Sunday, March 31, 2013

The New Media Guide’s Here!

I say it every year. I love it when the new Red Sox Media Guide comes out. I also say every year that if you haven’t read one yet, you really should. It has everything you’d ever need to know about the Red Sox and its players right in one handy place. Sure, some of it is overkill in the age of smart phones. If you want to know where Brock Holt went to high school, or what Felix Doubrondt’s wife’s name is, you can probably do a quick internet search and find out. But, there’s still something to the presentation. It adds to it so it’s more than a collection of data.

The new media guide is always anticipated to see the entries for the new additions. I pretty much know what Dustin Pedroia’s entry will look like. It looks a lot like last year’s, with one more season added. But, what about Mike Carp? I don’t know anything about him. What does his entry say? Well, for starters, he led the South Atlantic League in hit-by-pitches in 2005. Huh. It’s even neater when the Sox add a veteran to the team. Those longer entries are just packed with info. Ryan Dempster’s entry, for instance, goes back to 1995 when he went 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA.

If nothing else, just look at all those smiling faces staring out at you from the cover. How can that not get you excited about the season?

Plus, now I know what Johnny Gomes looks like.

Friday, March 29, 2013

What’s Wrong With Sweet Caroline?

This week the Red Sox announced a few “fan friendly” changes they were making to the Park’s operation in April. Some game times were being moved up to stay out of the coldest part of the night, and some discounts on concessions were put into effect. That has changed some of the discussion from the EEIdiots to other fan activities, specifically the singing of Sweet Caroline. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the song bad-mouthed. Usually, it’s lumped into a tirade from “real fans” about the “pink hat wearing, Sweet Caroline singing bandwagon jumpers.”

I just don’t get the angst.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t understand some in-game entertainment, and I’m generally not a fan of many others. When I go to Fenway, I’m there to watch a game. So, I don’t need my time filled with a lot of sound effects or gimmicks. I hated it when they used to have the girl in the mini-skirt run out and sweep the bases. It was tacky, and unnecessary. I hated it when they kept playing the video of Kevin Millar singing Born in the USA as a “Rally Karaoke Guy.” It was too staged. It annoys me when other teams have dot races on the scoreboard, or president races on the field. And, there’s certainly no place for “Let’s Make Some Noise!” announcements on the jumbotron.

But, Sweet Caroline isn’t like any of those. For one thing, it’s just a song. The Sox play lots of songs during breaks in play. This is just one that is a constant addition to the playlist. The most important thing though? This isn’t something the team did on purpose as a marketing gimmick. The Sox didn’t make an announcement one day that due to an arrangement with Neil Diamond and Fenway Records, the Sox would be playing this song during the eighth inning. They didn’t flash the lyrics up there and announce that we should all sing along. They simply played the song just like they play any number of other songs. The fans just happened to get behind this one. Sure, now the Sox have adopted it as a semi-anthem. And, they show the lyrics on the scoreboard. But, it didn’t start that way. It simply started as something fans enjoy doing. Which is how any good tradition starts. Like Thanksgiving, for instance. You can try to start a tradition by announcing that at halftime of the Detroit game, everyone will go out and play five minutes of touch football. But, that’s not what makes a tradition. A tradition would be if everyone just decided to have a game. Sure, after a few years you may start doing it just because that’s the tradition. But, it didn’t start like that. The same is true for Sweet Caroline.

One of the big complaints they were making abut the song is that they do it even if the Sox are losing. So? They sing Take me out to the Ballgame when the Sox are losing. Or God Bless America.  We’re not allowed to hear music when the Sox are losing? Why not? Should the fans just sit on their hands and look bored anytime the Sox are behind? What if it’s tied? Can they just play the song then, but no singing? Is there something wrong with fans working themselves into a lather before the Sox come to bat? Because, again, this is the fans doing it. There’s no announcement to stand up and sing. Is it different than fans starting a “Let’s go Sox!” chant? I don’t see how.

There are any number of things that the front office could do during the game that would annoy me. Just like the sweeping mini-skirt did.

Sweet Caroline isn’t one of them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When Did Jackie Bradley Jr become Willie Mays?

Scratch that. That’s wrong.

He’s apparently better than Willie Mays.

After all, people are worried about him costing the Red Sox wins if he is sent down to the minors for the first nine games of the season. Really? Let’s look into that, shall we?

