Sunday, March 30, 2014

Big Tickets!

People have been really excited about their Red Sox tickets lately. You can’t go to Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram without people posting pictures of their Red Sox tickets exclaiming how excited they are that they arrived. Any ticket seems to be worth posting. But a few seem to bring special bragging rights. The number of “jealous” comments left is much higher when the tickets shown are for Opening Day. The last game and the assumed Jeter ceremony also gets more oohs and ahhs than, say, the June 14th game against Cleveland. It got me thinking.

What’s the best ticket I’ve ever had?

I know I’ve done a list of the best games I’ve ever been to. (and that list should really be updated) But this is different. I didn’t always know that those were going to be great games. For instance, the Derek Lowe no-hitter makes that list. But, if Twitter had existed back then, and I had posted a picture of that ticket when it arrived, I think the overwhelming reaction would have been “How’d you get stuck with tickets to an April game against the Devil Rays? Pedro isn’t even pitching!”

That was a great game. It wasn’t a great ticket.

Even the 2004 ALCS game 4 ticket. I remember. The reaction I got when I told people I was on my way to that game was, “Why would you want to see the Sox get swept?”

So, what makes my list of great tickets I’ve had? Which ones elicited the most drooling when I told my people I was going down? Let’s see…

1999 Home Run Derby. Right off the bat, I’m going to start this list with something that isn’t even a game. Good thing I didn’t set up any rules for this. But, this was a big deal.It was 1999. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had their epic duel the previous season, and were back at it again. The thoughts of them getting shot after shot at the Wall was definitely drool-inducing. Did it live up? Pretty much. Sosa didn’t have a great showing, but Big Mac sure did. It didn’t seem like he would ever stop. Even if he didn’t win the competition.

1999 All Star Game. OK. So, a non-game, and now an exhibition game. But, this was the first ticket that I remember being resold for significant money. I seem to remember hearing that the Home Run Derby tickets were starting at close to $1000 on the street. The tickets to the ASG were approaching at least 3-4 times that. This was when people starting being amazed I wasn’t selling them, and buying season tickets with the money. Heck, I could have gotten a few years’ worth of tickets with that money. Did it live up? Absolutely. Am I glad I went? What do you think?

1999 ALCS Game 3. Look at that. Three in one year. This was Pedro vs. Roger. The build-up was tremendous. The cover of the Boston Herald ran a breakdown as if it were a heavyweight fight. Did it live up? For Sox fans it did. It wasn’t much of a game, since the Sox ran away with it. But, watching Pedro mow the Yankees down while Roger went to the showers early was even better.

2004 World Series Game 1. Of course, nobody knew that this was going to be the year the Sox won it all. But, we did all know two things. One - there was excitement in the air after the Yankees comeback. Two – It was the first World Series game in Fenway since 1986. My seats were in the very last row of the right field bleachers. There was someone a couple rows in front of me with one of those MasterCard inspired signs. It claimed that he paid $5000 each for those seats. And, he still considered the experience of being there “priceless.” I think I agree.

2005 Home Opener. This is the first “sure thing” on the list. The HR Derby might have been a dud. Pedro might have gotten rocked in Game 3. But, there were no worries on this day. The Red Sox were getting their rings! Everything else was just extra.

2008 Hope Opener. Another guaranteed good ticket. Was there really another ceremony already? Demand may have been a little lower for this one. But, it was still all about the rings!

2013 ALCS game 6. This was one of those tickets that had a change in fortune. While the idea of seeing the Red Sox clinch the AL was great, the idea of watching the Tigers clinch was terrible. Once it was clear that the Tigers couldn’t clinch, and the Red Sox could, this became a must attend. Victorino made it all worth it.

2013 World Series game six. See above. Multiply by 100. Once the Red Sox won Game 5, this became the biggest ticket I’ve ever seen. I heard one reporter call it the “most expensive ticket in the history of tickets.” Sure, the Sox might lose the game. That would have been heartbreaking. But, there was that feeling that they would win. I was actually at a Halloween party that day that I had to leave from a little early to make the game. The jealous looks from the other guests were priceless. Oh, and the game turned out to be pretty good.

