for something.

Happy 36th Birthday Julio Lugo!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Papelbon in Pinstripes

Red ones, anyway.

So, it’s official. There was a press conference and everything. Jonathan Papelbon is the newest member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Whenever a big free agent changes teams, two questions pop up. Was it a good signing for the new team? Will the old team miss him? In this case, your answer will have many levels depending on what you’re looking at.

From the Phillies end? They got a great closer. Is he worth the money they gave him? I have no idea. I’m on record saying that I don’t care one little bit how much a player is paid or overpaid, as long as it doesn’t prohibit other moves. So, if the Phillies have huge holes that they can’t fill because they’re giving Pap $50 million, that’s a problem. Otherwise, they’ll love seeing Papelbon storm out of the bullpen in the ninth inning for years to come.

The more relevant question is will the Red Sox miss him? I guess that depends on what you think of closers in general. Are they key members of a team? Are they just fun for the fans? Are they a way for managers to not think? Was Mariano River a crucial member of multiple championship teams, or is he an overrated pitcher who’s not good enough to be a starter? (I’ll let you guess which end I come down on that one.) I’ve said many times that I loved being at Fenway when “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” blared through the air. It was fun. But, what if Daniel Bard came out to that song instead of Pap. Would it matter?

Maybe. Papelbon was an elite closer. More often than not, he shut the door on the other team. He didn’t even leave room for them to imagine a comeback. But, can you get a save without doing that? Sure. Closers can lead the league in saves without ever having a 1-2-3 inning. As long as you don’t give up the runs, the team wins. So, how hard is it to pitch one inning without blowing the lead? Not very. For a little exercise, let’s look at a non-closer.

I’ll pick a Red Sox starter. To hide his identity and prevent bias, I’ll just call him Ron Slackey. Mr. Slackey pitched for the Sox in 2011 and had a terrible season. Maybe the worst season ever by a starter. But, how would that season translate into a closer? Let’s see. I looked at Mr. Slackey’s September record. Why September? Because I’m too lazy to look at his whole season. Slackey’s numbers in September 2011 stood at an 0-2 record, and a 9.13 ERA. He gave up 24 earned runs in 23.2 innings. So, just for comparison, let’s pretend that instead of five or six starts, those numbers were broken into 24 different 1-inning outings…like a closer.

In order to record a save, a closer could enter a game in the ninth inning with as much as a three-run lead, and pitch one inning without giving up the lead. So, in how many of his September innings did Slackey give up three or more runs? Three. So, in only three innings would the worst starter in baseball history have blown a three-run lead during his worst month. Or, an 87.5% save percentage. Not too bad. What about the 1-run leads? How many scoreless innings did Slackey throw in September 2011? Fourteen. So, even with a one-run lead, the worst starter in baseball history would have converted 58% of his save chances. For the record, he would have saved a 2-run lead 70.8% of the time.

What on earth does all this mean? That this horrible pitcher should be expected to save a 3-run lead 87.5% of the time. What would an average pitcher be expected to do? Or, a decent one? Suddenly, you realize that the ability to save games isn’t exactly rare. Really, just about any pitcher should be expected to convert a save opportunity.

Yes, I know this isn’t a perfect example. Teams play differently at the ends of games. They don’t sacrifice bunt in the first innings, but they don’t play the infield in either. As the game goes on, Slackey may have gotten more comfortable, but the batters would also see him a second time. So, it may all be a wash in the comparison. In any event, there it is.

So, will the Sox miss Jonathan Papelbon? Sure. He’s a good pitcher. Will they miss having him in the closer role? Maybe not. It seems to me that they can find someone for much less than $50 million to save games. Then, they can use that money to get a DH. Or a right fielder. Or a starter. Or, is that why they can afford Crawford and Gonzalez? Because they knew Pap was off the books? If this gives the Sox the ability to do other things, let Pap walk to Philly.

Just don’t turn and give Heath Bell $45 million.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Are Football Fans Just Crazier than Baseball Fans?