Best I can tell, using the Total baseball ratings I happen to have in front of me, the best Willie Mays ever did was add 7.3 wins to his team’s total. That was in 1956 when he hit .317, and clubbed 52 home runs, while playing sterling defense. So, 7.3 wins over the 151 games he played. So…0.048 winds per game played. Over nine games, that would mean he adds 0.44 wins. That wouldn’t exactly help any playoff chances. What would it mean if Bradley added 1 win to the Sox’s total by playing in those nine games? It means he would add 18 wins over a full season. That would be beyond legendary. That would be two seasons of Babe Ruth. Even if Bradley wanted to add half a win during those nine games…rounding up, and all…it would equate to adding 9 wins over a season. We’re talking elite status here. For a 22-year old? It’d be better than video game numbers. It’s just not happening.

So, what are we talking about here? Why is having Bradley start with the team even a point of discussion? What is the possible upside?

I hear lots of crazy things. He makes the team better. You should always put the best team on the field. The Sox shouldn’t be worrying about saving a big contract later. That’s for small market teams to worry about. And, I’d agree with that. The Sox should just go and buy whatever player they want to put somewhere. Of course, if they did that, Carl Crawford would still be in left field. He’s better on his worst day than Johnny Gomes is on his best. So, if we’re really worried about the best team, and not financial flexibility, Crawford would be in left and Gonzalez would be at first. But, everyone else seems to be OK that they’re not. So, you’re not allowed to be happy that Crawford’s gone, but upset that Bradley is. It’s the same decision. Future financial flexibility vs. current talent.

Hypocrite! I can hear you yelling at me from here. After all, I’ve been against the Big Trade ever since the Sox improved the Dodgers. How can I, then, not want Bradley to be on the team…future contract be damned?

It’s all about degrees. We’re talking two weeks. Nine games…if we assume that Bradley would play in all those games. (Wouldn’t Gomes, or somebody, have to get into at least one of them?) And, Bradley’s not Carl Crawford either. Maybe he’s playing like it now. But, it would be a very small sample size. I’m more than willing to trade nine games of a 22-year old for 162 games of a player in his prime. If it was 90 games? I say start him now. But, two weeks is too little not to simply ignore.

Honestly, I can’t even fathom the other side of the argument.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It’s My Fantasy

I had my fantasy baseball draft this weekend. It’s always an exciting time. I don’t know if anyone else who has a team has hard-fast rules when it comes to drafting. I have a few of them. The most important one is that ALL Yankees go immediately to the “Do Not Draft” column. Even most ex-Yankees (like Nick Swisher) or potential Yankees (like Vernon Wells) join them on the list. That’s fairly easy. Second, draft as many Red Sox players as I can…without getting TOO crazy and drafting them too soon. I end up intending on drafting Sox players a round “early” but usually move them up closer to two. It’s ok with me. It makes it more fun. Third, try to fill up the rest of the team with as many NL guys as I can. The last thing I need is to be cheering for David Price to beat the Red Sox in order to help my fantasy team.

So, I know you’re all waiting to see who made it onto my team. Ok. None of you care who is on my team. Once you realized that my fantasy wasn’t about Keira Knightley in a tub of Jello, you moved on. But, if you’re still here, take a gander. It’s an 11 team, 5x5 league with slightly larger rosters than normal. So keep that in mind.

C Joe Mauer
1B Adam LaRoche
2B Evereth Cabrera
3B Will Middlebrooks
SS Stephen Drew
Corner Infield Brandon Belt
Middle Infield Josh Rutledge
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Giancarlo Stanton
OF Matt Holliday
OF Shane Victorino
Utility Lance Berkman
Utility Darwin Barney
Utility Dee Gordan
Bench Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Bench Jackie Bradley Jr
Bench Donovan Solano

SP Matt Cain
SP Gio Gonzalez
SP Jon Lester
SP Tim Lincecum
SP Clay Buchholz
SP Anibal Sanchez
RP Joel Hanrahan
RP Jonathan Papelbon
RP Junichi Tazawa
Bench John Lackey

Yeah. I haven’t heard of a lot of those guys either. My first pick was Andrew McCutchen. I passed on Matt Kemp, Justin Verlander, or Albert Pujols mostly because I saw McCutchen play when I went to Pittsburgh. That was pretty cool. I went a long time before taking my first Sox player. Lester was the first one, around round eight. He was my third pitcher chosen after all. So, I showed a lot more restraint than in past years. Of course it helped that the Sox didn’t really have a first round talent, and someone took Pedroia before I could get him.

I like my outfield, naturally. My catcher is nice as well, especially since Mauer is eligible at first base and corner infield. With Salty, there’s some room to play around with the line-up to cover off days for other players. I’ll take my starting infield too. If Middlebrooks is everything he hopes to be, that will be fun. The pitching staff could be one of the best I’ve had. Cain and Gonzalez give me a good starting point. Imagine if Lester, Lincecum, and Buchholz all travel back in time? Yikes. Even Sanchez and Lackey could be great late-round additions.