What games would make your list of “best tickets you ever had?”

Friday, March 28, 2014

Red Sox 1-36: 32 is for…

Red Sox record 32 HR on the road in one season, by David Ortiz (2006)

My first thought when seeing that number? Boy, that’s a lot of home runs. The second? Imagine if Fenway were more conducive to his swing!

In 2006, Ortiz hit 54 home runs. (Also a team record.) That means he hit more home runs on the road than he did at home. Almost 50% more. That’s pretty significant. Imagine if he played his home games in, say, that Little League park in New York. What would his numbers be like then?

32 is still a great number. Heck, lots of players don’t hit 32 home runs in a season. 32 homers would have led the team in 2012. And 2011. And 2010.

Do be able to put up those kinds of numbers away from your home park has to say something, right? At the very least, it has to imply that Ortiz isn’t a fluke. He’s not a production of his home park. There’s no Coors Field effect going on here. Ortiz can just hit home runs, no matter where you put him.

Anyone who has seen his towering moon shots has to be aware of that already. 

He hits a lot of them.

I also start to wonder if advanced analysis would give a reason for that output. Are the Red Sox trailing more often in road games, so he gets pitched to? Will other teams pitch to him more in the top of the ninth than the bottom of the ninth? Does he get fewer at-bats at home because there sometimes isn’t a bottom of the ninth to bat in?

Or is it just easier when you don’t have to hit the ball 380 feet?

32 is for the 32 road home runs David Ortiz hit in 2006.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2003 Topps Stadium Club

I hardly ever have anything bad to say about a Stadium Club card. This one really is no different.

Ok, I have one complaint. The annoying foil they used to write out Pedro’s name.

That’s all I have.

The rest of it is pure amazingness. The full bleed edges make the picture the most important part. Which is exactly how it should be. That photo is nicely cropped to eliminate any garbage that might try to get in the way.

Even while allowing the picture to take center stage, the card doesn’t cheap on the details. Pedro’s name is right there. The team he plays for is right there. There are even some lines to provide a design element. What more could a person want in a card.

It’s simple. It’s clean. It’s elegant.

It’s exactly what I want.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hopefully all the Whining and Complaining can Stop Now

David Ortiz signed the extension, I assume, he was looking for. Hopefully this means everyone can stop complaining and whining every time he mentions that he would like an extension.

I’ve always been baffled when people are outraged that players want extensions. Wouldn’t almost everyone prefer to know that they have a job for as long as possible? OK, maybe not Papelbon. But many poeple would like to know that they are going to be employed. Especially older players who might not be so attractive to a free agent market. So, it makes sense that they should want to have their contract extended if they can.

That’s what Ortiz has done.

While it’s not quite the Tim Wakefield perpetual option contract, it does make it a probability that Ortiz will be in a Red Sox uniform until he retires. It guarantees that he’ll be on the Sox in 2016. It makes it likely he’ll be here in 2016. It even makes it possible that he’ll be in town in 2017.

I like it.

Now, like the Wakefield deal, this really assumes that both Ortiz and the Red Sox are on the same page. 2014 has always been set, and that’s just fine. I’m willing to assume that 2015 is going to be OK. Sure, it’s a risk to sign him for an extra year. I think it’s a risk worth taking. If he old, or terrible, or ineffective in 2015, that’s one year that the Sox will overpay him. For all the years he’s been severely underpaid, I think that reasonable.

The problem comes with the plate appearances in 2015. What if he’s terrible, but still the starting DH? How will those plate appearances come into play? Will it be tough to play him in September if he’s obviously lost it? Will that create more problems? That was the tricky part with Wake. He always considered it a lifetime contract. But, in the end, I think would have preferred another year or two of life. This is setting up for the same grey area with Ortiz in a couple years.

