Monday, September 30, 2013

And Now We Wait

As a reward for winning the division, the Red Sox and their fans are rewarded with rest. We can all sit back and watch as three other teams in the league try and cling to their playoff hopes. Last season, we could also enjoy the last day of the regular season with no pressure. This season, though, it was more fun.

Unfortunately the ultimate chaos didn’t happen. I think most of us were hoping for a Cleveland loss to be added to the Texas and Tampa wins. That would have resulted in a three way tie, with a bizarre tiebreaking series to decide who advances. Having a potential first round opponent have to play three play-in games before they faced the Sox was an opportunity that would have been more than welcomed. As it stands, the Rays and the Rangers need to play one tiebreaking game to see who moves on. Shades of last season. If there wasn’t going to be the three-way, I’d just as soon the Rays lost yesterday to get them out of the equation. In theory, this just makes it easier for the Indians to advance, as opposed to handing the Red Sox an exhausted gift. Plus, I still have an annoyance towards the Rays. Maybe it’s a holdover from the utterly classless Devil Rays days. Maybe I still remember them trying to establish the inside pitch on Brian Daubach. Or, maybe I think those themed road trips are about the corniest things even imagined. But, for whatever reason I want bad things to happen to the Rays whenever possible. Not quite at the Yankees level, but certainly more than anyone else.

While the Red Sox wait, they are apparently going to have an intrasquad game on Wednesday to keep everyone sharp. Personally, I can’t help thinking about Ted Williams in 1946. So, I wonder if there are any extra rules in place for this game. Is it actually an intrasquad game? Or more of a simulated game? Is the inside half of the plate forbidden? Can a runner break up a double play? Can an outfielder dive for a liner or crash into a wall? Are they letting Pedroia play? While I understand the point, it still scares me.

I also think it’s interesting that apparently Buchholz and Peavy will be the starters in that game…implying that Lester and Lackey will be starting games one and two. While those are the choices I would have made, I think it’s funny that it pushes Buchholz to the third game. The guy was 11-1 this year with a 1.74 ERA, and the Sox set up their rotation to have him pitch game three. That’s incredible. It’s quite a testament to the balance of the rotation. The Sox have other options that allow them to push him back a little bit. In a five game series, that could be quite a weapon. The third game could be the most important game of the series (non-clincher category). The Sox haven’t been able to have someone like Clay in that spot for a long time.

So we sit waiting for the opponent. Waiting to see who will be coming to Boston.

Hoping for extra innings.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Scored!

April 7, 2001

OK. What do we have here? It appears that a steady balanced attack led the Red Sox to victory. Nothing special, nothing too exciting. They simply worked their way to the win. It take a lot of games like this to make a good season.

The pitcher’s box lists Paxton Crawford first. Paxton just turned 36 last month, but in this game he was an up and coming 23-year old. He was definitely showing something to give Red Sox fans hope. He went seven innings on the day, striking out nine Devil Rays. Not a bad game at all. How did the line-up support Crawford?

The long ball played a big part in the game. After the Devil Rays took an early lead in the second, Trot Nixon answered with a two run homer in the bottom half. Shea Hillenbrand added the eventual game winner in the fourth on a solo shot.

I love the eighth inning. Daubach reaches on a third strike wild pitch. He goes to second on a walk to Lewis. Offerman hits a DP ball, but the shortstop miffs the throw. With the bases loaded, Everett hits a grounder to first, where they gun down Dauber at the plate. When Ramirez strikes out, the Red Sox complete the weirdest inning in which nothing happens. Classic Devil Rays.

The hero of the game? Let’s give it to Nixon. His home run really helped the Sox get their groove on. The goat? Amazingly, every Red Sox starter got at least one hit. So, let’s put the horns on Jose Offerman. His 1-5 performance could have been a killer from the second spot in the order.

But, it wasn’t. The kid kept the Devil Rays at bay. The offence did everything it needed to in order to score runs, and pull out the game.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Friday, September 27, 2013

2002 Fleer Authentix Jersey Authentix

If it’s possible to both like and dislike a card, this would be the one for me.