It’s the “extra” positions that are killing me. I have to start Dee Gordan? Bleh. Even if he runs wild, that will be tough to take. Darwin Barney? Ick. Hopefully Jackie Bradley can come up in a few weeks and take their spot in my line-up. If that happens, this could be a solid team.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Scored!

September 4, 2000

A quick look at the top of this scorecard lets you know that it’s a special day. “Fisk Day” is clearly stated on the card. This was, of course, the day that the Red Sox officially retired the number of Carlton Fisk. He was the first player to have the retirement rules bent to their breaking point. He didn’t finish his career with the Red Sox, as required. But, the Red Sox decided that in this case, working for the team in a front office capacity would count. The Sox could use a reason for a party. The ceremony was nicely done. They showed some highlights, and made the presentations. The thing I remember most about the ceremony was Rico Brogna and Lou Merloni sitting on the top step of the dugout and soaking it all in. Being local boys, I bet it was pretty cool for them to be on the team while they honored Fisk.

I imagine the Sox brass were somewhat disappointed when the pitching rotation was set for that day. The Sox used Fisk to draw a crowd, but the starting pitcher could have done that all on his own. Pedro Martinez was closing out his second consecutive best season by a pitcher ever. If the 1999 season where Pedro just missed the MVP was something special, the 2000 season was otherworldly. It made for a chance to honor the past, but let everyone know the present was pretty good to. Pedro didn’t disappoint. As he often did in big games, he made sure he was part of the story. Another spectacular line, as he went eight innings while giving up just one run. (Side note: That was the sixth Pedro game I attended that year. That run was the fourth run I had seen him give up.) Eleven strikeouts, and one walk. I have run out of adjectives.

What about the batters? They did everything they needed to that day. They got the quick lead, and let Pedro take it from there. The batter of the game? I’ll hand it to Jose Offerman. His bases loaded triple in the third inning would be all the runs the Sox would need. He gets the honor, even though it was his only hit on the day. The goat? Have to give the horns to playoff hero Troy O’Leary. He went hitless on the day, and couldn’t even reach base. Thankfully, that performance didn’t hurt the Sox.

So, we all got exactly what we expected. The pre-game ceremony brought the cheers at the start, but Pedro made sure we all remembered he was in charge. Pedro was simply Pedro.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Friday, March 22, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2002 UD Retro Star Rookies

Whenever I hear people complaining about the current Topps “monopoly,” I think to myself, “They’re complaining about not having cards like this one?”

This insert set is a pretty nice idea. Upper Deck has always had “Star Rookie” subsets in their sets. Starting off with their first card, Ken Griffey Jr. If you’re going to do a “retro” set, celebrating the glorious history of Star Rookies is a great theme. You can show the player currently, and show a picture of their star rookie card. That’s what UD has done here with Pedro, as you can see.


That’s not a “star rookie” card. It’s not a retro look at a star rookie card of any sort. What gives?

If only that were the only problem with this card.

The rookie card is too big. No offense to Night Owl, but in 2002 I didn’t care about Pedro’s time with the Dodgers. (Still don't) In 2002, Pedro was the ace of the Red Sox staff. So, why would the least obvious picture feature him in his Sox uniform? Like I said, the idea of celebrating the past rookie card is a good one. But, the photos should be reversed. The larger picture should feature Pedro with his current team. The smaller picture should be the rookie card. As an added bonus, if the photos were swapped, the jersey piece in the star would obscure the fact that Pedro wasn’t a “star rookie.”

I’m also not sure why the “1991” is the most important thing on the card. Look at how big it is! Who cares who the player is? We need to let everyone know that the card is from 1991! It’s another case of Upper Deck making a very big deal out of a history that it doesn’t have.

At least it’s a Pedro card.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Red Sox 1-36: 21 is for…

Roger Clemens?

Retired in Shame?

What’s the deal with number 21? Nobody has worn it since Roger Clemens left, and I’m not quite sure why.

The Red Sox “held” number 14 after Jim Rice left. I understand that. He was a legitimate (obviously) Hall of Fame candidate. He finished his career with the Red Sox. He was certainly in line to have his number retired. It made sense not to give it out to anyone in the meantime. It’s not like there’s a number shortage.

The Red Sox certainly did not hold number 26 after Wade Boggs left. He didn’t retire with the Sox. He went to the friggin Yankees. Unless he came back to the Red Sox at the last minute to finish his career with the team like Ellis Burks did, he wasn’t up for a number retirement. So, might as well hand it out. It was put right into the rotation.