Hopefully that will be an obvious call. Either he’s still producing, so it’ll be great to let that option become vesting. And, hopefully he’ll make the Sox want to quickly pick up the option for 2017. Or, he’ll play to a level that it’s obvious to both sides that he’ll end it there.

But, that’s a couple years out. Right now, the Sox have their DH and face of the franchise for two more years. I have a hard time seeing a downside. They have Ortiz’s bat in the middle of the order for two more years. If they can use it, they have it for two more after that. Unlike other long term contracts, the risk is all in the first two years. Those are the ones you should feel the most comfortable about.

Hopefully those are the ones that will lead to two more rings.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Collecting the Sox: 2007 Champions

2007 World Champions

I was looking at my Red Sox collection the other day when I noticed something. I am severely lacking in collectibles from the 2007 championship when compared to the other two.

(Boy, that was a fun sentence to write.)

Now, I understand the drop off from 2004 to 2007. 2004 was the first one. Who knew if it would ever happen again? So, I took the opportunity to load up on knick-knacks and other wonders of the Red Sox collection. It also didn’t hurt that there seemed to be a lot more stuff available than other years. I think companies knew that all the Red Sox fans were desperate for things declaring “2004 World Champions” and were all more than happy to help us out. Key chains and cups and cards and spoons and everything else.

Then, 2007 came along. Three years later. Companies weren’t quite so eager to produce commemorative items. Plus, I’ll admit, I was less eager to buy it. I already had a 2004 World Series hat. It was only three years old. I didn’t need a new one. I already had a David Ortiz autographed World Series baseball. I didn’t need another one. Besides, I had already taken out a loan to purchase everything I ever wanted from 2004. I couldn’t justify the hit to the bank account again so soon. At that point, I had to wonder how many times I was going to have to do this.

So, I was surprised to see that the 2013 collection took an uptick. You’d think, if anything, it would be even lower. How many newspapers do I really need? Shouldn’t I have already filled up all my available space with the other two? What happened?

I can think of a few possible explanations. First, I was at Fenway for the clincher this year. So, I have a personal connection that I don’t have with the other two. I think that made me a little more eager to celebrate than before. Especially anything specifically relating to game six. It wasn’t just a Red Sox collection. It was a souvenir.

I also think it’s possible that I appreciated this one more than 2007. The one in 2004 ended the drought. 2007 was still in the afterglow from that team. By the time 2013 came along, it had been six years. I am firmly aware that this isn’t going to happen a lot. So, I should be sure and enjoy it while I can. Much like in 2004, I know this could be the last one for a while. (Although, hopefully it’s not.)

It’s also possible that since the 2013 stuff is newer, it sticks out more. After all, I didn’t sit and take an inventory of all the items to compare. It was just an impression I got. Maybe there’s a significant difference between 2004 and the other two. Maybe I just think there’s a bigger gap between 2013 and 2007 because the stuff is newer, shinier, and looks more out of place.

Whatever the reason, it’s an interesting observation. Interesting how the mind works when it comes to those things. I wonder if I’m different.

Does anyone else notice a dip when it comes to 2007 items in your collection?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Fantasy

My fantasy baseball league drafted last night. Since I’m sure you’ve all been dying to find out what my team looks like, I’m going to tell you now.

First, a little background. It’s a ten-team standard 5x5 league. As you can see, the line-ups are pretty deep. Wraparound draft. Additionally, we’re adding keepers this year for the first time. You get to keep up to two players. If you keep someone, you forfeit your pick in whatever round you originally drafted the player. I had the second pick in the draft this year. So, who’d I get?

Did I get any Red Sox?