I like that Fleer tried something a little different. They had the jersey in the card, like many cards do. But, they went the extra step of adding a manufactured ticket stub. It makes sense. As long as you’re having the thick sandwich card, might as well fill it up with stuff. I’m ashamed to admit that I spent a lot longer than I should have trying to figure out if it was a real ticket stub or not. That fact that it’s at least half the size it would have to be to be real didn’t hit me soon enough. Maybe the set name “authentix” was throwing me a bit. Oh well. But, I give Fleer credit for trying. I was also lucky enough to be at the game the ticket is for. So, it’s an added bonus for me.

One of my problems? Pedro didn’t pitch very well in that game. Actually, that’s an understatement. He got smoked in that game. Don’t ask me how, but he was terrible. He only went three innings, gave up seven earned runs on nine hits. Not exactly what you were looking for from a Pedro Opening Day.

But, I suppose I can forgive Fleer for not looking that far into the game. At least they picked a game where Pedro pitched. I wonder if that was accidental, or not.

The other problem? The design of the card is choppy. The cut-out for the ticket is distracting. Add that to the cut out for the jersey, and the picture of Pedro in a box, and the card is just too busy. I also don’t like that a vertical ticket is horizontal on the card. As long as you’re not using a real ticket, why not size it so that it goes the right way? Or make the card itself a vertical design? It’s just off.

So, while I like the idea, the execution didn’t cut it. It’s like Fleer had a brainstorming session on the design and couldn’t make a decision. So they decided to use them all. The card could have been much cleaner.

And the ticket should have been from Section 36.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Missed Opportunity

By the Athletics.

They had a chance last night to put home field advantage completely in their control. A win last night, and they would have been in the driver’s seat. But, they didn’t do it.

So, it remains solely in Red Sox hands. There are four games remaining, and the Red Sox magic number for clinching the best record in the AL sits at 4. The big question is at which point do the A’s give up? Say they both win tonight. That means the A’s would have to make up one game over the last three. Would they rather rest players, or take the chance that they can win one more than the Sox? How about if there are two games left, and still a one game lead? Will the A’s pull off the accelerator at that point? There must be a line somewhere. The Sox just need to find it…fast.

Or, just win their last four games, I suppose.

This trip to Colorado is annoying. For one thing, it’s practically a west coast trip. Making the team go from Boston to Colorado to Baltimore is annoying any time of the year. With a week to go before the playoffs, it’s downright criminal. Makes me wonder when the schedule was set. I know it was before the end of last season. But, how much before? Were the Sox out if it by then? Did the schedule maker not expect them to be contending this year? Is that why they didn’t feel bad putting that wrinkle in? I remember when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, they had a late bye week. It might have even been scheduled as the last week. The team, naturally, took it as a slight. They wouldn’t make a playoff team play 16 games straight. If the NFL thought they were any good, they’d have given them a bye mid-season to get some rest. Only a team that had no chance would get a last week bye. Is this what happened here? Sure, they were putting the screws to the Sox a little bit. But, what did they care? They’d probably just as soon lose those games to get a better draft pick anyway. The Sox showed them, though. They’re sitting here with those games being vitally important, and are being forced to fly all over creation to play them. What a pain.

It’s also annoying to make the pitchers bat so close to the postseason. The last thing I need is Jake Peavy running the bases for the first time in a while and pulling a hamstring. I think the Sox pitchers should be on a no-running restriction. I don’t want them leaving the batter’s box. If they lay down a sacrifice but, stay right where you are. Even if they swing away, unless it goes over the fence they should stay where they are. Do I want Peavy chugging down the line trying to beat out a ground ball? Or sliding in for a double? Nope. I’d be tempted to put a Derek Lowe-like “no swinging” restriction. But, hey, maybe they’ll get lucky and put one out.

Especially in Colorado.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A New Magic Number

The Red Sox have clinched their spot in the playoffs, and they’ve clinched the division title. There’s only one
thing left for them to clinch, and that’s the best record in the American League. This honor is slightly more important than it was the last time the Sox made it to the Postseason. Sure, having home field throughout the playoffs was always great. But, the team with the best record gets to play the Wild Card winner. The Wild Card team now has to play an extra game before starting the Divisional Playoffs. That makes getting to play them a significant advantage. Since we now know that the Wild Card team won’t be the Red Sox, I feel better about saying this.

I hate the new Wild Card format.