But, what about Clemens? He also left to another team. He left in just as snooty of a manner as Boggs did. At the time, I doubt they envisioned him returning to the team. His number shouldn’t have been up for retirement consideration. So, why did they hold onto it? Even if you think, at the time, they were holding out some hope of him returning at some point, they don’t hope that any more. Right? Even if the Red Sox decided to pull a Carlton Fisk, and bring him back as an exec in order to retire the number, would they? Would they even consider breaking the rules like they did for Pesky, and retire Roger’s number? I certainly hope not. So, what’s the deal?

The problem is, at this point they’ve made it a deal. In 1998, maybe they could have just handed it off to whichever schmuck came along. But, now, it’ll be a story whenever they do assign it. They’ve really made it so only one of three things can happen with the number.

They can keep it retired in shame forever. Not a terrible idea. Every year, it will be brought up that nobody was given the number of that loser and cheater Roger Clemens. Not a bad legacy.

They can hand it out to some long shot, just to get it out of the way. Hand it to a guy who they only expect to be in camp for a day or two. Get it back into circulation. Then, the next guy won’t face the scrutiny of being the “first guy since Roger” to wear it. Just make a non-issue of it.

Or, they could give it to a star big enough to handle it. I thought they might do that when Josh Beckett came to town. He could have been given 21, and the stories would simply mention that he wore number 21, just like always. Beckett would have had enough bravado to pull it off. The Sox will need someone else like that to come in to break the number back in. Or, I suppose, someone like Manny Ramirez who would be clueless enough that he wouldn’t even be phased by it.

I wonder which avenue the Sox will take. At the moment, it looks like they’re sticking with “retired in shame.” I’m pretty sure I’m OK with that.

21 is for that cheating loser Roger Clemens.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pursuit of Perfection

So, the Red Sox pitching staff was almost perfect against the Rays. That’s pretty cool. Is it important? Well, I’d prefer they throw a perfect game as opposed to giving up 100 runs. But, the actual result wouldn’t be important in either case.

OK. Maybe giving up 100 runs would be important.

We’re now two weeks away from opening day. I just want people to be pitching well. I want to have them looking sharp and controlled out there. Whether they give up one hit, or five hits doesn’t really matter. Are they all over the place? I guess that’s the one good point about a perfect outing. At least they didn’t walk anyone. That would be a troublesome spot, if the pitchers were walking in run after run. Not tragic, but troublesome.

That’s especially nice with Jon Lester. Red Sox fans are certainly hoping for a lot out of him this season. We’re probably making too much out of the return of John Farrell. But, the idea is that Lester was at his best with Farrell as his pitching coach. So, he should be back to his best again. Flip that switch. As misguided as that probably was, it’s nice to see that Lester is getting there.

The real test will, naturally, be the regular season. Will he be able to hold everything together? Will he be able to stay focused and controlled on the mound? Will he finally be the true ace that we’ve all been waiting for him to be? The signs are looking good at the moment.

That’s what the final two weeks of spring training is all about. The fine-tuning. Getting everything in its proper place. Lester will probably get two more starts. It’s time to stretch out, and keep that command.

Let’s see how it goes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

1999 Stadium Club

Another Stadium Club card, another great picture.

Sure, there’s nothing exceptional about the picture itself. It’s a fairly routine shot of Pedro getting ready to fire another strike. But, it’s perfectly cropped to make sure the focus is on Pedro. Even the fact that the crowd behind him is blurry makes Pedro just pop. The information on the card is as unobtrusive as I’ve seen it. The Stadium Club logo, while centered horizontally, is low enough to be out of the way. The main design elements of the swooping line and the baseball seams are so unobtrusive that I didn’t even realize there were baseball seams there until I started writing this. It especially helps with this card that the mound provides an obvious area to stuff all the non-picture stuff. The team logo in the upper corner is opaque, to make it blend into the background. All this makes the most important part of the card actually seem like it’s the most important part. Well done.

