Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nothing Arbitrary at All

Not long ago I was contacted by Martyn of the blog Arbitrary Crap. He had some cards off my wantlist he was willing to send my way. I gladly accepted the kind offer. The generosity of the blogging community never ceases to amaze me. Especially in this case since Martyn is from across the pond. That’s some extra effort! Let’s take a look at some of what he sent over.

Starting off with my all-time favorite set. I’ve said before that 1975 Topps is the only one I’m actively trying to build a complete set of. Although, the definition of “actively” may be stretched a bit. This was a welcome addition. Same goes for the 1977 card next to it. My selection of cards from the 70’s is severely lacking. It’s always nice to add a new one. Speaking of stars from the 70’s, the 2010 Topps National Chicle Yastrzemski is a nice looking card. So many of the Chicles are a mess, it’s nice to see design not go too crazy on this one.

The three in the middle have a special place of honor. They are the last three I needed for my 2011 Topps set. WooHoo!

The Eckersley Chicle is an example of one that is just a bit too abstract for me. I don’t know what it is, but the card just looks “off.” Of course the scans of the Topps Finest cards don’t do them justice. Althoguh, it was a good job by my scanner to capture Dice-K before he slid into oblivion. I love the Finest sets, even though I never seem to get many of them. They are always much appreciated in a package.

So thank you Martyn for the wonderful gift!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Catchers and First Basemen

A new voting category opened today for the All-Fenway team over at FenwayPark100. Now we can vote on the best first baseman, and best catcher in team history.

For catcher, the candidates are: Rick Ferrell, Carlton Fisk, Rich Gedman, Birdie Tebbetts, Jason Varitek, and Sammy White. Even though Rick Ferrell is on the Hall of Fame, I think this argument really comes down to Carlton Fisk and Jason Varitek. If you look over the career numbers for catchers with the Sox, those two dominate the lists. Even though Fisk is in the Hall of Fame, and Varitek probably won’t be, I have to give the nod to Tek. His career numbers with the Sox are at least as good, if not better, that Fisk’s. And, he didn’t bolt the team the first chance he got. I’m going to count that for something.

At first base, the candidates are: Bill Buckner, Jimmie Foxx, Stuffy McInnis, George Scott, Mo Vaughn, and Kevin Youkilis. Of the group, only Foxx is in the Hall of Fame. I can’t vote for Youkilis since he’s played less than 600 games at first. Really, it’s a pretty clear choice. Foxx is the best first baseman the Sox have ever had.

Who’d you vote for?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why Aren’t the Sox favored?

I heard the EEIdiots discussing Roy Oswalt the other day. They were suggesting that there was no reason for him to come to the AL East, and especially the Red Sox. Why would he leave the comfort and ease of the NL unless it was for a chance at a ring? That ruled out the Sox, they said. Why would that rule out the Sox?

Last off-season, the Red Sox were overwhelming favorites to win the World Series. What’s changed? A couple pieces of the starting rotation? Were expectations really that high for Lackey and Dice-K that we should expect a dramatic drop off? I didn’t remember anyone singing their praises last April saying they were the keys to the season. Can it really be about the number four and five starters?

Or a questionable shortstop? Is the ability of our number nine hitter the key to it all? Were we expecting an MVP season from Scutaro? I know I wasn’t.

Or closer? That can’t be it. Flipping one all-star closer for another all-star closer can’t possibly be the downfall of the season. Can it?

The questionable bullpen? Is there a bullpen in baseball that isn’t questionable? Weren’t there questions last year? Is this a new concern?

Isn’t the answer to all of this “no”?

It can’t possibly be because of the end of last year, can it? Are they really not the favorites because last season their #3 starter got hurt? He’s back now, remember? Are they not the favorites because last year Tim Wakefield was a distraction? Did they not see the wonderful retirement ceremony? Did they not see this offense almost carry a pitching staff that injuries left in shambles? Are they planning on the 3-5 starters going down again? Because you can play that game with any team.