C        AJ Pierzynski
1B      Adrian Gonzalez
2B      Dustin Pedroia
3B      Pedro Alvarez
SS      Xander Bogaerts
CI       Will Middlebrooks
MI      Jurickson Profar
OF      Mike Trout
OF      Josh Hamilton
OF      Shane Victorino
OF      Carl Crawford
Util      David Ortiz
Util      Denard Spain
Util      Jonathan Lucroy
Ben     Jackie Bradley, Jr
Ben     Brandon Crawford

SP      Adam Wainwright
SP      Anibal Sanchez
SP      Hisash Iwakuma
RP      Sergio Romo
RP      Jonathan Papelbon
P         Jon Lester
P         John Lackey
P         Jake Peavy
Ben     Neftali Feliz
Ben     Edward Mujica

Obviously, Mike Trout was my first round pick. He was followed by Wainwright, Pedroia, Ortiz, and Xander. Ortiz and Xander were probably taken higher than I should have. But, I couldn’t see anyone I liked better than Ortiz at the time. Xander was just because I wanted him as a keeper. I figured spending a fifth round pick on him into eternity wasn’t a terrible idea. With the wraparound, it would have been almost two full rounds before I got another pick. I didn’t dare wait. In my head, right now, I’m pegging Trout and Bogaerts as my keepers. Obviously, subject to change.

The rest of the team balanced out well, if I do say so myself. Three actual closers are more than I usually get. Frankly, I don’t always draft a closer. The starting staff has a nice combination of “wins” guys and “numbers” guys. My line-up has great positional flexibility. Lucroy, Xander, and Profar all are eligible at more than one position.

So, I’m pleased. Just like everyone right after a draft, I suppose. The fact that I have eleven current Red Sox is a nice bonus as well. That I got Bradley, Middlebrooks, Peavy, and Mujica in the last few rounds or so is even better. Let’s start the season!

How do you think I did?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What about Grady?

When the Red Sox signed Grady Sizemore, like most people I thought it was a great idea. It was very low risk, very high reward. He hadn’t played in a couple years, so you didn’t expect much. But, if he produced anything he might make a great fifth outfielder. I actually wondered at the time if they brought him in just to help out with Jackie Bradley, Jr. during Spring Training. Let him be an extra coach before cutting him on the last day before heading north.

Things are a little different now.

He’s playing well.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure what the actual specific concern with him was when the Sox signed him. He’d been out of the game for a while, so he was rusty. Were his injuries healed? Did they know? Was the only concern setbacks?

It’s those concerns that determine what to do next.

He doesn’t appear very rusty. So, if the only reason they didn’t hand him the starting job right away was to give him time to get up to game speed, that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Sure, he’s probably seeing different pitches than he would during the season, but he’s showing us everything he can right now. If that’s the only concern, just give him the starting job now.

He hasn’t played in every game yet, though. So, are the Sox worried about his conditioning? Are they worried that asking him to play three out of four games would be too taxing? They should be. But, what would be taxed? Would he be tired, or might he injure himself? If they’re afraid that he might get tired, it might be worth just giving it a shot. Nobody plays every game anymore. So, play him four out of five. If he gets tired, then sit him down. If he doesn’t, you’re good to go. But, if they’re afraid that overwork will lead directly to an injury, that’s more troublesome. Then you need to have a spare outfielder ready to go. You need to have two players on your roster play one position. I’m not sure the Sox have that kind of flexibility. I’m not sure they’d want to have that kind of flexibility. The alternative to that, of course, is sending Grady to the minors/extended spring training. Would Grady accept a minor league assignment to ease himself into action slowly? I bet he’d be pretty reluctant, especially if he feels he can play.

Are the Sox afraid that at any point his knee is just going to explode? Is every inning he plays getting him closer to a ticking time bomb? Should they just play him until he pops?

Making things more difficult is Jackie Bradley, Jr. He could certainly be a fine option in center. I had no problem handing him the starting job. I still wouldn’t. A line-up with him in it can win a lot of games.

But, Bradley’s young. He has time to be with the Sox. Sizemore, I assume, doesn’t.

So, what do you do?

I think you need to give Grady a chance. Unfortunately, that probably means starting Bradley in Pawtucket. But you need to get Grady into games while you still can. He has a shelf life that you need to take advantage of. If that means you occasionally need a Gomes-Nava-Victorino outfield, I’m OK with that. The alternative is something that you need to find out.