This picture also clearly shows how Pedro used to cut the sleeves of his uniform. All the better to unleash his fastball. Oddly, he didn’t seem to cut the undershirt. Wouldn’t that also be restrictive? I believe Pedro was eventually yelled at for altering his uniform. But, I don’t recall him changing. I remember thinking it odd that the Sox didn’t create an “alternate uniform” with cut sleeves to wear during Pedro starts. I’m sure everyone on the team would be willing to cut their sleeves, if it made Pedro pitch better. I seem to remember a team (The Reds, maybe?) doing something similar when one of their stars cut the sleeves of their uniform. They went to a sleeveless shirt, so that everyone would look the same. I also thought it was weird that the sleeves weren’t “finished” off a bit. Did Pedro literally just take a knife and slice them up himself in the clubhouse? He couldn’t ask one of the uniform guys to finish off the edges a bit? Maybe if he did that it would definitely be a uniform alteration. This way, maybe he could claim the shirt just “ripped” due to the force of his fastball.

I’d probably believe him.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day!

As the World celebrates the wonder that is "pi" I thought it a good time to look at how the Red Sox are certainly hoping that nothing will pi their season.

This is especially important during Spring Training, as everything is getting ready for the long season ahead. From what I can see, there are three main suspects when you look at thing that could pi the team.

A clubhouse issue. The Sox were supposed to have taken care of that this off-season. every guy they signed is a supposed "character guy." So, hopefully that issue is nullified. But, you can certainly see how bringing in someone like Carl Everett could pi the team out of control.

The one that could be a big problem is an injury. The Sox are already dealing with that, when it comes to David Ortiz. With him out, Napoli probably DH's more. That means someone else has to play first. That means there has to be someone filling his spot. And, it goes on and on. So, even with one injury, you can see it starting. Another one would certainly pi the beginning of the year.

There are also off the field distractions that can pi the dugout. The Sox have done a good job so far of limiting those. There are no contract holdouts. No infighting between teammates. There was a DWI arrest, but that blown over a bit. But, if that arrest was Dustin Pedroia instead of a minor leaguer, it could certainly pi the day...if not the rest of the season.

So, as we reach the final weeks before the start of the season, we hope everything continues to be quiet. Hopefully everyone is able to plug along, getting their work in. Everyone can get in shape, or learn their roles. Everything will be nice and stable.

No need to pi anything at this point.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hoping He Heels

So, it looks like David Ortiz will be a little slower to return to the Sox. While Opening Day isn’t officially ruled out quite yet…it’s not exactly likely at this point. So, the immediate question is, what does all this mean?

Short term, you just deal with it. Napoli DH’s, and Carp plays at first more than you thought. It would probably happen for a couple weeks at some point during the season anyway. It’s just at the beginning now. Even long term, that’s probably the move. You hate to dig into your depth right out of the gate. But, the whole team was, in fact, built around depth. Every player on the roster is just above average. So, every player should be able to slide into another slot. This is where it’s handy that Ortiz is a DH. Anybody and everybody could be put there for a game. Isn’t that what teams are supposed to be moving towards anyway? Isn’t the pure DH a thing of the past? The DH spot is just a place to put a guy to rest a bit while not playing the field. Napoli one day. Ellsbury one day. Gomes one day. And so on.

The one thing that system is lacking is the David Ortiz presence. Which, I suppose, depends on how much presence he still has. Do opposing teams still fear him? Is he more protection for Pedroia than Middlebrooks will be? What about the clubhouse? Does he still drive the team? Is Pedroia’s nuttiness enough, when combined with Victorino’s exuberance?


Very rarely would the prospect of losing what I assume will be the clean-up hitter be such a non-issue with me. I guess I only put Ortiz at clean-up by default. This isn’t 2005 or 2006 Ortiz. This is a guy who is just a bit better than the guy who will bat third…or fifth. Maybe this depth thing will help out just the way it’s supposed to. Maybe this will be a glimpse of the future.

Or, maybe, Ortiz makes it moot by playing on April 1.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Their Achilles Heel

For a while, I’ve been assuming that the Sox medical staff is doing this on purpose. Nobody could blow time frames that poorly.

When it took Manny too long to come back from a sore throat, maybe he was milking it a bit. Maybe JD Drew was susceptible to stiff necks. Maybe Ellsbury took too long to heal a broken rib. But, then Pedroia took forever to heal his foot. And Ellsbury had a shoulder keep him out for a year. Crawford took an eternity to come back from a sore wrist. Finally, David Ortiz missed a half season with a 7-10 day achilles injury. Could they really be that bad?

I was convinced that they couldn’t be. They must be doing this on purpose. Obviously, there’s a method to their madness.