If anything, shouldn’t the events of last year be a good sign for this year? Will this team take even one game for granted? Will they start Kyle Weiland against the Rays in September? Will they be anything but the most driven team in history? In 2006, the Sox missed the playoffs. In 2007, they kicked butt as they had the best record in the league.

Why won’t that happen again?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Crawford, All in Order

It looks like Carl Crawford has solved my earlier questions about where the Red Sox should put him in the batting order. He likes to be at the top.

Crawford has been getting a little bit of heat for this revelation. Half the people seem to be wondering why he didn’t come out and say this last year. If that would have fixed everything, just tell Francona and go on your way. I think the answer lies with what the other half of the people are saying today. “Just shut up and hit.” Can you imagine if Crawford had come out last season and said he was having trouble because he wasn’t hitting second? They’ll call for his head. How dare he ask to be moved up when he’s hitting .220? He’s lucky to be in the line-up at all. So, he stuck with it. He battled. He didn’t whine. He tried to do it. He just couldn’t.

I think he was a big mess last year. New contract. New fans. New expectations. He couldn’t play up to his salary in the minds of most people, but he still tried. It was just a huge spiral. Hopefully, he’s decided that there’s no reason to do all that. There’s nowhere to go but up. He can just go out and be Carl Crawford again.

So, what about where to hit him? First or second. I still like Jacoby at the top. So, today I’m leaning towards:


There are some options. Do you move Ells behind Pedroia? Not a bad idea.

This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spring Training Thoughts

So, I turned on my radio this afternoon to hear that the EEIdiots were cutting to Spring Training to hear the announcement on Theo compensation. Then I hear Ben’s voice, “The Red Sox have acquired Chris Carpenter…” Before I can even finish my elation at an apparent three-team deal landing the Red Sox a stud, I’m crushed when Ben finishes with “…26-year old reliever from the Cubs.” Damn. The other Chris Carpenter would have been more fun. But, a reasonable major leaguer is a pretty good option.

I’ve also been a big fan of the Carl Crawford turn of events. Crawford showed up in camp this weekend, with a lot of the focus on his wrist surgery. We’ve been hearing that he’ll be out all of April because of it. Crawford comes in and simply says he feels Opening Day is a reasonable return. Huh? Where did we get the three weeks? Oh, yeah, that’s right. The media has been saying they got all that from Bobby Valentine. Crawford mentions that Valentine didn’t know that he was throwing already. So, he might have been a bit off. Which could be a whole he-said, he-said thing. But, when you look back at the actual quote from Bobby V, it’s not like he said that he talked to medical experts and with Carl at length to come up with his answer. He just said he wouldn’t be surprised if he missed a few weeks. Well, of course he shouldn’t be surprised. He’s the manager. He needs to have plans in place just in case. But, the media needed a story about it. They were either too lazy to actually check on it, or thought there was a better story if they left it at three weeks. Crawford waited too long to have surgery. Why would he hide the injury? Why didn’t he take care of it early enough to make it back for the season? How much of a bust is this guy? $20 million, and he’s not even a home-run hitter? It gets right down to the main purpose of a reporter. You’d think it’s to report to news. You’d be wrong. It’s to sell advertising. Nothing sells papers better than a little bit of conflict…real, or imaginary.

Basically, I need reporters to give me facts that I can’t get on my own. I don’t need to know whether they feel they’re owed an apology. I don’t need to know if they think Carl Crawford is overpaid. Frankly, if they simply printed news releases from the Sox, I’d be thrilled.

The rest I can do on my own.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's Today!!!

It's here!

Pitchers and Catchers finally report! One more step is out of the way. The only realy problem with today? I really don't like spring training. It's such a tease. It's almost baseball, but it isn't. I'm glad it's here...don't get me wrong. Now, it's just the long wait until Opening Day.

I don't know if I can wait.

Friday, February 17, 2012

One Big Family

It occurred to me recently, that it really is impressive how all the Boston sports teams seem to get along. And not just because Tom Brady and Kevin Youkilis are apparently going to be brothers-in-law. But, the other teams are always there to support each other in some way.