It’s actually the same thought process that had Bradley starting last season in Boston. He was playing very well. Who knew how long he could keep it up? You had to play him and find out. You owed it to the team. Unfortunately for him, he’s being hurt by the same process. You have to see what you have.

Because, it could be pretty good for a while.

Monday, March 17, 2014

List of 36

Red Sox players who probably enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day

1. David Murphy
2. Jimmy Walsh
3. Buck O’Brien
4. Ed Kelly
5. Johnny Murphy
6. Tom McCarthy
7. George Murray
8. Howie Fitzgerald
9. Frank Quinn
10. Bill Moore
11. Bud Connolly
12. Rob Murphy
13. Bill Kennedy
14. Jack O’Brien
15. Walt Lynch
16. Bob Gallagher
17. Jack Quinn
18. Danny Doyle
19. Tom Murphy
20. Jack Ryan
21. Wilcy Moore
22. Ed Connolly Sr
23. Syd O’Brien
24. Matt Murray
25. Jack Ryan
26. Walter Murphy
27. Denny Doyle
28. John Kennedy
29. Ken Ryan
30. Ed Connolly Jr
31. Mike Ryan
32. Jerry Adair
33. Tom O’Brien
34. Al Baker
35. Joe Connolly
36. Troy O’Leary

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Scored!

August 29, 1999

I know. I say it too often when I look over these old scorecards from 1999. This team made it to the ALCS. A team that was starting Pat Rapp made it to the final four. Incredible.

I suppose, to be fair, the line-up did have two all-stars in it. Plus, Nomar was a legitimate superstar that year. (How he didn’t walk all four times to the plate instead of just twice is beyond me. Nobody knew what kind of protection Troy O’Leary could actually provide for another month.)

The Sox certainly tried to give this game away. They built themselves a safe 7-1 lead heading into the ninth. Then, things fell apart. Bryce Florie gave up a walk and four singles. Suddenly, the tying run was at the plate. Thankfully Derek Lowe was able to come in and strike out the final batter to stop things right there.

I do need to comment on Donnie Sadler’s first at bat. This is a good example of making sure you have all your scoring notations set out ahead of time. At first glance, I was trying to decide how I thought Sadler managed to steal first base. But, now I realize that in this case, “SB” meant “sacrifice bunt.” Usually that’s not so confusing. If you sacrifice, it would be obvious since the runner would be out. But, in this case the pitcher made an error, allowing Sadler to reach. I should probably consider using SC or SAC for a sacrifice bunt. I won’t…but I probably should.

The player of the game? Other than Lowe? Has to be Trot Nixon. Three hits, leading to three runs. Not a bad day at the plate at all.

The goat? Other than Florie? Easily the aforementioned Troy O’Leary. His one job is to give Nomar protection. Instead, he went hitless on the day. He needs to do better than that.

But, it didn’t matter. Rapp kept them in the game for six innings. The Sox scored enough runs to survive the late bullpen meltdown. Lowe closed the door on a surprisingly tense win.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2000 Pacific Gold Crown Die Cut

Ahh. Simplicity at its best. The design of the card clearly makes the player the key ingredient.

Yeah. Not so much.

What on earth is going on here?

I will start off by giving a little credit. The name of the insert set is “Gold Crown” and the card has a large “gold crown” on it. So, at least this monstrosity was created for a reason. The fact that the only reason to call something “gold crown” is because of the Pacific logo is simply annoying, though. It’s not enough to put the logo smack on the front of the card. It actually needs to be carved into the card itself. Self-promote much?

What is with the background design? All the streaks and splotches? Do they have a purpose? Are they supposed to be something? Other than distracting, of course.

The picture of Pedro does, actually, do a decent job of standing out from the mess. (Although, I dare you to read his last name.) I will forever be a fan of the player’s picture extending beyond the border of the card. That’s the one thing that this card does well. It at least allows Pedro’s head to partially obscure the mammoth crown at the top.