I was watching the Patriots – Jets game last night. What a fine game. As with any sporting event, the cameras were on the crowd almost as often as they were on the field. They showed a great many fans, and suddenly it hit me. These fans were dressed like lunatics. I think the one that pushed me over the edge was the guy wearing a hat with a rather large toy jet strapped to it. I don’t recall ever seeing anything like that at a baseball game. I wondered why. When the fine Mariners blog Section 331 was talking about crowd noise in Seattle, someone commented that they liked the quiet in Safeco. It’s not like it was a Seahawks game, after all. Clearly there was a distinction drawn between the rowdy football fans, and the more restrained baseball fans. Hmm.

Of course, there are exceptions. The Red Sox have the K-Men show up at Fenway. They dress funny. They yell. They chant. They hold signs. But, they’re the minority. Take a look at the picture at the top of the blog. It’s a nice shot of a large portion of Section 36. They all look pretty normal. Nobody is wearing a sock over their head. There are no Red Sox dreadlocked wigs. Nobody is dressed like a vampire. And, these are the bleachers. They’re great diehard fans. They’re not quiet businessmen sitting looking at their ipads. They’re into the games. But, they’re not loons.

The best explanation I can come up with is simply the number of games involved. Maybe it’s easy to get all dressed up for a maximum of eight home games per year. Maybe you just can’t wear a plane on your head 81 times without taking a long hard look in the mirror. Or is it the times of the games? Most baseball games are on a weeknight. Is it just too hard to come home from work, eat dinner, and then spend two hours putting on make-up before heading to Fenway? Is everyone just out of practice, so they don’t even do it on the weekends?

Is it the perceived position of the crowd as a 12th man that makes people go nuts? The crowd at a football game actually thinks that the amount of noise they make affects the game. The crowd gets all excited when a false start is called on the visiting team, like it was all because of them. So, in order to get all whipped into a lather like that, do you need to wear a mask and chew on a dog bone?

Even in the playoffs, when everything is ramped up a bit, baseball fans look normal. Sure, at the World Series people are wearing so much new gear it looks like the World Series logo threw up on them. But, it’s still just down to shirts, pants, and jackets. No skeleton masks. There are even some great cheers that resonate through the park. “Where is Roger?” “Manny’s Hitless!” “Just Say No!” The Fenway fans can get loud. They can support their team.

They just do it without the silly hats.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What to Make of the Rookie of the Year?

On the whole, I have a problem with limiting my adoration. Either it’s the best, or not. I want to know which movie was the best. I don’t care which was the best animated movie, or best movie from an original screenplay, or best movie filmed entirely in Guatamala. Is it the best, or not? I hate it when weathermen talk about breaking records for a particular date. Why do I care if this is the hottest a November 13th on record? It’s 60 degrees. It’s hotter than 60 degrees a lot. Is it the hottest day ever, or not? I don’t want to know that a player has the most hits by a switch hitter, or by a right-handed hitter, or by a Yankees player. Does he have the most hits, or not? So, I want to know if a player has had the best season. I don’t care if it’s by a player who has been in the league 20 years, ten years, or one year. Was it the best, or not?

So, why do we have the Rookie of the Year? In theory, it’s a forecast. Of all the people who are starting this year, he’s the best. So, watch out for him. He could be special. And, in theory, that makes sense. If you’re looking for a great player, he probably had a good first year. Except when he didn’t. There are several wonderful players who did not win the Rookie of the year, for one reason or another. For one thing, anything can happen if you’re just looking at one season. Guys can come out on fire. When compared to a limited field, they look pretty good. Or superior players could be victims of timing. If you’re a super player, but don’t come up until June, your numbers may be less than someone who started in April. It’s just a fluky thing.

So, winning the ROY award is a fine thing. It’s better than not winning it. It just has to be left at that. Of a particular category of players, you performed the best. Why don’t we have awards for every year? An award for the best player currently playing in his 7th season. It would be as much of an honor. Or, what about an award for the player having the best 22nd season. Would players try to hang on one more year to try to win that award?

Jamie Moyer could have a whole room of trophies.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Power of Music

I was listening to some music today, and Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega came on. It made me smile. Whenever I hear that song, it makes me smile. Why would this particular song do that to me? I’m glad you asked.