You see them in the stands at each other’s games. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Celtics game without them pointing to a Patriot in the crowd. The Red Sox have been known to bring a whole group to watch the Celtics from a box. It’s interesting because there’s really no good reason for them to be there. Most of these players are from other places. They’re probably not Celtics fans. They certainly weren’t when they were growing up. But they still come out to the games. Is it just that they need to do something while they’re in town? Are they doing it for a PR move? If Tom Brady can get slammed for wearing a Yankees hat, maybe they expect a boost by wearing Celtics green? Or, is it just a fellowship with the teams where they all support each other?

They also make a lot of official appearances at other team’s games. Throwing out the first pitch. Dropping the first puck. A ceremonial coin flip or jump ball. Whatever it is, the other teams all seem more than willing to help out with a crowd-pleasing ceremony. This has gotten even better now that all the teams are winning on their own. I remember when the Patriots threw out the first pitches at the Red Sox home opener in 2002. It was, of course, incredible to see them. It was one of the first chances to publicly celebrate their accomplishment. But, it also seemed a little sad. It was like the Sox knew they weren’t winners, so they tried to appease their fans by showing them a team that actually could win it all. Flash forward to 2011 when the Bruins rode into Fenway on their duck boats. It wasn’t sad anymore. Everyone was simply free to celebrate with each other. Like a family.

Is this unique to Boston? I don’t remember it happening all that much in the past. After all, we were all surprised when the Patriots showed up for that 2002 first pitch. If they had won again a couple weeks ago, I would be shocked if they didn’t show up this year. So, it seems that things have changed. But, does it occur in other places? Are Eagles always seen in the crowd at 76ers games? Do the Mets go and see the Knicks? Do the Dodgers like the Lakers on Facebook? Is this all special?

Because it sure is a lot of fun.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

All-Fenway Team

As part of their yearlong 100th birthday celebration for Fenway Park, the Red Sox are constructing an all-Fenway team. It’s a fun idea. (I’d like to give a quick hat tip to two-time Scavenger Hunt Champion Jere for bringing this event to my attention.) As with all teams such as this, the meaning is limited. But, it’s a way to be involved with the celebration. The Sox have listed fourteen “positions” for the team, and allow fans to vote on the best player at each position. The voting will be open for different positions at different times during the first half of the season over at Right now, voting is open for left-handed starting pitcher, and right-handed starting pitcher. Who did I vote for? I thought you’d never ask.

For the right-handed pitcher, the ballot lists: Roger Clemens, Dennis Eckersley, Tex Hughson, Jim Lonborg, Pedro Martinez, Bill Monbouquette, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, and Smoky Joe Wood.

Wow. What a great list of talent. Right away, you can see that the nature of the team is going to play a role. There’s no Cy Young on the list, since he never played in Fenway Park. From there, is prolonged success better than quick brilliance? I don’t know if any of the pitchers had a season like Smoky Joe Wood did in 1912. But, that was all he had. He, actually, only pitched four seasons in Fenway himself. I know it’s probably not a surprise, but I have to go with Pedro in this one. If I had an all-time Sox team, he’s probably my starting pitcher. Can’t change it up now. Even if Clemens weren’t evil, the end of his Sox career wasn’t really the stuff of legends. The rest of the group is great pitchers, but someone has to win.

For the left-handers, the ballot includes: Ray Collins, Lefty Grove, Bruce Hurst, Bill Lee, Dutch Leonard, Jon Lester, Mel Parnell, Herb Pennock, and Babe Ruth.

I’ll admit. Those names don’t do a whole lot for me. I went with Lefty Grove, almost by default. He, Ruth, and Pennock are the only Hall-of-Famers. Grove had the better years with the Sox.

So, there are my first two members on the team.

Are they the same as yours?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

End of an Era

When the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLVII, it did more than serve as a punch to the stomach of Patriots fans. It officially closed the book on the most dominant decade one city has ever had in the history of professional sports.