But, that’s it. That’s all I can say about this card that’s any good. Once again I’ll ask, when people complain about the Topps monopoly, are these the fresh ideas they’re missing?

I can certainly do without it.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Vintage from the Beat!

Not long ago, I received an e-mail from John, of Johngy’sBeat. He told me that he had quite a few Red Sox cards from the late seventies that I needed that he’d like to send me. Naturally I was thrilled to take him up on his offer. On the heels of the recent shipment from blog reader Mark, I was excited to continue the vintage push.

When the package arrived, nearly sixty vintage cards came out! I couldn’t have been more pleased. John was able to make a huge dent in my Red Sox wantlists for 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979! Amazing!

For the 1975s, there were a couple cards that I needed to complete my full set. The rest of them crossed off most of my Red Sox needs for that classic set. It was so fantastic that I didn’t mind having to see Tim McCarver looking out at me.

I have a soft spot for the 1976 Topps set. If I was inclined to complete another vintage set, it would probably be the 1976. When I was younger, I remember digging around in my grandfather’s mudroom and finding a paper lunch bag. It was stuffed with a couple hundred 1976 Topps cards. I was amazed. I had never had so many cards that old in my hands. (Hopefully whichever uncle the cards originally belonged to isn’t reading this particular post) So I was especially glad to see those cards come my way.

I love the fact that they felt the need to add the insets to the team photo on the ’77 Zimmer. Did they actually think we could make out who the players were in the team shot? Were people looking at the tiny faces and wondering where the missing guys were? I guess that they needed to include them to make it a true “team” shot. But, it seems like needless effort to me.

My brother once tried to complete the 1978 Topps set. I was always jealous of his large stack of them. So, I always get a little special joy from adding one to my collection, let alone a stack of them. I’m catching up!

Love the old style Topps logo on the 1979 cards. If that doesn’t scream “old and different” to you, I don’t know what does.

Again, I couldn’t be more grateful to John for his generosity. I suggest you go check out his site and give it a read. And, if you have a picture of yourself with someone famous, I bet he’d love a copy.

Thanks John!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jake Peavy and Joba Chamberlain

A few years ago, Joba Chamberlain got on a trampoline at a birthday party with his son. While he was bouncing up and down, he shattered his ankle. Aside from the fact that he apparently could have died from the injury, he missed the season because of it. He was, rightly, slammed by some people for being so selfish. As a professional athlete, he needed to not do things that are dangerous and foolish. He had a duty to his team to be in playing shape when the season started. Other people, mostly Yankees fans, countered that he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was being a good father by being on the trampoline with his son. It wasn’t his fault

Last season, Clay Buchholz apparently fell asleep with his daughter on his chest. By sleeping in that funny position, he wrenched his neck to the point that he missed a lot of time. I don’t recall anyone saying he shouldn’t have been holding his daughter as they slept, in order to prevent injury. Nor should they have. It would be hard to see sleeping as dangerous or foolish.

So, where does Jake Peavy’s latest injury come in? Peavy apparently was trying to be a good Dad, and take his son fishing. He tried to use a fishing knife to cut some wire ties on the pole, and ended up slicing his finger in the process. Again, I’m not sure how much I can complain about that. I suppose I could argue that he should have found a better way to cut the tie as opposed to a knife. But, knowing the type of ties he’s talking about, I’m not sure he would have had an easier time with a pair of scissors. And, I don’t expect him to wear kid gloves or make his wife cut his steak for him. Maybe I could complain that he went fishing instead of seeking medical treatment right away. With immediate attention, maybe he’d miss less time. But, I’ll assume that he made an educated adult decision when he decided a bandage would be enough. Hopefully he didn’t look down and think it was a serious injury, but decide to go fishing anyway.

But, it got me thinking.

How careful are athletes supposed to be?

I’m pretty sure the standard contracts prohibit the really stupid stuff. I don’t know that they can go skydiving without risking their contract. And, when Aaron Boone ruined his knee playing pick-up basketball, it was in violation of his contract.