Hate it. Can’t stand it. Worst thing baseball’s ever done.

Why? Because it adds yet another team to the playoffs that has no business being there. What’s worse, is it allows that team to advance based upon a fluky one game playoff.

Now, I do understand the “need” for one wild card. If you’re going to have the three division winners make the playoffs, you should allow for an extra team since, in many cases, that Wild Card team is better than some of the division winners. (I’d prefer not to have division winners at all, but that’s another battle.) We’ve had wild card teams with the second best record in baseball. So, if you’re going to have a playoff series, you need to have one out clause for a team like that.

A second one is just overkill.

Baseball, to its credit, is at least trying to reward the division winners. Although, not as much as they would reward them by giving them exclusive access to the playoffs. They’re making those wild card teams play an extra game as punishment. But, naturally, even that has its faults. So, one wild card team could finish ten games ahead of the other wild card team. They could have the second best record in baseball. But, they have to play a one game playoff against an inferior team and hope a bad bounce or bad call doesn’t end their season. Which is why players and fans are begging for at least a three game series. That lets the bad luck even out a bit. Unfortunately, there just isn’t the time for that sort of thing. Can’t have the division winners sit around for a week waiting. Thankfully, I have a solution.

A three game series. All three games played in the home park of the WC team with the best record. Two games on the first day, one game the following day.

It’s the best of both worlds. The three games reduce the luck factor. But, three games in two days definitely punish the wild card team. They have to burn their rotation and bullpen before that next series. It also gives a distinct advantage to the best wild card team, since they get to host all three games. It even gives some excitement to every game, Since all three games would be vitally important. Momentum-wise, it’s like three made for TV one game playoffs. How important would game one become? To know you only need to win one of the next two? How about game two? One team could be eliminated, with the other team earning an extra day of rest. Game three? Obviously as important as any game could be.

I’m not going to say it’s perfect. (After all, the only perfect plan is this one.) I’m not thrilled about the prospect of punishing a WC team that could be the second best team in baseball that harshly. But, as long as baseball insists on sticking with the divisions, it’s the way it’ll have to be.

What do you think?

Friday, September 20, 2013

And Then There Was One

That’s right. Only one win stands in the way of the Red Sox clinching a division title. Forget how crazy that sounds coming after last year. The Sox haven’t clinched a division title since 2007. They’ve only won the division outright once since 1995.

This is crazy.

But, here they sit. Ready to accomplish it one year after finishing in last place. It’s mind boggling.

And the best part? They don’t look ready to stop. They’re looking at the best record in the American League. With the new playoff format, that’s actually a significant advantage. With a 2.5 game lead with eight to play, that’s only going to get easier. At some point the A’s and Tigers have to decide it’s not worth chasing a pipe dream and turn their attention to getting ready for the playoffs. I mean, if the choice for the Tigers is to rest Cabrera, or hope to make up three games while the Sox are facing Toronto and Colorado, which would you choose?

Which is good, since the Sox have some setting up for the playoffs of their own to do. Ellsbury could use a game or two to get back into the swing of things. Victorino could take every other day or so off. It would be nice if the starting pitchers could back off a little bit.

So, it will be nice if the Sox can take care of things as quick as possible. I’m not holding any fears that the Sox will lose the rest of their games. Nor do I imagine that if they did, the Rays would lose all of theirs. It’s not for any of those fears that I want them to end this now.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Three is a Magic Number

Yes it is. Yes it is.

And, it’s a very small magic number at that. While it’s not as small as zero, it’s definitely getting there. And, while I’m sure Farrell would ever admit it, that was shown during last night’s game.

Xander Bogaerts came to the plate with the tying run on second, and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. It’s September, so you know there were plenty of pinch hitters available. But, Farrell left him in there. He needed to see what the kid could do, and had an opportunity to do so without killing the team. It was obviously a high pressure situation. The game was in Xander’s hands. He was the last resort. Who knows? The Sox may find themselves forced into that very situation during a playoff game. So, it’s nice that they were able to put Bogaerts into a trial run now. Now, he didn’t come through. But, because the magic number is so small, that they can absorb the loss. It was worth the chance to get the kid into the situation at least once.