Technically, the Feb 5 Super Bowl was just outside the decade. But, for the ten years from Feb 3, 2002 to Feb 3, 2012 Boston was the hub of the sports world. I know it’s nothing new to any of you. We’ve all enjoyed the seven titles won by the local teams these last ten years. And, I know that’s not a record number of championships for a city in a decade. Heck, the Celtics had more than that in the sixties all by their lonesome. But, the sheer number, in addition to the variety is pretty amazing. Sure, the Yankees won five World Series in a row. But, you still had to wait until October to get the next ring for the city. The Patriots won a ring in February 2004, the Red Sox won a ring in October of 2004, and the Patriots grabbed another ring in February 2005. That’s three rings in twelve months. Simply amazing.

So, from here on out, each year drops an early Patriots ring from the equation. If the Celtics win the title, it’s still only seven rings in ten years. (I love that I used the word “only” there.) The Celtics and Bruins would both need to win before we can start talking about an even better decade.

And, that’s really the coolest part of it. Sure, the best decade has ended. The best decade so far. Look at where those four teams are right now. The Patriots are the Vegas favorites to win the next Super Bowl. The Celtics have their window closing. But, they’re still on the short list of teams capable of winning the championship. The Red Sox missed the playoffs last season, but are poised to come back this season. They bring back the best offense in baseball, and should have a healthy pitching staff to go with it. The Bruins? They’re the defending champions. Simply amazing.

It’s hard to believe that the best may be yet to come.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Scored!

May 8, 1999

I remember this game well. I remember it because of who you see in the top line of the pitchers box. I had been at the amazing game the night before, when Pedro Martinez welcomed Mo Vaughn back to Boston by striking out fifteen Angels. On the way down to the game, we were disappointed to hear that the pitching performance probably wouldn’t be all that exciting. Some kid was making his debut. Juan Pena. Who was he? Would he be any good? Oh well.

Of course, if you look at the box, you’ll see that I should have given young Mr. Pena more credit. All he did was go out and pitch six innings of two hit ball while striking out 8. Wow! Nicely done.

What else happened during the game? The Sox offered a solid, if unremarkable, line-up. The anchor was Nomar in the middle. Everyone else was just there to help. It’s certainly nothing compared to the projected 2012 line-up. They managed to put six runs on the board, thanks in large part to a four-run sixth inning. Just in time to let the kid qualify for the win. Oddly enough, the only person not to bat in the big inning was Nomar. Three doubles and two singles accounted for the scoring. It was a nice show.

The player of the game, other than Pena? Have to give it to Jose Offerman. He went 3-4, scored a run, and drove in two more. He got it started from the top. The goat? I’m putting the horns on Mike Stanley. Not only was he hitless, but struck out three times. Not much contribution on that day.

But, it didn’t matter. The rest of the offense plugged right along. They scored enough to get Pena a win in his major league debut. I’m sure it was quite a memory for him.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Great Omen!

My local Target finally has 2012 Topps blasters. Naturally, I gobbled one up as soon as I saw it. I had seen plenty of blog posts showing all the cards, and other people opinions. So, I was anxious to hold them in my very own hands.

I ripped into it as soon as I could. There, the very top card in the very first pack I opened was this:

How could that not be a good sign? My first Red Sox card of the year was my first card period! And, not just any card. A card of a pitcher I’m expecting a big turnaround from. Fantastic. But, wait. There’s more. Three cards later, I uncovered this guy:

Now it’s getting creepy. Two Red Sox in the first pack of cards I open all year. Both of them key members of the rotation coming off sub-par years but looking to storm back. I can’t help but assume this means big things for the Sox in 2012.

For the record, I got several other Sox cards in the box. Here’s a look at them.

Here’s to a 2012 World Series.

After all, it’s in the cards.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Second is the First Loser

As we allow Jere to bask in the glory of his Scavenger Hunt victory, I wanted to recognize our runner-up. This is a very important position. If, for any reason, Jere is unable to perform the duties of the Scavenger Hunt Champion, the runner-up will be asked to step in and complete the reign.