But, obviously, hunting and fishing are allowed. Hiking is just fine. As is, apparently, jumping on a trampoline. I do agree that we need to let these people live actual normal lives.

Then I remember watching pitchers run over to cover first base. Almost every time the pitcher has to run down that little hill and sprint to the base, you hold your breath. Their bodies are so specifically tuned, that anything out of the ordinary like that could lead to a problem. Pulling a muscle they don’t use very often, for instance. So, with such specialization, maybe they need to follow a different set of rules.

I guess what bothers me the most is the timing. I remember in high school people who were in the chorus were real careful about trying not to catch a cold the week before a concert. Sure, they were regular kids all year. But, the week before they needed to sing, they’d sit by themselves so they would stay healthy. Maybe that’s that I’m looking for from these athletes. It wouldn’t have mattered for Joba. And Clay probably can take a nap with his daughter whenever he wants. But, maybe Peavy should have been more careful this close to the season. If he wants to slice his finger up in November, it has time to heal without affecting his season. In March?

Maybe he could use some scissors.

Monday, March 3, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2003 Topps

As with most base cards, this card is just wonderful in its simplicity.

Everything you need from a card is there. Nothing that you don’t need is forced upon you. This is simply a documentation of Pedro Martinez. It clearly shows us what team he plays for. His position is also listed. His name is right there set against a bold background. Unfortunately, his name is still in that annoying foil. (Topps is going to stop doing that at some point, right?) But, that’s really the only flaw I can see with the card.

The blue border is a nice touch. It adds something to make the rest of the card stand out. Now, I’m sure that color might be off a little bit if Pedro were wearing an Orioles or a Rockies jersey. The orange or purple might clash a bit too much. But, with the Red Sox colors, it works just fine.

I like the second headshot set inside a baseball field. I especially like how they’ve selected a picture that actually makes a good headshot. They just didn’t crop in on the head of the larger photo.

Speaking of larger, that’s certainly the case with this card. Even though they took up a lot of space for the name, Topps still left a larger practically uninterrupted picture. There’s nothing especially exciting about the shot they chose. Pedro’s just rubbing up the ball, getting ready to pitch. But, it’s still well done. Nicely cropped, and allows Pedro to stand out.

As he should.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Positional Battles

One of the biggest topics of conversation during Spring Training is positional battles. Who’s going to get the start when the team breaks camp? Who’s going to be the last man in the rotation, or bullpen? How will the battle turn out?

Thankfully the Red Sox haven’t had a lot of these battles lately, because I’m not honestly sure how they work.

The closest thing the Red Sox have to a positional battle this Spring Training is the centerfielder. Will it be Bradley, Jr., or will Grady Sizemore somehow return to form and claim the spot.

My question is, how do you tell?

In this case, it might not be an actual competition. If Sizemore somehow plays well enough to earn the spot, the decision will probably be based on his assumed health as much as anything. Do you start him opening day and ride him until he falls apart? Or do you save him until you need him? Those are factors off the field of play.

But, what if it was an actual battle based on skill? Can you tell anything from who performs better in Spring Training? If Sizemore bats .300 and Bradley bats .275, does that tell us anything? Does it matter who the hits came off? Would we need to know more about who the hits come off?

Sizemore didn’t get any hits off a college kid. But, at least the college kid was probably trying. If Bradley gets a hit off Adam Wainwright, is that better? Or worse? Maybe Wainwright was just trying to establish his fastball that day. After all, he’s not worried about his spot in the rotation. So, maybe getting a hit off him is actually less impressive than getting a hit off a college kid who might actually try to mix in a curve.

So, how does a team decide who wins the spot?

Is it always just about stuff other than performance? Maybe it’s always based on service time? Or contract status? Is it just a gut feeling by the manager? Are true positional battles just creations of the media?

Wouldn’t be the first thing they’ve made up.

What people are reading this week