Let me tell you a story. As with most stories that people “remember like it was yesterday,” I’m sure I’ll get most of the details wrong. But, the general idea will be correct. It was the 1999 ALCS game 5. Fenway Park. The Red Sox are trailing late in an elimination game. Looking at the line score from game five, I’m going to say eighth inning. The Sox were behind, but mounting a rally. The Yankees needed to make a pitching change. While the pitcher was coming to the mound, a player came out of the Red Sox dugout, and made his way to the Sox bullpen. Everyone in the bleachers went crazy when we realized it was Pedro Martinez! The savior was coming! And he was taking off his warm-up jacket! This was it. The Sox would finish off the rally. Once they had the lead, Pedro was going to finish off the win. Then, the Sox would have Ramon Martinez go in game six and Pedro again in game seven. The Sox were going to the World Series! As Pedro was in the ‘pen, “Mambo No. 5” came over the sound system. Pedro started dancing around the bullpen mound, as only Pedro could. Of course, the Sox didn’t rally. They lost, and the Yankees celebrated the AL championship on the field that night. But, Pedro’s dancing is my lasting image of the game. It was as about as intense of a situation you could be in. He was being asked to save the season for the Sox, and he’s literally dancing on the mound as he warms up. That’s Pedro in a nutshell. And that’s why Mambo No. 5 always brings a smile to my face.

Anyone else have a song that invokes a specific Red Sox memory?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Card of the Week

2010 Topps National Chicle Jed Lowrie #165

The 2010 Topps National Chicle set is the very definition of a love it or hate it set. The desire for card companies to recycle classic designs had been going on for quite some time. Probably since Topps’s first foray into the Heritage line. People loved the look of new players in old designs. In many cases, that meant paintings. The Allen and Ginter did this beautifully, with it’s sophisticated images. Chicle seemed to be the other direction. They realized that they were painting things, so why not have some fun with it?

In this case, the Jed Lowrie card is pretty tame. It’s a simple shot of Jed taking his cuts. The background is simple, and doesn’t detract from the image. But, you can tell that it’s not a case of an artist trying to copy a picture. The uniform isn’t quite right. I’m guessing you’d see more letters if this were a photo. It’s much more of an impression that an image. But, it works. The focus in on the right place. Lowrie. It’s not cluttered, or weird enough to be a distraction.

It’s a nice card.

Monday, November 7, 2011

He Scored!

October 27, 2011

Not long ago, Tom of The Angels in Order posted a scorecard he kept while watching game six of the 2011 World Series. I thought it would be another opportunity to look at how other people keep score. Naturally, Tom keeps score a bit differently than I do. But, that’s the great the great part of scoring a game. You make your system work for you. There’s only one thing I need from the scorecard. Can I figure out what happened during the game? Do I know what all the markings mean? Let’s find out.

Right away in the first inning, I see something that I like. On Schumaker’s single, there’s a line showing where the ball went. That’s an easy thing to do, and would be nice to have later on. On that same box, you see that hits are denoted by horizontal lines in the box in the upper left corner. This is another common way of showing it, different than the 1B, 2B, and 3B notations. I’m more visual, so I like seeing the 2B on my cards. I wonder where the idea of the horizontal lines started? I also notice that home runs are circled. That’s a nice way of drawing your eye to an important event. I also like how Tom took the space to add some commentary to the card. I’m guessing that since this game was scored from TV, the notation on Pujols’s strikeout leading off the sixth denotes where K-Zone says the pitch was. Apparently the Rangers caught a break. I can also see that Holliday being picked off base during the same inning was a huge play by Napoli. I also see that Tom reacted to the end of the eighth with relief. I love the way it keeps the scorecard more alive.

The rest of the card follows just as you’d expect. You can see the Cardinals battle back whenever they needed to. Tom has clearly noted just how close the Rangers were to winning the game, and the series. (I wonder if he made the “1 strike away” notations in real time, or after the game when they became more significant) But, as we all know, the Cardinals prevailed in dramatic walk-off fashion.

And the scorecard shows you how it happened.

Thanks Tom!