Maybe they want to gain a competitive edge. Maybe it’s like the Patriots listing Tom Brady on every injury report. It does the Red Sox no good to tell the world exactly how long a player will be out. What if the Sox decide they need to trade for someone to replace Ellsbury if he’s going to be out all year? They certainly wouldn’t want the rest of the league to know that. They’d want the rest of the league to think they’re just casually looking for some extra help. No rush, just looking for a good deal. That makes sense. Right? Or, maybe they want the opposing manager to wonder if the player really might come back. Sure, if they’re on the DL that’s one thing. But, if a “sore hammy” drags on and on, doesn’t that leave the opposing manager guessing? Is a manager reluctant to make a move if Ellsbury might actually be available to pinch run after all? Wouldn’t that make sense? Isn’t it worth misleading the fans to accomplish that? I had convinced myself that’s what they felt.

Or, maybe misleading the fans was the whole point. Maybe I don’t buy tickets for last September if I know Ortiz won’t be playing. Maybe they were fooling us. Maybe it’s that sinister.

But, then we get to Ortiz and his ankles. They just signed him to a two-year deal, despite missing the end of last season with an ankle problem. Wouldn’t you have to assume that they felt they were getting two years out of him? Wouldn’t the medical staff have had to give the approval before guaranteeing the second year? Wouldn’t it show that maybe I was giving them too much credit? Maybe they don’t know what they’re doing?

Or, is it a case of a pure PR move? Reminds me a bit of the last Curt Schilling contract. Maybe the Sox felt it was worth the millions to have Ortiz around. After all, his contract was cheaper than Victorino’s. Maybe he was signed just to appear in all those commercials. More of an endorsement deal than an actual player contract. After all, the deal doesn’t hurt the team if he doesn’t play. If he spends all year on the DL, but can make it to charity events, maybe the team considers that a good deal. They can just find someone else to fill his spot on the roster. Maybe once again, it’s not the medical staff being wrong. It’s just a careful release of information?

So, which is it?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What Makes a Top Prospect?

Yup. I’m back on the prospect kick again. This is really something I’ve wondered about for a while. When everyone ranks prospects in the minor leagues, what qualities make the best “prospect?” Is that different than the minor league player of the year?

Is it ceiling? Is it chance of actually reaching the ceiling? Is it chances of helping the big club the most, the soonest?

Does a high school kid tearing up A ball rank higher than a 24-year old doing well in AAA? Or, is it the other way around? Do the rankers get to use the old scout projections of, “if he can only learn to…” when they rank them? “If he develops power, he’ll be a stud.” “If he can cut down on his strikeouts, he’ll be a Hall-of-Famer.” Or, does it have to be based on facts?

What’s the most important?

When teams make trades, which do they look at? Do they want a player who has a very good chance of being very good? Do they want a player with a sure chance of being average? Do they want a player with a slim chance of being spectacular? It probably depends on the team, and its needs. But, there has to be a general thought, right?

If I look at the Sox system, I want to know which players are most likely to be of use to the Red Sox. I’d also prefer they were ready to help soon. So, my top prospects would probably be older kids, ready to help now. Others, I’m sure, would take the opposite view. They would rank the 19-year old kid hitting 16 home runs in low-A ball really high. He might have a higher ceiling. But, as you may have guessed by my constant desire to trade away the farm, I don’t want potential. I want sure things.

What makes your top prospect?

Friday, March 8, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2000 Stadium Club Chrome

What a fantastic looking card. In fact, it’s such a great looking card, it’s too bad they covered it in chrome.

I always loved Stadium Club, because it focused on the pictures. It didn’t need to fancy them up with crazy borders. They needed to put some information on the card front, obviously. But, they tried to do it as unobtrusively as possible. In this case, there’s a simple pennant floating on the picture telling you this is a Pedro card.

The picture itself is a fantastic shot, and a great use of the horizontal format. This is Pedro, coming off what might have been the best season by a pitcher ever, getting ready to fire one in there. Look at that face. The batter doesn’t stand a chance.

Just like every batter facing Pedro.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Trading the Future

I was flipping through my 2012 Red Sox Media Guide yesterday. (I do that sometimes just to see what interesting things I didn’t notice before.) I like to look at the transactions section for each player. It’s interesting to look back and see what deals a player might have been involved in earlier in his career before he became a Red Sox. I noticed that Matt Albers was involved in a trade for Miguel Tejada. Albers, Mike Costanzo, Troy Patton, Dennis Sarfate, and Luke Scott went to Baltimore in exchange for Tejada five years ago. I chuckled as I saw the list of names. Even though Tejada wasn’t exactly an MVP in Houston, I didn’t see anyone on that list of names that would make me think Houston regretted the deal. It was a five for one, and I still think Houston would do it again if they had the chance.