So, while I certainly don’t think the Sox should take their foot off the accelerator, it was good that they took that opportunity when it presented itself. They can get right back to their winning ways tonight, and get one step closer to clinching. I love hearing so much talk about having the best AL record, or getting to 100 wins. They’re not stopping now. They’ve learned their lessons. They’re going to keep playing as hard as they can all the way through.

And lower that magic number tonight!

Monday, September 16, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2004 Donruss Champions

A more wonderful card has never been made. This is it. This is all anyone will ever need. All any card company will ever need to do is slap the logo that appears in the upper left corner on a card, and I’ll want it in my collection.

What about the non-World champion aspects of the card? (as if they even matter)

It’s actually a well done card on its own merits. It tells you what the set is right off the bat. But, the Donruss logo is the smallest of the three logos, just like it should be. The red and blue color scheme fits in perfectly with the Red Sox team colors. The placement of Pedro’s name on the red banner is a welcome touch. For something that I can only imagine was slapped together, it turned out great. I say it was slapped together because I don’t remember similar sets being offered before. Did Donruss produce a set for the Marlins the year before that I just didn’t notice? I always envisioned the card companies see the Sox break the drought, sense an easy money making opportunity, and throw a set together to cash in. If that’s the case, Donruss did a great job with theirs.

The picture is also spot on. I love the fact that they have a photo actually from the World Series on a World Series card. The shot shows Pedro walking off the Busch Stadium mound, celebrating another well pitch inning. It sums up Pedro’s start perfectly. The dissolve at the bottom even adds some interest without detracting from anything important.

Even without the logo in the upper left, I think this card would rank fairly high on my list of best Pedro cards.

The logo just boosts it even higher.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Red Sox 1-36:

26 is for…
#27 Carlton Fisk

I missed the Carlton Fisk era in Boston. By the time I was paying attention to baseball he was well into his career with the White Sox. So, he’s never had the hold on me that other Red Sox greats have had. He wasn’t a great from long ago that is treated with reverence. He wasn’t a current star that I enjoyed watching. He was that old guy who played in Chicago but used to play here. Oh, and he hit that home run once.

After he retired, though, he became a much bigger part of the organization. The most obvious example is his number retirement. I was lucky enough to be at the game, and saw a little bit more of what Fisk did in his time here. But, at the time, his number retirement rubbed me the wrong way. Now, however, I almost see it as a badge of honor. Why?

Because they broke the rules.

He wasn’t supposed to be able to have his number retired. The team rules required that a player needed to finish his career with the Red Sox. Fisk only got that half right. But they bent those rules a bit for Fisk. (Before breaking them right off when they retired Pesky’s number 6) They hired him for a job in the organization and called that finishing he career with the Sox. Why would they do that? Because they needed something to celebrate. It was 2000, and while Pedro had led them to the playoffs the previous two seasons, they were still without a championship. They hadn’t even won the division in five years, and would finish out of the playoffs that year. So, they could use a reason to have a party. Why not hold a ceremony for a new Baseball Hall-of-Famer?

Which is why I see the ceremony differently these days. The Sox don’t need to do that stuff anymore. (Ok, maybe a little bit last year) They don’t need to hold ceremonies for people who don’t deserve it. They don’t need to book special events in order to get people to games. They just play well and draw crowds. The way it’s supposed to be. So, I consider the Carlton Fisk retirement almost as a low point we, as fans, were able to come up from. A reminder that there were days that the Sox had to make up reasons to celebrate. Even if you think celebrating the 8th anniversary of the 2004 championships was odd timing (I don’t), at least it was celebrating a championship. They weren’t inventing a reason to claim the success of a player who spent most of his career playing somewhere else.

We don’t need that stuff anymore.

27 is for #27 Carlton Fisk

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Maybe Mike Carp Should Have a Statue

Photo by Jere
The Red Sox have announced that they will be adding a third statue to the area around Fenway Park. (Well, actually, it’s the third statue right outside Gate B. I assume there’s some permitting issue that stops them from spreading the statues out a little more.) This time it will be of Carl Yastrzemski, depicting him tipping his cap during his last at bat. Yaz is obviously a great player deserving of a statue. Likewise, that moment is certainly etched in everyone’s mind. I can’t wait to see the final product.

I only have one small problem. These statues are getting a little repetitive.