(And don’t forget; if you’ve scored a game send in a scan so we can all enjoy it.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

2011 Scavenger Hunt

Once again, we’ve reached the end of another baseball season. I don’t know about you, but I’d just as soon put it behind me and get on with the next one. But, it’s more than three months before we can even talk about Spring Training. The Sox do have a bit to do this off-season, what with finding a new manager and all. They even have a few holes to fill. But, those tend to drag on for a while with many more rumors than facts. How else can we all stay busy and keep our minds off September? Once again, I have the answer. I present the Fourth Annual Section 36 Scavenger Hunt. Here’s how it will work. Below, you’ll find a list of 36 items. When you find an item, take a picture of it and send it along to me in an e-mail. Whoever sends me pictures of the most items wins. Pretty simple, eh? We’ll make the end of the hunt be 12:36 PM eastern time on February 5, 2011. This both gives enough time to find the stuff, and fills the time right up to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. Sound like fun? What do you win if you find the most items? Worldwide fame and admiration! I will post the winner’s name (and picture if one is provided) on this very site and hail them as the 2011 Scavenger Hunt Champion! I’m sure that Ruben from Alberta, Canada has found his worldwide fame to be quite an honor this past year. I’m also offering 400 different Red Sox baseball cards to the winner (Yes, there will be all-stars and Hall-of-Famers included). Not too bad, right? Ready to get started? Here is this year’s list of items to get pictures of:

1. Ted Williams Hall of Fame plaque
2. David Ortiz replica jersey
3. Red Sox toy car
4. Poster featuring Red Sox player
5. Gate “A” sign at Fenway Park
6. Knuckler, by Tim Wakefield
7. Red Sox lamp
8. Red Sox thermometer
9. Red Sox cup
10. “Teammates” Statue Outside Gate B at Fenway
11. Red Sox player
12. Red Sox water bottle
13. Used official Section 36 scorecard
14. Red Sox wine bottle
15. Tris Speaker Hall of Fame plaque postcard
16. Red Sox Jenga game
17. Jacoby Ellsbury t-shirt
18. “Sporting News” magazine with Red Sox player on cover
19. Fenway dirt
20. Red Sox bikini
21. Fenway Park Scoreboard
22. Official program from 2007 World Series
23. Jarrod Saltalamacchia baseball card
24. Food with Red Sox player on label/box
25. Autograph of member of 2009 Red Sox
26. Ticket stub from Section 36
27. Red Sox rug
28. Red Sox Media Guide
29. Ticket to ALCS game played by the Red Sox
30. Red Sox magnet schedule
31. Red Sox pet item
32. Drawing of Red Sox player
33. 2004 World Series baseball
34. Red Sox pencil
35. Female Red Sox fan
36. Male Red Sox fan

A quick clarification. Unless it says otherwise, “Red Sox Player” refers to anyone who ever played for the Sox in a regular season game. That counts even if the player isn’t depicted as a Red Sox player in the picture. So, Jim would be able to use anything from his Phillies Room depicting players like Curt Chilling and Pedro Martinez, even if they’re in their Phillies garb.

Now, since I want this to be a scavenger hunt, and not a google search, I’ll need a way to make sure you actually find these items yourself. So, in order to qualify any picture will need to have any one of these three things in it.

  1. You. This might be the easiest way. If you’re in the picture, I can be pretty sure you actually found the item. This has one advantage in that it doesn’t have to be a new picture. If you went to Fenway last summer and took a picture in front of the scoreboard, that would work. Or,
  2. The Section 36 logo. Just have it showing somewhere in the picture. Or,
  3. The address of this blog, “” , written somewhere in the picture. Either write it out on a piece of paper, on a sidewalk with chalk, on someone’s leg, whatever. (Just don’t vandalize anything).

That make sense? So, send in your pictures to me, section36 at gmail dot com (I bet you know which parts to replace with symbols) It would be nice if you told me which items you thought were in each picture. If there’s a tie between people who have the same number of found items, the first tiebreaker will be the person who did it with the fewest number of pictures. If you get a picture of a Female Red Sox fan, wearing a David Ortiz jersey, while holding a Red Sox pencil, it would be 3 items in one picture. That’s a great start, although I’m sure you can do better. One year, Jere had over 20 items in a single photo! (In case you were wondering, the other tiebreaker will just be my judgment as to which pictures I like the best.)

As I’m sure you can imagine, if you send me a picture, you’re stating that you have the rights to send me the picture. You’re also telling me that I can use the picture on my blog in just about any way I see fit.

I think that covers everything! It’s now up to you to start sending me your pictures. I’ll keep reminding you as the months go by.

Good Luck!

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