That’s always been my argument when I hear people who want to hold onto the future. Why? How many times does a team really regret doing that? I always think about trading Pavano and Armas for Pedro. Or, Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez for Beckett. Even when the youngsters turned out to be solid players (or in Ramirez’s case, MVP caliber) I don’t regret giving them up. But, maybe I was only remembering the good deals. So, I decided to flip through the media guide, and see what deals were listed. Were there any “prospects for star” deals that I think the teams regretted giving up the prospects?

I found eleven deals I felt were in that category. I didn’t count minor transactions. So and so plus a PTBNL for a middling guy. I was looking for obvious cases of selling the farm for a “star.” Did any of the teams regret giving up the prospects? Again, this certainly isn’t every deal ever made. But, I figured it was a good random sample from a random cross section of teams.

In November 2003, the Phillies acquired Billy Wagner. To do so, they gave up Brandon Duckworth, Taylor Buchholz, and Ezequiel Astacio. I’m not a Phillies fan, but I think that ten years later, they’d make that deal again in a heartbeat. I don’t see a name on that list that I wouldn’t give up for Wagner.

The Phillies were involved in the other side of a deal when they traded away Curt Schilling at the 2000 deadline. In return, the Diamondbacks sent them Vicente Padilla, Omar Daal, Nelson Figuera, and Travis Lee. Of course, the D-Backs went on to win the World Series the next year. I don’t imagine that anyone in Arizona regrets giving up on the youngsters.

Nor, I imagine, do they regret trading for Randy Johnson almost seven years later. To get the Big Unit from NY, they had to part with Ross Ohlendorf, Albert Gonzalez, Stephen Jackson, and Luis Vizcaino. I suspect they’d do that again in a heartbeat.

Ohlendorf didn’t stay with the Yankees long. He was packaged with Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Jose Tabata for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte at the 2008 Deadline. Do Yankees fans regret this? Maybe. They Yanks didn’t get much from their ends. But, it’s not like the McCutchen they gave up as Andrew. Probably a wash.

You want a slam-dunk trade? Andrew miller was packaged in a deal from Detroit along with Cameron Maybin, Eulogio De La Cruz, Burke Badenhop, Dallas Trahern, and Mike Rabello. In return, the Tigers got Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Anyone in Detroit regret getting the reigning Triple Crown winner?

A deal that’s probably too soon to analyze is the one the Sox did a couple Decembers ago. They send Josh Reddick, Raul Alcantara, and Miles Head to the A’s for Jeff Bailey and Mike Sweeney. Early returns aren’t great for the Sox. Reddick played out of his mind, while Bailey was injured. Doesn’t look like a great move at the moment, but I’m not willing to say that yet.

One trade that I don’t know what to make of is when the Braves acquired Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay from the Rangers at the 2007 Deadline. They had to give up Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrews, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones. Andrews and Feliz would go on to become key members of the Rangers World Series teams. Teixeira would lead his new team to a ring too. Unfortunately for Braves fans, it was when he joined the Yankees. So, I think the Braves fans may regret this one.

Then we come to Adrian Gonzalez. He has four such trades on his resume.

In 2003 the Marlins included him in a package with Will Smith and Ryan Snare in order to get Ugueth Urbina from Texas at the 2003 deadline. The quick answer is that Marlins fans would be fine with this since the fish won the World Series that season. Plus, there has to be a reason you would dump your number one overall pick from 2000 just three years later. But, I’m guessing that the Marlins would like Gonzalez back. (Assuming they would have kept him.)

Three years later, Gonzalez was shipped off to San Diego along with Chris Young and Termel Sledge. In return, the Rangers got Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka, and Billy Killan. Looks like a bad move. But, the Rangers needed pitching…and still had Teixeira at first.

I’m going to count the two moves involving Boston as too close to call. At the very least, almost a wash. In reality, the Sox gave up a few prospects, and ended up with a few prospects. We’ll see how that all turns out. Does Anthony Rizzo make the Hall of Fame? Can Pedro turn De La Rosa into a Cy Young candidate? Only time will tell.

What’s my point? Do I need a point? It’s this. I found eleven “prospects for star” in my random sample. Three of them are too soon to really evaluate. Of the other four, I think that four are no question good trades for the team giving up the prospects. That’s half. The other four? The Marlins trading away Gonzalez is probably a good move, under the circumstances. The SD/TEX Gonzalez and Nady trades might be a wash. Only the Braves haul to get Teixeira was clearly regrettable. That’s one. Out of eight. And, some might still say that at the time it was worth the risk.

So, the point? Why do the Sox feel the need to hold onto their prospects like they’re solid gold? Only once in this sample was it a bad deal to dump prospects. No, obviously, I don’t mean you dump them whenever you can. But, to get a star for prospects should be a easy call.