I love statues. I’ve said before that I think they add something different to the park. Someplace to take your picture, or meet up with friends. Some definite visual interest. I love that you can honor players from the past with a statue. It sparks a conversation between parents and kids. “Who’s that statue of, Dad?” “Well dear, that’s the Great Carl Yastrzemski. He carried the team in ’67…” It’s wonderful. But, with over 100 years of history to pick from, it’s too bad the Sox keep honoring the same guys.

Again, Yaz is certainly deserving of any honor they choose to bestow. But, they already retired his number, which is about as high an honor as they can give. So, that conversation between generations is already sparked when the kid asks why there’s a number 8 hanging on the wall. Now the conversations while strolling the park will go something like this.

“Who’s that statue of?”
“Ted Williams. An all-time great.”
“Cool. What about that one?”
“Umm…Ted Williams again. But, he’s with Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom Dimaggio this time. They were great teammates in the 40’s”
“Oh. OK. And the third one?”
“That’s Yaz, finishing off a great career.”
“Neat. Hey, what are those numbers hanging on the wall”
“Well, the 1 is for Doerr…again. The 6 is Pesky…again. The 8 is Yaz…again. The 9 is Ted…for a third time.”
“Oh. Didn’t the Sox have other great players?”

See the missed opportunity? I said at the time that I would rather they gave Pesky a statue instead of retiring his number. It would have been a much better opportunity to honor him. For all the players who couldn’t have their number retired, wouldn’t a statue be a great way of keeping their memory alive?

What about Tris Speaker? He didn’t have a number to retire. Wouldn’t he make a great statue? Or Smoky Joe Wood? Wouldn’t the best pitcher from the best Sox team ever be  a fantastic subject? How about Dick Radatz with his arms raised high? Dwight Evans? Rico Petrocelli? Pedro? There are plenty of players to choose from.

Now, I will say that I love The Teammates statue. Love the subject, and love the way it was done. So, I can understand doubling up on those players. And, Ted with the Jimmy Fund kid, and Yaz thanking the fans are great subjects. More than just token statues of a guy at bat. I can’t say a bad thing about them individually.

I just wish they could branch out some more.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rays of Clay

Tonight will be a huge game. For so many teams, for so many reasons.

For the Red Sox, this could be the “not quite nail” game. The Rays have to be entering the series hoping that a sweep will get them to at least within striking distance of the division. If the Sox win at least one game during the series, the effect on the division lead will be minimal at best. So, if the Sox can get that game right off the bat, the whole dynamic of the series will change. Will the hopes and effectiveness of the Rays change along with it?

Bigger picture, will be the return of Clay Buchholz. What is he? What can he do? How can he pitch? Is he the not-so-secret weapon for the Sox down the stretch? Can he be an effective starter? What we’re looking at is the best team in the league adding its best starter after a long absence. Does that ever happen? While you could claim that the Sox haven’t missed him in the months he’s been out, you certainly don’t have to look very far to see that he could be useful. The Sox have been winning some games in spite of his replacements, as opposed to because of them. If he can come back and be the Clay of April it helps the rotation, it helps the bullpen, and it helps the team. A lot. So, tonight will be a big step towards seeing what this team will look like down the road.

My only fear for the series? The mismatch of urgency. While the Rays HAVE to win, the Sox really don’t. If the Sox don’t win tonight, a win tomorrow will be just as good. If they lose the first two, winning the third will be just fine. And, if they get swept? While it would be annoying, it would still leave them with a 4.5 game lead in the division with 14 games remaining. While this team hasn’t shown any signs of falling into that trap, the return of Clay might be just the thing. Hopefully they won’t relax not that their ace is back. Hopefully they won’t be so focused on changing the way they play to accommodate him and his reentrance to the rotation, that it affects other areas.

Like I said, I don’t expect that to happen. With so many people who have been on the team for a few years, I would be shocked if it did happen. But, if I needed to pick one thing, that would be it. Thankfully the Sox know that too.

Which is why they’re trying hard to take this series.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I Don’t Even Care

Imagine that. The Red Sox lost a game yesterday in one of the worst ways possible…a walk-off wild pitch. But, I don’t care. I’m not having a terrible day. I’m not swearing up and down. It’s almost a chuckle of, “You’re kidding me. Too bad. That would have been fun.”