This year’s runner-up is Bryanne. As a frequent photo contributor to the blog, I expected a strong entry from her. I wasn’t disappointed. She held the lead until Jere just snuck by her at the last minute. (OK. The last 36 minutes) Let’s take a look at the entries Bryanne sent in!

Thank you Bryanne for the wonderful pictures, and all your efforts. I hope you had a great time with the contest, despite your second place finish.

And once more, Congratulations Jere!

Monday, February 6, 2012

And the Winner is….

Before I get to the winner, I want to thank everyone who entered. It was great to look at all the creative pictures that were sent in. Hopefully everyone had fun. I want to assure you that I consider everyone who entered a winner.

Well, except that Jere from RI is the only actual winner.

Congratulations Jere. It was an amazing performance. The pictures were from near and far, old and new. A truly wonderful effort. In addition, Jere becomes the first two-time champion of the Hunt. That’s practically a dynasty.

Let’s take a look at Jere’s winning entries.

Congratulations Jere!

Sunday, February 5, 2012







Time’s up!

The 2011 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt is now officially over. If you already have your entry in, congratulations! If you don’t, well, what can I say? You had plenty of time. You’ll have to live with yourself and your pathetic slacking until next year’s contest. Let this be a lesson to you.

I will tally the entries, and announce the winner tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who played along!

Oh, and Go Patriots!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

One Day Left

That’s right. One day. 24 hours. 1440 minutes. 86400 seconds. That’s all that remain until the conclusion of the 2011 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt. (And you just wasted ten of those seconds reading this line) Get out there! Take pictures! Send them in to me! Win prizes!

I know. It’s a tough weekend. You still need to go out and buy salsa for your nachos. The new plasma TV isn’t going to deliver itself. You still need to iron your good Tom Brady jersey. I get it. But, while you’re doing those things, keep your eyes open.

There’s only one day left!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Red Sox Nation Crossword Puzzle Book, By Brendan Emmett Quigley

I have been a fan of BEQ puzzles from the beginning. Literally. So, imagine my delight when I recently found out that he wrote an entire book for Red Sox fans. How had I missed this? I was finally able to track down a copy, and sure am glad I did.

When I saw that Quigley had written the book, I noticed that he wrote similar books for other teams as well. My one fear was that the puzzles would be generic "baseball" puzzles barely tilted towards the team. I was expecting words like "diamond" and "bases" to be as close as he got to a real Red Sox answer. Boy was I wrong. The puzzles all have Red Sox themes, and a high percentage of the answers are straight out of Red Sox Nation. Fantastic! 25 puzzles traveling through 100 years of Red Sox history. I can't imagine a Red Sox crossword fan not having one of these in their collection.

Rating: 4 bases

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

From a Night Owl

Not too long ago, Night Owl was complaining about his 2011 Allen & Ginter set. It was taking too long to complete the darn thing. I was ashamed to realize that I was sitting on a stack of A&G’s, and hadn’t checked his lists. I was able to find a dozen or so cards he needed, and gladly sent them his way. He was nice enough to send me something back in return. Let’s take a look at some of the package I received.

The two 2006 Opening Day cards complete my Red Sox team set. Fantastic! It never works that the last two guys you need are the two biggest stars. But, that’s the way it fell this time. The 2009 Topps Matsuzaka card is great. It’s always nice to remember that Dice-K really had a wonderful 2009 season. Probably a nice card for Phillies fans too. The Team USA card is a lot of fun. If I’m not mistaken, this is the play where Jeter tried to twist Youk’s ankle. As National Chicle cards go, the JD Drew is near the top. It’s a very nice likeness of Drew, and the background is clean. Wonderful.

Of course, I skipped over the crown jewel. The 2011 Topps Lineage ’75 mini relic. What an amazing card. I share Night Owl’s admiration of the 1975 Topps set. I think it’s the best set out there, and it is the only full set I’m currently trying to complete. A mini version of Youk would have been enough. But, the jersey just makes it incredible.

So, a hearty thank you to Night Owl for the wonderful shipment.

Hope that A&G set gets finished soon.

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