Imagine what the Sox could get for Bogaerts and Bradley.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Missing Storylines

The media must be going absolutely crazy.

Spring Training this year has just been plugging along. For me at least, I’ve found very little all that fascinating about it. I think that’s a good thing. Let everyone get their work in, and get ready to go on the first of April. Sounds perfect.

But, if you’re writing an article you expect people to spend money on, that’s not a good thing. Usually the media just makes stuff up to write about. Or, at least embellish things beyond all recognition. But, even that is hard to do this season.

Sure, there are injury worries. But, this team is lacking that superstar talent that the team would be doomed if they lost. I remember when news came out during Spring Training that Nomar was going to have wrist surgery. It was devastating. He was one of two guys expected to perform well, and carry the offense. He was counted on. If he got hurt, it was a story. This year? Not so much. The Sox don’t have that singular talent that would crush a season. When Will Middlebrooks left a game with a wrist issue, people were concerned of course. But, it’s not like the Sox suddenly had to replace 45 home runs, or 220 hits. Everyone on the roster is simply a solid player. Nothing scary there.

Standard Spring Training storylines are also lacking. Everybody showed up in camp on time. Even Pedro. So, they had to throw out their templates for those stories too. Nobody was holding out, or displaying power. Everyone was just going through the drills. The media tried to pull something from Ortiz’s visit back home. Was it really “personal” or was it a hidden injury? But, there really weren’t any legs to the story.

The timing of the WBC is usually good for a few stories. Should Pedroia be playing and risking injury? Will it ruin Dice’K’s season? But, not this year. The only player expected to contribute that is playing is Victorino. And, even he falls into the “eh” category. If he broke his leg crashing into a wall during the classic, it wouldn’t doom the season. Nobody could write about the recklessness of MLB for allowing its stars to risk their seasons in a meaningless exhibition. The games are just going along in the background.

The last option is usually positional battles. Especially with a team like the Sox without many clear stars. When the roster is all simply above average, it should leave open the possibility of a conflict. Not this time. Since the Sox so freely overpaid for mediocrity, they locked the presumed starters into their jobs. Nobody is beating out Stephen Drew. Not with the money he’s getting. Which is why the media has been so excited about the one position with even a shred of debate. Left field, and Jackie Bradley Jr. There’s the one spot were the guy starting isn’t exactly a lock. And, there’s a youngster who has shown some promise. So everyone jumped on it. Twitter is alive with updates on Bradley’s games. The debate over whether he is the Opening Day starter in Boston or Pawtucket is raging. Everyone seems to ignore the fact that there’s no way the Sox will let him start the season in Boston. With their desire to control their prospects, why would they start the arbitration clock one second sooner than they had to? But, it’s the best nugget the Sox Spring Training is providing, so it’s what we get.

Like I said, I don’t mind quiet springs. Personally, I’d prefer the media just ignored it. Instead of trying to keep an entire baseball staff busy looking for stories that aren’t there, just let it go by. Just let the team get ready to play. They only thing that really matters during March is getting everyone ready for April.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Collecting the Sox: Pens and Pencils

Finally, something to really write about.

Pens and pencils are another collectable that I don’t collect. I simply amass. I don’t go out of my way to get a Red Sox pen. I don’t buy a pencil just because I don’t have one. I just come by them, and don’t get rid of them when I do. I use them, for the most part. But, most of them are displayed with the rest of my Red Sox stuff.

I seem to get lots of them as gifts. Family members are notorious for slipping a pencil or two into another present to spruce it up just a bit. Sometimes when I’m at a game, my pen will run out during scoring. So, I’ll need to buy a new one to finish out the game. I even have a few pens that the Red Sox handed out at a game so we could fill out a survey. (Yes, the Sox had market research before the Henry group bought the team.)

Once I have them, they fun to collect. They serve a purpose. They’re colorful. They’re small enough that they’re easy to display. They sell holders for them all over the place, if you’re so inclined. What could be better?

They’re also nice as a collectable to seek out when you go places. I’ve mentioned before that for a while I collected pins from places I visited. I liked having a record of the placed I’ve been. But, they started to get expensive, and a bit hard to find everywhere. I’ve since moved on to baseballs. They seem to pop up everywhere I want to find them. The same can definitely be said for pens and pencils. Especially at ballgames. When I went to a Phillies game, they were even nice enough to give me a free Phillies pencil when I got my scorecard. It was perfect. I’m going to score the game anyway. Why not get a team pen or pencil to do it with? It’s a great way to collect a little history.

Anyone have a pen or pencil display in their house?

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