After all, the Sox had spent the rest of the weekend making the Yankees look as foolish as any team can look. Generally I hate the “If I had told you a month ago…” consolation. But, in this case it’s pretty applicable. If I had told you a month ago that the Sox would march into NY and take 3-4 in September, that would sound pretty good. Now, add the fact that Rivera would blow two saves in the series. Nice. The Sox would storm back from a huge deficit to win one of the games going away. Perfect. The Yankees will come back from a huge deficit, only to blow the game in the end. Now you’re just making stuff up.

But, none of that was made up. It actually happened. The Sox did everything you could ask for over the first three games, and even a few things that you wouldn’t dare ask for. So, the fact that they didn’t win a second game following a Rivera blown save can’t hurt too badly. The best I can muster is an “aw shucks.”

Actually, there is one thing that bugs me about the way they lost yesterday. It gives all the anti-sabermetric people one big example to hang their hat on. See? A stolen base and a sac fly got the runner to third. Everyone knows it’s easier to score from third with two outs than from second. It’s small ball at its best! Which is true. I’ve never said that stealing bases isn’t helpful. I’ve never said that it’s not easier to score from third. The only downside to those tactics is that they’re not actually as helpful as they appear to be. A pitcher doesn’t throw a wild pitch with two outs and a runner on third often enough to base a strategy on it. Yesterday, he did.

Of course the one true downside from this weekend was the health of Jacoby Ellsbury. But, in keeping with the theme of the 2013 Red Sox, even that news wasn’t as bad as was feared. Ells broke his foot a bit ago, but toughed it out and kept playing. Now, though, it was too much so he needs to rest it. Thankfully he didn’t really wreck his foot being selfish, like Pedroia did. But, the question needs to be asked whether he should have just taken himself out of the line-up right away rather than play through the pain for so long. Right now he’s expected to return before the end of the season. But, how much better would it have been if he sat out an extra week? I also thought it was interesting/encouraging that the Sox actually said he should be back before the season ends. There was no, “We can’t set a timetable before the rehab starts.” Or, “Hopefully we can minimize the time out.” Non-answers. Ells is “expected” back before the season ends. That’s a pretty strong statement. Is it a way of calling Ellsbury out? Is it an attempt to quiet the media before they get crazy with the 2011 comparisons? Was it just a different choice of words? We’ll have to see.

Right now, I don’t care.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2003 Topps League Leaders: AL ERA

I’ve mentioned before that I understand the idea behind league leader cards. I know that they’re an easy way to get more star cards into a set. I also know that there’s only so much you can do with a card showing several players. So, the unimaginative design of three players in a line is fine. It especially works on this card since it allows two Red Sox players to take up most of the space.

A few problems with the card, though. First, the gold foil lettering has got to go. Why do companies insist on making me tilt the card left and right in order to read the front? It’s getting really old.

Second, they don’t have the stats on the front of the card. That’s annoying. I want to be able to look right at the card and see how dominant Pedro was that year. Did he just squeak by Derek Lowe? Or, was his number half of his nearest competitor again? I need to know.

Of course, my biggest problem is that guy on the right of the card. Notice how he’s all the way over to the right? That’s because he finished third in the league. But, somehow he was able to steal the Cy Young award from Pedro. An absolute shame. (Yes, I know, the Cy Young isn’t given to the pitcher with the best ERA. Nor should it be. But, Pedro beat him in just about every other category too.)

Maybe when I put this card back in its binder, I should black out the right third of the card. I can just color over it right on the page. Pretend like it doesn’t even exist. That would have to be an improvement.

The other two thirds are pretty nice. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ducks on the Pond

Last night certainly ran the full range of emotions, didn’t it? From the sheer joy of the drubbing the Sox were putting on, to the disgust of seeing it all slip away, to the elation of pulling it out in the end.

One of the constant comments I was seeing on twitter during the game related to the number of runners being left on base. In the first few innings, it was “I hope leaving all these runners left on base won’t hurt them.” Then, “See? It’s hurting them!” “It killed them.” “They were lucky it didn’t kill them!”

But, did it?

At one point, the Sox had left around eight men on, but had opened up a 7-2 lead. Can you get real upset about leaving men on base when you average a run an inning?

Some of this is a similar problem with the “grounded into double play” complaints. Just like in that case, you can’t leave a man on base if you don’t get him on base. You know how you can be sure to never leave a runner on base? Have a perfect game thrown at you. Is this what we want? Not me.

So, what are we asking here? We want runners on base all the time, and we want them all to score? Well, duh. But, let’s be realistic.

Last night, the Sox were scoring runs. They just weren’t scoring them all. Sure, they left the bases loaded. But, they scored runs that inning. And, they got enough hits to load the bases in the first place. That’s a pretty good inning if you ask me.

Now, if they loaded the bases every inning, but were being shut out, that could be annoying. But, are we actually asking them to drive in every runner that reaches base? Will not doing so come back to haunt them? Why don’t we complain that they’re not hitting a home run every time to the plate?

Why don’t we appreciate a good inning when we see it? A groundout, a single, a double, a walk, a single, a flyout, a walk, a groundball. That would leave the bases loaded. But, you scored two runs, got three hits, and drew two walks. You want more from that inning? You expect more? You’re disgusted when they don’t get more? Really? How about groundout, single, homer, pop out, strikeout. That’s a better inning because you didn’t leave anyone on base? Only two guys did anything at all. That’s what you’re looking for? If they’re getting hits and driving in runs, that’s enough for me.

Yes, I said that right after the Yanks took the lead last night too.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lester More than Max

When the Red Sox game ended last night, you likely had one of two reactions.

Either you yelled, “Yes! All you complainers…see what Lester is! See why I want him at the top of the rotation!”

Or, you yelled, “See! Why can’t he do this every friggin’ time out? Why do we have to put up with six innings of four runs and 122 pitches? Get your act together!”

Luckily, both reactions come from Lester having a fantastic performance. As the season winds down, one of the big question marks is how the Sox might be able to perform in a big October match-up. Are they capable of competing against the best teams? Last night Lester gave us at least one example to hang our hats on. He went out and took down the ace of the best team the Sox could face. That’s not nothing.

It’s too early to think about, but what would this mean for a potential playoff rotation? It wasn’t that long ago that some people thought Lester should be the odd man out. That when the rotation trimmed down to four, he would be sent to mop-up duty. Suddenly, it’s not even that easy.

I’ve often said that the advantage of having a line-up without talented players is that it’s easier to have depth. When you don’t have a Manny Ramirez in the line-up, you don’t need to have one on the bench to replace him either. So, the Sox can have five above average guys who can play outfield and create depth. The same thing is happening with the rotation. The Sox don’t have Pedro. There’s not one guy that you know is going game one. You don’t have to start planning now to set him up to start on regular rest. There are several options, none of which are significantly more obvious than the others. The disadvantage is that you have to drop someone who’s not much worse than the others.

Let’s assume that Buchholz comes back, and pitches well enough to be in this conversation. That gives the Sox Clay, Lester, Lackey, Peavy, and Doubront that are potential playoff starters. Unless Clay pitches three straight shutouts when he returns, is there one name that you know would start a game one? Couldn’t you make a decent case for any one of them? By the same token, couldn’t you make an almost equal argument to drop any one of them?

The Sox might be able to play the hot hand. Or look at match-ups against opponents. Who pitches really well against Oakland? Or really poorly against them? Who should sit?

What a great problem to have.

Monday, September 2, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2003 UD First Pitch

What a nice little card this is.

I love the use of the horizontal design for this picture. It really allows you to see Pedro driving forward with the pitch. It allows the picture to be cropped perfectly. I also like the simple graphics. A few rounded rectangles are all that UD needs to give us the information. They even have everything they need. Name, team, position, number. It’s great. I also really like how the large graphic is translucent. It makes it even less obtrusive that it would be otherwise.

My main problem? The First Pitch logo. It’s actually not too big or obnoxious on its own. But, the placement in this picture is terrible. Pedro looks like he’s going to bang his head right into it. I don’t know if Upper Deck was in the habit of moving around the logo with this set, but this would have been the perfect argument for putting it on the other side of the card. It would have improved the visual appeal immensely just by flipping the graphic.

That one issue isn’t enough to ruin great concept. 

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